Nikon FA and Kodak Portra 400 – An Adventure in Film

I don’t do it that often, at least historically, but occasionally will dabble with film photography. I took a year to shoot a 36 exposure roll of Kodak Portra 400, my first experience with this film, and here’s what I created.

Mistakes Made

Much as with the first time around I managed to mess up this roll because of my own brain and user error! Thankfully this time I managed to handle the actual exposures and settings ok with my Nikon FA so I am actually making progress.

The problem this time is that I had picked up a new (old) lens and was dead set on shooting this entire roll with it. It’s a telephoto lens, which I know full well requires a faster shutter speed to avoid camera shake and blur.

Faster shutter speeds require more light, excellent for daylight/outdoors.

All things I know, but also things I totally disregarded.

I found myself shooting hand held in dim lighting conditions and causing a number of blurry photos from the simple act of trying to hand hold a telephoto shot with a shutter speed that was too slow.


Lessons Learned

The thing is, while I know I had some technical errors that I am really beating myself up for, I learned one big lesson. Shooting film is a different beast than the digital world I’m so used to working in.

Digital work can be so incredibly sharp, clean, and flawless.

Film can be all of those too, sometimes… but the thing about film is that it’s the imperfections that kind of give it it’s voice and character. Maybe it’s the grain, weird color shifts, soft focus, the list goes on. Yet it’s those elements that come together to make that final image. Shooting 35mm film again has made me realize just how much I was obsessed over flaws and imperfections in my images.

I have to work on embracing the “flaws” and “imperfections” with film, and arguably with my digital work as well, since that is part of the character and authenticity of creating photographs.

Technical Info for those wondering


Kodak Portra 400 shot at half box speed (200) and metered loosely for the shadows. Developed regularly.


Nikon FA 35mm SLR


Nikon 75-150 f/3.5 Series E


Developed and Scanned by The FIND Lab. All photos are the direct scans I received from The FIND Lab, no post processing was done on my part with these images.


The Photos

I’m not sharing too many from this roll, not because I’m afraid to show my mistakes but simply because this roll was made up entirely of a bunch of private family moments with my wife and kids and there are just some that I don’t care to put out in public at this time. They are the kind of moments, like an image where my wife and kids were decorating the Christmas tree. It’s one of my favorite photos of the roll, BUT it’s also one of those moments I’m selfishly wanting to keep just for myself. I hope you’ll understand!

Just a quick aside

Don’t worry, there will be more film coming. I have in total about 8 or so rolls of 35mm color film left, a mix of Portra 400, Fuji 400H, and Fuji Superia 200 AND just recently was generously gifted a Mamiya C330 Professional S Medium Format camera and have 4 rolls of Kodak Extar 100 to run through that. The first test roll is at the lab being processed right now and I can’t wait!

But after I’m finished with these color films it will be time to start experimenting with B+W film, along with home developing my own film as well. I’m not ditching digital, but I AM excited to add some more analog film work to my catalog!

On to the photos!



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