Saturday, November 19, 2011

Is it worth shooting a roll of color film left in a camera for over thirty years?

I was given a 35 mm camera, already loaded with color film over thirty years prior. Because the film is so old, I'd like to shoot a special project with it, hoping for some interesting effects.

I've read that under the best conditions, color film might last around 5 years after expiration. The film in this camera has been sitting in a garage's closet for over the past thirty years.

Before I go through the trouble of shooting a serious project, is it possible the film might be too old?|||'s possible for black and white film to still be usable after 20 or 30 years, but I would not count on color film for that long. Color film degrades a lot faster than B%26amp;W film.

If you want to try it, just as a fun experiment, then sure go for it. At worst, you would just lose the cost for developing. But the pictures would probably turn out horrible, if you got any images at all. For one thing, the film will lose a lot of its sensitivity. I'm guessing that the film is already partially used, so you can't open the film compartment to check to see what the ISO rating is on the film. (Or actually, I think back then they would have used "ASA" but it's the same thing). If it's from the 1970's, it's probably a low ISO film...and then after all this time, it probably would have lost like at least half its sensitivity. So treat the film like it's maybe 25 or maybe 50 ISO at the most. If the camera has manual exposure control, rate the film as maybe 50 ISO. Look up the "Sunny 16 Rule" for how to set the aperture and shutter speed for taking pictures outside.

If that camera doesn't have manual exposure control, then just make sure there is plenty of light.

If you get ANY pictures, expect them to be very grainy and have low contrast with dull colors. You might also get some weird color shifts...which I guess might be kind of a cool effect.

The problem is mainly the storage conditions. Heat destroys film. If that camera was really sitting in the garage or in an attic for that long, it would have been cooked by summer heat and then frozen in the winter for years. That's just going to kill the film. Also, like someone else said, you don't know if the camera even works. Vintage cameras were built pretty solid (much better than the crappy plastic digital cameras around today) and generally they will work just fine. You would have to throw one of those old cameras up against a wall to break it. But still, it's not good for anything mechanical to sit for that long without being used. Grease and oil gets hard and moving parts will just seize up if they aren't used. The shutter might be jammed.

But still, I think you should go ahead. You don't have anything to lose except for a few bucks for developing, and it might be fun. Just don't use it to take pictures of anything important, and don't get your hopes up too high.

And then, if you really like that camera just buy another new roll of 35mm film.|||You have two concerns.

First, if the film is 35 years old, you need to be concerned about loss of speed, fog, and graniness. I would recommend scrapping that film.

Second, if the camera hasn't been used in 35 years (and the fact that it has a roll of film that hasn't been completed in 35 years pretty much confirms that point), I would be concerned about whether the camera is dependable. If there is a meter, the first step should be to verify that it works. If it has a battery, it will almost certainly need to be replaced. Cameras of that vintage also commonly used mercury batteries (eg PX625) that are very hard to find today.

Also, after 35 years of non-use, I would want to verify that the shutter still works, that the shutter speeds are dependable, and that the aperture opens fully and without dragging.

Finally, you were just given this camera. Do you have a similar camera? If not, you need to invest some time and film learning how to use it before taking on a 'special project'.|||Hey, if it's just for a fun project, why not give it a try. It may not even come out at all or you might get some surprising results. You never know unless you try.

After you shoot your old roll of film, shoot the same things again with a new roll, then you'll have something to compare with the old roll.

Could be fun.

Good luck.|||Thirty years is a very long time for the pigments and chemical reactions to go downgrading. Also in the garage means high humidity and high temperature fluctuations. Better for you try on something not really worth, in case you get no picture at all. I suggest some landscape type pic in case you get no pic.

Good luck.|||I would recommend you treat this as a fun shoot - the colours will almost certainly come out wrong, but if you're looking for an interesting effect it might be just what you'd like!! Don't use it in that 'once in a lifetime shot' where its got to come out perfect!!|||I think you are already answering your own question??? A serious project with potentially garbage film, or even new cheap film is a waste of time, money and effort.

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