Don't use costco for printing Slide film

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by matth, Nov 27, 2007.

  1. Well I am fairly new to the whole film thing as I have moved backwards into
    film, but I have been shooting color slide film, Fuji Velvia 50 and 100F and
    been loving the results.

    Anyways, to my rant, I took some individual slides to Costco to be developed as
    I wanted to see them blown up a bit. The result I got back look as though it
    was printed from a 2 mpix camera onto a 12x18 photo.

    Well I took it back and explained this to the worker who was not suprised in the
    slightest and told me that you can't blow up film negative to anything larger
    than 8x10. He also compared the quality to that of a 3 mpix camera and I agreed
    with him on that was the result of the printout.

    I just wanted to know their details of the scans they use to print from when I
    give them a slide. My guess is that they actually scan them and then print from
    the scanned file. Well, he said they had the most advanced system and it was
    the best quality possible. Oh of course, that is why my Fuji Velvia 50 slide
    looks like a web camera picture. He said, well look at it, it is so small of a
    surface area, oh man, I asked him if he was serious and apparently he wasn't
    joking. I tried to go into what a 35mm cmos sensor was and how it relates on
    film and the sensors they are using in professional digitals like the 1Ds mk II
    and the eyes just glazed over.

    So anyways, I was able to get my money back, but it is safe to say I will not be
    taking slides back to Costco

    What do you think, if I am using Velvia 50, Canon L lenses and a EOS-1v, do you
    think I should be able to print bigger than an 8x10 image :)

    I am having them professional scanned by a nikon ED-5000 at 4000 dpi and saved
    in TIF, maybe I should take these tiffs back to Costco and show the "photo expert".
  2. In general, I have had excellent results with costco and printing both digital and 35mm neg film. They pay their people well, train them properly, and refresh their chemicals regularly. It sounds to me like you just got one idiot.

    And to be fair, I have not had good experiences having slides printed by any place other than a pro lab. Printing slides just seems more difficult for the average lab to master. Which in some respects is not surprising, given that printing from slides has to be significantly less than 1% of the business at a place like costco.
  3. Some people get lucky at places like Costco or Walmart. But you get what you pay for, and people developing film in those places on Tuesday might have been working in the shoe department on Monday. If you want quality work and consistency, go to a professional lab. As for blowing up 35mm, it can go as big as you want from a fine grain film like Velvia shot with good lenses, sharply in focus and with a tripod mounted camera to eliminate any blur from camera shake. Kodak used to print a huge mural (my recollection is something like 18x24 feet but definitely something measured in feet) at Grand Central STation in New York. More realistically, 20x24 or 30x40 prints can be pulled from a good Velvia slide. Just view them from the appropriate distance of course.
  4. I agree with you totally on the digital side as they have had all my business on the digital front and have had great luck with all sizes of prints.

    I am just saying to have been trying to get a straight answer from anyone at the local photo lab as well as their online portion as to how I can print a quality image from a slide.

    The online only gives options of jpg or bitmaps I believe and you cannot mail your images to them, in slide or digital form.

    I know there are places out there that have FTP options if you want to upload 80MB TIFF files for example.

    I was really trying to find a place to print a 20x30 in this quest, but wanted to see how Costco did locally and this is what I was dealt.
  5. The Fuji Frontier is optimized for scanning color negative film really fast. Very low Dmax on color negative.

    Velvia 50 and 100F have the highest Dmax of any films, except maybe for Kodachrome. Not at all surprised that the Frontier would have a hard time with them. My Nikon Coolscan IV-ED has has a hard time with deep shadows on Kodachrome, and it's a much better (if slower) scanner than the one in the Frontier.

    Now, as for resolution, he probably didn't scan it at the highest resolution the Frontier can do. But with the shadow noise issues, it won't really help.
  6. Hi Matthew, I used our local Costco for the first time the other day for color developing and they did a great job. Maybe it's just a training thing at the one you used? Back in the day I always had trouble getting slides printed, heck I still have trouble scanning them.

    Give them another chance, maybe something just needed calibrated.
  7. I think John has hit the nail on the head.

    Best to just take your slide film elsewhere. Or have it scanned on a good scanner and then take the digital file to costco for printing.
  8. Could be a considerable variation from one Costco to another. I have had slides processed through K-mart, turned out fine, but no prints made there.

    For an enlargement project, it may be best to engage a more professional service. Some may be mail order. Check with a local camera shop. Some of these may have sample blowups made from Velvia!
  9. I scan them at home and have the prints made from my file.

