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Archive for September, 2010

ImageNest 3.0 – Mac Print Layout Software Review

September 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Get a 10% discount on ImageNest printing software by using this the coupon code: 10dis

Image Nest 3.0 Interview with Joshua Lubbers

Mike: Hi, I’m Michael Stewart with foto-tech.com. I’m here at studio 76 in Herndon Virginia with Joshua Lubbers. Joshua has come to our photography studio to show us the newest version of Image Nest. It’s a Mac multi-image layout tool. The software is Image Nest 3.0 and it’s designed to do exactly that; nest multiple images in one layout. The program is a simple to use postscript rip that’s focused on layout for print. It is also designed to reducing paper usage. Layouts can also be saved as PDFs. Image Nest works on all printers because it utilizes the printer’s driver for output. There are five different versions of Image Nest: Desktop for 13” and smaller prints, small for 17” printers, medium for 24”printers, large and extra-large for 44” and 64” printers. Joshua is generously offering a 10% discount if you use the link from foto-tech. To take advantage of the 10% discount, use the link at foto-tech.

Joshua thanks for coming into the studio to show us Image Nest 3.0. How are you doing with Image Nest 3.0?

Josh: We are doing great Mike, you know; all the features in 3.0 are things that were specifically asked for by our user base. We are pretty dedicated to try to invite and to come up with new features and keep our people happy. The best thing about 3.0 is that it’s a free update. All of our updates are free: You won’t get that promise from a lot of developers.

Mike: You guys are really pumping out the new features and updates, so your free upgrades policy is amazing. Can you tell us why we would use Image Nest for layout instead of Photoshop or Lightroom?

Josh: Well; what Image Nest really does that is unique and different from Photoshop or Light Room or anything that is traditionally a photo editor is that it opens up to a page layout, rather than just your images; so it’s very easy and very quick to put lots of images on a page. You can size them, you can move them around, you can snap them to grid, anything you need to make a good layout,  to use all of the paper that you have, is what Image Nest is for.

Mike: I almost never print out of Photoshop because layout and workflow is so slow, but I do print out of Lightroom on my Windows machines. Lightroom’s a great tool, but all the images you want to print have to be in the same catalog and it’s missing some key features that Image Nest has. On my Mac I use Lightroom to edit but I make most of my prints using Image Nest. Image Nest saves me a lot of paper. I have more options, better softproofing and it’s a faster workflow. One major concern for me with printing from Lightroom is that in proofing files that will be delivered to a client or uploaded, I don’t want to see edits that are only in the Lightroom database and not the actual file. I also like the way Image Nest allows me to add text. Can you talk about the text features in Image Nest?

Josh: Sure, one of the things our costumers told us in version one and two is that they would really like to be able to put in a custom comment, or a file name, or the date it was made or the date it was printed. All these different things are already inside your file, so we can place them above your image, below your image, to the left or to the right. You can choose a font, you can choose a color, you can choose a background, so your creative process and what you want to do, we give you the flexibility to do.

Mike: Those caption and border options are really useful. Tell us about the color management in Image Nest.

Josh: Well, fortunately I came from a color management background before we even started programing. We took care of the color management a user consideration would need. First of all with photographers we recognize embedded profiles so if you‘ve embedded a profile in your image we recognize and use it. We also allow users to select their output profile so that they can soft proof on their screen, so they’re seeing exactly what will come out of their printer on their screen.

Mike: How do you handle multiple files with different color profiles? For example, if I want to print a S-RGB JPEG on the same page as a DNG file and a CMYK TIFF.

Josh: That’s a great question, if we have different profiles we can respect all of the profiles. Since we are independent of an input space we can map your file with Adobe 1998 to your output profile or to your CMYK SWoP v2 profile, it doesn’t matter, we can map each as individual images and they will be mapped to your output profile.

Mike: Right on, I’ve found the ability to print DNG files very useful. Most of my image archives are DNGs and Image Nest utilizes the corrected full size JPEG to make my print.

