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Portraits with Cinestill XX (Kodak XX)

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I love venturing into unknown territory with Film Photography. I’m always up for a challenge. If the results are good great, if not then there is more playing to be done.

An SFLaB Subscriber sent me two rolls of Cinestill XX Film. Which is actually Kodak BWXX Film and used in various motion picture films one being a Black & White Film, The LightHouse (2019). A strange film but wonderfully lit and shot.


So with two rolls of 120 to play with I needed to know where I stood with shooting and developing it.

I sourced some info online and I found a thread where a photographer shot this film at 800ISO and developed in XTOL 1:3 at 30° for 13 Mins. The photograph they showed had all the detail I liked. Strong blacks and strong highlights too with a sweet grain. I thought, That’ll do me for a start. Even though on the box it says EI200 Indoor and EI250 Outdoor.

Being inspired by the Lighthouse Film I thought I would try a portrait as my test, just to see if this photographers development and EI800 would work for me.

My daughters Boyfriend was over so I decided to use him for my subject.

I set up a simple scene indoors and loaded the film into the Bronica ETRS Camera and put on a 250mm lens and used two LED light panels for my lighting. I also put a black leather jacket on the poor lad hoping to catch some sheen from the lighting.

So I went with the Key Light looking down at 45° angle to create a Rembrant look just enough so I had catchlight in one eye and a glint of white in the other. The background panel was on it’s lowest power lighting a curtain a few feet away from the subject. Simple set up.

I then used a grey card next to Jacobs face and metered the Keylight. I got a reading (800ISO) of f/5.6 at 1/30th shutter. Too slow for a portrait but I went for that.

I used the whole roll and took my first shot at the metered value and then went 1, 2 and 3 stops under. (1/60th, 125th, 250th) then I went 3 stops over (1/15th, 1/8th, 1/4th). Crazy for a portrait I know but I am just looking for exposure to work with my developer. Which ever speed looks best then that is how I will rate the film next time.

Here are the results after DSLR scanning.

First set with a leather jacket and fluffy collar.


Second set with a Black Leather Jacket.


I lit Jacob in such a way that it was very subtle yet enough for me to see a catchlight in his right eye and some white in the other. But not enough to spill over his left shoulder. So the light is wrapping around his face.

So 1/30th of a second at f/5.6 was my metered exposure. But I forgot to allow for the 250mm lens I was using. I had to allow an extra stop of light for that. Which brings my metered exposure to 1/15th at f/5.6 and you can see the exposures at 1/15th are looking great. Apart from motion blur!

So I am happy with the metering and shooting this film at 800ISO and developing in XTOL as mentioned above. I have another roll to shoot which I am intending to find a suitable subject soon. I am thinking of something lit by streetlight or maybe another portrait. Except this time, if it’s a portrait, the lighting has to be at least 4 stops brighter to get me to f/8 and 125th speed!

I think this is a lovely film for a classic portraiture look with rich blacks and bright highlights and a sweet grain too.

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