Rant: Mama, they took my Kodachrome away!

If there has ever been a sad day in film photography for me, today is it. Kodak officially announced their discontinuation of the Kodachrome line of slide film after 74 years of production in one incarnation or another. The announcement comes as no surprise, due to the complexity of the emulsion and the extremely complex development process. Any film that is so difficult to develop that it is only processed in one location in the world had it's days numbered in the modern, digital world.

I have shot 15 rolls of Kodachrome 64 in the past year, with 6 more in the freezer. If you have some, or decide to buy some, I recommend you get out and shoot it soon, as Dewayne's, the only K-14 processor in the world, announced continued support only through 2010. Once they close up the K-14 line, it's all over. If you have any left, your only option will be cross processing in B&W chemistry.

Kodachrome was and is the defacto standard when it comes to archival quality slides. Although they fade rather rapidly under the light of a projector, in dark storage, they colors stay true to the day they were shot. A quick search of the US National Archives will bring you scans of Kodachromes shot in the late 1930's that look as crisp and colorful as if they were shot yesterday. That longevity will be missed.

What will furthermore be missed will be Kodachrome's magical appearance. I can't describe the nuance that is Kodachrome, it it too subtle to define in words. Only a projection from a Kodachrome slide will ever do it justice. Kodachrome is difficult to scan, expensive to process and now scarce to get. But it is a film worth the expense and hassle, and I am glad to have gotten back into film photography to enjoy Kodachromes waning days.

In Kodak's press release, they recommend two excellent replacement films for the Kodachrome lover. The first is KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME E100G, which is a beautiful film in it's own right. Not to disparage it, it lacks the subtlety of Kodachrome. However, I will concur it is the closest option you will get in an E-6 film (also try Fuji Astia if you shoot a lot of people, as I feel it renders better skin tones than E100G.) Kodak's second recommendation is their new EKTAR 100 negative film. Which is a wonderful option, as it has it's own special nuance that no other film comes close to (I will be posting an in-depth review of the film in the coming weeks). However EKTAR poses two problems. First, it is a negative film, not a slide film. As fine grained as it is, EKTAR still cannot capture the feel of a slide. Secondly, EKTAR is special in it's own right, with a great feeling to the colors, giving me a feel of the seventies in 2009. However it does not convey the timeless Kodachrome does. In short, there is no replacement for Kodachrome.

What I hope Kodak does, is spend some R&D money and produce us a new E-6 film that will carry the Kodachrome name and emulate the feel. A lot of Kodachrome's magic is in the K-14 process itself, but if Kodak can give us a film as nuanced as EKTAR or as beautiful as PORTRA VC they can bring us an E-6 film that can capture some of the true-to-life nature of Kodachrome. Ektachrome is great, but it doesn't bring the bang like Kodachrome.

For now, go out and get some Kodachrome and shoot a roll or two. Kodak estimates current stock will last through Fall 2009, however I am going to guess it will get scarce in the next month or so. If you don't shoot fil anymore, but want a feel of Kodachrome, try my two Lighroom/ACR Presets I have on the site. Try my current Kodachrome 64 and my Kodachrome 25. They will get you close, but they won't get you there. I have two emulation test rolls shot awaiting development currently of Kodachrome 64. Once I get them back I will do a fresh emulation and a Camera Profile for the results. That will be a while however.

In the end, today feels a bit like the day the music died. My heart sunk a little when I saw the news on Twitter. But we move on. There are great films still available and will continue to be, and out digital cameras and Adobe's magical tools will provide us with the means to bring us a little closer to the magic again. To me, today is a day i will remember for quite a while. It came as no surprise, the writing was on the wall and i was stocking up to complete a personal project. The finality of it still hits home.

Have a great day,

Michael W Gray


Rockin' at X= and Other Stuff

Greg is on the fence

Well, it looks like its another post finally. But, its a fluff piece. I'm working on new content for LIDF, looking to broaden the horizons. To that extent I have been taking time to build up new content and laying low on the LIDF front. That is not to say that I have not been busy. I've been working on a new series of articles over at the X=blog delving deep into the Camera Profiles in Lightroom.

Part one is currently live over at Brandon's fine site. In it I cover the basics of camera profiles and how to use them. You can find it HERE. Part two will be dropping soon, so check out X= frequently to see it once it drops. In it I will be covering the process by which you can develop you own camera profiles, and how to share settings between cameras. Part three is currently in my text editor being written, and it will cover making creative profiles....such as camera profiles that simulate film, much like my presets. So get a color checker and join me over at X= for the profling fun.

As to me, I've spent much of the past two months getting back in touch with traditional film photography. Aside from a wedding and a few portrait sessions, I haven't touched my digital gear much lately. I can't say that I regret it either. Shooting film feels different and I enjoy it. In that same vein, I have developed scanning methods and a Lightroom workflow for dealing with film...I will be sharing the insights I have garnered on that from in the coming posts.

In all, please bear with me a little longer as I prepare to relaunch my efforts here on LifeInDigitalFilm. The new Cold Storage Collection is well on it's way to completion and should drop by the end of this month. I'll contact those of you who already have the 1st collection before I release it to get contact info to send you a link to your copy of the new set.

Hang around, once we're back rolling I think you will enjoy what I have cooking for you. And I'll throw in a couple presets too.

Until later,