|Volume 3, Number 19||21 September 2001|
Welcome to the 55th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We, too, pause here to honor the innocents who perished in the rockets' red glare on Tuesday, Sept. 11. And to salute those, stronger than steel, who came to their aid. And to thank those throughout the world who saw this attack in the land of the free as an attack on all civilization.
Bravery is sometimes exercised simply in resuming our ordinary life (something forever denied the victims). So we continue with this issue featuring Executive Editor Kim Brady's scanner guide and Dave's review of Maha's charger accompanied by our regular, if rotating, features.
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ad here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 42,500 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By KIM BRADY(Excerpted from the full article posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/SCANG/SCANG.HTM on the Web site.)
A few years ago, the average consumer wouldn't even consider buying a digital scanner. High prices and complicated user interfaces were a deterrent to anyone who wasn't professionally dependent on scanning technology. Today's scanners are not nearly as intimidating as their predecessors. Sophisticated software has automated many of the tasks that once bogged down the most astute graphics professionals. Now hook-up and start-up can be as simple as plugging in a USB cord and clicking on a software installer.
The newly emerging consumer market has also spawned dozens of entry-level scanners designed (and priced) for amateur photographers, small business owners and family historians -- many starting at less than $100. While they don't deliver the same quality as high-end scanners designed for professional imaging, they are more than adequate for archiving a personal photography collection. As with most digital imaging products, the gap between professional and consumer is narrowing as technology improves and prices go down.
So once you've decided to invest in a desktop scanner, where do you start? What do you look for in features and product quality? The following overview of scanner functions will help weed out the important information you'll need to guide you in your search. It's a lot less complicated than you might have imagined.
HOW A SCANNER WORKS
A scanner is a raster input device that "scans" photographs, artwork or text documents with a light-sensitive sensor -- converting the varying levels of light (known as an analog signal) into an electrical signal for processing and transmission to a computer. Once it reaches the computer, the binary data (a series of ones and zeroes representing on and off signals) is reconstructed into a representation of the image and displayed on the computer's monitor, where it can be further manipulated by the user for transmission over the Internet or output to one of several digital output devices.
Most scanners use a charge coupled device light-sensor, which is made up of thousands of tiny elements (pixels), to measure the amount of light being reflected off or transmitted through a scanned image. The information is converted into electrical impulses by a process known as analog-to-digital conversion (a term frequently used in digital camera specifications). Other light sensors typically used in scanning devices include photomultiplier tubes, which are found in very high-end scanners used for professional graphic arts and contact image sensors, a relatively new technology used in some very inexpensive, low-end consumer scanners. CIS modules are about 20 percent smaller than CCDs, consume less energy and are much lower in cost. However, the trade-off is image resolution and quality, which does not compare to that of a CCD.
Depending on the structure and performance of a scanner, the main components include a light source (usually a cold-cathode-ray tube) for reflecting and transmitting light off or through the print or transparency, a light-sensing device (which we will assume is a CCD, based on its proliferation in the marketplace), a series of prisms and mirrors for splitting and directing light, lenses for focusing the light onto the CCD and colored filters for breaking down the color image into its three primary color components: red, green and blue.
All of the above elements contribute to the quality and performance of a digital scanner. The optical components can be very high quality -- color-corrected and coated for minimum diffusion -- or they can be made of plastic to cut costs. The A/D converter can be isolated and protected from electrical interference or it can be positioned right next to the scanner's main circuitry, picking up every bit of static and electrical noise.
As with any other product you buy, you get what you pay for.
Scanner resolution is measured in dots per inch or pixels per inch. Pixels per inch is the technically correct designation, but dpi is more commonly used. The sampling rate or the number of light-sensitive elements in the scanning head, represents the optical resolution of a scanner, while the interpolated resolution is either software- or hardware-enhanced, as explained below.
Most low- to mid-range scanners have scanning heads made up of a row of CCDs, each with 600 ppi, which represents the true optical resolution of the scanner. However, scanner manufacturers will frequently try to impress potential buyers by advertising very high interpolated resolutions, bumping the numbers up to 2,400, 4,800 or 9,600 ppi. Software-interpolated resolution averages the values of adjacent pixels to determine a "best-guess" value for new pixels added in-between the original scanned pixels, to beef up the file resolution. The image files produced by this method will be very large, but they will not be as sharp or as true-to-color as the original file.
