The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 3, Number 18 7 September 2001

Copyright 2001, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 54th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Like Reality TV? Hey, we dropped Dave (and his entire family) in Alaska with nothing but four digicams to find their way home. And don't wait for the film at eleven. There isn't any.


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:
Olympus
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The C-4040 Zoom is available now at estimated street price of $999.

See Dave's review and visit our site to catch our latest promotions.

Maha
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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 42,500 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Filmless in the Great North

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the illustrated story posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/AKTRIP/AKTRIP.HTM on the Web site.)

For a long time I've known digital photography would some day overtake film. But there's always been a nagging thought in the back of my mind that someday I might want to make a high-magnification enlargement of a photo or even a wall-sized print. So, for the last few years, even though I always shoot digital pictures on my vacations, I've also lugged along my trusty Nikon 6006 and a full kit of lenses.

For me, the ultimate "acid test" of filmless photography would be a rare trip to Alaska this summer to visit my brother. Our boys are both teenagers and well into the age at which doing things with their parents is no longer cool, so this might very well also be among our last true "family" vacations.

The stakes were high. Would digital be up to it? Would I regret not having a film camera along to capture those "special" shots? I took the plunge and set off on the trip with just (four) digital cameras.

This is the story of my experience and what -- if anything -- I'd do differently.

THE EQUIPMENT

Any rational person wouldn't bring nearly the assortment of gear and gadgets I did, but apart from that, all of it might be very useful, if not essential, on any long-term photo outing.

I brought four digicams:

Nikon D1x -- The "big bopper," with a 5.47-megapixel CCD and whopping 3008x1960-pixel image files! Nikon generously loaned us a D1x (list $5,000) and one of its excellent 24-85mm Nikkor zoom lenses (list $1,000 or so).

Minolta Dimage 7 -- This is probably the second-most impressive camera I've tested in the last year (after the D1x). At less than a quarter the cost of a D1x (less than a fifth, if you include the cost of a decent Nikkor zoom lens), it was much closer to the price range of a personal camera ($1,500 list).

Nikon Coolpix 995 -- I brought this one along largely at the urging of Nikon's PR firm, a bit of payback for the hustle they exerted to get a D1x into my hands in time for departure ($1,000 list).

Fujifilm FinePix 6800 -- This is my wife Marti's camera. It makes a great "travel camera," thanks to its compact form, telescoping lens and automatic lens cover ($899 list).

High-capacity image storage is a major concern for any extended digital photography outing. I didn't trust any single device with these precious pictures.

The Digital Wallet -- This Minds@Work product provides 6-GB of very portable storage, with a built-in card reader, rechargeable battery, USB interface and self-contained processor and operating system. But at $599 list, it isn't cheap.

The Sony PCG-C1 PictureBook -- This was my main storage solution, also providing full "remote workstation" capabilities. This incredibly tiny, full-featured Windows laptop (palmtop) computer has a powerful CPU, 64-MB memory, a 6-GB hard disk, extended-capacity battery pack, PC Card slot and full Windows 98 capability. I installed both CompuPic and Photoshop on the PictureBook, providing all the image viewing and manipulation capability I could want.

When I saw the PictureBook at Comdex a year or so ago, I thought it was cute but not terribly practical. As a touch-typist the very small keyboard didn't seem practical for extended use. But when I actually started using one, my fingers became accustomed to it fairly quickly. I couldn't type as fast as on a full-size keyboard (about 70 percent), but that wasn't bad given the PictureBook's exceptional portability.

The one negative I found with the PictureBook is that screen text is real tiny. Be sure to bring your reading glasses! I managed OK, but extended work sessions could get tiring.

If you can afford the stiff cost (somewhat north of $2,000), a PictureBook is truly the ultimate accessory for long-range digicam use! Very highly recommended!

(For a non-PC alternative think Apple's G4 Titanium legal pad, uh, PowerBook -- now at the same price. It isn't a palmtop, but you can watch DVDs on the plane (even invite the whole row) and type at full speed. Toss in a pocket FireWire 40-GB drive for under $300 (and a $20 PCMCIA adapter) and you can leave the Digital Wallet behind, too. Or take a FireWire CD-RW drive and astonish your host with a CD full of images as a parting gift. -- Editor)
Memory Cards -- If there's one thing I'm paranoid of, it's running out of memory card space in the middle of a shoot. For the Alaska trip, I brought along nearly 600-MB in memory card storage: a Lexar 12x, 256-MB CompactFlash card; two Nikon 96-MB CompactFlash cards; a Kingston 64-MB CompactFlash card; a generic 32-MB SmartMedia card; two generic 16-MB SmartMedia cards.

