These days, it sometimes can seem like film emulsions are disappearing. But CineStill 400D is something we haven’t really seen before. Lots of brands that are taking Cinema film and spooling for 35mm don’t remove the remjet layer. CineStill does. Photographers over the years have had a mix of good and bad things to say about the brand’s emulsions. So does CineStill 400D hold up to the legend their other films created?
We spent months testing CineStill 400D. To be transparent, I was a backer of this film’s funding project. I got it in both 120 and 35mm. I shot all my 35mm film, but I’ve still got some 120 available. What does that tell you?
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
The CineStill 400D hype is real! This is a gorgeous film that will remind you of lots of the movies and television shows you’ve seen. It absolutely stands on its own apart from 500T and 50D. Where 50D is always kind of difficult to use, 400D is more versatile. This, coupled with 500T, should be the mainstay of your camera bag in lots of situations, along with Kodak Portra 800.
CineStill 400D is excellent for portraits, candid moments, cityscapes, and so much more. But honestly, I think it’s best for portraits with a combination of natural light and off-camera light.
I got lucky. I’ve been a CineStill user for years, and I’m bound to rolls of it that have problems with stuff like remjet layers not being properly removed. Luckily, Cinestill will send you a new roll if you make a complaint to the Wright Brothers directly. Additionally, I didn’t hear many good things about their development tools, but in the past year I’ve heard they massively improved as well.
Maybe things have really changed? But then again, I was a funding backer for CineStill 400D and we don’t know how things will pan out in the long run. Nonetheless, CineStill 400D is a great film that provides all the red halo effect you crave and the beautiful images your soul yearns for.
CineStill 400D receives five out of five stars, and our Editor’s Choice Award. Want some? Go pick it up on Amazon.
- Beautiful colors
- Very versatile film overall
- A unique look that only Cinestill produces
- Not sure how the quality will be in the long term
No other film company does what CineStill does. They’re the only company to take cinema film and remove the remjet layer to make it available to process with C41 chemicals. It’s the first ISO 400 film to do this.
We tested CineStill 400D with the following gear:
- Leica M6 (ours)
- Funleader Contax 35mm f2 mod (ours)
- Funleader Contax 45mm f2 mod (ours)
- Fujifilm Natura S (ours)
- Leica CL (ours)
- Hassleblad 501C (ours)
The folks at Blue Moon Camera developed and scanned our film for us. They’re incredible.
Ease of Use
CineStill 400D is a typical 35mm film. But you can also get it in 120 (and we think 220 is in the works). Like any other negative film, I tend to overexpose by around a stop and then develop normally. It also depends on how your camera is metered, but overexposing and developing normally doesn’t hurt. I think if you were to give it less light though, then something would change. 35mm negative film is light-hungry. Treat it like a child that doesn’t cry and scream, but just wants food portions a bit larger than standard. In turn, they return the love in the form of beautiful imagery.
Obviously, this is a daylight film. So it’s balanced to around 5000-5600K.
One of the reasons you’d opt for CineStill 400D over a standard color negative 400 ISO film is for its specific image quality. CineStill 400D is a cinema film where they remove the remjet layer which makes it able to be developed with C41. The results are similar colors to cinema film, but there’s halation around bright light sources. Over the years, photographers have come to really enjoy this look. Let’s compare it.
Below are images we’ve shot with Kodak Portra 400 over the years. Notice how the images look pretty normal! That’s not what Cinestill 400D does.
In comparison, CineStill 400D is the photos below. As you can see, Cinestill has an effect that is pretty subdued at times. The look is considerably different from Portra 400. Where Portra 400 is sharper, more contrasty, and muted, CineStill 400D isvibrant, less contrasty, and softer.
As a result, I think CineStill 400D is somewhere between a normal negative film and CineStill’s own thing. Why? Well, I’m not sure. Maybe folks complained that they wanted to develop their photos with C41 chemicals but wanted a more subdued look from CineStill. But as a long-time film shooter, I think that’s pretty weird. The reason why I buy and shoot CineStill 400D is for that look. If I wanted something more subtle, I’d get a different film or just shoot digital.
In contrast, here’s what CineStill 800T looks like above. It can have a more pronounced effect too.
Above is Silbersalz35, which is cinema film developed in the E-CN2 process. That’s what you specifically need for cinema film.
Above is Atlanta Film Co 500T, also developed in the E-CN2 process. Personally, this is my favorite along with Portra 400.
Above are images from Lomography 400 Color Negative. It’s typically more akin to being daylight white balanced and obviously could be rendered warmer as needed.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
All of these images are unedited.
Who Should Buy CineStill 400D?
This is a tough question to answer. Anyone who buys CineStill 400D shouldn’t expect the same image quality as Portra 400. However, they also shouldn’t expect the tons of halation they get from other variants of CineStill film. My recommendation is to choose sharp but not clinically perfect lenses. That, and make sure you’ve got a manageable shutter speed, ample light, and a good developer and scanner.
Ultimately, anyone and everyone should at least try CineStill 400D. It’s a really nice film that gives a unique look. But whether or not it’s the look you want is another question. Want some? Go pick it up on Amazon.
These specs are taken from CineStill’s website:
CineStill 400Dynamic is a fine grain daylight balanced color negative film that delivers a soft color palette with natural saturation and rich, warm skin tones. The film has a wide dynamic range with a base sensitivity of ISO 400, but can be rated from 200 to 800 and pushed up to 3200. This makes the film highly versatile, usable both indoors or in the studio, under virtually any lighting conditions.
400D was specifically designed for still photography to be processed in C-41 chemistry by any photo lab or at home. In addition, it also features a process-surviving anti-static lubricant coating ideal for both manual SLRs and automatic winding cameras. This film continues CineStill’s ongoing tradition of cinematic film emulsions made for still photographers, allowing them to maximize their creativity and produce remarkable images that express who they are as artists.
RECOMMENDED ACCEPTABLE EXPOSURE FOR PUSH PROCESSING:
No push – EI 200-800
1 stop push – EI 400-1000
2 stop push – EI 800-1600
3 stop push – EI 1000-2000
Storage and Handling: Load and unload film in subdued light. Store unexposed film in a refrigerator at 13°C (55°F) or lower in the original sealed package. To avoid moisture condensation on film that has been refrigerated, allow the film to warm up to room temperature before opening the package. Process film as soon as possible after exposure. Protect processed film from strong light, and store it in a cool, dry place.
Expiration: Film is a perishable good. For best results, expose and process the film within the stated expiration date. Exposed film should be processed promptly in C-41 chemistry to preserve latent image latitude and color fidelity. All current productions of CineStill have expiration dates for two years from manufacture date on the box.