Color Film Speed Loss
I have a 1,000ft roll of Fuji Reala 500D movie stock. It can't be older than since 2004 as I believe that is when this type of film was first manufactured. It is ECN-2 which I routinely develop.
I ran some tests with it, shooting some pictures at 125ASA and at 320ASA. I figured that if it is eight years old, it may have lost some speed.
The 125ASA test scans came out with very accurate colors, and tight, unobtrusive grain. The 320ASA shots were very grainy, indicating (I believe) underexposure.
I'm guessing that the true speed of the film is maybe 125 or 160ASA. That's about a stop and a half or two stops, which seems a lot for relatively young expired film. If it had not been stored properly I would have thought I would have seen significant color shifts, but the colors are very good - if anything a slight bias toward red.
Of course I can use it at slower speed, but I wonder if others have encountered such speed drops with film so "young." I have older stocks that have not dropped anywhere near as much as this (but they were 100 or 200ASA to start with).
I wrote the above having developed the film in the chemistry I am using per my "color developer quest" thread, in which the CD-3 is bumped up to 5.2g/L. I just developed another test roll, instead using Kodak's specified 4g/L CD-3, and the negatives came out thin even when exposed at 160ASA. Some tests at 64ASA looked better. I cannot believe a film only 8 years old could lose this much speed. It was advertised as cold stored, and other film I acquired from the same vendor seems fine.
So -- is there anything peculiar to Fuji Reala 500D that causes it to be unstable speed-wise over time? Are there peculiar developing techniques one should bear in mind?
I have had very good luck buying oldish film, whether C-41 or ECN-2, but maybe this time was not so lucky. It's still better, though, than a 100ft roll of Agfa Color Professional 160 that I acquired, that has lost significant speed and has horrible color shifts (clearly not cold stored I would say).
I'm going to add a bit of H202 to the developer just for fun next time and see what that does. It certainly bumps up the speed and contrast of RA-4 paper. Despite PE's admonishments elsewhere, I think I'll risk a bit of time and a roll of this stuff and see what happens.
I shoot a reflective target, found in aon old Kodak darkroom dataguide, when testing old colour film. This target has from pure back to whit in 5 even steps, along with a spectrul of 8 colours. Think of it as a poor man's colour checker.
Prior to having a densitiometer, I would print the to get minimum exposure to get full black though unexposed film between frames. Then using that same exposure I would expose the one step up from the pure balck target in the test card are of the negative. If it did not come out lighter, than the film was underexposed, for the speed I test exposed it at.
With a densitometer you can read off the dendity of the differnent balck to white patches, and have your answer without going to the effort of printing the film first.
Yes, faster more light sensitive films deteriorate with age faster from my experience. Some even while cold stored, if indeed that is how they were really stored.
And yes , crossed curves is a possibility with old color film. You can quickly pick it out from the black to white patches test as well.
If there are colur shifts in the print as you provide common exposure and filtiration from the balck to white areas, then there are crossings or at least fade aways.
Again plotting an HD curve with a densitimeter to take readings really speeds the testing of old film up.
You can actually read off the HD curve a very good guess about what corrective filtration is needed if it is just one colour response fading off.
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Good post, Mike. Yes, eventually I will need to get a color densitometer, right now all I have is an old vacuum tube Macbeth Quantalog and it drifts quite a bit and is really only for b&w. But I suppose I could use it with just a black to white calibration chart?
But I have done quite well with various stocks by taking pictures at various speeds and scanning the negatives and forming an impression of quality. Not scientific, but you can get in the ballpark that way.
Most of the older stocks I have purchased have held up well. For example, I have some EXR 200T manufactured in 1994 that seems to have lost hardly any speed. I have some much more recent Fuji Eterna Vivid 500T that seems to be as good as new, and various other Kodak stocks that are in good shape. But the Reala seems way off. While I could establish its exact speed in the manner you indicate, anecdotally the speed seems to be below 100ASA. For a film first manufactured around 2004, this seems odd indeed. My guess is that I was somewhat misled about it being cold stored. Not that I am complaining, as the price was an indicator that the buyer should beware.
You are absolutely correct that a densitometer check is the best and fastest way to establish exact speed; but what blows me away in this particular case is that a stock from the early to mid 2000's could have lost so much speed, you'd think they must have left the can out on the front lawn for a few years!
OK so this Fuji Reala has been bugging me so much, I did another test roll and applied just two modifications to the processing of it. First, I removed the tiny amount of benzotriazole I was experimenting with (see my thread, Color Developer Quest) - which was only 1.25mg/L. Second, I did not use a prebath - which I had used the previous two times, to remove the remjet before developing. I had noticed that the washes after the prebath in the previous tests were very yellow, as if something was dissolving out of the film, and I wondered if that should be.
I guess I also over-developed about 30 seconds - so too many variables from a scientific perspective.
But on a quick view, it would seem that shots at 100ASA are now over-exposed, 200ASA good but possibly slightly over-exposed, and 400ASA slightly under-exposed. I'll scan tonight and see which of the speeds renders the best scans. It's possible the true speed may be around 250ASA, and they do say film can normally lose about a stop a decade -- especially fast film like this.
So hopefully, these slight modifications will render my 1,000ft of Reala 500D useable. I think I'm going to scrap the BZT generally - an interesting experiment intended to replace Kodak AF-2000, but in the end it really didn't do anything helpful.
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The problem I have seen with old E-6 slide film is not speed loss but loss of D-Max. The better lit areas of a scene seem almost right but the shadow areas are not dark enough, may have an odd color cast and also appear more grainy. I have had better liuck with old color print film.
Well graininess in the shadows -- or variable graininess - is what I get with the Reala 500T. But as I reduce speed and over-expose, the grain disappears, so I attribute that to speed loss, the shadow areas being the thinnest on negative stock and the graininess being the product of a thin dye cloud as a result of underexposure.
I scanned my last tests and 200ASA was somewhat grainy; 100ASA was not, but the brightest of highlights are a bit blown. I'd say the film is useable at around 125 - 160ASA - but of course, it's not the best film at that speed as there are less grainy alternatives. At least the color was accurate, so it really is just a case of dramatic speed loss. Very curious.
I'm receiving a shipment of Vision2 100T today so will have another (old) toy to play with.
My experiences with expired regular still C41 color stock (non remjet films) is they don't lose that much speed overall but can lose it maybe in one of the layers causing crossover.