I can't recall what made me try the Lomography 400 to begin with. But I had heard that it was quite a versatile film roll and also one that is available quite readily. I'm also quite familiar with the Lomography brand as I have fond memories of the colorsplash camera I once got for Christmas from my parents. So I thought, why not give it a go?
After seeing the resulting photos, I have to say that my take on the Lomography 400 is quite an alternative to the norm. But I'll get to my point in a second!
Lomography 400: Cold Hard Facts
You can't mention the Lomography 400 film roll without first mentioning the Lomography brand itself, and there is a lot to be said about the company. According to their website, The Lomographic Society is a global organization dedicated to experimental and creative analog photography that was originally established in 1992. The term "lomography", however, has increasingly been used to describe a specific genre of photography that incorporates the use of oversaturation, distortion, blurring, and multiple exposures, resulting in kooky and quirky photos.
Staying true to this quirky genre, the company has a line of many unique color-negative films, like the Lomochrome Torquise and Purple. In comparison to these film rolls, the Lomography 400, is in fact quite ordinary, although that is not necessarily a negative thing.
Lomography does not make their own film rolls so their rolls are manufactured by others. Rumor has it that the Lomography 400 is actually manufactured by Kodak and is just the Kodak Ultramax 400 in disguise. Although, I would have to disagree with this popular opinion just by comparing the results I have of both film rolls using the same camera.
As the name suggests, the Lomography 400 is a 400-speed film stock. It is a color-negative film that has been developed for both 35mm (36 exposures) and 120mm film cameras (10-16 exposures depending on format). Retail price naturally depends on where you get it from, but typically ranges from €9.50 - €13.00.
Lomography 400 in Action
I used box speed and loaded the Lomography 400 into my Ricoh 35 EFS to try it out in the midst of summer in the Mediterranean. The photos that I like the most are well-contrasted and saturated, with a hint of that rustic, vintage look that feels unique to Lomography.
With wide exposure latitude, 400-speed film rolls typically offer flexibility in terms of shooting under different light conditions. I didn't exactly put the Lomography 400 to the test here as I barely shot under low light conditions. But I have to say, I really wish I had, just to see how the film reacts to different conditions. Because here comes the bad news... I find that the film roll reacts quite poorly to overexposure, resulting in dull, muted and washed photos. It is almost as if the whites and highlights are perpetuated, dimming the otherwise vivid colors of the objects.
See what I mean below.
In the top photo, I could almost see a hint of saturation and contrast around the object in focus. It just feels like the colors have not fully popped, and are instead pulled back by this overall wash of highlights stemming from the overexposure to the bright sky. You can see this even more clearly in the photo in the mid-left corner.
With the photo in the mid-right corner, you could see the difference between the top (the part more exposed to the sun) and bottom (the part less exposed to the sun) half of the photo. And I find the difference to be quite contrasting, with the top, more exposed part, having a washed feeling that seems to drag. Although, if you close your eyes to the top part for a second I could even grow to like the tone of the bottom half of the photo.
The muted, washed tone is perhaps less visible with the photo in the bottom right corner. But you could still see it in the whites, and even greens in the photo.
Granted, the sun was glaring for the majority of the time, but I had expected the film roll to handle overexposure better. Especially as I am also comparing it to the performance of the Kodak Portra 400, which I had also tried shooting with the same camera, and under pretty much the same lighting conditions. Of course, the Portra 400 costs at least 1.5x the Lomography 400, and even close to twice the amount in some other countries.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I, for one, am not a big fan of the Lomography 400. I can't say that the film roll handles overexposure well, considering the muted, and washed feel that the photos get from it. And even in photos where no overexposure takes place, I am still not over the top with the balance of contrast, saturation, and tone that the film produces.
As I said, I would have loved to test out the film roll under lower lighting conditions, and I would definitely do so in the future. Otherwise, I would even try shooting it not at box speed, but perhaps underexposing it.
There is no denying that the relatively low price tag is a big plus. But considering that I am not finishing film roll after film roll at an industrial pace, I think it is worth investing in a slightly more expensive roll to get just the vibes that I am after, like the ones offered by the Kodak Portra 400, for example.