Where to get Film Developed

This is a short post on what I’ve learned about getting film developed for my old camera photos.

First, take a look at this photo.  It was taken with a Nikon N6006 camera I purchased for 5 dollars on eBay (camera body only).  The ladies working behind the counter at a discount pharmacy told me there was something wrong with my Nikon N6006.  I didn’t believe them.  My second roll of film produced this nice photo from my home’s front steps.

Nikon N6006 - Golden Leaves Looking North

Cost vs Quality vs Dependability in Film Development

Measure cost vs. quality vs. dependability whenever you have your film developed.

35mm Film Development Costs in Chicago, IL USA

In my big city, here are the current costs of developing a roll of film and burning the images to a CD.  Costs as of November 28, 2011:

  1. Walgreen’s.  $9.50 plus tax.
  2. CVS Pharmacy.  $7.00 plus tax.
  3. Costco.  $5.00 plus tax.

You might think it obvious:  take your film to Costco.  But the film developer machines in Mount Prospect, IL died so now I must go to a Costco in Niles, IL or the northside of Chicago, IL for film development.  I can’t drop off my film during the lunch hour, I need to plan some Saturday chores around dropping my film off at a Costco.  Inconvenient.

Quality Film Development in Chicago, IL USA

For now, I am a hobbyist photographer.  I don’t plan on photographing weddings.  Seriously, those photographers use digital.

From a hobbyist’s perspective, the film development done by Walgreen’s and Costco are always good.  My local CVS Pharmacy was horrible.  They can’t be trusted.

Dependable Film Development in Chicago, IL USA

Yes, there is a difference between quality and dependability.  Quality to me means a spectrum of work that ranges from good to excellent.  Dependability means that I am confident that if I give my film to someone, they’ll do a good job.

  • Walgreens.  Dependable.
  • Costco.  Dependable.
  • CVS Pharmacy.  Horrible (more on that later).

My Choice for Film Development in Chicago, IL USA







Acceptable Acceptable
CVS Pharmacy


Horrible Horrible


Acceptable Acceptable

My film development choice is Costco.  Even though I need to work my schedule around dropping my film off at a Costco 3-5 miles from my home, it’s worth it in the long run. 

Choose your Film Developer Wisely

Your results may vary.  Perhaps in your small town, Walgreen’s is your best choice.  Or perhaps you’ll need to mail your film to a developer.

But for me, Costco was my best Chicago option.

Now my Discount Pharmacy Horror Story

I had developed on roll of film and had it burned to a CD at a CVS Pharmacy in my neighborhood and the price was great, under 5 dollars (November 2011).  Even though they had little piles of dirt on the floor in the film area that they never managed to put into a garbage can, I went there because it was cheap and convenient.

I brought two rolls of film:

  • Nikon N6006 – Film shots of my homeless friend Oly.
  • Vivitar XC-4 – Photos unknown.  I shot them but didn’t record their location.

So here’s what happened.

  1. I was told to come back a 2nd day because the regular film developer was off work and unavailable.
  2. I came back the 2nd day and was told to come back a 3rd day.
  3. On the 3rd day the lady behind the counter said there was a problem with both rolls.  It must have been something wrong with the film she said.  I was polite while the 2nd lady behind the counter said the 1st lady was “really very good with film developing”.
  4. Out of 48 photos only 3 looked OK, not even acceptable for this website.

I started wondering.  I shot two rolls of film from two different cameras and the film was of two different types.  Were both cameras bad?  Were both rolls of film bad?

The only things the two rolls of film had in common were that they were developed at the same discount film department by the same lady.  I didn’t trust her.

So I took an old Fuji roll of expired color film and put it into my Nikon N6006.  I shot the roll and took it to Costco for developing.  The photos came out great.  If I had believed the part-time film developers at the drugstore, I would never have seen the wonderful photos made by my 1990 Nikon N6006 camera.

Choose your film developer wisely by weighing the factors of cost, quality, and dependability.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.




Where to get Film Developed — 2 Comments

  1. I’ve cut back quite a bit on the amount of color work I do because of the steadily rising cost of processing and color film. I save some by only getting the film processed and then scanning the film myself at home on an old Epson 2450 flatbed scanner. I may try some DIY C41 film processing at home some time, but the cost is still not negligible. Processing b&w film at home is still pretty affordable, and it is often possible to find good deals on film; I recently bought some outdated Fomapan for about $1.75 per roll. It is also possible to buy 35mm film in 100 ft. bulk rolls at a savings.

    Thanks for the pointer to your site; I’m looking forward to following your adventures with film cameras.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *