Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

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 and provide.
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: editorial@shutterbug.com or fotografx@mindspring.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?
Stephen Chong

A. The 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.

Standard Digital 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?
Jim McKernon

A. To 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 Of Field
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?
Henry Aldrich

A. When 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.

Portable Storage 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?
Jim Somberg

A. The 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: www.roadstor.com.

Color Management--PC Vs. Mac
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?
Fred Phillips

A. 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 reasonable price.
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 case.

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.)
Keith Trumbo

A. One 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!
Unknown

A. 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.

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