Something I try to avoid when talking about film, and photography in general, is superlative adjectives. Using terms like the most, the least, the best, or the worst in my reviews would seem daft, as they’re all mainly my subjective opinion anyway.
But that’s just me. Kodak, on the other hand, have film to sell and the knowledge of how it’s made. They have a reason and the right to tell you if something about their stocks is unparalleled.
And that’s exactly what they do with Ektar 100, saying it ‘offers the finest, smoothest grain of any color negative film available today’. I’m not here to say it doesn’t. All I can do is give my take based on the results I got from it.
This review will bring you that, along with some technical details and real-world example shots. And if it makes you want to try some Kodak Ektar 100 yourself, you can get some from Amazon, from eBay, or from Analogue Wonderland.
Get your Kodak Ektar 100 today
What is Kodak Ektar 100?
Kodak Ektar is an ISO 100 colour negative film that, as you might expect following that claim about its grain, sits firmly in the company’s Professional range.
The Ektar name is something of a Kodak legend. If you’re an etymology nerd like I can sometimes be, Ektar is an acronym for Eastman Kodak Tessar.
Kodak first used it on their professional-grade lenses from the 1930s to the 1960s, before launching an Ektar film in 1989 that was available in various ISO ratings. This ran until 1996 when it was rebranded to Kodak Royal Gold, which was then discontinued just two years later.
In 2008, Kodak released the Ektar film we have today, which only comes in ISO 100. Despite the name, it’s not the same as the old stuff. Indeed, it’s not even of the same lineage.
Recommended uses of Ektar 100, in Kodak’s words and not mine, are nature, travel, outdoor, fashion, and product photography. Note that this list doesn’t include portraits.
So with all said and done, this Kodak Ektar 100 is a relatively young film with a historic name. As well as the aforementioned finest, smoothest grain of any color negative film available today, it also promises to bring ultra-vivid color and exceptional sharpness.
Let’s see if, in my humble and subjective opinion, it lives up to that billing in the next section.
Kodak Ektar image qualities
I’ve tried to use three photographs below that demonstrate the claims Kodak explicitly makes of Ektar. Of the vivid colours, exceptional sharpness, and world’s finest grain. And also one they imply by not including portraits in that list of recommended uses for the film.
In short, I can’t really argue with what they promise. The shot of Shanghai Library in particular shows off the sharpness, especially in the windows on the right-hand side of the tower, and also that grain. World’s finest? I don’t know. Very fine? For sure.
It should also be noted the clouds are still visible in the sky too, with the dynamic range being enough to not lose detail or blow them out.
The orange flowers are a good example of Ektar’s colour rendition. Especially when you consider I was losing daylight by the time I shot that, hence why I was looking for something to shoot with a wider aperture.
The red flags, green trees and yellow helmet on the third image are other examples of the high saturation. However, while I suppose it’s possible the guy has a nice tan from riding around in the sun all day, it probably wasn’t to the extent that shot makes it appear.
And that’s why Ektar is not the best Kodak film for portraits. The vivid colours that are its strength and that make your landscapes and flowers pop will often make skin tones too red. Fixable in post-processing, of course. But not ideal straight out of the camera.
That’s a small price to pay though and completely immaterial if you’re shooting still life, architecture, or landscape.
If you’re lucky enough to travel somewhere with enough sun for the ISO 100 rating and lots of colourful scenes to shoot, I could image Ektar being the perfect film for your trip.
Street photography with Ektar 100
Whether Kodak Ektar is a good option for your street photography or not depends completely on whether its pros and cons match the look you want and the environment you’re shooting in, in my opinion.
A vividly-coloured ISO 100 film is obviously going to tell a completely different story than a contrasty black and white film like JCH Street Pan 400, and with far less tolerance if you don’t have the best light.
I’m not going to spell out everything you can’t do with Ektar though, when I can instead tell you what you can. Shooting colourful scenes lit up in great light seems the obvious place to start.
