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Thursday, 23 August 2012

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I need to start shooting more HP5.

I read the release twice. I think film & paper is actually in the professional division, which isn't subject to this sale. But, as you say, it is opaque, just like EVERYTHING Perez has ever said. I despise Kodak corporate speak, which has become insufferable under Perez.

Who will likely buy it? Ilford, Fujifilm, The Impossible Project?

Wow. Never thought I'd read that! My first Tri-x was exposed in 1972... I've had a darkroom wherever I lived up to this day.
On the other hand, it's been four years since I've written a check for a Kodak anything.
So blame me, and blame yourself.
Still sad, though.

Kodak has already sold off its digital sensor unit (an ultimate mistake, I believe). And now still-image film is going. Sad, but no surprise at this point. But...

Unless I'm mistaken, wasn't Kodak pinning its hopes on printers? And they're selling off paper? Not that I think this strategy is going to work, mind you. But don't printers, ink and paper go together?

So where do we think film is going? Private equity? China? Eastern Europe?

That's good - it will give them more flexibility to pursue growth opportunities like this:
http://www.kodakshoeartfilm.com/

Looks like I wasn't the only, panicking and googling: Tri-X vs HP-5, Tri-X vs Neopan 400, Tri-X vs the end of life as I know it...

Good. The bullet riddled body has been twitching in the breeze for too long. Now it can finally drop and die. We can have a proper funeral and pay respects. And on the third day............Fuji!

I thought all the still film was made off the back of the movie film. So I can't see how they could separate movie and still film into two different businesses.

Coincidentally I started shooting HP5 again this week.

Tri-x...whatever. But losing Portra would really suck.

Kodak has been committing suicide for decades. This, however, leaves a small glimmer of hope that someone who knows the film industry (Fuji? Ilford?) might step in. I doubt it. More likely it'll be a company like Bain that buys it and finishes destroying it for a quarter or two of very small short term profits.

If you like these films, buy them up. They're going they'll never be back.

Yesterday I spent a bit over $750 on Kodak film, 8x10 E100G. I had popped into the store because Fotokemika is dying, and I saw the not-made-anymore film there. So I snagged it. Now I see this. What will I do next paycheck? No guesswork here, right?

Kodak is keeping the motion picture film business, and hopes to find a buyer for the small bits. Like the worthless consumer inkjet printers, but nothing about that can be transfered due to the licenses Kodak signed. The non-motion picture film part was 5% or less of Kodak's film revenue.

What does this mean for any potential buyer? The film will still have to be coated on Kodak's machines. It is very difficult, and very expensive, to start up an emulsion formula at a new or different plant. Like two to three years, and about $5 million. So to keep things running, it's the management around the product that will change.

But will the consumer division be profitable enough for someone else?

For those who don't like to sift through PR jargon, NYT Dealbook explains things in more reader-friendly terms (so long as you don't take offense to the term "legacy").

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/kodak-to-sell-legacy-film-units-as-part-of-bankruptcy-plan/

Rather like Agfa, Kodak's biggest problem has been the quality of the senior management team. Alas I feel poor is an understatement on both counts. Very sad. I suppose I'll have to find space for a cheap freezer.

It seems to me to be either the height of optimism or the height of hubris for Kodak to announce they are putting their film division up for sale. I certainly can imagine someone buying it to use the names of the films for marketing purposes, but who would buy more than that?

The lines used to produce these films are huge, complex and, it would seem to me, unsuited to producing a product now a niche market. Dismantling and shipping them to another country would be incredibly expensive, just to produce a product with declining profit. And then you still end up with a different product. You only have to look at the Impossible Project to see that just buying the equipment doesn't result in producing a comparable product.

Kodak should just do the right thing and acknowledge that the rest of Kodak's film will join Kodachrome as an historical artifact. Even if someone buys the division, the films we have known, loved and curses for years are history.

For the last two years I've read scores of articles online and in print about "The Comeback Of Film!" Really?

I thought anything with such a ridiculous sounding name as "shoe art film" had to be a joke, but Google it, and it seems to be real.

I fed that press release into Google Translate and all I got was "does not compute".

Yes, there are people who care about film that are not middle aged or old. A lot of art photographers still use film, and it remains important for art photo students as well.

