A testing procedure was designed for characterizing both the color and spatial image quality of trichromatic digital cameras, which are used to photograph paintings in cultural heritage institutions for the purpose of creating archival quality digital master images. The testing procedure was target-based, thus providing objective measures of quality. The majority of the testing procedure followed current standards from national and international organizations such as ANSI, ISO, and IEC. The procedure was tested in the Munsell Color Science Laboratory, an academic research laboratory, as well as used to benchmark four representative American museum’s digital-camera systems and workflows. The four museums were chosen because they were early adopters of digital-image archiving. The nine quality parameters tested included system spatial non-uniformity, tone reproduction, color reproduction inaccuracy, noise, dynamic range, spatial cross-talk, spatial frequency response, color-channel registration, and depth of field. In addition to the characterization testing, two paintings were imaged and processed through each museum’s normal digital workflow. The results of the four case studies showed many dissimilarities among the digital-camera systems and workflows, which caused a significant range in the archival quality of their digital masters. These differences point out the need for standardization of digital imaging in American museums, libraries, and other cultural-heritage institutions.

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This article may be (additional fees may apply) at: http://www.art-si.org/PDFs/Metric/Archive05_Smoyer.pdf This research was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and would not have been possible without the cooperation and assistance of the four case-study institutions. Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


RIT – Main Campus