enter image description hereUsed a 24 shot disposable camera until the dial was finally down to 0 and I took it to get the photos developed. They said they'd call me when they're ready which they never did so I went to check on them. She gave me them, showed me one photo which came out lovely, I was happy so I left. When I later looked at the contact sheet there were only 14 there, and a few were black. Can someone tell me what's happened here? Is it a fault with the camera? And if so, do you reckon I could be refunded? enter image description here

Edit: The orange marks (light leaks?) are on the negatives too. Also, curiously the last image on the contact sheet which is half bleached definitely wasn't the last photograph I took. The camera doesn't seem to have captured the last photograph for some reason. I also used the camera as normal, definitely didn't tear anything open. Always used the flash, and never noticed any flash failure.

  • If you could show us the negative strip, that might help in analyzing the issue. Sep 15 '21 at 7:44

I'd say the amount of effort involved in trying to prove it was a user, lab or camera fault would simply not be worth the effort. I'd jump the whole issue back to the store you bought the camera from; show them the pics, see if you can get them to give you a new camera, or a refund. [You did keep the receipt, didn't you?] Then you can try over again… & hope...

  • Actually, it's pretty trivial. The bright spots can't really be user error unless the user started tearing open the cardboard before taking the photos, which should have been noted as part of the intake paperwork. You can determine whether it was a camera failure or a lab mistake pretty easily. The bright spots are in the same spot on every frame, so it can't possibly have occurred while developing the negatives. If you can print new prints and they don't have the bright spots, it's a lab error. If the new prints don't have the bright spots, it's the camera.
    – dgatwood
    Sep 15 '21 at 16:44

It looks like the camera had a major light leak, and they developed the frames based on the brightest part, which is from the light leak. It might be possible to push the images during development and get content from the other photos. You will, of course, have the blown-out area on all of the photos no matter what you do.

The reason it probably isn't a lab problem is that the light leak (those bright spots on the edge of almost every frame) occurs in the same spot on every frame. If it occurred while developing the negatives, it would not be in the same spot on every frame. It wouldn't even be in the same spot on groups of frames, because they can't know precisely where the frame boundaries are until after the negatives have been developed, so cutting occurs after it's too late for light to affect the negatives.

It could theoretically be a problem that occurred while optically transferring the negatives to paper, or, if this is digitally processed, while scanning the negatives. If that's the case, it will be obvious, because the negatives won't have black spots at the edge.

But it's almost certainly a light leak in the camera. So unless the user failed to follow the directions and started tearing open the camera before shooting, it was a defective camera.

  • This is not a light leak. Both dark frames are immediately after a flash frame, and both show light areas on the same edge where the previous flash frame showed a background lit area. They're just flash failures, most likely due to not waiting long enough between flash shots, as noted in my answer.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Sep 14 '21 at 16:57
  • You're wrong. Frames #14 and 15 have the exact same bright pattern on the same side, superimposed on top of actual photos. That cannot be caused by the flash failing. There was absolutely 100% definitely a light leak. The only question is whether it was during development or inside the camera itself, but my money is on the latter.
    – dgatwood
    Sep 14 '21 at 19:18
  • Frames 16 and 22 are also obviously non-blank images, and also show those bright areas.
    – dgatwood
    Sep 14 '21 at 19:26
  • @ZeissIkon What are you talking about? At least the frames 12, 14, 15 and 18 also show the same light leak as on the dark frames. The camera has at least two different issues. One is the light leak and the other is either an occasional shutter failure, the shutter doesn't open, or perhaps a flash failure. But if the flash is failing, I would assume that the affected frames are underexposed and not completely black. Why do you think it is a flash failure? The explanation in your answer does not make much sense.
    – jarnbjo
    Sep 14 '21 at 19:35
  • The camera doesn't necessarily have two issues. Assuming the flash is user-controllable, the user may not have turned on the flash, believing that there was enough light to get a serviceable image without it. And that might have been true had the development process not been stopped down to accurately render the brightest part of the frame (the light leak).
    – dgatwood
    Sep 14 '21 at 22:30

This — difficult to explain poor results after a long delay — is part of the reason digital cameras have largely replaced film cameras for ordinary use. Digital cameras tend to provide gratifying results near instantly.

Getting consistent good results from film is a longer learning curve. Even worse, for color film, labs are less reliable because processing machines are old and expert technicians increasingly rare. There just isn’t a big enough market.

This means that film, and particularly color film, is not really a good fit for a lot of people.

In the heyday, disposable cameras were everywhere and so was one hour processing with prints. I could buy a camera on the way to a job site, drop it off on the way back, and pick up prints at the end of shift. There was a B2B use case and B2B levels of service at the local drugstore.

Those days are gone. I expect stupid mistakes by my local lab. The bar is on the ground, but they bring a shovel.

Surprises are part of the fun.

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