A 90degrees geometry two-beam coupling configuration was used to investigate the storage properties of 0.03 mol% iron-doped lithium niobate. Photographs of the real image and the subsequently stored images showed partial spatial fading. The maximum diffracted light intensity against recording time rapidly increased, reaching a maximum before gradually decaying. Decay time constants against recording time, t(rec) varied in the same way as the diffracted intensity. Both plots reached a maximum at the same recording time of 3 min (I approximate to 0.8 W cm(-2)) and 12 min (I approximate to 0.4 W cm(-2)). Erasure decay times were found to vary with recording time; the best value found in this work was 8.5 min. Erasure curves all displayed an initial oscillatory nature, which may result from oscillation of the diffraction grating via a slow damped oscillation of the constituent electrons. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.