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Why Do-It-Yourself Photo Printing Doesn't Add Up 414

Posted by Zonk
from the bad-math dept.
Ant writes "CNET News.com and The New Yorks Times (no registration required) report that even though the prices of printers have dropped up to 30 percent in the last few months thanks to a savage price war, buyers are going to pay at least 28 cents a print. This is if you believe the manufacturers' math. It could be closer to 50 cents a print if you trust the testing of product reviewers at Consumer Reports. In the meantime, the price of printing a 4-by-6-inch snapshot at a retailer's photo lab, like those inside a Sam's Club, is as low as 13 cents. Snapfish.com, an online mail-order service, offers prints for a dime each if you prepay. At those prices, why bother printing at home? Consumers seem to be saying just that. For the 12 months ended in July, home printing accounted for just 48 percent of the 7.7 billion digital prints made, down sharply from 64 percent in the previous 12 months, according to the Photo Marketing Association International, a trade group for retailers and camera makers. The number of photos spewing out of home printers is up quite handsomely, however, because of the overall growth of digital photo printing--up about 68 percent from the year-earlier period - but retail labs clearly have the advantage..."
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Why Do-It-Yourself Photo Printing Doesn't Add Up

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  • well.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by schnits0r (633893) * <nathannd AT sasktel DOT net> on Monday October 10, 2005 @12:55AM (#13754406) Homepage Journal
    WEll part of the issue is the cost of the ink. Print shops buy more and therefore it's cheaper, they also have higher grade equipment that doesn't break as often as our home eqipment (broken heads come to mind, then oyu have to replace the whole cartridge, OR buy a new printer in the case of Epson).

    However, despite it being cheaper elsewhere, if you need a print right away for some reason, I would hate to not have the ability to push one out every 2 minutes.
    • Re:well.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:00AM (#13754432)
      Print shops also get to use real photo paper and RGB lasers (which use no ink), and get no difference in print quality compared to a conventional developed print, and for the same price as ink prints...

      and given my experience with colour lasting over the years, I'd pay MORE to get the laser ones done than crappy inkjet.
      • by WoTG (610710) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:10AM (#13754462) Homepage Journal
        I agree with the AC. With special emphasis on the fact that these are the exact same prints that are made from film -- the front end processing is different of course, but the end prints are made of the same chemical processes and materials. So they will last exactly as long as traditional prints, i.e. a whole lot longer than the vast majority of inkjet prints.

        There are newer pigment based prints that are supposed to last a long time, but I don't really know much about their cost or longevity.
    • Re:well.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:20AM (#13754493)
      The thing is they don't use ink. In the machine is usually a laser or led that exposes normal photographic (silver halide) paper, then it goes through the traditional chemical process. The checimal and paper cost is always going to be cheaper than what the inkjet printer manufacturers charge for their ink and paper. A lot of consumers got duped into thinking the convenience of printing at home was much greater than the price of the print. How wrong they were. When you stuff around trying to make the colour look right by trial and error, the cost of the print is a lot higher than getting it printed in a lab.

      I work in a lab and this is what we have experienced. In Australia, Harvey Norman (consumer electronics) started off as the Computer Specialists, then they went to Digital Camera Specialists and now they are Digital Printing Specialists. When they were the computer and dc specialist, they were pushing that you must have an inkjet printer, but now they are telling you that you must have the photos printed on their Fuji digital labs. People who "specialise" in so many areas are really not specialists at all.

      We do quality comparisons in our area by getting a digital file printed from a range of labs to compare quality and really, Harvey Norman's is really just shit. Although the industry has gone to a digital production, the underlying science of chemicals has not changed. Balancing the chemistry and what not is a daily manual job. There is no point creating the printer profile to bring it "back into balance" when the chemicals are so far out of whack.
    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:27AM (#13754860) Homepage
      I can think of only two reasons why you'd want to print at home.

      1) You need the best possible quality but have no access to a print shop which can deliver it. Reality is that most cheap print shops will not deliver accurate color even if you jump through all the hoops. More expensive print shops can (provided your image meets some criteria) but these can be harder to find. If you're living in Alaska; your may be off a little bit cheaper buying your own printer if you need high quality prints.

      2) You print material isn't supposed to be seen by anybody else. Print shops have access to the images and will usually check prints. So if you have, say, private (intimate?) pictures or other material which may be damaging or not intended for public viewing (secret?), a personal printer is essential. This is basically akin to one of the major reasons digicams became so huge; they allowed you to make pictures without any third party ever being able to watch them.
      • 1) You need the best possible quality but have no access to a print shop which can deliver it. Reality is that most cheap print shops will not deliver accurate color even if you jump through all the hoops.

        True, and this lets me ask the question - what online print shops *do* allow you to actually use ICC color profiles? I'm sure there are some pro-oriented shops that do, I just don't know which ones. Are there any that are as easy to use/fast/cheap as Kodak (Ofoto), or Shutterfly?

        I have used both Ofoto (w
  • by fragmentate (908035) * <jdspilled@nospAm.gmail.com> on Monday October 10, 2005 @12:55AM (#13754407) Journal
    I own an HP camera, and HP PhotoSmart 7760 printer. Here's some real world data for you:

    Photo Cartridge: $35
    Black Cartridge: $20
    Number of pictures printed: 68

    That's just under a dollar per print. All prints were 4x6. At that rate, it's just cheaper to run up to the pharmacy and get them printed in duplicate. Yes, twice as many pictures and it's still less expensive.

