Ok, this is my experience so far with this film. I’ll let you know from the begining. It’s not what I expected from a “professional grade” film. I know, I’m not a pro by any means, I don’t make a living as a photographer. But as any of you, I’m in my entire right to make my own opinion about “X or y” topic. And this is are my thoughts about the so famous Portra 400. Searching in the web, I did read great things about this Kodak’s emulsion. So naturally, I wanted to give it a try. To be honest, I don’t know if is my local photolab’s fault or what! But there is a weird greenish color cast on this first picture and others from that day. Portra users out there… Is that normal??   I like the color on that second photo. I didn’t used a high ISO setting (1600), but there is noticeable grain in the black areas of the image. I know, I know!! You, “Old veteran of film”, may think: “Of course it’s gonna be grainy! It’s a daylight film and you’re pushing it to 1600, moron!” But let me tell you this: When you read great reviews of a “pro film” from people “who knows” (or at least they call themselves “pro”); you set a standar in your mind and you expect a decent performance. It’s what the logical’s thinking dictates. Right? I’m not a “Portra’s film Grinch”, I like the grain of the film, my point is that I didn’t expected so obvious at 1600 ISO.

Slightly out focus. My fault.

Slightly out focus. My fault.

When you load a roll of film to your everyday’s carry camera, you don’t know where or when exactly that film will be used. Ideally, you expect to use it with a nice light, at the same time, matching your film’s ISO speed (or at least, that’s the idea); but the true is, something the night catches you. In that case, low and artifical lights becomes part of the scene and you have to deal with it the best way that you can. Sometimes under those circunstances, Portra delivers pleasent colors. But in certain ocations, there is a bluish color cast that makes the photo difficult to look at. I would like to have more “consist results” with this emulsion. Do you know which film is very consist under “artificial lights”?? Fuji Superia 400 🙂     I’m curious as a cat. The first hand experiences are always the best way to learn. That’s why I bought a 5 pack of Kodak Portra (for $40) on Ebay. To be honest, I thought Portra was (somehow) a “more flexible” film. (Maybe “professional film” is a tricky asseveration) Especially on low light conditions with higher ISO’s. (Or was I expecting to much?? ) Will I ever used it once again? Hmmm, maybe if one day I start to develop my own film, I’ll consider fair to give it a second chance. But for the 5 pack of Kodak’s Portra price, you could get 10 (or even more) rolls of Fuji Superia 400, a versatile and dependable film that give you nice colors under a lot of different light conditions (at least from my experience). Certainly, I would not give up on Kodak films. Currently, I’m using ( my first time) Kodak’s Ultramax 400. And I will get my hands on Kodak’s Ektar 100 as soon as I can. But those would be stories for “future publications”.

Thanks for your time of reading this!


5 thoughts on “(New) Kodak Portra 400

  1. Hi Rodolfo,

    In some ways your expectations are a bit too high indeed. ISO 1600 will be grany. But also I see the point that you wish to get more if you spend more on a film.

    I think that scanning is an art of it’s own and the software/hardware/settings combination you use heavily effects your results. The scanning settings are also very much dependent on the film. In fact there are calibration color sheets for not so cheap to set up your scanner to a particular film type.
    In other words, there is a chance that you can blame your workflow for the color cast on your first shoot. I had so much disappointment myself until I found some good recipes for scanning.

    Usually I get better results out of this film nowadays, but I had very similar ones initially wit the factory scanning app I had.

    Also labs can use depleted chemicals and even your film batch could be damaged.

    In any ways, I think it is worth to give it another try and maybe lower your expectations a bit and as you said try to use the film for the circumstances it meant for. Also you can try different lab, and scanning software.

    To be said I also love Superia and I think if it gives better results for you for better price, just stick to it.

    As for Ektar. I only shoot 1 roll of it, but that came out really above my expectations. You should try that for sure.

    Take care and good luck with the films. Gábor

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Gábor!
      In deed, I’ve thought in all those circumstances that you point out.
      Recently, I sent a roll of film to a different lab and the results were improved 🙂
      I don’t have a flatbed film scanner (yet), it’s just a “basic scanner”. And even with a dedicated film scanner, I know that film photography it’s a tricky and complex art. (Yes, a few weeks ago I read your publication about film scanning, and the struggles and problems that you had. (Great post, by the way 😉 ) ) When I saw that the printed photo was “greenish”, I suspected of the chemicals used by the lab.
      I hope one day I’ll learn to develop my own film (doesn’t look so difficult). I think it’s the next natural step in this “film/camera addiction”. I know that I won’t keep my doubts floating inside my head and I’ll try to shoot Portra at least one more time 🙂
      Great photos on the Kodak Ektar link! Thanks for sharing. Definitely, a “must try” film 🙂

      Best regards!


      • I believe today most labs print the photos on papers in such a way that they first scan the negatives, apply some semi automatic corrections and they print them like they were digital files.
        Of course color cast can be do the film, but usually it is corrected before printing.
        This is only my imagination though.

        In any case I need to do some kind of correction after scanning as well. This way I can be a bit more secure that when I want to print them digitally, I will get what I would like. It is still a gamble, because the calibration of the screen and the printer may not match, not to mention of the color profiles (AdobeRGB, SRGB and other magic inside the printer concerning CMYK).

        The point is it is a lot of effort to get it right. I personally don’t try to control everything, sometimes best things are due to the uncertainties of the process.

        Flatbed scanners are not the best in any means, but this is what I can afford at the moment and it saves me some money in the long term as I don’t need to get prints from every shoot.

        Developing your own film is a lot of fun. I would recommend to start with black and white. That is really quite simple. C41 is a bit more complicated, but absolutely doable at home as well.

        Also there may be a photo-club near to your place where you could use equipment for this. In the city I live there is such a place, although I am the only one who still regularly shoot film 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sure thing, Gábor!
        There is a lot a variables when you shoot (and) develop film. I think the same. Photo labs scan the film and then they print it because probably it’s faster. Besides, I assume that most of the photo labs out there don’t have a “film enlarger” anymore 😦
        As you said: “I don’t need to get prints from every shoot”. I don’t need every photo printed, but sadly, the photo labs in my country refuses to “just develop the film”… Of course, for me will be a lot cheaper, but there is no profit for their business $$ 😦
        I don’t think its fair, because you are paying for the service of developing of the film anyway. But they have set their business politics. 😦
        I don’t hate black and white photos, I even have seen a lot of great B&W pictures actually; but I’m obsessed with colors, so, even when developing B&W could be easier (as they say) I don’t see myself (shooting) developing B&W film. 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation. Any advice is welcome!

        Best regards!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As has been suggested, it may be that your first roll of Portra 400 was not well processed in the lab. That first shot by the lake has a very unusual colour cast that I wouldn’t normally expect from Portra.400 in daylight. Having said that, so far I’ve only tried Portra 800 and I had no problems with that, and the grain was surprisingly subtle for such a fast film. I hope you can find a good lab in your area.

    Liked by 1 person

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