Yet Another Film is Dead Thread

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Tom Duffy, Jul 21, 2004.

  1. Tom Duffy

    Tom Duffy Member

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    I shot a roll of Kodak's new 100 UC Color neg film thinking that it might be a good fit to use for fill flash with my Leica M6 TTL which flash syncs at 1/50 of a second.

    Took the film to my local prolab which had recently installed a new Agfa minilab. Got the prints back and decided that the new Kodak film was a loser. I saw visible grain in the 4x6 glossies. I decided this made no sense, the 400 UC I've used before has a very fine grain structure. I looked at the prints under a magnifier and saw dots that could only be pixels. Checked with the lab; sure enough, the negs are scanned and output digitally. Besides the grainy appearance, the color looked weird and contrasty.

    I check the negs with a grain magnifier in my enlarger with the print size at about 11x14. bit mushy but certainly no grain problems. This weekend I'll have to make my own analogue prints to evaluate the film.

    Why is this a film is dead thread? A couple of months ago Popular Photography did story about the rapid proliferation of these digital printers and how much superior they are to conventional minilabs. Built in dodging and burning and superior color balance, plus you can get a CD of your pictures at the same time, since they scan the negs, anyway. If Joe Consumer gets his print film developed and gets results like I got, he's going to switch to digital. The output is really bad compared to a conventional print. A high quality optical print from a minilab (no, not an oxymoron in 4x6) is becoming a thing of the past.
     
  2. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    That's very odd. I would suspect the operator or that it may not have been properly calibrated yet and not the machine. My local lab uses an Agfa (I believe) and it spits out wonderful prints--the operators have been using it for a while which helps. The machine may also have been set to scan at a very low resolution and they didn't catch it resulting in low quality prints. I say take them back and get them reprinted for free, a pro lab should have no problem doing so.
     
  3. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    As far as Mini labs go...
    The whole idea of a mini lab is not good for photography. The equipment is designed so that dogs can run them and the dogs that run them are trained to do little more than sit, shake and roll over. When a consumer has a problem ( and the dog has stayed on its leash and done what it was told) then it is the consumers fault. When the consumer has a question...

    I shot some35mm recently and asked my wife to drop it off for processing only at CVS (a pharmacy around the corner with a fuji setup). CVS called us back and said they don't process 'pro' film!? It must of had professional written on it somewhere, probably right next to the words "proccess c41."

    In our race to find the cheapest price for every item or service we buy we will continue to lose expertise and quality.

    As far as the film is concerned...
    I have only shot 10 rolls of 400uc 120. I haven't done any night shots to test its reciprocity, but I did bracket toward over exposure. The film as far as I can tell has great latitude, wonderful midtone contrast and saturation, does not block up on over exposure and best of all: fine grain. I made a series of 16x16's and 20x20's that were the equal to much slower films. My initial experience leads me to believe that rating it at 200iso is the way to go.
     
  4. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I just checked the last roll of colour prints I got back from my local Kodak lab.

    Pixels everywhere. I think this is outrageous. If labs are going to give customers digital prints and not photographic prints they should at least say so.

    This has made up my mind. Despite a severe lack of space in my flat I am going to set up to develop b+w at home in order to avoid this.

    Kodak will no longer be getting any of my business.
     
  5. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    It's not just the mini-labs that are doing this. I recently took two rolls of 120 color neg to my local "Pro" lab with explicit instructions to process and make 5x5 glossy proofs. The proofs came back as washed out, pixellated, fuzzy 5x5's on matte paper. They were obviously made from low res digital scans. I refused to accept them and did not allow the lab to do a "remake." I also spoke directly to the lab's management and told them why I would never be back.

    Fortunately, the negs were ok.
     
  6. garryl

    garryl Member

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  7. Solinar

    Solinar Member

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    Tom,

    My analog output using my own darkroom is very slowwww when it comes to color. So, I use a locally owned camera store which has a Fuji Frontier for 95% of my 35mm and medium format color enlargements. I skip the 4x6 step, which brings the C-41 processing down to the $3 range. I get my negs back uncut, cut them myself and make a contact sheet on Panalure.

    Both the 5x7's and 8x10's off of the Frontier more than meet my satisfaction. To be sure, it is a different look than analog. It is almost a laser print. Color rendition can be off by quite a bit on a bad day at the lab, but the same was true in the days of analog printing. Also, on certain films, certain colors tend block on the digital prints.

    I just had a look at some recent Frontier prints with a loupe and didn't notice any pixelization.

    You could try another minilab.
     
  8. Tom Duffy

    Tom Duffy Member

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    Thanks to everyone who responded. I'm going to print some of the Kodak Ultra Color 100 negs this weekend, then bring my version and the lab's version back to the lab. We'll see what they have to say.

    I like the lab a lot. I've never had quality control problems with them although I've had problems with many of the so called NYC prolabs, such as Duggal, ColorEdge and Modern Age. They actually don't machine process the negs they only use the Agfa machine to scan the negs and produce the prints.
     
  9. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    The Pro lab that generated my rant uses a Fuji Frontier system - they are just incompetent - couldn't follow simple directions - couldn't make a decent set of 4x4 proofs from a good set of Kodak Portra 160NC 6x6 color negs (I ended up scanning and printing them at home).

    I use another lab that has a Fuji Frontier system (and a wet darkroom!) that I have been using for a while with acceptable results - but they are 46 miles away.

    My home digital results (on 120 color roll film) are significantly better than any of the Fuji Frontier results I have seen. I have a Nikon 8000ED Super Coolscan 4000dpi transparency scanner and a HP Photosmart 7960.
     
  10. Solinar

    Solinar Member

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    Well Tom,

    Maybe my standards have declined in the past couple of years. Hmmmmmmm.

    It's a shame that a lab will spend a quarter of a million dollars on a state of the art print processor and not spend the money make sure it is run by a concientious operator.

    Kodak 400 UC is one of my favorite films even though I know there's a chance the operator might not be able to dial in the proper film channel. I always write down the film type in the "comments box", but as you have noted there is alway someone who prefers not to read.

    Cheers,

    Andrew Yue