Posts Tagged ‘Kodak’
Kodak announced today that it plans to “phase out its dedicated capture devices business—comprising digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames—in the first half of 2012.” This news comes less than one month after the company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that Kodak said would result in a rigorous reorganization of the company. Not surprisingly, they appear to have determined that the crippled digital capture leg had to be severed.
Still, this is sad news. There’s no denying that for so long the Kodak brand was synonymous with cameras and picture making. Moving forward, their focus will be on: retail-based photo kiosks and digital dry lab systems, inkjet printers, online photo galleries, camera accessories and batteries—which they are quick to point out are compatible with cameras made by other manufacturers, and in a final bittersweet twist, the “traditional film capture and photographic paper business.”
End of the Roll by Creativity103 – Flickr Creative Commons
The NPR/Public Radio International program “To the Point” today invited photographer Eamonn McCabe on air to reflect on the news that Kodak just filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. I listened to the segment in my car, on the way back to the office from lunch, and as I did so I was struck by the irony that by the end of the show McCabe—who is the former Picture Editor at the Guardian newspaper and an award-winning photographer himself—ended up holding fast and proud to the idea that digital photography is inferior to film photography and that it is a dubious format both in process and after an image is captured. This, in the wake of the news that the company that once dominated the world of photography—Kodak—was brought to its knees after its own reluctance to embrace digital technology.
At the top of the segment, McCabe says that he is “just staggered that [Kodak] just couldn’t see this digital revolution coming and couldn’t invest in it,” and that “to be so arrogant and conservative not to change, I just find staggering.” Later on in the conversation, when host Warren Olney urges McCabe to discuss the “quality of the product” in terms of digital versus film, McCabe talks enthusiastically about his Kodachrome days and admits his concern that nobody knows how long digital output will last. “We assume it’s going to last forever,” he says, “but does anyone know?” These days, McCabe is a half film, half digital photographer, though he says, “The trouble with digital is that it’s very hard to fall in love with a digital camera.”
Here’s where things take a turn: “I have a theory,” McCabe says, “Everybody’s taking loads of pictures now on their iPhone…and their digital cameras, but who’s looking at the stuff that’s taken?…You’re taking these pictures, and you might show them to somebody in a bar or somebody at work, but you don’t ever print it.” He calls this “the great mistake of digital.”
He goes on to wax nostalgic about the family photo albums of his childhood—which is all fine and good—but he seems erroneously out of touch with the ways in which photography is viewed these days. It’s as if he hasn’t considered the fact that digital images are seen by millions of eyes every day around the world via the largest family photo album imaginable: the Internet. With these comments, McCabe seems to believe that all digital images taken by the average person are forgotten the moment after the scene is captured and then quickly relegated to the deep dark confines of a hard drive. Has this man never heard of Flickr, for instance? Nevermind Instagram or Facebook—which now has an image collection ten thousand times larger than the Library of Congress.
While McCabe is certainly entitled to his opinion that film cameras are preferable to digital (because right now that’s not even the issue), what ultimately struck me as ironic after listening to his remarks was how he ended his talk by decrying digital photography in a strikingly similar manner to that same “arrogant and conservative” reluctance to change that he first labeled as Kodak’s big failure. This made me wonder: can you really acknowledge and learn from Kodak’s mistakes while you still harbor your own digital reluctance?
In an expected move, Kodak filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy today. According to an announcement at the KodakTtransforms website, the iconic American photo company anticipates that reorganization as a result of chapter 11 will “enable Kodak to bolster liquidity in the U.S. and abroad, monetize non-strategic intellectual property, fairly resolve legacy liabilities, and enable the Company to focus on its most valuable business lines.” In other words, this is a far less grim turn of events that the full extinction of the brand many had predicted. The press release says that “the company has sufficient liquidity to operate its business during chapter 11″ and CEO Antonio Perez relates that “Chapter 11 gives us the best opportunities to maximize the value…of our technology portfolio: our digital capture patents…and our breakthrough printing and deposition technologies.”
(Kodak, via Engadget)
image via Flickr Creative Commons
According to the LA Times today, Kodak—once the kingpin of all things photography: Instamatic cameras! The first digital cameras! Film! Do you remember film?—is losing money at a rate of “more than $70 million a month” and that “Chapter 11 must lurk just around the corner.”
