Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kodak Ektar 100

Kodak Ektar 100 according to Kodak: Featuring ISO 100 speed, high saturation and ultra-vivid color, EKTAR 100 offers the finest, smoothest grain of any color negative film available today.
Quite a boast, how does it achieve this speed/finest grain?
The answer is it borrows a technology from Kodaks Vision movie film stock called "2 electron sensitisation" This doesn't mean that it is just a re-packaged movie film far from it. Kodak has been working on the problems associated with the Vision line like poor keeping qualities and more efficient chemical scavengers in order to make the technology suitable for stills use.

What is 2 electron sensitisation?
Here is how the development team explain it:
"Here we describe a new concept for increasing the efficiency of photographic systems, two-electron sensitization, which makes use of the chemical potential stored in the oxidized dyes. In conventional photography, subsequent reactions of the oxidized dyes are not controlled and may in fact include counterproductive return electron transfer reactions (recombination). In the two-electron sensitization scheme, an appropriately designed electron donor molecule, X−Y, that is added to the photographic dispersion transfers an electron to the oxidized dye to give a radical cation, X−Y•+. The X−Y•+ then undergoes a fragmentation reaction to give a radical, X•, and a stable cation, Y+. The radical X• is chosen to be sufficiently reducing so that it can inject an electron into the silver halide conduction band. In this way, the oxidised dye, which is a strong oxidant, is replaced by the radical, X•, which is a strong reductant. The two-electron transfer scheme has the potential of doubling the photographic speed because two electrons are injected per absorbed photon. Photographic data demonstrate that increases in sensitivity by factors approaching 2 can be obtained.".

Phew! so what does that mean for your photography? Simply put the film should have finer grain and slightly higher sensitivity than films without the 2 electron method.

Photographic tests
The following four images were taken mid afternoon, the top chart is in part shadow the bottom is in almost full sun.
Four photographs were taken in quick succession, the meter reading was taken from a grey card placed in the centre and a Minolta spotmeter F was used to find the correct exposure.

The film was taken to a local chemist and put through their 1 hr Fuji minilab. If you want a larger image just left click the pictures.
As you can see each image has a white paper in it with the respective exposures N (meter setting 100ISO) +1 with the lens opened 1 stop, -1 lens stopped down from normal by 1 stop, and -2 which was stopped down 2 stops from the normal frame.

At first glance an impressive result, the spread between +1/-2 is quite acceptable for normal photography if you have a simple camera without meter or use sunny 16 'guess' exposure method this film should give you enough latitude.
Looking at both the negatives and minilab prints along with the scans it is noticeable that at the -2 setting the shadow detail is beginning to block up, if you look in the shadows of the vine under the top chart texture and detail is not as well defined as in the N frame.
At the other end of the scale the +1 frame looks very good so good that I wish I'd taken a +2 frame as well.
I have read many suggestions that this film should be rated at a lower speed than 100, in my experience that has not proved to be the case. I think it would be best to work at box speed initially and do your own tests with cameras and the conditions you use to find your own personal speed index.

Colours are quite saturated especially in the red and blue parts of the spectrum, but somehow seem to give good skin tones, quite a difficult thing for emulsion engineers to achieve or so I'm told.
The following image was taken on a very dull day in winter.

The above scene is the sort of thing Ektar excels at, giving nice 'punchy' colours without overcooking, the magenta bike is pretty accurate as is the shade of pink in the girls boots.

Grain is very fine especially for a colour negative, I have printed a couple of shots to 8x12 inches with no apparent grain, when I get the chance I'll try to print one larger optically to see how far the grain holds up.
The 2 electron sensitisation really gives fine grain, I'll bet we see it introduced into a few more films before too long- Ektar 400 and 1600 would be nice!
Here is a final shot of a garden landscape the colours are pretty accurate as this was taken on a bright cloudless day, the sunlight in the UK can be pretty yellow and the shadows long on sunny winter days.

I have now used 5 rolls of Ektar and can say Kodak have a winner on their hands here, since I started to write this they have announced that Ektar 100 will now be available in 120 format which personally I use much more than 35mm.
I think Kodak have shown with this film (and the updated T-Max) that they are committed to providing film users with high quality materials- film is not dead!

© Text and images Mark Antony Smith 2009


d_eggman said...

Looks way better than the original Ektar 100 of the early '90's. Skin tones were horrible in that original incarnation, not to mention the through-the-roof contrast it had. I liked the old Ektar 25 though. Once printed a 20x30 from a neg that was at the time the best enlargement from 35mm I'd ever seen...

Photo–Smith said...

Hi there eggman. Yes I think it is better than the old incarnation especially the latitude which I remember being quite restricted on the original.
I too remember well the 25, and I think that the grain is very fine on the latest version probably similar to the 25 version.
I took a load of the Ektar 25 to Malta back then and found it great for colourful fishing boats but back in the UK it was too slow for all round use. I too did some large 16x20 that were very goo , this one at 100 will make a good general purpose film I'd be interested to print one at 20" wide I'll bet they'll look fine.
I also used some of the Ektar 1000 back in the late 1990's I'd love them to put out a really fast fine grain version, that would showcase the 2 electron method.
But the recent announcement of the 120 version make me exited, I'll use some this summer for sure!

LVK said...

I have just developed a few rolls from a trip we took to Italy and I can say I haven't seen photos this sharp in years; and we were using "only" using a Canon Rebel with the stock 28-90 lens. The interesting thing is that the lab I use, , does not have an optical printer anymore and I thought their scanner wouldn't reveal the true resolution and I have to say it did! This film may not breathe new life into film but it is the resolution and saturation to beat. I would guess 28+ megapixel digital equivalent.

Photo–Smith said...

I don't know if this film will 'breathe more life into film' but I'm sure that the fine grain and good latitude will lure a few digi shooters into using it.
I'm not sure about the mega-pixel rating as I don't normally like to hypothesise about those kind of things.
I think in honesty the film is as good as my D2x when printed optically, I think you'd need a good scanner to match the current batch of DSLRs.
Also Kodak seemed to have produced a film with good colour rendition, very fine grain and wide latitude. I feel that it isn't as bitingly sharp as some 100 ISO films but the grain is finer- its a great product.

Charlie Wood said...

This film has aroused some interest with me.
I shoot very little colour film but when I do it is colour slides for travel and landscape.
E6 films are getting rather a pain to get developed locally.
Dlab7 has ceased E6 to.

The availability of this film in 120 rolls will be most welcome.
As will the exposure latitude and the not way over the top colours.

Have you ever used AGFA Ultra 50
I was looking at Martin Parr's work recently, I believe he used this film.
The skin tones with this film were not great, but this new Ektar appears to handle skin tones well.

I have some Ektar 25 in my freezer dated 92 I will give it a go this summer.
I was in Norfolk yesterday (Stanfeild) the country side was looking very photogenic.

Photo–Smith said...

Hi Charlie
hope you are well
E-6 is hard to get processed in Norfolk too, I use Kodachrome or Sensia for 35mm but go to Jessops for 120.
I think Ektar will be my colour film of choice when the 120 hits the streets here in the UK, I normally shoot more mono but that may change.
Yes I have used Agfa Ultra and really liked the film, but at the time I was shooting much more Agfa Portrait 160 which is still my favourite film.
I have an agfa Ultra shot in one of my APUG galleries.
The skin tones of Ektar are it's ace in the hole for me, using other medium-high saturation films seem to make faces go redish-magenta I'm amazed how this film manages to saturate reds and blues yet gives good skin tones.