The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 2, Number 22 3 November 2000

Copyright 2000, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 30th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. By now you've set the clock on your digicam back an hour, right? Good, invest a little of it with us and we'll save you even more time!


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ad here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Advandig
http://www.advandig.com
Offering a great selection of digital photography equipment, Advandig sells with integrity: You will find no inflated accessory prices, no exaggerated shipping costs, no high-pressure up-selling, and no false in-stock claims. Just great values and top-notch customer service.

Check out these current specials:

Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com
Think of us when you're in the market for digital cameras (or any other consumer electronics.)

We've applied the same expertise we developed to bring you every book in print to electronics. And you can expect the same legendary customer service, backed by our "safe shopping guarantee."

Check out our wide selection of the hottest digital cameras, from the Nikon Coolpix 990 to the Olympus D460 -- plus everything you need to complete your digital darkroom. We've also got plenty of removable memory and affordable card readers.

Go to Amazon.com Electronics: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/stores/ir1
Go to Amazon.com Digital Cameras: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/stores/ir2

Ofoto.com
http://www.ofoto.com/email8.cfm
Ofoto is the easiest way to put your photos online and get the highest quality prints on Kodak Professional paper.

Ofoto's easy to use Web site, state-of-the-art photolab, and advanced digital processing make all your photos look great!

  • Free Software: Download FREE OfotoNow software for red eye reduction, cropping, and easier uploads.

  • Free Online Storage: Get unlimited storage space to create as many albums as you like to share with friends and family!

  • Free Prints: Request a Welcome Kit when you join and receive free prints!

Join Ofoto today! Click here: www.ofoto.com/email8.cfm

Olympus
http://www.olympusamerica.com/
Olympus is pleased to announce the remarkable P-400 high speed photo quality printer. This is a true breakthrough product, with a suggested list price of only $999, thousands less than competing models. It produces true continuous tone prints that look like lab-developed photographs in only 90 seconds. Amazingly, the cost per print is less than that for ordinary inkjet output. Print from either Mac or PC computers, or directly from your filmless camera memory cards. Finally, true pro-quality dye-sublimation printing at an affordable price! See the URL below for more details.


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: Copying Slides with a Digicam

We really love the macro capability built into most modern digicams. Press a button to change focusing modes and it's like entering another world. We're always finding new things to shoot in macro mode.

So it was only a matter of time before we wondered if we could copy our slides and negatives in macro mode.

There are a lot of problems with this right off the bat: illumination, magnification, alignment of the image (no viewfinder is 100 percent accurate), power, focus, lens distortion. And they just whetted our appetite for the adventure.

THE EQUIPMENT

Recently we had a few days with a Nikon 990 outfitted with the Nikon Slide Copying Adapter (ES-E28). Both the Nikon 950 and 990 are unusually adept at this task thanks to their close focusing ability.

There are other slide copying attachments for the Nikons and Happenstance's (http://www.happenstanceproducts.com/) is less expensive ($40 rather than $80), lighter and very nicely made.

A number of folks have even built their own. Rui Prior (http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=195384&a=1433613) used nothing more than a plastic cup insert and a rubber band. And Doug Warner (http://www.gw.total-web.net/~dwarner/copystand.jpg) built a plywood platform to mount his camera over a $40 Tundra 837C light box.

Where there's a will there's a way.

The Nikon product is a bulky but lightweight cylinder that screws into the lens thread. It has slots on either side so you can slide either the double slide holder (which permits you to leave your slides in their mounts) or the 6-negative film strip holder. They're held in place by a strong metal spring. The front of the adapter is a piece of milky Plexiglas that diffuses your light source.

Besides sliding the holder back and forth, you can adjust the two-piece barrel up and down and change the angle of rotation. All of which can be fixed with a set screw.

Unlike competing attachments, the Nikon does not permit any ambient light to fall on the front of the slide. It's not only enclosed but black inside, too. So the only light that hits the lens is transmitted through the slide. We like that (Rui, paint the inside of the cup insert).

Sunlight was going to be our light source, but for night work we also dusted off our 16 x 18 portable light table with two short florescent tubes of certainly the wrong degrees Kelvin. Not daylight tubes, that is.

We wanted enough light to hand-hold (1/60 second or above) but we had our hands full with slides, mounts and compressed air (when it comes to air, folks, we don't observe brand loyalties). So we cranked up the old Davidson Star-D tripod and attached the 990 to the past.

We set it low enough that we could sit down, flip through the slides on our light table and frame them in the viewfinder while angling the lens skyward. The Nikon swivel design was never more appreciated.

