The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 3, Number 16 10 August 2001

Copyright 2001, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 52nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We toss our wrench-like CompactFlash into Kodak's EPX operating system for imaging. Dave explores the Coolpix 775's new features. And we invite you to join us in a little vacation babeling, too.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ad here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Sony.com
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CD Mavica -- More memory for more memories!

The CD Mavica camera is the first digital camera that instantly burns crystal clear images onto an inexpensive CD-R. A single 156-MB CD-R can store up to 140 high-resolution images. Other advanced features include 3.3-megapixel resolution and a 3x-optical Carl Zeiss lens.

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Olympus
http://www.olympusamerica.com/
The Camedia C-700 UltraZoom is the world's smallest 10x optical zoom digicam with the 35mm equivalent of a 38mm­380mm lens. The 10x optical zoom is complemented by a 27x seamless digital zoom, extending the camera's maximum zoom range to 1026mm, a first for a camera this size.

At 2.11 megapixels, this camera is for the experienced digital photographer who's ready to step up to a more capable device, but still wants a small, easy-to-use camera. Street price: $599

Read Dave's review then catch our latest promotions.

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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 41,500 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Themed Entertainment

Between expressways in Rochester, the old Kodak film distribution center is being remodeled to house one of the oddest birds in Kodak's aviary.

Themed Entertainment, they call themselves.

We've been observing them for some years now. Not so much to learn what was next in digital imaging as to see what all Kodak's horses and all Kodak's men had finally gotten off the ground. Flying from branch to branch in the thin air of commercial practicality.

We're always amazed.

When we first started visiting Kodak (about 1995, that is, and a different Kodak business unit, in fact), we marveled at the Nikon N90S fitted with a CCD (aka DCS420) and tethered to Unix boxes. They could shoot a portrait and print it on a dye sub printer in multiple formats with, well, the legendary Kodak press of a button. Kodak dubbed it the Photo Print System and released it to compete with Polaroid for the mall business at Christmas and Easter.

They also flew it by studio pros, who appreciated the savings in film and turnaround, but craved a camera free of the Unix box and controlled lighting.

In the years since then, Themed Entertainment (http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/themed/) has added a few new species to the bird cage, including systems for theme parks (like Universal Studios and Disneyland), vacation destinations (like Mt. Rushmore and other national parks) and special events (like Bare Naked Ladies concerts or the Sydney Olympics). Even adventures like balloon rides and rafting are now within their grasp.

These systems can stop a speeding roller coaster, survive a dive with sharks, shoot through theatrical smoke and follow costumed characters on their jaunts through theme parks. And the imaging process is so streamlined that by the time you get off the ride or exit the park, your souvenir pictures are ready with you as the star.

And it's all done with no waste even if there's no purchase, thanks to an entirely digital operation. The captured images are even displayed for purchase on television monitors rather than as prints.

AN OS TO TAKE PICTURES FURTHER

The trick to all this is what Kodak calls EPX or the Entertainment Photo Experience, its operating system for imaging. And we got a peek at the latest version on our recent trip to Rochester.

We sat down with Joe Beaty, product marketing manager, for an hour and a half chat about the latest achievements and challenges. Then we spent another couple of hours with Mike Pascucci, project quality leader, who put the system through its paces for us. What we saw is digital photography out of its lab coat and dressed to kill.

Think for a second about your operation. When you scan, when you shoot, what is it that drives you nuts? Cropping a preview for every image you scan? Transferring images from your camera to your computer? Resizing two dozen images into 4x6 prints? Now sit back, fasten your seat belt and watch how Themed Entertainment does it.

GETTING THE PICTURE

Kodak packages this system several ways, each configured for different entertainment venues.

Imagination Studio (coming soon and based on Kodak's existing Fantasy Theater) uses props and backdrops to impose a posed live subject in a fantasy set stored on the system, the digital equivalent of those gag photos using head holes to put Aunt Jean and Uncle Horace on the cavorting bodies of a couple of cartoon characters. We volunteered to sit on the Fantasy Theater posing stool in front of a green backdrop and stuck our arm out to signal a right turn. Mike dropped the cropped image of us in a Formula One race car that's nothing more than an overlay stored on the host system. The imaginary car is bursting into imaginary flames behind us. He added a cartoon bubble and type ("Hi, Mom!") to the image with ease. The image was shot with a SCSI-connected Kodak DCS420 digicam using a tiny video camera mounted at the viewfinder. The image imposition software uses proprietary Kodak chroma-key image segmentation in Kodakese.

