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Processing labs on test

Processing labs on test - We've started to survey the specialist processing outlets that advertise in the photographic magazines.

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Category : Printing and Processing Labs
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processing lab testTo do the tests we send a film without saying who we are so we are seen as a normal customer and do not receive preferential treatment. We time the service from the day the film is sent to the day it is returned and then check the results and the service making the comments below. These will be added to as time goes on.

If you have comments of service you have received...good or bad...we would like to hear from you.

We have updated this article twice, once in 2005 and once in 2008, adding several more processing labs to our survey. These points are marked at the appropriate place down the page. 

 


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS


Lab 35

Mailorder lab with wide range of services for 35mm film users using C41 or E6 films. Offers premium packages for weddings and social photographers and digital scanning with images provided on CD can be added for 10 per roll.

Lab 35

Service tested: E6 (develop only)
Cost:
£3.00 1 postage

Ease of ordering:
Prices in magazine advert but no order form. This is rectified after your first order see return package.

Time taken:
Five days. The film was sent on Wednesday and arrived back on the following Monday. So that could count as two working days.

Return package:
Full order form provided with plenty of room to order reprints etc, but no price list so you have to refer back to the advert. Like Peak Processing and flat pack box is provided to send your next films in (you also get a self adhesice label if you want to send negatives back for reprints, but it's all returned in a larger than letter box sized packet which means you need to make trip to the post office if you're out when it's delivered. The film is cut into strips of six and sleeved in a diffuse sheet so you can hold them up to a light to view.

Processing quality:
Nice clean processing with no signs of scratches, dust or kinks.

Verdict
Not the fastest service but quicker than most and overall good value and quality service. Shame the package is so big and they charge a 1 for postage. A small point, but they also spelt the name wrong on the delivery invoice.

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

Peak Processing

Mail order company based in Sheffield with Sister processing lab, Propix, that deals with many of Sheffield's professional photographers.
Peak Processing
Service tested: E6 (develop only)
Cost: £3.25 75p postage

Ease of ordering:
Full page advert in several photo magazines. But no web site facility. Advert shows all pricing but doesn't have a coupon so you have to write a note and remember to add all the necessary details.

Time taken:
Very speedy service with fast 2 day return

Return package:
Slim package that will easily go through the letter box when you are out. Film order number on front and on individual sheets shows they are well organised. Film is cut up into strips of six and they are sleeved in clear archival sheets. No diffused backing so you can't view them up to a light source. Invoice/receipt supplied with new order form and space to write your name and address. Also very smart flat packed box to send you next films in but no price list so hopefully you've kept that magazine ad! You also get a points system one point per 1 spent and these are automatically accrued to give you discount on future processing. You need to use these within a certain time frame but discounts of up to 30% are possible you need 1000 points for this level. The minimum is 10% for 24-49 points.

Processing quality:
Clean with no drying marks but one roll had a slight tramline scratch running along four of the frames. It's always difficult to pinpoint this to the lab as it could be dust in the camera, or in the film's light trap. As we didn't have problems with any of the other rolls we could eliminates the camera and as it didn't run the whole length of the film that's more or less eliminates the cassette too. Colours are bright and the results sparkled

Verdict
Very clean processing with excellent colours and superb sharpness. Packaging good and return material useful. Shame you don't get a price list and the scratch is a bit worrying!

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

Kodak Processing

The famous yellow giants have a mail order service that includes the Picture CD service where the film can be processed and scanned with results being supplied as prints in a wallet along with digital files on CD.
Kodak processing
Service tested: C41 Picture CD
Cost: £5.99 £5.99 for CD (web offer free until 31 Dec 2001)

Ease of ordering:
Full page ad in photo magazine with order coupon. You'll also find their ads in the national papers and full details on their web site. Look out for occasional offers where CD is given for free or at highly reduce price.

Time taken:
Results never turned up! (see verdict)

Return package:
n/a

Processing quality:
n/a

Verdict
After three weeks I started to be concerned that we hadn't seen a package, especially when the charge appeared on my credit card statement. A quick call to Kodak proved useful. The film had been processed and logged out so the blame was with the Post office. I had several letters from customer services and a free processing voucher. But the didn't reimburse the cost of processing until I requested it. The film has never materialised.

Overall rating: I'd love to comment!


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

Dlab7.com

Lab based in Guernsey offering a variety of services for E6 and C41
Only mounted service is available for 35mm films whereas 120 is process only. E6 films can be developed and printed up to 6x4 for 8.60. Digital services also available with images developed, scanned and provided on CD for 9.60.
Dlab7
Service tested: E6 (develop mount)
Cost: £3.95 dev mount

Ease of ordering:
There are adverts in most photographic magazines and you can go to the web site dlab7.com. An ordering from is supplied on the advert.

