The return of Kodak Ektachrome

The Consumer Electronics Show is usually associated with announcements of cutting-edge prototypes and ‘out-there’ new technology. So when something as traditional as a new film is announced, it’s tends to stand out from the pile.

This is exactly what Kodak did at this year’s CES when they announced that Ektachrome, which was killed off in 2013, is being resurrected and should be in the shops by the end of the year.

“We are seeing a resurgence of excitement about capturing images on film. We are proud to help bring back this classic”

The company cites the rising popularity of film photography as reason for bringing back Ektachrome. “We are seeing a broad resurgence of excitement about capturing images on film… we are proud to help bring back this classic,” a company spokesperson said in a recent press release. However, it’s not just stills photographers that are making Ektachrome commercially viable. The film has long been a favourite with cinematographers too, and Kodak’s new Super 8 camera will make use of Ektachrome too.

In its day, Ektachrome was popular with amateur and professional photographers alike for its fine grain, clean colours and contrast. Being a traditional film it can be processed in E6 chemistry by any photographic lab.

Kodak will produce the ISO 100 film in Rochester in the US, but the Ektachrome brand is now owned by Kodak Alaris – an independent company owned by members of the Kodak UK pension plan which was set up in 2013. So far it’s only been announced in 35mm format.

And what about Kodachrome?

In an episode of The Kodakery podcast recorded at CES, Kodak CMO Steve Overman was asked if the company had any other plans to bring back other previously discontinued films – in particular Kodachrome. He replied, “We get asked all the time by filmmakers and photographers alike, ‘are you gonna bring back some of these iconic film stocks like Kodachrome and Ektachrome … I will say we are investigating Kodachrome, looking at what it would take to bring that back. Ektachrome is a lot easier and faster to bring back to market.”

Overman was referring to the specialist chemistry required to process Kodachrome, which was always carried out by Kodak’s own processing devision. Add this complication to the lack of motion-picture version of Kodachrome (meaning the economy of scale behind its manufacture will be less than Ektachrome) and it’s easy to see why we shouldn’t get carried away about the return of the world’s most legendary colour film. However, it’s a tantalising prospect, which we’ll be keeping an eye on.

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