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04-25-2012, 07:30 PM   #1
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Best bang for my buck 35mm film processing?

Hey all. I just picked up a used Pentax ME and a used Sears KS Super from a fellow Pentaxian in the marketplace, and I couldn't be happier with the decision. Both are in absolutely perfect shape. Right now, I have a Sigma 28mm F2.8 "mini-wide" attached to the ME.

Anyway, I've never had to get film developed before (I grew up in the digital age), and I'm wondering if you think there is a difference in quality between different film processing companies. Should I just go to the CVS on the corner, the local mom-and-pop shop down the block, or is there a mail-in company that does the best job? I know some places are now doing digital scans in addition to simply developing the negatives. Any thoughts on that? I know this is a vague question, but I'm new to film, so I don't even know where to start.

Also, can you recommend a good VALUE film? Combination of quality and price? I just bought a few rolls of low-end Fujifilm, but I've been reading on here that that stuff is garbage. But I don't have unlimited funds...still a student. Any suggestions you have for this newbie film guy would be appreciated.


04-25-2012, 07:58 PM   #2

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For color negatives, I really like Kodak Gold 100 @ $2.15 for 36 exposure roll.
04-25-2012, 08:23 PM   #3
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I think there really isn't a general answer to this. You need to see what's available in your area. When I got back into film two years ago, I shot color print film (mostly kodak) and some Kodak BW400 which is a b&w film made for developing in a C-41 color process - your local CVS or similar would be able to do that. I've evolved now to doing all of my own b&w film at home - which is very doable with some learning but color I'll go to my local camera store and just do a develop and scan. That works well for me. Slides...well now those are a bit more tricky. LesDMess makes a good suggestion on film but basically, you should shoot some rolls as tests and explore what works for you. Honestly if you've got a local store, you might want to start a relationship with them. I'm guessing that if you are in NYC you have a lot of options if you start exploring.
04-26-2012, 01:07 AM   #4
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I'm in the same situation. For film, I look for sales from CVS and Walgreens. Every month or two there's usually a sale on Kodak Ultramax. Store branded at CVS and Walgreens is relabeled Fuji. Fuji Superia at Walmart is pretty affordable. I don't see why they would be considered garbage.

The best price I've found is develop and scanned to CD from CVS. The quality is hit or miss, but since you're starting out it should be sufficient. Last time I used them it was under $6/ 24 exp roll.

Here are some of what I've obtained from using Fuji and Kodak. They were all developed at CVS.

04-26-2012, 03:24 AM   #5
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CVS does good work at a good price - provided you find a CVS where the photo person knows what they are doing and keeps things clean. There's variability between stores.

In Brooklyn/NYC there are a lot of independent minilabs as well, some priced well, others not so much. Again, it is a matter of trying them out to find one that does work you like, and then stick with them.

The NY pro labs are probably not worth the money for amateurs like us - you pay quite a bit more, and don't necessarily get better quality.

Don't listen too much to what people say about cheap film = garbage. Not true. There may be 'better' films but to be honest, the differences are swamped by other variables. For instance, care in developing, freshness of chemicals, and how the film scanner is set. The scanning bit is often interesting - they use auto exposure which expects a certain clipping level on the highlights, for example. And the minilab scanners are set to produce OK prints using their minilab printer. This may or may not be what we want to see.

But there is post processing via Elements, PS or similar. The washed-out, too thin scans I get from CVS are easy to fix - I dup the pic on another layer and then blend it back using 'multiply'. Voila, a decent, pleasing scan. Some years ago when I used a minilab that used Agfa equipment, the scans tended to be way over-saturated. Again, the fix was easy: just tone down the saturation a bit.

These days, unless you want to, it doesn't make sense to pay for prints. As has already been written, getting development + CD is cheaper and gives you what you need.

Here's a before/after of a CVS scan, I was using the Fuji 200 film that comes in boxes of 4 x 24 exposures, at mass market stores. The original scan isn't too horrible, but is a bit over exposed to my eye. The after picture was dup+multiply at some % blend, no other processing. S1a, Super Takumar 55/2
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Last edited by Nesster; 04-26-2012 at 03:32 AM.
04-26-2012, 04:17 AM   #6
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I would always vote for the mom & pop store at least being given the first chance (before CVS etc.), provided it's not massively more expensive than the others. If we don't support these stores, pretty soon we won't have them. And in most cases, they can give more responsive and personal service as your processing needs evolve. And the one near to me still does E-6! Full disclosure, though: I don't care how much color processing costs, because I shoot probably 3 - 5 color rolls per year, so saving $3 on a roll and using $2 more gas or whatever to get to where that deal is, ain't worth it. (When I can spend time hunting for bargains, it's better spent looking for deals on b&w film that I shoot more of, and b&w chemistry that I use at home.)
04-26-2012, 07:26 AM   #7
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Thanks everyone! Very helpful! I live in Brooklyn, and there are a few 'local' shops in the area, as well as a big chain pharmacy seemingly on every corner. I'll shoot a few rolls and try out the various options. I agree with Argenticien about supporting the little guy, and at least giving those places a shot before giving my money to some corporate behemoth. Also, Nesster & Samtr87, thanks for calming my fears about buying cheap film. I really don't want to have to buy $6 rolls just to get decent quality. I'll post some results after I get my first few rolls developed (could be a few weeks because I'm currently studying for finals).

Thanks again.
04-26-2012, 09:25 AM   #8
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I live in New York , about an hour north of NYC.. I use to go to this little photo studio and store because they were the only place that could develop 120 and 35mm film in one hour or the same day. He even did slide film till 2 years ago. But recently the guy stopped processing film and got a self serve digital printer kiosk. I use to get rolls of any negatives developed for 6 dollars without prints and just an index, then i would either get them scanned at my community college in the computer lab or pick and choose what prints i wanted and have him make them.
So now i been trying all the local labs and found it depends on the technicians there on how your film will be treated. I have settled on Rite Aid tho. Also the guy that use to process my film offered to give me his old processors if i wanted them , he says they are in the Wish i had a house or a place i could put that , but i think it would be too expensive for someone like me to use.


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