Historical question: E-6 as the "breakthrough" in 35 mm color slide film?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Heinz_Anderle, Apr 6, 2008.

  1. Heinz_Anderle

    Heinz_Anderle Member

    Oct 21, 2007
    When I go through numerous illustrated books from the late 1970s and early 1980s, there is a definite gain in quality with the introduction of the first E-6 Ektachrome films. Before, only Kodachrome films appear to have enabled double-page color reproductions from the 35 mm format. Ektachrome and Agfachrome seem to have been well established in medium format photography, but especially the latter had noticeable grain even at the slow speed of ISO 50/18°.

    In comparison, the new E-6 films such as Ektachrome 64 (1976), Fujichrome RD100 (P) (1978) or Ektachrome 100 (EP(P), date ?) showed fine grain and high resolution even when judged after today's standards. The new process apparently enabled also a considerable improvement in the stability of the dyes, as Ektachrome and Fujichrome films from that era don't show fading.

    In comparison, Ferrania/Scotch/3M and the first generation of E-6 Agfachrome slide films remained unsatisfactory in this regard - at least in the latter case, for patent reasons, as Agfa couldn't use the more stable Kodak-type color couplers. Early E-6 Agfachromes have therefore turned muddy brown, Scotchchromes purple. The latter, rather mediocre, were often sold at a discount price and under generic brands.

    In retrospect, the introduction of E-6 seems to have caused the following consequences:

    Kodachrome films started to lose customer (including amateur) preference, as there were now suitable alternatives with similar and continously improved quality, higher speed, faster processing (for pros) and a lower price (for amateurs).

    Other manufacturers were either forced into compatibility (Agfa and Ferrania) or finally withdrew from the market (such as Ansco/GAF or ORWO).

    Are these conclusions correct? - I have read that the introduction of a high-speed Kodachrome film was canceled due to insufficient demand.
  2. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    Near Tavisto
    In my early days of photography I used whatever film was cheap and sometimes this was Ektachrome in the E4 times. It could be quite good and at other times amazingly bad, which I have always put down to processing variations rather than the material. I didn't see much change when the shift to E6 occurred - results still lacked consistency - and as soon as I could afford it I standardised on Kodachrome, which at that time I regarded as being in a league above Ektachrome, Agfa CT18/CT21, Fujichrome, etc. in terms of colour rendition, grain, overall image and, importantly, consistency. I haven't used more than a couple of rolls of Ektachrome in the last five years and on those occasions found the colours a little too lively for my liking with a tendency towards blue casts in the shadows.

    However, a neighbour of mine shoots quite a lot of material for magazines and uses Ektachrome with results that magazine editors seem to like. I've heard or read somewhere that magazines prefer Ektachrome or Fuji material these days but have never had anything rejected because it was shot on Kodachrome. (Of course, I have had stuff rejected because it was rubbish!) I gather from other threads (but don't understand) that there are implications with scanning Kodachrome.

    As for Ektachrome stealing from the sales of Kodachrome, for the reasons above it didn't in my case. I see its main advantage as being speed of processing. I've never used any of the higher speed Ektachrome, so can't compare it with K200. As for a price comparison, I wouldn't say that there was much to choose between K with processing included and Ek film + processing and mounting.

    Currently, with Fuji's excellent selection of slide films to suit most pockets and purposes and the fast UK turnaround, I don't use anything from Kodak's slide range.

    Best wishes,