What I’ve learned from my LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400 experiences: A user’s guide

Lomography’s LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400 is definitely an interesting film. Until shooting it in late 2019, I had never tried a ‘special effects’ film before and surprisingly, I liked it. But there are some caveats that never seem to be mentioned in Lomography’s posts and promotions. This is not so much intended as a film review, but guidelines that I believe will help you enjoy your first roll of LomoChrome Purple. I do have some personal opinions about the film, but I’ll save those to the end.

Perhaps like many of you, I got caught up in the most recent LomoChrome Purple ordering frenzy; a limited edition film soon to be available again. And then we waited…because delivery was delayed due to…I don’t actually remember why. But when it arrived I was so excited! The image above is one of my favorites from my first 35mm roll, a Sacred Datura from my garden. But it’s not a typical result, and consistency seemed hard to attain in the beginning. Below is a more typical image from that same roll following the ‘rules’ I discuss in the article:

Looking for consistency

I realize that most photographers rarely post or discuss unexpected results. But coming from my background in remote sensing and satellite image processing, when I have an unexpected result I need to know why. I shot my first roll in my Mamiya 7 (See results in the next section).  was expecting an exciting world or purpleness, which was sometimes there and sometimes not. All three images were from the same roll of film, with the mountain images shot on the same day. 

After looking through my notes, I found my answers in the conditions under which the images were captured. The effective film exposure was the key and the angle of the sun to the object being viewed had a significant effect on image results. The exposure provided by your light meter (I’ll call it the metered exposure) is not necessarily the exposure experienced by the film, hence my terminology: effective film exposure, in other words, what the film sees.

The importance of sun angle on effective exposure

I had touched upon this in a previous blog post and here are those results from my very first roll through my Mamiya 7. Image number #1, purple loveliness, just what I was expecting. I had my best purple result with the Sun at an angle of 90 degrees (sun to the left behind a cloud).

Shooting into the Sun enhanced the oranges and reds. Lomography does make some reference to color shifts on their webpage but suggests changing the ISO to create color shifts. I didn’t quite experience the color shifts as mentioned on their site. The direction of the sunlight coming into your image scene can also change the exposure. Compare this to an SFX-200 image taken at the same time.

Note that the ideal sun angle for an effective exposure that agrees with the meter exposure places the image scene between 90 to 180 degrees from the Sun’s direction. In my most recent LomoChrome Purple 35mm roll shown (first example above and more below), I was careful with the sun angle and had an entire roll of purpleness, but not quite as good as the very purple Lily Lake.

That image was taken late in the afternoon with some cloud cover, while the 35mm images were taken in late morning with a bright sky, so the time of day also matters. Now, not all of the images were interesting (purpleness makes no guarantees when it comes to the subject) but the point is, if you stick with this sun angle effective exposure guidelines and perhaps shoot later in the day, the results of your images will be more consistent.

Keep in mind also that if you want to recreate that bizarre blue the skies need to have heavy overcast skies or underexpose your film. Also, a bright sky in the view will be almost white. The film obviously does not respond well to blue light.

Pinhole surprises

One might have taken the hint from my “shooting into the Sun” image above, that lots of sunlight might not work out so well. I did not take that hint, and set out for Diana Day to shoot some architectural scenes with my Diana Pinhole Camera:

Oooooops! That turned out not to be a good idea. Exposures were about 1 minute long and I don’t want to waste space here, but if you need to see the complete disaster follow this link.

The conditions were not outrageous and should not have been unexpected; it was a very bright sunny day. And yes, I could try again (and probably will) on a less sunny day with shorter exposure times and perhaps a better camera like my RSS Pinhole.  couldn’t resist the challenge so I performed a quickie film time test using my RSS 6X9F to settle this issue:

We can see that at 20 seconds the purple still holds; by 30 seconds it is breaking down; and by 40 seconds it is gone!

What about altitude?

I have also wondered if the environment where I live may be a problem. I live at 5,300ft (1615 meters) along the Colorado Front Range. That means less atmosphere and lots of bright sunlight with clouds being a rarity. I can find more clouds when I go to higher altitudes.

