Why Bother Shooting Expired Film?

Why Bother Shooting Expired Film?

Published by Dave Roberts on  March 15, 2023 under Film Photography Tips and Tutorials and tagged Expired Film

With more and more new film stocks becoming available, and the steep prices that some are charging for expired stocks on eBay, why on earth would anyone want to shoot expired films when fresh is cheaper, more dependable and simply better all round?

1 Expired Film actually *is* cheaper.

Despite some wishful thinking on the part of some online sellers, there are some absolute bargains to be had. Some scalpers are selling expired film as if it’s a fine wine and charging a premium. Some rare stocks are hard to get, and do legitimately go for higher prices in auction, but I’m not paying £20 for a roll of expired Kodak Colorplus. Some rarer stocks do command stupid prices, such as Kodak’s legendary Aerochrome film, while some beloved stocks easily fetch £10-15 a roll due to scarcity. I’m having difficulty finding some Reala in 120, so I do hope you lot appreciate that review when it’s finally out!

Legitimate film stores will sometimes discount their stocks as soon as they expire, or sell them as short date. Put it in the fridge or freezer and use it like fresh. Win win.

We’ve recently got some Kodak Ultramax for £1 a roll and a supply of Fuji Press for £3.50 among other film bargains. That’ll keep the camera reviews going for a bit. It’s a total gamble, but we’re talking penny pusher level gambling here, not casino.

2 Almost as good as fresh.

If it’s only expired a few years, unless you’ve some really demanding requirements, you’d struggle to spot the difference.

These are all properly expired films, so a year or two here and there won’t matter much so long as the films hasn’t been stored badly.

3 We get to try out discontinued film stocks

For many of us, this is the only way we can shoot legendary stocks like Provia 400X, Sensia, Reala, Astia and Agfa’s Optima and RSXII. I’ve got a few rolls of these in the freezer, so I’ll be reviewing these films in due course. While I prefer to run a few rolls through our camera for a proper review, sometimes finding multiple rolls can be difficult, so I’ll also get slightly excitable and post about single rolls now and then.

Of course, we’re not lucky enough to be able to try them fresh, but one in a while we may well get lucky with some well stored and looked after film.

4 We like the results

Sometimes, the vintage look just works.

That’s both with colour and the super crunchy look with some older black and white films. We’re going to see how far back we can go.

5 Relish the Challenge

There’s an immense pleasure in getting hold of a 50 year old roll of film and miraculously producing some images with it.

I’m looking forward to shooting some Gold from 1990 and we’re on the lookout for some even older black and white film, just in the name of discovery. So far, I’ve only managed some HP4 and FP4 from the early 80s in 120, so they’ll be fun to shoot in the right conditions.

Who doesn’t want some frame numbers in the sky?

6 The Surprise of the Results

If we wanted results that were the same each time, we’d just shoot digital.

We just don’t know if that roll of expired film will turn out like crap, or will we get something totally unexpected?

7 Its the only way to shoot certain film formats and cameras

For me, this means the convenience of shooting 220 film. Yes, Shanghai produce 220, but we want choice in what we do shoot. I’m looking forward to having 30 shots to take while on a mountain, without the inconvenience of changing rolls in less than favourable conditions.

Other formats that are quite dead include APS, Disc and 126 (though you can refill 126 carts) and cameras using these formats can only be shot using expired film.

8 You can actually get hold of expired film, unlike fresh film.

This is mainly a 35mm problem as 120 seems to be more readily available. We’ve found expired 35mm film much easier to come by than fresh film, especially for consumer film. This is one reason we’d like to see gone as the scarcity of fresh film can only damage film photography as a whole.

Kodak is making all the right noises, yet the film is still scarce. Fujifilm on the other hand, who knows if they’ll just pull the plug on film all together and concentrate their efforts on producing Instax.

Expired consumer film is the only way we can find colour film to complete our up and coming camera reviews as we don’t want to be throwing rolls of Ektar into a camera of dubious provenance, and certainly not any slide.

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