Waiting for things to develop

As you may have read in my previous post, I just acquired a Fujica GSW690 6×9 Medium Format camera.

What attracted me to this camera was the large size of the negatives and the quality of the photographs it is able to shoot with its a super sharp lens.

This weekend I took it for a proper test drive and used up 4 rolls of film on the day out (not hard given you only get 8 shots per roll).

I had always intended to send these off for professional development to really ensure the camera is working properly.

This is where my problems began.

My usual reasonably priced developer is taking a break due to Covid and this means I have two options, use my alternative (who average about £20 a roll of film with decent size scans) or find a new developer.

I have spent some time checking out other developers but have noticed that the Medium Format shots can cost an average of £18+.

There was a new developer that looked really promising but they were unable to acquire a 6×9 template for their scanners so were only able to develop the photos, not scan them for me.

I considered the Silver Pan subscription model which allows you to develop 3 rolls of film with medium scans a month for £40.  This is tempting but realistically I don’t normally shoot that many rolls in a month (although I may do, who knows).  I also don’t know how big the scans are and this seems to be a one-man show so turn around time may be a little long (and they are in the process of moving offices).  That said, they have great reviews etc so I may consider them in the future (not now as they are moving etc).

I then tried a new company who, on the face of it seemed to be able to do the job and provide a decent service for a reasonable price.  I submitted an order but didn’t pay anything as they were pay on completion service. 

It was only when I was packing up the film I started to doubt whether they were any good.  I know you should not take anything you see online at anything other than face value but I started to search.  They had no online reviews.  They only had one photo in their Instagram account (posted in February) and it just didn’t instil confidence.

From all the research I found a couple of companies and realised I had to pick one. After all, I had to find one developer in the beginning and had to put my trust in them.

So I have found another developer here in the UK who had a bit of an odd set up for costs and orders but they were quick to respond to my email (if a little short) and had reviews online and a good body of content in their Instagram accounts (I don’t mention Facebook as I do not have a Facebook account).

They promise a standard scan size with all 6×9 images coming out at 7000 pix wide in TIFF format which seems large enough.  They are also reasonably priced.

The quotes I was getting ranged from £35 to £115 for the four rolls of film (3 black and white and 1 colour)! 

I have opted for the last developer I found and have sent my photos today.

I truly hope they are up to the grade and hope I have found a new developer I can trust.

It will be a shame if they do not do what is expected but to be honest, these are four films from a day out, they are not photos of weddings or personal memories so I shouldn’t be too upset if they mess them up.  

They are also a fraction of the cost of the others so I won’t have burnt a lot of money with a new developer who cannot deliver the quality I am after.

You may ask why I have not developed them myself.   As I said above, I always like the first couple of films to be developed by professionals to ensure the camera is working and that any issues with the photographs aren’t caused by my developing skills.

I can develop 120 films at home but I do not have a way to scan them.

I have a scanner but it is a unit that is built for 35mm.  I did look at the 120 version but they seem to be quite rare and cost around £1,000!  (I didn’t pay anywhere near that for the 35mm version).  I don’t want a flatbed scanner either as it takes up too much space.

I have considered the Pix-Latr as a way to scan the photos but this would probably mean I would have to invest in a macro lens for my camera and some form of set up or rig to enable this to work properly.  To be honest it is probably more trouble than it is worth.

Therefore the option I have is to send my 120 rolls to a professional developer.  I just hope I have made the right choice.

The Developers I checked out in the UK are as follows (note I won’t mention my outcome with each of them as I don’t want people to make judgements based on my experiences.  If you would like to know which ones I used and my experience with them, please contact me via the contact page):

AG PhotoLabs
C41 Film Services
Kirklees Photographic
Silver Pan
The Darkroom UK Ltd
Take It Easy Film Lab

Do you have a film lab you would recommend or a view on the above, please let me know in the comments?

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