Processing of Velvia 4X5 Quickloads : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Could someone plese recommend a reliable source for processing Fuji Velvia 4X5 Quickloads, either mail order or preferably in the St. Louis, MO metro area? I have tried a couple of local labs and have been disappointed. Several of the sheets (from both labs) have had what appear to be some sort of alligator clip or somthing being applied and showing up as a black dotted line in the image area. This has ruined several of my images. Thanks for your help.

-- Mike Lee (, October 29, 2001


Oh yes, the infamous film drying metal clips that the lab technician uses without considering what it can do to the image area. It can happen at any lab at any time. I am regularly told that good help is hard to find. You can talk to the counter person about this situation till you are blue in the face and it is still pervasive. Fact is that many labs set up to process their usually in the mid morning and later in the evening. The faster the lab gets it in the juice and dryed, the quicker they call it a day. Rarely will a lab technician take the time to read the comments on the order. If you find one that does, get to know them on a first name basis.

Here is a possible alternative. If you shoot any volume at all, pick up a good used JOBO processor, a drum and some chemistry and do it yourself. Several of my fellow photographers that shoot Velvia have gone this route and the results are fantastic. They buy the chemistry in various volumes and use a preservative that they spray on top of the remaining chemistry to keep it in top shape for the next batch. When you look at what you are paying at the lab and the tima and gas to and from, you will find it is both economical and very rewarding. Plus, you will not use those damn alligator clips in the image area when you dry your film. Good shooting!

-- Michael Kadillak (, October 29, 2001.

Thanks for the info Mike. At the very least, now I know what's going on. Now I have to decide what to do about it.

-- Mike Lee (, October 29, 2001.

I tried Phoenix Color Imaging...Phoenix AZ.

They did a good job with quick turnaround and provided slip cases for each 4x5. The price is very low at $1.10 per sheet, although the marks you mention show on the film. It is at the very edge of the image and I'm not sure how less of a "grip" could be taken and still hold the film. They have an 888 toll-free telephone number. They return by priority mail at a cost of around 6 bucks.

-- Don O'Connor (, October 30, 2001.

The clip marks you describe are from the sheet being attached to a rack for a dip & dunk line. This is completely normal, and unless you're expecting to get a clean full frame image on a sheet of film, I don't see a problem with this unless it's actually say more than a eighth inch or so into the film. If you go with d&d, you have to give them some slack on the edges of the film. Your other options would be to use a lab doing roller transport processing, or going with rotary tube yourself...of the 3, a good pro lab (Q-Lab) using a d&d processor will probably be the best.

-- DK Thompson (, October 30, 2001.

Mike - My E-6 lab (Carl's Darkroom in Albuquerque, NM) has two different kind of racks they can use for rack has the clips parallel to the 4" side of the film and the other has clips prallel to the 5" side. I have found usage of the racks with the clips parallel to the 5" side of the film results in the holes/blemishes being much closer to the edge of the film and therefore less instrusive into the image than the other racks. This is so with my Velvia Quickloads, anyway. So, I always request that they use the racks with the clips parallel to the 5" side. You might check with your labs on this. Good luck...Bill

-- Bill Stone (, October 30, 2001.

Another thing to consider when selecting a lab is the chemistry they use. One lab I use bragged about their Fuji chemistry and how it made for better color. I was skeptical. So I shot several images of an alpenglow sunrise in the Flat Tops Wilderness in Colorado, had the film split between two labs I normally use, and was astounded at how much more vibrant the Velvia processed in Fuji chemistry was. Furthermore, the other lab has one or two bad clips that left diagonal clip marks in one corner, effectively turning my 4x5 image into a 2.5 x 3.5. Not good for someone like me who really composes using the entire GG. Luckily, my Fuji chemistry place is VERY careful with their clips. Just in case you want to check into them,

They also do amazing digital Fuji Chromira prints. And no, I'm not a stockholder!

-- Todd Caudle (, October 30, 2001.

I learned long ago that the slide mount (for the finished transparency) intrudes onto the image area to a small degree, effectively covering the clip marks. Of course I learned then to make the composition a tad looser for the same reason.

-- George Stocking (, October 30, 2001.

To avoid clip marks completely you need to use a lab that uses roller transport rather than dip & dunk. The dip & dunk advocates claim such a process is cleaner and the roller transport method results in scratches. I have never read an objective review of the relative merits of either. My experience is that I have never seen a scratch but the clip marks, bullet holes, etc. sometimes wipe out 1/4 to 1/2 inch along two sides leaving the adjacent area seriously dimpled as the same time making scanning sharply a problem.

