It may not look much being held up there by my pasty white hand, but that dog-eared cardboard box with a wonkily-placed cartridge on top of it is one of the best things to happen to analogue photography in the last few years.
There are quite a few reasons why the new Kodak Ektachrome E100 should make anyone who shoots film smile, and only one of them is that its packaging has the best colour scheme possible.
Read on as this Kodak Ektachrome E100 review explains all of the above, with some examples of how things look when they go well and also when they don’t. If it makes you want to pick some up and try it for yourself, you can from from B&H Photo, from Amazon, or from Analogue Wonderland.
- Unsurpassed level of fine grain.
- Neutral color balance, natural skin-tone reproduction.
- Lower d-min for whiter, brighter whites.
What is Kodak Ektachrome E100?
Stick with me here for this history lesson. It’s like the rise and fall and rise again of Ektachrome.
Back in 1935, Kodak introduced one of the first successful colour photo films. Going by the name Kodachrome, this early transparency (or slide, or reversal) film proved highly popular and endured for decades until finally being discontinued in 2009.
Unlike other films that met the same fate in recent times though, its demise wasn’t prompted by the rise of digital cameras. The writing was on the wall long before that thanks to its complicated and outdated processing method that could only really be done by trained technicians.
Newer slide films like the Fujichrome range and Kodak’s own Ektachromes used a quicker and easier method that most people with a home darkroom could do too. It began as the E-1 process in 1946 and has been updated five times now to the current E-6 we have today.
In case you’re wondering, a transparency or reversal or slide film is a film that gives you full colour slides – hence that name – instead of the negatives you get from regular colour or monochrome negative film. Once you’ve shot your slide film, these are brilliant things to have and to look at.
The rise of these new slide films, especially Fuji’s Velvia, combined with a general decline of slide film use throughout the 1980s and 1990s to see Kodachrome getting squeezed out. As far as Kodak offerings went, Ektachrome was the new reversal king.
At one time, there was a huge range of it. All types of speeds, formats from 35mm to 11 x 14 inch sheets, and use cases. Motion picture film as well. Too much to list here, although I have shot an expired Ektachrome 320T, so I’ll mention that one specifically.
It was used everywhere too, on this planet and off it. Ektachrome images were a staple of National Geographic magazine, Neil Armstrong shot it on the moon of all places, and it was also the film on which the iconic Earthrise photograph was taken.
While far fewer movies have been shot on Ektachrome compared to Kodak’s Vision 3 500T film, which is what they make CineStill 800T from by the way, there have been some. 1999’s Three Kings and 2006’s Inside Man are two examples.
For a long time, even with some of them being rebranded as Elite Chrome, everything was going great for the Ektachrome family of films. Until, like Uncle Kodachrome before it, a new technology started to affect its sales and usage. And this time it was digital.
For the more casual photographers who only shot colour negative films on their annual holidays and kept their prints in an album or shoe box under the bed never to be seen again, there was less rush or reason to adopt digital straight away.
However, as slide film was mainly used by professionals or those shooting editorially, and indeed keen hobbyists who liked to project their holiday slides onto the wall to show them off, the benefits of digital photography hit its sales hard.
Not having to go through the development process and also having easily shareable digital files was something that couldn’t be ignored. Unfortunately, this meant that Ektachrome increasingly was.
The discontinuations began in 2009 – incidentally the same year as Kodachrome went – with Ektachrome 64T and Ektachrome 100 Plus being the first to go. This trend continued until the entire range was gone in 2013.
The 70+ year era of Kodak slide film was over. And while I wasn’t paying attention at the time, I imagine most people thought it was over forever.
Four short years later in 2017 though, the news came that it wasn’t. At a time when Fujifilm was culling some of their best films like this Natura 1600, Kodak made an announcement that filled people with hope.
Ektachrome was coming back.
And in 2018, they fulfilled that promise. Alongside the also resurrected T-Max 3200, it was. In the guise of this newly-formulated E100, Ektachrome was back.
Initially released in the 35mm form we’re reviewing here, the range has since been beefed up with a 120, large format sheet, and even a Super 8 movie film version too.
Kodak Ektachrome E100 image qualities
When shot well, slide film like Ektachrome E100 should give results that colour negative films would struggle to replicate.
I’m not going to say it gives you better images because that’s a subjective thing. But if the things this film does well are things you like to see in a photograph, you’re probably going to be very impressed with it indeed.
I see people talk about the colours you get from Ektachrome E100. About how they’re rich and bright. And also the contrast, sharpness, and fine grain brought about by Kodak’s T-grain emulsion technology.
That all sounds like things you can get with various colour negative films too, though. For me, with my limited experience of shooting it, what sets slide film apart is what I think comes from the sum of all the parts mentioned above.
The sharpness and low grain of the subjects probably helps separate them from the backgrounds, and this is probably helped by the contrast too. The colours helping to accentuate the good light probably help too.
