Kodak’s application for bankruptcy protection and one of their less successful products
News that Eastman Kodak have filed for bankruptcy protection has spent the world in a spin, it seems. A ‘much-loved’ long-running brand is in danger of disappearing. The thought of that tugs at our heart-strings. No-one wants to risk losing it.
I share that love of nostalgia. The logo is enough to stir that up. But when I look back on my Kodak memories nostalgia isn’t enough. Either I’ve turned into a heartless bastard or I’m more of a realist than I previously gave myself credit for.
Take the Kodak Disk Camera. Exciting. Futuristic. Glamorous, even. That’s how I recall them when a large shipment of them arrived in my Dad’s photographic shop. The Kodak Disk camera was .. the future, it seemed to me. I was only ten or eleven years old at the time. I think that’s forgivable.
If you didn’t own one (or were considering it before you finally saw sense), the Kodak Disk camera was – in a sense – quite a leap forward when it came out about 30 years ago. Instead of a long strip of film (Kodak’s previous formats 126 and 110) the Kodak Disk took a flat, round film with 15 pre-cut frames. Press the shutter button and the camera would fire up the flash (if necessary) and take a shot. I think I’m right in saying there was an auto-focus version if you paid extra for one of the ‘premium’ models.
It looked sexy, it has to be said. It was a modest size. Slim. A camera for a person who just wanted to ‘point and shoot’. Reasonably well-priced too. It wasn’t going to break the bank if you really wanted to buy one.
But that was the major problem with it. It didn’t offer anything radically different in comparison to a developing compact camera market. The classic Olympus Trip 35 had already done well appealing to those in need of a point and shoot and the quality of the pictures (because they were printed from the bigger 35mm size file) was a good deal better. Not only that, Konica had designed, developed and distributed a newer 35mm compact camera – the Konica Pop. Fixed-focus, built-in flash in a range of different colours. These were cameras which sold consistently faster in my Dad’s shop, as I recall. A surefire bet.
In comparison, the Kodak Disk camera languished unloved and unsold. The image quality was no better than a considerably cheaper standard fixed-focus 110 camera. And even though the frame size was the same, it was the fact that the film was a disk and not a long strip which demanded that those businesses which offered film developing services (which most did at that time) were forced to outlay money on technology to accommodate this rather odd – perhaps even gimmicky? – film. If there was no one developing it, no one would want to buy the camera.
For me, I see the roots of Kodak’s potential demise in the case of the Disk Camera. A strong idea (at the time) in terms of design and marketing, but a product which didn’t offer anything which made it appealing to the retail market. More importantly, in comparison to competitors, Kodak seemed then just a few steps behind what everyone else was doing. Less technological failure, more backing the wrong horse.
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