View Full Version : Dumb Film Temperature Question

1-Feb-2011, 12:51
Hello All,

It's been awhile since I've been active on here, but I've started using my 4x5 set-up again after a long hiatus.

I have a dumb question regarding film. The overnight low tonight is going to get down to -19F (-28C). I'm planning on getting up early to go shooting tomorrow as I really enjoy the effects of such cold weather. The long clouds of steam off of cars/buildings/etc. is fascinating to me.

I don't think I've ever shot film in weather like this though. It's always been digital. I'm curious if such temperatures will affect the film at all. Will film speed or anything be affected? Do I need to acclimate the film holders for awhile before I go shooting?

Thanks in advance for any help!

Lynn Jones
1-Feb-2011, 14:12
Chris, at about freezing you will lose a stop of film speed, your camera should be OK, however.


Gem Singer
1-Feb-2011, 14:22
Be careful breathing on the ground glass.

After coming in from the cold, don't warm things up too fast. Could cause condensation on camera, as well as film.

1-Feb-2011, 14:32
I have never noticed any speed change whatsoever.

Your shutter may or may not work in the extreme cold, or it might run slow.

You will fog up the ground glass easily.

Your negatives may 'pop' after you draw the darkslide, because of the cold air hitting them. I recommend pulling the dark slide and waiting 10-30 seconds before shooting.

1-Feb-2011, 14:38
Really? You loose a stop at freezing? I have never experienced that. Never heard that before either. Let the film acclimate to the outside temps (I put the DD's in ziplocks and wait a good 20+ minutes) before using so the film doesn't fog. I've got 2 lenses where the shutter will stick so there's a bit of care on my part there. And I make sure the lense does not fog-up (don't ask).

1-Feb-2011, 15:12
Definetely test your shutter before burning a sheet- older shutters will probably stick like crazy.

Mark Woods
1-Feb-2011, 15:23
Film cameras use kerosene as a lube because the grease will get too stiff. Also, lenses are left out to acclimate. If a lens is brought into the cold, whatever moisture in the air generally will fog the lens and freeze.

The shots sound interesting. Good luck.

1-Feb-2011, 15:56
I'd keep the gear in at night and it should acclimate as you travel to your shooting location and set up. Shutter might be running a little slow in the extreme cold. Depending on how your shutter is lubed, it could be slow by a stop; test the slower speeds for a seat-of-the-pants comparison before you put film in it.

Basically you can cool the stuff down as fast as you want, just don't force it to warm back up. Don't unload the film from the holders or unpack the gear till it's back to normal room temperature.

I have a cheap ball head that isn't tight in such temperatures, but otherwise my equipment works fine in the cold. The ball head is just one tripod option.

Have fun!

1-Feb-2011, 16:53
I've shot in cold like that many times before, and the two problems (other than keeping yourself warm!) are the shutter sticking, and condensation.
I had one shutter that was good enough in normal temps, but at 1/2 and 1 sec, it would just hang up for several seconds.
Going out into the cold isn't so bad, but as others mentioned, coming back into the warmth is when all the condensation will occur. Even going into a heated car can cause this. Keep everything well wrapped up for a couple of hours when back in the warmth. Use plastic bags around your camera and holders if your camera bags don't seal well.
Never have run into any issues with the film speed being different at low temps.

Bruce Barlow
2-Feb-2011, 04:30
Richard Ritter protects his ground glass with a cut-to-size sheet of Plexi, attached to the back of the camera with velcro buttons at each corner. When it's cold, he composes and rough-focuses with the sheet on, so any condensation happens on it.

At the last second, he takes it off, fine-focuses, and quickly makes the exposure, returning the protective sheet as quickly as possible. He claims not to have condensation problems, and I believe him.

I s'pose one could also hold one's breath...

We also wrap our gear in blankets when bringing it back inside, so that it warms up slowly. That seems to mitigate condensation issues. Not that there's any actual humidity in my house right now anyway.

2-Feb-2011, 08:26
Thank you all for the advice. I did manage to convince myself to get up out of bed and brave the cold (although it wasn't quite as bad as forecast -- it only made it down to -17F (-27C)). The shutter did stiffen up on me and slowed down a bit. I took a few different shots guessing at what the speeds were doing. Hopefully one will yield a usable negative.

Thanks again!