In 1998, the Photographic Industry Association – comprising most of the world’s digital camera manufacturers – came up with a set of standards called the Design Rule for Camera File System (DCF). This defined colour parameters for digital camera images which took into account the limited colour range supported by the WWW and computer display monitors. This digital camera image target colour space was, in fact, identical to the sRGB colour space originally developed by Microsoft Corporation and Hewlett Packard in the mid-1990s. The implications of this were that after being shot, an image’s hues were compressed by a digital camera to make them fit within the DCF-defined colour spectrum.

The DCF colour standard worked well enough until early in the new millennium. However, by then the sRGB colour space was not as large, nor as rich in colour as the spectrum available on even the inexpensive photo-printers of the day. Users were thus being deprived of the opportunity to produce output with the nuances of colour their equipment was capable of.

In early 2001 Epson unveiled a solution to this problem, in the shape of its Print Image Matching (PIM) technology. PIM works within the structure of DCF, while allowing devices with extended colour capabilities to print the greater spectrum of colour captured by a digital camera. It does this by getting a digital camera to store the complete colour information for a captured image before it is converted to the DCF standard. When images are output to a printer the PIM printer driver software reads the associated PIM data, thereby allowing them to be reproduced with the extended range of colour. PIM doesn’t interfere with a digital camera’s operation in any way. Specifically, it has no impact on image processing – and therefore shot-to-shot – time. Indeed, users can turn PIM off if its not required. In the event that images shot with PIM enabled are subsequently transferred to software applications or printers that don’t support PIM, the PIM data is simply ignored.

PIM can be viewed as both an open and adaptable standard. Open inasmuch as the technology is available to any printer manufacturer who chooses to license it and adaptable since it can evolve as CCD sensors and printers improve, ensuring that the colour fidelity of printed images will continue to be preserved in the future. It also offers the prospect of digital camera manufacturers being able to add user-selectable image enhancements for use at picture-taking time, allowing photographers to preset the intensities of such controls as contrast, colour balance, highlight point, shadow point, brightness, saturation, and sharpness to suit their personal preferences.

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