View Full Version : mail order 4x5 processing

Cedric P. Thevenaz
14-Mar-2001, 13:31
I am an amateur 35mm photographer with aspirations to make large, super sharp, b rilliant enlargements. After much learning and consideration, much of it from g reat websites like this one, I have concluded that 4x5 is my medium of choice. However, one issue keeps me from proceeding. And I haven't seen any discussion of this topic yet.

I live in a small city about 2 hours from any large city (Seattle)with a profess ional lab. We do have a local lab which does up to medium format only (which wo uld almost make me inclined to do medium format - much less excited about this o ption though). My question is can 4x5 be conveniently handled by mail. That is to say, are there labs that receive mailed in 4x5 transparancies for developmen t and ship back, as well as those which can handle enlargements by mail as well. Does anyone have any experience with doing this all by mail? I truly want to go with 4x5, but this may be a serious consideration for me.

Thanks in advance for any comments......

Charlie Stracl
14-Mar-2001, 13:46
Any of the commercial labs in Seattle should handle 4x5 color work by mail. Look in the Seattle yellow pages for photographic processing. Call and ask about sheet film work. There is a lot of advertising agency work done in Seattle, so finding a lab ought to be easy. Ad agencies often use sheet film.

In a way, 4x5 is easier to handle than 120 or 35mm through the mail, since the boxes are flat and extremely rugged.

14-Mar-2001, 15:02
Don't forget, Ansel Adams and Brett Weston both fnally switched to Medium Format and their prints looked just as good as when they shot 8x10.

Bruce Schultz
14-Mar-2001, 15:16
Hey Bill, You care to expound on that large format-versus-medium format premise? Surely age must have been a factor in their format choice. It gets more difficult to lug around a 15-pound camera as the years pass. It's not difficult to discern a difference between medium format photographs and 8x10 contacts. If the apparent sharpness and lack of grain isn't enough evidence of the difference in formats, the tonality of large format photographs, especially a contact print, is remarkably noticeable.

Trevor Crone
14-Mar-2001, 18:32
Cedric, have you completely ruled out processing 4x5 yourself? I realise tranies are more difficult. But good old b/w is relatively straightforward. All the best,

Doug Paramore
14-Mar-2001, 19:19
Cedric: Most labs use roller transport E-6 processors which can take any size film up to about a foot wide. If the lab in your town is privately owned, you might persuade the owner to process your sheet film. However, a professional lab is the best choice. One of the problems with local labs in my neck of the woods is they think 35 is large format and there is nobody working there older than 16.


david clark
14-Mar-2001, 19:25
Hi Cedric, 4X5 is mailed all the time, and I think you can get anything done you want with them. And Seattle has a good processing place. Of course I can't remember its name right now. It is right next door to Glazer's Photographic in Seattle. Call Glazer's and ask either the folks at the front counter or in darkroom supplies where you can get your developing done. It is something like Ivy Sea-right or Ivy Sever's or like that, Ivy or I V. You can probably get practically as fast turn around from Seattle in 4X5 as you can from your local lab for 120. Good luck. David

Tim Klein
14-Mar-2001, 21:53

As others have mentioned, 4x5 is no big deal by mail. I use Agfa Scala, a B&W transparency film, that can only be processed by a couple of labs in the US. Since none of those labs is within 1000 miles of me, I mail it all the time.

My advice would be to send out a roll or two (120 or 35mm, whatever format you currently use) of the film you expect to use in large format to a couple of different labs as a test. That way you can check turnaround, customer service, and processing quality.

A good test of a labs customer service might be to request that they send you a couple of empty film boxes. One of the problems when you get started is that you buy a box or two of 10, 25 or even 100 sheets of film, but don't have anything to put them in to give to a lab! (unless you feel like waiting until you've finished off that entire box of 100 and sending them all at once).

Last, the key to mailorder processing is to detail EVERYTHING on the box. I use big white labels that cover the entire top of the box and wrap around the bottom to seal the box against accidental opening. I then write all of the critical information on the label: Film brand, type, ASA, manufacturers code, number of sheets, special processing instructions (push/pull), and anything else I can possibly think of to avoid problems. NEVER mix different films or different porcessing requirements in a box. In fact, I send each box separately just to be safe.

Also, I'd limit the number of sheets you send at a time if there is any importance to the images at all. I've only had the post office lose one box of film and, fotunately, I had this rule in place. I had a dozen or so different exposures of two different setups. I divided the film up into two shipments and was fine (though p***ed off!) when one of the boxes was lost somewhere between my house and the lab.

Good luck, and definitely don't let the lack of a local lab keep you from giving large format a try.

15-Mar-2001, 00:50

I used Prolab in Seattle when I lived in the PNW. In fact, I still do, even though I live 1500 miles away now. Their number is 1800-562-8445. If I have more than dozen slides to process, I always send it to them. They have prices that will beat most others, and I've never had a problem with their E-6 processing after many years and thousand of 4x5 sides. I've never had B&W done there, but I certainly wouldnt hesitate to (except its so easy and fun to do at home in trays)

15-Mar-2001, 00:54
I was going to mention I-V-C-right, or whatever their name is, but I also dont know what it is! I've heard good things about them too, and they are even slightly cheaper than Prolab but I've never used them (Probably because I dont know their name!!!)

david clark
15-Mar-2001, 09:23
Hi Cedric, the Seattle place is Ivey Seright owned by Photobition Seattle, and I'm told it may go by the new name at this time. So check under both. Most likely you can call them and request their price list which will give you an idea what you are in for. Best, David

neil poulsen
15-Mar-2001, 11:42
Another possible option is to look for a local retail business that sends film to a lab that does 4x5 developing. While they may send mostly snapshot stuff, they may also have the option of sending 4x5. You would want to ask about which lab, and find out if their quality is good. In this way, it's possible to avoid both the mail fees and the "surcharge" that some labs add to the price for non-commercial customers.

QT Luong
15-Mar-2001, 14:29
Although there is a local lab in town, I use mail-order processing all the time for costs savings. Only problems are longer turnaround (but in fact I save time, not having to drive to the lab) and no technician to speak to. Consider using a lab outside of Seattle if you can find a better deal, since you'll be mailing anyways.

Nathaniel Paust
16-Mar-2001, 19:49
Cedric, your answer is Ivey Seright although they just changed their name to Photobition. I started working with them when i was living in Southeast Alaska and they do all of my 4x5 now. (I live in Seattle these days.)

I've been less impressed by some of the other Seattle labs, but have never had a problem with Ivey Seright's processing.