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Thread: How can I minimize the cost of developing Medium format film?

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    How can I minimize the cost of developing Medium format film?

    I just love my old cameras. I am just wondering what are the tricks to minimize the cost of developing medium format film? I would like to have professional quality.

    1. I guess the first is to buy expired film? (Which is the best source to get the film, ebay?)
    2. I guess I need to develop my own film on my own.
    3. I need to scan the negatives with my own scanner.

    Which is the best scanner to scan medium format film? Do you use one or you send it away to scan it?
    BUT probably the most important question: Is it worth it to develop and scan your own film?

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    Re: How can I minimize the cost of developing Medium format film?

    There are a variety of ways to get your film processed by a lab, which may or may not include scanning. And while there is a cost involved, it's not so great as to be a deal breaker if your passion for the camera/film combo is high enough.

    But for me, the issue boils down to time. I've processed B&W at the kitchen sink using a changing bag to load the film and hanging it to dry in the shower. I then use my crappy little Epson scanner ($150 refurbished) to get the images into digital format. The results are fine for posting to the web. But the pace seems unbearably slow now that I've been shooting digital for so long.

    None of it is hard to do, the chemicals are obtainable (though not as easily as they were 30 years ago) and the processing is just as boring as it always was. There's a certain satisfaction to having done it, but increasingly, I find the lag between image capture on film to image completion (digitized and post processed) to be a significant barrier. So when planning to shoot, I mentally pre-select which camera I will use and inevitably my film cameras get passed over. Digital has spoiled me.

    Still... I keep fantasizing about the day when I will have the patience and discipline to load up my Rolleiflex and capture the world the way it was meant to be captured... on Tri-X!

    Good luck!
    Tim

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    tetsrfun
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    Re: How can I minimize the cost of developing Medium format film?

    Quote Originally Posted by haring View Post
    I just love my old cameras. I am just wondering what are the tricks to minimize the cost of developing medium format film? I would like to have professional quality.

    1. I guess the first is to buy expired film? (Which is the best source to get the film, ebay?)
    2. I guess I need to develop my own film on my own.
    3. I need to scan the negatives with my own scanner.

    Which is the best scanner to scan medium format film? Do you use one or you send it away to scan it?
    BUT probably the most important question: Is it worth it to develop and scan your own film?
    I am still new at this but here is my "take" as of now:

    I started doing 120 processing mostly because digital spoiled me with "instant" gratification with image results. My local lab still does processing and consumer grade scanning and for 35mm, the results are pretty good. A recent experience with 120 color was disappointing because of the amount of "lint" on the negs. This may partially be the result of so few rolls of 120 are being processed that my rolls basically clean the film path in the processor.

    Doing B & W at home isn't terribly time consuming and the time critical active process is 30 minutes or so. The time utilization is in the scanning. However, the scanning equivalent of a contact sheet doesn't take that long and the extra effort can be used for the "keepers".

    Total cost, excluding disposables, is roughly $1000. That would include Epson 750 scanner, and good quality developing "hardware". There is also an intangible enjoyment factor in being able to try different variables of film types and chemistry. I am a hobbyist but I don't think I would get into the self processing if it was to be part of a business model.

    Steve

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    Re: How can I minimize the cost of developing Medium format film?

    Quote Originally Posted by haring View Post
    I just love my old cameras. I am just wondering what are the tricks to minimize the cost of developing medium format film? I would like to have professional quality.

    1. I guess the first is to buy expired film? (Which is the best source to get the film, ebay?)
    2. I guess I need to develop my own film on my own.
    3. I need to scan the negatives with my own scanner.

    Which is the best scanner to scan medium format film? Do you use one or you send it away to scan it?
    BUT probably the most important question: Is it worth it to develop and scan your own film?
    - Buying expired film isn't a very good way to save on costs. Better to buy film in bulk and keep it refrigerated/frozen to preserve it, depending on how much you shoot.

    - Processing B&W is a very good cost savings. The equipment is inexpensive (a tank or two, thermometer, changing bag, and a few bottles and graduated cylinders). It costs pennies per roll in chemistry to process B&W film and you can process four rolls together in about a half hour with the right daylight tank setup. That's a lot of MF shooting for a half hour's work and a dollar's worth of chemistry.

    - C41 and E-6 films, however, take a bit more work to process, require much more precision for consistency. The chemistry is much more expensive. The savings only come in once you're processing a pretty sizable amount of film and have acquired the right processing equipment. Having a shop process C41 "negatives only, uncut" and E-5 "uncut" is rarely more expensive than getting your equipment, setup and workflow worked out, and cost of chemistry until you've run a few hundred rolls of film. Unless you intend to shoot a heck of a lot of MF film, let the labs who are set up do it for you.

    - Scanning MF film ... well, it all depends on what you're trying to do. If you insist on the maximum quality equipment and highest resolution scans for enormous exhibition grade prints, it's going to cost a fortune to get set up and a bundle of time to learn how to use it all. For less demanding needs, however, a modest price flatbed scanner with transparency lid can do a very creditable job. The only issue then is time: scanning film is very time consuming and it is yet another learning curve to do it right.

    (I was using an Epson 2450, then bought a V700 ... both work very very well for prints up to 13x19 with 645 film, even better with 6x6 and 6x9 formats; I didn't use the V700 enough, though, so sold it to a friend, keeping the 2450 for the occasional scan. When I have something that I want more quality from, I rent time on a local shop's Imacon Flextight ...)

    Basically, if you want to continue to pursue MF film work, you simply have to accept a baseline cost for the endeavor in materials, equipment and time. Saving money is always a good thing, but don't compromise your work due to costs too much ... otherwise, you'd be better off shooting smaller format film and working with that. This was always the case, even before there was digital capture to consider.

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    Re: How can I minimize the cost of developing Medium format film?

    Firstly the film. Expired film if it has been handled well is not a problem, but I think a better solution is to buy fresh film. Then, shoot less. By that I mean shoot as often as you want, but think about your shots more, and try and get a winner every time. (nearly each time works too.) Figure a 60-80% success rate is about where you want to be. Secondly processing the film yourself is fine, but it is a lot like precision baking, time and temperature is critical. Also cleanliness is absolute. You can spot any lint on your negatives in post processing. If you have B&W, SIlver Efex Pro is a fine program. But you can do this in CS5 also. Next a V750 or v700 will give you an affordable but very good scanner. Getting a good print in B&W is a true test of skill and patience. Medium format scanned like this is about the equivalent of 12 MP my lab and several active pros I know assure me. I was complaining today to my lab that what I want from my 120 images is just not better than my digital. Now if I had a high end scan this is simply not the case, but at $45 a pop I just lose my sense of fun. Joe

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    Re: How can I minimize the cost of developing Medium format film?

    Guys! You are amazing! Thanks a lot!

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