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Heritage becoming history

Digital memories to quality prints
The advent of affordable digital cameras and cellphones has meant New Zealanders are taking more photographs than ever, but what we do with the images is raising some concern.

While we’re collecting more memories, only about 30 percent are printed professionally on quality photographic paper. In the days of old you knew there were several shoeboxes full of photographs in some dark corner waiting to be sorted out one rainy day. Today our digital memories are at risk from data corruption, computer theft or inadvertently being wiped. Even home printed images, if you look carefully, may have begun to fade.

While we’re happily snapping away with our digital cameras it seems we give little thought to storing, backing up or preserving the results for future generations. Even placing the best images in photo albums seems to be a dying art. They’re just as likely to be stored on a cellphone for showing over a tiny screen and then forgotten or wiped to make way for new images. Our heritage is becoming history.

Downloading images to your disk and sorting them into logically named folders and categories is a good move, but there’s always the risk of your hard drive taking a nose dive and sending those images into the ether. Back-up everything on a carefully labelled CD and print the best ones.

Multifunction devices (printer, fax, photocopier and scanner) remain the growth area of the consumer printer market. According to research firm IDC, the only thing keeping single function inkjets market alive is the photo printer, which is increasingly targeting more professional users. However hardware analyst Liam Gunson says the technology has improved to the point that multifunction devices can deliver satisfactory quality prints.

For any number of reasons, including a strange combination of ink, paper and vulnerability to light, many home printed photos fade within a year or two. Then there’s the cost of the special glossy or matt finish photo-paper which can be exorbitant. While replacement ink cartridges have reduced in price recently they’re still costly. Home printing might be defended as easy and immediate but you need to balance the cost of the ink, paper and the quality you’re getting.

An option is having your digital photos printed at a booth in a supermarket, petrol station or department store, but it still pays to check the output first. Stand alone units typically use dye- sublimation or instant printers which deliver little better than a home inkjet print.

Debbie Egerton, product manager for Fujifilm, says if the digital photo centres (DPCs) are linked to a mini-lab you can be confident you are getting ‘real photos’. Most of the major photographic companies including Kodak, Agfa and FujiFilm have mini-labs that use traditional film processing techniques for digital images.

At FujiFilm’s Frontier Digital Minilabs for example you put in your CD, SD, XD, Memory Stick or other Flash card, interact with it to decide what images you want, crop them, size them, add borders or text then decide how many copies you want to print.

For a start they use traditional silver halide photographic paper and put this through a development process to guarantee quality and longevity. The result is the same as 35mm printing and the cost varies depending on quantity. Typically such outlets charge between 39 cents and $1.29, but the benchmark seems to be around 60 cents for a 6 x 4 photo. On average 24 shots for $14 is about the same as you would pay to process a 35mm film.

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