Scanning Old Color Negatives

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by robert_martin|5, Aug 11, 2005.

  1. When scanning old color negatives (37 years old) I get what appears
    to be an overlay on some negatives. The problem is more visible in
    dark areas (clear on negative), but is also in the light areas (dark
    on negative). Could this be some form of fungus growing on the
    film? Anyone have any suggestions on how to remove it?

    On some images I also get areas where reddish color appears in dark
    areas of the image.

    Both of these are visible on the attached image.
  2. Hi

    There's a product called pec-12. Never used it, but i've heard it works fine cleaning negatives. By the way, does your scanner have ICE?

  3. I am using a Nikon 9000 scanner. It has ICE4, GEM, and ROC. These were scanned using all three and NeatImage was also run on the finished scans. Not all the old film is like this, so it may have to do with the processing that these negatives received.

    I will try cleaning as you suggested, but I think they may need rewashing and maybe something to remove the problem. I have a color darkroom, but have not used it in over a year.
  4. robert,,i scanned over 3,000 negatives made between,1920 to 1958..the problem you have is mildew. i wouldnt try washing them with water,it may melt the emusion,(it happened to me). try a good film cleaner,and use cotton gloves made for holding negatives. the gloves not only keep you from touching the negatives,but are very good to use as a lint free cloth to clean the negatives.use a spare glove with a little film cleaner on it, to gently wipe the negatives with. you may not get the mildew off. however i wouldnt go any can use photoshop to restore the image.also when finished always store the negatives in archival film holders,and keep in a dry storage,you can even freeze the negatives for longer storage. i hope this helps. you can get the supplies at B&H photo.
  5. jtk


    My guess is that the chemistry that always remains in color negatives has continued to work. I doubt it's fungus.

    37 years ago the film was C22 process, nice and simple compared to C41...C22 film tended to start looking bad in 5-10years, though not as fast as early C41...your neg looks pretty good for its age.

    I doubt washing, or any chemical treatment, will help. I think the solution is in Photoshop. And if you have a faded print, that may have more potential than the negative.
  6. jtk


    I've washed negs from all sorts of eras going back to 1890 and never had emulsion "melt." No damage at all. Just use warm water and a drop or two of Photoflow per 500cc, then squeegee with your wet fingers..fingers are best because you can feel any grit, impossible with a squeegee or sponge.

    The last step (before drying) in C22 process was a wash in warm water, so it's not likely to "melt" with that treatment...

    ...still, I think it's best to avoid doing anything beyond Photoshop to an old C22 negative.

    And if the emulsion is blistering, which did happen to some WWII era B&W sheet films, definitely don't wash.
  7. Thanks for all the inputs. I will put some of these in my rotary film processor and run them through a wash cycle at 100F. I don't think it will harm the negatives since they appear in good condition otherwise.

    Anyone know if C-41 stabalizer will have any bad effects on C-22 processed film?
  8. jtk


    I suggest mere warm...more like room temp, not 100deg F. There's no reason for higher temp. C22 wasn't processed that hot...I think it was was very easy to run at home, more like B&W than C41.

    I'd just dip each neg in warm water with a drop of photoflow, squeegee with fingers...not even wash.
  9. The problem with using water to wash old film is that if you actually do have a fungus growth, adding water can contribute to their growth and would make the problem even worse. A water wash is like watering the weeds in your garden. The fungus eats the emulsion, then leaves a hard structure behind that won't wash off or be blown off. You have to physically rub it off. Between that and the fact that the fungus has already eaten some emulsion this is pretty hard on the film. Best is to avoid the problem with proper storage; next best is to correct the problem at your soonest opportunity.

    I have never had the microscopes needed to actually "see" fungus, but in my experience, the fungus spots are much smaller than dust and don't move around when you give them a blast of air. The fungus is also even distributed and can be mistaken for a really large grain. I use a non-water based film cleaner with some light pressure from a Q-tip or similar to rub the film. The film cleaner acts as a lubricant and helps to minimize the damage from rubbing. This problem really impacts museums and other places with large holdings, but I have never come across any better description of how to remove or control the fungus.
  10. jtk


    Perhaps it's fungus, and if it is a chemical/mechanical cleaning might be an acceptable risk (but probably not as effective as Photoshop).

    However, chemical change continues in color (and B&W) negatives long after processing, through the decades. Robert isn't necessarily dealing with fungus, but he's almost certainly dealing with changes in color pigments.

    The "weeds" analogy seems invalid: If you re-wash an old negative it will immediately dry, but only to the humidity level of storage. Decades of emulsion humidity (storage humidity level) feeds fungus. A wash only increases moisture level for the hour or two required for drying. If you water weeds for only two hours in 37 years, will it encourage them?
  11. I'll be the iconoclast of the group - and say that this is NOT mildew (that
    would be irregular in pattern anyway) - but simple magenta shift. You'll
    have to venture into your "curves" command in photoshop and reset the
    'toe' (shoulder in the case of negs) to eliminate the magenta cast. Get
    yourself a good book - highly recommended is "real world photoshop" by
    blatner & fraser. None better. It will take you through the EXACT process
    you need to deal with. Anyway - this is REALLY REALLY common with older
    negs. Luckily it's easy to deal with digitally.
  12. I tried re-washing the negatives using PhotoFlow and used my fingers to rub the negative, but no change in the problem. The problem does not occur with all my old negatives, only about 10%. It appears in the dark areas of the image (clear on negative) the most, but you can also see it in white areas if you look very close. I think it's in the emulsion rather than on top. Not sure there is a way to remove it. You can't do it with Photoshop because it's like grain but not a regular pattern.
  13. Robert,

    If it is a mildew or other form of fungus the damage may be permanent and you may not be able to get rid of it. You also run the risk of damaging the film even more if you get too rough. Sometimes you just have live with it and make all or most of the restoration using Photoshop or another similar image editor.

    I feel for you. I have had slides badly damaged by mildew and I know how disappointing it can be.

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