The return of Kodachrome?

Posted by Justin Franz
on Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The return of Kodachrome? Photo by Justin Franz.
Earlier this week, PetaPixel reported that Kodak was “investigating” what it would take to bring one of its most iconic films back into production: Kodachrome.

For decades, Kodachrome was the first choice of film for railroad photographers. My father Tim Franz was long a believer in the red and yellow box and had they not stopped processing the stuff eight years ago I’m positive he would still be shooting it today (in fact, part of me thinks had he secured a stockpile before they stopped producing it, he probably still would have shot it even though he could never see what he got).

There is no denying the impact Kodachrome had on the hobby, even though in later years Kodak was given a run for its money by Fuji. Despite that, there are no locomotive paint schemes named for Fujichrome Provia (see the SPSF “Kodachrome” scheme).

I shot my first roll of Kodachrome in 1994. Prior to that I used whatever print film my dad provided for my little point-and-shoot camera but one day he forgot to bring a roll and the nearby gas station was out of film. Not wanting to face a glum 7-year-old, he reached into his camera bag and handed me my first red and yellow box. There was no turning back after that. For the next 15 years, nearly all of my allowance was dedicated to purchasing and processing Kodachrome.

I took my last frame of Kodachrome in 2009, a few months before Kodak stopped producing it. The subject of that last frame was an appropriate one: an Alco RS3 kicking cars at a grain elevator in eastern New York on a bright summer day. Since then, I’ve only shot digital.

Even if Kodak does bring its landmark film back (last week a company in the UK that owns the rights to Kodak's film division announced it was bringing Ektachrome back), I doubt I’ll buy a roll. Eight years after completely switching to digital, I’ve grown accustomed to being able to immediately review images, quickly change the ISO to adapt to changing conditions and not having to lug around a cooler full of film on a long trip. But there are a few things I miss. I miss that weird chemical-infused smell of a fresh canister of “Chrome.” I miss the anticipation of waiting for another box of 36 slides to arrive in the mail. And I miss the thrill you got when you opened that little yellow box and realized you had a few keepers in there.

On second thought, maybe I will buy a roll. If only to have it bounce around the camera bag like the old days.

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