View Full Version : Some observations on old Kodak 4x5 pack film

Chauncey Walden
12-Jan-2007, 19:43
After more than a year of it kicking around in my camera bag, I finally finished off the 16 exposures of some Plus-X pack film of some unknown but undoubtedly prehistoric expiration date that had previously been sitting on the back of a cabinet shelf for, well, years. Assuming the remaining quality to be dubious at best, I had only pulled it out every now and then to take a second shot when I thought of it or to take a shot that was iffy at best. In the darkroom I realized that I had cleaned and stowed the Jobo so opted for an old Nikor spiral reel that on a good day could hold 12 pieces of film but which I usually only used for 6. In the dark, I opened the pack holder. I think now that the pack might be light tight even with exposed film as long as it is handled only by the edges but at the time I was uncertain so stayed in the dark. The next trick was to open the pack - dead easy now that I can see it in the light but requiring a lot of gropping, pushing, pulling, and prying at the time. (Hint - just pull the end where the tabs are sticking out towards the tabs about one quarter inch and it pops off allowing the top to hinge up and freeing the film.) Ah, the film! Well, not only are there 16 pieces of film and their tabs in there but there are also 18 sheets of paper, one attached to each sheet of film and now lying along its back, and 2 attached to each other proclaiming the film type. As you might have guessed by now the film is thin, very thin, very, very thin. The paper and the tab separated easily from the film leaving only a few little smudges of paper along the non-image edge which easily came off after the wash. There is one more thing about the film; it is larger than normal sheet film. It's over one quarter inch longer and just a smidgen wider (but enough wider that I had to reset the Nikor to its maximum width.) Loading it in the spiral was not fun and you have to be careful to keep the emulsion on the inside. That's another trick, telling which side the emulsion is on. There are no notches. When you open the pack the emulsion is up and you have to be careful to keep track of it while loading. I had exposed it at 100 and just developed it normally - 10 minutes at 70 in PMK. I was expecting to find it underexposed (from age induced speed loss) and fogged. Surprise! It was fine but a little bit crinkled from loading it in the spiral. The next surprise was what happened in the dryer; it was like a high kicking chorus line. The sheets were practically folding over on themselves. They need lots of room. Eventually they sort of straightened out. The next batch will be in the Jobo and, you know, I think there just may be some Tri-X film packs in the freezer. Hmmmmm..

Jim Rice
12-Jan-2007, 20:07
Back in the day I loved film packs. I didn't love the (thin based) film but for the hand-held shooter they would let you really pop them off. This was their only advantage as far as I'm concerned. For traditional view camera work , they offer no advantage and the thin based film is a terrible PITA in the darkroom and film flatness may well be an issue. What is your application?

Chauncey Walden
13-Jan-2007, 11:56
Jim, no specific application - I just hate to see film die without having fulfilled its destiny to be exposed!

Jim Rice
13-Jan-2007, 12:03
Then do what they were designed for. Pick up a Graphic and do some hand held photography. Almost as fast as a 35 and that is a pretty damn cool thing.