The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 2, Number 10 19 May 2000

Copyright 2000, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 18th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We've never before run two camera reviews in the same issue but we don't stand on ceremony here. These two cameras cover the spectrum of digital photography (today, at least). The Nikon D1 says a lot about what's possible and the Olympus 360 tells us just how easy it can be. Something, in short, for everyone.


TOPICS

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Feature: Nikon D1 -- Nikon SLR Goes Digital

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D1/D1A.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

Early in 1999, Nikon announced their first all-digital professional SLR, the D1. At the time, the specifications and projected price point (2.7 megapixels and a list price of $5850 for the body) rocked the pro camera world, and left many wondering whether Nikon could actually do it. Well, it's now a year later. Did Nikon hit the mark?

We think the answer is a resounding "yes": The D1 looks, works, and feels like a Nikon SLR in every respect, and the image quality matches its performance in other areas. But we're getting ahead of ourselves: Read on for all our findings about this remarkable camera.

THE ALL-NIKON, ALL-DIGITAL STUDIO

Nikon announced two other products at the same time as the D1, which combine with it to bring new capabilities to studio photographers.

The first is an exceptional tilt/shift macro lens, the PC (for perspective correction) Micro Nikkor 85mm 1:2.8 D. This amazing lens provides greater tilt and shift capabilities than any other lens currently on the market for the 35mm format. The result is to convey to the D1 (and other Nikon SLRs) many of the perspective and depth-of-field controls traditionally associated with large-format view cameras.

The second announcement was a special version of their SB-28 speedlight, the SB-28DX. This new unit was designed specifically to work with the D1 in TTL (through the lens) metering mode. The SB-28DX is also impressive because it offers the capability to combine multiple speedlights into a single system, all controlled by the camera through its TTL flash metering.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

With a body design reminiscent of Nikon's high-end 35mm SLR, the F5, the D1 offers a familiar look and feel for film-based pros, and is quick to get to know. The standard Nikon F lens mount means that you can attach most of Nikon's 35mm lenses with no problem (great for current Nikon 35mm shooters who already have a full kit of lenses). Although the D1 is quite a bit heavier (2.5 lb. or 1.1 kg) than the prosumer-level digicams we've reviewed in the past, we feel pretty confident that pocket-sized portability isn't much of an issue with this camera's potential buyers, all of whom will value the extraordinary control provided by the D1 far above a few ounces of extra weight. Also, the weight is due in part to the incredibly rugged magnesium metal body, which creates a rigid optical platform designed to absorb unreasonable abuse with aplomb. Handy for pounding tent pegs while on safari. ;-) We were pleased to see the inclusion of an external flash hot shoe on top of the camera as well as an external flash sync socket in the design, giving you as much flash flexibility as any high-end film-based Nikon SLR.

The very accurate TTL optical viewfinder means that you have no need for the LCD panel to focus, saving battery power. (By its nature, barring a "pellicle" mirror, the very design of an SLR precludes a "live" LCD viewfinder.) In addition to a dioptric adjustment dial and a sliding protective cover, the viewfinder features a very detailed information display that reports most of the camera's exposure settings and also shows a set of five focus targets. An extremely flexible autofocus system means that you can determine the type of autofocus (single, continuous or manual), designate how it's used (single area, dynamic area, etc.) and even designate the location of the autofocus target within the frame. Exposure-wise, there are so many features on this camera that you'll have to read the entire review to get them all. We'll just mention a few here that we find particularly noteworthy.

To begin, you have the option of working in Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Manual exposure modes. Exposure settings are easily changed by using a combination of control buttons and command dials (no tedious LCD menu system here). An extensive if not somewhat cryptic Custom Settings menu (accessed by pressing the CSM button and turning the sub and main command dials) provides access to a huge range of camera settings, including how various elements of the user interface itself work. For example, you can decide which command dial controls the shutter speed or aperture, adjust the image sharpness and contrast, determine whether or not the aperture changes as the lens zooms or set exposure variables for the automatic bracketing, among many others (there are 31 Custom Settings menu options in all). With the D1, you have a much broader exposure compensation range than any other digicam we've seen, with a variable EV adjustment from -5 to +5 in 1/3 EV increments (the increments can also be altered to 1/2 or one EV unit). White balance also has a lot of flexibility, with options for Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Overcast and Shade, all of which are adjustable from -3 to +3 (arbitrary units) in their intensity.

