I have a conversation recently with Fuji Ireland regarding wet and dry labs. It all boils down to economics. A dry lab is cheaper to install but the comsumables are higher, the ink being the most expensive. A dry lab print can cost up to three times more to produce than cost of a wet RA4 print. So a dry lab is suitable for a low volumn operation.

If the lab has any bigger volumn then a wet lab is the way to go. I know of one lab owner who was tempted to change to a dry lab but after further research and cost evulations he decided to invest in a new wet RA4 Frontier printer. So I think the future for RA4 is safe for the moment.

When the big chain stored decided to enter the one hour lab market in the 1990's, they did so thinking that this was another money earner, which it was. But they didn't think that more knowledge and experience was needed to operate these machines. That was one of the reasons that you hear comments on the web about how poor some of their results were and poor film handling etc. The chains began to manopolise the market, driving out the smaller stores. Now that the film processing market has shrank these chain stores are now ditching their wet labs.

For the smaller operator this should lead to an increase in their portion of the market, if they can provide a good service for a good price. I have often read about $1.00 process only. In my opinion it would be uneconomical for a lab to continue at that price. I operate a minilab in Ireland and we charge Euro 4.50 process only or dev and print (4x6"/10x15cm) for 7.99. We don't rely on film processing to maintain our buisness, digital printing camera sales etc do that for us. BUT because I like and enjoy film photography and processing I try to be active in promoting film and its uses. Yes it does time and effort to train staff and have them enthusiastic about film, but it is worth it. We have seen our film sales increase, our film processing volumn increase and our second hand film camera sales take off.

I think it will come down to the survival of the fittest. Home inkjet printers havw been around for a long time and I don't think they are a threat to minilabs. Remember when Pc's first came into use, we were told we would have a paperless office? When digital cameras came in we were told that we wouldn't have to print another photo again?