Hardware interpolation involves bumping up the true optical resolution of the CCD by 2x to accommodate the rectangular shape of most source images. (CCD chips are primarily square-shaped sensors with the same number of elements or pixels, along each side.) In hardware interpolation, the larger number actually refers to the number of steps the scanner's "stepper motor" can move the CCD up and down the long side of the scanner's platen. Therefore, if the stated optical resolution is 600x1200 ppi, that means the 600-pixel CCD moves along the long axis of the scanner bed in 1/1,200-inch increments. To fill in the extra steps taken by the stepper motor, the scanner software has to create 600 additional pixels to fill out the long side. This is done with an integrated circuit chip that determines the "best-guess" value of the new pixels and then inserts them between each row while the scan is in progress. So a 600x1200 scanner rated has a true optical resolution of 600 ppi on one side and an interpolated resolution of 1,200 ppi on the other.
You only really have to remember two things:
- Always look for the "optical" resolution when comparing scanners, and
- The first (smaller) number stated in the optical resolution is the "true" resolution.
Bit-depth refers to the amount of information a scanner is capable of recording per pixel. A 1-bit scanner can only express one of two values per pixel: solid white or solid black (it's either on [Fn 1] or off [Fn 0]). For a scanner to reproduce the gray values between black and white, it must be able to record at least 4 bits of data per pixel, which is equal to 16 possible combinations of black and white or tones (4 x 4 = 16). To reproduce continuous-tone images, like black-and-white photographs, a scanner must be able to record at least 8 bits per pixel or 256 possible tones (16 x 16 = 256).
While an 8-bit scanner might be satisfactory for black-and-white images, you'll need three times as much information to record color images. For example, you'll need at least 8 bits for each of the three primary scanning colors -- red, green and blue -- giving you a total of 24 bits per pixel (8 + 8 + 8 = 24). If you factor the total number of colors that can be recorded by a 24-bit scanner (2 to the 24th power), you'll come up with approximately 16.7 million colors, more than can be perceived by the human eye. Therefore, a 24-bit scanner is usually considered adequate (but minimum) for most color scanning.
Most scanners on the market offer 30- or 36-bit color, which is more color information than is considered necessary (and more information than most consumer imaging software programs can process). However, there are advantages to scanning images at a higher bit-depth, such as providing a larger pool of tonal information from which to draw.
Dynamic range (or density range) is similar to bit-depth in that it measures the scanner's ability to record different tonal qualities. Based on a scale of 0.0 (perfect white) to 4.0 (perfect black), with graduated levels of gray in between, it is a very important guide to scanner quality.
Scanners that list a dynamic range rating on their packaging or specifications sheet reveal the maximum density range or shadow detail the scanner can resolve. For example, a scanner with a 2.4 dynamic range has a relatively low rating, because it can only resolve a little more than half the total density range of an image. Most mid-range scanners have a dynamic range of 2.8 to 3.2, while high-end scanners are 3.3 or higher.
If you plan to scan only color prints, look for a scanner with a dynamic range of at least 2.7. If you plan to scan color transparencies or slides, look for a dynamic range of at least 3.2.
Good scanner software should provide basic image-adjustment capabilities at the pre-scan stage, before you do the high-resolution scan. Typical adjustments include: Rotate Image, Levels, Curves, Brightness and Contrast, Color Balance and Histogram. Some scanning software lets you to set Sharpening and Unsharp Masking filters during the pre-scan stage. The goal is to get the best possible results from the time-consuming initial scan, to minimize editing the high-resolution file later.
A relatively new software feature, now available on some consumer and prosumer scanners, virtually eliminates dust and scratches during the scanning process. This process usually involves scanning an image twice: once with an infrared light, which detects only imperfections on the surface of the print or transparency and then with white light, which picks up all of the details in the image, including the imperfections. The software then compares the two scans and eliminates those artifacts recorded only with the infrared scan. This feature is particularly helpful when scanning transparencies (which seem to attract dust like a magnet), but it can also be a lifesaver with old or scratched prints with damaged surface emulsions.
