Photograph by Matthew Wright, used with permission from 35mmc.

Last December, on a previous edition of Film Friday, we shared an article from Matthew Wright wherein he explained why the film photography community ‘has a math problem […] not a film price or Kodak problem’ in regards to 9–15% price hike Kodak had announced for many of its films. Now, Wright is back with another thoughtful article on 35mmc, this time opening – and ultimately answering – the question of whether or not bulk loading cinema film is a solution for photographers amidst increasing film prices.

The essay, which dives into the pros and cons of bulk loading and developing cinema film is an insightful look at what some photographers believe to be the panacea of rising color negative film prices and an increasing unstable market that is seeing many film stocks unavailable or heavily backordered. Wright starts with some background information by explaining how 35mm cinema film stock is different than your standard color negative film and even provides a little glossary of sorts.

This glossary is beneficial because if you’re not familiar with cinema film, and particularly developing your own film, there are a few things that might catch you off-guard. First and foremost, most cinema film can't be developed at your usual photo lab, due to the use of a rem-jet layer not present on still-oriented 35mm film stocks. So, instead of using the usual C-41 development process, most cinema film requires you to use an ECN-2 process, which is a bit more complicated to account for the removal of the rem-jet layer.

Photograph by Matthew Wright, used with permission from 35mmc.

As such, you’ll likely be limiting yourself to home-development, which may or may not be something you’re up for depending on your determination to save a few dollars here and there. And, as Wright points out, odds are if you’re using a film lab as is to develop your film, the price increases of film aren’t going to deter you from shooting pre-loaded film considering the price most labs charge to develop and scan a roll.

After going over the rather complicated nature of developing cinema film, Wright digs into whether or not you can actually save money by bulk-loading cinema film instead of buying pre-rolled film from the likes of Kodak and Fujifilm. Wright even breaks down the analysis on a public spreadsheet, which is available to view here.

Photograph by Matthew Wright, used with permission from 35mmc.

The remainder of the article covers a few anecdotes from Wright’s time shooting with bulk-loaded cinema film and concludes with a rather succinct opinion:

‘For me, bulk loaded cine film and ECN-2 development is not a panacea for rising film prices unless film prices skyrocket AND cine film prices stay unchanged AND the prices of ECN-2 chemicals stay the same.’

Considering how unlikely it is that pre-loaded color negative film and C-41 chemicals continue to increase at such a rapid pace without cinema film stocks and ECN-2 chemicals doing the same, it’s unlikely the process is worth it, even if it feels like you’re saving a few dollars up front.

You can read Wright’s full article over on 35mmc:

Is Bulk Loaded Cine Film a Panacea for Rising Film Prices? – By Matt Wright


About Film Fridays: We've launched an analog forum and in a continuing effort to promote the fun of the medium, we'll be sharing film-related content on Fridays, including articles from our friends at 35mmc and KosmoFoto.