Film Review: Expired Fujicolor Superia 1600

Oct 23, 2017
4 min read

Today I want to share with you a little misadventure that happened to me recently while shooting a roll of expired Fujicolor Superia 1600 sent to me by Sina Farhat.

It all started when I went to spend the day in Monaco and explore the Oceanographic Museum. I brought along this roll of fast film with the idea of capturing some images in the aquarium. The roll was expired since a little longer than 10 years which made think that I should overexpose by one stop to compensate for the decade this roll has patiently waited in a freezer.

My Mistake At Exposing Expired Film

So here I went with my Hasselblad Xpan on which I set the ISO at 800 instead of 1600. Needless to say, that was a bit of a challenge to shoot in such a dark environment but I managed to get a few shots. The problem as you will see, is that most images turned out heavily underexposed even thought I was shooting at f/4 and 1/30s most of the time when I was inside the aquarium.

The ones outside, where exposed for the shadows but that wasn’t sufficient to bring enough light to the negative.

How To Expose Expired Colour Film

Nuno from Kameratori.com, who took care of my roll, gave me a tip to shoot expired colour film:

Instead of adding +1 stop per decade, he recommends to adding +1 stop for every 5 years. C-41 film will always prefer over exposition rather than under. This would have helped the scanner, which did the best it could, to deliver decent images by increasing its sensitivity at the cost of some digital noise on top of the already grainy Superia 1600. The counterpart of overexposing film too much is that you may lose saturation and contrast but you can’t ask too much anyway from buying a film that should have been shot when I was still a teenager!

Here the negatives were so dark that we couldn’t see the separation between two images, even on a light table. To avoid cutting an image, we had to let the roll into one piece!

Storing conditions matters

The way your film has been stored will also have a major impact on the negatives. If it’s been carefully stored in a freezer throughout all these years, then you’ll have more chances than with one found in the boot of your old car. Chemicals on the emulsion degrade at light speed in a warm environment. When you see a series of fogged images and/or colour shifts, this may be the sign of poor storing conditions.

You can always correct a few things in post production like I did here. Most of the adjustments I did here had something to do with adding more contrast. As you can see below, here are examples of images straight out of the scanner. The colours are still ok but there’s a real lack of contrast and kind of foggy look.

Summary

when shooting expired colour film, keep in mind that it loses sensitivity over the years. For a roll that has been stored in good conditions, overexpose by +1 stop every 5 years. Always expose for the shadows, this will compensate the loss of sensitivity and get more details in the dark areas. This may come at the cost of a lack of contrast, weird colours and increased grain as well but anyway, shooting expired film is never an exact science.

Now, with that in mind I will probably give a try at another expired roll of film that I have sitting in my fridge and hopefully get better looking images to show you.

That shouldn’t stop you from shooting expired film. They are often cheap and even if you don’t know it was stored, it adds even more to the surprise. When you get a few good images on an expired roll, it’s even more rewarding because you’ve added an element on which you have very little control or hope and still manage to make something you’re happy with out of it.

I hope this will be useful to some of you and don’t forget to share with us in the comments your tips to shoot with expired film.

To finish, I’d like to thank Nuno and the Kameratori team for taking care of my roll. If you even need to buy or sell analog gear, makes sure to check these guys. They have an insane collection of cameras in stock and will offer you a fair deal when buying your stuffs.

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