Portra in Rome

A short family holiday in Rome gave another opportunity to shoot the two Olympus SLRs mentioned in my last post (an OM10 and an OM2n). Many readers will recognise that a family holiday does not offer the greatest opportunities for devoting oneself entirely to photography and a degree of compromise is necessary. So after a bit of thought I decided to take two 35mm bodies that could share lenses, a 50mm standard lens, and a 28mm Tamron Adaptall-2 wide angle with an Olympus OM adapator.

The film choice was supposed to be limited to two emulsions, namely 5 rolls of Fuji Acros – from the inbetween stock still in circulation after the announcement of the demise of Acros and before the “new” Acros reappears – and 3 rolls of Kodak Portra 160. I deliberately chose fairly slow and fine-grained films because (a) I wanted to squeeze the maximum possible technical quality out of 35mm and (b) I expected the conditions to be bright and sunny, which they were.

The OM10 was already loaded with about 20 remaining frames of Portra 160 after the previous gardens shoot. At the last minute I packed a roll of Ektar which had been knocking aroiund in the fridge for a while, although logic told me that in the bright sun, and deep shadows within narrow alleyways, the wider dynamic range and muted colours of Portra would be better suited. Once the Portra roll was finished, I accidentally loaded the Ektar, and didn’t realise till the end of the roll, so that was exposed at 160 compared to the box speed of 100.

All the images below are on Portra 160, developed at home and scanned on an Epson V700. I’ll leave the Ektar images to a following post; I still have a few frames of Acros left to shoot before I develop two rolls of Acros.

So although I took a total of 9 rolls with me I ended up shooting less than two rolls of Acros, less than one roll of Portra, and one roll of Ektar. That was mainly because the soaring heat and cloudless skies tended to discourage photography whilst prioritising drinking water and avoiding collapsing.

Also, I could have chosen to taken a lot of interior shots on film, inside the monuments such as the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Basilica. However, for this low-light work, I now just shoot those subjects on digital; in fact on this holiday I used my iPhone 7plus for that purpose. The results were not totally consistent but acceptable, and whilst it’s nice to have some “reminder” images of those iconic locations, I never really look at them much after the holiday, so I’ve decided not to waste film in low light. It would be different if tripods were allowed – but some of these locations hardly have room to breathe out never mind put up a tripod.


  1. Nice series, Kevin. I like the way Portra worked here – made me think of many old paintings – as the delicacy of color is lovely.

  2. Love the bicycle shot, so very European.

    I’m curious about why you said “I wanted to squeeze the maximum possible technical quality out of 35mm”. What do you do with your photographs, do you need the highest possible quality for large prints?

  3. Dan,

    I find that I can see a noticeable difference in quality even on screen, between scans of 35mm and 120 negatives, and between 35mm scans of, say Acros and TMax 100 on the one hand, and Fomapan 400 and Fomapan 400 on the other hand.

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