Costco Film Developing?
November 10, 2004 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone used Costco's film lab to print black and white? I develop my own b&w film but don't have a darkroom. Was thinking of getting a scanner and, after scanning and editing the negs, having the prints done at Costco.

I drive 20 minutes once a week and rent a darkroom at an art studio but that's getting old fast.

Also, was considering getting a medium format and 35mm film scanner but the good ones start at around $2k so I'll probably go with a higher end flatbed, like an epson 4870 or canon 9950F. The biggest print I see myself making is 8x11 so I don't think a $2k scanner justifies such humble requirements.
posted by Tacodog to Shopping (13 answers total)
Uh, maybe you and I are thinking at different levels, but all those seem to be <$1000 for a film scanner. If you do that and get a dye-sub printer you could probably eek it out around $2k -- and I bet your prints would be better then at CostCo.
posted by geoff. at 11:29 AM on November 10, 2004

Response by poster: geoff, the scanners in that link support 35mm or APS (eek!) format. I'm looking at medium format scanners, 120 film size, since I just started shooting 6x6. Prices jump way up for those kind of film scanners.
posted by Tacodog at 11:46 AM on November 10, 2004

I hate to say it, but you're really not going to be satisfied with the results of a flat-bed on 120/220 film. Particularly after looking at the slides on a light table -- my heart aches just thinking about all the detail that will be lost. Even for 35mm, the Nikon CoolScan V produces only so-so results (and that'll run you $600). This is the cheapest 120 scanner of any quality I could find -- it's not two grand, but it's still pretty expensive. If you're satisfied with less detail resolving power, you can take a look at this pretty fair review of an Epson flatbed that handles MF (up to 6x7).

This is a good area to look for information on MF printing & scanning on
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:35 PM on November 10, 2004

Also with regards to printing at Costco, they'll almost certainly be printing your photos on color paper, not B&W. Depending on how well the machine is calibrated, this means you're likely to have a color tint on the prints.
posted by neckro23 at 12:43 PM on November 10, 2004

Wait, you develop the film but want them to print it? That is so backwards. Developing the film is a chore, and can certainly be left to a cheap film lab (find one that won't scratch the negatives). The creative part comes in the printing at least with B&W. Why leave that to a lab? You will get low quality and miss out on the fun of printing it to your taste. If you are going to 6x6 why would you want to scan them (unless of course you can afford one of the fancy scanners)? The whole purpose for 6x6 is the greater detail. You can probably get a decent enlarger and accessories for less than the scanner and then you will be making top quality prints right at home. There are lots of good used enlargers on the market these days as everyone rushes to digital.
posted by caddis at 1:17 PM on November 10, 2004

Response by poster: caddis, the original plan was to develop, scan, edit in PS, output to a lab to print.

Price isn't an issue for an enlarger: space is. I have very little space for a darkroom but it looks like I'm going to go that route anyway. Better quality control and whatnot, even if I can't print to save my life.

Besides, mrs. taco just game me the ok to use the bathroom as a darkroom. score.

Thanks for your responses, all.
posted by Tacodog at 1:34 PM on November 10, 2004

If you were going to do this and wanted your prints to look GOOD, I would find a good photo lab where you live. Find someone who knows what their doing rather than some dumb highschool kid.
posted by trbrts at 2:15 PM on November 10, 2004

I cannot answer your question for Costco. However, if you live somewhere that has Meijier, they do print b/w, and they do an excellent job of it. The only downside to it is that you *have* to use a specific b/w film or they won't process for you. (Ilford; and no, I don't know why they demanded that brand.) I never had a problem with the film in question, but if you're particularly wedded to a brand, they may not be a good option for you.

(And once, they did accidentally leave on a color filter during processing; we ended up with two sets for the price of one- the black and whites, and the gorgeous, sepia "mistakes." )
posted by headspace at 6:45 PM on November 10, 2004

If Costco uses a Fujifilm Frontier minilab, it makes amazing digital prints. Our Walmart (yes, kill me now) has one and we get digital prints done there all the time. We had them print some stuff we did in color then desaturated in Photoshop and they were totally neutral, pure black and white. I didn't detect either a cool or warm cast to it. They print on Fuji Crystal Archive color paper.
posted by zsazsa at 7:24 PM on November 10, 2004

More good news: you can download the color profiles of a number (as in, a large number) of in-your-area printers, including Sam's, CostCo, Wal-Mart, and smaller specialty places.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:52 AM on November 11, 2004

Response by poster: hrm... the plot thickens... what to do, what to do...
posted by Tacodog at 6:56 AM on November 11, 2004

Taco, here's the deal.

Concentrate on what it is you want to do. If you like making custom prints, (and by prints, I mean silver, fixer, stop-bath, etc.), you need to buy an enlarger and simply deal with noxious chemicals that will stunt your growth. The results will be very nice, the chemicals will be annoying, the lack of a real darkroom will make itself evident quickly, the paper will be expensive, the enlarger will be expensive, and the time it sucks from your life will be happily traded for the simple joy that comes out of seeing the shot magically appear in the chemical trays.

If you just like taking photographs, however, concentrate on that and let someone else do the dirty work. I guarantee you it's not only more cost-effective, but time-effective as well.

Any color work is better done at a Sam's Club or CostCo (hell, even Walgreens uses Fuji Frontiers these days!) The prints will cost you peanuts, they will last longer than any Epson (even with UltraChrome inks), and will look fabulous.

B&W work becomes more tricky. If you're really concerned about ensuring your prints have no color cast to them, take care profiling your images and you'll should be OK. If you absolutely, positively want a real print (silver, chemicals, etc.), send the neg to a pro lab and have them custom print the thing for an extra $10. There's a great lab in Boston I used to use all the time called Panopticon -- they do top-notch prints, and they'll do custom dodging and burning. Just tell them what you want and they can do it.

Basically, concentrate on what you want to do, not what you feel you have to do. Let someone who's already got the expertise do what you don't want to do instead.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:59 PM on November 11, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you CD. I think that's the best advice I've received in photography so far. Made me stop and think about what I like to do most of all and that is taking pictures. Never really thought about that until now.

If I get a scanner that can do MF and 35mm, I'll use that as my non-chemical contact sheet. Anything worth enlarging, I'll scan and play with in PS and send it out to be printed. Biggest I've done so far has been 8x11 anyway, nothing demanding. Anything worth a silver or really large print, I'll send it out to be printed or have it drum scanned.

Thank you one and all. Civil_Disobedient, I owe you a beer.
posted by Tacodog at 1:39 PM on November 11, 2004

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