Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis

Ghostly church
Kodak Six-20
Kodak Plus-X
2010

The first time I photographed Second Presbyterian I was shooting my folding Kodak Six-20 and some Plus-X that I bought pre-respooled as 620 from B&H. The entire roll came back looking like this, to my disappointment.

I came across the negatives recently and they look normal. My wife bought me a new flatbed film scanner for my birthday, and it takes medium-format film, so I may try scanning the negs myself when I get moved and settled.

I’ve reviewed the Kodak Six-20 twice: here and here.

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single frame: Ghostly church

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Photography

Where can you still get film developed? (Freshly updated for 2017)

Just a few years ago you could get film processed almost anywhere: Walgreens, CVS, Target, Walmart, Costco, Meijer. No more.

Digital photography did them all in. It also led Kodak and Fujifilm to kill several film stocks. But film has survived its long dark night. People born into the digital age are discovering what we longtime film shooters have always known: film is special.

And so I see more people starting film-photography blogs, sharing their film shots on Instagram, and scouring thrift stores and eBay for that next camera to try. And astonishingly, several new films are being introduced this year, including Kosmo Foto Mono, JCH Street Pan 400, Ferrania P30, and even a reborn Kodak Ektachrome. It’s a great time to shoot film!

But where to get it processed? If your town has a camera store, it might process film. I live in Indianapolis, where Roberts Camera still processes 35mm color negative film. I never order prints, just scans, which Roberts burns to CD. The scans are generous, 3130×2075 pixels at 72 dpi. I like generous scans! And the price is right, at about $8. And they turn orders around within two business days.

But what if you aren’t close to a camera store? Or if you shoot film they can’t handle, like black-and-white film or medium-format (120) film, or an uncommon format like 110 or 127? That’s when I turn to one of several by-mail labs around the United States. I’m going to recommend the ones I use. I’d love it if you’d share the ones you use in the comments, especially if you live outside the United States.

Old School Photo Lab

I’ve used Old School Photo Lab of Dover, NH, the most. Their Web site is oldschoolphotolab.com. They proces, print, and scan 35mm, 120/620, 110, 126, 127, 828, APS, and 4×5 sheet films. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

You order through their Web site. Processing a roll of 35mm or 120 color negative film and getting their standard scans costs $16 shipped both ways. (You can print a prepaid shipping label on their site.) Prices for other formats vary. They give discounts if you send several rolls at once.

I love OSPL because their standard JPEG scans are a generous 3072×2048 pixels at 72 dpi. You can order even larger scans, at 6774×4492 pixels at 72 dpi, for an extra $7 for JPEG or $17 for TIFF.

When your scans are ready, they email you a link to where you can download them. If you want a CD of the scans, it’s 3 bucks extra and you have to wait longer to get them. OSPL prints digitally. I occasionally order 4×6 prints and they’re fine.

I love OSPL’s service. I’ve gotten scans in as fast as four days after mailing them film! But it normally takes about a week. Quality is consistent and good. The owner personally responds when you contact them. The lab is active on Twitter and the feed is often a hoot.

Dwayne’s Photo

Dwayne’s in Parsons, KS, is perhaps the granddaddy of all by-mail labs. Their Web site is dwaynesphoto.com. Dwayne’s processes, prints, and scans 35mm, 120/620, 220, 127, 110, 126, Disc, and APS films. They process color and b/w negative and color slide films.

Dwayne’s is great, except that ordering is complicated. You have to print a paper order form from their site, the right one for the kind of film you’re sending, and fill it out. When you send them more than one kind of film, you have to fill out multiple order forms.

Processing and scanning a roll of 35mm color film costs $14 including return shipping. Other services’ prices vary. They don’t offer a prepaid label to mail your film to them. But if you send more than one roll of film, they steeply discount shipping.

Their scans are 2740×1830 pixels at 72 dpi. You can choose to download your scans or have them mailed to you on CD; the price is the same for either service. I’ve not ordered prints from Dwayne’s.

Dwayne’s pretty consistently emails me a link to my scans within a week. Quality is consistent and good. And I’ve had good, if impersonal, experience with Dwayne’s customer service.

Willow Photo Lab

Willow Photo Lab of Willow Springs, MO, is far and away the price leader. Their Web site is willowphotolab.com. They offer processing, printing, and scanning of 35mm, 120/620, and APS negative films, in color and black-and white, through their Web site. They process b/w film by hand!

