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A minilab , also called a mini lab , provides the entire process of image development in a machine roughly the size of a cabinet, in the field of analog photography often only after film development. Minilabs are often to be found in larger photo stores and drugstores and make it possible to offer photo prints for immediate take-away; thus they offer an alternative to orders from a large laboratory. The originally analog minilabs were superseded by digital minilabs from 1996 onwards, which in turn were replaced in the context of the increasing spread of digital photography by photo printers based on inkjet or thermal sublimation in connection with coated but not light-sensitive papers ( dry minilab ).

Analog minilabs contain a film scanner for small picture and / or roll film negatives, an exposure unit (fluoroscopy of the negative) and a processor for photo paper. Digital minilabs expose the photo paper in contrast to the analog minilab by means of laser or LCD / LED exposure. Depending on the manufacturer, these minilabs can contain a film scanner for negatives and slides. An optional upgrade is also possible. A so-called front-end PC (integrated in the minilab or connected externally) adds further functions: picture-of-picture (flatbed scanner), prints from memory cards (card reader), templates (passport photos, calendar sheets, greeting cards), network services for order Stations or web orders (SimplePrintSoftware) etc., and can also enable self-service by the customer.

The devices can expose photo paper from 10 cm to 30 cm wide, so all formats up to A3 are possible. Up to 1,800 prints per hour can be produced in the 10 cm × 15 cm format.


In 1976, Noritsu launched the analog QSS-1 ("Quick Service System") and in 1979 the digital QSS-2. Kodak followed in 1987 with the first self-developed device. The first Kodak Picture Maker (later renamed Picture Kiosk) with dye-sublimation printing came in 1993. The first minilab with photo printer from Noritsu came in 2002.



  1. DIReporter: Minilab Evolution

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