Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

This column will attempt to provide solutions to problems readers may have in 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 the 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 read your article on the Epson 836XL and it sounds very impressive. The only question I have is if you have any opinion on the Microtek Scanmaker 5 vs. the Epson. The Scanmaker's resolution is higher, but I don't know how good its software is. I'm a professional wedding/portrait photographer and am looking to scan prints and 35mm and 21/4 square negs. I would like to makeup to 16x20 prints--maybe 20x24. I also have an interest in Iris prints. Would these scanners be overkill or would the Epson 636 or something with similar specs be more appropriate? Any advice would be appreciated. I love your articles and columns in Shutterbug and you have really helped me understand the often confusing world of digital imaging much better. Thanks.
Dan Kaminski

A. First of all, the LaserSoft Silver-Fast software that comes with the Epson Expression 836 XL is definitely superior, and a great advantage at the price. The Microtek ScanMaker 5 is an excellent scanner, but the software that comes with it is not comparable to LaserSoft's SilverFast. However, LaserSoft has SilverFast available for many of the Microtek scanners, possibly including the ScanMaker 5. I would check their web site for this information at:
Another scanner in this class is the LinoColor Saphir Ultra. If you are using a Mac, the software that is available from LinoColor is definitely comparable to SilverFast.
However, neither the Scanmaker 5 with SilverFast added or the Saphir Ultra offer as much performance as Epson in the Expression 836XL for the money.
Also, relative to your print size expectations, I would not expect a flat-bed scanner in this range will handle 35mm film originals well enough to make such large prints. The 2700-2800dpi optical resolution of the better 35mm film scanners is really necessary to reproduce scans of 35mm to make prints as large as 16x20 and definitely 20x24. For your professional requirements, I would recommend the Nikon Super CoolScan 2000 (LS-2000), with the addition of LaserSoft SilverFast 4.X software.

Q. With the "Y2K" computer showdown looming, I was wondering how my electronic N8008S camera would fare. Are the computer/microchips in our automated cameras at risk as well?
Ken Lemky

A. I cannot answer your question with specifics regarding your Nikon N8008S. So, you may want to inquire of Nikon whether the Millennium "bug" will effect that particular model. But before you decide to do that, there is a general method of determining whether there is a potential problem.
First of all, the Millennium "bug" is a possible hazard only for those digital devices which involve automatic dating, a digital clock, and if the year number is recorded in just two digits, like 99 for the current year instead of four digits, or 1999. If your camera has a time/date recording feature and records the year in four digits, it is very unlikely a problem will occur when the calendar turns to January 1, 2000. Also, if your camera's microchip does not have a date/time function there is little likelihood a problem will develop.
For those of you who have digital time/date functions built into your camera's automated functions and the year date is recorded in two digits, it would be advisable to query the manufacturer about the possibility of a problem and hopefully acquire a solution sooner than later. For those with newer digital cameras which interface with a computer, considering they are relatively new, it seems unlikely that the "Y2K" potential was not taken into consideration in the programming of their functions. And, with many of these cameras that do interface with a computer, the chip may be programmed with software transferred from the computer to the camera to avert a possible Y2K problem. How-ever, the more the camera's digital functions are integrated, the more likely a serious problem could occur, including a complete shutdown, if the year date was programmed to have only two digits instead of four.
According to Chuck Westfall at Canon, there are two points of discussion on Y2K and Canon photographic products. First, the Y2K issue has nothing to do with fundamental camera operations such as AF, AE, shutter release, and film transport. In this respect, all Canon cameras past and present are "Y2K compliant." Second, referring specifically to date imprinting and/or date memory features, all Canon cameras, data backs for cameras, and other date recording accessories for cameras that are "electronically controlled" are "Y2K compliant." This covers all such products ever marketed by Canon, dating back to the Sure Shot II QD that was originally marketed in 1983. "Mechanically controlled" data imprinting devices, such as accessory Data Backs A, F, and Fn, etc. are neither current nor "Y2K compliant."
Obviously it is not feasible for me to inquire of every manufacturer about every camera model they have produced which contains a microchip and has a time/date function. So, if what I have indicated above applies to you and your camera(s), it would be wise to find out now what, if anything, you need to do. I'm sure the companies will be swamped when this year begins to expire, and the situation may be worse in the few days and weeks after the Millennium changes if the "bug" shuts down various devices with time/date microchip functions.

