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Lessons Learned with Expired Film

Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400

Do you remember a few weeks ago, when I mentioned that I had bought some Lomochrome Purple film to use with Neil’s old Minolta? Well, this post  isn’t about that. The Purple is still in Neil’s camera. I’ve been trying to make it last long enough so that I can take some interesting beach pictures when we go to Ocean City later this month. So that camera is pretty much off limits to me for the time being.

Deciding not to take any more Purple pictures was super disappointing at first, because I am finding myself utterly consumed with film right now. I’m reading the film category on my favorite photography blog, and watching a bunch of new-to-me film photographers on YouTube. But, you know, there are other old film cameras in this house, and a surprising number of rolls of expired film. So why couldn’t I play with some of that while I wait for my chance to finish up the Purple roll?

Minolta Hi-matic 11 circa 1969

Why, indeed! I have three old cameras at my disposal, in addition to Neil’s occupied one: two Minoltas that were my grandparents’ and a possibly malfunctioning Canon that was a gift.

I am just going to gloss over the three or four days I spent “taking pictures” with the mystery roll of film in my grandmother’s Minolta Hi-Matic 11 (a c.1969 rangefinder), only to discover there was no mystery roll in actuality, and I’d been shooting with an empty camera 🤦🏻‍♀️ Good grief.

Minolta SR-T 102 and expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400

Let’s skip right ahead to where I dusted myself off and picked up my grandfather’s Minolta SRT-102. This is a really nice SLR camera that was made between 1973 and 1975. I know the concepts of photography from my experience with digital SLRs, but you don’t realize just how much work the camera does on your behalf, until you have a 50-year-old model in your hands that expects you to do most of the heavy lifting yourself.

So, I learned how to set the ISO and shutter speed on the camera body, how to set the aperture and focus on the lens, and how to meter the scene and adjust either the aperture or shutter speed so that enough light hits the film. Of all of those things, I think manual focus was the most challenging to nail. And I still need practice. I also need to remember to check the light meter before I press the shutter button. Or to make adjustments when there is a wide dynamic range in the scene.

All of this will come with practice I’m sure.

Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400 Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400 Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400

Every image in this post (except for the two photos of the cameras) was taken with my grandfather’s Minolta on one roll of Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400, which expired in 2011. Also, I switched out the 50mm lens in the image above for a 135mm f2.8 JCPenney lens.

Of 24 exposures, only 11 were viable. And I know exactly why: User error. Twice.

First, I had trouble putting the film in the camera. I did it wrong, didn’t realize it, took a bunch of pictures, and then when I went to take the film out of the camera, noticed that it had never actually advanced. All of those images, obviously, were lost since they were exposed on top of each other. So I tried again. I got Neil to help me put the film in correctly, but we needed to experiment a bit to make sure it was actually moving this time. In doing so, we exposed the first section of film.

So I’d have maybe  20 images instead of 24. No big deal.

Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400 Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400 Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400

I took a bunch of pictures, and when I came to the end of the roll, I tried to rewind the film, but I must have done something wrong. The the end of the negative strip got yanked right out of its canister. In order to rewind the film and get it safely out of the camera, I had to get it back into the canister first. But there was no way of doing that without opening the back of the camera and exposing the last few shots to the light. I had no choice, so I sat in the closet and made it as dark as possible. I threaded the end of the film roll back into the canister and manually wound it until I knew it was secure. Then I closed the camera back up and finished rewinding it the right way. But by then, the damage was done to the last several images.

Ok, so I’d have maybe 12 images instead of 20? No big deal, I guess?

Basically, problems on the front end and problems on the back end caused me to lose a lot of images and introduce light leaks to what remained. Any of the other problems you might see in these images can be blamed on two things:

  1. The film was expired
  2. I have zero experience with 35mm film cameras

Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400 Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400 Taken with a Minolta SR-T 102 on expired Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400

Actually, pretty much everything that has gone wrong – since the moment I picked up an empty camera and took a “roll” of nonexistent “photos” with it –  has been caused by lack of experience. And that’s what gives me some hope that the next few rolls I develop will be significantly better.

I have learned a lot with this. And I don’t hate these pictures. I think they’re kind of artistic. And the unpredictability of the results is something that I find appealing about them. You know exactly what you’re going to get with a digital photo, but there’s anticipation and surprise with film that makes it kind of magical.

This is why my wish list is currently dominated by film photography stuff 😜

In terms of what I can actually do now, though, without buying everything I covet:

  • I’ve got the Purple roll in Neil’s camera, and I’ll finish it when we go to Ocean City.
  • I’ve got a new (old) roll of Fujifilm in my Grandfather’s camera. It expired in 2002 and I’m about halfway through with it.
  • And, I’ve got more of the 2011 expired Fujifilm in the possibly broken Canon. There should have been 24 exposures, but the indicator says I’m on number 34. Pretty sure now that this is definitely a broken camera. (I had prior evidence of this, but thought that maybe it was user error.)

Anyway that’s three more rolls to share at some point in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises they hold!


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Posted on 2 Comments

2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned with Expired Film

  1. Hi Lisa, I’ve bought your pattern for the Lakeside Forest Blanket. Can you please provide the shade numbers and names for the Berocco Vintage yarn colours you used – I can’t read them off the PDF print. We also don’t have that yarn here in Australia.
    Much appreciated, Mirella

    1. Hi, Mirella. I am sorry they’re hard to read on the PDF. I didn’t realize. Here’s a list I extracted from the image. Hope it helps!

      Mushroom 5104

      Toast 51102

      Mocha 5103

      Coriander 5147

      Clary 51103

      Kiwi 5124

      Envy 5162

      Wild Blueberry 5160

      Fennel 5175

      Blue Moon 51191

      Blue Note 5153

      Chocolate 5179

      Forest Floor 51173

      Mistletoe 5152

      Douglas Fir 5177

      Misty 5113

      Dark Denim 5143

      Dungaree 5187

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