The last piece of equipment we recommend for this job is an AC power adapter. You don't want to dissemble the mounted camera to change batteries every now and then. That's unfortunately optional equipment for the 990, but the one that came with the 900 is just right.

Our wish list includes a high capacity CompactFlash card. We used the 990's included 16-MB Lexar and a 15-MB Microtech. We couldn't tell the difference between them, frankly. They were both very quick and held about 15 images at the least compression (after promising just 10 with a blank card).

CLEANLINESS

Shooting this close greatly magnifies imperfections like scratches and dust. Cleanliness is a big issue.

The Nikon Coolscan boasts Digital ICE technology, an algorithm that detects and automatically retouches scratches and dust from your image. Which works fine with anything but black and white emulsions (which have a lot of edges that look like scratches to ICE).

We found that a couple of blasts with compressed air on both sides of the mounted slides just before inserting them into the holder took care of the problem. We did not see any dust or scratches on the hundreds of slides we copied (but we do store our film in protective sleeves).

Buy the "environment-friendly" cans that don't use CC and HCFC. The ozone layer, we've heard, is sufficiently depleted that you can't even get a tan anymore without risking your life.

ALIGNMENT

It's a simple push to get the slides in the holder. Orient them as you would view them (except that they must all be landscape). The Nikons don't rotate images.

To align the slide holder in the adapter, push it in and watch for the same amount of slide mount on either side of the adapter. Don't pay any attention to the holder slot itself. What matters is where the slide is.

To align the holder to the camera, eyeball it. They should be parallel.

You aren't done with alignment quite yet. But before we can continue, you have to set up that camera. Fortunately Nikon makes that very easy.

CAMERA SETTINGS

Set the camera mode to M-REC for manual recording. Set the focus mode to Macro and turn off the flash. Auto focus should remain on and ISO sensitivity should remain the default 100.

You can use auto white balance or set the white balance for your light source. If you are not using sunlight, set the white balance.

Finally, set the 990 to Aperture Priority mode, selecting an aperture between f4 and f5 (on the 950 that's the middle aperture setting). Let the shutter speed fluctuate from 1/60 upward (although we did fine at 1/15, as it turned out).

When we shot black and white film we switched to grayscale image mode on the camera. No sense interpolating color that isn't there.

ALIGNMENT II

Back to alignment. Once the slide holder is positioned in the adapter, use the zoom control to come in to a nice tight crop in the LCD. If you did this right, the macro indicator on the LCD should be glowing yellow confirming you're in range.

Take a shot and pull the card out of the camera. Take a look in any image editing program. Did you get the whole image? Is it too low or high? Is it square? Make any adjustments necessary and test until you get it right.

CHEATING

We do have a few images where the story is told in the shadow detail. To exposure these, we had to compensate with an EV of at least +1.0 to matter. And if we were shooting images with important highlights, we might have had to go the other way. But in general we didn't bother.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

We tried our light box as a source of illumination, which gave us about 1/30 second exposures at f4.4. We noticed the difference, however, in the white balance. Setting it to fluorescent helped.

But we preferred sunlight. Just be careful of any shadows (say from window frames) that fall over the diffuser as the sun moves.

THE FULL MENU

We copied slides (Kodachrome, Ektachrome and Polaroid), black and white negatives (you can never quite escape Tri-X) and positives -- and color negatives of various speeds and manufacture.

To do anything useful with either kind of negative requires an image editor (and one with batch capabilities, so it can convert whole groups of images at a time). The general approach is to invert the data (so white becomes black), and adjust the levels (automatically worked fine). You may also need to play with the color balance of your color negatives. But what works for one should work for the batch.

SCANNING VS. SHOOTING

In the past, we've scanned slides on an Agfa Duo-Scan flatbed and a Nikon Coolscan 2000 slide scanner. And we were quite satisfied with the results in both cases. OK, deliriously happy.

This isn't quite like that. We were just giddy.

We could not quite match the quality of those scanners. But that's no surprise. The scanners don't have to interpolate color. They can move down the image reading RGB at their leisure -- a full red, green and blue sampling for each pixel. The camera samples the image in a fraction of a second, interpolating two of the three colors (or 16 of every 24 bits).

Still, we were giddy. Delighted. Thrilled.

The quality is a bit better than but similar to duplicate 35mm slides would provide, we think. There's that familiar compression of the tonal scale, and the subsequent loss of detail. We did, in fact, recover some shadow detail in image editing (working very hard with the curve in the shadow quarter tones). But images that are not quite that difficult, that don't use the whole tonal range of the chrome to tell their story came out very well.

