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Photo Mechanic for Mac updated; Windows version nearing release  
Tuesday, April 22, 2003 | by Rob Galbraith

Camera Bits this week has announced an update to the Mac version of Photo Mechanic, a Windows version of the image browser that is finally a worthy counterpart to the Mac release and an extra-cost customization service for organizations that need Photo Mechanic tuned to meet the specific requirements of their workflow.

Photo Mechanic 3.2.3 for Mac

Photo Mechanic 3.2.3 is a maintenance update to the popular photojournalist's image browser that adds support for the browsing of Fuji FinePix S2 Pro RAW .RAF photos, the automatic orientation of vertical EOS 10D photos, improvements to the way text is added to the Keywords and Caption Writer fields and other minor tweaks. The update is free to licensed users of a previous release of Photo Mechanic purchased in the past year. See the Camera Bits web site for additional upgrade details.

Photo Mechanic 4.0 for Windows

Photo Mechanic for Mac has long had a Windows counterpart. Trouble is, since v2.0, it hasn't kept pace with the Mac version in both features and quality. Camera Bits is looking to change all that with the upcoming release of v4.0 of Photo Mechanic, which will emerge on the Windows platform several months ahead of the Mac. This should be good news for long-suffering users of Photo Mechanic 2.0r5 for Windows, or any Windows user that has looked enviously at the elegance and simplicity of the browsing, card-to-computer transfer and class-leading captioning capabilities of Photo Mechanic for Mac.

photo_mechanic_4_win1.jpg
Photo Mechanic 4.0 for Windows

As the version number suggests, Photo Mechanic 4.0 for Windows will leapfrog over v3.2.3 for Mac in most respects. Photo Mechanic 4.0 features include:

  • Thumbnails can be displayed at 7 different sizes in a browser window (called a contact sheet). Thumbnails are quickly generated in the background, even for large folders of photos. Multiple contact sheets are shown as separate tabs within the browser area; clicking a tab switches to a different contact sheet. Thumbnails can be sorted by capture date/time, file name, modification date/time or by a user-defined custom value, such as camera serial number.

  • Colour-managed viewing, with smart handling of photos from digital SLR cameras that lack embedded profiles, is planned (though not implemented in the private beta copy we've been evaluating this past week).

  • An image preview mode that includes the 1-up and 2-up viewing, quick display of next and previous photos at near-full screen size and resizeable panes for the display of both shooting information and a mini-contact sheet.The private beta version's preview mode is fairly speedy, and is expected to get faster still in the weeks ahead as some key optimizations are implemented.

photo_mechanic_4_win7.jpg
2-up view in Photo Mechanic 4.0 for Windows

  • A function for transferring pictures from camera storage media that can batch caption and sort photos in the process. Called Ingest Disks, we've become addicted to this capability in the Mac version and use it exclusively to move our photos from the card to the computer. The Windows version offers the same core capabilities: batch captioning, the optional building of optimized thumbnails, intelligent sorting of photos into up to two mirrored sets of destination folders and more. But it builds from there: in v4.0, look for additional destination folder options, optional automatic reformatting of the card after Ingest and file renaming. Ingest is a powerhouse feature for those who want an efficient, goofproof way of transferring and sorting their original digital camera photos.

  • Best-of-class single and batch photo captioning, including spellchecking of the caption field. Variables, an advanced feature that allows for certain text strings to include information automatically extracted from EXIF shooting data, IPTC data and more carries over from the Mac version.

photo_mechanic_4_win2.jpg
Photo Mechanic 4.0 spellchecker in action

Photo Mechanic 4.0 Preview Release for Windows is expected to be posted as a free download on the Camera Bits web site by the end of this month. It will be a time-limited testing version of the software that will have some features disabled, including its slide show viewing mode and web page output. It will probably also sport unfinished buttons and icons, and the image preview mode may not utilize the final layout.

Even in its not-quite-finished form, Photo Mechanic 4.0 Preview Release for Windows should provide a glimpse of what the pro-oriented image browser is going to be about. It will probably already be powerful and stable enough to replace any of a number of consumer-focused photo browsers that pros have opted to use on the Windows platform.

When Photo Mechanic 4.0 for Windows is finalized in May, it is expected to sell for US$150. That cost will include one year of free updates. Recent purchasers of Photo Mechanic for Windows will be eligible for a free upgrade to v4.0, though Camera Bits has not yet set how far back the free upgrade offer will be extended.

Once the Windows release of v4.0 is out the door, Camera Bits intends to turn its attention to the Mac, though the time to bring the Mac version of Photo Mechanic up to v4.0 status is expected to be considerable. Camera Bits' Dennis Walker is projecting a late summer/early fall release for that.

Photo Mechanic Customization Service

A footnote to the posting of Photo Mechanic 3.2.3 for Mac, and the upcoming posting of Photo Mechanic 4.0 Preview Release for Windows, is that both versions include extensive customization, in this case for the America 24-7 book project.

Used in demo mode, or with standard registration information entered, the customization is hidden. Entering special, organization-specific registration information instead switches on the customization. For America 24-7, Camera Bits modified the Ingest, single and batch captioning and renaming functions so that the thousands of photographers involved in the project would be able to easily copy, caption and name their photos to meet America 24-7's exacting requirements.

photo_mechanic_mac_24-7_1.jpg
Custom caption dialog for America 24-7

This is not the first time, says Walker, that Camera Bits has customized Photo Mechanic for a customer. The US military has previously requested minor tweaks to the captioning dialogs. But, changes in the programming structure of Photo Mechanic now make it much simpler to implement changes for specific customers without altering the functionality of the program for other users. For more information on having Photo Mechanic customized for your organization, contact Camera Bits at info@camerabits.com.

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