The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 2, Number 8 21 April 2000

Copyright 2000, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 16th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Lots of Easter eggs (nice ones) in this one. Happy hunting!


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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Olympus
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Olympus is pleased to announce that the C3030 Zoom (the world's fastest 3.3 megapixel digital camera) is now shipping to dealers nationwide. The C3030 Zoom can shoot as fast as 3.3 frames per second, or take a picture every second under normal shooting conditions. Its 3x optical zoom lens was designed specifically for digital photography and is one of the highest-quality lenses on the market today. It also accepts the new lithium CR-3V batteries for long life. Visit your local retailer or favorite internet source today, or see the URL below for more details!

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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: ProJPEG -- Flight Simulation for File Compression

Saving As JPEG can be a lot like a crash landing. You may have a destination in mind but set your controls a little off and there's no recovery.

If only you had a flight simulator -- something, that is, to show you what's going to happen without actually crashing if you make a mistake. Well, we've got the perfect solution: Boxtop Software's ProJPEG.

ProJPEG 4.0 is an Adobe Photoshop file format plug-in. A limited function demo of either the Macintosh or Windows version is available at http://www.boxtopsoft.com. The shareware plug-in is $50 but readers of this newsletter can get it for $39.95 until May 5. We know of nothing else like it at any price.

Its key features are an interactive preview of the effects of your compression settings, an optional progressive display, variable compression and targeted image size. But it also outperforms Adobe's built-in JPEG compression.

INSTALLATION

As a file format plug-in, installation is simple. Just copy ProJPEG to the File Formats folder of your Photoshop Plug-Ins folder.

You don't necessarily need Photoshop to enjoy what ProJPEG does. But while many applications are able to run Photoshop plug-ins themselves, few are able to run file format plug-ins. Just try the demo to see if your preferred application can take advantage of ProJPEG.

ProJPEG does require its own RAM, though. While it can use up to a third of the RAM allocated to Photoshop, in actual use it takes about 75 percent of that. So if you allocate 25MB to Photoshop, ProJPEG will use about 6MB, rather than 8MB. ProJPEG's interactive previews require twice the size of the original RGB image plus about 1MB of overhead for a baseline JPEG. Using the progressive option requires even more memory.

To maximize the amount of RAM available to ProJPEG, you can clear undo information, the clipboard and snapshots and close any other open documents.

But RAM will probably not be an issue if you are optimizing images for use on the Web.

DOCUMENTATION

The downloaded ProJPEG package includes excellent documentation.

Two text documents (besides the Read Me) can get you started right away. The Quick Start is enough to make you an instant expert. Its short but thorough tour hits the high points of typical use. And the accompanying FAQ makes interesting reading whether you've got a question or not.

In addition to that, though, the download includes a complete 140K manual in PDF format which takes you through the whole product from installation to trouble-shooting. In fact, if you want to avoid watching us torture this flight simulator metaphor, you can go straight to the manual now to get the picture.

USAGE

When you Save As, just select ProJPEG from the list of optional file formats. It will remain your default.

ProJPEG only works with RGB mode images. This may sound like a serious limitation, but in fact it isn't much of a problem since both your scanner and camera create images in RGB color space to begin with. So using any other mode would require a conversion anyway. But it's worth noting that CMYK mode, while technically possible, is not supported.

Typically, you should only save your image as a JPEG when you are done editing it. Reopening an image saved as a JPEG and saving it again after editing will degrade it. Use your application's native format for intermediate saves. That also lets you use all of the application's features (like layers).

ProJPEG, however, won't degrade quality with multiple saves as long as the original RGB image is open. You'll only get into trouble opening the document saved by ProJPEG and recompressing it.

When you're ready to JPEG the image, Save As and make sure ProJPEG is selected. You'll soon see a large dialog box with lots of options. Think of it as your JPEG Flight Simulator.

The game here is to keep quality airborne while maximizing size efficiency. Using any other JPEG format, you'd only be guessing (and crash landing), but in ProJPEG you can actually see the effects of your settings in real time.

Which means you can actually determine the smallest file size for the highest quality you need.