Mike: let’s look at the new features in 3.0 that we’ve been playing with today. What have you done to Image Nest for the 3.0 release?

Josh: One of the first things we’ve done is the application color management; you can color manage in your application, just like Photoshop or Light Room or aperture or any of those other image programs. So that makes it easier to do soft proofing and to get that wysiwyg feeling, what you see is what you get.

Mike: Actually, I think your color management background has helped you here. Your softproofing is easier than Photoshop and Lightroom really doesn’t softproof at all. What else have you added?

Josh: Another thing:  we have a 64bit, we were programed natively as a 64 bit program, but the problem we ran into was that so many print drivers would not work with 64 bit programs. Now that Mac 10.6 has gotten popular all the drives have been updated to 64 bit. We’re running in our native mode, which is 64 bit. Much faster, much more memory and much cleaner.

Mike: Big time speed improvement with the 64 bit processing and Image Nest uses the computers GPU as well. Modern graphics cards have lots of cores and can process images much faster than CPUs. Your programmers have really done a nice job on those graphics processors. What else is new?

Josh: New layout modes: we have a manual method; previously we automatically did everything to fit and we still do that does all your rotation, all your moving around the image on the page to squeeze every millimeter out of that piece of paper, but lots of people wanted to make just kind of collages and wanted to leave extra space and our algorithm was trying to maximize space and they didn’t want that, so we put manual mode, which allows people to move images around manually to their liking.

Um rotation, prior we automatically rotated everything and we didn’t need a rotation feature. But now that we have a manual mode we allow the user to rotate for aesthetics.

Mike: The manual layout mode is definitely the biggest new feature in my opinion. Sometimes I need to optimize my layout to save paper and Image Nest does this automatically but sometimes I want to move the images around manually until they look good. What are the other new layout features?

Josh: Image alignment grid with snap to feature. That’s a great new feature where you can custom make your own grid with vertical and horizontal. Images will align to it so it makes moving images around very easy and very very accurate.

We added in cut, copy and paste. Kind of a simple thing that was missing. Lots of users just wanted to use apple C V; put another copy of the image.

Another thing we did was overlapping. If someone wants to really to squeeze every millimeter out of it, and doesn’t mind clipping a little bit, you can place an image above or behind another image, so there is virtually no white space when using image overlapping.

New cut mark styles:  We added in new cut marks due to user requests. Some users wanted outward facing cut marks, so we added outward facing marks to align with their current cutters.

Mike: Obviously Image Nest 3.0 was a huge release for you guys. What are your developers working on now?

Josh: Well one of the things we’re working on now and expect to have out in the next two months is the ability for people to take a layout and write it out to a JPEG or a TIFF. Lots of users have asked for this because they would like to use Image Nest to do layout and then produce a JPEG or TIFF and to send to their photo lab.

Mike: It would be convenient to be able to save JPEGs and TIFFs. I save my Image Nest layouts as PDFs and convert them later if necessary. I also found I could use the PDF layouts as Web pages.

Thanks for sharing with us and thank you for giving our viewers a 10% discount on your products. Until next time, may all your prints be beautiful and bring you much joy. This is Michael Stewart for foto-tech.com.

2010 iMac 27″ Photoshop Performance Test

September 16th, 2010 Comments off

There aren’t really any meaningful Photoshop performance  test’s (bench test).  Photoshop utilizes computer resources based on so many variables that it’s difficult to tell what the bottlenecks are with a single Photohop performance test. The Retouch Artist performance test is somewhat useful and it’s a good start for devising your own test. I use Photoshop performance tests that are specific to the operations and file sizes that I perform repeatedly; like merge five 21 Megapixel images to HDR or smart sharpen a 50MB 16Bit TIFF. Merge to HDR is a hard drive intensive test and sharpening is CPU intensive. I’m using these tests to optimize my performance preferences in Photoshop and my scratch disks. The hardware test you use should be done on the file sizes you regularly use.

