The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 3, Number 4 23 February 2001

Copyright 2001, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 40th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Dave reports on two big hits at PMA and Mike suggests why backing up might become the national pastime. Somewhere.


TOPICS

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Feature: Two Hits from PMA 2001

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from our complete PMA 2001 coverage at http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS01/PMAS01.HTML.)

EPSON 5500: SILVER HALIDE'S DEATH KNELL?

Without a doubt, one of the most impressive (flat out amazing, really) products we saw at PMA this year was Epson's 5500 professional-level ($3,495) inkjet printer. More than any product we've seen recently, the 5500 shows us the future, marking a transition from one way of doing things (silver halide-based color output technology) to another (archival inkjet-based printing). We don't view ourselves as being the least bit hyperbolic when we label this printer as the "death knell of silver halide."

In recent years, inkjet printers have made great strides, both at the consumer and professional levels. Yet, regardless of how good inkjet technology got, we've always had the feeling that photographic technology (based on silver halide imaging) was in various ways superior.

Until now.

With their latest professional-grade printer, the Stylus Color Pro 5500, Epson has at least matched and in many cases soundly beaten silver-based photo output technology across the board. The output samples we saw from the 5500 showed absolutely stunning image quality, were water resistant, rated for a 200-year image life and cost about the same as silver-based prints with a comparable printing speed. There's no question this technology will replace silver-based printing for many professional photographic applications.

For a long while, an easy objection to inkjet printing was that the prints faded in an absurdly short time. Over the last two years though, printer manufacturers have addressed the problem and made great strides toward its solution. Pigment-based inks (rather than dye-based ones) have now completely eliminated the issue with a rated image life of 200 years.

Inkjet prints have also lagged photographic ones somewhat in the quality area. The "feel" of typical inkjet output has always been somewhat different from silver-halide prints, generally unfavorable. More than that, the tiny dots making up inkjet prints have remained visible, although ongoing refinements have made them less and less visible. Recently ink droplet sizes on the order of 5-6 picoliters and 6-color ink systems (with light magenta and light cyan colors) have made the droplets all but invisible.

Color gamut has generally favored inkjet printers over photographic output, but the pigment-based ink systems have, for the most part, had a lower gamut than their shorter-lived dye-based counterparts.

Finally, ongoing issues for inkjet in high-volume applications have been the high cost of consumables and rather slow print times.

With the Stylus Pro 5500, Epson has effectively eliminated all of the forgoing objections to inkjet, making a true no-compromises photographic output device.

The 5500 uses both incredibly tiny droplets (3 picoliter volume) and very high resolution (2880x720 dpi). Which means two things. First, the resulting dots are completely invisible to the human eye. We could make them out with a 40x microscope, but you wouldn't be able to see them with even a 15x loupe. Second, they are also placed on the paper with an unprecedented level of precision. This improved dot placement leads to a broader color gamut (thanks to greatly minimized overlap between dots), now approaching the gamuts of Epson's dye-based printers. Compared to photographic output devices, the high precision leads to much sharper-looking images. (Think of it this way: A high-quality photographic device can only locate an edge to a precision of 1/400 of an inch. With its 2800x720 engine resolution, the 5500 produces razor-sharp edges far exceeding what even 400 dpi photo devices can manage.)

Another advantage of the 5500's pigment-based ink system is that it can create long-lived output on virtually any substrate that can be fed through it, including plain paper, watercolor rag or cotton canvas. The creative possibilities are endless.

This leads us to the issues of cost and speed.

On the cost front, the 5500's output is remarkably affordable. Using list prices for the inks and paper (inks are packed in 110ml single-color cartridges for high efficiency), full-bleed 8x11 prints show a worst-case cost of $1.10 each, based on list prices for Epson's highest-quality paper. Full-page prints on plain paper can cost as little as $0.25 each.

As to speed, the specs we've received are a little confusing. In a private briefing, we were told 2 minutes for 8x11 full-page output, while Epson's press release gives times of 5 to 11 minutes, depending on quality settings. Regardless, the speed is high enough that this is a viable solution for reasonably high-volume applications. (Particularly considering the price: We can imagine commercial labs simply lining these up to handle whatever volume needs they might have.)

