Review: TMax 400

The 400 ASA films that I’ve tried enough to have an opinion about include: Kodak’s Tri-X and TMax 400 and Ilford’s HP5 and XP2 Super. At this point, TMax has become a pretty clear favorite. It is without a doubt my most used B&W film in 35mm and in 120, though I explore more films more often in 120, it is the film I go to for consistent performance. While I do try to explore more and more films all the time, it is difficult to replace the flexibility and acutance of TMax 400 when it comes to shooting 35mm B&W.


If I’m being completely honest, this is where I feel TMax 400 disappoints me the most. It’s hard to explain why, though. Over every other film I’ve tried like it, I love the sharpness of this film and lack of pronounced grain. What’s different about this stock that I don’t love is the amount of middle grey and overall lack of contrast that photos have when taken in strong, daylight scenarios. In dimly lit (tastefully lit?) situations, the contrast is upped enough though to really hit the sweet spot for me.


I’ve tried this film a bit in the studio but I’ve not loved the results. That is for sure my fault and not the fault of the film. I prefer the lower speed of TMax 100 so that I can have more dependency on the strobes and stop down a couple extra stops where for 400 ASA, I lose some of the control because of the speed of the film. I suspect that with some practice in the studio, I will come to love this film a lot too but when you’re able to completely control the amount of light, why not go for the lower ASA? Using the film in natural light settings, I still don’t care much for the film in strong, daylight settings without some curves adjustment. In natural light when the light is very low, contrast is high and this film finds its stride.

Pushing and Pulling

I can honestly say that I have more experience pushing/pulling this film that any other film stock. I’ll start with saying that I don’t like the results from pulling this film. I can’t even imagine a context when someone would want to do it. Why did I do it then, you ask? Great question – I pulled it because I was in a pinch, wanted some 100 ASA film but only had TMax 400. So I pulled it and found the results to be far too bland.

I do not know how this film retains so much dynamic range when pushed. Though I don’t know if this is true, I wouldn’t be surprised if TMax 400 performs just as well if not better than TMax 3200P at 3200 ASA. It can be pushed more and more without having many if any faults. It is because it can be pushed so much without seemingly any repercussions that it has become my go-to B&W film.


Similar to TMax 100, my first experience with this film stock was on our Banff trip in 2019. I actually only brought it for the 35mm as a back up film and it produced some of my favorite frames from the entire trip. I was pretty skeptical to try it before then but after that trip, I bought a few more rolls in 35mm and when I finally got around to shooting them, I was pretty amazed with the results. I’ve continued to try it more and more and I have found my go-to B&W film.

Last thing I’ll say is that I recently picked up a Tamron lens with vibration control which allows me to shoot as slow as 1/13th of a second and still get tack-sharp photos. This, paired up TMax’s ability to be undersexposed and work out just fine, made for opportunities to shoot well into the evening and late at night. I love it.

Review: Kodak TMax 100

Kodak’s TMax 100 has quickly become my favorite black and white film I’ve ever shot. The slow speed of ASA 100 does prevent me from using it much of the winter here in Ohio so I started using it more in a studio environment and that’s where I’ve really fallen in love with it.


Being that this is a black and white film, there isn’t anything to say about color but there’s a lot to say about the tones of this film. Compared with some of its more muted tone Ilford counterparts, this film does a great job of covering more of the zone spectrum. My first experience with the film was in Banff in 2019 when I shot a few rolls of it along side a surviving roll of Acros. At the time I don’t think I truly appreciated the quality of this film. The lights are so bright and the darks are so strong – the contrast have been truly wonderful.


This is where I’ve really taken a liking to this film stock. This film in my RB67 performs so well, I wonder why even get out the 4×5. Honestly – as much as I zoom into the photograph, all I get is detail, detail, and more detail. All of this without any grain I can notice. Even though I would say this has become my favorite portrait film, I’ve continued trying out other films – most recently Ilford’s Delta 100. Thought to be Kodak’s TMax 100 counterpart, I went into the experience with my hopes up that I would have found a new film I like just as much but at a fairly significant lower cost. Instead, I found myself pining for TMax 100 more.


I do not have any experience pushing or pulling this film as of yet. I could see myself pushing it at some point if the situation was right but I cannot imagine a time or place when I would want to pull it.


