Getting the most out of your Pentax K 1000 becomes a whole lot easier when you are using the right film – but how do you know what kind of film you should be loading your camera with so many options out there to pick and choose from?
Well, if you are like most people shooting film today you want to get your hands on a steady supply of the best color negative film available right now – and that’s Kodak Portra 400 Professional.
Far and away the most popular professional color negative option available right now, the original Portra film formula from Kodak was unveiled back in 1998 before being overhauled with the introduction of the Kodak Portra 400 Professional in 2010.
A number of new technological advances implemented by the folks at Kodak (especially from the team working on the Kodak Vision project, a bunch of folks working on motion picture film used in Hollywood) transformed this already very impressive color film into something really spectacular.
Below we highlight everything that makes this film so incredible, covering all of the bases so that you can begin to understand why Kodak Portra 400 Professional has the top-tier reputation does right now and why you’ll want to have as much of it on hand as possible when you are shooting in film.
What Makes Kodak Portra 400 Professional So Special?
There are a couple of things that have really helped to make Kodak Portra 400 Professional so special, especially when you are loading it into a great camera like the Pentax K 1000.
Like we just mentioned a moment ago the Kodak Vision team worked to implement a lot of the things they learn making amazing motion picture film into this professional/consumer film, and one of the major improvements they made was finding a way to significantly reduce grain across the board.
The sharpness of this film has also been heightened significantly compared to the original 400 NC formula from Kodak, with skin tones rendered a lot more accurately and overall color levels improve quite a bit as well.
Scanning performance has been boosted, though there are some in the professional photography world that maintain the Kodak Portra 400 Professional film formula still has a bit of an orange mask it comes to overall optical printing.
Straightaway you’ll notice just how gorgeous the colors are on every photo that you shoot with Kodak Portra 400 Professional.
While the colors aren’t overwhelmingly vibrant or super “energetic” they are really well represented on film, especially when you are shooting softer colors – the pink tones in flowers, the multitude of blues in the sky, etc. – to produce something that isn’t quite really warm but isn’t quite really cool, either.
It’s incredible how the folks at Kodak have been able to walk a fine line between these two extremes in a way that a lot of color film cannot, but then again that’s a big the puzzle behind why Kodak Portra 400 Professional is seen as the industry gold standard when you want color film for your camera.
Photoshop in bright daylight are going to be very well represented as far as color accuracy is concerned, but those that are shot in a little bit of overcast or even in lower light situations are going to have their colors well represented, too.
There is a bit of a softening of the colors that you’ll get when you shoot in different lighting conditions. But again that only adds a little bit of that legendary Kodak retro feel to your film photos, and there aren’t too terribly many people that are unhappy with the way those pictures come out.
The image quality that you can expect to get out of Kodak Portra 400 Professional film is off the charts.
We are talking about a level of sharpness, a level of focus, and a level of detail that you would have a tough time finding with any other color negative option on the market right now.
Kodak engineers have obviously used their decades of experience behind the scenes making amazing film (industry leading film, really) to heavily influence this specific film formula – and it shows.
There’s next to no grain whatsoever (something that we alluded to earlier) but the level of detail that you’ll see – even tucked away in the shadows of your favorite photos – is unbelievable. We are talking about a degree of crystal-clear clarity that is tough to pull off even with the fanciest DSLR cameras on the market right now.
Combine this image quality with the vibrancy of the colors we mentioned above and it’s not hard to understand why people go so crazy over this film. Once you use a couple of rolls of Kodak Portra 400 Professional (and then develop them) the odds are pretty good you’ll have a tough time switching to anything else.
Ease Of Use
There aren’t a lot of film photographers that want to fight the film that they are using when it’s time to use rolls of negatives, but unfortunately that’s exactly what has to happen with a lot of other brands on the market today.
Many people – amateurs and professionals alike – in the photography world have called the Kodak Portra 400 Professional film the most forgiving negative on the planet and for good reason.
For example, if you have things set up at ISO 200 instead of ISO 400 you aren’t going to ruin an entire run of negatives the way you might have with less forgiving film when you are running Kodak Portra 400 Professional in your Pentax K 1000.
You might lose a little bit of quality and a little bit of clarity (but not much), though many feel that you’ll still get a fantastic photograph even if you make these kinds of blunders minor mistakes every now and again.
