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: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by US Mail to: David Brooks, PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
To aid us in making Digital Help as helpful as possible, please be specific in your query and include components, including software, that you use. David says, “Make me guess the problem and I might guess wrong.”—Editor
More On Bright Monitors/Dark Prints
The Internet is full of comments from frustrated individuals unable to control the overall brightness of their prints. Like me, I guess, most have mid- to low-end monitors—I have two Samsung SyncMaster 2432BW monitors on my Mac Pro plus a recent 24” iMac (all of which are way too bright for their own good). Your article on this subject was a refreshing, honest attempt to demystify color, contrast, and brightness.
I run a Spyder3Elite and before that an Eye-One and further back a Pantone huey PRO—all of which do an excellent job in handling color but do precious little about tweaking the candelas or the contrast. Things are further complicated by the fact that Samsung only writes software for the PC and, as you have commented in your article, the brightness of the iMac is way too high (Sunglasses software does a good job but is hardly “scientific” in its approach).
So, I have taken advantage of the trial offer by Integrated Color (ColorEyes Display Pro) and will begin the evaluation. I am confident, just reading your text, that this is the way to go rather than adding 0.75 of an f/stop to every print!
David Tunnicliffe, AHFAP, FRGS, NPU
Integrated Color’s ColorEyes Display Pro software works but, unfortunately, most of the current home/office LCD displays will not function very well at a white luminance that matches paper white (90.0 CD/m2). The only reasonable cost LCD displays that do are the NEC MultiSync P221W with SpectraView II and my personal favorite, the EIZO FlexScan S2242W (currently replaced by the S2243W).
Q. I see that you’re a fan of the Plustek film scanners. I’m considering purchasing the new 7600i SE because of your comments on earlier models, but would like at least some feedback about it before placing the order. Any comments, or an idea about when you might post a review? I’m a bit concerned about customer reviews on the learning curve of other models—probably due more to the software than the hardware.
A. I received one of the first Plustek OpticFilm 7600i (Ai 6 model) scanners to arrive in the US for my test and evaluation. I did a month’s work with this new model Plustek and my report is featured in this issue on page 62. It is the only new 35mm film scanner on the market that provides good performance for a reasonable cost. It doesn’t need fans; it has no competition.
Film scanning has never been easy, it involves learning serious photo image color correction, adjustment, and editing. But thankfully, Plustek made an arrangement with LaserSoft and uses SilverFast, the best scanning software around. I won’t go into details, as LaserSoft has lots of good information, including video and instructional help, on their website at: www.silverfast.com.
By the way, if you don’t have previous film scanning experience, start with the SE, and then if you feel a need for the features and capabilities the Ai offers, it is easy to upgrade the software. The hardware is the same for both versions.
Scan Res Contradictions?
Q. I recently bought a popular flat-bed scanner since it does prints, slides, and negative film. The 4800dpi optical resolution sounded good and would produce good scans. But I just heard that “it features 4800dpi optical resolution for flat-bed and film scans, and equals a 2700dpi film scanner in terms of resolution.” Did I not miss something? Does it mean that the 4800dpi scan would only be as good as a file from a 2700dpi film scanner?
A. This old saw reappears in one form or another as soon as technology changes and provides better scan performance. Film scanners traditionally have a single linear CCD array of three lines of sensors, one each for Red, Green, and Blue, and a pixel of scanned resolution is created from each sensor. To increase scan resolution more sensors are required, but building a higher resolution single tricolor sensor would demand very small sensor site size, which would be costly to manufacture. Because the site size is small, and less light sensitive, it would make scanning very slow. So the designers created a six-line sensor array, with one set of tricolor CCDs offset by half the sensor width, so each set of sensors is actually reading from different parts of the film. The six-line sensor has large sites so it will run fast and the manufacturing cost will be modest. The fact is, you are getting a pixel of image information for each actual sensor in the six-line linear CCD array, so it is truly optical resolution.
If the critics were right, then the manufacturer’s specifications would be false. If they were, their competitors would have a basis to file false advertising charges, but that has never happened. It is not like a car company advertising its engine has 300 horsepower when it has only 150, which could be easily proven. Similarly, so could the resolution of modern
high-performance flat-bed scanners be proven false if their optical resolution specifications were not true. However, the six-line sensor compared to the traditional three-line sensor has some performance drawbacks inherent to its design, so scan image quality is a little different. Yet, it still reproduces a high-resolution scan just as the manufacturer has specified.
Updated LCD Display Recommendations
Q. At one time you recommended Samsung and LG monitors as possibly being OK for digital photo use, and these are not too expensive. The model numbers (245T and L2000C) have been superseded by new models. Are either of those monitors OK?
