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Friday, 20 January 2012


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Kodak is a bit bureaucratic. But to be fair, you'd likely get the same response from a lot of the tech companies around here. They won't let you use the public bathroom without signing a NDA.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I've read two distinct accounts of folks trying to pry out of Fuji employees exactly how much EXR tech is employed when shooting in PASM modes on the X10 when set to "M" resolution, i.e. 6MP.

Your "Friday afternoon, 4:45pm" tactic reminds me of when I was dealing with State Farm to replace my car, which exploded in an instance of random arson. I was in LA, but my agent was out East. They'd always call me with news at 2pm in LA, right when my shift started. Since I never told them my work schedule, I always wondered how they knew that it was when I was starting work. It was only after a couple of weeks that I realized that they were calling me right as my agent, my advocate in this torturous process, had closed his office. Scoundrels.

In the 70's and 80's, our studio and office was only about ten minutes by car from Kodak's big processing lab in Palo Alto, California. Kodachrome could be dropped and picked up over the counter but the only accepted form of payment was pre-paid processing mailers. Sometimes people could be heard whining about the payment policy but we did not mind a bit. If film came in by 4:30pm, boxed, mounted slides could be picked up at 8:00 or 8:30 the next morning. Sure, E6 could be had faster but it was not Kodachrome. The overnight service seemed about as miraculous then as downloading a memory card does now.

Hugh's anecdote sounds as much "That's the U.S. government" as "That's Kodak". With tens of thousands of pages of regulations controlling their activities, Kodak could have been heavily sanctioned by FAA or GSA if the "wrong" thing was sold to the "wrong" person the "wrong" way. Much safer to tell Hugh to go pound sand.

Nowadays, you can get all the (outdated) 70mm B&W film you want on eBay, free from all bureaucracy ... but maybe not for much longer.

I fear I had quite the opposite experience with Kodak. I became interested in "pulling" HIE so that the effect would not be the blasted, glowing highlights one so often sees but something close to but distinct from panchromatic. At the time I didn't know was CI stood for and thought it was CL in the font in the Darkroom Data Guide. I managed to get a Kodak guy on the phone who explained that too me patiently and then we began to talk about the CI for panchromatic and for the HIE and different times and temps. I finally said 'well what if I developed for 4.5 minutes? Wouldn't I get a CI of . .?" "yes," he said, "but we don't recommend that because it's very hard to time infrared that closely." I've been doing my HIE that way ever sense with very satisfying results.

When I was writing my books on Ralph Eugene Meatyard, his method for developing film came up. He used Microdol (not Microdol-X) and a lot of Panatomic-X and he was impatient; so he cooked it a bit rather than develop for 20 minutes or whatever the proscribed time was. How he got his effects (much like compensating development it seemed) became a subject of interest and that led me to Ansel Adams' belief that the behavior of Microdol differed from Microdol-X owing to a different amount of Sodium Sulfide in the X formula. I managed to get Kodak to send me the original formula for Microdol which answered my question more or less. Just lucky I guess.

Like most dynasties, Kodak eventually toppled from its own weight and inertia. Time moves on;dynasties rise anew.But I'll never forget the joy of driving to the Ross-Ehlert Kodachrome lab here in Chicago and having my rolls of 120 processed in 3-4 hours.It was sublime.

"I've heard, read, or received some wonderful Kodak stories in the past 32 hours or so, many positive, a few negative..."

Mike, no pun intended?

In the early '70s, I worked for the chemicals division of Kodak. In fact, I began to study photography in the company sponsored photography club. Membership was $2 per year and members had access to all manner of rental cameras (25 cents per day) along with B/W and color darkrooms and a studio. Like "Kodak" (we were "Eastman"), secrecy was emphasized. I recall being given permission to attend a technical conference (which was unusual) and being told to listen but not speak. If asked a direct question, I was told to say "I don't know" and not be concerned about appearing to be stupid.

So the burning question is do we need to panic buy our favourite Kodak film yet, or does the chapter 11 guarantee continued supplies for a while longer ? Not sure where I will go if the E100G supply dries up...

Plus One for Karl, I remember getting Ross-Elert to process my 120 Kodachromes when Kodak reintroduced 120 Kodachrome to try and build interest. Looked better than the 35mm as far as I was concerned, more like the "old-stuff" II and X, before I feel they wrecked it with the "cleaner process" stuff 25 and 64. It was really never the same after that...

Anyway, I've beat Kodak like a rented mule on these posts before. How could a company kill great film they were still making a profit on, the bone head marketing moves and ridiculous Biz-School grad technical service reps that didn't even know anything about photography. Trying to kill transparency back in the 70's for color neg. Etc. Etc. Too frustrating to go into all again.

But, this news makes me sad, 'cause for all the problems, over the years, they still figured out how to make some killer stuff. The original Kodachromes, the beautiful Tri-X, Verichrome Pan (sniff), Panatomic-X (sniff), Super XX (sniff), and yes, even when you thought they were beyond ever doing anything right again, they came out with their current line of transparency film E-100 G (sniff, X is gone), which for a Kodak color pallet lover like me, was proof that they could get it right again. And don't forget Ektar 100 in 120! A color negative film that, in the age of scanning, I truly feel totally comfortable interchanging with transparency.

