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Kodak Failing, But Camera Phones Not To Blame 309

An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from The Conversation: "According to the Wall Street Journal, camera manufacturer Kodak is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, following a long struggle to maintain any sort of viable business. The announcement has prompted some commentators to claim that Kodak's near-demise has been brought on by: a failure to innovate, or a failure to anticipate the shift from analogue to digital cameras, or a failure to compete with the rise of cameras in mobile phones. Actually, none of these claims are true. Where Kodak did fail is in not understanding what people take photographs for, and what they do with photos once they have taken them." Continues the reader: "Looking at camera data from Flickr, of images uploaded in 2011, camera phones only make up 3% of the total. Dedicated cameras from Canon, Nikon and yes, Kodak were used to take 97% of the images. What Kodak failed to understand is that people have switched from taking photos for remembering and commemorative reasons to using photos for identity and communication. The shift changes the emphasis away from print to social media platforms and dedicated apps."
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Kodak Failing, But Camera Phones Not To Blame

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:13AM (#38634880)

    Dedicated cameras from Canon, Nikon and yes, Kodak were used to take 97% of the images

    Kodak makes its money (or used to) from film, not the camera hardware itself. All those 'dedicated cameras' are busy taking shots without a single bit of negative being exposed.

  • Re:Changing business (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:35AM (#38634988) Journal
    They are filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. That isn't going to shutdown the company. They are going to restructure it, hopefully in a way that will continue to let the company survive in the future, including doing things like downsizing.
  • When the Kodak Brownie was introduced, yes, you could say that was their business model. It was successful for a great many decades too and Kodak made a pile of money off of that effort. They consumed so much silver for the production of their film that they even owned silver mines with much of the silver processed there was simply going to their own factories rather than being used for bullion or coins.

    That said, Kodak also was instrumental in developing the digital camera, invented the *.psd image format (still by far the best quality image format you can get in terms of the dynamic range of colors you can record for any computer imaging data format) and put in the engineering effort to try and change with the times.

    The sad thing is that this isn't the only photo equipment company which has suffered in terms of being relevant or even totally collapsed. The Polaroid Corporation was once a rather large company too, and now is only a marketing brand for Chinese knock-off cameras where the company itself doesn't even exist at all any more. If you look at Fujifilm, once a major competitor to Kodak, they are also struggling under the same kinds of problems and fighting for relevancy.

    All told, it really is a shift of technology on to of a shift in business models that are required to be successful. Then again Xerox had a similar kind of problem trying to stay relevant over the years, where it could have owned the PC market with the devices built at their PARC research group but instead let Apple Computer (in the form of Steve Jobs) essentially copy all of their ideas and build the Macintosh.

  • by c0lo ( 1497653 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:52AM (#38635054)
    Agfa [wikipedia.org] - doing fine in B2B - they managed to jettison their consumer film division quite a while ago.

    However, in 2004, the consumer imaging division was sold to a company founded via management buyout. AgfaPhoto GmbH, as the new company was called, filed for bankruptcy after just one year

    FujiFilm [wikipedia.org] - switched to digital faster than Kodak (FinePix consumer cameras), diversified in other areas [japantimes.co.jp] and is still getting 3% of their sale from film (most probable medical imaging).

  • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:53AM (#38635066) Journal

    That said, Kodak also was instrumental in developing the digital camera, invented the *.psd image format (still by far the best quality image format you can get in terms of the dynamic range of colors you can record for any computer imaging data format) and put in the engineering effort to try and change with the times.


  • Re:Software (Score:4, Informative)

    by Pentium100 ( 1240090 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @01:59AM (#38635100)

    Probably because they thought proprietary was better. Another example would be Sony Hi-MD recorders. The one I have (MZ-RH1) can be used as a mass storage device (if the disc is in Hi-MD format) and can play mp3 files and yet, if I want to transfer a mp3 file to it, I have to use Sonic Stage. Why?

