In episode 49 of Matt Loves Cameras film photography podcast I talk about pushing colour negative film with the Fujifilm Natura f1.9 and the Fujifilm Klasse S. Listen by pressing play above or by searching for Matt Loves Cameras in your favourite podcast app.

What is pushing and pulling film?

Pushing and pulling film are photographic techniques that involve two steps. First of all, you need to shoot your roll of film at a different ISO speed to what’s on the box (box speed). Secondly, and most crucially, something needs to happen during the development of the film for it to be considered pushed or pulled.

There’s no such thing as pushing and pulling film “in-camera”

If you only do the first step listed above – that is, you shoot Kodak Portra 400 at ISO 200, and then you get it developed as normal – that is not pushing film. All you’re doing there is overexposing the roll by one stop. I hear a lot of people refer to what they’re doing as pushing or pulling film “in-camera” – but there is no such thing.

Shooting fast colour negative film is a joy in Fujifilm’s premium point and shoot cameras

How do I set my camera up so I can have my colour film pushed?

Let’s look at an in-depth example of pushing colour film. Grab a camera where you can set the ISO yourself and which has automatic exposure. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s pick the Canon AF 35 ML, which is a beautiful yet clunky early 1980s point and shoot.

On the camera set the ISO to 400, but then load up a roll of Kodak Gold 200. When you start shooting, the camera will choose shutter speeds according to the film speed that you set – ISO 400. In fairly bright light, the shutter speed might be say 1/250 second.

But in reality, it’s Kodak Gold 200, it’s rated at ISO200, it really needs twice as much light. A shutter speed twice as long – which would be 1/125 second – would’ve been the correct shutter speed if you had set the ISO selector on the camera to the film’s box speed of 200.

So you go around shooting that roll of film in your Canon AF 35 ML and if you’re anything like me, you will have shot the whole roll in no time. So far, the whole roll is one stop underexposed. The ISO 400 selector made the camera choose faster shutter speeds than the ISO 200 film needed, so not as much light was exposed onto the film.

Now colour print film like Kodak Gold 200 has a good exposure latitude, so if you did this whole process by accident, typically one stop underexposed wouldn’t be a huge problem. But what if you’re not happy with that? Or what if you did this whole process on purpose to push the film? Easy, have your film pushed. Before we get to the next step, make sure you mark your finished roll of film with a marker pen so you can remember which one needs pushing.

Find a lab to push your film

Find a lab that can push colour negative (C41) film. Usually it costs a little bit more, the lab I use – Ikigai in Melbourne – charges $3 a roll extra. Look at your lab’s website, or get in contact before you send your film in.

What do I tell my lab to do for pushing colour negative film?

How much you ask your lab to push your film is measured in stops – a stop is a doubling or halving of light. So in the case of us shooting Kodak Gold 200 at ISO 400, we’d need to push it 1 stop. If we shot the roll of Kodak Gold 200 at ISO 800, we’d need to have it pushed 2 stops.

Make sure you let the lab know which roll you need pushed when you send it in. As above, mark it on the canister and give them specific instructions, don’t leave it to chance.

What does the lab do when they push colour negative film?

When the lab pushes colour negative film, they will either change the temperature of the developer, or they will leave the film in the developer longer. This change in the development process will compensate for the film not getting as much exposure when you shot it.

Note that this process doesn’t add more light to the image, the only way you can do that is in camera.

What effect does pushing have on colour negative film?

Typically when you push colour film it increases grain, contrast, and saturation. With that increase in contrast, highlights become brighter and shadows become darker.

What is pulling film?

If you did this whole process the other way round, the process is called pulling film. For example, just say you shot ISO 200 film at ISO 100, that would overexpose your roll of film by one stop. Most colour negative films have a wide exposure latitude, so overexposing your film by adding an extra stop of light is very common. A lot of film photographers love the look of overexposed colour negative film.

If for some reason you weren’t happy with that, you could in theory ask the lab to pull your film one stop. Having said that, most labs do not recommend that you pull colour negative film. It often results in the negatives looking flat and with less contrast. Pulling film is much more common with black and white film.

Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 sample images

Below are some sample images from the Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 loaded with Lomography 800 colour negative film.

I can’t set the ISO on the Natura, so I had to fool the camera into thinking it had ISO 1600 film inside it. I bought some ISO 1600 DX code stickers and put that on my Lomo 800 film canister. I knew the sticker had worked when the NP (Natural Photo) symbol appeared on the back of the camera. Natural Photo mode is activated automatically on the Natura when you load ISO 1600 speed or faster film. The camera automatically shoots wide open at f1.9 and adds exposure compensation to make natural looking photos without flash.

After I finished the roll, I asked my lab to push the film 1 stop in development.

The ISO 1600 DX code stickers
The lab I use most of the time is Ikigai in Melbourne, they do these really fancy digital contact sheets.
South Brisbane(Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Moreton Bay reverse sunset(Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Wynnum Central(Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
I love the palette of pushed colour negative film(Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
My beautiful boy(Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
My photographic muse – Graham’s Discount Tyres(Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Wynnum (Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
It was almost dark here – love how this image looks
Wynnum(Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Sunset(Fujifilm Natura Black f1.9 with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)

Fujifilm Klasse S photos

The Fujifilm Klasse S is a very advanced premium point and shoot. No ISO 1600 stickers were needed here, I dialled in ISO 1600 into the camera’s menu before loading my Lomo 800. I then asked the lab to push the film one stop in development.

Ooo, fancy digital contact sheet!
Love this one(Fujifilm Klasse S with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Wynnum Central(Fujifilm Klasse S with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Wynnum Central(Fujifilm Klasse S with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Black Cormorants, Wynnum(Fujifilm Klasse S with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Wynnum winter reverse sunset(Fujifilm Klasse S with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Wynnum wading pool(Fujifilm Klasse S with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Marshall Dalmatian(Fujifilm Klasse S with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)
Express train(Fujifilm Klasse S with Lomography 800 rated at ISO 1600 pushed 1 stop)

Due to popular demand, Pantastic is back in 2021! Grab a cheap plastic focus free panorama camera and join the fun! The camera rules and competition details are below. Don’t forget to keep listening to Matt Loves Cameras for updates! You can also check out the Pantastic 2020 competition entries for inspiration.

Scroll down for the camera rules, competition details, and entry form link.

Camera rules

  1. The camera must be made of plastic.
  2. The camera must be fixed-focus.
  3. The camera must weigh less than 150grams / 5oz.
  4. The camera needs to be capable of taking images in panoramic format. (This means that it can either be a dedicated panoramic camera, or one that switches between full frame and panorama modes. This is usually achieved by a set of blinds or gates masking the top and bottom of the frame.)
  5. If the camera needs any kind of battery to operate, it’s not eligible to take part. You can always check with me if you’re unsure.

Competition details and entry form

  1. Photos must be taken between 1 September 2021 and the closing date 30 November 2021.
  2. On or before the closing date, send up to four of your images in via the Pantastic 2021 Google Forms entry page.
  3. If possible, make your images a minimum of 3000 pixels on the long side. Crop out the black pano blinds area if you can before submission.
  4. Be sure to tell me where you took the photos, which camera you used and which film.
  5. Images can be colour or black and white, and can feature any subject that shows off the panorama format well.
  6. As the entries roll in, I will feature them on this website.
  7. Judges will also be taking part.

Fingal Head taken on the Vivitar IC101 Panorama with Ilford HP4.

Cameras that are allowed for Pantastic 2021

Examples of eligible cameras include, but are not limited to:

  • Ansco Pix.
  • Hanimex Panorama.
  • Wide Pic Panorama.
  • Halina Panorama.
  • Ultronic Panorama.
  • Panorama Optical Lens 25mm.
  • Vivitar panorama cameras such as the IC101 and PN2011.

As long as you adhere to the rules above, you’re in.

Light, footloose and focus free!

Cameras that aren’t allowed 

  • No Xpan, Widelux, Linhof, Fuji, Horseman or Horizont cameras are allowed to take part in the challenge.
  • No Minolta Riva / Ps – they actually focus so they are way too good.
  • No fancy Olympus Stylus or Pentax zoom cameras with pano gates / blinds.
  • No Sprocket Rockets – they zone focus.
  • If your camera contravenes any of the 5 competition rules above, it’s out.

Purple Grain is the collaborative community film photography zine from the LomoChrome Purple competition. Listen to the second and final part of the judging by pressing the play button above. To view all the competition entries and listen to part one of the judging, check out theLomoChrome Purple competition entries page.

Purple Grain is sold out

Fifty copies of Purple Grain have been sent out to addresses all over the world along with limited edition postcards and Matt Loves Cameras stickers and fridge magents.

Zine details

  • 21cm (8 inch) square zine, approximately 56 pages printed on uncoated paper.
  • Zines are expected to be printed towards the end of August. Zines will be posted all over the world by the end of September 2020. Allow one month for delivery.
  • All pre-orders will receive either a Matt Loves Cameras sticker or some art print postcards – subject to the weight of the envelope and while stocks last!
  • Images from the zine on this page are indicative only and *may* change before printing.

