Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Experience with CineStill 50D

For a while now, I have been interested in this film and thought I would try out a couple of rolls.

CineStill film is 35mm film used in motion pictures.  I believe the original film used is Kodak 5203.  To make it useable in a still film camera and to be developed in the generic C41 chemical, CineStill have removed the Rem-Jet backing off the original film.

The Rem-Jet backing on motion picture film is a black layer that prevents the light reflecting off the back of the film and spreading back through the film which causes halation (a false halo of light around some subjects).  It protects the film as it moves through projectors and scanners etc from scratches and also prevents static build up that can lead to fogging of the film.

After seeing some of the results on line for this film, I was pretty excited to get it.  It took me 3 months to finish the roll of 36 exposures.  I am fairly conservative with my film photography; I don't like to waste it.  It's not like digital where you can happily snap off 50 shots to pick out the best 2 for nothing; film photography costs money!  One of these rolls of CineStill 50D cost me AUD$16 and then about AUD$17 for development and scanning. Anyway, imagine my disappointment when I got the roll back and found some very odd marks on the scans.

The marks resembled what I call 'fish scales' (they also remind me of the marks left after a bubble has burst on a smooth surface) and black dots.  One of the exposures had severe halation on it.  I had been warned about this film when I handed it in at the lab for processing.  The assistant there (who uses film professionally as a wedding photographer) had also tried it and had odd discoloured blotches and some halation on a few of her personal photos.  Once I got my film back and saw the result, I jumped on line to see if anyone else had had the same problem.  I found a few blogs and entries on differing film forums indicating the same problems; reddish colour blotches, 'fish scale marks' and black spots (although I did not experience the red colour blotches). This is not a lab processing problem; I have seen other photos on line with the same issues.

Note the patchy marks. Unedited, straight from scan.  Click on the photo to view larger.

Black Spots and the 'fish scale' marks on bottom right. (that's my dogs toy floating through the air!)
Unedited, straight from scan.  Click on the photo to view larger.

'Fish Scale' marks on top of photo.  Unedited, straight from scan.  Click on the photo to view larger.
Note the halation in this photo - around the table top and flowers and vase and on the umbrella on the far right.
Unedited, straight from the scan.  Click on the photo to view larger.

These marks appeared through other frames as well although, some frames had very minimal or no marks on them.

Now, I know that sometimes film can just not work out due to one reason or another, and I decided to email my supplier (Walkens House of Film) and advise them of the outcome with this roll; if it was from a 'bad batch' then perhaps they may receive calls from other customers.  I also attached files of the worst affected frames and a good one.  They were very helpful and contacted CineStill on my behalf and forwarded my email plus attached files.

CineStill replied and said that it appeared that the problems were caused by a light leak.  They didn't exactly specify where this light leak may have come from.  They did mention that this film is extremely sensitive and even letting the film canister sit in bright light may cause light leaks near to the end of the roll to 'go rather far into the roll'.  They suggested that leaving the film for 3 months in my camera could have been the cause; stray light piping in through the light seals!  I have used this camera before (Minolta X-700) and it doesn't have any light leaks.  They then proceeded to instruct on how to load a film in subdued light (very basic information for any film photographer) and when the roll is finished to put it straight into the black plastic container which should not be opened until in the dark room.

Looking at my photos, I am not 100%  convinced that the problem is from light leaks, irrespective of how sensitive the film may be, because not all of the photos were affected as one would expect from a light leak in a camera.  In their reply to my supplier, CineStill provided a link to a blog page of theirs entitled 'films worst enemies (7 common film issues)'.  The second photo on that blog post has exactly the same 'fish scale' or 'burst bubble' pattern as I have on my film under the title "Enemy 1 - Old Age".

This is a little odd because, on another page on their website (the product page for CineStill 50D) they make the following disclaimer that 'if your film does not have an expiration date, it is from an early production and is likely age fogged'. 

The film I used was marked 'use by May 2018' but, it shows the signs of aging as appears on their blog page 'Films Worst Enemies'.  I also read an entry from 2017 in a Flickr CineStill discussion group where Cinestill attributed this exact problem to aged film!

If this is from aged film (and not a light leak), then I wonder how old the Kodak 5203 film they use is, before applying the Rem-Jet removal processes?  

The object of this blog post is to record my experience with CineStill 50D, and some of the issues I had with it.  It is also to prepare anyone purchasing film that has been put through a changing process that not all results may be as originally expected.  

On a very positive note, CineStill re-credited my supplier for the rolls I purchased and that has been passed onto me as a credit on my account! 

I don't know if I am in the minority experiencing problems like this with an innovative film such as CineStill 50D; I certainly hope I am.  A lot of the photos I have seen on line taken with this film look fantastic!

Anyway, take a look at some of the other photos off that roll.  Some are minimally affected and some are not affected at all; and they look good!  I have only adjusted the contrast slightly from the scanned negative result.  the colour and sharpness are great, and the grain is lovely and soft.

The photos on this blog post and corresponding Google+ page are 
©Life with Jordy Photography, All Rights Reserved
and may not be used without permission.

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