Honestly, the whole inkjet/dye-based (consumer, enthusiast, and professional) technology push that we're seeing lately from many companies, including Kodak, is part of a plan to phase out commercial and professional RA-4 printing within 5 or so years. I was talking with an RA-4 digital minilab/film processor repair technician who has been doing this his entire career, and this was his sincere opinion. The companies who make these devices are trying to push store chains and photo labs to license ink-based dry printing when their current lease contracts with RA-4 machines expire. They've already succeeded at the consumer level in many stores. They are using "environmental concerns" as their explanation. Next, they are going to try to "attack" professional photo labs and convert them over to ink-based printing.
I cannot agree with that opinion at the present time. RA4 makes too much money for EK and Fuji.
Yeah, well, I think I'll be choosing RA-4 over stink-jet any day of the week. Chemicals and silver all the way baby.
Originally Posted by clayne
My wife got some photos printed at Target about 2 weeks ago. The paper said Kodak on the back, but they did not look like the Kodak prints we used to get there. I believe they are this new dry ink technology prints or whatever, and definitely not what I consider a "real" photograph - ie an RA4 chemical print. It is a shame, because they really do look flat and dull - like I could have just printed at my office. Not like what I expect out of getting prints made somewhere.
Do all these "new technologies" fall so short of RA4 printing, or is this just a bad batch maybe?
Kodak Endura paper and the RA4 process are still being used for the bulk of color printing. It is the second biggest selling product after Motion Picture products. It is laser printed on high speed printers though, and not on the slower optical printers we were familiar with.
At the present time, ink jet does not produce prints at quite the high capacity of the RA4 process. That is changing.
I'm still a bit confused about how photolabs operate these days.
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
I've got 4 (that i know of) options for getting film processing done (besides home darkrooms).
- Kodak Express, they develop C41 only, otherwise send it to Atkins.
- Black+White photo, they do C41, E6, and B+W (using TMax dev afaik).
- Atkins, the 'pro' lab, they charge more but even distill their own water.
- Analogue Lab, a traditional darkroom-for-hire.
How they get prints out of negs/slides I've tried enquiring at a few of them.
- Atkins I haven't asked, and obviously the Analogue Lab is purely traditional (but pretty much DIY).
- B+Ws, I know they've got a nice huge Flextight scanner and 5'-wide Epson printer, not sure if they've got anything else. (There's a small darkroom, so maybe a real enlarger in there?)
- Kodak express is the interesting one, I asked them what their printers were like when I was getting some prints done from my digital (I asked what dpi so I could figure out max paper-size). The guy said it took straight from digital (or scanned negs), but used "an optical process" to get that digital file onto the paper. Do these still get Chemical Development (RA4 or otherwise), or is it just a (laser?) and be done with it? I know the back of the paper says 'Kodak' on it, but that's all I can tell really.
Everywhere else, printing houses and department/electrical stores, it's all inkjet around here.
Meanwhile, this has totally nothing to do with Kodak, but for anyone overseas who wants to see a repeat of the Kodak decline can read this about the decline of Australia's two big retailers. Having read this article just after that Kodak story, there's a surprising amount of similarity between the two...
For small volume work, digital printing can be used, but for high volume or even large enlargements, digital (laser) printing onto RA4 paper is used. This takes the original image, scans it and turns it into a digital file. The analog > digital is still better than all digital. This file is used to run 3 lasers at a high speed over the paper, exposing it. After this the RA4 paper is processed in the RA4 chemistry, which is also high speed.
The paper is made in widths up to 72" and prints that big can be made.
Duratrans is also handled this way to make huge displays for use in stores.
The paper is made at the Kodak Harrow plant and at Colorado.