Film News: Kodak Alaris – What it means for you

Posted on by Bellamy


Film News: Kodak Alaris – What it means for you
It has been an awful few years for Kodak, what with being the harbingers of their own doom by basically inventing the digital camera, horrible mismanagement, and a CEO who puts his greed before his responsibilities. So the news that Alaris is the new Kodak can only be a good thing. But is it?

A while back we got the news that Kodak would be finally emerging from the dark cloud of bankruptcy. This was welcome news for all, but also uncertain news as nobody was really sure what it would mean for the film business. Would it be sold off to Lomo (one of the more stupid rumours)? Would it be broken down into bits and gradually shut down? The speculation was wild and nobody really had the first clue as to what would happen.

Then we got the news that Kodak would stop making cellulose acetate film base. And yet again speculation ran rampant, with Fox news even covering this one. Yet Kodak assured us that they have stockpile for years and that they are not selling off the equipment to make the film base, so they could re-start production if stocks ran low. This didn’t stop the rumour mill though.

And then finally some news that could be conceived as good. Kodak emerges from bankruptcy. But it was a different Kodak from the one we all knew and loved. Kodak Eastman is still not out of the woods and has a lot of restructuring to do. But the film division was pared off with other imaging divisions and put in the control of the Kodak Pension Plan. What became of this is what we now know to be Kodak Alaris.

But was this good news? The film division is being run by a bunch of pensioners who are all about the performance of their pension plan. Surely this meant that they are out of touch with what is going on and they would axe it all quick smart to add a bit more to their coffers.
Well, after reading this piece on the BJP it seems that it is good news. So how is this significant for the future of film photography?
Far from being out of touch Alaris has actually gave us a dose of much needed cheer. Although it is tinged with an edge of sadness.
As Alaris says, “the category is mature” which means that we are not going to see any new film stocks from the once great Kodak Labs. Nor will we see the re-release of the great stocks from the past. The current line up will continue. So your Tri-X and your Portra are safe for the next few years at least. The company is solvent though, with no debts, so hopefully this means we will not have any more of those horrible price rises of the past. But don’t expect there to be a reduction in prices, that is very unlikely to happen.

So what we have is a new company, Alaris. And a future for film photography. We will never see that striving for innovation or film invention that we saw from Kodak in the past. What we are going to see is a far more limited style of film production and availablity, one for the dedicated and passionate. Film will never be as cheap or as available as it was, but it will be there, if you want it enough.

Kodak is gone in my book. Long live Alaris.

JCH

What are your thoughts on this matter? How do you feel thing will change for you? Please feel free to comment below.

13 Responses to Film News: Kodak Alaris – What it means for you

Matthew Gagle September 27, 2013 at 9:01 am

I work at a retail lab and ever since the Alaris news our film dealers have been complaining about a lack of consistent deliveries on film. We ordered 200 rolls of TMax 400 24 exposure at the end of last week and received 15. Our dealer said the rest were on back order and they had no idea when they would get more. After checking with 3 other (US) suppliers the story was the same. Not sure what’s happening, but things have definitely changed.

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Fernando Callo September 27, 2013 at 10:28 am

I’m very happy for the Kodak Alaris thing, I don’t care if it’s good, bad or if isn’t going to be the same. I just love the idea of having film again, that’s all that matters at least for me :)

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Geoff September 27, 2013 at 11:32 am

Well as far as “new stocks,” I think there’s a good chance us still photographers will get to try the Vision line of cinema (motion picture) films at some point (at least in 35mm – though hopefully in larger formats too). So there’s hope for something new-ish from Kodak, even if it’s re-packaged from another line. Yes they are often tungsten-balanced but so what, I’m not above throwing an 85 (daylight) filter on to correct (or just do it at the scanning stage). The cinema stocks generally have much greater exposure latitude as well (cinematographers rate Vision 500T anywhere from like ~200 up to over 1000). Should be interesting.