A. The LG L2000C and Samsung 245T are now both pretty old technologies introduced at least five years ago. Technology is changing fast and even if you could find a new one in stock it wouldn’t be much of a savings in reality, like buying a car that’s discontinued and has been sitting on a dealer’s lot for several years. My current recommendations are the NEC MultiSync P221W with SpectraView II and the EIZO FlexScan S2242W/S2243W LCD displays.
A Digital Darkroom Can Be Almost Anywhere
Q. I finally made it to Asia and I’m somewhere out to sea at this moment writing to you via the ship’s satellite system. While flying to Hong Kong I was reading the March issue of Shutterbug and saw the advertisement for SilverFast Archive Suite. I have been hanging on to my old Windows XP computer because it has the Nikon driver to operate the scanner, and the last time I looked Nikon does not offer a driver for Windows 7. SilverFast is stating in the ad that it supports the Nikon LS9000 scanner and Windows 7. Am I getting things confused here or is it that I don’t understand the difference between a driver and a software program to operate the scanner? If I had the SilverFast program for Windows 7, will my Nikon scanner work? Would I need to purchase a separate version of SilverFast for each scanner I own?
A. The quick answer is yes. The driver and “software” are one and the same. SilverFast, for many scanners, comes in a light version called SE and a more sophisticated version dubbed Ai 6, with add-ons like IT-8 custom profiling that bring up the cost. For the Nikon LS9000, the SilverFast driver/application Ai 6 software (a single package) is quite expensive and the reason is the hardware demands very complex controls, plus there is a limit in the number of such scanners. But as long as there is a demand, LaserSoft will keep up-to-date with software to run the Nikon LS9000 scanner.
The driver and the software application made by LaserSoft called either SilverFast Ai or SE are one and the same for each individual scanner. Each brand and model scanner requires its own separate and individual SilverFast version as the commands to run and control each scanner are unique and different.
LaserSoft’s SilverFast HDR and DC are applications that will work with nearly all D-SLR Raw cameras. In addition, with the SilverFast scanner applications you can batch process high-bit HDR files and then later use HDR to open and process these high-bit HDR files to a finished working file for printing and other output in either 8- or 16-bit depth, and in any standard file format.
Paper And Monitor Match
Q. Thanks for your comments about getting up and running with the NEC MultiSync P221W monitor with SpectraView II. I should have the NEC monitor soon and look forward to WYSIWYG with the monitor and Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II printer. I had a Samsung monitor and the Monaco system for a few years and spent (or wasted) a lot of time trying to get colors right. I am not a pro, so could not afford the big bucks it would have taken to get a better system 4-5 years ago.
By the way, as for your observation that 90 is the better white luminance setting, I read the same thing in the customer comments on Amazon.com regarding the NEC. Perhaps, however, everyone is quoting you. Regarding your CD, ever thought about including all of your reviews and Digital Help columns? I, for one, would like that.
A. I don’t take myself so seriously that I would believe I am an influence in the color management field. The 90.0 CD/m2 white luminance setting recommendation is simply an average estimate of the results one would get making measured readings of the white value of inkjet printing papers. That is the goal—to match the brightness of paper as the brightness setting for the display. It is based on what can be measured in paper brightness, but not even many photographers have the instruments and software to make such a measurement, although it is available for a price.
Most of the columns and product test reports I have done in recent years are available to read on the www.shutterbug.com website. It makes no sense, at least to me, to duplicate that material when most of the editorial content of each issue is put online for everyone to search through.
LCD Display Choice Should Not Be An Afterthought
Q. Our studio has just invested in two high-end Dell Studio workstations. They both come fitted out with Intel i7 Quad-Core processors, 1GB NVIDIA PCI 2 Video Cards with dual DVI output, and 12GB of RAM (expandable to 24GB of RAM).
The reason for the purchase is that we just traded in our Canon EOS 5D cameras for a Canon EOS 7D and an EOS 5D Mark II. We wish to add HD movie creation to our line-up of creative products. The systems we are currently using are Dell Dimension 4600s with single-core 3.2GHz processors and 4GB of RAM. Our current monitors are LaCie IV 22” CRTs that were purchased in 2005. These monitors are set up on each computer in dual configurations. These system and monitor configurations will not be able to handle HD video editing but still do a nice job with photography. The monitors still profile nicely and we intend to keep these in use along with the new hardware.
Since we will be doing video editing and photo work on the new computers when they arrive, what would you recommend as a dual monitor setup for these new workstations? The workstations were quite expensive and we are looking for a solution that will not break the bank.
William (Billy) Brehm
Riverside Studio Photography & The Maine Location
A. There are only two “affordable” LCD display models that I have tested that actually work for color managed photographic image processing. One is the NEC MultiSync P221W, an HD resolution 22”, and the EIZO FlexScan S2243W, which is a higher resolution (same as most 24” displays) in a 22” model. Both displays reproduce over 95 percent of Adobe RGB color gamut size. Both EIZO and NEC have similar larger-sized displays at considerably higher prices.
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.