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Thread: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

  1. #1

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    The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    I've haven't been diligently reading these forums the past several months and just yesterday I caught word of Astia Quickloads getting discontinued. Even though I only use Astia for maybe 1 out of 10 shots, this was disconcerting to say the least. The past few years I've been steeling myself for this moment.

    So I anxiously searched around the forum some more to see if any of my other film was affected. In 4x5, I use 160S QL (60%), 400NC (30%), and Astia QL (10%). In 8x10, I use 160S and 400NC equally. Slowly, one by one, I started to learn that every film format that I use is basically discontinued or no longer available in the U.S.

    I know this is just the precursor, but to me, yesterday, it really felt like The Film Apocalypse. I had that sinking feeling at first, which turned to determination. Funny, when I began LF a couple years ago I knew this time would come and I always believed that I could roll with it, adapt, and use whatever film was available. But I've come to love and rely on 400NC and 160S QL!

    So I jumped online and ordered a huge shipment of film and now I realize I don't have the freezer space to store it all and I don't know the best way to store it if I did. In the past, I've always just ordered film as needed and stored in the fridge!

    I've got several questions about how you store your film for maximum longevity.

    1) Do you do anything special when placing the film in the freezer? I put the film, in unopened boxes, in Ziploc bags. Any other tips?

    2) Is there any problem with thawing the film and then refreezing? Or once thawed, should I transfer the film to the fridge?

    3) Has anyone run into issues with condensation or defrosting?

    4) Any suggestions on freezers or types of freezer? Upright vs. Chest?

    5) How long can I expect the film to last if properly stored? I've read ranges of 6-10 years. What kind of degradation in the film can I expect if frozen for 6 years? How long can I freeze color negative film without any noticeable effects?

    6) How cold should the freezer be? Will colder temperatures lead to less degradation over time?

    7) Any idea how many 10 sheet boxes of 8x10 I can fit per cubic foot? 20 sheet QL boxes per cubic foot?

    Thanks for any tips you can offer!

    Side-questions: Anyone know where I can get 8x10 160S? Also, ironically, I learned of Astia QL's demise because I was searching the forums to see if anyone knew where to get 8x10 Astia! I was thinking of trying it out in 8x10 since everyone talks about how beautiful an 8x10 transparency is against a light box. Anyone know where I can get 8x10 Astia? If not, how does everyone find E100G?

  2. #2
    Cordless Bungee Jumper Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Re: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    Just put unopened film in the freezer.
    If film has been opened, I put it in the refrigerator. You could put it in Zip-Lock bags and then in the freezer.
    Leave time for the film to thaw out.
    I have frozen film for ten years without any problems.

    When I find out that a film is being discontinued, I buy up all I can to keep that film from the hoarders!

    Steve
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  3. #3

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    Re: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    Once the film has been opened you need to vacuum seal it till the box begins to cave in a bit. No ziplocs are 100 percent air/moisture tight.
    That said, I've got film (slide and color neg) from the early 90's that show's no sign of color shift or fog.

  4. #4

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    Re: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    If you are getting a freezer specifically for film, get a chest type freezer which are much less expensive. The hitch is that they are not frost free so you might need to defrost at some point.

  5. #5
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    Re: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    2) Is there any problem with thawing the film and then refreezing? Or once thawed, should I transfer the film to the fridge?
    I put opened film back in the freezer, even sheet film. Especially sheet film, because my color sheet film usage is very low, and my wife has banned film from the fridge. I seal them in a ziplock and try to suck all the air out of it, but I have put plain boxes back in the freezer before. I put exposed film back in the freezer in plain cardboard boxes.

    Has anyone run into issues with condensation or defrosting?
    No. I have even taken film right out of the freezer and loaded it in holders. No problems, but I would recommend letting it warm up. Kodak recommends 1/2 hour, I believe, for sheet film in boxes.

    How long can I expect the film to last if properly stored?
    This is my first-hand experience, with continuously frozen film:

    I have found 100 speed color slide film to be practically unaffected for 10 years after expiration. It may go longer. I'm not a pro film photographer that relies on perfect color balance, but I can't see anything wrong with the slides.

