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Thursday, 19 January 2012

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Lesson learnt: do not hire MBAs

Philips gone bankrupt soon as they start hiring MBAs.

Modern business cannot rely on case studies but more on knowledge and intuition from visionaries like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

According to at least one analyst on CNN this morning if Kodak survives it will only participate in the photographic market as a patent holder. In his words "Kodak is done in the photo business".

Sad news. Thanks for the great summary of Kodak Mike. For about the last 15 years I have avidly avoided buying anything, other than film, with the Kodak name. I have to wonder if my behavior was based more on my ignorance, or, bad marketing/decisions on the part of Kodak.......Maybe it was a combination of the two.

If a good book comes out on the subject, I will certainly buy and read it. It would be a great subject for Niall Ferguson.

This article from the Economist is required reading on the decline of Kodak.

You can name lots of powerhouse companies that have ended up in the bin - I used to live in the shadow of the Bethlehem Steel works - and the lesson from almost all of them is "complacency kills".

The first camera I bought with my own money, in 1962, was also an Instamatic. It used square format 126 film cartridges. Our family camera at the time was a Brownie C, which was usually loaded with Kodak Verichrome Pan 620. I have the family negatives from that camera that go back to the 1940s. They scan and print very well.

The Instamatic is long dead and forgotten, but I still keep the Brownie, for sentimental reasons. I believe you can convert it to 120 - something I'd like to do one day, assuming film will still be affordable as it becomes a niche product.

I once bought an early Kodak digital camera for my daughter. It was 2Mp and the IQ was reminiscent of a Holga, though not as detailed. The colours were wild. It was soon replaced by a Japanese digicam that did everything better.

I do hope Kodak's film division survives in some form. They have some great products, my favourites being Tri-X and Portra 160. Film gives a different look, and in an increasingly commoditised world, that's a good thing.

Picked up a Kodak printer-scanner over the holidays: best price, surprisingly good quality as well -- good enough for what we do around the house. The ink cost also played a part in the decision. Makes you wonder what they could have done if they started thinking harder 20 years ago.

Me mum had an Instamatic, as well.

I really thought the idea of Photo CD was great, but it was priced so absurdly high that I felt nobody could rationally afford it.

I hadn't planned to watch them on my TV, but certainly it seemed a good path to get my images onto my computer.

A very fine analysis :

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/01/18/the-kodak-lie/

Via Kirk Tuck

I trust the almost omni-present yellow boxes hang around for a while longer. It just won't be the same without them.

And what will Leica and Pentax do for medium format sensors?

Interesting times indeed.

Thank you for that glimpse into history! Kodak will always have a special place in my mind.

Sadly anticlimactic and utterly inevitable. No, this filing is not The End. But it is one of the last steps to the cliff's edge. Kodak simply has nothing to maintain its business. Once the final sticks of furniture are burned the lights will go out.

So if you're hugging Kodak films you should probably stock-up sooner rather than later.

That 104 was also my first camera. I know "Kodak"may survive the
Chapter 11, but I'd rather see it fade away in history than become one of the many that exist in name only. Zenith, Westinghouse, Sylvania, RCA and dozens of other brands that simply grace a piece of Chinese electronics. Whose only redeeming factor is some middle-aged or older purchaser thinks a name means quality and value.

RIP

Sad news, though not so unexpected. It seems like they saw it coming, and tried so hard.

Many speak to the failure of her leaders to see the where the tides of technology were leading them, for failing to ever imagine the fruits of their corporation would be rendered obsolete. There is fairness in this philosophy, for the creator of the digital camera to be doomed by it’s creation is fit for Aristophanes or Aeschylus. Perhaps the company failed to imagine a world where we would trade durability for convenience, craftsmanship for expediency or they never imagined that we would become so lustful for the latest toy it did not matter if it was sustainable.

