A brief history of… Kodak EKTACHROME film
Just as they managed to resurrect dinosaurs with DNA in Jurassic Park, Eastman Kodak and Kodak Alaris have pulled off the magical feat of resurrecting Kodak EKTACHROME film; but even though they had the complete DNA on hand it’s still been a massive effort to release one of the all-time great films stocks.
Even those who aren’t really dedicated film shooters would be aware of EKTACHROME’s big brother, Kodachrome. Sadly for a variety of reasons, Kodachrome is as dead as the Dodo, but EKTACHROME is very much here and at the time of writing, has begun hitting stores, both online and bricks and mortar. While Kodachrome is the film some people wish was the one being resurrected, and often overshadows EKTACHROME, back in the day a lot of photographers preferred EKTACHROME for its faster speed and the fact that it was not as demanding to shoot…or develop.
For most of the film’s life EKTACHROME was the workhorse film stock used by Playboy, National Geographic, and NASA. Two of the most famous photos of the 20th century were both taken on EKTACHROME, “Earthrise” on Apollo 8 and the first shots on the moon taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Originally introduced to the public in 1946 as a faster alternative to Kodachrome, EKTACHROME quickly gained a following for its ease of use, wider range of film formats (including sheet film), ease of processing, but mostly for fine-grained saturated images it produced. Like Xerox for a copy, the word EKTACHROME became synonymous for transparency photography and a whole culture of slide film grew up around its use.
So, here is a historical timeline of Kodak EKTACHROME, one of the top two most iconic films of the 20th Century:
Kodak EKTACHROME timeline
Kodak Aerial EKTACHROME (E-3). Governmental, scientific and military use only.
Kodak market KODAK EKTACHROME Transparency Sheet Film (ASA 32), the company’s first consumer color film that photographers could process themselves using newly marketed chemical kits.
KODAK EKTACHROME Transparency Sheet Film (ASA 32) made available in rollfilm and 135/20 cartridges.
Kodak High Speed EKTACHROME Film (Daylight ASA 160, Tungsten ASA 125) was introduced and became the fastest color film on the consumer market. Introduced in 35mm film format in 20 exposure (135/20) cassettes for exposure in Daylight.
Its speed was ASA 160, over two stops faster than the regular EKTACHROME film, (32 ASA). It was at that time, the fastest colour film in the world. The film was designed to be processed in the Kodak EKTACHROME Processing Kit, Process E-2, Improved Type. At this time Kodak Labs were processing 135, 828, 127, 620 and 120 formats.
Process E-3 was also introduced to the public.
Kodak EKTACHROME Aero 8442 (350 ASA / AI 25) introduced.
Kodak EKTACHROME Infrared Aero 8443 (100 ASA / AI 10) introduced.
EKTACHROME-X film (ASA 64 / Process E-2 and E-3) replacing 32 ASA EKTACHROME. The new 64 ASA product is the first EKTACHROME film available in 135/36 format.
EKTACHROME Infrared Aero Film 8H3 (65 ASA) introduced.
EKTACHROME EF, type 5241 (16mm) introduced.
December 24th: The Astronaut William Anders shot one of the most iconic photos of the 20th Century “Earthrise”. The first image ever taken of the Earth as seen from the Moon. It was shot using a highly modified Hasselblad 500 EL, with a 250mm lens on EKTACHROME SO-368 film, custom-manufactured for NASA by Kodak.
July 20th: First photos taken on the moon were shot with EKTACHROME EF and EKTACHROME high-speed color reversal, ASA 160 by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. In November of 1969, Kodak released a special commemorative issue of 12 shots taken on the moon.
Kodak introduced Kodak EKTACHROME 160 Movie Film (Type A) and two new super 8 movie cameras which, in combination, made possible “existing light” movies for home use.
