Last month, Fujifilm announced that it would discontinue production of its widely popular FP-3000B film by the end of the year. While this news comes as a huge disappointment to a growing community of film photographers, they’ve grown accustomed to the dwindling supply of quality instant film. Kodak shut down the production of Polaroid film back in 2008, and Fujifilm stopped making FP-100B in 2012. Michael Ash Smith, a photographer based in the Philadelphia area and a FP-3000B devotee, is working hard to keep this technology alive. We spoke to him about the news, as well as his efforts to save FP-3000B.
What is Fujifilm FP-3000B?
There are a few kinds of instant film. Most people are familiar with Polaroid film, which generates a 3" x 3 1/8" image. FP-3000B is a type of pack, or peel-apart, film which produces a 4 1/4" x 3 1/4" positive image and a high quality negative. Since the film has an ISO of 3000, it’s great for both indoor and outdoor settings. The photos, despite the high ISO, come out remarkably un-grainy. This makes it one of the highest quality, most versatile black-and-white instant films on the market.
A FP-3000B negative (left) and positive print (right).
What characteristic makes FP-3000B unique?
This greatest thing about this film is that it produces a high-quality print in under a minute, at a very reasonable cost. The photographs that I capture with 3000B in my land camera rival in quality to those taken with my medium format camera. The film costs roughly $10 for a 10-pack, which means I’m getting prints at $1 a piece. That’s a fraction of what I’d pay if I was using medium format or 35mm film.
Who uses it?
FP-3000B has a die-hard cult following of mostly professional photographers, along with some hobbyists. Fujifilm never made an effort to market this film, otherwise more people would be using it. All you need is a land camera; and these cameras are literally everywhere. They’re sitting in thrift shops for $10, on your bookshelf, and in people’s attics. People unfortunately don’t realize that film exists for these cameras.
How do you use FP-3000B? Professionally and/or personally?
I use it both professionally and personally — definitely for engagement, indoor, and family shoots. I love using it for occasions where I have time to set up the right shot.
What are the closest substitutes to FP-3000B?
There are none. The only other pack film in production is Fujifilm FP-100C, which is a 100-ISO color instant film. It can only be used outdoors on a sunny day due to its low ISO, so it doesn’t even come close to being a substitute for 3000B. The Impossible Project makes a black-and-white instant film, however, it’s more expensive and the quality is not quite there yet.
How did you learn about FP-3000B’s discontinuation, and what was your reaction?
I first saw mention of it in a blog post on November 16th, and immediately reached out to a Fujifilm rep for confirmation. The rep later verified that Fujifilm was going to stop making the film by the end of the year. Since there’s no close alternative to 3000B, I was upset to hear the news. This is the most outraged I’ve seen the photography community over the discontinuation of a film. I’ve stocked up on the film, and I’m not alone — retailers like Adorama and B&H have been quickly selling out any shipments of 3000B they receive.
What efforts have been made to save FP-3000B? What’s the progress so far?
Within an hour of hearing back from the Fujifilm rep, I set up a petition to stop the discontinuation of FP-3000B. In just two weeks, nearly 10,000 people signed it. I’ve also reached out to multiple Fujifilm reps and posted on their Facebook page several times, but they’ve been completely unresponsive.
We simply want to talk to someone from the company about the fate of 3000B. Fujifilm has already made it clear that they’re phasing themselves out of the film business, so we understand that they’ve chosen to discontinue 3000B. But there is interest and opportunity for smaller, emerging companies to continue its production. People don’t care whether it’s Fujifilm or someone else that makes 3000B — just as long as it’s still available for them to use.
How can we help in your efforts?
What are your thoughts about instant film photography as we’re heading deeper into the digital age?
Despite what Fujifilm might think, film is not dead. In fact, the instant photography market is growing more than ever before. In 2008, The Impossible Project took over the production of Polaroid film after Kodak closed shop. Now, you can find their film in any Urban Outfitters. People will always have an appreciation for the tangible, and because of that, there will always be a demand for film.
See Michael Ash Smith and other photographers talk about why they love shooting with film in the documentary, Long Live Film.
Thanks for your support, all!
All photos courtesy of Ash Imagery.