Shooting with a 35 year old roll of Kodak black & white film

May 24, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Shooting with a 35 year old roll of Kodak black & white film

May 24, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

Last year, Colin Wirth at This Does Not Compute inherited some old camera gear from his grandparents. Along with the usual assortment of cameras, lenses and other items, was a brand new roll of Kodak Plus-X Pan film. A Black & White Panchromatic ISO125 film containing 20 exposures. The only issue was, it expired in March 1983.

Given how long film lasts after being made, that means this roll is over 35 years old. After posting a digital photo of the roll to Instagram, the comments convinced him that it should still be good and that he should shoot it. So, he did.

YouTube video

Colin’s first task was to figure out which camera he was going to use to shoot the film. His first choice was his Nikon N65, a relatively modern 35mm SLR. The reason he went against it was that film speed for the camera’s meter is set automatically. As this roll of Plus-X has no DX coding, the camera didn’t know what ISO it was. DX coding wasn’t introduced until the year this roll expired.

There are ways around this. You could look up the camera’s default ISO and simply dial in some exposure compensation to make up for the difference. Or, use a handheld incident meter. Or, even make your own DX coding labels to force the camera to shoot at a particular ISO.

Colin also has a Nikon FE, which would give the full manual control over ISO rating. Although, due to not using it for a couple of decades, and a somewhat sticky shutter, he eliminated that one, too. He just didn’t want to take the risk. Ultimately, Colin opted to go for the Olympus OM-10.

After packing up, he went to spend a weekend along Minnesota’s north shore along Lake Superior. There he shot through the roll, with the camera pointed at his surroundings. Upon arriving home, he developed and scanned the film. With some contrast tweaks, the results are rather nice.

With film photography making such a comeback of late, demand for the film itself is higher than it’s been in a long time. Companies are expanding and springing up all over the place to meet that demand. But there’s still a lot of older, unused, expired film out there, too. There’s plenty of listings that pop up on eBay. There’s also a lot still sitting in boxes in peoples homes just waiting to be discovered.

I actually have several 100ft bulk rolls of TMax, FP4, HP5, PANF and other 35mm film here that expired anywhere between 15-40 years ago. I shot through a couple of rolls of 20 year expired Tri-X, and the quality was almost as good as working with new film. So, don’t discount film just because it’s old, especially black & white film.

Expired film prices do seem to have been on the rise recently, though. All of the 100ft bulk rolls I mentioned above cost me less than £20 (about $30) each, 3-5 years ago. When I look on eBay today, what little is available costs 2-4 times that. There are still occasional bargains out there, but you have to look hard for them.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

15 responses to “Shooting with a 35 year old roll of Kodak black & white film”

  1. Lorenzo Morgoni Avatar
    Lorenzo Morgoni

    I did once or twice, with colour expired film, result were somehow “destabilizing” :D Perhaps it could be better with B&W, but I never tried. I should!

  2. Jyi Offer Avatar
    Jyi Offer

    Its the only way…

  3. Phillip C Reed Avatar
    Phillip C Reed

    Should work OK. You wouldn’t expect any particular color shift.

  4. Tommy Bordenkircher Avatar
    Tommy Bordenkircher

    for what it’s worth, the n65, like most other auto-iso cameras, falls back to iso 100 by default when no dx code is present. that would have worked just fine.

  5. Martin Thatsme Avatar
    Martin Thatsme
  6. Marta Krause Avatar
    Marta Krause

    yes

  7. Bryan Kurz Avatar
    Bryan Kurz

    Always.

  8. Graham Pile Avatar
    Graham Pile

    Most of the film stock I have is put of date !

  9. Don Kat Avatar
    Don Kat

    as long as it was in a deep freeze.

  10. Brenda Kaye Hicks Avatar
    Brenda Kaye Hicks

    Heck ya.

  11. Håkan Nyman Avatar
    Håkan Nyman

    Sure ?

  12. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    Regarding the grain of the film, it’s probably due to the age and older chemistry. Colin would probably get finer grain results using TMAX 100; it wouldn’t be expired and it offers finer grain.

  13. Kevin MacNutt Avatar
    Kevin MacNutt

    It looks like your film reticulated slightly, maybe due to temperture variance from years of storage which would account for the grain. With a few yard sale bodies I picked up recently there were a few rolls of Kodachome that expired in 1974 (two years before I was born) however I am not to keen on pushing my luck with that.

    If you want to see some interesting results, since it looks like you have a Sony digital E mount camera, buy some cheap adaptors and try some of your old film lenses on the Sony. Depending on the Nikon lenses you may really love the results and it can give your pics a nice vintage look.

    The Olympus 50mm 1.8 Zukio is a phenomenal lens, especially the later versions that showed up on the OM-10. However specifically for the reasons you mentioned I was never too keen on the OM-10 and prefer my OM-1, OM-2 and OM-4. If you find old Olympus lenses at swap meets, yard sales or thrifts, pick them up as Olympus has never made a bad lens, especially when talking wide primes.

    1. Jack Vassau Avatar
      Jack Vassau

      I am going to try using Kodachrom 2 from 1974. Any suggestions?