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Kodak’s Old-School Response to Disruption

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Kodak’s Super 8 movie camera, which once appeared to be on the road to obsolescence, in an updated form at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas. Credit PHOTOGRAPH BY PATRICK T. FALLON / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY

Amid the giant televisions, Bluetooth-enabled baby socks, and virtual-reality headsets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, Kodak calmly introduced a more low-key device. Its new Super 8 macchina fotografica, which will go on sale this fall for a base price of four hundred dollars, is a reimagining of the analog Super 8 format that Kodak invented, in 1965. The new camera’s image-capture process remains relatively unchanged from the original design (light enters the lens and exposes the film), but the company has added a few modern digital features to this updated version. It will include a foldout LCD viewfinder and a computerized menu where light, exposure, and other variables can be controlled, and the audio will be simultaneously recorded onto a digital memory card, for later editing. This hybridized model extends to post-production as well: shoot your film and drop it in the mail, and Kodak processes it into negatives that you can display via a projector, digitally scans the footage, and uploads it to a cloud-based service where you can download and share it.

Beyond the technical specs, Kodak’s new camera is impressive for its chutzpah. The company introduced the Super 8 as a simple and affordable way to shoot motion pictures, essentially creating the home movie. But with the introduction, in the nineteen-eighties, of videotape, which was even simpler, less expensive, and more adaptable, Super 8 sales rapidly declined, and its prestige eroded for all but a few diehard fans. The same could be said for film as a whole. Kodak’s name has become a…

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