Kodak Ektar H35N Half Frame Camera Review

kodak ektar h35n

It’s always good to try new things with your photography. To get those creative juices flowing by shooting a different style, a new format, or with some kind of gear you haven’t used before.

That could be as simple as playing with a half frame camera, which I barely had before I got this Kodak Ektar H35N. But in just the couple of rolls I’ve put through it, it’s certainly made me shoot in a way I wouldn’t normally do.

It’s been a lot of fun doing so and the results have turned out well as well, as you’ll see in this review. You’ll also learn what features this camera brings, who’s producing it, and how you can get the most out of yours should you pick one up too.

If you want to, they’re inexpensive and readily available from several places – direct from Reto, from B&H Photo, from Analogue Wonderland in the UK, or simply from Amazon.

KODAK EKTAR H35N Half Frame Film Camera, 35mm, Reusable, Focus-Free, Bulb Function, Built-in Star Filter, Coated Improved Lens (Film & AAA Battery are not Included) (Striped Black)
  • ✨ Built-in Star Filter: Photographs tiny light sources to create a four-beam flare on light spots.
  • 🔍 Coated, Improved Glass Lens: One element of glass lens sharpens the clarity of the images.
  • 💡 Bulb Function (Long Exposure): Helps to capture the trail of moving objects, mostly at night.
  • 📷 Tripod Hole: Uses a tripod to keep your camera steady to support long exposure photography.

What is the Kodak Ektar H35N and who is making it?

The Kodak Ektar H35N is a half frame camera produced by the Hong Kong-based company Reto – who use the Kodak and Ektar trademarks under licence – and is an updated and upgraded version of the H35 they released a couple of years previous.

Half frame cameras, if you’re unaware, get double the number of images a regular 35mm camera does on a roll of film by shooting in a portrait aspect and so only using half a frame per exposure.

Before we go on, I should say that Reto did send me the camera we’re reviewing today. But that has no bearing on how I’m going to talk about it or Reto themselves. I genuinely like the camera and the company and would talk positively about them both if I’d bought this camera with my own money anyway.

Reto – an abbreviation of Reinvent Together – have put out a number of cameras in the last few years, and I think it’s good what they’ve been up to.

Every camera they’ve released so far has something different about it. Some reason to buy it.

They’ve avoided the trap of simply flogging some cheap AliExpress listing that doesn’t do anything that any of my older, better cameras already do. I’m not going to name names, but you’ve probably seen them around.

If I wanted a basic point and shoot camera with a normal focal length, I’d just use the old Olympus Supertrip that I’ve already got. And if I didn’t have anything, I’d rather buy something like that than a new piece of inferior plastic.

This is what I like about what Reto do. Everything they’ve brought out has some other selling point, and they’ve generally been modern-day versions or variants of older cameras.

The Reto3D was definitely inspired by the old lenticular Nimslo, the Ultra Wide & Slim which I reviewed here was the latest reanimating of the old Vivitar one, and the original H35 and now this H35N look a lot like an old Kodak Instamatic 133.

Reto have even gone back into the vaults of Kodak typefaces past and used the same one those Instamatics had. It’s a small touch but one that I noticed and appreciate.

kodak ektar h35n camera

Kodak Ektar H35N specs and features

So we know who makes this camera, and that I’m personally a fan of them and what they do. But what specs and features does it have?

Let’s have a look at a handy list.

  • 35mm, half frame film format
  • manual wind and rewind film mechanism
  • 22mm f11, f8 with flash on, coated lens
  • 2-element lens – 1 glass lens, 1 aspherical acrylic lens
  • 1/100s shutter speed
  • bulb mode
  • built-in flash
  • built-in star filter
  • 110 x 62 x 39 mm
  • 110g
  • ABS plastic and aluminium composition
  • 1x AAA battery required for flash

And now to elaborate on some of those.

As mentioned, the half frame format allows you to get double the number of shots from a roll of film by shooting in a portrait aspect rather than the regular landscape of full frame 35mm cameras.

If that 22mm lens sounds a bit too wide for you, don’t worry. As we’re shooting half frame, you can multiply that by 1.44 to get a more accurate idea of what you’ll be working with. In this case, it’s more like a 32mm lens in real terms.

The bulb mode can only be used with a cable release which goes into a threaded hole in the top of the camera, and there’s a threaded tripod hole on the bottom of the camera to help keep it steady for those long exposures too.

The star filter is a cool little feature that slides a plastic filter over the lens to give some flare on light sources in your shots.

