RIP Portra 400NC & 400VC; hello Portra 400

Via the British Journal of Photography, and elsewhere, comes the news today that Kodak has replaced both of its 400-speed Portra professional color negative films, effective immediately, with a single 400-speed successor. The new Portra 400 (no suffix) will be available in 135, 120/220, and 4×5, probably by November. So farewell to my venerable old friends Portra 400NC and 400VC, as existing supplies in the chain are consumed by year’s end.

What does this mean for Kodak, and for film shooters, going forward? As usual, there’s cause for both sorrow and celebration; but  overall, I think more the latter than the former. That is, assuming the new film lives up to its lineage and to Kodak’s recent reputation for hitting new-emulsion home runs—think Ektar 100. Preliminary reports from advance  Portra 400 users are quite positive. One shooter in particular, wedding/portrait/commercial photographer Jonathan Canlas of Utah, has used the film and spoken glowingly of it. He’s posted some images he shot on Portra 400 during his recent Film Is Not Dead workshop. Click on the link to access that post, and the three that follow it, to see the images. Thanks, Jon, for posting the work—even though you had to keep the film’s existence under wraps until now.

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Summer dog days

Swim meet, louisville, 7/18/10
Swim meet, Louisville, 7/18/10

With our recent sweltering temperatues, getting out and shooting has seemed like a painful chore.
Welcome to the summer doldrums.

I’ve busied myself mostly with work (the day-job kind of work); with ferrying kids hither and yon as they do their summer activities; and with relays of visiting family and friends.

Creating new work has been slow lately. I’m keeping my hand in by editing and revising existing work, and sending it out into the world to further seek its fortune. To wit, I’ve submitted my project 52 Miles to the Conscientious Portfolio Competition 2010, and I’m buffing that same work also for Critical Mass. That deadline is a mere 5 days hence, so I won’t be idle. This body of work is mature and (mostly) stable, and I’ve showed it and worked it extensively in the past, so I’m 90% ready, already, to submit it. Being the compulsive sort, though, I’ll obsess about it some more before seeing if it has further legs with a new set of viewers. Continue reading

Figital scanner solution?

Stephen Schaub, over at Figital Revolution, has laid down some common sense about film scanners today that I hope Kodak runs with.  Check out his audio-blog entry and get it straight from him, if you’re not already following The Figital Revolution in your feed reader. You should be, if you love film and fine-art photography.

But the gist of his post is this: Kodak (he says) has the technology on the shelf to make a simple, high-quality film scanner at the $500 price point; and they should do this if they want to help ensure an ongoing market for their film products. It’s an interesting idea, if Stephen’s information is accurate. His post has prompted me to think more about all this, and how it might work.

For Kodak to implement such an idea would pay homage to its earliest days, when George Eastman told his customers, “You press the button, we do the rest!”  Back then, you bought the “Kodak” ready to go with 100 exposures already loaded. You shot them all up, and returned camera and all to Kodak for processing. Kodak returned your pictures along with your camera, preloaded in Rochester with another 100 shots. It would comport with this Kodak tradition of soup-to-nuts customer service to offer a low-cost scanner—assuming it can be done profitably. Whether they would be willing to take on the financial risk, in their current fiscal straits, during a stubbornly-persistent recession, is another question. I’d love to see it happen; but I’m not betting the (shrunken) 401k on it.

Kodak generates a huge portion of its cash flow on an analog product, film, much of which is consumed as the first step in an analog-digital hybrid workflow—exactly what The Figital Revolution is all about. The majority of color (still) film shot today is destined for scanning, followed by digital printing, if prints are made at all. But with the current pre-eminence of digital for color still photography, color film is the most-endangered segment of the film market. Who, then,  is buying color film, and how to keep them buying it? Digital has pretty much conquered the snapshot-taking consumer public on one end of the user spectrum, and the commercial/editorial/portrait/wedding pros on the other end. For these people, digital is the right choice for many reasons: immediate gratification, ease of image dissemination, film and processing cost, turnaround time, client demand. There’s not much, really, that Kodak or anyone else can do to lead these people back to film. That ship has sailed and it’s not coming back. Continue reading

Photographers I Like: Mike Peters

Mike Peters is a New Jersey-based photographer with whom I became acquainted after discovering his work on Flickr. Working on film, Mike has produced an exceptional body of portrait work in and around his hometown of Kearny, New Jersey, and NYC.

In addition to the galleries of work on his site, Mike has also put together a slideshow (is that the right word?) of the work, entitled The Dream, that is also highly worth your time.

I encourage you to check Mike out. I could say more—as is my wont— but instead I’ll just let his work speak eloquently for itself. Congratulations, Mike.

Dan Winters on Portrait Photography

Interesting video, from FLYP Media via YouTube, of one of my favorite photographers. A film shooter, no less. And 4×5 even. (If you’re not seeing the videos in my home-page feed, click on the Read Full Article link to view.)

Thanks to David Hobby over at Strobist for highlighting this video today. FLYP looks like it’s well worth your time. I’ve subscribed. ‘Cause I don’t spend enough time online already.

One more, in case you haven’t had enough:

Ektar 100 in 120: first thoughts

I’m halfway throught my first ProPack of the new 120-size Ektar 100 since the Brown Truck dropped it off a couple of weeks ago. I’ve not had a lot of shooting time since then, but I like it well enough that I just ordered more. It had been out of stock everywhere until a few days ago, but B&H now has it again, here.

I shot the first roll in my Mamiya 7 on a gorgeous sunny day with wispy white clouds against an azure sky. For the most part the light was warm, late-day light with moderate contrast. I did my own processing in a Jobo ATL-1500 using Kodak Flexicolor C-41 chemistry. Painless and easy, as always. If you’ve ever handled Portra films, you’ll notice little difference with Ektar. Continue reading