The Fuji Frontier Printer
for inexpensive, high quality digital prints
Includes work flows for all skill levels
Fuji used a quote about the Frontier printer from our magazine article in their booth.
"These machines are amazing in their capabilities".

Larry and Chris were quoted in the Fuji booth
Sizing your Files for the Frontier Printer
Nothing satisfies a photographer’s vision more than a truly beautiful photographic print. Many of us have spent years in the darkroom, honing our craft and learning how to make really fine prints. Others have long standing relationships with professional labs that they depend on to translate their negatives into excellent prints.

Meanwhile, technology has been quietly at work, bestowing new powers on the humble one hour mini lab business. In older mini labs the machines printed negatives optically, just as you would in a darkroom, but with far less control and quality. The newest devices are far more sophisticated, scanning images in, digitally processing them, and then using solid state RGB lasers to print them on traditional photographic paper. The results are outstanding quality photographic prints, produced quickly and inexpensively.

Of all the new machines being introduced, our current favorite is the Fuji Frontier line of mini lab printers. These machines are amazing in their capabilities. They can print photos directly from your digital camera media, or work with images you have optimized in Photoshop. You don’t even have to be a digital camera enthusiast to benefit; they also do a great job printing 35mm, APS and medium format films.

How does it work?
The key to their quality is a combination of a high quality scanner, sophisticated digital image processing software and RGB lasers that image directly to the photographic paper, eliminating optical degradation of the image.

Fuji’s “Hyper-Tone Image Processing” software automatically performs localized density adjustments for high contrast and backlit scenes, essentially burning and dodging the images, while the “Hyper Sharpness Image Processing” creates crisper images by improving edge definition of objects, shadows, and colors. There is also an automatic “Grain Control Processing” function which reduces unwanted film grain.

The VPS software that comes with each machine also gives you the choice of having your images printed with a variety of borders, as well as on calendars and greeting cards.

The newest Frontier model, the 330, employees Fujifilm's proprietary scratch and dust elimination system that uses an infrared scan to pinpoint film defects and then digitally removes them from the print.

All models use RGB lasers to expose the photographic paper, and process the prints in a modified RA4 chemistry. The CP-48S chemicals have been optimized to improve the print D-max for richer blacks. Fuji Crystal Archive paper is a fine material to print on, and when matched with a Frontier printer the results can be outstanding.

Fuji currently has four Frontier models on the market. Models 330 and 390 are capable of making prints up to 8” x 12”, while the models 350 and 370 can print up to 10” x 15”.

Scanning 35mm Slides with the Frontier Printer
Not many people know about this, but the Frontier printer can also produce high resolution scans (3000 pixels per inch) from 35mm slides and negatives for a remarkably low cost. (Costco's price was 59 cents each!) Over a one week period we had 100 of Larry’s old slides scanned to create a new Film Gallery and two galleries of images for sale on BermanArt.com. The scanned files were 4535x3035 pixels and were saved as 12 to 19 megabyte high quality Jpeg’s. These opened in Photoshop as a 39 megabyte PSD files. Not all Frontiers’ will output at this resolution; it will depend on the IC (image control) software in use. Ask the operator to scan for a 10x15 inch print and that will set the unit to output at its highest quality.
Printing Your Digital Files
If you one of the many photographers who use an image editing program like Photoshop to create optimized digital files, the Frontier can be an excellent output choice. Depending on where you have the printing done, the cost of an 8x10 photographic print can actually be lower than the cost of paper and ink for a high quality inkjet print. And in tests done by Wilhelm Imaging Research, Fuji Crystal Archive paper was rated as having a 60 year display-life, far longer than most inkjet materials.

The Frontier has been designed to treat images that are brought to it on digital media differently than when it scans the film itself. It won’t automatically try to adjust your optimized Photoshop files, but it may crop them if you have not prepared them correctly ahead of time.

Profiling Your Local Frontier
To achieve the ultimate in quality and consistency, consider making your local mini lab part of your calibrated work flow. Ethan Hansen, a professional photographer from Oregon, has created a web site with a database of freely available Fuji Frontier and Noritsu digital printer Icc profiles for mini labs all over the country. The purpose of his project is to be able to hand a client a color accurate proof when shooting on location. Go to DrycreekPhoto.com, and see if a mini lab near you has been profiled. If not, download Ethan’s Frontier or Noritsu profiling target and have it printed at your local lab. Mail him the target and he will profile it at no charge, and add the data to his online database.

The DrycreekPhoto.com site also has a very good primer on color management issues, and explicit instructions on how to use its ICC profiles with Photoshop. If you are serious about consistent, optimized color these tools can help you achieve excellent results with the inexpensive prints you can get from a Fuji Frontier printer.

Step by Step Guide to Optimal Prints
We have outlined three different ways of working with the Frontier printer. The beginner workflow is for people who are used to dropping their point and shoot film off at a one-hour photo and want the same easy way to obtain similar results with their new digital camera. The intermediate workflow is for those people who are experienced in Photoshop or similar image editing programs and like to manipulate their images prior to printing. The advanced workflow is similar to the intermediate workflow with one major difference. This is recommended for professional photographers who want to use the Frontier printer for color accurate proofs to provide clients. We’ve been using the intermediate workflow for our own prints and have been very satisfied.