The scanner's user interface is the layout and functionality of the scanner's controls and set-up menus. The standard by which we judge user interface is the simplicity and accessibility of individual controls. You don't want to have to spend hours figuring out how the scanner works. Funky icons and flashy menu boxes may be cute, but they're unnecessary and can rob your computer of valuable RAM.
There are several types of connections used to link a scanner to a computer: USB (1.0 and 2.0), FireWire/IEEE 1394, SCSI (SCSI1, SCSI2 and SCSI3) and parallel port.
The Universal Serial Bus (http://www.scsifaq.org) is an increasingly common interface for both Macintosh and Windows platforms. It's easy to install -- basically plug-and-play -- and it's hot-swappable, which means you can plug it in while your computer is running (not the case with SCSI or parallel ports). USB transmits data very quickly (1.5 megabits per second for 1.0; 480-Mbps for 2.0 -- note that these speeds are in megabits not megabytes, a byte typically having 8 bits), which is extremely important in scanning where images are often several megabytes. Because of its increasingly popular use as a peripheral interface (keyboards, mouse, printers and modems), USB is quickly replacing the old-faithful SCSI and parallel ports.
FireWire/IEEE 1394 (http://www.apple.com/firewire or http://www.1394ta.org/Technology) transfers data at 400-Mbps, helpful for digital video and film scanner transfers.
A Small Computer System Interface (http://www.scsifaq.org) -- or SCSI, pronounced scuzzy -- is faster than USB 1.0, with an impressive 10-Mbps data transfer rate; but it is only available as standard hardware on older Macintosh computers and it can be relatively expensive and difficult to install. If you happen to have a SCSI port on your computer and you find a scanner model that offers a SCSI connection, go for it. You won't be disappointed with the results.
Parallel ports are typically found on older PCs. Slower than the other connections, they are most often reserved for desktop printers, but you can probably get away with plugging both the scanner and printer into the same port using a bypass device. Don't plan on adding any other peripherals, though or you'll be asking for trouble.
Our discussion about connectivity isn't complete without addressing the issue of compatibility. You've probably run across the acronym TWAIN. The technicians who developed this technology (a consortium of representatives from Aldus, Caere, Eastman Kodak, Hewlett Packard and Logitech) were obviously tired of coming up with meaningful names, so they picked TWAIN, which simply stands for "Technology Without an Interesting Name." It is a standard interface between raster input devices (like scanners) and software programs. TWAIN-compliant software and hardware is able to exchange files without importing and saving them into different programs -- making transmission of data extremely efficient. Look for TWAIN-compliant devices when you shop.
Connectivity is not the only speed issue involved in scanning. As you might expect, different scanners vary in the amount of time it takes to scan the image and convert it to a digital file. Some scanners list scan rate or speed in milliseconds per line, others list seconds per print (which of course varies with print size and resolution), but the majority don't list anything at all.
As a general rule, scanners that use a single-pass scanning technology are faster than scanners that do three passes (one each for red, green and blue). But that's beyond the scope of this article.
Of the three major types of scanners, the most popular are flatbed scanners, which can also scan documents with optical character recognition software. Photo scanners are designed specifically for scanning prints, usually no larger than 5x7 inches. Slide or Film scanners are designed specifically for scanning film. They are usually dedicated to one size of transparency -- 35mm, 120cm or sheet film. Many of the new flatbed scanners also include film adapters -- usually in multiple sizes. If you consider buying one of these models, investigate the film scanning quality carefully. Older models often had problems maintaining sharpness when using the film adapters.
Flatbed scanners are popular because their simple design makes them easy to use and extremely versatile. Similar in size and appearance to a small photocopier, flatbed scanners have a large rectangular base, a glass platen scanning area and a hinged cover to hold the document flat (face-down) on the glass. The cover also prevents unwanted light from leaking in during the scan. Depending on the quality of the CCD, the presence of different colored filters and the type of built-in software, a flatbed scanner can be used for digitizing text documents, color or black-and-white images, flat artwork or transparency materials. Some enterprising individuals have even used flatbed scanners to scan three-dimensional objects (it is a camera, after all)!
A flatbed scanner can be designed with one of several configurations. A light bar passing across the glass platen reflects an image off the document through a series of lenses, filters and mirrors and focuses it onto the scanner's CCD. Another method is to use three CCDs, one each for red, green and blue, eliminating the need for three separate scans. Some color scanners, like the Epson ES300C, use three different colored lights, which flash in sequence as they travel down the platen. The HP ScanJet II uses a twin-lamp light bar, two sets of filters and a CCD with three stripes of color to make a one-pass scan.
Film scanners are more expensive than flatbeds, usually priced from $350. A film scanner differs from a print scanner in that it transmits light through the image rather than reflecting it off the surface of the print. By necessity, they have greater dynamic range than print scanners and much higher optical resolutions, some as high as 2,400 ppi. The most obvious disadvantage is that they handle very limited materials. Some photographers have found it more advantageous to buy a flatbed scanner with a film adapter, than to buy a straight film scanner. While they don't deliver the same quality, it is often adequate for mid-range scanning needs.
Photo scanners are made specifically for scanning photo prints. Handling prints up to 5x7 inches, they provide much higher quality scans using a technique that feeds the print via rollers across the scanning elements, eliminating the mirrors and lenses necessary in a flatbed scanner. Some models scan both prints and film, a good combo if you're looking for the increased resolution and dynamic range they provide.
Drum scanners are the Cadillacs of the market. At $10,000 and up, these units are designed for use in prepress environments, where high-quality offset printing requires very detailed and high-resolution scans. Images are mounted on a glass cylinder, which rotates at very high speeds around the image sensor, centered inside the drum. Rather than CCDs, drum scanners use more sophisticated photomultiplier tubes to gather and convert light beams into electronic signals.
Now that you've familiarized yourself with a few acronyms and learned about some key specifications, you should find it a lot less complicated to shop for a scanner than you might have imagined. Print our "Top Ten Features to Look For in a Digital Scanner" checklist at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/SCANG/TOPTEN.HTM and take it along when you go shopping. Fill it out for each model you're interested in and compare them to find the best deal. It's guaranteed to make your decision easier!
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/C204/C204A.HTM on the Web site.)
It's no secret digicams eat batteries, so rechargeable NiMH AA cells are a must if your camera takes that battery size. We've been playing around with batteries and chargers quite a bit lately and have discovered that having the right charger is at least as important as having the right batteries! Some chargers overcharge and can damage batteries, others drastically under-charge, making your high-capacity NiMH cells little better than garden-variety cheapies.
Of all the chargers we've tested, we prefer the Maha PowerEx C-204F for routine use. It's a very fast charger, but has monitoring circuitry to prevent over-charging. It delivers a full charge very quickly, yet strikes a good balance between charging speed and gentleness to the batteries.
IN THE BOX
The C-204F charger comes with the usual wall-wart power adapter, but also includes a cigarette lighter adapter as standard equipment. Very handy for trips! Internet battery experts Thomas Distributing now also have a European power transformer (http://www.thomas-distributing.com/maha-adapters.htm) for the C-204F, if you're going to be traveling to a country with 220v power instead of the 120v we have here in the U.S.
The PowerEx C-204F handles both NiMH and NiCd batteries, automatically detecting the two different battery types and adjusting its charging profile to match.
Another nice touch is that the C-204F has two independent charging circuits. This is great if you have a digicam that takes only two AA cells, as you can charge pairs of batteries independently of each other. It also leads to somewhat more accurate charging of 4-cell sets, matching the charging a bit more closely to the needs of the individual batteries.
The C-204F is a "smart" charger, which means it applies a high rate of charge to the batteries when first inserted, then cuts back to a "trickle charge" when peak voltage is reached. Fast-charge current is 500 mA, about as fast as you'd want to dump charge into typical AA or AAA cells. Once maximum charge is reached, the charging current drops to 24mA, a nice, gentle level that can easily be tolerated by most any good-quality NiMH battery on the market. -- It's thus safe to leave batteries in the C-204F indefinitely, helping to avoid the "self-discharge" of NiMH cells that would otherwise severely limit shelf life.
The "smart" charging means you can safely use the C-204F to "top off" the NiMH cells from your digicam if you're about to head out with it, without worrying about over-charging them.
