Way, way back at the beginning of this year I got gifted a roll of x27 exposure Fuji Super-G 400 from my friend Lauren after giving her a bit of photographic advice on a whole stack of it they had inherited. It was previously the property of long time Coventry Telegraph photographer Bob Cole, a guy I didn't know personally but who's name I certainly recognized. My particular roll was part of a pack that expired at the turn of the millennium making this roll of film over 20 years old... the oldest I've used yet! I've shot with expired film alot, mostly because I buy film when I see it and it then sits on my shelf for ages because it takes me so long to finish a roll and get around to using it! It can be a bit of a mixed bag, I shot a whole roll of expired Fuji Superia 1600 that turned out to be mostly a total grainy mess... but on the flip side I shot with a 12 year old disposable camera and I loved the photos I got out of that. So having literally no expectations, I loaded the film in my OM10 and rated it at one stop below box speed (ISO 400) and started shooting with it.
It took me so long to finish this roll of film because a little thing called COVID-19 severely interrupted everybody's plans... and I didn't want to waste this film on shots of things around the house and stuff, so after initially starting shooting it in February I put things on ice, until about August time when we were allowed out to play again... briefly... I finally finished and got the shots back this week and I am really, really happy with how they worked out.
It's obvious Bob looked after his films, there is some saturation loss and slight colour shifting going on here, but minimal fading and grain, and minimal exposure loss. An absolutely perfect combination when it comes to shooting with expired film! I compensated for it's age by overexposing it by one stop; meaning I told my OM10 to expose as if this was an ISO 200 film and not ISO 400. The general rule of thumb is that you should overexpose by one stop for every decade the film is expired, but not wanting to blow out the highlights I chose to walk the balance between overexposing and underexposing it by only going up one stop. It really helps to have a camera with manual settings or at least semi-manual like my OM10, or anything with toggleable ISO settings to really get the best out of expired film. Being able to tell the camera to shoot it as if it was more sensitive will bring out the nice stuff more and hide the bad stuff more!
I wish every single roll turned out this well, but as I mentioned before, it really is a mixed bag. Generally speaking, higher ISO films will be more unpredictable after expiry and lower ISO films less so. But if you look after your film and keep it refrigerated (which I err... don't...) even long after the use by date it will still give more than capable results for a least a good couple of years or so. Alternatively, if like me you don't want to strive for perfect results and are happy with saturation loss, colour shifting and slight detail grain, shooting expired film can be real fun.