5 Frames with Kodak Ektar 100

While a short-lived filmstock named “Ektar” existed in the 90’s, the current emulsion known as Kodak Ektar entered the market in 2008, when film photography was well on it’s way out of the mainstream. It’s also one of my very favorite films to shoot color with.

Sold as the “finest-grain color film on the market,” it’s a professional-grade 100 ISO film, known for very saturated colors and very fine grain (as the box informs you) and high contrast. It scans very well on a flatbed film scanner, and while I can’t be sure if it truly offers “The Finest” of fine grains, it does make a very sharp photo if shot in the right conditions.

“Ektar” has been applied to a previous line of film, as well as a line of high-end lenses in the mid-20th Century. It’s an acronym for “Eastman Kodak Tessar” and they’ve used it for a century now to designate something they feel pretty good about in their product line. It’s their “Premium” designation, and as such, the price has been going up pretty steadily over the past 10 years. I started buying it when it was nine bucks a roll, it peaked at around 18 bucks during the pandemic era and a subsequent color film shortage due to lack of access to various materials, now it’s around 13 dollars or so per roll. So while not as expensive as slide film or other premium films, it’s still a film I don’t use every day.

It really shines on sunny outdoor shots where there is a lot of warm color. It leans heavily on the red spectrum, and it isn’t very good for shooting skin tones. The skin will always look reddish, especially if there are other reds anywhere near the person being shot. That’s when you would use Kodak Portra 160 or 400, those are designed for shooting skin tones.

I’ve used Ektar when shooting cityscapes, or classic cars, nature shots at botanical gardens or fall foliage in the Northeast, and it works really well used for shooting in snowy conditions, as the colors will pop nicely where other films will produce more muted colors with all the bright white snow washing everything out. It’s not as great on less sunny days, and not ideal for skin tones, but with those two exceptions I’ve rarely had a rough time with this stuff, and some of my favorite photos I’ve shot have been made using Ektar. It doesn’t have as much latitude when exposed too far over box speed, but on a sunny day dial in f8 aperture and 1/500 shutter speed, and you’re good to go!

Ektar is made in 35mm format, 120 and sheet film. It is only sold in ISO 100, and generally available any place that sells film… especially now that the 35mm color film shortage is a thing of the past.