As of 5:00 PM today Kodak will cease the processing Kodachrome. Many photographers will mourn it’s passing, but I’m not one of them.
Kodachrome was slow (ASA 25) and expensive. In the days when I had a studio in Boston I would dread it when a client asked specifically for Kodachrome for a shoot. First it was slow, so often getting adequate depth of field with Kodachrome was a problem on shoots involving people (higher shutter speeds to avoid blur meant lower F-stops and a narrower focus zone). It was also slow to process – two days to Rochester, NY, or Fairlawn, NJ, a day in the lab and another two or three days on the return trip. For almost a week I didn’t know whether the shoot was a success or not. No wonder I used to self-medicate. Finally there was the cost. I could purchase and process a roll of Ektachrome for $7. Kodachrome cost nearly twice that per roll.
And then there was the waste – rejected slides, processing chemistry, and all the water needed to make sure the film was completely free of residual chemicals. Kodachrome, like other transparency films, was an ecological nightmare. Silver salts, metol, stop bath, and fixer are all toxic materials that wound up in dumps and local groundwater. The only thing green about Kodachrome was its ability to reproduce greens accurately.
The only good thing about Kodachrome was and is its archival longevity. Of all the transparency films ever made, Kodachrome is the most permanent. It is still not truly archival, but it fades much slower than E-6 transparency formulations such as Ektachrome and Fujichrome. Especially if kept in a cool, dark, low humidity and neutral PH environment, Kodachrome slides can retain most of their vibrancy for 40 years. E-6 slides show evidence of deterioration, even under the best of storage conditions, after 25 years.
So Goodbye, Kodachrome. You had a good run, but it’s time to move on to more efficient and less polluting forms of image making.