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Film review: Cinestill 800T vs Fuji 800 (35mm) inside the Buenos Aires underground aka Subterranean Explorations by Lorraine Healy

Regular contributor Lorraine Healy is back, this time with a comparison of CineStill’s 800T against the mighty Fuji 800 of yesteryear that was also recently featured in the Lomography Magazine (details for the curious are below. Over to you Lorraine!

~ EMULSIVE

 

 

Cinestill 800T shot with a LCA+ in a “B line” station in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Cinestill 800T shot with a LCA+ in a “B line” station in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I had been intrigued by the Cinestill 800T film, the 800 ISO, tungsten-balanced, C-41-enabled motion picture film developed by Cinestill, the Brothers Wright photo company, which also offers a daylight-balanced 50 ISO version. Cinestill 800T has recently started shipping in 120 format as well, following a successful 2016 Kickstarter campaign.

Cinestill 800T is advertised as extremely fine-grained and best suited for low and difficult lighting situations, especially under fluorescent or Tungsten light. I bought a couple of rolls after seeing some beautiful work done with the Lomography LCA+, but I kept wondering where to try it. The examples I saw had a clear urban, night vibe to them, almost the color equivalent of “film noir”—if you can excuse the lunacy of that statement!

Cinestill 800T shot with a Lomo LCA+ in a Buenos Aires café.

Cinestill 800T shot with a Lomo LCA+ in a Buenos Aires café.

I decided to take one roll with me to Buenos Aires last February, since I knew there would be clearer opportunities in the city, as opposed to my usual rural surroundings. I had pretty much settled on putting it through my LCA+ and, once in Buenos Aires (where heavy traffic makes the subway lines a faster way to get around) it struck me that shooting inside the “subte”, as the Underground or Subway system is known in Argentina, would make for an interesting project.

I added an extra twist by shooting a roll of Fuji Superia 800 through my Pentax K1000 (with a 28mm lens f/2.0) side by side, for the sake of comparison. There are differences in the lenses, with the LCA+ lens being 32mm and f/2.8, but this was not meant to be a very scientific experiment.

On the left: Fuji 800 through a Pentax K 1000. On the right: Cinestill 800T shot with a LCA+. The mural depicts a likeness of famed tango singer Carlos Gardel.

On the left: Fuji 800 through a Pentax K 1000. On the right: Cinestill 800T shot with a LCA+. The mural depicts a likeness of famed tango singer Carlos Gardel.

There are 6 subway lines in Buenos Aires, with many points at which they interconnect. The system has over 80 stations and most of them have some sort of public art display on tile, which makes them interesting photographic subjects. I chose to shoot the entire length of the “B” line, both ways, simply because it is close to my Mom’s house.

So, on a scorching Southern Hemisphere Summer morning, I dove into the depths of the underground armed with my two loaded cameras. I traveled from my “local” station, which is almost to the end of the line, into downtown, taking a train from one station to the next. I would get off at each station, shoot a couple of images (the Fuji 800 roll was only 12 exposures, so I rationed it some), then board a new train to the next station. And do it again.

On the left, Fuji 800/Pentax K 1000. On the right, Cinestill 800T/LCA+.

On the left, Fuji 800/Pentax K 1000. On the right, Cinestill 800T/LCA+.

On the left, Fuji 800/Pentax K 1000. On the right, Cinestill 800T/LCA+.

On the left, Fuji 800/Pentax K 1000. On the right, Cinestill 800T/LCA+.

After a couple of hours alternating air-conditioned trains with asphyxiatingly hot stations, it was time to get outside for a while. I needed fresh (if still hot) air, a cold can of soda, and a chance to shoot both films in daylight. The Cinestill 800T box recommends lowering the iso to 500 and using a 85B filter when photographing in daylight. Well… I did not follow the instructions. I just shot both cameras and their respective films straight at 800 ISO, I was pleased with the results.

Shot in the downtown “theater” district, left Fuji 800, right Cinestill 800T.

Shot in the downtown “theater” district, left Fuji 800, right Cinestill 800T.

And then it was back to the subway, for the return journey. One of the most praised features of the Cinestill film is how accurately it reproduces skin tones. I think the praise is deserved.

A rather dark and muddy Fuji 800 portrayal of skin tones, and two showing the stellar combination LCA+/Cinestill 800T at skin tones. All shot from the hip, and bear in mind that the Fuji 800 could likely be improved in Photoshop or with a better scan than mine.

A rather dark and muddy Fuji 800 portrayal of skin tones, and two showing the stellar combination LCA+/Cinestill 800T at skin tones. All shot from the hip, and bear in mind that the Fuji 800 could likely be improved in Photoshop or with a better scan than mine.

A rather dark and muddy Fuji 800 portrayal of skin tones, and two showing the stellar combination LCA+/Cinestill 800T at skin tones. All shot from the hip, and bear in mind that the Fuji 800 could likely be improved in Photoshop or with a better scan than mine.

The color results from the comparison, of course, depend on personal taste and preference. I have always been a Fuji film shooter and have always preferred the Fuji palette to any other brands’. That said, the combination of the Cinestill 800T with the outstanding LCA+ lens produced some stunning results, in my opinion. In many instances, I liked the shot taken with that combo better than the one taken with Fuji, but there were some exceptions. To be fair, I probably should have used a roll of 36 exposures for the Fuji film and matched the films shot for shot. But that was all I had.

The same shot, with both cameras and films. The color of the Cinestill 800T, on the right, is clearly more vibrant, but the highlights in the sign are a tad blown. On the left, the Fuji film is darker and less vibrant, but the detail on the sign is absolutely perfect, nothing blown.

