Film cameras make a comeback as new generation falls in love with analog photography

Film cameras make a comeback as new generation falls in love with analog photography


At the counter of Leederville Cameras, in inner-suburban Perth, Jaden Watts recently dropped off five disposable film cameras to be developed.

While he’s from a generation that grew up with smartphone cameras and instant image sharing, he has come to embrace the analog technology.

“I think it’s nice to capture the memories just at the time and if it’s a bad photo, it’s a bad photo and you just accept that,” Mr Watts said.

He also likes the look of an image that’s been produced on film and isn’t shaped by camera effects or social media filters.

“I like the way they just come through. I like the oldness, how they look,” he said.

“I like the anticipation as well, the wait [for processing] is three weeks, but I really don’t mind waiting that long.”

The days when Mr Watts could have taken his film to a pharmacy or photoshop and had them processed in a matter of hours is long gone.

For Lidio Fiore, the owner of Leederville Cameras, the resurgence of interest in film has been great for the business, but also has him regretting the loss of the film processing machines he took to the tip about 10 years ago.

“About 10 or so years ago, our machines were sitting there probably doing one or two rolls of film a week, it was absolutely dead,” Mr Fiore said.

“I said there’s no point keeping these machines, they’re taking up too much room, let’s bin them.

“So we literally took them to the tip, binned the machines, and they were gone.”

With hindsight, he said it was probably the worst decision he ever made.

“About two years later, we got these phone calls going, ‘Do you do film?'” he said.

“All of a sudden, we’ve got to buy some more machines.

“And now we’re probably doing around 150 rolls of film a day, and it’s been like that probably for the last seven years now. It’s just absolutely gangbusters.

“Gone are the days of one-hour processing because we cannot process fast enough, at the moment, it’s a few weeks wait to get the orders ready.”

For Clinton Howe, who has run his camera repair business from a small office high in Perth city’s London Court arcade since 1978, it’s a welcome revival.

“I just find the whole film industry resurgence a fantastic thing, and I just hope it continues because it’s way more fun.

“That’s what I tell everybody who leaves my premises: have fun, that’s what it’s all about.”

In his business, filled with every kind of camera, he estimates he has five to 10 million parts that he can use to repair the cameras (often retrieved from parents’ and grandparents’ cupboards) that customers bring in.

He needs the parts “because I’m dealing with these cameras now they’re in excess of 50 to 70 years of age”.

“Things wear out, things get sluggish, if they haven’t been used for 30 or 40 years, they don’t work very well and they need a bit of TLC,” he said.

But he says despite their age, old cameras lend themselves well to repair.

“I’ve got two cameras at the back for restoring that are in excess of 70 years old. The other day, I sold a 1937 Rolleiflex hat works perfectly to a customer.

“That’s what I love, because they’re fully mechanical cameras that were built to last.”

While his cameras may be old, his customers are young.

“The great thing is that the majority of my customers are under 30, which is great fun to deal with, because they’re all energetic and very enthused about the photography,” he said.

“They’re always very positive about the experience.”

For Lidio Fiore, the only thing holding up the analog revival is the worldwide shortage of film.

“Getting it is extremely tough at the moment. I think we’ve got some 3,000 or 4,000 films on back order at any one time, and they’ll just send us like 100, which doesn’t really satisfy anything.”

The Fiore family started their first photography business in Perth in 1984 and were once exclusively doing film work.

Mr Fiore says unlike in previous eras, customers love the idiosyncrasy and imperfection of film photographs.

“It’s all about the novelty. It’s never the same, sometimes [the pictures are] a bit dark, it’s a bit light and they love it.

“Back in the day we had so many complaints when it was dark, and these days people want the bad stuff.”

He said one customer recently brought in a roll of film she had accidentally double exposed, using the roll once for a birthday party and loading it into the camera again for another event.

“We’re looking at this thinking it is pretty bad and she’s like, ‘This is amazing. I love it’.

“Because it was completely random, and it was something that can never happen again.”