on November 2, 2012
I *love* Portra 160. Love it, love it, love it. And I agree with earlier reviewers on important points--Portra 160 is unmatched for
* gorgeous, gentle color palettes with unparalleled skin tones;
* incredible highlight dynamic range (which makes it a perfect solution for bright, mid-day backlight that'd clip digital);
* taming mixed lighting--shadows and direct sun, incandescent and natural, etc.
However, just to set expectations properly in a world dominated by digital imagery: the results aren't "grain free" as other reviewers have suggested, nor does 35mm film (of any kind) approach medium format's dimensionality, tone, and sharpness. Portra 160 is wonderful, but, to give you an idea: the results aren't as smooth or as detailed as Portra 800 shot in medium format 6 x 7.
That said: 35mm Portra 160's grain *is* very fine and it scans beautifully, giving portraits a cinematic contrast and structure. So the grain's a good thing, and it's not at all obtrusive with prints up to 8" x 10" (maybe 9" x 12" in a pinch) or similarly-sized JPEGs (so, 1024 pixels or so @ 96 DPI, on a common non-retina screen). Print or display larger than that, though, and the limits of the 35mm format's resolving power become clear: image structure and sharpness will fall apart quickly. Really, it's happiest for 5" x 7" prints--for which it's probably finest the tool available, digital or otherwise.
One other note: be careful with exposure--more careful than you're used to being, maybe, with print film, especially if you're used to shooting Fuji. The latest Portras (160, 400, and 800) all have the great dynamic range you'd expect with C41 films, and they can even be push-processed a stop with acceptable results. Extreme overexposure, though, will emphasize a yellow-brown color cast, so you won't want to rate them more than 2/3 of a stop over box speed. (Honestly, I find Portra 160 is happiest right at 160, maybe notch to 125 if you want just a little bit more shadow detail.) Lots of shooters try Portra after experience with Fuji Pro 400H (which responds beautifully to two- or even three-stop overexposure) and find themselves not liking Portra's colors when shot the same way--so watch out if that's you: try box speed first!
Anyway, this is all burying the lead. Portra 160 is where it's at, visually. If shot, sized, and displayed or printed right, the results look like nothing else out there in the digital world--or, like digital images that've been retouched by a world-class hollywood editor. Detail and dimension leaps from such flattering softness; vibrant colors dart in and among an otherwise neutral, gentle daylight palette. It's just magic!
This is hands down one of the best portrait films around. If you are serious about portraiture, most professionals would agree that there is no other choice. The ISO160 edition is ideal, leaving little to no visible grain for portraits.
- True-to-life skin tones
- Slightly desaturated, perfect for portraits
- Extremely fine grain structure
- Trusted by most pro film shooters
- Scans VERY well
- Five-pack saves you a little money in the long run
- *EDIT*: Now offered through Prime! Thank you Amazon!
Most experts agree, there is little match this film for portraiture. Where Medium Format is just not feasible, the 35mm version provides EXCELLENT results both digitally and in printed shots! Highly recommended!
on August 19, 2013
Very pleased with this film, it has great skin tones and color, and excellent overexposure latitude. Looks good at box speed, but I like it even better one stop overexposed. Err on the side of overexposure, don't underexpose it, send it to a great lab and you will be pleased with the results.
on November 9, 2014
This is an absolutely amazing film. Sharp, with slightly muted tones, exceptionally flattering to fair-skinned models and rainy, foggy days. I shoot it at the rated ISO, and this is my favorite color film for portraits and general use. I would bet a lot of Kinfolk magazine is shot with this film or a close digital imitation, it certainly has a similar look.
on September 3, 2014
Portra 160 is probably my favorite film of all time, especially for portraits. You are limited to situations with enough light for 160 ISO -- it looks best slightly overexposed, but also looks fine at box speed or even slightly underexposed -- but if you do have enough light to work with, the mostly neutral colors and slightly enhanced skin tones are exquisite.