Subscription service offers ‘wonder box’ of analogue photography films to try
September 25, 2020
Interested in discovering 35mm film photography, or keen to get back into it after an absence? Film supplier Analogue Wonderland is starting a new subscription service – you fork out £50 and get every two months you get six different 35mm analogue film emulsions to try. The company has over 200 different films in stock, and the first ‘Wonder Box,’ to be sent out this month includes: Dubblefilm Bubblegum, Bergger Pancro 400, Ilford Pan F, Lomo Metropolis, Rollei 400S and Kodak Ultramax. We caught up with Paul McKay from Analogue Wonderland (below) to find out more.
Why did you decide to launch the subscription service for analogue film now and what exactly does it involve?
Ever since we started Analogue Wonderland in May 2018 we’ve had customers ask us for ‘a regular delivery of different and fun films’ so the idea’s been there from the start. There are obviously some logistical issues when you incorporate a subscription service into a regular retail business: website code, payment providers, the warehouse set-up… there were changes in all three.
But we had done this work and originally intended to launch the subscription in March this year. The pandemic had other ideas, and we had to delay to cope with the wave of regulations and supply issues on the business. So we are thrilled to get back on track and finally go live. With every subscriber receiving six films every two months – along with some exclusive goodies and discounts – it’s a perfect way for folk to learn and experiment with films outside their normal shooting experience.
Can people choose which analogue films they get or do you choose for them?
We choose! With over 200 films available on our site, there has always been the opportunity for people to ‘pic-n-mix’ their way across brands, formats and types of film – but with the Analogue WonderBox we’re looking to help people methodically learn the differences between different emulsions. We have a community of other folk on the same journey who help, and we release tips and tricks every week.
Why did you decide to arrange for delivery every two months, rather than every month?
It gives people much greater flexibility to shoot the film at their own pace. We know that some folk will happily shoot three films in a week or a month, but for others who are fitting their hobby around many other things in their lives they might not be able to do anything for five weeks, then have a fortnight to shoot away happily.
It’s also more economical for us. Paying less postage each year means we can afford to include better films in the WonderBox at the same cost for subscribers, and it’s more environmentally friendly. All our film ships fresh and with many months on their lifespan so there’s no concern that holding onto a film for a few weeks will risk the quality of the results.
Do you also advise people with getting their analogue film developed?
I’m definitely not an expert in film development – I leave that to the wonderful people who run labs! – but I know enough to be able to help people just starting out. The development, and scanning, of films can also drastically impact the final results of certain emulsions. Where that’s the case (like with DubbleFilm Bubblegum) we will highlight that in the week’s ‘Tips and Tricks.’
Are most of your customers returning to analogue film photography after a lay-off, or trying it out for the first time?
A real mix. Broadly speaking there are the ‘youngsters’ who are discovering film cameras, the film aesthetic, the joy of taking a physical photograph – all for the first time. And then there are also people who used to shoot film, moved across to digital and experienced all the benefits and convenience of shooting like that, but ultimately miss the tangible nature (and smell of chemicals) that they got with film. Ultimately everyone these days tends to be a hybrid shooter – I myself take a lot of photos of my young family on my iPhone as well as my Canon AE-1.
Did you see an upsurge in interest in film during the lockdown, as people had more time on their hands, or has business been quite stable?
It’s hard to say conclusively. For the past two years we’ve experienced lots of new customers coming to us and talking passionately about (re)discovering a love of film – and obviously a lot of that is down to us being a new company.
At the same time we invest heavily in advertising to folk who we think might be interested in film.
This does not have a great return in the short (or even mid) term but it’s an important part of what we’re trying to do – to build the film community for the future, and to empower photographers with the right information and inspiration to feel comfortable adding film to their shooting toolbox. That can only come with new people entering the market and helping drive it forwards. All of this is definitely helping create interest in film which will hopefully benefit the entire industry.