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Boots stores with photo machines

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Most branches of Boots seem to have a self-service Kodak instant photo-printing kiosk, and you sometimes encounter them in other commercial locations as well. We went to a branch of Boots in London’s Tottenham Court Road. The kiosks include a built-in PC and a small dye-sub printer. However, the technology doesn't seem to have been upgraded much in recent years, so the hardware in most of the kiosks is getting on a bit.

This is the only printing service we tested that uses dye-sublimation to print photos rather than silver halide laser exposure. Different generations of kiosk have different media slots. Our local kiosk could print photos in JPEG, TIFF or BMP formats from media such as CDs and SD (but not SDHC), CompactFlash, MemoryStick, MMC and xD.

A touchscreen interface allows you to select the photos you want, choose between 6x4in and 8x6in sizes, and make minor changes to their cropping and appearance, including red-eye removal. Once we’d made our selections, we had to wait around 10 minutes for 25 photos to print. Only a gloss finish is available, and the kiosk we visited could only print 6x4in or 8x6in photos. Some can also print 7x5in pictures.

Kodak instant print kiosk original

In our case, part of the delay was down to the large file size of the TIFF images we printed; smaller JPEG files printed more quickly. Our photos were reasonably sharp with accurate black tones and a decent colour balance at first glance. However, print quality was generally poor and suffered from the slightly dull and overcast quality typical of many dye-sub photo printers. Deep grey shades were too dark, pale shades all seemed to fade to white and bright natural colours looked lifeless and dull. Most of our blind test panel were distinctly unimpressed. Dye-sub prints don't do well in long-term sunlight exposure tests – we've seen the ink peel off in the past – but we only saw a slightly bleached appearance after four months' exposure.

Kodak instant print kiosk faded

A big problem with the Kodak kiosks in Boots is the cost: an extortionate 39p per print if you order between 20 and 50 photos. Kodak kiosks are useful if you need to print a handful of photos in a hurry. However, under most circumstances, this is prohibitively expensive for prints that aren't anywhere near as good as those you’ll get from many home inkjet photo printers. We instead recommend printing at home, going to Bonusprint if you can afford wait for your pictures, or to your local Fujifilm Digital Imaging Service member if you can’t.

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