ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Eastman Kodak Co. has stopped making the much-ballyhooed disc camera because the style has fizzled in the marketplace, but company officials said Monday that no decision has been made to eliminate the line permanently.
The company suspended production of the cameras at its Rochester plant in mid-January, Kodak spokesman Ronald Roberts said. It was the first time the disc camera production lines have been shut down since Kodak introduced the camera in 1982.
"We have enough inventory, so we've suspended production," Roberts said. "We haven't stopped for good. At this point, we will simply treat it as a supply and demand situation."
The shutdown does not affect disc film, the sale of the cameras or the size of Kodak's work force, he said.
Roberts said the move was not related to Kodak's stepped-up effort in the 35-mm. field, which has become the fastest growing camera segment in the industry.
Last month, Kodak announced two new, easy-to-use 35-mm. cameras it planned to add to the line of five models the company has been selling for about two years.
The disc camera, which uses film on a plastic disc that is inserted into the camera, was introduced six years ago as a moderate-priced alternative for the customer who didn't want to spend a lot of money for a 35-mm. camera, but wanted something more than the inexpensive 110-format.
It was touted as the "new engine" that would keep the photography market growing by Walter Fallon, Kodak's chairman and chief executive at the time.
And it was introduced before the "easy-to-use" 35-mm. cameras arrived on store shelves. The list price of the basic disc camera is $44.
Kodak has sold more than 25 million disc cameras and "certainly does not consider them a failure," Roberts said Monday.
He said employees who worked on the disc camera production line were being trained to work on Kodak's new 35-mm. camera and 110-format model that will be made in Rochester.
"Another factor in deciding to suspend production of the disc camera has been the surprising resurgence of the 110 Instamatic format," Roberts said. Kodak hopes to take advantage of that growing market with its new, low-cost 110-format "Winner" camera that it designed for children and will have a list price of $11.95.
Sales Peaked in 1985
In 1987, about 1.8 million disc cameras were purchased, compared to 7 million "easy-to-use" 35-mm. cameras and 6 million 110- and 126-format cameras, said Ted Fox, director of marketing research for the Photographic Marketing Assn. in Jackson, Mich.
He said disc camera sales reached their peak at 4.8 million in 1985 and have been dropping since. Sales of the 110-format cameras were up about 30% in 1987, Fox said.