The End Is In Sight : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

Visited my local Ritz/Wolf emporium today. In this city of over 100,000 with at least five camera stores, there's not a bottle, bag, package, or can of B&W Fixer to be had. No Dektol either (as best I can tell), nor any of those small white plastic bottles of Ilford concentrates like Ilfosol and Ilfotek and Multigrade developer, Universal Fixer, and so on. The good news is that I won't have to spend the night in the darkroom till 3 AM.

-- (, January 29, 2002


Real danger is when we lose options for paper and film.

As long as I have water (and Guiness) on tap, I can make it until 3am.

Chemicals are really easy to make -- even if Kodak, Ilford, AGFA, Fuji, Konica, etc. all go out of business, there is a relatively easy way to deal with the problem... in fact I don't buy packaged developers/stop baths/fixers any more. I don't have to see unused chemicals going bad either...

-- Ryuji Suzuki (, January 29, 2002.

RYUJI...If I am to comprhend your post;you not only have a darkroom but also Guiness on tap!! I never believed that heaven exsisted untill I read your post.The best I can do is Guiness in a can with the widget! Alas I must also remind you that over the years Guiness has been watered down has have our choices in film & paper. I live in a small Canadian town of about 60,000 people & I can usually purchase most(not all) Ilford products locally.However if I want bulk Delta or Fibre paper I have to travel 60 mls to a bigger city. As much as I read of the change to digital I see very little of digital images,outside of magazines,& wonder if most of the images stay in the computer??? I fear that it is not that silver images are dead but the art of reproducing photographs silver based or digital is dying!

-- Melvin (, January 29, 2002.

I vote for making your own developers what I do now... OTH Ryuji has it hands down over me...I would love to see that darkroom...

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, January 30, 2002.

Well, realistically, Guiness on tap is at the bar across the street. Bars in Massachusetts close at 2am at the latest, so I need a few more cans to make it to 3am. (Don't tell me to move to Chicago :-)

I only have a fridge for film (frozen at -15C or so), paper, wine and Guiness, all stored at 13C/55F, ha! With most low-tech fridges (old one from college dorm or the one that came with your apartment!), you can get to an screw (not the knob whose temp control range is limited) to adjust the thermostat range, and tweaking it a bit lets you to go up to that range. Useful knowledge for wine/stout drinkers :-)

It's so ironic that office supply stores have more photograde inkjet papers than b&w papers in a photo store, and so on. But on the other hand, even a plain old Plus-X in D-76 1+1 printed straight on cheapest grade 3 paper may very well look something special to the majority who has never seen real silver prints...

Now you can tell I'm drinking real Kentucky straight bourbon tonight. Remember, you can make a good beer with a bit more effort than formulating a developer. But you need a lifetime to make a good whisky.

Film plant and distillery, two things (among many others) I don't want the world to lose.

-- Ryuji Suzuki (, January 30, 2002.

We have a friend in the UK who's neighbour has his home brew bitter on tap in his house!

-- Nigel Smith (, January 30, 2002.

My favorite camera store went out of business, and the other pro store in town has fallen out of my favor, so I've mostly been mail ordering supplies for several years now. I find that even with the shipping charges I often get better prices from B&H or Freestyle. Fortunately, there is little likelihood that alcoholic beverages will become obsolete. Recent studies indicate that moderate amounts of alcohol reduce the chances of Alzheimer's disease and extend one's life expectancy. Salud!

-- Ed Buffaloe (, January 30, 2002.

There is nothing left in the entire southern half of New Jersey and only a few stores left in Philly.

Part of the problem is that the low volumn walk-in business can't compete with the larger mail order houses in price or selection. I think that there are more choices in papers, film and chemistry than there where in the past. This makes it difficult for a local store to carry everything that everyone want. It also means that their Dektol sits on the shelf because so many customers want Ilford or Sprint or some other paper developer that the store does not stock. B&H, Calumet and Freestyle (for example) can stock a wide range of items, partly because they are in big cities, but also because they can advertise nationaly and sell all over.

Home Depot and Lowes have closed many local hardware stores and lumber yards. WalMart has closed many local 5&10 stores, toy stores and others. This does not happen because the big stores targeted the small (although some of that does happen), it is because the customers chase the lower prices and give up the service provided by smaller dealers.

-- Ed Farmer (, January 30, 2002.

Guiness is a lot better in Dublin than in the US. They keep the best and export the rest!

-- Gene Crumpler (, January 30, 2002.

No supply problems all the way up here in alaska- I pretty much get what I want, all locally. FX-2 is the only chem I sourced out-of- state. Diafine, Ilfotec, microphen, all kinds of stuff I've never used even! Wait, should I be doing this? No, I take that all back. There is nothing here. What's happening to it all, blah blah, I can't find any super-rx developer, blah, blah, where has all the fixer gone?

-- Mike DeVoue (, January 30, 2002.

