film reviews

Shooting Berlin in Berlin, a few rolls with Lomography Berlin Kino Black and White

It was pretty coincidental that Lomography would release Berlin Kino Black and White negative film around the same time that I would be traveling to Berlin to continue the tattoo project. When taking a big trip like this it's probably advisable to bring along tools that you are really comfortable with and that you can rely on. While I mainly shoot Ilford HP5 at 1600 for the entire project I really couldn't miss the opportunity to use some Berlin in the city it was named after.

The tattoo project is a great way to stress test black and white films. I'll need to push Berlin Kino to 1600 to use it indoors where I'm never sure of what type of lighting I'll deal with. I used one roll indoors and at Erntezeit Tatoiwergun and another roll exploring Kreuzberg, the neighborhood that I was staying in, and also took a few shots in Austin, TX.

Lomography touts the Berlin Kino being a cinema film with high dynamic range. I was a little surprised about the images from the tattoo shop coming back a little soft, flat and grainy when pushed at ISO 1600. The images outdoors shot at box speed faired a little bit better and highlight some of the advantages of Berlin Kinoç. Images have a pretty flat contrast profile and expanded dynamic range, giving you the ability to really adjust your images in post. Out of the box your images with Berlin Kino are not going to be extreme in either look or tone.

I couldn't find any real faults with the images that came back, but I also didn't feel like they fit my preferences for low grain and high contrast. Lomography has a knack for understanding the market and making films that constantly surprise me. While my feelings using Berlin Kino are less joyous than Lomography Color 800, I still feel proud that they are putting out news films and takings risks.

Lomography 800 Color Negative Review, Versatilely with little Compromise

My local camera store always has Lomography film in stock and I was surprised to see they had a new 800 speed color negative film in medium format. I've been shooting with Lomography 800 Color for a few months now and it's been something that has really surprised me.

Lomography 800 Color is a really great value. At only 6$ a roll it's an affordable film that gives you a much needed higher ISO for shooting with slower lenses. I reach for 800 speed film when I'm shooting in situations that I'm unsure how great the lighting scenarios will be. In the winter and fall this is pretty much anywhere outside and indoors in Texas.

During the summer and spring months it is also a great tool for shooting with toy cameras like the Diana and Holga. The extra stop of ISO gives you a little wiggle room for clouds and shadows. Spending a few extra dollars a roll for more exposure gives me a lot of peace of mind when developing my film too, and I'd gladly take a slightly overexposed shot than losing a shot or details to underexposure.

I was also surprised with the look of Lomography 800 Color. While Lomography has a reputation for giving images that looks like expired film I found Lomography 800 Color to be a wonderful performer. It gives you a slightly warmer tone and the emulsion constantly gives you brilliant oranges and yellows. Color rendition is accurate and never loud, it's less saturated than Ektar but doesn't lose anything in accuracy or detail either.

At the end of the day Lomography 800 Color is my second favorite color film, Kodak Ektar 100 being first, it's the 120 color film that I use the most because it's versatility allows me to shoot with more cameras and in more situations. I'll admit it's not the greatest color film in medium format but it's found a permanent spot in my current film rotation.

Kodak Ektar 100, My Favorite Medium Format Color Film

When it comes to 120 film you don't have as many choices with color film, or even black and white film for the matter. When you think medium format my tendency was to first consider slide films but the flexibility and cost savings of C-41 make it fit my workflow much better. What I look for in every film is versatility, consistency and value. And after 3 years of shooting various color films in 120, I've landed on Kodak Ektar 100 as my favorite color film for medium format.

Versatility

It seems a bit counterintuitive that a 100 speed film would be really versatile but the thing that makes Ektar great is the ability of it to be overexposed 3-4 stops with little downsides. When shooting medium format cameras like Hasseblad 500CM and Rolleiflexes, I'm less inclined to make quick changes in focus, aperture and shutter speed. My favorite combination at the moment is to have a 50mm lens on the 500CM and keep the aperture fixed at F4 and shutter speed at 125. This exposes the shadow fine in direct sunlight and allows me to hand hold the camera. It also adds the risk of overexposing the film multiple stops.

