dinosaur mock-up at night

Lomography 800 Film Review – by Christian Schroeder

In this article, I’m going to talk about some of my impressions from Lomography 800 (35mm). I’m currently on a quest for color negative films I haven’t used yet. Having stuck to Kodak Portra almost exclusively for years, I now want to broaden my horizon. In contrast to my last post, which dealt with Fuji Superia 400, I shot more than one roll of the Lomo. This time I ran a total of three rolls through my Leicaflex.

As already mentioned in the Superia post, I don’t just shoot the film just for sake of testing it. Thus, please don’t expect real test shots here. I rather do what I would have done with a familiar film stock: look for a subject matter that arouses my interest and then take some photographs of it. I hope that this helps you anyway to get an idea of what this stock is capable of.

To illustrate my points, I will take you on a trip back to autumn. You are going to see natural subjects – forest scenes, colorful leaves – as well as industrial environments. I also tried to include a rather broad span of lighting situations. Therefore, you are going to encounter images taken under an overcast sky, other ones from the edge between day and night, and finally some long-time exposures with only artificial light available.

Short Profile of Lomography 800

Lomography 800 is a daylight-balanced color negative film rated at the fairly high speed of – surprise – ISO 800. For my shots, I almost gave up the advantage in speed and overexposed it by one or even two stops. High-speed films are usually associated with a higher amount of grain compared to films rated at a lower ISO. Spoiler alert, I didn’t get the impression that Lomo’s grain is distracting at all.

Lomography offers this material in 35mm and 120. The images within this article were all shot on 35mm film. According to some internet reviews, Lomography 800 is rebranded Kodak material. My lab, Carmencita in Spain, scanned the film with a preset meant for Kodak Gold. By the way: did you know that Kodak once offered the Gold in 120 format? Head over to the folks of emulsive and read Bill’s piece about it.

The Virtues of Autumn

Already in June, July I’m looking forward to the fleeting weeks in autumn, when the summer rapidly transforms into winter. Golden sunlight through the whole day, colorful leaves and also grey, foggy landscapes – the autumn holds many virtues for us photographers.

In some cases, I specifically held a look out for intense colors. In other cases, I wondered how Lomography 800 would render rather subtle tones. Could the film enhance colors, depict them more vibrantly? Well, I think it can. In the image with the different colored leaves, it is already too punchy for my taste. As a result, I will handle this film with care.

To find some rather exotic plants, I paid the city park (“Stadtpark”) a visit. Indeed, the park didn’t disappoint me. I especially like the trees from the Asian region / Japan (?). However, in retrospect I enjoy my images from the commonplace deciduous forest even more. Luminous yellow leaves in front of a dark wall of tree trunks: this is where I can almost grab the melancholia with my hands.

Let’s Get Colorful! Autumn Images on Lomography 800

Two photographs of a forest in autumn, shot on Lomography 800 film
Lately, I have been feeling an increasing attraction towards half frame cameras. Although these images stem from a full size negative, the half frame cameras inspired me to create some diptypchs. I think that’s also a good way to present portrait-oriented photographs here on this site, especially if they show some similarities.
two photographs: colorful autumn leaves and a rose, shot on Lomography 800
Two shots from the Stadtpark garden. Though most of the roses had already been trimmed back and covered for the winter, I found a single blossom that nicely stood out. Pay attention to Lomography 800’s intense colors here.
two photographs of plants in autumn
Advantage of SLR cameras over rangefinders: you can get really close.
diptych of two photographs, showing orange leaves and a crippeld tree-trunk
Well, I can’t resist the allure of an unusual tree trunk. This one might has just arisen from a fairy-tale book.
two photographs, one of tree trunks, the other one of two half-rotten pumpkins, both shot on Lomography 800 film
While on a bicycle trip, I came across a field full of partially rotten pumpkins. They differed in size, color and shape. Many of the pumpkins lay hidden between foliage. Therefore, photographing them reminded me of the hunt for easter eggs in my parents’ garden.

Industrial Environments (my Favorite Stuff)

There are several industrial areas in Hannover I regularly return to. If you now say: “Wait a minute, I think I know this place from one of your previous posts!”, you are probably right.

