View Full Version : professional lab or drugstore

01-04-2008, 18:09
I'm experimenting with film in every way after using digital for 10 years. I'm trying different cameras, films, developing, etc...just trying to decide for myself what I think is best (cost/benefit/aesthetic, etc.).

I started wondering how many people, when not developing their own stuff, insist on taking their stuff to a professional lab versus using a drugstore/1Hr. Place. Of course I understand if you're shooting something other than 35 or if you need some special process (push/pull) but otherwise, is the thread of some spec of dust/dirt on a roller really worth the price/convenience difference of going to a specialized photolab versus the machine at the corner drugstore.

The Poll is, who does which...but the valuable information is your reply, with why.


gb hill
01-04-2008, 18:17
1 hr. because I mainly shoot cheapo color or c-41 b&w film and have it developed and scanned to a cd.

Steve Bellayr
01-04-2008, 18:20
Always a professional lab. It is good to work up a relationship with them. They can give advice and make recommendations. They can also do the printing to your standards i.e. I always insist that my B&W be printed hight contrast which no drugstore will do. Sometimes, at least where I go, they sell cameras & lenses & I have picked up some very nice items.

01-04-2008, 18:29
The vast majority of my stuff is C-41, so I use a Walgreens a few blocks away that does excellent work. Black & white, medium format, slides I take to a camera store that does its own developing.

01-04-2008, 18:32
I sometimes use shutterfly. They take a week or so but the results are good. They also post the shots for downloading at 1500x1000 pix, jpg (.25us for the first + .05 each additional). I can scan better but they are faster unless I want a large print.

01-04-2008, 18:32
All of my color work goes to a local pro lab. My B&W is done in my darkroom..

I took some C-41 B&W to a 1 hr lab last week and got back trash.

Film dino
01-04-2008, 18:36
The pro lab I use to process C41 (process only; uncut roll delivered back to me for scanning) actually use a mini-lab, but they are prompt, careful & adhere to Kodak QC standards.

01-04-2008, 18:37
Costco is my lab of choice. Made friends with many of the folks and get much more reliable service than Walgreens. Tried them three times and two times the ruined a few frame on a roll and said it was my fault. The errors were clearly from poor practices on their side. They refused to give me a refund. When Costco messes up (e.g. forgets to give me a CD I ordered) I get it for free and quickly. They have never scratched or messed up anything with the film (knock on wood).

If there were a pro lab that provided good service at a reasonable price I would go to them, but the folks at Helix 1 hr are a bit to, jr. these days.

B2 (;->

back alley
01-04-2008, 19:28
only shoot b&w
develop my own
except for xp2
use a 1 hour hour place for dev and scan, no prints
if i have a good shot i rescan at home.
pro lab for prints since i sold my darkroom

01-04-2008, 19:31
1 hr labs can be very handy but you need to make sure the operator knows what she/he is doing, the chemicals are fresh and that they actually use running water for the wash.

01-04-2008, 19:42
One hour service (or next day, if I'm feeling patient) at Target or Wal-Mart, usually process only since I scan my negatives anyway. For all 120 and for 35mm slide film I use Wal-Mart's 2-week mail-away processing. I do my own B&W at home.

I've heard good things about Costco but they aren't any stores nearby. No professional labs, either. The nearest is probably in Baltimore or DC.

01-04-2008, 19:56
I answered the 1-hour since that's where I usually go, but for important stuff, slides and such I will go to one of two indie labs here.

01-04-2008, 20:05
I haven't used the Kodak one hour down the road for a while now ... since I stopped using C41 black and white they don't see much of me! I do have a bit of an urge to shoot some colour with 120 as I have a fair amount of it (Portra and Reala) in the fridge which will mean a long drive across town and $12.00 per roll just for processing. I had some 35mm Portra done at the Kodak a while ago and wasn't too impressed with the results ... one roll had had a distinct green cast to a lot of shots.

I'd have to vote lab in spite of the expense! Or maybe time to get a C41 kit from B&H. :)

01-04-2008, 23:38
I use a one-hour for C41 color process-only and no cut, because I don't shoot color with more 'professional' formats like 120 and I don't shoot chromes. If I was still shooting 120 color or chromes, I'd probably use a pro lab more often, as opposed to letting the one-hour lab send it to their 'big' off-site processing house.


1 hr labs can be very handy but you need to make sure the operator knows what she/he is doing, the chemicals are fresh and that they actually use running water for the wash.

hmmm...good luck on that. If I'm not mistaken, most one-hour labs in and around here (San Francisco bay area) have gone "waterless." Not sure if this applies to other places. These places don't even have a floor drain anymore. I'll have to ask the next time I visit.


