Suppose you found some old film and a camera and are looking to try your hand at photography. How long will that film last before it becomes unusable?
It depends on the film type and how it is stored.
Or perhaps you found some old albums with developed film in them. Can you still get those photos printed?
Again, it depends on the film type and how it has been stored.
In this post, we’ll talk about how long different types of film last and what you can do to make them last longer.
Types of Film
There are three general categories of film: black-and-white, color negative, and color slide.
Black-and-white film is the oldest type of film and has been around since the late 1800s. It is typically made of silver chloride and has a very long shelf life.
Color negative film was developed in the mid-20th century and is made of three layers of emulsion. The bottom layer is sensitive to blue light, the middle layer is sensitive to green light, and the top layer is sensitive to red light. This type of film typically has a shelf life of 10-15 years if stored properly.
Color slide film was also developed in the mid-20th century and is made of two layers of emulsion. The bottom layer is sensitive to blue light, and the top layer is sensitive to red light. This type of film typically has a shelf life of 5-10 years if stored properly.
All types of film are sensitive to light, heat, and humidity. They should be stored in a cool, dark place in airtight containers.
Black-and-white film can last for decades if stored properly.
Color negative and color slide film will start to degrade after 10-15 years if not stored properly. The colors will start to fade and the film will become brittle.
What You Can Do
If you find old film, the first thing you should do is check the expiration date. If it has expired, the film may still be usable, but it will be more difficult to develop.
If the film has not expired, you should try to develop it as soon as possible. The longer the film is left undeveloped, the more difficult it will be to develop and the lower the quality of the final product will be.
If you are not able to develop the film yourself, you can take it to a professional lab.
If you are not able to develop or print the photos, you can still scan them into a digital format. This will preserve the images and you will be able to view them on a computer or print them out.
How long will 35mm film last?
35mm film typically lasts 10-15 years if stored properly. Color films are made of three layers of emulsions, and the dyes tend to degrade at different rates. This can cause the colors to shift and fade over time.
Some films end up more blue, while others take on a magenta hue. Black-and-white film with silver halides degrade much slower than color dyes.
Other issues that can plague films are physical damage like scratches, water damage, and mold.
Interestingly enough, consumer grade film has a longer life span than professional grade film. This is because the chemicals used in professional film are more sensitive to light and heat.
How long does exposed film last?
It depends on the film type and how it is stored. Generally, exposed black-and-white film lasts nearly indefinitely, color negative film lasts 10-15 years, and color slide film lasts 5-10 years. However, these times can vary depending on the quality of the film and how it is stored.
How long does developed film last?
Once the film is developed, it will last indefinitely if stored properly. The developed film is not sensitive to light or humidity and will not fade over time. Research by Kodak found that developed negatives stored in dark, cool conditions can last over 1000 years, but only if the temperature is near freezing and there is very little humidity!
Film can last a very long time if it is stored under the proper conditions. If you find old film, pop it into a camera and take some photos! That’s the best way to see how it’s held up over time!