I am in the middle of a generational divide. When I was a child, there were no digital cameras. Digital photography only became a somewhat viable replacement for film when I was in my late-teens. All of my photography classes in community college and at Brooks Institute were film-based. I purchased my first digital SLR in 2005 (a Canon 300D) and seldom looked back. Today, though I know film well, I am more comfortable with digital.
In the time period when I was shooting a lot of film, I shot mostly black & white Ilford stock, some Provia, and of course plenty of various color negative films. The one film I never got to shoot, however, was Kodachrome -- and if I ever want to, I have to act fast. Kodak announced on June 22, 2009 that Kodachrome would be retired. Dwayne's Photo in Kansas is the only certified lab left in the world who can process whatever film remains, and December 30, 2010 is the last day that Dwayne's will process Kodachrome. Any unshot rolls left in the collective photographer's freezer after that will transform from potential art to simply worthless rolls of polyester and silver-nitrate.
Recently, I decided I should shoot a roll of Kodachrome before it's too late. It was a bit challenging to find -- no local stores in Zürich have any left. On ebay, it is expensive and of unknown origin/quality. I eventually made my purchase through a Swiss online shop, and it was pricey for a single roll. I ordered it over a month ago, since I intended to finish this project before November 30th. My reason for this deadline was based on the fact that everywhere outside the U.S. Kodachrome is sold with the processing cost included. To receive the processing with the cost of the film, you have to send it to Kodak's office in Lausanne, who then forwards the film to Dwayne's. The deadline for processing through Kodak Lausanne was November 30th. It seems that the company through which I ordered my film had as much trouble tracking down a roll as I did, because they took over a month to send it. Needless to say, I was disappointed, which is why I am not mentioning the company's name. Now my only choice is to send my film directly to Kansas and pay for processing a second time. The roll I recieved is the standard 36 exposure Kodachrome 64 with an expiration date of 11/2010 and the batch number of 1563 -- which wikipedia confirms is the last batch ever.
I own a few different film cameras, and I took a long time to decide which one I wanted to use for my first and last roll of Kodachrome. I have a Canon Rebel 2000, but it seemed too new and plastic-y to shoot such a classic film with. I also have a Leica Z2X, which was a tempting choice, but because the camera doesn't have any manual settings, it also seemed like a shame to shoot the Kodachrome on it. I finally decided on an old camera that I had actually found several years ago in the garbage -- an Olympus 35RD. This camera is perfect. A classic, fixed-lens compact range-finder with a 40mm f1.7 Zuiko lens, it is one of the last cameras made with an automatic setting that can be also operated completely manually even with no battery inside. This last feature is particularly great, because the light meter on mine doesn't work well, so I will be carrying my Sekonic light meter with me when possible (that in combination with an impressive free light meter iPhone app as well as the Sunny 16 rule).
Before I could shoot with this camera, I needed to send it in for repairs. Every 35RD still around has a sticky shutter due to the kind of grease they used when they were built. I took it to Claudio Fabio of camera-service.ch, who did an amazing job. He fixed the shutter, the light-sealing, and replaced a few faulty parts. I shot a test roll with it and it works like new. Here is a shot from that roll:
Shooting starts now.
The camera is loaded and I have already taken four shots around Zürich. I have made a list of the subjects I want to shoot with this precious roll. I want to finish it before December 15th because it has to make it all the way from Zürich to Kansas before the 30th. As soon as the slides are back, there will be a new blog post with my impressions and some shots. I also intend to occasionally post iPhone photos to my Twitter with the subjects of particular exposures. Stay tuned.