Sunday, July 31, 2005

Pixels Prove Profitable for Kodak

With the increasing popularity of digital photography, one wonders what will happen to good, old-fashioned analog (meaning film) photography. Read any newsgroup dedicated to digital capture and you'll invariably find a thread about "digital vs. film" and which is better.

But just as television did not kill off radio, digital certainly will not be the death of film. It will, however, put a huge crimp in sales for companies that are still in the analog film business.

According to the Eastman Kodak Company (Kodak), its digital business is growing and its film business -- not surprisingly -- is shrinking.

For the second quarter of 2005, the "Great Yellow Father," as Kodak is sometimes referred to, reported net worldwide sales of $3.7 billion, up 6% from the same quarter in 2004. Net sales in the United States rose 1% in the quarter, to $1.4 billion.

The company said its net digital sales in the second quarter were $1.8 billion, up from $1.3 billion in the second quarter of 2004, or a 43% increase. Kodak's traditional products (film, paper, chemicals and other analog products) sales fell 15% to $1.8 billion in the quarter, from $2.2 billion a year earlier.

Digital sales were driven by Kodak's consumer digital and home printing businesses. The decline in its traditional photography sales was due to falling film sales and consumers making less and less use of retail photofinishing services.

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that until the digital market levels off (and it will eventually), Kodak will continue to lose money in a business it has been in for more than 100 years. Film sales will decline to a level where many other companies will get out of the business altogether, leaving just two or three manufacturers and a host of smaller distributors to handle just a few color and black and white products.

I doubt that Kodak will entirely abandon film altogether. There is a small but growing backlash against digital capture among "analog purists." While a small group now -- they will continue to grow. They prefer to use traditional films and darkroom techniques. Kodak will probably continue to make a few select B&W emulsions like Tri-X in various formats and chemicals like the venerable D-76, to keep the purists happy.

After all, television did not kill off radio. The Internet did not kill off television. Heck, you can still buy wet plate emulsions.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Truth is Out Dare!?

No, its not Agent Fox Mulder practicing his Brooklynese. Its the headline from an ad selling the newest action figure -- the War Journalist.

That's right. The War Journalist.

Now, alongside G.I. Joe on his search and destroy missions there's his 12" companion from one of the major news agencies.

According to, the Hong Kong-based company that sells the toys:

The Truth is Out Dare

They do not fight for their own benefits...

They do not fight for their countries...

They do not fight for their people...

They do not fight on their homelands...

Yet they risk their lives using sophisticated and rugged yet non-lethal equipment gathering images and information on the truth, on the historic moments and on the brutal reality.

We dedicate this series / action figure to the daring unsung hero at the battlefront and the many more who has lost their lives for the honorable cause.

It is not even their war...

So what do you get for your $60? How about your humble 12" correspondent, Canon digital SLR camera, Sony DV camcorder, laptop, body armor and a host of other goodies. The camera comes equipped with interchangeable lenses that attach with magnets and the laptop features an illuminated keyboard.

Eat your heart out Geraldo Rivera.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Bridge and Tunnel Crowd

According to an exclusive story in the New York Daily News, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has been keeping a secret database of people stopped and questioned for taking photographs of New York City bridges and tunnels. The MTA uses the information to determine if the photographer is just a tourist, or a terrorist on a reconnaisance mission.

In one instance, a man was stopped for filming on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (which connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island). According to the Daily News he was "questioned and released." A few days later authorities in another state stopped a man filming on a bridge in their state and asked the MTA's Interagency Counter Terrorism Task Force if they had any information on the person. Apparently that person was using the same vehicle that the Verrazano Bridge photographer was using.

As if keeping a database on mostly innocent vacationing photographers (a secret one at that) taking pictures of New York City landmarks is not enough, all of the film and video is reviewed. Worse yet, in some cases, the film is confiscated.

Apparently they have some sophisticated test to determine if they person is just a tourist or a terrorist. It's called "cluing in."

"By reviewing the film you can tell if they are tourists or if they are cluing in, and you can see on certain films they are cluing in on beams, they are cluing in on security checkpoints," one source told the Daily News. "Those are the ones that appear to be more than just casual filming."

Maybe. Or maybe the poor tourist from Kansas hasn't gotten the hang of the zoom on his video camera yet.

It leads one to wonder if the MTA pays to have the film developed before reviewing it. Of course, with the prevalance of digital cameras, it makes their jobs that much easier. I wonder if they ever "accidentally" erase any images they find objectionable.