« Readers' Rambles | Main | The Great Costume »

Tuesday, 02 March 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I read this post with a moist eye. In 1965 my father gave me his treasured Retina IIa - he chose it, many years before, over the current Leica. I had been using the camera all along, and then it was mine to take back to college with me. I used Kodachrome and TriX in it. Changed my life and created a passion that has never died. Sold it in the early 70's for one of those newfangled slrs, and, for years tried to buy it back and couldn't. Pass me another tissue, please.

IMO, Kodachrome was killed because Kodak stopped doing their own processing, and the result was unreliable. The shift from Kodachrome II to Kodachrome 25 was the nail in the coffin. Fuji's Velvia had a lot to do with it, too.

Is it me, or is there something about the perspective of Jim's model shots that really gives them away?

Kodachrome 25 was my favorite film in all the world. I learned how to hold a camera steadily in order to get decent sharpness with it. Its detail was exquisite, its colors beautiful. I miss it so.

While I enjoy Digital now, nothing compares to the colors of Kodachrome.

Kodachrome - You give us those nice bright colors - You give us the greens of summers - Makes you think all the worlds a sunny day, oh yeah ! - I got a Nikon camera - I love to take a photograph - So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away...Paul Simon

I know how you feel, but this is the relentless march of technology. I have not touched film since June, 2002. There are people who love their vinyl records.

"There are people who love their vinyl records."



"...but this is the relentless march of technology."

True, but that doesn't mean we need neither forget nor abandon that which worked so well then (and continues to do so today).

I've got a Pentax K-7 (Thanks, Mike!),several compact digital cameras,a Mamiya 7, Mamiya RB67, and Lubitel 166U all sharing a shelf in my studio, and they get along quite nicely.

And, despite the move to digital, I'm continuously asked by clients to pull out these old "beasts" for a specific job/look/request.

Charlie H. wrote: Is it me, or is there something about the perspective of Jim's model shots that really gives them away?

For Charlie H: I hope you were joking, but in case you weren't, both the Lincoln and the Chevy were real, as seen on the streets of Rockport, Maine. -- Jim Hughes

It's terribly ironic that, in a book that's arguably about the particular look of a particular film, the sentence "Each original, unprocessed image showing the moment exactly as Harald Mante saw it through the viewfinder" could appear. The more "distinctive" the characteristics of a particular film, the less this is true; and with the most neutral film in the world, it's still far from exact.

This post was great. I really like having the increased number of posters on the site; makes it feel like I'm attending a lecture series.
p.s. I'll shoot Tri-X until they stop making it.

" Kodachrome was killed because Kodak stopped doing their own processing, and the result was unreliable. The shift from Kodachrome II to Kodachrome 25 was the nail in the coffin. Fuji's Velvia had a lot to do with it, too."

Bill, I agree that when Kodak stopped processing it, the end was near. I disagree about K25, though...I got to use KII only briefly before the change, and while it was fine, and K25 was different, the K25 was still superior to any other transparency film. And don't get me started on Fujichrome; I'll never know what people saw in the ghoulish-greenish flesh tones and it's total inability to reproduce colors 'correctly' in any but neutral, white light. It was quite clear that the entire publishing world flipped for the jacked-up Fujichrome look. I felt as though it had been forced upon us...oh yeah, ...it was!

With the megapixel race almost over, and the average consumers not caring much about dynamic range, I wonder if the next competitive aspect of digital photography technology to be increased color gamut on CCD/CMOS sensors and on LCD/AMOLED displays. I can imagine the marketing people with slogans like, "the first camera/monitor that makes your digital photos look like Kodachrome/film". Of course, consumers will have to do away with sRGB first.

Here, Here, Jim...If you ever discover a workflow or plug-in to replicate kodachome, please post it on T.O.P. I greatly miss the only color film I ever shot. The world has become far too over saturated in "blue" or "green" for my taste.

Thanks for a beautiful article, Jim. Made my heart beat ... I loved Kodachrome in my first 10 years as an amateur photographer. And nobody can take that away from me.
Now I just love my digital Nikon and Photoshop. Sometimes the results are almost like Kodachrome, almost :)
PS. Check out my grandfather's Kodachromes of Canadian eskimos in 1957 at my site: plotphoto.com

It's sad to think that my '80s and '90s camera gear is now considered "vintage".

Speaking of, in the pro-audio world, vintage microphones, amps and compressors are sought and used even though the latest/greatest is numerically "better".

I used Kodachrome for two decades and loved it. It was a very nice film for slide projections. Eventually there were three reasons to switch to Fuji: Kodachrome was quite difficult to scan, it took weeks before you got your processed film back, and Fuji's colour gamut became fashionable.

At that time we all new that the National Geographic Magazine had also moved on to Fuji, and many thought the reason was the colour rendition. So I was surprised to find the following entry to Karen Kasmauski's blog.

