|Volume 3, Number 1||12 January 2001|
Welcome to the 37th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. A few of our regular columns are enjoying the week off to make room for our Macworld Expo wrap up and an unusually interesting letters section. We've got a surprise for you in our Deals section, too, this week.
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"Where are we? Macworld? Or Digicamworld?" we kept wondering, as we navigated aisles stuffed with digicams, scanners, printers and imaging software at Macworld Expo in Moscone's two cavernous exhibit halls. And "navigate" is putting it politely. It was mobbed.
We posted our full show coverage with photos in two 14K installments:
We don't have room to do that here, so we'll hit the high points and fill in a few things we didn't have time to report before our cuckoo clock starting making sense to us. If you want to know more, read our show coverage first, follow the link to the manufacturer's site -- or just ask us.
- Apple CEO Steve Jobs' keynote speech is the topic of our opening report at http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/MWW01/0109tue.htm
- A roundup of the more interesting products appears in our wrap-up report at http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/MWW01/0111thu.htm
A year ago we saw the world's smallest digicam, a prototype the size of credit card. This year it actually made it into a product, Techwork's (http://www.techworks.com) PowerCam. Who names these things? The 640x480 flashless digicam holds about 40 shots you retrieve via USB.
At the other end of the spectrum, Umax (http://www.umax.com) demoed its "flat-drum" scanner, the PowerLook 3000. It's a two-lens (3048x3048 pixels per inch maximum resolution), single-pass scanner with a 10,500 element tri-linear CCD providing 12,192 dots per inch scanning resolution and, if that isn't enough, a density range of 3.6. The optics are fixed so the bed moves over a one-mirror design.
Most of us live somewhere in the middle, though. And there was plenty for us.
We didn't spend much time with the cameras because, except for Olympus' (http://www.olympusamerica.com) new fast lenses (see Editor's notes below), we've reported on them all before. It is always amazing anyway to see the Canon S100, certainly miniature enough for anyone but without the pretension of the "PowerCam." Nikon had its line of cameras on display with the Coolpix 880 actually winning some S100 fans over. Kodak showed and sold its lineup, too. And Olympus had everything there in what was the best designed, most easily accessible booth.
But the real image capturing news was the growth of film scanners. Both Kodak and Nikon showed new models.
The Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) RFS 3600 has an optical resolution of 3600 dpi, a 3.6 dynamic range, 12-bit per channel scanning, includes ICC profiles and both USB and SCSI ports for $1,300.
Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has updated their Coolscan line with three new models to be released in March. The Coolscan IV ED has a USB connection, 3.6 dynamic range, 2900 dpi resolution and a price tag of $895. It's bigger brother, the Coolscan 4000 ED uses a FireWire connection, 4.2 dynamic range and 4000 dpi for $1,695.
Those are 35mm film scanners, which can handle mounted slides and film strip negatives both. Nikon also offers the Coolscan 8000 ED with similar capabilities to the Coolscan 4000 for larger film formats for $2,995.
Color calibration measures and describes the color capabilities of your color devices. A calibrated system uses profiles for each device to make results as predictable and repeatable as possible. Until now, it's been pretty expensive to do this. But we saw two approaches that anyone can use to tame the sometimes wild variations in color reproduction in the home darkroom.
The first, Vivid Details' (http://www.vividdetails.com) Test Strip, has been around a long time but with a new upgrade makes calibration as easy as color correction. Test Strip brings to image editing the old darkroom trick of making different "exposures" in strips to see which is the best.
The second was a hardware and software solution from ColorVision (http://www.colorcal.com) that reads your monitor's output to create an ICC profile and uses a flatbed scanner to read your printer's output of a standard color target from which it calculates an ICC profile for your printer (and its paper). All very easily and very quickly.
This is good news. Color calibration has been too complex and too costly for too long. The more printing you do, the more you'll appreciate the control these products afford.
Pixologic (http://www.pixologic.com.) showed ZBrush, which can turn your 2D images into 3D images and let you work in 3D as easily as in 2D. They hope to become a sort of Photoshop of 3D. That may seem overkill at the moment, but it's worth keeping an eye on 3D software. We live in a 3D world, no reason we have to keep Gaussian blurring shadows to do it.
