|Volume 3, Number 11||1 June 2001|
Welcome to the 47th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Like murder mysteries? We've got one (and just the detective for it). Then enjoy Dave's adventure with the world's first 5.2-megapixel digicam. Before taking our crash course on resolution and catching up with LCD display technology.
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Suddenly your digicam doesn't recognize your SmartMedia card and, worse, your PC can't format it. After half an hour, you're ready to dig a hole and bury your beloved SmartMedia (in its protective case) forever. You're about to begin grieving when a frumpy fellow in a wrinkled overcoat walks up to you.
"Excuse me for interrupting, folks. Lieutenant Columbo, L.A. police."
"Columbo!" you shriek, recognizing the implications. "But you're Homicide. What makes you think there's been a murder?"
"Well, that's what we're going to find out," he mumbles through his unlit cigar. "There's been a lot of these lately. Malibu, Hollywood, Glendale. I wonder if you'd mind answering a few questions? It won't take long."
"Certainly, Lieutenant," your natural cooperation kicks in. "But you don't think we had anything to do with it, do you?" you ask in alarm.
"Folks, don't take this the wrong way," he smiles, "but I don't see you in Hollywood."
Uh, excuse us for interrupting, Columbo, but as the technical consultant on this show we have a little information you might find interesting.
A lot of folks are having trouble, terminal trouble, with SmartMedia cards. But we've found you can almost always restore a dead card -- one way or another.
"That would make my job a lot easier, sir," Columbo raises an eyebrow.
CompactFlash, it appears, doesn't succumb quite as readily as SmartMedia. The cards are physically stiffer (those wavy lines on SmartMedia cards are intended to reinforce them) with recessed electrical contacts. And they also include a built-in controller (accounting for performance variations). But much of the following applies to CompactFlash cards, too.
Theoretically you should be able to pop your cards in and out of any card device you like (camera, reader, adapter) to copy, move or delete them in either your camera or computer.
In practice this isn't always prudent.
We recommend using one setup solely for copying (the computer via adapter, the computer via a reader, or the camera tethered by a cable) and another solely for deleting (the camera). That way, you're less likely to delete images you have not already copied. It also happens to avoid sudden death syndrome in SmartMedia cards.
We wouldn't quite call it a recommendation but we do leave our cards in the camera as much as possible. If we put them in a reader, they never touch the ground between camera and reader. And to store them, we put them in a stiff plastic case. We treat them like any other fragile storage medium, in short.
Cards actually need two kinds of formatting: a physical format and a logical format. Physical formatting lets a number of devices recognize the card. Logical formatting actually permits it to be used as a storage device.
When you format a card in your camera or on your computer, you are performing a logical format. Which initializes the directory and file allocation table and marks out bad blocks.
Cards use an MS-DOS logical format on top of their physical format, either Microsoft's FAT16 or FAT32 structure (depending on their capacity). The universe of formats, however, is rather a bit more extensive than you might imagine (you can format a 3.5 double density floppy in about half a dozen ways for MS-DOS).
So it's wise to let the camera pick the format it understands. Your computer will no doubt be able to read the format your camera has used. But left to its own, your computer may not write the logical format your camera can understand.
"I think I follow that," Columbo winks.
That's also a good reason to let your camera do the file management (deleting, we mean). And while there is no obvious reason card reader drivers or generic PCMCIA adapter drivers can't keep track of the disk space on a card formatted in your camera, we've found it safest never to delete card files in the computer.
"You mean if you never use the computer to delete files, the card will never die?" Columbo checks.
That's right. That's all there is to it, Lieutenant.
"Imagine that. I wonder why that is, sir?"
There are lots of suspicious characters. The Recycle Bin, the duplicate (backup) FAT, dangling allocation lists in the FAT, a mismatch between file sizes and file lengths on the card, unmarked bad blocks. But we have to confess we really we have no idea.
In addition to writing the preferred logical format, cameras may also write a file or directory/folder to the card after formatting them logically. Your computer won't bother, although your camera may be smart enough to add them to blank (newly formatted) media.
How often should you format? While you never actually need to format, it's never a bad idea. Once in a long while, we delete old images by doing a card format in the camera.
You might visit PCMCIA at http://www.pc-card.com/pccardstandard.htm for more on card format specifications (say, on your next vacation). While this site discusses PCMCIA specifications, the Card Information Structure specs are the basis for the SmartMedia logical format.
"A vacation? Oh boy, sir, I certainly appreciate that," Columbo smiles. "My wife, she'll go nuts. We haven't had a vacation in a long time, I can tell you that. But, excuse me for asking this, what about the body?"
Don't bury it. Even if you've tried to logically format it without success.
When you installed your card reader's drivers, the installer may also have installed a utility called smprep.exe to write both physical and logical formats to a confused card.
If your reader manufacturer didn't include smprep.exe, visit the manufacturer's site (Microtech, for example, is http://www.microtechint.com/downloads/index.html) to download the latest drivers. It's usually bundled with them and installed with the card drivers. You can also visit SCM at http://www.scmmicro.com/corporate/support.html to download their current drivers (it's bundled with the USB-SCSI Windows 98 download, for example).
You apparently need a reader, though, to run smprep.exe. And if you plan to install an smprep.exe (and card drivers) supplied by anyone other than the manufacturer of your reader, uninstall your original drivers before installing the new software.
"Wait a minute, sir," Columbo squints. "You're saying the program, smprep.exe, actually needs, oh, a compatible set of drivers. Is that right, sir?"
The formatting that smprep.exe does will not restore the card to its original state but formats it for the reader. So your Olympus brand card will look like a Microtech card after running smprep.exe on a Microtech reader. The brand information is stored on the card. You can hack smprep.exe with a hex editor so it formats your card to look like an Olympus card, though.
Take a look at Konstantin Aleshin's very elaborate real-life adventure in using smprep.exe to fix a confused card at http://www.digit-life.com/articles/smcrestore/ (lots of screen shots, so be patient). It even includes instructions (and a program) for restoring the Panorama mode on Olympus cards.
Running smprep.exe is not something you should do as normal maintenance, though. It's for disaster recovery only.
THE MAC CATCH
"You know," Columbo flips a page in his notebook, "my wife and I don't have a Windows computer. We use this old Macintosh we really love."
Well, cards employ an MS-DOS file structure whether they are SmartMedia, CompactFlash or Memory Sticks. Fortunately, Macs have been able to mount and read DOS-formatted media for a long time and cards are no different.
But the file systems of the two operating systems are quite different. Windows relies on the three character file extension of a filename (.xls for Excel spreadsheet, .txt for a text file, .jpg for a JPEG image, etc.) to tell what kind of data the file contains and what applications can handle it. On the Macintosh, information in a file's resource fork (as opposed to the its data fork, which is what's left of the file in Windows) tells the OS what application created the file and what type of file it is.
The Macintosh OS likes to write an invisible folder on your DOS-formatted card with this information for all the files it finds when you simply insert the card using a PCMCIA adapter, for example.
The invisible files can confuse your camera.
If you use a reader or a special utility developed by the manufacturer of your camera, the card may remain invisible to the OS and these files will not get written. To tell if any files were written, you can use any MS-DOS file utility that displays invisible files to see if any have been created on the card.
"Innocent until proven guilty, I always say," Columbo nods.
"You've been very helpful, sir," Columbo shakes our hand. "Just one more thing, if you don't mind. These things can't be dry cleaned like my overcoat, can't they?"
Why, no, Columbo. But they do get dirty. The electrical contacts on SmartMedia cards may be gold, but they are also exposed. It's easy enough to touch them when handling the cards, inhibiting their performance.
But cleaning them is simple. Swab some isopropyl alcohol over the contacts to remove any foreign substance. Pencil erasers (that are still soft) also work.
TO LEARN MORE
You can learn more about SmartMedia (a registered trademark of Toshiba) from the FAQ maintained by the Solid State Floppy Disk Card forum at http://www.ssfdc.or.jp/english/faq/doc01.htm (where you can also get the specification). Solid State Floppy Disk Card is the generic name for SmartMedia. And visit the Web site of the company that manufactured your specific card. You never know what you'll find until you investigate.
"That's certainly true, sir," Columbo winked as he turned the key in his ragtop 1960 Peugeot 403. "I really thought we had a murder here, but it turns out it was just a little confusion."
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D7/D70A.HTM on the Web site.)
Minolta, a camera manufacturer of long experience, has made a slow but calculated entry into the digital marketplace. In 1996, Minolta introduced the Dimage V, the first digital camera with a detachable lens. Minolta subsequently developed the EX1500, a modular digicam used for an amazingly effective 3D capture system developed with MetaCreations (now Viewpoint).
Recently they introduced three new Dimage digicam models. The Dimage 7 will appeal to serious photographers who want high resolution, a long-range wide-angle-to-telephoto zoom lens and a sophisticated user interface with extensive creative controls. The mid-range Dimage 5 has the same sophisticated controls and 7x, but a smaller 3.34-megapixel CCD and a slightly shifted focal length range of 35-250mm equivalent. Finally, the compact, autofocus Dimage S304 is aimed at the amateur market, sharing the same microprocessor and most of the technology, but with a 3.34-megapixel lens and 4x zoom lens, a 35-140mm 35mm equivalent. All three are scheduled for release in the summer.
The Dimage 7 integrates many of the outstanding features of Minolta's 35mm SLR film cameras with a high-quality 5.24-megapixel CCD, ultra-sharp 7x optical zoom lens and advanced digital technology never before seen in a consumer class digital camera. Our first encounter with the prototype model was impressive, not only from the standpoint of image quality, but also the extensive creative controls, sophisticated camera functions and user-friendly interface.
This camera looks and feels much like a conventional 35mm SLR, with an elongated lens barrel and a lightweight magnesium alloy body that makes room for a wide variety of dials, switches and buttons. Though camera operation appears complicated, it is logical and relatively easy to learn.
Topping the feature list is a high-quality, 2/3-inch interline CCD with 5.24 million pixels (4.95 million effective) with a maximum resolution of 2568x1928 pixels, the highest currently available among consumer digicams. The 12-bit A/D converter and relatively large pixel size provide a wide dynamic range (detailed highlights and shadows) and fine tonal gradation, with as many as 4,096 levels captured in each RGB channel. The CCD's light sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 200, 400 and 800 ISO equivalency and may be automatically controlled by the camera. Our test images showed extremely fine detail, even in low-light scenes and a nice range of tones from bright highlights to deep shadows.
All that sensor resolution would be useless without a lens capable of resolving such fine detail. The Dimage 7 features an advanced apochromat 7x zoom GT Lens, based on the same technology used in Minolta's popular Maxxum series SLR lenses. Comprised of 16 glass elements in 13 groups, the GT lens has two anomalous dispersion and two aspheric glass elements for sharp, detailed images with minimal distortion and glare. The 7.2-50.8mm focal range (a 28-200mm 35mm equivalent) provides maximum flexibility for extreme wide-angle interior and landscape shots, as well as close-up portraits and zoom action in sports photography. The manual zoom ring is a real pleasure to use, reminiscent of interchangeable zoom lenses from our days as 35mm film-based photographers, with a wide rubberized grip and smooth transitions between focal lengths. The Super Macro capability lets you capture subjects as close as five inches from the lens.
One of the most impressive features, however, is the Digital Hyper Viewfinder. While technically an Electronic Viewfinder -- a miniature version of the larger rear LCD display (complete with information overlays) -- this viewfinder incorporates a sophisticated "reflective ferroelectric" LCD design, with a stated visual resolution equivalent to 220,000 pixels. We were amazed by the display quality, much better than we're accustomed to seeing in EVFs, with a remarkably smooth, sharp and clear image, even in low light (!), where most EVFs fail miserably. In addition to better quality, the Digital Hyper Viewfinder offers unique flexibility, with a variable position eyepiece that can be tilted up as much as 90 degrees.
The Dimage 7's exposure system is like walking into a candy shop, you don't know which bin to dive into first! The autoexposure modes offer three metering options: multi-segment, center-weighted and spot. The multi-segment metering divides the image into 300 segments, placing emphasis on the main subject, luminance values, color and autofocus information to accurately calculate exposure. Like other AE metering systems, the center-weighted and spot metering options reduce the emphasis to a large area in the center of the frame or a specific spot within the frame, respectively. Exposure modes include Programmed AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual, plus five Digital Subject Programs specifically set up for Portraits, Sports, Night Portrait, Sunset and Text exposures. These presets use not only aperture and shutter speed settings to best capture the subjects, but also Minolta's exclusive CxProcess image processing to optimize color balance and skin tones.
The Digital Effects Control can adjust Exposure Compensation (-2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments) as well as Color Saturation and Contrast, within a seven-step range of values. The Record menu features a separate Digital Enhanced Bracketing option for taking three bracketed exposures of an image, with three different values adjustable from one-third, to one-half, to full-stop increments. A customizable AE/AF Lock button can be set to lock only autoexposure or both autoexposure and autofocus. White Balance is adjustable to one of four preset options (Daylight, Tungsten, Cloudy and Fluorescent), along with an Auto and Manual option. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 4 seconds, with a Bulb setting that permits exposures up to 30 seconds long. Maximum lens apertures are f2.8 at the wide-angle end and f3.5 at telephoto. After you've recorded an image, you can check the results of all your "tweaking" in the form of a histogram, displayed in the camera's Playback mode.
Autofocus is powered by a Large Scale Integration chip that rapidly processes image data through a high-speed 32-bit RISC processor. Autofocus is measured in one of three ways: Wide Focus Area averages readings from a large portion of the image center (indicated on the LCD by wide brackets); Spot Focus Point reads information from the very center of the LCD (indicated by a target cross-hair) and Flex Focus Point allows you to move a target cross-hair to any position within the viewfinder, so you can focus on off-center subjects without having to lock and recompose the shot.
The built-in, pop-up flash offers two metering methods: Advanced Distance Integration, which bases exposure on the lens aperture and feedback from the autofocus system (how far the subject is from the camera) and Pre-Flash through the lens, which uses a small metering flash before the main exposure to gauge how much light is reflected by the scene. The Dimage 7 also includes a top-mounted hot shoe. Flash modes include Fill-Flash, Red-Eye Reduction and Rear Flash Sync, with Flash Compensation available from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments.
Additional features include a Movie mode, Continuous Shooting, 2x Digital Zoom, Interval Recording of 2 to 99 frames in 1- to 60-minute intervals, 10-second Self-Timer, Black-and-White mode, three Sharpness settings and five image compression levels: RAW uncompressed files and Super Fine, Fine, Standard and Economy compression settings. Resolution options for still images include 2560x1920, 1600x1200, 1280x960 and 640x480 pixels. Movie resolution is 320x240 pixels.
Not to be outdone on the input phase of digital imaging, Minolta has incorporated Epson's new PRINT Image Matching technology, which ensures that all Dimage 7 files output on compatible Epson printers will be automatically color balanced to provide true-to-life hues and saturation. (PRINT Image Matching really seems to represent a breakthrough in print quality, allowing faithful reproduction of colors well outside the normal color gamut of CRT-based color spaces.)
Powered by four AA alkaline or NiMH rechargeable batteries (an optional AC power adapter is available), the Dimage 7 delivers an amazingly versatile package for the serious amateur or prosumer photographer.
SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES
As with several other aspects of camera operation, the prototype we used is not representative of the production models in terms of shutter lag and cycle times. We'll report fully on these (and the other) parameters once we receive a production unit.
Note though, that the 0.13 second shutter lag reported by others is simply lifted from Minolta's spec sheet. It presumes the camera is prefocused with the shutter button half-pressed before the shot is taken. Actual full-autofocus shutter delay is longer than that.
Wow! A few tweaks on the color, smooth out the usual prototype glitches and the Dimage 7 is going to be a huge success. Minolta has created a genuine breakthrough product on several fronts.
As you'd expect, the 5.2-megapixel CCD (4.95 megapixels effective) produces noticeably higher resolution than the current crop of 3.3-megapixel models. The extra sensor resolution would do little good though, without good optics to support it and Minolta came through in spades there, too. The 7x zoom lens is one of the best we've seen on a non-removable-lens digicam, with excellent sharpness corner to corner and very little chromatic aberration. The zoom lens also covers a very useful range, extending from an equivalent of 28mm at the wide angle end to 200mm. The electronic viewfinder is vastly superior to any we've seen to date, for the first time making us believers in its potential. The ability to fine-tune color saturation and contrast allows users to adjust the camera to suit their own specific preferences.
