The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 4, Number 4 22 February 2002

Copyright 2002, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 65th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Some idle thoughts on Foveon's revolutionary sensor, a digicam for the rest of us and a preview of what looks like the most interesting trade show in a long time beckon below.

And thanks to those who've responded to our appeal for help supporting this publication by visiting http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?prnl to get 25 free enlargements (worth up to $75) plus Printroom's Shoot & Share [W] software for just $9.99 (half of which goes to this newsletter). Cash donations may be made at http://www.imaging-resource.com/buynow.htm if you prefer.


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:
Maha
http://www.mahaenergy.com/
Maha/PowerEx Named Best Battery and Charger

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Try the latest PowerEx 1800 mAh battery with the MH-C204F rapid charger and conditioner. Peak performance is maintained at all times as a result of their maximum capacity allowing you to use them longer as you charge them up to 1000 times. Treat yourself and receive the benefits in your high drain devices!

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Nikonusa.com
http://www.nikonusa.com
The Nikon Coolpix 5000 is the 5.24-megapixel (5.0 effective) digital camera that's powerful, yet compact enough to carry anywhere.

The super responsive Coolpix 5000 features a top shutter speed of 1/4000 second and shooting speed up to 3-frames per second at full resolution.

It packs a 3x optical Zoom-Nikkor lens. A 1.8-inch LCD monitor that swivels in virtually any direction. A dedicated hot shoe. And the ability to shoot 40 seconds of video with sound.

For more information visit the Coolpix 5000 product page.

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.


Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 44,000 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: The Foveon X3 Color Sensor Chip

Who described the Five Stages of aka Intoxication as Jocose, Verbose, Bellicose, Lachrymose, Comatose? We think of them every time we read a press release touting another "revolutionary" development. It's always inebriating to read on (and sometimes dangerously so). Take Foveon's announcement that Carver Mead has invented a full-color silicon sensor and it's already in production.

We found that so hilarious we started talking to everybody about it. Then, somewhat exhausted, we rolled up our sleeves and formed our little fists into skeptical pods. Then, even more drained, we thought how sad to pooh-pooh every new invention. A feeling that was quickly followed by a flood of tears as we considered the absence of commas in our bank account and the lure of the new device. Which only left one stage to hide in.

But we decided instead of going to bed we'd write about it in plain English. Put it in perspective. Understand it.

THE WAY IT IS

Your digicam is color blind. The sensors on its CCD -- one sensor per pixel -- only detect brightness, 256 levels. Color information is derived by filtering each black and white sensor, generally with either a red, green and blue filter. So each sensor reads one-third (eight bits) of the full color information required for its pixel. A particular pattern of filtration (sometimes called striping or a mosaic or matrix) later permits software to guess (uh, interpolate) the missing two-thirds (16 bits) of color information from the adjacent and differently-filtered sensors. Ingenious enough to get realistic color.

This works surprisingly well because the most important information in any photograph is, in fact, the brightness information or luminosity. Astonish your friends by opening one of your images in your favorite image editor and changing it from RGB mode to Lab mode (which, legend has it, is Photoshop's internal color model for converting from one color mode to another). Take a look at your channels and you'll see channels A (the green-red axis) and B (the blue-yellow axis) are pretty flat but the Lightness channel (with no color information) is recognizable.

JPEG compression algorithms rely on this phenomenon when they distill the color information from the brightness for greater compression. You can also see this at work when you colorize a black and white image by painting solely on a new color layer. With less than full opacity, you'll get very realistic results.

SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

The problem is edges. You'll see that the A and B layers of a Lab image are pretty flat. Which is why you can hardly recognize the image. So if we are trying to add 16 bits of color information within a uniform color field, the neighboring sensors will have just the right data and color interpolation works pretty well. Asking a few neighbors what color we are delivers the right answer.

Except at the edges, where the neighbors don't agree. You're in a no-man's land where the fighting can be fierce until you get into the next color field. The result is an edge bloodied with color artifacts.

With enough pixels ("enough" involving viewing distance, too), your CCD can minimize the problem. But the lower the resolution, the worse the problem is. Just try magnifying your digicam image 400 percent and look at any edge. My my.

THE HORROR

Actually, this isn't a big deal at normal viewing distances. It isn't distracting enough to distract us from little Sammy showing us his new tooth just as his little brother Oliver decides he wants to be a dentist. Unless we make very big enlargements. Even then, a trick or two can go a long way toward obviating the problem.

