|Volume 1, Number 6||3 December 1999|
Welcome to the fifth edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter! Desperate for gift ideas? Weary of holiday shopping? We get the picture. Plus two camera reviews so you can too.
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Every digicam owner secretly compiles their own special wish list of gift ideas. You've probably heard the grunts and sighs without realizing just what was going on.
And you may have been more than a little intimidated by the whole subject to consider camera accessory shopping. But that was before you got desperate. Don't worry, we're here to help. There's something on our list for every budget.
You have a point, though. It's easy to go wrong in Technoland. But if after reading through this feature, you still aren't comfortable deciding, there's always a gift certificate from http://www.amazon.com who sponsors this newsletter.
THE POWER PLAY
Nobody ever has enough power. If your camera bug is always plugging into the computer to copy images from the camera, see if they have a power adapter. Strange but true, to keep the price down a lot of camera manufacturers don't include one. The price of an adapter can vary wildly but it's usually well below $100. Order from the camera manufacturer for the specific model you have.
Batteries are on everyone's list. But you'll have to observe the digicam buff in operation. If you never see them take the battery out, it's probably a custom shape that's recharged in the camera (Sony, for one, is famous for this). It's not wise to remove it. Just look in the manual for what it's called.
On the other hand, if you see them ripping up plastic packages of AA batteries and trying to juggling eight at a time, you've got it easy. Rechargeable nickle metal hydride (NiMH) batteries are the current state of the AA art. And you can find them anywhere (although they are much cheaper online): Radio Shack, Target (in the camera department), online. Price? >From $4 to $12 a set depending pretty much on where you get them.
Except they require a charger. We recommend a combination NiCd, NiMH one-hour charger with a timer. A bit more expensive than the others, but not only is the timer safer, it actually monitors the charge in the battery so you don't risk overcharging. We're still under $70 here with two sets of batteries. Visit http://www.thomas-distri buting.com/batteries.htm for some of the best deals on both batteries and chargers we've seen.
There's no such thing as digital film. But what does your buff do when they run out of room for more pictures? If they slip a little card into the computer to transfer images, they've got removable storage (not all do) and no doubt need more. Especially if it's got more room on it than the one they have.
There are different kinds. It may be a small stiff card about 1.5 inches square called a CompactFlash card. Or a flexible wafer called SmartMedia.
You may see a large 4 or 8 or 16 on it. That's megabytes. A spare card with at least 16 megabytes is a blessing. Sure, a 32M card is even better, but not necessarily. Getting over the 8 megabyte hump makes a big difference -- and they still have the old card if the new one fills up. Depending on the capacity of the card, you can do this under $100. But you have to shop smart. This is one place where the prices are all over the map. The same card that sells for $75 one place can cost over $200 somewhere else.
THE CAMERA STORE
Some traditional camera accessories from Ye Olde Camera Shoppe are not a bad idea either.
One of the old pro favorites that never goes out of fashion is a small bean bag. It makes a great substitute for a tripod, providing a stable support for a self-timer shot on just about anything.
Small tripods and tripod-like clamps are fun for the kind of shots they make possible. You can clamp the camera to a door for an unusual angle of the room. Just peek under the camera to make sure it has a threaded hole for a tripod screw. They almost all do.
Lens filters are fun, too. You just have to know if your digicam lens can accept screw-on accessories and what size.
If you've already got filters from a 35mm camera, you might look for an adapter ring to fit the old filters to the smaller digicam lens. And you can adapt a 35mm off-camera flash unit for use in the digicam world with nothing more than an inexpensive slave-flash trigger.
Bags and straps are never inappropriate, even if pretty personal. It's true that many cameras come with some sort of a camera case, but most could use an upgrade that lets you carry around some extra batteries at least.
It's a deep, dark secret, but the real problem with digital imaging is storage.
At first, you copy the pictures to your hard drive. But that fills up fast. So you copy a few to floppies, but that's not practical. You just need too many. So you investigate larger capacity storage, maybe a ZIP (which is practical), or a SyQuest or an Orb or a CD recorder.
