When Canon built its very first digital camera in 1986, few would have looked ahead and seen digital killing off film. The RC-701 shot images just 780 pixels wide, saved up to 50 of them on a two-inch video floppy disc, and was really more of a curiosity than anything else.
Times, of course, have changed. It's now hard to remember what a huge step forward your first digital camera was, because they're such a common part of our lives now. But the idea of a camera that lets you see your shots straight away, right there on the back of the screen? That was a revolution. The idea of not having to print all your shots to see them meant you could bang away far more freely than with film, taking 100 bad shots for every good one with basically no penalty for doing so.
The darkroom, where an expert could bring out all kinds of wonderful detail and artistic effects from your film exposures, has become Adobe Lightroom, a post-processing product so easy to use that any clown can do it. Curiously, though, a vast proportion of Lightroom and other photo editing software presets focus on recreating the unique look and feel of different types of analog film.
That's not film's only legacy – my three-year-old has a Peppa Pig camera toy that makes the unmistakeable click and auto-wind sound of a film camera when you hit the button. It's an audio relic of a bygone age he'll probably never interact with.
Today, in a charmingly casual announcement on its Japanese website, Canon announced the official discontinuation of its EOS-1V, the final film camera in the Canon stable. To be honest, I'm kind of surprised it lasted this long.
How stark the back of this camera looks. No review screen, no menus, no thumbsticks or function buttons, just a big fat gate you can open up to hook your film reels in. It's been decades since I put film into a camera, or stood in a shop in some foreign city wondering whether I was going to see a mountain or a cathedral, because I'd need to plan ahead and work out which ISO film to have on me.
"Thank you very much for your continued patronage of Canon products," reads the announcement through Google Translate, "By the way, we are finally decided to end sales for the film single lens reflex camera EOS - 1v … Although it is truly selfish, thank you for your kind understanding of the circumstances."
The company will continue to service and repair 1V units until 2025, unless they run out of bits, which could begin happening after 2020.
There are other film cameras still on the market; Leica still makes a few film beasts, Nikon has a couple left, Fuji makes a rangefinder, and there are a handful of chunky medium format cameras out there. And there's also a bit of a fashionable resurgence in Polaroid-style instant print units that give you something you can stick straight on your fridge.
But there's no more Canon film camera, and as one of the figurehead leaders in the camera business, that's news worth ruminating on.
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