Fujifilm Neopan SS

Fujifilm Neopan SS – My Last Rolls & When Not to Shoot Expired Film

A few years ago, I was gifted a lot of film for a project I was working on which involved shooting a roll a day for two weeks and vlogging my journey. I was mailed so much that I am still shooting some of it. If you’re subscribed to my channel, you’ve likely seen me use them in episodes with mixed results. Sometimes it shot just like new, as in the case of my 30-year-old roll of Kodak Ektar 25, and in other instances it ends up as an unaired episode due to the lack of usable images. One thing I have noticed though, and it’ll probably sound obvious, is that as time goes by, fewer rolls are producing printable or even scannable results. I am grateful for every roll though, and some of them I decided not to shoot at all opting to add it to my permanent collection of expired film in my office.One of the gems donated by a viewer though, was Fujifilm Neopan SS. I had about five rolls and while it doesn’t have the greatest name, the results were amazing. I was able to shoot them all at box speed, and I used some on special projects, like a couple recent zines and the aforementioned marathon. Before I show you what I got more recently with my final rolls, here’s some of my favourite photos previously taken with Fujifilm Neopan SS

I’m very happy with these results, and while I can’t be sure the renderings are representative of what a completely fresh roll of Neopan SS would look like, I think being able to shoot in its native ISO gives me a pretty good idea. There’s probably more noise overall, and less detail in the highlights if I had to wager a guess. Still, what I’ve got is a rich tonal range with emphasis on deep shadows without the loss of detail.

So with everything I’ve told you, it only made sense that I would use one of my trusted expired film batches to shoot part of my Alberta Grain Elevator Project. For the past two years or so I have been trekking around the Canadian province of Alberta, my home, capturing grain elevators, both abandoned and still in use. So far I have shot almost forty of them, and based on the info I have, I’m about half way there. From my most recent trip, and with the last rolls of Neopan SS, I captured elevators in the towns Warner, Skiff, and Hilda, as well as an abandoned home in Empress with a couple of late model Nikon 35mm bodies and modern, new-when-purchased Nikkor lenses.

Unfortunately one of my rolls was scratched, namely by my Nikon F100, the the guilty speck of dust likely made its way in while changing rolls because not every one was affected, so whether I’ll be able to use any of those shots in the darkroom is uncertain. I asked my Discord members what they would do in this case, and someone suggested “Edwal’s No Scratch”, and so I got a bottle from Argentix. Perhaps I’ll write about it in the future. I’m aware of the old insider tip of using nose grease to fill in the scratch and that is, without a doubt, disgusting.

I’m sad of course. It’s like a limited-edition soda or the McRib, once it’s gone you wish you had more. From what I have read it was only discontinued in 2011 so that gives me some hope.

As we move forward into the 20s, shooting an expired roll of film is an exercise of diminishing returns. Most of the rolls we will use, have already been produced and are sitting somewhere. On someone’s shelf… in a relative’s basement, and the more time that goes by the worse the results, at least from a technical standpoint. Plenty of analog shooters just love faded grainy results, but when we’re talking about how these emulsions were originally intended, it’s objectively worse as the years stretch behind us. Pro photographers keeping hidden gems in the freezer are the exception, and the cost is getting higher too.

After this trip I made some decisions about my workflow. I had to take a hard look at what I wanted as a photographer, and for the most part, I was done with expired film, with a couple of exceptions of course. First, if it’s less than a decade old, it’s probably fine and I’ll go ahead. And second, if I come across multiple rolls that have weathered the test of time together, I can use one as a tester, to see if the other(s) are worth it.

If I were to leave you with one recommendation though, is that you should strongly consider leaving the roll you found in the box and putting it on display. I recently bought an MP3 player that I owned in my twenties off eBay, “new” in box, in order to inject myself with a heavy dose of that sweet sweet nostalgia and after opening it and trying to set it up, I discovered that the lithium battery would not hold a charge, and the protective case it came with started cracking and flaking almost immediately. Now I wished I had kept the package sealed and hung it somewhere in my office. I would have been able to look fondly at it from time to time, instead of it ending up in a drawer somewhere. The same goes for some of the old film I’ve opened and shot, I wished I had put it behind glass and admired it that way. Ultimately the gamble is yours to make.

Thanks for reading, you can find my youtube channel here

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7 thoughts on “Fujifilm Neopan SS – My Last Rolls & When Not to Shoot Expired Film”

  1. Love those Alberta shots, they really capture a place and a (mostly) by-gone era.

    I never had good technical results from Neopan, but then, so much of a film’s look depends on how it is processed. Looks like you’ve found the right combination for this film at it’s present age.

  2. It’s sad to watch as so many of these amazing emulsions pass on into history. At the same time, I’m quite happy to see where the market is at with the current B&W films available, and new ones emerging. I can even get fresh 220 in GP3 and it sounds like Adox may have fixed their 220 machine now too.

    Color is a different story, with Kodak’s future far from certain, Fujifilm on a long exit ramp, and Adox still attempting to cook color. Orwo is has managed to bring NC500 to market… for the price of $15/roll!!! Well, unless you buy a 400ft bulk roll – it has no remject – which gets the price down to a hair under $7/roll (9.50 CA). It’s grittier than a rock quarry and the color fidelity is… interesting, but hey, it’s COLOR and it’s not made by Kodak or Fuji, so that’s a pretty big deal:)

    I get such limited time for photography, I can’t stomach risking that time on expired stocks. I must have sold 5o or 60 rolls of it over the years that came in with old cameras from Goodwill Auctions. Watching you shoot all that stuff made for great content though. Hell, that was certainly part of the fun for me watching those episodes, at the end seeing what you got out of it.

    Great to see you writing for 35mmc Azriel,


    1. When I look back at magazines from the 1990s there was almost 100 different colour films in 35mm format alone, that number is crazy to me.

      While I have unpopular opinions about colour, I don’t want to see it go away and I’d rather there be some competition for Kodak

      Thanks for the kind words Jeremy.

    2. I’m pretty sure that Svema/Astrum in Ukraine still produces color film as well.

      Upon checking, they make four different types of color negative film. It can’t be too bad, FPP and many others package or relabel and resell their film. I’ve heard you can buy directly from them in bulk rolls if you’re willing to go that route.

      Though I’m fairly certain black and white will be the future of photography, there are alternatives.

  3. Azriel, let me start by saying this post elicited a wide range of emotions. I watched your story about Ektar 25 and learned so much about a film that I enjoyed shooting with when it was originally released. The line about this film being directed towards serious amateurs nailed me perfectly and I used a tripod constantly so this was not a leap for me. I did event photography and the Ektar 1000 was perfect for that and the grain never imposed itself to the detriment of the image when published. Your article mentioned how reviewers complained about the slower shutter speeds required with ISO 25 emulsion but having this emulsion available for specific uses was the appeal to me. I was doing cityscape shots at the golden hour into dusk and those images still hold up incredibly when hi-rez scans are pulled. I was always in the low grain camp so I was well acquainted with the issues of low ISO films.

    This leads me to my next comment about the negative scratch. As I was a retoucher working with photographers producing prints for fine art archival sale and large scale prints (up to and larger than 40×60) for sale and exhibition I was required to remove scratches from the final prints. Even in the film heyday I was one of only a few skilled artists who could spot scratches on fine art silver gelatin prints. Some of these prints took hours to intricately remove a scratch or scratches that went across the full width of the image with a completely undetectable result. My main client printed his work with a point light source head so no defect was hidden. I say all that because there may be someone in your area who still does this type of work. I have a local small lab client that I have worked with since 1985 and I occasionally still get called upon for my services in this arena. Check with some of the old timers in your area to see if they know of this type of retoucher. Thankfully my eyes and hands have remained keen and steady and this type of work brings a sense of real fulfillment for me. If you have someone in your area doing this type of work it would really make their day for you to call on their skill set.

    Lastly, I think your project of documenting grain elevators is so important. I have seen so many of these monoliths disappear in the last 10 years and feel a sense of loss at not documenting their existence. I know Nikon made a wide angle tilt & shift lens back in the day and I wondered if you had ever considered using one for some of your shots? I’m not an expired film adventurer but the few times I’ve tried it I used b&w stocks and have always managed to get useable results( with digital post). I still make my living as a now digital darkroom specialist so I’m not opposed to whatever method is required to achieve a final useable print.

    1. Thanks Bill for giving me a peek into your craft. Removing scratches from prints as big as you mention is definitely a skill that is dying.

      I may look into a tilt shift, but to be honest I have purchased waaaay too many lenses in the last year, all brand new and most I’m still paying for so I may relegate those types of adjustments to the darkroom or Lightroom, which In know isn’t idea, but a decent substitute.

      Thanks for the comment!

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