I put the 256-MB Lexar in the Nikon D1x, one of the 96-MB cards in the Dimage 7, the 64-MB card in the Coolpix 995 and I held the second 96-MB CF card in reserve for whichever CF-equipped camera needed it. I kept the 32-MB SmartMedia card in the Fujifilm 6800, swapping it with one of the 16-MBs when I ran out of space. I would have needed a lot more storage if I had not dumped all the cards onto the Digital Wallet and PictureBook every night. (I copied the card contents to both devices in case a catastrophe should befall either.)

To keep track of things, I followed Newsletter editor Mike Pasini's recommended practice of keying folder names to the date (see "Dealing with Space Junk" in the Feb. 25, 2000 issue). Since I had multiple cameras to keep track of, I elected to organize first by camera type (this made it easier gathering all the photos from each camera for common processing later) and then by date within each camera's folder on the PictureBook's hard drive.

(The folder naming game is pretty simple. Name a folder for the event or trip, say "Alaskan Vacation" and create folders inside that one for each day you shoot, say "Monday," "Tuesday," etc. Copy your digicam's folder of images into the right day and append both a sequential shoot number and event name to the folder name, say "01 Bacon Breakfast," "02 Wood Chopping," etc. It's easy to find the trip, the activity and even to refresh your memory of the chronology with nothing more than what your operating system provides for searching and listing folder names. -- Editor)
Power Sources -- All the cameras (except the Dimage 7) used proprietary Li-Ion or NiMH battery packs. The D1x's battery had such exceptional capacity I wasn't worried, even on my heaviest shooting days (a couple of hundred exposures). I had spare batteries for both the Coolpix 995 and FinePix 6800 and was quite glad I did.

The Dimage 7 uses AA batteries, so I brought several high-capacity sets of rechargeable NiMH cells (Maha 1700s and GP 1800s) and a Maha C-204 battery charger. A couple of times, I had to swap-out a second set of batteries for the Dimage 7, but overall I was surprised how much run-time I could get by turning the power off promptly.

The Dimage 7 is one of the more power-hungry cameras, but the high-capacity Maha and GP cells did an excellent job. The GP 1800s edged the Maha 1700's slightly in run-time, but the Mahas are probably the better deal, particularly if you buy them bundled with Maha's excellent little C-204 charger.

The rental RV had a generator so I didn't bring a DC-AC (cigarette lighter) inverter to plug in the battery chargers and AC adapters. I should have. The motor home had no inverter, so the only option for AC power was to run the generator or plug into an external electrical service. AC sources were few and far between, which obliged me to run a 4-KW generator for a couple of hours just to recharge a few batteries.

Take it from me, pack the smallest DC-AC inverter you can find. Inverter capacity is a non-issue. Nothing you're likely to plug in will take more than a few watts. Having an inverter along on any trip with an motor vehicle can come in handy -- you always spend much more time in the car than next to an AC socket.

CAMERA REPORTS

So how did all this technology perform? I'll take each camera in turn, leading off with the D1x, simply because it was the best by a wide margin.

Nikon D1x -- Earlier this year (while testing the D1x for review), I had the experience for the first time of using a digital camera with no regrets I wasn't using film, an experience repeated in the week and a half of field shooting. Sure, just the right film emulsion might give us a little bit more detail or tonal range, but the bottom line was that the photos I brought back with the D1x were more than adequate for any application.

More than that though, using the D1x was like having a whole bagful of different film emulsions at my disposal, ranging from an ultra-fine grain ISO 100 to a super-fast 3200 and everything in between.

As a camera, the D1x's exposure system is phenomenally accurate -- I literally had no bad exposures in several hundred images, even under widely varying conditions. Image quality was exceptional as well, with excellent color, tremendous resolution and the widely noted lack of image noise.

Beyond its obvious digital capabilities, I was also very impressed with how smooth and easy it was to use. Nikon makes a big deal about "cameraness" in its marketing and PR literature and it's easy to see why. All in all, it's a superb photographic device. If you can afford one, buy it. You'll have no regrets.

