4x5 negative storage

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Thanks so much to everyone who has helped me with so many questions in the past months. Your answers have been invaluable! I just processed my first set of 4x5 negatives and am thrilled.

The big question now is the proper storage of negatives. Since I am just starting in this format I need advice on setting up a good storage system from the start.

I have seen the binder pages that are clear plastic and store (4) 4x5's, but it looks like you have to really grab the negative with your fingers to get them back out of the pockets.

I have seen individual clear plastic sleeves which look a lot easier to handle, but then how do you store and label these?

Any other spiffy options out there? Any great handling advice?

Thanks again to all for continuing support. Once I get more experienced, hopefully I can start to contribute to the forum.


-- Scott Jones (scottsdesk@home.com), March 25, 2001


Scott, I've been using Printfile's storage system for my LF negs. They are made from a clear material that is archivally sound ( no PVC) and allows you to contact print the negs without removing them from the sleeve. Each is punched for storage in a ring-binder and holds 4 5x4 negs. Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), March 25, 2001.

Scott, I would check with the folks at Light Impressions. They have several interesting choices. I personally am very happy using individual mylar interleaving holders which then slip into achival envelopes for storage.

-- mitch Rosen (mitchrosen@sprintmail.com), March 25, 2001.

Agree with Paul...the PrintFile archival perservers is the way to go. You can easily grab the negative by the clear edge and pull them out.

-- Don Sparks (Harleyman7@aol.com), March 25, 2001.

As Don says, the PrintFile Archival Preservers work well and you can pull out the negative by gripping the clear area. My practice is to wear cotton gloves (sold for the purpose) while handling negatives, so that I won't have accidental fingerprints and don't have to be so careful to grip the clear portion of the negative.

-- Michael Briggs (michaelbriggs@earthlink.net), March 25, 2001.

Scott: I have to agree...go with the Printfile sleeves. The sleeves protect the negs and they are easy to locate. There is room at the top of the sheet to list the negs. The negs are easy to locate. I file duplicate negs together and clip the corner on the one that I print from, saving the other as a spare. Don't buy the cheapie sleeves...get the archival ones. Smell the plastic sleeves...if they smell strongly like plastic, don't use them.



-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), March 25, 2001.

I have gotten away from anything that requires me to pull and slide the negs in and out. The reason is the small scratches that come with it on the negs I print from more often. With the LF negs I go with the Light Impressions product previously mentioned. They just fold open and work well. For 35mm I switched to the Savage film-lok system so I can just lift the negs out rather than sliding them against the plastic on the way in and out. Get a batch of both & see what works best for you as we all may prefer different systems.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), March 25, 2001.

This brings up question I have been meaning to ask. I've just started shooting 4 x 5 and have used mostly Polaroid Type 55, and currently store the negatives in the PrintFile holders mentioned earlier. Are the Type 55 negs bigger than regular b&w film? I have a devil of a time getting them in to the sleeves. The corners of the thin negs often catch in the plastic, the fit is very tight, and in all this wrestling around I'm always worried about buckling the neg so much that it creases. Am I doing something wrong? Are these sleeves just not designed for Type 55 negs? (Someday soon I hope to have a standard sheet of film to compare to, but that day has not yet come.)

-- stephen gregory (smg@netcom.ca), March 26, 2001.

Please check the Light Impressions (800-828-6216). You can buy 4x5 Format NegaGuard Box Kits (Item # 5064 or 5042 or 9461 or 9462). The differences of these items are the box color (tan or black) and the style (polypropylene or Mylar D). The price around $26 to $33 for a box and 100 interleaving folders and 100 envelops. I use them to store my negatives. They are great.

-- Yong-ran Zhu (yzhu@mcw.edu), March 26, 2001.

Scott, the Printfile sleeves are generally not recommended for long term storage, because of slip agents in the sleeve (makes it easier to slide the negs in), and the fact that you can scratch the negs this way as well. Just because they're not stinky like PVC, and say "archival" on them, doesn't mean they're good for the long term. I think maybe less than 10 yrs. would be a good estimate, but it would depend on your storage conditions. What can happen is the sleeve can stick to the neg. and transfer this pattern to it. They call it "ferrotyping". I've seen it happen to negs in a decent storage environment, and because of this, we switched everything out several years ago. Although, we still use the 4-up pages for short term use sometimes. If you want a good measure of what is considered to be an "archival" product, check out the specs for a sleeve/envelope to see if they pass the Photographic Activity Test (P.A.T.). This is an independent test given by the Image Permanence Institute to see if the product effects the print/neg material in storage. Usually a catalog or vendor, will state someplace that they are in compliance with this test. If they don't, it doesn't mean it's a "bad" product, it may be good for some purposes.

For our long term storage we use either Mylar D (the best) or uncoated polypropolene (cheaper) fold-lock sleeves. Depending on whether it's a b&w or color transp. these go into a buffered or unbuffered acid/lignin free envelope. All this is stored in a baked enamel filing cabinet made for film. We've got alot of negs/ct's, but if you were on a small scale, you could use one of the flip-top box kits that these supply companies sell. Here's a short list of some other places to try besides LI. Gaylord Bros., University Products, the Hollinger Corp., Archivart, Metal Edge Inc., Conservation Resources Int'l. Personally, I'd look at Gaylord and Hollinger, but there are other places besides LI.

All this stuff can be pretty confusing to sort out, feel free to email if you want, about a third of my job deals with filing...one other thing too, even if you get a "good" sleeve, make sure you store your negs in a cool& dry place. Humidity and higher than room temp. heat can really shorten the life of your film.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), March 26, 2001.

Stephen, no you're not doing anything wrong, a Type 55 neg won't fit in the p-file sleeve. I usually trim just the slightest bit of the long edge off the neg, to get it into the sleeve. They'll fit a top-loading sleeve (fold-lock) okay though.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), March 26, 2001.

> Stephen, no you're not doing anything wrong, a Type 55 neg won't > fit in the p-file sleeve.

It will, I think, fit in their 4x5 Polaroid sheet, though I recall it depend a bit on how much you keep on the top of the neg

Tim A

-- tim atherton (tim@KairosPhoto.com), March 26, 2001.

"...no you're not doing anything wrong" Phew! I'll try out the envelope-style sleeves. The local shops don't carry the Polaroid holders. Thanks for clearing that up for me. (Now if I could just get a handle on all the other photographic areas where things tend to go awry. Like focussing, stuff like that...)

-- stephen gregory (smg@netcom.ca), March 26, 2001.

I had been using the standard Print File pages for many years but a few years ago Iswitched to Print File Style No. 45-HB POL pages.

The pockets on these 4-pocket pages are large enough to put the Polaroid negative (or print) in, or a sleeved 4x5 negative or transparency in, so you can remove the film from the page without having to touch the film. They make a similar page for 120/220 and also 35mm, but that product line is called Print File ULTIMA.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), March 26, 2001.

I would like to echo Mr. Thompson's advice on the storage of 4x5" negatives. Printfile storage is not all that it's cracked up to be. I've had film "stick" inside these sleeves many times over the years and ruin perfectly good negs.. These were not stored in bad locations either. Working at a museum of history makes part of my job responsible for the long term storage of film. We have found that using a polypropylene or mylar fold-loc sleeve in conjunction with an acid-free, buffered envelope, stored in metal cabinets is the way to go.

-- Eric N. Blevins (eblevins@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), March 26, 2001.

Has anyone else had problems with Print File Archival Preservers, such as negatives sticking? Perhaps this would be a good poll for the main page. I have used them for over 15 years without any problems.

The following links have PrintFile's explanations of their products: http://www.printfile.com/archive.html http://www.printfile.com/faq.html

-- Michael Briggs (michaelbriggs@earthlink.net), March 27, 2001.

Michael, you may want to check out what Henry Wilhelm has to say about low-density polyethylene enclosures (like Print-File) in his book "The Permanence & Care of Color Photographs" chapter 14. He does not recommend them for the long haul. I've noticed the worst problem with these have been when the negs. are stored in a binder/notebook (like many are designed to do).

-- Eric N. Blevins (eblevins@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), March 27, 2001.

Mr. Thompson and Mr. Blevins, I appreciate your efforts to share your knowledge of archival storage to photographers. But, I am concerned that your knowledge of the Print File archival preserver product line isnít complete. I assume that you are relying in part on Henry Wilhelmís book since Mr. Blevins references it. This book was written on research that was as much as twenty years old when published almost a decade ago. He explained to us that the information about our product line was so old because he didnít have time to update information about every product and company he wrote about.

