Kodachrome: The way it was…and still is. By Max Marinucci

Max is Back! Yes, the stevehuffphoto.com “film guru” as I now call him is here again with a great little article on a film that many of you know and love, Kodachrome! It’s no longer made but you can get a little taste of what it is all about right here. Thanks Max!

Kodacrome: the way it was…and still is.

By Max Marinucci

You may say, “Max has gone nuts! Why waste time writing and reading about a now defunct film stock?” Well, this is not a memorial of sort or simply a trip down memory lane. The story behind it, and the implications related to how we photograph and think today are indeed far reaching, if you care about photography, of course.

Kodachrome was around for 75 years and so many of us grew up with it. Our parents and grandparents used it with the simplest of cameras and some of the images still around today will amaze us with their beauty, bright colors and distinct look that only Kodachrome can give. As far as color accuracy, I have yet to see a film that comes close to it. Those reds, orange, yellows, golden browns, when properly exposed can be just breathtaking. I am sure Kodachrome detractors will forever argue that Velvia 50 is a better film and, as always, beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. Having said that, the reality is that Kodachrome was a unique film giving a very distinct look and comparisons are unfair.

Invented in the early 1930s by God and Man  (two professional musicians, named Leopold Godowsky, Jr. and Leopold Mannes) it was available in a variety of formats, and from ASA 8 to 200. The popular versions of 25 and 64 ASA were the 35mm staples of every photographer, including the likes of Steve McCurry, whose portrait of the “Afgan Girl” is guaranteed to send shivers down the spine of EVERY mere mortal.

This was no ordinary film, as it is essentially a black & white emulsion, with dye couplers added at processing time. For this reason, it is a difficult and very expensive, laborious film to process but also one to give a very sharp, and unique, almost 3D look that is unachievable by any of the E6 emulsions. Unfortunately, K14 processing requires a very specific and technical knowledge of the film and complex, large machinery. Today there is only ONE lab in the world, and appointed by Kodak, to process any remaining stock of Kodachrome until December 31st 2010: Dwayne’s Lab in KS. After that date, anyone holding a roll of Kodachrome will simply be stuck with unrealized memories and a worthless roll of film.

Kodachrome 25- My mother – picture taken by my father in 1964 (one year before I was born) with his Zeiss Ikon camera.

Kodak came to the decision of stopping production and announced it in June 2009, due to a decline in sales that had been going on since the 1980s and 1990s, caused by the advent of E6 emulsions and processing, Fuji Velvia in particular, and finally Digital, which was the last nail in the coffin. Unfortunately, even though film in general is making a comeback with a younger generation that has been spoon-fed nothing but digital files and bringing forth once again an appreciation for it as a timeless medium, with superior archival qualities and unique looks, it is too late for good old Kodachrome.

Recently I have been scanning old slides shot by my father in the early 60s and, aside from some dust, they just look breathtaking. I immediately came to the sad realization that I have failed to record my own children younger years on film. Today, very sadly, I would not even know where to look for those 10 years old  (and probably VERY crappy looking) digital files that are likely stuck on some old computer, hard drive or unusable floppy disk, or simply lost forever. The truth is that we live in a society that “consumes”, chews up, spits out and quickly moves on to the next thing. Digital cameras are not built to be used or last for a generation but only to perpetually exploit our weaknesses and longing for some sort of perfection that never comes, simply because we don’t know where to look. For anyone who is not a professional photographer (and some of them still shoot plenty of film) the digital nightmare will eventually rear its ugly head. Will my children, in 40 years, look in old, useless hard drives or computers to find their childhood memories or will they simply take out a box with thousands of slides that look as good as new and they can still make beautiful prints from? This is what it comes down to, for me: archivability, storage solutions, and the uncertainty of what the future will bring, is enough for me to stop using digital to record my life, what I see with my eyes and want to keep a memory of. It is as simple as that. Besides the fact that I will be saving thousands of dollars on useless, obsolete digital gear, my time will be better spent by using what I already have and making sure that I leave something behind that can actually be enjoyed and appreciated one day in the future.

Kodachrome 25 – My father – Picture taken by my mother in Athens, Greece, 1964. He’s holding a Zeiss Ikon “Ikophot” Light Meter, which I now have. Still working fine!

Let’s face it, we are not all professional photographers who need to shoot rapid fire and can’t digest what would be an enormous processing bill if we were to shoot film for every paying gig. For me, it has stopped being about the quality of digital versus film. I prefer film because TO ME it looks better than anything digital, it is more economical when I factor TIME (which is my most important asset) and because it allows me to MAKE a picture instead of simply just taking one and then go blind in Photoshop hoping for some magic. More importantly though, it gives me a tangible product which I know my children and grand children will have a much better chance at enjoying decades down the road. Who knows, maybe they will even be able to make money off some beautiful prints after I’m gone 🙂

Kodachrome 25 – The new generation – My daughter on a beautiful late afternoon spring day – Nikon FM3A with Nikkor 60mm Micro, 81A Warming Filter

The demise of Kodachrome is not about the loss of a breathtaking, uniquely beautiful film stock, but something that simply brought forth the realization that pictures taken 50-60 years ago retain the same magic as the day they were taken and I can still hold them in my hands today. I can project them, admire them in full glory on a light table, scan them, post them on the web, and print them. My future may not include Kodachrome but, the past recorded on it, has made me realize how important it is for me to record my life on film, whether being Velvia, Elitchrome, Portra, Tri-X and the many other great stocks still available today.

Long live film!

Kodachrome 25 – Kodachrome in all its sunset glory! The last few rays captured with a Leica M7 and a 35mm Summilux Aspherical.

Kodachrome 25- Taken a few minutes earlier and once again displaying those beautiful pastel warm colors. When the light is right and with proper exposure, Kodachrome can make still make you gasp in awe. Leica M7 with a 35mm Summilux Aspherical.

For more Kodachrome examples, visit my Kodachrome Tribute Page on Flickr..http://www.flickr.com/photos/leicaman/sets/72157623426141341/
I will keep on posting some of my takes until December 31st 2010.

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  1. I’m seventeen, I grew up surrounded in the digital age but now, after getting some old Kodak film cameras, I’ve ended up hating the digital technology that’s not just replaced quality, but also the integrity of film. It takes very little, if any effort, for some loser to snap a million digital photos of their cat every night and share them all on social media sites. Film takes time, film takes precision and it takes effort. It’s more difficult to use but it provides a look that even the best digital cameras can’t compete with. Traditional film has brighter and more vivid colors, no blocky pixels to worry about, you get to step out of a darkroom feeling like your photographs are an authentic accomplishment, not just a game. People today never anticipated what their 35mm rolls will come out looking like when they open the envelope from the photo lab or had the chance to see slides of their est memories coming to life in vibrant color on a projector. They want everything available instantly, effortlessly and lazily, and they want everything to be disposable. Digital cameras can be a great, inexpensive tool for any photographer, but although they can mimic the bright, nostalgic look of film, they’re never the same as authentic film. I could go on Kodak’s website right now, and the famous film company doesn’t even have film mentioned on it’s main page, only digital equipment! You have to type in “Ektachrome” (replaced Kodachrome) in the search bar, and a roll of Ektrachrome color film is expensive as hell, especially if you’re Canadian.. Honestly I think this is Kodak’s intention; if they make film less affordable, people will be forced to turn to digital until there’s no longer a demand for film. Kodak is a film company, or at least it was for the past hundred-some years. Now it’s mostly digital, and a smaller section of Kodak (Kodak Alairis) manufactures film for enthusiasts and artists. Sad.
    Digital cameras have a smaller color range than film. The photos are all blocky if you enlarge them. And digital cameras are instant, so there’s no surprise or feeling of accomplishment that you get when you develop in a darkroom or go to a professional lab. Celluloid can last for ages when taken care of properly, but memory cards and USB sticks can fall apart or become corrupted for no reason at all. People will argue that digital is better, but I think it’s more a matter of opinion and what the photographer can do with any type of camera. And there’s still a nostalgic feeling when you hold a little Kodachrome slide in your hands or hear the sound of a super 8 projector running.
    But hey, Kodak did set up agreements with several large film companies to keep film alive in Hollywood for several more years, so Kodak still deserves some credit. I’m sure there are plenty of people working for Kodak who don’t want film to die out just yet. Now if only there was a way to convince the next generation that film is a medium that needs to live on…

  2. Wow, this is a beautiful article. I found it by googling Kodachrome 25. I love the photo of your daughter and how you managed to replicate the Kodachrome look, do you mind telling me how you achieved that look? Are you implying that you only used a warming filter and nothing else to achieve that look?