Sneak preview

Below is a sneak preview of some of the spreads in the zine – these may change before printing.

Pre-order now

US / International orders: $19.75 USD

For all US orders and all international destinations other than the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Price includes shipping and a copy of Purple Haze.


New Zealand orders: $24.50 AUD

For all New Zealand orders. Price includes shipping and a copy of Purple Haze.

LomoChrome Purple is a film that I have fallen in love with over the last year. If you’ve never tried it, I hope that this article and the sample images will inspire you to pick up a roll or five.

In this review of LomoChrome Purple, I give a brief historical overview of LomoChrome Purple and the film that inspired it, details on the colour shifts you can expect, the variable ISO nature of the film, an example of the same scene shot at different film speeds, sample images of LomoChrome Purple taken on four different cameras, and lots more! If you prefer audio, click on the play button in the header above.

I love LomoChrome Purple so much I decided to run a Purple competition through my film photography podcast Matt Loves Cameras. Entering is easy: shoot a roll of Purple between 1 February 2021 and 15 May 2021, then send me the best four images! The aim of the competition is to produce a film photography community zine by mid 2021.

Southern Queensland has never looked so trippy! LomoChrome Purple with Canon AF35ML

A brief history of LomoChrome Purple

LomoChrome Purple is a film sold by Lomography. Introduced in 2013, an article on the Lomography website from January that year lead with the headline “Introducing LomoChrome Purple – a color negative film that yields infrared results!“. It’s been described as a colour-shift film and even a “purplescale” film thanks to its signature look.

Woah wait, what was that about infrared? Is this an infrared film? No, read that headline again: despite its funky colour shifts, Purple is a colour negative film. This means it can be developed in the same C41 chemicals as other colour print films such as Fujifilm’s Superia lineup and Kodak’s Gold and Portra lines.

Grounded kangaroo, Brisbane Airport. LomoChrome Purple with Canon AF35ML

Purple: a love letter to Aerochrome

Lomography said that the development of this new product was due to demand from their customers. They frequently name dropped a legendary film as its inspiration: Kodak Aerochrome.

Kodak Aerochrome Infrared film 1443 (also known as Kodak Ektachrome Professional EIR) was an infrared-sensitive, false-colour reversal film. Kodak developed Aerochrome for aerial photographic applications, such as vegetation and forestry surveys, hydrology, and earth resources monitoring, where its infrared properties were a big advantage.

Yellow filters (or sometimes orange filters or other colours) were typically used on camera lenses to enhance the effects of the film.

Lomo Purple review
Is that you Aerochrome? No, it’s a lemon tree shot on LomoChrome Purple with the Olympus Pen FT.

Aerochrome was intended to be developed as a colour transparency or slide using process AR-5, but the Kodak data sheet also details how achieving a negative is easy with process AN-6 or C-41. Most infrared film today is developed as a transparency using the E6 process.

Despite their original scientific and military applications, Kodak’s infrared films were often used for artistic purposes due to the unique way that they rendered the world, giving a surreal view of otherwise ordinary scenes.

Enter LomoChrome Purple: an easier way to shift colour

In 2013 the Lomography website was still selling non-Kodak infrared films, but stocks were dwindling. Kodak Aerochrome had been officially discontinued in 2011 and was sorely missed.

Enter LomoChrome Purple, Lomography’s great hope to replicate the feel of shooting infrared films. Purple had two big advantages over infrared: it didn’t require any special filters, and it could be processed in widely available C-41 chemicals.

Lomo Purple sample images
I love this image! Pentax 645nii with LomoChrome Purple

LomoChrome Purple launch

Lomography launched LomoChrome Purple in January 2013, with customers receiving the first rolls a few months later in July 2013. Lomography stated that making Purple “takes a little longer to produce than other emulsions” which could explain the delay.

The first run of the film was 4000 rolls of LomoChrome Purple in 120 (selling for around $11 USD a roll) and and 3500 rolls in 35mm format (selling for around $9 USD a roll). It’s important to note that this was around double the cost of regular colour negative films at the time, yet reports were that the film was flying off shelves during the first couple of years of its release.

Looking back at reviews of the film from 2013-2014, there was the usual mix of enthusiasm and scepticism from the community. Some people loved it, some hated it, others couldn’t see the point. In other words, the reaction was pretty much like any other new product launch in the photographic industry.

Lomo Purple sample images
From left to right: LomoChrome Purple 35mm box, limited edition canister, and roll of Purple in 120.

In 2017 Lomography announced a reformulated emulsion which “increased the film’s sensitivity to red hues, improved exposure at the recommended setting of ISO 400, and significantly reduced grain”. Curiously, these were the same benefits stated with the launch of the 2019 formula a couple of years later. All recent boxes of LomoChrome Purple bear the text “New 2019 formula”.

In early 2020 Purple became available in 110 (a format Lomography have long championed), as well as in Lomography’s simple use 35mm cameras.

What effect does LomoChrome Purple film have on photos?

To quote Lomography: “blue becomes green, green becomes purple and yellow becomes pink! Red tones stay red though, which keeps skin tones looking natural in a sea of trippy hues.”

While all of this is true, your results may depend on the lighting conditions that you shoot in, and how you rate the film in terms of its ISO value, or sensitivity to light. You might also find some cool surprises along the way: what they didn’t mention in their promo material is that pink becomes yellow!

As for natural looking skin tones, well, they’re not bad, but I’m not sure I would describe them as natural. Let’s just say that they’re a whole lot better than LomoChrome Turquoise which made people look like smurfs!

LomoChrome Purple review
Portraits are super fun with Lomo Purple! Taken on the Pentax 645nii rated at ISO200.

Colour comparison: LomoChrome Purple versus colour negative film

For a side-by-side comparison of Lomo Purple versus a regular colour negative film, compare the two images below.

The top one was taken on my Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim with Lomochrome Purple. The bottom one was taken on my Superheadz Wide and Slim with Kodak Ultramax 400. The Superheadz camera is a copy of the Vivitar that has the same design, focal length, and quirks such as harsh vignetting. Both cameras have the same fixed aperture and shutter speed.

As you can see, the pink boat becomes pale yellow, the golden brown sand becomes purple, the blue sky becomes green, the yellow buoy becomes pink!

One of my favourite LomoChrome Purple images taken with the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim.
LomoChrome Purple review
One of my favourite LomoChrome Purple images taken with the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim.

What ISO should I shoot LomoChrome Purple at?

LomoChrome Purple is a variable ISO film, meaning that you can expose it within a wide range of light sensitivity (as measured by the ISO standard) with good results.

If you are shooting Purple in a camera where you can set the film speed or ISO yourself, Lomography recommend any speed between 100 and 400 for best results. Your choice will depend on the effect you’d like to see and the lighting conditions available to you.

If you have a newer camera with lots of fancy electronics, you may not be able to set the ISO yourself, which might be an issue. These cameras typically read the DX code on the film canister to set the speed of the film automatically for you, but LomoChrome Purple film canisters have no DX code.

In this case, the camera will typically default to its standard ISO speed, which is often 100. Check your camera manual though – some brands like Konica default to ISO 25 for non-DX coded film!

Lomo Purple review
Palm trees, Capalaba. Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim with LomoChrome Purple.

If you want to be really adventurous, you could use the film in a camera like the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim, which has a single shutter speed, single aperture, and no way of setting the ISO at all. Pop the film in and go shoot in bright light for best results. I’m very happy with the images I achieved with this combination in the beautiful Queensland light.

What effect do different film speeds have on LomoChrome Purple?

A higher ISO speed such as 400 will typically produce more intense red and purple colours, whereas a lower ISO speed such as 100 will be a paler rendition of the film.

You can see in the images below, the ISO 400 image (far left) has more intense red and purple colours, with the sky being more green. The ISO 100 image (far right) is a paler, more muted version of Purple, still retaining some of the films characteristics. The ISO 200 image (middle) is a mix of the two, though perhaps more like the ISO 100 version.Apart from the three images below, all other images in this review were shot at ISO 200.

You can see the effect of shooting Lomo Purple at different ISO speeds above: (L-R) ISO 400, ISO 200, ISO 100. All images taken with my Olympus Pen FT.

Who makes LomoChrome Purple?

The manufacturer of LomoChrome Purple has been the subject of much speculation in the film community. Some of the original 2013 films were “Made in Europe” while others were “Made in China”: all of 2019 formulation films I have say the latter.

Could it be that LomoChrome Purple is a regular colour negative film made by one of the big manufacturers then finished in China? Or is there a factory somewhere in China pumping this stuff out from scratch?

For now that seems to be a closely guarded secret. Chinese involvement would typically point to China Lucky Film, but it’s reported they stopped the manufacture of colour films several years ago.

Warwick Town Hall, Southern Queensland. Canon AF35ML with LomoChrome Purple.