Time taken:
9 days

Return package:
Slides supplied in standard 36 capacity storage box. Mounts very thin plastic variety. No markings indicating frame number on mount.
New order form supplied with processed film but no return envelop.

Processing quality:
No scratches, drying stains or dust and results clean but not sparkling

Verdict
Slow turnaround, but highly competitive price, no postage charges and good quality.

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

Transparacolor

Mailorder lab offering 35mm and 120 processing for E6 and C41 films along with digital scanning to CD and reprints.

Transparacolor
Service tested:
E6 (develop only)
Cost: £3.89

Ease of ordering:
Full price list in magazine advert, but no order form.

Time taken:
Just 2 days sent on Thursday and arrived back on Saturday

Return package:
Comes back in an elongated box that fits easily in the letter box but is a bit cumbersome to store if you tend to keep them in the packaging. Also provided is a self addressed protective plastic envelop for future orders along with some cassette labels but no price list or order form.
Processing quality: Can't fault the quality of processing - vibrant colours, clean processing and no kinks. But the method of supplying them is annoying. The film is cut into strips of eight, which presents problems if you intend filing them in ordinary slide binder filing sheets that are usually strips of six. If you intend keeping them in the supplied plastic sheets (clear fronted and diffused rear) they springs back to folded position when you try and flatten them out.

Verdict
Excellent processing quality, but delivery could be better

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

Square One

Small classified advertiser with the likes of Practical Photography offers same day E6 processing

Square One
Service tested: E6 (develop only)
Cost: £2.95 (inc postage)

Ease of ordering:
Time taken Delivered as promised in the ad we sent the film out on Thursday and it was back on Saturday.

Return package:
Supplied in a thin envelope with a corregated stiffener. No return envelop is supplied just an address label, no price list, just a delivery note. The sheeting used to hold the strips is quite hard and was probably responsible for faint scratches on the shiny side of the film. This would become worse if you were to take them out. Lacking the professionalism of some of the other labs, but that's not important if the quality is good.

Processing quality:
The slides are vibrant and cut into sixes in a good viewable sleeving this started to separate after a few viewings leaving you with individually protected strips. Not good if you intend keeping them as a sheet. There are also several pit marks on intermittent frames showing signs of poor processing.

Verdict
The marks would put me off using this processor again, shame because the price is excellent. Just shows, you get what you pay for.

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

The Darkroom

Another one of the smaller mail order companies who have a tiny easy to miss advert in the photography magazines. Offer black & white and colour neg processing along with E6 dev and dev & mount services.
The Darkroom

Service tested: E6 (develop only)
Cost: £3.35 inc postage (Prices as of October 2005 now - 135/36 sleeved (or uncut) is 3.60 and mounted is 4.95. 120 roll is 3.20 while sheet film 4x5 is 2.50. Prices are inclusive of P P and VAT.)

Ease of ordering:
No order form just small ad in mag and second time round is easier with purpose made order forms.

Time taken:
The film was sent on the Thursday and arrived back on Saturday showing a one day turnaround in the lab.

Return package:
Supplied in a card backed envelop with film cut into sixes and sleeved in Kenro ring binder style page. This is the only lab where the work could go straight into a binder. A with compliments slip with handwritten message that says welcome is a nice touch. Returned with coupons forms ready for next order. The coupons have a cut off address label simple but effective.

Processing quality:
Spot on. Clean results, well sleeved bright and no marks or scratches.

Verdict
First rate. Their black & white and colour print services seem expensive but would definitely use this company again for their low priced E6 processing which was first rate.

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

The following four labs were tested and added April 2005


BPD Photech

They produce an in-your-face quarter page advert in magazines such as Photography Monthly with the message "the choice of the professionals", naming Joe Cornish and Charlie Waite as two such clients. Offer digital printing, black & white and colour neg processing along with E6 dev and dev & mount services, print mounting, laminating and scanning services.

BPD Photech

Service tested: E6 (develop only)
Cost: £5.15 inc postage

Ease of ordering:
No order form, just services available advertised in magazine with suggestion to phone or visit web site for details of pricing.

Time taken:
The film was sent on the Monday and arrived back on Friday showing a three day turnaround in the lab.

