Abstract of this Digital Imaging Photography web site.
Today, the technological gap has widened. It is not so much the difference between the rich and the poor, as it is between the digitally capable and the clueless. However since the technology is so new, all of us began at the clueless stage. The job of this web site is to demonstrate that you too can enhance all aspects of your professional research, no matter whether in photography, printing, or scholarly fields such as museums, geology, natural sciences, flora and fauna, or naturally closer to home, in anthropology, archaeology, ethnology, ethnography, or linguistics.
In the beginning, before digital photography equipment could match (and now surpass) the quality of film, the best cameras were from Leica and Nikon for 35mm, Hasselblad, Rollei for medium format, and Sinar, Arca-Swiss, Linhof, and others for large format, with lenses from Zeiss, Rodenstock and Schneider. Now new names produce the best 4x5 cameras, Better Light, PhaseOne, Jobo, and other newcovers in the last year.
Which is the better of these? The BetterLight won the premier award for best photograph at the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) trade show just last month. Calumet just sent a new BetterLight Model 6000 to test and evaluate. We will be reviewing it during our next studio photography season.
Four years ago I disdained even speaking the word of "digital photography" because of the wretched quality of cheap consumer digital cameras. I used an 4x5 Linhof or, for low-end, a Hasselblad. My preferred camera was an 8x10, Linhof with Rodenstock and Schneider lenses. I used 35mm only because most lecture venues offered only 35mm slide projectors. But when I went down to 35mm, at least I did my best to get Leitz lens or Nikon, and used Kodachrome rather than cheap consumer films. A Leica projector was even more helpful to get good results from 35mm film size.
Today 35mm cameras are mainly good for doing economical virtual reality views, using Apple's QTVR or the new products of Roundabout Logic. Nonetheless, it always helps to use lenses of the best optical quality, namely Leica as first choice, Nikon as second choice. Now it is possible to do virtual reality directly with digital cameras, seamlessly, a since 360 degree panorama. In the meantime, if all you have is a traditional camera, you definitely need a flatbed scanner for large images and a dedicated 35mm slide scanner for color slides or black-and-white in 35mm size negatives. We have tested a variety of brands, Polaroid, Microtek, and Nikon, and prefer the Nikon Super Coolscan (or the newer Nikon LS-2000) 35mm slide scanner. For flatbed scanners we have tested the Polaroid 4x5 scanner (a bad choice) the Polaroid 35mm slide scanner, a Microtek, and three models of UMAX. We recommend the UMAX PowerLook 3 if you are on a budget, or the Linotype-Hell Saphir Ultra2 if you want better quality scanning color management software (LinoColor Elite from Heidelberg CPS). If you seek drum scanner quality, then Scanview, Creo, Screen, Howtek, AGFA, Optronics, Linotype-Hell, and other companies offer high-end flatbed scanners or full scale drum scanners. Imacon has developed a new alternative to drum scanners--no oil or tape is required. Furthermore, the Imacon is cost-effective due to its reasonable price. Since scanners are absolutely essential for scholarly research, we have organized an entire web site to introduce this technology, www.cameras-scanners-flaar.org.
Today I am offering my 8x10 Linhof for sale because with a 4x5 format digital camera I could read the text on a billboard at almost two miles away. This now legendary digital photograph was taken with a wide angle lens. No cheating using a telephoto. Furthermore, the camera system was uncalibrated, since this was the first picture I had ever taken with the Dicomed Field Pro with Better Light panorama software and adapters. Now I routinely enlarge digital photographs to 36 inches wide by as tall as I need. An ENCAD printer with an EFI hardware RIP can handle digital pictures 30 feet in length, and the Dicomed-Better Light digital systems can produce digital photographs that can easily enlarge to that size.
I was first introduced to doing rotational photography for creating virtual 3D objects with a Kaidan rig. They have improved their models with each quarter and now offer QTVR rigs for every budget, for panorama, for QTVR objects, and everything. Phase One now has a completely automated system for doing 3D objects. Even Leica has a digital camera, the S1. For making your virtual reality scenes try Round About Logic or the even better VR PanoWorx and VR Object Worx from VR Toolbox.
Even entry level digital cameras such as the Nikon CoolPix is capable of great snapshots. Indeed most of the product shots on this web site are taken with a Nikon CoolPix. Whichever digital camera you chose, be sure to get an extra SanDisk compact flash card for extra memory. You need a bare minimum of 48 MB, and more is better. A PC card Adapter is a useful accessory as well, all available from SanDisk, the international leader in this kind of item for digital cameras.
The nice thing about digital imaging technology is that it is so new that you can become knowledgeable quickly, if you immerse yourself in the trade publications, attend the trade shows, visit all the pertinent web sites, and read all the pertinent trade magazines.
But the world of digital photography requires learning new rules. Whereas fluorescent lights is death to film, it turns out that SRBG fluorescent lamps are probably the best possible for digital scanning cameras. We tested Videssence and highly recommend them. North Light Products makes a variety of lighting which is especially good for large format digital photography. North Light "Sun Spots" are sold exclusively at Calumet (Calumet Photographic and Calumet Digital Solutions). Dark objects require even more light, and we use Lowel DP tungsten. For fresh bulbs you can always get what you need at Bulb Man in Nevada. For special needs we could not survive in our studio without Dedolights, but be careful. Some Dedolights cause digital banding. This is why we now recommend Sun Spots from North Light Products. No banding since Sun Spots and other North Light systems are fluorescent, which is one of the best forms of lighting for large format digital photography. Besides, fluorescent lighting is cool. Flash and strobe cannot be used with the high-end class of Dicomed, Better Light, or Phase One cameras. When old-fashioned cameras are still being used, however, decades of field experience has taught our crews that Metz is the best flash for rough field work conditions. To carry all this equipment we depend on A&S cases, Kart Master and other carts from Kart-a-Bag, a division of Remin.