The Quick Start Guide is worth reading for further information, like that you should have the main subject of your image at least 1.5 metres from you, for example.

You can get that in English here, and in other languages from here. Grazie mille.

The H35N originally came in 6 colours – glazed pink, glazed orange, glazed blue, striped green, striped silver, and striped black – although new designs have since been released, like the BT21 Edition.

A final thing to mention here is the curved film plane on the inside of the camera back.

This was also found on the Reto UWS and helps to keep more of your images in focus and reduce barrel distortion with such a wide lens being used.

Image quality of the H35N

Of course, everything you’ve read up to now would be completely irrelevant if the image quality of the H35N was no good. If it couldn’t produce decent results, you probably wouldn’t want to use one anyway.

I’ve put two rolls through mine at the time of writing – some Fomapan 200 and some Kodak ColorPlus 200 – and I was pleased with how they both came out.

Before we go on – and please trust me that this is related to this camera review – I think a pertinent quote to bring out here would be that ‘happiness is the gap between expectation and reality’.

If you expect too much and don’t get it, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if what you get matches what you thought you would, you’re more likely to be okay with things.

So don’t go expecting Noctilux quality from this thing, because you aren’t getting that. What I got, though, was pretty close to the kind of image quality I get from the full-frame 35mm cameras I usually shoot with.

I’m not pixel-peeping, because that’s a really tedious endeavour, but for me the results I got just pass the eye test, so to speak. If anything, they’re better – sharper and with more contrast – than I was expecting they would be.

Let’s take a look, beginning with some of what I got from the first roll I put through this camera. That aforementioned Fomapan 200.

Shooting Fomapan 200 diptychs with the H35N

So, that first sample image was two images. The rest of these Foma 200 shots will be in that form too, and that’s because I decided to shoot diptychs with this H35N.

Getting double the number of shots from a roll of film is generally a good thing and one of the main advantages of using a half frame camera. If you don’t mind the portrait aspect and are okay with the lower resolution in each image, having 48 or 72 exposures to play with saves you money and means your film does go pretty far.

I’ll be honest though. Trying to get through 72 individual frames in my kinda boring (photography-wise) hometown of Mansfield, especially when I’d already shot there plenty of times before, sounded like a lot.

So I did something I mentioned at the very start of this review. I tried something new with my photography. I got those creative juices flowing by shooting in a way I previously hadn’t.

Instead of trying to find 72 different shots to make, I thought 36 pairs of images would be quicker and easier instead.

It also meant that things in town that I’d shot before and would be dull to shoot as standalone images again suddenly became relatively interesting again as part of a duo of photographs.

A final reason to do this was that this camera’s portrait aspect naturally lends itself to having two photographs together. In my mind anyway.

Here’s some of what I came up with. Again, for me, the H35N did well with the sharpness and contrast on these.

Shooting Kodak ColorPlus 200 in the Kodak H35N

Having been very happy with what I’d got from the monochrome Fomapan 200, I was keen to put some colour film through the H35N and see how it did with that too.

I didn’t want to do the same thing and shoot diptychs again though. I wanted to challenge myself to make standalone images in portrait aspect this time. And because that meant a lot of individual shots, I went with a 24-exposure roll of Kodak ColorPlus 200 that I already had in my stash.

Walking around Nottingham on a sunny day, I found it pretty easy and a lot of fun to find scenes and just shoot away.

It’s always a pleasure to do that when the light is as good as it was that day, but having no settings like aperture or shutter speed or adjustable focus to worry about made it even nicer. Point and shoot in the purest way.

As you can see, I do like to have the occasional refreshment break when I’m out shooting in town as well.

And as you’ll also see below, although I was enjoying shooting those individual shots, I couldn’t help but throw in a few more diptychs too.

There was even a triptych that found its way into proceedings. Outlandish.

For clarity, I didn’t shoot those three shots of the Theatre Royal with that in mind. I just noticed them when I got the scans back and thought they’d go well as a trio.

Street photography with the Kodak Ektar H35N

In the majority of my camera reviews and film reviews on this site, I have a ‘street photography with…’ section. Because that’s always been the majority of what I shoot and what I enjoy the most.

This Kodak Ektar H35N review is no different, because it’s worth explaining why there’s something different about shooting street with it than with most other cameras I’ve used.

A few of the images in those diptychs above were street style, and the few individual ones below are too. And all of them are in this camera’s native portrait aspect.

