I think we can all agree that the world if full of analogue cameras. Some sit in attics, at the back of cupboards in drawers. Others populate charity shops, thrift stores and antique shops. Neat lines sit on photo school and university kit stores shelves. Many live on eBay and Facebook Marketplace. And there are even some that are actually used.

Suffice to say if you want to use an analogue camera there is no shortage of supply at every price, from the cheap to the expensive from the unibiqitous to the rare. Whicever one you but there will be a load of lenses out there you could use and the build quality will envariably be good. So good that they will have survived in reasonable to good condition for many decades. And yet Pentax have decided to launch a new one. The 17.

The analogue community are cheering loudly arguing that this is commercial proof that there is a future for film. Like old jazzers rejuvenated by the release of a long lost Miles Davis album they can stream.

The Pentax Film Project web page launched in 2022 and the analogue world were beside themselves with excitement and expectation. Ricoh, the owners of Pentax, began a world wide tour talking to influencers within the analogue community who are now seeing this as a new chapter in film photography. Companies such as the film manufacturer Ilford were and now are equally excited. So what’s the deal?

Takeo Suzuki – one of the Product Designers working on the Project revealed that the reason for the Pentax 17 (that’s is its name!) has been designed primarily for vertical-format use, was informed by the camera we all have in our pockets, the smartphone, “When we communicate with each other using smartphones… we basically hold the device in a vertical position,” Suzuki explained.

The 17 has also seen a return to the half-frame format of the long-gone Olympus PEN because as Suzuki says they want to make film photography more cost effective and therefore more appealing to a younger audience, “We believe that this is a very effective solution to reduce the costs involved.”

The truth is that this new camera, I believe, is a Trojan horse. A smartphone informed camera launched to appeal to a market tired of plastic cameras with plastic lenses. It is not for the ‘dyed in the wool’ analogue photographer, they don’t need it. I’m sure that many in that community that have blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels will be sent one to review and shout about proclaiming the next analogue revolution but that noise will soon die down. That’s the nature of camera launches.

Will a younger audience buy it and begin to invest in the associated analogue costs? I’m sure some will that can afford to buy what’s needed or pay someone else to process, develop and scan their images but the majority will not. Analogue photography is not easy however much you make it sound as if it is. I know, I was a working commissioned photographer between 1999 to 2006 when I was left no option but to embrace digital capture. Digital is now established and many know nothing more.

In a short attention span culture the smartphone is hard if not impossible to beat, even when emotion and nostalgia are the triggers used to buy a camera you don’t need. Of course this is just an opinion.

Dr.Grant Scott
After fifteen years art directing photography books and magazines such as Elle and Tatler, Scott began to work as a photographer for a number of advertising and editorial clients in 2000. Alongside his photographic career Scott has art directed numerous advertising campaigns, worked as a creative director at Sotheby’s, art directed foto8magazine, founded his own photographic gallery, edited Professional Photographer magazine and launched his own title for photographers and filmmakers Hungry Eye. He founded the United Nations of Photography in 2012, and is now a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, and a BBC Radio contributor. Scott is the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019), and What Does Photography Mean To You? (Bluecoat Press 2020). His photography has been published in At Home With The Makers of Style (Thames & Hudson 2006) and Crash Happy: A Night at The Bangers (Cafe Royal Books 2012). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was premiered in 2018.

Scott’s next book is Inside Vogue HouseOne building, seven magazines, sixty years of stories, Orphans Publishing, is on sale February 2024.

© Grant Scott 2024

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Last Update: 06/24/2024