Processing a Roll of Kodak VP 828 Film

Some of the vintage cameras I’ve collected were built to use 828 film. I wondered what that was about. I wondered what 828 film was.

In reading about it, I learned that 828 was Kodak’s idea. Since 35mm film was created for movie cameras (thus the sprocket holes), they figured they could get about 30% more image size by eliminating the holes. Other still camera films of the time (like 120) didn’t have sprocket holes, they used paper backing that attached to spools in the camera. 828 film was an attempt to do the same thing with 35mm sized film. I guess the holes really aren’t necessary for still photography, although the success of 35mm SLR cameras, especially in photojournalism, was the exception to the rule that I don’t think Kodak anticipated. Standard 35mm film had the potential to allow much larger amounts of film on a spool. It also made loading and unloading easier, and for things like sports, made high speed photography possible with motor drives and high capacity film backs. 35mm also made reloading from bulk easy. I had a bulk loader, and bought my Tri-X/Plus-X/HP-5, or whatever, in 100 foot rolls, loading as many exposures as I wanted into reusable canisters for school projects. Very simple. Less expensive. With something like 828, I’ve never attempted it, but I think attaching film onto backing paper, and winding it onto a spool would be a little more difficult.

When I’m working with these vintage cameras, I can’t help but wonder how Kodak managed to build up such a huge business, and then they let it just go away. I know a huge part of Kodak’s business was their specialty chemicals division. I wonder if photography was just an offshoot from the chemical business, and the film and processing chemicals were really their bread and butter. Could the manufacturing of cameras have been just to support the part of the chemical business that made film and processing chemicals? Maybe when digital took most of their business away, they couldn’t follow since photography was never their main business, but rather chemicals. I mean, companies like HP make printers, but that’s only to support (and perpetuate) their ink sales. I guess I just have a fascination with Kodak, and what happened to them. Just like when people must slow down to view an auto accident. It’s just a curiosity that I have. I just wish I understood exactly what happened – but that’s for another post, I suppose.

I was able to buy some expired Verichrome Pan film in 828 format. Since there was paper backing added to the film, a role only contains 8 exposures.

The camera I’m using is a Kodak Bantam, from the 1930s. It seems to have a fairly clear lens, and the shutter seems to be accurate at higher speeds.

Kodak Bantam

This is actually a very cool little camera. It uses a bellows, and the front pops open to extend before shooting. It has shutter speeds from 1/25 to 1/200 of a second, and is a 47mm, f/4.5 lens. Very simple, yet very solid feeling.

I’m changing things up a bit here – my first roll of VP 828 didn’t produce any results at all – just grey… So, I decided to try another roll, with a bit newer camera (since the shutter of the Bantam was questionable, and my exposures may have been way off). Also, I’m going to increase my development time a bit to compensate for the old film (45 years in who knows what kind of conditions).

My new setup is a Kodak Pony 828 camera. It’s probably 10 to 20 years newer than the Bantam I tried originally. The Pony I have may be from the mid 1950’s as far as I can tell. I’m using my Sekonic Studio Deluxe for light measuring.

Kodak Pony 828 and Empty Verichrome Pan Box (expired 1975)

I’m developing with HC-110 (dilution B) at 68 degrees for 6 minutes (previously I tried 5 minutes).

Here’s some of my results. Simple shots around the yard. Nothing extraordinary in the images, but the fact that there are images is impressive to me.

Some out of focus (it takes a while to become good at estimating distance), one double exposure, but all are pretty good – for 45 year old film (not quite since it expired in December of 1975) and a 65 year old camera!

A couple notes about the Verichrome Pan that I used. First, the plastic base the film is made of seems a little thicker than I’m used to with Tri-X and modern Ilford films. Second, the emulsion seems softer than modern films. Maybe it’s the combination of my fixer and the older emulsion. I’m not sure, but I scratched the emulsion fairly easily.

All in all, this was a fun experiment. I’ll be doing some testing of a couple older Kodak cameras with 620 film soon.

If you find an old camera, don’t be afraid to try it out and post your results!