|Volume 3, Number 9||4 May 2001|
Welcome to the 45th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Our upgrade adventure ends happily, Nikon tweaks its Coolpix and we toss out a few Mother's Day gift ideas (and discounts, too).
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Last time, we discussed the virtues of procrastinating, revealed our patented decision tree for navigating the upgrade/buy new dilemma (essentially, What's It Cost) and promised to continue the story, starting with our shopping tips.
We're not great shoppers (we prefer to visit our dentist). So we rely on a lot of help. And we're happy to name names.
And even though we vowed to complete this project online (for the sheer thrill of it), we do believe in supporting our neighborhood retailer. Under certain conditions.
[A moment of silence, please, for ComputerWare, which closed recently after 17 years of exemplary Macintosh service and support. Some intriguing facts of retail life emerged from this sad episode. Their margin on an iMac sale was about $22, for example. Unless you used an American Express card, in which case they lost $6.38. ComputerWare wasn't perfect but then what is?]
We're sensitive to price, but local retailers don't mark everything way up, so don't assume they always cost more. We have no tolerance, however, when their staff asks if we "want that with fries" or ignores the impatient tapping of our credit card while they take a phone call (personal or otherwise). We all deserve knowledgeable, prompt and courteous service. Our feet start itching when we remember we could just type up our name and address on their Web page.
As rare as local suppliers are becoming, online vendors are rapidly reproducing (somehow). Where can you find online vendors? Mac users should bookmark http://www.dealmac.com and PC people should do the same with http://www.dealpc.com. Monitor either for a few days while you are doing your research for special deals. We also recommend dropping by http://www.overstock.com for special closeouts. And, as always, http://www.google.com is a great place to start.
RAM (which we needed) is the ideal product to order online. The Internet provides a very efficient way to locate product (no matter how obscure) and information about it (including price). In February (when we shopped) buyers spent $3.4 billion online (an increase over both $3 billion in January 2001 and $2.4 billion in February 2000), according to Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.
But we don't shop online carelessly, even for RAM. We checked the latest chip prices at RAM Seeker (http://www.ramseeker.com/ramguide.shtml) over a few days to see what prices were doing and note suppliers. If we had seen a supplier we enjoyed doing business with in the past, they would certainly have shot to the top of the list. A bad experience, no matter the price, would have dropped them out of contention. And we are always wary of the lowest price.
The site should tell you a lot about the company. A poorly designed site means the powers that be are not sufficiently illuminated. You should be able to 1) tell if the product you want is in stock and 2) track your order. Not too much to ask these days.
When you've narrowed it down to the semifinals, drop by Reseller Ratings at http://www.resellerratings.com to see what other buyers' experiences have been with these guys. We only have faith in the high and low ratings. In between we think there may be firms that have been unfairly maligned by unreasonable consumers or disgruntled ex-employees, so if your vendor falls in this gray area, read the comments. It's hard to hide a bitter heart.
Check the dates of the complaints (things might have improved after a rough spot), the number of responses (sometimes its really too low to be statistically significant) and discount negative comments a bit (happy people are too busy singing in the streets).
Often even this is inconclusive (we told you we prefer the dentist). And low prices are compelling. To resolve the dilemma, visit the company's site and send them an email asking them to confirm the product's compatibility with your system. Don't call, email (this is a Web order, after all, not a counseling session). You should get a prompt response (next day at the latest and usually within hours) and it should be short and to the point.
Calling a firm that has invested in an e-commerce solution is a little like expecting Land's End to come to your living room to measure your shoe size. You're defeating the efficiencies you expect to profit from. Land's End invested in an 800-number sales service that made it natural to move into e-commerce. And it does it well. But they aren't going to measure your foot. You do that.
Same with memory merchants. They should confirm by email that the product you found will work in your system (because it's a wild world out there; ask anyone who bought third party RAM and installed Mac OS X). But it's not reasonable to expect them to staff up just to handle phone calls, too.
