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End of an Era: Kodak to discontinue Kodachrome 64

Celebrate, don't mourn. The 18 month party begins today. by Josh Root, June 2009


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 :

“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.

Related links


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.

About the VivaFilm project

If you use film, love film, miss film, think film photography shouldn’t die out, enjoy sharing the world of film, or simply have film on the brain, this is for you.

It is time to move past the petty arguments of “film vs digital” and start encouraging those who are interested in film photography rather than fighting with those who are not. That is what the Photo.net VivaFilm project is all about. Read more here…

.


Text ©2009 Josh Root.

Article created June 2009

Readers' Comments


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Daniel Bayer , June 22, 2009; 07:27 A.M.

And a party it will be Josh, that I can assure you. To everyone else, now is the time to start thinking about what you want to do with the film that brings it closer to your heart if it were there at all.

Charles Stobbs , June 22, 2009; 07:34 A.M.

I have one roll left. So what camera gets the honor of being the last one to digest it? My Retina IIa which has bn run almost exclusively on Kodachrome for the last 49 years? Or the Leica? Or a newer camera which has never had the pleasure?

Vicky Lamburn , June 22, 2009; 08:20 A.M.

This is indeed in some ways sad news but at least we now know how long Kodachrome has.

I just finished walking 130+ miles on the North Downs Way in England and shot it all using Kodachrome and my M2.

I a fitting tribute to an excellent film.

Still, E100G and Astia with an 81B work pretty well as a Kodachrome replacement, and EBX/E100VS and Provia are good for punchy work. Shame they don't have the punch and balance KR has but, well, this has been a long time coming really.

Get out there, and shoot it -- it's what it was meant for, not being stockpiled!

Henrik Lauridsen , June 22, 2009; 08:37 A.M.

I recently ordered my first roll of Kodachrome 64, wanting to shoot it before it would be gone. I might order a few more rolls now :-). In any case, at least one roll will be going with me to Berlin this summer.

Alex Lofquist , June 22, 2009; 03:01 P.M.

Does this mean that the Kodachrome Basin in Utah will be closed, also?

Robert L. , June 22, 2009; 07:03 P.M.

Growing up in the Dakotas - how well I remember so many rolls going off to Page Mill Road in Palo Alto. My father before me to the local Rexall Drug Store to wait for 2 weeks. They have held up for so many years.

Good Bye old Friend

Lex Jenkins , June 23, 2009; 01:15 A.M.

Kodachrome has never been the easiest film to scan, but I'm finally motivated to get more of my Kodachromes scanned. Some I've shot myself date back to the late1960s when I was a kid, and I have hundreds more taken by my family before then, still loaded on Carousels.

Jeff Livacich , June 23, 2009; 07:40 A.M.

It's hard to say goodbye to a friend I've had for 35 years- my entire adult life.

Eric Meola's statement on Kodak's website about it being "...part of the soul of the photographers who used it..." really captured what it means to me. But times are tough, and we'll have a full 75 years by the time developing ceases. Interesting that when Paul Simon's song came out, Kodachrome was only about half as old as it is now. So we've had a lot of nice bright colors and greens of summers- now we've got two more summers to shoot before it's gone.

I can say that few things in my life have given me the consistent excitement and enjoyment of opening up a box of Kodachrome just back from developing. Many people I've shown my pictures to have been amazed to learn that the gorgeous image they were looking at was the actual piece of film that went through the camera; it seemed so magical, so different from the abstraction of a color negative. After all these years, I'm still amazed, too.

So I say as well, let's enjoy it while we've got it! Daniel started the Kodachrome Project to celebrate Kodachrome in its last years. Please visit, if you haven't already.

D F , June 23, 2009; 02:59 P.M.

BASTARDS!

Fazal Majid , June 23, 2009; 09:49 P.M.

I snarfed the last few rolls from Adolph Gasser and Photographer's Supply in San Francisco. Most of my childhood photos are on Kodachrome. Who know, if I father a child in time for the Dwayne's cutoff, some of his or her first photos will also be shot on K64 as well. That said, I shot 2 rolls of Kodachrome in the last 8 years (most of my slides are on Velvia or Provia), and the writing was on the wall.

Mark O. , June 24, 2009; 01:57 A.M.

I haven't shot Kodachrome since the late eighties. I can see how people are touched by Kodak's announcement, but it's no different than vinyl records. It's trendy to be retro and nostalgic and to do things perceived to be superior just because they are older. Drives me nuts, really. I get annoyed when people say things like "I just ordered my first roll and since it's going away I may order more." I'm sure Kodak really appreciates that. Where were you in 2001 when Kodachrome was already on life support? Come on people. Back to the future, please? (When I say "future" I mean newer, better films, not digital.)

Brian Kim , June 25, 2009; 02:18 A.M.

I thank Kodak for the way they've decided to finish this journey.

I know as I load my camera with Kodachrome in the coming months, it'll just be special.

Enjoy. Be happy.

James C. Williams , June 25, 2009; 10:26 A.M.

B&H is out of stock -- has it been selling for that high of price? KR-135 $9.95 PKR-135 $12.95

I see the same goes for Adorama. I hope that if the price has gone up, it is the wholesale price, not gouging by retailers!

Jason Celek , June 28, 2009; 07:50 P.M.