We're often asked to recommend a simple image editing program. ArcSoft (http://www.arcsoft.com) is trying to fill that bill. We hope to spend some time with their products and report later on how well they do just that. But, frankly, image editing is simple to do, it's just hard to grasp.
ACDSee (http://www.acdsystems.com) brought their image browser to the show. It uses a different code base than their Windows product and the feature set shows it. The Mac version includes database functions not in the Windows version, for example. It generated quick thumbnails but it has stiff competition on the Mac platform, most of which read Exif exposure information, which ACDSee does not.
We got a look at all the printers we could stand. And they all do gorgeous work. No wonder the online photofinishers weren't there this year. They've got some serious competition from the home darkroom.
So the big war in inkjets is over features.
Among the features we liked best was the Hewlett-Packard (http://www.hp.com) idea of doubling the printer up as a card reader. A "Save" button will send your images to your computer over the USB connection.
Kodak added a color LCD to their 1200x1200 Lexmark printer so you could actually see what you are doing. We liked the idea better than the implementation, though.
And Epson (http://www.epson.com) had the bright idea of introducing Airport-enabled printer technology. Epson showed a Stylus Color 880i printer communicating with an Airport-equipped Powerbook. Available in the second quarter, the optional Epson 802.11b wireless print server connects to the parallel port of the company's networkable ink jet printers.
But inkjets aren't the whole story.
Olympus is to be applauded for carrying the dye-sublimation banner. Dye-sub prints are continuous tone, unlike the halftoned images of inkjets (OK, they rely on FM screening instead of AM screening, but a halftone is a halftone). They are, simply the most beautiful print you can make. And Olympus is now making them among the least expensive, as Dave explains in our review of their 8x10 print-size, P-400 dye-sub printer below.
But they've adapted this technology to a battery-operated, portable P-200 printer that makes 3x4 prints without a computer. Great news.
We'd really hoped to see some portable storage solution to take with us on vacation to copy pictures off our removable storage card and keep shooting. Film still has that advantage over digital photography.
The closest we could find was the Iomega (http://www.iomega.com) FotoShow. It's designed to work without a computer, but it requires cables, an adapter and a remote control to work with a television (which isn't at all suitable for doing any image editing beyond rotating images). It will however copy images from your card to a PC-formatted Zip in the field. But it could be smaller, lighter and cheaper if it lost that TV nonsense.
Of course the big news is that Jobs gets it. He knows you can't just buy a digicam and shoot pictures. Not if you want to see them. You need a system.
You need an easy way to get the pictures out of the camera, to see them on a monitor, to record them for posterity, to print them, to burn them, to transfer them. And that's just pictures.
He knows the 320 million blank CDs sold last year were not just for pictures but for audio recording, too. And as the guy who brought us the iMac and iMovie, he knows video is part of our digital lifestyle too.
"A server in every home!" he might have said if he were running for, say, President (instead of his life). As it was, he'll settle for selling you an intelligent (that's where iTunes and iDVD come in) hub to manage things.
As digital image makers, it will be interesting to see just how this, well, develops. Stay tuned.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P400/P400A.HTM on the Web site.)
Finally! A high-quality, easy-to-operate, dye-sub color printer that breaks the $1,000 price barrier! The Olympus Camedia P-400 may seem pricey to photographers who are just looking to output family photos (it retails for just under $1,000), but to professionals who are familiar with the exceptional quality of the continuous-tone, dye-sublimation, heat-transfer process, the P-400 represents a genuine breakthrough in affordable photorealistic printing and the potential to compete with professional models costing thousands more. Measuring about the size of an average to large desktop laser printer, the P-400 has a medium-size footprint (10.8x16.8x12.4 inches) and weighs 26.45 lbs.
One of the most exciting features of the P-400 is that you can print directly from standard memory cards without going through a computer. (Note though, that printing uncompressed TIFF files from the card is a very slow process. Normal digicam JPEGs run fine, but if you want to print TIFFs, you'll do much better printing from your computer.) The printer's operating menus allow you to make layout adjustments, color corrections, sharpness adjustments, and even add creative filters, frames and backgrounds. Two card slots on the front of the printer accept either SmartMedia (3.3V) or PCMCIA PC cards, plus CompactFlash or MemoryStick cards when used with a PC card adapter. In addition, the P-400 has USB and parallel ports for connecting to PC or Macintosh computers. This wide range of interface options gives the P-400 the flexibility to work with any brand of digital camera or computer using standard storage options and file formats. (A computer cable must be purchased separately, if you don't already own one.)
