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A hopeful Future for Analog (1/3)- Global film community at large!

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

It’s time for an update on the results of the Analog Community 2020 survey! A look back into the past 3 years of analog community worldwide unveiled how the film photography market has changed and evolved. Despite existing challenges, hope is on the horizon as optimism of the community towards the future unfolded.

Hi, this is Amelia, a film enthusiast just like you. I’ve been committed to a long-term relationship with film for almost 4 years. And for the last few months, I’ve been working on the Analog Community survey, a rework of the 2017 #SaveAnalogCameras survey by Camera Rescue.

For those who don’t know, the survey was part of my school thesis to investigate into the second-hand film camera market. More importantly, I’m driven to make these results as accessible and relevant as possible to our community, in the hope that they would provide useful market insights and guidance for development projects, small businesses and companies. Besides, it attests to those who still believe in film, that your belief is not in vain.

Overall, there is a vast amount of data, thus plenty of opportunities in analysing and interpreting the dataset. As discussed with Juho, I decided to make the data easier to digest by breaking it down into a mini series of few in-depth articles based on the survey data and other research. There will be a summary article for easy navigation at the end of this mini series.

Without further ado, let’s tune in to see the first takeaway from the survey results.

Who took the survey?

Over one month, we’ve collected answers from over 3200 respondents across 94 countries, accumulating to over 110,000 answers.

The top countries with the largest number of participants are:

29% USA 

11% UK 

8% Germany 

5% Canada 

3% Australia / Spain / France / The Netherlands / Finland

2% Belgium / Sweden / Italy / Norway 

*It’s recommended to check the map on desktop browser.

Although this is half the number of participants back in 2017, by no means does this represent the whole film community. Putting it into perspective, the community r/analog on reddit has 1.2 million members, and not everyone is on reddit.

The survey outreach was limited due to several reasons: changing algorithm of social media platforms, length of the survey, language limitation, and possible privacy concern (although there were basic demographic questions, all answers were given anonymously and any given email is solely used for the delivery of the survey results).

All things considered, huge thanks to those who supported, participated, and helped spread this project, you’re all amazing :)!

Among all respondents, the majority was male. Unfortunately, the survey did not reach or attract much female and non-binary film shooters out there since they only accounted for 11% and 1.5% respectively.

Additionally, it is interesting that only 340 respondents in 2020 also took part in the 2017 survey. That’s about only 5% of the total participants in 2017. So what happened to the rest of them after 3 years? Were they unaware of this survey? Did they opt out from this survey for some reasons? Or did they stop shooting film (I hope not)?

What we know is that survey results somewhat tell us about the current state of film photography and its future. By comparing the data of the 2020 survey to those in 2017, five key areas were identified:

1. The film community and its optimism towards the future

In 2020, the number of Digital Natives increased by 12% compared to 2017 as younger people found their love for film photography. Digital Natives are those born after 1980 and were around 18 or younger when digital cameras started to catch up on the consumer market in the early 2000s and quickly surpassed film cameras in sales.

“The global film community is not only becoming younger but also more diverse.”

A similar trend was seen in a variety of businesses. Leica has received large interest in their analog cameras from the younger photographers under 36 years old. For the analog print magazine Photoklassik International, almost 70% of their audience are under 35 years old.

Plus, there are also more Female and non-binary shooters among the Digital Native.

As the statistics suggested, the global film community is not only becoming younger but also more diverse and there’s no reason to believe that this trend will stop any time soon.

Despite some obstacles which will be discussed in more detail in the upcoming parts of this article, the majority of film enthusiasts shared a positive outlook on their future shooting habit.

In particular, when being asked, 90% believed that they would continue to use more or at least the same number of films in the next 5 years.

The majority of analog enthusiasts who expected to shoot more film were Digital Natives. It seems that the older they get, the more likely they are to maintain their usage volume of films or their shooting habit.

“The majority of film enthusiasts shared a positive outlook on their future shooting habit.”

On the other side of the spectrum, 7% were uncertain about their future usage and only 3% anticipated to decrease their film usage. Analog enthusiasts over 73 years old as well as those who shoot film only once a year or less were the most likely to shoot less film.

Interestingly, the group of respondents who saw their film usage reduced also considered the overall efforts needed for film photography as the third most challenging aspect for shooting film, while this is the least difficult factor for the average film enthusiasts.

In terms of offline community in 2020, it looked somewhat similar to how it was 4 years ago. The slight difference lied in the higher number of film shooters who did not know any like-minded analog enthusiasts in person in 2020 (+6%).

Most of those are youngsters with up to 2 years of experience. Those who learned about film photography in 2020 were mostly in social distancing and could not meet other peers.

Besides, more newcomers today get to know film photography through the internet, they are more likely to be self-taught and learn by Youtube videos.

It’s great that the internet has made film more inclusive for everyone around the world. However, IRL connections are just as important. We’d expect to see more events, workshops, and community/commercial darkrooms to be open in the future when the world recovers from the pandemic.

Curious to know if your local film community looks different than the rest of the world? Take a look at the interactive table below:

There are much more detail about the analog community that will be discussed in the upcoming article. For now, this general look at the film community is enough for us to say that it is growing younger and more inclusive.

There is certainly optimism for the future usage of films worldwide even with the current challenges. Offline circles of film enthusiasts haven’t seen much change, particularly due to the global pandemic but sights of future gatherings, events, workshops, exhibitions, and darkrooms can change this in the upcoming years.

The second part of this article, discussing the state of photographic film market and analog gear supply, will be published this Thursday. So stay tuned! 🙂



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