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Printing Your Digital Photos

A huge effort is in place right now for local retailers selling the service of printing digital photos. Since I do not have a photo printer, I have been interested in comparing these services. So one day while I was in So Cal a few weeks ago I drove around Huntington Beach and tried printing photos directly off my Sony Memory Stick Pro card. Here is a semi-brief rundown of my experience:

Target
Target advertises $0.29 4x6 prints. They have a Kodak self-serve kiosk that you can walk right up to. This Kodak kiosk has a PC Card slot, and a CD-ROM drive. To use my Sony Memory Stick card I had to request the PC Card adaptor from the store clerk (No notice saying this, but it was obvious that was my only option). The clerk saw that I had a 256 MB Pro card and immediately said, "Oh these cards don't work with this Kodak machine". Apparently the Kodak kiosks only work with the original Memory Stick cards (128 MB or less, blue sticks). He said that his machine might be able to read it, but he tried and it could not read it. He also said that the Kodak machine was about $6 a print (print being an 8x10 sheet that I could fit as many photos onto as I wanted), and that to get the $0.29 a print price I had to give them my card and have them print all the photos on the card. But in any case, they could not read my card, and if I wanted to print my photos at Target I would have to go home and burn the photos to a CD and then return. The clerk did however tell me that if I go to Kinko's that, "they can print anything". So next...

Kinko's
Here I found a Sony self-serve kiosk that had the following pricing: $0.59 - 4x6; $1.89 - 5x7; and about $4.50 for an 8x10 (sorry I can't remember the 8x10 price exactly). I put in my Memory Stick and it recognized all my photos. The UI (user interface) was a little awkward. I had to select upfront if I wanted to go into 4x6 printing, or 5x7 printing, 8x10, and there were other options for seasonal card, calendars, etc as well. It appeared that when I was in the 4x6 printing mode, that I had to complete printing all my 4x6 photos, then restart the whole process and go into 5x7 printing mode to get the single 5x7 print that I wanted. This was inconvenient and it slowed me down. The prints were instantaneous which was great, and better quality prints than I think I could get from any home printer (from what I have seen). This Sony kiosk had a scanner built-in as well so you scan in existing photos and print them from the kiosk. After getting home I notice that one of the prints (the 5x7 I was planning as given as a gift to my sister) had some problems: A) The area around my sister's eyes were really dark, and B) My son's facial features were washed out and he was very pale. I had done some editing to the photo in Photoshop prior to bringing in the photos for printing. So I compared the Kinko's print, to my Notebook LCD screen. I could definitely tell that the image on my LCD screen did not have these problems from the print. I know that you can't always expect the same thing when going from screen to print, but I wanted to be sure, and test out some more places I had seen advertising this service, so on to...

Wal Mart
Wal Mart advertises $0.24 prints ready in 1 hour. Other pricing 1 hour pricing: $1.47 - 5x7 and about $3.00 for an 8x10 (sorry I can't remember the 8x10 price exactly). The store I went to had two self-serve kiosks for their 1 hour digital photo printing, plus one of the same instant Kodak self-serve kiosks similar to what I saw at Target. This Kodak machine was definitely different though, it had a built-in scanner like the Sony kiosk I found at Kinko's. I ignored the Kodak kiosk and went to the 1 hour machines because at this point I was more interested in getting the $0.24 price and didn't care about waiting the hour for my prints. The kiosk had like 12 different built-in slots for all types of camera media, and a CD-ROM drive. There was no problem with it ready my Memory Stick Pro card. The UI was very nice, and I could select multiple sizes of a photo from a single screen. I did notice that one photo was a little darker than I wanted, so I used the adjustment tools and lightened it up a bit. There was also a red-eye removal tool available, I didn't use this feature, but I plan to at a later visit. The process did require that I enter my full name and phone number. When I was done it printed out a receipt and a time to return for pick-up. I never had to speak to a single person. Out of curiosity I tried my card in the other 1 hour self-serve kiosk, I could immediately tell that the kiosk was slightly different than the one I just used 10 ft away, the slot for the different media types were arranged differently. This 2nd kiosk was unable to read my Memory Stick Pro card. I returned later the same day to pick up the photos. They were printed apparently by the same Fuji Film machine that prints the regular film photos at the store. The quality was excellent, and had a more matte finish than the instant photos I got from the Sony kiosk I found at Kinko's. And I compared a new 5x7 print of my sister and my son to the original 5x7 print from Kinko's, this time the photo was dead on to what I could see on my LCD, and had the exact look I wanted. On the way home I stopped by...

Walgreens
I have recently seen Walgreens also advertising $0.29 4x6 prints. From what I can tell they have the exact same Kodak self-serve kiosk I found at Target. I had to request the PC case from the clerk. This kiosk had the same problem I found at Target where it could not read my Memory Stick Pro card. This time around the clerk had no idea why it wasn't working, and questioned whether or not I was inserting the card or not. The clerk had no other solutions for me.

Comments
I must admit that my comparison is not the best for the following reasons: A) The Sony Memory Stick Pro card seems to not be widely adopted, if I was using a more common media I could have successfully printed my photos from all the locations I visited. B) I bet each location of various stores will have different kiosks. It was apparent at Wal Mart that their two 1 hour kiosks were different, and one accepted my card and the other didn't. I bet that not all locations have the newer kiosks.

Conclusion
Go to Wal Mart if you have one nearby. The quality of the prints were excellent, but the price is where they really win hand's down.
5 Comments

User Comments

Wednesday, January 14th 2004
We have been using ritz camera it is also called wolf camera in other parts of the country. It is cool. It is in the mall and about the same price per print. Ours has a kiosk and we have been happy with it. They also said that soon they will have a better one that can read every type of media and do some editing functions as well.
Also, ritz told us that we shouldn't and even that we couldn't edit the image before printing because the image would become unreadible to the kiosk. I haven't tested it, so that is interesting that you were able to do that. Nice work.
Wednesday, January 14th 2004
Yes, printing the images I had editing in PhotoShop was no problem for both the Kinko's and Wal Mart kiosks. I actually did the Lomo effect which I think can (at times) make an image look way cool.
Wednesday, January 14th 2004
If interested, here is a link you can see the exact manner in how I used the lomo effect.
Thursday, January 15th 2004
In reference to the image in the above link, is the fade to black around the border of the image part of the effect or is it part of the lomo? It is cool.
Thursday, January 15th 2004
Yes it is part of the lomo.

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