The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 2, Number 16 11 August 2000

Copyright 2000, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 24th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Leaving already? Take along our travel tips (including how to copy old photos). And don't miss Dave's review of Kodak's 3.3 megapixel or our illuminating discussion of the hot pixels so common in the new CCDs. Just the stuff for summer reading.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
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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: Traveling? Pack Some Tips!

If you haven't been spared by the sudden and widespread airline cancellations this summer, you may find yourself indulging in some sort of summertime excursion. Not business so much as visiting friends or relatives in their natural habitat. An adventure for which we've got a few tips.

The observation that you travel the fastest if you travel alone does not take into account those who, like us, have trouble packing. It helps to have someone in another room yell impatiently, "Aren't you packed yet? We have to leave in 15 minutes!!!" That spurs us into action.

But there's a pair of stop lights about a mile from home where we inevitably remember something we've forgotten. And even if we haven't forgotten anything, there's another stop light about a mile and further away where we habitually forget we haven't forgotten anything. And so on for 300 miles.

PICTURE THIS

This is clearly a problem that calls for a systemic solution. Digital imaging.

It was somewhere between stop lights that it occurred to us: next time take a picture of what you pack.

Now that sounded so ridiculous to me that I didn't reveal it even to my traveling companion. But every time I packed my things up again on that trip, I wished I'd had that picture.

This what-did-I-forget anxiety was never a problem until I actually had more than a knapsack's worth to carry from one place to another. Laptop, camera, battery charger, SyQuest, telephone cord and line splitter (it isn't polite to disable your host's answering machine). And with the technology changing so rapidly, you can't get into a reliable habit. What you brought six months ago you sold on eBay three weeks ago.

A quick snapshot of the current array of equipment would have been a handy packing list. Written lists themselves seem to take about 15 minutes to make. Before getting lost. But a snapshot takes only 1/250th of a second and can sit on your hard drive. Or some remote sharing album (for emergencies).

ANOTHER FLIGHTY IDEA

This isn't the stuff we'd check as baggage on an airline, of course. But you have to check something. Only two bags go as carry-on. Although the purse issue does sometimes make us think wistfully wish we were as adept at cross-dressing as Dustin Hoffman (we could stuff a battery charger in there easy).

So you have to check something. And if you've ever lost a bag (well, not you but your airline), you know the agonizing mental torture of trying to remember everything you packed in the thing. A picture is worth a thousand articles of clothing.

And date/time stamped, too. How could your insurer or the airline argue with that?

THE PERFECT GUEST

When we have guests we provide complete business facilities: Internet connection, power strip (did I forget the power strip!?), extension cords, Herman Miller seating and an ergonomic (yet unoccupied) desk (decorated with their family pictures). With full darkroom privileges for our more traditional friends. Not to mention a souvenir CD of their visit.

But when we travel, we're usually missing a few of the amenities of home. So we pack them along. The trick to being welcomed back is to set your gear up without taking their house apart.

We've got it down to asking for nothing more than two (three-prong) household outlets and a phone connection (which is where the duplex telephone connection comes in, along with a long phone cord too). That's very little stuff. And nearly any bedroom will have the outlets.

But not always. We once were upgraded to the family pantry/office. The great advantage was being within a chair spin of the coffee maker. The problem was the elaborate phone system. There were two lines, one of which was shared. We ended up tapping into the fax line (unencumbered by extra services) with our splitter. It would have been a shorter visit, I think it's fair to say, without the splitter.

Bringing your own cables to tap into the host network isn't a bad idea either, assuming you want to share your images. But networks vary like relatives. We move a portable storage device to our host's machine to copy images to their drive before we leave.

But photo sharing on the Web isn't a bad alternative -- in fact, it beats sending postcards to those who remained behind. We never seem to have any postcard stamps in our luggage anyway.

STEAL SOMETHING

The traditional American stunt of walking off with something you don't own from a relative's home is not something we condone. Especially if you are related to us. But we've discovered a satisfying alternative.

The absolutely best thing to steal from a relative is their pictures. And here is where your digicam is worth its weight in silver halide crystals.

Just ask to see the family photo album. Take it outside (check for rain first), and stay out of the sun. A windless, shady spot, maybe along the side of the house, is perfect (although if you pick up a blue cast in the shade, move into the sun).

It would be spectacular to bump into a copy stand there, but thieves must improvise to be successful. A chair with a small C-clamp camera mount (we like our trusty old aluminum Clampette from High Sierra Mfg. Co.) will do. But if you don't have a Clampette, take deep breath and use the self-timer to survive the worst case scenario; otherwise a steady handhold is probably all you need.

The important things to remember are:

You may need macro mode for tiny prints, or a closeup lens attachment, depending on your digicam, but most don't. The typical digicam is remarkably more adept at this than any 35mm camera.

And in half an hour, you can walk away with old family photos you otherwise would never see again. Not only that, but you've digitized them for posterity.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

As the airlines are subtly trying to remind us this summer, there's no place like home. When we get back, we unpack quickly as if nothing has happened. But the evidence is, fortunately, inescapable. Travel may broaden the mind, but it certainly can fatten your photo album.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Kodak DC4800 Zoom -- Seeing in the Dark

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DC4800/D48A.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

Kodak has developed arguably the broadest line of digital cameras in the business, ranging from basic point-and-shoot models to professional ones costing over $15,000.

The DC4800 represents the present top of their consumer digicam lineup, and is their first consumer camera to break the 3 megapixel barrier. As we'll see though, the DC4800 represents more than just an increase in pixel count relative to earlier Kodak cameras, but also provides significantly more picture-taking control than earlier Kodak consumer models.

Oh and just to make sure nobody misses it, we'll say right up front that the DC4800 takes beautiful pictures with brilliant color and excellent resolution.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

If you're at all familiar with Kodak's long line of digital cameras, the design of the DC4800 (which does not use the Digita operating system) may come as a surprise. Designed more like a compact, point and shoot 35mm film camera, the DC4800 features virtually none of the design elements used in previous Kodak digicams. This smaller camera has much more angular features on the whole, although there's still quite a graceful curve along the front of the camera, as the hand grip slowly tapers off across the body. With the exception of the lens barrel, the DC4800 has few abrupt protrusions, and its compact size makes it quite portable when you're on the go. The camera weighs 11.45 ounces (325 g) and measures 4.72 x 2.56 x 2.72 inches (120 x 65 x 69mm), which, with the accompanying neck strap, should make traveling a snap.

Probably our favorite design feature on the DC4800 is the exposure compensation adjustment dial, which allows you to set the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV in 1/2 EV increments without accessing any menu systems. The mode dial is similar, in that it allows you to change aperture settings without using the LCD menu. This saves time, since you can access two very basic functions quickly. Our least favorite design element has to be the CompactFlash card ejection switch, which is actually on the bottom of the camera (the actual slot is on the side). The problem with this is its proximity to the tripod mount, meaning that you cannot easily change the card with the camera mounted on a tripod. Along the same lines, the battery compartment is also too close for comfort, but these should be trivial gripes for most consumers, who probably do less studio work than we do.

The DC4800 features a telescoping, 3x, 6 to 18mm lens (equivalent to a 28 to 84mm lens on a 35mm camera), which is activated simply by turning the camera on with the mode dial set to any capture mode. Focusing is automatic, but a fixed focus button sets the camera to Macro mode (close focusing) or Landscape (focus is fixed at infinity). The 2x digital telephoto function is enabled through the Setup menu, but remember that digital zoom results in a lesser image quality than optical zoom. A real image optical viewfinder features central autofocus target marks, and a tiny dioptric adjustment dial on the side for those with eyeglasses. Additionally, a 1.8 inch color LCD monitor on the back panel assists with composing images and displays a small amount of camera information at the top of the screen. The majority of the camera settings are reported on the smaller status display panel on top of the camera, such as the quality setting and the number of available images.

When it comes to exposure, the DC4800 gives you about as much or as little control as you need. The Program AE mode puts the camera in charge of shutter speed and aperture, while you control things like white balance, exposure control, metering, flash, etc. You enter into Aperture Priority mode by simply turning the mode dial to one of the aperture settings (f2.8, f5.6, f8.0) and leaving the shutter speed control set to automatic. You get full manual control by turning the mode dial to one of the f-stop settings and setting the shutter speed option to Manual or Long Time Exposure. The Manual setting gives you a choice of shutter speeds from 1/2 to 1/1,000 seconds, while the Long Time Exposure option provides a range of slow exposures from 0.7 to 16 seconds. The only option missing is a shutter priority mode, doubtless left off because the three discrete aperture settings available wouldn't provide fine enough exposure control when the shutter speed is set to a fixed value. Also in the exposure-control category, the DC4800 provides options for the ISO setting, with choices of Auto, 100, 200 or 400, and the exposure metering (Multi-Pattern, Center Weighted or Center Spot).

Beyond these basic exposure settings, the DC4800 provides a generous bounty of other controls. White balance offers the standard Auto, Daylight, Flash, Tungsten and Fluorescent settings, in addition to a complete Manual setting and adjustable Color Temperature option. The Manual setting is unusually flexible, in that it not only lets you adjust the camera based on a white reference object, but even lets you alter the color balance by adding more red, blue, green or yellow to the image. The Color Temperature option also provides unusually fine-grained color control, by giving you a selection of Kelvin temperatures (from 2,500 to 10,000) to match an extensive amount of artificial light sources. This wide range of color temperature settings lets you adjust the color balance of your pictures to match a wide range of lighting conditions, and also to shift the color slightly toward the yellow/red or blue ends of the spectrum for creative effect.

As if this exceptional white-balance control wasn't enough, the DC4800 also offers the option of either "neutral" or "saturated" color. For routine shooting, we prefer the "neutral" option, although it looks like "saturated" is the camera's default when you turn it on the first time. We're happy to see this neutral/saturated option, and encourage Kodak to take it even further, letting people choose the degree of color saturation they want from a wider range of options: Color saturation is one of the differentiators between digital cameras when it comes to people deciding which camera to buy. With a film camera, you can pick the color you like by choosing different film types. Until now though, the only way to get different color rendering in a digital camera was to buy a different camera. This is definitely a step in the right direction, and we expect this feature to be very popular with users. In addition to the color-related adjustments, the DC4800 also provides a variety of monochrome shooting modes, including standard black and white, black and white with either a red or yellow filter, or sepia tones. Overall, very impressive color controls! Not a color-related setting, but we didn't know where else to put this tidbit: There's also an adjustable sharpness setting that lets you control the amount of in-camera sharpening applied to your photos.

The built-in, pop-up flash features four operating modes and can be combined with an external flash (via a sync terminal on the side of the camera) to capture dimly-lit subjects. The DC4800 also features a 10 second self-timer and a Burst photography mode, which captures up to 16 images at a maximum of five frames per second (depending, of course, on the available CompactFlash space and the size and quality settings selected).

As we've mentioned, images are saved to a CompactFlash card (a 16 megabyte card comes with the camera) and a full range of sizes and quality settings are available. The large image size (2160 x 1440) features an uncompressed TIFF format in addition to the normal and basic JPEG compression levels. The remaining image sizes (1800 x 1200, 1536 x 1024 and 1080 x 720) are saved with normal JPEG compression. A USB cable ships with the camera, along with a CD containing Kodak's Digital Camera Software and Pictures Now. US and Japanese models come with an NTSC video cable (PAL for European models), so that you can compose and review images on a television screen. Power-wise, the DC4800 utilizes a Kodak lithium-ion rechargeable batter pack or an AC adapter. The AC adapter also doubles as an in-camera battery charger (a faster accessory charger is also available).

The DC4800's low-light shots showed some of the lowest noise and best color of any consumer-level digicam we've tested. To fully understand the DC4800's low light capabilities, note that an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about 1 foot candle. Thus, the DC4800's ability to produce clear images at 1/16 foot candles is an exceptional performance.

Overall, the DC4800 offers enough exposure control to satisfy more advanced shooters, while the full automatic settings will please (comfort?) even novice consumers.

