CineStill Film Cs6 Creative Slide E-6 Development Kit Review

CineStill Film Cs6 Creative Slide E-6 Development Kit Review

IntroductionPodcast InterviewYouTube Review
Chemistry MixingProcessingResultsFinal Thoughts

Introduction

As you already heard, CineStill Film has released a new E-6 kit called the Cs6 Creative Slide 3-bath E-6 development kit. This is not another rebadged E-6 kit brought to the market. Brandon and Brian Wright, founders of CineStill Film, spent more than a year and a half reformulating the E-6 recipe after Kodak EKTACHROME E100 was released. Now, CineStill Film has brought three developers to a hungry film photography market: The D6 DaylightChrome, D9 DynamicChrome, and the T6 TungstenChrome. Using a motion picture technique called color timing, each of these first developers is engineered to interact with the film to produce very different results.

The first product is, in all honesty, I’m most excited about; The D9 DynamicChrome is a first developer modified to provide at least 9-stops of dynamic range as opposed to older developers providing 3-6 stops. In addition to the expanded dynamic range, DynamicChrome is formulated to assist EKTACHROME’s cold blue shadows by warming them. This developer intends to give photographers the ability to backlight their subjects while maintaining detail in the highlights with warm shadows, and accurate skin tones. In doing this, shooting a slide film as a color negative film is very exciting.

The second product, the T6 TungstenChrome developer, is formulated to shift daylight balanced film for tungsten lit environments. In addition to correcting light rated at 3200K to daylight, EKTACHROME E100 can shoot at the native box speed (ISO 100) rather than Kodak Professional’s recommended exposure rating of ISO 25-32 with an 80A filter for tungsten-balanced light.

Lastly, DaylightChrome is a standard development kit. It is a conventional 6-stop first developer providing an option to photographers who want to maintain the original look of traditional E-6 slide film.

Podcast Interview

The founders of CineStill Film join Studio C-41 for a podcast interview on their latest product announcement: The Cs6 Creative Slide 3-Bath E-6 Development kit.

YouTube Review

If you’re interested and watching a video version of this review, you can watch it on the Studio C-41 YouTube channel!

Chemistry Mixing

First Developer

Opening the box, you will see a packet of powder for the D9 or T6 developers (or a liquid bottle for the D6). CineStill film recommends heating 600-700mL of water to 111°F (44°C) and mixing the powder directly into the chemistry. This temperature allows the powder to absorb quickly for immediate use. If you happen to come up short of 1L of chemistry, you can top it off to 1L.

If mixing with the liquid D6 DaylightChrome, you may combine at room temperature. However, if you’re looking to develop immediately after mixing, heat the water to 140°F (60°C) and mix in the room temperature chemistry. The room temperature chemistry will bring the overall temperature down to mixing temperature.

Second Developer

The second developer consists of mixing two parts of chemistry into 650mL of water, heated to 115°F (~46°C). Part A is poured into the water and stirred in. Part B follows Part A while still stirring. As mentioned before, all liquids can mix at room temperature. The temperature guidance from CineStill Film only if you want to develop immediately after mixing the chemistry.

Bleach/Fix (Blix)

Lastly, the Bleach and Fixer are combined into a single step or simply called blix. Similarly to the second developer, heat 414mL of water to 140°F and stir in Parts A, B, and C. If you come up short of 1L of mixed chemistry, just top it off with water to 1L. I hate to repeat it, but the temperature is a suggestion based on immediate development. You can mix all three liquids at room temperature.

Thoughts

Reading the instructions seem a bit over-engineered. While I do understand CineStill’s intent for the heating guidance for immediate development, it left me feeling a little uncomfortable bring water up to 140°F for a home developing kit. I think there certainly can be a risk in getting that temperature up that high.

If you don’t have a sous-vide cooker or a CineStill Film TCS-1000, you could be left to try out unsafe situations in heating the water. So it’s my recommendation to simply mix the liquid chemistry to at room temp and then warm the chemistry to development temps.

After speaking to CineStill Film, my set of instructions was in beta, and they were looking at finalizing the instructions for the public release.

Processing

I’ve often heard photographers say they avoid E-6 because it’s too intimidating. They believe that too much can go wrong. While they are right in some respects, developing E-6 is not a scary process. In my opinion, in some respects, I find it easier than black and white and C-41 processing. Out of the entire E-6 process, there is one single step that is the most time and temperature crucial step, the first developer. If you put your undivided attention into the first developer, the rest is all downhill. My review does not go into push processing. However, CineStill Film does have instructions on push processing their film on their website.

  1. Pre-rinse film with water at a temperature of 104°F (or close to it) and agitate for 1 minute. This step removes the anti-halation dye layer. Doing so also warms the film and tank, decreasing heat loss during transferrence. After 1 minute, pour the water out.
  2. Heat the first developer to 104°F and pour it into the tank. If you’re using the D9, you will develop your film for 9 minutes, agitating with inversions every 15 seconds. If you’re using the D6 or T6, follow the same steps but for 6 minutes.
  3. When the time has ended for the first developer, pour it back into the container. Rinse the film with warm water by agitating for one 1 minute. Pour the water out when completed.
  4. Heat the second developer within the range of 95-104°F. Then pour the chemistry into the tank. Agitate the chemistry by doing inversions every 15 seconds for the next 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, pour the chemistry back into the bottle and proceed to rinse the water for 1 minute.
  5. Heat the blix to a range of 95-104°F and pour the chemistry into the tank. Agitate by doing inversions every 15 seconds for at least 6 minutes. Pour the chemistry back into the bottle after the process has completed.
  6. Lastly, rinse the film several times with water to clear off any remaining chemistry. CineStill Film suggests more than 6 minutes. As a personal preference, I use distilled water for my final rinse. Since doing this, I’ve never had white spotting issues with my film and did not require photo-flo.