    This whole printing from home thing is probably a great thing for people that have to drive 40 miles to the nearest pharmacy, but for the rest of us... yay? The only good thing about printing at home, you ask?

    Well, Paris and Paris can take all the nudies they want of each other and never have them leak to the press! That's easily worth $.80 a print!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The majority of my non-US friends opt to buy unofficial inks by the gallon from China. That easily slashes the cost to 70-80%. That being said, they print a lot. So, the ink isn't wasted. The quality of the print is virtually the same and the printer doesn't break down either, regardless what printer companies want you to believe.
    • I use an Epson Picturemate and I can print 4x6 photos for about 29 cents a piece. Basically a pack of 100 count 4x6 photo paper and a new ink catridge sells for $29 (or less online).
    • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@geekazon . c om> on Monday October 10, 2005 @02:40AM (#13754724) Homepage
      The best market for these might be the low-volume user for whom a trip to a photo processing place just to make 2 or 3 prints every now and then is too much trouble and expense. My in-laws gave me a Photosmart last Christmas, which I never would have bought for myself, but I really appreciate the ability to crank out maybe 5 or 6 prints per month to send to relatives and whatnot. At that one-at-a-time rate it just isn't worth it to me to go anywhere to get digital prints. If this printer lasts 6 or 8 years I will happily pay to replace it.

      But of course by then the big thing will probably be digital paper with Harry Potter style images that move around and talk.

      • trip to a photo processing place
        Huh? Who uses those. Use an on-line photo printer. Delivered to your door in a day or two and probably cheaper too (one of them always has a special offer on).
        • Costco- a half mile from work- I walk in with an SD card, have lunch lunch, go back to the photo counter and walk out with 4x6's at $0.29 or 8x10s on matte for $0.99 a pop if I need them, plenty cheap enough.

          So yeah- some of us can get it more conveniently than waiting for the on-line printer delivery.
          • by klubar (591384) on Monday October 10, 2005 @07:20AM (#13755427) Homepage
            I think Costco has lowered the price to $.19 or ($.17 in some markets). Don't forget the opportunity to buy a cheap slice (of pizza) along with your lunchtime trip.

            I just don't see the benefit of home printing--if you don't print frequently you waste the ink when the printer "warms up". If you need a lot of prints and are in a hurry, then a trip to a costco/drug store is probably faster (20 minute drive each way, 30 minutes waiting for prints=70) which for a quantity of 100 is less than 1 minute per print. Some photoshops do a good job on color--and if you're unhappy with the color balance you can usually ask them to re-run them.

            What I don't like about Costco (and most other 1 hour print labs) is that they don't do 4xX's. They resize to 4x6 by chopping off the ends.
    • printing at home has several advantages that come from the fact that it is at home and accessible to you instantly, no matter the time of day or whatever. it's convinient.

      I don't want hard copies of my own pictures for myself - however, I might want to give them to my friends or relatives when they're visiting me, most of the time it would be a single pic from here or there...

      of course it's going to be cheaper at the place that has a machine made just for cheapness of per picture(along with quality) but wit
  • Ant writes "CNET News.com and The New Yorks Times (no registration required) report that even though the prices of printers have dropped up to 2*3*5 percent in the last few months thanks to a savage price war, buyers are going to pay at least 2*2*7 cents a print. This is if you believe the manufacturers' math. It could be closer to 2*5*5 cents a print if you trust the testing of product reviewers at Consumer Reports. In the meantime, the price of printing a 2*2-by-2*3-inch snapshot at a retailer's photo lab
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Monday October 10, 2005 @12:56AM (#13754412) Journal

    This is a near and dear issue for me. I've eagerly slurped up all the new generations of printer technology each time more amazed than ever at the quality of prints, finally achieving indistinguishable quality from lab prints.

    But, a disturbing parallel trend came with each new generation of printer. The printers became:

    • better quality
    • faster
    • cheaper

    but at the same time:

    • less reliable (like, in a major major way)
    • more expensive per print
    • and inconvenient as hell

    I still jump in every generation or so of new photo printer technology but not with rose-colored glasses anymore. I still need to on occasion get a quick print for home or some guest, but that's mostly it. For my serious stuff, I send it out to be done:

    • it's just so much easier
    • if they make a mistake, they eat the costs
    • the majority of the prints I want to make are for other people, and the majority of the time those people are geographically far away. I can get a high quality print to them much more easily and in half the time than if I do it myself.
    • I still am having trouble getting a ceramic cup to print properly on any of my photo printers.

    I think the costs for high quality prints from services will remain competitive as there are plenty of competent "players" out there. Just read the reviews, sample a few prints yourself before you commit big time to any of them. Also, maintain your storage of prints yourself, lots of services offer storage, but I'd highly recommend if you value your pictures, you keep archives of your own. (Aside from reliability issues, what happens if any of them go out of business? Where do your pictures go?)

  • Because I don't feel like burning gas and calories driving to Sam's club or wherever to have some snot nosed kids running around me, to have the clerk looking at my photos, to have to drive back or wait around an hour to pick up the prints. At home, I can take my pictures and in about three minutes have it hanging on my wall. Screw going to the store.
    • You and other posters here have lamented the inconvenience of driving to the store to drop off your photo-data-cards and then waiting an hour or driving back a second time.

      I think you're overlooking two key options:

      1) Upload photos to a site, then pick up. For instance, you can upload your photos via Yahoo and then pick them up in as little as an hour from Target (http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/thatadamguy/print_s plash [yahoo.com]). I seem to recall that other stores also let you upload-'n'-pick-up, too. With the aforementioned Yahoo/Target option, it's 20 cents per print, first 20 free.