  3. I think the following line from your essay perfect sums up the situation of digital…

    “… perpetually exploit our weaknesses and longing for some sort of perfection that never comes, simply because we don’t know where to look.”

    Very insightful. In lieu of any identifiable value system, people are seduced by technologies promise of fast, cheap, and convenient. Here’s a question people should ponder… If you only had 100 pictures to take for your whole life… would you shoot film or digital?

  4. Film? I just don’t see it…. I understand the romanticism and nostalgia sure. Digital is better full stop. I don’t really need to elaborate on that statement. It’s a given that hard drives won’t last 20 years and preservation of digital images is a headache- a real headache of backing up your backups etc etc. However film doesn’t always archive that well, depending on how well it was processed and whether or not it was washed properly.
    I was a pro printer and photographer since 63, both B&W and color and I don’t miss film a bit. The only thing I would say is that in this age of the internet images are tending to end up on facebook and not in print so much. The amusing thing is that ‘photographers’ are still clamoring after very high definition cameras.

  5. Max,

    I just had another look at this page after quite a while. I just wanted to say that you have perfectly captured the essence of what Kodachrome was.

    Thanks for your fantastic images,


  6. I agree completely with Max Marinucci. I bought two digital cameras, one of them because it was the most “analog” digital camera there was (the Lumix L1, with its speed wheel and diaphragm ring), but I could not get adpated to them – something missed, and something was too fast.

    therefore, and since wonderful medium format cameras are bargain today, I bought some (and I’m still buying…), I returned to film, and shhot almost in b&w. I can remeber the wonderful rendering of the marvelous Kodak Tri-x and Ilford Delta 100. I returned to the lab and process myself my films, and feel once again the smell of the developers and the aceptic acid. it’s wonderful to see my images on film – nothing replaces film

    one more aspect: there are no digital cameras that enable the same feeling as the “old” Hasselblads, the marvellous old Mamiya C330 or RZ67, the magnificent Plaubel Makina 67 (my preferred one) nor the Pentax 67 II. contemporary cameras are not made for passionate photographer, they are made for those that just take photos

    long live film


  7. Thanks so much for the kind words, Jonathan. Happy to hear you have enjoyed the articles and the wonders of film. Do try some Kodachrome if you can.

  8. Max, I love your articles. As much as I like the Steve’s reviews, I think your film articles are my favorite. Wow – I never knew what was so special about Kodachrome. I may buy a couple rolls off ebay and have them processed. I am doing some “artsy” shots for a friend for her wedding, I may have found just the occasion for running through a roll or two.
    BTW – I have also discovered a love for Tri-X. What an awesome film.

  9. Nice piece Max, love the old shots too .. just so evocative of an age gone by and captured magnificently by Kodachrome – the only film *ever* to have a song written for it.

    I know Ken Rockwell uses NCPS for his Velvia and the scans they produce are superb, just wish I could get close using a V700 at home but no chance. In the UK most lab scan services are pretty expensive it seems when compared to US especially for a decent high res service.

    NCPS handle overseas orders too for their services, anybody in Europe use this at all? Just wondering what the turnover time is with post etc plus the added costings of airmail?

  10. Also, how they get these minerals to begin with in these third world countries has been of topic in the news. It’s kind of like a Blood Diamond story.

  11. Elaine, that is a very valid point. Lets not forget the environmental and social impact that electronics have on our world. The first two laws of thermodynamics should be tattooed to everyones body so we remember that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but only converted.

    All the gold, silicon, and other minerals in your digital camera came from somewhere most likely a third world country!! The necessity and fight for cheap, finite resources it what allows cutting edge technology like digital photography to be relatively cheap.

    Just as some have mentioned, electronic waste is not better than any other type, but E-waste is sold to third world counties. Nat Geo wrote a great article about e-waste and how people spend their whole life stripping circuit boards for lead and other precious minerals.

    P.S. I am willing to bet it is easier to purify water contaminated with photochemicals than it is to find a place to store billions of pounds of consumer grade e-waste that no one wants.

  12. One thought about backups – if you shoot film you can’t keep an extra copy offsite without going to considerable trouble. Having said that, I have had hard drives fail long before their MTBF was up, and I still have boxes of 1970’s Fujichrome ASA 100 slides in the basement that scan perfectly well when I feel inclined. Nothing is without some drawbacks, and the main thing is to keep on taking new photographs! I have some Velvia in 120 on the way to put in the new Bessa III folder – talk about excitement!

  13. Tim, you’re absolutely right. I thought about the chemical and paper waste, and was happy when digital took off. I thought, “no more ravaging the environment, killing trees for crappy photos!” Well, I was right about that, but wrong about the impact that all of this digital stuff has on the environment. All of the innards to these cameras are TOXIC. I just saw a piece about it on TV. Can’t recall the show, but the story is about the different electronics and how they wreak havoc on the environment. Also was about those LCD screens too. TVs and Computer monitors. So, though we may be saving the water supply by not dumping chemicals down the sink, or tress by not wasting printing paper, we are still effecting the environment in a bad way. Also, we still use paper to print our digital files. I don’t know what the answer is, but i know whatever we do there are consequences to our actions.

  14. Tim,

    As for environmental impact, it’s hard to say. There has been an explosion in the amount of “electronic waste” — dead computers, cellphones, gadgets, hard drives — in the digital era. Anything digital becomes obsolete very quickly and clogs landfills, where it leaches into the soil. Who do you know with a ten-year-old digital camera, computer, or cellphone? Most analog media have had much longer shelf lives. This more than counterbalances the impact that film used to have.

    As for storage, there was an interesting article some time ago in the New York Times on the difficulty archivists have had with digital material. Old analog stuff — old 78rpm lp’s, or old film — can always be read, even formats that have long disappeared. Analog degrades, but digital just fails completely. As a result, the archivists have found that it can be more difficult to bring back digital media from 30 years ago than analog stuff from 100 years ago. Old floppy discs — forget it. And that trend is accelerating as media turn over more quickly. Today’s flash drives and CF cards will be unreadable in 20 years.

    We are in the digital era, and that’s not going to change. But you should be conscious of backing up all your digital media onto whatever the newest format is, because if you leave it on the shelf and forget it for 20 years like your old family photos, you may find that it’s inaccessible.

  15. Hey Ashwin..Thanks!

    That’s a tough one. Frankly, I don’t think there is a real substitute for a number of reasons. Velvia 50 is superb for landscape, low grain (or no grain), vivid, saturated colors with great reds, greens and deep blues. Velvia 100 is more subdued and fine for landscape or people shots. Of the Kodak films, Elitechrome 100 is my favorite all around, as it works fine for people and landscape. Kodachrome looks are very hard to replicate because it is a very unique emulsion. If you look at the emulsion side of Kodachrome slide, it has a relief, almost like a second dimension. This is one scary film that only two geniuses could have invented. A black & white film, that requires a b&w developer and then three separate color developers for each dye, with each emulsion layer requiring selective re-exposure during processing. Pretty insane but that’s why there is no real substitute.

    In a nutshell, I’d say go for Kodak Elitechrome 100 or Fujichrome Astia 100. Again, everyone says Velvia put Kodachrome out of business mostly because of E6 processing convenience because colors wise it’s just terrible for skin tones. Like they say..there was never a skin tone that Kodachrome didn’t like.

  16. Really interesting comments guys.

    Does anyone hear ever think of the considerable less environmental impact digital has over film. I love film but often think about a world with no dvds, cds, more print media on ipad style devices and the positive effect this could have on the planet.
    As for digital storage. I think capacity will get much much larger but also much more reliable and effective. Take solid state drives for example. Also I believe there will always be the technology available to view old digital file formats. I can imagine the wealth of digital imagery that will be available to future historians etc. You think there not going to make sure they can view obsolete digital files?

    All in all this is an excellent discussion

  17. Max, great article. You make a great point regarding the longevity of film for recording family moments. A box full of slides and negatives are certainly more likely to be trolled through then a hard-drive by future generations. Shooting film (or a particular film emulsion) not only records a moment in time, but also in my view represents a period in photography history (which adds to the whole nostalgia thing, but also possibly longevity for artistic reasons). There is something about Kodachrome that just reminds me of the 60s and 70s, and who knows in 50 years time we may look back at Velvia as the “look” of the 80’s and 90s and 00s. When i look at a digital file from 2001, all it looks like is an ordinary file from a bygone era (especially if you compare to say a file from a Canon 5DII or M9 of today’s era).

    Also when we shoot digital and press the “delete” button, either in the field or on the computer at home. We are making the judgment that there and then that this photo is not worthy for keep. Will this judgment stay true for decades to come? We all make mistakes with our photography, and hitting the “delete” button when we shouldn’t have is one of these. Conversely, the “delete” button also enables us to take more photos, and hence become better photographers (also making photography as a hobby more accessible to the masses).

    Digital is still good though, but not the all and end all in contemporary photography (as film still exist).

  18. All these artiles are making me want to get some film done, I can get it developed at my job half off and scan it for free at school, yet I still havent got to it, I even have a few film cameras laying around if I can find them.

  19. Lovely and informative article, Max. I am about to get to a period of more film shooting, and managed to procure a couple of roles of Kodachrome 64 to play with.

    I tried to get through most comments, but have a question. Now that Kodachrome is not available other than as expensive new old stock with 1 processing lab left, what color films could conceivably give you that classic look? I have enoyed seeing images in Ektachrome, Portra, and Ektar, as well as Fuji Velvia 50…any thoughts on film with “the elusive look” of Kodachrome?

  20. Elaine,

    I do too. I’m not giving up on my M9 but I do prefer film for the many reasons we all love to argue about 🙂

    BTW..your dream camera exists and it’s not even new (what does that tell you?). That’s why you rarely see these on the used market…a Contax 645! Medium format..you want digital? Slap a Phase One back and you got up to 65MP (for big bucks of course). You want film, swap the digital back for a film one and voila..you’re done. Great lenses too..it will cost you but if you want the best of both worlds in one camera body, that’s the ticket!

  21. Max, I agree with you, but I also love digital. I love both mediums. But, I feel safer storing film than storing files.

    Even if I were to store some files online at Flickr or any other storage area, how long will they be around? Wasn’t there a website that recently went out of business, and the photographers had a certain amount of time to scramble in moving all of their file storage to another online site? DVDs don’t last. Neither do CDs. I had all of my stuff backed up, but those files from my 1st digital camera, somehow became corrupted and I couldn’t open them. It happens. And it wasn’t from me NOT transferring to new drives or periodically updating CDs. Hard Drives fail. It’s not IF they fail, it’s WHEN. CDs and DVDs become corrupt and don’t work. That’s just the way it is. Will I give up digital? No, but I wish there was a camera out there that shot both digital and film files at the same time. This way, you’d have the best of both worlds. Match the film to the digital settings. If it’s a 200 speed ISO film, then the camera sets to 200, but that would be a difficult thing to follow. Someone needs to invent a dual-purpose camera.

    I think Camera companies smartened up and started acting like Computer companies in the way they push out new gear. Computer companies only make products slightly better than the last product so you’ll keep upgrading the hardware, the OS, the program. Same for Camera companies. They could give us the best camera in one shot, but they hold back and eek out small improvements. Granted, some of the technology was slow in coming, but I don’t think it was that slow!

  22. Eric,

    sure..those are all valid solutions. As far as I am concerned, I know that since my first digital camera, I must have bought/upgraded/changed/trashed more computers/hard drives than I could possibly count. Back then there were was no web, no dvd, etc. Today there are certainly more options, but again, who knows how technology will evolve and if those DVDs of today are as unreadable as the floppy disks of 15 years ago. Online backup? Hmmm…relying on someone else to stay in business to keep thousands of my pictures in cloud-land? I’ll pass on that one. Me, I rather move a couple of cardboard boxes full of slides. As always, this is not gospel..it’s just me 🙂

  23. Those digital files will only be on those old harddrives if you leave them there. You can update new drives, keep the images on DVDS or evne better for little money permanently upload them to server farms which keep backups at a seperate location. I agree its not as good as looking at negatives but nothing is stopping a person from printing a 4×6 of each digital which you can look through and then can grab the online file for the larger printing in the future.

  24. Ok, one very last try to find out how I can upload my Chromes here:


  25. This is a wonderful essay about film, Max. I have forwarded this article to many of my friends who are still shooting films or are interested in films. Thank you Max, I truly enjoy reading this piece.

  26. Rich,

    I hear you…nothing like that first look and waiting for that strip to dry 🙂 – Nice stuff on your website!


    Like with anything else, there are pros and cons and it simply comes down to a personal choice, dictated by many factors. Techies love to play with new digital cameras loaded with features while others despise them and/or can’t understand them. As always, to each his own. As far as storage, care on both sides is certainly required to make sure that, in 20-30-50 years, the material is still viable.

    What you describe makes perfect sense but getting people to actually act upon it is a different story and the exact reason why camera manufacturers stay in business. If one accept that today’s M9 is a perfectly capable camera NOW or in 20 years, what is Leica going to sell next year..and the next?
    Digital saved the business and the proof is the fact that many of us are still using 15-50 year old film cameras which could not be improved any further. Film is certainly not going to make anyone a better photographer unless the approach is different, along with a fair amount of knowledge to visualize what the final result is going to look like. The same will-power can certainly be applied to digital but there is no denying that workflow is totally different and there will always be a tendency to think..”it’s okay because I am going to fix it in Photoshop later”.
    I don’t think there is an implied notion that film is a purer path etc, but it is also true that many photographers who grew up with digital simply need to experience it for various reasons and then possibly translate the same approach to their digital lifestyle/workflow. From a purely artistic standpoint, I don’t think there is anyone here who thinks film will immediately turn them into an Eisenstadt, Bresson, Rowell, etc. As we know, great talent shines even through a handmade pinhole camera, and old D1H or an iPhone.

  27. OK, in the time I spent crafting the points below, some of it has already been addressed in the comments, but will post it anyway…

    If one can’t find digital files from 10 years ago, that is not the fault of the medium but of the photographer’s poor organization. It’s also the photographer’s failure to recognize the future importance of the now missing images and simply migrate the them to each successive generation of storage media.

    Is film perfect? No. Is digital perfect? No. Each has its weaknesses, such as media obsolescence for digital and greater sensitivity to environmental factors that cause image degradation such as colour shifts due to dye deteriorate over time for film. Perhaps it will be easier for future generations to find their family’s collective photographic memories in a dusty shoebox full of slides, but unless care was taken in storing the images, there is no guarantee the images will not be significantly degraded. I don’t believe you can expect to find ‘perfect like new’ slides 40 years down the line. And likewise, effort must be taken with digital to ensure images are backed up and migrated through each change in storage media and file format, as well as devising methods for others to know where to find and access the images.

    Digital is a relatively new medium and therefore has been in a rapid state of development. But even now one must admit that recent digital cameras sufficiently fulfill the needs of most photographers. To avoid the endless upgrade cycle, one simply has to decide that current technology is good enough and stick with it. But that generally hasn’t been the nature of enthusiast photographers, now or even back in the film days. We alway anticipate the latest and greatest, whether it’s megapixels now or 1/250 second flash synch with TTL and multi segment metering 25 years ago, looking for something new to give us a perceived edge in our photography. And now it seems what was old is new again given this apparent revival in interest in film as a possible catalyst for better photography.

    Ultimately though film does not make a better photographer. It’s the sum of how the photographer approaches, assesses and executes each image that is relevant. Economic factors relevant to film mean it’s more painful for the wallet when errors are made and therefore requires a more disciplined approach than digital. But the same can be achieved with digital. It simply requires more willpower on the photographer’s part to pre-visualize (rather than post-visualizing via the LCD) how a scene will translate into an image. Shooting everything in sight without thought and hoping for good images will result in just as much disappointment in digital as it will film. For those shooting digital, why not tape over the LCD or go out on a shoot with a couple low capacity memory cards?

    I don’t disagree that there is merit in using film and that it can be helpful for photographers to change their routines to break out of creative ruts, etc. My issue is in the implied notion that such benefits can only be achieved through film and that it is a purer path towards better photography. Effective photography is all about great content. Technique can augment and enhance the content, but if it’s not there to begin with, one simply has photos with pretty technique, irrelevant whether film or digital.

  28. I agree wholeheartedly with ya, Max. I shot Kodachrome 64 for years, both for commercial and personal projects. I was sad to hear that it had meet its demise but Kodak had no choice. For film these days, I have dedicated my efforts toward shooting nothing but black&white. I still love the look of Tri-X. AND nothing beats opening the film can and taking a first look at the wet film!!

  29. Steve,

    For anything outside of Kodachrome, I use North Coast (NCPS) in California. Perfect processing and their scans are fantastic (big time saver there). If I send them on a Monday, gets there on wednesday via USPS ($5), one day processing and back in my hands the following Monday or Tuesday at the very latest.

    This is a Velvia 50 scan done by NCPS..pretty flawless.


  30. Hey Max, how long does it usually take to get slides back? I am going to shoot about 5 rolls of Velvia next week during yet another week of travel and already have my prepaid mailers, which I think go to Dwayne’s. Just curious…

  31. Elaine,

    It is all a state of mind. You will find that you nail more shots than you miss, with a little care. With digital, it’s easier not to care and that always leads to more junk (in my honest opinion). Also, waiting for those slides to appear in my mailbox is making me feel like a kid again waiting for a new toy from grandma 🙂 Patience and parsimony is something that has been lost along the way and to me it feel special to rediscover those feelings.

  32. Max, I agree. I’ve always had a sense of doom about digital in regards to the possibility of losing my files. I had an old digital camera back in the day that I used but can no longer open the files to due to them all being corrupted. I had some wonderful shots too. All gone.

    The only thing I don’t like about film is that I can’t immediately see it to see if I nailed the shot, and I can’t place them immediately online. I love immediate results. Other than that, I prefer my old slides and negatives. I do take a lot less photos due to film which is nice. I slow down and think about the process. With digital, I fire away.

  33. Max, as usual you are right on the money with the whole film and digital thing. My thoughts EXACTLY. BTW, I also LOVE that image of your Dad. No way will an image of ME taken a few years ago with my wife’s old Nikon D40 ever look as classic as that in 20+ more years 🙂


  34. Steve, thank you!

    Stephen B, thanks! Pushing/pulling color film can certainly give interesting results and different looks. Go for it, have fun and very much look forward to see results on flickr!

    Elaine, thanks! That is the problem indeed. First of all, we need to differentiate: digital for professional photographers is here to stay, along with all the inherent problems of massive storage necessities and drawbacks. Obviously, hard drives are getting bigger and faster but that doesn’t mean anyone serious about safekeeping of pictures (especially if it is your livelihood) should not invest heavily into redundant backups (a series of hard drives, stored in different locations and online as well, which comes with its own set of problems). Like I’ve said in the article, for me, besides the quality factor and digital workflow (which for the most part I just can’t stand), it comes down to peace of mind and I’ve come to realize that digital just doesn’t cut it. I want a tangible product that I can pass on without worrying about where technology is heading and the indisputable fact that nothing is built to last these days. Therefore, I just don’t trust the fact that hard drives with thousands of pics stored today will still be functioning 20 years from now and therefore I would continuously need to upgrade equipment and move files until I drop dead. Just something to think about 🙂

    This is not to say that bad things can’t happen to thousands of negatives/slides but also to consider the fact very few people would actually shoot that much film. With digital, as we all know, everyone loves to take 50 pictures of their toes, shoes, lots of junk that we wouldn’t dare waste film on and that is likely clogging up hard drives around the planet. The one constant that every film shooter will tell you is that they shoot less, think more, and get better pictures in the process. That equals to less waste, less to store and better quality product.

  35. Max, This is another fine article. I wonder where my files will be 20 years from now? All those digital files will have t reside somewhere. I would have to keep updating computers and hard drives to keep them. Then the future software and hardware will have to read them. How does one prevent the files from going poof? By putting them online somewhere? Backing them up onto several hard drives? This will have to be done forever. The film will be there following the processing. It will be waiting in a box or notebook, as a physical entity. It can be scanned as a smaller file to show people on the web. Yet, it still resides in the box or notebook…safe. Aside from the extra steps to get the negatives developed and scanned, and waiting for this, film appears to be better than digital. If it weren’t for people to be restless, wanting everything NOW, and the easy viewing, digital would have never taken over. I love digital, but years down the road, where will all of my files be? The number of files is growing as the cameras get bigger sensors and the megapixels chew up my hard drive.

    I read about professional photographers having numerous hard drives to store their photos. I think Chase Jarvis alone has 30 HDs for his work. The number of pictures will go up up, up, and the number of hard drives will as well. not only must we store all of our files on one hard drive, but another as well, preferably off-site. In case of fire, the off-site files will be safe. So, now we have 2 hard drives in 2 different locations. Yeah, I know that negatives could burn in a fire too, but I think more likely that files will go poof due to hard drive failures than negatives burning in a fire.

    What is the answer to the hard drive dilemma? Eventually we will have to answer or run the risk of losing all of that data.

    Meanwhile, the negatives and slides I took 20 years earlier are still safely tucked away in my photo boxes and notebook sleeves.

    While writing this, my MacBook Pro hard drive was making a clunking noise, so I had to back up my system to then set-up an appointment to bring it in for service. Scary stuff.

  36. Great article Max. Just picked up a roll of ilford xp2 super 400 to try some push and pull. I like the idea of pulling color film too just to see how it looks. Film. It’s where it’s at.

  37. Max,

    Great article. As one of those who grew up digital and is just getting into film I am truly inspired by your writings/photos and Steve’s great website. Thanks!

  38. Thank you, Joseph. Kodachrome certainly takes the award for impossibility of home processing. Like I’ve stated in the article, there is ONE lab left in the world, appointed by Kodak, to process remaining stock and for a long time it was exclusively processed by Kodak. The difficult and expensive processing is one of the reasons it is no longer being produced.

  39. Max and Steve,

    Thank you for another great article on film. Since reading your last article I have been shooting Adox CMS 20 and Efke KB25 and developing it myself. Most of my photos are shot with my M6 and a Leica 50/1.4 ASPH. I now want some Kodachrome. Can I develop Kodachrome at my home? Steve, keep up the great site and diversity of subject matter.

  40. Wow! The picture of your father in ’64… timeless! Pluck him out of time and drop him in NY, London, Milan or LA in 2010, and he would still be looking cool in that top, those pants, shoes and hat.

    How I would love to go back to a time when people wore hats rather than ‘caps’ as everyday headwear.

    I so hope you have that photo printed, framed and hanging on a wall.

  41. Hi Richard,

    Thanks…will have to try Nikon Scan again. Just recently dug out my old 5000 Coolscan to scan some Kodachrome with Silverfast so will have to do a comparison.

  42. I still use Nikon scan… but for under exposed images – increase the “Analogue Gain”. This is mis spelt and it doesn’t increase the amplification of a signal – it actually makes the LED light source go brighter. Bring the dark areas up to where you want and then you can high light reduce the brighter parts there after.

    Scanning is certainly an art form. When I started with my CoolScan 5000 (after being tired of paying a lab) I wss shocked at the results and wondered if my 1.2K USD + 40% import tax had been wasted. Vuescan did not much better.

    Then going back with what I knew was a good negative and playing about I figured out the profiles I needed.

    In fact the very bad negs/trans are good practice. Because they force you to learn procedures and approaches that when applied with more moderation to the good negs – result in scans that are just ever so more… well… perfect. 🙂

  43. Richard..love Portra 160NC as well. It doesn’t cut it for me for landscape work but love it nonetheless. I also enjoy FujiPro 400H overexposed 1 stop (ISO200). Great skin tones there as well but can be a little dull for landscape (although a warming filter there helps as well).

    Manuel..I use the Epson V750M and Coolscan 5000 with the newest version of Silverfast and Kodachrome color profile. For underexposed slides you can try turning on the AACO option in silverfast which works ok to dig out some extra shadow detail. Generally speaking, scanning high contrast slides is always a challenge with consumer scanners.

  44. Great article, but I can’t fail to notice something strange: John Curry is credited the Afgan Girl iconic picture? Who is John Curry? The great photojournalist Steve McCurry is a living legend and he did that picture. That man inspired so many photographer that I had to rectify that fact.

    Best regards

  45. What type of scanner do you use to scan your Kodachrome film? I have big trouble scanning Kodachrome 64 with my Coolscan 5000, especially with contrasty slides. I cannot extract full shadow detail (despite using the multiple exposure feature of Vuescan) and much worse, I get ugly and distracting flare artifacts…

  46. G’Day,

    I have been looking to replicate the look too of late. I have found that a warming filter on Portra 160NC gives a close approximation – at least where the skin tones are concerned.

    I also tried Astia 100 with a warming filter and while it looked good – it didn’t look any better than the portra. In Beijing Porta 160 NC goes for about 3 USD a roll. Astia goes for 8 USD a roll. And then you have all the hassles of an E6 film when it comes to high contrast scenes and rapidly changing light.

    So for me – Porta 160 NC is very nice. It has ONE problem though for sunsets. Underexposing a stop or so is a great way to punch out colours in sunsets. However the Portra 160NC is VERY sensitive to this and even 1/3 of a stop under it comes out really grainy. More grainy (to my eye) than Delta 3200. And it is all chroma based too. 🙁


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