Before we jump into the article, welcome to our new Series – // n e g a t i v e //, where we will be reviewing Films and even taking a closer look at some of the film cameras – be it 35mm, Medium Format and so much more. As much as shooting in film is becoming a thing (well, it was never dead in the first place), one of the trends in the recent time is shooting on expired films. Let’s not waste any time and get right into it.
As the name suggests, these are films that aren’t available in the market anymore or has been out there for the longest, but it has not been used. We have seen so many film makers kill widely popular films and not only the older stocks get sold out, the price can get ridiculously expensive – one good example will be FUJIFILM’s Natura Series and the infamous Agfa Vista Series. Which raises the question – why are these films expensive – shouldn’t it be cheaper? We will talk about that in another article.
But good thing is that you can find other alternatives, expired films that costs relatively cheaper and still gives the same excitement as shooting with any expired film for that matter. One of the film’s that I personally enjoy shooting on is – Kodak Ultramax 400 which is still available and being manufactured by Kodak.
Previously, it was called Kodak Max and I managed to get my hands on these expired film through a seller in Malaysia – which costed about RM 10 per roll. These expired films I bought were manufactured like a decade ago, which makes it unpredictable to use and it’s as almost as you are getting yourself into an interesting challenge. With that said, I took two of the expired films out for a spin on two different cameras – The Nikon EM and Fujica ST605.
Right off the bat, shooting on an expired film is extremely unpredictable – in fact the first roll that I shot with the Nikon EM was a rather interesting experience. The first few shots I took with it didn’t make it alive – that’s also because of the fact that it was exposed because they had to remove the film to do the CLA for my Nikon. But that aside, the other shots that came out of the camera were rather interesting in its own way.
One noticeable thing of course is how prominent the grains are – be it shooting in a bright or a dim lit condition. The color emulsion I got from the film was nothing like a Kodak Max, as the film generally has a nice warm tone going on. There is definitely loss of details and some pictures are hit and miss – but that’s what makes every picture unique. Some of the details that it captures happen to be on point and has a very nice vintage look going on – something that cannot get in today’s digital world of imaging.
Another thing about the first roll that we shot with the Nikon EM was not stored in a cold storage and it was out for long. So, in order to test our second theory – we loaded another film but on a Fujica instead, not only to see the kind of pictures it can take but how a fresh expired film right out of the fridge would react.
To my surprise, the picture was different. It has a really nice blue hue going on at certain part and the colors were much more intact – the grains were fine and nice to look at and it does give a completely different feel to the overall image. Colors were nice and warm – which is one of the interesting traits about Max 400 films from Kodak. Pictures were extremely pleasant to look at and despite the washed off tone to every image, it had a strong vintage classy look that stood out.
How we treated these films?
When we read through some of the film sites out there, there were few recommendations on how to treat an expired film. Think of it as your grandparents, who need extra care in every single step of the way. When it comes to a normal film, we usually would store it in a container and keep it tucked away in a chiller to make sure it lasts longer. The expired film deserves the same treatment and different ISO/ASA has different deterioration rate.
To keep it simple, the higher the ISO of an Expired Film, the quicker the deterioration is.
Second thing about Expired film is that they will not work the best at the ISO is was meant to be used at. Take in case of the Kodak Max 400 we used in this case; we treated the film as a 100 ISO Film. The reason behind this is – as a film goes beyond the expiry, it tends to lose the ability to shoot at the ISO it was meant to be. The chemicals and the film lose its sensitivity to capture light.
According to this site, which we followed of course – is to subtract one full stop from the ISO for every decade the film has aged. So, in our case – our film was expired in 2002 and it has been more than a decade right now. It was rated at ISO 400 – so now after subtracting, you will be treating it as an ISO 100 film. This is how you bring a weaker film back to life.
Truth be told, it is extremely fascinating to shoot on an Expired Film, but it does come with drawbacks of course.
We have mentioned it multiple number of times in this article and we are going to repeat it again,
Expired Films are Unpredictable.
The first time I took the expired film for a spin, I knew the fact that it would not be up to my expectation. But me being me, I had some – and after getting my first roll processed, I realized – its good not to have an expectation at all. If you happen to use this on a daily basis to capture memories, I’d suggest you to load a good film into another camera and shoot on that instead. Expired Films are more of an experimental film. One roll can give you great result and the other one would be completely opposite. It’s basically a gamble. The second roll made me feel better because every picture was surprisingly good, and it could also be the fact that it wasn’t out for long and was well preserved.
But when you do get the hang of it – on how to handle an expired film, it will be a really good experience. A fun one in fact.
Taking the Expired Kodak Max 400 film is definitely an interesting journey. Eventhough I’d choose a fresh, brand new film to shoot things I love, I can definitely see myself popping an expired film on to another camera to experiment some shots – to give that artistic feel. Personally, if you are looking for some cheap expired films – look for Kodak, which is relatively affordable. Even FUJI does have some, but they can be on the pricier side. There are even expired B&W Films – from ILFORD HP5 and so many more which you can find for a good price. Would really recommend it.