New Portra 400 In the darkroom-- my experience so far

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by jpberger, May 15, 2011.

  1. jpberger

    jpberger Member

    Messages:
    70
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver Ca
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    A number of folks from the Vancouver Darkroom Co-op recently had a chance to get together and share our experiences printing the film in the wet darkroom.

    First of all it prints well-- I found the low contrast a good fit with the relatively high contrast Fuji Crystal Archive paper I use. My tentative sense is that I could straight print things like subtle gradations in sky which would have required burning in with the fuji 160s I'm used to shooting

    However, another photographer really missed the extra pop he had been used to from the old 400vc, especially when shooting with a diana plastic camera.

    Colour balancing is as straightforward as any negative film-- the standard 45m 60y seems to be a good starting filtration. I did notice the tendency to yellow skin tones, but since it's directly correctable with the yellow filter it's easy to fix, and my sense was this makes it easier to get good skin tones when the subject is in shadow or back lit meaning that there are more situations where you can get away with out using flash or reflectors which is good for casual/documentary shooting.

    The one big issue everyone had with the new film was the grain-- super fine grain makes for easier scanning, but in the enlarger it makes focusing the image on the paper a royal beeyotch. It's not just that the grain is fine-- it's about the same as fuji160s, but for whatever reason the edges of the grain (well dye cloud actually) are especially hard to focus on with a standard grain focuser. (This is also true in an even more dramatic way with ektar100) I would be interested in hearing if anyone has had better luck with a 25x microsight or other high zoot grain focuser-- the standard Patterson focusers don't really cut it with this stuff.

    Generally it works good, and those who say its the best colour neg film of all time are not out to lunch. That said I mourn the loss of fuji 800z which I've found to be the best film for optical prints I've encountered. It does not have the latitude of the portra but it has just the right amount of pop and a really wonderful slightly gritty grain which while from purely abstract technical sense is inferior, but I find it both aesthetically pleasing and easier to focus on the paper than the Portra.

    Any one else have any thoughts on New Portra in the darkroom?
     
  2. mikecnichols

    mikecnichols Member

    Messages:
    345
    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2010
    Location:
    Marion, VA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I haven't shot the new Portra, but I totally understand the grain issue from Ektar.....it sometimes takes me 5-10 minutes to be 98% sure I have it in focus. It is interesting to hear your thoughts about it being a good fit with Fuji CA paper. I was a little hesitant about printing Ektar on it but found that it translates beautifully on it!
     
  3. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

    Messages:
    1,300
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    Location:
    Winnipeg, Ca
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Found the same thing with using a 20x grain focuser. Both Portra 400 and Ektar 100 are a pain to focus, but the prints sure make it worth using. :smile:
     
  4. mikecnichols

    mikecnichols Member

    Messages:
    345
    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2010
    Location:
    Marion, VA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    That's for sure!
     
  5. hpulley

    hpulley Member

    Messages:
    2,214
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2010
    Location:
    Guelph, Onta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I just got 2 propacks of new Portra 400 and 2 of new Portra 160 and haven't finished and developed a roll from it yet but I've been printing Ektar 100 lately (all 120) and have no problem focusing the Ektar. The grain is small so I usually focus on a sharp edge in the picture instead. At any rate, RA-4 paper is fast enough that I'm usually using f/16 to get the times to something reasonable and at that f-stop the focus isn't as critical anyways.

    I'll let you know once I print my first roll of Portra 400. Have some in the Yashicaflex right now but I'm shooting it at 1600 (indoors available light f/3.5 1/50th) so wonder if a two-stop push will give me grain in the dye clouds to focus on? Will see. I'll shoot some at 400 as well, it's a crappy week weather wise, rain, rain, rain, compared to the recent weather where I blew through 2 pro packs of Ektar 100 and managed to overexpose some (Ektar doesn't like overexposure unfortunately, it blocks up pretty bad compared to Portra).
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,713
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, OR
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just a thought on the focusing, because I have the same issue with even the old Portra and my aging eyes, I'll actually get myself close with the neg I want to print, then fine focus with say an HP5 neg.
     
  7. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

    Messages:
    5,454
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Location:
    Atlanta GA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Focusing on the image instead of the grain is spot on. I don't even need a grain focuser to get sharp prints (though it's quicker using one.) Just visually focus on the image and stop down about three stops: 2-3 stops down from wide open is usually the sharpest anyway, and RC papers are so fast you need to stop down.
     
  8. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

    Messages:
    1,132
    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2008
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Indeed the Ektar (and presumably Portra 400) is tough to optically focus. I use the Peak Model 1 (the big one) and it works pretty well, but having an edge or some contrast in the neg really helps a lot. Focusing on a featureless area of the neg is next to impossible without several tries. (The Beseler 45A head doesn't help either, with the pseudo-continuous light via high frequency flash tubes....)

