beginner question: is my lab screwing up?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by pierods, Mar 31, 2008.

  1. pierods

    pierods Member

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    Hi,

    I am strongly suspicious that my lab is putting all the different films I am giving them in the same vat and using an "average" development time (or some other screwup).

    Two examples:

    - 5 rolls of delta 3200:

    4 rolls developed correctly (I think...). 5th roll, very strong contrast, "ILFORD" printing on edge is very "black", has soft, smudged lines.

    - 3 rolls, 1 panf, 1 fp4, 1 delta 100:

    fp4 looks gorgeous, ILFORD edge printing is super sharp, has "normal" black color.

    PANF has much contrast, high definition but zero middle tones, pictures look "burnt" in highlights.

    delta 100, looks good but lacks "shine" and middle tones.

    On both panf and delta 100, ILFORD edge printing very clear, straight lines but very faded.

    What gives?

    I don't know film or he's tossing everything in the same vat?
     
  2. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    why not speak to the lab and ask them what developer they use, what their method for developing your film is, discuss the problem with the result you are getting and see if you can work out with them whats going on. if they don't explain and don't help you get to where you want to go in your work then try another lab and see what results...
     
  3. pierods

    pierods Member

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    Well, I would do it, but I don't know film AT ALL. So whatever he tells me, I have to believe.

    Problem is I would like to have a "reference" roll for every film, so when I start developing myself, I can compare to the reference.

    I am very close to start developing myself, and at euro 13 /development, the process you describe can get expensive fast.

    Do you guys recognize the symptoms of ill-developed film?
     
  4. zenrhino

    zenrhino Member

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    13 euros a roll? Holy buckets. You'd save a fortune buying a small tank, a hewes reel and some chemistry. Its really not tough to do good b/w development (I mean, if I can, ANYONE can) and you get the control. You dont need a ton of gear (everything I use fits in a shoebox except the chem concentrate bottles) and if you use stainless reels (as opposed to plastic) you can find old Kindermann film dryer's cheap, too.

    Seriously -- find a nice tolerant film to start with (tri-x is my favorite) and some used gear and have at. You'll find a system that works for you and you'll get results you're much happier with while saving yourself from the poor farm.
     
  5. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    The price is high and the symptoms are those of all film going through one process without regard to film type. Most low end labs do it that way anyhow. We never segregated film when I worked for a photofinsiher as a teen. All went at one time in one tank.

    PE
     
  6. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    the cost of equipment to do your own processing is so low and its so easy to do that I would suggest you convert to doing it yourself straight away. You will save yourself a lot of money in the process and get high quality negs(after a little practice).

    Kit you need:

    film changing bag.
    can opener or film tab retreival device.
    developing tank. (Paterson or jobo 1520 are good( two reels for both are advisable)
    Thermometer (range 15C to 50C or above)
    3 600ml plastic bottles with screw on tops (to hold mixed chemistry) Jobo make these I think.
    50ml graduate
    100ml graduate
    300ml graduate
    2 litre measuring jug (also used for mixing stock solutions)
    a stirring rod
    1 or more 1 litre expanding bottles (for storing stock developer).
    film clips (for hanging film to dry (bulldog clips work OK))
    paper negative sleeves
    A kitchen washing up bowl to use as water reservoir at correct temperature.
    Developer
    Stop bath
    Fixer
    photoflow (aids even drying of film(not absolutely necessary))

    That lot should easily be under 200 Euros at the most if bought new.
     
  7. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    forgot, some very sharp scissors to cut film off roll.
     
  8. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    I'de be highly surprised if a pro lab is developing black and white film all at the one time. if this is happening OH MY GOD!!!
     
  9. pierods

    pierods Member

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    thanks to everybody for the advice.
     
  10. Jersey Vic

    Jersey Vic Subscriber

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    I am sure a fairly reputable lab in NYC was putting all of my various films through the same chemistry and process and overdeveloping most to boot. I learned this after developing my own film and by following the directions precisely. I got much better results.
    You will do a better, more conscientous and thoughtful job than a commercial lab.
     
  11. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    Ouchie

    Ouchie we arn't all careless labs. :sad:

    ~Steve
    The Lighthouse Lab
     
  12. David Grenet

    David Grenet Member

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    Clearly not all labs are as good as yours, Steve

    :smile:
     
  13. Jersey Vic

    Jersey Vic Subscriber

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    I KNOW Stephen does a great job and many do almost as good a job as Stephen but when you develop it, your control is unsurpassed.
     
  14. pierods

    pierods Member

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    Stephen,

    I know you Aussies are cowboys, and will keep your word, but this is Old Europe...

    I came here from the US, and I was in shock and awe...shameless and careless are the operating words here, suffice to say that I am using the best lab in Brussels...
     
  15. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    :smile:

    hey Vic i couldn't agree more, see the advantage of processing your own stuff is you can learn which developer works best for your tastes, which development time really is your optimum time agitation, dilution.... there is just so much you can tweak with black and white and it really is a medium where those subtle variations make fundamental differences. There are lots of great labs who do care for how your film is run, but the ability to be the one in control of your own film certainly has its benefits.

    ~steve
     
  16. eddym

    eddym Member

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    They don't really have to be all that sharp. (Nostalgic rambling alert!)
    24 years ago I set up a darkroom class in a local community center. As I was buying supplies for it, I began to worry about the possible liability issues that might arise when people I don't know start using sharp objects in the dark. So I bought a pair of plastic children's scissors, which had a thin strip of metal for a cutting edge, but blunted by the plastic body so that you would have to try really hard to hurt yourself... or somebody else.
    24 years later, I'm still using those scissors in my own darkroom to cut 35mm film. Every time I reach for the "real" scissors to cut 120 film, I get nervous!
     
  17. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    One quick thought about your films. Delta 3200 needs a lot more processing than the other films so it would be doubtful they were all put in the same soup, or at least at the same time. An even more charitable reading would be that as one roll was overprocessed, this may have been processed as a test and the other four may have been reduced accordingly. I've been processing film for clients for longer than I care to remember, and I will usually put a test roll through first if there is a batch of film, especially if it is for a new client. However, it is not unknown for some labs to increase the temperature of the dev so most film times become so close together, which then makes it easier to give a 'standard', dev time. There again, so many labs have shut down in the last few years, I expect there is less of this happening.
    All the best
    Mike
    PS. But processing it yourself will give the ultimate control!
     
  18. Mike Kennedy

    Mike Kennedy Member

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    The list provided by rob champagne is a great one.I would add a notebook to keep you developing data.
    You can download the "Massive Development Chart" to use as a guide and follow development instruction to the letter.As you become more at ease with the process you might want to tweak development times or agitation.The notebook servers as your reference point.
     
  19. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    PS

    PS. Steve's of course right. If it is a good lab, they should be fine to talk through their processing technique and which developers they use.
     
  20. pierods

    pierods Member

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    What happened with the delta 3200 was that I gave them the rolls over a period of time, one by one, so probably that forced them to develop them one at a time indeed.

    The fifth one had the smudgy lines and the big contrast, so I got suspicious. It's definitely different from the other rolls though, so maybe it's an actual delta 3200 process, but hurried or something like that.
     
  21. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    With your own equipment that you can buy secondhand via e-bay and maybe elsewhere I would virtually guarantee you will do better than the lab you describe on your first attempt, just by sticking to the times, temp, agitation routine etc given by the developer manufacturer. It is a fairly simple mechanical process. That's why machinery, properly set up can do it in labs.

    Oh and at 13 euros per film you will recover your cost of equipment after just a few films.

    pentaxuser