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Kodak Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

January 20th 2012 2:00 PM

Kodak.The one name that MEANS “photography”.“You press the button, we do the rest…”People even named their favorite memories “Kodak Moments”.

These days the name Kodak is mostly associated with the production of film, however did you know that Kodak was one of the earliest pioneers of digital technology?Just have a glance at the business’ history timeline on Wikipedia.., and check out 1975-1986. They even invented the digital Bayer sensor pattern that almost EVERY digital camera still uses today, otherwise all our digital photos would be black and white! Heck Kodak even kinda beat Canon (by 1 day) with the first full-frame DSLR! (The Kodak Pro 14n was announced for Nikon mount in 2002.) Kodak has been an incredible source of innovation, right up until the “very end”…


HOWEVER, thankfully,it’s definitely NOT the end! In fact chapter 11 bankruptcy is a good thing as far as the future of the business is concerned.If it had been Chapter 7 bankruptcy on the other hand, that would have indeed been GAME OVER.When Agfa Photo “went under” in 2004-2005, (not chapter 7, but they did “divest”) unfortunately they did in fact completely end production of some of my favorite films.:-( So I fully expect that we will continue to see the production of (most) all of the great Kodak films, …and I think Kodak still makes digital cameras too?



YES, of course, I do know that Kodak makes digital cameras.I was trying to make a point: most people just don’t even know what Kodak is up to these days, and that’s never a good thing.Even though film is not dead, and even though Kodak makes some GREAT digital cameras, …in many ways they have become relatively unimportant in photography, at least in the eyes of the masses. (Even though they still own and license thousands of patents)

Is this what causes such a decline?It could be any combination of things, from poor financial management to loss of vision.What is your opinion?To me it seems like Kodak did NOT lose vision, even with digital photography.Historically, for over 100 years Kodak has always been about bringing photography to the masses, and pioneering new technologies.They still do this with digital photography, in my opinion, by offering low-budget digital camera options, almost always more affordable than any competition.But you know what happens when you compete on price alone, I suppose.EVERY affordable camera is made dirt-cheap overseas nowadays, which probably levels the playing field a whole lot.

Anyways here are a few VERY interesting articles that describe the legal and financial situation:


A highlight, before I finish: did you know that Kodak’s patents which I mentioned are said to be worth $2.6 billion?And Kodak has earned $3 billion since 2003, in patent licenses alone?It sounds like they just began to fall prey to tactful patent infringement, *cough* Apple *cough* …which I think is a huge shame.Oh well, such is capitalism? Or?Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated!


Take care,


Canon EOS 3, Canon 200mm f/1.8, Kodak Film

Canon EOS 3, Sigma 50mm f/1.4, Kodak Film

Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Comments [2]

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  1. A. Photographer

    People didn’t name their favorite memories “Kodak Moments.” Kodak did.

    IMO, Kodak’s been off course since about 1990. Back then they ran ads touting how consumers could take professional level photos if they bought the latest Kodak camera. They ran those campaigns in consumer magazines, ironically illustrating the camera’s resulting snapshots with professionally created photos.

    The pro photographers were outraged not only because Kodak was having people think the camera was the photograper, but because at the same time, Kodak was selling pro film to them, and allegedly providing marketing campaigns to drive business to portrait and wedding photographers. This was a case of Kodak’s consumer division and their professional division each having separate and conflicting interests. They pulled the consumer ad.

    But at the professional photographer level, their marketing campaigns were not relevant. Terry Deglau, in charge of that division, was a dinosaur who had run an old school studio. For photographers who signed up to receive marketing ideas, they got beauties such as having a live lamb in the studio with which to take children’s photos as an Easter promotion and other such one trick pony stunts.

    Then there was the kiosk scan and print it yourself fiasco where Kodak manufactured and placed DIY machines in 30 minute photo labs, making it easy for people to pirate copies of copyrighted images. When photographers protested about that, Kodak’s response was to post a little sign on the kiosks warning the kiosk user against copyright infringement.

    Their response to the world changing to digital was that of sticking their head in the sand. When they did roll out digital, it was too late. Like everything else in their past 20 years, they remained out of touch.

    I feel bad for George Eastman’s legacy. But for Kodak I don’t shed a tear.

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    • SLR Lounge

      You’re right, it was Kodak’s marketing campaign that created the phrase “Kodak Moment.”  But it caught on, and every body was using it for decades.  Many still do, even if they haven’t owned or held a Kodak product in years.

      I think you’re right about Kodak’s management / marketing getting very dinosaur-ish as early as the 90’s.  But I would still like to point out that this was largely their marketing and management, while “their response to the world changing to digital was that of sticking their head in the sand” doesn’t quite ring true for me…  Because remember, Kodak was one of the FIRST to pioneer digital imaging itself.  If it were not for Kodak’s R&D, who knows if sensor technology would be where it is today.

      But you’re right, by the 90’s they were indeed out of touch with digital too.  Historically it looks like they “rolled out” digital right along the same schedule as everyone else, like the Canon 1Ds and the Kodak “14” series.  I remember that camera, and I remember thinking that it seemed like it was half innovation, and half “me too!” …too little too late.

      I don’t claim to know exactly what happened, but one thing I can guess is that they should have focused on continuing to innovate and invent, like Fuji and other “third wheel” camera makers have done with their various sensor technologies in competition with the main two, Canon and Nikon.

      Instead, it seems like Kodak did too much “sit back and waiting for patent license $$$ to roll in.”  Which I think was ultimately their downfall.  I don’t agree with the legal situations that caused Kodak to lose patent money, but I also don’t think it’s the best business model to just invent a bunch of stuff and then expect to be able to live off of that residual income forever.


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