With your first order they’ll include a list of all of their services, which includes 220 and 4×5 sheet films, the ability to specify D-76 or T-Max developer for b/w film, and discounts for large orders. When I order from this list, I pay directly through PayPal, print the receipt, write on it what I want, and mail it to them with my film. They always figure it out.

Processing and scanning one roll of 35mm costs just $7. Other services are similarly inexpensive but prices vary widely. Shipping costs depend on how far away from Missouri you are; most of my orders have been $3. They don’t offer prepaid mailing labels.

Scans are skinty at 1536×1024 at 72 dpi, sent to you on a CD. The last time I ordered their higher resolution scans, 3089×2048 pixels at 72 dpi, it cost me an extra buck. But that’s available only on their full service list. Willow still does wet-process printing on light-sensitive photo paper.

Willow is a small lab of just a few technicians. Send them film when time is not of the essence — they try hard to turn orders around within a week, but it can take longer. I hate to say it, because I really like Willow, but quality is uneven. I’m giving them extra chances because early this year a lightning storm took out a lot of their equipment, and it’s taken them time to get everything back the way they want it.

When you email them with questions, the owner responds cheerfully, personally, and promptly. A couple times we’ve struck up long email conversations about lab life and film photography, which is fun.

The Darkroom

The Darkroom, of San Clemente, CA, is the SEO king of by-mail labs. Google “film processing” and see where they show up! Their Web site is thedarkroom.com. They process, scan, and print 35mm, 120, 126, 110, APS, single-use cameras, and 4×5, 5×7, and 8×10 sheet film. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

The Darkroom offers online ordering and payment. You can download a prepaid shipping label from their Web site, or they will send you a prepaid mailer if you ask.

Processing, standard scans, the scan CD, and shipping both ways for a roll of 35mm color film costs about $17. Prices for other formats are similar. Scans come with every order, both via download link and CD.

The Darkroom’s standard scans are puny, 1536×1024 pixels at 72 dpi. You can order larger scans, 3072×2048 and a whopping 6774×4492 pixels, for an extra $4 or $9 per roll, respectively. I’ve never ordered prints from The Darkroom.

Scans are usually ready about 7 days after I drop the film into the mail. It takes up to a week longer for my negatives and the CD to arrive, but I expect that they’d arrive faster if I lived closer to California. I’ve never needed to contact The Darkroom for customer service.

Film Rescue International

Any lab can process expired b/w or C-41 color film. But sometimes you’ll find some very old, very expired film in a camera. That film can be fragile. Or perhaps the expired film is newer, but it’s crucial you get the best possible quality images from it. Send it straight to Film Rescue International. They process any film, no matter how old, and use creative darkroom and Photoshop techniques to coax the best possible images from it. Their Web site is filmrescue.com. They’re expensive, and they’re not fast, but they do outstanding work.

I’ve used Film Rescue just once, for a roll of Verichrome Pan I found in a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. That film had been in the camera for more than 40 years in unknown conditions, so I was afraid it might have deteriorated badly. They got good, high-contrast images from that film. They lacked “that Verichrome Pan look” but were crisp and clean.

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Cameras, Photography

Kodak Six-20, revisited

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I was so impressed with this camera when I bought it seven or eight years ago. I was limiting my collection to folders and rangefinders then, and this mint-condition folding Kodak with Art Deco details was so lovely I just had to own it. I’ve always displayed this camera. I have little display space, so it’s a special camera that doesn’t end up in a closet or in a box under the bed.

Kodak Six-20

Manufactured from 1932-37, the Kodak Six-20 was more style than substance. It featured a 100mm Kodak Anastigmat lens, one step up in quality from Kodak’s entry-level Diway, Bimat, Twindar, and Kodar lenses. Some think this Anastigmat is similar in design to a Tessar. Yet its maximum aperture is only f/6.3, and the No. 0 Kodon shutter in which it is set offers just three settings: 1/25, 1/50, and 1/100 sec, plus time and bulb. Not very versatile.

Kodak Six-20

The Six-20 offers two viewfinders: a brilliant peer-down viewfinder attached to the lens assembly, and a pop-up sports viewfinder on the body side. On mine, the brilliant viewfinder is so cloudy as to be useless.

Kodak Six-20

This was the kind of camera a gentleman could slip into his coat pocket, or a lady could carry in her clutch, and look stylish when pulling it out. Only a gentleman or a lady could afford this camera: it was $38 when new, which is equivalent to $666 in 2016.

Kodak Six-20 Kodak Six-20

I shot this camera once before, in 2010. See the review here. I got terrible results and blamed a combination of camera gremlins and photographer incompetence. But I’ve learned a lot about using old gear and making photographs in the years since, and so I decided to try again. I began by cleaning the lens, which is easily accessed from the back by opening the aperture wide and setting the shutter to T. I then shot the shutter at every speed many times to loosen it up.

The Kodak Six-20 unsurprisingly takes 620 film, which hasn’t been manufactured since 1984. It’s the same film as still-manufactured 120, but on narrower spools. You can respool 120 onto 620 spools, or buy it pre-respooled at premium prices. Because neither option excites me, I swore off 620 cameras a few years ago. But as my grandmother always used to say, “never say never.” I bought a roll of expired (1/2004), cold-stored, hand-respooled Kodak Verichrome Pan from the Film Photography Project store and spooled it into this octogenarian camera.

My first stop was a nearby Episcopal church. Armed with my monopod to keep the camera stable, and my iPhone light meter app to get exposure right, I got to work. This is my favorite shot from the roll.

Church building

Somebody forgot to put the toys away on the church playground.

Toy trucks

From the church, I walked around the surrounding Warfleigh neighborhood a little. The Meridian Street Bridge cuts through on its way over the White River. The sun, low in the west, created gobs of annoying flare. I had to have my back fully to the sun to avoid it. I’m sure Kodak made a snap-on hood for this lens; I wish I had one.

Meridian Street bridge

These shots all look a lot better than the original scans, which were hazy and low contrast. Fortunately, in this modern age Photoshop corrects those problems quickly and easily. But even Photoshop couldn’t help with the flare.

Starbucks

I finished the roll (just eight photos!) over in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood, where there’s a Graeter’s ice-cream shop. It was busy on this warm Saturday evening.

Graeter's

By the way, the Six-20’s shutter requires no cocking. That’s unusual for a folding camera of this era. I’m betting that the No. 0 Kodon is a simple rotary shutter similar to those found on box cameras.

See the rest of my photos from this camera in my Kodak Six-20 gallery.

I was actually about to sell this camera. I’ve been thinning my herd, as cameras were stuffed into every nook and cranny around here and the madness had to stop. I’ve shed probably 50 cameras and am not done yet. But something made me pause and try this one again. I’m glad I did; after this experience I’ll be keeping it.


Do you like old film cameras? Then check out all of my reviews!

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Photography

Kodak Six-20 Brownie

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Somebody gave me this box camera, a Kodak Six-20 Brownie with an Art-Deco-inspired faceplate, a few years ago. The timing was bad: I had just decided to swear off 620 film and cameras. I had neither the patience to spool 120 film onto 620 spools, nor the willingness to spend 12 bucks and up for pre-respooled film. But a couple months ago I discovered a pile of eBay Bucks near expiration. And then I found a roll of Verichrome Pan in 620, expired in 1982, that those Bucks paid for. Free film!! So I dug out this old box.

Kodak Six-20 Brownie

Kodak puked out box Brownies by the legion during the first half of the last century. This model was made from 1933 to 1941. Original price: $2.50. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s equivalent to $46 in 2016.

Kodak Six-20 Brownie

As box Brownies go, this one had some unusual features. Almost all the box cameras I’ve known come apart at the back for film loading and unloading. This one comes apart at the front. You pull out the winding knob, pull up on the knob that anchors the carry strap’s front end, and tug on the camera’s face.

The Six-20 Brownie has two apertures, controlled by the tab atop the faceplate. Down selects the larger aperture; use it for most shots. Up selects the smaller aperture; use it for extremely bright conditions such as beach or snow scenes. The camera also offers a single shutter speed plus timed exposures. The tab on the faceplate’s side controls it; pull it out for timed shots. I’m guessing that the shutter operates at somewhere between 1/30 and 1/60 sec., and the two apertures are something like f/8 and f/16.

And while the camera’s lens (a simple meniscus) is inside the box, an external lens focuses the camera for shots at beyond 10 feet. For shots from five to 10 feet, move the lever below the lens opening to move the external lens out of the way. Release the lever and the external lens springs back into place.

This camera was filthy when I got it, so I cleaned it up as best I could. The pitted faceplate was beyond help. The viewfinders had gone opaque with crud, so I dismantled them and cleaned them. One of the mirrors was loose, so I superglued it back into place. Then I spooled in the Verichrome Pan.

