Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

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 @shutterbug.net or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Q. I am building a digital darkroom. I have a new Dell Dimensions XPS T600 Pentium III with MMX Technology and 256 Cache. It has a 16MB ATI Rage 128 PRO video card. I also have an Epson 1270 printer. The printer came with Photoshop 5.0 LE. After installing Photoshop LE, when I access the program I find two toolbar icons missing, namely the Type Mask and the Zoom. The tools are there for my use but it is very distracting not to see the icons. The computer setup seems to be functioning O.K. The settings on the monitor are set for 32 bits and 800x600 pixels. If I change these settings to 256 and/or a higher pixel number the icons appear. I have talked to Dell and Adobe and no one can help me. Dell tells me to talk to Adobe and Adobe tells me to talk to Dell.

A.
You have very aptly named your problem a "glitch." I would guess the problem is in the driver for the ATI graphics card. So, one possible avenue to pursue is to obtain another driver for that card. The best source would be ATI, but I'm afraid you'll have to do a web search on ATI to get to their site, or possibly Dell support might put you in touch with them.
Otherwise, the workaround would be to select an alternative setting for your monitor that is more compatible with Photoshop. My choice would be a resolution of 1024x768 pixels at 24-bit color. This is a good setting for digital darkroom work as long as you don't convert RGB images to CMYK, and if it does provide all of the icons, why not?

Q. Do you know of a good image cataloging program? I thought Epson's downloadable one might work but it won't just do thumbnails with descriptions. It wants to import the whole large file as well. My goal is to scan all good images and keep a database of them.

A.
Most of the consumer photo applications contain some kind of cataloging support, but are limited in terms of setup options and database functions. There is one in particular that I have found is hard to beat in the extent you can adjust all of the thumbnail parameters, output to HTML, and program database fields and queries. That is the Album utility which is a part of the Ulead PhotoImpact image-editing application software package. The entire package is well under $100 and you get a whole raft of utilities plus a very good image editor as well. On the more professional side, but easy to use, there are two full thumbnail generation and database applications which support just about every graphics format. One is Extensis Portfolio and the other is Canto Cumulus. Both companies have web sites, and I believe the applications can even be downloaded at: www.extensis.com or www.canto.com.

Q. I'm an amateur trying to intelligently assemble my own digital darkroom. I'm sitting on a 50-year-old family archive of 35mm slides and negatives, so a film scanner is key. I'm willing to spend up to $2000 but find that scanners with the best dynamic range of 3.6 (Minolta, Nikon Super CoolScan, etc.) invariably have a top resolution of about 2700, while those with a top resolution of 4000 (e.g., Polaroid) have a lower dynamic range (3.2-3.4 tops). Since I apparently have to make a tradeoff here, in your opinion which is more important--higher dynamic range or higher resolution? (I have an Epson 3000 printer and may upgrade that when the Epson 5000 prices come down a bit.) Also, from your collective knowledge, which one or two scanners in the $1000 to $2000 range should I try out first? Many thanks for any advice you can give me.
Loye Miller

A.
The difference between 2700dpi and 4000dpi is much more significant than a one or two point difference in dynamic range. On the dynamic range issue, you need to consider only slides have a density range which might possibly be close to the scanner's dynamic range, and only rarely does a slide image utilize the full potential of the film in such a way the one or two points less dynamic range would seriously affect the quality of the scan. Usually this is evident in some noise in the darkest values of low key or underexposed images. This noise can be reduced by applying multi-pass scanning, which is offered by the Nikon Super CoolScan 2000 scanner and by the SilverFast software sold for the Polaroid 4000 and the ArtixScan 4000t by LaserSoft.
The last 35mm film scanner I reported on in Shutterbug was the ArtixScan 4000t, which is a 4000dpi scanner from Microtek that I have chosen for my personal scanner; I added LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 5 software to the package. I have also used the Polaroid 4000, which incidentally is mechanically, essentially the same scanner as the ArtixScan, and prefer the ArtixScan hands down over the Polaroid because of the software differences. This is a personal choice on my part preferring an efficient manual color adjustment driver over one which is primarily designed for automatic color adjustment, and incidentally runs slower.

Q. I need to buy a film scanner that will handle 35mm and 120 film (just bought a 645). I am in a position to pay up to $2000 or so. Can you tell me my options and possibly provide a recommendation? Thank you.

A.
Currently in the affordable category there is not a scanner that combines both 35mm and medium format film scanning with equal effectiveness. There are indications of possible new choices, and I'm waiting to see what will show up at the next big computer trade shows in September.
So, for now the best strategy is a medium priced flat-bed with film scanning to do medium format, like the Epson Expression 1600, or Umax PowerLook 1100, plus a dedicated 35mm scanner like the Nikon Super CoolScan 2000 or ArtixScan 4000t. This package will push your budget to a little over $2500 for the best performance. You can go lower in price for either 35mm or a flat-bed, but at a cost of a drop in scan quality as well. It just depends on your personal output quality requirements.

Q. Can you tell me which Adobe application files can be opened on either a Mac or a PC?
How about Photoshop PSD and TIFF files? I know JPG works. How about Adobe Illustrator or Page Maker? Does anything special need to be done? What are good ways to make the transfer? I have a student who wants to have a Mac PowerBook in class and a PC at home. Thanks!
Ronald W. Harris

A.
All of the current versions of Adobe applications that are offered for both platforms are able to open their native files cross-platform. There is one qualification however, for the purpose of reproduction with an offset press, the fonts you might use in Illustrator or PageMaker will not reproduce alike from both platforms. In other words, the Post Script fonts for Macintosh and Windows, as well as TrueType, differ. They will be recognized, but the differences can affect the layout, kerning, etc.
Making a Macintosh PowerBook talk to a PC directly could be a little difficult. A better way to transfer files from one to the other is by means of removable storage disks using a drive that is both Mac and PC compatible. The least expensive and most popular method of doing this is an Iomega 250MB Zip drive. If both the PowerBook and the PC have USB connection support, this can be facilitated easily and is probably the least expensive solution. By the way, Macs will read IBM formatted disks directly, so keep the Zip disks in IBM format.

Q. I'm hoping you can give me some suggestions with some problems I've been having with CD recordable and rewriteable disks. I've been using a CD burner since July '99. I'll give you some specs on my computer in case that's somehow an issue.
I have a Pentium II, 450MHz, 250 mg RAM, 12 gig HD with 590 mg unused at this time. Obviously I need to burn more images on CD to clear space on my hard drive. I've been using Maxell CD-Rs and CD-RWs. My problem is that some of my CDs with images burned on them are unreadable now and won't open. I guess the disk is corrupted in some way. I always check the CD-R or RW right after I burn to see if they are on the CD. Then I delete them from my hard drive. But I don't check to see if they will open in Photoshop until I need them sometime later.
Some of my questions are: 1) Should I be using Kodak CD-Rs for high-res images or are other brands good enough? 2) I burn my raw scans and my final images on separate disks. Images can be very large image files (up to 125 mg). It seems these are usually the ones which become unreadable. Is there a correlation between large files and the ability of my system to read and open them as opposed to smaller files? 3) I thought CDs were the most archival of all the storage devices for image files. How can I trust this storage medium now after what has happened here? 4) Is there a way to restore or somehow open these files on the CD-R that is unreadable? I know they were burned properly. 5) Does the fact that my hard drive is almost full have anything to do with this particular problem? Any suggestions will be appreciated. By the way, your images that accompany your Shutterbug articles are very nice. Thank you.
Carl

