Lomography 800 Review (35mm Film & Lomo 800 120 Portraits)
Have you been tempted by Lomography film but haven’t tried it yet? That was my position too until very recently. In this Lomography 800 review I test both Lomo 800 120 film and Lomo 800 35mm film stocks. See the results I obtained (mostly Lomo 800 portraits) below and my first impressions!
Lomography 800 film test
If you’ve read my Lomography Petzval 85 Art lens review you will know I have worked with the awesome Lomography guys before. Lomography UK kindly sent me some of their Lomo 800 film to try out and I share the results below.
I test 35mm Lomo 800 film with a Leica M4-P camera in Tenerife. For 120 Lomo 800 film I used two different medium format folding cameras. A Fuji GF670 using the 6×6 film format in the UK and a Fujica GS645 6×4.5 camera in Romania. (Cameras linked below).
How did this Lomography film test come about?
When Kodak increased all their film prices earlier this year I started to look at alternative film emulsions to try. For black and white films there are many film stocks available but when it comes to colour film the options are more limited. This is especially true if you want colour 120 film for medium format cameras. There are various budget colour films such as Fujicolor C200, Kodak Colorplus 200, Kodak Gold 200 and so on but all these films are only made in 35mm film format. For this reason I wanted to try Lomo 800 as a cheaper colour film for my Hasselblad 501C, Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, Mamiya 7, Mamiya 6 and so on!
120 colour negative films
If like me you are looking for 120 colour negative film for portraits the options become reduced to a handful. Kodak Portra (160, 400, 800), Kodak Ektar 100, Fuji Pro 400H, Cinestill (50D and 800T) and Lomography film (as the common options). One film I keep seeing mentioned on social media is Lomography 800 but they also offer Lomo 100 and Lomo 400 films. I have already tried all the non-Lomography mentioned films so I was keen to give Lomography film a try.
Mixed reviews online
If you’ve every searched for Lomography 800 review online you will probably find mixed reviews. Some photographers seem to like it, other less so. Lomography film seems to be considered a budget film stock but the film price doesn’t reflect this. I think the film was cheaper when it was first released but the often bad reviews and some of the results put me off trying it. Some call in a fun film, others not for serious application. Some suggest it is rebranded old film stock but I have no details on this. I wanted to give Lomo 800 a try anyway and kept an open mind.
Poor image quality
If like me you use Flickr or Google images as a resource for example photos you are probably going to be disappointed. As with many of the photos I view when researching a lens or camera, you need to go through pages of images to find a few good photos. If you search Lomography 800 film you will find more bad quality photos than you can count. I’m sure this doesn’t help with sales of this film as it would be very easy to be put off buying Lomography film from such photos. (Maybe it is just me and I’m picky in my old age but I expect reasonable image quality from my kit).
I’m happy to see quirky colours or film quirks in general but some photos are just not inspiring. (I’m trying to stay polite). With all of that said I saw a few photos that gave me hope so I was keen to try some Lomo 800 film for myself.
120 Lomography 800 film
For my 120 Lomography 800 film test I wanted to give the film a fair chance. I chose two well regarded cameras, first the amazing Fuji GF670 (aka Voightländer Bessa III) and next the maybe less known Fujica GS645 camera. Both are Fuji medium format folding cameras.
Fuji GF670 + Lomo 800 film (Daytime shoot)
I shot the Fuji GF670 in 6×6 format to give me 12 photos per roll. It also offers 6×7 format as the name suggests but that only give 10 photos per roll. For the 1-2-1 photography workshop I ran in Birmingham I took a roll of Lomo 800 film to try. I knew there would be some colourful scenes to photograph and I had a good model booked. I chose the Fuji GF670 as I needed a compact medium format camera to fit in my bag. With the Hasselblad 501C and Mamiya RZ67 I tend to crop closer so the model fills most of the photo. With the Fuji GF670 it works well for environmental portraits and so I could capture colours in the background behind the models. The GF670 also has a very sharp less so it would show the film at it’s best.
120 Lomo 800 Portraits
All photos were shot in available light and from memory overexposed in camera perhaps 1-2 stops. This means I shot Lomo 800 film at ISO 400 or ISO 200. Why? The maximum shutter speed on the GF670 is 1/500 and I didn’t want to shoot all the photos at say f11. I know you can over expose colour film quite easily so I was not afraid to do so. When Cinestill 800T film hit the market a few years ago I used to shoot it at ISO 100-800 happily.
Film scans – Lomo 800 120 with the Fuji GF670
The results – Lomo 800 portraits working with models Maddison and Casey. The Lomography film was developed in the lab in C41 chemistry and then scanned at home with a Epson V800 flatbed scanner. I cleaned up the photos shared large (linked from my Flickr stream) and the other images were just quickly put through Lightroom.
Film scans and thoughts – UK model photoshoot
Very impressed with the film scans from the Birmingham photoshoot using Lomography film. Amazing details captured on the big 6×6 Lomo 800 negatives and nice colours too. Flattering skin tones with a warm look and vibrant reds, yellows and greens. Much better than expected.
Lomo 800 vs Kodak Gold 200 film
During my workshop I was also using my Leica M3 loaded with 35mm Kodak Gold 200 film. To see how the films compare here are some Kodak Gold portraits from the same day.
Kodak Gold portraits (as a comparison)
Fuji GS645 + Lomography 800 film (Day and night)
After over exposing my first two rolls (1x 120, 1x 35mm (see below) of Lomography 800 for my third roll I wanted to test it properly. That being to expose the film at ISO 800 and darker (ISO 1600+) and use the film at night. I had the Fujica GS645 folding camera with me for my trip to Romania so I packed the 120 Lomo 800 film. I shot a few frames with a model, Patricia and then the camera seemed to stop working so that was it for that day.
