This post is long over due, and let me get this out of the way and say no, this is not paid or sponsored by Lomography. I've been wanting to share my thoughts and experiences with Lomography's brand of black and white film for a while, and hopefully educate some folks on the wonders and downfalls of it.
I've been shooting film for a while now, and if you've been following my blog for sometime you know that I adore vintage cameras and analogue photography. Over this past summer I've fallen hard for black and white film, and was itching to take Lomography's Earl Grey 35mm film out for a whirl.
First off, I have to say the film is gorgeous. You get 36 exposures of beautiful grey tones, limited grain, and crispness. Compared to Kodak's B&W film, I would probably take Earl Grey any day of the week.
I found the Earl Grey film to be on the pricey side though. For 3 rolls it cost me $26 with taxes, whereas Kodak's B&W is around $18 with taxes where I live. The upside though is having those 36 exposures to shoot with versus 24, so you have to take the good with the bad.
And speaking of the bad, let's get down to it. Generally once you're all done your roll of film you take it down to your local lab to be processed, and within the hour/day you have your beautiful prints to flip through.
NOT SO FAST, BUCKO.
Nowhere on Lomography's packaging does it say this film is a C-41 process or otherwise. C-41 process means that your general one-hour photo lab can process the film no problem, as it's the standard consumer grade film. However, the packaging on the Earl Grey film leaves you guessing as to where the hell to get it processed. Online forums weren't too much of a help for me in figuring this out either. Lomography's website only touched based on how to develop it at home. That's not an option for me as A) I have limited space and B) a curious toddler who still shoves things in his mouth.
I did, however, peel back the sticker on the film canister, and behold it says C-41. DO NOT BELIEVE THIS. Lomography uses recycled canisters for their film which is fantastic, but it leads people to believe this is the correct developing process. This is unfortunate, because if you develop this particular black and white film in C-41, it WILL come out blank. Crappy.
It turns out the Earl Grey film is actually true black and white film, meaning it doesn't use a C-41 process for development. Luckily the photo lab I took my film to erred on the side of caution and sent my film out to a lab that could properly develop it. Thank goodness too. I would've been heart broken to have my shots come out all blank and to have wasted money on processing, never mind just on purchasing the film itself.
Here is how the film looks after development. On the left hand side is your typical C-41 Kodak black and white film. On the right is Lomography's Earl Grey. Its negative develops with a purple-ish hue, which is generally how true black and white comes out. How do I know all of this? I use to work in a photo lab during my college days and became familiar with the different processed negatives that came through for reprints and what not.
So, keep in mind if you decide to use this film, find a lab that can send it out for proper developing. In Edmonton I go to either London Drugs or Don's Photo. Do your research, or face potential disappointment.
All in all I love Lomography's Earl Grey film, but in all honesty I think it's a bit bullshit that they don't indicate anywhere on the package to customers that this isn't your average black and white film, especially for the price they're charging for it. I'm sure there are many photographers out there who've had blank film returned to them when they go back to their photo labs. That's such a sinking feeling.
Will I buy this film again? More than likely yes, and if you end up buying it as well, have fun with it, shoot your heart out, and please take my advice when it comes to developing.
~E & R