Though there are some in the film world that tell beginners to stay clear of professional grade color negatives when they are just getting started in the world of photography, most would agree that you can jump right into film photography with Kodak Portra 400 Professional in your camera and not handicap yourself even a little bit.
Sure, you’ll want to make sure that you are familiarizing yourself with exposures and recognizing how you have to dial things in when you shoot. And a little bit of experience understanding the power of spot metering will go a long way towards getting you better results when you are using Kodak Portra 400 Professional.
But at the end of the day you aren’t going to find yourself unhappy with the photos that you shoot when you are running this kind of set up out of a stock Pentax K 1000 without a lot of film experience under your belt.
One thing we can say for sure about the Kodak Portra 400 Professional film that might turn off beginners, though, is that it can set you back a pretty penny.
This isn’t quite as cheap as some of the entry-level Kodak formula options out there that you can pick up for next to nothing, and it definitely isn’t as cheap as bargain-basement priced film that’s nowhere near as crystal-clear, nowhere near as vibrant, and nowhere near as fun to shoot as Kodak Portra 400 Professional is.
All the same, if you’re willing to commit yourself to learning even just a little bit about how to make analog photography work for you you’ll be able to get a lot out of Kodak Portra 400 Professional film without having to feel like you are studying for a Master’s degree in photography just to snap some photos as a hobby.
Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Kodak Portra 400 Professional Film
To get the most out of the Kodak Portra 400 Professional film that you have decided to run in your Pentax K 1000 you’ll want to understand a couple of fundamentals about what makes this film work best.
For starters, this film was engineered specifically to be used in portraiture work – even if it does more than a halfway decent job with anything but humans or pets in the frame.
If you are doing portraiture work, though, there’s really nothing better for your money than Kodak Portra 400 Professional.
Working really well with all different kinds of skin tones, hair colors, eye colors, and the like you’re going to be able to bring out a lot of vibrancy and life in all of your portraiture subjects in ways that lesser film never could.
Combine that with studio lighting or a quality flash and there might not be a better film formula on the planet for straight up portrait work. If you are going to shoot outside, though, make sure to take advantage of reflectors that can diffuse some of the harsher light that can “overcook” the images that you capture and you’ll be good to go.
Secondly, this film is very much a daylight balanced formula. There’s a world of difference between shooting a daylight balanced formula and other film configurations, and easiest way to think of it is as if you were walking around with your DSLR ISO locked at 400 regardless of what lighting conditions were like when you were snapping pictures.
When you get right down to it, it’s a good idea to shoot this film at an exposure of ISO 200 and then either develop it yourself at 320 or ask development lab the same for you. You’ll be able to get a little bit more light on the film than you would have been able to otherwise, but again you won’t be inviting and so much light that you burn or washout the images that you are capturing.
Another tip you want to keep under your hat when using Kodak Portra 400 Professional film is to balance out ambient exposures to your flash when you are using it. This is going to help you capture lighting exactly the way you want to, making sure that your subjects of your portraiture work (or even your landscape work) remains the main focal point of each snapshot that you take.
If at all possible try to shoot during the Golden Hour like you would with any other film formula (or your DSLR, for that matter), or try to plan your shoots around twilight and dusk. You’ll really be able to make your photos come alive when you dial in the lighting, and it’s not hard to get something really special when you’re using this Kodak film.
Kodak film has stood the test of time because of the very specific look all of their options have (including the Kodak Portra 400 Professional), a very specific look that DSLR and digital touchup work has tried to emulate – getting close, but never really nailing it.
Kodak Portra 400 Professional is a fantastic example of the Kodak “aesthetic” with a modern twist, especially when you pair this film with a camera like the Pentax K 1000.
You’re really able to use both of these components together (hopefully with a quality lens) to create something really special – photos that come alive because of this film in a way that might not have been possible with other options available on the market today.
A little bit on the expensive side of things to be fair, this might not be the film you want to use all the time when you are just practicing.
But if you are looking to capture moments in time on film in a way that digital just can’t replicate (and may never really be able to carbon copy) – especially in color – and doesn’t get any better than Kodak Portra 400 Professional film.
The amazing reputation and legacy of Kodak film continues marching forward, almost ignoring completely that we live in a world that continues to move more and more towards digital only photography.
Film like Kodak Portra 400 Professional is only able to do that because it is so special and because it generates so much of motion, so much storytelling, and so much personality in these negatives that wouldn’t have been possible with anything else.