    AFAIK (I do not have it), the Apple iPod is the same, as you have to use iTunes to copy music to it, even though it can be used as a mass storage device for other files.

    Oh, and for both devices, there is no Linux version of that software, or even a portable one (so I could just plug it in a PC, start the software and transfer the music without installing any software). If this is done for copyright protection, then it does not work, as I can still copy the files, I just then have to go home to copy them to my PC then back on the disc so I can play them on the MD recorder.

  • Re:wrong comps (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @02:17AM (#38635164) Homepage

    As far as I understand, film still has its use - in very low temperatures (say, -30C), CCDs do not work as well as film. I am sure that there are special cameras with heated CCDs, but they would cost a lot, where film can be used with a (relatively) cheap camera.

    Actually, that's backwards. At low temperatures, photographic film becomes brittle and must be heated. [kodak.com] On the other hand, CCDs have less noise at lower temperatures. [dpreview.com] Astronomers use cooled CCDs extensively. IR cameras often have cooled CCDs; if you want to image heat, you want as little extraneous heat as possible at the imager.

  • Re:bad data source (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @02:32AM (#38635238)

    True - far fewer use Flickr than Facebook. Having said that, I use Flickr for photos (despite being an avid Facebook user too), and so do most of my friends (in fact, they introduced me to Flickr originally). For me at least, it offers a number of advantages over FB:

    - It's built for photos from the ground up, rather than being a social networking site that also happens to let you upload photos. So it has a lot of useful image-specific tools that Facebook doesn't. It also has some nice geotagging features, allows you to preserve/edit/view EXIF information, proper creative-commons-based image rights controls etc.

    - Much simpler privacy controls. Basically, for each photo, it's either public (viewable at http://www.flickr.com/username [flickr.com] by anyone - no Flickr account needed), or viewable only by Flickr friends. When sharing photos with friends and family (who may or may not have a Facebook account), it's simpler to say "go to this URL to see my photos", than it is to get them to sign up to Facebook, become my friend etc. (I know that can probably set up FB such that certain photos are visible to non-members while still hiding all the rest of my posts and information ... I haven't looked into it ... but FB's privacy controls are more complex and overkill for the task at hand. Flickr seems a simpler and more elegant solution.)

    - It's not Facebook. While I'm not saying that I 'trust' Yahoo more than I do Facebook (or any other large corporation for that matter), it can't hurt not to have all my stuff in one place, right? If Facebook suddenly suffers a major security flaw, or decides to sell everyone's data or some other evil thing, at least they won't have my photos :) (Similarly, if Flickr goes bad, they have my photos, but not any other personal info that FB has).

    - It was (and frankly, still is) a nicer site to use and navigate than FB. And it used to be kinda cool before Yahoo took it over... :(

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2012 @02:41AM (#38635276)

    That said, Kodak also was instrumental in developing the digital camera, invented the *.psd image format (still by far the best quality image format you can get in terms of the dynamic range of colors you can record for any computer imaging data format) and put in the engineering effort to try and change with the times.

    That was the PCD format. PSD is an Adobe/Photoshop format which is basically started out as a proprietary TIFF container to accommodate various things which make it more friendly to modern uses, but mostly as a vendor-lock-in device.

    Photo CD used a color space based on phosphors which were used in computer monitor and televisions, which is important because analog monitors can be driven in a way that they don't clip like an LCD monitor will, causing an abrupt line of brightness, (posterization) instead these areas on the monitor genuinely are whiter/brighter than normal. This makes PhotoCD images appear blown out in the highlights when viewed on modern hardware.

    So, it's not really that it's better in this regard, but simply different. This feature is woefully un-useful for print, for example. Also, for what it's worth, there are color spaces which completely blow Photo CD's color space out of the water in terms of total gamut, if not overall dynamic range, because unlike Photo CD these formats are hard limited at 100% brightness. Example: ProPhoto RGB which, incidentally, was also developed by Kodak and can record many colors which the human eye cannot see!