Since the interface to the computer is a critical determination in choosing a storage device (USB, parallel, SCSI?), we recommend focusing on the media itself. A 10-pack of ZIP disks goes for about $99 (formatted for either Macs or PCs), and they're sold in 3- and 5- packs, too. CD-Rs and CD-RWs are even cheaper, including jewel cases. And you never have enough. Ever.
You may have noticed you don't have stacks and stacks of 4x6 prints in little envelopes waiting to be sorted and put in albums. But every now and then a shot cries out to be displayed. Unfortunately it isn't easy. You can print it but then what?
An assortment of inexpensive frames is easy to collect at your local art store or stationery store. Umbria and Rare Woods make very nice inexpensive frames. Often for less than $5 with easel backs.
It really is terrific to have the odd frame around when you have an image you want to display. If you don't see your picture, how are you going to enjoy them?
THE PAPER GAME
There is an astonishing variety of papers to print digicam images on, too. If you use an inkjet. A trip to the local Office Depot or Office Max will reveal beautiful, heavy-weight glossy papers in several convenient sizes and specialty papers like iron-on transfers so you can make your own T-shirts. True luxury.
Gadgets are great, supplies always welcome, but there's nothing more flattering than a gift that recognizes (and encourages) your buff's genius. We're very lucky to be living at a time when it's a piece of cake to reproduce images, and while the printing press is no match for even a black and white print, some truly gorgeous photo books are waiting to inspire your camera buff to ever more amazing shots.
Just to whet your appetite, here are few we found interesting:
- I Shot New York by Ralph Ginzburg. $25. Not just the city, but the whole state, from the viewfinder of a spot news photographer. The collection includes 90 publicity stunts, over 50 celebrity sightings (if you count Gerald Ford), 40 plus sporting events and parades.
- Carrara: The Marble Quarries of Tuscany by Joel Leivick, Stanford University Press. Technicians will marvel at this one (available for about $70 hardback or half that paperback) for it's high-key images of the quarries, but Leivick has composed some beautiful images on top of that.
- Walker Evans by James R. Mellow. $40. "If the thing is there," Evans explained his approach to photography, "why, there it is." Famous for his images of the Depression, he documented American life until his death in 1975, becoming in 1933 the first photographer to have a solo retrospective at a major American museum. This biography was left unfinished by Mellow's death but his editor and partner completed the 654-page story. A lot of famous people wander through it (Ezra Pound, Ben Shahn, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, John Cheever, Alfred Stieglitz, Berenice Abbott, Henry Luce, Edmund Wilson, Ernest Hemingway, James Agee, to drop a few names).
- Tazio Secchiaroli: Greatest of the Paparazzi edited by Diego Mormorio. $50. Not above overturning a table to create a "little incident ... that earned us a lot of money," Secchiaroli was the leader of the pack that scooted around Rome preying on celebrities like Anita Ekberg, Anthony Steele, Ursula Andress, Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren.
- A Short Course in Nikon 950 Photography by Denny Curtin. See the review on our site at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C950/950SHORT1.HTM and order if from https://ssl.tricreations.com/digikam/submit.cgi?referer=ir for a good deal. Curtin has a number of books worth a peek.
It's still the thought that counts -- and we hope we've inspired a few. If you get stuck, just drop us a line and we'll try to help.
Feature: Kodak's DC-215 Makes It a SnapBy DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging -resouce.com/PRODS/DC215/DC215A.HTM on the Web site.)
The DC215 is the latest entry-level camera in Kodak's extensive digicam lineup. We reviewed the "Millennium Edition" of the camera, which sports an all-metal, gold-toned body, and comes equipped with a USB-based card reader to greatly speed image downloads to your computer. (The "Standard Edition" has a silver-toned body, and doesn't include the card reader.) The compact metal case and mass provided by the four AA batteries give the camera a solid heft, distinct from many of its plastic-bodied contemporaries.
As the follow-on to their very successful DC210 digital camera, the Kodak DC215 is designed first and foremost to be easy to use for the non-technologist point & shoot camera user. The most common control settings (flash mode, macro setting, and self-timer) are made directly through external buttons. Other functions are selected via a very graphic and user-friendly menu system on the camera's back-panel LCD screen. The menu system is navigated intuitively by using up and down, right and left arrow buttons adjacent to the LCD, and the aptly named "Do-It" button to confirm selections. A slider switch selects major camera operating modes (capture, review, connect (to the computer), and preferences setup). A toggle control for the zoom lens and the shutter button complete the user interface.
Shots can be framed using either the "real view" optical viewfinder, or the more accurate LCD preview display: As in most digital cameras, relying on the optical viewfinder saves considerable battery power.
The fixed-focus zoom lens covers a somewhat wider field of view than those of most digicams, with an equivalent focal length range of 29-58 mm. When not in use, the lens retracts into the body, and a snap-on lens cover protects it from scratches and dust. (The lens cover is thoughtful attached to the camera body by a short tether, preventing its loss: Other digicam makers take note!)
Images are stored on a CompactFlash memory card. An 8 megabyte card is included with the Millennium Edition version, a 4 megabyte one with the Standard Edition. Under control of the menu system, the camera can capture images in either of two resolutions (1152 x 864 or 640 x 480 pixels), and with any of three "quality" settings.
A Video Out cable allows you to connect to a television set for image playback, and the camera supports both NTSC and PAL video standards. Several CDs come with the camera, including both Mac and Windows versions of Adobe PhotoDeluxe and PageMill, as well as ArcSoft's handy PhotoPrinter program for efficiently printing multiple images on full sheets of paper. Computer interface is easy regardless of whether you use the Millennium Edition's card reader, or just connect via the serial cable.
The lens is an optical glass, fixed focus 2x zoom design, with a focal length range equivalent to 29 mm to 58 mm on a 35mm camera. This focal length range is shifted toward the wide-angle end, a characteristic that made the 215's predecessor (the DC210) very popular with realtors. (The wider-angle range of the lens made it well-suited to squeezing in more of the room in interior shots.) The lens' focusing range is 1.6 feet (0.5m) to infinity at the wide angle end of its range, and 3.3 feet (1.0m) to infinity at the telephoto end. Macro mode has a fixed focusing distance of 8 inches. In our tests, the DC215's lens is reasonably sharp at close and medium distances, but somewhat soft when photographing distant objects. The fixed-focus design does have the advantage though that it's always in focus, experiencing none of the autofocus problems common to more-sophisticated cameras when shooting with flash in dark surroundings.
Macro or close-up mode is accessed by the close-up button, also located on the top of the camera. In macro mode, a subject as small as 2.23 x 3 inches (57 x 76 mm) can fill the frame. This isn't as close as many higher-end digicams can manage, but is adequate for typical shots of small household objects. The shooting distance in Macro mode is fixed at 8 inches. The LCD monitor automatically turns on when entering Macro mode and the Macro indicator appears on the display.
Almost fully automatic, the Kodak DC215 Zoom handles shutter speed (range of 1/2 to 1/362 second), aperture (wide f/4.0 to f/6.0; telephoto f/4.9 to f/13.5), and focus on its own. A plus or minus 2 EV (f-stop, for us old-timers) exposure adjustment setting is available, as is exposure locking, recommended for panoramic pictures where the lighting will vary as you pan to shoot the separate segments of the panorama. The range of exposure settings and Kodak's stated light sensitivity rating of ISO 140 should result in a usable light range from about 6 to 12,000 foot-candles (66 to 130,000 lux, or about 9.5 to 20.5 EV in the measuring system we've used previously in these reviews). The lower end of this range would correspond to an average-to-bright residential interior, while the upper end is about equivalent to full sun at mid-day.
The DC215's built-in flash offers five settings or "modes" for different picture-taking conditions. These include off, always on ("fill"), auto, red-eye reduction auto, and red-eye reduction fill. The flash setting shows in the Status Display window at the top of the camera. Adjustments are conveniently made when in capture mode by pressing the flash button located on top of the camera, near the shutter control.
SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES
All cameras have some delay between when the shutter release is pressed and when the shutter actually fires. In digital cameras, this time is used to focus the lens and set the exposure parameters (exposure time, aperture, and white balance adjustment). The DC215 was somewhat faster in this area, thanks to its fixed-focus lens, which eliminated the time normally required for autofocus operation. Shutter delays averaged 0.55 seconds for normal picture-taking, falling to 0.38 seconds when exposure and white balance were precomputed by half-pressing the shutter button before the shot was actually taken.
Shot-to-shot cycle times are a bit on the slow side, compared to the current crop of digicams. Maximum-resolution/quality images can be captured every 11.4 seconds, while minimum-quality ones require about 10.2 seconds between shots.
OPERATION AND USER INTERFACE
The DC215 user interface is quite easy to grasp, with major camera feature settings accessed via the "Setup" menu system. As experienced digicam users, we found the need to switch to setup mode to make virtually any setting a bit tedious, but recognize that grouping all the camera settings together in a single menu system will make the unit much easier to operate for beginning users. Frequently-used controls (flash mode, self-timer, and macro setting) are accessed via top-panel buttons, and controls specific to capture mode (EV compensation and exposure lock) can be accessed with one or two presses of the right-arrow button under the LCD screen. The zoom lens control is right under your right thumb as you hold the camera, and the CompactFlash memory card slot and various I/O ports (computer connection, video out, and power connector) live on the left side of the camera (viewed from behind), protected by a plastic door and rubber flaps. The batteries are located in a tray that conveniently slides out from the right-hand side of the camera when they need to be changed.
IMAGE STORAGE AND INTERFACE
Images are stored on ATA-compatible CompactFlash memory cards. A 4 megabyte (standard edition) or 8 megabyte (Millennium edition) card comes with the camera. Additional cards of varying capacity can be purchased.
The remaining image capacity in the current resolution/quality mode is shown on the LCD monitor when the camera is turned on. When the number reaches zero, the camera beeps and the green LED next to the optical viewfinder flashes. The table below shows the number of images of each size that can be stored on the 8MB memory card provided with the Millennium edition (divide the number of images by two for the standard edition, to allow for the smaller included memory card), and the approximate level of JPEG compression used for each.
The DC215 has a video output connector for viewing images on a television set (in either NTSC or PAL formats). Once the camera is connected to the TV, switch the camera to Review mode, and turn it on. All the Playback mode menus and options are available, and will appear on the video monitor instead of the internal LCD screen. Note that the output from the DC215 is a video signal, not a television one. Thus, you'll need either to have a TV set with direct video inputs on it, or to run the signal through a VCR or camcorder with video-in jacks first.
The DC215 runs on four rechargeable AA batteries, either nickel metal hydride (NiMH), lithium, alkaline or NiCd. Both editions of the camera ship with four alkaline cells, which will at least let you power it up out of the box. We strongly recommend rechargeable NiMH batteries for any digicam using AA cells though, as alkaline batteries generally can't handle the powerdrain of digital cameras for very long.
The DC215 is packed with an unusually complete bundle of software programs, providing everything you need, not only to download and manipulate pictures shot with the camera, but also to print them efficiently (at least on the Windows platform) and even make your own Web pages using a very nice visual layout tool. The provided software bundle includes:
- PhotoDeluxe Software and PageMill software from Adobe Systems, Inc., for both Windows and Macintosh
- ArcSoft PhotoPrinter Software Version 2.0 (Windows)
- A "Mounter" application/driver for Windows 95, 98 and NT 4.0
- A TWAIN Acquire Module (Windows)
- A Plug-in compatible with Photoshop Software (Macintosh)
Overall, the DC215 produces pictures with excellent color, and sufficient resolution to look good when printed on a photo-capable printer at up to roughly 4x6 size. Other than the excellent color, it's primary attribute is probably ease-of-use, making it a good camera for people who don't care for a lot of technology between them and the picture-taking experience. As an entry-level device, it isn't as fast from shot to shot as some more advanced cameras, taking about 11 seconds to store one picture before its ready for the next.
