PetaPixel

Shooting with 50+ Year Old Expired Film

Photographer Chuck Miller got his hands on a roll of Super-XX 120 government surplus film from eBay with an expiration date of May 1959 — film that’s 50+ years old and, as Miller notes, older than the Los Angeles Angels baseball team.

Before exposing the film, he sought advice from experts at Kodak’s headquarters, who told him,

Any film material will be exposed to ambient radiation over the course of many years, so the fog on them will be high. The paper backing on roll film is not designed to be light tight for 50 years, so you’re going to see greater fogging on the edges of the finished picture. But if you’re going to use this film, shoot it at half speed.

After shooting the roll on his Rolleiflex Automat MX TLR camera and having it developed, he found that the film still produced wonderfully vintage-looking photographs!

Miller got his roll for a mere $10 off eBay. Poke around yourself and you might be able to do a similar project — though you may not be as lucky with your film. You can read more about Miller’s project over on the Times Union blog.


Image credits: Photographs by Chuck Miller and used with permission


 
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  • http://twitter.com/glennebo Glenn E Bo

    Interesting. I have a roll of 35mm Tri-X still in its box, with an expiration date of July 1958 printed on it. I have it displayed on a shelf as a museum piece, but I have thought of shooting it. Hmmm. I’ll have to think about it now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nathan-Caulford/571563007 Nathan Caulford

    Kinda’ like vintage wine…the question becomes, “What is the perfect occasion?”

    What would I shoot with 60 year-old film?

  • http://twitter.com/dllphoto Dream.Live.LovePhoto

    Wow! The pictures turned out great!! I’m going to have to look for some old film for myself.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jhracer3 John Henry Harris

    I really don’t understand this website’s constant fascination with foggy, spotty, “vintage” photography. If you just want that cookie cutter “vintage” look, take a photo with your DSLR and photoshop it. If you actually want to use film and explore the true art of photography, make photos that look like photos, ie the crisp, vivid, non-vignetted photos Ansel Adams produced 50 years ago with film.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jhracer3 John Henry Harris

    I really don’t understand this website’s constant fascination with foggy, spotty, “vintage” photography. If you just want that cookie cutter “vintage” look, take a photo with your DSLR and photoshop it. If you actually want to use film and explore the true art of photography, make photos that look like photos, ie the crisp, vivid, non-vignetted photos Ansel Adams produced 50 years ago with film.

  • http://profiles.google.com/markkalan Mark Kalan

    jeez – I’ve got lots of film – some Kodak XX and 1960 Kodachrome for starters – meanwhile here’s a piece I wrote about processing some old film I found http://markfocus.blogspot.com/2008/08/process-that-film-now.html

  • http://twitter.com/21TonGiant Aaron Stidwell

    Hmm. Or you could save all that time importing, sorting, and shopping by just shooting film. If I want that vintage look with out all the work, I just shoot Tmax P3200. And of course I can (and do) shoot with better film to get “crisper” images but sometimes that’s not the point.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s a film shooters thing. Sorry you don’t like the images…

  • Anonymous

    I have lost in the house, somewhere, a disposable camera I took to India 10 years ago. It’s nice to know there’s hope if I find it.

  • http://twitter.com/WeiseStudios Dana Weise

    If you put two images together one shot with digital the other shot with film, you WILL See a difference.

    I’m a digital photographer but honestly I see the beauty in film. There is a difference between the two. These ‘flaws’ make the photos unique and lovely in various different ways. Further- you cannot reproduce these images in photoshop without them looking fake as all get out. Adding noise digitally is different than having natural grain. The vignetting in photoshop isn’t that great and it looks more natural in camera.

    And as Aaron said; a lot of the times it isn’t the point to shoot something so sterile and clean. I think that’s a lot of the problems today with digital vs. film. The digital looks far too clean a lot of the times. Sure you can spend several hours grunging it up, but when it all comes down to it will never look the same as a film camera.

    Further you say “cookie cutter vintage”… Honestly you’re not going to get cookie cutter vintage look with a film camera. Each image will be different. You say that you should do it digitally? That’s when it starts to look cookie-cutter and fake.

  • Pingback: Pictures Recently Taken With Old Film Look 50 Years Old | Gizmodo Australia

  • http://twitter.com/richardford Richard Ford

    I have some 1976 126 format Kodak verichrome that works fine – still got 30 cartridges. The trick I found to stopping the blooming effect seen above is to cool the developer down. I did it at 16 degrees and increased the time to compensate. The cooler and less active developer seems to then produce a cleaner image.

  • Doug

    Am I the only one laughing at the statement made by John Henry Harris about the “…true art of photography..?” John, could you define that for me?

  • Luckyshow

    3200ASA Recording film, if they still produce it, shot in  bright sun at a beach, and maybe pushed a bit in developing gives amazing grain. Ektagraphic HC film, which is Kodalith in a roll film, shot at 8 ASA, gives very sharp, very high contrast images with interesting shadow areas. There is (or was?) also a Kodak black and white positive copying film. Easy to cut into 36 exposures for cartridges as it doesn’t see red light. Shot as  negative film, it resembles original film in the range it can image. It is 6 ASA.

    Agfa Ortho, impossible to find here and who knows if they still make it now, was also interesting, perhaps better than Technical pan film.

    Go find an old, very old box brownie. They use 120 flm. Simple shutter, simple lens. You have to either contact print the negs or print smaller sections and cut and paste together. Super old “effect”  The 127 film size “soldiers’ camera,” the first pocket size camera (they had large pockets). I used to use these when I could locate 127 film. Developed in 120 cassettes. I actually have a brick of 127 color film. How to get it developed may be difficult, but not as hard as if it were Kodachrome!

    Photoshopping is really not like film. Don’t believe the hype.

  • Ashley Pomeroy

    “He found that the film still produced wonderfully vintage-looking photographs!”

    The thing is, the results wouldn’t have looked like that if they had been developed back in 1959 – if they actually *were* vintage photographs. They’d look normal and a bit dull. The vintage look in this case is a kind of facsimile of an idea, and it does resemble the kind of thing you could get in Photoshop by adding a textured layer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Still, there’s a great website called Shorpy that publishes actual vintage photographs, and by and large they’re sharp, contrasty. He’s got the tilt right though.

  • http://www.magalic.com/ Magali

    These are so lovely for 50+ year old film! I got an unused roll of Ilford bw film from my dad. It’s 20+ years old (before I was born). I’ve been itching to try it but it has to be for a special occasion to me. :)

  • http://www.magalic.com/ Magali

    Hah! Steve is your house super big? I would love to see the results if you finally found it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dominic.wade1 Dominic Wade

    I have just purchased two rolls of 35mm. One expired in 1981 and the other in 1970. I hope I can shoot with them. I will put one in my Rollei first. The 1970 one is a roll of Agfa, the other is a roll of Ilford Pan F. Each roll was £2.

  • BADBOYBROM

    How did the print come out Dom.