Amazon has been accused of improperly storing its film by Coastal Film Lab, a film developer in Tampa, Florida, as well as through multiple anecdotal complaints in online groups.
In a post published on Instagram and in a discussion in a private Facebook group, both spotted by PopPhoto, Stephen Swett from Coastal Film Lab decided to see if reports of bad film purchased from Amazon were true.
“We have recently noticed a number of customers with fresh film from Amazon getting really poor results,” Swett says. “We decided to buy some Portra 400 from them to test and see, and sure enough it seems they are storing it improperly.”
After receiving his order, Swett developed the film and the results led him to believe that Amazon isn’t storing the film correctly.
“We recently discovered that alarmingly bad results have been coming back from film purchased from Amazon,” he writes. “Exposed at ISO 100, the in date Portra film, developed in fresh, control strip tested C41 chemistry came out severely fogged with incorrect base color and poor tonality. As a result, we are advising customers to completely avoid purchasing film from Amazon, as it is evident they are not storing it correctly. Instead, buy from your local photo retailer! They care much more and understand how to store in properly. Please share this far and wide!”
This is hardly a scientific test, but it is worth taking into consideration with other reports that something is not right with film ordered from Amazon. As part of his report, PopPhoto‘s Stan Horaczek added that, anecdotally, he has experienced similar issues from the massive online retailer.
“I had a very similar experience just a few years ago when I got a great deal on 20 rolls of Kodak Ultra Max 400 from Amazon, only to find out that it had almost certainly suffered heat damage,” he writes.
Horaczek says that at least some of the issues with ordering film through Amazon might stem from the fact that it’s not necessarily Amazon that is storing the film, but how third-party sellers who list film on the marketplace treat it. That said, if issues are arising from any film labeled “shipped and sold by Amazon,” that would fall on the Seattle-based online marketplace.
Film is difficult to heat damage through shipping. As Horaczek points out, heat fluctuations are bound to occur during shipping. Very infrequently is film moved on refrigerated trucks. In order to cause the kind of damage Coastal Film Lab and others are seeing, the film would have to be exposed to very high temperatures for long periods of time.
Film buyers who are worried about the quality of purchased film should absolutely take Coastal Film Lab’s advice and buy from a trusted, local distributor. All others who can’t will likely find great results from longstanding photography dealers like Adorama.
Image credits: Header photo by Joe Green.