21 Jan 2017

Kodachrome days- to be revisited?

Last week Kodak  announced that they are commencing manufacture of Ektachrome colour slide film again and that they will be launching a Super 8 film camera to use Ektachrome Super 8 film.See  KODAK
They also announced that they are investigating the feasibility of manufacturing Kodachrome film again. Behind these announcements is the fact there has been a big upswing in demand for film from younger enthusiasts who are turning to film in the same way as young music enthusiasts are turning to vinyl records. Also many movie studios want to shoot on film for the "look". It seems as if everything old is new again.

Fuji have been trying very hard to drive their remaining film business into the ground by repeatadly jacking up prices and discontinuing emulsions. Maybe Kodak's move will cause them to reappraise this strategy.
Starting Kodachrome again will not be easy. Most of the complex coating equipment will have been scrapped. Also much of the hands on know how will have been lost when the technicians left. There is also the question of processing as Kodachrome requires complex processing. There was only one Kodachrome processing lab left operating when Kodak discontinued manufacture of the film, Dwayne's Photo Service in Parsons, Kansas, USA and that processed the " last" roll of Kodachrome which was taken by Steve McCurry in 2010.

If Kodachrome does reappear I would be tempted to run a few rolls through my Hasselblad. Big 6x6 Kodachrome slides-magic but surely very expensive.

I first put the story below onto the blog in November 2013 and it maybe of interest again in view of Kodak's announcement.

Early Kodachrome Days

I found this Kodachrome slide last weekend in a shoebox full of discarded slides. It was taken by me in 1960 on my first camera-an Halina 35X-pictured below.
The Halina was apparently made in China - although it was marked "Made in Hong Kong"-and had a resemblance to a Leica although Leica themselves had not adopted the red dot at that time. Maybe the Leica resemblance and a few favourable reviews and the price attracted me. As it happens I have fond memories of that camera and its surprisingly good results. Of course it had no exposure metering so I used a newly acquired and quite reliable little hand held Hanimex Sekonic lightmeter. The Halina had a metal body and you had to manually cock the shutter as well as advance the film after each shot and I do remember that the focussing was always very stiff which I found out was a characteristic of the model not just my example.

Soon after I received the camera as my 14th birthday present from my parents I took it and a much prized cassette of the -to me- incredibly expensive Kodachrome film on our family holiday to N Devon in the UK. The Kodachrome was the original 10 ASA ( today's ISO) emulsion. Hand held shots were really only possible in bright sunlight- usually a rare commodity in the UK but not luckily on that holiday. The film had almost no exposure latitude and it was very contrasty. But it was sharp and the colours were bright as you would expect from Kodachrome. Of course the last thing you need with a contrasty film is bright sunlight but with only 10 ISO and a maximum aperture on the camera of F3.5 you really had no choice.
Kodachrome could at that time only be processed by Kodak themselves and the processing was included in the price of the film. When you purchased the film there was a small envelope in the box and you put the cassette of exposed film into it , stuck on some postage stamps and posted it back to Kodak -in my case to their laboratory in the UK. A week or so later a little yellow box of 36 mounted slides popped through the post box. The films were identified by Kodak with numbers on labels which were stapled on the leader of the films as they were put into the processing machine. It seems these labels often became detached and I received the incorrect slides on a number of occasions. It must have been very harrowing for someone waiting for slides of the big wedding or whatever to receive someone else's slides. I heard that at that time Kodak had a department wholly devoted to chasing up incorrectly directed slides.
This-above- is the first slide I have ever scanned from that little very basic camera and I am still very surprised by the quality. I have not manipulated it at all .This is just how it came out of the camera. This slide is 53 years old -from a completely different era. Since then everything has changed and improved so much - including hopefully my photographic skills.
But this story just took another turn for on Monday morning it was pouring with rain (at last) and I spent time clearing out a cupboard and found a slide numbered "1" on the cardboard mount from that first film. It was, not perhaps surprisingly, a photo of my home at that time- 17 Station Avenue, Ewell, Surrey, England. There was little fogging into the lip of the cassette which is visible on the right hand edge. I did search in Lightroom for some detail in the shadows but there is none -they are black .That's how it was. So there - bottom-my first colour photo - the first of tens of thousands as it turned out.

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