First try with Cine film – Kodak Vision 50D

I’ve done very little photography during the COVID lockdown – obviously the opportunities to shoot outside have been limited and I haven’t been motivated to take many images indoors. However I have used our garden, a local walk, and cycle rides as settings to try out some Kodak Vision 50D cine film.

Vision 50D is normally sold in reels of 400′ feet or 1000′ feet, which is even longer than a typical bulk roll of 100′ designed for home bulk rolling. I was able to buy, from an eBay seller, a 100′ length, from which I was able to fill 18 36-exposure cassettes. The roll cost me £32 including postage, hence just £1.77 per 36-exposure roll.

Of course the downside is that, as cine film, there is a remjet backing, which is a layer of fine carbon designed to smooth the transport of the film through a movie projector. For stills use, the remjet layer has to be removed, before or after processing, and you absolutely cannot send cine film to a normal lab as the remjet will contaminate their chemicals. Hence, home processing is required. The standard chemicals for colour cine file is “ECN-2” which is not quite the same as C41, the more usual choice for colour negative film. Certainly there are people who develop cine film in C41 and can’t say what the difference in results would be as I haven’t tried it. As it happens my C41 chemicals had run out, so I decided to buy the Bellini ECN-2 from Nik and Trik.

I was a little apprehensive before starting, but I found that the ECN-2 process wasn’t really any more difficult than processing C41. To remove the remjet, I soaked the films in a pre-bath (in the developing tank) for 45 seconds, then washed the film until the (initially black) water was coming out clear. After the remaining chemical processes (developer, stop, bleach, and fix, with intermediate washes), I removed the films from the tank and wiped the non-emulsion side with a microfibre cloth to remove any remaining remjet. I couldn’t see any remjet on the film, but the cloth showed some black residue which had come off the film. Then the film went into a jug with the final rinse, before hanging up to dry.

There were two issues which gave me some difficulty.

Normally when processing C41, I would bring all the chemicals up to 38 degrees C, in a Jobo processor. However, the ECN-2 chemicals require a variety of different processing temperatures, for example 27 degrees for the pre-bath and the bleach but 41.1 degrees for the developer and 38 degrees for the fixer. So by trying to keep each chemical at the right temperature in one water bath, i.e. the Jobo, I ended up with, for example, my bleach being too warm and having to pause the process to cool down the bleach in a jug of cool water.

As well as the Jobo I have a Cinestill TCS1000 system. The next time I process ECN-2 I will try putting the developer and fixer into a water bath heated by the Cinestill TCS1000, at 41.1%. Once the developer has started I’ll remove the fixer from the water bath, to allow the bleach to cool to between 37-39 degrees. The Jobo will heat up the remaining chemicals to between 27-38 degrees.

The second issue is that the additional handling of the film to wipe off the remaining remjet, must create an increased risk of getting dust or scratches on the film. If you happen to operate in a perfectly sterile environment with perfect procedures, then no need to worry. Unfortunately my environment and processes are not perfect, and the end result was that I spend longer than usual in cloning out imperfections from the images in Photoshop.

I scanned the negatives using an Epson V700 with Vuescan software and used the Vuescan options to create a raw file, with no colour corrections. This was then inverted using the ColorPerfect add-in to Photoshop, which has a supplied profile for Vision 50D.

The images came out very warm straight out of Color Perfect, and the images presented here have been adjusted in Photoshop or Lightroom. This all takes some time and I don’t think I would recommend Vision 50D for someone who just wants to get quick results with the minimum of effort.

On the plus side, that slow ISO50 speed gives results which are practically grain-free and a range of colour styles are achievable if you’re happy to spend time in post-processing.

My warmish results might have been influenced by the difficulties in temperature control – maybe the next batch will come out different.

I had originally planned to shoot this film on a family holiday in Kent which was due next week – but that’s been delayed for a year due to the virus so it will take a while to get through the remaining 16 rolls.

PS if you don’t fancy having to deal with Remjet, then Cinestill sells a version of the film with Remjet removed, at a much higher cost – and you can get that version in 120 too.

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