The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 4, Number 13 28 June 2002

Copyright 2002, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 74th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We wrap up our review of Photoshop's new features, Dave finds a sweet little Olympus digicam and we applaud the Class of 2002.


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/

PowerEx introduces new lithium ion and lithium polymer battery packs for digicams. These batteries feature a low internal impedance and high capacity, giving longer life to the battery and efficiency during usage.

Battery runtime is up to 20 percent higher than original models. And our battery packs are 100 percent compatible with your equipment.

Packs are available in Lithium Ion for MH-ENEL1 (Nikon), MH-BP511 (Canon), MH-NP80 (Fuji, Toshiba, Kodak), and Lithium Polymer for MH-NB1L (Canon).

Find out more information at: http://www.mahaenergy.com/products/PowerEx/Digicams/bat4digicam.htm

To purchase online: http://www.thomas-distributing.com

Olympus
http://www.olympusamerica.com/
The Camedia D-40 Zoom -- small, stylish and serious.

Optics -- a world-renowned Olympus lens designed for digital and a 2.8x optical/7x total seamless digital zoom

Four Megapixels -- never before has such incredible resolution been available in a camera so incredibly small.

10-Mode Program Scene Dial Exposure, white balance and color saturation adjust automatically for the perfect shot. Portraits have beautiful skin tones. Landscapes have rich blues and greens.

Auto-Connect USB -- nearly any USB computer will recognize the D-40 Zoom to connect automatically. No software. No hassle. <

Point, shoot. Choose automatic mode or make dozens of creative adjustments. A new menu makes it simple. Noise Reduction System compensates for inherent CCD noise to give you clean colors and sharp pictures when shooting long exposures in low light. QuickTime movies with sound playback. Shoot a movie, then play it back with audio right on the camera.

Catch our latest promotions.

Nikonusa.com
http://www.nikonusa.com
Nikon's New Coolpix 4500 -- Digital from All Angles!

Shoot from up high, down low or anywhere in between. The Nikon Coolpix 4500 offers you creative versatility with its unique swiveling body design and its ability to handle a variety of system accessories like wide-angle, telephoto and fisheye lenses.

With its 4.0 effective megapixel CCD, 4x optical Zoom-Nikkor lens and a host of built-in features like 5-Area Multi-Autofocus and 16 Scene Modes, a whole world of fresh angles and new views will be open to you. And because it's a Nikon, great image quality is built-in too!

To learn more visit our site and read Dave's review.


Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 45,600 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 II

In our last issue we discussed Photoshop 7.0's System Requirements, Installation, Plug-in Compatibility and the File Browser. We continue with just a few of the new magic tricks in this version. You can read the complete (and illustrated) review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PS7/PS7.HTM on the Web site.

AUTO COLOR

We found the new Auto Color command useful for correcting color casts, especially if you're not comfortable using Levels, Curves or Variations to do the job.

We used it for a quick color correction of a very flat picture we took of a 4x6 print we took in fluorescent kitchen light. We were just making one of those stealthy copies of a friend's funny image, figuring we could fix it up later. One click of Auto Color was all it took to restore vibrancy to the image.

You can have some serious control over Auto Color, too. Tweaking Auto Levels, Contrast and Color is done from the Options dialog window in Levels. Setting the algorithm to "Enhance Per Channel Contrast" mimics the old Auto Levels command. Setting it to "Enhance Monochromatic Contrast" makes it behave like the old Auto Contrast command. Setting it to "Find Dark & Light Colors" (which neutralizes the highlights and shadows) and clicking on the "Snap Neutral Midtones" option (to neutralize the midtones) makes it into the new Auto Color command.

You can also shift that midtone in the Options dialog box. And you can save your settings as the default.

Auto color is a welcome addition but to make it useful can require almost as much work as manually manipulating color. Why? Because it has no idea what the colors it is trying to automatically correct actually represent.

So we'll stick with the plug-in iCorrect EditLab (http://www.picto.com) where we can point out the sky, foliage and skin to get a corrected image or batch of images faster than Auto Color can shift its midtone.