Three metering modes are available: Spot, Center-Weighted and a very accurate Color 3D Matrix metering option. ISO can be set to 200, 400, 800 or 1600, giving you tremendous exposure flexibility. (Special "sensitivity up" modes are available that extend the effective ISO to 3200 or 6400, albeit at the cost of pretty severe image noise.) The auto bracketing feature takes three exposures of the same subject at different exposure settings (which either you or the camera can control). There's even a black and white monochrome exposure mode. Continuous Shooting lets you capture up to 21 consecutive images at up to 4.5 frames per second, and here again, you can select both the maximum number of shots as well as the frame rate. The camera's flash sync mode menu lets you select when the flash fires. Choose from Front-Curtain Sync, Slow-Sync, Rear-Curtain Sync, Red-Eye Reduction and Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync. Because the D1 accommodates a variety of Nikon's Speedlights, specific flash power and operation will vary depending on the particular model you're using.

The 2.7 megapixel CCD gives you an image size of 2000 x 1312 pixels. Image quality options include the usual Basic, Normal and Fine but also RGB TIFF, YCbCr TIFF and RAW data formats (all listed under the Hi quality option in the menu system). Image storage is on CompactFlash Type I or II. As suggested by the Type II card slot, the D1 supports the 340 MB IBM MicroDrive for huge on-the-go storage capacity. The D1 utilizes a custom EN-4 Ni-MH battery pack for power and an AC adapter/charger is included in the box. (We also highly recommend a spare battery pack). A design plus we really enjoyed here is that the battery pack and card slot are both accessible from the sides of the camera, meaning that you don't have to dismount the camera from the tripod to access either compartment.

The full manual control, lack of LCD reliance and bevy of features will make the D1 a coveted addition to any photographer's equipment bag. This camera is perfect for the professional photographer as well as the (well-heeled) advanced amateur ready for a digicam that's a no-compromise creative tool. We're thrilled to see the carryover of Nikon's extensive exposure controls and features to the digital world and glad to see the familiar styling which makes the D1 easy to get acquainted with. Kudos to Nikon for creating a digital camera that's practical in the studio and out in the field, with all the exposure and creative control we could ask for: A true Nikon SLR in every respect!

SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES

Almost a year ago when the D1 was first announced, we asked Richard LoPinto (VP of Nikon's Professional Division, and the "father" of the D1 in the US) what the D1's shutter lag was. He replied "58 milliseconds" (0.058 seconds). We have to confess we assumed there was some marketing hype involved in that spec, and that the actual camera couldn't possibly be that fast. Well, we were wrong.

It turns out the D1 actually does have a shutter lag of only 58 milliseconds, as proven by our own measurements in the lab! This ultra-fast shutter response only occurs when the camera is manually focused or prefocused by half-pressing the shutter button before the exposure itself. Autofocus performance will be dependent on the lens you're using with the camera: We clocked the 17-35mm zoom we tested at only 0.40 seconds. These shutter-delay times are enormously faster than anything we've encountered in the consumer digicam world.

Shot to shot cycle time was 3.34 seconds in single-frame mode, where the camera waits to write each image to the memory card before capturing the next one. This is still quite fast compared to many consumer digicams, but the real speed comes when you're working in continuous-shooting mode. In continuous mode, the D1 can grab up to 21 full-resolution images at up to 4.5 frames per second.

Finally, the D1 starts up and shuts down quite quickly, taking only about a half-second from power-on to the first image captured, and shutting down in effectively no time at all. It switches from record to play mode in 2.75 seconds, and from play to record mode almost instantly.

