Once Upon a time in a galaxy far far away……… I previously wrote about Kodak and it’s seemingly soap opera bankruptcy. For me Kodak is a company that has such a position in the pioneering days of photography and revolutionized the medium, that its final breath is becoming farcical to the point of despair.
Kodak was the film of choice for a lot of consumers as well as professionals, the emergence of digital really did kick Kodak about a bit. Their step into the digital market was more on the consumer end without seeming to capture anything from the professional digital market. There are many questions that I would like to ask Kodak about their strategy with the digital market at the time.
One of its big statements at the moment is that Kodak film isn’t dead. That it is still being produced and it is still for sale. The undertones of this though are confusing. The Kodak film business is up for sale and they are continuing to discontinue lines of stock.
The announcement at the end of August that Kodak’s film division was up for sale was a surprise to me as I have written previously. Kodak says they are just selling the business not shutting it down. With the news that they are in contact with private equity groups for the purchase of Kodak film, I am once again unsure about their statements.
It seems to me that Kodak film will be shut down. Through experience private equity firms need to make money out of what they buy, if not then the company will be stripped down and sold. Kodak says they want to sell to a buyer that is dedicated in continuing film. Although they can’t guarantee that the highest bidder will have this mind set. If push comes to shove will they sell the business to a lower bid? I am sceptical.
I am especially sceptical after the announcement that T-max 3200 ISO black and white Film was discontinued on the 4th of October 2012. This leaves their message that the business won’t be shut down tainted and does not reassure its consumers. Should we look for alternatives or should we not.
In the case of T-Max 3200, Kodak suggests using its other Film T-max 400 as it can be underexposed by two stops without being pushed. They also say that the tonal quality between the two films is similar with the only difference being the amount of grain which is a positive. Normally the amount of grain increases as you go higher the ISO scale. For me as a black and white photographer I quite like having this grain, it can be an aesthetic choice. Also if you are underexposing 400 ISO film by two stops that only takes you too 1600 ISO one stop still below 3200. The flip side of this decision is that for somebody who has not got experience with developing their own films and understand the processing needed they are going to be stumped to get their film processed at all. Can you imagine going to your local photo lab in your town and ask them to develop your film with it two stops under exposed. Would the staff at the shop understand what you are saying? In my experience they may not since it is a machine which is nearly automated that develops the film.
My scepticism is heightened by Kodak winding down one of its profitable markets, the inkjet market. Kodak has in all the turbulence of its film products managed to keep its inkjet products in profit. The wind down will mean that its inkjet division will continue to produce ink for its installed base and will reduce sales of its ink jet printers. The purpose of this is to make cash flow easier in the early months of 2013. It does remain uncertain to how long this installed base will last and how long therefore Kodak will need to service it.
According to Kodak’s CEO Antonio M Perez, the future of the company will be focusing on; commercial, packaging and functional printing solutions and enterprise services.
With company going in front of the bankruptcy court to ask for an extension of protection until February 2013 the company has been continuing its restructuring. After this reorganisation Kodak will have lost 23% of its workforce at a saving of $340m .
Kodak is going where?
For me the central company that is Kodak now will only be Kodak in name. Its business practises will be slightly detached from what the name Kodak is in the history of photography. Its Film business will carry the name Kodak but will not be the same. I fear that cost cutting will degrade the quality of the product and more discontinuation of products will continue if it is taken over by a private equity company which, I feel it will. The only hope would be it a group like the impossible project, that has revived Polaroid cameras though its replacement films, can raise enough cash to buy the business and manage it well. For this a group with a lot of money will be needed to back it.
I am sure that there will be more to come in the coming months. The Saga continues……