Digital Help
Q & A For Digital Photography

sorcadmin's picture

This column will attempt to provide solutions to problems readers may have in getting into and using digital cameras, scanning, and using digital photographic images with a computer and different kinds of software. All questions sent to me will be answered with the most appropriate information I can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in the column. Readers can send questions to me addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug web site, directly via e-mail to: or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Q. I have read your reviews of the Epson Perfection and Expression scanners. What I want to know is, just how much quality difference is there between these scanners (with a transparency adapter) and a film scanner when it comes to scanning medium format negatives and 35mm negatives? I want to scan my negatives with enough quality to print on an Epson Photo printer, perhaps using the new archival inks and papers, for sale to clients. And what is the quality difference between the two scanners?

A. First of all, I would recommend the Epson Perfection 636 to the enthusiast/hobbyist with a limited budget, while I would recommend the Epson Expression 800 to the serious user. There is an observable and significant difference in quality between scans made with these two models. For the purpose you describe, the Expression 800 is essential and the Perfection 636 is not as appropriate.

Q. Thank you very much for your well written and very informative articles in Shutterbug. Also, thank you for answering questions regarding digital imaging via e-mail.
I've been involved in film photography and the wet type standard darkroom work for a long time as an avid amateur and want to start using what is now called a digital darkroom and need some help. My main concern is print quality. I can't afford equipment found in service bureaus but I would like to buy top equipment designed for the mass consumer market.
I know from years past that a large piece of film such as large format produces a superior print in many ways than 35mm. Is this also true when film is scanned and prints produced with top consumer scanners and printers? Is film scanning still much superior in terms of print quality than using a digital camera? And finally, what is the best equipment for home use that you would suggest for a digital darkroom for my goals of producing up to 16x20" fine art type prints in color and black and white and also to be able to scan and manipulate slides for the purpose of putting together slide shows with multiple projectors and sound?
Thank you very much for your help.
Lewis Brown

A. It would be quite easy to write several articles, even a small book, to answer your questions with all the information you could probably use. However, I hope you will accept a somewhat more concise answer to your query.
For those of us who have converted to a digital darkroom, within the constraints you describe, the "photo-realistic" ink jet has been the answer to our printing demands. Specifically, the Epson Stylus Photo 1200 is currently the choice of many who feel they can afford its $499 price. It is capable of very fine, high quality color and black and white printing of photographic images, and with qualities which rival or surpass silver-based color dye prints typically produced by a photo lab. In addition there are a number of high quality archival 100 percent rag ink jet papers now available which add to longevity and superior print performance. Pigmented archival inks are now just becoming available also, and it is hoped both superior archival qualities, as well as image qualities will be achieved shortly with ink jet printers, compared to traditional photo printing methods. Although the Epson Stylus Photo 1200 printer has a maximum paper width of 13", 13x19" is the largest standard paper size, Epson also makes a Stylus Pro 9000 which labs and service bureaus are installing which will match image quality of the smaller 1200, in print sizes to 48" wide, and at reasonable printing fees by those labs and service bureaus.
Before answering your question about scanned film image qualities relative to the size of the original, let me say a few words about digital direct capture. From what I have seen of the latest technology in affordable enthusiast cameras, 2 plus megapixel, and professional medium format digital backs as well as large format scanning backs, in general I would say that digital is now capable of capturing images with greater overall quality than film. However, film does still have several advantages. One of those is in the area of the size/resolution relationship, and relative cost. For instance the affordable, under $1500 digital camera, is only able to capture enough information to make a letter-sized print, without going to extraordinary lengths of processing (interpolation) to enlarge the image substantially. In addition, today a digitally captured image can be quite easily fine-tuned to provide a much more ideal representation of a subject than can be achieved easily with film. You can do amazing things in an image-editing application like Photo-shop, never imagined possible or at least practical in a wet darkroom.
As far as scanning film images goes, I can assure you from over 10 years of intense experience scanning that you can extend the potential, and in many cases make an excellent image out of one that was not even reproducible as film. I have obtained excellent 13x19 print images from a film scan of a 35mm chrome or negative I would not even attempt to print directly, and many more that I would never print from film to a size larger than 8x10. This all depends of course on how much you want to invest in scanning hardware and software, and as important if not more so how much effort you are willing to put into learning and mastering the techniques. I am currently planning to do a test of the Epson Stylus Pro 9000 and Genuine Fractals software to make prints from 35mm and 120 scanned film images at about 3x4' in size. I look forward to being positively rewarded by this experiment.
The one thing I would not be too encouraging and optimistic about is to go from film to digital and back to 35mm slides to do analog slide shows. It can be done and it can be advantageous to have digitally done manipulation in the process, but to obtain the high quality of film recording necessary is a rather expensive proposition. If I were you, I would think about actually making the slide presentation digital (multimedia), particularly because it offers a great deal more potential creatively, and production cost in dollars and time is less. But, good digital presentation equipment if very pricey is something you might want to only rent on occasion.

