Most of the frames which make up this mini-review are from the first roll of slide film I ever shot or developed myself (using a 6 bath Bellini E6 Kit) and it was also the first roll of film in my new camera, a Contax G1 with a 28mm Zeiss Biogon lens. It was love at first sight in regards to both slide film and the camera.
The film was shot in natural light, handheld and as you can probably see in most of the images below, at low shutter speeds of 1/8th to 1/25th of a second. I had to travel up to the north of Romania for a wine tasting and took the risk only bringing along a new camera (which I had no idea was working 100%) and a film stock I’d never used before.
Along with my wine tasting trip photos, I have also included a few here from another outing with new EKTACHROME E100, which I shot with my Contax RTS III and Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 MMJ lens.
Needless to say, I am personally extremely satisfied with the results and can’t wait to get my hands on more E100. I will probably try a roll rated at EI 125, as my G1 seems to overexpose slightly. Also, I will try to process a roll in a simplified 3 bath E6 kit to correctly judge the contribution to the colors that a 6 bath kit offers.
This roll was scanned on a Noritsu S-4 as TIFF files and unfortunately, in 8-bits / channel. Editing wise, only a minor WB adjustment and +10 shadow detail was carried out, as I am very keen on digitally reproducing as faithfully as possible the look of the slide film on a light table.
Speaking of the light table (and this may be true for all slide films), I find it is the only visualization method, apart from probably very expensive drum scanners or flextights, which does this film justice. I say justice because the colors are “more neutral” than anything I’ve ever shot (color negative films, CCD and CMOS sensors) and deeply saturated, in a way that never goes overboard (think Fujichrome). The film provides flatters skin tones to perfection and in most lighting situations, except in extremely warm candlesticks or bulbs, it renders cold blue-ish green shadows and warm light yellow highlights.
Speaking of highlights, which are not very easily blown, E100 has a tremendous exposure latitude for a slide film, still keeping details in dense areas of the film at +2 EV.
Sharpness. Oh, the sharpness. My love story with film doesn’t go back to the last millennium and my experience is not vast, but I’ve never shot anything even remotely close in sharpness to the new Ektachrome and coupled with a high-quality lens (think Zeiss G Lenses or some Leica M lenses ) you will have a hard time convincing people that the photos were shot on film. Really non-existent grain also helps to make that a hard sell.
Now, for me, and this may not hold true for anyone else, this is the only film I could choose as the only film. Due to all the reasons stated above, it makes for unbelievably well detailed, contrasty, smooth and clear black and white photos, digitally desaturated as it removes the need for filters used with BW films. I sure would like to show an example of a BW photograph from Kodak’s new Ektachrome 100.
Some of you may not be fond of this clean, polished almost “digital look”, but the difference in lighting between the shadows (woman and child) and the sunny background was huge. I was expecting a completely blown-out-sort-of-high-key image, but the exposure latitude of E100 permitted metring mostly for the shadows (center-weighted average) with no fill light used. It was converted to BW by simply desaturating completely in Capture One Pro 11 without messing with the color channels.
Here’s the colour version:
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Another aspect I like about the new Ektachrome and this frame highlights is the fact that unlike Provia or Velvia (from examples I’ve seen), it does not acquire a color cast no matter how harsh the lighting is. For Velvia, I understand that one needs ND filters or a really small aperture of f/22 to remove the cast without digital post-processing. Not the case with E100.
The photo below is one I’m very fond of, despite its technical flaws.
When I took it – at f/2.8 and 1/8 second, I wasn’t expecting anything useful to come out given the very low available light. However, this film stock managed to capture all the detail in the highlights and the shadows and kept the colors very true to life. This is one occasion where I regret not using a tripod.
I wasn’t expecting much from this frame as the contrast was barely there and this may very well have to do with the lens (Zeiss G -mount glass) and not only the film stock but the photo seems naturally “enhanced” compared to how the scene was in reality. Colors are there, unaltered just slightly saturated.
Finally, this is one photograph that makes me long for a high-end scanner to pull out all that texture and micro contrast in the barrels’ creases. There wasn’t enough light and this was shot at F/2 so, depth of field took one for the team, but what I think this frame proves is again, just how accurately and true to life this film reproduces tones and how sharp it is.
In terms of colour negative film, I’ve shot maybe 6 or 7 rolls in total and that would be the Portra Line in 160, 400 and 800, Kodak’s temperature-insensitive ProImage 100 and Fuji 400H. The difference between those stocks and E100 is unquantifiable and hard to describe, but for you digital/hybrid shooters out there, think of it as the difference between RAW Files (no post) generated by a CCD Sensor (Leica M9) at base ISO and the same files generated by a common CMOS full frame sensor from any oriental manufacturer (except Canon because their color science is top of the game). The depth and vibrancy in photos shot on a CCD sensor(think Ektachrome) are just there, without much tweaking.
There are downsides of EKTACHROME E100 for me personally. See, the only reason stopping me from buying 1000 rolls and freezing them for a lifetime is, surprisingly, not the financial aspect (this film is costly, at least currently, and also costly to process unless you do it yourself). It is the speed of the film which I find very limiting in capturing the scenes which would benefit this film the most (indoor soft light in particular and landscapes at dusk or dawn).
I never use a tripod and rarely do I ever use flash. Your results may vary.
Before I go, a quick disclaimer: I love this film stock more than I should and to some amongst you fine people reading this, it may seem that I try too hard to sell it. I give you honest word that I am in no way affiliated with Kodak or any other related business and have zero commercial interest in promoting this film!
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Good article and I too am a fan of E100. I have 2 boxes of it in 4×5 on pre-order right now. I took some Portra 160 on a vacation to the Caribbean a few weeks ago and, while it did quite well, I think E100 might’ve been a better pick.
Only gripe is I don’t really have a local lab to develop it (and lack the space and precise temperature control to do it at home). Otherwise, it’s a gorgeous film!
My one trigger is you mentioned using it for BW without filters. Just as a reminder, some of us like to produce silver-gelatin prints in darkrooms still 🙂 For me E100 would thus not be the film I would pick if it’s the only film I could have. It would have to be a true BW film. If I had to pick one today I think it would be ADOX’s CHS ii.
Thanks Adi, I enjoyed that.
I have a roll of E100 in my camera (finally) now, and can’t wait to see the results. If you love E100, you would have really loved K64 (or 25) back in the day. Talk about your colors! Some hated it, others loved it ( I loved it), but alas it is gone forever. A good composed & exposed shot on K64 (or 25 iso), printed on a Cibachrome would knock your socks off. Thank you for a well written and informative article 🙂