|Volume 2, Number 21||20 October 2000|
Welcome to the 29th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. A double review of LensDoc, a unique plug-in to correct all sorts of image problems, plus a look at Fuji's extremely capable FinePix 4900 are just two of the treats awaiting you. Not to mention a couple of new tricks, too.
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By STEPHANIE BOOZER and MIKE PASINI
We're all familiar with the problem. Photograph a painting and the frame bows out. Take a shot of a building and the walls collapse. Shoot that incredible sunset just as the sun turns green and the horizon looks like a hill.
In a word (or three), the problem is distortion, perspective and rotation. In extreme cases (a fish-eye shot) it's an artistic effect. Usually it's just plain disturbing.
Enter Andromeda. Their recently-released LensDoc [MW] plug-in (http://www.andromeda.com/info/lensdoc/) using Photoshop's plug-in architecture not only addresses this issue but does so in such a comprehensive and easy-to-use way that we've asked them to make it a little more affordable for our readers -- and they have with a special offer below in Dave's Deals.
DISTORTION, PERSPECTIVE, ROTATION
Each of these problems has a different cause.
- Distortion: Your lens itself, as you may have seen, can have a warped view of the world. Especially zooming out to wide angle views. Our minds make marvelous adjustments to these aberrations, but when we know the subject well, the distortions are disturbing.
- Perspective: Tilt your camera up to shoot some skyscraper and (unless you're lucky enough to have a view camera) the vertical lines in your images are condemned to converge. That's because the plane of the CCD (also known as the film plane) is not parallel to the building. So, if the building is tall enough (or built by Transamerica), it will look like a pyramid. View cameras permit you to swing and tilt the film plane to make it parallel to the subject's lines, preserving the subject's natural geometry.
- Rotation: Less sinister, but most obvious, is the tilted horizon problem. And it may not even be your fault. Alignment during camera manufacture of the LCD and the optical viewfinder with the CCD is more of a problem than it should be.
LensDoc, in a nutshell, can correct for barreling (), pin-cushioning )(, perspective distortion /\ and axis rotation (that uphill or downhill horizon).
It does it in either an extremely competent Novice mode or a finely discriminating Expert mode in which you can control its default behavior. And it applies all the transformations you need at the same time, so image degradation is minimized (it will warn you if there's a problem).
LensDoc includes a database of corrections for specific 35mm and digicam lenses (which just happen to include some playful effects, too). It can even search its database of lenses for the best fit. If your lens is not included (and you don't want to use a generic correction), you can build your own custom correction just by shooting a target with straight lines (like a door) at various focal lengths, marking them in LensDoc and editing a simple text file.
Did we say "comprehensive"?
Your image editor has to support the Photoshop 4.0 or later plug-in architecture (which includes Paint Shop Pro 5 and Photo Paint 7). Both Macintosh and Windows versions (which is what our [MW] means) are available.
LensDoc uses an installer, which asks you if you want to install the 800K plug-in for Photoshop. If so, off it goes, but if not, it asks you where you want to install it. It works with any program that uses the Photoshop plug-in architecture.
Fully-illustrated documentation is provided as a PDF on the distribution CD-ROM. Sample images are also on the CD-ROM, so you can fix the sample problems in the documentation yourself to get up to speed. It won't take long.
Launch your Photoshop plug-in compatible image editor and look for LensDoc on the Filter menu under Andromeda. A large dialog box, the plug-in interface in fact, will greet you and you can get down to work.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, Imaging Resource's Stephanie Boozer will guide you through a typical session before we return with a few personal insights (after trying to straighten out the towers on our Golden Gate Bridge shots):
CONNECT THE DOTS
Your image is displayed in the central preview window, with a series of yellow and green squares in the center. There's also lots of options at the top and a Novice and Expert skill level selection at the bottom of the screen. For now, we'll go through the functions of Novice mode before describing Expert mode.
The first thing to do is select whether you want to fix a distortion, perspective or rotation, by clicking the corresponding red radio button in the top right corner. For our example, we're going to fix a barrel distortion, so we've selected "Fix Distortion."
Next, choose the lens type. The Generic Lens selection works for any lens. Selecting the Specific Lens option enables a pull-down menu in the rectangular menu bar just beneath it.
