Review: Kodak Pro Photo CD

An informal review by Hamish Reid.

Review Copyright © 1995, 1996 Hamish Reid. All Rights Reserved.


Several months ago I asked the Medium Format Digest whether anyone had had much experience with using Kodak's PhotoCD for medium and large format work (as opposed to the 35mm consumer version (called the "Master PhotoCD" for some reason), which I use and recommend for things like Web publishing). There wasn't much response (except for a flurry of speculation about exactly what compression and encoding method Kodak used), so I said I'd try it and report back some time. So here's a summary of my experience, for what it's worth....

I gathered together a collection of 10 images - positive (Fujichrome 100), colour negative (Agfa Optima 125) and black and white negative (TMX), in a mixture of 4x5, 6x6, and 6x7 - and took them in to Custom Process of Berkeley, who do the work in-house. Some 48 hours and $200 later, I had a nice little Pro PhotoCD with ten images, which I then accessed and converted to RGB using Photoshop 3 (Photoshop comes with the appropriate Kodak CMS plugins for the conversion to RGB or CIELAB formats; unfortunately, of course, you can't save from Photoshop in PhotoCD format).

In summary, the Pro PhotoCD did the job well, which was to provide a cheaper way (compared to drum scans) of getting medium and large format negs and transparencies scanned, and to form the basis for Web publishing and medium-quality publishing in other media. It's a very convenient way to store and access images, and is really well-suited to applications like Web and mutlimedia publishing. It's also ideal for things like digital portfolios - assuming you're scanning from well-prepared transparencies or similar. It's also pretty convenient to get CDs made, assuming you live in a larger city where you can actually talk to the people doing the work (how the quality of work done by Custom Process here in Berkeley compares to other Pro PhotoCD places I don't know).

Technical Notes and Observations

Some technical notes and / or general observations:

Some of the results can be seen on the Deserts page and elsewhere around here. (Note that the nasty visual artifacts in the sky on some of these images are a result of using JPEG encoding and have nothing to do with PhotoCD. Note also that you really can't say much about the technical quality of images when seen through the Web... Oh, and you'll need a Netscape browser).