Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The End of Kodakchrome

December 30th will see the closing of Dwayne's Photolab in Kansas. This will be the sad end of an era.

You see, Dwayne's is the last remaining photo lab that still processes and develops Kodakchrome 35mm film.

I happened to learn about this thanks to a story on CBS's Sunday Morning TV show. It showed the lament of a professional photographer about what he would be losing with the disappearance of Kodakchrome.

You see, Kodakchrome was manufactured by only one company (Kodak, obviously). They alone manufactured the film, along with the chemicals necessary to process and develop it. They have announced that as of December 30th of this year, they won't manufacture the film or the chemicals needed to process it any more. It's simply not economically feasible for them to do so in this age of digital photography.

Kodakchrome was a VERY high quality film. It is responsible for many of the most well-known photographs that still exist today, including the world-famous Afghan Girl portrait that appeared on the cover of National Geographic and that is recognizable to nearly everyone in the modern world once they see it (It was also used to duplicate the same photograph by the same photographer nearly 20 years after he took the original picture).

In today's age of digital photography, actual film has largely gone the way of the steam engine and the horse and buggy. Today, when nearly every cellphone possesses a built-in digital camera, and when modern digital cameras can capture images that appear to the naked eye to be every bit as sharp as film pictures, it is no longer economically feasible to mass produce chemical film. Digital pictures cannot yet capture the detail that film can. Usually, however, this does not matter, since the untrained eye cannot tell the difference.

Nor are companies like Kodak in any danger of failing, since they have embraced the digital age. I myself own a Kodak digital camera.

But an important era has come to an end with the end of Kodakchrome. I hope that the many pictures preserved in the various photo albums in my parents' house are durable, because they will never be able to be accurately duplicated. And that is a shame.

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