Oh, the price! As we mentioned briefly above, the list price of the Stylus Pro 5500 will be $3,495 when it becomes available in March. Given its performance, print size (up to just under 13x19 inches) and print quality, this is an astonishing bargain. Of all the devices we saw at PMA, we'd have to say that the Stylus Pro 5500 is likely the one that will have the greatest impact on the professional photo business over the next year.

MINOLTA DIMAGE S5/7

The overall "most interesting" camera award probably goes to the Nikon D1X, which looks to be pretty revolutionary (well, maybe strongly evolutionary at least) in the professional market. We reported on that prior to the show, tracking rumors, the actual release itself and following up with a few items other reporters seemed to be missing.

In the consumer/prosumer category though, Minolta walked away with the honors for their new EVF (electronic viewfinder) SLRs with 7x optical zoom lenses, in 3.3 and 5.2 megapixel resolutions. (They literally walked away with the honors, scoring a "Most Innovative" award from DIMA.) See our Sunday show report for details and numerous photos of the new Minolta S5 and S7 cameras.

The new models doubtless come as a welcome relief to the Minolta sales organization, arriving after a rather long dry spell with few exciting products. And exciting they are! The 7x optical zoom lens is interesting in that its wide-angle range extends all the way down to 28mm, wider than almost any other consumer camera on the market. (Great for those real estate interior shots and other photos in cramped quarters.) The combination of 7x zoom and 5.2 megapixels (in the S7) represents the greatest zoom-resolution product on the market.

We'll have to wait for our test results to form any firm conclusions on resolution and image quality, but the A3-sized sample prints Minolta showed us in a private meeting looked very impressive indeed.

The S5 and S7 incorporate two technologies that were mentioned only in passing in the press release and published specs, but which appear to hold great promise: Phase-detect autofocus and Minolta's new "hyper" EVF electronic viewfinder.

It's no secret that one bane of prosumer digital photography is the often lengthy delay between pressing the shutter and the camera's actually snapping the picture. Much of this delay is due to the time required for the autofocus system to lock onto the subject.

Most digicams use a contrast-detect autofocus system, which basically tries to increase the abruptness of tonal transitions across the surface of the image. This works and is usually quite accurate, but it can take an appreciable amount of time for the lens to "hunt" back and forth to find the optimum focusing distance.

Phase-detect autofocus is a much more advanced method that looks at where on the array contrast transitions are being imaged, and how the locations of those transitions move with focus adjustment. Using phase-detection, the camera can very quickly figure out not only that the lens is out of focus, but what direction it needs to be adjusted (near or far) and by (about) how much. The result is (potentially) much faster focusing, since the camera doesn't spend as much time "hunting" for the correct focus point.

We'll have to see how the S5 and S7 do in our shutter lag tests, but the Minolta engineers and technical marketing people we had dinner with Tuesday evening seemed very excited by this technology.

Another important area of new technology in the S5/7 appears to be the electronic viewfinder. Other than its way-cool tilting eyepiece, the EVF in these units apparently incorporates some innovation that will enhance its performance.

We commented to the Minolta engineers that, while we recognized the need for them in digicams with very long-ratio zoom lenses (for which optical viewfinders would become very bulky), we really weren't crazy about electronic viewfinders. (Brief explanation: Some digicams have "electronic viewfinders" instead of optical ones, consisting of a tiny LCD and a magnifying eyepiece to show a "real time" view of what the camera's seeing through the lens.) The problems we always encounter with electronic viewfinders is that (a) they're generally fairly low resolution, giving a pretty rough view of the subject and (b) (much more seriously), the need for rapid refresh in the viewfinder display means that they can't work at anywhere near the low light limit of the camera itself. (In low light situations, the camera is free to use exposures extending to multiple seconds, while the viewfinder must update several times a second in order to be useful for framing.)

While they wouldn't share any details with us, it looks like Minolta has possibly addressed both of our objections to EVFs. Apparently, their use of the term "hyper" for the EVF on the S5 and S7 is because it is both significantly higher resolution than has previously been seen on consumer-level digicams, as well as dramatically more sensitive to light. Again, we'll withhold judgement until we have a chance to test the new cameras, but based on the level of excitement amongst Minolta's engineering and marketing staff, it sounds like they have something really special in this area.

