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Cinestill 50D Film Review

Are you looking for a new way to achieve a cinematic look to your still photos? Cinestill 50D is repackaged Kodak Vision 3 50D (aka Kodak 5203/7203) colour negative motion picture film. Cinestill is buying Vision 3 50D film from Kodak and removing the rem-jet backing which is present on most motion picture films to allow the film to be easily processed by any lab in C-41 chemistry. What is the rem-jet layer? Well, motion picture films move through a camera very quickly, normally at 24/30/50/60 or even up to 120 frames a second. The rem-jet layer makes this fast movement possible and is anti-scratch, anti-scratches and prevents a ‘halo effect’ around lights. Normally, it has to be removed during processing after exposure, with Kodak’s special Eastman Color Negative 2 process which removes the rem-jet layer. But, we live in a C-41 colour negative processing world and photographers off the street can’t access this type of developing for a 36 roll of film, so before repacking in a 35mm canister, Cinestill puts it through a process to remove the rem-jet layer so we can process it with C-41.

The removal of the rem-jet means there is no anti-halation layer on your film. So, with Cinestill 50D you often get a red halo effect around lights or other bright parts of your image. I guess you’ll love or hate the look that having no anti-halation layer gives you, it has a certain 1980s movie vibe to it.

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Want to see how great Cinestill 50D is for yourself?

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You are free to try them out, but please don’t re publish them without my permission.

It should be noted thought that this film was designed to be processed in ECN-2 Chemicals and may still be processed in it’s native chemistry. Test results show consistent in standard C-41 machine processing when compared with ECN-2 motion picture lab processing performed by professional labs.

The result of all this is we as still photographers can now access a wide dynamic range film with a very low iso that captures a lot of detail in our photos with Cinestill 50D.

Motion picture films generally need to have a very wide dynamic range where details are preserved in the shadows and darker parts of the image so there is flexibility in post processing for exposure and colour correction and to allow the film’s director to have a lot of flexibility when working with the colourist to achieve the look they want for their creative vision for the film. In the motion picture world, this is called ‘colour grading.’

For motion picture, you want as much detail as you can get so the film looks great when projected on a big screen. Remember, detail and sharpness are very different things in photography. Often, consumer films use larger grain and higher levels of contrast to create sharp looking lines at the expense of fine detail.

You can make your photos look however you want with Cinestill 50D.I treat the negatives of this film like a raw file. It isn’t a finished product straight out of the scanner. It shoots nice and flat to give even exposure of highlights and shadows. I get rich colors, it’s super sharp, and almost no grain. It captures landscape scenes like nothing else can.

And, I’d say it converts to black and white very well too. Details and the way natural light is working in the shot is preserved. Love the red halation in the colour version?

You can shoot Cinestill 50D in either a 35mm or 120mm medium format film camera. I use a 35mm Leica MP film body. Behind a Leica lens, which is all about fine details and an emphasis on working with the natural and available light, Cinestill 50D comes alive.

Being daylight white-balanced (5500k), this is the film to take out on a summers day. Or you can get an emphasised golden dawn or evening look when you take it out early morning or late afternoon. If you enjoy making ultra high res scans, this is the film to choose as it lends itself to making very highly detailed scans. And in Lightroom or photoshop, you’ll be impressed by the dynamic range available and the flexibility for what you can do to the colour in post production.

Being very fine grained, this is a brilliant film for enlargements. I’ve been able to make some large prints with this film, and they have held up against shots taken with a high end digital body, and when properly processed can out perform digital sensors currently available in my view.

If you are using a bright lens, say an F2.0 or F1.4 the look of natural light inside is great too. For me, I love natural light photography and just capturing how light is working in a scene. Cinestill 50D is actually quite forgiving because it keeps the shadows open so you can over or under expose it a few stops. If you want to do some shallow depth of field stuff, a low ISO film can be great to have, especially if your camera has a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th.

It is hard not to notice Cinestill 50D’s lovely pastel colour palette. It produces some of the most accurate skin tones I have seen in a colour negative film. The colours seem slightly richer and more defined than Kodak Portra. I guess I am still a massive Kodak Portra 160 fan, but I tend to prefer lower ISOs and shoot with my lenses wide open so the fact that this is a 50iso film is a bonus for me.

What are the real pros for Cinestill 50D film? The image quality, dynamic range, low ISO, beautiful pastel colours that open up a lot of possibilities for editing later on. Also, the red halo effect if you choose you want to use it for artistic expression. Like all films, when you have shot a few rolls and know how they will work for you in different scenarios you can think around the film and work with that to achieve your vision for your photographs. That to me is what all the qualities, especially the red halo effect in Cinestill 50D are. And the cons? The price for one thing, it isn’t cheap film to come by, especially in Australia. You could also say the low ISO is a con but that is subjective and depends on how you like to take photos.

I hope my review has inspired you to pickup a roll of Cinestill 50D! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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