I work at an Eckerd back home, here at college we don't have those and the Brooks stores don't have labs so I applied at a walgreens. They run an agfa Dlab at the store I was at...get this you splice the neg on a leader card, touch the screen on the printer end for what product you want IE 4x6 singles with an index print, cd and white borders. No way to color correct, no way to scan at high res in case a client wants to outsource large prints w/o sending unreliable qualex the neg, ect. I feel like there were ways to do all of the above but I was fired on my third day for "wasting chemistry" after multiple control strips showed the fixer was so toasted the best course of action was to dump and remix.
No offense, but this little story is not likely to convince anyone to "stop knocking one-hour photo" labs!
For proof prints I would agree that there is no better source than a minilab running volumes of chemistry turnover each day and running control strips multiple times a day as well a compentent operator.
The other side of the coin would be the film processing side.
The majority of minilabs are using roller transport to process their film. Although good for small prints our experience with this type of film processing is that the film gets scratched very easily on a roller transport. Therefore for film that we print large we never use a mini lab with roller transport.
All our film is in one shot Jobo C41 process.
One only has to process a roll of film at home in spiral tanks and have an BWC41 roll processed at a mini lab.
Put both negs in a glass carrier and enlarge to 11x14 or 16x20 . I think that you will quickly find out that the one shot non roller transport film, kicks the crap out of a mini lab roller transport film.
For colour enlargements that are from roller transport machines we only print digitally now so that the enevible scratches can be taken out in PS .
We no longer print *Roller Transport* black and white film on our enlargers because of the lack of quality of film processed this way.
I agree, not all 1-hour-labs are bad. I've used about 4 to 5 different photo labs over the past 4 years, and I've gotten back not only some really great negatives and prints, but some negatives with so much dust and scratches on them that it's impossible to scan after. It's not the lab that's bad, but with the booming economy since a year ago it's hard for them to retain their trained staff for long. There's currently only 2 labs in the city which does real B&W processing, and even then it's very expensive. The difference in prices for C-41 film developing between pro-labs and the 1-hour labs like Superstore (Lobelaws) is close to $8-$10/roll, and sometimes I find that the quality's almost similar. Doesn't really make sense to go to the pro-labs with the huge difference in price for something similar.
Simon's Camera (a couple of doors down from Calumet in Hollywood) does very good work with 35mm and 120 color film. They produce good prints even from studio shots than most one hour labs don't deal with (color failure) very well. Simon's take pride in their work and have a good darkroom section in their store. Stores like this are closing left and right and deserve our support.
"A certain amount of contempt for the material employed to express an idea is indispensable to the purest realization of this idea." Man Ray
The one-hour labs I use on occasion ought to be called two- or three-hour labs. That must be because so many people are using them, eh? In terms of quality, I've occasionally been disappointed, and occasionally been thrilled. There's just no telling...
I have two reasonable one hour labs within waling distance in my town in the UK.
One is ASDA/Walmart and the other is a Boots (a national chemist chain).
ASDA is slightly cheaper and I recognise the operators now - long term employees always increase my faith - if one particular operator is on I will take the film to Boots since films from this operator seem to get the personal touch with a brillo pad as they are sleeved but Boots never have that problem. The most consistent one hour lab I have found is Jessops - i'm sure they would hate to be associated with film though !
Given the mimnimal cost which includes 6x4 prints as proofs I can't knock it - it certainly doesn't justify developing my own films, prints are another matter.
Around here the minilab operators seem pretty competent ..... to the point of telling me to take my film someplace else because their machine needed some maintenance.
I don't think the lab operators are getting rich processing film and making prints, they use the service to get customers in the store so they will buy something else with a higher profit margin, like $50-60 of other things.
Newer Walmart/Target labs are OK for my SF stuff and "scratching" the "digital itch".
thats exactly how most one hour labs run. Drag customers in so they'll buy stuff. But if you do an awsome job then they keep comming back and buying even more stuff because they like the store as an extension of the photo lab.