CONCLUSION

It was easy and quick to get reliable and pleasing results. We just had to dust the originals and carefully attend to our setup (and wait for Indian summer). And it was surprisingly inexpensive.

But the real thrill was having digital access to our binders and binders of images. Many of which we never printed. Or printed only once. And gave away. And certainly forgot all about. Now we can copy a set, batch correct them and look over the whole collection on our monitor. How cool is that?

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus E-10 -- A Major Coup

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E10/E10A.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

Olympus, with one of the broadest digicam lines in the industry, designs each model to appeal to a specific market segment rather than creating just another "general purpose" digicam.

The E-10 is clearly intended to compete at the highest image quality levels of the digital SLR field, thanks to its true 4-megapixel CCD resolution. This review was based on a preproduction prototype, so we can't draw any firm conclusions on issues such as color accuracy, but other image quality parameters looked very good indeed. (And the color wasn't bad at all either. We specifically avoided comment on it because Olympus told us there would be about two more rounds of "tweaking" before the final units hit the stores.)

With an initial selling price of $1,999, the E-10 is thousands cheaper than most competing models -- and actually outperforms them in several areas. After spending a week or so with the camera, we found ourselves liking it quite a bit. The combination of high image quality, good optics, extraordinary low light capability, and a relatively compact design (smaller than many film-based SLRs) added up to quite a package. We suspect there will be a lot of people for whom $4,000 plus for one of the competing SLR models (including a lens) would be an uncomfortable stretch, but who'll happily find the $2,000 for an E-10.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

We couldn't wait to get our hands on the Olympus E-10 and take it for a test drive. A very large step by Olympus toward the professional digicam realm, the E-10 offers excellent exposure control (as with their earlier high-end models) in an SLR design, with the look and feel of a traditional 35mm camera. It also boasts the highest sensor resolution (4 million pixels) of any digital camera selling for under $10,000.

Where the E-10 differs from other pro SLR digital cameras is in its use of a fixed lens. Most other pro digicams are built around lens systems originally designed for 35mm photography. The benefit of 35mm-based lens systems is that there are a lot of photographers with substantial lens kits that can immediately be adapted to digital usage. As it turns out though, there are also a number of disadvantages to the removable lens approach, including a less than ideal match between the lens' focusing and the tiny dimensions of the CCD arrays, and the tendency to get dust on the CCD itself when the camera body's integrity is breached during lens changes.

Olympus addresses the issue of focal length flexibility by offering a range of front-element adapter lenses for the E-10 that combine with the camera's built-in 4x zoom to give focal lengths equivalent to 28-420mm in the film-based world. (And at impressively "fast" maximum apertures.) We had our hands on a full set of Olympus lenses for only part of a day, but the few shots we took with them revealed them to be of very high optical quality, much better than we'd expected from front-element designs.

The E-10's SLR design works quite differently than traditional mirror-based SLRs, using a "beam splitter" to carry the image from the lens to the optical viewfinder and the CCD at the same time. That allows a live preview image on the LCD in an SLR camera design. (The traditional SLR design, with a mirror to direct light to the viewfinder blocks the CCD when the optical viewfinder is in use, precluding a live preview image.) Oddly, there's still a brief "blackout" when the shutter trips though, which surprised us given the beam-splitter approach used. The camera features both an optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor for composing images, the optical viewfinder actually being a very fine-grained ground glass design that permits direct focus evaluation, as in a 35mm SLR. The 1.8 inch LCD monitor has the ability to pop up and off the back panel so it can be tilted upwards 90 degrees or downward by about 20 degrees. Both viewfinders feature a fairly extensive information display, reporting exposure values, modes, etc., as well as a histogram function available in all capture modes.

The E-10's built-in 4x, 9-36mm lens (35-140mm equivalent on a 35mm camera) features non-rotating 62mm filter threads for attaching conversion lens kits. Focus can be manually or automatically controlled, with a range from 1.97 feet (0.6m) to infinity in normal mode, and from 8.0 to 30.0 inches (0.2 to 0.8m) in macro mode. Zoom is manually controlled just as a film camera's lens would be, via a textured-rubber ring around the outside of the lens. A second adjustment ring at the end of the lens controls manual focus. We found these manual adjustment rings quite comfortable and familiar, very similar to a 35mm lens design.

Exposure control is quite extensive on the E-10, with Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes. Apertures can be manually or automatically controlled from f2.0 to f11.0, depending on the zoom setting. In Manual mode, shutter speed ranges from 8 to 1/640 seconds, with a Bulb setting for even longer exposures (up to 30 seconds maximum). The shutter speed range changes slightly in Shutter Priority mode, varying from 2 to 1/640 seconds. But the maximum shutter speed was only 1/640 of a second, limiting exposure flexibility somewhat, especially in very bright or fast paced shooting situations. The inclusion of Bulb exposure mode is a nice benefit though. (Even at the maximum programmed exposure time of 8 seconds, the E-10 is an incredible low-light performer.) In all four exposure modes, you maintain control over the remaining exposure features, with the exception of Manual mode, where the exposure compensation, metering mode, and AE Lock functions are not available because all exposure settings are being controlled manually.

The exposure compensation adjustment offers a wider range than most current digicams, with adjustments from -3 to +3 EV in 1/3 EV increments. The camera's metering system can be set to ESP (a matrix/multi-segment metering system), Spot, or Center. ISO is also manually adjustable, with options of Auto, 80, 160, or 320 sensitivity equivalents. An AE Lock button on the back panel allows you to lock the exposure reading for a specific part of the subject independently of the shutter release.

We were very pleased with the E-10's white balance capability, which offers three modes: Auto, Quick Reference (manual), or Preset. We've always wished that Olympus would offer a manual white balance option (seen once on the earlier C-2500L, but not again since), and the Quick Reference setting answers that need, allowing you to manually set the white balance by placing a white card in front of the lens. The Preset white balance mode lets you choose from a listing of Kelvin temperature settings, from 3,000 to 7,500 degrees, each setting corresponding to a particular light source (the manual has a table of temperatures and values). Other image adjustments include sharpness and contrast. The E-10 features a built-in, pop-up flash that works in Auto, Slow Synchro, Red-Eye Reduction, Redeye Reduction with Slow Synchro, and Fill-in operating modes. You can adjust the intensity level of the flash from -2 to +2 EV in 1/3 EV increments. There are two ways to connect an external flash to the E-10: the hot shoe on top of the camera or the PC sync terminal on the side panel. Both the internal and external flash can operate at the same time, and the intensity setting applies to the external flash as well.

A Sequence shooting mode captures up to four full-resolution frames (even uncompressed TIFFs) at approximately three frames per second, and an auto bracketing feature takes three images at three different exposure values to help you get the right exposure. A Time-lapse Photography mode takes an infinite number of images (or as many as the memory card will allow), at set intervals from 30 seconds to 24 hours for as long as the batteries hold out. The E-10 also works with an infrared or a wired remote control (the wired remote allows you to halfway press the shutter button to set focus and exposure, a function that the infrared remote doesn't support).

For image storage, the E-10 can accommodate both SmartMedia and CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards, with dual slots on the side of the camera (a 32-MB SmartMedia card is included with the camera). Five resolution sizes are available from 2240 x 1680 pixels on down, and images can be saved in JPEG, uncompressed TIFF, or RAW data formats. An Olympus RAW File Import Plug-in for Adobe PhotoShop accompanies the camera, allowing you to process and color correct RAW files on a computer. A USB cable also comes with the camera, for speedy connection to a computer, and the Camedia Master 2.5 software package provides image downloading, organization, and minor correction capabilities (Macintosh and Windows compatible). U.S. and Japanese models come with an NTSC cable for viewing and composing images with a television set, and we assume that European models are equipped for PAL timing.

The E-10 can use several different power sources, with a sliding tray from the battery compartment holding either four AA alkaline, NiCd, or NiMH batteries, or two CR-V3 lithium ion battery packs. As an accessory, a vertical hand grip and battery pack accommodates the more powerful lithium polymer battery. An AC adapter is also available as an accessory, and highly recommended for tasks such as image downloading and playback.

We suspect some prospective professional users may turn away from the E-10 because it lacks interchangeable lenses, or the high shutter speeds and long "motor-drive" run lengths of high-end professional digital SLRs. Given its other sterling qualities though, as well as its low price (less than half the cost of the average pro digital SLR body alone), we think Olympus will sell every E-10 they can make. It has enough exposure control and features for professional applications, while providing enough automatic operation for less sophisticated users. The innovative SLR design, coupled with the 4-megapixel CCD puts the E-10 on the leading edge of the current digicam market.

LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

We don't normally have a separate section in our reviews on a camera's low light capability, but the E-10 was so exceptional in this respect that we thought it warranted separate coverage.

The design of the E-10's body and CCD mount conducts heat away from the CCD imager chip. The result should be lower operating temperatures for the CCD, and thus lower image noise levels as well. Tipped off to this design detail, we expected pretty good low-light performance from the E-10, but also expected the smaller pixel dimensions needed to cram four million pixels onto the sensor chip to counteract this somewhat. We therefore began our testing thinking that the E-10 would have fairly typical low light capabilities overall.

