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02-15-2017, 09:50 AM   #1
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Who is your preferred photo lab? Likes/dislikes/compromises on services?

After about three years since I last used film, I'm going back to it. I'm going to work with B&W and color 35mm. I'm not a pro nor do I make a penny with photography; however, with the price of film, process and scanning, I want good results. I'm not looking to do my own developing or scanning. One aspect of shooting film to which I'm looking forward is the reduction in post processing time. Developing, scanning, and post on the digital image probably puts me back, time-wise, to working with digital images to edit with software.

I saw some labs recommended on a few posts and just curious what labs people are using. Pricing seems to vary quite a bit and all seem to offer slightly different work flows and "extras" above processing and digital images. No one local does in house for B&W. The two local shops typically hold rolls until they get a large enough order to send it out. They said expect 4-6 weeks turnaround time on B&W. I'm not willing to wait that long, especially since I'd have to send it out anyway, why wait for others if paying to ship it is part of the process either route.

Here are the labs who are not local who I spoke with:
North Coast Photographic Services
The Find Lab
Richard Photo Lab
Dwayne's Photo

Prices vary from the low end to the high end by more than double. I understand there can be a wide variety of difference in the end results based on the operators and settings on the scanners. Has anyone tried more than one of these labs and found significant differences in the quality or consistency of the results? What other labs are out there?

02-15-2017, 09:53 AM   #2
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I live in a small mountain town and there are no local camera-related businesses at all.
I haven't tried any of the ones you listed but have been using TheDarkroom.com and I'm happy enough with the results.
For a single place that can do color, b&w, scans, and prints from 35mm or 120 film they are quick, convenient, and do a good job.
02-15-2017, 10:13 AM   #3
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I'm lucky being in Portland, OR, where I have at least 2 labs I go to. Both are good as far as I can tell. Citizens Photo is less expensive and more convenient for me to get to. Blue Moon is more boutique, pricing reflects that, and is always fun to visit. Both do mail order and scans with some kind of cloud storage file transfers.
02-15-2017, 10:53 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by dcshooter Quote
All I can say as a former Lancastrian is don't use Perfect Image (AFAIK the only local lab besides the big boxes). Their processing is even worse now than when they used to be Coe Camera.
I'll never go in the store. I wasn't a huge fan even when it was Coe. The other "local" lab is Dan's Camera City in Allentown. At about an hour or so drive, I'd treat them like any other mail order lab.

---------- Post added 02-15-17 at 12:55 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by mattb123 Quote
I live in a small mountain town and there are no local camera-related businesses at all.
I haven't tried any of the ones you listed but have been using TheDarkroom.com and I'm happy enough with the results.
For a single place that can do color, b&w, scans, and prints from 35mm or 120 film they are quick, convenient, and do a good job.
Matt, I've seen your stuff on the forum for years and always liked your work. I think most of what I've seen has been digital, but if you're happy with how the film turns out, I'd trust your judgement.

QuoteOriginally posted by murrelet Quote
I'm lucky being in Portland, OR, where I have at least 2 labs I go to. Both are good as far as I can tell. Citizens Photo is less expensive and more convenient for me to get to. Blue Moon is more boutique, pricing reflects that, and is always fun to visit. Both do mail order and scans with some kind of cloud storage file transfers.
Thanks, I'll check them out.

02-15-2017, 12:03 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by jtkratzer Quote
Matt, I've seen your stuff on the forum for years and always liked your work. I think most of what I've seen has been digital, but if you're happy with how the film turns out, I'd trust your judgement.
Thanks. It is mostly digital but I get out the old film gear once in a while.
There are a few scans from the darkroom shot on 120 (645).

Porta 400


Velvia 50


Porta 400


Velvia 50


Tri-X 400
02-15-2017, 12:14 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by murrelet Quote
I'm lucky being in Portland, OR, where I have at least 2 labs I go to. Both are good as far as I can tell. Citizens Photo is less expensive and more convenient for me to get to. Blue Moon is more boutique, pricing reflects that, and is always fun to visit. Both do mail order and scans with some kind of cloud storage file transfers.
I forgot about another Portland lab, Pro Photo. Haven't used them so can't comment on quality.
02-15-2017, 12:47 PM   #7
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I've used Dwayne's Photo, TheDarkroom, and The FIND Lab. Dwayne's is the most affordable in my experience, the Darkroom does good work but I felt they were expensive for what I got.

Going forward I'm sending my film to the FIND Lab. Their scans were superior to Dwayne's, the turnaround was nearly as fast, great communication, I like the option to get feedback and corrections on my scans, and the pricing is reasonable. It's a bit more than Dwaynes, but you get a lot more, and less expensive than TheDarkroom.

I have used a lab in Portland, they're near downtown across from the Mariott Hotel. They were able to do 120 film *with scans* in an hour! Can't remember the shop name but they did a great job.
02-15-2017, 01:13 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattb123 Quote
Thanks. It is mostly digital but I get out the old film gear once in a while.
There are a few scans from the darkroom shot on 120 (645).
Are those scans straight from The Darkroom, or did you adjust them as well?