Hang the film and let it dry. This may take an hour or two.

Thoughts

Processing is pretty straight forward. I didn’t feel like there was any confusion in the instructions at this step. They do provide an easy-to-follow chart outlining the steps. When I processed this, you can see this done in my YouTube review video; I used the TCS-1000 to maintain my temperatures. If you can’t maintain constant temps, I found it interesting that CineStill Film said you could start your first developer at 106°F and agitate without being concerned for maintaining a constant temp. By the time the chemistry is ready to be returned to the bottle, the ending temperature will be around 100°F. The overall average temperature in that duration will be close to 104°F resulting in a properly developed slide.

Some of you may be wondering, “Wait a sec?!? C-41 has a stabilizer! Doesn’t E-6 have one???” Well, yes and no. In very old E-6 and C-41 processes, stabilizers used formaldehyde, a hazardous material. At the time, lab employees had to maintain certifications to handle it. Film manufacturers abandoned this step and redesigned the stabilizer. Today’s stabilizer is not the same, and it merely acts as antimicrobial and anti-fungal chemistry. As long as you keep your film stored properly in a dark, cool place in archival sleeves, the stabilizer is not needed. However, if you do live in an area where humidity is a concern, CineStill Film does offer the Stabilizer step as an al-a-carte product.

Results

If you made it this far, I’m impressed, and I applaud you. If you clicked the link in the table of contents, well, I understand entirely, and I appreciate you getting straight to business. So without any further ado: Kodak Professional EKTACHROME E100 developed in D9 DynamicChrome.

If you wish to see these images in full-resolution, click on the image. You will see a link to view the full resolution image in the lower right-hand side of the pop-up.

Medium Format

Camera: Hasselblad 500CM
Lenses: Zeiss 50mm f/4 Distagon, 150mm f/4 Sonnar.

The first image, which I find most impressive, provided the highest amount of dynamic range showing detail in the clouds to seeing the wood paneling in the shadows of the pavilion. I have to say; I was impressed to see the highlights in these images retained, even if I did intentionally meter for the highlights.

Large Format 4×5

Camera: Shen Hao PTB-45
Lenses: Fujinon SWD 90mm f/5.6, Rodenstock 150mm f/5.6 Sironar MC, and a Prinz 135mm f/4.5.

One of the annoying things about EKTACHROME is the very strong blue cast in the shadows. The first image of this family was in the shadow of the house casting over them. This is an excellent example of how DynamicChrome warms the image and balances out the overall skin tones.

Now, I wish I could claim that I’m some evil genius and just wanted to cross-process color negative right off the bat. Truth be told, I’m a blundering idiot and forgot to update my film holder from “Velvia 100” to “Portra 400.” But I will admit, this is probably one of my biggest photography ‘happy mistakes.’ In the past, color negative processed in E-6 left a very strong orange cast because of the color negative film base. However, after developing Portra 400, I was left with slides that rivaled Lomography’s Lomochrome Purple! The green background in the image shifted to a heavy purple cast, yet strangely the yellow spectrum is left nearly unaltered!

35mm

Camera: Leica M6
Lens: Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 ZM

Last but not least, are a set of images are from a walk around my neighborhood. In my walk, I simply used the internal meter of my Leica M6. However, I slightly underexpose it by rating at EI 125. This adds some padding to decrease the risk of overexposure.

Speaking of overexposure, one image of a pot of flowers shows the image latitude of an overexposed slide. I believe my Leica tried to meter off the shade and resulted in an overexposed image. You can tell the image is overexposed, but the detail still holds out in the highlights.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, I did not have time to test out the other two developers before this release thoroughly. However, I intend to try different lighting situations with the TungstenChrome, and I will report back with the results! I plan to make a comparison between the D6 DaylightChrome and the D9 DynamicChrome and see how they stack up against each other.

I have to say I am impressed with the D9 DynamicChrome. Before the DynamicChrome’s release, I was hesitant in shooting slide. I’ve had my blunders where I’ve exposed for the shadows opposed to the highlights and end up with nearly a transparent frame. However, now knowing that I can almost get the same dynamic range of a color negative, I find myself wanting to shoot more slide film.

Scanning with my Sony a7 III (which boasts 15-stops of dynamic range), I had to bracket my exposures and merge them into an HDR to capture both cloud detail and the wood grain in the deepest shadows of the pavilion. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how that is possible.

I still think CineStill Film over-engineered the instructions. Upon opening the pamphlet, you’re smacked in the face with information. However, I do believe it contains incredibly useful information, like diluting the chemistry for 1-shot developing and push processing, something I didn’t cover in this review.

Lastly, I have to say this is exactly what Kodak Professional needed to get more photographers shooting EKTACHROME. Many labs are still batch processing because the bulk of the film that comes in for processing is color negative. With the recent excitement in E100’s release in 120 and sheet (4×5 and 8×10), CineStill Film’s E-6 kit is the perfect combination for photographers developing at home.

If you have been on the fence in trying E-6, I would recommend giving this a shot. Helping out at Dunwoody Photo, I have plenty of experience machine processing E-6, but this was my first time developing slide film at home. While the D6 and T6 are fantastic developers, I feel the D9 DynamicChrome will be a hot seller for CineStill Film.

Bill Manning

Host and Executive Producer for Studio C-41

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