Hot Sets also uses a controlled-lighting stage set visitors can inhabit to be photographed. But the props are unique to the venue and part of the fun (you can see them). A SCSI or FireWire Kodak DCS420/620/315 with a 4.5-MB CCD takes these shots.

More challenging offshoots of the concept are the high-speed, live-action Thrill Shots and the more candid Roving Photos options. Thrill Shots are set up at a particular point on a ride or attraction to "capture just the right image at the peak of excitement," lit appropriately, shot with a custom camera with a Kodak imager capturing high-burst rates and transmitted to a central system for display and printing at the ride exit. Roving Photos are shot by park staff with Kodak DCS420/620/315 or DC4800/290/280/260 at popular site locations and made immediately available for display and purchase at the site exit.

And the images can be printed in about 15 different formats (some with custom graphics, border and text) including handsome dye-sub prints in several formats, picture postcards, photo stickers (in multiple die-cut sizes on a laminated sheet), Picture CDs or diskettes, poster prints (printed in nine minutes on heavyweight 20x24 clay-coated paper), mugs, mousepads, T-shirts, key chains, snow globes and (shortly with iConnect) uploads to a 30-day Internet accessible album you can share or use to order prints before transferring to a MyFamily album for longer-term storage.

EPX uses a number of ways to tell your images from someone else's, including numbered tickets (the first roving image is your ticket) and soon even barcoded admission bands and radio-frequency proximity badges read by sensors at the ride or set.

These are, needless to say, complex systems. Technically and from a business standpoint, too. Kodak can handle both ends, in fact. They can build a custom system in-house, test it and then install it in the field, ironing out the inevitable surprises (like display monitors not certified to survive sweltering outdoor temperatures) on site. But they can also manage the whole service themselves, acting like a concessionaire, with their own employees. And everything in between.

RENT-A-DIGICAM

And a bit beyond even that, we learned. Kodak has just installed the first Kodak Digital Adventures system at Universal Studios Hollywood (which has had Roving Photos for several years). The new Kodak Digital Adventures rents visitors Kodak DC3400 of DC5000 digicams for the day, delivering 4x6 dye-sub prints with a Picture CD within an hour after the camera is returned. At Universal's installation, rental is $32 a day for a camera with a 16- to 20-MB CompactFlash yielding 27-35 images.

Vendors who operate their own site get Kodak training, streamlined to teach newbie digital imaging employees everything they need to know to take great pictures reliably. Wouldn't you like that three-ring binder?

But since not many of us run amusement parks (well, not the kind to which one can charge admission), we were more interested in how an image gets from here to there in the system.

That's our idea of a thrill shot.

TESTING OUR WINGS

We'd filled up a CompactFlash the day before and brought it along. So this isn't a completely fair test of the system (the system didn't have a profile for our Average digicam, after all). But it was amusing.

Mike popped our card into a built-in reader in one of the Windows NT system boxes (the system is being ported to Windows 2000 to add USB services) and EPX took over from there, copying our images to a target directory and automatically cataloging them in a database, making them available to an operator or for immediate display.

Some fun things can happen here.

Our digicam doesn't rotate images, so even our vertical images are horizontal. A quick click on any image that needed to be rotated in the preview window and a click on the rotation tool was all it took.

Crops and other basic image editing functions can also be done here, but Kodak has taken pains to eliminate the processing we often consider a normal part of digital imaging. So overlays and special effects used by any particular site can be applied automatically. That can include some pretty heavy duty image filters, too (patented image processing algorithms, in Kodakese). One, designed to eliminate the smoke that fills some sets of the Men in Black ride at Universal Studios in Florida, particularly impressed us. And they're working on automatic red-eye elimination, too (which is hard to avoid with handheld digicams using on-camera flash).

