A roll of Kodak Ektar 100 had been sitting unused in my basement fridge for almost a year. It was an impulse buy while at a local camera shop last summer, and because it was so much more expensive than the budget films I normally shoot with, I was hesitant to use it. I didn’t want to waste it. I felt like it needed to be saved for the right camera/lens combo and the perfect lighting/weather conditions. I wanted to make sure that my first time shooting it used the film to its fullest potential. So there it sat in my basement waiting to be used. While packing for our first post-lockdown trip, and after checking the weather report for our time in Hamburg, I finally decided that I had waited long enough. Hamburg would be where I finally put my first roll of Kodak Ektar to the test.
Quick note: this isn’t a review of the technical aspects of Kodak Ektar 100. There are plenty of other reviews on the internet available for that type of information. This is more a response to how shockingly good I found the results of my first time using this film – especially compared to my normal budget film.
In mid-June, my wife and I drove up from Stuttgart to stay with a friend in Hamburg before eventually exploring other parts of northern Germany. After making a quick stop at our friend’s apartment on the outskirts of the inner city to drop off our bags and load my cameras (I like to carry one for B&W and one for color), we ventured out into the city via Ubahn. The weather was wonderful, with big, fluffy white clouds contrasting nicely against the bright blue of the sky and the warm reds of the brick buildings. It was just warm enough to walk around sightseeing in a t-shirt and light jacket without being uncomfortable. I really had no idea what to expect from the film, but my hopes were high as I clicked through frame after frame with my Canon A-1. There were a few shots taken in the shadow of buildings where I forgot I was shooting 100 speed film (400 ISO is my go-to film speed). I kicked myself for not paying more attention to my settings once I noticed my mistake. After developing the roll, however, I found out my concerns were uncalled for. Ektar is much more forgiving than I expected.
We had exited the Ubahn and started walking near Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie (Elbe Philharmonic Hall) and I blazed through the roll of Ektar before we got more than a few blocks into the historic Speicherstadt district. Although the area had been heavily damaged during WWII due to its significance as a logistics hub, much has since been rebuilt or restored. Between the beautiful architecture, cobblestone alleyways, brick-warehouse-lined canals, and industrial-revolution-era bridges, there definitely wasn’t a lack of interesting things to shoot. While many of the buildings in the district still serve their original function as warehouses, Hamburg’s Speicherstadt is also full of museums, cafes, and entertainment venues.
I ended up shooting close to thirty rolls of various types of film during the week we spent in northern Germany, but the roll of Ektar was the first to go into the developing tank upon our return back home. After waiting as patiently as possible for the film to dry, I began scanning the negatives. I was blown away with the results. For cost reasons, I shoot more Kodak Color Plus 200 than any other color film. And while I’m generally pleased with the results I get with it, the images don’t really pop. Kodak Ektar 100 on the other hand jumps out at you with its vibrant reds, cool blues, and rich tonal range. It almost makes Color Plus seem muddy and muted in comparison. Ektar handles tricky highlights and shadows with ease, transitioning from light to dark without losing detail, and the grain is almost non-existent. I can now understand why the price tag is almost 4 times higher than budget film (I get Color Plus for around 3€ per roll, and paid 12€ for the Ektar). While I won’t be switching to Ektar as my everyday film, it’ll definitely be in a more regular position in my film rotation. I can definitely guarantee that the next roll won’t be sitting around for a year waiting to be used.
Here are my 5 frames in Hamburg with Kodak Ektar 100, all shot with my Canon A-1 and Canon FD 35mm f2.8:
And 2 more of Kodak Color Plus 200 shot the same day with my Olympus XA for comparison: