One of the most pleasant surprises that you may have when buying a used camera is to find inside a film exposed but not developed; Obviously, the more the camera was aged more the thing becomes interesting. My passion for the films was created initially by browsing this site which lists hundreds of photos literally recovered from oblivion.
Over time I have come across several times in films and tried to establish a development method that could guarantee reliable results in every situation; generally, at least as far as black and white, if something on film was impressed, after developing the photo, if deteriorated, will prove to be.
Depending on the age you can find black and white emulsions is no longer produced (e.g., FP3, HP3, HP4, Adox, etc) or color film that were developed with processes that are no longer available (C22, E4, over at Kodachrome); If the disused emulsions you can determine in which growth charts we can find also products detectors (for example and especially the Rodinal), for proceedings discontinued color things get complicated. There are labs that develop still using older processes, such as Process C-22 in UK, but they do obviously dearly (GBP 20 per film); the alternative is to come home and try to get at least the image black and white.
C22 color process
C22 was the color film development process in use before the current C41 formulation; this is a standard procedure that needed tight control of temperature (even more now!) and included ten steps before getting the final negative. Chemicals are no longer marketed, although it can still sometimes possible spot a powder kit (I have one, but not want to open it). The best way to go, in this case, is to try to develop the black-and-white image while managing to limit the intrusiveness of the color mask; it is important to remember that these films are not compatible with any of C41 chemicals. The first C22 film that I found myself has been developed in Diafine, getting all the pictures in BW but with very strong color mask (red); I thought then to remove it by using the bleaching chemical of C41 kit and the end result was emulsion gone and completely transparent negative plus bleaching bath sent to trash! The incompatibility is, it turns out, fairly well known and leads to detachment of the emulsion from the support, or rather the removal of silver. But with a second attempt using the fixing of C41 separated from bleaching, instead, I verified that the result you get.
Options I have undertaken to develop these negatives are two:
- Stand development (1 hour at 1 + 100) in Rodinal, at room temperature 24° C
- BW process with ID-11 stock between 9 and 11 minutes at 20° C
Both options allow you to reduce the intrusiveness of the mask and create negatives usable at least for scanning purposes. Processing film with Rodinal produces a negative that you can manage to bring on paper but the image looks flatter than developing with ID-11. Potentially, however, any BW developer produces an image and I intend to try it soon even for developments with XTol stock.
E4 process reversal films
These are difficult customers, primarily due to the incompatibility with the modern E6 process; these films are not very common to find certainly less than all other type of film listed here but, if it happens, you need to be prepared and decide what you want to do. Discarded the idea of proceeding with the E6 the experiences I collected around about this are development in Rodinal 1 + 100 stand, Caffenol proceedings or cross-process with C41 chemicals. Personally, I’ll stop here for now pending further experiences.
Known and unknown BW films
If the found film is known brand and version, although decommissioned, we’re at a good point: it will be relatively easy find the right matching with the best developer. The films that are most commonly found are Agfapan APX, older Ilford emulsions (FP3, HP4 and Selochrome) and some Adox.
As already mentioned in my approach I try to standardize as much as possible and work only with Xtol stock; considering the history of the old Ilford emulsions and taking in account examples I’ve found even with different developers, I started from the following times:
- for the FP3 and FP4: 6.5 minutes
- for HP3 and HP4: 7.5 minutes
An extended 10% of the processing time if the film just seems old gives results that I can basically assess correct, for what one might consider when it comes to films from dubious conservation and age.
For any other film, including those not known up to now I follow this procedure: If I know the ISO/ASA film speed, starting from the time on the coupled Xtol stock/ Agfapan APX closest or equal sensitivity, I stretch the time about 10-15% for each alleged Decade of age except the first. This method also has provided consistent results until now.
Problems related to the film size
The films which are most commonly found are obviously 135 and 120 format but it is not difficult to find even formats such as the 110, 126, 127 and 620. Generally, I found that the 135 and 110 are those that suffer less age, although after a period on the 110 film grain gets really annoying. For others formats the biggest drawback is the backing paper which tends to adhere to the emulsion or support and literally pull pieces from them (typical in FP4) and to leave symbols and numbers stamped on the negative. There isn’t too much to do in these cases, if you do not accept the result as it stands.
This article has to be considered that is constantly evolving with the addition of images from my found films.
Found film # 1: Adox 620 format
I found this film exposed and without seal on a stand; from afar I had noticed the pink protective paper typical of the Adox and 50 ‘s, as I was looking for to restore a 620 box camera I did not hesitate to take it (I finally had free but only because I purchased more from same vendor). I had no particular hopes for the film that was not sealed though it then jumped out of his cardboard box (expiry date 1952) and in fact, after processing I found only one photo, though really beautiful to me. You can see how the paper adhered and snatched away the emulsion in the upper part of the image but, fortunately, did not leave anything on the most interesting part of the image. Adox film 30EN2 developed for 12 minutes in Xtol stock at 20° C.
Found film # 2: Kodacolor color 110
I would add that the images of people are shown also in the hope that someone will recognize and can give information about their history or to request a copy. These images come from a 110 cartridge 70 ‘s-early 80 ‘s, developed in C41 without any special care.