So the still films are looking for a buyer and the movie materials aren't . . . and they are made in the same building? I recall that Kodak has a contractual obligation to continue to produce movie materials for a few more years, against orders and agreements already signed, but how will the buyer (in the unlikely event one can be found) produce the still-photo materials - by leasing or sub-contracting that service through Kodak, hence increasing costs and reducing volume - ergo, it's dead.

I'm wondering if RA4 paper will be bundled with the film stuff (ie. any buyer must take all or nothing), or will be available separately, but in either case isn't RA4-paper also mixed up with the production facilities for the other products? Or are there RA4-only production facilities that can be split off? Those might be the best buy for an external party as it will take a few years for the Fuji dry system to get moving.

It was also amusing to read that all these actions are going to be completed in a few months . . .

Before anyone starts to panic, there is still a large enough market for a smaller company to make the more popular emulsions profitable. A PE deal may actually be the best option as what gets "sold on" will be a going concern.

It just depends on what Kodak is actually "divesting" as part of the deal. Quite often these divestments fall down because of transfer of IP. The buying company needs all the IP required to continue business, the selling company cannot divide their IP neatly along product lines (after all knowledge can be applied widely and Kodak has a huge patent portfolio).

Of course it may have decided that none of its photochemical patents are important to the core business any longer. I would find that hard to believe.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

AND one picture is worth a thousand words
'nuff said :(

The big deal for photographers is obviously the demise of Kodak's film production. Rather than wax conspiratorially about the seeming burial of that in a jargon-laden PR release, we should recognize that film hasn't been all that important to Kodak for a long time. Yes, Film is what most photographers thought of when they thought about Kodak. No, film wasn't what Kodak's board thought of when they thought about Kodak's future.

Now, Kodak seemingly has not future because they continued making unprofitable products too long.

"So I can't see how they could separate movie and still film into two different businesses."

I expect that Kodak will continue to run the manufacturing plants but sell still film on to be packaged and sold by whoever ends up buying Paper and Output Systems. Sounds like the most logical approach. Which probably means it won't be the one they opt for… ;)

MESOL (Making explosion sounds out loud).

Seriously: You rock, for leading with that photo :)

For those who think Fuji might pick up Kodak's film business, I'm highly doubtful. Looking at Fuji's moves in film lately, that wouldn't make sense to me. That leaves Ilford, the current European manufacturers (the latter probably don't have enough financial strength to buy) and maybe a Chinese company.

Earl said "I read the release twice. I think film & paper is actually in the professional division, which isn't subject to this sale. But, as you say, it is opaque, just like EVERYTHING Perez has ever said. I despise Kodak corporate speak, which has become insufferable under Perez."

Hey! Take that back!

Oh, you mean the other guy.

Never mind.

Patrick Perez

Going up for sales doesn't equal end of production, folks. But I think we've just seen the end of an era right here today.

You know, I don't think I'd ever say this, but I really don't miss film that much. About a year ago, I went from a full Tri-X / wet print workflow straight into digital B&W and honestly ... I'm not missing it much.

What I do miss was my camera. I really did like my Leica. *sigh*

Pak

Oh Mama save da Yellow Papa!

I noticed earlier this year that my local photo/drugstore chain (which happily sent out my 120 colour film for development) stopped stocking all consumer colour kodak films. Now it's all fuji superia, some ilford B&W and maybe some leftover Tri-X or TMax 400. It's a shame as while I shot portra and ektar in 120, I was quite fond of the kodak gold palette when scanning 35mm.

Ah well, looks like my film shooting will be even more biased towards B&W in the future.


"on sale here"

Well I guess I'd better get this stuff developed!


Sleeve for Kodak 5x7 film sheets, c. 1921

One last look back at more optimistic times for Kodak.


Back-cover ad from U.S. Camera, June, 1952


Goodbye Kodak. You had a heck of a run!

What can I say? End of an era. Sic transit gloria.

But I'll admit, there's a tiny lump in my throat. After all, I started out shooting with Tri-X and Kodak Gold lo, those many years ago....

Only other things I can say is, if the brilliance shown by Kodak's top management is typical of our "job creators", we're in a lot more trouble than I thought.

Actually, for people asking if it means that there will no longer be Tri-X on the market: I presume that NO. Most probably it will still be. Probably it wouldn't be called Tri-X any more, and be less expensive, as the trademark would be much cheaper. Probably many people sticked to the trademark (i.e. MAJORITY) would swear that this would be "no more the same film", but that means actually nothing more than the fact they say so. ;)

Never has gross corporate incompetence brought down one so mighty as Kodak...

Let's start a Kickstarter fund to buy it. And I am not entirely joking. Almost anybody could manage that business better than those clowns.

So, they sell off film (and all the retail stuff), kill the digital consumer camera business (no loss), sell the sensor business, and the patents. What's left? Does Perez still seriously think he's going to make money on printers?

They should sell the name "Kodak" with the "output system", because they need to change the company's name from "Kodak" to something else after the transaction anyway.

For all the evil current (mis-)managment has wrought, at least we have been blessed with Portra and Ektar. Losing those two, especially in sheet form, would be the worst loss, I think. Hopefully those films will survive.

It sounds like the only growth left at Kodak is in the manufacture of golden parachutes.

In a related story, the Fuji company released the following statement: "The Company has not gloated, and any statements in the media to this effect are premature, unsubstantiated and in error. Should the Company in future decide that gloating is an appropriate response to events that may or may not occur or have occcurred in the past, present or future, the Company will announce it through official channels."

Hello, Harman!

I love HP5 & Delta.

"So the still films are looking for a buyer and the movie materials aren't . . . and they are made in the same building?"

I doubt they are. I also don't think they're the same films. For one thing, all of Kodak's B&W film products are made in one building dedicated to them.

Mike

If indeed the photographic film and chemical components eventually go to the auction block, then it would seem the Kodak brand name needs to go with it. What else does the name stand for? Am I really going to buy an inkjet printer because of the Kodak name?

Actually, in addition to this story, I think the really big news is that there appears to be a consortium forming (i.e. Google, Apple, Samsung, amoungst others) to buy some of these patents to keep them out of litigation trouble in the future!

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-57495400-92/google-apple-to-team-up-and-buy-kodak-patents-report-says/

How's that for kicking a guy when he's down!

Pak

Two things make me think that Kodak is screwed.
1)
They are selling the thing they've been known, no, famed for since the 19th Century; their film and paper. They are selling their identity and their reputation.
2)
They are controlled by people who think that press releases like that one are perfectly alright for communicating with their customers.

What a rotten shame.

It´s time to give Kodak back to people who knows what Kodak stands for and rebuild a long term business that George Eastman has founded. Like the Impossible Project has done with Polaroid.
Help me save Kodak Film!
http://www.savekodakfilm.com

Six months back I purchased 100 rolls of TX400-120 and stashed it in the freezer. I still shoot 10-20 rolls per year in my old Rolleiflex. I should have purchased 100,000. I could eventually finance my retirement with that.

The breakup and demise of Kodak as we knew it has been a "when", not "if", question for years. Several years. Still, nothing has happened yet. We can all speculate and pontificate about what goes on in upper mgmt, but we really just don't know!

A competitor is not going to buy it, at least not to continue the products as is (See: Ilford buys Kentmere). It may not sell at all, like their patents. I'll wait and see. In the meantime, there are still products (from more than 1 source) to buy and I don't have the mental energy to anguish over this.

Near as I can tell, that formidable block at the end says "we don't know what's gonna happen."

"Future events or results may differ from those anticipated or expressed in these forward-looking statements." Ain't that the truth.

Likely Kodak's law firm had an intern churn that out and then charged the moribund company two grand for it.

Dear folks,

Not that I'm any fan of Kodak management, and haven't been for decades (see http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/01/so-what-about-kodak.html ), but my take on this is a little different from some peoples'.

First off, against the claim that this demonstrates the massive incompetence of Kodak management, of the Big Four manufacturers of 20 years ago, what is their status now? I'm talking Agfa, Kodak, Fuji, and Ilford. The first doesn't even exist, the last is essentially nonexistent in the photochemical business beyond a handful of legacy products. Fuji by far appears to be the best off, but let's not forget that just a few years back they were considering killing off their film line and it was only the threat of a revolt by their dealers that seemed to prevent this. From that perspective, Kodak's done about average, maybe better than average.

