Expired Film Day 2016 results: 1977 Kodak Kodacolor II

Spotmatic and Kodacolor II
Pentax Spotmatic SP with Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5 and Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lenses, and Kodak Kodacolor II that expired in July, 1977. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Kodacolor II was the standard Kodak professional color negative film for pretty much the entire 1970s and into the 1980s. Its reputation for survival isn’t good.

It’s quite likely it earned that reputation for poor performance when out-of-date, honestly. It did for me.

I checked and double-checked the bright black-and-yellow cassette with its zebra-striped ends, and it is definitely C-41 film. That’s the same color negative process used in drug stores and pro labs for the last 40 years.

Kodak Kodacolor II
Kodak Kodacolor II out of the box. Check out the striped caps on the cassette, and the logo on the canister cap. (Daniel J. Schneider)

I rated the 41-year-old ASA 80 film (expired in July 1977, but expiration date is typically two years from date of manufacture/packaging) at ASA 20, which should’ve overexposed it by about two stops. I was generous in my exposures, too — typically letting the meter fall on the side of overexposure when dead-center wasn’t possible.

I didn’t take any pictures with it that were really stunning, I’m sure. I used my Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP with a Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5, all known-good gear. I backstopped the meter with my iPhone Light Meter app before I loaded the camera.

1977 Kodacolor II detail
A detail shot of the sickening green hue of the base material on the failed July 1977 roll of Kodacolor II that I tried for Expired Film Day 2016. (Daniel J. Schneider)

I dropped the film off with my pals at Englewood Camera along with the rest of my Expired Film Day C-41 stuff (yet to come) and some other test rolls. It was all processed together in the same chemistry (and everything else yielded results).

Sadly, the Kodacolor II was a total bust. There’s a minuscule difference in the coloration of the leader vs. the rest of the film (slightly pinker and a tiny bit darker on the leader), but even under close inspection there’s nothing on there at all — at least nothing discernible or usable. The film is essentially clear, and the base appears to be an illness-inducing pea-soup color. The edge marks are there, though very faint (but the edge marks on other films I’ve used from this era are typically more faint than with more modern films).

If I didn’t know better, I’d guess it was unexposed. But I’ve double- and triple-checked the hardware. I’m confident the film was simply no good.

Whatever, I can handle it being trashed. I got results from 3/4 of the film I used on Expired Film Day, March 15, 2016. I’ve got five more rolls’ worth of posts coming up — and they’ve all got results. Some are even pretty good.

Other Expired Film Day 2016 posts:

Kodacolor II dead roll
This roll of Kodak Kodacolor II film expired in July 1977. My results? The worst — nothing at all. (Daniel J. Schneider)
  • Too bad. I kind of miss Kodacolor II. I shot scads of it in 126 when I was a kid, and I like its color signature.

    I can’t figure out Kodak’s naming scheme anymore for their consumer color films. They change all the time, and they’re weird. Someone recently gave me a four-pack of expired, cold-stored Kodak color film called, I kid you not, “Kodak Max 400 Versatility Polyvalence.” Wha?

  • Troy Walters

    Hey. I was put onto your blog by someone on Flickr who shot Kodacolor II of the same vintage and I thought I’d help you out on how to expose this film and old films in general to get much better results. In general old film loses sensitivity over time and needs to be well overexposed to produce usable to really good pictures. When I overexpose film my general rule of thumb is to look at the original ASA/ISO rating and halve it per decade of age and then use a light meter and gauge exposure around the lower ISO rating. So for a 1977 Kodacolor II film with it’s original 80 ASA rating, it being 40 years out of date, to shoot it today I rate it 5 ISO and gauge aperture/shutter using light meter set to 5 ISO and it will 90% likely at least make usable images. I have some 1977 Kodacolor II rolls and they work excellent at 5 ISO and here’s one I shot at a local airshow recently https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/72157680816387314 it made pictures like as if the film was brand new!!! Processing old colour negative film I generally process cold in C-41 20 deg for 20 min colour develop and 8 min blix at 20 deg as there’s no risk of the emulsion lifting off. Anyways check out my Flickr channel I shoot vintage film as a hobby and often get usable to good results with my old films https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/ .

    • Thanks, Troy. I’ve shot hundreds of rolls of expired film with results all over the place. Rating it at ASA 5 would only give it two more stops of light, so if that would’ve helped I should still have gotten something — and I tell you I got absolutely nothing. Your results are fantastic, and if I find more film this way I’ll certainly give it a bit more exposure. Till then, I’m plenty happy with lots of othe results form that day!

      • Troy Walters

        I’ve had a similar situation with some 1983 expired Kodak Ektachrome 400 35mm film, took me 4 rolls to get the exposure good enough to get usable images which I think the sensitivity of it would of been 1 ISO or less, here’s the link to that roll https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157646497170900 . Having said that I should of added that films don’t always conform to sensitivity loss over time in the same way, some degrade more than others or less than others, it’s a shot in the dark picking how much to overexpose but I find a lot of the time halving the ISO per decade of age gives usable to good results. I have also had vintage film getting too overexposed because the sensitivity was real good, an example is some 1970 expired Kodak High Speed Ektachrome 120 films I shot, they were originally 160 ISO worked great at 20 ISO 45+ years later and I had to even shorten the develop time to 10 min at 20 deg C, here’s a link to one roll I shot https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157676249216350 . Anyhow seeing 5 ASA is two stops more for that film as you said, then I guess the film has degraded very badly, so perhaps it would work alright at maybe around 1 or 2 ISO.

        • Yeah, if even three or four or five more stops of light would’ve made a usable exposure, I should’ve seen something on the negatives where I exposed it, and they were just blank. Totally. So I’m reasonably sure it was just badly damaged. It’s always a crap shoot with old film, but that’s half the fun!