HEALING BRUSH & PATCH TOOL

We rolled up our sleeves, launched Photoshop 5.0 and did a Rubber Stamp correction of a blemish in a shot of a rose (as gardeners, we're great snail breeders). Then we opened the same image in Photoshop 7.0, used the new Healing Brush and compared the results. Identical.

So what's the big deal?

We'd be tempted to suppose the interface, but we find it confusing, especially how the tool is split into two modes. We don't much care for the name, either, if anyone's listening. To paraphrase an unforgettable line, anyone with a good car don't need healing.

So the real magic is under the hood. Adobe told us a much more sophisticated algorithm is involved, making more than a single pass at the data. But divining exactly what's going on is beyond us. We aren't even sure anyone actually knows although the official word is that it preserves "shading, lighting, texture and other attributes when cloning."

Now that we've gotten that off our chest, let's just say it works well. We have a very damaged old monochrome image that's particularly priceless for being the only photograph of one particular grandfather. But it's so deteriorated it seems like an illustration of the various molds that can grow on a print emulsion.

We'd like to tell you it cleaned up this image like magic, but not even Snake Oil could do that. It did handle various challenges much more believably than the rubber stamp, however. And it was easier to use (although you can overdo it). So we'll take it.

What's the key distinction between the two modes? With the Healing Brush, you option-click an ideal area to use as your retouching paint. With the Patch Tool, you make any selection of the image you like and drag it to the ideal area. It's sort of a My Place or Yours approach.

PICTURE PACKAGES

Under File Automate you'll find the new and improved Picture Package. This option makes printing multiple sizes of your images (with a number of time-saving options) much more efficient than it has been.

At the top of the Picture Package dialog window is a Source panel to set the options for only the frontmost document, a file or an entire folder of images. If you point it to a folder, you'll get one sheet for each image (not every image on one sheet).

On that sheet you can have a number of layouts (16 to start with) including four 4x5s, two 5x7s, eight 2.5x3.5s and combinations like one 5x7 with four 2.5x3.5s. If you don't like the defaults, you can roll your own.

Photoshop 7 displays a thumbnail of the layout you selected with the image imposed as it will print.

If you've done much editing on the image, perhaps using Layers, you'll appreciate the Flatten All Layers option. It can speed printing without requiring the overhead of housekeeping on your original file.

Even more delightful, though, is the Label option, which let's you impose text (like your copyright) where you like over the image in any font available in any size you like.

And even normal printing of single images is delightfully enhanced with a useful preview that accurately showed us what to expect from our Nameless printer.

SPELL CHECK

Not strictly for the digital photographer, unless you have trouble typing "copyright" but this is big. Where there's text, there must be spell checking. Photoshop 7 includes a multi-lingual spell checker activated by clicking in any text layer. More importantly, there's a Find and Replace Text function.

We like that and the multi-lingual feature, but frankly, we find all application-based spell checkers inhabiting the Stone Age.

We much prefer -- and use -- system-wide spell checking. OS X now provides the rudiments of this as a service, but it's been available for Windows and Mac OS 9 and below (don't get to say that much) for years. It's Evan Gross's Spell Catcher from Cassady & Greene (http://www.casadyg.com). This inexpensive utility can spell check in almost any application (even interactively), provides a thesaurus as well, plus readability statistics and formatting options. It makes every other spell checker obsolete and is no doubt responsible for whatever's left of the ozone layer, too.

THE BRUSH TOOL

If you do any retouching (either directly on your image or using a mask), you'll appreciate the new brush tool. But your options just grew enormously.

Photoshop now shows a very long list of brush strokes along with the brush size (whose limit has been increased from 999 to 2,500 pixels), many of which include special effects. But wait. There are also several libraries of brush styles you can load -- brushes for calligraphic, drop shadow, dry and wet media, faux finish, natural, special effects and well, yes, more.

The variety of presets reflects the capabilities of the new paint engine. Which permits you, too, to create your own custom brushes. The new brush preview gives instant feedback on changes to any of the many brush variables.

The Shape Dynamics option supports all the features of Wacom's various pressure sensitive pens and even warns you if you select an unsupported feature. Roundness Jitter (which shakes your pen as you draw), Scattering (which dabs at the canvas) and other effects familiar in paint programs are now in Photoshop.

Other options include Noise, Color Dynamics, an Airbrush setting (which replaces the Airbrush tool) and more.