02-15-2017, 01:34 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by skierd Quote
I've used Dwayne's Photo, TheDarkroom, and The FIND Lab. Dwayne's is the most affordable in my experience, the Darkroom does good work but I felt they were expensive for what I got.

Going forward I'm sending my film to the FIND Lab. Their scans were superior to Dwayne's, the turnaround was nearly as fast, great communication, I like the option to get feedback and corrections on my scans, and the pricing is reasonable. It's a bit more than Dwaynes, but you get a lot more, and less expensive than TheDarkroom.

I have used a lab in Portland, they're near downtown across from the Mariott Hotel. They were able to do 120 film *with scans* in an hour! Can't remember the shop name but they did a great job.
This is the feedback I am looking for. $9/roll sounds great, but not if you aren't happy with the results. I was impressed with Find and Richard with the time they spend on the phone with me and description of the services. The gal at Dwayne's that answered the phone couldn't tell me what scanners they use without having to put me on hold. Film is expensive enough to shoot to get back results you're not happy about. At $13/roll, that's worth it for color from Find to get feedback and higher quality work. $22 vs $9 for B&W is quite a jump though. The problem I face is even if I develop my own, scanning services are almost the same or more than having the film processed and scanned at the same time.

Can anyone speak to the scan quality variations with B&W? I can see how color corrections and adjustments are far more critical with C-41 than B&W. I'm likely wrong, but it seems getting a good exposure and metering properly with black and white would lead to a straightforward scan to get what what you shot. I'm willing to pay for quality work and attention to detail. I would expect Dwayne's to be better service than a local pharmacy photo machine, but if it's only slightly better and the scans are marginally better, it is what it is and I'll have to pay more.

One reason for me wanting to shoot more film is the time saving. If the lab does awesome work and I have very little to do on the computer, I'm happy. I don't want to do post production work. I realize that time costs money and that's what I'm buying when working with a photo lab - someone else's time to develop and properly scan for me.
02-15-2017, 02:01 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by leekil Quote
Are those scans straight from The Darkroom, or did you adjust them as well?
I probably made some minor adjustments to brightness/contrast but these are pretty close.
02-15-2017, 02:18 PM   #11
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I have a roll of Velvia to shoot. Never shot slide film. Looking forward to trying Portra 400 shot at 200 on the camera. Also picked up a light meter. Should make flash work easier and help me get better results on film as well.
02-15-2017, 02:21 PM   #12
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I've mostly shot c41 B&W films because of the cost difference in development. Ilford XP2 is a great film if your sending out.

Dwayne's is about the equivalent of a really good, well run, clean and maintained mini lab scanned by people who care but with limited resolution in my opinion. 4-6mp scans if I remember correctly? I'd use them again for test rolls and old slide film no problem as they are the least expensive and still do a good job. They don't do any corrections other than getting the colors close enough.

The FIND lab scans were just about perfect and available at a much higher resolution. I did basic+ large scans with my rolls, so $16 a roll I think for an effective 12 or 14mp image. The images were corrected well to my eyes and really didn't need anything other than resizing for web use to upload, and I'd be willing to have larger prints made from several of them. Dwayne's I'd limit to 5x7 given the low resolution, these i would go as high as 11x14 without hesitation.
02-15-2017, 04:17 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by skierd Quote
I've mostly shot c41 B&W films because of the cost difference in development. Ilford XP2 is a great film if your sending out.

Dwayne's is about the equivalent of a really good, well run, clean and maintained mini lab scanned by people who care but with limited resolution in my opinion. 4-6mp scans if I remember correctly? I'd use them again for test rolls and old slide film no problem as they are the least expensive and still do a good job. They don't do any corrections other than getting the colors close enough.

The FIND lab scans were just about perfect and available at a much higher resolution. I did basic+ large scans with my rolls, so $16 a roll I think for an effective 12 or 14mp image. The images were corrected well to my eyes and really didn't need anything other than resizing for web use to upload, and I'd be willing to have larger prints made from several of them. Dwayne's I'd limit to 5x7 given the low resolution, these i would go as high as 11x14 without hesitation.
Good deal, thanks. I have about 10+ rolls of traditional B&W in the fridge. As a non-pro and one who doesn't make a living with photography, I may give the C-41 B&W stocks a try, even to compare to TMAX.
02-15-2017, 05:00 PM - 1 Like   #14
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If you are looking for the best in E-6 developing, then AgX is really your only choice. I have been shooting E-6 for 30+ years and used many labs but feel AgX has the best quality practices. I'm picky, as some of my work gets published. The owner is Mike and he is in Sault Ste Marie Michigan.
02-15-2017, 07:21 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by desertscape Quote
If you are looking for the best in E-6 developing, then AgX is really your only choice. I have been shooting E-6 for 30+ years and used many labs but feel AgX has the best quality practices. I'm picky, as some of my work gets published. The owner is Mike and he is in Sault Ste Marie Michigan.
Thanks, I'll check out Mike's lab. My first roll of E-6 is in the fridge. Plan on shooting that sometime when there are actually colors to shoot rather than the dead of winter and considering there's no snow, there's not much to take advantage of now except sunrise and sunset.
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