Shooting Kodak Plus X Pan expired in 1977

Mark Nielsen

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In the course of digging through boxes in my basement in search of a 35mm bulk loader I came across a surprising find. My dad swore he owned back in his days of shooting film, so I knew I’d come across it sooner or later. Little did I know that the loader was still half full of a B&W film stock expired in 1977. I considered just dumping the roll to replace with the sparkling new bulk roll I had intended to shoot, but curiosity got the better of me. Would I still get an image from this film? Forgotten in a dusty box and hidden away for 43 years, I wasn’t expecting much from the Kodak Pan X, but after working through a few rolls I must say I’m blown away.

Kodak Plus X Pan was a 125 ISO black and white film stock manufactured from 1954 until 2011 as a general-purpose panchromatic film. Originally touted as a fine grain film suitable for portraits both in studio, as well as under natural light. I expected the films sensitivity to have dropped off greatly since it was originally loaded in the ‘70s, but in this case the rule of thumb stating one should drop the ISO rating by 1 stop per 10 years expired would have left me shooting at ISO 8. Since I had so much to work with, I decided I would simply drop the ISO to 64 and pray.

I took this roll out on a hike on a fairly overcast day, luckily the summit was above the cloud line and I managed to snap a few shots under a clear sky. I developed this roll in Ilford Perceptol 1+3, unscientifically adding a minute to the development time in hopes of compensating for the hubris of shooting at 64ISO. The results weren’t terrible, definitely better than I had expected from such an old film, but not quite what I was looking for.

After my first experiment I left the Plus X Pan alone for a while, tending towards more reliable film stocks for my everyday shooting. My second experiment with the film came on Father’s Day, this time setting up to shoot one stop lower at ISO32. These negatives were processed exactly the same as the first time, and came out much more consistent, with some pretty impressive grain (or perhaps lack of it) and much more detail. I’m looking forward to shooting the rest of the bulk roll and am pleasantly surprised by the quality I’m getting out of such a vintage film, despite the low exposure latitude, there’s no noticeable increase in grain or fogging.

Shot on: Canon AE-1 w/ FD 50mm f1.8, FD 135mm f3.5

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