fashion photo

Kodak Pro image 100 & Portra 160 review - Portrait shoot out

Now that I have FINALLY settled on some camera kit that I’ll be keeping around for the long term I can focus my energies on exploring different film stocks - not that I wasn’t doing that anyway but I was finding flitting from one camera to the next a bit of a distraction, for the record the cameras which have won my heart are the Nikon F2 and Pentax 67 - today’s blog features a portrait shoot on the F2 shooting with a shiny new portrait lens and using two different film stocks Kodak Pro Image 100 (a new film to me) and Kodak Portra 160 (a film I have used a few times before)

Whilst the main focus of the conversation will be on looking at the two film stocks first up I’ll take a moment to show you the kit I used on this shoot, I’ll then take you through the shoot itself.

IMG_2740(1).JPG

I have just bought the very wonderful Nikkor 105mm 2.5 a lens which has a HUGE reputation as an amazing portrait lens, when i bought it the focus ring was quite stiff so I sent it off for repair to a chap called Miles Whitehead who did a great job of fixing it and it now has silky smooth focus action - I would highly recomment Miles if you have some camera kit in need of some TLC check his site out HERE. In fact as I write this I am reminded that Miles also serviced my F2 when I bought it so double thanks!! :)

I was originally going to include a few thoughts on the 105mm lens in todays blog but I loved using it so much that I think I’ll reserve that for a dedicated blog all of it’s own - suffice it to say that it’s reputation is very well earned, an amazing piece of glass!

Ideal for portrait, weddings and social events dontcha know…..

Ideal for portrait, weddings and social events dontcha know…..

I think most people will be familiar with Kodak Portra 160 which is a mainstay of Kodak’s professional line up, but what’s this Pro Image 100 all about? I’ve been shooting a lot of Portra 400 and 160 recently and whilst I love both film stocks I am always interested in trying new things and the results I’d seen from Pro Image appealed to me - the other great thing about Pro Image is the price! I got this for £25.95 for 5 rolls!

This film stock has only recently come to the UK/European market - despite being around since the mid 90’s, the stock was only sold in warmer climates, big thanks to the good folks at Nik & Trick for being instrumental in making the case to Kodak for getting this film available in Europe :)

Ok so I have a lovely film camera - check, a great portrait lens - check, a shiny new colour film - check, a beautiful location to shoot in….check! What’s next? I need someone to photograph! Fortunately I’m part of a great facebook group for photographers and models to network and arrange shoots - Danni is someone I met through this group and we’ve shot together before when i was testing out my Pentax 645, you can see those images HERE.

Also worth mentioning at this point that i had my films processed and scanned by the good folks at Exposure Film Lab who I must thank again for their brilliant work, I use them for all my colour films these days because I just love the results I get from them - check them out HERE

The vibe for this shoot was a really natural summer look to make the most of the bright sunshine, we had a beautiful location filled with light, flowers, tall grass and trees - let’s GO!

First up i loaded Kodak Pro Image 100…

0-14.jpg
0-17.jpg
0-10.jpg
0-3.jpg
0-16.jpg
0-26.jpg

Ok then at this stage in the proceedings the word at the forefront in my mind is wow! Danni is a very talented Model which makes my job much easier and the Pro Image film is just lovely :) Let’s move on to the Portra 160 which I loaded up next and we’ll do a bit of a comparsion at the end, here’s the Portra shots…

0-16.jpg
0-14.jpg
0-12.jpg
0-23.jpg
0-7.jpg
0-4.jpg

The entire shoot lasted about an hour (if that) we went for a stroll through some lovely scenery and together we created some properly beautiful portraits full of light and life! Danni is a great model she did a brilliant job on this shoot, she puts lots of character into her work and is just a natural in front of camera, this really shines through the images - we’ve worked together before which I think always helps so we’re relaxed and comfortable working together and meant we were able to just get right into it and enjoy the shoot. I’m over the moon with the photos we created together - thank you Danni :) Check out her portfolio HERE.

In summary then both film stocks are clearly capable of wonderfully sharp, textured images with great skin tones, colour balance, contrast and detail - I therefore love them both! They each have their own look so whilst they’re comparable I think there are some differences to take into consideration. This was never intended as a ‘one film versus the other’ contest in which we have a winner and a loser but rather an opportunity to look at how these two film stocks worked under the same conditions - to that end I simply invite you to make your own mind up which you like best - or maybe like me, you like them both?!

Here’s a few of my thoughts on each stock:

Pro Image 100 - it has a wonderful grain structure, punchy contrast and I love how it handles the greens and yellows, shadows perhaps not holding as much detail as portra, it has a classic film ‘look’

Portra 160 - minimal grain as you’d expect from portra, slightly muted colour palette although in these images it produced stronger contrast than I’d expected, Portra definitely holds on to more shadow detail and also perhaps slightly sharper.

What does all this show us then? Well they’re very close actually, much closer than I’d have thought! One aspect which does create an opportunity for comparison is the price with a five pack of Portra 160 retailing at around £35.99 and a five pack of Pro Image around £25.95 then clearly if budget is the deal breaker then Pro Image is your winner, if you absolutely must squeeze every bit of detail out of the shot then perhaps Portra is the one to choose - ultimately we’re all winners here as we in the UK now have access to the lovely Pro Image and I’ve got 4 more rolls sat waiting to go! I can’t wait to shoot it again.

Street Portraiture on 35mm film with the Nikon FE2 & F2

 
Partners in crime - my trusty FE2 (left) alongside it’s new bezzie mate the F2

Partners in crime - my trusty FE2 (left) alongside it’s new bezzie mate the F2

Lots and lots and lots to update you with since the last blog post which was all the way back in December!! I’ve been mega busy with lots of different projects and got loads to tell you all about, so since it’s almost a quarter of the way through already let’s finally get the 2019 blogging season off to a start shall we!

Remember last time I was saying things like “I’m going to focus more on creating photos” and “I won’t be doing as many gear reviews” and “gear just gets in the way” well I still think that’s true but owing to my contrary nature I’d like to introduce you to my latest gear acquistion… the Nikon F2!! Rather than just a boring old review thought this time I’ll be sharing some images i shot with this amazing camera on a recent portrait shoot as well, but first let me take you for a walk around the F2

IMG_0114.jpg

Ever since selling my Nikon F3 last year I have had a Nikon F Series shaped hole in my heart/camera collection (check out this link for the reason why I sold the F3) back in mid December I decided (after not very much deliberation) to buy myself an F2, cos ya know..I worked really hard last year and it’s nice to treat yourself every now and again and it was the run up to Christmas and… well, you get the idea…

I found this beauty on Evilbay for the ridiculous price of £70 and so a deal was done, the caveat being that the camera was from Japan so taking a bit of a punt on condition and shipping times, but as with my previous experience of international purchases the shipping is mega quick, it’s really only on arrival into the custody of Her Mahesty’s rip off merchants here in good old blighty that things slow down, after an almost literal ice age in UK customs my camera was finally released to me and there was much merry making and feasting by all….. sort of… two things became clear fairly quickly 1: it was in very good condition and functionally worked perfectly 2: there were traces of dreaded fungus in the viewfinder and in the mirrorbox which didn’t bode well and therefore i was going to have to shell out some more cash (and wait even longer) before getting to grips with the F2 - it’s all sorted now though, fresh from a good clean and service I even managed to negotiate a part refund from the ebay seller which paid towards the cleaning :)

There’s oodles of info out there on the interwebs about the F2 so there’s not much point in me re-hashing it all, suffice it to say that between 1971 and 1980 if you wanted a professional level Nikon SLR then this was it!! Instead of reeling off a list of it’s features and functions I’m going to share with you a series of images I shot with both the F2 and my trusty Nikon FE2 on a portrait shoot recently, I’ll share my experience of shooting with it too of course and no doubt indulge in some techno-babble along the way as is my want…

Oh yes and interesting/geeky factoid alert! The serial number on my F2 is 7865098 and thanks to the wonders of the internet and some Nikon nerds who collate all this info I was able to date manufature of my particular camera to between May & August 1977 - so this camera is only a few months older than me! :)

Ok so that’s enough camera geekery for one blog, what’s the damn thing like to shoot I hear you cry… well… it’s amazing! build quality is second to none, it just feels very well balanced despite being quite a large camera, the viewfinder is HUGE and bright and lovely which makes manual focussing a doddle, alongside the ever brilliant FE2 I now have my perfect 35mm dynamic duo!

Portra 160 with the FE2 and series e 100mm 2.8

Portra 160 with the FE2 and series e 100mm 2.8

These images were taken on a portrait shoot with Model Rebecca back in Feb when we had a mini heat wave - I was so glad we made the most of the sunshine! The FE2 was loaded with a roll of Portra 160 and with the F2 I shot a roll of Fuji Acros 100 and a roll of Portra 400 - I enjoyed using this combination of film and cameras so much and was very happy with the results that I decided right there and then that I’m going to shoot film from now on for portraiture.

Fuji Acros 100 on the F2 with Nikkor 50m 1.4

Fuji Acros 100 on the F2 with Nikkor 50m 1.4

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the film stocks used on this shoot - I’ve had a couple of rolls of Fuji Acros 100 on ice in the freezer for a few years now and since buying it Fuji have discontinued production :( having only shot one roll of it before I figured I’d give it a whirl and I love the results, developed in HC110 it has a clean and balanced finished with lovely contrast.

Colour film duties were fulfilled by Kodak Portra one roll each of 160 and 400 flavours - I think i overexposed the 400 speed a couple of stops to 200 and shot 160 at box speed - having developed these myself I had some issues getting the right colour balance when scanning at home and for some frames it took me a little while to get the colours to look and feel ‘right’

Portra 400 on the FE 2 with Nikkor 24mmm 2.8

Portra 400 on the FE 2 with Nikkor 24mmm 2.8

img938.jpg

So there we have it - I was so pleased with how both cameras performed and I continue to be impressed at the quality of the Nikon lenses, the images here were shot on the Nikkor 50mm 1.4, Nikkor 24mm 2.8 and the Series E 100mm 2.8 - super sharp shooters the lot of them! If you’ve not tried an old Nikon camera and lens I would urge you to do so - there’s a reason why these were the manufacturer of choice for professionals back in the day.

