Sunday, January 08, 2017

Big News... Ektachrome is back!

my last roll of Ektachrome* in
the fridge
Unless you have not been anywhere on the internet in the past week, you have undoubtedly heard the unexpected announcement by Kodak Alaris at the Consumer Electronics Show regarding the resuming of production of Ektachrome by Eastman Kodak later this year.  Yes, this IS a big deal.  It's rare for a manufacturer to reintroduce a discontinued product, let alone a film stock.  I hope the hype pans out, and that people buy this film -- a lot of it, in fact.  One may wonder why they would do this.  Well, since it is a color-reversal film, development results in a positive image, which translates well for the 16mm movie market.  It's a niche, for sure, but so is Super-8, which also would benefit from this.  I think the still-photography folks will also appreciate having another option, too.

Up until now, Fuji has been the only manufacturer still offering slide film.  Their Fuji Velvia 50 and Velvia 100, and Provia 100 and Provia 400 films are terrific, and if you are shooting nature, those films are perfect.  Meanwhile, Ferrania is trying to restart their factory, and until they actually produce a product (and I think they will), it is just what we used to call "vaporware" in the software industry.  Eastman Kodak, however, has the facilities, the formulas, and the expertise already in place, so I fully expect Ektachrome 100 to appear this fall.  I would love to be one of the first people to get samples!

I also think that the continuing interest in shooting film has played a role (many many rolls!) in this decision.  Lomography has been selling slide film, which I believe is remaining stocks of Kodak Ektachrome, and perhaps Fuji, as well. The only way to tell is to look at the film box, which will state where the film was manufactured (USA = Kodak, Japan=Fuji).  Even the so-called Agfa Precisa is rebranded Fujichrome (correct me if I am wrong).  While I question how much slide film will be used in the commercial realm, the enthusiast market is growing again, and a smaller, more efficient Kodak operation can fill that niche.

I don't want to count the number of rolls of slide film (aka "color reversal film") I have shot in 45 years of photography.  I did however, take a glance through some of my files of slide images, and I can see where I shot a ton of Fuji Astia and Provia, Kodak Kodachrome, and to a lesser extent, Ektachrome.  I pondered about that for a bit, but I suspect it was most likely due to price, and film specials, etc.  It may also have been cyclical -- I can see where I shot a lot of Ektachrome in a given year.  Of course, in the last decade, any slide film I shot was primarily whatever I could find and it usually was not the same kinds of subjects what I was shooting in the early 2000s.  Back then, I was doing a lot of nature and macro photography.  That's primarily what I use digital for now.  For me, street, architecture, and colorful subjects--slide film is a pretty darn good medium.  The trouble is, the local E-6 labs died off, and I had to send it out, and the development price was about $12/roll, including the postage.  So, of course, until more recently, I shot very little of it.  Now that I can do E-6 at home with the Unicolor kit, my price of development of a roll is about $3.   As a result, I am more likely to shoot more E-6 in the coming months.  I have been shooting the Retrochrome 320 from the FPP store, and while I like it, it is expired Ektachrome of some sort.  So again, having a true ISO 100 slide film from Kodak will be greatly appreciated.

If you have not ever shot slide film in 35mm or 120, you might ask "why all the fuss?"  There is something quite magical about holding a "chrome" in your hand.  The bigger the format, the more outstanding the positive color image.  You do not need an intermediary process to see the image (i.e. a negative needs to be scanned  or printed to see the positive image.  With a color reversal film, it's all there right in front of you.



So, to Kodak, I say, bring it on!!

*Elite chrome was the consumer version of professional Ektachrome.  Under the Kodak Professional branding, we had Ektachrome 100G, 100VS, etc.  The all-purpose Elite chrome 100 was a good film, and the edge markings are EB100.   You can find out more about the various types of chrome films here.   

If you are interested in seeing a lot of Ektachrome shots online, visit the Flickr Ektachrome group

2 comments:

Jim Grey said...

I shot my first Ektachrome just before Kodak announced its discontinuation. I bought a little more; I still have a couple rolls of E100G in 120 in the fridge. I've always gotten lovely results from it.

I'm looking forward to E100 and shooting it in my 35mm cameras!

Mark O'Brien said...

Yes, I love the look of most of the slide films. While there is a lot of expired film available, unless it's been cold-stored, it's a guess on how good it still is. Having some fresh Ektachrome 100 would be nice. Once I made a purchase of expired Konica slide film back around 2002, and without testing a roll first, took a few rolls on a short trip. Had I been trying to achieve a Lomography effect, it would have been great, but not for doing nature shots. :)