In the fall of 2018 I headed to Arizona for the second time and intended to see the Grand Canyon for the first time (btw, it was as grand as the name implies. Lots and lots of grand.) and when deciding what film to take, Ektar never crossed my mind. I thought to myself – I’ve shot a couple rolls of Ektar before and hated it. A lot. Then I found the work of Pete and David and decided I didn’t give Ektar a fair shake in my previous attempts. Albeit, I believe now that what I didn’t like was in fact the scans from the lab I was using moreso than the film itself.
Ektar has bold colors that, coupled with the high sharpness, make it an incredible film for landscapes. Compared with Portra 400, I find this film to have a bit less blue in the shadows and bit more yellow in the highlights. Granted, I’m basing this exact assessment on the exposure testing experiment but so far my personal experience has not turned up any conflicting evidence.
So far, the colors that have really jumped out at me and made me fall in love with this film are light turquoise and deep blues. The turquoise values are truly unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. When I see good examples of this (heavily based in Banff) I wonder if the film actually rendered a significantly different color than reality. I mean… Was it ever actually that beautiful? As for the deep blues, I’m just a sucker for that color range and I think this film does a tremendous job at it.
The only colors I haven’t fully grown to like from this film are greens that don’t have a blue tint. I felt like the closer the green got to blue, the more I liked it. Conversely, the less blue it got, the less I liked it. The light greens were a bit too quick to have a yellow-ish tint and the darker greens didn’t have the same “pop” as everything else. Still though- this is all relative and I recognize my experience may just be limited. As such, I’ve kept a roll of Ektar in at least one camera at all times and I’m experimenting to see if this opinion persists or limited to only my first couple pro packs.
Given how pronounced the colors are, I fully expected this film to bomb at portraits. Who wants a photo or themselves with the saturation turned way up? That said, I don’t dislike this film for portraits so long as its an environmental portrait. I felt like the more the photo felt like a proper portrait, the more I couldn’t get over how strong the colors were. While the more of the scene I got in the photo, the more I appreciated the coloring – it’s always a trade-off.
I can honestly say that I am beyond surprised with the dynamic range of Ektar. In the exposure testing experiment, I genuinely felt this film performed better than every other color negative we included. In the experiment, I thought it handled underexposure really well. My personal experience has been a bit less successful. I’ve found all of the photos that I knew to be underexposed a bit muddy with very strong saturation in the darker values, leading to an experience a bit less than I hoped for.
As for overexposing, I don’t much care for what happens to the coloring but given that I can rectify that in post, I am beyond surprised with this film. It’s such that if I meter for the midtones to shadows, I’m hard pressed to overexpose the highlights to a point beyond return. I think it is this very quality that makes it such a solid choice for landscapes.
I can count on one hand how many times I’ve ever pulled film and with this film being 100ASA, I don’t see it ever happening here. That said, I did once put through a roll at 400ASA in one of my F2s and didn’t much care for the results. So much so that I’ll not be providing examples. I really felt like the saturation was over the top (even on my scans) and the loss of the dynamic range was beyond my taste. I did it purely as an experiment and I suspect I’ll try it again at 200ASA and update.
In conclusion, I’ve really grown to love this film and have kept a constant stock of it since I bought my first pro pack. So much so that I’ve kept a roll in at least one camera since. While I don’t know that I’ll be going through much of it once the weather in Ohio starts going back to grey all the time, I’ll be enjoying it as much as I can while the sun is out.