Pro-Lab Recommendation: Samys805
Just wanted to take some time and give a little shout out to my new favorite pro-lab, SAMYS805. The funny name, if none of you know it, stands for 1. Samy's(as in the small chain of camera stores out here in so. California). 2. 805 is the area code for Santa Barbara, where they're located.
so, on to the fun stuff!
This is a pro-lab. Not some "mom and pop" 35mm-only, get your prints back in 3 days kind of place; no. They're much better than that! The run E-6 and C-41 on Refrema dip-n-dunk processors, and when I was given a nice tour of the lab my Matt(lab manager), he's 1 of 2 Matts working in this lab, can't remember his last name however :o. Well, after getting there(long story, I was driving through S.B. going north yesterday), I decided to drop my rolls of c-41 and e-6 off to get processed. I got there, and immediately, I was struck that this lab was legit. No mess on the counters, all the people behind the counter were terrific and super helpful, and since I have been sending them film since last summer, they've come to see my name a lot, mostly because of the terrific pricing on processing they offer(see below for pricing outlay)! Well, since I was there, I asked if Matt(the lab's manager whom I had originally spoken to when I called them last summer) could give me a little 'tour', since he had offered it when we had last spoken.
After going behind the counter, entering the main processing room, where they keep their Fuji mini-lab printers, slide mounter, and finishing station(sleeving, cutting, etc...), he showed me the Refrema processors. They currently have 2 machines, one for c-41 and one for E-6. They had the E-6 machine running when I got there, and it was a treat to be able to see it in-person, I've never seen one up close before, just in videos. Well, he walked me through the steps of loading the racks, positioning the 'flags', which tell the machine(this machine's unique) HOW to process the film(duration, +, - development, etc...) They can push IIRC up to +3, and can pull to -1, IIRC, call them for an accurate quote though.
After seeing the C-41 machine, which is much smaller than the E-6 machine(due to less steps), Matt mentioned that they were going to be shutting down the c-41 refrema, to use it as a parts machine for the e-6 one. Being that Refrema as a business is NO LONGER around, and getting parts is a real problem, he mentioned that there is 1 guy in the USA who can repair these fine machines, and he's on the east coast(so they'd have to fly him in for repairs, think $$$).
Much to my agony upon hearing this, I asked him if they were on the lookout for "parts" machines, seeing that so many labs in the past few years have gone belly-up, and they've been selling off their machines for pennies on the dollar. He said they WERE on the lookout for parts machines, but seeing that there are lots of other labs who need these parts as well, they can't always get what they need.
SO, he said that soon(didn't give a 100% date) they'd be shutting down the c-41 machine, and only running c-41 through their new Noritsu r-t processor(eww... r-t stinks, he COMPLETELY AGREED though on this fact, much preferring to run ALL the c-41 film 35mm -> 8x10 on the Refrema). I immediately started thinking of ways to help them get parts needed to keep the c-41 machine running, since that's primarily what I shoot in 4X5 nad 8x10, portra. So having a lab that offers 4x5 C-41 for $1.50/sheet(yes, $1.50/4x5 sheet!!!, and $5/8x10 sheet for c-41), I need some more ideas than my own(adding another 50c/sheet to go into a "spare parts" fund for instance).
Oh.. almost forgot! They are running a reverse-osmosis system for ALL their water in the lab, meaning ALL the water is super clean, and this ensures clean, stable results! Not all labs do this. And seeing that they DO run it for all their water, it ensures me of their commitment to quality!
They use Fuji chemistry for E-6 and C-41(much to Matt's chagrin mind you). When I asked him why, he stated that the Kodak chemicals were JUST BETTER. Easier to take care of, and didn't seem to oxidize as fast as the Fuji-Hunt Chems. But seeing that Samy's partnered with Fuji to supply the paper and chems for their all store's mini-labs, it was a give-in that they'd have to switch from Kodak to Fuji chems when the transition happened.
Up until now, I haven't had ANY problems WHAT SO EVER with this lab, I have NO connection with them(other than being a prior Samy's employee in another store, and sending them ALL my c-41 and e-6 since last summer), I've been a very happy, satisfied customer!
now, this is where things get terrific! Samy's pricing on DIP-N-DUNK processing is super cheap compared to LA labs(think A&I), and their results(IMO) are vastly superior. I've worked with A&I before(when working with Samy's), and Samy's is SOOO much better on the phone, and in-person too!.
here's a link to their processing page for pricing(yes, its ALL current pricing !!!)
and here's a link for their $5/roll for 35mm(mounted or un-mounted),120, and 220, all for $5/roll!!! Yikes, that's cheap!!!
Mail Order Services:
ALL the services that are listed on their website, www.samys805.com, are available through mail-order. This is how I've been sending them film for the past year, with no problems what so ever. Just put your film in a Priority Box(F.R. small box generally for me $5), and include a copy of the filled-out processing sheet, for c-41 or E-6, there are 2 sheets (http://www.samys805.com/e6-order-form/)
in the end, just like most other mail-order developing firms, but this one, IMO, is vastly superior. This lab's employees ACTUALLY CARE for film users, mostly because most of them ARE film-shooters. I explained how I was getting worried about how most pro-labs don't care about their customers film anymore, and run "run it", but with Samy's, they DO care. This, in my book, goes a long way. Having a lab that cares about how they treat their customer's film tells something about the company itself, and how they value their services they offer.
check em out! What's to lose? There's only more to gain!
There is an argument I've read against dip and dunk for C-41, even though dip and dunk is cleaner, which is that due to the short development time, there can be unevenness from one end of the roll to the other or between the top and bottom of the rack for sheet film. I think that ideally, development in deep tanks (like 3.5 gallon tanks) on reels is probably the best option for C-41 or with hangers for sheet film, since it doesn't have the cleanliness problems of roller transport and makes it possible to immerse the whole roll quickly.
This does not seem to be an issue with E-6.
I've heard these things too. I've been on the lookout for a basket(or 2) to use with the 3.5gal tanks, so when I shoot enough rolls to justify souping them all up at the same time, I can do so accordingly. Eventually, my personal goal is to run a small operation for custom printing and developing, similar to Bob Carnie's, but here in LA. Even if it's not a super-profitable option business-wise, it will allow me know that I'm able to provide a service to those who want and need a custom film lab, one that can cater to their needs. But this will be a few years down the road I'll imagine. Still working on finding those 3.5 gal tanks .
but from my film that I've had processed, 4x5 and 120, and 35mm through dip-n-dunk c-41, I've never really had any problems that my eyes can see, with surge marks, or density changes from mid roll to the end. But there's always those exceptions that keep this debate alive .
but for right now, I'm just trying to get the word out to as many people as possible, especially since many pro labs around the world, and especially here in the US, have closed down. And having only a few labs left, labs that *sometimes* do quality work, but finding a lab that always does professional-quality work(in this case, Samys805) is becoming a rareity, at least here in LA. I'd imagine that NY has quite a few more pro-labs, per capita, that here in LA.
rotary has always worked nicely for me too. Jobo's are a great tool, just somewhat cumbersome, and expensive(spare parts now a problem too) in the longrun. Especially when compared to manual dip-n-dunk(i.e. "sinkline" processing)
I just tried Samy's last week after getting back a week long vacation in San Francisco. I was tired of paying $12 a roll for E-6 done locally with tons of scratches and dust. I sent Samy's a dozen rolls, some E-6 and some C-41 since I'm new to film having grown up digital.
I could not be happier with their service, their price, how my film came back or anything else. I guess I'm still not sure why they charged me, a NYer who shipped from and had the film shipped back to NY, sales tax, but I assume that's some CA law.
Kudos to Samy's, fantastic job!
I think that because the developing is a *service*, not a product(like a tangible object such as a camera), they need to charge sales tax. But you might want to call them and ask. If they don't need to, they might credit you(maybe, IDK, you'll need to ask) towards your next mail-order order to them
which labs in NY, just out of curiosity, did you have problems with? I've used LTi and Duggal, and both were excellent, just as they should be. Both were via mail order at the recommendation of photogs I've assisted for who sent/send their film to them for processing/proofsheets.
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Labs out on Long Island. Neptune was OK, though their scans were horrible (I've got a CoolScan 4000 now), Hi Tech Photo in Plainview took 8 days since they don't run E-6 all the time and had scratches all over and what look to be bubble marks. Since I'm not in the city often and a round trip train ticket costs more than shipping a few rolls, I might as well mail order. I found Samys through here and tried them and was thrilled with the dozens rolls I got back.
Originally Posted by DanielStone