The reality is that none of the companies were able to predict the sudden-falling-off-of-a-cliff of film sales that took place over a two-year period (to my knowledge, nobody did, and that includes me). I think I've written about that but can't find the URL.

Mind you, the world does not grade on a curve. You can be at the top of your class and still fail (along with everybody below you.) I'm not saying that I think Kodak will make it. Personally, I don't think they will. I just don't think that relative to everybody else in the business they've done an unusually bad job of trying.

Kodak's concentrating on inkjet printing is not directed at the consumer. Kodak doesn't care if you or I are interested in their products. It's directed at the photofinishing market. This may not prove to be a successful strategy, but it is most definitely not a stupid attempt. Counter-intuitively, this is still a growth market! (see http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/03/does-photofinishing-have-a-future.html )

Will it be long term? I would guess not, but this is so early in the digital revolution that nobody has a freaking clue what long term even looks like. You just hope you have a five or 10 year plan that keeps you going.


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

""So the still films are looking for a buyer and the movie materials aren't . . . and they are made in the same building?"

I doubt they are. I also don't think they're the same films. For one thing, all of Kodak's B&W film products are made in one building dedicated to them."

Per Dan Bayer, a photographer who's been to the plant, both still and motion films are coated on the same line in Bldg. 38:

http://www.apug.org/forums/viewpost.php?p=1383966

The market has gotten so small that Kodak now switches over that plant to produce different products when and as needed. Ron Mowery, a retired Kodak Research Labs engineer described it here:

http://www.apug.org/forums/viewpost.php?p=1384434

I can't find the post at this moment, but seem to remember Ron previously saying that Bldg. 38's line at one time ran three shifts seven days each week, but it's down to one shift five days per week. And that may have been a while ago, so it could be even fewer hours now.

No worries. Leica will buy and produce Kodak films to support sales of Leica film cameras. Wait. Never mind.

Sal,
Thanks. My information is obviously out of date.

Mike

". . . I'm talking Agfa, Kodak, Fuji, and Ilford. The first doesn't even exist, the last is essentially nonexistent in the photochemical business beyond a handful of legacy products. . ."

Agfa are still making film, but a lot less of course. The huge conglomerate, of which the film section was a small part, collapsed and the film producers lost sites and the rights to some of the trademarks.

Ilford are making only legacy products? Then I'm surprised that no-one has told them to stop with the new papers and camera, improved films, updated developers etc. etc.

Fuji have reduced their film and b+w paper range hugely, and continuously, and yet are doing very nicely on the back of their 'old' technologies and techniques. It is good that they are successful, but one could not describe them as a photographic-product company anymore.

I can only conclude that the market in the US looks totally different to that in Europe. Perhaps this is a factor in the baffling business view of the Kodak board who are giving Perez his direction, and his bonuses.

Actually Kodak has been shrinking itself in an orderly and responsible fashion, retaining the most retiree benefits possible compared to just about any other collapsing company. They've certainly made many mistakes, especially the stock buy-back, but they have been acting honorably through out this entire period. Name any other company that has done a better job at handling this kind of situation?

While selling the film manufacturing is heartbreaking, if someone actually buys it, then they will probably run it far better than Kodak. It frees the new owner from a lot of the baggage and allows them to streamline their distribution and other processes.

This is probably the best case scenario given the reality.

Dear Martin,

Err, you're right about Agfa. I was going by the (lack of a) US presence, but they do still exist in Europe. With a very small product line and very small market share, but they're still around. Yay! I have a soft spot in my heart for Agfa (in no small part because my dealings with AGFA USA were always so pleasant).

But as for Ilford, what I see in their product list is the same stuff I've seen for years (not counting products specifically oriented for digital work). Not that they are bad products, I don't mean to suggest that at all. They're very good products! But they're legacy products, the same way Tri-X is a legacy product.

Totally agree that Fuji is doing nicely, and they'll only do better if they wind up the sole major player in their markets. I was merely observing that from a corporate board decision point of view, even they contemplated getting out of the film business; it was dealer dissent that torpedoed that line of thinking.