An accompanying P-400 Software Utility CD includes the necessary printer drivers (compatible with Windows 95/98/NT/2000 and Macintosh OS 8.6 and 9) and a limited interface application for printing from the computer. The Camedia P-400 can read DCF, JPEG/JFIF, Exif or TIFF file types, as well as any DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) files. A starter kit supplied with the printer includes five sheets of A4 paper and enough dye to make five prints. (This raises a major question regarding inkjet vs. dye-sublimation printers: the cost of consumables. Our estimates put the per-print cost of an 8x10 photograph at about $1.80 for paper and ink. Compare that to an 8x10 print from an inkjet printer which typically falls in the $2 to 2.50 range, although the use of third-party ink cartridges can reduce that.)
The P-400 uses a three-color (cyan, magenta, yellow) heat transfer process to produce its continuous-tone, dye-sublimation prints. It requires four passes of the printer head to produce a complete print, including one pass for each of the three colors and one for the protective laminate overcoat. Olympus estimates that the entire process, at its "fastest" speed, is 90 seconds per print. We found that to be a bit optimistic, especially when printing images directly from a memory card. Our time for printing typical digicam images was about two and a half minutes, whether from card or computer. High-resolution TIFF images though, took as long as four minutes when printed from a card. The P-400 has a maximum printing area of 2400x3200 dots, which at 314 dots per inch translates to 7.64x10 inches on A4 size paper. Color gradations are 24 bits (8 bits per color, 256 levels) to produce approximately 16.7 million colors.
The Camedia P-400 offers four basic printing modes: Standard, Card, Photo Album and Index. In Standard printing mode, you can print one image per page or you can choose to print up to 16 images on A4 paper and six images on A5. In the Card printing mode, you can print two or four postcards per page on an Olympus special-purpose card stock. The Photo Album mode is a little more creative, allowing you to print several images per page, with a background or border to make it look like a photo album. Finally, the Index printing mode provides you with a thumbnail index of all the images on the memory card, with the file name of each image printed on the page next to it.
The Image Adjustment menu provides minor image-editing tools to fine-tune sharpness, gamma, brightness and contrast. There's also a variety of filters, stamps, backgrounds and layouts for creative photographers who want to produce greeting cards, album pages, or decorative matting to frame their pictures.
The first step in the Camedia P-400 printing process is to select how image source files are delivered to the printer's memory. They can be input directly using the SmartMedia or PC card slots on the front of the printer, or they can be downloaded from an external computer connection using a parallel or USB cable. If you are using a memory card to deliver the files, you must first insert the card into the appropriate reader and then turn the printer's Mode dial to Input. The LCD display will present a menu of four options: SmartMedia, PC Card, Parallel Port, or USB. (Note that the PC Card slot can be used to read CompactFlash or Memory Stick cards if they are first inserted into the appropriate PC card adapter. The printer ships with an adapter for CompactFlash cards.) Using the left and right arrow buttons, scroll through the menu to choose either SmartMedia or PC Card. The LCD screen will display the word "Reading..." and an adjacent access lamp will flash next to the appropriate selection as it downloads the images.
When the image data is finished downloading, the screen displays the total number of image data files downloaded and the number of images that are formatted as Digital Print Order Format files. If an Error message is displayed, it means the PC card is unrecognizable, or the card was removed from the printer while still accessing image data (a fatal error!).
Next, turn the Mode dial to the Paper position to select one of two paper sizes: A4 (8.25x11.7 inches) or A5 (8.25x7.9 inches). Make sure the paper in the cassette matches the format you've selected. NOTE: From this point on, printer functions described here are only available for image data provided on a memory card, if the P-400 is set up to download images from a personal computer, the remaining functions must be completed via computer, using the provided printer software.
The next step is to select images to print. Turn the Mode dial to Picture Select to get the Picture Select screen on the printer's LCD. This allows you to scroll through the images on the memory card using the arrow buttons. Confirm the pictures you want by pressing the OK/Select button. If you want to cancel an image, press the OK/Select button again.
