Lomography is a company with which I have a love-hate relationship. I hate the over-hyped cameras at exorbitant prices, making simple toy cameras and the “Don’t Think, Just Shoot” a luxury that only a few can attain. However, I really appreciate that a company is still interested in promoting the use of film as a medium to allow artists to express themselves, bringing back old film emulsions and formats and creating a community of sharing their ideas and creations.
While I would never buy a “La Sardina” or a LOMO LC-A 120 for double the price of a Bronica, the film option actually doesn’t seem too bad. A pack of three “Lomography CN 400” is very similar in price to buying three rolls of Ultramax 400 or Superia 400. So I decided to give it a go, and surprisingly I loved it!
|Available formats||35mm (Pack of 3), 120mm (Pack of 3)|
120mm: Depending on format
Lomography is believed to be an old Kodak emulsion, specifically the Kodak VR 400. Old emulsion doesn’t mean that the film is expired or old discontinued film that would give irregular results. It is a new fresh film with an old chemical emulsion. The Kodak VR was replaced in the 90s for the Gold Series, the VR 200 is believed to be the current Colorplus 200. The Kodak VR 400 was really popular in the 80s. For that very reason, the Lomography CN 400 gives this really cool vintage feeling, with really vivid and contrasting colors.
I took these three rolls camping around Taiwan, Spain, and Southern France. I normally like high-speed films, and especially with changing light, different weather conditions and a slow 24-120mm f3.5-5.6 the Lomography CN 400 pairs perfectly with this setup.
There is a major issue with this film. When shot at box speed (ISO 400) the film came surprisingly underexposed, although the colors were vibrant and intense, the shadows and dark colors were totally lost. Shooting overexposing for half a step, setting ISO 320 on your camera, will give much more natural colors, still vibrant, but recovering much more detail from shadows and more pleasant colors, especially if there are people in the picture. So, personally, I do not recommend shooting at box speed, I recommend to always overexpose, for at least 1/2 step, even a full step if you are planning to use it for portraits.
Blue tones are beautiful at any exposure, at iso400 will give very radiant and vivid light blue colors, the slightly overexposed brilliant blue tones will become more natural. Here is an example of the two different kinds of skies that we can obtain with the Lomography CN 400.
Same goes for the red tones, they are bright and vivid when overexposed, like the pillars in the bottom picture of the temple. However, when shot at box speed, the red becomes shiny and kind of fluorescent, like the lanterns in the picture of the door at the top of this review.
Yellow tones, although, are not as bright as blue and red. They give really strong golden tones (more like an egg yolk). Describing the hue as such might seem like an unpleasant color. However, actually taking a look at the pictures, like the one of the lantern or the train in the bottom, I felt that it was somehow pleasant.
Green tones are pleasant, they do not stand out for being too bright like blues or reds, but they are also not washed out. I wouldn’t use this film as a primary choice for landscapes, but this film was not oriented to shoot landscapes anyways.
Ultimately, I shot different portraits in different lighting situations of some friends with lighter skin tones and darker skin tones under natural light and direct flash, to see how this film reacts to different situations. You can click to enlarge this gallery.
The skin colors are surprisingly natural, considering that the Lomography CN 400 is not a portrait film per se. I like this film more than other cheap alternatives like Superia 400. Definitely not better than Portra or 400H, but definitely really good results for the price, especially under natural light.
Color chart and measurement of the colors.
RED Average Colour R:206.0 G:105.0 B:71.0
GREEN Average Colour R:139.0 G:152.0 B:72.0
BLUE Average Colour R:77.0 G:112.0 B:144.0
YELLOW Average Colour R:224.0 G:168.0 B:57.0
You can take also a look on this article on How do I measure the colors?
This film ticks all the boxes for me, cheap, easy to find (most big cities have a Lomography store, otherwise online.), high-iso without a crazy grain and, most importantly, it gives a really interesting color palette, very colorful and vintage at the same time. It is different from the Portra 400 or Fuji 400H pastel tones that we see so often online. It is more in the range of Kodak Ultramax or Superia 400.
I’m surprised but not afraid to recognize that Lomography has done a great job marketing this film. It is the perfect film for their cameras, colorful and with a great latitude, underexposing or overexposing it will give exceptional and splashy results. If you like compact cameras, it pairs perfectly with the small aperture that they have, independently of using flash or not. If you use an SLR/Rangefinder it can be your everyday film too, since it adapts well to any situation or light that you may encounter.
There are a couple of drawbacks, you have to buy a three-roll pack. If you just want to try out this film, or you just need it for a special occasion, you have to buy the complete box. In my opinion, it has to be Overexposed, I would never shoot this film at 400 again. Minimum ISO320 or 200 would be the chosen speed, making this film a little bit slower in real use.
- For daily use, load it in any kind of camera and expect great results, harsh light, flash, it will resolve pretty well for its price
- Great latitude, perfect for any kind of camera (including their own Lomo ones)
- Bright and vivid colors, can make picturesque images even in dull spaces.
- Not the best for landscape, grainy and not bright green colors.
- It has to be overexposed, so not a real 400 ISO.
Check out the gallery for more shots taken with the Lomography CN400.