RA4 paper future availability
Is there any legal 'committment' from the major players (Kodak for rolls, Fuji for both sheets and rolls) for the future production of RA4 paper? Can I be assured that for the next three years we have nothing to worry about? How about the next six years? Does anyone have tangible evidence here or is everything conjecture? Will improvement and cost reduction of ink jet be the death of RA4 paper?
What about the digitization of the cinema? How far is that 'demise of film' projected into the future and will that be the final blow to color analog photography?
I know fully that these questions, ad infinitum, become annoying to some and I do not blame you if I am blamed for bringing them up again. But there are people out there who are 'hooked' onto this more than most and are 'in the know' better than most. Please speak directly and candidly. B&H has the Crystal Archive 'in store' in NYC. But in four years? - David Lyga
Well for about a decade, RA4 papers biggest market is machines that print digital direct. Still lot's of that around, but some don't work very well for optical printing.
If a shop has the volume, wet prints have a better profit margin than inkjet, plus the throughput is much higher..
The biggest user of RA4 paper is the consumer photofinishing industry where most of the prints so made are from digital images! Minilab makers are heavily pushing "dry" minilabs based on inkjet and here in Oz they have managed to get them into a few large retailers at the expense of Kodak and Fuji RA4 equipment. Cost is still the big problem though and operators report that the consumables are significantly more expensive than RA4. For consumer purposes at least, make no mistake, the print quality is more than adequate and if the sponsors of this technology would see fit to reduce their prices, they could mount a serious challenge to RA4 which, of course, would impact on the longevity of RA4 for all users.
The other big user of RA4 is the prolab sector and while most such labs do inkjet, it is a premium product on specialty papers and other substrates. By far the majority of everyday pro printing is done on RA4 even though most of the imagery is created digitally. Most pros that I know actually like the look, feel and colour of RA4 paper and would not give it up without a fight, particularly that of the high-end printers like the Lambda. Also, most prolabs these days produce at least some of their output on minilabs and I don't know of any prolab yet using the inkjet variety.
IMO RA4 has a good few years left in it and who knows how we will print colour photos in 10 or 15 years; there may be a completely new technology.
On the subject of cinema prints, the three largest film distributors here in Oz have announced that they are not going to suppy 35mm prints from early 2013. This is causing smaller cinemas in regional towns to either close down or stump up about $100K to buy a basic digital projector. No doubt this trend is worldwide and the loss of film sales for cinema prints must severely impact the manufacture and longevity of all colour film as has been foreshadowed in many threads here over time.
Isn't it ironic that it is entirely possible that digital will cause the demise of colour film while it is still proping up the market for colour paper? OzJohn
Yes, OzJohn, that dichotomy is rather amazing in that digital is providing one of the major 'reasons' for RA4 to survive.
You say a 'good few years' and I interpret that to mean at least five. As uninformed as I am with computer technology I assume that negatives will have to be scanned, then 'converted digitally to positive' (while removing the orange mask) in order to be able to obtain an ink jet print. For this one needs a computer, scanner and color printer. I have none of those so the investment will be necessary, as I now use public computers without much trouble. - David Lyga
The film distributors are doing this for financial reasons, the problem for them is that there are film projectors that were built in the 1940's and 1950's that have run 3 shows a day since new and the only repairs done are the occasional replacement bulb. With some decommissioned due to digital, there is a ready supply of other parts, that could keep these things going for another century. A cinematic print is over 2km long and weighs in at over 100kg, it's to some degree fragile and must be kept cool, so it needs special handling in shipping. It also requires a skilled projectionist to splice together and load into the projector.
Originally Posted by OzJohn
A digital copy looks like a DVD, they can stamp them out by the hundreds and ship it UPS or FedEx in a flat rate envelope for under 20 bucks. As for operating it, the guy who swept up the popcorn after the last show can reload the player.
See my Blog at http://clickandspin.blogspot.com
The greatest advance in photography in the last 100 years is not digital, it's odourless stop bath....
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RA4 paper will be available for longer than C41 film, as long as environmentalists or political regulations do not kill it for some stupid reason.
But I doubt that future RA4 papers will be compatible with analog printing.
Digital cinema: in "rich" countries, the transition to digital projection is almost finished. "Poor" countries will quickly follow, just at lower quality. Color film is already a niche product, and the decisions if it will survive more than the next 3, 4 years have certainly already been made - they just won't tell us before...
I wouldn't worry about it at all. There are at least four active manufacturers of RA4 paper worldwide.
Pro labs have a very heavy investment in high-end printers that are dependent upon RA4. It's more
cost effective than inkjet. The most popular papers print fine either optically or digitally. New papers
have been recently introduced even by Kodak. Fuji has a heavy committment to this, and despite
the nonsensical post immediately above, the difference between current "digital" Crystal Archive and
the previous "analog" variety is only about 5cc's of green sensitivity due to the relative weakness of
green lasers. There's no difference in the principle of how exposure is accomplished, just in the marketing value of certain levels of contrast, which can always be tweaked with a little bit of masking if needed.