The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 3, Number 2 26 January 2001

Copyright 2001, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 38th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We have a winner in our Printroom sweepstakes (and lots of new subscribers), an expose on teleconverters, Dave's review of the Olympus Rapid Shot, a Valentine's Day suggestion and more!


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:
Olympus
http://www.olympusamerica.com/
This issue Olympus highlights the Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom Filmless Digital Camera.

The C-2100 Ultra Zoom features a 10x optical zoom with image stabilization. Plus a 2.7x digital zoom. So, you can get 1080mm closer to the action and take sharp, jitter-free pictures. Choose Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual or Autofocus. It even has exposure controls for portraits, landscapes, sports and night scenes. 2.11 megapixels provide exceptional image     quality. With its iESP multi-patterned metering, five-mode built-in flash and QuickTime capabilities, you'll want to zoom in on the C-2100 Ultra Zoom.

For more information, visit the Olympus' Web site.

And read the Imaging Resource review of the C-2100 Ultra Zoom (in which Dave raves: "That really is an amazing lens!").

Lockergnome
http://www.lockergnome.com

Get the Digital Media Email Newsletter Free from Lockergnome!

* MP3s * Streaming Audio & Video * Internet Radio *

* Webcams * DVD reviews * Top Multimedia Software *

To subscribe: joinmedia@lockergnome.com


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: The Long and Short of a Teleconverter

Our better half likes to walk. Hike, really. And while we fancy ourselves an urban hiker, we shy away from Joyce's death marches in the natural environment.

We're comfortable navigating sidewalk cracks and crosswalks, dodging the odd scooter or skateboard, respecting the rights of both dog walkers and strollers and even admiring the unending stream of concrete joggers. But we're at a loss if we have to identify poison hardwoods, tell the lethal from the annoying insects, follow a trail or wear a safari hat in the correct orientation.

Fortunately we live in an area that not only provides both environments just a few steps from the door, but a reasonable compromise, too. Chrissy Field, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is enjoying an ecological restoration to its native state. Which means it looks like a well-groomed subdivision at the moment.

While we like to meander along, stooping for the odd coin (why is it we never find foreign coins in the street, just in our cash register change?), Joyce likes to forge ahead. When we go to Chrissy Field, we have the foresight to bring along a camera. It's not only a good excuse to stop, but to stop for a good few minutes. To rest, in short.

SHOOT SOMETHING

Recently, Nikon lent us their hefty 3x teleconverter, the TC-E3ED. With six elements in three groups, this converter triples the maximum focal length of the internal zoom (a 115mm 35mm equivalent) to a 345mm equivalent. Nikon also sells a stubby 2x teleconverter (the TC-E2) with four elements in three groups that doubles the internal zoom to a 230mm equivalent.

The extra weight aside, the 3x teleconverter is an impressive piece of glass, the size of a tumbler. It screws right on to any Nikon Coolpix 900 series camera. Later models even have a mode for it, so you just tell the camera it's there and the camera sets itself up. A step-down ring (UR-E2) fits it to the Coolpix 880, too. It takes a large 72mm filter to protect the glass.

It gets you close but it's still possible to handhold, although we weren't as good at it as we thought on our first hike. 400mm is about our limit on a 35mm. And while this is less than that, it's easier to "time your stability" with a 35mm camera than with a digicam. So don't be discouraged by early results. A little practice goes a long way.

INSPIRED MUD

One of our indelible memories is of an expanse of mud flats along the east side of San Francisco Bay that bordered the approach to the Bay Bridge. Enterprising souls would wander in there, collect various sticks and boards, nail them together, sometimes on posts, to make imaginative sculptures that came alive as silhouettes for drivers approaching the bridge at sundown. Developers eventually made access impossible and the tradition perished.

We can't tell you how much we miss it. This might easily be the Digital Mud Flat Sculptors' Newsletter had it survived.

Image our delight to stumble across something similar along the rocky shore at Chrissy Field. Instead of wood, these sculptures were made of stone. And instead of silhouettes they were little obelisks. Piles of stone, knee high, dozens of them, rising out of the rocky shore. Clearly works of the imagination.

And perfect subjects for the teleconverter.

We're inclined to think of telephoto optics as a way to get close to an unapproachable subject. The egret looking at us with a wary eye. The opposing relief pitcher professionally ignoring us as he warms up. You get the picture.

But in this case we used another special feature of the telephoto -- it's shallow depth of field -- to help compose a series of images of these obelisks. A telephoto makes it easy to selectively focus on your subject, in our case, this pile of rocks rather than several piles, one in front of the other (for which a wide angle converter, with a deeper depth of field, would have been required).

So without the teleconverter, we really wouldn't have "seen" these images. A terrific example of an accessory leaping out of the realm of gadgets into the world of tools.

WHAT'S A CONVERTER?

A converter lens attaches to the front of your normal lens, modifying its focal length. The Coolpix line includes several -- a fish-eye, wide-angle, 2x telephoto and 3x telephoto -- that mount on the front of the sealed internal Coolpix zoom lens.

You can't remove the Coolpix zoom lens like you can remove a 35mm lens from an SLR (say, a 50mm lens from the FM2 body to use a 105mm lens). Instead, you screw on one of four converter lenses to change the focal length of the zoom lens.

The Coolpix 990's internal nine-element eight-group zoom, equivalent to a 38-115mm zoom range in 35mm, has in fact an 8-24mm focal length.

But wait! What does focal length measure anyway?

It measures the distance from the "middle" of the lens (its rear nodal point, in fact) to the plane behind the lens where images at infinity come into focus.

Knowing the focal length of a lens tells us two things.

First, it tells us how much of the scene the lens embraces. An 8mm focal length lens embraces a great deal more than a 24mm focal length lens. It's wide angle compared to telephoto.

Measured in degrees, this is called the angle of view. Our eyes have an angle of view of about 48 degrees. A lens is considered telephoto if its angle of view is 35 degrees or less. More than 65 degrees is considered wide angle.

The 3x teleconverter sees 7 degrees while the 2x teleconverter sees 11 degrees. The Nikon wide angle converter (WC-E63) sees, in contrast, 84 degrees. While the Nikon fisheye converter (FC-E8) sees 183 degrees. The longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of view is.

The second thing focal length tells us is how large the image will be on the focal plane. Where the CCD is.

We say the 3x teleconverter triples the focal length of the internal zoom because the image size will be three times bigger on the CCD when you use this teleconverter. The 8mm wide angle setting becomes a 24mm zoom setting (115mm 35mm equivalent), which starts where the internal 8-24mm zoom leaves off. And the 24mm setting becomes a 72mm zoom (345mm).

The bad news is that your manufacturer's matched converters aren't inexpensive. And they vary in quality.

Putting more glass in the path between your subject and your image can degrade image quality and decrease the maximum effective aperture so you need a lot of light to get the shot. Nikon's 3x teleconverter, consequently, has a 72mm front element to gather as much light as practical. So money spent on quality in a converter is well spent. Less light is lost.

But there are alternatives (http://www.tiffen.com) worth exploring, particularly if your manufacturer doesn't offer a converter for your digicam.

OK, now let's put this one to work.

THE CONCEPT SHOT

We crouched down to the level of the rock piles. This angle lifted the little obelisks out of the confused background of the stone beach, setting them off against the gray sky. A dramatic difference.

But we had to put the background to work, too.

San Francisco's skyline is a fairly familiar sight. Landmarks like the Palace of Fine Arts, Telegraph Hill, the Transamerica Building and the former federal penitentiary on Alcatraz are as well known as certain unmentionable icons. By panning around (which requires some grace when you are already on your knees), we framed an obelisk against the fuzzy background of one or another of these icons.

Depending on what exactly we framed in the fuzzy background, our obelisk took on a new meaning.

The telephoto kept the rocks in sharp focus (even though we often framed them off-center) but made a watercolor-like suggestion of commerce, art or punishment of the backdrop. Against these vague pillars of civilization, the primitive obelisk, a work of the imagination, became monumental. The little pile of rocks appeared defiant before Alcatraz, whimsical before the Palace of Fine Arts and precarious before the Transamerica Pyramid.

Well, sometimes you have to write your own art criticism. But, hey, a series of three of these and you have a wall.

And a wall is what saves you from death marches, my friend.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus Camedia E-100 Rapid Shot

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E100/E1RA.HTM on the Web site.)

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

The Olympus Camedia E-100 Rapid Shot's amazing 15-frames-per-second sequential shooting rate is fast enough to freeze every turn of a gymnast through the parallel bars or every stride of a football player into the end-zone. (Interestingly, at 15 fps, the E-100RS is not only faster than any other digicam we've tested, but outstrips even high-end professional 35mm film-based SLRs.) Combine this exceptional speed with a sharp, 10x Stabilizer Zoom lens, a fast f2.8-3.5 maximum aperture and file sizes up to 4-MB and you've got a versatile, feature-rich camera perfect for photographers ready to stop some action. The E-100RS has the look and feel of a midrange 35mm SLR with features similar to a professional-quality press camera with a motorized drive. At 4.7x3.4x6 inches and 1.3 pounds, it won't fit in your pocket, but it'll be the perfect tool for capturing some great photography.

The E-100RS features a large, 1.8-inch, color LCD monitor as well as a smaller 0.55-inch "optical" Electronic ViewFinder that functions as a miniaturized version of the LCD. For those of us who appreciate the control provided by the LCD monitor, but miss the familiarity of SLR viewfinder, the EVF offers a very comfortable compromise. You can view all of the settings you normally see on-screen and still follow your subject with the camera held up to your eye. (EVFs have downsides too though, including an inability to work in low light shooting conditions and difficulty following fast-moving action, even though the refresh rate on the E-100's EVF is quite high.) A Display button on the back panel controls whether the EVF or larger LCD monitor are engaged. The 7-70mm aspherical glass lens (equivalent to a 38-380mm lens on a 35mm camera) can be used in Macro or Infinity shooting modes, with a number of through-the-lens focusing and metering options. The Image Stabilization feature helps reduce blurring caused by camera shake (a problem frequently associated with zoom lenses) and a 2.7x digital zoom increases the camera's zoom capability to 27x.

The E-100RS exposure control includes Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual and Scene Program modes. The Scene Program mode provides specific scene presets, including Portrait, Action/Sports, Landscape, Night and Custom Program. Shutter speeds range from 1/10,000 to two seconds in Shutter Priority mode and from 1/10,000 (!) to 16 seconds in Manual mode. Apertures range from f2.8 to f8 in wide-angle mode and f3.5 to f8 in telephoto. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments in all modes except Manual.

There are four metering modes: Standard (digital ESP), Center-Weighted and Spot. A Multi-Metering function bases the exposure on an average of up to eight spot-meter readings from different parts of an image. Each reading is locked with the AE Lock button to average in a specific area of the scene. White balance options include standard Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent and Fluorescent settings, as well as a Manual adjustment. Light sensitivity can be set to Auto, 100, 200 and 400 ISO equivalents. A Sharpness adjustment provides Hard, Normal and Soft edges around your subjects.

The camera's pop-up flash operates in Auto Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In and two Slow Synchronization modes. Slow 1 fires the flash at the beginning of the exposure and Slow 2 fires it at the end of the exposure. A flash intensity setting adjusts the flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-stop increments. Adjacent to the built-in flash, a five-pin external flash socket accommodates the Olympus FL-40 external flash, in addition to several other manufacturers' external flash units.

The E-100RS offers several special-capture modes, all controlled through the Drive button on the top panel. The Sequential Shooting mode captures a series of images at 3, 5, 7.5 or 15 fps, for as long as the shutter button is held down (actual frame rates vary depending on user settings and image quality). An AF Sequential Shooting mode captures images at a much slower rate, as it adjusts focus, exposure and white balance with each shot. Auto Bracketing captures a series of three or five images with varying exposure compensation and/or white balance levels. Pre-Capture mode begins recording images at the specified sequential shooting rate as soon as you press the shutter button halfway. The camera cycles the images through its memory buffer until the shutter button is fully depressed, when the desired number of images is recorded to the memory card. Finally, the 10-second Self-Timer is also controlled through the Drive button as well as the accompanying RM-1 Remote control.

Two Movie capture modes record moving images and sound (via the camera's internal microphone or an external connection) at up to 30 fps. You can also record four-second sound clips to accompany still images. A special Function option in the Record menu allows you to switch to monochrome black-and-white capture.

The E-100RS accommodates both SmartMedia and CompactFlash (Type I and II) cards, with dual slots in its memory card compartment (not compatible with the IBM Microdrive, even though the CF slot is physically large enough to accommodate it). An 8-MB SmartMedia card comes with the camera and upgrades are available separately up to 64-MB. Additionally, a USB cable and three software CDs are also packaged with the camera. Software includes the Olympus Camedia Master 2.5 utility package, Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE and Altamira Genuine Fractals 2.0 (for both Windows and Macintosh systems). An NTSC audio/video cable connects the camera to a television set for remote playback (we assume that European models come equipped for PAL timing).

Power is provided by four AA alkaline, NiMH, NiCd or lithium batteries or two CR-V3 lithium battery packs. A set of NiMH rechargeable batteries and a charger accompany the camera and an AC adapter is available as a separate accessory (highly recommended).

