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Re-starting Production of MF Film Cameras
Old 09-27-2019   #1
sooner
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Re-starting Production of MF Film Cameras

I don't want this to sound like I'm trolling the "film is dead" debate, but I was just perusing auctions for cams I've owned and sold and would like to own again, and found myself wondering whether used cams that sell for $700 (Fuji 645 Zi) or $1300 (Bronica RF645) or $2000 (Mamiya 7) might not entice someone to restart production. I know, volume is an issue. But it seems like there is a sophisticated production economy today that probably didn't exist 10 or 20 years ago. How much can these cams cost in terms of materials? Why couldn't Fuji or Mamiya just license someone to do a limited production run? It doesn't cost Fuji anything because they already have the plans/schematics, right? In an age when you can get a Chinese company to make seemingly anything to demo in like two weeks, including sophisticated electronics, it seems like you wouldn't have to build some huge factory and line up all the parts that require big up front costs and a big production run, 'cause they already exist. What am I missing here?
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Old 09-27-2019   #2
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I agree, a new 6x9. Then I wouldn't have to worry about a mechanical failure every time I go out.
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Old 09-27-2019   #3
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It would probably be easier to get Cosina to reintroduce the Bessa III 667 than to start fresh. What is the minimum order? I’ll buy one if it is priced around US$2k.
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Old 09-27-2019   #4
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Damn.. I didn't know that these cameras went for this much. I need to pull a few out of the safe. I've the Bronica and two Mamiyas.


I don't know if we need a new MF given the wealth of old, but sure could use either a high tech/cutting edge scanner, or a much better affordable copy stand with flat film holders and top level light diffuser. An A7MkIV attached to such a rig might prove preferable to a new scanner.
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Old 09-27-2019   #5
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MF is self-sustained on Rollei TLR cameras. They will outlast film MF.
I cold get CLA'd Cord for low 200$.
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Old 09-27-2019   #6
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Reviving MF production? A pleasant fantasy dream - but a dream.

As I see it, the major factors AGAINST a revival of new MF cameras are -

A declining market. This was readily obvious ca 2000 when camera manufacturers began downgrading their MF camera production - well before digital made its first major impact in the photo world. Larger cameras were not selling. Even 35mm production had stalled. New innovative camera lines (like the Contax G1 and G2) had stalled due to lack of interest. The camera sales markethad just peaked. Too many shooters already had too many cameras.

Most of the then-new cameras (1990s and early 2000s) are now well past their use-by dates and many have dodgy electronics (Fuji GA645s, Bronicas) or have broken down and cannot be repaired beyond simple tinkering work.

Used MF camera sales seem steady IF the prices are right, but whether or not there would be enough interest in new models of the same is a dark area - the few film camera manufacturers left in the market today (you can count them on the fingers of one hand with enough digits left over for a good ear-poke) saw the writing on the wall 20 years ago . None seem interested enough to want to take the plunge. If there was a market, China would be producing them.

The horrific cost of 120 film. Film in general is now expensive, I rarely buy and everyone else I know has either ceased or down-scaled their MF film use. My Rolleis and German folders sit on the shelf, get dusted occasionally and I play with the shutters. That's it. When I find expired 120 film on cheap sale, i buy a few rolls and shoot them and fire up my darkroom to process. Beautiful results, but all that scanning... That's about it for me and film.
Even online, new film prices (in Australia and Asia) rocketed to sky-high levels in 2009-2010 and are so high that I no longer buy five packs. USA prices seem okay still but with the Aussie dollar at peso-like lows, overseas buying is beyond my budget. Everyone else I know says the same.

Who would be the market for new MF cameras anyway? I think, two distinct groups. We retired duffers with a bit of spare cash who hanker for a piece of MF equipment we had in our younger days. And young wannabees with spare cash (or a high limit on dad's credit card) keen to play with film - for a while.

I would never pay 2019 prices for a Rolleiflex TLR, nor would my friends who own older Hasselblads invest again in new 'blad equipment , not even for a remake of the legandary 501. The in-the-middle group ain't interested - they are now solidly digital.

To sum all this up, the market isn't there. Even digital DSLRs is on the slippy-slope, which is a (sort of) consolation to the few remaining dedicated film-fanatics.