Why does Lomography use the word “chrome” in their colour negative films?

A common complaint you will hear from seasoned film photographers goes as follows: “Chrome is a word used for slide films, why are Lomography using it on colour negative films?”

It’s true that the suffix -chrome has been used throughout photographic history for slide films such as Fujichrome, Kodakchrome, and Agfachrome. So yes, you could be forgiven for being confused by the name, but it wasn’t always that way.

The first ever film to use the suffix -chrome was sold by a company called Wratten & Wainwright at the dawn of the 20th century. It was a black and white film called Verichrome. The company was bought by Kodak in 1912, and the Verichrome name was resurrected years later for a Kodak black and white film.

Marshall Dalmatian has never looked so good! Olympus Pen FT with LomoChrome Purple.

Somewhere along the line, Kodak used the suffix -chrome for their colour reversal films (Kodachrome) and the suffix -color for their colour negative films (Kodacolor). This has also been the case with other film manufacturers such as Fujifilm (Fujichrome, Fujicolor).

My take is this – go easy on Lomography. The name “LomoChrome” seems to be a hat tip to the inspiration behind Purple: Aerochrome. In the last few years, Lomography has named other colour negative films with this branding i.e. LomoChrome Turquoise and LomoChrome Metropolis.

My thoughts on Lomo Purple

Throughout 2020 I shot four rolls of LomoChrome Purple on four different cameras:

  • Canon AF35ML (classic 1980s point and shoot with a fast f1.9 lens)
  • Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim (the cult classic plastic fantastic)
  • Olympus Pen FT (the beautiful 1960s Japanese half-frame camera)
  • Pentax 645nii (medium format magic).

I absolutely love the images I’ve shot with all rolls of Purple, perhaps more than any other film I’ve shot in recent memory. There’s such a fun, dreamy feeling to the images shot on LomoChrome Purple, giving you a different perspective of the world.

I’ve had way more keepers using Purple than I’ve had on other rolls. Perhaps the only time when I’ve had less than fantastic results was during a weekend away when it rained for 48 hours and the sky was grey (see below).

This shot would’ve been fantastic with a blue sky. Unfortunately the sky was grey… Pentax 645nii with LomoChrome Purple.

Who would enjoy shooting LomoChrome Purple?

I’ve always thought that there’s an art-science continuum with photography. At one end you have experimental, arty photographers that embody the philosophy that Lomography promotes: “don’t think, just shoot”.

At the other end you have the technical photography crowd that like every shot metered and exposed correctly and only shoot with precision equipment. In between those two extremes there’s everybody else. I think that LomoChrome Purple is more likely to appeal the arty crowd rather than the technical crowd.

Is LomoChrome Purple the new Aerochrome?

No. Although there are similarities, it’s unfair to compare the two as they’re fundamentally different emulsions. Is Purple a fantastic film in its own right? Yes, yes it is. Get out there and shoot a roll and find out for yourself.

Grab a roll of LomoChrome Purple and join the fun! Below are rules for the competition and details on how to enter. Deadline is 15 May 2021.

Check out the LomoChrome Purple competition entries so far!

Qualifying rules

  1. You must shoot a roll of LomoChrome Purple between 1 February 2021 and 15 May 2021.
  2. You can shoot LomoChrome Purple in any format: 35mm, 120, 110, or by using a roll of Purple in one of Lomography’s simple use cameras.
  3. You can use any camera.
  4. You can rate the film at an ISO you like.
  5. You can shoot anywhere in the world.

How do I enter?

  • Get your best Purple images ready! For best results, make the long side of your images between 3000 and 4000 pixels. Images should be JPG format.
  • On or before the closing date 15 May 2021 complete the Matt Loves Purple entry form sending up to four of your favourite Purple images to me.
  • The form requires a Google sign-in because you’re attaching images… if you don’t have a Google account, you can always email your images. Listen to the podcast if you can’t remember my email address 🙂
  • Be sure to tell me where you took the photos, which camera you used and which film. You can also add your social media details if you like.

Other details

  • As the entries roll in, I will feature them on a competition entries page on this website.
  • If we get enough entries, we will look at creating a zine for the project.
  • Judges are Matt Murray and a mystery judge!

A few years ago on holidays I read a little gem of a book by advertising legend Paul Arden “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.”

Arden was a creative director at London advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, and was responsible for some of the most famous British advertising campaigns of all time.

One of my favourite books!

To quote his obituary published in The Independent “Arden was the ringmaster behind the whole creative circus that saw British Airways become ‘The World’s Favourite Airline’, The Independent become the new intelligentsia’s favourite newspaper, Margaret Thatcher the nation’s favourite leader and Silk Cut their favourite cigarette.”

In the case of the British Airways , it’s said that Arden’s ads changed the fortunes of the airline. (He was also in charge of the Fujifilm account during this time, though in his obituary, there was no mention of that becoming Britain’s favourite film.)

I read this little book about once a year, it’s funny, insightful, and full of snippets of advice and inspiration for creative people.

Buy the book

Even the cover has a clever little play on words under the title… it reads “The world’s best-selling book by Paul Arden”. I was most impressed when I first saw this, was this really the world’s best selling book? Then it dawned on me, it’s the world’s best selling book written by Paul Arden.

Much of the advice in the book is aimed at copy writers and people working in ad agencies, but the book also contains many pearls of wisdom for all creatives from all walks of life.

Wynnum, Canon Sure Shot Supreme, Kodak Ultramax 400

Below, I’ve taken nine quotes from the book and interpreted them in a way that you can apply to your photography. I’ve added some photos to this page from my camera testing around Brisbane in the last couple of months.

“Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have.”

I love this quote so much. Arden follows that up on the same page by saying “Without having a goal, it’s difficult to score.” Words to live by.

So what is your vision of where or who you want to be? What is your ultimate photographic aim? To sell prints? To create zines? To start a blog or a podcast? To become a Magnum photographer?

Start talking steps towards that goal today.

If you want to become a portrait photographer, look at what skills and equipment you’ll need to succeed in that objective. It could be said that everything else is a distraction.

If you’ve always wanted to put your prints in an art show, or create a zine, or start a blog or podcast, map out a plan over six or 12 months on how you can get there.

Marshall Dalmatian, Olympus AF10, Kodak Ultramax 400

“To be original, seek inspiration from unexpected sources.”

What can photography from different genres teach us? Quite a lot actually.

Study another type of photography that you usually wouldn’t be interested in. If you’re a street photographer, look at fashion photography. If you primarily shoot black and white, look at colour travel photography.

Pickup some newspapers or magazines in your local library, or go exploring on social media. What can you learn from trendy wellness magazines? From Instagrammers? What do they do well in terms of how they present their photography? What can you learn from them? Probably quite a lot.

“The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.”

Sometimes when we make a mistake with a roll of film or a camera we do have a inclination to beat ourselves up about making an error, whether it be ruining the rolls in the development, dropping the camera, or having an entire roll of bad exposures or missed focus.

But failure is part of photography, just as it’s a part of life.

Here’s an interesting reminder: Scientists fail all the time, they call their failures ‘experiments’, and they’re allowed to fail multiple times before success.
Next time you have a disappointing set of images, take a close look at them. What worked? What didn’t work? What can you can you do better next time? it’s all part of the creative process.

Grounded Kangaroo, Nikon LiteTouch Zoom 130, Kodak Pro Image 100

“Do not seek praise. Seek criticism.”

How often do we post our photos to Instagram and Facebook hoping to receive an avalanche of likes and comments?

It’s natural to do this, something that social media companies have exploited with the design of their platforms, but it doesn’t encourage the most useful kind of feedback: constructive criticism.

The real value is by asking others how you can make something better.

Maybe you could ask a photography friend for an honest opinion of your work, or what do you do best? Ask them to be brutally honest about your strengths, and what you could improve. It might surprise you, and it might just make you a better photographer.

Palm trees multi exposure, Canon Sure Shot Tele, Fujifilm Superia 200

“If you get stuck, draw with a different pen.”

As an advertising man, Arden meant this point literally. Instead of using felt tip pens for layouts, he tells the tale in the book of when he used water colours for a layout and the client were so impressed they increased their advertising budget significantly.

“Change your tools, it may free your thinking” says Arden, and that point can be made with photographers too who are in a rut.

If you usually shoot large format, why not get out there with a 110 camera.

If you like point and shoots, why not shoot a few rolls with an SLR?

If you shoot with a Leica, why not give a plastic toy camera a go?

It may just free your thinking.

“Don’t be afraid of silly ideas”

We all get mental blocks… the way to get unblocked is by losing our inhibitions and stop worrying about being right.

Arden suggests two tricks to get rid of creative blockages

The first is to do the opposite of what the situation requires. That could mean shooting sports with a TLR, or portraits with a point and shoot.

The second is to look out the window and whatever catches your eye, make that the solution to your problem.

Yellow and blue, Contax G1, Agfa Vista 400

“Give away everything you know and more will come back to you.”

