We get questions almost weekly regarding the SP-2810 or SP-457 (these were our 8x10 and 5x7 versions of the SP-445.)
As most of you know, we launched kickstarters for both and neither met its funding goal. Hence, we've done no further development (ignore the pun) on either system.
Why not? We'll skip the technical challenges (they can almost always be solved) and jump right into the marketing/business obstacles.
The obvious question: is the market big enough? Answer: no one really knows. But frankly, we don't think that the size of the market is the issue but rather the demographics of that market.
Let us explain by taking a look at our existing customer base. A large percentage of SP-445 users are new to 4x5 sheet film. Many are moving up from roll film or 35mm. Some, (myself included), are getting back into film after years of digital and always wanted to work with a "serious" camera. A surprising percentage have never developed their own film before; some have never even shot film!
While getting into 4x5 film is a serious undertaking; it's really not that difficult. Cameras are affordable, lenses are readily available and film prices aren't exorbitant. For new users, the SP-445 is a perfect solution. It's easy to use, very efficient and affordable.
So it's not surprising that almost 40% of SP-445 users do not have a traditional darkroom. Hence, they scan all their negatives and print digitally. In fact, according to our market survey, only 30% of our customers make only silver prints.
Now, moving up to 8x10 (or even 5x7) is another matter! Very few photographers jump from 35mm to 8x10. In fact, most of the extra-large format photographers we've met also shoot 4x5, medium format etc. And they been doing so for years (or decades.) Many are also doing alternative printing: platinum, salt prints etc. Thus, they have a complete wet darkroom and don't really need a new processing system.
And don't underestimate the GEFA syndrome (Good Enough For Ansel). This is the "If Ansel Adams didn't do it that way, neither am I" attitude. We've had people tell us that since Ansel used trays, they'll only use trays. In fact, people have actually emailed us just to tell us that the SP-445 is silly because they can process 50 sheets at a time in their dip tanks. Seriously? Adams was much more likely to process one sheet at a time than fifty sheets; he'd have probably loved the SP-445!
We haven't given up. (You might have seen our Shrinking the Darkroom post.) We're just investigating different options and researching the market.
Comments and suggestions are always welcome.