Monday, March 30, 2009


Yes, I am biased in my perspective on what works best for digital photographers. But what is bias other in my case of having acquired a lot of experience with computers and digital photography doing it every day now for almost a quarter of a century. Some of that experience has been good, some not so and on that basis I have formed some opinions of what might be a better choice among all those that are out there. And, I believe it is because of this very bias due to experience readers look to me for advice, besides the fact what I do and have done for all these years is try out all kinds of new hardware and software to find out how it works and if it is worth having.

But my bias seems to come up as a negative almost entirely in regards to the old saw of Mac vs PC, the never ending dispute and rivalry between Apple and Microsoft. The latest episode of this TV series is the subject of ZDnet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes blog today URL regarding a new Microsoft ad attacking Apple. the ad is titled, “I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person”; but its really about someone who wants a laptop on the cheap. But you make up your mind about that, and its not why I am writing this blog entry.

That reason is that someone from the PC industry thought it is time I was berated for being biased because I favor Apple Macs for digital photography, and sent me a long e-mail trying to make me feel guilty because in his opinion I was misleading my readers. Well if truth be told I was a PC/Microsoft person for many years, beginning with my first personal computer purchased by the publishing company I worked for then and plopped on my desk with the implication I was expected to use it. It is only after much disappointment and frustration at the hands of Microsoft that I switched my allegiance to Apple, and was not entirely weened from PC’s until a couple of years ago.

As I said I use this stuff to do digital photography, testing a variety of devices like scanners, printers, displays and associated software on a full-time daily basis, year in, year out. From this experience I have learned a bit about what works and what does not. My long experience using PC’s and Windows was not all bad, but it was painful at times, frustrating at others, and rarely peaceful without the interruption of some disaster or another from sickness due to a virus or indigestion from a multitude of incompatibilities. About 10 years ago I was fed up, not just with PC’s and Windows , but with the fact Microsoft was not particularly concerned or interested in supporting digital photography. So I bought my first Apple Mac. It worked quite well and I was pleasantly impressed. I still had a couple of PC’s one workstation for graphics and another I used in my office. But as time continued and new models of both hardware and software came out I purchased more Apple Mac computers and eventually, about two years ago I retired my last PC because by then I could run a copy of Windows on an Intel Mac as a boot-up alternative.

The bottom line is that over all the years I have been doing computing and digital photography, much of it was done with Windows PC’s but of late that has transitioned to all of my work now being done on an Apple Mac, even Windows software evaluation. The Apple Mac experience has been without any incidents, never a hardware breakdown nor an operating system failure. It has been a most pleasant and rewarding experience that has allowed me to concentrate entirely on my main occupation of working with digital photography. So how can I with such a cumulative experience not be biased in favor of Apple Mac computers? Why would I recommend anything else when my experience over many years has convinced me otherwise? Is there any reason why I should not think if Apple Macs have been so good for me and my digital photography that they shouldn’t also work as well for others?

If you have a comment, they are welcome, so please post it. If you have a question you want me to answer please address an e-mail to David B. Brooks at:

Friday, March 27, 2009


Before digital I spent a lot of time in my darkroom often experimenting, trying different kinds of chemistry, modified techniques, something old, something new, and often learning just how limited the silver halide photographic process is. Since Photoshop and image editing I found digital photography to be pliable to an almost boundless extent. Of course the abandon you have to change the values of pixels has a different kind of limit by producing images that have no redeeming qualities what so ever. From that experience of course one should learn just because you can do something does not mean you should.

However playing with pixels can be rewarding not just in the creative exercises it affords, but also in the values of discipline and control, as well as an appreciation of the nature of the digital beast. Yet how many really understand what a digital camera really does, its just another kind of camera, right?