To choose the number of prints to make, press the Menu/Print button. In the Number option box, use the left and right arrow buttons to set the number of images up to 50 copies.
A Trimming option allows you to crop the selected image.
You can also print all of the images on the card using the All Select function. Just keep in mind that when using the All Select option, the P-400 doesn't allow you to set the number of prints, crop images, or use the DPOF settings originally selected in the camera.
Once you've selected the images you want printed, set the printing mode. The Mode dial provides four printing options: Standard, Card, Photo-Album and Index.
Olympus says the P-400 has a print time of 90 seconds. With most printers we test though, "print time" is subject to some interpretation. (Printer manufactures choose the most wildly optimistic interpretation available.) In the case of the P-400, it appears that Olympus is counting as "print time" only the time that the print engine spends actually laying down color on the paper. No file-preparation or transmission time is included in the 90 second estimate. On the other hand, the actual print times are a lot closer to the quoted print time than those of many competing inkjet models.
Actually, the P-400 is quite a bit faster at outputting high-quality photo prints than any inkjet we've yet seen. Printing from a host computer via the USB port requires only about 2:24 minutes -- regardless of image size, assuming a reasonably fast computer, at least Pentium-II class. When printing from memory cards, the P-400 is actually slightly faster for smaller files (like digicam JPEGs) at 2:14. But the printer slowed down when we printed a 15-MB RGB TIFF file from a memory card, taking a total elapsed time of 3:55. We also found the menus to be very sluggish when printing TIFFs from a memory card.
This is an area that's difficult to evaluate accurately for inkjet printers (due to widely varying ink coverage in different photos), but quite simple to assess for dye-sublimation printers like the P-400. In the case of dye-subs, the print cost is always the same -- whether you're covering the entire page with color, or just printing type -- because dye-subs use an entire "page" of their ribbon for each print. (The ribbon contains enough dye to produce the maximum black at every point of the page. Unused dye just remains on the carrier ribbon and gets spooled onto the take-up reel when the print is completed.)
In the past, in addition to the high cost of the print mechanism itself, dye-sublimation printers had fairly high consumables costs. Dye-sub media cost has steadily dropped from the $5 or so per sheet of several years ago to an average of several dollars today. The P-400 has assumed a leadership role in this respect, though, with a total per-print cost of a little under $1.80.
PRINT LONGEVITY & DURABILITY
This is a rather uncertain area, but one of great concern to our readers, thanks in part to the bad name inkjet technology has generally gotten for itself, with prints from some devices fading noticeably in less than a year.
Dye-sublimation printers generally have somewhat more stable dye sets than traditional inkjet printers and some (like the P-400) also incorporate a UV-resisting overcoat later to provide further protection. Unfortunately, there is no reliable third-party data available yet on the P-400's print life, so we're a bit up in the air on fade resistance. The images are quite durable though, resistant to damage through scratching or exposure to water, thanks to the transparent overcoat layer.
Bottom line, the P-400's prints are likely to be both more durable and longer-lasting than those of most inkjet printers, but perhaps less so than the latest, pigment-based ink sets. Overall, we'd expect P-400 prints to last about as long as conventional color photo prints, stored under similar conditions.
The Olympus P-400 is a genuine "breakthrough" product, offering full-page (A4) continuous-tone, dye-sublimation printing at an unprecedented price. Not only is the printer itself inexpensive, but at $1.80 per full-size page, the media cost is lower than we've seen before as well. Considerably faster than typical photo-quality inkjet printers operating in their "high quality" modes, the P-400 looks like a good choice for professionals or advanced amateurs looking for high-quality continuous-tone photo printing.
Overall, the Olympus P-400 is a versatile, relatively easy-to-use printer that outputs excellent quality images. We loved being able to print directly from either CompactFlash or SmartMedia memory cards and the ability to choose from a wide range of page layouts and creative options. The built-in color adjustment and B&W and Sepia filters are nice, but the monochrome LCD limits the image enhancement capabilities when working directly from a memory card. If you have the P-400 connected to a computer, the color enhancement capabilities provided with the printer driver will allow you to make fairly accurate adjustments (provided the computer monitor and printer are calibrated with respect to each other) with on-screen sliders for Gamma, Brightness, and Contrast control. In our tests, the P-400 was much faster when printing uncompressed TIFF images from the host computer, since the computer's CPU took care of the processing load. (Digicam JPEGs were about equally fast from card or computer.)
