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Similar to my other storage question, what needs to be done for the long term storage of undeveloped film?

I know that heat is very bad for film (especially color) and that I should store it in a cool\cold environment.

I have some rolls that I want to store in the freezer and I'd like to know about what needs to be done when I'm ready to use them.

Can I just pull them straight from the freezer and load them or do I need to slowly warm them back up to room temperature?

Just for fun, let's assume that I put them in the freezer (prior to expiring) and I pull them out a couple of years after their expiration date.

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There is a Kodak publication with guidelines on this here: Storage and Care of KODAK Photographic Materials

The official line from Kodak 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."

However, acceptable results are widely obtained from film that has been frozen in an attempt to extend its usable life.

Store film in the unopened packaging it comes in. For 35mm film, that means in the plastic canister, and for 120 film, it means in the unopened foil wrapper. This protects the film from moisture in the environment.

Store film in the freezer, rather than the refrigerator. This is critical for C-41/E-6 films. Traditional black and white film is better able to withstand storage at relatively higher temperatures, but for long-term storage, even black and white film should probably be stored in the freezer.

Film cannot be stored indefinitely, because natural cosmic radiation will also have adverse effects on the film, and there really isn't much you can practically do to avoid that. Higher ISO films will suffer damage more quickly in this respect than lower ISO films.

When you want to use film after cold storage, you just need to allow it to fully return to room temperature before use. Refer to the Kodak publication linked above for guidelines on how long to allow for this depending on the film format. Also, wait until the film has returned to room temperature before opening the sealed packaging - otherwise condensation could form on the film.

A good guideline is that freezer storage will lengthen the usable life of film by roughly ten times (for slower films of ISO 100 and below). So if a film has an expiration date two years away, then freezing it will allow it to be stored for up to 20 years and still obtain acceptable results.

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Pulling film straight from the the freezer and putting it directly into a camera would be a Bad Thing™ as condensation will form on the cold film. And liquid water is something that you don't want to be putting into your camera!

What I would do is to bag the film1 before storing and then when needed pull it out and allow it to acclimate while still within the bag. Once that has happened then and only then crack open the bag and drop the film in the camera. That way you minimize the amount of condensation that comes into contact with the film and camera.

[1] Of course the film is probably already still in the airtight bag/container it was sold with, so an additional bag is overkill.

  • Assuming that we are freezing bulk loaded film. I was talking prepackaged cassettes, but don't edit your answer because it is still very helpful and when someone else comes looking for help with bulk film then they will have their answer. – SailorCire Apr 20 '15 at 15:59
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Besides condensation, as was mentioned multiple times, it's also worth considering that very cold film can be brittle and break when you try to bend it or roll tightly when loading. - This is mentioned almost everywhere, I just thought I'd add it here as well.

So yes; Let cooled or frozen film adapt to the temperature of the environment you will be using it in to prevent different issues. - It's recommended that you let cooled film sit for about an hour or two, but frozen film an hour or two to three even. - Of course, letting it sit for some extra time, still somewhere moderately cool and definitely dry, will always be safe.

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