      2) Or, if you don't mind waiting a week or so, order photos online via Fotki, Shutterfly, etc.

      As for privacy... I suppose there could be some issues, but particularly with mega-printers like Ofoto and Snapfish and such, I just don't imagine that the photos are being seen by many human eyes (perhaps not even by one).
    • ...to have the clerk looking at my photos...

      While I don't care too much about this (perhaps I'm not taking the same, uh, genre, of photos you are), there are other solutions.

      I'm not sure what service the submitter was referring to exactly, but many stores including WalMart and others have automated Fujifilm or Kodak kiosks that let you input your photos via a large number of interfaces (flatbed scanner, USB, compact flash, SD, etc), view and edit them, and then print them on quality photo paper for 10-25 cents each. My mother who owns a Kodak picture printer does this because not only is it a lot cheaper and the quality of the prints is very good, but she can crop, resize, adjust brightness/contrast/saturation, etc, without trying to learn how to use graphic software.

      It prints the pictures instantly along with a UPC you stick to the envelope and pay at the cashier. Nobody really sees them.
    • Of course, this also means you consider your time to be no more valuable than that of the same low-wage clerk you're replacing. There are a LOT of things I know how to do. The question is: Is it worth spending my time on them?

      Let's see... waste an hour cutting the grass... or bill $150/hour on a consulting contract and pay the gardener $50/month? Hmmmm...

      • The question is: Is it worth spending my time on them? Let's see... waste an hour cutting the grass... or bill $150/hour on a consulting contract and pay the gardener $50/month? Hmmmm...

        Getting paid to do work is something I do to support my way of living. Outside of work, I can't imagine having the same mentality. Mowing the lawn is rewarding and enjoyable usually.

        As for printing, my .02 is that printing labs are great for batch processing, and that inexpensive photo printer at home is great for t

    • by GiSqOd (793295) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:16AM (#13754828)

      I develop all my digital pics at Costco. which happens to also be my primary grocery-buying place. Some clear advantages:

      1. New/Better developing equipment. Costco (and probably most other retailers) have developing stations FAR better than my g/f's Epson photo printer. They update their machinery every six months or so, too, so I get excellent color reproduction, high quality print paper, etc.

      2. Price. I pay 12 cents a print for 4x6, or something nearly as stupid. Maybe it's 14 cents; who cares? Much less than the costs people are posting here for home photo printers. I like money, don't you?

      3. Convenience. I happen to do most of my grocery shopping at Costco (love dem 12-packs of Campbell's Chunky Soup -- mmmm, MSG...). They also do developing in less than an hour, most of the time, so you can develop while you shop. And if you'd rather sit in your jammies, Costco.com will let you send your pics from your home PC for pickup in store, or they'll deliver by mail (like Snapfish, etc.). It's not 3 minutes from concept to wall art, but if you want immediate results you're gonna pay in $$$ and quality.

      4. Customer Service. This may be a Costco-only thing, but they'll refund your money if you don't like your pictures FOR ANY REASON. My father (bless his tech-inept heart) once developed all 200 of his pics from Europe. Problem is, he developed the thumbnails. Costco explained his error, refunded his money, and developed the actual pics instead. Try getting Epson to send you a replacement cartridge because you did something stupid.

      Of course, home printers have their uses. Off the top of my head, Costco is terrible for:

      1. Blackmail/Kidnapping Photos. I'm pretty sure they've got to report this kind of thing. Besides, if you've kidnapped anyone of signifigance, you've got a hefty payday coming. 50 cent prints aren't a big expenditure for you.

      2. Pictures of your naughty bits. No need to traumatize the adolescents working the shop at Costco with pictures of your wang. Plus, hard copies are so 1970s. Just post the high-res shots anonymously to craigslist like the rest of us.

      Outside of these two, admittedly rare, categories, I just can't fathom why people are spending hundreds of dollars on home-developing. My two cents.
    • Breaking it down to 15 cents versus 40 cents is one thing, but for most of us, we just want some photos printed sometimes and it's much easier to do it at home, even if it's slightly more expensive. It's so easy now with the photo printers - many of them don't even require a PC if you don't want to edit them first. Plug in the camera, stick in the memory chip, whatever.

      For the professional or the person that makes a LOT of photos, sure, in bulk you're definately better off with a printing service. But
    • Isn't there online photo services where you live? :-S
      You know, where you upload your stuff and get it delivered?

      I agree there's still the delays involved though.
  • by Inoshiro (71693) on Monday October 10, 2005 @12:58AM (#13754423) Homepage
    Everyone who feels like they have a say in this should go and watch "One Hour Photo [imdb.com]" before they open their reply windows.

    Seriously, you're paying for 1 thing -- privacy. Scratch that, you're also paying for convienence. How much $$ in gas do you burn driving to the store, then driving back to pick it up? That's a distance * 4 cost if you're doing nothing else. What's the time cost involved? Hey, how much do you make an hour vs. how long you spend driving? There are many advantages to home printing.

    Plus, if you're into semi-illegal things, you'll know that the photo clerks are required by law to turn you into the cops if you try to get prints of scary pictures. I'd much rather the people with said prints do not set foot near photo equipment I run -- if I was in their position.

    Convience is why 4L of milk (which I can get for 3$ at Wal-mart) is 6$ at the corner gas station. Why is it such a surprise that people use home printers? Hell, most people don't have laserjets! Inkjets sure cost a lot more per page, even though the initial cost is lower.
    • by rynthetyn (618982) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:28AM (#13754534) Journal
      Plus, if you're into semi-illegal things, you'll know that the photo clerks are required by law to turn you into the cops if you try to get prints of scary pictures. I'd much rather the people with said prints do not set foot near photo equipment I run -- if I was in their position.