One, of course, is to use the Despeckle and or Dust and Scratches filter on the A and B channels of your image. And the inevitable unsharp masking has an effect too (which we're too lazy to calculate).

But we often don't bother. We've learned to live with color artifacting in digital images much as we learned to live with grain in film photography.

THE COLOR SENSOR

Enter Carver Mead, Foveon's founder and chairman of the board -- and the man who brought us the touch pad. By tapping into the color sensitivity of silicon itself, he's developed a silicon sensor that can report 24 bits of color information rather than merely 8 bits of brightness.

Publisher Dave Etchells, who took a class from Mead at Caltech, remembered him as someone with "a great capacity to take things that seem really complex and intractable and break them down to digestible chunks, look at those chunks in some fundamentally different way than anyone else had and then come up with a solution." Referring to the first full-color sensor, Dave added, "If anyone could come up with something really innovative like that, it'd be Carver Mead."

The X3 sensor dispenses with the need to interpolate color interpolation and the electronics to do it, too. You'll never see color artifacts on edges again.

It is indeed film-like in the sense that film, too, captures full color information at any particular point with an intricate layering of filters and dyes and couplers. The silicon, which absorbs the light of different colors at different depths, is the color filter.

"Using a similar concept, Foveon X3 image sensors consist of three layers of photo detectors embedded in silicon and are the first to detect three colors at every pixel location," Foveon said.

Hallelujah! If we can actually see the difference. See for yourself at the Foveon site (http://www.foveon.com), where they've prepared a very nice presentation with sample images.

Even better are the test photos Phil Askey at Digital Photography Review (http://www.dpreview.com/) took several months ago with a prototype X3 sensor (http://www.dpreview.com/news/0202/02021103foveonx3preview.asp).

"As you can see," Phil writes, "the sensor's ability to capture detailed resolution, both in the grayscale and color resolution goes way beyond what we could expect from even the best Bayer pattern sensors. Images from the new Foveon X3 sensor are more reminiscent of super high quality slide scans, but go even beyond that with no trace of grain. Very impressive. This could be the first sensor to truly surpass film."

YEAH, BUT

Of course, color interpolation works pretty well. Will we actually see a marked difference? We note with some amusement that Foveon compared their X3 with a 2-megapixel camera, highlighting a back-and-white text page to illustrate color artifacting. It's less an issue with a 3-megapixel camera. Bet Dave can't wait to run some tests to see just how much less.

And what about the color sensitivity of silicon? It's particularly sensitive to infrared light and responds weakly to blue light. Visit http://www.ph.tn.tudelft.nl/Courses/FIP/noframes/fip-Spectral.html for a terrific graph showing the color sensitivity of silicon.

And what happens when you tweak the gain to simulate higher exposure indexes? How does that little trick play out when you are capturing color information? We understand the X3 is equivalent to ISO 100. Can you get it to ISO 400? 800? 1600?

"Cameras don't really vary their inherent sensitivity, just crank up the amplification in their signal processing chain." Dave explained. "The 'actual' ISO is an inherent function of the quantum efficiency of the detector -- how well it converts photons to electrons -- and what the 'noise floor' is on the sensor and electronics combined. A combination of dark current in the sensor, random fluctuations in the charge levels, random thermal noise in the amplifier and signal conditioning circuitry. So boosting ISO always means boosting noise in direct proportion, as that gets amplified along with the signal."

OK, enough of this bellicosity.

HANDKERCHIEF, PLEASE

What really makes us cry is the other bells and whistles Foveon includes. This is a bit more than a mere chip announcement. It's a little imaging subsystem.

The X3 pixels can be grouped into "super pixels," according to Foveon:

"Foveon X3 full-color pixels can be grouped together to create larger, full-color 'super pixels' ushering in a new class of dual capability still/video cameras. The size of the pixel groups is variable and can be configured instantaneously on the camera. VPS technology allows a Foveon X3 enabled digital camera to capture high-resolution still photographs and full-motion video that offers photo quality superior to 35mm film and video quality that rivals high-end digital camcorders.