She writes: 'Kodachrome is beautiful and when the exposure is just right, and it is properly developed, nothing can beat it. The key is that proper development. Kodachrome is more complex then the E-6 process used for most other “chromes.” I remember in the early 1990’s when I was still on contract at the National Geographic, problems began to appear with Kodachrome processing. Even Kodak was sending back muddy looking slides.'

It seems Kodak is very much to blame for the decline of its flagship film.

It's funny how despite the relentless march of technology, which has turned expensive cameras into consumer white gods, there is still such a love of film about. I'm all for it and just hope there is enough real demand to keep kodak, ilford, fuji and the others producing it. I have 2 or 3 rolls of Kodachrome left - must make the time to shoot them soon.


The typo, white gods, was accirdental, but somehow seems an appropriate description of where we find ourselves. Despite the likely economic future...


The quote from Karen Kasmauski is apt. Often shooting on assignment in the early 1990's, I distinctly remember Kodachrome 64 as a "sunshine film" that could quickly shift to unpleasant cyanic hues when clouds moved in. Fujichrome didn't do that, which is why I switched.

When Kodachrome 64 was good, it was very, very good...my favorite. Ralph Gibson, by the way, did some superb work with Kodachrome 64. I still have my copy of the May 1991 CAMERA & DARKROOM with its article on Gibson's "L' Histoire de France." It was Kodachrome 64 in the hands of a master.

Your comment that you have just loaded your last roll was truly sad. It was only a few years ago I shot my last roll of K64. I posted a few samples on the Leica forum when asked and everyone really liked them. But I didn't! I suppose I had gotten used to the over saturated Fuji films, but going back today and checking over some of those old slides, oh my! But to write on oft overused quote, "the times they are a'changing".

"white gods"

I thought religion was off limits on this blog. (bada-bing)

I've got four rolls of Kodachrome sitting in the fridge, I need to decide where I'm going to go and what I'm going to do to give them a good sendoff before summer's out.

Interestingly, the latest British Journal of Photography magazine has a feature positing that E6 will be dead and gone by the end of the year. Could this really be the end of transparencies?

"Here, we want to show you Harald Mante's work in its purest form, without the aid of computers or Photoshop.... what you see here is Harald Mante unplugged, with each original, unprocessed image showing the moment exactly as Harald Mante saw it through the viewfinder of his camera."

I think this statement speaks for itself: the point (reinforced by use of the term "moment") is that nothing was rearranged, or added, or deleted in Mante's photographs after they were taken. It's a reference to the non-manipulation of "things" in the scene, not a statement about "color accuracy" as measured with a Gretag chart or color densitometer.

As far as whether any film can reflect the colors of a scene as the photographer sees them, about this there is little doubt, granting that an advanced photographer's "vision" is also shaped by long experience with a particular film. In other words, their vision reflects the way the film sees as much as the film reflects the way they see: however it happens, the two -- film and eye -- eventually become fairly congruent.

To wit, some photographers (including Galen Rowell and a famous current blogger) have declared that Velvia is closest to the appearance of the world as they see it, others would say Astia is most representative of their eye, some think one of the Portra films best reflects what they see, and there are plenty of photographers who say they have trained themselves to "see in black-and-white" so that their vision and the Tri-X record of what they see through the viewfinder are the same.

All of these are valid claims, because none of us can say with certainty how others of us see light. In other words, these claims are related to art (and interpretation), not to science (and measurable color accuracy or "neutrality").

Jim (and Mike), thanks for this. I am fortunate to have a stash of about 20 rolls of Kodachrome, all K64 except for two rolls of K25.

This summer I will shoot it all up in a final hurrah, on the shorts of Lake Superior at Pukaskwa National Park. I will use my OMs and Zuikos, with a Konica T4 and the wonderful Hexanon AR 40/1.8 along for the ride.

In the last few years I have learned a lot about detachment ... detachment from emotion (while not denying emotions), detachment from the idea that anything is unchanging. So theoretically the passing of Kodachrome is just that ... the simple passing of Kodachrome.

Yet I am having a lot of trouble letting go. I am pretty certain this summer's trip to Superior is going to be very emotional, indeed.

Jim, thank you for the nice article and those two gorgeous photographs. Sure looks like you mastered Kodachrome exposure.

All my shooting from 1975 until 1995 (when I went to 6x7 medium format) was on 35mm transparency film, a mixture of various types depending on availability. K64 was often the only slide film available in the small towns in the Australian outback where I lived and worked as an exploration geologist. I liked the sharpness, excellent processing quality and reputed archival quality of K64 and found its rendering of artificial subjects (such as Jim’s cars, above) was often spectacular if underexposed by a stop. However, when used to shoot portraits or scenics with less underexposure, a pronounced magenta bias gave ruddy complexions, dull blue skies and grey green foliage that I detested and that countered my recollection of the colours before me. As a result, I progressively standardized on Ektachrome 64 and, later, 100, which provided brighter colours that looked better when projected and probably contributed in getting a few magazine articles published. However, in 1998 I spent a few days reviewing all my 35mm transparencies with a 10x lens and was astounded by just how good the K64 shots looked against the Ektachromes, which now seemed downright fuzzy in comparison. The sharpness and the quality of the colour in the better shots made me I wish I’d shot only Kodachrome. Since then, I’ve regarded K64 as an amazing and idiosyncratic film, and wondered if other photographers experienced it in the same way.

