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05-14-2009, 02:11 PM   #1
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Demanding better film services!!!

I was just thinking - it's time for some improvements in film and scanning technology and services.

I'm shooting a lot of film at the moment, and living in the uk, it can be a nightmare. Trying to find a processor that will process and scan the film for a reasonable amount of money is difficult. I sent all my last load of film to Dwaynes photographic in Kansas as it was so much cheaper than in the UK! It seemed to work well, but there were the usual (25% or so) shots which needed some severe levels adjustments in photoshop to sort out a severe green/blue cast not present on the slides.

The next problem is getting high-quality scans. I wanted to enlarge a couple frames to 20x30 inches, from some low speed slide film. I've done this before optically with excellent results, but now it seems like they just send you back a 20x30 print upscaled from a shoddy scan - and these are places that see themselves as professional outfits (they use the scitek scanner). There's noise reduction, sharpening artefacts - it's horrible!

The final problem is scanning at home. My Epson 4990 was never meant to be that great compared to the dedicated scanners, but the hassle is immense. I won't go into how long it takes to scan one roll of 35mm - the end result looks nice, but doesn't print large.

Sigh - what I need is:

1. A central national Fuji (and Kodak) lab that processes and scans film to a reasonable resolution (nothing special - 6MP will do), but with good colour correction, no noise reduction (please) and no artefacts, for a reasonable sum - lets say £12 per 36 roll. This allows you to upload your snapshots to the web. You can get your artistic masterpieces printed separately.

2. Professional labs that will happily do a proper optical exhibition sized print from your slide.

3. A home-use super-slide scanner that takes big stacks of 35mm film cut in strips of 6, or 4, or mounted, gently removes dust from the slide, scans it to incredible resolutions, with ICE, colour matches it perfectly and gets the exposure and levels dead-on, with sharpening perfected, and with no artefacts to speak of, saving the huge files onto your F: drive in a neat and organised manner.

Is that too much to ask for?

Duncan.

05-14-2009, 05:16 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Duncan J Murray Quote
3. A home-use super-slide scanner that takes big stacks of 35mm film cut in strips of 6, or 4, or mounted, gently removes dust from the slide, scans it to incredible resolutions, with ICE, colour matches it perfectly and gets the exposure and levels dead-on, with sharpening perfected, and with no artefacts to speak of, saving the huge files onto your F: drive in a neat and organised manner.

Is that too much to ask for?
Not at all.

In 25 years.

Heck, if I had one of those, I'd throw away all my digital junk and shoot exclusively with a pair of ME Supers!
05-14-2009, 06:58 PM   #3
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Which labs in the uk have you actually looked at? peak-imaging.co.uk are quite widely recommended. I've only used them for digital 10x8s myself, but can vouch for their knowledge and customer service. I'm not sure if it's exactly what you're looking for, but from their website they seem to have a wide range of scanning services. This includes process and scan at various resolutions, and custom single image scanning for up to 30x20 print size.
05-15-2009, 07:46 AM   #4
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Film processing as an industry is on it's way out. I doubt very much if you are going to see any major amounts of new R&D money being thrown at film scanning at this point.
I suspect that atthis point, what's available is what you've got to choose from, and that is a diminishing resource as it becomes less financially viable to continue doing it.
At some point, film processing itself will become financially inviable and you won't be able to get commercial film development outside of major centers.

05-15-2009, 05:49 PM   #5
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I never see any customers at the drug store photo counter anymore, for film or digital...

Chris
05-15-2009, 07:14 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
I never see any customers at the drug store photo counter anymore, for film or digital...

Chris
That is interesting. In my neck of the woods the ''film'' labs are busy and infact, Target just added another film developer to be able to keep up with the one hour service.
05-15-2009, 10:04 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jgredline Quote
That is interesting. In my neck of the woods the ''film'' labs are busy and infact, Target just added another film developer to be able to keep up with the one hour service.
I've heard this before from people living in California. I think you guys have the luck of the draw, in that you live in a pocket of people who still use film. It may have to do with the motion picture industry, or just a larger art community.
I don't know, but LA and San Fransisco seem to be bucking the trend.
05-16-2009, 11:09 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
I never see any customers at the drug store photo counter anymore, for film or digital...

