There are some film stocks out there that you just know you’re going to shoot time and time again. There are also some that you think you might do, or you might not, and it wouldn’t matter either way.
Then there are curiosities like Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film, where you’re pretty sure the roll you shot will be the only one you’ll ever see in your life, never mind having another one to put through your camera.
If reading this makes you want to try some Kodak DSF yourself, well, I wish you the very best of luck in finding some. Because even the usually reliable cupboard known as eBay seems bare here.
What is Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film?
As the name suggests and as you’ve probably already realised, Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film was a stock used by dentists to create images of their patients’ teeth. Before decent digital cameras became affordable enough to kill that practice.
There are a couple of obvious reasons for them wanting to photograph a patient’s teeth. One would be to show them how the inside of their mouth was looking and convince them to have some work done.
Another would be for the dentist to put together a portfolio of before and after shots of their work, to show potential future patients what might be possible for them too.
Further to these, if the images had accurate colour reproduction, they would also help the ceramist who fabricates any replacement porcelain to match the natural teeth that remain in the mouth.
And that final reason is partly why slide film was preferred for this task over colour negative stocks. Because it tends to reproduce colours more accurately.
It was also easier to make prints from slides rather than from negatives, and possibly also to use a projector to instantly show a patient what they needed to see too.
The rolls would typically have just 12 exposures so a dentist could use one per patient without wasting exposures or having to wait until seeing multiple people before getting them developed.
I will confess I had no idea about any of that until I started researching for this review. A review of an obscure film I found whilst browsing a shop in Shanghai’s Xingguang Photographic Equipment department store.
In there, sat separately to the new stuff, was a decent amount of expired film. Too much to buy and try one of everything, unfortunately. So I just went with a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 320T and the Dental Slide Film we’re talking about here.
You can see them both in the third and fourth shots of this tweet I put out at the time.
Despite this appearing on the surface to be an obscure film – sold for use in the dental surgery and only having 12 exposures – the reality is a little more mundane. As is the answer to the question what is Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film?
The replies on this small Reddit post spelled things out clearly. That there wasn’t much more to know about DSF than what was printed on the film canister. It was a regular ISO 100, daylight-balanced E6 slide film.
One reply on this small forum thread made another interesting point as to what this film may or may not be. According to them, ‘Kodak never made a special E6 film for medicine’.
It wasn’t much to go on, but it did suggest our DSF was another existing Kodak slide film repackaged.
And then, if you pardon the Kodak pun, further internet digging led me to strike gold with this: the October 2001 edition of the Journal of the California Dental Association.
On page 14 of that PDF, it clearly states that Dental Photographic Slide Film is Kodak Ektachrome EPN 100 – an old version of Kodak Ektachrome 100 that was released in 1984.
Kodak EPN was regarded as the most colour-accurate of all the slide films available – even more so than the Ektachrome 100 EPP (Plus Professional) that came four years later – which makes sense as to why it was used for this dental role.
According to this post, Kodak Dental Slide Film and its sister Dental Print Film were released in 2001. Then in 2002, Kodak were promoting it with a $10 rebate for dentists who bought a 10-roll brick in 2002.
The roll I shot had expired in 2003. Quite how long the product ran for after that, I don’t know.
But I do know this. The answer to the question the answer to the question what is Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film? is a pretty simple one.
It’s Kodak Ektachrome 100 EPN but in a 12-exposure roll rather than a 36-exposure one.
Shooting Dental Photographic Slide Film
If you ever find yourself with a roll of Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film, or even some in its original Ektachrome EPN packaging, you may be wondering if there’s anything special you need to do when shooting it. Because after all, it is a long-expired slide film.
The truth is that it’s going to be harder to get good and consistent results than if you’re used to shooting colour or monochrome negative film. I found that to be the case even when shooting some fresh slide film.
There’s a whole load of wisdom online about shooting expired film. Some people swear by overexposing by one stop per decade it’s past its develop before date.
Others say this is unhelpful as a blanket statement as different types of films age differently.
Crucially here, you can expect a high ISO film to degrade more quickly than a low ISO one, and a colour film to degrade more quickly than a monochrome one.
Storage plays a big part too. Any film kept at room temperature, especially in hot countries, will degrade more quickly than any film kept in a refrigerator or a freezer will.
As mentioned, I found this film on a shelf in a shop in Shanghai. Who knows how much of the last 15+ years it had seen in cold storage. And who knows how many x-rays it had passed through on its way over from the States too.
In two of the three cases above – colour film and long-term storage – it seemed things were leaning towards being made harder rather than easier. Although it being a low speed film was in our favour.
But then on top of all that, this being a slide film meant we had less leeway with our exposures than if it were a negative one too.
Although I did hear that expired slide film should be shot at box speed anyway…
It was all very confusing, until I thought it through from my own perspective.
Ultimately, I just shot it at box speed. My reasoning was that if I shot it at 200 or 400 and it came out bad, I’d be kicking myself for messing about when box speed might have turned out okay.
If I shot it at box speed and the results came out bad, at least I wouldn’t feel bad. Plus, it was only a 12-exposure roll anyway, so I wouldn’t even have wasted too much time doing it.
Unlike the tungsten-balanced Ektachrome 320T that I picked up at the same time, all this Dental Slide film needed was to be shot outside under a bright sun. So that’s what I did.
