Experimenting with expired film, 29 September 2009


Recently, I received a roll of expired 35mm film as a giveaway from the camera shop I use for my film processing. Now, before you get all critical of this sort of gift, it isn’t actually that bad; for someone like me who enjoys experimenting with cameras and film, this is actually fun. So, without further ado, here’s an example of the results I got with this film.


Photo Information:

Camera: Canon AE-1 Program
Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.4 FD
Film: Mitsubishi MX-III ISO 400 (35mm)
Exposure: TTL metering

And yes, before you ask: apparently, Mitsubishi does make film. I’ve got the box to prove it (I’ll post a photo of that sooner or later – it’s too novel not to). In this case, the film is almost three years expired: the expiration date on the box is 11/2006.

The first thing I should point out is that this is decidedly not how the photo looked directly out of the camera. While I underexposed each shot by roughly a half to a full f-stop (depending on the lighting), [1] the scans I received were generally quite washed-out. While the lab tends to produce scans that are a bit brighter than the negatives, I suspect that this has more to do with the age of the film than the lab, as all of the photos I got from this roll required substantially more post processing than most.

That said, the color rendering in this and othe rshots I took on this roll do appear to have more in common with older types of film than modern color film. The film grain is also far more pronounced here than one would normally expect from an ISO 400 film. I suppose this is one way to emulate older types of film – wait a few years, and then shoot the film. Unfortunately, I’m not that patient, so I’ll have to keep experimenting with that. [2]

Oh, and as for the subject of the photo? This is my Mom’s cat; y’all have seen her before – she was the subject of one of my first (if not the first) photo-themed posts I published here several months ago.



[1]: This is a rule of thumb I’ve developed (no pun intended – honest) after years of experience. In general, colors seem to render a bit more vividly when slightly underexposed. With the advent of digital manipulation, this isn’t quite as important, as one can simply adjust the settings in post. Still, I consider it good practice.

[2]: Oh sure, I could try to emulate these sorts of effects through digital post processing (and I have tried), part of the fun of all of this is trying to figure it out on my own. And yes, before you ask, I am one of those who enjoys the chase more than the conclusion.


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