Nikon technical rep Fred Sisson gave us a great tip. As our shutter lag/cycle time tests showed, the D1 is much faster between shots in Continuous mode, since it doesn't wait to write image data to the memory card between shots, just letting it accumulate in the huge RAM buffer first. Thus, if you're concerned about maximum cycle-time performance, you'll want to leave the camera in Continuous mode even when you're shooting single frames. The only problem with this is that the very fast 4.5 fps performance of Continuous mode can frequently lead to multiple frames of the same shot, captured before you can manage to get your finger off the shutter button. An excellent solution to this dilemma is to slow the Continuous-mode frame rate to 2 fps. This gives you enough time to get your finger off the shutter release after each shot, yet still gives you ultra-fast shot to shot times.

A related trick is to set the camera's "image status" operating mode to Capture-Preview mode. This causes the camera to pause and display the results of each shot on the rear-panel LCD before writing it to the card. With this mode set, you can use the Single-Shot exposure mode for checking lighting, composition, and exposure, discarding test shots as you go. Then, when everything's set, switch to Continuous Mode for the actual shooting.

TEST RESULTS

Overall, the Nikon D1 turned in an exceptional performance. About the best we can say of it is that it's a true Nikon Pro SLR that just happens to be digital.

Resolution was very good, verging on exceptional, although some consumer-level cameras actually test slightly better, given their 3.34 megapixel sensors, vs. the 2.66 megapixel one in the D1.

Likewise, we felt the color could have been a little better, particularly given the excellent color Nikon's new 990 consumer camera produces. The D1's color is more generally more accurate, in that it doesn't tend to over-saturate colors in the way that many consumer digicams do. On the other hand, it produces somewhat odd coloration in skin tones, and we've noticed that blue skies appear somewhat muted.

One of the major strengths of the D1 is its ability to use virtually any Nikon F-mount lens made in the last 30 years or so. In our testing, we ran through both the lenses we received from Nikon (the new 85mm tilt/shift Micro, and 17-35mm f2.8 zoom), as well as essentially all the lenses in our own kit. The winner turned out to be our own 105mm f2.8 Micro Nikkor (if only by a nose). Bottom line, the images produced by the D1 are very sharp, and it seems to do a particularly good job of reproducing very fine details.

Because it has much larger CCD elements than typical consumer digicams (big pixels mean more light sensitivity), the D1 does very well when shooting in low-light conditions. At ISO 1600, its noise levels are about equivalent to the better consumer-level digicams shooting at ISO 400. Although the D1 offers special "gain up" settings with ISO equivalents as high as ISO 6400, we felt that the image noise at those settings was too high for the images to be usable. In practice, we obtained very good images down to the darkest level our studio light meter would measure accurately, 1/16 of a foot-candle (about 0.7 lux). This is really dark, to the point it was hard to find our way around the studio! We did notice a slightly odd behavior that we've seen reported by other users: At higher ISO ratings (1600 and above, although very slightly visible at ISO 800), the image noise in the D1 has a slight patterning to it, in the form of vertical stripes of greater and lesser noise perhaps 50 pixels or so wide. A fairly subtle effect, but there if you look for it.

CONCLUSION

What a camera! We found so many superlatives in our testing of the D1 that we're hard-pressed to know how to condense them all down to a brief "concluding" statement. Overall, a phenomenal tool, fully worthy of the name and reputation of Nikon!

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus D-360L Offers Beginners Inexpensive Control

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D360/D360A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

With one of the broadest digicam lineups in the industry, Olympus is clearly a camera manufacturer who's successfully making the transition to the digital era. At the high end, their product line extends to the 3 megapixel C-3030, announced in February. The D-360L model that's the subject of this review defines the other end of their lineup, offering "point and shoot" automation with a 1.3 megapixel resolution and a very simple user interface.

