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  1. #1

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    Help: Problems with expired Portra 400VC/NC

    I recently bought packs of expired Portra 400 VC and 400 NC off eBay. I knew I was taking a chance, but when I shot with the film this Saturday the results I got back were truly atrocious

    I've included sample images in the two posts below. I metered as if the film were ISO 320, and had the rolls were developed at a local supermarket minilab. I've used them before for consumer film (Superia X-Tra 400, supermarket-brand 400, etc.) and I've never seen results like this. The scans were done on an Epson V500 with Digital ICE on the Quality setting and Low USM. No color corrections were done.

    My questions are:
    1. Is it operator error? Did I simply misjudge exposure really badly? I know I'm no human light meter, but I don't think that my exposures were so far off to cause these issues . . .
    2. Is it the film? Frankly, this is what I suspect. It was sold as "cold stored", and the eBay placing did say that the film "shoots perfect", but maybe I simply got greedy and got hosed. Is what you see below characteristic of the effects of aging on film?
    3. Is the lab? I doubt this because I've never seen anything like this with the other rolls I've had processed there.


    I'd really appreciate any opinions on this. It's frustrating - I thought I'd taken some decent photos on Saturday, but looking at the scans many are writeoffs. I can live with a fair amount of grain and color speckles, but what I'm seeing below seems over the top.

  2. #2

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    400NC Images

    400NC, Roll #1, Image #1, 100% Crop


    400NC, Roll #1, Image #1, 1024px

    The shadow detail looks really, really muddy here.

    400NC, Roll #1, Image #2, 100% Crop


    400NC, Roll #1, Image #2, 1024px

    Apologies for the threads and other crap on the scan. Don't think it matters anyway, since this photo looks destroyed.

    400NC, Roll #2, Image #1, 100% Crop


    400NC, Roll #2, Image #1, 1024px

  3. #3

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    400VC Images

    400VC, Roll #1, Image #1, 100% (Overexposed 2 stops)

    Yes, it has camera shake and subject motion.

    400VC, Roll #1, Image #1, 1024px (Overexposed 2 stops)

    Yes, it has camera shake and subject motion.

    400VC, Roll #1, Image #2, 100% ('Correct' exposure)


    400VC, Roll #1, Image #2, 1024px ('Correct' exposure)


    400VC, Roll #1, Image #3, 100%


    400VC, Roll #1, Image #3, 1024px


    400VC, Roll #1, Image #4, 100%


    400VC, Roll #1, Image #4, 1024px

    This one is the worst on this roll for color grain.

  4. #4

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    Dear allen_a_gorge,

    It looks like old, poorly stored film. I purchased some cheap 400UC and got similar results (I was leery about the storage but I just couldn't resist the price). Other purchases of outdated color film have been better. Save it for the right project.

    Neal Wydra

  5. #5

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    When you purchase out-of-date film, you just take your chances. The processing does not look very good, though.

  6. #6

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    [sighs]

    As I suspected. I'll try another roll out and if that too doesn't work out then I'll contact the seller. He does have a high rating, and this does not meet my definition of "shoots perfect".

    That said, I probably have to swallow my losses.

  7. #7
    Aurum's Avatar
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    It does look like very underexposed film. So it seems to have lost a lot of speed. Prehaps it needs to be metered at 200 ISO or lower to get decent results
    "Flatter Me, and I May Not Believe You. Criticize Me, and I May Not like You. Ignore Me, and I May Not Forgive You. Encourage Me, and I Will Not Forget You."

  8. #8

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    It looks like there's more going on here than poorly stored, expired film. I just shot some 400nc that expired 4 years ago. It's been sitting in 5x7 holders in a warm apt. all summer long. Compared to fresh 400nc it's about 1/3 of a stop less fast and 10pts. more magenta. Your examples look like they suffer from both fogging and crappy processing. Unfortunately shipping film these days is a little like playing russian roulette. USPS is a very bad idea as I've been told they xray all parcels. It used to be that fedx could say they did not subject packages to xrays. Now they can not say for certain that a package won't be subjected to xrays. The graininess of the images points to problems in processing. Have you tried making a conventional cprint?

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by frotog View Post
    Your examples look like they suffer from both fogging and crappy processing.
    Just to be clear - fogging is a general loss of contrast right?

    Quote Originally Posted by frotog View Post
    Unfortunately shipping film these days is a little like playing russian roulette. USPS is a very bad idea as I've been told they xray all parcels.
    Oh - this could be a real problem then. I had the film shipped by USPS to Canada (since UPS absolutely hoses us with brokerage fees). But I thought that x-rays weren't necessarily a huge problem with 400-speed film. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by frotog View Post
    The graininess of the images points to problems in processing. Have you tried making a conventional cprint?
    No, I haven't. I'm curious why you ask though.

  10. #10

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    There's both chemical fogging and light fogging. Wikipedia has a fine entry under fogging (photography). Interestingly there is mention of the problem of silver staining - chemical fogging most commonly due to exhausted fixer. It is the bane of poorly maintained roller transport processors - the sort of thing I'd expect from grocery store processing in the year 2008.

    When I have developing anomalies I like to inspect both the film and a print. There's so much image transformation going on in a scan that I feel you're oftentimes getting more than the whole story, especially when using software that cleans up the image like digital ice. But I suppose that this is just prejudice as I'm hardly ever scanning directly from negatives and when I do it's usually a lab that does it.

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