High-end digital cameras require lighting that does not flicker. Therefore Sola-hevi-duty constant voltage power conditioners are essential for your studio. Please do not confuse these with uninterruptable power supply (UPS) units. You need UPS units for your computer and equally for your hard disks (we use and recommend American Power Supply). Be sure never to plug your laser printer into a UPS unit--the surge at power up is bad news for any battery backup. Back to line conditioners, a constant voltage power conditioner is a completely different electrical situation. You need both, one for your studio lighting (Sola), and one for your computer system (American Power Supply).
A steady platform becomes all the more essential with the long exposure times of digital photography. 30 years experience in photography worldwide has taught us the usefulness of Gitzo tripods and the Gitzo Big Ball tripod head. Recently we became acquainted with the Manfrotto heads and could not survive without them. After using Linhof for years, we find that the beautiful hardwood material of the Wisner 4x5 camera attracts attention wherever we go. What really attracts attention, however, is when you use the lovely wooden tripods from Ries. Since Ries tripods have no center head, they are solid, a crucial trait for doing digital photography where the exposures may be several minutes long. As of late 1999 we are adding Sinar Bron 4x5 cameras to our arsenal. Sinar Bron is needed when you use a large format digital scan back. This is because many other cheaper 4x5 cameras are too flexible (a polite way of saying you cannot align many 4x5 cameras precise enough to achieve focus with a digital scan back). Thus avoid any 4x5 camera with an L-shaped support. Since the L-shape holds up only one side, the whole camera may bend when you add the weight of a digital scan back. Calumet Digital Solutions recently sent us a Cambo Ultima 4x5 camera to test so we will have results shortly.
Scanning cameras need more sophisticated lenses. Rodenstock early on recognized the needs for special lenses for digital photography. The FLAAR. Photo Archive just finished testing two new digital lenses from Schneider Kreuznach. Color of course is still an important consideration in digital photography, and Macbeth color charts (GretagMacbeth) and Rosco filters are just as useful as with the former generation of darkroom photography.
Once you have your beautiful digital images, if you were clever and got a high-end Better Light or Phase One digital system, then you can enlarge them to immense proportions if you get an Hewlett-Packard DesignJet wide-format ink jet printer. These are as easy to use as any desktop printer, yet generate full-color at 3-feet wide up to 30 feet long if you wish. Or you can get wider models, up to 54" (we have the ENCAD NovaJet Pro 36" model and the newer better HP 2800 CP). We are also testing media from American Ink Jet Corporation, Rexam Graphics, Precision Coatings Inc, and others, all leaders in the field of media and materials for Hewlett-Packard, ENCAD and related wide format color printers. In Europe we use Regma wide format media (from France).
We have tested several Epson desktop ink-jet printers; they were a disaster, the worst buying mistake we ever made. Another professor also bought two Epson printers in order to provide his students with class notes in color. He was so disappointed he abandoned one printer, turned the other one back to the dealer--and he bought a Lexmark color laser. The Lexmark color laser was better than both Epson ink jet printers put together. Unfortunately, the Alps alternative is no longer available since they withdrew from the US market.
Ironically, most testing departments of magazines do not necessarily include photographers. In distinction to magazines, we use what we test, and we surely test what we use. It is very easy to go through lots of money quickly in getting outfitted in digital photography. But why buy inappropriate equipment when our evaluation crews have already noted the things that do not work? Let FLAAR. Photo Archive spend its money so that you can save your money.
In removable storage it is common to make the mistake of starting too low. Best to go high-end from the start: we are now suggesting upgrading to DVD-RAM now that this technology is mature. Any monitor less than 20" is not enough: all our monitors are Viewsonic. Obviously you will need Adobe Photoshop (avoid Micrografx, XRes, and other attempts to emulate the international standard, Adobe Photoshop). Version 5.5 (with update to ver 6) is essential. Improvements over version 4 are worth every bit of the price. If you are in academia. get the super low prices of Diskovery, the lowest legal prices for software in the world.
Zip disks are useful for sending files to other colleagues or for printing jobs, but both Zip and Jaz are a serious mistake for serious storage of high-MB TIF files. If you do professional work get professional storage. For hard drives the Seagate Cheetah is outstanding. We use FWB HardDisk Toolkit to manage our hard disks. We have added all kinds of new reviews such as reviewing CD-R burners and DVD-RAM.
What do you do with all your old legacy film? Get a Heidelberg flatbed scanner, we have found the all their models are good. Don't waste your time with a cheap scanner from HP or Epson. If you need more shadow detail and more sophisticated software, many other high-end scanners are available such as from Scitex. For 35mm color slides get the Nikon dedicated slide scanner (we use their LS-2000). We are now reviewing another Linotype-Hell scanners from Heidelberg CPS on www.cameras-scanners-flaar.org as well as on www.flatbed-scanner-review.org.
To rotate objects for virtual views you need to be sure to check out the Kaidan products. Apple QTVR is obviously essential. We are exploring associated software from VR Toolbox as well; their new versions are now out.
Welcome to the world of digital photography, the 21st century is here already.
Design updated July 10, 2008.