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: firstname.lastname@example.org or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
In regards to the December
1999 issue, Flor Collins asked about scanning panoramic negatives (24x59mm)
with sub $1000 scanners.
Q. I am a glass artist
(fine mosaic art and architectural stained glass art). I am thinking
of purchasing a digital camera to photograph my work in a timely fashion
and to keep my web site updated. My husband is a photographer, and he
suggested I contact you because of your expertise in digital photography.
Nikon CoolScan 950 is a possible candidate, but never having used it
I cannot say that it is better or worse than anything else. The one
camera that impressed me in many important categories relative to your
needs was the Fujifilm MX-2900. First of all it produced, by a considerable
margin, the best image quality I have seen in a digital camera under
$1000, even better than much more expensive hybrid 35 SLRs with similar
resolution. It also has the most effective manual exposure control of
any of the affordable pro-sumer cameras, and I found it quite easy to
use with a multiple light electronic flash studio lighting setup. (Incidentally
I used a hot shoe infrared trigger to fire the studio flash.) However,
you can just as well use hot lights of whatever type and use the manual
white balance to set the appropriate color temperature Kelvin number.
In the same category as the MX-2900 and the Nikon CoolPix 950 is the
just announced Olympus C-2020 Zoom, which is expressly featured for
serious professional-level use.
Q. I am interested
in getting a digital camera. I currently own Nikon 35mm gear. I have
read several reviews of Nikon digital cameras, as well as looked at
their various features on the Nikon web site. I would like to stay in
brand on this, my first digital camera purchase, but to be honest I
am confused about all the hype and hearsay concerning this emerging
branch of photography. I consider myself an advanced amateur and am
fairly skilled at PC use. My question is this, can you give me a basic
review of digital cameras, their features and uses? If not, can you
recommend any print material that would do the same? Are the second
generation cameras coming on the market now worth the extra cost or
should I try a model (any brand) with less features to get my feet wet?
The most likely use this camera would get would be to e-mail current
pictures of my daughters to their grandparents out of state, and probably
some grab shots, point-and-shoot style. Any help you can give would
be greatly appreciated. Additionally a recent question in your column
in Shutterbug mentions your magazine about digital photography, any
info on this would also help. Thanks.
A. A basic review of the almost 150 brands and models of digital cameras currently available would fill an entire issue of Shutterbug. Sorry I cannot accommodate your request literally. However, I can say any of the major brands, like Agfa, Fuji, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, et al., in their lowest priced versions will serve the purpose you described. Being currently a Nikon user, their entry-level digital camera might well be as good a place as any to start to get your feet wet. The market is now on its fourth technology generation at least. All of the well-known brands at the same price level are quite close in performance, so you can be fairly well assured you will get as much value functionally as you pay for.
Q. I read and immensely
enjoy your column. I am attempting to put together a digital darkroom
system and would like your advice. My projected system contains a Mac
G4 400MHz, an Epson 5000 printer, and an Epson 800 professional flat-bed
scanner. The item in question is a 35mm film scanner. Based on your
reports, I have narrowed down the choice between the Polaroid 4000 and
the Nikon LS 2000. I realize that both items have pros and cons associated
with them. The majority of material to be scanned will be slides, some
with varying degrees of exposure and physical condition. I need to make
a decision as soon as possible and your prompt reply would be greatly
A. From what you have listed you have made good professional-level choices. However, if it is not essential you obtain the Epson Expression 800 scanner immediately, you may want to wait just a bit as a new model Epson Perfection 1200 just released actually exceeds the resolution of the Expression 800, which is indicative the 800 will probably be replaced very soon with a new model. As to a choice between the Nikon LS-2000 and the Polaroid 4000 scanners, both have as you say pros and cons. Until recently I have favored the Nikon LS-2000 if the Lasersoft SilverFast software is added. However, recently ArtixScan, a division of Microtek released the ArtixScan 4000t, which I have just begun testing. It has the 4000dpi resolution advantage and a quite straightforward software driver, and one which supports custom profiling the scanner with Kodak software which is an included part of the package. Unless the Digital ICE ImageClean dirt and scratch removal feature of the Nikon is required, I would suggest seriously considering this new ArtixScan 4000t.
Q. I hope that you
could answer a question for me. When scanning a photo to your PC, is
it important that your scanner be of high quality to get the best print
out, or is it more important that the printer you use be of high quality?
I understand that Hewlett-Packard is tops in printing and scanning photos.
Is this true, and why so much money? Thank you for your time.
A. The quality of printed output is directly related to both the quality of the scanner and printer. Hewlett-Packard does have good scanners and printers for photo purposes in their PhotoSmart line. However, there are many other brands equally as effective and possibly more appropriate depending on your specific requirements for scanning and printing. As to the cost of digital photo capable scanners and printers, the prices are just a fraction of what they were a year or two ago, and a small percentage of the costs involved five years ago.
Q. I read and use
the information in your column every month. I started digital photography
with the Olympus D-340 R and recently moved up to the Nikon Coolpix
800. I have the A/C adapter for the Olympus, but am reluctant to spend
for another adapter for the Nikon unless I have to. Both adapters put
out 6.5v D/C. The Nikon uses a "ferrite core" that fits
on the Olympus adapter wire. Would using the Olympus adapter, with or
without the ferrite core, on the Nikon damage or impair it in any way?
Thanks for your help.
A. I would not recommend using the A/C adapter from one camera with another even though the voltage may be the same. Other factors like polarity and amperage may be different and it's not worth risking damage to the camera.
Q. I've been
using an acquaintance's Mac with the Nikon CoolScan scanner (older
model). It's almost not worth it! When he scans in one of my photos,
the color and brightness (everything, basically) is so far off that
it takes me an average of 30 minutes to fix each one in Photoshop. Granted,
I'm pretty new at using the program, but trust me, they are way
off! I think he doesn't have things calibrated correctly. He says
that it's like that on everyone's computer. That's
really hard to believe.
What you are asking is a subject that has far more depth than can be
delved into in this context. First of all what you are referring to
in the way of "calibration" questions is what is referred
to as Color Management. It is a system level method of matching the
color characteristics of devices like scanner, monitors, and printers
so color can be processed in a consistent predictable manner. To use
a light table so it is matched with your monitor, it must also be a
part of the system. In other words, its light output has to meet particular
standards established for use in conjunction with a computer system.
For professional purposes the requirements include having a reasonably
new, high-quality monitor that is specifically intended for graphics
use, and supported with an equally professional graphics card, as well
as software to calibrate the monitor and preferably a hardware monitor
sensor, and software to characterize and profile your scanner and printer.
This demands at least a moderate flat-bed scanner in addition to a slide