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Developing 20 year old exposed 35mm color film

Kenny Blair , May 22, 2010; 10:18 p.m.

I have about 20 rolls of film we shot on vacations and camping trips, etc. that was taken from an Olympus 35mm point and shoot back in the late '80's to early '90's. It has been stored indoors in a box in a closet so I don't believe it's really had excessive heat exposure. From what I've read from Google, it sounds like I've got nothing to loose by trying to get it developed. Is a place like Costco going to work or do I need to send it off to a high-end photo lab? Since I haven't had film processed in many years--is it expensive and do they only print what turns out ok or do I have to pay for 100's of prints that are blank or unrecognizable? Thanks-Kenny.

Responses

Bob Sunley , May 22, 2010; 10:25 p.m.

You will have iffy negs at best, the latent image does deteriorate. Try Costco, Target, etc for process only pricing. Most minilabs will do this.

James Dainis , May 23, 2010; 12:32 a.m.

Local labs would give no special processing and the results may bad. You can try here:

http://www.filmrescue.com/

20 rolls would be expensive but you could try one or two films to analyze the results. I believe that if there is no image on the film, there is no charge.

Michael Christensen , May 23, 2010; 01:31 a.m.

You can request develop only, no prints, digital scan to disc .. tweak images with digital software, save/size, print the ones you want. To develop only .. just to see if you have a printable latent image on film should be about $5-6 a roll .. to develop and print film .. may be $15-20/roll. And, yes I've have seen clerks who have allowed machine prints of a whole roll of film that had nothing on it .. and charge accordingly .. don't waste time with those type of people who don't even look at the negatives before printing. Just explain your concerns to them and have them call you before they print if something is questionable.

I'd do 2 rolls at a time .. different places that are known for good work and see how it comes out. You may be surprised to find some real gems. No you don't need a high-end store .. you just need to find a store that can run the film development without using depleated chemistry, poorly trained lab clerks, etc. If the clerk doesn't know how to develop film .. find another place.

I can get film prints from my local Walgreens that rival prints from St. Louis' best film labs .. again, it is a matter of finding clerks who are good at what they do and enjoy putting in a little extra effort to satisfy the customer.

Nicholas Rapak , May 23, 2010; 01:55 p.m.

There is no chemical difference between a standard minilab and a "pro" lab. However, places like Film Rescue do use different chemicals to produce better results with old film. I would try one lab at a 1-hour place. If the film is acceptable, you can use any lab you want. However, if the prints are too faded to be usable, I would send the rest to Film Rescue.

ed lusthoff , May 24, 2010; 09:42 a.m.

Costco develope, print, CD for around 10.00? You cant go wrong. At least you can see what you are dealing with. Then you would know if it is worth going to film rescue. I have shot film that was supposedly refrigerated for ten years after the expiration and it was weak. In other words don't expect too much.

Jose Angel , May 24, 2010; 01:56 p.m.

Years ago an old friend found his father`s Brownie with film on it; she asked me what to do, and we sent it for development. At the return the surprise could have not been bigger. Some portraits of her (at the age of five y/o) with his father (who passed when she was eighteen), probably taken by his mother during a trip... the film remained unused in the camera for the following 30 years.
I try to remember the images were like blurred, brownish with almost no color separation, but still valid to be printed.

Greg Miller , Jun 06, 2010; 11:44 p.m.

Hello Kenny
Greg from Film Rescue here. What I'd do first if you're willing to spare a roll is take one into a good reputable lab and tell the technician what your situation is. Often the biggest problem with film of this vintage is that whoever is printing it is not paying close enough attention to what they are seeing on their color analyzer and are not compensating for how the film has faded. When this is the situation you end up with a very magenta colored print. With closer attention better scans or prints are often possible.
If you have different brands of film though, you can not assume that because one brand turned out well the others will follow suit even if they are of the same vintage. For instance we find that Kodak brand film has stood up undeveloped over time much better than Fuji. This is to say nothing about the quality of the different brands but only that over time the Kodak held up better then the Fuji undeveloped well past its process before date. Even within a brand there are differences. For instance a Kodak Gold plus will turn out different than a Kodak Gold Ultra stored in similar conditions.
All this said...your film is getting on the long end of borderline in terms of vintage for salvaging a decent color image. Normally our rule of thumb for our developing not being significantly better to normal developing is 8 to 12 year past its process before date. If it was in a cool place then yes probably you will get some kind of ok color from it with special attention. Processed into a B&w negative is definitely the safe way to go with it but with as much as you have I'd been inclined to test in color first. Not too likely you get nothing at all in color if the film wasn't in heat.
Our color process for this film is not C-41 but instead a high contrast aerial film process called AN-6 which does a lot to put some life back into the negative but it also brings up the film grain. Everything is then scanned, a quick digital fix-up is done and it is then uploaded for you to preview where you can pick and choose the pictures you want. Once you select a picture it is reopened in Photoshop and further worked before burning to disc or burning to disc and printing. Basically we do all we possibly can but depending what you order a single roll of film can get quite expensive when comparing to a local provider. Often what we can do is night and day in comparison but if your film happened to have held up well overtime the differences can be small. I encourage you to test one locally. Even if it's terrible you can later send us the negative and we can most likely improve it a good deal.
Hope that's helpful.

Oh and thanks to those that recommended us. We truly appreciate the referral and really do our best to do this right and not embarrass those who do so.

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