The D-360L is clearly aimed at the casual photographer, looking to document life memories with a minimum of effort and fuss. At the same time though, it offers fairly sophisticated features including exposure compensation, spot metering, and variable ISO (light sensitivity), that let you shoot successfully in situations where less-capable cameras would leave you helpless. Overall, a good entry-level digital camera that's easy to use, yet offers important features that go beyond the bare minimum usually associated with the category.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

The Olympus D-360L is an update of their earlier entry-level models, with a surprising number of control-oriented features added. The result is a camera that's ideal for the casual snapshooter, who also wants the capability to handle a wider variety of situations than a traditional "beginners" camera could accommodate.

Its 1280 x 960 resolution should be plenty to produce sharp prints up to about 5x7 inches.

If you're familiar with Olympus' D-320L and D-340L models, you'll quickly recognize the nearly identical design of their latest model, the D-360L. Taking advantage of the same tried and true styling (if it ain't broke, don't fix it), Olympus has come up with an updated version of one of their most uncomplicated digital cameras. The D-360L remains extremely light weight and portable, with dimensions that allow it to easily slip into a shirt or coat pocket. The same sliding lens cover serves as the power switch and lens protection (meaning you don't have to keep track of a pesky lens cap).

The control layout is also very similar and straightforward, with the major controls on the top of the camera and just the Display button and two adjustment buttons on the back panel with the LCD monitor. The status display panel on top of the camera reports the camera settings as well as the number of available images and battery power. Our only complaint about the design is that the tripod mount and battery compartment are too close together to allow for quick battery changes when working on a tripod (we're always picky about this, due to the unusual amount of studio work we do), but most consumers won't mind this.

The D-360L offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor for composing images. The optical viewfinder is relatively basic, with just a few framing guidelines and a center autofocus target to help you line up shots. The 1.8 inch LCD monitor, when activated, serves as a viewfinder as well, but doesn't display any camera information (with the exception of the self-timer, macro and digital telephoto modes, when activated).

With the status display panel and the optical viewfinder, it would seem that you could easily get along without the LCD monitor. However, the menu systems are completely dependent on the LCD monitor and you can't alter very many settings without going through the menu.

Optically speaking, the D-360L is equipped with an F2.8 aspherical glass, 5.5mm lens (equivalent to a 36mm lens on a 35mm camera, a moderate wide-angle). While the lens doesn't zoom optically, there is a 2x digital telephoto which can be turned on through the Record menu (but remember that the use of digital telephoto results in a lower-resolution image). Apertures are automatically controlled with stops at f2.8, f5.6 and f11.

Exposure-wise, we found the user interface very uncomplicated with straightforward navigation, despite the added features. (Most of the time you just point and click.) While we do appreciate the ability to control the exposure, even partially, we do recognize the fact that many consumers don't want to mess with exposure settings and are looking for an easy to use, point and shoot camera with no fuss. With that in mind, we're sure many of those same consumers will greatly appreciate the simple operation of the D-360L.

Shutter speeds, while automatically controlled, range from 1/2 to 1/500 seconds and the camera does not report this information to the user. (As photographers, we like to know as much as possible about what the camera is doing exposure-wise, but recognize that the audience this camera is intended for really could care less.)

However, you do have control over many other exposure options.

The adjustable white balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten and Fluorescent settings. Additionally, the built-in flash offers Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Off, Fill-In, Slow-Sync and Red-Eye Reduction/Slow-Sync modes, giving a good bit of versatility. You can also adjust the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV, select between spot and center-weighted metering and set the variable ISO (light sensitivity) to Auto, 125, 250 or 500 settings. (The most-sensitive ISO 500 setting introduces a fair bit of image noise, but can really make the difference between a usable image and a hopelessly blurry one when you're shooting the kids' soccer game at twilight.)

Two special exposure modes are available, Panorama and Sequence shooting. When using an Olympus card, you can activate the Panorama mode through the Record menu. This displays an alignment grid on the LCD monitor, allowing you to take successive shots and then link them together on a computer later. The Sequence shooting mode, also accessible through the Record menu, allows you to take up to 10 shots (at the lower "VGA" size of 640 x 480 pixels) at 0.5 second intervals (depending, of course, on SmartMedia space and the amount of image information to process).

