Thoughts on Shooting Film

Kodak Ektar Versus Portra 400 In Greece – Guest Post By Aukje

My first year of shooting film Part 11

(Read Part 10 here)

After shooting 13 rolls of Kodak Portra 400 I thought it was time to give Ektar a try, as was suggested by some people who read my previous posts. A couple of weeks ago I loaded a roll in my M2 with the intention to try it on my regular daily photography. But after a day or so my man and I decided on a last minute trip to Karpathos (a Greek island in the Aegean Sea) since the Dutch summer wasn’t really taking off properly. As I wasn’t sure yet on the outcome of Ektar, I took a some Portra 400 with me as well, and concluded that it was a good opportunity to compare them both. We were only in Greece for three days, so I more or less shot one day with Ektar, and one day with Portra. The weather was very much the same over those few days: clear blue skies with only a very small hint of cloud if you looked really hard.

So here are a few comparisons, I tried to match the used lens, time of day that the photos were taken, and viewpoint with respect to the sun. They are not exactly the same, sometimes even different, as I didn’t take the exact route for my photography expedition each morning. But I am confident that there are enough similarities for a fair comparison. I rated Ektar at box speed or EI 100 (after reading this and this), and I rated Portra 400 at EI 100 too. I metered with the iPhone app myLightMeter PRO. The top photos in the comparisons are taken with Portra, the bottom ones with Ektar.

The early morning, before sunrise shots:

Porta 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Porta 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Ektar / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Ektar / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Again: just before sunrise, but a different angle:

Portra 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Portra 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

Just after sunrise, with the first light hitting the rocks:

Portra 400 / Summilux 50mm

Portra 400 / Summilux 50mm

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

A bit of rising sun on Greek churches. Although they are different churches, the photos were taken at a very similar hour, and in the same direction.

Portra 400 / Summilux 50mm

Portra 400 / Summilux 50mm

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

Midday, hard light. Again, I didn’t have a the same location, but it is in the same direction with respect to the sun, so I think they can be compared.

Portra 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Portra 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Ektar / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Ektar / Summicron 35mm ASPH

As expected, Ektar has deeper, more saturated colours, specifically in the blues. The Ektar photos also seem to have a hint of red haze over them. But generally the results are closer than I expected. Of course it is a matter of personal preference, but I generally prefer the Portra colours over Ektar. However with the shots that are taken before sunrise Ektar helps to bring out the very subtle colours. And somehow when an object like a boat is in the photo the pop of colour brings a fun element, while I prefer the softer tones for the landscapes.

Next a couple of photos that show what I perceive as the strength of each film. First some landscape photos on Portra with the subtle colours that I really like. This might sound in contradiction to some earlier comments of mine where I was looking for more colour, but the photos below do not look pale to me, just more desaturated. The colour still feels dense enough to me, if that makes sense.

Portra 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Portra 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Portra 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Portra 400 / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Portra 400 / Summilux 50mm

Portra 400 / Summilux 50mm

And finally some images where the saturated colours of Ektar work really well (and the top featured photo of this post was also shot on Ektar):

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

Ektar / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Ektar / Summicron 35mm ASPH

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

Ektar / Summilux 50mm

I want to add that I had these photos printed, something I didn’t do before. And I must say that the prints look much better than the scans. It started with an experiment done by AG photolab. In one of my previous posts I mentioned some dots in the scans of my photos of Curacao, and AG photolab printed a few of those photos to check the negatives. Those prints looked absolutely beautiful (also showing that the issue was in the scan, not in the handling of film). This inspired me to order more prints, which I did for the film I shot in Karpathos. Soon I will have a real retro/nostalgic afternoon when I am going to put them in an album (also called ’empty photo book’ ).

Prints by AG photo lab

Prints by AG photo lab

All photos were developed and scanned by AG Photolab.

If you are interested you can find more of my photos, both digital and film, on my website: whataukjesees.com. I am also doing a 366 project on film, which I record on tumblr.

Thanks for reading, and Hamish, thanks for having me!

Read Part 12 of journey into film here.

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38 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Matthew Maber
    August 25, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Lovely photos, I do really like the Ektar

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 25, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks Matthew!

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        Reply
        Matthew Maber
        August 26, 2016 at 9:36 am

        Ive used some Ektar medium format in my `Yashica 120G, but its a but prohibitively expensive at 35mm imho.
        Im a bit more experimental with 120 film compared to 35mm – Ektar, Lomo, Fuji 400h, Portra and a few others. For me 120 just suits trying something different.
        Porta on 35mm I dont much prefer over my usual Poundland Agfa Vista 200 tbh, especially my recent trials at 100 in the rare British sunshine! Just a shame its only 24 frames.
        Ive also recently (thanks to Negative Feedbacks “cheap film comparison” – check youtube) tried some Kodak ColorPlus 200 (at 100 again) and that stuff is lovely, but a bit more expensive than Agfa Vista.
        Ive just not been overly impressed with Portra 35mm.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          August 26, 2016 at 11:39 am

          You should try Kodak 400 ultramax – its a little more grainy than portra but has a less less refined colour pallet like the other cheaper films have

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Mitch Zeissler
    August 25, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    I like all the images you shared with us, Aukje. And I’ve similarly been going back and forth between Portra 400 and Ektar 100. I have to say that I’m leaning toward Portra 400 as my primary color film, with odds and ends of different expired emulsions to just experiment and play with.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 25, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks Mitch. It is nice to have options, right?

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    Reply
    Marcus didius falcos
    August 25, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Lovely article & Photos:)

    Always good to see & hear a film photographer actually getting their photographs PRINTED:) None of this ghastly digital phenomena of just viewing “images” on a computer screen & then said “images” languishing on a hard drive/CD/DVD/Cloud, without beiong viewed ever again:(
    That is the what I love about film photography-shooting film, making prints, sharing them amongst friends & family:)

    Keep shooting, keep printing:)

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 25, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks Marcus.
      And you are right about the printing. By now I have made an album, and I love the result. It also made me think of my father who used to put real effort in our family holiday-albums.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Frank Lehnen
        August 29, 2016 at 1:45 pm

        Instead of printing I often prefer making a book just for myself… there are lots of options out there.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Blinx
      August 25, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      Completely agree Marcus.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Brendan
    August 25, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Just wondering why you’d expose Portra 400 as a 100 speed film.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 25, 2016 at 7:12 pm

      Hi Brendan, Portra 400 seems to work fine with 2-3 stops overexposure, and it gives me some margin not to underexpose. For example for reference see http://www.johnnypatience.com/metering-for-film/ and http://www.35mmc.com/02/05/2016/overexposure-latitude/ . But, I also use Portra 400 in an auto-exposure camera without changing code on the can, and those photos usually look good too. I once did a few exposures on one location, and the difference were very small (see http://www.35mmc.com/22/03/2016/quest-colour-guest-post-aukje/, scroll down to the mirror trees). So basically, exposing at 100 is safer for me.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Mike
        January 12, 2017 at 9:27 pm

        It’s pointless to meter Portra 400 or almost any other neg film at anything other than box speed UNLESS you are pushing or pulling it in development. Trust me, I have shot slide and neg film for over 30 years. There is a new “trend” perpetuated by professional bloggers like Johnny Patience but all their posts indicate is a lack of experience and knowledge about shooting film.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Aukje
          January 13, 2017 at 4:49 am

          Thanks for your response, Mike. Part of the reason I rate the film at different speed is because of advise I read online, which I am sure is liable to trends. But it has also to do with being insecure about exposure, and since Portra as most film has more latitude for over-exposure rating film at lower speed is safe. I have noticed however that I like the results I get with Portra 400 in my Minolta Riva Panorama, which shoots at box since I can’t be bothered to change the DX code on my film. And since I started scanning myself I noticed dark negatives are more difficult to scan too, so I plan to shoot closer to box speed next time.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      rollbahn
      August 26, 2016 at 12:02 am

      Ektar works very much like E6 film and is meant to be shot at 100 and looks great at that rating while Portra is known to be a film that can be shot all over the place in terms of exposure. It looks great at 400, 200, 100, 50 etc – I’ve been 5 stops over by mistake and the scans look fine.

      Most people just meter for the the shadows with Portra safe in the knowledge that the highlights will never blow out. I set my incident meter to 400 and stick it in the shadow to get a quick reading and then shoot from there. This is wise for film in general but you won’t get the same results with cheaper consumer film like Fuji Superia or Kodak Gold. It will allow some latitude but not like Portra does.

      The only thing you don’t want to do with any film is underexpose as you just can’t recover the shadows that much.

      If you use an AE camera like Aukje then you also make sure that when the camera gets fooled by bright backlight then you’ll still be safe at 100 as you have two-stops of light to make up for the mis-read metering by the camera.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    jeremy north
    August 25, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    I don’t understand why you’d want to compare these films like this. It is well known that Ektar has better saturation and Portra can be rated at all sorts of speeds. Surely it would have been better to compare them by pushing Ektar to see how it would work in poor light.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 25, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks for you reaction. For me it made sense as I don’t have a lot of experience with different colour films, and I wanted to see the difference when used in similar conditions. There is a price difference, and some people advised me to use Ektar instead of Portra 400, so I wanted tot try it as an alternative for Portra 400, which I rate at iso 100 too. But trying in low light is a good suggestion too, I might get around trying that another time.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    David S. de Lis
    August 25, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Aukje, amazing pictures, specially the one with the small, colorful boats! The water splashing on the hulls while they dance to the waves under the sun, that amazing, smooth bokeh… Whoah! It really blows my mind, you have an incredible eye for pictures, and I’m incredibly jealous! 😛 Keep up the fantastic job, it really is an inspiration!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 26, 2016 at 5:20 am

      Thanks so much, David! But this place is so beautiful that it is hard not to make a nice photo.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        David S. de Lis
        August 26, 2016 at 6:28 am

