Here is the Super 8 movie and the images that I describe in episode 53 of Matt Loves Cameras film photography podcast!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Finally, the wait is over! The new film photography community collab zines from the Matt Loves Cameras podcast are here! Below are details on the two zines, with links at the bottom to buy. Please…
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 sends these lovely sprocket images in from Alberta, Canada! Taken on her Sprocket Rocket with Fuji 400 film.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Beaverton, Oregon, USA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Hi there Matt!
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.
I’m not eligible to win, but here are my Sprocktastic entries! Taken on a Lomography Sprocket Rocket.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Keep doing single exposures all the way until the end of the roll.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rewind the film another frame by turning the rewind knob until the white dot appears again.
- Shoot another image.
- 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!
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.
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!
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.
Pros and cons of the Sprocket Rocket
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
A couple of years ago I bought a brick of expired Kodak Ektachrome 64T film with the expiry date 12/2003. It came from Victoria, one of Australia’s cooler states, so I was hoping it hadn’t…
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!
- You must shoot 35mm (135) film. Colour negative, colour positive, and black and white film are all permitted.
- You must expose the sprockets!
- Photos must be taken between 15 July 2020 and 15 October 2020.
- Any camera is permitted as long as you adhere to the three rules above.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Listen to the judging of the Matt Loves Panos 2020 plastic pano camera challenge! Matthew Joseph and I discuss images listed on this page in order as they appear below – play along at home by clicking play above, or listen on your favourite podcast app!
Congratulations to all the entrants for a wide array of fantastic images taken with plastic, focus-free cameras that shoot in panoramic format. At the end of this episode, there are some brief details of the next challenge!
Hello, Here are my entries for the Matt Loves Panos 2020 competition! (Sorry for
my procrastination in scanning this roll of film). The pictures were taken in Paris right before the quarantine started in France (between the 8th and 15th of March). I used my magnificent “2 WAY CAMERA” (a novelty camera from a TV programs magazine, pic included) coupled with some expired Fuji 200 for all this blotchy and fringing goodness.
I hope you’ll like them as much as I do ;-). Best regards, Anthony Chatain www.chatain.eu
@achatainfr (on Instagram and Twitter)
“Hey there Matt,
Here are 4 of my pictures from a roll of Fuji Superior 400 that I shot with the Ansco PIX. I picked the camera up for a dollar at a yard sale. This was my first time using it. This was a fun project as it made me look at things differently. Thanks! I added a 5th of a cool car that I saw while getting coffee.
“Hi Matt, these were all shot on Kodak Tri-X 400 with a used ($.99), Ansco Pix Panorama. Film was developed/scanned by Old School Photo Lab in New Hampshire (https://oldschoolphotolab.com/), highly recommended.
I just found a used, Epson V500 scanner so had them develop-only the last batch. I’ve previously done lots of darkroom work but no longer any equipment. I’m going to get some used, stainless tanks/reels, etc. and will eventually start doing my B&W film processing again.
Hope all is well with you and the family in our recently, dystopian present. A photo contest and podcast was just what I needed, thanks! -Mike”
So a bit of blurb about my experience shooting this plastic ……..thing. I found it in a washing basket full of old cameras down the shed covered in many layers of sawdust and dirt. Have no idea where it came from, I certainly don’t remember purchasing it. only that I remembered seeing something with Panorama written on the front while listening to the now infamous “I nearly dropped an Xpan” podcast.
I have never shot wide but have always wanted to have a go at it. It was hard to put down the OM10 and the QL17 I usually carry around with me but I went at it alone with the anonymous plastic camera for two weeks. First mistake was to load the film before I cleaned it up hence a bit of work in post to clean all the dust of the frames. Second mistake was thinking I loaded it with Kentmere 400, clearly marked on the plastic film canister by my own hand. I shot it as if it was 400 speed, throwing caution to the wind and shooting into the shadows knowing that 400 ISO would pick up some details despite not knowing the shutter speed.
Unfortunately this one lays squarely on my shoulders for not changing the little sticky label to 100 ISO when bulk rolling the film. Not wanting to put another roll through it I forged ahead and much to my surprise I managed to get more tham 4 keepers from the roll. A few of the shots were to dark to try and recover but in the end I am pretty happy with the results. So much that it was hard to pick four good ones to share. So here is my submission to the Pano project.I share on multiple media but I think the best place to see my work will be Instagram. tommy_napier should get you to my page. Cheers Old Mate.
Tom Napier / Instagram: @tommy_napier”
- Ted Smout bridge, right and Houghton Highway, left. Shot from Brighton Beach, Queensland.
- Unknown building next to River Link shopping Centre, Ipswich, Queensland.
- Kedron Brook Wetlands off Toombul Rd roundabout, Brisbane, Queensland.
- Governor Blackall Memorial, Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, Queensland.