Kodak has devoted a great deal of effort to make EPX not only scalable (it can capture 50 to 50,000 images a day) but easily configurable (Mike set up the CompactFlash reader and destination directories in just a few clicks). Every venue has a different setup and EPX's configurability makes it possible to optimize the imaging workflow so pictures are taken at the best moment and delivered as conveniently as possible.

Every camera, monitor and printer used in the system is profiled (including special printer profiles to print things like mugs) to maintain a completely color-calibrated environment. The high-end digicams are complemented by several kinds of printers but the 4x6s are handled by a fast Kodak Photo Printer 4720 (with cutter) or Kodak XLS 8660 dye-sub printer that can print four at a time. At large installations these workhorses are installed in banks that communicate with a print server that routes the current print order to the least busy printer.

And printing is hands-off, too. In seconds our uncalibrated 4x6 prints (just a shade dark for our tastes but better than any one-hour processing we remember) came shooting out of the printers four on a page and were fed into a cutting machine that trimmed out one page at a time.

Boy, did we want to take one of these things home with us. But it wouldn't fit as carry-on even if we could lift it.

HOMING PIGEON

What we could take home was an appreciation for how far the typical digital imaging system (yours and ours) has yet to evolve.

We're just starting to profile our devices (cameras, monitors and printers) with some new low-cost tools. Which means we're implementing system color management (ColorSync). And our early efforts have yielded encouraging results -- but it ain't easy. We'll tell all soon, promise.

And we still wrestle with storage limitations when we travel, the inadequacies of on-camera flash and sharing printed images. The traditional clay feet of digital photography.

But most of all we have a lot of images waiting to be tweaked a bit into very nice pictures. Image editing has a long way to go to resemble anything that could be called automation. We've got a couple of tools we're experimenting with there, too.

So it was exciting to see a system designed to fly right by those problems (automatic image editing, especially).

We couldn't help hoping that something of Themed Entertainment eventually finds its way to our hard disk or at least some photo kiosk. We'd be delighted to pop into a drugstore, slip our CompactFlash into a kiosk and get the images transferred to CD so we could erase the card and shoot more. Another hour with those guys and our imagination might have gone out of orbit.

But you don't need much Imagination to get a Thrill out of Roving through the Hot Sets that EPX has already hatched for digital imaging. It may be an odd duck for Kodak but this Adventure is real and we hope to see it, in one form or another, winging its way to a system near us. We're already building the bird house.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Nikon Coolpix 775 -- Easy Rider

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C775/C775A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

The Coolpix 775 brings several new features to Nikon's digicam lineup, including an ultra-compact design, a very simple point-and-shoot user interface and "One Touch" access to the Internet via an external "Transfer" button, which automatically uploads images to Nikon's new image sharing Web site. Together they offer a very inviting package for the novice photographer looking for a user-friendly entry into digital photography, combined with the sophisticated technology required to get great photos in difficult situations.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

The Coolpix 775 is the perfect digicam for the point-and-shoot photographer on the go. Its ultra-compact body (3.4x2.6x1.7 inches) fits just about anywhere -- shirt pocket, jeans pocket, fanny pack -- making it the ultimate travelling companion. It's also quick on the draw, with easy, one-handed operation and a simple user interface that will appeal to the most digitally challenged. The high-quality 3x Nikkor Zoom lens and 2.1-megapixel CCD strike a nice balance between image quality and performance, providing enough resolution for razor-sharp 5x7-inch prints or even 8x10 prints and plenty of flexibility for composing great shots -- especially close-up portraits of family and friends.

With this latest model, Nikon has added some interesting new features:

The 775's optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens and the 1.5-inch LCD monitor turns on automatically when you power up the camera. When the LCD is turned on in full information display mode, it shows camera settings as icons along the edges of the screen. These include Auto, Scene or Movie mode indicators, Flash mode, Image Size and Quality and the number of remaining images. Other settings are displayed as they are engaged. Digital Zoom, Self-Timer, Best Shot Selection, Continuous Shooting, Exposure Compensation, White Balance and Image Sharpening are all indicated on the monitor when they are in use. The low-battery indicator only appears when the battery is nearly drained.

