Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

This column will attempt to provide solutions to problems readers may have in 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 the column. Readers can send questions to me addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug web site, directly via e-mail to: or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Q. I would like to know if you could recommend a scanner for me, not based on personal favorites, but on price, quality, and ease of use.
For the last 3.5 years my photography has been mainly style development and portfolio. I am seeking assignments for glamour and swimsuit calendar work. My portfolio consists of black and white/color 11x14 prints. Some are Ilfochrome prints on glossy paper. My main concern is getting a scan that will turn out 11x14 prints that are of high quality, so if an assignment editor or Art Director views my portfolio, they are not going to laugh at my work. I want to try and be realistic, but do you know of a brand and model say under $500?
Nigel Brighton
Ottawa, Canada

A. For the purposes you described, including producing a professional appearing 11x14 print, I am afraid that the under $500 (US) 35mm scanners are pretty much out of the question. One possibility, which I am currently working with for test and review, is the new Canon CanoScan FS 2710. It definitely has the physical specifications, and its new software is much improved and well able to support professional-level scanning of 35mm originals. However, I suspect it will sell for well over $1000 Canadian. Sorry I cannot be more encouraging price-wise. But, for your need to do presentation images, having professional scans done is a good option to use applied to a limited number of images a portfolio involves. I would suggest using Kodak Professional PhotoCD services. You would probably find the best quality Pro PhotoCD services in Toronto.

Q. I'm having success with my basic scanner and Ulead photo program, which I'll update as my budget permits. I'm planning a future web site with many graphics. What particular choices would you suggest for a "moving image digital camera?" I'm reading about "going video," then transferring to digital. Then there is 8mm, rarely seen in its original form, from my experience. Just never seemed to "catch on," like "Beta" for video, etc. I'm leaning toward a "moving image digital camera" that uses floppy disks. What cameras of this type would you suggest I look into? Thanks.
Michael Williams

A. The above phrasing was not clear to me in regards to your question; does it refer to a still image of a moving subject, or a motion image of a moving subject? I would guess it is the former, and if it is recording on a standard 1.44MB floppy, then the camera would be the Sony Mavica. That camera is of very good quality and quite adequate for making pictures for web use, but it is a relatively low resolution digital camera by current two plus megapixel standards, and print output size is limited.

Q. I want to buy the CoolPix 950. Can this camera be linked directly to my computer for studio work? Does it have a pc outlet allowing it to synch with one or two monolights?

A. I have not tested the Nikon CoolPix 950, but there is one model (950S) that does have a PC connector to synch with external flash. However, if it will work effectively with studio lighting is another matter. Even these latest more fully featured two plus megapixel digital cameras, with manually controlled shutter speeds and apertures, are not equivalent to a film camera in the way they function. These digital cameras are relatively small physically, and usually have a combined shutter and aperture mechanism which can be limiting. Although some models like the CoolPix 950 have an external PC flash synch connector, I would not assume they will work with studio flash systems, and advise going to a store that has the camera and a similar studio flash to your own, to do a test to see if they will work together before making a purchase.
As far as a direct connection with a computer is concerned, most digital cameras are so equipped. however, not all provide the software control that allows operating the camera from a computer in tethered mode. In addition most current digital cameras have a video out RCA connector, which can also be connected to a computer which is equipped with a motion video input interface card. This would provide live monitoring of what the camera lens sees just like the small LCD panels that are a feature of most of these cameras. Again, as far as what specific devices will work, and how they work with a particular digital camera, is best determined by a live demonstration. Fortunately with digital, results are immediate, so such testing can be done at some larger camera stores which also carry professional equipment, and are set up with a computer to provide a live demonstration.

Q. What problems would you expect to encounter when using Windows NT for digital imaging? I'm about to purchase my first slide scanner and an Epson 1200. I'm currently happily using Windows 98 but have just enrolled in classes toward procuring MCSE certification. I feel that I need to use NT as much as possible in order to learn the OS. My biggest concern is the loss of ICM color management. I originally thought that NT would be best for all serious computing and that perhaps I would only need a small 98 partition for games, etc. I could put NT only on my old computer acting as a server in my home network and have the client be strictly W98. Or, I could use FAT 16 partitions so that both OSs could access files and software. However, in both cases I would lose much of the features of Windows NT that I need to study. Having briefly experimented with OS/2, I am well aware of the headaches of having two operating systems that can't see each other's directories. I therefore am not very enthusiastic about dual boot.
Lloyd O'Daniel

A. First, considering that the trial version of Windows 2000 was just made available last week, NT is going to be a moot point eventually. Also, the second edition of Windows 98 has been released and is on store shelves (but I don't know if the bug fixes in the second edition include ICM 2.0 improvements). I agree dual boot machines can be a problem as you described. Unless of course you have two or several large discrete hard drives and put all of the files relative to NT on one, and 98 another.
As you have noted Windows NT does not have ICM 2.0, and although it is not rock solid, devices like the latest Epson Stylus Photo printers do benefit from its use, as well as users of Adobe Photoshop 5.0.2. I believe those advantages are great enough to warrant a dual boot system if running NT is necessary, using Windows 98 for digital image input and output, as well as running Photoshop for processing. In addition, some of the less expensive digital imaging peripheral devices, as well as some older printers and scanners, may not have NT driver support.

