|Volume 2, Number 19||22 September 2000|
Welcome to the 27th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We may not be Down Under, but Dave took his socks off and got submerged with the new Sony minisub while we found everything looking up with Canto Cumulus. Or looked everything up, mate. Confused? Read on!
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"Plastics," was the one-word career advice of The Graduate. But back then Alfa Romeos and Simon and Garfunkle were hot stuff. In this era of scooters and Britney Spears, we'll propose a two-word update: asset management.
As we studied Canto Cumulus over the past few weeks it occurred to us that a person might get an advance degree in it. And with the rapid expansion of digital content, there will no doubt be scholarships offered shortly by Fortune 500 firms. The Lucille and Rickie Packard Fellowship in Asset Management, say.
Cumulus holds a wide lead over its competitors as the asset management software of choice at the places that worry about this kind of thing the most. Major publications, for example.
They use the workgroup version of the program that enjoys another layer of complexity than the single user version we test drove. But the single user version is no scooter. It took us a few times around the (excellent and indispensable) documentation to get comfortable behind the wheel.
Even though our acquaintance with Cumulus goes back several years to version 2.0. When Kodak discontinued development of their Shoebox image cataloging program, they arranged with Canto to provide users (like us) with Cumulus. That version was a little restrictive (you couldn't define database fields and adding keywords was discouragingly labor intensive).
We were delighted to learn the current version 5.07 is a lot easier to use and even includes AppleScript support on the Mac OS and OLE automation for Windows. The feature set for both systems is identical, although the interfaces differ a bit.
It may even come bundled with your digital camera. But if not, Canto has generously extended a hefty discount to our readers for the two issues it will take us to describe the product (see Dave's Deals below).
On the Macintosh, Cumulus 5 requires a PowerPC running System 7.1.2 or later with 6-MB of RAM, 20-MB free disk space and a CD for installation. Canto recommends a G3 running Mac OS 8.6 with 12-MB RAM and 30-MB free space.
The Windows requirements are a Pentium running at 90 MHz on Windows 95/98 or NT 4.0 SP3 (SP5) with 20-MB RAM and 20-MB free space and a CD drive. Canto recommends a Pentium III at 450 MHz with 30-MB RAM and 30-MB free space.
On either platform Cumulus will run with just a 640x480 256-color display, although 24-bit color is recommended. And the more screen real estate you have, the more thumbnails you can display.
Cumulus runs fine on systems that meet the minimum requirements. It's database software, essentially, not image processing software. And while a recommended system will process the data faster than a minimal system, you don't have to upgrade to enjoy what Cumulus can do for you.
On the Macintosh, it's a simple drag and drop of the application folder to your hard drive.
On Windows you run setup.exe and pick one of three possible installations: Compact, Typical or Custom.
On either platform, Canto points out that registering Cumulus is part of the installation and it makes it easy to do immediately over the Internet. Registration via email, fax or regular mail is also possible.
Registration gets you access to the Customers section of the Canto Web site at http://www.canto.com and an activation key. We don't usually register products we review, but it really was required in this case.
RULES OF THE ROAD
Until an advanced degree in Cumulus can be devised and awarded, users should probably have to take a drivers test. This powerful program is not intuitive and makes no apologies about it. So our review will also be something of a tutorial. Let's begin with a little vocabulary.
You probably think you have a bunch of files on your hard disk, CDs, floppies, Zips, SyQuests and other media.
No, what you have are uncataloged assets, my friend.
Each file is an asset. No matter if it is an MP3 of Howling Dogs or a Quark XPress Birthday card document or a shot from your digicam. It is not just a file to Canto, but an asset.
Frankly, we like that way of thinking. It flatters us.
The problem Cumulus solves is organizing them. So you can find them without looking too hard for them. We compare this (in the summer) to mowing the lawn and (in the winter) to shoveling snow. It's never much fun but doing it regularly provides the most bang for your effort (although it may seem otherwise just as you are about to start cataloging each time).
But with Cumulus, you at least get a power mower or snow blower. Being able to automate the program nearly makes the whole thing fun.
Assets are recorded in catalogs. Cross-platform catalogs in Cumulus' case. As many as you like, they can proliferate like file cabinets. Don't let them. As Canto advises every now and then, plan. You might, for example, want to catalog your software assets (every program you own) in one catalog and your correspondence in another and your images in yet one more catalog.
That wasn't too tough. But things get trickier.
Cumulus calls any particular view of your data (what we call reports in ordinary databases) a collection. Collections can be any selection of the data (just the images of Disneyland) and how it appears as well (which fields in what fonts with what background, etc.).
And to create these collections of your catalogued assets, Cumulus relies on categories that, like manila folders, organize your assets. Categories can be arranged hierarchically (just like directories on your disk). We're tempted to compare them to the categories and keywords of other organizers, but it's probably wiser to forget everything you know about other organizers.
Each asset is represented in a catalog by its own record. The record, like any database record, is simply a collection of fields of information about the asset. Fields may include voice annotation, thumbnails and global positioning system coordinates (among the more exotic) as well as file size, location, date and dimensions (among the less). Custom fields using any of the kinds of data Cumulus supports may also be included.
Cumulus can read a lot of file formats. It pulls this off by using filters. If the proper filter for reading JPEGs is installed, for example, Cumulus will be able to read the exposure information and store each tidbit (like the f stop and the shutter speed, if your camera records them in the JPEG header) as a field in the asset's record.
Of course, to do that, you have to do a little work yourself. Because even though Cumulus can read that information, it won't store it unless you add the fields to the catalog. And even then you won't be able to actually see the data until you include those fields in the information window Cumulus displays for each record when you request information for any particular asset.
Pretty heady stuff. No wonder these guys named the program after a cloud.
Study the rules. Next time we'll see how to build a catalog of images (although Cumulus can catalog all sorts of things) and make it do something useful.
Meanwhile, now isn't a bad time to take advantage of Canto's special offer to Imaging Resource readers, which makes this application about as expensive as competing shareware. You'll be able to follow along with us as we explore this powerful tool. Just click on the Cumulus link in the Dave's Deals section below to get your copy.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P1/P1A.HTM on the Web site.)
There's a hot trend in the digicam market toward very small, portable cameras. A number of factors are driving this, including market demand from style-conscious consumers, ever-advancing technology, and the truism that cameras sitting in drawers and closets don't take many pictures. Canon arguably kicked off this trend with their Digital ELPH, and Kodak has recently announced their compact DC3800. Now, Sony has joined the fray with a highly-featured 3-megapixel ultra-compact digicam, the DSC-P1.
We think the new DSC-P1 hits a real sweet spot in the digicam market, combining a very pocket-friendly size and shape with top-notch image quality and an impressive list of features. Working with the camera, we were left very much with an impression of a "no compromises" design mandate, from the super-sharp 3x zoom lens to the high-performance 3-megapixel sensor itself. While it lacks the complex exposure modes of the Sony's flagship DSC-S70, the image quality and flexibility need no excuses: This is a top-tier 3-megapixel camera that just happens to be packaged in a very compact body! Throw in an optional "marine" case that's waterproof to a full 100 feet (30 meters), and you have a digicam that truly deserves the label "go anywhere!"
Following the trend of some of Sony's smaller digicams (like the S70 and S50), the DSC-P1 is smooth and compact. Its very pocket-friendly size of 4.43 x 2.12 x 1.75 inches (113 x 53.9 x 43.8mm) and its light weight (8.8 ounces or 250 grams with battery and media) make this camera a very portable option for photographers on the go -- even underwater as deep as 100 feet (30 m). The DSC-P1's CCD features 3.34 megapixels of what Sony calls their highest performance CCD ever. Officially named the Super HAD CCD, the DSC-P1 claims to produce more professional-looking results by reducing the noise in the imager and thereby improving the signal-to-signal noise ratio. To our knowledge, this is the same CCD used in their flagship DSC-S70 model, and the test results we obtained from the DSC-P1 seem to support that conclusion: This is a very high-performance camera in a very small package!
The DSC-P1 features one of the sharpest LCD viewscreens we've seen, measuring only 1.5 inches but packing 123,000 pixels, a count that would be impressive even in a much larger screen. Besides its sharpness, the brightness and contrast of the P1's LCD were also impressive: This is probably the best LCD we've yet seen for use outdoors: We could always see what was on the screen, even in direct sunlight. There's also a real-image optical viewfinder for composing shots without having to rely on the rear-panel LCD (thereby saving power). The LCD provides a fairly comprehensive information display, reporting battery power, Memory Stick information and some exposure information. The camera's menu system (like that on most other Sony digicams) appears at the bottom of the screen as subject tabs and is easily dismissed as well.
A 3x, 8 to 24mm lens (equivalent to a 39 to 117mm lens on a 35mm camera) telescopes in and out of the camera body at power on and off, and has a nice automatic protective shutter that closes when the lens is retracted. Aperture is automatically controlled, ranging from f2.8 to f5.3 at wide angle lens settings, and from f5.6 to f9.6 in telephoto mode. The DSC-P1 uses a High-Speed Scan TTL autofocus system, with a focal range from 19.75 inches (50 cm) to infinity in normal shooting mode. The macro focal distance ranges from 4.0 to 19.75 inches (10 to 50 cm). In our tests, autofocus seemed to work well down to about 0.5 foot-candles (5.5 lux). Two Program AE modes control focus: Landscape and Panfocus. Landscape mode sets focus to infinity, for distant subjects, and Panfocus allows the camera to quickly change focus from close-up to far away. The DSC-P1 features what Sony calls a 6x Precision Digital Zoom, which attempts to produce better quality images from digital enlargement. The digital zoom uses interpolation to improve the image quality, which should result in a better looking final image, although frankly, we still have a hard time with the term "digital zoom," because the results are so much softer than those from a true optical zoom lens.
Exposure control on the DSC-P1 is reasonably good, although the camera mainly operates under automatic control. Even though you don't get to select the aperture or shutter speed, you do have access to a few exposure options and a handful of preset Program AE modes. The Twilight and Twilight Plus modes use a slower shutter speed to capture more ambient light in dark shooting situations, with the Twilight Plus mode also increasing the effective light sensitivity of the CCD sensor. Landscape and Panfocus modes we mentioned earlier, both altering the camera's focus for infinity or quick focus shooting. The final Program AE mode is Spot Metering, which bases exposure on only the center of the image. While shooting in Still photography mode, you have control over exposure compensation (from -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV increments), white balance (Auto, Outdoor, Indoor and Hold), flash mode (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced and Off) and image sharpness. The Picture Effects menu offers several creative image effects, including Solarize, Black and White, Sepia and Negative Art options.
A Movie capture mode allows you to create up to 60-second movies with sound, with all of the above exposure controls (except flash, of course) available to you. In the Voice recording mode, you can record up to 40-second sound clips to accompany captured still images. The Text record mode captures images in a black and white GIF file, perfect for snapping pictures of white boards, meeting notes, etc. There's also an Email record mode that captures a smaller, 320 x 240 image size, which is easier on email transmission (this mode actually records two images: one in the 320 x 240 format and another at whatever normal image size you've selected). The unusual and innovative Clip Motion mode lets you record a series of still images at varying intervals, to be played back as a frame-by-frame animation. (A very slick feature for us Web types.)
Images, saved as uncompressed TIFF, JPEGs, MPEGs or GIFs, are stored on the included 8-megabyte MemoryStick (higher capacity cards are available). An NTSC video cable is included with the camera (European models come equipped for PAL), as is a USB cable. MGI's PhotoSuite SE software is also included, providing organized image downloading, correction capabilities and a variety of creative templates for making greeting cards, calendars, etc. MGI's Video Wave software is also included for playing back movie files.
The DSC-P1 uses an NP-FS11 InfoLithium battery pack, and comes with an AC adapter and battery charger. We like the InfoLithium batteries because they communicate with the camera to tell you how much running time is left on the battery pack in the current operating mode. Because the DSC-P1 is pretty dependent on its LCD display (with the attendant higher power consumption), we recommend keeping a second battery pack ready for action, especially when the AC adapter isn't close at hand. The NP-FS11 battery pack does provide pretty decent run times though, roughly 77 minutes in record mode with the LCD enabled, and 104 minutes in playback mode.
Say, did we mention the "Marine Pack"? ;-) We have to say this impressed the socks off us, with very high-quality construction evident throughout, including stainless-steel buttons and O-ring seals throughout.
Although not cheap at a list price of $249, this is by far the most robust housing we've yet seen for a digital camera anywhere near this price point. While other underwater solutions are only certified to be waterproof to 10 feet or so, Sony's Marine Pack is rated for 100 feet, a lot deeper than all but the most advanced scuba divers are likely to go. For casual snorkeling or scuba to moderate depths, there's literally nothing like the combination of the DSC-P1 and Marine Pack on the market. If you need wide angle or external strobe for more professional results though, you should check out Ikelite's $950 housings (http://www.ikelite.com/) or Tetra's upcoming unit (http://www.uwimaging.com/tetra/).
