do you remember Kodachrome?

1953 – A Kodachrome slide carefully exposed in bright sun

Toronto. From the late 1800s to pre WW2, colour was a huge challenge. The additive colour process was very slow. Mosaics and fine screens were used to record and display colour photographs.

Colour photography was revolutionized in 1935 when Kodachrome subtractive colour film came to market. While faster than the old processes, it was still slow and contrasty but with an  incredibly increased resolution.

Kodachrome development was so complex (numerous baths, tight time and temperature demands) that customer bought both film and processing with exposed film returned to Kodak for processing. Shades of the original Kodak Camera of the 1880s!

Eventually the American government intervened and film price was separated from the processing cost opening the door to third party developers.

The following year, Agfa in Europe marketed a subtractive system. The proprietary system used larger molecules resulting in a simpler development process and a difference in colour emphasis than Kodachrome. After WW2, spoils of the war included the Agfa process, opening the somewhat faster, less contrasty, and simpler development to all.

With the Agfa style films, it was possible to bulk load colour 35mm film and process it at home, something that was ‘beyond the ken’ for Kodachrome.

In the summer of 1953, Kodak advertised the ‘magic’ of Kodachrome colour and the many Kodak products that recorded and displayed the Kodachrome slides. A grateful thank you is in order to George Dunbar for his discovery and sharing of the above two page June 1953 advertisement in Popular Mechanics.

As all thing eventually must, Kodachrome disappeared from the market. The last processing run in North America was the end of 2010 followed/preceded by other colour transparency films.

Today, with digital technology many have never sat in a darkened room to view projected slides. Smartphones create tons of colour images seemingly without effort and seconds later all chosen images can be sent next door or around the world at the touch of the screen!

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