Kodak are “investigating” the possibility of bringing back Kodachrome

Jan 10, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Kodak are “investigating” the possibility of bringing back Kodachrome

Jan 10, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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The film so famous that Paul Simon wrote a song about it may be coming back. Kodak’s Kodachrome was the choice of both hobbyist and professional photographers for years. It was first released in 1935, and production ran all the way until 2009. Despite digital already having taken a firm grasp on the world of photography, it upset many photographers who still shot both film and digital.

During a discussion at CES on The Kodakery podcast, they briefly mentioned the re-launch of Ektachrome, and the possibility of Kodachrome actually going back into production.

Skip to 23:19 (or click here) to hear the relevant bits.

The big issue, though, is how to develop the film. Kodachrome required the K-14 process. This process was part of what gave Kodachrome its popular look and appeal. K-14 chemistry also ceased production in 2009 along with Kodachrome film.

From its launch in 1935 until 1954, Kodak were the sole developers of Kodachrome film. Each roll was “process-paid”. This meant that when you wanted a roll of film, you would pay for the film, developing and prints all at once. After you shot your roll, you mailed it off to Kodak and got your prints back some time later. In 1954, a court ruling prohibited this practise as “anti-competitive”. After this point, Kodak allowed independent processing labs to acquire the chemicals needed to develop this film.

These days, I think there’s two main choices (there’s actually a third, but we’ll get to that). Either Kodak start offering a mail-in processing service again, along with the few labs that remain around the world possibly being able to develop on Kodak’s behalf. Or, start selling kits that lets film photographers develop themselves at home the way we can with black & white, C-41 and E-6.

The K-14 process has been “cracked”, though, by APUG user, Stephen Frizza in 2012. But he describes the process as being quite expensive. He also states that he actually figured it out in a fully equipped lab.

The third option, which would likely spell doom for Kodachrome before it even got back out of the gate, is to re-develop the film to use E-6. E-6 chemicals are still available for home processing, and there’s a few labs that still offer this type of processing. It would, however, completely change the response and character of the film, and it really wouldn’t be Kodachrome any more. While it would still be cool to see a version of Kodachrome come back, this would be a disappointing route for Kodak to take.

I certainly wouldn’t take this as an official announcement or confirmation of anything, but it is very cool. At a time when companies like Fuji are killing off many of their films, more options are certainly more welcome.

If Kodak do re-release Kodachrome, and K-14 chemicals to develop ourselves at home, then I might just have to dust off the Jobo. It’d be a lot of work to develop it yourself, but I bet it’d be a lot of fun, too.

Are you hoping that Kodak re-release Kodachrome, too? Or are you happy that even just Ektachrome is coming back? What other films are you hoping might make a comeback? Let us know in the comments.

[via Reddit]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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15 responses to “Kodak are “investigating” the possibility of bringing back Kodachrome”

  1. Rik Martens Avatar
    Rik Martens

    That’s good news. I have some rolls of 135mm unused Kodachrome lying around. I might shoot them again if I can get the developed…

  2. Assaf Cohen Avatar
    Assaf Cohen

    Ruthie Amano

  3. Johan Jooste Snr Avatar
    Johan Jooste Snr

    I think that’s a futile exercise. I don’t see the logic in that, but I might be wrong of course.

  4. Les Cameron Avatar
    Les Cameron

    when I hear kodachrome I think about all that stuff I learned in high school and how it is a wonder I can think at all …

  5. Mark Cabot Avatar
    Mark Cabot

    When it comes to Kodachrome John, I´am sorry but Kodak only sent back a transparency (slide) from the exposed film you sent in. Kodachrome is a black and white film that could never be processed in a color developer designed for Ektachrome type films. You also need more then just a set of chemicals to process the film, you also need the machine to do it properly on a commercial basis.

    I would like to see it come back. I still have both 35mm 120 format in the freezer!

    The one Kodak film I miss most though is Super XX, the best black and white negative film ever made!

  6. Mark Cabot Avatar
    Mark Cabot

    Forgot to say that the film I would most like Kodak to re-release is Super XX

  7. Matthew Jacobs Avatar
    Matthew Jacobs

    I know Paul Simon should be ecstatic. Lol. As should everyone.

  8. Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
    Kay O. Sweaver

    As I understand it, part of the reason K-14 went away was due to how toxic it was. Home kits using the original chemistry would be horribly complex, expensive and dangerous. I don’t see them doing it. Dedicated processors I could see. I’d LOVE to use Kodachrome again.

    1. PuncheonRun Avatar
      PuncheonRun

      I hope we are smarter about toxicity than we used to be, I use the C-41 kit (Unicolors version) but would be very leery of something like K-14. Then they’d have to set up an expensive industrial plant to handle processing, which might be prohibitive if the volume is too low to support it.

  9. Brenda Lee Arbeau Avatar
    Brenda Lee Arbeau

    I want to see all things film make a huge comeback. I especially want to be able to get my 120 and half-frame film developed easily locally.

    1. Brenda Lee Arbeau Avatar
      Brenda Lee Arbeau

      I have a freezer full of film that I don’t shoot because it’s too hard to get it developed locally.

  10. disqus_B3BkuMV85H Avatar
    disqus_B3BkuMV85H

    I would buy it! You can never get those colors any where else.

  11. Dan Gerous Avatar
    Dan Gerous

    I’m glad that I kept my EOS-3……..

  12. Kelly-Shane Fuller Avatar
    Kelly-Shane Fuller

    Stephen Frizza isn’t the only one, I’ve been developing Kodachrome in color for a while now as well. It’s quite hard to do, and would probably be beyond what most home photographers could manage to develop.