Latest results in printing from negatives
In the last months I have noticed a degraded quality in the prints from negatives. I notice that very well if I compare pictures printed 3-4 years ago with pictures printed in the last months.
I have a theory: now the prinitng process is not any more a projections of the negatives, it is an electronic scanning of the negatives and then a digital print. In order to save time, maybe they reduce the definition, the contrast, the deep of colours, etc. And worst of all, maybe they use some software to clarify the faces, the shades, etc.
I ask to all the competent people in this forum to confirm or deny my suspicion. If my suspect is right, then there may be some laboratories that are still using the old process. If not, the only way will be to use slides......
What do you all think?
I am not talking about B&W, darkroom, etc.
I am talking about plain commercial printing of Kodak Gold 100, 200 or 400 ISO.
So the question is: are there labs that still print from the negatives?
There have always been good & bad labs regardless of the type of printer used. Modern minilabs are no different in potential quality regardless of whether they are optical or digital. There are a few labs still using purely optical equipment but even pro-labs now use digital printers for the vast majority of their work.
I've got to the stage with my dad's films that I've told him just to get them developed only and I scan the film in and print them for him. He's got an old half frame camera, and the labs just don't seem to be able to cope with it. The last straw was when he'd taken a roll in and said it needed to be processed as half frame - well it's really only the printing thats the problem, but they either didn't listen or just didn't bother. So the prints he got back were 2 frames to a print rather than them being rotated and fitted properly to the paper
Alessandro, I would dare to say that you won't find ANY one-hour labs that do "traditional" prints. EVERYTHING is scanned and printed digitally. If you take a loupe and examine the prints more closely, you'll probably see pixels
Some pro-labs still print "traditionally", but upon special request.
Since you're in Padova, you might try to phone the "Bianconero" lab in Venezia - the owner (Vittorio Pavan) still does analog printing (but in B&W). Perhaps he can still do color upon request...
Thank you very much to all!
Padova - Italy
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Very few. There is only ONE lab in Portland Oregon that does color optical enlargment printing. They have the very last generation of agfa color optical printing machine. You know it too for a couple of reasons. First off, sharpness, holy crap their prints are sharp, especially from medium format negatives! Secondly, you now it when you pay, it is easily 3 times the cost of anyone else!
Originally Posted by Alessandro
BTW the name of the lab is Blue Moon Camera, in case you get the inclination to ship film all the way to Portland Oregon for processing. :/
Most of the scanners in the automatic printers operate at 2000 to 2800 dpi. That can produce a somewhat degraded image when you get bigger than 8X10. There are also the skill of the operator and the quality of maintenance to consider. In general, the machines are excellent, but a carefully done (and expensive) optical enlargement is better.
As an aside to this topic, I often wonder if these minilabs and such do frequent calibration of their "lens" used to project the picture digitally onto the paper...lately I find my prints done at some labs to come back soft, yet I know darned well my lenses are razor sharp. This is the one nit I have with film in that there are too many "lenses" that can effect the final print: the cameras, and the enlargers, and perhaps the "lens" used to scan the negative for digital projection. At least with digital cameras, one only encounters one "lens".
Coming back home to my film roots. Canon EOS-3 SLR, Canon EOS 1V SLR, 580ex flash, and 5D DSLR shooter. Prime lens only shooter.
last time i talked with the good folks at fujilabs and dwaynes ( year ago maybe ?)
they were still making non-scanned prints. maybe i misunderstood what they said ...
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I can feel your frustrations Alessandro. I suffered the same disappointment that you have. After several years of 35mm photography followed by a few more years into digital, I went back to film and plunged into the medium format world. I shot my first roll and quickly brought it to my local lab. Mind you, it's not the usual 1-hr photo shop or a drugstore/Walmart/Costco type of thing, a "real" pro or custom lab is what it is. I asked for film processing and a contact print. I was more than excited to return the following morning for my "contact" print and I got the surprise of my life when the images in the 8x10 sheet of paper were the size of 35mm frames. What? No 6 x 4.5 pictures? And more importantly, I didn't see the rebates (is that what you call the black film edges in those MF frames?) that I was really after. Also, having just 15 frames the size of 35mm in a whole 8x10 sheet of paper somehow just didn't look impressive (and now that I've also gotten myself a 6x6 and a 6x7, I guess having just 12 or 9 very small pics in there would be even uglier).
Apparently, the film was scanned and the "index print" (which is what they should have called it - not contact print) was made digitally. The funny thing is that if I wanted to have my film scanned, I would have to pay extra. Haven't they already scanned it and I should just be charged for the disc?
Well, the realities of a shrinking world of choices for a MF shooter makes me save a few dollars a day to probably get myself a dedicated film scanner one day instead of having to bring them the film for the same service I can do (and they're not that near to my place anyway). Or, better yet, I'd probably find a way to sneak in a darkroom in this tiny house of ours and make myself that contact print I truly crave for!