Cinestill 800T

Cinestill 800T – Filmstock Feedback – By Benoît Felten

My first contact with Cinestill 800T happened during a nighttime photowalk in Mong Kok organised by Camera Film Photo in collaboration with Take Kayo (@bigheadtaco on Instagram). I shot two rolls on my Canon A2 during that outing, and really loved the results. The neon lights were magnified by the tungsten rendering and for once the light drizzle was a boon, creating tons of reflections.

This is what Cinestill’s website says about this stock :

Cinestill 800T is a unique film for still photographers. This 800 speed tungsten balanced color negative film is prepared from the same motion picture film stock used by top cinematographers around the world. This film is designed for difficult low light tungsten situations and may be used in many different lighting situations to achieve a variety of looks.

I really loved the cinematic feel conveyed by the film and those haloes around the light sources really gave the photos a Blade Runner look. Take recommended we shoot it at 500 ISO to trick out lightmeters into not overestimating the importance of the neon lights, and it worked really well. This is now my default setting for shooting 800T at night.

A few weeks later, I had to travel to Bangkok for work, and on the recommendations of my friend Jules (@jules_le_moal on Instagram) I decided to check out Yaowarat, the chinese quarter which has a night market for street food. I had packed my XPAN and Cinestill 800T and shot it in the same conditions as on the previous outing. Again, the film performed superbly. The lighting conditions were very different, but I was able to shoot some close up street shots of food vendors that I really like. The greenish tinge is subtle on those, which I think works well.

I was however also curious to see how the stock would function in the daytime. During our winter break we headed out for Luang Prabang in Laos, and I used Cinestill 800T on a late afternoon. It was a slightly overcast day, and the tones came out more subdued than I expected but quite pleasing. There’s a subtle glow in the reds and oranges which sets this film apart, but the look is more “natural” than during the night, I suppose. Quite convincing.

Cinestill 800T Daytime

Finally, earlier this year I went to Shanghai for work. I knew the weather was going to be lousy (and pollution would likely be high) and I was right (on both counts). In my spare time, I ended up going to a couple of places I loved or longed for from my time living in Shanghai. I started with the Laoximen Cricket Market, which was inside and badly lit. The “nighttime properties” of Cinestill 800T were partially on display. I love the glow of the lamp on this one.

My final stop was the Jade Buddha temple, a place I’d only been to once, on my very first week in Shanghai. The weather was atrocious, but I managed to capture some nice golden hues in the statues thanks to Cinestill 800T. I probably should have underexposed a little because again, while not nighttime conditions, this looked a bit like bright spots of lights in plenty of shadows, tricking the meter into thinking there was more light than there actually was. Still, got some interesting shots.

Cinestill 800T

In a nutshell, Cinestill 800T has become my go to film not only for nighttime urban photography, but for any situation when high sensitivity is required, even in the daytime. I have never been happy with the results from Fuji’s 800 or 1600 films, the grain is just too pronounced for my tastes while Cinestill 800T has surprisingly fine grain and it really doesn’t detract from picture quality in my opinion. The tungsten colour palette is quite pleasing, and it gives the shots a personality that I really like. I’m not comparing it to Portra 800 because I’ve never actually tried it.

If you like this, you can find more of my photography on Instagram: @benfelten and more of my articles on 35mmc here

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12 thoughts on “Cinestill 800T – Filmstock Feedback – By Benoît Felten”

  1. Thank you for posting the article. Everytime I see nighttime photos using this film I am reminded of the movie Bladerunner. I need to buy some of the film and go shoot it.

    1. Yeah, it’s not called Cinestill for nothing. And obviously in HK there’s more than a bit of the Blade Runner vibe (or maybe it’s the other way around). You should definitely give it a try.

  2. I haven’t shot this film yet, but the results I see always look good, especially the way you captured the colors of the street. Great work, and keep the neon coming, I can never get enough of it!

    1. Andrew, I did a more recent neon photoshoot with medium format, with great results (if I say so myself). You can see these shots on my IG @benfelten.

  3. Hmmm if I ever get around to shooting night shots again; I will certainly put this film high on my list of option. Really like to shots you took; thanks.

    1. The only other stock I’ve tried at night was some Fuji Superia 800 and I didn’t much care for the results if I’m honest. I’m sticking to Cinestill if and when I can find it.

    1. Thanks. No I didn’t use any filter. Should I have used Orange? I’m not really informed about the effects of filters on colour film shots…

      1. An 85b filter gives a strong orange colour shift to overcome 800T’s bias towards the blue. That’s fine if you find yourself in daylight with only 800T in your bag, but for me it’s a waste of those unusual qualities. I have plenty of daylight film if it really has to look natural. I like the chilly effect of 800T in cloudy daylight, especially on buildings and street scenes.

        Or, if you prefer, I don’t have a filter and I’ve found a justification for not buying one. ????

        1. I’m with you. If I use a certain film because of its colour shift I’m not going to try and compensate that 😉

  4. Love the neon shot!

    Unfortunately I gave up on Cinestill 800 after my last batch of film had light leaks from the factory.

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