THE DIALOG BOX

First look at the original's preview box (at 100 percent magnification it usually doesn't display much of the original image.) Grab it and slide it around to an important detail.

Compare the quality of that detail (its sharpness at the edges, its smoothness in solid areas) to the JPEG preview to the right. They're linked so moving one around moves the other.

Adjust the quality of the JPEG image by moving the two large sliders below the previews.

Even though ProJPEG's default settings typically outperform Adobe's JPEG, you're missing a lot of the fun if you don't adjust the settings.

The top slider determines compression. It makes the biggest difference in both size and quality by how finely it reads or samples the original. Stay within the 10-90 range on the scale of 0-100.

The smoothing slider under the quality slider reduces noise (that sort of grainy effect in solid colors like sky areas). While higher settings can further reduce file size, they can also make your image seem out of focus. As the image preview will demonstrate.

Play with both sliders, observing the effects in the JPEG preview, until you get acceptable quality at the smallest file size. Then you're ready to land. Save it.

INSTRUMENTATION

ProJPEG offers some very useful compression gauges.

The Speed menu lets you target a typical dialup connection speed, calculating and displaying the estimated download time for any set of options. So you can actually see the difference in download time a different quality setting will cause. Real world download times vary considerably, of course, but this is a welcome benchmark. You'll wish every Webmaster used it.

The File Size line shows both the file size of the data fork and the download time at the speed set in the Speed Menu. On the Macintosh, the file size of the image in the Finder will be larger because it includes the resource fork where any preview (and icons, among other things) is stored. But what gets sent through the Internet is (or should be) just the data fork. Boxtop Software provides GIF Prep with the ProJPEG package (or as a free download) to strip the resource fork from GIFs or JPEGs.

The Presets menu lets you save (and manage) various ProJPEG settings. If you have settings that work well for thumbnails, you can save them as, say, "Thumbnails." Another for "High Quality," say, or "EBay Product" shots. In addition to any you save, ProJPEG always keeps track of the Last Used settings. Like any competent navigator, it knows where it's been.

CONTROLS

The quality and smoothing sliders are the big guns, but ProJPEG offers a few other controls that are worth playing with.

The Target text box lets you predetermine the size of your JPEG. This is a wonderful thing if you are creating a banner ad, for example, for a site with maximum size restrictions. Just enter the maximum size and hit the Find button. Then watch as ProJPEG calculates the compression settings to meet your target.

The Better Image Sampling check box controls the sampling rate ProJPEG employs to read the original image. If image quality is critical, checking this box will preserve quality at the expense of file size. Like a flotation device, it's rarely required but it sure is nice to know it's there.

The Huffman Code Optimization check box creates a custom code table for final Huffman compression (cf. our JPEG Revealed feature in the March 24 issue). While it takes a wink longer to create previews and save files, it makes smaller, more efficient files. Which is always useful.

SECRET WEAPONS

Even without the live preview and all the other features we've just noted, ProJPEG would be worth the price for the two special JPEG options it provides: progressive display and variable compression.

Enabling the Progressive Display check box writes a file that will display itself quickly but crudely at first and in successive waves improves resolution until the full file is downloaded. You've seen this commonly in GIFs on the Web, but it's long been an option for JPEGs too. Unfortunately, it isn't always supported in applications other than browsers. So your HTML editor may not know how to display it. The big advantage of this format is quickly displaying a rough of your image to visitors of your site. It's more appreciated by visitors the larger your images are.

JPEG has a little-employed option that permits compressing an image with different settings for different areas. Called Variable Compression, few JPEG programs actually enable you to take advantage of this killer option. ProJPEG does, however.

To use the option, first save a selection of your image in Photoshop. The saved selection tells ProJPEG you have a foreground and a background in your image. The area inside your selection (which you can swap using the Invert Selection option) is the foreground. The area outside the selection is the background.

Once you have an alpha channel (anything besides Red, Green and Blue channels) for your selection, you'll find three active radio buttons: Both, Fore and Back. If your file has only Red, Green and Blue channels, just Both is active.

The variable compression varies the amount ProJPEG's smoothing filters improve the compression.

Selecting Both applies smoothing settings to both the foreground and the background. Selecting either Fore or Back allows you to make individual smoothing settings for either the foreground or background areas respectively.

