Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

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

Q. I've read many articles on digital photography, but none has provided information on how fast the digital cameras are (i.e., if one were to rate the sensitivity of their light-capturing sensors, what would that camera's ISO rating be?).
Are digital cameras more sensitive to light than a 35mm camera with ISO 100 film? Is there a difference in sensitivity in providing color vs. black and white images (or do these cameras provide only color)?
I realize that there are many variables, such as f/stop of the lens, but I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.
Russ

A. The light sensitivity of digital cameras varies between brands and models. Many of the under $1000 cameras have a default equivalent of ISO 100. The more expensive and full featured often provide a selection of sensitivity ratings commonly 100, 200, 400 ISO equivalent. The more expensive and professional cameras that are intended primarily for press photography and similar uses have ISO equivalents to as high as ISO 1600.
Lens speed and shutter speed ranges are pretty much on a par with typical 35mm cameras--the more expensive have faster lenses and a greater shutter speed range. Today, these cameras essentially capture in color, but it is very easy to convert or desaturate a color RGB image to make it gray scale. Specification for ISO equivalent sensitivity ratings for various models of digital cameras are posted at the web sites of most of the manufacturers like Canon, Olympus, and Nikon, etc.

Q. I am going to create a web page and would like to enhance it with photographs of the town I live in. I am thinking that a digital camera would be appropriate for this, because I imagine that the images can be transferred directly into my computer, then formatted to fit the web page.
What digital camera do you recommend for good quality photographs? What software would I have to purchase? My computer has Pentium II and runs Windows 98.
Are there any other things I need to know before I invest in a digital camera? Thanks.
Tom Reeves

A. Just for use in web page creation, the inexpensive, under one megapixel digital cameras are sufficient, and the cost for some 640x480 pixel models is between $200 and $300. Most are sold with essential software to acquire the images, as well as an easy to use image-editing application like MGI PhotoSuite II or Adobe PhotoDeluxe 3.0.
However, if you already have a 35mm film camera and your needs for web pictures is limited, I would suggest taking the pictures with 35mm color print film and having Kodak processing done with the addition of a Picture CD. This provides access digitally to the images as the film is scanned and files of the images created on a Picture CD disc. The Picture CD disc also has basic software on it which allows simple access and editing of the pictures on your computer.
You might check the Kodak web site for locations near you for Picture CD processing vendors.

Q. My question has to do with inserting a digital image in powerpoint presentations.
My Mavica 83 is capable of taking still shots with audio included as well as movies with audio included.
It seems to save the latter as mpeg files and I can successfully insert them into the powerpoint presentations. However, inserting the still shots with audio (voice) is another matter. It seems to save those as jpeg files and so when I insert them all I get is the picture (and no sound). Am I doing something wrong? Is there something I can do to allow my powerpoint presentations to take full advantage of my new camera's capabilities?

A. First I will assume the Mavica saves the sound information relative to still images as a separate file, so you will need to locate and identify the sound part of the data for the still pictures. It should be in one of the two standard sound formats like .Wav or less likely in midi format. I have not used powerpoint in some years but I believe sound files can be inserted into a presentation and scheduled parallel with image files. and, considering PowerPoint is Microsoft, the standard sound file format .Wav is supported. You might also check your Sony Mavica Owners Manual specification to see in what format the sound files are recorded.

Q. I was wondering about the new epson stylus photo 1200--is it better than the stylus photo EX? I will be using it for making 11x16 prints for an art fair. and, about the longevity of ink jet prints, would laminating help this problem, and if so do you know the make and model i would need? Thanks.
Byron Moore

A. You'll find two main advantages with the 1200 over the Ex. First it prints 13" wide paper, two inches more than the Ex. Second, it has finer nozzles down to 6 picoliters, and varied dot size, which provides a sharper reproduction of detail, as well as smoother tones and gradations. Finally, it is faster printing at maximum resolution than the EX.
Archival inks and papers are now just becoming available for the Epson printers. The papers I have used are 100 percent cotton rag and look like fine watercolor stock. The names are Liege and Concorde. The Luminos photo company is distributing Lyson inks which are archival. In addition there is a very new pigmented ink just out. All of these supplies are available from MIS. You can obtain full information, prices, and order from their web site at: www.missupply.com

Q. I have been accustomed to printing in the darkroom, making four 31/2x5 or two 5x7 pictures on one sheet of 8x10 paper. I am unable to do this in Photoshop, but there ought to be a way. Can you tell me how? I use Photoshop 5.0 and an Epson Stylus photo EX.