This pull-down menu offers a slew of choices, divided into Digital Cameras, 35mm Lenses, Alternate Barreling, Funhouse Effects and No Correction. Under the Digital Cameras submenu, you can choose between a handful of Canon, Nikon and Olympus digicam models and add-on lenses. The 35mm selection is a little more broad, with a variety of lenses from Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina. The Alternate Barreling selection sets up the filter for a specific type of barrel distortion and the Funhouse Effects submenu allows you to get a little playful, with effects like Bubble, Fish-eye, etc.
The next step in correcting our barrel distortion is to position the green and yellow squares or guides in the image.
Align the yellow or green squares (there are two sets of three, each a different color) by dragging them with the mouse along an incorrectly curved line close to the edge of the image. You'll notice that as you drag the squares, an enlarged view of where you are in the image changes in the close-up window on the right side of the screen. Once you get the squares in the general vicinity of where they should be, you can fine tune your placement by holding down the Control key and dragging the square precisely in the enlarged view.
When you've finished with either set of squares, move on to the other set for a more accurate adjustment. You can make an adjustment with only one set of squares active (to deactivate a set of squares, just click on the matching button beneath the close-up window). However, the adjustment will be much more accurate if both sets of alignment squares are active and well placed.
After you've aligned the squares, simply press the Correct button to apply the changes.
LensDoc did a great job of straightening our barrel distortion on the first try. But if you aren't happy with your results, simply press the Revert button to undo the change and start again. To refine your corrections even further, you can shift over to Expert mode by selecting that option in the lower right corner of the screen.
Entering Expert mode enables some new correction tools. The pull-down menu above the close-up window is now active, offering a few generic correction options such as Generic Barreling, Generic Extreme Barreling, Generic Pincushioning and No Generic Correction. Each one applies a standard correction to the preview screen, while the No Generic Correction option returns the image to its original state.
For our test, we selected the Generic Barreling option, which displayed two slider bars underneath the Correct and Revert buttons. The first slider bar adjusts the intensity of the effect, within the parameters established by the placement of the alignment squares. The second slider bar adjusts the actual shape of the correction curve, allowing you to concentrate the correction more on the edges of the image or closer to the center. These slider bars are active with all of the Generic curve settings, except for the No Generic Correction option.
Expert mode provides two more buttons in the lower right corner of the screen. The first button pulls up a graph function, which displays several graphs of the correction curve. As you move the points on the slider bars, you should see the effects of your movements on each of the graphs. The second button, Auto Scale, simply prevents any black pixels from appearing around the edge of the image when the image is resampled to correct the defects.
The two folder icons at the bottom of the screen allow you to load a new lens description from a file, and save your current set of corrections as a new lens description. This allows you to customize a correction to match a specific lens, which you could then apply to each image shot taken with that lens.
In our tests, we were able to achieve very nice results with the LensDoc filter, completely correcting our barrel distortion problem. Correcting a pincushion distortion works along the same lines, only you're bending the curve the opposite way. For rotation and perspective problems, the correction process is slightly simpler.
Selecting the Fix Perspective option pulls up a less complicated screen, giving you just two alignment squares in each set. The overall principle is the same, just position the alignment squares along the lines you'd like to be parallel, and press the Make Parallel button. The Revert button returns the image to its previous state. The only other options available to you in the Expert mode, as opposed to the Novice mode, are the Auto Scale function and the ability to save and open lens descriptions.
Finally, selecting the Fix Rotation option brings up another very simple screen. You can position the two yellow alignment squares and either press the horizontal or vertical Align buttons to adjust the image. Again, the Revert button removes the changes. As with the Fix Perspective mode, the Expert mode gives you the Auto Scale option and allows you to save or open lens descriptions and settings files.
You can get instant help for any tool in the window just by rolling the mouse over it. Help information is displayed along the bottom of the window. We found the on-screen assistance extremely helpful.
STEPHANIE: THUMBS UP
Overall, we think Andromeda's LensDoc filter is a good solution to a common problem. It's very easy to understand, with plenty of help to guide you along the way. Plus, the ability to apply unique distortion-type effects to images adds an element of creativity and fun. We also like the extensive selection of lens descriptions to match specific camera models, as well as the generic setting, which makes this filter versatile for all photographers, particularly those with zoom lenses.
