New Kodak Portra 400 Review

I’ve finally had the chance to not just shoot but to see the results of Kodak’s new Portra 400 and I have to say I am thoroughly impressed with the result.

New Kodak Portra 400 at Pikes Place Market in Seattle

I shoot 400 speed film almost exclusively when I’m out with my medium format gear, simply because I rarely work from a tripod and often look for more spontaneous shots or more people-oriented photography where the subject’s movement, rather than my own movement is going to cause the most trouble.

Ever since the release of Kodak Ektar 100 in 120 I’ve been hoping I’d see a 400 speed version of this film and while the new Portra is obviously different in many ways I think it meets my needs for a 400 speed modern emulsion.

First and foremost, the color is great.

Pentax 67 105mm f/2.4 in Seattle

The film has an almost preternatural ability to grab the right colors in the scene and give them a good deal of punch while rendering the colors that play second string a very pleasing tone.

Like Ektar the grain is almost invisible and even in these shoddy scans from my Canoscan 8800F the results is impressive.

Additionally, most anything can be done with the negatives in post-processing once you’ve scanned them and the wider dynamic range of C41 film, I think, will make this a film that rivals digital even in versatility.

Pentax 67 45mm SMC Takumar f/4 at Pikes Place Market

I’ve added in fill light here and a little sharpening and some noise reduction to balance out the noise that cropped up in fill.

No film will ultimately replace digital for my bread and butter work, but that’s not why I shoot film.

This film renders stunning colors almost effortlessly. The dynamic range is massive and the color rendition and contrast is spot on.

Kodak Portra 400 replaces both Kodak Portra 400NC and Portra 400VC and, honestly, I’m okay with that. It’s a better film and if you need one or the other you’d be better served with the Kodak Portra 160NC or Portra 160VC anyway.

The new Portra doesn’t replace a good stock of Velvia for landscapes and it isn’t going to replace 160NC for sheer skin-tone rendition, but for most applications, and for the Kodak Ektar 100 lovers out there looking for a couple stops of speed this is the film you’ve been waiting for.

Here are a few more samples from the same test roll.

And this last one from a Holga WPC just for kicks. No apparent reciprocity failure, so thumbs up!


About ryanmlong

Long is a working professional writer and photographer since he graduated from Michigan State University. He cut his teeth at the Wrangell Sentinel and before long started his own photography business specializing in shooting sports. Today he specializes in wedding and portrait photography but still gets up to his old habit of heading out for a morning of nature and landscape shooting. Long also works as a freelance writer, primarily for Demand Media Studios.
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