|Volume 3, Number 7||6 April 2001|
Welcome to the 43rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Read a preview (we're breaking some ground here) of Dave's Nikon scanner review and discover an eBook you can take to a deserted island (or any other vacation spot).
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:
Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 41,000 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review. Visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM in a week or two for the link.)
Nikon was arguably the first company to figure out the bizarre color qualities of color negative film when, about a decade ago, it released its first film scanner. (This point might be subject to some argument, but the original Nikon film scanner was the first we encountered that could consistently create good-looking scans from a variety of color negative film emulsions.)
In mid-1999, the Super Coolscan 2000 (LS-2000) was among the first slide/film scanners reviewed at the Imaging Resource. At the time, the LS-2000 represented the state-of-the-art and large numbers were sold to photo enthusiasts and pro photographers alike.
Now, Nikon has raised the bar again, with a complete series of new scanners, ranging from the Super Coolscan IV (a consumer model) through the new Super Coolscan 4000 to the high-end, medium-format Super Coolscan 8000. We'll eventually cover all three, but we'll start with the Coolscan 4000 (LS-4000 ED) in this review.
The LS-4000 ED incorporates a number of enhancements over the previous generation and further blurs the line between desktop scanners and the $100,000+ drum scanners used in professional graphics houses.
Among the LS-4000 ED's key features:
- True uninterpolated 4000 dpi scanning resolution
- IEEE 1394/FireWire interface, with card included for Mac or Windows
- New Scanner Nikkor ED high-resolution lens, using extra-low dispersion glass
- 14-bit digitization for dynamic range of 4.2(!), one of the widest tonal ranges available
- Optional 48-bit (16 bits/channel) TIFF file output preserves maximum image data
- Multi-sample scanning for even lower noise on critical (dense) images
- Digital ICE scratch/dust removal technology
- Digital ROC for color restoration of old, faded negatives
- Digital GEM for grain reduction without loss of image detail
- Sophisticated color management system supports ICC profiling
A compact desktop package, the LS-4000 ED can operate in either of two orientations. Users who don't take advantage of the (optional) automatic slide feeder attachment will likely operate the unit standing upright. That takes up about as much space as a thick book at 3.7 x 6.6 x 12.4 inches and approximately 6.6 pounds.
The LS-4000 ED is a FireWire/IEEE 1394 device, a virtual necessity (at a 400-Mbps transfer rate) due to the enormous amounts of data it can generate. A single version is sold for both Mac and PC platforms, with the interface card and both Mac and PC driver software in the box. The maximum resolution of 4000 dpi results in a maximum image size of 3654x5646 pixels when scanning 35mm film. (That's a lot of pixels, about 67-MB in 8-bit mode, 130+ MB when saved as a 48-bit file!)
Out of the box, the LS-4000 ED is equipped for scanning both 35mm slides and film strips. An APS adapter and automatic 35mm slide feeder are available as accessories, as well as a 35mm roll-film adapter. All adapters can be "hot swapped," meaning they can be changed without powering down the scanner or requiring any special software operations. In practice, we found this very useful. We could switch between slides and negatives very rapidly, without interrupting our workflow. We didn't try the APS adapter, automatic slide feeder or roll-film feeder, but the "batch" capabilities of the 35mm strip-film adapter were both powerful and convenient.
"Bit depth" is an important characteristic of digital scanners, affecting both color accuracy and tonal density range. At 14 bits per channel, the LS-4000 ED is at the top of its field, but it stretches even this specification with an option to average multiple measurements of each pixel -- up to 16x. We'll discuss this capability in greater detail later, but suffice to say it reduces noise level in dense slides or negatives to the equivalent of a 16-bit per channel device! Nikon rates the maximum optical density capability of the LS-4000 ED at 4.2 and we have no reason to quibble with this figure (in part because we have no adequate way to measure this parameter). Regardless, the LS-4000's performance easily exceeds that of scanners we've used that were rated at 3.6 D-max.
Three color LEDs in the LS-4000 ED illuminate the film, a design unique to Nikon, as far as we know. The LEDs have very well-controlled light characteristics not subject to fading. And the LED light source is also somewhat collimated, meaning its light waves travel in relatively straight lines. While this produces very sharp scans, it also tends to emphasize scratches, dust and film defects, but the unique Digital ICE technology (see below) effectively minimizes dust and scratches.
