Photographers Reeling After German April Fools' Day

Looks like the Germans have us beat in soccer, old-school communism and April Fools' Day gags.

On April 1, Rogge & Pott, a Hamburg, Germany-based design company, unveiled a jump-up-and-down-with-excitement product that would, once again in the digital age, completely change photography.

The RE-35 cartridge, the business promised, would be a swift and seamless replacement to 24- and 36-exposure film rolls. All you had to do was pop the puppy into any 35-millimeter camera, set the shutter speed to ISO 400 and shoot away. Once finished, the images were USB transferable.

Complete with a fancy-pants Web site that's no longer up because the server couldn't handle the traffic, the product was pimped in style with attention-grabbing images and Web copy such as:

For photographers who are attached to their analog equipment but can no longer resist the pull of the digital age, RE35 proposes a solution: a digital cartridge that fits into any 35mm camera and connects to your computer via USB.

The RE-35 cartridge, in place of film, has a pull-out "sensor" that captures the images and saves them to flash memory within the cartridge. When plugged in to a computer, the cartridge charges and transfers images with built-in software.

Turns out it's all bunk because yesterday, company co-founder Henning Rogge announced that he and his people had pulled the classic banana-in-the-tailpipe trick.

All this attention Re35 ist [sic] getting might actually be good for something. It proves, that there is a gigantic community of photographers with analog equipment out there that is desperately waiting for a product like this to come along. We hope there are no hard feelings and that you are not too disappointed.

There were hints, of course. For one, the sample images and technical specifications pages on the Web site were apparently "coming soon." There's also that whole bit about it being (duh) April Fools' Day.

Hair Balls was on the fence with the idea from the start.

On one hand, we marveled at such a cool technology and how those crazy Germans -- who invented the tank-like Hasselblad, arguably the best camera on the planet -- had once again created something that would pump new life into dusty film cameras such as the Leica.

On the other, we still primarily work in film and are increasingly frustrated that our favorite analog-capturing vehicles, such as the Polaroid brand and Fuji 160S 120 color negative film, are on the verge of going to film heaven. The RE-35, we felt, would accelerate the dying process.

We also felt bad for folks like the late Garry Winogrand -- the snap-happy shutterbug who, when he died at age 56, left behind nearly 2,500 undeveloped rolls of film -- and his contributions to an analog art form that's becoming more and more moot. (Hey, at least his apartment would have been less cluttered if he shot with the RE-35 cartridge.)

Even though it has been unveiled that the RE-35 is an impostor, Rogge & Pott have done amateur and professional photographers a favor by creating yet another interesting debate on film versus digital photography, and, on a larger scale, analog versus digital technology.

Great presentation, y'all.

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen