Q&A For Digita l Photography
To aid us in making Digital Help as helpful as possible, please be specific in your query and include components, including software, that you use. David says, “Make me guess the problem and I might guess wrong.”—Editor
UV Or Not To UV
Q. Does a UV filter degrade the quality of digital images? I have a UV haze filter on all my lenses, primarily to protect the lens. However, my daughter brought to my attention that “there is controversy that the extra piece of glass degrades the picture slightly by reducing contrast.” Is that true? Should I remove the filters, or not worry about it? Frankly, the filter has saved my lenses more than once.
A. It must be at least 30 years since I first argued this question, but old myths still persist. Most good lenses are sold with a lens cap of essentially unbreakable plastic, which is about the best physical protection there is for the front surface of a camera lens. Even the best filters made of optical glass will easily shatter into shards that, if forced against a lens element, will cut into the optical surface and can cause irreparable damage. However, in rare instances like photographing on a windy ocean beach, cleaning the salt spray off the front lens element afterward is not easily done. Well, I’ve only had to do that a handful of times in over 50 years of photography.
Selling glass filters as lens protection was in the old days a way to add to the profit of the sale of a lens or camera, and was indulged in by camera salespeople frequently and liberally. So the myth was born and grew into a system of belief, added to by the laziness of photographers who found it more convenient than removing and replacing a lens cap.
And yes, a flat glass filter element adds to surface light dispersion and refraction which will diminish contrast, a sometimes useful characteristic in the moviemaking industry used to reduce the exposed scene contrast to match a scene from day to day. Harrison & Harrison, makers of movie lens filters, had a whole set of different strengths of contrast reduction filters that were regularly used for this purpose. Your daughter is quite correct and accurate as far as optical functions are concerned.
Energy Efficient LCD Displays
Q. Thanks for your review of the Dell U2410. I found it very informative, especially since I’m in the process of buying a monitor that is suitable for photography. Have you found another monitor similarly priced, but a little bit more earth-friendly? Not that I believe that the Dell is not. It is just that I have seen many new devices that claim to be more environmental or energy efficient that could potentially be a better choice. I wonder if some of them may be RGB compliant within the same price range.
A. The easy answer for me is no. Although some brands like ASUS and ViewSonic claim their “photography” pro-graphics models work for this purpose, I have tested them and they do not meet the standards set by the pro-graphics models I have recommended. The Dell UltraSharp U2410 does work, although quite a few readers report that they have received defective units, but Dell has immediately replaced them. It is still at least $500 less expensive than a 24” NEC SpectraView, or a 24” EIZO FlexScan SX, or my favorite, the LaCie 324i. None of these have an LED backlight that uses less electricity. But LED is not ideal or recommended for photographic use, and all LED displays are limited to sRGB color range. The LaCie 324i has an adjustable backlight and lowering the backlight level should reduce the energy consumption.
All Digital Images Are In Color
Q. My friend is scanning black-and-white negatives to make digital negatives on Pictorico Transparency film for platinum printing. He is planning to buy an iMac and I mentioned your recommendation to use the Mac mini with a pro-graphics display, but he thought that would only apply to color printing. Would the iMac display be suitable in this case or for printing black and white only?
A. All the displays currently available are RGB color and only display color. When a grayscale file is sent to the display the red, green, and blue pixels are all activated, but with the same numerical value for each color, so the image appears to be gray even though it is an RGB color image.
To reproduce an image file on any printing media, including Pictorico Transparency, the display has to be adjusted in brightness/white luminance to match paper white. And that is about 80.0 to 90.0 CD/m2 white luminance. As it is delivered, the iMac screen will not adjust to a screen brightness that matches paper white for “print” output using the available display management hardware and software. I have heard that the latest X-Rite i1Display Pro may work, but no one has reported using it effectively with a new iMac.
The Mac mini I tested and use is now working in my lab with a Dell UltraSharp U2410 LCD display and both together at US list prices cost $1398, and the Dell U2410 reproduces the Adobe RGB color range and will easily adjust to the 80.0 CD/m2 equivalent of paper white.
The iMac with AMD Radeon video is $1499 for the 21.5” and $1699 for the 27”, and both only have an sRGB color range. The bottom line is that the technology applies the same to grayscale or color printing, and the same adjustment, calibration, and profiling of the display is required. With the iMac it is very difficult to accomplish and you still only see two-thirds of the image information displayed on screen.
I know and can recommend that a Mac mini like the one I reported on and a Dell UltraSharp U2410 will work. With an iMac it may be made to work, but still has display limitations that do not support serious digital photography.
Printer Change Is Due
Q. I have had my Epson R1800 for almost seven years. I print 13x19” prints and have generally been very, very pleased with the results, although the machine can be temperamental at unpredictable times.
Recently I have been consuming vast quantities of ink doing multiple head cleanings because the nozzle check pattern reveals white lines and gaps, and my prints have been blotchy in some areas. I have not been able to resolve the problem. Do you know what might be causing the problem? Is it time to get rid of the R1800? If so, do you have any recommendations in the $600 range? (For example, Adorama is selling the Epson R3000 for $599 after a $200 rebate.)
David A. Bradlow
A. Well, mechanical things like a print head in a printer do eventually wear out, which is likely what you described. I used an R800 that is a smaller letter-sized version of the same printer you have, and eventually it wore out, too. I replaced it with an R1900, which I am still using with good satisfaction. Recently I tested an Epson R2000, and found it produced prints very much like my old R800 and newer R1900, and somewhat better, and worked extremely well. If my R1900 needs replacing I will likely get an R2000.
I have had an Epson R2880 and it was never consistent and did not reproduce prints I liked as much as the R1900 and has not been at all reliable, so it went back in its box sometime ago where it remains. The R3000 is the same general CMYK ink set printer design, so I was not interested in even trying it when it came out. I would recommend an Epson R2000 if you want a good replacement for your R1800.
Options For The Mac mini
Q. Thank you for your Mac mini review in the April,
2012, issue, and indeed for all your work at Shutterbug. You’ve made a few comments in recent issues about the downsides of the iMac as a photographer’s display, and those, coupled with this Mac mini review, have tilted me
in favor of the mini.
I have two questions: 1) You said you preferred the OWC Mercury Pro CD/DVD drive to Apple’s USB external SuperDrive, but did not state why. Could you say a few words about that? 2) I appreciated your review of the EIZO FlexScan SX2262W display, but it is a tad above my budget. Do you have any recommendations for an IPS monitor in the $300 or so range?
A. First of all, the Apple CD/DVD drive is a compact, lightweight unit like the units put into computers. The Mercury Pro is a heavier, more substantial and more reliable professional production drive. I do a lot of disc burning and the drives they put into computers, whether Apple or other PC brands, are lightweight units that will not last long if used very much for disc burning.
Second, if you want a $300 display you cannot afford a computer that will accurately edit and process digital photography. The 27” Apple Thunderbolt display that is the same as in the iMac is only sRGB color and won’t do the job. The cheapest LCD display that will work is the 24” Dell UltraSharp U2410 and it lists at $599. (I got mine from Dell when it was advertised at $100 off.)
The only way around this is to shoot sRGB/JPEG digital camera photos, and don’t edit them, just take them as you get them as edited by the camera. Then it does not matter what kind of computer you use.
80.0 Or 90.0 CD/m2?
Q. I read your article on the X-Rite i1Display Pro in the December, 2011, issue but noted your reservations regarding small type on high-res screens and the lack of a setting for luminance at 90.0. The price you mentioned was $269.
Although you had concerns about the X-Rite not having a setting for 90.0, you didn’t say whether or how that affected your results, e.g., were your prints off from the display? If so, did you develop an adjustment or workaround to get the prints to match the display?
Do you have any info or opinions on a new product, the Spyder4Pro—it’s $169 ($100 less than the X-Rite)? Can it be set to a luminance of 90.0? Any thoughts about it versus the X-Rite? Any other colorimeter/software products out there that you like better these days?
A. Because of queries like yours I requested a tryout of the new Datacolor Spyder4Elite and the company was kind enough to send me one to test. It works, and the complications with the last versions of Expert Console and CALcheck have been incorporated into an easier workflow; however, it lacks the Automatic Display Control in the X-Rite i1Display Pro. Seeing the results and using the new Spyder4Elite did not change my preference for the X-Rite i1Display Pro.
I have used the new X-Rite i1Display Pro for a while now, and setting the white luminance at 80.0 CD/m2 is not any real disadvantage, and the X-Rite system works well and is easy to use. The difference between 80.0 and 90.0 CD/m2 is inconsequential, as 80.0 is the recommended setting for prepress and 90.0 is what most CRT monitors produce. In addition, I recently checked the selling price of the i1Display Pro on Google Shopping and it can be purchased for as little as $211. So it would be my choice if I needed to buy a new display management system of colorimeter and software.
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