It wasn’t long after my return to film that I heard about PPI, Pro Photo Irvine, as being one of the best labs for tighter budgets. They had, and still have, some of the best prices – but not without other “costs” that a photographer should factor in, such as their slower than average turn around time that I experienced when I used them heavily in 2013 of 4-6 weeks. But like the old adage goes, you can have inexpensive, quality, and speed – now pick two – inexpensive and consistent quality are the descriptors suited to them.
Costs & Offerings
Here’s where most photographers start to get a headache when dealing with PPI, trying to figure out their costs for various sized scans. This is another company that’s been around 30+ years and unfortunately their website feels it’s at least half that age with it’s poor design and clunkiness.
A perfect example of this clunkiness is the fact that their link to their order form and page on custom scans is only available in the drop down menu for lab services, not on the lab services page itself.
Another piece of “clunk” is trying to match their scan sizes with their costs. For example on their C-41 pricing page they list Process & CD (scan) of 35mm at $7.50 and 120 at $8.50, with a note on the bottom that Small scans ad $5.00 per roll and Large Scans at $10.00 per roll. On their order form however for Scan Types they list Custom, Standard Small, and Standard Medium.
From experience I think I’ve figured out that their Price list +$5 small and the order form Standard Medium seem to be the same thing and result in a scan about 2048×3098 for 35mm; I think, well maybe…. Truth is I’ve never been 100% sure on what I’m going to get charged per roll when sending it in – but I’ve never been shocked in a bad way when the charge goes through.
For their custom scans they break pricing down into Frontier vs. Noritsu scanners.
Film Size Frontier Noritsu
35mm $16.50 $13.50
120 $15.00 $10.00
220 $25.00 $17.50
My experience with the lab
Despite the long turn arounds I found myself using the lab quite a bit in 2013 for personal work. Their quality was consistent and they simply had the best cost per roll (assuming Noritsu) by far, since none of the other larger film labs I’d been using had offered a “basic scan” option at an affordable price.
Some of the work I’ve had scanned at PPI over the years:
Pro Photo Irvine is a great choice of labs for someone getting their feet wet in film photography or just doing a lot of personal shooting and don’t want to break their budget processing a lot of film but don’t want to sacrifice a consistent level of quality either. Their custom scans rival the prices of most labs cheapest basic scans, and their basic scans are less expensive and better quality than say Walgreens.
Is their website a bit of a pain to figure out the size/cost amounts on, yeah it is – but really it’s no worse than any other company that offers a lot of services/products and their website has been a work in progress since the early days of the internet. I wouldn’t let those type of things keep me from using a great lab that has such a long history with photography.
Looking back at the work they’ve done for me, and finding myself doing only personal work these days instead of commercial where the turn around time was critical – I might be sending a few more things their way from time to time.
But patience is required as well since unless things have improved greatly this last year you won’t be seeing a lot of 10-14 day turn around times.