Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

sorcadmin's picture

This column will attempt to provide solutions to problems readers may have 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 this column. Readers can send questions to me addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug web site, directly via e-mail to: editorial@shut terbug.net or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Q. I just bought a new Sony 19" monitor which is really excellent. I plan to use it for digital darkroom work with Photoshop. I have three color temperature options: 9000K, 6500K, and 5000K. The monitor looks best with 9000K, but should I set it for a lower color temperature that more closely approximates daylight?
Len Schweitzer

A.
For the purpose of using your system with the new monitor as a digital darkroom to adjust and edit photographic images with an application like Adobe Photoshop, the recommended color temperature is 6500K. Whether or not the screen image reproduction of a photographic image looks more or less brilliant is not important. What is important is that what you do see can be reproduced accurately in a WYZIWYG print or other output. Color image editing and adjustment is done on a perceptual basis, so you need to choose a color temperature that most closely matches what can be reproduced by a printer like the popular Epson Stylus Photo ink jets. That is 6500K. If you choose to use the computer standard 9300K, I'm sure you'll find that the color adjustments you make will result in print colors that do not provide a satisfactory match with what you see on-screen compared to using a setting of 6500K.

Q. I work for an engineering firm that does building inspections throughout New York City. We use high-powered telephoto lenses to shoot objects several hundred feet away. All of our equipment uses standard optics and film. We are thinking of going digital, if possible. My question: Is there a reasonably priced digital camera package that will have an optical zoom that can match that of a 400mm telephoto lens? Changing lenses on the fly is also important since we also use a wide angle lens. Thanks.

A.
At the present time there is not anything "reasonably priced" that will do that. In current professional digital cameras only the Kodak DCS 560 and 660 have the capability to use long telephoto as well as wide angle lenses with the same angle of view as film.

Q. As someone influential in the industry, I thought you would be interested in my true story, and would pass it on to someone who should know.

At a photo show opening reception there was a group of photographers with a lot in common. All in the art world, selling through galleries and shows. All recently involved with digital work. All recently purchased Epson 1200 printers. All were convinced Epson would soon provide archival inks. All were enraged, disillusioned, upset, and vocal about the fact that Epson brings out their 1270 printers and forgets about ever providing archival for the thousands who own 1200s.

This is just one little group at one show--but the word is spreading. The upset is made worse by the fact that most people's experience with Epson has been super positive. What a shocking change. Sample statements were "They left us hanging out to dry," and "Dumped their customers." Sorry to bother you with this, but if you forward this it might help.
Harvey Hellering

A.
Built-in obsolescence has been a part of mass marketed products for most of the last century, so why expect Epson to change that successful approach. No point in getting upset, especially considering all of the facts. The truly archival inks available from at least three different sources for the 1200, from my trial of them, indicates that the way the 1200 is designed, it does not handle them well. So, from my experience with both printers I'm assuming the new ink sets for the 870/1270 demand some new features in the hardware that are not included in the 1200 design. In addition the new inks for the 870/1270 are not archival even though they have been tested at over 1/4 century by Wilhelm Reich.

Another factor I believe which must be kept in mind is the fact the 1200 as well as the 1270 are not intended for professional use. Epson has a series of printers that are designed for professional applications, and the latest of the Pro series, the 5000 and 9000 are capable of handling archival inks. In other words, Epson does plan to offer professional quality printers which support archival fine art printing, but not at the consumer level. I could say more about this regarding what is coming, but am not free to do so at this time.

One more factor that should be kept in mind. I'm sure it would be possible technically to upgrade a 1200 to use the new inks. However, the cost would be so close to what the price of a new 1270 is it would not be worth it. The reason is in part all of these printers sold by Epson, HP, and Canon have very little profit built into them. All of the companies depend on the sale of ink and paper and its profit as part of their total marketing scheme. This is pretty much standard, and a strategy that was established primarily by Polaroid many years ago. My personal attitude is not one of sympathy for the whining. I was not at all reluctant or did I feel at all put upon to shell out for a new 1270. Well worth it, including essentially junking a very well used 1200.

Q. I'm curious about the earliest digital still cameras. I recall the Sony Mavica that was introduced about 1981. Can you tell me which manufacturer was first to enter the consumer market? Was Kodak involved with an early model? Which company is credited with the invention of the digital still camera? I wonder how the specs of the first models compare to today's models. Answers to these questions may interest your other readers.
George Dunbar

A.
You are correct about the Sony Mavica. Sony claims to be the first to produce a consumer still video camera, and as far as I know that's not disputed. Bob Shell, editor of Shutterbug, also reminded me that a Canon still video camera was produced about the same time that used the same disk storage as the Mavica. However it was some years later on, the late 1980s, before there was any serious marketing effort, first for the PC. The accessory maker Logitech distributed a still video camera, but it was actually manufactured by another company--I don't recall the name of that company and I've not seen it mentioned for many years. I believe in the same general time frame a still video camera that was widely distributed was sold by Apple computer.

Who was the inventor is rather questionable except for the Sony Mavica. The reason is that the still video was an adaptation of existing CCD video technology. Making a video CCD still frame capture available to a desktop computer through digitization of the CCD analog signal is the key development, which I believe was led by Targa.

Although I was involved with some of this early still video, I'm not very history oriented and don't keep a record myself of what I was working with especially 12-13 years ago. Sorry I can't be more helpful. Although, I do recall the resolution was quite low, in the 320x240 pixel range, and the color fidelity also left a lot to be desired.

Q. For the sake of sending some photos by e-mail, no more than 4x6", I have been experimenting with the "Create for Web" in Photoshop 5.5 to obtain maximum benefit. For instance a typical image 0.918x1.568" at 1200dpi with a 5.94M file would produce a 15.306x26.125" image with 72dpi with a 5.94M file, after going through the Create for Web option. Was this the intention of Adobe designers? It seems that Photoshop has translated the 1200dpi into the 72dpi for normal PC viewing. Am I correct to assume that? And if I reduce the resulting file proportionately to the appropriate ratio [4x6] am I going to be penalized? Was that the objective of that new function? Your comments would be welcome.
Perry Joseph

A.
I'm not entirely sure what you are relating to with "create for the web," but I suspect it is in Photo-shop's Color Management Setup Wizard. All that does is set your system to output color which has a limited gamut compatible with the short color range that is supported by the Internet. It has nothing to do with the picture size setting or file sizing. To size a photograph that is from a scan, like the size image you described, you should use the Image-Ready application which is an included companion to Photoshop 5.5. I would suggest reading the documentation for ImageReady, particularly about sizing and compression. It is quite easy to use because it has a side by side pair of windows, with the left showing the original and the right compressed. You can vary the amount of compression and select the type, like .JPG, which happens to be the appropriate format for a photograph. However, before doing that, the image should be sized using the Photoshop menu item Image/Image Size dialog with the Resample button not checked. For example a scanned slide image that is 1x1.5" by 1200dpi that you want to make 4x6, just put 6" in the longest dimension, and Photoshop will change the other dimension to 4 and set the resolution to 300. Then if you want to use a copy of this image to send by e-mail, open the Image Size dialog again and click on resample, and just set the resolution to 72dpi and click OK. Now use Save As to make a new file of this lower resolution image, giving it a new name. Then open this new file in ImageReady to compress it.

Q. Will Shutterbug be reviewing Nik Color Efex Pro digital filters any time soon? I note from their web site that the program includes a digital polarizer. While their sample looks good on the screen (www.tech-nik.com/CEPsample.html), I am reluctant to spend $300 based on that alone. Can a digital filter effectively replace the real thing? It would certainly be an advantage if I could use a polarizing filter after the fact--plus giving me up to two more stops. Are there other sets of digital versions of the most useful optical filters available? Thank you.
Kit Taylor
Kingston, WA

A.
First of all, I don't have any plans to review Nik Color Efex Pro. From what is described and illustrated on their web site this package has nothing that has not already been offered for years for much less money by a dozen other companies, including some very good ones like MetaCreation's Kai's Power Tools, Extensis Intellihance, Xaos Tools, etc., etc. And, in fact for those who will just learn how to use what is provided within Adobe Photoshop, all of these effects can be applied relatively easily.

An after-the-fact digital filter cannot do what a polarizing filter accomplishes used in front of a camera lens. A polarizer modifies the frequency modulation of light eliminating one direction phase. This capability can be used to reduce or eliminate reflections of light on mirror-like surfaces, cut through atmospheric haze, and reduce surface shininess so the underlying color records with greater saturation and contrast. These changes on how light is reflected from a subject to record the underlying image to be photographed cannot be replicated after the fact of exposure on film or by a digital CCD. Only some minor aspects of the affect resulting from using a polarizer filter over a camera lens can be simulated by reprocessing the image with software.

Q. I am just starting to fiddle with Photoshop and am wondering is there a function that is more or less equivalent to a Graduated Neutral Density filter as we know it on cameras? Thanks.
Oon Chin Hin

A.
The function of darkening one part of an image that is accomplished with a Graduated Neutral Density filter over a camera lens can be replicated in Photoshop editing of a photograph by a number of methods. The most direct is to first create a mask layer for the entire image, and then use the Graduated Fill tool from the ToolBox to apply a graduated mask density through which the image can be lightened or darkened using the Image/Adjust/Levels dialog by sliding the center arrow (mid-tone location) left or right.

Actually this most direct parallel to the graduated neutral density function is not the most efficient or effective method of achieving a desired selective lightening or darkening of an image. Using masks is time consuming and something I'd employ only if there is a reason to do complex editing to the mask.

For instance, if you want to simply darken a sky, the Selection menu tool Color Range allows you to select just the blue of the sky. Once it is selected then you can use Levels or Brightness/Contrast dialogs to alter how light or dark it is.

If the area you want to lighten or darken contains more than one basic color, I find using the Lasso selection tool is most efficient to create a selection area within which to use one of the Adjustment dialogs to lighten or darken. This has the advantage of the option of adding a soft edge to the selection to graduate the outer edge of the lightening/darkening effect. It also has the added capacity of deselecting an object within the selection area like a cloud in the sky, and to draw the selection around an irregular skyline for instance. If a soft edged (feathered) Lasso selection is used and the selection will be to the edge of the image, which you don't want to feather, it is advisable first to increase the Canvas Size of the image. Just click on Image/ Canvas Size, and add say 300 pixels to each side and the top and/or bottom of the image. Then when the edges of the picture need to be included without feathering you can take the selection out to the edge of the canvas. Without screen shots to illustrate these procedures, it is a little hard to describe, but I hope what I've described helps.

Share | |