The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 4, Number 12 14 June 2002

Copyright 2002, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 73rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We kick the tires on Photoshop 7, Dave reviews Minolta's Dimage 7i and we even explain why all this is so confusing. So take this newsletter on vacation!


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

PowerEx MH-C204F charger has a new companion!

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!

Find out more at: http://www.mahaenergy.com/products/PowerEx/Digicams/index.htm

To purchase online (go to the bottom of the page) at: http://www.thomas-distributing.com/

Nikonusa.com
http://www.nikonusa.com
The New Nikon Coolpix 2500 digital camera. The one that Swivels.

Sleek and pocket-sized, with a unique inner-swivel lens design. This digital lets you take pictures from any angle. Even of yourself. 2.0 effective megapixels, exclusive 3x Zoom-Nikkor lens and 12 scene modes give you incredibly sharp shots wherever the fun is happening. And a built-in One-Touch Upload(tm) button lets you easily save and share you pictures with friends and family.

Visit http://www.nikoncoolpix.com to check out the Coolpix 2500, named a "Best Buy" and "Top 10 Digital Camera" by PC World Magazine. Includes rechargeable battery and charger.

Olympus
http://www.olympusamerica.com/
The Camedia D-520 Zoom -- Big, beautiful pictures. Small, beautiful camera.

Unexpectedly Easy. Whether you point and shoot or customize every shot, it's easy with push-button controls and an intuitive menu system.

2.0-megapixel CCD (effective). Turn your masterpieces into works of art with big, sharp, detailed prints worthy of your best 8x10 frames.

Auto-Connect USB. Nearly any computer with a USB port will connect automatically to the D-520 Zoom. No software. No hassles.

Clear, powerful zoom lens. A versatile 7.5x total seamless zoom (3x optical/2.5x digital) and aspherical glass elements fill your pictures with sharp detail from edge to edge.

Olympus innovation. It's the feature most responsible for the most realistic digital images yet. Nothing's impossible.

Catch our latest promotions.


Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 45,000 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Photoshop 7.0 in Action -- Part I

Upgrading Photoshop has always been a little like visiting the local magic shop. "What's new?" you ask. "Hey, I got a great little hat trick just in," the smiling clerk says. "Just for digital photographers."

As he pulls one brightly colored object after another out of his hat, you begin to wonder if your coat is in there. "I just want to impress my in-laws," you plead. "So set the table," he shrugs.

But since Photoshop 6, Adobe has been focusing less on magic and more on the Photoshop user experience. There are certainly enough new magic tricks to applaud 7.0 with the flapping of checkbook covers. But what will win you over, launch after launch, is the improved usability. You won't go back.

And if you've been waiting for a Photoshop that runs natively under OS X or Windows XP, the wait is over. Even if you aren't, the new scripting capabilities alone are efficiencies enough.

HOOPLA

Adobe says this version is aimed at digital photographers especially (and Web designers especially, and ...). We take that to simply mean Adobe recognizes Photoshop has a life outside pre-press. Fifty percent of Photoshop users are not going to press with their files, according to Adobe.

But we do find after using both the beta and the final release that Photoshop 7 is a valuable (and robust) upgrade for digital photographers.

And this time Adobe has made it affordable, too. Upgrades are $149 for the $609 full version (http://www.software-wholesale.com) has the Windows version for $535 with free three-day shipping).

NEW FEATURES

Among the new features (many of which we'll skip), highlights for digital photographers include:

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

System requirements never get smaller, but 7.0 bumps them up significantly. All systems need 128-MB RAM (192-MB recommended) with a CD-ROM drive and an 800x600 color monitor with at least 16-bit color (24-bit recommended).

On the Mac, you'll need a PowerPC (G3 or higher recommended) running OS 9.1 or higher (or OS X) with 320-MB of free disk space.

On Windows, you need a Pentium III or 4 running Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP with 280-MB of free disk space.

INSTALLATION

Photoshop is still a pretty straightforward install, writing almost all of what it needs to the folder it inhabits.

It needs quite a bit, though, especially this version's multilingual spell checker. Our Mac OS 9 basic install actually required 238-MB. OS X took 280-MB.

We did several installs, taking between five and eight minutes, depending on the machine and disk speed.

