Expired Film

Not a rant, but a quick look into the situation of film photography in 2017.

This is the first part of a review covering film and cameras, the second part following very soon.

All the photos in this post are shot on expired film….

170826 - Canon EOS 650 - Kodak Farbwelt 200 (exp) (11)
My garage…. NOT

I thought about this post when I read Stephen Dowlings very excellent piece about the film options that we film photographers have nowadays. You can read it here on KOSMOPHOTO.CO.UK.

In fact, when you show up anywhere with a nice vintage camera the question you hear most often is: ‘Can you still get film for that?’ Second most frequent is: ‘Does the Leica IIIa use color film also?’ 😉

And the answer is ‘yes, we can’ as Barack said! And much more so than even 5 years ago.

There are plenty new films – rebranded, old stock and some really new ones coming to market these days. Just think of Kodak releasing a ‘new’ Ektachrome soon, Ferrania releasing their P30 and working hard on slide film, Bellamy Hunt and Stephen Dowling launching their films (partly rebranded, partly new stuff). Anyways, film is in better shape than anyone could have thought during the so called digital revolution.

170826 - Canon EOS 650 - Kodak Farbwelt 200 (exp) (22)
Grainy off color stuff…

Of course, there are plenty films being discontinued too. I’m looking at you, Fuji! Too entranced by the (merited) success of their Instax instant films, they slowly but surely kill off their excellent film stocks one by one. Sure, their huge factories are overkill when scaled to the present market for film, but they could find solutions. Downscale their machinery like the guys at Ferrania do. No, they prefer to turn their back on film. Shame on them.

But there’s more than those new films and still existing emulsions around! There’s tons of expired film to grab from eBay, out of dank and musty cellars. Some well stored in freezers, some having spent years in hot and cold attics….

170826 - Canon EOS 650 - Kodak Farbwelt 200 (exp) (3)
Washed out days…

But should we use those films?

As an aside, yes, I have a beard, I shoot old film cameras and I prefer tight jeans, but I’m definitely not a hipster type. Anyways my beard is too unkempt for that! I’m just an older guy who likes what he does and sticks desperately to it, despite the siren calls (and real advantages) of digital.

And I’m definitely not an expired-film-shooter!

170826 - Canon EOS 650 - Kodak Farbwelt 200 (exp) (7)
Red snake

Why should we shoot expired film, not being hipsters who are just interested in off colours, unpredictable results and light leaks… and showing off their shiny Canons and Nikons.

For one thing there’s the price! Expired film can be had for very little money, sometimes free from unsuspecting people. Though some stuff like Kodachrome sell for a hefty price, normally even on eBay expired film can be an interesting alternative.

But apart from that what could be the motivation? Stupidly I tested my Canon EOS 650 (see the review HERE) with a roll of expired Kodak Farbwelt 200 – a film tailored to the  german mass market. The film has expired in 2008 and was stored in a camera bag in a cupboard… not ideal, and the results show it. Certainly not a great film it must be capable of better things than this ugly, grainy stuff…

170826 - Canon EOS 650 - Kodak Farbwelt 200 (exp) (4)
Red leaf?

The red leaves were really RED and stood out from dark green foliage. So it’s moot to use expired film for testing cameras. The results tell you nothing.

You might conceivably try to get this look by design of course. But well, for me it’s quite rare to do that. I prefer to use current film and tweak developing to get that look. At least I can decide more or less what I want to achieve.

But for me, the biggest argument against expired film is this:

When you shoot expired film you work against the film manufacturers!

170826 - Canon EOS 650 - Kodak Farbwelt 200 (exp) (19)
Marinating pork chops in coke… yummy

If everybody bought just new film there would be a further, noticeable increase in film sales, reconfirming the manufacturer. Making them richer of course, but keeping them in business too. Enticing them to bring us more emulsions, to restart old film stocks and perhaps even Fuji might reconsider their policies… who knows.

170826 - Canon EOS 650 - Kodak Farbwelt 200 (exp) (6)
Where’s the deep red wall I saw?

So let me plead here for you to try to shoot exclusively new, fresh film. There are plenty around today, better emulsions than ever before! Some preferred stock has disappeared and that’s a shame but let’s not risk the death of further emulsions. Let’s use them and encourage the manufacturers, encourage guys like Bellamy Hunt and Stephen Dowling and others to release nice stuff.

Let’s use film responsibly and not work against our best interests.

Of course if you find a nice roll of Neopan 1600 for free…. USE IT!  😉

Thanks for being here!

18 thoughts on “Expired Film

Add yours

  1. I only shoot in date film, and never expired emulsions. My film fridge, (a mini beer fridge costing ÂŁ60) is full to bursting, mainly with Fomapan 35mm black & white some 40 rolls, and 15 rolls of colour AGFA Vista, Kodacolor and packs of D76 developer at any one time. I only wish I had more time to shoot and develop more.

    OK, it’s not the most expensive films on the market, but I buy direct from A.G. Photographic in the UK. Interestingly, there has been a few occasions when I’ve placed a bulk film order, usually packs of ten films that I receive a e-mail from A.G. shop, to say they are awaiting new stock to arrive. Not for lack of interest in film, but they just cannot keep up with the demand in film stock!

    My view is ‘Use it or lose it’ when it comes to any film format.


      1. Since 2012 I shot one slide film and developed at home. Worked quite well. Though I need some more trials.

        In my younger days I shot nearly exclusively slide film. Kodachrome 25 and 64. Aaaaah those were the days!!!

        When Kodak’s Ektachrome will be out again I’ll shoot more slide film.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. One other point if I may, I use Newton-Ellis of Liverpool, camera repairers for my camera repair and serving, but there is a catch. They will tell there’s a two to three week wait just to look and evaluate your camera, as their technicians have so many units going though their workshop from all the UK and Europe. This tells me something of film usage today!