VIEWFINDER

We found the DC4800's optical viewfinder to be pretty accurate, just a little bit "tight," showing fully 98 percent of the final image area at wide-angle and about 93 percent at telephoto. (Note the change in our nomenclature, dating from spring 2000: Previously, we referred to this viewfinder behavior as "loose" rather than "tight".) The LCD monitor was even more accurate, showing 100 percent of the final image area at wide-angle and 98 percent at telephoto. (We suspect this variation was actually more reflected the difficulty of determining exactly where the boundaries of our test target rectangle are on the LCD, rather than any actual variation in LCD accuracy as a function of focal length.)

We did notice that images framed with the optical viewfinder are rotated clockwise slightly, about 0.5 degrees. This is an annoying but not uncommon digicam manufacturing defect, caused by the CCD being placed in the camera slightly rotated relative to the camera body itself. The 0.5 degree error of the DC4800's optical viewfinder is fairly slight, and you'll probably want to rely on the LCD finder if you're doing really critical framing anyway.

SHUTTER LAG / CYCLE TIMES

The DC4800 is a fairly fast camera overall, at less than 4 seconds from power on to the first shot (fast for a camera with a telescoping lens design), and only about a second between shots until the internal buffer memory fills. The buffer memory apparently is used to store full-resolution files, regardless of the resolution setting the camera's shooting at. Thus, the faster cycle times the buffer memory provides are only available for the first four shots, regardless of resolution setting. Likewise, since the camera seems to be subsampling the low-resolution images from higher-resolution ones, long sequences of low resolution images actually take longer than full-res shots. (The benefit of this approach though, is that the image quality at small image sizes is much better than cameras that simply leave out every other pixel when reading data from the sensor.) Generally very respectable timings though, for a high-resolution camera.

CONCLUSION

With its compact size, relatively smooth contours and neck strap, the DC4800 should be able to travel just about anywhere. The availability of a full manual mode and a generous range of features will make this digicam attractive to advanced and novice consumers alike. Good exposure control, external flash support, an unusual degree of white balance adjustment, the option of either "neutral" or "saturated" color settings, and fantastic low-light capability make the DC4800 a serious player at the upper end of the current consumer digicam market.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

During the last weekend in July the Imaging Resource server was upgraded from a pair of 8 gigabyte drives in a RAID configuration to a pair of 20 gigabyte ones. We're now busy trying to think of some way to fill them.

Dave's Note: ;-) No worries -- LOTS more reviews and sample images are on their way!

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: Use Your Thumb!

While a lot of (warning: inadvertent pun ahead) noise has been generated by higher and higher resolution cameras, a significant evolution is occurring in the standard digicam lens. These days it's more likely your new digicam will have a zoom lens than a wide-angle lens.

And that zoom will typically range from a wide-angle perspective that can fit a whole room into the picture to a handy medium telephoto one (often with a longer digital zoom mode).

If your digicam has a zoom lens, take advantage of it. On every shot.

Zooms aren't just for getting closer. And -- cinematography aside -- they can't be overused. They are a tremendous help in composing any shot.

Rarely will you be in exactly the best location to take a shot. Let your zoom improve your position either by getting a little closer or backing off a bit.

Getting closer is the obvious attraction of any zoom, but zooming out can be the biggest surprise. It may, for example, reveal a particularly graceful tree limb that serves to frame your landscape with an interesting foreground context.

And in middle distance shots, you can actually compose two quite different images. While the wide angle shot can get everyone in the canoe, the telephoto may capture the Loch Ness monster splashing in the background between the fishing lure swinging from the guide's fishing hat and the sunblocked nose of cousin Eugene desperate to avoid it.

If your camera offers both optical and digital zoom, it's important to understand the difference. Optical zooming is what your lens, by itself, can do. Digital zooming is, in effect, merely saving the centermost part of the image captured by your CCD. If you have an image editor on your computer, you have DDZC or delayed digital zooming capability. Just crop.

This confusion of digital with optical zooming has given digital zooming a bad name. After all, why bother to use it if you can do the same thing (and sometimes with better results) in your image editing program?

