Another One Bites The Dust – Is This The Last Kodak Moment

Look what I found! Konica Centuria film. The expiry date is 08/2005, two years after Konica would cease to exist. It took some persuading from my side before the store owner would actually sell it (and the remaining rolls) to me as he was concerned that it was too far past it’s expiry date. It is kind of like the news today around Kodak. Wall Street Journal is reporting that Kodak is in preparations to file for bankruptcy if their current efforts to sell off their patents does not help save the company.

In addition to this, Peta Pixel has quoted a report from the Washington Post that Kodak has been warned by the New York Stock Exchange that they will be delisted if their stock does not begin trading above $1,00 per share within the next 6 months. Over the last 30 days the Kodak share price has closed below the $1,00 mark which is very unfortunate for a company that was once a titan on the same exchange.

The Beginnings of Kodak

Kodak was founded by George Eastman who began selling commercial plate film in 1880. In 1881 Eastman formed a partnership with Henry A. Strong and the Eastman Dry Plate Company was born. In 1884 the company became the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company with the change from a partnership to a $200,000 corporation that consisted of 14 share holders. 1888 saw the introduction of the name KODAK and the first Kodak camera. In 1892 the company became the Eastman Kodak Company we know today.

It’s Sad

It is sad to think that this company that once dominated the photographic film (and cinema film) market, which is over 130 years old, could soon be no more. Sadly it would not be the first film company to fall. In fact the age of Kodak at this point is strikingly similar to Konica when it closed shop as a photographic company. The Japanese film manufacturer was founded in 1873 and closed shop in 2003 making it 130 years old. It was also – as far as memory serves me correctly – the oldest photographic company to go under at that time.

The trouble with both companies was a failure to adapt to the rapid onslaught of digital photography – though to Kodak’s credit, they have managed to survive a lot longer than some have thought they would. The sad thing about Kodak’s current state of affairs however, is that they are largely responsible for the technology and birth of the digital camera.

The Survivor

Should Kodak fall in the coming months it would mean that of the four major film brands that I used to shoot with – AGFA, FUJIFILM, KODAK, KONICA – only the green giant that is Fujifilm (a thorn in KODAK’s side for many years, even before digital) will have survived. What sets them apart from their competitors? Certainly a big plus for Fuji has been the much wider, consumer adoption of their digital cameras than their competitors. With the X100 and X10 Fuji have also shown that they can play in a more serious market as well. The question I am pondering though, is who else could we see fail in 2012? Is the market perhaps just to small to sustain this many brands? Or is it a case of the new electronics brands like Panasonic, Sony etc, just being more innovative than the established players? Time will tell.