A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy shares the results of her very unscientific comparison between two fast films, Cinestill 800T and Fuji 800.
I had been intrigued by the Cinestill 800T film, the 800 ISO, Tungsten-balanced, C-41-enabled motion picture film developed by the Brothers Wright photo company, which also offers a 50 ISO version. It has recently started shipping the 800 in 120 format as well. It is advertised as extremely fine-grained and best suited for low and difficult lighting situations, especially under fluorescent or tungsten light. I bought a couple of rolls after seeing some beautiful work done with the LC-A+ in several LomoHomes, but I kept wondering where to try it. The examples I saw had a clear urban, night vibe to them, almost the color equivalent of “film noir”—if you can excuse the lunacy of that statement!
I decided to take one roll to Buenos Aires last February, since I knew there would be clearer opportunities in the city, as opposed to my usual rural surroundings. I had pretty much settled on putting it through my LC-A+ and once in Buenos Aires (where heavy traffic makes the subway lines a faster way to get around) it struck me that shooting inside the “subte”, as the Underground or Subway system is known in Argentina, would make for an interesting project. I decided to add an extra twist by shooting a roll of Fuji Superia 800 through my Pentax K1000 (with a 28mm lens f2.0) side by side, for the sake of comparison. There are differences in the lenses, with the LC-A+ lens being 32mm and f2.8, but this was not meant to be a very scientific experiment.
There are six subway lines in Buenos Aires with many points at which they interconnect. The system has over 80 stations and most of them have some sort of public art display on tile, which makes them interesting photographic subjects. I chose to shoot the entire length of the “B” line, both ways, simply because it is close to my Mom’s house. So, on a scorching Southern Hemisphere summer morning, I dove into the depths of the underground armed with my two loaded cameras. I traveled from my “local” station, which is almost to the end of the line, into downtown taking a train from one station to the next. I would get off at each station, shoot a couple of images (the Fuji 800 roll was only 12 exposures, so I rationed it some), then board a new train to the next station. And do it again.
After a couple of hours alternating air-conditioned trains with asphyxiating hot stations, it was time to get outside for a while. I needed fresh (if still hot) air, a cold can of soda, and a chance to shoot both films in daylight. The Cinestill 800T box recommends lowering the ISO to 500 and using a 85B filter when photographing in daylight. Well…I did not follow the instructions. I just shot both cameras and their respective films straight at 800 ISO, I was pleased with the results.
And then it was back to the subway, for the return journey. One of the most praised features of the Cinestill film is how accurately it reproduces skin tones. I think the praise is deserved.
The color results from the comparison, of course, depend on personal taste and preference. I have always been a Fuji film shooter and have always preferred the Fuji palette to any other brands. That said, the combination of the Cinestill 800T with the outstanding LC-A+ lens produced some stunning results, in my opinion. In many instances, I liked the shot taken with that combo better than the one taken with Fuji, but there were some exceptions. To be fair, I probably should have used a roll of 36 exposures for the Fuji film and matched the films shot for shot. But that was all I had.
I have another roll of Cinestill 800T waiting while my LC-A+ undergoes some repairs. I think they complement each other perfectly, with the LC-A+ bringing out the color vibrancy of the cinematic film and adding the natural vignette of its Minitar lens. If I had more occasions to use it, I would stock the Cinestill 800T by the brickload.
Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.