Shooting 35mm motion picture film in a stills camera is always fun. It opens up a new world of experimentation with unique emulsions used in Hollywood and beyond.
The folks at CineStill now offer a low speed daylight film repacked from Kodak Vision 50D, whilst promising: "The exposure latitude of this film is beyond anything digital and even most other films can hope to achieve."
Shooting a roll over the Summer, I tried this film out and the results speak for themselves.
I remember reading a few 35mm film guides from the Seventies and Eighties, which dissuaded photographers from using using motion picture film. At the time, some short-run bargain films were often sourced from leftover reels of old motion picture stock, which were considered somewhat unsuitable for stills enlargement.
Today, shooting motion picture film is something of an exciting curiosity; an opportunity to experience the stock which many big budget films were photographed with, such as Spectre and Star Wars. The advanced emulsions developed for movies now keep the traditional film industry afloat, furthering chemical technologies which directly feed into the creation of Kodak's Portra and Ektar line.
CineStill have made Kodak motion picture film available by spooling and slighting augmenting the stock into 135 cassettes. Part of the process has involved removing the tricky remjet layer - a coating which reduces static when the film is moving at high speed whilst acting as an antihalation barrier. Thanks to this treatment, CineStill films are good to go straight into an SLR and be processed by any minilab in the usual C-41 chemistry.
The first thing to jump out is that this film is a vivid purple! It also has the narrower Bell & Howell sprocket holes which are slightly more oval, designed to prevent breakages in motion picture cameras.
I loaded a roll into my trusty 1979 Olympus OM-1n, dialing in ISO 50. Other shooters have pushed it to ISO 100 with good results, whilst CineStill claim it can be overexposed up to ISO 12 without a noticeable colour shift. When I'm using colour film I like vivid saturation and limited grain, so decided box speed was the best for me.
I tend to shoot colour mostly in Summer and Autumn, always chasing a Kodachrome-like saturation with a graphic punch. Owing to this film's speed and relationship to Kodak Ektar 100, I expected it would benefit from being used in a bright and crisp environment.
I took a few pictures of static objects initially, using a Zuiko 50mm f1.4 whilst metering for the shadows. Shooting at ISO 50 on a sunny day is no problem, particularly with a fast lens. Most of my shots had a shutter speed of above 1/60 second - more than enough snap for basic stills.
Moving further afield, I shot a few basic landscapes in the Highlands of Scotland, using a polarizer to reduce haze and bring out details in the sky. Perhaps it was the relatively slow speed of the film, but I was reminded of the principles of shooting Velvia 50 slide film; taking care that my shutter speed didn't drop below 1/60 as I didn't have a tripod to hand. Returning home, I developed the film as I would any other C-41 emulsion; in the trusty Tetenal Kit.
Scanning was a straightforward affair and this film handled very much like Kodak Ektar 100. This is of little surprise, as modern motion picture film is now designed to be scanned for digital editing. Film-digital hybrid photographers will be delighted with how easy it is to pull out a vivid, well exposed digital image from this film.
In bright sunlight, the colours sing on this film; not as overly saturated as Ektar 100 by any means, but like most Kodak film there is real punch in the reds and yellows. Greens and blues are slightly more muted, sympathetic to the natural pallet of the landscape.
Kodak states VISION3 50D is the world's finest grain film, offering: "Unrivaled highlight latitude, flexibility in post and proven archival stability. It also proudly touts the world’s finest film grain to ensure a pristine, clean image that is full of color and detail, especially in high contrast daylight situations."
I can't disagree with Kodak's boasts of exposure latitude. Scanning directly from the negative, there is an abundance of detail in shadows as well as brightly lit skies. No post processing was necessary to pull out or burn in detail.
Most of my shots were taken on sunny days, proving that this daylight balanced film has been formulated to deal with even the most high-contrast conditions.
In Yorkshire, I took a quick snap of the indoor Kirkgate Market using a Sigma 16mm f2.8 Fisheye lens. Without a fill flash to hand, CineStill 50D proved its exceptional latitude ability once again, with signage which is clearly legible in the shadows, whilst the light passing through the windows beyond reveals the blues and whites of the sky beyond.
I had expected a bit of a colour shift in the darker areas (Ektar 100's shadows can have a cyan tint in my experience), however the 50D provides solid colour rendition even in the shadiest of corners. With CineStill 50D, you can confidently leave your flash at home.
Much is said of the granularity of CineStill 50D and again, this is impressive and just pips the resolution which Ektar 100 affords. There is grain in the shadow areas, but this offers detail where other films would provide a noisy blindness.
Is CineStill 50D the finest colour film available on the market? Quite possibly. The colours are up there with Ektar 100, offering more consistent colour in the shadows. Highlights rarely blow out. Nor have I experienced a finer grain, aside of Velvia 50, but with slide film getting pricier and offering a restrictive narrow latitude, perhaps CineStill 50D has it beat. I recommend all film photographers to pick up roll and enjoy a truly filmic experience.
Instructing film photography, developing and printing in the darkroom. © Samuel Payne 2016