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Photography Question 
Bonnie 
 

Place to Develop 50 Year Old Negatives


I have recently found negatives that are about 50 years old and older. Does any one know of a place to have these developed? The negatives themselves range from about 2" x 2" to about 2 1/2" by 3". I know the pictures would be priceless if I could get them developed. I would appreciate any help. I realize these are much larger negatives so I figured I may have to find a specialty place. Thanks so much for any helped offered.


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6/16/2002 4:09:18 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Bonnie,
I'm not entirely certain exactly what your question is. With color and black & white negative films, the film is first developed. This creates the negatives. Prints are made using the developed negatives in an enlarger.

From your question, it sounds like you found strips of negatives from film that had already been developed and you would like to have prints made from them.

Is this correct?
(I'm guessing this because you mention approximate image dimensions.)

If so, it is important to protect them from scratches if they're not already sleeved in something. Any full-service professional lab should be able to make prints from them, and they can either provide you with protective archival sleeves for them or tell you where you can buy some. Look in the yellow pages under "Photo Finishing." You'll have to wade your way through the listings of one-hour labs at discount department stores and drugstores to find them. If you can't find any pro labs in the Yellow Pages, look up a couple of professional commercial/wedding/portrait photographers under Photographers-Commercial or Photographers-Portrait. Look for one that is an independent studio and not a franchise or part of a national chain. Call them and explain you need to find a good full-service professional lab to print some very old negatives you have found. One of them should be able to recommend a local one, or at least one that isn't too far from you.

Undeveloped film rolls that have never been processed . . . simply removed from the camera and still wrapped around the take-up spool . . . are a different problem. The developing process that must be used for very old film to see if there is anything printable on it depends on the type of film. Rocky Mountain Film Laboratory in Aurora, Colorado specializes in developing old film using discontinued processes (dicontinued = film is no longer made that uses these processes). Their web site is:
http://www.rockymountainfilm.com/
and it telephone number and address to contact them for more information.

-- John


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6/16/2002 6:01:31 PM

 
Bonnie    John--thanks so much. I guess I may have been a little vague--sorry---yes, these are separate negatives have just been in a box for many years. They are not even on a strip. They seem to be in pretty good shape for the most part. I know they must have been developed many years ago and all the negatives put together. I will check around tomorrow per your suggestions and see who I can find that can develop these large negatives. I figured with most film either being 35mm or APS, the modern machines not would be equipped to develop ones this old. Thanks for all your help. If you come up with any more suggestions or help, I am greatly appreciative.


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6/16/2002 8:19:24 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Bonnie,
You should have no problem having them printed by a full-service professional lab.

Tell them you have some very old "medium format" negatives and ask them to make "proof" prints from them (also called "economy" or "machine" prints). These are the least expensive type of print available from pro labs.

"Custom" prints are much more expensive. The "per print" cost for a custom print pays for special darkroom work you're very unlikely to be doing with these negatives (special precision cropping, or "dodging" and "burning"). Nearly all pro labs can/will make the less expensive proof prints from medium format negatives. I don't even consider having a custom print done unless it's a large gallery presentation quality print to be mounted, matted, and framed for public exhibition.

The quality of the print will depend on the quality and condition of the negatives, and the images on them. Films have improved greatly over the past 50 years. The cameras used then also varied greatly in lens quality . . . from very inexpensive "box" cameras with very simple lenses, to folding cameras with average lenses, to expensive twin lens reflex (TLR) cameras with world class lenses (even by today's standards). The 50-year estimate you made on their age puts them at about the time of the Korean War. The camera(s) used could be pre-WWII or post-WWII.

Your negatives are by no means "large" ones (some trivia follows). . .
From the sizes you gave, they are in a class of film size called "medium format roll film." 120 and 220 size medium format roll film is still used today, although the great majority of its users are professionals. Most portrait and wedding photographers use medium format for at least some of their portrait work. "Large" is a negative from a "large format" view camera that uses film too large roll onto a spool; it comes in sheets. A lot of advertising photography is still done with 4x5 inch view cameras (4x5 inch sheets of film).

A good pro lab can make prints from any size film up to the 8x10 inch sheets of film from the bigger "large format" cameras. There are photographers still using sheet film that large. As with medium format nearly all of them are professionals.

You will undoubtedly find some treasured memories on those old negatives.

Best Wishes

-- John


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6/16/2002 11:22:36 PM

 
Bonnie    John--THANKS SO MUCH for all the information. I'm getting on the phone in a few minutes and start looking for photo labs that will be able to help me. I looked thru many of the negatives last evening and found one that had a 1910-1920 vehicle in the background and one of my great grandfathers standing in front of it. Many other ones are of my father in 1920-1930. You have helped tremendously in how to speak to the labs here locally so I don't look like a real dummy. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. I am a Creative Memories Consultant. I am big into scrapbooking and seeing these negatives was very exciting to me. I want to preserve as much of my family's past as possible. Thanks ever so much again. Have a Great Day!!


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6/17/2002 9:52:53 AM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Bonnie,
Since you are in the Creative Memories business and may encounter others who have very, very old negatives, you might find the following four web pages of interest. Three are from the same site and a fourth is from a different one with similar information.

The first one outlines the history of Kodak's roll film, and their film numbering scheme from 1889 onward:
http://www.geocities.com/thombell/history.html

The second and third are tables of roll films, by their numbers as assigned by Kodak. They show when they were introduced, the most common image dimension used on each one (see the next page I describe), and when it was discontinued:
http://www.geocities.com/thombell/oldroll.html
http://members.aol.com/Chuck02178/film.htm

120 size was introduced in 1901 for the #2 Brownie (also called #1 Kodak) and is still in use today!

The fourth is a table of all the film numbers, current and discontinued, along with all the image dimensions for each size. With roll film image width depends solely on the width of the camera's film gate (rectangular area in the camera back); the width of the film strip determines image height:
http://www.geocities.com/thombell/filmimage.html

-- John


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6/17/2002 1:48:41 PM

 
Bonnie    Wow, John, you have a wealth of knowledge and you have been more than helpful. Thanks so much again. I am just about to check out the web sites you memtioned in your response. I'll write more later and let you know how the pictures came back. Thanks so much.


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6/17/2002 10:54:27 PM

 
Linda Phillips   John, Thanks for the information. I am taking a Creative Memories class and am starting a heritage album.


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7/17/2002 6:58:08 PM

 
Laura L. Allen  
 
 
this does not all ways work but I have some negatives from the 40's and I scanned them on too my computer then clicked on invert and got some nice picture
Laura


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5/10/2004 9:36:17 PM

 
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