Film Review: CineStill 50D & 800T

It is a rare pleasure these days to have the opportunity to use a new film stock for the very first time. So when my local camera store began stocking the new CineStill films it would be fair to say I was excited and eager to give it a try. For those who had never heard of it, in a nutshell, CineStill films are repurposed motion picture stock re-spooled into a 35mm canister with a bit of emulsion tweaking to allow them to be processed in standard C-41 development chemistry. It's a rather fantastic idea when you think about it as the movie and television industry still remain the backbone of traditional film sales so in theory it not only should be readily available but also represents the highest in quality standards. As of this blog post there are two stocks available in 35mm - a slower ISO 50 "daylight" film and a faster ISO 800 film balanced for artificial tungsten lighting. 

Of the two CineStill stocks available I have a lot more interest in the slower 50D daylight film. I do the majority of my photography outdoors with lots of available light so a relatively slow film at ISO 50 not only doesn't scare me, it is something I seek out often. It is incredibly nice being able to work with a slow speed film in bright sunny conditions because I can keep my aperture fairly wide obtaining a nice shallow depth of field. For whatever reason I know a lot of photographers who are obsessed with higher speed films, I suspect out of paranoia that they will get caught in situations with low light. Digital cameras with their ability to just crank up the ISO at the touch of a button have made a lot of us lazy in this regard. However, I frequently find myself working on the lower end of the light sensitivity spectrum and it is wonderful to see a newer film available that caters to someone like me. 

Cinestill 50D ISO 50 daylight film.

For my test roll I took the daylight film stock out to one of my favorite spots just north of Portland and loaded it into an old rangefinder with a 15mm wide angle lens attached. I wanted to see how the film handled a wide range of tones and colors in a single frame and as you can see here the results absolutely did not disappoint! Saturation is bold and eye catching without going overboard, grain is incredibly fine, and sharpness is wonderful. If I was forced to compare this film to another color stock I would say it is very close to Kodak Ektar, though it seems to handle skin tones a lot better. Kodak Ektar has a tendency to make everyone look like they have a bit of a sunburn while the CineStill film keeps this in check while still maintaining a bold and saturated look. You can absolutely bet I will be buying a lot more of the 50D film in the future.   

CineStill 800T tungsten film pushed to ISO 1600

Just for the hell of it, I also tried out a roll of the 800T film even though I don't see myself using it as often. I happened to have it with me on a recent night out and I figured a very dimly lit bar would be a good opportunity to put it through the paces. The light was so dim in fact I was forced to push the film an extra stop all the way to ISO 1600 and I was pleased to see the film handled the low light as well as any color film I've used before. In fact, I would say it handled the situation better then other most other color film stocks because I noticed virtually no color shifts at all despite push processing and extremely dim light. The grain does get a bit excessive but that is really no surprise. To be completely fair, the grain probably looks a little overboard in this post due to my poor quality film scanner. 

CineStill 800T tungsten film pushed to ISO 1600

Now, if I had my way I would love to see CineStill film come in medium format film in addition to 35mm. After a quick bit of research on the internet I see they did a Kickstarter campaign about a year ago that didn't reach its funding goals which is really too bad. Had I known about it I would have absolutely contributed. So if anyone out there from CineStill happens to read this I would encourage them to give crowdfunding another go with some additional marketing so folks like me can get in on it!