A generation ago when I was still doing film test reports I would photograph Kodak color targets and a Color Checker, and after the film was processed measure the results with a densitometer. That’s not done any more with digital for several reasons including the obvious. Another is culture, people today are media savvy, exposed to large volumes of images reproduced in all kinds of media and human perception is schooled in accommodating the differences between reality and its fidelity reproduced on print or screen. The other reason films tests serve no purpose, aside for the fact new films are rare these days, a digital camera is not at all like a film camera, it is really an information sensing instrument that measures what it is focused upon and records the data describing that reality in discrete numbers, red, green and blue values, for each pixel that represents the scene and provides the building blocks for its reproduction. Then when the image file saved by a dSLR is opened in Photoshop, those number values corresponding to a color value in the subject photographed are displayed in an Info window. So if you know the RGB number values of the subject, if it were a ColorChecker for instance, you have a precise basis of evaluation of the fidelity of the image to the subject. In other words your digital camera does automatically without being asked, everything I accomplished with much effort using a densitometer and tedious effort testing film in the old days.

All of the MTF curve graphs published in Kodak Film Guides are now obsolete, as well as archaic, if anyone ever did pay attention to them or understand the meaning and significance of a Modulation Transfer Function. What image quality is today consists of a learned perceptual discrimination that is a part of the culture, it doesn’t have to be measured, most people today know what to expect from the media reproduction of every aspect of reality, in fact reality today may be more a stranger than its replication in the media. A colleague and acquaintance from my old days when I enjoyed a lot of time in my darkroom had an unusual distinction, he had a signed print made by Ansel Adams framed behind glass hanging in his darkroom. It was hung in such an unusual place for a practical reason, to provide guidance of what good print quality should look like. Years ago few ever saw what good image reproduction should look like, but today it is everywhere all the time so it would be unusual if a buyer of a digital camera does not have a realistic expectation of what the camera’s output should look like.

If you have a comment, they are welcome, so please post it. If you have a question you want me to answer please address an e-mail to David B. Brooks at:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


An article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about some who cling to film reveals as much about life as it does about photography. One quote in particular caught my attention and got me thinking. “With digital, you’re only as good as your Photoshop technician,” Mark said. “He’ll take heads off bodies and switch them around. It’s a totally different medium.”, followed by another concluding statement regarding those who still cling to film, “-we’re a dying breed.”

But isn’t survival and success in human life the result of adapting to change? One wonders when the country voted for change, and now the loudest voices are saying they don’t like the change that is occurring. So apparently there are conservative photographers as well as politicians and those that vote conservative, who don’t like change. But isn’t change a function of time, of the fact we live in a different world each day which includes new people just born and old people who just passed on?

Aside from the philosophical implications the remark about Photoshop is significant in that it assumes that someone else other than the photographer taking the pictures does that, and second that it is only about special effects alterations. Both are and should be considered inaccurate. If digital is to be criticized from a truly traditional film perspective, for most serious photographers in the old days you weren’t just a “shooter”, you also developed your own film and made your own prints. It was only in the recent past of a dominance of color photography that serious photographers utilized a lab to develop and print their photographs. Now with digital, it is much easier to “develop” and print your own photographs as well as make the exposures, and not just be a “shooter”. So, in a sense the modern digital photography age at least can be more like the traditional photography practiced from its beginning through most of the 20th century.

I am convinced that the greatest photographers like Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and W. Eugene Smith achieved their success in large part because they controlled their own use of the photographic process from beginning to end. And that provided an advantage that was lost by the color “shooters” that followed them. All of those great creative photographers were advantaged by their darkroom experience processing their film and printing the photographs themselves because it provided a continuous loop feed back system of invaluable information and a greater level of understanding of the photographic process. First of all this provided more precise control, as what was learned in the darkroom was applied to what they did exposing the film with a camera; and this control allowed each to personalize the process to suite more exactly what their individual, unique visual perception should reproduce in a photograph.

With digital photography if the photographer fully utilizes a computer and an image editing application like Photoshop this same level of feedback and enhanced understanding of the complete photographic process can be achieved. An application like Photoshop can be used to alter the nature of an image’s relationship to the reality it represents, something only achieved in the past with great difficulty, but more importantly it re-establishes the photographer with access to the complete image creating process from beginning to end. And what can be learned by color correcting, adjusting and editing digital color photographs can provide a level of understanding of the process superior to anything possible in the past in terms of applying individual creative control over the process. Digital is far more exactly repeatable and therefor predictable lending the digital darkroom user even better understanding of how light is recorded and color is seen, than analog film photography afforded in the past. The reason for that is digital reduces the physical variables in a process dependent on films that were never exactly produced, and processes that were impossible to regulate precisely.