A.
From what you relate there is nothing that clearly points to a reason for your problem. Although I don't use Maxell, I do use inexpensive blank CDs--I never use CD-RW largely because of the fact it does not assure cross-platform compatibility, because I use both a Mac and Windows. I have burned 100s of CDs and many with large files. Occasionally I've had a bad disc, but I have discovered it immediately because I create a database with thumbnails from the CD immediately. If there is any problem with that application, which is on another computer than the one with the CD burner, it will be immediately revealed. I am now on my second CD burner, and have been doing this from the earliest days of CD-R, and all but a couple of the first discs have remained accessible.
The problems you are having could have three different possible sources: the CD burner; the blank discs; or the software you are using to drive the CD burner. The latter two are the easiest and the least expensive to deal with, too, by the process of elimination, find and correct the problem. So, yes maybe try another brand of blank CD. If you want longer lasting CDs you should be using the Kodak "gold" type, or an equivalent brand--they are more expensive though. Second, if problems still persist, try another software package to drive your burner. I have used first Corel, and most recently Adaptec, which has the best reputation. If that still does not help, then I'd take a serious look at your CD-R drive. Finally, the cache size does not have to be that big to burn CDs, but your entire computer system needs to be maintained, and kept clean--so if you're not using a maintenance utility like Norton, I'd suggest looking into this. I clean my computers regularly to remove old temp files, unused links, cache files, etc., etc., that accumulate especially if your system is used for online connection to the Internet. Good luck!

Q. I read your article on archival inks but have not been able to find anything in the article or in the links you provided for the Epson Stylus 870 Photo printer. If you have any info, please let me know.
I used to have a HP Photo printer, and was using the HP Matte Photo paper a lot. Unfortunately it is not compatible with the Epson and I do not like the cardboard feel of the Epson matte. Is there anything out there that compares in look and feel to the HP matte and can be used with the Epson?
Mary Hodges

A.
The Epson Stylus Photo 870/1270 does not support the use of any ink cartridges other than the Epson brand because there is a chip built into the ink cartridge that must be present for the printer to operate. However, the inks for this model Epson do provide a quite reasonable longevity for a dye-type ink, 25 or more years with Epson's HeavyWeight Matte paper, and as long or longer with any of the papers listed in my article. This is comparable to traditional photo lab color print life.
The HP matte paper you mentioned probably would not support very great print life. The exact projected longevity of the HP paper may be listed in the test results of Wilhelm Reich Research. All of the fine art papers I wrote about, and many more are available from companies like Digital Art Supplies that I listed in the article. Most are archival rated by international standards. The style of texture, tone, and feel of these papers is varied and of the highest quality. I would suggest getting in touch with Digital Art Supplies (www.digitalartsupplies.com) to see if they have a sampler for sale so you can try out a variety of different papers.

Q. Can anyone tell me if the Sony Mavica Model 73 is a good digital camera for taking pictures of items to be sold on the web?

A.
The Sony Mavica is used extensively by many in this capacity. Its resolution and convenience are favored by many for web use of photographic images.

Q. I am interested in purchasing a new computer monitor and want to know if you have published any articles in the past, or are planning on doing so. I have a Hitachi 720, 18" screen with a smaller footprint. It is a year old, and I am wondering if there is anything new that has a larger screen up to a 20" or 21" size without having a huge footprint. I need high resolution as we use it as a point of sale monitor. Any help on where I can locate this information will be appreciated. I am a happy subscriber to Shutterbug.
Lyn Jolley Photography

A.
From your message, I gather by referring to a small footprint you are thinking of LCD flat panel monitors. I have not dealt with them in a photographic context because they do not reproduce an equivalent color gamut to a CRT display. However, for point of sale, I'm sure this is not a serious issue. A number of companies, including Apple Computer, Radius, Hitachi, Sony, to name a few produce larger LCD panel displays of good quality. The larger of these are sometimes plasma displays, which I've even seen advertised on television. But as I said I don't take a serious interest because they cannot be used for critical photographic color work, so do not have any specifics to pass on. Other than the Apple 22" Cinema display for the Mac, I've not seen any larger than 18" advertised in consumer computer catalogs because I suppose the prices are quite high for very large LCD/plasma displays. So, I would suggest going to the web sites of the makers, like Sony and Hitachi to see what is available in larger than 18" sizes.