This isn't just for painters. It's superb control for dodging and burning on contrast masks or directly on your image. You'll be able to draw detail out of your images with much greater subtlety.

TOOL PRESETS & WORKSPACES

With so many brush options, you might go nuts making changes to the active brush, losing them to make other changes and recreating them. Fortunately, you can save your brush settings now.

Photoshop suggests a name for each brush when you select New from the Tool Preset palette. Then it adds the settings to the list. You can have a Red-Eye brush, for example, and even a Botox brush.

Similarly, you can save your palette locations as a Workspace. A click recalls the desktop layout you saved.

ONLINE HELP & UPDATES

Whether it's your operating system or your favorite application, the trend is clear. Vendors want you online. When you're online (preferably with broadband) they can confirm you own the software and, in return, provide online (and free) updates.

The problems with this scheme are 1) without a backup, it's nearly impossible to go back to the previous version if you encounter a problem with the update and 2) the updates aren't small (think overnight for a modem connection).

When you launch Photoshop 7.0 it, too, checks online for updates. But you can change the schedule by clicking the topmost tool (Adobe Online) in the toolbar and clicking Preferences.

No personal information is sent but your Internet connection is used to automatically update your software when revisions are released.

A great deal of the help is online now, too. Much as we love the extensive online Photoshop help, we do wonder about running a browser with Photoshop. You'll want to be sure you have enough RAM for both applications to take advantage of the wealth of assistance Adobe has online.

CONCLUSION

There's much more to Photoshop 7 than we've covered here, particularly for Web designers. We'll address the extensive automation capabilities shortly, though.

Any software is an investment. You not only invest a goodly sum for a license to run the product, but you invest your time in mastering it. Once again we are amazed at how adroitly Adobe has rewarded our investment in Photoshop.

Your needs may indeed be met by many other products that approach it in function, some even surpassing it in ease of use.

But if you want to impress your in-laws with magic tricks, this is it.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus D-550 Zoom -- Hitting the Sweet Spot

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the short review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D550/D55A.HTM on the Web site.)

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Sporting a design similar to previous Olympus D-series digicams, the D-550 Zoom offers a 2.8x optical zoom and a 3.0-megapixel CCD. Trim and compact, it's about the same size as previous D-series models -- a little large for a shirt pocket, but fine for purses and coat pockets. The sliding clamshell lens cover maintains the camera's smooth front profile, so it won't catch on anything when you whip it out of a camera bag or purse. An all-plastic body keeps the D-550 Zoom lightweight and portable, yet feels plenty solid in the hand and looks rugged enough to withstand some wear and tear.

The camera's 2.8x, 5.8-16.2mm zoom lens (a 36-100mm 35mm equivalent) offers apertures from f2.9 to f4.4, depending on the zoom setting and a normal focal range from 2.6 feet to infinity. Macro shooting mode focuses from 8 to 31 inches for small or close-up subjects. The D-550 Zoom employs an efficient contrast-detection autofocus system, but also offers an Infinity fixed-focus mode for faster shots of distant subjects. Opening the lens cover triggers the lens to extend from the camera body, automatically placing the camera into Record mode. In addition to the 2.8x optical zoom, the D-550 Zoom's 3.6x Digital Zoom lets you get even closer, though it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD and thus results in lower image quality. The 3.0-megapixel CCD produces high-resolution images, good enough for printing to 8x10 inches with excellent detail, as well as lower-resolution images for sending via email or for printing 5x7- and 4x6-inch snapshots.

Like the rest of Olympus' D-series digicams, exposure control on the D-550 Zoom is uncomplicated and straightforward, as the camera operates under automatic exposure at all times. Most of the exposure options are controlled through the multi-page LCD menu system. An initial shortcut menu screen pops up before entering the main Record menu, which accesses the camera's Metering, Image Size and Exposure Compensation options instantly or you can enter the main Record menu to access less frequently used functions. The camera automatically determines aperture and shutter speed, but Exposure Compensation (to lighten or darken the image), White Balance (to adjust the color), Metering (to read light from the whole frame or just the center), ISO (light sensitivity) and Flash modes are all adjustable. The ISO setting has an Auto adjustment mode or you can manually set it to 100, 200 or 400 ISO equivalents. You can also adjust the overall sharpness and contrast of an image. The D-550 Zoom's built-in flash pops up automatically whenever the lens cover is opened and is effective to approximately 11.2 feet. In addition to the standard flash modes, the D-550 Zoom also includes a Red-Eye setting that reduces the occurrence of red-eye in portraits.

A new feature on the D-550 Zoom is the Virtual Mode Dial, which accesses a range of preset shooting modes. The left arrow in the Four-Way Arrow pad enables the dial, which is actually an LCD display of the available scene modes. The right and left arrow keys scroll through the modes. Program Auto is the default setting, but Portrait, Landscape Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Self Portrait and Movie modes are also available. Each mode configures the camera for specific shooting situations, making it easy to get good results when shooting tricky subjects or dealing with difficult lighting. Night Scene mode helps with low light shooting, by extending the maximum shutter time to two seconds, rather than the 1/2 second limit in normal shooting mode. Portrait mode focuses attention on your subject by using a large lens aperture to blur the background slightly, while Landscape Portrait gets both the subject and the background in sharp focus, great for portraits in front of scenery. Self Portrait mode is new and quite interesting, as it lets you point the camera at yourself (in-hand) and automatically fixes focus on you. The lens remains locked at the wide-angle setting so that you get a sharply-focused portrait. Finally, Movie mode records moving images (without sound) for as long as the memory card has available space.

Other camera features include a Self-Timer mode, which provides a 12-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the image is actually captured. Similar to a motor-drive on a 35mm camera, the Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of images in rapid sequence while the Shutter button is held down, with the actual number of images dependent on the size and quality settings, as well as the amount of memory card space. An AF Continuous Shooting mode also captures a rapid series, but adjusts focus for each shot, resulting in a somewhat longer interval between shots. The "2-in-1" photography mode records two vertically-oriented, half-sized images. After capture, the images are saved side-by-side as one image, giving a split-screen effect. As with many Olympus cameras, a panorama mode is available when using Olympus-branded SmartMedia storage cards, recording as many as 10 consecutive images to blend into one panoramic image on your PC or Mac, using Olympus' Camedia software. Finally, you can transform your full color images to sepia tone or black-and-white pictures through an option on the camera's Playback menu.

The D-550 Zoom stores images on a 3.3v SmartMedia card, with a 16-MB card included in the box with the camera. A CD-ROM loaded with Camedia Master 4.0 accompanies the camera, compatible with both Windows and Macintosh platforms (including Windows XP and Mac OS X). Camedia Master provides minor image editing tools, as well as utilities for organizing images and the aforementioned panorama-stitching capability. The camera comes with a set of four single-use AA alkaline batteries, but can also use NiMH, lithium or NiCd batteries, as well as two CR-V3 lithium-ion battery packs (sold as accessories). An optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such as downloading images to a computer, but good-quality rechargeable batteries really eliminate the need for it. Also included with the D-550 Zoom is an NTSC video cable (U.S. and Japanese models) for connecting to a television set and a USB cable for downloading images to a computer.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The D-550 produced great color throughout my testing and its white balance system handled most of the test conditions well. The Auto white balance setting did a good job in most instances, though I noticed a slight warm cast from time to time. Outdoors, the Daylight setting produced the best color, with good skin tones. However, the blue flowers in the bouquet were dark and purplish (a difficult blue for many digicams to reproduce correctly). The Auto white balance setting had real problems with the incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait (without flash) test, but the Incandescent setting produced much better results. Apart from a slightly warm cast in some of its images, the D-550 delivered very good color throughout my testing.

Exposure: Exposure was generally good, though the D-550's default tone curve delivers rather contrasty images. This was quickly remedied by adjusting the camera's Contrast setting, which did a good job of bringing the contrast down to a reasonable level, without overdoing the adjustment. Midtones looked pretty good in the Outdoor Portrait, once the contrast was adjusted and that image showed good detail as well. In most cases, shadow detail was good as well, with the outdoor house shot showing a wide dynamic range. The D-550 also distinguished the subtle tonal variations of the Davebox, despite the slightly high contrast. Overall, exposure was quite accurate, but I'd prefer less contrast with the default settings.

