Kodak Ektachrome 120

So, I was happy to get my first rolls of Ektachrome 120 that I pre-ordered on the Film Photography Project website.

I’m always excited to try something new. It’s strange these days, since film has been mostly replaced with digital for most people, and stores aren’t stocked with dozens of different kinds of film. I remember in the ’70s, when I was very active in photography, stores had whole walls of film to choose from. Plus, the professional films were in refrigerators to help preserve the colors each film was known for. Very different now – but I still like trying new things when I can. My favorite film store and processing lab here in Austin (Holland Photo) has their film in a fridge in the corner of the store, but it’s not like it was in the old days!

I’ve always liked color reversal film (slides) as the colors seemed so much more pure and clean. Printing on paper tends to change the colors, whereas the colors on clear plastic backing seemed more natural – light was passing through the colors as opposed to light reflecting from the colored pigments on paper. I preferred looking at slides in a viewer, or with a lupe magnifier, not on a big screen.

My favorite film, in my previous life, was Kodachrome 64. Here’s an example of a Kodachrome image that I found online – along with a good article about Kodachrome you can jump to from here. I love the colors as Kodachrome rendered them! Natural and vivid. Reds were especially interesting on Kodachrome – as they sometimes appeared to have an almost 3D quality, where they jumped out from the rest of the image.

Here’s another image, this time one of my own, taken with Kodachrome in the ’70s – at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I tended to slightly underexpose, or use a polarizing filter, because I loved the dark blue skies in the southwestern US – the darker, the better.

Anyway, Kodachrome’s gone, but not forgotten – I suppose. I’ve read stories online (which I’m never sure are true or not) about people who’ve discovered or developed ways to process Kodachrome, but I’m afraid the days of the Kodachrome I loved can never be reproduced.

Ektachrome was always just ok for me. It was never bad, but never as vibrant and unique as Kodachrome. It’s fun to try something new though, even though it’s not really new, but at the same time is a new generation of a film I’ve used before.

Here’s some of my Ektachrome 120 images – taken with my Zeiss-Ikon. Notice my accidental double exposure. The old Zeiss doesn’t stop you from winding the film all the way through without taking one photo. You have to stop at the “1”, and you have to go all the way to the next frame number, or… you could end up overlapping frames – as you can see I did. After a couple frames I remembered how it works. For as old as this camera is (probably from the 1940’s) I’m surprised at how well it works, at how nice the photos look. Exposure is not too big an issue – you just have to shoot when there’s enough light. Focusing is my biggest problem. Some of these cameras employed range finder focusing, but on mine you have to estimate and set the lens to the number of meters you are from your subject. It’s a slightly wide angle lens, with good depth, so you really only have to pay close attention on close shots.

Here’s some images taken with my Zenza Bronica. I think the built-in metering of the Zenza Bronica may be a benefit with reversal film, since there’s less exposure forgiveness than with color negatives. Many of the above images, taken with my Zeiss-Ikon, were taken with no meter, just using the sunny-16 rules and guessing on the best exposure.

Ektachrome has always been a fairly “blue” film. Colors are generally rendered realistic and pleasant, but shooting in shadows, or at dusk, always tend to be more blue than Kodachrome was. That was always my opinion, and these latest samples seem to support that theory. Kodachrome, although natural, had a very warm look.

All in all, I like Ektachrome 120. It’s nice to have more choice when I want to shoot reversal film with my 120 cameras! Thank you, Kodak, for bringing Ektachrome back.