Film Photography, Photographs

Expired Kodak Tri-X in the Olympus Stylus

Milton-Madison Bridge

My wife and I spent a long weekend in historic Madison, Indiana, in October. In Indiana’s early days, Madison became the state’s largest and most important city. It capitalized on its Ohio River location as a port of commerce. Nearby Louisville and Cincinnati soon became more prominent, stalling Madison’s growth. It had the effect of freezing the oldest part of the city in time. Lots of buildings from Madison’s earliest days are still in use. The area has been a historic district since 1973, and over the years properties have been restored one by one. It’s a lovely place to take a camera.

Olympus Stylus

I brought a couple of SLRs, a TLR, my little Olympus Stylus, and a whole bunch of film. I loaded a roll of Kodak Tri-X, expired since September, 2001, into the Stylus and slipped it into my back pocket. The rest of the film I shot was color, both negative and slide, and went to a lab for processing. That takes time. But right after I got back I developed the Tri-X myself in HC-110, Dilution B, and scanned it on my Plustek 8100i. So you get to see these black-and-white images first!

The image at the beginning of this post is of the bridge that connects Madison to Milton, Kentucky. It might look old, but it went into service in 2014, replacing a similar bridge completed in 1929 that had lived out its service life.

On the Ohio River at Madison

I made several photos as Margaret and I walked along the river, above the shore on a sidewalk. We also walked down this ramp to the bar that’s on the left and had a couple of beers.

Fairfield Inn, Madison

This building is a Fairfield Inn hotel today, but it was originally built as a cotton mill. It was vacant for a long time, decaying. Its transformation is remarkable. The hotel overlooks the river.

Third Street, Madison

We also strolled the city looking at the houses, most of which are a century old or more, and some of which date to near Madison’s founding in 1810.

Old houses in Madison

The Stylus handled easily as always. It fit comfortably into the back pocket of my jeans. When you factor in the sharp, detailed images it returns, is it any wonder why I shoot it so often?

Joy house

Images near the beginning of the roll didn’t turn out well. The base fog was thickest on the first few frames. This was the first frame on the roll that turned out at all, and as you can see the grain is pronounced and the image is a little faint.

Madison Airbnb entry

The deeper I went into the roll, the better this Tri-X behaved. This is the front door to our Airbnb, a renovated three-story row house. It was a lovely place to stay.

Etcetera

Unfortunately, my Stylus has developed a light leak. You can see it in the upper right of this image. It doesn’t always occur, and when it does I can often remove it from the image in Photoshop. Given the details the leak touches in this image, Photoshop couldn’t repair it without scrambling the lines.

On stilts

I successfully Photoshopped the leak out of this image. The first thing to check is the light seals, of course, and if those are bad I’ll happily replace them. That’s a repair job I’m willing to do myself. The photo forums mention four other causes of Stylus light leaks, all of which involve some disassembly of the camera and in one case replacement of a rubber seal that is probably no longer obtainable. Many of these problems are beyond my repair skills — and willingness.

Gourds and hay

In time, I’ll investigate the root cause of my Stylus’s leak but there may be nothing I can do about it. Time was, Olympus Styluses were cheap as chips. Faced with this problem just five to seven years ago, I’d buy another used Stylus. This is already my second Stylus, as my first one died. A reader empathized with my plight and sent me this one, free. He had picked up four or five of them for next to nothing, 10 or 20 bucks each. Those were the days! Now these cameras sell for $150, even $200, which is straight-up ridiculous.

If my Stylus is not repairable, I’ll have to choose whether to live with the light leak or to sell the camera for parts. But that’s life with an intricately designed early-1990s electronic camera. They are all on borrowed time after 30 years.

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15 thoughts on “Expired Kodak Tri-X in the Olympus Stylus

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    I can’t say enough about the Stylus…I had three of them over the years, one of them in my pocket all the time between the 90s and 2010, loaded with Kodak Gold 200. I used this camera to shoot almost everything in my nine scrapbooks. I usually had 3.5 x 5 prints made to fit two across the width of the page. I ran across them the other day and think one might still be working, but no place to get those high quality small prints!

    It wasn’t “faultless” tho, you had to work within its “quirks”. One odd ball thing is that its programming kept the lens wide open until the light level caused the shutter speed to max out, then it started closing the aperture. I would have rather seen the programming shut the lens to f/5.6 as soon as possible, then it would have been perfect…

    In a way, a camera from the end of an era, an era where my local Walgreens had high quality, very clean, same day neg processing, with very good color prints available in multiple sizes at reasonable rates.

  2. Tri-X was always one of my favorites, for its beautiful grain structure and smooth tonality. I’m sure I put some thorough my Stylus Epic back in the day. I’ll have to dig through my files of negatives to see what’s in there.

    I did have a light leak on my Stylus Epic that I eventually traced back to the window that displays the film canister. I used the incredibly sophisticated fix of putting electrical tape over it, which seemed to work well enough. I should probably replace the tape if I ever fire up the camera again, however…

    • I normally shoot color in this camera but have recently put a couple rolls of b/w through it. I like how it handles b/w. Many of my other point-and-shoot cameras don’t seem to like b/w.

      Ah, the old electrical-tape-over-the-window trick. That may end up being a solution for my Stylus as well, who knows.

    • Came here to say this! I also used black-out tape over the window. The first roll I shot after using this trick came back without leaks but upon inspecting the negatives I found that the negative outside the photo itself still suffered from the light leak but it did not affect the frame on which the photo was on. I don’t understand how that works at all!

  3. Warren W Jenkins says:

    As a firefighting historian, Madison is noted for having the oldest active firehouse in Indiana. See indianafiretrucks.smugmug.com/Southeastern-Indiana/Jefferson/Madison for pics, brief history, and links.
    In 1994, I was delighted to find Spencer, Ind., late 19th Century firehouse still on the courthouse square.

  4. fotosharp3820ea7ebf says:

    I’m assuming your expired roll of Tri-X had been stored in the freezer, but you didn’t say.

    I’m still behind the 8 ball scanning my old Kodachrome slides. Anyone have suggestions for a good scanner/software for that?

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