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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Kodachrome Karnival: 1979

Kodachrome Karnival: 1979

Last week saw the last processing run for Kodachrome film, as noted on Shorpy here. I thought that this one, shot by my friend in 1979, was a good example of what all the hubbub was about. It's at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, California. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

We will miss you

Gives us the nice bright colors, the greens of summer, makes all the world a summer's day. (Sorry Paul, best I can remember at my age).

What's gone is gone.

I make no apologies for the fact that the passing of Kodakchrome 35mm slide film does not bring a tear to my eye or a lump to the throat.

I'm 65 years old and have used my share of slide and print film over the past 40 to 50 years, including Agfa, Fuji and Kodak products. I have boxes of Kodak Carousel containers filled with slides, and smaller plastic boxes as received from the processing labs filled with slides.
Many, many of them show signs of deterioration, no doubt due to careless storage.

I'm what anyone would call a rank amateur, a "snapshot-shooter," and although I still have my Nikons I have not used them since 2001, preferring instead the ease and economy that several digital cameras give me.

No, not for me the crocodile tears as I wave goodbye to Kodachrome. I'll gladly store my photographs on USB memory sticks or DVDs, keeping only the best of a mediocre bunch and only paying for prints of the really special ones.

And I doubt that any other "snapshooter" would feel any different.

Projection - Yes!

Too bad such a wonderful film is gone. Tterrace nails the problem with duplicating, digitizing or printing any transparency right on the head.

The only thing I havn't experienced is the variance from other labs. Here in the midwest the labs were quite spread out. I processed Kodachrome in Minneapolis and the closest two labs were in Chicago and Kansas City. All the labs were licensed by Kodak and had to adhere to a certain quality standard to maintain their license. I remember that the chemical department had analysis equipment that wouldn't be found in any other photo lab and I had to calibrate the cyan and yellow printing lamps before every run.

Just an interesting sidenote, EPA compliance and monitoring was always a problem because the cyan developer had a high level of cyanide that went down the drain from the tank overflow.

Re: Kodachrome vs. digital

I used Kodachrome for many happy years, beginning in the ASA 25 years. I was fortunate in living close enough to one of Kodak's own labs, so processing was always consistent.

I don't think K-chrome's prime asset was realism as much as it was beauty. Rich colors - in my experience, more so than digital -- set it apart. Ektachrome was the "bluish" film; Kodachrome brought out the deep warm tones.

Ultimately, I switched to Fuji film because later high-speed versions of K-chrome weren't as satisfying as the ASA 25 variety.

If K-25 was still available, I'd be using it today, and my digital equipment would be gathering dust.


Color just oozes.


What an incredibly interesting and fascinating work of art.

Re: Kodachrome vs, Digital

>> In 50 years any digital photograph, unless painstakingly re-saved to the latest storage media, will be non-existent.

This is an oft-repeated canard without much basis in fact. Your average flash memory card should be good for many decades of storage. With billions of them currently in use, there'll be a market for card readers for decades to come, even after the various formats become obsolete. The same is true for hard drives and most other mass-storage media. (Or you can just keep your photos online -- my oldest albums have been online for 15 years now.)

For most folks, the storage medium of choice is prints. Inkjet prints made on good paper with dye-based inks have permanence ratings of 100 years or more.

Kodachrome scanning

First of all, there's no such thing as a "straight" translation of any kind of photochemical image to another medium, even if it's another photographic emulsion. In that case, there are differences in the pigments and dyes used in the photographic materials. In the case of standard four-color printing, such as for books and magazines, the pigments are entirely different chemically. Furthermore, there's no way to replicate the contrast range of a color slide viewed by transmitted light on a print viewed by reflected light. When we get into digital scanning and display, there are further complications: the scanning light source, the color sensitivity of the image sensors and even the spectral characteristics of the film itself. (This is a particular problem with Kodachrome, which we faced when I was working in our custom color lab; we could achieve reasonable color accuracy in making duplicate slides and prints from Ektachrome, but doing so across the spectrum with Kodachrome originals was often impossible.) With digital, there's the additional complication of the final display, whose colors are produced in a different manner altogether. And again, the contrast range of a projected color slide exceeds that possible with a standard computer display. The best we can achieve is a reasonable simulation of what's on the slide.