I Just got off the phone with my brother who had just said to me that Kodachrome 64 had finally been discontinued. Between work and life, I have been out of the picture for the last few weeks, but also new that this day was sadly coming. It had been several years, but last year my wife and I were headed on our yearly trip to the Sierra's and I thought that Kodachrome might be fun to play with again. I had moved on to Fuji Velvia some years ago for landscapes. Once the rolls were exposed, I struggled to find a lab until I learned about Dwaynes, but made the realization that this meant that all of this would soon be over. I know that many new technology films exist, and many new photo acquisition technologies exist too. There is still a mystery and a magic to Kodachrome. Regardless of what comes next for all of us, it will be sadly missed!

Jason Celek , June 28, 2009; 07:51 P.M.

I Just got off the phone with my brother who had just said to me that Kodachrome 64 had finally been discontinued. Between work and life, I have been out of the picture for the last few weeks, but also new that this day was sadly coming. It had been several years, but last year my wife and I were headed on our yearly trip to the Sierra's and I thought that Kodachrome might be fun to play with again. I had moved on to Fuji Velvia some years ago for landscapes. Once the rolls were exposed, I struggled to find a lab until I learned about Dwaynes, but made the realization that this meant that all of this would soon be over. I know that many new technology films exist, and many new photo acquisition technologies exist too. There is still a mystery and a magic to Kodachrome. Regardless of what comes next for all of us, it will be sadly missed!

Colin Elliott , July 02, 2009; 02:08 P.M.

It is a sad day in the film world, but yes, we all knew this day was coming. I have been a Kodachrome user for 50+ years and still recall with fondness, those early years of mailing off my little yellow linen bag to Kodak in Hemel Hempstead. My early slides on Kodachrome II measured in Weston speed are still as good as the day they were processed. I think one of the sweetest moments in photography was opening that little cardboard box and just smelling the slides. There was and is nothing like it in the E6 world!

Charlie Wilson , July 02, 2009; 04:45 P.M.

Hey Charles Stobbs, You stole my thunder. I won 4 photo awards in one year shooting Kodachrome with an ASA of 10 on my Retina IIIc. There are some thing we miss even if we don't use it anymore.

BTW, Paul Simon wasn't really talking about film in the song Kodachrome. No one really thought that, did they?

None the less, Kodachrome did give us some "nice bright colors" even though they weren't always accurate. Then horror of horrors, Kodak boosted the ASA to 12. Is it now 64? That is surely the heresy that led to its downfall. Can any of you imagine shooting with an ISO of 10?

I would love to go back and take those same photos today. I was so happy with Kodachrome 10 and a fixed focal length camera, and no Photoshop. I was pretty good at cropping those slides to get just the scene I wanted. It was difficult in those days to spring for 36 exposures. Every shot had to count.

Anthony Darling , July 02, 2009; 05:15 P.M.

As a lazy photographer I have to thank Kodak and Kodachrome for helping me put 50 years of colour slides into some sort of order . How? - well the slide frames are dated - I never thought that feature would be so valuable. 12500 frames take some marshalling.

My last two rolls will go in my Leica M6 with its Noctilux and I will only shoot when I can use full aperture even if I have to add ND filters.

Ford Kristo , July 02, 2009; 06:23 P.M.

Vale Kodachrome.

Almost an Immortal.

What a shame that it is so uncooperative in scanners.

Mark Brigham , July 03, 2009; 08:54 P.M.

I was heartbroke when they dropped K25--a favorite of mine in the '80s, especially when you wanted to blur the water. My dad's Kodachromes from the 1950s look as vibrant as if they were shot last week. It will be missed. But alas, half of my last slide film purchase (mostly fuji) sits in the refridgerator, waiting for that day when I decide to go shoot a couple rolls of film.

Michael McCoy , July 05, 2009; 11:46 A.M.

Despite any qualities the new film stocks have, what will be ultimately missed with Kodachrome's demise (other than the unique Kodachrome saturated colors) is the extraordinary archival stability of that wonderful complex dye imbibition process. Long live Kodachrome may be a perfect epitaph!

Joseph Kluska , July 07, 2009; 04:24 P.M.

I stopped buying Kodak stuff when they started their migration away from analog several years ago. Ilford has gotten my analog cash ever since...

Darrell Smith , August 19, 2009; 08:29 P.M.

Its Sad to see someone or anything that has been with you most of your life just fade away. I guess we film lovers are a dying breed. We are as Kodachrome, being replaced by Digital. I'm not sure I like that.... The Infidel Dog

Brian Kim , August 20, 2009; 01:57 P.M.

If film lovers are a dying breed, it's because we take the young for granted.

But it may not be only film, but presentation prints, digital included.

... reds, yellows, and whites, with patched green backgrounds under sunny blue skies.

I believe film, with reliable manufacturing and distribution, plus a consistent processor, is a simple, modular, and less expensive workflow to a medium-size or larger print. I consider my time and dependant computer expenses also.

When I was young, I had less money, but I still acquired the passion for light and color.

My cameras and lenses (5) are paid for and still working, Nikon FE and AIS.

For me, transparency film is photography. I enjoy the higher density range in-camera. I enjoy viewing a positive when selecting a distribution form, eg. print process and size, or digital file and image size / resolution. I enjoy the contrast gradients of transparency films, it's much less work for me.

Like Kodachrome reds, yellows, and whites, with patched green backgrounds under sunny blue skies.

For me, I keep four framed images, 8x12's and 6x9's, around my cubicle at work. I change the images every two or three weeks. If and when people ask me about an image, the first thing out of my mouth is the film type. Eg. "It's Kodachrome."

Which leads me to think the concern is not the creation of image on film or digital capture, but the photographic image printed.

And to me, the final final is always the printed image - in borders or framed, and my choice of view size.


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