When do you jump? And where do you land?
October 20, 2018 9:57 PM   Subscribe

 


Great article. I've heard too many times that Kodak ignored the digital threat, big that's simply not true, they pushed into it hard! This article suggests that the CEO was right "digital photography was simply a crappy (commodity) business", and Fuji survived by folding that hand early
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:14 PM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Having worked intimately with early Kodak digital cameras I'm still inclined to lay the blame at a corporate culture that could never think outside of cannibalization of their core markets and couldn't shift fast enough to stay ahead.

Which is sad because Kodak had some world class engineering departments.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:35 PM on October 20 [3 favorites]


Fuji had world class engineers too. Fuji’s were somehow able to see what their company’s world class capabilities could be used for.

From the comments on the article, Kodak’s engineers were much more narrowly focused and unable to think outside their own boxes.
posted by monotreme at 12:09 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


I've heard too many times that Kodak ignored the digital threat

I hadn't heard that they ignored digital, exactly, but that they insisted on believing that people wanted physical copies of pictures - that the purpose of digital was to have something printable, and they just couldn't figure out how to be a photo company that wasn't focused on photographs you could use as postcards.

Their fortune had been made on film, not on cameras or photography, and they couldn't make the switch when film was recognized as expensive, unwanted technology, not necessary for sharing photos.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:21 AM on October 21 [4 favorites]


My impression of Kodak in the 00s was that they collectively had no idea or interest in what made a camera any good.
posted by ethansr at 1:01 AM on October 21 [5 favorites]


Wonderful find, thank you for sharing, o mantot!
posted by infini at 1:18 AM on October 21




I'm note sufficiently knowledgeable about the industry to know if this is true but Tony Northrup's claim that "The Consumer Digital Camera Industry is Dead" is useful viewing as an adjunct to the story about Kodak and Fujifilm. The implication is that, even if Kodak had been able to engineer a perfect transition so as to lead the consumer camera market - they would still have been in deep trouble as soon as smartphones took off. Users of high end cameras today can just about put up with the range of inconveniences their devices present - versus just taking pictures with a phone - but not so for the mass market.
posted by rongorongo at 2:48 AM on October 21 [3 favorites]


As a film photographer, it worries me that Fujifilm and Kodak Alaris have a duopoly on color film production. If the current very small and somewhat financially shaky Alaris goes under and Fujifilm decides to shutter all their film lines there will be very few alternatives for photographers.
posted by octothorpe at 4:26 AM on October 21 [5 favorites]


I sometimes boggle over the way a company like Yamaha is almost ridiculously diversified under that one brand name. I wonder if Japanese companies would generally have less resistance in their corporate culture to radical diversification?
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:54 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


As a digital camera user for work, yet still constrained by context to using handheld small ones, I hope the market continues as the smartphone ones aren't still heavy duty enough, or have long enough battery life, for fieldwork in rural developing countries.

bonobothegreat makes an interesting observation. One that made me wonder if Kodak's strategies weren't management consultant led eg. "focus on core competency"; "integrate verticals"; "focus on brand equity" yada yada, while Fujifilm did the heavy lifting internally to assess their strengths and weaknesses, and consider directions? Though, it must be said, that one of the article's quotes Keniichi Ohmae on Fujifilm, himself a former McKinseyite.
posted by infini at 5:02 AM on October 21 [9 favorites]


Also, given the similarities (digital ecosystem disruption) between Sears and Kodak, I wonder if there's a meta pattern of response also at play? Is there a third such example so I can ponder and analyze?
posted by infini at 5:04 AM on October 21


Sears is all about the land and buildings that the company owns and can sell. Kodak doesn’t have a similar tangible asset to cannibalize.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:29 AM on October 21


A big part of the problem was that the engineers at Kodak viewed digital imaging as inferior to film. Certainly for motion picture imaging they were and still are correct. But it didn't matter as price and convenience became much more important to the market.

