If cost isn't an issue Portra will be fine. I use it for more "urban" shooting sometimes, and on a tripod just after sunset, I love it.
Ektar is generally cheaper to come by, has a slightly smaller range, but grain is basically non-existant and it can give lovely results in more subdued light. It can give you punchy colours if you're shooting punchy-coloured things in punchy lighting, but it is no Velvia.
I've had decent results with Kodak Ultramax 400 in the past. It's a cheaper consumer film but to experiment with a new style, might be worth a shot. Kodak also has Profoto 100, which I'm no fan of.
There's a really cheap Fuji on B&H (Fujicolor 200) that I've never tried. I've shot Superia in 400 and 800 and they're just okay, but Reala 100 was my favourite of all print films recently, so if this falls in between it may be good.
Ektar does not give "punchy" color, unless punchy color is resident in the actual scene. It's fairly accurate for a color film. But neither does it
artificially soften things like skintones, which is something Porta 160 does. Nor does it forgive errors in color balance as easily. If you are comfortable shooting chromes, Ektar should be easy to learn. If you want something more forgiving of exposure error, go Portra. These films are tightly engineered for specific categories of use. And consistency is one thing you tend to get in quality products like these. If you want high quality results, then the learning curve is going to be more consistent too. Any mistakes which come out in the end result are likely to be your own. But you might pay a dollar more a roll for that privilege. Amateur films are made and marketed under less stringent conditions, and often have a buffer zone for sloppy use, so that you get "something", yet at the expense of something else.
I suggest the O.P buys some Portra and Ektar and tries them for himself, you can't rely on other peoples experience because your impressions may be completely different.
RIGHT ON BEN!
suggestions are cheap
experience is priceless
Even Ektar is restrained in terms of saturation compared to the default JPG settings on most digital cameras. If it's not Velvia, scanned into photoshop, with the saturation pushed up 50 points, it probably will still look subdued.
My vote goes to portra 160 and 400 though. I used to use other color films. Now I don't.
Using others experience of what films are like John I.M.O. is like asking someone to have sex for you.:)
Originally Posted by jnanian
Tips can sometimes alleviate the worst of the learning curve. For example, I wouldn't recommend Ektar for someone planning a portrait session
with acne-ridden teenagers!
Isn't there an entire industry based on that?
Originally Posted by benjiboy
I was browsing Tumblr again and saw nice images/colors made with Kodak Portra 160 and 400.
But also with Fujicolor Pro 400H and Fujicolor Pro 160 NS.
So may I suggest that you try a few rolls of these films also?
The Filmshooters Collective may also be a nice source for examples.