The D1x is built to pro specs, with a body design very similar to the F5 and F100. The result is an incredibly rugged camera, but it also weighs a couple of pounds. So I left it ashore when we went kayaking. Even if it had fit, there was no way I was about to bring $6K or so of photo equipment aboard a wobbly kayak!

Minolta Dimage 7 -- As the first 5-megapixel prosumer digicam I'd tested, the Dimage 7 made a big impression on me in May. Apart from its ultra-high-resolution sensor, I was also struck by the high-quality lens (very sharp from corner to corner, with very low chromatic aberration), great image quality and the extremely fine control it offered over exposure, contrast and color saturation.

I found myself gravitating to the D1x in most situations, thanks to its greater flexibility, image quality and capability. The D7 did quite well though -- I wouldn't hesitate to rely upon it as my only camera.

I did find several quirks in its operation that bear noting, however.

The first was the Dimage's electronic viewfinder (it has no optical viewfinder). While I like the D7's EVF better than any other, it still comes in a distant second to a true optical viewfinder. I often felt like the D7 was showing an approximation of what the camera was viewing, almost like a schematic diagram instead of the actual subject. Besides the reduced EVF resolution, I found it had a tendency to lose detail in the highlights. When I tried to frame sky details like clouds, this was a significant problem.

I also found the D7's exposure system routinely overexposed highlights. This seemed to be a combination of higher than optimum default contrast and a slight tendency toward overexposure in its multi-point metering system. Fortunately, the D7's very fine control system overcame both tendencies to a large extent. By the end of the trip, I'd learned to leave the D7's exposure compensation adjustment at -0.3 to -0.7 EV and its contrast dialed-down two notches. The result were darker, somewhat flatter images, but ones which preserved detail much better than those shot with the default settings.

Finally, I kept getting out-of-focus shots with the D7 until I figured out what was causing them. Like most zoom-equipped digicams, the D7 zoom lens is not technically a "zoom" but a "variable focal length" design. The difference has to do with whether or not the lens holds focus as it is racked through its range. True zooms maintain focus as they zoom. Variable focal length lenses shift focus as the focal length is changed. In most digicams, this is a non-issue, because the electronics prevent you from changing the focal length once the shutter button is half-pressed. On the D7, the zoom is under direct manual control, so nothing prevents you from changing the zoom setting after the camera has determined focus. I tend to make fine zoom adjustments after I've already half-pressed the shutter button. Result: blurred images. Once I caught on, I made sure I didn't press the shutter button until I was done messing with the zoom control.

Overall, the Dimage 7 turned in a fine performance, clearly up to the "filmless" challenge.

Nikon Coolpix 995 -- The Nikon Coolpix 995 was my fallback camera, brought along more as a favor to Nikon's PR folks. But it turned out to be indispensable for at least our kayak expedition (that term used loosely, it was really just a day-trip) to the foot of the Shoup Glacier, just outside of Valdez. The two-man sea kayaks had very limited space for close-at-hand photo equipment and also struck me as a little precarious when it came to keeping the salt water and camera electronics apart. Both factors argued against bringing either the D7 or the D1x. The 995 was therefore appointed as the digicam of choice for the kayak trip.

The 995 had another key capability that came in handy for kayak photography: the Best Shot Selector function (BSS for short).

BSS takes five shots in rapid succession (you just hold down the shutter button). Once the frames are captured, the camera determines which is the sharpest and saves only that image to the memory card. This isn't magic. The size of a JPEG image correlates pretty strongly with the amount of fine detail present. The largest file size, therefore, is the sharpest image.

Despite the highly unstable shooting platform of the kayak, BSS helped ensure sharp images even when I was shooting at the maximum 4x telephoto. I also routinely captured sharp images when handholding the camera in land-based low-light situations, even with shutter speeds of 1/4 to 1/2 second.

Apart from its more compact form factor and unique BSS function, the 995 was a very able performer. Its exposure system seemed quite accurate and color and detail are both excellent. I missed the ability to fine-tune the camera's color and tonal behavior, like the D7, but I also found less need to do so.

My biggest gripe was that the zoom lens seemed quite slow to react, taking several seconds to rack from one end of its range to the other. It probably isn't much slower than the zoom control on most other prosumer-level digicams, but it suffered by comparison to the manually-actuated zoom controls on the D7 and D1x.