Couple that with the tendency for engineers to view the world as "wrong thinking." As in, "why don't all these wrong thinking people see the logic here? If only they were right thinking (like us) the world would be a better place." That infected every part of the company. I recall the Kodak film salesman in the 2000s talking about how superior their new "Vision Stock" motion picture film was to crappy digital capture. I fully agreed but kept trying to get him to see how the economics were going to crush film sales. Like talking to a rock.

P.S. - No offense to other engineers reading this. I'm certainly guilty of same.
posted by Dean358 at 5:50 AM on October 21 [5 favorites]


infini, may I ask what you do? I also use a small point & shoot at work as basically my most important tool, specifically a TG-5, which is a ruggedized compact. It literally lives in my toolbelt, alongside my tape measure, prybar, and screwdriver. Other people I've run into who do similar work are always surprised that I'm not just using my phone, until they see me in action.

Phones are fragile, difficult to operate one-handed, don't work well with gloves on, have a weak flash, are lousy at zooming (the latest phones are better but still not great), are not waterproof (newer phones are better here), and tend to make customers think that you're going to be sharing the inside of their house on Twitter. A rugged point & shoot is much more appropriate for my line of work.

What has your experience there been?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:03 AM on October 21 [8 favorites]


infini: "Also, given the similarities (digital ecosystem disruption) between Sears and Kodak, I wonder if there's a meta pattern of response also at play? Is there a third such example so I can ponder and analyze?"

Polaroid?
posted by octothorpe at 6:13 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


infini, may I ask what you do?

What has your experience there been?


For the past ten years, I've specialized in deconstructing the underpinnings* and frameworks underlying the so called informal economy in the developing world - cash intensive, inadequate infrastructure, variable quality and availability of working systems and processes, scarce consumer and market data, if any. Thereby, I help companies, startups, not for profits (inc. govts) understand the opportunity space and the people in order to conceptualize products, services, business models, and, programmes designed to be 'fit for purpose' in these complex adaptive systems. Often, market forces shape the tenor of my work, so for the past couple of years its been a lot of fintech - design of a p2p marketplace app but meant for traders in the informal economic ecosystem in East Africa, merchant reputation management concept riding on a mobile payments app for the same geography; also, the upfront business planning and market analysis eg. where are the key corridors for digital payments within cross border trade in West Africa.

For a variety of reasons, I prefer immersion in the operating environment as the optimal means to rapidly grasp and assess the opportunity and understand the context. This means I spend a lot of time walking around informal markets in market towns, visiting farmers, traders, fabricators, manufacturers, but all in developing world and/or rural contexts, much of it in Africa. The fancy words are exploratory user research, design research using design ethnography methods, and multi-method (which means lots and lots of literature review) deep dives.

Thus, everything you've said - rugged, one handed operations (often from a moving car), discreet handheld device that can take a pic quickly and the hand can go back down, *and* not an expensive phone (theft *is* a problem) nor a humongous digital camera that makes me look like a safari tourist - is what matters. It needs to stand up to dust, heat, humidity, and 200 to 300 photographs a day - I once had the spring boing out of the camera when taking the 150th photo that day in Old Town Mombasa. I was using Sony because they had the ideal combo of file size to pic resolution that worked with prepaid 'third world' interwebz but now have come to like my Canon because it has anti-blur which speeds up my discreet shots of people going about their daily lives without it becoming high drama on main street.

A friend once saw me take my camera out to take family photos and noticed my one handed discreet grip and said, its part of your hand now isn't it?

this brief self link is based on all of the above, and every photo was taken by me.

*

posted by infini at 7:22 AM on October 21 [75 favorites]


Octothorpe, I've been wondering if Polaroid is too similar to Kodak? If we take a three company case study to analyze for digital disruption and almost destruction of the entire premise of the business, then Sears is to e-commerce what Kodak is to digital imagery.
posted by infini at 7:24 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: oooh the TG 5 looks good, is it expensive?
posted by infini at 7:26 AM on October 21


Yeah it's good. As far as rugged compacts go, it's the best there currently is. It costs $400; that's a lot for a rugged compact but not that much for a camera or a phone, so kind of up to your budget I guess. My specific one probably has about $100 in accessories on it, since I got it the silicone jacket, a screen protector, a lens protector, and the filter adapter that it needs in order to take a lens protector. That's all in the name of protecting it, though. The quality of photos it takes is really nice for what it is, and it has some great features.

