Digital darkroom setup
What does a great digital image look like?
What is a good printer, scanner and or computer?
There is a short list of things you must have for your computer.
The optional items that make digital imaging fun
Compare the following two images:
The image on your left is the superior image. The things to look for that make it a great image are:
No noise: The image on your right is peppered with colors that are reasonably close to the original image. Do not mistake that for more resolution. That is a combination of random noise generated by the scanner and the scanner's low CCD count. The image on your left does not have much, if any, noise.
Detail: The image on your left resolves far more detail with more accuracy than the right. Look carefully at the pupil. There is far more data in and around this area than the image on the right.
So what? I don't take pictures of eyeballs. I take pictures of people and things.
Your monitor is a low-resolution viewing device as compared to your scanner and photo-quality printer. To judge quality, one must view minute details on a monitor to determine image quality. If the both images were printed on a $500-on-up printer, the noise is not readily apparent as noise, but as an image that lacks sharpness and detail.
Scanner specification have attached themselves to the Dots-Per-Inch (DPI)descriptor as a convenient way to sell high resolution. Most scanners are stating their Pixels Per Inch (PPI)as DPI. The resolution number is largely fiction.
The resolution claims made by printer manufacturers are approximations based on their printer's capacity to place different color dots together to simulate detail and a wider range of color. These numbers are largely fiction as well. The best ink jet printers don't resolve more than 250ppi, so how could low-cost printers do better?
The easy answer to a great scanner/computer/printer combination is buy an Apple MACINTOSH.
Apple takes good care to make image capture and reproduction a trouble-free system. Far better than Microsoft's current color systems. Everyone's needs are quite different, so it's very hard to comment on specific setups. No matter your final decisions, a Macintosh makes it all easier.
Beyond that simple answer, follow these tips:
Consider Epson's less-than $500 flatbed scanners. The Nikon film scanning product is no better than Polaroid's. Buy Silverfast scanning software from Lasersoft for your scanner. It's the best scanning software I've ever seen. Rarely will you get the full version of Silverfast bundled with your scanner. Their full version is far better than their OEM product.
Finally, a really good printer is necessary to complete the system. My mid-range recommendation is the Olympus dye-sub printer. My low-range recommendation at the time of writing (April 2002)is an Epson 880/1280. For the black-and-white photo market, HP has the new 7960 printer that can render lots more shades of gray. Their resolution claims are dubious, (so are Epson's and Canon's) but I'd like to see what kind of grayscale representation they can do.
Consider a color calibration and perhaps a characterizing solution if you are serious about minimizing your color shifts. Got to my color management page.