Q. Is there any process that can make a true photographic print on photo paper from a digital file? If so, how do I access it? I am interested in making high quality, durable prints from my scanned slides. (Photo CD)

A. Yes, Fuji makes a printer that does just that, and it is used in a number of photo labs that provide print services. This printer is called the Fuji Pictography 3000/4000. Considering I am not aware of where you are located, may I suggest trying the Fuji web site to see if they list labs that make digital prints with their equipment: You should also look into the services provided by Sienna Imaging, Inc. You can obtain information about their photographic print services from digital image files at:

Q. I have a few thousand slides to label and catalog on my G3 PowerMac. I have FileMaker Pro and was wondering if you knew of any freeware or shareware FileMaker templates being offered on the Internet for creating an image database. If I can't find any, I'll have to fashion one myself. I could do it, but why reinvent the wheel? Thanks. I've greatly enjoyed the in-depth technical advice in your magazine.
Jacques Cornell

A. Essentially your comment about reinventing the wheel is key to why there are so many function specific thumbnail image database applications on the market. Years ago before there were any, I made a few bucks programming database functions for some businesses to be able to utilize images as one of the data fields. Unfortunately businesses almost always are on PCs so I didn't acquire any experience with the Mac and FileMaker. And, I have not seen anything like the templates you mentioned available, not that such an animal doesn't exist.
Your best bet in finding a template is to get involved with some of the online forums like those on CompuServe which specifically address various computer uses and particularly database applications like FileMaker. You might also obtain some useful feedback on digital photo filing as well in CompuServe's Professional Photography Forum. These can be accessed from the web at:
However, even if you do find some templates, many additional functions you may require will have to be programmed including various printing options. Unless your time is worth nothing, I'd suggest biting the bullet and buying something like Extensis Portfolio. Then, if on the Mac it is anything like Windows database applications, which usually in professional versions support ODBC, you will be able to connect the fields in Portfolio to functions in your existing database if need be.

Q. I recently read your review of the CanoScan 2700F. It sounds like a great scanner, but will it work on a Macintosh? I was told by Canon, B&H, and Hunt's Photo that it would not. I was told that you need a driver for it to work on Macs, but that driver is no longer available. (I looked on Canon's web site but could not find it anywhere.)
I was encouraged to consider the Nikon CoolScan III, for about $200 more. I was told it had better detail in the shadows, that it could handle underexposed prints/slides better than the CanoScan; that in fact the CanoScan didn't have very good ability to scan underexposed prints.
Would you e-mail me with any suggestions as to getting the CanoScan to work on the Macintosh, and also your opinion of the CoolScan III compared to the CanoScan. Do you have any other recommendations for a Mac compatible slide/film scanner for less than $1000? Thanks much.

A. At the time I reviewed the CanoScan 2700F a Mac driver was available for download. But, from what you indicate the people you talked to are not aware of the particulars. Currently Mac driver software for CanoScan 2700F can be found on the Canon Deutschland web site at: Once you get there, follow the links for "Download" and you'll find the page with the CanoScan 2700F files. The filenames you're looking for are: pifs304.hqx--This is the Mac driver; pifspdf.hqx--This is the English language instruction book (Acrobat).
Once these are downloaded to a Macintosh computer, you'll need to unstuff them using Stuffit Expander, which is available for free on the web.
Here's some additional support information:
1. Canon U.S.A. is marketing the 2700F with ScanCraft FS for Windows 95 only. Distribution is exclusively through Authorized Canon U.S.A. Camera Division dealers.
2. Consumer phone support for this product is being handled by CITS (Canon Information Technology Services) through their Chesapeake, Virginia facility. Customers who call the toll-free numbers ((800) 652-2666 and (800) 828-4040) will be forwarded to CITS at this location.
3. CITS will support 2700F as it is sold here in the U.S.A., meaning that in the specific area of software support, they are only responsible for ScanCraft FS.
In addition, Canon Inc. has developed a Mac plug-in module for the CanoScan 2700F. This software and an Adobe PDF file of the English language manual for it is already available for download at no charge through Canon Deutschland's web site mentioned earlier. The purpose of informing our Sales Reps, Pro Reps, and CITS support about the availability of the Mac plug-in is so we can help customers who may be looking for this information. We want to make it crystal clear that neither Canon U.S.A. nor CITS will "officially" provide this driver or support it, however, we are happy to provide information to customers who wish to take advantage of the free downloading that is available through the Canon Deutschland web site.
For the money the CanoScan is a very good scanner, although I found the software not as effective as what is available for some scanners. The most significant advantage with the Nikon CoolScan 30 would be if you add the full version of LaserSoft SilverFast to accompany it. Polaroid's scanners for slides are expected to be replaced with new models soon, and Polaroid scanners do have a very good reputation. I would also look for a new 35mm slide scanner model from Microtek before long as well.

