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Photo Mechanic for OS X released  
Saturday, June 1, 2002 | by
Photo Mechanic 3.0 for Mac's most significant new feature is buried deep under the hood: it's now a Carbon application, which means it runs natively in both OS X and OS 9 (in fact, OS 8.6 through OS X are supported). This is the biggest change in the latest release of the image browser that's popular in Mac-based newspaper photo departments, and my personal favourite on any platform.


Photo Mechanic 3.0 for Mac running in OS X 10.1.4

While pioneers of the latest Mac operating system have been able to run Photo Mechanic 2.0r19 in OS X's Classic mode for some time, the program's Ingest Disks function can't see mounted camera cards. That's meant rebooting back into OS 9, or a clunky workaround within OS X, to take advantage of the Ingest function.

Running natively in OS X, however, v3.0, released yesterday, solves this problem. Ingest is back for OS X users, and it works as well as in OS 9. In addition, Photo Mechanic 3.0 draws on the improved screen display prowess of OS X to present pages of thumbnails in its Contact Sheet view at lightning speed. Also thanks to OS X, v3.0 can copy, ingest and run other intensive functions in the background without placing a huge performance drag on a foreground task, such as toning a photo in Photoshop 7.

It isn't possible, however, to perform one task in Photo Mechanic while the program crunches on another. This sort of task threading would be great to see in a future release. All in all, though, this is a solid, sturdy port of an application to OS X that works much as it did in OS 9 previously, only a bit faster. And, thanks to a handful of OS X Aqua interface touches, running the program in OS X makes it look pretty good also.


Previewing a Nikon D1X NEF file in Photo Mechanic 3.0

File Sorting and File Renaming Improved

Photo Mechanic 3.0 adds several new file sorting and file renaming features too. They included the ability to sort pictures by the date/time they were shot or by file name, in standard or reverse order. Pictures from certain Canon and Olympus models may also be grouped by camera serial number.


Sorting options popup menu in Contact Sheet

The new sequence variable soups up the file renaming process by enabling the placement of a sequential counter anywhere in the file name, not just at the end, during batch renaming operations. A sequence variable can include both letters and numbers, so that an editor chugging through photos from multiple photographers could apply a file renaming sequence for each shooter separately, if desired.

Multiple sequence variables can be defined, then stored for easy access next time. Each sequence variable that you define maintains its count separately, which makes it easier to build unique, sequentially-ordered file names on a per photographer basis at big news events, for example.

Tip: Resetting the sequence variable is accomplished by clicking the Reset button in the Set Sequence Variable dialog, or by Option-clicking the Set {seqn} variable button in the Rename Files dialog.

When copying photos using Photo Mechanic, it's possible to have the sequence variable's value be placed simultaneously in the file name and in a user-selected IPTC field.


Renaming files using a sequence variable

There's are two other small but welcome additions worth noting:

  • It's now possible to drag and drop photo files directly onto the Photo Mechanic application icon. Doing so opens a Contact Sheet window pointed at the folder containing the photos and, as an added bonus, the dragged photos are automatically selected in the Contact Sheet.

  • If you drag and drop a card of photos onto the Photo Mechanic application icon, the program will dig through and open Contact Sheet windows for all the folders that contain photos. For instance, if the card is from a Nikon digital SLR, Photo Mechanic will drill past the DCIM folder layer, locate all the folders that are holding files (i.e. 100NCD1X, 101NCD1X), then open a Contact Sheet window for each.

As with previous Photo Mechanic versions, it's possible to drag and drop a folder of photos onto the program icon to open a Contact Sheet for that folder.

RAW File Support Changes in v3.0r0

RAW file support changes in Photo Mechanic 3.0, at least temporarily. In short, this release offers the same RAW functionality as Photo Mechanic Lite has previously. This means the program will show thumbnails, as well as be able to caption, copy, ingest and rename RAW files from the following removable-lens digital SLR cameras:

  • Nikon D1
  • Nikon D1H
  • Nikon D1X
  • Nikon D100*

  • Canon EOS-1D
  • Canon EOS D30
  • Canon EOS D60

  • Kodak DCS 315
  • Kodak DCS 330
  • Kodak DCS 520
  • Kodak DCS 560
  • Kodak DCS 620
  • Kodak DCS 620X
  • Kodak DCS 660

*support expected, based on an examination of the file format from a non-final D100

It will display sharp, clear Previews of RAW files from the following removable-lens digital SLR cameras:

