Why Kodachrome Is Not Dead In Our Digital World

by Mike on December 31, 2010

(Fuji Velvia fans take the streets to celebrate the death of Kodak Kodachrome)

Except for a very short-lived romance with a Diana F+ camera last year, I haven’t messed with film since 2001 when my trigger-happy butt spent $80 developing a boatload of pictures taken on vacation in the Greek Islands. Putting out that much dough pretty much soured me on taking pictures for a while, because I just hated the idea of paying for film processing.

Of course, when I bought my first digital camera in 2004, I managed to drop a whopping $450 on a 3.2 megapixel Canon point & shoot that never went off A mode (I wasn’t advanced enough for P mode). But whatever – at least I the drug store wasn’t going to screw me on processing costs any more!

Anyway, let’s get to the point.

Yesterday, Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas processed the last roll of Kodak Kodachrome, which has been one of the most popular films of all time. Due to cost cuts, Kodak no longer produces the chemicals required to process Kodachrome film.

It was even memorialized by Paul Simon in song:

The most famous image shot on Kodachrome is Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl,” which was originally¬†published in National Geographic:

For many people, the death of Kodachrome is the end of an era.

But could Kodachrome live on in digital?

I recently published an extensive review of the Nik Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture, a suite of image-editing plugins.

Color Efex Pro, one of the true stars of the Complete Collection, includes color-film emulation effects, which allow you to apply the look of films from the likes of Fuji, Kodak, Ilford, and Agfa to your digital images.

As you’ve probably assumed, Color Efex Pro includes Kodachrome in its selections. It comes in three flavors – Kodachrome 64, Kodachrome 64 Professional. They look fairly similar, but Professional is darker and more contrasty, and Kodachrom 200 is obviously grainer. On some photos, both spins on Kodachrome 64 look pretty much identical.

So, I decided to run a bunch of photos through Color Efex Pro’s Kodachrome 64 (personally, I’m not all that crazy about the Kodachrome 200 version) settings to see what happens. On skin tones, Kodachrome can be way too saturated in the reds and yellows, so I pulled them back on some images.

But generally, these are out of the box looks. If I did make changes, I spent literally less than 20 seconds on them:

Now does Color Efex Pro do an exact replica of the Kodachrome look? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

What I get when I click on Kodachrome 64 in Color Efex Pro looks pretty damn cool, and that’s what matters. And if Kodacrome inspired a digital something-or-other that looks pretty damn cool, then it’s still alive in a way.

And you know what? I still get inspired, touched, and captivated by the look of countless photos from National Geographic or Life that were shot on Kodachrome. I’m sure plenty of other photographers feel the same way.

As long as that imagery lives on, the spirit of Kodachrome will truly never die.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Shane December 31, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Cool pictures, I miss the film days…

johnny January 5, 2011 at 4:40 pm

i like it

Saratoga Dad January 7, 2011 at 12:37 am

Kodak had another film speed Kodachrome 25. It had a greater tonal range than Kodachrome 64. I liked Kodachrome 64 the best. Kodachrome 200 didn’t come until later when the look of Fuji’s slide film made inroads into the US market.

Boy, I really like a plugin to nail the Kodachrome looks.

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