The ubiquity of Kodak was so great that moments of grace, beauty, joy and love were named after her. While other companies have moved into similar territories, Googling something will never hold the purity of the Kodak Moment. Kodak dared us to dream, gave us the tools to preserve and pass along. Now our dreams must be written in proprietary code, submitted for approval and profits parsed out to those who only manufacture the medium. (Honestly, imagine Shakespeare paying a portion of his proceeds to the paper producer!)

The greatest failure of Kodak was not imagining a world like we live in today. Cheap, superficial, regimented and dominated by those who believe that ideas are products, not the things ideas produce.
(brazenly excerpted from a long post on my blog)

I saw "20th Century Giant Files" and thought you were going to talk about Andreas Gursky.

(confession, I am a fan though, despite everything)

I guess the only thing I need someone to keep making is 400TX (or Tri-X or whatever-you-want-to-call-it) and D-76. In the other corner, Ilford has shown that it's commercially viable to produce film.

So even though I'll probably be shooting with something that isn't called Kodak, or Tri-X, or even 400TX, I'm sure I'll still be shooting something pretty much the same.

I'm not at all surprised though. I walked into a couple of stores here to look for a compact camera and you wouldn't touch the Kodaks with a barge pole ...

Pak

Interesting articles in the Economist, comparing Fuji Film (market capitalization: about JPY 980 billion or USD 12.7 billion) and Kodak (market cap: about USD 100 million i.e. less than one hundreth of Fuji Film's value).

It seems Fuji managed to leverage their expertise in organic chemistry in particular the anti-oxidizing compounds used to stabilize color dyes and thin film manufacturing technologies in areas as diverse as cosmetics, TAC films nearly 100% of the LCD panels sold in the world today use either Fuji or Konica/Minolta TAC films and pharmaceuticals.

The 2011 sales figures of Fuji's current business segments are illuminating, and show a diminishing dependence on the photography business.


Fuji Film 2011 sales, in billions of Japanese yen:


Imaging systems: 325.8


  • color film etc.
      8%

  • color paper and chemicals
      24%

  • lab services
      15%

  • digital cameras
      35%

  • misc.
      +%

  • Information solutions: 917.4


  • Medical Systems (X-ray systems, turn-key medical image management and distribution IT solutions),
    Life sciences b Cosmetics, pharmaceuticals (entering clinical trials: Alzheimer and rheumatism treatments, antivirals and antibiotic agents)
      29%

  • Graphics Systems e.g. large-format UV inkjet, computer-to-plate and digital printing systems
      25%

  • Flat Panel Display materials b e.g. TAC films
      24%

  • Industrial Equipment: Optical devices (TV, security camera and video projector lenses), color filters for image sensors, transparent electrode films for OLED and touch panel displays, high weather resistance backend PET films for solar panels
      10%

  • Recording media
      5%

  • Optical devices
      7%

  • misc.
      +%

  • Document solutions: 973.9


  • Office products b Fuji-Xerox digital color multifunction copiers
      52%

  • Office printers - LED printers
      17%

  • Production services - Graphic Arts - Docucolor printing systems
      13%

  • Global Services - Managed Printing Services marketed to large enterprises, government agencies and educational institutions
      9%

  • misc.
      +%

  • Couple points. You write that Kodak funded "one of the world's leading photography museums". I assume you mean the George Eastman House. The GEH has been an independent institution from the start. Eastman's personal estate, or at least a big chunk of it, went to the University of Rochester. The GEH grew out of that. I'm sure it used to get a lot of money from Kodak, but it must have an independent endowment. It can't have gotten much from Kodak over the last few years. It's not a foregone conclusion that the GEH will collapse or massively contract now.

    One often hears that Kodak's problems were due to short sighted management. To the extent that's true, we shouldn't forget that our current version of capitalism rewards short sightedness. Fickle riverboat gamblers, er, I mean responsible investors, judge both securities and money managers on quarterly performance, and don't hesitate to switch their money to whatever's hot this quarter. To blame the managers of genuinely productive companies for responding to the resulting incentives is willfully blind scapegoating. The real causes of Kodak's downfall surely are more complicated than this, but short-sighted management is often mentioned, so this point is worth making.