Note that the features and steps may vary from printer to printer, based on the currently installed software and what the operator has permission to do.

Beginner – You can bring your digital camera or just your memory card to your local 1-hour photo and they will be able to make prints directly from your digital files. In our testing with the files from our own camera we were able to get very good prints straight out of camera. The only issue you will run into is that the images will be cropped when printed at standard sizes, like 4x6 or 8x10. You need to tell the operator to size the images so they won’t be cropped, which will make them slightly smaller with an added white border around them. For example, digital camera files are proportional to 7-1/2x10 and will be cropped if printed on 8x10 paper when the 7-1/2 inch side is expanded to 8 inches.
Intermediate (assuming you’re using Photoshop) – Fuji recommends your image to be in a sRGB color space. Be sure to tell the operator that you do not want any additional adjustment, for although the machine will not automatically compensate, the operator still might try to be helpful by making changes.
1 - Open your file in Photoshop (or your choice of image editing programs) and Save As an uncompressed file as either a PSD or TIF which will become your working original.
2 - Do your editing, correct color, open shadows, crop etc., then Save As "working original 2".
3 - Resize your finished image. Go to Image>Image Size. Make sure Constraint Proportions and Resample Image (Bicubic) is checked. Enter 300 for the resolution and 10 for the width (or height if it’s a vertical). Depending on the aspect ration of the original scan, the size in the height box will vary. Pay attention to the Pixel Dimensions above the size in inches. It should now read 2250x3000 pixels. That's the same as 7.5 x 10 inches at 300 pixels per inch.
4 - Add Unsharp Mask if the image needs to be sharpened. This is a judgment call based on your personal vision and the particular image.
5 - Add a canvas so the image will print properly as an 8x10. Go to Image>Canvas Size. If you're working in inches, change the 7.5 to 8 inches. If you're working in pixels, change the 2250 to 2400 pixels. In both cases, the exact same size border will be added to the 7.5 inch sides to make it centered on an 8 inch canvas. We have gotten into the habit of adding copyright, contact and image file numbers in that border area, but you could choose to leave it white, or black, if you want.
6 - Save As a TIF adding 8x10 to the file name. This will be the file you burn to a CD or copy to a zip disk to be printed. An 8x10 becomes a 20+ megabyte Tif file.
Advanced (assuming you’re using Photoshop on a color calibrated system and have the profile on your computer for the Frontier printer you’re going to create your file for.
Thanks to Ethan Hansen for this example work flow:
A critical element in getting the most accurate color from any printer is the use of a printer Icc profile. Profiles are a translation aid. They allow color-savvy software such as Adobe Photoshop to convert the colors in an image to a range that a printer can produce. Profiles also allow correction of the image data so the final print matches what you see on your monitor. These corrections are made to compensate for how a specific printer outputs color.

Note that using profiles requires disabling all the automatic image enhancement and correction routines that a Frontier offers. Profiles assume that your image is already correct and needs no further work at print time.

Before beginning, start with a well-calibrated and profiled monitor. This is essential: you need to be able to trust what your eyes see on the screen. After your monitor is brought into line, using printer profiles requires some setup, but then becomes a fairly straightforward process.

The first step in using a printer profile is to copy it to the correct folder on your computer. This location varies with operating system:
Mac OS 9.x: Systems Folder/ColorSync Profiles
Mac OS X: Users/CurrentUser/Library/ColorSync
Windows 98/ME: \Windows\System\Color
Windows XP: \Windows\system32\spool\drivers\color
Windows NT/2000: \Winnt\system32\spool\drivers\color
A condensed color managed workflow follows:
1 - Perform any editing the image requires and save the file.
2 - If you are using an application such as Adobe Photoshop that allows soft proofing (simulating on-screen how an image will appear in print), soft proof to the desired Frontier profile. Make any additional corrections necessary to the image. These include adjusting highlight and shadow levels and minor curves or color balance adjustments.
3 - Convert the image to the Frontier profile. This changes the colors in your image file to compensate for how the Frontier actually prints. If your image editing software shows previews, try both the Relative Colorimetric and Perceptual rendering intents to see which gives the best results.
4 - For best results, save the file as in 8-bit tiff format, with no layers. Note: It is advisable to save the modifications to a new file. Once an image has been converted to a printer profile, further editing is not advisable, as the colors have been adjusted to match a specific printer only.
5 - When you print the file ask the operators to print with all the image adjustments, corrections, and conversions turned off. Usually, this is referred to as printing in the "No corrections" mode.
Chris Maher and Larry Berman are photographers, writers, and web designers specializing in image intensive photography sites. Ethan Hansen is an Oregon-based photographer. He was an early digital color management convert, glad to have all the control a traditional darkroom provides without the smell.
Contents of this page © 2002 Chris Maher and Larry Berman and is protected under United States and International copyright laws and may not be reproduced, stored, or manipulated without written permission of the authors.

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