When his book was published we had already developed negative preservers for sheet film sizes that would accommodate the fold flap type sleeves that he advises to use. We then introduced our Ultima line of preservers to accommodate 35mm and 120 formats in fold flap sleeves. The sleeve protects film from any scratches as it is inserted or removed from our preserver and allows you to use Mylar sleeves if you prefer. Most of these preservers can then be used in our hanging file system that prevents the negatives from being pressed against the enclosure because the plastic hanger is thicker than the negative and sleeve. This is another major factor causing films to block or ferrotype. The other two major factors you already mentioned are high temperature and high humidity.

We extrude our own film at Print File from custom manufactured polyethylene resin for our other negative preservers. This allows us to use much lower slip additives than commodity grade polyethylene in order to reduce the blocking tendency. Print File archival preservers have been tested by Image Permanence Institute and have passed the PAT.

There is some concern for blocking or ferrotyping in any smooth enclosure including Mylar D or polypropylene. So even if your other environmental conditions are controlled and you are using Mylar sleeves it is possible to have this problem if you pack your files to tightly in your cabinet, it may just take longer.

Michael Collins Production Manager Print File, Inc.

-- Michael Collins (Michael@PrintFile.com), April 04, 2001.

Michael, I am basing my statements on things that I have actully seen happen. I was just referenceing Mr. Wilhelm's book because he too had mentioned similar problems. I have no experience with the new Print-File sleeves, so I cannot comment on them.

-- Eric N. Blevins (eblevins@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), April 04, 2001.

Mr. Collins, thanks for your response, I went to your FAQ page the other day and saw that you were citing ANSI IT 9.2 , but did not come flat out and refer to this as the PAT test. It is my understanding that the PAT tests for chemical reactions to photos/negs, not actual physical damage. So, yes you could be in accordance with PAT, and Printfile sleeves may not cause color shifts, or staining, but they could cause physical damage such as "abrasions & blocking" and still pass the test. Also, since this is an independent test that the manufacturer pays for, the results are private, unless the manufacturer decides to make some (or all) of it available. I agree with you though, that using any plastic enclosure in a hot/humid environment, under pressure is bad. I think the general recommendation is that when the RH approaches 65% and higher, that paper enclosures are preferred.

I have only encountered this problem a few times, over the span of several years. So, when Wilhelm's book came out, it was an "eye opener" for us, because we saw that we weren't the only ones. I think the problem may be isolated in a way, maybe there are bad runs of low density polyethylene, where the amount of additives fluctuate, so while a batch of sleeves may be okay, some aren't. I have no idea what the correspondence between you all and Mr. Wilhelm were at the time of his research, so I can't comment on that, other than to say that if you had passed the PAT back in 1993, I think he might have mentioned this. I wasn't going to say anything more after another post talked about your Ultima sleeves "being good so you don't touch the film". I figured they were introduced to use locking sleeves with, so the film is not physically touching the polyethylene. This would keep your filing system up to date. I have noticed Light Impressions HD Polychrome sleeves follow the same sort of recommendation.

As I said above, does this make your product (Printfile) a bad product? No, I believe they're are good for some uses. But, based on my experience with them, even if it only has happened a couple of times, that is enough.

I'm basing my understanding of the PAT off the IPI website. I know this link probably isn't formatted right but here it is:


We have in the past used alot of printfile sleeves here, and we still do for short term uses, such as exhibit "books" that contain copy negs of photos that we may have one-time use rights only on. But, we are changing all the long term files out, and have been for the past 5 years or so. When someone says the term "archival", which isn't even used anymore in the ANSI, or ISO tests, it is implied (to the average person) that it will last forever. In truth it is very hard to make something last forever. To me, when I see the word "archival" used on a product, I think of it as a marketing word.

Again, I'm not saying Printfile makes bad products. Some people have used them for many years and have had no problems, but then others have. If I were to offer "advice" as you put it, it would be to educate yourself about what the term "archival" means to you (the photographer) personally. It means alot of different things to people, and you all may find that Printfile sleeves fit your personal definition.

D. Kent Thompson

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), April 04, 2001.

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