The Coolpix 775 has three Image Size options, including Full (1600x1200 pixels); XGA (1024x768) and VGA (640x480), plus three JPEG compression levels: Fine (4:1), Normal (8:1) and Basic (16:1). Images are saved to a standard CompactFlash Type I storage card. (An 8-MB card is provided with the camera, but you can buy optional upgrades as large as 512-MB from third-party manufacturers.)

The 3x Zoom Nikkor lens is made of high-quality Nikon optics, with a 5.8-17.4mm focal length (a 38-115mm 35mm equivalent) and an f2.9-f4.9 maximum aperture, which varies depending on the zoom setting. Focus is set automatically in either Single or Continuous AF modes using a through-the-lens contrast detection system. Single AF, which is activated when the LCD monitor is turned off, sets focus whenever you depress the Shutter button halfway. Continuous AF, which is automatically engaged when the LCD monitor is turned on, adjusts focus continuously as you move the camera around or as the subject changes position within the frame.

Although the camera doesn't have a manual focus, it does have three focal range presets for various shooting conditions. The Normal (default) setting focuses on subjects 12 inches or more from the lens. The Infinity setting focuses at infinity so distance objects remain in focus and the Macro (close-up) mode focuses on subjects as close as 1.6 inches. Unlike most digicams, the Macro range extends from its minimum focus distance to infinity, but it restricts the zoom to about half of the full telephoto extension. A Self-Timer function is available in Normal or Macro Focus modes, with a shutter release delay of 3 or 10 seconds.

The Coolpix 775's Auto mode menu offers Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Flash settings and Image Size and Quality settings. The Scene mode menus, on the other hand, offer only Image Size and Quality settings.

Movie mode records QuickTime movie clips (without sound) at 15 frames per second and 320x240-pixel resolution. The Continuous menu offers three options: Single, Continuous and Multi-Shot 16. Single capture is the default, recording a single image each time the shutter is press. The Continuous option records images at a rate of about three photos every two seconds while you hold down the shutter button or until the CompactFlash card runs out of memory. Multi-Shot 16 records 16 consecutive 400x300-pixel thumbnail images and combines them into a collage measuring 1600x1200 pixels.

Coolpix cameras are famous for their unique Best Shot Selection feature, which records up to 10 continuous exposures like Continuous mode, except the camera then analyses the series, choosing only the sharpest image to write to the memory card. This is particularly useful in situations where camera shake threatens, like shooting in Macro mode, at maximum telephoto range or when lighting is poor. We're big fans of BSS. It's let us bring back usable images in situations where a conventional camera wouldn't have had a prayer.

The 775 also features an adjustable Auto Sharpening feature. Auto Sharpening makes adjustments based on the subject and its surroundings, so the amount of sharpening varies from shot to shot; Normal applies the same level of sharpening to all images; High increases image sharpness, making edges more distinct; Low reduces the amount of sharpening normally applied; and Off prevents sharpening. These options are only available in Auto exposure mode. In Scene modes, the camera sets the level of sharpening based on the subject matter.

In Playback mode, the LCD monitor displays captured images as single, full-screen shots or in multiple thumbnails (Index mode). Single images can be viewed with or without a complete information display, which includes the date and time when the image was captured, the image size and quality, file number and type and current frame number and total picture count. When engaged, the Playback screen also displays the low-battery, image transfer, print-order and protect icons.

Unique to the 775's Playback mode is its Quick Review function, which lets you view thumbnails of previous images while observing the live action taking place on-screen. You can scroll through stored images just as you would in Playback mode, without having to switch the Mode dial. Quick Review is activated by pressing the Quick Review/Playback Zoom button on the back panel while in any image capture mode. Pressing the button twice expands the review image to full screen size.

The Coolpix 775 is powered by a single rechargeable Nikon EN-EL1 lithium-ion battery supplied with the camera. You can also use a non-rechargeable 2CRS (DL245) lithium battery, available separately, as a backup. A lithium-ion battery charger is provided with the camera and an optional AC adapter and battery charger is available for supplying AC power directly to the 775.

The camera connects to Windows and Macintosh computers via a fast USB connector. The USB socket also includes a Video Out port for viewing images on a TV or VCR. An NTSC cable is supplied with the camera in the U.S. and Japan and a PAL-compatible cable is shipped with European models.

