Refrigerating/Freezing Film ?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by paul_c|8, Mar 21, 2014.

  1. I have seen many a post on the web with differing answers so here goes, whats the deal with putting film in the fridge and the freezer ?
    How much longer does putting film in the fridge extend the films exp date ?
    How much longer does putting film in the Freezer extend the films exp date ?
    Does freezing film damage the film in anyway, say you have opened the canister before or you have take 120 of out the plastic wrapper, or c-41 film/e-6/B&W ?
    Is it ok to put film already exposed back into the refrigerator/freezer ?
  2. In my experience, a frost-free refrigerator/freezer is okay for unopened or opened film. The dry air minimizes the risk of moisture problems. But freezers that need to be defrosted may trap moisture between the film layers - particularly with medium format - and cause spots. The only time I've seen this problem with moisture spots between 120 film and the paper backing was with film stored in a chest freezer that needed to be defrosted a few times a year.
    For some alternative perspectives here are a couple other recent threads:
  3. How much longer the film will last depends on the speed of the film and how soon you froze it after it was purchased. Black and white will probably store better than color and obviously low speed longer than high speed. I don't think there is an exact answer, but over the last few months I have shot some rolls of Fuji Velvia that I threw in the freezer in 2005/2006 and they look good as far as I can tell. Any slight color shift is pretty easy to correct in post processing though.
    As long as you keep the film in its original unopened packaging you should be ok no matter what. If it's opened, then you risk the possibility of condensation forming, freezing and de-thawing and leaving spots. I have put exposed film back in the freezer if I know it will be a while before I develop them. I have never had any issues with this because the latent image is already on the film before any condensation issues could affect it. Any spots will wash away during developing.
  4. There are two main mechanisms that age film. Cooler temperatures slow down chemical degradation, but it won't stop radiation which is a concern with faster film. With low speed films (100 and slower) refrigerator storage will roughly triple the life of the film. Since most film products have an expiration date about 2 years after manufacture, a refrigerator will add about 4 years. Freezer storage will provide roughly 10X the life so you can add about 20 years. I've shot Kodachrome 64 that had been in my freezer for 25 years with acceptable results, but when I looked close at the shadows I could see slightly increased fog.
    As Daniel and others have said, a humidity resistant container is a must. The original unopened package is probably the best.
    As for radiation, the only way to stop it is with several hundred feet of material that has no natural radioactivity. Lead lined packages aren't enough. Kodak used to store master rolls of T-max 3200P in a freezer in a salt mine. Unless you know someone who works in a salt mine or have enough money to rent space in one, you can't stop radiation. High speed films (400 and above) are grainier at their expiration date than when fresh. When I used to shoot 800 speed film, I tried to make sure there was always at least a year until the film expired. I will admit to being a bit sensitive to this. I saw many radiation tests on Kodak films while I was helping to design new products.
  5. One caution: do not freeze Ektar 25. Some lots of the film grow crystals in the emulsion when frozen, ruining it. Only refrigeration is safe for Ektar 25. This doesn't apply to Ektar 100, or any other film that I know of.
  6. There's some info on this from Kodak here:
    Storage and Care of KODAK Photographic Materials
    The official line is:
    "While storage in a refrigerator or freezer can be highly beneficial, you should not rely on it to extend film life beyond the "Develop Before" date."
    "For consistent results, process the film, paper, or material promptly after exposure. This is particularly important with professional color films, because they are optimized for processing soon after exposure. Storage at a low temperature after exposure will retard latent-image changes. You can keep exposed, unprocessed film in a refrigerator for a few days when necessary."
    Though I'm not sure whose requirements are so critical that this kind of handling is necessary. In practice, I think the information given by the others above is more useful.
  7. John where do you get Ektar 25? I haven't used that film in a long time; its been discontinued.
  8. There is a risk in freezing Ektar 25. You might have a batch that is susceptible to coupler crystallization. Given that it was discontinued in the 90s, if it hasn't been frozen, it is sure to be degraded. Unless you are lucky enough to have rolls that have been frozen and are not susceptible to crystallization, Ektar 25 is not a viable option.
  9. Freezing Ektar 25 does not appreciably slow down its aging according to a Kodak tech I talked to at the time (15+ years ago). Has something to do with its unique emulsion chemistry. But ordinary film's life can be extended by decades if frozen, especially if it's less than 100 iso. But freezing does not prevent cosmic rays from slowly fogging film, so there will always be some loss of dmax.
  10. In practical use, non high speed film will last almost forever in the freezer, but that's with a non finicky amateur. A
    professional would probably be more particular. As people have said above high speed film is more problematic and my
    high speed infrared is probably even more problematic. I've had some in there since it went out of production and I'm still
    hoping I can use it though it might have deteriorated by the background radiation. Maybe I'll get some out and try it.
  11. Hi, I put my films in the fridge and open the cardboard carton and plastic canister before I shoot. Once I use the film, I put it back in the canister minus the film carton.
    In both cases, I keep the film in the fridge in closed zip lock bags. I do not put in freezer. The zip lock and canister helps .

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