Cameraventures.com is going to be run down during the summer of 2018. We haven’t hit a rough patch nor is our team any less motivated than it was before, it is just time to move on to the next phase.
The functions our little startup has been serving will be split into two and we will continue with two sites, two goals and two teams. The Cameraventures team will start running a totally new project camerarescue.org and the Kameratori team will handle the selling of cameras through a new site called kamerastore.com.
The underlying reason is pretty simple: the task ahead of us is so big that we need to focus only on the core questions to make an impact. During the last two years Cameraventures has gone through a mountain of tests and data analysis with the help of the analog photography community. If you are not familiar with our campaigns, you can check out the #saveanalogcameras starting article, results, repair center mapping, first year wrap-up, 2017 analog photography world summary and even some of the things we failed at like the Future of Film conference. To summarize, the analog community is growing, rejuvenating and looking into the future.
However, the photography industry in the whole big picture is declining. It mostly sees film as a burden and is surviving thanks to passport photos, school photography days, photobooks and other services. There is a sub-industry growing within small 1-5 person analog boutiques serving with passion – doing mostly film developing, Etsy, eBay and Depop camera selling, film sales, scanning services and manufacturing accessories like straps, pins, t-shirts and so on. Servicing this sub-industry are the crippled remains of a huge worldwide distribution network and a handful of film, chemistry and paper manufacturers (whose remaining 20-50 person teams have the capability to keep film manufacturing alive for decades). I believe the emerging analog industry will survive and flourish, but the big issue we constantly hit in our research is that eventually we will face a major problem with the availability of cameras. This is why we are splitting Cameraventures up.
The basic content of this article can also be listened to from this Keynote video, if you don’t feel like reading!
The challenge with cameras
The basic problem is the pricing of cameras. You can get absolute gems – the durable professional grade tools that used to cost the equivalent of several months of wage, for way less than 200€. Old consumer tools can be bought for under 100€. The last fifteen years have been a golden age of possibilities for everyone shooting film and budget-wise it is still a great time to start shooting film. At the same time current pricing trends have made everything in the film camera market so undervalued that servicing a faulty camera is not a viable option compared to buying another working body in 95% of the cases. There are two major repercussions:
1. The cameras that have not been serviced are nearing the end of their life cycles.
The simple case is that tools that were made and designed to be serviced regularly have not been, and the industry doing the servicing has consequently almost died out.
All mechanical cameras have parts that wear out and should be replaced, readjusted or lubricated every now and then. There are little to no spare parts available and most of the people with mechanical repair knowledge (from the time when repairing cameras was a big business) have already retired. The newer electric gear from the 1980s and 1990s is coming to the end of its life cycle because the electronic components and plastic are degrading and fixing them results in even more complex servicing procedures than mechanical cameras have. The only real solution to considerably extend the lifespan of these cameras considerably is to take five cameras that don’t work and combine them into two or three fully remade cameras or to start manufacturing some of the most common spare parts again.
2. 95% of the population – even within the photography industry – see basic film camera models as trash.
Sure, most people and camera shops in the world will not throw a Leica or a Hasselblad in the trash, but a terrifyingly large percentage of people are willing to take a working Konica or a Bronica to the recycling depot, let alone a body that seems to be stuck and only good for spare parts.
I could fill this article with stories I have heard from people, companies, armies, national archives and even camera shops that have taken perfectly good gear to be torn up for the metals they have in them, but I won’t so the rest of you guys can have nightmare-free nights. The situation seems to be much worse in Europe than it is in the US or Asia, as their professional second-hand camera markets are much bigger than those in Europe. I suspect that there still are around 100,000,000 cameras in Europe, so the mass of material is still there, it is just buried deep in people’s closets, attics and collections.
Why not just make new cameras?
I get asked this question constantly. New cameras are needed and I will support any project trying to create a new camera. However, the range of tools people are using to shoot film is massive. There are small point and shoots worth 5€, there are rangefinders worth 10,000€, there are medium format cameras, panoramic cameras, SLRs, TLRs, large format cameras, and so on.
When we asked people to vote for their favorite cameras in our Five Steps to Analog Cameras article the first 100 people had 500 unique favorites. In all likelihood the analog industry will only be able to make a few new models in the upcoming decade. Therefore looking towards the future with only new cameras as the solution is like saying that in the future music will only be made using the oboe, guitar and a bongo drum. Whatever the new cameras might be, they will only cover a handful of the options photographers now have. We should fight to maintain the availability of as many options as possible for future photographers.
What will we actually do in the split?
The team that has been running and aiding the projects on cameraventures.com for the last two years will change focus from running a web marketplace to trying to rescue as many cameras from misuse as possible. We will do that by connecting photographers to repair centers and non-users to professional buyers who will give them a fair price for their gear under camerarescue.org. We have been building software to help these two things happen for the last six months and are soon ready to start beta testing everything. We can develop everything quite quickly as we are under the same roof with the Kameratori and Cameramakers teams at the Camera Rescue Center in Tampere, Finland – a city sometimes referred to as the Silicon Valley of imaging.
For the last two years our team has been in charge of two sales platforms: cameraventures.com and kameratori.fi. Maintaining them has taken most of our development resources. Now we are streamlining every sales aspect to one completely new platform called Kamerastore.com, which will be launched during the next few months. Kamerastore.com will be run by the guys running Kameratori nowadays Jussi and Antti whereas inquiries about a specific product will be handled by that product’s seller. No more need for us to be a middleman in customer service requests. We believe that the new kamerastore.com will have the best browsing and usability features of any second-hand gear store in the world, as they have been continuously tweaked and improved over the last six months.
This split will take about 3 months to become fully functional as there are so many things to do. We will, however, change the social media accounts first, so Cameraventures.com will become Camerarescue.org and the old Kameratori.fi account will become Kamerastore.com. The media content of cameraventures.com will be moved to camerarescue.org and all the same items that were once on sale will thereon be available at kamerastore.com.
Sending Cameraventures off with a raffle
Shutting down a brand we have worked on for two years is a hard decision. It is, however, something we need to do to stay true to our mission. We are not venturing into the unknown any more. We now know what we need to do: rescue cameras. Shutting down Cameraventures is also a next step, and next steps should always be celebrated. That is why we are setting up a raffle to commemorate this big moment with you guys. This change is also a very big challenge for us to communicate clearly and raffling something to get people’s attention usually works. You’ve read this far, so thank you!
Thanks again for your support during the last few years. It is heartwarming to know we are taking the next step with such a community around us.
300 entries: Canon AF35M II
1200 entries: Nikon FE + 50mm f1.4
7000 entries: Hasselblad Super Wide C kit