The 775 ships with a robust set of programs for managing and manipulating images, including NikonView 4 to upload images to your computer and distribute them via the Internet. Selected images can also be copied to a floppy disk directly from the camera's memory card and delivered to a photofinisher for processing. In addition to NikonView, the software package includes Canto Cumulus 5.0 Trial and iView Media Pro [M] for image storage and management, plus a full suite of ArcSoft digital imaging programs, including: PhotoImpression 2000, for editing, retouching and applying special effects to your images; VideoImpression for viewing and editing QuickTime movies; PhotoPrinter Pro 2000 for preparing images for printing; and Panorama Maker 2000 to stitch together multiple images to create panoramic photographs.

EXPOSURE

The Coolpix 775's basic Programmed Auto exposure mode and seven preset Scene modes automatically determine the aperture, shutter speed, flash and focus settings based on existing light levels and (in the case of Scene modes) the nature of the subject and its surroundings. The user has limited exposure overrides in Auto mode, including Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Flash settings and Image Size and Quality. Some options apply to the Scene modes, depending on the subject and its specific exposure requirements, but for the most part, exposure decisions are made by the camera.

The primary advantage of this system is simplicity. Modes are selected by turning a large, clearly marked Mode dial on the camera's top panel. Each mode is marked by an easily identifiable icon (we particularly like the party hat and confetti marking the Party/Indoor setting). The Flash mode is quickly adjusted by pressing the middle button located under the LCD monitor and the remaining exposure options are selected through the on-screen menu system, which is short compared to most digicams, with only two pages of options.

The obvious disadvantage of this system is its lack of flexibility. While the previous 800 model offered a choice of ISO settings, three metering modes and displayed both aperture and shutter speed settings on the LCD monitor, the 775's ISO is set at 100, with no user adjustment; it has only one metering option; and the shutter speed and aperture are never revealed to the photographer.

CONCLUSION

Our final conclusion on the 775 will have to await our testing of a production model, so we can assess its image quality. On a purely functional level though, we think Nikon's come up with a real winner. We think there's a large middle ground of users out there, who are looking for cameras with just the characteristics the 775 offers.

Its Scene Program modes make it easy for novices to get good results in a wide variety of shooting situations simply by selecting the correct Scene Program on the mode dial. It could hardly get much easier, yet there's very little added complexity beyond a more basic point-and-shoot camera.

We'll see what the production model brings, but if its image quality is in line with the rest of the Coolpix line, we think it'll be very popular in the marketplace.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

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:

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In the Forums

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:

Compare camera prices for over 120 digicams at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee86028

Interest in the new Nikon 775 is peaking at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee85f1b

Roman inquires about imaging software plug-ins at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8634a

Get the latest feedback on the Epson 780 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee85e05

Visit our Seen on the Web Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6b2ba

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Babeling Again

Vacation is no time to slack off on your vocabulary building! Indeed, it's the perfect time (if you happen to be doing a little foreign travel).

We were startled the other day to see we've been collecting new words related to computing, imaging and the Internet -- but in Italian, not English. We like to keep our Italian modern (we use it for singing in the shower, ordering in restaurants and on those rare occasions when only an expletive will do).

So we'll make you a deal. We'll pass along our budding collection of Italian computer terms if a few brave souls out there will reciprocate with terms from other languages. This may not be as exciting as a Dave's Deal, but it should be nearly as profitable. Especially if these words start turning up on restaurant menus. Pizza chattare. Polenta scannerizzato.

Let's start with an easy one. In Italian one says "clicca" for click ("cliccare" is the verb). A real adaptation from the English, it appears.

Likewise "chattare" for chat ("chiacchierare," the term for ordinary, verbal chatting, wastes bandwidth it's so long). Chattare is also seen as "ciattare" (which is how it's pronounced, since "ch" in Italian would be pronounced like a "k" (remember how "Pinocchio" is spelled and you won't forget what "h" does to "c").

Of course, in Italian one can say (politely), someone doesn't know an "h" about something to indicate cluelessness. "H" is silent in Italian.