We confess that we had expected to see more 5.2-megapixel cameras at PMA this year, given that Sony announced the availability of engineering samples of their 5.2-megapixel CCD several months back. We heard a rumor from one manufacturer that Sony had been having problems with their 5.2-MP chip, but Minolta told us that any rumors of Sony chip problems must have arisen from other products and that the 5.2-MP units were solid. Hard to tell what the reality is, but we'll know a lot more in a few months when sample units of the Minolta S7 are made available.

Only our testing will tell how well Minolta has executed their new SLR design, but there's no question the cameras are loaded with just the sort of features needed to set high-end prosumer digicam fanatics drooling in anticipation. Kudos to Minolta for a most impressive announcement and best wishes on getting them to market. To all our readers, stay tuned....

Return to Topics.

Feature: Burning a Backup

We had a little scare the other day. Returning home at the end of the day we noticed a plume of white smoke rising from our neck of the asphalt and concrete woods. A fire.

The disaster recovery guys subsequently told us that the rainy season breeds more fires than any because it taxes household electrical systems. But we didn't appreciate that at the time. We were wondering exactly where this particularly fire was burning.

As we got closer, we saw traffic turn into a parking lot on the main boulevard through our neighborhood. Police were soon at the major intersections opening holes like NFL linemen for the fire trucks to get to the scene.

Eight fire trucks for a two-alarm roof fire just a few steps (probably 30) from our front door, as it turned out. The wind, blowing south, sent the fire away from us to the roof of the neighbor three doors down.

We joined the hundreds of people on the opposite side of the street to watch the fire crews douse the fire and rip off the roofs. A few thoughts also kept us company as we watched the debris pile up in the street.

The first was what the H all our backups were doing in the same place.

You can insure and replace clothes, furniture, appliances and kitchenware easily enough but salvaging your photos is another matter. Fortunately, any digital photographer can easily duplicate their own collection. Our method of choice is to burn a CD. In a CD burner, not a house fire.

Unfortunately, we were between offsite backup locations. We'd recently vacated our second in a year and hadn't yet found a new location. We're probably a little more attentive to this than the typical shutter bug because, well, this is earthquake country, too. Things happen.

The lesson, of course, is to store a backup of your work somewhere other than where the rest of it is stored. That might be a safety deposit box, a friend's home, a relative's country estate, anywhere ... else. It should be close enough that you can get to it often enough that the backup isn't too out of date if you ever actually need it, though.

In our case, we recently rented a garage half an hour from here, so our offsites went there. But we were tempted to consider, at least in the interim, some Web-based storage alternative. That would certainly have been accessible and easy to update. Reliable and spacious, we didn't know, though.

We actually use two offsite backups for our work in progress. One is the one that isn't (usually) here. The other is the one that is here but updated just before we leave to visit the offsite location. Once there, we simply swap the offsites. So something is always offsite and regularly refreshed.

Of course, we were caught in an embarrassing position the other day. "Very close," a neighbor from the corner shook his head. It was all we could do to nod.

But it reminded us of Peter Dale Scott's recent poem "Minding the Darkness" where he recounts this episode from the 1991 Berkeley Hills fire: "[the woman two doors down / had loaded her car to the roof / and now it was too late / to go back inside / and find her car keys]".

Moral: be prepared.

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New on the Site

If you haven't visited our main site (http://www.imaging-resource.com/) lately, now is a good time to do it. Here are just a few reasons to drop by:

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Beginners Flash: Rock Steady Without a Tripod

You framed your shot, you pressed the shutter and it looked fine on the LCD. But when you pulled it up on your monitor it was fuzzy.

What happened?

Well, the LCD lied to you. It's so small it makes any image look sharp. But odds are the light was dim enough that your camera decided to use a rather slow shutter speed. Under 1/60 of a second. And pressing the shutter was enough of a shake to blur the image.

How can you prevent it?

In an ideal world, you'd have a tripod handy whenever you needed it. Under the current arrangement, you rarely do. And sometimes (in museums, for example) they're prohibited.

