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Image download: Transferring image files to a computer

There are several ways to transfer the images from the media card of your camera to the hard disk of your computer.

Included with every digital EOS camera kit is an interface cable. One end plugs into the digital socket of the camera, the other has a FireWire or USB connection that plugs into a computer.

Connecting the camera directly to a computer using the supplied interface cable is one way of transferring the images from the media card.

When you launch the Canon ZoomBrowser (for PC) or ImageBrowser (for Mac) software applications you will find an option ‘connect to camera’. Providing the interface cable is connected, and the camera switched on, the computer will be able to view the files on the media card. All the images on the card will be displayed in a software window.

Here, you have chance to edit the images, selecting just those which you want to transfer to the computer, or you can ‘select all’ if you have already edited the images in the camera). When you are ready, selecting ‘download’ will start the transfer.

When downloading direct from the camera using ZoomBrowser or ImageBrowser, the images are displaying in a window where you can make a selection before strating the transfer.

After transfer, the images will appear in the main browser window where it is easy to view, organise and edit your images. The browser allows you to perform many of the basic functions found on Adobe Photoshop, such as cropping, converting JPEG and RAW images and adjusting contrast and saturation. You can create and print personal photo albums, or create panoramas from multiple images with PhotoStitch (also included). Exposure and other data captured by the camera can also be viewed.

Once the images are downloaded to the computer, you can view them in the ZoomBrowser or ImageBrowser display.

The disadvantage of cable transfer of the images is that it is slow. This is not a major problem if you only have a few image files to download, but cable transfer is not recommended for more than about 20 image files at a time.

One point to watch is the camera battery power. You do not want to lose power part way through a transfer, so either make sure the battery is fully charged or run the camera from a mains power supply using an AC adapter kit.

Some computer operating systems are ‘camera aware’. They will sense that a digital camera has been connected, automatically open their own image viewing software, and provide all the features − or more − given by the Canon browsers. Windows XP offers the Microsoft Scanner and Camera Wizard, while Mac OS X users have the iPhoto application. iPhoto includes a versatile album facility which is missing from ImageBrowser (PC users have Photo Record). The Canon browsers can still be loaded and used on these computers if you wish.

iPhoto in Mac OS X software allows you to create photo album pages which can be printed out and assemble as a book.

Using a card reader

Transferring images from the camera to computer by a cable connection has the advantage that everything you need is supplied with the camera. But that is the only advantage. A card reader is faster and more efficient. The reader plugs in to the computer and takes all the power it requires from the USB port.

Many card readers have a number of different slots to accept different types of card. All EOS digital cameras accept CompactFlash (CF) cards; some also accept SecureDigital (SD) cards.

A card reader is often faster and more convenient device for transferring images files from a media card to a computer hard drive.

When you insert a media card into the reader, an image of the card appears on the computer desktop, just as if you had plugged in a second hard drive. Now you can open up the card and its folders and drag the image files to a new folder on your computer. This is much quicker than transferring the images direct from the camera.

When you open the card you need to find the DCIM (Digital Camera Images) folder. Open this and you will see a number of additional folders. Inside these are the image files.

With a card reader, the media card acts just like an external hard drive. You can open it and drag image files across to your computer hard drive to transfer them.

If you have been shooting RAW images, the files will have names with extensions of .CRW or .CR2. On earlier models .TIF is used as the extension for RAW files. The extension .JPG is used for files shot with JPG compression.

If you copy the image files from you will then be able to access them from the Canon browser. However, if you want to do much colour correction or other manipulation, you may want to open the files in Digital Photo Professional or Adobe Photoshop/Elements.

RAW files contain all the data captured by the digital sensor, untouched by the camera. However, because they are ‘unprocessed’, you can’t view a RAW file image directly. It needs to be processed by computer software first. Early versions of Canon browsers had RAW file conversion built-in. Then later, because not everyone needed the features offered by the browser, a ‘RAW Image Converter’ was supplied as separate software.

On the latest Canon Digital Solution Disk you will find ‘EOS Utility’ (previously ‘File Viewer Utility’). EOS Utility makes it easy to transfer images from the EOS 30D to your computer. You can transfer all images at once or select individual images to transfer. It integrates with Digital Photo Professional and ZoomBrowser/ImageBrowser for a fast and seamless digital workflow.

EOS Utility also allows you to remotely operate the camera from your computer using the supplied interface cable. You can fire the shutter release immediately, with a delay of up to 30 seconds, or automatically at intervals (5 seconds to 60 minutes in 1-second increments).

Compatible with Windows 2000/XP Home Edition/Professional and Mac OS X v10.2 - 10.4.

Canon software is found on the EOS Digital Solutions Disk supplied free with EOS digital cameras.

The advantage of shooting RAW files is that you take control of the image processing, with the option of making different adjustments to those given by the camera processing. In addition, changes are made only to a copy of the RAW file, so you can always go back to the original file to try a different set of adjustments. In this sense, a RAW file is the equivalent of a film negative.

JPEG files are smaller than RAW files because they have been ‘compressed’. Some image data is lost during this compression. When the file is uncompressed for viewing, this lost data cannot be replaced.

However, more important is the fact that the image data is ‘processed’ in the camera before the JPEG file is made. This means that parameters such as white balance, contrast and colour saturation are ‘fixed’. It is possible to open JPEG files in software such as Photoshop and make changes, but you are working with data already modified by the camera. Think of JPEG files as the equivalent of transparencies from a film camera − your scope for making changes is limited.

Some EOS digital cameras give the option of shooting RAW and JPEG images at the same time, giving the best of both worlds. You can use the JPEG images immediately as a form of ‘proof’ print, with the RAW image file available for processing at a later time.

If you replace a digital EOS camera with a later model, files from the more recent camera may not be compatible with the original software. However, you can load the software supplied with the newer camera and use this with files from the older camera.

Every time you make an exposure with an EOS digital camera, a mass of information is recorded with the image. You can check the focal length used (even with a zoom lens), the amount of exposure compensation, the ISO speed setting, aperture and shutter speed, use of flash, and much more. This information is accessible with image browsers and most image manipulation software under a menu item labelled ‘file info’ (or similar).

Digital cameras store a range of information at the time of exposure. This can be accessed from a ‘file info’ menu in many imaging applications.

If you have a laptop computer, it probably has a PCMCIA slot. This takes PCMCIA cards. But for around €15 you can buy an adaptor that enables CompactFlash cards to be used in the PCMCIA slot. In practice, this is just like using a card reader. The CompactFlash card appears as an icon on the computer desktop and can be opened to access the image files inside.