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Telepix Filling a Digital Photography Niche

By Jim Bray

Digital cameras are a great way to disseminate your photos digitally, but what if you want to continue filling your family photo album in the manner to which you're accustomed?

Well, you can print out your photos on a colour printer, using ultra-expensive photo paper, but between the cost of the paper and the cost of your ink cartridges, you might as well rob a bank. On the other side of the coin, what if you have a conventional film camera and want to fire photos around the world, or archive them permanently, digitally, and you don't have a scanner?

Ah, a market niche in need of filling!

Well (surprise!), Canadian customers can now - or will soon be able to - head down to London Drugs and take advantage of all that and more. Thanks to Toronto's Telepix Imaging Inc., all 47 Western London Drugs locations will have a full range of digital photo services, like one hour digital photo production facilities that put your pictures onto floppy disks or CD-ROM's, turns them into high quality digital prints you can print out, display on the World Wide Web, or E-mail to your friends around the world.

For those with conventional cameras, you can have London Drugs scan your negatives and upload them to its Photo Network; your "virtual prints" can even be e-mailed right to your home. That latter point is super convenient but, depending upon the size of your image files and the speed of your Internet connection, it would normally mean you'd be watching your e-mail program download the files to your hard drive for a long, long, long time.

Fortunately, Telepix also offers a propriety image compression technology (called FotoSnap) it says speeds up transmission while reducing your storage space requirements. Good. Methinks such a feature is absolutely necessary if you don't want to clog your e-mail server and annoy your Internet Service Provider!

The drug czar (no illicit activity implied!) is still getting the service up and running as of this January 1999 writing, so all branches may not yet have all of the services yet, but they're coming. At the local outlet I visited, they couldn't yet write to a CD-ROM (though they'd farm it out to another local branch that could), but they did have the touch screen terminal by which you can direct the service to get your floppy or zip disk-based files into their Photo Network.

Pricing is still a bit dear, but this isn't unusual for a new technological service. The cost to have a 24 exposure roll of negatives scanned into the virtual world is $10.46 (all prices here in Canadian dollars) for "normal" resolution and $24.46 for "professional." Outputting to photographic paper costs $8.98 for an 8x10 sheet (you can either print one 8x10 or multiple, smaller images, onto the sheet), which at this point in time may make the inkjet printer/photo paper route more attractive for those who have such toys.

I'm assured by a Telepix representative, however, that their ultra-expensive Fuji PG-4000 printer outputs at a far higher quality than you can get from an inkjet, and on "true photographic paper".

Output quality will also depend upon the resolution of the source image and the size of the output print: higher resolutions/smaller prints will give the best quality.

This service may not be for everyone, but it's an interesting way for "old style" photographers to embrace the digital world, while "new style" digital shutterbugs can keep their family albums up to date relatively painlessly.



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January 31, 2006