The Kodak Moment

The history and evolution of the camera, from antique to vintage into classic styles, and then modern devices, would not have been possible without a particular company and it’s products. The Kodak company, founded by George Eastman in 1888, broke into the market with the creation of the photographic film roll, and the production and sale of their original camera ‘the Kodak,’ the first camera widely available to consumers.

The Birth of Film

Their original film roll was made from a paper base with an image-bearing coating; then, in 1889, a transparent plastic film was added. Known as “celluloid” film, it was made from the highly flammable substance, nitrocellulose. This is now commonly referred to as “Nitrate” film and credited as the first roll film used for movies with sound. Almost ten years later, in 1908, an alternative was released by Kodak. Marketed as “safety film,” cellulose acetate had some significant benefits, including durability, greater transparency, and being more economical. Safety film was mostly used in home movies until it replaced nitrate 35mm film for theatrical purposes in 1951.

Kodak cleverly tailored their historic products to the general public, mass-producing inexpensive photographic film roll and box cameras and selling them at prices well below the market standard. This business strategy allowed them to maintain a considerable percentage of market sales well into the 70s, holding approximately 85% of camera sales and 90% of film sales in 1976, despite a long-standing rivalry with Fujifilm.

Slowly Shifting to Digital

The first handheld digital camera was developed in 1975 by Kodak; however, the product was abandoned, with the feeling that it would reduce sales for the companies main commodity, the film camera. Many companies released their own brand of the digital camera, and Kodak struggled to adjust to the digital world of photography until the early 2000s.