The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 2, Number 6 24 March 2000

Copyright 2000, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 14th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter with more than you ever wanted to know about JPEGs, a glowing review of the Nikon 990 and the Ersatz Oscar for Best Slide Show Software. Pop some corn.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ad here. And now a word from our sponsors:

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See the latest technology in digital photography and imaging LIVE at Digital Photo 2000! The trade expo and conference is May 17-20 in Rosemont, Ill. (less than 2 miles from O'Hare International Airport). Don't miss out on your best chance to see the latest, tips, tricks and techniques in digital photography at Digital Photo 2000! Visit www.digitalphotoexpo.com for more details.

Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by nearly 40,000 U.S. readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: JPEG Revealed

There's a lot more to JPEG image compression than meets the eye. Put on your 3-D X-Ray Digital Zoom glasses and we'll show you.

You'll be amazed to find things like the rarely seen Progressive Display or the even rarer Variable Compression.

And you may even run screaming in terror when you discover what those guys in the Joint Photographic Experts Group were thinking about when they came up with a "lossy" method of file compression.

The advantages are real and, while the disadvantages are also real, JPEG compression (it's really only a way of compressing images, not a file format) won't perceptibly degrade your images -- if you don't abuse it.

It has competition (several different formats using different compression techniques promising better quality and smaller files), including itself (a draft of the JPEG 2000 specification is now available). But we'll look at these products (like MrSID and MT-WICE) another time. First, let's get acquainted with something much closer to home: JPEG.

FILE FORMAT OR ALGORITHM?

Your camera may call your images JPEGs, but actually, it's making files that include JPEG File Interchange Format or JFIF. That basic pixel structure is usually wrapped up in a file format that may be proprietary or based on the TIFF/JPEG specification. If the latter, the EXIF specification is probably also at work, providing exposure data in the tagged header.

IMAGE COMPRESSION

But JPEG's job is to compress image files. If you've compressed data files (using ZIP or StuffIt, for example), you may not appreciate a "lossy" compression like JPEG. Every bit or every byte in a data file is, well, critical.

But you don't balance your checkbook with images. You look at images. And if you can't perceive the detail, it's not data, it's disk space. With compression techniques intended for images, you can compress your image files significantly -- without being able to tell (even though you've lost some original data). "I can tell," you yell, but actually, we humans perceive small color changes less accurately than small changes in brightness. Blame the brain.

A SLIDING SCALE

JPEG has the grace to permit you to decide just how much information you are willing to lose in any particular image. If you're building an index of images, for example, file size is more important than image quality. You just need a reminder of what the full image looks like, a sketch. But if you're building an archive of your work, file size will be much less important than quality. You can set JPEG options to achieve either objective.

When you Save As JPEG, your application usually presents a sliding scale of options marked on one end by Compression and the other by Quality. But the scale is unique to each application. In some cases it's numeric (from 0 to 4 or 0 to 100 or 100 to 0), in others it's broadly descriptive (high, medium and low). This lack of standardization means getting the same result in two applications can require magical powers.

But that's bare bones. More sophisticated JPEG filters like ProJPEG present every option as well as a preview of the result of your settings. And being able to save the settings makes repeatability a snap. We'll review ProJPEG shortly, but meanwhile you can download the demo at http://www.boxtopsoft.com/ for either MacOS or Windows.

LOSSY

Should you worry about JPEG's "lossy" compression?

You start losing information from an image the moment you snap the shutter or click the scan button. The real question is where to draw the line.

So how much is too much?

Too much is when you can see the image degrade. You've probably seen this at its worst on the Web where photographic images are sometimes very blocky. The Web master was (perhaps overly) concerned about download times, sacrificing image quality.

But until you see the image degrade, you're just enjoying the benefits of a more efficient file size.

Try setting your JPEG compression around 75 on compression-quality scale of 0 to 100. Save again with settings of, say, 65 and 85. Then open all three after saving. Notice any difference?

The most important caution (other than using a ridiculously low quality setting) is not to save with JPEG compression as you work on an image. Recompressing an altered image loses more information. If you decompress, edit and recompress at the original quality setting, degradation is minimized (especially at low quality settings). But you still lose information.

Don't save as JPEG until you're done editing. Use your application's native format (which often also provides perks like layers and change histories) while you crop and edit the image.

Unless you are rotating the image.

It's possible to rotate a JPEG without losing any information (try Cameraid for the MacOS at http://www.cameraid.com/ or PIE for Windows at http://www.hoju.de/), but unless your application specifically says it performs lossless JPEG rotations and flips (it's a different algorithm than the typical rotate or flip), it doesn't.

LOSSLESS

A word about Lossless JPEG. Mythology. Right up there with the Unicorn and the Cyclops and Atlantis and ... well, you get the idea. Once upon a time there was something called Lossless JPEG but it only compressed to 2:1 and is now largely obsolete and unsupported by common imaging editing programs. Like Atlantis.

JPEG is, after all, about compression. JPEG compression, as you will see below, loses information. Even at the highest quality setting. So if you want lossless, you don't want JPEG.

Having said that (strongly), I must point out that JPEG 2000 is about the quest for a lossless JPEG. Unfortunately for the fable, it doesn't use JPEG compression. Proving the point.

HOW IT WORKS

The JPEG algorithm does three things and in this order:

  1. Removes redundant information from your image (using a, repeat after me, Discrete Cosine Transform).

  2. Deletes parts of the image not critical to human visual perception (aka Quantization).

  3. Compresses the remaining data by exploiting statistical redundancy (all together, Huffman Encoding).

Optionally (but typically), two intermediary steps may also be involved: color space conversion and subsampling.

The blocky nature of a JPEG is the direct result of the discrete cosine transform or DCT which takes each 8x8 pixel block and transforms it into 64 numbers representing the intensity of each pixel block in relation to the others. A scale, that is, of 1 to 64. The first number is the average of all 64 pixels (called the Direct Current or DC); everybody else is a variation of that (or Alternating Current or AC).

So if you have an 8x8 block of blue blue sky, the first number will represent that color and the others (which don't vary from it) will all be zero.

This step provides a description of the image in frequencies (which will be used in Quantization) with values that tend to be larger in the top left corner and increasingly get smaller (which will help compression).

Quantization reduces the numbers that were calculated in DCT by a particular value and then -- drum roll! -- rounds off the result.

Now watch carefully (note there is nothing up my sleeve). If the average for our block is 1024 and we divide it by a particular value of 10, we get 102.4, which rounds to 102. And if we have a 1014, we end up with 101 (101.4 rounded down). Cute. What happens when we have a 1015? We get a 102 (101.5 rounded up). And if we have a 1005, we get a 101 (100.5 rounded up).

You are watching lossy in action.

When you decompress, those original values of 1024, 1015, 1014 and 1005 will be just two: 1020 and 1010 (using the same quantization value of 10). Call that dequantization for extra credit.

Quantization involves one more step, which is putting the values in ascending order so they can be encoded more efficiently. Instead of saying, we have six 102s followed by five 108s and then another three 102s, it puts all the 102s together in front of the 108s.

In the next phase of JPEG compression, Huffman encoding removes as much redundant data (not 102 102 102 102 102 but (5) 102s, to simplify) and calls the most frequently used values by shorter names (nicknames, if you will). This is a little like using "Bill, time for dinner!" rather than "William Jefferson Clinton, time for dinner!" 365 days a year).

A table of these values may also be built at this stage (Huffman optimization).

And that's all there is to it.

Wait a minute, you grab my arm. What about color?! You're just talking about intensity here, brightness. You haven't said anything about color!

And while it's true that the basic procedure could be applied to, say, each channel of an RGB image (to the Red channel, the Green channel and the Blue, individually), that isn't as efficient as it might be. That's where color space conversion comes in.

Luminance or brightness is almost always much more important in our understanding of an image than color or chrominance. (If you've got Photoshop, try it yourself: look at your full color image in Lab Mode and see if the lightness channel isn't easier to recognize than the other two.)

So your RGB image is converted into a different color space (like Lab, which is what Photoshop uses when you convert modes) called YCbCr. Y is the luminance information, Cb is the chrominance-blue and Cr the chrominance-red color information. This conversion helps compression quite a bit because most of the information is moved into the luminance channel, reducing redundant data in the two color channels. The variation in values in the luminance channel is quite a bit higher than in the color channels, which means the color channels can be compressed quite a bit.

Subsampling (we'll be brief) takes advantage of your eye's lower sensitivity to contrast in chrominance. So you can eliminate more color information (using a higher factor) than it would be wise to do to luminance.

DOWN THE ROAD

Still worried about "lossy" compression?

