Adventures in Half Frame Negative Scanning: Roll #2


I scanned another roll of negatives from the Olympus Pen half frame camera, this time using old expired black and white film that I found at a thrift store. It was cheap so I thought I’d try it and get that cheap old expired black and white thrift store film look.

IMG_1556(See my post of my first experience scanning half frame film.)

I got two rolls for $3 each. I first tried the Kodak BW400CN. It is ISO 400 black and white chromogenic film that is developed in the same C-41 process as color film, so you can take it to drug stores or most anywhere that still develop film. My local processing lab doesn’t do true black and white film so I’ll have to find somewhere else to send the Tri-X roll.
Kodak BW400CN film was discontinued in 2014. My roll had an expiration date of March 2008: I finished it nearly 10 years past the recommended development date. I bought in August 2016, loaded it in May 2017, shot it over a year, then had it developed in April 2018. When I got the negatives, they looked overall darker and “thinner” than usual.

Top is the old film, below is fresher film of the same type.  (I tore the sprocket holes trying to wind it past the end.) I scanned them in color mode on the CanoScan 9000F and got an weird greenish cast.

The images were faded and washed out, no doubt due to the film’s age. It probably was not stored in ideal temperature conditions all those years. I have another roll of the same film, but it was bought fresh and I’ve kept it in a refrigerator, so it’ll be interesting to see how it compares. The old faded film gives an interesting look, but seeing the photos together all washed out, it just didn’t look good to me as a group, so I increased the contrast of the images, some more than others, in Gimp image editor.

I have since found that the color cast can be due to the scanner’s automatic color correction. When selecting an area of a negative to scan, the color cast changes depending on how much of the unexposed border is included in the crop. The scanner apparently determines how to convert the brownish color of the negatives into true color by calibrating against the unexposed areas, so some of the scans turned out greener than others depending on how much of the border I cropped. The greenish cast was interesting, but I found it distracting and I just desaturated them all to pure monochrome.

Even with added contrast, the grainy fade of old film can have a dreamy look, which of course also depends on the shutter speed and f-stop.  ISO 400 film is grainier than lower ISOs, plus the frame is half size so the grain is magnified.

I usually use black and white film in the winter, to capture winter coldness and moodyness, and color film for the nice bright colors and the greens of summers. I haven’t been finishing rolls of film within the seasons though, so there is overlap.

When using black and white film, I find myself taking photos of old things, so that it would look like it was taken a long time ago. I suppose though, that a photo of something old fashioned that looks new might look older than of the same thing that is broken and decaying.

So, it was worth a try to use old expired film, but I’m ambivalent about the results. On the one hand, digital manipulation of the scans maybe misses the point of using expired film. On the other hand, scanning is an inherently digital conversion so manipulation is unavoidable. In any case, why not get the maximum dynamic range to work with by using fresh film.

For more images on this roll, see this Flickr album.

After I finished this roll, I shot and scanned a roll of color film, see this Flickr album.

Camera used: Olympus Pen FT half frame film camera, G.Zuiko Auto-s 40mm f1.4 lens

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