Long exposures with the new Kodak Portra 160 Professional film

The Kodak Portra 160 Professional is the latest film from Kodak, which replaced the NC and VC versions. I have shot the new Portra 400 (medium format) and found it to be an excellent film (although I prefer the VC version).

For the Leica, I chose to use the 160 version, since 35mm film at 400 ISO will show much more grain than medium format. At f5.6 I can get pretty much most of my subjects so the 1 1/2 stop difference is not important (with my medium format cameras I have to choose f8 and above to get a decent depth of field).

The new Portra looks more like the NC version but with a finer grain. It requires some boost on contrast and saturation to emulate the results of the VC version, and if Kodak continued to manufacture both versions, I would still choose the VC. But overall, it’s a great film for travel (and with f1.4 lenses i can even shoot at available light in many situations).

Lately, I have been experimenting with long exposures using ND filters like the B+W 110ND (10 stops). With digital, it’s easy to preview the image and compensate, but with film you don’t have this luxury. I don’t like bracketing a lot, so a new emulsion like the Portra 160 with its better reciprocity characteristics sounds ideal for long exposures.

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(Leica M7, Voigtlander 21mm, Kodak Portra 160, B+W 103 ND filter, two seconds exposure)

At two seconds exposure of course needed not compensation, and this scene looked better than my digital one (which I accidentally erased). But what about a longer exposure ?

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(Leica M7, Voigtlander 21mm, Kodak Portra 160, B+W 110ND filter, 12 seconds exposure)

For the scene above I trusted the meter on my Leica M7 which showed 12 seconds. It came out just fine, while when bracketing at 18 and 24 seconds, the sky was too bright to fix. So, even at 12 seconds I didn’t need to compensate for reciprocity failure. That’s a great thing !

Of course I have to mention here that I shot this roll at 125 ISO instead of box speed. I will always overexpose color negative, even with modern film like the new Portra series and I am very happy with the results.

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(Leica M7, Voigtlander 21mm, Kodak Portra 160, no filter, 15 minutes exposure)

Now, the above image is the real test for reciprocity failure, a 15 minutes long exposure at night. I metered the specific scene using my Nikon D700 as a guide and with the proper calculations, i got a predicted exposure of 8 minutes. This time I doubled that time since it was very dark and the needed exposure was minutes and not seconds.

It came out better than I expected, the digital file of the D700 had more clarity and very little noise but of course that’s something everyone expects (even a slow film will have more evident noise than digital, which of course is grain, and I happen to like grain !!). Both images were very similar (I can’t show the digital file since its also been accidentally erased, that’s the good thing with film, you will always have the negative if something goes wrong before you backup !!)

So, I found the Portra 160 to be an excellent film for long exposures and I will definatelly shoot some more very soon.

(c)2012 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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