I love Kodak Ektar. There, I said it. I am not sure I could definitively say it’s my absolute favourite film stock to shoot, that accolade goes to Kodak’s low light emulsion, Portra 800 (which I have shot on bright, sunny days for it’s contrast and grain, but more about that another time).
Re-launched in 2008, Ektar promises to deliver great saturation as well as the finest grain available in colour negative film (C41) which appeals to travel and landscape photographers alike. Since giving up digital photography entirely to shoot with film and even during the brief transition period where I owned both for a while, Kodak Ektar 100 has been a staple emulsion for me whenever I travel. I always have a few boxes of 120 as well as a few rolls of 35mm available.
When shooting faster films like Kodak Portra 400 or alternatively, Fuji Pro 400H, many photographers recommend overexposing those by a stop or more to get the light, airy feel that they want to portray in their images. I do the same with those films stocks, although I lean towards Kodak over Fuji these days, however with Ektar 100, I recommend shooting at box speed whilst still metering for the shadows. I have had great results with this and the feedback from my lab, Canadian Film Lab, is always pretty positive, except of course when I have made a glaringly obvious human error with my handheld meter, which I choose to use even if the camera I am wielding at the time has it’s own meter built in.
Of course, you don’t have to shoot it at or be limited to ISO100 with this film. It can be pushed very well indeed, with some photographers such as Jonathan Canlas pushing it a couple of stops to great effect.
Now when it comes to shooting people with Ektar 100, the internet is divided. People say it’s too saturated, too contrasty, not flattering, etc, etc. One thing I find with Ektar is that it does accentuate reds. This can be beautiful for landscapes and travel photography, but not great if your subject is a human who has quite a lot of red in their complexion as it will possibly accentuate it and then yes, the skin tone would look quite unpleasant indeed. However, if you are fortunate enough to have a subject with quite a porcelain complexion and with the right lighting conditions such as a bright but overcast day, in my opinion, Ektar can be beautiful for portraits.
It wouldn’t be my go-to film if I was specifically going to a portrait session of course, but there are some wonderful photographers shooting beautiful portraits with Ektar. When I travel however, it will still be my film of choice for everything else when I can get away with ISO 100. It’s beautiful in both 35mm and 120 and also available in 5x4 sheets for all you large format shooters. If I ever pick up a 5x4 camera, I will be sure to also grab a box of Ektar.