CineStill 50D 35mm C-41 Film Review

Cinema Colour in a Little Blue Box

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CineStill 50D is a pre-processed Kodak Vision 3 emulsion made by The Brothers Wright. Packaged for still 35mm cameras, the film lacks a rem-jet layer, which can create unique visual effects in certain lighting conditions.

CineStill’s missing rem-jet layer.

The rem-jet layer on cinema films is a sticky black substance that covers the backside of the emulsion. Its purpose is to dampen static electricity discharges that may happen as the film flies through the reels in a movie camera. Most consequently, for still photographers, it serves as an anti-halation layer that prevents light reflections which cause the halo effect around bright points in the photographed scenes.

CineStill 50D with TC-1. Notice the red halos around the gleams.

The halo effect occurs when the light passes through the emulsion and reflects off the camera’s pressure plate back into the emulsion before dispersing. On colour negative film, it appears as faint red circles around bright highlights in photographs.

The halos are red because the first layer that receives the light and reflects off the camera’s pressure plate is red (colour film is typically stacked with blue facing the lens, then green, then red).

✪​ Note: Most film sold today comes with an anti-halation layer. However, that layer does not interfere with development like the sticky, messy substance found in Kodak Vision 3 films.

 ☝​ Further reading:Redscale Film: How Does It Work and How to Make One Yourself.”

Founded in 2012, CineStill made its name by creating a method for processing Kodak movie reels that are not meant for still film cameras. Other than cutting and packaging, an integral part of the process is washing off the rem-jet layer, which would otherwise make the film unsuitable for film labs or home processing.

Though you may do the washing-off by yourself at home, the process is messy and somewhat time-consuming. Doing this also implies that you will need to develop the film as well, which isn’t an option for everyone.

The Brothers Wright (see their 2016 interview on PetaPixel) created a way to wash off the rem-jet layer on a production scale. The result is a modern, professional Kodak film that can now be used with any still camera and developed in any lab that processes C-41 film.

Developing CineStill in C-41 vs. ECN-2.

CineStill 50D, like all modern colour negative emulsions, can be safely processed in C-41 chemistry found at most labs. However, it was designed by Kodak for the ECN-2 process that yields “flatter” negatives, meaning that they have less contrast and saturation.

Flatter negatives are useful for scanning and manipulating with professional hardware and software. With those tools, you could have greater control over contrast and saturation. Ribsy has shown a few examples of both ECN-2 and C-41 processing in his side-by-side comparison video here. The results look quite similar but are not the same.

Curiously, Ribsy found no issues printing ECN-2-developed CineStill film using RA-4 chemicals. (CineStill suggests that C-41 is more suitable for this purpose).

CineStill 50D with Minolta TC-1. Uncropped.
CineStill 50D with Minolta TC-1. 25% crop (4x zoom).
CineStill 50D with Minolta TC-1. 12.5% crop (8x zoom).

CineStill 50D grain and resolution.

Despite being a fairly slow film at ISO 50, CineStill 50D comes with a relatively pronounced grain. Magnified, it looks very fuzzy. The emulsion is not particularly sharp at that level. However, when viewed at typical enlargements, it appears to have an adequate resolution. But I think that Kodak Ektar can resolve finer detail.

Having been a proud owner of PrimeFilm XAs dedicated 35mm film scanner for years, I’ve seen a lot of different emulsions up-close when scanned at 100MP+. CineStill 50D stands out by appearing to have a highly random, almost “disorganized” grain pattern. But it all comes together beautifully in the end.

CineStill 50D dynamic range and colours.

Because negative film’s colour is up to interpretation by the scanner, the software, or an enlarger, its overall look may vary.

I found 50D’s dynamic range impressive for the emulsion of this speed. The film turns pure black/white very gracefully at its exposure fringes with little to no colour noise. The film’s colours tend to shift when over-exposed while remaining well-balanced even in the deepest shadows.

Inverted and equalized without any colour correction, 50D has a slight green cast that’s easy to remove with a few adjustments in Photoshop. The overall colour balance is somewhat resembling Portra 160 and Portra 400.

CineStill 50D with Minolta TC-1. This image is part of the sample scan download (below). I did NO colour correction here. Despite the slight green cast that remains in the mid-tones it seems to look quite pleasing.
CineStill 50D with Minolta TC-1. This image is part of the sample scan download (below). I did SOME colour correction and cleaned up a few of the scratches here. The image now represents the colours from that spring day in Vancouver very well. It is full of detail yet also soft.

Download sample scan files.

To get an up-close glimpse at CineStill 50D’s unique grain structure, you will need a high-resolution scan file. This free download includes three 6,786 × 4,686px files (32MP each): a negative, an equalized positive, and a colour-corrected positive.

You can also use these files to try your colour correction workflows to see what you can make out of this film before you buy/shoot/develop/scan on your own.

 Free Download: Sample CineStill 50D 35mm Film Scan (JPEG)

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CineStill 50D with Minolta TC-1.
CineStill 50D with Minolta TC-1. I decided not to do any colour correction on this scan as the slight green cast appears to be working quite well with the spring-leaved tree’s palette.
CineStill 50D with Voigtländer Vitessa A. Here, I’ve let my scanning software (VueScan) auto-adjust the colours slightly.
CineStill 50D with Voigtländer Vitessa A. I love this photograph. It has a very uplifting appearance and a contrasting sad story. These are the vegetables I have scrubbed by hand in fears of getting an infection during the first wave of COVID-19.
CineStill 50D with Voigtländer Vitessa A.
CineStill 50D with Voigtländer Vitessa A.
CineStill 50D with 150mm E.Zuiko Auto-T on my half-frame Olympus Pen FV. I did selective colour correction here for each frame. The right side was over-exposed; if you’re viewing this on a large screen, you’ll notice that the sky is more grainy on the right as the result of me fixing the exposure in Photoshop.

Where to buy CineStill 50D.

CineStill products have always been in demand. Despite its relatively high cost per roll, CineStill 50D often gets sold out in peak season. I found a few rolls that you can buy online (see the link below) and support this blog at the same time.

Please consider making your CineStill 50D film purchase using this link  so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!