"Parents for example, could use this new type of camera to capture video of their child playing soccer. Mid-way through video recording they could press a shutter button, capture a high-resolution photograph and then seamlessly continue recording video. Security applications could also benefit from this high-quality dual-mode capture capability. Foveon X3 enabled airport security cameras could record video for general surveillance and capture high-resolution still photographs targeting suspected individuals or at timed intervals."

And in case you think this is pie in the sky, Foveon has already put together software development kits for the new chip. And yes, National Semiconductor is building them right now, in South Portland, Me. using a standard 0.18-micron CMOS production line.

And Sigma is introducing a $3,000 SLR digicam using the X3 at PMA. And Kodak has also expressed an interest in the X3. And ...

WHERE'S THE CHAMPAGNE?

If all this leaves you only a little dazed and not completely comatose, join us for the champagne. A full-color sensor is a wonderful thing, a long-cherished dream. Congratulations to Foveon and Mead for realizing it in silicone.

Now if they'd only send us one so we can capture this historic moment in the color depth it deserves. Until then, let's put the bottle on ice.

Return to Topics.

Feature: PMA 2002 Preview

In a sense, PMA is about dream analysis and we had a doozy the other night. We dreamed PMA really stood for "Pseudo Miss America" and suddenly there was Tony Danza introducing Miss Canon, Miss Minolta, Miss Nikon, Miss Olympus and all the other near Misses for the perfunctory talent and the mandatory swimsuit competitions.

The dreams analyzed at the Photo Marketing Association's 78th annual trade show (http://www.pmai.org/) which starts this Saturday in Orlanda, Fla. are not far from that (if a little closer to Mickey Mouse). This is the big hardware show and the pre-convention buzz is unusually noisy this year as manufacturers try to spotlight their new models before they walk down the runway.

Imaging Resource will be there, of course, reporting from the floor. News editor Mike Tomkins will no doubt be getting his hands on a few of the more intriguing models while Dave tunes in the big picture. Orbiting above them, your newsletter editor will keep a close eye out for any satellite transmissions. And back at the server, we'll be christening a new utility to make thumbnails of the dozens of images from the floor. Catch our daily coverage on the News page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM) starting Saturday.

Meanwhile, here's a brief preview of what we expect to see from a few of the approximately 700 exhibitors.

CANON

Canon will show four new digicams: the A100 (1.2-MP, 39mm lens), the A30 (1.2-MP, 3x zoom), the A40 (2-MP, 2.5 zoom, microphone) and the EOS-D60, a 6-MP update to its D30 designed to compete directly with Nikon's new D100. Dave has just reviewed a prototype D60.

Canon also has introduced the CP-100 postcard photo printer, a 300-dpi dye-sublimation printer that connects directly to its digicams.

CONTAX

Even though production issues have forced Contax to delay introduction of their much-anticipated N Digital SLR, a prototype is likely to be at the show.

FUJIFILM

The FinePix 30i MP3/digicam combo, sibling of the FinePix 40i and 50i, will see a U.S. release and make a little noise on the floor.

KODAK

The EasyShare DX4900 Zoom is a "print-optimized" 4.0-MP, 2x optical zoom digicam, designed to be one-touch simple as part of the Kodak EasyShare system. Available in March for $399.

Kodak Pro will introduce Digital Print Production Software v4.0 and the new Kodak Professional HR 500 Plus and HR Universal film scanners featuring Digital ICE technology.

KYOCERA

Kyocera Corp. has announced two new digicams for the Japanese marketplace. The 3-MP FineCam S3x and 4-MP S4 are ultracompact 3x optical zoom digicams with pop-up flash.

MINOLTA

The 4-MP Minolta Dimage S404 and Dimage X both recently got a first look from Dave and will be on display.

NIKON

Nikon has just introduced the 6-MP D100 (based on the F80 film SLR) with ISO 200-1600 sensitivity, pop-up flash with a Nikon F lens mount. It should be fun to compare it to the Canon D60 to the D100. And thanks to Mike Tomkins, you already can at http://www.imaging-resource.com/cameras/compare/ (he's been logging each newly-announced model into the database).

Nikon also announced the 2-MP Coolpix 2500 with 3x optical zoom in a stylish silver and blue split body.

Plus two new lenses: a stabilized 70-200mm f2.8-GB AF-S VR IF-ED and a 24-85mm f3.5-f4.5 AF-S ED. And three new speedlights enhanced for digicam use (SB-29 with a stop lower power, SB-30 ultra-compact and SB-80DX which replaces the SB-28.28DX).

