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?