The same shot, with both cameras and films. The color of the Cinestill 800T, on the right, is clearly more vibrant, but the highlights in the sign are a tad blown. On the left, the Fuji film is darker and less vibrant, but the detail on the sign is absolutely perfect, nothing blown.

The same shot, with both cameras and films. I like the color rendition of the Fuji, on the left, more than the Cinestill 800T, on the right.

The same shot, with both cameras and films. I like the color rendition of the Fuji, on the left, more than the Cinestill 800T, on the right.

I have another roll of Cinestill 800T waiting while my LCA+ undergoes some repairs. I think they complement each other perfectly, with the LCA+ bringing out the color vibrancy of the cinematic film and adding the natural vignette of its Minitar lens. If I had more occasions to use it, I would stock the Cinestill 800T by the brickload.

Thanks for reading,

~ Lorraine Healy

 

This article first appeared in Lomography Magazine.

 

 

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About The Author

Lorraine Healy

Lorraine Healy, is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder”, an eBook manual on the Holga camera.A native of Argentina and long-time US resident, she is an avid traveler still willing to haul insane amounts of film wherever she goes.Her website is www.lorrainehealy.com, and her Holga book is available at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Tricks-Plastic-Wonder-Lorraine-Healy-ebook/dp/B00TUKI508

10 Comments

  1. I thought it was a very interesting piece, and well worth reading. So much so, I am itching to get some Cinestill 800T to try!!! :0)

    Reply
  2. Very interesting article.
    In fact so interesting that some CineStill 800T and a Wratten 85B filter are in the post! Well done.

    Reply
  3. I really like how the colour pops out compared to Fuji.

    Reply
  4. Dear all,
    Canny shots with both films:) I had a certain amount of deju vu with this article-shot both films on a photo wander with my nephew on May day! In the processing queue as I write this:) Can’t wait to see the results:)
    I also wonder if the camera I used is “advanced” enough-Canon 1000Fn w/kit zoom(35-80mm)? 25 years old this year, and still chugging along:)!
    Regards,

    Reply
  5. 800 ISO film needs a more advanced film camera to be shot in any light conditions.
    The author used what she had on hand, but you can’t compare the results or draw a conclusion regarding that – just nice to see the shots. Surprisingly, the daylight shot was better on Cinestill 800T but again, that means nothing.

    Reply
    • Dude, seriously. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you post any positive comments here, what’s the problem? Why does an ISO 800 film need a “more advanced camera”? That simply doesn’t make sense.

      Reply
      • Higher shutter speeds and better exposure system considering the high sensitivity of the film, for example? And… why is this a negative comment? It wasn’t obvious that it can’t be taken into account regarding the comparison/(battle, eventually) between two films of equal ISO as the author didn’t used the same type of camera and lens? I enjoyed the images as were presented, without considering the (forced) comparison.

        BTW, when you review a film, you must check if your camera exposes correctly, as the majority of the old film cameras have problems with the exposure meter (battery or sensor problems) and/or the shutter speeds – you need an electronic gadget to measure the speeds, then you can check the included exposure meter versus a digital camera. Why are authors always rushing in doing a half baked project?

      • Negative: your first comment sets up the entire piece. Saying that “a more advanced film camera” is needed means that you believe the camera used wasn’t suitable and therefore voids the results.

        My Hasselblad has no meter, does this mean that it is less advanced than the LCA used here?

        Your final comment of “that means nothing” underlines the negative view.

        Also, this isn’t a battle. You must have missed the paragraph:

        “I added an extra twist by shooting a roll of Fuji Superia 800 through my Pentax K1000 (with a 28mm lens f/2.0) side by side, for the sake of comparison. There are differences in the lenses, with the LCA+ lens being 32mm and f/2.8, but this was not meant to be a very scientific experiment.”

        This is one person’s comparison and as the author says, “this was not meant to be a scientific experiement”. It’s an opinion.

        I’m happy to publish a review that you believe stands up to scrutiny and allow others to draw conclusions but until that day comes, please don’t deride someone else’s efforts at sharing their results.

        Also, I’m sorry but this is simply not true: “…the majority of the old film cameras have problems with the exposure meter (battery or sensor problems) and/or the shutter speeds”. Perhaps you meant to add “in my experience”?

        Finally, regarding “Why are authors always rushing in doing a half baked project?”

        People want to share their findings. Not everyone has the time or inclination to perform detailed checks and tests and nor should they. Film photography is about a feeling and what you might find trite, rushed, pointless may be a mine of useful information to someone else.

        Please have some respect for the author. They have after all stepped up and put their work out there. If the output has no value to you then please consider creating something that you believe does and share it with the community.

      • I am one that considers doing an injustice to the film he loves if the camera is unreliable. I also threw away an entire roll with all the printed photos after ruining it by improper film storage (in a russian fridge ) although, i think it wasn’t too bad http://bizitown.blogspot.ro/2016/07/fujicolor-c200-al-doilea-rol-un.html (Romanian language).

        I am my most fierce critic regarding my work, and I would have thrown away much more if my daughter had not intervened to save some saying she liked the result…

        Unfortunately, I tend to judge others as I judge myself 🙁

      • There’s nothing wrong with being a fierce critic of your own work but remember: what others do with their own film, their own cameras and their own time is their choice. Accept their work for what it is and don’t pass needless and unwarranted judgement like a billion other people on the internet.

        If your aim is to start or enter into dialogue and discussion, there literally hundreds of better ways to do so – start with asking a question and see where it leads you.

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