Turns out there is a reason.

You only have one chance to get your shot. A lesson brought home to us as Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Mike McCormick and a few other legendary San Francisco Giants trotted out to the first base line last year for special honors. We knew we'd never see those old geezers trot again, and we weren't quite sure from our seats on the third base side, who we were looking at, so we used digital zoom to get the composition we wanted when we took the shot.

Digital zoom can, in short, help you compose the shot. Don't kid yourself that you'll get the same sharpness, but if you're on the verge of turning off your camera because the action is just too far away, try to compose the shot with digital zoom. You've got nothing to lose. In our case, it made it seem like some Hall of Famers hadn't lost a step.

We never take a shot without zooming back and forth a little until we like what we see. So when we hand our camera to someone to take our picture, we point out both the shutter for their forefinger and the zoom control for their thumb. And as we run back into the picture with our finger waving in the air, we yell, "Don't forget to use your thumb!"

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Hot Pixels

You just bought a thousand dollar digicam with full manual control and you want to show off. You take some long exposure night shots and are horrified to see a bright spot in the same part of every picture -- and it isn't a star. It's the infamous hot pixel.

Is your CCD defective?

Actually, no. More than a defect, hot pixels are a fact of life. Understanding them will make you feel better, certainly, and may even suggest when you should return your digicam. So let's take an in-depth look at them.

Your CCD is a grid of elements each of which is sensitive to brightness.

A hot pixel is created by an element with a higher rate of charge leakage than its neighbors which, on a long exposure, may cross the threshold of an exposed value. Many digicams don't permit an exposure longer than a quarter second, which effectively eliminates the chance any element with a dark current, so to speak, will consistently report an exposure value.

And in fact, with a long enough exposure to darkness, a disturbing pattern of exposure will appear from any CCD. CCD elements tend to leak current. They may not all produce a bright white spot, but they are all -- with a long enough exposure -- capable of reporting exposure in darkness.

In addition to dark current, temperature is also a factor in creating hot pixels. The higher the temperature, the higher the charge leakage. A 10 degree change in temperature can noticeably change what the CCD reports.

Yet another factor is the ISO rating of your CCD. At ISO 400 you'll notice more hot pixels than at ISO 100 simply because the signal is amplified.

A hot pixel can range from bright white to something just barely distinguishable from black. Or, we might say, range from an artifact to noise.

Astronomers who use CCDs to record the night life of celestial bodies have long dealt with the phenomenon. If you think you have problems, see http://ecf.hq.eso.org/newsletter/stecf-nl-22/freudling/freudling.html for example. They are typically taking very long exposures. And are concerned that dark current and hot pixels, producing measurable noise in repeatable patterns, are not confused with actual data. So they've developed techniques for masking them out of the picture or the data.

Some of these are applicable to digicam night photography. Rob Galbraith's site at http://www.robgalbraith.com/ for digital photojournalists proposes one technique helpful in shots of fireworks (http://www.robgalbraith.com/reports/shooting_fireworks.html). Galbraith's technique relies on the Quantum Mechanic Photoshop plugin at http://www.camerabits.com/QM.html.

And don't forget Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro program for Windows at http://www.charm.net/~mchaney/imaging/ which can remove image noise without significantly affecting detail.

But with exposures of a quarter second or less, hot pixels just shouldn't appear in your images. If they do, you've got a returnable product.

To see your camera's hot pixels, set the camera to do no image manipulation or enhancement. Use ISO 100 (if you have variable ISO settings), turn off any sharpening, contrast or brightness settings. Assuming your indoor temperature is under 76 degrees, go into a dark room, turn off the LCD monitor, cover the lens and make exposures of 1/4, 1/2, 1, 2 and 4 seconds.

Then take a look at these "dark frame" images. Higher magnification (say, 400 percent) makes it easier to see noise. You should expect to see a gradual increase in noise relative to the exposure length. If you find one bright pixel at every exposure setting, repeat the test with shorter exposures. You may find it does not disappear at any exposure. If that's the case, save your results to document the problem for the manufacturer and try the test again.

