The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 1, Number 1 16 September 1999

Copyright 1999, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the first ("beta") edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter! We have a lot of exciting things planned for this newsletter, including news updates, special deals on digital photography hardware and software available only to subscribers, special surveys and contests, and much more. We expect to publish an issue about every two weeks through September and October, and hope to go weekly in November.

You're on our subscriber list because you requested information on digital cameras from our site, or as part of an online sweepstakes. To unsubscribe, just send a blank email to the list address at the bottom of the newsletter, and your name will be removed.

This is really just a "get acquainted" issue, but we have at least one truly astounding deal for our readers (and a couple of pretty good ones), a brief note on an interesting "hybrid" film/digital imaging technology, a contest for you, and a brief article on how the digicam market is shaping up for the holiday buying season.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by:

Cameraworld.com -- 800/226-3721 -- Cameraworld is one of the premier suppliers of cameras and other photography equipment in the US. They have an unparalleled reputation for quality and customer service and we're very happy to have them as sponsors! If you're in the market for almost anything photographic, you owe it to yourself to pay them a visit! They currently have the Nikon CoolPix 950 in stock at $899, with free shipping in the "lower 48" states. http://www.cameraworld.com/adtemplmap.asp?invky=95585&affky=700557


Advertisers: Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is going out to nearly 40,000 US readers, all with an interest in digital photography! For information on how you can participate, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com

New on the Site

The weeks leading up to this first issue of the newsletter have been a bit "quiet" in terms of new reviews showing up on the site. There's been frenetic activity behind the scenes though, with work underway on no less than four different reviews, plus all the server setup and testing for the newsletter itself, work on implementing our new banner-ad manager all across the site, and other "behind the scenes" gruntwork. Still, we've managed to crank out a modest amount of new material, which we'll list here for your convenience & perusal:

Toshiba PDR-M4: 2 Megapixel camera with FAST processor (2 seconds shot-to-shot, max res!) http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PDRM4/M4A.HTM

Fuji MX-1700: "First Look" at tiny, sexy 1.5 megapixel model with 3x zoom lens. (slick!) http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/MX17/M17FL.HTM

Minolta Dimage Scan Dual: Inexpensive film scanner, with a software interface we like. http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DSD/DSDA.HTM

Kodak DC-280: Kodak's first 2 megapixel design. GREAT color! http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DC280/DC280A.HTM

Return to Topics.

A 2 Megapixel Christmas?

It all depends... If you've been following the news releases over the last few months, it's no secret there's been a veritable flood of relatively affordable cameras that surpass the magical 2 Megapixel resolution barrier. (2 megapixels means the camera has at least 2 million pixels in its CCD sensor. To count the megapixels, multiply the length and width pixel dimensions of a camera's images, and divide by 1 million. For instance, a camera taking 1600x1200 pixel photos would be considered a 1.9 megapixel camera. In practice, cameras frequently have more pixels on the CCD than end up in the final file, so it's not uncommon to find a camera with 1600x1200 pixel file sizes being referred to as a 2.1 megapixel camera.) It's generally accepted that this is the level at which digital photography becomes equivalent in quality to film, for most users. NOTE that we said for "most users", as there's no question that 35mm film in a high-quality camera absolutely demolishes any 2 megapixel digital camera when it comes to maximum resolution. Compared to typical point & shoot performance and run-of-the-mill consumer photofinishing though, the results are surprisingly close. (Sidestepping the inevitable arguments over relative image quality though, the fact remains that a good-quality 2 megapixel digicam can produce enough resolution to make beautiful 8x11 prints.)

When the current round of 2 megapixel cameras hit the market, many of us in the industry were surprised by how affordable they were, relative to the 1.3 and 1.5 megapixel models that had been leading various manufacturer's lineups until then. Now though, we're starting to see some incredible price drops on lower-resolution cameras, to the point that it's definitely worth asking whether you really need a full two megapixels or not. At the low end, Fuji's just-announced MX-1200 (available in October) will offer a 1.3 megapixel sensor, and a list price of $299(!) A bit more upmarket, Olympus has just started shipping the 1.3 megapixel D-450Zoom, an upgraded version of their earlier D-400Zoom model. The new camera is selling for a list price of just $499, an excellent price for a very capable camera with a true 3x optical zoom lens. These are just two examples: The entire field of 1.3-1.5 megapixel cameras is populated with exceptional bargains.

What to make of all this? The bottom line is that it could really pay off to examine your actual resolution needs. If you've been looking at prices for fully-featured 2 megapixel digicams and thinking you can't afford to get into digital photography yet, you may want to seriously consider a 1.3 or 1.5 megapixel camera. If most of your photography ends up as 4x6 (or even 5x7) prints, a 1.3 or 1.5 megapixel camera would be entirely adequate, and you can save some real money. (Of course, if you can afford it, by all means go for the 2 megapixel model you have your eye on - Just hide this article from your spouse. ;) As a guide to help people think about resolution, we posted an article on the web site a while back that compares images at different resolutions, to show how little difference there can be between 1.5 and 2.0 megapixels. Check it out at

http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/HOWBIG/HOWBIG.HTM

Of course, comparing the test shots we've taken with different cameras is the ultimate test, as they show what each camera can actually do with a variety of subjects. Here are some reviews we currently have up on the site, for cameras in the two resolution categories:

Current 2 megapixel camera reviews on The Imaging Resource: Fuji MX-2700 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/MX27/M27A.HTM Kodak DC280 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DC280/DC280A.HTM Nikon CoolPix950- http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C950/C950A.HTM Olympus C-2000Z - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C2K/C2KA.HTM Ricoh RDC-5000 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/R5K/R5KA.HTM Toshiba PDR-M4 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PDRM4/M4A.HTM

"In process" (Stay tuned!) Fuji MX-2900

Current 1.3-1.5 megapixel camera reviews on The Imaging Resource: Agfa 1680 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A16/A16A.HTM CanonPowerShotA50 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A50/A50A.HTM CanonPowerShotPro70- http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P70/P70A.HTM Casio QV-5000SX - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Q5K/Q5KA.HTM Casio QV-7000SX - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Q7K/Q7KA.HTM Fuji MX-600 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/MX600/M6A.HTM Kodak DC240 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DC240/DC240A.HTM Kodak DC265 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DC265/DC265A.HTM Olympus D-340 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D340/D340A.HTM Olympus D-620L - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D620/D620A.HTM Toshiba PDR-M1- http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PDRM1/M1Acgi.HTM Toshiba PDR-M3 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PDRM3/M3A.HTM

"In process" (Stay tuned!) Olympus D-450Zoom Fuji MX-1700 ("First look" review is up, full review coming)

Return to Topics.

Picture CD

An interesting technology: Stay tuned for more! Some folks view us as mainly a digital camera site, but our overall mission is simply to make it as easy as possible for people to get involved in digital photography, and have the best possible experience once they get there. Thus, we're very excited by a relatively new product in the digital imaging arena that lets users experiment with digital photography easily and relatively inexpensively, without plunking down hundreds of dollars for a digital camera.

Kodak recently introduced a photofinishing product called PictureCD, which is now available through most outlets offering Kodak's film processing services. Some other companies have announced similar services, but Kodak's tremendous "reach" in the US market makes their product by far the most widely available. Picture CD basically provides reasonably high-resolution digital scans of all the images on a roll of film, at an affordable price. You order the Picture CD when you drop off your film at the photofinishing outlet, and pick up the finished CD when you get your prints and negatives back a few days later. The image quality is good enough to print images as large as 8x10, and the CD itself comes with useful (and free) software applications in addition to the image files themselves.

For less than $10 in most parts of the US, you can get 24 fairly high- resolution scans (1536x1024 pixels) of your photos, and enough software to begin playing with (er... "using") your photo files immediately.

We think this is an exceptionally important development in consumer imaging, because it "lowers the bar" for digital photography, so that literally anyone with a computer made in the last three years or so can experience digital photography for less than $10! As this issue of the newsletter "goes to press", we've just dropped off a couple of rolls of test images at our local discount store, and plan a complete "review" of the resulting PictureCD product. We hope to have this ready by the time our next newsletter mailing date rolls around at the end of this month. But then, why wait for us to tell you what it's like? For the sake of $10 or so, try ordering a PictureCD when you get your next roll of film processed. - Hard to go wrong at that price! (One note: Make sure the photofinishing outlet understands that you want PICTURE CD, not PhotoCD. The latter is an older product that is less widely available, produces even higher-resolution files, but uses a special file format that isn't as universal as that employed by PictureCD.) Stay tuned!

