Tough Question on Travel Film Choice

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by s._anwar, Jun 17, 2003.

  1. I am planning to travel to India & Nepal for a few months where I
    will be most interested in outdoor, handheld candid people shots
    (street scenes etc.). My zoom lens is f5.6, so not that fast (shot
    with 35mm SLR).

    I would probably have gone with Provia 400F. But I have a film
    scanner (Canon FS4000US) and I have read that print film offers
    finer grain at the higher speeds and that it is less subject to heat
    degradation than slide film.

    Given the above and the non-Caucasian skin tones, would I be better
    off using Kodak Portra 400UC or NC ? Would anyone have any
    recommendations ? (Sensia II 400). I have spent hours on the web and
    am more uncertain than when I began.

    My end goal would be printed enlargements for personal pleasure and
    perhaps amateur magazine submission.

    Thanks for your help and for a great forum.
  2. Hand-holding a zoom lens with 5,6 at the long end I'd recommend Fuji NPZ. Or consider taking full advantage of the fine grain on the slide films and get a fast prime.
  3. I find the Portra line of films to be the best choice for traveling. I typically use Portra NC in bright sunny conditions, Portra UC in very cloudy or over cast conditions and Portra VC for everything else (hence VC gets the most use). I also find a prime lenses to be handy to have for the photography you describe.
  4. Portra 400 - NC or VC
  5. I travelled to South India in 1999. Based largely on Ctein's review of then current 400 films, in which he rated Portra VC highest for non-caucasion skin tones,I took Portra 400 VC as my main 400 speed film. I was using that film in my Mamiya 7. Subsequently I read Scott Eaton's comments on about that speed's muddy qualities in overcast situations. I agree with those comments, and today I would probably brings some UC which didn't exist at the time for overcast situations. Someone with more experience with that film might suggest using it in all situations; I don't know. On that trip, I also took Reala for my 35mm. While I had faster lenses, aside from some temple shots, there weren't too many times I had to shoot more open than 5.6, and many many years ago (er, 25+), I travelled in India with only Kodachrome 64. In other words, try some Reala, you'll like it.
  6. I find that 400VC excels in overcast situations.

    If it's sunny I'll sometimes switch to 400NC.

    My preliminary tests suggest that 400UC is best avoided.
  7. I'm not sure why the above poster suggests that "...Portra 400UC is best avoided" as I consider 400UC to be the best all-around ISO 400 film around. I have now shot nearly 50 rolls of the film in many situations (mixed-light, available lihgt, oudoors, studio) and can honestly say that "the hype" regarding its fine grain is true. Indeed, when I compare it to Fuji Reala (which I consider to have the finest grain of any color negative film available) I find that 400UC to be almost as good. Regardless, it certainly beats any ISO 400 film available by a long shot. What's really special about the film is its ability to maintain very nice and neutral skin tones despite having nicely saturated colors. Given your situation, it would be film of choice. I might also bring along some NPZ (or Portra 800) for nigt and low-light situations....
    I maintain a fairly up-to-date film review here.
  8. I have shot about 250 rolls of Portra UC and rarely use anything else. The grain is imperceptible for scanning and viewing and the colors don't block, are accurate (even blues and purples) and the colors are saturated without being garish.

    Great stuff.
  9. I'm down on 400UC because I don't like its colour palette (just as many don't like
    Velvia's colour palette)

    On a recent portrait assignment (natural light + fill-flash), I shot 400UC side-by-side
    with 400VC (my usual film).

    I assessed the resulting prints (on Kodak Endura Supra) with a colleague (a fashion
    photographer). We both felt that colour palette of 400UC was discordant. It
    reminded us of the results you get from cheap amateur film (or a badly run Frontier

    Skin tones have an unpleasant warm blush which cannot be corrected as this
    introduces a cyan/green cast to the rest of the image

    To my eyes, 400VC gives a far more satisfying rendition of nature's colours (skin
    tones, trees, skies etc). Ok, it has larger grain, but this is of less a concern in
    medium format.
  10. Another vote for Portra 400UC. An excellent film with the finest grain of any ISO 400 print film, IMO. I don't find it all that different from 400NC in color rendition, but I haven't done any side-by-side testing either.
  11. I had a very bad experience with Portra 400NC. It could have been that roll of film, but I wouldn't use it without testing it. In a portrait of person sitting on green grass, the grass was too yellow and the person's skin too blue. Impossible to correct. Anyone experience this?

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