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!

SOOC Viewer Images!

This short video is about you! These are the viewer submitted pictures from Season 01 Episode 02 of the SOOC live video series. I want to give a special “Thank You” to everyone who participated! This whole video series is for you, and I appreciate all who tuned in. I hope that you’ve found it helpful and, at the very least, entertaining. Click here if you missed Episode 01, and click here if you missed Episode 02. Episode 03 will be on Thursday, September 9th, so mark your calendars! Click here if you’d like to submit a picture for Episode 03 captured with the Fujicolor C200 film simulation recipe. Those who submit photographs are entered into a drawing to win a year Patron subscription to the Fuji X Weekly App!

I hope to see you on September 9th!

SOOC Episode 02 (and Episode 03!)

Despite a little technical trouble, Episode 02 of SOOC was a great success! I appreciate everyone who tuned in, and for everyone who participated. You guys are great! And it was wonderful to see your Kodachrome II pictures! Here’s the link to submit your Fujicolor C200 photographs: click here. I hope there was something in the broadcast that you found helpful or interesting, and that it was worth your time. It was supposed to be 45 minutes, but it ended up doubling that! If you missed it, you can watch it above.

The technical difficulty that I had on my end is this: my Fujifilm X-E4 that I was using for this broadcast kept overheating. In my review of the camera, I stated that I thought a similar overheating issue to the X100V was possible. Up until this video, which was being recorded live, I had not experienced it. Well, now you and I know: the X-E4 is prone to overheating if left on too long. I’ll use a different camera for future episodes.

I don’t believe the Fuji X Weekly App 12-month Patron giveaway winner has stepped forward yet. Adnan Omanovic was randomly selected from those who submitted pictures. Adnan, if you read this, leave a comment or send me a message so that I can get you your prize.

Episode 03 is already scheduled! If you click on the video where it says “Watch on YouTube” you can then “set a reminder” so you don’t miss it. Otherwise, mark your calendar for September 9th. I hope to see you then!

SOOC Season 01 Episode 02 is Tomorrow!

Season 01 Episode 02 of SOOC is tomorrow!

SOOC is a collaboration between Tame Your Fujifilm (Fujifilm X Photographer Nathalie Boucry) and Fuji X Weekly (Ritchie Roesch). It is a monthly live video series, and each episode focuses on a different film simulation recipe. It’s a fun and educational experience where we will not only talk about Fujifilm camera settings, but also answer your questions. This is an interactive program, which means that we need your participation!

Episode 02 of this live interactive video series will be Thursday, August 12, at 11 AM MST (10 AM Pacific, 1 PM Eastern)! We’ll discuss the Kodachrome II film simulation recipe, and take a look at the photographs that you’ve submitted. We’ll also be introducing the next recipe, among other things. I hope you’ll join us!

If you haven’t yet submitted a picture that you captured with the Kodachrome II recipe, there’s still time! The “old” link still works, but there’s a new one you can use that’s through Dropbox (click here). I’m really looking forward to seeing your images!

Kodachrome II Recipe + Submit Your Pictures!

In Season 01 Episode 01 of the new live collaborative video series SOOC with Fuji X Weekly and Tame Your Fujifilm, Fujifilm X Photography Nathalie Boucry and I, Ritchie Roesch, discussed the Kodachrome II film simulation recipe. If you missed it, be sure to check it out! I had a fun time, and I hope that you found it helpful, interesting, or entertaining—or all three! I appreciate all those who tuned in and participated.

The Kodachrome II recipe is intended to mimic the aesthetic of the second era of Kodachrome color reversal film. It’s actually closer to Kodachrome-X than Kodachrome-II film, but in the ballpark of both. Kodak produced those versions of Kodachrome from 1961 to 1974, when they replaced them with Kodachrome 25 and Kodachrome 64. Ernst HaasLuigi Ghirri, and William Eggleston are three well-known photographers who used this era of Kodachrome, at least for some of their images.

One of my all-time favorite recipes that I’ve created is Kodachrome II. I made it three years ago, and used it extensively for awhile, and still use it sometimes now. It was created for Fujifilm X-Trans III cameras, although it is fully compatible with the X-T3 and X-T30 (set Color Chrome Effect to Off). Newer X-Trans IV cameras can also use it (set Color Chrome Effect and Color Chrome FX Blue to Off, and Clarity to 0), simply select Grain size Small; however, there are two new Kodachrome II options (aside from this one) for those cameras. There’s also a Kodachrome II recipe for X-Trans II cameras. You have a lot of options! The Kodachrome II recipe discussed in the video is the original one for X-Trans III.

This new video series is interactive. One way to participate in Season 01 Episode 02 of SOOC (on August 12th) is to submit a picture that you’ve captured using the Kodachrome II film simulation recipe (click here). We’ll show some of your pictures live in the next video! By submitting a photo (by the way, this isn’t a contest), you’ll have a chance to win a one-year Patron subscription for the Fuji X Weekly App. I look forward to seeing your images!

Below are some recent pictures that I made using the Kodachrome II film simulation recipe:

Fuji X Weekly Live Tomorrow!

As a reminder, the live interactive collaborative event with Fuji X Weekly and Tame Your Fujifilm is tomorrow! It’s at 11 am Mountain Time, which is 7 pm South African Time. Hopefully, wherever you are, you can calculate when the broadcast is in your time zone, and tune in. I hope you’ll join me, Ritchie Roesch, and Fujifilm X Photography Nathalie Boucry, as we discuss Fujifilm camera settings and the Kodachrome II film simulation recipe, among other things. It’ll be a great time—also educational—so set a timer, and I look forward to hearing from you tomorrow!