There are many commercially available performance tests that will give you a general idea of how hardware is performing. These bench tests are posted all over the internet (barefeats.com), so if you’re looking for performance information on a computer you don’t own, like a 2010 27″ iMac, there’s probably plenty of data about it online. Here are a couple of nice videos from TechFast Lunch that compare the Core i5 iMac with the upgrade core i7 iMac.

Apple’s 2010 27” i5 and i7 iMac models are a thing of beauty. We recently put one in the studio to use as a print server. I truly feel that Apple got it right on this one for the average user. We got ours from B&H Photo Video because the price is the same as Apple’s, but there’s no sales tax and their shipping is amazingly fast. I ordered on Monday and had it on Wednesday. The price point is acceptable for the outstanding features Apple has included. Here’s a quick rundown of the options and some suggestions for “pimping it out”.

The 27” display back lit display is excellent. It has the same resolution as my 30” displays and I really don’t miss those 3 inches. It’s supported by a robust video card.

The i5 processor is a good base model, but upgrading to an i7 processor for $200 is worth the money if you’re going to be using it all day for image processing. I found this example useful and here are some bench Tests:

The RAM modules are easily upgraded by the user, so I wouldn’t buy it from Apple. It uses DDR3 1333 SO-DIMMs which are usually used in laptops. G.Skill has an excellent selection of products that will do the job and it’s cheaper to get it with the minimum and even replace the existing memory if necessary. Again, 8 gigs of ram is a good base, but if you’re doing image processing all day, then 16 gigabytes is what you need.  We bought our GSkill mac ram from Newegg.

Hardrive space is the real weakness of the iMac models. There are a few solutions to the problem, but it’s a little complicated. Inside the machine, there are three total SATA II connections. The stock model has room for one full size 3.5” drive and one 2.5” SSD drive. There’s also one external firewire 800 port. This is the place that the 2010 iMac 27” models need to be pimped out the most. Here are the options for configuring drives:

Stock from Apple: you can get a 1TB or 2TB($150 upgrade) 3.5” drive and also have a specially mounted SSD. They don’t include the special mount unless you order it with a SSD. You can also get your iMac with 2 SSD Drives and no spinning drive. The 1TB and 2TB drives are either Western Digital or Seagates, you can tell which one you got by the serial number on your iMac. There are some issues with how the fans work if you replace these drives with another model.

Replacing the drives inside of an iMac is a bit tricky, but it is possible. Here’s a good tutorial on the process from ifixit.  I recommend leaving this to the professionals at OtherWorldComputting.  My recommendation for upgrading hard drives on a 27”, to make it an image processing workstation, is to ship it to OtherWorld and let them configure it the way you want. They have excellent SSD Drives that use the  SandForce SSD controller. Here’s what they offer as options for utilizing the three available SATA II connections:

#1 Move one SATA to the outside of the computer. I highly recommend doing this, because the connection will be roughly twice as fast as the firewire 800. You can then connect eSATA hard drive enclosures. Unfortunately the eSTA enclosures will not be hot swappable. You will need to shut down your iMac to switch from one enclosure to another.

#2 Replace the internal DVD burner with a SSD. You would then need a USB II connect DVD burner, but they are cheap ($40) and work fine. This is a great option because you can have an internal SSD and an Internal 3.5” Spinning disk.

#3 Replace the internal 3.5” with a SSD or a bigger faster 3.5”

The hard drive configuration you choose should be based on the kind of image processing you do. My general recommendation is to replace the DVD with a 240GB SSD and run the OS and programs off of that. I would also move Adobe Lightroom Catalogs and “working” files to that drive. Next, I recommend a 2TB drive in the 3.5” bay and an eSATA modification. The eSATA is the only way to really get the hard drive space necessary for a large archive of images.

That sums up the options you have in configuring hardware on a 2010 iMac 27″.  It’s a solid performer and it looks right at home in a photography studio.

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