Return package:
Supplied in a heavy card envelop with 6x4.5 film cut into three strips of 5 and sleeved in clear front diffuse back page making it easy to view results. An order form was supplied along with two A5 printed price lists (on Kodak Endura paper for some reason) The price lists didn't include E6 so I'd need to check again If I want another film developing!

Processing quality:
Very good quality! No scratches or marks, showing a good clean processing service.

Verdict
Spot on in terms of processing. A little more thought in making ordering more straightforward would be good though. And a little on the expensive side.

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

 

Fuji Processing Laboratory

Found by doing an "E6 film processing" search using Google. The lab of the jolly green giant of the film world not surprisingly covers all the options you're likely to need such as the latest digital and internet printing along with E6 and C41 services. The site even has a section of promotional branded items such as cool bags and sweaters. You don't tend to find them advertising in the magazines, but the web site is most useful.
Fuji processing Labs
Service tested: E6 (develop only)
Cost: £5.25 inc postage

Ease of ordering:
Once you select the service you want it's easy to download the PDF order from to fill out and send with your film .

Time taken:
The film was the slowest of the latest test group. It was sent on the Monday and arrived back on Saturday showing a four day turnaround in the lab.

Return package:
Supplied in a small card envelop with the 6x4.5 film cut into three strips of 5 and sleeved in clear front diffuse back page making it easy to view results. There's nothing else with it. No details of other services, not repeat order form, and no receipt. Perhaps Fuji don't want your business next time!

Processing quality:
The quality, fortunately, is very good and makes it worth the lack of trimmings! There were no signs of marks or scratches and overall very clean processing.

Verdict
Excellent processing quality. Poor for repeat order material and packaging, considering the high postage charge of £1.50 for a 68g weight (64p first class at time of writing) Also dreadfully slow turnaround, especially for April!

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

Photo Sports Ltd

Found from a tiny advert in Photography Monthly. Though small, the advert showed clear info about services and pricing and appeared very competitive. You could get it returned with recorded delivery for less than any of the others being tested in this second group of four who were using standard post. Small range of services advertised includes variety of E6 processing and C41 develop and printing. They also offer a black & white process and contact print.
Photosports
Service tested: E6 (develop only)
Cost: £2.80 inc postage

Ease of ordering:
The small advert clearly spells out what you need to do with neatly displayed pricing. An order form is supplied with the processed film.

Time taken:
The film was sent on the Monday and arrived back on Thursday showing a two day turnaround in the lab which was fastest of the four tested.

Return package:
Supplied in a standard A4 card backed envelop with the 6x4.5 film cut into three strips of 5 and sleeved in clear front diffuse back page making it easy to view results. The package came in a slip in transparent pouch and a price list and order form were included, along with an A4 receipt/invoice with a Thank you at the end.
Processing quality: Another clean processing service with no problems of marks, scratches or kinks. A joy to views.

Verdict
Excellent processing quality. Good speed of delivery and excellent communication, but best of all over £2 cheaper than nearest rival tested in this group. Definitely worth giving them a go!

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

Trumps

Found by searching the internet. The web site shows the range of services available and pricing
These include E6 and C41 processing, colour and black & white hand and machine printing to digital scanning and digital printing. The company has been in business in Edinburgh for 12 years.

Service tested: E6 (develop only)
Cost: £6.23 inc postage

Ease of ordering:
The web site clearly displays all services and prices but fails to state that prices are ex VAT and postage. We sent of a cheque for £3.80 to cover the processing. A day later we had a phone call. "You've forgotten to add postage and VAT" We explained that it should be clearer on the web site but agreed to pay the extra and gave credit card details. Then we were told "oh and by the way have you opened the back of your camera...half the film's fogged!...We wonder why he waited until taking the money before dropping that one on us! This film was taken in a 6x9 roll film back for a large format camera. We'd forgotten a film was in -luckily we managed to shut the back quickly when we realised - and only lost half the film.

Time taken:
The film was sent on the Monday and arrived back on Thursday showing a two day turnaround in the lab which was joint fastest of the four tested, despite our little payment hiccup earlier.

Return package:
Supplied in a standard A4 card backed envelop with a supporting sheet of card inside. The 6x9 film was cut into three strips of three and sleeved in clear front, diffuse back page making it easy to view results. The package came with a duplicate book receipt but no other communication, reorder form or pricing info.
Processing quality: Apart from our accidental fogging the results are bright and clean. There was a couple of light drying marks and a small soft kink in the centre of one frame.

Verdict
Not the best processing quality and very expensive especially as you're charged VAT on top of the postage!. Good speed though, but you may prefer to forgo the day speed and get a lower price, or better still use PhotoSports and get the same speed turnaround and at half the price.
 