Anyone who's ever set up a scanner on a SCSI chain will not be surprised that "scannerizzare" is the word for scan (although it may surprise you to learn "scannare," which you might inadvertently use, means to cut someone's throat).

A "camera" is, commonly, what one calls a bedroom in Italy. A camera goes by the pre-industrial nomenclature of "macchina fotografica." Note the "f" for our "ph" (not to mention that "h" at work again). So a digicam is a "macchina fotografica digitale."

And image size is "dimensioni immagine" -- which is easy to remember if your image editor often seems to come up with imaginary dimensions for your pictures. A photo print is "una stampa" so a postage stamp has to be "un francobollo." At http://www.photoexpressdigital.it/Dizionario.htm we found a trove of photo terms.

The Internet is blessedly "Internet" (with no article) and "loggare" is the verb for logging on. Email is "email" but it gets a nice, operatic three-syllable pronunciation. And the "at" sign or "@" is affectionately called chiocciolina (after the little snail it so often resembles in more than one way). A link, fortunately, is just "un link" (plural "i link") and the sites you find on the Web are "i siti."

OK, your turn. I don't think we set the bar too high <g>.

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

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

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

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We Have Mail

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

RE: The Little Rebate That Could

Guess what! My rebate arrived today. Can't believed it finally came through. I quickly deposited in the bank!

Thanks for printing my letter. It will be interesting to see if others had the same problem.

-- June Partridge Zintz

(Thanks for the follow-up, June. We always like happy endings no matter how long it takes (see "Rebates, Rebates" in last issue's Mail column for June's story). We had nothing to do with it, of course. -- Editor)

I guess I was one of the lucky ones -- I have to report excellent Customer Service/Support from Kodak regarding my rebate.

I wanted this particular camera and spotted an ad for it at Wal-Mart for $499 -- I figured that my husband's employee discount would bring it down $50 and the rebate would drop that another $100 for me. I called five different stores before I located one that had it and drove a considerable distance, but I had the camera in my hands. I did notice that the UPC had been "blacked out" with a marker and another label pasted over it, but under that, it was clearly the correct UPC, as on their Rebate Coupons. I wasn't concerned, as my husband explained this is a fairly common retail practice, done to override the printed UPC so it will go through their readers at the register correctly.

I filled out all the paperwork and waited for the check. In a relatively short time, I got a postcard telling me I was ineligible for the rebate -- and it gave an 800 number to call. I was told that purchases made at Wal-Mart were ineligible because the company had effectively already gotten it -- that's why they were selling the camera at such a low price. (Undeniably, they were!) Well, I was hot, as I was really counting on that rebate and told them so. I told them that I had not been advised of this when I made the purchase, had I known this up front I might not have made the purchase at all and that I most definitely had expected the rebate. I was a very annoyed customer when I got off that phone and quickly started thinking how I was going to cover this $100 short-fall and whether or not to ever mention it to my husband!!

A week later, I received a letter from Kodak. They apologized for the "misunderstanding," explained again that because Wal-Mart had previously accepted the $100 rebates on the DC4800 cameras they sold, Kodak was under no legal obligation to pay the rebate again to me. But they could understand why I was upset and in the interest of "good customer relations," they enclosed a check for $100.

I must admit that I was flabbergasted and now feel I must speak up on behalf of Kodak and the way this was handled. I also have to admit that any anger I had over this incident was directed at Wal-Mart, not Kodak, right from the beginning. I feel it was Wal-Mart's responsibility, at the time of the sale, to advise any potential customers that rebates would not be honored and that was the reason the UPC had been changed. Wal-Mart was negligent in failing to do so, either directly by their salesperson or by attaching some sort of Advisory Sticker on the camera boxes.

Additionally, I am very pleased with the camera. I'm getting great pictures with it, great color, under a lot of different shooting conditions. It fits well in my small (female) hands and the controls are convenient. I purchased a 64-MB card for it and am happy with the amount of shots I can get on it.

Hope any others out there waiting for rebate checks will eventually get the good service that I received from Kodak.

-- Pat Williams

(Thanks, Pat. It does seem that Wal-Mart should have made it clear the cameras weren't eligible for the advertised rebate. Since they had their markers uncapped anyway <g>. -- Editor)

RE: Nikon 995 Firmware Update?