What a surprise! In our studio tests, the E-10 produced beautiful exposures down to the lower limits that we normally test (1/16 of a foot-candle, about 0.7 lux). Then we "discovered" the bulb-exposure mode. (Manuals are for wimps...) Messing about in the studio that night, we happened to take a 30 second exposure with the camera pointing out a window to the moonlit ground outside. There was detail there! A quick trip to the backyard (the front was too "bright" due to the streetlights) with our heaviest tripod and a steady hand (we didn't get to keep the wired remote for our testing) was called for, to see just what the E-10 could see.

We shot 30 second exposures with the lens wide open (about f2.2 at the focal length we were shooting with). We shot the scene at ISO 80, 160, and 320. We did a fairly extensive tone balance in Photoshop using the Levels function, then hit it with the Dust & Scratches filter, radius 1, threshold 20. The results were literally astonishing, particularly the incredibly clean image processed from the ISO 80 shot. We normally recommend Mike Chaney's excellent Qimage Pro program for processing digicam images with high ISO noise, but for these E-10 images, the Photoshop Dust & Scratches filter seemed to do a better job when used with a relatively high threshold setting. The only light in the backyard was from a full moon (October, Atlanta area). It was probably about 50 degrees F at the time, but we didn't wait for the camera to cool down to ambient temperature, wanting to see results more typical of ordinary shooting conditions.

Bottom line, we have to say that the E-10 has the best low light performance of any digicam we've tested! (And yes, the Kodak DC620x would almost certainly surpass the E-10, but that digicam costs roughly 5 times as much, and has half the pixel resolution of the E-10.) An absolutely outstanding performance!

CONCLUSION

With its true 4.0-megapixel CCD, extensive exposure control, SLR format, and advanced lens design, the Olympus E-10 carves out new territory on the boundary between the professional and advanced-amateur digicam markets. With a selling price thousands less than all of its competitors in the professional SLR world, it also offers higher resolution than anything within five times its cost. As an added bonus, Olympus' use of metal castings and other metal components to heat-sink the CCD appears to have paid real dividends in the form of reduced CCD noise on long exposures. We'll have to wait for a full-production unit to arrive at any final conclusions, but based on what we've seen so far, the E-10 has all the earmarks of a world-beater. Very highly recommended.

Return to Topics.

Book Bag: Paint Shop Pro 6 Visual Insight

Paint Shop Pro, now at version 7 for $99 at http://www.jasc.com, has become a very popular and powerful Windows shareware image editing program since it first appeared in 1991. And there are a handful of books devoted to exploring its many powers, including a forthcoming Dummies title.

This particular 368-page tome was written by Ramona Pruitt, a graphic artist, and Joshua Pruitt, a systems administrator, who together run Mid-TN Network, a Web hosting firm. Along with a detachable Keyboard Shortcuts card, the book approaches Paint Shop Pro in two different ways. The first eight chapters introduce each tool and how to use it. The last six chapters walk you through a number of real life projects.

The first part of the book includes chapters on Basic Tools; Working with Selections and Color; Introducing Layers; Masks Unveiled; Filters, Effects and Deformations; Introduction to Web Graphics and Animation; Introduction to Vector Graphics; and Picture Frames and Picture Tubes.

In the project section of the book you'll find chapters on Layering in Action; Photo Restoration and Enhancement; Projects Using Masks; Cool Text Effects; Creating Web Graphics and Animations; and Creating Vector Graphics.

There's no CD, but we didn't miss one (although Jasc seemed to miss a great opportunity to distribute a demo version of its program). There is a 16-page color "Studio" section of the book showing color samples of the projects.

We found the wide range of topics well presented and copiously illustrated. And thorough enough to serve as a reference manual. The authors maintained a tone that did not speak down to us while exploring powerful image editing concepts. The only time we wanted to put this book down was when we were anxious to try building the projects in the second half of the book.

The project section began with a well-designed project. The authors exercise our knowledge of layers to turn any image into a picture of a jigsaw puzzle in 27 steps that cover a lot of other ground, too. Like using the freehand tool in combination with copy/paste techniques, saving a puzzle template and even extending the basic design to give it another level of reality.

The chapter on photo restoration was competently presented, showing how to use the clone brush to repair tears, what to do about red-eye and how to composite images. There are easier ways to handle red-eye (especially in version 7, which includes a powerful red-eye filter with options for both animals and people), but that doesn't make the lesson any less valuable.

That's because the projects were most useful in giving real world examples of how to use the tools effectively. You might indeed do red-eye differently, but it was worth seeing how these authors employed Paint Shop Pro's tools to do it.