Me, I now shoot 90% digital and 10% film. Like just about everyone else, I suspect.
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Old 09-27-2019   #7
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Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
MF is self-sustained on Rollei TLR cameras. They will outlast film MF.
I cold get CLA'd Cord for low 200$.
Yes. Ko.Fe, I was recently quoted A$350 for a CLA on my 1966 Rolleiflex 3.5E2, and friends tell me that is the best price I will get for this service in Australia.

So it's nice to know something is a bargain up there in Mooseland, other than fresh boiled lobster in Shediac, New Brunswick which until last year at least, was going for a silly low price, at least compared to Melbourne where you have to remortgage your house for a good feed of same.

Some time in the future, someone will (I hope) invest a small and portable digital back for the Rolleiflexes and Rolleicords.

I hope to live long enough to see and use one of these.

If they can be fitted only to one TLR, then I will need four...!
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Old 09-27-2019   #8
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There have been recent MF cameras: Fuji/Voigtlander 667. Very expensive new. Certain used cameras are hyped and therefore expensive. Most of the Fuji 645 series are still affordable- get 'em while you can. Lots of TLR's are affordable. Explore the old.
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Old 09-28-2019   #9
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Yes. Ko.Fe, I was recently quoted A$350 for a CLA on my 1966 Rolleiflex 3.5E2, and friends tell me that is the best price I will get for this service in Australia.

So it's nice to know something is a bargain up there in Mooseland, other than fresh boiled lobster in Shediac, New Brunswick which until last year at least, was going for a silly low price, at least compared to Melbourne where you have to remortgage your house for a good feed of same.

Some time in the future, someone will (I hope) invest a small and portable digital back for the Rolleiflexes and Rolleicords.

I hope to live long enough to see and use one of these.

If they can be fitted only to one TLR, then I will need four...!
Considering the work involved in doing proper servicing to a Rolleiflex that's really not a bad price at all. For instance it's not particularly complicated but can be time consuming to adjust the cam action and re-shim the lens parallelism back to factory tolerances. Quite apart from attending to any shutter or film advance issues requiring attention. There are fewer and fewer people willing or able to do really good work on Rolleis, (and unfortunately they are, in some cases being replaced by charlatans who think they're smarter than Frank & Heidecke, who will drop in bits of lenses to "tidy up" a Rollei before flipping it to unsuspecting buyers). None of these skilled repairers are ever going to get rich working on vintage cameras but they still have to eat.
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Old 09-28-2019   #10
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Fuji with a tweaked gf670 body to cover 6x9, would be great. Hell just re introducing the gf670w would be good. The used prices are more than they were new.
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Old 09-28-2019   #11
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Why is my posted text so tiny???
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Old 09-28-2019   #12
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Sounds like another great way to drive a camera manufacturer to bankruptcy, unless you want to pay through the nose for a cheap Chinese knock-off of a cheap Russian POS.
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Old 09-28-2019   #13
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The issue is that almost all vintage equipment surpasses modern gear in overall quality. Since they were well made and treated well, your average 50-75 year old camera Can work just as well as anything that can be currently made. The “make it cheaper” mentality just was not there back then. The lack of qualified technicians and limited availability of parts is the basic weakness here.
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Old 09-28-2019   #14
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For my very occasional photography, snapshot or rapid turn-around, the 'phone does the job. For a landscape or townscape scene on a nice big negative, a simple all-mechanical old camera with a decent lens, can be a folder, serves very well, and can be maintained indefinitely. So long as MF film is available, of course.
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Old 09-28-2019   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooner View Post
I don't want this to sound like I'm trolling the "film is dead" debate, but I was just perusing auctions for cams I've owned and sold and would like to own again, and found myself wondering whether used cams that sell for $700 (Fuji 645 Zi) or $1300 (Bronica RF645) or $2000 (Mamiya 7) might not entice someone to restart production. I know, volume is an issue. But it seems like there is a sophisticated production economy today that probably didn't exist 10 or 20 years ago. How much can these cams cost in terms of materials? Why couldn't Fuji or Mamiya just license someone to do a limited production run? It doesn't cost Fuji anything because they already have the plans/schematics, right? In an age when you can get a Chinese company to make seemingly anything to demo in like two weeks, including sophisticated electronics, it seems like you wouldn't have to build some huge factory and line up all the parts that require big up front costs and a big production run, 'cause they already exist. What am I missing here?
There's a heck of a lot more to doing a "limited production run" of any high precision mechanical device than "just license someone" can possibly express. And a huge amount of cost, even if you do happen to have all the old tooling and schematics at hand.