So the fact is your camera must rely on your supple body to keep it stiff. But there are some things you can do to stiffen up. Here's how to securely hand hold a camera:

  1. First of all, choose a sustainable posture. Don't try any ballet positions. Stand comfortably. Any strain is liable to weary.

  2. The next trick is to use the optical viewfinder, pressing the camera to your head and holding it against your nose or cheek with both hands.

  3. If you can further steady yourself by propping your elbows on the back of an unoccupied chair or the fender of a disabled SUV, that's terrific. Otherwise tuck them against your sides.

  4. When you're ready to shoot, take a deep breath and release it. At the moment you relax and just a second before you panic for lack of oxygen, gently squeeze the shutter button.

That's the best you can do with a hand hold without appearing suspicious. But our favorite trick is very little more trouble.

The next time you're in your favorite hardware store, pick up a quarter-inch/20-thread bolt (the half-inch size is long enough) and a matching hex nut. You've spent about nine cents, so far. Find some string at home and tie one end to the bolt, trimming it about a foot longer than you are tall. Screw on the nut to hold the string and prevent you from screwing the half-inch bolt through the camera body.

Screw the bolt into the tripod mount of your camera and let the string fall to the floor. Step on it and pull the camera up to your eye. Make sure the string is taught as you come up and put your weight on it when the camera is just about eye level. As you pull up the counter force is just what you need to steady the camera when you press the shutter.

Another favorite is a bean bag. You can drape the bag over otherwise uncooperative supports to fill in their holes and provide a level and secure bed for your camera.

If your digicam has a zoom lens, you'll find it easier to shoot with slow shutter speeds the wider the angle. At a normal setting, 1/100 second may yield consistently sharp results. But at wide angle, you may be able to hold 1/60 steady. And, conversely, at telephoto settings you may find 1/250 about as slow as you can go.

For stability in truly difficult situations, we recommend simply lying down, propping the camera on your chest and setting the self-timer to go off just as you drop off to sleep. Unless, of course, you snore.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Going to Press

If you'd like to use your digicam images in a printed brochure or on your business cards or any piece that requires the services of a commercial printer, you may run into some resistance.

There is not much love for RGB JPEGs in the commercial printing world.

The main reason for that is simply that printing presses are CMYK devices. They lay down cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink to build a color image. In fact, they may be the prototypical CMYK device.

But another reason for the professional disdain is the JPEG format itself. And for two reasons:

Finally you may encounter a disbelief that your digicam image will have sufficient resolution to print with any detail.

Let us bravely address these objections with a little help from our friends down at the virtual Prepress Truckers Cafe (actually http://www.printplanet.com). We asked and they answered.

That's probably the most important point, too. Ask! As a member of your own production team you should concern yourself with accommodating the next team member in line. They, after all, have less time left to get the job done. And if you hand them something that simply won't work, well, it might not get done at all.

When it comes to prepress, your salesman probably isn't a reliable source of information. You really should discuss this with a technician.

Issue: What's RGB color doing in a CMYK world?

RGB color capture is a bit hard to avoid in the modern world, whether a camera does it or a scanner. The real issue is conversion from RGB color space to CMYK. It isn't likely you'll know the actual color gamut of the press your work will be printed on, so the responsibility for the conversion really belongs to the prepress department.

According to Chris Murphy at Color Remedies, "If you're getting crummy results on proof/press in regards to color, then the problem is with CMYK Setup (Photoshop 5) or the CMYK working space (Photoshop 6). If you have incorrect separation information, you will get bad seps for the intended output method."

Issue: JPEG images are compressed so much they artifact.

The solution is (obviously) not to overly compress your JPEGs by using a higher quality setting. There's nothing prepress can do with an image that's been overly compressed. And that can happen in the camera. It isn't, in fact, necessary to shoot uncompressed TIFFs, but you should use a high quality setting in your camera.

Secondly, during image editing it's important to avoid referencing compressed data repeatedly. Use plug-ins that can make several adjustments at once rather than one at a time. But it's most important to minimize your editing sessions. Every time you save a JPEG, it recompresses. If you are saving repeatedly from the data in RAM (without reading the file from disk), there's no degradation. You're working from the uncompressed data in memory. But if you are repeatedly opening the saved and compressed image and then saving and compressing it again, you are recompressing the already compressed data. Quality can quickly deteriorate.

