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  1. #1
    ted_smith's Avatar
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    The results of C41 mini-labs compared to pro labs

    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 ted_smith; 01-03-2010 at 12:08 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Ted Smith Photography
    Hasselblad 501CM...my 2nd love.

  2. #2
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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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.

    Quote Originally Posted by ted_smith View Post
    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 100

    Ta

    Ted

  3. #3
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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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. #4
    DanielStone's Avatar
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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. #5
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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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

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Grant View Post
    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

  6. #6
    DanielStone's Avatar
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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. #7
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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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. #8
    DanielStone's Avatar
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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. #9
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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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.
    Quote Originally Posted by DanielStone View Post
    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

  10. #10
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Carnie View Post
    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.
    Of course one could avoid all the problems of processing film by no longer taking photographs. :o

    Steve
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

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