Add a capable (if proprietary) hot shoe flash connector, front-element filter threads, CF Type II (and MicroDrive) compatibility and top-notch ergonomics and interface design and you have perhaps the most exciting camera introduced this year.
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:
- Our server has been upgraded to a dual-processor configuration with a bit more RAM. And the OS upgrade should help speed things up, too.
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot S110 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S110/S11A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Minolta Dimage 7 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D7/D70A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot A10 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A10/A10A.HTM).
Press the button and then the confusion begins. What resolution are your images, why are they so large on screen, what size should they be for email, how do you scale them for printing and what version of them do you save for posterity?
Take this quick course on resolution, step by step, and it will help, we promise.
So here are a few tips:
- Your digicam captures images on a CCD. The CCD is a certain number of pixels wide and a certain number high. That limits the total number of pixels you can capture. A megapixel camera captures around a million of them. A 3.34-megapixel camera captures around three million of them.
- Your digicam doesn't (usually) write all those pixels one at a time to a file. Instead, it compresses them in a very clever way before saving them. You usually get to choose exactly how much compression it applies with a quality setting (like Basic, Normal or Fine). You may also get to choose how many total pixels it compresses.
- Resolution doesn't come into play until you map the pixels of an image to some output device. Then we start talking about pixels per inch. Your monitor may display 72 or 96 pixels per inch (or something similar). Your printer may prefer to devour 150 pixels per inch (or 203 or 300) -- but that's another class (involving screening).
- The very same image can be mapped to any of these resolutions, but its size will change. It will appear larger on the monitor than the page, generally, because monitors need fewer pixels per inch than any other output device.
- Take your pictures at the best JPEG quality setting (short of an uncompressed TIFF) your camera provides, your card can conveniently store or your computer can handle. There's no one right setting, choose what makes sense for you. If you are running out of room on your card, ratchet down to a lower quality setting to get a few more shots.
- Preserve your original camera images as masters. Think of them as negatives, no matter their faults.
- To email, use your image editor's Image Size command to resize copies of your images. They are faster to email and ideal for screen viewing at 480x640. Set the long dimension to 640, set Resample on and Constrain Proportions.
- To print, use Image Size, turn off Resample and change the pixels per inch (on a copy) to be at least as high as your printer demands (try 150). You can then shrink the height or width to fit your page, but keep the pixels per inch above the minimum.
- You can make your images smaller by Resampling them down to less pixels high and wide, but you can't enlarge them that way. They fall apart.
- If you Resample down, use your image editor's Unsharp Masking filter to restore some of the sharpness lost in resampling.
We wondered a while back if LCD displays were ready for primetime image editing functions. And pointed out a few things to consider before relying on one. But the day of the LCD display is fast approaching. Consider a few recent developments:
LCDs have always had some advantages over CRTs. They are flicker-free, sharper, smaller and they lower (if not eliminate) electromagnetic emissions. But they've also suffered from dead pixels and a higher price tag.
- Energy costs prompt some companies to replace CRTs with LCDs
- IBM develops a higher quality, lower cost manufacturing method for LCDs
- Apple announces it will phase out CRTs in favor of LCD monitors
- Hardware monitor color calibrators are actively being developed for LCDs
You can often resurrect a dead pixel by carefully massaging it. Charles Moore's article at http://www.lowendmac.com/misc/2k0323.html covers the proper technique and has links to technical articles on the subject. You can also download Ekim Software's free LCD test program [MW] at http://www.ekimsw.com/lcdtest/ to help you find them on your own LCD.
But price has been another matter.
With the sudden rise in the cost of electricity, though, the cost disadvantage is shrinking. Using just one-third the energy required by a CRT, companies with lots of displays (like Chase Manhattan Mortgage with 5,000 employees in Columbus, Ohio) are beginning to swap out CRTs for LCDs.
