The effect of more than thirty years on colour negative film is unpredictable. That I had in my hand a roll of Sainsbury’s CPF, a budget film from 1987 marketed by a UK supermarket, was unlikely. That a newly arrived Canon A-1 sat on the desk across the room was none other than good fortune. So the question: how would the film look after so long?

My Canon A1, James Patrick
My Canon A1, James Patrick

As it turned out, the most obvious toll of time was exaggerated clumps of film grain. It was reminiscent of ILFORD HP5 pushed to EI 1600. Or, if viewed at one hundred percent magnification, it had a reasonable claim on Impressionism.

In the first photograph on the roll, the pigeons in St James’ Park, London, the greens and yellows are reminiscent of that “Classic Chrome” look one associates with 1970’s Kodachrome. Patches of straw-yellow grass bring to mind the UK’s long, hot summer of ’76.

For all of the photographs, what was scorched was the contrast. Thanks to the magic of digitization after receiving the scans I adjusted the Levels and Curves. They needed a lot of work. Below is one frame as it came from the Frontier scanner. Download and do with it as you wish.

The portrait of Richie Colligan reveals inaccurate, oranged skin tone and considerable grain in a photograph that shows accurate exposure. The white of the wall is inflicted with a ghostly cyan while Richie’s black T-shirt struggles to be truly black.

The cyan continues through the photograph of King Bhumibol street art in Phuket, Thailand. Notice the house to the left of the frame? Its paintwork was a bright cyan. The chemistry appears to have transferred across the frame and, though not shown, across the following frames.

What surprised me most was the photograph of the Burlington Arcade in London. The rich magenta foreground and accurate shadow detail show the film still has a useful level of sharpness as does the architecture of the roof lights as they receded into the distance. Despite the Impressionist stippling.

Overall, the Sainsbury CPF had an interesting look and opened my mind to the delight of using aged film. It also showed that the Canon A-1 was working.

~ James

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James Patrick

Bangkok based writer & photographer.

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