Wavelets and fractals are alternatives to the methods used in JPEG compression. Products employing these techniques promise -- guess what -- better quality and better compression. And we're starting to see them pop up not only in wish lists but in Photoshop plug-ins.

We've been dabbling with MT-WICE (a Photoshop file format plug-in that uses wavelets at http://www.mt.mevis.de/) and MrSID (Multiresolution Seamless Image Database, which also relies on wavelets, at http://www.lizardtech.com/). We'll let you know if we get very excited about either.

Meanwhile for more information about JPEG visit the JPEG FAQ at http://www.faqs.org/faqs/jpeg-faq/ and the JPEG home page at http://www.jpeg.org/ (where you can get a Java implementation of JPEG 2000) and the full story on the extensions for electronic photography at http://www.pima.net/standards/iso/standards/documents/N4378.pdf and visit http://www.butaman.ne.jp/~tsuruzoh/Computer/Digicams/exif-e.html for the EXIF format.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Nikon Coolpix 990 Really Shines

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C990/C99A.HTM on the Web site. But unlike our usual excerpts, this excerpt is really short -- only 19.23 percent of what Dave has to say about the 990 on the site. Roughly. And don't forget you can view sample images from the 990 at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C990/C99PICS.HTM while you're there.)

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

We're pleased to report that the Coolpix 990 takes all the best features of the previous 900 and 950 models and combines them with a host of new ones that make this camera really shine.

The swivel-lens design is one of our favorite design elements, as it greatly enhances the camera's optical flexibility. Additionally, the control layout stayed relatively the same but with a few additional features, such as the programmable Function buttons. (These programmable buttons make one handed operation of the camera much more feasible under varying conditions.) The camera provides both a real-image optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor display for image composition. A nice feature on the LCD is the very extensive information display that reports a variety of exposure information, including aperture and shutter speed settings. In Play mode, the LCD gives an equally informative readout on captured images and also offers an index display of thumbnails and a playback zoom option.

Optically, the Coolpix 990 is equipped with an 8 to 24mm, 3x zoom lens (equivalent to a 38 to 115mm lens on a 35mm camera), made up of nine elements in eight groups (all made from environmentally friendly glass, we might add). New to the 990 is the seven blade iris diaphragm design, which greatly extends aperture control over the earlier 950. Zoom is easily controlled via the W and T buttons on the back panel and the settings menu even allows you to select the Fixed Aperture feature, which keeps the aperture constant while the lens zooms. A 4x digital zoom can be turned on and off through the settings menu and offers an "stepless" incremental zoom range from 1.1x to 4.0x. We should also mention here, that the 990 has a nice variety of focusing options, including Continuous and Single autofocus as well as a manual control. Under the autofocus setting, you can set the desired focus area, or let the camera decide on its own (which displays a complex target series on the LCD panel and bases focus on the object closest to the lens). With manual focus, you can select a peaking feature that shows what part of the image is in focus, as well as a distance scale to help in difficult situations.

Exposure-wise, we greatly enjoyed the flexible options under the Manual Record setting. When you turn the camera on, you have the option of a completely Automatic or Manual Record mode, in addition to the Play mode. Under the Automatic Record mode, the camera handles everything, from the shutter speed to the white balance, but when you switch to Manual Record, your options multiply greatly. Within the Manual Record mode, you can select either Program, Flexible Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Manual exposure modes. Program does exactly as it sounds and selects the aperture and shutter speed, but you now have absolute control over white balance, exposure compensation, etc. Flexible Program does the same but instead lets the user select from a variety of aperture and shutter speed combinations. Aperture Priority and Shutter Speed Priority are also pretty self-explanatory, letting the user select one value while the camera selects the other. Finally, Manual gives you total control over everything, a feature we really like. Shutter speeds are adjustable from eight to 1/1000 seconds (with a bulb setting for longer exposures) and apertures range from f3.5 to f9.8.

The Coolpix 950 already offered outstanding features like Best Shot Select and a variety of continuous shooting modes. These are all repeated on the 990 and accompanied by a few new ones. In addition to the Continuous and Multi-Shot 16 shooting modes, the 990 also offers an Ultra High-Speed Continuous (approximately 30 frames per second with a total of 80 QVGA shots) and a Movie mode (up to 40 seconds of QVGA sized images at 15 frames per second). There's also an Auto Bracketing feature that brackets as much as two stops up and two stops below the set exposure, producing a total of five images. We really enjoyed these features and the amount of creativity and flexibility they allow. We were also pleased with the return of the extensive white balance menu from the 950 (Auto, Preset, Fine, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent and Speedlight) and the variety of metering options (the famous 256-element Matrix mode, Center-Weighted and Spot). Also, under the settings menu, we enjoyed the ability to alter the in-camera sharpening as well as increase or decrease the contrast or turn the image into monochrome black and white. Not to mention the ability to connect an external flash and use with or without the built-in flash. This camera is so feature laden, it's hard to find lack to complain of.

