Archenemies: Kodak Portra 400 Versus Fuji Pro 400H

If you shoot film, you probably lean towards Portra or Pro 400H. For two films that are often compared to one another, how do they compare?

In this video, Film Supply Club does a side by side comparison of two of the most classic film stocks: Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji Pro 400H. These film stocks may well be two of the most compared in the film world. They are both ASA 400, color negative "professional films," and they are roughly the same price, with the Fuji edging out Kodak just slightly, with Pro 400H being about $2-3 more expensive per roll of 35mm. What's more, both film stocks have similar dynamic range. For reference, Kodak Portra 400 is exposure tested here and Fuji Pro 400H is exposure tested here

In my personal experience, I strongly prefer Kodak's Portra 400, as you may know from my recent review of it. That said, I continue to try shooting Fuji Pro 400H. Indeed, on the day of writing, I just got back a roll of Pro 400H in 120 from the lab. I want so badly to like Pro 400H. I really do. I have just struggled to get the same level of character or consistency from it as I do from Portra 400. 

Have you shot both of these films? What were your thoughts? Do you have a preference of one over the other?

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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I grew up using Fuji, so it's always felt just more comfy to my eyes.

Good article

Fuji seem more cinematic and less contrasty to me.

For starters, normally I don't take people who wear hats for no meteorological reasons seriously, but this was an interesting comparison and the video had a nice vibe to it. But in the end, it's in the details. The output also depends heavily on how the images were digitised, for example. I do remind that unlike other tests I've seen, both look not much far apart from each other. Fuji has less saturation and a bit flatter and a bit less warmth than Kodak. No surprises there. Sometimes I like the "colder" skintones of 400H and I find the Portra to be a bit too orange on the skin, but it all depends on the scene and light. The difference (in this video) do look so subtle that a lot can be adjusted in post processing to almost mimic the other. Blasphemy, I know.

I still shoot both and like both. Portra for people venues and Fuji for nature venues. I agree with most of the observations like neutral vs warm etc. Kodak made & named Portra to favor skin tones and portraiture. Both films scan well. Neither disappoints!

Having used both extensively, scanned them with the same profile, then printed from both the digitized and neg, i feel the fuji is a bit more green is the WB; the greens of vegetation are deeper; slightly less saturated at stock; as sharp as the Kodak but the slightly less contrast can make you think differently. The kodak is a tad more red-orange channel saturated; blues are a bit more saturated when shooting wide open but that levels when closing a bit and tend to be the same as the Fuji; the slightly higher contrast makes a false impression of sharper images compared to fuji.
If i had to shoot at the beach or with lots of sky i would take Kodak, if i have to shoot in green area i would take the Fuji. And if i have to shoot with white or cream color background, i would take the Fuji as well. But hey, that's just my taste.

How does aperture of a lens have impact on the saturation - in particular one color? I get that shooting a lens wide open probably has some slightly lower overall contrast than mid or smaller apertures. So the saturation could be a bit lower. But a higher saturation at wide open aperture? I don't understand. Care to explain? Maybe vignetting has anything to do with it - darkening the sky (blue)?

Could be a per-lens issue too. Every lens renders colour slightly different, especially older lenses.

When you shoot wide open, color are less saturated, compared to closed lens (f8) for example. Give it a shoot by shotting a subject with a blue sky on the back, sun coming from the side (90 degrés of the subject). Compare the color of the sky at f2 and f8, you'll see the difference.

The Portra seems to have a lower threshold to react to blue compated to Fuji.

But you typed, I quote "blues are a bit more saturated when shooting wide open but that levels when closing". So you state that saturation is -higher- when shooting wide open. Not less, like you are saying now. So I'm guessing you made a typo. That would explain it. I have shot lenses between 70 years and 1 year old, never was the saturation higher wide open. The contrast, sharpness and saturation was lower at wide open aperture in most cases and improves when stopping down.

Fuji NPH 400 was hands down the best film I ever used. It was gold with weddings and fashion work. Reds and Greens always had more pop with Fuji.

Kind of crazy that 400H is getting discontinued now. Anyone going to hoard it?