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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2004-01-29

Digital Darkroom Notes and the Best Gadget Ever
By Vincent Laforet, The New York Times

I still intend to write a comprehensive second part to the digital darkroom article published a little over a month ago on the S ports Shooter Newsletter but I still need to do some more research first. I haven't had the chance to look into bulk-ink systems, and 7-cartridge black and white systems, as well as a few other ideas as of yet - my wife and I are expecting our first child in April, so in between the holidays and baby preparations I may not get to do so for quite a while. Therefore I wanted to give you a quick round-up of the more pertinent findings I've been able to look into.

Photo by

MonacoOPTIX XR
1. COLOR CALIBRATION: I was able to get Monaco Systems to send me their new MonacoOPTIX XR package that I mentioned at the time of the previous article's release. http://www.monacosys.com/ Their technicians claim that their calibrator has half of the of error margin that the ColorVision Spyder http://www.colorvision.com/ - but when you think of that, if the error of margin is small to begin with - that really might not mean that much.

I calibrated my two Apple Cinema displays, my Apple 15-inch PowerBook, and my IBM ThinkPad with both the Monaco and Color vision packages - each display was calibrated three times in a row, creating 3 unique profiles for each system.

The profiles were then compared side by side. What I can say is - there is no noticeable difference between the two systems to the naked eye. The Monaco Systems did seem to perform a little better on the IBM laptop - but in the end I ended up using one of the profiles created by the Monaco Systems for my 22 inch Cinema Display and the other profile created by the Color vision Spyder for my 15 inch Cinema display - to match both monitors which were put into service a year apart and have a noticeable small color shift from one another when uncalibrated. Ergo - both systems seem to perform similarly to the naked eye, and will perform differently on different displays.

What is clear is that the Monaco software is much easier to install and operate - while the ColorVision software is at times counter-intuitive and their technical service is pretty awful according to a few notes I've gotten from Sports Shooter readers. Two quick notes that keep on popping up: a. if you are calibrating an LCD or Cinema Display (i.e. NOT a CRT or "tube" monitor - disregard all of the pre-calibration hoopla involved with the Monaco software.

You needn't play with the contrast etc - as there are no such adjustments on LCD monitors - in fact I just leave my brightness settings on both monitors to about 85% - and select 6500K and 2.2 Gamma as my only settings - and let the software do it's thing from there.) Also please note that if you are having problems printing on PCs after following all of my advice in the previous article - you may have a problem with double-profiling conflict - search through the threads on SportsShooter.com for a fuller explanation.

Furthermore - if you are still getting inconsistent results with your calibrator unit- RETURN IT - and try another brand - or upgrade to the $1,500 GetagMacBeth system - you get what you pay for. (http://www.gretagmacbeth.com/Source/Gm.asp) Please don't send me technical support questions - or send me a curt e-mail telling me that "I'm fired" as did our beloved member Robert Beck. I should say that reader response has been 95% positive with regards to their calibration results - and 100% positive with respect to their purchase of ImagePrint.

Which brings us to ImagePrint …

2. IMAGEPRINT 6.0 http://www.colorbytesoftware.com/
Photo by

The ImagePrint browser.
ImagePrint 6.0 should be available in late January according to the company's president. For those of you with Panther issues - a patch is currently available on their site. The good news is - if you bought ImagePrint after you read the first article - you'll get the upgrade for free - anyone who bought ImagePrint will get a free update to 6.0 if they purchased the software from October 30th on.

I've had a chance to test out the new software package in both in Mac OX 10.2.8 and Panther - and both work very well. There are a few new exciting features with the following major enhancements:

1. There is a new file browser, similar to the FileBrowser in Photoshop that allows you to browse your hard drive for files to print - which saves a lot of time.

2. You can now "rebuild" previous jobs output to the spooler (a folder where old previous printing jobs are stored.) This means that if you want to make a quick change to a complex, or of course a simple layout, that you made a few days or months ago - you can do so within a few seconds as long as the original source files haven't disappeared. This should save a few people quite a bit of time.

3. You now have an "undo" function.

4. You can now apply both a color paper profile AND a grey profile to the same document - i.e. all neutral RGB levels will have the grey paper profile applied to it and the color portions will have the color profile applied to it. Therefore if you're printing a black and white photo with a color logo - you won't have to find complicated workaround anymore.

