Kodak Portra 800 VS Cinestill 800T: What’s The Difference?

I’ve been shooting film for years and over that time I’ve been lucky enough to shoot all different kinds.

The main difference between Kodak Portra 800 and Cinestill 800T is that Cinestill produces its trademark halation in the highlights and Portra does not. Also, Cinestill is tungsten balanced whereas, Portra 800 is daylight balanced. There are some other smaller differences which I’ll go into in the rest of the article!

A Brief History Of The Two

Portra 800 and Cinestill 800T have very different pasts. Kodak Portra 800 is one of three Portra iterations and it’s the only one that is still an older emulsion from 1998.

Portra 800 was mainly produced as a wedding photographer’s perfect film stock and it works wonders for portrait work and other work that might be in low light.

Cinestill 800T is a different story, it first popped off in 2013 which is a strange time to produce a film stock because at the time it seemed like the end for film photography. It wasn’t really until about 2015 that people started getting back into film again.

800T is said to be derived from old Kodak Vision 3 motion picture film which has had its remjet layer removed, thus creating the classic halation that we see so often with Cinestill.


Halation is this very noticeable glow in the highlights that we see in the image above. As mentioned before, the halation is caused by Cinestills removal of the remjet layer.

Kodak Portra 800 doesn’t have any halation because its remjet layer is intact. This means that you won’t get any glow in the highlights like you would do with Cinestill.

Some people love halation and some people hate it, it’s really a personal preference. For me, I find that I’m too aware of the fact that Cinestill causes halation when I’m shooting it.

I get the same feeling when I’m shooting black-and-white, I’m too aware of what I’m shooting and how it’ll look so I don’t focus on the stuff that matters.

Halation isn’t really a good or bad thing, it depends on what you want from your images, so just be aware, Cinestill has halation, Portra 800 doesn’t.

Saturation And Colour

These two stocks differ a lot in terms of colour hue because Cinestill is tungsten balanced which gives it a blue hue in daylight and it can give unnatural light a greeny hue.

As you can see, Cinestill 800T looks ‘off’ in the daylight (but to be honest, I really like the way 800t looks in the day). There’s a blue feel, especially in the shadows and you’ll still get halation in highlights in the daytime from the sun or reflections.

Kodak Portra 800 is very different, it’s completely balanced and natural, it produces pretty perfect skin tones but it does differ slightly from Kodak 160 and 400 because it’s an older emulsion.

Portra 800 is a little more saturated than the rest of the Portra range and that’s one of the reasons why people love it so much.

Dynamic Range

If you don’t know, dynamic range is basically how much information will be retained in the shadows and highlights of an image. If your film has a good dynamic range then you’ll be able to retain more information and get a more evenly exposed shot.

If your film has a bad dynamic range then you’re more likely to have muddy shadows and blown-out highlights.

Cinestill 800T has a reported dynamic range of around 10 stops which is far more than I thought it’d be. To put that into perspective, Kodak Gold has a range of like 2-3 stops and Kodak Portra 160 has around 7 stops.

So Cinestill 800T has a good dynamic range so it’s more forgiving than most film stocks.

But it still doesn’t stand up to Kodak Portra 800 which has a dynamic range of 12.5 stops, making it one of the most forgiving film stocks going.

Really, these are both brilliant in terms of dynamic range but Portra 800 clearly takes the cake. Anything over 8 stops is top-draw stuff as far as I’m concerned so they’re both doing a great job.

Skin Tones

Skin tones aren’t really Cinestill’s thing, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some unbelievable portraits taken on Cinestill but I guess what I mean is, 800T won’t usually produce natural skin tones.

This is mainly down to its hue and white balance, of course, it can produce natural skin tones under the right light but how often is that?

I’m not trying to suggest that you shouldn’t take portraits on 800T, one of the best portraits I’ve ever seen is on 800T (search Cinestill 800t portrait and look for the lady in red). But I am saying that 800T isn’t really about skin tones.

Portra 800 is a different story once again, it’s kind of made for shooting people (specifically weddings), so it’s generally the boss when it comes to producing natural skin tones.

Portra 800 comes out on top once again as the skin tones master.


For high ISO film stocks, both Portra 800 and Cinestill 800T have quite fine grain. Surprisingly enough, Cinestill 800T probably has more fine grain than Portra 800.

Since Cinestill is usually shot at night, this is quite a positive for the film stock as its less likely that you’ll get a load of crunchy grain in those shadows.

Portra 800 also has fairly fine grain for an 800 ISO film stock but it’s not as fine as 800T.

Both of these film stocks are 800 ISO which makes them ideal for a variety of different light situations which is why Portra 800 is pretty ideal for weddings, portraiture and even night photography.


There’s not that much difference in price for these two film stocks, Cinestill is currently around £20 a roll and Kodak Portra 800 is around £22 a roll, so there’s a pretty negligible difference.

What They’re Best For

Despite both of these film stocks being 800 ISO colour film stocks, they couldn’t be more different.

Cinestill 800T is best for nighttime photography and creative photography. It’s a strange film stock that delivers strange results. In the nighttime it can make images look more cinematic and in the daytime it gives everything a pretty weird vibe.

I’d say the Cinestill 800T is a good experimental type film stock more than anything whereas Portra 800 is a classic professional photographer’s film stock.

Portra 800 is better for wedding photography, documentary photography, editorial, portrait and street photography. Kodak Portra 800 is a bit of an all-rounder and it’s one of the best film stocks going.

My Opinion

Personally, I love Kodak Portra 800 and Cinestill 800T but I find it hard to shoot with a 800T because it has so much going on. Cinestill 800T has a lot of halation and the colour is pretty crazy and for me, I just focus on that too much rather than actually shooting.

Portra 800 is better for me because it’s more versatile and it produces beautiful colours. I also prefer being able to take natural portraits and have the ability to edit to my own liking.

That’s not to say that either of these are worse or better, one has a very distinct aesthetic and one is a more pastel type of film stock and they suit different people for different things.

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