Digital Help
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: or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Q. I just finished reading your report of the Epson Expression 1600. I have been looking for a high quality 35mm negative and slide scanner to be compatible with the iMac DVD SE, system 09. The Nikon CoolScan (which I wanted) is out because it is SCSI and the iMac is USB and Firewire. If the Epson is compatible, will it deliver the high quality I'm looking for? I'm a professional photographer moving to the digital darkroom. Again I shoot mostly 35mm, so I don't want something that just gives me OK results. If Epson is not the answer, are you aware of anything out there which will work for me? Thank you.
Peyton Hoge
Franklin, TN

First of all, the Epson Expression 1600 does a very good job scanning prints and film. However, the resolution and detail that can be captured is not at all equal to what a dedicated 35mm scanner can capture, the optical resolution is just over half that of a 35mm scanner. Only until you get into much more expensive flat-bed scanners can you obtain an equivalent scan of 35mm. So, for the primary purpose of scanning 35mm film, I do not recommend any of the affordable flat-bed scanners.

So far none of the better 35mm film scanners offer an alternative to SCSI. However, I would not be surprised that at least one will offer FireWire and will be announced this fall. In the meantime, there is the HP PhotoSmart S-20 scanner that is USB and which does a pretty good job of 35mm film scanning and has an optical resolution of 2400dpi. But, unless you are needing to get a scanner tomorrow, I'd be just a bit patient and do something else this summer.

Q. My present computer is limited to 48K RAM. I want to do digital photography by scanning 35mm film. I am a serious amateur interested only in making good prints, not in any of the artistic manipulations of the image. Do I need a new computer with more RAM possible? If so, what's a "decent" amount, again just to make prints. Thanks.
Jim Dyson

Today the minimum amount of RAM included in new computers is 64MB usually, with better performing medium priced machines it's usually 128MB. To scan 35mm at a slide scanner's 2700/2800dpi to make a letter-sized ink jet print, and obtain decent performance, I'd recommend adding RAM to bring the total to at least 192MB. Today this adds little to the total cost of a computer, but assures you'll get the full potential of speed performance while doing digital photographic processing.

Q. Some time ago you gave me good advice on a scanner. I have since purchased a Nikon scanner and I am very happy with it. I am now interested in purchasing a scanner for my 4x5 and 120 transparencies and negatives. I read your article on the Epson 1200 Photo. I am primarily using a scanner for photo decor (larger framed prints). Do you think that it will do the job? I appreciate your time and advice.
Bert Hoferichter

If by "photo decor" you are considering prints larger than 11x14, I would recommend the Epson Expres-sion 1600, and not the Perfection 1200. The latter is fine for less serious scanning of 120 and 4x5 film, but is not comparable to your Nikon 35mm scanner to resolve fine detail sufficiently to make large prints for hanging.

Q. I buy Shutterbug primarily for your excellent articles. The latest on the Epson 1270 was no exception. One comment; have you tried for papers and inks? Your two suggestions in the article have far less selection, much higher prices (at least on the items I checked), and nothing close to the valuable advice offered at the tsspho to site. They give frank comments on their products. Keep your wonderful advice coming!
Dave Habura

Glad to know what I am doing helps. I appreciate the heads up on the web resource and will check it out on your recommendation. Thank you. However, I must confess that I do not look first for the lowest prices, as I've often found that if the price is lower, so is some other important factor less.

Q. I deeply appreciate your enormously helpful comments. I wish I could do something to express my thanks better. Can I write to the editor of Shutterbug to tell him how much I value your articles? There are two things which I must learn and master. One is color management and the other is resolution: what to scan at, what to print at, etc. Can you recommend homework and a reading list. Also, I'd like to take a 3-5 day course in photoshop. Which do you think is the best? Thanks again.
Sheldon Wolf

Glad to help. The July issue of Shutterbug has an article on fine art paper printing which has some how-to information included that should help. In addition, our company's new magazine has some articles that I think will answer some of your resolution questions.

Santa Fe Workshops (Santa Fe, New Mexico) is one that is highly recommended for digital photo classes, plus it's a great area to do some photography.

Q. May I query you on some color setup issues? First, I think I read somewhere that you advise that Monaco EZ Color only works properly with Photoshop Version. 5.02 and above. I have 5.0. What are my options? Second, anything I have ever read about setting up the picture correctly on a normal TV set has cautioned against setting the brightness and contrast controls too high for fear of harming the picture tube. Yet every instruction I have read for calibrating computer monitors has as a first step setting the contrast control to 100 percent and leaving it there. I presume there's a difference between computer monitors and TV sets or is there? Thanks.
Fred Phillips

First, the upgrade to 5.02 is free from the Adobe web site, you can download it from

Second, there is no one to one relationship between the way a computer monitor functions and the way a TV works, so don't associate them--a computer display is digital, a TV is analog. The only similarity is they both use CRT display tubes, but even they are not interchangeable.

Q. I read your excellent column regularly with great interest. Your review of the various papers was excellent, but Epson has warned me that other manufacturers' papers will do dire things to my Epson 1200 (soon to buy a 2000) printer, not covered by warrantee, etc., so they have intimidated me away from other companies' papers.

This was the first time I've seen you refer to the Monaco color managing software. I've been using the epson tools, selecting photoenhance 3, and that's given me the best wyswyg results so far. I've found color management a very complicated problem, and I've spent hours with techs from photoshop and epson. Does the Monaco really add to quality without causing complications?

One other question about resizing that you discussed. I had been scanning and then downsizing in photoshop using the image size tool to decrease the size of the file before I stored it, using save as. A Nikon tech told me that if the box called resample image was checked when I downsized, then I would lose much information. That sounds similar to what you were saying about using save with the e-mails, doesn't it? Do you agree with the Nikon tech? Many thanks.

I have heard this "warning" from others, and brought it up with the printer division product manager at a meeting at Epson's headquarters not long ago. You can use any paper with an Epson printer and as long as it is not too thick for the printer, no harm will be done using it. Epson was very aware of my project, and is also aware that many, many users print on papers other than those offered by Epson. In fact their professional printers are sold with the explicit understanding a great variety of independent media will be used with them. With inks that is another story. If non-Epson inks are used and the print head fails, Epson will not warranty the print head and you have to replace it at your own expense.

Using custom profiles with Color Management (either ColorSync on a Mac, or ICM 2.0 with Windows 98/2000) and employing profiling software like Monaco EZ Color, involves a more complex workflow. However, it is not difficult after reading a little basic documentation to understand the Color Management concept and system, as well as what facilities and controls need to be used with your operating system, Photoshop, and in the print driver. If you want the best image quality that can be produced with the physical tools available, it is well worth the extra learning and effort--there is a significant difference in precisely defined image qualities reproduced with fidelity and accuracy.

If you have ReSample turned on and you downsize using the Image Size dialog in Photoshop the file size is reduced accordingly and you will lose information. Yes the Nikon tech was correct.