Kodak has announced the withdrawal of Kodachrome after 74 years on the market. The film type was made famous by top photographers as well as the singing duo Simon and Garfunkel in their song of the same name.
Kodak announced it was pulling the film because it now only made up less than one percent of the company’s sales. The company’s website featured interviews with world famous photographers who used the classic film.
Steve McCurry took the famous photo of young Afghan refugee, Sharbat Gula, in a Peshawar, Pakistan, refugee camp in 1984. The photo and another, of the same subject taken 18 years later, became an iconic photo for the National Geographic magazine. McCurry said of the film:
The early part of my career was dominated by Kodachrome, and I reached for that film to shoot some of my most memorable images. While Kodachrome Film was very good to me, I have since moved on to other films and digital to create my images. In fact, when I returned to shoot the 'Afghan Girl' 17 years later, I used Kodak's E100VS film to create that image, rather than KODACHROME Film as with the original.
It was said of the film that it was “made by God and Man,” an apparent reference to its inventors, Leopold Godowsky Jr. and Leopold Mannes. The film type included what was then a simplified development process with very high colour resolution. It was first made as a 16 mm movie format, but was later used in both film and still slide photo formats.
Kodachrome could only be processed by professionals and photo laboratories, due to the complexity of the process and later, the large size of the automatic processing machinery, which was unavailable to amateurs.
The Kodak product was preferred by professional photographers not only for its colour resolution, clarity and other features, such as the ability to blow-up the film to large sizes, but also because of its long archival life, something important to photographers who often sold their work to photo libraries, or “stock libraries.”
A 35 mm Kodachrome slide has the equivalent of about 20 megapixels of data, and this resolution is only found in modern Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) high-end cameras, like the Canon 5D or the Nikon D3X which have about 21 or 24 megapixels respectively. However, most affordable digital cameras today do not have the level of clarity of Kodachrome.
Kodachrome was dominant as a top quality professional slide film until challenged by Fujifilm’s Fuji Velvia film in the 1980s. Kodak also brought out new and simpler emulsifying film, such as Kodak Ektachrome. The final blow, however, was caused by the widespread introduction of digital photography, and the improvement of the products, which went from being a curiosity item in the 1970s and ‘80s to the current professional “RAW” formats available in DSLR cameras today.