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Used lab recommendations


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Hi all,

I am a high volume school photographer and our lab bill is such that we are considering purchasing a used minilab.

There are a lot of brands out there,  I have a couple of friends who do their own printing, one owns a DLab the other has a seinna fotoprint.  Both are fairly satisfied with their machines, but I would like some suggestions from you all here.

Here is my criteria,


8x10 prints.  11x14 would be nice, but we can keep printing them on our inkjet printers.

User serviceable.  I am very handy, and am willing to take the time to do things my self, but I know that some machines will be easier to work on then others.

Parts availability.  New or used as long as parts are available.  I don't mind getting a dead parts machine if need be.

Image quality needs to be decent. It does not have to be great.  I am selling school portraits, not fine art reproductions.

Fairly reliable.  I don't mind working on it a few time a year.  But I don't want in breaking down a few times a month.

Price, the lower the better.


Todd K.

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Out of curiosity, and so others can (maybe) help you,

What country / city are you located in ? (so we can point you to a good reseller and machine recommendation)

What is your budget ?  Cheaper isn't always better.

Do you want a wet (chem) lab or dry (inkjet) lab ?

What are your weekly / monthly volumes ?

Will you be printing on this every day, every week, every month ?  Or will it be sitting un-used for several weeks/months out of the year ?  Seasonal or all year long work?

Will you need to process film or digital ? or both ?

Are you ready to purchase all the other supporting equipment that may be necessary ?  mixing/measuring beakers & containers, magazines, dark boxes(or rooms), etc ?

What are you currently paying per 8x10 ? Is it color corrected or printed as is ?  Which lab are you using ?

Just curious.

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Thanks for the questions.

Houston TX

Under 10K  

I will have to do some math and get back to you with volume info.

Printing in large runs several times a week Sep through April.  Much less during the summer.

Ready to purchase other equipment.  (I operated an Fuji SFA and 2301 years ago)

Digital only

Paying $1.35 per 8x10 for volume work.  They charge over $2 for regular stuff but I print that most of that in studio on an inkjet as it is.  The vast majority of our work is high volume school jobs.  

We expect to double our business next year.

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Wet is currently what I am looking at.   Is there a general consensus on Agfa Dlabs? Specifically the Dlab 1?

Realistically I know that these machines need tending to.  The 2301 and SFA needed worked on almost every other month.

How much service would a used Agfa Dlab 1 require in general?

IMO currently dry labs are too expensive when you consider the technology involved.  

I could get three Epson 4900 printers for $4,200, third party inks, and refillable cartridges and 180 prints an hour for less then $.50 per 8x10.

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With all due respects to D Labs I would have thought that they are getting a little old these days and hard to keep going. In my country I have seen machines like Noritsu 3501's and similar sell at auction or by direct sale at around that price and I reckon one of these small noritsu machines would be easier to maintain and would produce superior prints.

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Software may dictate the equipment that will work best.  If color management is a concern, Nortsu's latest software supports it where Fuji's MS01 software does not.  If you are using a RIP to process files for the lab, color management can occur there.  Kodak RP30's (Agfa Dlab 2?) are still the king of the school market.  Try http://www.lucht.com/ for used Kodaks.

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The Noritsu 35 with an i Beam is a good option, 8 inch wide, slightly lower output quality but a lot better than home/inkjet, Reliable and no laser. The laser aspect is not such a big problem as very few are buying lasers from Japan, so a dead laser is not the end of the world.

If you want 12 inch you wont go far wrong with a 32 SD.

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  • 3 weeks later...

We are a medium volume Evening Events Photographers, who have always had our own lab we currently use a Noritsu 3301 shooting Jpeg & printing all images on the night returning to sell later. No problems with colour whatsoever, I'm thinking that with your type of work you are useing mains flash & Backgrounds? This is what we do & because the Images are constant we can & often do produce 1,000 7"x 5" photographs in an hour. Now if we could spend on a new lab now I would upgrade within the Noritsu range. Problems that we have had in teh last 7 years have all been resolved by myself with the only reoccuring one being theATM (lazer colour controller), but these can be bought from the manufacturers in Japan for around $300 (Noritsu quoted £1400 to supply & fit here in teh UK) and fitted & machine re set up in about 20 mins!!! Will print upto 14"x 8" we do very litte bigger, but I would go for a 12" machine next time.

Just thought that I would throw my hat on to the ring as it were! As a side note my company was originally set up over 60 years ago to take and print and sell on the night - so all of you guys who think that this is a digital age thing - think again. Before digital we used a Noritsi 1201 & that machine was quicker to produce 7"x 5" photographs than any digital machine, but you had to develope your negatives first so all in all we are now no faster of slower than before!

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Dear Todd ,

when thinking to purchase a used or refurbished minilab ,whatever the brand ,you should keep one important thing in mind :

Pls, take care from the very cleaver cheater and fruad companies ..on the head of them comes Raymond Stevens Plant & Marine LTD ...pls take care ,I ve the evidence that they are the  cleverest con company in UK .

if need to see how they are professional in cheating ..just  contact me to noor_adv2000@hotmail.com

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