I have a camera that can shoot with 70mm film, also known as 616 roll film. It’s my AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3, a 15-shot square-image camera that was manufactured in 1939, and which came into my possession when I purchased it for $15 at a Massachusetts yard sale.
Since then, the camera has produced several artistic artworks, many of which have won prizes and appeared in gallery shows. Some of the images I’ve captured with my Clipper are visible in a slideshow below.
It can take re-rolled 70mm 616 film on 616 spools, or I can run two 35mm films parallel in it. So that’s been a good thing. And as you can see, I’ve mostly used it for experimental shots and “splitfilm” images. Sort of like discovering that your old Sega Genesis controller can also function properly as an ersatz Atari 2600 game controller.
But I need a reason to use this camera. And finding reasons to use it has become more of a chore. Trust me, I can get 35mm or 120 film for my other cameras, but 616 film hasn’t been manufactured as its own construct in years. And I have to be careful when purchasing 70mm bulk film – I still have to tell my developer lab to give me back the spools and the backing rolls, both of which are heavily prized (you can re-use the backing paper and the spools for future rolls).
With that in mind, I was looking for some bulk film to use in this camera. I tried forcing some vintage Portra into this camera last year, but the results were less than desirable. So I scrapped the project.
Then this box of film came to my attention.
What you see here, kids, is a box of 70mm Ektachrome. It’s only 30 years past its expiry date, but the seller told me it was kept in a freezer all those years. Do you know how many rolls of 616 film I can spool from this box?
Lots of rolls. Lots and lots of rolls.
The film was a wee bit out of my price range, but the seller did one of those “48-hour price drops,” and a few moments later, I snapped up the box. Mine mine mine.
But acquiring this box of film also means I’ve acquired some challenges. My local pro lab of choice, McGreevy Pro Lab, doesn’t develop E-6 slide film any more. The place that I DO use for slide film, Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, doesn’t develop 70mm film. And I haven’t gotten the courage yet to try my hand at self-developing E-6 film.
After several weeks of online searching, I found a pro lab in Rochester that told me they can develop E-6 at 70mm size. So long as they’re able to dip and dunk it, and it’s a standard length of a 616 roll and not the whole 100 feet of film in one bulky shot, they’ll give it a go.
So now comes the commitment. Dig up as many old 616 rolls as I can, and toss out the film inside. No matter how old the film itself is, the paper backing and the spools are still fresh.
Next step – roll as much of this film as I possibly can. And then wrap each roll in tinfoil and put it back in the freezer until it’s time to use it.
Next step – take the Clipper on my photo journeys, and shoot at the same time that I’m shooting with other cameras. Take a shot or two with Kodak Red, take a shot with the Clipper. Take a shot or twelve with the Nikon Df, take a shot with the Clipper.
And I need to understand – this is 30-year-old ISO 64 Ektachrome. This is truly experimental stuff right here. Don’t expect miracles. Don’t expect perfection. Heck, even if the film remained in a deep freeze for 30 years, there could still be some color shifting – I was told that the first thing to go is the yellow colors on 30-year-old Ektachrome.
Let it happen. I’m not afraid.
But I do want results. That’s the most important thing. This film needs to show me some results.
And maybe, just maybe, if I can get my confidence up, I’ll get a Paterson tank and whatever E-6 developing chemicals I need … and grow a set and shoot with this stuff.
Yeah. I’m good with this.
Let’s see if this film is good with this.