We resist the urge to upgrade our shipping option. After all, as great procrastinators, we've waited this long. And we are not in Antarctica. Most suppliers are pretty close to us so the difference between two-day and five-day service is usually unobservable. If you're in doubt, drop by the shipper's site (UPS at http://www.ups.com is the most variable) to see how long it takes to get from there to you. And we've found it a tremendous convenience to use a shipping option that let's you track your package. It's an advantage to have done everything you have to do (like backups) before the product arrives. But you have to know when it will arrive to enjoy that.
Give some extra careful considering to shipping. It's easy to spend the (out of state) sales tax you saved and even the product discount by ordering shipping you don't need or even just ordering two products from different vendors. We try to find a single vendor with low prices rather than the two lowest-priced vendors for just this reason.
It's wise to use a credit card that indemnifies you against loss from fraud on the Web. And it's not a bad idea to clear your cache (which may contain confirmation pages with your credit card info) and quit your browser (which should expire cookies used to track the session from page to page) if your machine is accessible by others.
We think you run a greater chance of fraud using a cordless phone than the Web (at least in our neighborhood), but fraud happens (everywhere) and protecting yourself is easy.
You've got your hardware and software components piled up in the hall or against the bathroom door and you're ready to roll. What do you do first? Too late now, friend. You should have started before you received the first package.
Even before you order, you should consider the electrical landscape. Do you have the power you need? The outlets you need? Clean electrical power is not something you can assume, unfortunately, whether you rent in an old building where the refrigerator can dim the room lights or an office building with all the modern conveniences. Reliable analog devices like monitors and drives can appear flaky for no other reason than substandard power. Which often rears its ugly head between the power company's delivery point and your wall outlet. If you suspect a problem, confirm (for free) with the power company that they are delivering clean power, then take it up with your landlord or electrician.
While waiting for that delivery van, you should crack open your original system manuals. Your computer no doubt came with some paperback, dusty by now, but still relevant. If you don't have it anymore, see if it's published on the Web. It will at least demonstrate the proper way to dissemble the unit. You may already have used it to confirm one upgrade specification or another.
And gather together all the tools you'll need.
The day you expect delivery, back up your current system. We're forever tweaking our system, so we don't do this too early. But we do want to do it. A line of retreat is a very comforting thing to have.
Shoes matter, too. Let's just say you should not be getting little electrical shocks when you touch metal before you dive into the bowels of your machine.
OK, ready at last?
No, not quite. You really should take a bath. Run a nice tepid tub full of genuine water and sink into it -- with the installation instructions for your new stuff. This is the only way we know to guarantee you'll read the thing before jumping into the installation. It would be a fatal mistake to try it from the tub.
But seriously, don't fly by the seat of your pants. Let the manufacturer talk you down. Read the instructions (and reread them, if they aren't clear) as you do the installation. If they are absolutely impossible to understand in English, order whatever cuisine you need for delivery and bribe the delivery kid to explain it to you.
To pop in any component, we apply some Tweek, a contact enhancer also known as Stabilant 22A, to the contacts before pressing them into service. It's a "long-chain organic polymer that fills in the microscopic pores and gaps between mating metal surfaces." Increasing the area making contact improves the quality and reliability of the connection, according to the theory. But mainly it helps the boards and chips we install slide in more easily.
Once installed, test the device. Some do arrive dead. Before assuming anything, see if yours is one of the unfortunates. The manual will have some instructions for that, too. Just to forestall the cost of proving there's nothing wrong with their product.
A software upgrade (rare is the hardware upgrade without one) has its own mysteries to plumb. We had a minor one (USB/FireWire drivers) and a major one (an OS upgrade) to do.
We toss a wide variety of software at our systems. Which have evolved into complex, heavily automated environments (one reason we are slow to upgrade operating systems). And anything we test has to float on that ocean, too.
There's nothing fragile about our systems, though. You might call them unusually robust. But nothing is bug proof.
So the most important step in a software upgrade is to do that backup. As a digital photographer you should have some removable storage system that can handle it. Even if you don't have the peripherals at home to do it, consider doing it through the Internet. But please do it. In the world of tomorrow, you should be able to get back to yesterday in a pinch.
Which brings us to another gap in the personal computer world.