OLYMPUS

No new cameras but a software upgrade and a photofinishing kiosk are rumored.

PANASONIC

The Lumix DMC-LC5, a 4-MP collaboration with Leica, is coming to the U.S. this spring.

PENTAX

The Pentax DigiBino DB-100 is a pair of binoculars with a built-in digicam. Handy for surveying the show, no doubt.

The new compact Optio 230 sports a 2.0-MP imager, a 3x zoom lens and an innovative 3D-image mode for stereoscopic shooting.

RICOH

Ricoh has recently introduced the Caplio RR1, a 4-MP digicam with a total of 72-MB of memory. Dave's first look is on the site.

SIGMA

Sigma will show their SD9 digital SLR featuring the first production Foveon X3 full-color sensor.

SONY

Just this week, Sony introduced five new digicams (and Dave's reviewed them all, too):

Sony is also working on a 6-MP, APS-sized CCD called the ICX413AQ.

And they recently introduced the Mavica MVC-FD200, a 2-MP, 3x optical zoom camera with both MemoryStick and floppy disk options.

TOSHIBA

Toshiba will introduce three new digicams at the show ranging from 2.2 to 3.2 megapixels. Interchangeable face plates and an interactive touch-screen are a couple of the rumored features.

SURPRISES

Digital photofinishing systems from Phogenix, Polaroid, Gretag and Pixel Magic Imaging are hot this year, too, as labs try to capitalize on the rapidly growing digital photography market.

That growth seems to be the real winner this year.

Which is why we expect a few surprises (and not just in hardware) before the show closes on Wednesday. So bookmark http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM to follow the action.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus C-3020 Zoom -- A Full-Featured Bargain

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C3020/C32A.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

With one of the broadest digital camera lineups in the industry, Olympus models range from pure entry-level, point-and-shoot digicams to the pro-level E-20 SLR. The Camedia C-3020 Zoom is their entry in the "full-featured, bargain-priced 3 megapixel" field, a category in which they have surprisingly little competition.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

Following on the heels of a number of recent Olympus Camedia releases, the Camedia C-3020 offers the best of the C series at an affordable price. With a full 3.14-megapixel (effective) CCD and the option of full manual exposure control, the C-3020 is a very attractive, capable digicam for under $500. The body style and control setup are very similar to previous Camedia designs, compact enough for travel, yet not too small for a good grip. Though the camera won't fit into a shirt pocket, it should find a home in most larger coat pockets and purses. A neck/shoulder strap offers more carefree toting.

Both a real-image optical viewfinder and 1.8-inch TFT color LCD monitor are built in. The addition of the status display panel on top of the camera means you can work without the LCD monitor enabled, composing images with the optical viewfinder and thus dramatically extending battery life. The C-3020 is equipped with a 3x, 6.5-19.5mm lens, the equivalent of a 32-96mm lens on a 35mm camera. Apertures range from f2.8 to f11, with automatic or manual control. Focus also offers manual or automatic control, with a distance scale readout in meters or feet. A Fulltime AF option continuously adjusts focus, while Digital ESP and Spot AF area modes provide flexible focus options. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the C-3020 also offers 2.5x digital telephoto.

The C-3020 offers a range of exposure modes, as well as five preset "Scene" modes including Portrait, Sports, Landscape/Portrait, Night Scene and Movie modes. Movie files are recorded without sound, at 320x240 pixels, for as long as the memory card has space. Still image exposure modes include Program AE (full auto), Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual and My Image modes. My Image mode allows users to save specific exposure variables for a customized shooting mode that can be recalled at any time. Shutter speeds range from 1/800 to 16 seconds, depending on the exposure mode chosen. Two metering modes are available: Digital ESP (a multipoint averaging approach) and Spot. An AE Lock option locks the exposure and provides more accurate metering for off-center or high contrast subjects. You can adjust the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure values, in one-third step increments (in all exposure modes except Manual). The Auto Exposure Bracketing mode shoots a series of images (either three or five) at different EV levels, allowing you to pick the best overall exposure.

