Signs of inconsistent minilab chemistry (C41)
Old 01-05-2019   #1
olifaunt
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Signs of inconsistent minilab chemistry (C41)

I've been having color film (Portra 400) developed at a local lab. Often the images come out great (as judged from their scans) but then there are batches that are not as good; in particular, some batches are more grainy and lack microcontrast in areas such as green foliage, which just tends to look smudged and out of focus (even while other objects in the same focal plane are in precise focus). These batches also seem to have extra halation in, for example, bright reds such as traffic lights.

Are these possible signs of chemistry that has gone old? Since this lab is quite cheap and often does a great job, I would just like to have a basis for a conversation with them. As it is I don't feel I really know enough about the issue to say anything. Several times I have had a dozen rolls developed there beautifully, but then the damage is large when a dozen rolls come out a little wretched.
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Old 01-05-2019   #2
davidnewtonguitars
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I'd love for you to say the lab name.
I shipped 17 rolls of Kodak & Fuji C41 that my son & I shot. I used this lab before with good results, but it changed hands and was relocated near Boston. They all came back muddy and looked under-exposed even though we both shot them over several months, him on a Spotmatic with a great meter, and my M2 & Model ii using a meter. All our B&W that I develop here looks great. I quit using them and now use a more expensive lab.
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Old 01-05-2019   #3
Huss
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It could also be scanning issues. Back when Costco developed/scanned film, my scans would look great when this certain lady was working. When it was one of the other doods, they would often come back muddy, scan lines, sometimes scratched!
I asked her about it, and she mentioned that she was really careful when she was handling film and scanning. In comparison I saw one of her coworkers literally drag a developed film roll across the floor on his was to the scanner..
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Old 01-05-2019   #4
Steve M.
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If a dozen rolls came out a little wretched, then it's time to change labs. Cheap your lab may be, but when you start adding up the cost of wasted film and time, it ain't so cheap anymore.

I'm not sure what film you're using, but I learned that if I was going to shoot colour it pays to buy pro film and get it processed at a pro lab. The issues w/ labs is why most of us went to shooting B&W and developing it ourselves. After just a short while you figure it out and get consistent results that are better than any lab.
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Old 01-06-2019   #5
ajtruhan
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It happened to me. Negatives left sitting on a table for who knows how long (waiting to get wrapped in plastic.) Walking through the whole carpetted store with film in hand. Roller marks through 120 film. Rarely meeting deadlines. Affordable, but for a reason.

It pushed me to try home c41 which ended up being a blessing. It’s easier than bw. I’m on my first batch of unicolor and I’ve gotten about 2x as many rolls as they promise (they say 8, I’m at 15-18 or so.)

Scanning at home is simple with an epson v500/550. You can get one for about $100.
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Old 01-06-2019   #6
markjwyatt
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Color labs need to maintain their chemistry. I worked in 1 hour photo type labs in the past, and we had to run Kodak control strips for the C-41 and print chemistry every day. The control strips contained grey and color patches exposed under very controlled conditions. I do not know who still makes these (maybe not Kodak, not sure). We would measure densities and plot onto control charts. A technician would come in regularly or if we noticed changes in the plots and help determine what to do (change a bath, extra replenishment, etc.). If a lab does not do this, then they could have bad chemistry and have no way of knowing which chemical(s) is (are) bad.
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Old 01-06-2019   #7
Emile de Leon
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I used to work in a photo lab..so many factors to fk up..better to do it yourself..unless the lab is one dude....who is great..
There is a guy in CT here I recommend...he is the only one at the helm..and is a pro..
https://www.rjphil.com/
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Old 01-07-2019   #8
willie_901
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The last time I had film developed I sent it off toPrecision Camera & Video (a RFF sponsor).

They did a great job overall. And some of the film was damaged and they rescued more frames than I imagined possible.
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Old 01-08-2019   #9
leicapixie
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Color labs are the main problem of me going to digital for color.
A lab in For "Agfa" in South Africa, had to send control strips daily to Leverkusen Germany for quality control.
Sadly the lab person, did all strips on day chemicals first prepared!
Stored in freezer and released on a "daily" basis..
All Agfa prints in ZA faded..short changed there by Agfa not using same method as Kodak....
I had a foot-print (partial) on Ektacrome done at another lab.
Kodak had a power failure with my films in process ruining 9 rolls!
They would only agree to replace 2 rolls..

I have heaps of 120 and 35mm color film, now outdated..
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Old 01-08-2019   #10
olifaunt
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This lab is a one-person enterprise, so I am mainly looking to see if it is even processing that is the problem.

Symptoms: I use Kodak Portra 400. Some rolls come out more grainy than they should be in the mid-tones and highlights while at the same time highlights appear overly burnt, to where I can't recover much highlight detail even self-scanning, which is weird because Portra 400 should have tons and tons of highlight latitude. This combination seems to rule out underexposure as the culprit for the graininess. Other rolls under similar conditions come out beautifully. Do the symptoms sound like chemistry? I don't want to bring it up the lab otherwise.
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