Thursday, December 16, 2010


It is what you see on-screen that allows you to perceptually adjust and change a digital photograph. I have said what I believe to be true, if you can’t see it, you cannot control it. So I have thought of all things computer, the display is the most important part for digital photographers. However, some think I make too much of it, but then the display gets me more questions in my mail than any other subject.

Some of those questions of late have me wondering what worse related to the color management of a computer display than misunderstanding terms like calibrate and profile. So let’s begin with what comes in a box that contains a new LCD display. It is much like a new car from a factory delivered to a dealer. Before that car can be sold and put in the hands of a new owner, it must be prepared by the dealer’s mechanics, it needs among other things its first tune-up. In other words many products out of the box from the manufacturer are within production allowed tolerances. But is that enough for them to run efficiently and effectively for the user. All mass production makes items that vary from ideal  specifications a little. So to get the best they can offer in performance, adjusting them to that ideal is a significant advantage in the accuracy of what the product does.

LCD display calibration is done with one of several brands of display products that includes a measurement instrument, a colorimeter, or what some call a “puck”. This device in use sits on the front surface of a display and reads the color values of the target samples the software that comes with the colorimeter generates. And, those colors are the values as defined by the ICC, the International Color Consortium; in other words the internationally accepted standards for computer color.

All display color management products that are on the market that have a colorimeter and software do two basic things, produce a calibration file that is part of the computers boot-up procedure; and it also produces a detailed color profile file that describes the displays color reproduction over a wide range of color differences within the visible spectrum. In addition some display color management software products also provide a measurement and display of the display’s white luminance, how bright the display is adjusted to reproduce white.

The calibration executable file and the profile file are two different kinds of files in two different locations in your operating system. The calibration file  contains the basic variations from the ICC standards so the display is then adjusted through the computer’s video card to conform to the ICC standard color performance. The calibration file is an executable file that is placed in the computer’s start-up folder and adjusts the color performance of the display every time the computer is started and booted-up to run the operating system.

Each display has its own unique color reproduction characteristics in addition to the basics defined by calibration. These are measured in detail by the colorimeter reading a large number of color target patches reproduced by the display profiling software from the colors defined by the ICC standard, and any differences the display reproduces are noted in the profile file produced. In other words the profile file created by display color management software is a description of how much the display being measured varies from each color in the ICC standard. So, it is a color description of that display’s color reproduction performance.

What does calibration and profiling do for the photographer using a computer? First, without calibration and profiling a computer is blind to the pictures it is reproducing on-screen even though it knows the RGB values in the file being reproduced, but it does not know how they look on-screen. The result is then if you use any image editing software that is color managed, like all Adobe versions of Photoshop, LightRoom as well as iPhoto or Aperture on an Apple Mac, or even PaintShop Pro from Corel for a PC, the application does not know what you are seeing on screen without calibration and display profiling. Nor does one of those applications know what color values are in the image files that are sent to a printer for reproduction. In other words without display calibration and profiling everyone is color-blind, you and your computer, to the images being reproduced and used. Likewise, if the profile of the workspace, like sRGB or Adobe RGB are not imbedded in saved files sent to anyone else, like a print service then the recipient is blind to the color in the image file received. The result is color reproduction digitally then becomes nothing more than a guessing game.

Wouldn’t you rather know what you are doing, and seeing the real color values of your photograph on-screen?

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Most of the dream cameras I have read about concentrate on mechanical attributes of the camera itself. Actually in that vein, I want something very practical, not dreamy.These days of course digital and with a large image sensor, but not quite fill-frame. A 3:4 aspect ratio would suite me better. As for a lens, I would be happy with a modest, fixed (not interchangeable) modest speed zoom with a focal length range equivalent to a 35mm camera a 24 to 150mm range, but with a true macro focus capability at about the equivalence of 80mm. Auto-focus is now quite reliable, so my desire would be to have an efficient and comfortable zoom, optical viewfinder. And even an LCD viewer on the back of the camera I find is not needed if it is replaced with a plug in 7 inch tablet screen. Of course this plug-in screen should be made with a built in folding shade, and has its own separate battery power.

What would make the camera a dream in my view is that the camera controls are user selectable rather than the camera company designed over automated and autocratic regimen. Let the user acquire an application to control the camera in the same way a computer user can select an application to run on a computer.

My understanding is that a film scanner and a digital camera are very much alike. But the design of the senor in a scanner is in a linear arrangement so fewer sensor sites are needed and function repeatedly as they pass by the film surface. While a camera has more sensors arranged in a plane on a chip that are all exposed at the same time. The data received by a scanner and a camera is essentially the same, a raw file of measurements by the sensor sites that form a pixel image. So why can’t a camera then be arranged in the same way a scanner is in the way the image is managed?

You or I can get an application that will open a Raw natural file that we can adjust, color correct and edit to a finished image ready to print. So why can’t we do that with a dSLR camera? We can get Apps for doing almost anything with an iPhone or an iPad, but not for a digital camera. Cameras are closed systems with the manufacturer in complete control. So shouldn’t they be open?

I would like to be able to make a preview exposure, adjust, color correct and edit it and then use all of that to make a finished photo file directly with my camera. It should be possible and just as easy to do as making a finished image file with a scanner. That is what would complete my Dream Camera. What we have now is inefficient and wastes a good part of what a digital camera captures, and it could be much better. But camera makers want to be in control and don’t want you to have any.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I just received one of many statements from photographers that the current digital technology is complex and confusing, so it’s hard to understand. I could assume from that many think digital follows what analog film photography established. But that also assumes that the photographic process was understood as it has been for over a century, but sadly both assumptions are mixed up by many mythical and fantastic ideas and beliefs that have confused many if not most for as long as the 50 some years I’ve been a photographer. And it has not been helped by an industry and technology that now uses terms like resolution, which on film meant how fine the detail was resolved sharply, to its digital meaning that defines the size of an image in pixels. 

So let me start at my own beginning. I had an accident my first year in the military (Korea) and asked for a different job, as a photographer. I got it, but no training for it, and was assigned as the only photographer in a large unit, with an office, darkroom and a camera. I had no choice, I had to learn how to do the job on my own. I had been reading a lot about photography as there was little else to do where I was stationed if you didn’t drink or gamble, and I found both boring. And fortunately all of the instruction books that came with the equipment in my office and photo lab were neatly filed, so I had a guide. And I was there to do records of accidents, so for long periods I had nothing else to do but practice photography. My camera was a 4x5, so it was easy to make exposure brackets of all of my test shots, and to develop each sheet individually for different times. So trial and error taught me how to get the results I needed. It worked as I recently scanned some B&W film from my service days and they fit into an article I published in Shutterbug nicely. 