A. First of all, check all of the software you received with the Epson Stylus Photo Ex. That function may be supported by one of the bundled software utilities. It definitely is with the new Epson Stylus Photo 1200, as part of the NewSoft application bundle that comes with the printer. You should have a CD you got with your printer, take a look at what it has on it.
Then, if you plan to upgrade to Photoshop 5.5, which just came out, that print image formatting feature is now included under the file menu heading Automation.

Q. I am researching the digital photography market and could use an expert's advice. I have come across many opinions in my research and have noticed that many people like the Sony Mavica. Since this camera uses a floppy disk to store its memory it is less efficient than other cameras which use flash memory (e.g. smartmedia and Compact flash). Which format of data storage do you see prevailing farther down the road of digital photography?
David Gaspar

A. I don't have a crystal ball for this one. Unfortunately the superior technology, reason, and logic do not always prevail when it comes to what succeeds in the marketplace. Personally I would favor Iomega's Clik disk/drive as being the most efficient and effective camera image storage medium. However, as far as I know now, Iomega has only been able to convince one manufacturer of the advantages, and that's Agfa. Now Sony is in the game with the Memory Stik, yet another flash memory type media, making three distinct formats for that type of storage.
This problem, and it is a problem when there are so many competing formats, may go unresolved as have the attempts to replace the very obsolete 1.44 floppy disk. In other words, no resolution any time in the foreseeable future. For now, that is a factor of less than ideal efficiency and some inconvenience, but in the long run it may provide the opportunity for some currently unknown solution to emerge and become a de facto standard. Ideally a portable storage media which would work as well for desktop computers, laptops, and notebooks, as well as digital cameras would be preferable. If it weren't so expensive, IBM's MicroDisk with 340MB in a half size PCMCIA type card would be promising. considering the current level of market competition, and the inclination of companies to remain proprietary because they believe they have a better mousetrap, makes the emergence of any standard, a rather remote hope.

Q. I recently got a 35mm widelux camera and was wondering if any of the sub $1000 film scanners can handle the 24x59mm negatives. I could always get a flat-bed scanner I guess but are they as good as the dedicated film scanners? I get the impression that the new HP scanner could do what I want but I don't think it will work with my computer--a Power Mac 9600.
Flor Collins

A. I am afraid there isn't any such animal. The less expensive desktop 35mm scanners function by moving the film on a carriage past the CCD element, which is controlled by software on the computer and firmware in the scanner. None of the models like Nikon, Canon, and Minolta that I've used have had an option to scan a panorama 35mm film image.
To get decent results from a flat-bed for that size and format film you'd at least need a good 1200 x2400dpi unit with transparency adapter like the Linotype Saphir Ultra 2 I recently tested. At the latest street price it is at a little above your price, but an excellent all-around scanner with superb software. Ideally the next level up, like the Linotype Saphir HiRes, would do an excellent job, but it is a much more expensive proposition.
Incidentally I tested and reported on the S-20 HP PhotoSmart. It is a decent scanner, providing very good performance for the money. However, I did not see any support for scanning non-standard format 35mm film. And, it is strictly a USB interface scanner, so you would have to have the latest Mac OS and a USB interface a adapter installed.