Depending on the capacity of the batteries you're charging, the C-204F can bring a set of AA cells from "empty" to fully charged in about three hours. (Figure three and a half hours for the latest, high-capacity NiMH AAs.)
Of greatest importance for NiCd users, but still useful for NiMH cells, the C-204F includes discharge circuitry for thoroughly "conditioning" batteries to prevent the "memory" effect. Memory effect happens to NiCd cells when they've been repeatedly charged after being only partly drained or when they've been left on trickle-charge for long periods of time. The batteries "remember" the amount of charge they've routinely received and refuse to deliver more than that amount, even though their rated capacity may be much higher. This robs batteries of power capacity, reducing the maximum charge the batteries can deliver. Draining them fully to about 1.0 volts/cell helps restore full capacity.
There's some debate among the experts whether memory effect is real or not. We aren't equipped to get into that debate, but we've certainly seen NiCd cells lose capacity that was restored by a conditioning cycle or two.
This is an odd heading title for a battery charger review, but it's an important one if you want to get the maximum life out of your batteries. Some chargers seriously overheat batteries, which can shorten their life. Some (fairly significant) temperature rise is normal in charging batteries and shouldn't cause a problem. Too much will definitely lead to early exhaustion. We'd say that the C-204F is about average in this respect. The batteries do get pretty warm, but it's to a level that we think is acceptable. At least, we haven't seen any noticeable loss of capacity on any of our batteries after dozens of charge cycles in the C-204Fs we use around the studio.
It couldn't be much simpler -- With the charger plugged into its power source, insert two or four AA or AAA cells and away you go. The charger immediately begins rapid-charging the batteries and the indicator LEDs light red. When the rapid charging is complete, the LEDs turn green and the charger enters trickle mode.
We always leave our batteries in the C-204F after they're charged to keep them topped off. Most good-quality NiMH cells can tolerate this just fine, as the 24 mA trickle current is a very gentle level of charging. (Some battery brands may not be able to handle this, so be sure to get good-quality batteries so you can do this. Of the batteries we've tested, we'd recommend Maha's own PowerEx brand, GP, Kodak, Nexcell or Yuasa-Delta as all being good.)
The C-204F is also a pretty economical charger with a street price of about $25. You can buy it from several suppliers in kits including a set of four PowerEx AA cells, giving you a bit of a price break on the combo.
It seems to us that the C-204F is just about the perfect battery charger for digicam enthusiasts. It's fast, reasonably gentle on batteries, super compact and reasonably priced. The 12v car adapter is an added bonus for trips and vacations.
Very highly recommended. Don't think twice, if you have a digicam that uses AA cells, buy one of these and a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH batteries. When it comes to compact battery chargers, the C-204F is about as good as it gets!
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: Fuji FinePix A201 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A201/A21A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix 885 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C885/C85A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Maha PowerBank (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/PB/PBA.HTM).
- First Look: Nikon Coolpix 5000 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C5000/C5A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Minolta Dimage 5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D5/D5A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Minolta Dimage S304 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S304/S34A.HTM).
- Illustrated Review: Andromeda's Varifocus Plug-In (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/VF/VF.HTM).
- Illustrated Review: Adobe Photoshop Elements 1.0 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PSE/PSE.HTM).
- Reviewed: Olympus D-370 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D370/D37A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Nikon Super Coolscan 8000 ED (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/CS8K/C8A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolscan IV ED (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/CSIV/C4A.HTM).
We're overly fond of manual focusing. We used to make whole groups of people risk facial paralysis holding their grins too long while we fiddled with the split focusing screen of our SLR. We twisted the lens barrel a little this way, a little that, until we somehow satisfied ourselves we had achieved perfect focus.
And don't even mention ground glass to us. We feel the same hair-raising euphoria focusing through ground glass that is typically reserved for a summer afternoon plunge into an Olympic-sized pool.
But if you've been around digicams a while, you've left that sort of fun behind. They're autofocusers. And while the details may vary, they rely primarily on contrast detection somewhere in the middle of the frame. Which falls closer to a necessary evil than mixed blessing on the what's-with-this scale.
It is frequently confused.