After 4 years of service and practicing how to photograph I was discharged and went home with the GI Bill to go to school to study photography and everything associated. My first year was as at a local university  so I could spend some time with my mother. But then I came down to California and a photography school where I learned I would just continue to do what I had been up to, learning photography by doing it. But, now I had instructors and expert evaluations of what I was doing, plus new instruments to measure my results, a densitometer. Later on densitometry became popular as the Ansel Adams Zone System, but I never understood why the Zone System was popular and densitometry was thought to be so difficult.  Anyway, my training confirmed what I had begun with. You obtain control of how to photograph by learning the process and how the tools like lenses, shutter/aperture, light meters and densitometers provide an understanding of how a subject is reproduced in an image on film and then paper.

You have to experiment with variations, and record what you did, and it will be the errors that will tell you what method to use. As I got to use all kinds of cameras, lenses and films as well as processes as a photo magazine staffer, I learned the tools that really make a difference are those that measure the subject and the film result. So I acquired the best densitometer I could get and also the best light meter, which at the time was the first Minolta 1 degree spot meter. I also learned from a great fine art photographer, Oliver Galliani, that a test reference step-tablet made with precise filters and illuminated from behind provided a longer range of values and more precise test results. So I experienced ever better control over what I was doing, and whether with camera X, Y, or Z, I could obtain  pretty much the same predictable results. In other words, if you know the photographic process, know and have control of what the tools do, you have what is needed to get the images you make with just about any camera. 

With film there were always unpredictable variables, like one emulsion batch differed from the next, each processing differed some from another because of replenishment and age of the chemistry. This is what I refer to as sideways variation. It can be limited by buying very large quantities of film and keeping the supply in cold storage until used. Processing variation can also be limited I found by using a chemical concentrate, diluting it for use, and then discarding it afterwards. With digital you have the advantage that sideways variation is almost eliminated. The ups and downs of exposure control to match it with subject variation is within what the camera records by varying the range that is recorded with internal camera controls. And all this can be further refined with software after the image is recorded in a file. Although the cameras and lenses look like those used with film, there is nothing comparable between a digital image, which is just pure information that can be changed easily and a film image which is locked into a prison of physical existence. 

Monday, November 15, 2010


Usually I do not write about things I read in others writing I receive in RSS feeds. But a blooming new creativity interest using flatbed scanners is something I could not resist. It is called scanography, using a flatbed scanner as if it were a digital camera to take digital pictures of 3D objects. So considering a lot of photographers have flatbed scanners these days, how about getting more use out of it to create photographs when it is too cold and nasty to go and shoot your camera outdoors? You can easily take a look at what others are doing with their scanners by visiting a web site all about it at: In this new web site you will find there is a .PDF file you can download that provides a detailed look at the work of many people using scanners as cameras with lots of fascinating examples of their images. 

Besides being an attractive use of a flatbed scanner to get more out of the hardware than the usual, of course I had to try scanography myself. I searched around my place for likely stuff to scan with my Epson Perfection V500, and then sat down with the scanner and began to make some scans of 3D objects. Previewing and then adjusting the scan was about the same as it would be for flat prints, so I made some scans. Technically they were OK, but creatively just scanning objects doesn’t produce an interesting picture. Later that day while out shopping I noticed the store was already selling Christmas decorations and lighting, so I bought a set of multi-colored LED lights. Back in my lab with the scanner I bunched the LED lights up in a tight package  and then moved them back and forth from one side of the scan platen to the other as the scanner progressed to make a scan. The result was encouraging, and after a little Photoshopping it was an abstract worth pursuing if I had the time to experiment more.

Of course scanners make exposures differently than the single shots of a digital camera, so with this in mind what you can do knowing a moving subject will distort as its being scanned is just one of the options you can employ to obtain differing image affects. In a way I wish I had the leisure to play with scanography more to see what else I could come up with creatively. But all I can do is suggest it has great potential and the many images on the web site should be encouraging. I would have liked to try the scanner’s transparent mode, but there is an interlock that prevents the scanner running without the lid in place, so that possibility was not investigated. Maybe other model flatbeds with film scanning options may be more flexible. It would be interesting what could be done with small LED lights with some objects scanned using the transparent scan mode.

If looking at the scannography web site, as well as reading their PDF document,  is as fascinating as I found it, and you try this and get some results, let me know. This could become another interesting facet of digital photography. e-mail me at

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Up until now software products have been dominated by elephantine applications like Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe Photoshop. Software companies have made them huge, full of functions and features one individual may never need or want; but to get the essential core you need you have to buy an expensive package. I need some of both of these huge applications but never use more than a fraction of what they contain, and of course have to buy the whole to get just the part I need. This is an advantage to the companies that own these monopolies, but not to the individual users.

At the most recent  public Apple event Steve Jobs spoke of the next major Apple Operating System “Lion” upgrade and that it will integrate some of their computer OS 10.X and iPhone/iPad iOS 4.2 functions. That makes obvious practical sense, but what he added to it that the Apple App Store would become open to developers to offer applications for the OS 10.6 computer operating system within the next 90 days is a revolutionary change of the business model for software. Reactions to this news were both welcoming and fearful – what will this new sales structure bring to the future? One place where you can shop for all independent software applications? The iPhone and its competitors as well as the iPad have attracted a huge variety of small modular Apps and has surely been a significant business success for users, developers and Apple of course. 

Just recently Apparent Software ( partnered with other small developers and has offered a bundle of graphics applications, the MacGraPhoto 2 bundle  ( for a fraction of the total cost of all nine applications. Of course my curiosity got the best of me, so I purchased the bundle at $40. It includes:
• Sandvox by Karelia Software - Apple Design Award Winner Website building application
• AtomicView by AntZero - Digital content management
• Posterino 2 - a new release by Zykloid Software - Compose posters from multiple photos
• Sketch - A new vector drawing application by Apple Design Award winner Bohemian Coding
• Swift Publisher by BeLight Software - Page layout application for designing fliers, newsletters, brochures etc.
• Layers by Wuonm - Capture screen as a PSD Layered Image
• Snapshot by LateNiteSoft - Photo-lab on a Mac: Image editing and printing
• ImageFramer 3 by Apparent Software - A brand new re-design of a popular image and photo framing application
• Hydra by Creaceed - Easily create HDR images
• DVD-Library by iSkysoft: Bonus application for building a photographic DVD Library

I immediately downloaded all of the applications, licensed and registered them, but that was just the other day so of course I have not used them all enough to get more than an idea of what I purchased. But already some of these applications have been helpful, and I am sure most will be over time. So I am glad I took advantage of this bundle offer that only lasts until the end of November. But more important, whether intended or not, maybe it is a look into a better future for computer users tomorrow if what Steve Jobs description of what is coming is the reality in the immediate future. Will the new expanded App Store be just for Apple users or will it include applications for all platforms? We will just have to wait and see, but if this is a breakthrough in the establishment model of the past and it becomes popular, anything is possible.