01-04-2008, 23:51
I am blessed and I know it. Tokyo is still a film town. It's not that digital isn't dominant, but there's still a lot of attention at every level to film. Pros shooting Velvia medium format for magazines; teenage girls with retro *film* p&s at parties; me fiddling with any and all I can while I can.
So, there's a 35-minute Fuji place (no, not one hour, 35 minutes) five minutes from my home. But I usually walk an extra ten minutes to get to the pro place (Horiuchi Color Labs, who recently bought out Sigma) who do same-day E6 or next-morning C41 & B/W. I usually have them "develop only", and they (professionally) cut into strips of six (if 35mm) or three (if 6x6). I feed them anything I can to keep them in business. Especially after some 35mm work I had done in the States came back cut into strips of four (horror!) and scratched (horrors!)
So my answer is pro.

01-05-2008, 01:14
B&W my self,
for colour neg I shoot Portra 400 VC and get it processed by Peak in the UK via the pro service. Its a little more pricey but the results are fantastic - no brown shadows just great colour, sharp and contrasty prints which can go straight into frames.
Each frame is analysed by a 'human' before printing so that's where the extra cash goes.

01-05-2008, 05:17
B&W gets dropped off at a local graphics house which makes a run downtown twice a week for development. I scan and PS myself, then print at the local drugstore (Fuji minilab) for 4x6s or zap the files to MPix for enlargements.

Much preferred (someday) method: develop myself, scan, PS, inkjet print. Someday.

For color, I default to digital and again print at local drugstore for 4x6s, MPix for enlargements.

01-05-2008, 05:28
It's a no choicer.

The only places around here are Fuji Frontier minilab; but they are run by professional photographers, not minimum wage people.

01-05-2008, 05:47
The two 'pro' labs near me (30 minutes drives) use minilabs. I take 35mm E6 and most of my C41 to the friendlier place and get it the next evening. Prices are marginally higher than the drugstores and the results are acceptable and consistent.

Sometimes I do take C41 to Walgreens, which is about two blocks away and very convenient. Quality varies all over the place, so it's not to be trusted for anything that counts. May try WalMart or Costco next time I have a "doesn't count" roll.

Al Patterson
01-05-2008, 05:48
I voted professional lab, but the local camera store does use 1 hour photo machines for XP2 or color and route the B&W prints to a pro lab. I don't trust the other places, but YMMV as they say.

01-05-2008, 08:27
Here in Helsinki, Finland, we have a couple of reputable 1-hour shops that has long business hours. They do special processing (push) of B/W for next day.
Pice for processing-only is 7,50 EUR (11 US$) for B/W and 6,50 EUR (9,60 US$) for C-41.

01-14-2008, 07:11
B&W gets processed at home.
C41 goes to the drugstore.
Slides go to a pro lab.

01-14-2008, 07:15
Personal work
- 35/120 BW done at home (well sort of... mostly it sits in a pile waiting)
- 35mm C41 done at drug store (unless i did something funky - e.g. push, cross process, etc.)
- 35mm E6 pro lab
- 120 C41/E6 pro lab
- 4x5 bw, c41, E6 pro lab

Pro work
- all done at the lab, regardless of format, film or process.

01-14-2008, 07:18
I vote one hour. The only thing that a prob lab gave me is a roll very well developed Fortepan 200 and a roll of so-so T-max 100. And they charge me more than I could swallow. So enough of that.

My goal is to start developing silver B+W myself.
No choice for slides but to drop it to Wally's.

But for C-41 B+W and colors, I'd stick to my good buddies at my local Sam's minilab. They are cheap, consistent, and just roll their eyes when I showed up with half-frame rolls or super long leaders from my barnack :)

02-23-2008, 19:35
I own a camera store in Iowa City, Ia. We offer nearly every photographic service except Kodachrome and movie film, including full color services from film and digital, as well as E6, and a true b/w lab.

However, having said that, the quality of prints from film or digital, from many 'good' one-hour labs including some Wal*marts, is fine. Most are on Fuji processors and paper, same as we are.

Overall, if you have a reasonably good printer, things can be excellent, shop around, find somebody in your area, and get chummy with the lab people. Generally, they will do a good job. NOT as good as we do, but I am biased!

David Goldfarb
02-23-2008, 19:55
B&W I do myself. E-6 usually goes to a pro lab, but occasionally I'll run it myself. C-41 I've done in the past, but these days I use it pretty rarely, so I always send it to a pro lab.

Do I have my film developed at a drugstore? Do I have my prescriptions filled at the photo lab? No. The other day I noticed a business in the Bronx called "Rx Pizza and Grill," but they had closed down. Maybe they should have developed film too.

02-26-2008, 05:59
Not so clear cut here:

Rated C-41 and E-6: Drugstore. Never had a single problem there in 10 years.

Pushed C-41 (never pushed E-6): Pro lab.

Rated B/W: Drugstore.

Pushed B/W: That I do myself now.

I used to go to the only pro lab nearby, but they have been slipping below an acceptable level. They retired their E-6 machine due to low volume and their B/W work gave me poorly developed (over or under) and very spotty negs with drying marks. Of course I complained but they do not seem to be able to do it better.

So I bought a changing bag, a Paterson tank with reels and the usual bottles etc. and Diafine as developer. The rest, as they say, is history...

