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Shooting 25-Year Expired Kodacolor VR 1000

I shot a roll of 25 year expired Kodacolor VR 1000 and compared the raw results with those where I performed standard post-processing.

On August 1st, 2011 someone posted a link to giveaway for a roll of very expired Kodacolor VR 1000 film that he was doing. I told him I would appreciate it very much, give roll the respect it deserves, and post my results on the interwebs. He chose to honor me with the prize. This is my review.

This is the box I received in the mail:

Here’s a close-up of the important part:

Notice the expiration date. That’s twenty-five years expired! Also, notice where it says, “Since color dyes may in time change, this film will not be replaced for, or otherwise warranted against, any change in color.”

Here’s the inside of the box:

Notice where it mentions the other VR films — 100, 200, 400 — and where it says, “Do not refrigerate to extend life of film.” When this film was released, it was the fastest color negative film available. Here’s one of the ads for it:

After fondling the box for a couple of days and planning my outing, I decided to follow the “film loses one full stop of sensitivity per decade of ‘expiredness’” rule of thumb. I shot the roll at two and one half stops slower (about 200 ASA) to compensate for two and a half decades of “expiredness.” I used a Canon EOS Rebel Ti with a fast lens. I had my local Walgreens develop the film with no cutting, no scanning, and no printing. I scanned the pictures myself with minimum color correction. I say minimum because any time you digitize negatives there will be some adjustments. The software has to invert the image and compensate for the orange mask for instance.

Then, I edited each picture the way I normally would for a final result. I adjusted the lightness, contrast, and color balance. I also cropped the image if I though it needed it. In the following picture pairs, the first one is the “un-retouched” picture. The second one is the one on which I did my normal processing.

Here are the results:

So, what did I learn from this experience? First, the “film loses one full stop of sensitivity per decade of ‘expiredness’” rule of thumb holds fairly well. I’ve seen other people’s attempts at shooting film that was this expired and they are often underexposed because the person didn’t compensate enough for the loss of sensitivity. This was 1000 ASA film and I shot it at about 200 ASA. That seemed to be enough to compensate for two and a half decades of being expired. Second, there is a definite color shift. I think this happens because the color sensitive layers lose sensitivity at different rates. I’ve had a couple of people say that they prefer the cool color cast of the un-retouched pictures. Personally, I like the harsh contrastiness of the color-corrected ones. What do you think?

written by gvelasco

12 comments

  1. emonky

    emonky

    i love the “un-retouched” from my point of view after the edition they lost the vintage feeling that the expirated film gave to the pictures
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  2. gegana06

    gegana06

    a little bit grainy...but those texture made the picture looks so unique :)

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  3. dearjme

    dearjme

    Well.... we try not to do as much color correction and contrast, etc for the most analogue experience, right? But I do appreciate the comparison you provide :)

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  4. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    I like the adjusted versions. The biggest problem I find with saying 'no colour correction' is that, as you say, simply by using a digital scanner and not making a print you are introducing some sort of off balance. My scanner, if switched to no colour correction produces a brownish tint to every film I use. This cannot be the film, it has to be the scanner. So correction is needed to actually bring the balance back to what the film would produce if printed. Who's to say that the blueish tint is not caused by the scanner?

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  5. neanderthalis

    neanderthalis

    It is really cool that you got to experiment with this film. :D

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  6. mintandcoke

    mintandcoke

    There's no such a thing as "no editing" for scanned negatives. The only way to promote "accuracy" is having the pictures developed and then comparing the colors to those you got from the scanner. As you revert negatives to get colors you naturally will have some difference in tone, warmth and shade. You can never be sure, unless you have the paper in your hands so you have parameters to check. I get my negatives form the lab scanned and presume (I can only presume) they were not corrected - most times I ask them not to, but I don't know what kind of equipment they have there. When I post them I never do anything but picking up the good ones and posting. Both correct and un-corrected versions of your pictures are pretty fine. I like the cool blue hue, but the colors are also very nice: they'r grainy and bold! The only way to know for sure is asking the lab to get them in papers via negative. i'd be curious to know what they'd look like!

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  7. vicuna

    vicuna

    Love the results for such an old film, specially the grain and texture! And about the color correction, it is anyway a useless debate and as you say it, the scanner already interpretates colors (even without the automatic control settings) and all the correction work we can do is to find the best adjustement to get what we see on the negative... Often, for old expired film, x-pro or redscale, the scanner can't really do the best from itself, so it's not a problem to adjust manually the contrast, brightness and colors... after that it's just a matter of personal taste to leave the picture as the scanner gets it or to adjust it...

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  8. gvelasco

    gvelasco

    I think the responses I've received about color correction have been split about 50/50. Color correcting to remove the blue tint is obviously a matter of preference, but I think everyone should strongly consider overexposing to compensate for the loss of sensitivity. If you don't do that, the pictures might be underexposed as well as color-shifted.

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  9. peeciella

    peeciella

    I prefer it if you didn't edit your photos, cropping would still be okay, as your readers should mostly be interested in how it looks like non edited :) but the photos you've posted still looks nice tho :)

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  10. gvelasco

    gvelasco

    I posted both the color balanced pictures and the non-balanced pictures right next to each other so that readers can see the effects of color balancing. All digitized color negatives are color corrected anyway because the image has to be inverted and the orange mask removed. You cannot avoid color correction if you want a positive image from a negative. That was an important lesson in this review. The responses have been about 50/50 in favor of color balancing. About half of the people prefer the cool blue tint of the non-color balanced pictures.

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  11. j_rad

    j_rad

    Perfect timing! I have 10 rolls of slide film expired in '88 that I want to shoot with... I'm going to use with the 1 stop/decade rule!

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  12. trw

    trw

    I love the color balanced pictures. Don't get me wrong, I love the raw, unadulterated colors too, but the color correction makes these images even better. You've also packed so much good information into this article. I have about two dozen rolls of very old film (10-20 years outdated) that I'm now inspired to take out for a photo session! :-)

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