The Coolpix 990 uses CompactFlash for image storage and runs on four AA batteries. We found the camera a little power hungry (partly because of our reliance on the LCD monitor during the studio shots), so we highly recommend keeping a couple sets of spares around or working with the AC adapter when possible. The camera supports both USB and standard serial connections (using a dual purpose port), for quick connection to a PC or Mac. (The availability of a USB connection is decidedly good news on a high-resolution camera, especially one that can make nearly 10 megabyte uncompressed TIFF files like the 990!) There's also an NTSC video cable (European models ship with PAL) for connecting to a television set.

What a camera! We really love the almost excessive amount of control and think that you will too. The Coolpix 990 gives you as much control as you want, but also offers the luxury of sitting back and letting the camera do all the work as well. With its bevy of exposure options, compact portability, and high image quality we think this camera will be very popular.

CONCLUSION

The Coolpix 990 is an exceptional follow-on to the already excellent Coolpix 950. Virtually every aspect of the camera's performance has been enhanced or extended, and the result is a true 3 megapixel powerhouse.

Despite its incredible array of features though, its fully-automatic Auto record mode makes it easy enough for even the rankest amateur to use. For power users, the 990 sports one of the best-designed user interfaces we've had the pleasure to work with.

Nikon clearly listened to users of the Coolpix 900 and 950 in developing the 990, and the results show. We're confident in predicting that this will be a very popular digicam, among both amateurs and professionals!

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: Snapping Shady Characters

Spring has sprung (officially) which means the picnics, barbecues, graduations, family gatherings in the great outdoors are only a flip of the calendar away.

And your digicam with its easy-to-duplicate images is a good excuse for another group shot. So here's a little tip to practice while you're waiting for everyone to gather for the group portrait.

It's only natural to get everyone together facing the sun, so it's behind you, like it says in all the picture-taking guides to avoid backlight. But don't do it. Not this year.

You've already seen what everyone looks like when they're squinting or their eyes are masked by sunglasses or hat bills.

This year, pose them all in the shade.

The results will astonish you. Not only will you be able to capture the full range of tonal values on their faces (which you can't do in the harsh, direct sunlight), but your automatic exposure has less to fool it (no bright sky).

And you won't mind nearly so much if it's overcast on the big day.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Looking Good on Paper

In the days when photographers worked in the dark, there were knockdown bar room brawls over the nearly imperceptible differences between, say, an Ilford or a Kodak photo paper. Now nobody talks about paper.

There isn't much choice of paper at all if you print on a dye sub printer. You buy what the manufacturer of the printer sells you. Glossy it is, too.

But in the inkjet world, you have more choices than you may realize. And it's worth experimenting a little with various papers to find a few that work for you.

A couple of warnings first.

Every printer is engineered a bit differently. Be sure to read and understand your printer's manual, as Norm Abram might put it (well, it's sort of a power tool).

To test, use the single sheet feeder (if you have one). And make sure you aren't feeding damaged material into the printer. With papers especially, it's important to let them acclimate to your environment before actually using them. Open the box, the envelope, the packaging the day before you intend to use it.

Paper is, after all, made with water and dried to a specific moisture content -- losing about two pounds of water for every pound of paper. It curls and wrinkles and can be difficult to feed if it doesn't have time to make itself at home.

Some printer manufacturers warn against using embossed or perforated (tear along this line) papers. If yours does, don't use them.

Keep in mind that the printer settings of your software driver have a lot to say about what happens. If you aren't familiar with all the options your driver provides, now's the time. You may find different settings for different paper surfaces, for example, as well as different options for color calibration.

Experiment with those settings until you can get a repeatable and predictable result from your printer.

Now you're ready to play with some paper.

There are two basic kinds of papers: uncoated and coated sheets. You may know them as plain and glossy. But whatever you call them, there are more grades than you might imagine.

Uncoated sheets can have very smoothly finished surfaces. But no matter how smooth they are, they absorb more ink than the coated, or glossy, sheets. Which is the primary reason your driver wants to know what it's printing on. Does it have to really lay on the ink or not?

