Is Kodak Dead?

Dead company walking

Kodak moved quickly to swat down rumors of bankruptcy last week, though they didn’t provide a particularly good explanation for why a company in obvious financial distress retained Jones Day, a law firm specializing in corporate bankruptcy.

Kodak was founded in 1888 and quickly captured the photography market with a combination of mass production, extensive R&D, and a reputation for quality. Their motto “You push the button, we do the rest” brought photography out of the realm of scientists and chemists and put cameras in the hands of anyone who could afford the processing.

The 131 year old company has been struggling for some time and it really comes as little surprise to those of us in the photography business. Kodak stopped making their flagship Kodachrome 64 in 2009, after previously phasing out other speeds in previous years. On December 30, 2010, Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, developed the final roll of Kodachrome, bringing to a close the product that dominated the photography market since 1935.

Although not unexpected, Kodak’s passing will mark the end of an era for many in photography. The days when seeing the big yellow and red sign in a foreign country meant you count on finding film in date, fresh batteries and other photography supplies you could count on, even far from home.

Kodak was killed off by a variety of factors, not just digital photography. In 1948, just a few days before Thanksgiving, Edwin Land offered consumers a the first instant cameras. Why wait for processing when you could get pictures on the spot?

In the 1980’s Japan’s Fuji started selling rolls of film way below what Kodak was use to charging. Fuji’s willingness to cut prices was popular with growing discount retailers like Walmart.

Then there was Kodak’s bizarre purchase of Sterling Drug in 1988. Instead of investing in R&D, Kodak was investing in M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) in fields they didn’t understand.

The digital photography trend finished off what Fuji started. Kodak was never able to rationalize the transition to lower margin digital cameras when so much of their profit came from their film business.

I remember Kodak sponsoring seminars in Hollywood to promote movie production on film in the mid-2000’s, right up until RED fielded their first RED One in 2007. While other companies were working hard to put big sensors behind quality glass, Kodak was still promoting film.

That seems bizarre considering Kodak had big sensor technology before many other companies in digital photography. We may never know why we didn’t see the Kodak One instead of the RED One or the Kodak big chip DSLR instead of the Canon 5D.

What do you think, is Kodak dead or can they reinvent themselves?

Picking a Beginner Camera

Nikon D7000
Nikon D7000 - by Nikon

The question I get most often is, “What kind of camera should I buy?” That’s a big question and a lot depends on your budget and what kind of photography you’ll be pursuing and at what level.  The word beginner comes in many contexts: are you a beginner to shooting for money or using a camera period. Different options apply.

Professional and Semi-Professional

You’re planning on making money with your camera or plan to do a lot of shooting as a semi-pro or amateur. You have $1,800 to $2,500 in your budget.

Cameras: Nikon D300s , Nikon D7000Nikon D700, Canon 5D MKII, and Canon 7D.

If you’re shooting stills, go with Nikon. If you think you’ll be doing a lot of video go with Canon. Nikons have video recording capability, but most of the video accessories are made for Canons.

Advanced Hobbyist

You are really serious about taking pictures, but you have a day job in another field. Photography is a serious hobby. There’s an outside chance you’ll be taking a paying job, or filling in for friends who can’t afford a professional photographer. You have a budget from $800 to $1,500.

Cameras: Canon 60D, Canon T3i, Nikon D3100, Nikon D5100

It’s pretty much just which ever camera you like in this range.

You Just Want To Take Good Pictures

You want to take great pictures, but mainly of your family and friends. You want something better than a pocket camera and you might want to experiment with manual controls once in a while.

Your budget is $400 to $800.

Cameras: Sony NEX-5N, Canon S100, Nikon P7000, Samsung NX100

Remember you can always use Snapsort to get the latest and best camera recommendations, including beginner DSLRs, semi pro DSLRs and small high quality cameras.  Our system will produce slightly different results from our editorial coverage as it allows you to define your exact personal criteria.

Fujifilm’s X10 Boasts Impressive Features

Fujifilm X10
The Fujifilm X10 boasts impressive features at a humble price

Earlier this month Fujifilm launched the X10, another in its line of inexpensive but feature-packed retro-styled cameras.

The X10 starts with a respectable 12-megapixel, ⅔-inch EXR CMOS sensor behind a Fujinon 4x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization, sporting a 28mm-112mm equivalent zoom range.  The lens turns in a respectable f/2 at the wide end and f/2.8 at the zoom.

Even though it’s smaller than the X100, the shell is die-cast magnesium alloy for durability and a bit of heft.  The barrel on the lens controls the zoom, but it’s also the camera’s power switch.  A very clever design feature.

The X10 has a side-mounted optical viewfinder with a 20 degree angle of view that takes me back to my Rangefinder days and a host of external menu controls that are easy to work and intuitive.  The internal software is supplemented by a wide range of manual options and colour presets.

The EXR-CMOS, in conjunction with Fujifilm’s EXR imaging technology, gives the camera three specialty exposure modes:  The SN mode for high sensitivity and low noise, the DR mode for wide dynamic range and the HR mode for high resolution shots.  It also includes an electronic horizon level to insure the camera is level.

Fujifilm X10
Top view of the Fujifilm X10 showing some of the many manual adjustments - photos via Fujifilm

The improved EXR processor is fast enough to give the X10 a continuous burst rate of 7 fps at the full 12-megapixel resolution and the ISO range is listed in the specs as 100 to 3200 but has a feature to push the ISO to 12800 at a reduced quality setting.

For video the X10 records 1080 HD at 30fps with stereo sound and uses the H.264 codec.

Importantly for people who like to work with their photos in post, it supports storage in jpeg or RAW format.  All in all pretty impressive specs for a camera.

Check out some comparisons of the Fujifilm X10 vs some of its competitors:

Fujifilm HS20EXR Super Zoom

The Fujifilm FinPix HS20EXR has been out for a few months now but still is a powerhouse of a camera. Replacing the HS10, which was a successful model for the company, the HS20 features an 16-megapixel EXR CMOS sensor that’s a significant step up from the HS10’s 10-megapixel sensor.

Fujifilm HS20
Fujifilm's HS20EXR - Perfect for your kid's soccer games

Fujifilm built the HS20 around a 30x zoom Super EBC Fujinon lens, which yields an effective focal length of 24mm to 720mm, offering an affordable alternative for consumers who want big glass features without the big glass price tag.

To keep the extreme end of the zoom stable, the HS20 includes three image stabilization features: One that actually shifts the sensor to eradicate shake, backed up by Pixel Fusion technology to increase sensitivity and boost shutter speed. Finally there’s EXR Auto, which takes four pictures in rapid succession and combines them into a single, blur-free image.

The BSI-CMOS sensor in the camera delivers good quality low-light results and the camera software includes features to push the dynamic range in tricky lighting situations and can deliver 11 frames per second at 8-megapixel resolution in burst mode.

For video the HS20 can shoot 1080 HD with stereo sound, but limited to 30fps.  The camera also has a high speed movie mode that shoots at 320 fps.

On the downside, some testers have reported some minor focusing issues and dinged it for using 4 AA batteries instead of a rechargeable lithium-ion option.

With a price tag in the $400 range, those are workable annoyances.  With the zoom and fast action capability, this would be the go-to consumer camera for people wanting to take pictures at their kid’s sporting events.

Create slow motion movies of high speed action

A growing number of cameras now record high speed video, allowing you to capture fast action and slow it down, for example hummingbirds flying, matches being lit, etc. By recording the video at a high frame rate, say 240fps, it can then be slowed down to the standard 30fps and look smooth and natural!

Check out all the cameras that record high speed video at Snapsort.

Casio Pro EX-F1

The Casio Pro EX-F1 is a popular camera for high speed videos up to an incredible 1,200 FPS. The EX-F1 also features 40fps continuous still image shooting, 12x zoom, a large 1/1.7″ sensor, and full 1080p video. More recent cameras from Casio that shoot high speed video include the EX-FH25 super-zoom shooting up to 1,000 fps and the compact EX-FC150 also up to 1,000 fps.

Hummingbirds in slow motion at 300fps shot using the Casio EX-F1

Skateboarders in slo-mo at 300fps, 600fps and 1,200 fps shot using the Casio EX-F1

Casio Pro EX-F1

The Fujifilm HS10 is another popular camera for high speed videos up to 1,000 FPS. The HS-10 has some incredible features including an industry leading 30x zoom, and doesn’t sacrifice wide-angle either with its 24mm wide-angle lens, also industry leading. The HS10 shoots RAW, captures full 1080p videos, and has a wide f/2.8 aperture at 24mm.

Lighting a match shot at 480fps using the Fujifilm HS-10

Birds hopping about shot at 240fps using the Fujifilm HS-10