    Here'a this week's New York Times article about the impact on Rochester: Despite Long Slide by Kodak, Company Town Avoids Decay.

    When I worked with my father (who was a wedding / press photographer in the late 1960's early 1970's) we pretty much used Ilford FP4/HP5 exclusively.

    Although not the same films that are available today, I'm thinking that, much as I like Tri-X personally, nothing much will change if Kodak disappears

    "I guess the only thing I need someone to keep making is 400TX (or Tri-X or whatever-you-want-to-call-it) and D-76."

    Pak,
    No, just Tri-X 400--you can make your own D-76 quite easily. It's just a few simple chemicals dissolved in water.

    Mike

    Once again, I quietly say "nihil sub sole novum" to myself, and consider that I may someday learn of Apple's eventual descent into bankruptcy due to the same "behemothinking." (Naah... not them!)

    In 1977 I worked as a retail shop manager for a leading photographic retailer in London, England. My principal had returned from a trade visit to Japan where he had toured the R&D labs of major Japanese camera manufacturers from whom we bought and told me about their research into auto focussing lenses and an almost unbelievable story about their research into storing pictures (as he put it) onto 'integrated circuits printed on a chip’ instead of onto film. I wasn't sure if he hadn't been drinking so kept quiet. How is it that this prognosis was missed by Kodak?
    At the same time we always tried to avoid the Kodak representative when he visited our shop as he was so proud and full of corporate hubris that he was painful and embarrassing. If we did have to suffer him, our trick was to stop him mid flow and maybe offer him a cup of tea after which he could only start his pitch again from the beginning because he had been taught the presentation by rote and could only recite it parrot fashion. Kodak should have used it’s ears and mouth in that two to one ratio. I think that the demise of wet photography was inevitable but their demise was not. However, it remains very sad.

    "And what will Leica and Pentax do for medium format sensors?"

    They sold that part last fall to Platinum Equity, it was discussed here at TOP, too.
    I know chapter 11 is not the end, but still wonder if a new chest freezer for TMY-2 and TMX in 4x5 and 120 is in my immediate future...I still have some Kodak Polymax FA paper in my other freezer (when that got discontinued), together with Agfa APX25 roll film and APX 100 sheet film.

    Ibelieve Jim Kofran is right in that much of the Kodak problem was in its management, in two ways. First, it suffered from what is often called 'paradigm paralysis'-the management philosophy that 'it worked for the last 50 years, and we won't change it now'. Second, a tendency to follow what I call the Harvard MBA rule - the next quarterly dividend is God, and any investment which interferes with that is refused. This second issue often results in R&D centers being short-funded, and even made into cost centers which are supposed to show a regular profit. Doesn't work. After over 50 years in the R&D business myself, I've seen this happen to a number of companies, including one I worked for. The results are sure to be bad. If Kodak is lucky, and puts in a more savvy management, they may salvage an ongoing presence in the photo world. If not, it could be Chapter 7.

    Like ordinary people, big business institutions are scared of change. Kodak closed their eyes to the inevitable doom of film photography. Sure, the pace might have surprised even the japanese companies that were driving the change, but it was inevitable nonetheless. Kodak had a headstart, yet they didn't have the guts to drive the change forward themselves, fearing (rightfully) that this change was going to hurt their core business, but neglecting to realize that it would do so either with or without their participation. They opted for the latter: Inaction and indecision, hoping to delay the inevitable. Unfortunately for them, deciding to do nothing is still a decision, and often the wrong one.

    Xerox made the same mistake on an even bigger scale, but survived slightly better because its market is marching to a slower drum. In the seventies, they had managed to gather the Crème de la Crème of computer scientists, who in just a few years did unbelievably amazing work, laying the basics for much that we now take for granted in computing, from the graphical user interface, to the mouse, to object-oriented programming, from WYSIWYG text editors to bitmap graphics to ethernet. Thinking about the sheer amount of brilliance that was amassed at PARC brings tears to my eyes.

    They basically invented the modern PC. Only they didn't want it. They wanted expensive business machines. Their managers were myopic, maybe afraid, maybe incompetent; in any case, they didn't see the value. Luckily for us, this means they also didn't mind much when Microsoft, IBM and Apple took their ideas and ran with them. Luckily for them, the laser printer was also invented at PARC, which probably saved them from a fate like Kodak's.

    Not so long ago I was in the process of re-starting a darkroom and needed some information.
    I was putting a Besler color head into service for B&W VC printing as I did not want to buy a fresh set of filters for the amount of printing I anticipated. It seemed like money better spent on paper.
    As a sort of virtual "hail mary" I shot off an e-mail to Ilford in hopes of some help.
    I got the "thanks for your inquiry" bounce and figured that would be it.
    A few days later a very nice note from one of their people arrived with an attachment with all the information I needed and more.
    Very cool.
    This all happened about the same time Kodak was pounding a stake through the heart of TXP120.
    The loss of that stock bummed me out but I'll get over it just like I got over the loss of Varigam and Velour black (OK losing those wonderful papers still hurts but I gotta cowboy up and move on).
    Anyway, no matter what happens in Rochester there are still places for us old school types to feel the love.

    (Sigh) First Olympus, and now this. OH GOD, WHEN WILL IT END???

    I dunno about reps. We used a lot of Kodak film in my dad's printing business* back in the 1970's making negatives for plates, as well as plates, chemicals, and some ancillary products... and I recall him spending hours in the darkroom or at the light table working with my dad.

    From my own experience in dealing with reps over the years, the personality of the rep, the territory they're sent to cover, etc.. matters as much as corporate culture.

    *These one or two man printshops used to be everywhere - even the smallish town (40k) I live in today hosted four of them back in the late 80's. But once churches and restaurants could print their own stuff from a PC or send digital files to big central plants the industry went into tailspin. The rise of office places like Kinko's and widespread cheap copiers didn't help much either. These assaults on Kodak's business probably didn't help matters much.

    That Instamatic 104 was my first working camera (as opposed to a parts puzzle) when I was 14. Which lead on to 35mm and medium format and a Seneca 5x7 field view camera and a bit of income for a few years. And lots and lots of yellow-boxed film.

    Come to think of it, my first digital camera, although it didn't last long, and has long been replaced by more capable gear. Sad to see the company decline so far.

    In some ways, Fuji is the model for what Kodak should have done. They're still making film--yes I use Fuji film (love their 1600 speed print film--perfect for live concert work), but they've very craftily gotten into the business of making DIGITAL cameras. They're making a big push for the pro market with their new rangefinder-style X Pro-1 (a camera I'd be very interested in getting if I didn't have too damn many cameras already).

    Makes me think a little about the Japanese proverb of the oak tree and the bamboo. The oak is big, strong, and rigid, while the bamboo is frail, flexible, and bends with the wind. But when the big storm comes, it's the oak which falls and the bamboo which survives. So Kodak might be the oak and Fuji the bamboo....

    When I attended SFAI in the mid-70s, we photo students all railed against the Yellow One. That was what one did - and we bought and used Agfa, Oriental, Ilford, Fuji, etc... (though I was never without Tri-X!)
    Now, older and mellower, I feel a twinge of melancholy as it shuffles slowly off to whatever future it may have. It won't be the salad days for sure. And while many point fingers and cluck tongues and spit accusations (though all in hindsight, which ain't hard to do), I'd rather think that Kodak's time has come. It caught fire early and fast, created a world-wide change unlike any other before it, and rode the wave for decades. It was in the right place at the right time and made the most of that. Now, other changes have come, and perhaps, just perhaps, it is time to let the old one step to the back. And rather than chastising it with words like "failure" and the like (and when one is the leader, one is bound to take the 'wrong' road now and then), we ought to instead take a moment and say, "Thank you, Kodak. It was, like all relationships, imperfect, and you could've done better, but damn, it was good while it lasted." I know my first rolls of film, my first darkroom experience, my reading of tech books and all of my base knowledge from which I've built on was made possible because of Kodak. So, thank you, Kodak.