Sharpness & Distortion: The D-550's in-camera sharpness adjustment did a good job, as details were typically well-defined and crisp. In the resolution test, the D-550 delivered detail out to about 1,050 lines per picture height, a competitive level for a three-megapixel digicam. Optical distortion on the D-550 is about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured a 0.69 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only 0.28 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is low, showing about two to three pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. The distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target. The strongest optical distortion was some corner softness, most evident in the Macro and House shots, as well as the outdoor house shot. Overall, the D-550 delivers sharp images with average or less than average optical distortion.

Closeups: The D-550 Zoom performed well in the macro category, capturing an average-sized minimum area of 3.3x2.5 inches. Resolution was high, with sharp detail in the coins, brooch and dollar bill. The D-550 Zoom's flash produced a very bright reflection on the brooch, but the exposure was about right in the rest of the frame.

Night Shots: With adjustable ISO and a fairly flexible shutter speed range, the D-550 captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux), at both 200 and 400 ISO settings (slightly darker than average city street lighting at night). Set to ISO 100, the camera captured bright images at one foot-candle (11 lux). Color balance was very warm from the Auto white balance setting, with a magenta cast in darker exposures. Noise was low at ISO 100, increasing slightly at ISO 200. Noise was high at the ISO 400 setting. The D-550 Zoom should do very well in typical night shooting conditions, as long as there are normal levels of artificial lighting available.

Battery Life: The D-550 Zoom runs from a set of four AA batteries. The D-550 has pretty good battery life, almost three hours from a fully-charged set of high-capacity NiMH cells in its worst-case power mode (Capture mode with the LCD on). With the LCD off, the camera will run practically forever (weeks, anyway). Runtime in playback mode is well over four hours. Excellent battery life overall, but don't for a minute consider not buying some NiMH cells and a charger. Really. Not for a minute. ;-)

CONCLUSION

Every now and then, a camera company hits a real sweet spot of price, features and image quality. I think the D-550 Zoom is just such a product for Olympus. Image quality is excellent (although I'd personally like to see less default contrast) and the feature set is nicely tailored to novice photographers -- or anyone else looking for a low-hassle camera versatile enough to take great photos under a variety of conditions. With its available Scene shooting modes and adjustable exposure options like ISO, Metering, Sharpness and Contrast, the D-550 Zoom is flexible enough to handle most everyday shooting conditions. The point-and-shoot style will put novices at ease, while a handful of exposure and capture modes keep the camera fun. Factor in its low cost and the D-550 Zoom should be very attractive for anyone looking for a good, entry-level camera with a zoom lens and good image quality. A nice little package at an affordable price. Highly recommended.

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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 about the Canon EOS D60 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8a823

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

Visit the General Q & A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec

A reader asks about printing digital images at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8cb93

Visit the Olympus Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6f783

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Just for Fun: The Class of 2002

Since the last issue, we've been all over, attending a wedding in San Diego, visiting family in Santa Barbara and just the other day celebrating Nicola's graduation from American High in Fremont.

You may remember Nicola's dad Ed from a previous piece. On that occasion ("A Digital Perspective") we went on and on about all the new ways of viewing images from a digicam. How the old print had seen its day and the monitor has become the new display device, the CD the new shoebox, etcetera.

Ed didn't read it. But he'd been thinking. "I think my wife would really like a digital camera," he confided, nodding. "It might be time."

The other day, he explained, she came back from the drugstore with a package of prints and got bummed out when she found a line through all of them. Was something wrong with the camera or was it the lab? And who could tell? And who needs this headache?

So Ed figured they were ready to take the leap to digital photography. Ed would propose but there's a problem.

"The only thing is," he winked, "how do you replace that flip-through feeling?"

"That what?" we asked, a little embarrassed. Was Ed getting romantic on us?

"That flip-through feeling. You know, when you pick up your prints, jump back in the car, open the package and flip through them. The excitement, the anticipation, the thrill of seeing your new pictures. It isn't going to work for her unless she gets that flip-through feeling."

Oh, that. OK, we never liked that flip-through feeling. Probably because our better half reorders the prints (last ones first) when she flips through and we have to orchestrate viewing to alternate between those like her and those like us who keep them in order. One of us, two of them, one of us, two of them.