The extensive documentation for the LS-4000 ED is provided as a complete Adobe PDF manual on CD and a 100-page printed version. Kudos to Nikon, we really appreciate not having to spend time printing out an electronic manual!
(SOME OF) THE DETAILS
The Nikon Super Coolscan LS-4000 ED scanner is by any measure one of the most sophisticated products we've reviewed to date. A full treatment of its capabilities is quite a bit more than we could fit into this newsletter so we'll concentrate on a few of the key highlights here. (For the full review, check the Imaging Resource Web site in a week or two.)
Overall, there's no question that the LS-4000 ED sets a new standard for desktop scanners in the sub-$2,000 category. By just about every measure -- resolution, image sharpness, dynamic range, features and accessories -- the LS-4000 raises the bar for quality desktop scanners.
Here are just a few of the key points:
4000 dpi Resolution: In all our prior film scanner reviews, the highest resolution we'd encountered was about 2800 dpi. Since film grain was fairly evident at that resolution, we felt there was little purpose in going to even higher resolutions, since we reasoned that would emphasize film grain even further. We have to say that the LS-4000 ED disabused us of that notion. To be sure, film grain is more evident at a full 4000 dpi, but when we examined the resulting image files, there was noticeably more image detail present as well. Combine this with the Digital GEM grain-management technology embodied in the LS-4000 and its 4000 dpi rating constitutes a genuine increase in usable resolution. The high resolution is further enhanced by Nikon's special extra-low dispersion optical glass, which reduces chromatic aberration and improves image sharpness. While we don't have an objective test to highlight the performance of scanner optics per se, it was our impression the scans produced by the LS-4000 ED were distinctly sharper and crisper than those of the already-excellent LS-2000.
14-bit A/D Conversion: One of the key features of the new LS-4000 ED is its 14-bit analog-to-digital (A/D) conversion system. A/D converters are chips that convert analog signals (lightness/darkness levels in the case of a scanner) into digital numbers the computer can understand. The number of A/D resolution bits translate directly into the range of numbers that can be represented. Most "high-end" desktop scanners use 12-bit A/D devices, which divide the incoming signal into 4,096 possible digital values. This is good, but slide film can far exceed the "dynamic range" (range of light to dark values) that can be captured by a 12-bit A/D system.
The LS-4000 ED is the first desktop scanner we've seen that uses a 14-bit A/D converter, which divides the input signal into 16,384 possible values. This improves the digitizing accuracy by a factor of four (along with numerous other improvements in the signal-processing chain) and translates into a much greater dynamic range for the scanner -- significantly reducing image noise in shadow areas.
The LS-4000 ED's improved electronics became immediately apparent when we fed it our "Train" slide, an extraordinarily difficult slide to process. It's a black locomotive with deep shadows, surrounded by a scene with bright highlights under a near-noonday sun. The range of dark-to-light is about as extreme as slide film is capable of producing and the slide constitutes a fiendishly difficult test of a scanner's dynamic range capabilities.
Though we had to tweak the scanner settings a fair bit to achieve the ultimate in detail from this slide, we immediately observed that even the default settings, with the scanner set in 8-bit A/D mode, produced better results than we obtained in the past with other scanners, even with extensive adjustment. When we brought the full panoply of the LS-4000 ED's controls and adjustments to bear, we were amazed by the level of shadow detail and the low noise levels. No question about it, the LS-4000 ED blew away every other scanner we've tested on this exceptionally difficult test.
Analog Gain Controls: While it's called "analog gain," it apparently consists of an adjustment that turns up the LED brightness inside the scanner (the LED provides the illumination behind the film). This backlight level is normally adjusted to produce the maximum scanning signal in clear areas of the film, without blowing out the highlight detail. When scanning very dense film, you can gain quite a bit of additional shadow detail by boosting the LED brightness level to provide more light for the CCD scanning sensor to capture. Making the most of the analog gain controls requires a fair amount of knowledge and patience, but the results can be very rewarding. In our own tests with the "Train" slide, analog gain made a dramatic difference in the amount of shadow detail we could extract from the film. Although it's not an option for people who only want a one-minute scan, it's an invaluable tool for those really tough pieces of film, when nothing else can do the job.
