Wednesday, November 9, 2016

35mm Film Processing by Mail Order in 2016

One of the reasons we have fewer independent photographic shops than we used to is that many relied on the profits from developing and printing in order to survive. In the heydey of film photography, a local shop might take in 20 films a day for processing, have them collected by the lab and delivered back next day for around £2, then charge the customer £4. This doesn’t sound like a lot but £500 to £1000 a month is make or break for some small businesses, especially when the mark-up on major brands was slimmer than 5% in order to compete against companies like Dixons and Jessops. Then came the internet price wars and the rise of digital. Both were the final cut for most photographic shops. The latter killed off the mass market developing and printing industry. No more York or Bonusprint envelopes falling out of Sunday magazines, no more Colourcare vans collecting and delivering films to your local shop, no more local photo processing shops like Supasnaps and Klick.

Asda and Boots hung on longer with in-store store processing labs, but these have gradually shut down leaving your choices for getting film processed somewhat narrower. Unless you are very lucky and have a local lab then you will need to get your film processed by mail order.

At time of writing (November 2016) these are some of the companies doing 35mm film processing by mail order at the budget end of the market in the UK. The prices are for developing and scanning either to CD or for download with the negatives posted back to you. They will all provide a set of 6x4 prints for around £6.

The size of scans varies. I have tried to find the prices for medium sized scans that could be used to make digital prints to 6x4. You still have the negatives for conventional printing of enlargements. Most return the scans on a CD. Some upload them to a transfer site which means you can download them before the negatives reach you in the post. This could reduce the effective turnaround time by two days.


Photo Express
Develop and medium scan £5

Develop, medium scan (2988x1722), scans uploaded to We Transfer, negatives by post,  £6

Need special mailers, available on request from this web page
Price unknown.

Max Spielman
They closed a lot of shops after being bought by Timpson in 2008. Some branches of Timpson will take a film in for processing and send it to their central lab with around seven days turnaround. They also offer a mail order service. Scans are thought to be quite low resolution, but you do get a set of prints.
Develop, print, scan to CD £8.50

Develop, medium scan to CD, £9

DS Colour Labs
Develop, Medium scan to CD, £10

Develop and Scan, to Dropbox, negatives by post,  £11

Black and White

If you shoot black and white you have a few budget options too. It may be cheaper to get prints rather than scans.

AG Photolab
Develop and medium scan £8.99

DS Color Labs
Develop and medium scan to CD £14
(compared to Develop and print to 6x4 £10)

Develop and high res scan to CD £18.75

Higher Quality Options

If you are looking for higher quality, professional standard, processing then I would recommend Peak Imaging (who I have used for 35mm and 120 films). The Darkroom UK also has a very good reputation, although I have not used them, as does Karen Willson.

The Darkroom UK
Develop and medium scan to cd £18

Peak Imaging
Develop and medium scan to cd £20.85

Karen Willson
Develop and print to 6x4 £19.85