I will continue to buy this film and shoot it as one of my favorites for the foreseeable future. The price hike Kodak implemented in 2020 was frustrating at the cost of this film rose enough to push me towards trying other films. As you probably read in the section on Portraits, one such alternative film I tried was Ilford’s Delta 100. For whatever reason, it didn’t dawn on me at the time that Ilford’s alternative is just as expensive if not more so. So, I will continue to shoot and give other 100 ASA black and white films a go just to see how they compare but I think I’ve found my home with TMax 100. With that said, I’ve yet to shoot through any of Acros II (I have some ordered but am saving them for a trip to the Alps in a month) which I may love even more; however, it is nearly double the price of TMax 100 so the odds of it becoming my everyday B&W portrait film is very unlikely.

Experiment 2: Kodak Portra 160 vs. Portra 400 vs. Portra 800

This article is going to compare Kodak films Portra 160, Portra 400, and Portra 800. For exposure testing data on Portra 400, Portra 400 shot and developed at 800, Portra 800, and 8 other film stocks, please refer to this article. For an additional reference of Portra 400 shot and developed at 800, please refer to this article.

To ensure consistency throughout the experiment, all of the shots were taken using the exact same camera/lens combo. To accomplish this, 3 different film backs were used, each loaded with a different Kodak Portra film. The control conditions were as follows:

  • Camera: Mamiya 645 Pro TL
  • Lenses: 80mm f/2.8 N, 150mm f/3.5 N, 300mm f/5.6 N-ULD
  • Lighting (Portrait Only): 2 Profoto B1X with diffusers
  • Light Meter: LUMU Light Meter iPhone app

All films were developed at a local lab here in Columbus, OH and scanned at home using an Epson v600. All provided images were the converted negatives straight from the scanner software included with the v600.


As perhaps could have been expected, I didn’t prefer one film over the rest in all contexts. Overall, I preferred Portra 800 over 160 and 400 in most situations with a strict exception to portraits.

All told, we took 3 different sets of portraits (though only posting one) and in all 3, Portra 800 was far too saturated. To a level that I, personally, looked jaundiced. I honestly expected Portra 160 to shine here but I honestly thought all of the scans turned out equally as pale. So much so that they looked a bit distasteful. I do expect that I could have remedied a good deal of that in settings in the scan or in PS after but again, all of the presented images are straight out of the scanner’s software.

Probably the only example series where I personally preferred Portra 160 over 800 and a little over Portra 400 was in the library. Portra 800 had a tendency to be too saturated in a situation when the color palette was fairly white. Similar to the portraits above, Portra 800 tends to turn whites yellow in a fairly unattractive way. Portra 400 was right in the middle but in a scene I would have preferred to remain bright and airy feeling, I preferred no yellow tint.

As for the other 3 samples, I did strongly prefer Portra 800. In the vines sample, I think 800 blew the other two out of the water. The colors are intense but in a way that accentuates the present colors without changing them into something undesirable. For the tower, all three returned a pretty distinct color palette – so much so that I went back and rescanned each with the expectation of getting more uniformity then but the scans came back virtually the same as the first pass – that all 3 are distinctly different. Finally, for the vertical tunnel at the OSU campus, I really think the saturation of Portra 800 shined. I loved the way those colors turned out.


I’m not sure that my opinion between the three is really going to change. I will continue to shoot more and more 800 in and around Ohio (or at least on trips where I’m not flying) and I will shoot Portra 400 as an old reliable.


Special thanks to Matt Seal for being generous with letting us use his studio, Dr. H for being an uncomfortable model, and Nevin Johnson for his help with the scanning.

Review: Kodak Portra 160

To see reviews of the other films in the Portra family, go here for Portra 400 and here for Portra 800. To see a more formal comparison of Portra 160 with the other two members of the Portra family (Experiment 2), go here.