All that results as film disappears is a loss of familiarity with a comfortable old world that is only better by the nostalgia that is attached to it. For some having to learn something new and different is sometimes particularly challenging and painful, but to entirely lose a cherished interest and activity by refusing to adapt just prevents ever learning that others have chosen digital not just because it is new, but because it is better with even more advantages to the enthusiast than film photography provided. But should that mean everyone must switch to digital? No more than the popularity of TV required abandoning radio or movies. Film will persist and find a different niche as long as some cling to film and its use, and that is neither good or bad, it’s just how we humans are and what we do. Some live in the past, others in the future, while most of us in the present try to accommodate both past and future.

If you have a comment, they are welcome, so please post it. If you have a question you want me to answer please address an e-mail to David B. Brooks at:

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Although “free market” self-governance may seem to smack of a political issue, its application affecting technology business has had an affect that has been to no one’s advantage. What I am alluding to is a well known example, the old fight for dominance between Sony Beta and VHS and the recent similar competition with Blu-Ray’s win for HD-DVD media dominance. In the Beta/VHS outcome the lower cost but inferior recording technology won and users, as well as VCR business suffered as a result. it is too early to tell if Blu-Ray dominance will be a loss for all sides, consumers and producers alike, but history forgotten has a habit of repeating itself.

A similar but largely unpublicized situation has affected LCD displays for computers. When industry, both computer makers and LCD display manufacturers agreed to a standard DVI interface connection between display and computer, a part of that basic design is one pair of connectors intended to provide Direct Digital Control of the display settings by a computer. This was included physically but never agreed to as a standard by all of the parties involved. The result has been one company has used this DDC capability in a proprietary manner that excludes the use of any software but the manufacturer’s from engaging this DDC connection to adjust and control the display by a computer. And, another has bypassed the DDC physical connection to provide the same kind of direct computer control of the display. Most other display manufacturers either provide little or no DDC support or it is limited to the transmission of Plug-N-Play information from display to computer.

I have frequently urged digital photography users to obtain a colorimeter and software to calibrate and profile their display. The reason I have given is, your computer has no idea what you are seeing on-screen even though the computer generates the signal that results in what is on screen. The basic idea for Direct Digital Control (DDC) of the adjustment factors of a display via the DVI connector by the computer, was initially attractive as a convenience. But it could also do much more, if supported by the operating system so the adjustment and its result were information recorded by the operating system and accessible to applications and utilities like printer drivers. But without any agreed to standards for DDC, and there were none, everyone can do their own thing or nothing, so Apple and Microsoft cannot facilitate and make use of what DDC could provide in establishing a more effective and efficient relationship between a computer and its display.

Color Management and the facilities provided and required to calibrate and profile displays to become a part of workflow management system to provide screen to print matching only involves color information. The adjustment and functioning level of brightness and contrast at which a display is functioning is not included in data recorded in an ICC/ICM display profile. The result has been that many users working with LCD displays that are bright are obtaining “prints too dark”. If DDC were standardized and adjust/calibration included brightness and contrast factors, and that information were recorded to append a display profile, then a display profile could be referenced by an application or printer driver so print density could be adjusted relative to a known source screen image brightness and contrast.

Because digital photography computer/display users are disadvantaged by only having partial control over screen to print matching, there is considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment in printing photographs directly with a computer. And because DDC direct digital control of display adjustment by the computer is not standardized and enabled by operating systems, relatively expensive proprietary workarounds are limited options for just a few. If the industry could and did agree to provide a standard connector between display and computer (DVI) the industry should be required to accommodate a consensus for a standard to facilitate DDC functioning everyone can access and utilize so the cost and inconvenience of proprietary work-arounds are not required or needed.

So it all comes down to the question of, if a standard would benefit all consumers as well as computer makers and operating system software publishers, should the disagreement of one or a few to such a standard be allowed? Does anyone in football, cricket or any international sport get to choose to not abide by standard rules and still be allowed to play? So shouldn’t the same principle be applied to business, especially a technology product like computers and their displays.

If you have a comment, they are welcome, so please post it. If you have a question you want me to answer please address an e-mail to David B. Brooks at:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


From what the blogosphere reflected from Las Vegas Photo Marketing Association show was as discouraging as what most of the news media has been about of late. Fewer people on the floor of the show and a dearth of new higher-end dSLR camera models. Many of the point-and-shoot cameras offered had already been introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show. In other words there did not seem to be much confidence expressed by either the vendors or the press on hand. But really with retail camera stores becoming fewer year after year undercut by Walmart and other box stores, and even chain giants like Circuit City closing its doors, what purpose do “closed to the public” sales shows like PMA serve any more? Other than to keep a tradition going and have an excuse to schmooze with old friends, I don’t get it.

I hope this is more realism than sour grapes from an old warrior who had his fill of trudging the aisles years ago. And when I received the March 2, news release from Canon that they are offering new Mark II versions of the Pixma top-of-the-lne 13 inch printers I wondered if the doom and gloom was just another kind of virus spread around the show floor. Canon apparently has confidence that in times of hardship photographers will spend more time in their digital darkroom and be helped along by either a new Canon Pixma Pro 9500 pigment ink or Pixma Pro 9000 dye ink printer. These new models are evolutionary improved versions of very successful printers that are now faster and better than their predecessors of course.

But what I found particularly interesting was that these new printers are accompanied by new Easy Photo Print Pro software, that has a feature that has until now only been generally available as an attribute in custom made printer profiles. An adjustment can now be made to a print in Canon’s Easy Print Pro affecting the print color balance to accommodate differences in ambient light conditions where the print will be exhibited. This Ambient Light Correction is now included with the printer and bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements, or as a plug-in for Adobe applications like all Photoshop CS versions 2 through 4 etc., as well as Canon’s Digital Photo Pro application. This Ambient Light Correction has a color temperature range to output prints for room lighting from 6500K cool daylight to warm incandescent/CCFL at 3000K. In addition the Easy designation is earned in part by supporting printing from JPEG or TIFF files as well as Raw digital camera files directly without prior conversion.

And that’s not all, Canon added a new Oomph! model LiDE scanner too. If you’re not familiar this scanner it’s the handiest for any desktop or even laptop computer. The Canon LiDe scanners are powered only by the USB connector, are very thin (I have an older model that I keep stored in a desk drawer) and is ideal for making a quick scan of a document for a copy, or to produce a JPEG file to attach to an e-mail from a snapshot print. It’s handy convenience, but this newest Canon LiDE700F Color Image Scanner will also scan 35mm film at a resolution up to 9600dpi. Can you beat that for just $129 estimated street price.

Canon apparently has confidence things are not so bad. And maybe photo enthusiast may have a little more time to enjoy their favorite activity - making photographs. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I am an admitted oddball, as well as a gadfly, so it is not unusual that the Apple product announcements today had me rather enthused by a new version of the Mac Mini computer. I have been favorable to Mac Mini’s since first introduced, and the last version I believe is the best choice for a digital photography enthusiast on a budget. And, with the new upgrade, chiefly much more powerful Nvidia graphics, which in previous models was maybe the weakest aspect of performance in terms of digital photography processing. But why this odd, ultra small Apple Mac? First at $599 as the entry level price it’s affordable even if that does not include a keyboard or mouse, and you have to also add a display. And that you have to choose a display is a great advantage, because for digital photography it is probably more important factor than the computer that’s running the display. Also new from Apple is a new compact wired USB keyboard similar to the recent and current but smaller Apple keyboard that are the best I have used. As for a mouse, you won’t believe this, but the USB Microsoft mouse that is optical and supports both PC’s and Mac’s, is the best both for ergonomics and right click support that is very efficient working with photo image applications. The one thing Microsoft makes that is the best!

The specs are respectable, but this is not a MacPro and a small fraction of the cost. It has besides the new Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics, a 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and either 2GB or I GB RAM base model and a 120GB HD or in the $799 model 320GB Serial ATA HD, and both models have 8X slot loading CD/DVD Super Drive with DVD burning. All Mac Mini have support for Apple Airport wireless networking and Blue Tooth, as well as 5 USB an 8oo FireWire and Ethernet support.

So far I have purchased three Mac Mini’s (the first now retired and on its way to a friends house), and I also have a MacPro, and find although the MacPro is very quick and powerful, the Mac Mini is never any kind of drag in comparison, The Mini handles all kinds of digital photography processing including handling Raw dSLR image files and really large scan file input and editing as well as driving medium and large printers.

Although the Mac Mini and MacPro are the only Apple Macs that do not come with built-in displays and offer digital photographers a choice of a good graphics display, that advantage is somewhat diminished by a rather small number of good choices. The great bulk of LCD displays available are made for the masses of the home/office market and most don’t provide good support for digital photography as well as being the cause of the “prints too dark” problem. And there has been little new in LCD displays for pro-graphics, Just new Eizo models that are a bit pricey if the consideration of a Mac Mini is budgetary, and a new and affordable NEC Multisync P122W. The rest that I can recommend is a short list I have been touting for some time now, including the NEC Multisync #90 series displays, the Samsung Syncmaster 245T, and my best buy recommendation, the LGE L2000Cp display.

If you need how-to information support for a digital darkroom, visit my web site at:

Monday, March 2, 2009


Today I counted 17 news pieces posted on the internet about Epson’s plans to re-release their Leica-like rangefinder digital camera now to be designated the RD-1X. Why are so many waxing eloquent and so obviously excited about this still 6 MPX digital camera. Now if it had a contemporary 12 MPX sensor chip, that would be something this jaded old reprobate would be jumping up and down about it and at the heels of my editor to be on top of the list to test and review it, if in fact it will ever reach these shores. But so far the news is that it is for the Japanese market and that’s all. That makes some sense as the Japanese market is replete with collectors of classic Leica cameras, and other similar era rangefinder cameras that have the same lens mount. So there may be more of a market there that was not tapped by the first go-around of the RD-1.

Getting all hyped about the Epson RD-1 my thinking has to extend to the possibilities. I tested the Epson RD-1 in the field when first introduced and wrote about it with great enthusiasm that for me was quite real and based on the experience. But even then I wished, what if the sensor had more pixels. So let me take it a bit further beyond what corporate culture these days will probably allow. Also on the scene is another somewhat traditional configuration, the Sigma DP-1-2 with the very excellent Foveon image sensor that has 14 pixel and image quality that matches the optical and mechanical body attributes of the Epson RD-1. So should this be a marriage of obvious convenience and advantage?

My perspective over a long life-time of photography is that the dominance of the SLR camera configuration is not justified as it is only essential to accomplish a rather limited range of subjects and photography requirement, the rest of the time, for most photographs the SLR is actually a compromised solution, too complex and bulky, and lenses that are disadvantaged by too many elements, especially in shorter focal lengths to accommodate the retro-focus necessity an SLR body’s mirror and prism demands.

With digital sensor capture, I believe this SLR compromise is made worse, as the one lens performance attribute, internal image contrast is inferior to any equal quality single-focal length lens for an RF camera. This was the one performance attribute seen in the image files I made with the RD-1 with prime Zeiss lenses. Image quality was advantaged by the fact these lenses create far less internal flare and reproduce an image with much better tone separation and internal contrast, making them appear sharper and more brilliant.

If just true photographic performance ruled along with pragmatic objectivity, a digital rangefinder makes ultimate sense. The one disadvantage of their not being amenable to zoom lenses, I think has already been addressed by a semi-zoom with several discrete focal length settings in one lens. unfortunately reality and truly pragmatic photographic considerations play second-fiddle to marketing strategy and as I intimated, the culture of corporations. I believe photographers are really more imaginative, and would embrace a good, professional quality digital rangefinder like the Epson RD-1 with a 12 MPX sensor, and at a price that is competitive with Canon/Nikon dSLR’s in the pro category.