I walked around for an hour, shot it at box speed, and felt excited to see the 12 images I’d get once I got it developed.
And then none of the above mattered anyway.
Because I was about to become acquainted with a new character in my analogue photography story. A character that I hope you never meet yourself.
Their colloquial name is base fog.
Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film image qualities
We established earlier that Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film is Ektachrome 100 EPN, just repackaged and with fewer exposures for you to play with.
Apparently, EPN it was a really good film. Produced for commercial photographers who needed exceptional colour accuracy, it was excellent in rendering skies and skin tones as they really were.
Contrast was moderate, as you’d expect and want from a film used to convey scenes as true to life as possible, and it brought very fine grain and very high sharpness along with it too.
That all sounds great, and I wish I had some actual examples of all of the above to share with you.
Unfortunately, if you want to see the terrific image quality and qualities that were possible with that film, I suggest you go take a look on Flickr or somewhere.
Because all I’ve got here, in all its unedited glory, is base-fogged muddiness.
If you’re unsure why they came out like that, allow me to explain.
Base fog is something that all films have to a degree, but it’s usually in areas that don’t cause an issue with your images.
The word base refers here to the density of an unexposed yet processed area of your film. Like the bits in between your frames. Fog refers to the silver halide in the same area. It’s had no exposure to light, but it gains some density when developed.
This isn’t a problem when everything is working as it should, because it’s only happening on the unexposed bits of your film between your frames, and not in your frames.
However, when film is left too long – like my Dental Slide Film was – and is improperly stored and exposed to heat or radiation – like my Dental Slide Film probably was – this fogging can begin to happen before it’s shot.
And because it happens in unexposed areas, it happens all over the film – because before you shoot it, it’s all unexposed. Then when you do finally shoot and develop it, that fog is right there, ruining your results.
If it happens to you, you have a few options. You can spend a lot of time and effort to remove the fog like this guy did. Or you could try to salvage your images in Lightroom or similar. Or you could just dump them and move on.
I went for the middle option, as best as I could, and then I moved on too. They’re still not great, but they’re better than they were. And it was nice of the DSF to give me 13 exposures for the price of 12 for my troubles, I guess.
Dental Photographic Slide Film specs and development
Kodak Dental Slide Film, also known as Kodak Ektachrome EPN 100 in a more obscure overcoat, was a daylight-balanced, ISO 100 colour transparency film aimed at professional photographers who needed accurate colour rendition above all else.
It had an exposure range of 1/10,000 to 1/10 of a second without the need for any filter correction or exposure compensation.
Like all slide films, it was designed to be developed using the E6 process. That said, you could cross-process it if you wanted.
Cross-processing fresh slide film is a stylistic choice because it’ll give you colour shifts and other unpredictable elements in your results.
However, it’s often recommended with expired slide film as it’s more likely you’ll get at least some results if the film happens to have degraded, as my DSF clearly had here.
I can’t find a datasheet for Ektachrome EPN, but there is one for the newer Ektachrome E100 right here if you need some help going in the general right direction. I can’t promise the details will be exactly the same as for EPN, though.
Where to buy Dental Photographic Slide Film
Where to buy Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film? Probably nowhere, to be quite honest with you. Not in its DSF guise, at least. Not from your local film shop – unless you have a time machine – and not from the regular places online either.
I was lucky enough to find a single roll in a shop in Shanghai, and I think that kind of random happenstance is likely your best chance of coming across some. Just by stumbling across it in a shop selling expired film somewhere. You just might, but you just might not. And let’s face it, you probably won’t.
But then again, why even worry whether you do? If you really want to shoot this film, why not just get some Ektachrome EPN and enjoy having 36 frames to play with instead of 12 or 13? There’s usually some on eBay and sometimes also on Etsy, which seems a fair place to get expired film from nowadays too.
You can check current prices and availability through the links below.
Final thoughts on Dental Photographic Slide Film
Given the results I got from this Dental Photographic Slide Film, it would be easy to say it was a waste of time and money buying it, shooting it, and getting it developed.
I disagree. First of all, everything I shoot is something I can write about on here, and you wouldn’t be reading this now had I not shot the DSF.
Second, if you’ve set yourself a long-term and possibly even lifelong project to shoot as many films as you can, picking up something like a Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film when you get the unexpected chance is equally as important as getting some Kodak Gold, Ilford HP5, or Fuji C200.
Perhaps even more important actually, because you can get those anytime, from almost anywhere. Until Fuji inevitably discontinue C200, that is. With a DSF, that chance might not come again.
On that note, maybe I should look out for a roll of Kodachrome EPN now. Just to see if I get any better results from giving it another go, and also as it’d be another film on the list of ones I’ve shot.
Everything is an opportunity for learning too, and I might still be none the wiser about base fog as a concept if this Dental Slide Film hadn’t introduced me to it. And you might still not have heard of it either.
All in all, while the results were ultimately very bad, nothing much was lost in terms of time and money, and some things were gained in terms of experience and knowledge.
And may the photographic Gods spare you the kind of base fog I had here if you do. 🙂
If you found that Kodak Dental Photographic Slide Film review useful, why not take a look at these to learn about even more great films:
- Shooting some fresh Kodak slide film
- A comprehensive review of a far more common Kodak film
- Check every single film review on My Favourite Lens
And if you think others will enjoy or benefit from this film review too, help them find it by giving it a share. 😀