The C-3020's light sensitivity can be set to Auto or 100, 200 and 400 ISO equivalents. The Noise Reduction feature cuts down the amount of image noise when shooting with longer exposure times (a feature I found very effective). White balance offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent and Manual modes, as well as a red/blue manual adjustment tool to correct the color balance in any preset white balance mode. Through the settings menu, you can also adjust the image Sharpness and Contrast levels, over a range of -5 to +5 in arbitrary units. An Image Effects menu offers Black and White, Sepia, Whiteboard and Blackboard shooting modes, for more creative shooting or for capturing text clearly. The 3020 thus offers an unusually wide range of creative control over image tone and color.

The built-in flash operates in either Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In, Off or one of the Slow Sync modes. For longer exposures or special effects, the Slow Sync modes combine the flash with a longer shutter time, synchronizing with either the opening or closing of the shutter. A Red-Eye Reduction option is also available for use with the slow-sync flash mode. Flash power is adjustable from -2 to +2 EV in one-third step increments.

The C-3020 also offers Continuous Shooting, Continuous Shooting AF and Self-Timer modes. When using Olympus SmartMedia cards, the camera also features a Panorama mode, with framing guidelines to help you line up each shot precisely.

Images can be saved in JPEG or uncompressed TIFF formats to the SmartMedia card, while movie files are saved in the Motion JPEG format. A 16-MB SmartMedia card comes with the camera, but upgrades are available separately as large as 128-MB. Also included is a USB cable and software CD for downloading images to a PC or Mac. The camera presents itself as a "storage class" USB device though, so no special driver software is needed on Mac OS 8.6+ or Windows 2000/ME/XP. The Camedia Master 2.5 software utility provides image downloading organization and editing tools, as well as Apple QuickTime for reviewing movies.

The C-3020 is powered by either four AA batteries or two CR-V3 lithium-ion battery packs. Usable AA battery types include alkaline, NiMH, Ni-CD and lithium. An AC adapter is available as a separate accessory.

OPTICS

A 3x, 6.5-19.5mm zoom lens is built into the C-3020, the equivalent to a 32-96mm lens on a 35mm camera. This is slightly "wider" overall than most digicam lenses, a help in close quarters, a minor limitation at the telephoto end. (I'm slightly biased toward the wide-angle end of a zoom range when it comes to overall usefulness.)

The lens aperture setting can be manually or automatically adjusted, with a range from f2.8 to f11.0. Focus also features manual or automatic control and ranges from 0.6 feet to infinity. A Macro button on the back of the camera optimizes it for shooting close-up subjects. Though the manual says the lens should be set to the furthest wide-angle setting, I found the best results by zooming in to about the middle of the lens' focal length range. Macro performance is on the low side of average, capturing a slightly larger-than-average minimum macro area, at 4.39x3.29 inches. This is fine for photographing many small objects for eBay and such, but won't be enough for larger-than-life portraits of bugs, etc.

The C-3020's autofocus system uses contrast-detection to determine focus, based on the center portion of the image. You can opt for Digital ESP or Spot AF area options, with the Digital ESP mode basing focus on a large area in the center of the frame. The Fulltime AF option continually adjusts focus instead of waiting until the Shutter button is halfway pressed -- good for moving subjects.

Like other cameras in their "compact" series (currently 2040, 3040, 4040), the C-3020 Zoom has a set of threads inside the lip of the raised area around the lens on the camera's body. These accept Olympus' CLA-1 lens thread adapter, which provides a set of 43mm filter threads positioned properly for affixing closeup lenses, filters and other auxiliary optics. I highly recommend getting a CLA-1 when you purchase your 3020. (Along with a thread adapter to take the oddball 43mm threads up to some standard size, such as 49, 52 or 55mm.)

SHUTTER LAG & CYCLE TIMES

Overall, the 3020 is quite a fast camera, its only limitation relative to the more expensive 3040 (in this respect at least) being shorter burst lengths. It can snap two successive shots with an interval of only 1.8 seconds (manual focus mode), but then has to wait 7.1 seconds to write the images to the card. (HQ mode can snap more in rapid sequence without pausing.) In small/basic mode, I captured as many as 75 images in a sequence before having to wait. The best part though, was the shutter delay in full autofocus mode, which was very much on the faster side of average, with shutter lag times of only 0.75 and 0.82 seconds with the lens set to wide-angle and telephoto respectively.

