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 (www.shutterbug.com), directly via e-mail to: editorial@shutterbug.com or fotografx@mindspring.com or by US Mail to: David Brooks, PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
--George Schaub

Correction: Black Printing With Epson R800 Only With Apple Mac
Haven't chatted with you in quite some time--must mean I haven't been in trouble lately. But now I am, a little bit. Just bought and set up my R800 today and have a question about printing black ink only per your comments in the R800 review (August 2004 issue) and more recently mentioned in your review of the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 (September 2004 issue). I'm just not sure how to do it.
James Metchnek

I have gotten quite a bit of feedback on this R800 issue of late. And, I must admit laziness in not installing and checking out the driver setup for the R800 running on Windows XP--there is a difference in how the drivers are configured. My experience with the R800 has been with both the old OS 9 and the current OS 10.3 on the Mac. And in the Print Settings dialog window there is an Ink setting with a choice between Color and Black. If there is not such a corresponding choice in the driver as configured using Windows XP, that may make the option unavailable. I guess I'll just have to install the R800 driver on my PC Windows XP machine to find out for myself.
Later: James, you caught me being not as up on every detail as I should be. The Windows XP R800 driver does not provide an Ink selection between Color and Black options as the Mac OS 10 R800 driver does. With all of the Epson printers I covered previously that provided good black and white photo printing with just black ink the option for both Windows and Mac was provided. For some reason Epson failed to provide the option for Windows XP users with the R800.
Note: James got back to me after contacting Epson Technical Assistance by phone confirming that Epson in fact had neglected to include the Ink: Black/Color option in the Windows XP driver for the R800 printer. Whether Epson will add the Black/Color option control in a new version of the Windows XP driver remains to be seen.

Converting Color To Gray Scale For Dedicated B&W Printing
Q. I have ordered MIS Associates' UT2 black and white UltraTone inks for my 1280 printer. I will be using digital camera color images with Photoshop Elements 3.0. How should I prepare these color images for black and white printing?
Tony Anthony

A. It is not unusual that an image taken in color when converted to gray scale will not have an ideal balance of gray values to make an effective black and white image. This is in part why black and white photographers often use colored filters over the lens to modify how black and white panchromatic film renders color values, like yellow (K2), orange (G), red (25), and green (X1).
So, the first thing to do with your color image file open in Elements is to make a copy (File menu) of the image. Then use the copy image to first evaluate how it looks as a gray scale photo by going to the Image/Mode menu and changing the image from RGB to gray scale. Evaluate this image on screen. If it's a landscape, for instance, and the sky is a flat, light gray and you would like it to be darker, and if there are trees and the foliage is too dark, you can alter the interpretation (like using a color filter with black and white film).
With your copy image open and now in gray scale, go to the Edit menu and undo the Mode conversion to gray scale, so you have color again. Then go to the Enhance menu and Enhance Color/ Hue-Saturation. With the Hue/Saturation dialog open, at the top instead of Master RGB select the Blue channel. Then move the Saturation slider to the right to a value of 30-50, then go to the Brightness slider and move it to the left about the same. To get more out of the foliage, go back to the channel selection at the top of the Hue/Saturation dialog and click on Green. Again increase Saturation, but this time move the Brightness slider to the right to lighten the greens. Now click the OK button in the Hue/Saturation dialog. And now Mode convert the image to gray scale. The black and white image on screen should have a darker sky and more open detail in the foliage.
Also, once converted to gray scale, you can use the Quick Fix Contrast sliders to enhance the contrast of the image if needed. This "game" takes practice and the development of an acute visual judgment, so practice if you want to get the best, most brilliant black and white photos in your prints.

On Choosing A Prosumer Digital Camera
Q. I am shopping for my first digital camera and I am driving myself nuts! I have owned Minolta cameras since 1972 and I thought I would stay with them but after reading reviews in your and other magazines I don't know now. I was all set to buy the DiMAGE A2 until the reviews came in and trashed the noise above ISO 200. This is a problem for me because I like to shoot film at 400 and higher. The A2 is everything I am looking for as far as having a PC terminal for my studio lights along with a hot shoe for an external flash to save battery life in the camera. The price was also a factor because through B&H Photo in New York they were way under $800. I know you will not endorse any one product but could you sort of point me the right direction?
Peter Burger

A. May I first of all suggest that just because a company was good at making film cameras, what they do with digital cameras may not be at all related except in the limited case of 35mm SLR bodies that have been used as the basis of a digital camera. And in the case of these hybrids, the major brands are rapidly developing lens designs for those with 2/3 size chips (APS format) that are exclusive to these cameras and cannot be used with a film SLR even if the lens mount is the same.
Also, some camera companies are themselves heavily involved in digital sensor technology (Canon, Fuji, and Kodak) and either make their own chips, or others do based on their own chips' designs, while some must rely entirely on independent chip makers like Sony for the sensor for their digital cameras.
Because of its great diversity and R&D depth in technology, Canon has a great advantage over its competitors at just about every level. Although Fuji had a relatively limited involvement in camera design and manufacture, like Kodak it has great depth in imaging technology and has invested heavily in sensor design and production. In both instances these companies have partnered with Nikon adding their sensor technology and marrying it to Nikon's ability to make camera bodies and lenses providing digital cameras with exceptional and high-quality image capture. Olympus got into the digital camera field early and by doing so acquired an advantage in experience that has resulted in a selection of prosumer cameras with exceptional physical advantages coupled with good image sensor performance.
Nearly all of the really competitive prosumer digital cameras in the close to $1000 class, including the brands I have mentioned, provide the features you have indicated you require. The only thing I would suggest is that because you are using an imaging area that is smaller than a standard 35mm frame, to obtain the same angle of view a shorter effective focal length is involved, so if you are used to using a film speed of 400, you only need 200 in a digital camera because you can use a larger lens aperture and obtain the same depth of field. In other words, if I use f/11 with a film 35mm for a particular subject, I will shoot the same shot at f/8 with my prosumer digital SLR.