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 thoughts on “Shooting some 50-year-old Kodak Plus-X

  1. arhphotographic says:

    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

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    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…

      • Andy Umbo says:

        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.

        • 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.

      • tbm3fan says:

        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.

        • Andy Umbo says:

          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.

  3. Greg Clawson says:

    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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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.

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