Head-to-Head Comparison: Kodak Portra 400 Versus Kodak Ektar

As a film photographer myself, one of the biggest struggles when going out to shoot is deciding on the right film. Considerations of film speed and color rendering are two of the most important and these are two that differ considerably between Portra and Ektar. 

In this video, Film Supply Club takes us through a head to head comparison of two of the most popular films of the day: Kodak Portra 400 and Kodak Ektar. Both of these films are available in 35mm, 120, as well as in large format (4x5 and 8x10 both), which makes them both desirable options. 

From my experience, when you're out on a really sunny day and a 100 ASA film would still work well, all considerations come down to color rendering. For those unfamiliar, the differences between Portra 400 and Ektar are most extreme when it comes to color saturation and rendering, so this is an important consideration. Beyond saturation and color rendering, Ektar is considerably cheaper than Portra 400. Truthfully, I'm not sure why, as I much prefer Ektar if I don't need the speed of Portra; perhaps it is because Portra is so much more popular that Kodak can get away with charging more. 

Do you have experience with both of these films? What were your thoughts? If you preferred Portra 400, did you find the additional cost worth it?

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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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Hey James,

Nice to be out and about these days, we are heading out to shoot Portra 160 and Portra 400 today

Happy shooting and stay safe

I haven't shot film for awhile now, but when I did, I used a lot of Ektachrome 400.

Might have too get my old film camera out again and try these two!

Hi James, both are my very favorite. Like 1 and 1a depending on the day light condition. But is Ektar really any cheaper?

I've shot some Ektar on 35mm and I didn't enjoy it much but I'm sure on 120 its good features will be more evident. Portra is a such a great go to tho. It's great in a lot of different scenarios and I'm confident in the scanning process. Not really seeing what the benefit of using Ektar is if I already really enjoy the Portra?,

I'm very much a Portra400 guy in all formats (p&s35mm to 4x5). Extremely sharp and super easy to get a good colour balance out of in all situations. I have shot Ektar (35mm, 6x6, and 6x7) and found it difficult to get a decent colour balance in almost every frame so I really haven't found a good fit for any situation where it works easily or well. I've been developing and printing (wet) c41 films since the mid 80s (professionally for 5+ years) and the portra films are the best, sharpest, most forgiving c41 films ever produced. I would reach for Portra 160 before Ektar in broad daylight (or strobe) situations but still would prefer Portra 400 for more flexibility with Depth of Field while handheld. Please don't shoot a wedding with Ektar you'll end up working a lot harder in post to get acceptable results.

"perhaps it is because Portra is so much more popular that Kodak can get away with charging more. "

If I recall correctly when I bought film by the brick, higher speed films cost more than the slower film types. And the "pro" version Ektachrome cost more than the regular version and was supposed to be kept in the fridge. So maybe Ektar is regular and Portra is premium?

Ektar vs Portra: as previously commented, saturation and color palette differs between them. There was Kodacolor films, cheaper yet, back in the dim ages. Portra was originally hyped for its skin tones, color science, latitude, scanning pluses and was aimed at professional studio & wedding markets. I am still a solid Portra fan & user, despite the costs! Rollfilm, 35mm etc, Portra delivers with few surprises. I still shoot a few of the Fuji lines and Portra given the mood, and way fewer rolls than a decade ago, but Portra 160-800 still in my bag...and freezer. Cheers for springtime!