Continuing this little series of posts looking at films I’ve been trying out, let’s take a look at Portra 400VC. I got a couple of expired rolls from a friend, and have since shot them in some different situations. The first roll was mostly shot on a cold, damp and gloomy day in February, with mostly flat lighting. The winter landscape was mostly muted earthy tones with not a lot of colour, so it was interesting to see how they turned out.
On the whole they are quite pleasing, with the reservation that of course anything you see here was scanned from the film, rather than printed. I think some of the frames are perhaps underexposed and so seem a bit more grainy, particularly in the shadowy areas. The only real spots of primary colour were a couple of water tanks left on the top of a hill, and I think the film captures the colour well in the dull grey light. The variation in the cloudy sky behind the stand of trees is still apparent, which probably wouldn’t have been the case if I’d been shooting a slide film.
Of course, once the Sun came out things looked much better. This was fairly weak wintery sunlight, but the film captures that perfectly, albeit with very obvious grain even at a fairly moderate resolution scan. In this case, the speed of the film was very useful, as the top of the hill was very windy and the camera was getting shaken, and as I was using a long lens I needed a faster shutter to ensure the blur was acceptable. If I’d been shooting a film of ISO100 or even 50 I’d have had serious problems in that situation.
The second batch of shots I took on a still, calm, bright, frosty and slightly misty morning and the Portra handles all these adjectives pretty well. It was much better light than the first trip, and although there’s still lots of grain it’s not so prominent with the higher contrast. I took pretty much the same shot of the path shown here with some 35mm HP5+ and the Portra does a much better job of capturing the sunlight streaming through the mist. On the whole I like it. Although it’s the VC version of Portra – V meaning Vivid as I understand it – the saturation is a nice level. Much as I love Velvia, it can be a bit much sometimes. I need to check out some alternatives, but if I need a fastish colour film, I’ll certainly give this another go, and I definitely want to try the 160 version of this emulsion.