Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by summitar, Sep 21, 2008.

  1. Is the rich-hued Kodachrome era fading to black?
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    Sep 21, 3:24 PM (ET)


    ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - It is an elaborately crafted photographic film, extolled for its sharpness, vivid colors
    and archival durability. Yet die-hard fan Alex Webb is convinced the digital age soon will take his Kodachrome away.

    "Part of me feels like, boy, if only I'd been born 20 years earlier," says the 56-year-old photographer, whose
    work has appeared in National Geographic magazine. "I wish they would keep making it forever. I still have a lot
    of pictures to take in my life."

    Only one commercial lab in the world, Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kan., still develops Kodachrome, a once
    ubiquitous brand that has freeze-framed the world in rich but authentic hues since it was introduced in the Great

    Eastman Kodak Co. (EK) (EK) now makes the slide and motion-picture film in just one 35mm format, and production
    runs - in which a master sheet nearly a mile long is cut up into more than 20,000 rolls - fall at least a year apart.

    Kodak won't say when the last one occurred nor hint at Kodachrome's prospects. Kodachrome stocks currently on
    sale have a 2009 expiration date. If the machines aren't fired up again, the company might just sell out the
    remaining supplies, and that would be the end.

    "It's a low-volume product; all volumes (of color film) are down," says spokesman Chris Veronda.

    For decades, Kodachrome was the standard choice for professional color photography and avant-garde filmmaking. At
    its peak, a reverential Paul Simon crooned "Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away" in 1973. It's the only film to
    have a state park named after it - photogenic Kodachrome Basin State Park in the red-rock canyons of southern Utah.

    During its mass-market heyday in the 1960s and '70s, countless snapshooters put friendships in peril every time
    they hauled out a carousel projector and trays of slides to replay a family vacation.

    But the landmark color-transparency created by Leopold Godowsky Jr. and Leopold Mannes - "God and Man" in photo
    research circles - went into a tailspin a generation ago. It was eclipsed by video, easy-to-process color
    negative films and a tidal-wave preference for hand-sized prints.

    Nowadays, Kodachrome is confined to a small global market of devotees who wouldn't settle for anything else. And
    before long, industry watchers say, Kodak might well stop serving that steadily shrinking niche as the
    128-year-old photography pioneer bets its future on electronic imaging.

    The digital revolution is undermining all varieties of film, even a storied one that garnered its share of
    spectacular images: the giant Hindenburg zeppelin dissolving in a red-orange fireball in 1936; Edmund Hillary's
    dreamy snapshot of his Sherpa climbing partner atop Everest in 1953; and, most iconic of all, Abraham Zapruder's
    8-millimeter reel of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

    Steve McCurry's portrait of an Afghan refugee girl with haunting gray-green eyes that landed on the cover of
    National Geographic in 1985 is considered one of the finest illustrations of the film's subtle rendering of
    light, contrast and color harmony.

    "You just look at it and think, this is better than life," says McCurry, 58, who has relied heavily on Kodachrome
    for all but the last two years of a 33-year career.

    John Larish, a consultant and writer on photography, marvels at its staying power. "I've got Kodachromes from the
    1930s and the blue skies look as bright as they did in the 1930s," he says.

    Collectors of airplane and train images value its unsurpassed fade resistance. Assorted dentists, plastic
    surgeons and ophthalmologists still rely on its clarity and unique palette, especially for multiyear studies.

    "Different eye diseases can have different colors," says Thomas Link, an ophthalmic photographer at Minnesota's
    Mayo Clinic who shoots 10 to 15 rolls of Kodachrome a week to help doctors diagnose and treat illnesses. "Even
    now we will go back and look through images taken 30 years ago for research purposes."

    If Kodachrome should vanish, "we'd either change to a different type of film or do it digitally," Link says, but
    long-term studies that hinge on image consistency might suffer.

    Alarm bells have been ringing since Kodak exited the film-processing business in 1988. One by one, its Kodachrome
    home-movie and still-film formats have been discontinued, and only a 64-speed remains. (Film speed is a measure
    of its sensitivity to light; low-speed films require a longer exposure).