The sample images Andromeda supplies are not cream puffs. They've got problems. And the plug-in handles them with ease. By following the directions in the manual, you too can fix them in seconds.
We had a little more difficulty straightening the towers on our Golden Gate Bridge shot. It was taken with a Nikon 990 using a WC-E24 wide angle converter. Oddly enough the supplied 950 WC-E24 custom correction worked very nicely in the blink of an eye.
But we wanted to try it manually. Call us John Henry.
It was challenging. For one thing, the cables on the bridge might easily disappear into the fog with too much of a correction. And straightening both towers got us a warning that we were overdoing it. We were. Everything depends on where you put those magic little boxes. In the end, we weren't able to do as well as the built-in correction. But we came close.
Don't think, though, that the automatic correction was minimal. Undoing and redoing it (rapidly, with the keyboard command) showed us what a dramatic transformation the plug-in was making. Andromeda notes the program doesn't rely on "simple mathematical equations, but rather is derived from testing over 100 lens and focal length combinations. Common patterns were selected out and synthesized into generic groups that work well with all lenses tested."
Considering the improvement, we were very impressed that we could not find any degradation in the image (and we're talking about some very iffy things here, like those distant cables in the fog).
We can't imagine an easier way to flatten horizons that are not horizontal (we hate trying to guess whether we were leaning 0.5 degrees or 1.2 degrees, not to mention clockwise or counter clockwise). And correcting for converging verticals is just as easy (you just use one more set of guides). But correcting for specific lens distortions, too? Turn on movie mode because we're going to do somersaults. LensDoc has quickly become one of our most valuable image editing tools.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/F4900/F49A.HTM on the Web site.)
Fujifilm has become one of the major players in the digital camera field, and this year in particular (2000) has had a number of major product announcements. One of their latest is the FinePix 4900 Zoom, a surprisingly compact camera with a 6x optical zoom lens and a host of advanced features. More than any other Fuji camera, the FinePix 4900 is aimed at the all-important "advanced amateur" market, with all the manual controls you could wish for, but excellent automatic options as well. Cameras in this category need to offer easy operation in automatic mode, but not restrict the photographer who wants to take full control of the exposure process. The FinePix 4900 meets both these needs admirably, and throws in a host of excellent user-interface functions and innovations. Overall a very strong entry for Fujifilm at the high end of the "prosumer" digicam market.
Compared to the rest of Fuji's extensive line of FinePix digicams, the FinePix 4900 Zoom immediately stands out, both for its larger size and for the rich assortment of controls it offers. Still, the camera is surprisingly compact, given the necessarily large barrel of its 6x, f2.8 optical zoom lens. In the 4900 Zoom, Fujifilm has managed to make unusually effective use of the camera body's real estate, providing one-button access to most camera functions, somewhat offsetting its heavy reliance on its LCD displays for camera operation. While clearly not a shirt-pocket digicam, the 4900 Zoom is still quite portable, assisted by the neck strap that ships with it.
Another departure for Fujifilm is the use of an eyelevel LCD viewfinder on the 4900, rather than a purely optical viewfinder. This approach has the strong advantage of providing a lot of exposure and camera-status information in the eyelevel finder. Since the electronic viewfinder is essentially a miniaturized version of the larger LCD monitor, all menu screens and information displays remain available (although somewhat small when looking through the eyepiece). This isn't an entirely unmixed blessing, in that it limits the camera's usability in low-light shooting conditions: The 4900 can capture images in settings a good bit darker than those in which the LCD viewfinder is usable.
A 6x, 7.8mm to 46.8mm lens (equivalent to a 35mm to 210mm lens on a 35mm camera) is built into the 4900 Zoom, automatically telescoping outward when the camera is powered on. Focus can be automatically or manually controlled, with an effective range from 1.6 feet (50 cm) to infinity in normal mode, and from 0.3 to 2.6 feet (10 to 80 cm) in macro mode. We found the manual focus operation on the 4900 far more usable than similar options on competing cameras, thanks to a unique "magnifying glass" option that enlarges your view of the very center of the frame on the LCD display. This is one of the few digicams we've found that you can actually focus accurately using the LCD! A digital telephoto function increases the zoom range by up to 3.75 times, depending on the image size setting, but also decreases the image quality proportionately with increased image noise and reduced resolution.
