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
I was looking through an old Shutterbug today and came upon a response in Digital Help. The reader asked about graphics cards and Mr. Brooks made it seem as if they could only be found in high-end graphics workstations running Windows, but Macs have them by default. This is either a very, very poor choice of words by Mr. Brooks or a Mac snob doing what Mac snobs do best. Any non-Mac desktop, even the slimline models, have the capability to cheaply add a basic graphics card. In the case of your reader, a cheap $50 PCI card may have been all he needed. While it is true that some cards designed for high-end video games can cost several hundred dollars, the ones that are more than suitable for even huge 25-megapixel Raw files cost on average $150 or so. The NVIDIA 9800 GT, for example, costs only $130 at most retailers. So Mr. Brooks, I suggest you get your facts straight before you turn your nose up at your non-Mac brothers. We can upgrade anytime we choose, and we can do it for far cheaper than you.
I started doing digital photography in 1989 and used PCs and Windows exclusively through the 1990s, and then added one Apple Mac. However, I still used PCs with Windows until Apple switched to Intel processors, so I can now run all versions of Windows as well as the Apple OS on the same hardware.
Let me change my expression of what I said: a computer is a tool, and if you want to do the best work with it, then you need a good tool. Most of the PCs sold today are cheap home/office computers available in big discount box stores for under $500, so the video chip in it is also limited and cheap, and you get what you pay for. They are not designed or intended for use as high-performance digital photography editors and processors. You don’t get a $130 NVIDIA 9800 GT or better video card in the great majority of PCs made today that sell for less than $500.
I just replaced my office computer with an Apple Mac mini that has a base price of $699, which includes a NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics card which will run Adobe’s Photoshop CS5 just fine (which by the way costs about the same as the Mac mini).
You can get about the same configuration of hardware in a Windows PC as a Mac mini and the price will not be much different. I realize that the majority of my readers use PCs, but if they want professional-level digital photography performance they need the tools that support it. It is not any different than digital cameras—a professional-level D-SLR costs a bit more than a point-and-shoot camera.
Epson Perfection V600 Vs. Perfection V750 Pro
Q. I just read your informative test report on the Epson V600, and have a few short questions. My current scanner is the Epson V750 Pro. Would the Epson V600 be an upgrade? I will be purchasing a Plustek OpticFilm 7600i Ai very soon. If I also purchase an Epson V600, will the SilverFast from the Plustek also function with the Epson? Will the Epson scan slides with the same quality as the Plustek, or should I primarily use the Epson for large format scanning? Finally, did your review test the Epson with 35mm or large format examples?
A. Regarding the Epson Perfection V600, the primary difference with the V750 Pro is the V600 has LED scanner illumination, which is more consistent, plus no warm-up is needed and it runs cooler. But that will not make an appreciable difference to scan quality as the scanner CCD resolution for both scanners is the same.
SilverFast Ai or SE is different and unique for each scanner. Each requires different data commands to run it and receive scan data.
If you get a Plustek OpticFilm 7600i Ai or SE it will produce finer, sharper, and larger file scans compared to either the V600 or V750 Pro. I only use my flat-bed scanners for larger than 35mm film scans and always take advantage of the better quality of a dedicated 35mm film scanner. Using a flat-bed scanner to scan 35mm is only an economic advantage to users who cannot afford a dedicated 35mm film scanner.
My review of the Epson Perfection V600 was based on print, 35mm, and various format sizes of 120 film in both negative (black and white and color) and positive chrome film images.
Storing And Cleaning CDs And DVDs
Q. I have been shooting digital since 2002, and responsibly backed up my output on good-quality CDs and DVDs. I recently went back to locate some pictures and found that the discs had been damaged and were unreadable. Apparently the Memorex plastic envelopes I had been using at the time had damaged the discs. They were sticky and almost looked like the spread of a bacterial infection. All the discs were kept under the same conditions, so it was also difficult to understand why one disc was gravely affected and the adjacent one just looked a little foggy. Will switching to paper envelopes arrest any further progression and is there any way to clean the discs?
A. I’m not a chemist or scientist of any kind, and cannot guess what interaction may have occurred to cause the “stickiness” you have found. It may be a reaction between the plastic of the CD and the envelope, or it could be something environmental like a fungus or mold. Your guess is as good as mine.
I am very careful myself about the CDs I use for long-term storage (only Mitsui gold-gold CD-Rs) and use the old standard hard plastic jewel box that is designed to keep an air space between the jewel box surface and that of the CD. For about 15 or more years that has worked for me and I can still read the first Kodak gold-gold CDs I have from the early 1990s.
As to cleaning the CDs, all I would try (without any technical advice from the CD industry) is a mild dishwasher detergent that has no phosphates in it. Let the CD soak in a mild solution and then rinse with clean water and air dry. Otherwise, you can try contacting the CD manufacturer’s main office to see if they have technical support.
Computer And Display Choices
Q. Sometime ago I purchased a Sony SDM-P234 LCD monitor with which I have been very satisfied. But when I switched to Windows 7 64-bit, I found that the Monaco calibration I had been using did not offer a driver for Windows 7. Since this Sony monitor was fairly high end, price-wise, is it still better to replace it to take advantage of the technological advancements that have come along since?
A. Your Sony LCD display was introduced in 2007, so it is still about as good as any current home/office display, probably better in some ways than what the box stores are currently selling. However, the range of colors reproduced by your Sony and most current home/office LCD displays is sRGB. If you want to reproduce all of the color in a Raw image file there are only two brands of LCD displays which do, the NEC MultiSync displays with SpectraView II and the EIZO FlexScan and ColorEdge models, all of which reproduce over 95 percent of Adobe RGB.
Monaco Systems was bought out by X-Rite several years ago and they have not continued development to make the software compatible with current systems. Anyway, if you are using the Monaco colorimeter, it may not read more than sRGB color range, so if you get a new pro LCD display you will need new software and a current, wider range colorimeter.
Point-And-Shoot Cameras Provide Little Image Quality Control
Q. I cannot get accurate deep reds or purples with my Nikon D90 or with any of my digital cameras. I have Kodak, Olympus, and Canon point-and-shoots. I notice the problem especially in sunlight. Further, often the light hitting a subject (flower) will read as white. I am an amateur photographer and an amateur painter so color accuracy is vital. The purples read as blue and the deep blood reds or magentas read as a warm tomato red. I am not sure whether shooting Raw would make a difference. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have which would allow me to obtain accurate color with the digital cameras without the inconvenience of spending significant time in Photoshop.
A. With small inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras picture files are in JPEG format and usually use some version of the sRGB color space. These cameras are intended not so much to reproduce color accuracy but the expected look of a snapshot in a small print that’s often contrasty and has excessive saturation.
If you want color accuracy you may need to shoot in Raw and use the Adobe RGB color space instead of the sRGB. But it doesn’t require a lot of Photoshop work to get accurate color, as the Raw image can be easily adjusted in Adobe Camera Raw. What it does require is a computer LCD display that is calibrated and profiled so what you see on screen is matched to the Adobe RGB color space. You can get this easily for less than $100 with a Datacolor Spyder3Express kit.
Apple iMac Display Profiling Problem
Q. About 18 months ago, thinking it best for photographers, I bought an iMac and since then have been unable to print correctly on my Epson 1280, now a new 2880 via CS3. The prints are too dark! You first suggested tweaking the Transfer Function and that helped some, but then you said it had defects, and later mentioned the corrective software ColorEyes which isn’t cheap.
I recently recalibrated my monitor with my Optix XR colorimeter and it works okay on my PC’s CRT. Andrew Darlow’s calibration target, with no adjustments, prints accurately but it is slightly lighter on my iMac. But an uploaded JPEG with no adjustments prints dark.
Also puzzling, the shots that I have adjusted and sent out to Kodak print accurately.
My work does not require perfection. So, is ColorEyes still your recommendation, or do you have other suggestions?
A. If you want to lower the white luminance of an iMac LCD display to a match for paper white, 90.0 CD/m2, the only option is ColorEyes Display Pro by Integrated Color (www.integrated-color.com). Possibly your Optix XR colorimeter will work with ColorEyes, but check with them on its compatibility.
The only other option, an expensive one, is to add a high-performance LCD display as an addition to the iMac, and then adjust, calibrate, and profile that display. There is one such display I just learned about and hope to test and report on, the Dell UltraSharp U2410, which sells for $500 from many dealers. But then you would need to add a second edition modern colorimeter and software that will handle the Adobe RGB color range reproduced by the display.
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.