Q&A Digital Photography
Help Us Out...
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
B&W Film Scanning
Q. I can readily see why C-41 processing, resulting in a dye film image, is preferred for scanning. (I’d forgotten what a pain pinholes caused by dust, etc., can be in the darkroom until recently when I helped my son finish a photo project where he had to develop and print negatives.)
Is there any advantage to using black-and-white C-41 negative film over color in producing a black-and-white image, since you can convert the color negative to black and white in the editor? I see that this is possible, but are there subtle differences that I’m unaware of?
A. Personally, I find there is an image quality advantage in shooting with black-and-white C-41 film, at least for as long as it remains available. Shooting color negative film to then scan and process a conversion to black and white is possible, but to get good results it takes considerably more editing work to adjust the color to a gray density interpretation in editing. It requires an extensive understanding of color contrast and mastering of a more complex editing process.
Mac mini & Video Performance
Q. I use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for editing and printing Raw files. I am considering the purchase of a Mac mini. Can the newest Mac mini with the integrated video “Intel HD Graphics 4000” work as well as the old Mac mini that had the discrete graphics card when using the above mentioned software? Are there any drawbacks using integrated or shared video RAM?
A. Two new models of the Mac mini have been released since my Shutterbug report on the Mac mini (April, 2012, issue). Now, the amount of RAM supported has moved up to 16GB, which allows for much more RAM available for imaging, including video. Reports are that the latest model is much faster and more capable, and I have no reason to doubt those reports, including a lot of praise for the Intel 4000 graphics. But for anyone doing digital photography and video there is that much more reason to install the maximum RAM of 16GB. The discrete video function of the past had more limitations relying solely on its own VRAM, so was less flexible.
Temperature Range For Digital Cameras?
Q. Digital cameras seem to have two temperature ranges in their specifications. For example, one states an Operating Range (32˚F to 104˚F) and the other a Storage Range (-4˚F to 140˚F). Since it appears a camera can withstand the more extreme temps of the Storage Range, are there problems in taking a camera out and operating it in temps that would be equivalent to the Storage Range? If there are problems, are they in the quality of the resulting images or is damage being done to the camera?
A. A contemporary digital camera includes both mechanical and electrical components and functions. We do not know what they are all made of and how temperature might affect both their physical functions because of lubrication and, with electronics, their conductivity of electrical data and its integrity protected by materials that prevent conduction. I am neither a physicist nor a chemist so I can’t even make a guess as to how the data created by a low or high exposure temperature might be affected. But with batteries we know that if they are cold they lose efficiency; if too warm there is a danger the internal components can break down and cause internal heat and even an explosion.
So, just like the older analog cameras, modern digital ones need to be protected from excesses of heat and cold so the camera functions properly. That may mean insulating the camera from natural extremes of either heat or cold to protect the device from poor functioning and damage. In cold we use an extension cord for a battery and keep the battery closer to a normal range of hot or cold by situating it close to our own body’s source of heating and cooling. A protective blanket may be needed with built-in heating for use of a camera outside in very cold environments. Personally, I would take the camera specification of both use and storage temperatures seriously for both the safety of the equipment and its proper functioning.
New Plustek Models
Q. I am an avid reader and perhaps I missed some information, but when I tried to purchase a Plustek 7600i I was told they no longer carry them since the 8200i came out. My question: is the 8200i as good as the 7600i, or perhaps better?
A. Although I have not tested and reported on the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai and SE, I have spoken with my contacts at Plustek and LaserSoft Imaging about it. It is the same basic design as the 7600i Ai and SE models with refinements to the sensor system, particularly the infrared dirt and dust correction, and now comes with the SilverFast Version 8 software. I would not be concerned, as it should perform better than the 7600i models, but still works essentially the same way.
Epson Printer Models & Inks
Q. Which printer would you recommend between the Epson R2000 and R3000? The price difference is about $85 in their loyalty pricing setup.
A. The Epson Stylus Photo R2000 and R3000 are about as different as they can be, and to my thinking the R3000 should not be considered as a photo printer. The reason is very basic: they each have very different ink colors, and you can readily see that by going to the Epson website and looking at what the ink colors are for each. You will find that the R3000 only has variations of four colors of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. These are the colors of ink used in commercial publishing and are necessary to make hard proofs for publishing images. In other words, the R3000 is primarily a hard proofing printer for the publishing industry rather than a printer for direct photographic reproduction.