If you're moving from one flavor of Windows to another, you're pretty much on auto pilot. To avoid the heartbreak of not being able to use your printer, say, do your research, have the compatible driver at hand, ready to install. That goes for video cards, modems, CD players, scanners, cameras, every peripheral you own. Don't assume any compatibility between versions of Windows.
On the Mac, your OS is significantly modified by every Control Panel and Extension in your System Folder. On the other hand, installing a clean System (or booting from CD) always runs your hardware just fine. But where you want to be is somewhere in the middle: a new customized system with all the stability of the base system. There are compatibility issues here, too, although not as severe as moving from Windows 98 to NT, say. We recommend coding your old Control Panels and Extensions with a Label color before installing the update. This is a very easy way to identify possible culprits if you run into any instability.
Carefully follow the installation instructions. Favorite foils are installing on a sick disk (run a disk utility if the installation procedure doesn't do it automatically), not updating hard disk drivers, intentionally omitting essential components (yes, we all do a little pruning but it shouldn't be premature pruning) and overwriting newer installations (say, QuickTime or ColorSync) with the installer's older ones (when will installers check versions?).
Until you've run everything on your system (which can take a few days), you won't know how successful your OS upgrade has been. But the success of application upgrades and hardware installations is much more apparent. If you run into trouble, visit the newsgroups and vendor sites for FAQs and help.
THE BLOOD ON THE FLOOR
We first installed the RAM upgrade (which is pretty harmless). We didn't throw out the lowest price (it was a special deal) and we ignored some old but disturbing complaints about the company (http://www.owcomputing.com) when they promptly (and courteously) replied to our email question. Our order arrived on time, neatly packaged and slipped easily in (with that little trick mentioned above), going right to work.
We also saved a fortune, paying about a third of what catalog prices were at the time, half what most other online vendors were charging and, as a special offer, even a few dollars less than the lowball online prices.
The USB/FireWire board we ordered (http://www.USB-Shop.com) took its time (we'd misunderstood the shipping terms), but we turned that to our advantage (since we had a tracking a number and could follow it as it hitchhiked across the country). We installed the OS upgrade (no deals there) on a removable disk and played with it harmlessly, resolving at our leisure one or another issue (small ones but time consuming all the same) in the interim.
The morning the PCI board was due to arrive, we finally installed the new OS on our main system, more as an update than a fresh installation so we would still be able to enjoy all the productivity tools we've come to rely on.
Twenty minutes later we were booting our Ordinary PC into a new world.
When the board arrived, we did a tape backup of the new system. And before popping it in (with Tweek again), we downloaded and installed the latest USB and FireWire drivers.
Moments later we enjoyed the first USB transmissions from our digicam (surprisingly snappy, actually) and a hush or two after that our first hardware monitor calibration.
We scored big savings on the PCI board, too, paying about half the price of competing products (less than FireWire alone, in fact). Again, we weren't trying to get great deals, we simply watched for them and they came along.
It's been almost two months since we updated the Ordinary and we haven't had even a fleeting pang of regret. Not only did it run the new stuff, but our old stuff still ran, too. Now we're too busy catching up on new software releases to even remember how things used to be. Which is, after all, the way it should be.
A successful upgrade gives you a sense of control over that mysteriously complex box you rely on. It was, after all, designed to serve you (not the other way around). And the Internet, which can be just as threatening as any mysterious box, can actually be your most powerful ally in finding products you can use and ferreting out the firms worth dealing with.
Toss in a little patience and fiddling under the hood can be a truly rewarding experience.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C995/C9XA.HTM on the Web site.)
Nikon truly needs no introduction in the world of photography. And they've very successfully translated their long history of expertise into the digital arena. Their 2.1-megapixel Coolpix 950 and 3.3-megapixel Coolpix 990 digicams have led the popularity charts at the high end of the "prosumer" market segment since their introductions. The key has been the combination of excellent picture quality with an amazing range of features, giving the photographer maximum control over the picture-taking process. The Coolpix 995 again defines the high end of the spectrum in terms of advanced features and capabilities, while actually improving ease of use and flexibility.
Here's what's new on the 995:
- 4x zoom lens
- Popup flash
- Hybrid (metal/high-impact polycarbonate) case. Grip is magnesium, lens side appears to be high-impact polycarbonate.