As a standalone unit, the P-400 provides a lot of creative options, but those options aren't mirrored in the host-computer driver software. Connected to the computer, it becomes a generic (albeit, high-quality) dye-sub printer, providing only standard printer driver functions. It would have been nice if Olympus included some of the creative options in a separate image manipulation software package, so users could achieve the same level of creativity when working from the computer as they can when working off a memory card. For this version anyway, users will have to rely on their own print manipulation programs and plug-ins to be creative.
This printer is well suited for advanced amateurs and serious photographers who are interested in producing more than a standard 4x6 print, as well as small business owners or government offices that need to supply high-quality product shots, portfolio images, real-estate photos, short-run promotional pieces, or photographic records. Overall, we were very impressed with its performance, versatility and print quality.
We're pretty excited about our new camera features database and the associated Camera Finder (http://www.imaging-resource.com/CAMDB/camera_finder.php) and Compare Cameras (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cameras/compare/) pages! The result of months of work, we're proud to unveil what we feel is the most comprehensive database of digicam features anywhere, including not only manufacturer data, but our own test results, such as minimum macro area, cycle time, shutter lag and power consumption numbers (these latter are currently being entered, will gradually appear over the next couple of weeks). What's more, we're continually scanning U.S. "street" prices for all current models, so the entire database will have updated street pricing at least every two weeks.
Best of all, you can search the database to find which cameras in your price range meet your needs for resolution, lens configuration, form factor and computer connection. You can sort the results by any parameter and you'll find links to our reviews of any cameras we've tested. Check it out!
Already know the cameras you're interested in? Visit the Compare Cameras page to see how they stack up feature by feature! (Again, including current list and street prices.)
We're calling this a "public beta" of our digicam database, because we expect to be fleshing it out a little over the next week or two and are hoping our intrepid readers will help us hammer on it a bit before we announce it to the world at large. It all works though and overall is one of the biggest features we've added to our site to date!
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RE: Epson Metamerizes?
Colleagues (photo) have told me the Epson 2000P's pigment based inks are supposed to be truly archival but there is a problem with them, a phenomenon called "metamerism." Apparently the colors look quite different under different lighting sources, natural, halogen, fluorescent, incandescent etc. This problem is apparently more severe on slick coated papers and less noticeable and presumably less objectionable on heavy matte surface art papers.
-- Kent(You'll find an interesting discussion (and workaround) for the Epson 200P's metamerism at http://www.tssphoto.com/sp/dg/2000p/metamerism.html. Printers that use dyes (like most inkjets) don't exhibit the problem.... As far as the paper issue goes, we assume the main difference is that the pigment would float on top of a coated paper but be somewhat absorbed into an uncoated one, showing more white, in effect. -- Editor)
RE: Digicam OCR
As an eager recipient of your newsletter, I keep my eyes open for the many questions this realm has offered me. I'll limit this message to just one: Anyone ever do OCR from digipics of text? You know, newspaper articles, books, etc.
-- David(Yes, in fact, Canon used to offer an OCR mode in the PowerShot 600, if we remember correctly. But all you have to do is shoot at high contrast in black and white mode (saving as a TIFF doesn't hurt either, or converting your JPEG to TIFF). Open the thing in OmniPage, for example, marque the text area and OCR. The big trick, unfortunately, is minimizing skew and distortion. But it can be done. -- Editor)
How about instructions how to operate a simple digital camera like the Polaroid 320? From start to finish please.
-- Just Starting(Here you go: 1) Don't load film, 2) Turn it on, 3) Press the shutter button, 3) Plug it in to your computer, 4) Launch or boot your camera software to transfer the pictures to your computer, 5) Run a slide show to see what you got, 6) Print versions of your favorites and 7) back up your images. But what's more useful, we think, is to point you to your documentation. Read it. Reread it. This is disorienting stuff with lots of new concepts. Look for a Quick Start sheet, too. -- Editor)
RE: Data Recovery
Just had the experience of trying to move picture files from my Olympus C2500L SmartMedia card to my computer via a CameraMate card reader. The card does not show up as a volume on the desktop as it usually does, but does appear in the Camedia window without any data (or even a drive name). When I put it back in the camera, I get a "no picture" message. I surmise that the directory has been corrupted and wonder if you know of any data recovery utility that will work with SmartMedia and/or CompactFlash memory devices?