The D-360L lets you record images at several compression levels: Standard Quality high and normal (640 x 480 image size), High Quality, Super High Quality and the uncompressed TIFF (1280 x 960 image size).

U.S. models of the D-360L come with an NTSC video cable for playing back images on a television set (we assume European models come with PAL timing and appropriate cables). There's also a standard serial cable included for connection to a PC. Mac users can obtain a free connection cable with an included mail-in coupon and there's an optional USB adapter (card reader) available for both Mac and PC users.

An included software CD comes loaded with Camedia Master for downloading and manipulating images, as well as stitching together panorama shots. Kudos to Olympus for providing a full software package that runs on both Mac and PC platforms!

Four AA alkaline (or equivalent) batteries run the D-360L: As always, we strongly recommend rechargeable NiMH batteries, and we suggest keeping a couple sets of charged spares around, even when working without the (always power-hungry) LCD monitor. The AC adapter is sold separately from the camera, but we recommend picking one up as it saves battery power when downloading and reviewing images. There is an auto power-off feature that puts the camera in standby mode after three minutes of inactivity. If the camera remains inactive, it will shut itself off completely after four hours.

With its minimalist design and logical control layout, the D-360L takes almost no time to get acquainted with. The menu system is easy to understand and there's virtually no work involved to use it, since the camera takes control of the exposure by default. We think this is the perfect digicam for those who want to take good pictures without worrying too much about the details. At the same time though, it includes important options like exposure compensation, variable white balance, spot metering, and even variable ISO. Plus, the light weight portability of the D-360L makes certain that it won't be left behind, even on the most carefree, spur-of-the-moment trips.

CONCLUSION

The D-360L is a very simple to use, straightforward digicam that provides the luxury of completely automatic exposure control. It's perfect for anyone who wants to take great pictures without having to do too much work, although it does offer important control options such as exposure compensation, spot metering, and variable ISO for those times you need to go a bit beyond what the automatic exposure system can accomplish.

The compact size of the D-360L ensures that it won't be left behind, since it so easily fits into a shirt or coat pocket. The built-in sliding lens cover also encourages this, avoiding concerns over a scratched or smudged lens.

Overall, a very practical digicam that's simple to use, and has enough resolution to make good-quality 5x7 prints.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

Well, a lot of new camera reviews for one thing. Probably the easiest way to catch them is on our Daily News page at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM where editor Michael Tomkins never misses a beat. You can also catch them on the New on the Site page at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM and the Digicam index at http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM.

We've also made a little change to the Newsletter home page at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/ by expanding the former AOL Note page into a full-blown expose of our secret operations (OK, it's a Frequently Asked Questions page). Our readers (namely, you) are so intelligent we rarely hear the same question twice, so we made some of them up.

And while we're at it, perhaps we should explain how our Subscriber Services work. While we're happy to process requests we get as replies to this newsletter, it's the least efficient way to get the job done. We let them stack up, rely entirely on our memory to do them before the next issue goes out, wait to the last minute, assume the server is up, and let it fly. A much more reliable method to unsubscribe, subscribe or change your address is to go the Newsletter home page at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/ and click on Subscriber Services. The advantage? Our scripts do instantly what we would do manually -- plus you get instant HTML confirmation and email confirmation when the change is actually completed. It's more fun, too.

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Beginners Flash: Pan for Gold

Even a wily veteran can find themselves a beginner sometimes.

It happened to us (we aren't wily enough, apparently) recently at "the barn" where we'd gone to observe a riding lesson. While we practiced pronouncing "dressage" (like "triage") and tried to tell a trot from a canter, we got it into our head to take a picture of horse and rider in mid-jump.

