I followed with interest the hype surrounding the re-release by Kodak Alaris of Ektachrome 100 slide film, announced in early 2017, after having been completely phased out by 2013. Honestly, initially I wasn’t that interested, but as time wore on I become more intrigued as to what the slide film might offer. When the long-awaited and long-delayed release finally happened on September 25, 2018, I was ready, having pre-ordered from Freestyle Photo.
Unlike many photographers out there who have reviewed the film, I suffer from logistical delays. My film shipped on September 26, and arrived weeks later. But this film wasn’t cheap, so I waited for the right opportunity to shoot it, over the course of December. And then shipped it off to Blue Moon Camera in Portland, because E6 chemicals only appear to be available in liquid form, meaning I can’t get it in Madagascar.
I grew up in the 70s, and I remember adults shooting slide film. I remember the jokes about being invited to look at others’ vacation slides. But I never shot slide film myself. So I was curious what was so special about it – other than the fact that it’s positive film, not negative.
When the film arrived in late January, neatly framed in slide frames just like I had seen growing up, holding the slides up to the light, I was impressed by the bright colors. None of the faded colors I sometimes see with underexposed negative film – I always feel like I need to process the scans with software to make them “pop” – in the case of these slides, every single photo was as bright and as vibrant as I remembered from the day I had taken the photos.
I was especially impressed with the night shots – even the ones that were blurred because the shutter was forced to stay open too long. Blacks were black, neon was bright and crisp, not blown out – and there was none of the noise and grain that so often disappoints when I shoot color (or black and white) film at night and I think, “it seems like there’s probably enough light, I’ll just risk it.” And firing the flash did the trick – no blur, and none of the overdone highlights like I often get with negative film.
I chuckle as I think of folks from my parent’s generation, who have been trying for years to figure out what to do with their slides, and wishing there were a cheap service to convert them all to digital. Because now I have two 36-exposure rolls of slides, neatly mounted in frames and stored in transparent sheets. And unlike the previous generation, I have no projector for them, no idea where to get one, and even if I did, I can’t imagine the reaction I’d get if I invited friends to come and “look at our vacation slides.”
So what should we look forward to from the Ektachrome re-release? Can we expect a resurgence of slide projectors (currently only available from eBay and other vintage resellers)? What are people going to do with their slides?
One thing is for sure – the consistent, bright colors offered by Ektachrome aren’t offered by any other film on the market today. Unfortunately, it costs over $12 per roll, and then there’s the development cost if you haven’t invested in the chemicals. And you end up with a product that takes up space but has to be scanned back to digital if you want to share it.
So what’s the point?
I don’t know – there are a lot of “cons” – but regardless, Kodak Alaris is gearing up to release Ektachrome in medium and large format sizes. And I have no idea what I’md do with it once developed, but I’m looking forward to ordering some as soon as it is!