Issue: Older RIPs can't process JPEGs.

If your printer hasn't upgraded his RIP since Van Winkle woke up, this may indeed be a problem.

But it shouldn't be. According to Michael Jahn, Apogee Create product manager, "Now, it may be that there are a few hardware-based RIPs still operating out there (I am thinking about something like an Agfa Star RIP) that may stumble on the IRS part [In RIP Separations] -- but Storm introduced 'JPEG decompression boards' many Seybolds ago and Adobe and most clone RIP manufacturers have supported decompressing JPEG files in the RIP -- no matter if they were delivered via PostScript by an application or an APR or OPI server."

Issue: Digicam images don't have sufficient resolution.

Actually, they don't have any resolution. Resolution is a function of size. All you get out of your camera is a certain number of pixels. It's your job to map them to the real world, to give them a size, whether you squeeze 300 pixels into each inch or just 72.

There is a lot of superstition involved here. The old rule of thumb was that the image should be sampled at 2.5 times the line screen ruling. So a 133 lpi halftone screen would require 332.5 (well, 300) samples per inch. In fact you may be able to maintain quality with many fewer samples (or pixels in the case of the camera image) per inch.

And halftoning itself, after all, is more likely to degrade your image.

But even if you find at 150 ppi you can't get the dimensions you need, you can use Altamira's Genuine Fractals Print Pro plug-in (a lite version of which is included with many high-end digicams or visit http://www.altamira-group.com) to save your image in a resolution-independent format which can be opened at a larger size with sufficient resolution for your printer.

So, JPEGs can be printed. And we imagine they will increasingly be printed. We hope this makes it a little easier. Because there really isn't any reason not to do it.

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Behind the Scenes

We thought it might be fun to take you behind the scenes at Macworld Expo. Unfortunately, the security staff felt otherwise. Unless you were wearing a gray Media badge holder (hey, whatever happened to the green ribbons and gold medals?), you had to buy your own soft drinks and cookies.

But the press lounge isn't exactly what we mean by "behind the scenes." We mean telling you what we did to get our images from the show floor to the Web site. Do we, in short, practice what we preach?

Oh, yes.

The first problem is physical. You can't be quick on the draw if your pistol is strapped into its holster. And you must be quick on the draw. So we use a neck strap and let our Venerable 1-megapixel digicam dangle alongside our press pass. We also leave it on. It wakes up more quickly that way (and we wake it up a lot, whether we shoot or not). And we've always got spare batteries.

The Venerable has a zoom lens with the perfect range for framing our shots. It doesn't eliminate cropping, but it helps us maximize the use of our pixels. Getting information is the job here.

We often take two shots, one with flash and one without. Flash can ruin a shot but so can poor lighting (blurring the image beyond help). We take our chances with the first but for the second we often shoot underexposed by 1 EV. That gets us a little better shutter speed (and if you can't make up a stop in your image editor, you shouldn't be wearing the gray badge holder).

Back at the ranch, we transfer the images from the Venerable's CompactFlash via PCMCIA adapter to our laptop. A quick slide show suggests which are worth publishing. This is actually the fun part. Should we composite these two? Should we run these three together?

What we don't do is flip the images or in any way mislead you about what we saw. Tweaking color and exposure merely compensates for conditions we can't control.

The first thing we do is resize. There are going to be a half dozen or so shots to download with our story, so we want them to be small enough to retrieve with a dialup connection. The catch is that you have to be able to recognize (and sometimes read) what you see. Captions can help here.

We rarely do any color correction (except when we use the Multiply blend mode to save an underexposed image) but we do dodge highlights that the flash burned out. Once in a while we'll composite some feature with the product shot, but not often.

But one tweak they all get is TECHnik's (http://www.tech-nik.com/) nik Sharpener Internet Autoscan unsharp masking. We prefer the softest level (Anna).

We compress our images with Boxtop Software's ProJPEG (http://www.boxtopsoft.com) using a top secret set of parameters (we can't recall exactly what they are at the moment). This makes some pretty small files to download while avoiding JPEG artifacts.

