Shooting the Sprocket Rocket in Great Yarmouth [Lomography Color Negative 400]

Images shot on Lomography Color Negative 400 in Lomography Sprocket Rocket

Love them or hate them, or just feel a general indifference and get on with your life like a normal person, there’s no doubt that Lomography come up with some pretty special cameras.

Not the kind that are going to give you technically terrific image quality or anything of that nature of course, but you have plenty of other options for that anyway.

No. When I say special, I mean in the way that they’re designed to give you a different kind of photograph. Like one in a 3:1 aspect ratio with sprocket holes along its edges, for example.

That’s exactly what the Sprocket Rocket does, and I thought a trip to Great Yarmouth – a traditional and very typical British seaside town – seemed as good an opportunity as any to put a roll of colour film through it.

So that’s what I did, and that’s what you’re reading about now.

A quick rundown on what the Sprocket Rocket is

The Sprocket Rocket is one of the many novelty cameras that Lomography have come up with and put out into the world for us to play around and experiment with.

I use those verbs deliberately, because these aren’t serious cameras that you’d use when superior image quality and perfect composition are important to you.

Checking out the multitude of different Lomography cameras will reveal some that do things you never even knew you needed in your life – and perhaps still don’t and never will.

This Sprocket Rocket’s unique superpower though is to shoot panoramas with – as the name suggests – the 35mm film sprocket holes there in the frame too. Because the images it produces have a 3:1 wide aspect ratio, you can expect to get 18 shots from a 36-exposure roll and 12 from a 24-exposure one.

This fully-mechanical camera is very simple to shoot, with two aperture settings – f11 or f16 – and a fixed shutter speed of 1/100, unless you use its Bulb mode for long exposures.

It has just two zone focus settings too – 0.6m to 1m and 1m to infinity – and requires no batteries due to it having absolutely nothing electronic inside that needs powering.

Finally, perhaps unsurprisingly for a Lomography camera, it allows you to easily do double exposures. I did some myself, which you can see later in this post.

So all in all, it’s a pretty easy-to-operate camera that gives pretty unique results. And as I found out when using it in Great Yarmouth, it’s also a lot of fun to shoot.

We should probably get into that now then, shouldn’t we?

Shooting some beachfront sprocket hole photographs

This first batch of images from Great Yarmouth shot with the Sprocket Rocket comes from a walk along the beach and promenade.

The first thing to mention here is the noticeable cool blue hue to them that I didn’t really experience when I shot this Lomography CN 400 film in other cameras. I can only assume then, for better or worse, that the plastic lens on this thing helps to accentuate that.

The next thing to note is how you can’t really straighten your images up in whatever editing software you use if you want your sprocket holes to remain parallel to the top and bottom of them. You have to get your composition as level as you can when you shoot.

For the most part, I did okay in that respect here. The below shot looking out at the beach through the archway is perhaps the worst example of a crooked horizon here.

The one with Jimmy is crooked too if you look at the pier in the background, but it seems less important in that image. Like it’s a quick snapshot and he looks to be standing at a reasonably normal angle, so the background is not the main focus.

The one looking through the archway was supposed to work as a level shot though and now it isn’t that, it has nothing else to really rescue it as a photograph.

Another thing to remember when shooting with the Sprocket Rocket is you won’t know for sure where the sprockets will be in your shot.

I wish they were only in the sky and not overlapping the wall in the shot of the tandem mobility scooter photo, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. I’ll just have to remember to give myself more room when that’s important to any future shots I compose with this thing.

wellington pier great yarmouth

In the streets of Great Yarmouth with the Sprocket Rocket

After getting a bunch of shots from the beach at Great Yarmouth, I moved inland a little to mix it up with some from the nearby streets, fairground, and well-known buildings.

Some of these have a little more colour than most of the ones above, and it’s good to see the Sprocket Rocket lens rendering that nice and brightly.

The shot of the flowerbed below was one of the few where I set the focus to the 0.6m to 1m zone. And each time I did – here, on the ice cream shot at the top of this piece, and Jimmy on the beach in the last section – the closer subjects came out nicely in focus with the background a little more blurred.

Of course you would expect a camera to be able to focus where it says it’s going to, but it’s always nice when you judge the distance properly yourself too.

I quite like the out-of-focus wire fencing around the Pleasure Beach too, and how even as a mere viewer of a photograph you’re still looking through it to see what’s beyond.

The rest of the images in this batch are what they are, really. I think the missing ‘W’, the wonky ‘R’, and the almost falling off ‘E’ of the Tower Complex frontage are a nice allegory for the run down faded glamour of a lot of British seaside towns.

Personally though, that’s something I like and a large reason why I find myself drawn to them when I need somewhere to shoot some film.

windmill theatre yarmouth
yarmouth tower

Playing with some double exposures, because Lomography

As mentioned earlier, as with lots of other Lomography cameras, another feature of the Sprocket Rocket is that it allows you to easily take double exposures. Or more than double if you want, because you can shoot as many times as you want before winding the film on.

I didn’t feel the need to venture into the world of triple or quadruple or beyond into the undefined realm of multiple here though, but I did think I should give some double exposures a go.

Because this is a novelty Lomography camera so you kind of have to, don’t you?

The first of these below was by far my favourite. However! It did suffer once more from me not having the camera quite level when shooting the boardwalk and buildings.

For the next one I envisaged having the ice cream and the tower a little further apart. The former is in a decent position in the frame, but the latter is too far towards the centre.

Finally, the No Cycling sign and the entrance to the beach. I’m not even sure what’s going on there. It must have looked good in my mind’s eye at the time but seems a bit of an all-clumped-in-the-middle mess now.

Live and learn though. As always with your photography. Live and learn.

Wrapping up this Great Yarmouth Sprocket Rocket session

The Sprocket Rocket was definitely an impulse buy for me. One of those where you’ve had a couple of light ales and it’s late and you somehow spend more money on yet another camera you don’t really need instead of just going to bed.

There was no buyer’s remorse here, though.

Before I got around to shooting this first roll of Lomography Color Negative 400 in it, I was looking forward to trying it out. Then when I was shooting it in Great Yarmouth, I was having a lot of fun doing so. And once I got the film developed and saw the results, I was very happy with how they looked.

At all stages of the process, I was having a good time.

There are other ways to take photographs with sprocket holes in them, but these mostly involve buying some little adapters and loading some 35mm film into a 120 camera. This could be something simple like a Holga, or something more advanced like a Mamiya.

Even then though, you’ll probably need some additional gear like a rotating film back for your Mamiya if you want to achieve the kind of 3:1 panoramic shots that the Sprocket Rocket gives you too.

And that doesn’t seem worth it to me when you can pick up this fully plastic, fully manual, no batteries required and highly fun Lomography option at a similar price to what a few rolls of Kodak Portra 400 unfortunately go for these days.

p.s. at the time of writing this I’ve shot a roll of monochrome film in the Sprocket Rocket too, around the streets of Nottingham, but have yet to get it developed. Once I have, providing I didn’t mess it up, expect another post heaping more praise onto this – let’s face it – kinda ridiculous camera.

I’m excited already. 🙂

If you enjoyed that post shooting the Sprocket Rocket around Great Yarmouth, why not have a look at some of these other film photo essays too:

And if you think others will find this post worth a read, help them find it by giving it a share 😀

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