Multi-Sample Scanning: This is another "trick" feature that's very useful (albeit time-consuming) for difficult, dense slides and negatives. When the amount of light transmitted through the film gets very low, electronic noise in the sensor and amplifier electronics becomes significant. Because the noise is random, varying from one measurement to the next, its effects tend to average out over large numbers of measurements. Like the LS-2000 before it, the LS-4000 ED takes advantage of this feature by providing the option to average multiple measurements, taking either 1, 4 or 16 samples per pixel.
In practice, we felt there was little difference between the 1x and 4x settings, but the 16x seemed to significantly improve noise in the shadows. Of course, there's a price to pay. Scans take much longer because the LS-4000 ED is essentially scanning the entire image 16 times. Also, it appears that this function applies to the preview mode as well, drastically slowing the preview scans. Thus, we recommend turning it off during previews and back on again for the main scan. Despite all that, the results are well worth it for very dark slides. We venture to say that the LS-4000 is capable of extracting useful scans from slides that other scanners would be completely incapable of handling.
Nikon's "Digital ICE" (Image Correction Enhancement, licensed from the aptly named Applied Science Fiction) is a defect-removal solution that is truly one of the most amazing innovations in scanner technology we've seen. Under optimal circumstances, it can completely remove scratches, dust and fingerprints from any slide or negative, while leaving the underlying image untouched! This was so amazing, we had to try it ourselves, so we deliberately damaged a negative and smudged it with fingerprints and dirt. (We literally dropped it on a linoleum floor and walked on it!) Even with this extreme level of damage, the results were pretty astonishing.
Initially, Nikon and Applied Science Fiction were deliberately vague about how ICE works, but the technology is now well-known. It works by shining an infrared light through the film's emulsion and using the resulting scan information to create a "defect channel," which highlights the dust and scratches. The infrared light passes right through the layers of most color print or slide film, but is blocked by dust or scratches. (Note that this technique doesn't work with Kodachrome or black-and-white film, as those emulsions are either entirely or largely opaque to infrared light.) The scanner and its associated firmware/software then interpolates the surrounding image information to "fill in the gaps" shown by the defect channel.
The result is just short of amazing. At any given resolution level, it produces a slight softness when compared to an unadjusted scan, but the overall result is incredible! On a negative as deeply scratched as our test sample, the process can't completely eliminate all evidence of damage, particularly at higher resolutions. When we publish our full review on the Imaging Resource site, you'll still see minor blemishes in the image, but they'd be quite easy to remove either by cloning or with a smudge tool in a paint program.
Overall, it would be hard to overemphasize the impact that Digital ICE technology could have in a production scanning environment. While the tendency is to focus on severe damage of the sort we've shown here, in practice you're much more likely to encounter random dust specks that require tedious "spotting" to clean up. After working with Digital ICE, we're convinced it can completely eliminate the need for manual spot removal, saving countless hours in production costs. This is truly one of the most useful innovations we've seen to date in scanner technology.
DIGITAL ROC & GEM
In addition to the Digital ICE feature (present in the LS-2000 as well), the LS-4000 ED adds two other technologies: "Digital ROC" and "Digital GEM."
ROC stands for "Recovery of Color," and it does an incredible job of extracting the original color information from badly faded color negative film. Though we didn't test this capability ourselves, we've seen any number of samples from both Nikon and other reviewers that demonstrate its capabilities.
GEM stands for "Grain Equalization and Management," and represents a technology that removes the effects of film grain, without affecting image sharpness. Another amazing technology.
All of the special capabilities of the LS-4000 ED don't come without a price. Its FireWire/IEEE 1394 interface makes it pretty fast when doing routine scans, but the special capabilities can result in rather long scan times on difficult pieces of film. Overall, our performance timings fell a fair bit short of Nikon's own numbers when we tested it on our Macintosh G4, but we're going to test it on a PC with the provided IEEE 1394 card before we post our final results. Even with some glitches in the G4's FireWire connection, the LS-4000 was reasonably fast when generating high-resolution scans. Preview scans took 20-40 seconds, full-resolution scans required about 100 seconds to create a 67-MB (!) file. We found that optimal efficiency required judicious use of the scan-preview feature, only redrawing the preview when it was absolutely needed.