5. Tinting has greatly been expanded.

Here is a list of other features: Sepia Tone, Selenium Tone, B/W with colorization, Save layouts to a color managed TIFF, Annotations, Layout Modes (Allows automatic next page generation), Auto sizing, Best Fit sizing, Proof Sheet printing, Rotate templates, general GUI changes, Added a Select All under Image and allow to change scale for all images, Added under Edit an Undo Last, Redo Last selection, Short Cut Key Additions, Option drag image for Horizontal or Vertical lock movement, Arrow keys to nudge image, Preserve Transparency (Allows signatures and logos to be placed on top of an image), Add multi page support to OS level print driver.

As I mentioned above - response to this software has been overwhelmingly positive - everyone seems to agree that the $500 they spend on the software was worth every penny... a demo is available at: http://www.lexjet.com/lexjet/imageprint_downloaddemo.asp

3. GENUINE FRACTALS: I've done a lot of testing and have a lot to say about up-scaling of digital images - techniques that I will write about in the more comprehensive part two of the digital darkroom series - for now I can share the following conclusion: I have found little to no advantage in using Genuine Fractals to upsize images from my EOS 1-D files - step-resizing, or increasing the file size in a number of small steps as opposed to one large step in Photoshop has given me the best results. Working off of the raw TIFF files, and/or the original JPEGS is pivotal in obtaining the best results.

4. PAPER: In short papers are purely a personal/subjective choice. If anything making sure you can obtain a good ICC paper profile for the inks/paper that you use is almost more important than the paper you chose. As mentioned in the previous article ColorByte has almost every paper profile on their ftp site.

As for me: my favorite glossy paper is the Epson Premium Luster paper. I find that the ink stands out far too much on the Premium Glossy paper. I have also used the Ilford Gallery paper and like just as much.

For Matte - my favorite is the Epson Radiant White Watercolor paper for both color and black and white - and I also love the Enhanced Matte for all of my black and white printing. Hahnemühle paper is also pretty wonderful. Readers should also take the time to check out Michael Reichmans web site on digital darkrooms/printing at http://www.luminous-landscape.com

5. Finally a note about the best gadget I've bought this year - and one that I think would be one of the best investments for any sports and/or news photographer who frequently travels ...The Garmin iQue3600 palm Pilot.
(http://www.garmin.com/products/iQue3600/)

Photo by

Garmin iQue3600 palm Pilot.
This is by far an outstanding product. For those of you who have used Hertz's NeverLost GPS technology in their rental cars and have wished they could have one in their own car - this is in my opinion the best solution available today. In fact the interface is extremely similar in performance and accuracy to the NeverLost system - and uses the same NavTech technology.

These GPS systems allow you to enter street addresses, intersections or even search for a local hotel or store name within a specified area with great results - giving you turn by turn directions - both visually and audibly - with pretty incredible accuracy. The first time I used the Hertz NeverLost system - I was in San Francisco and had to meet friends at a downtown restaurant following a playoff game at the Oakland A's.

I had lost their cell phone numbers and simply remembered the name of the restaurant and that is was in San Francisco - no phone number, street name, nothing. Within seconds I found the restaurant's name and the GPS literally chimed with a bell sound telling me I had "arrived" as I pulled up directly in front of the restaurant half an hour later. I looked for years for a system I could use in my personal car but could not find a portable system that cost less than a few thousand dollars. I even used a GPS unit and bought connecting wires, a computer mount, and ended up using a laptop to navigate the DC area streets numbers that I heard called out on my police scanner during the sniper shootings - the system was cumbersome, prone to crashing, and finicky with addresses.

This Garmin unit is nearly perfect. I found mine for $450 at MacMall and added two essential accessories: 1. An SD Memory Card (I bought a 256MB card which allowed me to store the ENTIRE east coast detailed maps from Boston down through NY, NJ, eastern PA, VA, MD and Washington DC, as well as all of the coastal SoCal from San Diego up to Santa Barbara, including Miami, Chicago, Houston (Super Bowl baby!) and Miami. That's an unbelievable amount of info but it all fits on the 256MB SD Card - so most users could probably go with the 128 MB SD card which can be found for well under $70.)