(It felt like the film was not advancing so that night I unloaded the film back at the apartment (under my duvet!) then reloaded it and hoped it would work. There is a light leak on one of the portraits. I can’t remember if I opened the back in daylight when the camera stopped but either way it is user error not a film defect).
For the rest of the Lomo 800 120 images I shot scenes as I walked around the city of Cluj. It was raining and almost dark when I took some of the photos yet it looks like daylight in the pictures. I was shooting at ISO 800 but my Sekonic lightmeter died so I was guessing the exposure at one stage. I shot the Fuji GS645 Fujinon lens wide open and f3.5 at 1/30 for some photos to try to get enough light into the cameras.
Film scans and thoughts – Romania
After returning from Romania and seeing the images I was very happy with the Lomo 800 film scans. The film colours, sharpness, subtle grain structure and broad exposure latitude all exceeded my expectations.
120 Lomography 800 sample photos
Lomo 800 vs Kodak Portra 160
When shooting Lomo 800 film in the GS645 in Romania I was also using a Leica CL / Minolta CL) (film camera). The Leica was loaded with 35mm Kodak Portra 160 so not suited to night photography yet both films are comparable. Why?
Medium format cameras often have slow lenses compared to 35mm cameras. For example if I used my Fuji GA645 camera it has a fixed 60mm f4 lens and say the Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM lens on the Leica CL film camera.
In this example if I use an f4 lens and Lomo 800 film this gives the same exposure as using a 100 speed film with an f1.4 lens. A f1.4 lens is 3 stops faster than f4 and ISO 100 is 3 stops slower than ISO 800. I tend to shoot Portra 160 @100 which slightly over exposes the film but roughly speaking photos with the mentioned lenses and films will give comparable image. As such this is why I share the following 35mm Portra 160 film scans. It helps to give a reference point when comparing the colours and tones from each film.
35mm Kodak Portra 160 sample photos- Romania
Leica M4-P + 35mm Lomography 800 film
For my photoshoot trip to Tenerife I packed a roll of 35mm Lomography 800 film to try. The camera I was using for this was a Leica M4-P rangefinder camera. Almost all images were taken with a Topcor 50mm f2 LTM mount lens, via an adapter. Due to the bright conditions I exposed the Lomo 800 film at either ISO 100, 200 and 400. Even though I had not used Lomography film before I felt quite comfortable to over expose Lomo 800 film. Almost all colour negative films benefit from additional light as film retains highlight detail easier than shadow information.
Lomo 800 35mm sample photos
I was using multiple cameras and film stocks in Tenerife but here are some sample images with Lomo 800 35mm film. Larger images can be clicked on to view full size.
Tenerife Lomo 800 35mm film photos – Thoughts
As with the Lomo 800 120 photos above I was very pleased with the 35mm film results. I appreciated the warm tones captured by the film and it worked perfectly to record the hot sunshine photoshoot images. Cooler film tones would have painted the wrong picture and different to how I remember Tenerife. Overexposing Lomo 800 film generally worked well for my taste. I especially like the fine grain structure and highlight detail was still retained well. Some images are perhaps I little to bright which probably resulted in the pastel shades-quirkier colour pallet but overall very happy.
800 Speed colour films
When looking to buy ISO 800 speed colour film the options are quite limited. For medium format photography (120 format) you can use Cinestill 800, Kodak Portra 800 or Lomography 800 films. 35mm cameras need less light as have faster lenses available. I normally use ISO 100, 200 and 400 speed films in the Leica cameras I use.
Kodak Portra 800 vs Lomography 800
Kodak Portra 800 is the most popular choice for ISO 800 film if you are looking for a professional colour negative film. For paying clients Portra captures flattering skin tones and natural colours. Portra 800 is very popular for analogue wedding photography when there is often insufficient daylight. As Portra colours are more normal looking it perhaps doesn’t offer the same excitment as Lomography 800. I think Lomo 800 adds a bit of fun to images and I like the vibrant colour pop.
120 Kodak Portra 800 example photos
Cinestill 800 vs Lomography 800
An equally popular ISO 800 colour film is Cinestill 800T. Unlike Kodak Portra 800 and Lomography 800 films Cinestill is tungsten balanced not daylight balanced. This means colours look accurate when the film is shot in warm/ tungsten light. In daylight it is recommended an 85B warming filter is used on the lens. Lomography 800 is better for skin tones in my experience, vs. Cinestill 800. If you use both films in daylight Lomo 800 actually gives an extra stop of light compared to Cinestill. If you use an 85B warming filter it cuts 1 stop of light going into the lens making the ISO 800 film into an ISo 400 film. For daytime photography my choice would be Lomography 800 for the interesting colours yet good skin tones.
For night photography there is no question that Cinestill 800T is an amazing film. It offers the Cinestill halation look too where street lights glow that no other film can offer. Lomography 800 film performs well at night and offers a different colour pallete to Cinestill.
120 Cinestill 800 example images
Final Verdict – Lomography 800 vs Cinestill 800 vs Portra 800
For night photography I will use Cinestill 800T film for the halation effect and and the tungsten light balance. When I have paying clients and film wedding photography I will use Kodak Portra films for reliable results and pleasing skin tones. For travel photography, creative photos and fun photoshoots I will not hesitate to use Lomography 800 film. Lomo 800 is a great film and well worth a try!
YouTube – Lomography 800 Review
See my interview / article shared by Lomography.com – Lomo 800 Film