Q. I read with interest your response to a question concerning black and white printing on the Epson Photo EX in the January issue of Shutterbug. Do you recommend using the color ink setting or the black ink? I was under the impression quality would be better if one used the color setting. What is your opinion?
The second thing that concerns me is matching the screen to the print. I am using a 19" Viewsonic PS790 monitor and the Epson Photo EX printer. Right now all I am doing is adjusting the printer with the manual controls for color and brightness and contrast until I get close. Contrast seems to be the hardest to balance. I haven't tried using the Windows 98 ICM. I have looked at the utility that comes with Corel PhotoPaint but I do not have profiles of my devices to input. Can you recommend any plug-ins or anyway of using PhotoPaint or Windows to help with this problem? I'm really not sure of how this all fits together. Would Vivid Detail's Test Strip mentioned elsewhere in the magazine be of any help?
Dan Kaminski

A. If you print a gray scale image with the color turned on in the Epson driver, you will get a colorized monochrome print (and the colorization is usually not that pleasant). If you want to enhance gray scale printing by using the color inks, then convert the file to 24-bit color RGB before you turn the color on in the Epson print driver. I do this, however, only when I want to create a "toned" print effect like Selenium or Sepia, which I accomplish by shifting the balance of the RGB channels.
Getting a match (at least to the degree possible considering a monitor is a light through media while a print is reflected light media) between screen appearance and Epson EX output should be automatic in Windows 98 if you turn on ICM in the printer driver Advanced dialog. However, be sure you are using the most recent driver for your EX as the earliest version of the driver had a bug that affected color management. You can download drivers from Epson's web site at: Also, the application from which you are printing can have an influence. Currently the only application which does a thorough job of color management utilizing Windows 98 ICM 2.0 is Photoshop 5.0.2.
Vivid Detail's Test Strip 2.0 is particularly useful for fine-tuning print output if you don't mind investing a little in paper and ink to make prints of their "Test Strip" window that will show a range of choices for adjustment in the printed "strips."

Q. I am thinking of purchasing a Kodak 8650 Series Printer for use in the home. My question is, will a printer such as the 8650 interface with a home computer that has 266MHz Pentium II processors and 96MB RAM? I do plan to upgrade to a 300MHz processor. I plan to scan images from the HP Photo Smart scanner and then print the images with the Kodak 8650 printer. I am using a SONY PCV 220 computer. If it is possible to use such a printer with the SONY computer, are there any special items of interest that I should be concerned about prior to purchasing? If I use such a printer, will I or should I get images of outstanding quality? I don't want to waste money or time if such a printer does not interface well and will not give outstanding print results because of computer that I use.

A. The Kodak 8650 printers have an excellent reputation and as far as I can tell from your description of your computer, you should have no problem running the printer. However, if you get a model with a SCSI interface printer input, I would be sure to have an Adaptec PCI SCSI (29XX series) card installed in your computer to interface with the printer.
The HP PhotoSmart scanner is really not comparable in sophistication and professional performance in respect of the choice of a Kodak 8650 series printer. A good "photo" ink jet like the Epson Stylus Photo 700 will produce about as good looking prints of images scanned by most of the under $1000 consumer-level scanners. And if they're for personal use rather than for selling them to customers, why stand the expense of a dye sublimation printer.
On the other hand, if you are scanning slides or color negatives and using equipment like the Nikon Super CoolScan 2000, then you could expect superb results from your system with the Kodak 8650 printer. Otherwise, the printer is overkill with the scans the PhotoSmart can produce.
The Sony computer will not be an issue in terms of the results. The Sony monitors are very good and provide an excellent visual environment for working with digitized images.

Q. I was very interested in your comments on the Epson Perfection 636. I have thought about buying a scanner, but the least expensive thing that might do a good job on 4x5 seems to be the Saphir Ultra, at about $2700. It is actually a lot more than that because of the technology cycle, i.e., no concept of an investment. Then, at 1000ppi, it would not work for 120 film. I tried scanning some 4x5 and 8x10 negs on a friend's Agfa Arcus II, but the results were not that great. I have been having negs scanned on a Scitex Eversmart or Pro Photo CD, and these seem OK, the Eversmart more so. The Pro CD will make a file up to 72MB, more on the Eversmart.
I would really like to have a scanner that would allow good trial pictures of 4x5 and 120, before committing to an expensive scan. I do a lot of pinhole 4x5 and Holga 120 that might be just fine as a final product on a less good scanner. A Holga neg at 2400ppi would be 4800 at final output, enough for a 16x20 theoretically. I feel that if I learned the scanner software I could probably do a better job than the operator doing batch work. In looking through the Internet, I found little info on this scanner. I did find references to different incarnations of the Perfection 636, ranging up to $1000 (with a t/a that sold separately for $299). One was a model that was optical 800ppi.
What do you think? Is this a scanner that would allow serious photo work from 4x5 or 120 negs to be worked in Photoshop and printed on an Epson EX? Your post mentions a $400 price, sounding too good to be true--are there different models available? Help. Thanks.
Ken Carney

