Film Simulation Review: Abandoned RV Dealer with Kodak Portra 400

Journal – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Portra 400”

I recently stumbled upon an abandoned RV dealership in North Salt Lake, Utah. It’s been vandalized. Broken glass and graffiti abound. Nature is doing its thing, too. It’s significantly dilapidated.

Hugh’s R.V. apparently hasn’t been closed for very long, I believe less than two years, but the building looks like it has been abandoned for a decade or more. One of the reviews I found for this place stated that it looked dilapidated—this was when it was still open!—so it was already in a state of disrepair prior to abandonment, and that partially explains why it looks so bad now. Perhaps more than anything, people have just trashed it since it closed.

I captured Hugh’s R.V. with my Fujifilm X100V using my Kodak Portra 400 film simulation recipe. I love how this recipe looks for many things, including structures. Really, it was an easy choice! This particular film simulation recipe could be many people’s “only” recipe. It’s good for such varied situations, and an abandoned building in afternoon light is no exception. This Portra 400 recipe on the X100V is an especially great combination, and a one camera, one lens, one recipe philosophy could be embraced. I appreciate the film-like aesthetic of my Portra 400 settings.

My challenge to you is for one week (or at least one day if that’s too much) use one camera with one lens and one film simulation recipe. If you don’t have an X100V, that’s no problem, just use what you do have. I think the restriction will empower your creativity. Limitations improve art. If you accept this challenge, let me know in the comments which camera, lens and recipe you plan to use, and also report how it goes. I look forward to your feedback!

Hugh’s R.V. – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Portra 400”
Hugh’s Graffiti – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Portra 400”
Closed Circuit – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Portra 400”
ERNL – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Portra 400”
Open Door, Broken Window – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Portra 400”
Trash in the Shadow – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Portra 400”
Tubes & Tablets – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Portra 400”
Out of Office – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Portra 400”

See also: Film Simulation Reviews

My Fujifilm X100F Kodak Portra 400 Film Simulation Recipe


42433822261_577150660a_z

Jump – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

Fuji X Weekly reader Luis Costa asked me if I could create a Kodak Portra 400 film simulation recipe for the Fujifilm X100F. I liked the idea and thought it would be a fun challenge, so I agreed. What I didn’t realize is that challenge was the keyword, as this was extremely difficult to figure out. I gave up a couple of times, but then some inspiration pushed me forward, and eventually I got it right. Or, at least, very close to right.

Portra 400 is a daylight balanced color negative film made by Kodak. There have been four different versions made since it was introduced in 1998: the original film (1998-2000), 400NC and 400VC (2000-2011), and the current version (2011 to present). I’ve used Portra 400NC (“neutral color”) and 400VC (“vivid color”) in the past, but I’ve not shot on Portra film for at least a decade, and I’ve never used the current one. There isn’t a huge difference between the different Portra 400 films, but there are small distinctions as they each have a slightly varied look.

As the name implies, this film is designed for portraits, and has a warm tint in order to enhance skin tones. Being daylight balanced means if you use it on a cloudy day, indoors, under artificial light, etc., it will look different. It’s designed for use in daylight, and using it in other circumstances will skew the white balance (which could be good or bad, depending on the image).

White balance became both the key to this film simulation recipe and the problem. I first tried auto-white-balance (with a white balance shift of +2 Red and -5 Blue), and I got good results a few times and not good results a bunch of times. Next I set it to Daylight (using the same shift) but it wasn’t quite right. Then I tried setting the Kelvin value, starting with 5600K, but couldn’t find one that was correct. Finally, I used Custom White Balance, but it took seven or eight different measurements before I got it right. I did get it right, though.

The measurement that worked was out the back door of my house midday, slightly back-lit, partly cloudy with a lot of green in the scene. Interestingly enough, once I got it right I then tried to get the same custom white balance on my X-Pro2, but it measured slightly different. My suggestion is to use auto-white-balance, and once you capture an image that looks right, use custom white balance to make a measurement of the scene and set it. I think that should work, anyway. Otherwise, just keep trying to get the custom white balance right by taking different measurements until you find one that looks good.

