A Bit About Kodachrome and Digitizing Old Slides

If you a have a box of old slides in your analog photo collection, chances are that many of them are Kodachrome slides. Introduced by Kodak in 1935, the brand quickly became popular with professional and amateur photographers as well as filmmakers, in the years following World War II. The 35mm film was also the standard choice for slides at the time and so many people have years of memories from past vacations, weddings, family reunions and more stored on Kodachrome slides.

What Made Kodachrome Slides So Popular?

Kodachrome took off almost as soon as it came on the market. Before it was introduced, the colors captured in other film formats were unrealistic, faded, or oversaturated. Plus, color film was extremely expensive, placing it out of reach of most amateur photographers and making it less attractive to filmmakers.

Kodachrome’s popularity was largely due to the brilliant natural colors it was capable of capturing. A daytime photo shot with Kodachrome could capture all the colors and nuances available in the scene. Many professional photographers always preferred Kodachrome for shots of outdoor scenes because they knew the results would be spectacular. This results of this loyalty can be seen in over fifty years of photography for National Geographic magazine.

Another reason that Kodachrome dominated for decades was that the film was highly stable. In comparison, most color films of the mid 20th century were not as stable – their material would start to degrade quickly, causing quality colors to fade and image clarity to drop.

Kodachrome was different. If stored in a dark, cool space, it didn’t degrade nearly as fast as other film materials. Photos archived properly for decades still retain much of their color and sharpness. This stability made it an especially good choice for slide production and storage.

Scancafe Kodachrome
A memory stored in a Kodachrome slide (Photo: ScanCafe.com)

What to Do with Your Old Kodachrome Slides

How do you know if you have Kodachrome slides? Even if your slides are not stored in the original box, it is easy to identify a Kodachrome slide by a quick glance at the cardboard frame. Authentic slides will have the name ‘Kodachrome’ printed on this.

Before the digital era, the slide projector was a common household gadget, making it easy to view those pictures in the company of friends and family. The cardboard frame created a stable structure that allowed the slide to be safely fed into the projector. The projector would then beam a bright white light through the film and the resulting image could be projected on a wall or other plain surface.

Of course, today slide projectors have fallen out of common use. Slides that are stuck in boxes can deteriorate with time and the memories in them are in danger of being lost forever.

Scanning Kodachrome slides and converting them to a digital format allows us to preserve those memories and makes them easier to access for viewing and sharing.

Convert Kodachrome Slides to Digital

There are a couple of options when it comes to converting Kodachrome slides to digital. You can do it yourself or you can have the professionals do it for you.

If you decide to go the DIY route, you will need to buy, rent, or borrow the equipment needed – a slide scanner in this case. You should budget at least a minute or two per slide to scan it and transfer the image to a storage location on your computer or elsewhere. This time estimate increases if you need to retouch and enhance the image. A couple of minutes may not sound like a lot but if you are looking at scanning hundreds of slides, it can add up to a huge chunk of time.

A service with experience in Kodachrome 35mm slide scanning is an efficient and painless way to digitize your collection of slides. With professional grade equipment, optimal resolution settings and advanced retouching skills, your final scans are likely to be crisper and brighter.