Focal Press Book review (chapters 1- 4)

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Chapter 1

Evening indicates that traditional B+W photographic film is no longer a good method of recording since B+W film does not record enough of the variations. This was because the photographic paper (darkroom paper) could only reproduce a narrow range. Thus there was no need to have film capture what the paper could not reproduce. The best way to get B+W in the digital era is to start with color slides or transparencies. I personally would avoid color negatives--they are more difficult to scan than color slides.

For scanners, in the midrange, Evening gives high marks to Agfa, Umax, and Linotype-Hell (Heidelberg CPS) based on the quality of their bundled software, Binuscan (for Umax) and Linotype (for Linotype-Hell scanners, preferred by most professionals).

Evening offers a multifaceted review of the Kodak Photo CD system. I find the consumer level Kodak Photo CD scans fairly priced (50 cents per slide if you send in large lots of 500 slides minimum and are in no hurry). But professional level scans are about $5 each, which I personally feel would be more effective handled by obtaining your own in-house scanner. I believe a dedicated (non-Kodak Photo CD system) is more likely to produce a good scan than a Kodak system. The Official Kodak Photo CD book admits that this low-end system is rather wrenching for the poor pixels and color values. Furthermore, the Kodak Photo CD system I used in Japan cost (in 1995) over $125,000! The new Polaroid SprintScan 4000 is less than $3,000, and I would suspect that a scan from this new Polaroid could beat any Kodak scan of a 35mm slide.

The most helpful information in Chapter 1 is on "precision transforms" and how to open a Kodak Photo CD image. This alone is worth the price of buying the book.

Since the Better Light and Dicomed 4x5 digital inserts are scanning backs, I read with interest this portion of Chapter 1 (pages 16-17). He recommends HMI lighting, which is great if you can afford it. I used tungsten and fluorescent, and even mixed light sources (fluorescent for its coolness, tungsten for its magnitude). I review the results from 6 months studio testing of light sources for digital photography in several areas of www.digital-photography.org.

Chapter 2, Resolution

The book provides an introduction to the confusion of resolution, especially acute for beginners (a stage of development I can still painfully remember). Since you will hopefully be ordering this useful book, you can read Evening's observations directly. I will, however, note one interesting observation, namely to interpolate in stages, 50 dpi at a time (p. 25).

In the meantime, while you are waiting for his book to arrive, I can add a few of my own learning experiences.

If your printer can reproduce at 1200 dpi (QMS 2060 for example) at European A3 size or American 11x17 inches, you may freak out wondering how to obtain a scan at 1200 dpi of this size. Of course the dpi of the printer is not the sole controlling factor. In the case of the Encad NovaJetPro 300 dpi printer, it can handle only about 150 dpi. More than that chokes even a dedicated RIP. In the case of the QMS, it prefers about 200 dpi; maximum the PostScript can handle is about 290. Feed the PostScript 300 dpi and it croaks, dead as a doornail.

What is crucial for obtaining quality in the QMS is the lines per inch. For photographic reproduction you need a bare minimum of 85; I prefer 90 for dark images and 95 for lighter subjects.

What a relief--no need to generate a 1200 dpi image. Your computer could probably not handle a file that large anyway. I have 800 MB in my Mac and although I can handle a 410 MB TIF file, you only need a 25 MB file to nicely fill full tabloid size (about A3 paper size in Europe, Latin America, and Asia). You can easily get this with any dedicated 35mm slide scanner, minimum 2700 dpi at 35mm size. I use a Nikon LS-2000 CoolScan and can get exhibit quality photos at tabloid sized enlargement. With the new Polaroid SpringScan 4000 it should be able to create magnificent images on the Xante Accel-a-Writer 3G, which can go to 2400 dpi at 133 to 150 lines per inch (lpi). The Xante can print up to 13 wide by 35.5 long. Ideal for long images like rollouts or panoramas.

Chapter 3, RGB and CMYK Color

Beginners and intermediate level users can never get too much discussion of color. I learn something from every such chapter.

Chapter 4, File Formats

Even at the intermediate level it never hurts to learn some more about the more obscure file formats. If you get stuck in a file format that is not a TIF, you may have to flatten the image before it will convert to a TIF. TIF and TIFF of course are the same thing, but PC Wintel software uses only three letters as an extension, so it became also known as a TIF.

This chapter is up to date, including even instructions on how to handle a FlashPix formatted file. Although you can buy entire books on how to prepare files for the Internet, Evening provides a practical walk-through series of do's and dont's for preparing JPEG and GIF files. I must admit I would never compress my files outside of Internet use. Even for the Internet I prefer the high side of medium. It is a shame to JPEG the quality out of photographs that cost thousands of dollars to take on dangerous expeditions to remote areas of Central America. Within the next few years people will have faster connections, and it is not very practical to redo all my Web images so I start off with a higher quality at the beginning.

Evening offers an interesting suggestion to use EPS format for desktop publishing, a polite way of saying for printing with laser printers. I will have to try this myself to see whether I can tell the difference. I have always automatically saved and worked everything as a TIF file.

BOOKS
Professional Photoshop 5 by Dan Margulis
Adobe Photoshop for profesionals by Martin Evening
Start with a Scan: A Guide to Transforming Scanned Photos and Objects intoHigh Quality Art," by Janet Ashford and John Odam

BOOK REVIEWS

Mac Upgrade and Repair Bible, by Todd Stauffer

Inside Adobe Photoshop

The Official Photo CD Handbook

Start with a Scan

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