I’ve never really been an Ektar fan.

It’s not that I dislike it, but in my personal hierarchy of colour negative films it seems there is always something I prefer… My first choice is usually Portra 800, typically shot at 200 or 400 — I love the way the colours saturate when it’s overexposed — then Kodak Gold (good value in 35mm, not so great in 120), then probably Lomography 800 (also overexposed a stop or two), then maybe Cinestill 800 (because NEON) and then Ektar 100.

One sec, I need to go back a few steps to explain how I ended up in Paris with a couple of rolls of Ektar 100 in our Airbnb fridge and a (new to me) Canon A-1 to shoot it with.

My wife and I are on an extended holiday. Maybe it is a sabbatical, perhaps it’s our escape from Australia after the borders were closed for two years. Whatever the reason, we left home some time ago to spend 6 months hanging out in interesting places.

Like every other GAS-affected photographer, picking only one camera for a trip – especially a journey that is going to last 6 months — took up more time than thinking about packing clothes or finding places to stay. It was never going to be just one. I ended up with my Konica Hexar RF, 35mm & 50mm Summicrons, Fujifilm X-Pro3 and only one lens, the lovely 23mm f/2, and a borrowed Mamiya 7 & a 60mm lens.

Despite having a fridge full of film I decided not to take any with me — I’m paranoid about modern airport scanners and fogged film, and to be honest, I’m over trying to get surly and impatient with security folks at the airport to have them manually inspect my film when “the scanner won’t hurt it”.

Our first stop was London, I’m a big fan of Analogue Wonderland, so I decided I’d worry about my film when I landed. But there were two (unboxed for some reason) rolls of Ektar in the fridge, so I threw them in at the last minute.

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All was fine and dandy until I realised the Konica Hexar RF had an issue: the framelines werea off square, so all my images were slightly tilted. Easy enough to fix in Lightroom but still frustrating. While it was away for a few days getting a repair quote (far too many £ to fix, I can live with the issue), fearing the worst, I started panic scrolling eBay for a suitable ‘replacement’.

I’ve always liked the way Canon FD lenses render images for both film and digital, so I started looking for a suitable body (and an FD to FUJI X adapter) to use on the 50mm f/1.4 I found for a very reasonable price. After some research, including a great article on Casual Photophile, I decided on an A-1 and found one going cheap because the mirror return doesn’t work until the camera is wound to the next frame (but the seller was including a motor drive, which despite its weight and expense of AA batteries, is a reasonable workaround). And a 28mm f/2.8.

So, a very long-winded explanation later brings us to Paris, a Canon A-1, and a roll of Ektar, shot at box speed.

I wasn’t expecting all that much from it, but as I clicked from one scan to the next, my smile kept growing. I don’t know if FD glass, Parisian light and Kodak Ektar 100 combined to form an almost magical photographic Venn diagram, but in harsh sunlight, in shade, at golden hour, the colours in each frame were just right, just saturated enough that I was seeing what I’d seen through the lens.

But don’t try portraiture with it. That’s what Portra is for.

~ Nick

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  1. Interesting to me is your reaction to the results from the FD glass. I have shot Canon film gear for quite a long time, but recently (mid-2022) went on a streak of shooting various glass and body combinations with Fuji Super 400 and Ilford XP2. This included Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Canon, Contax and Leica SLR’s. I have several Canon bodies but mainly used the A-1 because I love the feel of that camera. I expected the Nikon, Zeiss and Leica glass to lead by a significant margin. I was really astonished at how good the Canon 50mm f1.4 FD did under all conditions. For me, any of these produce more than acceptable results. It is only in direct comparison that I saw any difference, but those differences are so small that unless you do a comparison, I am not sure they really matter. The only possible exception here was the Summicron 50mm f2 (late version). The rendering with this showed a distinctly different look to me, especially in the mid-tones. BTW, I approached this with the notion that the “Leica look” was more marketing than real world. I was wrong. Having said all this I not would feel under-equipped with only an A-1, 50mm f1.4 FD and a few rolls of film in my bag while touring a new destination. Good read, well done.

  2. I just recently spent 5 days in Paris with my family. We traveled there from Boston, in the U.S. Because of all the horror stories I had heard about airport security and CT scanners, traveling with film to and from Europe, I opted not to bring with me any of my film or the cameras I would shoot it with. Instead, I took my Fuji X-H1 mirrorless digital camera with 35mm and 12mm lenses. We had an excellent time and I have some nice images as a result of our travels. It did feel funny not to be shooting film on this trip, the first time since late 2018. The weather was mostly overcast, with periods of rain during a couple days, and I think a color film like Ektar would have had a hard time shining in an environment like this. I would have gravitated toward black and white myself as a result. Your Ektar images are lovely though, and brought me right back to that city.

  3. thx, but why is Gold200 in 120 not good?
    My personal experience and the technical approach of Kyle Mc Dougal on YT (very same characteristics as Portra400) are contrary to your statement.