Big Fat Phony

I’m always on the lookout for deals on film, particularly with the recent troubles with Kodak. It’s amazing the deals you can find: I picked up a 100ft bulk roll of Portra 160 for $70 (around $3.50 per roll), a 100ft bulk roll of Ektachrome 64T for around $60 (around $3.00 per roll) and even a 400ft roll of Ektachrome slide duplication film which give some really neat results when cross-processed. Recently I came across some cheap Fujicolor Superia 200 rolls on eBay. I threw a minimum bid on them and forgot about it. A couple of weeks later I get an e-mail telling me I’d won the auction. Hooray!

I like my Superia just for walking around snapshooting or when I’m dicking around in development. It’s pretty forgiving, even in my old cameras that aren’t quite shooting at the right speeds and it’s cheap so I never feel too bad when things go bad. Fast forward about 3 weeks and I receive five of these:

Not in the best condition.

Fair enough, right? It was cheap (only $2.50 a roll!) so I can look past beat up boxes. I’ve seen worse things spat out of the postal network. And these came out of Hong Kong, so it’s only to be expected that the boxes will be covered in what I’m pretty sure is Chinese. However, on opening the boxes I was greeted with something peculiar:

The film recently arrived from eBay (left) alongside another Fujicolor Superia 200 roll I already had (right).

Strangely, the label on these new rolls are almost completely different to the rolls I already had, right down to the font on the label, the colour, everything. It’s a completely different design. This has never happened to me before, so I looked the eBay film a bit more and found that the labels on the eBay film were a different shape and appeared to have been stuck on pretty haphazardly. Then I noticed what appears to be a strip of yellow peeking out at the bottom:

eBay film (left) with a hint of yellow at the bottom of the cassette.

Well that sure was odd, as the labels are almost always a perfect fit on the cannister. I sat down and peeled the label back and found a little surprise:

Wait just a minute..

At this point I was quite confused. Were these guys just buying expired rolls of Kodak Gold, whacking a Superia sticker over the top and then selling them again at a higher price, or were they loading random cannisters with the cheapest colour film they could find and selling it as Superia or was it actually Fujicolor Superia wearing a Kodak Gold jumper? I loaded up one of my cameras and headed out to shoot on of them to see what came out.

Opening the cannisters in the darkroom to load them for development showed that, instead of being either taped to the film spool or hooked through the centre of the spool like Kodak and Fuji normally do, the film was taped to the protuding piece of film left hanging from a cannister when it is loaded for processing by a film house, and then wound back into the cannister.

This blows my mind.

Someone, somewhere, is somehow getting unexposed strips of Superia 200 without canisters; they’re getting discarded canisters from film developers; they are going into the darkroom and taping their Superia strips to the protruding film from these canisters and winding the film in, then they are printing their own labels and sticking them onto these Kodak Gold Superia canisters and then they’re boxing the lot up and flogging it on eBay for peanuts. I can’t see why they would go to all the trouble, especially with such a cheap film. Why not Velvia, Provia, Pro 400H or Reala?

After developing, the edge markings identified the film as Fujicolor Superia 200 (FUJI S-200 CA23). Instead of 36 exposures advertised I got only 33, and the frame numbers were severely misaligned in relation to the frames themselves. The film is also covered in light scratches, likely from excessive handling during it’s strange journey. But hey, if nothing else this film gave me a few laughs, and for the price I’m not behind at all.

This film was purchased from Delight Digital Silk Road, and as of writing I see two more auctions at the same price I paid that are currently active.

Finally, some shots from the roll I developed:

Canon EOS 1000F - Canon EF 50mm f1.4

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