-- Bob(Well, data recovery for these devices is strictly a DOS thing. You can't recover a DOS disk format (which is what these things use) from the Mac. Norton sometimes works (run from a PC anyway). Search "Unerasing Lost Images" in our Index of Articles for the whole (sad) truth. This is one thing that should be easier than it is. -- Editor)
Wow, I'm impressed with the quick response. I didn't expect to hear from you til next week. C'mon, man, it's New Years weekend. Go have fun.
-- Bob(Now that's what we call excellent advice, Bob. Thanks! -- Editor)
RE: The Future of CD Digicams
I'm interested in buying the Sony MVC-CD1000 that uses a 3-inch CD but since it's the only model of its kind on the market, I'm afraid another brand may jump on the band wagon and come out with a better (and maybe cheaper) one. Do you know of anything coming up in this line?
-- Jerry Hightower(In our less than humble opinion, Jerry, the real price of waiting to buy something is the pictures you'll miss. And you'll miss them without a camera. Which is about the only prediction we're comfortable making in this business. It's only prudent, however, to do thorough research on new models, reading reviews and seeing what pioneering purchasers have to say (news:rec.photo.digital) before you join them. -- Editor)
RE: Making Connections
You mention the SanDisk reader and the Microtech readers in the last newsletter for solutions when no USB is available. The suggestions are excellent.
I would like to let you know about a great solution for USB equipped Macs (or PCs) that is inexpensive. I have a LexarMedia USB Digital Film reader model GS-UFD-20SA-TP. It reads/writes SmartMedia, CompactFlash or PC cards. The good news is if you watch the CompUSA flyers you can get it for 29.95 to 49.95, depending on the promo in effect at the time. Software is a snap. Run the installer and connect the reader. Insert your media and it mounts on the desktop. Only an extension gets installed. Clean and trouble free.
-- Lynn Cox(Thanks for the tip, Lynn! One good turn deserves another: for more on USB, visit http://www.usb.org/faq.html). BTW, reader jdmike reminded us SmartMedia users, like their CompactFlash brethren, can get a PCMCIA adapter, too. But the SmartMedia version is a bit more expensive at $50-$90. -- Editor)
RE: Flashing on Digicam Flash
I am an old pro, retired, former director of education for the NPPA region 3, and staff photographer for the Bulletin in Philly. This intro is just to tell you that I know what I am talking about when I say Olympus should be ashamed of themselves for designing such a piece of junk as the "red eye" flash mode so popular in these cameras.
The pre-flash "red eye" eliminator idea not only wastes power, but it makes it impossible to photograph pets with their eyes open. For instance, a cat will always blink when the preliminary flash goes off and when the shutter opens for the main flash shot, the cat's eyes are closed.
But that is not my main complaint.
Olympus has designed a proprietary fixture to be used to attach a secondary (side light) strobe. This fixture is not compatible with the standard PC fittings that have been used for years by the industry. This makes it impossible to use your previously-owned strobe equipment with the Olympus cameras in the 3000 series, including the C-3030.
To make this matter even worse, you can not use a slave sensor to fire your off-camera strobes either. Olympus incorporates the anti-red eye feature in ALL flash modes on these cameras consequently, the preflash "red eye" sets off your slave flash and the main flash that comes when the shutter opens, is completely out of sync. With the slaves.
There appears to be no way of outwitting this.
Further annoying is the fact that the Olympus strobe designed for use in this system is cursed with the same problem. Olympus likes this "red eye" feature so much that they use it in the same way with their outrageously expensive auxiliary strobe light that costs, with its bracket and cable, almost $600.
It is almost impossible to use this camera professionally with flash.