The DC215's resolution tested out at about 600 lines per picture height in both the horizontal and vertical directions, about typical for 1.0 megapixel cameras we've tested, and a fair improvement over the earlier DC210. In common with the '210 though, the fixed-focus lens is noticeably sharper at short and medium distances than when shooting objects at infinity. Unlike some higher-end cameras, the DC215 takes excellent pictures in its lower-resolution mode as well, making it well-suited for email and web applications. Macro performance is good but not extraordinary, restricted to a single focusing distance by the fixed-focus lens. It should nonetheless be acceptable for typical photography of small household items. (Probably not sufficient though, if you want to put your stamp collection on the web, with each stamp filling the screen.) The lens shows fairly minor barrel distortion at the wide angle end of its setting, and none at all at the telephoto end of its range. Chromatic aberration was very slight, estimated at ~0.5 pixels at all focal lengths.
The optical viewfinder is a bit more accurate than most, showing roughly 90 percent of the final image area, while the LCD viewfinder is 100 percent accurate. (A characteristic we've come to particularly appreciate in the Kodak digicam family.)
We mentioned the DC215's excellent color: It also has a very effective "white balance," producing color-correct images even under lighting with a strong color cast. (Our indoor portrait test is a very tough test of white balance, and the DC215 did very well there.) Low-light performance is fairly modest, suited for use in average residential or office interiors, but probably not for outdoor photography after dark.
Overall, the DC215 provide good color and ease of use for people interested in digital photos for use on the Internet, or printed at sizes up to 4x6 inches.
With its simplified controls and focus-free lens, the Kodak DC215 camera is clearly intended to meet the needs of the point & shoot user, and succeeds well in that goal. First-time users will appreciate its simplicity and ease of use. At just exactly a megapixel, the DC215's resolution is adequate for ~4x6 prints, but will look noticeably soft if enlarged much beyond that size. Like all the Kodak digicams though, the DC215's output is characterized by rich, vivid "Kodak" color. Overall, the DC215 would be a good choice for someone who enjoys most of their pictures at 4x6 inch size, wants straightforward, simple operation, and excellent color.
Feature: Canon PowerShot S10 ImpressesBy DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-res ouce.com/PRODS/S10/S10A.HTM on the Web site.)
We've always been big fans of compact cameras, subscribing to the theory that a camera that sits in a drawer doesn't take many pictures. Accordingly, we were definitely excited about the exceptional compactness of the PowerShot S10. It's actually the smallest digital camera currently on the market although the rectangular body shape makes it look a little bigger than some others noted for their 'pocketability.' The all metal body and metal tripod socket add greatly to the sense of ruggedness and sturdy durability that we find with the S10. We really liked the design of the battery compartment, which automatically locks into place when you close it. A built-in automatic shutter protects the lens, making you feel a little more confident about just dropping it in your pocket on the way out the door. But don't let its small size fool you, its resolution reigns at the top of the current two megapixel category, with excellent image quality to boot.
The optical viewfinder doesn't feature a dioptric adjustment, but it does have a high eye point which should make eyeglass wearers a little more comfortable. Overall, we found the optical viewfinder quite "loose," although the accuracy is very consistent from wide angle to telephoto on the zoom lens. Alternatively, the LCD monitor shows a bit more of the subject on the wide angle end than the final image reveals while the telephoto end showed about 95 percent accuracy. A bonus is the optional live status display on the LCD monitor, which displays small menus down the sides of the monitor.
We found the 6.3 to 12.6mm, f/2.8 to f/4.0, 2x zoom lens (equivalent to a 35 to 70mm lens on a 35mm camera) a little limited, compared to the abundance of 3x zooms out on the market. But the resolution places the S10 at the top of the current two megapixel marketplace with about 700 lines per picture height, in both vertical and horizontal directions. Zoom action is fairly smooth, although it's not as sensitive to the controls as we might like it to be. We did appreciate the bright autofocus assist light which aids focusing in dim lighting situations (but it's a two-edged sword as it takes a big bite out of battery power).