In all honesty, I have a love-hate relationship with Portra 160. Every roll I’ve shot through is almost entirely full of shots I don’t much care for if not some of my least favorite I’ve ever taken. That said… The shots on a roll that I like are some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. So where do you go from here? I would really like to shoot through some rolls in a studio environment where I have much more control of the lighting. Perhaps there I will have more consistently desirable results…


Compared with the other two films in the Portra family, it is by and large the least saturated when properly exposed. Even slightly overexposed and it gets a sort of a nasty looking warm tint to the shots – sometimes it’s seems a bit yellow and sometimes it has pink/red undertones. Properly exposed and the color rendering is unlike any other film I’ve used. The colors are delicate while still being intense. By that I mean, it picks up colors better than most films stocks up doesn’t render them with as much saturation.


I’ve not used Portra 160 in a studio but I feel like it could shine in this context. As for portraits in natural light, I’ve not been too pleased. In the middle of the day, they come out looking so yellow, I could be convinced they were jaundiced. In the evening, at dusk, there’s a distinct pink/red tint to skin tones that make people look sunburned. With this said, my experience has been somewhat limited to a couple friends, my girlfriend, and my father – all of whom share a lack of pigmentation in their skin so it may well be that this stock may be more flattering for others.

Dynamic Range

The dynamic range is not particularly good in my experience. As mentioned before, this stock does not quite the flexibility of its 400 and 800 cousins. Even just a little under or over exposing and do not turn out to my liking.


Given the already slow nature of this stock, I doubt there will be a day where I’m pulling it. As far as pushing the film is concerned, I have no experience nor do I see myself doing it.


I suspect that I will one day find that I haven’t been using this film properly and that there’s a trick to getting it exposed just so that it the results are consistently great. But with all of the errors in the trail/error process, I’m not inclined to give it a regular place in my film stock rotation. I will, on the other hand, plan to give it a go in a studio and additional attempts here and there.

Review: Kodak Portra 800

To see Portra 800 exposure tested, follow this link. As a reference for Portra 400 shot at 800, follow this link. To see a more formal comparison of Portra 800 with the other two members of the Portra family (Experiment 2), go here.

I waited far too long to really give Portra 800 a fair shake. The main reason was the price – coming in at $15 more expensive for a pro pack of 120 and half again the price of a roll of 35mm, I considered more of a luxury than something I would regularly shoot. A couple months ago I caved and picked up a pro pack of both 120 and 35mm in order to write a review on it. I can honestly say that I won’t be defaulting to Portra 400 any longer. The colors of 800 are fantastic. The colors are quite punchy and given the additional speed from 400, the grain structure is minimal and pleasing.


Much like Portra 400, this film stock is great for shooting portraits. The tones are nice and warm with a lot of depth. At the time of writing the Portra 400 review, I had only shot one roll of 800 at box speed and a couple others at 500 or slower to intentionally overexpose as that’s what had been suggested to me. Some of the shots at box speed really turned out well but I don’t know that I cared much for a single shot from the rolls of it overexposed. So, naturally, when I decided to give it another go I wanted to shoot most all of it at box speed. I couldn’t have been happier with the results. The colors are more saturated than Portra 400 while not being quite as strong as Ektar. That said, compared with Portra 160 it’s got saturation for days.

Properly exposed it actually doesn’t have a terribly different rendering that Portra 400 underexposed. The warm tones are spot on with this film and even the cool tones may by favorite of any other color negative film. The greens are just unreal…


Similar to Portra 400, it’s literally in the name. It’s crushes portraits in daylight, low light, and while I haven’t experimented with it in the studio, I expect it too would be great.

Dynamic Range

To see a head to head comparison with other color negative film stocks, please refer to the exposure testing article. I was truly blown away by Portra 800s ability to retain detail while being underexposed. While being the highest speed color negative film we tested, it keep good detail even at 3 stops underexposed – that’s metering at 6400ISO!!! While I wouldn’t personally shoot it at this speed on the regular, it gave me a lot of confidence in really low light situations to open up the lens and shoot as slow as I could go while trusting the outcome to be solid. Well.. relative to any other color film shot at 6400ISO, I had confidence.

As for overexposing, I don’t much care for it. I think this is where I had the problems before… It gets too yellow and all around too saturated for my taste. for now, I’ve learned my lesson in intentionally underexposing this film. In fact, if I find myself in tricky conditions (which isn’t uncommon hiking in OH) I may in the future meter for half or even a whole step underexposed. Maybe… I only say that because I’ve still had too many shots come out undesirable because some parts of the frame were still too bright and the whole shot was lost to unattractive colors.


