In case you missed the CES memo, Kodak, originally announced January 5th, revealed that one of its most beloved film stocks is making a comeback.
Known for its fine grain and color reproduction, Ektachrome is a color reversal film preferred by professionals due to its simpler processing, which was easy on both the photographer and small processing labs.
“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 in the company’s official press release.
“We are seeing a broad resurgence of excitement about capturing images on film. 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.”
At first glance, this may seem a bit odd. This year’s CES was full of digital awe, from high-resolution action cameras to 8K televisions. So, the idea of bringing back a film stock originally developed in the 1940’s seems like taking two giant steps back. However, despite the world going digital at an overwhelming pace, film may have been down; but, it is certainly not out.
Here are three reasons to celebrate the return of Ektachrome.
An Analog Revival
The early 2010’s was a dark time for film photography.
At its peak, Eastman Kodak sold a billion rolls of film annually; however, in 2012, the company filed for bankruptcy. The same year, Ektachrome was discontinued. Kodachrome, another Kodak film stock staple, was canned three years earlier.
But, just a short five years later, film is back in by popular demand.
“Sales of professional photographic films have been steadily rising over the last few years, with professionals and enthusiasts rediscovering the artistic control offered by manual processes and the creative satisfaction of a physical end product,” stated Kodak Alaris in an official news release. “The reintroduction of one of the most iconic films is supported by the growing popularity of analog photography and a resurgence in shooting film. Resurgence in the popularity of analog photography has created demand for new and old film products alike.”
If one has been paying attention to both the consumer and professional markets, analog technologies, from vinyl to rotary phones to film cameras are back in favor. While the cameras of yesteryear may not be replacing one’s iPhone or digital point-and-shoot anytime soon, I bet one has seen more than one instant camera in tow at a music festival.
Moreover, this analog revival has also affected the movie-going experience. Perhaps not-so-much at one’s sprawling and modern multiplex; but, at a local one-screen revival house that screens midnight movies and cheap double features, a film print is a box-office draw. A glittering marquee promoting a 35mm or 70mm print screening has cinephiles and curious new-comers lined up around the block.
Good News for Super 8 Fans
Remember that nifty analog-digital super 8 camera hybrid that made its debut at last year’s CES?
Well, at the time, Kodak only had one compatible film stock able to be projected directly: the Tri-X black and white reversal film. With Ektachrome expected to hit shelves later this year (conveniently around the same time the new Super 8 camera will be in the hands of consumers), the public will also have the option of a color film stock.
What this could mean for Kodachrome
Thanks to their distinctive looks, the Ektachrome and Kodachrome were the go-to film stocks for professional photographers. For instance, if you’ve read an issue of National Geographic, you’ve laid eyes on the magic that is Ektachrome and Kodachrome film.
So, with the good news about Ektachrome, it didn’t take very long for a buzz to start regarding the possible return of its sister film stock. “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,’” said Steven Overman, CMO of Kodak, on The Kodakery Podcast. “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 […] but people love Kodak’s heritage products and I feel, personally, that we have a responsibility to deliver on that love.”
With production set to take place at the Kodak film factory in Rochester, New York, Ektachrome, available in Super 8mm and 35mm, is estimated to be available for purchase in Q4 2017.