Trying Cinestill 800T with the lights of Christmas City

I’m a big fan of the folks at Cinestill.  Thanks to their chemical wizardry, I learned to process black & white film and develop all my recent color work with their Cs41 kit. So I decided to try one of their films, Cinestill 800T.

800T is a tungsten-balanced, high speed (800 ASA) color film.  It was originally motion-picture film rated at 500, with the rem-jet backing removed.  Since it’s tungsten balanced — that is, it’s designed to capture images lit by tungsten light without the usual yellowish tone you get with normal daylight-balanced film. It can be processed with C-41 chemistry (most motion picture films require ECN-2 process).  It can be pushed up to 3200 ISO.  For more on this film, click here.

As this was my first roll of 800T, I decided to shoot it with my Nikon N70, which has a really solid metering system and can use pretty much any Nikon lens I own.  I shot it at box speed — 800 — and used a variety of different lenses, including a 28-105 AF 3.5-4.5, a 50 AF 1.8 and several of my E-series lenses (135 f2.8, 70-210 f4).  I wish I could take advantage of the VR on some of my newer lenses, but VR doesn’t work with the N70.

Since I live in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — the “Christmas City” — I thought I’d try shooting some of the holiday displays at our city center plaza to see what kind of results I’d get.  I chose an early evening, packed up a few lenses and headed downtown.

I’m kicking myself now for not bringing a tripod; these shots are all handheld, and alas, it shows.  Most were shot as wide-open as my lenses would go.

Advent candles in Bethlehem (see the star on the hilltop?)
Three different light sources, three different colors…

Lights reflected in the City Hall rotunda

My take? First, the images are interesting to me. Several have the “halation glow” that 800T is known for.  Lights took on different colors. The grain is pretty pronounced (it is an 800 speed film!).

A little fuzzy handheld, but a good example of the halation effect around the brighter lights

I also tried some indoor shots, lit with an LED source (GE BrightStiks, with a warm coloring). As you can see, the light appears somewhat green and flat, but I suppose that’s what this should deliver.

The party glass (indoors)
Puzzle-building at Christmas
Dinner under kitchen lights (CFLs = green)
Under a warmish LED, looks a little green

All in all, I enjoyed shooting this film.  Next Christmas time, I’ll load up some of the Fuji Press 800 I have in the freezer to see if the look is different.  

As for the N70, I know it gets a mixed reviews from many camera reviewers, but I find it to be a marvel of technology for it’s era (introduced in the early 90s).  AF is quick and accurate, metering is spot on, it can use AI, AIS, AF and even AF-G lenses (no VR, though), and once you get to know the funky “fan” interface, it is a very capable camera.  While I own plenty of manual cameras, I fully agree with James Tocchio’s column on Casual Photophile “We Should All Be Shooting Dorky AF SLRs and Here’s Why.”  They’re (still) cheap as film cameras go, and work great.