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Digital imaging - Slide Scanners and Scanning

by Gordon Beddis.

Reproduced from in focus 64 (February 1999)

See also: COMPUTERS : FINE TUNING : GETTING TO GRIPS WITH CONCEPTS by Gordon Beddis

and DIGITAL SLIDE SCANNERS and SCANNING by Brian Pitkin

So you bought a computer and it's the best there is! When the initial novelty or shock has worn off, you get to thinking 'what extras do I need to get into this digital imaging (D.I.)?'

A word of advice here, if you only want one or two prints a year, D.I. is not cost-effective - find someone who does hand-printed Cibachrome. If, like me, you want hundreds of prints zoomed in, cropped, the back-scatter removed or just straight prints for your portfolio, read on!

Extra pieces of equipment outside the PC are called peripherals and, yes, you wi I I need some.

A. Slide Scanner:

This connects to your PC SCSI card and has its own power supply. Your 35 mm slide or negative is scanned, or read, into your computer, enabling (via software) the images to be shown on screen.

As with everything you pay for what you get. A high specif ication scanner is a peripheral you won't out?grow easily, e.g., 2700 dots per inch (dpi) resolution and 24 or 32 bit (depth of colour).

B. Printer:

Essential for printing out work. It also has its own power supply and is connected to the PC with a printer lead (not always supplied with the printer). You will need a 'photo' quality printer - the higher specification machines are the best, e.g., Epson's 700 series is a good bet with a maximum 1440 x 720 dpi resolution.

One of the big drawbacks of printers claiming to produce high dpi is that very few can do it in reality and only emulate high figures.

On the other hand, most produce prints of excellent quality and in some cases competition quality prints.

Do not forget running costs: most printers have at least 2 cartridges and ink/toner cartridges need to be changed every 30-40 prints depending on usage and paper (more on this at a later date).

C. Software.

Manufacturers provide software for printers and scanners called drivers that usually come with the equipment when purchased.

Software programmes are needed to use your images to the best advantage. Adobe Photoshop 5 is the best and most complicated but it is quite expensive at £450, well out of the range of most people's pockets. However, most printers come with 'bundle' software like Adobe LE (limited edition), this is a great starter which can be up-graded later.

I have found some cheaper alternatives: Photosuite by M6I at £16 from Jessops is an excellent programme, LivePix is very good at £39, and Microsoft's Picture - it is reasonable but has no resource for saving in higher resolution files such as TIFF (Tagged Industry File Format).

Anyway, put it all together and you'll be producing photo prints in no time! Sorry, it's not that easy, it's what they call a steep learning curve.

More on the How To Do It next time.

I'm still at SeaScenes Scuba and can be contacted for D.I. advice (or a chat) on 01202 535051.

See also:COMPUTERS : FINE TUNING : GETTING TO GRIPS WITH CONCEPTS by Gordon Beddis

and DIGITAL SLIDE SCANNERS and SCANNING by Brian Pitkin


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