Shooting GAF 125 (Ansco Versapan) black-and-white film

GAF 125 film

Well-known film photo blogger Andrew Morang (Kodachromeguy) sent me one of his last rolls of GAF 125 film to try. This film is the same stuff as Ansco Versapan (Ansco rebranded as GAF in 1967). My roll expired in June, 1972. Dig that red film canister!

Little information is available online about Versapan. I turned to my secret research weapon, Google Books, where I found a Nov., 1963 issue of Popular Science. There I found a single paragraph this then-new film. It said that the film features a “tight” grain pattern, and contrast increases with development time.

Nikon N90s

I shot this roll in my trusty Nikon N90s with my 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor lens attached. Andrew advised shooting it at EI 80 or even 64; I went with 80.

Where Andrew sent his rolls out to be professionally developed (see his results here), I developed mine myself. Because so very little info was available online, and the data sheet in the film box specified only Ansco developers no longer made, I used the Mike Eckman Method: HC-110, Dilution B (1+31), for 6 minutes. Any film Mike’s not sure about, that’s how he develops it. He gets great results almost every time.

Developed, the GAF 125 suffered from moderate base fog. You expect that from film this old. The images themselves have good density.

I figured my scanner (Minolta ScanDual II) could cut through the base fog to get usable images, and I was right. It was challenging to load the negatives into the holder, however, because after 50 years tight in the canister they curl like crazy.

At snapshot size, these images look surprisingly good. Grain ranges from smooth to slight, and there’s a good range of tones, but the dark areas are very dark. At 100%, the grain really pops out and you see a distinct loss of shadow detail.

I got a ton of dust on these; spotting the negatives in Photoshop took forever. A few were so bad that I gave up. But beyond that and a little sharpening, these scans needed very little post-processing.

I brought the N90s with me when I made a trip along the old Brookville Road in southeastern Indiana. That road is US 52 today. I stopped in the small town of Morristown and photographed its main street in the full sun. Here are several of the photos. Among them are photos of the Kopper Kettle restaurant, which I visited and reviewed as part of the Indiana Fried Chicken Tour many years ago; read that review here.

Morristown, IN
Morristown, IN
Morristown, IN
Morristown, IN
Read Box
Bluebird, Morristown
Morristown, IN
Kopper Kettle
Kopper Kettle

This was a successful roll overall, and I’ll share more photos from it in upcoming posts.

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Comments

17 responses to “Shooting GAF 125 (Ansco Versapan) black-and-white film”

  1. J P Avatar

    Wow, you really got this old film to sing and dance!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t!

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Wow, the red film can brings back memories! We used to shoot Anschrome 500 back in the day for it’s effect, very grainy and “dreamy”, but although I used to see their black & white, on the shelf, I don’t think I ever tried it! Makes me wish I had….

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I hear that Anscochrome didn’t last, either — to the point of emulsion flaking off.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        I think Anscochrome was pretty much the early Agfa chrome process, as they were in bed together before the war. Lot’s of problems with Ektachrome, Anscochrome, and Agfachrome for longevity, altho I don’t remember emulsion shedding. Kodak kept improving the Ektachome film and process, much more rapidly than the competitors. Agfa and Ansco had a reputation for fading pretty fast, and not being very sharp due to the “globby” internal dye couplers, which Kodak had worked on with Ektachrome to make sharper and sharper. Kodachrome was a horse of a different color, of course, with the dye added into the film during processing.

        I remember testing a really beautiful Agfa chrome film in the mid-90’s that was every bit as good as Ektachrome , with the idea that we could save some money switching over to it. There was also stories in the late 90’s about how Agfa had developed a new formula E-6 chrome film, that was two or three times sharper and more colorful that anything available currently! We were waiting for test rolls and digital killed everything….

  3. arhphotographic Avatar
    arhphotographic

    It never fails to fill me with wonderment when a well out of date film, 50years in this case, yields such great results. Not to forget the Nikon n90s and Jim Grey combination. Great experience, thanks for sharing.
    Andrew

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Andrew!

  4. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Wow! Blast from the past! Growing up near Binghamton, NY in the shadow of the Ansco (GAF) plants, I shot quite a bit of this stuff. Most of the local retailers had just as much if not more GAF film on their shelves as Kodak. I seem to recall using a GAF developer with this film. Can’t remember the name. They had a 400 speed black and white film too and it was very good. Somewhere around here I have an old photo of the GAF headquarters building. I will have to look.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The data sheet that came with the film listed only Ansco/GAF developers!

  5. Marc Beebe Avatar

    I’ve shot quite a lot of Agfa-Ansco (purchased by GAF) B&W film in my 127 cameras. Why? Because two rolls sold for 29 cents back then. It was unspectacular, but serviceable. I don’t miss using film.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wish I could have found a bargain on film like that when I was a kid!

  6. tbm3fan Avatar
    tbm3fan

    Not bad for film that old. I think the oldest I have in the fridge is in the early 90s at most. I never shot GAF B&W back then. Only Kodak panatomic, plus-x, and tri-x. Slide was 95% Kodachrome with some GAF slide film thrown in. Yes, my shots of Notre Dame, in 1976, have faded some when compared to the Kodachrome shots. However, I did use a mix of GAF and Kodak color negative film. There may still be a red container hiding somewhere in the bottom of a 40 year old box. I recently shot a 22 year old roll of Vericolor III at half box speed so I cross my fingers.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve got some Vericolor III in the fridge here!

  7. Kodahromeguy Avatar

    Jim, great job! There is plenty of detail in your frames. As for the dark areas, possibly you can increase the gain on your scanner to cut through some of the density. Then reduce contrast. The last frame, of the KopperKettle, looks just about perfect.

    So are you and I now the reigning world experts on GAF 125 (Versapan) film, which no one else on earth is likely to ever use? How drôle.

    My experiments with expired Kodak Panatomic-X show that it is just as durable as this GAF 125. It is a real wonder.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We are in an exclusive club! Thank you for sharing that roll with me. It was great fun to experience it!

  8. kevinallan Avatar

    Good results from such an old film

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Kevin — this film sure is hardy.

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