Film Review: Kodak Ektar 100 – 135 Format

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Film is dead…or so many people though until Kodak released their new Ektar 100 film to the public last year. Coming to market with the daring claim of “Finest Grain Ever” it would be an uphill battle to sell a new color print film to the general photographic public in the age of 10+ megapixel consumer-level DSLR cameras. It would take a really special film introduction to stand a chance up against the modern resolution of DSLR’s with a 35mm format film. Did Kodak do that? Yes they did.

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First thing to note about Ektar, is that it was designed from the ground up to be scanned into a computer. As most labs now do digital prints, requiring the negative to be scanned before printing, Kodak had to design a film that could easily be scanned, have great color and high resolution. I have been scanning my rolls of Ektar with an Epson V500 at 3200 and 6400 DPI and my Plustek OpticFilm 7200 at 3600 and 7200 DPI.

[NOTE: All Scans are made with V500 at 3200 DPI with Digital ICE off to avoid blurring. Click for fullsize.]

 

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On either scanner Ektar 100 brought forth good contrast, bold colors and almost no grain. In fact I notice digital noise from my scanners more than I do traditional grain. Ektar has required little correction in Photoshop or Lightroom after scanning is completed.

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As far as image quality goes, I have been successfully printing excellent 8×10’s from 3200 DPI scans on my V500 and 11×14’s at 7200 with my Plustek OpticFilm at 7200 DPI. No other negative film will allow me to make quality prints with these scanners and resolutions. Even most slide films will not scan this high quality for me with consumer grade scanners.

 

 

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Ektar delivers a clarity nearing slide film, color characteristics not found in any other film with the wide exposure latitude of negative film.  Ektar shows to produce good images in my testing from -1 EV to +2 EV (or shot at ISO 50 up to ISO 400) without needing to push the development. Albeit the further you get away from box speed the more image degradation occurs, but in a pinch you can pull a good image out of Ektar shot at ISO 800 with some good scanning techniques.

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Ektar’s next big advantage is price. You can find Ektar in 135 format for little more than a roll of Kodak Gold and quite a bit less than Portra. At my local photo shop, Gold 200 goes for $4 USD, Ektar 100 for $5.25 and Portra 160 NC for $7. So for little more than the price of regular consumer film, you can get a high resolution professional-quality film. A film that can be scanned with an inexpensive flatbed scanner and produce images equal or greater than current low-end DSLR’s. With better scanners you can even outperform the quality of many high-end DSLR’s and still retain the unique look of film. I have a 20” x 30” print on my wall made from a drum scan of one of my Ektar shots and the print is beautiful with a barely perceptible grain, my Canon 400D XTi or 5D could never even come close to producing that print. At this point a $10 dollar yard-sale SLR and a few rolls of Ektar can do you as good as a $500 XTi, if not better.

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Cost, ease of scanning, resolution, grain and exposure latitude alone are good reasons to grab this film, but the unique look is worth the price of admission and then some. What really gives Ektar a unique advantage is its appearance. I find it to have a strange modern nostalgic look when shot at ISO 50 or 64, like a quality film shot from the 70’s. It shifts a bit blue and retains bold colors. If Ektar is shot at box speed, I have found that it reproduces colors reasonable accurately, although more punchy than normal. I find myself overexposing street photography for the vintage look and shooting landscapes and nature at box speed. It is nice to have the option of two distinct looks from one film and get good results at either setting. Again, you can take Ektar on upwards toward ISO 800, but plan on spending some time in post getting you image looking good. Still, it can be done though.

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Some have complained of Ektar being inappropriate for human subjects, being a bit too saturated for skin tones. I have not found this to be the case, as some simple adjusting of saturation in Photoshop can alleviate this issue without dulling the overall picture.

 

 

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Oversaturated skin tones with Ektar tend to be most common at box speed, and taking it to 50 or 64 can help as well. However I have no issue shooting portraits at box speed with Ektar. In fact Ektar has almost replaced Portra 160 VC in my wedding gear for outside, nature portraits. I have been happy and so have been my clients.

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In general, Kodak’s Ektar 100 is a great general purpose film. It is well suited for travel, with its punchy colors and great contrast. It can capture human subjects and look fairly natural, while at the same time give you saturated backgrounds. Ektar is the new film of choice to take for family photos at the Grand Canyon (Now that Kodachrome is gone).

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It’s great to keep in your camera for indoor flash photography. Ektar is a great choice for a primary film, and I have shot the same roll at ISO 50-200 varying between frames and got great results with standard processing. Give Ektar a try and don’t be afraid to experiment with it, the results may surprise you.

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If you are interested in grabbing a few rolls of Ektar to try out, please go down to your local pro shop and get yourself a few rolls. If you don’t have a good pro lab, then consider ordering from Amazon or Adorama from the links below, it’ll give me a little kickback then, but please support you local photo lab before ordering online. You may pay a bit more, but to have personal service and knowledge people nearby it is well worth it.

