Earlier this year I was doing a film swap with a friend who had sent me his images on a roll of Lomography Metropolis. (For anyone not aware of what a ‘film swap’ is more info on that here). Prior to receiving that roll of Metropolis, I had never shot the film stock before, but it piqued my interest after developing the roll from the swap and I thought it might be something worth shooting again.
Fast forward a few months- I posted a poll asking the community if there would be any interest in seeing review videos on some different film stocks, and the response was a landslide with 91% of people saying yes.
Metropolis immediately came to mind as a good film to review since the double exposures from the film swap had such an intriguing look to them. So, here we are!
What’s so interesting about Metropolis?
This film has a very particular look to it. Lomography is re-creating an effect called bleach bypass, which Wikipedia defines as;
A chemical effect which entails either the partial or complete skipping of the bleaching function during the processing of a color film. By doing this, the silver is retained in the emulsion along with the color dyes. The result is a black-and-white image over a color image.Wikipedia
If I were going to describe the look of Metropolis, that last sentence simplifies it perfectly; “a black and white image over a color image”.
Different ISO, different results
Like many of Lomography’s products, Metropolis is a variable speed iso film. This means that shooting and rating the film at different speeds will yield slightly different results. For example, I found that when shooting Metropolis at 400 there were slight overtones and hints of color, but at lower speeds, these disappeared leaving a mostly black and white image.
Worth mentioning is that the iso needs to be set manually because there is no DX coding on the canister.
Retaining the highlights
At first, I found this film a bit tricky to use with portraits because it has a tendency to blow out the highlights at a properly rated exposure. To correct for this, I adjusted my exposure a half stop to a full stop less to compensate which seemed to retain the white areas of the image better.
What are other options for Bleach Bypass?
While Metropolis is technically a simulation of the bleach bypass process for standard color C41 development, Fujifilm has created their own version of this look with the “Eterna Bleach Bypass” film simulation in their digital cameras. I shot a few comparison images to see how Fuji’s version stacks up against Metropolis.
To my eye, there seems to be a similar desaturation in both options, but the color tonality is quite different between them. Here is an article on Fujixweekly that gives some instruction on adjusting Fuji’s film simulation to more closely match Metropolis.
Metropolis without a doubt has a different, and not-so-subtle look. Bleach bypass as a technique has been around for quite a while- being used in films as early as the 1960s including in the movie adaptation of Orwell’s classic 1984. The history behind its introduction and use in cinema is worth reading up on if you find alternative processes interesting.
Personally, I like the feeling that Metropolis can give a scene or a subject, but this isn’t a film that I can see myself reaching for very often. I tend to prefer more saturation in my images, but of course, when choosing any film, this is subjective and bleach bypass may be exactly the look you’re after.
Affiliate Links (Amazon) :
If you enjoyed this post, sign up for our non-spammy newsletter. Get infrequent updates sent right to your inbox!