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Don’t Take My Kodachrome Away

Scanning Kodachrome • Choosing Quality Lenses • Best ƒ-Stop Revisited • Large-Format Printing

This Article Features Photo Zoom

tech tips
This 35mm Kodachrome 25 image of a northern flicker and its young is more than 20 years old and was scanned on the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000. The Digital ICE feature works on Kodachrome. With the Nikon Coolscan V, this feature doesn’t work.

Scanning Kodachrome
Q I’m using a Nikon Coolscan V to digitize some of my film images into versions I can display or market online. I choose good, technically correct slides to convert. Typically, E-6 images (Velvia, Ektachrome VS, Ektachrome G) look fine as .jpg or .tif files with little extra work. But I’m often disappointed with the results of scanned K25 or K64 Kodachrome slides. What should I do?
C. Toops
Marshall, North Carolina

A You can achieve very good scans of Kodachrome slides on the Nikon V, but you must turn off the Digital ICE option (the function that automatically removes dust spots and scratches). Unfortunately, this means you’ll need to do more corrective work to manually clean these scans. You might also check the Nikon website to be sure your scanner is working with the latest software. The Nikon 5000 scanner is a better option for Kodachrome slides.

Choosing Quality Lenses
Q If quality (not cost, weight or size) was the only criterion, which Canon lenses (L series or EF-S series) are best for use on a camera with a 1.6x (APS-C) sensor?
D. Gerrish
Orange Park, Florida

A Canon’s L series lenses are the manufacturer’s best professional-level optics. The EF-S series includes many consumer-level lenses and can be used only on the smaller-sensored cameras (the Rebel, D30, D40 and D50). Each series offers excellent lens choices for D-SLRs with smaller sensors. In my opinion, to achieve optimum quality, you’d choose lenses from the L series, with one exception. The EF-S 10-22mm wide-angle lens, which gives the smaller-sensored cameras the equivalent wide-angle effect of a 16-35mm zoom mounted to a full-frame camera, has no counterpart in the L series. If quality is your primary concern, another reason to purchase the superior L-series lenses is in preparation for your future acquisition of a D-SLR with a full-frame sensor. Nikon’s D-SLR cameras have full-frame or 1.5x sensors. Their best optics are designated ED. Nikon’s AF-S DX Nikkor 12-24mm ƒ/4G IF ED is the wide-angle lens of choice for the 1.5x sensors.

Best ƒ-Stop Revisited
Q In your article “The Best ƒ-Stop” in “Tech Tips” in the November issue of Outdoor Photographer, you state, “We often use ƒ/16 when we need maximum depth of field and are willing to compromise a little bit on sharpness. But if you stop down even further, to stops such as ƒ/22 and, if possible ƒ/32, you’ll see degradation of the image that’s far worse than photographing wide open. Yes, you’ll get more depth of field, but the overall image will become soft due to diffraction.”

I’ve been told by a very knowledgeable landscape photographer friend that the effects of diffraction connected with ƒ/22 or smaller only become noticeable with 40-inch prints. If this is true, diffraction may be a problem in theory but not in practice (at least for my work). I’m wondering if you accept this view or not.
J. Levin
Via the Internet

A Your friend has a point. All image degradation, including that caused by diffraction, becomes more evident at larger print sizes. But in my opinion, with 35mm film or full-frame digital capture, degradation caused by diffraction will be apparent in prints as small as 81⁄2×11. This may be less of a problem for landscape photographers who shoot with a wide-angle focal length because the magnification on the film or sensor is minimal at wide angles. Diffraction is greatly increased by magnification in the camera. If you want to test this out for yourself, try shooting a macro shot at 2x or more with a variety of ƒ-stops. You’ll get excellent sharpness at ƒ/8 and a very unsharp image at ƒ/16. Finally, if you shoot a landscape image at ƒ/22 and ƒ/32 with a medium- or large-format camera, you’ll have less diffraction due to the large lens openings. There are many variables associated with the issue of diffraction, but I always consider this factor when making my exposure settings in any given situation. I always want to get the sharpest possible image and never want to unnecessarily limit my print or publication options in advance. There are better ways to achieve the necessary depth of field, from landscape to macro, without resorting to small apertures. See our article, “Unlimited Depth Of Field” in the July issue of Outdoor Photographer.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Large-Format Printing
Q This past year, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History featured an exhibit, “Ocean Views,” which had a fantastic collection of high-quality, very large prints—40×60 inches or larger. Many were made with lower-resolution cameras such as the Canon 20D (8 megapixels) and even the Canon D60 (6 megapixels). In your December 2007 “Tech Tips” column on this subject, you wrote, “I’ve produced 60×90-inch prints of a single California poppy from a Canon EOS-1Ds (11.7 megapixels) that I consider gallery worthy.” How do you get large gallery-quality prints from lower-resolution cameras? Until “Ocean Views,” I never thought it was possible.
G. Goben
San Antonio, Texas

A There’s no substitution for a large, quality file, whether it be from film or digital capture, when attempting to make large prints. That said, the quality of an enlarged image can be maximized in a number of ways. First, the image itself, regardless of the camera that captured it, must be perfect. The person who optimizes the image in photo-imaging software (e.g., Photoshop) must be very skilled in extracting and maximizing every bit of sharpness and color residing in the image. Regardless of the size of the original file, it will need to be interpolated, that is, enlarged to the size of the print. During enlargement, the pixels are spread farther apart, and the interpolation software fills in the empty spaces. You can imagine that the print resulting from this process could be pretty awful because now you have manufactured information filling in the blanks, but there are programs designed to adeptly accomplish this process. I personally use the latest version of Photoshop, but there are other useful programs, such as Genuine Fractals (onOne Software), Blow Up (Alien Skin Software) or PhotoZoom (BenVista). Because of the need for interpolation, the amount of fine detail in the image also will dictate the potential for enlargement. My enormous single poppy works, in part, because the image information isn’t terribly complicated, while the enlargement potential of a more complex image with many small details spread throughout the image, such as a macro image of the scales on a butterfly wing, might be more limited.

The enlarged file needs to be printed by a highly skilled printer on a top-of-the-line, large-format photographic printer, available from Canon, Epson or HP. Don’t underestimate the complexities of achieving superior large-format prints with these very sophisticated machines. There’s a good reason the manufacturers recognize some of the most accomplished printers (the Canon PrintMasters, the Epson Print Academy) and use them in their educational outreach programs. If you’re going to enter this realm in a serious way, you may want to attend a large-format printing seminar offered by Canon or Epson.

Images with lower resolution usually look best on a textured paper such as watercolor or canvas. Only the sharpest images with excellent detail will render well on glossy or semi-glossy paper. All images are best viewed from an appropriate distance. Even knowing this, it’s natural to look closely at a photographic print to appreciate its detail and the printer’s skill. But to embrace the photographer’s artistry, the viewer must step back far enough to view the entire image at one glance, without panning, that is, far enough to see the details of the image without the distracting details of the imaging process.

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.