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
Q. I have been reading your comments to many readers over the past several months regarding monitor calibration, brightness levels, and dark prints. I am using a Windows-based PC, running 64-bit Windows Vista, with an NVIDIA 750 SLI graphic adapter built into the motherboard.
I print to an Epson R1900 using profiles specific to the paper. The printer driver is set for ICM with no correction by the driver. I generally print from Nikon’s Capture NX2. Most of my images are Adobe RGB captured in 12-bit Raw and the color space is maintained except when posting to the web or e-mailing for others to print.
My monitor is a LaCie 320. Since I bought it (about three years ago), it is probably used on average four hours per day. I have followed your tips and worked to get my monitor calibrated to print what I see, however, I continue to get dark prints. I use a Spyder3Elite calibrated to 5000K, 90 CD/m2. I have even tried lowering it to 80 CD/m2. When I calibrate, I do it when it is dark outside to minimize extraneous light. I tried it in the dark, and also with my normal lighting described below.
My work area is kept dim (one light strip of SoLux daylight-balanced mini spots bouncing off the ceiling). The monitor is recessed under a deep shelf (20”) and also has a hood. No light directly hits the screen. The Spyder is set to adjust for room light.
To get the monitor brightness to 85 CD/m2, I have adjusted the brightness controls to about 70 percent. Since this still results in prints darker than what I am seeing on screen, I have tried further reducing the brightness with the monitor controls to a level that is close to the print. That means reducing the monitor brightness to about 25 percent. At that level the screen is too dark to be useful for much else, and it’s very difficult to read menus and text. That doesn’t seem to be the right answer. I also used a trial edition of ColorEyes to calibrate the monitor, but the results really weren’t much different than from the Spyder3 software (also the latest version).
What am I missing in this process that is still giving me dark prints?
A. I’m sorry that you are still getting dark prints. You did mention the display, a LaCie 320, but not why you are running it at 5000K. The latter does not make any sense to me unless you are producing for an offset press. Without being there and seeing what you have and are doing, I have few clues. But the display brightness control has little affect on setting the white luminance, the Contrast control does. That you are working with Microsoft Vista, considering it does not support using a color managed display, is also curious.
I have several computers and two displays in my lab, one also a LaCie 320, and process images a lot and make test prints. Both displays have a measured white luminance of 90.0 CD/m2, but at 6500K—I don’t get dark prints unless I make a color correction error, and I do that only occasionally.
(Note from David Brooks: After further e-mails back and forth, the causes were discovered and hopefully corrected.)
Websites Do Not Assure Accurate Reporting
Q. Have you seen the following review online: www.filmscanner.info/en/PlustekOpticFilm7600i.html?
According to that review, the maximum tested effective resolution of the Plustek OpticFilm 7600i scanner is 3250dpi, which is worse than the previous model. This is not to say that it is a bad scanner and, based on your advice, I’m planning on buying one. My Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 II does not work with any Mac OS higher than 10.3. Rather than upgrading the driver for the Minolta, I think it is more economical to buy the 7600i Ai, especially when it produces sharper images and has SilverFast features that the Minolta doesn’t.
Peter W. Post
A. The reviewer is using old analog film sharpness charts as a way of determining scanner resolution. That is digitally illiterate and unscientific and would depend highly on the user and the original being scanned, which is analog. His measurement is a visual lines per inch analog sharpness reading, not optical resolution.
Scanner optical resolution is determined by counting the number of pixel sites in the linear CCD array. Resolution in digital has nothing to do with measuring sharpness. The term “resolution” in digital refers to the pixel size of a digital image that is created by a linear array CCD sensor, not how sharp it is in terms of what it reproduces from a film test chart.
I am currently running Apple OS X 10.6.4 Snow Leopard and did a few scans the other day with my DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 II using SilverFast from the Apple Mac OS and also running it from Windows XP Pro using the original Minolta software.
I would state, based on doing hundreds of scans using the SilverFast Archival Suite and iSRD with the Plustek 7600i, as well as a big bunch of scans using the new Canon CanoScan 9000F which has an optical resolution for film scanning of 9600x9600 pixels, that this new gear is very good.
Get The Most Performance For Your Dollar
Q. I am scanning mostly silver-based film. On rare occasions I have shot with C-41 chromogenic, but not often. I use only the Epson software, which I have come to be familiar with, shortfalls and all.
If from a hardware point of view you think that I wouldn’t see much of an improvement by the V600, V700, or V750, maybe I should consider redirecting my budget toward buying LaserSoft’s SilverFast Ai 6 software for my V500.
If a user of the Nikon LS-9000 ED scanner were to upgrade their OS to Windows 7 (assuming that Nikon’s original drivers/software isn’t compatible with Windows 7), then couldn’t the user purchase LaserSoft’s software to operate the Nikon scanner with Windows 7?
A. For most of the last 15 years I have tested and reported on more different scanners than I can count, and for most of them I have always included how they perform run by LaserSoft’s SilverFast software. It is not fair to the hardware or the users not to do so.
If you have never used SilverFast, the light and easy version for the V500 only costs $49, not much of a load on any budget. As for the Nikon LS-9000 ED, the price of SilverFast for it starts at $398, and that’s more than any good scanner costs on the market today, except of course for an Imacon Flextight.
Rumors, Ads, And Presumptions
Q. I was recently talked into going digital (after about 45 years of shooting film). I have been shooting with a Canon EOS 10D and processing the images with Canon’s Raw processor and Photoshop 7. I am now considering upgrading to a more current camera with 16-21 megapixels. The Dell PC I have been using is apparently not powerful enough to deal with the files the new camera will produce. I foresee buying a new computer also (how much film would all of this buy?). The question is PC or Mac. I regularly see ads for PCs with 1TB for half the price of Macs with hard drives a third the size. If this is a fair comparison, then it seems logical to save the money and spend it on a better display. I have several friends who use Macs but none of them can explain why I should spend so much more for a computer with a much lower specification. A little clarification would be a great help as we are talking about a substantial investment.
A. The question of PC vs. Mac would probably take all the space in this column. I have a chapter several pages long on my Digital Darkroom Resource CD (https://sites.google.com/site/davidbrooksfotografx/) just covering the applications and utilities Apple provides without any extra charge, but that you have to add to a Windows PC, if available, and, in many cases, have to purchase. As to cost, I have been recommending Apple’s Mac mini computers for digital photography and a new model just came out with a base price of $699. I am not an “Apple Mac person.” I started doing digital photography in 1989 with PCs and stayed with Windows exclusively for 10 years before I got my first Apple Mac, and still had an IBM Windows PC until just a couple of years ago. Now Apple Macs can run both their own Apple operating system and Windows, as well as MS-DOS or even Linux, all on the same Apple Mac computer.
You are right about one thing—you don’t need an expensive computer to do digital photography. However, if you want to do quality photo editing with a computer, you do need a good pro-level LCD display, so that is the best place to spend your money.
Old Workarounds Are Obsolete
Q. Many years ago you wrote an evaluation on an Epson 636 scanner and based on your recommendation I bought it. My goal was to scan 50-year-old 21⁄4 square and 4x5 film color slide material and black-and-white negatives. That scanner died and I replaced it with an Epson 2400 and I’m finally getting around to that project. I am confused about scanning black-and-white negatives. Your article on the Shutterbug website calls for scanning as a negative; I have read other articles that suggest you scan as a color image and discard two of the color channels in Photoshop. What is the difference and which one should I use?
A. Years ago with older scanners some believed you obtained more complete and accurate scan information from a black-and-white scan if scanned using all three RGB sensors. Considering the grayscale scanning is done with one of the RGB sensors instead of all three, there may have been some merit in the theory, but in my more recent evaluations nothing was gained and a lot of time spent processing more data was wasted. All of the better photo scanner brands and models seem to do as well scanning in Grayscale mode as color. Scanning as a positive just means more work in post-scan photo editing and processing. A while ago there was some advantage in this as older scan software was not very effective making the inversion from a positive to a negative and the algorithms were less than ideal for adjusting the scan sensitivity from a low-density black-and-white negative to a positive scan result. With LaserSoft’s SilverFast scanner software there is an adjustable film term selection in NegaFix for negative scanning that allows an accurate interpretation of the density of different negatives that supports precise negative scans.
Adjust, Calibrate, And Profile The Display
Q. I need some help with printing in color. I have an iMac. It is a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 with 8GB of RAM and 1067MHz DDR3, running Mac OS 10.6.4. I print to an Epson Stylus Photo R300. I realize this printer is old but, so far, it has produced some great pictures for me. Plus, it permits me to print on CD/DVDs directly, which is a great feature. At times, though, it prints pictures that are far from what I expected in terms of color. Is there a calibration device that would help me set up both my iMac and the printer? I would love to see all of my pictures come out the way I expect.
A. Yes, there is calibration and profiling you can use with an iMac called ColorEyes Display Pro (www.integrated-color.com) to adjust your iMac screen to match a paper white luminance of 90.0 CDm/2. Then you can see images with software applications like iPhoto, Aperture, or any of the Adobe image editors, as well as LaserSoft’s SilverFast, to do color managed image color correction and editing and get prints that match your screen.
I have written several articles in the magazine, on my blog, and for chapters on my Digital Darkroom Resource CD, but all of that is of course too extensive and involved to repeat in a single reply here. So take a look at the Shutterbug.com archives and my blog, and see if there is anything you can use.
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.