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Old school Lab/Equipment Techs.


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There are a few trends happening that I am allowing to bother me more than I should but dang it its just the old school lab rat in me. Its bad enough that a large majoriety or our photographers couldn't shoot a manual camera with crome it in if there life depended on it but it also seems to me that so many lab owners/techs. Dont have a clue as to the fundimentals of real operation and suroundings. I can remember walking into my lab and from 30 yrds. away thinking to myself " how long has that circ. pump been squealing" or " who set the crossovers in the processor because one is seated incorrectaly" all just from opening your ears to your souroundings. I don't think that anyone runs control strips any more and even the ones who do probably couldn't trouble shoot a problem if thay had one. Don't get me wrong modern technology is amazing but old school guys/gals like us use to be a very valuable asset and now our talents seem to be long forgoten. Does anyone else out there miss the old days of having to realy RUN a lab? Thank for allowing me to have my petty vent. Hope all is well in your corner of the world people.


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I can see your point, thou I wonder if my Lab Scence was ever as refined as yours.

I still get that strange prickling feeling, .... When you can predict that this apparently informed customer gives you cmyk j pegs, or those annoying jpg which you know where created at 300 dp cm Doh!

Our biggest jpg presented was 202m, which opened to ....... Well I couldn't be bothered to wait.

The mechanicals of lab management are way more predictable, but the human side has even more variables to F about with.

"google does not, an expert make!"


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Hi Guys

I truly can relate to your feelings.I,ve spent almost 20 yrs of my life in printers and photochemistry(right from manufacture to present day quality monitoring) Today we live in a transient world and digital technology has only accelerated that. Images shot now on a digicam are deleted a few moments later(so much for memories)So who the hell will be bothered about the finer inticacies of this art.

I guess we must just bear it and move on and also thank Neil and minilabhelp for giving us space to vent our angst

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As someone who has been in processing for almost 30 years, I welcome  everything new including our dry lab. If I never see a control strip again I will die happy!  As one who has the most remote minilab in the UK we have  also had to keep every pump quiet and make sure every crossover is seated properly but I was always lucky enough to employ someone who could do this as second nature. It will not be long till we don't need C41 control strips as today we have had 2 films - the least ever and our machine can do 100 per hour! I look forward to it going to where the good film processors go in the sky!

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Now we are reminiscing, 100 films and hour and it was not fast enough, you didn't need control strips as they looked after themselves. For those of us who have been at it a long time we have had some classic milestones.

126 cassettes, my favourite film if only it had been oblong and without the bloody backing paper.

110 what the hell, still got a backing paper so you could see when to stop winding?

C41 smelt a lot better than the old C22 chemistry

Around this time we saw the light with the first mini labs, Noritsu and the very expensive Red kitchen cabinets with a Kis on top

Disk film, Kodak behaving like British Leyland at the time, whatever they launched was not as good as the Morris 1000

Apparently they got to 17% but only in Scotland (no offence)

APS I actually liked APS, it was the only film my wife could use and get 40 good shots, (still cut heads off but....)

Lasers and digital, the biggy, The end of your Colourcare and Kodak B labs, think how many film they processed each year?

Dry still coming?

For me the big ones were coming out of the darkroom, spending 8 hours dip and dunking was not always fun, nursing the carriage through its cycle as it carried all the racks and bottom weights, in the dark, all the while it would try and kill you or at least rip your arm off.

As has been said that little odd tell tale noise, sent you diving into the pile of backing papers in the corner, (thats what they are for?) just before the machine sent Racks, 100 film and 1/2 Oz lead weights flying through the air.

Its a funny old game but still fun.

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Ah, Magenta... Great memories...

More: the smell of 120 backing paper !

Doing "Dead Heat"

Makeing "Under, over and normal" set up negs

Neutral Density

Understanding slope control

The great machines from Durst, Kreonite, Hope, and others

Manually foucusing lens !!

Switching from EP2 ro RA4

The "almond" smell of EP2

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Oh, the memories are flooding back in now. I started on Durst 5/8 printers, then the 801's. Minilabs were dip and dunks, with either Kreonite or Hope paper processors. We cut prints with a Rollma auto cutter (how advanced we thought that was!). Then we discovered the Noritsu System 1/2 machines. First ones had round corner cutters with a big dial to change paper legnth.

Then those glorified shoe boxes called Kis came out. Luckily we were well equipped and were not tempted - even by Kis' high pressure sales tactics! The Hope Liberty came along which made the industry even more affordable to enter. The big sea change really came with walk-away printing from the Gretag and later, Agfa machines. I remember Bonus Print the Gretag's through their store chain and cranked through some fairly impressive volumes.

New staff now just couldn't imagine the days we took in upwards of 600 films, or worked all night pre-Christmas with reprint and enlargement orders. Life is so much easier with kiosks and online ordering. Even on a busy day we're out the door by 6pm - bliss!

Must hunt out some pictures of the early labs to reminiss...

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Ahh the memories. I've worked with much of the same old equipment, and to be honest I'm glad to see the end of it! Paper cutters malfuntioning, prints jamming in racks, chemistry and prints all over the floor, customers bringing in bags of films expecting them in 1 hour and your'e already flat out, and thats just an average day. Of course I didn't own a business then, I was just working for peanuts, that's my only regret really.

Having said that I now sort of enjoy the few films I do each week, no pressure!

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Cerificates.....over qualified for entry into the photographic trade of old. I had cycling proficiency and 100yds elementary breast stroke. 40 years later still at it coz I couldn't do anything else.

Thats wrong really as I switched to fixing those bloody machines that used to break down so much, you got more peanuts... but still enjoy printing, and producing something, even more fixing something, When you stop enjoying it, STOP

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Magenta, your reminiscence  of attempted and largely unsuccessful new film formats missed out the one I felt most deserving of adoption, but failed because Kodak refused to accept it and produce the camera or films to suit. I am talking about the Agfa Rapid system which used normal 35mm format, but passed the film directly from cassette to cassette in the camera and solved all the problems people had ensuring the film was attached safely to the take up spool in all other 35mm cameras of the time.

Sadly when introduced Agfa had their own film process and a very small market share in the UK so without the adoption of the system by Kodak it was doomed from the start.

I always felt that disc and 110 films were only invented for the benefit of the film manufacturers, so you got less film for your money, the negatives were too small to be really satisfactory.

A format that never got invented , but seemed obvious to me was 35mm without the sprocket holes on one edge and the exposed area enlarged to make use of this part of the film – a more useful shape, professional style format of considerably enlarged  negative area which would have required little modification to film processors or printers.

Memories are made of this – could be a song title !

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All that stuff looks much too modern for me!

When I started we would process restaurant photography 120 negs in a darkroom with three pipes full of chemistry. There was a pipe full of developer, one of fixer and the third one was metholated spirits!

A couple of dunks in the metho and the films would be hung in front of a bar heater. Dry in about a minute if they didn't catch alight and then the negs went straight into the enlarger, prints through some sort of desktop processer, maybe some sort of Agfa process.

Quite a few years later it was Durst 5/8 and 6/12's, Pako Mach 11's and Kreonites. Didn't get to use a Kodak 5S for years!

What I don't miss is all the tar the old chemistry used to produce, nasty stuff to get off rollers!

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  • 2 years later...

Just Googled Minilabs, Hope and some other stuff and found you guys here. Right on.

Started in a camera store 1967, bought it 1973. Opened a separate portrait studio 1976 (store already had a studio incorporated as part of the operation)

1984 got my first minilab, a Hope Spirit along w/ film processor and the automatic chemical mixers which eliminated the manual stirring of open chemistry vats that I saw in other labs. Got the full complement of masks and lenses to accommodate everything from 110 to 120 medium format. Three paper widths from 3.5 inch to 8 inch.

Was hoping to use it for proofing the studio work. Anything photographed in daylight was fine but the studio lighting did not work well at all. Ended up just using it primarily for customer work.

Ran it for 5 years and then switched out to a nice basic little Kodak 20 minilab. That lasted me for 8 years until I sold the store in '96 and concentrated only on studio work.

The Hope had huge amounts of chemistry in the tanks compared to the Kodak and lots of nights doing maintenance work. The Kodak was a huge move forward away from the noxious chemistry utilized in EP2 and C41 with it's very basic mixing "in tank".

It sure is neat to see theses comments even though it's from 2009.

Yeah, the smells, the spills, the rush jobs, the test strips and graphing "clotheslines" in process control. Remember that?

Now I'm all digital, but the lab background as well as great pro seminars on the studio side is great background for for managing the initial image in camera.

Amazingly, digital is almost like running a minilab as far as colour management is concerned. The image on most LCD screens is all corrected by the camera software but when it moves into a computer, for many, it comes out as garbage which requires even more work and learning. This is quite daunting for the regular amateur. Now granted, just like the early days of more and more automation in film cameras, there are better and better sensors that can automatically handle some really amazing variations within an image. Blooming amazin'.

As that venerable Bob Hope (No relation to the Hope processors) put it: "Thanks for the Memories" :::::::: Cheers

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