This department 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
However, not all questions and answers will appear in this department.
Readers can send questions to me addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through
the Shutterbug website, directly via e-mail to: email@example.com
or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
An All-In-One Photo
Printer Not Reviewed
Q. I am planning to buy a photo printer. My friend suggested Epson's
RX500 multifunctional printer. Can you give some feedback on this printer?
Epson RX500 should provide photo printing performance very similar to
the Epson Stylus Photo 900 model I reviewed in the October 2003 issue
of Shutterbug, as the printing specifications are the same. The report
is available to read on the Shutterbug website at: www.shutterbug.net/test_reports/1003sb_epson/index.html.
Camera File Size/Resolution?
Q. My Sony DSC F828 gives me a picture resolution of 45x34" at
72dpi. If I change the resolution to, let's say, 8x10" at
300dpi in Photoshop for printing, will that detract from the image quality?
And if so, is there another way to go about changing size and resolution
for printing? And could you explain to me why they use 72dpi and a large
picture size instead of a higher resolution and a smaller picture size,
since the file size would be the same either way?
answer your last part first, I would guess that 72dpi was established
with some early digital camera makers because the first low-resolution
cameras were used mostly to make pictures for the web, and 72dpi is
VGA screen resolution.
To preserve quality integrity for printing digital camera files, I would
suggest re-sizing with Resampling turned Off, and just adjust the dimensions
letting resolution reset itself proportionally.
Digital Camera Depth
Q. I recently took photos of fields of wildflowers with two cameras:
a Pentax *ist D digital with a Tamron 28-300mm zoom lens and a Pentax
645 with the 80-160mm zoom. It looks as if--at the same aperture
(e.g., f/11)--the *ist D digital has greater depth of field. This
seems to make no sense. I noticed the same thing using a Pentax Optio
550 compared to a film 35mm. Can you offer any explanation?
all other factors are the same and the exposure area (film frame size)
is smaller, depth of field is greater because the effective aperture
is smaller. In other words, if you take the same picture area, focus
distance, at the same exposure setting (like f/8 and 1/250 sec) with
a film camera like a Mamiya 645, compared to a digital camera that has
a sensor area that is about 1/4 or less the size of the film frame of
6x4.5cm, the actual size of the aperture will be proportionally smaller.
The physical size of the lens aperture opening determines the size of
what is called the "circle of confusion." In optical performance
this defines the difference between in focus and out (soft/sharp) as
seen in a same size print, for instance.
For those of us old-timers used to working with both a 35mm camera and
a very large view camera, particularly an 8x10, it was much easier to
realize the way aperture functions and effects depth of field between
different sized exposure areas. A normal lens for a 35mm is 50mm; a
normal lens for an 8x10 is 300mm, a 6x difference. With both lenses
you get about the same subject coverage, or angle of view. If you look
at both a 50mm and a 300mm lens set at f/8, the physical size of the
aperture of the lens is obviously quite different. To obtain the same
depth of field (the same size circle of confusion) the actual aperture
size has to be the same, so then with the 50mm set at f/8 you would
have to set the 300mm lens aperture to f/22 to achieve a similar depth
of field. That's why Ansel Adams' friends and colleagues
of photographers called their informal club f/64--they all used
large cameras and preferred to make photographs that were sharp from
foreground to infinity.
For Digital Camera Files
Q. I've been a long-time Shutterbug reader, mostly about film
cameras. On page 102 of your May 2004 edition, there is an ad for the
EZDigiMagic Portable Digital Photo Storage Device. This device appears
to solve the problem of having to lug around an expensive, heavy laptop
computer and all of its numerous heavy, expensive accessories for downloading
digital camera cards on longer trips. Has Shutterbug reviewed this device
in the past, or will it? Any thoughts on its usefulness?
EZDigiMagic Portable Digital Photo Storage Device is one of several
similar portable storage devices containing a hard drive and card reader
that will download card data in the field. I believe if you made a search
at Google you will find several other brands with comparable features
and specifications. These devices come from putting together some relatively
standard components, mostly from the laptop computer field, with an
auto-controller firmware chip to facilitate the card download.
You might want to check out some websites for more information: www.xs-drive.com;
www.directsalesinc.com/ simcppordigp.html; www.peddlerstore.com/cgi-bin/miva.cgi?Merchant2/
merchant.mv+Screen=SFNT; and www.adorama.com/ ICDDPP40.html?sid=10815462751012602.
I have also seen portable CD-R burners offered which will record from
a built-in card reader. You might look at Micro Solutions RoadStor at:
Q. I have been using a Dell PII computer running Windows 98 until now
and I'm switching to a new machine--either a Windows XP PC
or a Mac G5. The Mac would be significantly more expensive than the
PC considering the need to replace my Windows-based software. My specific
area of comparison between the two systems at the moment relates to
color management. I use a Fuji S2 digital SLR camera mostly doing studio
work--portraits, fashion, figure studies, etc. In your column in
the May 2004 issue of Shutterbug you wrote in response to one question,
"Windows hardly meets current color management industry standards
considering Microsoft is still using ICM 2.0, a CME released in 1998,
which was not even competitive with other CMMs in use at that time."
This seems to suggest that Mac's ColorSync system is still really
the only viable game in town up to this time. I have to admit that the
use of color management in my own work has been minimal mainly due to
my own inability to wrap my brain around the many concepts and the language
involved in understanding this aspect of digital photography. Maybe
it's my own laziness and maybe it's also the fact that my
clients have been entirely satisfied with the work I present to them,
despite the fact that I have an abysmal understanding of this subject
(color management). I have always been able to get by using Photoshop
7 for my manual corrections while setting my Epson 1270 printer on automatic.
