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: Fotografx@csi.com
or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
Q. Not knowing of
anyone with more knowledge than you on the subject, I would most appreciate
your advice on what I would need in going from the conventional darkroom
production of color (Ilfochrome) and black and white prints to digital.
I would be starting with conventional 35mm slides (mostly Kodachromes)
and negatives. My basic criterion is that the resulting prints must
be at least as good as can be produced in the darkroom.
Scanner: Which specific scanner will produce 8x10, and, hopefully, larger
(up to 11x14) prints (excluding drum scanners, which are cost prohibitive
for most individuals)? What if I change this to include 4x5 negatives
for prints up to 11x14? (I would really like to go up to 16x20, but
this may require a cost prohibitive printer.) By the way, can a pro
photo CD compare with a really good negative scan?
Computer: In the absence of identifying particular hardware (preferably,
Mac), what are the fundamental characteristics that the computer should
have in the way of RAM, MHz, hard drive capacity, and other vital characteristics
that I am unaware of? What about peripheral items? And, of course, the
monitor characteristics, such as size, resolution, and whatever.
Software: Is Photoshop the one piece of software that is necessary,
or is there a better single choice? Also, what auxiliary software is
necessary, or desirable, for whatever that one fundamental choice may
Printer: What specific color/black and white ink jet printer for prints
up to 11x14?
I would be most grateful for whatever information that you can provide
me in the above regard, as I will be stuck with whatever equipment I
get for a long time. Obsolescence cannot be avoided, of course, but
making the wrong fundamental choices to begin with is to be avoided
at all costs.
John F. Leary
Great Falls, VA
are asking for a tall order with an awesome responsibility attached.
But after spending the better part of the last week looking at all of
the newest digital photography hardware and software available, I feel
as prepared for the challenge as I ever should be.
I'll change your order of items somewhat by dealing first with
the computer question. And if I read your question correctly, interpreting
the reference to the Mac, I'll not get into the PC vs. Mac controversy
again. Although I will say since the newest Mac G3 has been unveiled
there seems even less to distinguish it from a PC, excepting the Power
PC chip and operating system, than ever. More important are the specifications
which you asked for. Presently I would recommend in light of what you
want to do, a minimum of 128MB of RAM. Today be sure it is SDRAM and
that it is 100 speed running on an 100MHz bus. Most systems today include
9GB or larger hard drives, which in size is adequate. However, the speed
of the hard drive needs to be as high as possible, so check the brand
and model of HD out in the computer magazines like Windows Sources for
comparative listings. Higher-end machines specifically configured as
graphics workstations often offer SCSI hard drives using the Wide/Fast
option, but you'll find this performance advantage comes at a
considerable price increase. This is offset by the fact many peripherals
like scanners use a SCSI interface, so it is something needed, and not
all scanners and such SCSI devices come with a SCSI card included as
part of the product package. While still on the subject of hard drives,
do not consider your main system HD as the place to store images except
those you are working on immediately. Today image storage is most economically
and surely facilitated using CDR, a CD-ROM "burner." Get
one that also reads CDs efficiently like the latest Sony Spressa model,
and then you can have just one CD drive for most purposes of dealing
with removable, external data storage to get data into and from your
The monitor and graphics card for a digital darkroom computer are the
most crucial choices. Obviously what looks good in screen performance
to one person will not be the best to another. That said, it has been
my experience, and I do a lot of color correction and retouching, the
Sony monitors although 10-20 percent more costly are worth the extra
expense in performance and reliability. However, Hitachi, Mitsubishi
View-sonic, and NEC all make higher quality monitors providing good
graphics computing performance. You'll also find the newest monitor
size of 19" is quite large enough to do photo image editing comfortably.
Today there is a confusing array of fast, powerful graphics cards available.
Most are optimized for 3D performance for games and other similar, popular
computer functions, but many of these do not provide the 2D color quality
and performance that is needed to handle digital photographic functions
effectively. Some proprietary graphics workstations like those at the
top of the HP Kayak series, as well as machines made by Intergraph,
and most recently the SGI Visual Workstations, offer proprietary cards
of very high graphics performance in 2D and 3D. They should though as
they are premium priced computer models. Otherwise I would recommend
the latest Matrox Mill-
ennium or Number 9 graphics adapters, and models specifically recommended
for 2D performance with at least 8MB and preferably 16MB of VRAM.
I have left the consideration of the CPU choice till last because even
though it is highly hyped, choosing the newest, fastest, currently 450MHz
Intel Pentium II, is not a cost efficient selection. If all of the other
factors are idealized for graphics performance, as I've suggested
earlier, the difference between the fastest 450MHz and say a 350MHz
will not be noticed nearly as much as the difference in the extra cost
the faster chip will impose.
Scanners. To meet your primary, first scanner expectations there are
lots of choices, especially since new 35mm scanner models were introduced
at PMA. At the lowest price in the range, the new HP PhotoSmart S20
at under $500 will produce good 2400dpi scans which will reproduce as
fine 8x10 prints and then some. Next up the latest available ladder
is the Canon CanoScan FS2710 at 2720dpi. At a probable under $1000 price
tag in stores, it will make fine scans to an 11x17 print size with no
difficulty. Both of these scanners have new software which besides their
specifications puts them on top of my list at their price points. To
then go to the 16x20 print size I'd have to recommend yet another
new scanner model, the Polaroid SprintScan 4000. With 4000dpi and a
very high 3.4 density range, it also features new and improved software
along with its highest desktop scanning resolution. It will probably
sell for a little over $2000.
When you put 4x5 film sizes into the mix, and you do not include any
120 sizes, I'd definitely recommend considering the Epson Expression
800 flat-bed scanner with transparency adapter. Large format, high-resolution
(sufficient to make 16x20 prints from 120 size originals) film scanners
like Nikon's and Polaroid's are definitely getting close
to the drum scanner price range.
Printer. There are two affordable choices in ink jet printers which
have greater than four color photographic printing capabilities. Epson
with their Stylus Photo EX has led the way with 1440dpi print resolution
which produces 11x17 prints that are in many ways equal to silver-based
photographic prints. Canon makes the other choice and they have just
announced a new BubbleJet 5100 model that will also print on 11x17"
media with a multicolor ink cartridge option for photographic image
For larger print images, like 16x20, unless there is enough volume of
printing that is sufficiently profitable, the cost of wide format printers
is probably too high to justify owning one. So, if the volume of large
prints you require is modest, having them produced by a service bureau
is the most cost-effective option.
Software. Adobe Photoshop 5.0.2 remains the one photographic image-editing
application which is essential to doing quality photographic imaging.
Although there are many applications to choose from that have competitive
features (at least for the Windows platform), and some which have desirable
features lacking in Photoshop, Adobe has implemented color management
so thoroughly and effectively making it possible to input, edit, and
output photographic images with precise control of the color qualities
throughout the process. Competing image editors, like Corel PhotoPaint
and Micrografx Picture Publisher, do include proprietary color management,
but not with the comprehensive support and control afforded by Photoshop.
Other applications like PaintShop Pro as yet do not support color management
effectively. Eventually, sooner than later, on the Windows platform
there will be more and more support by application developers for color
management considering Windows 98 provides the basis for it. In addition
companies like Monaco Systems, which specialize in color management,
are beginning to offer affordable consumer level tools and utilities
providing the means to achieve precise custom color management for individual
Windows systems which will make producing consistent, high color quality
In addition to image editing, the software required will vary depending
on how a photographer plans to use photographs and their computer for
output. For instance, building a web site to support photographic image
marketing will demand the use of a set of web publishing utilities.
If you are designing and producing your own photographic publications
for offset printing, then an application like Adobe PageMaker or QuarkXPress
will be needed. On a more general level, in addition to Photoshop the
one utility just about everyone will require sooner or later is an image
file management utility, a database application which organizes, produces,
and files thumbnails of the image you have in digital storage. One that
I would recommend, and I reported on recently in Shutterbug, is Photo
Explorer by PhotoSoft.
