Kodachrome II was introduced in 1961. It was the first film stock since 1936 that was specifically meant for amateur use. Eastman Kodak presented the material as superior to the ‘regular Kodachrome’. It supposedly had a higher speed of 25 ASA for daylight and 40 ASA for photoflood illumination, was sharper and had an improved image quality.
The new amateur film stock was intensely discussed in the trade press. The American Cinematographer, for instance, published an article by Ernest Wildi, who elaborated extensively on Kodachrome II, comparing it to what had been on the market so far. He explained that certain events could now be filmed, which could not be captured with Kodachrome I, such as “… stage and ice shows, circuses, indoor sports events, night street scenes, fireworks displays, etc.” (Wildi 1961: 294).
Further, Wildi explained, Kodachrome II also permitted to film indoors, with only the light of a table lamp or an overhead lighting fixture and extra illumination. Wildi also stated that in Kodachrome II the colors were of better quality, especially bright and pastel colors (Wildi 1961: 294).
Kodak announced the new material to be “…sharper than regular Kodachrome. The emulsion is thinner and scatters the light less” (Wildi 1961: 295). In addition, he explained that the new Kodachrome was less contrasty. “You get softer gradation without sacrifice of color saturation. Shadow areas are softer and more ‘open,’ and dark areas don’t go dark so fast with underexposure” (Wildi 1961:).
With regard to this broader latitude of the new Kodachrome the following anecdote is quite interesting. In 1962 Mr. Holmes from Eastman Kodak wrote a letter to Mr. Evans from the Color Technology department at Kodak Park, in which he explained that, despite an overall positive press on Kodachrome II, there had been some attacks from “salonists and other camera club detractors” saying that Kodachrome lacked the “Rembrandt blacks” of regular Kodachrome. “In other words,” Holmes wrote ,“Kodachrome II has been criticized for not having some of the glaring faults of Kodachrome Film” (Holmes, August 1962). Here we see a remarkable difference in opinion between a technological perspective and an art critical one. As studies have shown in some cases the flawed and the imperfect is given aesthetic value, whereas the technologically perfect is considered slick and uninteresting. The remarks on these so-called “Rembrandt blacks” fit that type of discourse. On the other hand, the complaints also confirm the increased latitude of the new material.
Holmes, S.W. (1962): Letter from Mr. S.W. Holmes to Mr. James E. Baxter, Editorial Service Bureau, Kodak Office, July 23, 1962. D.319 Kodak Historical Collection #003, Rush Rees Library, University of Rochester.
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Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources
Wildi, Ernest (1961): The New Kodachrome Type 2 Film. In: American Cinematographer, 42,5, pp. 294–295, 312–313.
Cleveland, David; Pritchard, Brian (2015): In: How Films were Made and Shown. Some Aspects of the Technical Side of Motion Picture Film 1895–2015, Manningtree, Essex: David Cleveland, on pp. 291–292and on pp. 381–382.
Koshofer, Gert (1965): Jubiläum für einen Farbfilm. 30 Jahre Kodachrome. In: FM, 9, pp. 40–42, on p. 42. (in German)