Portra 160 on the FE2 series e 100mm 2.8

Portra 160 on the FE2 series e 100mm 2.8

I developed the colour film at home too - the first time in a long time that I’ve done that, I was really pleased with how they came out and I’ve got a write up of the process and kit that I used on the way, I promise it won’t be another 3 months before I write another blog, in the meantime happy shooting!




Shooting 35mm film in the studio

Using film in the studio is a really enjoyable experience, I was fortunate to be asked to second shoot my friend and fellow Photographer Ruth's fashion shoot in her studio a while back and had the opportunity to grab a few shots of very awesome model, Zivvy. All of the black and white shots were taken on Fuji Acros 100 film on a Canon EOS 3 camera, all the colour images on a Canon 6D DSLR.

img267-edit1-Edit.jpg

I love working in the studio - it's a real treat, most of the time I shoot on location which requires some flexibility in your approach to allow for all sorts of variables in lighting and the general randomness that comes from shooting on location (although that is part of the fun)! However in the studio YOU are in full control!  In these images there are three studio strobes - one either side and another overhead, with a fourth light providing a backlight to the white background so there's a lot to take into consideration, it's an exercise in balancing and shaping light to achieve a certain effect depending on the look you're trying to achieve. I take no credit for coming up with the concept or the lighting arrangements for this shoot - that was all Ruth!

img272-edit.jpg

It can take a while to get your lighting and composition worked out even when using a digital camera with the benefit of being able to instantly review  your shot, the process becomes slightly more protracted when using film, which is why I recommend using a combined approach - shoot film AND digital!

Back in the day photographers would often use a polaroid camera (or back for their medium format camera) to assess how the light was falling on their subject, polaroid is still available but it's expensive stuff, you can also get flash meters but they're not cheap either so I used my Canon 6D DSLR to meter the shots and judge the lighting - think of it as a digital polaroid! :)

Zivvy, Gav and Ruth reviewing the mood board and deciding on final styling

Zivvy, Gav and Ruth reviewing the mood board and deciding on final styling

As second shooter I took some behind the scenes photos on my 6D as Ruth, Zivvy and Gav the Hair Stylist did their thing - I really enjoy shooting candid, reportage images like this as it shows the hard work that goes in to making the final images - it's normal to spend a long time getting ready for even a simple shot and it's all part of the creative process that often gets missed out, behind the scenes shooting allows you to tell that story.

Zivvy trying out some vintage bling

Zivvy trying out some vintage bling

The key to a successful model shoot is not lighting, or kit it's....wait for it.... team work! Your ability to communicate, collaborate and ultimately create with the stylist, model, hair and make up artist is fundamental, I was fortunate in that Ruth had put together a great team and concept (and also put her make up skills to good use), Zivvy is a very talented model and the hair stylist Gav was also awesome, having a good team of people working together towards a shared goal is much more important that a whizzbang camera or lens or whatever (although of course they're nice to have too) ;)

IMG_6701.jpg
IMG_6728.jpg
IMG_6762.jpg

In order to integrate my digital and film sets ups when working in the studio I used a Canon EOS3 which has exactly the same mounts, inputs as the 6D so i could use the same lenses and flash triggers switching between film and digital as required, nice and simple it's no good spending ages faffing about trying to get ancient film gear to talk to modern studio lighting whilst the model, Hair and MUA, stylist et al are waiting for me to figure it all out, I like to shoot quickly and keep the energy going as I think this translates to the final images so having a fully integrated set up is a real bonus.

All of the black and white images you see here are Fuji Acros 100 35mm film which I semi stand developed myself in Adonal (on reflection probably not the best developer/process for the job as it's known to bring out the grain of the film and Acros is renowned for being smooth - next time I'll use something else)! I love the high contrast though!

img272-edit.jpg
img252.jpg
img287.jpg
img278.jpg

After the shoot I had a couple of frames left so I used them up around the studio.....

img277.jpg

Fuji Acros 100 is a lovely film, I kind of wish I'd been more patient and bought some more appropriate developer/used a more appropriate process but I was impatient to see the final images! Don't get me wrong though I love the images and am very happy with them I just think that a developer like Xtol or D76 would've made for a smoother finish perhaps - oh well! live and learn!

img280.jpg

Of course I wasn't just metering with the 6D - I enjoy digital photography very very much also, here are a few of my digital shots...

IMG_6858.jpg
IMG_6960.jpg
IMG_6780-Edit.jpg

So that's it then - I hope you've enjoyed this latest blog post. I'm really looking forward to working with a combination of film and digital cameras in the studio again soon :)