My friend and fellow blogger J. P. Cavanaugh found a box of 127 Kodak Kodacolor-X moldering in his basement and gave it to me. This is an old color film; this particular roll expired in January, 1966. I shot it last 127 Day, which was July 12 (12/7 in European date notation).
To get color images from Kodacolor-X, you need Kodak’s old C-22 chemistry. Unfortunately, that stuff’s been unobtainable for going on 40 years. Fortunately, you can develop any color film in black-and-white developers and get black-and-white images.
Nobody knows exactly how to develop old Kodacolor-X. Some say you should heat your chemicals to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, as you would C-41 chemistry. I don’t have a simple way to do that, so I skipped it. Some say you should just treat the stuff like Kodak Tri-X. That seemed simple enough, so I did that. I’m using up the last of my bottle of LegacyPro L110, which is a clone of Kodak HC-110. At 68 degrees, you develop Tri-X for six minutes in HC-110. I didn’t bother to check the temperature of my developer and adjust accordingly — I figured I was going to get faint, grainy images no matter what I did. I just went with six minutes.
The negatives looked almost like undeveloped film, although under strong light faint images were evident. I now feel certain I could have left this film in the developer for far longer than I did. Fortunately, my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II was able to pull images off the negatives.
Color film has an orange base, and you have to remove that color in your scanning process. I tried a bunch of options in VueScan before settling on scanning the negatives as color, as opposed to black-and-white — but choosing a black-and-white film profile, specifically T-Max 400. In VueScan, a “Negative type” setting of “TMAX CI = .40” looked best to me, so that’s what I went with. That setting instantly removed the orange mask.
Here are my two favorite images from the roll — not because the subjects are that interesting, but because they scanned the best.
The negatives curled laterally, which made them impossible to lay flat. Horizontal lines had a wicked curve in my scans. I had some success Photoshopping the curve away.
I use a squeegee to remove water from my negatives. Unfortunately, this old film’s emulsion was fragile and the squeegee scratched most of the images. Lesson learned: skip the squeegee on such old film. A few images were so badly affected that I saw no way I could use Photoshop’s tools to remove the marks.
I have mixed feelings about very expired film. On the one hand, I’m curious to see what kind of images it can create. On the other, I know that many variables play in wringing the best performance from the film. Film this old needs a lot more exposure than it did when new. Kodacolor-X was an ISO 80 film in 1966; I shot it at ISO 25, the slowest speed my Kodak Brownie Starmatic supports, to maximize exposure in my fairly crude camera. This is the only 127 camera left in my collection, so I had little choice but to use it.
When you have just one roll of an expired film, developing is a crapshoot. If I had four more rolls from the same batch, stored in the same way, I could keep tweaking my recipe and timing to wring the best performance from this film. But I had just the one roll, and this is what I got. Fortunately, every image was minimally usable.
You never know how expired film is going to perform.
As you can see, I made these images in suburban strip malls. Several are within walking distance of my home. I would have liked to photograph more interesting subjects. But it rained off an on this 127 Day, and I had to rush through the roll in a dry hour when I could sneak away from work.
Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.