      Or, even things that aren't illegal might run you some trouble. I once had a roll of film take weeks to come back (it was panoramic, so it took a bit longer anyway), the store ended up claiming that they had misplaced the pictures in the back of a box. I really don't believe that story though, I think they got investigated before they made it back to me because I had a bunch of pictures of my family's burned out car, which had caught fire while my mom was driving it down the road one day. I think that the clerks saw the pictures, got suspicious, and forwarded it on to authorities. Or maybe I'm just paranoid and they really did temporarily misplace my pictures.
    • I agree with the privacy-thing. Makes sense for some kinds of photos in particular.

      The inconvenience, gas, time and so on however is silly. You seem to assume that one can only order photos printed at a bircks-and-mortar store and have to fetch the result there too.

      In reality, ordering a copy of a selection of photos is as simple as selecting them in konq, rigth-click and select "Order photos", then fill in what size and what number I want and click Go. All done in maybe a minute, much *quicker* and eas

    • I've heard that if ones digital photos are good enough, many clerks will refuse to print them on the slim chance that the photos were taken by a professional with a penchant for launching copyright infringement suits.
    • "Seriously, you're paying for 1 thing -- privacy. Scratch that, you're also paying for convienence. How much $$ in gas do you burn driving to the store, then driving back to pick it up? That's a distance * 4 cost if you're doing nothing else. What's the time cost involved? Hey, how much do you make an hour vs. how long you spend driving? There are many advantages to home printing."

      Erm maybe. However, I'd have to drive 600 miles to make up for the cost of just the printer itself.

      That said, I have to wonder
    • Scratch that, you're also paying for convienence

      I just got back from Hawaii. I had 160 photos printed. It was very convienent not having to wait hours for the job and having to run out for several more ink cartridges. It was cheaper and faster to take in a camera memory card than to pick up a bunch of ink and paper. Double prints are only slightly more than single prints at Costco. The prints were ready when I finished my other shopping, so it was still a single trip.

      Convience is letting the printing g
    • That's exactly what I was thinking. I'll add to this that the average person doesn't have to count the entire cost of a printer nor the entire cost of the ink cartridge. Most people - and this may come as a shock to the printing industry - print as many or more text pages as they do photographs.

      Also, the obligitory story to confirm the privacy worries are real:
      My friend's father used to take "dirty" pictures of local strippers. One day a friend of his was walking behind the shopping center where he had h

  • My suggestion (Score:3, Informative)

    by fgl (792403) <daniel@notforsale.co.nz> on Monday October 10, 2005 @12:59AM (#13754425) Homepage Journal
    Don't print, use something like Flickr [flickr.com] That's where I upload my "art"
    • Re:My suggestion (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Aqua OS X (458522)
      Personally, I'm a fan of iPhoto. It's a brainless way to imports pictures and order prints.
      But, in an ideal situation I would be able to pay for prints via iPhoto and pick them up an hour later at the local 1 hour photo. As of now, I need to wait 24 hours before I get them.

  • Now you tell me. I just got back from europe and discovered it was cheaper to buy a cheap hp that does photo prints than buy new ink cartridges for my existing printer. Luckily I also shot 15 roles of film. At least with those I don't have to worry about the inmages fading of media becoming obsolete - they'll only ever need one print.
    • obsolete media... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ecalkin (468811) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:10AM (#13754465)
      uhmmm, film *can* become obsolete...

          every once in a while there is a new color process created. the current color print film process is c41. the one before that is c22 (i am not aware of any c's from 23-40). besides each process having it's own processing chemicals and steps (boy are you in trouble if you have unprocessed c22), they have their own color balance.

          most color printers have several channels with a channel devoted to a particular brand and speed of c41 process film. i took some old (1970s?) negatives in and couldn't get good prints. why? they didn't want to spend the time and paper to create a color balance for a handful of photos. i don't blame them. that was the first c22 stuff they had ever seen. i had to send it to a specialist to get it printed. and it was not cheap.

          i also feel sorry for people who have negatives that are not 35mm. there are a lot of labs that can't print from 110, disk, 126 (it's close) and other small sizes.

      eric
  • XXX (Score:2, Funny)

    by My Iron Lung (834019)
    My pictures are too dirty to have developed by anyone but me.
  • by yamum (893083) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:03AM (#13754442)
    is a dime?
  • by kriston (7886) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:05AM (#13754449) Homepage Journal
    Have you looked at the photographs you've been printing at home over the past few years lately? I've noticed a trend which is why I never recommend in-home photo printing.

    1) Consumables are horribly expensive especially after you factor in mistakes and cutting.

    2) Cutting required buying a paper cutter.

    3) After about a year the ink fades.

    4) The ink adheres and usually migrates from the paper to the glass/acetate in albums in all cases.

    None of these factors came into play with the commercial services. I'm just happy they accept digital pictures and print them on real photo paper.

    • There's also a great simple anaolgy about this: Which machine do you think will produce a better print, your $200 home printer or the $750,000 mini lab printer?

      • by Mordaximus (566304) on Monday October 10, 2005 @08:38AM (#13755761)
        Which has the potential to produce the better print? Hands down, the mini lab printer.

        Which _will_ produce the better print?

        The important question is, where is the printer, and who is operating it? You wager on the mini-lab printer in Wal-Mart, run by a minimum wage employee who transfered over from sporting good last week?

