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|| News Item: Posted 2003-12-01

The Last Frontier: Adventures at Sam's Club with the Fuji Frontier Printer
By Tom Dahlin

Photo by
Hey Sports fans! Quick Question: How would you like to have a printer that can output over 250 8x10's in an hour at a cost of less then $2 per print, cost nothing to purchase, nothing to maintain and takes up no floor space?

A good deal you say? Here's the catch. You don't buy it. You let Sam buy it for you. Sam in this case is Sam Walton, as in Sam's Club, the warehouse type store chain that caters to small business types.

Here's how it works in a nutshell:

You prepare your photos as you normally would in Photoshop. Size them to a standard Frontier size (4x6, 5x7, 8x10 or 8x12) at 300 dpi. Make separate folders for each different size of print. Burn them onto a CD and bring the CD over to the photo counter at Sam's. Tell the nice operator that you have several files on the CD that you would like printed. Tell them that they should not do any cropping, sizing or adjustments of any kind to them. Usually you can come back in an hour and your prints will be waiting for you.

At the Sam's Club here in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, the costs are:
8x10 or 8x12 - $1.90 each
5x7 - $0.69 each
4x6 - $0.29 each

So why would you go this route instead of using the trusty old Epson? Well, it wasn't obvious to me until I started getting requests for large quantities of prints.

Do a little math on what you spend on Epson ink and media, and you'll find that the prints from Sam's cost about what you'd spend on the Epson media. Not to mention that you get back chemically processed RC paper prints, as opposed to ink jet photo paper. This is an advantage in that the Fuji prints don't smear when exposed to water. I've also found the Fuji prints to be more fade resistant then my Epson ink jet prints (the non-archival types). Add in the timesaving for big jobs, and you have a winner.

For those that are interested, here are the details on the Frontier printer. Fuji makes a line of minilab printers called the Frontier series. The line starts with the model 350 and goes up to the 390. As far as we are concerned, the output is the same; the difference is in the media width (8" or 10") and throughput (up to 2440 4x6 prints per hour on the model 390). It exposes photo RC paper with a laser imager and performs the wet RA4 processing within the machine.

The paper used is Fuji Crystal Archive paper, which according to Dry Creek Photo, holds up as well or better in real world aging tests then archival prints made on an Epson 2000. (See resource links at end of article). A PC World article (Nov, 2002) shows that Wilhelm Research has rated the paper at 60 years, less then the 100+ years for the Epson 2000P prints, but more then the 27 years listed for the Epson 1280.

How I made my portfolio book
I attended the Rich Clarkson Sports Photography Workshop in Colorado Springs. One of my goals in attending was to meet with as many of the faculty members as I could to get feedback on my work. I decided I wanted a hard copy 'book' to carry with me so that I could best take advantage of those little 5-minute opportunities that arise.

Several of the instructors viewing the book commented on how they liked the hardcopy prints and the clean simple layout. Lots of people asked about how I constructed it and what kind of printer I used.

The book consists of about 25 images, printed on pages measuring 9 inches tall by 8 inches wide. I made a cover page with title and added a clear protective plastic front and black plastic rear, and had the whole thing spiral bound at Mailboxes Etc. Total cost of the effort was about $2 per page.

I chose the 8x9 size as it allowed me to position an approximately 5x7 inch print on the page leaving about an inch of black all around it for a background. I also left a little extra space on the left side to allow for the binding / gutter. Each photo was cropped/sized so that it fit within the 5x7 space allotted. I added a thin white border to the image and surrounded it with the black page background. The pages were printed on an 8x10 inch canvas, and trimmed to size manually.

How to make cool promo cards
Photo by
Another neat thing you can do with the Frontier is to make economical promotional cards. An example of one I made last year is shown in figure 2. I simply made up the composite in Photoshop at a 5x8 size. By doubling them up, I can get two on an 8x10 sheet at less then a buck apiece. The beauty of it is I can make up a custom card very quickly. This allows me to tailor the card to a particular client / prospect. I have several different versions (i.e., football, hockey, general sports, etc.) and include one or two with every delivery to a customer.

That's all folks
I hope this little note helps a few of you. I know my life has become a little more productive since I've begun off loading my stuff to Sam.

Resources for more info
There is a wealth of information out there on the Fuji printers. Ethan Hansen's Dry Creek Photo Website has perhaps the best technical information, and is highly recommended. He covers color spaces, profiling, and print permanence. The site is at: He also maintains a database of freely available Fuji Frontier and Noritsu digital printer Icc profiles for mini labs all over the country.

Another good site to visit is Larry Berman's:

He has beginner, intermediate and advanced workflows written in a simple, step-by-step manner.

And of course you can check out the mother ship at:

(Tom Dahlin is a freelance photographer based in Minneapolis. He covers the Minnesota Vikings for NFL properties and Viking Update newspaper, as well as the Minnesota Wild for the Hockey Hall of Fame. He also covers tons of D-3 and prep sports. Tom is an engineer by training, who worked the last 10 years in 3M's Corporate R&D group. He now does engineering consulting half time and shoots sports the other half.)

Related Links:
Tom Dahlin's member page

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