I also have some other accessories but they're just for fun, not so much for work.

At work I take about 300 shots per site visit. It gets used in the rain, dropped on the ground, dragged through fiberglass insulation, etc. I don't baby it any more than I baby any of my other tools, which is to say that I try to take care of it so I don't have to buy another one, but I'm not changing what I do in order to protect it. Like you, I'm at the point with it where I don't really have to look at the screen; I can just point it at things and know what the picture will be, even if I'm shooting backhanded, between my legs, while clinging to a rooftop. It comes out, I take the picture, it goes away.

Your line of work sounds super interesting, albeit very different from mine! But I can see how we have similar camera needs. One thing I really like about the TG-5 that most Canons don't offer is its in-camera charging. You don't need a separate AC-powered battery charger for it, it just plugs into USB. I can charge it from my van, from my laptop, or from a portable battery bank. I do carry a couple of spare batteries in case one craps out in the middle of a job (this is rare; I take about 300 photos including about 100 with flash and it's almost always fine unless I forgot to charge it or something) but overall it's really convenient to be able to just plug it into any USB port when it's not being used.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:50 AM on October 21 [5 favorites]


Ha! That's around my camera budget (and has been the same budget for the past ten years, the models just improved ;p). I'll look into it more closely. What I really want to know is what kind of average file size do you get for an image that's under 2000 x 2000 pixels (dunno if that's a 2M or 3M setting, that stuff is getting weirder) and of the foundational 3:4 aspect ratio instead of the attempt to push the longer thinner aspects some of the cameras have gotten into. I'll need to use the photos in documents, PDFs, slideshows, usually A4 is what they should more or less fit.

Yeah, I have two batteries and a separate charger. I'll carry both because sometimes you've had to keep the camera on for a while to get the right shot and the battery ends but it'll last me the day safely on that 300/day thing if there's been no video or flash. I keep Auto off in the field, regardless of lighting because I've yet to find a camera that can deal with Africa's sunshine and light quality - there's little or no particulates in the air in the rural areas and photos always come out unexpectedly weird or dark even in bright light.
posted by infini at 8:03 AM on October 21


Hmm. At work I shoot at the full resolution, 4000x3000 pixels (It has a 4:3 aspect sensor) in "Fine" JPEG mode, which is the second highest quality of the four JPEG compression modes it offers. My images are generally in the 4-5MB range. I just did a test run of ten random shots at medium resolution (3200x2400) "Fine" quality, and they came out to 3.11MB on average. There's also a low-resolution 1280x960 mode, plus of course I could step down to "Normal" or "Basic" compression levels if I wanted.

The camera can also shoot in RAW or RAW+JPEG modes if desired.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:26 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


As far as flash, I have the custom modes on my camera defined as basically flash on/flash off. Some of the other settings are optimized for flash and non-flash photography (e.g. I allow it to run a higher ISO when the flash is off in case I am indoors but still need to be discreet) but my main use cases are "outdoors, no flash" and "indoors in dark spaces, flash on." So I just flip the mode dial from C1 to C2 when I need the flash, and the flash comes on along with a suite of minor setting adjustments that I've found are helpful when operating in that mode.

There's also a handy control wheel for exposure compensation, so that if something is coming out too dark (e.g. I'm trying to photograph something that's silhouetted against the sky) I can just dial up the brightness with a flick of my thumb.

I also generally set it for totally silent operation, because the less customers have to think about the photos I'm taking the more comfortable they generally are, so all the little beeps and chirps have got to go.

