Digital images were made of Bamberg Observatory Sky Patrol plates of the field surrounding the active-chromosphere star CF Octantis (HD 196818). These images, taken with an inexpensive camera, were analysed using standard aperture photometry techniques. Good agreement was found with catalogued photographic magnitudes for stars in the range m pg ∼8.5 to ∼10.5. The root-mean-square deviations in the measured differences for non-variable field stars was found to be of order 0.10 mag, although a small number of larger differences occurred. For CF Oct, a period search of data from 1966 recovered the known 20 d variation due to starspot rotational modulation, with a range of variation of order 0.5 mag photographic. For active-chromosphere stars with moderately large photometric variations (>∼0.3 mag), and moderate to long rotation periods (>∼1 week), careful analysis of similarly obtained digital copies of archive plates may provide valuable insights into historical actvity.