LazyWeb Request: What’s the State of the Art for Local Film Development?

We took two cameras to Panama: our trusty Nikon D-70 and Julie’s awesome old Pentax K1000. We shot three or four rolls of film (some of which were expired) with the Pentax.

I haven’t had film developed in Canada for, oh, seven or eight years. In fact, the last roll of film I had developed was in Dublin in 2003 (by, if memory serves, the most delightful French girl on Baggot Street). In that case, they provided prints and also wrote the photos to a CD.

What should I do with this film in Vancouver or Victoria? Do you recommend a particular film developer, now that it’s become a kind of horse-and-buggy industry? What form should I expect to receive the digital files (in addition to the prints) in? On a CD or uploaded to the web somewhere, maybe?


  1. My amateur photographer wife typically uses London Drugs. They offer CD’s of your rolls. When she was still shooting film, she would typically get it developed there, but didn’t take advantage getting the CDs.

    Instead, she used our fancy Epson scanner that has a lightbox built in for scanning negatives.

  2. In Victoria I’d recommend Lens N Shutter and Prism over London Drugs. I’ve had numerous instances of LD screwing up my printing on film and digital prints. 😦 They offered to fix it, but it was too late.

    Prism is more of a pro shop, and I can’t remember what their prices were like. Lens N Shutter was on par price-wise with London Drugs.

  3. I’m assuming you’ve shot only colour film (and C-41 process colour…i.e. print film, not slide film — which is E-6 process). For B&W or slide film you’ll want to go to a pro lab (as other places won’t do it in store and will just end up shipping it out to a pro lab, meaning a longer delay in getting it back to you).

    You should be able to get it processed just about anywhere with decent results. London Drugs is a fine option; Shoppers Drug Mart has minilabs in most of their stores, though I’ve heard some complaints that they use a really thin paper to print on. For price, Costco is excellent both for developing and getting reprints or enlargements done.

    The truth of the matter is that standard C-41 developing has become a pretty standardized thing; most places, both pro and consumer stores, will be using the same or similar machines to do the processing and printing. The difference will be how well the person running the machine knows how to operate it and how fresh they keep the chemicals in the machine (at the consumer end: higher volume places like LD & Costco are probably safer bets to have better quality control; this shouldn’t be a concern for pro labs, though they’ll charge more for the same services).

    Most places will offer prints with the option to get the photos on CD as well (for an additional fee); I believe that some places might have an online place where you can download the files as well, but I haven’t run into that myself. Usually anything other than prints is either a separate option (and charge) or will be part of a package they offer at the time you drop off the film (i.e. Shoppers Drug Mart’s standard offer is developing, prints and a CD; however, you should be able to get just developing or just developing and prints).

    James: I don’t believe Beau Photo does film processing; if they do, I don’t believe they have the equipment on site. If they’re offering the service, they’re probably sending it out to someone else. They are, however, a great place to buy film, equipment, etc.

  4. I just go to my local Save On Foods at Metrotown. They don’t scan to particularly high resolution for CDs — 2400 x 1600, or 3.8 megapixels — but the price is significantly better than London Drugs for comparable quality, and the resolution is good enough for me (big enough for a decent 11 x 16″ print at 150 dpi).

    I can get stuff back in an hour or less (not as much demand these days!), and their Agfa machine does a good job. I get my prints bordered, on matte paper.

    You can see the scan results here (mostly Save On, but some LD and one random Seattle location — I forgot to convert a few to true black and white, so some came out greenish, but that’s easy to fix in your photo software):


    And here (Save On processing E6 slide film with C-41 chemicals — known as cross processing — at my request):

    Big roller

    Looks fine to me. I’ve only tried black and white and cross-processed slides. I have some old expired colour print film, but I don’t bother to shoot it because I get good “normal” colour from my DSLR, which uses the same lenses as my film Nikon F4.

  5. And that’s why the LazyWeb exists. Thanks very much everybody–that answers my questions.

  6. Lens and Shutter has better prices for scans from film. Their digital print prices are ridiculous though, unless you use the Kodak machine, which I find is very slow. Last time I was there they told me they’ll be getting faster machines.

    If you want enlargements or fancy prints (on art paper, canvas, etc.), go to Prism on Fort. They are wonderful and I love them.

    I’ve never had any trouble with LD. If I’m not happy with a print, they’ll redo it. Often right away.

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