Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Expiriment #1: Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)

This is the first in what I hope to be a series of posts in which I document the results from shooting some of the expired film I have in my stash – and I have quite a bit! However, in order to keep some sort of a leash on this exercise, I will only include film that is at least ten years past its use-by date.

For this first instalment, I’ve decided to send the Delorean back to 1982, back before Ilford added the “Plus” to it’s stocks, back before I’d even entered my teens, and show the results from a roll of HP5 that expired in December 1982.

I chose the HP5 for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I shoot the modern version of the film quite a lot, so was interested to see how they compare (even if it may be an unfair test given the age of this roll) and, secondly, because I have four rolls of this film all from the same year so this first one will serve as a useful test on how it performs before I shoot any more of it. While the person who I got the film from had kept the film frozen, I have no idea of it’s provenance before that.

The sensible thing would have been to shoot the film in, around, or at least fairly close to home. That way, should the experiment be a disaster, at least I wouldn’t have wasted too much time on it. But the weather was nice so I decided to head out into the countryside, to High Bradfield over on the other side of the city. It was a risk but, hey, you only live once, right? I also took a second camera loaded with a fresh roll of Ilford FP4+ as well but only took a single shot with it, so the weight of the expedition would rest on the forty year old HP5.

I loaded the film before leaving the house and almost immediately felt some mild panic when the Yashicamat’s film advance crank partially jammed after a few turns. But, after some gentle pressure, it continued to wind the film on to frame #1. Arriving at my destination, I shot five shots at High Bradfield before driving around the surrounding area and photographing anything that caught my eye. Most of the other pictures were taken around Broomhead reservoir further to the north, although none of the reservoir itself. I rated the film at 100asa using my usual half-a-stop of over-exposure per decade of expiry that I use for expired black and white films. All metering was via incident readings from my Sekonic L-308.

This is what old Ilford backing paper looks like. I’m not sure if the mottling is just a factor of its age.

As I went out early, I was home in time to get the film developed and decided to use some Adox Adonal for the job. Ordinarily I use Ilfotec DD-X when developing modern HP5+ as it controls the tones and grain really nicely but, as this was a roll of film decades past its best, I thought the Adonal might be a good choice as I’d read that it can help to reduce fogging where it exists on old films. I used a 1+25 dilution and developed the roll for six minutes, inverting for the first minute, and then for 10 seconds at the top of each remaining minute. After that I used a one-minute stop bath and then fixed for five minutes. I washed the film using the Ilford method and then a final soak in rinse-aid before hanging it to dry for three hours. I was very happy to see easily visible images on the negatives, albeit perhaps slightly thin ones. One thing that I noticed was that the strip of negatives had an unusual, waxy sheen (see the picture below). I’m not sure if this is a factor of the film (perhaps on a different base back then?), it’s age, or even my development (although the chems should all have been in good condition).

It’s perhaps difficult to tell from this picture, but the whole roll of developed negatives had an odd, waxy sheen to them.

So, on to the photographs.

Given the age of the film I’m very happy with the results. While the negatives were a little bit thin, this wasn’t a huge problem and I was able to rectify this for the most part during the scanning phase and in Lightroom (where I also applied my other usual processing and sharpening). The grain is much more apparent than I am used to with modern HP5+ but it’s possible that this is a result of my developing them in Adonal rather than the expired nature of the film – I’ve heard other’s speak about how Rodinal developers can emphasise the grain in HP5+.

I think that I’ll rate the next roll of this HP5 I shoot at 80asa, or maybe even 50asa, and I think I’ll develop the next one in DD-X to see what difference that makes, if any, to the grain.

Here are my favourite eight shots from the roll. The other four were all ok technically but I didn’t think they worked as well artistically.

Expiryment #1 - Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)
Expiryment #1 - Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)-2
Expiryment #1 - Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)-3
Expiryment #1 - Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)-4
Expiryment #1 - Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)-5
Expiryment #1 - Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)-6
Expiryment #1 - Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)-7
Expiryment #1 - Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)-8

Overall outcome: Success!

Expiriment #2 coming soon…

Yashicamat 124G & Ilford HP5 (expired 1982). Adox Adonal 1+25 6mins @ 20°.

Taken on 14 May 2022

11 thoughts on “Expiriment #1: Ilford HP5 (expired 1982)

  1. I have a handful of rolls here of FP4 from just after the Plus was added. It has the same backing paper as your HP5. I _love_ this backing paper. It is _so easy_ to see the numbers. I am forever cursing Kodak for its thin 1 that has no “hat” on it – it’s just a line. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve blown by it in winding. Never happens with the old Ilford backing paper.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, this backing paper is nicely designed. It’s not an issue when using a camera with a mechanical frame counter, but I’ve had issues before when using the Holga or my Zeiss folder.


    2. Jim,

      The last time I shot a roll of Kodak 120 film (Ektar, to be exact, back when you could get it for about $5 per roll) in my Holga, I did exactly what you mentioned. I blew past the first frame because it wasn’t obvious based on the markings where frame 1 began. I had to get out my changing bag and roll the film back. With the price of film and processing, even then (about two years ago), there was no way I was going to lose a frame when I only had 12 to begin with. I’ve never had issues accidentally winding past frame 1 with any other brand — just Kodak. I know other people besides us have the same issue.

      It’s just one more thing Kodak has gotten wrong (and haven’t bothered to listen to their customers about), in my opinion, on a seemingly never-ending list. I’m done with them. I used to still occasionally pick up a 3-pack of 35mm ColorPlus, UltraMax, or Gold to shoot and to give them my support, but since they’ve now tripled (minimum) the cost of their consumer stocks — basically overnight — that’s over and done with. They’re just a total rip-off now, across the board. As such, they’ve completely lost me as a customer. Personally, I wish everyone would vote with their dollars and stop supporting them. I don’t believe they deserve anyone’s business at this point. In my opinion, they have become entirely greedy and exploitative, trying to justify their practices with nonsensical arguments and excuses (that make no sense, but the masses seem to believe anyways). The same goes for Fujifilm, in my opinion. ​But you both already know my opinions on the matter, so I’ll leave it there.

      I look forward to
      seeing your future work with the expired FP4 PLUS, Jim, as well as your future “expiriments,” fishyfisharcade. The results people get with expired film, and their process to achieve those results, are some of the posts I find most interesting. I can’t wait to see more.

      Both of you take care!


  2. As always, interesting photos and a great story, too. I really enjoy what you produce, and being in another bit of the world than suburban USA, the houses and landscape are endless fascinating.

    I am happy to see your experiment worked out, and look forward to seeing what happens with your next batch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks N. Likewise, I always find photos of the USA (suburban or otherwise) equally fascinating. What might be mundane and run of the mill to someone local can be exotic to someone from somewhere else.

      I’ll hopefully get around to shooting another roll of something expired in the next couple of weeks.


      1. Valid point here about environments! I had a friend who told me about one of her relatives – heiress to a country house of some age, complete with antiques and such, like hand spun and woven linen bed linens from the early 1800s or so, that all she wished she could do was get rid of everything and buy some cotton sheets and a dishwasher. And, I see her point – thankfully, no heirlooms here!


  3. I do have questions. I send my film off to a lab for developing. When I expose an expired roll of ASA 400 film at ASA 50, do I need to tell the lab to pull the film or do I have them develop it at the native ISO?


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