The 4900 Zoom offers a great deal of exposure control, with several exposure modes to choose from. The full Automatic exposure mode puts the camera in control of everything except the flash and image size and quality settings. Scene Program mode offers four preset shooting modes for specific situations (Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Night Scene). In Program mode, you can select from a range of equivalent exposure settings -- and you also have control over features like white balance, metering, ISO, etc. In Aperture Priority mode, you can set the lens aperture from f2.8 to f11.0 while the camera sets the shutter speed, and in Shutter Priority mode, you set the shutter speed from three to 1/1,000 seconds while the camera sets the aperture. (Shutter speeds can go as fast as 1/2,000 of a second in the Sports Scene Program and Automatic modes.) Finally, a full Manual exposure mode allows you to select the shutter speed and aperture settings independently.
In the Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, all of the 4900 Zoom's exposure features are available. In Manual mode though, the exposure compensation control switches the command dial's control between aperture and shutter settings, instead of its usual function of setting exposure adjustment between -2 and +2 EV in 1/3 EV units. White balance can be set to Automatic, Custom (manual), Outdoors-Sunny, Outdoors-Cloudy, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent and Incandescent, to match just about any light source you're likely to encounter. An ISO setting option adjusts the camera's sensitivity to 125, 200, 400, or 800 equivalents, increasing the camera's shooting ability in low light situations, or reducing image noise in bright conditions. An AE Lock button lets you base the exposure reading on a specific area of the subject, and three metering modes (averaging, multi-segment, spot) let you choose how the camera judges the exposure. There's also a two or 10 second self-timer, and an adjustable image sharpness setting. The built-in, pop-up flash offers Automatic, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Slow-Synchro, and Red-Eye Reduction with Slow-Synchro modes, with an adjustable intensity setting from -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV increments. An external flash hot shoe on top of the camera accommodates a more powerful external flash, but disables the internal flash when in use.
The Auto-Bracketing feature captures a series of images, at three different exposure settings, to find the optimum exposure value for the current subject. The Continuous Shooting mode captures up to five consecutive images at intervals as short as 0.2 seconds, depending on the SmartMedia space and amount of image information to record. Additionally, a Movie mode allows you to capture up to 90 seconds of moving images at approximately 10 frames per second. (The actual amount of recording time depends on the capacity and available space on the SmartMedia card, and can go as high as 364 seconds on a 64 megabyte memory card.)
The 4900 Zoom stores images from its 2.4 megapixel SuperCCD on a SmartMedia memory card (a 16 megabyte card comes with the camera). Still images can be saved at 2400 x 1800, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, or 640 x 480 resolution sizes, with Hi (uncompressed TIFF), Fine, Normal, and Basic quality settings available. TIFF format is only available for the largest image size. (Note that the largest image size is interpolated up from the roughly 2.4 megapixel SuperCCD sensor size.) Movies are saved at the 320 x 240 pixel resolution size, with no quality choices. A USB cable and software CD also accompany the camera, for downloading images to a Macintosh or PC. US and Japanese versions of the camera include an NTSC video cable, for viewing and capturing images using a television monitor (European models are set up for PAL timing). For power, the 4900 Zoom utilizes an NP-80 rechargeable, lithium-ion battery, and comes with an AC adapter that doubles as a battery charger.
SHUTTER LAG / CYCLE TIMES
The FinePix 4900 starts up surprisingly quickly for a camera with a telescoping lens, and its cycle time is pretty fast as well. Our only complaint about its speed is the somewhat longer than average shutter lag time in full autofocus mode. In continuous mode, the 4 frame per second performance for four frames is impressive, great for capturing exactly the right moment in fast-paced action photography.
