7 Dec 2010


If you have any unexposed and in date Kodachrome film shoot it fast because at the end of December Dwayne's Photo of Parsons, Kansas , USA , the last Kodachrome processing laboratory in the world will stop processing the film . Kodak made the last Kodachrome film last year . So the shutter has clicked for the last time on one of photography's iconic products .Kodachrome was launched in 1935 and in the following 74 years it was the colour film of choice for generations of keen amateurs and professional photographers - still and movie .
Kodachrome was exceptionally sharp and was renowned for its vivid colours -- "Kodachrome " colours . Paul Simon even sang a song about it . It was also very stable . In my photo archive the old colour negatives and Ektachrome/Fujichrome slides are fading and discolouring but the Kodachromes retain their original brilliance . Who knows but given the lack of attention to archiving today's electronic images maybe in two hundred year's time all that will remain of today's images will be Kodachrome slides ?
 Despite its considerable strengths Kodachrome had some real weaknesses . It was slow . Originally only the equivalent of today's 10 ISO it speeded up to 25 for its peak years and was later available as 64 and a high speed 200 which was a lesser performer .
It was also very expensive . A 36 exposure 35mm cassette cost the equivalent of a sizeable memory card today .
Processing was a complex task and it could only be processed by Kodak's own laboratories originally although later independent laboratories came on stream although these were mainly in the USA . So processing the film involved posting the film in a little wrapper and then waiting patiently for a week or longer - often a lot longer if the lab was overseas- for the little box of slides to return by mail . Worse still the slides sometimes went astray in the post or were mixed up in the lab . Kodak in the UK had a small staff locating and redirecting incorrect slides . Imagine the angst caused by finding that the eagerly anticipated "once in a lifetime" shots of the last Tasmanian tiger had inadvertantly been switched for Auntie Beth's slides of her Caribbean cruise! Not a situation today's digital photographers face .
Another major weakness was also that the film had very little latitude in terms of exposure . Correctly exposed images were beautiful however even a little under or overexposure resulted in very dark/black or very washed out slides .

Because primarily of the expense I shot a limited amount of Kodachrome over the years . Some of the images which best display its qualities are these shots of the Australian Unipart Racing Formula 5000 McLaren Leyland taken by me in 1978 . Scanning them in was a breeze as they are as bright and clear as the day the little box of slides dropped through my letterbox.
If anyone reading this has any similarly representative Kodachrome images they wish to share please contact me via the comments and I will publish them.


  1. utterly love the sitting fellow w. hat and shorts and mustachio, the vibrancy of the colors is amazing, some things are lost in the cutover to digital and it is not always replaced by a photoshop/lightroom filter ...

  2. Great shots indeed!

  3. Vale Kodachrome indeed _ lovely film, and as competent as today's digital cameras are I can't help but feel some of the romance has disappeared.