I haven’t done either as of yet. I fully expect that at some point I’ll try both as 800 speed gives enough to move in either direction and still be fine.


I love this film. Plain and simple. If it was less expensive, it would be my go to film probably. But it isn’t… It’s almost half again as expensive as Portra 400 on all fronts and that’s a real concern – it adds up fast if you’re shooting a lot. So for now, I’ll continue to shoot with it as much as I can and play around with it in different situations to really get to know it. But I don’t really see the day where it takes 400’s place in my heart or freezer.

One caveat to all of this: I’ve not yet brought up but is a consideration of mine is ease to travel with. As an 800 speed film, this film must be hand checked if you’re flying. As it happens, Portra 400 doesn’t need it at all – I’ve gone through security 4 times with the same rolls and not had a single issue with it. With everything I’ve ever read (in addition to the TSA website and signs in the airport) about traveling with 800 speed or faster film, you have to hand check it and that’s just a pain. More of a pain than I typically feel like dealing with. Perhaps if I was going on a huge trip and needed a lot of fast film for whatever reason and I knew I’d want to take Ilford Delta 3200, maybe then I’d go through the hassle. Otherwise, I’ll likely keep leaning on Portra 400 and Ektar when I’m flying.

Interview: Gareth Morton

“Film feels random and organic and beautiful. I love how different films have different qualities…”

Gareth Morton is a film photographer based in the U.K.. His work is quite strong and he is quite humble about it. You should check out his website and/or instagram. Recently he started The Ten Shot Project with Rick Davy in which they post ten shots with one theme from one photographer. Please check out the website and instagram.

JM – Why do you shoot film?

GM – This would have to be the first question, ha. It’s one of those that I find most difficult to articulate an answer for. Firstly, it would have to be the aesthetic qualities of film. The colour palette that certain films give as well as the natural grain structure, a by product of the silver in the emulsion. Film feels random and organic and beautiful. I love how different films have different qualities like more or less contrast, more or less saturation, different colour qualities and the way negative film renders from the highlights to the shadows.

GM – Secondly, I like the way film makes me shoot. No screen to distract or check after every image. No shooting 100 frames of the same scene and hoping for the best. I am more careful and considered with film and I truly love the process.

GM – Finally, having printed in the dark room recently, I am not sure there is much that is comparable to that. Developing and printing your own film from start to finish is magical and the qualities of a silver halide print are just beautiful. 

JM – What is your favorite film?  Camera?

GM – Absolute favourite? Kodak Portra 800, especially in 120. The grain, contrast and saturation are just beautiful and I have even shot it in bright sunshine for the certain aesthetic that it gives. I tend to lean towards Kodak for colour negative and always shoot travel on Ektar 100 which is amazing and gives great colour renditions with the added saturation, although it isn’t always ideal for people, I do have images where it works very well. I will be travelling to Vietnam soon and am going to shoot almost exclusively on Portra 400 for consistency and versatility. 

GM – My favourite camera is a little more difficult as I have had quite a few and still do. Film cameras, unlike digital, all shoot very differently. Different formats, different sizes of different formats. 35mm in normal or panoramic mode with the XPan. 120 in 645, 6×6, 6×7 all the way up to 6×17! (I have never shot 6×17). I think if I could choose one of each, 35mm and 120 it would be my Leica M3 and a Hasselblad 500cm. I had an M2 first and instantly regretted selling it once I did so this M3 is for keeps. Both of those cameras, the Leica and Hasselblad are completely mechanical, no batteries, no electronics, no distractions. Plus, viewing the world through the ground glass of a waist level finder is a beautiful sight. 

“Despite changing tastes for what I seem to be shooting at times, a few things remain constant that I admire in other peoples work and finding what compels me – a cinematic aesthetic…”

JM – What proportion of your shots turn out as you hoped (or better)?

GM – Oh crumbs. I have very low expectations on how my shots are going to turn out so anything that I class as a keeper or worthy of public consumption is a bonus. Every now and then, I get a surprise when something turns out better than I had hoped, but often on a shoot, particularly if I am shooting portraits, if I feel I am on to something and everything comes together in the viewfinder, I get really excited and that comes across to the client. That’s when I cross my fingers and hope it comes back as good as I remember.