    An even slower 25-speed version departed in 2002, an equally beloved 200-speed in 2006, a Super 8 movie stock in
    2005 - all supplanted by standardized films far easier and cheaper to process.

    Dwayne's, the Kodak subcontractor in Kansas that has had the market to itself since a Kodachrome lab in Tokyo
    closed in December, still processes tens of thousands of rolls annually but admits sales are sliding.

    "If Kodak doesn't feel it's economical, they might stop making the film itself," says owner Grant Steinle. And
    "if film volumes become so small that we're unable to economically process it, then we might stop."

    Unlike any other color film, Kodachrome is purely black and white when exposed. The three primary colors that mix
    to form the spectrum are added in three development steps rather than built into its micrometer-thin emulsion layers.

    There's a high price for this: Dwayne's charges $8.45 per roll plus $9 for development. That's at least 50
    percent more than color negative film, the kind that prints are made from.

    As slide-film sales began to plummet in the 1980s, an already limited number of independent photofinishers
    willing to make use of Kodak's exacting color-diffusion development formulas fell away. Customers then evaporated
    when it became much harder to get Kodachrome processed quickly.

    Ektachrome - another line of Kodak slide films - and similar products from Fuji, Konica and Agfa were well within
    the capabilities of all processors and took over the market as they improved in quality.

    McCurry, who shot the "Afghan Girl" picture with Kodachrome, is turning to digital cameras as the technology gap

    "I like to shoot in extremely low light, inside of a home, a mosque, a covered bazaar," he says. "To stop
    movement, it's just absolutely impossible to do that with Kodachrome or with practically any film."

    Yet aficionados like Webb remain bewitched by Kodachrome's "vibrant but not oversaturated colors."

    "It has an emotional punchiness that really always seemed right for me," especially in tropical urban locales he
    gravitates to in the Caribbean and in "mucky light" near dawn or dusk. Digital boasts "remarkable clarity," he
    says, but "it's almost too clear and doesn't seem to have depth and texture the way film does."

    Webb was "incredibly distressed" when Kodachrome 200, his all-time favorite, bit the dust in November 2006. He
    stockpiled 600 rolls and is using up the last 150 to complete a photography book on Cuba this fall.

    "It seems kind of appropriate because Cuba is a world of the '50s on some level," Webb says. "It has existed in a
    bubble outside the world of globalization now for 50 years, and Kodachrome goes hand-in-hand."
  2. The world is going to hell. I've got 2,845 Kodachrome slides in carousels. Nobody cares. People take photos with their freakin' cell phones.
  3. I bet if Kodak were to revive their orignal Kodachrome, all of us would beat path to their door.
    What a shame Kodaks discontinuing the BEST SLIDE FILM EVER MADE, IMHO.
  4. While I liked the original Kodachrome (ASA 10), which is what I soon settled on with my new Heiland Pentax H2, I still remember the incredible Kodachrome II (which then was anathema to the old K10 people). From time to time I would try something else, and I shot a lot of GAF(Ansco) high-speed film, and later High-Speed Ektachrome, but my mainstay was always Kodachrome, and as slow a Kodachrome as I could buy. Never cared so much for the higher speed - if I had wanted that I would have used Ektachrome in the first place.

    I wish that they would redo KII or K25 or the ASA (ISO to you youngins') 10, but I'm betting that it would be a mighty small world that would beat that path.....

    It's sad, but things pass on. I don't see many sources for print out paper these days either (but http://www.albumenworks.com/pricelist.html )
  5. I've been watching this now for about 10 years waiting to read the epitah,,, it will come,, unfortunately.
    I vaugely remember the release of K-200. I remember in the early 80s the flagrant availability of both 25/64,
    and the sudden change to outsourced labs to do Kodachrome. I relaized then the decline would begin, the
    handwriting was on the wall. How can you continue to produce if it's just not economically vialbe.. what can
    we do.. it's not like 2Save the Whales" where a ground swell of activists can make a difference.I love looking at old
    National Geograhics from the 40s and 50s... incredibile color....I recall the Afghan girl cover as it was released. (I was
    just getting into photography) You can't help but be blown away by that shot!..others too numerous to mention..