Overall, the 4900 Zoom is a fine digicam, combining a great deal of exposure control with an excellent 6x optical zoom lens and the first manual white balance adjustment we've seen in a consumer-level camera from Fuji. It also offers a host of innovative features, ranging from the excellent focus-assist magnifier function to its highly useful autoexposure lock function, and high-magnification playback zoom option. Overall, a very interesting camera for the true "enthusiast," yet one that can also be used in a fully automatic mode for the technology-challenged. A great package of features that significantly extends Fujifilm's consumer digicam line into the higher end of the product spectrum.
No matter how many dots per inch your printer boasts, you'll want to feed it a certain number of pixels per inch. The optimum number, to be precise. More than that just eats up RAM and time both. Less than that gets you lousy print quality.
But, let's face it, we didn't bring this up to polish up our math skills. There's an easier way. It's called a printer template.
Take for example our Nameless Inkjet. Please. [ghostly laughter] It boasts a resolution of 600 dpi (or what it euphemistically calls "addressable raster points per inch" and what we consider to be "spots"). It can lay down 600 spots an inch either direction. No less, no more (as a certain tombstone over Les Moore once had it).
Now consider our bevy of house digicams, some sporting experimental (at the time) CCDs of merely 640 x 480 pixels, others with 2,048 x 1,536 pixels and still more with their own unique dimensions.
The game is obviously to print the images captured by the CCD on the paper (preferably that nice glossy photo stuff that costs a fortune) using the Nameless Inkjet. But how do we get from 2,048 x 1,536 pixels to 600 dpi?
In your image editing program create a new document the size of the sheet of paper you intend to run through your printer. That would be 8.5 x 11 inches for the Nameless.
Your printer manual may tell you the resolution to use. Take a look. Our dye sub insists on 203 pixels per inch in our image; others want 300. Our inkjet says it can print a halftone screen of 85 lines per inch. Which means (even though we are printing a special kind of screen) we need at least that many pixels and no more than 2.5 times that. So we test the same image at 85 pixels per inch up to 200 (212.5 rounded down).
We chose an image of a face and printed it at various lesser resolutions until we lost quality. We inspected the eyes on each print (with a loupe or magnifying glass) for both detail and color to learn that the Nameless printed the same image at 150 as it did at 200 but not as fine an image at 100 as at 150.
Make sure the color mode matches what your printer driver requires (printers are CMYK beasts but their software drivers usually convert RGB data into CMYK). The Nameless wants RGB data. Make sure the document has just a single layer if you are blessed with layers. And fill it with white (for ink jets, to save ink) or black (for dye subs to distribute the heat evenly).
Next, use your Page Setup dialog to set orientation (we have two templates, one for landscape and one for portrait), paper type (that Glossy stuff is nice), ink coverage and any color matching options you've found work best for you. Then just save the template as a JPEG (if that's your preferred format) or TIFF with a revealing name.
You now have an optimal printing template (a virtual sheet of paper) for your printer regardless of what spells your images cast.
To tap its powers, just copy your edited camera images onto the template to arrange it (either as an 8x10 or two 5x7s or whatever you like) so it uses as much of that expensive paper as possible. And print from the template, not the original image (which preserves your original data, too). Save the template with a new name if you want to make more copies of these images later.
The trick to fitting your image to the template is to change the size of the original image. Open any image and your image editing program maps the pixels wide and high to your screen: 72 [M] or 96 [W] an inch. But you're not printing to your screen. You're printing on paper, represented by your template.
Start by changing the width or height of your final crop to your final output size without resampling, making sure Constrain Proportions is on. If you want a 5x7, say, change the short dimension from however many inches it is to 5 inches. You'll see the pixels per inch jump up from 72 but the file size remain constant, if you did this right.
If your resolution exceeds your template's (150 in our case), resample down to the template's (and apply the Unsharp Mask filter). If it is less than that, you don't have enough resolution to print at that size. Make the image height or width smaller (quick tip: change the resolution to 150).
Don't save. Just copy the image data to your template and position it efficiently. When you've filled the sheet, print it.
Set up a template for each printer you have in both orientations and fit your images from any source (scans, too) to that template and you'll (magically) get the best results from your printer with the most efficient use of your system resources.
One trick of professional photographers often overlooked by the rest of us is to shoot a lot of film. Pros are so lazy about this that they invented the motor drive so they wouldn't even have to lift a finger.