JM – What is one thing that you’ve changed in your approach to photography?  What was the catalyst for this change?

GM – Honestly, the biggest change I made to my photography was selling all my digital equipment. I am not anti-digital as far as photography is concerned because the end result is what matters, not what it was created with, but for me personally, once I started shooting film it seemed a natural progression until ultimately, I sold the last of my digital equipment in September 2017 and I have no desire to go back. If I could try and identify the catalyst for this, firstly it would be that I was finding a lot of the images I truly admire were created on film and the photographers I alluded to earlier all worked pre-digital and it you look at their images, they are just beautiful and it’s because of the content, not the medium. I would also say I grew tired with the constant upgrade cycle that the internet leads us to believe is neccassary to produce great photographs. I was in a local, well known photographic retailer with a friend for the first time in a while recently and was absolutely blown away by the vast amount of current digital bodies that are available, all promising amazing things, all largely irrelevant for making better images for the enthusiast. That being said, I still have a yearning for a Leica M6 one day, even though it’s irrational and not needed. Ha. 

JM – What do you look for in a photograph?  Is what you find compelling in a photograph different when it’s one of your photographs compared with one from someone else? 

GM – Despite changing tastes for what I seem to be shooting at times, a few things remain constant that I admire in other peoples work and finding what compels me – a cinematic aesthetic. An image that could be straight from a movie and that stirs emotions with a combination of moment, light and colour palette. I love strong black and white work by the great photographers like Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank and Vivian Maier who captured real moments in time with such confidence and conviction and I feel this shows in their photos. I love flare. Something that a lot of photographers deliberately try to avoid, as well as chiaroscuro, which is something that other people seem to do very well but I haven’t quite grasped yet.

JM – What is your favorite shot you’ve ever taken?  What’s the story behind it?

GM – Favourite shot? That’s a tricky question as I very rarely hold any of my photos in high regard. That’s why this request to be interviewed was quite a surprise. There are different aspects that I think make certain shots special, whether that’s taking you back to a time and place, or stirring up memories of a loved one or friend that you haven’t seen for a while. I have images that remind me what it was like to be stood in a particular place, therefore I think I would have to go with the sunset we experienced when driving through Glencoe in Scotland. I had been travelling with my two American friends, driving through the landscapes and stopping to take photos whenever we saw something we deemed worthy and one evening we decided to head out for a sunset drive which had been fairly uneventful and the sun had all but set behind us amongst the snow covered mountains and then, all of a sudden, BAM, the sky was on fire behind us with the most magnificent sunset! It blazed through the mountains and into my rear view mirror. I had noticed it and was desperately looking for a pull in to stop the car when a voice from the back seat, my friend, Sarah said as calm as you like, “are we gonna stop or….?” As we pulled over, I made only three frames of this moment and it was the last shot on a roll in the Hasselblad XPan (a camera I bought to try and create the cinematic feeling I described earlier). It was loaded with Ektar 100 so I metered the light, it was fading fast, and set the shutter speed as low as I dare (it was either 1/15 or 1/30, I don’t fully remember) and shot the last frame, as well as two on the same film stock on the Pentax 67ii. Those colours, as well as the memories will stick with me for a lifetime. 

JM – If someone told you they were thinking of getting into film, what would your response/advice be?

GM – Just do it, don’t think about it. I often hear photographers who have only taken photos digitally saying they think it’s going to be hard, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Buy a fairly inexpensive film camera, such as the Canon AE-1 or Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, whatever equivalents, get some film and start shooting. Photography ultimately is about content and light and feelings and stories and moments, not about megapixels and high resolution screens and more frames per second. 

More of Gareth’s work can be seen below:

Review: Kodak Ektar 100

To see Kodak Ektar exposure tested along side 10 other film stocks, follow this link. To see my first (substantial) attempt at shooting Ektar while in Banff, follow this link.

