CineStill 800T 35mm Film Review

cinestill 800t film

CineStill 800Tungsten Xpro C-41 – more commonly known simply as CineStill 800T – is a special film in more ways than one.

Most of the other stocks I see in the shops I go to fall into a few other distinct categories. Categories like the longstanding and still produced ones, the longstanding yet recently discontinued ones, and the new but rebadged ones.

CineStill films aren’t like any of those. Instead, they’re (relatively) new and reworked. There’s nothing wrong with the rebadged ones but I do respect the effort that goes into modifying films somehow before they get spooled.

But that’s not the only thing that makes 800T special, as we’ll see in this review. If it makes you want to try some too, you can see what’s available on eBay or Amazon. You could also try CineStill direct or Analogue Wonderland, although demand does sometimes outstrip even their supply.

CineStill Film 800135 800 Tungsten High Speed (ISO 800) Color Film, 36 Exposures 135 DX Coded
133 Reviews
CineStill Film 800135 800 Tungsten High Speed (ISO 800) Color Film, 36 Exposures 135 DX Coded
  • Color Balanced Tungsten color negative motion picture film stock for use as still photography film
  • Non Dx-Coded Cartridges
  • Ramjet backing free, resulting in a unique halation effect

What is CineStill 800Tungsten?

You’re probably aware that film photography has been enjoying a renaissance after the decade or two of the digital camera advancements that were meant to kill it off. You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t.

Something I wasn’t aware of though is how many big TV shows and movies are still being shot on film too. TV shows like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Boardwalk Empire, and movies like Inception, Django Unchained and the newest Star Wars episodes.

What all of the above and many more have in common is the type of motion picture film they were shot on – at least partially, anyway. That film is Kodak Vision 3 5219, which leads us back to the question of what is CineStill 800Tungsten?

Back in 2012, identical twins Brandon and Brian Wright, known as The Brothers Wright because I guess the Wright brothers name had already been taken, started working on something special.

The goal was to take motion picture film that needed to be processed using the ECN-2 method, modify it, and make it available to all in a usable still photography format – 35mm to begin with – and able to be processed in the far more common C-41 setup.

In the simplest terms, this meant removing the RemJet – which may be short for removable jet black layer but I’m not sure –  anti-halation backing from the aforementioned Kodak Vision 3 5219 without damaging or destroying the film as they did so.

In reality, this took years of research, development, maybe blood, likely sweat, and possibly even tears. I’m personally very grateful the brothers went through all of those so we can have a unique type of film to shoot.

cinestill 800tungsten

CineStill 800T image qualities

If you were to Google CineStill 800T and look at the images tab, you’d see a hell of a lot of streets lit up at night, neon signs, restaurant and shop windows, and perhaps even the odd petrol station.

That’s all to be expected. As a tungsten balanced ISO 800 film, CineStill is designed to be shot under artificial light and also in low light.

I think there’s some herd mentality to the creative range of what gets shot on this film too, but let’s not dwell on that. I didn’t shoot anything profoundly original with it either.

What you’ll also see with all these night shots, if you look closer at the actual bright lights in them, is the result of the removal of that RemJet anti-halation layer. That means, surprise surprise, halation.

In plain English, this means the red halos you see around the light bulbs in the first two shots below. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. Nor am I saying it’s a good thing. But once you’re aware of it, it’s very recognisable CineStill thing.

Aside from the halation, I found CineStill 800T gave everything I was expecting after viewing what other people had done with it. Cool and muted tones overall with the neon signs or bulbs bringing the highlights.

I will say that I got a lot more grain than I was expecting, and did actually use some noise reduction when I edited my shots, which I’ve never done with any other film so far.

Just because this is an ISO 800 tungsten balanced stock doesn’t mean it can only be shot at night though, and I gave it a few frames in daylight too. It’s recommended you use an 85B orange filter and shoot at ISO 500 under the sun.

I did neither. Partly because I wanted to see how it performed when shot the same as at night, partly because I don’t have an 85B filter, and partly because I didn’t want to change the ISO partway through the film.

Blue hues are to be expected when shooting tungsten balanced film in daylight, but they weren’t as overbearing as I thought they might be. It’s definitely a cool feel – in temperature, I mean – but it’s not ruinous at all.

It’s just different to what your normal film stocks give, especially those famously warm Kodak ones, and I really quite like it.

Street photography with CineStill 800T

While CineStill 800T is often used in shots where the neon and bright lights are the main subject, you can of course think more about the people in those scenes and get some after-dark street photography done too.

I know the idea of shooting street at night on film with no flash can be intimidating but if you focus on and meter for the light source and let it illuminate the people in your shot the way it does in reality, you’ll be okay.

This CineStill’s ISO 800 rating really should give you enough speed if you use that technique, and if you find yourself indoors in well-lit places, it definitely should.

Having shot so much film street photography in daylight and mostly in the same city for a while now, it’s refreshing to do something a little different and go out at night instead. To mix things up a little.

It’s worth mentioning again how CineStill 800Tungsten lets you mix things up on a single roll too, by being able to shoot it in daylight with no filter or ISO change needed (despite it being recommended).

