5 Frames… On 50+ year expired ILFORD HP3 (120 format / EI 12 / Agfa Isolette II) – by Alice Smith

My first foray into medium format photography nearly 3 years ago was a trusty and time-tested Kodak Brownie, however the lack of control and only getting 8 frames per roll of film made me want to try something new. So I hopped onto eBay and managed to find an Agfa Isolette II 120 camera for a few pounds. This camera hails from the mid-1950s, shoots 6×6 images and allows you control over the aperture and shutter speed.

More recently, I managed to find some ILFORD HP3 that expired in 1969, so I thought this and the Isolette would be a good combo for creating some timeless-looking snaps. A bit of research told me that the film was ISO 400, and following the general ‘overexpose by one stop per decade’ rule I ended up shooting this roll at around ISO 12.


I’m fortunate to have a wonderful park where I live, and as a result it’s become my go-to shooting location whenever I have some new film or a new camera to try out.Therefore, on an especially frosty morning in December of 2019, I took this particular combo for a spin. Let’s have a look at my favourite 5 frames:

Honestly, I’m pretty amazed with the results! I’ve only really had experiences with super expired colour negative film, and the results from that have always been a bit whacky. As it turns out black and white really holds up! I was also a bit surprised with the lack of damage or texture caused by the backing paper; you can see some weirdness on the negative if you look really close but I’d say it’s not a big issue.

I developed this roll with Ilford DDX using the guidelines for HP5, and scanned it myself with my Epson V600. The only thing left for me to do is give the negatives a print in the darkroom, which is something I’ve resolved to do much more of this year.

~ Alice

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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.

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Alice Smith
Alice Smith
I'm a photographer, video editor and podcaster based in the North East of England. I’m always fascinated by the world around me; the mundane, the extraordinary, the familiar and the new. My photographic work varies but an ongoing project of mine has been to document where I live, and noting how it changes day-by-day.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Howdy Alice – that film seems to have survived amazingly well! I have a Nettar too (not sure if it’s exactly the same) but I put a review of it here on EMULSIVE and I also did a 5 frames with some expired film I had they was only about 25yrs old but did some pretty weird things. Cheers, David.

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