Saturday, February 11, 2012

The End of an Era: Kodak to Stop Making Cameras

Say it isn't so! Will there never be another "Kodak Moment?"

Eastman Kodak Co, the inventor of the digital camera, plans to get out of the camera business in the first half of this year as the bankrupt company looks to cut costs.

Kodak will stop selling digital cameras along with pocket video cameras and digital picture frames. It also will stop making film. However, that won't make much of a difference as the sale of film has become almost non-existent in recent years. The cost of keeping the film factories open probably exceeds the revenue produced by dwindling sales.

Want to buy some microfilm so that your society can create microfilms of old records? Sorry, Kodak won't be selling any. In fact, almost all of Kodak's competitors have also stopped making microfilm. Kodak pioneered microfilm to image checks in the 1920s and continued to develop the technology for decades. Although once a leader in the field of microimaging, Kodak suffered financially as sales of microfilm and associated hardware slowed to a trickle, only to be replaced by cheaper digital technologies. Now all manufacture of microfilm has ceased.

Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection last month and management has now announced a reorganization in order to save the company. The latest announcement states that getting out of cameras will result in "significant" job losses. Most of the 400 people in that business are based in Rochester, New York, and work in research and development and marketing.

Kodak once employed more than 60,000 people. That number now is believed to be about 18,000 and undoubtedly will drop further as the bankruptcy reorganization plans are put into place.

Instead of designing its own cameras, Kodak will now try to license its brand to other camera makers. You might see the Kodak name in the future but the digital cameras will not be designed, manufactured, or sold by Eastman Kodak.

The company plans to focus on manufacturing its profitable digital printers.

Kodak cameras once included the Brownie which cost $1 when it was introduced in 1900. The Brownie was updated every few years and remained popular for more than 60 years. I still have the Brownie I had as a child, although film has not been available for several years. In 1963, Kodak introduced the Instamatic, another very popular product.

A Kodak camera was used on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. NASA said that a Kodak camera was used by the astronauts to film lunar soil from only inches away.

Kodak film has been used on 80 movies that have won Best Picture Oscars, according to the company.

Kodak now depends on digital technology for three-quarters of its revenue.

Of course, the demise of photography and microfilm at Kodak isn't new. The same thing happened at Polaroid a few years ago. Almost all other film and microfilm companies have abandoned their older film products and have either gone bankrupt or have switched to digital products.

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