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?