Film Photography

Very expired Kodacolor-X on 127 Day

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).

Expired Kodacolor-X in 127

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.

McDonald's
B Dubs

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.

Tesla charger

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.

Denny's

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.

Panda drive thru

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.

Meijer

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.

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20 thoughts on “Very expired Kodacolor-X on 127 Day

  1. Wow, it worked! Nearly all my life that little box of film sat in the place where my Mom kept the slides she and my father shot, along with some flash bulbs. I always assumed that both were for cameras my Dad took when they separated.

    Mom gave me the slides in the 80s and the little box of film seemed like it belonged there and I just left it alone, having no idea what kind of camera used it.

    I eventually saw it again when I got into the slides and figured that if it could be of use to anyone it would be you, even if only to display on a shelf. I am delighted that you could get any images from it at all.

    • Most expired films will deliver some sort of image, even after a half century. There will be fog and grain, but it will work. If I were more skilled at home developing, these might have looked better than they do.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    This is the type of thing that would get you an A+ in an art college! The grain actually looks unlike almost any other film grain, which is pretty interesting.

    A couple of things: 1. I don’t know if you use Kodak Rapid Fix with hardener, but I always did and always mixed the hardener in for film processing (not with prints tho). People say that modern films don’t need hardener, but I’m not buying it. They won’t be hurt by it either, and I’d rather err on the side of using hardener in case I use some “old formula” films like Foma, Efke, and the like, that might need it. Might have helped your “soft emulsion” here, unless you were using it and it still didn’t help, no way to tell with “cross-processing”.

    I never used a hard rubber squeegee with film, always used the very soft sponge type (url attached). These should never be allowed to dry out, and I stored mine in distilled water in a water or juice jug (you know, like a small Rubbermaid type that goes in the fridge). After wiping the film lightly, I would run in under tap water and squeeze out the photo-flo and check the surfaces of the sponge for trapped grit, with my finger, and put back in the distilled water jug and seal the top again. I’d replace after about a half year. I never met a harder rubber type squeegee that didn’t leave some sort of film mark.

    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/63612-REG/Yankee_YASQ2_Film_Squeegee.html

    • With the rubber squeegees, you have to be hyper vigilant about checking them for damage. They don’t last forever, and the way they seem to fail is that little chunks come out of them, which means instant scratches on negatives. But a fresh/undamaged squeegee works fine. I soak mine through most of the developing process to soften it. Lesson learned, however, about old film.

  3. There’s always a connundrum when you have just a single roll of expired film. The safest method is probably to bracket, but this means reducing the number of different compositions you get and, if the film performs well, leads to a sense that you’ve wasted valuable emulsion real-estate on a bunch of test photos. On the other hand, you can make a decision to shoot the film in a certain way and get a full roll’s worth of unique, well exposed photographs, but with the potential for a catastrophe hanging over the endeavour. I favour the slightly more chancy second option, but it’s always made easier if I have more than one roll of the film.

    You got clearly recognisable images from the roll though, despite the defects, which is always a “glass-half-full” outcome compared with the alternative. Plus every day’s a schoolday and you’ll have added to your knowledge.

    • Generally when I get one roll of expired stuff, I make best guesses at how to shoot it, and then just shoot it with abandon. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!

  4. Thank you sooo much for your timely post. I have just acquired some rolls of Verichrome , Panatomic X and Super XX . Dates vary from 1953 through 1965 and was looking for some guidance as to how to expose and develop them. Any tips??
    Andrew

    • Andy Umbo says:

      BTW ARHP, I used a lot of Super XX sheet film in the beginning of my photo career, it was considered a highly silver packed film and the results were beautiful in DK-50a (a developer I wouldn’t use with roll film, tho, and unavailable, I’m sure). It was so “full scale” we used to use it for color separation negs for doing dye transfers! I’m sure everyone will chime in here and tell you how great Verichrome is too!

  5. Dan Cluley says:

    I like the idea of shooting a Tesla Supercharger on film that’s a decade older than Elon Musk.

    I know McDonalds and Meijer were around back then, but I wonder about anything else you saw.

  6. Rick Bell says:

    I have yet to develop my own film but have just acquired the chemicals and hopefully all the equipment I will need for C-41.

  7. P says:

    If your negatives almost looked undeveloped (i.e. very, very faint images) and you had to use a contrast index of 0.4 in Vuescan to get decent scans, your film did indeed need way more time in the developer. A typical CI for B&W film shot at box speed and developed normally is somewhere between 0.58 and 0.62. For what it’s worth, when I develop expired C-41 (I’ve never done C-22) film in L110, I typically do ~12 minutes in dilution B at room temperature, with a fairly aggressive agitation regime. That tends to work fairly well, but even at that I usually have to boost contrast quite a bit in post. It’s hard to get good contrast with color negative stocks developed in B&W chemicals. I’d still say what you managed to pull off here classifies as a success. Nicely done.

    • The more I do this stuff, the better I get at it. Still so much to learn! I’m relieved I got images at all off those grossly underdeveloped negatives. Seriously, they looked almost like fresh film with faint, faint images on them. My scanner reached in deep to get these images.

  8. I just lost two new films in development so well done on this expired roll. I missed this 127 day due to work, so will try for the next now I have the cameras.

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