The end of RA-4 colour printing?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by jeff_evans|4, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. Hi I work at a college where our students print photos from colour negative in a table top RA-4 colour printing machine. I am aware that Fuji have stopped production of cut RA-4 paper and now only sell it on a roll, I have also heard rumours that Kodak are thinking of stopping production also. Then I heard that both companies are rethinking this decision and with so many rumours flying around its getting difficult to know who to believe. Our machine needs either a very expensive service or an even more expensive replacement so I want to try and ensure there is a future in RA-4 before spending out the money, at the risk of hearing yet more rumours I wonder has anyone heard anymoe rumours???
     
  2. Have you contacted Kodak and Fuji to get the facts and dispel the rumors?
     
  3. Surely you understand that this will be supply and demand decision. It is too costly to maintain a production line for cut sheets if demand has droped off. The C-41 (film) and RA-4 (paper) processes still flourish; the channel is the photofinishing industry. I am talking about the professional photofinisher and the one-hour shop. They will continue for a time however the switch to digital had too much momentum and will continue. Film will soon be seen only at the museums along with all the apparatus of chemical based photography. For now, chemical based papers are quickly being replaced by inkjet and dye sublimation materials. You will still be able to get chemical based materials for some time to come. Likely you will need to purchase long rolls of paper and set-up a cutting and repackaging room (not difficult). My advice is to take into account that the future of imaging is non-chemical. Stated differently, make the move into computer based printing. Invest in the apparatus of the digital age.
     
  4. You should definitely contact reps at Kodak and Fuji to find out about this. When what you've got on the net is people telling you lofty things like "Invest in the apparatus of the digital age," how can you get high quality information? :)
     
  5. "Invest in the apparatus of the digital age."
    What a bunch of B.S. --- sorry, but that't what it is...
     
  6. MY Digital P&S from 2 years ago is outdated. I just took the Kiev 88 and a Rolleicord out today... Hmm good investments I think.
     
  7. While I would love to rip into that bogus "wave of the future" line, the question is about supplies for that tabletop processor.
    What kind of processor is it? What is wrong with your current RA-4 supply line? When I run a quick search for RA supplies, through the internet, I see several major photographic supply sales outlets offering those products. What's wrong with that?
    Let me tell you something, last time a salesman told me a product line was "going away" her store closed six weeks later, and that same product is still sold elsewhere. Sins of omission run rampant in sales pitches.
    If you are teaching those kids RA-4, then keep on doing it. You would not believe what kind of icon-button pushing idiocy we see homogenized into image streams. Or, maybe you do. Keep on teaching them color, because the industry is teaching them how to buy toys and play the designated video game.
    As far as chem goes, everyone who doesn't understand the fundamentals of, oh, the instrumentation of everything, well, those students would be a little bit behind, say, smart people. Keep on teaching chem; we don't have a stupidity shortage that can be cured with clicking on a new icon in postprocess.
     
  8. John's rant about "teaching chem" not withstanding, just how important and relevant is the RA-4 step to the student's future? Do you honestly think that the majority of them will end up in careers as RA-4 processors, repairmen, or engineers? Because professional photographers don't need to know a single thing about running a RA-4 line. They post process their images, digital or film scans, in Photoshop with a greater degree of precision, control, and reproducibility than was ever possible in the old days. Then they print digitally. If they happen to choose an RA-4 printer, it's a closed loop, self calibrated, digitally controlled unit at some lab, and all anyone wants at that point is for the printer to faithfully reproduce the digital file.
    Unless you think your students are hungry for minimum wage careers printing digital snapshots in Walmart photo centers, the RA-4 step should probably be dropped from the curriculum and replaced with something more relevant to the needs of today's working photographers. Walmart seems to have a handle on training the next generation of teenagers who need to fill an RA-4 printer with chemicals and paper, and hand customers the resulting prints.
     
  9. Well I think learning anything photo related gives me more insight to Photography. From learning to mix my own developers to making plastic lenses to put on home made cameras....
    But I digress as this is most likely off topic.
     
  10. More importantly, Kodak is definitely discontinuing Supra Endura, in favor of Supra Endura VC. (It's gone from the website.) The difference is that the VC paper is designed solely for digital exposure (LED or laser), and doesn't have the layer sensitivities that balance out the orange mask in the negative. So you have to use odd filter settings in the enlarger, and use a paper with very high contrast saturation, since the design goal is to have a very wide color gamut. That's great in a color managed digital workflow, it's a minus for optical enlargement.
    So, basically Kodak doesn't see enough market for RA-4 papers for optical enlargement to make any such products in the Endura line. The entire Endura line is designed for digital exposure.
    The only RA-4 paper Kodak's data sheets even mention being available in sheet sizes is Ultra Endura. But that's an old datasheet, and may not reflect current reality. Digital RA-4 exposure devices are designed around roll paper, if they are only making papers designed for digital exposure, why would they make them in sheet sizes?
    I think the only RA-4 paper Kodak makes for optical exposure is Edge Generations, the cheap and nasty stuff for high volume "out lab" photofinishers (a dying market). Some of them apparently are still optical. Of course, roll sizes only.
    I can see this is a pickle for photography schools! Inkjet per-print costs can be financially runious, but you want the students to get fast feedback so they learn about color correction. I don't think many schools have the volume to support a digital RA-4 printer, although the lower volume Fuji Frontier output devices might be pretty cheap used -- but they only go to 8 inch wide rolls. A Durst Theta is mighty expensive. Sending out to someplace like mpix.com is cheap, but the turnaround is slow.
     
  11. Okay, I was ranting; I am partial to Chemistry as a science in general; but, I do think color chem is relevant. People have the same questions about color digital processing as we see with color chem.
    Compare, for example, some early 1980s guidebooks on color photo processing with questions like this thread on the board today, over in "Digital Darkroom": http://www.photo.net/digital-darkroom-forum/00V7zI
    In color chem, when there is an error, it's not about some subtlety. Really, many of the color problems people seem to fuss over these days would have been considered minor nit-picking not that long ago. In color chem, one error, and the whole thing gets a color cast. What correction to make?
    Entire print yellow. Entire print magenta. Bathing beauty has a puke green face. What the @#$%! How do we correct this? Understanding color chem will help guide them.
    Coincidentally, I was one of those teenagers who had to learn color compensation at a minimum wage job. Considering some of the stuff I've heard Photography B.A. and M.F.A holders say, I suspect that some folks could use a hundred and fifty orders needed now while they were at the keyboard of a minilab color printer on a Sunday afternoon.
    I have no idea why people think contemporary computers give users more control when most of the users wouldn't know what to do about a color cast they saw. Yes, the computers give us more control. That's why the operators need to know what button to push. Just because the color adjustment slider is there, doesn't mean the operator will know which one to add, when, how much, or why.
    If they screwed up temperature control in color a few times, they'd start to get it; I bet.
    They should probably add another RA-4 system, judging by the multitude of calibration and color questions out there.
     
  12. Yes in the modern age we learn to make the same mistakes just differently. I think there are too many educated people who skipped 1st grade and it has not made them a better person.
     
  13. Im aware many labs (including Walmart labs) will be going dry printing in the future, using Dye Sub for the process. Its going to happen, and the more labs using it- the high cost of using dry at the moment will go down. Its actually cheaper at this time to continue using wet chemical process for printing. This will change however.
     
  14. I have no idea why people think contemporary computers give users more control when most of the users wouldn't know what to do about a color cast they saw. Yes, the computers give us more control. That's why the operators need to know what button to push. Just because the color adjustment slider is there, doesn't mean the operator will know which one to add, when, how much, or why.
    Photoshop lays the colors opposite each other on the sliders in the Color Balance tool. So if you have a cast of one, you just move the slider in the opposite direction. Complicated casts might require playing with all sliders, but with live preview it doesn't take someone long to balance out or to learn to predict what is needed when. This is just one of several tools that can be used to solve the problem.
    I can't imagine what would justify the hours of study necessary for RA-4 printing when the shorter, more direct path is to just become familiar with one or two Photoshop tools and basic color theory. One requires a semester, the other might take a weekend.
    They should probably add another RA-4 system, judging by the multitude of calibration and color questions out there.
    Studying RA-4 printing is not going to help someone calibrate their LCD and ink jet. They would be better off actually studying how to do those things rather than figure out some unrelated thing.
     
  15. Or shooting and printing slides and Ilfordchrome.
     
  16. "and all anyone wants at that point is for the printer to faithfully reproduce the digital file."
    Oh Lord, there are so many mis assumptions there I don't know where to begin! Let's just say that I think, sadly, RA-4 is a dying market. Colleges, including the one where I teach see paper output whether on analog or digital devices as a luxury. We're lucky to have an RA-4 20 inch machine processor. I recently made some RA-4 analog prints after a three year hiatus. I can't believe how versatile and color sensitive the system is! Move a color enlarger 5 points and it's equivalent to 20 points in Photoshop.
    That said, call FUJI USA. The company overall seems way more responsive to serious photographers than Kodak. the CEOs at Eastman Kodak seem to be on a Kamikaze Mission of short term profits to line their pockets before the whole ship goes down. Of course they'll be the first ones on the Lifeboat...."Ain't That America" To ironically quote the old John Mellencamp song.
     
  17. "and all anyone wants at that point is for the printer to faithfully reproduce the digital file."
    Oh Lord, there are so many mis assumptions there I don't know where to begin!
    Go for it. Why should I care about how the printer works so long as the printer takes my file and produces a print which matches the screen (within reason considering one is a backlit display and the other a print)? Making that happen is a job for the engineers and repair technicians. Judging from the fact that I can get virtually identical prints from digital files from WHCC, Walmart, Costco, Adorama, and my Epson, those engineers are doing their jobs. If you're planning on becoming a printer engineer, by all means those courses in RA-4 are necessary. If you're planning on becoming a photographer, they are meaningless.
    My issue with this isn't a digital vs. film thing. It's a college relevance thing. Too much of college today is wasted on irrelevant, trivial things considering the high cost and often higher opportunity cost of a higher education. If I was attending college for a degree in photography with the goal of becoming a working photographer, I would skip over a college that required courses in things no longer relevant to the profession. Like it or not, a kid graduating today is not going to work an RA-4 printer or spend hours in a darkroom. If they touch film...if...they will be loading it into a scanner and printing digitally. That's the job market.
     
  18. I graduated in 77. Many Years ago.... I remember when Ilfordchrome was Ceibachrome Sorry for the spelling.... I remember E2 and E3 I remember Kodachrome and K12 I remember too much... but what I do remember is loving every moment of getting into Photography...... All because of some teachers who were will to find out or point me to the answer.. Mister Baker and Miss Bonnie In my Small High School in Iowa... Even making 3 color copies on a Copy machine on transparent sheet of plastic to make a color overhead from a B&W negative.
     
  19. Wow!! thanks all, I didnt expect such a quick response, I should have mentioned im in the Uk and I am waiting to hear back from both Kodak and Fuji on this but thank you all for your imput, very interesting!!
     
  20. Jeff:
    I would interested in their responses, so please post them when you get them.
    I have a feeling it's going to be something vague like what they said about Kodachrome and other products:
    "We'll keep making it as long as folks keep buying it."
     
  21. The one thing chemical processing teaches is the need for consistent process control. If you don't have the entire workflow in chemical processing in control, then the results are highly variable. Many people working digitally seem to have difficulty grasping the simple concept of process control.
    Digitally it is much easier than in chemical process, as it comes down to workflow, color calibration, and the correct use of paper profiles. What it doesn't require is replenishment, solution specific gravity, color control strips, densitometer readings, and lab / machine cleanliness - and the myriad of other little things that become so important in a chemical darkroom.
    I see no problem with a semester course in chemical color printing if the students learn one thing during the semester - the absolute need for controls in printing whether done through traditional means or digitally.
     
  22. "Making that happen is a job for the engineers and repair technicians"
    Well if you don't care about your craft, that's true...it's not easier to teach students to profile monitors, sort through a myriad of paper and surface choices, and learn the difference between color profiles and camera artifacts. In fact much of the responsibility for learning to see color has now shifted to the individual shooter rather than the lab.
    If you think you're getting accurate color prints from WalMart, well, what can I say? Enjoy it! We all like McDonald's cheeseburgers once in a while too, but it's not steak.
    FWIW we teach both film and digital work flow at the college I'm at. All kids start out with B&W film like in the old days. We show them how to scan various film formats. College is about learning how to learn, not what you learn. In the currently changing technological world, sometimes that means using various processes. A lot of colleges tossed out analog darkroom stuff a few years ago. Ironically those colleges are buying much of it back at a premium as the current crop of students are in the "post digital age" and seek to use analog as well as digital.
     
  23. RE" The one thing chemical processing teaches is the need for consistent process control. If you don't have the entire workflow in chemical processing in control, then the results are highly variable. Many people working digitally seem to have difficulty grasping the simple concept of process control."
    Here our 36" poster printer from 1994 has one using process control. One prints out the test CMYK square sets and then measures all of them with a color sampler; thihn the rip box knows waht its output is; ie closes the loop. This concept is with a pentium server and NT. Process Contoll of digital printing is even older than this old beast; our 386 rips had it,
     
  24. Yes, Madame Acarti conffirms that the rumour is true and Kodak, Ilford & Fuji will stop manufacturing film and all traditional photographic products on April 1st 2010. All mechanical cameras will stop working on Nostradamus' birthday 21st December 2013.
     
  25. To Mr John O'Keefe-Odom,
    Dear John, keep those chemical darkroom classes going. I agree with Larry Dressler's view:
    "... learning anything photo related gives ... more insight to Photography."
    Photogravure: I etch copper using 19C methods and chemistry, and make corrections and repairs with 15C tools. Every method I use has been doomed to obsolescence, subjected to ridicule and written off by voices in a similar tone to that of Daniel Lee Taylor. It is tedious to say the least. Whenever I show work, or give demonstrations, I am asked if and where I teach.
    I would gladly attend a course in RA-4 printing. I have Leica and Kaiser colour-head enlargers, and even a Thermaphot ACP 302 ...
    00V9N5-196737584.jpg
     
  26. That's why the Mayan calendar stops in December 2012, the end of real photography as an art, and the new age of "point, shoot, upload, and print". I don't know much about RA-4, but I sincerely hope wet process photography will continue for a very long time. Being a photographer, when I see a piece of photographic art, no matter how good it looks, it will always be in the back of my mind: "Did the artist actually develop and print this themselves, how many hours did they spend in the darkroom perfecting this print, or did they just take a picture and upload it to a print lab?"
     
  27. i dont know about fuji, but if you want to get an honest answer from kodak on whether a film product is going to be kept in production, you're better off asking an eight-ball....
     
  28. If you think you're getting accurate color prints from WalMart, well, what can I say? Enjoy it! We all like McDonald's cheeseburgers once in a while too, but it's not steak.
    Cute, but ignorant. Like I said, prints from digital files at Walmart, Costco, Adorama, WHCC (pro lab), and my Epson match with minimal effort. You may dislike Walmart, but the engineers who built the Fuji Frontier they use know more about color than you could hope to.
     
  29. The one thing chemical processing teaches is the need for consistent process control.
    That's a mighty expensive semester diversion into an irrelevant process to teach an abstract idea.
     
  30. The one thing chemical processing teaches is the need for consistent process control.
    That's a mighty expensive semester diversion into an irrelevant process to teach an abstract idea.​
    Daniel, learning is what you make of it. Process control is hardly an "abstract idea" as it is relevant to nearly everything you do - whether it is cooking, baking, welding, metal working, woodworking - or photography. If I looked at all of the college courses I had to take in order to meet the requirements of the universities, I could have chalked many up to useless if I looked at education as narrowly as you apparently do.
    Instead, I look at education as a way to learn as much as you can about as many things as possible. The very first photograph we had to make in my photography curriculum was using a pinhole lens board on a view camera. That certainly would fall under your definition of "irrelevant." But, it was not, as you had to make the same photo with a lens first and then match the field-of-view with the pinhole. What did it prove? It proved to everyone that did it, that you did not need a lens or even sophisiticated equipment to make a sharp image that was nearly indistinguishable from the same image made with a lens. Certainly useless in application professionally, but a learning experience I remember to this day - as it immediately reset any paradigms about expensive equipment and what was really needed to make a photograph.
    Education truly is what you make of it - and I'm sure no one is forcing students to take a course in chemical color printing. If it's offered as an elective, and they want to take that course - what's YOUR problem with THEIR choice to do that?
     
  31. Steve, you are right of course, absolutely, every word of it.
    Quoting Kevin's quote re Larry Dressler's view:
    "... learning anything photo related gives ... more insight to Photography."
    Kevin, I think you meant to say: "Dear Jeff , keep those chemical darkroom classes going."
    So to the bottom line, and back to Jeff with helpful answers, what RA-4 type papers are still around?
    ... to the net for some searching >>
     
  32. Daniel:
    You'd rather, what, everybody just use inkjet? Wet prints, whether optical or lightjet, have not outlied their usefulness - there are looks you can get from them that you can't get with an inkjet, even if you call it "giclee". Whether or not you ever end up doing an RA4 print from a negative after college it is important to understand what it is and how it works. Maybe you can skip over it and just do B&W wet printing which is very accessible but if you can include both, why wouldn't you? Unless of course you just love film v. digital arguing.
    Obviously RA4 printing is still a worthwhile thing to know about, and if you don't know anything about how it works you're just a consumer. It's absolutely appropriate for a college to be able to give the students the option of running their own prints.
    I disagree very strongly with one of the premises people seem to be working from, which is that you shouldn't be teaching anything in a university environment that people aren't going to be using for work in the real world. It's important to develop a historical and theoretical background in the subject matter. This is as true in photography as in any other subject. If you only talk about things that are part of an average "workflow", you're not providing an education, you're providing training.
     
  33. Andrew,
    I agree, to carry that assumption to it's logical conclusion, why teach Cyanotype, Gum, Platinum and/or dozens of other "historical" process? I feel that every process available to the artist allows one to stretch their creativity, especially in a BFA/MFA program, where the artistic vision is paramount and the process is simply the tools to accomplish the end result.
     
  34. "Cute, but ignorant."
    Well Daniel, I'm glad you think I'm cute. But if you took my class likely you'd still flunk, since I don't accept work unless students print it themselves. ;)
     
  35. Russ, you are my kind of teacher. Brilliant! Years ago, teaching English to Norwegian teenagers, I told them that I wanted hand written work only, not the product of Microsoft Office. You should have seen the looks of shock and horror.
    The rich ones with the fanciest laptops complained bitterly. "The teacher we had before you said we could use computers, and the spelling program is great!!"
    My reply: "He had an easy job then. I am now here to help you, and I can't do that until I know what you are capable of, ... " ( At the end of the semester, some of them actually thanked me. )
     
  36. Im aware many labs (including Walmart labs) will be going dry printing in the future, using Dye Sub for the process.​
    Ink-jet I think - nobody has got the cost of dye-sub down low enough, as far as I see. Check out the Fuji Frontier DL410, based on Epson inkjet technology.
    RA-4 is still cheapest per print, by a wide margin, but you need big volumes to make it worthwhile. I wouldn't write it off in roll format for a while yet.
     
  37. " I told them that I wanted hand written work only, not the product of Microsoft Office."
    Kevin, we are of Like Minds then! I recall taking an English Comp class in College, hating it because I wanted (of course) to write the great American Novel. After the first paper my weary professor just handed back my "masterpiece" with enough red ink to cover New York City! I realized I'd better suck it up and learn stuff like grammer, spelling, and sentence structure before I called myself a writer. I still wish I could thank that woman today....
     
  38. The hidden premise in Daniel Lee Taylor's remarks is that college or education is to be viewed only as a means to either a financial end or workforce end. To those that consider education useful for other things - like learning for the sake of learning, including learning abstract ideas, attaing a wider sense of historical perspective, etc. - the points about the irrelevance of RA-4 chemistry probably seem less useful than to those merely looking for entry into the workforce.
    I work with and know many degreed engineers. I don't know many of them that uses differential or integral calculus in their jobs, ever. Yet nearly all of them took at least 2 semesters of calculus before getting engineering degrees. If we adopt the only-useful-to-workforce-entry type of attitude, I suppose we could argue that schools ought to stop making engineers learn calculus.
     
  39. It would mean a total prostitution of Universities - the death of Academy
     
  40. Just because these companies are closing down, just watch and someone else would pick up the film production. There is a company doing to bring back the 600 polaroid film I heard.
     
  41. Maco/Rollei has already picked up some of the old Agfa line and is using Agfa to produce it.. not the same but close... The Agfa plant in Germany was torn down all equipment sold as scrap... Film is not dead it will still be around and I see B&W lasting the longest..
     
  42. Personally Im concerned all labs remaining will be going for ease of use over quality. I've seen dye sub prints and RA-4 prints kill dye sub in quality. Try enlarging a print from a scan of a dye sub print and you'll see what I mean. Ink jet prints are speckled in quality and pray you don't get water on them or the print is ruined. Personally RA-4 gives the best result, but labs don't want to screw with wet chemicals to make them anymore. To think dry printing will be any safer or easier (think toxic inks or printers constantly needed cleaning or repair), is a joke. I've been working in a photolab for 12 years now and I've seen so many changes during that time, that frankly Im not comforted by the desperation of labs to keep the business running. We haven't been as busy since digital took off as in the film days. Each year we get slower and slower.
     
  43. Then time to separate yourself from the others I say.
     

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