Q. Regarding digital image perspective control, 100 percent of my photographic efforts involve photographing historical buildings in black and white utilizing a 4x5 camera. The latter is necessary so that I can make the buildings' verticals parallel. I would like to use my 120 film format cameras that do not have perspective control lenses.
I read where Photoshop has a function that will correct verticals (Layers>Transform>Perspective), but I consider the cost of Photoshop too high when all I want is to correct black and white images for perspective, cloning, and dust removal.
Is there a less costly version of Photoshop or another manufacturer's program that will perform the previously stated functions?
Turner O. Veith Jr.

A. The Transform tool is included in Adobe Photoshop 5.0LE, which sells for $99. But, the documentation does not indicate whether perspective control capabilities are a part of the Transform options. Even if it is, because it is a Layer tool, and does not work on the background base image, I would find that it is not as easy and efficient to use as it is in some other applications.
Unfortunately you did not state whether you are using Mac or Windows. If Windows, there are lots of choices, including Ulead PhotoImpact, JASC PaintShop Pro, Corel PhotoPaint, and Digital Light & Color's Picture Window. You might find for the specific functions you described the latter application might be most appropriate, as its perspective control feature has a good reputation.
perspective control is a function I use rarely, so my opinion would not be based on the kind of frequent use someone like yourself would require. So, I would suggest if you have a computer with Internet access, you go to: At the Picture Window web site I believe you can arrange to download a demo version of the application for trial. Otherwise, write Digital Light & Color at PO Box 382908, Cambridge, MA 02238, or call (617) 489-8858.

Q. In the October '99 issue of Shutterbug, you stated that the addition of a second monitor to a Windows based system was of "dubious advantage" and that Windows apps "do not readily support multiple monitors."
You might want to give this a second thought. One of the biggest advantages to a second monitor is the addition of screen space without having to sell your first-born child. Yeah, 21" monitors are nice, but the cost.
With the addition of a graphics card ($70 in the California Bay area) and a monitor ($200 if you don't already have one) you gain a lot of screen space at a reasonable cost.
All this is set up in Windows 98--Windows applications do not notice or even care if there are two monitors. Simply by dragging a window, you can split it between two monitors. Many programs clutter up the screen with tool bars--unclutter it by dragging the tool bars to the second monitor. Tired of panning all over a large graphic or drawing? Spread it across the two monitors. Another nice touch--the two monitors can be set up at different resolutions. To the windows apps it's one big monitor.
This is really a nice feature of Windows 98--and for once--not too difficult to set up. There is a ton of information available on the web. Give this feature another look.
Mike Slater

A. I do plan to give this another look, in part because Matrox now has the Millennium G400 graphics card which has excellent 2D performance and quality color supporting Photo-shop, and allows plugging in two monitors to the card--so you also do not have to use up a PCI slot for a second graphics card, or that additional cost, and the 400 runs in AGP which is much faster than PCI.
However, since the piece you mentioned was written, I have looked at a lot more photo applications--and my remark still holds--other than Photo-shop and Corel PhotoPaint most of the image editors do not have tear-off windows, panels, dialogs, controls, etc., some of which are: Ulead's applications, MGI's, Adobe PhotoDeluxe, and Kai's PhotoSoap (except for the Mac versions), these are frame bound and are the most popular sellers. Unfortunately most Windows developers do not like the open workspace like applications for Macs have, which is much more friendly to multiple monitors--I also use a Mac G3.

Q. I am just starting a digital darkroom and have a few questions. I would like to get a slide/negative scanner and am willing to spend in the $500 to $800 range. Is there a large difference in this range? How important is dynamic range and is it more important than the dpi of the scanner?
As far as printers go, I am looking at the Epson 1200 or the Epson 900. I know the 900 is a four color printer with a smaller droplet size than the six color 1200. Will there be that much of a difference in the print quality?
One last question: As far as software goes, how does Corel's program compare with Adobe Photoshop?
Thanks for your help and I enjoy reading your column.
Danny Wolin

A. Currently my choice for a 35mm scanner in the price range you indicated is the Canon CanoScan FS 2710. I think you'll find in practical terms that resolution is more valuable than dynamic range. Consider that few slides will actually have a density range that matches the dynamic range of the scanner, and will usually be less--and, negatives have a lower density range.
The Epson Stylus Photo 1200 is a 13" wide six color printer which is ideally suited to photo printing. The 900 model is a letter-sized 8.5" wide business printer which will do a good job on photo printing, but not comparable to the 1200 or 750.
Corel PhotoPaint 9 and Photoshop 5.5 are in the same class having quite competitive features. However, Adobe has much more experience and resources to provide the refinement and efficiency in operation that you will not find to such an extent in the Corel package. Both are difficult to learn and use, but if you want the best out of your entire system and investment, the extra cost of Photoshop is worth it.