    That Kodak did not become the titan in the dSLR/digital back market simply blows my mind. I used a few of their DCS rigs in the late '90s. For moderate sized reproductions the results at 6mp were almost as nice as the Leaf DCB1 that we used in the studio - except that it was hand-holdable and one shot (rather than the three capture Leaf)! They were really coming out with some great tech and nice products. The pricing strategy needed adjustment, but Kodak had the digital thing right in their hands but somehow they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
    Boggles the mind.

    During its golden years, Kodak didn't make many friends here in Mexico and I assume this was repeated all across Latin America. They systematically abused their dominant position. They would deny selling you their products if your shop carried other competitive brands.
    In secrecy, many shop owners hated Kodak for this reason, perhaps for others too. This practice was so relentless that it created a phenomenon. In the beginning "The Agfa" store appeared. Later on, the Agfa store converted into "the other store", when other names like Konica, Ilford, Fuji, etc. became popular. Coca-Cola arguably still doing the same thing in Mexico.

    I grew up on Tri-X. It was what my dad shot, and what my daughter now shoots. This news is like hearing that a favorite uncle has a terminal disease.

    @Dave Jenkins

    But what you describe is exactly what capitalism, at least in its free, unregulated form allows for, and even inventivises!

    In the late 1980's Kodak introduced the Datashow, a large flat panel LCD to be placed on an overhead projector and connected to a computer. They sold lot hotcakes; my audiovisual systems company couldn't keep them in stock. Customers soon called any brand of LCD panels a Datashow, like calling paper tissues Kleenex. To our astonishment, Kodak abandoned that business in a few years; they said that they couldn't compete with Asian manufacturers. Kodak's senior management was clueless. They created the market's most popular product and saw no profits in digital presentation displays. Like GM, Kodak died a long, slow death of its own making.

    What I will miss will be Ektar 100. It looks good, almost Kodachromy. The thing is, I see someone like the Impossible Project resurrecting Tri-X for all the nostalgia induced sales it may generate. But nobody will wind up missing Ektar enough, and it's not like they can resurrect Kodachrome, can they?

    Dave Jenkins: "Kodak's difficulties are not altogether undeserved. Although I am an unabashed supporter of the capitalist, free-market system, I have to say that Kodak has been one of the most rapacious companies in existence, the kind of company that gives capitalism a bad name...also by underselling, freezing out, and buying up smaller companies by the dozen, especially in the first half of the 20th century."

    Yeah, just like Standard Oil.

    "Undeterred, though vilified for the first time by the press, Rockefeller continued with his self-reinforcing cycle of buying competing refiners, improving the efficiency of his operations, pressing for discounts on oil shipments, undercutting his competition, making secret deals, raising investment pools, and buying rivals out."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Rockefeller#Standard_Oil

    I feel really sad. At the beginning of the 80s, I spent a couple of years in Tucson where, every time my duties allowed me, I went to photograph the Arizona, New Mexico and Utah desert with an Olympus OM-1 and OM-2 loaded with Kodachrome 25. I still remember my excitation each time I received the Kodak yellow boxes after processing. Even the characteristic smell of the processed slides is still on my memory. On my return to Chile, I learned the Cibachrome process to have prints from those beautiful slides. What a wonderful time.

    Regards

    As with anything corporate, the story is always a tad more complicated than it appears. For those convinced that MBAs are the cause of the decline, consider this: the real problem are the lawyers. A company that fails to maximize financial performance to the benefit of the shareholders, demonstrably so, will be sued for failure to do exactly that. It's a very, very expensive process to defend a company against these lawsuits, and given the way the court system in the US (given the laws of the US) allows for easily filing of suits, companies tend to behave in ways that are not good for the long-term survival of any commercial enterprise.

    Add to that the already-mentioned complacency and the long, slow decline shouldn't be a surprise. We almost lost Leica this way. We did lose Agfa.

    But oh what we have gained. Schumpeter's creative destruction is, for us consumers, pretty sweet.