A romantic notion, really. Quaint. You can't get images out of order in a Slide Show, after all. But Ed's bigger than us, so we wrinkled our brow and nodded thoughtfully. What could we tell him?

"Well," we stalled like B.B. King trying to recall the thrill, "you can still get that flip-through feeling with digital photography."

"You can?" he raised his eyebrows. We'd kidded him before, he remembered.

"Sure. You can upload your images to an online photofinisher like ofoto.com and get prints back and ..."

"No, that'll never work. Upload? Online? No way," Ed laughed. "It's got to pass the My Dad Test."

"The what?"

"I call it the My Dad test. My Dad's a very smart man. But if you tell him he has to upload JPEGs from his CompactFlash to an online photofinisher, he won't understand you. You have to put it in plain English. Then he'll get it. Because he's a smart man."

Only plain English stands between digital photography and the rest of the world.

"OK," I tried in plain English. "You can take your camera to a photo store. They'll make prints for you."

"Really?"

"Yep. They take out your card, copy the files and make prints right there. You can even make your own enlargements at any drugstore with a photo kiosk these days." Kiosk is plain English, right?

"Now you're talking," Ed beamed, stars in his eyes and sighing a little dreamily, we thought. As if he could be young forever.

Fortunately, we hadn't come to celebrate the past. We'd come to applaud Nicola, the graduate. We got that flip-through feeling going through her yearbook. Academics, basketball, theater -- she hadn't let any opportunities pass her by.

And talk about digital imaging. There were more pictures from more sources than we'd ever seen in a single yearbook. "American High, Unified in Diversity," one page boasted. And the pictures proved it. All the "Bests" (like Best Hair) had more than one winner (a lot more).

As we flipped, we came across a few pages meant to mark the age before it passed. What clothes and cars were in fashion, yes, but also current events. Thanks to digital imaging, the yearbook had pictures of everything, including Sept. 11.

We wondered if Sept. 11 could pass the My Dad test. We doubt it. But it had passed the My Kid test. Nicola's a very smart person. You can put it in five languages and print it upside down and she'd still get it.

She and her classmates are the future.

We thought of those kids half a world away who cheered Sept. 11, but don't have the American High Eagles' enthusiasm for the future. Martyrdom is no graduation.

No matter who attends, there is going to be a future, we thought, closing the book. And it will be a better one for having kids like Nicola in it. Kids anxious to contribute. To build. To create.

Every now and then, you need a new generation. Can't wait to flip through their pictures. Online.

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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: Cats Don't Pose

I got my Minolta Dimage 7i about 2 weeks ago and love it. I read Dave's review and have printed it as a supplement to the manual. I have taken over 300 shots with the camera so far but there is one feature of the camera which drives me nuts. That is the pre-flash.

I do a lot of cat photography. I find that the pre-flash makes many cats blink and the main flash catches the cat in mid-blink. Because the cats move around and can be anywhere from 18 inches to 6 feet away, I can't use manual flash (no pre-flash) and aperture priority.

I find it hard to believe that Minolta didn't realize pre-flash could be a problem. I'm hoping I'm just doing something wrong, but I doubt it. I should also point out that I work in people's homes, in basements, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. So an incandescent light setup is not practical. Besides, the cats would probably run and hide. These are candid shots. You can't pose a cat.

-- Dave Williams

(Like most digicams, the D7i uses a preflash for flash metering all the time, in any flash mode except manual. Pretty much every digicam on the market does this. No way around it other than to use manual mode.... If you have another flash unit of most any sort though and are willing to invest in a $20 slave trigger, there's a solution. Set the D7i's flash to manual at 1/16th power, enough to trigger the slave, but not to contribute much to the exposure. Bounce the slave's light to cover the scene fairly evenly. Set your aperture manually for the right exposure of the bounced slave flash. Shoot away.... Manual mode gives a single flash, so you can use a normal slave trigger with it. No need for a smart trigger to trigger on the second flash pop. At 1/16th power on the camera's flash, you should be able to get enough juice out of the slave unit to pretty well dominate the exposure. What's left from the on-camera flash ought to give you just a nice fill. -- Dave)

RE: The Dimage 7 Update

Thanks for the recent review of the Dimage 7i. I purchased the Dimage 7 last September after extensive research and reading many opinions at the Imaging Resource site. Unfortunately, all that research did not prepare me for what I consider a huge problem with this camera -- nonexistent low light autofocus and generally slow autofocusing.

