End of an Era: Kodak to discontinue Kodachrome 64
Kodak has announced that after 74 years, they are discontinuing the last of their Kodachrome films, K64. You can see the full press release further down on the page. Now, before we get into a frenzy of wailing, teeth gnashing, and hotheaded accusations I think everyone needs to admit something: We all knew this day was coming. Yes, everyone knows that the song says “Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”. But Paul Simon also says in that same song “I can read the writing on the wall”.
Kodachrome sales have dropped steadily for the past 20 years. Kodachrome in 120, K25, and K200 were all discontinued previously because of that fact. The development process is so large and complicated that the available number of labs had dwindled to one. Yes, only one lab in the whole world is still running a K14 line. There just isn’t any way around these things and despite all the loving words so many photographers use to describe Kodachrome, none of these facts have changed any in recent years. It’s hard to deny that a film emulsion has lost some of its relevancy when the photographer who took one of the most iconic photographs in the world on Kodachrome (Steve McCurry ‘Afghan Girl’) essentially says “Yeah, Kodachrome was great back in the day. But I used an E-6 film for the follow up shot 17 years later because today’s films are better”. Plus, this doesn’t even get into the inefficiency (for Kodak) of having one orphan product that has to be made differently and uses chemicals in processing that no other product uses. Chemicals that were easy to create and dispose of in the 1950’s when Kodachrome was king, but that have gotten harder and harder to deal with as environmental regulations have gotten tougher over the years. At this point, it doesn’t make any sens for Kodak or for film lovers to have Kodachrome taking resources and time away from other more popular films or R&D for anything new.
So yes, this news sucks. It’s really too bad that we have finally ended up at this place in history where a film like Kodachrome finally has to say goodbye. But like I stated before, we all knew this day was coming. However, unlike previous decisions by film companies (including Kodak themselves), K64 is not being dropped like a hot rock the moment the press release is out. In the words of Daniel Bayer, Kodachrome Project mastermind and <a href=“http://www.photo.net/photodb/user?user_id=321228”photo.net member:
“I will be a little sad when the times comes that I no longer have my film cameras loaded and ready with Kodachrome. But I really have to hand it to Kodak in the way that they have chosen to conclude the Kodachrome product line. They have made it to where none of us has to rush out and shoot through what ever we have, but to instead reflect a bit on the film and the era and think more insightfully and explore what to use our last rolls on. This clearly shows that they too, realize that the Kodachrome era is bigger than any one person, subject or company.”
Kodak is, as of last week, still spooling new K64 and will do so as long as sales stay up and until their current supplies run out. They will not be dumping their remaining film on the market all at once to be snapped up by hoarders or ebay sharks. They will continue to release a steady supply until they do not have any more. This is far better than the way that Kodak HIE or Polaroid SX-70 was discontinued. The effects of which can still be seen in the crazy prices people pay for those films on ebay.
Even more important is the fact that Kodak has an agreement with Dwayne’s Photo to continue processing Kodachrome through the end of 2010. That means that you are guaranteed to be able to process any Kodachrome you have stored away for the next 18 months. Aside from that, I have heard that Dwayne’s is willing to continue the Kodachrome processing past that date if there is still demand and chemicals are still available (which they probably would be if Dwayne’s wanted). So, while I wouldn’t advise anyone to bet their paycheck on it, Dec 31, 2010 may not be the last processing date.
Tony D’Annunzio: [carrying Czervik’s golf bag] “What do you got in here, rocks?”
Al Czervik: “Are you kiddin’? When I was your age, I would lug fifty pounds of ice up five, six flights of stairs!”
Tony D’Annunzio: [puts down Czervik’s bag, exasperated] “So what?”
Al Czervik: “So what?” [opens compartment in golf bag, revealing radio] “So let’s dance!”
So we’ve all gotten the bad news, now what do we do? Just like our buddy Al tells us in Caddyshack, now we party. There’s nothing more we can worry about as far as Kodachrome is concerned because the end is here, the worst has happened, and the sky has fallen. So let’s not waste the next six months crying in our beer, let’s take advantage of that time and get out there and enjoy Kodachrome while we still can. If you’ve been a Kodachrome shooter all your life, this is your chance to make that one last amazing essay you’ve always wanted. Hell, if Daniel and the Kodachrome Project can do it, so can you. And if you’ve never shot Kodachrome, now if your chance to learn a little bit of photographic history before it passes you by. Pick up a couple rolls, load up the camera, get off the couch and go shoot.
