Developing 25+ year old colour film

An interesting challenge came my way a week or so ago. A good friend of mine found a roll of JESSOPS colour negative film in his garage and brought it over for me to play with. How long it had been there he knew not, but a note inside the film canister suggested it had been in there for over twenty five years.

Ready to go!

After giving the matter some thought and consulting with a couple of other film workers I decided to process the film in black and white chemicals. The logic being that even if the latent colour images had survived the years in the garage it was likely that the colours would have shifted somewhat; the consensus being that if there were images they would have a noticeable colour cast and I may we’ll end up converting these to black and white anyway.

The next decision was what developer. Colour negative film is generally developed for three or three and a quarter minutes in C41 chemistry but that information was of little use to me. I eventually opted for what is called stand development which involves immersing the film in highly diluted developer for an extended period leaving the tank to stand untouched for the duration. My developer of choice for stand development is Rodinal so the decision was made. Timings are less critical with Stand development as the very diluted developer is basically allowed to exhaust itself. It has a compensating effect in that the developer exhausts itself in areas which require greater development while remaining active in less-exposed areas, which has the effect of boosting shadow detail while preserving bright highlights.

Pre-wash in deionised water for 5 minutes

Develop in Rodinal, diluted 1+100, for 1 hour

Agitate initially for 30 seconds very slowly then two slow inversions at 30 minutes (which technically makes this semi-stand)

“Stop”, using deionised water for 1 minute

Fix using Ilford Rapid Fix for 8 minutes

So much for the theory. What about the reality? My plan, which I followed carefully, was based on my usual stand workflow with some tweaks to accommodate the unusual circumstances. I rarely use pre-wash but thought it might be helpful here to lubricate the film as it were. I usually use a Stop bath but plumped for water on the basis of keeping the chemicals used to the minimum. Finally, I fixed for 60% longer than usual.

It worked!

To view the negatives are a bit on the dense side but there are definitely images!

Undeterred by the very dark negatives I turned on the scanner and set to work. It was not a fully exposed roll of 36 images and it had clearly been removed from the camera when only part-used. Most of the twenty-odd frames were out of focus shots of rally cars in a wooded area. A couple were taken indoors at a car show and one of these was pretty sharp so it was this one that I chose to scan fully.

A section of the film fully scanned with a Epson V550 flatbed scanner
Beyond my wildest expectations!

So, there are images and my friend and I are delighted with how the negatives look. There remains one puzzle though. He does not recognise them and is adamant that he would never take a part exposed roll out of the camera!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s