Sixty-year-old undeveloped film

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Mark, Feb 17, 2004.

  1. Mark

    Mark Guest

    I recently liberated a box of old photos and negatives from my grandfather's
    personal effects. Along with the developed items, I found three rolls of
    exposed but undeveloped 35mm film. One is Kodak "Panatomic," and the other
    two are Kodak "Panchromatic SS" and "Panchromatic SX." I assume the latter
    are color film. Assuming they're contemporary with the other 35mm negatives,
    they were exposed around 1940. Is there any chance that they'll produce
    negatives, or are they junk?

    Mark, Feb 17, 2004
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  2. Mark

    brian Guest

    Its definetly worth a try at developing them, I know of a guy who was given
    an old camera, found a film inside and had it developed, the photographs
    where taken by his grandfather during a holiday in germany a few years
    before the outbreak of WWII, he had some clear photos of Adolf Hitler at a
    rally, so you never know, might be soem really interesting photos on those

    brian, Feb 17, 2004
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  3. Panchromatic means black and white film with approximately equal
    to all ranges of color. I've developed some 40 year old 120 film this
    with good results and printable negatives, just requiring a higher paper
    contrast. Developing black and white is pretty cheap, so you'd be out
    a little time and money at home (or a little more money if you send it
    out custom) against the possibility of having some irreplaceable family
    pictures (and a good story to tell.) Why not?

    Rob Dean
    Robert S. Dean, Feb 17, 2004
  4. Panatomic is the predecessor to Panatomic-X. Panchromatic
    SS is black and white film SS means super-sensitive. Not
    sure of the SX, are you sure it says that? Both of the
    others are 1930's films older than sixty years, more like 65
    or more years old.
    Its possible for the latent image to survive that long.
    Roll film seems especially long lasting perhaps because the
    tight rolling prevents oxidation. There is an outfit called
    Film Rescue that specializes in processing of old films, not
    cheap but they have a good record of success.
    Otherwise I suggest using a fairly active developer at
    much lower than normal temperatures. I have film data going
    back to the mid 1940's but not much before that. I'll look
    but I don't think I have specific instuctions on these
    Panatomic replaced a fine grain motion picture stock
    called Background-X c.1938, I think Panatomic replaced
    Background-X shortly after. By the early 1940's Panatomic-X
    had replaced both. I would guess these films date from
    c.1937, maybe even earlier. It is certainly worth trying to
    develop them.
    Richard Knoppow, Feb 17, 2004
  5. Why don't you process them and find out? What have you got to loose?
    Stefan Patric, Feb 17, 2004
  6. Mark

    Mark Guest

    Here's a scan of the film cans:
    Mark, Feb 17, 2004
  7. Mark

    Mark Guest

    Well, the unopened antique film cans look nice on my shelf. :)
    Mark, Feb 17, 2004
  8. Mark

    Mike King Guest

    Kodak did not start crimping on end caps until the mid-60's (or later) so
    you should be able to "pop" the lids on these canisters in the darkroom,
    process the film in trays (I'd almost guarantee too much curl to load the
    film on any kind of reels!) and then replace the spools and end caps and put
    the film canisters on display on the shelf.
    Mike King, Feb 17, 2004
  9. Mark

    Mark Guest

    Well, dang! The film cartridges were empty. Oh well. . .they're nice
    Mark, Feb 18, 2004
  10. These look like they were packaged for special purpose
    use since they say Eastman rather than Kodak on them. I
    wonder if they were even packaged by Kodak, they may be bulk
    loaded cassettes with lables showing the kind of film in
    them. SX with some thought is probably Super-X. This was a
    motion picture stock. The brand "Super-X" was used for 16mm
    reversal film but was a 35mm negative stock before that, c.
    mid 1930's. Eventually it was replaced by Plus-X and the
    name Super-X used for the reversal film. SS is Super
    Sensitive Pan, also a motion picture stock of the mid to
    late 1930's. Panatomic was also used for a motion picture
    stock replacing the former Background and Background-X
    stocks, both very slow, very fine grain (for the time)
    motion picture negative films for outdoor use. Background
    implyed the film was intended for filming background
    "plates" i.e., the films used in rear projection shots.
    What I think is that these are bulk loaded from "short
    ends" of these films. That might have been done pre-ww-2 but
    tons of film were available military surplus right after the
    war and were sold both in bulk and spooled.
    Its too bad the film is gone because the type of
    perforations would tell the story. 35mm motion picture
    negative stock uses Bell & Howell perforations, which have
    semicircular sides. 35mm positive films and still camera
    films have Kodak Standard perfs which are oblong with
    rounded corners. Some very early film for 35mm still cameras
    had the negative perforations but films from at least the
    mid 1930's, perhaps even earlier, had KS perfs.
    Richard Knoppow, Feb 19, 2004
  11. Mark

    Mark Guest

    Well, I probably _do_ have the film, since the cartridges were
    in a box with numerous rolls of 35mm negatives. Let's see. . .
    here's some "Agfa Supreme Pan" with the Bell & Howell perfs.
    We have some "Agfa Plenachrome" with B&H perfs.
    Here's some "Kodak Panchromatic Nitrate Film" with some
    interior shots of my great-grandfather's liquor store in
    Framingham, Mass. B&H perfs on that, as well as on the
    "Eastman Panatomic." There's some "Super XX" with
    Kodak perfs. A roll of "Superpan" with B&H perfs.
    Something called "Plenachrome," also B&H perfs.
    Yes, a veritable plethora of old film.