    Unfortunately it's mostly academic for now because few displays are capable of accurately rendering a great deal of the tonality those color spaces represent, because 1) DVI is limited to 8 bits per component, and 2) at a certain point you basically need more physical color components, like yellow and violet 'subpixels'. Example: the expensive LaCie monitors some professional designers and photographers like to use can render 100%+ of the NTSC color space, and 98% of Adobe RGB 1998, but still, the human eye can see a lot that these color spaces can't produce.

  • by walshy007 ( 906710 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @06:23AM (#38635950)

    I would like to know how Flickr would even know who was using what camera

    Digital cameras often embed exif data about the camera into the files.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday January 09, 2012 @07:31AM (#38636178) Homepage

    " If you look at Fujifilm, once a major competitor to Kodak, they are also struggling under the same kinds of problems and fighting for relevancy."

    not really, Fujifilm is doing fine. Their DSLR bodies are 5-10x better than any Canon or Nikon and are heralded as the best of the industry that the big pros use.
        Fuji is the only company with 3D digital cameras that are built good and take fantastic photos. They are owning the 3d digital photography market and own the process for printing 3d prints that can be viewed without glasses.

    They also are the king of lenses for ENG video. Fuji Lenses are the top of the line in video lenses out there.

    They might not be a well known consumer brand, but they still are a top renown professional brand.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2012 @07:35AM (#38636190)

    SENSOR for goodness sake!!! SENSOR, not CENSOR!
    There is no realtime censorship performed by Kodak cameras!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2012 @08:42AM (#38636378)

    Are you serious? Fuji doesn't currently make any DSLR cameras, and the ones they did make in the past were basically rebadged Nikon bodies.

    They do have a couple interesting albeit expensive niche cameras like the X100 and X10, althouth the latter is plagued by sensor issues (google "X10 orbs" or "X10 specular highlights"), and the former while a very nice camera has serious limitations (fixed focal lenght non interchangeable lens, poor performance wide open, etc)

    Then they have a slew of mostly forgettable P&S, that aren't sufficiently distinguishable from any other manufacturer's P&S to matter much, since the P&S market is pretty much owned by Sony, Canon and Panasonic.

    If anything, Fuji is aiming at the niche market of street or candid photographers, especially the ones that don't have the moolah to buy Leica. And even those are mostly going for Sony Nex or m4/3 bodies with adapters, which enables one to use old rangefinder lenses, as there is a cache of very good manual focus old glass from Leica, CV, Nikon, Canon, etc.

    Pretty much anyone doing professional work is using either Canon and Nikon (sports, photo journalism, etc), or Pentax medium format (645d) or very expensive digital backs on Hasselblads or technical/view cameras and the like, for studio work. Even Sony (which manufactures all sensors for Nikon) churned out a couple of full frame cameras (A850, A900) a few years ago, but couldn't make inroads into the Canikon market and pretty much gave up, opting instead to focus on translucent mirror or mirrorless cameras.

    Also, I'm pretty pissed at Fuji for discontinuing Neopan b&w films, which have been my favourites for the last decade or so. Recently (after my stock of both films ended) I started shooting Kodak Tri-X instead of Neopan 400, and Kodak Plus-X instead of Neopan Acros 100. Just my luck, Plus-X has been discontinued, and Tri-X will probably go the way of the dodo as well, now that Kodak is in the crapper. Time to stock up while I can, I guess. I just bought a new horizontal freezer for the basement, to store film, and ordered 800 rolls of Tri-X (the whole stock my usual "dealer" had) and scavenged over 500 rolls of Plus-X from various sources. When it's gone, I'll probably go for Foma 100 and Ilford HP5.

    It's really sad to see first Agfa go tits up (oh, how I would kill for a couple 100ft rolls of APX25, Efke is nowhere near the same), then Fuji discontinue pretty much all b&w films, and now Kodak. Really tough times for us, analog photographers.

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