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Digital print booths: Kodak addresses your concerns

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We're obliged to Kodak for getting back to us to answer the questions raised by one reader's recent field test of the Kodak digital print booth as now enjoyed by Boots' customers across the UK.

First, there's the matter of payment. Our man on the streets Simon Prentagast noted that you print out your snaps first, then flash the cash at the counter. Of course, there's nothing stop stop you legging it without paying. Reader Ken Tindell offered:

On the subject of printing photos and walking away, I was shocked to discover that when I went into Sainsburys last week I was able to walk up to the deli counter, order cheese and noone asked me for money! Amazing. All they gave me was a ticket saying how much the cheese was. I mean, you could just walk out without paying. And all those items on shelves, too. None of them are fastened down: you can just pick them up, put them in your pocket, and walk out without paying.

Someone should look into this shocking state of affairs. I think there should be a crackdown on people taking goods and not paying. There should be a law against it. And perhaps some form of Government regulator to enforce a "paying for stuff" policy? The regulators of this "Ofpol" could even wear catchy blue uniforms.

Nicely put. Here's what Kodak has to say:

Payment - it is possible to activate a password so that staff have to enter a password before the consumer prints, thereby ensuring that the prints are paid for. Boots at head office level have made the decision to disable this function and instead site the kiosks as close to the photo counter as possible.

Function disabled? Let's hope so, because here's what happens when it isn't:

Interesting article about the Kodak kiosk. About a year ago I visited the largest Boots store in Nottingham (the home of Boots) and used their own Boots-branded kiosk up there to print my photos off a CD full of .jpgs I'd burned.

The queue for the usual photo service was massive and I was pleased to find that "Techno Fear" had left the kiosk free. I found the interface easy to use and whipped through the selection and size choices. I then clicked the "Confirm" button and was prompted with a message to contact a member of staff to key in the print authorisation code before printing would commence. So being the polite chap I am, I had to get to the back of the chuffing queue

It would have been nice to have been told I would require the intervention of staff before I started the whole "Self-Serve" process. The chap explained to me this was to prevent people "Spamming" the photo printers which are located in the processing lab behind the counter. I guess this also cut out the ability to shuffle off with your prints directly from the kiosk.

It would seem that the Kodak kiosks must benefit from the economy of scale of bulk purchase if Boots have ditched their own kit. Does seem odd that they rely on the integrity of the punter to pay after.

The Boots online service is excellent though. Really efficient and enables me to send pics of the kids straight from the camera to their website and they send the hardcopies to my parents saving me much hassle. For once, something that works as expected. If you haven't seen it, have a butchers.

Thanks to James Jennett for that input. For our extra-Blighty readers, butchers = butcher's hook = look. As regards chuffing, you can work that out for yourselves.

Of course, James' experiences were a year ago. We're prepared to believe that Boots has now dealt with this annoying obstacle to fast-photography and that shoplifting snappers can get back to the serious business of "doing a runner" with their prints.

Now, what about your snaps being stored in the memory so that any lurking paedo can come in and reel off copies of your little one's first birthday party? Kodak says:

Previous pictures button - the kiosk was installed with this function disabled on the request of Boots head office. We can only assume that the store has reactivated it. Would you be able to confirm for me which store Simon visited so that we can address this?

We'll certainly ask him.

Kodak went on to address the matter of price, although most of our correspondents seemed happy with this aspect of the digikiosk service:

Cost - prints from the kiosk are priced at a premium to reflect the convenience of consumer control over selection and free editing functions. Boots themselves have other print from digital options that are slower (e.g. 1 hour) without the editing therefore and at a lower price.

Fair enough. On the subject of editing, here's some final solid advice from Bob Cunningham:

After trying the newest Kodak kiosks appearing in Radio Shack stores in southern California, I contacted Kodak to discuss what seemed to me to be some glaring problems. I have some experience with imaging systems, and was once employed by a company that had been a division of Kodak prior to being spun-off.

First, when you zoom in on part of an image, the system doesn't tell you when the print will start to become blocky or "pixelated". The camera I carry around most is only 1.3 megapixels, so any cropping at all will soon reduce the image to only a handful of pixels. The kiosk will happily print such an image, and the result will have a decidedly blocky appearance. Having some warning before wasting a print would be nice, much less after wasting a dozen prints intended for family distribution. Of course, I've never been asked to pay for what I consider to be "bad" prints, so only my time and Kodak's resources were wasted.

An alternative to permitting pixelation to appear is to "re-sample" the image to insert pixels of intermediate values between the too-few pixels in the image. At worst, this will yield an image that appears to be somewhat out of focus. But it won't appear blocky, which is worse. Often enough, my pictures actually are out of focus, so who's to know?

Having either of these features, a "low resolution" warning or a resampling capability, would greatly improve the appearance of the images that finally do get printed.

My contact with Kodak resulted in an exchange that can best be summed up as: "Well, we thought we were already doing all that stuff." I'm left wondering if they were looking at the same kiosk product I was?

If you print only images containing a megapixel or more (after zoom/crop) at the 6"x4" size (scaled appropriately for larger sizes), then your images will appear crisp and have vivid color.

Alternatively, you can use freely available software on your PC to zoom and crop your images at home, prior to taking them to a Kodak kiosk for printing. I'd recommend doing this anyway, since spending much time standing in front of a kiosk that isn't quite the right height can soon become uncomfortable. It is far better to arrive with images that are ready to print.

Well said, sir. And that concludes this round of the Kodak digital print booth saga. Keep those front-line experiences coming. ®

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