View Full Version : Alternative To Kodak Portra 160NC?

21-Mar-2011, 22:02
Kodak Portra 160NC is the only film I have shot 4x5 with since I have started (3 or 4 years ago). I just now found out that is has been discontinued. Would anyone be able to recommend a suitable substitute? I want to keep it a low ISO to reduce grain and I liked that the Portra NC did not have exaggerated, over-saturated colors. My first guess was to try Ektar 100, but I'm afraid the colors will be too saturated. Suggestions?

Dave Grenet
22-Mar-2011, 00:20
Kodak Portra 160? The new one that replaces 160NC and VC.

Noah A
22-Mar-2011, 05:56
I'd definitely try the new Portra 160 or even the new Portra 400.

I've always shot Portra 160NC and 400NC so I was a bit worried when they were replaced with new versions. I haven't gotten my hands on the new Portra 160 yet, but the new 400 is brilliant.

I did a few test print sections from 160NC, 400NC and the new Portra 400. The negs were drum scanned at 4000dpi. I then printed the file at what would be the equivalent of a 60x75in. print. Yes, a huge print, but I wanted it to be a difficult test.

I was very happy with the new film. It may be a tiny bit more saturated than the old NC films, but not by much. Contrast was also similar, perhaps a touch higher in the new film but not enough to worry about. The new film seemed sharper than the old films and the grain was outstanding. Even in the HUGE print sizes of my test, the grain of the new 400 looked very similar to the old 160!

It was good enough that I decided to just stick to the Portra 400 for everything and not bother with the 160. But that was before the NEW 160 came out...so we'll see.

22-Mar-2011, 07:01
Ooh, okay. I read they were getting rid of VC and NC and just making Portra, but I had not seen any Portra 160 anywhere, so I thought they might have done away with that as well. Has anyone seen any Portra 160 on the market? I didn't see any on B&H or Adorama.

Ivan J. Eberle
22-Mar-2011, 07:32
Fujicolor Pro 160S is really nice stuff, too. It also has undergone a catalog number change recently. Has even tighter grain than (late great) Portra 160VC or NC, extremely clean whites and very neutral color balance, not oversaturated. I also like that it's been available in Quickloads (still available in Japan --or was-- in QLs).

Ben Syverson
22-Mar-2011, 07:59
I'm sure the 160 will be great, if the new Portra 400 is any indication.

If you have enough light, the 160 is cheaper and has finer grain. But there are times when you need that extra stop of speed.

Struan Gray
22-Mar-2011, 08:18
Has anyone looked at reciprocity failure and/or colour shifts on long exposures with the new Portras? I love how 160NC behaves with 30s-2min exposures in twilight.

Drew Wiley
22-Mar-2011, 09:51
Contrast and saturation-wise, the new 160 resembles the old 160NC more than VC,
while the 400 speed film more resembles the old 160VC.

22-Mar-2011, 10:35
Where is everyone finding the new 160 4x5 film?

Ben Syverson
22-Mar-2011, 10:46
while the 400 speed film more resembles the old 160VC.
Hmm. Have not found this to be the case at all. In fact, I can't pick out the difference between the old 400NC and the new 400. Then again, I'm scanning, which acts to remove some of the differences you might pick up by printing wet.

Tony Evans
22-Mar-2011, 10:49
Kodak Website says available April 2011.

Drew Wiley
22-Mar-2011, 12:05
Ben - Just go to Kodak's website and they spell out their intentions quite clearly, and
there are simple marketing graphs comparing the respective new and old films per contrast, saturation, and intended applications. Their thinking is, more folks will be tweaking contrast per PS than in the darkroom, so market the 160 product more toward the lower contrast range and portrait market. Make the 400 more general-purpose. Then there's Ektar for something that will tweak into market purposes similar to chromes, but for those folks having trouble getting E-6 developing. I'm not guessing - in various places they literally say all this, plus note the minor improvements in the various films for scanning, but don't want to get into that again. Fuji has done something similar with Crystal Archive paper, and is dropping the Super-C and Portrait papers for something basically inbetween, but more sensitive to green laser, but otherwise fully compatible for optical enlarging too - hope to be testing it soon with some of my 8x10 Ektar negs. They have also tweaked their Supergloss product, but won't start delivery till next month, unless the disaster in Japan has further delayed things. I don't want to spend money on the expensive 30" polyester rolls until I get a little practive with the basic Type II RC paper.

