When a photographer bought a 1929 camera at second-hand store, he discovered 70-year-old film inside and was able to develop it

Goran Blazeski
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The hunt for something special at a second-hand shop is marked by excitement over not only finding a good price but also the details of discovery. It can be quite a surprise when you scrutinize your purchase at home. For Martijn Van Oers’ the surprise element was something truly amazing.

The Dutch photographer had paid a visit to a second-hand store in the Netherlands and what caught his attention was an original Zeiss Ikon 520/2 –a folding medium-format camera. Designed by Dr. August Nagel and produced by the German company Zeiss Ikon, the 520/2 is a unique piece that uses 120 roll film and classic Tessar lens.

Every passionate photographer would gladly own a camera like the Zeiss Ikon 520/2 and Martijn Van Oers is definitely one. He had the opportunity to buy it and he didn’t regret his decision.

Zeiss Ikon 520/2. Author: Martijn Van Oers


Zeiss Ikon 520/2. Author: Martijn Van Oers


The exposed roll of film Martijn Van Oers found inside the camera. Author: Martijn Van Oers

He wrote for Bored Panda that the camera looked barely used when he found it. However, what truly surprised him was that the camera was holding a roll of film with the word “EXPOSÉ” on it.

Woman posing in Biarritz – Author: Martijn Van Oers

Van Oers did a little research and discovered that the camera was built around 1929, and according to him the film was produced sometime between the 1940s and the 1970s.

Woman posing in Biarritz –Author: Martijn Van Oers


Man posing in Biarritz – Author: Martijn Van Oers

Considering the fact that the film was produced at least 40 years ago, the chances to recover actual photos were very slim, but he decided to give it a try.

1920s Flappers Slang

Van Oers’s friend Johan Holleman, who develops his own film, offered to help him but warned that there was little chance of success.

Woman posing in Biarritz – Author: Martijn Van Oers

“I found myself in Johan’s kitchen documenting him working his magic on what later turned out to be almost 70-year-old film. The moment the processed film was taken from the container, we were both stunned, as there actually seemed to be photos on the negatives,” Van Oers wrote for Bored Panda.

Developing the 70-years-old roll of film. Author: Martijn Van Oers

They joined forces to scan the negatives and discovered that there were four images containing just enough detail so they could tell when the owner of the camera used it for the last time.

Developing the 70-year-old roll of film. Author: Martijn Van Oers

From what he was able to spot on one of the photos, he assumed that the Zeiss Ikon 520/2 belonged to a man appearing in one of the pictures, carrying the camera’s case over his right shoulder. In the other three photos, there is a woman, posing in a city.

Van Oers’ friend warned him the chances to recover actual photos were very slim. Author: Martijn Van Oers

After Van Oers and Holleman successfully finished developing the film, the Dutch photographer decided to share the images with the public, posting them on his Facebook page.

Developing the 70-years-old roll of film. Author: Martijn Van Oers

And once again Van Oers made the right decision, as one of his Facebook friends quickly recognized the place where the photos were taken, commenting that it was Biarritz–a city in the Basque country in southwestern France.

Developing the roll of film. Author: Martijn Van Oers

This beautiful city was once a small fishing village, but it was thanks to Empress Eugenie de Montijo, the wife of Napoleon III who often spent her summers there, that it was transformed into a glamorous destination.

Author: Martijn Van Oers

His friend had visited the city several times, so he sent Van Oers a Google Streetview image of the place and convinced him that it was actually Biarritz.

Google Streetview screenshot of the place where one of the old images was taken

If you are interested in seeing more of his work, make sure to check out his Instagram profile, where you can find some stunning images created by Van Oers.

Author: Martijn Van Oers

Van Oers described the images as “a small treasure-chest–or time capsule–giving us a tiny glimpse into the past.”

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He hopes to one day learn who the people are and be able to hand over these negatives to their relatives.