Once you get dick-deep in film photography you're realize that the most predominant money vaccum won't be film or cameras, but film processing. Your average mail-order lab in the US is around $12 a roll. Consider a scenario in which you're shooting consumer film like Colorplus and the average cost per shot will exceed 70 cents per shot, a number rivaling some instant films. Lots of things in Japan are more expensive but film development is not one of them. Like other East and Southeast Asian countries, the cost per roll is often in the $5 range. Here's a few low-cost Japanese labs I've used.


  • Quartered in Niigata. 350 yen 2mp dev+scan. Often touted as the cheapest lab in Japan, I didn't have a good experience. The process is like any other: Fill out an online form, wire them some money, send your film, and wait a couple of days. It was rather quick IIRC, maybe 3 or 4 business days. Japan Post is a great service. Two issues, first the film was cut inconsistently, some actually cutting into the next frame. Makes me wonder if they're using a typical cinema film cutter or just some guy with child scissors. E-mail replies were somewhat rude, something very unusual in Japan. I understand that these low-margin labs are busy but that put me off. Came with index prints, scans are your typical 1500x1000 jpgs on a CD, no complaints. I wouldn't use them again.


  • Quartered in Niigata. 315 yen 6mp dev+scan. Process was the same for Chopri and their sites are almost identical. Experience was fine, came with index prints and negatives in a typical sleeve. Film was cut evenly, no spacing issues. 3000x2000 jpgs? on a CD, no complaints. They stopped accepting film orders last year


  • Quartered in Tokyo. 390 yen for 2mp scan+dev, 490 yen for 6mp. A rather questionable looking site with plenty of disclaimers, the employees make it clear they're a high-volume low-margin business so they can't accomodate everything. The form is a bit more comprehensive but the process is the same. Paying with a credit card instead of wiring money is an option and highly encouraged. Shipping varies from a glacial 7 business days (I'm closer to Tokyo than Niigata) to 2. They came with two sets of index prints which was a pleasant surprise. Scans were 3000x2000/1500x1000 jpgs on a CD.

    No TIFFS, no 16MP scans, these places are good if you don't care about editing or just want to test a camera's functionality.

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