If you want further proof just take a look at the ink colors for the Canon PIXMA PRO-1 as well as the rest of the Canon PIXMA Pro photo printers. You will find that their ink colors are similar to those in the Epson R2000 and unlike those of the R3000.
Software Applications For Editing Images
Q. I purchased a copy of your “Digital Darkroom Resource” CD (4.3 Edition, 2010) and would like to know if an update is available. If so, how much would it cost and how would I order it?
Also, what photo-editing program for digital camera images would you recommend for an intermediate beginner? I have tried Adobe Photoshop CS3 and found it too complex and Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 and found it lacking. Does LaserSoft or Adobe offer something that you would recommend that would support your “four basic requirements” of Levels, Curves, Color Balance, and Hue/Saturation?
Finally, do you still feel that the best way to handle Raw images is to use the camera manufacturer’s software to convert them to TIFF files and then use a photo-editing program to manipulate them? I seem to remember you saying that only the camera manufacturer knows how to interpret the Raw file and all other Raw converter programs have to be guessing, given that the Raw file is proprietary to the manufacturer.
A. There have been a few chapters added since the 2010 4.3 Edition of my Digital Darkroom Resource eBook. But I cannot just clip them to send chapters by e-mail as they are too large in file size and they are not separated from the entire eBook. You can check on what you are missing by going to my website, https://sites.google.com/site/davidbrooksfotografx/. Also, some of the most recent information is contained in my blog, http://fotografx.blogspot.com/.
Personally, I use the full Ai edition of LaserSoft SilverFast HDR to edit my images. And, there are not four but six basic parts to image editing, named differently in different applications: 1) optimization/levels; 2) brightness/histogram; 3) contrast/gradation; 4) color balance; 5) hue-saturation/selective color; and 6) sharpness. It is not easy as it demands a thorough knowledge of the photographic process, but it is an efficient and complete editing tool without requiring a lot of extraneous work. An easier solution is to use Organic Imaging Version 2.0, which automatically edits to publishing quality standards. You can try it for free up to 250 images, and it is just about 10 cents an image to use after the free trial. Go to www.organicimaging.com. Also, Corel PaintShop Pro X6 is much improved over Version 3. You can go to the Corel website, www.corel.com, and try it for free.
If you shoot with a Canon D-SLR use their Digital Photo Professional software to do the conversions as it offers great advantages as you can change camera setting effects after shooting. I am unsure if other brands have followed suit. Both Organic Imaging and SilverFast HDR offer conversions for the most popular cameras that probably work quite well in comparison to camera software.
Image Quality Requirements
Q. I have a question that probably plagues all photographers of a certain age who have “old” negs and slides, as well as photos taken with older digital cameras with not enough pixels. My daughter, who helps with my photography, tells me that these images are not good enough to “sell.” Not large enough, etc. Yet I have made many 9x13 prints on my old Epson 1400 printer and they look great, at least to my eye.
Is there any specialized software that can help “rehabilitate” my images? Is my collection really worthless in the commercial world? What do other people do?
A. I am sorry to say that I have to agree with your daughter. It is not because what you do is not good, but the fact is the demand for still photography by the advertising industry has gotten smaller and fewer quality paper magazines are being published. More and more of the budget seems to go into video now. Time brings change and it is not helping photographers; now there are many more doing still photographs trying to make money from a smaller and smaller market.
I am also sorry to say that there is no magic software that will actually increase an image’s native resolution. You can resize it larger by increasing the pixel count, but the image information still remains what it was originally. So it won’t look like the same photo taken with a higher-resolution camera. To me, it makes no sense to spend more and more money on new, higher-resolution gear if the market is not paying any more, and in fact seems to be paying even less than it did in the past. You have carved out your own local market, and probably know it better than anyone outside it. It is like neighborhood farmers’ food markets—what goes on in the rest of the world is of no matter. So stay with what has been a success for you, but that does not mean you cannot improve the quality of your product; that’s just good insurance against any future competition.
I am pleased to announce the latest 4.3 edition tomy 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.