Processing at Home vs Lab and weighing it all out...

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by tyler_love, Apr 30, 2010.

  1. Hello everyone, this is my first post here.

    I'm a artist living in Brooklyn. For the last several months I've been shooting almost entirely on film. I rarely like to talk about equipment or my method but I'm in a huge dilemma trying to figure out the most feasible and economical approach to having quality negs, ready for scanning or print.

    I shoot on 1 of 3 cameras primarily...

    • Mamiya 7II
    • Mamiya RZ67
    • Nikon FM2
    • + a few other toy cameras I use far less frequently
    • Oh yeah a, 5D Mark II for cold harsh digital

    I am about to start an art project of carrying the 7II with me everywhere I go for 365 days. That includes my scheduled trips to Austria, Germany, and Greece. I also travel the states frequently. I anticipate I'll shoot 5-10 rolls per month (I manage about 2-4 as it is).

    So there it is, what do I do with 5-10 rolls of film a month?

    Currently I use Manhattan Color Labs. They do a great job processing and packaging my negatives. Their scans are garbage. At this point I've talked them down to $14 for scans and processing. They do a great job with C-41, so-so with E-6 and B&W turns out usable.

    It's also worth noting, my favorite place to get my processing done charges $34 per roll for processing ($14) and scanning ($20 for 4.5mb reasonable scans). They also charge $20 for B&W processing.

    I'm interested in the Jobo stuff but it seems nearly impossible to find. I also can't gather what they would actually cost. Ebay prices vary drastically and I have yet to find an online store selling them.

    My experience with at home developing has been successful. Some black and whites here and there.

    So rather than saying what I want to do, I'm curious as to how you would handle processing and developing?