    The newspaper I work for bought one of the DCS Kodak digitals, based on the F4 body, the first digital camera we had in the dept. Great image quality,a bit heavy,REALLY expensive compared to the Nikon D1s we shortly after acquired. One day the mirror return lever ceased operation. Off to Rochester it went. Email came....$4500. Man they sent us some one else's estimate. NO THEY DID NOT! Paper paid for repair .... traded body at huge loss. That is one reason they are now DOA ... No respect for their market, nor for doing business.

    I've shot Fuji slide film exclusively for years, but a few months ago I tried the two remaining Ektachrome films on a whim. I really like them! I'm in my 20's so I don't have the same emotional attachment as many of the OGs, but I will still be sad if Kodak stops making film. I just spent several hundred dollars getting my Nikon F2 overhauled, and I have no plans to shelf it until there is literally no 35mm film left.

    A Kodak tale with a sting:
    1. When the Photo CD was introduced, in 1992 or thereabouts, I was managing the technical documentation of a conservation project in Lausanne, where Kodak also had a big lab. Digital cameras were incipient and film scanners prohibitive, but digital was clearly the way to go, so I chose to have all our slides digitised to Photo CD. It took a trip to the Cologne Photokina to enlist Kodak's support, and a meeting with some ranking regional manager in a power suit. The power suit manager summed it up: "If I understand you correctly, you want to use our Photo CD as a cheap high definition scanning service for your archival and retrieval." Correct, I said, wasn't that the gist of Photo CD? "This is not exactly how we envisaged the product," said the power suit. To this day I don't know how Kodak envisaged the product, but it’s exactly how we used it, and I’m not sure Kodak made much profit out of it.

    2. Photokina, four years later. I’m there to evaluate an early digital back for our project’s Arca. Stop chez Kodak. How did they envisage the shift to digital? “If film had not yet been invented, it ought to be, right now,” told me another Kodak power suit, very full of himself, and of it. I marked the phrase down for, as John Gruber calls it, claim chowder. And for the corporate obituary I knew then and there they had coming.

    Andrew Burday-
    George Eastman House does indeed have its own endowment, and is completely independent of Kodak. Unfortunately that endowment was hammered by the market crash of 2007-8, losing (I recollect) 30 - 40% of its value. This forced a substantial retrenchment in staff & services, and the impact on the pace and depth of new exhibitions is evident. Eastman House is still a remarkable institution, and its photography collection remains arguably the best on the planet. And you can examine almost all of it just by making an appointment! Director Anthony Bannon retires this summer after a very challenging and accomplished tenure; it's hard for me to imagine who will replace him.

    Kodak provided $17 million of the $30 million cost of Eastman House's major expansion in the mid 1980s. This comprised a huge new building behind the old estate with extensive underground climate controlled archival storage. The collection has already outgrown the space; Eastman House is now using nearby vacant factory space for its rapidly expanding collection of movie film. To its great credit, Eastman House is trying hard to preserve a large chunk of cinematic history. Old cine film stock is fragile and highly flammable, and without such effort it will disappear.

    About 4 years ago I reprinted a few Verichrome negatives taken in 1948 with my first camera, a Baby Brownie. I wonder what the pictures taken today with a P&S digital camera will look like in another 63 years. There should be a growing market for using film (B&W) as an archival storage media for both stills and video.

    I know it's bad form to crap on someone when they are down, but what the heck. I dumped Kodak from my professional photography life over 30 years ago. Like the chap in the Montreal hospital I found the local rep to be arrogant, unhelpful and generally a prick. For colour I went to Fuji, and Ilford for B&W. In both cases the relationship I had with their reps was a polar opposite to my experiences with Kodak. The only time I would ever use Kodak was when a client insisted on Kodachrome. The corporate culture of arrogance is what got them into this mess.

    Its very sad that all this is going on in the photography world as it affects all of us with the sudden news of kodak.

