Film Review: Cinestill 50D by Jake Horn

So what is all this fuss about shooting cine film in 35mm still cameras? Photographers found long ago that there are more options in film emulsions from the cinematography world. Movie film can be re-spooled into the 35mm cartridge we know and love to be used in our film cameras. The one problem with doing this is that movie film has a special anti-halation backing to prevent light flares. The presence of the backing can be troublesome in normal small tank developing. Cinestill has brought this art to a new level by removing the rem-jet, or anti-halation, backing for you. So they essentially sell Kodak film (Kodak 5203 in the case of 50D) that can be processed anywhere, including at home. But how does it compare to existing still photography emulsions?

I have not had any issues with halation effects from the lack of remjet coating. Since this is a 50 ISO film, most shots are going to be done in the day time, so you shouldn't have to worry about this. The only thing you will have to watch for is specular highlights from reflections.

Grain is what I would consider very fine. Kodak declares it the world's finest grain film. I have only had Ektar 100 drummed scanned in 35mm, so I'll have to take their word for it. For the most part, it is barely noticeable. One exception is when shooting distant scenes with a large section of clear sky. I typically never use noise reduction in Lightroom, but find myself resorting to it on these type of shots. It's hard to put my finger on, but the grain, when scanned, is more distracting than with Ektar.

Leica M-A  |  90mm f2.8  | Handheld

Leica M-A | 90mm f2.8 | Handheld

100% Crop

100% Crop

This cine film has been very unpredictable in practice. I suspect the fact that this film was originally designed to be developed in the ECN-2 process is what contributes to the inconsistencies. It can be analogized to cross processing, where your results are not aligned with your intent. I've also found that you need to error on the side of over exposure. This is true for most color negative film, but especially true for 50D. I recommend +1/3 stop to start out with. 

Nikon F6 |  24mm 1.8G

Nikon F6 | 24mm 1.8G

Leica M-A | 90mm 2.8

Leica M-A | 90mm 2.8

Underexposing this film will result in muddy browns and reds. If this happens, it's very difficult to get the color corrected while keeping the blues and greens natural. I am very surprised by how pale some blue skies have turned out. Ektar 100 is known for it's light hue skies, but Cinestill 50D is bringing the pastel color pallet in a whole new way. The color has an almost Lo-Fi look to it.

50D showing off its soft pallet

50D showing off its soft pallet

The dynamic range has been superb. This image of the barrel house below demonstrates performance well. It also shows how the shadows can get muddy when underexposed. To be fair though, I was pretty tough on this scan to bring out as much detail as possible.

Nikon F |  28mm 3.5H

Nikon F | 28mm 3.5H


I think this is another wonderful film for the arsenal. It does have it's specific uses though. I have captured some decent landscape shots on it, but I'm not comfortable with the color reproduction and repeatability. Besides, I feel the colors are better suited for street and travel photography. It delivers bright, yet toned down, colors that seem to pair well with a reportage style of shooting.