    But yes the results (at least on the Ektar) are superb! Looking forward to trying the portra soon too.
     
  9. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Glad you guys are printing it. I have not done so yet. Still have to work through my Doomsday supply of 400NC and VC! :D

    You may find the image magnifier type of focuser better than the grain focusing type. If your enlarger is properly aligned, you can also focus on the edge of a sprocket hole or the frame edge.
     
  10. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

    Messages:
    2,261
    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2008
    Location:
    Warwickshire
    Shooter:
    35mm
    It's a nice film to print, totally different filter pack to both NC & VC. I focus using one of these and I tend to place it over a stray hair or blade of grass. It is practically grain-less at 10x8, but then NC & VC were also practically grain-less at 10&8. I'm planning to shoot a roll 2 stops underexposed to see if the thin negs can be rescued as easily in the darkroom as they apparently can using scanning software.
     
  11. Stew

    Stew Member

    Messages:
    88
    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2005
    Location:
    New Brunswic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Great to hear Portra 400 and Ektar 100 prints well on Fuji CA. I want to try them soon! I was using Fuji 400H. Is there much difference in grain size between the new Portra 400 and Fuji 400H ?
     
  12. jpberger

    jpberger Member

    Messages:
    70
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver Ca
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    portra400 has significantly finer grain, but honestly unless you are making enormous prints it doesn't make much difference IMHO. As far as I'm concerned the real advantage of the new film is in exposure latitude and shadow detail. Personally I find Ektar excessively contrasty for optical printing, but obviously it works well for lots of folks here. The Ektar colour palate does print wonderfully well however-- better than I've seen from scans.
     
  13. jpberger

    jpberger Member

    Messages:
    70
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver Ca
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    One thing that was interesting to hear in one of the interviews with Scott Disabattio, the Kodak film pr guy Probably the one on Inside analog photo, was that he encouraged people to try optical printing the new film which was kind of remarkable given that a lot of the hype around the new films was that they are some sort of new "scan only" film. Of course it would help if we could have endura in cut sheets again...
     
  14. hpulley

    hpulley Member

    Messages:
    2,214
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2010
    Location:
    Guelph, Onta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    They need a market for cut sheets. In a way I'm surprised there is much of a market, it is probably just us here who wants it. All labs will just want rolls for their machines... the fact that I can still buy cut Endura on eBay (expired) says there isn't much of a market sadly. We need to spread the word on RA-4 printing while we can. There isn't any cut paper in Canada it seems though thankfully I can get it shipped in from the US in a few days.

    I'd love to try printing the new Portra to 30x40" to see how it looks but I'm not set up for anything that big yet... are you saying that 16x20" isn't much of a test for it?
     
  15. njelle

    njelle Member

    Messages:
    20
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2008
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Actually you can still buy Endura paper from macodirect.de
     
  16. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,257
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I have just got back to colour work and have found exactly the same tool as is quoted above to be very worthwhile. Grain focusers probably have the edge over the Kaiser in B&W but not by much but in colour negs the Kaiser type of focuser takes a bit of beating.

    pentaxuser
     
  17. hpulley

    hpulley Member

    Messages:
    2,214
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2010
    Location:
    Guelph, Onta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    They are cutting it down from rolls. Kodak doesn't sell it cut anymore. You can tell from the white boxes, not Kodak packaging. It is expensive as I can buy an expired roll of paper for less than the price of 50/100 sheets at Maco.

    The VC stuff isn't the best. For optical enlargement the Ultra Endura (Maco sells it, bottom of the page) is the only one that Kodak recommends anymore.
     
  18. njelle

    njelle Member

    Messages:
    20
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2008
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks for that piece of info!
    is it as good as the classical supra portra Endura?
     
  19. hpulley

    hpulley Member

    Messages:
    2,214
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2010
    Location:
    Guelph, Onta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Never used that classic, sorry!

     
  20. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    2,613
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Brooklyn, N.Y.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Portra 400 sample scan

    These are 35mm neg straight scans at 96 dpi. I thought someone might like to see some results. I have not enhanced them in any way except croping out the ends and edges. The camera is a Contax with either a 50mm or 80-200 zoom. I developed them in Unicolor C41 that has only had 3 other rolls of film thru it.
     

    Attached Files:

  21. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,688
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Location:
    U.K.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I just shot a couple of rolls of the new Portra 160, I've shot the 400 already, and however good it is, the 160 is even better.
     
  22. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

    Messages:
    1,045
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2009
    Location:
    Ajman - UAE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have posted shot from Portra 400 somewhere, because they are scanned i didn't post here, i like the film so far, later i would like to test Portra 160 and 800, not sure which one i should start with first.