We install software on an external drive we move from machine to machine to confirm or resolve one or another issue. But we were unable to run the install we did on a G4 from a 7300 (PPC 604), for example. After a reinstall on the 7300, we were able to run Photoshop 7 on that system without any problems or penalties. The executables were indeed different sizes (56,315,475 vs. 56,288,344 for the G4 version).

WAIT A MINUTE

Installation is simple, but that doesn't mean you're up and running. Photoshop's personality is usually modified by a few third-party plug-ins, some of which you may consider utterly indispensable.

Adobe actually gives Mac users the OS 9 version along with the OS X version so they can run their plug-ins. The OS X version enjoys few plug-ins at the moment (not to mention printer drivers) but the OS 9 version welcomes most Photoshop 6.0 plug-ins.

That doesn't mean everything you depend on will work. And in our case, it didn't.

Our Average digicam doesn't rotate images. Everything's a landscape, just as if we were still using film. So we rotate them in Juri Munkki's great little utility Cameraid (http://www.cameraid.com). But when we looked at these images in the new File Browser, the rotated images had no thumbnails. Worse, the File Browser didn't display any Exif data for them.

A bug? Adobe couldn't duplicate it (they have an Average digicam, too).

Our only clue was that Photoshop reported the file format as ProJPEG, not its own JPEG. We depend on Boxtop Software's ProJPEG plug-in for optimizing file sizes for Web images, and it has the habit of embracing any JPEG file as its own format. Apparently the File Browser doesn't peek into those files.

Removing the plug-in restored Photoshop's ability to display thumbnails of rotated images and to report the metadata.

FILE BROWSER

Adobe says the new File Browser was added for digital photographers who have to scan dozens of images at a time. But rest assured the entire graphic arts community thanks you. Long overdue and the single best reason to upgrade. Once you use it, you won't want to live without it.

It's a good browser, no question. But we much prefer what Apple's done in iPhoto, primarily because iPhoto has on-the-fly thumbnail scaling. But also because iPhoto isn't scrunched into your work area -- it is your work area (like any other photo cataloging program).

Adobe's Browser window has four panes, one big one on the right side for the thumbnails and three stacked on top of each other on the left. The top pane is a navigable list view of your desktop. The middle pane shows a preview of any selected image whose Exif data is displayed in the pane just below it. Like frames in your Web browser, you can resize these panes within the browser window by dragging their dividers around.

Within the Browser you can easily rotate any selection of thumbnails to correct orientation. A double click opens the image in Photoshop and rotates it into the corrected orientation. But thumbnail rotation does not itself change the orientation of the image.

In fact, to make this stick you have to save the image in Photoshop.

Ranking any selection of thumbnails by letter grade can be done from a popup menu. And you can sort the ranked images to group all the A's together, for example.

The Exif display is essential for digital photographers (where it can be illuminating in cataloging software). But Adobe has even decided to preserve it in edited images. Not all data will be valid but it's nice it doesn't disappear any more (even that's more accurate).

The Browser also lets you batch rename (and optionally move) any selection of unopened images using a template for filenames that's among the more sophisticated we've seen. The options include: the document name in initial caps, lower case or all caps; a one, two or three digit serial number; a lower or upper case serial letter; seven date variations; and the extension in lower or upper case. Plus any custom text in any combination of six options.

For example, you can rename all your images as "FathersDay-061602-001.jpg" and so on. We generally find renaming images one of the least rewarding tasks we can think of, preferring to impose a meaningful directory structure without changing any filenames (a folder for each year and a folder for each shoot that year numbered sequentially with a text description like "74 Annadel Park"). So while we like just how descriptive you can be, we won't use it. But that's just us.

Filename compatibility checkboxes for Windows, Linux and the Macintosh are also available. Which beats learning the rules.

The information displayed by the Browser for any folder is stored in a cache. That includes the thumbnail previews, their orientation and their ranking. To avoid recreating it, you have to (remember to) export that cache to the directory. This should really be invisible to the user. Really.

(To be continued.)

Return to Topics.

Feature: Minolta Dimage 7i -- Updating the Revolution

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D7I/D7IA.HTM on the Web site.)

