ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — The latest advance in old-fashioned
photography is coming soon: a self-service kiosk that can convert a
roll of 35mm film into prints in as little as seven minutes.

Eastman Kodak Co.’s Picture Maker film-processing stations
will be test-marketed in Detroit this month, with a full-scale
rollout set for later this year in pharmacies, supermarkets and
photo-specialty shops across the United States and Europe.

Last fall, the world’s largest maker of photographic film
unveiled an ambitious new strategy to accelerate its push into new
digital markets. At the same time, it acknowledged that its
traditional photography businesses — a century-old cash cow
— were in irreversible decline.

The kiosks appear designed to plug a gap between
photography’s old and new ways of creating images and perhaps
even slow the faster-than-expected migration of shutterbugs to
digital cameras.

“It is very easy to believe that this could change the
trajectory in the decline of film,” said Kent McNeley,
general manager of Kodak’s consumer output operations.

The kiosks will allow customers to preview, crop, enlarge and
tidy up their snapshots, then print only those they want — a
benefit that digital camera users already enjoy. Instead of
negatives, the machines also will store the photos on a digital
CD.

Digital cameras outsold film cameras for the first time in the
United States in 2003, the Jackson-based Photo Marketing
Association said. As a result, 200 million fewer rolls of film were
processed last year compared with a peak of 781 million in 2000, it
said.

Photography analysts scoffed at Kodak’s notion that film
kiosks might alter those trends.

“It would be nice if it happens but I wouldn’t bet
on it,” said Ulysses Yannas of Buckman, Buckman & Reid in
New York.

Nonetheless, with tens of millions of film cameras still in use,
“there is and there will continue to be a very big market for
film,” particularly in developing markets in Asia and Latin
America, Yannas said.

The conventional photography business still provides Kodak with
the bulk of its profits, so extending its life could prove vital as
the company steers into digital waters. To complete the painful
transition, Kodak revealed last month it is cutting 12,000 to
15,000 more jobs — or nearly a quarter of its work force
— over the next three years.

Kodak acquired the rapid film-processing technology from Applied
Science Fiction Inc. of Austin, Texas, for $32 million last year.
More than 150 new patents used in creating the film kiosk will make
it difficult for competitors to match, Kodak said.

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