New technology could double film speed, improve photo quality in any camera

December 11, 2000

A new film could enable even rank amateurs to take clearer pictures in dim light without using a flash, according to research presented in the current (December 6) issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a peer-reviewed journal of the world's largest scientific society.

The new system doubles the film's sensitivity to light without sacrificing picture quality, according to Samir Farid, a member of the research team at Kodak that pioneered the concept. Such film would allow for higher quality pictures in less-than-ideal conditions and clearer photo enlargements, he said.

The researchers accomplished this by using a novel series of chemical reactions to transfer images onto film. The new film would, for example, allow a 400-speed film (the number is a measure of the film's light sensitivity) to capture images comparable to those captured by an 800-speed film, he added. Though still in development that will likely continue for two or three years, the promising technology is being commercialized for future use, Farid said.

Pictures are formed by tiny crystals that record an image on film. The usual way to enhance light sensitivity is to use larger crystals, according to Ian Gould of Arizona State University, a co-author of the paper. Larger crystals result in pictures with a "grainy" texture, he said. The new technology makes film more sensitive to light, reducing the need to use large crystals that produce a poorer image, Gould said.

"This doesn't change the amount of light that is absorbed; it just allows the light that is absorbed to be more effective," Gould said. "Right now the only way to get a fast film is to have a grainy film."

Though the improved film would benefit nearly all picture-takers, amateur photographers would benefit most because the enhanced film would be more flexible and forgiving, he noted. It could be particularly valuable in single-use cameras, which don't allow in as much light as the more sophisticated cameras used by professionals, Gould said.

Developed at the Kodak research laboratories, the new film is expected to cost little more than film now in use and would require no changes in cameras or film processing, Gould said. More than 3 billion rolls of film are sold annually by the multi-billion dollar film processing and sales industry worldwide, according to Kodak.
The online version of the research paper cited above was initially published November 11 on the journal's Web site. Journalists can arrange access to this site by sending an email to or calling the contact person for this release.

Ian Gould, Ph.D., is a professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

American Chemical Society

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