Film Review: Cinestill Film
“Film is dead” is the #fakenews we are kept being fed yet if you frequent any purveyor of our beloved archaic tech, Cinestill Film is pretty much always in short supply. Even at a whopping ¥1800 (~$16 usd) per roll here in the land of the rising sun, photographers are flocking to suppliers and clearing out inventory. What’s the dealio?
If you were somehow frozen in Carbonite the last few years, Cinestill Film’s 800 Tungsten Xpro C-41 (short: 800T) is Kodak’s Vision 3 5219 motion picture cinema film (you can even see the 5219 markings on older negatives) but modified to allow it to be developed with the C-41 process as opposed to the Eastman Color Negative process. Cinestill converts the Kodak motion picture cinema film by removing the Remjet backing, a separate Anti-halation backing used to protect the film in motion picture cameras. Although the Vision 3 5219 film is originally rated at 500 ISO, the conversion to allow C-41 processing gives the film an effective rating of 800 ISO.
Cinestill has subsequently released Cinestill 50D which is essentially made in the same process as above albeit with Kodak’s Vision3 50D 7203. The “D” stands for daylight and is color balanced for 5500 K daylight. Both are available in 120 versions as well. Alright enough tech talk, let’s look at some examples already.
Cinestill 800T (35mm)
Due to the removal of the anti-halation backing, Cinestill Film exhibits a glowing effect on the image in areas with strong highlights. This layer is important to adsorb light passing through instead of reflecting it back to the sensitive layers of the film but gives Cinestill that distinct look. In more extreme light, a reddish tint to the glow can be found.
Cinestill 50D (35mm)
Cinestill 800t (120 film)
Cinestill 50D (120 film)
As you can see Cinestill is quite sensitive to highlights so proper exposure is important. Per Brian Wright from the Cinestill team:
From our tests and user feedback, CineStill 800T is best rated at EI (Exposure Index) 800 in tungsten light when processed in standard C-41 chemistry. Though the original stock (Kodak 500T 5219) is recommended to be rated at EI 500 in tungsten light, many cinematographers and filmmakers regularly rate this film at 1000 speed with no push, due to this film’s amazing shadow latitude. Regardless, the ideal ISO/EI to rate this film at will always be somewhere between 400 and 800 without push processing. But remember, CineStill 800T is designed for C-41 processing, which causes a slight push in development and results in a denser negative. Thus, we have found 800 to be right in the middle of the ideal Exposure Index range.
I personally found overexposing* half to a full stop to be beneficial if you’re developing at box speed. If possible setting the ISO manually to 500 or 640 as other reviewers have done appears to be a good tip. I’d love to hear from others about their experiences as well.
There have been reports that in older Cinestill 800T rolls, the beginning few frames of a roll can exhibit weird streaks and light leaks. I can confirm personally that this is true. Best to stick to newer rolls as I’ve hadn’t run into this problem since.
I’ve also had poor results using Cinestill 800T with an ND filter in the day time. The below images were using a Kenko Pro ND-4. Would love to hear if anyone else has had similar experiences with ND filters.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts and experiences with Cinestill film.
*editor’s note – this was changed from a prior mistake