When I shoot in the streets with a full frame camera, I hardly ever turn it sideways to shoot like this. It’s almost always in landscape aspect. So getting used to the portrait aspect here and trying to make that work was what made it interesting for me.

Looking at my results now, be they the individual shots or the diptychs, it seems most of them went with one of two general compositions. Either with a tall building behind some people or framing some people within a vertical shape like a door, window or gate.

So, street photography with the H35N? Why not. Get your portrait aspect on and try to work with something a little different.

Playing with the H35N’s star filter

Something mentioned earlier in the Specs and Features section of this review was the built-in star filter.

Of all the H35N’s creative options, like bulb mode for long exposures and the workaround (that we’ll come to later) that allows you to take double exposures, I found the star filter to be the easiest to just use, play with, and get presentable results from.

A small sliding switch next to the lens brings the built-in plastic star filter down over the front of the glass elements. You can see how this looks in the image below, with the crosshatch pattern on the filter there bringing the special effect on your images.

You can also see the effect it has in my first example shot taken with the filter on – it adds beams of light in an offset cross pattern that emanate from any strong light source in your photograph.

kodak h35n lens

Of course, a plastic filter is going to detract from the image quality of the glass lens somewhat, and I think you can see that it did in that shot of the Wild Clothing shop.

But you probably didn’t buy the H35N for tack-sharp images anyway – especially if you’re then deliberately using this filter to put streaks of light over them.

There are definitely plenty of instances where the star filter adds to an image, but it could be easy to overdo it too. I’ve seen some sample shots where there were just too many individual strong light sources and the multitude of streaks were just overwhelming.

For my sample shots, I stuck with just one per image, and I think they worked.

Another function of the star filter – and perhaps an unintended one when they were making this camera – is as a sort of built-in lens cap that you can use to protect the glass element when you put the H35N in your bag or pocket.

Dmitri at Analog Cafe mentioned doing this in his review, and Molly Kate did in her piece for 35mmc too. You’d just have to remember to take the filter off every time before you shot if you didn’t want to use it all the time – something that Molly also mentioned forgetting to do sometimes.

Accidental star filter shenanigans aside, here are the rest of my shots using it. Including, of course, some more diptychs.

Using the flash on the H35N

I’ve never been a big doer of flash photography. I don’t really ever shoot in situations that need it for people, like indoors or just in the dark, and I prefer to use the already available light if I do that anyway.

You can see some examples of what I mean in this blog post here.

And with this camera especially, with its f11 aperture and 1/100s shutter speed and loaded as it was with ISO 200 film, I wouldn’t bother with any of the above. I’d just stick to well-lit daylight shots.

But for the purposes of this review, I gave the flash – which is turned on and off by the ring around the lens – a go.

Now if you want to know more – a lot more – about using the flash on the H35N, Dmitri at Analog Cafe went quite deep into it, talking about GN and optimal distances for different ISO films.

That’s all a bit beyond me. I just took some shots to see how they came out. One of Jimmy under a table, one of a bunch of stuff on another table, and a final one of me in a pub toilet.

I told you, I like a refreshment break when I’m out shooting sometimes.

Trying and failing with the bulb mode

This is going to be a short section of this review because things didn’t really work out as I’d hoped when I tried to use the bulb mode.

Bulb mode, if you’re unaware, allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you like. This gives the film longer to gather light in low-light situations and will lead to motion blur if anything is moving in your shot.

You’ll need a cable release to do this though, which the H35N does not come with. Thankfully I had one laying around. It came with the Lomo LC-Wide. I’ve never used it with that camera. Or any other.

I don’t have a proper, sturdy tripod at the time of writing though and so was attempting to get some long exposures using a flimsy little plastic gorilla pod type of thing. It’s decent enough for using self-timers on small cameras, but unfortunately does still move a little when I use a cable release.

And so my few shots spent trying to get a decent long exposure failed. There’s only one worth showing you, and you can imagine how bad most of them were if this was the best.

I will revisit this. I’ll get a better tripod, try again, and update this section once I have. But for now, yes you can shoot long exposures with the H35N. You’ll need that cable release and a sturdier tripod than I tried with. I wish you well.

H35N ergonomics and ease of use

My overriding feeling after putting those two rolls of film through my Kodak H35N was that it was always a lot of fun. I just enjoyed using this thing – for the most part just happily pointing it at stuff and shooting away.