The best shot on the whole roll is of my sons. That kills me, because it’s long been my policy not to show photos of them here. I should write in detail about why someday; a couple of principles are involved. And it’s the only shot I took with the front lens moved out of the way. Darn.

But here’s the second best shot on the roll. I don’t know how this Verichrome Pan was stored, but it sure behaved like fresh film. This was the only shot affected by light leak. I wonder if it might have happened while I removed the film from the camera, as I fumbled it a bit and the end of the roll came a little loose for a half second. This was the last photo on the roll.

Mass Ave and a light leak

I don’t know why I persist in using box cameras to photograph distant subjects. They’re meant to take photos of Aunt Martha and the nephews at closer range. When I framed this, the main part of Leon’s filled the viewfinder. But I shot it from across the street. Oh, and by the way, I recently bought a suit from Leon’s. It was a great experience.

Leon's

I had the Brownie along one day when I took my son to dinner at an outdoor mall in Noblesville. Sharpness and contrast are pretty good here, despite a little haze in the sky around the tree branches.

Parked at the outdoor mall

A couple photos were pretty muddy. I worked them over pretty good in Photoshop to improve contrast. Here’s one of them, of the mural is on the back of the Indianapolis Public Schools administration building Downtown.

IPS mural

This was the muddiest photo of them all, of the three trees on the golf course behind my house. The front ash tree has been dead for at least a year; the bark is starting to fall off. Anyway, Photoshop restored reasonable contrast to this scene. At full scanned resolution, a little motion blur becomes apparent, convicting me of moving the camera slightly as I made this exposure. But at print size, you’d probably never notice it.

Golf course trees

To see more photos from this roll, check out my Kodak Six-20 Brownie gallery.

It’s charming to shoot with simple cameras like this Six-20 Brownie. Even when the results are so-so, it still always pleases me that I got images at all. It’s easy to forget that a light-tight box and the simplest of lenses — even a pinhole — will make an image. And these turned out pretty well. You’d never guess that I used film expired for more than 30 years.


Do you like old cameras? Then check out all my vintage gear reviews!

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66 Drive-In

66 Drive-In
Kodak Brownie Hawkeye
Kodak Gold 200 (expired)
2013

Just dreaming a little lately of my 2013 Route 66 trip. Dug out this shot and Photoshopped it to greater clarity.

Photography, Road trips
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Cameras, Photography

Where can you still get film developed?

Thanks for looking here for where you can get your film developed! I’ve written a new and improved list of labs you can send your film to — click here to read it!

The question burns: Where can you still get film developed?

BurnedCVS

Not long ago, the answer was everywhere. Costco, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, et al., processed 35mm color film in an hour right in the store. The quality could be dodgy, but it was convenient and cheap: as little as four bucks for processing and scans. But one by one, these stores have gotten out of the one-hour photo business.

If your city has a camera store, perhaps they still process film, too. The one in my city does good work at a good price, but their hours and location are too limiting. I also considered buying equipment to process my own. I’m charmed by the idea, but I can’t imagine where I’d find the time right now.

So I mail my film to professional processors. I was already using them to process the films the local labs couldn’t: black-and-white and slide films, and other film sizes, such as medium format (120) and archaic formats like 127 and 110.

Plenty of pro processors are available. Some cater to photographers with exacting needs. They deliver top-shelf quality and enormous scans, offer expert advice, and remember your processing and scanning preferences. But their white-glove service comes at a premium price.

Fortunately, several processors target hobbyist film shooters, offering reasonable service at a better price. Here are the ones I use, including their total price for processing a roll of 35mm color film, scanning the negatives, and shipping. All of these labs charge a little more for other film sizes and for b/w film and slide film. They will also print your images for a fee, and offer other services I’m not mentioning here.

My favorite labs

Old School Photo Lab, oldschoolphotolab.com: I use this lab the most now. They process 35mm, 120, 110, 126, 127, 828, APS, single-use cameras, and 4×5 sheet films. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

They offer online ordering and payment. Processing a roll of 35mm color negative film and getting their standard scans costs $16 and they pay shipping both ways. Prices for other formats vary.

Their standard scans are a generous 3072×2048 pixels. That’s big enough for any enlargement short of mega-poster size. Uprgraded scans of 6774×4492 pixels cost $7 more. When your scans are ready, they email you a link to where you can download them. If you want a CD of the scans, it’s 3 bucks extra.