And that, really, is the value of books beyond the manual and documentation that ship with a product. Each one provides a peek into the atelier of a working artist. And the more peeks, the merrier, we say.

Paint Shop Pro 6 Visual Insight by Ramona Pruitt and Joshua Pruitt, 366 pages, in paperback at $29.99 or $23.99 from amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576105253/.
Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: The Noble Prize for Customer Service

We are pleased to announce the winner(s) of this year's Ersatz Noble Prize for Extraordinary Customer Service -- but we're a little disappointed that the digital imaging industry fielded so few nominations. Growing pains, we suppose.

That only enhances the value of the award, it seems to us.

And our admiration for the winners therefore can not be diminished. Sure, for every great story, there are no doubt "less great" ones ("Acme Imaging? How can you give it to them?! Those bozos...."). But this award is for getting it right once.

After reading the nominations, we decided to split this year's award among three recipients. To have given any of them honorable mention would have been, well, dishonorable under the circumstances.

Gary Kanvick nominated Hewlett-Packard "for the outstanding service I got last week (Oct. 14)." Gary explains:

"I got a refurbished 970CXI printer from them the day before, Friday. Saturday I was looking through their site and found an obscure heading APP, which stand for Academic Purchase Program. This APP site had the same great printer for $18 LESS than I had paid for it. I called their toll-free order line and asked the friendly young man if I could get it at the reduced price. He was so helpful and he got me a refund for the $18. I am eligible for the Academic program five different ways: my wife is a secretary at a school, I have 3 daughters in school, and I am a full-time University of Montana student. I wish I remembered the man's name so I could write HP and tell them about the great service I received from this man. He was helpful, friendly, and saved me some money!

"I feel you should give HP the Ersatz Nobel Prize for Extraordinary Customer Service. Many businesses don't care about the customer after they have parted with their money, but I believe Hewlett-Packard has a truly customer-based approach to selling. They have empowered the phone personnel to resolve problems or help with questions a customer might have. In addition, I did NOT have to play phone tag, or maneuver through a long mailbox to find someone that could help me. The FIRST person I talked to got me a refund. He was terrific! Friendly, helpful, and people oriented staff, will surely keep HP in top place for customer service!

"I have seldom received service of the quality I got from HP. The original sale was quickly placed and the printer arrived two days later, exactly like they said it would! Hewlett-Packard deserves your award for the Extraordinary Customer Service they give."

Note, friends, that Gary got help with just one phone call. Judith King nominated Wacom (the pressure-sensitive pen people) for, well, exactly the same reason:

"First of all, they answered their phone right away.

"The techs at Wacom must be chosen, not only for their expertise, but for their incredible patience. One female tech there walked me through all kinds of screens and input and restarts of the computer. She was sweet and knowledgeable and solved my problems of getting started with one of their tablets, all with a smile in her voice. They have my loyalty."

Judith's delight at finding a sympathetic ear was a surprise because, as Andy Voda wrote, "There is so much terrible customer service out there that when a company acts 'simply' honorably and responsibly it ends up being extraordinary." Andy nominated Epson for making things right several times.

"I was upset when I first purchased [a Stylus 3000 printer] because they did not provide a RIP software compatible with NT, though they had one for Windows 95. It didn't make sense to me; especially with so much software that can work on both. Each time I would find myself talking with a tech rep there, I would mention this. At one point, someone voluntarily upped me to a supervisor about the matter. So, I went along.

"We had a nice discussion about it. They would keep saying they were 'thinking' about it, or it was in 'development.'

"This person did the work to really find out what was going on. No bull. I expressed some dismay when I learned that although it was in development, she couldn't say when and what it would cost ... probably an additional $300. She promised that when it came out, she would send me a copy. I said to myself, 'Yeah right.'

"It was a good year later, but it arrived one day."

Think people don't remember? People do. But Andy isn't done:

"Another time, I was having some trouble with it feeding paper. A tech guy, rather rashly, had me reboot the firmware on the machine. I then immediately noticed that all the information about ink levels was now lost! I complained. He half-heartedly apologized. I took the matter further to customer service. She offered me a compensation package of a full set of inks. I declined. She insisted. I said, let's compromise. Send me an extra black tube. She did.

"This feeding problem continued. Occasionally I would call about it and not get anywhere. Finally, during one exasperating period of misfeeds I faxed each and every time it happened. All I did was tell them how many times the machine would take the paper and feed it through, over and over again, until it would finally start printing. One fax reported 4 times, then 7 times, then 9 times and then 12 times ... a new record! Suddenly one day I got a call from someone who had an RMA faxed to me for returning the machine for a thorough workover ... EVEN THOUGH IT WAS NOW PAST WARRANTY. I told him that I had been complaining about this misfeed off and on ever since I got the machine. He called again a few hours later just to be sure that I got the fax.

