Random Revisited #1 – Sugar Rush (Why This Big Kid Has Such A Sweet Tooth For Expired Film)

Random Revisited is a series of posts where I use the WordPress random post generator to revisit a post in the 35hunter archives, then compare it with where I am now and see how my photography has evolved.

You can see all Random Revisited posts so far here.

This time around the random post is from October 2016 – Sugar Rush (Why This Big Kid Has Such A Sweet Tooth For Expired Film).

Back then…

I talked about my love of shooting expired film, and featured a new selection I’d just received in the post.

I outlined the reasons for using expired film, include affordability, the range and “lucky dip” aspect compared with buying just a block of brand new mainstream film, as well as the aesthetic appeal of the colourful packaging.

Indeed I was surprised to find that one reader buys expired film purely to display the boxes, rather than to use the film inside.

A selection of pictures in the post showed some of the expired emulsions I’d used before with very pleasing results.

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Where am I today?

Well, regular readers will know I haven’t shot a roll of film in nearly two years, expired or otherwise.

Using expired film was one way to make film photography more affordable (I mentioned in the original post that the batch that had just arrived worked out at around £1 a roll), as I was finding film photography increasingly expensive.

The volumes I wanted to shoot (on average 6-8 rolls a month, though I peaked at 12-15 rolls a month) were getting beyond my means.

Even with Asda processing which done in batches worked out at around £4 a roll, and buying cheap expired rolls, or AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 at a £1 a roll in Poundland, it was still £5 a roll all in. Multiple by 12-15 rolls and it’s £60-£75. Still, some would say, a very affordable hobby, but at the time that was becoming beyond what I could justify.

Also, because of my accumulation of aforementioned cheap film (around the time I wrote my film abandonment confessional post I had close to 300 rolls in the freezer), photography had evolved into something far less affordable for me.

And so my drift towards digital gained further momentum.

I still have a handful of expired film rolls in the freezer (the divine Fuji Superia/Reala 100) and a couple of film cameras, and may take them out for a spin once in a while.

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But aside from the convenience of digital, and the amazing portability of small digital compacts, I can’t get beyond the fact that there are dozens, even hundreds of cracking little cameras that can each be had for the same cost of buying, shooting and processing just two or three rolls of film.

The hunt for beautiful objects and details to photograph transcended the appeal and viability of doing so only with film cameras. So today, digital compacts are the medium I favour.

How about you? Do you still shoot expired film? If so, what’s your favourite? 

Please let us know below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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16 thoughts on “Random Revisited #1 – Sugar Rush (Why This Big Kid Has Such A Sweet Tooth For Expired Film)”

  1. I have loads of expired film in the fridge, but I have not been shooting any film because I prefer to spend money on food than on getting rolls developed 😀 although I have been buying far too many takeaways lately. At the moment my GX7 is enough for me. I’m planning to shoot some slide film when the cherry blossoms come out; I have a couple of rolls of Velvia 50, I think one of them is expired.

    I am already thinking about selling the medium format camera I bought in December – or I’ll keep it as a pretty shelf ornament – because I just can’t justify how much it costs just to get 12 frames developed 😐 I don’t care that it’s a larger negative, and so will apparently give me higher quality images. I’m not a professional photographer after all!

    1. Oh Mel, talking of takeaways, did you see that programme this week, the junk food experiment?

      I have a few minor digestive issues and have had to change my diet over the last couple of years (basically cut down radically on sugar and less bread/cake too) so I watched with interest. And horror!

      Anyway, yes I’m with you on being realistic about our needs as non-pro photographers. Maybe keep the Yashica for an occasional treat? But if you’re never likely to use it again, better to sell it than keep looking at it and being annoyed and disappointed you can’t use it!

      I know people talk about the initial outlay for digital, but as I’ve shown recently it doesn’t have to be hundreds, it doesn’t even have to be £20! And you can on average get 1000s, even 100s of 1000s of images out of them before they fail. Equating that to film, you’d need to be a millionaire!

      1. Oh I don’t watch much regular TV, more likely to be watching Netflix or Youtube! So I didn’t see that particular programme. I know there are lots of bad things in junk food that I shouldn’t eat, and that some of the hygiene standards are quite shocking, but I have been having more problems with my back, so sometimes it’s easier for me to order in. That’s my excuse anyway.

        To be honest, don’t think I’d be that disappointed/annoyed/sad about not using my Yashi. It’s in the spare room at the moment and I keep forgetting it’s even there haha.

