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Digital Passports to New Business: Photo Specialty Takes On the U.S. Post Office Over Lucrative Pass



"The biggest appeal is that its done digitally so there's no waste. You can view it before you send it to the printer so it's less of a waste of the media."

The system uses a digital dye-sublimation thermal "jam free" printer that supports a range of formats including 1, 2, 4, 4D (2 people), 6, or 16 up. The system can be used with a professional studio lighting set-up or optional tripod and flash attachment.

"We know we're coming in a little behind and there's quite a bit of competition but sales have been steady and we have ads running on it and co-marketing and branding with a passport company," she said. "And you don't need to use it only for passports. We have a reseller who used it at a seminar. He came in, walked around, took pictures and printed them. There's a lot of possibilities for it."

Maisie Ama Bankah liked the system so much when she tried one out in the United States, she sent one back to her store in Africa.

"It's very convenient," she said. "I tried it at home and got to know the camera. I took about 10 pictures and each one was an improvement over the one before. By the time I was done, I knew how to use it. There's nothing much you need to do. It doesn't take a lot of human intervention."

After testing it out, Bankah shipped it back to the graphic studio she runs in Africa with her husband. "The fact that you can shoot it and show it to them and find out if they like it is a big plus," she said. "It's not like before where you would take it and that's it. The client really knows what's coming."

The Mitsubishi Digital Instant Studio lists for $1,895.

The CAMEDIA TruePrint Digital Passport ID System ID-220

Olympus offers a "Starter Kit" for its ID-220

A well-known name in digital cameras, Olympus has also been in the digital passport market for some time now. Their latest system, the CAMEDIA TruePrint Digital Passport ID System ID-220, has the longest name in the bunch.

The ID-220 system uses the 4MP, 3x optical consumer-style C-4000 Zoom Digital Passport Camera in conjunction with the P-200 Digital Passport Printer, a dye-sub printer that can print up to 320dpi. The firmware on both the camera and the printer are unique, allowing them to create passport-ready images.

"Ours is a modular system which means you can leave the printer on the counter and go take the image in a different section of the store. It's very flexible," said George Tun, product manager of New Business Development for Olympus.

The price of the system, Tun said, ranges from $850 to $1,000 depending on the set-up the customer wants.

Despite the advantages of digital, some retailers are still on the fence about switching. To help the fence sitters switch over, Olympus has created a special "Passport Switchover Kit" providing everything a retailer needs to move from film to digital passports.

Along with the camera and printer, the switchover kit includes a Slave Flash Kit, a 116MB SmartMedia Card, a paper/ribbon pack and a folder pack. For those retailers just getting into the passport photography business, there's the "Passport Starter Kit," which also includes a wall-mounted backdrop, a photo cutter and extra paper, ribbons and folders.

"The best thing about digital passport systems is you can view the images first," Tun noted, echoing what others have said in this article. "It increases customer satisfaction as well as saving on paper by minimizing waste. And in certain instances you can save time."

Kathy Bogosian of the Camera Shop in Bryn Mawr, PA, said she's been using the Olympus system for about a year, after using a film-based passport photo system for some time.


   







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