At the turn of the 21st century, American shutterbugs were buying close to a billion rolls of film per year. This year, they might buy a mere 20 million, plus 31 million single-use cameras — the beach-resort staple vacationers turn to in a pinch, according to the Photo Marketing Association.
Equally startling has been the plunge in film camera sales over the last decade. Domestic purchases have tumbled from 19.7 million cameras in 2000 to 280,000 in 2009 and might dip below 100,000 this year, says Yukihiko Matsumoto, the Jackson, Mich.-based association’s chief researcher.
For InfoTrends imaging analyst Ed Lee, film’s fade-out is moving sharply into focus: “If I extrapolate the trend for film sales and retirements of film cameras, it looks like film will be mostly gone in the U.S. by the end of the decade.”
So who’s still buying this relic from another era? Really good amateurs and a few pros who shoot “nature, travel, scientific, documentary, museum, fine art and forensic photography.”
It’s just the natural order of things, I realize that. Technology will continue to render things obsolete. But are some things more nostalgic than others? Surely, it’s sadder to lose film and all it represents than, say, the VCR player, right?