In the fall of 2018 I headed to Arizona for the second time and intended to see the Grand Canyon for the first time (btw, it was as grand as the name implies. Lots and lots of grand.) and when deciding what film to take, Ektar never crossed my mind. I thought to myself – I’ve shot a couple rolls of Ektar before and hated it. A lot. Then I found the work of Pete and David and decided I didn’t give Ektar a fair shake in my previous attempts. Albeit, I believe now that what I didn’t like was in fact the scans from the lab I was using moreso than the film itself.


Ektar has bold colors that, coupled with the high sharpness, make it an incredible film for landscapes. Compared with Portra 400, I find this film to have a bit less blue in the shadows and bit more yellow in the highlights. Granted, I’m basing this exact assessment on the exposure testing experiment but so far my personal experience has not turned up any conflicting evidence.

So far, the colors that have really jumped out at me and made me fall in love with this film are light turquoise and deep blues. The turquoise values are truly unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. When I see good examples of this (heavily based in Banff) I wonder if the film actually rendered a significantly different color than reality. I mean… Was it ever actually that beautiful? As for the deep blues, I’m just a sucker for that color range and I think this film does a tremendous job at it.

The only colors I haven’t fully grown to like from this film are greens that don’t have a blue tint. I felt like the closer the green got to blue, the more I liked it. Conversely, the less blue it got, the less I liked it. The light greens were a bit too quick to have a yellow-ish tint and the darker greens didn’t have the same “pop” as everything else. Still though- this is all relative and I recognize my experience may just be limited. As such, I’ve kept a roll of Ektar in at least one camera at all times and I’m experimenting to see if this opinion persists or limited to only my first couple pro packs.


Given how pronounced the colors are, I fully expected this film to bomb at portraits. Who wants a photo or themselves with the saturation turned way up? That said, I don’t dislike this film for portraits so long as its an environmental portrait. I felt like the more the photo felt like a proper portrait, the more I couldn’t get over how strong the colors were. While the more of the scene I got in the photo, the more I appreciated the coloring – it’s always a trade-off.

Dynamic Range

I can honestly say that I am beyond surprised with the dynamic range of Ektar. In the exposure testing experiment, I genuinely felt this film performed better than every other color negative we included. In the experiment, I thought it handled underexposure really well. My personal experience has been a bit less successful. I’ve found all of the photos that I knew to be underexposed a bit muddy with very strong saturation in the darker values, leading to an experience a bit less than I hoped for.

As for overexposing, I don’t much care for what happens to the coloring but given that I can rectify that in post, I am beyond surprised with this film. It’s such that if I meter for the midtones to shadows, I’m hard pressed to overexpose the highlights to a point beyond return. I think it is this very quality that makes it such a solid choice for landscapes.


I can count on one hand how many times I’ve ever pulled film and with this film being 100ASA, I don’t see it ever happening here. That said, I did once put through a roll at 400ASA in one of my F2s and didn’t much care for the results. So much so that I’ll not be providing examples. I really felt like the saturation was over the top (even on my scans) and the loss of the dynamic range was beyond my taste. I did it purely as an experiment and I suspect I’ll try it again at 200ASA and update.


In conclusion, I’ve really grown to love this film and have kept a constant stock of it since I bought my first pro pack. So much so that I’ve kept a roll in at least one camera since. While I don’t know that I’ll be going through much of it once the weather in Ohio starts going back to grey all the time, I’ll be enjoying it as much as I can while the sun is out.

Banff (In Monochrome): New City, New Film – Acros & T-Max 100/400

This article shows off some of the black and white negative film I tried out on my vacation to Banff, CA in April2019. To see some of the color negative work, please follow this link. Several of this films in this article have exposure tested and compared to other B&W negative films – this article is located here.  

The Canadian Rockies were calling and we answered. In a moment of spontaneity and luck finding round-trip tickets for only 18k points, we got our tickets and booked a hotel within a couple hours and I immediately started thinking about what film I was going to take. For ease (and out of pure laziness) I needed to make sure everything was ASA 400 or slower so I didn’t have to have the film hand-checked.

For black and white negative film, I ended up taking a pro pack of T-Max 400 120 and 1 roll of 35mm. A few rolls of T-Max 100 120 and a couple rolls of Acros 120.