But in the Ektachrome images I personally thing are my best, it’s the depth that I’m most impressed by. The layers and separation between elements. Everything I’ve shot before on negative film seems a little flatter and more two-dimensional in comparison.
Hopefully these three photographs help you see what I mean.
If you think you can just load a roll of slide film in your camera and get that kind of thing every single time you press the shutter though, it’s time to bring you back down to Earth a little.
The praise lavished on slide film in this section was prefaced with when shot well, and that’s something else that sets it apart from negative film. The increased need to shoot it well. And when I say well, I really mean well-lit and well-exposed.
When you shoot a negative film, being over or underexposed by a stop or two probably won’t matter. It’ll have enough exposure latitude to still give you a decent image.
With slide film though, you don’t have that luxury. A shot underexposed by a stop will come out underexposed. A shot overexposed by a stop will come out overexposed. In truth, I find that easy to accept. If my exposure is off by that much, maybe I deserve a ruined shot.
The problem with Ektachrome E100 and other slide films though is if your light or exposure is off but not by enough to give you crushed shadows or blown highlights, it still might be enough to give you some unwelcome colour shifts. Usually in the form of an overall blue tinge.
When shooting inanimate objects like these below, I don’t think I did too badly in that respect. They’re slightly duller and bluer than those three posted above, but they are a lot better than some of the bad ones you’ll see in the next section.
So with all things said, the image qualities of Ektachrome E100 really do depend on how well you shoot it. Nail the light and exposure and you’ll love it. Get either of those just slightly off and – as you’ll see if you read on – you might find yourself disappointed.
Street photography with Ektachrome E100
When you have a film that demands you get the light exactly right before it gives you decent results, using it to shoot street photography isn’t the most logical thing to do.
Perhaps that’s why Ektachrome was often used for other things throughout its long history. Things like portraits and fashion shoots or landscape and nature work, where you could control the light or just wait for it to be optimal.
It being so exacting is definitely why I don’t recommend it as a regular street photography film today, though. This has nothing to do with its ISO rating either. I’ve had no problem shooting other ISO 100 films out and about in the city before.
I should also mention before I go on that everything I’m about to say is my fault. I could have done a better job. I could have used a warming filter. I could have used a separate light meter and not just the one in my decades old Yashica Electro that I can’t be sure of the accuracy of.
I could have been more patient and waited for 36 flawlessly lit scenes across a whole week instead of just getting through the roll with the best of what I was given over two days.
Perhaps the next time I shoot some Ektachrome, I’ll do all of the above. But for this one, I just wanted to shoot it as normal – and by that I mean as I would a colour negative film – and see how it turned out. Maybe like an experiment to set a baseline for my knowledge of what to do and what not to do with it.
In doing that, the main problem I found after seeing the results was what it means to have the light just right when shooting. It’s not enough for it to just be a sunny day.
Looking at the shadows on some of my duller and bluer shots, the light was there. It was just sometimes coming from the wrong direction. Perhaps by about 90 degrees or so. Not by enough to ruin a colour negative shot, but seemingly enough with slide film.
Other colour-shifted shots have a blue yet slightly cloudy sky and no shadows on the ground, which makes me think the sun had gone briefly behind an altocumulus at the time I took the photograph.
I think my best results came when the sun was shining fully and pretty much shining fully from behind me. Any cloud cover affected my shots, and too much of a sideways angle of the light seemed to also. So that’s my non-expert advice for you when shooting yours.
You’ve seen already the three best-exposed shots I got from this roll. The first one below is okay too, but then they’ll get progressively worse to show you how things can change when shooting slide film in just slightly different or sub-optimal light.
Ektachrome E100 specs and development
Kodak Ektachrome E100 is a daylight balanced, ISO 100 colour positive film that was first released in 2018. When shot well, as we’ve already explored, it’s meant to give bright whites, moderately enhanced colours with a neutral balance, low contrast tone scale, and extremely fine grain.
It’s available in medium and large formats, a Super 8 movie film, and the 35mm version we’re reviewing here. The 35mm cartridges are DX-coded with the number 903824.
While the consumer-grade Kodak colour negative films are hardy enough that they don’t need to be cold stored, the company does recommend on the datasheet that you keep your Ektachrome in the fridge until you come to shoot it.
As a slide film, Ektachrome is designed to be developed using the E-6 process, which has evolved from the original E-1 process of 1946 via the E-2, E-3, E-4, and E-5 versions.
The current E-6 process was first released in 1977 and then modified in the mid-1990s to remove the formaldehyde from the stabiliser. I don’t know much about developing film but that sounds like a good move to me.
E-6 is different to the C-41 process that colour negative films use, although it’s something that can be done by any lab worth its salt. You can even buy a kit and do it yourself at home.