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Considering 'legacy' Ilford, they have turned out a few new very successful fibre-papers in the last couple of years, ART300 and Direct-positive (the latter in both fibre and RC) and they have taken the european pinhole market and re-invigorated it with a brand-new 'system' 4"x5" camera (of which they have sold over ten times more than anticipated) that has recently been expanded in terms of parts and, shortly, size with an 8"x10" version. Last year they also started with a new range of holographic-plate products.

And not forgetting, there are also now Kentmere branded films in 35mm, based on the previous Ilford 'white-label' production technologies, as well as a range of Kentmere RC and fibre papers, to give Ilford slightly lower priced products to cover the market. Unfortunately some older Kentmere papers had to be stopped and reformulated, for environmental and cost reasons apparently, and that has proved a problem - those papers have not (yet) returned from zombie status. Ilford are producing film, again on a 'white-label' basis (meaning not the same as their own flagship products), for other distributors in Europe and also making paper to contract specifications for other distributors too.

Are the recent digital ranges of fibre and RC black-and-white papers, for Lambda use, what Mr.Ctein meant for digital products - or was that their inkjet papers? The 'Harman Technology' inkjet material is made by Ilford - but oddly the inkjet paper carrying the Ilford name is actually now a Swiss company, split off during the re-structuring seven or eight years ago.

All these products (except the inkjet papers of course) do indeed use silver compounds to form images, so they are in that sense legacy products. However, Ilford are also diversifying in to other uses for their silver technologies, for example medical dressings with precise micro-structures and anti-bacterial silver compound coatings. Sorry to sound like an advertisement, but we are quite pleased with the Ilford success stories over here, even though they are unavoidably also hurting in the present economic climate. Hopefully their increasing sales will continue to grow, and translate into more security for the company and workforce.
:o)

Re Ctein's comment:
"But as for Ilford, what I see in their product list is the same stuff I've seen for years"
IMO that would be a good thing - no products discontinued!

That Kodak finally sells it off does not surprise me. I am actually surprised they waited this long.

Five to Ten years ago they should have seen the writing on the wall and turned their film business into a nieche market product, higher cost but excellent service (e.g. printing). Instead they've run it into the ground.

The Fotochemika news hits me way harder. I love their films and they are my favourite to shoot. If I had the money right now I'd buy a thousand feet or so from the films and throw them in the freezer, instead, I guess, I will have to see what I do with all the 120 and spools I currently have in there.... I hate rationing.

Maybe time to look at Ilford again.

Film is output?
I ways thought of film as input!

Kodak had stopped making any film or paper that I wanted back in the late 1980s, What companies often forget is that their customers buy their profitable products only because of the existance of t the unpopular products.


So the glide path continues. I would caution any speculation on the future of Tri-X based on how the demise of Plus-X was carried out. And the slide films? These are days to remember, indeed. I think the view backward from twenty years in the future may just be one of amazement that Kodak film survived so well into the digital era.

"Is it too late for them to sell off the executive team? I'm inclined to believe that doing so would have a more positive impact on the bottom line."

No bugger would buy 'em though.


"For the last two years I've read scores of articles online and in print about "The Comeback Of Film!" Really?"

Yes, really. But it's a niche market and always will be. Kodak's quarterly losses have been orders of magnitude higher than Harman Technology's *entire annual turnover* (see http://theraconteur.co.uk/is-this-a-solution-to-the-credit-crunch/ annual turnover UKP26m).

I suspect the state of the film market doesn't make any noticeable difference to Kodak's bottom line these days. It is, however, a profitable market to be in if you do it right.

Now is the time for a clique of billionaire hobbyists to resurrect outdated emulsion technologies. How about for starters the complete patent and plans for ASA 10 Kodachrome? Never liked the look of Kodachrome II Process K-12, or Kodachrome 25 process K-14. The bronzy colored skintones, and the muted red brick colors of ASA 10 Kodachrome were the bomb (not to mention fill flash portraits of women with bright red Max Factor lipstick). Ernst Haas like it so much, he still had bricks of the stuff Kodak could not process after 1966. This exclusive Kodachrome ASA 10 revival team could find a nice tax advantage by setting up shop in Lichtenstein. I am sure the world's greatest research chemists would be available for a price for QA the chemical and process line manufacturing. Welcome to my personal reality distortion field:)

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