Most of the best of its competitors can get to 0.8 seconds or so with the lens set at wide-angle, but telephoto focus times stretch to a second or more in many cases. Manual focus and continuous focus times are slower than I'd expect or like to see, but the prefocus shutter delay is exceptionally fast. Although limited a bit by its short burst length (only two exposures), the 3020 would be a good choice for fast-paced action.

CONCLUSION

Packed with features, optional full manual exposure control and a generous 3.2-megapixel CCD, the C-3020 offers the best of Olympus' Camedia digicams at a very affordable price.

Color balance requires a little adjustment, but overall the camera produced nice color and image quality. And it's a big plus that you can tweak the color balance at all, a feature offered by very few cameras in the marketplace. Resolution and detail are very good and the camera shoots well under a variety of lighting conditions. With varying levels of exposure control ranging from full auto to full manual, the C-3020 is perfect for novice users who want to gradually increase control as they learn more about photography. The preset Scene modes make shooting in common situations a breeze, eliminating many worries over exposure decisions.

I was a big fan of the earlier C-3000 Zoom, feeling it was one of the best bargains in the market for "enthusiast" shooters on a budget. The 3020 carries that same tradition forward, with evolutionary improvements along the way.

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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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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 comments about the Olympus C-3020 Zoom at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8a67e

Check Kodak camera prices at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee860fb

Compare the Epson C80 and the Canon S630 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8a4da

Nick asks for comments on 'future digicam features' at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee8a77a

Visit the Sony Folder at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6f789

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We Have Mail

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

RE: Flash On

I've come up with another way to muffle and disperse the on-camera flash on my Olympus E-10.

I cut a small piece of plastic from a one-gallon milk jug and use spots of stick-on Velcro to attach it to the flip-up flash. It works best if you cut the plastic from the shoulder area of the jug, so it has a molded bend in it.

The Velcro on the top of the flip-up flash on the camera is black and virtually invisible when the flash is snapped shut. When the flash is up and the plastic piece is attached, it hangs down over the front of the flash. The color of the light is not altered by the clear plastic and it softens the stark lighting, especially for close-up people shots. The camera automatically exposes for the softer, slightly dimmer light.

I got the idea from my old Vivitar, whose voltage would fry the E-10's innards. The old external flash came with a collection of filters to fit over the flash head. They came in several colors, for special effects. One was sort of frosted, to fuzz and disperse the full force of the light.

For some of my people shots, I now use a new, low-voltage Vivitar bounced from the camera and the old, high-voltage Vivitar bounced from another area of the room, triggered by a slave sensor. With the E-10, I can do this without using the built-in flash because it has both the Olympus proprietary flash cable socket and a universal socket.

For about $40, owners of Olympus cameras can get a converter cable that will adapt the proprietary flash cable socket to a standard one. I bought the cable at B&H for my son-in-law to use with his Olympus 2100UZ, then coached him on how to use bounce flash. The pictures he takes of my grandchildren no longer have red-eye and are much more natural.

-- Clarence Jones

(To which we can only add that Velcro "spots" are also available in white. -- Editor)

My interest is in photographing old gravestones. Those who have done it will understand how important the angle of the incident light is to achieve the contrast needed to be able to read the information. Direct illumination from the on-board flash is probably the worst. Sometimes, but rarely, the sun will provide the optimum oblique lighting.

My first digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 600, a basic entry-level camera, with an on-board flash, but no electrical means to trigger a remote flash. I did have a slave, but the problem was to trigger the slave without direct illumination of the subject.

My solution was to acquire from Edmund Scientific a 20' length of about 1/16" diameter fiber-optic material. For its protection, I slipped it inside a similarly long piece of small diameter pneumatic tubing and terminated the tubing with connectors made for that tubing.

These connectors allowed for connection to anything with a standard 10-32 female thread. From some opaque plastic scrap I fashioned a mask for the on-board flash to block the direct illumination of the subject, but drilled and tapped a 10-32 hole in the face to which the homemade fiber-optic cable assembly was attached. The mask was attached to the camera with Velcro for easy removal.

Similarly, a mask was made to cover the sensor on the slave. The scheme worked as I had hoped. But I soon decided to upgrade the camera, sold the Nikon, but kept the flash accessory. Then I found that my new full-featured Olympus C-2500L had pre-exposure flash and my solution was useless with it.