-- Russell Hamilton(We sympathize nearly entirely with your remarks (and you're observations are dead on). But there are a few other factors involved.... The most important is that older flash units generally have far too high a trigger voltage for modern digicams. One manufacturer recommends 5 volts (with a maximum of 250); but the common Vivitar 283 (built before 1984 anyway) sends over 250 (267 on mine). Maybe that's why there are so few hot shoes on these things and why the sync cords are proprietary. You can skip around this problem with a Wein Safe-Synch.... The pre-flash you're seeing is probably not solely for red-eye reduction but also for white balance. There are digital slaves designed to work around that, but they aren't cheap. Visit http://www.srelectronics.com/sa10.html for one such.... Finally, some very enterprising souls have managed to engineer bounce reflectors for their onboard flash. -- Editor)
Yes, Mike, I have come up with a very simple solution for bounce light. I use a piece of aluminum tape cut about 3/4 x 1-1/4 inches, folding one edge under so that about a quarter inch of sticky is bent around as an attaching surface to the camera just below the strobe. You then simply bend the shiny side of the aluminum up at 45 degrees in front of the strobe. The main blast of the strobe is reflected upward. I allow a sliver of the edges of the strobe to leak around the aluminum for a very weak flash fill. The results are excellent. The camera gives almost perfect exposures with the flash set for fill. Surprise, it seems to work in all flash modes quite well.
-- Russell Hamilton(Great tip, Russell! Thanks! -- Editor)
RE: Skewed Again
I agreed with all the good things Dave wrote about the Kodak DC-4800 digicam. Mine, however, had the most inaccurate viewfinder I have ever seen. I realized after a while that every subject I photographed was off center to the right. A tight picture of three people standing always had the shoulder of the one on the right cut off, as well as all the feet. I am trying to return it to Kodak.
-- Ron L(You may indeed have run into a manufacturing anomaly <g>. If you are shooting up close, however, you may just be seeing the old parallax problem in which the optical viewfinder can not quite see what the lens does. Every digicam has this problem, but most provide 'close-up' targets in the viewfinder. Compose your shot with the LCD to avoid the whole problem. -- Editor)
RE: Extending a Warranty
Being a person who actually works in retail selling these products, the info you provide is phenomenal. However, one little comment in your most recent newsletter bothers me. That's right, that little line which says, "Q. Is the extended warranty worth it? A. Never. That's why they sell them. Use a credit card that doubles the manufacturer's warranty if you're worried about it."
You should rephrase it and tell the consumer that they should investigate all their options, including doubling on the credit card.... Now, I don't know how servicing goes in the U.S., but I can speak from what I have seen in Canada:
Also, customers who double their warranty with the credit card should also educate themselves how this warranty works. They should know that they are responsible for making their own arrangements with the credit company to have their units repaired.
- Manufacturers charge for NFF. For the everyday layman, that is "No Fault Found." Credit cards do not cover that either. Where I work, we PAY for NFFs even under the manufacturer's warranty. These can cost anywhere from $40-$80 Canadian depending on the service center.
- Our return/exchange policy is 30 days. If a customer buys our warranty, I have seen a manager provide exchanges well beyond the 30 period (I saw an exchange of a digital camera which was three months old). Customers who opt to stay with the manufacturer's warranty will not benefit from this, nor should they. Buying the warranty is a risk and customers who take the risk should see their investments well protected.
- I have seen it where the service centre has told customers that the fault with their unit will be corrected with a cleaning. Parts and labor do not protect against this. Some extended warranties do, some don't.
- Some manufacturers cover the accessories in the box for 90 days rather than one year. Why? Higher rate of breakdown. This includes cables, batteries, AC adaptors, etc.
Again, not all extended warranties are good. Customers should educate themselves to the benefits of each retailer's warranty. Get the store's warranty coverage in writing to ensure that the associate is not using the golden shovel. Again, education is the key.
By the way, keep up the good work with the newsletter. Every time you release a new newsletter, I print it out and train my staff with it. The information your newsletter provides makes it a phenomenal training tool. Our customers are amazed that we can actually discuss with them products that we don't carry.
-- Aaron Berger, Future Shop, Richmond Hill, On, Canada(Thanks for the kind words, Aaron. Forgive us for remaining unpersuaded. We'd rather put our cash toward something we know we'll use, like a 64-MB CompactFlash card. Besides, you are eliminating one of the greatest excuses to upgrade ever invented: "That old thing? It ain't worth fixing." -- Editor)
Nixvue Systems (http://www.nixvue.com) announced the Nixvue Digital Album will ship by the end of the first quarter of 2001 for $599. The hand-held, battery-operated, electronic photo album includes a docking station, LiOn battery, 10GB HDD, CompactFlash card adapter, 110/240V A/C adapter and all necessary cables. Nixvue's Digital Album stores up to 10,000 high-resolution images, grouping the photos into albums while allowing the user to view or delete images or organize them for long-term storage without using a computer.
