Review: Cinestill 800T

Hello, everybody! I am going to show you one of my favorite films today. It’s popular these days and many people use it to get unique-looking pictures. I love it a lot because I like taking night-time photos and this works great for my style. If you’ve been following me you already know what I am talking about. Enjoy this review.


Cinestill 800T is one of my most-used stocks. I was looking for an alternative to Fujifilm Natura 1600 so I tried my luck with this film which turned out to be a good find. It’s originally a motion picture stock that was re-spooled for normal use and development by hobbyists, I will get into the details later in this article so be sure to read everything.

It comes in its familiar black container because it’s very sensitive to light. It is sold in both 35mm and 120mm formats which is nice. I have seen how it performs with medium format and the results blew me away. They’re a bit pricey depending on where or how you buy them but not unreasonable.

Before we begin talking about how the film renders I would like to tell you about how to use it properly. This film is more sensitive to light compared to your usual film so storing it properly is important. You will also get some leaks that look like this on the first few frames if you didn’t load it in a dark environment or in the shade. This is caused by direct light being channeled through the leader and into the canister in an effect called “light piping”, it’s similar to how fiber-optics work. That is why Cinestill 800T’s manufacturer cautions you against loading this film in bright conditions and also to cover any film indicator windows in your camera. Some cameras have terrible or defective light baffles so stray light enters the film chamber. If you’re using a dinky camera make sure to cover any windows or doors with tape. Nikons are generally pretty good at this so I don’t have to worry about it. I changed most if not all of the seals on my cameras myself, too.

While this film is being used mostly for night-time photos because of its ISO speed, I also like shooting with this film on the shade because its fine-grain renders details beautifully. It’s also great for portraiture, the lady here has a nice complexion and her skin looks very healthy, Cinestill 800T captured all of that beautifully. The slightly-cool color temperature is caused by the color offset of this film which we will talk about more later.

This was taken at noon on a bright, sunny day under a tree. It’s not ideal for this film since it’s probably too-fast for this but it worked nicely so far. I will not use it again like this, I was just curious about how it would turn out.

I like this film because it renders the scenes that I like to take beautifully. It’s a great film for use with artifical lights because it was formulated for use in sets or anywhere tungsten lighting is used. Your usual daylight film is going to make the scene look more reddish because it’s not formulated for tunsten lighting. This isn’t obvious in this photo but you will soon see why later.

One of the unique features of this film is it adds a glow to bright sources of light such as lamps and the sky. This is caused by halation, an effect caused by reflection from the pressure plate behind the film. In the original stock it was controlled by an anti-halation layer – carbon (?). This layer helps block light so it won’t reflect from the pressure plate. Motion picture film cameras will have millions of frames pass-through it that’s why it’s pointless to coat the pressure plates or they usually end-up being so worn that they become polished surfaces for light to reflect from and this is why this layer is added to motion picture film stock. The bad thing is you can’t just have any normal lab develop the film for you using the common C-41 process because doing so will dissolve the carbon and clog expensive equipment, leading to repair and chemistry being thrown, both aren’t cheap. In order to make it friendly for the C-41 process, you either dissolve the layer first with water and then develop it teh usual way at home or the alternative is to just buy this film. It is just re-spooled motion picture film (Kodak Vision 3) without the layer and that makes things convenient for us and safe for labs. The down-side is you pay for more because the original stock is many times cheaper compared to Cinestill 800T if you buy them in bulk.

Despite being sold with a box speed of ISO 800, I rate this film at ISO 500 or ISO 640. Under-exposing it makes the scene look terrible, the shadows will look muddy and you get ugly grain like what you see here. This was off by 1 or even 2 stops so I got this grainy, ugly result. To save the picture, I just did a small edit to make it appear that I took this from a TV screen. It was such a shame because I tried to frame this shot as good as I can which meant that I had to get really close to my subjects.

Here’s a great picture showing the effects of halation and how this film was formulated for use with tungsten lighting. Notice that the overall color isn’t as warm compared to daylight-balanced film so it’s great for stage lighting.

Halation is most prominent when your light sources are contrasted by dark background shadow or just anything dark. Cinestill 800T has a fine-grain, it is probably one of the finest/sharpest color film out there and the only film that’s sharper in my experience is Fujifilm Acros 100. It has to be fine since it’s for motion picture use.

This film is also known for its latitude, you can get a wide-range of tones in your shadows and highlights as you can see in this picture. The shadows are not just black voids in the scene but they contain detail and various shades. The same is true for the highlights, things just don’t get blown-out and you’ll still get some detail in the highlights.

Using this film for night-time photography is great, we’re currently working on the new Blade Runner series along with Ghost in the Shell and this film is going to look great for those titles because of the neon signs. The resolution is amazing, it looks like a photo from a digital camera at times if you do not have the halation in the scene.

(Click to enlarge)

Here are more pictures showing how this film performs. This film is one of my favorites because of its unique character, it enables me to take pictures with many layers of interesting effects which I would never get with digital cameras and this is why I love shooting film.


I’m sure my pictures are good-enough to give you an idea of how this film is when used in both low-light and bright environments. I have only covered its use for 35mm and I will make another article for medium format when I have the time (and money). These aren’t cheap compared to my usual films so I use these only when I have to. If you haven’t shot with these, please do yourself a favor and try it yourself. If you don’t like the halation then you’re going to be happy with Fujifilm Venus 800. It’s a true ISO 800 film so you can just use it with its box speed. Fujifilm Natura 1600 on the other hand cannot be found anymore unless you’re willing to pay a lot. It’s even faster but your camera and meter should rate it as an ISO 1000 film or maybe even ISO 800 according to some people. Cinestill 800T is such a unique and fun film, it can be addicting to use. If this is your first time trying it, buy a few rolls and use the first one to experiment on how to meter or use it. Try shooting it at ISO 800 and see if that works for you. Whatever you do, get a spotmeter if you plan on using this for night-time photography. It will save you lots of money because your exposures will be more accurate and you can visualize your ourput. I will make a series on how I use one in the future. Thank you and see you guys again next time, if you haven’t joined our facebook community please search “Classic Nikon Maintenance” and follow it. Ric.

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Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your countrym name or other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Review: Lomography LomoChrome Metropolis 100-400 (Tokyo Edition) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  2. Trackback: Review: Lomography LomoChrome Purple 100-400 | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review

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