Film Photography

Expired Kodak Vericolor III in my Yashica-12

I was recently gifted a bunch of expired film that had always been stored frozen. I got some Fujicolor 200 in 35mm, some FP4 in 120, and, most interestingly, some Kodak Vericolor III in 120. Vericolor was the film that Portra replaced, more or less.

I expected that because the film was properly stored that it would perform okay at or near box speed, despite having been expired since July of 1986. When I shot the first roll in my Yashica-12, I made each photo twice, once at box speed of 160, and once slightly overexposed at 125. The photos shot at 125 all looked better to me, but none of them looked like fresh film. I was prepared to say that these shots would have looked even better at 100 or 80. But after finishing this roll, I transferred the battery to my Spotmatic F for a roll — and the meter was all jumpy. A fresh battery corrected that. So now I’m not sure that this battery gave accurate meter readings in the Y-12. This whole experiment might have been moot.

But what the hell, here are some of the photos. Slide each slider to the right to see the EI 160 image, and to the left to see the EI 125 image.

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10 thoughts on “Expired Kodak Vericolor III in my Yashica-12

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    Hey, still not bad for old color neg! Always love the 120/twin lens film look too…

    For those not “in the know” about film expiration dates, it might be a good time to review!

    With Kodak, amateur color films (all films not marked ‘professional’) were always shipped ‘green’. This means they weren’t in the ‘spec’ and would be expected to reach that way by sitting on shipping palettes and store shelves for a few months before getting used. If you took a roll of this film off the truck the minute it got to the store from Kodak, you might not be that happy with it. If the roll spent a few months at warm temps getting shipped and stocked on a rack at your drug store, it was now probably going to be pretty good until the “dead date” on the box.

    With Kodak professional film, it was considered shipped ‘perfect’. Kodak actually tested it to make sure it was perfect, and the minute it hit the professional camera store, it was meant to be refrigerated (not frozen), and was totally good to go, and within spec. Most real pro camera stores I worked with had a ‘deep freeze room’ in the back where extra film would go into immediately, and then it was rotated to glass door refrigerators in the show room as needed. For pro films, the “dead date” on the film was understood to be good under refrigerated temp, not warm, or deep frozen.

    When it comes to ‘hard frozen’ film, like most of us consider the home freezer OK, of course a “pro” depending on “in-spec” results, would never shoot out-dated film, period, on a job, no matter how it was stored. But no one actually knows how long a color or black & white film will perform “in-spec” past the “dead date” on the box, when hard frozen. Color neg starts to manifest itself as “fogged” looking, reduced contrast, odd colors, lower asa. Black & white usually as fogged, low contrast, lost asa. When?” No one knows!

    One thing most people agree on, tho, if your using “hard frozen” out dated film, the quicker you shoot it, and the quicker you process it, the better off you are. Conventional wisdom says it can take between 12 and 24 hours to thaw a hard frozen film to usability. If you shot it within 12 hours of that, and processed it within 12 hours of that, you might be lucking out, even with 10 year old film! Unfreeze it and have it sitting around a month before you shoot it, and another month before you can get it in for processing, and maybe not so lucky!

    Much like vampires in a horror film, once the ghoul gets stabbed with a stake, the thousand years he’s been living comes back and turns him into dust in minutes! Think of out-dated, hard frozen film like that vampire! The minute it’s warm enough to shoot, you’ve got very little time between going “bad”, and not between thaw and photo, but between thaw and processing!

    • There were a couple thaws here — the one where the fellow who sent me this film took it out of the freezer to mail it to me, and then the one where I took it out of my freezer to use it. I shot the roll in a day, but then mailed it to my usual color lab for processing. I’m a little disappointed in these results but I’ll shoot the next roll at EI 100 and see if things look better. I have far better luck with expired b/w than expired color.

      • Andy Umbo says:

        Yep, easier to “game” a black & white film that’s maybe a little “flat” looking, than color, where the color starts shifting and you start getting “cross-over” and other color events. Most Kodak color neg “pro” was too flat for my taste anyway, because most of the pro stuff was shot by portrait guys. Until Kodak introduced Ektar, which was like a transparency film for print, I even knew a lot of “non-portrait” pros that shot Kodacolor Gold, and you could get it in 120 too. It had more saturated color than Vericolor and Portra.

        • My first wife was a pro photographer. When we were dating she gave me some 120 Plus-X, and developed and printed it herself. I still have the negs and prints around here somewhere. For color, she shot Kodak’s consumer ISO 100 film, whatever it was called in the early 90s. She’d shoot the 200 in a pinch. “It’s good stuff,” she said of it.

  2. Dan Cluley says:

    The curious thing to me is the difference with the 4th shot.

    To my eye, the 160 version of the first 3 looks adequate, and the 125 versions look pretty good. But something is clearly off with the 4th one. I wonder if the battery issue caused that one to be underexposed?

    • Maybe? That one was actually the second pair of images on the roll, and the one of the playground equipment was the third. So perhaps the battery behaved unevenly?

  3. I used Vericolor lll (VPS) a lot back in the ’80s. It was my go-to color film. As you observed, the film didn’t look fresh after years in the freezer and all of your photos look faded, especially the skies and that can’t be due to a battery or iso.

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