The results of C41 mini-labs compared to pro labs

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by ted_smith, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Hi

    I've been using a really good lab here in the UK for a couple of years now (www.the-darkroom.co.uk), and whilst they have a rapid turnaround time (usually only 2 or 3 days), reasonable rates and they produce fine results, the time lag is still an irritance as I don't live locally to them so I have to wait due to postage. Conversally, I could use one of several local mini-labs in ASDA supermarket, Boots etc a mile up the road for me and use their 1 hour service.

    I'm curious to know if, when it comes to the development of C41 35mm negatives and reversal films, would there be any difference between the pro lab and these 1-hour standard processing labs?

    I realise when it comes to prints, enlargements and professional scanning the pro lab will be far better and I will always pay for their services, but just for a standard development and standard scan to CD of some family shots, would the mini lab suffice or would there be a notable difference in quality?

    The films I use are Fuji Pro 160S and 160C, and Fuji Superia 200

    Ta

    Ted
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 3, 2010
  2. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    For family and happy snaps the 1hr route is the way to go.
    Most minilabs use roller transport **bad , bad, bad for scratches and smudges** and use Ice programs to clean surface scratches so you do not notice crap on your prints .

    For Critical work a one shot rotary process IMO is the best system for film, never reuse , chemicals , no luggies present from past runs.
    There will be Pro Labs still offering this in your area , or at least I think there may.

     
  3. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    In the UK many Pro labs are using minilab equipment, and have been for quite a few years now, for 35mm & 120 films. The two main labs I used both ran Noritsu machines for neg processing and digital minilab printers, negative quality was excellent and no different to when they used dunk dip machines.

    The quality comes from the labs attention to detail, the training & experience of the staff. HAving been involved selling equipment (silver recovery) to minilabs I can honestly say that certain UK chains pay far more attention to training and quality etc than others.

    Ian
     
  4. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    but bob,

    if a RT machine is cleaned every day, **thoroughly**, it shouldn't have any problems with scratches/rt marks...

    I agree with you that rotary one-shot is the best for consistency, but some people

    1. don't have the space for a processor(Jobo)
    2. don't have the money for the chemicals to buy in enough bulk to bring cost down to a good minilab's price point
    3. the convenience. If the lab keeps their chemicals fresh, and run daily(if not every 4-6 hrs) control strips, and keep their machine's clean, there shouldn't be any problems?

    personally BOB, I'm still with you on using rotary for c-41/e-6. I've had some bad experiences with dip-n-dunk processors(bottom sheet is pushed from 1/3-1 full stop more than top of the rack sheet<first in, last out>)
    but some people don't have the luxury of space for storing chemicals or a dedicated film processor.

    while I'm not at school, I take my film to Costco, thankfully they have a big enough throughput of film to keep their chemicals fresh, and I haven't had any problems with RT/dryer/any other marks/embedded dust so far. They only process 35mm though, which sucks, cause I shoot mostly 120/220.

    but to the OP, shoot a color checker chart, or a step wedge, or a scene where you can easily access(back yard, or local park), record your time shot, lens used, and rough location of where you shot from, shutter speeds, film, frame #, etc.....

    shoot two rolls, EXACTLY THE SAME. if you have 2 cameras, this will be easier. shoot the same film, same emulsion #(same pro pack/bulk box)

    send one to your local minilab, and one to your pro-lab(where you've been going up to until now). wait to get results back, and then compare/scan/print same frames from each roll, and see if there's any differences in color balance/density/contrast, etc.....

    these factors are all controlled by how thorough the lab is in maintaining ACCURATE development/developer/overall chemical temperature, and times in each bath(developer mostly)

    decide which results suit YOU best, and what YOU want to achieve STRAIGHT OUT of the film, before any tweaking/scanning adjustments.

    then stick with that lab.

    you might also want to ask your minilab how many rolls of film they process a day, to give you an estimate of throughput.

    best of luck!

    -Dan
     
  5. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Ian
    Well not to be contrary with you as I may never get some of your formulas and excellent advice again , BUT
    I humbly reply that I would never run film through a roller transport machine and expect scratch free film.
    In fact we will refuse to print for photographers on condensor enlargers or will invoke a retouch fee for those pushing film through roller transport.
    In the last 20 years printing for others, I cringe when I get film that has been run through these machines for large prints and today I usually turn the work away or at least give absolutely no doubt in the clients mind that the scratches are not my responsiblity and they need to find a good hand retoucher to fix the problems.
    And if the UK Pro Labs are using this equipment for UK photographers then shame on them .

    Only in Canada you say.

    Bob

     
  6. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    BOB,

    do you use ALL chemistry one-shot(bleach,fixer, and stabilizer/final wash too?)

    I noticed on the Elevator site that you use ONLY distilled H20. do you guys have a still to make your own, just out of curiosity, or are you buying it from the market in the 2.5 gal containers like the rest of us?

    -Dan
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I have lost f customers because of this stance I take with roller transport film, I am getting too long in the tooth to explain hairline scratches that become evident and why I refuse to handle the spotting of such mess.
    I am not sure how many professional printers are on this forum, but those that make their living enlarging film to print will surely agree with this stance.
    If your prints are sharp, and mine are , all defects in the film will show on print, and you are just taking a roll of the dice approach with roller transport film processing.
    I don't care how well the machine is maintained , thats why all the labs use an Ice program to fool the masses.
     
  8. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    ya, I know BOB,

    I've had my share of bad experiences with RT machines. That's why I generally try to use the Jobo at my local photo center. Or do C-41 in stainless tanks in a water bath.