Overall, we enjoyed shooting with the E-100RS. Its flexible exposure controls handled even our most difficult testing situations and it delivered great image quality and color. Certainly, the 10x image-stabilizer optical zoom, multiple recording modes and quick 15-fps sequential shooting capabilities make this digicam an outstanding member of the 1.5-megapixel digicam class.

OPTICS

The E-100RS is equipped with a 10x, 7-70mm aspherical glass lens, equivalent to a 38-380mm lens on a 35mm camera. The 10x lens features 13 elements in 10 groups and an aperture range of f2.8-f8 at wide angle and f3.5-f8 at maximum telephoto. The lens is protected by a spring-loaded, clip-on plastic lens cap, with a small eyelet for attaching an accessory lens cord (which we highly recommend). The lens is threaded to accept 49mm filter attachments to accommodate Olympus' line of optional lens accessories.

Because of its 10x optical zoom range and the lengthy size of the lens barrel, the E-100RS features an Image Stabilization system that can be turned on and off through the Record menu (represented by a "shaking hand" icon). When shooting images at the maximum telephoto setting, the potential for blurred images caused by camera shake increases. Image stabilization helps to minimize this problem in normal shooting conditions, as well as in low light or when shooting at slow shutter speeds. (Note: Image Stabilization is ineffective when using a lens conversion kit, working with a panning tripod head or when working with digital zoom.) While we don't have any quantitative way of evaluating lens-stabilization technology [Yet, Dave. You'll think of something <g>. -- Editor], our impression was that the system on the E-100RS was very effective, dampening out even rather severe jiggling when hand-holding long telephoto shots.

A 2.7x digital telephoto feature, which Olympus calls "Super Tele," is also available on the E-100RS, extending the zoom range to 27x. We experienced good results with the 2.7x digital zoom, though resolution was slightly reduced and the overall image was soft. (Remember that digital zoom only enlarges the central portion of the CCD image and can result in a higher noise level and a loss of resolution.) Digital zoom is activated through the Record menu and controlled by zooming the lens past the optical zoom range. A zoom scale appears on the LCD display, with the optical zoom range marked in green and the digital zoom range in red.

SEQUENTIAL SHOOTING

The E-100RS offers two Sequential shooting modes: Sequential and AF Sequential. Sequential Shooting captures images continuously as long as the shutter button is held down. The maximum number of images recorded depends on the amount of free memory card space, as well as the image quality setting. You can set the maximum frame rate through the Record menu, with options of 15, 7.5, 5 or 3 fps. Actual frame rates vary depending on the amount of image information and the exposure conditions (a slow shutter speed hinders the frame rate). As we said, 15 fps is incredibly fast for full-resolution images, unequalled by any other digicam we've tested (or even heard about).

Sequential Shooting mode takes a series of images with the focus, exposure and white balance locked from readings taken on the first shot. AF Sequential Shooting sets the focus, exposure and white balance individually with each shot. As a result, the AF frame rates are much slower than they are in standard Sequential Shooting mode.

PRE-CAPTURE MODE: NEGATIVE SHUTTER LAG!

When activating Pre-Capture mode, you set the number of images to save from one to five. Once set, the camera will continuously cycle the images through its memory buffer while the shutter button is halfway pressed. Once the shutter button is fully pressed, the camera writes the number of images you've selected to the memory card, starting with the last one and counting backward.

The end result is uncanny. It seems as if the camera is reading your mind, predicting when you'll hit the shutter button. In Pre-Capture, available shutter speeds range from 1/10,000 to 1/30 second, so the number of frames per second depend on the current exposure conditions. Pre-Capture also works with the Sequential Shooting mode, recording images at the designated frame rate.

SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES

Given the unusual pre-capture capabilities of the E-100RS, our normal shutter lag measurements aren't very meaningful. On the other hand, the shutter lag in non-precapture mode is a good indication of how quickly the camera can complete its autofocus and exposure computations.

In "normal" operation, the E-100's shutter response isn't terribly quick and its full autofocus lag time is actually a bit slower than average. For sports or other fast-paced situations though, the combination of the ultra-high speed "motor drive," and the incredible precapture mode means you should never miss a shot for being too slow on the shutter button!

CONCLUSION

The Camedia E-100 Rapid Shot has a lot going for it. The 10x optically stabilized zoom lens, exceptionally fast capture rate of up to 15 fps and extensive exposure controls give the E-100RS the flexibility to tackle just about any shooting situation. Extensive testing in the Imaging Resource studio revealed great color and image quality, excellent low-light capabilities, minimal lens distortion and accurate scene representation in the camera's LCD monitor. The camera's superior imaging capabilities and varying levels of exposure control should please amateur and prosumer shooters alike, though somewhat pricey at $1,500. The E-100RS definitely outshines its competitors in the 1.5 megapixel class!

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

Congratulations to reader Richard Bourassa of Winter Springs, Fla.! He's the winner of the sweepstakes sponsored by our sponsor Printroom.com during the last two months to promote their new Windows Shoot & Share image organizing and uploading application. (Shoot & Share not only organizes your images, but lets you adjust, crop, rotate and eliminate red-eye as well.)

In exchange for taking a minute to fill out the brief survey form, Richard has won $500 (!) of free printing services from Printroom.com. His $500 of free printing is good for any of the services Printroom offers, including 8x10 prints.

Thanks to all the IR readers who participated in the sweepstakes and congratulations again to Richard on his prize. (Stay tuned for more IR sweepstakes in the future. You, too, could be a winner!)

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: Bigger Than Life

She had overcast eyes, but they twinkled. It must have said that on her driver's license. Eye color: overcast with sun to follow.

She was the first professional photo retoucher we ever met. What she could do with an airbrush was fun to see but what she could do with a little bleach and a brush whose bristles were nearly invisible to the naked eye was amazing.

Those were the days of illustration boards and chromes. And duplicates were often a luxury. But a few of the image editing lessons she taught us then are still in harness now as we retouch our images on screen.

"Work on a Duplicate" is one of them, certainly. These days it's as simple as using the "Save As ..." command from your File menu. It's the first thing you should do when you edit any image. No matter how bad the original may seem to you, it is The Original. You can't make another.

But the lesson that we'll impart today is going to make your eyes twinkle.

Using everything from linen tester loupes to lamps with built-in magnifiers, old school retouchers knew the importance of working on an image at some magnification. It is, in fact, an old trick used by any artist working for reproduction. Those cartoons you see in the New Yorker or the comics are not done at the size you see them but usually at twice that size (at least). Why? It makes imperfections half as bad as they otherwise would be.

So when you edit an image (doing perhaps what Clearasil failed to do on that graduation picture), start by magnifying the image.

You can certainly overdo this, but working at about 200 percent is a good place to start. That avoids the pixelization of looking at a 400 percent enlargement (where you can't recognize anything) and gives you enough elbow room to find something handy to clone.

The exact percentage isn't important. It's more important to see the whole blemish or wrinkle or shadow or tear that you want to work on. And the easiest way to do that is to drag a marquee around your problem with the zoom tool (usually a magnifying glass icon). That fills your image window with just the rectangular area you've marked off. Just make sure you use the zoom tool and not the Image Size command. You don't want to change the data, just the display.

Retouching with magnification is not only perfectly legal but the way the pros work. It's probably why they have that twinkle in their overcast eyes.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Understanding EV and EC

It's early in the morning. You stumble out of bed. You bounce from wall to wall down the hallway to the kitchen. The light blinds you. You fumble for the (fortunately sliced) bread. You juggle a slice like it was three. You somehow manage to get the thing in the toaster oven and you even press "Toast." It's the oven's job to figure out what happens next.

The additive Exposure Value system built into your digicam works with the unheralded common sense of that toaster oven to make sure your exposure, like the innocent slice of bread, is neither over nor under done. No matter what you do.

Use any automatic exposure mode on your camera (shutter priority, aperture priority, programmed mode) and EV is in action. It sets the lens aperture and/or shutter speed to match the scene brightness and CCD sensitivity (or ISO equivalent). The range of f-stop and shutter speed combinations for each Exposure Value are charted at http://www.hyperzine.com/evtable.html. A breakdown by f-stop and shutter speed is available at http://www.jetcity.com/~mrjones/evzones.htm.

So why do you get poorly exposed images? No doubt the scene brightness fooled the meter. Which explains the invention of Exposure Compensation. EC appears on your digicam in relative EV settings ranging from -2.0 to +2.0 typically, with half or third steps in between.

Let's see how EV and EC work together.

In shutter priority mode, for example, if we change the shutter speed from 1/125 to 1/30, the f-stop compensates automatically by going from f8 to f16 to maintain the Exposure Value. Were we using aperture priority, a change from f8 to f16 would automatically change the shutter speed from 1/125 to 1/30.

EV let's you worry about the one exposure control (either shutter or f-stop) that's most important for your subject. It promises to take care of the other.

