I say I prefer fresh film, yet I sure shoot a lot of expired film

My first outing with the Mamiya/Sekor 500 DTL I bought not long ago involved some Kodak Tri-X expired since 2001. I bought this film to get the dozen rolls of similarly expired Plus-X that came with them.

I’ll write a review of the 500 DTL after I’ve shot at least one more roll with it. Here I just want to share some of the Tri-X images I made with it.

Beech Grove Cemetery, Muncie

I shot this roll at EI 200. I’ve had great luck shooting this film at box speed, but on impulse I set the 500 DTL to 200 after I loaded this roll.

2023-04-26-0017 proc

The seller promised that he’d always stored this film frozen. It performs well enough that I believe him. However, shadow detail can be a little muddy. You can see it a little in the upper corner of this image.


You can really see it in this image. I hadn’t gotten the hang of the 500 DTL’s exposure system yet and underexposed this frame.

Stout's Shoes

Overall, however, this old Tri-X performs well.

Das Deutsche Haus

Since Kodak manufactured these rolls it reformulated Tri-X somewhat. Modern Tri-X needs less time in developer than the older stuff. I developed these in HC-110, Dilution B, for 7½ minutes at 20° C. That’s the ISO 400 time, despite shooting at EI 200. Kodak calls for only 3¾ minutes in modern Tri-X! Nosing around the forums, I find a consensus that this is not nearly enough time. But the generally accepted range is 4½ to 6 minutes. What did Kodak do to Tri-X to change its development characteristics that much?

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.


12 responses to “I say I prefer fresh film, yet I sure shoot a lot of expired film”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Back in the dawn of time, Kodak would incrementally “improve” film without really making any announcement about it. They didn’t want you to think the film you loved was changing. Somewhere along the line, it became more of a marketing ploy to announce changes, under the guise of newer is better. But many times, that’s been questionable. I can certainly say that over the years, film changes usually mean they re taking more silver out of the film, and have figured out a way to get a near similar “look” through chemical manipulation. I’m not sure I’ve always agreed with what the engineers at Kodak have considered to be similar “looks” from reformulated film. I think their opinion is highly influenced by what their boss wants you to believe.

    A number of years ago, I felt that whatever current permutation of Tri-X was available didn’t “seem” the same as before, but since the look seemed similar, I didn’t really do an A/B comparison on the light box and compare it against Tri-X I shot in the 70’s. Plus, I shot a hell of a lot of medium speed film, so ASA 400 and above was probably 10% of what I shot. I can say I’ve noticed changes over the years of Ilford FP-4, especially when they went to the “+”, but that was a film I really shot a lot of. Of course shooting out of date film is always a crap shoot, even if it’s been deep frozen. Even today, when the stuff I have in the freezer gets nears its end date, I give it away to the young photo kids at my local coffee shop. I don’t shoot it unless I know it’s going to be used within a month or so of end date. It’s that old professional training.

    Sometimes I think that the current “fanboy” reality of film, I.e. the really unprofessionally trained trading out of date film stocks around on-line, the boasting of people “claiming” that they’re shooting thirty year old film and getting “great” results, people with zero experience with camera repair busting into non functional cameras and getting “great” results, etc.,etc., is resulting in people lauding results that really aren’t laudable, because they’ve had relatively little experience shooting fresh film with cameras adjusted to be within tolerances, and properly processing with tested developers, mixed in distilled water. As my Grammy used to say, consider the source. No “dis” on anybody, and I certainly don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. Non professional photographers seem to be having a ton of fun on-line talking about all this stuff, and may be responsible for people like Pentax deciding to build a new film point and shoot!

    BTW, looking Forward to your review of the M/S 500 DTL. That, and the 1000 DTL were actually competitors to the Pentax Spotmatic line when I was a teen, altho I seem to remember that when I was handling them in high school, I felt the Mamiyas seemed a lot “tinnier” than the Pentax stuff, but they were similarly priced. I had a pal that brought a 500 DTL back from the PX in Vietnam. He said they were the same price as the Pentax there, but he got sold on the dual light metering, not reading the Pentaxes seemed better built.

    1. Marc Beebe Avatar

      I agree with you; there’s a lot of ‘modern mythology’ that goes with shooting film these days. In some cases it’s almost like a cult. To be fair back when it was film or nothing there were unjustified biases in favour of particular brands or emulsions, but these were based more on personal preference of results than random conclusions drawn from no factual basis.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m a somewhat advanced amateur I think. I still have a lot of “let’s shoot this and see what turns out” in me, and joy when a camera or film works at all.

      This 500DTL seems solidly built. But my Spotmatics feel luxurious under use in comparison. This 500DTL is almost a blunt instrument. The lens is nice though.

      1. Kodachromeguy Avatar

        The Mamiya 55mm f/1.4 lens with the thorium elements has a great reputation. It may be almost a cult optic now. I should look for one….

  2. Marc Beebe Avatar

    For those not familiar with film it should be pointed out that whereas 400 vs. 200 sounds like a big difference it’s really only 1 stop and most images can survive +/- stop without being severely affected. BTW the Mamiya 500 DTL was an SLR I looked at buying back when they were new, but I didn’t because I knew someone with a couple of 1000 DTLs and both were plagued with problems.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yep especially with Tri-X which has huge latitude!!

      I’ve seen any number of broken DTLs over the years. I feel fortunate to have finally found one in good working order.

  3. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    Nice shots!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you!!

  4. tbm3fan Avatar

    Mamiya 500 dtl??? Why would you, of all people, acquire another camera so far out of your wheelhouse? I keep seeing them and yet keep resisting adding them to my collection since I would probably never pick them up to shoot. Consequently I have only one that I got 20 years ago and only because it had an M42 50mm f1.4 lens on it. I’m a sucker for 1.4 lenses.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m not sure you fully understand my wheelhouse! I go for cameras I can pick up relatively inexpensively for which I can still get (or easily adapt) film. The 500 DTL sure fits that bill – they go for peanuts.

      I don’t see a reason to keep this camera for the long haul, however. It’s not better than my Spotmatics and Lord knows I do not need to store a body and lens for a system I’m not going to keep investing in. I should be able to sell this kit on for about what I paid for it, or even give it to a film-curious photographer.

  5. Khürt Williams Avatar

    I think this Tri-X cartridge produced good results. When I expose film, it’s expired, chiefly 35mm film. In my case, the expired 35mm film was donated. I can’t justify spending money on film and processing when I could save those pennies to travel to places worthy of a photograph.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What a useful perspective!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: