The Plot ThickensBy MIKE PASINI
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
SAN FRANCISCO -- It's always the same. You hang around the Expo floor a little while and you start finding things. One surprise after another.
The first surprise was bumping into Lucky, who newsletter subscribers may recall once interned for us. "How's it going, Lucky?" we punched him in the shoulder.
"Yeah, fine," he mumbled, dazed by the crowd until he half turned and recognized us. "Mike! Hey, hi!"
He was bummed out about the new Macs. He only saved $52.13, he explained, since the last Expo. The rate of innovation was putting everything further and further out of reach. "I gotta get a job like you guys where they just send me stuff."
"So what are you using, Lucky?"
He still had the Dell laptop he got at an auction five years ago. "Actually, I'm more comfortable with Windows than the Mac," he confided. In the din of the Expo floor, no one could hear him but us.
"How's that?" we pretended not to hear.
"I'm more comfortable with Windows, I said," he hollered, causing a few heads to turn.
"I guess I never told you guys but I got another job interning for this iPod outfit. They make carrying cases. They used to make leather gloves, but who buys gloves anymore? One day somebody came in with an iPod and they started making iPod covers," he said.
"The trouble was they put me on a Mac. I didn't last long, I guess I don't have to tell you." He sighed. "When you're running Windows, nobody really expects anything to get done. But if you don't have Windows, you don't have an excuse."
We patted him on the back. "Lucky, all you need is Virtual PC."
We shook hands and wished Lucky, well, luck. Then we wandered around the Adobe booth to the Lightroom kiosk. "Is that going to be the final name?" someone asked. "Well, never say never, but I don't think we're going to change it again." Not terribly illuminating, we thought, so we wandered along the Aperture wall at the Apple booth listening to the Q&A.
We found Kent Oberheu's presentation particularly interesting. He explained that Aperture doesn't store the versions it creates. It builds them on the fly from the original image and the edits it stores in its SQLite database. That saves a lot of space.
In the case of a layered Photoshop file, he said, a reference to the Photoshop file is saved in the database, but not the layered file. Just a thumbnail. The database stores thumbnails of everything, apparently. On export, it will only include the IPTC metadata, he noted, not everything.
"Think of it as a Finder for photos," he said. And indeed, that makes a lot of sense.
We stumbled across a tiny booth with some brilliant monitors on display. The Eizo ColorEdge (http://www.eizo.com) is a series of three monitors supplied with Eizo's ColorNavigator calibration software, which uses a 10-bit look-up table to calibrate brightness (stabilized on start-up, wake-up or ambient light by a built-in sensor using a drift correction function), color temperature (from 4,000 to 10,000 Kelvin in 100 K increments) and gamma (which is adjusted at the factory to 2.2). The software works with several brands of hardware calibrators.
The CG220 can dsiplay the Adobe RGB color space, a wider gamut than the sRGB color space that limits most monitors (like the CG210 and CG19 models). Both the CG220 and CG210 use an Eizo ASIC with 14-bit color processing for smooth grayscale rendering comparable to a high-end CRT. We did see a nice gradation from deep black to white, and noticed subtle shadow details during the demo. Very nice. The monitors are backed by a five year warranty, too.
Calibration is one of those things that separates the clones from the creatives. So we wandered over to the ColorVision booth (http://www.colorvision.com) to see what's new. Quite a bit since we last raved about its Spyder.
Peter Bradshaw took us through the lineup. Designed for the home user, the $99 Spyder2express is a simple and affordable version of the Spyder2, which itself does a bit better on LCD calibration than the older Spyder (although CRT calibration is not much improved). The $179 Spyder2, designed for the enthusiast/prosumer/designer, can calibrate both CRTs and LCDs but makes the transition a little quicker. And the $279 Spyder2Pro, designed for the pro shop) handles dual monitors and calibrates multiple monitors to a single standard.
The software behind these devices has been nicely rewritten with extensive help available at any step in the process, very welcome in this technically challenging process. The Spyder2express sets gamma at 2.2 and doesn't let you change the color temperature or provide RGB control calibration, but the Spyder2 does. More samples are read than in the previous version of the software to create a more accurate profile.
Colorvision also had its $599 PrintFIX Pro, a Datacolor 1005 spectrocolorimeter to with ColorVision software to printer profiles that support all RGB-driven inkjet, dye-sub, thermal, chemical and laser printers. Very exciting stuff.
You first define the variables used in the process you want to profile, including the printer, ink and paper type. Then you run a Print Quality Check to assure the printer is printing the targets and images properly. Next you print your preferred target and calibrate the Datacolor 1005. The next step is the longest, reading each color patch with the 1005 before storing the profile and running a test print. But it's that easy.
You can even edit ICC profiles with the software, to tweak them for your system.
We saw an interesting Scrapbook application for the Mac from Intriguing Development (http://www.macscrapbook.com). The $49.95 iRemember is a simple page layout program that comes with a wealth of templates and clipart (much of which is in the scalable PDF format).
What we particularly liked about it was the MacPaint-like simplicity coupled with the very nicely implemented object inspector. Click on photo frame or text frame and the inspector shows you all your options. There's really nothing to learn.
Images, for example, can simply be dragged from your iPhoto library into a photo frame. iRemember will size the photo to fit but the inspector provides a slider to resize the image. You can rotate the image or the object, add a drop shadow and layer it over another object.
The new version 1.5 supports an opacity control and export to JPEG for Web display of your scrapbook pages.
Every now and then we run into an application that reminds us why we aren't using pencils any more.
This time it was GroupSmarts' MemoryMiner (http://www.memoryminer.com), tucked away in a little booth in a collection of little booths in a corner of the Expo floor.
Founded by John Fox, who has a background in writing digital asset management software the last 10 years with Clorox and WebWare, the company has two goals for MemoryMiner:
- To provide an application that makes it easy to annotate images, video, audio and other media to create "delightful digital journeys through personal and family histories."
- To build a network ("the world's most extensive Digital Story network" no less) of such stories using metadata to help people find other stgory elements related to their own.
But the idea came to him, John said, when in one year his father died, he got married and he had a son. He realized there were a lot of stories trapped in analog media like old photos and old brains. So he's spent the last year creating a program to treat photos like "individual frames in a type of endless story board."
|Fox Demos MemoryMiner
There's a little geneology here and little scrapbooking, but what's really going on is some SQLite database technology linking Photos, People and Places -- much of it automated, so you only do the fun stuff.
And there's a lot of fun stuff.
While the video (http://www.memoryminer.com/support/quickstart/) gives a better picture than we can here, we aren't discouraged from trying to muddy the waters.
Data entry is the big nuisance in geneology programs. But we didn't get that sense. For starters, your People entries can be lifted from your system Address Book. And, even more fun, there's a Get Map button so you can show exactly where they live (and have lived).
That's People and Places. Photos can be annotated by drawing a box over any person in the image and dragging the appropriate People entry to it. You can do that any number of times on an image. What's fun about that is that you can, after a few entries, run a slide show from the perspective of any of your People. The show will start a Ken Burns effect from their image in, say, a group shot, zooming out to include the others. Pick another person and the show starts from them.
Your People entries get a set of icons representing that person at various stages of their life, in addition to the regular data (like birth date). In fact, birth date is used to calculate the age of people in any picture (which is also dated). Very cool.
And, we're pleased to report, this is a very attractive program, as our screen shot suggests. Moreover, it's HTML output is attractive as well, relying on XML media and data with Flash skins. You'll be proud of the work you put into the data entry.
John told us the company beta tested this with a wide range of users to make sure it was pleasant to enter the data (we're almost embarrassed to call it "data" really). Which is a good thing, since most of this information is stored in older brains.
Nikon's Mark Kettenhofen gave a 50 minute presentation on the D200 after returning from a weekend shoot at Yosemite. Taking just the 18-200mm VR2 lens made his hike a bit more enjoyable, he noted.
During the talk, he pointed out a number of advances built into the D200:
- The bright, high-resolution, 2.5-inch color LCD is only half the story, he said. The black-and-white LCD on the top of the camera is the largest in production.
- And the D200 can get data off its sensor faster, thanks to four-channel output. That's a bit like having four roads out of town instead of one.
- The autofocus system is the same as that used in the D2X, much faster than the D70.
- The WT-3 WiFi controller will be available in the spring. It attaches to the bottom of the camera and will allow wireless control of exposure as well as provide file transfer capability.
- Mirror blackout (the time you can't see anything through the viewfinder) is very short.
- High speed USB 2.0 and sealed switches throughout with a very large capacity battery that is counterfeit proof (meaning no third party imitations will work in the D200).
- Special effects include Multiple Expose and Image Overlay (creating a third image from two existing shots).
- You can set your own filenaming convention, replacing the traditional DSCN with your own initials, for example.
He also had a few things to say about the 18-200mm VR2 lens Nikon has just introduced (and is generally shown mated to the D200):
- The lens focuses silently using sound waves.
- Its vibration reduction technology makes it up to four times faster.
- It can focus as close as 12 inches at both the wide angle and the telephoto end of its range.
We found the 18-200mm lens a little stiff, but we can verify that the focus was quick and silent. Sort of takes the adventure out of focusing <g>.
Next up are some printer reports. Canon has a new all-in-one and we took a look at HP's new 13x19 printer that features three black inks. Oh, and there's a surprise or two left. Stay tuned -- and check out our keynote report and earlier show report!