Q. I use a Mamiya 645 for basic architectural work and have a question regarding the difference in resolution between silver halide and digital formats.
I usually shoot ISO 100 color negative film and enlarge to 8x10. Are the popular digital cameras able to match the print resolution with the same sized enlargement? What pixel density should I look for in a digital camera to achieve the same clarity? Thanks.
Chris Havens
Columbus, OH

A.
If you mean by "popular" digital cameras the many models selling to consumers for under $1000, the answer is no. Even the professional digital backs for medium format SLRs selling for $20,000 plus are limited, in part because of a lens factor making wide angle shots impossible, but also the CCD capture is pretty much limited to a subject brightness range a slide film can capture.
Based on your type of work, for convenience and final output quality, a hybrid solution using your same 120 color negative film and then scanning it provides the best of both worlds, analog and digital.

Q. I always look forward to reading every article in Shutterbug magazine. Have you ever seen a printout made using Genuine Fractals software? Does the software really make it possible to scale a 35mm transparency up to 3x5' and still retain photographic quality? Thank you.
Greg Governale

A.
Genuine Fractals does work very well. Consider however that a large print is not normally viewed from as close a distance as a small one. Get close to that big print and you'll see that in fact it does not contain any more information than a smaller one of the same image. So, as long as your expectations are considerate of the fact that a 35mm film frame only contains so much image information, then making a 3x5' print using Genuine Fractals, I think, you'll find is satisfying and worthwhile. The technology involved is very solid and works far better than just a simple enlargement.

Q. I am an amateur photographer thinking of starting a photo restoration business. I have been told that restorations can be done digitally without having to make a negative or use any optical equipment. I would appreciate any information you could give me on this subject; such as the type of equipment needed, type of scanner, photo program, books on the subject, etc. Presently, I have a 200MHz computer with Windows 95. I'm not sure if my computer will be sufficient to do this kind of work. Please send all the info on this subject that you can as I know very little about digital photography.
Is there a place in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area that offers a course in digital photo restoration? Thank you.
Ed Mavrinac

A.
Although I've not come across a book on digital photo restoration, I have seen a number of articles on the subject in a variety of publications over the past 2-3 years. You might try an Internet search on "photo restoration" and see what you come up with. Also contact the Professional Photographers of America at: www.ppa.com. That organization has a division devoted to photo restoration. They may have information that is useful. If there are any current books on the subject, you might try a search at: www.amazon.com In other words, do the reading first, and find out what you will need to learn and acquire in skills before investing in equipment.
For equipment, yes you'd need a newer, more powerful computer, preferably a Mac G4, as well as a flat-bed scanner that would probably be a large format 11x17" model. Epson and UMAX have new models that would be good for the purpose of digital photo restoration. These scanners usually come with Adobe Photoshop 5 LE; you'll need this program, once upgraded to the full version, for use to do the repair and retouching, as well as applying image correction and adjustments.
Once you've got a little more information on the specifics, I'm sure you'll have more questions. You can get back to me then.

Q. I'm ready to purchase a scanner. I read your review of the Epson Expression 1600 in the June issue of Shutterbug, and I'm confused. I will be scanning mostly 35mm negs, black and white, color, and transparencies. Can you please give me a short opinion to the following question: Considering the previously mentioned information, would I be satisfied with the Epson Expression 1600, or should I lean toward a film scanner similar to the Nikon CoolScan III?
Ken Duke

A. For photographers whose primary need is scanning 35mm a dedicated film scanner is the best choice. In the under $1000 category my recommendation is the Canon CanoScan FS 2710. For occasional print and medium/large format film scans not requiring super high resolution, get the Epson Perfection 1200 Photo flat-bed. Total cost for both: about the same as the Epson Expression 1600.

Q. What do you know about duotones, tritones, and quadtones for the 1270 printer? Is that a big improvement over using the color inks and is it a big pain to convert from the six colors to the inks used for duo/tri/ quadtones? Thanks again.
Tom Stubbs

A.
Using the RGB conversion and adding a combination of color values with the Color Balance dialog can produce any color tonality you can achieve with the Photoshop Duotone function. With the Duo, tri and Quad tone conversions, the resulting file format is CMYK. This is then converted to RGB and back to the six color CMYK that the Epson driver prints with--it doesn't work too well! However, if you do the Quadtone and get a color you like you can then convert to RGB using the Image/Mode menu, and then print. But, check the file for any shift in the Levels (Histogram), as the image can be lightened and flattened in the process.

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