According to a new consumer survey from InfoTrends/CAP Ventures, 37% of digital camera owners who print photos said they had tried retail services in 2004. These retail services include ordering prints at a photo kiosk, ordering over-the-counter at a retail store, or ordering through a retailer’s online site for pickup in the store. This percentage is up from 14% in 2003, demonstrating the growing popularity of printing digital photos in retail locations. In addition, PMA projects 48 percent of the 7.7 billion digital prints to be made in the United States this year will be made away from home (including both retail and online services), an increase from 39 percent in 2004. The entire consumer digital printing market is growing, with home printing making up a projected 52 percent of digital prints in 2005. Those numbers bode well for minilab retailers as this market is starting to shift their way.
At PMA 2005, photo suppliers were unveiling newer, more affordable digital output solutions to help meet this expected demand. Several new and upgraded digital photo kiosk products targeted specifically for the digital camera user were on display during the show. In addition, more compact, affordable digital minilabs were also featured in many booths at the Orlando Convention Center. Let’s take a look at some of these new output options.
AgfaPhoto (www.AgfaPhoto.com) rolled out its full range of photo processing lab solutions, including its d-lab.1, d-lab.2 and d-lab.2plus minilabs, as well as its netlab solutions for online digital image finishing. With these offerings and their numerous options, AgfaPhoto now provides a full complement of solutions in the three major performance classes of digital minilabs that meet the specific needs of various groups of customers. All AgfaPhoto d-labs produce prints from films and digital data media on high-quality color negative (CN) photographic paper. In performance class 1, the AgfaPhoto d-lab.1, a unique all-round solution, produces up to 900 prints per hour in 4 x 6 inch format. Its largest output format is 8 x 12 inches. The d-lab.2 flexibly produces prints up to 12 x 18 inches and provides a capacity of 1200 prints per hour. For customers who need even higher capacity, the d-lab.2plus in performance class 3 offers up to 1700 prints per hour in 4 x 6-inch format.
The d-lab.1 is currently sold in the following two versions: d-lab.1 allrounder, d-lab.1s basic. At PMA 2005, AgfaPhoto introduced another d-lab.1 model with a capacity of up to 550 prints per hour – the d-lab.1s starter. The features which distinguish the different versions of d-lab include the integrated film processor and the number of paper magazines. For some d-lab.1 machines, input and output of digital image data is carried out via the AgfaPhoto image box, a digital front end, on others this function is done on board using the minilab console.
AgfaPhoto’s range of digital lab offerings is completed with products designed specially for online finishing, the netlab.1 allrounder and netlab.2plus. The two machines, which are based on the technology of d-lab.1 and d-lab.2plus respectively, provide highly productive solutions for output of online orders on high-quality photo paper.
For its DKS 1500 Series digital minilabs, Digital Portal (www.digitalportal.com), a member of the Photo-Me Group, introduced the Intuitive Time System (ITs), which provides a single interface for handling all orders — while residing on the DKS WorkStation; a barcode reader to insure accurate order tracking while feeding the ITs in real time; and an activity control screen which displays the progress of workflow in real time, while tracking the time constraints of consumers’ work. It controls and organizes digital orders coming from remote or Internet-based input stations, and acts as a seamless system which allows control and integration of products and services information with automatic invoicing. As for equipment, DigitalPortal was showcasing Photo Me DKS-900, a digital minilab that features dye sub rather than silver halide print output, was being shown in this company’s booth as an operating unit for the first time.
The company’s marketing manager Mark Lawrence said the lab has the same software as the other labs in the firm’s line, the DKS-1510, 1530, 1550, but would be sold at a price somewhat less than the 1510. Equipped with a Mitsubishi 4 x 6 printer for an output of 110 prints/hour., it also prints 6 x 9 size. Additional 4 x 6 printers can be ganged along with an 8 x 10 unit. The company was also showing its e-Station kiosk, a touch screen kiosk designed to be connected to any of its DKS labs. “The e-Station represents the latest generation of self-service kiosks to be used by customers at photo stores. They offer digital camera users freedom of choice and allow access to the many photofinishing solutions available to them,” said Lawrence.
Pixel Magic (www.pixelmagic.com), celebrating its ten year anniversary, was adding to its iStation series with a new, lower-priced system, model 100, that carries a price of under $5,000. A touch screen countertop kiosk designed to provide quality prints from digital camera media, the iStation 100 utilizes the company’s well-regarded One Touch Digital Printing technology and prints to a high quality 4 x 6 dye sublimation printer. The new price of $4,995.00 has been established as a way to help locations with more moderate print counts experience a positive ROI in a relatively short time period.
“Our kiosks generate an impressive return-on-investment, something we were demonstrating in great detail at PMA,” stated George Briggs, CEO of Pixel Magic Imaging. “We are looking to add to that performance by providing our technology and support at a price point to help those retailers that are looking to provide digital camera printing to their customers but are either unsure or unable to make a more substantial investment.”
Konica Minolta Photo Imaging U.S.A., Inc. (www.konicaminolta-usa.com) introduced the new R3 Super 1000 digital minilab system. This compact new digital minilab features Konica Minolta’s Solid state Electro-optic shutter Array Device (S.E.A.D.) Technology, faster scanning and higher image quality from a newly developed high resolution film scanner, easy to use interface (GUI), higher network expandability and a small footprint of only 15.1 square feet.
“The new R3 Super 1000 offers photofinishers and retailers more high quality inputting and outputting options than ever before,” said Todd Tereshkow, vice president, Technical Service & On Site Marketing for Konica Minolta Photo Imaging U.S.A., Inc. “Since our introduction of the QD21 – the world’s first digital minilab in 1998, Konica Minolta engineers have continued to innovate and lead the way for others to follow. And in support of our dealers, Konica Minolta is pleased to announce a first half of 2005 promotional program for purchasers of an R-Series system.”
Konica Minolta also entered the kiosk area with Photo Link – a tabletop, stand alone, self service retail terminal where consumers can preview, edit and select which digital images they would like to print. Its easy-to-use interface and small footprint makes Photo Link a perfect fit for almost any retail space.
Fujifilm (www.fujifilm.com) introduced for retail and commercial photofinishing customers its new Frontier 550 digital lab system which delivers up to 1200 prints (4R size) per hour and the Frontier 570 digital lab system delivers up to 1,800 prints (4R size) per hour – in spite of its compact size, the highest-ever processing speeds yet from a Frontier digital lab system. Maximum capacity of the Frontier 570 printer processor is 2,040 prints per hour as when printing multiples of a single negative or digital file. Its dry-to-dry processing time is surprisingly fast – as little as 1 minute and 22 seconds, which brings total processing time for a single order of 24 prints (4R) down to as little as 2 minutes and 24 seconds. This Prints in Minutes performance comes compliments of using Fujifilm’s new CP-49E Chemical System and Crystal Archive Paper Type II in combination with the new Frontier models. Frontier Manager, Fujifilm’s unique lab management system, also improves operator workflow and maximizes output capabilities, furthering supporting Prints in Minutes services. The Frontier 570 also incorporates Fujifilm’s latest Image Intelligence technologies including “Full Automatic Red-eye Correction” software which is optional.
Show attendees also had the opportunity to see Fujifilm’s new Intelligent Device Services (FIDS), a new distributed, intelligent software solution that leverages the Internet to monitor and service the Fujifilm Frontier digital lab system and communicate in real-time with minilab operators. The service helps lab operators improve their service to customers and reduce down-time and service costs because the system is continuously monitored and diagnostics, calibration and software upgrades are performed remotely.