    I would expect 100 speed B&W film to last 20 years past expiration with no significant degradation. It will go longer, but with steadily increasing fog, grain, and slowness. I have shot lots of Ilford film from the 80s that was fine.

    400-speed B&W, I have limited experience with. I would expect it to last at least 10 years past expiration.

    For film stored at room temperature and worse circumstances, bets are off, especially for high-speed films. I have seen 3-5 year expired 400 speed B&W film already have increased base fog and grain, which can be significant for 35mm. I have shot some 10-year expired Ektachrome, that was completely junk.

    Also note that for whatever reason, sheets of film toward the middle of the box are better off than those on the ends. I had a 100 sheet box of old Ilford B&W that was terribly fogged in from the edges, but only the last 20 or so sheets in the stack. The inner 50 sheets or so were perfectly fine. So I guess if I was stockpiling film I would get the largest capacity boxes possible.
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  6. #6
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    Re: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    Dan: At the risk of reiterating things that others have said, here is my procedure:

    I have separate upright freezers and refrigerators that I purchased for use only for film. No worries about wives (or anybody else) complaining about valuable food storage space lost. My film freezer is the size that could hold two 20-pound turkeys if I wanted to squeeze them in and take the film out.

    Bulk film purchases I put in the freezer after sealing inside food-storage (vacuum-packing) bags. I do not use the vacuum function only the sealing function because I believe the heavy vacuum may be detrimental to long term storage. No scientific data to support that but just my opinion that heavy crushing forces from vacuum sealing against the film packs may not be so good. I try to squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing and I do it in a low humidity environment.

    Once a pack is out of the freezer for use I transfer unused amounts to the refrigerator and not back in the freezer. These amounts I keep in zip-lock bags for easy use and replacement.

    Simple as that.

    As others have said, I have some films that are over 10-years old in storage and I see no degradation.

    I hope this helps... and I hope you get no complaints from the wife. I mean, what could possibly be more important than storing discontinued film?

    One can always run down to the local supermarket and get another chicken... but not so with many valuable films. One has to make that perfectly clear.

    Cheers.

    Bob G
    All natural images are analog. But the retina converts them to digital on their way to the brain.

  7. #7

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    Re: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    This is great information!

    Bob and Vinny, I hadn't thought about using vacuum-sealed food bags. I'll need to look into that.

    Jerold, I think you're right about chest freezers. I looked into them briefly and they do seem a bit less expensive and I haven't found one that's frost free.

    BetterSense brought up another interesting point about storing exposed film in the freezer. Is this necessary? I never thought about exposed film degrading over time!

  8. #8

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    Re: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    Sooner or later, quicker with color, the emulsion and the backing will separate, whether frozen or not. All the freezer does is slow the process down.

    Moisture is what will ruin your film. An opened box belongs in a cool, dry place. Even with sealed wraps and bags, pulling it in and out of the fridge or freezer every six months will probably ruin your film faster than anything else.

    Buy ten sheet boxes of color if you aren't using it fast enough?

  9. #9
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    Re: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Petronio View Post
    Moisture is what will ruin your film. An opened box belongs in a cool, dry place. Even with sealed wraps and bags, pulling it in and out of the fridge or freezer every six months will probably ruin your film faster than anything else.
    Frank,

    Did you experience above? I am doing exactly that for the last 7 years or so, and have not seen any bad side affects

    I keep my stock in the freezer, and have a small amount (say 10 sheets or so) in my fridge. Fridge stock empty, thaw freezer stock and re-lad fridge stock..yeah way over kill I guess...

    best,

    Cor

  10. #10

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    Re: The Film Apocalypse and Proper Freezing and Storage of Film

    I worked for guys who would throw a half used box of color into a Ziploc and then throw that into the fridge too, with never a second thought, but then they would use it only for tests or toss it after a year or two anyway.

    But if you are thinking about long term "film to store as long as possible" then I would only want to freeze it once at the get-go, not cycle it.

    My most recent experience was 2006 EXP color neg that had the emulsion lift in spots this Summer. that's four years over, with good but not frozen storage.

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