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Sorry, Paul Simon, no more KODACHROME

Kodak is retiring KODACHROME Color Film,

By Gail Nickel-Kailing
Published: June 22, 2009

KodakKodak is retiring KODACHROME Color Film, the "first commercially successful color film" according to the company announcement. Launched in 1935, it had a good run for 74 years. In its press release, Kodak notes:

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, 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.

If you are still shooting KODACHROME, the final stock is expected to run out this fall. And there will be a few photo labs processing it through 2010.

Get out your old Paul Simon records (remember those?) and sing along; or you can listen to it here.



By Mark Tonkovich on Jun 22, 2009

I grew up shooting Kodachrome 25 and 64 in the early 70's, still have tons of slides. From a scanning perspective, they provided the best resolution and great color once you figured out the warm cast had to be reduced. So, is there such a thing as digital Kodachrome?

Sad, but inevitable regards,



By Noel Ward on Jun 23, 2009

At my local WalMart the display that used to have film from Kodak and Fuji is now memory cards and adapters, electronic photo frames, and digital video tape. In fact, I don't even know where the film is kept in that store. And I haven't touched my old Nikon FM in years.

It's pretty amazing, but silver halide photography has become an anachronism in roughly a decade. Nearly every pro photographer I talk with has gone entirely to digital and there's no reason to shoot any other way. Film will stay around for some hobbyists and technophobes, but for ordinary photography it sure is a technology of the past.

As for Paul Simon's song, the best line is, "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school it's a wonder I can think at all."

Ain't it the truth?


By Bob Raus on Jun 23, 2009

"It's a sad day in Mudville" (i.e. Rochester, NY). I grew up in Rochester and remember touring the Kodak Park manufacturing line where huge rolls of Kodachrome were manufactured 24x7. I agree with Noel Ward's comment about how incredible it is to think that it took only a decade to move this technology to the history books.

As a marketeer, I like Mark Tonkovich's idea of a digital Kodachrome. It is a strong brand with worldwide recognition, loyalty and recognition. I'd have to believe Kodak will leverage it going forward somehow (digital picture frames, memory cards, image processing software…).

Of course, Paul would have to update the song to include data streams, bytes and the Internet.


By Andy McCourt on Jun 24, 2009

Mama, please don't take my CMOS 15 Megapixel CCD away?
Paul Simon, with Arthur Garfunkel are in Australia right now and knocking 'em dead with extra shows. I went on Saturday night and there must have been 20,000 people there (mostly young - wonderful). It was paradoxical to hear 'Kodachrome' with all those digital cameras and cellphone cameras blinking away!
I loved Kodachrome and still have boxes of transparencies..the red's going a little but they are still good. Colour separation scanning was a by-product of Kodachrome because, in the 30s, Time magazine wanted to optimise and automate the separation process. Kodak developed the world's first electronic scanner at its Springdale lab and it became known as the Time-Springdale scanner. I have a picture of it and it's the size of a small bus!


By Michael Jahn on Jun 24, 2009

I will have to do a little more research to learn who made the 'first' color separation scanner, but the first one I encountered was AP Leaf PictureDesk - this send 3 'faxes' and used a Telephotography-ish approach


In 1927, AP started a news photo service, and the improved AP Wirephoto system gained approval in 1935.

I work with Dr. Ed Granger who worked at Kodak - I will check with him, but my recollection of the first digital color anything was from RCA - CBS's 1953 sequential color TV technology had been used on the Apollo moon landings. And, though Westinghouse had developed the early cameras, RCA delivered the final version to NASA. In 1953, the FCC chose RCA's NTSC color TV system to be the U.S. television standard over CBS's sequential color system.

I can't imagine in 1930 that anyone was scanning transparencies - but hey, maybe we should check with Frank Romano ! He knows EVERYTHING !


By Allan Six on Jun 24, 2009

J.A.C. Yule provides a history of color scanning in his Principles of Color Reproduction (John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1967, p. 305). "Murray and Morse, and later Hardy, devised scanning and color-correcting apparatus in the late 1930's. These scanners were developed by the Eastman Kodak Company and the Interchemical Corporation, respectively. The Kodak concept (Murray and Morse, 1941) was intended to simulate photographihc masking methods, whereas the Interchemical Corporation concept was to solve the Neugebauer equations (Hardy and Warzburg, 1948). Prototypes of these scanners were built by 1940. In 1945 the Interchemical machine was taken over by R.C.A. and was modified by them to be all electronic; the Kodak developments were taken over by TIME Incorporated, who developed the now widely used Printing Developments Incorporated Scanner (Bishop, 1951). The R.C.A scanner was later abandoned, but J.S. Rydz (1959) suggested the use of its computer for analyzing color-separation errors. The first P.D.I. scanners were placed in large engraving shops in 1950, but in 1951 they were transferred to "scanner studios" which provided the service of making four-color separations for cutomers who supplied color transparencies."

I recall that the Leaf Picture Desk was maybe the first portable "desk-top" scanner from the 1990s. I marvelled at its introduction at our newspaper at around that time after working with Hell, Crosfield, and Linotype scanners, perviously.


By cfprinting on Jun 24, 2009

Gonna miss those transparencies. During the peak of the Scanner reign, Kodachrome slides always separated the best.


By Mark Tonkovich on Jun 25, 2009

concerning scanning, you may want to crossrefernce this on Dr. Hell,



Mark Tonkovich


By Andy McCourt on Jun 25, 2009

Allan Six - great reference. It all ties in with some research I did a few years back for an article on scanning. Mark the Dr Hell link was great too, thanks. My understanding is that he developed the fax scanning/transmission encoded technology (mono) so that German High Command could communicate shipping positions to U-Boats in WWII. After the war, I believe Dr John Crosfield was sent over to Germany to de-brief Dr Hell and this led to the establishment of the British colour separation company named after him.
But Kodachrome was the doyen of seperatable transparencies for so many years from the 30s/40s on. K25 was slow, slow but wow...those colours and resolution!


By Michael Jahn on Jun 27, 2009

From Dr. Frank Romano;

The Kodak scanner was not introduced commercially

1949 : July issue of Fortune magazine contains first commercial scanned color image, produced on a scanner built by the Austin Company.

PDI scanner, the first commercial electronic scanner based on the Murray-Morse-Hall project begun in 1935, is introduced.


By Jeff Josefsberg on Jun 29, 2009

There could be a marketing angle here for Digital Kodachrome-a setting in the digital camera preferences menu setting a balance for "Kodachrome", "Ektachrome", etc-Those old Kodachrome color transparencies were wonderful.


By Noel Ward on Jun 29, 2009

Interesting idea. I wonder how color management would deal with the respective red and blue color bases... when printed on Kodak, HP or Epson inkjet printers.


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