We snuck down to the fence (I can't remember the technical term) and hid behind a large weed (ditto). Relying on the discretion of the soundless shutter of our digicam, we composed the nearest jump in our viewfinder (too bright for the LCD), confident we wouldn't spook the well-trained horse with landing on its mind.

We thought we were ready.

But a test shot of Rider No. 1 revealed we didn't have a clue. Nice shot of the top bar and the standards of the jump, but there was an unrecognizable blur streaking across the picture. It was, you guessed, the horse. It had been moving.

The Photography 101 solution to this problem is to use a faster shutter speed. But with an automatic camera, the only way to do that is to make the sun a lot brighter. Which we didn't have time for. Our rider was up next.

Did we mention we're wily?

As Mia directed Brandy the Palomino to trot, jump, canter and cruise the course toward our jump, we remembered to pan the camera with Brandy. In other words, keep the camera moving with the moving subject.

There's no law that says your camera has to be still when you take a picture. Sure, camera shake is the leading cause of blurry pictures, but when the subject is moving, you can get a much sharper shot by moving the camera with the subject.

First, we took our measure of the jump, depressed the shutter halfway to lock exposure and focus, then picked up Brandy a jump away. We tracked the horse in our viewfinder and pressed the shutter just before the apex of the jump (trying to time it like, well, a trained horse).

The standards were blurred, the top bar too, the mountains behind were a streak of blue -- but Brandy and Mia were in focus.

We felt like wearing a horseshoe wreath of flowers home.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Auto-Focusing in the Dark

You're just about to take apart the inside of your computer, the front suspension of your low-slung Lamborghini (price is no limit when you're hypothesizing), your digital toaster when the thought occurs to you, "The best tool for this is my digicam!"

Sure, it can document exactly what the device is supposed to look like when reassembled. Take the shot now, take more as you take it apart and even a child would be able to put it back together.

There's only one problem: getting clear, focused shots of dark subjects with your autofocus lens.

Overriding the autofocus by setting it to infinity isn't likely to help at close quarters. Especially if it's a zoom lens. Focus at infinity for some zooms can start no closer than across the room.

The problem is caused by autofocus systems that rely on contrast detection to focus. Sometimes there isn't any contrast.

You might think (hope and pray, actually) that the flash would illuminate the subject long enough for the focus mechanism to work, but no way, Wayne. By the time the flash comes on the shutter is open, so to speak, and it doesn't stay on long enough for the focusing gears to crank anyway.

But we aren't here to fail you. In fact, we've developed a low-cost high tech device for just these occasions. And we're offering this indispensable gadget (not sold in stores) to Imaging Resource readers exclusively for a limited time through our special late-night 800 number which is ... well, we didn't develop it and it is, in fact, available in most stores. It's a flashlight.

Any flashlight will do, in fact. Even the kind with weak batteries. You don't need much light. But you do have to aim it at the part of your subject you want in focus. You don't have to direct the light from the same angle you are shooting from, though. But you may have to prop it up.

The trick is to paint some contrast where you want sharpness.

If the subject is only lit by the flashlight, your flash will no doubt come to your rescue and properly illuminate the scene. And since it's much more intense than the flashlight, no one will ever know you used a flashlight to get the shot focused.

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Just for Fun: Have Your Cake

It's that time of year. Special occasions abound from graduations to weddings to reunions. And while you may be thinking of taking a few pictures at one or another this summer, you might think about taking a picture before and putting it on the celebratory cake. You can indeed frost your cake with a favorite digital image.

We're great fans of the Web, but we like our baker within walking distance and open late. Not even FedEx can deliver anything better than day-old bakery products. And there are plenty of emergencies a fresh strawberry cheesecake with strawberry chocolate shavings that melt in your mouth can address perfectly well.

But you don't need a baker with a photo printer to have your pictures on your cake. The picture is printed on a frosting sheet that melts into the frosting of your cake.

You or your baker can supply the cake (a buttercream frosting works best -- hey, Dave, how about a frosting comparison test? -- because the moisture in a whipped cream frosting makes the image bleed into the frosting). Even canned frostings work well, we're told. Even ice cream cakes.