Lest we forget, Fuji has made bone-head moves over the years. When Ektachrome stunk, and I finally got Fujichrome where I like it (was it RDP?), they canned it for Fuji Provia, a film the tech reps openly admitted they made to mirror Ektachrome to compete with it. And sadly they managed to make it as ugly and 'blue' cast as Ektachrome was at the time. They had to introduce Astia, which was the same color pallet as their original film, when they finally realized that people were using Fujichrome because it WASN'T Ektachrome!

Kodak, get through reorg, come out stronger, and go back to making the stuff we love profitably as well as be big a digital giant. C'mon, Fuji can do it! Selling those patents would be the worst thing you could do. Is it too late for redemption?

During the early 1980s a friend and I chose for a high school class project the topic of the use of lasers in industry. Being less than informed of the limitations of such things we figured we could just ask for assistance in our search for information. A few afternoons of visits to a couple of local libraries and phone calls made to contacts in local industry resulted in a conversation with a scientist whom I later realized was working on the US Federal government's Strategic Defense Initiative "Star Wars" project. The man was very helpful without revealing information my friend and I shouldn't know, he seemed pleased with the research we had performed on the effects of temperatures and variations in the current used on the equipment, and he provided a list of reference books we should find for our project. I believe most people want to help others who are genuinely interested in the field of work in which they specialize provided their work is not placed in jeopardy and they believe a discussion will be brief and to the point with a respectful no being the end of the discussion.

I've had some rather technical discussions with Nikon folks over the years. I've written letters to manufacturers on occasion only to receive upgraded parts at not charge. I've even been given proprietary information and data by vendors with the understanding it was only for personal use. I suspect Kodak was no different back in the day with the challenge being finding the correct person for a question. What may have seemed to be the arduous navigation of a minefield of corporate culture might have just been the most efficient process for answering questions Kodak never imagined anyone would ask and had no means in place for answering.

There is a story, not sure that it is true, that Kodak was the only "person" to know, in advance, of a nuclear bomb test at the Nevada terst site in the 1950s. This would give Kodak time to place materials sensitive to radioactivity in safer conditions. Can anyone collaborate?

Dear Jim,

Never heard that one, but Kodak did switch to deep aquifers for their water supply because of the fallout from the open-air bomb tests. Previously, if they needed quantities of pure water, they'd capture rainfall. Then the rain became faintly radioactive and, well, photo emulsions don't like that... or maybe like it a bit too well, if you get my meaning.

pax / Ctein

Mike, I had a similar experience to your correspondent about 10 years ago. I was trying to buy a bulk roll (100') of Kodak 5302 fine-grain release film to make B&W slides and got shuttled from department to department. Eventually someone from the microscopy division told me the good news that I could order some of this film, and that it was only $15 for a bulk roll... but that they had a minimum order of 10 bulk rolls (that's 1,000 feet of film).

Eastman Kodak did detect fallout from Trinity and later tests at Rochester, NY and were worried about it affecting film stock.

See this link for more about the interactions between Eastman Kodak and the AEC over fallout from the continental tests.


A Kodak executive and representatives of several other photographic companies were granted "Q" clearances (see chapter 8) to receive and make use of the information to alter plant operations and otherwise avoid contact with contaminated materials. Thus, beginning with the Operation Greenhouse series of tests in 1951 at Enewetak (and continuing presumably until the end of atmospheric testing in 1962), this industry knew in advance when a test would occur, where the fallout was expected to go, and, most important, where it went.

Eastman Kodak also had a hand in managing the Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge (so someone was aware of the bomb project) I doubt they had any advance info on bomb testing.

My best Kodak memory concerns their cameras. When I was growing up in the 60's my father's two primary 35mm cameras were a Kodak Retina I and a Kodak Signet. When I was in college in 1975 I found a Retina IIa for $50. Although I had a Konica SLR I loved that camera. I'd always heard how people loved to use Leicas for candid photography because of their near silent shutters. Well I had my poor man's Leica. It was small, had a quiet shutter and an f2 Schneider Xenon lens. it was perfect for existing light photography. And when I did need a flash, it had an accessory shoe and an X sync terminal so I could easily use a modern strobe on it. I of course still own it!

I finally understand what's going here. A lot of responders are in mourning for Kodak, and you're in effect having a wake.

"I finally understand what's going here. A lot of responders are in mourning for Kodak, and you're in effect having a wake."

Of course. What else?

I've been using Kodak products almost all my life. The only reason I won't be sad for weeks is that I'm 3/4 convinced that a small company will emerge from the rubble selling a number of photographic products, inkjet printers, and standard films. It won't be the behemoth of yore but it will be as viable as Ilford.

There is of course a chance I'm wrong about that, but if so I'll hold off with the real mourning till then.


Jim -

If you trust the Brookings Institution


They seem to confirm the Kodak radiation moment.


Jim Hart

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