Q. I recently bought
an Olympus D-400Z and stumbled onto one of digital photography's
dirty little secrets. I photographed a lovely little violet flower and
it came out blue. I did some investigating at local photo stores with
a purple piece of paper and most of them did the same. The Agfa did
better than the rest, but Kodak and Casio showed blue, the same as mine.
Nowhere on the web have I seen mention of this, even on the sites that
show comparison pictures. No salesperson mentioned it, not that I expected
them to, until I mentioned it. Then they all agreed that digital had
a problem. So what's the problem, why won't most digital
cameras do violet? Thanks.
I'm sorry I have to disappoint you in your "discovery,"
but the phenomenon you are describing is also shared by film. I ran
into this almost 40 years ago photographing flowers for LA Home magazine,
and taking pictures of California Lupin, which is a violet colored flower.
What I found, with the aid of a horticulturist, is that flowers in the
blue to violet color range have components in them which behave a little
like fluoro-brighteners that are put into some fabrics, and to a more
obvious extent into Day-Glo paints and inks. When illuminated by sunlight
they generate a kind of light frequency modulation sending out more
than just a simple reflection of the light illuminating them. Normal
human sight is sensitive to these effects, but film and CCD sensors
with UV cutoff limits apparently come into play, lessening sensitivity
to capturing the perceived color. In addition, compared to fluorescent
brightened fabrics and Day-Glo inks and paints, photographic reproduction
materials, including computer monitors and digital printer media, do
not have the ability to replicate that enhanced floral effect.
Simply put, what we see in a few rare instances is more than the light
reflected from some unusual subjects, it is the light modulation they
generate themselves biochemically. And, because color reproduction materials
whether digital or analog do not contain these same properties, the
colors are not reproduced as the eye sees them in reality. On the other
hand, when the clothing industry first started using fluoro-brightners
in fabrics, photographers began to notice white shirts illuminated by
non-UV corrected electronic flash would photograph with a blue, violet,
or even green color caste, and similarly for some wedding gowns. Now
color negative films have UV cutoff coatings over the emulsion, and
electronic flash units use UV coated tubes, so those specific application
problems were eliminated. But it involved the same principle that you
have noted, CCD capture devices respond to a shorter spectrum than the
eye, and the subsequent reproduction media do not have the properties
needed to replicate everything in nature which affects the perception
Q. I desperately
want a quality 35mm negative scanner that can do five or six frame negative
strips to the computer in one load. Even multiple strips would be nice.
I have been using the HP Photo-Smart scanner very happily for over a
year. It is, without question, the most "bang for the buck"
in output image quality for the dollar invested. Its biggest shortcoming
is having to fumble around reinserting a film strip for every single
I am now deep enough into digital processing and have enough material
(huge negative library) that I need a scanner with batch-load capability.
It will have to have at least 3.0 density range and 30-bit color depth.
Obviously, high MTF (optical) specs are mandatory as well.
My research to date indicates the Nikon CoolScan and Minolta Dimâge
series might handle the batch frame loading I want. Are there others?
And, yes, I realize I'm going to have to spring more bucks for
such as this. Out of all this, can you recommend a particular "best
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
are correct, both models of the Nikon CoolScan, as well as the Minolta
Dimâge utilize a film strip holder in their 35mm scanners. In
addition, this feature is common to nearly all 35mm film scanners also
including Microtek, Canon CanoScan 2700, all Polaroid SprintScan models
including the new 4000 which also features batch mounted slide scanning,
as well as the new S-20 model of the HP PhotoSmart just announced. Each
of these models varies one from another in their software support of
batch scanning, however. And without a more detailed understanding of
what your requirements and expectations are for batch processing it
is difficult to say which is the best choice.
From your remarks about a best buy, and your experience with the original
HP PhotoSmart, I would guess that the most likely candidate for your
consideration would be either the new S-20 PhotoSmart or the new Canon
Cano-Scan 2710 announced recently at PMA. Both should be available in
leading stores now.