    -Dan
     
  9. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    All chemistry one shot Yes
    We buy the distilled water in containers from Loblaws.. Used for Developer and final rinse before hanging.
    We charge $45 per run which covers all the extras.

    I am not against dip dunk , sink lines, nitrogen burst, or replenisher btw JUST they all have problems associated with then that I am not comfortable with.
    Roller transport is the worst way to process film IMO and lots of people will disagree with me but its just my 2cents.

    I just feel for my film and my clients one shot Rotary is the way to go .As well distilled water allows the Pyro chems to get to the film quicker.
    Tap water has a lot of stuff in it that creates resistance.
    Got this tip from Mr Hutchings book the year it came out and have been following his advice since.
     
  10. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Of course one could avoid all the problems of processing film by no longer taking photographs. :surprised:

    Steve
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Or go digital
     
  12. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Ted,

    I have had reasonable results at my local Wal-Mart etc... but I've also gotten scratched film on occasion as Bob points out.

    Anymore I either do it myself or send it to a Pro-Lab.
     
  13. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Heaven forbid!

    Someone was just asking for his chain to be jerked, so I did.

    Steve
     
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  15. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    ouch
     
  16. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    thanks Steve. I guess I needed a good jerking right?

    I'd assume you're an expert on that topic....


    out

    -Dan
     
  17. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Ted, do you have a locally run minilab near where you are? If it's a one shop business or one relying solely on photog business as opposed to a multi-chain gaining 99.99% of its profits from food then it has to be good to survive. Unless you local supermarket has well trained and diligent operators then I'd try and find a local minilab even if it means a short car journey.

    Alternatively you can only try as many supermarkets as exist in your immediate area with non critical film and compare the results.

    If you ever decide to enlarge for other than the occasional print only then I'd seriously consider doing it yourself. The prices rise very rapidly for print sizes above 6x4.

    pentaxuser
     
  18. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I have used a mini-lab with a high rate of processing for my 35mm film for years. [Costco]

    The 120 film goes to Samys for their in store processing.

    Steve
     
  19. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Handy advice for finding a good lab:

    You want to be able to talk to the person who runs the film.
    You want to see a clean room where they do it.
    If there is a jar of antiacid tablets at the work station, go someplace else.

    If the person running your film isn't making enough money to buy a house,
    go somewhere else.

    And everything else Carnie said.
     
  20. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    Please don't read this as a challenge, I'm not qualified to make one, but why are all motion picture negatives processed on roller transport machines with far more paths than any stills roller transport machine utilises? With all respect to folks' rolls of stills, a 400ft roll of motion picture negative which may record an investment of many thousands of Dollars or Pounds resulting from the cost of what was in front of the lens may be a far greater risk to take if scratching is a risk?

    Motion picture labs do, of course, run scratch and sensitometry tests daily, but the few minilabs where I have worked do so as well.
     
  21. kraker

    kraker Subscriber

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    E6 minilabs?

    Sorry to sidetrack a bit, but... just curious: minilabs doing reversal? They exist? I sure haven't seen a single minilab in the Netherlands offering E6. Is it a common thing in the UK?
     
  22. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    There's a small photo shop in my local town with a mini-lab and I sometimes go there to get a film developed. More often than not the film has muck on it, no scratches, just sort of 'debris' I suppose. Pity really as it's a small outfit and a friendly guy runs it. So I normally send my films to Peak Imaging and they're always clean. I would do it myself, but my colour shooting is so small that the chemistry would expire before the second roll was shot.
     
  23. AlexG

    AlexG Member

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    I recently found out that my local "pro" lab was not getting a large enough film throughput everyday so they began to do there film processing in batches every few days. But after about a year of doing this, they finally had to dump the old Kreonite Dip n' Dunk processor and opted for a processor, Noritsu QSF leader-card driven, roller transport processor, which can handle a lower film output and uses less chemistry and it also doesn't cost a fortune to fix if it breaks (unlike the kreonite).

    And you know what?...I have not noticed any scratches on my film whatsoever. I guess I'm just lucky?

    BTW, I just noticed that both fujifilm and noritsu no longer list processors that can handle 120 and 220 film. How can labs process film once the machines are no longer made?

    EDIT: I just went on Fuji and Noritsu's Japanese websites...Looks like they're still in production!

    But...

    http://fujifilm.jp/business/photo/filmprocessor/oldproducts.html
    Looks like (If I can still read Japanese!) all C41 labs have been discontinued for Fuji's line-up in 2009 except for the low-output FP232B which can (luckily) process MF film. And it looks like Noritsu still has a healthy line up of C41 machines, but no E6 ones in sight.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 4, 2010
  24. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Yes some UK Minilabs offer E6, but they process the E6 films with a separate processor & then scan and print via their normal Digital minilab machine. I dealt with a franchisee of a major chain, he had 6 shops and just one E6 machine, he personally took the E6 to his main store for processing on his daily tour of ythe stores.

    Ian
     
  25. Sunlightsquare

    Sunlightsquare Member

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    Great lab in the UK!

    Hi Guys, Just want to tell you all where I get my films developed. They are called Fuji Digital Imaging (www.photofilmprocessing.co.uk) and they're great! Free CD with all film processing and free return postage too. They do all my 35mm and 120mm film processing and I would highly recommend them. Claudio
     
  26. Paul Green

    Paul Green Member

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    If I’m not in the mood to process colour at home there’s a small lab in the centre of town that does c41 35mm and 120 dev only, one hour job for £2 a roll. You get the odd finger print every so often but for non critical stuff it does the job.