Kodak: They just don't do cameras [infographic History] #Rochester #ROC #imaging

Think of Kodak and you immediately think of cameras and film processing, however this is a company that since its creation in 1892 has been at the forefront of business and science, diversifying itself to be at the cutting edge of medical and space technology, and even helping on the Manhattan Project during World War II. Plus, how many non-studio companies also have nine Academy Awards (Oscars) to their name?

Since George Eastman founded the company in the late 19th century as the Eastman Kodak Company, the company has gone through multiple changes, as well as being responsible for some of the photographic industry's most important innovations.

Photographic paper designed to capture X-Rays, transparent film rolls, microfilm systems - all devised by Kodak's staff and all representative of the company's wide-ranging influence.

George Eastman was an inventor when he founded the Eastman Dry Plate company with businessman Henry A. Strong in Rochester and Jamestown, New York. Starting in cameras and responsible for the first 'commercial' cameras suitable for non-expert use, the company developed simple roll film cameras that they dubbed the 'Kodak'.

Kodak Infographic (click the graphic for full size image)

The cameras proved such an enormous success that the word Kodak was incorporated into the company name, with Eastman registering the trademark Kodak on September 4, 1888. With the success of the transparent roll film, Kodak's impact was instantaneous enabling inventor Thomas Edison to develop the first motion picture camera in 1891. By 1896, Kodak had begun marketing film specially made for motion pictures, securing its place in cinema history.

Motion picture innovators

Today, Kodak is a staple in the motion picture industry with 80 of the Academy Awards 'Best Pictures' being shot on Kodak film.

Since working with Edison, Kodak has created industry breakthroughs enabling the company to win nine Oscars by itself for scientific and technical excellence. Innovations include;


1. The first film designed for making then-new "sound" motion pictures in 1929.

2. Creating a tri-acetate safety film base (introduced in 1948) for motion picture film, eliminating a significant safety hazard posed by the flammable nitrate film base it replaced, and also helping to ensure the long-term integrity of the films.

3. Earned another Academy Award for Eastman color negative and color print films (introduced in 1950), which helped popularize color movies for theaters and television.

4. Introduced improved emulsion technology with its Eastman EXR color negative film products in 1989. These gave cinematographers significant creative flexibility, providing more underexposure latitude; truer colors in fluorescent light, and greater sharpness.

The company's Vision2 motion picture films launched in 2002 have also provided the film industry with a series of products designed to work with both film and digital post-production systems, providing less grain, improved detail in shadows, and increased neutrality in tone and color.

These days, with digital film rapidly becoming the primary medium for capture and projection of motion pictures, Kodak is developing high-quality digital products as well as digital restoration techniques. In fact, Kodak's shift in focus to digital imaging has led to the announcement that the company will no longer manufacture Kodachrome, a film product that, while arguably its most famous, cannot be manufactured with the same processes that Kodak uses for other film products.

However, with the company currently receiving 70 percent of its revenue from digital cameras and product, the reasoning is clear and Kodak is not one to rest on their laurels about such things.

At the forefront of science

Kodak's role in science as well as entertainment is also immeasurable, with the company playing a pivotal role in the development of the health imaging industry, a mere year after Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the x-ray in November 1895.

Developed a photographic paper designed to capture x-ray images, Kodak developed the first x-ray image medium. Its expertise in radiography increased over the years with the department swelling in size from 2 in 1914 to 26 by 1929.

It is not surprising to learn then, that by the thing the Manhattan Project was underway, Kodak was devising films to detect radiation exposure for workers developing the atomic bomb, as well as developing new applications for the health industry.

Of course, Kodak's expertise weren't simply devoted to the health system - Kodak's microfilm filing system was developed to make the handling of bank records easier and during WWII, Kodak's microfilm technology helped to create a system for filming letters sent to GIs around the world.

Design to conserve shipping space needed for munitions and other war materials, 'Victory Mail' allowed a single mail to carry the equivalent of 37 mail bags worth of correspondence.

Micrographics in turn helped Kodak to expanded its imaging systems enabling the company to enter the copier market in 1975 with the Kodak Ektaprint 100 copier-duplicator, offering high-speed, high-quality plain-paper copies. Print and copier innovation followed but recently, the company has re-focused on two major primary markets: digital photography and digital printing.

Kodak... in space!

Image Source: Nasa

Of course, with such advances in the science industry it was only right that Kodak would have found a role to play in the US space program. In fact, the relationship has been of such help to NASA that the two groups have been working together now for over 40 year, ever since a Kodak film recorded John Glenn's reactions as he became the first American to orbit the Earth. In fact, when John Glenn return to space more than 35 years later aboard the Space Shuttle, he took a modified Kodak digital camera to document his experiences.

Not only did Kodak orbit the Earth with John Glenn, it landed on the moon with Apollo 11, filming Armstrong and Aldrin as they walked on the moon and were the 'eyes' of the Sojourner Rover when it landed on Mars in 1997.

Now Kodak's lens lens are providing the likes of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory the ability to capture images of deep space phenomena such as black holes and gas clouds helping astronomers answer the deeper, fundamental questions about the universe.

However, at heart Kodak is all about image capture and printing and it continues to do that with aplomb, garnering annual revenues of over $9.4 billion. As Eastman's original slogan says, "You press the button, (they) do the rest."