These guys are fast, sometimes scary fast. Once I mailed them a roll of 35mm color film on Saturday and got an email on Wednesday that my scans were ready for download. Awesome! And the one time I had a problem with their service, they handled it with aplomb.

Dwayne’s Photo, dwaynesphoto.comI’ve sent a ton of film to Dwayne’s in Parsons, KS. They process and scan 35mm, 120, 220, 620, 127, 110, 126, Disc, and APS. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

Ordering from Dwayne’s is a little complicated, with different printable order forms for their various services. Prices vary widely, but processing and scanning a roll of 35mm color film costs $14 including shipping back to you. You pay to ship your film to them.

Their scans are 2740×1830 pixels. This is the only scan size they offer. And hallelujah: Dwayne’s now offers downloadable scans! No more waiting for a CD to arrive in the mail. You can have either downloads or a CD (but not both) for the same price.

I’ve had great experience with Dwayne’s customer service. They really goofed once, processing a roll of color film as black and white. I got a handwritten apology and a roll of replacement film with my negatives and scans.

Willow Photo Lab: This is the oddest lab in the bunch, because they operate entirely through eBay. For now, anyway; last time I ordered from them, they said they were working on a traditional Web site. Anyway, go here to see their eBay store.

Willow is far and away the price leader. You get better prices the more rolls you send them. I normally buy their two-roll deal: $14 for processing and scans or prints, including return shipping. You have to pay to ship them your film. Their best deal is 10 rolls processed with scans or prints for $42.75 shipped to you.

The downsides: They process only 35mm and APS color negative film. Scans are skinty at 1524×1024, sent to you on a CD. They offer no option for larger scans or for downloading scans.

And ordering is quirky, as eBay isn’t a natural fit for selling services. The deal you used last time might not exist this time. If the listing says prints but doesn’t mention scans, I’ve learned that if you send a note with your film asking for scans instead of prints, they’ll cheerfully do scans. It’s all kind of a hassle, but these are the best prices I’ve found anywhere and their work is good. And if there’s a problem, the owner himself handles it, swiftly and kindly.

Worth a mention

The Darkroom, thedarkroom.com: I used to use this lab in San Clemente, CA, all the time. They process 35mm, 120, 126, 110, APS, single-use cameras — and 4×5, 5×7, and 8×10 sheet film. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

They offer online ordering and payment, and online downloading of your scans. The scans are usually ready about 7 days after I drop the film into the mail. It takes up to a week longer to get your negatives and a CD of your scans back. Processing, standard scans, the scan CD, and shipping both ways for a roll of 35mm color film costs about $17. Prices for other formats vary.

Unfortunately, The Darkroom’s standard scans are puny, 1536×1024 pixels, or 1.6 megapixels. You won’t want to enlarge them beyond about 5×7. You can order larger scans — 3072×2048 and a whopping 6774×4492 pixels — but you’ll pay an extra $4 or $9 per roll, respectively.

Fulltone Photo, fulltonephoto.com: I haven’t used this La Grange, KY, lab in a while, but they always did great work for me. They process 35mm, 110, 126 and 120 films, negative and slide.

They don’t offer online ordering, but they’re so close to my Indianapolis home that mailing time is cut way down for me. I usually get a CD of scans back from them in about seven days.

Processing a roll of 35mm color film with standard scans is a bargain at $11.50, including shipping both ways. Prices vary for other formats.

Their standard scans are on the small side, 1818×1228 pixels, which won’t print well much beyond 5×7. Enhanced scans cost $5 more, and are generous at 4535×3035 pixels. For a buck a roll, they’ll upload your images for you to download. If you spend at least $15 with them, shipping is free, which lops $4.50 off the bill.

Film Rescue International, filmrescue.com: If you ever find long expired film in a camera, these are the best guys to process it. They process any film, no matter how old, period, and use creative techniques to coax images out of even the most fragile old films. For a couple particular old color films, they can only return black-and-white images — but that you get images back at all makes it worth it. They processed a roll of Verichrome Pan I found in my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, returning eight good scans of a family’s late-1960s vacation to Niagara Falls. See those photos here. Cost depends on a number of factors and is not cheap, starting at $37 (including return shipping) and going up steeply from there. But if they can’t get images off your film, you pay nothing.


It’s never been less expensive to shoot film. Read why.

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