Dane Johnson / Kodak Plus-X on Flickr.
How do I Shoot Expired Film?
The FPP received the following e-mail and FPP co-host Mat Marrash answered!
“I don’t know how you have learned so much but you amaze me.
My son (age 30) and I (age 57) were talking about how to shoot some pictures. He just got a Zenit E camera and the ASA settings doesn’t seem to match up with the film he was wanting to use. He had a roll of 100 speed film but the settings on the Zenit go from 65 and then jumps to 130.
He thought because it didn’t match he couldn’t use that film. I told him, from listening to you guys, that isn’t so. He didn’t understand. Now rather than explain it to him and get it wrong I thought I would see if you could direct me to more correct information about this. You said something one day about using older film that sometimes you have to stop it back or forward based on certain factors.
I heard Mike and Dane talking one time about shooting at a lower ASA on some film because of age. What is all this about and how does one learn and understand what is going on and how do we know what we are supposed to know. Is there some literature about this topic that you can lead me to?
Thanks brother photographer!”
Tim Norman - Lubbock, TX
Thank you very much for the kind words, they’re most appreciated.
When shooting with film, it’s always better to overexpose the film a little, than underexpose. Film has excellent exposure latitude, and usually benefits from a little overexposure. If the film is underexposed, it cannot expand on information which hasn’t been recorded on the film. In the case of your Zenit, a 100 ASA film exposed at 65 through the camera should be just fine. The negatives will be a little thicker/darker, but otherwise print/scan well. Honestly, since ASA 130 isn’t much further from 100, you would be equally ok shooting with that setting as well. When it comes to situations that have “flat” lighting (not a lot of contrast), you may actually prefer setting the camera to 130 and exposing a roll then.
Regarding film that’s expired, it’s better to overexpose it by roughly a stop for every ten years past expiration date. So, if I were shooting some Tri-X 400 from the mid 1990’s, I might start out exposing it at ASA 100; that’s two full stops for almost 20 year expired film. Depending on how the film has been stored, this will be just enough, or a little too much exposure (cold stored film fogs less rapidly, so doesn’t need as much exposure compensation).
Hope this helps you explain the properties of film to your son, keep listening to the FPP, and long live film!
Portrait of Dane (Smoove Sailor rocker and regular on The Film Photography Podcast)
Michael Raso shot Dane with his Graflex Crown Graphic camera / Optar f4.7 135mm lens on Kodak Plus X (expired August 1981).
Shooting amazingly old, expired film will produce unpredictable (sometimes awesome) results. 125 asa expired film was shot at 50 asa.