In addition to Ed's comments above....most independent camera stores just can't compete with the volume dealers in any way...on top of all the esoteric darkroom chemicals available right now, and there are a bunch of great small companies out there at the moment & unique products as well, but on top of all this--film, paper & chemistry all have limited shelf lives and cannot be returned to the original companies if they're not sold. So, think of the camera stores as well...having to stock a whole bunch of different types of chemicals and papers that maybe only a handful of their customers will ever purchase. On top of this, you often have to order a minimum quanitity even on special order...I used to use alot of Kodabrome RC and Kodabromide fiber paper and always had to order a couple of hundred sheet boxes minimum when I only wanted one...and that was maybe 10 yrs. ago. I have to order paper developer by the case...but I plan in advance & keep a minmum stock on hand for myself...when it gets to be about 2-3 mos. out, I place an order through the local store...I could just get a can from Calumet, but I like to give the local guys my business. I learned this from my job where we order materials only a couple of times of year...we have to keep an inventory and estimate usage and all that, AND then the items are ordered through bids & takes a couple months of red tape just to get a single, I see in this process a similarity to the consumer....say we run out of rapid fix and I know I can buy it down the street (the closest shop is about a mile away)...but there's no petty cash and if we buy out of pocket we won't ever be reimbursed because the item is on a bid on the contracts you have to supply a certain volume to begin with, AND be able to compete at a price of close to 70% off list for these products....most small, local shops just can't do's only the big, mail order vendors that can compete....

The big companies themselves--Kodak, Polaroid, even Ilford--all operate separate divisions that handle different aspects of what is sold in the stores as well.....what type of products a store can carry "officially" based on how much they can sell, etc...some reps will come through and tell them to move the old items off the shelf, because they don't want outdated paper or whatever to be sold...which is great...I'm all for that, but what if the stuff just isn't moving? If outdated is 6 mos. ? If you learn to read the chemical date codes on say Kodak products, you'd be surprised at how much stuff just sits on the shelves of camera while I want to give business to a local store--I don't want to buy E6 chemistry that's 2 yrs. old....

I'm afraid the only hope for the small camera store, is to be located in a community with a really vibrant, loyal darkroom customer base...and even then, you might not see all that much of a selection...but you can always estimate how much materials you need, work in some fudge room for backorders etc., and start a little stockpile for your setup...plan for the emergencies as well.

Since I'm talking vendors, contracts & biz, these are MY opinions only and not those of the agency for which I work for.

-- DK Thompson (, January 30, 2002.

I guess I'm luck to live across San Francisco Bay from Palo Alto, home of Stanford University. There appears to be enough darkroom trade, and photo artist types in the area that the Keeble & Shuchat keeps their darkroom supplies well stocked. I get decent prices on supplies, especially Agfa. For some reason their Agfa prices are even better than most mail order houses.

Maybe you'd like to move to SF area?

-- Charlie Strack (, January 30, 2002.

I think manufacturer's incentive to continue offering enough options is more important than retail store situation. I usually do not ask for salesperson's opinion before buying a box of paper or a brick of film anyway, so I don't particularly have a benefit to pay someone to scan the bar code. Since I picked three films and a couple papers for my regular use 4 years ago, I buy them in quantity and get done with shopping... unless I'm shooting the scenes in the store.

-- Ryuji Suzuki (, January 30, 2002.

I live in a university town that has a big photography program, so the local camera shop usually has a good stock of darkroom supplies. The problem is that their paper and most other things are overpriced ($70 for a box of Ilford multigrade fiber?!). So I usually go there to buy chemicals only, which for some reason are cheaper than the big mail order companies, and for the rest I order it through Calumet or Helix, etc. The mail order places still seem to have a large supply of darkroom chemicals and papers, so for now things seem good....

-- James Webb (, January 31, 2002.

I have found stores like Ritz and Wolf to have ridiculously high prices for the chemicals, paper, etc. that they have, which may be one of the reasons they can't move an inventory and decide to eliminate it instead. Until mail order starts to be dangerous on the products from irradiation, etc., that will remain the best option. I have ample supplies locally at good prices, but they still can't beat mail order on most items.

Beer is one of the few products with a shorter shelf life than developer. That's why it's important to consume it on a regular basis in order to insure proper product rotation.

-- Jim Rock (, January 31, 2002.

There will not be an end for silver image! Try to take a high end digital camera for a week's hiking trek or for 3 month trip to India, you won't get many pictures back. Carry a Nikon FM2, Leica M6 and you will be able to carry also some Guinness, with Olympus E20 you need to carry so much extra batteries, that there is no room left for Guinness. Have you tried O'Hara's in bottle? The wholesome taste is far truer stout than bottled G, the difference being like the one with a true printed b&w silver print and the inkjet print! Stout, film and chemicals!

-- Ilkka Aaltonen (, February 02, 2002.

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