Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Port Townsend, today. Monday June 22, 2009 Eastman Kodak announced the passing of an old friend. Kodachrome color film, the formulation against which all other films were measured has been retired after 74 years.

What a void.

For those of you who have been with me since the beginning of this blog, you have probably noticed most of my photography in those early years was in black and white. Supporting a hobby and a girl friend took most of my box-boy earnings, and it was only on special occasions did I purchase color film.

It has been said that over a span of 180 years or so, the yellow pigment in Kodachrome will diminish by aproximately 20%. That is very stable film!

In the early days, you not only bought the film, but you also had to get the pre-paid mailer which included processing.

The attraction of higher speed film always pre-empted the unquestioned beauty of Kodachrome. Kodachrome was the official film for many years of National Geographic photographers, and some of their most memorable shots were taken on that remarkable film.

And who can forget the "Kodachrome" paint scheme, which floundered around during the failed merger between Santa Fe and Southern Pacific!

As a society, we have always taken “faster - cheaper” over “slower - better.” As an example, the technically far superior Sony Beta (“quality”) max format was squashed by Japan-Victor’s Video Home System (VHS) format. Vinyl records gave way to the Compact Disc, although recent evidence suggests that there is a resurgence of interest higher quality vinyl pressings. And now digital cameras have forced the end of a world class film.

There is one remaining photofinishing lab in the world – Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kan.– that processes Kodachrome film, with support anticipated into next year.

Current supplies of the film will last until early fall at the current sales pace.

Actually, there was another passing – last week, which barely went noticed. Joseph Houghtaling, the inventor of the coin-operated vibrating bed, which delivered 15 minutes of “tingling relaxation and ease,” passed away at the age of 92.

Thousands of vibrating beds were installed from coast to coast, and promised a good nights sleep. I know I pumped more than a hand full of quarters into these apparatus; and that’s about as far as I’m going on this subject!

2 Comments - Click here:

Unknown said...

Yesterday the first thing I set as a search term in Google after reading about Kodachrome was "is film dead." From what I found, the impression I got was that high-end film is going away, but that there is still a market for - like you say - cheaper/faster or in disposable cameras. There will always be a use for a cheap disposable camera for trips etc that doesn't require worrying from theft or batteries.

The goal from here on out for film shooters like me will be to find product that is better than clearance-aisle. It may go the way of records, which didn't completely die, and eventually see a resurgence in a generation...if film developing can hold out that long.

Anonymous said...

Whoah! That makes me feel like a Dinosaur. I got boxes full of Kodachrome slides. Mama don't take my Kodachrome away-ay-ay-ay!

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