Galen Rowell wrote of his experiences in a memorable article “Ode to Kodachrome” in the December 1999 issue of Outdoor Photographer, available on his website here:

Loved that Kodachrome look. Miss my Polaroid SX-70 even more. Things change, slowly adapting to digital and the freedom that comes with it. Sort of the way I felt with my SX-70 camera only better. Wish I could find a way to feel the same with my digital SLR. Time will tell...

"Relentlessly march of the technology", relentless march of the time. [moisture in my eyes]

People we love passed away, significant others left us, ... and we will leave our beloved ones finally. And yes, films, lenses and cameras we love may sooner or later disappear.

Let's take it and move on.

Thanks to Jim Hughes. Thanks to all who contributes in this post.

"Jim (and Mike), thanks for this. I am fortunate to have a stash of about 20 rolls of Kodachrome, all K64 except for two rolls of K25."

Better hurry. Dwayne's is the last in the world, and when they are gone...

After all my snide comments, I have a confession: I bought, one year ago, TWO new tube amps from China on eBay. They do sound better than transistors. Of course, they are hooked up to a CD/DVD player, and my computer's Soundblaster Titanium PCI card.

Saaaay... Isn't there a Kodachrome Iphone app? Sorry.
Down in the basement there are hundreds of Kodachromes shot by my dad in the 1950s-60 using his Retina IIc. They still look great. I probably never shot more than 10-12 rolls of Kodachrome in all of the 40 years I've been shooting. It just didn't fit my style. Somehow I'll miss it anyway.
I think I've been reading Jim's stuff for all 40 years. This is like reconnecting with an old friend.

Look, it was just a bit of technology, for (white) God's sake - the SD card of its time. All technologies come and go. What you're all mourning is your lost youths and their associated memories, not the red and yellow packs. None of us are going to stave off what Billy Shakespeare called the husks and formless ruin of oblivion with what we've been stocking in the fridge for the past decade.

I have one roll of Kodachrome 64 left. We will drive around the Olympic Peninsula for a week in April, and I will shoot it then, and I will send it to Duane's for processing, and that will be the end of my love affair with Kodachrome. It might be the last roll of color film that I ever shoot.

The subtleties of individual appreciation of colour are as fascinating as they are confusing.

I recently bought an old Pentax SMC 28mm f3.5, which somehow seems to capture colours, as I perceive them, with more fidelity than any of my modern lenses.
Makes me happy with my new acquisition - but also frustrated with the performance of my more modern (and expensive) kit.

James McD.,
How can it be Jim's lost youth he's mourning when he's shot the stuff for 40 years? I'm sure he'd be happy to keep shooting it into his dotage. He just works well with K-chrome, is all.


James McD.,
How can it be Jim's lost youth he's mourning when he's shot the stuff for 40 years? I'm sure he'd be happy to keep shooting it into his dotage. He just works well with K-chrome, is all.


Mike, Jim's article I enjoyed. It was the elegaic, footsteps-vanishing-in-Time's-tide nature of some of the comments that followed which gave me a Give Me A Break moment. I have to admit that I, too, own tube (over here, valve) amplifiers, and enjoy pottering around occasionally with my Rolleiflex T, a roll of Ilford and my trusty but fairly useless Weston meter. But that's anachrophilia on my part, not any genuine belief that old = better.

Besides, I've been wanting to slip that Shakespeare quote into some sort of conversation for a while now. You know, nonchalantly.

"Besides, I've been wanting to slip that Shakespeare quote into some sort of conversation for a while now. You know, nonchalantly."

That was a good quote.


My wife found a pristine Ritna IIc at a antique store last year for change, still in the leather case, and bought it. The lens is almost same 50 as Jim's but a 2.8. I had to break out the light meter and relearn film, but I am glad I did. It gave me a great perspective on what I am doing with digital. It was to fine to hold a real mechanical camera again, I started on an 1939 Argus. It too still shoots great pictures.

I have also been savoring my last rolls of KR64. The look is unique and represents a real loss to photography because we will be left to mimicry if we cannot produce it on the thing itself.

I doubly encourage Mr. Hughes to report back if he finds a film that satisfies him like KR64 did.

Thanks, Mike, for the articles on film. Provides a welcome sense of relief from the so-called march of progress.

hmmm, seems like Kodachrome is back! in some way ...

Categorically I do not mourn my youth or any such. I am a pretty self-aware person; that perspective came after more than a few decades of decided confusion.

So no, what I will miss is Kodachrome itself. The only reason I have been hoarding it is that I knew this day would come, and I wanted to dedicate the lot to a singular project.

Sorry, but no Shakespeare quote comes to mind.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007