Kodachrome died
Saturday, 01 January 2011

It may not be an obvious programmer oriented news item but ... the last roll of Kodachrome was processed on the 30th of December 2010. Why is this of any interest?

 

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The speed of the decline of the traditional wet film approach to photography has been spectacular. Yet in the early days of the digital camera it all seemed so unlikely. The cameras were low resolution, often in black-and-white only, and yet even so the machine just couldn't process the end result. There just weren't disks that could hold that amount of data. The idea that resolution, storage and processing power would increase to the point where a digital camera could rival the quality of a 35mm film image was, and to a certain extent still is, ridiculous.

Digital photography, the digital darkroom and computational photography has changed the way that images are created, manipulated and distributed and wiped out the old ways of doing things astonishingly quickly. 

 

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Kodachrome was special because it worked in a different way to most color film and it was more complex to process - lots of different toxic chemicals applied in 17 steps.  Its main characteristics are that the thinner emulsion layers produced a sharper image with brighter, and more arguably more saturated, colors. Although there are still many alternative color transparency and negative color film processing shops around the world, photographers will still miss Kodachrome if not the chemical process that created the end result.

The last Kodachrome films were processed on 30th December 2010 by an independent processing lab - Dwayne's Photo and as the new year starts photographers the world over are taking a few moments to mourn its passing.

 

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Kodak is currently running an exhibition to celebrate Kodachrome which was used my many professional photographers to create many images that you will recognise, even if you previously didn't recognise them as shot on Kodachrome.

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From a digital point of view Kodachrome lives on in the form of effects filters for PhotoShop, Gimp and other image editors that mimic the color profile of a typical Kodachrome shot. One word of warning is that scanning Kodachrome slides is made more difficult by the multilayer emulsion which tends to make IR scratch filters ineffective.

More Information:

The Kodachrome Project

Beginning Digital Image Processing (Book review)

Photographic Multishot Techniques (Book review)

Dynamic Range Imaging for Photographers and CG Artists (Book review)

 

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