- Lithium-ion battery pack with charger
- IBM Microdrive support (512-MB and 1-GB sizes only ??). Severe conflicting info on this: Verbal "Yes," Printed "No!"
- Menu font size adjustment
- Slide Copy Adapter auxiliary lens option
- ISO range expanded to ISO 800
- 1/2300 maximum shutter speed setting
- White Balance auto bracketing function
- Noise reduction setting
- Quick Review button
- Swivel lock to prevent "drooping" with heavy auxiliary lenses
The new Coolpix 995 combines the advanced features we loved from the previous 990 model with a host of new ones that make the new camera even more appealing. Additions like the 4x zoom lens, pop-up flash and expanded ISO range give the camera even greater flexibility than its already capable predecessor. The swivel-lens design has always been a favorite of ours, making tricky low- or high-angle shots easily accessible. The control layout is essentially the same, but now includes a Quick Review button for fast playback of captured images. The camera provides both an optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor display for image composition and the LCD offers a very extensive information display that reports a variety of exposure information, including aperture and shutter speed settings.
The 995's user interface retains the features we liked so well in the 950 and 990. The combination of external buttons, command dial and top-panel LCD data readout let you control almost every important exposure parameter without resorting to the LCD menu system. This makes for very quick control of the camera's functions, although the resulting user interface has a longer learning curve than more purely menu-based control systems. In Playback mode, the LCD gives an equally informative readout on captured images and also offers an index display of thumbnails and a playback zoom option.
Optically, the Coolpix 995 is equipped with an 8-32mm, 4x zoom lens (equivalent to a 38-152mm lens on a 35mm camera), made up of 10 elements in eight groups (all made from environmentally friendly glass, we might add). The seven blade iris diaphragm design greatly extends aperture control by providing an essentially continuous range of adjustment, a nice carryover from the 990. Zoom is easily controlled via the W and T buttons on the back panel and the settings menu even allows you to select the Fixed Aperture feature, which keeps the aperture constant while the lens zooms, a handy feature for flash photography. Another very nice feature of the zoom lens is its smooth operation, with none of the fixed steps in focal length adjustment we're accustomed to seeing in digicam zoom lenses. A 4x digital zoom can be turned on and off through the settings menu and offers a "stepless" incremental zoom range from 1.1x to 4.0x. The 995 also offers the same variety of focusing options, including Continuous and Single autofocus modes as well as a manual control. Under the autofocus setting, you can set the desired focus area or let the camera decide on its own (which displays a complex target series on the LCD panel and bases focus on the object closest to the lens).
Exposure-wise, we greatly enjoyed the flexible options under the Manual Record setting. When you turn the camera on, you have the option of either a completely Automatic or Manual capture mode, in addition to the Playback mode. Under the Automatic capture mode, the camera handles everything, from the shutter speed to the white balance (perfect for novices), but when you switch to Manual, your options increase exponentially. Within the Manual capture mode, you can select either Program, Flexible Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Manual exposure modes. Shutter speeds are adjustable from 8 to 1/2300 seconds (with a Bulb setting for longer exposures) and the maximum aperture ranges from f2.6 to f5.1, depending on the zoom setting.
Nikon has been an innovator in developing special shooting modes for its high end consumer cameras and the Coolpix 995 continues in this vein. The still-unique Best Shot Select is a great aid for getting sharp photos when you have no choice but to hand hold the camera under dim lighting conditions. The Auto Bracketing feature now includes a White Balance Bracketing function, while a new Noise Reduction mode decreases the noise caused by higher ISO settings in low-light/long exposure shooting situations. We were also pleased with the return of the extensive white balance menu from the 990 (Auto, Preset, Fine, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent and Speedlight) and the variety of metering options (the famous 256-element Matrix mode, Center-Weighted, Spot and Spot AF). Also, under the settings menu, we enjoyed the ability to alter the in-camera sharpening as well as increase or decrease the contrast or turn the image into monochrome black and white. And of course, you have the ability to connect an external flash for use with or without the built-in flash.