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Jukka Watanen September 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm

All is god news, I have closely followed this discussion on several forums. My thoughts are:
-Eastman is NOT going to produce new stock, they are not allowed to do so with consumer products. All new material will go to the movie industry-hollywood and other movie stuff stockers.
-The KPP`s main responsibility is to pay the pensions, all the way to year 2007. That means NO money to invest in new raw materials.
-KPP is in Great Britain, Kodak factories in Rochester. I doubt KPP has recources to move the production to england
-So, my prediction is : when the present stock ( That is already “past date”) is gone, that is also goodbye to the consumer films of Kodak.
-last note: When Eastman kodak could not keep it`s organization working, how can the pensioners of KPP do it, and make profit. The distributing structure of Kodak was not suited to present day internet/paypal world. If KPP changes it`s policy to sell kodak in a chinese post order way, old guys and ladies taking up orders and payments thru computer and then packing the small parcels and deliver to post. they will save 50-70% of the profits, that are going to “middlemen”. That would save tyhe operation until the day all is used up from the old eastman warehouses around the world… Regards Jukka W

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Linden September 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm

It’s hard to know, isn’t it? It is good news that the division making the film is alive in a new form. So long as the film products are profitable – or can be seen to be made profitably – we will have our Tri-X, our T-Max, and our Portra, and so on.

Bottom line is use it or lose it.

If I was the the brand manager for Kodak Alaris professional and consumer film products I would be asking – how can I keep my professional/high end enthusiast core customer base, while finding a way to tap into and foster the more hipsterish/Lomo segment? Perhaps some rebranding of the consumer-grade products?… Re-brand Kodak Gold as Retro-ColorBurstFlava? ;-)

Seriously though, the thing that Lomography understand today is this: for 99.9% of photographers the convenience, quality and cost* advantage of digital photography makes film photography a non-starter. The unique appeal of film and film photography has to bypass the debate about which is better. It has to appeal around other ideas – the art of it, the intrinsic appeal of analogue, and so on.

That will be niche, and therefore never especially big. Film production was mass production. I don’t understand the full technicalities of it, but you only have to look at how those gigantic master rolls were made to see that scaling down production to meet reduced demand (and therefore remain profitable) will be a challenge also. How do you reduce an industrial process by – say – 95% – and maintain its profitability?

I wish Kodak Alaris the best of luck, and meantime look forward to continuing to be able to buy their great film.

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Rolf Schmolling September 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Hi,

well, I’m guardedly optimistic (shooting 100% Kodak by the way). Alaris is facing huge problems to downsize their production to meet an enthusiast’s market without losing their ability to produce quality film(s). From what I’ve read in different forums it would need quite an investment (new machinery, chemistry & production trial runs to get the mixture(s) right).

The starting point is to believeinfilm and continue using it though. Keep the skills both at the factories and labs alive by utilizing them. believeinefilm and analog photography and produce beautiful imagery!

Rolf

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Jukka Watanen September 28, 2013 at 1:04 am

For those of you considering the use of motion picture Vision film line: The motion picture color negative stock has black graphite backing ( to cut off reflections from film base and also make the negative more slippery in the movie camera) This black backing is almost impossible to remove in hobby C-41 labs. It is caller “remjet backing”. Google the subject to learn more about it… Not worth dreaming of using movie stock (except double X B&W stock) in still cameras.

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Gil Domingo September 28, 2013 at 3:43 am

Bellamy did spotlight the Brothers Wright awhile back. They’ve removed the remjet from the backing and now sell it as Cinestill 500T. Here in the states Freestyle is selling it, back in stock in about a week.

As far as Kodak, I’m happy. The film is still here. Buy it, use it, print it.

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Ralph Hightower September 29, 2013 at 5:04 am

So, Kodak Alaris is not going to invest in R&D to create new films and they are not going to bring back discontinued films, like TMAX 3200. Yes, TMAX 3200 is a niche film, but I like it better than Ilford Delta 3200.
So Alaris is going to continue with the status quo; oh well, that’s better than Kodak films going away.

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Dieter Fröhling September 30, 2013 at 4:34 am

Well. At least some continuity… No more R&D. Ok.

But that Tmax3200 is gone. Delta 3200 is used for coarse graininess :-)

Bottome line. Some good news.

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Gordon Cooper October 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Something not grasped by many is that the films of the past were coated on machinery that no longer exists with dyes that are not in use.

More than a few of us would gladly buy Super XX or Verichrome Pan if we could, but someone would have to replicate the coatiing machines, source the dyes used in the sensitizers, the gelatin formula, the substrates used and make it all work. That is unlikely to happen. Kodak started shutting down film research in the 1980′s. So far as I know only Fuji, Ilford and Adox do any new research and formulation.

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