A. From what you convey, I believe in terms of print output, you are assuming you need a lot more resolution than necessary to obtain good quality prints. I worked for some time with the Epson Photo EX and made many prints at 11x17 size from images with resolutions of 150-180dpi. These resulted in comparable print qualities to a standard analog (wet) color negative print of the same size made from a 21/4" negative. This is from a file size of about 20MB, a far cry from 72MB.
The Epson Perfection 636 scanning at a MicroStep optical resolution of 2400dpi will produce a 40MB (approximately) file from a 21/4x23/4 120 transparency or negative (5400x6600 pixel image). This is more than sufficient for printing with most contemporary output capable of making digital 16x20 color prints.

Q. I'm reading this with interest since I'm a professional photographer about to jump into digital. I plan to buy a Mac G3 (currently a Mac person) and need a film scanner. I'd like one that scans at the highest resolution possible--something that I would feel good about sending to an editor (high quality printing) for final output at, say, 8x10 size. (Is this even possible?) OK, how about 1/2 page? I'm concerned about capturing detail in shadows and highlights, good d-max, etc., etc.
What do you think of the Nikon vs. Polaroid's Sprintscan vs. Minolta's Dimâge for my needs? I've heard from others that the Minolta software isn't intuitive, though the ability to scan bigger negatives entices me.
Please explain in simple language since I'm a real newbie-- Photoshop's not even out of the box yet.
Mary K. Love

A. Currently the Nikon Super CoolScan (LS-2000) with the addition of LaserSoft SilverFast 4.1.4 software is at the top of my list. There are several reasons for including the LaserSoft SilverFast software, which is very powerful, supporting quite fine-tuned color correction, and is reasonably easy to use (see my article on using it in the CompuServe/Photography Forum/Digital Imaging/Library- Optimize1.pdf).
The Nikon LS-2000 also has Digital ICE, Image Clean which saves a great deal of time "spotting" images, as well as multi-pass scanning which is useful to reduce noise with low key subjects and underexposed transparencies. The hardware is reasonably fast (in normal scan mode), and the physical handling of slides and film strips works very smoothly and efficiently. The system is fully ICC color management supported for Mac and Windows platforms, and a LaserSoft SilverFast custom profiling "module" is available. The scanner's 2700dpi optical resolution is more than adequate to make excellent 11x14" prints.

Q. I purchased a Microtek E-6 about a year and a half ago, before they discontinued it, and it came with Ulead PhotoImpact software, which I am fairly happy with, at least to manage the scans. I use Paint Shop Pro to do any "real" work on the images, once I've get them on my hard drive. I, alas, cannot afford Photoshop, but am quite satisfied with PSP 5, since it now supports my Wacom pad. Any comments or advice welcomed.
I've had my Microtek E-6 for a little over a year, and I can see a lot of dust, on the inside of the glass. I've used can air, but it is hard to direct it well to blow it off the glass. Also, I'm plagued by dust and stuff sticking to the foam on the inside of the cover. What is the best cleaner to use, to avoid static electricity causing this dust to collect on the outside, and what can I do about the dust on the inside? (Short of taking the case apart.) I realize the dust on the inside I may have to accept, but surely there is something I can do to prevent excessive dust on the outer surface. Thanks a bunch.
Charles C. Livingston

A. Considering the box you described you are in, I don't see much room to make suggestions other than to see if you have the latest version of Ulead's PhotoImpact, which I believe is 4.2. Personally, I find the application has many worthwhile features which in some ways make it closer to Photoshop than Paint Shop Pro. The upgrade to the newest version is very reasonable and is available as a download I believe, or at least through Ulead's web site at:
As for a cleaner, I've found 3M's Screen Cleaner 675 is very effective and safe for glass used in this manner as in scanners and the screen surface of monitors. For dust removal I would acquire one of those very small hand vacuum cleaners to extract dust from the cover and if there is an access panel to the inside, especially from there.