Speaking of the internal flash, the Coolpix 995 now sports a popup flash design that extends a good three inches or so above the lens axis. This should dramatically reduce the problems with redeye that have dogged the Coolpix cameras since the original model 900 swivel design. When working without a flash, the 995's low light capability is about the most impressive we've seen from a camera selling for under $1,000. Automatically-timed exposures can range as long as 8 seconds, but a "bulb" exposure mode will keep the shutter open for up to 60 seconds (!), as long as you hold down the shutter button. The new noise reduction option (borrowed from Nikon's high-end SLR designs) works quite well, actually making 30 second or longer exposures feasible.
Answering a frequent request from Coolpix owners, the Coolpix 995 includes a Type II CompactFlash slot and supports the IBM Microdrive for image storage. (Note though, that only the more recent 512-MB and 1-GB models are supported.)
For power, the camera runs from either a 2CR5 lithium battery or a single rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. Nikon includes both the battery and charger with the camera. The camera supports USB for quick connection to a PC or Mac and includes a software CD with Nikon View Version 4, ArcSoft PhotoStudio 2000, iView Multimedia Pro (Mac only) and Canto Cumulus 5.0 Demo. There's also an NTSC video cable (European models ship with PAL) for connecting to a television.
There are a few changes relative to the 990 that we're less than excited about though, including the need for the aforementioned extra-cost battery and charger kit. And the body material has been changed to plastic from the metal of the former models. We have no reason to suspect that the 995 is less rugged than its predecessors, but have to say that we liked the feel of the metal bodies much better. Finally, the new lens design seems to zoom more slowly than that on the earlier models, contributing to long startup times if you choose to have the camera remember the last-used zoom setting. (A very useful feature though, so perhaps we shouldn't bellyache too much about it.)
The Coolpix 995's bulb exposure mode allows exposures as long as 60 seconds. This is an exceptionally long exposure time that would normally be almost useless due to the amount of CCD noise that can accumulate in that interval. Borrowing a page from their latest high-end digital SLRs, Nikon implemented a noise reduction mode in the 995 that actually makes exposures this long practical. The noise reduction technology in the 995 relies on a form of "dark frame subtraction," whereby a second exposure is snapped immediately after the first, but with the shutter closed. The pattern of noise in this "dark frame" is then subtracted from the image itself, resulting in a drastic reduction in apparent noise levels. (We suspect that the actual algorithm is more complex than simple subtraction though, involving data substitution to prevent black pixels where the noise current saturated the CCD photosite.) By its nature, this sort of noise reduction only comes into play on very long exposures, but the results are pretty dramatic. And we can speak from personal experience that 30 second exposures from the 995 are very usable indeed.
The Coolpix 995 is an excellent update to what was already a stellar digicam, the Coolpix 990. With a longer-ratio, 4x zoom lens, increased ISO sensitivity and even more varied shooting options (including a faster, 1/2000 second shutter speed), the Coolpix 995 has the flexibility and control to handle just about any shooting situation.
The freedom of full automatic exposure is great for consumers who want to point and shoot, while the variable exposure controls offer room to learn. With its flexibility and extensive options, the Coolpix 995 should satisfy a wide range of consumers, from novices to pros.
Given the evolutionary nature of the improvements, we doubt many Coolpix 990 owners will be tempted to upgrade, but the 995 will compete very strongly against products from other manufacturers and many Coolpix 950 owners may decide to take the step up to three megapixels.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: Olympus C-3040 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C34/C34A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED Film & Slide Scanner (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LS4K/L40A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Sony MVC-FD92 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FD92/F92A.HTM)
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:
- Read Dave's workaround for the mysteriously dying SmartMedia card at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?FrameWebx@@.ee76106
- See what people are saying about the Nikon Coolpix 995 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee7b27a
- Do CCDs deteriorate? Tom inquires at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee7b37b
- The debate rages on about the Olympus D-490 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee78cf4
- Mary asks about horizontal lines in her prints at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee7b04e
- Check out the Software Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b0
Mother's Day brings out the child in all of us. If you're lucky enough to still hear the pitter-patter of Mom's little feet in the kitchen, you've probably asked her what she wants for Mother's Day (which, being the second Sunday in May, is May 13 this year).