Given that any CCD is going to exhibit some noise in a dark frame image, consider whether what you have is something you can live with. If you typically take long night exposures, it may not be acceptable. But remember, there's no escape. Astronomers have learned to live with the devil they know rather than look for that elusive, perfect CCD.

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Get a Brush ...

On July 31 (at a secret location) an elaborate drawing was held to determine the winners of our QPict contest. Rune Lindman, the author of QPict, had generously offered 10 free registrations for the elegant Macintosh image cataloging program we reviewed early in July. We just had to determine the winners. Which we did.

So congratulations to our 10 now very well organized winners: Ed Brozyna, Ian Coristine, Jeff Ersoff, Roland Kee, Michael Naylor, Mark B. Priddy, Susan Scott, Doris Stewart, Kevin Wildermuth and Jerry Williams.

But shortly after the drawing we felt as bad as anyone who had entered and not won. After all, we didn't even have a consolation prize to offer.

Whenever we suffer the consequences of our actions, we return (humbly) to the Book for advice. There, in The Favorite Works of Mark Twain, we find our bearings once again, this time as we read of Tom Sawyer's dejection as he surveyed the whitewashing task before him. "Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden."

Tom solved his legendary problem with "nothing less than a great, magnificent inspiration." Which, we learn, is the "great law of human action" wherein "to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain."

We have an unpainted fence, so to speak, before us at the moment. But it isn't every day we get such an opportunity. So we're enjoying it immensely ... but we might be persuaded to let one or two of you take a turn. On certain conditions.

Our particular project has to do with a series of articles we're writing to illuminate Digita Script, the scripting language of the Digita operating system found in some digicams. Naturally to write these articles (which you'll see here shortly), we had to write some scripts. And to write some scripts, we decided nothing less would do than a palette of buttons containing every scripting command and parameter we could find. So we made one.

The palette runs only on the Macintosh and only if you have installed the (incredible) commercial control panel OneClick from http://www.westcodesoft.com. But it will turn any text editor you prefer (SimpleText, BBEdit, Tex-Edit, etc.) into a Digita Script editor.

So we're looking for a few good beta testers. If you meet the stringent requirements above (which, we feel, are sufficiently difficult to attain), drop us a line at editor@imaging-resource.com and we'll send you the palette.

And better luck next time.

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

Trial downloads of the (excellent) PhotoGenetics imaging program (now updated to version 2.0, described below) 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.

Binuscan is offering Imaging Resource readers a discount on Watch & Smile from $89 to $49 (plus shipping and sales tax). To order, contact Binuscan, Inc., 437 Ward Avenue, Suite 101; Mamaroneck, NY 10543; voice (914) 381-3780; info_usa@binuscan.com; http://www.watchandsmile.com.

Return to Topics.

We Have Mail

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

RE: Saving Pesetas

You wrote: "Save your pesetas and spend a little time laying out a template for both the jewel box and the CD label."

What is a pesetas, please?

-- Judith King

(What they call money in Spain. We're sometimes more fortunate not mentioning pennies by name <g>. -- Editor)

RE: Save Pesetas, Part II

We got a big kick out of this. I thought it was a computer term and I was trying to follow the directions for "laying out a template for both." Du-uh!

-- Judith King

(Du-uh nothing. If you ever get a template for pesatas, I'd be very interested in seeing it. -- Editor)

RE: Caffeine Free, Too

I just got your latest newsletter. This always breaks my early morning routine: Instead of grabbing my coffee cup and heading for the machine for a fill-up, I sit there with the empty cup in my hand and read the whole newsletter. Literate, entertaining, and amazingly useful. Thanks, y'all!

-- Luke Smith

(We're working on the coffee thing, but it's more complicated than we originally thought. So far we're just full of beans. But thanks for the kind words, Luke. Made our day! -- Editor)

RE: Hang On to Your Wallet

One other thing that might be worth mentioning for those planing trips to countries at higher elevations. Both the Digital Wallet and the IBM Microdrive are limited to 3000 meters or 10,000 feet because they rely on air to float the heads of the drive. Only discovered this after purchase of the Casio 3000 EX with Microdrive and reading the manual.