Imperfect things attract my attention far more often than impeccable ones. Industrial zones offer exactly this. They were built to earn money, not to appeal to the people. Facilities are being used and maintained. If their profitability decreases, they are often run down, abandoned and finally demolished. Photographing these places means to document transformations, transformations that likely happen faster than in other parts of the city. I guess that’s why I feel so heavily drawn to them.

Film photography veteran Matt Day used Lomography 800 to document an abandoned gas station in his hood. His video about his small outing inspired me to test out the Lomo in the first place. Matt does exactly what I love about such trips: visiting a previously spotted location, arriving there early and then waiting until the light reaches its sweet spot. Oftentimes, I could describe my own trips in this way: wait, wait, wait, still keep waiting, now shoot!, shoot more, faster!, go home.

Images of Industry – Lomography 800 at Dusk

old warehouses shot on Lomography 800 film

a red Citroen car parked at the side of a road, in front of a dark concrete wall
Oh, well! I can remember quite vividly the difficulties of this shot. For a nice separation, I opened up the lens to f/2. I wanted to set the focus on the Citroen’s left headlamp. However, daylight had already faded and I couldn’t recognize if I had achieved focus. So I had no choice but to stop the lens down to f/8 and set the focus by scale. Metering also proved problematic as the blinding street light and the concrete wall gave me very different readings. Therefore, I exposed by feel and hoped for the best. Lomography 800 did a great job here!

parking lots of a supermarket during dusk, shot on Lomography 800 film

storage area of a beverages market, shot on Lomography 800
This and the previous image show the unpretentious surroundings of a large supermarket me and my parents used to go when I was a kid. Though I haven’t been shopping there for many years, the place feels strangely familiar. Especially on a deserted Sunday afternoon, it still exhales an uneasy atmosphere.
Herrenhausen power plant at dusk
Herrenhausen power station. For more than hundred years, there was a large railway facility nearby. As they used to repair locomotives and carriages, they needed a lot of acetylene gas for welding. Today, wasteland surrounds the power station where once stood an acetylene plant. A facet of Hannover’s industrial past, gone without visual memory. Yet again I was born too late.

photograph of two pipelines at Herrenhausen power plant, shot on Lomography 800 film

Finally: Dinosaurs!

At the end of November, a museum around the corner installed three life-sized dinosaurs on their property. These models promote the museum’s new exhibition – dinosaurs and their representation in movies and TV.

I went there in the evening to photograph them, on the same day the dinosaurs had arrived. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t the only person taking images of the creatures that night. A group of two used a large permanent light mounted to a stand in order to illuminate the scenes. So I backed off and waited for them to clear. Without any lightning equipment, I had to take what was available, meaning long-time exposures. For once, Covid proved helpful. Thanks to the lockdown, the roads lay in a deep sleep and I could take my pictures without any distracting traffic in the background.

In the following days, the dinosaurs became a must-see for all families nearby. Since then it is virtually impossible to take a daylight photo of the saurians without a bunch of kids frolicking on and around them.

dinosaur mock-up at Landesmuseum in Hannover, Germany

dinosaur mock-up at Landesmuseum in Hannover, Germany

Closing Thoughts on Lomography 800

Lomography 800 is a great film. I used it in several different situations and environments I would usually take pictures. Without exception, it gave me nice results – not a single case I would have said afterwards “Too bad I haven’t taken that shot on Portra instead!”. Compared to the top dog just mentioned, Lomography 800 offers colors that are more bold and not that warm. Though not sold as a “professional” product, I don’t have to carp with the film’s grain or latitude. Thinking of the Fuji Superia 400 I also tested recently, I’m not sure which stock I would prefer for future assignments. Things I held against the Lomography are its ever limited availability and its price. Lately it has become so expensive that it sits price-wise closer to the professional stocks than to the consumer films.

No big surprise: In the end, it’s a matter of personal preference, willingness to spend money and the opportunity to get hold of the material. As for me, I will surely shoot Lomography 800 again.

Thanks for reading!