That said, slide film can be developed using the C-41 method if you want to do something called cross-processing. This will result in colour shifts and increased contrast, which some people love and others think is a waste of good slide film.
The aforementioned movies, Three Kings and Inside Man, both used Ektachrome in their production purely because they wanted the stylised effects you get from cross-processing it.
Where to buy Kodak Ektachrome E100
If you have a petrol station or pharmacy or any other store near you that still sells a limited range of film, I’d say they’re probably not going to have any Ektachrome E100 next to their Gold and / or ColorPlus.
If you’re lucky enough to have a brick and mortar photography shop near you that sells film though, they should probably have some in their fridge. And I would recommend buying some cold-stored like that if possible.
The only thing that might stop you from finding it there would be if they had issues with restocking. It all sold out pretty quickly when it was released in 2018, although demand has settled down since. Alternatively, you could just get some from any of the usual online places instead.
You can check current prices and availability through the links below.
- buy Kodak Ektachrome E100 from B&H Photo
- buy Kodak Ektachrome E100 from Amazon
- buy Kodak Ektachrome E100 from Analogue Wonderland
Final thoughts on Ektachrome E100
In the introduction to this Ektachrome E100 review, I mentioned that its release was one of the best things to happen to analogue photography in the last few years and that anyone who shoots film should be happy with its return. So let’s go through a few reasons why.
The first is the most basic and obvious one and is something that is true of anything that exists and doesn’t negatively affect anyone. In the simplest terms I can think of, having this new Ektachrome available to us is just better than not having it. That’s it. That’s the first reason.
To see our next reason, we need to zoom out a little and look at the bigger picture. While some manufacturers are culling some of their lines, like this one from Fujifilm just for a random example, Kodak reformulating and bringing back an Ektachrome stock is a huge deal.
Yes, we have had a number of new films in the last few years, and I feel the same way about all of those too. That it’s better we have them than not. But the fact is some of them are repurposed film that was already made for another reason or a rebadging of another film you can buy anyway.
I am in no way knocking them. I know it takes money and effort to do that. It’s something other people have achieved and I haven’t and probably never will. And I want to put a roll of each and every one of them through my camera too.
The people behind those have done what they can with the resources available to them. Producing film is a massive operation and it’s nigh on impossible for an individual or small business to make a genuine brand new one from scratch. It needs someone like Kodak to do it. Or Ilford with their Ortho Plus. Or Fuji with their Acros II (kinda made by Ilford).
And even for these big companies, with everything that goes into it and after decades of film sales declining, it’s a big decision to do so. One more film on the market might not seem like a lot but a new Ektachrome is about more than that. Just going against the tide and bringing it back is much bigger than that.
To paraphrase a hackneyed expression, having Ektachrome E100 is one small step for our film options yet one giant leap for the optimism around the future of film photography. Which is apt, considering its lunar lineage.
The final reason I think having this film is such a good thing is that it is harder to get good results from than all the colour negative stocks I’ve shot so far. I know we still had some Fuji slide films before this came back but it was the buzz around this one that caught my attention so I’m giving it this credit.
I was a little disappointed at the time with the duller and bluer of the results it gave me, but I see that as a chance to improve. To get a whole roll of keepers from slide film, I’ll have to be better than I am when I shoot regular negative film. More conscious of and considered with the light.
Perhaps if I shoot enough of it, that extra thought will remain present and improve my work when I mess around with a cheap and versatile Kodak ColorPlus too. Or perhaps not, but being pushed to raise my game certainly can’t hurt.
I think it’s time wrap this up with some more condensed statements. Kodak Ektachrome E100 is a high risk, high reward film. I had more duds exposure-wise from this one roll than I’ve ever had before. Perhaps across every negative film I shot added together.
But the times I was lucky enough to the exposure bang on, like those first three street shots in this review, the results are more visually impressive to me than any I’ve taken on negative film. Both on screen and especially when looking at the slides. And nothing I’ve done with film photography so far has brought my photos to life quite like looking at the slides.
Shooting Ektachrome felt somehow more special than shooting other films too, although maybe that was just something going on in my head. And this is going to sound trite too but when the results are good, you can just tell they were shot on a good film.
It’s not a cheap film but it’s worth shooting at least once if you can. Just for the fun experience and to have your work on a set of slides, if nothing else.
Advice I see for shooting slide film is to do so at box speed in good light and meter for the mid-tones. If you need more guidance, read up or ask people more experienced than me on how to get the best out of it.
Don’t let it worry you too much though. Keep it simple and if the results are less than ideal, learn and adjust for next time.
Kodak were good enough to bring Ektachrome back for us. The least we can do to repay them is go out – and I’m going to use that word again – and have some fun shooting it.
- Unsurpassed level of fine grain.
- Neutral color balance, natural skin-tone reproduction.
- Lower d-min for whiter, brighter whites.
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