The extraordinary power of the LS-4000 leads to a fairly complicated set of controls, but Nikon's new scanning software does a good job of segregating functions into logical groups, making it easy to know where you are and what you're adjusting. Tweaking the scanning controls manually to get the "perfect" scan proved pretty time-consuming, but the results were well worth it, especially on problem slides. For more ordinary tasks, the automatic adjustment button on the curves control panel made one-click adjustments that were surprisingly accurate. In many cases, lengthy fine-tuning and manual tweaking produced results only marginally better than the one-click curves adjustment. If you can stay within the range of control afforded by the automated options in Nikon Scan 3, the LS-4000 ED is a very efficient scanner with which to work. Things slowed considerably when we had to venture into the manual adjustments, however.
And Digital ICE defect-removal will literally save you hours otherwise spent removing dust specs and minor scratches. Depending on your labor rate, Digital ICE could actually pay for the scanner in one large job.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As a tool for extracting the maximum amount of information from a piece of film, the LS-4000 ED has no equal in the desktop scanner world (at least, among the scanners we've tested). Applying its full power involves a learning curve and can require some patience, but the results easily exceed anything we've yet seen from a sub-$2,000 desktop scanner. Highly recommended. (Stay tuned in another week or two for the full review on our Web site, complete with a full set of sample scans.)
Maybe we should say "Old on the Site" this time. Because on April 1 (no kidding) three years ago Dave posted Imaging Resource's first Web pages. On the current news page, Dave wrote, "MANY THANKS to all our loyal readers who've helped make this site such a resounding success! We literally wouldn't be here without you, and your continued support of us and our advertisers helps make it all possible going forward."
And just to celebrate, he's published the first installment of "This Week In Imaging" at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/986155729.html where you can revisit news of the past.
For those of you worried about the future, here's what's new:
- Full Review: Canon PowerShot S300 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S300/S30A.HTM)
- Full Review: Hewlett Packard PhotoSmart 912 Camera (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PS912/ZP91C.JPG)
So which eBook on digital photography would you take to Proverbial Island, somehow always deserted, if you could only take one? Well, there is only one (at the moment). And since you can sneak it along on your hard drive, it may not even count against the limit.
Titled "Mastering Nikon Compact Digital Cameras" (more simply referred to as the Nikon eBook), you can thank Peter iNova for it. Author and photographer iNova is vice president and creative director of Metavision (http://www.metavision.com) and holds a number of patents in media display technologies.
He wrote and designed the eBook, which includes a great deal more than you might expect. We took a look at the first two versions of the eBook for this review.
The Nikon eBook, packaged in a DVD case, is more than a book. The contents include:
- Two PDF versions of the 269-page tome (which itself lumps together three different publications), one with high resolution images (suitable for magnification up to 300 percent) and one lower but still high resolution images (for quicker navigation)
- Mac and Windows versions of Photoshop Tryout, PhotoGenetics, GenuineFractal, Panorama Tools and Acrobat Reader (so you can read the book)
- Over 300 Photoshop actions (which iNova likes to call filters) in about 30 files
- Model release forms
- Practice and demo images
- A color test chart printed on the back of the album cover insert
- A printed version of "Shooting For Effect" (including in the PDF book)
- A printed four-page insert called "The eBook Experience" and
- A Web site that contains updates and corrections plus all sorts of other goodies (see http://www.digitalsecrets.net).
THE PDF THING
Before you dismiss this product for appearing in the guise of a PDF, remember the free Acrobat Reader can print it out on your printer (either in color or black and white). Reading on the screen, as opposed to looking at it, takes some getting used to. We strongly recommend enabling any anti-aliasing feature of your system for your screen fonts. It may seem counter-productive to make the type fuzzy, but you are actually adding more letter shape information making words more easily recognizable.
And you will never see a more accurate presentation of images than what you get on the disk. Any printed book (or magazine, for that matter) has to halftone the images to reproduce them (and then they have to survive the press run). That isn't true of the eBook (or Web sites, if you follow our drift).
And before you dismiss it for focusing on the Nikon 900 series (although the 880, as a sort of compact 990, isn't irrelevant), you should know that iNova's discussions about lighting (the bane of the amateur photographer) and printing are worth the price of admission alone. Particularly if you take advantage of our Dave's Deal below.
