Film Based Minilab?
Just an idle thought; Wonder if it would be a viable venture to purchase one of these hundreds of film-based minilabs flooding the market and offer services to APUG and like minded individuals?
Most of the minilabs I now know of have a digital image path from developing to scanning to printing and the lab has surplused out the photochemical machine, so you have no option to avoid potentially crappy LUTS (look up tables) and "features" dreamed up by engineers as desirable...
Believe me, I know about parts availability problems and so on; just wondering if that is a plus to enough people to make it worth shipping film across State or even Country borders.
I am planning to open up a minilab. I would certainly have a digital machine as the capability to print from a digital file is a must for the lab survival. However, I certainly would get a used optical printing machine to serve film shooters. I believe there are enough film shooters to make it profitable. One thing is important that these photographers must realize that the digital printers really short change their image quality. I have talked to many, and many think the digital printers do a better job.
What do you think?
That was my line of thinking exactly.
It is almost impossible to get projection prints made by a minilab today and the digital minilabs are tuned to try to make photochemical LOOK like digital, so you loose on all fronts; yeech.
I cannot agree that the digital machines make a better looking print; it looks unnatural, over processed (electronic filters) and imposes a linear color gamut on top of a medium that is log-based.
My 2 cents.
Chan, when you do, let me know, as i'm only a few hours downstate and would gladly send all my film to you.
Originally Posted by Chan Tran
I had considered this also, but stopped short of building a detailed business case for it. The reason... There are many analog labs closing everyday, and it's not because the proprietors have anything against film. They can no longer make a sustainable living at it.
If you're considering this in hopes of making a comfortable living in the immediate future, than I would look into something else. If you're doing it to as a hobby and as a service to the analog photographic community, then go for it! Put me on your customer list and I'll enlist you for my printing services exclusively.
Of course the business climate will change as the service becomes sufficiently scarce...maybe another 5 yrs? I think there is a surplus of capacity at the moment, although a few hours a week on this site would lead one to think otherwise.
I used to subscribe to the PMAI newsletter, but quit reading about 4 years ago because I tired of reading all the stories about digital workflow and how digital print processors would supplant traditional optical machines. I have nothing against the things, I just prefer an optical print from a skilled operator, hands down. You and I can easily see the difference in output, but we're only a tiny portion of the market. (13,584 and counting!)
I have no idea what the margin is, but If every Ape Hugger sent you only 10 rolls/yr @$15 for dev & proofs, you'd make $300,000 at a 15% margin. That's 2,600 rolls per week.:o Not bad if you could pull it off with maybe one operator, but I hope you like mac-n-cheese because those first 5 years are going to be lean!
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Originally Posted by pandino
Yep, I think (for me) it was just a natural reaction to seeing an abundance of very cheap equipment spilling out onto the market, but you have to admit that there is a reason for that!
I even toyed with the idea of hauling one of these setups into my garage to run on occasion, but that's silly; pro equipment falls to pieces if you don't run it on a regular basis.
I wish Chan the best of luck!
As the operator of an analog mini-lab I can tell you at the moment things aren't exactly easy. There's a good reason that mini-labs are either going digital or going out of business (or both!), and that is there is ALOT less film being used than there used to be. Whilst this site is a good indication that there are many film users still out there, I think you have to remember that most around here develop and print their own film, and we are spread out all over the world making any type or business reliant on posting film / prints back and forth. You don't want to be in a rush to get your prints back!
One interesting thing I read recently in a trade magazine was that many labs were reporting an increase in their film processing in the past year, but this may be more due to labs closing than anything else.
I bought my current printer for next to nothing, it would have cost approx $100,000 when new about 5 years ago, but the problem is parts and service, which still cost a small fortune.
Anyway it's nice to see that the analog print is still appreciated by some!
Film's not dead, it's just got a negative image.
We still have an optical printer in our lab along side a digital one. The digital one gets all the use. One is a Noritsu 2102 and the other a 3011. Almost no customers we have today wants prints done on the old machine. The 2102 gets almost no use now, and one day will be taken away in place of a new digital unit. I saw on Ebay a 2102 going for $5000 US dollars. I take my 120 to another photo store which sends to their pro lab. That lab still does analog printing if requested in both 35mm and 120. Not sure on 4x5. Their B&W prints are strictly analog printed unless its super busy.
But do you actively advertise that you can and will do optical prints? Because if you don't there is no wonder there is little business for it
Originally Posted by braxus
Guys, sorry but you're too late ;-) ! Last September purchased Troup & Pluto Studio's (in Canton OH) entire line of analog equipment, including some rather finicky, but very analog 1 hour photo machines that have Schneider lenses and run the full gamut of film formats from disc to 6x7cm. The prints they give (up to 5x7) are as good as or BETTER than what I got with the enlarger and trays, so I am thrilled by them. I'm doing some disc film orders now (apparantly $4.50 to reprint a disc of 15 is a lot more pallatable to people's wallets than *$30*), and working on proofing a wedding, but after this is done, I am going to try very hard to cater to fellow purists by offering full scale mail orders instead of just doing disc and 110 film. The chemistry is relatively cheap, but you need to run a lot of film through it to get really good economy and maximal use from it. I'm in Cleveland Ohio, and am going to be starting full scale service by the middle to end of July. There are currently two kinks that need to be worked out and then I am going to go full service. What I like the most about the KIS machine is that the film processor utilizes a mechanical arm to process the film rather than continuous feed processing which almost completely eliminates scratching during processing.