First Kodak Portra 160


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By Kodak’s own statement their Portra 160 film is “the ideal choice for portrait, fashion and commercial photography — whether in the studio or on location — [in that it] delivers exceptionally smooth and natural skin tone reproduction”. However, a lot of people also seem to like it as a general purpose colour film so I decided to give it a try.

In my little test I’ve previously come across three films — the Fujifilm Superia, the AgfaPhoto Vista, and the Kodak Ektar — which the Portra is hence up against.

Now, the Portra is the most expensive film, but also the easiest to come by: Negatif+ has always had them in stock and I often see them when stopping by in other photo stores. The other films on the other hand were ordered from macodirect.de (which has a good selection but adds a somewhat high fee for a relatively slow shipping). Moreover, from various discussions online I’ve gotten the impression that it’s the highest quality film of the four, both in terms of grain, tonal rendition, and exposure latitude.

For my thoughts on the film, it definitely has an unique colour toning, in particular, it seems, for greens and reds (for instance in Light Strokes and Port de l’Arsenal). This is not a bad thing, and in fact I like that it is something different that the JPEGs from my digital camera.

It doesn’t produce saturated colours and I’m not getting the vulgar impressions as I did with the Vista nor the disappointments with the Ektar. Moreover, it renders skin and fur very naturally: The Twins (In Chair)Scholastique (with Irka), and The Twins (Lying Around).

It hence seems that it is down to either the Superia or the Portra, and luckily I have one of each coming up with an overlap in the scenes. Comparing only the scans of the films, although all done by Negatif+, does also introduce some uncertainty in that it is unknown how much colour manipulation is performed in their scanning process; for the next comparison I’ll hence also look at prints from each film.

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