Revisiting Kodak Ektar- The 35mm Flavor

The name Ektar is an acronym for Eastman Kodak TessAR. -Wikipedia

Kodak Ektar is a beautiful color negative film. As Kodak claims it to be the finest grained color negative film, I wanted to take another roll of it for a spin, this time in 35mm. My latest results with Portra 160 have been quite disappointing, with a lot of blown out skies and overexposure. The blown out sky phenomenon, a few years into film photography, is somewhat puzzling to me still. Is it metering? Is if filtration (or lack thereof)? Is it the emulsion? As I have had some success with Ektar, the punchy colors and almost watercolor painting-like look of the film continues to keep drawing me back to it.

An almost ideal color negative film for sunsets.

An almost ideal color negative film for sunsets. Worcester, Massachusetts.

These shots were taken with the Nikon F2S, 28mm AiS Nikkor, and 135mm f/2.8 Ai Nikkor. A sidenote- the “rabbit ears” of the 135 were not engaging with the coupling pin of the F2. They somehow were bent, or damaged, by the previous owner. A kind reader on the outstanding photo.net forum was generous to send me a replacement set, along with new screws. An easy 5 minute swap, and the lens couples perfectly to the F2’s DP-2 Photomic light meter head.

Nikon F2S, Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Ai. With the right light. Ektar's sharpness can be truly spectacular.

Nikon F2S, Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Ai. With the right light. Ektar's sharpness can be truly spectacular. The red bias is noticeable here.

An untechnical capsule review: the film seems to heavily emphasis reds. The colors are so saturated, you almost have to pull the saturation down, a lot, in Photoshop. Yes, it is sharp, but not overly so. It scans beautifully. It is what was once thought of as a medium speed film, but with more and more color negative emulsions being discontinued by the day, it is one of the slower ones. it does not have the wide latitude of, say, Portra 400. In my experience, it is less prone to overexposure than, say, Portra 160. In my experience with that film, your exposure has to be pretty much dead on, or highlights will blow like the 4th of July.

Fly Fishing- Mirror Lake, Devens, Massachusetts

Fly Fishing- Mirror Lake, Devens, Massachusetts

While I have had some success with skin tones in the larger 120 medium format version, in 35mm, it will produce typically some very ruddy complexions. Like any photography, your mileage may vary. The above shot had the subject in the shadows, back turned. Not a problem here. For portraiture, there are much better choices, such as the above mentioned Portra 400.

In conclusion, Ektar is indeed a lot of fun to shoot. I would not leave it loaded up in my 35’s all the time. But a case of it in 120 is going to get a lot of work in the Hasselblad this summer.

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