Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

Digital Help is designed to aid you in getting the most from your digital photography, printing, scanning, and image creation. Each month, David Brooks provides solutions to problems you might encounter with matters such as color calibration and management, digital printer and scanner settings, and working with digital photographic images with many different kinds of cameras and software. All questions sent to him will be answered with the most appropriate information he can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in this department. Readers can send questions to David Brooks addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug website (, directly via e-mail to: or or by US Mail to: David Brooks, PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Addendum To Copying Art With A Digital Camera
Re: April 2006 issue, What To Choose To Make Digital Copies Of Artwork
When reading Shutterbug over the years I read your columns first. You always provide extremely valuable information. That said, this is the first time I disagree with advice you dispensed to a reader.
As a full-time professional/commercial photographer, digital SLRs are my working tools. However, there are times when less than "state of the art" makes more sense. When an artist brings his or her artwork to be photographed at my studio, I get out my old Canon G5 5-megapixel camera. For this type of copying work, it is far superior to my Canon digital SLRs in several respects.
With digital SLRs there is no screen to use as a viewfinder. Digital SLR viewfinders rarely show 100 percent of the captured image--90-95 percent is more common. When copying unmounted artwork (depending on the medium) or large pieces that must be placed flat on the floor, it can be very uncomfortable bending over to look through a digital SLR viewfinder to frame
and focus. When copying art/maps/posters, etc., it is essential the camera be exactly on the same plane as the piece being copied. Otherwise, a rectangular/square piece of two-dimensional artwork will not look perfectly rectangular/square.
In general, I would take a digital SLR over an older digicam any day. However, in this reader's situation, I feel a digicam with a swing/tilt screen makes more sense.
Asher Pavel

Your suggestion about using one of the better point-and-shoot cameras, especially newer ones with larger LCD screens, is a good one. However, I would be disinclined to use the floor to support artwork to be copied. For years I had a homemade 4x4-foot vacuum easel I used for big prints in my darkroom that was ideal for doing copy work. It took less than two hours to construct the easel out of half a sheet of peg board and half a sheet of 1/4" plywood and some 1x4 lumber. The vacuum source was an old used Electrolux tank vacuum cleaner. A couple of eyes screwed into the edge of the easel, and matching hooks on the studio wall placed it centered on an exact 90Þ line traced on the studio floor out from the wall.

Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 II Film And Slide Holder Fragility
Q. I recently bought a Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 II and am worried about the relative fragility of the film and slide holders (FH-M20 and SH-M20). Would you know where I might purchase a second set?
I have contacted retailers and the dealer where I bought the scanner, to no avail. I have received no reply to my inquiry addressed to Konica Minolta Photo Imaging U.S.A., Inc, Camera Division/Consumer Services.
As I expected from reading your column, the scanner has produced superb images.
Ben Bodewitz

First of all, let me say I have been using the DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 and now the II regularly to scan my film archives (a lot of scanning). The scanner and film holders seem fragile, and probably are, so a delicate, light touch is required! But treat them right and they will hold up without problems.
But if you do have problems Sony Corporation has taken over all of the Minolta photo products and is providing support and service. The contact access for repair is noted at the following website:

Can Digital Provide Any Advantage To Doing B&W Photography?
Q. I have been reading more and more articles from people who are giving up their medium format film cameras for digital SLRs. I can see this for wedding photographers but can the current digital state of the art really compete with film in terms of fine art quality monochrome prints? My intuition would be that a 4000dpi scan of a 120 negative would have to be better than any current digital SLR capture but I don't know how to determine this. Your thoughts would be appreciated.
David Brenders
via e-mail

Most of the advantages of digital that are motivating many professionals to make the switch from film apply only to making color images. There is no similar digital advantage for making black and white photographs, although some adventuresome photographers have used high-resolution scanning backs for 4x5 cameras configured for black and white capture to produce some spectacular results.
If I were still doing black and white, as I did for many, many years until recently, I would shoot on film and scan, as digital inkjet printing does offer some significant advantages. Then you retain the wide range of film choices and development options that have been a part of traditional black and white fine art photography. But I might be inclined to be lazy and shoot the
C-41 process chromogenic black and white film because you can use Digital ICE when scanning to eliminate any dust, and Photoshop can make up for tailoring film, exposure, and development to the subject. In addition, there is an advantage to scanning a dye image over a silver-based one because there is almost no chance you will obtain any highlight blocking, which can be a problem when scanning silver-based film.