But say we are shooting a document allocating the planet Uranus's excess electrical power to California (so future Californians can continue to watch "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"). The dark letters on the light page will trick our meter into exposing the light page as a gray one. To compensate, we set the camera to overexpose by 1.5 EV (+1.5 EV on the camera). The white page does in fact now get enough exposure to appear white.

What we've said to our EV digicam is to adjust its EV calculations by 1.5 EVs to compensate for the meter reading of our scene.

The EV settings on your digicam are, in fact, Exposure Compensation settings in Exposure Values. Use them well and light will melt like butter on your images.

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Video Haiku

The other day we were virtually standing around the imaginary water cooler chatting with Imaging Resource Executive Editor Kim Brady. She took exception to our recent dismissal of digicam movie modes.

We'd recommended a camcorder for movies and a digicam for stills. Even though some camcorders make stills and some digicams make movies, we claimed neither does the other's job particularly well.

Silly us.

We tried it the other day, and as Kim pointed out, a digicam clip can be, well, fun. A thing unto itself. Even a new art form.

Great fans of the poet Basho, we immediately plotted out a life's work of video Haiku. Very short pieces with well-known titles:

But with Valentine's Day approaching, a larger project came to mind. What if the Internet were swamped with people emailing each other short MPEGs of themselves blowing a kiss to their distant object of affection? Maybe a few sequels featuring winks, too?

So here's the assignment. Take a digicam movie of yourself blowing someone a kiss and email it to everyone on your Valentine's card list.

Leaves you thirsting for more, doesn't it? Back to the water cooler!

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

Return to Topics.

We Have Mail

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

RE: What You Said

I have postponed writing this letter so long that I have answered my own questions. Still others may be interested in my problems and how I solved them.

I am a Mac user using a Nikon Coolpix 990 (surely the world's most magical camera) to gather thousands of images for an educational electronic picture book I am preparing. This book will be distributed on CD. In order to do this I needed two software tools.

  1. An electronic light box to examine, sort and edit my daily take of digital pictures.

  2. A free slide show program that I can include with each CD so that my readers can view the pictures on either their Mac or Windows computer.

For the electronic light box I use QPict Media Organizer (http://www.qpict.net/) This $35 shareware program is so quick and easy to use that I could not function without it. Imagine sorting a hundred images, only identified with code numbers. This program is only available for the Mac.

The free slide show program, (it does a lot more than that) is called UPresent (http://upresent.umn.edu/) created by John O'Brian, Kyle Hammond and Rick Peifer at the University of Minnesota. At present this program is available for Mac, but will soon appear in a Windows version.

If others have come up with other solutions to these problems I would be interested in hearing about them.

-- John W. Evans

(We've reviewed both QPict and UPresent with big smiles on our faces. Canto Cumulus currently has an advantage over QPict in being able to read Exif exposure data but not in ease of use. And we're glad to see UPresent v2.0 beta 15 for Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000 is available now, too. -- Editor)

RE: Too Busy?

I sent you an email about a week ago asking for advice about the purchase of my first digital camera. I'm not sure whether the lack of a response means you didn't get my message or that you don't have the time to reply. If the former, I'll gladly send you the message again because I would value your advice very much but if I don't get a response to this message I'll assume you're too busy.

-- Steve Shepherd

(A lack of response means only one thing. We didn't get your message. Weekends and holidays excepted, you can expect to hear from us before we've actually had time to think of an answer. -- Editor)

RE: Olympus Flash

I have to comment on Hamilton's complaints about the Olympus flash system [in the last issue]. As a user of the C-3000 and a full studio flash system I was likewise annoyed at how Olympus implemented their flash. The worst part of it is the attitude expressed in the User Manual that you should not even try to use anything other than Olympus' (over-priced) external flash.

But there are two simple solutions. They do offer (although it's hard to find) an adapter to PC sync. I believe the part number is FL-CB04. It is also over-priced, but not as ridiculous as a whole flash unit. Using this adapter (plus, perhaps, the Safe-Sync unit) with the internal flash turned off and exposure set to Manual works great for me.

The other solution is to "trick" the double flash system. Yes, the camera always pre-fires the internal flash (if turned on) for exposure and color balance, even if both are set to Manual. So I designed a simple circuit that ignores the first flash signal from a standard slave sensor, then passes the second flash on to the external flash. I ended up buying the PC sync adapter, so I don't use the "trick" circuit, but if Hamilton (or others) are interested I would consider sharing the design.

