Kodak’s Strife and the Future of Film
With my schedule being insanely busy, I really haven’t had time to contemplate Kodak’s bankruptcy. I am certainly aware of it, and it’s hard to not have an opinion on the issue. There are some good articles detailing the more financial details of the filing, and this one in the New York Times’ Dealbook section shows just how broad Kodak has spread itself through the years.
That broadness is the one thing that really sticks out in my mind in all this. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve worked as a photo specialist, and I worked with a lot of Kodak products during my time in that role. I liked the Kodak products I used, even though the machinery was sometimes older than dirt and was a real pain to calibrate. However, most of the non-commercial products were terrible. I was very fond of my APS camera, but my mom had a digital Kodak camera. It was this bulky green thing with no removable storage. Frankly, I hated it. Back then, though, I hated it on the grounds that it was so user unfriendly (and I was resisting digital in my early photography years). I still hate it on the grounds that Kodak has not done much to improve on it since then. I work for an appraisal management company that provide a lot of technological equipment for the appraisers on staff. The cameras provided are EasyShare, which are anything but easy to share. Average appraiser age aside, I’ve heard a number of complaints regarding not being able to correctly hook the camera up to the computer. There are also occasional issues where the camera will freeze during operation, something that happened with my mom’s camera all the time. Now why are we still hearing about these complaints over a decade later? Kodak is almost too diverse in their product offerings which range from cinematic film to inkjet printers, not to mention digital camera and smartphone patents. Yes, Kodak needed to adapt to stay competitive, but the company spread its resources too thin to effectively revamp their camera offerings while simultaneously ignoring the burgeoning prosumer market, which is where you’ll find photographers willing to spend more money. Nikon and Canon wisely took advantage of this and developed easy to use DSLRs and hybrid cameras that combined the most appealing traits of the two types of cameras most readily available. Kodak was not in a position to do this because it was trying to juggle photo kiosks and gallery programs at the same time. Canon has since gone into the gallery market, but I’m rather lukewarm on it. Photo equipment and photo sharing are very different things, but I’ll save that discussion for another entry. It all boils down to allocation of resources, and Kodak’s missteps ended up being very painful in the long run.
That said, I’d like to return to a major point. I like Kodak’s photo development products. I’ve always found their film and papers to be more realistic and not quite as vivid as Fuji products. Kodak tends to be truer to color and maintains digital edits more consistently. With Fuji, colors are brighter, which can take away from the ambiance of a shot. Likewise, Kodak specialty papers are more widely available, and I like them. This past holiday season saw me making several photos books from Adorama for people. The books were made using Kodak Lustre paper, and I found the paper to be the best part of the book making process. It was sturdy and maintained the aesthetic essence of each shot. It also kept the backgrounds from being overpowering. I used mostly lighter colored backgrounds, and I’ve seen pastels get a little too intense on Fuji paper. Likewise, during my film days, I preferred using Kodak film. Part of it was brand recognition, but part of it lies in the photos aging much better when taken on Kodak film. In fact, the photos included in this entry were taken on Kodak film, and they’re both nearly ten years old. I’d say they’ve held up well. So for the sake of these products, I hope Kodak makes it through Chapter 11 and is able to invest in these products again. Maybe that will become its niche. Throughout the years, Kodak has been, if nothing else, consistent in durability and color quality.
Now off to get Kaito fixed so I can get some film photography under my belt.