I’ll start by saying I’ve never been much of a color film user. Although I have nothing against it, I can’t see much of a difference between color film stocks with my red/green color deficiency and therefore feel like I can’t appreciate their nuances most of the time.

Even when shooting digital portraits (don’t worry, it’s not often…), I’ve always gravitated towards black & white. However, in documenting a day out in Newport, RI with Spring finally turning its head, I wasn’t sure that black & white would be the best representation of the day’s atmosphere. This led me to go out of my comfort zone and try Cinestill 400D.

I chose my Nikon F4 for the safety net of its metering, as I hadn’t shot color film in a while and wanted to get all of the exposures correct to make sure I was doing the film justice. Not so surprisingly, it didn’t disappoint. With the 50mm f/1.8 ai-s and the F4’s matrix metering, there isn’t really much that can go wrong, and I was able to enjoy the moments without overthinking camera settings. Even though it was my first time using the 400D, I pushed it to 800, because I tend to like a little more contrast than box speed usually offers. You can say what you will about that…

I really didn’t know what to expect from the Cinestill 400D, but my experiences with Cinestill in the past had always been good. In fact, the last time I had used Cinestill before this was also in Newport, but it was medium format with a Hasselblad. I’m not sure if I can say “to my surprise”, because again it’s not so surprising, but the F4 yielded even more pleasant results than I had expected. I’ll give most of the credit for the day’s photos to the camera in this case, because I was relying a great deal on its metering, and wasn’t making much of a choice outside of the apertures.

You might be interested in...

For the most part, the exposures were spot on, and the film itself was subjectively striking. I’ve always liked the fine Cinestill grain structure, and couldn’t really find much to complain about in the entire 36-exposure roll outside of user error (some soft focusing and questionable composition here and there). The warmth of the tones was a little unexpected, but also very much appreciated, as it conveyed the feeling of this nice spring day after a long winter.

I was left feeling more than satisfied, and I might need to admit that Cinestill has convinced me I’ve been missing out after avoiding color film for so long. While I’m not completely converted yet for normal, daily documentation, I did make sure to pick up a few extra packs of the 400D to play some more.

~ Justin

Share your knowledge, story or project

The transfer of knowledge across the film photography community is the heart of EMULSIVE. You can add your support by contributing your thoughts, work, experiences and ideas to inspire the hundreds of thousands of people who read these pages each month. Check out the submission guide here.

If you like what you're reading you can also help this passion project by heading over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and contributing as little as a dollar a month. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.

About the author

Avatar - Justin Balcourt

J Balcourt

I'm a semi-professional photographer, though mostly enthusiast as of late, based in New England. Most of the time, I'm shooting film to document my own experiences, but get the odd photography gig here and there. I'm always looking for more ways to learn,...


Join the Conversation



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Best 5 words in this article…..(don’t worry, it wasn’t often…). I agree whole-heartedly about the CineStill. I’m still shooting the CineStill 500 in one of my cameras. Very nice results. I mostly shoot landscapes and socio-cultural shots, but I’ll be doing more street photography with this film. Oh, the F4s? Excellent choice. I use mine very often. Thank you sir for the article and photos.