Ferrari Color in Sacramento uses roller transport at $1.40 a sheet but has a $30 minimum order to keep amateurs in their place.

-- John Hennessy (, October 30, 2001.

You want an objective review of roller transport vs. dip-and-dunk? I can give you real life examples -

I've had film processed by roller transport and dip-and-dunk. IF the roller transport machine is kept clean they work fine. However, I have had more film ruined in roller transports in various ways than I have ever had ruined in a dip-and-dunk. A dirty roller transport can do the following: put grunge (chemicals, dirt, etc.) onto the film, and it can scratch the film as well. Also, if you've ever been the victim of an "accident" where the film goes off the rollers and into the transport mechanism it can chew up the film.

I've had all of those things happen at custom labs using roller transport processors and at Kodak (you remember, they send you a new roll of film with a letter telling you that they try their best but - every so often something just "happens" and they aren't responsible). The last time I used a lab with a roller transport film processor, there was a dirty roller that put a spot on the film at regular intervals.

The person at the counter tried to tell me that I had a problem with my camera, but couldn't explain why the spot changed size (it was rubbing itself off on MY film), and why the spot appeared at different places on the frame, and also between the frames, but at the same distance from the top of the frame.

When I asked for a ruler and measured between the spots - guess what? They were always at the same distance, kind of like the circumference of the dirty roller. They were most magnanimous and didn't charge me for the processing and offered to process the next 5 rolls of film for free - I never took them up on the offer.

The worst problem I've ever had with a dip-and-dunk was having a roll of film drop off the film clip and stay in the first developer too long. About 1/2 the roll was unusable but the other half was OK. With the newer dip-and-dunk machines, the film racks are monitored as they move between tanks and if a piece of film is not in the rack, the machine sounds an alarm.

I also used to work for a company that processed nearly 10 million feet of film per year in a roller transport. They ran the highest quality control and they never ruined film from dirty rollers. However, even they had splices let go (the processor took 1,000 foot reels) and the film would be ruined as it was fed into the rollers - usually somewhere in the bowels of the processor where it took at least 45 minutes to retrieve.

Nothing is perfect - but, my experience at the average custom lab is that you're safer with a dip-and-dunk than with a roller transport.

-- steve (, October 31, 2001.

I have to agree with's a fact of life that even in the best labs, accidents do happen....that's why you always double up on your best exposures and NEVER send all your film out at once, never for the same run, etc. I can remember doing a pretty complex interior shot several years ago, that took about half a day to light...our Q-Lab, a great lab with the best service I've found locally, dropped a rack on the run & ruined all the film on that rack...well, lucky for us we still had the second set...likewise, I've seen 120 roll film that had pretty bad scratches the length of the entire roll from a Hope processor...(or even worse, contaminated fingerprints from someone handling the film prior to processing). I use roller transport print processors & those are tough enough to keep clean for RC prints, but it doesn't much crud to get on a roller & mess up your film...There are problems with rotary tube processors as well, so there's no foolproof process at all....I hate to sound like a jerk here, but when I read some of these comments about lab techs all I can think of is how unpopular you all must be to the guys in the back...I learned long ago never to shoot to the edges of sheet film, and as someone who runs a standard deep tank line, all I can say is that no matter how careful you are, accidents do happen....what I look for in a good lab is one that will readily admit & alert you to a problem run, and one that handles your film with gloves....I'm more concerned with greasy fingerprints on final CTs than a couple of clip marks on the edge.

-- DK Thompson (, October 31, 2001.

Oh yeah, about roller a previous lifetime, I worked in a lab using a leader-card type Noritsu machine for c41...and can remember some pretty horrific film runs that would be perfect halloween stories....I get goosebumps thinking of them now. Before that I some experience using an old kreonite machine, and a Kodak Versamat as well...all those machines can be really buggy to use, and they do have to be kept spotless. The comments about labs speeding up film runs so they can call it a day are ridiculous as well, because E6 takes about 40 minutes or so to run in wet time, most labs run on a 2 hour interval, or run the d&d lines continuously. But the process still takes a set amount of can't "soup it fast". My suggestion would be to go out and spend a thousand bucks or so on a decent rotary tube setup & some 6-step kits, maybe a densitometer, and figure out how "fun & easy" it really is. If I have offended anyone let me add: Opinions expressed in this message may not represent the policy of my agency.

end of rant

-- DK Thompson (, October 31, 2001.

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