The Pack is made of a transparent, very tough plastic (lucite?), with an O-ring seal running all around the case seal, and individual O-ring seals on all the buttons and controls. All the control buttons are solidly spring-loaded, so they'll respond well even under high water pressure, The sole exception to the plastic-and-metal construction is the front lens window, which appears to be made of heavy-duty optical glass.
We were surprised at the degree to which we could control the camera from outside the case: Buttons are provided for essentially all the camera's controls, with the exception of the Program AE, Volume, LCD on/off, and Display buttons. We could very easily turn the camera on and off, navigate all the menus, operate the zoom lens and shutter buttons, and even switch between playback, still, or movie recording.
We don't have any standardized method of testing underwater housings (somehow, taking it into the bathtub seemed a little ridiculous, not to mention potentially embarrassing), but we were tremendously impressed with the very evident quality and thought that went into the design of the Marine Pack. It says a lot that we'd feel entirely comfortable slapping a few hundred dollars of delicate electronics into it and jumping off a boat with the assemblage. Very impressive: If you have any inkling that you might need to do some fairly serious underwater photography, the DSC-P1 and Marine Pack combination are absolutely the best thing we've seen to date! Very impressive: If you have any interest in at least casual underwater photography at an affordable price, the Marine Pack is the best thing we've seen at anything close to its price.
The single biggest disappointment of the P1 was its flash range, which is very limited, even according to Sony's own ratings. (But give Sony credit for not trying to inflate the flash performance in their specs, something we've seen in the past from other manufacturers, here to remain nameless.) With a maximum rated flash range of less than four feet in telephoto mode, the DSC-P1 wouldn't be your first choice for unassisted nighttime flash photography of larger groups or settings. We also observed that the shutter delay due to the autofocus mechanism is somewhat longer than average, which could be problematic for action photography.
We found the DSC-P1's optical viewfinder to be somewhat tight, showing about 84 percent of the final image area at wide angle and 83 percent at telephoto (at both 2048 x 1536 and 640 x 480 image sizes). The LCD monitor was more accurate, though still a little tight, showing 90 percent of the final image area at both wide angle and telephoto (also at both 2048 x 1536 and 640 x 480 image sizes). Since we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the DSC-P1's LCD misses the mark slightly in this area. We also noticed that images framed with the optical viewfinder were weighted toward the top left of the image area, with more space on the right and bottom sides. These images also showed a slight slant toward the lower right corner.
SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES
In our tests, the DSC-P1 was fairly fast from startup to first picture, particularly for a camera with a telescoping lens. Likewise, it was quite fast to shut down and be ready to be stowed. Shot-to-shot cycle times are about average for a 3-megapixel digicam, noticeably slower than the fastest cameras in the category, but likewise not the slowest. The biggest speed limitation we found was the 1.49 second shutter lag in full autofocus mode, which is rather slow by current standards. Thus, we wouldn't recommend the DSC-P1 for people interested in a camera for sports photography or other fast-paced action.
Overall, the DSC-P1 offers a nice selection of features for the average digicam user in an exceptionally compact package. As we said at the outset, we see the DSC-P1 as a "no excuses" compact digicam. It offers an unusually compact form factor, yet provides excellent image quality, good flexibility, a 3-megapixel CCD and a full 3x zoom lens, and surprisingly comfortable ergonomics.
Though the exposure is automatically controlled, the creative options of the Picture Effects menu and the wide array of special exposure modes make this camera flexible enough for most shooting scenarios. The camera was described to us by a Sony manager as "A Sony digicam experience in a compact package," and that's exactly what it delivers: We think this is going to be a very popular digicam. (And if you're interested in hobby-level underwater photography, run don't walk to your nearest Sony dealer to get one of these with the optional "Marine Pack" underwater housing. -- It's that good!) Highly recommended!
Just a reminder you can order our test prints from almost any new camera by visiting our Ofoto test image albums. Check it out at http://www.imaging-resource.com/OFOTO.HTM!
