Where have All The Chemists Gone?

dscf4278Long time passing…

Well, as far as processing stations for photographs, they went to the grave a long time ago. People may have been still putting films in at the chemist to be developed in the 1970’s but the minilab craze of the 1980’s dealt that one out and digital has never let it come back.

At one time there may actually have been developing labs at chemist shops in country towns but in the city the films were always taken off by Kodak, Halse, or one of the other professional labs for development and the results delivered back to the chemist for distribution. Average turn-around time for monochrome prints was a week and colour or enlargements stretched to two weeks – some of it had to be sent over east for specialist work. That two weeks was not a burden, as colour shooters were long used to it when they did colour slides.

The 6-hour, 3-hour, and ultimately 1-hour minilab was a boon to the industry but a blow to the chemists. In some cases it was a blow to the consumers – some labs did not exercise enough care in film handling or chemical control and results could be wildly variable. Some labs killed films and tried to get out of the responsibility. It was a nervous time there at the end if you were not dealing with a first-class professional lab.

These days we keep digital images far too long in cameras or temporary storage devices before we print the results – and pay the price when drives are lost or files overwritten. But a better alternative seems to have surfaced in the form of Fujifilm miniprocessors in camera shops. They combine a computer interface, a simplified crop and correct mechanism, and a professional quality printer in the one area…and the mechanism can be fed by multiple computer contact stations so many people can work on their images at the same time.

It is quite GIGO so people do need to observe what they are doing with the files, but the results can be done within hours, if not minutes, and Fujicolor paper is very good quality.

Don’t feel too bad for the chemists. When the income stream of photographic processing dried up the market for extremely expensive vitamin supplements came on and the accountants have never been happier.



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