        I'd wager, speaking from experience, that a photographer that does more than snap family photos, understands all aspects of photography from exposure to print, envisions his end result and adjust his equipment accordingly and uses a decent quality photo printer will get far, far better results.

        Cheaper is not always better.
        • Cheaper is not always better.

          Then don't take them to Walmart. There is a real camera shop in my area that prints digital to photo paper. Their machines are probably better than the typical minilab, and they are staffed by people who know what they are doing. The results are always excellent. The cost is a bit more expensive than Walmart (I think .29 per print last time I was there), but it's still cheaper and better than printing at home.
    • the inks fade?

      i thought that was one of the propoganda bullet points as to why ink is more expensive than top of the line dom perignon.

      high quality ink = 21st century snake oil.

      ink is so cheap, they couldn't give it all away.

      1000 gallons for a dime.

      and they sell you a 50 dollar cartridge with 50ml that only lasts 100 pages or so if you're lucky.

      if you continue to buy extortion priced ink, then you're fueling the corrupt a**holes who are ripping off the public.

      never let them sell you the bullshit lies about
    • [I have an epson r300, retails for about $150, minus whatever MIRs you can get]

      1: Yes, if you indiscriminately print every photo you take, you'll run up a much larger bill printing at home.
      2: My printer does edge to edge printing, don't most others?
      3: I haven't noticed any fading at all after 20 months.
      4: I had that problem when I was printing on the cheapest glossy photo paper I could find, something from Burlington (the ink never even felt dry). I switched to Epson's paper and haven't had any proble
  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:06AM (#13754450) Homepage Journal
    The chemical processes used to print digital prints are usually the same as printing from negatives.

    Depending on your photo lab, you should get a high, consistent, quality of print that you know will last as long as those shot with negatives, usually decades in good storage conditions.

    This is unlike most low-end inkjets where printout lifetimes may be under a decade.

    Now, if you WANT archival-quality inkjets, you can buy a printer that uses archival inks, and get matching archival ink and paper. Even then though, you are using unproven technology: You can only hope the vendor's torture-tests accurately simulate the promised 50 years in a photo album or in some cases 200 years in museum conditions. With a chemical process, you pretty much know what to expect.

    • It seems all the digital photo printing kiosks I've seen (mostly at Meijer) are just a PC hooked to an inkjet printer anyway. You can hear the printer going back and forth just like your home printer would. It's definately not the same machine they use for film prints there at least.
      • by jimboisbored (871959) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:54AM (#13754612)
        The instant kiosks are just inkjets. What you want is the Fuji Aladdin kiosks, an AGFA e-box/imagebox, lucidiom's kiosks (I work at a lab and that's what we us), or another kiosk that is only for ordering. Then the files are stored on a server until a worker picks the order from a list and tells the printer to print the order. They're then printed with a laser (newer ones use LED's) onto silver halide processed paper. In fact your film is really put through some digital processing before it's printed and it's printed using a laser too. The printer scans the neg's, and allows for color correction on screen and then queues them up to print. I'm basing this on the knowledge of an AGFA D.lab 3, i'm assuming Fuji frontiers and Noritsu's are pretty much the same (I know the laser and silver halide paper part is). The brand of printer doesn't really matter as long as it's maintained well. We balance everything on our printer daily. Our output is professional quality (provided we get good files/film) and we have some local pros do their medium format stuff here. So as far as I'm concerned inkjets are worthless.
    • it lasts less, costs more.

      what's wrong with that picture?

      i know, it's called "business as usual".

      get smart and kick those bastards to the curb and demand fair and honest pricing.

      honest commerce is about as prevalent as h2o is on the sun.
    • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Monday October 10, 2005 @02:09AM (#13754651) Homepage
      Now, if you WANT archival-quality inkjets, you can buy a printer that uses archival inks, and get matching archival ink and paper. Even then though, you are using unproven technology: You can only hope the vendor's torture-tests accurately simulate the promised 50 years in a photo album or in some cases 200 years in museum conditions. With a chemical process, you pretty much know what to expect.

      You're not "trusting" anything -- ink on paper and exposed to light is just as much a chemical process as a cibachrome. Using non-fugitive pigments on acid-free paper has been tested for several thousand years longer than any photographic chemical. Whether it's applied with an inkjet or a paintbrush really doesn't make any difference.

      Unfortunately, people who trust photographic prints should realize that pretty much any current consumer process is guaranteed to make a print that will be worthless in ten to twenty years even if kept in a sealed vault. Your original negative film might last another decade past that.
  • ink is overpriced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jay2003 (668095) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:08AM (#13754457)
    Printer manufacturers charge ridiculous amounts of money for ink. I'm glad consumers are wising up and having pictures lab printed. Perhaps these numbers will convince Epson, HP & Canon, they can not gouge us on ink forever and they will lower prices.

    If not, consumers are getter better longevity with lab prints since they are done on photographic paper. I know all the statistics about 100 year estimated print life on newer inkjets. There's always the little asterisk about not exposing the prints to air unless this they are inkjet pigment printers. Epson has some but pigment ink cartridges are usually even more expensive. Not to mention clogged heads, smeared prints and all the other problems you get trying to print at home.
  • by SynapseLapse (644398) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:08AM (#13754459)
    Is so you'll actually have decent prints in 20 years.
    Home printers use ink sprayed onto paper (Unless you happen to have a very high end Dye-sublimation printer) whereas most photo labs will use a standard photo color emulsion on acetate paper process.
    Unless you have specially treated paper, your prints are likely to fade and lose color to the oxidation process within 5 to 20 years. Whereas photo prints are typically guaranteed to retain their color for 100 years in moderate to indirect sunlight.

