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  • Writer's pictureAndrej Spilevoj

Kodak Portra 400 (35mm) v. Sony a7iii

Hi, my name is Andrew, and I am a destination wedding and travel photographer. I am also an author of the book on analogue photography, which can be downloaded here. While writing my book, I decided to try the limits of the Kodak Portra 400, which is one of the best films ever. I saw one video of Kyle McDougall who tried the limits of the medium format Portra, but I did not see that many attempts to see what this film can do in comparison to a digital camera. Since I was working with a lot of film stocks for my book, I decided to give it a go and arrange a comparison of both - digital and film - side by side. The results in underexposure did not surprise me at all: I knew that all stocks of the film are pretty useless when underexposed. But the results that were taken by overexposing film were just amazing, while the digital Sony a7iii camera "died" at about +4 stops. But without further talks, have a look at some side-by-side shots and see it all yourself.

Experiment 1

Location: Procida, Italy

Left side: Kodak Portra 400 (35mm)

Right side: digital

All shots are matched in exposure digitally (Lightroom) in order to reveal the limits of both

I started by overexposing Portra 400 and digital camera by +2 stops and went down to underexposure of -2.

Exactly the same comparison was done at the bay, I wanted to focus on a closer object, so I could see the difference in details. But the result was the same: the underexposed Portra looked pretty bad.

I was pretty satisfied for a while. However, Kyle McDougall made me curious: what if I check the upper limit of the Portra 400 instead of checking the middle range? So I invited my friend who is also a model to pose for me, so I could check what is the maximum overexposure the Portra 400 can handle OK. I did a test starting with 0 and ending with +6. And here is the result:

Experiment 2

Left: Kodak Portra 400

Right: Sony a7iii

As you can see, Sony a7iii started "dying" at the exposure of +4, while the film had no issue with that at all. I wonder when is that point of overexposure when even Kodak Portra 400 cannot cope? If you have any idea, please write in the comments section.

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2 comentarios

27 jun 2023

Hi Andrej, I do often the same experiment. I usually use the Sony as the light meter for my film shoots. I make always a test with the Sony at 400 iso and then shoot same on film camera with Portra 400. I was thinking how many stops of difference there are between the Sony and the Portra 400 at same setting (exp and shutter).

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Andrej Spilevoj
Andrej Spilevoj
27 jun 2023
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In my experiment with the girl’s portrait you can see the photos with the exactly the same settings at 0 overexposure (1st shot). But it all depends on the scanners as well since they boost or decrease expo at scanning too.

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