By Holly Quan

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Thursday marks the end of an era, as the last processing machine to develop Kodachrome film is shut down at a plant in Kansas. However, photography enthusiasts say the demise shouldn’t be blamed on the switch to digital technology.

San Diego photography consultant Ken Rockwell says he just processed his last five rolls of Kodachrome film, which expired in 1986, and it looks fine. But he’s neither sad nor nostalgic about the end of what was the first successful color film.

“Ask everybody who is sitting there scratching their heads saying ‘oh my God, this is horrible,’ when was the last time they purchased a roll of Kodachrome, and when was the last time they actually paid to have it developed,” said Rockwell.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:


That’s why it’s going away, according to Rockwell, because people weren’t buying it anymore. They were buying other, better kinds of film. And while the switch to digital photography, especially from a camera phone, has been widespread, Rockwell says film will never disappear.

What he does blame digital technology for however, is making us lousy photographers.

“It makes serious people who could have been better photographers worse because they get sloppy, and if you don’t care about something – you don’t do good work,” said Rockwell. “If you know you can throw it away, and it doesn’t cost you anything you don’t put a lot of effort into it, and therefore the reason digital pictures can look a lot worse than pictures taken on film is because nobody cares. If the best thing you can say about the digital process is that you can throw it away, then why take that picture in the first place.”

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (12)
  1. BW says:

    Why are you consulting Rockwell of all people? The guy is a total quack of a photography guy.

  2. PK says:

    Agreed. Rockwell is the last person you want to use as an authority. You could have asked a few hundred people, all living in San Francisco that have better background. Why doesn’t he say he shouldn’t be taken seriously, as he does on his website? Such a lame excuse.

  3. Brian says:

    Funny, they didn’t consult either of you either…

  4. Steve Chevcenko says:

    I love how any time Ken Rockwell shows up anywhere on the Internet, the comments section degenerates into people calling Ken Rockwell a quack. That’s *awesome*.

    Seriously, remember that these people probably refresh Ken’s news page every 10 minutes, praying that he’ll show up some place where there’s a comments section so that they can share their anonymous opinions of Ken with the world. That’s not healthy, guys, but haters gonna hate.

    1. slimsilver says:

      Gee-whiz Steve – your comment is written just like the true Rockwell butt-buddy that I’m are sure you are! Good work fella-

  5. SK says:

    BW & PK offer only rude and negative comments, not any contrary info. What did he say you disagree with?

    Kodachrome used a complicated development process that cost more and was no longer worth it. It did have a somewhat nostalgic look. Search the Kodachrome set on Flickr.

  6. justin says:

    It still is not clear to me after reading about this why does this lab not offer for the gear and continue processing this even if there is a small market for the service. Perhaps in another location or with a different owner there is still a small niche market. Are the processing chemicals for KC still around?

    I used Kodachrome 25 and 64 for many years and loved the warm colors and fine grain results I got from it especially for shooting landscapes with fall colors in the Maritimes (eastern Canada) and New England. It really IS the end of an era in some regards, but the market was not there a

    Although there is a a minor resurgence of film photography under way these days (at least here in NS) perhaps one day someone will dust off the KC development gear and make this service available once more. Who knows

  7. justin says:

    I meant to say “offer the gear for sale” above…

    Happy New Year.

  8. Scott K. says:

    Another article I read said that Kodak had stopped making the chemicals. Dwayne’s Photo (the lab in Parsons, Kansas) was still doing 700 rolls of Kodachrome a day, until the developing solutions ran out.

  9. Dan says:

    @justin yes, I believe that Kodak no longer makes the chemicals to develope Kodachrome, so they couldn’t continue to develop it even if they wanted to. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the gear can be used to process other film types, or it will be worthless without the chemicals from Kodak.

    One other thing that the story (the one in the video) misstates is that Dwayne’s photo is NOT closing. They will continue to process other types of film.

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