View Full Version : Color film - deep freeze, how long is life?

18-Jan-2006, 11:02
No, its not another "film is dead" thread, well, maybe a little :-)

As many have done already, for various reasons, I am curious about stockpiling film in a deep freeze. Since film is relatively small in size, an inexpensive deep chest freezer can hold a ton of film. This is not only a final defense against a paticular emulsion being discontinued, but also a general question as many of us have film sitting in the freezer that is 5 years old.

From my experience, I have never had any issues with Fuji film in a deep freeze for 5 years. I know film makers date film for about one year from date of manufacture, but it seems it's life is so much longer then this. Just how well does deep freezing the film add life to the film? Is 10 - 15 years unreasonable? What temp is ideal, whereas lower temperatures offer no more benefit? When film is effected by age, how does it surface in the exposed image? Is it mostly color shifts or speed losses? I have never found any good references for this issue?


Pat Kearns
18-Jan-2006, 11:44
From what I have been told, and someone can correct me if I'm wrong. In the manufacture of color film the chemical coating dyes have to be aged to produce the proper color reproduction during exposure. The expiration date is when the aging process reaches a point that color shifts begin to effect the colors in reproduction. These shifts might be minor or insignificant at first but will change over the course of time. The freezing of the film tends to stop or severely slows the aging process. I have shot color film that had been frozen for about 10 years without any apparent significant color shifts. But then again, it was commercially processed at a professional printer and they may have had difficulties that weren't mentioned. If you are afraid of losing your favorite film then stock up your freezer. The only problem I would guess you might have is if the color processing chemicals change and you might have to search for someone to process it for you.

ronald moravec
18-Jan-2006, 12:03
Slow fiilms will last longer than fast ones. Then there is chemical process obsolesence. For black/white, buy you own chemicals for mixing developers and fix.

I consider silver papers more of a potential problem unless you get one without included chemicals that make it fog in 2/3 years. Freezing will not stop this deterioration.

Dan Fromm
18-Jan-2006, 12:40
It depends on the film speed. The faster the film, the faster cosmic radiation fogs it.

For all practical purposes, frozen ISO 25 film is good forever. Cold comfort, though, for those of us with KM still in the freezer, processing will vanish before the film goes bad.

Stephen Willard
18-Jan-2006, 14:01
I think Ron is right in noting chemistry will not keep very long. I am currently looking into find the formulas for C41 chemistry and mixing it myself. That way it maybe possible for me to inventory about 10 years of film and still have the means to process it myself.

If anyone knows what the formulas are for C41 developer, bleach, fixer, and stabilizer I would love to here from you.

Also, I suspect that if we can find a source of lead foil to line your freezer with, you would go a long ways toward protecting your film.

18-Jan-2006, 21:17

I store my E6 working solutions (in plastic bottles) in my deep-freeze at -22 Celsius. Froze a bunch over 6 months ago and just processed some film last weekend with great results; no noticeable changes with a test roll. I can't imagine a whole lot of oxidation occurring at that temp but who knows what'll happen over the very long term. There isn't a whole lot of info out there on freezing chemicals because it's widely held that freezing the concentrates will ruin 'em. My working solutions are mostly water, so naturally no precipitation occurs.

I don't really freeze my chems for ultimate longevity, mainly for convenience. It's a lot easier (and more accurate) to mix the entire 5L kit at once and freeze into 1L sized bottles than it is to try and draw off small amounts from the concentrates every time I want to process. When I processed last weekend, I simply took the 6 frozen bottles from the deep-freeze, placed them in the sink with hot water, they thawed out in 45 minutes and I was ready to process. No need to haul out my graduates, and other related mixing crap and no need to try and evacuate air or find smaller bottles for the concentrates. Couple that with a Jobo on a timer and all I have to do is show up; easy as pie.

Stephen Willard
18-Jan-2006, 22:54

Thanks for a short term solution to managing unstable developers. I think I will give a try with my C41 developer.

Did you fill the 1L plastic bottles full? Did you have any problems with them cracking?

tor kviljo
19-Jan-2006, 01:39
When Sweedish engineer Andre dissappeared on his baloon flight in the arctic, north of Spitsbergen, he and his fellows brought with them camera & film (B & W of couse - this is nearly 100 years ago....). The sad last retreat of the men were found more than 50 years later, and exposed film were discovered... This film had been subjected to yearly thaws followed by possibly multiple freezings every year those 50 years, still yelded very readable (& dramatic) negatives when the films were successfully developed (special tratment found after experimenting with unexposed film found at the site). Thus, talking about slow film in the 25 - 50/100 asa range, I guess properly low temp storage will store the film fit for use for a number of decennies. However, in areas with larger than normal background radiation, this iself may cause fogging over time of at least fast films. I have a collection of hideously old film (color & B&W) which I use for testing purpose when puttig together odd lens/camera combinations... But film from this stock strangely enough yelds well readable positives: I am surprised that you at all get an image when using outdated 1983 ektachrome 160T stored last 20 years in room temperature...... The films have good sharpness & all colors are reproduced, but with strong shift towards magenta - still - that is from 20 years pluss overstored film... Guess we are well hysterical about that film life. For those of us who use a scanner on our way to the print, minor fogging or color shift is not going to make any film become useless, so the "fresh-film" hysterias is for most thing a cry from the past, in my opinion.

19-Jan-2006, 12:34

It may actually turn out to be a long term solution but unfortunately only a long time will tell. When I fill my bottles, I make sure to leave room at the top for expansion, otherwise the bottles will crack.

22-Jan-2006, 10:04
>>It depends on the film speed. The faster the film, the faster cosmic radiation fogs it.

I've been hearing this frequently lately, and while I don't question the fact that cosmic radiation will have an effect over time, I do question whether it has enough effect over a short enough time to be of any practical consideration.

Has anyone using outdated but refrigerated film ever suffered fog clearly attributable to cosmic radiation?