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magikbilly

Happy Birthday Kodak!

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Say "cheese!"

WF Baby Brownie

Exactly which date are you commemorating?

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Hi Wayne,

I'm sorry - I missed your question. September 4th, patent date I believe.

Best wishes,

Eric

Ah! Thanks.

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Kodak's restructuring plan proposes to reduce from three divisions down to two divisions.

And the division to be eliminated includes entertainment and various things which I would think included promotional things like placing Kodak Picture Spot signs at World's Fairs.

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Once the heart and soul of Rochester, NY, Kodak is a mere shadow of its former self. At one time, Kodak employed nearly 60,000 people in that city alone. Today, that number is below 6,000 and dropping. In 1976, Kodak controlled 90% of the photography market in the US and today, all that has melted away. It really is a sad story and for Upstate New York, it is a devastating turn of events. George Eastman was born in Waterville and built his adult life in Rochester. Kodak's contributions to that city are beyond measure. I would like to be more optimistic but it is very difficult for companies to successfully emerge from chapter eleven. I hope it is not the end of an American original.

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It's really sorry to see the end of an icon, but when you stop and think about it, what has Kodak really done for the last several decades that was in any way new or exciting? The last big camera hit they had was the Instamatic line and that was in the 1960s. The disc cameras were truly terrible, turning out images so small they were useless. I can't think of ever being tempted to buy a piece of Kodak hardware after that experience. They put everything they had on film and chemicals, but then when others like Fuji made inroads in that market they didn't seem to have a Plan B. I really liked Kodak and spent a fortune with them over the years, but their management sure seemed clueless to me for way too long. I can't see them turning things around now given the track record they have demonstrated.

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"...but when you stop and think about it, what has Kodak really done for the last several decades that was in any way new or exciting?"

Hi Bill,

couldn't tell ya, I'm still not done looking at stuff from nearly 3/4 of a century ago! I started to write half a century ago, but my own age just put me in check! Arrgghh!

Best wishes,

Eric :)

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Think beyond the consumer part of Kodak's business.

1. Medical imaging is on a fast track to all-digital. X-ray film is antiquated and on its way out. My dentist recently e-mailed a .jpg of my teeth to the guy that yanked a molar for me. And today's MRI and CT Scan operators don't even know what film is!

2. The printing industry had a voracious appetite for sheets of film ranging from 8.5" x 11", to 48" x 77" and even larger, for posters, maps. billboard panels, etc. And EVERY color in the printing job required a separate sheet of film! The quantities of materials used in the graphic arts is beyond comprehension.

Today, very few printing companies use film. Today, its "direct-to-plate" digital imaging. The corner print shop has fired the pressman and switched to very high-quality copiers that run PDFs supplied by the customers. The PIPs, Sir Speedys and Minuteman Press franchisees are in an uphill chase of new technology and the staggering costs of leases and service contracts. Film is almost all gone from the printing industry.

To get through the recession, the copier makers are even placing their equipment for free in some printshops - even providing the toners and service totally free! The printshop pays Xerox (for example) "per click" and provides the paper. So, a 59-cent color copy costs the printer maybe 29 cents for the paper and the click, and he earns a 30-cent contribution to his overhead, which then gets sucked up by paper costs, shipping costs, utilities, payroll, taxes... and worst of all... jobs that are done wrong. Every sheet that goes in the trash can, still counts as a click for the copier owner.

Of course, the benefits to us all are that amazing, beautiful full color printing is available cheaply to everyone. Digital presses, combined with large-format inkjet which is now water and UV proof when dry have killed most all of the traditional printing methods except silk-screening tee-shirts. (and I'm not up to date on the state of that printing process, but I would guess that industry has found a way to expose a silk screen without film, too) Twenty-foot-long inkjet printers run all day and night, producing billboards on cloth and paper.

Oh and don't forget the sign painters that proudly and fabulously entertained us with their beautiful work over the years. Their entire industry fell to the incredibly versatile inkjet technology. Can you believe these colorful vehicle wraps and the artwork on trailer trucks these days? Amazing. I also just learned that they're not painting NASCAR cars anymore. Now they can do a $2,500 inkjet wrap and replace it for next week's sponsors if they want to.