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10 thoughts on “Lomography 800 Film Review – by Christian Schroeder”

  1. Alan Withington

    These are wonderful photos, I especially love the dinosaurs. I have used and really like the Lomography 800, but like you say, it is hard to find! Best wishes Alan

  2. Matthias Steck

    Hi Christian,

    if you’re in search of new color negative films, did you try Silbersalz35 films ? These are quite cheap, because you get the film with development and scanning. I shot four rolls of Silbersalz 250D in 2020 and got some nice results.
    Scan quality is a bit of an issue though. Some of scans were just not sharp, but they made new scans for me, when they noticed the error, without any complaint by myself.
    The second scans are sharper, but still very hazy. I had to postprocess every shot using dehaze in Darktable.

    Unfortunately their film stocks are all quite slow, as you have to overexpose them by one step, shooting 250D at ISO125 and their fastest film 500T at ISO250.

    But if you’re ready to postprocess every shot, you can get nice results at a good price.

    Regards Matthias

    1. Christian Schroeder

      Hi Matthias,

      only a few weeks ago I was just about to order some of the Silbersalz films for the first time. However, I postponed this plan, as I want to focus more on consumer films this spring. I have cheap-ish stocks in mind, with rather fast speeds – something like Ultramax or Superia 400. For myself, I just proclaimed “the summer of point-and-shoots”: after I had lugged around bulky and complex equipment for the whole winter season (variety of lenses, medium format, tripod etc.), I’m now after a more casual type of shooting. Though I guess, I will consider Silbersalz again when my interest shifts back to more “ambitious” projects.

      What is your experience regarding the tungsten-type Silbersalz films? Have you used them for urban scenes during dusk or at night?

      Cheers, Christian

      1. Matthias Steck

        Hi Christian,

        unfortunately I don’t have any experience with their tungsten-type films as I’m using film almost exclusivly outdoor with “nice” (easy to handle) light conditions. I still don’t have the skills for shooting film in more demanding conditions.

        But I did use Ultramax 400 several times last year. In some rolls I didn’t like to colors, too artificial esp. on sunny days. But I shot a very nice roll of Ultramax 400 in autumn of my youngest daughter on a slightly overcast day with my Minolta SRT101 and Minolta 2.8/135 und 4/200mm lenses. Colors are totally different there, very natural, very nice skin tones.

        Regards Matthias

        1. Christian Schroeder

          Hi Matthias,

          thank you very much for the advice regarding Ultramax. Usually, I’m not a “nice weather” type of guy, meaning I prefer an overcast day over a sunny one (though I securely succumb to golden hour’s temptation). In line with your observations, maybe this will help me in getting decent results from this stock. I think I’m also going to toy around with the exposure a bit.

          Cheers, Christian

  3. Excellent results as always.
    Lomo 800 is one of my favourite films, and I always stock my freezer when it becomes available.
    The grain is surprisingly fine.

    The only issue is that when I first ‘discovered’ it a few years ago, it was about $15 for 3/36exp. Last year I paid $27/3/36exp. Today it is $35/3/36exp.
    Which is only $1 less than Portra 800 per roll.
    But I prefer it to Portra 800, so while it may no longer be the deal it was, the price is still in line with the competition which happens to be made by the same people!

    1. Christian Schroeder

      Hi Huss,
      thanks! Yeah, it’s a pity that Lomography 800 isn’t the budget option it used to be. I’m not sure which film I would now prefer, Lomo or Portra 800. In my mind, Portra is still the more exquisite stuff – but I suppose this really is a psychological thing. You should buy the stock that provides you the most satisfaction, not the stock with the best reputation.

  4. Good read, good photos. Have used the 120 version once, didn’t realise it came in 35mm. I will try and get some at some point in the future (I regret never trying Venus 800 before Fuji pulled it!!!). I used a Kodak disposable 800 about 2 years ago. The results were pretty good and I wonder if this Lomo stuff is the same film. Cheers, Rock

    1. Christian Schroeder

      Hi Rock,
      your comment brought Fuji Superia 1600 back to my mind – I had snapped just two rolls of it back in the days, a few months before Fuji announced its discontinuation. As soon as I realized that I like it, Superia 1600 had become unaffordable.
      Today, after an extended period of rather strictly sticking to what I called my favorite stocks, I’m more adventurous again. Try new things as long as you can. 🙂

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