History & Poetry of Kodachrome

Note: This article originally was a part of Why I Never Shoot RAW — FujiFilm Simulations, Recipes, and More! published by Moment on September 6th, 2021.

In 1973, Paul Simon famously put to song,

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summer
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day

Kodachrome is probably the most iconic photographic film ever made. It was legendary, and many people saw the world through its colors. Kodak produced Kodachrome film from 1935 through 2009, when, to the dismay of photographers around the world, it was suddenly discontinued.

     The Kodachrome name has been used for many different films over the years. The first Kodachrome product was a two-glass-plate color negative that was introduced in 1915. Like all other color photography methods of its time, the results weren’t particularly good and the product not especially successful.

     In 1935, Kodak released its next Kodachrome product: a positive color transparency film. This Kodachrome was the first film that produced reasonably accurate colors, and, because of that, was the first commercially successful color film. It became the standard film for color photography for a couple decades, and was even Ansel Adams’ preferred choice for color work. The December 1946 issue of Arizona Highways, which was the first all-color magazine in the world, featured Barry Goldwater’s Kodachrome images. While the most popular Kodachrome during this time was ISO 10, Kodak also produced an ISO 8 version, as well as a Tungsten option in the 1940s.

     Kodak made significant improvements to Kodachrome, and in 1961 released Kodachrome II. This film boasted more accurate colors, sharper images, finer grain, and a faster ISO of 25. While it was still somewhat similar to the previous Kodachrome, it was better in pretty much every way. A year later Kodachrome-X was introduced, which had an ISO of 64, and produced more saturation and increased contrast, but was grainier. Kodachrome for cinema had an ISO of 40, and would continue to be ISO 40 until 2009 when Kodak discontinued Kodachrome.

Captured using the Kodachrome II film simulation recipe on a Fujifilm X-T20

     There was a movement in the early-1970s to end Kodachrome because the process to develop it was very toxic. Kodachrome is actually a black-and-white film with color added during development, which you can imagine isn’t a simple procedure. Instead of discontinuing their most popular color film, Kodak made a new version that required a less-toxic (but still toxic) and less complicated (but still complicated) development process. This appeased those who wanted the film gone, but the new version of Kodachrome was not initially well received by all photographers, some of whom liked the old version better. William Eggleston, for example, who used Kodachrome extensively in his early career, wasn’t a fan of the new version, and used other films instead.

     In 1974, because of the new less-toxic development process, Kodachrome II was replaced by Kodachrome 25 and Kodachrome-X was replaced by Kodachrome 64. They also introduced Kodachrome 200, a high-ISO version. This generation of Kodachrome is what most people think of when they picture (pun intended) the film, gracing the pages of magazines like National Geographic. Due to Kodachrome’s sharpness, grain, color, contrast, and archival characteristics, it was a great all-around option that worked well in most circumstance. Steve McCurry, who is perhaps the best-known photographer to extensively use this era of Kodachrome, said of the film, “It has almost a poetic look with beautiful colors that were vibrant and true to what you were shooting.”

     When Kodak discontinued Kodachrome in 2009, it shocked the photographic community; however, the deeper blow was that Kodak discontinued the chemicals required to develop it. Even if you had an old roll of the film (which I did), you couldn’t develop it, except as a black-and-white film from a specialty lab. By the end of 2010, the Kodachrome era was officially over for good.

Captured using real Kodachrome 64 35mm color transparency film on a Canon AE-1.

     I shot many rolls of Kodachrome 64, and a few rolls of Kodachrome 25. My favorite was Kodachrome 64 because it had more contrast and more saturated colors—while it was a little less true-to-life, it produced bolder pictures more like Paul Simon’s description. It was a sad day for me when Kodak discontinued it. At that time, I was just getting into digital photography; in retrospect I wish that I had paused on digital and exposed a few more rolls of Kodachrome, just for the joy of it.

     Paul Simon shot his Kodachrome on a Nikon camera, and I shot mine on a well-used Canon AE-1. Even though the film is long gone, I now shoot “Kodachrome” on a Fujifilm X100V and an X-E4. Yes, Kodachrome lives, thanks to Fujifilm’s great JPEG output! I’ve created film simulation recipes that mimic Kodachrome 64. While they’re not a 100% perfect match, considering the limited options and parameters that are available in-camera, they’re surprisingly accurate to the film. They certainly attain the “memory color” that Fujifilm’s managers often talk about. Ah, the irony of achieving a Kodachrome look on a Fujifilm camera is not lost on me!

     I’ve actually published over 150 recipes (which you can fin on the Fuji X Weekly app) for Fujifilm cameras, many of which are based on film stocks. Using film simulation recipes, no matter the Fujifilm camera you have, allows you to get straight-out-of-camera pictures that appear as if they were post-processed—or, even better, shot on film instead of digital. This is obviously a big time-saver, but can also be more fun.

