What’s new? No what’s old! In search of film camera trend in Hong Kong

Cameras are evolving to their highest degree of performance. Recently, even Apple has released their new iPhone 11 Pro, with three built-in cameras. Yes, three! On one side, the direction we could head with camera technology seems infinite, but on the other, there’s a new trend of going back through the years–with film cameras.

Comparison of old vs new technology in terms of style and design

“Actually, they (the companies) are turning to teenagers. Or maybe university students. They (young people) are a major part of our customers,” said Kelvin Chan, one of the co-founders of the shop Showa, a film camera select shop in Mong Kok. They have another branch in Causeway Bay as well.

The place is filled with rare vintage cameras, one time use disposable cameras, film rolls and vintage camera bags. Yet, the store is very modern. A touch of the old meeting the new.

Kelvin thinks film camera is a trend. “People like getting vintage stuff and retro stuff. They think digital camera, digital photography cannot give the feelings that film camera can.”

There is an ongoing trend of the new generation rediscovering vintage cameras. Showa itself is an example, as Kelvin himself discovered film photography five years ago when he was gifted one from his uncle. A 22 year old customer at Showa said that she was buying one of the disposable cameras as a birthday gift for her friend. She said it looked “cool and pretty.”

When you search #filmisnotdead, you can find 13.2 million posts with this hashtag; and #filmphotography with 17.8 million (Numbers taken in September 26th, 2019).

Another proof, that Kelvin suggests, is how camera companies are still producing films.

“You can see the different actions of maybe the suppliers. They are also still producing films and also, brands like Yashica are making new film cameras or disposable cameras. They are trying to promote the film photography.”

Also, you can see the law of supply and demand with these film cameras as they are getting more expensive every day, Kelvin added on.

“There’s actually not much new in camera. All of the cameras are second hand, and that’s why it’s become much more rare, and if they get destroyed you cannot fix it and it’s rare as well.” This rarity gives these cameras value and you can find that the price is not specifically set by the company. It’s by the market and who has them. If you are searching for one, and you dig deep enough, you might get a great deal.

Yuen Leung, the owner of ‘Focus,’ the owner of a film camera shop in Sim City, Mong Kok agrees with this change in price as well. He also notices younger people coming to buy film cameras.

Leung started his film camera shop 10 years ago and has been using film cameras for 20 years.

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Then, why is Hong Kong a great place for film photography?

Hong Kong film
Picture of Hong Kong skyline using a film camera

Kelvin describes how in Hong Kong, there’s still a lot of shops where people can physically take a look at the cameras and develop their own films as well. Showa get many customers from Japan, Korea and the States. They said they sometimes have to find cameras in other online platforms and order them.

In an age where everything is changing quickly, it’s nice to capture the moment with a film camera despite the time and effort it requires. It’s especially great to do it in Hong Kong, where old and new exist together in this colorful buzzing city.

Kelvin’s favorite film cameras are the GR ones, as he prefers lighter and softer tones. Mr. Leung’s favorite one are from Nikon as there are more lens selections to choose from. Film cameras are making a comeback for special reasons for different people.

Kelvin says as there’s only 36 exposures per roll, you get to think more before taking a shot. “Also, someone will say there’s still advantage of shooting with negatives, if you are shooting with color negatives, the direct mirroring to color is much more prior than digital ones. So what you can record in film is much more detailed.” Mr. Leung simply described the reason for people to go for vintage camera as “film feeling.”

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