"I really don't understand how Epson makes ANY money if they do this sort of thing with everyone."

Excellent nominations, all. If you're into digital imagining you are, by definition, on the cutting edge. Which is where the blood flows. So we salute Hewlett-Packard, Wacom and Epson for stopping the bleeding. With the power invested in us we award them the Ersatz Nobel Prize in Extraordinary Customer Service for 2000.

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

Canto, you may have heard, has just announced a special Christmas deal on the $99 Cumulus 5 Single User Edition. Just $49.95. Which might upset you if you took advantage of their $84 offer here (via IROrders@canto.com) that ended Oct. 20. Except -- hold on to your hat -- Canto is reducing your price to $45 (you can get a refund via fulfillment@canto.com) and extending the $45 price to all our readers through the end of the year.

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; info_usa@binuscan.com; http://www.watchandsmile.com.

Return to Topics.

We Have Mail

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

RE: Up Close

First let me say that you have a great newsletter. I am fairly new at using the digital camera.

I have a Kodak DC240, my problem is taking closeups of coins and jewelry, the flash is off to remove the glare and have tried different colored backgrounds indoors with subdued light and also outside and have followed the directions in the manual but have not had any good results.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

-- Paul Singer

(Thanks for the kind words, Paul.... Kodak says, "The camera's focus range is 19.8 inches (0.5 metre) to infinity with the lens set to wide angle and 39.4 inches (1 metre) to infinity with the lens set to telephoto; the camera's focus range for close-up is 9.8 inches (0.25 metres)." Which means there's no real macro mode.... Fortunately, Tiffen makes a close-up lens set for your Kodak. Take a look at http://www.tiffen.com/digital_kodak%20dc240_240i_280.htm and click on the link for sample close-up images. -- Editor)

RE: 28mm or Bust

I've been waiting, (and waiting!) for a simple 28mm cheap filter to protect the lens of my Nikon 990. I believe that the exposed face of the lens is just a protective flat, but if it gets damaged (I sometimes take close-up shots of machinery) I'll have to send the camera for repair. Nikon has a nice set of three filters but they cost about $70. Also, you can have two filters in the carrying case package that includes batteries and charger. I already have all that, so the close to $100 for two filters is too much. You can buy a very good adapter (CKPOWER.com) 28 to 37mm and then access all the available filters in that popular size, but I hate to add more stuff to the front end of a nice compact camera. How come the industry has not yet come up with a line of filters for that size? Or are they there but I can't find them?

-- Henry Arance

(Excellent question, Henry.... You're right, the glass in front of the lens is protective -- but requires factory service to replace. Small comfort.... But there are a number of 28mm UV filters available. In no particular order: http://www.2filter.com/prices/digcam.html has a Marumi for the Nikon and a polarizer for under $50. And http://www.ckcpower.com/ has some for the Nikon. You'll find a kit of three (UV, neutral density and fluorescent) for $40 at http://store.yahoo.com/tcclub/skfk28.html. And the Nikon bundle you mentioned can be reviewed at http://www.nikonusa.com/products/detailb.cfm?id=276. Just for starters. -- Editor)

Thank you! That was a lightning fast answer.

-- Henry Arance

(Well, it was a short World Series. -- Editor)

RE: LensDoc

Thanks for the great article on Andromeda's LensDoc plug-in. I downloaded the demo yesterday and liked it so well, I ordered the whole plug-in package from Andromeda today. By mentioning Imaging-Resource I got the discount price. Thanks again.

-- Charlie Young

(You're welcome, Charlie. LensDoc is just one of those little gems we feel particularly pleased to bring to the attention of our large and appreciative audience. Because little gems are often overlooked. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

The world's largest print of a digicam image (measuring 65' x 42' and totaling 2,730 square feet) was unveiled Nov. 2 at Broadwayıs Crowne Plaza Hotel. The image was captured with a Nikon Coolpix 990 and digitally re-sized from a 4" x 6" to a billboard with "very little loss in image quality," according to Altamira whose Genuine Fractals technology was used to add pixels where nature didn't put them.


Guido Roth, the September DigitaScript programming contest winner, has written a script that catalogs in an HTML file all the Flashpoint-documented camera parameters of any particular camera. "I am collecting these files for the populace to be able to compare Digita features on their digital cameras. The link is http://members.safepages.com/genesis_art/DIGITA.HTM. If you have digital cameras I don't have listed yet (OK, so far I only have my DC260) feel free to download the script and email me the resulting file to add to my site."