    I have not had too much trouble this way because I think my monitor is pretty close to the 3 places I have them printed at here in town.

    I just load the files on a CD and take it in.

    infact I had Wal-Mart do one recently and it was dead on.

  10. Matthew

    most people who cared about their photography wouldn't, you have unreasonable expectations, my advice use a locally owned pro lab before they are all be out of business.
  11. I don't know much about costco, but I do work at a walgreens using the fuji frontier. The
    machine only scans film it at something like 5 MP (I can't think of the actual resolution, it
    may be less). You could be using the best film with the best camera with the best lens,
    but I doubt you'll get a good 12x18 print. I'm sure there's a way to scan at higher
    resolutions, but the software used doesn't allow this since it takes longer (again, at the
    walgreens I work at, trust me, I've tried). one hour photo labs are by no means a
    professional lab. 99% of the people we get are just casual shooters who want to print a
    few 4x6 snapshots for their album. You really can't get mad at the people working behind
    the counter. Yeah, they're suppose to know what they're doing, but they're either students
    like me (in my case a photo student, so I should have a little better understanding) or
    people who just need a job. Heck, I brought it my DSLR for a halloween shoot we did and
    the 'head photo specialist' didn't even know that SLRs were made in digital, she thought it
    was only point and shoot. If you want people who know what they're doing, go to a pro

    That being said, you can get good quality prints from a one hour lab. The frontier can
    make wonderful prints if something good goes into it. I'd bring in the scans you made on
    your nikon ED on a flash drive or CD or something and have them print those out. If you
    have photoshop or some other editing software size and crop the pic to the way you want
    it. Again, this all applies to walgreens, I've never even been to a costco.
  12. And this brings us back to scanning it yourself at home and putting it on something to take in.

    If you plan on doing a lot of this a home scanner is the way to go.
  13. Big box places like "Wal-k-cos-mart" exist to do one thing only - sell you 50 pound sacks of washing powder, breakfast cereals and kitty litter. In a small corner of the store your photographs are printed, stacked and packed before you even finish your free samples of loopy fruits.

    Would you have your hair dresser trim the grass in your front yard? Why then, take your photographs to a retail outlet?

    Go to the people who know the difference between a slide and a mega-pixel. Support your local photolab!
  14. Problem is most places no longer have a local photo lab. I am lucky I have 1 left in town and they only process these days and quit selling all dark room supplies and even only keep some amature film on hand at prices that make getting it mail order with shipping cheaper.

    They went to running the E6 line down to 1 day a week but hey I just plan on that day.

  15. There is a world of difference between costco and wal-mart. Wal-mart photo processing is crap. They don't pay their people enough to care about your images. For $7/hr and no health benefits, I wouldn't care either.
  16. Generally, as mentioned, your best bet is to scan yourself, or, at least, get someone to scan for you and correct it yourself, and then you can get Costco to print the results for you.
    Just the other day someone from my local camera club directed me to this site where the RGB colour profiles for many Costco machines (and others) are stored by location - so you can, with the right software, colour-correct and see pretty much exactly how it's going to turn out when Costco prints it (assuming you tell them "no corrections" when you do - easy enough to do with their online tool).
  17. Costco to me is actually worse than Wal Mart on all front.
    Rude employees.
    Horrible prints from negatives.
    Don't get me started.

    Hopefully someday soon, they will come out with a more inexpensive, high quality, and super fast scanner.
    Thats not too much to ask, is it?
  18. Fast, Cheap, Good - pick two....
  19. I just spoke to a old friend who is area manager for Costco's labs.

    All their prints are scanned. But their scanning system is geared towards 35mm film and 4X6 prints - therefore the low resolution. Speed and volumn is important.

    If you want a quality print from Slides or even negs for that matter it should be scanned at a higher resolution scanner than what they have and have PP corrected file for them.
  20. Thank you for all the response. I origiannly started this as a frustration release. My intent on printing slides at Costco was just a trial to see what it turned out like and well I know now.

    Like some of the replies I ready, I too only have one place in town that even develops the slides, so this is where I go. I have also sent off the slides I want to scan to scancafe to get scanned at 4000 dpi and saved in TIFF format by a Nikon 5000 machine. I am still waiting for these in the mail, but some I have posted on my profile were scanned with a cheap $100 scanner my friend has just to get some on the internet.

    I agree with everyone that I need to get them in digital form, especially if there is any editing I want to do. I also agree with supporting my local labs and will be doing so. The Costco was just a trial and I found that Costco is great for digital prints PERIOD. I said before, I have been to Costco for many, many years when I had my Digital Rebel and had nothing but success stories.