Keep an eye out for the whiteness of a sheet, too. Some sheets are noticeably warmer in tone than others. And other sheets are bleached so much they fluoresce in certain light and seem whiter than white in sunlight. Compare a couple of white sheets by laying them next to each other to see what we mean. No two whites are quite the same.

A few special additives are important to a paper's printing characteristics, too. Rosins add water repellency to hold out ink. Clay fillers improve smoothness, opacity and ink affinity. Titanium dioxide may be added for opacity and brightness. Not to mention dyes and pigments and the alum needed to fix them.

The types of finishes a sheet can have are much more varied than your typical supply store might have on hand unless they cater to small offset printers. There are at least half a dozen for uncoated sheets producing different degrees of smoothness.

Because each side of a sheet can have different characteristics, make sure you know which side is. They even have different names: the wire side (the bottom) and the felt side (the top).

The weight of the sheet affects how it handles. Most so-called photo paper is heavier than standard laser paper. But it's possible, as Steve Doire suggested with his Tip of the Month at http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM, to mount a lightweight glossy paper and get the same effect.

It can be hard to chose a paper at the superstore. After all, what's the difference between an inkjet paper and a laser printer paper? One has to hold out a wet ink and the other has to withstand heat, but who's to say you can't run the laser sheet in your inkjet?

So look around for sample packs (usually sold in envelopes) or visit paper manufacturer sites (like Hammermill at http://www.hammermill.com/ or Neenah at http://www.neenahpaper.com/) that sell samples. And test.

Then let us know what works best for you. We promise not to pick any fights.

Dave's tech note: We're actually in the process of reviewing a couple of different inkjet papers for the site, and will report on at least one of them as early as the next issue of this newsletter. A company called AGA Chemicals has what appears to be a true breakthrough in technology for inkjet papers, with their "Pictorico" brand. We also just got a box of samples from Celcast, which came highly recommended by a reader.

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: And the Oscar Goes to ...

Readers of this newsletter shouldn't need to be told where those three missing Oscars are.

After all, it was only a few issues back (Jan. 28, in fact) that we appointed all of you members of the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and requested your nominations for the Ersatz Oscar for Slide Shows. And we got them (Feb. 11).

We didn't ask for much, but we really, really, really wanted to find free software (so it could be burned on the CDs we distribute). Now, with your nominations, an obscure clause in the Academy's bylaws permitting write-in candidates and three unlabeled, genuine Oscars (not to mention how nicely this dovetails into that other Academy's parties), we're ready to announce the winners.

So what are we waiting for? The e-nvelope, please ...

Which leaves one unclaimed Oscar. Unfortunately, Dave, it's a little too early for your Ersatz Lifetime Achievement Award. Maybe we should just hang on to it for a while.

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

Ever have to take notes from a whiteboard (or blackboard)? We discovered a really slick program that lets you use your digital camera to make beautiful, clean meeting handouts or class notes in a flash! It's called Whiteboard Photo from Pixid software, and Pixid is offering a special $20-off deal for Imaging Resource readers! (Net price of $79.95.) Read the review on our Web site at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/WBS/WBSA.HTM or go directly to the Pixid site at https://secure.teleport.com/~peterwh/pixid/order_ir.html to order your copy today. (You really have to see this thing in action to believe it! Wish I'd had it in college, not to mention my years as an aerospace engineer! Sorry, PC-only at the moment.)

Trial 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-res.com/php3/downloads.php3?refid=imgresource) to receive the special $5-off deal for Imaging Resource readers!

Scansoft, creators of TextBridge Pro OCR, recently acquired the Kai line and decided to combine PhotoSoap2, SuperGoo, and PowerShow into a new product called PhotoFactory. They're offering the three-in-one package for $29.95 -- a savings of almost $50 -- at http://www.digitalriver.com/aladdin/scansoft/22617/ for both Macintosh and Windows platforms.

Return to Topics.

We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com. And you sure did after the last issue. We got a lot of ideas for converting slides into digitized images using everything from cameras to scanners. Before you roll up your sleeves, though, full disclosure requires we point out none of them provide the resolution or density range of the original solution, PhotoCD. Still, these don't cost much to try.

