Sunday, June 4, 2017

Gone Microfiche-ing

Using expired film can be a bit of a challenge. There is usually some loss in speed, so the apparent iso (or the effective EI, if you like) is lower and it is up to you as the film adventurer to determine by how much. The rule of thumb says one stop for each decade past its expiration date. So assuming you know the expiration date and didn't just come across a random roll of film, you can use that as a starting point. Keep in mind though that 'fast' films (to me that means iso 100 and higher) will lose speed 'faster' than slow films. So if you have a roll of Ektar 25 that expired in 1997, that's 20 years (two stops lost), but since it was slow film to begin with, it probably didn't lose a full two stops. Maybe 1½ or 1 stop would be a better starting point. "So what's your point here Jimbo?", you may be asking. First, I don't really like "Jimbo", people called me "Jim" in college, but generally, it's just "James" and has been since Mr. Salyers' 4th grade class. Secondly, I'm getting there!

Periodically, I search for Kodak Dacomatic Recordak film to buy. I have some in the fridge and I really like it. So I just keep an eye out for a spool. I never find any. But then one day the search popped a result on the big auction site. It was "Recordak", but didn't say "Dacomatic". Additionally, it was 500 ft of 105 mm stock! Well, that seemed odd, so I did some more digging on the specific emulsion number (4462) and it turned out to be a completely different film (seems obvious now). This one was used for microfiche production. So it was copy film like the Dacomatic, but a different type. The price was right, so I went and bought it, hoping against hope that I could get pictures from it. It originally (expired 12/1979) was rated at iso 2.1! So, figuring that this stuff is really not very sensitive to light to begin with, I figured it probably hasn't lost that much speed even in almost 40 years, but I'll give it a stop anyway. That puts it right about iso 1. Okay, so I have an exposure starting point. How am I going to develop this stuff? It was designed with an automated proprietary development scheme in mind, so all I could find in the VERY sparse documentation was "Microfilm DEVELOPER and Replenisher". That's it. So I figured I would hit up the old stand by, Rodinal 1:100 and do a strip test to see if it would even change color. In fact it did! In about 15 seconds, it was fully developed!! So much for 60 minutes of stand development. Well, I cut a few sheets and took some of what I am certain were the best photos of my entire life and dunked them in what I had on hand, which was some homemade Parodinal 1:100 for 4 minutes. That is what I use for x-ray film and it works just fine. This microfilm however, was completely dark. Hmm... Maybe I over-exposed it? I tried again, taking more absolutely stunning photos at higher and higher speeds. Again, completely dark. So over-exposure was not the problem. It must be over-development. I cut the time in half. Still totally dark. I mean just a dark sheet of film... No image whatsoever. The strip test I did showed that the film cleared completely in the fixer, so it wasn't that the fixer was bad or the film was totally fogged.

I was just about to give up and call it a total loss, but I thought I would just try a different developer for grins. Rodinal variants have always developed anything I threw at them, including a roll of Ansco Plenachrome expired in 1949. But desperate times, you know. I had some X-tol powder laying about and that is a phenidone based developer, so I figured one last try. And this time, I would take a high contrast shot with lots of bright San Diego sky AND I would develop under red safelight by inspection. Did I mention that this film is orthochromatic? No? Well, now I have.

BAM!!!

Recordak-iso-1

I got an image! That was in X-tol 1:3 for 10 minutes. Now to see if I could get something with a few more grays in there. So I took a shot in the shade. I gave it a little more exposure because I had the bellows extended a bit, but I forgot about the reciprocity failure that was mentioned in the tech doc. The negative was very thin, but still there was a photo and it had much more scale to it. It is still quite fine grained and in 4x5 sheets that means some super fine detail can be had.

Retro Eveready Photo Cells

Now I've got about 490 feet left of this to see what I can do with this flavor of copy film. I'm looking forward to making some photos with this oddball microfilm.