Shooting some 50-year-old Kodak Plus-X

In the bottom of a box that contained my father-in-law’s photo gear was one forgotten roll of old Kodak Plus-X.

Long expired Plus-X

Based on the graphic design on the film canister, I think this film is from the 1970s. I knew nothing about how it had been stored except that it hadn’t been kept in the fridge or freezer. Who knows what environmental horrors were visited upon this hapless roll of film during the last half century?

I loaded it into my Olympus XA, which I set to EI 25, the slowest speed on the camera. I figured this long-expired ISO 125 film would benefit from a lot of overexposure. I shot the whole roll on a short walk on the south end of Downtown Indianapolis. Then I developed it in HC-110, Dilution B, for six minutes. The Massive Dev Chart called for five minutes at 20° C, but that’s for fresh film. I figured a little overdevelopment would do this roll good.

When you shoot very expired film of unknown provenance, you have to prepare for unpredictable results. Several images on the roll showed heavy deterioration of the film.

Lucas Oil Stadium

Other images were well exposed and clean, almost as if the film were fresh.

Fire escape

Here are my favorite images from the rest of the roll.

S. Meridian St.
Greenlight Guru
Mercedes parked
Deli and Cafeteria
N. K. Hurst Co.
Mazda B2200
Department of Administration

I really enjoy just shooting whatever subjects catch my fancy. It doesn’t make for Fine Art Photography™, but it does make for fun. When I shoot fresh film, which gets more expensive all the time, I find myself being more choosy about what I photograph. Shooting with abandon feels like wasting money. That wasn’t so with this free roll of very expired film. I just relaxed and photographed what I wanted.

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25 responses to “Shooting some 50-year-old Kodak Plus-X”

  1. arhphotographic Avatar

    Great results! Great timing to as I will be using some 1950’s films over the coming weeks. So thank you for your helpful guidance

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m happy this proved useful to you!

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I forgot all about the fact that 35mm black and white film used to come in a cardboard tube, with the sealed package around it! 35mm color was in metal canisters then. Before our plastic world…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I knew about the old metal cans, but not the cardboard tubes, and I wondered why this roll was in one. Now I know!

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        BTW, as a paper boy, I had no problem affording to shoot film back in 1969, a 20 shot Plus-X was 75 cents, and a 36 shot roll was $1.05! All at the “camera and photo counter” of my neighborhood indie drug store.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Those were the days for sure. By the late 70s early 80s, when I leaned hard into film for my old cameras, Kodacolor II was always the least expensive option. I remember once looking at 620 Verichrome Pan and it was marked at $6.05! A huge amount of money then.

      2. tbm3fan Avatar

        My first use of Plus-X was in late 1972 and it wasn’t in cardboard tubes at that time of that I am sure of as I have never seen the packaging in your photo.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Interesting. I wonder when, and under what circumstances, Kodak used the cardboard tubes then.

        2. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          Did a quick check on line, and where people are discussing this, no one seems to remember the change-over date, but all remember the cardboard tubes for black & white, in the 60’s, which follows with my experience.

    2. Kodachromeguy Avatar

      I, too, do not remember the cardboard tube. I started using kodachrome in 1968, and it already came in a metal can by then.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        If we can find out when Kodak discontinued the cardboard tube, we can narrow the date of this film down!

  3. J P Avatar

    Impressive results! It always feels great when a roll of the dice comes up a winner.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Equally not great when the roll doesn’t work out.

  4. Greg Clawson Avatar
    Greg Clawson

    Jim, good job with that old film.

    I was given a roll of Ansco Supreme that expired in Jan 1946. I shot it at iso 6 and the best one was like your first pic, most were worse.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s mighty, mighty expired. ISO 6 was probably a great choice and you probably got the best possible results from the film.

  5. brandib1977 Avatar

    Sometimes our best outcomes occur when we feel like there’s nothing to lose. This is impressive.

    Although, I have to say reading this caused me a mini crisis. When you referenced fifty year old film, my mind went to 1950. Ahem, I don’t know where those other two decades went but, in my mind, the decade of my birth was not THAT long ago! Haha. Thanks for the reality check!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh man, do I hear you. It’s just as surprising to me when 20 years ago was 2002 and not 1992.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        That sounds about right. Time started to distort when I graduated high school.

        2002 was just five years ago, right?

  6. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Very good results from very old film. Each time I see decent images coming from decades old Kodak film, it reminds me of the great products this company was turning out at the time. Even today, Kodak film remains my favorite.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Especially in b/w, Kodak made great stuff. Who knows what horrors were visited on this roll over the years? Yet it performed.

  7. Suzassippi Avatar

    I absolutely love these images! I am fascinated by industrial images and black and white.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you! I tried to find the grittiest part of Downtown Indy to photograph. Because of renewal Downtown, there isn’t as much grit as there was 10 years ago.

  8. Kodachromeguy Avatar

    Recall the 1970s GAF Versapan that we used? It was grainy but not mottled. It was a Plus-X competitor back mid-century. Some of this film is amazingly durable.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      How was the GAF stored? This Plus-X was not stored cold.

      1. Kodachromeguy Avatar

        The fellow who sold it on eBay said it had been frozen. Considering how clean it looked, that is likely. Sadly, we’ll never see any more.

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