The price of a Bronica 645RF on a restarted, limited production line would probably be double or triple what the original price was to hit the same level of quality and reliability. Never mind the lenses...

There's an old rule of thumb in manufacturing: You can produce one or two of anything at a semi-reasonable cost, you can make 1000 or more of anything at a more economical cost per unit, but you can't make an economical run of 100 of anything at any reasonable price.

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Old 09-28-2019   #16
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Had the now discontinued Fuji/Cosina GF670 been a 6x9 - I would have sprung into action and gladly paid the original price.

With that said, I fully understand that designing a lens for 6x6 or 6x7 is much easier than for 6x9 and the market for 6x9 is very limited. I currently run at least 4 rolls of film a year through my Bessa II - which isn't that difficult at 8 frames per roll of 120 film.
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Old 09-28-2019   #17
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Godfrey is addressing what I was trying to get at--not reinvent or produce a new MF camera but do another run of Fuji 645 Zi's, for example. I agree the lens might be the most expensive aspect. I wonder about recreating the circuit boards, but surely those services are cheaper than they used to be, no? It would be cool to hear from someone who really knows the capacity and costs of these operations in Asia. The number of buyers is obviously "niche" but surely in the thousands, so....All comes down to per unit cost. You can say I'm dreaming, but I'm not the only one, ha ha!
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Old 09-28-2019   #18
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The problem is that you are looking at the most desirable medium format cameras and the relatively small market that is interested in them. There are plenty of cheap medium format cameras out there still too. That said, it appears that there is some room for someone to make a film 35mm AF advanced P&S... and if that happens, we could see others follow.
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Old 09-28-2019   #19
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I have just heard on the news here that there will be more vinyl records being pressed than cds this year. If we continue with our use of film and maybe shoot a few more rolls than we did last year we could see the same kind of resurgence in film. Go ahead, buy a couple of rolls of new film and maybe we can keep the prices from soaring, and maybe a new camera or two.
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Old 09-28-2019   #20
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What is doable, maybe, is keeping existing MF cameras working and taking pics for the next 50 years.
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Old 09-28-2019   #21
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I have just heard on the news here that there will be more vinyl records being pressed than cds this year. If we continue with our use of film and maybe shoot a few more rolls than we did last year we could see the same kind of resurgence in film. Go ahead, buy a couple of rolls of new film and maybe we can keep the prices from soaring, and maybe a new camera or two.
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CDs are completely dead though... so not surprising. Vinyl accounted for 12% of album sales in 2018 (depending on the source 10 to 16 million units). Add streaming and downloads... it accounted for 3%. 10-16 million seems like a lot, but before streaming, some artists sold close to 10 million units on one album. One artist. Film is already kind of in the same boat. A resurgence, but still not a mainstream resurgence.
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Old 09-28-2019   #22
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What is doable, maybe, is keeping existing MF cameras working and taking pics for the next 50 years.
Thank You. Absolutely!!
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Old 09-28-2019   #23
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I have just heard on the news here that there will be more vinyl records being pressed than cds this year. If we continue with our use of film and maybe shoot a few more rolls than we did last year we could see the same kind of resurgence in film. Go ahead, buy a couple of rolls of new film and maybe we can keep the prices from soaring, and maybe a new camera or two.
Bruce
I think a lot of this is to do with the discovery that CDs die eventually. I was never aware of that when I started buying them all those years ago but I have many in my collection that will no longer play. Meanwhile my collection of vinyl sits there looking at me wondering when I might get a record player to play them again some day. It's an interesting world.
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Old 09-28-2019   #24
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Exactly! I took a darkroom class a few years ago and there were four young women in the class with me--hardly what I expected. I'm just thinking that people buying used Zi's for that kind of money, when they could just stop working and aren't repairable, begs for new models. Seriously, how much can it cost to make one of those? Not $800, I'd guess.
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Old 09-28-2019   #25
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"It would probably be easier to get Cosina to reintroduce the Bessa III 667 than to start fresh. What is the minimum order? I’ll buy one if it is priced around US$2k."


