Analog Minilab Printers
I have always disliked what the new digital minilab printers produce from my film. It doesn't accurately represent the films characteristics. rather just a digital interpretation of them. which effects the colour saturation, film grain and much more etc...
I'de like some feedback regarding peoples opinions when it comes to getting Minilab prints made. Im a world where more and more minilabs are going digital
and your film is being scanned then electronically interpreted before being output via a digital exposure device are you as an alalog photographer
happy with a digital print of your analog material? or do you still prefer your work to be printed by analog minilab machines?
~ Steve Frizza
The Lighthouse Lab
Steve, good question.
I use digital printing, via Chromira or LightJet, to Fuji Crystal Archive paper, almost exclusively. I know this isn't the question you asked, but a preface to my answer. I find this process accurately represents my transparencies, if, care is given to processing the resulting scan.
However, I recently had two rolls of 35mm negative film processed and printed in a digital minilab, and the results were horrible. The scans were poorly done, resulting in noisy prints. Fortunately, these were only test rolls. This is the first I have done in years, so I don't have any real experience with this process.
I plan on continuing the high end process using high end processors, but won't use the minilabs again.
As more and more minilabs print from digital files, it is almost impossible to keep a pure analog printer/processor operating, as the chemistry has to be used and replenished on a daily basis to stay "in control". If you want your film characteristics to be preserved thru optical printing, you are going to have to make your own darkroom prints. It is just a fact of life, and really good for analog in the long-run that all the modern mini-labs can accept film negatives and slides as well as digital files for printing. Economically, the only way this has been possible is thru the use of dual-purpose equipment, but that entails an operator scanning your film. Good operators can make very fine prints from scanned color film.
With competent operators, I prefer the digital minilabs. There is more contrast control available with the new machines, that alone makes me happy. If you're worried about "film characteristics," I would say that minilabs in general are the wring things to be using. Even the (more recent) analog machines make many adjustments color-wise, and God only knows about the paper and it's chemistry state. If you really want to see how films differ from one another, you're going to have to print things yourself. Another possibility is to use slide film now that it is so easy to get prints from them...
I frequent this forum because I do my own color printing and the reason that I do my own color printing because there is no more analog minilab available. My problem with digital printing is that print of any size is limited to about 300dpi and that far less resolution than possible with an analog system.
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I hate to break it to you, but the human eye is only capable of resolving around 300dpi anyway.
Originally Posted by Chan Tran
I used to be the 'lab guy' for a nationwide 1 hour portrait studio. We used RB's w/ a 645 back and 6exp. rolls of 120 portra nc. I printed w/ a San Marco (later acquired by Gretag). There was a dichroic head, nikkor enlarging lenses (a 50 2.8, 80mm, possibly a 135mm) and a lens that produced 4 wallets).
The film processor was a standard Noritsu (atleast it used the same leaders and looked exactly like a Noritsu) and was built into the side of this machine.
There was a knob, you'd spin it and would be able to rotate the turret inside the machine, printing an 8x10, 3.5x5's, 11x14's with the push of a few buttons. It was extremely satisfying to use and was only quirky when the paper cutter decided to die during a holiday printing marathon.
The quality BLEW AWAY a Noritsu DLS 2711. We're talking large digital files (the max that the Kodak DIM would accept without choking), 120, 4x5's that were scanned on a flatbed.
Honestly, I was never satisfied w/ the quality of the 2711 prints. Even the newer LED-based systems did not impress me. The ultimate test for me was a print with an extreme dof and a smooth background that has a bit of tonality or transition between tones. You could almost always see the noise, even with a machine that you calibrate for 20-50 minutes each day.
Feed it a black and white 35mm negative that you have printed yourself at home and you will see..
The gretag was smoooooth with it's nikkor lenses and film. I don't think there are many optical printers out there in commercial use. The company I worked for went the digital route via Camerz and (probably noritsu printers and kiosks).
I can honestly say that the 11x14's we printed of ugly kids every day were absolutely gorgeous and blew away anything and everything i've ever seen come out of a Noritsu QSS w/ DLS or led lightpath. I've no working experience w/ the Frontier but it's probably pretty close.
Sorry for the length but this is something that i've been kind of passionate about for a while.
Last edited by Phillip P. Dimor; 09-23-2007 at 08:30 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: can't speel
Closely comparing my prints from 35mm that I printed myself on both a frontier 340 and a fuji SFA optical minilab, I prefer the SFA. But for most one hour labs the frontier WILL give more consistant results, especially since it prompts operators to run upkeep prints and doesn't drift nearly as much as the SFA does.
Originally Posted by Phillip P. Dimor
The reason I am asking the opinions of analog minilab verses digital Is that I am a Pro Lab owner based in Sydney Australia where I have available to me a high throughput of film and would have no problems keeping an analog machine online.
It also happens that I have both a digital and an analog machine, but I am more inclined to launch the analog system instead of the digital. I thank everyone for their opinions, I was really curious to find peoples preferences for the visual result of the prints. As to weather they prefer the punched up digital output that doesn't truly represent the film or the analog print which gives truer representation of the films characteristic.
The Lighthouse Lab
I have bought an analog minilab, so in a few times, I will offer services of printing films from disc format to 6*7.