“Ideas are open knowledge” says Arden “Don’t claim ownership.”

Got an idea on how to do something or solve a problem? Tell people. Arden says that if you give away everything you know, it forces you to replenish and look for new things.

What does this mean for photographers? Share your knowledge. Get together with others and talk about what you do. Be generous and helpful to others. Generally, I think this is something that photographers do pretty well, though of course, there’s always room from improvement.

How could you make more of a difference with the knowledge you have?

“Don’t look for the next opportunity, the one you have in hand is the opportunity.”

Arden has some good advice: “Whatever is on your desk right now, that’s the one. Make it the best you possibly can.”

The same thing goes for photography. We’ve all been guilty of finishing off a roll in a camera we don’t particularly like to get it out of the way.

Test rolls – take photos of the dog in the back yard and a gazillion.

Now I make a special effort to drive to different places I haven’t been to before with the sole purpose of exploring and taking new images. As well as testing these cameras, I’m also building up a library of images shot in different colour negative stocks and I also have plans to create standalone reviews.

Love and rainbows, Capalaba, Canon Sure Shot Multi Tele, Kodak Gold 200

“You are the magic.”

In the book, Arden explains that you shouldn’t hand your work over to a supplier hoping they will produce the magic for you, rather, you are the magic.

The same could also be said about photography, don’t expect a film or a camera or a lab or a location to bring the magic by itself.

I’ve seen some pretty ordinary photos taken on some very expensive cameras, and I’ve seen some extraordinary photos taken on cameras that most people wouldn’t touch with bargepole.

Just recently, I took some really lovely images in Brisbane with a Canon Af-7/8, a cheap plastic point and shoot, and Kodak Pro Image 100, one of the cheapest consumer print films.

YOU are the magic!

Buy the book!

Buy “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” by Paul Arden for around $10USD on Amazon. This is an affiliate link, so if you do buy anything you will be sending a small commission my way.

Listen along as Roxanna Angles and Matt Murray judge the Sprocktastic 2020 competition entries!

Listen on your favourite podcast app or by pressing the play button above. 

Sherry Christensen

Sherry sends these lovely sprocket images in from Alberta, Canada! Taken on her Sprocket Rocket with Fuji 400 film.

George Griffin

All shot on the classic Lomography Sprocket Rocket, the film was Kodak Gold 200. The London eye is a well known landmark in the centre of London and always worth photographing and if you every get the chance to ride it, great views over London. Enyford Village is a Village in Kent, will a ruined castle, Tudor building and a humpback bridge, with a ford, very picturesque British village. The sculpture is the latest to appear in Trafalgar Square, and I have know idea what it represents but I do like it. I think my favourite is the one of just the pods of the eye, I think it works well within the sprockets.

Ken Tuomi

Booth to CONTROL and On the Hard (first two images) – Rolleicord V with Fuji Super 200. Other two, Lomo Sprocket Rocket with Lomo Metropolis. Sloopkets is cinematic in perspective and a fan favorite, SproVolvokets has features reflecting the contest theme (film sprockets, sprockets mimicked in the vintage Volvos seen thru the 120 Wagon’s windows, plus the wheel spokes- trifecta!), On the Hard is apocalyptic and the guys working on the boat were more than happy to see an antique camera shooting their work BUT, would you believe….Booth to CONTROL is a most sprocktastic use of sprockets.

Andrew Spencer

Hi Matt I loved the Sprocket Challenge. I have a couple of personal projects on the go, and this worked in nicely with them. The ocean is a significant part of our lives where I live at Kaikoura, and I wanted to show this with some key subjects;

  • The Old Wharf was pioneering Kaikoura’s link with the world.
  • The old aquarium was a fish factory, soon to be demolished.
  • Aoraki is a whale-watching boat, whale watching being an essential part of our economy.
  • The Fergie tractor is a typical boat launching tractor for recreational fishing.

I shot the pictures with my Mamiya RZ67 ProII using Lomography 400. Pictures are hard-earned; The 35 cartridge is mounted in the magazine using adapters and I tape a 120 paper leader to the 35 film so I can sneak a couple of pictures onto the film before the magazine registers number 1. This involves a shuffle of using Multi setting to shoot the picture and Single setting to advance the film. Once you reach frame 1 on the counter you’re away. I use a 220 back as it counts all the frames so I kind of know where I’m up to.

I use a 65mm lens as it equates to my favourite focal length of around 30mm. Unloading needs to be done in the dark, undoing the back and spooling the film back into the reel for developing which I did in a Lab Box with Cinestill Cs41. Scanning is with a Canon EOSR mounted on a homemade copystand, with lightbox and Lomography Digitalisa holder. Two shots are required for the pano film capture to use the camera sensor fully, the two Raw files then head over to my MacPro and are stitched in PTGui and then processed using FilmLab App. A little retouch spotting and a slight contrast adjustment for output. I enjoy the colour random-ness of Lomo 400 in my world where colour always needs to be correct. Thanks for the inspiring fun! Andrew

Tom Napier

Hi Matt. Thanks for providing the motivation to do this little project. I have a sprocket rocket and a Holga. But noooo thats too easy, I had to go the guts and try something new (to me). This camera has been sitting on my shelf for years waiting for just the right opportunity to shine once again. Camera: Kodak Brownie 127. Film: Kodak Vision 3 500T hand rolled on 127 spool with 127 backing paper. Dev: by me with Unicolor C41 Powder kit and scanned on an Epson V550. The remjet wasn’t a problem with a pre-soak in water @39c and a table spoon of bi-carb. Not bad shots for a c1950 plastic box with a plastic lens. Also my first attempt at hand rolling film hence the slight slope to some of the images but hay, it is what it is. All shots were taken in my local area on the BEST side, i mean the north side of Brisbane. My favourite shot would have to be the glamor shot in the Vinnies window. The orange colouring along the edged of some shots could be light leaks but I suspect it was from the Epson V550 scanner. Anyhoo thanks once more for the chance to experiment and at least, enjoy a day out and about. Regards. Tom
 

Paul Wheeler

All images were shot on the Monaro Plains at the foot of the Snowy Mountains in NSW using a Fuji GSW690III 6×9 Medium Format camera with a fixed Fujinon 65mm f5.6 lens. Film stock is 35mm Kodak Colourplus 200, re-rolled onto a 120 spool complete with the backing paper. The negative size ends up being 35 x 67mm which is a beautiful big panoramic photograph encapsulating the sprocket holes. By re-rolling the film rather than using adapters or any of the other methods I can load and shoot the film exactly as if it were 120 without having to worry about frame spacing, spooling from one canister to another, losing shots at the end of the roll etc.

Francois Laverdure

Here are the pictures for the Schprocktastic Challenge (Yes, I did write this wrong simply because I thought it was funnier 😁). I wanted to stand out from the crowd a bit on this one. I figured you would get plenty of Sprocket Rocket panos so I opted to use something a bit more rare: the BlackBird Fly. For those not in the know, it’s a 35mm TLR that exposes the film vertically. I took it to a local skatepark, that’s when I realized it was the wrong camera for the job. Have you ever tried to capture a fast moving subject with a waist level viewfinder that flips the image left to right? That was definitely a challenge. I’m really proud of the shot of the kid on a scooter I took there. Even the shadow is perfect. For the one with the chain, I had to dance around a field covered in raccoon poop… I never knew they could produce so much doo-doo! So here are my best four. They were all taken in my home town. All shot using the BlackBird Fly (orange version) on Foma 400 dunked in Rodinal.

Sandra Camacho

I used Lomography’s Sprocket Rocket for these images, for the B&W I was trying Ilford XP2 Super, the colour film was some random expired 200iso I found online. I really like how the vignetting ended up framing the moving fishes. I think that is my favourite. The goggly eyes on the trees was just one of those strange happenstances. I was walking along one of the main avenues in Lisbon and found them staring at pedestrians while we waited for the light to turn on a crosswalk.

Alan Ma

COVID has forced me to rethink my whole reason for photography, and embrace the isolation of early morning landscapes at the beach, which has been fantastic for enjoyment and mental health during lockdown. I’ve really loved shooting sprockets in my 6×12 ONDU pinhole camera. they capture a magical passing of time at f161, with a crispness and ethereal nature that just isn’t possible on a standard 35mm camera with lens. The best ones have ‘lensless flare’ where you can see the photons bending in from diffraction, creating a mysterious colourful explosion, especially in sunrises. Kodak ektar just sings in the ondu, combined with stand development in c41. Vertical panos are also really interesting, when they work!
 