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Try it…You’ll like it!

Michael

Links to purchase Ektar below.

Buy at Amazon or…

 

Search for Ektar at Adorama.

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    • jeremy north
    • August 10th, 2009

    While this is presented as a review, it has the air of a thinly disguised Kodak press release.

    I am a film user so would rather read a more subjective review.

    Aside from that, I'd love to try it out, except that it is not even available in the UK

    • Michael W. Gray
    • August 10th, 2009

    I assure you that they were just my opinions. I have no connection to Kodak in any way, other than buying their film. My write-up was simply giving my impressions, and I have no need for subjectivity when reviewing any product. I want to share my thoughts, and Ektar made me excited. Anyways, I doubt I would get much co-operation from Kodak, or any other manufacturer, due to me attempting to simulate their films digitally.

    There are plenty of subjective reviews of Ektar available, but I'm not interested in resolving power, evident grain and whatnot. I care about the final results I get, of which I am incredibly impressed.

    I am surprised Kodak has not made it available in the UK, I was not aware of that.

    • Chris
    • September 11th, 2009

    I’ve shot several rolls of Ektar now, in both 35mm and 120 size rolls. (Yes, it’s available in 120 rolls now too!) My experience has been pretty similar to yours. I think it’s an absolutely beautiful film, and it’s becoming one of my favorite color films. Especially for landscape and architectural photos. It does have a slightly “cold” tone and it will shift to blue if you underexpose it. But the colors are really saturated and “poppy,” especially red and blue. But personally, I like that!

    The only problem I have with Ektar is that it’s very unforgiving with exposure. You pretty much HAVE to use a light meter with it, whereas usually I can get by without a light meter with most other color negative film, just with the “Sunny 16 Rule.” So I really wouldn’t recommend Ektar for a beginner. But if you expose it right, it’s absolutely awesome. It has a distinctive look to it, which I have never seen from any other film (or even digital, for that matter).

    • Adam
    • October 22nd, 2009

    Hi Matthew,

    Thanks for the review. I notice you use an Epson v500 and an Opticfilm 7200. I’m caught between buying either one right now (the Opticfilm 7400 actually) and am a bit unsure.

    I’m looking to blow up 35mm as big as I can, and I don’t have any old slides/negs to process, just new stuff. Which do you think is the better of the two?

    I don’t shoot medium format (although I might a year or two down the track).

    Cheers,
    Adam

    • chris
    • November 1st, 2009

    Sorry, Kodak Ektar 100 is now $6.99 @ Amazon. Couldn’t last long. Short-term introductory price to suck you in….

  1. thank!

    • Scott Etienne
    • April 22nd, 2010

    All of these scans look very blue. Is the color-balance the same when prints are conventionally developed?

  2. A quick color correction in Photoshop or in a lab printer will remove the bluish cast. These samples are minimally processed scans as well, I did no color correction. As I have shot Ektar more, I have found it to be extremely sensitive to exposure errors. Slight overexposures seem to have a blue shift, which I personally like, as I like cool images as opposed to warm.

    • Johnny Martyr
    • May 20th, 2010

    the blue colour really stood out to me too. this is far from “normal” to my experience. i’ve had ektar processed and scanned at both my pro lab as well as target and it’s never come back to me looking this bad in terms of colour accuracy. my experience has been rich vibrant colours, and when processed at target, nearly surreal saturation. thanks for the write up though! i’m very proud to shoot ektar and will support kodak more now because of this. i can’t wait to try it in 120! certainly a digital killer!

    • Dan C
    • May 25th, 2010

    @chris

    It’s currently listed at $4.35 at B&H Photo. Great price. I finally shot 2 rolls during a trip to Moab and the scans from this film are simply awe-inspiring. I think I should stock up and fill my freezer with this stuff in case it goes out of production…as so many great films are these days. If film is dead, then it went out with a BANG with Ektar.

    • chris
    • June 16th, 2010

    Dan C, got you beat; found it on _bay, 5 rolls for $24.95, free ship, dated 2/2012 or better. Buying now for when I get my Zeiss Contessa back from the repairman.

  3. I’ve been scouring the web for info on Ektar and of course, I found some of the best information here. I’m looking forward to shooting my first 5 rolls of Ektar at the end of the month. Hopefully they turn out awesome.

    • Geoff
    • March 14th, 2013

    Great review, but as a couple others have mentioned, the exposure latitude has been a lot tighter in my experience than it seems to be for you. If I shoot a mountain at sunset, for instance, I can completely drown the shadow detail and still blow out the highlights on the rock I’m shooting at. I really like the effect, personally, and I try to induce this sort of thing, but it tells me that Ektar has a pretty narrow latitude as far as C-41 films go. I agree with you about everything else though, it’s an excellent film and it’s my go-to standard, probably over 80% of my workflow.

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