My Wedding Film Photography + Shared Link (Below):

Kodak Portra 160, 400, 800 vs Fuji 400H Compared


Film Photography

As a big fan of film photography like others I am always interested how certain film stocks compare against each other.  For wedding photography wedding photographers have to work quickly in very unforgiving light. As a result photos can be taken underexposed or overexposed in the spur of the moment so it is important to understand which film has the greatest lattitude.  That being, retaining the detail in the shadow and the highlights.  Film is well known to retain highlight detail better than digital however digital is better in the shadows.  For this reason when shooting film I expose for the shadows and with digital I expose for the highlights (common practise).


What film do I load for Wedding Photography?

I ask myself this question tonight with two weddings in the next two days.  Things to consider are primarily

  • Weather forecast (here in the UK the weather can be very changeable!)
  • Wedding venue (inside/ outside, well lit or low light conditions)
  • What camera/ lens combination will I use (medium format large nagatives show less grain when scanned vs 35mm.  35mm camera lenses tend to be faster with wider largest apertures. I try to use ISO 100 or 160 speed film for 35mm and up to ISO 800 for medium format.

Examples combinations include:

  • Leica M2 + Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 lens + 135 Kodak Portra 160
  • Mamiya RZ67 Pro2 + Mamiya Sekor 110mm f2.8 + 120 Kodak Portra 400
  • Fujica GS645 Pro Folder with fixed 75mm f3.4 lens + perhaps 120 Kodak Portra 800



As the weather often changes I wait until just before the wedding starts to load the film into my camera(s).  As film is better overexposed than underexposed it is better to be safe and expect slightly darker conditions.  Knowing this I was then interested in how each film coped with being overexposed at +1, +2, +3, +4  exposure and worst case underexposed at -1, -2 exposure.  I was doing my usual reading and found this fantastic website with a side by side comparison of Kodak Portra 160 / 400 / 800 and Fuji Pro 400H.  To date my very early film work was 400H as I got some free with my Contax 645 (now sold).    Since then I have shot almost all Kodak Portra film so recently bought a new box of 120 400H to see how I liked it now.  New photos to follow once back from the lab!

Checking my film stocks ahead of tomorrow in the fridge I have all films listed above plus others like Kodak Ektar 100, some old Fujicolor CN200 (that I got free..x10!) (will try at some point) and then black and white film – Ilford FP4+, Fuji Acros 100, Kodak T-Max 100 / 400 and some C41 Ilford XP2 Super 400.


Colour or Black and White film?

As a rule in the summer months when there are leaves on the trees I enjoy shooting colour film.  In grey winter months I mostly shoot black and white film.  I only normally shoot in colour in any format if I think colour adds to the image, or if a client asks me to (such as a wedding).  If not I will shoot black and white as you can probably tell from my most black and white Leica M9 digital images!


35mm or 120 medium format?

For cameras that have interchangeable film backs like the Mamiya RZ67 and Kiev 88 (and Hasselblads/ Contax 645 etc) I own and use 2 film backs. If the film back on the camera contains a part used roll of B&W film and I want to shoot colour I switch film backs and can load colour into the second back.  Easy.  This is handy for wedding photography, either colour and black and white or perhaps a fast film and a slow film.

35mm cameras such as my Leica M2, Nikon FM, Voigtlander Bessa R3A and Yashica MG-1  and the 6×4.5 format Fujica GS645 folding camera do not have this option.  Therefore if the camera already contain a part used roll of film I need to take the camera as it is and finish that film first.  In extreme instances I can remember how many images had been taken on the roll then rewind the film and remove.  I then reload the film at a later date and wind on the part used film to where I had left off.  This can of course lead to double exposed and potentially lost images.


Other things to consider –


Camera size and weight: Leica M2 and Fujica GS 645 are both small and light.  The Mamiya RZ 67 Pro II is big and heavy.

Lens options and Lens maximum aperture: Medium format lenses are slower so need more light.  f2.4 is the fastest for 6×7 format as far as I know. 35mm lenses are often faster (f1, f1.2, f1.4, f1.8, f2 etc) and brighter. I have arguably a better range of Leica M lenses for the Leica M2 than I do Nikon lenses for the Nikon FM so even though both cameras are merely light boxes I would usually chose the Leica M2 first.  Different lens focal lengths of course do different jobs so again it depends what you will be photographing.

Film stock available: If I only had 120 film in stock, for example, then that would make the chose of film camera format to use easy!.


And finally.. what was actually going to be a two line intro and a link post, here is a Comparison of Kodak Portra 160, 400, 800 vs Fuji 400H shot overexposed and underexposed from the brilliant guys. Enjoy!


Featured Link:



Contax 645 Wedding :)

5 thoughts on “Shared: Portra vs Fuji 400H”

    1. Hi, the results are amazing but it was too automated for me. Very much like a DSLR. It is smaller lighter and much faster to use the the big heavy clunky Mamiya RZ67 Pro II but I much prefer the latter. That said, film portraits with the Contax 645 are about as good as it gets. It was also sometimes difficult to nail focus at f2 (I find the f1 Leica Noctilux much easier with the RF focusing system). Cheers

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