So some digicams do feature manual focusing but it's nothing like what we know from our SLR youth. You can ratchet the zoom to one or another fixed distance. The optical viewfinder is no help here and everything looks sharp in the LCD monitor anyway. So for this to be any help, you actually have to know the distance. In meters or feet.
We were stumbling around the yard the other day -- we had a cold -- because the red rose that blooms once every ten years was in full flower. No mere 104 degree fever was going to keep us from our appointment with this portrait. But our Average digicam could not for the life of itself automatically focus on the thing.
Was it the wind? No wind. Was it the color? Maybe. Not enough contrast perhaps between the red rose and the green background. We dragged ourselves back out to shoot manually. A disaster. Our sense of distance is limited to the sensation that everything is far away.
Exhausted we retired to our sick bed where we consoled ourselves with the manual. Turns out the Average has a third focusing mode. It's a hybrid between manual and automatic. As a hybrid, we thought deliriously, it would be perfectly suited to our rose.
It's a sort of targeted (or spot) autofocus available in manual mode in which five targets are overlaid on the LCD. You frame your shot then use the navigation toggle to select one of the five targets as the place to aim the autofocus.
We gave it a try the next day.
This mode worked a lot better. Almost like spot metering, focus was restricted to the target we had selected. And we got our shot. We even enjoyed the old thrill of seeing things pop in and out of focus as we selected different areas.
Plus you can link the autofocus area to spot metering, we learned. With the appropriate EV setting for your focused subject, nothing can stop you.
Surprise, surprise. Once in a while one of those too-numerous-to-remember extra functions built into your digicam actually comes in handy.
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 impressive Nikon Coolpix 5000 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@0@.ee86f4a
Compare Kodak camera prices at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee860fb
Bob asks about controlling depth of field and shutter speed at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee86d08
Read about the Nikon CoolScan IV ED Film and Slide Scanner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee86b2c
Visit our Accessories Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2e5
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RE: On the Road with Dave
One of the best and most useful articles I have read regarding digital equipment. I just returned from a Grenada sailing trip and, while only using a small Fuji digital point and shoot, Dave's insight into the more professional camera versions whets my appetite. My older Nikon film camera stayed home and wasn't missed at all. While the actual experience cannot be duplicated with my photos, they certainly have furthered beautiful and impressive memories.
-- Paul Castenholz(Thanks, Paul. Couldn't agree more. Bet you shot more with the Fuji than you would have with the Nikon, too! -- Editor)
Just a note to say I love your newsletter. Dave's Alaska trip article is great. I'm an Olympus E10 user, love the camera. Are they really coming out with a 5-megapixel model pretty soon?
-- Chuck Carstensen(Thanks, Chuck! We're just glad Dave came back to print his pictures instead of bringing four or five printers with him, too.... News page editor Mike Tomkins reported Olympus will soon introduce the Camedia E-20N (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1000994448.html), sporting a 5-megapixel CCD and an SLR-style design. -- Editor)
I just returned from an Amazon river vacation. I took my new Canon Pro90IS digital camera with a 1-GB microdrive and thought I was prepared for any situation. One afternoon while canoeing a big rain shower came up. Being well prepared or so I thought, I quickly turned off my digital camera and slipped it into my waterproof bag, which contained a large box of silica-gel. About five minutes later I looked down and was surprised to see that my waterproof bag was full of condensation. The bag, heated by my very warm digital camera, reacted with the cool jungle rain and generated a lot of condensation. I immediately opened the bag to try to prevent any further condensation, while sheltering the bag from the rain. Fortunately the camera did not sustain any ill effects. What other precautions or measures can I take in the future to keep this from happening again? Thanks in advance.
-- Paul Roddy(Quite a story, Paul! Our universal travel recommendation is to tap into local knowledge before you go. And you can do that in various travel newsgroups and forums (http://www.photo-forums.com/) where photographers who've been there can help. -- Editor)
Interesting article on Alaska. I've taken Kodachrome 25 for years and now Kodachrome 200 but have over 5,000 trouble-free pix from my Kodak 260 and have not used my darkroom since getting the Kodak. I publish three newsletters for various Rotary International regions and digital is a blessing!
One comment you did not make: by forgoing film you lose the ability to show your stuff at a meeting with slides -- unless you have one of those wonderful new $5,000 projectors! There's always a trade-off.
I discovered by accident that in Photoshop with the dodge tool set rather huge (about 300) I can retrieve horribly underexposed areas beautifully, making them fine for printing reproduction! Since discovering this, I never use my power Vivitar extension flash any more. Apparently no matter how underexposed, there are details hidden in the black image you can ferret out with a great deal of patience -- something you can not do with film!
-- Gene Hastings(Very clever (and quite right about the details in the black)! Sometime try duplicating the layer using Screen mode and see if it does roughly the same thing for the whole image. -- Editor)
Any suggestions for digitally photographing paintings?
My wife is entering a juried art show at her alma mater and she has to submit 35mm slides of the paintings she intended to hang in that show. I have a source for converting positive color pictures in 35mm slides. It's shooting the picture I'm concerned about. My camera is a Fuji MX-700.
What do I do now, Coach?
-- Fred Honigman(Well, most coaches would punt, but fourth down or not, let's go for it! The two big problems are 1) barrel distortion (those bowed edges caused by the lens) and 2) reflections from light sources (like the flash). If you can arrange even overhead illumination (from a skylight, say), you've got the reflections problem licked. Whatever you do, don't use on-camera flash. Shoot outside in the shade if you don't have a skylight.... The lens distortion issue is another matter. Your Fuji uses a wide angle lens (which will bow the edges of the frame outward if you shoot full-frame). It is possible to correct for that with Adobe plug-ins like LensDoc but my advice for this particular application is to simply ignore the problem. Shoot full-frame if that's required, otherwise, crop the image to fill (so you don't see the frame).... I think some distortion should be acceptable for this application, so worry more about the illumination. -- Editor)
When my wife said she would stand behind her work, she didn't know how true that statement would prove to be. No skylight so, per your suggestion, the shoot moved outdoors. Her easel leans backwards about eight degrees, so to prevent the angular distortion she stood behind the paintings and leaned them forward to a straight upright position.
It worked out perfectly! No distortion, no glare and the colors (her major concern, naturally) are just as true as they can be, considering the difference in the media and the light change from her studio to daylight.
Mike, thank you for your grasp of the problem and your excellent suggestions for solving it. You're terrific!
-- Fred Honigman(If only our old alma mater were as lucky on fourth down conversions! -- Editor)
RE: Ganging Photos
For several years now I have taken for granted the great ability of Polyview's program for printing multiple images (http://www.polybytes.com). The choice of varied sizes per page is very useful and the ability to print either all of one image or many different images on the same page requires no skill. I highly recommend Polyview.
-- Tams Terra(Thanks, Tams! -- Editor)
For Macintosh (Classic or OS X) multi-image printing check out Image Buddy (http://www.kepmad.com). I just downloaded version 1.45 (and they have just released version 1.50). So far I really like it, you can add drop shadows etc. The contact sheet is much better than Photoshop.
Is there a plug-in for Photoshop that will simulate the Mortenson Texture screens that make the photo look like canvas, crackle, etc. I have some plug-ins that are supposed to do this, but they leave much to be desired. Any suggestions? I love your newsletter!!
-- Lisa Green(Good question. One of our big secrets is Studio Artist (http://www.synthetik.com) which does all that and more. Until we get around to writing the review (it's how we relax), you might trying building your own canvas filter. Visit http://www.xach.com/gimp/tutorials/canvas.html for the general solution (which you can do in Photoshop, too). Looks like the inspiration was a KPT filter. -- Editor)
RE: USB Upgrade?
I have an Oly C-3000 which I just love, but it has the "proprietary" USB configuration. Camedia Master is just not the friskiest piece of software I've ever used and I would like to be able to read my camera's USB from Windows Explorer like other USB devices (card readers, etc.).
The newest Olympus digicams appear to offer this capability; is there any hope for a firmware upgrade or something to make the older USB models more user-friendly?
Thanks for such a wonderful newsletter and Web site -- it's the first thing I recommend when someone inquires about digital imaging.