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

Building on the success of last year's Dimage 7, Minolta has introduced the updated Dimage 7i with a host of new features that improve an already exceptional camera. The Dimage 7i continues with the 4.95-megapixel CCD, ultra-sharp 7x optical zoom lens and a variety of features that were firsts in a consumer digicam when they debuted last year. Updates include a real-time histogram mode, a new UHS Continuous Advance mode for ultra high-speed image sequences, a Night Movie mode, audio recording capability and a dozen more improvements. Extensive creative controls, sophisticated camera functions and a user-friendly interface make the Dimage 7i appealing to advanced users, but you can put it in full auto mode and hand it to a novice with confidence. The improved ergonomic design looks and feels a lot like a conventional 35mm SLR, with an elongated lens barrel and a lightweight magnesium alloy body with plastic outer panels hosting the numerous dials, switches and buttons. Although the profusion of controls makes the camera seem complex, the controls are all logically set up and actually fairly easy to learn. Minolta has packed a lot of functions into a very workable layout, with a range of features normally found on more expensive pro digicams.

A high-quality, 2/3-inch interline-transfer CCD with five million pixels (4.95 million effective), provides a maximum resolution of 2560x1920 pixels, the highest currently available among consumer digicams. The 12-bit A/D converter and relatively large pixel size provide a wide dynamic range (detailed highlights and shadows) and fine tonal gradation, with as many as 4,096 levels captured in each RGB channel. The CCD's light sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 200, 400 and 800 equivalencies and may be automatically controlled by the camera or manually selected.

One significant change from the original Dimage 7 is the 7i's color space. It's now much closer to standard sRGB, meaning that the raw files directly from the camera are much more vibrant and usable than those from its predecessor. You still need to run them through the Dimage Viewer utility to get the best color possible, but for many users, just bumping the color saturation control a notch or so will be acceptable for routine use.

All that sensor resolution would be useless, however, if the lens weren't capable of resolving such fine detail. The Dimage 7i features an advanced apochromat 7x zoom GT Lens, based on the same technology used in Minolta's popular Maxxum series SLR lenses. With 16 glass elements in 13 groups, the GT lens has two anomalous dispersion and two aspheric glass elements for sharp, detailed images with minimal distortion and glare. I was unusually impressed with the lens on the original Dimage 7 and this appears to be the same design. It has about the best corner to corner sharpness I've seen on a prosumer-level digicam, particularly impressive given the long 7x zoom ratio. The 7.2-50.8mm focal range (a 28-200mm 35mm equivalent) provides the flexibility for extreme wide-angle interior and landscape shots, as well as close-up portraits and zoom action in sports photography. The manual zoom ring is a pleasure to use, with a wide rubberized grip and smooth transitions between focal lengths. The Macro capability captures subjects as close as 9.8 inches from the lens, which translates to a very small 1.5x2.0-inch minimum capture area. A host of focus controls provide a lot of flexibility and a new on-demand manual focus option lets you tweak the autofocus without switching from auto to manual focus mode.

One of the most impressive features, however, is the Digital Hyper Viewfinder, which debuted on the Dimage 7. While technically an Electronic Viewfinder -- a miniature version of the larger rear LCD display (complete with information overlays) - Minolta's implementation incorporates a sophisticated reflective ferroelectric LCD design with full-color pixels, rather than the usual red, green and blue ones. The result is an apparent resolution much higher than its 122,000 pixels would indicate. Display quality is much better than I'm accustomed to seeing in EVFs, with a remarkably smooth, sharp and clear image, even in low light. And the Digital Hyper Viewfinder eyepiece can tilt 90 degrees.

Three metering options are available: 300 Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted and Spot. Multi-Segment divides the image into 300 segments, emphasizing the main subject but integrating luminance values, color and autofocus information from across the image. The Center-Weighted and Spot metering options emphasize the center of the frame or a small spot at the very center of the frame, respectively. Exposure modes include Programmed AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual, plus five Digital Subject Programs (Portrait, Sports, Night Portrait, Sunset and Text exposures). The presets use not only aperture and shutter speed settings to best capture the subjects, but also Minolta's exclusive CxProcess image processing to optimize color balance and skin tones.

The Digital Effects Control adjusts Exposure Compensation (-2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments) as well as Color Saturation, Contrast and Filter settings. A Color Mode option offers special color effects and a black and white shooting mode. The Record menu features a separate Digital Enhanced Bracketing option for taking three bracketed exposures of an image, adjustable from one-third, to one-half, to full-stop increments. A customizable AE/AF Lock button can lock only autoexposure or both autoexposure and autofocus. White Balance is adjustable to one of four preset options (Daylight, Tungsten, Cloudy or Fluorescent), along with Auto and Manual options. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 4 seconds (as high as 1/4000 second in Programmed exposure mode), with a Bulb setting for exposures up to 30 seconds. Maximum lens apertures are f2.8 at the wide-angle end and f3.5 at telephoto. A new real-time histogram display mode lets you verify exposure before capturing the image. There's a histogram display option in Playback mode, too.

