Film Review: Kodak Ektar 100

Ektar has been the name for various products from Kodak since the 1930’s.  Apparently the word is derived from combining “Eastman” with “Tessar,” the famed Zeiss lens.

Today, Kodak Ektar film is probably one of the coolest, most ambitious films that has been released in the 21st century.

When it hit the streets in 2008, a near complete film-to-digital transition was feeling very eminent.  In 2 years, the iconic Kodachrome succumbed to the war.  In 3 years, Fuji would discontinue all motion picture film. In 4 years, Kodak itself would file for bankruptcy.  But in 2008, film shooters were feeling confident and hopeful when the new Ektar 100 film first graced the shelves of their favorite photo retailer and I was certainly one of them.

Ektar made its first splash in 35mm but its popularity inspired Kodak to churn it out in medium and large format too, all of which is still readily available 8 years later, even after Kodak was bought by Alaris.

Ektar was a sign that Kodak was not going to give up without a good fight.  It’s a film with properties and character like no other.

 

FordTruckDetailJohnnyMartyr
Leica M6 TTL .85 | Voigtlander 50mm 1.5 Nokton | Kodak Ektar 100

 

Kodak Ektar is a 100 speed C41 process color print film.  Kodak touts on its packaging that it features “The World’s Finest Grain”.  And that is a pretty accurate claim, Ektar is near grainless at size compared to other 100 speed print films.  In the past, grainless film photography was the domain of large format and slide film.  Ektar does a very good job of providing it in small 35mm format with enlargements up to, by my experience 11×14 with a good exposure.

 

LillyPondsJohnnyMartyr
Nikkormat FTn | Nikkor 50mm 1.4 SC | Kodak Ektar 100

 

What is really remarkable about Ektar to me though, is its incredible saturation that, with the right scene, can be practically mouthwatering yet skintones remain accurate.  Blues and reds pop and look damn near 3D.  Purples, as it stands to reason, also take on an ultra-real presence.  Incidentally, digital cameras have a really hard time rendering purple, but Ektar delivers in spades. Was Ektar designed to be a digital killer?

 

StephEktarEyesJohnnyMartyr
Leica M6 TTL | Voigtlander 75mm 2.5 Heliar | Kodak Ektar 100

 

Essentially Ektar is what you shoot when you want the grainlessness and saturation of a good slide film but want the tonality and more convenient processing of a print film.  Being that it’s a print film, Ektar also handles push processing and under-rating with ease and grace.

 

BeckyJohnnyMartyr
Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 105mm 1.8 AIS | Kodak Ektar 100

 

What was Kodak thinking?!  They were being mavericks making a final stand, that turned out not to be so final in my opinion.  With Gold covering the consumer end of Kodak films and Portra 160 covering the professional end, Ektar 100 was a completely unnecessary film to release, particularly for a company, and maybe industry on the verge of total collapse.  Ektar might have been a final hurrah if it weren’t for the dogged commitment of so many talented photographers to continue working in film.  And Ektar aided in supplying that commitment with enthusiasm and zest.

 

StephNecklaceJohnnyMartyr
Nikkormat FTn | Nikkor 50mm 1.4 SC | Kodak Ektar 100

 

StudebakerJohnnyMartyr
Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 50mm 1.8 AIS | Kodak Ektar 100
HollywooDinerJohnnMartyr
Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 105mm 1.8 | Kodak Ektar 100 (featured in Where Traveler Magazine)
GreenTruckRustJohnnyMartyr
Leica M6 TTL .85 | Voigtlander 50mm 1.5 Nokton | Kodak Ektar 100
TriciaJohnnyMartyr
Leica Mt TTL .85 | Leitz 90mm f2 Summicron | Kodak Ektar 100
ChristinaJohnnyMartyr
Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 105mm 1.8 AIS | Kodak Ektar 100
WallJohnnyMartyr
Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 50mm 1.8 AIS | Kodak Ektar 100
VivicaJohnnyMartyr
Nikkormat FTn | Nikkor 135mm 2.8 Q | Kodak Ektar 100

Kodak Ektar 100, an unexpectedly awesome film by Kodak that is still going strong.  Maybe it’s helped keep film alive.

Let me know about your experiences with this awesome film and please feel free to share links to your work!  Thanks for perusing mine!

