Unexpected adventures with expired ILFORD FP4 PLUS film

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I have never used expired film or used a bulk loader until now. Not however for any particular reason, probably just because I simply didn’t feel the need to. I had been given a bulk loader and a handful of reloadable cassettes in a collection of darkroom gear by a retired professional. He no longer used them. Or any of his other film developing gear, and donated a few choice morsels to my growing stockpile.

Having had no plans on using it, it went in the cupboard in my darkroom, probably never to be seen or used again. However. On one of the many visits to my regular camera shop, we got chatting about bulk loading and a recently found stock of expired film. Much is written and posted about expired film. I never really understood the hype. so when I was asked. “Want to try this? It’s expired ILFORD FP4 PLUS film.” I have to admit, I was not overly excited. “We have no idea what it’s like. It’s old cine stock, rolled emulsion side out. So you will need to convert it.”

Now, it’s no easy task, re-rolling 200 feet of film by hand. Grappling around in a dark bag. I converted about half a roll (and used several expletives in the process), just managing to get enough to fill the loader.

I’ve never shot any expired film, let alone 20-year-old stock, I put a call out to the analogue community. The advice received yielded a good starting point. Start somewhere between 50 – 100 ISO. Next, I rolled two short films. One film I metered successive frames at 50, 64, 80,100 and 125 in turn on the same shot. The other I shot a box speed and push processed as if 200 ISO. All processing was done in ILFORD ILFOTEC LC29. Scanning was as always done for me by Truecolour Imaging in Luton.

Below are some of the results.

After this little exercise, I shot a full roll metered at EI 50, which therefore, will be push processed as if shot at 200 ISO in my Olympus OM-1. This offsets the fact that almost all the first frames suffered from varying degrees of underexposure. I think that it is amazing that 20-year-old stock can still be found and produce more than acceptable images.

I really like the look of the images that have resulted, they have an almost timeless quality with a soft light feel. It also seems to have added some extra contrast to the sky, perhaps that was the push development? The few portraits I have made with this stock look beautiful, more to follow.

Cheers for now,

~ Julian

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