That experience tells me there is nothing really wrong with this camera in terms of ergonomics and ease of use. There was nothing that was annoying or that got in the way of what I wanted to do with it and how I wanted to shoot it, i.e. in a carefree kind of way.

The thumb indent on the back of the camera is a subtle little thing that probably helps more with comfort and handling than you’d think when looking at it, and there’s plenty of room on the front for your fingers to not get in the way of the lens or viewfinder too.

Both the star filter toggle and the flash ring around the lens are stiff enough that you won’t switch them on or off without meaning to, and both are in good places too. Right there when you need them and never in the way when you don’t.

kodak ektar h35n camera

Loading film in the H35N is a breeze and an upgrade on the original H35 too. On that one, you had to pop out the slightly flimsy feeling rewind spool. On this newer model, that spool is shorter and spring-loaded, allowing the film cartridge to just pop in over it without pulling it out.

When rewinding the film after finishing your roll, you need to press the small button on the bottom of the camera to release the mechanism. This is the same as many, many other film cameras, but forgetting to do so can result in your film tearing off. So don’t do that.

Another upgrade on the original H35 is the frame counter on the top of the camera. Yes, the first iteration of this camera had one, but it was pretty hard to read.

The comparison image below shows how it’s been brightened up on this new version and is now much easier to see how many shots you’ve got left.

The viewfinder has been improved too and is now natively in portrait aspect.

As you can see in the next comparison image here, the viewfinder of the older H35 was in landscape aspect with the edges shaded out to help you compose your shot in portrait.

Your images also have less distortion, as seen on the edges of those film boxes, than what the viewfinder produces.

Just like the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim and probably most other toy cameras out there, the viewfinder isn’t 100% accurate to what the lens will capture either. It’s wider, which means you’ll have more in your shot than you thought.

This is of course better than having less.

I also found that my composition was sometimes a little off to the right of where I thought I was aiming, although this is down to user error rather than the camera.

I guess it’s me not looking perfectly straight through the viewfinder and so holding the camera at a very slight rightward angle when I shoot.

From the images already posted on this review, you can see this happened on the telephone box and Burger King sign shots. I wouldn’t normally have either of those objects so close to the left of the frame.

The majority of my shots have been fine, although I wouldn’t trust myself with this camera to nail compositions that need accuracy or perfect symmetry all the time.

Perhaps snapshots that don’t require it so much are a better way to shoot this thing, and a reminder of that quote from earlier – ‘happiness is the gap between expectation and reality’.

Just to be prepared for the possibility that what you get might not be what you saw at the time. I will be from now on, and I’ve got no issue with that. Everything is on me.

Regardless, here are another couple of examples of when it happened to show you what I mean. I know I would have had the Rock City sign central in that shot, and the pub door even more so.

A few ‘hidden’ features of the Kodak H35N

Since the Kodak Ektar H35N was released, various people have found a few things you can do with it that seem to be by-products of features that were being put on this camera.

I’m calling them ‘hidden’ because they weren’t mentioned in the original manual for the camera, and some of them maybe still aren’t either, but people have discovered and talked about them elsewhere.

Switching the aperture

The first of these extra features was the ability to switch apertures between f11 and f8.

The camera is designed to shoot at f11 in normal use and at f8 when the flash is turned on. I don’t believe this information was communicated at first by Reto, but they let us know later in a response to a review by Johnny Martyr.

That exchange was detailed on Johnny’s blog here.

The upshot of this is that, if you want to shoot the H35N at f8 instead of f11, simply remove the battery and turn the flash on. There’ll be no flash firing, but you’ll still be at f8.

Multiple exposures

The next ‘hidden’ feature of the H35N is the ability to shoot double or multiple exposures.

This was discovered by Dave at The Old Camera Guy YouTube channel, who explained how it works in this short video here. If you’d rather just read how to do it, I’ll explain.

When you take a shot in the normal way with the shutter button, it won’t fire again until you wind the film on to the next frame. However, when using a cable release, the shutter operates on a different mechanism.

This means you can either take a shot in the normal way and then one with the cable release before winding the film on, or just take two shots with the cable release before winding on.

Both will result in a double exposure being made, or as many more as you want before winding on the film.

Slow flash sync

A final ‘hidden’ feature is the possibility of shooting slow flash sync photographs with the cable release and bulb shutter.

This was another one I believe was first mentioned by Johnny Martyr in his PetaPixel review of this camera.

If you have the flash turned on and charged up, it will fire when you use the cable release to shoot. You can then hold the shutter open for as long as you want afterwards to create some cool creative effects.