How can I tell if my new U.S. Nikon Coolpix 995 has the latest Version 1.6 Firmware? And if it does not, can it be down-up-loaded?

-- Ellery

(Nikon posts links to their updates at http://www.nikontechusa.com/ (worth bookmarking). The 995 link at http://www.nikontechusa.com/995info.htm says, "All Coolpix 995 cameras shipping in the United States already have firmware version 1.6 installed.... To check the version of your Coolpix 995 camera, hold the menu button down and turn the camera on. This will display the firmware version on the main color LCD." Nikon does posts firmware updates there, too and you can download them and install them, carefully following the very specific instructions accompanying with each update. -- Editor)

RE: Panorama Software?

I have used another digital camera (Olympus I think) that came with a panoramic feature integrated with its firmware. That worked very well. However, my excellent Nikon 990 hasn't this feature. I have several large mountain landscape panoramas in mind and currently use either Photoshop 5 or Photopaint 8 to do my post processing, neither of which seems to offer a satisfactory solution for panoramas with several large (1.5-MB+) individual images.

Are there better individual or plug-in software products available for large panoramas? I only need to stitch horizontally, not both vertically and horizontally.

-- cfk

(Kaidan (http://www.kaidan.com/) sells hardware (rotators for precise positioning of each shot) with Realviz's Stitcher software (http://www.realviz.com/), which works with ordinary lenses ($500). The $99 Panoweaver http://www.easypano.com/) only stitches images from fish-eye lenses (same issue with the Nikon-included IPIX panorama software). But Arcsoft (http://www.arcsoft.com/products/software/en/panoramamaker2000.html) offers Panoramamaker for $30. All these programs are cross-platform. -- Editor)

RE: Recovering a CD

The quality of the newsletter is higher than ever; thanks! I see that other folks had problems with their picture card to CD transfers as well.

Here's my story. After adding about 250 shots to a CD-RW using Roxio's Direct CD 3.03 under Windows 2000, I tried adding my latest pictures. There was plenty of space on the CD (only 160-MB used) and all the files were in the root folder. However, this time, adding folders just stopped working. Worse, I had tried to move the photos rather than copy them and I couldn't find them anywhere, CD or picture card. I tried using the Unerase Wizard of Norton SystemWorks (2001) for Windows 2000 to recover the files -- no luck, it couldn't find them on CD. And the card couldn't even be searched!

Then I said, let's try Windows 98. MY PC was originally shipped with Windows 98SE and I upgraded, keeping the Win98 partition for dual-boots. I fired up Norton SystemWorks 2000 and Unerase Wizard. I was able to get to the CompactFlash card, unerase the pictures and add them to the CD in a new folder. Success! Or was it?

When I rebooted into Windows 2000 the new folder on the CD was gone! I still couldn't add folders or files. So, I copied all the old photos from the CD to my hard disk, then formatted the CD-RW disk. This time, fearing that the NTFS file system was at fault here. I created subfolders on the CD to hold the pictures. Then I transferred everything back. So far, so good.

-- Pat Chefalo

(Great recovery, Pat! -- Editor)

RE: Data Recovery Firm

I need to have data recovered on a SmartMedia card. Can anyone tell me where to send it here in the U.S.?

-- Doug

(If you do need to have a data recovery firm handle this (you might not if you see our "The Mysterious Death of SmartMedia" in the June 1 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/ and the subsequent feedback in this column), look under Computer Service & Repair in the Yellow Pages. For example: http://www.actionfront.com in Toronto and http://www.drivesavers.com in Novato, Calif. -- Editor)

RE: The Envelope, Please!

For many of us, the printer we use for color reproductions of photos is also the one we must use for correspondence, reports and all the other less colorful kinds of work we do. It might be good to look at the mundane functioning of printers as well as their photographic reproduction.

-- Ed Livingston

(Hmmm, a good point, Ed! We've really been looking at only the imaging characteristics of printers and at that, only recently began looking at text quality and print speed.... Paper handling (particularly envelopes) is something that simply hadn't occurred to us. I'll see about including some mention of that in the future. AFAIK, few photo inkjets provide for any special envelope handling, apart from a paper-thickness adjustment lever. -- Dave)

RE: Copying 35mm Images

My software and scanner allows scanning traditional 35mm film negatives and typically 4x6 prints that are produced from the negatives. Given the choice, which source, the 35mm negative or scanning the print, will provide the best quality print?