A small California pathology lab recently reported a significant savings after replacing its CRTs with LCDs. In addition to reducing energy use from 180 watts to 35-50 watts per display, they also pointed out that the LCDs generated less heat, reducing the load on their air conditioners. With CRTs they had three AC units running full blast by 10 a.m. every day. Now they're able to keep the third unit off until 3 p.m.
Of course, if you rely on your CRTs to heat you during the winter, that's not a savings. IBM has posted a calculator at http://www.pc.ibm.com/us/accessories/access_promo/flatpanel/tour/savings.html to calculate the savings an LCD monitor can provide.
But even small energy savings can be significant if they prevent the straw from breaking the camel's back during demand peaks.
An oversupply of LCDs has contributed to recent short-term price reductions, making them even more attractive, but long-term, IBM's new production process promises to lower prices even more.
IBM's trick is to replace a 95-year-old mechanical production method for aligning liquid crystal molecules with a more efficient electronic process.
Currently a glass plate is coated with a polymer substrate whose surface is rubbed by a felt-covered roller. After the plates are washed to remove debris and baked to remove contaminants, liquid crystal molecules are distributed over the substrate, lining up in the direction of the rubbing.
For the display to work, the molecules have to be aligned end to end. Sending them an electrical signal will then make them twist and rotate, turning pixels on and off. So the rubbing is key. Unfortunately, why it works has never actually been understood.
Along with the debris and contaminants, the process is compromised because every LCD has to be removed from the clean room in the middle of manufacture to get rubbed. The velvet can also streak and scratch the displays (noticeably, in high-resolution applications) and create electrostatic discharges that can damage the electronics in the displays. And the velvet has to be replaced every shift.
IBM's process eliminates rubbing all together.
A carbon layer similar to the surface of a hard disk (rather than the polymer) is chiseled by an ion gun so its carbon atoms are aligned in rows. When the liquid crystal molecules are applied one end of each grabs an exposed carbon atom so they all line up automatically. Badda-bing, badda-bang, for those of you who skipped chemistry.
This ion-beam process is quicker, reduces streaking, increases the number of usable displays and cuts down on waste. Not only can the process be done in the clean room but it creates a smoother surface than velvet rubbing. And avoiding polymer film means there are no solvents to dispose of.
In the field these displays show less ghosting and improved image quality over their mechanically manufactured cousins.
To show off the new technology, IBM is building a 22-inch LCD (http://www.storage.ibm.com/lcd/technology/9megapxls/displaytech.htm) that uses nine million pixels to display an image 4.5 times sharper than high definitive TV. It's the world's highest resolution display, according to IBM.
They'll also display a prototype ion-beam LCD at the Society of Information Display annual meeting June 3-8 in San Jose (http://www.sid.org/conf/sid2001/sid2001.html). Assuming there isn't a rolling black out.
At http://www.research.ibm.com/journal/rd/423/alt.html IBM has published a white paper on the technology.
Who knows, we may be seeing better LCDs on our digicams soon, too.
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:
- Wow, 5.2 megapixels! See what people have to say about the new Minolta Dimage 7 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee7b7c5
- Adrienne inquires about software for printing multiple pictures on the same page at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee78aef
- The lively debate rages on about the Fuji FinePix 4900 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee78a0a
- Clark asks about using his TV for displaying slide shows at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8513d
- Check out the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2
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RE: The 80-MB File
I am a graphic designer who has worked with printers for about 8 years and dabbled in photography (digital and film).
Many full color press houses are now printing 200-line screens instead of the old 150. Most printers don't even print full color 133 anymore. There are also some RIP stations that prefer a 400-ppi image. There can be a noticeable difference in the photos. Especially when they contain diagonals like chain link fences.
I do agree you don't always need all that resolution. Sometimes printers intentionally ask for higher resolution images as their polite hint they don't want images from a mid- or low-level digital camera. If you deliver an 80-MB file, they know you scanned it from a print or film or you have a really nice digital camera. I will admit that printers are, for lack of a better term, afraid to use digital photos.
I'm not saying digital cameras, even at the lowest end, can't be used in the print industry. I'm simply suggesting digital camera users get into a dialog with the prepress department before blindly submitting digital photos. You will find they are willing to work with you.
