OT - the death of Kodachrome

vicmilt wrote on 9/22/2008, 1:46 PM
This primarily for the still guys and old timers...

It's amazing that such a dramatic change in technology has taken place in my life. I started a career in still (WAY before videotape) and clearly remember the birth of color in still film "for the masses" (Ektachrome). I made a living for years shooting spreads for Ingenue, Glamour, Seventeen and Vogue. Black and white was shot in 35mm but all color was done on slide film -

So I thought some of you might be interested in this, but...don't believe the hype.

Anyway - check out this weepy epitaph...


The main thing Kodachrome had was super fine grain - you could actually shoot in 35mm and have an image that would hold up in a magazine spread. At the time, nothing else worked and we shot EVERYTHING in 4x5 to 8x10 (for color).

But it was a SUPER bitch to work with.
You had a half-stop of latitude - miss that EXACT exposure and you simply failed - your image looked like poop. Professional photographers really had to know what they were doing, and the exposure meter was king. Use it correctly or die. (This all before through the lens metering).

It was WAY better than Ektachrome, especially in the reds, but in my estimation it doesn't hold a candle to any decent digital image of today - plus you've got instant replay (Kodachrome took two days to a week to see) and great low-light ability.

Good bye film - I won't miss you at all.



nolonemo wrote on 9/22/2008, 1:57 PM
Wow. I swore by Kodachrome 64 back in the day. As a starving photographer I couldn't afford to bracket my shots, and I got REAL good at determining exposure. I have never seen anything to match a well-exposed, well-focused Kodachrome shot and projected with excellent glass. Sic transit gloria mundi.
ushere wrote on 9/22/2008, 4:30 PM
still shooting art works on a medium format pentax with 64 roll film. been using fuji for 35mm.

there's still nothing that'll come close digitally to capturing the detail / colour range of oil paint.

most institutions still insist on film for archival purposes and catalogue printing, etc.,

johnmeyer wrote on 9/22/2008, 5:04 PM
Kodachrome 64? That's modern stuff. How about Kodachrome X and Kodachrome II? Or Kodachrome that came in slide mounts that had red printing rather than the orange that most people know?

Vic is sure right about the exposure. My Nikon fTn used mercury batteries and when they were banned in the mid-1970s, I replaced them with alkaline, not realizing that that mercury were 1.35V cells and alkaline 1.55V. The old Nikon meter had no voltage compensation, so the higher voltage made the needle go higher. To center the needle, I stopped down. Result: dark photos. I can't tell you how many dark Kodachrome slides I shot before I realized what was going on.

In all these years, I think I took maybe five great Kodachrome slides, but they sure are gorgeous. What's more, having scanned Kodachrome which goes all the way back to 1942 (my parents' wedding photos), the stuff is unbelievably stable compared to any other color emulsion I have worked with.

Question: Is Fujichrome processing also going away? I still have quite a bit of that in the fridge, along with some twenty-year-old Tri-X.
farss wrote on 9/22/2008, 5:12 PM
I agree and it's encouraging to see that the some of the young turks in the game are going back to film. There's been quite a rush on the remaining stocks of Polaroid and Velvia etc, etc.

I was just reading an interesting thread elsewhere where someone is trying to recreate the look of the classic B&W shots of the 1940s. Encouraging to read a few posters pointing out that the only way to do it is to use the same cameras and optics. From my own experience looking at the results of scanning 35mm slides shot decades ago there really is something to this. In other words you don't need to use the full photochemical path to preserve the look, it's so baked into the image it'll survive digital processing.

On the other side of our game there's quite a revival of ribbon mics. Kit that some might have put out with the trash is now commanding a hefty price. Again even recording from these antiques into modern digital gear seems not to loose whatever magic they had. If nothing else this revival seems to be injecting some foreign exchange into some parts of the old USSR.

daryl wrote on 9/22/2008, 5:20 PM
Maybe Simon and Garfunkel would have something to say about this. That statement should expose some ages of the folks on the forum.
ECB wrote on 9/22/2008, 5:21 PM
I transferred my Dad's 8mm movies starting in 1939 with Kodachrome ASA 10 and type A ASA 16. The color is absolutely amazing. The indoor lighting was 3 1000 watt lamps. :)

Ed B
Jeff_Smith wrote on 9/22/2008, 5:27 PM
Thanks for posting the link Victor. The article mentions what some say is the most recognizable photograph, the Afghan Girl, by Steve McCurry, that led me to his web site, check it out his galleries
riredale wrote on 9/22/2008, 5:38 PM
I saw this article on the web yesterday; it didn't say Kodachrome was going away, did it?--just that there was only one speed still available. I would find it hard to believe that manufacturing would stop completely, unless the process was licensed to someone else to carry on.

The CD comes along with vastly superior specs and two decades later people gravitate to LPs, just because they are different. Solid-state audio becomes available and decades later people gravitate to tube amps for their "warmth" (no pun intended). I believe Kodachrome will have a cult following for decades.

When I was back in college in the '70s I was part of a small hard-core cadre of amateur photographers who believed in ONLY Kodachrome and ONLY the 25 ASA speed version. Man, I strayed a few times and wallowed in the luxury of Ektachrome 200, which some derisively called the "blue-green slides" film, but the reds and yellows of Kodachrome always called me back.

With K25 you needed a lot of light and/or a tripod, but in return you got grainless slides that could be insanely enlarged. With an excellent lens on an excellent 35mm camera one could do some amazing stuff, almost like working with a 4x5 camera.
Coursedesign wrote on 9/22/2008, 10:25 PM
I hated Kodachrome 25 when it came out, it was a mere shadow of the original Kodachrome II.

It had to happen because of the toxic chemicals needed to process KII, but the quality was not nearly the same.

On the other hand, the new Kodachrome 64 was occasionally barely usable, while the old Kodachrome X was so contrasty and ugly that it was a last resort for the desperate....

Now, Ansco 500, anyone remember that? 500ASA slide film, but grain the size of a heavyweight boxer's fist....

johnmeyer wrote on 9/23/2008, 8:53 AM
I hated Kodachrome 25 when it came out, it was a mere shadow of the original Kodachrome IIYou are definitely correct that Kodachrome is not always Kodachrome. I've scanned almost 20,000 Kodachrome slides from 1942 through 2000, and almost every decade was different. The real heyday was when they went to the orange color slide mount in the late 1950s, which I think was when they introduced the X & II formulations. Then, sometime in the late 1960s, the colors went psychedelic.

I switched over to Fujichrome in the early 1990s and for my money it is the best slide film I have ever used. I'll admit that I love the nostalgic warmth of the early Kodachromes, but the Fuji stuff has fantastic color fidelity, a little more exposure latitude and slightly less density which makes it easier to deal with for printing or scanning. I haven't projected any of it for a long time, so I don't know if it holds up as well in front of strong light.