Ben Syverson
22-Mar-2011, 13:32
In any event, the differences between how the 160 and 400 materials respond are very, very subtle if you're scanning. If you scanned 160 NC and Portra 400 of the same subject in 4x5, then made 16x20s, I don't think most photographers could pick out the difference with a gun to their heads.

Kirk Gittings
22-Mar-2011, 13:37
I don't think most photographers could pick out the difference with a gun to their heads.

That would be an interesting way to run student critiques!:p

Ben Syverson
22-Mar-2011, 13:41
That would be an interesting way to run student critiques!:p
I can see it now. "Which famous photograph does this piece unwittingly reference? You have 10 seconds!"

JC Kuba
22-Mar-2011, 13:53
There's an interesting interview with Scott DiSabato from Kodak about the new Portra 160 on Inside Analog Photo Radio.


Drew Wiley
22-Mar-2011, 13:59
They seemed to have tweaked the grain structure a bit due to scanning issues, particularly the problems encountered with smaller formats, similar to the remark made
by a professional scan-operator on a previous post. Rich Seilig of West Coast Imaging,
who operates both a high-end Creo flatbed and a Tango drum scanner for both a Chromira laser printer and a large Epson inkjet, gives a similar explanation of the problem over on a different forum. In the darkroom, the distinctions between the
respective films are more pronounced, because when we try to tweak contrast, it
potentially involves masking. As far as contrast and saturation are concerned, one
tries to standardize the magnification ratio as much as possible: a big print need a
big negative. But I really expect the difference with Ektar to be more obvious than between the two new Portra options.

Ben Syverson
22-Mar-2011, 14:44
There's an interesting interview with Scott DiSabato from Kodak about the new Portra 160 on Inside Analog Photo Radio.
Listening now... It's always interesting to hear from Scott DiSabato, even if he's a marketing guy.

A couple of quotes already stuck out at me:

"So, the Portra 160, from a color position: it has accurate color, but I think the world today is used to hyped-up color. That, in some cases, is the norm. So I've heard a lot of people describe the Portra 160 as kind of romantic and muted color—and it would appear that way—but it is pretty accurate in terms of the hue and intensity. It's just, we're very used to—from looking at Plasma screens and images that are kind of tuned up a little bit—to really feel that the average is heightened saturation."

"They're tools. But to just break it down, you've got the image structure edge with the Ektar. You've got the color saturation, in an exaggerated form, with Ektar. And you've got more of an accurate rendition with the 160."

Interesting to hear him call Portra more accurate, and Ektar an "exaggerated" film that, if you read between the lines, was designed for people who have come to expect "hyped-up color."

That doesn't necessarily jibe with my experience of the two, but it's interesting marketing. The single biggest difference I've found between Ektar and the old 160NC is that the Ektar's shadows tend to drop to black faster. Those stronger blacks lead to a more saturated look by default, but if I expose for the shadows, they actually look quite similar. Well, tonally at least—Ektar of course has much finer grain.

Drew Wiley
22-Mar-2011, 15:18
Allegedly, Ektar and 160 have similar contrast range overall; and so far, that seems to
be my impression from actual prints. I certainly wouldn't call Ektar hyped. If you take
Portra and print it on a typical C paper it looks pretty flat compared to human vision or what you get from a chrome; but's that's what's generally desired in portrature. What I don't know yet is how the bumped up highlt contrast in the new Fuji papers will interact. Even though the overall contrast has been reduced a bit, they've tweaked the whites to give a little better laser response, with a bit steeper top to the curve. This makes final fine-tuning of the print color a bit fussier. But at the opposite end, the blacks of C-prints will still be a bit disappointing. That, more than anything else, is where the "snap" is lacking in C-prints, and frankly, in pigment-based inkjet too.