Kodak Portra 160 & 400 compared to FujiFilm 400H and 160NS

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by ted_smith, Apr 1, 2013.

  1. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    My friends have asked me to photograph their newborn baby.

    Traditionally, I have always used Fuji films, partifcularly Pro 400H (http://www.ag-photographic.co.uk/fujicolor-pro-400h-183-c.asp) and Pro 160NS (http://www.ag-photographic.co.uk/fujicolor-pro-160ns-184-c.asp).

    However, the cost of 400H for single 35mm rolls seems to have skyrocketted since I last bought any to about £10 a roll give or take unless bought in bulk.

    So, I thought I'd look at the Kodak Portra ranges. I've onyl ever used Kodak once and I found it to be a bit washed out so never used it again. The Fuji films I've used meanwhile have always looked really rich and vibrant. However I can't ignore what everything on the web seems to say about Portra and that is that it is amazing, great for portraiture and weddings etc. But I've never dared used it after my last effort.

    http://www.ag-photographic.co.uk/kodak-portra-112-c.asp

    Is it fair to say that my first attempt was just bad luck - perhaps the wrong kinds of lighting or improperly exposed?

    Put it this way - if were asked to photograph your best friends baby, would you use Kodak Portra or Fuji Pro? I've not decided whether to go 35mm or medium format yet - I assume there's only the usual differences to speak of regarding Portra in 35mm vs medium format and that the film itself is essentially the same regardless of format?
     
  2. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I would happily use either without a second thought.
     
  3. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    Go with the film you are familiar with (400h), don't try a new film for a special occasion - test first.

    Crazy prices for 400h these days, it's a bit cheaper at Mathers.
     
  4. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I agree that a bit of testing is worthwhile to find the limits and special case uses of a film but IMO, with the films in question here, it would be really tough to get bad results if the film is fresh, the shots are metered competently, and box speed is used.
     
  5. pedrocruz

    pedrocruz Member

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    Me too! Even though you're not acquainted with Portra, it's an easy going film: smooth skin tones, great latitude, and all of those things you're probably getting tired of read by now. From my experience, New Portra is a little bit more pale than Fuji 160NS, and may be a bit washed out for your standards; but there's plenty of samples of what it can deliver (like these, not mine), and it's up to you to decide whether it's good or not. But, being your best friend's newborn baby, maybe it's not a bad a ideia to spend a little much and get the pictures you really want. :smile:
    And yes, Portra seems to be the same on both 35mm and MF; but on MF you can push Portra 400 1~2 stops and get little to no grain. It's a great film!
     
  6. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    I personally don't have a preference between them. Portra 160 was developed to be "neutral" for color, while Portra 400 was developed to make colors "pop" more. Ektar 100 is supposed to give even more contrast and saturation to the color palette.

    I would use Portra 160 in a heartbeat for photographing a child. And if available light is a problem, there is also Portra 800, which can be underexposed with good results. I think the Brothers Wright did a test of it in 2010.
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I would use Portra 160 without hesitation. I would NOT use Ektar 100 for a baby - it will make the child look alcoholic or in dire need of dermatological attention. Portra is my go-to color film for mixed lighting conditions, or anywhere that you cannot control the light. It is also probably the most flattering film for skin color out there.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    If you use a good quality lab, all four will give excellent results.

    There are differences, but they are subtle.

    Personally, I prefer the Portras.
     
  9. newcan1

    newcan1 Subscriber

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    Isn't NS an older emulsion which predates Fuji Pro S? I have lots of NS in 35mm, but unfortunately mine has lost a stop or so of speed. I find it to be grainier than Portra (but that could be because my batch has the speed loss). In my experience Portra 160 is more forgiving and produces beautiful, natural colors and in my experience thus far, with very fine grain. Portra 400 is very pushable - I got excellent results in a test in which I pushed it to 1600 recently.
     
  10. Lamar

    Lamar Member

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  11. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    If you use what is familiar and you are confident in, you will be more confident and probably take better photos. That's probably the overriding factor.

    I would shoot MF if at all possible, i.e. if there is enough light. Most hospitals allow you to shoot with bounced flash (it can startle the first couple times but is harmless: flashing for f/8 EI400 is 1600 times less light than a second in full sun but somehow we still have a huge bitchfight on APUG about it occasionally) and that's what I did when my daughter was born.

    In terms of finding Portra washed out, was that a scan or an optical print? They both scan quite differently and need different scan settings to render properly. I find the Fuji films far easier to scan accurately (and I suspect they handle fluorescent light better with less green tinge) but if you nail the scan of the Kodak, it will be just as vibrant etc and of slightly finer grain. They both print beautifully to RA4 paper.

    Just don't use Ektar or you'll end up with a picture of a wrinkled beetroot. I'd also suggest taking some B&W film too, e.g. TMY2. If you're shooting in a hospital and not flashing, or trying to balance flash with ambient, the lighting will usually be a mix of horrible colours and B&W will hide all of that.
     
  12. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Pro 400H has dropped darker tones on me so many times.. even in even lighting has dropped out dark hair to simply nothing.. Portra 400 has never failed me. In terms of grain Portra 400 is significantly finer than 400H I've found. An optical 8x10 from 6x7cm Pro 400H, and Portra 400.. the 400H looked like it was from 35mm. I could never go back to 400H.

    I never had much of a problem with 160S, really liked it. I do prefer Portra 400 to Portra 160 usually.
     
  13. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Thanks guys. I'll go with some Portra 160. The baby is 3 months now and been home a while. They have a new house with lovelly big windows and big rooms so the light gets difused arpound the room nicely. Before they asked me I was sat in various rooms in their house thinking "I'd get some great photos in this house with this light" and then the question arose :smile:

    Funny the issues raised about 400H - I am having problems with some 800Z but that is a new thread I am about to open.

    Cheers