Price: $549 rrp
Just right for the job
THE LOW-DOWN: The Epson V600 is not a new product – it won a prize for best photo scanner way back in 2010 – but it was chosen for a particular project (see today’s story) because of its modest price and features well suited to the job. Hybrid flat-bed/film scanners inevitably involve compromises but the V600 comes close to offering the best of both types. Negative film strips and transparencies in mounts are held in place with easy to use frames and can be scanned at resolutions up to 6400X9600 dpi. Up to 12 negative frames, four 6×6 frames or four transparencies can be scanned with a single pass. Epson’s scanner user interface is good but not intuitive. By default the interface is set to Full Auto or Home mode and they will not satisfy serious users – set it to Professional even if you don’t think you qualify.
LIKE: The scanned image quality is very good, both for black and white negatives and for 50 year old Kodachrome slides. Scanning 35mm originals at 9600dpi produces a big file that translates into a 140x90cm at 240dpi in Photoshop, giving head room for cropping and size reduction. Scanning at very high resolutions is slow and is best done one frame at a time because the scanner has a tendency to shut down when overloaded. Scans at up to 1200dpi can be done in bulk.
DISLIKE: The software supplied with the printer is out of date and will not work with the latest versions of Mac OSX. The latest drivers must be downloaded from Epson.
VERDICT: If you have been thinking about (and procrastinating) digitising the family photo archive the V600 is a reasonably inexpensive and efficient way of doing it.
Melbourne nonagenarian photographer Angus O’Callaghan has been getting attention recently for his 1970 photographs of the city. Breathless reporters write about 70s photographs as though they can scarcely believe that the camera was invented so long ago. And collectors feel the same, paying thousands for Mr O’Callaghan’s prints.
Well, if the seventies seem pre-history what about the sixties? The 60s could even qualify as the golden age of street photography in these parts and we have a few thousand negatives to support our contention. The time has come to set about the tedious task of holding them up to the light to see what’s there and then to scan them into digital form.
The Epson V600 recommended itself for the job, being reasonably priced and scanning up to twelve negatives or four transparencies in a single pass. A dedicated film/slide scanner would be better but until we start selling prints at O’Callaghan prices a film scanner might be over-capitalising the project.
Looking back at these fifty year old negatives is a reminder of how different it was for street photographers in the distant past. You might not believe this but you could point your camera at a small child and get an instant, open and happy response. If parents were in the vicinity they were chuffed that you thought their kid was worth photographing.
What’s more there were plenty of children playing in the streets to be photographed. The only thing that could have kept them indoors was Happy Hammond on their seventeen inch black and white TV.
The sixties was the end of old Melbourne. Once the yuppies began to gentrify the inner suburbs there was no place for the bottle-o and his son to collect their empties. It was also the decade in which the central business district went through the disastrous modernisation process, replacing graceful old buildings with bland concrete and glass monstrosities.
Hardest to believe now is that you could take photos everywhere. At Essendon Aerodrome you could walk through the terminal building onto the tarmac and snap away to your heart’s content, taking photos of ground crew standing under the wing of a Vickers Viscount with screaming engines while not wearing protective ear-muffs. Well, OK, some things are better today.
So, the moral of the O’Callaghan story is that if you are old enough you could be sitting on a gold mine.
Price: $63 from Apple app store
Low cost Photoshop alternative
THE LOW-DOWN: Serif’s Affinity Photo came out of beta testing last month and is now in release on the app store, for Apple only. This photo editing program is a plausible alternative to Photoshop with all the functions necessary for photo manipulation. Once installed some of its processes can also be accessed from Apple Photos in edit mode. Being an Apple app means that a single purchase will open in all computers connected to the same Apple ID. The interface is nicely designed and is welcoming to anyone familiar with Photoshop but there are just enough differences to make for a fairly steep learning curve. The app gets an Best App of 2015 imprimatur in the app store. There is a free trial version from serif.com
LIKE: The desktop interface is an attractive work space and all the basic and familiar editing controls are arranged in the toolbar on the left and the process adjustment controls for white balance, exposure, contrast, sharpness, curves and levels and panels for Layers and Effects on the right. The basic concept of Personas(?) takes some getting used to. Three icons above the main screen give access to Photos Persona – for import and processing – Liquify Persona – for shape changing – and Develop Persona which has to be activated before the editing can be completed and saved.
DISLIKE: There is no user manual which means that there is total dependence on the Help menu which includes a large group of tutorial videos, each just a few minutes long and giving instructions for one process per video – a cumbersome way of making a new user familiar with the working of the program.
VERDICT: Affinity Photo is the best low cost alternative to Photoshop for the Mac currently available. Unlike Photoshop Elements, which is much more expensive, Affinity Photo is a serious application with no concession to the user who wants automation.
Zinio, as no doubt you know, is the newsagent of the interweb. Through Zinio we can subscribe to hundreds of magazine titles for download and reading on pads, tablets, phones and computers. And photo reproduction on high resolution tablets beats print on paper any day.
A useful and inspiring magazine like the British Amateur Photographer can be delivered electronically to your device every week for $230 a year (zinio.com) – a hefty price to pay for a periodical, no matter how good it is. You do get the advantage of instant alert as soon as it is available and the experience of reading tutorial articles and looking at outstanding photos on a high resolution display helps improve our own photography, but there’s no getting away from the off-putting price.
Zinio has many Australian, British and American photographic magazine titles on its stand and they are all good and also not cheap. Now, here’s the good news – you may be able to access many or all of these titles free and entirely legally.
Many public libraries now subscribe to the Zinio Library service. Using this service gives access to magazines exactly as if you are the subscriber. The public library in this vicinity subscribes to 200 titles, including Australian PhotoReview, Digital SLR Photography, Australian Camera, Digital Photography, ProPhoto, Amateur Photographer and Practical Photography. Altogether representing hundreds of dollars of annual subscriptions.
The libraries also subscribe to other magazine categories including titles of interest to Windows, Apple and Android users. If you have always hankered after Rolling Stone or The Economist and couldn’t afford them hesitate no longer , they are yours free.
The sub-subscribing (if that is the word) procedure is easy. First, register online with your library for digital access – which means setting up an account with email and password using your library borrower’s number. Then download and install the Zinio Libraries app from the Apple or Google stores. (This is not the Zinio app but specifically the Zinio Libraries variation). You enter the ID that you created and check “Remember me” and you are in business. You now have access to all the titles in the library collection.
Anyone who has been a paid subscriber through Zinio may notice an anomaly in the libraries version of the service – the magazines load faster. Were your council rates ever put to better use?