Then we toss all our images at a Perl program that writes the HTML image tag with the proper HEIGHT and WIDTH tags so you can read our report while the images are downloading.

After the story is written and hand-coded in HTML, we write a little blurb for the news page to link to our coverage. Once it's uploaded and tested, we step out from behind the curtain to see what's for dinner.

And if you enjoyed this little expose, wait until you hear how we mow the lawn.

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

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We Have Mail

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

RE: Pixel Depth

I enjoy your e-zine very much. It is one that I always read and I continuously peruse your reviews to figure out which digicam to buy. I haven't seen where anybody lists the number of bits read for each pixel. I see in the last issue that you list the number for the Sony DSC S75. It seems to me that is a very important spec, affecting the ability to capture dark and light areas in a photograph. Have I missed something? Maybe they are all the same?

-- Graham Henderson

(Until now, each sensor has read only 8 bits (of light filtered, generally, only red, green or blue). Each pixel contains 24 bits of data (8 for red, 8 for green and 8 for blue, generally) because the "missing" 16 bits are interpolated from the surrounding sensors with that data. So you may assume where bit depth is not specified, it's 8-bit data.... What the practical effects of this will be is another story. Scanners have, for a long time, captured more than 8 bits, but they deliver 24-bit images (sometimes cleverly deciding which bits to drop) so you can see and edit them on 24-bit systems. There is a 16-bit editing mode, rather than 8-bits per channel, in Photoshop, but it isn't generally available in image editors. -- Editor)

RE: Silicon Film at PAM

An interesting glimpse into the way Silicon Film has developed their product [the EFS-1, a CCD cartridge for 35mm film cameras; working samples appeared for the first time at PMA 2001] is how they selected the cameras for which it would be available. The Nikon cameras for which a cartridge will be sold are the F5, N90S and F3. About a year ago, I asked why the F3 was included but not the popular, pro level F100. Silicon Film told me that they conducted a survey and the F100 did not get enough votes.

Here's the interesting point, to me at least. When I reviewed the survey, I noticed that about a dozen Nikon cameras were listed, including the FG and (as I recall) even the EM, but the F100 was not listed at all! It is this "thoroughness" in their research that lead me to believe that Silicon Film will never produce a marketable product.

With the falling prices of quality digital SLRs (such as the Nikon D1) and the introduction of full-frame SLRs at lower prices than would have been anticipated three years ago when Silicon Film began, it is hard to see how they can produce a competitive product and recoup their R&D costs. It may turn out that they were better off when all they were producing was vaporware -- at least that kept production costs down.

-- Joel Schochet

(Hard to say why they left out the F100, but I'd imagine it had to do with quantities of various models in the marketplace. The F100 is quite a bit newer than any of the camera models they've announced as supporting, so there may simply be a lot fewer out there. I can't speak for their omission of it from their survey. It's so long since the EFS-1 was first announced that it's entirely possible their survey predated the announcement of the F100 itself.... The paucity of the list of cameras supported reflects both the effort involved in making slightly different versions of the product for different cameras, as well as the need for the camera to support interchangeable viewfinder screens. The sensor area of the EFS-1 is a lot smaller than the 35mm frame, so they need to insert a masked screen in the viewfinder to show the area being captured. -- Dave)
(We're not big fans of the Silicon Film concept, frankly. It always seemed to us like pouring yesterday's cold coffee in today's shiny new mug. Have a Picture CD made of your 35mm shots, if you like, but digital is another ballgame, if not a new sport. -- Editor)

RE: DVD Slide Show

Is it possible to save my pictures in a slide show format which can then be written to CD with my Normal CD writer in Video CD format which will then play on my TV via a DVD player? What software will allow me to do all this? I understand the slide show needs to be in MPEG format.

-- Paul Cox

(Yes, Paul, it is possible -- if your DVD player can read CD-Rs and CD-RWs. Not all can. Most stand-alone slide shows write QuickTime files. Canto Cumulus's Slide Show option, for example, will even record the data in any audio field along with the image as it writes a QuickTime movie. So the issue is converting from QuickTime to MPEG (which QuickTime can do) and writing VCD format (which Roxio's Toast has been able to do for some time now). You can burn the MPEG slide show to the VCD but it won't have menu pages or links. You will be able to start at the first MPEG and move on to the next, fast forward, rewind, pause and stop. Anything more sophisticated requires authoring software. -- Editor)

RE: You Are Here

Where can I go to learn the A to Zs? Is there a recommended book(s)?

-- April

(Start with whatever documentation came with both your equipment and your software. Nothing is more important than reading these -- we do it more than once, continually in fact. One day we hope to actually remember some of it.... Don't neglect to visit sites like, well, http://www.imaging-resource.com/ for news, tips and tutorials that can help fill in the blanks or explain the more obscure or cutting-edge concepts.... And supplement everything by getting out there to learn by doing. It's one of the best ways to appreciate what the issues are, if not the solutions.... Finally, April, as the maps all over town say, "You are here!" Reading this newsletter will, believe it or not, eventually make you conversant even in the more difficult subjects. That's our plan, anyway! -- Editor)

RE: Trouble at the Ranch

I ordered a Microtek Scanmaker 5 via Microtek's Web site in late December. I received it within a reasonable time (Jan 3). When I tried to install the card I ran into trouble. I had to call their tech support, which was not a toll free number, to get the problem resolved.

I found the instructions included with the system did not, in my opinion, correctly cover proper installation procedures. When the color profile software installation kept freezing, I was told by tech support (another call on my dimes) to install in "safe" mode. That too did not work. I finally found out through one of my many sessions with "tech" support that the scanner I had was defective.

They wanted to give me an RMA number to send it in for repair -- a brand new scanner. I told them I was not satisfied with that solution and preferred, based on the sour experience I had had, to return it for credit. I was then told I had exceeded the one month return time for credit.

I have pushed on the issue and am still waiting for resolution of the entire matter. I send this to communicate to the public my dissatisfaction with this particular company and to perhaps save other users from making the same mistake.

-- Carl Brothers

(It sounds like you did the right things in the right order, Carl. It's particularly important to state simply and accurately what happened when. If you don't get the matter resolved at this level, tell your story in a letter to the company president. They tend to care how their company is perceived. And it does seem since the product was dead on arrival, they might ignore the 30-day policy. We've found most companies do everything they can to make things right. When they don't, they aren't around to complain about very much longer. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

DigitalFOTO, the monthly magazine published by Imagine Media, has been shut down by its parent company, Future Network. In a layoff of 350 employees (17 percent of its workforce), the UK parent also axed Revolution, Total Movie, Dreamcast, T3 and Maximum Linux. MacAddict, Maximum PC, PC Gamer, PSM Next Generation and Official XBox managed to survive.


Google (http://www.google.com) has acquired Deja.com's Usenet discussion service. The acquisition provides Google with Deja's entire Usenet archive dating back to 1995, software, domain names including deja.com and dejanews.com, company trademarks and other intellectual property. Financial terms of the transaction were not released. Google has launched a beta of the new service at http://groups.google.com containing six months of Usenet newsgroup postings and message threads. The full archive contains over 500 million messages.

Google has also been busy indexing Adobe PDF documents, adding 13 million to its index of 1.3 billion Web pages. That's about 70 percent of all publicly available PDFs, Google estimates. Search results are returned with a "[PDF" key to indicate they are not HTML documents.


Adobe has announced Photoshop Elements, a new cross-platform image editor. Falling somewhere between Photo Deluxe and Photoshop in capability, Adobe said the new editor will be available for preorder at the end of March. Among the system requirements are either a Pentium II running Windows 98/2000/ME/NT or a PowerPC running Mac OS 8.6 or above, 64-MB RAM, 150-MB disk space and a CD drive. Visit http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopel/main.html for details.


CHROMiX (http://www.chromix.com) has released version 1.1 of ColorThink, a color profile manager for Macintosh. Among the improvements are better memory management, error handling and overall stability, plus a demonstration mode. Visit the ColorThink page at http://www.chromix.com/colorthink to download the new version.


