Sunday, July 26, 2009


No my sex-life has not improved. I haven’t been looking for a new squeeze. But I have been looking for an inexpensive LCD display that will work for digital photographers. Actually I discovered it among numerous models LG Electronics has listed on its web site awhile ago. But a request to LGE for a loan to review it for Shutterbug was denied because it is a 2008 model that is not being offered in the 2009 product lineup.

The model is a L227WTG, a wide screen 22 inch, wide gamut, with 1680X1050 pixel resolution using a (TN,IPS) panel, with a 2MS response time, and a pixel pitch of 0.282, with a recommended price of $360. I have seen this model LGE advertised by a number of on-line vendors like NewEgg, Amazon and Tiger Direct usually under the price listed by LGE. The other day I saw a price of $219 plus shipping and I could not resist, although I have no need for another display. It was delivered a couple of days ago.

The next morning I had it unpacked, and installed on one of my systems in about 15 minutes. I turned the system on along with the new LGE display, and went for my second espresso of the day while it warmed up. After answering a couple of e-mails, I went back to my lab and proceeded to adjust, calibrate and profile this new LCD display using ColorEyes Display Pro and a DataColor Spyder3 colorimeter. With the ColorEyes application on-screen the first item is monitor setting, selecting what kind of display you are connected to, so I tried the top selection for DVI-DDC displays, and after waiting just a bit the software confirmed that the connection had ben made and there is support for DVI-DDC that allows screen adjustments made via ColorEyes as part of the process of calibration and profiling. (I didn’t have to deal with manually adjusting screen contrast and brightness controls the software did that to the 90.0 CD/m2 aim point I selected in the CEDP software application, along with the selection of L* Gamma, and a color temperature of D65. With all my aim points selected, I clicked on the Profile button and sat back while ColorEyes did its work; almost half an hour and this was on my fastest computer.

But it seemed worth it. Once the calibration and profiling was done I re-started the computer and checked to be sure the new profile was now set as the boot default. With a largely blank medium grays desktop the gray was neutral and even across the screen, at least as even as any display I use with CCFL tube backlight. Then I launched Photoshop and opened my standard personal print test image. There was nothing in the display image reproduction I could find any fault with, but this display has its own look. That may be in part due to the fact it has a much shinier screen surface than I am used to, but nothing like the glass mirror finish of the new Apple iMacs and 24” Cinema display. I wasn’t concerned at this point as every new display I test takes getting used to perceptually. So I set about color correcting and adjusting Raw camera files from a recent shoot. I soon felt fairly comfortable with this new display, and after finishing a good number of files I did some color managed prints to see if both color and density matched what was displayed on-screen. Not bad at all. A little varied but learning how to anticipate results with a strange new display takes more than a handful of processed images. I expect to have it zeroed in after a couple more days living with the L227WGT, and I also expect I will like this display even though I am not a fan of wide format sizes and screen proportions. But that’s all there will be in the future as new 3:4 aspect ratio displays are being discontinued at a rapid rate.

The 3rd day with this new LGE display, and many more images color corrected and adjusted with increasing accuracy and ease. So I decided I should be sure of this experience and move the display to my least powerful Mac Mini computer, and re-calibrating and profiling the display. That proved to be just as accurate. And I will take advantage of my use including e-mail and writing at the lower display resolution, 1680X1050 with a 22” provide larger font display, versus a 20” with 1600x1200 pixels. As I have said before I like the older 20” displays and their high resolution, for the sharpness and its advantage doing retouching.

The bottom line is that this L227WGT display provides the essential attributes of a large color gamut, most of Adobe RGB, DVI-DDC support for more beneficial adjustment to achieve a brightness match to photo inkjet paper white, about 90.0 CD/m2 white luminance, as well as accurate calibration and profiling. This performance supports screen to print matching in both color and print density. However, even though the screen appearance is as good as more costly LCD displays, the affordable price is achieved in part by very light weight construction and limited adjustment capability, particularly this display cannot be raised or lowered, as well as only two connection inputs, a digital DVI interface and an analog D-sub connector for older computers.

How many of these LGE L227WGT displays remain in stock and available for purchase is unknown, but it is limited number and will not be increased by LGE as this model has not been continued in 2009. So, if you want a very affordable display that is an effective solution to avoiding prints that are too dark, get on the Internet and make your search for an advantageous price.

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:

And visit my web site at:

Sunday, July 19, 2009


“I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.” - Stephen Hawking (1942 - )

Would computer viruses (as well as spam) be created and distributed at all if the owner of a computer used to create and distribute a virus or spam were tied irrevocably to the computer by name and address? Oh! There would still be a few malignant souls with a grudge against everyone who would try, but they would soon be caught and have to pay a price for their destructiveness.

Why should computers be any different than automobiles? In all civilized countries, cars have VIN’s, Vehicle Identification Numbers, that are unique to each automobile; and to drive a car you own on a public road, (is not the internet a virtual public road?), you have to register and license your car using a valid personal identification as well as a verifiable residence location. If your car is in an accident you cause you can be easily identified and held responsible, or if your car is stolen it can be identified and recovered. There are exceptions, but they would be much more numerous if cars were not registered and licensed.

So why don’t the governments of the world do the same with computers? Why not require a license and verified identification as well as address to get ISP service and access to the internet? Well, the excuse I hear from many is it would be an invasion of a person’s privacy. Really? In America your privacy is protected to some extent by the Constitution, the auto license information with your name and address associated with your license number is not accessible to the public, only authorized personnel are allowed access to that information by law. But, there is no right to anonymity, in fact is some towns in the Old West masked bandits were so common the towns passed laws no one could go in public with a mask over their face that would obscure their identity. In other words anonymity is an invitation to steal and do other things against others without fear of being identified, so why are computers unlicensed when automobiles are, when a photo ID is essential for identification to open a bank account, or to obtain a deed to a house you have purchased?

I think it is clear that we behave better towards each other in society when our identity is known, and much worse when we have the freedom to assume anonymity. Life is better for all well-meaning people when the others we have to live with are known to us. In the earliest days of colonial times if a person transgressed upon another and did harm they were put on display, bound hand and foot, to reap the shame of public condemnation for the offense. But we see that now as cruel, but it was effective in those times past. And in the mass society of strangers we have today, all of us have to suffer some fear that someone unknown to us is likely to do us harm. Every day drive-by shootings and home invasions are reported warning us we live in a dangerous world.

So why at least when it would be so easy to do because every computer is like an automobile, it has its own unique number, do we allow a few ignorant, misguided people that mistake anonymity for privacy prevent us from making computers and the internet a much safer community? If people, individuals are not honest enough in their intentions to identify themselves, why should they be allowed to remain a part of our virtual internet community? But sadly in America we do not even have a way to secure our personal identities, they are easily stolen every day. And, a few who are again confusing anonymity with privacy have been able to block a national secure personal ID system from being enacted. Are we all that ignorant and unthinking to believe there is some positive value in anonymity that we must all tolerate an unnecessary risk at the hand of the unknown other?

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:

And visit my web site at:

Sunday, July 12, 2009


As happens every so often, I was taken to task for presumably denigrating an individual’s photo activities by my use of the term “snapshot’ in reference to the on-line services that provide inexpensive printing from JPEG files. Although there can be considerable crossover between snapshots and photographs, the pictures serious photo enthusiasts refer to, in my perspective of things, is not a value or status distinction.

Some years ago I believe it was Sony that had a billboard advertising a new video cam in which video was likened to “moving snapshots”. I thought that astute and apt, because most people who make personal home video do so for a social purposes, and I believe that is the purpose distinction that differentiates snapshots from the photographs photo enthusiast make. A photographer’s purpose in making images is to create photographs for their own sake, or as part of an interest in taking pictures of animals, flowers, landscapes or auto racing. In other words, what distinguishes snapshots and photographs is NOT that one is better than the other, or the person behind the camera is superior or inferior, but the purpose in using a camera in one case is social, about people in the picture taker’s life, or events like family trips or an outing at the park, a day at Disneyland; while the purpose of making a “photograph” is the image, the picture that is created and sometimes what is involved in the process of image creation as well.

In the 30 some years I have been in the photo magazine trade, I have looked at an awful lot of pictures made with a camera, both “photographs” and snapshots. Among them, in both categories, snapshots and photographs, I have seen examples of superb technical craft and skill as well as artful composition and sensitivity to the subject, as well as a multitude of mediocre images in both snapshots and photographs, to really dismal failures as pictures of any kind or description. But there is one distinction the makers of snapshots do have and that is they outnumber serious enthusiast photographers by many times. So of course business tends to favor large numbers when it comes to customers, and most of the print services cater to the snapshooter, while those that cater to photographers are fewer and usually because volume is less charge higher prices.

The same kind of numbers dominance also affects technology. The default settings for most digital cameras, even dSLR’s is to save files in JPEG and the often associated sRGB colorspace (and for that matter computers and image editing software). So likewise the bulk of print services expect or demand image files from customers conform to the JPEG format, and usually their printer driver computer use the sRGB colorspace to print from. There is nothing wrong with that if the customer is pleased and satisfied with the print results, the customer is always right.

But for the fewer, the serious digital photography enthusiasts, one has to go beyond the default setting, and use non-lossy file formats like TIFF and a working space profile like Adobe RGB (1998). These differences cause confusion for novices, and newcomers from film to digital, as well become more bones of contention in themselves and inadvertent complications between the snapshot and photograph crowds. It generates almost as much invective and vitriol as the PC Window versus Apple Mac user debates.

So what is the reality. As I said the customer is always right, if a camera user is happy with JPEG/sRGB results who is to argue. These happy campers, whether they are aware or not accept the price JPEG/sRGB imposes in lost image content data for the conveniences of being a part of an established crowd. But for the record let’s take another look at the reality (and history) of both JPEG and sRGB to understand why they are established and play the role that they do.

First of all, as the web became a significant part of the internet, and photos became content included in web pages, the file size of those images was an issue, which if too big slowed the internet to a crawl. And in those days not that many years ago hard drive and mobile storage space for files were small in capacity and expensive per megabyte, making both JPEG and sRGB because they both reduce file size a double advantage. But some of us (serious photography enthusiasts) argued realistically that the cost in terms of lost image data content and quality was too high a price.

As an example let’s look at each of these two different strategies, JPEG and sRGB individually. The sRGB colorspace was promoted by some like Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett-Packard, not just as a solution to the limited bandwidth of internet transmission, but at one time as a cheaper, simpler, and of course more profitable way to dispense with the need for color management, to get a printer to make color prints that match the color on screen. Those companies did not succeed in getting sRGB to be the international standard for all hardware and software that reproduced color because many powerful factions like printing and publishing, the video and motion picture industries and all the professionals that supported that level of work were vehemently opposed to being put in a color straight jacket. The sRGB colorspace profile is a simplistic solution to achieve color matching, by just reducing the size of the color gamut to the lowest common denominator of what the least adequate color monitor could reproduce, then all color images look the same on every monitor. But the price of that approach is if you convert a dSLR Raw image to sRGB you discard, throw out, a third of the color the image sensor recorded!!!!!

The purpose of the JPEG compressed file format is different and simpler, to reduce file size, but the effect on a photographic image is similar to sRGB. Image information is thrown out, lost forever, and color is simplified. The reason is the strategy that allows reducing the file size is, in oversimplified fashion, to re-write the file information not as individual pixels, but a grid of blocks of pixels, lets say 4x4 pixels or 16 pixels in a block. Then if a block of pixels is part of the sky in a photo, the JPEG processing recognizes all of the pixels in the block are similar, so it says the differences are actually redundant and not needed, so let’s instead of writing 16 lines of code, one for each pixel, write just two lines to say all the pixels in the block of sixteen are the same RGB color value. Depending on whether High, Medium, or Low compression quality is chosen more or less color differences are made to be the same, reducing the variation in subtle color differences in the image.

Camera users seldom complain about this loss because the visual effect is that as color variation is reduced, color looks more vivid and contrast more bold. I call this effect “cartoon color”, because cartoon movies to make each frame in a film consistent in color throughout the movie used a very limited palette of colors to create each hand painted cell that is copied on film to make films like Disney’s now famous animated movies. And like a cartoon color image sRGB/JPEG images with their simpler and smaller color palette are also a step away from reality, like the reproduction of a subject a dSLR camera captures when set to record in Raw format.

Of course the more realistic advantage of greater color fidelity to a subject Adobe RGB (1998) from a Raw dSLR camera file provides has the down side of requiring the individual photographer to color correct, adjust and process the image using an application like Photoshop manually instead of having the camera’s internal auto processing do it for them when the JPEG file save option is chosen.

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:

And visit my web site at:

Saturday, July 4, 2009


curiosity |ˌkyoŏrēˈäsitē|
noun ( pl. -ties)
1 a strong desire to know or learn something : filled with curiosity, she peered through the window.
2 a strange or unusual object or fact : he showed them some of the curiosities of the house.

Three generations ago when I was a public school student Charles Dickens “Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe” was one of his novels that was required reading. And in those days a young pupil’s curiosity was encouraged by teachers. Today I think if a student is too curious it may be reason to be prescribed Ritalin; our schools are not preparing young minds to be critical thinkers, but passive, obedient worker bees for corporate employment at some mindless task.

What does that and curiosity have to do with contemporary digital photography? Well, my last post elicited a reaction from one reader asking why in my discussion of digital image quality I did not mention acuity, resolving power what most refer to as sharpness. And for that matter, neither did two of the authors with articles on lenses in the August issue of Shutterbug mention image sharpness. I did write about it at least indirectly several years ago when the first 18-55mm “kit” lenses for APS-C dSLR cameras appeared. The first one of these $100 lenses I had in my hands I tested on a new dSLR camera body against a $1,000 top rated pro lens covering roughly the same range of focal lengths. Although a 10X differential in cost the two lenses produced virtually pixel for pixel identical images. The “kit” lens produced an image just as sharp and detailed as the $1.000 pro lens. However, I don’t think anyone believed me or took my test seriously.

Part of the reason for that is many Shutterbug readers still think in an analog film mindset even though they may be using digital. The other reason is something I learned beginning over 30 years ago writing for photo enthusiasts: few photographers read the manual or published guide that comes with a new camera, at least beyond finding which buttons to push to make the camera take a picture. Very young children are inherently curious, as soon as they learn to speak the word they use the most is WHY. But that inclination seems to lessen to almost nil as the years pile up for most people. I am apparently an odd ball. As soon as I get something new and different I want to know and understand how it works, and I am not comfortable until my curiosity is satisfied.

So, what should one find in a new camera user guide/manual booklet that will provide a better understanding of how a digital camera actually works? It was 2-3 years ago that I purchased the personal camera I now use, but when I got it and unpacked the box one of the first things I did after putting in a battery and putting the camera on a table in front of me for reference, was crack the user guide manual. My first curiosity was what controls are there to use to adjust this camera to make it do what I intend. Those answers I found in a section called Image Settings. There I found that the camera’s LCD screen menu contained selections that allowed me to choose different camera settings for a variety of subjects and kinds of picture making operations. One was named “standard” and was recommended as the general all-purpose setting to obtain vivid, sharp images, and the setting intended for use when the camera is used in full automatic mode. The next optional setting named was “portrait”, and obviously self-explanatory for a somewhat softer, and flattering to skin tones image response. Then the next setting option was “landscape”, again somewhat self explanatory, to produce very vivid color and sharp images of scenic subjects. Then there is a setting without reference to any particular subject called “neutral”, that does not enhance any picture characteristic value and does not sharpen the image. And there is another similar setting called “faithful” that is also neutral but involves a set color temperature (white balance) and colorimetric image adjustment to match the subject color, and again without any sharpening. In addition to these described settings, each has an adjustment scale to customize image capture performance, to add or subtract values on a numbered scale for sharpness, contrast, color saturation, and color tone (balance/hue). And finally, for the subject settings, standard, portrait and landscape, there are specific manufacturer specified default value number settings for sharpness (only).

From this information I could make some logical assumptions. That even set to save images in Raw format the camera uses internal processing to adjust the information collected by the image sensor, so in any of the Settings, standard, portrait and landscape, the Raw file is adjusted and is not limited to what the sensor captures. To obtain a Raw file that is limited to what the censor captures as true to the subject as possible the “faithful” setting must be chosen. And from what the guide/manual describes, unless neutral or faithful setting are chosen the camera’s processing applies a considerable amount of sharpening to all image files.

Even after gleaning as much useful information as possible from the user’s manual, I remained full of curiosity. The only way to satisfy my need to understand was to run a series of tests with the camera which would provide a set of photographic images using all of the options in Image Settings so I could compare one with another as photographs, visually. So, I made a charts which identified every setting and variation of settings with different sharpness, contrast and saturation value choices. With this chart in hand I put the camera on a tripod and chose an area as a subject with both vivid and subtle coloration, light and darks, shadows and highlights, as well as smooth areas and fine lines and detail. Locked down on my tripod and focused on this subject I made a series of exposures with each of the settings and variations recording the frame number on the chart so I could associate each exposure frame with each setting choice once all of the Raw files were processed.

This was of course a lengthy and tedious process, but once the files were all done and available for viewing using Adobe Bridge I could put the default standard image up and open another next to it for visual comparison. All of the subject settings like standard, portrait and landscape had image quality attributes consistent with what the user guide description led one to expect. Then if the sharpness setting or the saturation setting was increased or lowered the image reflected a moderate expected difference. But then comparing the default standard exposure frame with either the neutral or faithful default setting frame revealed a very different picture of the subject, no real image sharpness at all to the extent some of the fine detail in the subject was not even visible, and contrast was very much flattened, as well as little saturation, a virtually pastel image. Finally, I opened the default faithful image file in Photoshop to see how much adjustment was needed to color correct the image to match the image made with the default standard setting. The amounts of sharpening (using not just one but most of Photoshops sharpening tools), increases in contrast and saturation were all very large adjustments to get the attributes of the faithful image setting file close to matching the standard in basic photographic image attributes we call quality.

To be candid I was surprised by this test experience. From the documentation of the camera companies who laud the finished in-camera processing when you set output to JPEG, and their suggestion that when you choose to output in Raw format the image file is just what comes off the image sensor, is definitely not the case. Even saving in Raw the camera using “normal” image settings enhances all of the basic image attributes, particularly sharpness, as well as contrast and saturation.

Recently, I came back to this after “the Kodachrome look” became a topic of reader interest, and some third party “filters” to apply this Kodachrome look came out. So, I wondered if I created a new “custom” setting in the camera, adjusting sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone if I could make my camera output files that mimic the Kodachrome look. Yup, no sweat after a bit of experimenting and tweaking the settings adjustments.

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: