Q&A For Digital 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
My Warning Was Too Late
Q. I am a photographer “hobbyist” who has begun to market and sell my images. I recently splurged and bought an iMac computer for my photography. The large-volume, nationwide retailer in my area has a slick-tongued salesman who convinced me that the iMacs are the very best thing out there for professional photographers. I wish your answer on the iMac in the December issue, where you said that the iMacs were a great computer for “college students and well-to-do housewives,” would have appeared a couple of months prior. You couldn’t be more correct. While the iMac has run flawlessly for me, the screen is less than desirable for an aspiring professional photographer. My prints aren’t even close to what I see on my monitor! What software would you recommend for monitor calibration for my iMac? I’ve heard that some of the monitor calibration software that works on other Macs won’t work on an iMac.
A. If your corral gate broke and all your horses escaped, fixing the corral gate afterward is poor consolation. If I were you I would pack up the iMac and take it back to that dealer who convinced you it would work for professional photography and demand your money back.
About the same time or a little before, I bought the latest Mac mini from Apple and set it up for photography. I wrote a report on it, which will run soon in Shutterbug, as an almost ideal photography computer. My Mac mini is currently equipped with a LaCie 324i LCD display, which for the money is the best of them, and I have used almost every brand and model of pro-graphics LCD display with Mac mini computers. Be sure to read my report on the LaCie in this issue on page 146.
Shutterbug recently published my report on the X-Rite i1Display Pro hardware and software (December, 2011, issue). I tested it with several pro-graphics displays and it works great. According to X-Rite it is supposed to work with iMacs, but not having an iMac for obvious reasons, I did not test that use of the X-Rite i1Display Pro. The other display adjustment, calibration, and profiling solution that will work with iMacs and Apple Cinema Displays, as well as most other brands and models of LCD displays, is ColorEyes Display Pro. For full information on ColorEyes Display Pro, go to the Integrated Color Corporation website at: www.integrated-color.com.
But even if you get the iMac display adjusted, calibrated, and profiled, do you have a good display for professional digital photography? Not when you consider that the iMac display has an sRGB color range and uses LED backlight and a glossy screen surface. First, you will still only be able to see two-thirds of the range of color in a Raw file. And second, a report from a color science laboratory in England says LED backlight is inferior to CCFL backlight, and all the pro-graphics displays like the Dell UltraSharp U2410, the LaCie 324i, the NEC with SpectraView, and the EIZO FlexScan and ColorEdge displays use CCFL backlight, and as far as I have been told they do not plan to use LED backlight.
The other option some iMac users have taken is to add a pro-graphics display and connect it to their iMac and use it for color image editing. Whatever solution you choose I hope it works well for you, and you can count on me to help with it in any way I can.
Profiling For Kodachromes
Q. I’m currently scanning Velvia slides using a Plustek 7500i scanner with SilverFast Ai Studio Version 6.6. The scanner has also been calibrated using the recommended Provia IT-8 target. When scanning Kodachrome slides, do I need to purchase an additional target for this film? LaserSoft has come out with a new version of scanning software. In the near future, will you be doing an evaluation of it for Shutterbug?
A. In the General control panel of SilverFast 6.6, next to the Pos./Neg. option, there is a drop-down selection with three choices: Positive, Kodachrome, and Negative. If you choose Kodachrome the software interpolates from your standard E-6 profile and converts the color table to that of Kodachrome. I don’t know whether they are still available, but not long ago you could buy a Kodachrome IT-8 reference slide and profile from LaserSoft and profile the scanner with that, but in my experience using the Kodachrome selection is as effective as a custom Kodachrome profile.
Regarding SilverFast 8, I was employed by LaserSoft to do beta testing with the new software. I was not satisfied with its performance, and, considering it requires learning an almost entirely new software interface, my feedback to LaserSoft was very critical. Since then, three Shutterbug readers have written to me that they installed SilverFast 8 and were very unhappy with it, so I don’t plan to review it. Unless LaserSoft makes some major changes, I do not plan to recommend that anyone upgrade to it unless they have to, as is the case if they have an Apple Mac running OS X Lion 10.7.
Welcome, Dinosaurs, To The Digital Age
Q. OK, so I’m a dinosaur. I like film in my Nikon F2 but I like Photoshop CS5. I scan my film in a Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED and open the TIFF files in Camera Raw. What information is there in a camera set to shoot in Camera Raw that I’m not getting?
