As It Happens

Kodak brings back Ektachrome film — much to the delight of analog photographers

Stan Horaczek has already pre-ordered the previously discontinued film.

Stan Horaczek has already ordered some of the re-released film

Stan Horaczek's camera loaded with some Ektachrome film. (Provided by Stan Horaczek)
Listen6:36

Years after it was discontinued, Ektachrome is back — and analog photographers and filmmakers are excited.

Kodak announced this week it had begun shipping its Ektachrome E100 slide film. Later this year, the company says it will make its Super 8 and 16-mm cinema film formats available.

Popular Science technology editor Stan Horaczek, a photography enthusiast, has already pre-ordered some Ektachrome film. Here's part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off:

Why are photographers so excited for the comeback of Ektachrome?

Ektachrome is actually a really famous film. So even if you've never heard of it, you've definitely seen pictures taken with it.

A version of Ektachrome was responsible for the pictures that the astronauts took on the moon.

This is a really famous slide film and Kodak hasn't made a slide film — which is like a film that makes pictures that aren't negatives, they're a real colour — since 2012.

It's pretty exciting that it's back.

Stan Horaczek took this selfie using Ektachrome in 2003. (Submitted by Stan Horaczek)
 

If you ever look through the old National Geographic magazines or Life magazines, you know, there were a couple of really common films. One of them was Kodachrome, which is never coming back. It was like the more famous sibling.

But the other was Ektachrome. It was more of like a working film. It was a little bit more accurate and, you know, a lot of photojournalists loved it.

Kodachrome, we know about, especially by name because it has been memorialized in music, and film, everything. But what's special about Ektachrome?

Ektachrome is a really accurate film. It's really, really vivid colours. ... First and foremost, that was the most obvious thing — is that it was really contrast-y. The colours were really bright, really vivid, especially in the greens and blues.

It was so accurate for greens and blues that ... even the shadows will look a little blue on the film. That was done just so that they could make things like water and skies look really vivid and vibrant when you shot with it.

 

You have actually seen the factory where Ektachrome was produced, where Kodak made it. What was it like to be in there?

It was pretty amazing.

It's a very weird temperature. It's like 72 degrees [F] and 50 per cent humidity. It's a very odd feeling as soon as you get inside.

One of the things that strikes you when you go into the factory is that a lot of the materials in there are light sensitive, so a lot of the work gets done in the dark or the pitch dark — or very close to it, at least. 

Even the elevators have these dark green lights in them so that if the workers are going from light to dark or dark to light ... the transition isn't so brutal on their eyes.

There's a lot of really striking looking rooms in that place and also it's just really huge.

I guess also the ingredients that go into making the film are pretty rare, aren't they? So that has been part of the problem why the re-release of Ektachrome has been delayed.

It is.

When I talked to the person who was the product manager on the project she told me that there are more than 80 to 100-ish chemicals, depending on how you count chemicals that go into the film.

It's basically like starting from scratch on a recipe with 100 ingredients.- Stan  Horaczek , Popular Science

When they stopped making it in 2012, they sort of lost the line on how to get some of those chemicals. So they had to ... find new sources for where they were going to get the raw materials to make the film.

That was part of their of their long process.

Then even once they had found everything again, they had to figure out the right temperature because everything in this process is very temperature sensitive. They had to figure out the right density, the right amount. It's basically like starting from scratch on a recipe with 100 ingredients.

How much demand is there for Ektachrome? I mean, there is a reason why they stopped producing it, right?

Over the past couple of years, there's been a real resurgence, probably I'd say for five years now, in the amount of interest that people have in film.

The other side is that the film looks really cool. It's very vibrant and it's very contrast-y. You know on Instagram, something like that, it really does stick out.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Interview produced by Ashley Mak. Written by Katie Geleff.

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