Lomography CN800 is the kind of film for which most of the available shots are performed with toycameras (made by the same Lomography and not), thus not easy to get a precise idea of qualities and defects and perhaps highlighting especially the latter; It is therefore worth some testing with a more powerful and precise system to see how far you can go with a film of this type in terms of image quality and reliability. This is useful also given the current shortage of high-sensitivity color films: from the consumer side remains some Fujifilm Superia 1600 (800 Xtra are rather rare), while the few professional films like Kodak Portra 800 remained often reach unjustifiable price; It remains possible to underexpose, with good results, 400 Asa but, why not see how an alleged 800 native film Asa works? Sure it’s not super cheap being generally offered in three-pack films with a unit price of almost 5 euro for 135/36 canister and euro 5.60 per 120 roll (However, taking advantage of the periodic promotions you can get them at lower prices).
Here we deal with the 120 format version, which is produced in China, while 135 version is credited with being a rebranding of any emulsion “Made in U.S.A”. (Kodak?); about who produces the film there are no certainties, but until recently in the Chinese territory only the Lucky manufactures was equipped for such type of production; probably these films come from there, maybe produced exclusively for Lomography.
For this test (as always, leave scientific comparisons to scientists!) a Mamiya RB67 camera has been used so that we can take advantage of a high quality and optical precision and be able to assess what actually the film can give. As mentioned, these films are a boon for toy cameras that have high sensitivity, but all chromatic aberrations introduced by plastic lenses inevitably distort any assessment on actual yield. See the shot, taken with a Holga camera and developed under the same conditions as below ones. Three rolls were used to evaluate the behavior even in the over and under exposure though the exposure latitude of the color negative of this type usually does not change when push/pull by 1 or 2 stops, especially in overexposure. The rolls were developed all with the same batch of C41 chemistry and a RA4 print was made from one of the frames exposed at box sensitivity.
The fate of 90% of the negative color is to be scanned and then possibly be printed on inkjet or similar, but a RA4 print still allows you to get a more accurate idea of the actual yield, net operable corrections in post production (also, however, here scans are taken as-is from RAW files).
For a first look at the negatives it is obvious that by using good optics the fidelity and accuracy are good, much better than the supposed target of Lomography CN800 would let think; in a shooting situation in daylight you can count on a faithful rendering worth of more rated films.
The detail at 100% is perhaps the most critical point with respect to a professional film and here the difference is also perceived in terms of apparent greater granularity; the grain increases when exposed to 400 Asa (much compared to a native such as Portra) while remaining basically at the same level to 800 and 1600 Asa. We are still the norm and a prints up to 24 x 30 should not be affected much. Certainly, for a common use as photo-passionate, does not represent absolutely no problem.
The result in overexposure is obviously a greater color saturation, but not to make unrealistic the shooting scene; overexposure has not particularly sense, having availability of far better films Asa 400 natives and of equal price level (Kodak Portra 400); when underexposing at 1600 Asa colors hold still in a rather faithful even if you feel a slight blurring, especially in medium-sized and grain, as mentioned, remains unchanged compared to a normal exposure
Climbing further by one stop, it continues the effect on colors (not on blacks) and also grain increases but the result is still acceptable: If you develop by yourself, changing the developer time you would be able to compensate for the variation and to limit negative effects to almost indistinguishable tresults from a box exposed film. Though most shooting conditions in which we are involved, instead, will have enough sensitivity at 1600 Asa, no intervention in development will need to get a result substantially correct.
You can then say that the Lomography CN800 can give better results than you expect, especially if used with good equipments and exposed and processed correctly: this is definitely a good news for those who hunger for high-sensitivity color films and sees the choice now reduced to light; clearly, we are dealing with a product that has no professional ambitions but that, however, can go far beyond the toy/plastic cameras target positioning itself firmly in the availability of even advanced amateur photographer. The film is highly recommended for all those cases where you don’t want to underexpose films with lower sensitivity.
As mentioned above, it was made a test RA4 print on 18 x 24 format from one of the frames exposed to box speed (below) and the result was satisfactory in terms of colour rendition and grain detail, asking for just minimal filtration.