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Industry Exclusive: Pixel Magic To Market DNP's Silver Halide Paper

Pixel Magic is becoming a player in the silver halide paper market in the Americas .

Already a force in the sale of dye-sub media, Pixel will begin the marketing of silver halide paper to be produced in Japan by its major investor, Dai Nippon Printing Co. According to Brett Cameron, recently appointed CEO of Pixel, the firm will be responsible for the sale of silver halide paper in North and South America . DNP will market to the rest of the world, he said.

The recent announcement that Dai Nippon, already a major worldwide supplier of dye-sub media, had purchased the Konica Minolta paper plant in Odawara , Japan , opened the door for the expansion into the silver halide paper arena. It creates new competition in a market segment that has seen consolidation with the demise of Agfa and Konica leaving Fuji and Kodak to duke it out.

Now there are three.

According to Cameron, DNP will be taking a unique approach to the marketing of silver halide paper by offering three backside watermark options: a generic name yet to be announced (DNP did not acquire the Konica brand name); blank back surface; and the ability to watermark a retailer's own brand.

Retail brand imprinting has not been offered in the recent past as paper manufacturers have sought to promote and protect their own brand with watermarks. It would appear that mass retailers, always looking for ways to promote in-house brands, would find such an option very appealing, as would the major buying groups.

Paper without any watermark whatsoever was a small part of the Agfa line appealing to professional labs that wanted to display photos with backlighting that would otherwise show up a watermark.

It is expected that the paper line will consist of the Konica Centurian digital and A-9 analog papers. Shipments are to begin October 1.

Cameron said that Pixel's plans for the distribution channels are still in development. Currently, Konica Minolta still has a paper contract with CPAC who supplies to those lab owners that have Konica equipment as well as others. However, the Greensboro , NC plant producing Konica paper is being shut down on December 31. There are also about 10 wholesale distributors that have carried Konica paper. Likely, Pixel will end up as the supplier to all these channels.

Cameron said that he has already made calls to some major accounts and has been impressed with the power of being able to offer both dye-sub and silver halide papers.

DNP, through its DNP Photo Marketing division, will supply the paper to a worldwide network of some 50 or so Konica distributors.

With the silver halide market contracted to two players, Fuji and Kodak, paper pricing, long a fierce competitive battleground, had strengthened in recent months. On May 17, Fuji announced paper increases ranging from 3-20%. Kodak followed five days later with increases ranging from 4-10% for paper as well as chemicals.

Such pricing must have been encouraging to DNP as it made its deal for the Konica facility recognizing the opportunity to become a serious player in not only dye-sub, but in silver halide, as well. The built-in distribution channel of former Konica paper users, who had no access to Fuji or Kodak, also had to be appealing to DNP. Though film sales have dropped precipitously prints from digital media are catching on and the expectation is that paper usage, both silver halide and dye-sub, is on the increase.

Pixel has long been the price leader in dye-sub media, with a current list price of 15-16-cents for a 4x6 sheet and lower, to the heavy users. How it will price its silver halide line remains to be seen. Cameron said, “We will be competitive and will respect the market-based pricing levels.”

At photokina, DNP Photo Marketing will have its own booth and will show the full line of Pixel Magic hardware products including its various kiosk, scanning, and printing options, as well. Pixel did have its own space at the last photokina, but did not plan for one this year.

The Konica Greensboro plant, soon to be shuttered, also produces the Mitsubishi paper line whose future has not been made known. It is possible that DNP might produce paper for Mitsy, but there was no comment on that. Then again, Mitsy might not want to stay in the fray.