David Mihaly

I used the Lomography Sprocket Rocket, a simple toy camera which I have come to love. Ilford HP5+ was the film of choice, developed in FPP D96 for 9 minutes, followed by a water stop bath and finished off with Ilford Rapid Fixer before being scanned with the Epson V550. My favourite of these images might just be “Oh, Deer”, featuring the downtown Columbus, Ohio skyline and a bronze deer sculpture by Santa Fe artist Terry Allen – I like the whimsy of it and the fact that it’s different than my usual fare. “The Ridges” was taken at an abandoned psychiatric facility on the campus of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. “The Mighty Hocking” proved to be a little too mighty, as it flooded the Athens region several times, leading the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to re-route the river in the late 1960s and early 1970s. “Drive” features the view just outside the Tall Pines Area of Walnut Woods MetroPark in Groveport, Ohio.

Barnaby Nutt

This is a 360 selfie – it’s me on a bike and my daughter in the trailer behind, riding down a hill in the sunshine. Taken with a Lomography Spinner held horizontally on Agfa Vista. It shows the road in front of us as well as behind. Like all things Lomography, it’s a cool effect but something that needs using sparingly. I get the spinner out every couple of years, waste a few rolls, and then put it away again. Not sure how this aspect ratio will fit into a zine!
 
 

George Quiroga

I photographed these images with a Lomography Sprocket Rocket camera on September 26, 2020 at a local wetlands preserve called Green Cay Wetlands in South Florida. I used Ultrafine Extreme 100 film and processed the roll in Kodak HC-110 Dilution B for 8.5 minutes. I chose the park and the camera specifically to photograph the long boardwalk leading lines. It was a beautiful sunny day with dramatic clouds that help cast beautiful reflections and create dramatic shadows on the boardwalk. My favorite image turned out to be the cloud reflections in the lake.
 
 

Donald Qualls

I used ORWO DN21 (same as Lomography Kino Babylon 13 only much cheaper on a bulk roll), shot in a 1950s vintage Wirgin Auta 4.5, 6×9 folding camera, Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 105mm f/4.5, with 35mm to 120 adapter set. Film was processed in replenished Xtol stock for 7:00 (corrected for temperature). The film has a little light leakage from a bulk loader accident. I like the Abandoned Siding best — it’s got the “far from anywhere” vibe that goes with slow B&W film adapted into a 70 year old camera.

Jeffrey Sechrest

G’day Matt, I’m pretty new to shooting sprockets. I have always liked the look of exposed sprocket holes. I recently bought some 35 to 120 adapters so that I could shoot x-pan like panoramic photos with my Mamiya RB67. The ability to shoot sprockets was a nice bonus. My submissions are from a single roll of Ilford Delta 100. These were taken about an hour south of my home in central Florida. Its an area I occasionally pass through while working and have wanted to photograph for a while. I processed the film with my usual developer – HC-110 (B). Some adjustments done in Adobe Lightroom.

 

Kerry Jeffrey

Hi Matt! My pics are made with a bright blue Lomography Sprocket Rocket. I received one for Christmas from my son 4 years ago and it really has become my cure for times when I’m bored with photography. I typically use Kodak Pro Image 100, or Fuji 200 and for long night exposures my cable release is a paper clip and a rubber band. The artist studio is probably my favorite image, though certainly not the best. I was volunteered to help frame some paintings for an artist who had become quite sick. His studio was just as he’d left it when he was finishing his last painting months before and it was a great experience to stand exactly where he had been standing and try to imagine his thought process in the painting. The corn field and tree were in the fields around his studio. The night image is from a restaurant called Beast, desolate on a Saturday night after curfew.

Thanks for the great shows!

Kerry
Beaverton, Oregon, USA

Belo

Matt Dugard

Shot on velvia 50 in a Fuji GSW690III. My first time shooting 35mm in a medium format camera. It was great fun, I will definitely be trying it again. My favourite is the sunrise shot over the sea. Next time I think I’ll try some faster film stock and a color negative film.

Dustin Nickerson

RRS 6×9 and Kodak 2254 – Something went wrong and I ended up with about 8 exposures on the same frame. I was pretty surprised by the results and even think they it actually worked out.

Dale Willetts

The colour pic of Droitwich canal was taken with an Agfa Clack box camera on fuji C200 film. The two sepia pics were also taken with the Clack but on Kentmere 100 one is of a memorial cross at Claines parish church near worcester and th second which is probably my favourite is the road bridge over the river Severn in Worcester city centre. The black and white pic was taken with a Holga WPC (wide pinhole camera) on Kentmere 400 again at Claines parish church.

Adrian Doyle

Picked up a lovely red Sprocket Rocket to take on this challenge : ) Film is Ilford HP5 develop at home with the lab-box and cinestills df96 monobath. Pictures are different scenes from around my local town of Chapel Hill North Carolina.

Wol Gilbraith

Yikes, when did I last shoot 35mm? I’ve never shot sprockets before, but I read up online, and figured 35mm would fit nicely in an old Lubitel 166B from the early 80’s. I home-develop in Rodinal, so the film needed to be mono, and what they had in the shop was Ilford Delta 400, so that’s what I used. First time for this film. It wasn’t til after I loaded the camera that I read the bit about getting a count of how much winding on is needed, when there’s no numbers visible in the red window (the red window being shut, to protect the film, in the absence of backing paper). At it turned out, I got 13 exposures on my 36-exp roll. Plenty room for more, with less winding, but I was keep to avoid overlap. And I wasn’t too sure how much field of view, in either direction, would be caught on the firm – hence the framing is a bit iffy. The foggy field and the standing stone involved a 35-mile round trip by pushbike specially for the purpose, so they’re probably favourites – I like how the soft focus of the Lubitel works with the soft light. The trip to Loch Faskally was for the autumn colours, not so obvious here, but I wanted to get some people into my top four. Splash was taken from the dry safety of a parked car, out the window. All the negs came out a bit dark. Scanned with Olympus OM-D EM-1 ii, and tones adjusted in Lightroom. There’s plenty detail on the negs, with scope for some local adjustments too. Thanks to Al Clark, also in my part of Scotland, for sharing the post with the link to the Challenge. Would I do it again? Hell yeah!

Michael Newman

All photos taken with ONDU pinhole cameras loaded with FPP Sprocket Hole Film.
The film is Svema color 125. The gravestone images were taken with the ONDU MkIII Multiformat using the 6×9 mask. Eastern Cemetery is in fact the oldest cemetery in Portland, Maine. Rusty Cow Girl and Sunflower Sprockets were taken with the ONDU MkIII 6×6 Pocket. They were taken at Pumpkin Valley Farm in Dayton, Maine during a portrait shoot with my daughter in and around the sunflower field.

Mary Green


Mrs Mary Green


Rusty Cow Girl


Sunflower sprockets

Ken Bertram

I used the Lomography Sprocket Rocket Panorama camera for all of the images. The Spring Valley image was taken on Iford HP5 developed in Kodak HC-110. This is my favorite image of the bunch with the Bridge in the center and the blur on the sides, it looks like a dream. I have taken several images of that bridge but this one turned out to be the most unique one. All of the color shots were taken on Fuji’s 200 color print film developed in Cinestill C-41 kit. All against Matt’s advice of using a 400 speed film. I chose that film because I was using a flash at night on some of my images and did not want them washed out. However they were not worthy of the sprocket’s competition or damaging Matt’s eyes for life. I don’t know if I will use this camera again I preferred using the plastic pano over this one.

Michael Vickery

Hi there Matt!

I just wanted to drop you a line to say hello and thanks for your brilliant podcast. I discovered it a couple of months ago now and have been listening through all the episodes whilst commuting to work.
 
It’s great to have a quality Australian based podcast for film photography and I do enjoy your style….. relaxed as if chatting with like minded friends and of course the family feel with your good lady wife and children making their cameo appearances. Well done to you all!
 
I had fully intended entering your Sprocktastic 2020 competition and duly loaded my Holga 120 with a roll of 35mm film. Due to various “busy life” reasons I was very late getting the shots I wanted and ended up rushing around earlier this week to try and get through the roll and then get it developed. A tall order to say the least!
 
In my rushing around and not being careful enough, I had a bit of a stuff up when removing the film from the Holga which exposed the film to red light plus there is a chance that the film suffered some “in camera” heat exposure along the way.The long and short of it is that when developed, the images all have a strong red colouring. So, not only did I miss the entry deadline, the photographs are rather spoiled. I’ve attached 3 anyway just to give you an idea of what I was trying to shoot.
 
The first, the abstract/graffiti photograph, was my attempt to get “sprocket” written on a shot using a torch in the dark …. it didn’t turn out like that but that’s ok. The image is exactly what came out in the dev/scan….. not post processed in anyway other than adding a frame. I quite like it and will put this down as a happy accident. The bicycle photo was my attempt to get an actual sprocket in a photograph…… I thought that would be a little bit of fun to run with the “Sprocktastic” theme. The last shot is of an unused small grain silo at a micro brewery here in Perth. The shot is clearly faded and pink but there is a “lomo” feel to it and I keep looking at it so included it just for interests sake.  So there we go. I shall look forward to whatever your next challenge is and try and be far more organised and try to produce photographs worthy of entry.
 
On another note , after listening to the episodes about the panoramic competition from earlier in the year, I set about purchasing a wide pic plastic pano. I found a brand new example on Gumtree and it arrived from the lady who was selling it in Adelaide last week. It cost me just under $30 in the end…… so definitely not a thrift find but I’m happy with it all the same and will put a test roll through it soon.
 
I have been very slowly getting back into analogue photography over the last year or so and hope to get shooting regularly from here on. Work and family commitments always make life busy as you will well know but let’s hope this coming summer can produce some great work. I have literally just created an IG account for my film photos which is – defiantcharisma
It’s totally blank at the the time of typing but I will upload the 3 shots attached here later on to remind me that the only way is up after my stuff up with this roll. All part of the fun….. I think😂.
 
Anyway, apologies this email has ended up being rather longer than anticipated so thanks for taking the time to read.
 
Cheers and regards.
 
“Michael in Perth”
 

Devon Adams

I teach public high school photography and was on a photo tour in Greece when quarantine began. We hurried home and went into lockdown for weeks, but then we began to slowly and carefully do day trips out and about. I shot these at Gold King Mine & Ghost Town in Jerome, Arizona on a Holga modified to fit 35mm Lomography 800 film. I’ve modded my Holga before so had a pretty good idea what I was doing here. I like shooting the Holga or my Sprocket Rocket because they’re lightweight & give wild results. Developed at home in Unicolor & self-scanned. Minor digital edits.

My favourite is the old yellow race car. All of these are double exposed but I like how the car racing number is also floating above the car itself.

Matt Murray

I’m not eligible to win, but here are my Sprocktastic entries! Taken on a Lomography Sprocket Rocket.

Roxanna Angles

2010 was not a great year for film photography, but among all the doom and gloom, one shining light stood proud like a lighthouse on the horizon: Lomography Society International. When so many other camera manufacturers were discontinuing products or leaving the industry altogether, Lomography launched a brand new camera: the Sprocket Rocket.

Marshall and the kids, Sprocket Rocket with expired Lomography 400 film.

The Sprocket Rocket wasn’t just any camera either: touted as the world’s first panoramic wide-angle camera that exposes film sprockets, it was truly something new and different. If that wasn’t enough, this plastic beauty was fitted with a “reverse gear”, allowing the photographer to rewind and remix images they’d taken via double and multiple exposures.

Fast forward 10 years and I have finally bought a Sprocket Rocket. You can read my review below or press play on the podcast review above.

The Sprocket Rocket’s design harks back to some classic mid 20th century camera designs

What does the Sprocket Rocket look like?

The Sprocket Rocket is a fairly chunky plastic camera that is bright and bold. If you think it looks familiar, you’re right. The camera closely resembles two vintage cameras from the mid 20th century: the 1938 Falcon Miniature and the 1949 Ilford Advocate.

The Sprocket Rocket has been available in a wide range of bright colours over the years: red, blue, teal, pink, white, yellow, orange, green, and black.

As at October 2020, you can buy it from the Lomography website in three colours: black, red, and green. I bought my red Sprocket Rocket direct from the Lomography website for $69USD.

Graham’s Tyre Service, Brisbane. Expired Lomography 400 film.

What’s in the Sprocket Rocket box?

Like many Lomography products, the packaging and inclusions are all very hip and well designed. Here’s what came in the box:

  • Sprocket Rocket camera.
  • Lens cap.
  • Mask for sprocketless photos (black thing above the camera in the image below).
  • Sprocket Rocket Panorama User Manual.
  • Sprocket Panorama brochure with sample images.
  • Sprocket Rocket – The Blind Experiment booklet.

I really like all the additional bits and bobs you get with a Lomography camera. The brochure with sample images is fantastic for inspiration, showing you examples of what you can expect. It also features a cool Sprocket Rocket themed detective cartoon!

The user manual has straightforward instructions on how to load film and operate the camera, tips and tricks on how to get the most out of it, and a trouble shooting guide. The text is a decent size, but it’s printed in multiple languages, so it’s not as long as you think when you first take a look.

The blind experiment is one person’s journey using the Sprocket Rocket as a “blind photographer” for two days.

Sun flares at sunset. Wellington Point, Queensland. Sprocket Rocket with Kodak Gold 200 film.

Sprocket Rocket features and specifications

  • The Sprocket Rocket has two apertures to choose from: Cloudy f/10.8 and Sunny f/16.
  • It has two shutter speeds: a fixed 1/100 second (the N setting on the camera), and a very handy bulb setting (the B setting on the camera.)
  • The focal length of the lens is 30mm, making it a wide angle camera.
  • The minimum focus distance is quite short at just 60cm (2 feet).
  • The camera zone focuses via two settings on the lens barrel: 0.6m to 1m, and 1m to infinity.
  • The Sprocket Rocket takes 35mm film. It doesn’t matter if your film has DX coding or not, as it doesn’t read DX coding, and has no capability to change settings based on film speed.
  • Recommended film speed is IS0400, though I’ve successfully used ISO200 film here in sunny Queensland.
  • Exposure area of each frame is double the width of a normal 35mm exposure: 72x33mm (with mask taken out to expose sprockets) or 72x24mm (with mask in).
  • No battery is required.
  • Weight: it’s quite light, weight just 227g / 8oz.
  • Tripod mount on the bottom for long exposure shots.
  • Film advance and rewind knobs – when used in conjunction with the white dot window, this rewind knob is a very handy feature.
  • Flash hot shoe on top of the camera.
Top view of the Sprocket Rocket showing the twist lens zone focusing, the two shutter speeds: N and B, the flash hot shoe, the shutter mechanism to the right of the shutter speeds, the silver film advance and rewind knobs (on opposite sides of the camera), and the two small windows to the left of the hot shoe: the frame counter and the white dot window.

How many images do I get with a Sprocket Rocket?

The Sprocket Rocket is a panoramic camera with exposures being double the width of a normal 35mm frame (72mm wide instead of 36mm wide). This means you’ll get a maximum of 18 shots on a 36 exposure roll, and a maximum of 12 on a 24 exposure roll.

What film is recommended for the Sprocket Rocket?

Lomography recommend ISO400 film for use in the Sprocket Rocket. Depending on the lighting conditions, you could use any film from ISO100-800 quite easily if you know the sunny 16 rul, if you use a light meter, or if you use a smartphone light meter app.

Victoria Point, Queensland, on Kodak Ultramax 400 film.

Before you start shooting

The first thing you probably want to do is open up the back of the camera and take the mask out. With the mask left in, the camera won’t expose the entire film negative, so there won’t be any sprockets!

Loading film in the Sprocket Rocket

Just lift up those silver clasps and the back comes off.

Loading film in the Sprocket Rocket is quite easy, especially if you have some experience doing this. To take the back off the camera, lift up the silver clasps on the side of the camera and the whole back section comes off. With this design, it looks like the back would come off pretty easily while you’re using it, but it doesn’t.

Inside the Lomography Sprocket Rocket. Note that the mask has already been taken out.

Next, load your film into the camera on the left hand side. Feed the film across the back of the camera and into the take up spool, then wind it on. Below is a video from Lomography showing the process. Keep winding the film on until you see a little white dot appear in the window next to the rewind button.

Lomography’s video on how to load the Sprocket Rocket

Shooting with the Sprocket Rocket

Once your film is loaded, you’re ready to go! The camera has a viewfinder – quite a luxury for a plastic toy camera – but I’d suggest it’s more of a guide than for precise composition. The bottom part of your view through the viewfinder is blocked by the top part of the lens. 

Make sure you have enough light when you’re taking photos: in darker conditions or indoors you may need to use a flash. In sunny or cloudy daylight conditions, you should be fine.

Maryvale Roadhouse. Sprocket Rocket with with expired Lomography 400 film.

Next, choose your aperture for the conditions: either sunny or cloudy. The aperture setting is on the bottom of the lens. Next, choose your focus: either 0.6m to 1m, or 1m to infinity. I left my Sprocket Rocket on the latter the whole time I shot with it.

Once you compose your shot, press the shutter lever down. The Sprocket Rocket makes a strange, but kinda cool shutter sound. You can hear it in my podcast, or in the short video from Lomography below:

Precise framing with the white dot

For single exposures, it’s now time to wind the film advance knob to the next frame. Film is advanced by the silver knob on the right of the camera as you’re holding it in your hands, turn the wheel in the direction of the arrow.

As you start turning the knob, the white dot in the window on the right of the camera will disappear: keep turning the knob until the white dot appears again in the window. This way your double wide panoramic exposures will not overlap each other, making it much easier to scan them.

Can I do double exposures and multiple exposures with the Sprocket Rocket?

Yes! As explained above, the shutter is triggered by pushing down the silver lever on the side of the lens. Film advancement is manual, meaning that you physically have to turn the film advance knob to get to the next frame. While this may seem primitive compared to more advanced cameras, this is actually a fantastic feature as it means you have unlimited potential for double and multiple exposures!

You can press the shutter as many times as you want on any given frame, just be careful not to overexpose your film too much. The image below was taken at dusk on ISO200 film. The image is on the darker side, I could’ve got away with a triple exposure on this frame.

Double exposure shot taken at an abandoned school on the Sprocket Rocket with Kodak Gold 200 film.

Shoot the roll, then shoot it backwards!

The Sprocket Rocket has a lot of features for a plastic toy camera. As well as having a mandatory film advance knob, it has a film film rewind knob on the opposite side of the camera. This is not only for rewinding the film once you’re finished, but used in conjunction with the white dot, you can also shoot the entire roll with single exposures, then rewind it frame by frame and shoot double and multi-exposures over the top!

So how does it work? Here’s a run down:

  1. Shoot your film with single exposures one frame at a time. After you take each image, wind the film until the white dot appears in the window again.
  2. Keep doing single exposures all the way until the end of the roll.
  3. When you get to the end of the roll, start winding the rewind button. The white dot will disappear, keep winding until it appears again.
  4. Take another image. What you’re doing is making a double exposure by taking a second image over the top of this already exposed frame.
  5. Rewind the film another frame by turning the rewind knob until the white dot appears again.
  6. Shoot another image.
  7. Repeat the process until the film ends up back in the canister, or start winding the film forward and take triple exposures on the roll!
Sprocket Rocket with expired Lomography 400 film. Check out the wide-angle distortion on the silos to the left!

Can I use a flash with the Sprocket Rocket?

Yes! There is a hot shoe connection on top of the camera. I haven’t used a flash for any of the photos featured in this review, but will try it soon.

Can I take long exposure images with the Sprocket Rocket? 

Yes! Not only does the Sprocket Rocket have a bulb mode, it also has a tripod socket! On the base of the camera is a silver ring which can be used to attach a strap. Unscrew this ring and hey presto, you have a tripod socket. 

Bulb mode with the Sprocket Rocket! Kodak Gold 200.

To take a long exposure image, mount your Sprocket Rocket on a tripod, switch the shutter setting to B for bulb, and then work out how many seconds you need to expose the scene for.

You can either guess, or use a light meter app, dialling in the aperture you’re using (probably easiest to use the sunny f16 aperture) and your film speed ISO. This will give you how many seconds you should hold down the shutter for.

Try to hold the camera rock solid with one hand on the tripod as you push and hold the shutter lever down with your other hand. The image above of Brisbane City is surprisingly sharp in the middle!

As a comparison, here’s a lab scan of the same shot, without sprockets.

Characteristics of Sprocket Rocket images

  • Sharp in the centre, blurry towards the edge of the frame.
  • Quite severe wide-angle distortion. Check out the building shots below, everything towards the edge of the frame looks curved!
  • Vignetting – this can be quite strong in certain conditions.
Victoria Point reverse sunset – the Sprocket Rocket has a very strong vignette under certain conditions! This was a roll I had scanned by the lab by accident, so there are no sprockets on this and some of the other images in this review. Shot on Kodak Gold 200.

Pros and cons of the Sprocket Rocket

Pros

  • It’s light – take it with you everywhere. 
  • It’s fun – how could a bright red wide-angle panoramic camera not be fun?
  • It’s (relatively) cheap. Not as cheap as a thrift store point and shoot, but this baby is brand new and you’re helping to support Lomography. 
  • Features – there’s a lot packed into this plastic camera: a viewfinder, the ability to do multi-exposures, the ability to rewind your film randomly, bulb mode, and a hot shoe for flash shots. 

Cons

  • If you want your subject in focus, composition is required. Anything that’s not in the centre of the frame will be either blurred or have sprocket holes over.  
  • The Sprocket Rocket can’t compete in quality with sprockets shot on 35mm film through a medium format camera. 
  • Lens blur, vignetting, wide-angle distortion… if these things aren’t your bag, steer clear. 
  • Scanning can be a pain. Most labs won’t scan sprockets, standard holders won’t let you scan the sprockets. If you want to do it right, one option is to invest in a Lomo Digitiliza – a scanning mask that allows you to scan sprockets.
You need to be careful with your composition – in this image my daughter’s head is cut off by a sprocket and my son is towards the edge of the frame and blurry! Expired Lomogoraphy 400 film.

How much does a Sprocket Rocket cost?

I bought my Sprocket Rocket brand new from the Lomography website for $69USD. I was really keen on getting the green one, but it was $20 more than the black or red versions. At the time of writing, each colour has a different price: black is the cheapest at $79USD, followed by red at $85USD, with the Superpop! green model coming in at $99USD. 

From time to time the cameras pop up on Facebook Marketplace, and there are plenty for sale on eBay, though with the latter they’re not much cheaper than buying it brand new off the Lomography website. 

Is the Sprocket Rocket good value for money?

For the range of features the camera gives you, I think the Sprocket Rocket is worth the money that Lomography ask for it. Lomography have been a huge supporter of analogue photography in the 21st century and I’m a big fan of their products.

Wellington Point sunset (lab scan, no sprockets). Sprocket Rocket with Kodak Gold 200 film.

What other cameras can I use to expose sprockets?

There are a few other 35mm cameras that allow you to natively expose the sprockets. The following three options are also made by Lomography: 

  • Spinner 360
  • Diana F+ 35mm back
  • Lubitel 166

One non-Lomography option is the early 21st century beauty from Japan, the Superheadz Blackbird, fly: a 35mm plastic TLR camera. Look out for a review of that in the coming months.  

Sprocket Rocket sample images

Here are some final Sprocket Rocket sample images:

Join me on a Polaroid road trip through Southern Queensland in episode 36 of Matt Loves Cameras! Listen along by playing the podcast above.

Photos below were taken on a Polaroid SX-70 camera and a Polaroid SLR 680 camera.

 Polaroid SX-70

Polaroid SX-70 camera with Polaroid Originals SX-70 film (production date 04/19)

Polaroid SX-70 images

Maryvale Roadhouse. Polaroid SX-70 camera with Polaroid Originals SX-70 film (production date 04/19)

Polaroid SX-70

Fruit shop, southern Queensland. Polaroid SX-70 camera with Polaroid SX-70 film (production date 04/19)

Polaroid images of Australia

Stanthorpe tennis courts / Polaroid SLR 680 / Polaroid 600 film (production date 05/2020)

Polaroid images of Australia

O’Mahony’s Hotel, Warwick / Polaroid SLR 680 / Polaroid 600 film (production date 05/2020)

Roosters / Polaroid SLR 680 / Polaroid 600 film (production date 05/2020)

Polaroid SX-70

Anyone for tennis? Warwick, Queensland. Polaroid SX-70 with SX-70 film (production date 04/19)

Warwick tennis courts / Polaroid SX-70 with SX-70 film (production date 04/19)

Polaroid road trip Australia

Pink flowers / Polaroid SX-70 with SX-70 film (production date 03/20)

Polaroid SX-70

Pretty flowers, love this image! Polaroid SX-70 with SX-70 film (production date 03/20)

Polaroid road trip Australia

Hidden horse / Polaroid SLR 680 / Polaroid 600 film (production date 05/2020)

Polaroid road trip Australia

Maryvale Roadhouse, Polaroid SLR 680 / Polaroid 600 film (production date 05/2020)

Sprocktastic 2020 is here! Dust off your best sprocket-making camera and join the fun!

Below are rules for the competition and details on how to enter.

Check out the Sprocktastic 2020 entries so far – deadline is 15 October 2020.

Remember to keep listening to Matt Loves Cameras for more updates!

Qualifying rules

  1. You must shoot 35mm (135) film. Colour negative, colour positive, and black and white film are all permitted.
  2. You must expose the sprockets!
  3. Photos must be taken between 15 July 2020 and 15 October 2020.
  4. Any camera is permitted as long as you adhere to the three rules above.

Sprocket Rocket captures country Queensland!

How do I enter?

  • Get your best sprocket images ready! If possible, make the long side of your images between 3000 and 4000 pixels. Images should be JPG format.
  • On or before the closing date 15 October 2020, complete the Sprocktastic 2020 Google Form, sending up to four of your favourite sprocket images to me.
  • The form requires a Google sign-in because you’re attaching images… if you don’t have a Google account, you can always email your images. Listen to the podcast if you can’t remember my email address 🙂
  • Be sure to tell me where you took the photos, which camera you used and which film. You can also add your social media details if you like.

Other details

  • As the entries roll in, I will feature them on a competition entries page on this website.
  • If you’d like to share on Instagram or Twitter, use the hashtag #sprocktastic2020
  • If we get enough entries, we will look at creating a zine for the project.
  • Judges are Matt Murray and a mystery judge!

The Robot3 Action Camera is a cheap 35mm plastic toy camera produced circa 2007-2008. It was sold by Vastfame Camera, a Hong Kong export company that had ties to a factory in mainland China. Vastfame produced a series of toy film cameras as well as digicams, underwater cameras and disposable cameras.

