You Had Me at Halo

Published 27 April 2020

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Last November Dia and I went on a quick break to Hong Kong over the Melbourne Cup long weekend. The deal was that I would plan the sightseeing itinerary and Dia would find places for us to eat and drink. Foolproof. However, after walking 30,000 steps on the first day there were cracks appearing in the agreement. But we did eat a lot of deliciously indulgent food, so in my defence the walking was essential...

I had a backpack full of gear with me, some very old and some very new. I took the Sony A7iii with a 35mm lens, a GoPro Max 360 and my 1979 Asahi Pentax K1000. I had been meaning to try out Cinestill 800T for a while so I treated myself to a roll of that, along with some Kodak Ultramax 400 and an expired roll of Rollei Retro 400 (might be writing about the expired film soon, depends how long we are locked away for).

I have posted previously about the story behind Cinestill when writing about their 50d film. Their 800T film was the first that the company produced, pre-treating Kodak Vision3 motion picture film for ease of use in 35mm canisters with standard C-41 processing. The result is a high speed ISO-800 film balanced for cool tungsten light (around 3200K). I wanted to try a variety of scenes and light sources to really test the versatility of this film and Hong Kong was the perfect place to do it.

I loaded a roll before we started to explore the neon lights and busy scenes around Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon. I so many photos of signs that I couldn't read. We saw the one in the second sample photo all over the place - it's the sign for a pawn shop and is based on an upside down bat holding a gold coin, both symbolic of wealth.

The inconsistent lighting left it tricky to read the light meter, so there was a little bit of guesswork going on with exposure. The film produces considerable halation with strong light sources that gives a unique look to photos. The halo effect is caused by the ‘premoval’ stage that Cinestill carry out, which enables the film to be processed in standard C-41 labs.

Cinestill recommend using an 85b filter at ISO-500 for daylight. I read this while halfway through the roll and don’t have an 85b filter, so I set my camera to ISO-400 and hoped for the best. The highlights are totally blown out during the daylight shots but I love the colours - they really add to the mood of the photos, especially with the shots of epic 1960s public housing buildings.

I’m really happy with how things turned out, the photos aren’t technically perfect but I’m okay with that. Writing this six months after our trip I’m so glad I took some colour analogue photos showing the street scenes after dark. I wouldn’t have been able to capture these without this Cinestill 800T. It’s definitely not cheap but a great film to have on hand when traveling, so hopefully I will need some more when the borders eventually re-open.

Check out my video of our trip here and have a browse of some Hong Kong photos in my print shop.


Sample Photos: Asahi Pentax K1000 with Cinestill 800T Film. Developed at FilmNeverDie / scanned at home.

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