Process E-6 was introduced. The first E-6 films were:
EKTACHROME Pro 50 Tungsten
EKTACHROME Pro 64 Daylight (EPR)
EKTACHROME Duplication film
EKTACHROME 64 Daylight, EKTACHROME 200 Daylight and EKTACHROME 160 Tungsten (consumer films) were introduced.
EKTACHROME 200 introduced. The new EKTACHROME 200 had significantly improved grain characteristics while offering a 1/3 stop increase in speed over the former E4-process High Speed EKTACHROME (160 ASA). It has improved colour reproduction with better separation of subtle hues of the same colour.
Consumer 400 EKTACHROME introduced.
EKTACHROME Professional 200 (EPD) introduced.
EKTACHROME 100 (EPN) introduced.
EKTACHROME 64T (EPY) introduced.
EKTACHROME 100 Plus Professional (EPP) introduced.
EKTACHROME 100HC introduced.
EKTACHROME 50HC introduced.
EKTACHROME 100X 120 introduced.
EKTACHROME 400X (EPL) introduced.
EKTACHROME 320 Tungsten introduced.
EKTACHROME P1600 introduced.
EKTACHROME Underwater film introduced, production ceased 2 years later in September 1995.
EKTACHROME P 1600 introduced.
EKTACHROME E100S introduced.
EKTACHROME E100SW introduced.
EKTACHROME E200 introduced.
EKTACHROME Professional Infrared EIR (EIR 2236) introduced.
EKTACHROME 100D color reversal film 5285 (35mm) and 7285 (16mm) for motion picture use introduced.
EKTACHROME E100VS introduced.
EKTACHROME E100G and E100GX introduced, replacing E100S/E100SW.
EKTACHROME E100GP introduced specifically for the Far Eastern markets – fine grain and exceptional rendition of whites.
EKTACHROME Professional Infrared EIR discontinued.
Kodak ceases production of its other color reversal films, although stock remained, and they continued to produce chemicals.
January 5: Eastman Kodak and Kodak Alaris announce they will bring back EKTACHROME 100 At The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The film will be made available initially in 35mm, 36 exposure cassettes.
March: The new EKTACHROME 100 (E100) will be based on E100G.
June: Initial scans of (8mm) EKTACHROME made public on social media.
July: Rolls of EKTACHROME E100 in the hands of beta testers.
September 25: Kodak Alaris announces the public release of new EKTACHROME E100 in 35mm format. 8mm and 16mm to follow.
October 8: Kodak introduces EKTACHROME 7294 Color Reversal Film in Super 8 format. 16mm format to follow.
How will new EKTACHROME compare with the original? Well, images I have seen from film sent out for Beta testing certainly have that EKTACHROME look.
As the timeline shows there was not just one EKTACHROME, but a whole family of films. According to my research and snippets from Kodak Alaris, the new film was based upon the E series EKTACHROME E100G, which had extremely fine grain and neutral, yet saturated colours. Of the E series film, E100G was the finest grain film, so I suppose they chose that for its ability to be scanned, as this is one of the major reasons for the popularity of Ektar 100, Kodak’s finest grain negative film.
As noted by Kodak in their press release: “Resurgence in the popularity of analog photography has created demand for new and old film products alike. Sales of professional photographic films have been steadily rising over the last few years, with professionals and enthusiasts rediscovering the artistic control offered by manual processes and the creative satisfaction of a physical end product.”
Let’s hope that the resurrection of EKTACHROME will turn the tide and create a whole new generation of film lovers.
Slide night anyone?
Sources and further reading:
Kodak EKTACHROME Press Release, September 25, 2018: LINK
EKTACHROME E Series Films 2003 (Recovered): LINK
EKTACHROME E100G (Recovered): LINK
EKTACHROME Wikivisually: LINK
NASA Earthrise: LINK
NASA Earthrise: The 45th Anniversary video: LINK
Apollo 11 Moon Landing: LINK
Museum of Victoria, Kodak Heritage Collection: LINK
George Eastman Museum: LINK
Kodakery Podcast about EKTACHROME: LINK
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