MPJ 40: An Open Letter to Fujifilm & Fujifilm US

In this week’s episode of My Photographic Journey, I read an open letter to Fujifilm, and announce preorders of my 2014 Hardcover Portfolio

Dear Fujifilm,

My name is Ben Horne, and I am a large format landscape photographer based out of San Diego, California.

It was in 2008 that I discovered my love for large format, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Up until then, I shot primarily landscapes with a digital SLR. The quality was very good, but I lacked the discipline I needed as a photographer, and this showed in my images. When discussing this with a friend, she suggested I that buy a 4×5 camera. The suggestion seemed strange at first, but I took her advice and bought a Toyo 45AII, 2 lenses, and a couple boxes of Fuji Velvia 50.

I practiced for a few months, then took both my digital and film setup on a dedicated shooting trip in February of 2009. My goal on that trip was to use both my digital and film setups in the field to see which kit I enjoyed more. It didn’t take long for me to realize which way I wanted to go. It’s hard to describe, but I felt right at home with the 4×5. I enjoyed the simple, hands on approach — and most importantly, I felt like I was producing something of value when I made each exposure.

I still remember seeing those Velvia 50 transparencies on a light table for the first time. It was a truly magical experience to see that level of depth, dimension and detail. I drum scanned several of those photos and printed them at 40×50 inches. Viewing those prints was like viewing the actual subject through a window. I knew instantly that I would never be completely satisfied with digital capture.

Not long after that trip, I sold my complete digital kit and used the proceeds to buy an Ebony 8×10 view camera — the same camera I use today. Since then, I have used countless boxes of Velvia 50, Provia 100, and many other wonderful films.

I realize I’m swimming up stream in an increasingly digital world, but I would like to share my thoughts on the availability of film.

I absolutely love your product, and was greatly saddened to hear that Velvia 50 was discontinued in 8×10 format here in the USA. I realize this was strictly a business decision, but perhaps there ways to keep this great film, and many others available.

Since the last shipment of Velvia 50, I have been forced to order it direct from Japan at $400 per 20 sheet box.

That might sound like a lot of money, but I’m perfectly okay with it. I would much rather the film be available — regardless of price — than it be discontinued. I would argue that those of us who still shoot film do so because we *want* to use it — not that it is something we “have” to use.

Though your customer base for large format film is certainly small, it’s also incredibly loyal. I understand that it is difficult to continue the production of a film that has a limited shelf life and not enough demand for continual production. However, there are ways to approach this without you and your distributors taking risk. Many users, myself included, have stocked up with your product in the event that it is no longer available down the road. That being said, I would be happy to purchase more if another production run were available.

My suggestion is to pursue a crowd sourced model much like kickstarter. Put it out for the people to decide — offer another production run of large format Velvia 50, but only if enough people pre-order the film. This way you will have a guaranteed customer base to ensure a production run, and photographers will have an incentive to take this as an opportunity to purchase more film — even at a price premium.

This brings me to the next topic: the distribution of film to the US.

While researching black and white film, I came to the overwhelming conclusion that Neopan 100 is an excellent choice. Unfortunately, this film in 8×10 format is not available in the US. The only way for me to purchase your product is to purchase from overseas, and perhaps run the risk of heat or X-ray damage while in transit. How about a way to special order this film through your existing distributors? If this involves a price increase — I’m okay with it. I love your product, and simply want to buy it.

This is of course the opinion of just one photographer, but I know there are many that share this opinion. I absolutely love your products, and would like the opportunity to purchase it so I can continue to pursue my passion. Thank you very much.

6 Responses to “MPJ 40: An Open Letter to Fujifilm & Fujifilm US”

  1. Chad Vercio Says:

    Excellent Ben. Good ideas and hopefully they will listen.

  2. Angus Parker Says:

    FUJIFILM doesn’t have a great reputation for communicating or listening to its US film customers. Perhaps we are not a significant revenue source. Some form of pre-order for custom sizes and a once yearly availability for 8×10 films would be great.

  3. Angus Parker Says:

    Why not custom sizes for a minimum run as well? And why limited 8×10 in US but it’s available in Japan?

  4. David Comdico Says:

    I’m still feeling the pain of Fuji’s decision to cease production of 4×5 instant film. That hurt.

  5. Michael Stubbs Says:

    I am looking to switch to 5×4 large format, Ebony or Wista. It is a big investment and is now in question due to my recent discovery that Velvia 50 has been discontinued in 5×4 sheet form in the UK (Fujifilm UK says it is no longer produced). There were rumours of Kodak considering investing in smaller machines to keep film profitable in the long term (I bet they have yet to do so). Both Kodak and Fujifilm should do so, and for more specialist films (i.e. not C41) then do productions runs every now and then, when preorders are high enough. Harman Technology does this profitably, on their small machines, and cheerfully sells film of the highest quality at low prices every day and turns a profit. The issue with the big two companies is bean counters who cannot countenance keeping a product going as long as it makes a profit – it has to make a huge profit or it goes. I for one sincerely hope Fujifilm decide on a way to reintroduce 5×4 and 10×8. Perhaps by spinning off the film division as Eastman Kodak has done, thus creating a new company that actually cares about analogue photography.

  6. Wolf Wichmann Says:

    Thanks Ben, I like the idea of crown sourcing like Kickstarter. I donated to that as well as other film initiatives, I was happy to do so.
    Keep up the great work.

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