With the critical expertise moving "up the chain" to the image file, printers are becoming "dumb boxes" fed with a stream of carefully selected and massaged data. The trend now is to match output devices to specific applications, based on productivity and quality requirements. This is the main reason Durst offers a number of diverse digital printers and why we're busy creating variants of proven platforms. Some people in the industry are concerned this trend will eliminate the need for the professional digital photo printer. But while it's true, digital does level the playing field somewhat, we don't see any cause for alarm. First, professional imagers offer a number of added value enhancements in both file prep and finishing. These services are simply unavailable in any consumer-oriented or online service.
Our World for Today and Tomorrow: Empowerment
by Peter Mador, vice president of sales, Photo Specialty, Professional and New Markets Development, Noritsu America Corporation
There's no doubt that many folks with great acumen, a strong sense of history, and foresight will address where the photo industry has traveled and where technology is taking us. With that well covered, I decided to address the greatest advantage that digital imaging and minilabs bring to finishers today: empowerment.
If you think back just a few years, all sizes of photo businesses anguished over whether to go digital. Then came "which digital lab should I purchase?" Hopefully, today, we've come to the realization that far from being any type of an issue, digital labs offer the freedom to create more, sell more and profit more.
Digital means you can take anything customers bring you and offer them a wonderful new world of possibilities. Digital means you're no longer limited to being an order taker and simply sending home 24 prints from a roll of film. It means entire new markets are now open to you. You're no longer "just a photofinisher," you're a print shop, service bureau, lab for consumers and pros, Internet merchant, and innovator in completely new vertical business segments. You are truly empowered and limited only by your imagination.
Today, one finisher in Texas discovers that musicians love the oversize photo look, so he now outputs hundreds to thousands of mini-posters per month. Another finisher in South Africa finds event photographers who shoot association parties. He creates personalized templates featuring association logos and now outputs hundreds of package orders per year. In Ohio, an enterprising lab owner sees the 12 x 36-inch prints possible only from his Noritsu QSS-3200 Series Digital Minilab and begins creating store and window displays for a chain of dry cleaners.
So where are we going? The Industry's future is limitless.
Forty Years of Growth in the Photographic Marketplace
by Bing Liem, president and CEO, AgfaPhoto North America
Over the last four decades, photographic technology has made incredible advances. The resulting improvements in quality, value and usability that cameras and photographic processes have undergone are epitomized by products like single-use cameras that make photography ubiquitous and affordable for everyone. To appreciate the progress, consider the consumer's experience in 1965, in the early days of mass market color photography. The consumer struggled to load (and unload) film, did much guesswork in composing shots, schlepped the exposed film to a retailer who shunted it to a wholesale lab, and waited a week before returning to pick up the pictures, all the while hoping that at least a few would be keepers. It is truly amazing that anyone bothered to take pictures.
By the 80s, the 'value chain' evolved significantly with the arrival of onsite minilabs, giving rise to photo processing businesses with one-hour turnarounds. Most recently, the advent of digital minilabs and kiosks have made instant gratification a reality, as consumers bring in their unprocessed digital images and get high quality photo output on the spot.
Part and parcel of the improved consumer experience has, of course, been the advances made in photographic media. Formats have changed from 35-mm to 126 and 110 format, to Disc, to APS, to the multiplicity of media cards. Digital cameras began appearing in the mid-80s, but only since 2000 have they managed to equal analog film for quality of output. Today, digital photography is clearly the future, some analysts predict that in the next five years, digital cameras will replace nearly all conventional cameras in US households.
The upshot of these advances is that people today have an unprecedented ability to capture, store, print, share and interact with their images. The result: images have become a universal language for communicating the truths of life, ranging from the mundane to the monumental. There's no question that if Edward Steichen were alive today and requesting submissions for a "Family of Man" exhibit such as the one he put together half a century ago, the response would dwarf the two million pictures received from every corner of the Earth then.
40 Years of History
by Tom Shay, communications manager, Fuji Photo Film, U.S.A., Inc.
Congratulations to Imaging Business on your 40th anniversary. 2005 is also the 40th anniversary of the founding of Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc. For the past 40 years, as it is today, our focus has been developing products and services that lead to beautiful prints. Fujicolor and Fujichrome films were introduced to the US market in 1970 and Fujicolor Paper in 1972. These products have been continually improved and are recognized for their quality and longevity. In 1981, the first Fujifilm wholesale lab in the US was opened in Anaheim, CA. Today, Fujifilm is a major force in wholesale photofinishing through our Fujicolor Processing company.
Introduced in 1982, the Fujifilm minilab line continued to expand and earned a reputation for dependability and quality throughout the industry. By 1997, Fujifilm had anticipated the digital revolution and set a new standard with the introduction of the first Frontier Digital Minilab. The market leader in both the US and globally, Frontiers now serve as the backbone for all the conventional and digital imaging services being offered by retailers across the country.
In 1984, Professional Fujichrome and Fujicolor films were introduced to the US market. Fujifilm also served Professional and Commercial labs with high quality Professional Color Papers and Printing Materials. By the late '90s, Pro Labs also saw the value of Frontier Digital Lab Systems and Fujifilm developed customized workflow solutions for the Pro market. In 2002, Fujifilm introduced Studiomaster Pro, a workflow solution integrated into Frontier, which allows labs to receive digital files from photographers in a standardized and easy-to-use way.
In 2003, the Fujifilm Get The Picture Online Service was added, allowing consumers to upload images from home for pick-up in-store. Thousands of US retailers now offer this popular service to consumers who today can get their digital prints in as little as an hour.