Overall rating:

To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS

 


 

The following four labs were tested and added February 2008

Metro Colour Lab

Found in a photographic magazine and the film is sent using an order form included in the advert. The advert is packed with information and can be a little confusing in places especially regarding postage. The lab provides services for all sorts of processing and is located in Birmingham.
Metro Colour Lab
Service tested: E6 (process only)
Cost: £4.60 (inc. postage)

Ease of ordering:
The thin order form is easy enough to use as long as you can write small enough. I enclosed a request for the film to be marked and it was.

Time taken:
The advert claims a same day turn around. I sent the film off last thing on a Friday and, sure enough, the film dropped on my doormat the following Monday. This mean they received the film on the Saturday, processed it and sent it back to arrive the following working day.

Return package:
Housed in a grey, plastic envelope and containing another padded manila envelope, the film was sheathed in card backed plastic with another order form and some advertisements for the company. The invoice and special instructions formed the address documents.

Verdict
A good turnaround with the film taken care of and at a reasonable price. No scratches or marks on the film are evident.

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS


 

DS Colour labs

Discovered on Google, DS Colour Labs use Fuji professional processing equipment. They are located in Manchester and provide a range of services from Cross processing to School packs.
DS Colour Labs
Service tested: E6 (process only)
Cost: £8.70 (inc. postage)

Ease of ordering:
Ordering is easy, I simply printed off the online form, filled it in and sent it with the film. I got a little confused on some areas of the form, such as where it says "all orders will be posted back unless you tick here". I couldn't understand why I wouldn't want to have my film posted back. Unless it was for the benefit of customers who wished to collect it, but then surely they would drop it in personally, too?

There was no area for special instructions, so i had to leave mine in the paper selection box, but the instructions were carried out.

Time taken:
The film was sent last thing on the Friday and was received on the Tuesday following, despite the invoice being dated to the Friday. This suggests that they work late evenings to fulfil orders, but don't work on a weekend, or at least don't post orders on a weekend.

Return package:
Received in a cardboard template that unfolds out to show a very protective covering. The film was also in a spearate packet with the order form, receipt and invoice enclosed.

Verdict:
A good turnaround, decent quality processing with no scratches on the film. Fulfilled requests for a receipt and special instructions, but I feel they are on the higher side of pricing.

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS


 

Pyramid Imaging

Found after a search in Google, Pyramid offer services ranging from simple film process to exhibition services. Located in Glasgow, they incorporate the Fuji Professional service and have been operating for 23 years.
Pyramid Imaging
Service tested: E6 (process only)
Cost: £5.75 ( £3.00 p&p)

Ease of ordering:
Using the online PDF form, the ordering process was easy to use.

Time taken:
The film was sent last thing on a Friday and was received at my door on the following Tuesday.

Return package:
Sent in a card backed A4 envelope, the film was safe enough. However, the special instructions weren't actioned and the invoice I requested wasn't sent through meaning I had to contact them for a copy.

Verdict:
Not overly impressed. They fulfilled the processing brief, but didn't supply anything else requested.

Not even a flyer was sent back and I would've preferred more sturdy packaging for the price.

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS


The Photo Shop Online

Discovered through a Google search for E6 processing. Providing services from 35mm film processing and digital services, to Canvas prints and 120 roll film processing. The Photo Shop work in collaboration with Fuji and are based in Rossendale in Lancashire.
The Photo Shop Online
Service tested: E6 process only
Cost: £8.60 (inc. postage)

Ease of ordering:
The site has an online ordering form in an in-house design which can be filled in on the computer and printed out.

I also received an email the following day confirming receipt of my film and that it would be started on asap, which I think is a nice touch.

Time taken:
The film was sent out last thing on a Friday evening and returned to my home on the following Thursday. The invoice showed a date of transaction for the Wednesday as was the postage mark. This means that turnaround once processing is complete is good, but takes some time to get done. 

The site has a handy indicator giving film turnaround times, so you can decide whether to use them or not.

Return package:
The film arrived in a brown manila envelope with card backing for support. Inside was a flyer of products and services and the film in a proper processing docket.

My special instructions had been recorded on the docket as well as on a compliments slip which the invoice I asked for was stapled to.

Verdict:
The slowest service of the four I tested at the same time, but nothing to worry about too much. Instructions were followed and the film came back in good condition.

Overall rating:


To find details of your local processing lab and the services they offer, check out our new directory section here: PROCESSING LABS


 

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