Q. I've been using Epson Photo Quality Glossy Paper (SO41124) with my 740 printer. Color is great but paper is flimsy. Any opinions about Kodak photo paper for ink jets? It seems to be available everywhere. Or should I stick with Epson?

A. Epson's current letter size Photo Paper (SO41141) is a heavier weight glossy surface paper, and should provide the great color you've been getting. Although the Kodak photo ink jet paper is of quite good quality, consider that your Epson printer's color management profiles are configured for their own papers. Using other than Epson brand papers is a disadvantage unless you have the hardware and software to make custom ICC color management profiles for the use of that paper with your printer.

Q. I've got a budget to buy a medium format scanner to digitize a lot of archive negatives and transparencies from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. A lot of the black and white archive is on 61/2x41/2" glass plates (about 1mm thick). Are any of the current, relatively high-resolution MF scanners (Minolta, Agfa, et al.) particularly suited or unsuited to scanning glass plates?
John Maries

A. Many of the medium-level flat-bed scanners like the Agfa DuoScan, Microtek ScanMaker 5, and Umax Powerlook 3000 or Linotype Saphir HiRes have film scanning drawers which would be a distinct advantage. First they would avoid newton rings that you can get from surface to surface support, and second they reduce the number of surfaces that can support dust. However to scan odd, non-standard sizes some ingenuity will be needed to create support frames for the glass negatives and positives.
Older glass negatives can also have rather high density ranges, so I would not consider most of the lower cost scanners as their dynamic range would not be sufficient.
The film drawer may not be quite as wide as needed with these two models.

Q. I've read many articles on digital photography, but none has provided information on how fast the digital cameras are (i.e., if one were to rate the sensitivity of their light-capturing sensors, what would that camera's ISO rating be?).
Are digital cameras more sensitive to light than a 35mm camera with ISO 100 film? Is there a difference in sensitivity in providing color vs. black and white images (or do these cameras provide only color)?
I realize that there are many variables, such as f/stop of the lens, but I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.

A. The light sensitivity of digital cameras varies between brands and models. Many of the under $1000 cameras have a default equivalent of ISO 100. The more expensive and full featured often provide a selection of sensitivity ratings commonly 100, 200, 400 ISO equivalent. The more expensive and professional cameras that are intended primarily for press photography and similar uses have ISO equivalents to as high as ISO 1600.
Lens speed and shutter speed ranges are pretty much on a par with typical 35mm cameras--the more expensive have faster lenses and a greater shutter speed range. Today, these cameras essentially capture in color, but it is very easy to convert or desaturate a color RGB image to make it gray scale. Specification for ISO equivalent sensitivity ratings for various models of digital cameras are posted at the web sites of most of the manufacturers like Canon, Olympus, and Nikon, etc.

Q. I am going to create a web page and would like to enhance it with photographs of the town I live in. I am thinking that a digital camera would be appropriate for this, because I imagine that the images can be transferred directly into my computer, then formatted to fit the web page.
What digital camera do you recommend for good quality photographs? What software would I have to purchase? My computer has Pentium II and runs Windows 98.
Are there any other things I need to know before I invest in a digital camera? Thanks.
Tom Reeves

A. Just for use in web page creation, the inexpensive, under one megapixel digital cameras are sufficient, and the cost for some 640x480 pixel models is between $200 and $300. Most are sold with essential software to acquire the images, as well as an easy to use image-editing application like MGI PhotoSuite II or Adobe PhotoDeluxe 3.0.
However, if you already have a 35mm film camera and your needs for web pictures is limited, I would suggest taking the pictures with 35mm color print film and having Kodak processing done with the addition of a Picture CD. This provides access digitally to the images as the film is scanned and files of the images created on a Picture CD disc. The Picture CD disc also has basic software on it which allows simple access and editing of the pictures on your computer.
You might check the Kodak web site for locations near you for Picture CD processing vendors.

Q. My question has to do with inserting a digital image in powerpoint presentations.
My Mavica 83 is capable of taking still shots with audio included as well as movies with audio included.
It seems to save the latter as mpeg files and I can successfully insert them into the powerpoint presentations. However, inserting the still shots with audio (voice) is another matter. It seems to save those as jpeg files and so when I insert them all I get is the picture (and no sound). Am I doing something wrong? Is there something I can do to allow my powerpoint presentations to take full advantage of my new camera's capabilities?

A. First I will assume the Mavica saves the sound information relative to still images as a separate file, so you will need to locate and identify the sound part of the data for the still pictures. It should be in one of the two standard sound formats like .Wav or less likely in midi format. I have not used powerpoint in some years but I believe sound files can be inserted into a presentation and scheduled parallel with image files. and, considering PowerPoint is Microsoft, the standard sound file format .Wav is supported. You might also check your Sony Mavica Owners Manual specification to see in what format the sound files are recorded.

Q. I was wondering about the new epson stylus photo 1200--is it better than the stylus photo EX? I will be using it for making 11x16 prints for an art fair. and, about the longevity of ink jet prints, would laminating help this problem, and if so do you know the make and model i would need? Thanks.
Byron Moore

A. You'll find two main advantages with the 1200 over the Ex. First it prints 13" wide paper, two inches more than the Ex. Second, it has finer nozzles down to 6 picoliters, and varied dot size, which provides a sharper reproduction of detail, as well as smoother tones and gradations. Finally, it is faster printing at maximum resolution than the EX.
Archival inks and papers are now just becoming available for the Epson printers. The papers I have used are 100 percent cotton rag and look like fine watercolor stock. The names are Liege and Concorde. The Luminos photo company is distributing Lyson inks which are archival. In addition there is a very new pigmented ink just out. All of these supplies are available from MIS. You can obtain full information, prices, and order from their web site at:

Q. I have been accustomed to printing in the darkroom, making four 31/2x5 or two 5x7 pictures on one sheet of 8x10 paper. I am unable to do this in Photoshop, but there ought to be a way. Can you tell me how? I use Photoshop 5.0 and an Epson Stylus photo EX.

A. First of all, check all of the software you received with the Epson Stylus Photo Ex. That function may be supported by one of the bundled software utilities. It definitely is with the new Epson Stylus Photo 1200, as part of the NewSoft application bundle that comes with the printer. You should have a CD you got with your printer, take a look at what it has on it.
Then, if you plan to upgrade to Photoshop 5.5, which just came out, that print image formatting feature is now included under the file menu heading Automation.

Q. I am researching the digital photography market and could use an expert's advice. I have come across many opinions in my research and have noticed that many people like the Sony Mavica. Since this camera uses a floppy disk to store its memory it is less efficient than other cameras which use flash memory (e.g. smartmedia and Compact flash). Which format of data storage do you see prevailing farther down the road of digital photography?
David Gaspar

A. I don't have a crystal ball for this one. Unfortunately the superior technology, reason, and logic do not always prevail when it comes to what succeeds in the marketplace. Personally I would favor Iomega's Clik disk/drive as being the most efficient and effective camera image storage medium. However, as far as I know now, Iomega has only been able to convince one manufacturer of the advantages, and that's Agfa. Now Sony is in the game with the Memory Stik, yet another flash memory type media, making three distinct formats for that type of storage.
This problem, and it is a problem when there are so many competing formats, may go unresolved as have the attempts to replace the very obsolete 1.44 floppy disk. In other words, no resolution any time in the foreseeable future. For now, that is a factor of less than ideal efficiency and some inconvenience, but in the long run it may provide the opportunity for some currently unknown solution to emerge and become a de facto standard. Ideally a portable storage media which would work as well for desktop computers, laptops, and notebooks, as well as digital cameras would be preferable. If it weren't so expensive, IBM's MicroDisk with 340MB in a half size PCMCIA type card would be promising. considering the current level of market competition, and the inclination of companies to remain proprietary because they believe they have a better mousetrap, makes the emergence of any standard, a rather remote hope.

Q. I recently got a 35mm widelux camera and was wondering if any of the sub $1000 film scanners can handle the 24x59mm negatives. I could always get a flat-bed scanner I guess but are they as good as the dedicated film scanners? I get the impression that the new HP scanner could do what I want but I don't think it will work with my computer--a Power Mac 9600.
Flor Collins

A. I am afraid there isn't any such animal. The less expensive desktop 35mm scanners function by moving the film on a carriage past the CCD element, which is controlled by software on the computer and firmware in the scanner. None of the models like Nikon, Canon, and Minolta that I've used have had an option to scan a panorama 35mm film image.
To get decent results from a flat-bed for that size and format film you'd at least need a good 1200x2400dpi unit with transparency adapter like the Linotype Saphir Ultra 2 I recently tested. At the latest street price it is at a little above your price, but an excellent all-around scanner with superb software. Ideally the next level up, like the Linotype Saphir HiRes, would do an excellent job, but it is a much more expensive proposition.
Incidentally I tested and reported on the S-20 HP PhotoSmart. It is a decent scanner, providing very good performance for the money. However, I did not see any support for scanning non-standard format 35mm film. And, it is strictly a USB interface scanner, so you would have to have the latest Mac OS and a USB interface a adapter installed.