    In La-la-land, Kodak would revive Kodachrome, partner with The Impossible Project and Polaroid to make new SX-70 Alphas, buy R. H. Phillips's designs and make whole plate, 8x10, and 7x17 cameras, design an 8x10 camera that easily turns into a vertical or horizontal enlarger with a few accessories, make mirrorless medium format and/or full frame cameras with manual focus lenses, keep making Tri-X and Portra films, and all that sort of thing. But instead they're probably going to make high end printers? Now, who's the crazy one? ;)

    In La-la-land, Kodak would revive Kodachrome, partner with The Impossible Project and Polaroid to make new SX-70 Alphas, buy R. H. Phillips's designs and make whole plate, 8x10, and 7x17 cameras, design an 8x10 camera that easily turns into a vertical or horizontal enlarger with a few accessories, make mirrorless medium format and/or full frame cameras with manual focus lenses, keep making Tri-X and Portra films, and all that sort of thing. But instead they're probably going to make high end printers? Now, who's the crazy one? ;)

    My mother-in-law and her current husband both worked at Kodak, the husband as the manager of a central supply chain/purchasing unit. In that role he obviously interacted with a lot of managers and was well aware of the corporate culture at EK.

    His central criticism is that the (too many layers) of management created clones. Anyone wanting to advance had to be yes men. The culture of innovation was limited to the engineers and scientists, not to those plotting long term business strategy.

    Disclaimer: I shots thousands of rolls of Kodachrome and Tri-X in their prime. I did some of my best work with those materials. And I can appreciate the concerns of those who now have an even more limited selection of analog materials from which to choose (already a razor-thin slice of the overall photo world.)

    But let's face it: the demise of Kodak is the loudest death knell yet for film.

    The worries about analog photography's disappearance strike me as a bit like what must've happened in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the internal combustion revolution overwhelmed animal power in transportation. History records that new technologies succeed when they are measurably better (or cheaper, or more convenient.)

    In skilled, experienced hands, today's digital cameras and printers are capable of astonishing things. I know I'm making the best prints of my life...

    Photography is dead - long live photography!

    Kodak bonds are now trading at a 10.9% surcharge to Greek 5 year bonds. I'm fairly convinced that Greece is not going to make good on their debt (as is the market), so what the chances are for Kodak, who knows. Of course, some good news from Kodak will squash that price, but right now it does not look good. Any global, national or corporate credit event in the next few days at less than Kodak's coupon is going to kill off the company with forced sell-offs, so their future is not in their own hands.

    First Agfa...

    Now Kodak....

    Lets hope Olympus isn't next...

    So, should I buy up a lot of Xtol??

    If Kodak was Japanese, it would never happen. I sent a good deal of time in Japan between 2009 and 2011. The competition is cut-throat in Japan. But there's also incredible support and solidarity.

    Apple reinvented themselves twice (Apple // to Macintosh to consumer devices). IBM survived the declining mainframe market, then their missteps in the PC market.

    Kodak could have survived. They just.... didn't.

    Funny how my first camera was also the Instamatic 104.

    I'll miss Tri-X if Kodak fades away, but if Ilford continues to sell XP2 or the equivalent, I won't miss Kodak. Sad really.

    I still haven't forgiven them for sinking Kodachrome...

    It is not so much that Kodak did not see digital photography coming. They practically invented it themselves, after all.

    What they failed to do was to kill off their own cash cows delibrately by introducing cannibalistic digital photography products (cameras, software, processing services).

    If you don't do this (admittedly very difficult) corporate task, i.e. sacrifice your favorite, thriving children to make way for new favored children, the competition's children will do it for you.

    Kodak choked on killing off film photography, and so the world did it for them.

    PS: I've been reading classical mythology lately, hence the grim metaphor :)

    Not surprising news, as one who uses Kodak black and white products ( film, developer, fixer ) for my personal work, and if those products disappear that will be disappointing because I do believe that they are good products, I will use then Ilford products, life goes on!

    It would be very difficult for me to overestimate the profoundly positive effect that Tri-X and the DCS-Pro SLR/n have had on my photographic life. I'm exceedingly grateful for both.

    I think that at one point Kodak simply found itself too big to survive. They were not in the photography business they were in the coating big rolls of flat stuff (paper or film) with goop and magic fairy dust and then selling it at a huge astronomical profit. They would then subsidize a whole lot of less profitable activities to support the goop coating business. I don't know if they ever really made money on cameras, lenses, timers, thermometers, photofinishing equipment etc. They even gave away processing below cost until they ran afoul of the anti-trust laws.

    Similarly 3M was once in the film business and sold a few cameras and lenses, the recording tape business and sold a few tape machines. Now they are in the adhesive tape and sandpaper businesses and sell a few tape dispensers and sanding blocks in support of that. 3M realized that they were in the spreading goop on flat stuff business http://solutions.3m.com/en_US/Products/ and seem to do pretty well.

    Kodak made the mistake of thinking that they were in the photography biz when they were losing money on photography and making it up in the flat stuff and goop biz.

    Similarly Microsoft does a lot of neat stuff that they can't make money on subsidized by a doomed product (operating systems) just like Kodak.

    Today in NYC the site of the old Kodak Colorama in Grand Central Station is now an Apple store. this morning at the Guggenheim Museum Apple just did to the textbook publishers what the consumer electronics industry did to Kodak. The textbook publishers have been making their money by charging lots of it to spread goop on paper and ship it to schools , and spending their money to pay as little as they can get away with to "content creators" to subtly revise the books every few years just enough to re paginate them and render them obsolete. Apple has just killed the goop on paper textbook business, and figured out how to make a profit on the heretofore money losing parts of the business that publishers were subsidizing with their goop/paper enterprises.

    I think that the lesson is that basing your business on selling something at a loss so that it will generate demand for another product is not so good an idea unless your name is King Gillett.

    Thanks God I use Ilford :-)

    Mike replies: The version of that I had to contend with was that Kodak always had separate internal divisions for "professional" and "consumer." So one month I would have to waste precious time constructing and supporting evidence that our magazine audience was an appropriate audience for a PROFESSIONAL product. The next month I'd be spending time trying to justify our audience as being composed of amateurs, or CONSUMERS—for an entirely different group of people at Kodak, who never talked to the other group.

    This is common business-school-think, probably every corporation enjoys to do just that. Sometimes the buyer has to figure out in what group some manager has decided a product should be in, sometimes the buyer really has to know the specific name of a product to be able to bypass the walls erected between the beloved categories.

    Do you know how hard the title of this post is to parse when you are a computer nerd and your first reaction to "files" is a discrete collection of n related bytes? :)

    Hello Michael,

    Here's something more prolix and straightforward than my previous comment (which I see some other people have posted versions of). It's an article I've dug up from the archives about Kodak's early attempts at dealing with the switch to digital. I wrote it in May 1998.

    It's posted it here -- http://office-futures.net/blog/tracts/tract-1-kodak-picture-network .

    Reading it again after all that time reminds of much that I had forgotten about the image industry then. How stumbling the steps were to the all-digital world that many people take for granted today and how slow and costly it was to produce and disseminate images.

    I hope people find it interesting.

    Roger

    'separate internal divisions for "professional" and "consumer." '

    I spent two days trying to buy some Kodak film , 70mm Pan-X. I got shuttled around between pro sales , industrial , government , and the aerial photography departments. The only people who could sell the film were in aerial photography sales or government sales, but they couldn't sell me film unless I had a government purchase order (cash was no good) or had a some sort of FAA certification because in theory the camera was part of an airplane and since you were installing the film in the camera you had to be a pilot or an aviation mechanic.

    For the love of God, can someone tell me why a mediocre (at best) film like Tri-X is virtually worshipped by so many people? I simply do not understand it. I think it's a second-rate film that belongs in the past.

    I'm definitely an Ilford loyalist, but I happen to think Ilford's B/W films are markedly superior to Kodak's offerings. That Tri-X continues to be used baffles me. As a mentor of mine has said, if you want to do gritty jungle photography, Tri-X is a good call. Otherwise, stay away.

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