Partisans mount defense of old-school film in digital era

Analog photographic film roll.
Hanis| Getty Images
Analog photographic film roll.

Could film become to photography what vinyl is to music—a relic of the past that people are willing to pay good money to own?

Vinyl records were the way to listen to music for 30 years until replaced by the cassette tape, compact disc and, of course, digital files (MP3s). Despite the advent of the digital age, though, music purists pay a premium to purchase music on vinyl.

Now, it seems a similar movement is underway in the creation of pictures, both in terms of still photography and films. Technological advancements are making both an increasingly scarce commodity, but photographers are trying to preserve the old ways for future generations.

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Cole Rise, an amateur photographer and social media maven known for creating the "Rise" filter on Instagram, recently told CNBC film could return as a novelty.

"Vinyl came back in a really big way. I'm hoping film does that," Cole told "Squawk Alley." "It stopped at about 5 percent of what the market used to be. But it's stable, and I think it's coming back."

Point-and-shoot digital cameras are big business. The rise of digital devices that double as recording and picture-taking instruments have disrupted the film industry. However, there are tentative signs of a comeback of sorts.

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Recently, directors Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan opted to shoot their major motion pictures on standard film, as opposed to its digital counterpart. In turn, Kodak struck an agreement with Tarantino and Nolan to provide film for their upcoming pictures.

"Kodak thanks these industry leaders for their support and ingenuity in finding a way to extend the life of film," Jeff Clarke, CEO of Kodak, said in a statement to announce the agreement this summer.

Still, the company is experiencing the wrenching adjustment of the industry's shift to digital on its bottom line. Kodak noted its motion picture film sales were down by 96 percent, which forced the company to shed jobs at its New York factory.

Part of maintaining production is to align costs with current levels of demand, a company spokesperson told CNBC.

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With the proliferation of cellphone cameras and video recorders, it's hard to find people who will defend the old-fashioned way of using cameras and shooting movies. However, film partisans insist the quality of the old school trumps digital in several key qualitative ways.

Recently, Rise launched his own photo-filtering app, Litely, which had ranked No. 1 in the free photography section of Apple's app store. Today, Rise's Instagram account boasts more than 900,000 followers and his work has been picked up by National Geographic. Still, he prefers to take pictures on film.

"I still use film every day. I love it."