Overall, I'd rate the 995 as an adequate film-replacement digicam, but felt that both the D7 and D1x edged it out in resolution and versatility. (The D7 by a little, the D1x by a lot.) That said though, I'd still feel pretty comfortable taking the 995 on a vacation and leaving my beloved Nikon film SLR at home.

Fuji FinePix 6800 Zoom -- This is Marti's camera, who's neither a camera nut nor a gadget fanatic. As such, she's probably pretty representative of a lot of people buying digicams these days. She found the 6800 was ideal, producing excellent image quality in a very compact, easy-to-use package. The 6800 is first and foremost a point-and-shoot camera, with the camera making most of the exposure decisions and relatively few adjustments made available to the photographer. It does, however, take very nice pictures -- with really beautiful color -- that require little or no tweaking.

The real proof of the pudding was that in some cases, we chose Marti's shots of a place or event over my own, taken with much higher-end equipment. Most significantly, looking at the prints (as large as 8x10 inches), I felt no regrets in choosing a photo from the "point-and-shoot" camera to enlarge. I might have been frustrated by the 6800's lack of manual controls, but for users like Marti, it's hard to imagine a better solution while traveling.

THE AFTERMATH: LOTS OF PHOTOS!

Back home, reality set in. Even deleting obviously unsuitable photos from the memory cards as I went along, I still ended up with about 600 photos. Even then, I felt criminally lazy not taking more advantage of the unique shooting opportunities Alaska had to offer.

The real challenge of the trip was in trying to deal with all those !@#! photos. Slogging through the hundreds of images, it's easy to see why so many digital photos never end up being printed!

The first step was to make thumbnail indexes of everything using CompuPic by PhotoDex, since I'm primarily a Mac user and my other favorite, ThumbsPlus, is only available for the PC platform. After each day's shooting, I was careful to organize the shots by date and camera on the PictureBook, so at least it was easy to locate photos by the day they were shot and which camera was used.

After printing thumbnails, Marti and I went over the sheets to pick out the photos we liked and wanted to print. That done, I organized the keepers into folders by activity and camera. All the Dimage 7 shots were processed through Minolta's Dimage Viewer program to convert them to the sRGB color space that the printer expected.

I then set up some "Genotypes" in PhotoGenetics, my favorite image-tweaking program. The Genotypes I created for each camera made tweaking all the images a matter of just a few mouse clicks each and in the best case, I could batch-correct large groups of shots taken under similar conditions. Given the weather we had, my "Cloudy" Genotypes got a real workout. ;-)

The final stage was to scale all the photos to 4 inches wide to make 4x6 prints using a Photoshop Action. If I had been on the PC, I'd probably have used Mike Chaney's excellent Qimage Pro printing application or possibly Epson's own Film Factory (which also works on the Mac and is a great printing application).

I wanted to use the Epson 785EPX for the 4x6-inch prints because it has a roll-paper attachment and prints edge-to-edge (truly borderless printing) on 4-inch wide paper. I could just set it running with a huge batch of photos and let them spool out, cutting them apart when they were done.

While the 785EPX was grinding away, I printed the 8x10s on a Canon S800 Color Bubble Jet Photo Printer. I like the Canon for its quiet operation, the ultra-glossy Canon Photo Paper Pro and its budget-friendly separate ink tanks.

It's been a lot (!) of work getting everything printed. If I'd used only one camera (instead of four), the process would have been much faster. But as my son likes to say, "No pain, no gain!"

LESSONS LEARNED

In any major undertaking like this, you learn things by the end that you wish you'd known at the beginning. Here's a few that may save you some pain when you take your own filmless vacation.

Be Prepared. Get very familiar with your camera prior to the trip! Before the trip, I was pretty comfortable with all the cameras except the Minolta Dimage 7. And you can tell.

If you buy a new camera before you go, get it in your hands a good week or two before, so you'll have the chance to learn its ins-and-outs. Shoot lots of pictures, with lots of variations of each (exposure tweaks, contrast, saturation, whatever the camera offers). Try to cover a really wide range of shooting conditions, so you'll learn the camera's capabilities and limitations and how to compensate for them.

Get Juiced. Allow for plenty of battery power. I only needed to fall back on the backup batteries twice. I might have gotten by with just one set of batteries per camera, but why risk it? Always pack along at least one extra set of batteries for your camera!

