I recently shot a roll of Cinestill 50D on a sunny, Saturday walk in Zurich. I chose to shoot Cinestill 50D because I had recently watched a review of it on the Analogue Wonderland Youtube channel. Having shot it before and not finding it particularly good, I wanted to shoot it again because the photos I saw online taken on it looked appealing.
I had a roll in my room and that day the sun was very bright and the weather warm; good weather conditions for the film stock. In the Analogue Wonderland video, the film’s performance in daylight versus the shadow is explained as being to do with how the film is made to pick up light. I don’t know how to explain it but similarly to Cinestill 800T — which has a “T” for tungsten — the “D” in 50D stands for daylight, and shooting it in light that is not daylight requires filters for it to look as intended. I set the ISO on my Pentax MX to 50 and began shooting things that captured my attention. Mainly I focused on objects and simple compositions with a lot of colour or lines.
Once I had loaded the film I decided a route for where I would photograph. I focused on smaller streets crossing through big and busy areas also small parks. I wanted to avoid crowds and the bright reflections of the sun because they can cause sensory overload for me but also I wanted to avoid photographing places with people. I think that when photographing in a busy city it is good to go to neighbourhoods that are not central or common for sightseeing.
When in Stockholm for example I will choose small streets away from the area near the main train station and also Gamla Stan because I prefer the calmer and quieter areas that give street photography a slower speed. I scan my environment as I walk, see the subject and frame it and then if I think it is worth a place on the roll I have loaded in my camera I take out my camera, sometimes I also see a composition and don’t photograph it but the composition stays with me and for days I think about how I would photograph it, an example of this is the photograph of the purple bicycle, I went back to shoot it.
Some photos were not at all planned but were still very considered as part of the time taken to decide whether or not to take a photo.
I found the ISO of this film good for a bright day because even ISO 100 would have been too high, I think. I could of course increase the shutter speed but 50 gave me the space to choose to have a large depth of field. When looking at the scans from the negatives I found the appearance of the film distinct, it was not like Portra or Gold or other Kodak stocks I have tried (Cinestill uses Kodak Vision film but removes the remjet layer so that when it can be developed in C41 instead of ECN-2), there was some halation by very bright light sources, the brighter the light source the more visible.
I like the halation on Cinestill colour films so this was something I liked, I think it adds a cinematic quality and when seen together with the balanced colours, it combines well. Unlike the bright red halation of Cinestill 800T, Cinestill 50D from what I saw on this roll can have halation that is either bright red if aimed at the sun or the sun’s reflection on objects or a kind of orange colour, if it is less.
Cinestill 800T has become so used that although I still like the film stock, I think of gas stations and motels in the US more than other potential photos that could be taken with 800T. It is unfortunate that those subjects have become so associated with the film stock since it has created both an idea of the subjects to shoot on it and also that those are the correct things to shoot on it.
In contrast, I have not seen as many photos on Cinestill 50D, it is in my opinion after shooting it this time a film stock worth shooting. The grain is fine, the colours fresh and when comparing it to a budget film stock such as Fujifilm C200 which I shot after I notice a big difference, C200 is a good budget film stock but when compared to Cinestill 50D which has a price closer to the price of the Portra films I see that it is of better quality. I think this is good to know because it enforces the idea that paying more for a film means finer grain and better colour including in slight shadow.
The colours of this film are not too warm and not too cold. Natural and yet unnatural, cinematic. I often find films such as Kodak Portra, Ektar and Gold too warm and C200 too green. Scanning software settings can influence the warmth of colour but this is what I have seen with these film stocks. I didn’t develop the rolls of Cinestill 50D that I have shot myself, I sent them to labs on both occasions and this time, the lab also scanned them. I used the light meter in my Pentax MX and as usual, shot the photos at the recommended exposure settings when possible. Some photos were maybe a bit overexposed such but this could maybe also be the light colours, I find that the film is especially good for capturing landscapes, still lives, and street photographs.
If I would compare this film to another colour film that I have shot a lot of and which is among my favourite stocks I would compare it to Fujifilm FUJICOLOR Industrial 100 (I have written an article on EMULSIVE with photos that I have taken on this film). The similarities are that they both have high quality in the grain and sharpness, the colours appear fresh and they are both available in 35mm. Cinestill is also available in 120 although I haven’t shot a roll of a cinestill film in 120 format.
I often think of street photography as a genre that is often spontaneously and impulsively done, maybe its the speed at which the street photographer works, having to quickly capture a moment and being in motion, making very rapid and unhesitant choices of when the moment is to press the shutter button, taking a photo and then going to the next photo. This way of photographing is not my preferred way to work but it is a way that some work.
For this way of street photography I would probably choose a black and white Ilford film like HP5 PLUS or Delta 400 or 100 depending on light, I find that for black and white balanced tones are good because I can increase contrast digitally or keep the shadow detail depending on what I think looks good. For colour I would choose one of the budget stocks by Kodak or Fujifilm or a Lomography film if I want a creative look to the photos. I think Cinestill 50D suits the style of street photography that I tend to choose when I do street photography, it needs time.
I had concerns about Cinestill 50D when looking at some reviews of it. Unlike Cinestill 800T it seems that it is easier to find, 800T often sells out and I remember a time during 2020, possibly due to the pandemic when for months 800T was out of stock. Some reviews say there were blue dots on the film, this is assumed to be something related to the process of removing the remjet layer, I think I maybe had some of this with the first roll in 2020 but with this roll I did not notice this. It is worth saying that Cinestill says that things like that can happen and I think that is reasonable considering it does kind of belong to the genre of creative films, it is not a creative film in the sense of having a cross-processed appearance or being prepared like Revolog but it is still in my opinion creative when compared to Kodak Portra or ILFORD films which I expect a predictable appearance from.
Loading a roll of Cinestill is, not for me about necessarily professional quality but rather it is a chance to create and capture moments which like film stills appear to only exist at that moment, moments that when looked at as photos remind me of the moment but show it as better. A bicycle left with no wheels or a parking space becomes more than that, it as though the colours glow, the mark of a good film stock is when it can show both aesthetically displeasing and pleasing subjects as visually attractive.
When shooting this roll I was both caring about the things I shot being worth an exposure on the roll and also surprised when the roll was finished. As mentioned earlier about the way the photos look, the photos taken on this film can vary a lot in how. The first time I shot it I think maybe I underexposed it, shot it on a cloudy day and maybe didn’t get the colour right in scanning.
When seeing other photos taken on Cinestill 50D by other people I find that there is also this difference between some photos looking really good and others looking dark and having dull colours. I have found that with 800T it is fairly easy to colour correct scans that often can be too blue in tone. When this film is shot in daylight however and with careful metering and exposure it can result in fantastic photos.
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