Subterranean Explorations: Comparing Cinestill 800T to Fuji 800 Inside the Buenos Aires Underground

2017-04-12 2

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.

Cinestill 800T shot with a LC-A+ in a “B line” station in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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!

Cinestill 800T shot with a LC-A+ in a Buenos Aires café.

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.

On the left: Fuji 800 through a Pentax K 1000. On the right: Cinestill 800T shot with a LC-A+. And if you have been reading my weekly articles, you know who that is!

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.

On the left, in both instances, Fuji 800/Pentax K 1000. On the right, Cinestill 800T/LC-A+.

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.

Shot in the downtown “theater” district, left Fuji 800, right Cinestill 800T.

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.

A rather dark and muddy Fuji 800 portrayal of skin tones, and two showing the stellar combination LC-A+/Cinestill 800T at skin tones. All shot from the hip, and bear in mind that the Fuji 800 could likely be improved in Photoshop or with a better scan than mine.

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.

The same shot, with both cameras and films. The color of the Cinestill 800T, on the right, is clearly more vibrant, but the highlights in the sign are a tad blown. On the left, the Fuji film is darker and less vibrant, but the detail on the sign is absolutely perfect, nothing blown.
The same shot, with both cameras and films. I like the color rendition of the Fuji, on the left, more than the Cinestill 800T, on the right.

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.

written by Lorraine Healy on 2017-04-12 #gear #35mm #color #underground #buenos-aires #argentina #subway #pentax-k1000 #lca #fuji-800 #cinestill-800t #gear-film #film-comparison

2 Comments

  1. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Interesting comparison, but about the difference of colors, the lens also has an influence... LCA lens is known for its tendencies to saturate a bit more the colors than other lenses (and that's why we love it! ), and it would be more accurate to compare the 2 films with the same camera+lens combo... But I agree that the Cinestill + LC-A combo gives great results (that I prefer to the Fuji + K1000 ones)

  2. clownshoes
    clownshoes ·

    I've compared both films; stock and pushed ISOs.
    Fuji is my preference. There is a huge difference in
    the price point. You don't need a filter for daylight
    shooting either. Thanks for expanding the dialog on
    this subject.

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