The Dimage 7i overshadows its predecessor in autofocus performance with speeds almost twice as fast. Powered by a Large Scale Integration chip, it rapidly processes image data through a high-speed 32-bit RISC processor. The autofocus information can be measured in one of three ways: Wide Focus Area averages readings from a large portion of the image center (indicated on the LCD by wide brackets); Spot Focus Point reads information from the very center of the LCD (indicated by a target crosshair); and Flex Focus Point lets you position a target cross-hair within the viewfinder to focus on off-center subjects.

The built-in, pop-up flash offers two metering methods: Advanced Distance Integration, based on the lens aperture and distance feedback from the autofocus system, and Pre-Flash TTL, which uses a small metering flash before the main exposure to gauge how much light is reflected by the scene. The Dimage 7i also includes a top-mounted hot shoe. Flash modes include Fill-Flash, Red-Eye Reduction and Rear Flash Sync, with Flash Compensation available from -2 to +2 exposure values in one-third-step increments. Wireless flash mode works with certain Minolta-brand wireless flash units. New to the 7i is a manual flash mode that fires the onboard flash at full, 1/4 or 1/16 power. Since manual flash mode doesn't use a pre-flash, it's perfect for driving studio slave strobes.

Additional Dimage 7i features include a sound-capturing Movie mode with Night exposure option, Voice Memo mode, Standard and UHS Continuous Advance modes (up to 7.5 fps at 1280x960 resolution), 2x Digital Zoom, Interval Recording of two to 99 frames in one- to 60-minute intervals, 10-second Self-Timer and three Sharpness settings. Five image quality levels include RAW uncompressed files and Super Fine, Fine, Standard and Economy compression settings. Resolution options for still images include 2560x1920, 1600x1200, 1280x960 and 640x480 pixels. Movie resolution is 320x240 pixels. The UHS Movie option records a 640x480 movie simultaneously with the continuous image sequence.

Minolta has incorporated Epson's PRINT Image Matching technology, so Dimage 7i images captured in auto-exposure mode and output on compatible Epson printers will be automatically color balanced to provide true-to-life hues and saturation.

Powered by four AA alkaline or NiMH rechargeable batteries (an optional AC power adapter is available), the Dimage 7i delivers an amazingly versatile package for the serious amateur or prosumer photographer. It looks to me like Minolta has really listened to users of the original Dimage 7 and implemented a surprising range of meaningful upgrades and enhancements.

SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES

Overall, the Dimage 7i is a pretty fast camera. Minolta has dramatically improved autofocus speed, so shutter lag is quite a bit faster than average, even in full autofocus mode. Manual focus and prefocus times are also a good bit quicker than average. Shot-to-shot cycle times are also very good, helped by the roomy buffer memory that can handle 7-8 high-resolution images at a time. With an appropriately fast memory card, buffer clear times are quite good, as are TIFF write times. 18.5 seconds is still a long time, but other cameras and the original Dimage 7 took even longer.

CONCLUSION

It's no secret I was greatly impressed with the original Dimage 7 when I reviewed it in May 2001. While it's aged well, other products have since appeared offering it strong competition. The new Dimage 7i is a significant upgrade to the original though, more than meeting the competition in a wide range of areas.

The big story with the Dimage 7i is still the lens, clearly one of the best on a prosumer digicam. The rest of the camera also performs to a very high level though, with category-leading autofocus speed, excellent, fine-grained control over color and tone and noticeable improvements to what was already one of the best electronic viewfinders in the industry.

As an added bonus, the Dimage 7i integrates beautifully with Minolta's dedicated flash units, with built-in wireless TTL flash metering capability and full control over the flashes' zoom heads. Minolta's very flexible twin-headed macro flash system deserves special mention here as well, as one of the most flexible macro lighting systems I've seen.

No product is perfect though and the Dimage 7i is no exception. There are still issues with the difficulty its EVF has showing highlight detail and the camera still consumes prodigious amounts of power. A couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH cells and/or an external Li-Ion battery pack are strongly recommended accessories. I also found some inconsistency in the action of its exposure compensation adjustment.