It happens. "My name is [unintelligible]. I erased my media card before I copied the images." Hi, [unintelligible]. We all make mistakes.
Before you panic and do something (else) foolish, work on a good excuse. Here's a starter kit:
OK, now panic. Get it out of your system.
- "I thought you copied them." Where "you" could be anything from an African violet to a goldfish to a cat to a spouse or a long lost relative already framed on the mantel.
- "I pressed the wrong button." Nobody has to know no buttons are involved.
- "It said 'Copy.'" Well, desperate measures call for desperate acts.
If this is your first time (oh, there will be others), start by deliberately making the same mistake again -- but to a second card or floppy. You can try all sorts of techniques on the second one until you find something that works.
The first thing to realize is that -- whether you are using a Macintosh or a Windows PC -- your storage device is (no doubt) formatted for MS-DOS.
Macintoshes have no trouble reading and writing MS-DOS media (and, just for the record, PCs can handle Macintosh media with third-party software). But neither of them is any good at running disk utilities on the other's media. Your Norton knows your native file system, period. So recovery of a DOS-formatted card is a Windows task.
Unfortunately, Windows may see your card only as a network drive (where, as with floppies, deletions are not safely buffered in the Recycle Bin). And it's rude to reorganize the directories of network drives, so your usual unerase utility may not go there.
But there's hope. No guarantees, but hope. Although there's precious little hope if you've already stored newer images on it. Or just reformatted the card. But you didn't do that.
So to unerase from your DOS-formatted card you'll need access to a Windows computer with a card reader and software that will recognize your card and unerase your files.
There are a number of unerase utilities that may help. We know of one 64-MB CompactFlash card saved by the shareware program Recover98 (http://www.lc-tech.com/r98exp.html) even after a few new shots were written to it by a Nikon 950. We've had no success ourselves with MS-DOS Undelete, Norton Quick Unerase (which has trouble with files as large as image files) and Unerase or shareware like Directory Snoop (http://www.briggsoft.com/dsnoop.htm) -- either because they wouldn't touch a network drive or couldn't find the first cluster of deleted files. The freeware program Emergency Undelete for Windows NT (http://www.zdnet.co.uk/software/free/utilities/file/sw35.html) sounds promising, but we haven't personally been saved by it. If you have a success story with any unerase utility, let us know about it at email@example.com and we'll pass the information along.
These utilities know a little secret: the data on the card is not really erased. It isn't lost until it is written over the next time information is saved to its formerly protected sectors. Instead, an erase operation simply frees the file's disk space, overwriting the file name's first character in the card's directory with the Greek character sigma. It's faster and just as effective. If not secure. To actually erase the file, you have to write over every byte. And more than once, if you believe certain U.S. government specs. (That's what the Norton Wipe command is all about.)
If you're lucky, your unerase utility will just ask you for the first letter of each erased file name it found. And a few keystrokes later you'll have your file right back where you hoped it still was.
We made the stunning revelation above that everyone (except goldfish) makes mistakes. It's our intelligence misfiring, really. So take heart! But if you're really intelligent, swing the odds in your favor by getting into foolproof habits like deleting images only in your camera -- using your computer solely to copy and relying on your camera to subsequently delete. While looking at your images on screen. From the CD you just burned.
You can never be too safe when it comes to deleting files.
"Why didn't I think of that?" we can hear you groaning. An echo of our own anguish as we read about Shree Nayar's proposal to enhance the dynamic range of your garden variety 8-bit CCD.
We all know perfectly well that a CCD is just a collection of sensors sensitive to brightness. The only way a CCD sensor can see color is to have a red, green or blue filter slapped in front of its nose. By putting a matrix of filters over the CCD in our camera -- in a regular pattern of two greens for every red and blue, usually -- our digicam can capture color, recording the blue while guessing at the missing red and green values from the adjacent sensors. Interpolating, that is.
Well, Nayar suggests, why not interpolate brightness itself?
It's actually more than a suggestion. The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/) published a brief article on Nayar's research in the Sept. 7 issue of Circuits. But Nayar's article describing the trick is available as a PDF on the Web at http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~srinivas/sve_cvpr_00.pdf (and it includes fascinating color image samples).
Nayar is a professor of computer science at Columbia University (which is why he succumbs to calling this Spatially Varying Pixel exposures) but he drinks Mountain Dew just like the rest of us.
