A Review of the Totally New, Totally Weird C-41 Film From Lomography8 min read by
Lomochrome Metropolis was introduced as the “world’s first truly new color negative film stock in over a decade” back in 2019. Since then, this funky emulsion generated polarising opinions and created fantastic new opportunities for experimental film photographers. As of 2021, this is still the only new colour film available in 110, 35mm, and medium formats.
➜ Free Download: Lomochrome Metropolis official launch brochure (PDF)
Emulsion design and production.
Despite peaking at almost a billion rolls in 2003, analogue photography mostly saw cutbacks and discontinuation since the onslaught of digital imaging.
✹ Update: A new 2021 formula of Lomochrome Metropolis film has been announced, slated to bring a bit more saturation while preserving the overall look of the film.
The science behind making a colour emulsion, especially in large batches, is complex and difficult to finance. The logistics required to set up a new line are so challenging that multiple successfully funded efforts have spectacularly failed. Even Kodak has had its share of setbacks while preparing their relaunch of Ektachrome.
There are, however, still a few manufacturers who sometimes agree to white-label their existing lines for others to sell, which makes it seem like we have more film variety than there really is. The entire collection of Lomography’s colour and monochrome film is exactly that: found old stock or white-labelled film, re-spooled, and rebranded. Metropolis — being a new and notable exception.
Only a few working film factories exist today. These magical spaces are sometimes revealed to the public, as with Kodak’s factory tours and Film Ferrania’s blog series. Other brands, like Fujifilm and Lomography, however, decide to cover their process in a veil of secrecy.
Nevertheless, I was able to find an article on Core77 (archived here) where Lomography’s cofounder Matthias Fiegl describes the Lomochrome process as “a production chain throughout different continents with different but equally passionate partners… restricted to small batches.”
Perhaps, there is no Metropolis factory floor to speak of — just a series of contractors orchestrated to make and spool this film, which is still quite impressive.
How to expose and develop with Lomochrome Metropolis’ unique “XR 100-400” ISO rating.
Box speed is a manufacturer’s recommended exposure rating for what they determine as “best results” — typically colour accuracy and grain size. It’s usually just one number but in this case, Lomography offers that any of the three, 100/200/400, will do just as well.
The ISO you choose does not impact development (unless you choose to push/pull your film). You can simply think of it as over/underexposure with minimal or no danger of losing data. Your lab will do fine processing Metropolis as they would any other C-41; there’s no need to inform them of this peculiar property. However, as a photographer, you should understand that there is no DX code on the canisters, which will default most film cameras that read it to ISO 100.
When it comes to dynamic range, Metropolis is very versatile. And since the colour it captures isn’t particularly realistic, it’s a little hard to tell if it was over- or underexposed, given that you can easily adjust the brightness of the print or JPEG file.
My personal preference is to shoot it at ISO400 as it tends to produce the least amount of green cast and preserve more saturation in mid-tones.
Lomochrome Metropolis in use: the grain and the tones.
Make no mistake: Lomochrome Metropolis is not made to create realistic colour renderings. The results are characterized by desaturated colours, with a green cast and severe grain.
I think “grungy” is a good adjective for this emulsion.
When it comes to skin tones, however, it seems to work surprisingly well. Not as good as Pro 400H, perhaps, though remarkably well-balanced, considering how intensely it changes the overall look otherwise. I was not able to test Metropolis with any intensely up-close portraits, however.
The film’s green colour cast, appearing when scanned without edits, particularly at longer exposure times, is relatively easy to get rid of. So if you aren’t particularly fond of that Matrix look, Lomography uses to differentiate their prised stock, fire up your Photoshop and clip your green curve slightly.
The film’s “flat” saturation profile makes it relatively versatile and easy to transform once scanned. I found that certain exposures needed no tweaking at all though most could benefit from some de-casting. Of course, this is just my opinion.
It’s hard to tell exactly where or why the green colour comes in, though the first hint may be the emulsion itself, which is distinctly green once developed, contrary to the typical orange mask most C-41 films have.
The only other film with a green mask that I know of is Lomochrome Purple — another unique film stock supplied by Lomography, rumoured to be a rebrand of a discontinued/expired emulsion. Rather curious. 🤔
Overall, I found Metropolis to behave like a specialty film, fittingly well-suited for urban environments with lots of concrete. Its pronounced grain, low saturation, high contrast, and plenty of sharpness can cast a grungy, Mad Max-esque mood over an entire scene. However, it may not be suitable for all types of shots as it tends to manipulate reality in a distinctly grungy/brutalist way.
✪ Note: I use this method to scan all film for my reviews. It creates consistent results that make understanding and comparing the emulsion’s colour/contrast attributes possible.
All the scans in this article are from the 35mm version, exposed in either Voigtländer Vitessa A, Pentax PC 35AF, or Chinon Bellami; scanned with PrimeFilm XA with minimal or no edits.
If you’re looking to buy this film, consider checking with the Average Film Prices tool to see what it goes for approximately today.
This photo of a woman in a mask, wearing latex gloves, propping up her massive bag of TP is a memento of the freakout stage of the pandemic. For those who weren’t there or don’t remember: she hit the jackpot — it was impossible to find any tissue, gloves, masks or sanitizer during the first few months.
This was a spontaneous shot on a 50mm lens from about 10’/3m back. It was hard to tell what was going on with all the noise in its original form, so I cropped it significantly to about the size of 110 film. The grain is very significant here, but the amount of detail is still good. I’ve balanced this image to be “less green” and even added some saturation to highlight the woman’s fantastic pink jacket.
The last photograph is from a different world: pre-pandemic Russia. A trip which I recently turned into a book. I like how Metropolis renders the yellows in this frame, which may have something to do with its ability to decently capture skin tones.