Cinestill 50D Review

By Paul McKay

Our Cinestill 50D review combines the community's comments, recommendations, sample images and feedback to give you an excellent overview of Cinestill 50D film's strengths and weaknesses!

Produced for Analogue WonderBox subscribers in April 2021 but helpful for everyone wanting to learn more about one of Cinestill's famous 'adapted movie stock' emulsions 😊

Movie Drama in Daylight

Cinestill 50D is the second Cinestill film to feature in the WonderBox, after the Cinestill 800T review last November.

Just like 800T, Cinestill 50D is adapted from Kodak movie stock - using the same exceptional emulsion and chemistry, but with key changes so it can be used straight away in your stills camera and later developed in C-41 chemistry.

This emulsion is of an incredible quality - super fine grain and detail. 50D also has a fantastic exposure latitude, especially for a colour film.

From a technical standpoint you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better colour film.

Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - building in sunlight

(c) @trottagram

Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - portrait of lady
Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - couple in waves

Colour Accuracy

HOWEVER this quality comes with a caveat. 50D is not a film for low light. It is a specialist colour film for use in daylight, and it is therefore designed to accurately reflect the tones (colour) of the scene in front of it with rich and accurate colour.

Its purpose is to produce the finest grain and resolution possible with neutral colour rendering, but that also means it requires as much light is can be afforded to it! As long as you give it enough light, you can expect the highest image quality available, but it’s not going to add its own vibrancy or make specific colours pop or bring effects over-and-above what exist in the scene.

Let's remind ourselves of the visible colour spectrum - the light that the human eye can perceive:

Colour Spectrum - Cinestill 50D and 800T

As you can see, Cinestill 50D is balanced for 5500K which puts it smack bang in the middle of the spectrum, in the green/blue area corresponding to natural sunlight. So when you shoot 50D within this range - i.e. in a scene with daylight colour temperature - then it will give amazing true-to-life colours, a vivid and detailed replication of the subject that you captured, with a beautiful clarity and warmth.

Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - lady holding leaf
Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - lady looking at camera

(c) Denise Laura Baker

Conversely, if you take it into a lighting situation that is overly warm (tungsten), grey, dull, or otherwise colour-tinted versus daylight and do not allow sufficient additional exposure - then Cinestill 50D will capture this lighting accurately, leaning towards the bias, and reflect it back in the final images!

You can see the difference here in Denise's photographs - taken below on the same day with the same model as the ones above, but this time in limited light, influenced by the shadow of the tree and out of the clean sunlight.

With limited exposure and reflected green light, there is a clear green cast: an accurate representation of the muted light that exists in woodland shadow. With additional exposure this bias could be corrected out in scanning or printing, but the light and the film are not going to lie... It will be accurate to true life.

Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - lady in shade
Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - lady with peacock feather

Denise says

"I love the soft dreamy cinema effect on this riverside photo shoot. I had a specific idea for the shoot, waited for a blazingly bright day and I got some lovely vibrant colours.

Some of the pictures were a touch under developed, with a slight green tinge to those shot in shadow (but then the whole area was green so to be expected!)...

I've included two pictures shot in bright sunshine and two in shadow. I loved the fine grain and beautiful effect. I'd definitely buy again for bright sunlit shoots."

Maximise the Beauty

While this may feel intimidating - "Now I have to get the colour balance right as WELL as plenty of exposure and composition?!" - in reality there are only a few things you need to think about if you find yourself in a non-daylight situation.

1) You can use filters to nudge the ambient colour temperature towards daylight, and avoid any in-camera colour casts. For example the filter 80B will work really well indoors under orange artificial light

2) Don’t be afraid to push process when light is limited! Push processing effectively increases exposure in processing, at home or with your lab, and can boost colour and contrast in heavily muted light

3) Save the film for when it will really shine! At its simplest, photography is about capturing light. Beautiful light + beautiful film = a beautiful photograph!

Ultimately this is a fantastic emulsion with some simple low-speed limitations. So now you understand how this works, you can easily wait until you're in the perfect environment for this film to come to life!

If you want to shoot in different lighting situations then you know you can use a film created for flexible stills photography instead (Ultramax or Gold or the premium Portra range). Film photography is all about knowing how/when to use the right tools for the aesthetic you want - and Cinestill 50D is a brilliant tool to have in your camera bag.

Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - beach scene with palm trees

(c) @andylowphoto

In Summary

Cinestill 50D is an outstanding colour negative film, with sharp detail and fantastic colour reproduction in sunny daylight settings. Treat it carefully, deploy it in the right situations, and it will elevate your photography to magical status!

For full tech specs, more reviews, and community sample photos then head to the product pages as below:

Ilford Pan F Plus Film 35mm B&W ISO 50 - Analogue Wonderland
Ilford Pan F Plus Film 120 B&W ISO 50 - Analogue Wonderland

Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - autumn leaves with lady

(c) Lucinda Lewis

Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - pigeon walking in city

(c) Leighton Phillips

Cinestill 50D Review - Sample Shot - backlit lady

If you enjoyed this Cinestill 50D review and found it informative then check out our other WonderBox film reviews here:

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