-- Bob

(We'd stick with the negative, Bob. Not only is it the original musical score to which the print is only one performance, but the dynamic range of the negative is greater (the print can't show everything going on in both the highlights and shadows). And finally, if these are machine prints, they've already been cropped quite a bit. We've been surprised by how well our camera can copy antique prints, but having the film would be even better. And if you're copying slides, you should hear how our Executive Editor Kim Brady managed. Kim? -- Editor)
(Hi, Bob. I was faced with the task of copying my Dad's 1950s Kodachromes a year or so ago. I used a Polaroid SprintScan 35, since replaced by a SprintScan 4000. It had the most awesome color correction software designed to remove color casts specifically caused by film aging. It even did a bang-up job on old Ektachromes! In terms of image size, the SprintScan had several resolution levels to choose from. My slides averaged about 4-MB each after scanning. Granted, the SprintScan has a $2,000 list price, but it is available for less than $1,000 (with additional rebates) if you look around. -- Kim)
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Editor's Notes

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (http://www.sfmoma.org) is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ansel Adams with a major exhibition of over 100 images. The show runs through Jan. 13, 2002.


Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) is taking 775 hours to tour America this summer to show off the Coolpix 775. The 12-city Summer Fun Road Tour kicked off in New York City and continues its trek in an outfitted van through the end of August when it will arrive in San Francisco. Track the tour's highlights and view photos of visitors taken in each city by visiting the Coolpix 775 Web site at http://www.Nikonusa.com/Coolpix775.


Hewlett-Packard will introduce five USB scanners this month. The $99 Photo Scanner 1000 [W] prints 4x6 photos with 30-bit color at 300 dpi. The $149 Scanjet 4400c has 48-bit color, 1200 dpi, a "scan-to-CD" feature and a front panel with Scan To, Photo Reprint, Email, Copy and Powersave buttons. The $199 Scanjet 4470c adds Share-to-Web, Cancel, Copy Quantity to those on the 4400c, along with an LCD and optional $99 adapter for 35mm film. The $299 Scanjet 5470c features 48-bit color, 2400 dpi, a film adapter and an LCD. The $399 Scanjet 5490c adds a 25-page automatic document feeder rated at seven pages per minute.


After an Epson tech support email (pubished at MacInTouch.com) insisted the company had no plans "to develop OS X or OS 10.1 drivers for any printer models," Epson explained: "As Apple updates and adds features to the operating system in this next version, we expect to be able to increase not only the number of compatible drivers, but also the functionality of those drivers. Because we believe Apple will restore some key printing functionality in that release, we are concentrating our efforts on 10.1 so that we deliver the best to our customers. We regret that you have to wait but think that it will give you the best results."


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com), which has just released version 7.1.8 of VueScan [MW], recently reversed a decision to halt development for the Mac OS. Ed Hamrick explained, "I've had some difficulties with Apple's Developer Relations Group which caused me to discontinue the Mac OS version of VueScan. To make a long story short, hundreds of emails from Apple users persuaded me not to discontinue the Mac OS version of VueScan. I've concluded that it's less work to argue with Apple than to answer hundreds of emails requesting that I continue supporting Mac OS ;-)"


Saffire Innovations (http://www.sapphire-innovations.com) has released Brushes Vol 9 [W], over 500 brushes for Photoshop 6/Elements.


The Mac Open Source Software Directory has just opened at http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/mac/2001/08/03/mac_directory_intro.html with over 100 entries, including image editors and panorama plug-ins.


Howtek has introduced the FlashFunnel System, providing photofinishers and other retailers with the ability to offer fast, on-site Compact Disk, digital image file and reprint production from digital camera memory, conventional flatbed and slide scanners and Howtek's FotoFunnel production print scanner. The FlashFunnel is available as a compact turnkey solution, including a digital camera memory reader and flat panel display, for under $3,000 or in a software only version at less than $1,000.

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Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

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Happy snapping!

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

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