Ektar: love or hate?

Shooting film these days is not easy: prices tend to be quite high if you want a decent quality and you can’t really skip any digital pass (scanning you film is a good thing, you never know what could happen to your beloved physical negatives, especially when you have a 1 one old daughter with an increasing curiosity). The only drawback of having to go into a digital representation of your film shots is that you cannot be really sure at what you are seeing: unless you spend a fortune for a drum scan on a highly calibrated digital machine, the colours and the sharpness of your pictures, as you evaluate them in your screen, are heavily influenced by the digital conversion.

It is quite difficult for me to decide whether I love my shots with Kodak Ektar 100: the same thing should apply to other types but for an unknown reason my Kodak Portra 400 or Fuji Provia 100F pictures come out almost always very well (I take way more portraits than architectural or landscape pictures, that could be the reason). Ektar is technically speaking very good, maybe even the best of all C41 and E6 color films: really fine grain (is it really a good thing though?), high sharpness, strong saturation. The last point is definitely good for black or tanned people portraits and, of course, for landscapes…but it proves quite challenging for most people photography, unless you start playing with white balance and curves. The three pictures below have been taken with both a Pentax 67 and a Hasselblad 500CM, Ektar exposed at iso 80. The skin tones are not exactly perfect, the man on the left (the guardian of Galleria delle Vittorie in Palermo) was in full shade and was quite tanned (it was end of summer) so the skin tint may be right; the lady on the centre (Lisa, a very nice  and skilled subtitle professional from France, visiting Capo d’Orlando in Sicily) was way too orange (the wall behind her may be the reason), and lastly the couple on the right (Anna and Gianluca, again in Capo d’Orlando) required some color correction in post production.

Technical info: 

  • Hasselblad 500CM > Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80 CF + 8mm extension ring > Kodak Ektar 100@80iso developed at 100

  • Pentax 67 > SMC 105mm f2.4 Nikon + 14mm extension ring > Kodak Ektar 100@80iso developed at 100

  • Pentax 67 > SMC 105mm f2.4 Nikon > Kodak Ektar 100@80iso developed at 100

When it comes to landscape photography this film shines: I had to take a roll for a test and I had a couple of Ektar that are about to expire so I decided to head down to One New Change in London to take some boring and classic shots of St Paul, the Shard and the Blackfriars area. The colours are absolutely gorgeous: I am not really into this kind of photography anymore and I am definitely more skilled (or less bad) in portraits and street photography, but I can see the potential this film has in the right hands. The dynamic range is incredible and I don’t think I have managed to fully capture it with my Epson V750 and my limited Silverfast knowledge. It is quite clear that I may use this during my summer holidays in Sicily (think about what I can get on top of the Etna vulcano or from the Aoelian Islands or in the streets of Palermo). I don’t think I really am in love with this film but I don’t hate it either: it is just another option and in these days one thing is sure: we don’t want to reduce our analog options.

Technical info: Hasselblad 500CM > Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80 CF > Kodak Ektar 100@80iso developed at 100

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2 thoughts on “Ektar: love or hate?

  1. Ektar definitely has its uses, in the past I haven’t found much use for it myself, though. And I get what you’re saying about skin tones, I’ve had trouble myself, especially with white people, though some photographers have made it work. I don’t know how much they desaturate in post, though. I recently tried using a 1953 Leica lens that is definitely lower-contrast, and that helped reign things in, at least for me. That said, I’m still partial to Fuji for color work…

  2. Pingback: Slowing down: PanF+ | > photo episodes

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