Varying Results from Different Photo Labs
Old 01-29-2018   #1
DanielJohannes
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Varying Results from Different Photo Labs

Hi all. I just had a puzzling experience getting my film developed.

I've been on holiday in Hong Kong for the past 2 months, and shot quite a lot of photos on TRI-X 400. Most of them were developed there, but some were brought back to England due to time constraints.

I've just gotten through scanning most of them. The ones developed in England came out horrible - a large percentage seem underexposed, and even the ones that aren't appear excessively grainy. Initially I put this down to human error on my part (albeit hesitantly, since I've been using the sunny 16 rule for years).

The ones developed in HK, however, are perfect! Everything is sharp, grain is minimal, exposure is correct 99% of the time.

While this could be a coincidence, I'm doubtful simply because of the quantities - the 13 rolls developed in the UK are all sketchy, and the 23 developed in HK are all perfect. I even got my undeveloped film hand searched at the airport (despite most people claiming that X-rays won't affect iso 400 film), so that's ruled out.

Has anyone had similar experiences? What could have caused this? I have very little darkroom experience, but all I can think of is inaccurate developing/fixing time or expired chemicals. I'm hesitant to make this assumption, however, since the aforementioned UK photo lab (Colourstream) is pretty well known in my area, and has given my good results in the past.
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Old 01-29-2018   #2
steveyork
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Solution is to do your own B&W developing. Economical, easy and fun.
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Old 01-29-2018   #3
DanielJohannes
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If you find it so easy, why don't you try identifying the problem rather than ignoring my question.
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Old 01-29-2018   #4
Ko.Fe.
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I don't think what BW developing could be automated as C-41. So, lab with name Colourstream might have good reputation for C-41, but yours BW 13 rolls could be manually processed Friday afternoon rolls (developed in a hurry to get it done and go for beer and curry).
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Old 01-29-2018   #5
farlymac
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It's definitely a matter of different labs. Heck, I get varying results from the same lab, depending on who is doing the work. You could have just as easily gotten the reverse results, with the HK rolls being worse than the UK ones. It happens you picked the right lab in Hong Kong, and the wrong one at home. Time to go down there and do your disgruntled customer routine until you get a refund.

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Old 01-29-2018   #6
winzenbourg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielJohannes View Post
If you find it so easy, why don't you try identifying the problem rather than ignoring my question.
Daniel,

Relax a bit, eh? If you take a moment to reread steveyork's post, you might catch the positive tone, encouraging you to have some fun developing your own film. Also, he's been posting here a full decade longer than you and can probably offer lots of insight down the road.

Welcome to RFF, please be kind.
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Old 01-29-2018   #7
steveyork
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielJohannes View Post
If you find it so easy, why don't you try identifying the problem rather than ignoring my question.

Answering your specific question is not easy, because we have too little information. We really need to see the negatives, or at least scans from the negative. If you search the web you'll find examples of overdeveloped/underdeveloped negatives (and other problems) and you can arrive at your own conclusion.

As stated above, the only sure solution is to do your own developing in the future. It's easy, fun and economical. In my limited experience, it's pretty hard to screw your own self developed film up.
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Old 01-29-2018   #8
f16sunshine
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OP, I would not expect a 100% accurate answer from an internet board.
None of us touched your film or know anyting beyond your initial post.
All we know is it was tri-x and you exposed via Sunny 16.
Did you shoot box speed or push it?
Was the lab aware of any need to compensate on any of the rolls?
Ask your lab in UK what developer they used and the specifics of delusion, time, and temperature.
The Lab in HK probably used a more foolproof method than the one in The UK. (I would guess Diafine as it's quite easy to get a usable negative with little knowledge of exposure).

There is only one way to get control of these things... Buy a darkbag, 2roll tank/reels, and,....develop your own at home.
If you're scanning them you may as well develop them
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Old 01-30-2018   #9
rscheffler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielJohannes View Post
Hi all. I just had a puzzling experience getting my film developed.

I've been on holiday in Hong Kong for the past 2 months, and shot quite a lot of photos on TRI-X 400. Most of them were developed there, but some were brought back to England due to time constraints.

I've just gotten through scanning most of them. The ones developed in England came out horrible - a large percentage seem underexposed, and even the ones that aren't appear excessively grainy. Initially I put this down to human error on my part (albeit hesitantly, since I've been using the sunny 16 rule for years).

The ones developed in HK, however, are perfect! Everything is sharp, grain is minimal, exposure is correct 99% of the time.
What does the edge printing on the film rebate look like in your HK vs UK negatives? Is one of good density and the other differs? This is one way to tell if a film was 'correctly' or sufficiently developed.

As for the UK negs being grainier... is that what you see on the actual negs with a loupe, or what you see in your scans? If the UK images appear underexposed in the scans and you have to compensate in software, then the images will not have the same, full tonality of correctly processed/exposed film. If however, the actual UK processed negs are grainier than the HK processed batch, then I would suspect developer type, which you will only know by asking the lab.

In the past there was a 'fix' for underexposed or under developed B&W negs, called Chromium Intensifier, which surprisingly is still available (UK link) from Fotospeed. Another option, if still available, is to try selenium toning the negs to build up density.

Be aware that both chromium and selenium have environmental impacts...

Similar tips here.
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