So he isn't smoking anything when he says he can take an 8-bit sensor that can register 256 levels of brightness and turn it into a 12-bit behemoth that can detect 4,096 levels. And he can do it for a song, too.
By simply doing what you do when you bracket exposures. Except the bracketing is in adjacent sensors, not the whole CCD, so it can happen simultaneously. It's done with masks, in fact, just like color filters.
So if one sensor is registering full-blown white, an adjacent masked sensor may pick up some detail (as if you'd intentionally underexposed). Likewise, if one masked sensor can't pick up any light, an adjacent one might (as if you'd overexposed). You pick up more of reality.
Of course a lot of magic happens in software, behind the scenes (or CCD), so to speak. And a little resolution is lost along the way, but only in highlights that would be blown out anyway or shadows that would otherwise suffer artifacts.
Take a look at the sample images (OK, it's Vitamin C.C. Lemon, not Mountain Dew) and see for yourself. You can see the mask there, too.
We were particularly impressed by the indoor/outdoor scene that captured full daylight and a shadowy interior equally well by interpolating the SVE image (which looks to us like anything you might see through a screen door).
Nayar describes three ways the SVE mask might be deployed (one of which even works for film cameras) but since it also depends on software to interpolate the screen door mask's results, we think it will only see the light in cameras yet to be built. Which makes it yet another reason to procrastinate.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but talk is cheap. Silence is what's really golden. And when you are catching a few Zs, you hope other people in the immediate vicinity get the picture: Do Not Disturb.
What if you could take those three little words and turn them into a one thousand word, eloquent appeal for a few more minutes of peace and quiet? Well, you can.
March down to your office supply store and pick up some die-cut Door Hangers in the paper section (or make your own template in the graphics program of your choice). The truly desperate can just outline a #10 envelope and turn a juice glass upside down to outline the door handle opening at the top end of the envelope outline. Which is exactly how we did it.
The fun part is illustrating your Do Not Disturb hanger with an image. We have a series of them. One depicts us sleeping, another dreaming (smiling with our eyes shut, in case you're interested), snoring, still another holding a pillow in a threatening position and the last shows us working (which is nearly indistinguishable from the sleeping shot).
All the images bleed off the edges of the hanger, judiciously cropped to show at least one eyelid, a nose and certain essential props (like ruffled hair). Cropping, in fact, is one of the more fun parts of this project. We use them in rotation, like any pitching staff, and when they need relief we reach for our bull pen. Which spews ink in a screamingly loud color.
Canto is offering Imaging Resource readers a limited-time discount on their Cumulus 5 Single User Edition. The $99 product can be purchased for $84 (plus shipping and taxes) through Oct. 20. To take advantage of this offer, just send an email to IROrders@canto.com.
PhotoParade is offering Imaging Resource readers a $5 coupon good toward the purchase of the Standard Edition of PhotoParade 3.0, which includes PhotoParade Maker 3.0 and 4 of their themes. The Standard Edition of this Windows slideshow and screensaver program normally sells for $19.99, but with the coupon at http://www.photoparade.com/coupon.asp?code=IMAGING-RESOURCE it's yours for only $14.99.
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.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.watchandsmile.com.
You can email us at email@example.com.
RE: SmartMedia Longevity
Thanks for the interesting and informative newsletter. I have had my Olympus C2000 Zoom since December last year and have taken over 6000 photos with it ... wherein lies the problem ... perhaps? On Saturday last, my camera stopped working and I eventually figured out that the 32 MB SmartMedia Card was faulty. Feeling a bit upset that it had failed in less than a year, I got the information out that came with it to check the warranty, only to find words about the card having a "limited lifetime," and when it fails, "buy a replacement."
So, something I have not seen addressed in the newsletter is what might be a reasonable lifetime (in time or shots/erasures)? Do you have any idea if the lifetime of my card was about average? I am not too thrilled about buying a new card every 9 months or 6,000 shots.
-- Brian Dodd, Ph.D.(A reasonable lifetime would exceed mine, by definition. CompactFlash, in comparison, may be overwritten about 300,000 times. But a failure may be attributed to other things than "natural causes." The physical fragility of the thin SmartMedia format, for one, has long been a concern. But merely having taken 6,000 shots wouldn't be the problem. -- Editor)(While Mike's correct about the theoretical longevity of CompactFlash, SmartMedia fares slightly worse, but based on the published specs, it'd likely outlive the owner. For what it's worth though, in our own work (testing dozens of digicams, hundreds of pictures each), we've now had two cards go bad on us in two years: One CompactFlash (it did make a trip through the washing machine though) and one SmartMedia (no laundry-related excuse for that one). This is a much higher failure rate than I'd have expected.... One note that I haven't seen repeated anywhere: Semiconductor memory is notoriously sensitive to static discharges. While the CF and SmartMedia packaging is designed to reduce this, even the tiniest static zap could potentially kill a card. We often leave our SmartMedia cards just lying on the desktop, and I strongly suspect that static might have had something to do with our problem. -- Dave)
RE: Most Likely to Inform
Of all the newsletters available on the Web, I find yours to be the most informative. Thanks for all your hard work!
-- John Alspaugh(Thanks, John! Few people outside Sydney realize the Olympian effort required to exercise our keyboard. These aren't coasters lying around here, after all, they're medals. Shiny, iridescent CD medals. -- Editor)
RE: Paper Moon
In your newsletter you mentioned that Epson said their paper [manufacturer] was a secret. From the paper prints I've seen it looks to me as if it is Kromekote coated one side, 40# cover. It's an expensive paper but it also comes in sheets of 28 x 35 inches and can then be cut down to the size you need to finish.
I don't remember who makes it, but every paper house knows of it. You could call them and ask for samples in different weights, prices, and cutting charges.
-- Anonymous(Some time ago we discussed alternative paper stock for photo imaging and general experimentation. And Kromekote, a favorite for glossy business cards and postcards, is one such. Here's just one place (http://www.marcopaper.com/standard_cardstock.htm) that has it at just 20 cents for a letter-size sheet. Thanks for the tip! -- Editor)(Inkjets are very sensitive to the surface coating of the paper. Most glossy inkjet paper actually has a thin gelatin layer (yup, I said "gelatin layer") on the top that absorbs the ink and keeps it from spreading, without letting the dye soak into the paper fibers too much. Glossy papers like Kromekote usually have a clay-based coating that I'd expect would absorb the dye too rapidly and deeply, producing a duller image. Worth a try, but definitely test it before you have the paper company chop up a pallet of Kromekote for you! -- Dave)
Nikon has released a firmware update (http://www.nikontech-usa.com/990_1_1_.html) for the Coolpix E990. Version 1.1 provides: Improved autofocus, a function allowing photographs to be taken as memory becomes available in continuous mode, support for the remote release cable, improvements to Best Shot Selection, reduced Review display time, more rapid display of uncompressed images, improved white balance and some menu language corrections.
Mac users getting a "camera not connected" error should confirm that they have disabled the extensions Nikon View Extension and E990 Shim Driver and the control panel Nikon View Control, reboot and turn the camera to M-REC mode.
Nikon also announced a $75 rebate on the $599 Coolpix 800 beginning Oct. 1. Nikon said it would also extend the $100 rebate on the $899 Coolpix 950 through Dec. 31. Just drop by http://www.nikonusa.com for the form.
The ultra-compact Fujifilm FinePix 40i Digital Camera (http://www.fujifilm.com) combines digital imaging, MP3 audio and digital video into one $699 product. With the same Super CCD as the FinePix 4700 Zoom digital camera, the FinePix 40i has an ISO sensitivity of 200, built-in flash, five programmed exposure modes, a USB port and a 1.8-inch LCD. Using SmartMedia cards, it can also capture 80 seconds of continuous AVI video with sound. You can download music to the FinePix 40i via its USB port to playback near CD-quality music. All MP3 controls are on a tethered remote into which headphones (included) can be inserted. The remote control can also be used with the camera to take and view pictures, as well as control the camera's digital zoom.
Fuji also announced two other additions to its digicam line: the FinePix 1300 and the FinePix 2400 Zoom.
- The $249 FinePix 1300 was designed for families and beginners with a standard 1.3 million-sensor CCD that records images at resolutions as high as 1280 x 960.
- The $499 FinePix 2400 Zoom offers a 2.1 million-sensor conventional CCD in a familiar point-and-shoot camera body with an aspherical 3x optical zoom lens equivalent to a 39mm-117mm zoom in 35mm format.