-- Dave Brown

(Thanks for the tip, Dave! And for elevating the conversation. -- Editor)

RE: Traveling Without a Wallet

Nice product review on the Digital Wallet. I have another suggestion for travel photography. Pretty much every city now has Internet centers where you can log on for a few bucks an hour. That service, plus a $50 card reader, solves your problem. Read the card into the PC, Email the files to yourself at home and pick them up when you return. I think this works best with the SmartMedia format since the Flashpath adapter goes into a floppy disk drive and reads cam files without requiring any software installation. I don't know if USB readers do that, and not all PCs have USB ports.

-- Dave Carr

(Thanks for the tip, Dave. -- Editor)
(Actually, the FlashPath adapter does require driver software. Still, a good choice, in that the floppy slot in the front of the computer is pretty much always available, whereas the ports in the back of the computer are more problematic. Also note too that some rental computers disallow the installation of any software and you should always ask before reconfiguring someone else's computer anyway.... -- Dave)

RE: Coolpix 950 Lockup Key

It seems to be a battery problem. The camera uses power in burst mode (when moving the optics, loading the flash and so on). The average power drain is about 550 mA, with maximums of more than 2 amps. Most alkaline batteries can't cope with that (that's why they won't last long: even if the batteries are not empty, the internal resistance has increased so much that they can't deliver the power anymore). When the voltage drops below a certain level, the processor inside the camera locks up.

Use good Nickel Cadmium batteries (can deliver more instant power than the environment-friendly Nickel-Metalhydride). Internal resistance will decrease after some charging-discharging cycles and I can take +/- 50 pictures with one set of batteries. Use the batteries until they are completely empty (to avoid memory effects).

-- Marc Doigny

(Thanks, Marc! An interesting theory and worth a try. -- Editor)

RE: Using a Spotting Scope

Hi. Just thought you might be interested in this [attached] picture. It was taken with a digital camera, Nikon 950. The camera was focused through a [handheld] spotting scope. I like to watch birds and so I have a scope and mixing the camera with the scope seemed a great idea.

It takes a little practice and I have to use the LCD viewer on the back to compose the picture so sometimes I need to put a towel over my head and the camera to reduce the daylight glare but with a little effort one can get some decent images. It is an option to consider with the digital. Fun to play with.

-- George Jameson

(A very decent image, George. But the towel is very retro. I'd suggest a baseball cap worn, uh, backwards, by which I mean frontwards. -- Editor)

RE: The Other Kind of Noise

First of all ... thanks for all the hard work and great information. I look forward to your newsletter arriving in "you've got mail."

I do a lot of photography with manipulation in Photoshop 5.5. To display my work, I like to do a slide show presentation. I find that running music in the background adds to the viewer's enjoyment. The way I do it now is to run music through my CD-ROM and then use ixla Explorer to run the slide show with the photos residing on my C drive or on the DVD drive (if I've burned them onto a CD). This is all fine and good for showing them at home or at the studio but I would really like to be able to send a CD out to clients and/or family, friends. Is there a program out there that will let me burn CD's with music imbedded as well as the slide show format, perhaps in some .exe file?

Again, thanks for your time and a great informative publication.

-- Brian

(You're welcome, Brian, and thanks for the encouragement. Watch & Smile, which we recently reviewed here, will do the trick on both platforms using either the Watch & Smile player for their native format files or relying on QuickTime. QuickTime Pro, in fact, does the job, too, on both platforms. -- Editor)

RE: Back to School

Morning all! And I must say I really enjoy reading your newsletter, very educational. I'm very interested in learning how to use photo programs to their fullest and thought you'd might be able to help me out. It seems with everything I've seen, you have to jump back and forth from the help file, etc., and get side tracked on what your doing. Also is there a class, book, tutorials, etc. that would let one get some hands on experience using a program (like a homework assignment)? Any help would be greatly appreciated. I want to thank you for your time and help and look forward to hearing from you.