Of course, they all have expense accounts.
Digicams have it all over film cameras here. Like the pros, you aren't paying for film either. So -- quick tip -- shoot away.
But we've recently been experimenting with a new digicam feature that takes this a step further. On a Nikon 990 we recently borrowed, it's called Best-Shot Selection.
Hold down the shutter release button and BSS will take shot after shot, like a motor drive, until the buffer is full. It then evaluates the shots for sharpness, discarding all but the sharpest.
This compensates for that first, heavy handed press of the shutter when the camera is likely to be moved and for those anticipatory inhalations (gasping in horror regularly seems to accompany our shots) which also jog the camera.
But BSS is also very helpful in those low-light situations or tele-converter moments when it is hard to hold the camera still during the exposure. Using macro mode? Using a tele-converter? Got a shutter speed under 1/60 second? And no tripod in sight? Try BSS. With a still subject.
Yes, a still subject. BBS is a catastrophe when your subject is moving (people posing, smiling, playing) or you pan the camera (changing the scene). We've found posers aren't trained to remain smiling while you hold your finger down. They feel, well, stupid. And changing the scene robs the image of reference points to compare sharpness.
No guarantees, of course. One or another of the images may be sharper, but not necessarily sharp. Still, in our experience, taking at least three shots got us one usable one.
So when shooting a handheld still in tough situations, turn on BSS to take advantage of this digicam-only blessing. And look like a pro.
The phone did not ring early in the morning last week to tell us we'd won the Nobel Prize for Digital Imaging (hey, talk about dynamite!). But, coming to our senses, we realized no one else had either.
Leaping (again) where none have yet dared jump, we propose to award the Ersatz Nobel Prize for Digital Imaging. All we need is a winner.
But what are the criteria? Clearly we don't want to tarnish this high award with one of those polls were everyone votes for the hardware or software that they are still paying off. And the only way around that, it seems, is to eliminate all digital imaging products from consideration.
You'd think that would leave us with little left to consider. But time and again we are reminded of a very simple virtue (most noticed by its absence) that is never adequately recognized: Extraordinary Customer Service.
You'd think that would leave us with little left to consider (and no we are not repeating ourselves). But we're betting some of you won't have to think too long about it.
If you've had trouble with a product that was happily resolved, you remember it. It may have surprised you that the company in question went to the expense it did, or that the person you were dealing with spent so much time and energy to resolve your problem. Whatever it was, tell us about it.
The best story (in our humble opinion) will win the Ersatz Nobel Prize for Digital Imaging (and the accompanying free publicity). And, just to be fair, everyone else gets an Honorable Mention. We doubt you can ever have enough Extraordinary Customer Service.
To submit your entry, simply email us at email@example.com with the Subject line "Ersatz Nobel Prize" and we'll come up with the winner.
Andromeda Software is offering our readers a special price on LensDoc, their Photoshop plug-in that corrects lens distortion and perspective which we briefly reviewed in our Seybold coverage last month and review above. Through the end of October you can get LensDoc for $69 by calling (800) 547-0055.
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: Smart Card Feedback(Reader James M Wallace wondered if everyone had as much trouble with SmartMedia as he does. So we asked. And you answered. Here are a few representative replies. -- Editor)
I recently had the same experience and, in desperation, tried wiping the contacts with a lint-free tissue wetted with isopropyl alcohol. It worked! Hope it will work for James.
-- Robert L. Thompson
I have owned an Olympus D400Z digicam for over a year now and have never had any trouble inserting or removing the memory card to/from it. I have three 8-MB and one 16-MB cards. Have used the camera extensively. Recent trip to Seattle and Whidbey Island, Wash. in which I filled all of the cards (using the highest res JPEG settings). All came out splendidly and are now on my hard drive and a wonderful printed-out photo album (some printouts are nominally 9 x 7) made from the files.
If I had any complaint it would be only that Olympus didn't leave you much of the edge of the card to grasp when removing it from the camera. But it isn't an insurmountable task. There, that's my "two-cents" offering. I agree with everyone else about your newsletter. Can't get enough of it. Keep up the excellent work.
-- Galen Heslet
I have read several letters and items about SM cards, and I have to tell you, I've never had a problem with mine (thank God!) and they've been in heavy use for a year and a half now. I've left them on my desk, in their Fuji USB card reader, in the camera ... you name it, I've left it there to collect dust and stray static shocks.
I'm not easy by any means on my cards, and rarely are they in their cases.
-- Sue B.
I have been using two 32-MB and one 8-MB SmartMedia cards for over a year and have never had a problem. They have all been moved in and out of my Olympus C-2000Z and various readers -- the latest and most satisfactory is a Microtech USB CameraMate -- and have never had any sign of trouble. All three came from Olympus, if that makes any difference.
Smart Media probably IS somewhat more susceptible to ESD (electro-static discharge) than CF due to the exposed contacts. But for the same reason it is also more susceptible to simple dirt: Touching the contacts can deposit enough oil on the surface to prevent electrical contact.
I have been able to "restore" a seemingly bad SM card by cleaning the contacts. The technique I used is better suited to passive devices since it could create some ESD in the process, but it worked for me: Find a clean eraser and gently rub the surface of the gold contacts. Brush off any remaining bits of eraser with a soft, lint-free cloth.
After this experience I have been very careful in handling SM cards. In fact, I avoid removing it from the camera as much as possible, just using the same 64MB card all the time and downloading images via USB.
-- Greg Marshall
I have experienced problems too with the SM cards. I have both 8-MB and 16-MB Olympus cards which I use in my Olympus C3000z.
Several times I have formatted a card in the camera with everything seeming to be just fine. Then, I turn off the camera. Upon turning it back on I get a flashing "F" formatting error. So, I try reformatting it and that doesn't work. I turn the camera back off and on and it still doesn't work. On rare occasions it might suddenly work when turned on.
If I've downloaded the pictures by FlashPath adapter, I take the "bad" card back out of the camera, put it back in the FlashPath adapter, insert FlashPath adapter in my computer's floppy drive, and view the a:\ drive with say Windows Explorer. Then, I remove the SmartPath adapter, take out the SM card and reinsert it in the camera. Typically, then it works! Strange.
I have asked Olympus tech Support about this. They emailed a reply, saying to format the SM card using the FlashPath software.
-- David Penasa
Yup, they go bad. Luckily, so far it is only on my 4-MB card that came with my Agfa 1260.
Agfa was no help but I searched the Internet and see that both Lexar and Sandisk have five year warranties on their cards.
I'd try sending the card back to whoever made yours.
RE: Got a Story?
I'm a TV director in Montreal, who wants to direct a short film of fiction that would take place in a photography studio. As I am writing a story between a pro photographer and a model, which takes place during a casting session, I was wandering if I could asked experienced photographers, through the Internet, if they have had interesting stories to share, that would be worth putting on film. The stories need to take place in a photography studio. That would be the only prerequisite. Anecdotes, strange encounters, funny situations, comedy, humour....
Do you know how or where I could get in touch with a large number of photographers asking for their stories?? I would like also to send the story to several photographers for their reactions. What do you think?
-- Pierre-Alex Vachon(You may be in for a round of virtual beers, but here goes: write to Pierre-Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a story for him. -- Editor)
RE: Virtual Reality
I do medical imaging at a teaching program and wondered if you know of reasonably priced methods or technologies to easily capture digital images in 3-D or the Pseudo 3-D like they use to rotate cars and things on Web sites.
-- Daniel L. Stulberg, M.D.(Ah, QuickTime Virtual Reality (or QTVR straight from the horse's mouth at http://www.apple.com/quicktime/qtvr/). The tutorial covers everything. More training (and links) at the Learning Alliance at http://www.letmedoit.com/qtvr/samples.html. Kaidan at http://www.kaidan.com (which makes panoramic tripod heads and stitching software for panoramas) has a list of related links at http://www.kaidan.com/industry.html, too. Just for starters. -- Editor)
RE: Keep It Up
A short note to say I appreciate receiving your evaluations, suggestions, etc. By far, yours is the best and most informative work. Please DO keep up the outstanding work.
