View Full Version : I Feel the Temptation of...

Colin Abercrombie
10-Jan-2007, 17:19
I feel the temptation of...buying cheap, out of date film. Its really really cheap! Obviously I have some questions, so here goes:

I am a total beginner with respect to everything 4x5; I have not even taken my first shot yet. I have a nice Crown Graphic with 135 lens and a film holder. I now need some color film to continue, and outdated Provia 100F sheets are available at low cost from an internet vendor.

1. The website states that the oldest film expired Aug, 2006. Can anyone think of a reason why there would be anything wrong with this film? It has been "cold stored."

2. (This is the most important question) Velvia 100 has been my usual film in small formats for mountain landscapes---I like it. Would Provia be an acceptable substitute? Cost is everything, and this Provia is less than 25% of the price of Velvia.

I appreciate everyone’s input and opinions! Just reading all the Q and A has been a tremendous help to me.



10-Jan-2007, 17:36
All film is affected by age. Once the film gets past a certain point the chemistry basically deteriorates and you lose speed. I use expired b&w 35mm frequently. I don't have much of a problem since ISO-50 film is pretty slow to begin with, but ISO 400 has a loss in speed after a couple years - I'm shooting agfa apx-400 expired and it needs to be rated slower or push processed. I'm also using expired 4x5 film since it was the most available thing to me, and again, no real loss in quality because the film was slow.

I think with colour/slide film you need to compensate and rate it at about half the marked speed if it's expired more than a year (at a guess). Cold-storing protects the film to an extent, but damage is done by cosmic particles so it could be frozen for 10 years and be no better off than some in dry storage.

I'd say go for it, as long as its not more than 2 years old. Shoot a sheet at the EI/ISO on the box, then shoot another (of the same thing) at about EI-50 and see which has the better exposure. That'll give you a clue to what you should rate the film

Ralph Barker
10-Jan-2007, 18:07
There have been a few threads here about using outdated film. The worst that can happen is that some emulsion speed will be lost, and you may see some color shift with color film (or somewhat higher B+F on B&W). But, as noted, an awful lot depends on how it was stored and transported. Thus, for "fun work", it's probably a good deal.

I wouldn't use outdated film, however, for critical testing or commercial work. Others may feel differently, of course.

Brian Vuillemenot
10-Jan-2007, 18:08
I never cold store my film, and have regularly used Fuji and Kodak tansparency film that was at least one year post expiration with no problem at all. I would definately go for the cheap out of date film, since you are a beginner, and will probably want to burn a lot of film to get used to LF. If you are used to the bold saturated colors of Velvia, you may not like Provia, however- it's a lot more neutral, without the same "punchy" colors of Velvia.

10-Jan-2007, 18:11
2. (This is the most important question) Velvia 100 has been my usual film in small formats for mountain landscapes---I like it. Would Provia be an acceptable substitute? Cost is everything, and this Provia is less than 25% of the price of Velvia.

Sorry Colin, but if cost is your major concern, you probably need to stick with 35mm.

Colin Abercrombie
10-Jan-2007, 18:38
Sorry Colin, but if cost is your major concern, you probably need to stick with 35mm.

Total cost depends on your system of measurement, and style. You can probably make any photographic system cost as little or as much as you want. Based on my experiences over the last few years, I am confident that LF will have LESS total cost to me in the short term. I will re-evaluate my decisions next year and see how what really happened compared to what I thought would happen, and then make corrections. I am not right 100% of the time but I can tell you one thing: If you don't try, if you don't make an effort, you will never know for sure.


Ron Marshall
10-Jan-2007, 19:02
I always cold store and have used OOD without ill effects. If it is less than one year OOD and has been cold stored I would use it, but not for something irreplacable.

10-Jan-2007, 21:19
Films expired in Aug. 06 should be OK if they've been cold stored (I'd say even in room temp.). I've used films "older" than that. I would get them for that price, but it's your chance to take. One thing to consider is, for the very first shots, you may want to eliminate potential things-went-wrong as much as you can. I'd use "fresh" films even if I bought those outdated films.

As to Provia vs. Velvia, you answered yourself: "If you don't try, if you don't make an effort, you will never know for sure."

Turner Reich
10-Jan-2007, 21:40
Why waste your time fine tuning old out of date film. It would be like a painter going to the art supply store and asking for some old out of date paint.