We experienced good exposure control and enjoyed the option of four shooting modes (Automatic, Manual, Stitch Assist and "Image"). Automatic mode is pretty straightforward with the camera making all the decisions while Manual gives you control over exposure compensation and white balance. Image capture mode was helpful for fast shooting situations, providing preset exposure settings for landscapes, night scenes, etc. The Stitch Assist mode takes the guesswork out of panorama shots.
The Gain setting provides versatile ISO (light sensitivity) adjustment options from zero (100 ISO), to +1 (ISO 200) and +2 (ISO 400). Although you don't have any direct control over shutter speed or aperture settings, the S10's automatic shutter covers a wide range from two to 1/1,000 seconds. The built-in flash operates in four modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On and Off and features through the lens metering which increases the accuracy.
Feature-wise, the S10 offers a very versatile selection. The digital telephoto function magnifies up to 4x and can be turned off and on through the record settings menu. Additionally, the macro function allows you to capture subjects from 4.7 to 18 inches (12 to 46 cm) away and is accessible in all four capture modes. The Self-Timer gives you 10 seconds once the shutter button has been pressed, indicated by the self-timer light on the front of the camera. In the continuous shooting mode, the S10 captures approximately 1.7 images per second, depending on the amount of space on the CompactFlash card, the entire time the shutter is held down.
The S10 utilizes CompactFlash for image storage and comes with an 8MB card. Images can be stored as Superfine, Fine or Normal quality (compression level) and at resolutions of 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960 and 800 x 600. When it comes to power, the S10 uses either a rechargeable, nickel-hydride NB-5H battery pack or a 2CR5 lithium battery, with a CR2016 lithium battery backing up the internal calendar. The PowerShot S10 is sold in the U.S. without the optional NiMH battery pack, charger, and AC adapter cable. These items really should be included with the camera; it's prohibitively expensive to operate the camera on 2CR5 lithium cells all the time. So when comparing digicam prices, be sure you include the cost of the battery/charger kit.
Two software CDs and serial cables for Mac and PC come with the camera (we were thrilled by the inclusion of a USB cable). The PowerShot Browser program downloads the images from the camera, PhotoStitch pieces together panorama shots and Adobe PhotoDeluxe gives you image manipulation and correction capabilities. There's also an NTSC video cable for connection to a television set, which can be used for image playback or composition.
Other than a few minor drawbacks here and there (the limitation of a 2x zoom lens, etc.), we really liked the S10. The most impressive feature is its compact size and carefree portability, which is definitely a plus in the current digicam marketplace. But beyond that, the four capture modes and variety of exposure control options ensure high quality images that give you more than the usual amount of control over the composition.
Overall, we were extremely impressed with the quality of the images produced by the S10. In truth, we rather expected to find that the lens had limitations or excessive distortion, given the tiny body it's crammed into: Surely there would be compromises made in this respect. We were amazed then, to find that the S10 produced photos that are easily in the top tier of current 2 megapixel camera offerings. Resolution and detail were tack-sharp, and color was excellent as well.
Perhaps our biggest complaint about the camera is that its optical viewfinder is quite "loose," showing only 77 percent of the final image area across the full range of the zoom lens. This is less accurate than most cameras we've tested, but the LCD viewfinder compensates somewhat, by being a bit more accurate than most, ranging from about 102 percent of final view at wide angle(?!) to 95 percent at telephoto.
The exceptional take-anywhere compactness and rugged construction of the PowerShot S10 make it an imposing competitor on the digicam playing field. The four capture modes give you a nice range of options and versatility and you have reasonable exposure control as well. Combine that with resolution and image quality at the top of the market for two megapixel digicams, and you have an excellent digicam that we anticipate will do very well with consumers. Other than adding a longer-ratio zoom lens or a more accurate optical viewfinder, it's hard to find any way in which the S10 could be improved!
