The June issue of Don Franz’ Photo Imaging News International featured coverage of a presentation which focussed on Fujifilm Europe’s range of silver halide papers. From an Australian perspective, it starkly illustrates the paucity of choice offered to labs and photo specialists by Fujifilm Australia.
The report was part of the newsletter’s coverage of the 2017 Business Forum Imaging conference in Cologne, in which Anthony Pieters (Fujfilm Europe, pictured right) and Rainer Bauer (Imaging Solutions) delivered a presentation called ‘Moving Beyond the Limits – More Profit with the Right Print Offerings’.
The presentation looked at the rich choice Fujifilm is making available to European photo stores and labs. Unfortunately, local Fujifilm customers are ill-served by comparison, as the following table, based on Anthony’s presentation and Fujifilm Australia’s website, shows:– In addition, Fujifilm Europe is considering expanding the range next year with:
• Calendar paper – High quality, no curling of the paper with low temperature an dry/low humidity;
• Gallery paper – Super quality Dmax, high image permanence to preserve expensive and rare artworks.
We asked Fujifilm Australia on behalf of our photo specialist readership why it was that paper options were so limited in Australia and New Zealand compared to Europe and North America. A month went by. When we followed up the response was:
‘Just to let you know that Fujifilm has no comment to make.’
The lack of options means that local labs and photo retailers can’t ‘move beyond the limits’ as they simply don’t have ‘the right print offerings’ – if they are sourcing from Fujifilm.
Digital press problems
Anthony Pieters went on to explain that the new thin-base Album XS paper has been developed to drive high speed industrial/central lab photobook (CLP) production, with some of the major photo book companies which were exclusively using digital presses now installing minilab equipment to produce ‘premium’ layﬂat photobooks: AlbumPrinter/Albelli (Netherlands); MonAlbum Photo (France); eCenter (France); GotPrint (USA).
He said that with double-sided printing on high-speed equipment (Indigo, Nexpress, etc), true layﬂat books cannot be achieved and that based on discussions with top Western European photo book producers, he expected that 75 percent of all online (CLP) photobook production will be layﬂat by 2020 and 50 percent of that will be on silver halide photographic paper, split between Album HD and Album XS type papers.
The thinner Album XS paper enables 50 percent more pages to be produced for photo books without compromising quality, and research is focusing on developing even thinner-base paper (130µm > 110 µm > 90µm) that will be less expensive (printing cost similar to digital presses) and more robust (blocking/fngerprints/waterprooof) for more extensive adoption by CLP companies.
The initial ‘external’ steps will involve sharpening the image (higher text resolution) and faster production (layﬂat binding speed should approach Perfect binding speed). Silver halide book production is also expected to enter the graphic arts market.
Imaging Solution’s Rainer Bauer said that layﬂat technology (offering double-page spreads in large format), XXL formats (18×18-inch), thinner (more pages per book) and more robust photo paper with sharper images, and the high value add of photo paper is driving market growth.
Fujiflm estimates that the total number of photo books produced worldwide in 2016 was 108.4 million.
A breakdown of the consumer markets into the various age groups followed: Generation Y and Z, having grown up with digital images, are considered ‘non-printing’. To attract them, simple, fast-to-use software must be available for printing photo products. The success of Instax cameras was used to demonstrate how this approach has expanded output of prints and booklets.
It’s critical for the future of photo printing to steer consumer behaviour among these people from Instax and booklets to photo books.
Generation Z (15-25 years old) are mainly aware of digital photos from their smartphones and other devices, and their first contact with prints may come through Instax. They may start printing booklets (quick, inexpensive, easy, real photo, and Instagram format) and graduate to the higher quality photobooks, eventually to Layﬂat formats.
Generation Y (26-35 years old) are familiar with photo products from their childhood / youth, want to remember their experiences for various occasions such as weddings, family, travel, or consumption, and have income to afford photo products. They love a full life (look for their status) with leisure activities, parties, travel, weddings, and family and want to share those experiences.
The Quality Group (>35 years old) are familiar with photo products as a print; in the photo album; as a photo book. They have an established lifestyle with a good income, and focus on quality instead of quantity.
What can the industry do to expand the market? Take advantage of the potential of layﬂat formats to expand layﬂat offerings; introduce new products like booklets and new sizes like the XXL 18×18-inch size. Utilize new materials like the new ‘real’ photo papers which are thinner (more pages in the same binding) and more robust, as well as new digital papers.
High-speed production solutions, such as the fastBooklet, fastBook Professional and the fastBlock 4/90/ 2300 are automating manufacture, and the ZBE Chromira 5x ProLab (local distributor, IPS) offers printing on photo paper in more compact facilities.
For more on the Fujifilm Europe range of AgX papers, click here.