Out of date film, in what way does it deteriorate?

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bogeyes

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There seems to be lots of film for sale that is out of date. What happens to film as it ages: does it lose contrast, does it lose its sensitivity to light, will it develop fog? Is there a developer that works best with old B&W film. Do c41 black and white films fair better with the aging process than conventional B&W films? Is out of date film worth the savings in cost? What does out of date mean? If a film is a few months past its sell by date how old will the film actually be?I read somewhere that slow speed films freeze better than fast films, Why?What is the ideal temperature to store film? Do negs from old films curl more? All answers appreciated, thanks in advance Bogey.
 

fhovie

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I shoot a lot of out of date film - It generally goes out of date in my freezer where the film is protected from heat and to some extent "other radiation" Film that goes out of date usually gets foggy. 30 year old film will have fog as dense as zone 5. B&W film survives the best. Color film will get color shifts and become very challenging to color balance. Slide film gets "warm" -yellows. The deterioration is generally non light radiation that gets into the package and chemical deterioration. Low temps and large steel enclosures help.
 

Donald Qualls

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The expiration date is set by the manufacturer as the last date when they are willing to warranty the film to function as rated in terms of overall sensitivity and curve. In general, films that have passed expiration will have varying amounts (depending on what film, and how it was stored) of loss of speed, increased fog, and decreased contrast. If storage has been relatively poor, there may also be other effects. I've seen film that was imprinted with the backing print from the next wrap in due to chemical bleed (gas hypered Tech Pan, the presumption was that something in the ink on the backing paper reacted with the hypering gas), film that had periodic patches of fog, worse at the outside of the roll as it had been stored, and film that was so completely fogged to develop as solid black. Over the long term, fogging due to cosmic rays can be an issue even in deep freeze storage (which pretty well stops chemical aging), and the faster the film and less reciprocity failure it has, the more fogging can be expected. Thermal fogging is also possible, with more effect the longer the film has been kept at or above room temperature, as well as more effect for faster films and those with less reciprocity failure.

That said, many modern films seem to age gracefully, and few indeed are the films that are significantly degraded within a year or two of expiration if they've been stored cold and protected from chemical influences. I've shot lots of TMY that was up to two years past date, and with decent treatment (refrigerated or frozen until ready to use, then up to a couple months in my camera bag before exposure, followed by processing within a week or two of exposure) have seen no degradation I could be reasonably sure was the fault of the film. I'm working my way through a 100' bulk roll of old Tri-X at least five years out of date, and though it has some overall fog, it produces very nice negatives in HC-110 and Caffenol -- and I've got another identical roll in the freezer that I expect to be perfectly fine when I load it up in a year or so. I've also shot Portra 400 that was up to a couple years out of date with perfectly marvelous results, and gotten very acceptable results from no-name cosumer grade 35 mm ISO 400 C-41 (probably Agfa, but no way to be sure) that had been in storage at room temperature, in my camera bag, for at least ten years.

My take is, if you're shooting for yourself, for enjoyment, especially in B&W and doing your own processing, there's no good reason not to buy expired film within a couple years of the date -- you can compensate your exposure and process if you find a batch has lost a lot of speed or has high fog, and you might even find you like some of the effects that you see. If you're shooting images for sale or hire, there's no excuse to take the chance of getting a bad batch in order to save a few dollars.
 

collect888

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Donald's post is one of the best on this topic. I hope I can use some of the content when I list outdated film for sale.

- collect888
 

Buster6X6

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Just to give you a prospective. Five years ago when I got my Omega 4x5 enlarger I also got two boxes of Kodak4162 TXT.Before I tossed it out I asked the guy in the store I buy film from and he said definitely no.What the heck I gave it a try and I was pleasantly suprised it came out with low contrast but otherwise not bad.The film was sitting in the basement not in the fridge.

Greg
 

Dean Williams

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You can learn a lot from what Donald has posted here. Some films are much less sensitive than others, but the common wisdom is that slower films keep better than faster films. Some types will keep for decades. If you are talking about newly expired films, of almost any kind, I wouldn't be concerned. Most B&W films less than 10 years out of date will give acceptable results. Especially those less than 400 asa. Just for fun, you can check HERE for a test on 45 year old film.
 

Donald Qualls

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collect888 said:
Donald's post is one of the best on this topic. I hope I can use some of the content when I list outdated film for sale.

- collect888

As long as quotes are used in reasonable context, I don't see a problem with it.
 

bobfowler

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I bought a bunch of outdated film on ebay a short time ago. One of the boxes was some 3x4 Ansco that expired in 1955! For S&G, I shot a couple of sheets just to see if I could get anything... I processed it in HC-110 dil B (probably not the best choice) and B+F was VERY high and speed was rather low. Still, I got some printable images from 50 year old film!
 

Donald Qualls

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Dean Williams said:
Just for fun, you can check HERE for a test on 45 year old film.

On the other hand, my experience with one year newer Verichrome Pan was less salubrious -- loss of speed, general fog, and a fogging pattern consistent with one side of the roll being fogged (heat? radiation? Who knows?). You can see some images from that roll on this photo.net thread.

Bottom line is, with very old film, you don't know what you're going to get -- I recently bid (unsuccessfully) on a good sized lot of VP828, hoping to get the use of some of it in my Bantam RF camera(s) when I get the shutters cleaned up, but at the price I bid, I wouldn't have been disappointed to simply reuse the spools and backing paper with modern 35 mm film. Recently expired film is far less of a gamble -- unless it's been sitting on a radiator or in the back window of an old Chevy, it's probably fine for non-critical use.
 

Donald Qualls

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bobfowler said:
I bought a bunch of outdated film on ebay a short time ago. One of the boxes was some 3x4 Ansco that expired in 1955! For S&G, I shot a couple of sheets just to see if I could get anything... I processed it in HC-110 dil B (probably not the best choice) and B+F was VERY high and speed was rather low. Still, I got some printable images from 50 year old film!
Bob, in my experience, HC-110 is one of the best possible choices for processing old film -- it has a strong antifoggant and helps keep the general fog in check. Unfortunately, nothing can combat the speed loss with old film, and that is the biggest drawback to buying expired film -- the combination of speed loss and fog can make critical shots come out muddy and flat when they should snap. Not likely to be a problem with the stuff you get from shops, generally -- it's seldom more than a year or two out of date -- but it's the gamble you take when you buy antique film.
 
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