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 website, directly via e-mail to: or or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Re: "Printing A Photoshop.psd File Image With Layers"
With all due respect to David Brooks, I have never known Photoshop to have this limitation. Photoshop happily prints .psd files and, for that matter, .tif files, having multiple layers without objection.
Jim Pyle

A. True, I neglected to provide a full explanation of Layers in that reply. If a multiple layer image does not have each layer checked as active (linked), Photoshop grays the print command and does not allow printing. For instance, if you add type to an image, that action creates a layer, so either you have to open the Layers control window and check the layers to make them all active (linked) or merge the layers. As long as I am not going to save that change, I find it is easier and faster to merge them than open the Layers dialog window and check each layer as active. There are more ways than one to skin a cat, and I do not always include every way to resolve issues in Photoshop.

A Chicken & Egg Question
Q. All things being equal, which will provide the best scan: a 35mm negative on a dedicated 35mm scanner or a 6x6 negative on a flat-bed scanner?
David Molina

A. If it were possible to make all things equal, because there is more potential information in a 6x6cm image than in a 35mm film frame, the latter would be the loser. Unfortunately, reality is never that clear-cut and logically obvious, and there are many, many examples of just the opposite even in my library of image files. In other words, the real choice between the two involves a lot of unequal factors that in one instance may go one way and in another the opposite. The most significant choice is on the basis of which format suits your style of photography best. Then choose the scanner that will provide the best reproduction you can afford.

Choosing A 35mm Scanner
Q. I saw your review on the Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf scanner and was wondering what the difference is between this scanner and the Nikon LS 4000 and the Polaroid 4000.
Eli Horowitz

A. First of all, there is little to distinguish the Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf and the Polaroid. Microtek actually manufactures the Polaroid scanner so it is essentially the same scanner internally. And both scanners are sold with LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 6 software so the only difference that remains is the native software, which does not compare to SilverFast in functionality.
The Nikon 4000 is a good scanner physically. But the only software you get with it is Nikon's, which I find is the worst scanning software of any of the major scanner brands. If you want the best software--LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 6--you have to pay extra to add it to the package. So, considering you get less in a scanner package and the price is greater than any other 4000dpi scanner, it is not a product I feel justified recommending.
Also, you might wait just for a bit as Minolta just announced an entirely new model, the DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400. I plan to review and report on this new 5400dpi 35mm scanner from Minolta as soon as a loan scanner is delivered to me.

Scanning Film With A Flat-Bed Discussion
Q. I bought a 3200 scanner and a 2200 printer, and I must say your recommendations are on target for the printer. The scanner I fear is suffering from operator error. The Epson tech service people tell me that: 1) there is no holder for scanning mounted slides and 2) the only way to scan 6x6 transparencies or negatives is to lay the mask they provide over the negatives, which you first lay on the glass. This seems primitive, as they tend to scoot around on the glass, especially if they have any curvature. Is this correct?
Also, what resolution would I scan to print a 6x6 up to 13x19? I think if I can get good prints from 6x6 at that print size, my 4x5 will gather dust. Thanks for your many tips.
Herb Cunningham

A. From what you describe you may not have the Epson Perfection 3200 PHOTO PRO model. The one I have has both 35mm holders for film in strips and slides, and the 4x5 and 120 film holder includes hinged window frames, which hold the film above the glass and very firmly. Also, the version I have comes with a full software bundle including LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 6.0 and Monaco EZcolor 2.5 plus Photoshop. The list price is $599.

Reply to above:
I do have the PHOTO PRO model. I got it from B&H, and it has a hinged 35mm negative holder, two strips at a time, and the 4x5 with 6x9 holder you describe. The problem is that Epson says the 6x6 negs and transparencies don't get a holder, but then I got what appears to be half of a 6x6 frame, which I don't think is correct.
Do you have a contact with them? I got some guy who was quite certain I was not getting anything else. I need a friendly face at Epson. Thanks again.
Herb Cunningham

A. As with every consumer scanner I have worked with from Epson to Microtek to UMAX, none provides specific holders for each and all of the different 120 frame sizes. For that matter most photographers do not cut their film to each individual frame, but leave it in strips of two, three, or four frames per strip. So as I do, you will need to use the given holder and improvise. For instance, I cut a piece of the film end and then use repositionable Scotch tape to connect them to make a piece of film big enough to be supported on all sides in the holder. Or, with my own personal scanner I have made custom film holder frames out of thin, flat black plastic to accommodate 645, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9, and 6x12cm frame sizes all of which I have in my library. And, by the way, I believe the "half" frame holder you referred to is the 2x2" slide holder. And, may I suggest using the SilverFast software to make film scans? If you want to scan for a particular print size, you have the option of increasing the output size to 12x18" for instance, and then setting the resolution for printing, at 300dpi for instance.
As for contacts at Epson, those that I have will not provide customer support, and I am specifically requested not to give their numbers out.

Is Film Camera Lens Performance Directly Applicable To Digital?
Q. I enjoy your column in Shutterbug. I have a request for information, if available: I have accumulated over the years a lot of Leica equipment--three R3s and about 10 lenses from 18-560mm. Is there a quality digital camera available that will accept these lenses or one available that could be adapted by a competent person to use them? They are all three camera lenses, however I wouldn't expect to be able to utilize this automation on a digital body. If you know of a camera and/or craftsman that could make the conversion, I would appreciate hearing from you.
Harry Conkey

A. The only digital camera with the capability of utilizing your Leica lenses I am aware of was one made by Leica. It was a quite competent professional (studio) camera, but not what I believe you are looking for, nor in a price range that would be considered "reasonable."
I can understand your motives, but to some extent they are misplaced functionally. Other than the focal length range, the unusual qualities of the Leica lenses applied to film exposure are not directly transferable to exposing a digital sensor chip. Ideally, optics designed for film should be redesigned for digital. This is to an extent done in many non-interchangeable lens digital cameras today. The only SLR design at a professional level that has both body and interchangeable lenses designed expressly for digital is the new model (4/3) hinted at by Olympus at this year's PMA, and to be formally announced June 24th.
However, I should mention that Horseman has made a pro digital camera body that accepts professional digital backs and has a mount for 35mm SLR lenses. Whether they are offering a Leica mount is not known to me, but I don't see that as an impossibility. Horseman is located in Tokyo, but has a primary dealership located in New York if you are interested. But again, this would be a pricey solution.

Once Again, The Perenial Windows Vs. Mac Question
Q. I have a question concerning your suggestions. Why is the Apple better for photo imaging? I've noticed that most pros use this brand but never really understood why. Thanks.

A. In the 1980s Apple was first used professionally for desktop publishing and thereby established the platform as the one used by professionals for all aspects of reproduction and communication, including graphic arts, design, publishing, and of course photography. So it is the most important and serious segment of the Apple customer base, and therefore Apple develops their products to be sure that all kinds of graphics, publishing, design, and photography users are well served. For photographers, one of the chief advantages is a highly developed color management system called ColorSync, which is now utilized by 80 percent of the publishing industry.

Minimizing Grain In Print Scans
Q. I'm trying to copy/improve some 8x10 black and white prints that I made 66 years ago. They can use some sharpening but that tends to emphasize grain. Can you suggest scanning and sharpening parameters that might be appropriate? I know there are blurring/sharpening tricks--perhaps more sophisticated than I need or can master.
It's not fair to ask you for lessons, but if there are short answers to point me in the right direction--or maybe a source of this info--I'd be very appreciative.
Roland Reisley

A. What I would suggest, using Photoshop, is to first reduce some of the graininess by selecting from the "Noise" filters the Despeckle filter. You can apply this filter more than once depending on how much fine detail is in the image and how much the Despeckle filter softens that fine detail. Then to sharpen the subject's edges in the image I would suggest using the Unsharp Mask sharpening filter with careful adjustment of its three sliders to keep the Amount low, under 50, and increase the pixel Radius count to 3.0 or higher. Then if grain starts to become apparent you can try increasing the Threshold value to find a balance between sharpening the edges and not so much the grain.
I cannot be more specific about settings largely because both the Despeckle filter and the Unsharp Mask filter vary in their effects depending on each different picture's content and the size/resolution of the image. It is a trial-and-error process, and usually what the result in a print will be differs from what you see on screen. So I would suggest practicing on a copy of your image file to protect that original file's integrity, and make a test print to evaluate the result.

Printing With Third-Party Papers
Q. Are there any other than Epson papers that you would recommend for my 2200? I see a lot of other brands advertised, but seem to recall your having recommended staying with the Epson papers. What can you tell me about the Lyson Cave Paint bulk-feed system? I have just seen an ad from Calumet for one for the 2200. Does the 2200 as factory configured do a good job with black and white, or would a dedicated printer with Cone Editions inks and drivers be a better choice?
Dave Hannah

A. It does not matter what papers you want to use to print with the 2200. It can't hurt the printer, just be careful with thick ones to use the manual paper feed. However, you do need to have custom profiles for any non-Epson paper if you want correct color. This means either having the profiles supplied by the paper manufacturer, customized by a service bureau, or investing in a spectrometer and software to make your own profiles, such as what is available most affordably from ColorVision.
A continuous flow ink supply system does provide some economy. However, the cost of a good system demands that you will be doing a lot of printing to be able to pay for it. However, do not use any inks other than Epson's with the 2200. You are not likely to obtain the same print performance, nor may your printer be warranted by Epson if it is damaged by third-party inks. Finally, in an extensive test of quad black inks for Shutterbug using a new Epson printer, I found little if any advantage in print quality over the 2200 with considerably less reliability and no cost savings worth mentioning.
If using alternative inks and papers is really the kind of thing you want to pursue I'd suggest saving your pennies and going "professional" with the Epson Pro 7600 printer.