Cinestill 400D VS Kodak Portra 400: What’s The Difference?

I shot Cinestill 400D just as it was released and I’ve shot a whole lot of Kodak Portra 400 over the years so I can tell you all of the little differences between the two.

Cinestill 400D is a daylight-balanced film stock that has fairly fine grain and noticeable halation in the highlights. Kodak Portra 400 is a professional film stock with pastel colours, fine grain, great dynamic range and natural skin tones. Cinestill is looked at as a more playful and creative film stock whereas Portra 400 is more for professional use.

I got more in-depth and put these two film stocks head to head, taking the exact same photos on the exact same camera with each film stock!

A Brief History

Cinestill 400D is a dynamic colour film stock released in 2022 by Cinestill who famously created Cinestill 800T and Cinestill 50D. As with all Cinestill film stocks, the Rem-jet layer has been removed from the back of the film which means that you will get Cinestill’s signature halation in the highlights – even in the daytime. 

According to Cinestill themselves “CineStill 400D is a fine grain film that delivers a soft colour palette with natural saturated colour and rich, warm skin tones. The film has a wide dynamic range, with a base sensitivity of ISO 400 but can be rated from 200 to 800, and it can be pushed up to 3200. This makes the film highly versatile, suitable for any lighting condition, any event, and can be used either outdoors or in the studio.

400D was specifically designed for still photography, to be processed in C-41 chemistry by any photo lab or at home. In addition, it also features a process-surviving anti-static lubricant coating that will make it an ideal film for both manual SLRs and automatic winding cameras. This new film will continue CineStill’s ongoing tradition of motion picture film emulsions made for still photographers so that they can maximize their creativity and produce remarkable images that express who they are as a photographer.”

This film stock has been crowdfunded by the film community so that Cinestill could produce it. So at the time of writing the only people who have this film stock are the people who invested in it as ‘early bird investors’.

Kodak Portra 400 on the other hand, is a professional film stock produced in 1998 and it quickly became known as a top-notch film stock. Known for its versatility and fine colour reproduction, Portra 400 easily became a modern classic. Tailored for portraiture but embraced across genres, its history is one of evolution and refinement.

Portra 400’s ability to capture nuanced skin tones and deliver a timeless aesthetic has made it a preferred choice for all kinds of photographers.


Both of these stocks have been produced in 35mm, 120mm and large formats which means they can produce incredibly details prints or smaller (but still great quality) scans.

Most people shoot either 35mm or 120mm but seeing more options for large-format photography is great for the medium.


As you can see, Cinestill has a clear and slightly over-the-top yellow/orange hue which is especially prominent in the highlights. The fact that Cinestill 400D is daylight-balanced does add to this hue for sure.

Generally, Portra 400 is fairly muted and pastel which makes it perfect for editing. This is pretty evident in the example above. It’s not overly saturated and no colours are particularly dominant.

So for 400D think warmth, yellow/orange hue and more saturation. And for Portra 400, think slightly muted tones, pastel colours and a moderate warmth.


A big difference between these two is that Cinestill 400D has the signature halation, as with all Cinestill film stocks, the Rem-jet layer has been removed from the back of the film which means that you will get Cinestill’s signature halation in the highlights – even in the daytime. 

You can see in the image above, the climber’s T-shirt is quite bright and a glow of halation is radiating off him. On the Portra 400 image, there is no halation because Portra 400 doesn’t produce any, this is one of the key differences between these two stocks!


Both of these film stocks have quite fine grain, however Portra 400 has the finer grain of the two.

Despite both of them being 400 ISO film stocks, not all grain structures are built the same. Cinestill 400D has slightly harsher grain than Portra 400, but nothing overly significant.

As you can see, the difference in grain isn’t really that noticeable, but Portra 400 is the finer of the two.

You’d want a finer grain if you were concerned about sharper images and especially if you wanted to print your image quite large. Otherwise, a harsher grain is good if you want a bit more texture in your images.

Dynamic Range

Kodak Portra 400 is looked at as having a brilliant dynamic range, and if you’re not sure what dynamic range is, it’s how much information is maintained in the highlights and shadows of an image.

So if an image has bright highlights and dark shadows, a film with good dynamic range will produce a well-exposed shot despite the challenging light. If it was a film stock with bad dynamic range then it would produce blown-out highlights and muddy shadows.

Portra 400 has a great dynamic range and Cinestill 400D has a good one, just not quite as good as Portra 400. If I was shooting something important and I was choosing between the two then I’d go for Portra 400 any day of the week.

Skin Tones

Skin tones are another big difference between these two stocks. As you can see in the picture above, although the light had definitely changed slightly when these were shot, it’s clear to see the yellow hue on the subject’s face in the 400D shot.

Portra 400 on the left is known for rendering very natural-looking skin tones, which is why it’s so widely used in portrait and editorial work. Whereas Cinestill can produce very warm skin tones, which might be nice for some people but for a professional it’ll generally look pretty over the top.

How you want your skin tones to look is your personal choice but generally, 400D will make people look a bit too warm and Portra 400 will make people look natural.


These two aren’t that different in price which might surprise some people. Cinestill has made a great film stock in 400D but I’d still kind of look at it like a nice, fun film stock rather than a professional one.

400D is priced at around £20 a roll here in the UK and Portra 400 is priced at £22. I can’t help but feel that 400D would be way more appealing if it was more like £16 a roll.

What Are They Best For?

Cinestill 400D is best for travel, documenting life, street photography and experimenting with artistic photography styles. This is because of Cinestill’s look and the evident halation in the highlights.

This is not to say that you couldn’t use this film for anything else it’s just that most people wouldn’t use it for other types of photography, If you like the colours and halation then there’s no reason why you couldn’t use this film stock for any other type of photography it’s just best for the ones noted above. 

Portra 400 on the other hand, is a more professional film stock that’s great for portrait, editorial, landscape, street and documentary work just to name a few.

What’s My Opinion

I’ve shot a lot of both of these film stocks and I definitely prefer Portra 400. I think a big thing is the price point, if Cinestill was like £16 a roll then I could justify shooting it. But if I’m basically going to shoot a £20 roll anyway then it may as well be Portra 400.

I haven’t got anything wrong with film stocks that have halation and intense colours but it’s a really subjective look and feel that I’m not that big on.

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