In the, for now, penultimate installment of this series on Useful Apps for Film Photographers I want to have a look at how the manufacturers of film are doing in the mobile space. As we have seen so far there are many ways that mobile apps can be useful for analogue shutter bugs. Are the emulsion makers big and small making use of that?
The short answer is, barely.
A quick search of the web and the app stores brings up no results for black and white film icon Ilford. Their website has quite an extensive section of tips and tricks for film development etc, so one would assume that making some of that available for mobile users would be a big opportunity for them. Dear Ilford, why not turn your pinhole exposure calculator into an app?
Fujifilm have quite a lot of apps but those are all for digital devices and uses. There is one app to calculate depth of field and view angles for Fujinon lenses but that also has no specific focus on analogue but is, indeed, more aimed at digital movie and surveillance cameras.
The only manufacturer who seems to see potential in mobile apps for their customers is film legend Kodak. The Kodak Professional Film app contains information including data sheets for their range of professional b/w and colour negative films. You can browse their catalogue of films either by recommended use (Studio, long lenses, etc) or by format (35mm, medium format etc). There is a basic Sun Calculator that provides sunrise and sunset times based on your location. That’s okay, but, um every weather app can do that and its by far not as useful as LightTrac or even Sol…There is also a developing timer similar to Develop! It guides you through a series of questions about your film and chemicals combination and voilà there’s your timer with development steps. It only works with Kodak products which is understandable enough. What’s really annoying, though, is that you cannot switch off the “darkroom mode”, which uses very pale red font on black background. I don’t know about you but once my film is in the tank I prefer to work by light and the dark display is hard to read then. Finally, there is a location-based retail and lab locator whose usefulness everyone has to judge for themselves.
The app shows some potential, it has got the right ideas. But the execution has been half-hearted and thus I must say it’s usefulness is rather limited.
There is, however, another Kodak app for cinematographers and whilst I want to concentrate on still photography I think the app interesting enough to look at it here: Kodak Cinema Tools offers information (i.e. links to data sheets) about their movie film products. Information-wise, there is a pretty extensive glossary of film terms some which are also relevant to still photography, of course. There are also some reference and guidance documents for cinematographers, and an online magazine, “INCAMERA”.
As for functionality there’s the same rather limited Sun Calculator as in the Kodak Film app. *Meh*. But there is also a Depth of Field Calculator, that I found interesting. Unfortunately, it is only for movie formats so it’s use for still photographers is limited. There’slso a Film Calculator showing you many feet of any given format of film you need for a given number of minutes you want to get out of it (or vice versa), and finally an Aspect Ratio tool. Using your phone’s image library you can draw frame lines on a picture to give you feeling of what it might look like through the lens of a movie camera. Overall, this app does not blow your socks off either, but it feels like it has more useful functionality than the one for still photography.
Oh, and of course there is Impossible by the instant film manufacturer of the same name. I already looked at it in the previous installment of this series. It’s pretty special, being the software component for the “Instant Lab” but it also offers a scanner functionality with a gallery upload and a direct access to an online shop for instant film. It is also much nicer designed than Kodak’s apps but to be fair that was to be expected looking at the chic and slick Impossible corporate design.
All in all this is a pretty sorry state of affairs. If film manufacturers want to secure the future of film they should explore new ways of adding value for their customers around just providing film material. Useful apps for digital devices, mobile or more conventional PCs, that go beyond being a glorified product brochure definitely would be a way to achieve this.
I hope you enjoyed this little series on Useful Apps for Film Photographers so far. If so, come back soon for the final round-up and the question: Should you be relying on digital helpers anyway?