Licensing older film emulsions to smaller companies? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

With the demise of many older film emulsions why can't a company go to Eastman Kodak and get a license to produce something like Super XX? Paying a royalty for the license and then producing a film many seem to want. Some of the film & paper makers have had small factories producing their products under license in the past though generally for the parent company. So why not revive a few oldies under license to try & fill what we see as gaps in the film & paper line-ups?

-- Dan Smith (, July 26, 2001


Dan: Well, that would be the brass ring, wouldn't it? I just picked up an old EK "data book" on film developement, circa 1960, and EK was producing about twenty varieties of black and white sheet film at the time! Now they're down to what, Tri-X? Anyhow, as I understand it, and in the case of EK, although the formulae are still there, the infrastructure is not. There was a thread here a while ago about the demise of and hoped-for rebirth of Super XX (anyhow!) and someone reported that well-meaning EK technicians say it would cost in the neighborhood of ten million to restart Super XX production. I don't know if I believe that. I do believe it would be extremely expensive and complex to do any such thing competently, however, and this makes me place my hopes in dear old Ilford. Who else is up to it? -jeff buckels (albuquerque)

-- Jeff Buckels (, July 26, 2001.

Frankly, I think they could do it without bothering KODAK. Surely, any patent rights have run out. There may be a copyright floating around but that could be finessed.

-- Richard C. Trochlil (, July 26, 2001.

I think Kodak would have problems with someone else producing one of their products--Kodak's quality control for film is pretty good, and I think they would have serious reservations about another company maintaining their production standards. But maybe they would consider it if the company were already established--like Luminos or Bergger.

The other factor is--I'm not sure a small company could make money on a niche market. The price of Super XX doubled in the last years of its production, and even with the price increases it became untenable for Kodak to continue production--the market was too small to make a profit. My fear is that this will eventually be the fate of ALL black and white photographic products. We had a big discussion about this on the Film & Processing forum recently, where dozens of people wrote to say that black and white is alive and well in their area. But my belief is that the percentage of black and white practitioners relative to the total number of image-makers is steadily declining, particularly since the advent of digital technology. The products that aren't discontinued will see dramatic price increases.

Jeff--Kodak still produces Verichrome Pan, Tri-X, Plus-X, T-Max 100, T-Max 400, T-Max 3200, and several other specialty black and white films, including Super XX movie film.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, July 27, 2001.

It seems to me that Ilford is more interested in B&W products than the other big players. For that reason, they get all my film and paper business. I figure it is better to support one company as much as possible, to keep them interested, than to spread B&W sales so thin that no one can make enough money to stay in the business.

-- Chris Ellinger (, July 27, 2001.

Good discussion. If we take a step back, think of three areas that stimulated advancement in emulsions: the advertising community; the medical-scientific community; and motion pictures. The first two seem headed to digital. Many advances that we take for granted as still photographers were "by-products" of the greater demand by and commercial potential of supplying the motion picture industry. Zoom lenses come to mind. Faster, better black and white films also fall, I believe, into that category.

-- David Stein (, July 27, 2001.

You know, I read this alot on these forums, about how dedicated Ilford is to the B&W market, and that may be true--as it seems their products are kept pretty much in production--but one thing to consider is that Ilford has never had near as many films, developers, papers, chemistry, etc....even hardware like processors, as EK has over the years. I believe it's really just supply & demand that has done some of these films in. I agree that it's a shame, but to compare the massive Kodak line, with some long-running (almost outdated) emulsions, to a much trimmer Ilford line (with less specialty items) is a little unbalanced. To my knowledge, Ilford also does not make the processors they market. Our 2150 was made in Italy. The Omnipro processor is made by Kreonite....and while Kodak has trimmed down alot of their b&w emulsions, regrettably some really nice lab films as well (like SO-136, Pro Copy, Commercial Film), the closest Ilford ever had to these 3 is Ortho+. As an in-house lab that does alot of b&w work, I'm not sure we could still put out the same work using solely Ilford products. I'm not sure where that leaves us with Kodak discontinuing products, and scaling back...but then all the manufacturers are doing this to some degree might not encounter it on an amateur level though.

-- DK Thompson (, July 27, 2001.

As far as which company gives us great service in B&W emulsions and the numbers offered by The Yellow Godfather compared to its competition we are comparing apples and kumquats here. Yes, Ilford has few film emulsions compared to what The Yellow Peril has now and far fewer than what EK has had in the past. Part of this must be because of market research into what they believe will sell well enough to pay for itself, the research that went into creating it and the R&D teams to keep pushing for more and better products. Another is that in looking at what EK has been successful at you find your target market or see small areas you can fill that the big marketer doesn't want to fill for whatever reason. In the case of The Yellow Peril it seems that now it isn't a question of whether the product is liked, will show a profit or is highly praised but only of whether it will show a high enough profit. For years EK has carried products that didn't show a profit yet filled a specific market niche or need and kept its profile a positive one with the pro & serious amateur market. Lately they have been going the other direction. Dumping thousands of B&W researchers has the future looking dim for B&W in Rochester. Not being able to make their latest 'flagship' developer a product that inspires confidence is a biggie. Yes, Ilford has only a few products compared to Kodak. But they work and I am not hearing horror stories related to their use. Ilford isn't perfect but at least they seem to have products I like and use. I would still use some EK products but they discontinued them on me and if I want to special order them I need $6000 or so to get the ball rolling and then let them hold my money while I wait for production and delivery.

I can't see a problem with licensing some products to smaller producers. Performance standards are easy to incorporate into an agreement and can be monitored. Then EK could also sell off some of its older equipment and clean out the warehouse to match the scientific research team.

-- Dan Smith (, July 27, 2001.

Well, I wasn't trying to ruffle any feathers here...but I guess you've never had the pleasure of owning an Ilford processor...

-- DK Thompson (, July 27, 2001.

Dan, I realize that Super XX is the film of choice of MAS&PC who develop in ABC Pyro and contact print on Azo. But in all honesty I gotta say that I remember Super XX as a pretty crappy film. When Tri- X came out it was like a breath of spring air. I continued to use Super XX for separation negatives for dye transfer for many years, because of the long straight H&D curve, and the flat spectral response. But for general photography, give my Tri-X, or Plus-X or FP-4, or particularly XP-2+, etc any day.

-- Wilhelm (, July 27, 2001.

One other thing...cut me a little slack on my comparison of the two companies....I don't see them in "black and white" so much...i.e. the Evil Kodak vs Ilford. You can learn alot about a company through customer service, especially when ordering a years worth of supplies or shelling out thousands of dollars a year in service contracts. I'll remember how much their products work next time the processor is down for a month and all the parts are backordered (even with a contract)....and heaven forbid you should get one of the older "special" models that tends to self-destruct....I'll respectfully bow out now, but I'll just say trying to work that out with them left me with a different impression than yours. Just in case any reps are reading this, let me close by saying these opinions are MINE not those of my employers.

-- DK Thompson (, July 28, 2001.

Hi, I have heard so much about this film "super xx" and having not been photographing for very long have not enconuntered. What is/was so good about it? If it was dropped, it was surely for a reason??

p.s. I also heard that forte 200 was a remake of superxx? is this true


-- David Ivison (, August 08, 2001.

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