Thorntown Marathon

When I moved in with my wife, she had a bunch of film she never got around to shooting before she bought her DSLR. Most of it was Kodak Max 400, but one roll was Kodak High Definition 400, a film I’d never heard of.

Looking it up on the Internet, people agree that this was Kodak’s Royal Gold 400 film rebranded. That film was known for smooth grain, saturated colors, and punchy contrast.

I found this film in a drawer with an expiration date in 2007, so I knew it wasn’t going to perform like new. The rule of thumb is to increase exposure by one stop for every decade of expiration, but I rated it at EI 400 anyway and loaded it into my Nikon F3. On my previous outing with the F3 the shutter misbehaved, leaving vertical light streaks on several shots. I thought maybe the camera was misbehaving thanks to having not been used in over a year. The best way to find out was to shoot a couple more rolls. My cache of expired film was perfect for the job.


The film performed all right, yielding well-saturated but slightly shifted color. A quick hit of Auto Tone in Photoshop un-shifted the color lickety split. Grain was pronounced at full scan size, though it’s hard to tell that at blog sizes.


The F3 and the HD 400 came along on our post-Christmas road trip up the Michigan Road. Here’s a block of downtown Plymouth.

Downtwn Plymouth

The F3’s shutter performed flawlessly, thank goodness. Still, it’s time to put this wonderful camera in the queue to send out for CLA.

The Corbin House

I gather that Kodak introduced this film as its Gold 100/200 and Max 400 films had grain that could show up on enlargements. Remember when a standard print was 3.5″x5″? Through the 90s and early 2000s the standard size became 4″x6″, and some labs let you order 5″x7″ prints at nominal extra cost.


I’ve never had trouble with grain on my prints of Kodak’s regular 200 and 400 color films. Maybe they’ve improved those films since HD 400’s days.

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15 responses to “Shooting Kodak High Definition 400 (expired)”

  1. mellonicoley Avatar

    excellent shots. that film performed very well!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! A little underexposed but so what.

  2. Dan James Avatar

    You can’t have many complaints about these Jim, further proof that we can comfortably shoot five or 10 year old expired film without too many concerns.

    About the photo sizes, this baffles me regularly. 6×4 I absolutely understand, it’s exactly the same ratio as 35mm film, 36mm x 24mm, or 3×2.

    Most digital cameras shoot 4:3, though some have the option of 3:2 to fit with the old film standard.

    Most of the prints I’ve made have been either 6×4 of 35mm film, or 8×6 of digital 4:3, both of which preserve the original image 100%, so my original composition is honoured exactly.

    But where does 5×7 come in? What camera shoots at this aspect ratio? None I know of, so any image printed at 5×7, either from a 35mm film negative, or a 4:3 digital camera, is going to be cropped. And who wants to shoot their photos trying to guess how the final 5×7 crop will look, and try to adjust the composition accordingly to allow a bit extra at the edges that’ll then be sacrificed in the crop??

    Hopefully another of your readers might offer some logic, because I’ve never figured it out!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Naturally most prints used to be made for consumers, in the years when if you wanted pictures at all you had to shoot film. Most consumers knew so little about their cameras, how film was processed, and how prints were made that they almost certainly had no idea that their 5×7 prints were crops of the 2:3 negative. Even today if you upload 4:3 digital images to or one of the other drugstore chain sites and have prints made, they will quietly crop at their discretion to 2:3 and send you 4×6 prints. Most people are none the wiser.

      1. Dan James Avatar

        I guess I forget that some of us are more obsessive about these things than the average consumer/photographer… : )

        1. Jim Grey Avatar


  3. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Happy to see the problem resolved with your F3. I think we took Kodak’s drugstore consumer grade films for granted all those years.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I think the old girl just needed a little attention, is all.

      Kodak consumer-grade colors are punchy and contrasty, but they’re the stuff of so many memories.

  4. Stuart Templeton Avatar

    That does indeed look like a nice film – even expired. You have some lovely shots in this post, I especially like the car in front of the ‘Wrecks’ sign (and what a great slogan!).

    I’ve said this before but I really enjoy seeing your photo’s of where you live – It’s always great to see where other people live.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wouldn’t mind trying a roll that’s been cold stored. Not that I’m going to kill myself looking for one. That Wrecks sign is 5 minutes from my house and is a frequent subject:

      1. Stuart Templeton Avatar

        It’s a great sign – although you’ve got to wonder about the ‘Drive Carefully’ bit – Hardly great for business!

  5. Richard Arland Avatar

    Hi Jim:

    Great blog post….tnx. I NEVER knew about the de-rating of outdated film, ie. 1 stop per decade and I have been shooting B/W and color since 1968!!! Great hack, thanks. You are causing me to rethink about using my Nikon F4 on a regular basis (sigh….I gotta spend more time on the weight pile at the gym….that F4 is HEAVY!!)

    Rich Arland

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This one-stop-per-decade rule of thumb is something I’ve read a bunch of times around the Internet, and every time I’ve tried it it’s worked out okay. But obviously each roll of expired film is different, depending on the emulsion and how it was stored. I sometimes shoot expired Verichrome Pan, for example, and always do it at box speed. It’s only failed me once. Good luck with your F4!

  6. susanJOY Hosken Avatar
    susanJOY Hosken

    jim, I didn’t read about the film, etc but enjoyed your photos as always. I know others will have read the writing part

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s all good. Take what you like and leave the rest!

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