-- Jazon Z(Thanks, Jazon! The original question was about publication work. And where that work is printed on a web press, 133-lpi still rules the day (newspapers excepted). High quality commercial printing is another story, though. Not that you can tell 200 from 150 without a screen finder.... We've written recently in an Advanced Mode column about getting your JPEGs to press, but we couldn't agree more that discussing it with your printer is very important. Two heads are still better than one. -- Editor)
RE: Epson Monochrome Tip
Referring to your suggestion that the Epson 2000P can have a problem with maintaining color neutrality while printing monochromes, I believe the reason I don't have this problem is that, in my TWAIN printing set-up, I choose Black ink, Automatic Mode and Space: Grayscale -- Gamma 2.2.
I greatly appreciated in your last newsletter the sound advice on how to go about taking photos indoors with a digital camera without flash! I have passed it on to half a dozen friends. Incidentally, I've had two good digital cameras with built-in flash -- Olympus E-10 and Kodak DC4800 -- and they both produce awful flash pictures compared to my film point-and-shoots and N-70 Nikon. The digital flash pictures using default settings are invariably under exposed by 2-3 stops and I have to spend a lot of time in Photoshop to make something of them. Is this typical?
-- Ron Lightbourn(Thanks for the tip and the kind words, Ron. Probably the less said about digicam flash the better. The range is pretty terrible (less, I think, than comparable point-and-shoots, probably for fear of battery drain). You are not alone. -- Editor)
RE: USB Drivers
You're right about Windows NT not supporting USB, but Windows 98 supports it and there are Windows 98 drivers for the camera. I have a Sony DSC-S70 as well and I use USB on my notebook running Windows 98. My notebook connects with my LAN which runs on Windows NT 4, so I can use any printer on my LAN, store the images on any of the other computers, etc.
I also think the Sony DSC-S70 is a fantastic camera. I use it extensively for taking pictures for a magazine I publish and get better results and much easier, quicker and cheaper than my Cannon EOS with slide film professionally scanned. My magazine is A4 size and I've used it for full page images using a 150-lpi halftone screen and get perfect results.
I can understand your reader's frustration. I got very frustrated trying to match my computer expert's knowledge to the camera experts' knowledge. None of them knew anything about the other side. And Sony could not help or was not interested.
-- Nicol du Toit
I purchased the same camera as your reader (DSC-S70) last year. I loaded the software on my desktop using Windows 98 second edition and my laptop which uses Windows ME -- not a problem. On the installation disk it gives operating platform choices.
-- Jim Fitzpatrick(Thanks, guys! Probably the less said about NT the better, too. -- Editor)
RE: Unerasing Memory Sticks
After accidentally erasing a couple of images off my Sony 64-MB Memory Stick, reading your page and finding a copy of Revival 3.1 (written Kim HyunKi), I was very happy to find Revival worked through my floppy disk adaptor. It took a while to read the 1900-odd clusters, but it did work. Just thought you'd like to know.
-- Nick Gustafsson(Thanks, Nick! One day this (http://www.simtel.net/pub/pd/8410.shtml) will save someone's life. -- Editor)
RE: Is There a Program...
Your review of iCorrect in the last newsletter brought to mind -- again -- what I would really like to find. All I want is a little program that sits between any graphics program and the printer. This program would allow me to set RGB color corrections much like Photoshop and other high end programs do.
I've worked a bit in Photoshop and the two disadvantages I can see are price and complexity. All I want to do is adjust colors to fine tune a given printer and ink combination.
There was a floppy-sized program a few years ago called Color Fast by a Laser Tools, Inc. It came real close to this, although the color adjustments were not density variable. Also, the program was printer specific and of course, a number of printer generations have come and gone since then.
Do you or our readers know of anything like this? Any programmers out there wanting to tackle this?
-- Paul Verizzo(Vivid Details' Test Strip (http://www.vividdetails.com) and ColorVision's Profiler RGB (http://www.colorcal.com) will both allow you to modify your printer's output. We've been using Profiler and like it very much (it creates a profile that automatically corrects color every time you print).... Unfortunately, printers simply cannot print all the colors monitors can display. These different color gamuts are accommodated by a device profile in one of two ways: either by dropping the out of gamut colors (think of a penny you can slide anywhere on top of a quarter; only what the penny covers is printed) or by changing every color a bit (shrinking the quarter to fit the penny).... You might search http://www.profilecentral.com for a free profile for your printer. -- Editor)
Do cosmetic counters make you sneeze? Try the online makeover at EZface.Com (http://www.ezface.com). Upload a digital photo of yourself to see color correction in a whole new light.
