Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hipstamart 7" Prints / Print Optimization Intro / Lunar Module

[source image removed: Super sweet iphone Leica IIIf sticker drawn by Suguru Nishioka]
You may wish to express interest in the incredible Leica iIIIf iphone 4 covering from Chasmic Studio.

Today I write about the Hipstamart print lab and discuss portions of my storied past related to optimizing output quality. I drift into discussions of the Apollo space program (again). The worldwide interest and the swell in readership is amazing. Thank you.

(insert Instax shot of branches when scanned)

Last night, the Powerbook 1400 blog entry took on a life of it's own. This day began with the sting-free, ~300m transport of the bee hive. Completely uneventful. The little Italian ladies seemed to be concerned with activities inside and not me. (older home movies).

Then, a generous gift for the use of my dslr:
Gifts, Andrew D. Barron ©1/31/11
Pentax filter case, UV filter, collapsible lens hood. Thank you James!

The photo above was taken using my new diopting or close up filters. This purchase started a chain of special moments and now I have the UV filter I mentioned for my Instax 210!
Close up filters, Andrew D. Barron ©1/31/11
Both shots are sitting on the warre hive's roof.

I tried out the 7" prints from the Hipstamart. Shooting on an iphone 3G, my max resolution is 1200 pixels square. I was not expecting much. I didn't do any level adjustments or Unsharp Mask because I figured the sharpening artifacts would be as offensive as a 'straight from the Hipstamatic' image at this size. I placed the order Friday and they arrived this morning 1/31/11. I cannot imagine how this is accomplished.

Check out this confusing image! Another forced perspective using sunlight and a mirror. The square prints are 7" enlargements of very recent 'favorite' Hipstamatic 190 shots. Seven inches square is a neat size! The green leaf is a Costco photolab 8"x12" print, the largest that I think 5mp photos can be printed. Below, HUGE prints from a freakin' phone camera!
Hipstamart 7 inch prints, Andrew D. Barron ©1/31/11
The prints work out to $3.13 each, shipped. People are using 10" square frames with the print in front of the matte.

I think they came out amazing as prints. I'm not talking about color, my photography, etc. I'm saying that 7" (that's only 171dpi) prints from a phone camera should not look good, but they do.

Last week I inquired about their print process and Glen of the Hipstamart staff was very helpful. Most everything I've always wanted to know about photographic prints of digital images are detailed in their press release from 9/17/10. The machine that makes the prints is a Frontier 370. I could not locate a manufacturer page for this printer as yet. Here's an excerpt from the Hipstamart press release:

1. A digital image passes through sophisticated imaging processing software. We use the finest current color management software. This is key to quality color reproduction.
2. RGB lasers expose Type C photographic paper.
(specifically Fujicolor Crystal Archive paper, in matte finish).

The mystery remains what exactly is 'sophisticated color management', but as I wrote before, the Hipstamart lab has a huge advantage at knowing the three iphone cameras of the 3G, 3GS, and i4 (more if there's itouch cameras). The low resolution images of iPhone pictures are treated as best as they can be. So, in general, my fundamental question is unanswered: what is the maximum dpi that can be discerned when printing digital images with photographic process, here in 2011?

Hat's off to Chris in the U.K. for his continuing amazing Hipstamatic 4g photography!

Goodbye readers (begin the long winded backstory)
You may think this is esoteric crap, and you may be right. My interest in print quality optimization dates back to 1991, when I worked with Gene "Doc" Russell on electrostatic plates and an offset press. Eventually, I found my way to San Francisco in 1997 to work for northern California's electric company. The 5 person GIS group was small and productive. The talent in that group was staggering. I set myself up to become the 'printing quality' expert. I experimented with color palette constructions. So a workflow was ironed out and map a production style that used colors built from graduated steps of ink colors in CMYK space. Our printer was a workhorse, an HP Designjet 650, but it was only 300dpi and not very precise. To improve perceptual sharpness, I set up color palettes using pure individual CMY colors, or mixtures of just two inks. Normal people choose colors based on the palette in RGB space. At that time, the splatterings of the inkjet ink made for muddy colors. I endeavored to create "CMYK Pure" colors, and it worked.

In the old days, there were problems with crashing computers and printers from too many pixels. Digital elevation models have always been my favorite mapping tool. Working with Dr. Richard Pike was truly an honor. He had been an Apollo mission scientist studying and inferring surface characteristics of the lunar surface. Their team's work went to engineering to design the suspension for the lunar rovers. I shot this for Dr. Pike while traveling through North Carolina in 2007. I made my first and only Atlantic sunrise and sunset on that trip to the Outer Banks (though these shots are in Durham).
Lunar rover suspension, Andrew D. Barron ©2007
The sign said, Engineers used this particular Lunar Module, M-5, as the final test mock-up before they began building the lunar modules that went into space.
Lunar Module M-5, Andrew D. Barron ©2007
Lunar Module M-5, Andrew D. Barron ©2007
Lunar Module M-5, Andrew D. Barron ©2007
In 1991(!) Dr. Pike contributed this map with Gail Thelin, the first shaded-relief of the United States ever composited. Considering computer hardware in 1990, the required effort for the 1:2million scale poster is admirable.

Where was I? I get distracted by shaded relief maps every time. . .
oh yes. optimizing cell size to minimize printer and computer distress in the old days.

So I experimented with cell sizes and the perceptual impacts on print quality of say, a 250m cell size at 1:500,000 versus a 500m cell size at the same scale; all qualitative with test prints. I learned a lot about resampling, image perception, and ARC/Info. It took time and a focused experiment. My group at the electric transmission division was unforeseeably supportive of these efforts, and in stark, absurd contrast to my brief return 12 years later in another group (gas).

I was fortunate to follow up the DEM experimentation work nearly a decade later at the Desert Research Institute in 2006 under Dr. Scott Bassett. I've long regretted leaving before publishing that work, which remains on a hard drive some where. Yet my departing adventure, a 15 month musical sojourn to Kentucky and Tennessee, taught me much about love, America and traditional American music. Oh, and probably photography, too.

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