-- Steve

(You're welcome and thanks for an interesting question. Learning about digital imaging takes, first of all, patience. There's just an awful lot of ground to cover. Fortunately, there are low-cost and free classes, free seminars put on by various software companies, manuals with CD tutorials, books and lots of them, newsgroups and radical new approaches like this newsletter. Our advice is not to pass any of them up. This is a big subject and nobody knows it all. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

QBeo´s PhotoGenetics has been upgraded to version 2.0 for both Mac OS and Windows. Among the new features:


PhotoHighway.com at www.photohighway.com is having a summer Scavenger Hunt Contest. Find the hidden images and get a chance to win a Kodak T550 Advantix camera (and more). Just visit http://www.photohighway.com/home/contests/scavenger/about/default.asp to enter.


Delkin has unveiled a dual USB eFilm Reader-5 for both CompactFlash & SmartMedia. Designed with two bays in a single reader/writer, the dual eFilm Reader has a slot for downloading every capacity SmartMedia card, and a separate CF slot for accessing CompactFlash Type I and II cards. The eFilm Reader-5 has a USB-enabled controller inside, to read any CompactFlash and SmartMedia card.


DataFab at http://www.datafab.com has announced two IEEE 1394 card readers, one for CompactFlash and another for SmartMedia, which perform more than 30 times faster than USB transfers. IEEE 1394 features a high-speed transfer rate, hot swapping, daisy chaining and plug and play compatibility. ApolloPort, an IEEE 1394 PCI card, provides three IEEE 1394 ports to connect external 1394 devices like DV cameras, VCR decks, hard drives, CD-ROM drives, laser printers, digital cameras and cable set top boxes.


Ofoto, Inc. (www.ofoto.com) was chosen by consumers as the print quality leader in an InfoTrends Research Group report commissioned in April by Ofoto and Shutterfly.com. Other vendors tested were Kodak, PhotoAccess and PhotoWorks. Copies of seven different images were sent to 100 participants, who evaluated the print quality on a scale of best, second best, third best, fourth best and fifth best.

Ofoto was ranked highest for photographic print quality by 75 percent; the second-highest ranking company received 10 percent. Another 5 percent ranked Ofoto tied with other vendors for the highest print quality.

The average rating across all 7 photos tested for Ofoto was 4.1 out of a best possible rating of 5.0. Shutterfly.com received the next highest rating at 3.4; Photoworks received the third highest rating with 2.9; Photo Access received a rating of 2.5; and Kodak was rated fifth with an average rating of 2.1.


Ofoto did well in a Forbes.com survey, too. Forbes tested Ofoto.com, Shutterfly.com and Konicaonline.com for cost, quality of prints, speed of processing and software imaging tools. "Our all-around best pick? Ofoto.com," Forbes announced. "We liked Ofoto.com the best because of the high quality prints, competitive cost and imaging tools. Print quality, fresh and glossy, was superb for processing both traditional and digital film. Prices were 49 cents per 4 inch by 6 inch print, with no handling charge."


SanDisk and Photo-Me International have announced Digital Portal Inc., which will make and install self-vending digital photo labs. The two companies said their kiosks will give consumers low cost, high quality photo prints of digitally captured images. The silver halide process self-service kiosks provide inexpensive prints from flash memory cards, floppy disks or CD. Deployment of the kiosks, bearing the SanDisk name, is expected to start by the end of this year.


MGI Software at http://www.mgisoft.com has released Photovista 2.0, its panorama software for Windows 95/98/NT/2000. Using a series of overlapping images, Photovista automatically adjusts and blends the images into a compact, 360-degree panorama. MGI Photovista 2.0 can be coupled with ZOOM Server to deliver high-resolution panoramas that viewers can enlarge to see fine detail (cf. the Lexus Web site at: www.lexus.com/showroom/).


Nextvision at www.netcybercards.com has announced net.CyberCards -- nCC for short -- which embed image information packets called cards in JPEG, GIF and PNG image formats. Cards can be accessed by any nCC-aware application on any hardware platform, the company said. nCC images are software and hardware independent. Nextvision offers several free software packages to support nCC: an nCC card generator, a viewer, a Java applet and a developer's SDK.

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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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