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Few Headlines, But Plenty of Interesting News Tidbits at PhotoPlus Expo in New York

FUJI: Getting the Digital Shooter To Make Retail Prints

Fuji had one of the four main display areas nearest the entrance of PhotoPlus Expo sharing that high visibility location with Nikon, Canon and Hasselblad. It seems to place a lot more importance to this show than does Kodak whose space is about half the size of Fuji's located in what I would call the second row. (At PMA-Las Vegas, incidentally, I understand Kodak's space will be over 50% larger than Fuji's.)

The booth was replete with everything that Fuji has to offer to professional and amateur photographers as well as the minilab trade. Frontier models were in the spotlight for the latter crowd as were Fuji's other digital solutions, the Aladdin and Print Pix.

Missing, however, was the Frontier 340, a new digital shown at photokina but held back for a PMA introduction. The 340 becomes the fifth Frontier model in the Fuji lineup. It has the same 13 sq. ft. footprint of the 330, introduced last year at about $120,000, but with greater print output of 800-4R/hr. vs. 570. The speed is attributed to a new chemical system that reduces processing time to one minute and 40 seconds.

No price as yet for the 340 but my guess is that it might squeeze the price of the 330 downward a bit to find a price point between that model and the 350, a $170,000 list unit.

Joe Welch, Fuji's director of marketing for retail digital systems, was a seminar speaker. His topic matched Fuji's new marketing theme: Digital Camera Developing. The message of the theme, Joe told the group "is not just that we make prints from digital cameras but that we handle digital cameras just like we handle film." Joe reported survey results indicating "72% of digital camera users would be inclined to try retail printing if they were offered a service similar to film developing."

In meeting with Joe, he told me of a major advertising program that Fuji is kicking off this Fall in which they have created a fictional family called The Greens. (Attn: Kodak. I don't think a family called The Yellows will work.) A series of television commercials and print ads will feature The Greens in both film and digital picture taking situations. The Digital Camera Developing theme will be pushed.

Of special interest is a newspaper insert going to 46 million homes, scheduled for December eighth, that will offer a variety of discount coupons, one of which is keyed to the Digital Camera Developing theme. It offers a $2 discount on such developing and directs the consumer to a new Fuji website to find a dealer with a digital capability that can provide the service. With the assistance of Mapquest, the website will list the dealers within a 20-mile radius of the customer's zip code with the geographically closest dealer being listed first.

A new package of in-store merchandising material is also keyed to the Digital Camera Developing theme. Some of the copy headlines: "Handsome Prints From Your Digital Camera," Real Pictures From a Digital Camera," "Real Pictures Here."

Joe said there were now about 5,000 Frontier digitals installed in the U.S. along with about 3,000 Aladdin digital photo centers that are linked to the Frontiers. Wal-Mart installations are a significant portion of those numbers.

GRETAG: Doesn't Show It All

Featured in the Gretag booth was its new Preforma E.Motion 408 digital lab. This was a system that was shown in prototype at PMA-Orlando and will start shipping before the end of December.

The 408 is a small capacity lab at about 400-4R prints/hr. and has a footprint of 11 sq. ft., compared to 14 sq. ft. for the larger Masterflex Digital at 1,000 prints. Priced at about $75,000, it is geared for the optical-lab site looking for a lower cost entry to digital as well as lower volume traditional photo and non-photo locations.

According to a Gretag spokesman, three units are now being tested in the U.S.: one at a non-photo site in Texas; one in a drug store in Massachusetts; one in a one-hour lab in Pennsylvania.

Gretag also showed its Digital Print Station (DPS) kiosk with built-in, 4x6 dye-sub printer and credit card swiper for about $15,000though it can be customized for less without these features. This unit has been on the market for about a year and is being supplied to Olympus for marketing under its name.

As interesting as it was to see what Gretag had to show in its booth, it was also interesting to note what was not shown. I reported in September that Gretag and ASF had signed an agreement whereby Gretag would incorporate the ASF Digital PIC chemical-free, dry film system into a Gretag minilab.