Perhaps the most celebrated of Vastfame’s lineup was the Robot3 – nicknamed the Disderi Robot. The name Robot3 comes from the fact the camera has three lenses which were covered by a brightly coloured piece of plastic in the shape of a robot’s face.

Keep reading for my review of the Disderi Robot / Robot3, or press play on episode 35

Robot3 Action Camera

Quite possibly the most adorable camera I own: The Robot3 / Disderi Robot

Introducing the Robot3

The Robot3 is made from plastic and comes in many different colour combinations. The base colour of the body is black or white, but each camera is given a splash of colour (and personality) with the addition of bright coloured plastic used for three parts of the camera: the cute robot face around the lenses, the film rewind crank, and the shutter button. Colours used for these areas include orange, pink, purple, blue, green and yellow.

Disderi Robot toy cameras

Disderi Robots on parade

Other Vastfame toy cameras

Vastfame also made two lens and four lens variants of these toy cameras. The two lens is called either the Twin Star or the Twinkle Two. The four lens camera is known as the Action4. The Action4 is quite a strange name in my opinion, as the brightly coloured plastic on the front of this camera looks like a butterfly.

What’s so special about the Robot3?

Apart from being quite adorable, the Robot3 produces an unusual effect – pressing the shutter button produces three images on the one frame of 35mm film. Having multiple images on the one frame of 35mm film is not unusual in itself, there are many other action sampler cameras that do this. What makes the Robot3 different though – from other action samplers as well as the Twin Star and Action4 – is that the frame dividers are curved.

Disderi Robot toy camera

The curved frame dividers of the Disderi Robot

It’s said that this gives the impression that you are looking at the world from a robot’s point of view, which immediately raises two questions in my mind: 1) Why wouldn’t a robot have sophisticated stereoscopic vision? and 2) Why would a robot be able to see out of their mouth? Of course another consideration is that the lens flips the image, so the “mouth” image ends up on top of the frame, so it’s not really like looking at a robot’s point of view at all. Maybe I’m overthinking it…

Despite its quirky looks, and its questionable raison d’etre, the Robot3 is a super fun, super cute camera that gives fun lomo inspired results. Although I’ve only shot two rolls of film through it, it’s captured a place in my heart. It was one of six cameras that I used for my film photography zine Every Summer.

Image taken with a Robot3 Action Camera / Disderi Robot

Chateau de Chillon, Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Gold 200. The curved frame dividers are said to give you the impression of looking at the world from a robot’s point of view.

Robot3 / Disderi Robot specifications and features

  • Focus distance: 1 metre to infinity
  • Lens configuration: three 25mm lenses – two on the top row (robot’s eyes) and one on the bottom row (robot’s mouth). The lenses flip the image, so the long part of the image actually ends up at the top part of the frame. Curved frame dividers are said to give you the impression that you are getting a robot’s view of the world.
  • Lens sequence: The three exposures are taken in a sequence that lasts for about 1/5 of a second. As you’re holding the camera in your hand with the lenses facing away from you, the sequence of is bottom / right / left – which of course is reversed on to the negative as top / left bottom / right bottom.
  • Shutter speed: fixed shutter speed of 1/100 second.
  • Aperture: fixed aperture of f8.
  • Battery: none needed.
  • Strap: yes
  • Film counter: yes.
  • Rewind button: yes.
  • Viewfinder: no inbuilt viewfinder, only a pop-up “sports viewfinder”.
  • Recommended film: Depends on the light where you live, ISO200 or ISO400 are good places to start, but you could in theory choose any film.

Image taken with a Robot3 Action Camera / Disderi Robot

Solitary swan, Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Gold 200.

Robot3 / Disderi Robot toy camera manual

It’s so simple you really don’t need a manual, but here it is anyway, worth a look for the cute cartoons I guess: view the Robot3 / Disderi Robot toy camera manual.

Where can I buy a Disderi Robot?

I bought my Disderi Robot from  a Facebook Marketplace seller in Brisbane, Australia. Scouring the ads just before I left work, I saw a camera for $2. I had no idea what it was, but for that price I didn’t care. In the pouring rain I turned up at the seller’s house on my way home and handed them a shiny $2 coin in exchange for the seemingly brand new in box with instructions Robot3 camera.

Toy camera review

Hydrangeas, England / Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Gold 200

When I got it home, the shutter wouldn’t fire and I thought I’d bought a dud. Then I remembered that some cameras don’t seem like they work until you pop a roll of film inside them. After loading up and winding on a test roll of 35mm film, I pressed the bright pink shutter button and the robot’s lenses whirred into action. Bingo!

The cameras pop up from time to time on online marketplaces, but they don’t seem to be that common. I’d suggest setting up an alert on eBay if you’re super keen to get one – more details about this process in my blog 12 top tips for buying film cameras on eBay.

Using the Robot3 / Disderi Robot

The Robot3 is a very simple and fun camera to use. It doesn’t need a battery to operate, just add 35mm film! The shooting process is pretty simple – wind film on, wave camera in general direction of the action, press shutter button, repeat.

Toy camera review

Hong Kong Airport / Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Pro Image 100

The camera has no in-built viewfinder, so you really do end up waving it vaguely towards your subject, hoping for the best. The camera has a “sports viewfinder” – a piece of plastic that flips up from the top of the camera that you can use as a framing guide. I’d suggest the sports viewfinder only marginally helps framing, but it’s better than nothing.

As tricky as precise composition can be with this camera, sometimes you get lucky. I love the image below I took of two trains in Switzerland. In the bottom two images, the train in the bottom left frame seamlessly blends with the carriage in the bottom right frame.

Matt Loves Cameras film photography podcast

La Gruyere train, Switzerland. Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Gold 200. I really like the way the front of the train in the bottom left frame seamlessly blends into the carriage in the bottom right frame.

The three wide angle 25mm lenses take about 1/5 of a second to finish their noisy shooting sequence. As you’re holding the camera in your hand with the lenses facing away from you, the sequence of is bottom / right / left. As the lens flips the image, the sequence then is reversed on to the negative as top / left bottom / right bottom.

The camera supposedly has a fixed shutter speed of 1/100 second, but as you can see from almost every image on this page, the long “mouth” lens image is considerably brighter than images from the other two lenses.

The quality of the images is not bad for a plastic camera – certainly a lot better than others I’ve used. They are relatively sharp, with some blurring and vignetting towards the edges of the frame, especially the top part.

Matt Loves Cameras film photography podcast

Kids having fun on Lake Geneva / Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Gold 200

The only real issue I had using this little toy camera was loading the film, which was tricky on one occasion. The main issue seemed to be that once I had fed the leader in the take up spool, it kept coming out as I tried to advance it. Maybe I’m too used to the luxury of premium compacts – eventually it wound on.

The Robot3 / Disderi Robot is a camera that you should take everywhere. It’s light as a feather, weighing in at just 70 grams or 2.4 ounces without film. It’s the kind of camera that you can throw in your bag without even noticing it’s there. It’s not the most compact camera in the world, but it will happily fit in a pocket without weighing you down.

What film should I use for the Disderi Robot?

It all depends on the light you’ll be shooting in – safe choices to start off with would be ISO200 or ISO400 colour negative film. I’ve shot successfully in bright sunshine with both 100 and 200 speed colour negative film, which is known for its wide latitude. Having a wide latitude means that it doesn’t matter if it’s a little underexposed or quite a bit overexposed, the images will come out fine.

Matt Loves Cameras film photography podcast

The beauty of the Disderi Robot – like many other cheap plastic cameras – is that you know all three parts of the exposure triangle.

If you’re not sure if you have enough light to shoot with, fire up a smartphone light meter app. Enter your film speed as the ISO and f8 as the aperture. The shutter speed of the camera is 1/100 second, so as long as the light meter app is telling you that the shutter speed is 1/100 or higher, you’re good to go.

For example, if the app recommends 1/200 second at f8, you have plenty of light for the shot. The Robot3 has only one shutter speed – 1/100 second – so you’ll get twice as much light as needed.

Where the name Disderi Robot come from?

I’ve combed the internet for hours and I’m yet to find who coined the term “Disderi Robot”. Around 2010-11 there were multiple mentions of the “Disderi Robot”, even though this name doesn’t appear on the camera, the box, or in the instruction manual.

Matt Loves Cameras film photography podcast

Birmingham, England / Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Gold 200

My best guess is that it was a nickname that someone used soon after it was released, and it stuck. Disderi was the name of a 19th century pioneer of commercial photography who invented the Carte de Visite camera – capable of taking up to ten images on a single collodion plate.

Note that despite its name, this camera should not be confused with the German Robot cameras of the 1930s and 1940s.

Robot3 toy camera / Disderi Robot sample images

Misty mountains, Switzerland. Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Gold 200.

All aboard the Belle Epoque paddle steamer! Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Gold 200.

Hovercraft, Isle of Wight / Robot3 camera (Disderi Robot) / Kodak Pro Image 100