Mike Chaney has released Qimage Pro v12.0 at http://www.charm.net/~mchaney/imaging/index.html. The new version sports a redesigned user interface, a new way to create and modify printouts, improved Lanczos interpolation for prints, a new color management engine, updated help and more. The demo evaluation period has been extended from 14 to 30 days, too, but don't dawdle. On March 15, the price of Qimage Pro will increase from $30 to $35.


PhotoParade has updated Photo Viewer so you can email a photo directly from Photo Viewer via Photo E-Mailer. And Photo E-Mailer will automatically optimize the size of your photo to reduce upload and download time. Download the free Photo Viewer update at http://www.PhotoParade.com/signin.asp after signing in.


Nearly one in four computer users have lost content due to hackers, viruses, blackouts or electrical failure and more than two-thirds of computer users fear data loss to viruses or hackers, according to a national survey conducted by Bruskin Research for Iomega. Nationwide 45 percent -- and 57 percent in California -- are concerned about losing data due to power problems. But 41 percent do not personally back up their data. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of home computer users and nearly half (46 percent) of work computer users personally back up their data only once a month or less often or never back up their data. Iomega noted that their QuikSync 2 software can provide automatic backup by transparently creating a copy of any file saved to a hard drive and saving that copy to a selected Iomega drive. Visit http://www.iomega.com to download a 30-day trial version.


Delkin (http://www.delkin.com) announced their new 128-MB SmartMedia memory card has been shipping since Jan. 31. The new card remains the same physical size (45mm x 37mm x 0.76mm thick) as previous 3.3v SmartMedia cards, yet stores two additional flash memory chips. To increase the capacity of the SmartMedia card to 128-MB without increasing the size, engineers needed to redesign the layout of the PCB board to hold a total of four 256-Mbit NAND flash memory chips. Together, these 256-Mbit chips act as a 1-Gbit chip, said Arthur Blanck, chief technical officer, Delkin Devices. Using the latest 0.18-micron design technology, engineers were able to shrink the die enough to fit all four chips inside the 0.76mm plastic card base, continued Blanck.


Mystic Color Lab (http://www.mysticcolorlab.com) has released a Macintosh version of their free Digital Print Service software. The software, which has been available for Windows for some time, makes it easy to transmit images to Mystic for printing on high-quality photographic paper, mugs, mousepads or t-shirts.


Canto has released a new version of the URL AssetStore which lets Cumulus 5 users catalog and access files stored on remote FTP or HTTP servers as simply as on any file server and makes the Internet a part of a centralized archiving strategy. The new version also allows users to upload cataloged assets to FTP servers. The $995 URL AssetStore option is available at the Canto Web site at http://www.canto.com in the e-shop. Upgrades retail for $249.

Canto is also making it a little easier to add Canto Technical Services to your team. After March 31 the fee will be reduced to a flat $1500 per day plus expenses from the previous $2595. For more information and details on the actual services and scripts that can be done as well as the training and customization that can be performed, contact sales@canto.com.


Kodak Professional (http://www.kodak.com/go/professional) and Club Photo (http://event.clubphoto.com/pro/) have announced their intention to collaborate on an e-commerce solution for professional photographers seeking online management and presentation of their images. Plans call for a fully-integrated Web site environment for consumers, photographers and labs where photos can be viewed, ordered and delivered with instructions for selection, size, crops, finish, amount and other processing and purchasing requirements electronically embedded with the images.

Kodak announced a similar agreement with Express Digital's Photoreflect.com (http://www.Photoreflect.com) as part of their plan to create a feature-rich, standardized online image management system that links labs, photographers and customers.

In a related development, Kodak claimed to have moved the multibillion-dollar portrait and wedding photography industry a critical step closer to a standardized, feature-rich online image management system by announcing their intention to purchase Hicks Equipment Inc. and its ProShots lab imaging workflow assets. The transaction is expected to close within 30-60 days.

Finally, Kodak announced a mutual cross licensing agreement with Olympus to share patented digital camera technologies. Financial terms of the cross-licensing agreement have not been disclosed. Both parties have also agreed to work together to promote improved digital printing of images so consumers will have better ways of storing and printing pictures. The service will tap into Print@Kodak Internet photofinishing and Kodak PhotoNet Online.

Return to Topics.

Signoff

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Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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