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back to article Kodak to kill Kodachrome

Production of Kodak’s historic Kodachrome colour film will end later this year, the company has announced. Kodachrome film has been produced by Kodak for the past 74 years, but the firm admitted that the popularity of newer films and digital photography have seen Kodachrome sales slump to account for “just a fraction of one per …

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Mama, don't take my Kodachrome awa*crunch*

This was announced in September last year!

To point out what everyone else will have, though, Paul Simon isn't going to make as much sense any more..

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Unhappy

Goodbye old friend

Sad to see you go...

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Unhappy

Kodachrome's demise is a great shame as it was a very special film.

Kodachrome's demise is a great shame as it was a very special film. Not only was it the longest manufactured of colour films but it also had some special characteristics which meant that Kodachrome images were (and are) remarkably stable and thus excellent for long-term archiving. It has been estimated that the least stable of its dyes would last about 170 or so years if the film was stored correctly.

What made Kodachrome different* was that it really was a special black & white film in disguise. Normal colour films, such as the positive slide emulsion Ektachrome and colour negative films such as Kodacolor, contain both the light sensitive silver halides and the colour couplers that are necessary to produce the colours, whereas Kodachrome only contained three black & white layers together with a yellow filter layer in the emulsion, but which during the film's processing, the black & white layers were replaced with dyes supplied by the development process.

Adding the colour later had two benefits, it allowed Kodak to use dyes that were very much more stable than those produced from colour couplers (as used in Ektachrome etc.) and the lack of colour coupler technology made the emulsion very sharp indeed (and comparable with that of black & white films). Unfortunately, whereas 'coupled' emulsions were easy to have processed by the end user, Kaoachrome was not, the K-12 development system is long, convoluted and more expensive.

Kodachrome's demise is especially a tragedy from an archivist's perspective as there is no other film emulsion that comes anywhere near Kodchrome for longevity--there is no other film capable of replacing it. In essence, is means careful digital archiving will even be more essential or having to use film products that are very much Kodachrome's inferior when it comes to stability.

There too is another reason to lament Kodachrome's passing. Kodachrome's development in 1935 and its release in 1936 was around photography's 100th anniversary--at 100 years of age photography had finally gone colour with a truly reliable colour film. It put an end forever to the many false starts colour photography had had.

Kodachrome also represented a remarkable Tour de Force for chemical engineering. Being able to produce a photographic film with such excellent colour fidelity was a remarkable achievement for both Kodak and chemical engineering as a whole (most people have very little appreciation of how complicated colour film is--we all so often take this remarkable technology for granted). Just for this alone, Kodachrome's passing should be celebrated--its introduction was truly was a milestone in the most advanced of all engineering disciplines--that of chemical engineering.

I will sorely miss Kodachrome, but its legacy still lives on as bright and unfaded and as ever in my old photographs.

________

* I know, I'm at the risk of over simplifying here, but so be it....

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Unhappy

Gotta agree

with Graham. Such a crying shame. I know it was always going to happen, especially with medium format digital cameras now the norm and killing of the last remaining big market for the film, but it's not going to stop me going all dewy eyed and nostalgic about this.

Kodachrome is one of the corner stones of the photography we know today and I just hope it is given the historical significance it deserves. Not merely tossed on the 'out dated' scrap heap without a second thought.

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