Film Lab Mini-Review – Willow Photo Lab

Willow Photo Lab is slightly different in that I found them as a referral from another photographer on Instagram and you purchase the bulk of the labs services off Ebay.

Willow Photo Lab on Ebay

A few things about their eBay listings.    This is all for 35mm C41 process (color and chromogenic films like XP2).    Some of their listings are geared towards disposable cameras (27 exposures per roll) and short rolls (24 exposures per roll).

Still you have options like 6 Rolls – develop and CD of each roll (25.92: 4.32 per roll) , 10 rolls and choice of 4×6 prints or CD of each (39.50: 3.95 a roll) , 10 rolls with CD AND prints (56.99 :  that’s 5.70 per roll).   These prices include return shipping of the negatives and CD for each roll.

Once you place your first order you’ll receive a price list breaking down other options (120/220 film, traditional B&W processing, etc) – and while at great prices – nothing quite beats the pricing of some of these eBay options.

Turn around time was very quick – my negatives and CD’s where in the mail back to me just a few days after they received them.

So while these prices border on the too good to be true level, what good is a wonderful price if the results are unusable?  Well I sent in a batch of 6 for my test, 3 color and 3 rolls of C41 process XP2 and I can pretty much say those won’t be my last rolls sent in.

Fair Warning – if you’re looking for the current trendy “Jose Villa” overexposed by 4 stops look – you won’t find them here; however, if your looking for a traditional color palette and scans you can work with (2000×3000 for 35mm) and you shoot a lot of color 35mm for yourself, this might be the lab to look at for allowing you to shoot A LOT more personal work.

Here’s some results from those first 6 rolls.
Most (if not all) of the color shots came from my Olympus XA – a great little pocket camera while the XP2 stuff was from test rolls in a Canon AE-1 P, Canon T90, and Cannot QL17.

Olympus XA

Olympus XA

Olympus XA

Olympus XA

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OK, for selfies the spot metering of the Canon T90 really made it easy to quickly and accurately crank the exposure up, although the more muted AE-1 shot has it’s own vibe as well.

First test shots on a newly aquired Canon T90 and AE-1P

First test shots on a newly aquired Canon T90 and AE-1P

The Olympus CA is a great camera to do some zone focusing with it’s rangefinder and take some abstract shots – like this one while driving to work on a Monday morning.

Olympus XA - great for those abstract shots.

Olympus XA – great for those abstract shots.

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So while it doesn’t have the fine tune editing of some of the larger film labs, each shot isn’t tweaked by hand in scanner and then opened in photoshop, the results are quit good and strongly reflect how I shot the scenes.   It’s almost refreshing not to have someone help me fix my obviously underexposed (low key) shots.

As I move into doing more and more personal project work – I think I’ve going to be paying for a lot more processing via eBay as time goes on.

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