Chris

Same here in D.C. Then again, Costco develops and prints a roll for $4.00 as opposed to CVS, Walgreens, etc. charging $8.00. And, for just basic services Costco does a pretty nice job.

05-24-2009, 12:27 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by scimitar12 Quote
Same here in D.C. Then again, Costco develops and prints a roll for $4.00 as opposed to CVS, Walgreens, etc. charging $8.00. And, for just basic services Costco does a pretty nice job.
My local Costco does a nice job. The guy behind the counter said that there is not much film coming in and most of that is disposable cameras but it's enough to keep the film processing equipment around.
05-24-2009, 01:07 PM   #10
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The minilabs in all these stores will likely disappear within a few years.
It might be a good time to add reviews of mail-order labs to the forum.

Chris
05-24-2009, 02:02 PM   #11
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Slide or negative film processing doesn’t seem to be the issue. There are plenty of good labs in most areas and lots that accept mail-in processing.

Scanning is the big issue for me as well. I mostly take slides and always get good results from the labs in the processing area. However when it comes to scanning, it’s another story. One scan will look almost identical to the slide another way off. I’ve never seen details in a scan, which match a light table & Lupe.

I can get good results with a low resolution scan and still bad results from a high resolution drum scan. Which leads me to the problem I have with anything digital, a
scan is only as good as the s/w package and scanning operator.
05-24-2009, 02:27 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by gofour3 Quote
I can get good results with a low resolution scan and still bad results from a high resolution drum scan.
Which leads me to the problem I have with anything digital, a scan is only as good as the s/w package and scanning operator.
Indeed, and the same is true of film processing by minilabs.
Minilab machines have remarkable capabilities, but their operation has always been bottom line-driven.
The inconsistent, often mediocre quality of minilab prints was a major factor that drove people from film to digital.

Chris
05-24-2009, 03:15 PM   #13
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QuoteQuote:
Indeed, and the same is true of film processing by minilabs.
Minilab machines have remarkable capabilities, but their operation has always been bottom line-driven.
The inconsistent, often mediocre quality of minilab prints was a major factor that drove people from film to digital.
Good point. Iíve been lucky in having a professional lab a few blocks away and have never really had to deal with minilabs. Before that I shot slide film that required mailing to an out of town lab for K-14 processing. (Kodachrome)
05-24-2009, 05:41 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jgredline Quote
That is interesting. In my neck of the woods the ''film'' labs are busy and infact, Target just added another film developer to be able to keep up with the one hour service.
I have been using the Target here in Tallahassee for the past few months. They have one of the little Noritsu processing machines. I just get the basic. Walmart pulled out of the 1 hr and over night completely around here. Some of the stores still have those big old goliath machines but they are defunct.

However, when I'm in Target at the film counter, I have yet to encounter anyone but myself. I miss SoCal in that regard.
05-24-2009, 09:59 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
Indeed, and the same is true of film processing by minilabs.
Minilab machines have remarkable capabilities, but their operation has always been bottom line-driven.
The inconsistent, often mediocre quality of minilab prints was a major factor that drove people from film to digital.

Chris
This is only somewhat true. I worked in full service labs in the late 1970s into the mid 1980s when I went to work in a storefrint minilab attached to a camera shop.
Our mandate was to provide the best possible prints, and we took our jobs seriously.
We also charged accordingly.
What happened after that was grocery stores, then discount department stores moved into the business with give away pricing and lower quality standards.
The low pricing took customers from the good but pricey labs until they went out of business, and then they became so bottom line driven that they were no longer striving for quality, they just didn't want too many customer complaints.

I think that if the customers had wanted good quality, they would have continued to support the camera store minilabs. Unfortunately, the customer put their bottom line ahead of quality photoprocessing, with the situation now being the end result of that shortsightedness.

The lab industry wants to get out of film completely, and will only be too happy when film is no longer viable.
At one time, I was paid to print pictures, digital has made the customer into the photofinisher and me into a janitor, and the lab owners profit tremendously, since what they once paid me to do, the customer now pays them for the privledge of doing.
People will ine up at those kiosks for hours, doing what I used to do in a few minutes.
Meanwhile the company takes from both Peter and Paul, and pocket the profits from both.
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