In the first version of the PDF, we missed bookmarks (so we could easily find our way around) and links (from the index, say, to the page the topic is discussed). The second version has much more extensive bookmarks, making it a lot easier to get around, but we still want more links (in the index, for example). Minor quibble of a PDF junkie.
WHEN A FILTER ISN'T ONE
Less of a quibble is iNova's unfortunate use of the term "filter" to describe "the iNovaFX filters," his intriguing collection of Photoshop actions. It's unfortunate because Photoshop does indeed have filters and they install quite differently from actions.
iNova wants us to think of his actions like screw-on lens filters, which is pretty much how they work. There are actions to remove noise and red-eye and actions to simulate push processing and extend the dynamic range of an image. There are even actions to add fake film borders and postage stamp borders to your images.
"Let the record show," iNova writes, "that by 'filter' I'm describing the intervention of something, a process or device, through which the image must pass before completion."
It's an important concept in digital photography. Images may indeed pass from the camera's storage medium into prints without any modification (think of all those cute inkjets that read cards) but it generally isn't a bright idea. Even online photofinishers sharpen images and adjust the tonal range before printing.
So iNova is right on about the importance of image editing. He encourages us to even plan the shot around it, in fact. Not only can that be serious fun but we bet you have a few underexposed images that could be saved with a little image editing. If you just knew how.
Which is why we think the eBook is worth having whether you own a Nikon or not. The Photoshop actions don't know what camera took the image they are working on. And the text of the book leaves no basic question unanswered. Sure, there's extra stuff about Nikons, but you can blink if that bothers you.
READING THE TEXT
iNova is not only entertaining, he's also full of information. And the blend is as richly rewarding as a Mai Tai on Proverbial Island.
He explains, for example, that asking people to say, "Cheese!" is all wrong. Get them to say, "Nice," instead. "Now they don't look like oversmiling loons, but have a natural and pleasant look to their mouths and eyes." Try it <g>.
So what's he cover? Well, what doesn't he cover. Here's the Table of Contents:
And throughout the book, the text is marked with Infobites marking salient points with a purple, circled "i" to make sure you don't miss crucial concepts.
- Nikon Digital Photography. A little history of Nikon's 9xx series cameras.
- Digital Color and the Photoshop Connection. Where you'll learn 80 percent of Photoshop in an hour by mastering just seven concepts. Sorry, can't reveal them.
- Camera Operation for both the 950 and the 990.
- How Do I? Twenty-three questions you may have asked. Includes some clever homebrew accessories for these particular digicams as well as generally applicable tricks.
- Learning Digital Photography. Homework for the digital photographer, this chapter is a series of exercises designed to broaden your horizons. Generally applicable.
- Printing Digital Photographs. There's plenty of breadth here (not to mention panoramics). Particularly interesting was iNova's experience with his Epsons.
- Special Effects. There is a time in everyone's life when special effects are irresistible and this should help you get through it.
- Vexing FAQs. Oops, a few problems here (maybe that's why they're vexing). Lexar's CompactFlash speed stickers refer to CD write speed (150K/second is 1x, cf. http://www.lexarmedia.com/support/support_main.html), not early CompactFlash speeds. And about that trigger voltage: more than 250 volts is not uncommon (do worry about it). But some good stuff, too. Like using a laser pointer to photograph fish in an aquarium. In fact the lighting suggestions are, uh, brilliant. Particularly the trick for setting white balance of a television shot. Which we can't reveal.
- iNova Filter Operation. Every one of the iNovaFX Photoshop actions explained.
- Appendix. Who to buy what from.
- Digital Visions. A gallery of Nikon digicam images.
Did we mention it is profusely illustrated? Yes, profusely. You might think that's a given for any photo book, but no print publisher in their right mind would have agreed to print so many images, we suspect. On a CD, though, an author can be lavish, generous, even profuse with color, charts, pictures, examples. Especially if they're his own.
As iNova warns, these are real actions, not gimmicks. He developed them to solve real problems. And he uses them himself. Relies on them, in fact.
On the other hand, they are "memory intensive." With 3-megapixel camera images, using 3-5 times their 9-MB size in RAM, you need some silicon to run them all. iNova devotes a page of tips on running the actions if you run into any other problems.