        It does look a really beautiful place, indeed, but now your modesty is a bit annoying! 😉 Your talent is evident even to a complete newbie like me, your blog is full of fantastic pictures, and even I know taking a picture is more than pressing a button! It’s pressing a button after framing a great picture… and a bit more! 😉 You just keep up the good work and we’ll keep admiring it, huh? 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Lee
    August 25, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Nice read and photos, but film is all about time and experience. It takes a really long time to know how to get the most out of a given film/camera/lens set up. A lot of experience and mistakes and corrections to really know how to get the most out of an emulsion. So while the celebration of film is wonderful, I take these “I’m just trying it out comparisons” with a mountain of salt.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 26, 2016 at 5:22 am

      Thanks for your comment Lee. I agree that it really takes a lot of time to fully understand everything about a given type of film, but you have to start somewhere.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Matthew Maber
        August 26, 2016 at 9:37 am

        Agreed, initial reactions are important though.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Greg Antikian
    August 26, 2016 at 5:52 am

    Firstly, I’m really glad that you visited such a beautiful place in my country and its a big shame for me that I haven’t been to Carpathos.

    The photos look very nice but I would go with Ektar for landscapes. Portra doesn’t look bad at all, it’s just that it’s known to be so wonderful with skin tones and somehow in my mind it’s locked for that !!

    In any case, it’s really good that you made the comparison and after all having so many films to try is part of the fun !

    Keep it up and definitely keep printing !!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 26, 2016 at 7:32 am

      Thanks! You should visit K(C?)arpathos if you have the opportunity, really nice people and great food too!

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    Reply
    Dexter
    August 27, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Great pics, nice to see someone doing a like for like (regardless of how advanced or not so advanced a shooter they are). Boat shot is lovely, shooting my first roll of Portra this weekend.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 27, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Thanks Dexter! Have a nice weekend and I hope you enjoy Portra.

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    Reply
    Mark
    August 27, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Very nice photographs!

    I have mixed Ektar and Portra 400 in a single project, and with scanning and appropriate colour correction (given the vagaries of colour in scanning…) it was almost impossible to tell them apart. For me the main differences were a slight sharpness advantage to Ektar, and much better tolerance to over-exposure from the Portra. Both are excellent films.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 27, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      Thanks for the compliment and thanks for sharing your experience! I didn’t notice a difference in sharpness, I will check again…

  • Avatar
    Reply
    John Lockwood
    August 27, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Beautiful images, thank you for sharing your film journey with us. It is a pleasure watching you discover film with the wonder of a child. I hope you are enjoying your images and the process of film as much as we are. Just keep shooting!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 28, 2016 at 5:45 am

      That is so nice John, thanks! And yes, I am enjoying the journey myself, I love to learn.

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    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    August 29, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Too bad I’ve sworn allegiance to black and white film now …. might regret it some day.

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      Reply
      Aukje
      August 29, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Who knows, maybe one day I’ll convert/convince you… 😉

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Frank Lehnen
        August 29, 2016 at 1:49 pm

        Aaaaaah, those colors….. do not tempt me!!!

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    Reply
    Ken Hindle-May
    August 30, 2016 at 10:10 am

    I prefer the Ektar in every shot, I think. It seems warmer and smoother. I wonder whether the overexposure is making the Portra look a little harsher than it would at 400? Of course, the biggest difference between these two films is how they render skin tones – Ektar being a bit too red while Portra is famously flattering – and that’s not being tested here. Personally, Ektar is my go-to summer holiday film. I know there’s going to be enough light and I know it’s going to make sun-drenched scenes look great. I even find the slightly ruddy skin tones suit tanned (or sunburnt) subjects, making them appear slightly more so and thus evoking scenes in a manner perhaps closer to our memory of them than to reality.

    I’ve never really clicked with Portra, though. Most people rave about it but the rolls I’ve shot have tended to disappoint, coming out grainy and slightly underexposed at box speed. I’ve found the 800 to be particularly poor. That might be down to poor storage at the stores I’ve bought it from and I really need to get a fresh box of five to test, instead of buying a roll here and a roll there. I just wish there was a 400 colour film out there that was a bit nicer than Fuji Superia and a bit cheaper than Portra.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      August 30, 2016 at 10:50 am

      Thanks for your reaction, Ken. I think it’s a good thing that different people have different taste.
      I don’t know if exposing Portra at 400 makes it more harsh, in my experience (and also from a test by ukfilmlab) there is not a lot of difference, even a bit softer when over exposed, as long as it is not underexposed.

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    Reply
    Eric Sorensen
    November 17, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    What a perfect blog post! Thank you for this comparison! I’m looking forward to a trip to Paris in Feb 2017, and I’ve be racking my brain about which film stock to bring along – and it’s definitely between these two. I heard that February is a gloomy month in France, so I’m leaning more toward embracing the desaturated tones of Portra 400. Any thoughts?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Aukje
      November 17, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks, Eric! I don’t have any experience with Ektar except for these in Greece. I expect some Ektar I shot in gloomy Scotland in my mailbox any day now, that will give me some idea of Ektar on a cloudy day. I do have some results of Portra in a city (Bruges) posted on my website: http://whataukjesees.com/sweet-city-bruges/, there is a mix between Portra and digital files, but I do like the portra shots here very much. So I would say that Portra is a good starting point. When I have my result from Scotland I will share a link of that too.

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