But the new Dimage 7i demands serious consideration from anyone shopping at the high end of the prosumer digicam market. Highly recommended!

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: The Ups and Downs of Composing

So there we were in the main library at the University of California at Berkeley when we thought we'd show niece Gina the impressive, hangar-like reference room. Its vaulted ceiling makes it seem the size of a football field with a dome no punter could reach. Not to mention the two walls of high windows that illuminate the place.

We were in the reference desk end zone while Gina strolled along the book-lined walls when we thought, this would make a really nice picture. So we fired up the Average digicam and pointed it down the aisle at her.

But we didn't press the shutter button.

Even zoomed out to the widest angle, you couldn't see the ceiling. It was just a wide room with a girl in it. Not anything at all like what we were looking at.

But then we remembered an old trick that saved the day. We squatted like we were catching Cy Young. From that very low angle, the Average could see from the floor up to the ceiling. A much more dramatic view. We simply lined up Gina on the right of our frame and took the shot.

The Average has a swivel lens that let's us conveniently look at the LCD independently of the lens' orientation. So shooting low doesn't always take a squat. Sometimes we just drop it to our belt as if it were an old Rollieflex and get a much better angle on the scene.

Even if your digicam doesn't swivel, you can use this trick. In fact, its cousin has been a favorite for years of press photographers crowding around a single luminary. They just set their zoom a bit wider than usual and hold their camera as high as they can, pointing down to the luminary before shooting blindly.

That high shot is easier to frame with a digicam's LCD -- and it's a great way to include everyone at the kitchen table when you've backed up against the wall.

Even better, these two tricks require no practice. You just have to remember the ups and downs of composing to get a new perspective on tight spots!

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: It's Not You, It's Mode Confusion

The race between Features and Design reminds us of another race. In that one the speedy rabbit covered more ground per second than the steady turtle, but the turtle had the shorter elapsed time. Features may be compelling when you're shopping, but they're worthless if you can't use them.

We still have trouble remembering under which menus some options are buried. Did we have to turn a dial or scroll to a certain screen or both? Those little buttons have more functions than the arsenal of the entire Swiss army.

So we were cheered the other day to learn this problem has a name. Mode Confusion. It's a common malady. Increasingly.

Ever looked under the hood of your new vehicle? It occurred to us (at the last moment) to ask the dealer how to open ours. And when he did, just before we drove away, we didn't let him move until he pointed out the wiper fluid reservoir, the dipstick and a few other landmarks. We've changed plugs on the Rumbolino (vintage 1967) and even made the odd repair with a rubber band or a pair of old pantyhose (for temporary radiator hose repair). But we know when we're beat.

The problem is so bad there's even a retro movement in product design. Teac developed a brand of stereo systems it calls Nostalgia for their 1930 design motif including simple knobs to tune in radio stations. Teac doesn't make digicams, unfortunately.

It's enough to make you long for that old mechanical SLR whose batteries were only used for the built-in light meter. Which you could certainly do without in Bright or Hazy Sun, Cloudy Bright, Heavy Overcast or Open Shade if you just read the instructions that came with your roll of film.

Those were the days, Archie.

But we're no longer alone. Alan Cooper, the man who invented the term "mode confusion," recently bought a Nikon Coolpix 885. Cooper spent a good long while going through the manual trying to find out how to rotate images 90 degrees. Which is one feature Nikons lack. Even our old Nikon FM.

Cooper argues eloquently for user interaction design, which his firm (http://www.cooper.com) provides. In his book "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum," he argued that high tech products make us crazy because programmers and engineers are in charge of product design. And while they're good at programming and engineering, they aren't very good at design. Which led Cooper to coin "Goal-Oriented Design," the radical notion that products should be developed with the user's goals in mind.

Alas, his client list includes no digicam manufacturers.

Product design has evolved from nakedly obvious hardware features into a seductive amalgamation of hardware and software encapsulated in upgradeable firmware. Your hardware can morph into updated features just by rewriting the software it contains.

That has led to throw-it-in-the-suitcase design and sit-on-it-to-close-it products. In software, too, with simple icons hiding half a dozen modes revealed only by a half-click.

We welcome Cooper to the fight and invite you to learn more about interaction design. The webzine uidesign.net published a fun two-part interview (http://www.uidesign.net/2000/interviews/cooper1.html) that should give us all hope that the race is not yet over.