Overall I've just been really satisfied with it. I've used cheaper rugged compacts (e.g. the Fuji XP 90) and found them adequate, but cumbersome and slow to operate. This feels much more like a serious tool that's had some thought put into it, rather than a cheap toy. Also this comes in a nice discreet black color, rather than the shouty reds and yellows of most rugged compacts.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:37 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'd have to find the optimal balance between ~1MB file size and still enough resolution to enlarge and crop interesting discoveries - that's something the old Sony camera OS did very well, I still have them lying around as backup or for a team member who brings their humongous digital CAMERA with them ;p
posted by infini at 9:03 AM on October 21


Ok Fuji, bring back Neopan 1600
posted by fluttering hellfire at 9:16 AM on October 21 [3 favorites]


Mmmm, in Medium/Basic mode, the JPEGs are about 1.2MB in size. Quality is noticeably degraded as compared to Fine compression mode, but it may be sufficient depending on your needs.

I'm curious, why the (to me rather draconian) restriction on file size? I have a handful of 64GB SD cards that I bought in 2014 or so for a trip to Central Africa, any one of which holds more images at the 5MB level than I am likely to generate in an entire month. Is the issue that you have to upload all these images over the often slow-and-unreliable internet connections available in the developing world? I can see how that would be very challenging.

One solution would be to shoot in RAW+JPEG mode. That way, you would have a low-quality, low-filesize version of each image pre-made right when you shoot, but if you found yourself in a situation where you needed more, the RAW would be right there as well to provide you with as much image quality as the camera is capable of providing, albeit with a bit more work required on your part. This might be a good compromise if your workflow is such that for 95% of your photos the image quality is basically irrelevant, but 5% of the time you need to be able to do something like make a nice print, or crop in on a detail, or lift the shadows to rescue details that would otherwise be lost.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:18 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


fluttering hellfire: "Ok Fuji, bring back Neopan 1600"

After they bring back instant pack film.
posted by octothorpe at 9:57 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


Is the issue that you have to upload all these images over the often slow-and-unreliable internet connections available in the developing world? I can see how that would be very challenging.

This. And not all - or maybe my usage patterns have changed over time, but this is the major factor in a context where you must purchase data by the gigabyte and in advance (prepaid) so mailing the client, sharing on the group blog/tumblr whatnot, or tweeting, can hold up life for ever. And, at hte end of each day, the last thing you want to be doing is sitting there resizing them.

One solution would be to shoot in RAW+JPEG mode. That way, you would have a low-quality, low-filesize version of each image pre-made right when you shoot, but if you found yourself in a situation where you needed more, the RAW would be right there as well to provide you with as much image quality as the camera is capable of providing, albeit with a bit more work required on your part. This might be a good compromise if your workflow is such that for 95% of your photos the image quality is basically irrelevant, but 5% of the time you need to be able to do something like make a nice print, or crop in on a detail, or lift the shadows to rescue details that would otherwise be lost.

This sounds like a very ideal solution. Let me fiddle with my Canon to see if its possible at all. And, your camera is looking ever so good with each comment ;p
posted by infini at 10:05 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


Did some research on the 'instant pack film' that octothorpe mentioned, and it brought up an interesting read on how Fujitsu approached the instant photography (Polaroid type) market.

They made deals with Kodak to use their technology, which they still sell as 'Instax' cameras which allowed the light to come in from the back of the film, allowing for simpler cameras than Poloroid's system. They also made deals with Polaroid to allow them to stay in the market.

Then, when Polaroid's patents ran out, they also started selling Polaroid compatible film, the 'instant pack film', so you could still buy film for your old Polaroid cameras. Polaroid had stopped making their film in 2008. Fujitsu continued making the instant pack film until 2016. As mentioned, they still sell their own Instax system and it remains resonably popular.

