When I started getting back into shooting 35mm film, I was a little worried. Would I be able to get it developed anywhere nearby? Would the quality be any good? Would I stand a good chance of having my negatives trashed by some kid who didn’t know or care what they were doing? Would I have to set myself up to process C-41 at home just to ensure the safety of my film, never mind the quality?
I’ve heard the minilab horror stories, after all. And the pro-lab horror stories too, come to think of it.
Turns out I needn’t have worried, the CVS round the corner from where I work (the Westlake store at Hardy, VA) has me covered. I just processed and scanned my 10th roll since December through them yesterday and was pleased with the results yet again. I’m pretty sure they mostly know me by sight now and this time I even got the film back with a thank you note! Another couple of rolls and I’ll probably be able to rock in there and ask for “the usual, please”!
The scans are inexpensive and good for printing up to about 5×7 and for proofing and web use. They’re auto-adjusted for levels, which is great if you’re using some sort of flaky point and shoot with marginal exposure control, not so much if you’re using a manual SLR and hoping to learn from your errors! Higher resolution and non-adjusted scans would be great but I haven’t explored that possibility yet, other than being vaguely aware that the Noritsu machine they use can do both. Ideally I’ll have a scanner of my own sometime soon anyway; the net result of that would be that I go process-only at the CVS but end up shooting a whole lot more and sending more rolls their way for processing.
More important in that regard, the processing and handling has been excellent. The only fingerprints on any negatives have been my own before I bought some white cotton gloves to use while working with the negs. I haven’t seen any obvious scratches or dirt either. They’re fine with returning the film uncut, which allows me to cut to the lengths I want (6 frame strips, perfect for the desktop film scanner I don’t yet own).
Sure, I could do my own processing. If I ever get into shooting black and white it makes economic sense to process at home, but for C-41 I can’t buy the chemicals for any less per roll than it costs me to process at CVS and it’s a lot less trouble to just drop the roll(s) off in the morning and pick them up after work.
So, thank you CVS Westlake for doing an excellent job. I really appreciate it.