Q&A For Digital Photography
Digital Help is designed to aid you in getting the most from your digital photography, printing, scanning, and image creation. Each month, David Brooks provides solutions to problems you might encounter with matters such as color calibration and management, digital printer and scanner settings, and working with digital photographic images with many different kinds of cameras and software. All questions sent to him will be answered with the most appropriate information he can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in this department. Readers can send questions to David Brooks addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug website (www.shutterbug.com), directly via e-mail to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or by US Mail to: David Brooks, PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
Q. I received a copy of CS3 as a gift a few weeks ago. I purchased Photoshop for Dummies but, since I can’t read it and work on it at the same time, I am having a problem using the program. I figured that my best bet would be to take a class on the application but am having a tough time finding one. Can you please give me direction on where I would look to find an inexpensive course? Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
A. It seems from your remarks that you are a digital photography novice with little to no experience using a computer to deal with digital photographs. Photoshop CS3 is a very advanced and sophisticated application, way beyond what you may need initially, and contains almost no built-in instructions or self-help training. You would be much better off with Adobe’s Photoshop Elements, an application for enthusiasts that does have a lot of built-in learning support and sells for under $100.
But for an initial learning experience there is even something simpler that has no cost. Just go to www.photoshop.com on your web browser and explore what is available.
CF Card Woes
Q. I use an iMac running OS X 10.5.8. I recently purchased a Lexar 8GB 233x CompactFlash (CF) card. I had trouble using the card and Lexar replaced it. With the new card I still have problems. For example, I am unable to format using Disk Utility. I can format in my Canon EOS 40D, shoot pictures and review them on the camera’s LCD. When I try to download, no luck. The card will not show up on the desktop! I have used three different readers, USB and FireWire 800 with no luck. When I format the card on a Windows machine I am okay until I delete pictures or reformat in the camera, then it is unusable. I can use an 8GB SD card with no problems; this issue is strictly related to the CF card. Lexar says it is Apple’s problem; Apple says it has to be Lexar. Do you have any ideas?
A. I am not an expert on CF cards any more than I am an expert on automobile spark plugs. But they are really the same kind of thing. Whether it is a Chevrolet or a Mercedes, if a spark plug does not work with a Chevrolet or a Mercedes it is NOT the automobile’s fault, it is the spark plug’s.
Q. I am a regular reader of your Shutterbug column and blog, and am considering buying one of three printers. I understand that the 1400 is dye ink based, but the longevity of the Claria inks is sufficient for me. My question is whether the quality of color prints from any of these printers would be significantly better than the others, ignoring the longevity or black-and-white differences between them.
A. If you are not concerned about long-term print life, the question really is between dye and pigment ink printers. And, that is best answered by the kind of paper you prefer. If you like the RC photo paper look in glossy or luster surface, then the dye ink printer is the better choice, and if you prefer printing on real paper that is matte surface, then the pigment ink printer is the best choice. Among dye ink printers worth considering, besides the Epson R1400, is the Canon PIXMA Pro9000. Among pigment ink printers, if black and white is not a need, the Epson R1900 would be the better choice.
Film Scanner Options
Q. I am interested in purchasing a scanner primarily for 35mm slides and to a lesser extent negatives. How does the Nikon 5000 ED compare to the Epson V700, Pacific Image PF7250 Pro3, or Plustek OpticFilm 7500i? Which unit delivers the best results? Which unit is the easiest to use?
A. If you want “easy” do not plan on doing your own scanning—have the scans done for you by one of many scan services like www.scancafe.com. Scanning requires learning and a lot of practice to get good at it.
Nikon scanners are no longer in production and to my knowledge will be unsupported after the current stock are sold out. The Nikon 35mm film scanners are relatively old technology and although the scanner was one of the best mechanically, more modern scanners for much less money now do a better job. The only dedicated 35mm film scanner I currently recommend is the Plustek OpticFilm 7500i SE or Ai 6. The Epson flat-bed scanners are useful for print and larger format film scanning,
but not as good for 35mm film scanning as a dedicated 35mm film scanner.
From CRT To LCD
Q. My old CRT is about to give up the ghost, so I have been following your recent answers to questions about LCDs with much interest. The NEC P221W monitor with SpectraView II software, which you mentioned in your October 2009 column, might be just what I am looking for, especially if the software allows adjusting the screen luminance without throwing everything else off. Can you tell me whether it is able to do that? I am eagerly awaiting your full review on that product, and doing what I can in the meanwhile to keep my old monitor going.
A. I have had SpectraView II and a P221W monitor in my lab for over a month and I did a lot of very satisfactory work. The report for Shutterbug will be just as favorable as my earlier assumptions, which you referred to. This is a wide color gamut display and the new SpectraView II supports very accurate adjustment, calibration, and profiling that can be set to exactly match the brightness of inkjet printing paper. So it will in fact provide both color and print density matching between the display and output.
