That unit, according to a Gretag spokesman, was shown at photokina, not in the Gretag display, but in the ASF area. It is now under test at a few European sites, I'm told. It was not at PhotoPlus and the spokesman said it would not be displayed at the CES show in January, either. What about PMA-Las Vegas in March? "Present plans do not include it."
Apparently, the ASF-Gretag deal extended only through March of next year and was only for testing purposes. The future of the alliance is uncertain.
Another Gretag piece not shown, but highlighted at photokina, was the new Gretag-Polaroid unit. Highlight of this system is the Polaroid Opal printing system which will output 30-prints in a minute after the customer has inserted a digital media card and made a selection of which images are to be printed from a preview and select screen. No manipulation of images and output is 4x6-only from a 2,500 foot paper roll. It will definitely be at PMA-Las Vegas and will be shipping in the second quarter of 2003.
The Gretag spokesman said that, in addition to the photo trade, the firm is looking to the vending machine industry as a customer for its kiosk products.
A few days before PhotoPlus Expo, Gretag announced that it was restructuring its organization into smaller operating units, one of them for minilabs. According to the spokesman, the only changes for Gretag Imaging, Inc., Holyoke, Mass., are that the U.S. operation, will now have its own P&L and will be responsible for the service of all Gretag equipment worldwide. It's sales area will include North and South America.
NORITSU: An All Digital Booth, But Newest Model Not Shown
Noritsu, a no-show at PhotoPlus Expo for a few years, has been back for the last five years and had a fairly active booth when I walked through. It was probably the first time every piece of equipment on display was digital: Model 3001, a generation-2 compact digital laser minilab with 1,160-3R prints/hr capacity; model 2901, a full size lab outputting 1,350-4Rs; and the 3101, a high speed system, 2,350-3Rs. All are equipped with Digital Ice.
The Noritsu CT-1, a consumer preview and select terminal, was hooked up to the 2901. This unit can be networked with all of the Noritsu digitals and I'm told it has become a popular item in the line. I can't imagine any digital lab not having some sort of counter top preview and select device connected to the printer. Besides the obvious advantage of having the customer choose the images to be printed, how many of each and which to be enlarged, there is the major benefit of never being responsible for the customer's media card since they walk away with it after punching in their print order.
Another Noritsu digital, model dDP-411, was shown for the first time at photokina but is obviously being held up for a U.S. unveiling with drum rolls and Klieg lights at PMA-Las Vegas. I guess the Big Apple was not big enough for a proper U.S. introduction. Highlight of the 411 is that Noritsu partnered with Epson to develop a digital minilab with inkjet printing and a capacity of 400-3R prints/hr. and maximum print size of 12x18. The only other inkjet system, of course, is the Phogenix DFX out of the Kodak-HP alliance. This system is still being tweaked before final release. With a rated output of 250-4Rs/hr. the Noritsu vs. Phogenix battle will be an interesting horse race to watchespecially since Noritsu and Kodak are partners in other minilab activities.
As the engineers develop new ways to kick up production output on inkjet machines, look for inkjet, with its advantages of a no-chemical lab operation, becoming more significant in the minilab. The consumption of ink and paper is a huge stimulus for the inkjet folks to lust over the voracious minilab market.
Also notable for its absence was the Noritsu 3011, a companion to the 3001 but equipped with Kodak's DLS software. Not ready yet, I'm told, but probably will be for Las Vegas.
PHOTO ME: Interesting Equipment, But the Challenge Remains
Digital Portal, Inc., the U.S. distributor for the Photo Me minilab, is still working to make an impact here. In a modest booth, the firm showed its new DKS-1500 digital minilab. This system, with an output of 1,500 prints/hr. is priced at about $100,000 compared to the original DKS-750 at $82,500. The doubling of print output is achieved via a dual paper magazine and dual lane arrangement.
Running the display was Kevin Donahue, president and CEO, a 30-year processing veteran of Kodak plus stints at Fuji, where he was president of Fuji Color Labs, and Qualex.
Kevin acknowledged that the KIS connection with Photo Me is a mountain that he continues to climb but reports that there are about 50 of the DKS-750 units in use in the U.S., 30 in mass merchant installs and 20 at independent labs. Shipment of the new 1500 model will begin in January, according to Kevin. ptn
Jerry Lansky is president of MiniLab Consultants, Inc.,
P.O. Box 475, Colts Neck, NJ 07722. Tel: (732) 946-8484. E-mail: Jlansky@.att.net