Expired film in a new-to-me old camera — what could go wrong?

It all started because I gave my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens to my son to use on the Pentax K1000 I also gave him. I didn’t think I needed that lens anymore, as I own a 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens. How many 50mm primes does one need, anyway? But that 50/2 imparts a wonderful warmth on color film that the 50/1.4 simply does not. I came to miss that 50/2 look.

So I turned to eBay. I had my selection of good ones for very little money. Mine cost $20.

But while searching I also found a 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens. I’ve heard good things about this lens, but have never tried one. It is an optically better lens than the 50/2. So is the 50/1.4, however, yet in everyday shooting I prefer the look I get from the 50/2.

Would the 50/1.7 be more like the 50/1.4 or the 50/2? I decided to find out, since finding out would cost me just $40. It didn’t hurt at all that at that price the lens was attached to a Pentax ME body.

When the kit arrived I put some Kodak Max 400 through it. This film was left over from the end of my wife’s film-shooting days; the expiration date was October of 2007. I found it in the fridge, but I couldn’t say for sure it had always been there.

So: I put film of iffy provenance through a new-to-me old camera which could have any number of faults. At least the lens was obviously clear and clean, and its aperture and focus rings functioned properly. It was the only variable in the equation that I felt sure about!

The results show the muted colors and pronounced grain of poorly stored old film. So this wasn’t the best test roll to show the 50/1.7’s capabilities. At least the ME body appears to be functionally sound where it counts: the meter and the shutter both seem accurate.

I’ve been taking long walks a lot more lately, trying to regain some lost physical stamina and drop a few pounds. My wife shared her two-mile neighborhood loop with me. This fire plug is on it.


That loop takes me down an old alignment of State Road 334, past a fallen State Right-of-Way marker. I photographed it twice, once wide open and once stopped down to the minimum aperture the poor light would allow. It’s hard to tell for sure because of the expired film’s condition, but it looks like this lens may be capable of some lovely bokeh.


I forget where I made this leafy photograph, but it, too, suggests that this 50/1.7 is a lovely performer. Next time, fresh film for sure.


I also took a walk through Indianapolis’s Broad Ripple neighborhood one morning before meeting a colleague for coffee. I loved how the sun played across this terraced garden.


I also strolled through Daubenspeck Nature Park on Indianapolis’s far Northside one day before stopping by my mom’s nearby home for a cup of coffee. I’d never been in there before and didn’t know it had lovely views.


Just for giggles I shot this on my desk at work. Every time our young company reaches a milestone, or when an individual participates in a key project, a Lego is issued to commemorate it.


Last and least, this Zionsville cop car with lights flashing. I had stopped at my nearby Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee on my commute, and a community event there had the chief of police shaking hands with folks. The car was probably supposed to announce his presence, but rather it made me wonder if a crime had gone down at the Dunk.


I don’t need this lens. But since I’m doubling down on my Pentax SLRs, both screw- and K-mount, I might as well own the trifecta of 50mm SMC Pentax-M lenses. And the Pentax ME body this lens came with worked fine, except for a shutter button that sticks the first time you press it after you turn the camera on. Since I already own (and love) a like-new Pentax ME, I’ll probably send this one out for CLA and to get that shutter button repaired and then give it to my son. If he’s anything like his old dad, he’ll like the ME better than the K1000 too.


15 responses to “Expired film in a new-to-me old camera — what could go wrong?”

  1. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    So, Operation Thicken The Herd?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Lol, well, yes, sort of!

  2. Dan James Avatar

    Maybe more like Operation Backup The Best?

    I’ve also had all three of these 50mm M series, and whilst the 50/2 is more than adequate, the f/1.7 is probably the best balance of the three. It could easily be the only lens you ever need.

    The 50/1.4 is great, but the extra bulk and weight is noticeable, especially in a small combo like when attached to an M series body. And how often will the extra 1/2 stop actually make much difference really? Plus these days they’re at least double the price of a 50/1.7. So yep I agree the f/1.7 is the best all round choice. Unless you want all three anyway. : )

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Operation Give My Son A Lovely Camera actually!

      I’m going to give that 50/1.7 some official church-basement duty to see if it can take the place of my 50/1.4. That duty is the reason I bought that faster lens in the first place!

      1. Dan James Avatar

        I think more important is the lens quality wide open. I’m guessing that the 50/1.4 at f/2 is going to give you sharper pictures than the 50/2 at f/2, ie wide open. So sometimes it’s worth going with a faster lens just because the performance a stop or two down is improved.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          You’re probably right about this. I should shoot a lot with these lenses wide open and one stop down to see.

  3. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Thanks to you, I discovered how incredibly joyful the Pentax ME is!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Spread the joy, I always say!

  4. eppaar Avatar

    I agree that the F 1.7 is the best of the 50 mm lenses. However, thanks to your touting of the 55 mm 1.8, this has become my “normal” lens.

    By the way should you hit the lottery or rob a bank or become extravagant, may I suggest that you get hold of the Pentax LX. In my not so humble opinion, it was the best camera Pentax ever made. I prefer to my F2 Nikon!

    Peter in Savannah

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That 55/1.8 is truly wonderful. I should shoot it more often! Only thing is that it is a little unbalanced on my Pentax ME given the lens’s length. It feels better on my larger Pentax KM.

      I do want an LX one day!

  5. Gary Avatar

    Hi Jim:

    Not that I want to lead you into temptation, but don’t forget the lovely 50mm f/4 macro. (Since you’re collecting Pentax 50s.) The f/4 focal ratio makes the split-prism focusing screen a bit tricky to use, but it’s a very nice lens if you’re into close-up photography.


    1. Dan James Avatar

      I would second what Gary says, the 50/4 macro is an amazing lens, but not one for shots in your low lit church!

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have a similar lens for my Nikon cameras and adore it, so I wouldn’t mind having this one for my Pentaxes!

  6. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Jim, you are cracking me up with that title….

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      my nefarious plan is working

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