-- Greg Marshall

(Thanks for the offer, Greg! -- Editor)

There seems to me to be a simple resolution to Russell Hamilton's tirade about Olympus' red-eye reduction issues. Fix the image with any basic digicam software program. As 35mm purists (and I was one of them), we often extend the limitations of 35mm film photography to the digital realm. We need to keep in mind that we have a nearly inexhaustible arsenal of tools at our disposal now, limited only by our imagination. If we think that fixing red-eye in your digital images is less professional than getting acceptable images in the first place, remember that fine pens and ink were and are used as standard practices for fixing film images.

-- Frogkarma

(Yes, but an ounce of prevention is worth a weekend editing images. To cut our work in half, we always ask our subjects to wink when they smile. -- Editor)

RE: Lost Files Found [update]

After calls to several computer shops, I found none offering any prospect of solving the problem [lost files on a SmartMedia card]. I finally tried a camera shop (Wolf Camera in Sarasota, Fla.) and found the needed help.

Apparently, for reasons unknown, a new folder was created on the SmartMedia card when it was in the CameraMate connected to the Mac. When attempting to look at the card in a reader connected to a PC the extra folder as well as the one containing the images was evident. Simply deleting the extra folder enabled the images to be viewed in the camera normally. What surprised me is that I didn't think files could be written to the SmartMedia card from the Mac.

Thanks, Mike, for the clue about the need to look in a DOS environment.

-- Bob

(Depending on your drivers and when you inserted the card, the Mac may or may not write invisible files to your card to handle things like icons that are not provided by the MS-DOS file system. Your application should protect you from any unwanted writes, though. -- Editor)

RE: Mike Saves Olympus Again

I have an Oly C2000 that came with Camedia 1.1 software. I just got a new computer with Win2k and Olympus tells me that only versions 1.11 and higher support Win2k. Problem is, their download site only offers an update from the 2.x Camedia versions.

-- Dennis

(I see an update to 1.1 (at least) here: http://www.olympus-europa.com/photogra/digimg/service/download/index.htm. Is that not what you need? -- Editor)

The patch did indeed update to Camedia 1.11 from 1.1! Why don't they put the patch on their U.S. site or tell me to go to the Euro site in the first place? How frustrating!

-- Dennis

(Well, Europe is a few hours ahead of the U.S. And I needed that (virtual) European vacation. Glad it worked out! -- Editor)

RE: An E-10 Tip

I used to be a professional photographer, so I appreciate a good camera.

I just got an Olympus E-10 and find it to be an extremely good value for its $1,900 cost, including a 4x, 35-140mm zoom lens expandable with add-ons to 28-300mm. The camera's weak point is a maximum shutter speed of only 1/640. But let's be reasonable, how often do we really need higher than that?

The really annoying problem I had was transferring my E-10 photos to my PC. The instructions that came with the camera (both the Owner's Manual and the sheet that accompanies the software CD) appear to be for some other model! After hours of struggling on my own, I paid a computer professional to come in and help. He couldn't do it either!

Here are the latest instructions (which I have abbreviated) emailed to me from Olympus, for downloading pictures from E-10 to PC:

With USB cable connected between E-10 and PC, turn camera off. Open "My Computer." Turn camera on in Setup Mode, then watch for a new "Removable Disk" drive letter to appear in the "My Computer" window (for example, E: or F:). Double click the drive letter, then its DCIM folder, then the 101olymp folder. The numbered pictures you have taken will then appear.

-- Ron L

(Thanks for sharing the secret procedure, Ron! -- Editor)

RE: Storage at Macworld

In your feature about Macworld Expo you write: "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."

You then go on to mention the Iomega Fotoshow, which as you say is flawed as a portable storage device. Better you should ask Iomega why they chose to drop the Clik Drive with photo card reader. That was the perfect answer, small and light, it packs neatly in even a small camera bag. The 40-MB disks hold a good number of pictures. I am one of the lucky few who bought one in the limited months they were available and I love it.

-- Steve McIlree

(Well, we never really go on vacation anyway. Actually, Iomega just changed the name of the Clik Drive to PocketZip but it's still just a 40-MB disk, which these days is smaller than some removable cards. That can be a problem. -- Editor)

RE: Trigger Voltages

As an Olympus C2000 owner looking to upgrade to something in the 3000 series, I was horrified to read Russell Hamilton's observations about the always-on red-eye reduction and non-standard connector. Well, less horrified than if I had bought one! I find this kind of manufacturer arrogance absolutely galling in a camera designed for the knowledgeable user.

But I write to correct a common misperception about voltages on flash triggers. It takes zero volts to trigger a flash, only the mere completion of the high voltage circuit. As the voltage stored in the flash capacitor is from 200-400 volts, this is what lies across your camera's contacts. But what does the damage is a momentary spike of high current. As the contacts approach one another, the high voltage will cause arcing. The higher the light output of the flash, the harder it is on your contacts, generally. I presume digital cameras use solid state switching, unlike mechanical in ordinary cameras. They should be able to handle an infinite number of discharges if the current level stays below the design point. But over that and they are smoke, unlike the slow degradation of a mechanical contact.

I own a number of flashes and like yours, my favorite comes from decades past. It is a Honeywell Strobonar 682S, one of their last ones. Light, versatile and possessing that unique Strobonar elliptical head, it still is a show stopper, especially hooked to a digicam!

Keep up the great work! I love finding the newsletter in my Inbox every Saturday morning!

-- Paul Verizzo

(Thanks for the kind words, Paul. We suspect the proprietary plugs are designed to prevent people from frying their new digicams with their beloved strobes. It has so far saved ours. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Larry Berman at http://BermanArt.com just spent three weeks creating http://ImageCompress.com where he's detailed his comparison of JPEG compression programs. At the site, you can compare identical images compressed by the various programs in side-by-side windows and read Berman's reviews.


Canto (http://www.canto.com) has released DIG35 AssetStore, a Cumulus option to help manage assets that include DIG35 metadata. The DIG35 Metadata Specification, including the XML DTD and schema, is available on the DIG Web site at http://www.digitalimaging.org.

Canto has also released a free filter to archive MP3 files with the following metadata: Title, Artist, Album, Year, Comment, Genre, MPEG Version, Layer Version, CRC Protected, Bitrate (kbit/s), Sampling rate (Hz), Padded, Privat Bit, Channel Mode, Intensity Stereo, MS Stereo, Mode Extension, Original and Emphasis.

And the company has introduced a PowerPoint Support Kit to help manage slides created with MS PowerPoint. The kit updates PowerPoint AssetStore and includes two new modules: PowerPoint Add-In and PowerPoint Filter.

All the new products are available in the download area at http://www.canto.com for Mac OS and Windows 95/98/ME/NT4+SP(3)/2000.


Sapphire Innovations (http://www.sapphire-innovations.com) has released Sapphire Displacer 1.01, 350 displacement maps for Photoshop 6. A demo set is at the site.


Kodak has announced the planned acquisition of Bremson Inc. by the Kodak Professional Division to "further the development of a standardized, feature-rich digital image management system linking professional photo labs and studios." Bremson will be led by John Bricklemyer.

Kodak Professional said it is also currently in discussions with selected third-party Web-hosting service providers to offer photo studios alternative Web solutions linked to Kodak's imaging workflow solution. The goal is to provide photographers with linking features, Web site development, payment options, etc. to encourage their participation.


E-Book Systems has released a free Virtual Photo Album Creator. "No special tools or great computer knowledge needed," the company said, "just your pics and the free Album Viewer [called the FlipBrowser] to view your albums." Visit http://www.myflipbooks.com/fbgold/wiz/ and follow the step-by-step guide to create your own online page-flipping free photo album.


Boxtop Software (http://www.boxtopsoft.com) has released version 5.1 of the Mac version of ProJPEG. The update to the Photoshop plug-in "adds resolution support, corrects a problem reading truncated files, makes speed improvements, confirms Mac OS 9.1 compatibility and makes additional changes to code required for Mac OS X support," the company said.


Peter iNova has been hard at work on the Web site that complements his Mastering Nikon Compact Digital Cameras eBook, releasing some new iNovaFX Photoshop actions. Ten iFilmBorders that mimic sheet and slide film borders are now available to eBook owners at http://www.digitalsecrets.net. iNova released several freebies, too, including an improved color channel de-noise filter (http://www.digitalsecrets.net/secrets/noise.html), test patterns to evaluate your monitor's suitability for reviewing images (http://www.digitalsecrets.net/secrets/portabledarkroom.html) and some free graphic frames (http://www.digitalsecrets.net/secrets/maint.html).


Andromeda's technology is behind the magic at Andromeda's eFXservices (http://www.efxservices.com), which offers online imaging effects without plug-ins.


Bruce Fraser, contributing editor at creativepro.com, has just posted a glossary of color terminology (http://www.creativepro.com/story/feature/11132.html).

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