Q. I am from Germany and have opened a German-French bakery in North Carolina last year. Due to the fact that I photographed with my middle format twin lens Mamiya my entire life (black and white), I am confronted with a problem in regards to uploading color pictures of our products on our web site.
I am well equipped with a 450 MHz Dell, USB, and memory. I am interested in achieving good picture quality. My idea is now to buy an SLR with a high quality zoom lens (close-ups) and a good scanner.
· Which camera and lens would you recommend to me right now (I can choose any system, because I don't possess any SLR lenses)?
· What would be a scanner of your choice?
· Is there any way to scan 2.5x2.5" negatives in a good quality without spending $8000 for a scanner? (I don't sell photos.)
· My last question: Which enlarger system would be your top choice in the US? A system, which is a real pleasure to work with?
I hope I don't bother you too much with my questions. I am looking forward to your answer. Thank you very much.
Hartmut Jahn

For the purpose you describe, although I preferred using a Rollei 6006 in the studio before I retired from that activity, I would rather recommend doing the work with 35mm if the material is to be scanned. For this I would prefer the Canon EOS system and one of their professional quality zoom lenses.
The reason for recommending 35mm is because there are better scanners at reasonable cost for this format than for larger (120 size) film formats. The Nikon LS-2000 (Super CoolScan 2000), Polaroid SprintScan 4000, or the ArtixScan 4000t, will scan slower speed 35mm film to make excellent quality 12x18" image sized prints. Far more image quality than will be needed for use in a web site.
Although I have not used a new enlarger in years, my favorite for anything smaller than 4x5 was Durst, fitted with Rodenstock lenses. However, in recent times I expect there are new and different enlargers which may be their equal.

Q. I'm a new arrival in digital imaging, but a long-time active art photographer. All that I have read gives me great confidence re-creating promotional and catalog items but I'm really confused about the ability to create color prints on an ink jet printer that could be sold with confidence, to be put on someone's wall for a number of years.
Specifically, it looks like an Epson 1200 printer would do my job, but the archival ink question is scary. One supplier is sure that excellent archival inks will be available within the next six months. Other sources say, "Yes but the color may be poor or worse it may mess up the printer function and destroy manufacturer support responsibility." I have learned more real world stuff from your writing than any other source. Your advice will be most welcome.
Harvey Hellering

A. Thank you for asking what I think is a very key question to many, and having the confidence to direct it to me. I have been following developments in this area for several years beginning with Ilford's and 3M's work on stable ink jet inks for large format printers. With large format ink jet printing one customer demand that is considerable is to make large display ads which will hold color even when displayed outdoors. Currently inks meeting these demands are available and are being used successfully. So thanks to that very large monetary incentive fine arts printers have also benefited. This includes inks for Iris printers showing up first as they have been the established high-end printers of choice in art circles.
The first archival desktop ink jet printer inks were very likely those offered by Lyson of England. This first set did not have the same level of saturation as the Epson ink sets for the Stylus Photo 6 color printers. However Lyson has recently announced a new set of inks which are a closer match in saturation to the Epson ink set.
Domestically there are several companies which are contributing in one way or another to this challenge. One that I have been following is MIS Supply. Yesterday I received my first set of archival ink cartridges from MIS for the Epson Stylus Photo 1200 printer. These MIS inks are pigmented and provide 95 percent of the color saturation of the Epson standard ink sets. Obviously I will be testing and reporting on their print performance for a report in Shutterbug in the near future. You may obtain information yourself from their web site at:
The second issue involved is paper. The standard ink jet photo papers are not archival. However, there are many papers being offered, including special artist watercolor stocks, and papers specifically designed and coated for ink jet printing, using 100 percent rag content, that are pH neutral and archival. Some of the paper brands include Somerset Velvet, Concorde Rag, and Liege. One of the leading wholesale sources of these papers is Legion West paper in Los Angeles. For information purposes they have a web site at: Some of these papers are also sold direct by MIS Supply, as well as stores like Samy's here in California.
The third issue involved is a computer related function. Because the color characteristics of a different ink set, as well as a different paper, vary considerably from the performance attributes of the Epson ink set and paper, color management profiles are needed to obtain successful interpretation of the image values in a print. On a Mac with Colorsync it is somewhat easier, but printing from Windows is possible as well. On either platform printing must be done from Adobe Photoshop 5.02 or 5.5. And, in addition either profiles must be obtained for the ink/paper combination from outside, or the user must use software and a flat-bed scanner to create custom profiles for the ink and paper. The software available for this includes Monaco Systems EZ Color or Praxisoft WyziWYG. Once the custom profiles are made for the ink and paper combination, then printing is done using the Profile To Profile Mode function in Photoshop. There is some information on this as well as sources for profiles in the web site of one of the leading color consultants, Brian Lawler at:, as well as at the sites of both companies: and

Share | |