All of this without a square inch of film. Now, take away the consumer film and cameras and the Titanic sinks out of sight.

Gonna miss ya, Kodak, thanks for a lifetime of memories. That 126 cartridge Instamatic was pure genious. The 110 and disc... not so much.

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It's really sorry to see the end of an icon, but when you stop and think about it, what has Kodak really done for the last several decades that was in any way new or exciting? The last big camera hit they had was the Instamatic line and that was in the 1960s. The disc cameras were truly terrible, turning out images so small they were useless. I can't think of ever being tempted to buy a piece of Kodak hardware after that experience. They put everything they had on film and chemicals, but then when others like Fuji made inroads in that market they didn't seem to have a Plan B. I really liked Kodak and spent a fortune with them over the years, but their management sure seemed clueless to me for way too long. I can't see them turning things around now given the track record they have demonstrated.

I think that might be a little harsh Bill – while they tried to aggressively market the film & chemical side of the business for past decade or so (and their Disc and Advantix cameras were certainly flops), Kodak was actually one of the early pioneers of digital photography as well, and they had even partnered with Microsoft, IBM, and Kinko’s back in the 90’s to develop new methods for the printing, storing, and sharing of digital images.

They no doubt knew that digital would eventually kill off the film camera industry, but like many of the other businesses in industries that have transitioned from analog to digital technologies, they just couldn’t figure out a way to control the whole supply chain (film, processing supplies, paper, slide projectors, etc.) like they did before – making the digital business model a lot less lucrative than the one it was replacing (the entertainment industry, the newspaper/magazine industry, and even the US Post Office are struggling with this reality as well). Basically, after you’ve bought your digital camera, batteries, and storage card & card reader, there’s really not much else they can sell you. The storage card can be used over and over again, and there’s no longer the need to create a print of every photo you take – you can simply view them on your computer monitor instead, or post them on your social media account if you want to share them…

The other problem for Kodak is that they were never really known as a “high-end” camera manufacturer (like Hasselblad, Leica, Nikon, Canon, etc), but they were solid players in the “point-and-shoot realm” with their 126 Instamatic cameras. Unfortunately for Kodak, the digital point-and-shoot camera business is becoming a lot less profitable these days for camera manufacturers as well, due to the popularity of cell phones equipped with digital cameras – so there’s not much opportunity for growth there either...

For Kodak to survive, they will need to re-invent themselves as the creators of new and innovative products, services, and technologies that people can’t live with out. It’s not impossible – just look at how Steve Jobs transformed Apple over the past decade by taking them from a lowly computer company, to a powerhouse consumer electronics company with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad – but Kodak needs to think beyond photography and do something similar, or they'll never emerge from Chapter 11…

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To add to what Bill said about the disastrous Kodak "disc" camera system, Kodak also spent way too much money developing the APS film system when digital was just around the corner. Along with Minolta, they poured millions into something that had virtually no consumer market. Most people had money invested in good quality 35mm point and shoots or SLRs at that time and were willing to hold on to that equipment until digital became available at a reasonable price point. APS is largely blamed for Minolta's exit from the camera market and its eventual demise. Kodak floundering from disc to APS (with a brief and costly foray into instant) photography certainly was one of many factors that contributed to their downhill slide.

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For Kodak to survive it doesn't necessary need a focus on consumers. It could take what is reference to as its 'core competency' 'imaging' and move even stronger into the medical fields, the security fields.... maybe even the pipelines between motion picture studios and theaters- which are rapidly going digital. They could even go after the military (think spy satellites, night vision, etc) and weather imaging.

By the way- since you mentioned Minolta- I have a nice 200m zoom telephone lens with a mount designed to go on my Minolta SLR. I guess it's useless now, unless I find a threaded converter to be able to attach it to a Nikon or Canon digital camera.

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It may sound harsh but I feel it's true. I can't think of anything progressive Kodak has tried in the last 10-20 years. They could have used their muscle and bank accounts back then to buy some of the companies now leading the way in the digital market, or come up with products people might have actually wanted. This wasn't a case where they were wiped out overnight. Instead they sat and watched their world get destroyed and apparently did little about it.

Think how much of an impact they could have made if they had partnered with a digital camera maker and set up something like flickr, with pictures going right from your camera to someplace where grandma could see them, for a fee, of course. Perhaps she could see them online, or have a nice DVD mailed to her, or watch a show of the pictures on her TV through streaming. They could have led the way in digital picture frames, or even cameras. Just because they hadn't taken the 35mm camera body seriously didn't mean they couldn't have bought their way into the digital body business. The only thing I recall them trying was Kodak Picture CDs or whatever they called them, and they were a flop as well.

They could have come up with an alternative to Photoshop - or bought the whole company back when it was worth a fraction of what it is today. Instead of seeing the threat and dealing with it they seemed to play ostrich and hoped it would go away. True, they could never have done anything about the fact that people don't buy film or print pictures like they used to, but where was their vision for dealing with that inevitable scenario once digital became of a high enough quality?

Even when they came up with a winner, like their Photoshop filters - which they bought by the way, in a sign that I was very hopeful about - they then stopped developing them. It's things like that that make me sort of bitter about what they did to a great institution.

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A few years ago I wanted to get a digital camera that was in the middle of the big void (at that time) between point-and-shoots and the much more expensive higher-end digital cameras like the Nikons.

I ended up buying a Kodak because it had 5 megapixels and a nice German zoom lens. And it was right in that mid-range in terms of both price and capability.

I'm happy with it, and it's still my main camera.

But the higher-end prices have come down (my dad has a Nikon that I drool over). And things like cellphones now have 5 megapixel cameras too! So Kodak got squeezed at both ends of the spectrum.

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All points well taken, Bill - there certainly was a "lack of imagination" with Kodak's upper management (that's why I said they will need to re-invent themselves and think beyond their core competencies to survive). However, we do have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight in our criticism, and what may seem blatantly obvious to everyone now, was not quite so cut and dry 15 to 20 years ago.

Should they have bought into Adobe for their photo editing tools, or partnered with Netscape for an online photo sharing service? Both were leaders in their respective industries at the time, but while one partnership may have paid off, the other one probably wouldn't have (still, doing something is always better than doing nothing)...

And look at all of the dot.com companies that went bust at the end of the 90's - boy, buying groceries online and having them quickly and conveniently delivered to your home sure seemed like a real time saver, and the wave of the future; watch out Albertson's and Safeway - consumers will never need to face the tedium of going to your old fashioned "brick-and-mortar" stores again!

It's not always so easy to read the tea leaves...

Cheers!

Kevin

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Randy, your Minolta mount lens may fit current Sony DSLRs. Sony bought the rights to all Minolta patents including lens mounts when Minolta ceased operation.

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Hind sight is usually 20/20 as you said, Kevin. If I was really that smart I'd be rich! I'm just mad at Kodak for what they did to themselves.

They were the first company to offer me a job out of college and for years I regretted saying no. I have used so many rolls of Kodak film they would probably circle the Earth. I'm just bitter about seeing an old friend fade away like this.

Lots more comments here http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/01/19/Kodak_Chapter11_Bankruptcy among other places.

Here's a nice tribute to Kodak - http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/19/life-and-kodak-remembered/ since making memories is really what it's all about...

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For an interesting perspective on Kodak's problems and any chances it has for a future, check the website for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. There may be hope for a restructured Kodak. Also, the newspaper has a history of the company. Statistically, just a generation ago, Kodak, Xerox and Baush and Lomb employed 60% of the workers in the Rochester metro area. Amazing.

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Just in case someone on this thread didn't see the other one about numbers of photos of all types taken over the years:

and here's a graph of yearly film sales:

http://www.physorg.c...-05-longer.html

edit: this widely published article puts the peak in 2000, with nearly 950 million film rolls/disposables and 19.7 million film cameras (down to 280,000 new film cameras in 2009)

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/manufacturing/2011-06-04-film-camera-digital_n.htm

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