Friday, June 23, 2006

Eyeone Display video tutorial for clients

Most photographers I help with color are at remote locations. So I use the phone, Skype and email to interact with them, and above all, I try to recommend easy to use solutions.

With ease of use first in mind, I'm liking the Eyeone Display 2 package a lot these days. It's easy to buy, easy to use, and I can point clients at a very nice web video which explains what it's all about. Every Eyeone system buyer should watch the video.

There's another thing I like about the Eyeone, and that's the white ambient light shoe which acts as protection. I've an Eyeone in my travel bag, and don't want the sensor side damaged. Now, I did suggest to Gretag that they add a cheap pouch and sell it in a bubble pack, so that buyers would get the "buy it for the office, use it at home" idea, but as with most of my suggestions it fell on deaf ears. Hey folks, it was a suggestion, not a criticism !

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Capture NX brings innovative edit tools

Nikon Capture NX is Nikon's latest entry in the Raw conversion turf battle, and it would appear to be a major step forward, innovating with a new local image editing paradigm called Control Points. Creative Pro has done a nice review.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Rumors of Basiccolor back-to-basics profilers.

A high-placed source at Basiccolor, speaking on condition of anonymity — yes Heidi, I wish I were a political journalist— indicates that two new streamlined products are being fueled up for launch from Penzberg.

One is an RGB print profiler that I believe is code-named Droprgb, the other a CMYK profiler named Cmykick.

These two packages do not drive instruments for acquisition— they expect a measurement file containing spectral data to be dropped on them. Apparently they don't require any configuration either - when a measurements files is dropped, a profile gets generated and written into the right places, as required by the host OS.

I guess someone over there in Penzberg with a doctorate in physics must have argued that the company's core competence is color and not interface design. Or maybe it was someone with sound business sense. In any case, I would agree - there is room for simple software in the CMS arena.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Photoshop CS2 9.01 print bug: Revert to Original 9.0 Disks !

Reports on the Adobe forums, indicate that the 9.01 update of Photoshop CS2, when running on certain updates of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, is having serious color management issues when creating files for printing. Ian Lyons has posted an image of the bug and a workaround.

I would think that building profiles might also be problematic on any affected computer — profiles built with an affected configuration might well be worthless and need to be redone.

Printing from InDesign is also a solution. However,
I would suggest users revert Photoshop back to the original Photoshop 9.0 disk install, and upload the current Adobe Raw Converter if they need Raw capability. This should keep people out of trouble with any latter Apple update to Mac OS 10.4.x — even users with no present issue might have problems when they update the system.

This is surely just a temporary hiccup, and I expect Apple and Adobe will resolve it soon. Adobe's flagship application is renowned for its stability, especially when compared to software that comes out of Redmond. However, this is yet another indication that updates to production systems may be avoided, except when security mandates them.

Update: I got the following email from Bob Frost:

According to Adobe, it is a bug in OSX 10.4 (not in CS2) and they are waiting for Apple to fix it.

Bob Frost

Monday, June 12, 2006

Gutenprint versus native Epson driver gamut

Here are the gamuts, courtesy of the Gamut Warning in Photoshop. One can see the extended shadow range as well as the deficit in the reds.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gutenprint / Gimp-Print inkjet RIP review Part 1 — RGB

I have started to look at the Gimp-Print inkjet drivers (now called Gutenprint). In conjunction with other preinstalled components such as CUPS and Ghostscript, this open source system project forms a RIP system, supporting 8 and 16 bit RGB and CMYK files as well as PDF and Postscript, and it's present on every Mac, and can run on every Linux box.

Today, I'll just discuss my findings when using the beta Gutenprint V5.0 RC3 as an inkjet RGB driver for printing images from Photoshop.

Nutshell report: Very easy to install and very good results, on a par with the proprietary Epson RGB driver. However, it's painful to configure. Gutenprint's excellent functionality is obscured (read obfuscated) by an interface overloaded with undocumented options.

Equipment used: Epson 2400, connected to a Dual 2.5 Ghz PowerMac G5 printing on Epson archival matte. Profiling with XRITE DTP-70 spectro and Monaco Profiler 4.8, eyeball evaluation by using the Chromacity target, and male and female eyes.

Installation: On the Mac, an update installation of the latest GutenPrint is easy, via a package that can be downloaded from Sourceforge. Creation of a print queue is done via the Mac's Printer Setup app, and is well documented in a PDF supplied with the package. Gutenprint does as well here as the Epson driver.

Printer Configuration: On the Mac you set up the printer by pointing a browser at the CUPS web interface, located at
http://localhost:631 and there are zillions of incomprehensible parameters. Hint: Set the printer to Line Art if you are doing profiled printing with Photoshop working as the color engine. I'd say this is the only bad aspect of this driver.

Printing: You can print to your newly installed Gutenprint device from Photoshop via the usual Print with Preview dialog. Although the margins are different, everything ends up at the right place when you click the "Center Image" checkbox. Nothing new here - and that's exactly the way we want it.

Print Speed: On my Epson 2400, Gutenprint was slow. Not unusably slow but much much much slower than the Epson driver. Long pauses between passes. Maybe I need a USB 2.0 cable ?

Profile Quality: I profiled both Gutenprint and the proprietary driver with Monaco Profiler, using the simple 343 patch target that results in very smooth inkjet profiles. Looking at the target indicated Gutenprint has a better linearization out of the box. The gamut looked fairly similar to the Epson driver, except in the reds where there may be a bug. The Gutenprint gamut seemed better in the shadows.

Print Quality: Looking at the Chromaticity target, rendered perceptually.
  • -Neutrals were neutral, shadow gradients smooth.

  • - Gutenprint had better shadow detail.
  • - The Epson shows a smidge more contrast (due to the blocked shadows ?) and slightly more sharpness.
  • - Highlight definition of colored zones looks better with the Gutenprint driver.
  • - I'd say the reds are significantly better with Epson's driver.
  • - Examination with a loupe showed a weave/stripe pattern on the Gutenprint sample, while the Epson sample showed more random fill patterns. However this is not visible to the naked eye.
  • - The Colorchecker looked good on both samples, except - you guessed it- for the red patch. The red is better but not perfect as rendered by the Epson driver. But then, of course I printed with perceptual rendering.

Daylight/Indoors: Disparities between the samples seemed stronger in incandescent light. They matched more closely in daylight.

Suggested improvements: A minor quibble, there is a slight gamut issue with the reds on the 2400, at least on matte paper. I guess this is something that could be easily fixed by adjusting the linearization settings, but I don't know how to do it. Apart from that, to solve the zillion settings issue by giving people decent starting points, I suggest bundling some pre-configured settings into the install package, one of which would be a good-quality no-color-correction settings-set for the CMS crowd, and another for normal users wanting to print photos. I'd also recommend some sort of HTML documentation for the settings options. Apart from a very slight deficit of sharpness, I don't see much in the functionality that needs improving. Some tools for linearisation might be a useful adjunct however. Oh yes, and then there is the speed problem.

Summary: The Gutenprint RGB printer driver, when profiled, offers equivalent quality to Epson's printer driver. Indeed Gutenprint seems particularly well suited to portraits because of good shadow and highlight rendering. In the next part of this review we'll be looking at what Gutenprint can do that Epson's driver cannot - did you say CMYK and Postscript ?

Addendum: Yes, I will make custom profiles for this driver on request. Provided you already know how to use it.