We’ve heard it all before; a technology giant falls and is replaced by a dozen trendy upstarts. Kodak though, they’ve stood strong despite rabid competition, a 2012 bankruptcy, and waving goodbye to £500m worth of patents just to keep the lights on.
The problem is, people are not buying cameras anymore. In 2015, total sales of DSLR and compact cameras were less than one third of total sales in 2010. From 2014 to 2015, sales fell by 17%. In short, that’s terrible. And it’s obvious why. Personal technology is evolving at a dramatic pace, and we the public are absolutely hungry for faster, smaller, more fashionable devices. Whether it looks good on the table next to your latte is more important than its ISO speed. And why spend £600 on a prosumer DSLR when you can carry an exceptionally good camera in your pocket that can also makes calls, send texts, download games, web, etc.
Kodak know this, and despite coming dangerously close to being left on the cutting room floor, they did what many brands should have done a decade ago – evolved. Evolved in a way that many others have too; they looked back to go forward.
The new (old) Kodak logo is new, but it’s old. It’s their old logo with a new twist. A literal twist… vertical text (who does that these days?) A brave move, which seems to just about work and stays faithful to Peter Oestrich’s original work. After all, retro is in right now and it’s all around us; Co-op’s brand revival, Stranger Things, Edison lightbulbs, tweed, and so on. But let’s not kid ourselves, a splash of vintage branding isn’t enough to revive an entire brand.
Kodak know this, also. They’ve attacked the market at both ends – professional and consumer. Their legendary Super 8 camera is back, and more importantly, their brand-new smartphone, the Elektra, hopes to appeal to everyday smartphone users who are serious about their Instagram habit. On paper, the device looks strong, with a f2.0 aperture, complete manual shooting, and expandable memory. The device itself is not bad looking either, and offers welcome respite from the hoards of iPhone-a-likes saturating the market. But in the same way that Carl Zeiss lenses did absolutely nothing for Nokia’s reputation, I’m skeptical on whether people will shift their daily digital life from Apple or Samsung to Kodak, just for a more authentic camera experience.
To quote longtime Kodak aficionado, Kubrick; “You must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.”