02-26-2008, 06:22
i always use the 1 hour places.

walgreens develops + scans for around 5-6$. target was the cheapest at develop and scan at 1.99$, but their resolutions are much worse than walgreens and they scratched a lot of my film, so i'll go to walgreens although i fully understand that it's a hit and miss with them too.

for slides i use the fuji mailers, i don't know why anyone would use anything else. the turnaround is about 3-5 days for those.

Andrew Sowerby
02-26-2008, 06:48
I use a drugstore for my C-41 stuff, but I had to try out a bunch of them before finding one run by someone who actually cares about what he's doing. A pro lab might be a bit better for basic scan'n'print, but the price difference is too high. I go to a pro lab for printing bigger than 4x6 though.

03-25-2008, 21:40
Only my color film goes out, as I develop all my 135 and 120 B&W film myself. The color neg films are dropped off at the drug store's 1-hour lab for "Develop only - do not cut" processing. The 135 is back within hours and the 120 takes about 2-1/2 weeks--a long wait, but can't beat the low cost. So far, so good.

03-25-2008, 22:17
It's prohibitively expensive to use a pro lab here in San Diego - the one down the street charged me approx $50 to develop, scan and one set of prints of Tri-x and color slides.

Now, I shoot only C-41 color & B&W. First preference - Costco offers high-res scans and an index of the pics on the CD label. It's convenient & much cheaper.

Next option is Target which is really pretty good. Then Walgreen's and lastly CVS (which gives pathetically low res scans).

03-25-2008, 22:17
Costco for me. They know me there as the only guy who asks for "process only." They roll it back up it stick it in the canister to give back to me.

04-24-2008, 09:32
I use only C-41 films, and get excellent 1-hour processing to CD from Wal-Mart.

Jim N.

05-30-2008, 16:12
I don't have much money and have got in to this film business as a way to get cheap oof for the few pics that need it (mostly portraits). I use out of date fuji reala 100 and superia 400.

So I develop as cheaply as possible without prints (e2.75, 1 hour service at the local french hypermarket, Auchan), then I hold the negs up to the sky and take a snap with my 6MP digi cam (Fuji F30). Having 'printed' (see below) I select the few that I wish to keep and take a closer snap of individual pics and I seem to get about 1MP of info, which for my purposes is almost always enough (a 6x4 and web/email). If my family really want a bigger pic then they can always get an enlargment. Neg curl can sometimes be a problem, but I usually crop and add vignetting, so not so often.

I'm thinking of sending off my films to the US for development,as there is at least 1 place that does it for $3, and the postage isn't so steep if I send enough films. Depending on postage and langages other countries might be good too.

[I 'print' the negs by using the freeware Irfanview with the also free Smartcurves photoshop plugin. It's not instant, but quick enough and I do enjoy it.]

05-30-2008, 16:43
B&W I do myself.
35mm C-41 goes to the Walgreens two blocks from here. There is a woman there who knows the Fuji machine very well and consistantly does a good job on my dunk & scan orders.
MF & LF C41 & E6 goes to a pro lab.


05-30-2008, 16:52
Winston Salem N.C. lost it's pro lab at the end of last year. The camera store in the mall has had problems with every roll I've given them. I'm scared of the drug stores. Any suggestions on a good mail order pro lab? Thanks. Joe.

05-30-2008, 23:31
With film, the film itself is all you have to start with, so it makes sense to have it treated with the utmost care. I use a local pro lab and shoot "only" C41 color & B/W in 35 & 120/220; the rare traditional B/W I do myself. Of course, when and if the photos aren't all that important, then anyplace will do... but then that's what digital is for, right? :rolleyes::D

05-31-2008, 13:53
I use a local professional lab to develop my important color negative film (weddings and portraits) because I do not want anything to get lost in the mail.

I develop my own 35mm and 120 E6 film.

I develop my own 35mm, 120, 4x5, and 8x10 black & white film.

I scan my film to produce digitized images.

I use a remote professional lab to make prints from my digital images.

The last time I used a drug store was when I first decided to start developing my own color slide film.

Eric T
05-31-2008, 17:26
I voted for the drugstore because that is where all my 35mm film goes. But for 120/220, i have to go to the local pro lab. I should take all of it to the pro lab just to help keep them in business. Unfortunately, laziness and convenience encourage me to go to the nearby drugstore.

05-31-2008, 17:43
I use only C-41 films, and get excellent 1-hour processing to CD from Wal-Mart.

Jim N.
My Walmart just closed down Film Processing. But Costco is the best of all in my opinion. They give ne 3.6 meg scans on a CD.

05-31-2008, 18:59
The local grocery store will do 35mm and 120mm (!), C41. Just across from the deli counter and the BBQ chickens.

It was the place to go for a while until management pissed off the staff and the good people left. now they have $300,000 worth of equipment in the hands of management and fools. They damaged three rolls so far.

Now I send my stuff, by courier to the city, to a semi pro lab who do pretty good work.

The writing is on the wall, I'm gonna have to do this myself very soon.