  • Canon EOS D30
  • Canon EOS D60

It will display fuzzy, lower-resolution Previews of RAW files from the following removable-lens digital SLR cameras:

  • Nikon D1H
  • Nikon D1X
  • Nikon D100*
  • Canon EOS-1D

*support expected, based on an examination of the file format from a non-final D100

It will NOT display RAW files from these removable-lens digital SLR cameras at all:

  • Kodak DCS 720X
  • Kodak DCS 760
  • Kodak DCS Pro Back (all models)

Note: JPEG and regular TIFF formats from all cameras are supported in Photo Mechanic 3.0r0. Photo Mechanic 3.0 may show thumbnails and provide other basic functionality for early Kodak DCS cameras, including the NC 2000, NC 2000e, DCS 3, DCS 420, DCS 460 and other from that generation, but limited testing with RAW files from these models has been done by Camera Bits prior to release.

Gone is the older Kodak DCS camera RAW file processing capabilities of Photo Mechanic Pro for now. That's because Kodak has not yet released a carbonized version of the software development kit (SDK) that enables programs such as Photo Mechanic to process DCS 3xx, 5xx and 6xx-vintage camera files. A carbonized SDK for these cameras is currently in development (and the carbonized SDK for Kodak DCS 7xx and Pro Back camera is already complete). In the meantime, older Kodak DCS camera owners may wish to stick with v2.0r19 of Photo Mechanic Pro, which still offers complete support for the RAW .TIF files from these cameras.

Future releases of Photo Mechanic are expected to include broader support, including conversion and control over certain processing parameters, of RAW files from Nikon, Canon and Kodak digital SLR cameras. Camera Bits' Dennis Walker says that support will be dependent in part on the release of carbonized SDK's from the camera manufacturers:

Camera Bits plans to add full support for raw camera files in a future update. This will be done as an add-on "feature" or "plug-in" to Photo Mechanic. No pricing or release date is set at this time. Camera Bits will add support for the RAW files from various cameras as carbonized SDK's become available. The support for raw files in Photo Mechanic will be done in a "unified" way to ease the addition of new raw formats for future cameras.

With v3.0, then, gone are the separate Lite and Pro versions of Photo Mechanic. Starting with this release, as Walker notes above, there will be one application at one price, with additional features, like RAW file conversion, available as extra-cost add-ons. The first such add-on is support for the JobMinder assignment database, says Walker:

The JobMinder support which was available only in PM Pro is now a "feature" that can be purchased with Photo Mechanic v3. Those who upgrade from Photo Mechanic Pro are entitled this feature for free, but customers must request this when ordering. The cost for adding the JobMinder feature on new copies of Photo Mechanic v3 will be US$50/copy.

Walker indicates that work is already underway on an update to Photo Mechanic 3.0 that will switch on proof sheet printing, which is currently disabled, as well as add specific support for Nikon D100 JPEG, TIFF and NEF files. Other tweaks are expected to include a beefed up Ingest Disk function that will include file renaming and provide more destination folder options, resizeable Contact Sheets, basic colour management support, an improved IPTC menu layout and a revised user guide.

Pricing

Photo Mechanic 3.0 for Mac is US$150, which includes one year of updates at no charge. A fully functioning demo version is available, as are quantity discounts (contact Camera Bits directly for multi-copy pricing). Camera Bits will begin taking orders for the new software on Monday, June 3, 2002.

Licensed users of a v2.0 release of Photo Mechanic Lite or Pro can upgrade to v3.0 either free or at a discount. Says Walker:

Cost to upgrade is as follows (regardless of Lite or Pro):

  1. purchased this year (on or after 1/1/02): free upgrade and free version 3 updates for one year after purchase date (e.g. if you bought a copy Feb. 15, 2002 then you get free updates until the end of Feb. 2003).

  2. purchased after 9/11/01: $80 to upgrade to version 3. Free version 3 updates for one year after purchase date (e.g. if you buy it June 3, 2002 then you get free updates until the end of June 2003).

  3. purchased before 9/11/01: $100 to upgrade to version 3. Free version 3 updates for one year after purchase date.

Camera Bits has not announced if or when the Windows version of Photo Mechanic will be tuned to match the feature set of the latest Mac release, though v2.0r5 for Windows remains available (as does 2.0r19 for Mac). The company does plan to release OS X-savvy versions of its suite of Photoshop plug-ins - Quantum Mechanic Lite, Quantum Mechanic Pro and Band Aide - next week.

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