The end of the line for Kodachrome

Many people asked "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" when the holder of the most impressive sports record (56 game hitting streak) died in 1999. Many will be citing Paul Simon this week about how Eastman Kodak will "take my Kodachrome away" after the company announced that it will retire the venerable slide film of my youth.

Before I switched to digital photography, the vast majority of my shots were on slide film. I used Kodachrome in high school but switched to Ektachrome, even though it was generally agreed that Kodachrome was the superior film. Why did I switch? Mostly it was for the speed; at the time one could buy Kodachrome 25 or 64, but one could buy Ektachrome 100 and 200, and later 400. The lenses I used were pretty slow, so the extra speed really helped. Also, since I never made enlargements of my slides, the increased grain was never a problem, and the different color wasn't an issue for me.

I liked the idea that one could process Ektachrome, and even developed a few rolls in a community college class. Just a brief look at the K-14 process required for Kodachrome makes it clear it was always meant to be commercially developed.

 Santa Barbara Mission - 5/1980

Santa Barbara Mission - 5/1980

This picture of the Santa Barbara Mission (taken by my dad in 1980) gives a sample of how much I like Kodachrome. I scanned the slide in 2007, almost three decades later. The only changes I made to the image in Photoshop are to clean up the major dust and scratches, crop and reduce the image, and apply very light sharpening (normally I slightly over-sharpen and then reduce that to 67%; I reduced to 20% for this image). The color balance and temperature for this image are all as they came straight from the scanner, which I've found to not stray too far from what I see on the original. You can compare this image to my pictures from last December on the Santa Barbara page, most notably the red tile roof.

Of course a lot of the visual impact of the image is because of the bright, sunny day. Even so, I normally do slight color adjustments (as well as straightening and distortion correction), but this image just popped out when I was scanning for a Kodachrome example.

I could keep going on about this image, such as how I scanned it at 2,400 ppi, but it would probably still look great at 3,600 ppi. Or how the red curb at the very bottom right has just the right amount of saturation, even all these years later.

I haven't shot film for about a decade, because digital gives me more convenience, post-processing control, and metadata (timestamps, etc.) Even so, sometimes I miss looking at those little 24mm by 36mm slides. It's not surprising digital cameras are so dominant, but sometimes I think fondly of Kodachrome as the standard which even the latest cameras are trying to meet.