Haviland imports the 127 film fromCroatia
Area firm makes old-format film
Honeoye Falls business is a friend of antique cameras
By Michael Wentzel
JAY CAPERS staff photographer
Richard Haviland of Honeoye Falls puts together orders for photographic film for classic cameras. His company has customers around the world. But he admits, “I can’t tell you how long that will last. We’re running on nostalgia and a desire to replicate the past.” [Day in Photos]
(January 12, 2004) — When John C. Barton photographs the neon displays he makes in Middletown, Ohio, or his favorite antique cars, he uses his 52-year-old Kodak Pony 828 camera.
“It takes very good, clear, vivid pictures,” said Barton, who works with inventors in patent and product development.
But film for the Kodak Pony 828 no longer can be found in supermarket aisles or at most photo stores. Barton buys from Film for Classics, a company in Honeoye Falls that sells custom-made film to clients around the world.
“The product is much better than the original Kodak film for the camera,” Barton said. “I wouldn’t think of buying from anyone else.”
Film for Classics, launched in 1988, recorded a 5 percent increase in sales last year and had the best December ever, said Richard Haviland, the company’s founder and only full-time employee.
“I can’t tell you how long that will last,” he said. “We’re running on nostalgia and a desire to replicate the past.”
Digital cameras pose a long-term threat to the business that supplies film to owners of cameras for which Kodak and others no longer make film — a 1928 No. 3A Panoram Kodak camera, a 1931 Baby Rolleiflex or even a Brownie Hawkeye from the 1940s.
“There will come a time when people will be so mystified by film cameras they probably won’t even take a chance on getting into it,” said Haviland, who is 65.
Haviland, a retired speech pathologist, began making custom film in 1988 as a project for The Photographic Historical Society of Rochester to commemorate the 150th anniversary in 1989 of the invention of photography in France and England.
“I made up a few rolls for members and found out how difficult and complicated it was,” he said. “I didn’t really start it to be a business. But then I thought maybe other people would be interested in this film.”
Haviland buys large rolls of Eastman Kodak Co. film from the company. He splits the film to the width required by a specific camera and applies opaque paper backing to the film, a job that must be done in darkness. In many older cameras, the paper backing carries the number of each frame and blocks damaging light from entering through the small window where the number is read.
Opaque paper is expensive and difficult to find. Several years ago, Kodak made a supply of backing for Haviland, but the company no longer produces it. He now relies on recycled paper returned by film processors. The lack of paper can limit the number of orders Film for Classics can fill.
Part-time workers put the film on spools, another job that must be done in darkness or with the film in a closed bag.
“This is labor intensive,” Haviland said. “After a few hundred rolls, you get good at it.”
Films for Classics, located at 17 ½ Ontario St. in Honeoye Falls, has few competitors. A company in Canada and another in California supply some formats but have large minimum orders, Haviland said.
The Honeoye Falls company supplies major camera stores in New York City, Chicago and in California. The company has regular customers across the United States and in Japan, Germany, France and England.
“Camera clubs in Japan have real affection for old-time cameras,” Haviland said.
In the company’s first year, Film for Classics had $145 in sales, Haviland said. But Kodak information centers around the world advise photographers in search of custom films to contact the company.
“Kodak was a very important source of growth, especially in the early years,” Haviland said. “About 60 percent of our orders now come from our Web site — www.filmsforclassics.com — and only about 25 percent through Kodak referrals. But we’re still very pleased they tell people about us.”
Last year, Film for Classics sold about 6,000 rolls of film. About half of the company’s business now comes from repeat customers.
The best-selling films are the 620 format for the Brownie Hawkeye and other cameras and the 127 format for the Baby Rolleiflex, for example. The least expensive is black-and-white 127 film, which costs $8 for a 12-shot roll. The most expensive, except for unusual special orders, is the 122 and 116 large format that costs $20 for six shots.
Haviland imports the 127 film from Croatia and the 126 format from Italy.
“The film is not cheap,” he said. “I try to price it so it is reasonable and people can afford it. I don’t want them to do this once as a novelty. I want them to do it again and again.”
Film for Classics also can arrange for film processing through Rochester Photographic at 160 Park Ave. Haviland includes tip sheets with the film and returned photographs, advising customers on correct loading and use of the film and commenting on ways to improve photos.
The company has been profitable for more than a decade.
“I’ve been very careful to finance growth in the operation off profits,” Haviland said. “I don’t expect much growth. The business provides a good retirement occupation and income.
“I suppose I’ll have to find someone to take it over someday.”