The subject of digital prints again rears its ugly head. First, remember
that any system, digital or optical, is at the mercy of the operator. A ten
year old optical minilab with a skilled operator will produce better prints
that a brand new frontier with an inexperienced/lazy/incompetent operator.
Also, there are more than one model of Frontier. The ones in a pro lab are
capable of printing from a variety of negative formats and print sizes,
while the ones in WalMart (operated generally by someone with no photo
experience or knowlege) are limited to certain print sizes from 35 and aps
negs. Also, digital printers that expose with lasers are in the minority.
One popular brand requires a service contract with purchase (good idea, as
service is often and difficult) that totals over $30,000 annually. Sure it
makes beautiful prints, but it better be running around the clock if you
want to make a profit. Most use either LED's or a CRT(!). Each system is
capable of good results (I've examined prints side-by-side from the same
digital file from both).
Why, you ask, is this important to me? Both Kodak and Fuji have announced
the end of R3 paper, in a year or two. If you want prints from your chromes,
you will have to go to this system, unless you can afford Ciba's and all
their problems (price, price of contrast mask, limited availability). Again,
this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you are getting good
prints from WalMart/Costco/Sams/etc. be happy. Enjoy it while it lasts. But
do check out your area's pro labs. And remember, like with tripods, just
because something says it's digital, doesn't make it better.
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