Now, I have found I can achieve the desired effect without artificial light if I place the camera on the ground, a few feet from the base of the gravestone and angle it up to view the face of the stone. The overhead skylight and the oblique angle of the camera seem to do the trick, even on a cloudy day.

-- Robert Thompson

(Velcro, wonderful as it is, can not override the Olympus pre-exposure flash. But we understand Carver Mead is working on that. -- Editor)

RE: Digital Zoom 101

I have an Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom which, aside from the 10x optical zoom (which is fantastic), has a 2.7x digital zoom. What's the difference between using the digital zoom at the 27x level and cropping and expanding a picture taken at the 10x optical zoom level?

-- Bill Robins

(No more than the time it takes. But as much as we disparage digital zoom, we like to point out that it can help compose an image. It may not deserve the sales hype it gets, but it isn't entirely useless. -- Editor)

RE: Screen Protector

Instead of using clear shipping tape, buy a box of screen protectors that are used for Palm Pilots or Pocket PC handheld computers. They are made to be removed and replaced and are also very clear and tough.

-- Johnny Boyd

(Tres cool, Johnny. Thanks! -- Editor)

I read with interest Barry's and Ken's simple method of protecting LCD screens on their cameras. I have been using an even simpler method for over a year and it works like a charm!

I simply cut a piece of (good old) Saran wrap, slightly larger than the screen and immediately apply it to the LCD. It overlaps a bit over the camera body, but that's just fine.

It usually lasts about a month or two (depending how often I use the camera) and is extremely easy to replace, as it comes off easily (someone would argue too easily) and leaves no residue on the LCD itself.

I have been using it now for over a year, with excellent results.

-- Frank Anderson

(OK, but this topic cries out for Velcro! -- Editor)

RE: Macworld 360

We have one of the Kaidan 360 units in-house so I took your Macworld 360.jpg and ran it through the PhotoWarp software to turn it into a .mov panorama. You have to make sure to have the camera perfectly level or else the panos are tilted and the unit seems to sit somewhat cockeyed on most Coolpix cameras -- not perfectly centered on the imager and lens, which also tends to throw the panoramas off a bit. But all in all, it isn't too bad considering it is generating a 360 image from just one shot!

-- Steve

(Thanks for taking the trouble to process the image. As you may know by now, Kaidan did, too, and we subsequently posted that with the story (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/MWW02/0108tue.htm).... FYI, the shot was taken with a monopod-mounted 990 held aloft (self-timer to take the shot). No special tricks to keep it level, although I think the shooter made the effort.... At first we suggested they mount the unit on our camera. But since theirs was all set, we simply popped our card in their camera for the shot. So the mounting issue didn't come up. When the Kaidan shows up for review, we'll take a close look at the mount. Thanks for the heads up. -- Editor)

RE: Another Save

I found your page by searching Google and took your advice. Your recommendation to use Directory Snoop saved my day. I went to a very good concert yesterday and recorded about 20 digital videos and 30+ pictures. I then proceeded to transfer the pictures forgetting to transfer the videos (the best stuff) I deleted the entire Sony Memory Stick.

I tried two other utilities before downloading the trial version of Directory Snoop, which seems to far outclass the other two Recovery98 and FileRestore. Recovery 98 was not a full trial (no undelete functionality) while File Restore simply didn't work.

Directory Snoop worked like a wonder and I am out of the dog house with memories that I can store for years retrieved.

-- Clive H.

(Always liked Google <g>. -- Editor)

RE: Romaine Holiday

We're going on a 17 day trip without computer access. How many pictures of average resolution can we store in what format? I'm a novice at this. I love your newsletter -- have learned a lot by reading it.

-- Jim Folsom

(The Image Storage and Interface section of my camera reviews has a table showing how many of each size/quality image will fit on the storage card that ships with that camera. To calculate the capacity of larger cards, just divide the larger card's size by the standard one (say 256 by 16) and multiply the result by the number of images at the quality you use. If, for example, your digicam can store 10 high-quality images on a 16-MB card, a 256-MB card would store 160. BTW, our advertiser NewEgg (http://www.imaging-resource.com) has really excellent prices on CompactFlash. -- Dave)

RE: Created Equal

If you have time to respond, I would like to know if all CompactFlash is created equal? Lexar advertises 12x, 16x, etc. Do they really work or is it a gimmick?

