Adventures in Expired Film: Using Kodak VR 1000, expired in 1984

Following on from the success I had using the Fujifilm 160 NPS, I browsed eBay for more expired film. I ended up finding a listing for Kodak VR 1000. It’s a colour film discontinued in 1986, and was a high speed T grain film suitable for low light photography. A quick search on the internet didn’t reveal too much about this film. One blog post gave one photographer’s experience using this film when it was 25 years expired. These rolls expired in 1984 – that’s 35 years at the time of writing!
 
Once the films arrived I opened one box and studied it. My experience of film is limited, but even then I’ve never come across extra holes in the leader.
The film's leader had extra holes in it, which I had never seen before. But the standard sprockets allowed the film to be used in my Zenit EM 35mm camera.

The film’s leader had extra holes in it, which I had never seen before. But the standard sprockets allowed the film to be used in my Zenit EM 35mm camera.

 
But it had the correct sprockets for the camera I was using, and loaded up the same way as any other roll of film would. To the touch, it didn’t feel any different. I know this will sound a bit silly, but part of me had expected a 35 year old roll of film to feel less supple than a fresh roll.
 
I bought 5 rolls for a reason. One roll, this roll I’m using, is to test the limits of the film and what I could expect from the other 4 rolls. This film, when released, was rated at ISO 1000. But there is a rule that for every 10 years a film has expired you cut this by half. I didn’t do it for my Fujifilm only because I wasn’t aware of it at the time. So I though this time I’ll try shooting it at ISO 1000, ISO 500, and ISO 250. Halving the ISO for every 10 years the film has expired. I used the Lightmeter app for my Android phone to work out the settings.
 
The camera I used for this was my Zenit EM 35mm SLR, with an Industar 50-2 50mm lens and a Hanimex MC 80-200mm 1:4.5 macro zoom lens. The rolls allowed for 12 exposures, so I took a photo of 3 different scenes and lighting conditions. Those scenes were as varied as I could make them. A farm near where I live early morning. Outside Grand Central New Street Station in Birmingham at about midday. Finally, some flowers that my wife put on the table in our house in the late afternoon. So hopefully with 3 photos of each scene, shot at different ISO’s we will get a good idea about what this film can do.
 
Indoors, the Lightmeter app told me I could’ve used a faster shutter speed than what my camera was capable of. The Zenit EM I was using only goes to 1/500, and as low as 1/30 excluding the bulb feature.

 

Out and about in a lovely field on an April morning…

So the first scene is the farm near where I live. There’s a tree there that I often pass, and it wasn’t until my wife referred to it as a “Moses Tree”. I’ve no idea why or how she came up with this, she doesn’t know either, but I decided to take a photo of it. The first photo was at ISO 1000, the second at ISO 500, and the third at ISO 250.

Shot at ISO 1000, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens

Shot at ISO 1000, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens, roughly around 10am in April.

 

Shot at ISO 500, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens

Shot at ISO 500, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens, roughly around 10am in April.

 

Shot at ISO 250, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens

Shot at ISO 250, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens, roughly around 10am in April.

Trying to find some beauty out of Birmingham’s Grand Central

The second scene was taken outside the Grand Central in Birmingham. Not my favourite building, but that’s another story. Outside of it there is this warped mirrored cladding, with a screen displaying adverts on it. I tried my best to keep the adverts consistent, but I was pushed for time. Again, the first of these was shot at ISO 1000, the second at ISO 500, and the third at ISO 250.

 

Shot at ISO 1000, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens

Shot at ISO 1000, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens, roughly around midday in April.

 

Shot at ISO 500, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens

Shot at ISO 500, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens, roughly around midday in April.

 

Shot at ISO 250, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens

Shot at ISO 250, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens

Capturing a lovely bouquet indoors

Kodak VR 1000 was designed for low light photography, and both the previous scenes were not low light! The wife was kind enough to leave a nice bouquet of flowers on the table in our dining room. And, also, the room itself can be quite dark. I changed the lens from the Industar to the Hanimex and took the same photos in the same way as the previous scenes. When it got to shooting the film at ISO 250, I couldn’t get the Zenit EM camera’s shutter speed any slower than 1/30. So I used the bulb mode instead and guessed it. That shot in particular didn’t turn out too badly.
Shot at ISO 1000, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Industar 50-2 lens

Shot at ISO 1000 indoors, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Hanimex MC 80-200mm lens, roughly 4pm in April

 

Shot at ISO 500 indoors, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Hanimex MC 80-200mm lens, roughly 4pm in April

Shot at ISO 500 indoors, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Hanimex MC 80-200mm lens, roughly 4pm in April

 

Shot at ISO 250 indoors, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Hanimex MC 80-200mm lens, roughly 4pm in April

Shot at ISO 250 indoors, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Hanimex MC 80-200mm lens, roughly 4pm in April

One last shot before bedtime

I sat down and felt pleased about the photos I had taken, I wondered what this film would be like in even lower light. So at around 11pm, I went to take photos of the bouquet of flowers again. My camera definitely couldn’t get down to the speeds needed to shoot this at ISO 500 and ISO 250 (given the lighting). So I took one shot at ISO 1000, and then the other was taken with the bulb setting on the camera.
Shot at ISO 1000 indoors, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Hanimex MC 80-200mm lens, roughly 11pm in April

Shot at ISO 1000 indoors, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Hanimex MC 80-200mm lens, roughly 11pm in April

 

Shot using the bulb mode indoors, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Hanimex MC 80-200mm lens, roughly 11pm in April

Shot using the bulb mode indoors, using Zenit EM 35mm SLR with Hanimex MC 80-200mm lens, roughly 11pm in April

After I had used up the roll, I headed down to my local trusty Jessops again and had the film developed in an hour. There were no issues with it, so getting film this old is fine as it still uses the C-41 process.

Conclusion

Well, there is definitely a lot to be said about the rule of halving the ISO of a film for every 10 years it’s expired! Shooting this film at ISO 1000 and ISO 250, a lower ISO provided more detail to the shot especially in the shadows. All the shots taken though there is a high amount of grain. The images it provides do have a character to them that, to me at least, gives it the feel of the age they were made. They do look like photos my own parents took when I was a baby in the late 1980’s. I quite like this film. That said I won’t get too attached to it as I would assume the stocks of these are dwindling and would be harder to get. That said, film isn’t made to be left in a cupboard, it’s meant to be used.

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