    Going back to film is a lot more expensive that digital these days. Just the process of getting the images to digital form involves developing the expensive film and then getting them scanned.

    Film $4-6 buying in bulk
    developing $6 per roll
    about $1 scan after it is all said and done.

    Comparing this to buying a 4GB card for $40 once and using it forever, well there is no comparison.

    FYI, that is not a complaint, I love photography and I am enjoying the power I have with Slide film and an EOS-1v especially for really long exposures (7 hrs)
  21. I find my local Costco does a decent job of printing 11x14/11x16. I do my own slide scanning and color correcting, though.
  22. Yes, I agree, once I have the raw digital form I will try again for a comparison, but this thread is about the quality of prints from Slide film directly.

    Bang for the buck, there is no comparison, $3 for a 12x18 is terrific if you aren't planning anything special for the print and just for some casual framing for the house.

    I was really looking into picking up a Nikon slide scanner, but I can't justify the price for the quantity I do, the new Microtek looks very good too, but still a bit steep on the price.
  23. I use Costco. I scan my negatives or slides, color correct and crop in Photoshop, then convert to color profile of the Costco printer, upload and pick up the prints the next morning.

    One big advantage for Costco, they profile the printers and post the profiles here: . Just be sure to mark your files NO AUTO CORRECT when you upload them.
  24. jtk


    Matthew, If you want good prints you need to take some responsibility for them. Even the best custom photolabs demand that of you.

    You went to Costco because your highest value was cheapness. You got what you paid for.
  25. For negative film, Costco is ecellent. Outstanding quality and great resulys up to 12x18. In fact, they do a better job with negative film than my top of the line Minolta 5400 (less grainy than the Minolta with neg film). However, with slides, the exact opposite is true. I never had the resolution issues you did, but the exposures were terrible. Dark and flat colors. But, when scanned with the 5400 and e-mailed in, fantastic results.
    Better to buy a used or refurb Epson 4870 Photo flatbed (decent results, low cost), or buy a dedicated film scanner for the slides.

    And, you definitely should get a used slide projector, it will blow you away when you see those slides projected. A computer monitor doesnt come close. truely an awe inspiring/inspirational experience.
  26. Thanks Randall, I have picked up a Used Kodak 5200 Carousel Slide projector and certainly love the results. I feel like I should be gathering the family up for slide show time or something, it is great!

    John, I agree that you get what you pay for most certainly. Believe me, I have purchased L series lenses and have run into with home theater products as well. I think a lot more weight got put on this subject that should have. I am certainly going to print my final product at a professional lab, but this was not for that purpose.
  27. costco works well for easily automated processes. its not a craftsman back there, just a guy or girl running a machine which is realyl doing all the work.

    also, there is a general lack of knowledge within the service industry. go to best buy /compusa/ect... and ask a question. if the answer is not right on the box, they don't know it. the sales guys simply do not know their product at all. it upsets me, as it upset you, that you know more about the product than the person WITH the product. low pay + high turnover + non-specialized work = poor results but low prices.

    3. you also have to remember something that is frightening. My college students were born in 1989-1990. they may never have seen a piece of slide film. the idea of rolling your own and developing b/w freaks them out. their experience with film is in the little disposible boxes. remember, they wouldn't have really touched a camera till they were in their teens and thats within the digital age of 2003-2005.

    a friends 3 year old equates cameras with the photo in the back. so he poses, you take the photo, and then he says "let me see". by the time hes 15 he'll have no clue what analog film is.

    now that is scary when you think about.
  28. My local photo store will make the scan as good as it needs to be for the size enlargement I request. If I want the scan stored on a CD I will have to pay more. The Slideprinter in Denver (Denver Digital Imaging?) does excellent work making enlargements from slides. They can give you as good a scan as you want. You can also have prints made by A&I in Los Angeles. Their website explains the various options and you can call them if you have questions. With various types of profiling you could improve the results from a place like Costco but if you want to make a lot of prints from slides you should consider getting your own film scanner and making your own prints.
  29. "What do you think, if I am using Velvia 50, Canon L lenses and a EOS-1v, do you think I should be able to print bigger than an 8x10 image :)"

    Yes, assuming your photography technique is good. A couple of nights ago I printed out a pristine 13x19 on an old epson 1280, from sensia e6 film, scanned with nikon 4000, applied the usual post inc. noise reduction. The shot is tack sharp at proper viewing distance, and the camera is an A-1 with a non-l 50mm lens. Tom

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