Return to Topics.

"Industrial Strength" Image Editing

Really Cheap! It's flat-out amazing what you can do digitally to "rescue" bad shots, or improve good ones. The only problem for most people is that the low-end "consumer" applications that typically sell for $100 or less don't give you the tools you really need to do much beyond adjust contrast and brightness, or shift the overall color a bit. Full- featured image editors like Adobe Photoshop(tm) or Corel's PHOTO- PAINT(tm) cost $500 or more, putting them far out of reach of most individuals.

Now though, there's an unusual opportunity to buy a copy of PHOTO- PAINT 8 at a remarkable discount: The Imaging Resource has teamed up with Xoom.com to bring our readers Corel PHOTO-PAINT version 8 for the amazing price of only $69.95! (Sorry Mac users, this is the Windows version only. - Believe us, we sympathize, as most of us at the Imaging Resource are Mac users ourselves!)

What?! A $495 program for $69.95? What's the catch? No catch, the secret is that this is last year's version of PHOTO-PAINT: Corel has just announced PHOTO-PAINT 9, so Xoom.com managed to negotiate a phenomenal, exclusive deal with them for the remaining inventory of the prior version. Note that Corel PHOTO-PAINT 8 is still being actively sold annd supported by Corel, and actually has most of the high-end features of this year's version, making this an amazing offer.

PHOTO-PAINT has been around for quite a while, having first been released in 1992. From modest beginnings, it has grown over the years into a serious challenger to Adobe's Photoshop. In fact, there are areas in which PHOTO-PAINT is arguably superior: It's "filter" interface is really great, providing an excellent preview of what each filter will do to your picture. Likewise, many people consider PHOTO- PAINT's masking tools to be the best on the market. ("Masking" is the process by which you separate-out parts of your image for separate treatment, such as color manipulation, or for compositing with another image.)

Here are just a few of PHOTO-PAINT's other capabilities:

Create artistic effects with "natural media" brushes, mirroring the process of painting on textured paper.

Dodge/Burn Effects tool lets you lighten or darken specific areas of an image, just like you would in a photo darkroom. (Really useful for dealing with images with too much contrast!)

True "unsharp masking" controls, able to dramatically improve sharpness in your printed output. (Experiment with this one a bit - used properly, it makes for an incredible improvement in prints. See our article on unsharp masking at http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS/SHARPEN/SHARP1.HTM for some tips on this.)

Our favorite method for adjusting the tonal range of our photos, the histogram tool. - Lets you see where the data is in your image, and adjust tonal range to optimize the final print. (Goes way beyond what you can do with simple contrast and brightness adjustments, and once you understand it is actually more intuitive, not to mention drastically more precise.)

Lots and lots of special effects "filters", including Impressionist, Psychedelic, Sharpen, Soften, and Solarize.

Support for lots of file formats, including JPEG (used by essentially all digital cameras, plus the new Kodak PictureCD), RGB or CMYK TIFF, Kodak PhotoCD (the older, more-obscure CD format), animated GIFs (for web work), etc, etc.

Etc, etc, etc. (WAY too many features to describe here.)

And if all that isn't enough, PHOTO-PAINT 8 comes with 1,500 photos, 1,200 clip-art images, 750 "floating" objects, 300 TrueType fonts, a full array of plug-in effects filters, plus utilities for generating interesting textures, scanning, and a full-bore script editor, for automating image-manipulation processes!

We hate advertisements that say "limited time offer", but this deal really does have a limit at some point in the not too-distant future. Since this is a clearance situation, once the available stock of PHOTO-PAINT 8 is gone, your only option will be PHOTO-PAINT 9 at $495. Thus, if you have any inkling of interest in a more powerful image editing tool for Windows, we urge you to act soon! To order your copy, use this special URL that has been set up for Imaging Resource Newsletter readers (there's also more info on the application there as well):

http://orders.xoom.com/cphpt8/pircphpt80909/

Return to Topics.

Got a Tip?

It could be worth $100!

From time to time, our readers have emailed in tips to share with others in the community. These can be anything from a tip to work around a quirk of a particular digicam or piece of software, to a trick for dealing with a difficult shooting situation, or a slick way to accomplish something special in your favorite image editor.

In an attempt to encourage all of you out there to help each other, Cameraworld.com is sponsoring a "tip of the month" contest on our site, with the prize for the best tip (as voted by our readers) being a $100 gift certificate redeemable for anything that Cameraworld sells!

Here's a great tip that was sent in by reader Rick Griffen: "LCD displays are a little hard to read with bright sunlight on them. Unfortunately, you tend to shoot with your back to the sun, which maximizes the problem. For folks with a swiveling lens setup like the Casio 7000SX, Agfa 1680, or Nikon CoolPix 950, you can handle this by facing the sun, flipping the lens around, and shooting over your shoulder. (!) Another way is to hold the camera in portrait format and swivel the lens a quarter turn. Sounds weird but it helps!?

Here's another one, also from Rick: "Recently I did a shoot of some densely packed machinery elements. This presented a problem not only because it was a little dark in that ship, but I wanted to focus one component at a certain depth within my field of view. How do you get the camera to focus on the one thing you want? The solution was to spotlight my item with a small flashlight, let the camera autofocus normally by half-pressing the shutter, deflect the light (if you don't, you'll get a yellow tint in the spot lit area), and then trigger the shot. The camera (a Casio 7000SX) always locked on to the lighted spot, leaving the foreground and background nicely out of focus. The built-in flash did the rest."

Those are great tricks! (Thanks, Rick!) If you have something that's made your photographic life easier, sent it in by emailing it to hotnews@imaging-resource.com. It doesn't have to be an earth-shaking revelation: Something that come to seem "old hat" to you could save someone else hours of aggravation! (Not to mention that to date, response has been a little slow, so your chances are pretty good! - Someone's going to win $100 this month, it could be you!)

hotnews@imaging-resource.com

Return to Topics.

Other Deals

A couple more deals for our readers, both on essential items for your digicam pleasure:

Batteries & charger! One of the first things you'll notice with a digital camera is how fast it eats batteries! You'll want a good set (or two or three) of NiMH rechargeable batteries and a decent charger. Good Deals Online is offering our readers a great deal (better than good ;) on a set of four Nexcell AA NiMH batteries, a "smart" charger, and a 12v power cord for the car. Total regular price is $42.90, the Newsletter special is $33.90. Go to:

http://4gdo.com/imagingR-specials.htm

Book: Choosing & Using a Digital Camera by Dennis Curtin This is a GREAT book! Dennis Curtin is a truly gifted educator, and the driving force behind the excellent digital photography site www.shortcourses.com. He's packaged some of his best information and advice into a book called "Choosing and Using a Digital Camera". The book helps you do just what the title suggests, and it's overall one of the clearest and most readable introductions to digital photography we've seen. We've teamed up with Mr. Curtin and our advertising partner Thomas Distributing to bring you an exceptional deal on this great book. Normally priced at $19.90, sold by Thomas Distributing at $17.90, our newsletter readers can order it for only $12.90! (plus shipping & handling) That's fully 35% off list price, and money well spent if you're planning on buying a digital camera any time soon. To order it at the special price, go to:

http://www.thomas-distributing.com/index-irs.htm

Return to Topics.

Coming up

Would you like to contribute an article? We'll give you a lot of fame, and maybe even a little bit of fortune! ;-) - Email us if you have an idea for a short (200-500 word) article: Topics could include reviews of hardware or software, tutorials on common areas of interest, humorous accounts of your own digital photo misadventures, etc. Drop us a line! editor@imaging-resource.com.

We're very excited by the prospects for this newsletter, and look forward to expanding it into a great resource for the digital photography community. Stay tuned for the next issue in about two weeks, and drop by the special bulletin board mentioned above to leave us your comments and feedback!

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Newsletter Forum: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=irnews
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Thanks for your support!

Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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