As a precedent for a possible future there is presently a lack of a module application that could be used as the home of different application pieces, plug-ins. There is a standard for plug-ins already and there is little reason many of the small, specialized applications could not be programmed to be plug-ins, So where is the module to plug them into, it sure isn’t the too big, too expensive Photoshop CS5. I have an idea the modular software may be coming, but this not anything I really know, so you’ll have to wait along with me to see if it develops and becomes real. In the meantime you might be amused by the Macalope:

Sunday, November 7, 2010


For too long there have been few LCD displays available that fully support a digital photographic color managed workflow. Now LaCie has added another, their 324i with desirable specifications in a P-IPS 10-bit 24 inch LCD display. The screen image should be sharp and detailed too with a 1920x1200 pixel resolution. Most important of course is its color range that is specified at 98% of Adobe RGB. But these days with ultra-lite and flimsy un-adjustable home-office LCD displays in the box stores, the LaCie 324i has a solid, full-featured stand and supports portrait orientation. Like any good, current LCD display the LaCie has a wide range of input connector options like Display Port, DVI and HDMI.

Other important advantages include the display’s support for on-board calibration adjustment, and as La  Cie has done in the past, professional options include a hood made and designed for the display as well as La Cie’s own Blue Eye calibration and profiling software and colorimeter. Unlike some professional LCD displays, the LaCie displays are not limited to their own software and colorimeter, either X-Rite, DataColor or ColorEyes Display Pro will work effectively if a buyer already has them. But with such a wide color gamut the La Cie will need a current type-2 colorimeter that can accurately read a wide color range.

I don’t plan to test and do a full report on this new La Cie 324i LCD display, but I have tested and found La Cie displays are exceptional, and bought one for my own use five or six years ago and it is still providing fine performance. My only reason for just doing this brief report is the La Cie is on the high side of the price range at $1249. A very complete description and all specification for the 324i is on the La Cie web site at:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Many of you have mentioned printer profiles as a part of your digital photo workflow.   Sometimes it is a problem that you find you have to work around. And most of you have a computer with a calibrated and profiled display, as well as often one of the many flatbed scanners I have reported on in recent years. You may even have Lasersoft Silverfast software to run your scanner. That’s all to the positive side towards getting a way to profile your printer, you are part way there already. That includes the Epson Perfection photo scanners, the Canon Canoscan photo scanners and all the recent Microtek photo scanners as well as the Artixscan M1. 

That’s right Lasersoft SilverFast scanner software for all kinds of flatbed scanners can be upgraded to a SilverFast Ai IT8 version with Printer Calibration. I covered this briefly as part of my test and report on the Epson Perfection V500 flatbed scanner. I purchased that scanner, so now I upgraded the SilverFast Ai IT8 Printer Calibration software to the latest version and did some more printer (Epson R1900) calibrations and profiled with Premier Watercolor and Hot Press Fine Art papers - and then lots of prints to test the results.  The Pinter Calibration is really quick and easy to do as the instructions in a Acrobat .PDF file on the SilverFast web site are simple to follow. And you get a lot more than just printer profiling with the software, as the IT8 version provides the ability to custom profile your scanner, which you can extend to film scanning by getting a 35mm IT8 target slide. 

Because I really don’t have the room to detail and explain all the instructions, and Lasersoft’s are very good, I’ll just list the web site addresses below: 

For basic information about Printer Calibration:

For Instructions on how to use Printer Calibration:

For the full details on Printer Calibration:

If you do not have any Lasersoft SilverFast software for your scanner, the Silverfast Ai IT8 Printer Calibration  version will provide the best and most effective scanner driver for your flatbed supporting both reflective and if the scanner has it, film scanning control and scan editing, with IT8 scanner calibration and profiling as well as Printer Calibration. For most of the scanners I have reviewed and some others too, the list cost of the software is $317.00 to get all the capabilities in a new package. For those who have a version of SilverFast for your flatbed scanner, the upgrade cost varies, so you will have to check into it. Many readers have remarked the web site is complicated. Yes there is a lot on it, but once you log on, just goto the “Products” tab and then to Scanners. To get the specifics for any make and model flatbed scanner, click on the brand and the model and a box of all the details will appear at the bottom of the page, including features, versions of SilverFast and their cost for a new purchase or an upgrade.

It is not cheap, but SilverFast is good and much easier to use and more efficient than Photoshop. So don’t be afraid to learn new software. Once you have you will appreciate the advantages. Personally, I just wish Adobe would learn something from Lasersoft or better still SilverFast would become a full replacement of Photoshop. For me proof of that is something from Lasersoft that is worth adding to the package. Lasersoft has a SilverFast Print Tao printing utility that’s so much easier and efficient to make color managed prints with compared to Photoshop. On just go to the Printer Software tab, there is all the information you’ll need to be convinced at $49 SilverFast Print Tao is a wonder.

Monday, November 1, 2010


When I am not doing something for a column, article or testing equipment and software, I relax at night watching movies and some occasional TV dramas. The most recent I found fascinating because it was about photographs, but thankfully there was not a badly cast photographer role in the piece. Nothing like the famous Michelangelo Antonioni blow-up with David Hemmings, Sarah Miles and Vanessa Redgrave, which I am sure inspired many to become photographers, sadly. This is another British drama that is about photographs, not people who make photographs or who model for photographs. It is a 3 part BBC Masterpiece Drama called Shooting The Past. And it s really about a huge collection of photographs whose future is in doubt and the mystery of the story.
Like so many great British dramas it is cast with characters that are anything but stereotypes and play out a fascinating story about a library of photographs housed in an old mansion that is threatened by a "corporate" takeover. It’s entertaining and kept me interested and involved for three enjoyable hours. But Shooting The Past also made me think you and the many photographers who read Shutterbug may be doing more than entertaining yourselves with a fascinating hobby. What you produce may become important to history. It makes me think how many things I have photographed no longer exist or have been changed significantly during my lifetime. Will they become important to history? You can't predict that or the future, but you can add something more than self-interest as a reason for every time you press the shutter button of your camera. If for no other reason, experiencing Shooting The Past will provide a good ploy to answer anyone questioning your interest and activity as a photographer - maybe you’re contributing to the documentation of our history.
Shooting The Past is available to purchase from BBC America at this web URL:  I rented the DVD's from NetFlix, and I am sure other sources for obtaining video programming also have this BBC production on DVD or for a download.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


A Shutterbug reader, Tracy Valleau, e-mailed me suggesting I take a look at the Dell Ultrasharp U2410 LCD display. I did and found it to be one I can recommend for digital photography. I purchased one to test and for my own personal use.  This Dell U2410 is a 24 inch widescreen LCD display with 1920x1200 pixel resolution. What makes it suited to digital photography and professional graphics is its wide color gamut of 96% of Adobe RGB and its white luminance is adjustable to 80-90.0 CD/m2 providing a high reproduction screen image quality. Its 12-bit internal processing assures a smooth rendition of tones on-screen that’s in a bezel and stand that is sturdy but light with an excellent design that’s carefully manufactured. In all respects this Dell Ultrasharp U2410 is much more affordable at a list price of $599 while entirely competitive with more expensive brands favored for a color managed digital photography workflow. 

In addition the connectivity support includes a full range of connectors from traditional D-sub, two DVI, an HDMI and Display Port, and also includes a powered USB hub and media card reader. Equally significant the Dell U2410 can be adjusted, calibrated and profiled using all the popular systems including ColorEyes Display Pro (, DataColor Spyder3 Elite (, or X-Rite iOne Display 2 (  However, if a user has a profiling colorimeter and software over a year old they may need to upgrade the hardware to a colorimeter that has a wide band width that will read the 96% Adobe RGB color reproduced by the U2410 LCD display. As part of the fine design of the U2410, Dell has positioned the adjustment control button on the vertical bezel at the lower-right corner and it has an on-screen control dialog that is adjacent to the control buttons. This makes the entire adjustment procedure with a color management application on-screen, accessible at all times and very easy to read and manipulate to set the U2410 up for digital photography work. Some of my readers have complained that at a brightness with the white luminance at 90.0 CD/m2, their screen is darker than they would like when used for other than photography computing. With the handy access to the controls and on-screen readout adjacent to it, a user should set the top control to Adobe RGB for photographic work, and then could switch to another  mode for a brighter setup for home/office computing very easily.

From the moment after the Dell box with the U2410 arrived, the installation and setup was a gentle breeze. But then I’ve done this bit how many times? Regardless it should be easy even for the inexperienced. I already had a DVI cable connected to the Display Port adapter Apple supplied with my computer, so it was quick connecting the power, the video to a year old Mac Mini, and USB as well. I booted up, and found the display worked fine reproducing the desktop I had been using with my Mini, so I left it running to warm up the U2410 thoroughly while having lunch. After that respite, I quickly re-booted and was set to use the ColorEyes Display Pro with a new Spyder3 colorimeter I had gotten a few months ago (I now have two, an old sRGB Spyder3 I now use with my office computer and LCD HD TV).
After using the top control button and setting the Dell to run in Adobe RGB mode, adjusting to obtain a 90.0 CD/m2 white luminance readout with ColorEyes, was really simple, just moving the Contrast % lower until the ColorEyes readout went a bit below 90.0 CD/m2 (Brightness adjustment was at 50% and not adjusted). Then I clicked on ColorEyes’ Profile button with my aim points set at gamma 2.2 and a color temperature of 6500K, and the U2410 was calibrated and profiled in just a few minutes. The resulting screen appearance looked even and clean and not as dark as some might expect at less than half the white luminance many who leave the settings at default would find. In fact my environment lighting for the desk the U2410 lives on, is a Fobsun 90 LED Downlight I wrote about in my Blog not long ago. It is mounted on an old Century stand with an arm that holds the Fobsun LED about a foot above and six inches behind the U2410, and the lamp is turned to shine down and back on a wall 3 feet behind the display. The result is plenty of illumination for the desktop ideally balanced in brightness and color with the display.
This was all done almost a month ago, and since, I have used the Dell Ultrasharp U2410 to edit and process a large digital camera shoot, scan dozens of slides, E-6 and Kodachromes, as well as negatives. Each image was fully color corrected, adjusted and edited including cleanup and retouching, and I even took a spell to build a layered composite image from two slide scans in Photoshop. Working with the Dell U2410 almost every day for a month I was fully assured by the experience, if I had no other display available I would be quite happy and satisfied. The Dell Ultrasharp U2410 LCD display has all the essential qualities needed for color managed digital photography computing and provides very good print matching between the screen image and an Epson R1900 13x19 print on fine art paper. My conclusion has to be nothing less than exuberant that there is finally an affordable, full 24 inch LCD display that fully meets the needs of photographers in all dimensions of performance.

Friday, October 15, 2010


In just a few days after the November Shutterbug hit the streets, I have received 3 questions reacting to the following comment I made in Digital Help, "That you are working with Microsoft Vista, considering it does not support using a color managed display, is also curious." This is not the first time I have said as much about Microsoft Windows Vista since I first reported on the operating system in 2007. 

From my own text of the report on Vista, "But that does not mean that all is well for photographers using Microsoft Windows Vista as there is at least one bug that although not deadly will be a daily annoyance, I can confirm from experience. This was brought to light by Steve Upton, President of Chromix in a newsletter published on February 14 I mentioned up front, in an article titled “Vista’s new Color Management System: WCS”.   This article is quite thorough and detailed although demands some reader technical savvy, and may be accessed on the web at:

The bug I referred to that Steve Upton identified is due to Vista’s more robust security system which frequently pops up a dialogue requiring the user (with administrative privileges) to “authorize” an action. This pop-up is accompanied by a dimming of the display screen that also deactivates the calibration curves which are used to adjust the display to calibrated performance on boot-up. The affect of this is that it will interfere with editing or printing by making normal screen matching predictably impossible. And the work-around solution is to re-boot the computer after each incidence of the pop-up for security authorization, which I am sure everyone will agree is a pain in the posterior and no solution at all. The article from the Chromix newsletter does indicate that once supported by the industry, theoretically Vista’s WCS Windows Color System has some positive advantages, but the current bug and drawbacks that will remain until a Service Pack is issued by Microsoft to fix the problems, Vista as an operating system can’t be recommended at least for serious color managed work. 

If you want to read my entire report on Microsoft Windows Vista that was in Shutterbug, and it is available on the web at URL:

In today's reader question I was asked, "Does that mean that if I'm running Vista I can't achieve a good print to screen match regardless of the monitor?" And my answer is yes, display calibration and profiling is defeated by Vista's user screen warning system. 

Without calibration to an ICC color standard if your display is profiled, the profile will read incorrectly. So in reality if you are running Vista and you get a user screen alert that darkens the screen, the calibration, and the profile that is based on the calibration foundation is made useless, non-functioning in terms of accurately defining where the image originated making print matching to the screen image impossible. To get back to a functioning calibration and profiled display you have to re-boot your computer.

The solution many who got new computers during the reign of Windows Vista was to have Windows XP installed instead. Or now, you can install Windows 7, but you have to turn off the user security screen warning system to avoid the Vista problem. This should not be such a problem because OEM copies of Windows XP or Windows 7 are available at an affordable price. Although I get e-mail ad notices frequently of download resources for OEM software, some can be phishing sites so I'll only recommend one source for OEM Windows software on a CD or DVD I have used reliably, and that is

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Personal introspection, thinking about who you are and why you are that way, has a bad name in America, it’s like “gazing at your belly button”. In other words American culture is outer directed and tends towards the practical. People should not waste time thinking about themselves, do something useful. But then, can you answer the question of why you like this and not that? Do you know why you enjoy taking pictures of some subjects and others don’t interest you. That is a part of you just as much as anything is, yet you take it for granted and give it little thought. 

I am inclined to be a thoughtful person as I am curious about how things work and want to understand how to do interesting things. But like most others, I have not been particularly introspective. At least not until a dozen years ago when health risks told me to stop running like a headless chicken to every trade show and event with hordes of people. About the same time the digital darkroom became the focus of much of my activity and writing. And I had at the time 40 years of collected film images. so why not learn as much as I could by scanning and editing what was in my image library? And how can you not help but think about the images you are working with, the open doors to a lot of memories. And although I have been eclectic about how I photograph avoiding any fad or style, I have also been selective about subjects and how to make then look good in a photograph.

We are all the result of our own history in which we learn we like and enjoy some things and not others. Going back to long before I became interested in doing photography I realize it was an influence in my early years. I grew up in a small city in the middle of a Canadian prairie as flat as a billiard table, in many ways a plain and dreary atmosphere with little in it from the world outside that was pleasant, it was the middle of the 2nd World War. But the movies I went to on Saturday afternoon and the magazines I saw from America, Life and Time and many more waiting in a dentist’s office or at the barbershop provided a picture of that world outside beyond the wheat-fields of the endless prairie. Many pictures and to me the most attractive we would call glamorous in their simple dramatic style.

Some might say oh, that’s why you ended up in Hollywood, but they would be mistaken. That journey was caused circumstantially and unintended in its destination. My family moved me out of Canada with them to Oregon after the War, and my move to southern California was set by the fact that’s where the two photography schools I wanted to attend were located. I stayed there after school because there was opportunity and it was the location of a new wife’s family home.

Yes a photographer’s artistic taste is the result of personal history and what one likes and does not like, but circumstance plays a large role too. Some have questioned why I photograph so many pretty women, not always hiding the question was a bit snide. But Los Angeles is a particularly ugly city with few photogenic features, but the one natural resource is a constantly fresh set of pretty women who migrate there in hope of fame and fortune.  I also like to photograph flowers as they have similar attractive attributes to pretty women. So visually and photographically I am a bit of a romantic, and that may have some influence too on the fact I like to travel by car and find many subjects to capture on the road.

Finally looking back I have to acknowledge once I became seriously interested in photography in 1952 what others photographed well caught my notice. It was the height of the magazine photography period and Richard Avedon and Irving Penn among others played a part in what I liked and disliked in photography. Even my interest in jazz music through his powerful and dramatic record covers earned Pete Turner my appreciation as a photographer. And there have been many more, some who I have gotten to know personally, and also appreciate their vision and photographic skill and talent. We are all a mix of many different influences, some we like that encourage us and others we don’t and we shun. Even if you have never done so, it is well worth thinking about, why we are the photographers we are.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


There was a time in my life when Will Rogers often stated, “I know only what I read in the newspapers.” had a resonance with people. No one has taken his place in American culture and spoken for what can be learned from TV, or what they read on-line. Maybe it is just changing too fast to make any sense. It sure is when it comes to managing color on a computer system. When that began to become popular, to buy a sensor and software to measure and color manage the differences between a computer monitor and a color printer, it worked for a few of us pretty well. I had been reading, studying and experimenting with color management for years hoping it would finally be realized for most of us with computers and then Adobe released Photoshop 5.0/5.5 and it was then a real possibility for everyone.

But shortly the landscape began to change, CRT monitors began to be replaced with LCD displays. At the time I was beta testing for a maker of screen sensors and calibration and profiling software and with LCD’s saw a potential problem because they were much brighter than CRT monitors. As usual I was ignored being the troublesome gad-fly that is my nature, my view of things was not considered a real view of the future. That I was on to something even I did not foresee entirely until it became evident by all the hits on Google’s record of what was being posted on the Internet with as many as two million posts about “my prints are too dark.” Then I had to really dig into what computer users were doing and why it was producing unexpected dark print results, to understand the details of why and how this actually happens.

I have written about this problem in a long series of developing articles and blogs, so I will not repeat the details. However, it was just pure chance that a CRT monitor’s typical brightness almost exactly matched the paper white users were printing on. Only when LCD displays that were two and four times as bright as a CRT’s did the dark prints problem mushroom. The confusing part was even for some using the printer driver to control color rather than having Photoshop control color did not get dark prints, but those using Photoshop and color management did. Even so some thought it was a color management problem, but it did not involve profiles or the functions of color matching directly. And a lot of people did not realize that some printer drivers automatically re-adjust the image file sent to it for printing, often correcting for the disparity in images adjusted perceptually via a too bright LCD display.  

Today there is a certain awareness that LCD displays are much too bright to be used to edit and adjust photo image files and get correct print brightness in color managed prints. Even so, some of the software and sensor industry include instructions from the old CRT days as to how to adjust a monitor/display that results in calibrating and profiling at much too high a white luminance, or the manufacturer has kowtowed to photography users setting a much to high white luminance aim point because some photographer “like” their screens bright. While just a few companies in the Color Management and LCD display businesses guide users to effective screen white luminance adjustment that matches paper white. And sadly no one I know of has pointed out, if you calibrate and profile a display to a brightness that is much greater than the equivalent of paper white, the resulting color profile will be seriously skewed and incorrect for printing. Everyone can get a digital copy of an ICC IT-8 and open it in Photoshop and then just change the brightness or contrast adjustment and see on screen how much difference in brightness/contrast change color values. 

So besides some computer color display products that are misguiding, commentators that are only partly informed and a consumer LCD display industry that is indifferent and selling products that can’t be adjusted and profiled in brightness for color print matching, the users are between a rock and a hard place, as well as being part of an economy that can’t afford unnecessary waste. But fortunately a reader I must thank here, Tracy Valleau, recommended an LCD display that does work, and at a much more affordable cost. I received shipment of a new Dell Ultrasharp U2410 LCD display and am checking it out thoroughly to report on it as soon as possible. Keep tuned in, and before you jump into anything ask and maybe I can keep you steered in a good direction.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


As the FCC is embattled between consumer advocates and media corporations for net neutrality, that access to broadband should not be controlled by private profit interests, the media itself is changing. Yes broadcast TV mostly delivered by cable, remains the dominant source of information and entertainment. But how people access the content is no longer so much with a traditional TV set in the living room, but with cell phones and most recently the iPad. But this popular media source is also rapidly shifting to access through the internet. TV programs, movies and music are now streamed live or downloaded over the internet, making broadband access by computers evermore important to many Americans.

Now you can get all kinds of media content in every form from an on-line source whether it is Apple iTunes which now has much more than music, even digital books, TV programs, and movies. A similar kind of catalogue of content is now available from internet vendors like Amazon,com. And recently the USPS purveyors of movies on DVD’s has more and more that can be live-streamed over the internet. Even the cable companies like Comcast are making access to media content via the internet to TV programs, as well as cable channels and movies through their own web sites. Then there is Hulu and I don’t know how many new on-line services that are offering both movies and TV programming, some of it free, but more is expected to be available for moderate fees. I won’t even mention how much of politics is available in every format on-line.

Not long ago I mentioned that I turned in my cable TV box and replaced it with a basic model Mac Mini and now get as much TV as I want and all the movies I like from all over the world , mostly supplied by my membership with Netflix. And I just went a step further, with a retired Mac Mini that had been used for my office work and had been turned on 7 days a week all day for at least three years but developed a video output problem, so I replaced it with one of the new model Mac Mini’s. Even without any LCD screen output the old retired Mini still ran and I could access it with any of my other computers on my WiFi network. So I cleaned out ll of the office applications and the data storage on the hard drive to make it ready for another job. 

I got a mini stereo to RCA cable, usually used by iPod people to connect there stored music and play it through a regular stereo amplifier and speakers. So I connected this old cleaned-out Mini to my stereo system. And now with the latest version of iTunes installed I am in the process of putting all of my music CD’s in its iTunes library. So now another Mini replaces an old media device, my stereo system’s decrepit CD player. What’s the advantage? With itunes I can connect and control what is playing on the stereo from all the computers in my house and arrange a playlist that will run all day without any further attention. Of course if I want to buy some new music recordings, I can just connect to the iTunes Store and download whatever I want for a reasonable fee.

For me it is a convenience as well as a use of an old retired computer. However, I bring this to anyones attention and interest who would like to get more use and value from their computer. And for me it has been a kind of savings as well, as in the small town I live in, the cable company TV box access to traditional programming, and far too much advertising, costs much more in fees each month than I pay for a fast business-rate broadband service.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


We are now on the eve of the hoped for shopping season and the trade shows that precede them.  But many of the digital camera makers are already on-line with announcements of what new to find in the stores shortly.

Digital photography is still a new phenomenon, but many of the photographers who have converted from a 35mm to a dSLR camera have done so, and the marketplace is looking for new enticements, but still closely associated with the camera concepts that have been familiar for the last 50 years. Most people don’t stray far from what they are familiar with and many of the pure digital prosumer concoctions of this last decade did not catch on and even the high-end of point and shoots look much kick a film camera of a generation ago.

The companies that are putting the most effort into capturing a larger market share, and have the resources to offer new cameras are largely adaptations of what has already been accepted just with added capabilities and more attractive physical handling. What really inspired  me to look at what’s new more seriously is one new Sony Alpha 55 dSLR, with a feature that is really not new at all. This new dSLR has a fixed pellicle, partially transparent reflex mirror that does not move, shades of the Canon 35mm Pellix and later EOS version the Canon RT. But Sony being one of the most serious producers of video cameras has a new reason for a translucent-fixed reflex mirror, this new dSLR is really a mix between a digicam and a still camera. The viewfinder fed by the reflex mirrored image is much like those found on current digital video cameras. In other words you can virtually switch directly from still image to video photography using the same viewfinder. 

Will this new Alpha 55 with its translucent, fixed mirror have the same limitations and potential problems that the Canon RT that is in my own seldom-used closet of goodies has? Probably some factors like the effect on exposure and the brightness of the viewfinder image was easily resolved digitally, but is this new Sony pellicle microscopically thin, delicate, hard to clean that must be protected with great care? But with my Canon RT in a studio or on locations using multi head electronic flash lighting, I found my RT’s greatest advantage was I could see the flash fire and illuminate the subject through the lens for each exposure. But that is a minor advantage, what the Sony does is allow a single TLR viewfinder that works for both stills and video. So the limited appeal of Canon’s pellicle film cameras may not adversely affect the Alpha 55 because it has a new purpose to make a dSLR an effective video camera.

I am much less impressed with the Sony Alpha Nex the new interchangeable lens point and shoot. If I had one I know I would use a HoodLoupe Pro as part of the viewfinder, but then the camera’s small size and low weight would be compromised. Then I wouldn’t be shooting like the ugly weekenders I see every days as I drive through a local tourist trap. In other words the Alpha Nex is still just another P&S camera with a new gimmick, interchangeable lenses.

But what both of these new cameras and the Panasonic versions indicate to me is the market attachment to old film cameras may be loosening a little, we are getting old some of us; and finally the industry might have some luck designing a digital camera free from the constraints of the past half century of tradition. I just hope they are more amenable to serious camera handling then the current P&S cameras, it is almost embarrassing to see people taking pictures with a camera at half arms-length weaving about trying to frame and fire the shutter to get a snapshot.

Now that this old curmudgeon has had his rant, will the camera industry surprise me with something I could say I really need that, yet this fall?  

Saturday, August 28, 2010


If the bulk of what is written and read is considered, one would have to think having just the right, even the best, camera and lenses is the secret to making good photographs. But although some of the mail I receive from my Digital Help column does involve shooting hardware, most of it is spread over other issues like printers, scanners, and software, as well as a bit about computers used for photo processing. However, the stumbling block that gets in the way for many trying to find a way to make better photographs are limitations of perceptual experience and understanding.
It is not a problem of vision. Even with today’s science there is really little understanding if two people are looking at the same subject, standing side by side, are the visions in their minds the same, even similar. In other words what our eyes see and our brain perceives can be very different. I became aware of how profound this difference can be many years go when I read about a US Information service trying to help Africans fight against mosquito born illnesses like malaria. The US agency produced a film using native environments and players to demonstrate what needs to be done to reduce the mosquito population. To make the story short the film didn’t work. Many of the Africans thought it was about a chicken, because a chicken was in one corner of the opening scene of the film. The Africans not having experienced film before had never learned where to focus their vision and perceptual attention to see a story as told on a movie screen. Nearly all modern, western people have all kinds of early experiences and learn how to see and perceive all kinds of media presentation before they even have any school experience. But native peoples all around the world who have not become part of our modern world do not. Many in the world don’t get the same perceptual education our children acquire in their first years of life.
From a similar perspective how can an aspiring photographer learn how to make fine quality prints if that photographer has never seen an Ansel Adams original, the prints of Edward Weston or the images of W. Eugene Smith. I would guess most Americans have never had an opportunity to see any original samples of the great photography that has been made in the last century. My first opportunity to see good photography was in the 50’s when The Family Of Man exhibit toured the country. But it wasn’t until I was a photography school student several years after that and began doing photography seriously, that I made a trip to Carmel, California and saw original prints made by Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and other fine photographers. Then I began to realize and understand a little of what a good photograph looks like. Thereafter I visited museums and galleries to see the best in photography whenever it was a possibility. It wasn’t frequent, I had no desire to follow in anyone’s footsteps, but it was encouraging to know how I needed to improve my skills and techniques, to understand what a good photograph should look like and realize when my own fell short.
For many of you this may seem like preaching to the choir. Everyone, when they begin making photographs, learns the range of what the eyes see doesn’t fit the much smaller range of sensitivity a camera records without adjustment, even though today a lot of that is automatic, a built-in adjustment by the camera’s designer and manufacturer. But anyone serious about photography has a long historical access to how the differences between the human eye and what a camera can record can be understood and controlled. There have been popular techniques that have been learned, whether it is the 9-around, over-under exposed, over-under developed to reproduce a comparison to see what works best; or it was the more advanced Zone System of exposure and development control.
But the really big challenge today with digital photography is not the difference between reality and what exposure the camera records and the eye adjusts for naturally, but  differences in color that the human brain accommodates to provide a mental perception of what is seen. This color perception and what the individual's mind actually experiences perceptually, is really not recognized and understood popularly. What you think you see with your eyes is not what the eye senses but something different influenced by perceptual adjustments based on memory and mental habit. Think of it: if we had to pay conscious attention to everything our eyes see, the detail would overwhelm us and we couldn’t get much else done to be driven mad by billions of perceptual thoughts. Much of what we see and have seen before is ignored by our perceptual consciousness; we know what it is and at the moment, if it has no importance, no conscious attention is given to it. And, of course some things remind us of bad experiences we would not like to be reminded of, so we may not perceive these sights at all in our daily experience. 
For instance a gray box seen by the eye is compensated for in its objective brightness by the eye's self-adjusting pupil for brightness, but the light cold be warm at dawn or sunset, or bluish at noon, however to our perception it is recognized as a gray box regardless what color the light cast it in, as seen by your eye. Your perception sees “things” the same based on what your mind remembers and knows it should look like. Things look the same unless they are seen in different ways at the same time, in comparison, like the warm light of incandescent electric bulbs  in a window of a house on a foggy, bluish gray day. 
Another example is if you are driving on a sunny day and you left the car’s headlights on, you cannot see the warm tungsten light they are shining out in front of you, the colder light of the sun on the street is much brighter. If time instantly changed to night, you would see the street in front of you clearly because your eyes would adjust immediately to this much lower level of illumination and the street would look much like it did in daylight; but your headlights are much warmer colored than the sun, but with no comparison, the light from your headlights looks white, not the yellow-red of tungsten illumination. In other words your eyes accommodate great differences in brightness, and your mind's perception accommodate great differences in color. 
This was made relative to the ongoing conversation I have had with many readers about LCD displays for their computer a few days ago. About a year ago I purchased one of the best home-office LCD displays made by one of the largest manufacturers in hopes it might work for a color managed digital photography system. It didn’t, so I put it in a corner of my lab, where it sat unused until I decided to install it next to my Eizo Flexscan S2242W on my Mac Pro. I wanted it to provide extra screen space for dialogue windows, utilities, etc. So I adjusted, calibrated and profiled this home office display separately and individually to a brightness I knew it could handle. the result is a direct comparison of a new home-office LCD display beside one that reproduces over 95% of Adobe RGB color. Although this home-office LCD is better than many, it reproduces only a little more than an sRGB color range, and with the two displays set to show the same screen image, and Adobe RGB photo open in Photoshop, when side by side WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Just that comparative view could save me hundreds, thousands of typed e-mail words trying to explain, of you have Adobe RGB images displayed by an sRGB LCD display you cannot even see all of the color in your image file, so how can you visually control and adjust that image accurately if you are blind to 1/3 of its color content?

Saturday, August 21, 2010


One of the larger marketing names, Viewsonic, was the first to hit the streets with a new VX2250wm-LED 22 inch LCD display. So I checked the web site of the world’s two largest producers Samsung and LG Electronics, and it seems their new models also have one leading new feature LED backlighting. That’s a good move from some perspectives, LED’s use less power, and are free of any contaminates so are eco-friendly. They also allow thinner, lighter weight models relative to screen size, so shipping costs to American and other worldwide markets is reduced a bit. So far, nothing to complain about other than the fact these new LED LCD displays are like last years, reproduce essentially an sRGB color gamut and if anything are as bright or even brighter, so the “my prints are too dark” problem remains a negative factor still caused by displays that are too bright.

As you may have noticed recently in this blog space I have written about LED lamps, also made in Asia, that are almost ideally suited to providing digital darkroom environment illumination. And from my limited investigation of LED as a light source It is apparent manufacturers do have the potential for control, for instance the lamps I am now using are rated to work with voltages from 90 to 250, and of course at a lower voltage emit somewhat less light. So it would seem with LED backlit LCD displays it would not be au difficult to design a backlight that could be lowered in brightness for use in reproducing photographic images that are going to be color managed prints. Sadly the specifications for these new LED LCD displays don’t offer such a control, but the two main manufacturers both rate brightness as 250-300 CD/m2, and that needs to be cut by 2/3rds if the display is adjusted to match the white of high quality printing paper.

I also looked at the NEC and Eizo sites, and other than the 24 inch NEC LCD2490WUXi2 Spectraview 2 that came out about the same time as my review of the 22 inch NEC P221W Spectraview 2, there isn’t anything in the under $1,000 cost other than the Eizo Flexscan S2242W or 2243W I recommended in this blog. But Eizo just announced a new 19 inch Flexscan S1902 that has an interesting Paper Mode, that may be indicative this little office model could be color managed and used for digital photography. But it is not listed by any Eizo sellers yet so I could not get an idea of its expected retail cost.

So unless someone surprises me in finding another make and model of LCD displays that can be adjusted to 90.0 CD/m2 and also provides a color gamut much wider than sRGB, there aren’t many affordable LCD displays to recommend to serious digital photography enthusiasts. Sadly the industry thinks there are just too few of use to offer anything but the few less costly models of professional displays, most of which are way beyond my means, and from what I hear many of my readers also. So, if you have a new recommendation, let’s know about it: write me at - and I’ll check into it.ViewSonic’s VX2250WM-LED 22-Inch (21.5-Inch Vis) Widescreen Full HD 1080p LED Monitor with Integrated Stereo SpeakersNEC LCD2490WUXi2-BK 24" WIDESREEN LCD MONITOR 24 INCHEizo Shows Five FlexScan Displays.(EIZO Nanao Technologies FlexScan L465, L375, L685)(Product Announcement): An article from: Display Development News

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Logically, some would think because digital cameras are now so popular and have replaced the use of film to a great extent, that film scanning would decline proportionally. But the reality is that there are enormous personal collections of film images people have created over much of the last century. Most realize these film images will decay and deteriorate in time, but the history they tell should be preserved if for no other reason than preserving the history of their making.

Digital camera buyers and users realize a photograph in digital form has many advantages film and printed paper photographs never enjoyed. And, of course if the image files are stored securely they will not deteriorate in time. The result of an understanding and awareness of digital photography by owning and using a digital camera has encouraged many that it would be a great advantage to have their old film libraries in a digital format, it would make it possible to duplicate that image history on CD’s or DVD’s too, and share the library and its history with friends and family members.

Is this some hair-brained theory I dreamt up? No I can’t even take credit for the idea that the digital camera has inspired a new and growing interest in scanning film. I have received hundred’s of e-mails from Shutterbug readers saying they recently got into digital camera photography and would like to scan and digitize their library of film images from the past. And I am sure it inspired among older photographers who have a history of their family on film, but the kids now have their own lives, sometimes far away, and it would be a good thing to give them a record of their earlier home and life for themselves and their children to know and keep.

But of course marketing experts in the photo product business knew better, that digital cameras were the future; and not thinking for many pictures of the past are as important if not more so than new photos taken today. So Canon, Nikon, Minolta and others have abandoned making and selling dedicated film scanners, although the capability has been built into flatbed scanners made by both Epson and Canon, and recently they are now truly competitive with the dedicated film scanners of the past. That is fortunate as it provides more choices to photographers interested, as well as the ability to also scan120 size film as well as prints.

How long will this popularity of film scanning last? That is hard to tell how long it will take for people to remember they have a shoebox full of cartons of 35mm slides, and then get a scanner and digitize them for history. I think it may be awhile before all of the “baby boomer” photographers retire and spend part of their new leisure time recovering the images from their previous pastime activities.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


When Canon announced a 9600 optical resolution Canoscan 9000f flatbed scanner, I got on the phone and got a loaner to test and report on. For all the enthusiast photographers with film collections they want to scan into digital files, this new Canoscan made me wonder, is it an ideal answer? It’s priced right with a list of $249. But how well does it work and what quality of scans does it reproduce from 35mm film? Of course from my mail I knew many readers would be interested, but I didn’t get an assignment to do a user report.


This new 9000f model Canon flatbed photo scanner is not essentially different from their 8800f model, it looks a little sleeker and has higher resolution and scans 8.5x11 inch reflective documents and prints (at 4800dpi), as well as both 35mm and 120 photographic film (at 9600dpi). Film scanning is supported by an infrared FARE 3 sensing of dust, dirt and scratch for automatic software cleaning. Like the most contemporary scanners, the Canoscan 9000f uses white LED’s for scan illumination. The scan sensor is a 12-line CCD. The 9000f scans in 48-bits and will also output 48-bit files. It connects with your computer via a USB specified as the fastest available your PC’s support.

I also contacted Lasersoft and obtained their new version of SilverFast for the Canoscan 9000f in the most complete Ai6 version. My first scan was made with Canon’s ScanGear software, a scan of a letter-sized portrait print. Easy and quick, but then there is little ‘interpretation’ between different media involved scanning a good print. The result without any manual adjustment was pretty accurate. Then I switched to scan four different color negative film images, and quickly found that quick and easy has its limits. All the preview scans, presented in four thumbnails on one screen were usable, and pretty good dynamic interpretations of different color negative film bases.


The first thing I did before making a scan with the 9000f and SilverFast was to use IT-8, and put a 35mm target slide in the scanner and ran the profiling of the scanner, It didn’t take even a few minutes or any effort, it was done automatically with the software in seconds. Let’s then get on with scanning. Since I tested the Plustek 7600i I have been doing a lot of personal scanning of my 35mm film library, a job I will never live long enough to finish. I had a lot of 35mm film frames selected, a wide variety of subjects and different kinds of films, and I just grabbed a bunch, maybe 100 to 150 images, and dove into scanning with the 9000f using all of the methods supported by SilverFast; using the software conventionally and traditionally, making high-bit raw scan files, and using the newest and most efficient kind of batch scanning, the SilverFast Archival Suite method. This is something a large number of readers have written about, what is an efficient and fast way to get scanning done. Quick and easy alone doesn’t do it because the price is poor image quality or very long and tedious work color correcting 48-bit scan files with an image editor. I think many experienced photographers don’t realize that color correcting and translating between different films both positive and negative is far from straightforward and simple as film images vary in density and with negatives making an inversion to a positive image, and also eliminating the dye color in the film base, is a complicated path to get to a digital image that will make a high quality print or display on-screen.

But lets start with the most common, scanning positive color slides to a digital image that will make a good print reproduction. With SilverFast the first step in color correction and adjustment is the one that is done easily by automation to get to the Histogram process that maps the much greater range of typical slide densities to the 256-step gamut of a digital image. Once an image has been previewed, and the scan frame is adjusted within the image leaving just image information inside, at the top left of the SilverFast control window click the second from the far left icon that looks like an aperture. Then open the Histogram with the third icon from the left, and in the window and at the bottom is to me the most valuable adjustment for Removing Color Cast. Many film images may have a colorcast from light reflections, smog or smoke in the atmosphere, and frequently a color in the film base or a tint from less than perfect processing. The Color Cast slider allows adjusting the color cast removal by perception seeing the adjusted image free of any colorcast.


The Canon Canscan 9000f looks and feels like a really well designed and finely made machine. And once you begin using it, it is smooth, quiet and quick unlike many scanners I have used in the past the scanner self-initialization and calibration has been made extremely efficient, so little time is wasted between scans, and depending on the file size of output, it scans very rapidly. I think a lot of photographers with film libraries have hoped for a flatbed that will scan prints, as well as both 120 and 35mm film as well as a dedicated film scanner, has just been a dream. Well the Canon Canoscan with SilverFast running it is just about there – the dream has been realized to a very large extent. I did most of my testing with 35mm film images including a lot I know are difficult to scan. The results are so close to those I have obtained with the Plustek OpticFilm 7600i it is hard to tell which is better. But there are differences, some odd and older films reveal that the Canon Flare 3 works best with newer E-6 and C-41 process films, but not as well with earlier process films, and of course not at all with silver B&W or Kodachrome, but no infrared cleaning sensor does.

Another flatbed distinction is the unusual design of 12 line CCD’s that produce a raw file that requires twice to four times as much software sharpening compared to a traditional 3 line CCD sensor of a dedicated film scanner. Is this a problem? Mostly not, but it does create an image appearance that is a little different, and can be an advantage because graininess is less apparent. In other words I have encountered problems getting good scans with some films with both dedicated film scanners and this new Canoscan 9000f, no more or less, just a little different with each, as both have their advantages and disadvantages, just somewhat dissimilar and distinct. The bottom line is the Canoscan 9000f with SilverFast is really a good scanner especially considering it does prints, medium format and 35mm and the total cost with SilverFast SE added is under $300. That’s really good news in times like these.

The complete report that will be published in Shutterbug is fully illustrated and more detailed, but you don’t have to wait, this is the best in flatbed film scanning.