An unexpected gift

Last summer, a box filled with rolls of expired 35mm film arrived unexpectedly at my doorstep. The sender was unknown, with only a return address from Lewes, Delaware, written on the box. I was intrigued by the contents. There was no note of explanation inside the box, just cartridges and boxes of expired 35mm film. I couldn't help but wonder why someone would send me a box of unexposed 35mm film and who the sender could be.

I know only one person in Delaware; she was never into film photography. I used Google to get information about the shipping address on the shipping label. According to my search, the box was shipped from a post office in Lewes, Delaware. I didn’t recognise the person's name on the box, and I didn’t know anyone in Lewes except for our friends Matt and Jean, who had only recently moved there. We spent a weekend in Lewes with them last summer.

I put the box out of my mind for several months. But then I decided to use one of the expired rolls of Kodak BW400CN. The mystery of who sent the box annoyed me. I went back to Google, but my search proved fruitful this time. I focused on the name of the person on the box and found a court article that mentioned a name with which I was familiar; Bhavna’s college roommate, Traci!

Then it all made sense. Months earlier, I contacted her about the camera equipment she used at our wedding. We didn't have money for a photographer, and Traci stepped in and offered her skills. I told her I was reshooting the film, and she mentioned that her mom had some expired rolls of 35mm film that she would send me. I had utterly forgotten that conversation and expected something coming from Peapack, New Jersey, where I thought her mom still resided. The mystery was solved.

All of the rolls of 35mm film expired more than three decades ago. Even though they were expired, I was still delighted and couldn't wait to see what I could do with them. I took each roll out of the box, admiring the vintage packaging and feeling thankful for the unexpected gift. I catalogued the items in the box.

I catalogued my unexpected gift. Is it worth exposing any of these expired 35mm films?

Brand Film Stock ASA Quantity
Agfa Scala 200 200 1
Fujifilm Fujichrome Provia 400F 400 6
Fujifilm Fujicolor 200 200 4
Fujifilm Fujicolor Super HG 1600 1
Fujifilm Fujicolor Super HQ 200 4
Fujifilm Velvia 100F 100 6
Ilford HP5 400 2
Kodak 400 UC 400 1
Kodak BW400CN 400 2
Kodak Ektachrome E100G 100 1
Kodak Ektachrome E100VS 100 1
Kodak Ektachrome Infrared E1R - 1
Kodak Ektar 100 100 1
Kodak Kodachrome 25 25 8
Kodak Kodak 200 200 7
Kodak Max 800 800 8
Kodak Tri-X Pan 400 400 4

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  • Reply
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  • Reply
    21st March 2023 at 2:04 PM

    Go for it!

    Don't use any of it for once-in-a-lifetime events or anything, but shooting expired film can be fun.

    I've shot lots of expired film and my results have mostly been good. B&W is generally more reliable and I usually overexpose it by half-a-stop per decade of expiry. Colour negative film can be a bit more fussy and the tones can shift, but I've had mostly good results (again overexposing, but this time by a stop per decade when I don't know how it's been stored).

    I've also been quite lucky with my results with old slide film, although I shoot that at box speed.

    If you're interested, here are some posts I've made about an occasional series of expired film shoots:

    • Reply
      Khürt Williams
      26th March 2023 at 6:36 PM

      I was so excited when my first roll of expired 35mm film, a roll of Fujichrome Provia 400F, turned out better than expected. I've since exposed a few rolls of expired black and white, and the results were just as exciting. I do feel more confident with black and white. Thanks for the links. I'll check them out.

      I do have questions. I send my film off to a lab for development. When I expose an expired roll of ASA 400 film at ASA 50, do I need to tell the lab to pull the film, or do I have them develop it at the native ISO?

      • Reply
        27th March 2023 at 6:11 AM

        Ask them to develop at the native ISO. You're basically overexposing the film when you shoot it to compensate for it's expiry.

        • Reply
          Khürt Williams
          27th March 2023 at 7:34 AM

          Ok. Thank you so much. Your responses have been quite helpful.

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