-- Edwin(Thanks for the encouragement, Edwin! I don't think you'll be disappointed by what we have coming up. -- Editor)
I must begin by congratulating you on an extremely well put together e-zine. I've been a photographer for several years now, and only recently purchased a digital camera to add to the collection. I've found the information you publish extremely helpful.
The comments made about camera stores not having prints available as examples of output from digital cameras made me realize how lucky I am. My local store (Cardinal Camera, in Lansdale, Pa. -- ask for Larry) not only has 8x10 prints made from a number of different cameras (albeit made on their in-house dye sub, not on an inkjet, like most of us would likely use), but one of their salespeople (that would be Larry) recommended you guys to me. As a comment, I would suggest that if the store you're in doesn't have demo prints available, check around for another, it seems to me that if they start losing sales, they might change their methods.
-- Jeremy(Thanks for the kind words -- and the store recommendation. And if you're not near Lansdale, don't forget our sample print offer at http://www.imaging-resource.com/OFOTO.HTM. -- Editor)
The 272-page "Women Photographers at National Geographic" (National Geographic Books, ISBN 0-7922-7689-2, $40) showcases 144 of the Society's most powerful, intimate and dramatic photojournalism and photographic art as it chronicles the Society's long yet little celebrated tradition of women photographers. An exhibition featuring some of these photographers' finest work is being held at the Newseum/NY in Manhattan from Oct. 5 to Jan. 27, 2001.
Hewlett-Packard has unveiled at http://www.hp.com/100cameras the 100 Cameras Project, a series of digital photos taken by 100 people from various walks of life. The photos, accompanied by stories written by the photographers themselves, are the result of a program designed by HP which provided digital cameras, PCs and printers to 100 people to allow them to create and express themselves through digital images. The participants represented 40 countries from around the world and included a variety of people, from a stay-at-home dad and a world-class snowboarder to an ex-gang member and an 81-year-old Beat Generation poet.
Iomega (http://www.iomega.com/fotoshow/index.html) has introduced the FotoShow, a $299 USB 250-MB Zip drive with a video out port and a remote control. Copy your images directly from CompactFlash or SmartMedia to either a 100-MB or 250-MB Zip disk, plug the FotoShow into your TV or VCR and use the remote to organize and edit the images. Look, ma, no computer!
Nikon has released Nikon View 3.1.1 (http://www.nikontechusa.com/), adding movie playback (from the desktop and via USB, too), contextual menu support, Coolpix 880 support and quicker CompactFlash mount time. Not a full installer, the 2.81-MB updater [MW] will update Nikon View 1.x through 3.1.
Targus (http://www.targus.com) has announced three lines of carrying cases for digital cameras and camcorders ranging in price from $11.99 to $49.99. The three lines of digital camera cases are Pro Black (in black), Sport (in charcoal, silver and metallic blue) and Casual (in khaki). With camera protection in mind, high-density foam surrounds the main compartments, and interior walls and dividers are covered with a soft, plush lining, called Sport Prolene. In addition, the exterior of the camera cases features a 420 denier twill nylon for long-term wear and use. All cases have extra storage areas for items like memory cards, and the larger camera and camcorder cases have additional accessory storage compartments for batteries, power adapters, and connector cables. The cases feature a Neoprene Comfort Stretch Strap to reduce shoulder and neck strain, and the smaller models include belt loop straps.
Boxtop Software (http://www.boxtopsoft.com) has released version 5.0 of ProJPEG [MW]. The new version sports improved memory handling to allow ProJPEG to work for Web graphics or hi-res JPEG images, advanced Photoshop actions support for batch processing and automated work flow, plus a new interface with resizable and zoomable image previews. Paint Shop Pro is also supported by ProJPEG now on Windows, in addition to Photoshop.
John A. Vink (http://waves.apple.com/people/jav/PhotoPage.html) has updated his freeware PhotoPage [M] to version 1.3b1. The scriptable freeware application builds Web pages with thumbnails from a folder of images.
Multimedia 2000 (http://www.m-2k.comcatalog/page/picperfect.html) has announced Digital Picture Perfect, a $29.95 set of three CD-ROMs which bundles photo tutorials (Canon Photography Workshop and In Focus: Guide to Better Photography) with Qbeo's PhotoGenetics.
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
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher