I’ve Got a Fever and the Only Cure is Konica VX200 and a Canon T90

I’ve Got a Fever and the Only Cure is Konica VX200 and a Canon T90

2800 1575 James Tocchio

It’s the middle of summer, high noon. I’m at the beach and I’m sick as hell. A buffeting gale relentlessly blows from the sea while a blazing sun does all it can to sizzle the meat off of my exposed shoulders. The near-molten sand shifting under my feet conspires with whatever virus has established permanent residence in my cerebrospinal fluid to spin the world around me in a dizzying kaleidoscope of earth tones and aquas. If I close my eyes I think I’ll fall over and drift away forever, probably. Do they let contagious people into heaven?

“Take my picture, Dad!” A sweet voice sings from the realm of the living. My vision resolves back to our corporeal plane of existence and I realize I can’t die yet. My daughter wants me to take her picture.

Teetering, I raise the Canon T90 to my half-lidded pupil, spin a ring (maybe focus, maybe aperture, who can be sure in this hellscape of sweaty fingertips and feverish nausea), and fire the shutter.

Suddenly I’m sprinkled with a strange, oily mist. It smells like coconuts and forces my breath to catch. I stare stupidly at the T90 in my hand, now speckled with droplets of unknown fluid, then confusedly gape around me. I realize that a stranger has sprayed me with some sort of aerosolized sunscreen overspray, carried on that overzealous sea breeze which I’ve mentioned. But is this actually sunscreen? Or is it poison? Is this supposed happy beachgoer actually a bio-terrorist? Am I patient zero in some insidious plot? Will they make a movie out of this forty years from now? Will I be played by Tom Cruise’s clone? That would be awesome.

I look down and find a dead fish on the sand. A compatriot. I look up to find a seagull circling like a vulture overhead. A villain.

The Advil Cold and Sinus that I ingested twenty minutes earlier takes hold and my thoughts clear. I snap another portrait of my daughter. Hey, the Canon T90 sounds great! Its raucous film advance and precise whirring make me temporarily forget that I’m actively dying. I wonder momentarily what the shot will look like, envisioning it in my addled mind, quietly hopeful that it’ll be a beautiful, contrasty portrait with fabulous bokeh (I’m shooting Canon’s FDn 50mm F/1.4, after all). I forget for the moment that I’m exposing film that expired in May. May, twenty years ago. May, 1997.

Random freaks on the internet say that shooting expired film is great fun. That doing so creates beautiful images with spontaneous color shifts and alternately outlandish contrast or subdued curves. They claim that this unpredictability injects into the craft of photography suspense and anticipation and excitement. The cardboard sleeve that sheathed my 1992 home video VHS release of Cliffhanger, starring Sylvester Stallone, promised similar thrills. One of these two things does indeed deliver a two-hour rollercoaster that never lets up; the other does not.

I over-exposed my roll of Konica VX200 (that’s what I’m supposed to be writing about, right?) by a judicious two stops. I did this because of the countless disembodied typists on the internet who recite like Boy Scouts that we should all over-expose our expired film by one stop for every decade that the film has aged past its expiration. Does anyone really believe this is a useful rule? It is so laughably imprecise and nonsensical, and I love it and want it to be true. But it can’t be true, can it?

Contemplating this rule while shooting my VX200, it struck me (since I was dying of a virus) that this oft-echoed over-exposure rule is very much bulletproof in the same way that the effectiveness claims of Schiff Vitamins’ Airborne® Immune Support Supplements are bulletproof. If I take Airborne® and still get sick, is it fair to claim that the Airborne® did not work? Couldn’t it be true, nay, probable, that taking the Airborne® kept me from getting even more sick? Doctor Schiff, MD (who is not a real person, nor the creator of Schiff Vitamins’ Airborne®) would surely claim that the only thing that kept the sickness from destroying me completely was the fact that I’d taken Airborne®. And who among us could successfully argue against that position without first discovering and weaponizing a temporal wormhole machine to distort (but not tear; don’t ever tear) the fabric of time?

My film was processed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab, and considering that the tech who processed the film was probably not yet born when this film was made and likely wearing diapers when this film expired, they did a great job! The original scans had something of a heavy magenta cast, which I adjusted out of my shots in post while aggressively and silently scoffing in my mind at all the people who say “Konica VX200 has such dope magenta tones, bro!” Listen, all film can be magenta. All film can have good or bad skin tones. Let’s stop pretending we’re not editing every shot in Lightroom.

Am I mad about shooting expired film? No. I’m just grumpy because some five weeks after shooting this roll of Konica VX200, I am still sick. I’ve had a migraine for two weeks, and if there’s one thing a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old daughter do not give a fiddle about, it’s whether or not their caretaker has a migraine. Migraine or not, my dude, the snacks and swing pushes and Disney Princess coloring books better keep flowing or your significant other will come home and find you gagged and tied to a chair in a locked closet. They’ll mutiny. They will.

In conclusion, you should never end a piece of writing with the words, “In conclusion.” And so, in conclusion, buy new film and support the film industry, or whatever, but if you happen to find some old expired film in the bottom of a crusty camera bag, and you have an active fever, and you need to test a Canon T90, by all means shoot that expired film on the beach in mid-summer while losing an immunity battle against a tenacious pathogen. But just remember this important rule; when shooting expired film always over-expose your shot by one stop for every decade it’s aged, subtract one third stop for every decade your subject has lived, add two full stops for every month that begins with the letter Q, and quack like a duck three times before you press the shutter.

You can buy expired film from our shop here.

But you should probably buy fresh film from our shop here, instead.

Or you can browse eBay for expired film (except you shouldn’t) by clicking this link.

And you should follow Casual Photophile on Facebook and Instagram, and follow the idiot who wrote this article on Twitter

James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
10 comments
  • Love this post. I, too, just happened to shoot a roll of expired film, and also did so in a sick and feverish state during the last weekend getaway of the summer. Who doesn’t love a summer cold?! In my case, I was shooting 17 year old Kodak Elite Chrome 200, which was stored horribly, most recently on a sunny shelf in my office. I originally tried to shoot it at the beach in a Nikonos V, but it alas it slipped off the spool and never fed properly. It got a second chance, and
    Cadillac treatment, behind Zeiss glass in my Contax G1. I did not overexpose, in spite of reading the same internet “guidance” about doing so. I shot it at box speed. The exposures were good. Greens and yellows still look great, and blues look mostly good, but the shadows all suffered a massive magenta shift that I haven’t quite figured out how to balance out in Capture1. Would I have gotten less magenta if I overexposed as advised? Maybe, but I would have blown out the highlights in the process. Still love the images — they have a vintage look, and the process was part of the adventure, which makes the captures more memorable. Unfortunately it reminded me how much I enjoyed shooting that film when new, and now I find myself longing for it. To my eye, the Elite Chrome had better saturation than the re-released E100 has, but more natural than Velvia. The 200 speed was also a plus, with little noticeable downside from increased grain. There was a time when you could buy 5-packs at Costco and get it developed and scanned there, way cheaper than you can now. The good ol’ days!

    • Elite Chrome (100 in my case) seems remarkably tolerant of time and mistreatment. This one was taken in January 2019 with film that expired in 2006. Not only did I not overexpose for age, but I used a Nikkormat FTn with a modern battery and took the exposure the meter gave me. Wild and crazy guy, huh?
      https://photos.app.goo.gl/8u1snKgrPJqWZYV46

  • Christos Theofilogiannakos August 28, 2019 at 12:54 am

    Konica film is notorious for giving such poor results when expired and it doesn’t even need to be this long expired to be that way. Kodak and Fuji are much better in that respect, although it’s all down to storage conditions and luck. With some more tweaking the images could have looked much better and still retain features that can’t be achieved with fresh film. Whether ones likes that or not, is purely subjective. I prefer shooting expired film and anticipating the results with the occasional surprise (pleasant or not) than shooting fresh Fujicolor C200 (random example) and knowing exactly what I’m gonna get.

  • Great article. Hope your headache resolves. If not, see someone.

  • I shot a roll of Konica 120 film about a year or two back, also expired 20 years! It was a b&w film, VX400 sounds familiar? The results I got were fantastic, I’m sad that I’ve never been able to find more.

  • Great post, I like the feverish no Fs given attitude. I’d read the novel!
    Looks like you turned the right ring when shotting that first image of your daughter. My favorite shot of the series, followed by the cheeky, out of focus closeup. Kids never seem to have the courtesy to consider depth of field and minimum focusing distance when posing for photos… Get well soon

  • Even in the worst of times, you provide a thoroughly enjoyable read, James. I do hope you’re on the mend now.

  • Get well soon. Try some medical grade colloidal silver, saved my life a few times. I just got four rolls of 20 year old Konica vx200 (1999 and ‘98) with a Zenit EM my wife bought on eBay lol. Saweet. Pictures are good as usual too.

  • Sorry to laugh at your discomfort, but this post was great!
    Remember, “It is naht aye toomah!”

    Feel better.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio