PONF x Cinestill Film: Bright Analog Future

How’s it going, PONF Fellows? Having a nice start to the summer? As usual, it’s been busy behind the scenes at PONF. We’re ramping up for the presale of the PONF Camera coming later on this year, and planning how to deliver you the best camera we possibly can. That said, we’ve got something exciting to share with you on this #FilmFriday…we will be partnering with the fine folks at Cinestill Film to send rolls of premium 35mm color negative films with the PONF Cameras ordered in the presale!

We didn’t want you to have to wait even a moment before you’re able to put a roll of film into the analog back to give your new camera a test. And we wanted your very first 35mm roll to be the best of the best. That’s why we’re going to be sending exclusively Cinestill films along with it, so there will be nothing holding you back from taking your first amazing PONF photos on film when the camera arrives. That’s what PONF stands for, of course! I don’t know about you, but I’m always eager to hear the first clicks of the shutter in my new cameras.

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Brandon and Brian Wright, creators and cofounders of CineStill Film, have been innovating and charging ahead into the future of film photography for the past few years. That’s part of the reason that we’re so excited to be partnering up with them. Their film is creating a new gold standard in color negative films, thanks to their own innovation, which you’ll read about below. We went behind the scenes with Brian and Brandon to learn about their own personal history of photography, their adventure into film making, and finally, their thoughts on PONF. Enjoy!

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PONF: Where are you from, and where are you now?

Brian: We were born in the LA area, with a stint in Seattle during our formative years. Now we are back in LA.

Brandon: Hollywood, to be specific.

Do you have a favorite photograph that you’ve taken? Can you remember the moment you took it?

Brian: No. I don’t think I have a favorite, actually. They are like your children, you know?

Brandon: Some you love. Others, you are really disappointed in how they turn out.

Brian:  Man. That was good actually.

Brandon: Thank you.

Brian: Super messed up though…

What is your earliest memory with photography?

Brian: My mom’s ultrasound.

Brandon: [Eyes Rolling] No. Taking pictures on our dad’s Olympus OM-1 while skateboarding.

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What about your first encounter with digital photography?

Brandon: We got a free HP digital camera that came with our family computer.

Brian: It was fun to play with and get instant feedback. Anything we cared about we also shot on film.

Brandon: Actually, I think we may still have those files somewhere…

So what are your favorite film(s) and cameras or image making equipment /processes so far?

Brian: [Smiling] Our favorite film is anything CineStill.

Brandon: HA!

Brian: And the camera I have with me is my favorite.

Brandon: [Another Eye Roll] Come on.  We love our Leica M2. Pentax 67ii.

Brian: And our Rollei TLR. I can keep going.

Brandon: Yeah.  I guess whichever one we have with us.

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Tell us about the journey of Cinestill. As long or short as you wish!

Brian: About seven years ago now, when we were strictly doing the photographer and film maker thing, we recognized some of the more special characteristics of motion picture technology and emulsions. We set out to find a way to adapt it so we could use it to make still photos.  So, I guess the initial concept was actually pretty selfish.

Brandon: Hahaha. It was purely selfish! We wanted to shoot movie film in our Leicas. That’s it! So we started figuring out how to do that.

Brian: We began posting our results online so people could see how cool motion picture film looked when it was shot as stills – especially in low light. 

Brandon: Our friends and other professionals started messaging us asking if they could get some as well. But no one seemed willing to jump through all the hoops we did in order to shoot it.

Brian: Until then, it really didn’t occur to us that other people would necessarily want this.

Brandon: Yeah. We were essentially just tinkering for our own reasons. But enough people started showing interest that we said, “Oh yeah. If we want it others might too.”

Brian:  So we started trying to make it available to our friends and colleagues. Fast-forward seven years and here we are.  Making film for people around the world.

Brandon: So cool.

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What was the biggest challenge? The biggest surprise?

Brian: The biggest challenge so far was probably making CineStill in medium format.  It was kind of a monumental undertaking. Bigger than we realized initially.

Brandon: Yeah, I agree. I think it just took way more resources and capital. It makes sense now, but at the time, we were hoping the path to large scale manufacturing was going to be smoother than it was.  But we did it. And it took a lot of support from the film community to make it happen.

Brian: I think that connects to the biggest surprise as well, which is the degree of support we have had from the global photography community – pretty much from the beginning. 

Brandon: I agree. It completely blew us away. Within our first six months of launching, people started sending us images from all over the world that they shot on film we made. 

Brian: We were stunned.  It was so exciting. 

Brandon: Yeah – such a great feeling.

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From where you stand, what do you think the future holds for photography?

Brandon: I think things are headed in a great direction right now.  Look, nothing will supplant digital photography, or the tech that is driving it.  It is here to stay and it is super cool. But something interesting that came out of the “digital vs. film” days is that it gave serious  photographers, hobbyists and enthusiasts an alternative place to go. A place to explore. Now, more than ever, people – young people – are exploring film alongside digital. Many for the first time ever! And it is capturing people’s hearts and creative energy like never before. I don’t think this kind of passion over available mediums ever would have happened without the digital revolution. 

Brian: For sure. The market seems to be exploding with newcomers to film shooting. And it really is a renaissance fueled by the merging of old and new ideas. The future is so bright!

What are some of your initial thoughts on the film and digital PONF Camera? 

The PONF camera seems like a great option for those of us who shoot both film and digital and appreciate the benefits of each medium. As film photographers who love film, I think we’ve all dreamed of having the ability to switch seamlessly from shooting film for the images we really care about to shooting digital while still using the same 35mm camera system.

How might you customize one — what does your modular dream camera look like? What special programs does it have?

We would love to see a true optical rangefinder camera in Leica M mount that can shoot both film and digital backs. Add to that the ability to switch the front module to an SLR-style viewfinder/mount and you could easily fill out a full system with longer lenses. In terms of special programs, it would be great if the digital back could upload files to the cloud via wifi and scan 35mm film negatives to the memory card.

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Let’s end with your advice to another photographer but with a twist: Five words or less or a Haiku.

SHOOT MORE FILM!

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