Fogged Film: 1990 Kodak Vericolor 400

Shooting expired film is a challenge. Film sensitivity and dynamic range both decrease over time. To account for the loss in sensitivity there is a rule of thumb which advises adding one stop of light for each decade of film age. The rule may account for loss of sensitivity on average, but the loss in dynamic range means that it is often not enough to get usable results. I use rules of thumb based upon the type of film to get slightly better than average results.

In addition to the problem of getting the correct exposure there are also challenges related to using the film after it has been developed. Expired film which has been properly exposed and developed can still be quite dense. Expired color film can also have strong color casts. Even if all of these obstacles were accounted for, rolls of medium format film will frequently have uneven exposure across the frame caused by the additional fogging which occurs towards the edges.

This 32 year old roll of Kodak Vericolor 400 demonstrates the limitations of expired film.

The loss of dynamic range is clear when comparing frame 1 to frame 2. The shots were metered for the shadows. Frame 2, which is overexposed by 4 stops, shows the correct exposure for the shadows. However, the highlights in frame 2 are blown out. The overexposed highlights combined with the strong blue color shift of the negative yield the unusually colored sky. The clouds in frame 1 are better, but the rest of the image is underexposed. Frame 3, which is only 2 stops overexposed, looks completely different from the other frames because the color had to be manually corrected. The blue cast is harder to remove from underexposed negatives.

All of the photos in this set are lighter near the sides, showing the uneven effects of fogging. Frame 12 is slightly blurry, but that is from shooting handheld with a shutter speed of 1/8. Frame 8, which was overexposed by 4 stops, is arguably the best. Honestly, it is perhaps the only image which is usable. The subject was in the center of the frame, inside the more fogged areas. The illumination of the scene was also uniform, probably less than 1 stop difference.

As this roll shows, the more expired the film is, the less likely it is that the images will turn out. So, the moral of the story is probably that after a certain age, shooting expired film may not be worth the trouble. For me, the film was cheap and shooting through it lets me practice the mechanics of photography. I guess it ultimately depends upon what you are looking to get out of it.

Photographs shot on a Hasselblad 503cx.

Published: 2022-04-09
PhotographyKodakVericolor 400VPHFilmExpired Film