Beginners Flash: Emailing PicturesIs it taking you forever to email a picture? Are you sorry you ever promised to send pictures over the Internet -- let alone to everybody in your family?
You can make it easier for both you and your recipient by doing a little prep work.
Consider that Uncle Rayban will be viewing your shots on his 13-inch VGA monitor. He sees the world at 640x480. That would be the upper left quadrant of your megapixel image.
If you resample your picture to fit Uncle Rayban's screen, you'll end up with a much smaller file to send, saving you both some time. Whatever your image size is, reduce it to no more than 640 across or 480 deep, whichever is larger.
When you downsample an image, it's always a good idea to run your image editor's unsharp masking filter (a little helps a lot) on the image.
Make sure you save it as a JPEG. A compression setting of 7 (if you have the option) is usually hard to detect. Most modern day mail programs will encode (to 7-bit data) and decode (back to 8-bit data) JPEG attachments automatically. And everybody with a Web browser has a JPEG viewer.
In fact, this is a little like what any good Web designer has to do (although they have to do a lot more of it) to make images work on the Web. And that's good enough for desktop viewing.
So a little prep work and those 400K files will be under 100K, save you time, and Uncle Rayban will see the light and put you back in his will.
Advanced Mode: Blow It Up!Sometimes wouldn't you just like to blow it up? Your image, we mean.
Well, you can.
The trick to making the biggest possible image is calibrating the one factor almost always neglected in those exquisite mathematical formulas used to derive the largest usable print size. And that factor is (drum roll) viewing distance.
You've seen a billboard? Up close? The image decomposes into large halftone dots. The mind struggles to reassemble what the eye has taken apart (in a manner of speaking).
But walk back a few paces and you get the picture.
The same general principle applies here. If you're not holding the image in your hand, you can really blow it up. To 30" x 40" even.
Or a service bureau can. If you don't have a wide-format printer in the basement.
To find out just how big you can print your picture, open it in your image editing program and set the image resolution to 25 (yes, 25) pixels per inch without resampling. Your width and height dimensions should change to reveal just how large the image will print. A megapixel image is more than you need to get a 30" x 40" poster, for example.
The trick is that this only works if you view the poster from no closer than 15 feet.
We found a helpful chart by Fayeq Oweis at http://www.visualimaging.com where Oweis does just this sort of thing commercially. He recommends 100 dots per inch for images viewed from 1-5 feet, 72 dpi for 5-10 feet, 50 dpi for 10-15 feet, and 25 for further than that.
Oweis calls pixels dots just to make life simpler for customers trying to scan images.
Before you take it to the service bureau Oweis recommends you make two more changes: convert it to CMYK mode (which is how printers print) and save it as a TIFF.
You can try a proof of concept at home. Just set your image resolution to 25 dpi (and let the dimensions balloon) then crop a 200 square piece of your image (an eyeball is fun). And print that on your printer.
Awful, isn't it? You can see every pixel in the image. It may even look like an abstract painting. But wait. Tack it on the wall and start backing up. Ah ha. See what we mean?
To rid your image of the jaggies just lower the resolution of the halftone screen (try 50 lines an inch) until they disappear.
And for more on this subject visit http://www.imagin g-resource.com/TIPS/PRINT1/PRINT1A.HTM to read the article Pixels, Dots, and Inches: How Big Can I Print It? It will help you find the largest size you can print an image intended for normal viewing.
Just for Fun: The Art of CroppingStill suffering from color-inside-the-lines syndrome? One symptom is sticking to the image dimensions your camera uses when it's time to display or print your pictures.
The first sign of this affliction is shooting all your pictures in landscape orientation. You may think of it as holding the camera straight, but the truth is the camera doesn't care. There are at least two ways to hold a camera: in landscape and in portrait orientation.
Landscape is when the widest part of the image is horizontal. Portrait is when it is up and down. You get portrait by turning your camera sideways to frame your shot.