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13 thoughts on “Film Review: Kodak Ektar 100

  1. another excellent write-up and your images on that film are stunning. I’ve always found it to be hit or miss, I’ve gotten some of the sharpest, cleanest film shots ever from it, but in mixed lighting I’m still unsure if I like the performance. Also – I’m not sure if Alaris bought kodak or it splintered during bankruptcy, either way, end result is the same.

    1. Your point is something that I’ve seen numerous conversations about. What I found, and I should have really written this somewhere above, if you want the film to perform properly, you absolutely cannot shoot it in broad daylight/direct sun as you’d typically do with a 100 ISO film. Instead Ektar needs to be burned in cloudy, overcast, shade, dimmer conditions. When doing a color daylight shoot, I always pack both Portra and Ektar and only shoot the Ektar if the light “relaxes”. If you shoot it in harsh, direct sunlight, you get really unflattering skintones, weird rendering of blues. Reds don’t pop and there seems to be an emphasis on orange for some reason. Take your subject under a shady tree, however, and all this should clear right up!

      Alaris, from what I gather, they bought the film division of Kodak anyway. Can’t speak for the rest of the company but “splintered”, as you say is probably a good word for what happened.

      Thanks for reading!

      1. Whoa, this is 180 degrees from what I’ve heard and experienced about Ektar, and that is that it performs better in full sunlight. I’m not discounting or dismissing your assertion here, but it’s noteworthy that this is a completely different school of thought than what I’m used to. I’ve never had good luck with it in cloudy/shade lighting conditions. That said, your examples here do look great. Thanks for giving me another view to consider.

      2. Hi Rick, thanks for your comment! It’s been some time since I’ve read any other reviews/recommendations for Ektar but I do recall when I was actively using it a few years ago (having since moved to b&w pretty much exclusively) that there were others who agreed with the shade approach. Indeed, all the images above were taken either on overcast days or in the late afternoon in dimmer light. I have heard some disagreement regarding this in the past also though. I wonder if developer might be a factor. I was using labs that were running Kodak chemistry. If you have examples of your shots in broad sunlight, I’ve love to see them!

      3. These are from a roll taken last summer in full sunlight. I do my own self processing so there might be some anomalies associated with that. I really did very little in post. To me, the reds and oranges really popped out. Conversely, I’ve shot Ektar at some waterfalls in low light/shade and had a very difficult time getting acceptable greens.

        https://goo.gl/dFg7iZ

      4. Cool shots and neat you process your own color. What kit do you use? I agree, your reds and oranges are stronger but my interest in Ektar has always been its influence on reds and blues and therefore purples. I get that red/blue pop when I shoot in more subdued light and my work is processed in a Kodak lab. I do think that in direct, full-on sunlight, I get a red/yellow (orange) emphasis, which in my opinion, does not work with skintones. Your shots have a much more natural color balance overall though too. The images of the university even look more Portra-like to me than what I associate with Ektar. I also find it interesting how grainy your skies are for a 100 speed film. I don’t know a whole lot about color processing but I imagine that some of what we are seeing has to do with this.

      5. I have become more b&w also and I mail my color out. I’ll have to try it at home too. The FPP kit appears to do both C-41 and ECN-2. I am not aware of other C-41 kits with that claim and certainly Kodak Flexicolor only does C-41 . Maybe in trying to make their kit more universal or easy to use, there are some critical differences between it and other C41 developers.

  2. I’ve yet to capture a portrait of a fair skinned person without a reddish glow about them.

    I’ve seen photos of of portraits taken on sunny beaches and they didn’t come out as red.

    What’s the secret?

    1. Hey Martin, I’d be interested in seeing those photos and talking to the shooter. For me, it was always very consistent; shoot in the blazing sun and lose skintone and that signature saturation on the primary colors. Maybe it’s as simple as using an ND filter when in direct sun? I am not a filter guy though so I couldn’t be sure. I personally don’t like to shoot in super sunny conditions anyway as the shadows can get very harsh. As noted in another response below, I got in the habit of only shooting Ektar in subdued light, cloudy, shady, etc, not direct sunlight. And that allowed me to get the skintones and saturation I was looking for.

  3. Kodak Alaris was formed when Kodak gave the the consumer film and paper business to what was Kodak’s European Pension fund. They owed that fund a ton of money and this was the way they got out of it. Alaris will try to make back the money they lost selling film which Kodak makes for them in Rochester NY. Kodak Alaris also got the paper manufacturing business from Kodak but the film is made for them by what is left of Kodak. Kodak also still manufactures movie film for Hollywood which is the main reason they can run the film for Kodak Alaris.

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