Of all the films I shot on this trip, I would say Acros was hands down the most interesting. I thought the clarity and the distinct transition from the darkest darks to the brightest brights combined to be such an interesting mix. I only ended up going through one of my two rolls I took and I honestly wish I shot more of it. I honestly wish they still made it…

T-Max 100

I liked this film but thought the shadows were not quite dark enough for my taste. I would have liked for a little more contrast. Nevertheless, I got this film in hopes of making some quality darkroom prints and I think they’ll do that splendidly.

T-Max 400

So this film – oddly enough – was only shot on my F100 (35mm format) even though I took an entire pro pack of it in 120. I just never got around to using it. The shots from it were fantastic and produced some of my favorites from the trip. Brittany was handling the F100 for half or so of the roll and despite typically disliking B&W film, I think she really enjoyed using the F100 and liked the results.

Banff (In Color): New City, New Film – Ektar & Portra 160

This article shows off some of the color negative film I tried out on my vacation to Banff, CA in April2019. To see some of the black and white negative work, please follow this link.  Several of this films in this article have exposure tested and compared to other color negative films – this article is located here.  

The Canadian Rockies were calling and we answered. In a moment of spontaneity and luck finding round-trip tickets for only 18k points, we got our tickets and booked a hotel within a couple hours and I immediately started thinking about what film I was going to take. For ease (and out of pure laziness) I needed to make sure everything was ASA 400 or slower so I didn’t have to have the film hand-checked.

For color negative film, I ended up taking a pro pack of Portra 400 (per usual), Ektar, and Portra 160. I also ended up taking a few rolls of Fuji Provia and Ektachrome.

Portra 160

I gave this film a shot after Matt Seal suggested it a few times. I had shot through two rolls previously and didn’t much care for either. I found it to not be very flexible for my shooting style and didn’t much care for the way it rendered colors.

That said… This film took some of my favorite photos AND my least favorite photos of the trip. The ones that worked out really killed it. The ones that didn’t work out reminded me a lot of my first attempts in that the colors weren’t really on point and the shadows were pretty muddied.

Below are my two favorite photos from my trip. Both were taken with Portra 160.


Prior to this trip, I had actually shot through a couple rolls of Ektar and hated them both. Admittedly, I think my distaste for them came from the scans from the lab- the lab I was using had a knack for boosting up the saturation to a point beyond my tolerance for it. Since then I’ve seen the work of Pete Gotz and David Chan and decided to give it another shot. I doubt I would have made that first attempt on a vacation I’ve looked forward to so much but in all honesty, it was their pictures of Banff with this film that really turned me on to their work pushed me to try this film again.

Anyhow- I shot through a pro pack of it on this trip and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. It was a lot more versatile than I expected and the colors were really intense.

Below is my favorite photo I took with Ektar.

All in all, I was pretty blown away by the results of this film. Nothing was too bold and the colors were gorgeous. I’ve already picked up a few more rolls of this film and loaded it into my F100 when I went to Montreal.

Below are a few more of my other favorites from Ektar.

Portra 400, Provia, & Ektachrome

As you may know, I’ve shot through plenty of Provia and more than my fair share of Portra 400. And since it came back out again, I’ve been working my way through several rolls of Ektachrome. I know they aren’t new films for me but I thought I’d share a few of my shots from these great stocks. I’m posting the Provia first, then Portra 400, and concluding with Ektachrome.

Interview: David Chan

“Once I got the hang of it, it was easy to see why so many photographers are (re)discovering film. The way that light renders on film is simply magic…”

David is an avid film photographer in California. I came across his work shortly after a trip he took to Banff and I was blown away by his work. His panoramic photos made me want an X-Pan (or Fujifilm TX-1), the colors in photos made me want to try Ektar again, and the energy of his work has inspired me to travel and take more photographs.

JM: Thanks so much for doing this.  Your shots in Banff have inspired me to try Ektar again after one failed roll.  I’ve really appreciated all the direction and advice about my trip to Banff and photography in general.

JM: Why do you shoot film?

DC: I took some film and darkroom classes in high school and college, but it wasn’t until about a few years ago that I started seriously pursuing photography as a hobby again after purchasing a Sony a6000 with a 16-50mm kit lens for a trip to Hawaii. I was amazed with the capabilities of that little camera and began to accumulate lenses and accessories for it before completely upgrading to a full-frame Sony system later on.