Also, be prepared for poor power availability. I sorely regret not bringing along a small DC-AC inverter to recharge camera and laptop batteries from the motor home's cigarette lighter, avoiding the noisy, environmentally-unfriendly generator I had to use instead.

Think Backup. Have a comprehensive storage strategy. Some corollary of Murphy's Law says, "You're sure to lose all your photo files if you don't have a backup." Since I did have an effective backup plan with the Digital Wallet, nothing untoward happened to any of our photo files.

If you can't afford a PictureBook, consider something like the Digital Wallet. There are several such units on the market now and the Iomega FotoShow offers the ability to copy digicam files to Zip disks, albeit in a less-compact package. Some folks opt to buy one single huge memory card. A 1-GB MicroDrive in either the Dimage 7 or the D1x may have held all the photos I took, but it's quite a risk putting all your photo eggs in one basket like that. If your photos are irreplaceable and important to you, treat them that way and get some sort of backup storage.

While not as compact as the Sony PictureBook, laptop computers make excellent -- if not somewhat bulky -- portable storage devices. Tell the boss you'll do some work on the plane and pack along your work laptop! ;-)

Anticipate. Think about the type of photography that you'll be doing and the type of photographer you are and equip yourself accordingly. Reading my ramblings here, it'd be easy to be intimidated by all the gadgets and gear I packed along. Take it from me, you don't need $10,000 of digital gear to have a filmless vacation! If you're more of a Marti-style photographer, all you'll need is a camera like the Fujifilm 6800 Zoom and some sort of storage device.

CONCLUSIONS

Besides the (literally) mind-blowing beauty of Alaska, my filmless photo expedition left me with a couple of strong impressions:

No Film, No Regrets. With this trip, I finally shot completely digital with no regrets. All the cameras did a superb job. Bottom line, this trip convinced me there's really no good reason to shoot with film anymore, at least for the sort of photography I like to do (typical of a lot of "enthusiasts.") "Happy Snappers" are likely to use film for a long time to come and single-use cameras will proliferate for years, but the rest will be converting to digital in droves within the next year or so.

Photography isn't the same as being there. It may seem obvious, but this was unquestionably the biggest surprise of all on the trip. We'd all seen tons of photos of Alaska before we left, both from family members as well as many professionally shot photo editorials, so we thought we knew pretty well what to expect. Wrong. Alaska completely blew our minds on the first day and continued to do so every day we were there. Short of billion-pixel, full-surround-sound, virtual reality, there's simply no way to convey the sheer scale of the environment in 2-D pictures, regardless of the skill of the photographer.

What all our hundreds of digitally-captured photos will do for us though, is to call back to mind the experience of being there and the fun we had together. Remember, "They're not photos, they're memories."

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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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Book Bag: Cracking Open AppleScript

Commuting to work can seem like rehearsing for oblivion. Unless you're lucky enough to have reliable public transportation. Then your commute can be productive. You can repair your mind with a little music, engage your imagination with something to read, distract yourself by eavesdropping or even, uh, work.

What makes it all possible, of course, is that someone else is doing the driving. Or, to put this in technical terms, your commute has been automated.

Nothing quite cries out for automation like image editing. How many times have you resized images to email them? How many times have you removed the same color cast from a set of images? How many times have your reset the pixels per inch to match your print output?

And yet image editors rarely afford any automation at all. Photoshop's Actions are probably the best known tool, but they leave a little to be desired.

We're big fans of automation, happily leaving the image-editing driving to a couple of little-known but indispensable utilities (OneClick [M] from Westcode at http://www.westcodesoft.com and AppleScript [M] from Apple at http://www.apple.com/applescript/). And relying on Perl for things like converting this newsletter into HTML.

Of these AppleScript has always been the most difficult to bend to our will. Its English-like syntax is no blessing, it turns out. But even worse is the lack of documentation that has always plagued it. Apple has delivered a couple of indispensable tomes and every scriptable application includes a dictionary (often inscrutable). Unfortunately the subject is often simply omitted from most references.

But it's not going away. AppleScript is one of the core technologies Apple brought to OS X. And it looks like fans of automation are going to have to rely on it (and Perl, too) to automate their work on that platform.

Enter Mr. Perry.

And 500 pages later we have a comprehensive encyclopedia of AppleScript that includes scrutable command dictionaries with sample code and inventories of the major add-on libraries. For both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. To call it indispensable is faint praise.

