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June 01, 2011

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I started trying film this year and found myself as lost as when I got serious about photography about 5 years ago. Glad to have a clearly written and complete review like this to add to my knowledge base.

It is surprisingly (to me) difficult to find this type of review of film. Or maybe I'm just doing it wrong.

I've got to run through one more roll of Portra 400VC (completely arbitrary choice to start things off) and then I'll try this next.

Moving out of my comfort zone (digital) has been decidedly . . . uncomfortable. But easy stuff doesn't help you improve :)

Great review. I have been loving the new portra 400 in 120, guess I'll give the 160 a shot too. In terms of processing, there's also Philadelphia Photographics on 10th and Arch? I've been quite happy with them.

Regarding grain in the scans versus the D7000, it's worth remembering that the scanning process significantly coarsens grain. (According to Ctein, here.) If your lab (which might be you) will either make optical enlargements or scan your negs on a top quality wet drum scanner, they will show less grain than what we see here.

For many of us an appropriate response is, "So what? I'm not paying for that level of scanning, and I'm definitely not doing C printing at home." Still, it's worth noting in a film review that the actual film grain is finer than what you can get from a home scanner, if you're either willing to pay for drum scanning or able to do your own darkroom printing.

Gordon, all I can say is that you were seriously short-changed in the pretty-gene department.

On the other hand, you are highly effective behind the camera, and we hope you will stay there ;-)

Thanks for a great in-depth review of Portra. This makes me want to go out and grab a couple of rolls of the film and hook up my Minolta scanner again to see what I can accomplish with it. Agree with the statement about finding a good lab to process this; they are few and far between, and most of the good ones require shipping out of state and waiting for the processed film to be shipped back.

That is a great, great portrait by the way, and I'd be curious to have a look at the equivalent digital version of it (you only have a crop of the eye from the D7000).

>>it's worth remembering that the scanning process significantly coarsens grain.<<

I would amend this to say that the scanning process CAN significantly coarsen grain. It depends on the size and type of grain and your scanning resolution. For example, if you use an extremely fine-grained dye-cloud film such as Porta 160 and scan it at 4000 PPI the grain will be practically invisible at print sizes of 8x10 and below. It will be barely noticeable in an 11x14 print. On the other hand, if you scan a conventional high-speed B&W negative film such as Kodak Tri-X, the grain will appear a lot more noticeable than if you were optically printing in an enlarger with a diffused light source.

In general however, your point is well taken: If you want top-quality results from film then you had best use a top-quality scanner or lab.

Thanks for the review of the latest Portra film. As has been said, to get the best results, you need to search out the best lab for your work.

The first professional print film I shot from Kodak was back in the early '80s, and even then I was amazed at how much better people pictures looked on it.

I think it's time for me to get and shoot some more Portra!

Great portraits. If you're looking for photo labs check out http://www.photomfa.com. I'm trying to compile information on photo labs that still process film.

Thanks for the tip, Gordon. You've got to do something about your nerdy first name though.

I have been loving the new portra 400 in 120, guess I'll give the 160 a shot too. In terms of processing, there's also Philadelphia Photographics on 10th and Arch? I've been quite happy with them.

Hi Gordon,
My five rolls of Portra 160 are on the way to me. Kodak's new Portra 400 I gave a go, quite impressive. May be my 'go to film'.

My question is about your statement in Conclusions second paragraph where it reads, "... improved shadow detail with risking blocked highlights. ...".

It is my hope it should read "... improved shadow detail 'without' risking blocked highlights...". If I am incorrect I will take my lumps.

Cordially, RicD

>>It is my hope it should read "... improved shadow detail 'without' risking blocked highlights..."<<

Good catch, Ric. That's exactly how it should read. I have made the correction to the original post.

Ah, my mind is now at ease, I will breath in and breath out. :-) Thank you for your clarification, much appreciated.

From Adorama, Saturday five rolls each of new Portra 400 and 160 arrived. As much as I enjoy digital my use for digital is as my Polaroid. When shooting film (back in the day) we used Polaroid to see the shot then make needed corrections. After corrections we shot the money shot on film. At present that is my use for my DSLR, Polaroid-ish testing.

Thank you for your review.

Cordially,

RicD

I love the new Portra 160. I recently tried it out on a job and was very impressed (and relieved) that it worked so well. I have also tried the new Portra 400 and it is also a beautiful film. The 220 rolls are especially nice.

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