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New Kodak color film blends high speed, sharp image

The technology egg that Eastman Kodak Company has been sitting on for five years has finally hatched.

Yesterday, the company announced its newborn product: Kodacolor VR 1000 film. With a film speed of 1000, it will be the fastest color print film for 35 millimeter cameras on the market, Kodak says. At the moment, Kodak's fastest color print film has a speed of 400.

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The film uses a technology Kodak terms ''T-grain.'' ''This is the biggest single advance in emulsion technology in 50 years,'' says Kodak engineer Bruce Folsom, who worked on the project.

The company says T-grain will allow the user to take clearer stop-action and low-light photos without producing an overly granular print or losing sharpness. In the past, Mr. Folsom says, a move toward higher film speed meant sacrificing sharpness.

But with the new film, a photographer will be able to take a photo in candlelight and still keep the shutter speed fast enough to avoid blurring. The granular quality of the photo, says Kodak spokesman Henry Kaska, will be equal to that of Kodak's 400 film when it first came out in 1977, though the 400 film has been improved since then.

''Amateurs will be quite interested in this product,'' says another spokesman , Timothy Elliott. He says the film will also be attractive for sports photography.

The price of the VR 1000 film, which will be available at the start of 1983, has not yet been determined. The nearest comparable film, Kodacolor 400, retails for around $3.80 for 24 exposures and $4.60 for 36 exposures.

Reginald Duquesnoy, vice-president of research for Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, says, ''I don't think (the VR 1000) is going to be a huge market. Even (Kodak's) 400 film has not captured much market. If (VR 1000) goes up to 5 to 10 percent of the total 35-mm market, they would do well.''

At the moment, Kodak ''has the lion's share of the worldwide market in color films,'' Mr. Duquesnoy says. He doesn't see the film as a significant boost to Kodak's market share, but says the development ''demonstrates Kodak's leadership'' in the industry.

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But Eugene Glazer, vice-president of research at Dean Witter Reynolds, disagrees somewhat. He says the new film ''is partially an attempt to improve market share.''

''The color film business is crucial to Kodak and is one of the most profitable products in the world,'' he goes on. The 35-mm market is close to 40 percent of the amateur color film market. ''This extremely impressive'' product will stimulate a market ''that is no longer experiencing an explosion of buyers.''

In addition, in the past two years, he says, the Japanese have ''increased sharply their shipments of color film to world markets. Any loss of market share would be important to Kodak. They would want to reverse even the slightest trend as early as possible.''

James Chung, with Fuji Photo Film USA Inc., Kodak's biggest competitor in film, says the VR 1000 will have ''a limited market.''

''I don't think this is for the mass market,'' says Mr. Chung. He thinks it will have more industrial and commercial applications and will not become popular among amateurs.

''If there is a market for it, we will come out with it too, but most people are satisfied with 200 or 100 (speeds).''

Mr. Chung says the new film is ''nothing that sensational.'' A speed of 800 could be achieved by adjusting the shutter speed on a roll of 400 film, he adds.

But Brenda Landry, who follows the photographic industry for Morgan Stanley, says the T-grain technology is important over the long range. It alters the shape and light sensitivity of silver-halide crystals in film.

''This new type of grain can be added to every type of film - disks, 110, X-ray, and graphics arts films. You'll get sharper images and less graininess without giving anything up,'' Ms. Landry says.

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