The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 3, Number 15 27 July 2001

Copyright 2001, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 51st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We tour a camera design firm, take a look at Epson's new inkjet printer and reveal our one-step color negative conversion routine.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ad here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Olympus
http://www.olympusamerica.com/
Get $200 back on an Olympus Camedia 10x Ultra Zoom digital camera.

The C-700 and C-2100 feature a true 10x optical zoom and 27x digital zoom.

Go to Ultra Zoom Ultra Rebate for details and to see all qualifying camera and accessory combinations.

Nikonusa.com
http://www.nikonusa.com
Nikon introduces the Coolpix 775 digital camera!

Real on-the-go-digital is here. At just 6.5 ounces, the ultra-light, 2.14-megapixel Coolpix 775 is loaded with easy-to-use features.

Seven Selectable Scene Modes, a 3x Optical Zoom-Nikkor lens and fast, automatic functions like a 2.5x Digital Zoom make shooting Nikon-quality images point-and-shoot simple.

The exclusive One-Touch Upload to the Web(tm) lets you send, share and save those images with the push of a button. Plus with Quick Review LCD you can view, keep or delete photos while you shoot.

The Coolpix 775 includes everything you need (including a rechargeable battery and charger) to keep you going - and shooting - anywhere life takes you.

For more information or to find a dealer visit the NikonUSA Web site. And see Dave's review.


Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 41,500 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Designing Digicams

On our recent trip to Rochester, we hooked up with a professional goalie. You haven't seen him on ESPN, though, because Steve Rapp only plays during lunch in the parking lot at KEK Design (http://www.kekdesign.com). He spends the rest of the day there as a mechanical engineer. The guys at KEK find it relaxing to put on their skates and hit the asphalt for an adrenaline-pumping game of rollerblade hockey. You should see the Bezier curves they cut in the asphalt!

KEK Design, at 100 Josons Road, is just across the street from the Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Founded by Karl E. Kober (hence KEK) in 1970, it is now owned by his son Karl D. Kober, who is also its president. Among their clients are Kodak, Fisher-Price, World Kitchen (Corningware & Pyrex), Carrier, Compaq, Xerox and Southco Hardware.

KEK also provides illustration and animation services for online service manuals. You can test your ability to "Insert Tab A Into Slot B" with these demos: http://www.gardner-design.com/mds/ledr.html and http://www.gardner-design.com/kodak/dc260.html (you need the Viewpoint Media Player plug-in [W] at https://components.viewpoint.com/MTSInstallers/download.htm).

What Steve designs ranges from imaging kiosks like the Kodak Picture Maker to Pyrex cookware. But during a break in the action, he also confessed to working on a digicam or two. That's what got our attention.

It turns out KEK has been involved in the design of quite a few digicams. It collaborated with Kodak on the DC5000 (which won the Chicago Atheneum 2000 Good Design Award), DLS315 (which won the German Industrie Forum (iF) Mark Design Award), DC220, DC240, DC260, DC280, DBC325 Digital Video Camera, DP1200 Digital Projector, RFS 3600 Film Scanner and the MC3 Audio Player Camera.

If you've ever smudged your nose on an LCD monitor using the optical viewfinder, you may not believe digicams get "designed" at all. But it's a fascinating process Steve described to us on our visit.

SPECIALIZING IN DIVERSITY

Industrial designers don't like to specialize. Yesterday's car safety seat designer is today's PDA designer. Nobody wants to design the same thing their entire career.

This cross-training even carries over into their recreation. Everyone takes a turn at goalie, Steve confided (when they get winded). So even on the asphalt, they switch positions.

But once a firm handles a product, expertise is freely shared among the designers (even if you are the goalie).

But not with the spectators. So you didn't hear any of this from us. This is such a highly secretive business that I'm writing this from a carrel at a private library (where the only people walking by are in a rush to find the bathroom) to avoid any possibility of a leak.

Everything these guys do and how they do it is Top Secret.

Which means we can't report on any live projects (or even real ones), but we'll walk through the typical design stages our Average digicam might have gone through during its gestation period.

START WITH A CLIENT

The process starts with a client, the Average Camera Co., Inc. Without a client, after all, there's no lunch. And no lunch means a short street hockey season.

The client's job is to describe the product. Sometimes they walk in with sketches. Sometimes they just wave their hands in the air. Other times they've got magazine clippings or the modern equivalent, a PowerPoint presentation. The Average Co. actually brought in Joe Isuzu who did a shadow puppet show to get his point across.

You might think this involves no more than the pep talk of pure salesmanship, but it also introduces the designers to a few, uh, constraints. "We want this to be as big as Everest. But it has to fit in a shirt pocket, too," Joe explained. "And don't use any adhesives with the plastic."

The designers speak the client's language well enough to hear what they mean no matter what they say. No mean feat (especially with Joe), but if you can do Beziers in asphalt, what's a challenge?

Besides, it turn outs that the real product at KEK isn't a drawing or some piece of plastic. It's "The Concept."

THE CONCEPT

The Concept is the thing that makes the client jump up and say, "Yeah, that's what I mean!" It "realizes" their dream, their idea, their desperate gamble. It sculpts that vague notion into something consumers like us can get our hands on. That wows us. (Cut to Dave saying, "Wow!!! What a camera.")

It's the defining idea. The manikin that comes to life. The frog who turns into a prince. Well, you get the picture.

The Concept for the Average digicam was simple. Make a camera that exists solely as an editorial device, with an unlimited number of features appearing on most cameras, updatable by the imagination alone and showing no favoritism toward one sponsor or another. Editoreus ex machina, so to speak. Joe loved it. "My kids are all going to get one for Christmas!"

KICKING IT AROUND

After the client presents the problem, a group of designers sits down to discuss it (nope, not in the penalty box, which is an unairconditioned minivan whose windows don't roll down). They bring into play their different sorts of proficiencies, from electrical engineering to user interface expertise, like hockey players gaining control of the puck.

They generate an "endless multitude" (as Steve put it) of thumbnail sketches for the client to review, often just in pencil at this early stage.

For a digicam, the designers toss around a small collection of colored blocks, each representing the actual size of an internal component of the camera: the CCD, the optical viewfinder, the circuit board, the lens, removable storage, you name it. They assemble these essential components into all sorts of shapes, some more efficient than others, some less expensive, until they find the combination with the fewest compromises.

They call this Spatial Configuration, Architecture or "that Lego Block Exercise." They are, Steve explained, working out "the precarious balance between function, manufacturability, cost, features, development complexity, size, weight, reliability and usability." Precisely. They even use 3D software (Pro/Engineer, SDRC Ideas, Alias, Rhinoceros, 3D StudioMax, Autocad, Vellum and anything a customer requires) to evaluate the tight clearances between all the critical internal components.

Usually, as Dave is not fond of pointing out, this locates the battery door and/or the removable storage door on the same plane as the tripod socket.

Once the structural essentials are configured (at least for the moment), the designers can sketch a housing or two for The Concept.

And they bring that back to the client as pencil proposals. The Average digicam was drawn up as a 35mm point and shoot, for example, but with a helicopter beanie for hands-free operation.

FACE OFF

Sketches of several alternative housings (in case there's a beanie propeller shortage) are presented to the client. Usually not over lunch but in one of the War Rooms (which may contain models of previous projects for reference, big white boards, various magnets, top hats and magic wands). You should see Joe Isuzu in the Average War Room.

Naturally the client likes the front of this one and the buttons on that one and the snazzy tail fins on the third. "Can you put all that in one design?" they are suddenly inspired to suggest. And the designers skate back to the drawing board (well, their 21-inch monitors) to work up a composite that remains faithful to The Concept.

Here's where Illustrator or, increasingly, Freehand gets into the act. The designers render a crisper version of The Concept that includes the client's suggestions. It's a substantially more detailed, precise drawing.

POWER PLAY

When the client approves a design, it's translated from the two dimensional drawing into a 3D computer model, extruding the body, lens and buttons into objects that can be viewed from any angle on the screen.

This isn't an inexpensive conversion, so the process is reserved for really worthwhile candidates. But it lets the designer realize what had only been a twinkle in their eye.

With the design translated into 3D data, projects with complex shapes can be built automatically in epoxy (layer by layer like a topological map) by a stereolithography machine. Our Average digicam, however, actually got robotically sculpted in foam on the Computer Numerical Controlled milling machine in the CNC room. "Yellow foam (it's a technical term) and REN board are the primary materials we use for models," Steve confided.

Yellow foam is not the familiar coffee cup Styrofoam. It's a low density foam easily sculpted by hand (with sandpaper) or on a machine. REN board foam looks and feels like wood (but more dimensionally stable than wood itself). The foam used for cameras isn't that dense but looks for all the world like a rubberized grip.

Once cut by the robotic CNC milling machine from the 3D data, the model is painted and buttons and decals added to give the client a sense of the real thing. At http://www.kekdesign.com/portfolio/dc260.html you can see KEK's foam study of the Kodak 220/260 digicam. You'll have to imagine what the Average digicam looked like.

The client may need multiple copies of the foam model to coordinate marketing and production with the product release. Which keeps the CNC robot out of the street hockey games. It can take a while to sculpt a model.

"Appearance models can portray the desired look of a digital product," Steve told us, "but that's only the first step. Breadboard [engineering] models are the next step. These show how the parts fit inside and the housing goes together." All the logistics of manufacturing and assembly are planned out to ensure The Concept can actually be made.

Prototypes with working "guts" (supplied by the customer) include all the parts that would appear on a production model. These often show up in demonstrations at trade shows and marketing focus groups. Response to the prototypes has to be a resounding "Yes!" if the product is going to take the next step into production.

But when the final design is rendered and approved, the 3D data (or even parts of it) can be emailed to any modern production facility in the world. Which is the kind of power play that always scores.

OVERTIME

Design is not itself, generally, an efficient process. Some projects get derailed. Some delayed. Some duplicated. Some dumped. Some decapitated. Some ... well, anything can happen.

Sometimes the designers can't find a solution that observes all the client's restraints, sometimes the solution is too expensive or relies on technologies that aren't yet mature, sometimes the market timing is off or the client drops the project. By "anything," we mean anything.

So the War Rooms are complemented by a large central work area where everything (and we mean "everything") is on wheels: desks, chairs, computers, white boards (even the employees at lunch). Easily reconfigurable, KEK has to be flexible to go with the punches.

When the noise gets too loud, there's the Oasis, a small and quiet room with large sofas and a refrigerator. The Oasis isn't a place to escape, really, but to refresh, sort of a locker room for the mind. Sometimes you have to put your nose to the grindstone and sometimes you have to walk away a minute. To the Oasis where you can let The Concept slide from the tip of your tongue to the back of your mind. And shoot back again.

The Concept resembles that street hockey puck ricocheting from stick to stick as the design team tries to get it closer and closer to the goal and finally into the net. It never travels in a straight line but by means of straight lines, short sharp passes, with a bit of dribbling between them, until some small opening breaks in front of the goal.

"Everybody involved in design, manufacturing, assembly and marketing can contribute ideas of how to make improvements along the way," Steve said. "The development team tries to keep the goal in their sights while maneuvering through logistical opponents."

GOAL!

And that's where you come in. You're the goal. You're the one who sees the product displayed in a review on the Imaging Resource Web site, who goes into a store to pick it up, turn it around, push the buttons, look through the viewfinder. You're the one who falls in love with the design and become a fan of a team you've never seen play in a sport with no television contract.

The roar of the crowd? The ticker tape parade? Not for these guys. They just get up again in the morning and hustle in to work for the next puck, the next game. When you love what you're doing, you never have to keep score.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Epson Stylus Photo 780 -- Inexpensive Quality

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/E780/E780A.HTM on the Web site.)

OVERVIEW

If you haven't looked closely at a top-end inkjet photo print in the last few years, you're in for a surprise. The dots have gotten so tiny and so close together they're invisible to the naked eye. And Epson has pushed this technology farther than anybody.

With the Stylus Photo 780, Epson offers photo-quality image reproduction (2880x720-dpi resolution) in an easy-to-use printer package, priced very competitively for the consumer market.

Measuring 17.7x9.7x7.2 inches and weighing 8.3 pounds, the 780 has a medium-size footprint that extends slightly for the extended output tray (letter-size paper) and top-loading paper feed.

Using Epson's new BorderFree photo printing technology, the 780 can make borderless prints in standard photographic sizes, including 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10 up to 8.5x11. It accepts single sheets up to 8.5x14 in varying weights and sizes, plus envelopes, cards, transparencies, film, self-adhesive sheets and stickers.

Also included: Black and Color ink cartridges, a power cord, User Manual, Quick Start Guide and a CD-ROM with bundled software, including Epson drivers for Windows 95, 98, 2000, Me, NT 4.0 and Macintosh operating systems; Epson Film Factory for Windows; and both Mac and Windows versions of ArcSoft's PhotoImpression 3.0 and QBeo's PhotoGenetics 2.0 (trial version). The printer cables (USB or Parallel) are not included (not unusual for most current printer models).

Epson is well known for its continuing innovation in MicroPiezo inkjet technology, which forces the ink through the print heads with pressure rather than heat (thermal inkjet). The 780 uses very small 4-picoliter droplets, plus variable droplet sizes, to produce continuous-tone printing that's virtually indiscernible from conventional photographic prints. Each color is distributed with a 48-nozzle print head (the large number of nozzles helps increase printing speed), for a total of 48 black and 240 color (48 times the 5 colors) nozzles.

In practice, we didn't feel there was much difference between prints output at 1440 and 2880 dpi. Both looked exceptional, the 2880 ones just took longer. We'd therefore recommend the 1440 dpi printing mode for most routine jobs.

The 780's six-color printing requires two ink cartridges: one Black and one Color (cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan and light magenta), which sell for $22.46 and $17.96, respectively, through Epson's online store. Less elsewhere on the Web.

Like all Epson's other most recent printer designs, the 780 uses "smart" cartridges, with chips in them that keep track of how much ink has been used. The advantage of this is that you can swap cartridges and the printer won't get confused about how much ink is left. This is handy if you're planning an unusually long print run and want to load up a fresh cartridge to prevent running out in the middle. The downside is the chip prevents the cartridges from being refilled, since the cartridge "knows" when it's empty.

Epson has also provided a very wide range of paper options, from basic clay coated inkjet paper to premium photo glossy, including a very nice Matte Heavyweight paper that has an estimated print life of 25 years when mounted under glass. (Print life may vary depending on lighting, humidity and Ozone levels -- all of which can significantly reduce longevity.)

Epson is the first manufacturer to offer edge-to-edge printing for several standard photo paper sizes (4x6, 5x7, 8x10 and 8.5x11 inches), a significant improvement over previous border-free options, which required perforated papers. The 780 uses special ink-catching, foam-lined cavities aligned with the edges of the various supported paper sizes, ensuring the ink stays on the paper without bleeding onto the printer rollers. BorderFree printing does have its limitations, however. It slows output a fair bit and is unavailable at the printer's highest resolution of 2880x720 dpi.

The 780 offers six printing modes through Epson's driver software. Economy mode printis draft text documents quickly; Normal mode is for Web pages, business documents with text and graphics and similar everyday printing needs (default mode); Fine mode combines speed with quality to create 360x720 dpi images; plus three Photo modes for printing images at 720-, 1,440- or 2,880-dpi. Print speeds vary from 8 pages per minute for Normal draft text mode, to 7 minutes 21 seconds in high-quality (1,440-dpi) Photo mode, to 18 minutes for letter-size photos at the maximum Photo quality setting (2,880-dpi).

MEDIA COST

Working almost exclusively in 2880 dpi mode, we printed about 24 7.6x9.5-inch prints on 8.5x11 paper before running out of color ink. At that point, the black cartridge was about 80 percent full. That's a per-print cost of about $1.08 for ink, based on Epson's online prices. (On the Web, we found the color cartridge for $15 or less or only 77 cents per page.)

On the Web, Epson's premium glossy photo paper runs about $0.50 a sheet, while their standard photo paper is about $0.35 per sheet. The overall price per letter-size print is thus somewhere around $1.27 on premium glossy and $1.12 on standard photo paper.

PRINT LONGEVITY & DURABILITY

When used with Epson Inks, the Matte Heavyweight Paper has an estimated print life of more than 20 years, based on accelerated testing of prints displayed indoors, mounted under glass.

Epson describes its inks as "water resistant," a big plus in the durability category. We were quite surprised by how well the 780's prints held up to splashes of water. We dribbled a few drops of water on a print, waited about 10-15 seconds and then wiped it off. None of the color came off on the tissue we wiped the print with. Overall, this is quite a bit more water-resistant than we thought inkjet prints could be.

TEST RESULTS

Just like the 785EPX we tested, the 780 produced exceptional prints, really pushing the limits of what we've come to expect from top-grade inkjet photo printers. Photomicrographs of its output reveal ink dots only under extreme magnification, but the 4-picoliter droplets are completely invisible to the naked eye. Tonal gradations were extremely smooth, even in the difficult highlight areas.

We've said in the past that dye-sublimation printers do a better job of "fooling" us into believing their output was produced photographically, but recent inkjet photo printers (the 780/785EPX high among them) have made us true believers. It's hard to imagine how the output quality could be any better, at least to the naked eye.

The 780/785EPX's 2880x720 dpi dot pitch is among the highest currently available in inkjet printers and it shows in the exceptionally fine detail and crisp edges of our test prints. The high dot pitch and very small droplet size also contributed to unusually fine tonal gradations, even in the highlights

CONCLUSION

We really liked the 785EPX and thanks to some rather subtle color differences, we liked the 780 even better. The 780 showed excellent color rendition and exceptional resolution. Epson's unique borderless printing capability is a very nice bonus, making it easy to spool dozens of sharp 4x6s for the old photo album. Like the 785EPX, the only knock against the 780 relative to some of the competition is it's no speed demon. With full-page print times of 6-10 minutes at 1440-dpi, it's only about average in print speed.

With Epson selling the 780 for $129 (or $80 from Staples, see http://www.imaging-resource.com/DEALS.HTM), it's hard to imagine a digital photographer who wouldn't want one. (If you also want to print directly from your storage card, take a look at the 785EPX.) Its sharp printing, great color, borderless printing and amazing price make this one "Very Highly Recommended."

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Correcting Color Negatives II

In Part I, we identified the factors that make it challenging, let's just say, to convert a scan or shot of a color negative into a positive RGB image.

The residual dye couplers in the shadows, the generous exposure latitude of the medium, its narrow density range and its role as middleman on the way to a print all affect color correction. We concluded you can't judge a color negative by its appearance. It's a means to an end, not the end itself.

So how do you convert them into positive RGB images?

OLD WILLIE

Every now and then (now, for example) we run into a situation that reminds us of one of the toughest technical problems we've ever encountered. Picking horses.

We were at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, testing a number of sure-fire methods (none of which fired), when we noticed a dapper gent in a well-creased straw hat collecting winnings with what looked like regularity to us. As part of our research, we approached Old Willie.

"So what's your system, Willie?" we asked, as if we might have other things to do.

"System? Nooo system," he revealed (as if he had other things to do).

"But you're picking winners. How do you do it?"

"I just pick 'em," he explained. And then he winked, "You can't be too slick."

Old Willie's advice was never quite so profitably applied as it is to converting color negatives. You just can't be too slick.

SLICKNESS

Old Willie wasn't our only source of technical expertise, of course. We consulted our board of experts (and they theirs). And we clawed around on the Web for various spells and potions. We won't mention any names, but we'll summarize the best alternative approaches.

First, if your scanner or camera provide a color negative setting, try it. VueScan's negative setting, we understand, increases the green exposure time 2.5 times and the blue 3.5 times. If that isn't an option, just scan or shoot the negative normally (no color matching). With your eyes closed.

You might also try Peter iNova's approach, supplied as Photoshop Actions with his Nikon eBook, which relies on setting a custom white balance in the camera. And there is also at least one plug-in floating around (Cytopia [W] at http://www.cytopia.com).

All the most common techniques using your image editor require you to create an orange mask layer. And they suggest sampling the leader or between-frame orange of your film (although the most orange part of the film, the shadows, will suffice).

Common wisdom then insists you subtract that color information uniformly from your negative image. The easy way to do this is to simply use the Difference blending mode. Suddenly, you have a positive image!

The hard, but slightly better method, is to Invert the orange mask into a blue layer, use the Color Dodge blending method (it's a clear negative now). Flatten the layers and Invert the image to positive.

Both methods then require a Levels adjustment, channel-by-channel or composite, to set the black and white points of the image.

And they both deliver a credible positive image, although the more complex method does somewhat better (credit Color Dodging). You may not know what you're missing.

THINK DIFFERENT(LY)

But we found you can do better following Old Willie's advice.

We tested our method against the two manual methods above on a variety of negatives. Some were interiors illuminated with incandescent light and a strobe. Others were outdoor with strobe. Still others were typical daylight scenics. Both ASA 200 and 400 speed film. And lots of flesh tones.

We first copied the negatives with a Nikon 990 using daylight and the recommended camera settings for copying film (Manual mode, macro, no flash, aperture priority at f4-5, autofocus, ISO 100 and auto white balance).

We shot most with auto white balance but tried a few presetting the white balance to the orange mask (as measured on the film leader).

The results were illuminating.

Without exception we did better by not subtracting the color mask (if you remember Part I, you know why).

We got better highlights, better reds, better greens and skin tones with some vitality (the other methods all yielded a muddier, if credible, skin tone).

And auto white balance beat the custom white point matched to the orange film leader.

The best part of all, though, was that we were able to distill the conversion into one simple step that worked in batch mode.

SAMPLING

We started with an uncorrected RGB negative image. It's important to pick one with a full range of tones.

We want to work with a positive image (because it better reflects the world as we know it), so the first step is to invert the image. You can do this with the Invert command (Image, Adjust Invert in Photoshop) or by using Curves and dragging the highest end point straight down and the lowest straight up. If you use Curves, click OK to apply the changes to your image.

This turns the darkest data in the red, green and blue channels into the brightest and the brightest into the darkest. It should leave you with a fairly sick-looking monotone image whose complexion is usually blamed on the orange mask. Don't go there.

Instead, pull up Curves. If your photo editor doesn't have Curves, you can get close with Levels, but Curves is the right tool for this job.

We want to do three things: set the darkest part of the positive image to black, the lightest to white and remove any remaining color cast. Because we've already inverted the image, the eyedropper tools will make this a snap (or click).

Curves and Levels both make these tasks easy with eyedropper tools, but only Curves can invert the data too, reducing the correction to one step. And Curves will let you work with any brightness value in the image, not just the three controls Levels provides.

So here's our two-minute course on Curves.

CURVES

Unlike Levels, the Curves dialog box looks the same for every image. It draws a straight uphill line across a grid to represent the existing brightness values (whatever they are) from shadows to highlights. The two end points and three points where the uphill line intersects the default grid identify the classic quartertones of an image: shadow end point, three-quartertone, midtone, quartertone and highlight end point.

Select any point along that line (including either end point) and move it up to lighten it, down to darken it or just click to anchor it. Like Levels, you can do this on individual channels of your RGB image or on the composite channel.

Just to get acquainted with the tool, anchor your three-quartertone, midtone and quartertone by clicking where the line intersects the grid.

Pull the three-quartertone down a bit and move your quartertone up for the classic S-curve correction that brightens highlights and darkens shadows. Pull the three-quartertone up so the curve looks like a seagull banking into a turn and you've added some detail to the shadows. Select the Red, Green or Blue channel and drag the midtone toward either unoccupied corner to change the color cast.

You can go nuts with curves. But, fortunately, our two minutes are up.

THINK POSITIVE(LY)

With Curves open, we set our Black and White clips to 0.00 percent (hold down the Option or Alt key to change the Auto button to Options). This hedged the contrast adjustment, making our curve a bit more general purpose, but it's optional.

Find the darkest and lightest parts of the image by dragging the mouse button over the image (with no eyedropper selected). Curves will report where on the scale each part of the image falls. Select the shadow eyedropper and click on the darkest part or the image. Then select the highlight eyedropper and click on the brightest part of the image.

Next, select the gray eyedropper and click on a spot in the image that should be neutral. A black, a white, preferably a gray. Click several times until you find the best color correction.

Take a peek at the curves the eyedropper has set up by cycling through each individual channel. The Red, Green and Blue channels all have slightly different adjustments (which you can tweak).

After saving this Curve, you could create an Action to Invert the image and apply the Curve but let's incorporate the Invert into the Curve.

We took a screen shot of the curve for each channel, opened each one and flipped it horizontally. With the original negative image opened, we shaped its curves to match the flipped ones. With all three done, we had a corrected positive image we could tweak a little further.

Save that curve and set up an Action to apply it in Batch mode. Photoshop 6 can even create a droplet to automate the conversion.

PHOTO FINISH

After you've run your images through this simple conversion, you may want to fine-tune some of them to compensate for variations in exposure at least. You can do that with Curves or any other tool you're comfortable with.

Certainly any particular image could be improved with a custom curve, but we were surprised with how well our Invert-and-Convert curve managed to do on the wide variety of images we tested.

One step. No orange mask removal. Batchable. When the going gets tough, keep Old Willie's "system" in mind.

Return to Topics.

In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

They love the Olympus E-10 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee78ba3

Learn how to take photos of jewelry at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee85e7e

Taji inquires about resizing pictures at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee85c43

Mark asks about image storage for an extended trip at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee85dd5

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Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

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We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

RE: Keeping the Faith

I'm a faithful reader of your newsletter and devour it (metaphorically) as soon as it arrives. I really appreciated your recent review of the Canon FS-4000.

I'm faced with a daunting task, which I'd like to complete before I die (I'm 54): digitizing about 12 cubic feet of Kodachrome slides from the mid-1950s which are a legacy from my parents (who didn't complete their 'organizing' of their image archive before they died).

It seems to me I'm going to have to cope with at least three challenges: quantity (hence speed is important), fading (hence any optical or software help with color would be appreciated) and resulting image bulk (so I'm daunted by the thought of 64-MB images).

Thanks for any advice!

-- Clayton Curtis

(Life expectancy has grown remarkably -- but never quite enough for some tasks. We've succumbed to copying slides with a digicam like the Nikon 950 and up. It's quick and the files are relatively small (under 1-MB JPEGs of 9-MB images), perfect for archiving on CD and viewing on your monitor. And you can always (speaking loosely) scan your favorites on a slide scanner (some of which include software to correct faded color). -- Editor)

RE: Film Size?

Great issue, as usual. The article about copying old photos was inspiring. I have enough old family photos to make this a lifetime project. Considering that I'm age 70 (and employed 4 days a week), I probably won't finish -- but maybe my youngest daughter will!

But I think you may be in error (unthinkable!) in your response to the 616 roll-film question. If I recall correctly, 616 was wider than 120 (which is the same as 620). Your re-spooling answer would certainly be correct for 620, but wasn't 616 3-1/4 inches high rather than 2-1/4? I recall 616 prints as being huge -- 3-1/4x4-1/4. There are commercial sources for some of the older custom-spooled sizes and one could probably track them down on the Web or in the smaller ads in leading hard-copy photo magazines.

Keep up the good work! I look forward to every issue and am never disappointed.

-- Bob Mathews

(Thanks, Bob! At http://jmcolberg.com/Photography/kodaksenior.html (the link we gave) they do claim to have rolled 120 film onto 616 spools (and they have a picture to prove it). Think of it as a workaround.... But we took another look and found that Dick Haviland Film for Classics at http://www.filmforclassics.com or (716) 624-4945 in Honeoye, N.Y. makes size 127, 620 and 828 (and will custom spool Kodak Plus-X on 101, 103, 116, 122, 124 and -- ta da -- 616) film. -- Editor)

RE: Unerase the Baby Again

Regarding the "Erasing the Baby," RecoverNT 3.5 at http://recover2000.com/RecoverNT.asp supports data recovery from CompactFlash and SmartMedia cards, etc. I have not tried it but you might want to pass this on to the unfortunate grandmother!

-- Jeff

(Thanks, Jeff! RecoverNT works on Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP. -- Editor)

You've asked for feedback on file recovery from removable media. I recovered an MPEG file from a 128-MB Memory Stick deleted in a Sony Cybershot DSC-S85. The program that recovered the file was "Software Shelf File Recovery 2.5 Demo" from http://www.softwareshelf.com (which allows recovery of two files in demo mode). Hope this is of some help to others!

-- Sergio Hernandez

(No doubt, Sergio, thanks! File Recovery works on Windows 95/98/NT/2000. -- Editor)

RE: LensDoc Redux

You are right. I got LensDoc today and it is really a great filter! I took a bunch of photos with distortion problems to test its capabilities and it is flawless. I am using the novice mode and I don't see how it can be improved.

-- Lee Custer

(And we're happy to report the illustrated HTML review will be posted on the main site shortly. -- Editor)

RE: Rebates, Rebates (Sung to Promises, Promises)

I wonder if you have heard from others who did not get their $100 rebate from Kodak? I have decided they seem to be running quite a racket.

I bought the camera on March 7 and mailed in all they asked for within the week. In May, when I had heard nothing I contacted them by email and spent an entire day on the phone ... and was finally told they had no record.

I re-sent copies of everything, then they had no record again, then found it with name and ZIP code (they said they didn't have my phone number). At the end of May I contacted them again. They said the check was issued May 31 and should arrive in 10-15 days. And it would be in postcard form and not in an envelope!

I still didn't hear anything, contacted them again, they said please allow 28 days. Still nothing. Finally, I emailed them again and now they tell me the check was returned to them on July 11 and to please email them my correct address!

I am wondering if others have had the same sort of problems and how many just gave up and didn't receive their rebate of $100.

-- June

(We haven't heard this before, June, but let's find out. Anybody else?... Our personal experience with rebates encourages us to think of them as unhatched chickens. -- Editor)

RE: CD Directory Damage

I store my digital photos on CDs.

I learned the hard way that if I was moving a large amount of files to the CD from the card and it locked up, the CD file directory became damaged. I managed to repair the CD through the burner's repair program (HP CD burner) until the last time. Now, it cannot repair the directory.

Is the CD finished? Or is there another way to recover the photo files? (What I do now is first copy the files, rather than move them. It is a lot safer.)

-- Mike Klosner

(Well, you can't keep repairing a CD directory. The HP repair program may not be able to rewrite the CD's directory for a number of reasons (none of them good news) but visit http://www.roxio.com/en/support for some excellent FAQs on CD technology and step-by-step troubleshooting. If the files are important, a disk recovery firm may be helpful (but not cheap, at around $200 a disc).... Without getting into fine-tuning specific system configurations, we recommend copying images from a card to your hard disk and then copying them to a CD. We don't generally recommend inefficiencies, but images are precious and there's no advantage to premature deletion (so to speak). Moving the data from your hard disk (instead of the card) is the quickest, fastest and safest copy your system can provide. And it will most likely be able to keep up with your CD burner. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

The Windows Sircam email virus/worm has hit hard. Visit http://www.f-secure.com/v-descs/sircam.shtml for a fix.


Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) has called on federal regulators to block the October release of Windows XP unless Microsoft removes barriers to software written by third parties like Kodak and AOL. Kodak has complained that consumers who connect Kodak Easy-Share digicams to an XP system have to search a list of programs to find Kodak's software. Microsoft also allegedly plans to collect a fee for online prints ordered from computers running XP. Shortly after Schumer's call, Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D., Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced he would conduct hearings in September partly about the XP controversy.


The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk) has reported that Agfa will "ditch production of low-end scanners due to the current market downturn." While the company intends to continue selling high-end scanners, European resellers have been told "not to expect any more digital cameras" either. For the full story see http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/54/20507.html.


An InfoTrends Research Group study (http://www.infotrends-rgi.com) projects the European low-end digicam market (sub-1,000 Euro) is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 37 percent through 2006. Unit sales are expected to grow from over 4 million in 2001 to 19.8 million in 2006. Revenues generated from digicam sales will reach 1.7 billion Euro in 2001 and grow at a compound annual rate of 17 percent, reaching 3.8 billion Euro in 2006.


PhotoPoint (http://www.photopoint.com) is back online after its original developers Pantellic Software bought it back from Sherwood Partners.


Rite Aid has introduced Picture Pairs, 24-exposure, 4x6 double prints with Photo Rite next day processing ($6.99), Express Rite one-hour processing ($7.99) or Kodak Picture Processing ($8.99). Also available are two digital add-ons: pictures online at http://www.riteaid.com ($3) or a Picture CD with digital images ($6).


A recent Best Buy survey shows 42 percent of college students will bring a digital camera to capture college memories. Which may explain why nearly three out of four (71 percent) are employed during the school year.


American Photo magazine recently announced its Editor's Choice Awards at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Among the winners were Jasc Paint Shop Pro, Version 7, (http://www.jasc.com) and ArcSoft's PhotoImpression 3.0 (http://www.arcsoft.com).


According to Gartner Dataquest (http://www.gartner.com), U.S. digicam shipments are projected to reach 8.9 million units this year and grow to 12.5 million units by 2005. The Gartner Dataquest survey found digicam owners prefer electronic viewing and sharing to making prints. But the survey also suggested digicam owners are just waiting for an easier, less-costly, photo output option.


ColorVision (http://www.colorcal.com) is bundling Adobe Photoshop Elements at no extra charge with Monitor Spyder with PhotoCal or OptiCal and RGB Suite I or II. The company also released a free update to RGB Profiler 2.1, adding compatibility with Elements.


Andromeda (http://www.andromeda.com) has released EtchTone, a multi-platform, Adobe Photoshop compatible plug-in, that simulates the look of steel etching.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 7.1.7. The new version improves the white balance algorithm in scenes with unnatural lighting or colors, improves color when scanning negatives on SprintScan 4000 and includes a number of fixes.


Lexar Media (http://www.digitalfilm.com) is offering an on-box mail-in $20 rebate if you buy any Lexar Memory Stick Reader with any Lexar Memory Stick.


Juri Munnki (http://www.cameraid.com/) has released a public beta of Cameraid 1.2b1 [M].


Version 4.0.9 of GraphicConverter [M] has been released by Lemke at http://graphicconverter.net/.

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One Liners

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Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com

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Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

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Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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