Printing Dye Transfer: costs

from old notebook… circa 1986, the end of days for dye labs.

Making dyes wasn’t as expensive as you may have thought. By the 80s, it was on its last lap. The large labs knew; only the lollipops didn’t.

These pages are from a small lab, a lollipop. He was late to the game and hoping that he could save money by doing his own work. The prices are from his Kodak rep. The times are from him watching us make prints for him. He then figured whether it was worth it for us to continue making prints. He chose to do the work himself. He didn’t know that our costs were half of what he was being charged by Kodak.

timing for 1st and 2nd dye transfer prints. The cost notations are the clients estimated costs from his Kodak rep.

The catalog pages from Kodak… two of the declining years. Most commercial labs knew the end was coming. Not everyone had the same estimator, nor did they have an exit. Kodak had fewer items at much higher prices. In the end, during that last official call, most of the sales were for chemistry. The film was eventually scrapped by Kodak as unsold waste.

This was a lesson the Efke wasn’t taught. They learned on their own: specialty markets require specail handling. Of the three rolls of matrix-film produced, they sold less than half of one of them. The largest buyer, other than the originating university, was a British lab that never went into production.

Imbibition Notes: Matrix Punch

// Kodak directions were complete. More information was made available in the product datasheet than in the instructional guides. Labs always had access to support from the marketing group. If you were big enough, or persistent, you could talk to the research group well into the 70s; then it changed. The product was on the way out — no one wanted to say. Now, I know that the reason my contacts from the 60s called from home was that the labs weren’t supposed to be talking.

A main Kodak invention for imbibition printing was their film punch. Looks like a very complex paper punch. Not far from wrong, although paper punches aren’t always best for thick sheets of plastic like film.

Pan Matrix sheets came pre-punched to fit the Kodak Transfer table.

An early fight with Kodak was over large rolls of Pan Matrix film. They wouldn’t make it… even though we had many accounts wanting large displays from original color negatives. So, we had to devise the interpositive method — then we had talked to DuPont. And Ansco.

Condax’s patent for registration device and method. April 1945, #2455735

It is the Kodak Blanket, the method used from the first decade of Dye Transfer. The early guides (E-80s) showed its use. This was the time of cut-n-but registration — the form inherited from litho-press plate work. The Condax patent references earlier litho patents.

Kodak’s system for making Dye Transfer prints included large pin system. The film used couldn’t take fine punches; not if you were going to put film off and on many times, such as what happens when making real prints. Theoretical prints could be made by punching glass plates, sadly, real glass plates would snap if you punched them.

A punch for the film + an easel used during exposure + pinned transfer board + a roller for rollup of the mats onto the blank.

This was a standard set of equipment found in commercial and weekend labs. These items went out of production by 1980. From the mid 60s they were specialty items sold through graphic supply houses, not regular camera stores.

In 1968, Adolph Gasser (big San Francisco store) didn’t know about them, nor dye transfer supplies. I worked with them to make my order; standing with them to make the call back to Rochester. A long time ago. It foreshadowed much of what would come to the very small community of dye transfer printers.