Q. A friend of mine just recently introduced me to Shutterbug. She has loaned me the July issue and I think the cover image is just wonderful. I have the Photoshop 5.0 LE version and have invested a lot of time experimenting with the artistic filters to come up with a nice watercolor effect. I've come up with some interesting effects, but nothing that comes close to your results. The "On The Cover" paragraph tells how you applied three different Photoshop filters and then merged them, but it doesn't give the specifics. I am hoping you will be willing to tell me how to duplicate this effect. Thank you in advance for your help.
Daphne Newman
Baton Rouge, LA

A. First of all, you probably will not want to "duplicate" what I do exactly. The reason is that when I do these effects, I find I do it differently for each image. That is because different kinds of images process differently and are affected distinctly by each filter.
So, the basic idea is that each filter by itself is too distinct, too obvious. I usually choose three. One that applies a background effect with a lot of texture, like Notepaper and Under-Painting. I apply this to a reduced size of the image.
1. Before starting set the image resolution to 300 or 400, and then save a copy. With the copy open for background filter I resample the image to 100dpi first. This makes the filter effect very bold. After applying the filter I resample back to the 300/400dpi, and save the filtered effect as a new file. Usually I apply some sharpening to this image before saving.
2. For the intermediate filter, I also use a reduced 100dpi file size of the original copy image. Then I will try various paint effects like PaletteKnife, Pastels, WaterColor--and sometimes I will use similar filters from other programs like PhotoImpact, Corel, or Micrografx. Sometimes I'll try running three or four filters before finding one that has the right effect on the image--this varies depending on how much detail or lack of it there is in the image. Again I usually apply sharpening to this image before saving. Once I have the filter effect I like and apply it, I resample back to the full 300/400dpi size, and save this as another new file.
3. The final filter effect is one that emphasizes fine detail, like Pen&Ink, PaintDaubs, Etch, Scratchboard, which I apply to a copy of the original copy image at full 300/400dpi usually, or just a slightly reduced size of 200dpi. Again once I've found the right effect I apply it and save as a new file after resampling back to the original dpi of 300/400.
4. Putting the three images together is also a bit different for each image as to how the blending is set. First open the first of the three images. Then open the second, and Select All and use the Edit Copy command. Close the second image. Then paste the copied image into the first image. Using the Layer option dialog window, I start by setting Transparency at 50 percent, and move it back and forth until I see a blend of the two image effects that is balanced. Then I open the third filtered image and select All, Copy, and paste it on top of the No. 1 and No. 2 that are already blended. Next I set the Transparency, this time usually between 20 and 30 percent.
5. My final finishing involves merging the three layers, and saving the image as a single new TIFF file. However before I make the final save, I open the Levels Adjustment dialog and equalize the gamut by clipping any blank area from either end of the histogram. Next I usually apply one more mild application of sharpening, this time with the Unsharp mask filter. Usually that's all I need to do. But, occasionally these layered, blended images lose some color brilliance, so I will open the Hue/Saturation Adjustment dialog and increase saturation. Most of these effects images I create are begun with a 20 to 30MB scan of a 35mm image. I usually resample the image a little larger after all of my work is done to print the image at 12x18" on 13x19" paper at 240dpi.

Q. If possible would you please let me know if the Linotype Saphir Ultra 2 scanner is the same as the Heidelberg Saphir Ultra 2 scanner that appears on the B&H web site? The price is considerably less at B&H--MAC edition $1227.95 as opposed to your ESP of $2749. I have subscribed to Shutterbug for many years and love your digital info. I am a commercial photographer and will get this scanner or the Epson 800 with trans adapter and the Epson 1200 printer to proof my 4x5 to 35mm studio work. Which scanner would you recommend? Thank you.
Dick Fellows Photography
Philadelphia, PA

A. Confusing yes, but Linotype Hell and Heidelberg are the same company, and the Saphir Ultra 2 is the same scanner. Just after I submitted my report to Shutterbug I received an announcement of the price drop. The Saphir Ultra 2 definitely has better resolution than the Epson 800. However, I personally find the Epson version of SilverFast a friendlier and more effective software package. Although the software for the Saphir is also excellent, it is just friendlier to pre-press use than photography.

Q. I write a general interest news column for the Chicago Tribune and have recently been exposed (I'll bet you've never heard that pun before) to digital photography in the wild. To wit, my father, a long-time photo hobbyist, brought his first digital camera along with us on a family reunion/vacation and took literally hundreds of shots, all of which were saved to floppy disks that we quickly uploaded into the hard drive of a laptop computer that was also along on the trip. While we were there and it was all very fresh and interesting we culled the images, had our own little slide shows, etc. It was a vast improvement in vacation photography in every way but one--the resolution isn't as good as with conventional photography. But I became fairly convinced that despite the quality compromise, digital will replace conventional (is there a better term) just as home video have replaced home movie cameras, cassettes have replaced reel to reel. In 10 years, maybe 15, surely 20...as the cost comes down and quality goes up, digital will be every man's standard. Conventional photography will be the realm of the hobbyists and professionals.
Long buildup to a short question: Do your experts agree? What are the percentages now and how are they changing? Have you written any articles on this I could get hold of?
Eric Zorn
Chicago, IL

A. I quite agree with everything you have said with but one exception. I don't think that it will take as long as you suggest. The reason is that this fall's releases of new digital camera models are characterized by the same quality/price inversion as is true of most of the "computer" products in the market. The resolution limitation you noted is no longer, and the prices are comparable to film cameras with similar features. The limitation you noted about resolution is relative to the fact the Sony Mavica provides the convenience for some of saving image files on floppy 1.44MB disks. Current, even entry-level digital cameras produce file sizes too large to conveniently store them on floppies. And what's more, Apple has abandoned the floppy disk media, as it should be with PCs if agreement can ever be reached on which media standard will be the replacement.
At the current sales' rate worldwide, combined with the growth rate digital cameras are enjoying (last year 102 percent), they will have far outstripped the sales of film cameras in just about every category by this time next year, especially if holiday shopping is good in '99 and the economy remains bullish.

Q. I read with interest your reply to Mr. Reilly in the Oct. issue of Shutterbug regarding how much resolution is really needed to scan for a 5x7 print into PhotoDeluxe, because I was having the same problem--namely, scanning 4x6 prints with the highest resolution possible on my Plustek scanner and then having everything freeze up from indigestion. However, could you clarify the numbers for me cited in Joe Farace's column, same issue, which says that Seattle FilmWorks "Hi-Res Pictures On Disk" service is scanning at 1.5Mp (1500x1000 resolution). How do these numbers compare with my scanning resolution of, say, 300dpi and wouldn't 1.5Mp be overkill--or am I still confused? Thanks for your help.
Henry J. Fischer
Dripping Springs, TX

A. I think the confusion is not helped by Seattle FilmWorks coining a new measurement standard for images (Mp). Aside from that, let's first start with what you say you are doing. First of all, you did not specify what that "highest possible" resolution is you are using with your scanner. However, as a general rule there is no point in scanning at a dpi higher than what you plan to print (but not the printer's resolution). If you are going to print with an image resolution of 300dpi, which is appropriate for small prints, then set your scanner at 300dpi, no higher. If you are scanning a 4x6 the resulting pixel dimension at 300dpi will be 1200x1800 pixels, and the file size in 24-bit color will be 6.348MB, which is a bit larger size than the Seattle FilmWorks 1000x1500 pixel size which would produce approximately a 4.1MB uncompressed file. For your information your 4x6 at 300dpi would produce a 2.3Mp (megapixel) image.
These sizes above should not be a problem causing a freeze up with Adobe PhotoDeluxe. Deluxe does have a maximum image size limit I believe, but much higher than the sizes specified. Your freeze was probably caused by actually choosing a interpolated resolution much higher than 300, which could produce a file size far too big for Deluxe to handle, and one that will bog down your system.

Q. I am in the process of purchasing the Sony CRX 120 E. Things take longer here in Mauritius. It is my intention eventually to send my CD-ROMs to prospective buyers, for them to see my work and portfolio. In terms of simplicity, what software would you recommend that I use, if the intention is for the Art Director just to insert the CD in the drive without too much worry? Some picture libraries may not have Adobe, Photosuite II. Simplicity is the key here. Thanks.
Perry Joseph
Mauritius

A. There are several possibilities, but the one which at this time assures the best reproduction of your work, is cross-platform so it can be opened and viewed as easily from a Macintosh as a Windows PC, and the reader that can be freely distributed with the CD is Adobe Acrobat 4.0.

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