Train yourself to ask if the shot wouldn't be better framed in portrait mode. Soon you'll be shooting a good third of them that way, we'll bet.
But that's just the beginning of the fun you can have framing your shots. We won't mention how handy it is to zoom in and out to compose a better image because that's a mystery to no one. We're born zoomers.
But did you know it's quite all right to cut too?
Once you've got those images on your computer and you've cranked up your image editing software, you're ready to crop.
You may have noticed in one museum or another that painters aren't terribly fond of 6x4 or 3.5x5 or 5x7 or 8x10 aspect ratios. They paint in the aspect ratio that their image demands. Or that they feel like. Square even. Partly this is because there is no advantage to hewing to any particular aspect ratio.
In photography there has been. Photo paper came in those sizes. Albums come in those sizes. Frames come in those sizes.
But digital photography can be much more flexible.
First of all, always keep a copy of the image your camera created. These cropped images are alternates of those originals. Think of yourself as a musician interpreting a score; the original is the score, the performance is the cropped image.
Then take your software's selection tool and crop. You may be surprised at what you find.
True story: we happened to be at the last day game at Candlestick Park and of course the digicam came along. We had great seats, just four rows behind the Diamondbacks' dugout. And when the national anthem was played by a fellow in shallow center field with a violin, we took our shot. Portrait for some reason (but, hey, why not both; we're not saving any money skipping).
There was something about that shot. The violin. One of the last baseball games ever at Candlestick. And the television cameraman who had crept into the picture as he zoomed in on the violinist. How'd he get in there!?
Sure, we could have obliterated him, but the occasion demanded no retouching, like a death mask. So could we just crop him out? But that would throw the violinist off center.
Fate was prodding us toward a radical but eloquent crop of the image. We cut over half the picture away, all from the sides, leaving a long thin image with a violinist at the bottom, the outfield wall about a third of the way up, the stands, the bunting, the upper deck. A slice of the old ballpark that was, in fact, cropped in the shape of a candlestick.
OK, you say, but what good is that? You can't frame it.
Well, you can. And you don't have to spend a fortune. You'll notice the spaces on your walls are not exactly shaped to accommodate standard picture sizes. The spaces on your walls are quite odd sized. Long thin ones are not uncommon. I found my frame at an inexpensive import store specializing in home furnishings and decorator details like odd sized picture frames.
So next time you have a picture you almost love, click on the selection tool and crop it into a work of art.
Dave's DealsTrial downloads of the (excellent) PhotoGenetics imaging program are still available. If you decide to purchase PhotoGenetics, be sure to come back through this URL (http://www.q-r es.com/php3/downloads.php3?refid=imgresource) to receive the special $5-off deal for Imaging Resource readers!
Editor's NotesAnother contest! d-store, inc. is hosting a digital photography contest at http://www.d-store.com/POTC/DP OC_index.htm called "The Picture of the Century."
The contest was conceived, d-store said, to allow entrants to express their artistic views using digital imagery. Prizes for the contest have been donated by the sponsors, and include dye sublimation printers from Canon and Olympus, and Digital Camera accessories from the major manufacturers. Details of the contest are available at http://www.d-store.com online.
And 800.COM Inc. survey reveals more than half of respondents plan to purchase a digital camera, DVD player or television in the next six months -- followed closely by speakers, receivers, cordless phones and camcorders. The online consumer electronics market is expected to do brisk business this year -- with Forrester Research predicting $1.2 billion in sales. This makes consumer electronics the fifth fastest-growing category of online goods, after software, books, music and computer hardware.
According to the 800.COM survey of 5,000 customers, 61 percent plan to purchase either a digital camera, television or DVD player during the next six months. The digital camera was the most popular item on the list, with 22 percent of respondents choosing a digital camera above all other consumer electronics products. Other products on consumers' top ten lists include: MP3 players, VCRs and CD players.
SignoffThat's it for now, but look for our next issue in about two weeks. Meanwhile, visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher
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