Old film... Old, old film... Really OLD film...

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by scottroberts, Nov 26, 2019.

  1. Get the pic yet? I am starting to get using my late fathers large format gear- Speed Graphic, Graphic View, and almost all the accessories ever... Lots of lenses, etc. Lights. Full darkroom set up. He had been a professional photographer from the 40s-80s, had his own studio in the 50s, did press photography for some local papers & magazines, was very good at industrial photography, and finished doing photography for advertisements and book jackets for his company, as the assistant director of advertising. (It was a reasonably large book company). I inherited all his equipment.

    Anyway, I am starting to get set up to use his equipment, which is still in pretty decent shape, and a challenge I am looking forward to. Among all the equipment, I have a few boxes of old 4x5 sheet film, as well as about a single case of Polaroid film for the camera, which is still sealed, in closed boxes. The newest film has an early 1980s date; The Polaroid stuff he has marked as "dead", and expired in the 1970s. Some of the Polaroid packs I've opened seem to have pliable, not dried chemical packs

    My plan is to use the old, leftover and dated film for practice- I have about two dozen loaded filmholders he filled back in the 80s, and all has been sitting in average conditions for the past 40 years. (By average, I mean no special efforts were apparently made- it just sat around in storage in the house...) I am figuring that I won't plan to take any good pics, nothing more than practice shots to get used to the equipment, as well as practice setting up and developing film- even if nothing comes out, I will get the mechanical skills practice.

    My QUESTION is: KNOWING the film is most likely aged out, and that I will most likely NOT have any successful negatives out of it, are there any tricks I can use to try to help this antiquated film get an image? Longer exposure, longer developing times? I'm not worrying a lot about it, just wondering... I figure the Polaroids are most likely a lost cause, but I also think that ANY practice is good practice.

    Other than "Just throw that stuff out and buy new", I'd be interested in hearing thoughts: I figure it is better to use junk for practice, and then get good stuff when i have a firm handle on things...

    robert_bowring and Henricvs like this.
  2. Your chances of getting images is pretty good. They may not be the greatest, but getting OK images out of B&W film that old is possible. Color not so much. You might get better results processing it as B&W. I have no idea about old Polaroid film.

    Rule of thumb: For color film, "over expose" 1 stop for every decade. So 10 year old ISO 100 film you would shoot as if it were ISO 50. For B&W it would be about 1 stop for every 2 decades.

    Slower film ages better than faster film (less fogging). And B&W ages better than color.

    I develop as normal. Some B&W developers/techniques might help reduce fog but that's beyond my expertise.
    Henricvs and scottroberts like this.
  3. My only suggestion is, while by all means break open a pack of old film to practice loading and unloading the cameras and development gear, for your first attempt at having a full run through, buy a pack of new film and fresh chemicals. You've got enough variables on your first run without adding 'is it the film?' to the mix.

    Then, once you've got it sussed, take a look at the old film.
    bethe_fisher and tomspielman like this.
  4. Thanks! That should be quite useful!
  5. I forgot to mention- I also have about all the chemicals, too! Just as old, but still sealed new in their packets. I would imagine (I like to imagine, lol) that they would still be "fresh", even after all these years! I was figuring use them for the old films, as they are already in hand, and would involve no financial loss if the films came out dud.

  6. It's another variable. If you open a packet and the stuff still looks powdery rather than clumpy it might be fine. But as Steve mentioned, if your pictures don't turn out, you will be left wondering why and it will be hard to know if it was bad film, bad chemicals, a problem with the camera or a combination of all three. :)

    I'm assuming you're talking about B&W chemicals. If so, they're not that expensive and you can mix your own "Stop" using vinegar and water. Save the old chemicals for when you're comfortable that everything else is OK.
    scottroberts likes this.
  7. The FB group Vintage Film shooters: Vintage Film Shooters

    has people discussing films of a variety of ages. (The rule is that it has to be past the
    date on the package. Latest I had was Fukkatsu 110 film dated Dec. 2018.)

    Cool room temperature, say up to about 75F, is not bad for film. I keep much of my
    old film in my cool basement, which is about 60F in the winter, 70F in the summer.
    LIfe shortens quickly with temperature, the often discussed car on a hot summer day
    might be down to hours.

    My personal rule is to expect reasonable results from Tri-X to 20 years, Verichrome Pan to 40 years,
    and Panatomic-X to about 60 years. That is, for those films and ages, I expose at the box
    speed and expect usable results.

    Favorite developer for old film is Kodak HC-110, which is believed to give less fog
    than many others.

    This one is on 45 year old VP116, with a Kodak Autographic Jr. 1A.
    I believe before I had HC-110, so in Diafine. The Autographic Jr. 1A has
    a few shutter speeds and aperture settings, but I might not have done much
    more than the usual sunny 16. (Kodak stopped making 116 film in
    about 1984, so this was a little bit older than that.)

  8. As for chemistry, I have had developer powder turn brown inside the sealed pouch,
    and form a brown liquid when dissolved. If the developer dissolves as a mostly
    clear, down to light tan, liquid, it is worth trying.

    As well as I know, old powdered fixer is fine for a long time, in sealed

    I have an old Kodak Direct Positive Film Developing Outfit as a test of
    old chemistry. I haven't tried mixing any yet. I have some other slightly
    old chemistry, but not so much in the 20, 30, or 40 year range.

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