DC: It was exhausting keeping up with the rapidly evolving technologies after a while, and I was beginning to feel burnt out from spending most of my time in Lightroom, rather than shooting. I must have spent hundreds of hours culling through terabytes of RAW files, watching Youtube tutorials, installing presets, trying to give my images that ineffable “film look”. At the same time, I was seeing more and more photographers that I admired dabble in film, with gorgeous results.

DC: I started looking into film cameras and ended up buying a beautiful silver Olympus OM-2n and a pack of Superia on Amazon. The package arrived minutes before I was set to leave for the airport. I spent the entire flight trying to figure out how to load the film, and not realizing that it needed batteries to operate shutter speeds other than 1/60s. Needless to say that first roll was complete dog s**t!

DC: Once I got the hang of it, it was easy to see why so many photographers are (re)discovering film. The way that light renders on film is simply magic, the tones and colors have a natural richness that is hard to replicate in digital. I find myself being a lot more deliberate and thoughtful with each click, and not having the ability to “chimp” is actually very liberating. Finally, it could be days, weeks, or even months before you see your images. It’s a lot of fun for me to look at those memories again with fresh eyes.

“Sometimes, even those carefully planned shots can turn out like crap, but a random click of the person sitting across from you can blow you away. It’s all part of the fun!”

JM: What is your favorite film?  Camera?

DC: For my favorite film, I’m going to be cliché and say Kodak Portra 400. It’s such a versatile film that works for 90% of situations. Fast enough to use at most lighting, amazing exposure latitude, pleasant grain and tones. It’s the best.

DC: I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of great cameras to choose from, but if I have to pick a favorite it would probably be my Hasselblad Xpan. It’s a camera that I actually don’t use that often due to its special format and its “slow” lenses, but in the right situation it has produced some of my favorite images.

JM: What proportion of your shots turn out as you hoped (or better)?

DC: I would say about 25%. Being on film and having no way to verify your results, I usually play it safe and take 2-4 frames if it’s something important. Sometimes, even those carefully planned shots can turn out like crap, but a random click of the person sitting across from you can blow you away. It’s all part of the fun!

JM: When do you call a photo ‘finished’?  When it’s printed? posted on IG? scanned?

DC: Well, it’s “finished” as soon as the shutter curtain close, isn’t it? I just hope that I or the lab don’t screw it up after! In all seriousness, I think it really depends on what you are trying to achieve with a particular image. Whether the goal is to post it on social, hang a large framed print on your wall, or email it to your grandma, to me it’s finished once you are satisfied with the result.

JM: Though it’s really tough to choose a favorite photo of yours, I’d have to say it’s one you took at Consolation Lakes (15Sept2018).  What’s the story behind it? Where does it rank for you?

DC: Thank you, it’s one of my favorites from that trip! Such a memorable day. My wife Crystal and I started early in the morning to Moraine Lake with the plan to get some photos and canoe on the lake. As the morning went on, the area became more and more crowded with tourists, waving around their selfie sticks and whatnot. After a while, it was impossible to get any unobstructed shots and we were desperate to get away to somewhere more secluded. We discovered the Consolation Lakes trail and decided to explore despite the large ominous sign that warned of bears!

DC: It was a beautiful trail through the woods that ended with a scramble over some large boulders to get to the lake. My wife being a former gymnast, is much more nimble than I am. I got as far as I am comfortable with while she continued to work her way over the rocks. I had been saving the last frame of Velvia in my Xpan, and decided to use it as she was perched on the large rock in the center. It was one of those rare shots where it turned out even better than planned. I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out!

JM: What is your favorite shot you’ve ever taken?  What’s the story behind it?

DC: Oh man, that’s a tough one. There are a lot of shots that I am proud of and a few that have received some recognition, but as far as my personal favorite, it would probably be the of Crystal doing her makeup in the mirror while we were in New York. Just a simple, intimate moment captured on black and white film that I hand developed. 

JM: If someone told you they were thinking of getting into film, what would your response/advice be?

DC: Get a full manual camera with a fast prime lens and just shoot, shoot, shoot. Stick with one type of film stock so you can learn the characteristics and have something consistent to measure your progress. Most of all, shoot what you love and have fun!

You can see more of David’s work below.