She used to say, "Nothing. Just you!" Which, depending on your hourly rate and how much trouble she'd gotten into with Quicken, could be considered an extravagance.
But this year, pollsters suffering withdrawal set out to research what would please Mom most.
Jewelry and flowers will do the trick for 6 of 10 Moms, but 4 of 10 have other ideas. And number one on that list is a digicam, according to BizRate.com. DVDs, cell phones, TiVo, MP3 players and PDAs followed.
Suddenly it's no longer enough that we're cleaning our plates, that our spouse is working, that the kids are out on parole. Now she wants gear.
It's our own fault, really. Ever since she saw how those 640x480 CCDs make wrinkles disappear quicker than Vitamin E, she's been impressed by the new imaging technology. And now that she has mastered email, the Web and Quicken (or nearly so), she's emboldened to tackle even newer frontiers.
But we suspect what really sold her was that she got tired of waiting to finish a roll of film before processing it. We tried to explain that unexposed film is no worse than a few peas left on the plate, but that didn't go over too well.
We also suspect the pollsters didn't give Mom enough choices. Herewith are a few less drastic measures:
Whatever you do, though, give it a little thought. That is, we've heard, what counts.
- A Ceiva photo frame (http://imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/archive/v03/n09link.htm) is not only a good deal at $199 (compared to others at $300) but after you set it up, there's no techno-maintenance to worry about. Dave confided, "I bought my wife Marti a Kodak frame for Christmas and she loves it! Even if the frame is no more remote than the kitchen counter or a desk at work, it's still a great thing. Marti's lives on the kitchen counter. She's always so pleased when I upload fresh photos to her frame. It's a great way to let her know you're thinking of her during the day."
- Visit our special Mother's Day page at http://www.imaging-resource.com/MD/mothersday.htm for special deals on some great ideas (including the Ritz Mother's Day gift guide).
- Enlargements are a bargain at online photofinishers like Ofoto (who will even frame them for you -- and preview the frame, too!). Ofoto can put an 8x10 print in a nice cherry frame for only $8, less than you'd pay for an 8x10 alone at the corner camera store. Visit http://imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/archive/v03/n09clink.htm for Ofoto's 20 percent off sale on Frames for Mother's Day good through May 16.
- If she's already taken the digicam plunge, give her one of Denny Curtin's Short Course books (http://imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/archive/v03/n09dlink.htm). Very approachable, they teach you how to use your digicam to take great pictures, not just what all the knobs and buttons do. $20-25, depending on camera model, $20 for the generic edition. All highly recommended.
- If Mom's got a Nikon digicam, give her Peter iNova's eBook "Mastering Nikon Compact Digital Cameras." $50 plus shipping and possibly tax, but absolutely a first-class "book" all around. Dave called it, "The best book on photography by any author in any medium and any format." Visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/orders/secrets/Orders.html for a Dave's Deal.
- Inkjet photo supplies (like photo glossy paper, a set of inkjet cartridges or specialty papers like canvas) will keep Mom busy turning her family into a masterpiece (without grounding anyone).
- Make her a custom card on your inkjet but skip the clip art in favor of a photo. Your smiling face, perhaps.
- Develop that film for her (double prints, like she always does for you). And put them in a nice little album.
- Visit http://greetings.yahoo.com/ to send her a (free) Mother's Day greeting.
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RE: Epson's Photo Glossy Service
I note Bob Coffey's statement that Epson "is replacing my paper along with a color cartridge for my inconvenience and instructed me to destroy the balance of this lot."
After reading articles in your newsletter and in the forums, I wrote to Epson inquiring about the color shift problem in February. Their reply then was interesting, since they offered a full refund for the printer and all unused supplies:
"We are offering a full refund on the printer and/or any unused consumables provided an original receipt is available for the purchase."
I should also tell you that I normally use the Heavyweight Matt Paper and like the printer so much that I decided not to take them up on their offer.
-- Larry Coplin(Thanks for the info, Larry. While that offer may have expired, the following letter suggests Epson's responsiveness hasn't. -- Editor)
RE: Epson's Email Support
I just returned from the Epson site to see what they had to say about the bad batch of Premium Glossy Photo Paper. They have a page addressing the issue and though the phone number they give isn't toll-free, they do give an email address to contact them about getting the paper replaced: Epsonsupport70@ea.epson.com
I just sent them email about my own package of bad paper rather than using the phone number listed in the current newsletter. I'll let you know if I receive a timely response (or any response at all).
-- Barbara Coultry(The URL of the page with the announcement is time sensitive (SessionID) but readers can find the page under Epson Announcements on the home page. -- Editor)
I just received a reply from Epson. Thinking you might be interested in seeing how they're handling the problem, I pasted their mail below.
[Epson gave detailed instructions for faxing the receipt and emailing the details like number of packs being returned.]
Epson's response to my faxed request for a replacement package of their photo paper was so fast that I was flabbergasted. I sent the fax on Tuesday and received the paper via UPS second-day air today [Friday]. This kind of response from a big company is worth a large hurrah.
I remain a perfectly stunned,
-- Barbara(Applause for Epson and thanks to our subscribers! -- Editor)
RE: Digicam ASA Ratings
Mike, can you tell me the advantages (if any) of setting a slower sensitivity to recording digital images with digicams? Yes, we all know in the film camera world that slower film speeds give us sharper resolution and of course, less "grain," and I wonder what the reason is for adjustable sensitivity in digital cameras. Does this affect latitude? We also know that with color negative films, the higher the rated film sensitivity, the wider is the latitude while conversely, with color positive films, the lower sensitivity, the wider will be the latitude. Does this simple film rule carry over to the digital cameras?
-- Russ Hamilton(The speed increase in moving your ASA setting from 80 or 100 to 400 is accomplished by bumping up the CCD signal strength. So why not use the 400 setting all the time? Artifacts in the shadows, aka noise (a random "graininess" that comes with higher ISO settings). CCD sensors will not all record black when the aperture is open longer than 1/4 second -- even with the lens cap on. To minimize these false readings in typical use, CCDs are rated around ASA 80-100. -- Editor)
RE: Buying Advice?
I need your help. In previous Imaging Resource Newsletters you have mentioned the best places on the Web to buy digicam accessories. Unfortunately (for me), I didn't keep this information.
I just purchased a Kodak DC3400 and need additional memory (CompactFlash cards) and rechargeable batteries.
-- Lyle Johnson(Try RAMSeeker at http://www.ramseeker.com/ramguide.shtml to dig up the lowest CompactFlash prices (but understand there are speed differences in the card controllers, so protect yourself by making sure the company you choose has a good return policy if you aren't happy with what you get) and Thomas Distributing at http://thomas-distributing.com/batteries.htm for inexpensive rechargeable NiMHs and chargers. And don't forget our new Buy Now Page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/buynow.htm). -- Editor)
RE: Am I Missing Something?
I enjoy reading the IR newsletter and perhaps I am missing the obvious but is there a way to subscribe to an HTML version? I have visited the Web site a number of times and I can see the subscription services area, but no option to select HTML or text version. I would like to be switched if an HTML version is available!
-- Pete(You're not missing anything, Pete. We don't email the HTML version for several reasons: 1) Not all email readers support HTML; 2) The HTML version is quite a bit longer (all that code) than the text version, which would require emailing as an attachment, something that gives a lot of our AOL subscribers problems.... On the bright side: 1) Dave's Deals, which are time-sensitive, are only available in the text version. 2) And the first link in any newsletter is to the HTML version, so with a click you're there. -- Editor)
Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com). Ofoto will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kodak led by its existing management team, which will report to Willy Shih, president of Kodak's Digital and Applied Imaging unit. Kodak said Ofoto will serve as a critical connection between Kodak's film scanning and uploading services and Kodak's output capabilities through labs operated by its Qualex Inc. subsidiary. Founded in 1999, Ofoto has 1.2 million registered members. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Pictographics has released iCorrect Professional [MW], an Adobe Photoshop compatible color correction plug-in. iCorrect makes global corrections to tonal ranges, colorcast and other reference colors including skin tones, foliage green and sky blue. The skin tone feature, for example, contains race-independent color models that accurately portray a wide range of human skin colors. iCorrect is available for $139 at http://www.picto.com where you can also download a free demo.
