Reversal of Fortune: The Return of Ektachrome

Of all the news I expected to hear at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, this wasn't even on the radar: Kodak promises to bring back Ektachrome 100 slide film.

Ektachrome slides from 1985. Photo (and photos) by Derrick Story.

The importance of this announcement reverberates on a number of levels. The most obvious benefit is that we will have fresh, redesigned, color reversal film again to work with. I used the term "redesigned" on purpose. Word is that Kodak is reformulating the emulsion to work with sharper, higher contrast modern optics. 

If true, I think that's great. And it makes me all the more excited to test it with my dependable Pentax-A and Contax/Zeiss lenses from the 1980s. The new Extachrome could produce very artistic results with traditional SLR gear, while providing a comfortable alternative for digital photographers.

And yes, we're talking about 35mm, 36-exposure rolls to start with. If that release proves profitable for Kodak, then maybe 120 will follow. This is uncharted territory for everyone.

Quartz Crystals - Recorded on Ektachrome 100, 1985. Photo by Derrick Story.

Next, you don't have to be an economics major to figure that analog photography has some traction in the market place. Even with my own little online store, TheFilmCameraShop, sales of 35mm cameras and lenses has been trending upward. Site traffic is definitely on the rise. And photographers aren't just window shopping; they're spending money to purchase gear.

Stats from the last 30 days of TheFilmCameraShop. Even though this is the photography equivalent of a corner produce stand, people are clearly interested in this gear. Imagine the numbers that Kodak has been seeing.

And finally, the reintroduction of Ektachrome 100 shows that Kodak is reclaiming their voice in the photography community. It's a risk to release a new film in the digital age. But I'm guessing that it's a well thought out one. And as such, it shows that Kodak has a little of its swagger back.

Will I shoot Ektachrome 100 when it's released? You bet. Aside from its creative possibilities, Ektachrome is a true test of my skill as an analog photographer. E6 processing is "what you shot is what you got." If the slide is dark, you underexposed it. When the colors are washed out, you missed by overexposing. If the roll looks perfect, you deserve a pat on the back. Slides don't lie.

Analog photography makes up about 30 percent of my shooting. It's my personal work, my craft. And now that I have one more creative option at my disposal, I'm more excited than ever about the type of images I can create.

-Derrick

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