    Give us those nice bright colors.. give us the greens of Summer.. Mama don't take my Kodachrome away!
  6. I wish it were still available in 120 and 4x5.
  7. I give up, I'm going to get a cell phone with a Zeiss lens.
  8. To echo John Larish, I still have some K10 Tranparecies that my Dad took during WW2 in Iceland, and other places, that are still as vibrant,and saturated as the day they were processed. It seems that the age of instant gratification is upon us. I have great memories of waiting for the mail to arrive with my latest roll back from the Kodak lab in Fairlawn NJ. I even got a chance to go on a tour of it once. K2 we'll miss you if you go.
  9. John C, personally I'm waiting for the Leica Phone. The keys had better have a great feel, wrapped in Vulcanite not Naugahide with a black paint on brass option for that retro look.
  10. OK, so I could go out and buy 50 rolls and put them in my freezer, but will Dwayne's stop processing it? Can it be processed at home?

    I bought a gross of APX100 120 when they stopped making it. Stored it in my mother's freezer. One day she defrosted the fridge and threw everything in the freezer out.
  11. This summer I have been using up my K64 and Super 8 Kodachrome to photograph and film my kids while they are still little. Then one day when all of the digital files are gone, they can pull out the old man's kodachromes and show their grandkids what real photographs looked like.

    Seems like we're all living in a Twilight Zone episode where everyone is giving up real photographs and we're the last ones who remember what it's really all about. Photographs should be timeless documents, like Daguerreotypes.
  12. It is an unfortunate and somewhat sobering reality that film photography has declined to the point where it is now considered to be, in some circles, a quaint idiosyncracy of a by-gone era. As a 45 year old, I remember how in my lifetime, I went from taking pictures with my fathers' Polaroid Land Camera, to my first 110 GAF camera, my 1st 35mm camera: a Konica C35V to later 35mm cameras of various manufacturers, including Minolta, Canon, Yashica, Nikon, Praktica, Ricoh and Leica. Incidentally, almost all of which I still own. Being a stickler for finesse and mechanical perfection, over the years I have spent a small fortune having my film cameras CLA'd. I do still use them with great affection and pride. Time was when I'd go to an old Mom and Pop camera store and ask for a roll of Kodachrome 64. I'd shoot the leaves changing color in Central Park in New York City, or indeed take a 3 hr drive into the Catskill mountains for the yearly ritual of trying to get that certain "shot" which would afford me a sense of accomplish if it turned out acceptably sharp and exposed. Well..times change: technology advances for better or worse and corporations inevitably market products for their own profit, not for consumer interest.

    I have always shot with print/slide film and will continue to do so until it is no longer available..Then sadly, I will give up photography as a hobby..

    Tis a pity that we have reached the veritable end of the line as far as film is concerned...Truly I feel my youth and photographic productivity and skill..as even a self professed amateur has come to an abrupt halt...
  13. What I heard in the rumor mill (actually, from an apparently well-placed source) is that the last run of Kodachrome that was/will ever be made was a couple of years ago or so.
  14. I just hope the last kodachrome roll ever shot will not be employed in face of a brick wall to illustrate a "film vs. digital" argument.
  15. Let's be real, guys. Kodachrome is a unique and singular film. For macros of flowers, it has a richness and tonality that are unsurpassed. But if anything kills Kodachrome, it will be the tremendous advances in the quality of E-6, not digital.

    As my local lab put it about a year ago, when I asked how digital had affected their E-6 business, "E-6 always has had a unique and devoted following, and digital really hasn't had much imact on that at all."
  16. well you know, here around most E6 labs closed down! it takes me several days just to get a 35mm or 120 roll of Fujichrome or Ektachrome processed.
    I can't buy Kodachrome if not from a mail-order catalogue, at high prices and to that I should add development? No clue on how to pay either, where to ship. So I never did. I would love to. I can wait the time needed, but prices and shipment must be certain.

    After all, a lot of people whined when original Agfa slides (not E-6) went away. Recently I have seen many examples and was astonished by their colours and grain (of course, latest examples by Agfa and Orwo, although I have seen a scan from a pre-war image which was amazing... even inf a bit faded and not retouched)

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