Thursday, May 27, 2010


Early in the history of photography in America, well before the year 1900, Eastman Kodak invented the concept of “you snap the picture we will do the rest”. Kodak designed and made simple, easy to use box cameras, as well as better models, and the box Brownie was sold at a very low price to make it accessible to a wide audience. Kodak expected to, and did, earn their profit from the sale of film and processing. By the time I was a kid in the 30’s cameras, film and processing (negatives and a set of prints) were available through just about every corner drugstore.

Today, in the digital era, that basic concept continues with point and shoot digital cameras. Just about all of them save image files in JPEG and sRGB color, and the files can be sent in or inserted in a vending machine printing kiosk, often located in a drugstore, and prints will be produced. These cameras are all automated to obtain well exposed and focused pictures, and contain built-in processors that edit the images for good image quality.

Contemporary home/office computers of almost every make are in lock-step with point-and-shoot digital cameras with easy-to-use JPEG download utilities and operating systems that have an sRGB default colorspace. Photo printers made to be used with these cameras have a driver that adjusts the image to make what the pinter manufacture considers is a good reproduction of the image information on file and downloaded to the computer. Essentially none of these computers in the marketplace have the capacity to be used by a serious photo enthusiasts to be set-up for color managed image adjustment, color correction of raw photographic images that reproduce the full information capacity of digital cameras that save in Raw format, and the current LCD displays that come with home/office computers cannot be adjusted to match paper white brightness to make color managed prints that match an on-screen image.

Yes there are work-arounds and added peripherals that will accommodate the serious photographer, but they involve considerable added costs, like color management hardware and software and an expensive professional LCD display.


Yes. all of the needed technology is already available. But the few million Americans who are serious photographers are not enough in numbers to interest the industry, not even one computer company, to make computer models that support serious digital photography. A couple of years ago one of the largest LCD manufacturers made an LCD display model with over 90% of the color gamut of Adobe RGB that was quite affordable, but after just one year the model was discontinued. LCD displays for home office computers are too bright, but it would cost little to produce a model with half the intensity of backlight. All LCD displays have DVI connectors that include a DDC (Direct Digital Control) segment, but none of the LCD manufacturers would agree to a DDC standard; so the operating systems, the video card manufactures and computer companies have never supported DDC, except one professional LCD display maker who uses DDC for their proprietary system, that’s NEC’s Spectraview 2.

Otherwise most contemporary home/office computers can be configured to support serious digital photography with a color managed workflow. And, probably more applications for photography would add color managed support if it was supported by the LCD display industry.

But sadly digital photography customers are not demanding that the industry supplies what they need. Sadly too many computer buyers assume they are getting products that support their serious photography interest, and do not realize that if you cannot see all of the image and color information in a digital photograph on-screen, you cannot control it with software applications like Photoshop. Photographer are missing a boat they could have if they would just demand it and quit buying inadequate home/office computers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


This Wednesday, May 26, 2010, Apple Computer overtook Microsoft as the leading technology company in the world. In todays trading the result was that Apple reached a value of $227.1 billion over Microsoft’s $226.3 billion for Microsoft.

This to some is a surprising turnaround since Apple was struggling not that many years ago. But by providing more advanced and better technology for its users Apple has continued to progress. Apple defies the illogic of cheaper is better that has become the American mainstay. Apple offers a better product and even if it cost a little more it is apparently worth it as more and more customers obviously have turned to Apple.

Yes, the new Apple technology is different and involves new kinds of communications and a kid of user-friendly control many people prefer. So now maybe, Americans will take a different look at what works best for them. Is it the cheapest toy or the best quality product. aye in the human dimension good actually costs less if cheap don’t do as much for you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Yes, digital technology change is like a merry-go-round. Everyone who participates in the technology is on board. But if you will notice watching a merry-go-round some of the “horses” go up while others go down and some have higher trajectories, for the older kids to ride. And, there are no parents sitting in the seats between the “horses”. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are still in a race no one can win, but cheap in America always outsells good products, and nothing good ever comes inexpensively.

Back in the early 60’s cynicism took hold with the idea of “forced obsolescence” as the annual new cars got more chrome and bigger tail fins and little real improvement as vehicles. A few today try to accuse digital technology companies of the same kind of scam. But it doesn’t stick. In the 1960’s automobiles were already a mature technology, although one that could be improved much more than it has, even today. Markets, the people who buy products, aren’t any more adult than corporate marketeers.

The digital arena is populated by youngsters growing up fast, and that is a realm of necessary change. But it is unlike any other population of products we have seen in the past, it is completely interconnected by the technology itself, because it is now almost completely integral, it all has to work together. In the beginning there were many different kinds of computers that could not talk to each other, but the disadvantages of incompatibility soon eliminated the odd-balls and left some giants that can now all speak the same language, more or less, Microsoft, Apple, and Linux/Unix. Of course the internet and the World Wide Web played a crucial role in consolidating the digital industry, but commerce helped with an advantage to companies making products that would function with all systems, it’s a larger and more predictable market.

When I first started using computerist the mid 80’s to do writing and editing for publication. Computer uses soon expanded to graphics, all kinds of business; to now just about every aspect of cultural life. This expansion of functions involved all kinds of peripherals and connections to the internet and the web. These additional functions need support by the computer operating systems, so as each function was added new software applications were programmed and new requirements were put on Microsoft and Apple as well as Linux to support things like on-line shopping and banking, buying insurance, paying utilities and more. The consumer digital computer world has expanded enormously and every digital company to stay competitive has had to upgrade. It is not like 60’s cars tail fins and chrome; it is not forced upon us it is what we have demanded by embracing the convenience of a digitized life.

Of course I write about this from a very particular interest, digital photography. But now with even cell phones with built in cameras, digital photography is a small, niche in the overall marketplace. Very recently I went through all of the documentation I could find describing most of the popular computer brands being sold in America, like Dell, HP, Sony, Gateway, Acer, eMachines, SYX, Lenova, CybertronPC, Asus, MSI, Viewsonic, and many more, but not one was described as a digital photography computer, although a few mentioned multimedia in passing. Not all that long ago companies like HP, Dell and Gateway offered lines of graphic workstations, mostly for professional use, but CAD and Gaming workstations are about all that remain at this high end of computer choices. Does that reflect a lack of demand, or do computer makers assume home/office computers are sufficient today to do digital photography? Well for the bulk of digital camera sales, the point and shoot automatics they are partly correct, but there are two factors that get in the way of using a home/office computer for serious digital photography, and they both involve LCD displays.

The LCD display industry is essentially independent of the computer industry because the bulk of their sales are television and other larger video displays. Computer LCD displays, although they may have the brand name of the computer are made by the few very large factories that make TV displays, and are an offshoot of those designs, and are now more like the LCD HDTV sets that are sold by often another group of companies although there is some cross-over. Nearly all of the home office LCD displays sold with computers reproduce a lower color range (gamut) comparable to the sRGB colorspace, and have very bright backlight so typical applications, including an internet browser can be viewed with high, bright contrast even in brightly lit rooms. In fact this was very evident to me when I cancelled my cable TV subscription and added a small computer to run a 42 inch HDTV. The setup, including calibration and profiling reproduces an image quality close to the same as with a smaller LCD made for computers. In fact movies on DVD either played directly to the HDTV from a DVD player, if also reproduced through the computer’s DVD and computer screen function are closely matched, although the color is a little cleaner due to the calibration and profiling when the computer is driving the HDTV.

So is this another of my frequent arguments that favor Apple computers? No, it is not, because all Apple computers like the MacBooks and iMacs that come with Apple LCD displays are home/office displays with very high brightness and an sRGB color gamut. But with these Apple LCD displays including their desktop Cinema Displays have an additional limitation, just a brightness control that does not reduce the white luminance sufficiently to do color managed printing.

On the LCD display side there are two relatively expensive hgh performance digital photography choices I have previously reported on: NEC Spectraview 2, and several of the Eizo Nanao LCD display models. There are others like some of the LaCie LCD displays, but LaCie does not manufacture LCD displays. There might be others, but none I have been able to find in the American market.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


There are some things worth repeating. For serious digital photographers who edit their images with a computer until recently you could only see a little more than 2/3rd’s of the color in the original on-screen image displayed, and if you can’t see it you cannot control and adjust it accurately. What I am talking about is that a dSLR set to record in raw format or a scan of a color transparency produces a range of different colors about what the Adobe RGB (1998) profile will support, but until just a short while ago all but some very special and expensive LCD displays only reproduce sRGB color that is a colorspace that has about 30% fewer colors. In other words most of us have been working with photographs that contained many fewer colors on-screen than the original.

The first affordable, well under a $1000 LCD that reproduces over 95% of Adobe RGB color was the NEC 22 inch Sprectraview 2 model. Since I wrote about this new NEC LCD display many have purchased it and and seem to be pleased with using the display. Of course if you have a much fatter than normal wallet there are many larger and more sophisticated LCD displays that reproduce more than 95% of Adobe RGB made by NEC, Eizo and Mitsubishi.

I needed a new LCD display recently, as one of mine with over five years of heavy use needed replacement. But I did not choose the NEC P221W Spectraview 2 for two reason. One is that I have to work with all of the different display adjustment, calibration and profiling software and colorimeters to write about the subject, and the NEC Spectraview is proprietary. And second, I do a lot of retouching of scanned images and the NEC P221W has the normal resolution for this 22 inch size of 1680x1050 pixels, and I need a higher, finer resolution. (I am used to older 3:4 format 20 inch LCD models with 1600x1200 pixels that are great for retouching but no longer is that format produced.)

So, looking for a new 22 inch wide color gamut (95% + Adobe RGB) that has higher resolution and is also in the under $1,000 class, I found an Eizo Flexscan model. The Eizo Flexscan S2242W is a 22 inch display with 1920x1200 pixel resolution , a wide color gamut; and that is similar to the specifications of much more costly 24 inch professional LCD displays. It has a very sturdy metal bezel and stand that is fully adjustable, and includes performance adjustments for Brightness, Contrast, Gamma, Temperature (in 500 K increments from 4,000 K – 10,000 K including 9,300 K), Saturation, Hue, and Gain. In addition for those who need software and a spectrometer to adjust, calibrate and profile this display there is the Eizo EasyPIX system at a competitive cost. So, I ordered an S2242W from a nearby Eizo dealer and it was delivered for a little over $800. I have been using this display ever since with a lot of scan work and am entirely pleased with the performance and am obtaining color managed prints that are extremely well matched in color and brightness.

About the same time I learned that Eizo had announced a new version of this LCD display the S2243W. It is essentially the same display but has an added input connector, the new Display Port design, but seems to be the same display in all other respects. And I have also learned the new S2243W is not available at least until the stock of the S2242W models has been sold.

Another thing I learned about wide color gamut displays is that older colorimeters do not provide an accurate profiling result with these LCD displays that have 95% plus of Adobe RGB color. I got very clear proof of this after getting a new Spyder3 colorimeter from DataColor. I re-profiled the S2242W with the new Spyder3 and compared the 2D graph of each profile from my older Spyder3 with the new one and the older profile had a very large and noticeable skew in the color it recorded and profiled. So if you plan to purchase a new wide color gamut LCD display and have a display colorimeter much more than a year old, plan on replacing it with a new model that is designed for wide color gamut displays.

As I final note, the purchase of my Eizo Flexscan S2242W LCD display was the most rewarding investment I have made in any product since I began doing digital photography 20 years ago. And anyone who knows me also knows I do not make statements like that lightly or for any reason other than my own experience.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Photography is approximately a 140 year old technology, but among the younger set using the latest cell phone models photography is often an integral part of this newest communication mode, take a picture with the phone and send it to someone else. When I first began doing photography almost 60 years ago it was a lot more of a challenge to participate than pushing a button or two, there weren’t even any reliable light meters then to use to calculate the film exposure, plus the many other things that all had to be done individually like focusing the lens on the subject, setting the aperture relative to the shutter speed, all relative to the ASA speed and type of film you were using. In other words photography in the 1950’s was a demanding technology to perform and of necessity had to be a concentrated single-minded experience.

In that era, although already modern in many respects, what the rest of the world looked like was not familiar to most people, so magazine like Life and Look, large pictures books brought the visual worlds from afar into people’s lives. The photographers of the print media like Bresson, Capra, W. Eugene Smith, Avedon, Penn were well-known heros inspiring young photographers, I was one of them you can be sure. But technology gradually changed culture, and as TV became common photography in another form, it made a living, moving world out there available to everyone in there living rooms. Today miniaturized digital technology has made media portable and accessible wherever you go and photographic pictures has become a part of everyday life. A small avatar of my facial countenance accompanies all the e-mails I send out, as it joins my comments in Facebook. The world and its use of photography has changed during my lifetime, it has become an inclusive part of everyday life instead of the rare and difficult to access medium I learned to use in the early 50’s. Is it now less important or significant. Interestingly not really, other than it is taken for granted now. Young people do not dream of being a famous photographer, because there aren’t any today like Ansel Adams was in his lifetime.

For the photography enthusiast today it is technically easier to produce high quality images, but I think a part of its attraction is still a usually solitary, single-minded experience. Personally, I believe this will not change. Photography that is part of the multitasking world of young people today, will produce a different kind of image with a much less significant perceptual impact, because photos have become so frequent and easily incorporated in common conversation the iconic pictures that helped disillusion people about war that came from Vietnam, aren’t likely to have such singular impact today and in the future.

That brings up a question some are studying seriously at MIT and Stanford University, do we derive the equal value from a multi-tasked experience as from a single-minded one? The scientists so far are finding that the quality of thought that is part of multi-tasking experience is possibly much poorer in quality than traditionalists derived from single-minded concentrations of thought. College student today do not write contiguous essays, but a series of unconnected paragraphs, according to many of their professors. So what are your thoughts? Photography of some sort will survive, but will it have the same qualities we have valued? Will any of the young people multi-tasking their way through life experience photography as you and I have enjoyed and valued, or are those days numbered?