by Peter Zack
Well, Kodachrome has come to an end. For me it’s a sad day but I’m also a small part of the reason. I used to shoot 2-6 rolls a week of both ASA 25 and 64 slide film. In many ways a very fussy film to develop and even fussier to shoot with. But the image quality was superb. Beautiful grain and range if you nailed the exposure.
Digital has sounded the death of many fine films, although we have many others still available. Even though, like for most of you, digital is the future, I hope we still shoot film for decades (or longer) to come. It’s still one of the best ways to learn: a good basic camera, a notepad (since there’s no EXIF data) and an understanding of the basics. If you haven’t done it recently, grab the old film camera and get a roll of whatever film you like (try a roll of black and white) and go shooting. You might be surprised how rewarding it can be.
Kodak press release:
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, 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: http://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 http://www.kodak.com/go/professional.