Sandy Springs, GA
A. Well in some respects you are talking to another dinosaur, as I began making photographs on film in 1952, and I am still busy scanning and editing those thousands of pictures. I began doing digital back in 1989, and have made my share of digital photographs since.
I also use a scanner, a Plustek OpticFilm 7600i, and Photoshop for some editing, but mostly to retouch flaws in the image. I tried using Camera Raw for editing scanned film images but found it does not work well, which is logical as it was designed for editing images made with a digital camera, not film.
What I use is LaserSoft Imaging’s SilverFast Archival Suite for making and editing film scans. It is efficient and the editing tools are ideal and powerful. But sadly it is very expensive software, and takes a while to learn to use it to its full advantage. You might want to look into it though. There is lots of information on the SilverFast Archival Suite at: www.silverfast.com.
Camera Raw is designed and programmed to use Raw camera file data, including a metadata file that is attached to the Raw file. The metadata contains all the camera settings, which can be quite varied depending on the camera used. But the one thing of importance is the white balance setting, what the color temperature of the scene was. With the most advanced D-SLR cameras all the image adjustment settings are also recorded in the metadata file, but that information is proprietary, which only the software made by the camera manufacturer can interpret directly and use, but not Camera Raw. Adobe just guesses what that data is and interprets it in their own way.
The D-SLR Raw image is like all digital camera images. Depending on how many megapixels the camera has (let’s say 12), the image sensor has millions of individual pixels and each one measures the part of the subject that it is focused upon and records RGB number values that correspond directly to the color file structure in a computer.
On the other hand, film images record the picture directly using one single color temperature, 5600˚K for daylight-balanced film. Then each different film brand and model uses a unique dye color set to reproduce the image in a slide differently—Ektachrome, Kodachrome, Fuji, and Agfachrome images of the same subject all look different. Your scanner makes no distinction between these differences and measures the film image and reproduces a set of pixels as a result that does not correspond proportionally to the color image structure of a computer. That is why scanned Raw images require a lot of complex editing to adjust for all the differences in film. All of these image characteristic differences in film scans are not factors that a digital camera editing application is programmed to adjust and edit, as they are not a characteristic part of a digital camera image file.
I could go on but it would take a small book to define all the differences between scanned film images and digital camera images. So, in conclusion, just let me say that Camera Raw is the wrong tool for adjusting and editing film images; it is like trying to use a blade screwdriver to work with Phillips-head screws—it doesn’t work.
Q. I have read your reviews on the Epson Perfection V600 and Canon CanoScan 9000F scanners. Both reviews were positive. When I updated my computer to a 64-bit system my Epson 2450 became history, as Epson will not provide a 64-bit driver. I do have a Canon 4000 dedicated film scanner that I use with a 32-bit laptop. I use a flash drive to transfer the scans to my main computer; time consuming I know but most of my photo restoration work is old black-and-white and color photos. So, which of these scanners would be my best choice for scanning primarily prints?
A. Although the Canon CanoScan 9000F is superior in scanning color film to the Epson V600, I doubt that you would notice much difference scanning prints, as prints contain a relatively lower level of image information. And the CanoScan 9000F reproduces a better quality image file from 35mm film scans than all the older film scanners with 4000dpi or less resolution.
Note: I receive numerous e-mails telling me that readers who upgraded their PCs to Windows 7 (64-bit) can no longer run 32-bit scanner drivers. My solution with an Apple Mac was to install Parallels software ($79) to run Windows XP Pro. I then installed the old original driver for older scanners like the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400. So the only cost, considering I have a licensed copy of Windows XP Pro, is my Parallels software.
6500˚K LED Light Source
Q. After reading the X-Rite i1Display Pro report in the December issue I have a question. You mention using 6500˚K light sources for your digital darkroom, and I have been trying to look into this. Could you send me some info on that light source?
A. I have been using two LED lamps that closely match the 6500˚K color of LCD displays since June, 2010. I reported on the LED lights in a blog at: www.shutterbug.com/content/fobsun-led-lighting-products/. Rather than reproduce it here, please refer to that blog on the subject.
I am pleased to announce the latest 4.3 Edition to my eBook Digital Darkroom Resource CD. The CD now contains 33 chapters totaling 399 pages in Adobe Acrobat .PDF format, providing easy-to-read text and large high-quality illustration. The CD is available for $20 plus $5 shipping and handling (US Mail if available). Ordering is as simple as sending a check or money order for $25 made out to me, David B. Brooks, and mailed to PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
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