The frosting sheet arrives in a zip lock bag and can be stored up to six months without refrigeration. Which is a good thing because it can take about 10 days to get it.

OK, so how does it work?

You send the online firms or your photo printing baker either a photo to be scanned (the larger the better, of course, up to 8x10) or email them a JPEG or GIF digital image. One online firm preferred a 5x7 or 8x10 scanned at 300 dpi, but better check with your particular baker.

You're perfectly welcome to add text or manipulate the image in any way you'd like, but you do have to have the right to reproduce the image (some sites provide photo release forms for photos taken by professionals). Which rules out the Disney world. But the fun of this sort of cake is that it's personal, not branded, anyway.

The image is actually printed on the edible frosting sheet with something like (and in one case a converted version of) an inkjet printer that uses FDA-approved food coloring rather than ink pigments. The frosting sheet itself is made of corn syrup solids, microcrystalline cellulose, cornstarch, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup sugar, gum arabic, polysorbate 60 and citric acid. Which turns out to tasteless, so your cake's taste won't be affected.

You simply lay the sheet on top of your cake and let it mingle for a couple of hours and you've got a picture perfect cake.

Now a few tips for the baker:

There are two frosting sheet sizes available: 7-1/2 x 10 fits a quarter sheet cake (9 x 13). A larger 10 x 16 sheet fits a half sheet cake (10 x 16). You simply trim your frosting sheet to fit round cakes.

We mentioned the best frosting (buttercream) above, but we didn't point out that white or light cream colored frostings work best with photos. You wouldn't print on a dark brown sheet of paper, would you?

You want the surface of your frosting to be very smooth and very even. And you want to avoid a dry, hard surface. You can lay a damp paper towel on the surface of a hardened icing and pat it gently to soften the surface so the two icings can melt together. Or you can just mist it.

Next, just peel off the backing sheet and lay the frosting sheet on the cake's icing. You can continue decorating with your pastry bag once the sheet is laid.

You want to apply the image so it has about three to four hours to become part of the cake. But this is something that can also be done the day before.

For a great step-by-step tutorial, visit http://www.echomarket.com/photocakesbyjoy/main.shtml where there are pictures of the assembly process, helpful tips and solutions to common problems. And if you're interested in setting up a service yourself, visit http://www.sugarcraft.com/catalog/airbrush/ediblepicture.htm where you can order a turnkey system or just a converted printer.

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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 at https://secure.teleport.com/~peterwh/pixid/order_ir.html only. See our review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/WBS/WBSA.HTM on the Web site.

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We Have Mail

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

RE: Reading QV3000 TIFFs

Just read your excellent newsletter, and would like to point out that apparently the free viewer Irfanview (www.irfanview.com) also reads the TIF files produced by the QV3000.

-- Mark Guzewski

(Thanks, Mark! -- Editor)

RE: Laser Papers

I am a new subscriber to your newsletter and am enjoying it so far. I recently purchased a Casio QV-3000 EX.

I have a QMS Magicolor 2 EX color laser printer, which produces quality prints at 2400 x 600 dpi. I am interested in running glossy or photo paper. Is there such a thing? I haven't seen any for laser printers.

-- Darryl Gjm

(Papers for laser printers are formulated to contend with the high heat that fuses the toner to the sheet. I like the Hammermill Laser Plus and Laser Print papers myself. If you want the glossy effect, I'd go for putting them under glass -- in a frame. Readers? -- Editor)

RE: Scanning

I have an Olympus 450Z and love it. I do not use my film camera any more except for low light conditions of moving objects. Digital still does not do well in those conditions. Anyway, I have a box load of photos (not negatives) that I want to scan into computer to store them safely on a CD. I already have a scanner. What is the best software I can get to do this with as little trouble as possible. I have a lot of pictures and I would like the process to be as automatic as possible, even allow me to scan multiple pictures at one time. Thanks. Ron Sharp

-- Ron Sharp

(As great a fan of automation as we are, good scanning is labor intensive. Even gang scanning introduces its own penalties (big files). But, in thinking this over, I wondered if it wouldn't be vastly more efficient for you -- with a little tradeoff in quality -- to shoot your prints with the Olympus. It's trickier to light and align than it might at first appear (an old enlarger can help a lot there), but it may be worth it. -- Editor)

RE: Action Photography

I use both a Sony DSC-F505 and a Nikon Coolpix 950, but for action shots I prefer a DV (digital video) camcorder.