Kodak (http://www.kodak.com/go/professional) has introduced the $1,299 RFS 3600 film scanner, a table-top unit that can process 35mm color negative film strips and mounted slides at 3,600-dpi optical resolution with a dynamic range of 3.6, auto focus and batch-scanning capabilities. Kodak is bundling Adobe Photoshop LE 5.0 and 10 rolls of Kodak Professional Supra 400 color negative film with it. And through Jan. 31, 2001, purchasers will get 10 extra complimentary rolls of selected Kodak Professional color films.


Canto (http://www.canto.com) recently introduced the Leonardo Module (Hermstedt's Leonardo is a standard in asset transmission over ISDN) to streamline asset transfer using Cumulus 5 under the Mac OS. A Windows version is under consideration.


Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com) has just released a Macintosh version of OfotoNow to allow members to select images from any digicam, hard drive, floppy or CD and view them one at a time, as collections or in a slideshow. The free software can also zoom-in, rotate, trim and remove red eye. Once photos are selected and enhanced, OfotoNow can quickly upload them to new or existing Ofoto Albums for sharing and print ordering.


According to IDC (http://www.idc.com), CompactFlash and SmartMedia will continue to dominate the digital camera market, while other smaller form factors will benefit most from the explosion of mobile applications. Industrial and telecom applications will continue to drive healthy demand for high-end cards, and mainstream digicams will fuel demand for low-cost, consumer-oriented removable cards. Additionally, the rapid emergence of digital music players will create demand for additional cards. Despite the current flash chip shortage and the competition to develop cheaper solutions, IDC said the outlook for this market is strong and the window of opportunity for emerging technologies is narrowing.


In a new Lyra Research study (http://www.lyra.com) of over 2,600 qualified home users of digital cameras, conducted in August on the Japan-based Hi-Ho site, more than 60 percent of the respondents said they are using film cameras less since acquiring digicams. The survey also found that about 35 percent of digicam owners said their use of conventional cameras and film remained about the same, while about 5 percent reported more frequent use of conventional cameras and film. The survey screened for people who have used a digicam to take home or personal pictures for at least six months and who have also owned a film camera. On average, respondents reported film usage of more than seven rolls in the six-month period prior to beginning to use a digicam. In the six months since beginning to use a digital camera, these same users reported their film usage dropped by about two rolls, a 27 percent decrease.


Simple Technology (http://www.simpletech.com) has announced the highest capacity CompactFlash card in the world: the $1,599 512MB CompactFlash card type II using Simple Technology's proprietary Stacking Technology. Mark Moshayedi, chief technology officer, noted, "We combined this latest silicon wafer with our own patented IC Tower stacking technology and produced the highest density CompactFlash card available in the world. This card also uses a high speed controller which allows write speeds of up to 3.0-MB per second."


LaserSoft Imaging, developer of the scan software SilverFast Ai, has released SilverFast DC, a version for digital camera users. SilverFast DC enables "fast and efficient optimization of image data from digital cameras with predictable color," the company said. "Images from digicams will especially benefit from SilverFast's intelligent auto-adjust and LAB-Unsharp masking, which does not sharpen the color noise of single channels, but instead only sharpens the image's edges effectively," LaserSoft noted.


ememories.com (http://www.ememories.com) has announced a partnership with GenerationA.com (http://www.GenerationA.com), an online community for Americans over the age of 50. To promote the new partnership, the two companies will give away one Kodak DC280 to each winner of the GenerationA Grandchild of the Month Photo Contest. So get busy, Generation X.


ArcSoft (http://www.arcsoft.com) has announced Mac versions of its two photo-enhancing programs, Panorama Maker and PhotoPrinter Pro. Previously available to PC users, these new software offerings extend editing, enhancing and panoramic capabilities to the Mac platform. Both Panorama Maker and PhotoPrinter Pro are being offered separately at a suggested retail price of $29.99 and are expected to ship in November.


Agfa has announced an ePhoto AC-adapter recall. The optional adapters were typically purchased as an accessory for the AGFA ePhoto CL30. When used with batteries in the camera, the adapters may cause the batteries to overheat, leak acid and possibly explode. Agfa ePhoto CL30 digicams themselves are not being recalled, the company said, and may continue to be used without concern as long as the recalled ePhoto AC-adapter is not used while batteries are in the camera. Agfa will replace the AC-adapter at no cost. Call (877) 699-4387 for details.

Return to Topics.

Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues 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

Go to Imaging Resource Home | News | Tips | Digital Camera Index | Scanner Index