Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

This department will attempt to provide solutions to problems readers may have getting into and using digital cameras, scanning, and using digital photographic images with a computer and different kinds of software. All questions sent to me will be answered with the most appropriate information I can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in this department. Readers can send questions to me addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug web site, directly via e-mail to: or or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

The Mac Vs. PC Debate Continues
Q. I don't want to contribute more fuel to the fire of the Mac vs. PC debate but I have a question. You have been clear about the superiority of Mac color management, and you have stated that the Mac is more crash resistant than the PC. The photo/graphic/ publishing industry is Mac oriented. My question is this: If the hardware and software cost for the Mac is significantly more ($1500-$2000) than a similar PC-based system, is the Mac worth the premium?
I was disappointed to learn that software upgrades from Adobe and others cannot cross platforms. So buying a new system (Mac for me) would require purchasing all new software to support it (Office Suite, Photoshop, Toast, and others). If I stick with my PC I can purchase the upgrades. Your advice is always on point and your answer to this question would be greatly appreciated.
Sandy Noble

A. First of all, your assumption a Mac costs more is incorrect. To obtain equal graphics performance and component quality (like the same video card) the same quality of RAM chips, etc., etc., the PC will cost you more. If you want to compare prices for equal quality and performance of a Mac G4 or G5 you have to select one of the PC workstations made specifically for graphics, and the price is usually higher than for a Mac.
The quality of the low-ball price leading box deals for brand PCs is not a true comparative--especially when you look inside those products. They are offered at those low prices because they have cheap, no-name dubious quality components inside, mostly made in China. Yes, there is a one-time hit for some software, like the full version of Photoshop and Microsoft Office. But for Shutterbug readers who are not professional photographers, I wonder why they would need or want applications that are at that level because they are very unlikely to ever use but a small part of the capabilities. In other words, they are paying for a lot of stuff they'll never have use for. On the other hand, Toast and many utilities are an included part in the Mac and the OS 10.3 operating system. The old adage, you get what you pay for, still applies.
Mac vs. PC, Part II

Q. In the December issue of Macworld the G5 dual processor was compared to other equal PCs. The article clearly stated that the PC outperformed the G5. This really put some doubt in my mind about purchasing the G5. If you read the article, could you please comment on it? I am using a PC now and really wanted to switch over to Apple buying the G5 with the dual processor.
Phil Merola

A. It has been a few years since processing speed has been a significant issue, even to someone like myself with years of full-time experience. Even an inexpensive eMac is more than fast enough working in Photoshop so I never have to wait for it, except maybe when processing 250MB 48-bit files, and then it is just a few seconds pause to apply a process like a Hue/Saturation adjustment, not even enough time to take a break.
The real issues involved in the choice between PC vs. Mac are quality issues, both in terms of hardware quality and in terms of color reproduction quality. In the hardware department comparing the top of the line Mac to today's typical PC is like comparing a 700 series BMW with a Toyota Camry--there is no comparison! Whether a car can go 150mph or 125mph is irrelevant in the real world of speed laws and traffic, but which provides a better driving experience is significant.
On the issue of reproduced color quality, it is a top, primary concern for Apple and they apply continuous, major R&D toward it. That is a major part of Apple's market and they dominate in the professional printing, publication, and photography areas. On the other hand, Microsoft abandoned any serious effort to compete in that market after 1998 when the last version ICM 2.0 of their color management engine for Windows was released. They have applied minimal development to color reproduction quality in the last five years, using the same old ICM 2.0 engine.
Horse races are no more significant to digital image computing than they are in politics or who is the most popular celebrity. Nothing of importance is accomplished by who is ahead in a meaningless race that has minimal or significant affect in the real world of individual graphics computing.

Locked Files--How To Unlock
Q. During a recent photo expedition I recorded hundreds of images in raw format on Lexar CompactFlash cards in a Nikon D100. Several of the frames were locked to prevent inadvertent deletion while in the camera. However, after downloading to Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CS, they remain locked and cannot be moved from one folder to another or to Trash. How can these be unlocked in the computer to reduce the clutter?
Herbert Lewis

A. If you are using Mac OS X open the folder with the files on your desktop, then with Finder active click on the File menu and select Get Info, then in the General tab you can uncheck Locked. (Note to readers: In the future when you have questions like this please specify what Operating System you are using.)
If you are working in Windows, again open the folder on your desktop and highlight a file that is locked. Then with the cursor on the highlighted file right click, or go to the menu bar and click on File, then go down to the bottom of the list of menu items and click on Properties. A Properties window will open and at the bottom of the first tab will be Attributes, with two boxes. The first is Read Only, which if checked locks the file. To unblock the file, uncheck the box Read Only.
Note: Files that are on a CD or other read-only media are usually locked (read only), and cannot be unlocked. However they can be copied to any writeable media like your hard drive, and if still locked then they may be unlocked as described earlier.

Using Studio Electronic Flash With Digital Cameras
Q. I recently purchased a Nikon 5700 and the results are awesome. However, do you have any suggestions on how to use the camera with Novatron studio lights? Would a slave work?
Clive Hughes

A. Yes, you can use your Nikon 5700 with your studio electronic flash system. The camera must be set on manual exposure mode, and the built-in flash system including flash TTL exposure control must be turned off. Please read the instructions for external flash in your manual, or consult Nikon's technical support.
To sync your 5700 with your Novatron system, I would very strongly recommend using an infrared slave unit generator that will sync to the 5700's hot shoe, with infrared receiver slaves on the Novatron. You could also possibly use a very, very small shoe mount flash attached to the 5700's hot shoe and set at a very low output to trigger a slave to sync and fire the Novatron system. I would not recommend using a hot shoe to PC connector adapter and a cord to sync to your Novatron system. The sync voltage from the Novatron may be too high and your Nikon 5700 camera could be damaged.
Of course, to use external flash the camera must be set to manual mode, so you will need to use a handheld flash meter to read the Novatron light output to determine the manual settings for shutter/aperture for the 5700. Base the aperture setting of the 5700 by setting it at the lowest ISO sensitivity rating for the camera. This ISO setting should then be used with the handheld flash meter to take a reading of the Novatron output.

Comparing Apples And Oranges
Q. I have read your reviews of the Microtek ArtixScan 1800f and the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 film scanners in Shutterbug. I would be very interested in your opinion as to how these two scanners compare with regards to scanning 35mm film.
Kenneth Bing

A. I am afraid you are asking me to compare apples and oranges. The Microtek ArtixScan 1800f is one of the best letter-size flat-bed scanners in the consumer market, but even so, scanning a 1x1.5" film image with a linear array sensor about 8.5" in length is stretching the capabilities. Nevertheless, the 1800f will scan a 35mm film frame that is capable of producing a pretty decent 11x14" print.
On the other hand, the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 is a dedicated 35mm film scanner. That is all it does and is optimally designed to excel at that task. It is the best performing 35mm film scanner in the consumer market I have used to date. That's the reason I bought one myself, and am getting superb quality scans that make excellent quality prints now on 13x19" paper. I have every confidence that it will make very fine prints also on 17x22" paper with a new Pro printer that should be delivered to me soon.
If you have a major need to scan medium and large format film as well as prints to obtain the best quality you can with an affordable scanner, then I strongly recommend the Microtek ArtixScan 1800f.

Ink Jet Vs. Dye Sub Printers
Q. I am in the process of moving to digital photography and am having a lot of difficulty deciding on a printer. I have narrowed my choice down to ink jet or dye sub. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but for overall quality, I really like the dye sub prints the best. My problem is I cannot find a dye sub printer that will print larger than 8x10. Is there a dye sub printer on the market that will print larger photos?
Tim Camerer

A. Ten years ago about the only printers that would reproduce a photograph with any degree of fidelity were dye sub printers. Today, among the serious photographers I know personally, only one is using a dye sub. There is only a limited selection of dye sub printers in the consumer market, and most of those are snapshot-sized models. A letter-size dye sub printer is considerably more expensive than the best photo quality 6-7 color photo ink jet, and the media and inks for a dye sub are also much more expensive per print than a photo quality ink jet. In addition, there is very little choice of media available for dye sub printers, while there is a very wide range of paper selections of all types available for ink jets. Then there is the issue of print life, and pigment ink photo 6-7 color ink jets provide near archival life and the dye subs do not.
Larger than letter-size dye sub printers are almost all designed for professional use to simulate offset printing for proofing purposes in the printing and publishing industry. They are expensive to buy and to use. Xerox, 3M, Xante, and Kodak all make large format dye sub printers for the printing and publishing industry.

Glossy Ink Jet Paper And Pigment Ink Printers
Q. I have been printing on my Epson 2200 and getting great results with 81/2x11 Epson and Konica Premium Glossy Photo Paper. (My scanner is a Nikon LS-2000, with LaserSoft Imaging software and Adobe Photoshop, Version 6.) However, when I print using Epson's Premium Glossy Photo Paper, 4" roll, my 4x6 images appear somewhat fogged, almost as if I am using a soft focus filter. I'm doing everything the same when I make these photographs, only making smaller file sizes than for the 81/2x11 photos. I can only think it must be some qualitative difference in the roll paper. The roll paper is fresh and has been stored properly. Any ideas?
John Patterson

A. The Premium Professional Glossy Paper that is made for the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 printer and other Epson Pro printers which use pigment inks is made for a limited purpose, which is to provide the printing and publishing industry a "press" emulated proofing medium for CMYK output for offset printing. It is not really intended for the purpose of producing display prints of photographic images. And, the Epson Premium Glossy Paper you might buy at a computer or photo outlet is really formulated for dye ink Epson printers, not the pigment ink 2200. So, in either case you may not obtain either the best paper/printer profile performance or ideal paper/ink compatibility compared to what you can expect in prints made with the other media made for the 2200 like Watercolor, Premium Luster, or Enhanced Matte.
Epson's new R800 printer, described in "Digital Innovations" in the February issue of Shutterbug, uses the same inks as the 2200, and its introduction is accompanied by a new glossy paper for the printer and Epson Ultrachrome pigment inks. This new paper should be listed on the Epson website store under the R800 printer in the very near future.