One roll of Portra/Nortisu Impressions

On my Instagram story last week I put out a roll of Portra 400 I'd shot in its entirety and got some decent feedback from it, so I figured it'd be a good opportunity to post a few impressions from a recent pickup. 

In a moment of weakness earlier this year I bought a Noritsu LS-600 from AAAImagingSolutions. Up to now I'd always home scanned on an Epson V550 which gives good results for medium format, but seeing as the only 35mm camera I own is my XPan it felt like a waste putting images from a $2K camera through a $120 scanner. 

The scanner arrived in Vancouver from California quickly and was *incredibly* well packaged, incased in foam inserts that had been molded around the shape of the scanner. Bruce from AAA sent me a guide to get it up and running but I relied on the Noritsu Scanner Users Facebook group for any/all questions I had, once you join the group the FAQ they've put together has all the info you need to get started with the scanner. 

I've had the scanner since early February but until last week had only shot one roll of film this year, Vancouver's weather was rough to start the year and a roll of TMAX I half-heartedly shot in the middle of it came back with a bunch of nothing images. In the meantime I was re-scanning old rolls on the Nortisu, including a roll of Portra I shot last summer which had some of my favourite pictures I've taken on the XPan so far. 

Now that I didn't have a cheap scanner to fall back on as an excuse for pictures not coming out as I'd hoped, I looked at old shots I'd liked and decided to try make the next roll I shot come back with no wasted frames. Luckily the weather in the PNW turned, you can see all 20 (XPan shoots 65 x 24 negatives) frames from that roll of Portra 400 below. 

There's a couple that are so-so, but none that're straight bad. The weakest is the one in New West, I wanted to get the two lone cars on the left into a shot but should've waited until the sun was lower in the sky as the exposure isn't great, and if the Skytrain cars were a few seconds further along the tracks they would've been more compelling in-frame.

The pink storefront in North Van could've been more interesting as it was so vivid in-person, but otherwise every frame came back how I'd intended it. There were lots of scenes I got the camera out and lined up a shot but decided not to press the shutter as I knew when I got the film back it'd be a nothing image, whereas before I probably would've convinced myself to take it anyway, so it was a good test of patience and proof that it'll pay off. 

Using the Noritsu

There are other guides for getting the scanner working online but above is a quick example of how the UI operates. It can take entire uncut strips of film but I'd already cut up my negatives which is why there are only 3 frames here. The Noritsu can scan at a maximum of 10.8K for images using the 135P (panoramic) setting but for this example I chose the medium resolution as this is what I'm guessing people will usually use so they can get an idea of how fast the scanner operates. 

You have basic printer point controls to adjust colour balance and density, in the above example all I was changing was contrast and density as the scanner had correctly set the white balance for each frame. Setting the auto-sharpness to -10 is something I picked up from the Facebook group, by default images come out of the scanner *way* too sharp so this adjustment gives you much more pleasing results. 

I set the Noritsu to scan slightly flatter than its default and use Capture One to edit. Nothing I'm doing in there is too complicated, the only localised adjustment is a mask on the centre of the road to make the vignette you get at wider apertures on the XPan lenses less obvious. 

My only real gripe with the scanner so far is the yellow cast I'm getting in the shadows which is pretty apparent if you look at the histogram in the first image. It's an easy fix with a curves adjustment but the image is perfectly balanced other than that, so if anyone has any idea how to fix it let me know. 

Compared to the Epson, Portra was the one stock I thought the Epson handled well but even so the subtleties in micro contrast and texture compared to the Nortisu just aren't there. You have more control with the Epson in terms of being able to set a white and black point for the image, which is something I'd really like to be able to do with the Noritsu, but other than that the speed and accuracy at which the Nortisu operates is a real improvement over the Epson.