Digital Mini Photo-lab

Last time I mentioned that I had had a couple of interesting digital experiences including a visit to a company providing Internet Access via radio.

Later the same day I popped into FotoMax in Springfield Park to see what I believe is the first fully digital mini photo-lab in Durban. This amazing piece of kit is a Fuji Frontier and consists of a control unit thingy and a digital printer which prints onto various sizes of conventional photo paper using lasers.
Images have to be in digital format to be printed and the unit can scan them in from negatives and slides or import them from just about any source known to man including digital cameras, Zip discs, CD-ROMs, or floppy disks.
Films handed in for processing are developed in a separate machine in the back of the shop and, in less time than it takes to tell, are scanned into the Frontier which optimises and displays them on its screen.
The operator can eliminate any images that are obvious failures and alter the others in any number of ways including correcting their colour balance and brightness. I was hugely impressed to see that it can lighten shadows and darken over-bright skies with one click of a mouse.
The machine can produce prints up to 25x38cm in size as well as index prints and good old fashioned contact sheets. It can also print out images with frames around them or incorporate them into greetings cards or calendars.
Customers can elect to have the scanned images saved onto CD-ROM or floppy disk for archival purposes or for use on their own PCs. Just the job for getting copies of the images to send to relatives and friends via e-mail.
I took along some negatives and a couple of sample images on CD-ROM to see what the machine could do and I was very impressed with the result. It seemed to arrive at the pretty much the best settings for each image by itself requiring little manual adjustment.
I was frankly bowled over by what the Frontier can do and I’m not the only one, it appears, from the number of local professional photographers and enthusiasts who are already using it.
Frontier mini-labs also have received plenty of favourable comment on which is an excellent photography site I often visit. It’s well worth dropping by to see the excellent images on show and read the comments by the folk who hang out there.
I was clearing out some stuff the other day and came across the sale docket from my very first IBM compatible PC. The date was 5 June 1990 and the machine was an XT with a 360Kb floppy disk drive and a whopping 20Mb hard drive.
When compared to my Apple II+, which had 64Kb of memory and no hard drive, it seemed like a real powerhouse and I didn’t know how I would use all that computing power and space. Microsoft has since solved the problem of what do with spare hard drive space but there was no hint of that then.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the launch of the XT and it says a lot for that machine that they were still on sale nine years later when I bought one. Anyone who has stories about XTs still out there earning their livings is welcome to drop me a line.

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