So how does a company that once dominated the field make such a plunging fall from grace? Well, it isn’t all that perplexing: they didn’t adapt in time or in the right ways to the onset of digital. As Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times points out, “Kodak…markets a process technology; and as the chemistry of film has yielded to digital electronics, consumer demand for Kodak’s traditional products has evaporated.”
That isn’t to say that we should completely write off any kind of future for Kodak, but that they confront a different type of obstacle than other declined companies with historical American and global significance. Unlike American car-maker GM, who despite its inefficiency “still manufactures a product with a huge market demand,” Kodak’s former market-dominating expertise has been deemed all but obsolete by digital processing, and yes of course, by the camera phone (which ironically now plagues the digital camera market ).
(via LA Times)
photo © Stefan Baudy (Flickr creative commons)
UPDATE: In order to get several perspectives on our discussion about the future of point-and-shoot cameras (see original post about the topic below), I approached Ed Lee, Director of Consumer Imaging Services Group for InfoTrends to get his “insider’s” take on the issue. He had a lot of great insight, and some very explicit views about the digicam VS camera phone questions we raised, which would be interesting to both people in the camera manufacturing business and camera consumers. Here’s what Ed had to say:
“Point and shoots will continue to hold a strong position in the digital camera market. Camera phones will co-exist. While some people will decide to forego a digital camera and just use the one on their phone, others will be inspired by their camera phone photography to go out and buy a digital still camera. As for sophistication, digital still cameras will continue to offer better features than camera phones because they are dedicated devices and do not have to make compromises because of other product constraints. They also continue to work hard at staying one step ahead of camera phones, for instance, digital still cameras offer 14 MP resolution today and camera phones are just getting into the 5 MP range. Digital cameras have a good flash, which when used drains the battery, something that phones cannot afford to happen, if people want to still use the phone function and have a long idle time between charges. Decent 10 MP digital cameras can be purchased for well under $100 now, so in many instances, the up charge to buy a more fully-featured camera phone will far exceed what an entry-level digital camera will cost. So besides the integration feature, some will not see the benefit of paying the extra money. 5 years from now, it may not matter what device you use to capture the image. The key will be what can you do with the image after capture. That is where the real value begins.”
Now we want to hear what you have to say about this topic. Do you think Ed Lee’s predictions are correct? Do you see yourself continuing to use digital point-and-shoot cameras down the road even as your cell phone’s camera advances it’s technology? Comment below or join the discussion at the DP Facebook Page.
As fans of both the art of photography and the complex tools that help us to capture images–namely cameras–we at Digital Photographer would like to pose a question:
What do you think the future holds for point-and-shoot cameras, when it’s possible that in, say, five years time the cameras built into cell phones will meet the level of shooting sophistication of most consumer level digicams? Will point-and-shoot digital cameras as we know them today become irrelevant or, perhaps, extinct?
So called “instant cameras” have been around on the consumer level since 1948, when the Polaroid Model 95 went on sale (ref. The Impossible Project); and beginning in 1963, the Kodak Instamatic began to make photography accessible to the masses.
As it stands today, there are over 130 new compact digital cameras on the market, offered by Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung, Fujifilm and Kodak, and each of these manufacturers seems to be in a never-ending race to crank out more. Meanwhile, most anyone who owns an Apple iPhone (like myself) would agree that the image quality of the camera feature in the phone is inferior to even the lowest level point-and-shoot digital camera on the market. Sure, the 3MP camera boasts a built-in auto focus (iPhone 3GS) and a tap-induced digital zoom, but most digital cameras being produced by the above named companies come standard with, at the very least, an 8MP image sensor and 3x optical zoom. Oh, and there’s also always a little helpful feature called flash, which the iPhone still lacks. But the iPhone does record video as well as stills–something that a large number of the current point-and-shoot cameras on the market cannot also claim.
Join the discussion by posting a comment with your thoughts here, or at the DP page on Facebook.
Tags: Cameras, Canon, Ed Lee, Fujifilm, future, Infotrends, iPhone, Kodak, Kodak Instamatic, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, point-and-shoot, Polaroid, questions, Samsung, Sony | 5 Comments »