Part I introduces AppleScript (which can work within applications, between applications and among systems) and the free Script Editor provided by Apple to record and write scripts. A short tutorial and language reference are included.

Part II is a complete language reference covering data types, operators, reference forms, variables and constants, flow-control statements, subroutines, script objects and libraries. Very helpful example code illuminates what are often obscure functions.

Part III tackles OS 9 system-level scripting. What you can do, that is, with the System Profiler, Keychain scripting, Desktop Printers, Networking, Sherlock 2, URL Access and, of course, the Finder itself.

Part IV wrestles with OS 9 control panels like the control panels Appearances, Menu Options, Application Switcher, File Exchange, File Sharing, FontSync, Location Manager, Memory, Mouse and Web Sharing; and the extensions Apple Data Detectors, ColorSync, Folder Actions and Speech.

Part V discusses OS X system-level scripting of the Desktop, Mail, Terminal and TextEdit.

Part VI is an appendix that discusses the several dozen standard scripting additions in Apple's Standard Additions file and provides an extensive list of scripting resources on the Web.

OK, that's what's in the refrigerator, but what can you put on my plate?

Well, let's just take a little example. Say you have a camera profile for your Canon D30 and you want to embed it in any new image files. Automatically.

This book will show you how to set a Folder Action to watch an incoming folder for new files and trigger a ColorSync script to embed the profile in the new files, copying the revised folders to another folder.

So you just copy your images from your card to the watched folder and they show up with the embedded profile in the destination folder.

Which itself can be watched to archive the new images (you can even burn CDs using Toast with AppleScript).

We don't have to recommend this book. There's nothing like it. You can avoid the subject entirely or learn the hard way (like we did) by scraping code off the Web and asking scripting gurus for help. But you'll go farther faster with this reference at your side.

AppleScript in a Nutshell by Bruce W. Perry, published by O'Reilly & Associates, 502 pages, $29.95.
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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:

Read about the PowerShot G2, the impressive update to Canon's popular G1 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee866da

Compare Sony camera prices at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee86100

Susan asks about choosing a camera for Web site photos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee869ca

Comment on Dave's filmless vacation insights at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee86483

Visit our Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6b2b2

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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: Elements Plug-Ins

Just thought you'd like to know (in case you didn't) that Lensdoc is not Photoshop Elements compatible. I got a nice email from Andromeda saying they would look into it with the folks at Adobe.

-- Charlie Young

(Indeed, some plug-ins do require updates to run under Elements. According to our secret source at Adobe (on the Elements engineering team), "Elements has the same plug-ins scheme as Photoshop, however it only supports RGB and Grayscale color modes. Plug-ins that are [not] dependant on these color modes for operation are therefore of little value. However most plug-ins require just RGB, so there should be few exceptions among the vast library of Photoshop plug-ins available." -- Editor)

RE: Print Packages

I enjoyed your article on Adobe. I currently use several programs and like the color and print quality that comes from Adobe Business edition. The one feature that I wish more programs offered is the capability to print multiples on one page in various sizes. Kodak now does this but the print quality isn't as good as Adobe. Do you know of any programs out there that offer this? Thanks! -- Mary

(Excellent question, Mary! One disappointment we had with Elements is that the Picture Packages only print one image multiple times on the sheet. But it's a disappointment with most image editors. Why can't these guys let us print more than one image on a sheet? Our solution for Windows users is Digital Domain's $39 Qimage Pro (http://www.ddisoftware.com/qimage/). And Arcsoft (http://www.arcsoft.com) makes a Mac/Windows solution called PhotoPrinter. -- Editor)

RE: Coolpix 775 Puzzle

You have been quite helpful in the past, so I'm asking again. I'm think of buying a Coolpix 775 as a gift for my daughter and am agonizing over whether or not it is the best choice. I personally own the Coolpix 950 and love it. So I have become a fan of Nikon cameras.

The Imaging-Resource review of this camera has sold me. The few shortcomings which you point out are acceptable to me, as I'm sure they will be to my daughter. However, ZDNet has also reviewed this camera and claims some, what I consider, serious shortfalls. Here is a quote:

"Unfortunately, the 775 isn't always quick and efficient. With a sluggish start-up time of about 15 seconds and a long shot-to-shot time of about 12, the camera trails many of its 2-megapixel competitors."

These times are about three times what Imaging-Resource has measured. How can there be such a difference? I really trust your reviews, but how can a reputable organization like ZDNet be so far off? Did they get a lemon or did you get a gem?

Here's another issue:

"We were disappointed, however, to encounter some noticeable problems with blooming and chromatic aberration. Blooming can cause bright areas to bleed into dark ones, blowing out details; and chromatic aberration creates unnatural purple fringes along borders between bright and dark areas. Our images were susceptible to these flaws only in scenes containing strong contrasts, but we saw them show up more than we would have liked."

I didn't notice any such problems on the pictures you published, including the high contrast outdoor portrait. Basically, ZDNet liked the camera. However, the 12 second shot-to-shot delay is ridiculous and the blooming is worrisome. So I'm now not so sure of myself. Any thoughts? If you want to read the ZD review, here's the URL:

http://www.zdnet.com/supercenter/stories/review/0,12070,630058,00.html

It's short and nowhere near as complete as your review. That's one reason I trust Imaging-Resource over other sites. I appreciate your help and look forward to your response.

-- Dave Williams

(Our prehistoric nearly-tar-by-now Original Digicam is no where near as slow as 12 seconds between shots. And two seconds shutter lag? No way.... Our power-on timing: 6.8 seconds (and a second review I stumbled across clocked it at 6.7). Our shot-to-shot: 3.3 or 0.9-1.5 seconds (in continuous mode); second review (2.3 seconds, no details). And our shutter lag: 0.25-0.88 depending on whether you prefocus (hold down the shutter button halfway); second review: 0.9-2.1. We both agree it's fast.... No blooming is good blooming. But see (our test images) for yourself (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IMCOMP/COMPS01.HTM).... Dave mentioned the chromatic aberration (as did the other site) -- but only at the corners of wide angle shots. Very low. -- Editor)
(Boy, I can't imagine how ZDNet could have come up with those timings! 12 seconds is flat-out absurd. If I saw timings that slow, I'd have checked with Nikon to see if there was a problem. As Mike points out, that sort of cycle time just isn't where current technology is at.... I wonder if they tested with the flash on? We don't check that, but it takes a lot longer to recharge the flash than the normal shot to shot cycle time.... We found an average shot-to-shot time of 3.3 seconds for the first 5 shots in large/fine mode, then it varied between 5 and 8 seconds (it appears to have a 5-shot buffer memory, a hefty amount).... Likewise shutter lag, I don't know how ZDNet might be measuring it. If anything, I'd expect them to err on the short side. There's a popular Windows utility for timing shutter delay that significantly under-reports the time (off about 15 percent). But 2 seconds? No way.... Blooming & Chromatic Aberration. These are really two different things. Usually, our DaveBox target will show some blooming if the camera is prone to it. Check the reflection of the lights in the shiny pot lid and you'll see a tiny fringe around some of the highlights from the 775. Not terrible.... Chromatic Aberration is a bigger issue for digicams, involving the lens and the CCD, more than just the lens alone. We saw a little of it in our tests, but we don't have a test that clearly shows the worst-case "purple fringe." Another site that does have an explicit test for this claimed the 775 has some, but not as bad as other cameras. The purple fringe problem is annoying, but a pretty general one for all digicams.... -- Dave)

RE: More on Rebates

I always send rebates certified, signed receipt and generally don't have any problems since doing that.

-- K. Edgar

(Well, that makes sense. No wonder we didn't think of it! -- Editor)

RE: The Elusive Nikon 990

While some of the prices you list for the Nikon 990 are great, I have ordered a refurbished 990 from Zones (MacZone, PCZone). The camera can be found on the clearance tab. At a cost of $599 with about $7 shipping I feel this is a great price for the once top of the line Nikon 990. I have had good luck with refurbished products and with the cost of new digital equipment, I feel this is a good alternative to full price new products.

-- Richard Amos

(That's cheaper than whining journalists can get it from generous PR firms! Great deal, indeed! And a really fabulous camera. Have fun! -- Editor)

RE: Through the Lens?

In the last newsletter, the review on the Sony 707 says, "Another first for Sony is through-the-lens flash metering, which provides more accurate light readings than the conventional on-camera sensor [especially in low-light and no-light settings]. Many digicams provide flash metering, but the F707 is the only prosumer model we're aware of that offers true through-the-lens metering."

I owned a G1 and Pro90 before I bought an S85. It is my understanding that the G1 and Pro90 use TTL flash metering with an EX series flash and that the S85 also does TTL flash metering with the FL1000 flash.

Which one is correct?

-- Frank

(A lot passes for TTL that is not actually metering the flash through the lens itself. Usually a sensor located on the camera near the lens meters the flash (and may indeed support an external flash's TTL setting). -- Editor)

RE: THX!

Just wanted to say thx for a really great issue. I love discoveries and the Coolpix 990 off-camera flash link led me to so many other good ways of how to get more out the camera (infrared, etc.). I originally selected it as a result of your in-depth review. This is the way it's meant to work, isn't it!

-- Olaf

(Well, that's the plan, but you have to have really smart readers for it to actually work! Thx, Olaf! -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com) has announced larger print sizes and an Ofoto Archive CD. Consumers can order 16x20 inch ($14.99) and 20x30 inch ($19.99) high-quality photographic prints of their 1600x1200 images. And they can also preserve their images stored online at Ofoto on the new Ofoto Archive CD [MW], priced according to the number of images, starting at $9.95.


Olympus (http://www.olympus.com) has introduced the $799 D-40 Zoom as the world's smallest 4-megapixel digicam. Measuring just 3.4x2.7x1.7 inches, it features a 2.8x zoom lens and Olympus' Enhanced Color Management system, a technology that customizes color settings for better skin tones in portraits, truer blue skies and greener trees in landscapes.


Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has introduced the $599.95 Coolpix 885 with a 3.21-megapixel CCD and a new 3x 8-24mm (38-114mm equivalent) Optical Zoom-Nikkor lens. At 7.9 ounces, it features 12 Scene modes: Portrait, Party/Indoor, Night Portrait, Beach/Snow, Landscape, Night Landscape, Sunset, Fireworks, Close Up, Copy, Backlight and a new Museum mode that cancels the flash. It also includes Quick Review and automatic Noise Reduction.


Hallmark has launched Hallmark Stories (http://www.HallmarkStories.com) with three image-sharing products. Memory album is a hard-cover, three-ring album for $44.95. Memory magazine is similar to the album but in a bound magazine format for $29.95 with a multiple copy discount. Snap book is a wallet-sized, foldable format issued in three copies for $19.95.


Sapphire Innovations (http://www.sapphire-innovations.com) has released Vol 4 of Sapphire Innovations Filters for Photoshop [W] with 20 new plug-ins/filters and Vol 7 of Shapes [MW] with 400 new zigzag shapes for Photoshop 6/Elements.


Kodak Professional has introduced the 5260 printer (http://www.kodak.com/go/5260), the first in a new line of high-speed, wide-format inkjet printers using piezo inkjet print head technology, six colors and dynamic contone printing. It can output 500 square feet per hour at 300 dpi.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released version 7.1.12 of VueScan. The new version adds support for Epson Perfection scanners and Canon flatbeds while fixing a few bugs.


Fuji (http://www.fujifilm.com) has unveiled three entry-level digicams: the $179 FinePix A101 (1.3 megapixel), the $249 FinePix A201 and the $299 FinePix 2600 Zoom (both 2.0 megapixels). The new A-Series digicams offer simple, streamlined functions for beginners while the FinePix 2600 Zoom expands Fujifilm's mid-range lineup with the same A-series streamlined operation.


Lenmar Enterprises (http://www.lenmar.com) has announced the Mach 1 Speed Charger. The $99.95 device charges 7.2-volt lithium-ion batteries three times faster than any other charger, the company said, by dynamically managing the charging process to deliver the maximum energy level while testing and conditioning the battery without overheating it.


Micrografx (http://www.micrografx.com) has released Picture Publisher 10 and Picture Publisher Digital Camera Edition. New in Picture Publisher 10 is advanced color support, customizable macros and effects, advanced masking options and an extensive Web toolkit. The $49 Picture Publisher Digital Camera Edition features a PhotoAlbum for managing and batch processing digital photos while enabling users to easily correct and enhance photos.


California's 30 Minute Photos Etc. provides same-day Kodak-brand APS film orders with complimentary Kodak Picture CDs using a Noritsu QSS-2711-DLS digital processor to complete orders within 30 minutes.

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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:

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

Happy snapping!

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

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