Casio has announced two new Wrist Cameras. Available in September, the $269 WQV3D-8 (metal band) and $249 WQV3-1 (resin band) sport a new 25,000-pixel color CMOS sensor that captures up to 80 images.
InfoTrends (http://www.infotrends-rgi.com) expects the installed base of digicams in North America to reach 21 million or 18 percent of all households. Despite the downturn in the economy, the digicam market has been more resilient than others. In 2001, digicam unit sales are forecast to reach 9.4 million, a growth of 55 percent over 2000. This year, digicam unit sales will nearly match mass market scanner unit sales.
Nikon has released a firmware update (http://www.nikontech-usa.com/880Update.htm) for the Coolpix 880. Version 1.1 improves USB cable operation, eliminates a system error caused by battery removal and corrects spelling on the Telephoto menu.
Nikon also announced it will ship an 8-MB SanDisk CompactFlash card with each Coolpix 775.
Digimarc and the TWAIN Working Group have announced a developer pre-release version of the TWAIN interface that enables Mac OS X application developers to acquire images from scanners and digital cameras. It's a free download at http://www.twain.org.
Sapphire Innovations has released Custom Shapes 4 and Sapphire Styles 1 for Photoshop and Elements. Demos are available at http://www.sapphire-innovations.com.
Polaroid (http://www.polaroid.com) unveiled their Opal and Onyx printing platforms, promising fast (50-60 prints per minute), simple, digital prints of 35mm quality for mobile printing, retail kiosks, microlabs and a new generation of home photo printers. Opal and Onyx, based on thermal print technologies, have been designed as an open architecture platform.
A recent Polaroid study found that most digicam owners seldom print their images because: their printers do not produce quality images; they prefer to share digital images electronically (via email) not in printed form; and printing is expensive and time-consuming. Respondents said they enjoyed the ability to email images, erase "bad" pictures, see images instantly and eliminate red eye. But they didn't like grainy pictures inferior to 35mm prints, short battery life, complex functions and the high cost of memory cards, special inks and glossy paper.
Hamrick Software has released VueScan 7.0.24 (http://www.hamrick.com/vsm.html). The new version improves OS X compatibility with full support for USB scanners, improves memory usage and adds support for 14-bit UMAX scanners.
Ricoh is now offering Socket's Digital Phone Card (http://www.socketcom.com) to add wireless capability to Ricoh's RDC-i700 digicam. The card fits in the RDC-i700's CompactFlash expansion slot and connects via cable to popular mobile phones. The RDC-i700's built-in software allows the camera to use a mobile phone as a wireless modem for applications like remote image transfer, email, instant Web publishing and Web browsing.
Kodak Professional (http://www.kodak.com/go/professional) has released studio workflow software for any Kodak Pro digicam compatible with the FireWire/IEEE 1394 serial bus. DCS Camera Manager v1.0 can control camera settings from a computer, trigger the camera and quickly copy images from the camera to the computer. Available free at http://www.kodak.com, it runs on Mac OS 9.x and Windows 2000. A version for Windows 98/SE/NT/ME is expected shortly.
Also available on the site is the recently announced DCS Photo Desk v1.1 software. Designed as an image browser, DCS Photo Desk supports a wide variety of metadata.
The Kodak Picture Metadata Toolkit has been updated to version 1.0.3a. To download the new toolkit, visit http://www.kodak.com/U.S./en/developers/tools/02_pmt.jhtml.
The price of Kodak's RFS 3600 film scanner (http://www.kodak.com/go/rfs3600offer) has been cut to $999 and includes 100 free rolls of film and Adobe Elements.
Our next issue will be sent (a little earlier than usual, we expect) from Rochester, N.Y. where we'll be catching up on Kodak's moments.
That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:
Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM Newsletter Forum: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=irnews Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher