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Kodak Portra 400 VC 120: 6cm x 6cm of Colour-Saturated Glory!

Kodak's medium format version of its Portra ISO 400 VC film provides exiting vibrant prints, with brilliant colours and strong contrast.

I’m pretty limited for choice when it comes to purchasing 120mm film; my local photography stores only stock a few different products. However, Kodak’s Portra 400 VC film has shown me that this is a matter of quality over quantity.

I’ve been really impressed with the prints I got from this film, a nice surprise seeing as I was just intending to test an old camera and I thought this film looked interesting.

First, I guess I should talk about price; I paid $13 dollars (New Zealand dollars that is) for a single roll, which is a little bit more expensive than some of the other 120mm color negative films, but only by a tiny bit. This is also a price I am perfectly happy to pay seeing as Kodak looks as though they plan to replace this film somewhere along the line—along with its NC counterpart—with their newer Portra 400 (no NC or VC).

But enough of this—onto more important matters.

The reason I got this film, well actually the two reasons I got this film was, firstly, to test an old camera, and secondly, because of this film’s promised high color saturation, hence the ‘VC’ standing for ‘Vivid Colour’. However, I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect in terms of how pronounced the effect was going to be. I shot the roll in my Zeiss Ikon Nettar, and then had the film developed and a few prints made.

I was really happy with how the prints came out. The punchy, saturated colors looked fantastic, while at the same time not appearing too unrealistic. Obviously, this will not be to everyone’s tastes, but if you are going for high visual impact, then this film is excellent. Another nice thing about this Portra film is that it has a reasonably high level of contrast, which I think gives the pictures a nice ‘edgy’ look. This worked especially well in conjunction with the sharp lens on the camera I was using.

For the negatives I didn’t have prints made from, I used a digital camera to photograph them in front of a bright light (sort of a contrived, and needlessly complicated alternative to just scanning them). They were not as good quality as the professional prints, but I was happy nevertheless. The contrast and saturation showed up really well in these ‘scans’, and plus, I was able to get the edges of the negatives, which is always fun!

Another aspect of this film is that, having the reasonably high speed of ISO 400, it also has a good exposure latitude—that is, the ability to correct for under and over exposure after the film has been developed. This can prove extremely useful, especially when using a camera with only a few shutter speeds and aperture settings.

As you can probably tell, I am quite pleased with this film. If you haven’t tried it already, I would certainly recommend it—especially if you are looking for snappy, vibrant images, but don’t want to go so far as to cross-process, or even if you just want to try something a little bit different. As for those who have tried it, perhaps you could comment bellow and share your experiences, or suggestions for similar films?

Thanks for reading!

written by panchromatic

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