    1. I think it’s about time that manufacturers start producing affordable, non-lomo-crappy film cameras again!

      They might be surprised how many they’ll sell if they don’t apply our the top hipster prices.

      What cameras do Newton-Ellis work on? Over here in Luxembourg there’s no one servicing film cameras any more (except Leicas) and I had some luck in Germany…


  3. Gudde Moien HĂ€r Lehnen,

    Ech hun di lĂ€scht Woch ee Superia 200 beliicht, den 2008 ofgelaf war. Amplaatz mat 200 ASA ze beliichten hat ech meng Kamera op 160 ASA agestallt, well an all dene Joren d’Empfindlichkeet ofgeholl huet, an ech hun dat mat e bĂ«ssi mi enger laanger Beliichtung kompensĂ©iert.Natiirlech sin d’Faarwen och nit mi sou “knalleg” wĂ©i ech dat vum Superia gewinnt war, mee d’Resultat war fir mech awer ganz zefriddestellend.
    Lo hun ech nach een alen “Schlecker”-Film am Frigo vun 100 ASA, den och schon eng gutt ZĂ€itchen ofgelaaf ass, mol kucken wat do nach erauskĂ«nnt…
    Ech hu mer elo frĂ«sch Filmer beim fotoimpex bestallt, dat huet wonnerbar geklappt, a ganz sĂ©ier war meng Commande ukomm. Merci fir den Tipp an Äere Links!

    Bescht Gréiss,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. GĂ€r geschitt! Jo, Fotoimpex liwwert normalerweis super schnell. Leider as de Porto besschen heich sou dass ee muss greisser Commande maachen fir dass et sech renteiert.

      Ech geif jo gÀr Film hei zu Lëtzebuerg kaafen mee bei de Preisser hei renteiert sich de Porto schon mat enger halwer dosen Filmen!


      1. Gudde MĂ«tteg HĂ€r Lehnen,

        Glécklicherweis hun ech eng Kontaktadress an DÀitschland,dann hun ech kee Porto ze bezuelen, a vun do aus kréien ech de Pak an de Pack-up vun der Post hei a meng Uertschaft geliwwert, praktesch a kascht keen Cent Porto!
        Ech hu scho laang keng Filmer mĂ©i hei am Land kaft a kenne lo keng PrĂ€isser mĂ©i vun hei, ech war virdrun Client beim fotobrenner vu Weiden an DĂ€itschland, mee dem fotoimpex seng PrĂ€isser sin nach besser an d’Liwwerung nach mi schnell! Ech hu lo di Ă©ischte KĂ©ier bei fotoimpex bestallt, an well dat sou wonnerbar geklappt huet wĂ€ert ech an Zukunft wahrscheinlich och bei dene bleiwen, zumindest mol fir Filmer ze bestellen.

        De Schlecker-Film vun dem ech virdrun geschriwwen hun ass dee lĂ€schten “aalen” Colorfilm den ech nach hun, soss nach just T-max ,Tri-x, BW400CN an Neopan am TiefkĂŒhler.
        Fir de Rescht well ech d’Filmfabriken och Ă«nnerstĂ«tzen a nach just nei Filmer kafen 🙂

        Dat war wirklich e ganz schéinen, gutt argumentéierten Opruff un eis Analogfotografen den Dir do gemeet hutt HÀr Lehnen, mÀi Kompliment!

        Bis demnĂ€chst a maacht eis weider sou vill Freed mat Äerer SĂ€it,


        Liked by 1 person

  4. A very good point here! But I’d like to drop my five cents too. Judging absolutely from my experience, and thus it’s solely my personal opinion, usage of expired or new film depends also on your purpose.
    I’m OK with expired stock when I don’t care much about the colours or purposefully want to experiment. Yet when I’ve got a certain look in mind or really want my subjects (objects) to look well, this is when I turn to the new film.
    I’ve seen this with other photographers too, some get so picky about colours and quality that buy expensive slide stock still available (fuji).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Correct, if you’re looking for a certain look, expired film might be the way to go… if you can be sure that it will deliver the wanted look. Depends on how long and how the film was stored. Pretty uncertain though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s true. I’ve always thought the opposite, though. I mean when you need reliability you opt for the new film because you know it will deliver. With expired film you just go with whatever comes out. IMO it’s a bit naive to expect a certain look from expired stock, as you said it depends on many things. Unless we are talking about Lomography films but we are not;-)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Your post reminded and encouraged me to open up my “treasure trove” … My heart bleeds. My shooting stopped quite abruptly many, many years ago and I am now looking at what I estimate to be about … no, I rather do not spell it out. All unused. What a carnage.

    I was gearing up to have a lot of fun and then something clicked. That fun never came for one reason or another. I guess that one of the biggest reason being the just too much hassle to get it processed. That has definitely discouraged to go and just do it when the time allows it. But it is just one reason.

    So now I am wondering what to do with all of it. The newest expiration date is 2010, mostly 2009. All kept just in the basement. So how worthless is it?

    Most of the films are slides, Velvia, Ektachrome, some Provia, about 20 rolls B&W, too much colour negatives. Roughly 2/3 is the 120 size film.

    It definitely does not make sense to pay additional money for the professional processing of any of it.

    This leaves just two options. Continue the situation with growing regret or start shooting and figure out how to process it. Loading all of it into a freezer is probably a good start. It unfortunately never did occur to me that it is also possible to put them there, not just fridge.

    I hope that these films will have some future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The black and white should be quite OK. Color though…

      Sell the film on eBay and get fresh one from the money.

      Or just don’t worry and shoot. Buy a cheap color processing and slide processing kit and have fun developing it….

      Photography is about having fun


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