My camera has been set to custom white balance settings, which are easy
to create on my Fuji S2. But I am not really lazy and would like to
gain a good understanding of the subject of color management, especially
now that I am investing in one or other of the latest computer platforms.
My question is: Does that mean my only realistic option is to re-equip
with a Mac in order to benefit from the best that color management can
bring to my photographic output?
Regarding making the transition to a Mac, there should not be any major
cost for software. Adobe will provide the means to migrate from Windows
to Mac for their software. You just have to agree to destroy the old
software and pay a very small fee for a new disc and shipping. All hardware
makers, like Fuji and Epson, provide free software drivers for their
devices for either Mac or PC. In fact the CDs for any devices you have
should have drivers for both operating systems--however, I would
use a switch to a new computer as an occasion to install the latest
version of software drivers for all your peripheral devices.
As to getting a Mac G5, I am still working with an eMac and two G4s.
If you need a new monitor, and probably do if it is over 3 years old,
get either a Sony or Mitsubishi CRT, and not an LCD flat panel. As to
cost, I believe you can still buy a PowerMac G4 from Apple at a very
Regarding color management, it is relatively easy to set up and configure
(almost automatic) with ColorSync and a new Mac. To use it with Photoshop
to obtain the best image quality results involves a bit more detail,
called workflow. I have covered much of the subject over the last few
years in past issues of Shutterbug.
I have been recommending Apple Macintosh for digital photography for
some time now, and a number of Shutterbug readers have followed my suggestions
in this regard. So far,
not one has expressed any regret. In fact, just the opposite is
The Best & Most
Efficient Way To Use A Scanner
Q. You answered my previous e-mail (via Shutterbug) with the following
suggestions: "The best 35mm film scanner I have used to date,
and one I purchased for myself after reporting on it is the Minolta
DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400. It is currently selling for under $800 if you
shop carefully. For 120 film and 4x5, the new Epson Perfection 4870
Pro at under $600 is quite incredible, especially with Digital ICE for
medium and large format transparency scans."
I've always left all scanner controls at neutral (Nikon LS2000)
and do all the work in Photoshop. Do I need the extra SilverFast software
for the Minolta DiMAGE? (Not cheap--the Epson 4870 comes with it.)
of the most popular and successful scanner lines is Epson. Even though
Epson provides their own software drivers for their highest performance
scanner models they also bundle LaserSoft's SilverFast Ai with
the product. In fact, quite a number of years ago I became acquainted
with LaserSoft's SilverFast and its owner and founder Karl Heinz
Zahorsky when his relationship with Epson began with Epson's first
high-performance professional scanner, the Expression 836XL.
As for using Photoshop to do raw scan file color correction and adjustment,
for the amount of scanning I do, I would never get any sleep if I did
all my scan adjustment and correction work in Photoshop. In addition,
Adobe has been riding on its laurels too long and has not kept up with
developing their image adjustment tools. In my opinion they have fallen
far behind LaserSoft in efficiency and sophistication. Finally, it is
grossly inefficient to have to scan to file in 48 bit, creating (with
either of the scanners I recommended) huge files of over 200MB, and
then in Photoshop the entire file must be open and each adjustment made
to that entire file for every correction. Even with my fairly fast Macs,
it would slow my work down enormously, and then the final result would
not be as good as I get easily with SilverFast.
I do not recommend anything which I do not use day in, day out myself,
and with complete confidence and satisfaction.
SilverFast Ai 6 comes with the Epson Perfection 4870 Pro. It is extra
and each SilverFast is exclusive to each scanner because the scanner
command controls are different for each scanner. But you can try the
Minolta software. Unlike the Nikon software it works reasonably well,
and is not that difficult to use, nor does it lack efficiency. Then,
after using SilverFast for a while with the Epson (if you get it) I
am sure you will also want SilverFast for the Minolta.
The Future Of Digital?
Q. I'm a recent college graduate and love to take pictures. I
love the point-and-shoot, development, picture album experience, but
I need to save money. I have a couple of questions. I am on a budget.
But, I really want a Nikon D70. Should I buy one and love it even though
it will be matched in a year or two by an affordable camera, or buy
a good, but cheaper camera and wait on technology? I hate waiting a
second or two for my next shot and I want control. Also, I've
been told that a good computer program can make up for the difference
in a $500 camera and a $1500 one. True? I was thinking maybe I should
invest in an Apple and good software and a camera that isn't quite
a D70. I need lots of advice!
If what you describe as the "picture album experience" is
true and accurate, the limited print size involved indicates you really
do not need a 6.1-megapixel $1500 prosumer camera.
I would also suggest that Nikon is a good maker of digital cameras,
but there are others, including some that will provide somewhat more
performance for the money. A good computer and software is essential
to doing good digital photography, but if you don't have good
quality going into a computer it won't come out as prints of good
quality images--there is a long standing computer adage that goes:
garbage in, garbage out. That does not say that there is not a lot some
skill and a good computer can do to enhance and get the best out of
an image, but you must have the potential to begin with.
Unless you are doing specialized photography like action sports or close-ups
of nature, and you don't already have an investment in compatible
lenses, you really don't need a prosumer SLR. Many of the 4- to
5-megapixel compact digital cameras are quite capable. I would suggest
also paying attention to whether comprehensive manual control is provided,
and whether the optical performance covers the kinds of photography
you want to do. Some of the brands of digital cameras you should explore
besides Nikon are Fuji, Olympus, Minolta, and Canon.