Not all street photography has to be in monochrome. Indeed, if you’re in a place with lots of colour, it can be a shame not to take advantage of that. And as long as you have enough light for its ISO 100 rating, the sharpness, contrast, and low grain make Ektar a fine film to do so.
The only downsides are what have already been mentioned. We have some more red skin tones on the fourth image below, and I’ve included the last one to show what can happen when you start to lose the sun at the end of the day. Not enough shutter speed to get the film’s vaunted sharpness.
You can make up your own mind, but I would absolutely shoot this film out in the streets again.
Kodak Ektar 100 specs and development
Kodak Ektar is a daylight balanced colour negative film that’s available in 35mm, 120, and sheet formats, in ISO 100 only. It’s developed using the common C-41 process.
I don’t have any personal experience to pass on as far as developing this film goes, but this site seems a good database for the information you’d need to do it yourself.
There’s also a comprehensive data sheet from Kodak right here. It includes storage advice, exposure guides for shooting under different light sources, and a few curve charts that I don’t think I’ll ever need to know what they mean.
Finally, there’s a table outlining the technology used in the production of Ektar 100 and the benefits it brings to us, the people who shoot it. I’m far more concerned with the latter, but here’s a selection of the former:
- Kodak Vision film technology
- micro-structure optimized Kodak T-grain emulsions
- Kodak proprietary advanced development accelerators
- optimized emulsion spectral sensitivity and image modifier chemistry
- Kodak advanced cubic emulsions
- Kodak proprietary DIR couplers
If you’re interested in that, good for you. I prefer to just know that it gives us, in no particular order, the world’s finest-grained colour negative film, ultra-vivid colour, optimized sharpness, distinct edges and fine detail.
It’s also, in Kodak’s words again, ideal for scanning and has extraordinary enlargement capability from a 35mm negative.
The bottom line for me is you get all that image quality in a colour negative film that can be developed anywhere using the common C-41 process and for not too bad a price.
Where to buy Kodak Ektar 100
If you’re reading this, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting hold of some Ektar 100. That’s because the usual online suspects are all going to have some you can order.
Having said that, if you’re lucky enough to have a brick and mortar film stockist near you, they really should have some too. As a film in the Kodak Professional range, it’s not going to be a rarity in most of the world, like an Oriental Seagull 100 is for example.
Again though, if you can’t find any on the shelf, live too far from anywhere who would have it, or just want to see if it’s cheaper to buy online, Ektar will never be more than a few clicks away.
You can check the prices and availability through the links below.
- buy Kodak Ektar 100 from Amazon
- buy Kodak Ektar 100 Plus from eBay
- buy Kodak Ektar 100 from Analogue Wonderland
Final thoughts on Kodak Ektar 100
The first thing to say about Ektar 100 as this review gets wrapped up is that it’s another film I’ve shot and found myself really liking. It’s a film I’ll certainly be shooting again.
Maybe I’m easily pleased, or generally overly positive. Maybe I’ve been drawn to shooting mainly good films as they get talked about more and so have subconsciously grabbed my attention.
Or maybe, if you like film photography, most films generally are good at what they do. Kodak Ektar certainly is. Those vivid colours, the sharpness, and that very fine grain are all there as advertised.
One testament I’ve seen to that is comparisons made between Ektar and slide film. Having only shot one roll of slide – the new Ektachrome 100 – at the time of writing, I don’t really have the experience to repeat those claims. But I’d say them getting made elsewhere is worth noting.
Although I don’t do much of it myself, I can see how Ektar would work as a cheaper alternative to slide film for landscape photography.
With so many different films still available and each with their own characteristics, I think understanding where a film doesn’t shine is as important as talking about where it does.
There’s a reason Portra is just two letters different to portrait and Ektar isn’t. Unless you want those red faces, go with the former.
But if you do want those colours, sharpness, and world’s finest grain for everything else, and do your thing somewhere with ISO 100 friendly light levels, Ektar is more than worth a shot.
Get your Kodak Ektar 100 today
… p.s. if you’ve shot Kodak Ektar 100 yourself and have anything to add to this, let us know in the comments below
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