Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

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RJDG14 Regular Member • Posts: 142
Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

I haven't had any 35mm film developed for about 5 years. Back then most places in the UK, or at least where I went, still returned the negatives with film prints, but I've read that increasingly in the US most major places which still offer film processing are no longer returning negatives to customers, instead choosing to issue them with scans of those negatives on a CD. This makes absolutely no sense to me, because 1: the scans on a CD are typically low quality JPEGS of around 2MP (by comparison 35mm film is lossless and can theoretically be 20MP+), and 2: the postage cost for a 35mm negative reel should be no higher than the cost of a few prints or a CD in a box/sleeve as they weigh about the same. I have been able to get better digitisations of negatives using my DSLR than the ones on store CDs. My 18MP DSLR can give me negative conversions of about 12MP.

The fact that many major developers in the US are no longer giving the option of returning negatives sounds quite concerning to me, and makes me ask if film developers here have chosen to take the same route in the past 5 years or if most still return negatives to the customer as they did a few years ago?

Ben4545 Forum Member • Posts: 56
Re: Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

I just sent my first film for developing and they gave quite a few options CD, online scans, prints, or just to return the negatives

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(unknown member) Regular Member • Posts: 201
Re: Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

Having the film developed then just the negatives returned to me is my current option as I've located a better printing company to run the prints afterward. Though I may end up developing the film myself. But typically one would need to make arrangements to get your negatives back

Overrank
Overrank Senior Member • Posts: 3,397
Re: Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

RJDG14 wrote:

I haven't had any 35mm film developed for about 5 years. Back then most places in the UK, or at least where I went, still returned the negatives with film prints, but I've read that increasingly in the US most major places which still offer film processing are no longer returning negatives to customers, instead choosing to issue them with scans of those negatives on a CD. This makes absolutely no sense to me, because 1: the scans on a CD are typically low quality JPEGS of around 2MP (by comparison 35mm film is lossless and can theoretically be 20MP+), and 2: the postage cost for a 35mm negative reel should be no higher than the cost of a few prints or a CD in a box/sleeve as they weigh about the same. I have been able to get better digitisations of negatives using my DSLR than the ones on store CDs. My 18MP DSLR can give me negative conversions of about 12MP.

The fact that many major developers in the US are no longer giving the option of returning negatives sounds quite concerning to me, and makes me ask if film developers here have chosen to take the same route in the past 5 years or if most still return negatives to the customer as they did a few years ago?

I think there are a couple of issues with not returning negatives

1) people who've found an old film in the bottom of the drawer, want it developed and scanned, but then really don't care what happens to the negatives as they've no way of rescanning, or interest in doing so.

2) people who are interested in film photography but are just starting out, have bought a film camera (or a disposable) and just want the digital images back - they don't care about the negatives and have no way of doing anything with them if they did.

In both these cases the customer may choose to save the £3 or so and not get the negatives back. That's what seems to be happening, although in case (1) some of the developers may just simply not offer negative return as their market doesn't want it.

To answer your question about the UK, these are developers I've used who have returned negatives - in some cases I haven't used them for a few years but I don't think they've changed their position

* Photo Hippo

* AG Photolab

* Peak Imaging

* Ilford (mostly B+W but will develop/scan colour)

* SilverPan Filmlabs

I'm using SilverPan at the moment and they return scanned images via Dropbox and send the negatives back later.

Finally the quality that you can get from lab scans can be much higher than what you will get from a high street store, for example the following is a recent 30MP scan of 35mm film done by SilverPan on a Noritsu HS-1800.

Tomato - Nikon F5, Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Micro, Adox CMS-20 ii, Adotech developer, Noritsu HS-1800 scan

OP RJDG14 Regular Member • Posts: 142
Re: Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

I'm amazed how low the resolution of a store scan still tends to be in 2021 - typically it will be no higher than 2MP maximum, when film is capable of significantly higher resolutions. The image will sometimes also be overexposed or underexposed, and will almost always be in a JPEG format which is difficult to modify without getting lossy artifacts. I've been able to get better looking results with my DSLR. If I were not to get the negatives returned, I'd want a RAW scan of the negative that was at least 10MP, which is certainly possible with modern equipment, not a poor quality 2MP JPEG file.

How much more effort would it take for a processor to return the negatives than return the prints without? I doubt it would cost anything more postage-wise and feels more like this decision is based on the false notion that people don't "want" their negatives anymore, even though they're essential to anybody who is still shooting on film.

Overrank
Overrank Senior Member • Posts: 3,397
Re: Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

RJDG14 wrote:

I'm amazed how low the resolution of a store scan still tends to be in 2021 - typically it will be no higher than 2MP maximum, when film is capable of significantly higher resolutions. The image will sometimes also be overexposed or underexposed, and will almost always be in a JPEG format which is difficult to modify without getting lossy artifacts. I've been able to get better looking results with my DSLR. If I were not to get the negatives returned, I'd want a RAW scan of the negative that was at least 10MP, which is certainly possible with modern equipment, not a poor quality 2MP JPEG file.

How much more effort would it take for a processor to return the negatives than return the prints without? I doubt it would cost anything more postage-wise and feels more like this decision is based on the false notion that people don't "want" their negatives anymore, even though they're essential to anybody who is still shooting on film.

I had a quick look at how much Asda charge for a scan and it’s £1 on top of developing your film.   Compare that to other labs, who will charge between £5 and £10 for a scan of a roll of 35mm.  Some if the superfast scanners that you might want to use if you’re charging £1 for the scan (like a Pakon) are only 6MP.

Most labs in the UK seem to return your film but if you’re going to scan yourself then you can get film development for less that £4 / roll for C41

OP RJDG14 Regular Member • Posts: 142
Re: Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

I haven't taken any photos on film for about 5 years but still have a good Olympus point and shoot 35mm camera from about 1993, which gives pretty decent image quality. I think my mum was given it by a boyfriend at the time but never got much use out of it as she preferred her existing camera which she got in about 1984.

Overrank
Overrank Senior Member • Posts: 3,397
Re: Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

RJDG14 wrote:

I haven't taken any photos on film for about 5 years but still have a good Olympus point and shoot 35mm camera from about 1993, which gives pretty decent image quality. I think my mum was given it by a boyfriend at the time but never got much use out of it as she preferred her existing camera which she got in about 1984.

If you haven’t used it for five years make sure you do all the things you’d do with a “new to you” camera before loading film: make sure the shutter works, dry fire it if possible with back open and make sure the shutter / aperture responds to light correctly ( not all cameras allow this ), charge and fire the flash a few times to make sure it’s capacitor is formed

For the first roll use a cheap, and if you’re sending it out to be developed, colour, negative film. Kodak Colorplus or Fujifilm C200.  That way you can see if it works without using a £12 roll of Ektar or Portra.

OP RJDG14 Regular Member • Posts: 142
Re: Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

I have no immediate plans to shoot anything on film, but wanted to know whether most UK processors still return negatives or not for if I was to. There are definitely still processing labs which do, but I believe there are also some which don't.

Smaug01
Smaug01 Veteran Member • Posts: 6,039
Re: Do most 35mm film developers in the UK still return negatives?

(I'm US-based)

I did notice a couple of places that wouldn't return negatives and immediately moved on. My guess is that they're serving either the old hold-outs or film newbies who don't have any way to scan them.

I agree though, I think it's ridiculous.

One of the things I like about film is having an physical, archival original that can't be lost at the click of a button.

Thinking about the previous generations in my family, no one saved negatives until I came along. They'd get the first batch of prints, decide if they wanted enlargements or more prints and once that was done, goodbye negs! Seems incredibly short-sighted to me.

I use Camera Center of York (Pennsylvania). I have them develop & scan my more important rolls. Including return shipping, two rolls was about $35. $4 to develop each roll, $10 to scan & color correct and $5 to return ship the uncut negs.

For color that's not as important, I develop and scan myself. Developing is pretty straightforward with a C-41 kit and a sous vide cooker in a stock pot. Scanning with a simple desktop scanner is fast and easy, too, and it quickly pays for itself. (though if you want better scans, you'll need to use your digital camera and macro lens)

Gonna try slide film soon; I'll probably buy an E-6 kit.

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