RE: Digitizing Slides

Reading the letter to the editor concerning getting slides digitized onto a CD, I had to laugh at the interesting timing. I went through the same thing recently. After studying the methods used and the cost, I ended up with the question: Do I really want to pay to have several hundred slides digitized? No, not really. But what about the on-slide-only shots of my honeymoon that took place light years ago? The fresh mind of my son came bouncing in with the answer: Project the slides onto a screen, then take photos of the projected images with my digital camera.

After playing around with various sizes, distance from screen, and settings, I had it down to a science. Well, not exactly a science. Actually, I used a version of old-fashioned bracketing, fiddling with spot metering and exposure compensation. The images are now all on a CD made possible by my read/write CD drive (which cost less than having someone else digitize all those slides). After performing cosmetic surgery on my favorites and then sending them off to Ofoto, I ended up with actual prints that I could add to the family album.

My son saved me approximately $200. They say there's a first time for everything.

-- Barbara Coultry

(Barbara subsequently confessed to spot metering faces to get the right exposure, but remember, these were honeymoon shots. Probably a little sunburned? -- Editor)

RE: Digitizing Slides

Scanning slides -- at the prices charged for doing old slides, it wouldn't take that long to make an HP Photosmart Scanner pay for itself. I paid $399 for mine but I've seen them as low as $299. Does 35mm slides, negatives and prints up to 5X7. What I like is how easy it is to do color correction of slides that have gotten old and have odd shades not seen in nature. Just did a project scanning a bunch of old family photos and printing them out on my HP 2000 Cse printer using a good quality inkjet paper but not the $1 a sheet glossy stuff. Looked pretty darn good. Printed them right out of the scan. Scanned at a different resolution for saving on disk (smaller file). This will not work with ancient glass slides but will with the plastic or cardboard ones.

-- Natalie A Pope

(Excellent point about faded slides and prints. You can indeed restore them very easily. Sounds like a future feature. -- Editor)

RE: Digitizing Slides

Scanning slides at home doesn't have to cost a bundle.

Please tell Ken Gray that my old (1998) Scanport has a handheld slide/negative scanner attachment (model #SQ35TA). The flatbed and handheld units were both under $300. The results are quite nice and if you have hundreds of slides (in my case it was my 35mm negatives) to digitize it's a decent investment. I'm sure by now they've improved on this. Soon, I won't need this device at all, since I'm now starting with digitized photos, but the Scanport is a nice piece of home equipment. We are shopping for a Rewritable CD burner now for this purpose. Got any suggestions or tips from readers?

-- Accesseyes

(Well, readers? -- Editor)

RE: Digitizing Slides

If I understand Ken Grey's question correctly I believe he can do this digitizing of 35mm slides himself. If he has a digital camera like the Nikon 950 (which I use) he can take a picture of the slides and then transfer to his PC files and/or make his own CD, burning in the picture files. One way to take the picture is to place the slide on a window rail at the middle of a double hung window, compose and focus, snap picture. Just try to be sure the outside area is clear of other objects such as trees or other houses. You could also use a light inside and make your own mounting frame for the slide with the camera mounted on a tripod. Experiment by using a piece of white cardboard as background for slide, etc.

Hope this helps. It sure will save money and results are quite amazing I think.

-- Jim

(That's actually an excellent suggestion. I think the discussion around PhotoCD has as some of it's root an interest in extracting every last bit of digital info from the subject images: PhotoCD makes very large, highly-detailed files (18 meg RGB, at the largest size).

You're right though, a simple setup with a digicam will let you make very decent 1.5 to 3 megapixel copies very quickly. Leica actually makes a slide copier for one of their models, which is actually the same camera as the Fuji MX-1700 (1.5 megapixels). An outfit called Happenstance products makes a very nice adapter for the Nikon Coolpix 950 (would also fit the new 990). Another fellow (I'd have to dig it up) makes an inexpensive unit for the Kodak DC260/265/290 series.

Two caveats: 1) The dynamic range (dark to light range) won't be nearly as great as with PhotoCD, so you may miss some detail in the shadows on slide film. 2) Trying to invert the color from negatives to make positive images is very dicey, without special software or enormous patience. -- Dave)

(The 950 is unusually good (for a digicam) at slide reproduction. Other digicams can't get that close or suffer quite a bit of distortion. But you're right about the 950. We've seen some pretty good samples. -- Editor)

RE: CD-ROM Display Program?

Anybody who gives out Photo CD-ROMs needs a copyable program for displaying the contents properly on any computer, even one with Windows 3.1. Such an executable program must be made for the purpose, so as to keep it legal to distribute it right on the CD-ROM. Can you identify a program or a source for one?

