Guest blog post: Keith Canham & Large Format Photography

Kodak Professional is in Chicago, IL for the annual Society of Photographic Education conference. You can find Tim Ryugo, our national sales manager for professional film, in our Booth #44. along with Keith Canham, owner of K.B. Canham Cameras. Keith tells us how he partnered with Kodak to deliver large format film to the market.KB Canham 7 X 17 3/4 rear view<br />wood large format field cameraLet me introduce myself: I am Keith Canham, owner of K. B. Canham Cameras, Inc. I have built large format cameras for more than 30 years.  I did not start building camera with the intent of owning a camera business. I just wanted a large format camera. I had been photographing for more than 10 years when I had my first opportunity to use a 4×5 camera. Up until that time I had used medium format. It was love at first sight with the 4×5. Not the camera, but the image made with it. The detail and tonal range -just stunning. The topic of the image was not great. It was an assignment shot for a photography course I was taking at the university, but I was hooked. As they say, the rest is history.

I still do all the design work on the cameras. As the owner of the business, I seem to do some of just about everything else, too. We make the wooden parts in our own shop in Arizona. Most of the metal parts are made by two machine shops, also in Arizona. All of the metal parts are machined from solid billets of 6061 aluminum. My company builds everything from 4×5 to 20×24 and will do special one off cameras as well. But enough of the techy stuff.

KB Canham 20X24 3/4 front view with film holder<br /><br /><br />metal ultra large format cameraThe environment of photography today is very exciting. Digital has changed my customers from a large percentage of commercial photographers to a large percentage of fine arts photographers. People with a discerning eye know that digital does not look like traditional. Both can be beautiful in their own right. The artist needs to decide which method or combination of methods best produces the final work of art.

Four years ago I approached Kodak about selling special order films. I had seen others put together groups to order film from Kodak that was not a standard size listed in the Kodak catalog. They would do this only once. Photographers didn’t know whether there would ever be another order put together or even how they could put together such an order. Kodak is a big company and it can be daunting for an individual to figure out how to place a special order. It is also a significant amount of work for Kodak when every special order is from someone new who doesn’t know how it all works. I wanted to make it easy for photographers to acquire film in sizes not listed in Kodak’s catalog. Kodak agreed. Now if you want one of Kodak’s emulsions in any sheet film size, I can get it for you. There is one footnote here. I should say that I can get any size so long as one of the dimensions is 40 inches or smaller. In fact, right now I have an order placed for 6″x7″ Ektar 100, a size that I have never heard of. Over these four years, the film sales have increased. I can tell you from talking to people I know in the film industry that film sales are strong.

No matter what some people say, film is not dead. In fact, it’s very much alive. People were convinced when photography became possible that painting was doomed. Who would paint a picture when a camera could capture it in seconds? Look around – there are still many artists that paint. Why should we believe that film photography is over?

If you want to learn more about us a K. B. Canham Cameras, Inc. take a look at our web page or like us on Facebook.

9 thoughts on “Guest blog post: Keith Canham & Large Format Photography

  1. I realize that sheet film probably accounted for a small fraction of what Kodak used to call their bottom line. And I really appreciate Keith’s efforts to try to make the Kodak sheet film available via purchasing coops! It would be great if, in the future, makers of Kodak film were to take a modest positive step and consider cutting and packaging specific batches of sheet film at regular intervals, even if such intervals were only once every year or two. Knowing that there was a plan in place to produce various sized sheet film, people could order ahead of time, via either Keith or directly from Kodak. With this model Kodak would know ahead of time how much to film to package and/or reset the intervals for making a particular run of film. I suspect that if everyone who used to use 5×7 Tmax 400, for example, knew that there was to be a continuing source of this excellent film, they would order accordingly and welcome not wondering 1) if someone will initiate a coop order and 2) whether the occasional coop purchase will indeed make the minimum order? Kodak film may not be dead, as Keith says, however, the uncertainty of knowing if and when the best films the world has ever experienced will ever reappear is clearly driving many of us experiment with otherwise available (if perhaps less desirable) brands of film. It would be wonderful if Kodak were to realize/acknowledge that their most loyal customers are/were their large format film customers…even if we aren’t able to refloat the entire Kodak industry.


    • I want to let everybody know that I will start a co-op of any size and emulsion at anytime. All that needs to be done is to ask me. The uncertainty arises in whether a person or persons will purchase enough film to be able to meet the minimum order quantity.


  2. Thanks for keeping large format alive!!, Medium format guys need help as well.

    I really wish that we could get special runs of TRI-X in 220 rolls and 100′ 70mm Double perf Type 2. All my Hasselblad 70mm backs are sitting useless now. I’d like to have a 220 B&W film for my A24 Hasselblad backs and my 220 inserts for my M645 camera.

    I will not ask for Tri-X in 127 rolls 🙂 (Even though my Baby Rollei misses it) !


  3. Thanks a lot for sharing this with all people you actually know what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also discuss with my site =). We will have a hyperlink change arrangement between us


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