"Sometime you get
the bear and sometimes it gets you--old."--
Colorado Mountain Man expression
One of the many indisputable
rules of the digital imaging universe is that if you have a hard disk,
sooner or later you're going to have hard disk problems. While
most photographers would never tolerate the kind of problems in our
camera equipment that regularly occurs with computers, hard disk problems
seem almost inevitable-if you use your computer more than casually.
However, unlike the photo lab film processor that eats (what you are
sure are) award winning slides, there are software remedies available
that can help fix hard disk problems and resurrect the digital images
that you just spent five hours creating.
One of the most popular hard disk repair packages available is Norton
Utilities, which is available for Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS.
The latest Mac OS version, Norton Utilities 4.0, is now PowerPC native,
which means significant performance improvements. Version 4.0 supports
the new HFS+ file structure that Apple Computer rolled out for the OS
8 and also features enhanced SCSI/IDE drive support. Norton Utilities
is really a collection of utilities and all of my favorites, Disk Doctor,
Speed Disk, and FileSaver have updated interfaces.
The new version of Disk Doctor, the most valuable part of Norton Utilities,
checks for more different kinds of disk errors. One of the biggest mistakes
many users make is that they only run Norton Utilities when their operating
system gives them an error message. I recommend that you run Disk Doctor
whenever you encounter a system freeze or have to "force quit"
an application and restart your computer. I've found that it's
much easier to fix small problems on a regular basis than a big one
every now and them. To learn more about Norton Utilities, call Symantec
at (408) 253-9600 or visit their web site at www.symantec.com.
All of these thoughts were heavy on my mind, when the hard disk in my
Mac OS computer, Harry, decided to "go south." Sometimes,
no matter what you do, your hard disk needs to be replaced or just erased
and reformatted. In those extreme cases, you need to be prepared with
a back-up strategy, something that will be covered later. Fortunately
I had backed up my drive an hour before the disaster occurred. While
thinking about my problem, I consulted Kevin Elliott of Cies-Sexton
Visual in Denver. As general manager of a large service bureau and photo
lab, Elliott works with many different kinds of computers, which in
turn means he deals with many different kinds of problems. One of the
tricks he mentioned to me is the use of two hard disks inside a Mac
OS computer to form a pseudo-RAID (Random Array of Inexpensive Drives)
system. In a true RAID, the two drives "mirror" one another:
What you write on one drive is also simultaneously written to the other.
If one drive fails, the other drive has up-to-date data and can be used
to restore the original drive.
In Elliott's system, a second drive is installed in your Mac OS
computer (if there's room) and a second System Folder along with
a copy of Norton Utilities is installed on that drive. His idea is that
if one hard drive fails, the computer will automatically boot from the
second hard disk, and you can use the hard disk utilities on drive two
to fix drive one. You can install other stuff on drive two, and Elliott
uses his extra disk for programs and files as well as using as a "Scratch
Disk" that Adobe Photoshop requires when working with large image
files. Sorry PC users, Elliott tells me this won't work with Microsoft
And now, here's my monthly look at some of the latest digital
imaging hardware and software.
Image Acquisition Tools. One of the fastest ways to
acquire a digital image is to use a digital camera or back such as MegaVision's
new S3 that's been designed for medium format cameras, including
Bronica, Hasselblad, and Mamiya. The new back has a 3000x2000 pixel
resolution CCD sensor and will produce 36-bit RGB images as 18MB TIFF
files in RGB format. The back is slightly smaller than a standard Hasselblad
back and weighs 13 oz. Images can be captured at approximately one frame
per sec. The S3 back is priced at $23,000-$27,000, depending on options,
and includes MegaVision's PhotoShoot and PhotoBatch software.
PhotoShoot is designed to process one image at a time and captures photo
sessions onto a virtual contact sheet. It also features a built-in light
meter function, CMYK conversion, unsharp masking, and file preparation
capabilities. PhotoBatch processes lists of image files and allows each
image on the list to be cropped, sized, sharpened, and color balanced.
For more information, contact MegaVision at (805) 964-1400 or visit
their web site at www.mega-vision.com.
MegaVision digital cameras and backs are exclusively distributed by
Calumet International, who recently introduced their first view camera
designed specifically for digital imaging. The new Cambo Ultima has
all-aluminum construction along with a depth adjustment mechanism that
allows the user to position the CCD chip of any high-end digital camera
back in the proper location for maximum performance. Precise alignment
of the "chip plane" prevents the center of the image from
moving out of focus when swings or tilts are used. The Ultima's
dual-range focusing feature allows for both rapid coarse and precision
fine focusing and a "virtual pivot" design provides fully
yaw-free variable axis tilts. The Ultima offers rise and fall, tilt,
swing, and lateral shifts and it's compatible with backs from
Better Light, EyeLike, Mega-Vision, Leaf, and PhaseOne. The camera will
convert to 8x10 and rollfilm formats and lenses as wide as 47mm can
be used without using a recessed lensboard. The camera costs $3995 and
has a 300mm monorail length for digital photography and a 480mm length
for shooting film. For more information, call Calumet at (888) 280-3686
or visit their web site at www.calumetphoto.com.
When you want to load a digital photograph from a FlashPix CD or one
of Seattle FilmWorks new Picture on Disk CDs, a fast CD-ROM drive can
be a big help. Memorex recently launched a series of speedy drives at
reasonable prices that will make even the thriftiest digital imager
smile. The new Memorex CD-362E, CD-402E, and CD-482E feature maximum
transfer rates of 36x, 40x, and 48x. Transfer rate measures the average
number of bytes per unit of time passing between a disc and your computer's
Central Processing Unit (CPU). Priced at $79, $99, and $129 respectively,
the new drives feature an ATAPI (AT Attachment Packet Interface) Enhanced
IDE interface for easy set up. Supported formats include CD-R, CD-RW,
CD Audio, CD-ROM, CD-I, and Photo CD. All drives have analog line-out
connectors on the rear of the units and headphone jacks on the front
panels. For more information on Memorex products, call (800) 636-8352
or visit their web site at www.memorex.com.
Digital Artistry For Everyone. Fans of the artistic
approach to creating photographs are going to love Professor Franklin's
Instant Photo Artist. Using an intuitive and great looking user interface,
the program's Art Studio module lets you turn your photographs
into images that turn of the century pictorialists would have envied.
You can start with any digital image. The program can acquire them from
a file or your hard disk or from a scanner, digital camera, or any TWAIN
compliant device you've got connected. This under $40 program
is fully compatible with Kodak FlashPix and Photo CD discs. Art Studio
starts by opening an outline version of your photographs, then lets
you select the tools to apply the artistic touch to that outline. Some
of the digital tools include paint brushes, crayons, pencils, air brushes,
and markers, all of which work like the real thing. You can also select
the style of how those tools will work, from choices including Monet,
Van Gogh, Cézanne, Acrylic, Mosaic, and Watercolor. The program's
Design Studio lets you take your artistic creations and, using built-in
templates, produce greeting cards, newsletters, labels, calendars, postcards,
and other desktop publishing projects. For more information, contact
Streetwise Software at (800) 743-6765 or visit their web site at www.swsoftware.com.
It's rare that I find two wonderful digital imaging programs in
the same month, but ArcSoft's PhotoMontage is one of the truly
original Windows-based graphics products to come along in a long time.
Starting with one of your original photographs, PhotoMontage lets you
create a montage that is composed of thousands of tiny micro-images.
The package includes a library of 200,000 tiny images and hundreds of
your own photos can be added to personalize the micro-image database.
No hard disk space is gobbled up since PhotoMontage pulls the little
photos off of its CD-ROM disc and ArcSoft offers additional libraries
on specific topics such as sports, nature, and animals. Images for manipulation
can be acquired directly through scanners or digital cameras or loaded
from a file, including Kodak's Photo CD. PhotoMontage even lets
you tweak the acquired image by cropping and adjusting brightness and
contrast. All of the controls in the interface are so intuitive and
obvious I never had to look at a User's Guide to figure out what
to do next. Once you have your original image looking the way you want,
the program turns it into a montage with a few mouse clicks. You can
save your finished montage in many popular graphic file formats or output
the image using a desktop color printer. If you would like to print
full-size posters of your montage, you can use ArcSoft's poster
printing service. The company offers a direct link to their special
printing services on their web site. For more information about PhotoMontage,
visit ArcSoft on the web at www.arcsoft.com.
Utility Of The Month. ACD Systems, a Canadian company
that makes interesting photographic-oriented software, announced Image-Fox,
a $30 utility that enhances the functionality of any Windows program's
standard File-Open or File-Save dialog box. While Adobe Photoshop's
Open dialog box includes a preview window that's supposed to display
a thumbnail of the highlighted file, it doesn't always do this
with every file type. ImageFox displays previews of every file type
I tried and adds this functionality to every Windows program you have--not
just Photoshop. The utility supports 17 image formats, including Kodak
Photo CD, animated GIF, and multi-page TIFF files. You can also automatically
play WAV sound files as they are selected. In addition, ImageFox lets
you enlarge the dialog box to any size you like and (ala Action Files
on the Mac OS) adds a tool bar that gives quick access to any "favorite"
folders you define. Your Open dialogs will now display the size and
date of a selected file and you can also view and edit file descriptions.
ImageFox lets you save your preferred dialog size and list view mode
independently for each application. For more information about Image-Fox
or to download a 30 day trial copy, visit their web site at www.acdsystems.com.
Output--It Doesn't Get Much Better. Those of
us who have been impressed with the output from Alps Electric's
MD-1300 will be interested to learn that the company has raised the
bar with its new MD-5000 Desk Top Print Shop 2400 dpi printer. The MD-5000
uses the same kind of Micro-Dry inks as the MD-1300 and output is spectacular--especially
for black and white images that contain no hint of color pollution.
The paper used for 2400dpi output is Alps new Vphoto paper that lacks
the heft of their other photo paper and has a glossy--but not too glossy--surface.
The MD-50000 is designed to print letter-sized photo quality output
on virtually any printable surface, including textured and coated papers,
transparencies, card stock, and embossed foil. You can install up to
seven ink cartridges at one time, so you don't have to swap cartridges
if you want to use Alps metallic inks in addition to their photo inks.
The MD-5000 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows computers and a USB
(Universal Serial Bus) kit is optional. The MD-5000 costs $599 and is
bundled with four standard ink cartridges, Vphoto paper, and reversible
cartridges that allow you to print black and white documents more economically
than Alps other models. A dye sublimation upgrade kit is available for
printing continuous tone lab quality photographic images. For more information
about Alps printers, contact them at (800) 825-2577 or visit their web
site at www.alpsusa.com.
Agfa Paper For Your Ink Jet Printer. Agfa Desktop Products
Group has announced a series of photo quality papers for color ink jet
printers. The four varieties of new AgfaJet papers include Glossy Photo
Inkjet Paper, PhotoPrint Paper, Premium Quality Inkjet Paper, and Transparency
Inkjet Film. The papers are designed to work with many different brands
of ink jet printers and come with instructions for the optimum settings
needed to produce the best quality output. For users who want to check
the appropriate settings for their specific printer, Agfa provides online
support. Papers are available in sizes other than 81/2x11. PhotoPrint
Paper, for example, is offered in 4x6" and 5.85x14" panoramic
format sizes, and the Premium Quality Inkjet Paper is available in 11x17".
My tests of the Premium Quality Inkjet Paper with both the Epson Stylus
Color 850 and Stylus Photo 700 produced impressive photo-realistic output
with rich, deep colors. For more information, about Agfa's ink
jet papers, visit their website at www.agfahome.com.
Clik! Lastly this month is Iomega's serious roll-out of their
Clik! removable media system for digital cameras and other handheld
devices. A 40MB Clik! cartridge is so small--how small is it?--that
it will fit into a slot in a plastic slide page. The disks are expected
to sell for under $10 and can store 40 megapixel digital photographs
(or 400 10-page Microsoft Word documents). Until manufacturers start
offering cameras with built-in Clik! drives, Iomega has created a bundle
for digital camera owners that consists of the Clik! mobile drive, a
Flash Memory reader that connects to the drive and allows downloading
images from Compact-Flash and SmartMedia memory cards, and a Clik! cartridge.
The bundle has an estimated street price of $200 and is expected in
the second half of 1999. For more information on Clik! visit Iomega's
web site at www.iomega.com.