I shot my first roll of Lomography’s Fantome Kino film, an ultra low ISO black and white film, back in the summer of 2021. I had some trouble with it due to its extremely low sensitivity and its very narrow exposure latitude. Even so, with the film’s extreme contrast and virtually nonexistent grain, some of the shots came out nice; moody and impactful.
Some time later I’ve shot a second roll and I’m finally ready to put fingers to keys in this quasi-review.
What is Lomo Fantome
Lomography Fantome Kino is a panchromatic black and white film repurposed from ORWO film repackaged and sold by Lomography for 35mm film cameras. It’s a part of Lomography’s Kino collection, which are supposed to provide a look reminiscent of classic cinema films.
Fantome’s look is contrasty and punchy – perfect, Lomo says, for striking portraits, cinematic shots and a “film noir” look. It’s ultra low ISO of 8 ensures almost zero grain.
The film canister does not include DX coding, so the film is best shot in a camera which allows the user to manually set the ISO.
Developing and Handling
I developed my rolls of Lomo Fantome the same as all of my films – using whatever method the manufacturer recommends. I don’t mess around with pushing or pulling, and with an ISO 8 film I’m not sure anyone should.
Developing went fine. No surprises. However when I pulled the film off of my development spools I was simply stunned at how difficult to manage the film strips were. They curled worse than any film I’ve ever used. Once dried, the film was just as curly as ever which made scanning more cumbersome than other films.
Images and My Experience
I shot my first roll of Fantome in mid-summer under bright sunlight and blue skies. A time of year in Massachusetts, unlike now, in which life is worth living. I was able to hand-hold my camera for all of these shots, despite the extremely low sensitivity of Fantome. I shot it through my Leica R5, which effectively metered and auto-exposed every shot.
My second roll was shot on a snowy day under grey skies and in miserable cold. For this roll I used a tripod for quite a few shots, which helped quite a bit at minimizing blur and camera shake. This roll was shot through a Canon EOS 1V, an amazing camera that metered and exposed things perfectly.
My takeaway, regarding cameras, make sure your camera has a manual ISO adjustment, and make sure you’re using one which can meter and (preferably) auto-expose in semi-auto or full program exposure modes. This film is just too picky with its exposure latitude to be shooting in full manual. At least that’s the case if you value your time and money. If you don’t, by all means, shoot Fantome all loosey goosey – who cares?
Images from this film, true to Lomography’s press copy, are punchy and high in contrast. The low ISO means that plenty of shots will appear under-exposed or dark. But if you have a good metering camera and auto-exposure mode, coupled with a tripod and nice light, it’s certainly easy to get balanced photos (though highlights will blow out quicker than more balanced films).
The film needs a lot of light – no surprise there, right? And so I really must recommend long exposures and using a tripod. Otherwise, shots are too blurry or too under-exposed. Plenty of the shots used in this review were made from 20 and 30 second exposures.
For me, the film’s biggest asset is its smoothness. There’s just no grain, and I sort of love that. I know grain is a film shooter’s best friend, but sometimes black and white shots just look gorgeous with that sleek, grain-free look.
Then again, if we’re looking for smooth black and white shots, maybe I should just be shooting digital.
My opinion of the film now is mostly unchanged from when I’d shot that first roll. Lomo Fantome is a finicky beast. And there are other films (and even digital cameras) which will give us all of the perceived upsides of shooting Lomo Fantome without any of the liabilities. Ultra fine grain, high contrast, moody shots – we can get all of these easily from other, much easier-to-use imaging sources. Fuji Acros or my Nikon Z5 and a nice sit-down with Adobe Lightroom come to mind as simple alternatives.
It’s probable that, in the right hands and in the right conditions, this film could become a photographer’s favorite. In my hands, however, it’s just too difficult. I’m not good enough to hamper my efforts with such a challenging film. Whether that’s a strike against the film or my own ability, well, I think I know the answer. I’m just not that good. But maybe you are.
And hey, I’m happy that Lomography is still making things for us film nerds. That’s at least worth buying a couple of rolls.
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