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OT Film Concerns


Well-Known Member
Sorry, reposting this here as no one seems to check the off-topic threads...

Hi --

Can anyone recommend a good mail-order processing/contact sheet/hand printing lab in the UK?

In the past I've used Sky, or Metro in London. They're very good, but Sky no longer do chemical prints from slide film - only scan and digital print.

Is anyone else concerned about our choice to use film (as opposed to digital) imminently disappearing? I am.

OK now I'm really upset. Having just spoken to the guy at Metro in London, I'm told that the paper to make hand prints from slide film is no longer available. So I'll never be able to get beautiful chemical process prints from slide again. Some of my best prints were produced in this way and had a wonderful luminosity to them.

So its worse than I feared. Already my option to use film has been eroded in a major way. Now I have no option but to get slides scanned and printed digitally. I can't tell you how much I hate that. I'm not even getting into a quality debate, although I still don't think the quality is there. But there is something inherently magical about a fleeting image caught suspended in gelatine that digital (however good it gets) can never replicate, being just 0s and 1s... part of the magic of the image has just disappeared forever, how long before the rest follows?

R-3 paper is no longer available since it was made obsolete by digital mini-labs. What continues to be available (and qualitative in a completely different league from R-3) is Ilfochrome (Cibachrome). This is the best stuff for printing diapositives. If the quality of Ilfochrome is not warranted then one could just as well go scan and print via something like a LightJet and standard RA-4 paper.
Edward -- Thanks for that. Its nice to know there is an option out there! However, do you know any labs that will print to this paper? If Metro and Sky in London aren't doing it where does? I have my own black and white setup at home, but can't really get into colour for a number of practical reasons... James
James, I was just looking through a recent copy of AP. You people are sure in sad shape over there for labs. Time was there were pages dedicated to such ads.
Edward has beaten me off the mark with his comments about Cibachrome(Ilfochrome). I know you're going into processing and this stuff is so simple to use. If you get that enlarger and a processing tube, you'll be impressed by the results initially obtained.
Why not give Richard Caplan a call and see if they can recommend an Ilfachrome lab.in the meantime.
I was going to recommend Joe's Basement but I see they closed down a couple of years ago. Now that is sad!
Thanks Colin

Yes, its really quite concerning and very sad. Film as a medium is in dange r of disappearing over here, I fear. Its very saddening. I honestly have no problem with anyone using digital, but as far as I'm concerned its a different medium and shouldn't be a reason for dropping film, just used for different purposes. I don't personally want to go down that route for a number of reasons, and yet I may eventually be forced to by the looks of it . I also have the nagging feeling that there is going to be a backlash from this sudden rush to digital technology in about 5-10 years time, and when everyone wants to come back to film, all the camera manufacturers, film companies and labs will have either gone out of business, or have no facility for film any more. Please understand this is not a rant against digital, just a sadness and concern about losing film - a subtle but important distinction.

You're right - I'm currently buying into my own B/W setup at home. I'd love to print my own colour, but everyone tells me colour is more trouble than its worth to do yourself in terms of complete blackout, temperature accurac y and price of materials and chemicals (is that true?). Also they're saying i t takes years of practice to print colour properly...

Anyway, for those who may be interested:

Sky in London offer very reasonable B/W and colour neg work of good quality , as do Metro. I have found somewhere that does print slides to Ilfochrome, but only one place in the UK. They come recommended by Ilford themselves and Richard Caplan:

BPD Photech Unit 20 Aston Court Kingsland Grange Warrington Cheshire WA1 4SG

Prices seem very reasonable, for Ilfochrome prints from slide:

10x8 = £5.60 12x8 = £7.90 12x10 = £9.50 and so on...

I'm passing this on because I feel that anyone preserving traditional print techniques needs and deserves supporting right now, or we'll lose them!

Any other advice gratefully accepted. James
Oh thanks, didn't know that one existed. I'll join up! I'm not that experienced in darkroom technique actually, have done a bit of b/w printing and just getting into the rest, but I'll gladly contribute and hopefully learn a lot too!

Colour is not difficult, in many ways its easier and its, on the whole, less expensive.

To develop colour films you need C-41 chemicals. If you get an appropriate fixer you can use it for your B&W needs as well. I have a lot of Ch&ion fixer in the queue and I'm still using Agfa FX-Universal. All you need then is bleach and developer and both can be sourced cheaply through mini-lab suppliers. The developing process is very straightforward.

Paper is also pretty easy.. There is even room temperature kits available but I keep to the mini-lab formulations. Hardest part is timing the 45 sec. in the dev bath. I don't work in the dark. I use a Nova slot processor and have sodium vapour l&s for illumination.

Those that say it "takes years of practice to print colour properly..." have probably NEVER printed colour. Doing it really well does demand skill but doing it better than what most professional labs deliver is easy.

Cost? RA-4 paper is cheaper than good B&W paper--- its a different market. On the price of chemicals its really a toss unless, of course, you look to the amateur colour kits. They are convienient but many times over the price of mini-lab supplies. While amateur supplies have gone up consistently in price over the past few years in responce to falling demand, the mini-lab market has become more and more competitive and prices have gone down. For less than the price, for instance, of 1 litre of B&W fixer I can get a 5 litre jug of "colour fixer" (which I can also use for B&W). For the price of a 1 litre C-41 kit I can get 10 litres of C-41 developer... etc. A lot of mini-labs too have closed their doors and so if you keep your eyes open you can probably pick up a case of chemicals for a couple of bob.

Ilfochrome chemicals.. OK they are a bit more of an investment.. and now that they are available only in 5 litre kits a bit more so.. but ...
Edward Thanks that's fascinating. I'm definitely going to look into doing colour a s well. I think I need to read a few manuals first. Are there any good 'standard references' which I should be aware of for basic technique for colour (and B/W - I was taught by a friend and have always got good results , but I'm sure I'm missing some knowledge...)? Thanks James