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Getting a fully analog Minilab... suggestions?


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Hi guys and girsl,

I know I must be crazy... but I'd like to set up a small fully analog color minilab for "home use".

All the fully analog minilabs seem to have shut down around here (Germany), and I love the analog look so much (digital intermediate step is such a loss of fidelity with ALL digital minilabs I saw so far!) I've decided to check if this might be worth a try.

I'd like to hear your suggestions on this... I'd have the negs C-41 processed at a regular lab, but I'd like to do the printing step myself with the lab. So what I'm looking for:

- minilab with fully analog image chain

- built as compact as possible, chemical tanks as small as possible

- no C41 processing, only color prints

- controls should be simple and robust technically

- operating speed/throughput is nof of concern so much

- Agfa or Kodak wouöd be preferred

Can some of you suggest any machines for me? Unfortunately there is VERY little info on this on the web!

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Noritsu QSS-1401 Max Print Size 6x9 Fixed Lenses for each print size

Noritsu QSS-1501 Max Print Size 8x12 Zoom Lens

Noritsu QSS-2211 Max Print Size 8x12 Zoom Lens, Scanner + colour monitor.

Also consider a QSS-2611 Similar specification to the 2211 but faster and bigger as a result.

A lot of Kodak machines of that era were just re-branded Noritsu machines

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  • 2 weeks later...

You need to turn over 25% of the developer and blix (bleach fix) PER WEEK to keep a machine in control.  1 fl. oz / 30mL or so is utilized with RA-RT chemistry per 8x10" print (about 4 4x6" prints), and a typical tank could be 10-20L, so you see you'll have to run a LOT of prints to make it worth your while.

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I reckon that list from Dave S would make it all much too easy especially the two labs with the screen!

And all of those machines hold far too much chemistry as Neil and XX say.

Why not buy yourself an enlarger and some dishes and do it the old way.

You could use any of the modern papers and for chemistry has anybody a better suggestion than using SM tank chemistry?

Ready to use, no starter, makes a lot of sense!

So back to the original request:- minilab with fully analog image chain  Very fully analogue, as analogue as you can get, completely manual process

- built as compact as possible, chemical tanks as small as possible  Yep

- no C41 processing, only color prints   Yep,but you were really serious you could do the C41 processing with tank strength C41 SM chem too!

- controls should be simple and robust technically Yep, just the usual time and temperature issues. Clocks and thermometers are proven technology

- operating speed/throughput is nof of concern so much Thats for sure!

- Agfa or Kodak wouöd be preferred   I'd go Kodak paper and Kodak SM chemistry.

This whole set-up could be marketed in the same way as B&W processing in the 60's and 70's. I think I might put a patent on it before Kodak does!

And Mark, well you could be in charge of marketing it, on ebay of course!

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  • 2 weeks later...

haha...  :)

Ok maybe I should have put this differently: throughput does not matter so much, but time spent working does.. my idea was to do all my pics on analog film and then print them with machine assistance... just as with bw photography, I doubt one would print ALL shot pictures as it just takes too long - you rather concentrate on a few pictures.

So I'll probably drop that idea and go with a dry-to-dry print processor and a manual enlarger...

Thanks guys!

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There are intermediate steps. . .

Some older minilabs can be "tricked" into printing without the tanks and chemistry installed.  They're essentially in a position to be used as light-tight proof printers.  You just need to slosh the prints through the trays after you turn off the lights and retrieve them from the slot that should house the developer rack and chemistry.

There were also "manual package printers" custom made floating around out there that could do multiple prints at once from a negative.

Enlargers are notoriously slow, that's for sure:  Try to find additive systems, though they're rare, which you can change filtration on without changing density in the other two colors.  (RED GREEN BLUE versus CYAN YELLOW MANGENTA).  We still use subtractive for certain specialized optical applications, and it's a B**** to play around with filtration and timing on those just as with an enlarger.

There are also printers that only expose paper (which are HUGE though, so you'll need to find space) that you can probably HAVE if you manage to find a lab that still has them.  99% of them are scrapped, or lost away in some basement somewhere.  Very few are working today.  With that, there's a great deal of difficulty getting support.

So I'd recommend you get a dry-to-dry processor, but also to consider looking for a machine that prints only.  Of course, with these systems, which are professional more than one-hour photo oriented, often you don't have video analyzation, cut or roll film support, or you need notching for film and cutting for roll paper.

So if you get a modular pro lab package printer, you then need at least a densitometer, paper cutter, and probably a video analyzer too, so it opens up a whole can of worms as to what you need to acquire and all the skills you need to train yourself in.

You'll need to learn plumbing, color science, calibration control, color control, tolerance control, computer programming, basic electronics, densitometry, chemistry, and maybe a few other things as well.

Keep in mind older machines are finicky, and without expensive support you're on your own when the machine breaks down.

An additive enlarger, good status M densitometer, and dry-to-dry processor might be more than enough for your to handle already.  The next step took years for me to get the hang of, and I still am not competent at all the skills I mention.  If I were trying to do it alone, IDK if I'd be successful at it at all if things went wrong on me!

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