Most of my photographic activity occurs between 5,300ft and 14,000ft (1615-4267 meters). This just might not provide ideal conditions for LomoChrome Purple either. I’d appreciate hearing from other higher elevation inhabitants regarding their Lomo Purple experiences. Also, if you live at sea level, contact me. Maybe I can send you some film and have you report how your altitude effects the result

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve never been particularly attracted to special effects films. This was my first go around. And I did like it, but I’ll be more careful with my camera choices and photographic conditions. I do prefer this film to cross-processing slide film. That’s just a waste of good film.

When will I use it again? When I am looking for abstraction, especially for scenes that I have photographed many times before. It is quite grainy regardless of the lighting conditions. If you are a fan of grain, go for it!

Camera Details

Mamiya 7 for the medium format images; Diana Multi Pinhole (medium format); and 35mm images from the Minolta X-700. RSS 6X9 Pinhole for the timing tests. The Mamiya and Minolta exposures were at ISO 100 and using metered exposure times from the internal camera light meters. The Diana pinholes were 60 seconds – I was relying on my Portra 160 pinhole exposures and that didn’t work well. All film was developed by my New Hampshire friends Old School Photo Lab.

LomoChrome Purple technical specifications

NameLomography LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400Lomography LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400
ManufacturerLomography
TypeColor (negative)
Native ISO100-400
Format(s)16mm, 35mm, 120
35mm DX codedNi
Spectral sensitivity
Normal processC-41
Cross processBW reversal
Push process+2
Exposure latitude3-5 stops
Verified manufacturerLomography

I’ve recently re-read their specs. Hmmmmmmm, not sure I’m seeing all of these color transformations? So the Journey continues. I will try to recreate all of the effects listed on the website. For more details….check out the Lomography website.

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Kathleen Johnson
Kathleen Johnson is a World Traveler, Outdoors Adventurer, Research Scientist and Photographer. She has been making photographs since childhood, but began serious photography as an undergraduate taking her first B&W photography class, and renewed an interest in B&W while living in Monterey, California, studying photography at Monterey Peninsula College. Kathleen’s preferred subjects are: Landscapes and Architecture. She makes silver prints in her own home darkroom.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I have shot several rolls of Lomochrome purple and really do love it. I like to shoot on the backside of it like redscale and prefer it that way getting just purple tones and almost inky in some cases although it’s an expensive to shoot it that way. That’s the only downside for myself the cost.

  2. Thanks for this it’s a very useful read. I’ve used Lomo Purple once myself and although I got some pretty decent images I’ve not been rushing to use it again. The results can look too contrived and i’m not sure how many purple photos I need in my life. The remaining films i have of this will probably take me years to find the right subject….

  3. Great post Kathleen. I just shot a roll of “Double Bubble”, similar experience with it being very light dependent as to the psychedelics!

    • I did get some purple images on overcast days. One of the reviewers (on another page) didn’t like my explanation and wanted me to do scanner tests. So I took the image out and sent the article to @EMULSIVEfilm.

  4. Fascinating read! I have used a couple of rolls of Lomo purple, and found similar colour unpredictability. I came to the conclusion that whatever the colour layers are in the emulsion, they have crossed curves, so that the colour shifts with over or under exposure, hence Lomography’s advice to change ISO to shift the colour. And your pinhole results would suggest that it also has serious colour shifts due to reciprocity failure……..
    I ‘spose it is an “experimental film” after all. And I got my best results (including turquoise skies) in bright sunlight at sea level! If you are shooting at altitude could UV levels be a factor?

    • Thanks for that inout. I am sure that the UV is a problem. Most of the published Lomo Purple on the internet are from near sea level locations.

  5. Thank you so much for the fascinating write up on this topic Kathleen! I have only shot one or two rolls of the Lomo purple back when the first run was out and I did not enjoy my results what so ever so I put the remaining rolls in the freezer where they remain today. I also shot in full sun, I guess I will have to pull out a roll and give it another go! I always enjoy reading about others trial and errors, and you are correct many do not post about unexpected result (unless they’re amazing!) so thanks for opening up the discussion!

    • Eventhoguh I understand it now, I’m not sure that I will do a lot more shooting with it. I too have a few rolls in the freezer. Ready to give away if anybody is interested.

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