Return to Topics.

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 Nikon D100 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8c7ea

Compare Canon camera prices at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee860f6

Visit the Techniques Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6b325

A reader asks about laser printers and photos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8bd4d

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

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

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

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

Return to Topics.

We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.

RE: Out of Focus

You guys are so knowledgeable and helpful, I'm hoping you can make sense of this one.

I have an Olympus C-2000Z. I've been using it for a number of years and have been quite successful in shooting some nice, crisp, sharp product shots which were then printed (commercially) in product catalogs. However, for the last couple of months, I have been unable to achieve the same sharpness and detail in the pictures.

I shoot very close and set it to the macro mode at the SHQ-TIFF setting. I use the aperture priority setting and try to use f11 as much as possible. Once in Photoshop, I use the unsharp mask filter at 200 and then resample it to 300 dpi at about 7x7 inches or so. This is the same procedure I've used for the last couple of years, but now the pictures are just not as sharp and crisp -- decent, but not as good as before.

Can digital cameras have a problem with them that would cause this?

-- Janet

(Resample first, then unsharp mask (see our nik Sharpener review for Dave's and my favorite -- if different -- settings). Or, to put it another way, only unsharp mask at final size, when you're done with everything else.... Make sure you've cleaned your lens and make sure your autofocus element is not fogged or smudged (see if the distance recorded in your Exif header is the same on your product shots as they had been). Then try shooting an image similar to Dave's test shots for the camera and compare your results. If the unedited image seems soft, send the camera in for an evaluation, at least. A bump or drop could cause less sharp images. -- Editor)
(Could definitely be the resample after USM instead of before. One little-known note about digicams though, is that at small apertures like f11, their resolution is diffraction limited. Think of the softness of a pinhole camera, you get the idea. Best to stay above f8 for critically sharp images. You get extra depth of field at any given f-stop anyway, since their focal lengths are so short. -- Dave)

RE: Tiny Digicams

For $50 the SiPix Blink (http://www.sipixdigital.com/blink.shtml) offers a lot. I'd like to see someone like Canon or Nikon produce a camera like the Blink and refine it for more serious use by those of us who travel in the field with our laptops. Even just a memory card to afford larger streaming videos up to 15 minutes. The absence of flash isn't so worrisome if low light features are built into the camera.

I just wanted to mention this camera because it caught my imagination. Do you know of any other quality manufacturers looking at this concept?

-- Joel B. Wheeler

(Thanks for the tip, Joel! Logitech is coming out with a tiny digicam shortly, too. As we mentioned in our April 19 issue, it's based on the SMaL Technology 1.3 digicam design.... We'd feel a lot better about these tinycams if they had a megapixel to work with. And we're downright disappointed when they don't even have 640x480 (or a flash). But we agree they're an exciting product to keep an eye on. -- Editor)

RE: CompactFlash Speeds

I want to buy some large (256-MB) CompactFlash cards for my just-ordered Minolta Dimage 7i, but I'm a little confused. There is quite a difference in prices which seems to be associated with the card speed (4x, 12x, etc.). I understand what the speed ratings mean. What isn't clear is whether or not a particular camera takes advantage of the speed.

Thanks for any help you can provide. You always surprise me with the help you give. I'll wait with bated breath on this one. There are so many competitors in the CompactFlash business and the prices are all over the map. So, how to pick the best for the money?

-- Dave Williams

(Card speed does matter and the larger your image data, the more it matters. The speed of a CompactFlash depends on the sophistication of its built-in controller. But cameras do vary greatly in their ability to take advantage of faster cards. For more about CompactFlash, see Rob Galbraith's treatise (http://www.robgalbraith.com/reports/2001_02_17_compactflash.html). -- Editor)

RE: Seeing the Difference

A non-technology way [to see the difference between two similar pictures] is to put the two images side by side and cross your eyes so you see three images. The center image will have "squigglies" (appears to be some motion as the eyes fight for dominance) where the detail differs. Useful also for Sunday Supplements with the cartoons "Spot the Differences."

