Film Review : Kodak Portra 400 – 120

Jul 25, 2016
3 min read

Let’s talk about a legendary film : Kodak Portra 400.

If like me you’re interested in shooting color film then you’ve probably came across this very popular film. I’ve seen many photographers making such great pictures so I couldn’t wait to try it myself. After capturing a couple of frames with my friend using a roll of Lomography (check out my review here) I was in hurry to finish it and load in the famous Portra.

I’ve read in many places that you can over expose color films to get more saturation so that’s why I shot it at ISO 200. For this roll I’ve been shooting again with my Mamiya M645 and the Sekor 80mm f/1.9 .

Overall, I’m really pleased with this film. I think it provides, in most the cases, accurate skin tones and pleasing colors.

Here you can see my favorites shots from this roll. I like the kind of “dreamy effect” on the backgrounds especially on the two close-up portraits. The flat tones from the background give a good separation with the subject and makes the skin tone stands out.

Now let’s see the pictures that I’m not entirely satisfied with.

Here I don’t have any problem with the picture themselves (of course, it’s me who took those shots!! ) but the colors are not as pleasing at the first series above. We can clearly see that they lack of saturation and most of them have a flat look.

This is mainly caused by the orientation of the camera. You can see that three of them are orientated toward the sun. I’m not sure if this flat look is caused by my lens not handling well the flare or by the film itself. I will do further tests to determine the exact reason. On the other hand, the first picture turned out flat too but I wasn’t shooting in the sun… I guess that the light condition changed slightly between the two shots but will have to do further experiment to determine the exact cause of this “flatness”.

(EDIT : I’ve noticed the same behavior while shooting with Lomography film so I’m suspecting that it has something to do with the coating of my Sekor 80mm f/1.9 and not the films themselves.)

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the quality and the fine grain it offers and will keep shooting with it. I’m waiting for a second roll to be developed and used it to shot a wider range of colors so it will be interesting to see how it looks.

I also developed some Portra 400 shot on my Leica M6 so I will have the opportunity to review it soon. Stay tuned!

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