    Is it worth it to invest in a jobo if I can even find one and a decent scanner? Are there other at home options? Should I stick to the lab? What will end up saving me money or costing more?
    My main objective is bring the cost per frame down as low as possible without sacrificing quality. It would also be nice to know I won't be paying more for push-pull processing since sometimes I like to use a high iso for low-light noisy shots.
  2. Easy, pick up some C-41 kits at either B&H or Mail order on the way into my Darkroom, located about 45 min from you in Freehold, NJ.
    Use my Jobo ATL 2300 that does simply amazing, amazing controlled work. (If it's not sold by then) :(*
    Bring your per roll cost down to min levels doing it this way, cheapest you'll get. I'm going to get another Hasselblad Imacon Scanner but no doubt not for quite some time so either bring your laptop and use my Epson or go outside.
    Good Luck.
  3. Oh, FYI, however I am having very serious 2nd thoughts o selling her but you can still use her anytime until that frightful day. There is also a video on Vimeo under the photofather.
  4. Take Tom up on his offer. Or buy his processor. Or get a phototherm. For color
    I personally mail my film to $10 for develop and 2000 x 3000 scans (2000 x 2000 for 6x6). I'm happy. These are decent scans but you will need to do final scans on a better scanner most likely.
    Do your B&W yourself. Not only is it cheaper, but you'll get higher quality. Just do it in hand tanks.
  5. I don't think it's in your best interest to develop film yourself. The number of rolls you shoot is very small, barely enough in a month to get the use of a development kit. (Once you mix the chemicals, you have about a week to use them.) It's pretty hard for an inexperienced person to achieve and maintain 100 deg F +/- 1/2 deg throughout the processing time. Any mistakes or inconsistency you make in processing will be reflected in the results and often can't be fixed.
    If you want the "experience" of doing it yourself, fine. There's some satisfaction in that. Just don't think you're going to save any money. Furthermore, you'll spend 6-8 hours a month doing it. That's got to be worth something.
    OK, I'm a citizen from NYC and don't play one on television, but you should be able to get film processed (only) for about $5/roll. Wallmart will do it for less than $4 in the Windy City area. Prints should run about $0.17 each for 4x6 inches.
    Your real need is for decent scanning. Commercial scanning is either woefully inadequate* or super expensive ($50 a frame). At that rate, you'd pay for your own a scanner in less than a year. A dedicated film scanner (Nikon or Imacon) would be the best. But you can get a $200 Epson flatbed photo scanner and do a far better job than 1200x1600 lab scans. Another $80 for Photoshop Elements, and you're on your way.
    * It doesn't have to be that way. Minilabs scan at up to 5000 ppi, but won't sell you those scans. What you get are 1200x1800 pixel JPEGS, over-saturated, over-sharpened and over-compressed to fit on a CD (Nikon scans are up to 4000x6000 pixels and 148 MB each). Scanning is an art as much as science. You would appreciate being in on that end.
  6. Black and white is different. You have do develop that yourself. I've never found a lab to do a decent job. It's cheap and quick to do it yourself, and the process runs at room temperature (68-75 deg F, +/- 1 degree).
  7. If you're doing B&W, I'd suggest processing yourself.
    If you're shooting color, I'd suggest moving to digital.
    120 rolls * $34 = $4080. No point in doing a project if the end result is crappy scans. :)
  8. You should let Fuji Labs process your film. You can get 120 c-41 with 3x5 proof prints for only $1.80 ! And the quality is great too(of the developed negatives - the prints are low saturation and only ok- but hey, I treat them simply as proof prints). Downsides are two: 1) you will have to wait up to 2 weeks to get them back, and 2) you will have to set foot inside a Walmart store. You see, Fuji Labs has the contract for Walmarts sendout film account. They do 120/220 E-6, traditional BW, and C-41. Also 35mm of course. The 35mm print film is handled by local mass processors, so the quality is not that great. But the E-6, BW, and all 120/220 film goes to their Pro Lab, and quality is great.
    Use the money you are saving to buy a film scanner, and scan your best shots yourself for best quality. BTW, you are getting ripped off with the current prices you pay, IMO.
  9. Back in the late 1940's and 1950's there were chemicals available to process one or two rolls of B&W.
    cost was low. Today. If you used rodinal or HC-110 ypu could keep a supply of chemicals on hand that should last for a year or more.
    and doing B&W at home is at least as good as a Custom lab.
    C-41: many report great sucess doing it at home.
    but it is not cost effective unless you shoot a lot.
    C-41 is designed for machine processing and that is the best way.
    Some person in Philadelphia, mentioned developing color neg C-41 in color print chemicals and sait it was a lot cheper. but still you have a very low volume.
    I am sure there is a responsible lab near you. that does not charge an arm and a leg.
    there is supposedly going to be a walmart in brooklyn and sometimes the warehouse stores have labs.
    scanners are getting hard to dind
    try the epson e-store for excellent prices on epson flatbeds.
    too bad dedicated film scanner are vanishing.
    don't let anyone tell you this model ( dedicated scanner is great) they are just unavailble or no parts/repair is available.
    if you find one great . but it may have a limited future. enjoy it while it works.
    epson flatbeds seem to be the best you can get now.
    I see no reason to do e-6 except gpr slide duping. when a cheical kit will be used up in a few days.
  10. After reading your responses, I think it is super important to ask yourself "How Important are these Photographs to me?"
    Sounds like you have a 365 photograph project. This I would think means that if one roll is damaged in month 11 our project is down the drain. No?
    As for me, I never chance using a Walmart etc., to handle my film. Yes, I know that they send it to fuji labs, and I assure you, they loose film. I know of this as I've read the stories many times. Granted, anyone can but for important jobs the film never leaves my home. Also there is something very comfortable about doing a project all your own from choosing the right film all the way thru to the final scan or at least taking it out of the bucket and holding up to the light.
    Just how important is a roll to you?
    When I simply do not have the time I only send it to the finest lab I've used/know about. Richards in L.A.
    When you do your own processing the right way you have complete control and no room for miscommunication etc. It is A LOT cheaper as long as you understand the amount you need for a days run, measure that exactly (I have all my formulas with chem / pour measurements in an excel spreedsheet) and store the Orig. Stock back correctly will save big money. I did the numbers once and it is indeed the way to go for me. I save until I have at least 6 rolls and run them. I use both 220 films or I can double up 120 films on one reel with the Jobo Reel and "Red Tab"
    The learning curve is really quite simple.
    My temps are perfect for two reasons. I use a Water Panel. Something I'll never part with. And the jobo has a margin that will not begin the process unless it's perfect. (You can set a margin error gap in the programs)
    You really have to ask yourself again, how important is my film to me?
  11. I am about to start an art project of carrying the 7II with me everywhere I go for 365 days. ... So there it is, what do I do with 5-10 rolls of film a month?​
    Process B&W yourself. Send out to Fuji Labs (via Walmart) for C-41, and E-6 in particular.
    Get an Epson V500 class flatbed for about $100. It's excellent for prints out to 8x10 or so. If you've $2500 to spare, get a Nikon 9000 for the much superior scan quality.
  12. Dont worry about your film getting lot or damaged via Fuji Labs (Walmart sendout service). I've been using them since 2002-2003, with over 1000 rolls sent, and NEVER lost one. The ONLY thing that has gone wrong, was a single roll of Kodachrome Slide film that they processed in E-6, but that is partly my fault, as I did not (but always do now) write "K-14 Process only". I simply wrote Kodachrome Slide Film. You see, Kodachrome is unique among slide films in that it requires special chemicals (k-14 process).
    As for the"many stories" about this happening, I'm not sure where that is coming from. I have not seen many, actually, I can only really remember one guy writing about that. And I've been reading these forums for amny years too. Mostly, when Fuji Labs is mentioned you will get guys who love their local Pro Labs and feel for their declining film business saying you too should support your local lab. But my take is that with the decline in film use, we need to support and keep healthy a few large labs that will have enough volume to sustain, keep quality high, and prices reasonable. Not just Fujin Labs, but others too, such as The Slide Printer for E6.
    Anyways, check out Flickr's I Shoot Film Group, and see how many there use Fuji Labs, and what their experiences have been, then decide yourself.
  13. If you can have the lab process the film only, no scan, no making prints etc.. DIY for C41 and E6 film proccessing isn't as effective (cheap) as the lab. You might want to process the B&W yourself. If you need the film scanned, do it yourself, the lab seems never do a good job. Well because scanning a negative is like printing one it takes a lot of interpretation which I don't think you want to leave to someone else to make that decision for you.
  14. i would REALLY like to know if "walmart losing film" is a
    third party rumor. ( are there alligators in NYC sewers)
    My daughter-in-law lost her vacation photos at walmart.
    But she has serious problems with things breaking and getting lost.
    I applaud your efforts to be careful and assure yourself that your project will go smoothly.
    I may also suggest that if you were staying local things will be easier
    If you go away from home. especiall if it involves travel, the undeveloped film will be subject to inspections, scans and x-rays. Anything can happen.
    Your interest and needs are the photos, not the techniques and hardware.
    they are only a means to an end. That said, I still think the BEST for B&W if you use it is to do it yourself.
  15. Sending out to a Wallymart is very easy to be said when it's not someone else's project and is near and dear to them.
    Only you can decide that. Only you can put a $$$ AND an emoutional value on that roll of film. Getting lost by WallyMart is of course very, very rare, but do you want simply a run through of developing or do you want someone to listen to you, what do you like and take a personal interest.
    I always (as a lot of photographers do) shoot with a +1 or better Exposure Comp with C-41 and it always improves quite a bit. I'll tell you this, if you do decide to save money by sending it to Wally, DO NOT think they will read your instructions for Push/Pull.
    Make a day one day, come into New Jersey and I'll show you how it's done, I'll prove out the numbers to you and show you the full control you'll have. I doubt very much I'll ever be able to sell my Jobo. If I do, I'll end up paying over $15 a roll at Richards for C-41 and of course, as receommended here correctly, do the B/W at home where one has even more control delta.
  16. Wow, thanks for the great responses.
    I think I'm going to do the BW myself. I've done it before with satisfying results and it's is also the film I'm most likely to need push-pull processing on.

