Shooting Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Ektar 100 has been my favorite color negative film for quite some time now. My first rolls of Ektar were shot through my Yashica Mat 124G. I had been looking for an inexpensive way to try out medium format while also keeping a modern look and feel to my images. The Yashica and Ektar combination proved to work out perfectly.
Ektar is a 100 ISO film that is touted to provide excellent saturation, contrast, sharpness, and fine grain. Kodak says that Ektar 100 was also made to be scanned easily. It sounds like a wonderful film for the modern age, especially for 35mm shooters looking for cleaner shots. However, I somehow had never shot Ektar in 35mm format, until now, due to my love of shooting it in 120 format. Keep reading to learn more!
Those Ektar Colors
Kodak's Ektar 100 is probably best known for its punchy and vibrant colors. It's often described as being the closest thing to slide film out there, without having to shoot slide film. The colors from this film are accurate yet saturated, and they nearly pop off the screen or print as you view them. Warmer tones, in typical Kodak fashion, seem to be particularly strong performing with Ektar.
This is perhaps the only downside to Ektar that I have found. Some people find the saturation of skin tones on light skinned individuals to be much too pink or red. I, thus far, have not found this to be much of an issue, but I don't often shoot portraits in direct sunlight either. That said, I often prefer the faster Kodak Portra 400 for portrait work anyway.
When it comes to picking a film to shoot fall foliage though, Ektar is my number one pick. (Except for maybe Velvia, if I were to have a little extra money for E6 processing.)
Other Wins for Ektar
Kodak really did nail it when they decided to produce Ektar. It is the quintessential landscape film for color negative shooters. The aforementioned color aside, this film displays several characteristics that make it well suited to landscape and studio work. The dynamic range, grain structure, and sharpness of this film make for excellent photos.
Kodak claims that Ektar 100 can be underexposed by up to 1 stop and overexposed by 2 stops. I think most people have found that it can be even more forgiving than that, however. I have found it to have great, almost digital levels of shadow detail, while still retaining the uncanny ability of color negative film to preserve highlight detail. This holds true of the 35mm format of film, and seems even more the case when shooting medium format. I, however, have no experience with large format (yet).
As for the grain of Ektar 100, the story is more of the same. Kodak claims that Ektar has the finest and smoothest grain of any color negative film in existence, and I'm inclined to believe them. While you can still notice the grain when pixel peeping your scans (it's still film, after all), it's a very tight, fine, and pleasing grain pattern. This is more so the case for 35mm than 120 and large format film. Having said that, if I'm looking to shoot color landscapes with 35mm with the intention of large and clean prints, I'm grabbing Ektar or slide film.
The reason I mention using Ektar or slide film in particular for 35mm is this: enlarging a 35mm photo to an 8x10 will enlarge the grain much more than enlarging a 6x7 negative, for example. The grain is the same size on the physical film stock regardless of format. Printing an 8x10 from 8x10 sheet film needs no enlargement and thus, the grain of 8x10 Ektar 100 is nearly invisible to the naked eye at that size.
While we're on the topic of grain, I'd be remiss to not mention the sharpness of Ektar 100. Kodak has done a fine job making this film for those who enjoy an ultra-sharp film photo. I'm not much of a wizard with MTF charts, but from what I've been able to gather, all but the sharpest of modern digital lenses would have a hard time out-resolving Kodak Ektar 100. So for those of you shooting vintage lenses, fret not, this film will likely never hold you back in the sharpness department.
Ektar at Night
As you may have noticed in the photos immediately above, I've done a fair bit of slow shutter play with Ektar. As of this writing, Ektar is my number one go to film for shooting in the city at night time. I love the tones and colors it produces when shooting city lights at night. In fact, one of my bucket list shots is to find an Americana looking buildings with old neon signs shot on Ektar. I can't wait to find that shot.
Kodak says in its information packet that Ektar is good down to 1 second exposures without worrying about reciprocity failure. After that, Kodak advises that you do some testing and figure out what works. For me, I have found that shooting around the city at night time seems to work well at around 30 seconds and f/11 or f/16 on my Yashica. Ektar has certainly provided me with my favorite and least worrisome nights shooting on film.
I mentioned in the introduction to this article, that Kodak Ektar 100 was my favorite color negative film. I hope that in reading this and viewing some of the shots I've taken with Ektar over the past few years has sufficiently demonstrated why I love this film stock so much. It's as versatile as a 100 speed film can be. The colors it renders are outstanding. The contrast it gives is phenomenal. Ektar is super sharp, fine grained, and just plain beautiful to look at. Unless you need faster shutter speeds to help capture action or take the place of a tripod, it's very hard to go wrong choosing Ektar for your color negative film needs.
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