The collection is surprisingly comprehensive, covering lens distortion, chromatic aberration, color correction, ISO push processing (so to speak), color temperature adjustment, noise reduction, glare flare enhancement, color "rescue and recovery" (like eliminating red-eye), JPEG artifact reduction, aerial image recovery, dynamic range extension, special effects (sketching, brush strokes, textures), color negative conversion, black and white conversion and, yes, more.
THE WEB SITE
A Web site provides life after production for any publication. And iNova has regularly added content to his, some of it available only to purchasers of the eBook. It's alive and kicking.
Just one example will demonstrate the value of the site. Many of the Photoshop actions were originally developed in Photoshop 5. When Photoshop 6 shipped (just after the eBook was released), actions that relied on 5's bending modes weren't all compatible with 6. Web site to the rescue.
Almost before you know you need something, it's on the site.
iNova's book is probably the fastest way to get up to speed on everything from batteries to planning for vacation shots. It fears no subject.
But mostly, we really appreciated spending an afternoon picking iNova's brain. And we got to walk away with his suite of Photoshop actions and all his contacts for Nikon equipment and add-ons.
If you can't take Peter to Proverbial Island, take his eBook.
Mastering Nikon Compact Digital Cameras by Peter iNova, 269 pages, on CD at $50 directly from the publisher at http://www.digitalsecrets.net/.
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
- See what people have to say about the Sony CD-300. Is it a "must-have" camera? http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee7a866
- Planning a vacation this summer? Richard asks about camera suggestions for a trip to Nepal at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee79954
- Should you pay more for SmartMedia or are all cards the same? Share your opinions at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee7adce
- The lively debate about the Olympus E-10 continues at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee78ba3
- In the Scanners Forum, Walter asks about recommendations for choosing a multi-format film scanner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee7ac60
Legend has it that the 1873 original Levi Strauss copper-riveted "waist overalls" (which we've called jeans since 1960) featured a riveted back pocket (invented by Jacob Davis), a cinch, suspender buttons and, well, a mystery device.
The Two Horse patch first appeared in 1886 and around 1890 the overalls became known as 501s. That second back pocket didn't appear until 1902 and belt loops took until 1922. The Red Tab Device (a registered trademark) appeared in 1936 and a little later the rivets on the back pockets were covered to avoid scratching furniture and saddles (and would disappear altogether in 1967). There were other innovations to follow (including zippers), but the mystery device remained unmodified.
We are talking about the watch pocket, which was part of the original 1873 specification and has survived ever since. Long after, shall we say, the pocket watch craze.
If you're like most people you've quit wondering what to do with the mystery device and may even have forgotten all about it. But it has always rubbed us the wrong way -- until this weekend.
It suddenly dawned on us that the pocket is absolutely the perfect size for carrying a spare CompactFlash card wrapped in its protective plastic case. We didn't test it with SmartMedia, Memory Sticks or any other removable storage device, but the CompactFlash form factor was a perfect fit.
Leading us to wonder (inevitably) if CompactFlash can survive a tumble at the laundromat.
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RE: Used Cameras
I have enjoyed your newsletter since the first issue (yes, I'm a charter member). I've been salivating over the digital camera offerings for years and recently purchased a very entry level camera to get my feet wet while not investing too much.
My question here is what do your readers do with their old cameras when they jump on the new cameras coming out? I'd love an opportunity to pick up one of their cast-offs. Ever consider offering a camera swap on your site?
-- Dan Eifert(We tend to return them after the loan period, but that's just us <g>. Readers, what do you do with your old cameras? -- Editor)
RE: Ersatz Tripod Idea Refined
(Good word: ersatz) Your wonderful tip about tying a string to a bolt that fits into the camera was precisely what I needed -- until the string slipped from beneath my foot and I bonked myself in the chin with the camera. "This will never do," said I and I went snooping in dark, dusty corners for a solution.
The eureka moment came when I found a long, narrow strip of vinyl that had been trimmed from a small reupholstering job. (No, I have no idea why I saved it.)
I doubled over one end of it for strength, punched a hole in it, jammed it onto the bolt, screwed the nut back on and now when I step on this tethering device, as the guy down the road likes to say, "It ain't goin' nowheres."
