Monday, December 27, 2010

As the year pulls to an end, so does Kodachrome

One of my first really good cameras was a Yashica Mat EM camera. I used it when I was taking photographs for the San Francisco Chronicle, one of the two massive newspaper powerhouses in San Francisco. The year was 1965.

Their competition was the San Francisco Examiner, it was part of the Hearst conglomerate.

The Chronicle was located at the corner of Fifth and Mission streets, one block off of famous Market street in downtown San Francisco. The building also housed KRON-TV, TV channel 4, which was the NBC affiliate.
A few years later I did go to work for Channel 4 but this is a story about old film and old cameras to be exact it was the old trusty 2.1/4 by 2 1/4 format for me.

The camera was a twin lens reflex, it was basically a box with two lenses. One lens was the one that would focus the image onto the film plate inside the camera, the other lens would take the same image, although about 1/2inch higher and focus it onto a opaque glass screen, showing the image of what you were about to snap.

The reflex camera that Yashica made was actually a knock off of a German Camera that I couldn't afford. It was a copy of a Rolliflex. At the time I think I paid about $ 75 dollars for Yashica, because the Rolliflex was over $ 700 and at 1960 dollars, that was almost half the price of a Volkswagen bug which sold for about $ 1600 dollars........

This is really a story of passing of a era of technology, which this Friday, December 30 , 2010 will no longer be able to be processed or developed after 75 years of production. Kodachrome was one of the best films ever to be made, pertaining to color or colour for some of you.

My Yashica used a film size called 120,which was 2 1/4 wide. Depending on the camera you had, you would have square film format or if your camera was the larger format, it would be a 2'1/4, 2 3/4 which would be the better size for enlarging into 8 x 10 pictures.

Film sizes were larger since you needed large negatives in order to have large enlargements. Now most of the film used is 35 mm, which doesn't allow for large size pictures without getting graininess. The benefit of 35 mm film was that the cameras are smaller and easier to carry.
I also remember using a camera that used 4x5 inch film, talk about lugging around heavy equipment...

For some of you real old folks, there was also the same size film but on a different spool which was called 620. It was mainly used in Ansco and Kodak cameras up to the mid 60's . They discontinued 620 size film awhile ago, die hards can still take 120 film and roll it onto the 620 style spools .
Kodak made lots of cameras that were a little better quality than your average Brownie....yes the camera, not the little girls selling cookies.
Are Brownies still around? Not the cameras but the little girls selling cookies?

But this is a story of film, not cameras, the color film Kodachrome.
I used Kodachrome in some of my cameras, anytime that you wanted vivid saturated color.

National Geographic Magazine Cover photos were almost always shot with Kodachrome, as well as many other national magazine.

Kodak decided to discontinue the film last year in 2009. Seems that there was no longer a large demand for the product due to many professionals switching over to digital.

But this week it will be the final end to Kodachrome.
Fini, The End, No More, That's It, Terminado, Kaput, Bye Bye , Konetz. This Friday.

So I hope you have sent out that last roll of Kodachrome....., you know the one with Aunt Edna blowing out her 94 candles that you captured on film, that's still in the camera that got replaced about 5 years ago and put away with the film still in it..........You have shipped it off haven't you??

Well you have a day or two.

The absolute last place to still run a Kodachrome line is Duane's Photos in Parsons Kansas.
That's it. No were else in the World. They have been processing about 200 rolls a day and that will stop Friday.
Kodachrome has been coming to them from all places in the world, as far as Africa, Germany, Japan......
Friday they will retire the machine and the era of vivid color.

You can still shoot color photos and get them processed. However the film that you use is called Ektachrome. Instead of vivid Reds and Yellows, Ektachrome is know for it's Greens and Blues.
You can't have it all I guess.

Kodachrome was so famous that there was even a song written about it. Paul Simon of the group Simon and Garfunkel wrote

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

Kodachrome – by Paul Simon

So another staple of civilization bites the dust, I wonder how long digital cameras will last?
The CD came out what seems like a few years ago is already being phased out.....

Have a Happy New Year.........


Bob Mrotek said...

My first camera was a Brownie Starflash. I got it for Christmas in 1955 when I was about 8 and took it with me when I entered the Air Force in 1965. Great little camera. My first experience with Kodachrome was when I retired my Brownie Starflash in 1969 and bought one of the last available Voightlander rangefinders. Great camera and great Kodachrome results. I have never topped the pictures that I took with that combination. My present film camera which mostly gathers dust on a shelf in the corner is an SLR Minolta with all the bells and whistles. Most of the time I now carry a little Mikon Digital Coolpix S3 in my pocket and I like it very much but nowadays I prefer sketching instead of photography :)

Calypso said...

Thanks for the memories.

Steve Cotton said...

I was just sitting here sorting through a pile of prints of photographs I took in Vietnam -- thinking I would not have this problem with digital photographs. Until I realized that I do not even sort through most of my old digital photographs. They seem to have the value of old email.

JerryL said...

I had one of those kind of cameras. It was neat because you saw the picture in the screen and could compose your picture. I never liked Extachrome, so I went to the Agfa film.

Dan in NC said...

Tancho, I agree that it is a shame that another venerable film bytes (intended) the dust - BUT there is a viable alternative! Fuji VELVIA (asa 50)! Fantastic in 35mm (Cannons, Nikon's, Pentax's & Sigma), wonderful in 120 (mamiya c330 w/4 lenses)and absolutely bodacious in 4x5 (Speed & Crown Graphic). I stockpiled Polaroid 55 when they were going to cancel the line, but now they are back again! So who knows? time will tell if it is truly dead, or a ploy to see if there are any film bigots left in the world.. ( I love the smell of acetic acid in the evening!)
Dan in NC