Photojournalists and picture editors on the Windows platform may wish to check out Nancarrow Software's Multipic v1.0.23, a new image browser marketed by former Reuters photo boss Pat Benic. Multipic for Windows 95, 98, 2000 and NT 4.0 forms the nucleus of a suite of image editing and transmission applications designed specifically for wire service and newspaper picture desk use.
Multipic monitoring a folder of Nikon D1 photos
Multipic is the core program in the suite. It's an image browser with a feature set that picture editors especially will like: multiple folders can be monitored and browsed simultaneously, new pictures dropped into a browsed folder appear automatically, extensive preference options enable the viewer to control the size of thumbnails, previews, IPTC fields displayed and much more.
It's also built around Kodak's pro digital camera SDK, which makes it possible to view and process RAW files from DCS cameras, in addition to viewing standard JPEGs and TIFFs from other digital cameras including Nikon's D1 and Canon's D30.
Exposure compensation and other controls for
Kodak DCS/Canon D2000 RAW images
In addition, Multipic includes a simple "camera pull" function for copying all images from a CompactFlash or PC card.
"Camera pull" dialog
Some of Multipic's other features include:
- Support for the editing of IPTC text info, compatible with Photoshop's File Info and most image archiving programs, in JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and Kodak DCS photos.
Multipic's IPTC Info window
- The IPTC text editing window can be displayed with all key fields in one screen (as shown above), or in a tabbed interface similar to Photoshop's File Info (the IPTC option screen that controls this is shown below). Multipic also includes a spellchecker.
Configuring IPTC options
- Each window can be filtered to display only pictures that match specified IPTC-NAA editorial criteria. Any number of criteria can be combined, enabling sophisticated search & filter combinations.
- Support for Unicode in the Windows NT version enables the display, editing, and printing of almost any language combination, depending on font and locale support.
- A highly-customizable interface. Thumbnails and preview size, colour schemes and fonts may all be set to user preference. Any combination of IPTC fields can be displayed, either under or to the right side of thumbnails. Files can be sorted based on several criteria.
Configuring zoom (preview) window options
- Pictures can be dragged between folder windows to copy or move them between folders. This enables multi-user networked configurations to be created, for easier sharing of picture desk duties among several editors.
- Pictures can be opened into Photoshop directly from Multipic.
While Multipic's feature list is long, one feature sets it apart from any other image browser I've used: the ease with which pictures can be transmitted via Zmodem (using the included Zmodem Image Transfer app, or ZIT for short) or FTP (using the included FTP Image Transfer application, or FIT for short). Single and multiple photos can be transmitted simply by dragging them onto a pre-configured Drop Pad inside Multipic. Multipic is not the only Windows browser to include a feature like this, but none I've seen make it as easy to transmit photos in one step as Multipic. Photographers who move a lot of photos from the field will find this capability particularly enticing.
While Multipic has many strengths, it also has a number of shortcomings commensurate with a v1.0 product:
- Thumbnails may be rotated, but the rotation doesn't stick beyond that editing session.
- The program ignores the EXIF thumbnails found in certain digital camera files, choosing instead to create its own. By comparison, Photo Mechanic 2 will first show the EXIF thumbnails, then create larger, sharper replacement thumbnails during the editing process. This enables a photographer or editor to begin viewing photos much, much faster, and is a notable omission in Multipic.
- There is no way to tag images as part of an initial edit, as Photo Mechanic 2 and FotoStation 4 allow, though the program does allow selected images to be easily copied to another directory, providing an initial edit function of sorts.
- Very little if any caching of preview images takes place. That means that every time an image is previewed, Multipic has to go back to the source file to create a new preview. This makes the program feel pokier than it ought to, even on an 800mhz Pentium 3 machine used for testing.
- There is no support for control over the saturation of DCS 620x images, though this function exists in Kodak's SDK.
- The utility of the "camera pull" function pales in comparison to the Ingest Disk function of Photo Mechanic 2. The former performs a simple image transfer with the ability to handle naming conflicts; the latter can generate large, sharp thumbnails, apply IPTC text information, sort photos into a logical folder structure, and do all it from any number of mounted cards.
Still, none of the program's shortcomings are deal-stoppers; picture editors looking for a highly-flexible image browser, or photographers looking for simple and efficient image transmission, may be prepared to live with Multipic limitations for now, while simultaneously encouraging Pat Benic (firstname.lastname@example.org) to address those limitations in a future release. If you or your organization has been considering Photo Mechanic Pro 2 or FotoStation 4 for photographer image browsing, Multipic is definitely worth a look too. It's even worthier of consideration as an image browser for a picture desk operation.
Nancarrow also produces an impressive Zmodem file transfer receiver application called Zmodem Image Pool (ZIP). It's capable of handing up to 16 inputs simultaneously, supports resumeable uploads and will drop the connection automatically after files are received.
ZIP in action
Two week trial demos of Multipic, ZIT, FIT and ZIP are available for download. Multipic and the image transfer applications may also be purchased online directly from Nancarrow Software's UK web site. Several different packages are available:
- A "field photographer's kit" consisting of Multipic, ZIT and FIT for £199 (about US$282).
- A "bureau kit" consisting of Multipic, ZIT, FIT and ZIP for £229 (about US$325).
- ZIP only for £59 (about US$84).
For information on purchasing licenses for 10 or copies, or for other queries, see the Contact Us page on the Nancarrow Software site. The company has also developed a picture database system called Parch.