Q. I’m concerned that scanner technology will plateau (if it hasn’t already) and film users will be scrambling to find scanning equipment in the near future. I have a service here in Washington, DC that scans negatives that I then have printed by Bob Korn on Cape Cod. I still need something for myself, though, for upcoming book projects.
A. Scanner technology is the oldest form of digitally accessing image information, going back to the late 1930s. It is not dependent on photo scanning per se to continue to advance, as the core facilities like CCDs are being used by a number of different kinds of devices beyond photography. The market of course changes and more people are making new photographs with digital cameras, but only, to a large extent, in some parts of the world. So film and paper image scanners closely associated with other similar devices will continue for a very long time as the number of images on film and paper in the world is very large. And my experience has been that digital cameras have actually increased the interest in using a scanner to digitize libraries of photographs to a more secure and accessible digital media. The main change is that the devices that are current are more affordable and designed for a broader, less affluent market.
As for having others do scanning and printing, I would never, ever even think of it. Another person and their vision cannot see what the image should look like to me.
For years I had color prints made by a professional lab and was never satisfied with the results, and I am happy that era has been replaced with technology that allows me to do it right.
Profiled For Photography—Now What About Other Uses?
Q. I have been using the Spyder3 and the Spyder3 utility to calibrate my monitor as you described. I was able to, with my Gateway LCD, adjust the luminance to 90.0 CD/m2 as you described, and my photos are printing to my satisfaction in regards to their brightness. However, I am finding that using my monitor for non-photographic purposes, such as reading Shutterbug online, is now more difficult as I prefer a brighter screen for reading. Is there a way to set a second profile so that I can specify which profile to use depending on my purpose?
A. The only time you really need the display running according to the calibration and profile is when you are editing photographs and printing them. You don’t need two profiles as the profile does nothing for other kinds of computer use. So, I would recommend clicking on the menu button of the display and reading the on-screen-display Brightness and Contrast settings used to obtain profiled functioning. Write the numbers down so they are not forgotten. Then increase the contrast for a brighter screen for non-photographic use, and turn the contrast back to the profiled setting before you shut down the computer.
LCD Display Choices And Options
Q. I am a recent subscriber to Shutterbug and find your Q&A column very helpful. Currently I am researching an LCD monitor for image processing with my MacBook. I’ve followed your recent Q&A columns and still need some clarification on a few points. You don’t make much mention of the LaCie line—is there a specific reason for that? There are several at price points below the EIZO and I would like to know your opinion of the products. Do the hoods that come with certain EIZO and LaCie monitors really make a difference? Could one construct a homemade hood to attach to one of the Samsung or ViewSonic monitors—or would it be too much guesswork to do it properly? What is your opinion of the 24” Apple Cinema Display for image processing? If I was to purchase a LaCie monitor with a colorimeter would I still need to get a separate color management system? Lastly, do I need to calibrate the screen on my laptop as well as the external monitor for accurate color reproduction?
A. I did cover a lot you are concerned about in the August 2009 issue of Shutterbug, which you can read at: www.shutterbug.com/techniques/digital_darkroom/0809prints/.
I have not reported on LaCie LCD displays for a while mostly because they did not have anything new, until the addition of the 700 Series on which I am just finishing a report. They are really exceptional RGB LED LCD displays that reproduce from 114-123 percent greater color gamut than Adobe RGB (1998). They are very expensive, but worth it. I also have had one of the 300 Series for 3-4 years and it is good, but now a little out of date.
Display hoods are supplied with professional displays because the overhead lighting in offices and labs is a problem to control. Whether a hood is needed or not depends on whether you have control over your workspace lighting. Display hoods are available from dealers like B&H or Adorama for specific LCD display sizes and at costs that are not so great. It would not be worth trying to make one because the problem is usually in building a way to fasten the hood in place.
The Apple 24” LED LCD display made primarily for MacBook Pro computers is appealing but is not suitable for digital photography processing. It is much too bright and Apple does not provide a Contrast adjustment to reduce the White Luminance level. But ColorEyes Display Pro does offer software and a colorimeter that will allow adjusting, calibrating, and profiling iMacs, MacBooks, and Cinema Displays. However, I have not tested this newest 24” LED display because I do not use a MacBook, and tests of earlier Cinema Displays were disappointing.
The LaCie displays that are offered with Blue Eye and a hood include LaCie Blue Eye software for calibration and profiling.
You can calibrate and profile the screen of your laptop but unless you get the ColorEyes Display Pro, it is a pretty useless operation and provides insufficient support for color managed printing.
With the Apple Mac system you can, with the System Preferences, choose the display to profile and leave the other one unprofiled. Each function independently and have no affect on each other.
I am pleased to announce a new Fourth Edition, adding four chapters to my eBook DIGITAL DARKROOM RESOURCE CD. The CD now contains 30 chapters totaling 359 pages in Adobe Acrobat .PDF format, providing easy-to-read text and large high-quality illustration. The CD is available for $20 plus $4 shipping and handling (US Mail if available). Ordering is as simple as sending a check or money order for $24 made out to me, David B. Brooks, and mailed to PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
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