Minilab roundup

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Alan Browne, Oct 15, 2003.

  1. Alan Browne

    Alan Browne Guest

    The October 2003 issue of Chasseurs D'Images has an article on new minilabs.

    w/o specifics they said the lowest price model was 100,000 Euros and the
    most expensive over 300,000 Euros.

    All of the units are now broad-media and accept various film formats,
    digital files via card, CD-ROM or internet.

    Cd'I prepared a series of test images that they claimed were
    challenging, but not over the top, for their tests and brought them to a
    trade show where the minilab makers were showing their wares. (They
    don't specify which show this was at.) The undertext of the article
    harped on the optics of the minilabs, suggesting w/o saying that
    Noritsu, Konica and Kodak are behind the top 3 in the optical dept. The
    Frontier, to a lesser degree, is slightly behind on optics compared to
    the Agfa and Kis.


    negative with a -1 to +1 slope. Looking for detail, exposure and color

    slides: 1 studio shot (same scene as the negative above) and 1 landscape

    B&W: looking for "control of the dominant" ?, grey tones and black density.

    Hi res digital files: (4)
    -Hi res: 2000x3000. (white birds...looking for "whites" and detail in
    the feathers)
    -Lo res digital (1.3 Mpix)
    -Hi dynamic/hi res shot
    -Studio Color Checker Test target

    Cd'I claim that the images they provided are "perfectly exposed".

    Ratings: Top to bottom

    Agfa d-lab.2
    Fuji Frontier 340
    Kis DKS 1500
    Kodak 29 DLS
    Konica R1 Super
    Noritsu QSS-2901

    Below I'll put up the non-5/5 score for each machine. The "comment" is
    the Cd'I comment that I translated freely from French. Cd'I has always
    used fairly vernacular French, freely using anglicisms and
    "photo-slang". So I translated the meaning, rather than word for word.

    Agfa (1200/hour)
    grey restoration in B&W (4/5) and
    digital files "dominant" (4/5).
    All other parameters were 5/5. Comment was that "...the machine that
    delivered the sharpest images and fine details."

    Frontier (800/hour):
    color-neg sharpness (4/5)
    Slide Contrast/density (4/5), Sharpness (4/5)
    B&W: Dominant (3/5), Contrast/Density 4/5
    Dig: color 4/5, sharpness 4/5, greys 4/5, framing 3/5
    Comment: "easiest machine for the operator, but sharpness is not quite
    there and framing is less than perfect"

    Kis DKS (1500/hour):
    Negatives: color (4/5)
    Slides (not tested, no reason provided)
    B&W: dominant: 3/5
    Contrast/density: 4/5
    digital: color 4/5 contr/dens: 4/5, resolution impr: 4/5, grey: 3/5
    Comment: "operator needed a '2nd chance' to really get it right."

    Kodak 29 DLS (1300/hour)
    color neg: contr/dens: 4/5, sharp: 3/5
    slide: contr/dens: 4/5, sharp: 3/5
    B&W: dominant: 3/5, contr/dens: 4/5
    digital: color: 4/5, sharp, 3/5, res improvement 4/5, greys, 3/5,
    framing 4/5
    Comment: "printing unit was really disappointing"

    Konica R1 Super (1000/hour)
    Color negative: color 4/5, contrast/dens: 4/5, sharp 4/5
    Slides: color 4/5, contr/dens 4/5, sharp 4/5
    B&W: dominant: 4/5, contr/dens 4/5
    digital: color 4/5, sharp 4/5, greys 4/5, framing 3/5
    Comment: "All work was 100% automatic, no operator involvement.
    Excellent results, considering. The 'all terrain vehicle' of minilabs."

    Noritsu QSS 2901 (1480/hour)
    color neg: color 3/5, contr/dens 3/5, sharp 4/5
    slide: color 4/5, sharp 4/5, framing 3/5
    B&W: dominante 4/5
    digital: color 4/5, sharp 4/5, res impr. 4/5, greys 4/5, framing 3/5
    Comment: "Seems to be based on aging technology*, and really dedicated
    to 'production' than one-off printing. Good results, but penalised when
    compared to the others."
    [*from the french text I'm not sure if they meant the technology was
    aging or the particular machine that they tested on... as this was a
    trade-show sample, I would guess Cd'I meant the technology. -]

    Alan Browne, Oct 15, 2003
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  2. Alan Browne

    Bill Tuthill Guest

    Thanks for summarizing this, Alan!
    Never heard of this brand. Have you seen them in Canada?
    Hmm... there is one in a nearby city. I'll definitely have to try it.
    If the software is anything like the Agfa MSC minilabs, it'll work well
    with all kinds of film except Konica. Unlike the Frontier, which
    works well mostly with Fuji films, and less well (to differing degrees)
    with all other brands of film. Agfa films are a disaster on Frontiers.
    I'll say. That thing crops like Ghengis Khan with a riding lawnmower.
    Bill Tuthill, Oct 16, 2003
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  3. Alan Browne

    ThomasH Guest

    I second that! Very interesting, the more that Agfa in the US
    is rather underrepresented...
    I just found their specs on the web:

    and the contact:

    Head Office
    Kis / Photo-Me Group
    2110, avenue du Général de Gaulle
    38 130 Echirolles
    Tel. : +33 (0)
    Fax : +33 (0)
    Negative or slides?

    ThomasH, Oct 16, 2003
  4. Actually, Qualex (Kodak) was leasing this unit as a Kodak System 88 to drug
    stores in Canada, but dropped it as it's not built very well... simple to
    use though...
    Gary W. McIntyre, Oct 16, 2003
  5. Alan Browne

    Deathwalker Guest

    I'm a big fan of fuji frontier.
    Deathwalker, Oct 16, 2003
  6. Alan Browne

    Bill Tuthill Guest

    Negative film. The original Vista films in all speeds look bad,
    with muddy greens and orangy reds. Haven't tried new Optima in
    the Frontier, but on datasheets it looks similar to Vista.

    Slides should be OK, although getting good prints from slides
    requires a good Frontier operator, I've heard.

    Cropping remains probably the Frontier's worst problem.
    I have several Nutcracker ballet pictures where the prints
    cut off legs and arms, despite correctly framed negatives.
    Is overcropping a problem when submitting digicam images?
    Bill Tuthill, Oct 16, 2003
  7. Alan Browne

    Alan Browne Guest

    I've seen Kodak, Agfa, Fuji and Noritsu. Never heard of Kis or seen a
    Konica...although one shop I used to use prob has a Konica.
    The report made no mention of film compatibility across brands. There
    is one very vague statement regarding past machines and some customers
    unhappiness with results from negatives.
    Alan Browne, Oct 16, 2003
  8. Alan Browne

    McLeod Guest

    I'm not sure but isn't the QSS-2901 an older model machine? Wasn't it one
    of the first 3 colour laser printers out?

    McLeod, Oct 17, 2003
  9. Yeah, it was Noritsu's first laser printer, but the print engine is the same
    as the newer 3001, 3101, 31-Pro and R2R.
    Similarly they tested the Agfa dlab2, but not the dlab3 or Durst Zeta which
    share the dlab2 print engine.
    Fuji was actually the first to release a laser printer, back before Noritsu
    released the 2701 (MLVA technology)
    Gary W. McIntyre, Oct 17, 2003
  10. Alan Browne

    Alan Browne Guest

    It very well may be. Maybe I misunderstood the article to mean 'new'
    rather than the existing top of the line... in any case, all of the
    units tested, per the article are up to date in terms of media
    interfaces (CD-ROM, PCMCIA, mem-sticks, internet services). It could be
    that the -2901 is the same basic machine, but its computer has been
    Alan Browne, Oct 17, 2003
  11. Does anyone know which photo labs (if any) in the San Francisco Bay
    Area are Agfa dLAB-2 labs? I know a few that are Agfa MSC minilabs,
    but I don't think those that I know about have been upgraded to Agfa
    dLab-2 labs.

    - Peter
    Peter Lawrence, Oct 17, 2003
  12. I've had very good results with Agfa Ultra on a Frontier.
    Skip Middleton, Oct 17, 2003
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