    As for film C-41 and E-6, I'll keep an eye out for a good deal on a Jobo CPP-2 or similar, I really want an ATL, limited brooklyn apartment space is the only issue there maybe I can convince my wife to let me.

    It's likely less practical, but fun, and as somewhat of a hobbyist, the more hands on the better. The most appealing part is that on any given day I could take some shots, process, and scan them all in a few (or several) hours. Whether or not it is the most cost effective, I am really intrigued by the fact that, the more pictures I take, the more practical it is (to a point). Having that motivation is a good thing. I can always throw it back on ebay if not.

    I'm actually a fan of using wal-mart for processing, but I don't live anywhere near wal-mart. Can I drop ship? The catch is, if I am gonna go out of my way for processing, I want good scans too.

    Also interested in Thanks for that recommendation. Those are great prices, I'll take our word on the quality, and they offer different qualities of scans for reasonable prices. Sure beats $34-40 a roll with mediocre scans.
    Tom, I really appreciate your offer. Maybe if I have a big batch of film I can pick up a rental car and I'll take you up on the offer. Very kind of you, and your dark-room looks dope!
  17. Tyler i too live in brooklyn and feel your pain. i send e-6 to fuji labs usually 10 - 20 rolls at a time,placed in
    mailers and then shipped in a small box to insure correct postage.for c-41 i use walgreens on myrtle ave,
    processing only is under 4$ per roll and the students @ pratt university art class use them also (film is not
    dead). after running around NY trying to find processing equipment with no luck,and already owning a minolta
    elite 5400 2 scanner i found as others have noted that a decent scanner might be your best option. one more
    thing the turnaround time @ that particular walgreens is a few hours. good luck with your project
    ray price
  18. Depends on how much free time and money you have. Paying $34 per roll is pretty crazy to me. I live in Queens and shoot about as much as you. I use L&I labs on 23rd St in Manhattan for processing C41 and E6 and they do a pretty decent job. At $8 per roll for processing it's pretty ok. B&W I process at home. And then I scan the film at home with an Epson 700. Scanning takes about an hour per 35mm roll and 30min per 120 roll.
    If you can find one of those mom and pop minilabs that do both 35mm and 120 film on their machines you might be able to save a few bucks. I used to go to one on Essex and Hester St, and they charge $6 per roll. Scanning is an extra $5 on their Fuji scanner and you can ask for 2400dpi scans.
    PrintspaceNYC does processing for about $5 per roll but they don't scan. They do have an Imacon that you can rent.
  19. It all depends on your interest level, if you feel that if the Lab work will be rewarding & it will improve the quality of your portfolio, you have time to process film & you feel it will also be fun, go for it. I purchased a Photo-Therm Film Processor SK-4G from a University going Digital for $500.00 in excellent condition since I knew Labs would raise their prices in the future, especially in Canada. I do not shoot that much Film on a yearly basis, only in summer, although presently my Film Processor is paid for with the savings from processing E6 at $15.00 a Roll previously. Processing at $34.00 a Roll, any decent Film Processor will be paid for in a couple of months, easily. The E6 process costs me about $2.50 a Roll. I agree with Robert Lee, a Flatbed Scanner isn't expensive although are of excellent quality for the price, you will be able to cover your various Film Formats for scanning.

Share This Page