Another comment in favor of Phototherm... much higher quality construction than Jobo, or at least the Jobo CPE-type processors. Jobo is flimsy. Phototherm is much beefier.
Yes, flimsy might just be a perfect fit for describing it. I, for one, don't believe flimsy and high $$$$$ go to well together. Of course that's just me. JohnW
How much does a new Phototherm cost? I looked up and could find they start at $5000. How much for the one to do prints?
Originally Posted by alanrockwood
As far as I can tell, Phototherm's current lineup is for film up to 4x5. No 8x10 or 5x7 processing capability.
This is true. The unit as delivered is without any sheet film options, and the 4x5 adapter is pretty pricey. I've posted a few things about it in other threads as well as on photo.net.
Originally Posted by Renato Tonelli
A part of that price is stunningly low sales volume.
I have a few of the 4x5 adapters, and what I find is that the chemical volume required to process 3 runs of 4 sheets (12 total) are on par with the volume required to process 12 sheets in a single go session using a Yankee tank. But the results with the Phototherm are much, much more consistent.
After a lot of examining, I've convinced myself that one could disassemble the 4 sheet 4x5 adapter and reconfigure it to hold 2 sheets of 5x7. But Phototherm doesn't sell it that way.
I'm also convinced that a little ingenuity could produce one that would hold 2 sheets of 8x10, but that would require a Phototherm SSK8 to get a tank long enough to hold the sheets. (I suppose one could use the SSK4 and just put the long tank on, but that's just a guess. The FP1 would probably be problematic, but I've tried to scheme solutions. Not tried anything yet.)
I did engage the president of Phototherm a couple of years ago about renting the molds to me and trying to produce a production run large enough to get the price down to $25 instead of the current $120 Phototherms sells it. But it would take a run of about 5K parts after you figured set up, materials, assembly labor, overhead, etc., and I had no illusion/delusion that I could unload that many adapters. If everybody reading this thread agreed to buy 100 each that's not enough. Smaller runs mean higher costs.
As for purchasing existing stock, and cutting them up to get salvage parts to make a 5x7 or 8x10 experiment, that's expensive. I figured I'd probably destroy two assemblies trying to fabricate one acceptable 5x7, although one might be able to make one for one after the initial experiments. Unfortunately all of Phototherm's available stock of 4x5 adapters is already assembled, so buying the tinker-toy parts isn't a choice. You'd have to disassemble completed units.
As for making an 8x10, I figure you'd probably destroy 6 new units to fabricate the first working 8x10, but I believe one could make them one from two donors after it is worked out.
The design itself isn't complicated, but if you wanted to start from scratch completely you're looking at $50-70K mold work.
This is no easier nut to crack than making a Jobo tank.
If some angel here has pockets full of money and doesn't mind doing it at a loss I'll dig up the old conversations and see if Phototherm is still interested. But there's no way I saw to do it even break even, and certainly not a viable business strategy. I even tried to get Patterson to look at it, since the current unit fits a Patterson 3 reel tank perfectly. I thought if you could get that as a market angle to get unit sales higher you might be able to make the numbers. But I never heard a peep back from Patterson.
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But Alan, the price for the phototherm is astronomical.
Originally Posted by alanrockwood
You've got that right. It is way too expensive for a new Phototherm for a hobbyist, which is what we all are. (With some exceptions, sure. But the hobbyists here outweigh the pros by a large margin.) Part of that price is low volume, and because it's a low volume product it's hand built instead of mass produced on an automated assembly line. If they were making them like they make computers they'd cost $500. When you take the thing apart there's nothing particularly magic about it. (But it is quite an ingenious design.)
Originally Posted by Mahler_one
A real film based pro shop that's looking to keep the doors open with consistent quality processing day in and day out doesn't see $6K as a huge investment. It's not trivial, but it's not huge either. I've got software packages for my profession that cost $5K, and another $2K/yr maintenance for them to send me a stupid CD every 18 months. So $6K for a machine that saves hundreds of hours of labor per year plus produces better results is a bargain.
The problem is that the market Phototherm served dwindled. It never was targeted at the home user, while Jobo was.
Phototherm was not targeting the Kisok market either. The 35mm one hour minilab machines, when film was the standard, were the kings of economy of scale. The last time I was in the local Ritz camera before they ripped out the minilab the store manager offered it to me for free if I'd promise to haul it away. Even if he paid me to take I couldn't afford enough film as a hobbyist to keep the chemistry in spec.
A good pro shop of 15-20 years ago needed quick but consistent processing, and it wasn't sustained high volume. A mini-lab wasn't good, and sending it out wasn't fast. Back when my cousin's husband was still shooting weddings he'd charge $20K, 3 photogs would show up, they'd pop off 60-80 rolls of film (mostly 120/220, some 135), and he'd have proof sheets made in-house in a couple of days. That's the user Phototherm targeted. The albums might take a couple of weeks to make all the prints, and the prints were developed on one of the RA4 processors. During the week he might have a handful of portrait sittings that also needed quick but reliable turnaround. So I'd wager that a Phototherm to this kind of shop has break even point for labor reduction at 5-8 months at most. So after one year the pro shop is money ahead for dropping the $6K into the machine.
When 90% of those shops closed, the Phototherms went to the auction site. The last kid I knew who had a "big" wedding demanded, and got, just the raw data files. And he had them before he left on his honeymoon the next day. And it all fit on one DVD.
So, the Phototherm isn't overpriced for what it is, it's just not a tool designed for guys like us. The fact that we can get them these days is gravy. And I'm here to tell you that the folks at Phototherm are extremely supportive even if you bought the thing used from someone, and you are merely picking their brains for information.
Would I buy a new one for $6K? If I made my living at old school film photography, then yes. As a hobby, I can't afford it new. But as a hobby, I got one used. (From one of our own members no less.)
(And if I win the lottery I'll buy a new one just out of loyalty.)
Used Phototherm's are sometimes available for a good price. I bought two on ebay. One was about $300 as I recall. The other was about $100. Those were exceptionally good deals however, and anyway, prices seem a bit higher on ebay these days. $600-1000 is probably more typical. Still, it isn't all that much higher than the prices jobos sometimes sell for, and it is a lot better machine, though as others have indicated it is not as versatile as Jobo.
Jobo did not only offer those CP-range processors, but also those ATL-range ones and those, at least the 2nd generation ones, where aimed at commercial photographers.
Originally Posted by michaelbsc
And they are more difficult to find on eBay because they weren't as well distributed.
Originally Posted by AgX
I don't follow their prices much, but I think they sell for more than the CPP line.