In anticipation of the holiday photo season, Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com) has integrated the PictureIQ Internet Service into its Web site and across its partner network, giving customers direct online access to advanced picture editing capabilities and simple-to-create special effects. Customers can perform one-touch instant photo fixing, cropping, rotation of pictures and apply special effects, such as changing color photos to black and white.
FlashPoint (http://www.flashpoint.com) has announced that the new Pentax EI-2000 marks the first application of the Digita OE in a commercially available single lens reflex digital camera. The Pentax EI-2000 is the latest addition to the growing list of Digita-enabled digital cameras that includes the HP PhotoSmart C500, the Kodak DC220, DC260, DC265, and DC290, the Minolta Dimage EX ZOOM and WIDE 1500 digital cameras.
Zing.com invites beginning and intermediate photographers to embark on its first-ever Digital Photography Workshop-At-Sea (http://www.zing.com/promo/cruise). The 8-day cruise of sun, fun and digital picture instruction sets sail from Miami Dec. 3 on Carnival Cruise Lines' newest superliner, Victory to the Eastern Caribbean.
Passengers on Zing's Digital Photography Workshop-At-Sea will receive instruction in photodigital technologies while visiting San Juan, St. Croix and St. Thomas. Thirty beginners and intermediates will participate in lectures, demonstrations and hands-on use of a wide range of equipment. They will also take photos, have them critiqued and uploaded to Zing albums. Both student work and pictures of class activities will be transmitted daily to Zing.com via satellite Internet facilities aboard the ship so family, friends and the rest of us can share in the excitement.
Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com) has introduced the new PowerShot G1, the company's most fully-featured 3.3-megapixel camera to date, offering a variable-angle LCD monitor that rotates up to 270 degrees, plus full compatibility with Type I and II CompactFlash memory cards, including high-capacity IBM microdrives. The G1 looks, feels and operates like a conventional 35mm camera, with a high-resolution, 34mm-102mm (35mm equivalent) f2.0-2.5 3x zoom lens; 12 EOS System-based picture-taking modes; a wide exposure sensitivity range (equivalent to ISO 50-400); shutter speeds from 8 seconds to 1/1000 second; an iris diaphragm; built-in flash with five control modes; compatibility with Canon EX-series Speedlites; an optical viewfinder with dioptric correction; a wireless remote controller; and a high-capacity lithium-ion battery power that can be recharged in the camera. The camera uses an optional audible "shutter click" to indicate a photo has been taken.
In addition, the Canon PowerShot G1 offers numerous advanced digital features including a 1/1.8-inch CCD with 3.34 million pixels; high-speed plug-and-play USB data transfer plus optional RS-232C serial interface; switchable video output format (NTSC/PAL); and a wide selection of image quality settings including multiple recording formats as well as adjustments for contrast, sharpness and color saturation. And the G1 can capture enhanced color depth up to 30 bits in RGB mode at full resolution due to a new RAW mode developed for the camera.
Hasselblad and Foveon have announced the Hasselblad DFinity, a digital camera based on Hasselblad's camera solutions for professionals and Foveon's unique image capture technology. The DFinity is housed in a compact camera body, which connects to a desktop or a laptop computer by an IEEE 1394 or FireWire interface. Controlled from a Mac or Windows keyboard and screen, which functions as viewfinder, the camera captures up to 1 image every 1.5 seconds. Hasselblad said it will develop lenses specially optimized for the prism-imaging engine.
Polaroid is busy at Photokina 2000 unveiling:
- A $99 Polaroid I-Zone Digital and Instant Combo Camera that adds digital imaging to the Polaroid I- Zone Instant Pocket Camera with a 640 x 480 pixel CMOS sensor and storage for up to 18 digital photos.
- A new convertible design for its best-selling Polaroid I-Zone Instant Pocket Camera featuring a sleeker profile with a wide range of removable faceplates
- A portable photo imaging device to digitize I-Zone mini pictures called the Webster, a handheld, portable, computer-mouse-sized, mini photographic scanner that digitizes I-Zone photos and other small objects
- The $250 P-500 compact, handheld printer that, at the touch of a button, produces high-resolution, pocket-sized Polaroid 500 instant color prints from Compact Flash and Smart Media.
- The new http://www.i-zone.com Web site, offering picture-sharing facilities for the global community of I-Zone aficionados, and a new Polaroid I-Zone Zine, a publication with creative ideas for I-Zone images.
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:
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher