fuji400H

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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

Pentax 645 medium format camera review: My new favourite portrait camera

Some cameras attract your attention because of their sleek industrial design others with their classic style and charm - the Pentax 645 is not one of those cameras!

Seen here lurking in it's natural environment -the pentax 645 sneaks up on an unsuspecting roll of Fuji pro 400H.....

Seen here lurking in it's natural environment -the pentax 645 sneaks up on an unsuspecting roll of Fuji pro 400H.....

At first glance the Pentax 645 looks like a big plastic box with a lens sticking out of the front and at second glance it also looks like a big plastic box with a lens sticking out the front, but hey this ain't a beauty contest! it's a camera and a bloody awesome one too! in fact (and yes I know that I say this a lot) it's my new fave camera and i really, really,really-really-really mean it this time, honest.... no, really....

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I think I've reached that point in my film camera tomfoolery where I'm looking for my cameras to do different things or have specific purposes - I've shot loads of different cameras so I can speak with some experience that most 35mm film SLR cameras are a variation on a theme - they have various control layouts/feature sets etc but ultimately they are much of a muchness so whilst I am thinning out my collection of 35mm film cameras which all do pretty much the same thing I am also expanding the collection to include cameras which do things a little bit differently - and therefore in my warped Gear Acquisition Syndrome afflicted brain I can be justified in purchasing...the Pentax 645 which is a medium format film camera and it's amazing, let me introduce you..

The first thing that is obvious is what era this camera hails from - this thing is so 80's it hurts!! the buttons and the chunky design are total give aways and i love it!! despite it's brick like subtlety the 645 is actually very ergonomic and I love the button placement, there are loads of hokey reviews out there on the net talking about all sorts of nonsense about this camera like the viewfinder being dim (it's not - it's VERY bright and HUGE) and there is an even larger amount of claptrap out there about the shutter being VERY LOUD (it's not.... yeah you can hear it but it's not THAT bad) what else... oh yeah people complain about the button placement, for me this is just not an issue at all....this thing is so easy to shoot with!! it has a full range of shutter priority, aperture priority and full manual modes (there are also people out there claiming that the 645 doesn't have a full manual mode, erm yes it does)..... the great thing about all these crap reviews and internet forums recylcing this duff info about the camera is that nobody wants to buy it - so it's CHEAP!!! like REALLY cheap!! hurray!

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These cameras are not particularly common in the UK these days so I imported mine from Japan and even with shipping and Her Majesty's rip off merchants at UK customs it was still a good deal! If you think you want a Pentax 645 then buy one - you will not be dissapointed! Mine came with the standard 75mm 2.8 lens attached already and I very quickly added a 150mm 3.5 lens too - the pentax 645 glass is AMAZING! it's a totally manual focus system and that's the way (a ha a ha) I like it! very smooth focussing action and a lovely bright viewfinder to nail focus - Love it!!

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Above you can see my set up - the Pentax 645 itself sporting the 150mm lens, a spare film back which can be preloaded with film making it much easier in the field to load a new film, a light meter which I've just started using to help nail exposure and of course a few rolls of film - the 645 is a bulky beast, but it's not mega heavy, I use my Joby slingstrap with it and I've carried around for a few hours at a time during a shoot with no bothers.

Anyway enough with the camera review stuff - I don't shoot film just so I can review cameras, in fact the real reason I shoot film is in no small part becuase as a photographer what I like to do is take photographs!! yes i know! crazy! what I mean is I'd like to spend a little more time on the photograph taking side and a little less on the sitting in front of the computer editing side of the euqation - I fully believe that editing and processing is an important part of the photographic process but with film it's a much more hands on process, film also gives you some constraints to work within and I like that too, oh and it looks flipping awesome too - did i mention that already?

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Anyway for someone who is trying to reduce the amount of camera review waffling I don't half bang on about cameras - let's call it a work in progress, now let's talk about the photos instead though shall we? These images were created on a modelshoot with the amazingly talented Pandora Belle - for the shoot we took a walk in the woods on a bright sunny day just outside Bradford in a place called Judy Woods, a beautiful setting with soft light filtered through the trees, the bluebells were in full swing and Pandora suggested a goth look which I think works great in this setting. Over the moon with how these turned out - this is how I want to work from now on, spend more time being much more intentional about visualising the shot and getting the compostion and exposure right during the shoot so that the images look how I imagined right off the bat - beautiful!

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I've been wanting to incorporate film into my professional work for some time now - in particular for portraits, but to do that i first needed to build some experience of shooting portraits on film and at the same time build my portfolio in that direction so i have something to show people, this is where working with models on a TF (Time For) basis is a great option as it helps us both build our portfolios so it's mutually beneficial - it's also a good creative outlet and you can test out new ideas (like shooting with film) without the pressure of a paying client.

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These images were shot on Fuji pro 400H film and wow!! I love how they look - i intentionally overexposed the film which is a way of creating a more light and airy feel to the images and I think it's worked great, what this means is I rate the film as 200 speed so in effect treating it as though it requires twice the amount of light and voila! amazing tones and lovely feel to the photos - I did next to nothing with the scans I got back from Exposure Film Lab because to my eye they look exactly how I'd envisioned things, fantastic stuff :)

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Exposure Film Lab did such a great job of developing and scanning the film - it was my first time using these guys but I have to say they did a wonderful job and I cannot recommend them highly enough, and also a huge thank you to Pandora Belle for working with me on this shoot - she's a very creative and talented model and I'm sure we'll work together again soon!