Frankly, 400NC could produce cadaverish skin tones in contrasty, flat or less-than-perfect lighting. Pro Fuji 400 in old(NPH) or new forms is muted but not dead. I've not seen that from the new Portra and I love the latitude. I wouldn't let the lab off the hook.
Weird that I have found the opposite, that 160 is disgustingly saturated and 400 is nice and creamy like NC used to be. I think if you over expose your film you might find the color more pleasing? For color negative film portra 400 and ektar are the only two I'll use, can't say enough good things about my experiences with them and just was flat out unimpressed by portra 160.
I got my negs and prints back the other day, and was disappointed to see the results with the new Portra 400. The colors were like those of all the other "vivid" films I avoid: overly saturated, unnatural, neon-ish. At the Kodak Web site, I saw the color scale--which shows that it is about halfway between Ektar and Portra 400NC. Do I have any natural-looking alternative in 400 speed 35mm film?
What are you shooting the portra 400 at? If you are shooting it at 400 i can understand where you are coming from. I shoot mine at 200 or 160 normally and get beautiful prints all the time. Shooting at 400 gives me too much saturation.
I very much appreciate the replies. The prints were scanned and printed, and so I agree that a lab error could not be ruled out. They have been pretty consistent, though, thus far (for a couple of years). A number of the shots were in high contrast situations. I gather I will give the new Portra 400 another try, though I do not know if I want to spring for another five-pack (in case it does not work out). I am tempted to try Fuji 400H.
I've shot one roll so far and had it scanned. The colors are natural AFAIK. You might want to check the paper yours were printed on. I've seen in the past where some Kodak film I had was printed with higher contrast, more saturated or both.