-- Tom

(Ah ha! Those puzzles always drive us nuts. Thanks, Tom! -- Editor)

RE: StillMotion for Macs

Just to let you know, I asked ImageMatics via email if they would ever have a Mac version of StillMotion, with no answer yet. However, Apple's QuickTime news mentions a similar product, with many of the same features (http://www.virtix.com/products/ZoomFilters.asp). In addition, the same newsletter mentioned an application which adds QuickTime overlays in iMovie (http://www.ezedia.com/products/eZedia_plug-ins/iMovie_plug-ins/eZeMatte_plug-in.html). So, something for the Mac side.

-- Harry M. Kachline

(Thanks, Harry. We've been playing with MovieWorks (http://www.movieworks.com), a multimedia "works" product, learning how to make slide shows with its automatic Sequencer button and built-in transitions. -- Editor)

RE: Contrast Masking

Though I don't have editing software that allows the use of layers, my Toshiba PDR-M4 came with Image Expert which has a tool called Equalize. I think this has the same effect, lightening shadows while not burning out the highlights, but just by dragging a bar to get the desired result.

-- Alan

(Thanks, Alan! Equalize (like Auto Levels without the cropping) takes the darkest value in your image and makes it black, and makes the lightest value white, distributing everything in between "equally." But there are a couple of advantages to using a contrast mask layer. You actually alter (not just shift) the luminance values with Overlay mode (amplifying some and screening others) and you can manipulate the mask's values (opacity, curve, etc.) as well as paint directly on it (dodge and burn) to bring out detail. -- Editor)

RE: Black and White Continued

In replying to Bill Robins you said, "What determines the number of colors (or levels of gray) is not the number of pixels, but the number of bits in a pixel. And with 24-bit color [eight each for red, green and blue], you've got plenty to work with."

Well, sort of -- gray, of course, is equal amounts of red, green and blue, so 24-bits of color produce 8 bits or only 256 levels, of gray. Not too bad, but nothing like the 16,777,216 levels of color you started with.

And as far as pixels go, I'd prefer to have 5 million pixels of detail to work with rather than the 2+ million I do have. I use an Olympus C-2020Z to capture images I print in color and black and white on a Canon S800 at up to 8x10 inches -- and some panoramas at 8x40 (in two parts pasted together) and the print quality is very good.

I also use an infrared filter, sometimes keeping the image in the reddish and greenish colors produced by the camera and sometimes converting to grayscale. Virtually any photo taken in infrared in a cemetery will have a fascinating other-worldly quality to it.

-- George

(There are only 256 luminance values to work with in 8-bit grayscale, right. But in a quadtone, you have those 256 for each color and can greatly extend the range. Which is an excellent reason to shoot your black-and-whites in color, convert to monochrome (not grayscale) in RGB mode and print in CMYK color.... More pixels does, in fact, equal more detail. But as we like to remind our slow-to-upgrade self, inside every 5-megapixel camera is a 2-megapixel image.... Those cemetery shots sound interesting. Must be the vegetation (one hopes)! -- Editor)

How do I approximate the color tones of platinum prints when working in Photoshop? How will the prints look from a 4-color ink jet printer?

How does one approximate the look of an albumen print when working in Photoshop? Similarly, the dichromate emulsion?

-- Mike Tillmans

(You can generate monotone images in Photoshop several ways. One is simply by using an Adjustment Layer, click on the Colorize option (which sets Saturation to 25; try 15 or so for a more subtle effect) and choose a Hue you like. You can do much the same thing with the Channel Mixer (on an adjustment layer). Click the Monochrome option and experiment with the sliders to modify the image's highlights, shadows and midtone. Then unclick Monochrome to colorize the image. And, of course, you can use Curves, modifying the individual channels.... Print monochrome as if it were color (quadtones). By employing more than just black ink, you get a richer tonal range from your inkjet, just as you would from a 4-color press. Any of the color shifts above should be easy for your properly calibrated printer to reproduce, too.... And if that isn't quite enough, there are ink sets that substitute the color inks for different grays. -- Editor)

RE: Superb!

The newsletter is superb. I stumbled on it when looking for a new digital camera and avidly read reviews for a few months before buying an Olympus Camedia 2100.

Every issue brings me something useful and I have passed on the link to many friends. Keep it going!

-- Ken Murray

(Thanks, Ken! Word of mouth is what keeps us going. Pass it around! -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Future Image (http://www.futureimage.com) reports in Digital Cameras: The Battle for the Emerging Consumer Market the top digital camera vendors have set their sights on the mass consumer market. Eight companies -- Canon, Fuji, HP, Kodak, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus and Sony -- are expected to expand from the high ground they gained with early adopters to a leading position in the consumer market.

