To begin this review, I’m going to say flat out that Lomography XPro Slide 200 film has to, hands down, be the weirdest film I’ve ever worked with. But it’s also been a pleasure and a very fulfilling learning experience in my own pursuits of bettering my photography knowledge. To say this wasn’t a challenge is an extreme understatement. Within three rolls, I tried to “get it right”. Pretty simple you’d think, right? Well, yeah–even I’d sit there and call me a dumbass. Except that Lomography XPro Slide 200 film isn’t a conventional film at all.
I’ve been a film photographer for many years, then went digital, then back to film. When I saw the words XPro I thought it was Lomo’s way of marketing the ideal of it being professional film. When Fujifilm would use the moniker later on years down the line with their X Pro 2 and X Pro 1 it made more sense to me and solidified my hypothesis.
But wow, was I wrong. XPro stands for cross processing. In fact, Lomography developed this film specifically for cross processing. It’s their take on a Rollei film and helps to bring us back to the company’s older style of marketing which involves the use of everything being cross processed in an effort to get the modern young photographer over to them in their lack of understanding how the images can differentiate from digital. From a marketing perspective, it’s pretty darned brilliant if your target market is also experimental and open. But once they mature a bit, they tend to become very hardened in their ways, experienced, and refined in their tastes. Maybe that’s why there is so much less cross processing in their marketing these days.
So when working with Lomography XPro Slide 200 film, I dove deep into that understanding and tried to find a way to make the film truly work for me. Like lots of other slide films out there though, I recommend being careful.
Pros and Cons
- Can deliver some really sharp results.
- The unexpected nature of it is what adds to its coolness factor.
- A serious learning experience I’m very thankful to have had.
- A very unique look vs other slide films out there.
- Without a UV filter, you’ll need a flash and a very deep blue gel in addition to overexposing by probably around a stop to get somewhat normal colors.
- To get normalized color, you NEED a UV filter. And I mean, this isn’t really a con vs a characteristic of the film. But for many people it could be considered a con.
- A bit too grainy for my personal liking, but I can embrace it.
Specs from Lomography’s page listing. Lomography NYC generously developed my film. They scanned one roll, I did the other two.
- For use with 120/medium format cameras (but also 35mm)
- ISO 200
- Perfect for crossprocessing
|Development||Cross Processing Slide Film|
Ease of Use
Before I sat down to type this section, I thought carefully about what I’d say. This section is the main part of the review but as it is, it’s also a massive story. So before I typed this, I shoved a few chocolate covered almond in my mouth for extra energy because it’s a pretty long story. Ready? Here we go.
To start, I’m currently working on reviewing every major and alternative film stock currently available on the market from Lomography, Fujifilm, and Kodak, and I’m trying to establish relations with other companies (hint hint, please contact me). So this has required going back into my archives, shooting more, buying new cameras, etc. It’s an investment no other modern major photography website is doing–let alone one that is both independent and not subsidized by a larger business of some sort.
So I walked into Lomography’s NYC store and decided that I’d give Lomography XPro 200 Slide film my first real start. I picked up three rolls and after my Leica CL with a 40mm f2 came in, I decided that I’d go shoot with my first roll during a casual day off. (Which to a business owner and independant blog publisher actually means you’re probably just not sitting at your desk or being in a studio, but instead doing something you actually want to do for your personal life but still working in some way or another.) I took the Leica CL, 40mm f2, and Lomography XPro 200 slide film into Flushing, Queens, to catch the tail-end of the Chinese New Year parade. Considering what I know about slide films already, I figured that it would be a fantastic place to get wonderful colors and document something close to me, as I grew up in Queens and used to frequent Flushing years ago when I would play Counter Strike Source competitively. The area has always held a closeness to my heart.
So I went about shooting and using a handheld light meter very carefully in conjunction with my very good Sunny 16 metering methods. Sunny 16 is inherently part of this site and every camera I test goes through this metering test as it’s still the leading standard for street photographers and landscape photographers. Sometimes I’d give the film a little bit more light. With other emulsions like Kodak Ektachrome, this is the smarter thing to do.
When I was done shooting it, I took it to Lomo, had it developed, and when it came back I looked through the results. I will always remember that date: I was sitting in the basement with the NYC Street Photography collective and I held it up to the light. I was confused and others around me looked at me to wonder what I was doing until they started to see what I saw. The film was very orange/yellow. Very, very, very orange/yellow. So I thought maybe someone at Lomo screwed up big or they gave me a bad roll.
I took the roll home and scanned it myself. The results weren’t really what I liked and nothing like the Ektachrome I’ve shot for years. So I posted some scans to Reddit and a few Facebook groups I’m part of. What I found is that the analog film community at large knows very little about this film. Many called it rubbish and told me to go shoot real film. Others suggested that someone messed up the processing. Amazingly, no one thought I scanned it incorrectly. In fact, I didn’t. I did everything right, so to speak.
Right–at least in the sense of traditional slide films.
Then the next morning I called the store to tell them about what happened. Lomography’s Katherine Phipps, who had turned into an incredibly brilliant film shooter and has also written for our premium publication La Noir Image, explained there’s a very specific reason why they call the film XPro. We spent maybe about a half hour on the phone as she talked about the film with me.
This film inherently is designed to look very yellow and even designed to be cross-processed–not necessarily go through standard E-6 processing despite it being a chrome film for sure. Katherine talked with Vienna, where the main Lomo headquarters is based, and we reconvened with more information.
To normalize the film, what I found is that it’s a great idea to shoot it with a bright flash gelled to hell with blue gels or to just use a UV filter. Even with just using the UV filter though, you’re going to get some degree of extra warmth. However, some photographers will really like that. If you’re a photographer who likes to shoot in the shade during golden hour, the Lomography XPro 200 slide film (when shot with a lens that has a UV filter) will give you some really fantastic results.
Adding a UV filter to your lens not only normalizes the color of the film but also gives it significantly more sharpness. Otherwise, this is an incredibly soft film–though I have to admit that look is sometimes very appealing.
So I’m going to break this section down into even further sections to help you all out.
Without a UV Filter
Without a UV Filter, But With Gelled Flash
With a UV Filter
This has been a really, really interesting experience. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had writing a review and also one of the biggest learning experience I’ve had in years. I think most of us can agree that shooting with this film requires using a lens with a UV filter; you can get the sharpest images and the most normalized color output. Plus if you add a flash and gel it to be even cooler, you’ll get an even more normalized look.
Otherwise, you’re going to get soft images that are very warm: still an overall fun experience.
It’s a very fun film to play with, and I suggest that everyone give it a try. You can get it on Amazon.