So if you've got Don Johnson's 'Cuda in your sights against the swirling fog on the Bay (how come it's always sunny in San Francisco on Nash Bridges?), you can select the car (and with that Lemon Twist yellow, it's easy) and set variable compression to really compress the background fog while respecting the '71 detailing of that '70 'Cuda. By using different settings for the background and foreground you get an even smaller file with better quality than you could using a single setting for both. (You may think that has nothing to do with flight simulation, unless you've see how the man drives.)

TEST FLIGHT

We've been using ProJPEG for a few weeks, but a test image serves to illustrate what it can do.

Our test image was a 570K JPEG of a calla lily against a dark background straight out of the camera (expanding to 3.52M). Saved at a setting of 7 (the lowest 'high' quality setting) as an Adobe baseline optimized JPEG, it was 207K. As just an Adobe baseline at 7, it was 219K.

Using just the 80 percent quality and 20 percent smoothing settings of ProJPEG the same original 570K native JPEG became a 92K file -- with no apparent loss of quality in the original. In fact, the smoothing seems to have enhanced it a bit.

We chose a second test image about 283K of a small round case with a lot of type against a maroon counter top, expanding to 3.52M also. The optimized Adobe JPEG at 7 was 253K and the baseline was 264K. ProJPEG at 80/20 needed just 107K. Even hedging with Better Image Sampling checked it needed just 141K.

Finally, to get an idea of what Variable Compression could do, we downsampled the image of the small case to a 1.61M image. Allocating 40M to Photoshop wasn't enough to try Variable Compression on a 3.52M image. We would have needed about 60M (roughly 20M for 4 channels at 3.5M each).

The Adobe JPEG 109K image became a ProJPEG 80/20 of 52K. But we were able to achieve a 31K image size using Variable Compression setting the foreground at 80/20 and the background at 60/50. And yet there was no noticeable difference in quality among the images.

CONCLUSION

To get the most out of JPEG compression you have to be able to see how it affects the particular image you're editing. General settings can never be efficient. And to optimize the JPEG compression of any particular image, you need all the compression options that JPEG provides.

We know of no other product with as much command of JPEG compression as ProJPEG. And until May 5 Boxtop Software is offering the plug-in to Imaging Resource readers for just $39.95. See the details in Dave's Deals below.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon PowerShot S20 -- 3 megapixel Elph-like Winner

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S20/S20A.HTM on the Web site.)

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

If you liked the smooth, compact, sophisticated styling of the Canon S10, you'll love the new S20. With the same control layout, body design and lightweight portability, the S20 keeps all the best features from the S10 with the addition of a larger 3.3 megapixel CCD.

The body of the S20 is extremely slim and compact, with no major protrusions (except the lens, when extended), so that it easily fits into a shirt or coat pocket. The control layout is consistent with the older model and simple to navigate (one-handed operation is definitely possible). The small status display panel on top of the camera provides a fair amount of detail on current camera settings, helping to save on battery power by not using the large LCD display on the camera's back panel. Although many of the features still rely on the LCD based menu system, we liked the fact that the exposure mode, flash mode, continuous shooting, self-timer, and macro modes can all be controlled without referring to the LCD.

You have a choice of using the real-image optical viewfinder or the 1.8 inch, low temperature, polycrystalline silicon color LCD monitor for composing images. The optical viewfinder features center autofocus target marks and a small LED to let you know when the camera is ready for the shot. The LCD monitor offers a nice, sharp image as well as an information display that can be turned on and off. In Playback mode, the LCD offers an optional nine-image index screen and zoom capability for closer examination of captured images.

The S20 is equipped with a 2x, 6.5 to 13mm lens (equivalent to a 32 to 64mm lens on a 35mm camera) with a focus range from 26 inches (66 cm) to infinity and from 4.7 to 26 inches (12 to 66 cm) in macro mode. An autofocus assist light on the front of the camera is activated in dim lighting situations. A 2x/4x digital zoom option can be activated through the Record menu, increasing the S20's zoom capabilities up to 8x (but beware that quality always suffers proportional to zoom level with digital zoom).

Exposure-wise, we experienced good control on the S20 with many of the camera's features accessible without resorting to the LCD menu system. From the mode dial, you can choose from four main exposure modes: Automatic, Manual, Image and Stitch-Assist (panorama). Immediately upon entering Stitch-Assist mode, the screen splits into "live" and "already captured" segments, helping to line up each new image with those already captured. The Image exposure mode lets you select from Night Scene, Landscape, Slow Shutter, Fast Shutter and Black & White special exposure modes, giving a nice amount of flexibility. (The various modes change the exposure program to favor fast or slow shutter speeds, smaller lens apertures, or higher light sensitivity & longer exposure times.)

Manual mode lets you adjust the exposure compensation, white balance, etc. (although not the shutter speed or aperture as the name would perhaps suggest) while Automatic puts the camera in charge of everything.

The S20 offers either standard center-weighted average or "spot" exposure metering. White balance offers the standard options (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten and Fluorescent) as does the built-in flash (Auto, On, Off and Red-Eye Reduction). When shooting in Manual exposure mode, the S20 gives you control over ISO, through the Gain setting, with choices of 100, 200 and 400. (200 and 400 listed on the menu as "+1" and "+2".)

Additionally, you can adjust the image sharpness and contrast. A Continuous shooting mode allows you to snap the shutter as fast as 1.7 images per second (not to be confused with the Fast Shutter exposure mode which simply fires a single shot at a higher shutter speed).

Image storage on the S20 is based on the CompactFlash standard, with the card slot accommodating both Type I and II card sizes. (Making it compatible with the capacious IBM MicroDrive.) An NTSC video cable comes with the camera, making it a snap to review or compose images with a television screen. Likewise, for quick image downloading to a computer, the camera comes with a serial and USB cable compatible with Macs and PCs.

In addition to Canon's PowerShot software, which downloads images and stitches together any panoramic shots, a copy of Adobe PhotoDeluxe provides additional creative options for image enhancement and correction. PhotoDeluxe offers a variety of filters and effects as well as templates for things like greeting cards and calendars.

All in all, the S20 is a portable, well-designed, easy to use camera that will please anyone on the go. It takes great pictures and offers enough options for most snapshooters, stopping short of the full manual control sought by advanced photographers. The special exposure modes give you greater flexibility when shooting in more difficult situations like night scenes or sporting events. User-friendly, highly pocketable and feature-laden, the S20 is the perfect choice for the consumer who wants a camera that takes really good pictures, is fun to use, and (often most importantly) is small enough to fit into a pocket to be packed along on any excursion.

MYSTERIOUS PURPLE PROBLEM?

Several readers have reported a tendency in the S20 to produce rather purplish skies. (We may have missed this because none of our shots included a sufficiently intense blue sky to trigger the problem.) This struck us as an ideal application of our favorite image-adjusting tool PhotoGenetics.

We've always been keen on PhotoGenetics as the "$30 camera upgrade," but even we were surprised by just how easily it deals with a selective-color problem of this sort. We fiddled around for quite a while in the basic PhotoGenetics program, and ended up with fixes that would work for one photo, but not others. When we tried the $14.95 "Isocolor" plug-in though, we were frankly amazed by how quickly we got a "genotype" that could be applied to pretty much everything with good results! The PhotoGenetics "genotype" took us all of about 30 seconds to develop and can be downloaded from the site (see the full review for the link).

The best part is that once you have a genotype like this, you can batch-apply it to all your photos in mere seconds. Really phenomenal: In our view, for $45, PhotoGenetics and the Isocolor plug-in turn a great digicam (the S20) into a truly outstanding one! (Frankly, with PhotoGenetics, an easily-corrected color problem like the one shown here should be no reason to bypass an otherwise excellent digicam.)

SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES

On the S20, we found the shutter lag time with full auto focus to be about 1.3 seconds. Alternatively, shutter lag with prefocus (a half press of the shutter button before the actual exposure itself) is only 0.25 seconds. The time for full autofocus is a bit slower than much of the competition, while the prefocused time is a bit better than average. The camera obviously has some buffer memory, as the first three shots in high-res mode are much faster than the subsequent ones.

We found the shot-to-shot cycle time at the maximum resolution and image quality setting to be about 4.0 seconds for first three shots of a rapid fire series. The time then increased to 7.0 seconds for all succeeding ones. It seems like the camera is continuously emptying out the buffer memory as you prepare for the next shot. So, if you wait more than 10 or 15 seconds after the last shot, you'll be able to shoot another three in rapid succession.

In the lower resolution settings, the minimum shot-to-shot cycle time is about 3.0 seconds, but you can shoot proportionately more frames before you run out of buffer memory. Shot-to-shot cycle times in the Continuous Shooting mode are 2.0 seconds in the lowest quality mode. The S20 takes about 2.2 seconds to start up and about 2.5 seconds to shut down. Going from Record to Playback mode took an average of 2.7 seconds while flipping back from Playback into Record mode took around 2.5 seconds. The record-to-play delay would be vexing were it not for the very handy indefinite review option we mentioned earlier, obtained simply by holding down the shutter button after the exposure.

CONCLUSION

With the S20, Canon kept the sleek, sophisticated, compact styling of the S10 and added a 3.3 megapixel CCD capable of delivering a much larger image (2048 x 1536). They also gave it an exceptionally sharp lens to match the sensor's resolution (producing the highest resolution we've measured on a digicam). We found its color to be very good as well, both hue-accurate and properly saturated. (Neither over-bright nor dull.) While it lacks traditional aperture- and shutter-priority metering modes, much the same effects can be achieved through the "Fast Shutter" and "Slow Shutter" exposure modes. Overall, a great camera and a great extension of Canon's "Elph-like" digicam line. Highly recommended!

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

We've upgraded our server with a faster CPU, and doubled the memory (now 256 MB), so peak performance should be improved. If any of you've experienced slow response times, this should fix it.

We now have full sets of comparison images in the Comparometer for the Canon S20, the Nikon D1 (!) and Sony FD91. (Can you guess what reviews will be appearing next?) We now also have a really well-standardized basis for comparison between the D1 and other pro digicams, an advantage we hope to capitalize on shortly.

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: The Rule of Thirds

It's only natural, when sighting a subject through your viewfinder, to center it as if it were a target. And while there's no law against it, it tends to wear thin as a method of composing images.

So some Pythagorean (probably) decided to invent a simple trick to help get the subject off the hot spot. They called it the Rule of Thirds and it is brow beaten into every student of composition.

We don't much like rules.

So we were very amused, in researching this topic, to find it expressed in so many different ways. Why, it's hardly a rule at all. More like shorthand for move your subject off center.

Our take on the topic, a synthesis of the more helpful comments and a reflection of our ingrained behavior, follows but, really, just try moving your subject off center to get the full benefits. Then you can go around telling people it's the Rule of Thirds.

Take a piece of paper and fold it twice as if you were going to stuff it into a #10 envelope (those long ones). Unfold it and hold it in front of you on its side. You have the rule of thirds for vertical subjects. Rather than placing the subject in the middle pane, move it to either the left or right fold, depending on which way the subject faces (have the subject face the other fold: in, not out).

Doing the same thing lengthwise gets you the rule of thirds for horizontal subjects. Move your horizontal subject (the horizon perhaps) up to the top or down to the bottom.

There's no magic in this, though. If it isn't immediately pleasing, it isn't working. Trust your eye and try something else.

We've tried to illustrate this in words, but the Web is full of GIFs illustrating it. And all of them look like tic-tac-toe games. It isn't the Rule of Ninths, though. And the advice is often to move the subject to the intersection of the lines. But it isn't the rule of quarters either.

And it isn't a very obscure technique. Just turn on your television and watch it in action. Even a baseball game has the pitcher on the left axis and the batter on the right. But primarily the trick is to keep the viewer's eye moving to prevent them from falling asleep while hypnotically looking at the center of the screen.

The Pythagoreans were noted for their belief in numbers as the ultimate elements in the universe. And we do doff our Easter bonnet to them, especially now at tax time. But our favorite interpretation of the Rule of Thirds came from http://www.divegirl.com/ where the concept took on new meaning.

Divers get where they're going thanks to an oxygen tank which, however, can't be refilled under water. It's all the air they get. The Rule of Thirds, for a diver, is to turn back at the one-third point. Don't wait until the halfway point. You really don't want to run out.

As rules go, that's one Rule of Thirds to live by.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Dress Appropriately

The story that follows is, we have been assured by reliable sources, true. And someone (we can't say who) has the pictures to prove it. So we've changed a detail here and there to protect them.

We retell it here, not to encourage others to follow suit (so to speak), but because we think it illustrates a valuable lesson -- and it somewhat falls under the category of Easter bonnets.

For the last two years plus a few months, one little corner of San Francisco has gradually been remade into a modern baseball facility with echoes of a simpler time. Not far from that corner, a certain nameless photo lab technician with a hopeless attachment to balls and strikes knew this was his turn at bat.

Every now and then he'd take a later than usual lunch and walk the mile or so to the construction site with his camera slung over his shoulder. Jeans and a t-shirt were his wardrobe. Without his steel toe boots he felt barefoot but the hard hat he wore on his walk to the park was strictly in deference to the site.

In fact, it was his ticket to the construction site. And on his regular visits he was able to document the building of Pac Bell Park.

They were brief visits, the walk to and from work consuming most of his lunch time. But they were productive. He assembled a rare collection of images that has received some interest from investors.

Surely, you think, it wasn't as simple as that. He must have been challenged. Thrown out. Maybe the police were called. You can change one or two details, but you can't edit the moral.

Well, in fact, he confessed to one occasion when he was challenged. It was near the end of the project, close to opening day (construction had to be completed a month earlier than projected after an early delay and there was a rush). "Hey you down there!" someone yelled to him. He spun around and looked up, like a batter who, having checked his swing, looks to see if the ump bought it. "Get back to work!"

And he did just that.

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Vacation in Storage

Last issue we asked for help. And we got it. Thanks to all who wrote in with ideas for storing images on the road without hauling a laptop along.

First, a nod to the Sony Mavica fans. It is the only camera that writes to floppies, so they had no idea what the problem was. "Took it to Turkey and Greece with 120 diskettes. Brought home about 800 JPEGs," wrote Mari Haget-Presedo. And just to rub it in, Vicki wrote, "A 52 day road trip -- 4,000 pictures -- and I came home w/ LOTS of unused floppies!!!!"

But what if you aren't lucky enough to have a Mavica on location?

Richard Pytlak found Iomega's Clik! (which Dave has reviewed at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/CLIK/CLIK.HTM on the Web site) answered his problem. He also had a good Plan B:

"I liked the size and ease of use of the Clik! drives as well as the portability and bought one from eBay for $99 and 10 40MB disks from the Web for about $90," Richard wrote. "I experimented at the house and found the drive simple to use and apparently reliable. The charger/docking station was not very compact, so I decided to leave them home. I charged the Clik! drive up at home, put the drive and 8 disks in my camera bag along with 2 32MB Compact Flash cards and 4 sets of NiMH batteries and charger along with my Nikon 950 and (hoping for the best) left for Florida.

"I left my film camera at home and thought if worst came to worst I could always stop at a store in Florida and pick up a point and shoot for vacation pictures. It turned out as good as I had hoped for. I took pictures until the Flash Card was full and popped it and a disk into the Clik! drive and in less than a minute it was on the disk. I eventually left the drive in my rental car's trunk and made periodic stops to 'dump' the pictures to disk."

C.K. Bloomer agreed, "I bought an Iomega Clik! drive and solved my problem. This is a portable drive that uses 40MB disks which are about 2" in diameter, and cost about $15. It is about the size of a large television remote, has its own battery, and downloads from CompactFlash and SmartMedia cards in almost no time. It plugs into its docking station and acts like a regular computer drive when you get home. This also charges the battery. On one trip I brought home over 350 pictures taken over three weeks time, which with that camera used less than two Clik! disks. This has truly been for me a solution to the problem."

And Todd Mowery warned, "This option gives you the ability to take a lot of pictures in a day, but the cost and availability of Clik! disks can make this a much more expensive option. Additionally, the media reader does not currently support 32MB SmartMedia which is about the only size of media I currently use and that makes this option useless for me." (Dave's Note: Clik! drives are limited to 16MB and smaller SmartMedia cards, but work with 32MB CompactFlash cards just fine.)

Richard also noted an inconvenience with the Clik! "Not being able to see the pictures until I got home was a bummer. It would be nice if the Clik! drive was smart enough to copy images back to the flash card for review at the end of the day. (It only copies from card to disk.)" And he passed along this warning, "Also, don't put any disks, cameras or cards in checked luggage. (I should know, my bags got lost on the way back home. Fortunately I had all my equipment in my carry-on bags.)"

The catch with the Clik! is the 40MB limit. As CCD resolution increases and storage media approaches three digits in megabytes, interest in larger media has been growing.

A couple of readers suggested Digital Wallet's 6GB storage as the answer. Steve Brooks sent a press release that noted the 10 oz. drive would sell for $499 this month. "If you do accidentally drop the Digital Wallet, say from waist high, you'll have no problems. The drive is specially insulated to protect what you hold most important, your data."

Dan Rodriguez actually uses an earlier product of the same name from MGVision, calculating the capacity at about 10,000 images. "The wallet fits neatly onto a belt loop, and is connected to the camera by a cable, and then to the computer by a cable as well," Dan wrote. He only paid $99.

Dave's note: "The original Digital Wallet from MGVision was apparently an idea before its time. It used a serial interface to connect to the host computer, making it rather slow at transferring images. MGVision apparently went out of business a year or so back, which doubtless explains the killer price Dan got on the product.

"The latest variation though, looks much more promising. Made by Minds@Work, it should be hitting store shelves very soon, if it's not out there already. It uses a USB connection to the host computer, so downloads should be much faster. Accepting both CompactFlash and SmartMedia cards directly, it could be just the thing for the digicam owner on the go. Visit http://www.mindsat.com/ for more information.

"Another frequently-cited solution is to bring along an older-generation 'palmtop' computer. There have been several ultra-compact computers using full-blown Windows 95/98 with an internal several-gigabyte hard drive. Since the first of these units used now-elderly Pentium 233 (or less) processors, many owners are trading them in for newer, faster machines. If all you're really interested in is a repository for pictures (and perhaps a remote email terminal), they'd be just the ticket. We don't recall the model numbers, but we've had emails from site visitors who've scored Toshiba Libretto models for under $500. Not bad for a full-blown computer AND a photo vault!"

Our own bright idea (a Visor with a card reader that would ftp images to your Ofoto album) is not quite as far-fetched as we thought. In fact, we ran across a company that had licensed the Palm OS to build its own version with a built-in card reader. Half way there. And the recently announced Pocket PC platform seems promising, too.

Richard had a better idea, though. "My ideal solution," he wrote, "would be combination viewer and storage device, something say with a 4" LCD screen and 1 GB hard drive. This would be a nice portable size and hold enough pictures for a long trip and give you the ability to show friends and family what you took as well as edit out the bad ones."

Once again our readers came through with enough advice to start a company. Although our own inclination after sorting through it all is to, well, take a vacation.

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

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!

Whiteboard Photo, available directly from the Pixid Web site at http://www.pixid.com, is available for Imaging Resource readers at $20 off the usual $99.95 list price, for a net of only $79.95.

BoxTop Software, Inc. at http://www.boxtopsoft.com is offering ProJPEG to Imaging Resource readers for $39.95 -- $10 off the normal price -- through May 5. To take advantage of the offer, just call (662) 263-5410 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central and tell them you subscribe to the Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter.

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We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

RE: Photo Album Software

Hi, Have y'all taken a stand on which is the best software photo album product? Would appreciate some direction prior to my purchasing.

-- Peggy Gray

(Coming soon ... but if you can't wait, Canto Cumulus won't disappoint. -- Editor)

RE: Injet Inks

I read an article on new special inks for Epson printers that had near archival properties, i.e., something like 5-10 year life. I've lost the piece and would dearly love to see you find, examine, and report on it. I'd like to print, but except for Christmas Cards and other short term projects, it seems like a waste of time & money.

-- Budd Adams

(Here are two sources for archival inks: http://www.digitalartsupplies.com/lysarfadproo.html and http://www.missupply.com/store.cgi?cart_id=9274800.2642&page=arcfaq.html. And here's the article I'll bet you saw: http://www.wilhelm-research.com/ Hope that helps! -- Editor)

RE: Privacy Policy

What is your privacy policy on email addresses used to subscribe to the newsletter?

-- Anonymous

(Our policy, although not previously stated, is that we will not give out or exchange email addresses with third parties. Any communications from us to people whose email address we have will always contain an option to unsubscribe. We likewise from time to time may collect demographic information on our subscribers through surveys, etc., but will only share that information in the aggregate. For example, "15 percent of readers reported household income greater than $150,000" never "John Doe makes $500,000 per year" ;-) -- Dave)

(In fact, this now appears on our Subscriber Services page. -- Editor)

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Editor's Notes

We'd like to welcome new sponsor PCPhotoREVIEW, which is a very interesting site for anyone about to buy a digicam (or scanner, printer, accessory, or Web service). Consumers who submit reviews detailing their experiences are eligible for prize drawings. It's the feedback from actual users of the products that makes the site special. A graph displays the general consensus for any particular product, too. This is something the digital photography community really needs. Drop by http://www.pcphotoreview.com/go.cfm?ref=ir to see for yourself.

Exhortation from Dave: Support the community! Win free stuff (maybe)! Real comments from real users are an excellent way to see what people really think about cameras, scanners, or printers in day-to-day use. If you already have such a device, why not take a moment to share your experience with others who may still be searching? Users helping users is one of my pet causes: Do unto others, etc., etc.!


ITEM: PhotoHighway.com is providing a chance to chat with some photo industry pros in their online educational forums. Just enter the chat auditorium at http://chat.photohighway.com on the following dates:

On April 26 at 8:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. PT) Nancy Carr, Kodak vice president of digital and applied imaging, will answer your questions about what to look for and beware of when shopping for a digicam.

On May 3 at 8:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. PT) Mark Dahm, Adobe's group product manager for PhotoDeluxe, will talk about the wide range of image-editing products and how to decide which are the right ones for you.


FlashPoint, the creator of the Digita OS, will host its first Developer Event, a Developer Kitchen on April 25 and 26 in San Jose (near FlashPoint offices). The focus of this event is to update developers on the present state of the Application SDK. The FlashPoint SDK team will present code example demonstrations, SDK updates and information about FlashPoint Technology initiatives. Attendees of the Developer Kitchen will have the opportunity to learn application development processes, tips, and tricks first hand from the FlashPoint development team. To register send an email with your name, title, company, address, phone number to devevent@flashpoint.com.


Nikon has announced that its new toll free number for digital customers, 1-800-NIKON-UX, is now open for business. The new number was established exclusively to answer questions about Nikon Coolpix Digital Cameras, Scanners, and D1 Professional Digital Camera System and related software.


Sierra Imaging has upgraded Image Expert CE software optimized for the new Windows-powered Pocket PCs. With Image Expert CE 2.1, Pocket PC users will be able to transfer images from a digital camera into the Pocket PC; browse and organize the photos into a slide show; create, display and edit text over images; add voice annotation; and email photos as attachments anywhere on the Internet, directly from their Pocket PC.


The eyemodule digital camera, which allows the Handspring Visor handheld computer to take snapshots, was made available today to the public for purchase. The eyemodule is available through Handspring's web store (www.handspring.com) for $149.95.


George Lucas has formally announced he will shoot the next episode of Star Wars: Episode II using digital 24 frame progressive high definition in place of film for most of the movie's live action scenes following four months of systematic testing by Lucasfilm Ltd. and Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucas Digital Ltd.


Director Wim Wenders' latest creation was shot using Sony's advanced 24P high definition camcorder. The production of Wenders' The Ground Beneath Her Feet, features a song by U2 from the movie, The Million Dollar Hotel. The HDW-F900 and specially developed lenses by Panavision enabled Wenders to shoot the short digital music movie stylistically like a film, but with all of the advantages afforded by digital 24-frame progressive high definition HDCAM.

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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
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

Happy snapping!

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

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