Small runs will never be bargain priced....
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Old 09-28-2019   #26
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Considering the work involved in doing proper servicing to a Rolleiflex that's really not a bad price at all. For instance it's not particularly complicated but can be time consuming to adjust the cam action and re-shim the lens parallelism back to factory tolerances. Quite apart from attending to any shutter or film advance issues requiring attention. There are fewer and fewer people willing or able to do really good work on Rolleis, (and unfortunately they are, in some cases being replaced by charlatans who think they're smarter than Frank & Heidecke, who will drop in bits of lenses to "tidy up" a Rollei before flipping it to unsuspecting buyers). None of these skilled repairers are ever going to get rich working on vintage cameras but they still have to eat.
Many good points here. An error on my part, however. I've just found the invoice on the Rollei repair and realised I was initially quoted $A450, not A$350 for a BASIC repair, without cams or speed adjustments. In short, cleaning and oiling, full stop!

I negotiated a lower price and after much kitkit and heavy bargaining, and finally paid A$290 for the Rollei CLA plus slow speed adjustment. The cams did not require any attention. That A$350 included a minor repair on one of my cherished Nikkormats which wasn't firing. I rather suspect the repair person did a fast and cheap repair for me as a favor (the 'mat works perfectly now). So as you wrote, the deal wasn't quite as horrific as it may have seemed when I got the quote...

All in Ozzy dollahs (aka South Pacific pesos) which currently rate US$0.67 and a fraction cents to the Yankee equivalent. So compared to USA prices, I paid just under US$200 for the two repair jobs. Not so bad.

I sam thankful to not having to buy anything photographic or paying for camera repairs with New Zealand dollars which nowadays seem to be as valuable (and valued) as Indonesian rupiahs.

Indeed, we Down Under colonials live in hard (and often harsh) times...
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Old 09-28-2019   #27
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"It would probably be easier to get Cosina to reintroduce the Bessa III 667 than to start fresh. What is the minimum order? Iíll buy one if it is priced around US$2k."


Small runs will never be bargain priced....
I wonder how small the run would be though (compared to its original release)? I feel like Cosina discontinued the Bessa models immediately prior to the upsurge in the film market, and if they reintroduced it now they would potentially sell more than they were selling 10yrs ago.
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Old 09-28-2019   #28
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If we ignore discontinued classic cameras, the best way forward in the new film photography era is to make simple, open source cameras. No proprietary technology! All intellectual property, if there is any, should be put under a Creative Commons 0 license. We have to make it as easy to repair and upgrade as possible.
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Old 09-28-2019   #29
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nickthetasmaniac, I'm not so sure. I was really keen on the Bessa/Fuji 670, but i've heard stories about their reliability & the availability of repairs. A photog friend of mine, who is very careful w/ his gear had to send his to Fuji USA twice and it didn't come back repaired.
The idea of a folding MF camera appeals to me, as i've lugged Fuji GS/GSW 680/90 around the mountains a lot with no issues. I'd be keen on an upgraded Plaubel.... had good results with those.... But i have to admit i think the market is tiny.... & i have to agree Luddites & Hipsters...
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Old 09-29-2019   #30
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Exactly! I took a darkroom class a few years ago and there were four young women in the class with me--hardly what I expected. I'm just thinking that people buying used Zi's for that kind of money, when they could just stop working and aren't repairable, begs for new models. Seriously, how much can it cost to make one of those? Not $800, I'd guess.
By hand? Or are you going to add the cost of production machinery?

Unless there's a still-viable production facility, or you come up with a design that can be 3D-printed, any new camera's going to cost a bloody fortune.
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Old 09-29-2019   #31
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Reviving MF production? A pleasant fantasy dream - but a dream.