The results I got in both situations demonstrate why CineStill 800T is such a unique and valuable option that we as film shooters have.

While Kodak’s ColorPlus 200 and Gold 200 are different films, how different are they really? Could you tell the results apart in a blind test? And how will you do shooting day and night on the same roll?

That’s not to denigrate either of those. They’re both great at what they do and every film has its use cases and strengths. I’m just trying to say how standout CineStill 800T is. It’s allowed me to do some street photography in a way that many other stocks couldn’t have.

CineStill 800Tungsten specs and development

CineStill 800Tungsten Xpro C-41 is a tungsten (3200K) balanced film produced using modified Kodak Vision 3 5219 motion picture film. You can find the datasheet for that here.

Thanks to the RemJet removal process it undergoes before spooling, it can be developed using the typical C-41 at any lab or at home, if that’s something you do.

CineStill, who have a great FAQ page right here, say 800Tungsten can be pushed up to ISO 3200. They’ve also released details of the newer, upgraded batches of the film.

As you can see in a couple of the images on this post, the roll I shot had no box, coming in a labelled plastic film container only.

Rolls produced from now on will be boxed and DX-coded. They’ll also have an extended shelf life with less deterioration even after expiration. CineStill recommend you keep them in your fridge, shoot within 6 months, and process quickly after.

For the record, although my roll was not boxed, it did have an expiry date of January 2020 – which I shot it before – and the DX code 753915.

One final thing to mention here is the vertical light leaks reported by a number of previous CineStill shooters.

According to Andre Domingues, the Customer Solutions Manager at CineStill, the film is vulnerable to this even before loading. The removed RemJet layer means the canister slit is not as light tight as with other films, which means some light can get in.

Because of this, it’s recommended that you keep the film canister in its little plastic container until you’re ready to load, and then do that in a dark environment. Then unload in a similar dark place and get it back in the container as soon as you’ve removed it from your camera.

The amount and severity of the light leaks you get can also depend on how good the seals on your camera are, but most people don’t get them beyond the first frame or two. I’m shooting an old Yashica Electro and I only had the one, which you can see here.


Where to buy CineStill 800T

There are certain stocks I’ve reviewed on this site that you’ll always be able to buy from your local film-carrying photography shop. You might not find them in the grocery store, but you’ll have no issue getting them from a specialist.

Then there are the ones that you probably won’t find even in your regular analogue-friendly outlets and where your only option is going to be ordering some online.

At the time of writing, CineStill 800T is sometimes the former and sometimes the latter. Places like Analogue Wonderland and even CineStill are often sold out. If you can’t wait for them to restock, you have eBay and Amazon as admittedly pricey alternatives.

A word of warning, though. Think carefully before buying the older version. Mine was okay but CineStill advise that earlier rolls with no retail box and/or no expiration date are likely – their words, not mine – age fogged.

You can check prices and availability through the links below.

cinestill 800t

Final thoughts on CineStill 800T

The bottom line on CineStill 800T for me is that I like it a lot. Not just for the results it gives, but for its uniqueness and the effort that goes into producing it too.

I think any serious new brand distributing films is a positive thing for the community. That includes the ones who rebadge films without modifying them, like Kosmo Foto for example.

It’s happened since forever; be that in the film industry or with countless other consumable goods. If a different label makes a film more attractive to some people and means it sells more, that’s a good thing for everyone that doesn’t want film to die.

CineStill goes a step further, though. To pour in the time, money, effort and expertise needed to bring a genuinely new set of films to the market is a huge effort that deserves recognising and applauding.

Whether people think it’s a film for hipsters to take photographs of petrol stations and Asian street signs at night is immaterial. But even if it is, that means it’s playing a part in the relatively recent revival of analogue. That’s a good thing.

You don’t even have to shoot it that way either. You don’t have to shoot any film in a specific way. I got a bunch of daylight shots with my 800T that look like no other film I’ve tried before.

You can get whatever you want with yours. That might actually be petrol stations and Asian street signs. If so, brilliant. The important thing, as I’ve said so many times, is to go #shootfilmmakesomething.

With everything that goes into the production of CineStill 800T, it’s understandably not the cheapest film on the market. That clearly doesn’t stop it people from buying it though, as stocks are often low or completely sold out in many places.

CineStill are working on upping production, which I hope happens. The more they make, the more people like us can shoot.

If you want to get involved with some too, see if CineStill have any, pay a visit to Analogue Wonderland, or check on the ubiquitous eBay and Amazon for those newer boxed versions. 🙂

CineStill Film 800135 800 Tungsten High Speed (ISO 800) Color Film, 36 Exposures 135 DX Coded
133 Reviews
CineStill Film 800135 800 Tungsten High Speed (ISO 800) Color Film, 36 Exposures 135 DX Coded
  • Color Balanced Tungsten color negative motion picture film stock for use as still photography film
  • Non Dx-Coded Cartridges
  • Ramjet backing free, resulting in a unique halation effect

CineStill 800T has brilliantly carved out its own niche in the film photography world. Want to know what all the fuss is about? Come learn in this review.

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