-- Dr. Richard K. Clements(The newest Oly cameras are "storage class" devices, which means that Win Me, Win 2000 (and presumably Win XP) and Mac OS 8.6+ recognize them as storage devices when you plug them in. Earlier cameras could only be accessed via the manufacturer's software. Unfortunately, the digicam field moves so rapidly these days, I doubt very much you'd find this capability appearing as an upgrade for older devices. -- Dave)(That said, you can pick up an inexpensive reader to mount your storage medium like any other removable device on your desktop. We have our pick of plugging in the camera or popping a CompactFlash into a reader and for some reason (transfer speed) prefer to use the reader. -- Editor)
RE: The Loss of an Old Friend
I am sending this email not about photography but to let you know that my wife and I are thinking about your great loss today in New York and Washington. We have visited the World Trade Center and stood out on the roof, it was a wonderful experience sadly never to be repeated. Our thoughts and prayers are with your people.
-- Martin & Lin Bruntnell from Stourbridge, England(Thanks to both of you. That human beings could conceive and execute such horror saddens all those who love anything in this world. That our friends around the world have stood with us against this terror threatening us all is a towering comfort. -- Editor)
Majority owner Irvine Sensors Corp. has announced that Silicon Film Technologies Inc. has ceased operations. Formerly known as Imagek, Silicon Film had been developing a digital film cartridge for film cameras. See Mike Tomkins' report at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1000760900.html on the News page.
Canon (http://www.canon.com) has released a firmware update for EOS D30 digicams with serial numbers prior to xxx800000.
Juri Munkki has released version 1.2 beta 2 (http://www.cameraid.com/cameraid/versions.html) of Cameraid [M].
Epson (http://www.epson.com) has updated the Stylus Photo 890 printer driver, adding PRINT Image Matching support.
Hitachi and SimpleTech have announced high-speed MultiMediaCard flash cards that each company will market in the U.S. under its own brand. Developed and manufactured by Hitachi (http://www.hitachi.com/semiconductor), the 16-, 32-, 64- and 128-MB cards offer write speeds as high as two megabytes per second. Approximately three or six times faster than earlier-generation MultiMediaCards, they are backward compatible and use less power.
Fuji (http://www.fujifilm.com) has introduced the $449 mid-range FinePix 2800 Zoom, equipped with Fujifilm's Advanced Color Technology, a two-megapixel CCD and a 6x optical zoom lens. It can attach voice notes to pictures and record video with sound and can operate as a PC-cam for computer-to-computer video conferencing.
Kodak Professional (http://www.kodak.com/go/professional) has introduced a new version of its 16-megapixel DCS Pro Back digital camera back. New integrated electronic circuit boards and housings incorporate a versatile shutter release port into the new Pro Back Plus camera back. To extend the unit's compatibility, Kodak Pro has developed new electronic shutter cables and worked on interface modifications with several camera manufacturers.
Handspring (http://www.handspring.com) has announced the addition of the $199 eyemodule2 digital camera to its product line. Designed by IDEO, the eyemodule2 provides VGA resolution images, Palm-sized images and mini-movie video clips. Images can be categorized, annotated and beamed to other Handspring Visors or Palm OS handhelds. After synchronizing with a PC or Macintosh computer, images are available as JPEG images on the desktop.
An Internet-based survey of 727 digital camera owners conducted this past spring by Lyra Research, Inc. (http://www.lyra.com) reveals that one-third of respondents who were 51 years of age and older said they purchased their last digicam over the Internet. The study, The Digital Camera Consumer: Profiles in Usage, also found that the Internet (25 percent) was the most popular channel used to buy digital cameras followed by consumer electronics stores (22 percent) and mass merchants (20 percent.)
Canto (http://www.canto.com) made several announcements in time for Seybold San Francisco 2001, one of which has earned it a "Hot Pick" designation. Canto and Idee were acknowledged for the integration of Idee's Espion Visual Search with Canto's Cumulus 5. The Espion Option can search for images that are visually similar to another or alternatively for altered originals. Canto also released the Cumulus PDF AssetStore module to manage and search PDF files and a Mac OS X version of Cumulus.
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We'll report on Seybold San Francisco 2001. But you don't have to wait. You can catch our daily reports from the show floor at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM next week.
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