It is interesting to see how Fujitsu continues to make money on instant photography film cameras when both Polaroid and Kodak gave up long ago.
posted by eye of newt at 10:30 AM on October 21 [3 favorites]


Apparently there's also a Dutch company Polaroid Originals which is making Polaroid branded instant cameras based on technology bought from Polaroid.
posted by eye of newt at 10:40 AM on October 21


I would be super interested in Instax if 1) the image area of the prints was about twice as large, or anyway at least as large as an old Polaroid print and 2) it cost about half as much as it currently does. It looks really really fun but it basically only produces wallet-sized prints at around a buck a pop, and that's a deal killer for me.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:55 AM on October 21


Let me fiddle with my Canon to see if its possible at all

If CHDK is available for your camera model, it is possible even if the original firmware doesn't have the option.
CHDK previoulsy in AskMe
posted by Bangaioh at 11:21 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


I would be super interested in Instax if 1) the image area of the prints was about twice as large, or anyway at least as large as an old Polaroid print

The Instax Square format is almost as big as Polaroids.
posted by octothorpe at 12:59 PM on October 21


Infini - I wonder if there's a meta pattern of response also at play? Is there a third such example so I can ponder and analyze?

Bookstores didn't have a single monolithic company, but the ones that dominated in the 80s and 90s are gone now, collapsed under the strain of competing with Amazon. Looks like they, like Kodak, banked on people wanting something tangible rather than access to the contents. B&N is still around (barely), but Waldenbooks, Crown, Books-a-Million, and Borders are all gone.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:20 PM on October 21 [3 favorites]


Instax Square has only 63% as much image area as a Polaroid. It's 62mm x 62mm (2.44" x 2.44") vs. 79mm x 77mm (3.11" x 3.03"). To me, that doesn't count as almost as big.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:25 PM on October 21 [1 favorite]


bonobothegreat makes an interesting observation. One that made me wonder if Kodak's strategies weren't management consultant led eg. "focus on core competency"; "integrate verticals"; "focus on brand equity" yada yada, while Fujifilm did the heavy lifting internally to assess their strengths and weaknesses, and consider directions? Though, it must be said, that one of the article's quotes Keniichi Ohmae on Fujifilm, himself a former McKinseyite.

It sounds like they both used the standard management consulting strategy template but Fuji was better at filling in the details - that is the problem with standard approaches, they're handy analytical frameworks to organise your thinking but you have to understand the problem space.

Kodak looked a core competency and saw a camera and imaging company, Fuji saw a specialist chemicals layered onto thin-films company. If this had gone the other way, we'd now be saying "Those Fuji guys took their camera and film company and destroyed it by going into cosmetics and TVs. Only a management consultant like that McKinsey guy would think that the future is make-up and televisions."

Part of this is hindsight, but part of it is being better at the deep thinking thinking about what they are uniquely good at - Fuji realised that assembling digital cameras is too easy. Soon everyone will be doing it and killing your margin, for the last few years it has been so easy that good-enough cameras are included as features in products we already own and carry everywhere. They also realised that mass producing complicated chemical films with 20+ layers is really hard and that they already knew how to do it and they were better at finding other things to use that technology on.
posted by atrazine at 3:58 PM on October 21 [5 favorites]


I would be super interested in Instax if 1) the image area of the prints was about twice as large, or anyway at least as large as an old Polaroid print

Instax Square has only 63% as much image area as a Polaroid. It's 62mm x 62mm (2.44" x 2.44") vs. 79mm x 77mm (3.11" x 3.03"). To me, that doesn't count as almost as big.


The image areas on Instax Wide prints are 99mm × 62 mm, so slightly bigger than Polaroids. I love the wide Instaxes.
posted by lisa g at 4:29 PM on October 21


Yeah, Instax wide is the most appealing but it's still less than 2.5" tall and that's too small for my taste. And we're still talking about spending $1 every time you press the shutter button. I realize that this is more of a personal problem than anything else. It's just something that seems awesome in principle but which doesn't really appeal to me in practice.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:16 PM on October 21 [1 favorite]


not dead yet
posted by mwhybark at 5:32 PM on October 21


Well I mean hey they just re-released Ektachrome and by the way it looks fabulous so hey there's clearly something still happening there.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:54 PM on October 21 [1 favorite]


I love Instax. My daughter loves it too, just wishes the film wasn't a buck a print but hey that's instant for you.

Just for kicks, here's an Instax 9 combined with a Hasselblad 500C/M.


Sears is all about the land and buildings that the company owns and can sell. Kodak doesn’t have a similar tangible asset to cannibalize.

How about a weapons grade nuclear reactor?
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:13 PM on October 21 [6 favorites]


2017- the Year That Film Returned "Film photography is never going to return to the glory days of the late 90s – the global market for film is around 1% of what it was at its peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That is, however, still tens of millions of rolls every year. And its rise in recent times has largely been with photographers too young to have used it the first time round, a new army of devotees seeing film as something new and exciting."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:54 PM on October 21 [2 favorites]


My Mom used a Polaroid camera to take pictures of trick-or-treaters on Halloween, then put the picture into their bag--something you can't do with any other photography system. The kids and their parents loved it.

(I guess you could do something digital and put a note with the web address on it into the bag, but it doesn't have the same effect).
posted by eye of newt at 9:40 PM on October 21 [4 favorites]


And not all - or maybe my usage patterns have changed over time, but this is the major factor in a context where you must purchase data by the gigabyte and in advance (prepaid) so mailing the client, sharing on the group blog/tumblr whatnot, or tweeting, can hold up life for ever. And, at hte end of each day, the last thing you want to be doing is sitting there resizing them.

If the issue is merely network-related, not with local storage, tools like irfanview can batch resize an arbitrary selection of (or all of) your photos in a few clicks. It takes literally a few seconds.
posted by wierdo at 11:43 PM on October 21 [1 favorite]


*looks dreamily at wierdo*

It used to be local storage but things have changed and gotten cheaper for more. irfanview looks like it could change my life. I'll play with it when I go on holiday next week, since I'll be taking a gazillion photos of developing country tings instead of standard vacation snaps ;p

If it sits well within my work flow, then I can take higher quality photos for longer term research analysis and use, but still be able to share easily. Operating environment conditions for my work will be pretty much replicated for the next month, so I'm going to have ample time to play around with camera settings and software solutions. I'll also try the RAW stuff Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival mentioned.

Thank you.
posted by infini at 1:45 AM on October 22


atrazine, you make some great points there. Since many of the articles (urgh, noted the earlier typo with the apostrophe) mention Kodak's complacency due to monopoly and brand equity, and Fujifilm being the scrappy number 2, do you think this coloured their attitude to how they filtered the data when assessing the market opportunity?
posted by infini at 1:49 AM on October 22


infini, if you happen to be a Photoshop and/or Lightroom user, they also have powerful batch processing tools that can resize and recompress your JPEGs in a trice. They are way overpowered if that's all you want to do with them (and also not free, which Irfanview is) but conversely they are so powerful and useful for someone who is working with hundreds of images per day that maybe you already have them?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:23 AM on October 22 [1 favorite]


Well I mean hey they just re-released Ektachrome and by the way it looks fabulous

Wonder if it's going to look as awesome cross-processed as the original stock, e.g. like these pics of Cuba by Peter Schafer.

Been dithering about getting round to trying to do my own C41 developing as the Bellini kit is allegedly almost as easy as B&W. Could see it getting expensive if I can get colours like those :D
posted by Buntix at 6:55 AM on October 22 [1 favorite]


Anticipation, that's now beyond me (I was educated in the pre computer era of design) and my designer/s have given up trying. I do the hand wavy overthinking of the plate of the beans distilled into a cohesive narrative shorter than the treaty of westphalia, and she/they magically transform into a prototype. Some of my back end hacks would probably shock y'all professionals. I... clears throat... don't even use a smartphone.
posted by infini at 10:38 AM on October 22 [2 favorites]


Jack White still believes in film: Rock Star Jack White Launches Photo Lab and Studio
posted by octothorpe at 12:39 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]


Ahh, fair enough. I would actually be super interested to learn more about your workflow, but that might be a bit too far off topic, not to mention nosey. What you do sounds pretty amazing, though. I'd be really curious to hear more about how you do it on the back end.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:34 PM on October 22


Anticipation, weirdo, I have been using ImageMagick to crank out resizes and contact sheets on my scanning project. I still run PS batching on macros for stuff like automated cropping and first pass color correction, but for resizing-as-copies to a new directory or other arbitrary locale? sooo much faster. also: no clicks, just commands. asset-naming schema are your friends!
posted by mwhybark at 10:57 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]


Just for kicks, here's an Instax 9 combined with a Hasselblad 500C/M.