As I see it, the major factors AGAINST a revival of new MF cameras are -


The horrific cost of 120 film. Film in general is now expensive, I rarely buy and everyone else I know has either ceased or down-scaled their MF film use.

Ridiculous. Film, aside from E6, is not even remotely expensive. The cost of film is so minor on my outings that I dont even consider it. Yeah, if you are an E6 shooter, you pay a lot, but hardly anyone relies exclusively on E6. That's why it is so expensive.


Film, expensive? LOL!
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Old 09-29-2019   #32
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nickthetasmaniac, I'm not so sure. I was really keen on the Bessa/Fuji 670, but i've heard stories about their reliability & the availability of repairs. A photog friend of mine, who is very careful w/ his gear had to send his to Fuji USA twice and it didn't come back repaired.
The idea of a folding MF camera appeals to me, as i've lugged Fuji GS/GSW 680/90 around the mountains a lot with no issues. I'd be keen on an upgraded Plaubel.... had good results with those.... But i have to admit i think the market is tiny.... & i have to agree Luddites & Hipsters...

Odd. My GF670 has been all over the world, and has shot over 1,000 rolls of film without so much as a problem. I never take special precautions with the camera, just toss it into the bag and grab as needed. Not fragile at all.
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Old 09-29-2019   #33
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Ridiculous. Film, aside from E6, is not even remotely expensive. ...

Film, expensive? LOL!
I donít know if youíre out of touch or just trolling, but in my hometown a roll of Portra400, shot and developed, will set you back about $25aud. If film is your primary medium, thatís going to rack up pretty quick.
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Old 09-29-2019   #34
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Same here, but depends on how much you shoot. I'm in at about $35/roll developed and premium scans. But MAYBE I shoot 6 rooms a year. When I got something I like and want to get it matted/framed with museum glass it costs as much as a years worth of film if not more

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I donít know if youíre out of touch or just trolling, but in my hometown a roll of Portra400, shot and developed, will set you back about $25aud. If film is your primary medium, thatís going to rack up pretty quick.
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Old 09-29-2019   #35
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I feel like Cosina discontinued the Bessa models immediately prior to the upsurge in the film market, and if they reintroduced it now they would potentially sell more than they were selling 10yrs ago.
They could probably sell out a new run pretty quickly but to repeat those sales year after year would be the trick. The pent-up demand would be gone after the first run. That's the hard part about entering a niche market.

Complicating the issue would be, which format to make? The 6x6 guy would be disappointed if the new camera is a 6x9, for example.
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Old 09-29-2019   #36
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Re-starting Production of MF Film Cameras
If there was money in it, all the brands would be churning them out. And they are not. Draw your own conclusions.
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Old 09-29-2019   #37
retinax
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I'm not so sure about having just someone doing it under license. Apart from the cost and difficulty there's also the issue of trust. I'd need a lot of confidence in the maker do make it right and to support it for a while before I'd consider buying a new, expensive camera. So I think if something like that ever happened, it would have to come from someone like Hasselblad, Phase One or Fuji. Fuji at least still have the tech around making light meters, leaf shutters and optical viewfinders, plus they make film, so the incentive of selling a bit more thereof and demonstrating commitment to it.
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Old 09-29-2019   #38
Godfrey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
The problem is that you are looking at the most desirable medium format cameras and the relatively small market that is interested in them. There are plenty of cheap medium format cameras out there still too. That said, it appears that there is some room for someone to make a film 35mm AF advanced P&S... and if that happens, we could see others follow.
There is not enough audience for such things to be created new. I have three or four excellent 35mm "advanced P&S" cameras. All in perfect working order, and will be for years of use to come. There aren't enough buyers ... I can't even sell the used ones at a reasonable price. New ones would be double to triple the price I'd take for these.

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Old 09-29-2019   #39
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So, it appears the only demand strong enough for continued production of a new medium format is.....(small and quiet drumroll)
The Holga 120n.
Oh well, that’s something, I guess.

Edit; Forgot, Lomography still sells the Diana+, so maybe two medium format still made new.
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Old 09-29-2019   #40
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The price for a used Fuji GFX50R with lens is not far from the price of a used Bessa III 667W anymore (prices for those gone nuts). Go figure...
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