Among the findings of the 93-page report: the top eight vendors unanimously believe consumers are ready for digicams; owners of 3-megapixel cameras are overwhelmingly satisfied with their 8x10 prints whether inkjet (80.2 percent) or silver halide (73.6 percent); there is very little difference in satisfaction with 8x10 prints between owners of 3- and 4-megapixel cameras, indicating 3 megapixels may be the magic number; consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of lens quality, as distinct from resolution, with 70 percent rating it very or somewhat important; early adopters are a powerful influence on brand adoption, not only by recommending cameras to friends and family, but by purchasing them as gifts.


ImageMatics has released version 1.1 of StillMotion Creator (http://www.imagematics.com/index_dd1.htm), featuring keyboard shortcuts for commonly used functions, an improved rendering algorithm that avoids moires and also helps a little with Flash's jerkiness when panning and zooming.


Take a photo tour of Dane-Elec's Irish CompactFlash factory (http://www.tweakers.net/reviews/308).


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released version 10.1.5 of Mac OS X. The update expands support for new Canon digicams; Nikon FireWire cameras; SmartDisk, EZQuest and LaCie disc recording devices; and improves support for MO drives.


Nikon has launched a Roadmap to SLR Photography Web site (http://www.nikonslr.com) designed to be a one-stop resource for information on film and digital SLR photography.

Nikon's Twist Across America tour is a four-member team traveling in a Coolpix 2500-outfitted van on an 18-city tour from Boston to Seattle. Visit http://www.nikoncoolpix.com to view tour highlights and enter to win one of three Coolpix 2500/Apple iMac prize packages.

Nikon also released OS X versions (http://www.nikontechusa.com) of Nikon Scan 3 and NikonView 5. Firmware revision 1.4 for the Coolpix 775 has also just been released, reducing noise in slow shutter speed shots.


ACD Systems (http://www.acdsystems.com) will distribute Realview's $29.95 RealOptimizer, an ACDSee plug-in to change file and/or image size of JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF and GIF images.


Canon (http://www.canon.com) introduced the $299 PowerShot A200. The entry-level digicam uses a 2-megapixel CCD chip to produce high-quality 4x6 prints by connecting directly to Canon's new CP-100 dye-sublimation printer. The new A200 can also be used underwater to depths of up to 100 feet with an optional waterproof housing.


Pentax (http://www.pentaxusa.com) introduced two stainless steel digicams, the Optio 430RS (4.0 megapixels) and the Optio 330RS (3.2 megapixels), each with an ultra-compact 3x optical zoom lens (with 2x digital zoom).


Adobe's Demystifying Digital Photography seminar (http://www.adobe.com/demystify) takes place in San Francisco, July 10 and New York, July 16. Intended for wedding, portrait, event and commercial photographers, the free afternoon seminar introduces digital photo processes, highlighting Photoshop 7.0.


Larry Berman (http://bermangraphics.com/coolpix/swgallery.htm) writes, "We traveled to the national parks in Arizona and Southern Utah last month and I shot entirely with the Coolpix 5000 (and color infrared with the Coolpix 950), over 1800 images. I've been making Frontier prints to sell at art shows and they are excellent."


A# Software (http://a-sharp.com/photopress) has released PhotoPress 1.0.2 [M], a $22.95 digital photo printing utility.


Argus (http://www.arguscamera.com) has introduced the $50 Photo Phazer, a 640x480, USB digicam. With its holster and a belt clip, it features 8-MB built-in memory, an LCD and the ability to store 60 seconds of video.


Dierdre Lynch, director of Photos to Send, a documentary revisiting Dorothea Lange's Irish subjects after 50 years, writes that the film won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Lake Placid Film Forum last weekend.


Pictographics (http://www.picto.com) is offering a 20 percent discount on iCorrect EditLab when you use the code "Flowers" through June 30.


Freedom (the falcon) is expected to fly July 4 -- and Isis, too (http://www.democratandchronicle.com/news/0612story010004_news.shtml).

Return to Topics.

One Liners

For just $150 an insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

PhotoRescue: http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

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

Fast Ritz CF cards: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?ritzmem

Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com

Return to Topics.

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

Go to Imaging Resource Home | News | Tips | Digital Camera Index | Scanner Index