With other C42 films like Lomography 800 pushing the film 3-4 stops results in a pretty big loss of contrast and saturation. Ektar absorbs the extra stops well and only gives you a slight color shift, deep blues turn turquoise, and the images keep their characteristic contrast.

When shot at box speed and accurately exposed the film is saturated and contrasty. I especially likes how vibrantly Ektar renders reds and greens. It's a perfect film for landscapes and nature. Ektar is a natural extension of Kodachrome, albeit with toned down saturation and vibrancy.

The one downside of Ektar is that its ISO is so low. I only shoot Ektar when the sun is out and I have a lens that can stop down to at least F4. If it's cloudy out or getting later in the day I'll have to make sacrifices that are uncomfortable with Ektar. Either using specific lenses with larger apertures or lowering my shutter speed and hoping my hands don't shake.

Consistency

I haven't had a bad roll of Ektar yet even while making mistakes. The film reacts consistently to all lighting scenarios and is something I'm comfortable using in many different cameras. It's something I trust the more I use it and now something I can predict how how images will come out. That gives me a lot of pacee of mind in using it as a film for every scenario. Basically I grab it and go, it'll be fine.

Value

You'd think that a film this consistent with such good color rendition would cost a lot but Ektar currently hovers around $5 a roll and $25 for a five pack, a bargain. With Ektar I get a characteristic look I really enjoy at a really great price point. It's a great film to start with and a great film to get stuck with in the long run.

In the end Ektar comes out on top because it behaves nicely and gives me a consistent image that I'm happy with. While there are maybe better options out there in terms of color rendition and possibly quality I don't think anything matches the value proposition of Ektar. It's the film you'll find me shooting on most days with nearly every medium format camera I own.

Lomochrome Purple Review, the Fun in Fuchsia

In 2009 Richard Mosse took his camera and Kodak Aerochrome film into the Congo to capture the war and fallout in a vibrant and other worldly palette of purples, pinks and reds. The infrared film which was notoriously difficult to work with; needing to be kept refrigerated and extremely expensive, made his images stand out from the traditional ways conflicts were covered. His work and the book of his photos not only changed the way that we looked at how you can cover a conflict but was a very influential way of using color to bring new light to an old story.

Platon, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2012. PHOTO: Richard Mosse

Platon, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2012. PHOTO: Richard Mosse

While less obvious, the introduction of video and the heavy usage of filters enable photographers to add texture and shape to an image by simply shifting the colors in post production. I don't believe images should be defined by it but having an interesting use of color doesn't hurt. For Lomography whose whole MO is to create cameras and films that leverage the organic and random nature of film (light leaks, color shifts with expired film, and more room for mistakes) introducing a Lomochrome Purple (LMP) that mimics Kodak Aerochrome makes a lot of sense.

While shooting with LMP is not a cheap experience it is a fun one. Lomochome purple is a variable ISO film, meaning at higher ISOs with less light hitting the negative scene's have less colors and more contrast. I'm usually shooting to overexposure all my films, I like the look at a really low ISOs (25-50 ASA) with LMP where the images are well exposed, contrasty, and the color shift effect is greatly controlled.

Compared to the vivid colors that Mosse obtained with Aerochrome LMP is much milder. The images clearly are shifted to brilliant purples and reds but aren't as radioactive as Aerochrome. Shooting LMP I'm looking for the greenest areas of Austin that I can find and try to mix in complementary elements like dirt, water and buildings. Luckily Austin is very green and the images came out pretty great.

Here are some tips to get better results with LMP. Shooting LMP later in the day near golden hours gives you much more contrast and stronger colors. If you want a usable image shooting the film at much lower speeds (25-100 ASA) and overexposing is going to give you an easier image to manipulate. To get a much more contrasty and graphic image I'd recommend shooting at ISO 400. Lastly using a lens hood at whatever speed is going to keep contrast high.

Lomochrome Purple is more than a gimmick. It's a useful tool to change the color of a very green world and a versatile film that can express different looks on the same roll. That's not a simple task and something I love that Lomography supports and pushes. While it's hard to find LMP in 35mm I think it's much more effective and beautiful in 120 where the negatives are much larger and forgiving.

If you found this review helpful please use this link to purchase Lomochrome Purple. It helps support this page and allows me to use and shoot other films.