As a Holgaroid, Mio/Instax, and a bellows Kodak Polaroid (Land 110 or thereabouts) owner, this story continues the rollercoaster of emotions that being a Polaroid user over the past 10 years has brought. That Hasselblad looks like a cool pack film option too, though I do love the peelers.

I also have a super-duper last-generation-before-digital-everywhere Minolta 35mm that I would love to start throwing into use. If only I was into carrying a big camera around! Maybe I'll take film shots at the holidays this year.

I also see that Super 8mm movie film has settled into a ~$30/min market niche, which I hope holds. I wonder if chemical laws constrain the film hobby as much as money.

Love the Polaroid phoenix!
posted by rhizome at 11:42 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]


Bookstores are a great example, ErisLordFreedom (sorry I overlooked the comment earlier)
posted by infini at 4:00 AM on October 23


Anticipation, I don't even know if I can put the back end into coherent words but here's one example of a picture being worth more than a thousand words.

This photo was one of many taken from a moving car - I barely know what I'll capture but I do it anyway if there's activity outside the window. Every evening, I'll download the photos and scan them - dumping the blurred out of focus ones for the most part, sometimes keeping them if they still somehow manage to convey a sense of the dynamic bustle outside.

This photo ended up as on the cover of our report. And, captures, in my opinion, just about everything right now happening in the informal trade ecosystem at the borderland of Uganda and Kenya. You can see the mPesa sign in the background, where it says Teddy shop on a green storefront. That is the branding and colour of Safaricom, Kenya's dominant telco and pioneer of the now world famous mobile money payment system, mPesa.

In the foreground, you can see three ladies - one, on the extreme right in the brown and beige spotted dress, is the customer. The lady in black selling tomatoes did not have enough change on hand so she borrows from her neighbour trader, the lady holding her purse and handing over some change. The customer lady is waiting for the change and in a hurry to carry on with her day.

Our research and analysis showed the importance of social networks and trusted relationships as a critical foundation for traders' success and business development. The economy is better described as cooperative rather than competitive (though competition is surely there, its not the cut throat business as war metaphor of the formal economy, its more a matter of give and take because you don't know when you might need help). Its also highly likely that these two traders might also be in each other's B2B network - note the wok in front of the lady with the purse, she fries goodies for passersby to snack on - could she turn to her neighbour for some onions or tomatoes to add to her foodstuff? Finally, traders at this level are often part of self help groups - informal financial and business groups that practice layers of financial management together - savings, loans, credit etc.

We don't know all of this, of course, and can only conjecture. But the image of the STILL cash based transactional market system against a backdrop of digital currency services captures the heart of the transformation that the mobile platform is making to the informal economic ecosystem. And, the tableau of the three women communicates trade and trade relationsihps that we mapped out as a complex yet stable web of exchange of value - goods, services, information, and currency - at the last mile of informal trade in the East African Region.

This is what my camera means to me.
posted by infini at 4:12 AM on October 23 [9 favorites]


I should add that the women aren't randomly placing themselves on the roadside, and are paying daily fees to the town council for which they receive a receipt, to operate there in those very spots every day. Discoverability and predictability help improve the stability of revenues and customer base over time.
posted by infini at 4:18 AM on October 23 [2 favorites]


Just fyi, someone from a PR agency referenced this FPP link while pushing mansplainy notifications to my work twitter account. Sorry peep, had to block you.
posted by infini at 1:59 AM on October 24 [1 favorite]


Anticipation, I'm documenting informal in India right now, but sharing on twitter since mltshp doesn't seem to be loading with the 3G wifi I have. I'm operating right now under the conditions I described above, with smaller size images. I'll try the RAW/JPG tomorrow. Twitter also acting up, though hootsuite seems to work. I'm using a small ASUS device which is groaning under Win10 and it refuses the updates. Life is fun outside the bandwidth world ;p
posted by infini at 11:12 AM on November 1


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