Andromeda (http://www.andromeda.com) has released Perspective Filter, an Adobe Photoshop compatible plug-in to create depth in 2D photos. A virtual camera tool offers a tilt movement to permit depth-of-field control of the image plane. And moving the virtual camera right to left while focused on a stationary position accomplishes a swing. The Perspective zoom function acts like a dolly, moving the camera closer to or away from the image.
Price, resolution and zoom are the top digicam features according to an Active Advisor (http://www.ActiveDecisions.com) analysis during March 2001. Top brand was a tie between Nikon, Canon, Sony and Olympus. Average price consumers are willing to pay dropped 20 percent between Q4 1999 and Q1 2001, from $750 to $600. Ninety percent are willing to pay up to $300 for a digicam and 50 percent up to $600. A price point of $1,000 provides access to a quarter of digicam consumers. CameraSound and CCICameraCity were thought to offer the best online deals for digicams with prices 18-20 percent below the average online price. But Computers4Sure and CDW have the best selection, carrying 29 and 28 models respectively.
Fujifilm (http://www.fujifilm.com) has launched a new national marketing campaign, the FinePix Picture of America Tour, to demonstrate how to optimize picture making and taking with digital images through Fujifilm's four-step solution: shoot, store, print and share. A 75-foot long, 18-wheel FinePix truck serves as the interactive information center for Fujifilm's FinePix digicams, photographic services and other digital products. Visitors enjoy a hands-on experience using FinePix digicams with the storing, printing and sharing options.
ACD Systems (http://www.acdsystems.com) has announced that ACDSee 3.1 image management software will be available at over 500 Electronics Boutique retail outlets in the U.S. ACDSee 3.1 also will be available through the retailer's online store at http://www.ebgames.com.
Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has introduced the Coolpix 775, featuring a button to upload images directly to the desktop or the Web. The ultra-compact Coolpix 775 packs a 3x zoom lens and 2.14-megapixel CCD into a light, pocket-sized, point-and-shoot digicam. Users connect the camera to a computer with the included USB cable, press the Transfer button on the back of the camera and photos are automatically moved to the desktop or uploaded to NikonNet (http://www.nikonnet.com) through NikonView software.
Sapphire Innovations has announced Sapphire Gradients Vol 1 for Photoshop 6. The package includes 250 gradients: blurry to sharp, lines, repeat lines and more in one palette. Visit http://www.sapphire-innovations.com for the demo.
TDK (http://www.tdk.com/paper) has created a line of ink-jet photo papers using multi-layer coating technology on a durable resin-coated backing stock. Available in two grades, heavy-weight Reference has a gloss finish while Professional is available in both gloss and matte.
PhotoWorks (http://www.photoworks.com) has announced PhotoDVD, which puts customers' photos on DVD media for presentation on television. Customers have the choice of five visual themes, including Romance, Travel and Christmas and seven thematic sound tracks for background music, such as Classical, Adventure and Children's Favorites. PhotoDVDs can also have a title, description, inscription and credits. Each PhotoDVD comes with a Hollywood-style plastic case and a custom-printed jacket and play in most DVD players and computer DVD drives. Customers can transfer up to 200 photos to one DVD at $24.95 for the first 50 photos and $.10 per additional photo.
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) continues to improve VueScan (now at version 7.0.16). This update supports the frame offset and APS adapter on the Nikon LS-40/LS-4000, the HP 5200C, older 3-pass Microtek scanners including Microtek 35t film scanner and improves color correction on Acer, AGFA SnapScan and SprintScan 35+ scanners.
Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has introduced the EasyShare system, a camera dock for two new digicams: the $299.95 Kodak DX3500 and the $399.95 Kodak DX3600 Zoom. With the camera in the dock, pictures are automatically uploaded to the computer and the dock recharges the camera's battery pack. The system also includes software to email or print the pictures.
Kodak and Sanyo have announced a mutual agreement to cross license patents. Under the terms of the agreement, Sanyo receives a license to Kodak's patented digital camera technologies. Kodak withdrew a patent infringement suit recently filed against Sanyo and several of Sanyo's customers. Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.
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