-- Gene Widenhofer

(I don't offhand know of a free viewer (but I'm sure there a are several out there). I do know that ImageAXS from Caere Software (mentioned in our last newsletter issue) includes a viewer that you can freely distribute with CD-ROMs created with some versions of their program. -- Dave)

(Take a look at our Ersatz Oscar winners above, Gene. The Windows 3.1 requirement isn't met because none of the ones we found were free. But you can drop down to a DOS viewer that runs under 3.1 with the free DVPEG at ftp://sunee.uwaterloo.ca:/pub/jpeg/viewers/dvpeg30l.zip. And if you don't mind not being able to automatically scale your images to full screen, you can always build HTML pages (with index pages). -- Editor)

RE: Mapping Control Coordinates

Hi!, I'm Gary Waters Photo Lab Manager of Cooper Aerial Survey in Tucson, AZ, I'm looking for a solution to a unique problem associated to aerial images; that is, how to merge an image to mapping control coordinates. Perhaps you have seen those big white "X's" painted on the roads or off to the side of the road? Those X's are the mapping control points. It is my task to make a photo fit as best I can to those points by tilting, turning and twisting my easle.

The problem that now arises is how to do all this in the digital format. We have various engineering software like Cadmap, Autocad and others that we use but they are labor intensive and frankly, aren't as accurate as I can be in an enlarger. What programs would other people use if they had to merge a drawing file to a photo image?? I know that a certain mount of stretching and morphing will be necessary, but the programs we use can't get accurate enough without a lengthy process and a lot of memory space.  I keep hoping that somewhere out there someone knows the best solution to this problem. So, what do you think???

-- Gary Waters

(Photoshop. My final answer, Gary.

Photoshop's Transform options (Scale, Skew, Distort, Perspective ... not to mention Free Transform) are a good place to start. But for the absolute, roll-you-own control, try the Custom Filter, which essentially lets you write your own transform. Which means, if you don't get what you want it's your own fault.

Many imaging editing programs have similar tools, though. Why not try a shareware product? That ought to drive you back to the easel. No one's invented an easier way, unfortunately. -- Editor)

Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

We found an interesting photo exhibit at http://www.greatmodernpictures.com/newpage28.htm called Portraits of an Era, 1960s to 1990s. It's a collection of Fred. W. McDarrah's images of various celebrities from Bob Dylan to Alfred Hitchcock. Takes a while to load, but a nice diversion.


Forbes has an interesting article at http://www.forbes.com/forbes/00/0320/6507078a.htm on Sanyo's role as a manufacturer of other company's digicams.


Outpost.com and Wolf Camera, a photo chain with about 700 retail locations in more than 30 states, have announced an e-commerce partnership. Outpost.com will develop, maintain and manage a new Web store, provide access to its existing customer base of over 600,000 customers and more than four million visitors per month to its Web site, offer its free next day delivery policy and its customer service, including a 24-hour live customer service center.


Nikon had posted a $100 Nikon 950 rebate valid from April 1 through June 30 at http://www.nikonusa.com/assets/cp950rebate.pdf but pulled the page earlier this week.


Digital Photo 2000 at www.digitalphotoexpo.com promises to be quite a gathering of suppliers, educators and users of digital photography and imaging products. Along with the Expo, the Digital Photo Conference showcases top experts in digital photography discussing the latest techniques. Tips from industry greats like Dean Collins, Helene Delilo, Dennis Biela among others will discuss every aspect of digital imaging. Take advantage of five Educational Tracks designed to teach you the latest solutions: New Applications, Digital Capture, Workflow, Design and Image Manipulation and Digital Printing.


Analog Devices has announced a new CCD signal processor that significantly improves sharpness and clarity in digital cameras while prolonging battery life. Digital cameras using Analog Devices' PxGA(tm) technology, such as Fujifilm's recently introduced FinePix4700Z digital camera and FinePix S1 Pro single lens reflex digital camera, achieve one of the highest color fidelities available on the market today, the company said.

Analog Devices and Fujifilm worked closely together to co-develop an advanced imaging architecture that integrates a timing generator and 12-bit converter with ADI's proprietary PxGA technology, resulting in increased color depth, greater gradations of colors and better overall system performance.

Return to Topics.

Signoff

That'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:

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
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Newsletter Forum: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=irnews
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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