December 31 saw the death of an icon: Kodachrome film. More precisely, the end of commercial processing of Kodachrome film. A particularly old process, and probably due for retirement years ago, but given its heavy use by photojournalists and photography aficionados, it lasted a very long time.  Many photos shot for National Geographic were on Kodachrome, including what is regarded as one of the most famous Geographic photos of all time, that of a young Afghan girl.

Such a sad day for old-school photographers.  Not necessarily the loss of a film format (or rather, process), but this, more than many other events in recent years spells the real death of chemical photography (as I call it).

With my recent experience of the dying of my first (serious) DSLR, I took some time today to go through my photographic equipment collection (ensuring I have a full collection of current equipment together for the latest camera.

Not unexpectedly, I got all the Exacta equipment out (East German (when there was such a thing), and the first range of Single Lens Reflex camera), and then my primary film cameras – the Minolta 9000 (and 7000).  I’d forgotten just how good these cameras were, especially the 9000. Definitely a professional 35mm SLR – it looks and feels great to use.  Sad the digital versions do not leave up to the standards set by this camera.  It is still going strong (even now), even after 15 years of heavy use by me (until I retired it in 2005).  From the motor drive at the bottom, that can take a drive battery slapped on (solidly) to its balance and features, it is one of the real victims of digital photography (like the Nikon F4, and obviously Kodachrome, and no doubt Fuji Velvia, arguably the greatest E6 (slide) film of modern time).  My best photos were all shot on Velvia fwiw.

I so miss using this camera.  I could almost be tempted to return to using film just to go back to it.  And for those that don’t know (but would care), Minolta no longer make cameras at all.  The 7000 was the first dedicated autofocus SLR, then the 9000 was produced for the professional market. Later, they combined with Konica when the first DSLRs came out to produce the 7D (my previous camera)

before selling the entire camera side of the company to Sony.

My latest is the A55 – hope it both lasts, and is a step back to  the quality cameras of old. (But I doubt it).  This is also not a SLR/DSLR.  The mirror is fixed, and semitransparent, so it now classifies as a DSLT.

Update: Interesting reading Brian’s comment, and it reminded me of the whole side of photography that I was heavily involved in – film development and printing.  Nocon was a big influence on me at the time, as was Ansel Adams.

My enlarger at the time was an LPL 7700 a professional colour enlarger.  Sold (regretfully) years ago as the digital photo age took over.


LPL 7700 Colour Enlarger Head

One reason I got away from digital competition photography is you really can’t have a good informed discussion on the merits of a photograph when one party hasn’t even heard of split-grade processing, zone systems, etc – so much has been forgotten about how to produce a really good photo with the apparent ease of digital ‘darkrooms’.

The sister site for Stu’s Shed is Stu’s Darkroom, which has a byline “Photographs and Images from the Lightbox and Darkroom of Stuart Lees, APSNZ”

5 Responses

  1. I relate to your post of the 0/1/01/2011 as I am a retired old-school photographer where most of my work was done in the dark. How I miss those days when film cost money and you had to wait for the processing no time to take another shot. You had to use your skills to capture the moment as well as knowing what the light-sensitive emulsion would need to render that perfect shot.

    How I miss those days; I still take photos with my Nikon D90 not top line but produces very good images.

    As we move on one must embrace technology.

    Thanks for that post it bought tears to my eyes.

    Brian (White_Ant)

  2. Stu were you a professional photographer now retired?

    • Not retired, but then I only did a few jobs that would be regarded as “professional”. I was more a competition photographer, and was awarded an Associateship of the Photographic Society of New Zealand for my work, some of which can be seen on Stu’s Darkroom. The Navy also used a number of my photos for procedures documents, and marketing. They even produced a bunch (10,000+) of fridge magnets from one of them! (I wasn’t a military photographer either, but took a lot of photos for my own benefit which they could also use – I got into some pretty unique situations!)

  3. Firstly thankyou for your reply, yes I was a pro or you could say my client’s payed there accounts. I had the opportunity to face my camera at many diverse subjects. My father was my driving force. I worked for Exxon, Esso, Mobil Oil, Rundle Oil Shale, Amoco, and one of most demanding assignments was the coverage of the Australian Davis Cup white city two years running. I managed to get one shot into the hall of fame. Many more that I will not burden you with.
    If you wish I could give you an URL where you could see some of my resent work. But I would not like to make it public, use my email address that I supplied. Nothing special just where I am at this moment.

    Thanks Stuart for the opportunity for me to share this with you. At this time I am starting to work with wood only learning with obsession.

    I do really enjoy your posts.


  4. I do miss my days in the darkroom. I never had enough of them. Not since college…

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