By the time Dwayne’s stops processing Kodachrome, it will have been around for over 75 years. In that time, Kodachrome has recorded some of the most interesting moments in history. Let’s not send this film our with a whine and a whimper, let’s send it out with a bang. Go out and shoot with Kodachrome. Post images on photo.net, share them in the critique forum, write something for VivaFilm. Hell, spending our time enjoying film photography rather than moaning about it’s death is half the reason I started VivaFilm. So what better way for all those photo.net film fans who commented on that page to exemplify that spirit of “enjoy don’t complain” than to put our money where our mouths are regarding Kodachrome?
I don’t know about you all, but I’d much rather mourn a fallen friend at a rowdy wake than at a dreary funeral. So tap the keg and strike up the band, the Kodachrome photographers are on the loose for one last 18 month party.
Kodak Press Release
Kodak Retires KODACHROME Film: Celebrates Life of Oldest Film Icon in its Portfolio. Newer KODAK Films and Digital Cameras are Preferred Choice for Today’s Photographers
ROCHESTER, N.Y., June 22 – Eastman Kodak Company announced today that it will retire KODACHROME Color Film this year, concluding its 74-year run as a photography icon.
Sales of KODACHROME Film, which became the world’s first commercially successful color film in 1935, have declined dramatically in recent years as photographers turned to newer KODAK Films or to the digital imaging technologies that Kodak pioneered. Today, KODACHROME Film represents just a fraction of one percent of Kodak’s total sales of still-picture films.
“KODACHROME Film is an iconic product and a testament to Kodak’s long and continuing leadership in imaging technology,” said Mary Jane Hellyar, President of Kodak’s Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment Group. “It was certainly a difficult decision to retire it, given its rich history. However, the majority of today’s photographers have voiced their preference to capture images with newer technology – both film and digital. Kodak remains committed to providing the highest-performing products – both film and digital – to meet those needs.”
While Kodak now derives about 70% of its revenues from commercial and consumer digital businesses, it is the global leader in the film business. Kodak has continued to bring innovative new film products to market, including seven new professional still films and several new VISION2 and VISION3 motion picture films in the past three years. These new still film products are among those that have become the dominant choice for those professional and advanced amateur photographers who use KODAK Films.
Among the well-known professional photographers who used KODACHROME Film is Steve McCurry, whose picture of a young Afghan girl captured the hearts of millions of people around the world as she peered hauntingly from the cover of National Geographic Magazine in 1985.
As part of a tribute to KODACHROME Film, Kodak will donate the last rolls of the film to George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, N.Y., which houses the world’s largest collection of cameras and related artifacts. McCurry will shoot one of those last rolls and the images will be donated to Eastman House.
“The early part of my career was dominated by KODACHROME Film, and I reached for that film to shoot some of my most memorable images,” said McCurry. “While KODACHROME Film was very good to me, I have since moved on to other films and digital to create my images. In fact, when I returned to shoot the ‘Afghan Girl’ 17 years later, I used KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME Film E100VS to create that image, rather than KODACHROME Film as with the original.”
For all of its magic, KODACHROME is a complex film to manufacture and an even more complex film to process. There is only one remaining photofinishing lab in the world – Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas – that processes KODACHROME Film, precisely because of the difficulty of processing. This lack of widespread processing availability, as well as the features of newer films introduced by Kodak over the years, has accelerated the decline of demand for KODACHROME Film.
During its run, KODACHROME Film filled a special niche in the annals of the imaging world. It was used to capture some of the best-known photographs in history, while also being the film of choice for family slide shows of the Baby Boom generation.
To celebrate the film’s storied history, Kodak has created a gallery of iconic images, including the Afghan girl and other McCurry photos, as well as others from professional photographers Eric Meola and Peter Guttman on its website: www.kodak.com/go/kodachrometribute. Special podcasts featuring McCurry and Guttman will also be featured on the website.
Kodak estimates that current supplies of KODACHROME Film will last until early this fall at the current sales pace. Dwayne’s Photo has indicated it will continue to offer processing for the film through 2010. Current KODACHROME Film users are encouraged to try other KODAK Films, such as KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME E100G and EKTAR 100 Film. These films both feature extremely fine grain. For more information, please visit www.kodak.com/go/professional.
Text ©2009 Josh Root.