Posted on January 1st, 2011 No comments
Well, first of all, Happy New Year - it is now 2011.
But, a look back to yesterday. 31st December 2010 marked the end of an era. For those who are old enought to have used film in cameras, yesterday was a sad day as it marked the final passing of Kodachrome. The film stock had not been produced for a while but yesterday was the final processing at the last processing lab able to put Kodachrome through the extensive system required to create the full reversal colour transparency product.
Dwayne’s Photo in the USA was the last lab and yesterday the last processing took place. There are now no more chemicals to service the processing plant and the machines will now be sold for scrap. Kodachrome was a film that was designed to be machine processed - the colour reversal process cannot be carried out in a conventional manual tank process.
Kodachrome survived for more than 70 years and was an outstanding stock. With it’s particularly slow speed rating it had a microscopic grain structure that provided an ultra fine finish with transparencies capable of being blown up across buildings! Kodachrome had a depth of colour that had to be seen - and was used for some of the most recognised images of the last 75 years including Steve McCurry’s iconic ‘Afghan girl’ image for National Geographic.
Above all, Kodachrome was archival - the process removed colour couplers and other oxidising materials which meant that there was very little if any of the colour degradation that has plagued other films of much newer creation.
If you want to see some of the last images check out the Kodachrome Project
Kodachrome has paid the price of the rise in digital photography. Digital is yet to provide the sheer quality of image that the ageing film stock was capable of but can, of course, provide advantages of variable speed rating and much higher performance.
Someone once said, ‘If you can’t take it on Kodachrome it isn’t worth taking’ - the 25 and 64 ASA/ISO stock required good lighting to make an image. Speed is not everything - as speed ratings increase noise becomes more apparent in a digital context (equivalent to grain in a silver based stock).
It is sad to mark the passing of an era. Producing a specialist film stock and maintaining highly specialised processing equipment was undoubtedly expensive. Would I have shot 10,000 plus images in the past 12 months if I had used Kodachrome? I think we know the answer to that and must welcome the digital revolution. But sad to see the passing of an old friend.
Kodachrome - R I P - 31st December 2010