10-Jan-2007, 23:32

Buying out-dated film is usually done at one's own peril. However, if it's been stored in a cool spot such as a fridge (or, better yet, a freezer...) it "should" be okay. I've used films (Provia) that have been stored in the freezer for the past 4 years and have not had any problems with color shift or speed changes. But, YMMV.

And, if the oldest film expired in August 06 I don't think you'll have any problems whatsoever with it. I'd buy it! :)

As for Velvia vs Provia, they're quite a bit different from each other. You're already familiar with Velvia. So, do yourself a favor... buy a box / roll of Provia and give it a go. You'll see for yourself whether you like it or not. What have you got to lose other than a roll / box of film?

FWIW... I prefer Provia over Velvia but that's a very personal preference! However, if I were out shooting fall foliage in a low contrast day... I'd be tempted to use Velvia.


Colin Abercrombie
11-Jan-2007, 06:53
To all who have contributed:

Thank You!

My decision is to try some of this Provia as I go through the leaning process, but keep some Velvia in reserve for the most important things.


Jim Jones
11-Jan-2007, 09:42
The cost of fresh film is usually a small part of the investment in time, travel, and effort in scenic photography. For subjects that can't be conveniently reshot, fresh film is worthwhile. For casual photography, old film is often fine. If the film is to be digitally edited, you can compensate for some of the problems of old film. My last shot was on 4x5 T-Max 400 13 years out-of-date. It did well enough. However, if it hadn't, reshooting would have taken only a minute. Full exposure evelated the image above the increased base fog. Color film is much more critical.

Aaron van de Sande
11-Jan-2007, 09:48
He is after all a beginner. I don't see any downside in learning to load filmholders, focus and not double expose with some OOD film.

11-Jan-2007, 11:42
Aaron, fair point!

When I first tried to load a film holder I was all thumbs, so I made the conscious choice to 'waste' two pieces and try it in the light. After a few practices with my eyes closed I was ready to try the real thing - even that helps when you're starting out. Basic is best ;)

Alan Davenport
11-Jan-2007, 18:03
Film manufacturers guarantee a particular emulsion will meet certain specified, published criteria if purchased while fresh, i.e., before the expiration date. That date doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the film when the date passes, just that the manufacturer will no longer guarantee the specs.

Keep in mind, also, that the expiration dates on film are quite conservative. This is both to ensure that the film will still meet spec even if it has gotten some poor handling (like 120 degrees in the back of a delivery truck?) and maybe also to help professionals decide to rotate their stock often enough to keep the manufacturer's bookkeeper happy.

Fact is, film that's a year past it's marked expiration date, stored at room temperature, will almost always be OK, especially if it's been stored cold. Unless you have some sophisticated test gear, you probably wouldn't be able to see the difference.

I use lots of outdated E-6, and it's always been fine. I once bought some Polaroid film that was over a decade past its exp. date, and it was pretty bad. Obviously there's a limit to how far you can go with this kind of cheapness, but a reasonable time past the date shouldn't be a problem.

Sheldon N
11-Jan-2007, 21:01
I've shot some Provia that was expired by a decade and not cold stored. It shifted magenta, but was still useable for scanning when color corrected. I have a nice print on my wall from that film.

If its within a couple years and has been cold stored, I'd say that it's fine for non-critical (commercial) work.

Nigel Smith
11-Jan-2007, 21:17
how are you going to be viewing your masterpieces? As Sheldon mentions, if scanning, the colour cast can be dialed out (or if you want to replicate velvia... dialed in)

11-Jan-2007, 22:49
Sorry Colin, but if cost is your major concern, you probably need to stick with 35mm.

Nah, I disagree. Once you get set up you can be shooting (albeit minimally) for $50 to $100 a month. You need drums (or trays and a dark bathroom or something) to do your own B&W processing (I got unicolor uniroller 8x10 on ebay as suggested in an article on the front page of LFinfo here), and some chemicals and basics like a thermometer (I use a digital cooking thermometer which works great - $20), trays, bottles and measuring cylinders.

Once you have that you can spend $50 a month on film and another $10 or so on chemistry and take several shots every weekend :) LF is all about quality not quantity. I came back from a recent 2 week trip with about 30 exposures (15 unique images, duped) and 90% them were good shots worth printing big for the wall, because I took my time. Compare that to my keeper ratio from my digital SLR where I'll routinely take 150 or more shots on a day outing (probably 2%).