Captured using the Kodachrome 64 film simulation recipe on a Fujifilm X100V

     Whenever I go out to photograph, I always have at least one Fujifilm camera with me, loaded with seven film simulation recipes. My favorite color recipe is Kodak Portra 400 v2, and my favorite black-and-white recipe is Kodak Tri-X 400. Some recipes aren’t modeled after specific films, but produce an analog aesthetic anyway, such as my Xpro ’62 recipe, which has a vintage cross-processed look, and my Positive Film recipe, which is intended to mimic Saul Leiter’s style. I like to load a few of my favorite recipes into my camera before going out, and the remaining presets are often experimental recipes that I’m working on, as I’m always creating new ones.

     Kodachrome 64 is one of those recipes that I find myself often programing into my camera—that is, if it isn’t already a C1-C7 preset from my last outing! It has the right amount of nostalgia, delivering those “nice bright colors” and “greens of summer” that “makes you think all the world’s a sunny day.” I can’t help but think, if Paul Simon picked up a Fujifilm camera today to take a photograph, the Kodachrome 64 recipe would be his favorite, and perhaps he’d even write a song about it.

Find these film simulation recipes on the Fuji X Weekly — Film Recipes App!

The Kodachrome 64 Moment!

Moment published an article, Why I Never Shoot RAW—Fujifilm Simulations, Recipes, and More!, that includes many of my photographs and even some of my words! I encourage you to check it out! Moment, you might remember, had partnered with me to give away CineBloom filters. I’m extraordinarily honored for the opportunity to collaborate with them on these projects, and I hope that we can work together even more in the future!

There is a mistake in the article that I’d like to point out. Check out the image below:

Caption reads: “Using Kodachrome 64 Recipe.”
This picture was captured using real Kodachrome 64 film.

The picture above was supposed to be an example photograph of the actual film, which I captured over 20 years ago using real Kodachrome 64 film shot on a Canon AE-1 camera. So it is film, and not a film simulation. A couple other mistakes are found in the recipe itself: Dynamic Range should be DR200, and Noise Reduction should be -4. But, you know, it’s always alright to “season to taste” a recipe, so maybe that is how they prefer those settings.

I’m super happy to have been included in this writeup! I’m stoked that Moment found this recipe to be a valuable resource to the photography community—so valuable, in fact, that they were eager to share it with their customers on their website. Honestly, I’m flattered. Thank you, Moment!

Why I Never Shoot RAW—Fujifilm Simulations, Recipes, and More!

With Other Film Simulations: Kodachrome 64

Classic Chrome

Here’s a unique idea that was suggested to me: apply different film simulations to different recipes, just to see what you get. Actually, that’s how My Ektachrome 100SW recipe came to be: a Fuji X Weekly reader took my Kodachrome II recipe and replaced Classic Chrome with Velvia. I’m going to make a series out of this, which I’m calling With Other Film Simulations, and maybe something interesting will come out of it.

I’ll start with the Fujifilm X100V Kodachrome 64 film simulation recipe. The original picture (at the top of this post), which you might recognize from my Rover Mini YouTube video, was made using Classic Chrome, the film simulation that the Kodachrome 64 recipe requires. The idea here is to keep every setting the same except for the film simulation. In case you don’t remember, the settings are:

Dynamic Range: DR200
Highlight: 0
Shadow: 0
Color: +2
Noise Reduction: -4
Sharpening: +1
Clarity: +3
Grain Effect: Weak, Small
Color Chrome Effect: Strong
Color Chrome Effect Blue: Weak
White Balance: Daylight, +2 Red & -5 Blue

Let’s look at the pictures:

Provia
Velvia
Astia
PRO Neg. Hi
PRO Neg. Std
Classic Negative
Acros
Monochrome
Sepia

The color images are surprisingly similar. Velvia stands out for being the most vibrant. PRO Neg. Std stands out for having the lowest contrast. Classic Negative stands out for its color shift. The original version, which uses Classic Chrome, is still my favorite, but it is interesting to see how the other film simulations affect the picture. The Monochrome film simulation with these settings might prove to be a good low-contrast black-and-white recipe, something I’ll have to take a closer look at.

I hope that you enjoyed this quick article! We’ll do some more of these in the coming weeks and months. Which film simulation did you find most interesting with the Kodachrome 64 settings? Let me know in the comments!

Fujifilm X100V + Kodachrome 64 Film Simulation Recipe + Rover Mini Cooper (Video)

My friend, James, has a 1994 Rover Mini Cooper. It’s such a cool classic car! He imported it from Japan, and the driver sits on the right side instead of the left, which is unusual in America. What I love about this car is its vintage features; it looks older than the year it was built. It has great retro styling, and you don’t see many of these older models on the road. I asked him if I could photograph it, and he graciously agreed.

The camera that I chose for this photo shoot is the Fujifilm X100V. It’s a fun camera to use, and it unsurprisingly handled this situation well—there’s not much that this camera isn’t a good choice for (wildlife photography, perhaps?). For automobile photography it did nothing but deliver beautiful picture after beautiful picture.

The film simulation recipe that I programmed into the X100V is Kodachrome 64, which is a film that was very popular in 1994 when this car was new. I thought it would be appropriate to give the pictures an aesthetic that matched its year built, as if these images could have been captured when the car was new. In 2010 Kodachrome was discontinued, including the chemicals to develop it, so it’s impossible to capture with Kodachrome today. My Kodachrome 64 film simulation recipe might be the closest you can get to the film straight-out-of-camera.

My wife, Amanda, who created the video at the top of this article, programmed my Kodachrome 64 recipe into the Fujifilm X-T30 and X-T20, two cameras that she used to record this photo shoot. Something that some of you might be unaware of is that my film simulation recipes can be used for video, too! No need for color grading. No need for LUT presets. I bet some of you just had your mind blown! She also used a GoPro Hero 8, and we tried to color match it to the Fujifilm clips, but that proved to be a difficult task. If you want Kodachrome-looking clips, you might be better off simply using the film simulation recipe on your Fujifilm camera instead of trying to recreate it in software.

When we started the photo shoot, it was evening light just before sunset. Smoke from the wildfires in California diffused the sun and gave a warm glow, which was quite nice; however, the sun quickly disappeared below the horizon and the light changed significantly. It was dusk by the time we stopped shooting. The great light was short lived, but we worked quickly to take advantage of it while it lasted.

One challenge with car photography is that there are often lots and lots of reflections, which can make it difficult to keep yourself (or other things you don’t want) from showing up in the images. You have to be very conscious of the entire frame. Yes, unwanted reflections can be removed in software, but the point of this exercise is to not use software, but get the desired results out-of-camera unedited. Reflections can also be used creatively, so it’s not just a challenge to avoid unwanted reflections, but to maximize good reflections.

I want to give a big “Thank You” to James for allowing us to photograph his Rover Mini. I enjoyed collaborating with him. If you like the video, be sure to give it a thumbs up and let us know with a comment! Please subscribe to the Fuji X Weekly YouTube channel if you don’t already. Thanks for watching!

This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.

Gear:
Fujifilm X100V Amazon B&H
Fujifilm X-T20   Amazon
Fujifilm X-T30  Amazon B&H
Fujinon 10-24mm   Amazon B&H
Rokinon 12mm   Amazon B&H
GoPro Hero 8 Black   Amazon B&H

My Fujifilm X-T1 (X-Trans II) Kodachrome 64 Film Simulation Recipe


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Sun Roof – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1 – “Kodachrome 64”

One of my favorite film simulation recipes is Kodachrome 64. It’s also one of the most popular recipes on Fuji X Weekly. Those with X-Trans III and IV cameras, such as the Fujifilm X-T30 that I created it on, have been enjoying it since August, but those with X-Trans II cameras—X-T1, X-T10, X-E2, X-E2s, X100T, and X70—have been left out of the fun. Those with Bayer sensor cameras, such as the X-T100, XF10, X-A7, etc., have been out of luck, too. That all changes, starting now. I have cracked the code, and created a Kodachrome 64 recipe for my X-Trans II camera! Unfortunately, it won’t work on the X100, X100S, X-E1 or X-Pro1 because it requires the Classic Chrome film simulation, which those cameras don’t have. But those who own a Fujifilm X-Trans II or Bayer camera, which do have Classic Chrome, I’m sure will appreciate this Kodachrome 64 recipe.

Classic Chrome
Dynamic Range: DR400
Highlight: +2 (High)
Shadow: +1 (Medium-High)
Color: 0 (Medium)
Sharpness: 0 (Medium)
Noise Reduction: -2 (Low)
White Balance: Daylight, 0 Red & -3 Blue
ISO: Auto, up to ISO 3200

Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs using this Kodachrome 64 recipe on my Fujifilm X-T1:

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Watered Tree – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Reflection in the Grass – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Reed Grass – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Reeds In Water – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Sisters on a Bridge – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Red Mustang – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Wrangler – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Parking Lot Sunset – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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January Evening Hill – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Rooftop Birds – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Suburban Silver Lining – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Coffee Cup – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Prerequisite – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Yellow Pillows – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

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Smiling Jon – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

See also: First three Fujifilm X-T1 Film Simulation Recipes

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