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Recently I purchased a German fold-able camera which was produced in about early 1930s. Got it from camera collector who told me he never tried that camera.

To my surprise when I got this camera home, I've discovered that there's still film inside of it (I can see backing paper of the film through the window that shows frame #4).

Now I absolutely want to finish the roll and develop it. The problem is I have no idea what film is inside and how old it is.

The strategies I'm thinking about:

  1. Just bracket all 4 remaining exposures (the camera is 6x9, so there's 8 in total). But here's a thing: potentially the film could be about 90 years old (probably not but theoretically), using the "add one stop per decade" it makes about 9 stops. I googled that films from those years are typically 25-100 ISO range. So in the best case scenario I'll be dealing with film of about 0.12 ISO. But at the same time the film could be a couple decades old only. This will give me theoretical range of 7 stops, which I can't properly cover with only 4 exposures left.

  2. Wind the film in camera. Take it out. Rewind it back to intake spool in darkroom. Take a look at backing paper and try to figure out what ISO the film is and when it was produced (not even sure if I will be able to get any info from the backing paper). Then load again, wind to frame #4 and shoot having at least some info about it. The con is: I'm pretty afraid to ruin the film during the rewind process.

Question:

What's your best strategy in this situation? How would you develop it?

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    What are you trying to achieve? I think that informs what you should do. Do you want to salvage the four old exposures? Do you want to see how new photos on old film (exposed/developed properly) turn out? Do you want to just experiment and see what the hell happens? – osullic Jan 26 at 15:41
  • @osullic, yep just wanna have fun and get the most i can out of it. would be amazing to salvage exposures that already there. And if I can manage to shoot some pictures on the rest of the roll, that would be a huge bonus! – Roman Raizen Jan 27 at 3:14
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I've got some experience with "found film" -- it's a lot of fun.

First, don't expect much; film that stood in the camera, potentially for decades, is likely to be heavily fogged and show mottling and/or wrapper offset (where the ink on the backing has fogged the emulsion in contact with it on the supply and takeup spools).

Second, you'll likely find that the film has taken a very strong curl, making it difficult to load into a developing tank for processing.

Third, if it turns out to be color film, it's very likely it's an obsolete process like C-22 or Agfa's equivalent from the 60s or 70s.

The good news is, if you get anything from the film, the first three or four frames might well be like ghosts from the past, images of people or events that are otherwise long forgotten.

I'd suggest treating the film like ISO 100 -- but then give at least two stops additional exposure to try to push your new exposures through the age fog. Process in a low-fog developer like Rodinal or, if you can find some, the old style "syrup" HC-110. Before the mid-1950s, all black and white films had a standardized process, like C-41 films have now. It was (and no, this is not a typo, it was really long): seventeen minutes at 20C/68F in D-76 stock solution. Similar or the same would apply for HC-110 Dilution B, which is what I'd recommend (though from what I've read, the new HC-110 isn't as good against fog as the syrup I used to use).

In the end, be prepared to get nothing, either from the decades-old exposures, or your new ones on the old film -- and anything you do get will be a beautiful surprise.

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  • I've never tried it on old film but assuming B&W, it seems like a 2-step developer like Diafine might be a good approach. – user10216038 Jan 26 at 17:45
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    @user10216038 Based on my experience, Diafine is a terrible choice when fog control is a primary goal. A Rodinal clone is a better choice. Ideally, you'd want a specifically low fog developer. If you have, say, half a bulk roll that you got in a bulk loader, it can be worth using low temperature and benzotriazole, but the loss of speed and need for multiple tests to get the right amount mostly rules that out for a single roll, unless you have experience with it. – Zeiss Ikon Jan 26 at 18:08
  • That makes sense, Diafine would enhance fog. Thanks! – user10216038 Jan 26 at 18:14
  • @ZeissIkon thanks for the detailed answer! That helps a lot! I have some Rodinal. how should I dilute it you think? 1+25, 1+50? – Roman Raizen Jan 27 at 3:21
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    @RomanRaizen you probably want to dilute it to 1+100 and stand develop it – timvrhn Jan 27 at 8:55

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