Finally!! More Film…….Portra 400

By October 18, 2013Blog, Film, Photo Essay

In my previous post I showed some of my favourite digital images from my trip to the South Island, you can see those HERE

Much earlier in the year when I travelled to Hawkes Bay (Film Heaven or Hell) I made a decision to take only film cameras. Since then I’ve fallen back in to the habit of taking a film camera to supplement my digital ones and consequently I’ve A) Not shot much film and B) tended to shoot an image on film and back it up by shooting it digitally too, just in case……..subsequently because of the delay in processing times I’ve used the digital versions in my posts and made the film shots irrelevant. 

On this trip I made a conscious effort to trust myself and the Leica M6, I didn’t shoot loads of film, just 3 rolls of Portra 400 and I didn’t capture these images digitally so it was a case of having a little faith and crossing my fingers.

I have to say I’m a touch nervous about showing these and I’m certainly not saying “look at my film shots they are wonderful….” that said what is important is that overall I’m happy with them. Shooting film does encourage you to think more and press the shutter release less which can’t be a bad thing.

It’s important to add I’m still building up an understanding of Portra 400, certainly my decision to rate it at ISO 200 has released a little of the magic you hear people refer to when discussing their experiences with this film.

Technical Details 

FILM – Kodak Portra 400 – Rated at ISO 200 and developed normally by

SCANNERReflecta Proscan 7200 – I’ve been absolutely delighted with this scanner, it’s cost effective and most importantly has allowed me to achieve the kind of resolution and detail I’d been missing in my film scans. If you need a dedicated 35mm film scanner I can’t recommend this highly enough.

SOFTWARESilverfast 8 Ai Studio

PROCESSING – Further adjustments in LR4

The Road Less Travelled – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 LFI Master Shot The-Road-Less-TravelledI can safely say there is pretty much nowhere in the South Island I have not been, with the exception of Milford Sound which was another destination I almost made it to, only to be thwarted by land slips and blocked roads. 

Juicy – Leica M6, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 AsphJuicyJust a snap but this was my little home while on the road, definitely the best way to see NZ although that is based on there being only myself in the van. I can’t help but think many a friendship or relationship has ended after sharing one of these for a prolonged period!! Ha,ha.

1000 Knots – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 1000-KnotsAnother snap, again just trying to build up a firm understanding of the film characteristics, I’ve bought some Kodal Portra 160, Kodak Portra 400 and Kodak Portra 800 in 120 so I’ll be looking to use that in the Contax 645 and get some portraits done.

Congregation of One – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1Congregation-of-OneI had hoped to use this image in my Quake City post but the film wasn’t back from the developers and my lack of patience got the better of me. I much prefer this shot to the one I used, the posture of the old guy and the lighting are much stronger in this image.

Warm Contours – Leica M6, 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph Warm-Contours

The verstility of Kodak Portra 400, it may be more conventional to use Ektar 100 for a shot like this but I like the tones from the Kodak Portra 400.

91D – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 91DThere are probably many similar Petrol Stations in NZ, quaint…..I have no idea why but the image makes me smile. As I drove in to Mossburn a sign at the roadside caught my eye, it read – Mossburn, Beer Capital of New Zealand. This was new’s to me but I was quite happy to hang around town and give it the benefit of the doubt!! However when I reversed to look at the sign again it actually read – Mossburn, Deer Capital of New Zealand……not quite as appealing.

Chevy – Leica M6, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph ChevyDoughnut – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1DoughnutGiant backlit doughnuts don’t make great subject matter, I’ve shared this because I love the way small town NZ makes the most of what it has, this sits in the centre of……yes, you guessed it, Springfield!! The town seems to have firmly embraced the Simpsons and in turn I was happy to embrace my inner Homer!!! Thankfully they’ve stopped short of declaring it the “Simpsons Capital of the World” which I’m pleased about!! This strange phenomena is adopted by many towns here, for instance Queenstown – Adventure Capital of the World, Te-Puke – Kiwi Fruit Capital of the World and even Taihape – Gumboot Capital of World…….there are many more!!

Bedford’s – Leica M6 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph BedfordsMt John Observatory – Leica M6 – 50mm Summilux f/1.4 AsphMt-John-ObservatoryIn my post Film Heaven or Hell I highlighted my frustrations with scanning using the Canoscan 9000f (now departed) it’s great to finally be looking at images with kind of resolution and detail I’d always hoped for but couldn’t achieve with my previous scanner. The Reflecta Proscan 7200 is an excellent dedicated 35mm scanner, I will get around to doing something more detailed in time.

Beauty in the Ordinary – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 LFI Master ShotBeauty-in-the-OrdinaryI’m pleased with this image, we’re lucky as photographers that we take the time to see, I mean really see. It’s always satisfying to make something beautiful from a scene most people would drive straight past.

The 1000km Detour – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 The-1000Km-DetourThe drive from Wanaka to Haast is 140km’s of beautiful road, unfortunately for me I hit this roadblock about 60km’s away from my destination due to a massive slip. There is only one other way to get to Haast and it involves a 1000km detour, determined to reach my original destination that’s exactly what I did. Tragically, at the time I was stuck here people were yet to realise that two Canadian tourists had been killed when their camper van was swept off the road and in to a river by another slip in this pass.

Vanishing Point – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 LFI Master Shot Vanishing-PointIf you know anything about NZ you’ll know that this isn’t in the South Island, it’s actually in Tolaga Bay and therefore it’s rightful place would have been in my Bouncing Back the East Cape Revisited post. Because it was actually the only frame used on the roll of film already loaded in to the M6 it’s appearing here.

These few rolls of Kodak Portra 400 have certainly given my desire to shoot film a shot in the arm, whats more its clear to me that the more experience you gain with film the more you realise there is to learn.

Cheers, Jason.


  • John Ferebee says:

    You really hit a hot button with this post. Why you say? When I travel by car the kit includes a M6, M9, and Mamiya 7 and a few rolls of Velvia 50 . The problem is two-fold. The 50 needs a lot of light or a tripod and the processing and hi res scanning is costly. So, as you have said, the digital is firing away and the film is left in the bag or I take a few to justify bringing it along. I had not thought of using Portra 400 for my landscapes but yours have a very nice look. By dialing it back to 200 one could still shoot hand held. The developing can be done for far less at our local Costco rather than sending the slides to a lab. Thanks for the post and I’m looking forward to trying it.

    • janrzm says:

      Hi John,

      I’m pleased you found it useful, I also like the look of the Portra 400 landscapes and I’ll definitely be using it again.

      Be sure to let me know how you get on.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Bruce Esplin says:


    As usual, interesting reading and great shooting!


  • John Lockwood says:

    Lovely images as usual Jason. When Portra was introduced, we had two choices. Each speed had both Natural Color and Vivid Color. NC was a better choice for people, while VC was better for things. Contrast and saturation were lower in NC. Over time, they migrated the two films into one.

    My biggest tip for film shooters has to be “Expose for the Shadows”. Shooting negative film is exactly opposite transparency film or a digital sensor, where you try to avoid over exposing highlights.

    By exposing for shadow detail (preferable with a spot meter) you are building density on the negative. Without proper density, color neg will look low in contrast and “mushy”.

    By rating your film 200 and taking a general reflected light measurement you are seeing good results. Our pro labs used to print a density number on the back of each corresponding proof print that helped us better expose a particular situation in the future.

    If you’re bored, Google: D-Max and Densitometers.

    One last thought. Contrasty light needs less additional exposure than soft, non-directional light to build negative density.

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks John,

      As ever you’re a wealth of knowledge and I thank you for sharing it here, I will definitely be googling D-Max and Densitometers.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Umberto says:

    Thank you, Jason. I have had enough of seeing tons of oversaturated digital images.
    Your portra choice gives us a really natural and effective set of photos. Have you ever tried Sensia for slides?

    • janrzm says:

      Hi there Umberto,

      Portra is easily my favourite film to date. I have not used Sensia but I’m happy to give it a go on your recommendation.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • basquearts says:

    Congratulations for the photos.

    Portra be exposed to 320. Overexpose preferably not more than 0.5, because it gets dominant color.

  • Andrew says:

    nice Jason….very nice. The stand out for me though is the Warm Contours image. That light looked fantastic!

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Andrew,

      I’m pleased you’ve said that because out of these that would probably be my favourite. Happy that I resisted the urge to take it digitally as I don’t think the end result would have been as pleasant.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Pelixiano says:

    Fantastic shots, how do you scan your film so clean from dust ? or did you stamp it in PP ?


    • janrzm says:

      Hi Pelixiano,

      Thanks, I use the iSRD tool in Silverfast 8 Ai Studio (Infrared Dust & Scratch Removal) which is pretty effective. You will see scratches in the sky on the Juicy and Chevy images if you look carefully so it doesn’t always pick up everything, I don’t go as as removing every defect in PP though.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Jordi says:

    Hi Jason,
    Looks lovely. Heard about the death of the Canadians, quite tragic. Taking a 1000km detour… I like adventure but it seems a bit too much!

    I got some portra too in the OM-1. Time flies, college keeps me busy and it’s been a couple of months since I loaded it! 28 frames to go yet. I think I’d get much more out of a cumbersome Medium Format as I’m very picky shooting.
    Glad you got a new good scanner. I’m slightly in a film hell. Student budget doesn’t allow for much. I would always bring a film camera as it gives great results and always hits a string visually. As best as I can process RAW it ain’t the same as a good old film shot.

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Jordi,

      Yes it was tragic about the Canadians, a reminder of how fragile life can be. I agree, with hindsight the detour was excessive, I will allow myself to be more flexible in future… 🙂

      The Portra is my film of the moment, very versatile. Take your time shooting it’s definitely the best approach, sometimes I find myself rushing the last few shots of a roll because I get impatient. As for MF, well yes it is cumbersome but worth the sacrifice sometimes.

      I’m much happier that the scanners I now own can give me the results I’m after, now it’s about technique. I have a couple of guest contributors that will assist me on the next post regarding scanning. Stick with your film shooting and maybe there will be something in the scanning post that helps you somehow, I hope so.

      Take care, Jason.

  • Philipp says:

    Hi, I came here via tumblr and I have to say I love your film photography 🙂

    I have question about the scanner you mentioned. I am also scanning with a 9000f right know and therefore can relate to the frustration you’re talking about 😉

    So two questions: What kind of resolution do you get out of a 35mm negative? And I see that scanner uses a filmholder, my question would be, is it possible to include the borders of the negative when scanning?

    Thank you very much and best regards,


    • janrzm says:

      Hi Philipp,

      Thanks, that’s very good to hear.

      There is an excellent technical review of the Reflecta Proscan 7200 here – they calculate the effective resolution to be 3250ppi which is very good, scanners rarely if ever have the resolution they are advertised with.

      I can still recall the frustration of the 9000f, if you only need a 35mm scanner then you could end the pain and get a Reflecta Proscan 7200 🙂 The negative film holder will not include the film borders, it may be possible to do something with the slide holder but I have not tried that.

      Let me know what you decide to do.

      All the best, Jason.

  • cliff says:

    Jason: I visit your site often having returned to film after a 40 year hiatus! I shoot Canon LTMs (2 Ps and an VI-L) and Canon LTM lenses (well also M3 and M4-2.) I often wonder what subject matter Id shoot if I lived at “the ends of the earth.” Your work is truly well done and inspiring. Cheers! If in Denver look me up!

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Cliff,

      I feel like I’m having a 40 year hiatus at the moment….. 😉 Nice cameras you have there!! It’s beautiful down here at “the ends of the earth” but you still get that photographic blindness associated with the familiar. Your words are very kind, made my day. Enjoy your film shooting again and if in Denver I will shout you.

      All the best.


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