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With all the talk of sensors, megapixels, and digital processing at Photokina 2012, it's easy to forget that, in the not too distant past, virtually every camera used film to take photographs. Over the past two decades, 35mm SLRs have become Digital SLRs, and "Instant" cameras—like that Polaroid SX-70 you found in your parent's basement—have morphed into WiFi-connected devices with the ability to instantly upload pictures to the web.
But at Photokina, film isn't entirely dead. In fact, there are a number of booths showcasing film-related products, including 35mm SLRs, medium format cameras, and even new "instant" film via The Impossible Project. There are even specialized film processing companies on hand; yep, the services you used to get from your neighborhood drug store have been fragmented and refined in the digital age.
First up on our tour was Alpa of Switzerland, who appear to only make medium format camera bodies. These impressively built machines are entirely modular, allowing users to customize them however they wish—and that includes the decision of whether to shoot on film or with a digital back.
Next, we visited "the oldest name in cameras," with a stop at the Voigtländer booth. Voigtländer, which was founded in 1756 in Vienna, has produced photography equipment for over 150 years, and it's one of the few companies at Photokina to have 35mm film SLRs on prominent display (alongside their Bessa III 667W medium-format camera).
Polaroid announced it would cease production of instant film in 2008, but you can still get film for your existing Polaroid cameras thanks to The Impossible Project. Since 2010, The Impossible Project has used old Polaroid machinery to make small batches of instant film for artists, fashion-conscious hipsters, and anyone who has an old Polaroid camera kicking around. At Photokina, the booth even had a prototype of their new iPhone instant camera, which is being funded by a Kickstarter program as we speak.
Finally, we stopped for a visit with Film Rescue International, a company that specializes in developing expired film (especially old or unconventional formats). The results on display at the booth were seriously impressive, and the Canadian company certainly knows what they're doing. Remember that strange roll of film from the 1950's you found in a shoebox? You should probably give Film Rescue International a call.
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