CineStill 400D – A First Look
Earlier this year, we announced the most recent film stock to come from our friends at CineStill. Described as a daylight-balanced fast colour negative film stock, 400D was CineStill’s answer to the lack of colour film on the market. Due to various market forces plus massive price increases over this past year, colour is not exactly an affordable option. Their campaign was a wild success, allowing the film stock to produce 35mm, 120 and 4×5 options. Alex recently got out and enjoyed the fall colours with the 120 version of 400D, and the name lives up to the ‘dynamic’ nickname.
Having a bit of foresight about the nature of the film, thanks to my good friend Bill Smith, I knew that fall would be perfect for this film. And the colours certainly did not disappoint. The one thing to note is that the film does not scan in as shown in the examples. This is a significant selling point for the film. Think of it like a blank slate; even processed at a lab in C-41, it scans flat. But you can then take it into Lightroom or Photoshop and adjust the curves, levels and, most important, colour balance and grading. You can make this film fit your creative vision. For example, I played up the reds and yellows in the outside shots with the fall colours while I kept things cool with blues and greens indoors. You can make this film look good no matter what the situation. And while the film is daylight-balanced, you don’t need to do much filtration for indoor lighting.
I wouldn’t say I like scanning colour films; I find it incredibly difficult to figure things out and get those colours right. So when 400D scanned in super flat with a blue/green hue, I was not pleased. Even Silverfast 9 SE struggled with this film. Thankfully I had also shot some digital work with the first roll of 400D and used those images as a place to start. If you like to use the automatic features in Lightroom and Photoshop, these might not be the best tools to work on these scans. You will want to adjust your levels, curves and colours manually. The eyedropper tools work well to set your levels; finding your black-and-white points gives you an excellent place to start. Then you can play; if you use Photoshop, add layers so that you always have that baseline to compare and revert. Eventually, I found my groove and started letting my creative vision shine, and 400D has enough forgiveness and latitude to let it shine.
In these first three rolls, I shot at ASA-400, ASA-800, and ASA-1600 to see precisely how far I could take 400D. And the best part is that it shone at all three. Sure it took a bit of work in all three cases, but I got exactly what I wanted out of each roll. The best part is how clean all three scanned in. Even at ASA-1600, a two-stop underexposure with no adjustment in development came out with almost no visible grain and only took a bit of boosting to get workable results from the scanned files. It also tells me that this film is not Vision3 250D with the remjet removed. And there is plenty of consistency between all three rolls; the only real change is that I had to increase the brightness a bit on the under-exposed rolls, but if you’re a home developer, you can easily adjust rather than pay for a lab to take care of that.
I like 400D, and I don’t say that lightly as someone who mainly shoots black & white film. CineStill has a winning film stock. And the best part is that it is now available through online sales and retail partners worldwide for anyone to try and get their hands on. 400D impressed me in 120, so I’m looking forward to picking up a roll in 35mm to see how it handles in the smaller format.