It’s FP4, Jim, but not as we know it ….

I bought a second-hand bulk loader for 35mm film on eBay recently and the seller told me that it had some film inside. He didn’t know what kind of film it was, except that it was Ilford and would be at least 20-30 years old. So, well expired, then.

(As an aside, I bought it because I wanted a second loader as I had some FP4+ in my existing loader and had also purchased 100ft of Vision 50D colour cine film. But the handle broke on my old loader the day before the “new” one arrived. Not sure if that counts as good timing or not.)

I didn’t expect too much from the film but I wasn’t going to throw it out before running a test. First I took a few shots in the garden at various EI’s from 25 to 400 and developed the film semi-stand in HC110, alongside another film to reduce any time that turned out to be wasted. That film didn’t look too good, because it turned out I’d mixed the developer at 5 times the correct concentration. Nevertheless it appeared that exposing at EI100 might produce something useful.

The next step was to take some real world images at EI100. I loaded a roll of the mystery film into an Olympus 35RC – I wanted to see if that camera needn’t the light seals changing so I could test that as well (don’t do this at home because testing two things at once, is not of course a good idea). Fortunately there were no light leaks.

I took the camera with me on a trip to St Abbs and Eyemouth, in the Scottish Borders, and shot it in between pinholes on an RSS6x6F, which I regarded as the main business of the day.

The film was again developed semi-stand in HC110, this time properly diluted at 1:160. One of the advantages of this development method is that you can mix film tpyes in the same tank, without adjusting the development times, so I put the mystery film in alongside roll of Pan F+ and a roll of HP5+.

After developing I could see faint edge markings – I don’t know why I didn’t see them on the first test – which informed me that this was Ilford FP4, but not FP4 Plus. Wikipedia tells me that the film was discontinued in 1990, so it is quite likely that it’s around 30 years old.

The results were more crunchy than I’d expect if it were fresh FP4+, with very visible grain in empty sky areas and not too much shadow detail. But they were definitely useable with the right subject matter. Rather than try to perfect the image quality I decided to grunge them a bit more, with some vintage toning in Lightroom.

I’ve now loaded the remaining film and was quite hoping that there’d be enough for half a dozen rolls – but in fact I only got one more roll out of the loader. I’ll probably put it into the 35RC again, but if there’s enough light I’ll try rating at EI64 next time.


  1. You’ve got yourself some nice looking photos there Kevin. My own (admittedly limited) experience with expired film has been that slower black and white films hold up far better than their colour brethren.

  2. Wow, just wow. You have such gorgeous objects and seascapes there. I especially like the aft of the fishing boat!! Superb! And the toning set all of them in the right mood.

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