Olympus (http://www.olympusamerica.com) has announced the Camedia C-3040 Zoom 3.34-megapixel super bright 3x zoom compact digital camera. Based on the Olympus C-3030 digicam, the C-3040 Zoom now offers the world's first super bright f1.8 aperture high-performance digital zoom lens with an extended flash working range and better low-light shooting for $999.
Olympus also announced the $699 Camedia C-2040 Zoom 2.11 megapixel bright 3x zoom compact digital camera. Based on the Olympus C-2020 digicam, the C-2040 Zoom also sports the super bright f1.8 high-performance digital zoom lens.
Canon (http://www.canon.com) introduced the 3.34-megapixel PowerShot Pro90 IS digital still camera, Canon's first digital camera to incorporate a built-in 10x zoom lens with optical image stabilization. It also incorporates 12 EOS system-based picture-taking modes; exposure sensitivity equivalent to ISO 50-400; several manual settings; and movie recording and playback with audio. Other features include an ergonomic handgrip plus a variable-angle LCD monitor; Type I and II CompactFlash memory cards; optional accessories including supplementary lenses and a hot shoe for EX-series Speedlites; and a comprehensive software bundle for Mac and PC. Shutter speeds range from 8 seconds to 1/1000 second with an iris diaphragm and built-in flash with five control modes. The camera has an eye-level electronic viewfinder with dioptric correction; a wireless remote controller; and a high-capacity lithium-ion battery that can be recharged in the camera.
SMaL Camera Technologies (http://www.smalcamera.com) has introduced the Ultra-Pocket digicam. The ultra-thin (credit card dimensions and 0.2 inches thick) digicam sports VGA resolution (300,000+ pixels), an 8-MB removable card to hold about 40 images and a USB interface.
Sapphire Innovations (http://www.sapphire-innovations.com) has announced Sapphire Framed 1.0.1, 150 royalty-free JPEG frames that can be used to dress up any image. A demo is available on the site for Windows 95/98/NT/ME and Mac OS.
Kodak Professional (http://www.kodak.com/go/professional) is offering a variety of its digicams, software and printers in packaged bundles designed for a variety of needs. The camera/printer/software bundles are available today from authorized dealers of Kodak Professional Portraits & More software.
Polaroid has announced the $249 Polaroid P-500 portable digital photo printer, a compact, handheld printer that at the touch of a button, produces high-resolution, pocket-sized Polaroid 500 instant color prints from SmartMedia or CompactFlash memory cards used in digital cameras. The P-500 eliminates the need to connect a digicam to a computer; prints photos in 20 seconds or less; and is totally self-powered (by a battery in the Polaroid 500 film pack).
Polaroid also introduced the PhotoMAX PDC 2300Z, its first consumer two-megapixel digital camera. The PhotoMAX PDC 2300Z features photo-quality 2.3-megapixel resolution and a 2.3x optical zoom lens, with a suggested list price of $399. The new camera also incorporates a 1.8 LCD monitor, 2.3x optical glass zoom lens, 2x digital zoom, self-timer, 8-MB CompactFlash memory and USB interface for speedy download of images to the computer.
Finally, Polaroid announced the online availability of the new Polaroid PhotoMAX MP3 Digital Camera. At a suggested retail price of $249.95, the Polaroid PhotoMAX MP3 Digital Camera is a combination digital camera and MP3 audio player in a stylish translucent blue case. The PhotoMAX MP3 Digital Camera comes complete with earphones, 4 AA batteries and an attractive camera case with belt clip for easy portability. The MP3 camera features 640x480 pixel resolution, a full-color LCD monitor to instantly view pictures and delete unwanted images and a 16-MB CompactFlash card for storage of images and music. Nullsoft Winamp MP3 player software is included, and with Polaroid PhotoMAX Image Maker Software, users can get creative and make photo montages, apply special effects, or create personalized greeting cards. A USB and video cable are included.
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:
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher