History of Kodak – You push the button, we do the rest

Kodak has been synonymous with photography for more than a century. Kodak, which was founded in the late nineteenth century, revolutionized how we share and capture moments. They had a simple but profound mission – to make photography available to all. The ambitious project led to a shift in the way people express themselves visually and tell stories.

The historical significance of the company goes beyond its creation of photographic gear. Kodak’s philosophy is at the heart of its impact, which is perfectly captured by its iconic slogan, “You push the button, We do the rest.” This slogan captured the brand’s dedication to simplifying photography and breaking down technical barriers. Kodak was responsible for handling the complicated processes and allowing everyone, no matter their technical knowledge, to create lasting memories. This introduction gives a glimpse of Kodak’s rich history and its role in shaping photography today.

The Birth of Kodak (1880s – 1900s)

Few moments in the history of photography are as important as the founding of Kodak. George Eastman was an innovator who had a vision of simplifying photography. Eastman’s foray into the world of imaging led to the founding of the Eastman Kodak Company in 1888. The birth of Kodak marked a new age in photography. It brought the art of photography to the masses and away from professionals and enthusiasts.

The first Kodak, which was introduced in the year of the company’s founding, was a game changer. The device was a box-shaped, pre-loaded 100-exposure film. The camera was created with the average consumer’s needs in mind. It offered a simple and affordable way to capture memories. The user would then take the pictures, send the camera to Kodak where the film was developed, prints were made, and a new film was loaded into the camera. Kodak’s philosophy was embodied in this process: “You push the button, we take care of the rest.”

Eastman was influential in the introduction of flexible film rolls. Before this innovation, photographic plates were heavy and needed a lot of handling and processing. Roll film made from a flexible, durable gelatin emulsion revolutionized photography, allowing more portable cameras and simplifying the photographic process. The invention paved the path for mass-market cameras to follow and cemented Kodak as a pioneer in photography.


The early to mid-20th-century marked a Golden Age of Kodak. The brand was a household name. Kodak was synonymous with photography during this time and dominated the film-and camera markets. During this period, Kodak launched several iconic products that played a major role in the history of photography.

Kodak launched the Brownie box camera in 1900. It was a simple, inexpensive camera that allowed photography to be accessible to everyone. It was so simple to use even a child could operate it. The Brownie camera, which costs just $1, is a great way to get into photography. The Brownie, which came with a roll of film, was the first camera to introduce the “snapshot” concept, making photography a popular pastime.

Instamatic was launched in the mid-20th century, which further cemented Kodak’s position in the consumer market. Instamatic cameras were introduced in 1963 with easy-loading cartridges. This was a major invention at the time that eliminated the need to thread film on a take-up reel. The Instamatic was a huge success and sold millions of units around the world because of its ease of use.

Kodak played an important role on the world stage beyond consumer photography. The company supplied aerial photography film during both World Wars and contributed to reconnaissance efforts. Kodak film was used in the Apollo Moon missions to capture some of the most iconic pictures of the lunar surface.

This golden age was marked by innovation, mass market appeal, and a significant contribution to global events. It redefined the role of photography and its accessibility in daily life.


Kodak had a major influence on the development of photography during the so-called “Color Revolution.” The introduction of Kodachrome and Ektachrome film revolutionized color photography during this period.

Kodak introduced Kodachrome in 1935, the first color film to be commercially successful. The development of Kodachrome was a major technological breakthrough that created a new paradigm in the film industry. Kodachrome is renowned for the rich saturation, exceptional color accuracy and vibrant detail it offers. Both amateur and professional photographers loved it for its vivid colors.

Kodak launched Ektachrome in 1946, building on the success and popularity of Kodachrome. Ektachrome had a slightly different palette of colors, with a more subtle saturation and a cool color temperature. But its real innovation was its processing. Ektachrome is a simpler and faster process than Kodachrome.

These two films had a profound influence. These films not only opened up new creative opportunities for photographers but also made color photographs more accessible to consumers. Color photographs were taken of family vacations, historical events, and artistic explorations. This created a more realistic, emotional and realistic depiction. Kodak’s leadership in the photography industry was cemented by this period of innovation.


In the latter half of the 20th Century, Kodak faced a major challenge. The digital camera was born during this period, often called the “Digital Dilemma.” This technological advance would disrupt the photography industry and cause an existential crisis for Kodak.

Kodak was the first to introduce the digital camera. A Kodak engineer, Steve Sasson, invented the first digital cameras in 1975. It was a large device that could record 0.01-megapixel, black-and-white images to cassette tapes. This revolutionary invention could have revolutionized photography by eliminating the use of film and making photos instantly viewable.

Kodak initially decided to refrain from marketing the digital cameras, fearing that it would threaten their film business. While this decision was understandable, it later proved a strategic mistake, given Kodak’s dominance in the film market. Kodak was marginalized as other companies popularized and advanced digital technology.

Kodak faced a significant challenge with the decline of film photography and the rise of digital. Kodak relied on film as its mainstay, but profits declined when consumers and professionals started using digital cameras. The company tried to enter the digital marketplace but struggled to compete against newer, agiler competitors already embracing digital technology. Kodak was caught in a digital dilemma, which marked a pivotal moment in its history.


Kodak had a tough time in the early 2010s. In 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy due to its inability to adapt to the digital age. This marked the end of an era for the once-dominant force in the industry. Kodak’s story continued. The company embarked upon a path to resurgence and restructuring.

Kodak’s focus shifted away from cameras in 2013 to new ventures. These included various business-to-business sectors, such as packaging, commercial printing, and functional print. However, Kodak didn’t abandon photography completely, even though it took on new directions.

Kodak, in a move that pleased film lovers, revived several classic film stocks in 2018, including EKTACHROME, and KODACHROME, in 2021. This reflects a renewed interest in analog photography in the digital age. Kodak also entered the smartphone market, launching the Kodak Ektra phone. It was designed for photography enthusiasts.

Kodak’s journey over the past few years is a story of a company that has been trying to innovate and adapt in a landscape that is dramatically different from what it was in the past. Kodak has endured many challenges and made significant changes. However, its legacy in photography is undeniable. It is a testament today to the power of technology and the allure of capturing a moment.

Kodak’s contribution to photography goes far beyond technology. It has influenced our culture and how we interact with the world. It is a testament to Kodak’s lasting impact that the concept of “Kodak moments” has become deeply embedded in our collective consciousness. Kodak’s team of marketing experts coined the phrase, which embodies the idea that spontaneous, personal moments can be captured on camera and elevated into treasured memories.

Kodak’s impact on professional photography is also significant. Many professional photographers loved the Kodachrome and Ektachrome color films of Kodak for their unique aesthetic and quality. These films were responsible for some of the most iconic images from the 20th century. From vibrant National Geographic spreads to intimate portraits of families.

Kodak is like tracing the history of photography. Kodak’s story includes pioneering innovations, missed opportunities, and adaptability. From the introduction of the simple Kodak cameras, which made photography accessible to all, to the advent of the digital camera, it paradoxically precipitated its decline.

Kodak is known for its technological innovations. The Brownie camera revolutionized photography, and the Kodachrome and Ektachrome films changed how we see and capture the world. Kodak sold more than just photographic equipment with these innovations. It also sold memories, experiences, and the ability to freeze time through photographs.

The company’s story is a cautionary tale on the importance of embracing change. Kodak, despite inventing digital cameras, needed to realize the impact of the technology on the industry. The company’s inability to adapt to digital technology led to its decline and bankruptcy.

The influence of Kodak is undeniable. It has changed how we share and remember memories, as well as how we take pictures. The lessons from Kodak’s history are essential as we prepare for the future of photography. They remind us that innovation is necessary, along with adaptability and the courage to embrace changes.

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