Expired Film Never Looked So Good

You know what’s great about digital cameras? They have an LCD screen that lets you see what your shots look like the second after you take them.

You know what’s great about film cameras? They don’t have LCD screens.

Maybe “great” isn’t the appropriate word. Perhaps “fun” is more suitable.

All sorts of things can go wrong when you’re shooting film and you won’t know until you develop it. 

Shooting expired film just adds to the fun — you know, color shifts, extra grain, decreased contrast, mottling, fogging. All that good stuff.

So what did I do when I dug out a roll of expired Fujifilm Reala 100? I excitedly loaded it into my Bronica SQ-A and went for a stroll.

I remember receiving this roll of film, which expired in 2001, as part of a bundle I purchased on eBay in 2010 or 2011. Most of the film from that bundle has been used, including several rolls of Ilford PanF 50 on which the markings from the backing paper soaked into the emulsion.

Fun.

I made no effort to store any of that film properly. It’s just been sitting a drawer all this time. I’m aware of the expired film rule of thumb that suggests you should overexpose the film one stop for every decade expired, which meant I should expose my Reala 100 at 25 ISO. I momentarily considered exposing for ISO 6, given the substandard storage conditions, but I quickly canceled that thought.

I shot under mostly sunny skies, with the exception of one photo that I took inside the Union Square subway station. 

I developed the roll normally in my usual C-41 chemicals, dried it, scanned it…and found no obvious flaws. I was shocked, maybe even slightly disappointed, that my nearly two-decades-expired roll of film looked so good.

There might be some color shifting present, but it’s hardly distracting.

Maybe I need to get my hands on a 50-year-old roll of film. That sounds like fun.

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