The other essential accessory is the Auto Navigation Kit. The Kit includes a bean bag bracket of sorts which will simply not budge once you place it on your dash - I will vouch that if you slam on your breaks at 35 m.p.h. and I mean SLAM - the thing won't budge...not a bit. And it's easy to simply stuff if under your seat when you're done so as not to draw to much attention to your car. I wasn't to keen on the beanbag idea at first - I wanted something permanently mounted and out of sight to outsiders - but have since change my mind completely.

The kit comes with an AC adapter (which really is essential - the only drawback of this GPS unit is that it draws massive amounts of battery power - and pretty much requires and AC adapter for use of more than 30 minutes use.) It also includes a small speaker that plugs into your cigarette adapter, which allows you to better hear the audible directions from the unit's female voice.

I also purchased the external antenna, which I have suction-cupped to my rear window with the 8-foot cable - which helps in some of the narrow NYC streets, which block most GPS, signal... I'm not sure most people will need this though - the flip-up antenna that is part of the unit works just fine through most environments (remember - GPS signals are line-of-sight signals - unlike a radio signal that GPS signals will not work in tunnels on in heavily forested areas. Mine surprisingly works in the lower level of bridges and tends to hold on in small tunnels.

So does it work? Yup, Yup and YUP!

First it passes the finger test - i.e. - I can scribble in addresses and street numbers with my finger-tip or keys - I don't need to pull out the stylus while I'm driving...(I put some of those sticky plastic/rubber sheets to better protect the screen.)

Second Graffiti, or handwriting technology, sure has improved - I hated the first Palms because I couldn't stand to learn the finicky Graffiti - but his one was a breeze to operate... the screen is very big, as is the area for scribbling your letters. Overall I find it very, very easy to use - even with my bare finger...

Third - it really finds obscure addresses... addresses in malls, obscure streets, and even private gated-communities - I tested all of these things out during my Thanksgiving vacation around LA - and the system worked flawlessly.

Four - you can create a "waypoint" or little flag marker wherever you currently are, or wherever you point to on a map. You can also scroll the mall north, east, west or south with your finger very easily and zoom out with the size wheel or two front buttons - and make a marker anywhere you point to. Ergo if you don't know the exact address you want to go - or want to go to the intersection of two highways you know - click on that point an create a waypoint and name it. It'll be stored forever. See a house you like? Create a waypoint. See a speed trap? Again - create a waypoint.

One cool option is that you can see a list of all of your waypoints at once - and a little arrow shows you how far it is from your current location and how far it is in miles ... really cool for realizing you're near your favorite store of friend's house ... It also categories these waypoints by states or other settings you specify - i.e. my waypoints that I plugged in LA don't show up when I'm in NY - but will still be there the next time I go back.

You can also go to you palm pilot and find someone's contact card - click on the waypoint button and immediately see their address on your map. Ergo when my wife and I went to see her mother in LA - we landed in LAX - I typed her mother's last name - saw her contact info in my palm - clicked on the button to map out her address and within 5-10 seconds had the palm calculate a route and an estimated time of arrival. It really was that easy - and incredibly accurate and responsive.

Five - the estimated time of arrival is frighteningly accurate. Great for telling people / photo subjects when you expect to arrive. You'll find that even with a little unexpected traffic you'll arrive within a minute or two of the estimate. It also dissuades you from speeding ... what's the point of driving 75 mph versus 55 mph on a 30-mile trip when you think of it?

If you don't think of it the GPS will show you that you're really not making any real gain - and that it's definitely not worth the 30-minute pit stop you'll have to make if you're escorted to the side of the road by your friendly law enforcement official.

Six - it works great with finding addresses intelligently. Unlike most map software, which is very consistently frustrating or wrong - this one really works. It has passed all of my tough tests. I was in West Point a few weeks ago and SportsShooter.com member Andrew Gombert mentioned that one of our friends lived nearby. All he had was the street name and number, no city, zip or anything.

The GPS unit knew my current location - so all I typed was 50 in the number field, and River in the street field. I didn't specify Road, Street etc, and limited the results to all of New York State... within two to three seconds it listed the address up at the top of the list, with a distance (it was 2.1 miles away) and listed all the other "River" streets in all of New York state from closest to farthest - the best way of finding the correct "river" road is to list them by how far it is from you no?

While it will list a "river" road in the following county - it will also tell you that it's 46 miles away, and probably not the one you want to go to ... 2-3 seconds later our route was calculated an off we went. It dropped us right in front of our colleague's house - on a street that had been renamed less than a year ago BTW - so the maps are quite recent! It took us about ten turns to make the relatively short trip - calling and writing down the street names would have taken so much more time ... not to mention that piece of paper and dried-out-felt tip pen that is rolling around underneath the passenger seat that you can never find in a rush.

7) There are a lot of GPS units and gadgets available out there - most require cables and batteries and are bulky or can't really be mounted anywhere unless you do so permanently. This is a self-contained unit that I can carry with me - it's also a marvelous Palm -the best I've ever owned by far.

8) You have maps to all of the U.S. and can purchase additional Maps for the U.S. National Parks and other countries.

9) This is SO much better than MapQuest, Yahoo! Maps or any other map service. More accurate. Faster. And obviously portable -not to mention live.

10) If you go off route it re-calculates immediately. It also gives you turn previews quite a few seconds in advance. Tells you your exact speed and heading, and also allows you to view your progress on a map - or with a list of turns in advance. You can therefore confirm the directions turn-by-turn with someone over the phone.

Eleven - you can pop it out indoors and simulate a route - therefore you don't have to have a GPS signal.

Twelve - you can save routes and specify detours, avoid highways, tolls or any number of preferences.

13) You can also type in restaurant names, look for the nearest ATM, airport - you name it - I was in the Valley and wanted to find the nearest Fry's Electronic store - I tapped two icons and with the tip of my finger scrolled the letter F, R, and Y and saw a list of Fry's stores - one that was less that two miles away … ahhh … technology nirvana for the geek in all of us!

The only negative - you can't install the software with a Mac. The good news - you only need to find a friend with a PC to install the maps - once you've done that you'll never really need to use the PC again - unless you want to back up your Palm info. I only use this palm for navigation so it's not an issue for me … it's also not an issue for me because I have the displeasure of having a PC at my disposal for work.

So that's it ... I love it. Wouldn't want to own anything else - and I think there is a good argument for all photo staffs to supply all of their photographers with these units. For a little over $500 they could provide their photogs with a great Palm to keep addresses, e-mails, and contact info (not to mention caption info) and also be able to find any address quickly and accurately (how many times have you driven over an hour to find out a reporter gave you a bogus address, or inverted a character by mistake... think of the time you could save by immediately knowing the address doesn't exist - yes this has already happened to me.) And no - I was not successful in getting my paper to pay for this gadget!

Finally this week I was given a last minute assignment to go to two remote addresses in New Jersey. I really barely had enough time to make it to these two assignments in time to meet our front-page deadline that was less than two hours away.

I hopped into my car, powered up the unit (depending on the signal, it takes a few seconds to a few minutes to calculate your current location) and typed in the first address as I pulled up to my first red light. The first address is one that literally would have taken me 5-10 minutes to find using one of those big map books - and it involved so many turns that I would definitely have taken a few wrong turns on my way there.

I found the first address within seconds and was on my way - I was also able to call the subject who said that he needed to pick up his kids and he wouldn't wait if I couldn't make it within 15 minutes - I was able to tell him that my GPS told me I would be there in 14 minutes (he asked me where I was and I told him I was on the turnpike and was 1.2 miles away from the next highway) - and I arrived 15 minutes later without having made a single wrong turn. The second address was incorrect - and I called the person and asked for an intersection - boom - done.

If there's one negative thing about this technology - it's that you are now so much more relaxed in knowing that you have a good address, and also knowing that you'll get there at a specific time (barring traffic) that in a way you become so much more mellow and complacent when you drive... I tend to zone out... and miss a few turns because I don't bother reading signs anymore... the only thing missing? A wireless service that adds live traffic info to the maps … now that would be amazing!


(Vincent Laforet is a staff photographer with the New York Times and is a frequent contributor to the Sports Shooter Newsletter.)



Related Links:
Vince Laforet's member page

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