    Of course, my favorite, silver emulsion Black & White prints will, theoretically, retain their look forever. :)

    In any event, I've scanned in and restored a lot of photos that were 40 years or older for folks. There is nothing worse than trying to extract a decent image from a faded inkjet print on lousy, or even decent, paper.
    • -5 Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tim (686) <timr.alumni@washington@edu> on Monday October 10, 2005 @02:56AM (#13754771) Homepage
      Unless you have specially treated paper, your prints are likely to fade and lose color to the oxidation process within 5 to 20 years. Whereas photo prints are typically guaranteed to retain their color for 100 years in moderate to indirect sunlight.

      Wrong.

      Older (dye-based) inkjet printers had fading problems, but more recent models use pigment-based inksets, and the resulting prints actually tend to exceed the longevity of traditional color prints.

      The Epson Ultrachromes, for example, are Wilhelm rated [wilhelm-research.com] for over 100 years in good display conditions, and over 200 years in dark storage.
      • Re:-5 Wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jules Bean (27082)
        That's a bit of an overstatement.

        Most of the major consumer printers are still dye-based. If you wander into a branch of PCWorld or Staples and pick up a printer from one of the displays, it will probably be dye-based. The pigment ones are still quite a bit more expensive. (I was eyeing up the 8-colour epson pigment printers like the R1800 but I couldn't justify the cost).
    • Ok, I know what a "dye" is and I know what the verb "to sublime" means in relation to certain solids, but about the only think I can come up with when putting those together is a fancy word for "inkjet" What's the difference?
  • Why print? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JanneM (7445) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:12AM (#13754471) Homepage
    Why print at all?

    Ok, a bit overstated, but I'm serious. Of all the pictures you take, how many actually _need_ to be printed? I'd say those few you want to hang on a wall, or put in a frame. For most people that is a precious few photographs per year; if nothing else, the amount of wall space and kindly relatives to foist the prints off to is very limited.

    I take on the order of 10k pictures a year, thanks to the ease of digital photography. Perhaps 1/10, or about 1000, is actually worth saving at all (since it's so easy and cheap, it's usually a good idea to take multiple exposures of any one subject to avoid duds). Of those, maybe 2/3 are purely archival - they are a memento of some event or something, and I'd like to keep it, but they aren't really of any significance. If I lost them it would be a shame but not really a big deal. Of the rest (interesting enough to actually post-process), most of them will end up on Flickr, or emailed to people that may be interested, or simply shown on-screen. The number of images I would actually want to have hanging number in the single digits - and I have yet to go to the trouble to do so.
    • Agreed. I have almost no reason to print the pictures I take (with my digital camera). If I want to look at my pictures, I sit at the computer. If I want my friends and family to see them, I email them. If I want them to see a lot of photos or little video clips taken with my digital camera, I mail them a CD.

      The only pictures needing printing are those hung on the wall. Those are rare and are done for a couple bucks at Wal-Mart (or on Kinko's Tektronix).

      I realize some people are old fashioned dead-tree kind
    • why not buy ms windows and fuel their corrupt empire? it's not like you actually want or need freedom.

      that line of reasoning is also why a lot of bad shit happens in the world.

      sometimes it's best not to look for "alternatives" but to fix the shit that's going on.

      it happens in all walks of life and in all situations.

      you overlook the fact that they sell you ink marked up to give them about 15,000% profit (and i'm being extremely conservative). if you think that's ok, then argue that you need to stop printing
    • Re:Why print? (Score:3, Informative)

      by olman (127310)
      Ok, a bit overstated, but I'm serious. Of all the pictures you take, how many actually _need_ to be printed? I'd say those few you want to hang on a wall, or put in a frame. For most people that is a precious few photographs per year; if nothing else, the amount of wall space and kindly relatives to foist the prints off to is very limited.

      Actually a valid argument why home printing isn't that expensive at the end of the day. Since your 80-shot CF card probably contains 5-10 photos worth printing and putting
  • Simple rule (Score:5, Insightful)

    by syousef (465911) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:13AM (#13754473) Journal
    Here are my rules:
    1) If it's standard 4x6, print at a lab. You won't be able to beat the price
    2) If it's larger - up to A4, print at home on modest priced photo printer that lets you refill individual tanks, and using cheap photo paper (Where I live Kodak's the cheapest and the quality is good enough for my needs - and I consider myself a serious amateur photographer).
    3) If you're likely to be printing A3 or A3+ often it's worth buying an A3 or A3+ photo printer. Since they're considerably more expensive (or were last time I looked), you have to be printing A3 at least an item a month to make it worthwhile. (ie one poster a month). Otherwise find a cheap lab.
    4) If you're printing larger than A3 the photos get ridiculously priced. A lab is going to be cheaper but not cheap (unless you are a specialised printing firm). Avoid these.
  • by jim_v2000 (818799) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:13AM (#13754476)
    ...is Costco. They don't have the cheapest 4x6 (17 cents), but everything else is a good price. $0.39 for a 5x7, $1.49 for an 8x10/8x12, and $2.99 for a 12x18 print. The quality is fantastic too.

    And I swear, they didn't pay me to post this...I just like sharing a good deal when I find one.
    • And for professionals (or wannabe pros), you can get high-quality and recent color profiles for the minilabs in almost all Costcos! This site has different .icc profiles for different paper types, and even details on what to request when you order your prints. Also, guides on how to best use the profiles. Way cool. http://drycreekphoto.com/Frontier/ [drycreekphoto.com]
  • At those prices, why bother printing at home? Consumers seem to be saying just that. For the 12 months ended in July, home printing accounted for just 48 percent...

    The author appears to be 48 percent deaf.

  • Misleading (Score:2, Offtopic)

    The problem is the whole idea is misleading. This does not factor in the countless prints that I have from when my kids grab the camera and take pictures of TV shows and really close-up, blurry pictures of the family pets doing exciting things like sleeping. If you factor in accidental pictures and just plain bad pictures that you wish you didn't take, the price per print can shift quite dramatically in some cases. I would dare say when the kids don't touch the camera and only me or my wife take the pict
  • I have a great B&W laser printer with a toner cartridge that works great for 99% of what I need to do, which lasts about a year or more between replacements. If I absolutely positively have to print color, I email it to Office Depot's printing center for $0.52 a copy. Pictures get printed at my local Wally World for $0.23 a print. At least I don't have to worry about wasting ink, resetting the color settings to B&W from color, crazy printer drivers that may or may not work, etc etc etc.
  • ...and that is to have sharks with frickin' laser printers attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?

    Number Two: Inkjets.

    Dr. Evil: ... Right.

    Number Two: They're photo-quality inkjets.

    Dr. Evil: Are their cartridges refillable?

    Number Two: Absolutely.

    Dr. Evil: Oh well, that's a start.
  • All That Assumes... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Monday October 10, 2005 @01:34AM (#13754549) Homepage Journal
    An amateur photographer who doesn't really care how their prints look. The prices as the professional photo labs will make you shoot your drink out your nose, but you DO get what you pay for, too. Unfortunately there aren't usually enough professional photographers around to support the labs in the area and so the professional labs are always going out of business. It would appear to me that the professional photo developer is something of a dying breed. Well not to mention that the industry doesn't seem to pay enough for anyone to actually make a career out of it...
  • Sure, it costs 50 cents or more to print a 4x6 photo when the cost of the ink is more than the cost by ounce of Dom Perignon. Maybe the printer makers will get a little less greedy, but that hardly seems likely. Particularly when there is still a good and growing market for office and home color printing. I certainly would do 4x6's at a local store, but the sad truth is that most of what I print is larger format and/or special formats (like half fold photo cards). And the retail outlets are still gouging as
  • Frankly I think hopme photo printing is only useful for one-offp prints like long-lost friends dropping by unexpectedly and you grab a group shot with your digi and ant them to have a copy before they leave. Or if you only have one or two photos you want and the extra 80cents is worth the less hassle or if a photo is needed in a hurry. Perhaps it also has some commercial value in theme parks or cruises when you pay for photos.

    Frankly I don't ever see home printing being cheaper than store printing since i

  • At those prices, why bother printing at home?

    Mainly because it's fun. Some people like to tinker with their cars. Some like to print their photos at home.
  • I'm using a Canon i9900, not just for photos, but for art. If I don't get overpriced photo paper, I can produce pretty decent photos at a reasonable price.

    Part of this is, of course, that the Canon uses cheap plastic instead of expensive electronics for ink packaging.

    Anyway, a friend of mine bought me a steak to do up some prints once. Why? Because the local photo lab was unable to do a decent job. They brought in a square picture and asked for an enlargement, and got a very nice full-page picture that
  • printer/scanner/copier: ~$150

    ink cartridges: ~$50

    knowing those pictures of you and your spouse, from that vacation where you never left the bedroom, aren't decorating the employee lounge at WalMart: priceless
  • One problem with home photo printers is maintaining consistent color. Unfortunately with inkjet printers color depends on ink+paper combination. It's really hard to make colors on the print match the colors on the screen without expensive printer profiler.

    However, even machines at costco or walmart now have automatic color profiling. Every morning the machine prints a set of test prints and makes adjustments to keep colors consistent. In addition it is somewhat easier to maintain color accuracy with the

  • About two years ago, I did an extnesive analysis of photo printing: test prints of a digital SLR photo I took of a Dave Chihuly glass sculpture (among other scenes) on the latest and greatest from Canon, Epson, and HP, as well as two area drug stores with printing kiosks and two online services.

    The printers blew away the printing kiosks, which blew away the online services in quality. Seriously, ofoto.com was absolutely terrible. It looked like they resampled my picture to 640x480 before printing it, and
  • by saskboy (600063) on Monday October 10, 2005 @02:23AM (#13754683) Homepage Journal
    It's simple math to determine how much it will cost per page for your ink, and paper.

    Buy 30 sheets of photo paper at $20, and your sheet cost per large photo is 20/30 = $0.66.

    Then with the HP Laser Jet 2550 colour printer, you get about 4000 sheets and ink is about $100 for black, and $100 for each of the three colours, and there's an imaging drum to replace too, so it's at a minium $400/4000sheets, so $0.10/page of ink expenses.

    In this example, it's nearly 80 cents per 8"/10" photo page, and that's with the traditionally MORE economical laser printer. A crappy buble jet that HP makes these days, gives you 15mL of ink for your 3 colours, and 13mL for the black, and that costs $35 and might last, well I'm guessing since I'm not rich enough to buy and use one, 25 pages at 8"/10". So with the photo paper that means you'd get about 35/20 for ink + $0.66 for the paper = $2.06 for my example. Compare that to Walmart, and I'm sure that box store is going to kick the pants off of the price for printing at home.

  • what about color matching? I can get a pic to look good on my monitor, and by now I can get a pretty decent replication of it on my printer, but how do those of you that send pics out for printing deal with the color matching issue?
  • ... Economy of scale.

