Unfortunately, a long story to a short question...

A month or so ago, I shot a few rolls of C-41 (Portra) 120 film with my C330 at a festival. Since this wasn't really serious stuff, I tended towards the path of least resistance and used mailers for A&I labs for 6x6 proof sets.

Now... When I have photos, I tend to loupe the negs and prints to check for focus and any movement blur. I usually do this first with the prints because there's less chance of ruining a neg and it's just easier...

So, here I am tonight, a bit bored, and I remember the packages of shots sitting next to me. I pull out a couple and give them a second good look. I'm still not impressed. Not sure why... Color and exposure isn't that bad, but they just don't look "right"... Oh-well, reach for the loupe to see how bad I did. I remembered moving the camera on a few shots, not using the C330 as much as it deserves...

Geees... No detail... Blurry? No, not blurry. Low Resolution Scan! Jaggies on all the curves. They look terrible! Signs that are easily read on the neg are a big blur. Details in clothing and jewelry blurred together. I just couldn't believe it. These couldn't be better than 300dpi... The prints are abosolutely worthless, except maybe as 'snapshots' to show uncaring acquaintances.... These prints are actually worse than the 35mm stuff I get back from the drug store!

I checked the A&I web site... Oh-well, I missed the "machine print" part... What a waste of Fuji Crystal Archive (assuming the paper can do better?)...

Luckily the negs are as sharp as I expected and am happy with them.

So, the question...

Does any mail-order lab still do optical proofs? If they do, is it that much more than the $17 or so that A&I is charging for this? Or am I stuck with lousy scans for proofs and have to use the negs to see what kind of quality I really have???

And if you haven't guessed, there's a bit of dissappointment and whining dribbled into this post I'm not complaining about A&I. That was my mistake. They delivered exactly what they advertised, I suppose.