Then there's another angle: not all Kodachrome processing was equal. Processing done by Kodak itself was the most consistent, but that from other labs could be all over the map; our own collection of hundreds and hundreds of Kodachrome slides over a span of over three decades provides ample proof of that. We have greenish Kodachromes, magenta-tinged Kodachromes, reddish Kodachromes, bluish Kodachromes, cyanish Kodachromes and others that are off one way in certain colors and another way in others. This particular slide is from a batch processed by some unidentified lab, and they're all consistently reddish/magenta compared to the standard processed-by-Kodak color that I'm thoroughly familiar with. I decided to correct that out to something that looked, to my eyes, more like a Kodak-processed Kodachrome. Below is a version that's close to what the original slide looks like; I can guarantee that the asphalt of the fairgrounds was not red.

Kodachrome vs. Digital

In 50 years this transparency, barring disaster such as a fire or flood, will look just like this. In 50 years any digital photograph, unless painstakingly re-saved to the latest storage media, will be non-existent. If you print the digital photo to paper with an ink jet printer, it will have long since faded into a mere ghost of its original glory.

Awww, c'mon now

Not at all fair to judge the benefits of Kodachrome by today's digital software manipulation. Back then, you got what you got. And, when it came to printing, only Cibachrome could really capture the essence of the Kodachrome transparency. And yes, even then a wee bit of "manipulation" was possible. We shouldn't compare apples to oranges.

Kodachrome realism

All the hubbub (for me, at least) is Kodachrome's ability to make then look and feel like now.

A couple of years ago David posted a Kodachrome of a female factory worker in a WW2 aviation plant (I think) and a young man posted a response saying he was convinced beyond all doubt that the photo was a fake. It just did not seem possible to him that a picture from that long ago could look so vivid and immediate.

I can see why he might think that because Kodachrome could make 60 years ago look like yesterday.



If that's a 35mm transparency, I wish I had spent more time working with Kodachrome than Ektachrome. Amazing detail, colour and texture. Too bad it required a crystal clear day like this to stop motion.

I remember fairs like this

This scene was repeated thousands of times across North America in the mid 70's and early 80's. I could have been one of the three kids standing by the fence. I love the fact that the rides, while brightly painted, aren't cluttered with all sorts of advertising like they seem to be now. I remember riding most of these, the Hurricane, the Yo-Yo and as the sing says, the TipTop.

My favorites were The Scrambler, the Loop-O-Plane and the Tilt-A-Whirl. Wagner Shows, a Western Canadian outfit which served our town, used to feature a fellow who rode the deck of the Tilt-A-Whirl while the ride ran, nimbly stepping between the buckets, giving each an extra spin at just the right moment. He wore a t-shirt that read "Tilt the World with Joe".

Anyhow, I very much like this photograph. It's one of the few shown here new enough to allow one to suppose that at least some of the people in it aren't obviously dead.

Sounds like a song title

Beautiful colors, too late though. Someone has already taken my Kodachrome away.


I guess I am spoiled by digital photography.

I think the color in this image is average. Also, is this a straight scan without digital manipulation?

I enjoy this site. Keep up your good work.

Doug Santo
Pasadena, CA

Not as red as blue

Excepting the sky is brite blue, I see this image as heavy with blue, and not as warm red as Kodachrome normally gave. Perhaps it is the age of the image as well. I did a quick adjustment and increased the color overall except contrast. The result is what I thought Kodachrome normally revealed. Just my opinion though.

[Put on your sunglasses. - Dave]

Washington Post: Eulogy for Kodachrome

There's a great narrative, with an accompanying slide show, in which Washington Post photographer John McDonnell eulogizes Kodachrome, the iconic film produced by Kodak from 1935 to 2009.

You'll have to put up with a short commercial intro, but the narrative and slide show are worth the wait! (Make sure your volume is turned on.)

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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