As a hobbyist photographer, I have historically not undertaken photo projects, doing so just wasn’t on my radar. Typically, I take a camera with me and shoot wherever I am, whether that is while traveling for work, or just going out for the day, etc. Basic enthusiast photographer stuff. Granted, a collection of shots from a trip that have been culled, edited, and curated could technically be considered a project by some, but for me they were just the result of my having a camera with me at the time.
However, last fall my daughter moved a 4.5-hour drive away to attend college and I found myself with an excuse to finally assign myself a project of sorts. As I was driving back and forth for 9-10 hours in a single day roundtrip 1-2 times a month, and typically by myself for half of the journey, it seemed like a good plan to break up the monotony of the drive by photographing the eastern half of Washington state, a landscape that I had never really ventured through before.
I try to shoot film as much as possible, and my camera collection reflects that, with the majority of my gear being of the silver halide etching variety. I am fortunate enough to have some great pieces of film kit: Leica M6, Hasselblad Xpan, Rolleiflex K4B, Mamiya 6, Bronica SQ-A, Nikon F100, Nikon FE, and a few others that escape memory right now and that I’m too lazy to look at the shelf to figure out. I also tend to carry my Leica M10-D in case I want/need to shoot digital if the situation/lighting dictates.
After a few back and forth trips shooting old barns, interesting (to me) rural landscapes, etc, I had the idea to shoot these same scenes on four different Lomography “special effects” film stocks:
- Lomography LomoChrome Metropolis XR 100-400
- Lomography LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400
- Lomography LomoChrome Turquoise XR 100-400
- Lomography Redscale XR 50-200
Now, I understand that this isn’t an original idea as the internet is rife with film stock comparisons, but often times they are shot on different cameras, from different angles, or at different times/locations. I have four 120 film backs for my Bronica SQ-A and a tripod, so I thought I would try to capture the exact same frames on all four of these alternative emulsions for a more even comparison. The ultimate Lomography film stock comparison. That was my theory at least.
So, a new mission in mind, I loaded my last roll of (lightly expired) LomoChrome Turquoise XR 100-400, and fresh rolls of LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400, LomoChrome Metropolis XR 100-400, and Redscale XR 50-200 into my four film backs and thought I’d see what happens. What I didn’t expect was to take nearly 6 months to actually finish shooting all the rolls (and effectively holding my SQ-A hostage for that whole time), but such is life.
Now, for the caveats
I shot all of the rolls at 200 ISO: right in the middle of the ISO range of all the films with the exception of Redscale which has a range of 50-200 ISO. As a result, I ended up underexposing the Redscale shots in just about every instance, so please take those with a grain of salt. All of the shots of a particular scene were shot at the same ISO, aperture, and shutter speed as dictated by the light. Sometimes I would use the metered prism in the Bronica, sometimes a light meter app on my iPhone.
I used my 80mm f/2.8, 50mm f/3.5, and 200mm f/4.5 Bronica lenses for the shots, typically with a B+W CPL filter, and in one case a Moment 10% Cinebloom diffusion filter. I had my local lab develop and scan the shots on their Noritsu scanner, and I then edited the files to my taste in Lightroom.
Some of the shots exhibited minor issues such as small light leaks (time to order some seals) or the typical quirks that come from shooting Lomo stocks. The focal plane of the composition is slightly different in some shots as I was rushing and sometimes forgot that crucial step, but since the colors were the subject, I can live with that.
Also, my crops might be a bit different in some of the shots as I was working around scanner borders, etc., but rest assured they were all captured from a tripod and not recomposed for each emulsion. Here are 6 comparison scenes (plus a couple of bonus shots). None of these are amazing shots (I typically just pulled over on the highway and shot them as quickly as possible, hence the inconsistent focus etc), but were rather captured for the purposes of the comparison.
Shot 1 – Barn
I liked the juxtaposition of the older and newer barns next to each other in this dry wheat field. The Turquoise was my favorite for this shot.
Shot 2 – Creek
I drove down a road looking for an overlook to shoot a valley, and stumbled on this instead. The Purple was my favorite for this shot.
Shot 3 – Ski Slope
Driving over the mountain pass, I stopped to shoot the empty slope. The Metropolis was my favorite here for some reason.
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Shot 4 – Pond
Basically a retention pond on some farmland, not sure why it caught my eye, but here it is. The Redscale was my favorite for this shot.
Shot 5 – Temple
This is a temple near my house. It’s so full of color, it made sense to add it to the comparison. This is one where you can see I refocused. I like both the Metropolis and Purple for this one.
Shot 6 – Ness
My wife reluctantly sat still while I did a hasty indoor portrait with some window light. The Purple and Turquoise make me smile for this one.
Here are some spare shots where only 3 out of 4 of the emulsions came out do to user error, mirror lockup, etc.
Bonus Shot 7 – Hill
Just the rolling hills in the background of prairie land. The Redscale is by far my favorite here.
Bonus Shot 8 – Cows
Just some cows in a roadside field, but I thought the sky would lend itself to the comparison. I like both the Purple and Turquoise here.
My take aways
At the end of the day, this wasn’t quite the insanely awesome, end-all-be-all comparison I envisioned, but I still found it educational.
I had only ever shot LomoChrome Turquoise in 35mm and that was a single roll in my Xpan while in Maui: I LOVED those shots and have several rolls in both formats on preorder from Lomography for the first batch of the new formula when it finally ships.
I’ve had limited (i.e. basically zero) success with the few rolls of LomoChrome Purple I’ve tried in the past, but I want to take another stab at it. Lomography Redscale is probably one I won’t come back to, but I do have one roll left in the fridge so I’ll shoot it closer to 50-100 ISO and see what happens. I assume it will be way better than what I brought to the table here.
That just leaves LomoChrome Metropolis, which I’ve only shot 2 rolls of in total. I feel like I want to love it, maybe next time I travel to NY for work I’ll toss a roll in my bag and see what happens, however, I see myself grabbing Portra instead.
But, clearly, Turquoise is the one that tugs at my cold, dead heart the most — based on my preorder. Even if it wasn’t picked as winner the most times above, it’s the one that I see myself using more going forward. I’m curious to see how the formula has changed this time around, if only I had one last roll of old Turquoise to compare it to…
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Thank you for this very useful side by side comparison of the films. Turquoise and Metropolis are my favorites.
This is a great comparison, thank you. I tend to like the Metropolis renderings. Can’t see much use for the Redscale. I’ve used the Purple for urban landscapes and enjoy it. One caveat: Film scratches have harmed my negatives with two different Lomo films, both processed by a good lab that hasn’t scratched any other films they’ve processed for me. I wonder whether the film’s been scratched during Lomo’s process of converting the regular film stock they buy to their special color-toned emulsions. Lomography told me they haven’t heard of this problem before, but it does make me cautious about using their films. Maybe the problem was a one-time occurrence.
thank you for taking the time for doing this, I ways wanted to see a comparison among these films.
Thanks Mitch, glad it was helpful. I am bummed I screwed up the Redscale, but such is life. Also, I love Lomography for giving us such cool emulsion options to experiment with.
Both enjoyable and useful comparison, I didn’t know about the redscale but know I see it is quite interesting, the pond was turned into a nuclear sunset. The fun when taking the tests certainly is felt in viewing the pictures : )
Appreciate the feedback!
All a question of taste I guess, but I’m not sold on the woman in the series photographed in Turquoise; makes her look like a “schtroumpfs” puppet…. LOL, as for the other 3 in the set…. BRAVO !!! Thanks for the article, excellent review! I’ve been using all four films for a long time now, they are fun and gets your creativity going. I tried Lomo Redscale, it’s nice, but I prefer making my own, by inverting different type of films… as a pointer, I find that FujiColor film gives the best result. In my WEB site (Address listed below) in the Personal Project section), you will find some samples of the work I’ve done in RedScale. Cheers
I had to google “schtroumpfs puppet”, we know them as Smurfs in the US. Lol. Thanks!
I do love “Hill” on Redscale.
Excellent comparison, thanks for sharing your impressions!
Thanks Martin, that one is a fave of mine too