What to do with Kodak?

Kodak cameras and Polaroids were the coolest camera of their day. The Polaroid mesmerized people by allowing them to take a photo and see the print in less than 30 seconds.

That innovation and many more like these changed the world for the better:

  • First digital camera invented by Kodak engineer Steven Sasson, 1976
  • Introduction of the first OLED displays, 1987
  • 1.4 mega-pixel M1 sensors marketing to journalists, government, 1990
  • Kodak CCD sensors used on Space Shuttle, 2008
  • First Kodak Brownie camera released, 1900
  • Kodak Kodacolor first color print film introduced, 1942

Kodak absolutely dominated the film and chemical fields related to developing and printing images. In 1976, Kodak controlled the market with 90 percent of U.S. photographic film sales and 85 percent of cameras. My how times have changed.

First Fuji Film appeared and created equally impressive films to take away market share for those loving prints, slides and darkroom work.

Then the digital camera revolution altered history, and although Kodak was among the pioneers of digital innovation, Kodak fell behind. Film camera sales hit rock bottom, never to recover. Photographic chemical sales also declined dramatically, taking Kodak down with it.

Last week, the photographic pioneer filed for bankruptcy after leading the imaging industry for more than a century. Should Kodak die off, be sliced up and sold, or simply wander into a dusty sunset, it will be a sad moment for photographers who have depended on this imaging icon.

The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 20 published a story revealing the severity of the bankruptcy, financial decline. Some doubt Kodak can bounce back as the company has not yet established itself near the front of the digital camera pack.

So what is to be done for this icon? Try these options on for size. None have been thoroughly researched, and all are competitive fields. But you make opportunities  where you see hope:

  • The WSJ story suggested Kodak may dive into the wildly-unprofitable printer business, which I would not recommend unless Kodak engineers have a new printing method to once-again revolutionize the imaging industry. While ink sales are tremendous money makers for HP, Epson and the like, the creation of printers at prices under $100 is generally regarded as a lost leader among the retail crowd. This option gets a vote of no confidence in terms of inspiring hope into the Kodak machine.
  • How about a partnership with a huge mobile company like Virgin or Apple to provide higher-quality cameras, imaging sensors than currently in use? Apple and Kodak are both clear innovators and arrived on scene after much innovation and hard work. I see hope here in the mobile field or with tablets.
  • Walk into a retail store today to purchase surge protection for your hardware, and you are likely to walk out with an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS). Trouble is, salespeople are obvious to the fact a UPS rarely is built with more than 1,000 joules of energy dissipation capability. Thus, it’s a pathetic surge protector in name only. A true surge protector sold by Panamax or APC handles what fries computers most often and painfully quick — overwhelming power surges through he electrical lines in every house, office. Kodak has the engineers to create quality surge protectors and line conditioners for upscale sales, and their management team can innovate by adding small security cameras into these everyday necessities.

What are your thoughts on Kodak? Great company in my youth. I used Kodak black-and-white film for 14 years before moving to digital technology for good. Those were some golden years.

May Kodak find its way back to home to the hearts of American photographers.