    These sure are wound up tight. Any suggestions for how
    to flatten them enough to get them into sleeves?

    Mark, Feb 20, 2004
  12. I may have old developing instuctions for some of these,
    I'll check.
    Some brief history. The German company Agfa bought out Ansco
    in 1926 and operated it until the outbreak of WW-2 when it
    was seized by the U.S.Government. The Agfa trade name
    continued to be used until about late 1943. Ansco was the
    oldest U.S. photographic manufacturing company dating to
    around 1840. Agfa/Ansco made a wide variety of film and
    paper; they were Kodak's chief competition.

    Supreme Pan was a medium speed panchromatic film sold as
    motion picture negative stock and also for 35mm still
    cameras. It was their competition to Kodak SS Pan and Plus-X
    motion picture films.

    Plenachome was an orthochromatic (not red sensive) film for
    box cameras, the competition to Kodak Verichrome. Agfa also
    made a Fine-Grain Plenichrome for 35mm cameras.
    Panatomic was a very slow very fine grain film, the
    predecessor of Panatomic-X, probably about ISO-12

    Kodak Super-XX was made until about twenty years ago. It
    was a medium speed rather coarse grain film with excellent
    tonal rendition and B&W to color rendition. Speed now would
    be around ISO 150 or 200.

    Agfa Superpan was a medium speed panchromatic roll film
    with excellent tonal rendition, similar in speed and
    application to Kodak Plus-X

    I suspect these films date from the mid 1930's perhaps
    sometime around 1936 to 1939. At that time some 35mm still
    film was probably still sold with B&H perfs. Plenachrome was
    never available as a motion picture stock so that must have
    been the case.

    About the only thing I can suggest for flattening the film
    is to put into a chamber with very high humidity for a time.
    Try hanging them in a small bathroom and turining on the how
    water in the shower. The moisture should penetrate the
    gelatin reasonably evenly, a small amount of weight on the
    ends should pull them flat. Be careful since some of this
    film may be pretty brittle. If so there is not much that can
    be done for it.
    The Kodak Panchromatic Nitrate film is almost certainly a
    motion picture stock. Kodak stopped making nitrate for still
    cameras, even 35mm cameras, sometime in the early 1930's.
    All nitrate was discontinued in 1951 (trivia: Sunset
    Boulevard was the last feature picture shot on nitrate).
    Kodak's nitrate seems to be among the most stable but no
    nitrate is very stable. Typical indications of decomposition
    are brown patches, "rust" especially at the edges,
    wavieness, and soemtimes, but not always, a camphor (moth
    ball) odor. The fire danger from small amounts of nitrate is
    not significant but it should still be stored in a
    ventillated container so any evolved gasses can escape. Not
    a problem for single strips of film or a few loose
    Safety base film can also decompose, as the motion picture
    industry found to their horror recently. This applies to
    still as well as motion picture film. Decomposing film will
    look wrinkled and may have a vinegar odor. I think this is
    mainly a problem with the tri-acetate films made after about
    1945. In any case, the strong curl of your film _may_ be due
    to this decomposition. If the negatives have any value I
    suggest copying them as soon as possible.
    Richard Knoppow, Feb 22, 2004
  13. Mark

    Mark Guest

    They're already developed. I am referring to the negative
    strips. Sorry, I wasn't clear about that.
    Another item in this collection is a box of Agfa 2-1/2 x 3-1/2
    sheet film (also already developed.) Here's the box (256k
    download) with the Agfa/Ansco trade name:
    Those dates sound about right, considering my grandfather's
    apparent age in some of the photos.
    Thanks, I'll try that.
    Mark, Feb 22, 2004
  14. Actually my fault for not reading more carefully.

    Interesting. Agfa Superpan Press was a fairly fast film for press
    and industrial photography. It was Agfa's competition to Kodak Super
    Panchro Press Type-B. Superpan Press also seems to have been a popular
    portrait film judging from the technical data from publications like
    _U.S.Camera Annual_. Sometime in the early to mid 1930's (I don't
    remember the date) Agfa developed the use of Gold sensitizer which
    immediately nearly doubled the speed of their films without increasing
    grain. It caught Kodak with their pants down and it took them a while
    to catch up. By 1940 Kodak was again making the fastest film on the
    market. This was sold under the name Super Panchro Press, Sports Type.
    This had a speed of probably about ISO 400 to 600. Remarkable stuff
    for the time but evidently fussy. BTW the Type-B on Super Panchro
    Press means its color sensitivity. Kodak devided panchromatic films
    into three groups; A, B, and C, in order of increasing red
    sensitivity. Type-A were the first pan films, which did not have very
    high sensitivity to red light. Type-B is a medium red sensitivity
    film, most current pan films are Type-B. Type-C was a high red
    sensitivity film. Currently Kodak Technical Pan is about the only
    Type-C film but in the past Kodak made others since it was evidently
    difficult to make a film with very high overall sensitivity without
    unbalancing the red end of the spectrum. I don't know if Agfa/Ansco
    made any Type-C films but they did not classify their films as Kodak
    The 1940 date peeking out from the torn label suggests the film was
    sold perhaps a year earlier. These are truely bits of the past and I
    would preserve them.

    Richard Knoppow
    Los Angeles, CA, USA
    Richard Knoppow, Feb 22, 2004
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