Slow flash sync photography is not something I see people doing very often – especially on film – and it might take you some practice to get decent results doing it. Especially with this basic camera.

But like most things, it’s worth trying on a few frames if the opportunity arises. I’ll be giving it a go at some point, for sure.

What film to use in your Kodak H35N

My advice for what kind of film to shoot in your Kodak H35N is going to be similar to what I recommended for another of Reto’s cameras – the Ultra Wide & Slim.

Because you only have f8 and f11 to play with here and a fixed shutter speed of 1/100 of a second, you should pay attention to what the weather is doing when it comes to your film choice.

My general rule would be ISO 100 and 200 films on bright sunny days and ISO 400 on more overcast days when the light is a little less optimal. I wouldn’t go with anything too expensive either.

For colour film, perhaps:

For black and white film, perhaps:

I would have to be very sure the sun would be out all day before I went with one of those ISO 100 films, though.

Although most consumer films do have good exposure latitude – which means they can operate to a degree on both sides of the ideal light for their shutter speed – you can paint yourself into a corner with too low an ISO if the clouds come and block your sun.

I’ve been burnt by this before when I loaded some ISO 100 film in a Holga 120N and that exact thing happened. A lot of the roll ended up being very dark and useless.

Going with an ISO 200 or 400 film in this kind of camera gives you more leeway should the light get worse as well as better, whereas an ISO 100 film might only give you the latter.

If you’re shooting in low light, you could go with an ISO 800 film too. Molly Kate did and had some very nice results from it in her review on 35mmc. I suspect you might suffer from overexposure if you tried some in daylight though, with the H35N’s fixed 1/100 shutter speed.

Also, probably don’t try slide film in this thing unless you’re prepared to potentially waste an expensive roll of special film. The exposure latitude just won’t be there to compensate for the lack of a light meter or adjustable aperture (beyond f8 and f11) or shutter speed on this thing.

Where to buy a Kodak Ektar H35N

You can find a Kodak Ektar H35N at most places that sell new film cameras online.

I can’t really mention everywhere here but with Reto shipping worldwide from Hong Kong and the following stores having them too, it shouldn’t be hard for you to track one down.

KODAK EKTAR H35N Half Frame Film Camera, 35mm, Reusable, Focus-Free, Bulb Function, Built-in Star Filter, Coated Improved Lens (Film & AAA Battery are not Included) (Striped Black)
  • ✨ Built-in Star Filter: Photographs tiny light sources to create a four-beam flare on light spots.
  • 🔍 Coated, Improved Glass Lens: One element of glass lens sharpens the clarity of the images.
  • 💡 Bulb Function (Long Exposure): Helps to capture the trail of moving objects, mostly at night.
  • 📷 Tripod Hole: Uses a tripod to keep your camera steady to support long exposure photography.

Final thoughts on the Kodak Ektar H35N

I’ll try to keep these final thoughts brief because this review has already gone on for quite a while. On that – thank you for reading this far and I hope you’ve enjoyed it or found it useful.

Obviously I have positive thoughts about the Kodak Ektar H35N and nothing really bad to say about it. Those viewfinder inaccuracies aside, which are on me more than they are on the camera, it’s all good.

The results from the coated glass lens are better than I’d expected and making them was a lot of fun – be that monochrome diptychs or colour single images.

I’d never played around with diptychs before and still might not have done if it wasn’t for the H35N, so I’ve got that to be thankful for too.

On Reto, who produce this camera with the Kodak name used under license, I have nothing but good things to say either. Maybe their cameras aren’t for everyone and I get that, but I applaud them for at least doing something different with them.

Ultra-wide lenses on the UWS, multiple lenses on the Reto3D, and half frame on the H35 and H35N. Everything they release has something that makes it not just another cheap plastic 35mm camera.

They’re the only company to ever reach out to me and ask if I want a camera sent out to review too, which I did appreciate.

You can give them a follow on Instagram here and here and maybe check out more images made with these cameras here too.

Overall, I’ll say this… the H35N is inexpensive, produces decent images, and has a fair few features that can keep you being creative with it for longer and in more ways than lots of the other new cameras out there today.

I like mine and I reckon you’d like yours too. 🙂

If you found that Kodak H35N review useful, why not check out these other great film cameras too:

And if you think others will enjoy or benefit from this camera review too, help them find it by giving it a share. 😀

written by
LEE WEBB
Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

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