Doubtless, nylon shoulder straps, wide grosgrain ribbon, dog leashes, etc. would work just as well. All it requires is digging in the dusty darkness.
-- Barbara Coultry(Great tip, Barbara! Not that we're a great knot-tier, but deluxe accessories like reupholstering leftovers greatly would have exceeded the project's budget -- which was 10 cents, as we recall. That would also have ruled out protective head gear, too, but we should have warned everyone to try this at their own risk <g>. Certainly glad you survived our advice. -- Editor)
RE: Forgotten Formats
You forgot at least one [removable storage] format: the MultiMediaCard used in PDAs, MP3 players and now some digicams. It's like a CompactFlash, but smaller and with less capacity (maximum available now is 64-MB). And Iomega has a very small magnetic cartridge of 40-MB, haven't they???
BTW, the CD recorder also does something more than writing the lead-in: it calibrates itself (laser power can fluctuate greatly, the reflective capacity of CD layers differ from one brand to another, etc.). The CD recorder writes test patterns at increasing power and then reads it back, selecting the best writing power.
-- Marc Doigny(Right you are (we even mentioned the Kyocera that uses an MMC card in the news section). Iomega's Clik disc is the other (and we mentioned their 100-MB version in the last newsletter). We must be losing our minds! Thanks for pointing that out, Marc. And for the explanation of CD calibration. -- Editor)
RE: Burning a CD Revisited
What manual? Do you mean just burn the two programs and then the pictures or something more complicated? Do you have a suggestion of a freeware program to replace BigPicture?
-- Eric & Civianne Bloch(Oops, we cut the reference to Toast. That would be the Toast manual. A nice little, step-by-step PDF on writing various formats. But this was for a Mac user. Windows users are probably looking at Easy CD Creator. But same advice.... Briefly writing a hybrid simply involves telling the program what files the Mac should see, what files the PC should see and which files they both should see (so they don't have to be written twice). You want both to see the JPEGs but whatever viewing software need only appear on its own platform.... Versions of the free Exif Viewer [MW] (http://www.fujifilmsupport.com/driver/cam_idx.htm) are available for either platform. -- Editor)
RE: Manual Focus Ain't What It Used to Be
I thoroughly enjoy your site and it helped in making my decision to get a Canon Pro70, which is great. I know it is now a generation behind but down here in Australia unfortunately everything is behind and at least twice as expensive!
Anyway a question: A lot later model digicams have manual focus. Great but if I understand correctly this is not as I understand manual focus whereby I actually turn a ring and focus visually on a ground glass screen on my Nikon. How is this done in a digicam? I hope it is not by estimating a distance and then inputting this into the camera which sort of takes away the whole idea of focusing!
-- Mel(Excellent question. Manually focusing a digicam tends to be a disappointment compared to the thrill of manually focusing on ground glass. On the Nikon 990, for example, you select a focus distance from 50 presets. Naturally, a wide range of subjects are not accommodating enough to fall precisely in focus. Which is particularly annoying when you want to focus on a slide whose subject confuses the camera's autofocus system. It shouldn't be as big an issue in the field (where the hyperfocal distance can save the day and you can target your subject before composing the shot), but then the Nikon autofocus system is pretty capable, too. -- Editor)
RE: Just Tell Me How!
I wanna buy a new MVC-CD300, just tell me where and how to get it. Can't seem to find much on the 'net other than wind. Need some solid answers here please!
-- Lowell L. Scott
PS. My old FD-71 is getting long in the tooth and here I sit wavin' a fistfull of dollars and can't find anyone at Sony to take my money ... helllllppppppppppppppp!!!!!
(Ah! We should have made clear in the review that the CD300 isn't quite on the market yet! I think it's slated to appear sometime in April, I'd guess toward the end of the month.... Thanks for the note, in the future we'll take pains to list the likely introduction date of new products we review! -- Dave)
RE: Dye Sub vs. Inkjet
I have seen several ads for a new printer from Olympus touted as providing better printed images than ink jet printers. Do you plan to do a review on it? I am at a loss as to why it's better than an inkjet and unfortunately none of the merchants around here have one available for comparison with inkjet. I believe the printer model number is Camedia P-400.
-- Bill Bowles(Take a look at the review in our Jan. 12 issue, Bill (Olympus Camedia P-400 Printer Is to Dye For) at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/ in the Archive.... An inkjet has to halftone an image to create the illusion of a continuous tone. It either puts ink down or doesn't, it can't "grey" the ink. So it uses a pattern (a quite sophisticated one, actually) that modulates the frequency of how many spots of ink it puts down depending on the darkness of the image (black gets lots of spots close together, white gets none or a few spaced very far apart). You can see this in light areas of the print.... A dye sub (which is what the P-400 is) is a continuous tone printer. It heats a dye on a roll of film until it turns into a gas and is absorbed by a special paper. The amount of dye transferred depends on the darkness of the original image. Very dark gets more dye than very light.... Inkjets are much more versatile. You can print a letter or (with your scanner) copy documents. Dye subs are really just for photographs.... True, it's hard to find a dye sub in the store. Try a photo store that also caters to professionals. -- Editor)
Did you set the clock ahead an hour on your digicam? Should you? Visit http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving to find out.
Eric Hyman has updated Bibble (http://www.bibblelabs.com/) to open Canon's proprietary EOS D30 CRW CCD-RAW files two to three times faster than Canon's drivers.
Photoshop Elements [MW], based on Adobe Photoshop, hit the streets this week. We've got a copy for review and will report shortly on this $99 image editor designed to compete with ArcSoft PhotoStudio, Corel Photo-Paint, Jasc Paint Shop Pro, Microsoft PhotoDraw and Picture It!, MGI PhotoSuite and Ulead PhotoImpact and Photo Express. If you own any of those product, Adobe will send you a $30 rebate on Elements.
Save My Whiteboard [M] by Rob Frohne converts your digicam images of whiteboards into "notes." The free program is available at http://www.wwc.edu/~frohro/SaveMyWhiteboard/index.html and requires a Mac running OS 8 and up, QuickTime, 48-MB RAM and a 2.1-megapixel digicam.
Attempts to restrict press coverage of certain events are becoming more common as the Web becomes more commonplace. The latest is Major League Baseball's where photo journalists have refused to sign a new credentialing agreement restricting publication. The new terms would 1) permit the league and its teams to order published images "at cost" for unrestricted use in "any other media"; 2) ban the "transmitting or displaying" of images, video or audio in any media until the end of the game; and 3) regulate how news photos can be used after a game. Press photographers have been working with day passes while negotiations continue.
Under Kodak's Trade Up the Heat program (http://www.kodak.com/go/professional), owners of Kodak Digital Science 8600, 8400 PS, 8650 or 8650 thermal printers or Kodak Professional PS 8657 color printers can receive $1,250 when they trade in their printer for a new Kodak Professional 8660 or 8670 PS thermal printer.
eDigitalPhoto.com (http://eDigitalPhoto.com) has moved to a bi-monthly schedule. A six-issue subscription is $19.97.
Look, Mom, no computer! Polaroid has announced its $250 Modem Camera, a 640x480-pixel digicam with a built-in 56K modem to upload images to PolaroidDigital.com.
Now that Mac OS X is out (follow the fun at http://www.macintouch.com), what about applications and drivers to support it? Canon didn't waste any time announcing plans to update their printer and scanner drivers for the new OS. Initial support is targeted for the S400, S450, S600 and S800 Bubble Jet printers. Scanner drivers will have to wait for OS X to support "scanning features," the company said.
Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com) has been included in the Windows XP beta 2 release to facilitate online print ordering. To get prints, customers choose pictures from their My Pictures folder, click on the Order Prints from the Internet feature and select Ofoto to place their order.
PhotoPage [M] (http://waves.apple.com/people/jav/PhotoPage.html) has been carbonized to run natively on Mac OS X. Version 1.4 also features a new thumbnail tab in the document settings window, new options for storing thumbnails and images, an optional link border on images and bug fixes.
Lexar has apparently shipped the wrong drivers with some FireWire CompactFlash readers. Rev. A readers require version 1.0 of the driver while Rev. B readers use version 1.1. But some Rev. A models shipped with 1.1 drivers. The older driver can be downloaded from http://www.lexarmedia.com/support/support_main.html.
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