    I'm sorry, but my only comment to this story is "No duh".

    -chris
  • I swear I just saw an ad for Walgreens or CVS or Rite-Aid or something, where you could upload pics to their website, pay with a CC, and then pick other Walgreens to have them print out at, for people to pick up. Its possible you could send your digital pictures all over the US to friends and relatives (and yourself of course), while still in your pajamas.

    Stuff like that will surely hurt in-home printing.
  • What if you want to print on media that the local printer doesn't support, such as fine art papers (Epson Velvet Fine Art [epson.com], Entrada Fine Art Bright [moabpaper.com], or Canvas [epson.com]?

    Also, the color balance of the local mass printers are hit or miss. In order to get decent color out of some of these places, prepare to spend some effort in manipulating your photos to get good quality. If you want good quality, of course... OTOH, at home you can set up your own workflow and get good color on the first print every time.

    Otherwise,

  • Quality... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OneFix (18661) on Monday October 10, 2005 @02:48AM (#13754750)
    This [slashdot.org] article talks about the problem many photographers are now having...for many (like myself) digital has made it cheaper amd easier than maintaining a professional darkroom (Kodak in my case)...

    I got rid of the equipment before I got my digital camera, but it just became too expensive with the cost of chemicals, photo paper, bulbs, etc...not to mention it takes up way too much room...

    Now, professional photographers (the ones in the phonebook) can probably afford their own digital photolab...and many of them still use large format (which is higher quality than digital right now)...Medium format digitals have just begun to appear...but the "backyard" photographer can't afford that and so the choice you are left with is to print them yourself (with a photo printer) or trust someone like Walmart/CVS to print them for you...
  • Does anyone know what hardware the professional "photo printers" use?

    What their costs are, and what volume is neccessary to motivate "professional" printers (whatever that is)?

    What technology do they use?
  • I own a hiti (Hi-touch imaging) photo printer. It's a dyesub printer that cost $250 (deluxe version) at the time (they have cheaper models) that's standalone (just insert the memory card) and the cartridges that have the dye-sub "ink" (includes 50 4x6 photos sheets) cost only 20 bucks - so it costs like .40 per photo. Plus it's as good or better than the professional places - it prints on a clear coat and the ink doesn't run plus the estimated life is 99 years or something ridiculous like that - I can't t
    • Perhaps I should be a little clearer on the ink doesn't run statement, you can take a sponge to the photo and makes no difference. Because of the clearcoat but also dye-sublimination isn't sprayed on ink:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dye-sublimation_print er [wikipedia.org]

      I thought I add this because I see a lot of people bitching about their inkjet printers and the costs - this dye-sub is much cheaper.

      I avoid inkjets like the plague - the cost is ridiculous. Laser for text or color printing (laser can do decent, not gre
  • by Evets (629327) on Monday October 10, 2005 @03:54AM (#13754929) Homepage Journal
    The cost per print doesn't mean anything to most consumers. Most people don't run around reading seven different magazines to find the best quality for the best price - they buy the printer that's available when they happen to be at Staple's or Best Buy or wherever it is they happen to be. If the consumer is worried about price, they usually don't shop for the printer with the cheapest ink, they buy the cheapest printer.

    It doesn't have anything to do with cost. It has to do with the time it takes to print. Forget the stats they print, it takes at least a minute for most printers to spit out a picture. When I go to print, I don't have 36 pictures - I have a big fat memory card full of them. I don't want to spend an entire night watching to see that the paper feeds properly or whether or not the ink is full, I want to go online and spend a few bucks to have someone worry about that for me.

    That's not to say consumers don't want a photo printer or they'll never print one at home. People want them. It's nice to be able to print up a small amount of photos, or reprint one that's damaged or missing. Or even print up a batch when they want one right away.

    But come on now. These things have been around for 6 or 7 years. How many photo printers do you want them to buy? People who want them have them. The technology has changed a little, but even so, it's not like people are picking up USA Today and finding out there is new technology available and they need to buy it. The Photo Printer market is nothing like the PC market. People don't care about stats or features. They want a printer that prints pictures and at least 70% of the photo printers out there will do just that. And after they print their third batch of pictures they'll see a sign at Costco that says they do digital prints and the photo printer will end up getting a lot less usage.
  • ...unless you refill (Score:3, Informative)

    by jridley (9305) on Monday October 10, 2005 @07:45AM (#13755495)
    I've been refilling my Canon printer tanks since I got it. Before that, an Epson (PITA) and before that, two HPs. I've never bought a cart for my Canon. It's trivial to refill (hardly harder than putting in a new tank). I've refilled all the tanks about 25 times now.

    I can't tell the difference between prints made with Canon ink and aftermarket ink. In fade tests in sunlight, the aftermarket inks fade about the same as Canon, but last better than Epson (not current generation, I don't do Epson anymore).

    You have to buy properly formulated inks, specifically for your brand/type of printer. If the place is selling "one size fits all" ink, stay away, it's crud. I've tried putting that stuff in printers before, and it really screws up the color balance and the stuff fades in a month.

    I can fill all the tanks in my Canon for about $5, as opposed to $40 for new tanks.

    I found glossy paper on sale a couple of years ago at Office Depot; one of those crazy "nearly free after discounts" sales - something like $5 for 100 sheets. I bought about 20 packs. I might even have to buy paper in another 5 years or so.

    IOW, if you're frugal, you can make your own prints for VERY cheap. I think my 4x6's probably cost 5 cents each.

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