-- Janet

(There are definitely differences, but an awful lot depends on your camera's ability to take advantage of the faster cards.... Most digicams capture images into a very fast, temporary storage buffer and then write the data out to the memory card. A fast card affects how quickly that buffer empties and therefore how long it will be before you can capture another photo. -- Dave)

RE: Nice Piece!

"Capturing the Light" was a very nice piece. Someone said over a hundred years ago at the advent of photography something like, "There goes painting." AFAIC, after 2.6 years of digital and no shoeboxes under the bed with fading yellow envelopes and nondescript scenes, for me, there goes film.

That being said, to what can we be true but ourselves?

I'll leave the garish to the Enquirer, but I will take and sometimes modify my photos. I just won't be doing it in the darkroom. Perhaps the truth does not have to be documentary or unretouched. Nixon's sweating reminded us that he was human.

Like Lewis Hine, who said that if he could write, he wouldn't need to lug a camera, photos are my means of producing paragraphs of feelings -- in a better manner than with words.

-- Harry Kachline

(Thanks very much, Harry! Indeed the truth needn't be "documentary or unretouched," as you put it. Whether it's Ansel Adams manipulating tones or George Lucas conjuring worlds. Even, it seems to me, if it's Walker Evans shooting sideways or Eudora Welty snapping a shot of a face that strikes her.... Which reminds us of that old argument about whether or not photography is art. -- Editor)

Goodwin Trent was the first I heard say, "I know what art is, I just don't know what I like."

-- Harry Kachline

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Editor's Notes

We haven't been watching the Olympics since we can no longer (believe it or not) tune in NBC in San Francisco, but we did find an intriguing story on photographing the Olympics. Visit http://www.apple.com/hotnews/articles/2002/02/olympicphotogs/ to see how Canon's Imaging Center and Nikon's Depot are supporting digital photographers covering the event.


Pictographics has released iCorrect EditLab, a Photoshop plug-in [MW] to make global color corrections based on a) automatic image analysis, b) memory colors you identify, c) interactive settings and d) Photoshop's color management setup. We've been playing with it and been quite impressed (as usual) with what these guys have done. Take the tour at http://www.picto.com/editlabtour/ and download the demo (http://www.picto.com/support/downloads.htm) for a test run. And take advantage of the Subscriber Deal above (before the rest of the world finds out Sunday).


For those of us who can't make it to Florida for PMA, digitalphotography.tv (http://www.digitalphotography.tv/untouched/) has launched In Search of Untouched Hawaii, Charlie Morey's images of "the Big Island."


David McGahey at FileFlow (http://www.fileflow.com) writes that "FastSend, our digital courier service, speeds up transfer of large image files over any type of Internet connection by a factor of 10-20 times. A user on a dial-up connection can deliver a 20-MB TIFF in minutes to any Internet email address anywhere in the world." The receiver can get it quickly, too. All either needs is the FileFlow plug-in. We're about to give this the Father-in-Law test. Stay tuned.


Subscriber Charlie Young found two new Photoshop Elements books. "How to Do Everything with Photoshop Elements" by Molly Joss from McGraw Hill and "Photoshop Elements for Dummies" by Deke McClelland and Galen Fott.


Beta 1.0.2b of YarcPlus is now available (http://www.pictureflow.com). The revision makes full Exif metadata available and adds a Preview command.


With DreamSuite Gel (http://www.myautofx.com/) you can paint depth, colors and surface textures plus add reflective depth and translucency to any photo. The $99 plug-in suite for Photoshop also comes as its own standalone application.


Founded by former Adobe Systems executives, the Bellamax service (http://www.bellamax.com) offers a simple, convenient, low-cost way to enhance digital photos. The service addresses common photo problems like red eye, exposure, color, saturation, composition, sharpness and noise. It also offers professional portrait retouch features. Enhancements are priced at $2.99 each.


Leo's Picture Browser (http://www.LeoBairn.com) is a $15 QuickTime image viewer [M] with playlists and convenient slideshow options.


Canto (http://www.canto.com) has begun shipping the version 5.5 update to Cumulus.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released OS 10.1.3, an OS X update that enhances support for Canon, Kodak and Sony cameras.


Joe Huber has released TalaPhoto (http://www.talasoft.com/talaphoto) [MW], a "simple and elegant tool for printing digital photos and posting them on the Web."

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One Liners

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Curtin Short Courses: http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

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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
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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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