The problem with most cameras is the shutter lag. When you press the button, you have to wait approximately one second before the shot is taken. And it gets even worse if you have to take more than one picture.

I use a Sony DCR-TRV900E. It's a DV camcorder with a PCMCIA card slot. The camcorder is even shipped with an floppy drive, but a PCMCIA memory card is faster. Since I want to take pictures and don't want to make a video-film, I switch the 'progressive scan' ON (something you shouldn't do if you plan to make a movie). I record almost continuously when I think there is something interesting. At home, when playing back the tape I only have to press the 'PHOTO' button to take a picture and to transfer it to memory. If I'm a little too late, I rewind and try again. It can't be easier! One single DV tape (60 minutes in Europe) can contain potentially more than 36,000 single pictures so you don't have to worry about memory cards. And since the recording is digital, there is no loss in quality when playing it back.

The only downside is the resolution of 640x480. But they're real pixels, and the enormous zoom capabilities of the camera can help you compose the picture (optical zoom of 24X). The camera also uses tri-CCD technology which produces very bright and saturated colors (ever heard of a digital still camera with triple CCD???). And you have both a bright LCD display and a viewfinder.

The pictures are great for the Internet and for composition (when putting together some pictures).

I also tested the Sony PC-100 but I was not impressed. The camera is hard to handle (too small).

-- Marc Doigny

(Thanks for a great idea, Marc! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Is it her, the elusive Emily Dickinson? Visit http://www.unc.edu/~gura/ed/ to see the albumen print recently acquired by Dr. Philip Gura for yourself. A professor of American literature and culture at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Gura found the print in a collection he bought on eBay. Dickson's name and date of death are written on the back of the print, but that's not enough to prove it.


At PhotoHighway.com you can chat with some photo industry pros in PhotoHighway's online educational forums. Just enter the chat auditorium at http://chat.photohighway.com on the following dates:

On May 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. PT): Amazing Transformations: How To Choose and Use Filters for Stunning Images. Learn how to create stunning effects with filter specialist Elinor Stecker-Orel. PhotoHighway will be giving away copies of Elinor's book, Special Effects Photography Handbook (Amherst Media) during the chat -- to the people who ask the most interesting questions.

On June 14 at 8:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. PT): On The Road Again: Travel Photo Tips with Jeff Wignal. Learn how to make the most of summer vacation with travel photographer and author Jeff Wignal. Ask an interesting question and you may get a copy of Jeff's book, The Fodor's Guide to Travel Photography (Second Edition).


Version 3.1 of Flipalbum is now available at http://www.flipalbum.com/upgrade_fa31.htm. The upgrade improves usability and design options while fixing a printing problem.


The Cieva at http://www.cieva.com/ is an 8x10 picture frame with a 5x7, 640x480 LCD that plugs into a wall socket for power and a telephone line for nightly updates from your account over the Internet of up to 10 JPEG images. They call it "The World's First Internet Connected Picture Frame." It sells for $249 with monthly service charges of either $2.99 (local call) or $7.99 (toll-free).


Macfixit at http://www.macfixit.com/ recently concluded a QuickTopic on CD-R/RW Drives. "Overall, the responses clearly favored SCSI interfaces, Yamaha or Plextor mechanisms, avoiding inferior quality media, and careful selection of compatible software," they reported.


ACDSee has released at http://www.acdsystems.com a beta version of their image management software for Mac OS 8.5 and later.

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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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