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Lomography Tests

For the short film Dreaming Backwards, Director Chris Ferrantino and I were looking for a low-fi, home-movie look. Along with the incredibly expressive look of Super 8mm film, we were also interested in testing out a type of lens typically used for lomography. Lomography is a broad term used to describe an analog camera movement and community, where the cameras and lenses are deliberately low-fidelity and of simple construction. We felt using lomography lenses with a DSLR gave us the perfect combination of the manual controls of a digital camera with the expressive, lo-fi look of Super 8mm. But first we needed to test and experiment with various lenses and techniques to find the look we were going for.

 

Camera: 5D Mark III / Lens: Holga HL-N 60mm

For these tests, we tried three lomography-style lenses: the Diana F+, the Holga HL-N 60mm, and the Holga 298120 Pinhole. We also shot with a more traditional lens, an 18-25 Canon zoom, for comparison. Shots were taken on a Canon T2i and the full-frame Canon 5d Mark III, to compare the effects of sensor sizes with our lomography lenses. Lastly, we also tested Super 8mm film, as the obvious benchmark in lo-fi, analog cinematography.

 

Gear and Settings

  • Cameras: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon T2i, Super 8mm
  • Resolution (DSLR): 1920x1080
  • Film Stock (Super 8mm): Kodak Vison 3 5207
  • Frame Rate: 23.976 fps (DSLRs), 24 fps (Super 8mm)
  • Shutter Speed: various
  • Lenses: 18-25mm Canon Zoom, Diana F+, Holga HL-N 60mm, Holga 298120 Pinhole
  • Filtration: Black Pro Mist 1, Black Pro Mist 2 (where noted)

  • All images have been exported as JPEG files at a width of 720, and at 50% quality.
  • Click on any thumbnail for a larger view.
  • If interested in viewing the original camera data or higher resolution stills, feel free to contact me.

     

    Day Exterior Tests

    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Canon 18-25mm Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Canon 18-25mm
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Diana F+ Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Diana F+

    The Diana F+ lens uses plastic elements rather then glass, as well as a large aperature. The only focus marks on the Diana are for "far" and "close," represented by icons of a mountain and a person, respectively. This is more a result of the soft quality of the plastic elements rather then then aperature of the lens. Everything is so fuzzy that "focus" is really a relative term. The effect of the Diana F+ is similar to vaseline: a slightly over-the-top, glossy look. The lens flares in a similarly bold way. Exposure isn't much of a problem, as the Diana F+ lets enough light in to be useful in both interiors and exteriors.

    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga 298120 Pinhole

    The Holga 298120 Pinhole is as simple as a lens comes: a single small pinhole through which light is cast directly onto the sensor. Because the light is squeezed through such a small aperature, exposure tends to be a problem, meaning it's really only a viable option in a day exterior setting or with prohibitively long exposures. The pinhole lens produces a strong look: a very dirty, very blurry impression of an image. Because of the incredibly small aperature, the lens essentially operates at its hypoerfocal, with everything in relative focus. Nothing is really, truly sharp, however, since the pinhole lens lacks any focusing elements whatsoever. Since the light travels directly onto the camera sensor unimpeded, it is left somewhat exposed while shooting. Any dirt or specks present on the sensor show up as an ugly, unmoving blemish. Also because of the pinhole nature of this lens, flaring was basically impossible.

    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga HL-N 60mm Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga HL-N 60mm

    The Holga HL-N 60mm is a modified pinhole lens, where instead of a single pinhole, there is a series of six small holes, giving an interesting flower-shaped vingette and much more exposure then a single pinhole source. The Holga HL-N 60mm also features a simple plastic element on the outside of the lens, providing a bit more protection for the camera sensor. The Holga HL-N 60mm lens gives a very interesting look, almost reminscent of a rear-projection effect. Highlights also bloom and blur very easily. Compared to the other lomography lenses, the Holga HL-N 60mm is definately the sharpest, though exposure is still an issue. Even with the manual controls of a DSLR, the Holga HL-N 60mm is a day-exterior lens.

    Film Stock: Kodak Vison 3 5207 (8mm) Film Stock: Kodak Vison 3 5207 (8mm)

    Comparing Super 8mm to a digital camera with lomography lenses is a bit unfair. The two offer very different looks, and offer differing sets of controls. We chose the Vision 3 5207 stock, as it is a Daylight-balanced 250 ASA stock. Since the 8mm film stock is cut from 16mm stock, the look is identical, though with increased grain size and decreased sharpness. The colors have a pleasing pastel quality to them, and the highlights roll of nicely. Depending on the camera used, manual controls may differ.

    Camera: Canon 5D Mark III / Lens: Holga HL-N 60mm Camera: Canon 5D Mark III / Lens: Holga 298120 Pinhole

    Shooting with a 5D Mark III over the smaller sensor of a T2i offers a much bigger canvas with which to shoot, as well as a shallower depth of field. The depth of field, however, is a moot point with these lenses, as they are all fairly soft lenses where focus is pretty approximate. In both of our tests, with the Holga HL-N 60mm and the Holga 298120 Pinhole, the sensor was bigger then the lens' field of view, resulting in some extreme vignetting.

     

    Lomography in Practice

    For the film Dreaming Backwards, we settled on using the Diana F+ for interior shots, and the Holga HL-N 60mm for exterior shots, giving us the ability to shoot both indoors and out while retaining a similar lo-fi look throughout. Below are a few screenshots from the film, presented as real-world examples of the lenses tested above.

     

    Still from "Dreaming Backwards"
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga HL-N 60mm
    Still from "Dreaming Backwards"
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga HL-N 60mm
    Still from "Dreaming Backwards"
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Diana F+
    Still from "Dreaming Backwards"
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga HL-N 60mm

    Filtration

    We also tested the effects of various diffusion filtration with the lomography lenses. We found that for the purposes of our film, we prefered the look of the lomography lenses without any diffusion, as softening the image even further with additional glass was a step too far. Here's our result nonetheless.

    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Canon 18-25mm
    Filtration: Black Pro Mist 1
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Canon 18-25mm
    Filtration: Black Pro Mist 2
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Diana F+
    Filtration: Black Pro Mist 1
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Diana F+
    Filtration: Black Pro Mist 2
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga HL-N 60mm
    Filtration: Black Pro Mist 1
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga HL-N 60mm
    Filtration: Black Pro Mist 2
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga 298120 Pinhole
    Filtration: Black Pro Mist 1
    Camera: Canon T2i / Lens: Holga 298120 Pinhole
    Filtration: Black Pro Mist 2

     

    Conclusions and Recommendations

    The lomography lenses we tested all produced very different looks, and for the right project they could all work. Aside from the very different looks of these lenses, there's a lot to consider on the technical side of things. With both Holga lenses, exposure is definately an issue, meaning they are only truly an option for day exterior work. Focus, on the other hand, is less of an issue, as they all have very soft looks and small aperatures. Using a 5D Mark III proved to be unneccessary, as the full-frame sensor results in some agressive vignetting. For the film Dreaming Backwards, we settled on using the Diana F+ for interior shots, and the Holga HL-N 60mm for exterior shots, giving us the ability to shoot both indoors and out while retaining a similar lo-fi look throughout.

     

    Further Reading

  • Lomography — The Home Of Creative Analogue Photography & Camera

     

    Many thanks to Chris Ferrantino, Amy Kernan Bennett, Robb Rosenfeld, Ryan Weeda, and Ryan Creasy.

  •  drewmoe.com