Back in 2000, I started to get back into photography. I bought a Canon Elan IIe 35mm SLR camera, some lenses, and a flash. I took color photos various places, and then bought some standard Kodak T-Max black and white film. I shot some photos, and then tried to get this film processed.
Turns out it’s not terribly easy to pay someone to process black and white film. Very few of the local photo places will do it. The place I usually used was willing to send it off to Kodak for me. Lacking a darkroom at home, and any interest in doing darkroom work myself, I sent it off to Kodak.
Kodak processed my film just fine, but the prints they made were terrible. It looked as if their enlarger was seriously out of focus. Everything was fuzzy on the prints. The local shop agreed to send them back for re-printing. On try 2, they were somewhat better but not much.
Now, B&W photos should normally be sharper than color photos, so this was nanoying.
I kept looking, and nobody locally could print B&W photos. I even tried one roll of B&W C-41 film (that’s color-process film that takes photos in black and white). It stank about as much as I thought it would. I did eventually find one local lab that could take B&W negatives and, via a digital process, print the photos on color paper. They came out far more crisp than Kodak’s processing on real B&W paper!
Now, 7 years later, I’ve been shooting some photos with my Canon Digital Rebel XTi digital SLR camera that I want to print in black and white. There are any number of color labs that I can send them off to, and get results as sharp as one would expect from a color photo. I’d been doing that with reasonable results. But I wasn’t satisfied with “reasonable”, so I searched some B&W groups on Flickr to see what people were doing to make B&W prints from a digital source.
It was there that I learned of mpix.com, the online service of the USA’s largest pro photo lab. They offer printing on true B&W photo paper from digital (or film) sources. They’re a pro lab, so they ought to do this really well. They of course also do color printing. Plus all the other things you’d expect from a pro lab, such as red-eye removal, glasses glare removal, color retouching, choice of photo paper, etc.
I sent off my first order for B&W prints to them yesterday. I can’t wait to see how they turn out. I’m excited — I think they’ll be great.