        Every time I see someone talk about how digital gear can cost £1000s, and that people upgrade every year, I always jump in and tell them about my secondhand GX7, and I always point them towards your blog 🙂 the idea that digital photography is astronomically expensive is just a myth put out by people who insist that film photography is somehow better/purer than digital, and it’s just absolute rubbish! I pointed out to someone that my Yashica and Lumix GX7, both secondhand, cost me the exact same amount, and of course they didn’t have a response to that because I had proven them wrong lol.

      2. Ha ha thanks for pointing people this way Mel!

        I have a(nother) post in draft about digital photography on a super small budget…

  2. Just when I decide to come up for air… you have perfect timing. Of course this topic is going to lure me in mate 😉

    Like you, I too was mesmerised by expired film. Or, mesmerised using expired film. However I soon discovered there was actually a false economy embedded in the system. IMHO it’s vital to have consistency when learning to use film. Using fresh film is important to establish a yardstick for the process. Once you know what you’re doing and more importantly, what you want to do, then its better to look/for that (in)consistency and unpredictability of using expired film.

    Sadly, gone of the days of picking up a brick of say, Tri-X 135 from an old film shooting who just dropped his dosh on a TOTR D spec shooter from Nikon or Canon. I used to enjoy finding and shooting old T-Max and PolyPan when I could find it. On the color side, nothing really tickled my fancy and I was never lucky with (or enjoyed) all the foibles of color fringing associated with age. Of course all C41 or E6 was done in a lab. BUT I had control over the b&w stuff… and could tweak the results as I needed. So steered away from using old color emulsions.

    Having said that, I still have a loads of Velvia 50 and Provia 100 in the freezer. I solely use some once a year at Nottinghill Carnival, at the height of summer 🙂

    1. Always happy to see you coming up for air here!

      We differ here, because I liked that unpredictability of expired film. Though if you stick to stuff less than 10 years old, unless it’s been baking in someone’s glovebox all that time, the vast majority of the rolls will give pleasing pictures, with only perhaps a slight colour shift, if any at all. I think out of dozens, I guess hundreds of rolls of expired film, I only recall two or three that either didn’t come out at all, or were so off in colour and grainy they were just ugly. Must have been a 99% hit rate.

      I think I’m always looking for some element of variety in photography. When I was using the same core film cameras, the variety came from different lenses and different (usually expired) film.

      Now I’m mostly in the land of digital compacts, I still like exploring a bit a variation with different brands, cameras, sensors etc. But if you look at probably the last 10 digital cameras I used, the b/w images can barely be distinguished from each other, so I have that consistent thread there, and know pretty much how to get there.

  3. I only buy 35mm film in 100′ rolls because I load my own 12-exposure rolls. One of my bulk loaders came with a nearly full 100′ roll in it. I took the film out of the loader (in the dark, of course) because I needed the loader for a roll of Silvermax 100. The mystery film now resides in a can so marked in the back of my film drawer. I should probably load a roll, expose it at a range of exposure indices and develop it for 12 minutes in Rodinal (1+50), which works at least OK for just about any B&W film exposed at box speed, to see what happens. But it’s been there for at least a year and I’ve done nothing with it. On the other hand, at the right price I would buy a bulk roll of Panatomic X which was last made in 1987. It remains my all time favorite film.

    1. Oh yes Doug you really need to shoot that mystery film! Couldn’t you develop just a short strip when you’re next developing another film, just so you can see what markings and wording it has along the edges?

      1. Yes. I used to love analysing the edges of negatives of unusual film – they were often identical to mainstream stuff from Fuji, Kodak, Ferrania, who sold their emulsions to be rebranded to any number of high street chains etc.

  4. Well I still shoot a fair bit of APS so expired is the only game in town, although I am down to my last three rolls and I’m not sure if I’ll be buying any more for a while. I’ve hardly ever shot expired 35mm… maybe a 5 or 6 rolls. As most of my picture taking is documentary in nature rather than purely artistic, I’d rather not chance the varied results of expired film.

      1. Thanks for the links Victor. I like the added character of the light leaks from your little Ricoh. I always wanted one but the price plus reliability reputation always put me off. I did get some great results from an R10 I had for a while. And I love the digital versions, the GX100 and GRD III are as good as any cameras I’ve used, fantastic performance combined with brilliant handling and intuitive design and user interface.

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