Company keeps pace with advances in digital technology

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Over the past few years, rapid advancements in the field of digital photography have narrowed the gap between digital and traditional film cameras. As a result of more people converting to digital, photo finishing labs have had to make changes to meet this new demand.

However, the field of photo finishing is highly competitive with tight profit margins. For small-business owners, keeping up with new technologies and innovations in the field may be critical to their economic survival. At the same time, investing in these advancements can be financially risky. What's new and in this year, may be out by the next.



As the this photo indicates, using high-tech manipulation, the boy's catch has been dramatically increased in size, the bucket has been filled, and a frog has been added to the log .

-- Illustrations courtesy of Magic Moments

Nevertheless, the digital age has arrived, and on the forefront of this new age is Magic Moments Photo-graphy in Soldotna.

The firm has prepared to meet the demand of the digital revolution with the newest in high-tech photo finishing equipment -- the Noritsu QSS-2901.

"The 2901 is a fully digital minilab," said Sharon Mount, the general manager of Magic Moments. "From scanning to printing, all operations are fully digital."

This machine converts scanned images into digital data so adjustments can be made to contrast, sharpness, color balance, exposure and other features to produce the best quality prints possible.

Now, a lot of people may be thinking, "So, my home computer and printer can do that, too."

Well, not quite, since the 2901 has a feature called Digital ICE, which automatically removes dust and scratches from film and also prints at 400 dots per inch, as opposed to the 300 dpi maximum of ink jet printers. To the consumer, this means significantly higher resolution pictures with none of the banding common to home printing.

Home printing and desktop publishing can seem cheaper than having a photo done professionally, but this can be a misconception.

The cost of materials like photo paper, ink cartridges and photo manipulation software can add up to more than it would cost to have it done at a photo finishing lab. Professional printing has the added benefit of higher quality prints as well.

"We go frame by frame to evaluate each image," said Mount.

This allows the company to print the highest quality photo for each negative and image it receives, as opposed to the chain photo labs that often run hundreds of rolls through their machines on average settings.

"We love photography and thought digital was the way to go," said Mount about the reason for the recent purchase of the 2901. "You have to be competitive and provide a place for all people to bring in digital media."

Digital media can come in many types and the 2901 is compatible with virtually all forms of input including FD, CD-ROM, CD-R/W, PC card, Compact Flash and Smart Media. There also is the option for MO, ZIP, DVD ROM, DVD-R, and DVD-RAM. Of course, it still scans negatives and prints from traditional film cameras, too.

This may sound pretty scary to those new to the digital world or those thinking about converting. The staff at Magic Moments says have no fear.

"We take the time to show customers how to use the machines and we are here to answer any questions," said Mount.

The staff will show customers how to scan, crop, image edit and make reprints and enlargements. They also can do photo restoration more flawlessly than ever before.

"We can even cut and paste different heads on different bodies," said Mount.

This may sound like an unusual request, but Mount said it's actually quite common. It is used at times such as when a sports team has a group photo taken and one team member misses the photo shoot due to sickness. In those cases, a photo of the teammate is taken at a later date and his head grafted onto the body of a stand-in child.

Digital camera prices continue to fall while simultaneously their features continue to improve. This will undoubtedly expand the consumer trend toward converting to digital media. Consequently, digital photo finishing will need to become integral to the services offered by photo finishing labs. The labs that don't keep up may soon find themselves going the way of the eight-track tape.

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