As an avid film photographer, I am always picking up different 35mm films to review. That said, there is one film stock that is always in my fridge and ready to shoot.
Porta 400 is a Kodak film that lives up to the brand’s esteemed name. It is versatile and known for its incredible ability to accurately capture colors.
What Is Portra 400?
Portra 400 is a color-negative film from Kodak, a brand name that is highly recognized. It’s a medium-speed film that allows for balanced exposure in many different lighting conditions, characteristics that rank it among my favorite films to use.
The Portra 400 is one of Kodak’s Portra series films. It is made for professional photographers who are looking for high-quality results. More often than not, I use this film to take portraits, but it’s very easy to use for anything from everyday moments to street photography and landscapes.
One of the film’s key features is its color rendition.
The film is well-known for its accurate and beautiful colors, something that allows any photographer to capture the most subtle of tones with precision. This is particularly true for portraits and photos that require as much accuracy as possible.
Portra 400 Features
The Portra 400 film is known for its performance, quality, and versatility. It is well-loved among photographers and, as noted above, very often used for portraits. The film is capable of a great deal and is known for the following characteristics:
The film is named for its ISO speed rating of 400. This medium speed is the perfect way to utilize the film to its utmost potential. It is suitable for a wide range of environments and lighting conditions. You can depend on it to function in both low and highlight settings, especially if you’re photographing portraits or anything close up.
As noted above, the color rendition of this film is exceptional. I was first introduced to the film as something to use when you wanted to capture powerful colors, and it didn’t disappoint. The colors are both vibrant and accurate. It excels at capturing the small nuances of every scene you are choosing to photograph.
Photo by CarlosL100
The film’s dynamic range is another specification that I was interested in and excited about when I first tried it. The film can capture the high and low lights with ease, as well as keep the final photographs well-balanced and with as large a range of tones as possible.
The film most commonly comes in the 35 mm format compatible with many cameras. It’s also known for its versatility, which is demonstrated by its ability to capture a wide variety of scenes.
Portra 400: The Pros and Cons
Portrait 400 is a renowned film type from Kodak’s Portra series. There is a lot about this film to love and a few cons that you may want to keep in mind if you plan on trying it out, like me. Here are the pros and cons, or the strengths and weaknesses, of this film:
Photo by Xenograft
There are a few pros to consider when looking at this film to purchase. They include:
Outstanding Color Rendition
The color rendition is one of the main pros that you’re going to see photographers like me talking about when they discuss the Portra 400. It’s easily able to capture the most vibrant of colors in a wide variety of settings.
Where other films fail to accurately depict the right color tones, the Portra 400 succeeds. It is a great choice for anyone wanting to take portraits or do landscape photography.
Ability To Capture Detail
Photo by Eric Oates
The camera’s ability to capture the finest of detail is another element that I really can’t stop bragging about. It performs well in highlight environments like outside on a sunny day and lowlight environments like inside at night. I highly recommend putting this film through its paces and testing it out in every possible scenario.
The film’s dynamic range is another pro you will want to consider. As noted in the previous sections, it can dig into the detail in both highlights and shadows. It’s a very high-quality film type that achieves perfectly balanced exposures in ever-changing lighting conditions. I appreciate this kind of flexibility when I’m out shooting.
Photo by Pacoaletta
Lastly is the portrait quality. This is something that many photographers choose to use Portra 400 for and something that I’ve been experimenting with myself. It’s highly regarded for its ability to render natural and flattering skin tones, which many other types of film are incapable of.
While the film is well-regarded among photographers, there are a few cons that you might want to keep in mind before making a purchase. These include:
Limited ISO Options
This film is best suited for shooting at ISO 400, and while you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the results at this exposure, you may find the film performs below your expectations as soon as you push the ISO higher or lower.
It can move some, but if you go too high or low, you’re going to notice that the film quality drops off dramatically. I found that the color rendition that this film is so well-known for is drastically different if you try to shoot at ISO 800.
As with any high-quality film, the Portra 400 is not cheap. It is a professional-grade film that is going to be slightly more expensive than the other, lower-quality options on the market. While it’s not the most expensive film on the market, you may want to consider the price before making a big purchase.
As some users have found, including me, this is not the right film to use if you want to take a picture of someone, or something, moving. It’s ideal for static images (like portraits or landscapes). You will want to make a different choice if you’re an avid sports photographer or enjoy photographing anything that’s moving at speed.
Is Portra 400 for You?
Photo by Sebastian Fiebiger
As we’ve established, Portra 400 is a well-regarded film that photographers worldwide use. But is it for you? Determining whether or not this film is the right choice for your personal photography practice will depend entirely on what you’re trying to accomplish.
When making your decision whether or not you want to buy this film, consider the following: what do you primarily photograph? Is it portrait or landscape shots? Or is it something more dynamic, like street photography or sports photography? If the latter, you can always test it out, but it may not be the best choice for the job.
Also, consider the price of the film and how it compares to what you usually use. If you have a budget, you may need to stick to lower-quality, less expensive film. But if you’re willing to splurge a little, the Portra 400 is a great option. I believe it’s worth the price, but that’s just me!
I’d highly recommend this film if you often shoot in high-contrast settings. For example, if you’re constantly moving between light and dark areas and have struggled with other films to get the exposure right. If nothing else, it’s worth trying out!
Ultimately, whether or not you choose to use Portra 400 is up to you. It’s best practice to experiment with a few different film types to see which best aligns with your creative vision and desired aesthetic. I’d suggest the Portra if you know you need to be as accurate as possible with your colors and need some versatility in your highlights and lowlights.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about Portra 400 film:
What is the difference between Portra 400 and other Kodak films?
The difference between Portra 400 and other Kodak films is notable. The 400 version is known for its color accuracy and fine grain but specializes in medium-speed ISO ratings. This makes it more versatile than higher and lower ISO Kodak films.
What is the push/pull ability of the Portra 400?
The push/pull ability of the Portra 400 film is limited compared to other Kodak films. It is made to be shot at or around ISO 400, so changing too much in either direction impact’s the film’s quality.
What is Portra 400 good for?
Portra 400 is well-known for being good at a lot. This includes its ability to render colors (known as color rendition), as well as its ability to move between light and dark settings with ease. It’s an incredibly versatile film that I can’t recommend enough.
In my review, I’ve discussed the specifications of the Portra 400 film, what it’s known for, and the pros and cons that are important to consider if you’re considering trying the film out.
The film is well-established in the photography community for its incredible dynamic range, its ability to perform in a variety of settings, and its color rendition. But whether or not you want to try it is entirely up to you and your photography goals!