27563951277_08a850a004_z

Hello Summer – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

42447595551_a631d699f0_z

Edited using RNI Films app, Kodak Portra 400 preset.

41713091094_9e557ec627_z

Country Red – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

28569766498_1ac4935eed_z

Edited using RNI Films app, Kodak Portra 400 preset.

Nailing down an exact Portra 400 look is tricky business because it depends on which version of Portra 400 film you are talking about, plus whether it was scanned (and which scanner) or printed (and which chemicals and paper). To verify that I was close, I put a couple of images through the RNI Films app on my phone using their Portra 400 preset, and compared it to my Portra 400 film simulation recipe. It was very close, but who knows how accurate their Portra preset is and what exactly it is supposed to be simulating (which film version and process). It was good verification that my recipe is at least in the ballpark, as I’m sure their preset is in the ballpark. I also examined images captured with actual Portra 400 film. I don’t think any film simulation is going to be an exact match because there are too many variables, but I think it’s perfectly alright to not be 100% spot on, as long as it gives the right impression, and this recipe does just that.

There are a few of the settings that I’ve debated, going back-and-forth over what’s most accurate. I think that the white balance shift gives the right color cast, but perhaps a bit too strongly. I’ve tried changing it, but, to me, this is what looks most correct. I’ve tried the shadows at +3 but think +2 is better. I’m still not completely convinced that highlights should be at -1 as sometimes 0 looks better, but more often -1 looks right to me. Sometimes I think that color should be at -2 and not -3, but -2 almost looks too saturated. There is certainly room to play around with the settings if one doesn’t completely agree with what I’ve chosen.

The most difficult part of my Kodak Portra 400 Film Simulation recipe will be getting the white balance correct. I didn’t find an easy way to achieve it. It’s going to take trial-and-error. With any luck you’ll get it on the first try. There are three custom white balance settings, and you can make three different ones and see which gives the best results. Just remember that Portra is a daylight balanced film, so measuring a daylight scene will give you a better chance of getting it right.

Here’s the recipe:

Classic Chrome
Dynamic Range: DR400
Highlight: -1
Shadow: +2
Color: -2
Noise Reduction: -3
Sharpening: +1
Grain: Strong
White Balance: Custom, +2 Red & -5 Blue
ISO: Auto up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: +1 to +1-1/3 (typically)

The photographs labelled “Portra 400” (which are all of them except for the two RNI Films examples) are straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. I did slightly crop a couple of them, but no other adjustments were made, just minor cropping.

41713091234_12917be0ca_z

Greens of Summer – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

41710826494_536500f9a8_z

Summer Wildflower – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

42433954901_f88e4d5e09_z

Tiny Bugs On A Rosebud – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

41713091214_6c0eea984b_z

Bloom Alone – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

40626324480_4cb91a806f_z

A Coffee Cup – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

42433954941_fd2b5eb870_z

Obligatory Cat Pic – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

41531695315_16d7975161_z

Hanging Prints – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

42407986912_82c56a2cb5_z

Window Box – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

40626321870_6a4983897f_z

Bottle Vase – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

40626647190_78d5a40836_z

Ground Coffee Beans – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

42441839421_ffecbeea76_z

May Clouds Over Wasatch – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

41718791444_1f75dc7e52_z

Window Clouds – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

40626322920_ae65685c46_z

Standing Tall – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

42433955271_729ec4b7b2_z

Tonka – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

27563940727_ec06d0e2f7_z

Bike Repair – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Portra 400”

Click here for my complete list of Fujifilm X100F film simulation recipes!

Fujifilm X100F Review Blog

Help Fuji X Weekly

Nobody pays me to write the content found on fujixweekly.com. There's a real cost to operating and maintaining this site, not to mention all the time that I pour into it. If you appreciated this article, please consider making a one-time gift contribution. Thank you!

$2.00