At CES in Las Vegas today, the Eastman Kodak company announced that it will resume production on the Ektachrome film stock, beloved for its extremely fast reversal, rich color, fine grain, and high-quality contrast.
Initially developed in the 1940s, Ektachrome rose to fame when it was used extensively by National Geographic Magazine photographers who sought faster settings than those provided by the stock's alternative, Kodachrome. Ektachrome can take photos at shutter speeds of 1/10,000 of a second without filters.
"We are proud to help bring back this classic."
To the chagrin of many cinematographers, Kodak discontinued Ektachrome in 2012 due to a reported decline in sales. Kodak Alaris attributes the newfound interest in Ektachrome to the "growing popularity of analog photography and a resurgence in shooting film," which the company believes professionals prefer for the artistic control offered by manual processes.
"It is such a privilege to reintroduce Kodak Ektachrome Film to the cinematography community," said Steven Overman, Kodak’s chief marketing officer and president of the Consumer and Film Division. "Kodak is committed to continuing to manufacture film as an irreplaceable medium for image creators to capture their artistic vision. We are proud to help bring back this classic."
Unfortunately, only a handful of major feature films have been shot on the film stock. Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66 remains the most high-profile Ektachrome print. "It is, to this day, the most beautiful print I have ever seen," Grace Sloan, a former projectionist at New York's Anthology Film Archives who is now a filmmaker, told us.
"I can shoot, develop, and watch the print all in the same day."
Unlike the Kodak color negative film stock available today, Ektachrome generates a positive slide image that can be viewed or projected once it is exposed and processed. "I personally like it because I can develop color reversal at home, so I can shoot, develop, and watch the print all in the same day," Sloan said. Compared to color negative, color positive Ektachrome promises a middle ground for filmmakers who prefer the film look but like the instant gratification digital filmmaking provides.
Early last year, we spoke with Kodak President Steve Bellamy, who told us that the company "was bankrupt three years ago, and now we're kind of a start-up. But we're the most mature start-up in the history of business."
Kodak will produce Ektachrome at its film factory in Rochester, N.Y. It will be available in Super 8mm and 35mm and hit stores in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Now, if only Kodak would bring back Kodachrome.
Featured image from 'Buffalo 66,' directed by Vincent Gallo, shot on 35 mm Eastman Ektachrome 160T 5239.
Charles Haine also contributed to this article.