I have written to Minolta several times about this issue and apparently they have chosen to respond to the thousands of D7 customers with (surprise!) an updated camera with all the fixes in place. I don't begrudge them the freedom to market a new camera but, as I asked them, what about us poor D7 customers who invested $1,000 in them?

Their response was that the D7 will get a firmware upgrade in the summer of 2002. I question that this will fix a primary flaw in this camera model. I was hoping you could post this note on your newsletter or help with bringing this to the attention of Minolta.

-- K. Anderson

(Minolta has indeed issued the firmware update improving autofocus speed. See the story at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1024330711.html -- Editor)

RE: Coolscan Drivers for XP

I've been looking at replacing my aging PC with a device running XP and have been stalled because there's no point in buying until I can use my beloved Nikon Super Coolscan 2000 transparency scanner. In the current market replacing it would cost as much as a decent computer!

On my first attempt to get information on drivers Nikon pointed me at Adaptec who pointed me back to Nikon to ... you get the picture.

I recently tried again and got a more promising response:

"A Windows XP compatible version of Nikon Scan is available at http://www.nikontechusa.com/Scan3_12.htm. If you are using an Adaptec SCSI card, please download the latest ASPI layer 4.71 from the following Web site: http://www.adaptec.com/worldwide/support/drivers_by_product.html?cat=/Product/ASPI-4.70 This is required for Windows XP/2000/ME."

Thought this might be of use to others or your driver project.

-- Margaret Tremain

(Thanks, Margaret! -- Editor)

RE: Photoshop 7 International Orders

I thought you'd like to know, your article led me today to order Photoshop 7 -- and the mentioned site Software-Wholesale.com was the best site for international orders that I have ever experienced. Also, the price seems very reasonable.

-- Ron

(Thanks for the feedback, Ron! -- Editor)

RE: SmartMedia Card Error

My FujiFilm MX-1700 is giving me a "Card Error." I get some message about incompatible formats and FlashPath but can't see the solution to the problem. Even a freshly purchased 64-MB card doesn't work. What is the solution to this?

-- Chas

(PhotoRescue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM) is the solution. Windows (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?prw) or Mac OS X (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?prm).... To learn more about SmartMedia problems in general visit the Archive at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/ and use your Browser's Find command to search for "SmartMedia" for our "Mysterious Death of SmartMedia" story. -- Editor)

Thank you! PhotoRescue worked! It recovered the old 8-MB card but the new empty 64-MB card is still not working. Any ideas?

-- Chas

(Yep. Format it in the camera. With the adapter plugged in. If that fails, it is likely because the camera's firmware doesn't support cards larger than 32-MB. You might look for a firmware upgrade at http://www.fujifilm.com (we just peeked and didn't see any) or contact Fuji tech support about that particular limitation. -- Editor)

RE: SmartMedia Created Equal?

I just picked up a Fuji FinePix 2600 Zoom and Maha MH-C204F largely based on the recommendation of The Imaging Resource and I couldn't be happier with my purchases. As I take more and more pictures, I'm finding that the two 16-MB SmartMedia cards that I have aren't enough. I'm looking to purchase a larger card and as I'm starting to shop around, I'm finding that the same capacity card sells for quite a wide range of prices depending on the manufacturer. My question is, are all SmartMedia cards created equal? From what I can tell, they all are the same speed. Is that true? Are they all as reliable as one another? Is there any particular brand that you recommend or doesn't it matter?

-- Jeff Terwelp

(Actually, SmartMedia cards are very much the same. AFAIK, only two companies in the world actually manufacture the raw cards: Toshiba and Samsung. The various brands all originate in one factory or the other and just get labeled for the final selling company. You're right, unlike CompactFlash, there aren't any speed differences, since there's no controller chip inside. Only memory. -- Dave)

RE: Photopoint Pictures?

How do I get my pictures from Photopoint.com or see them?

-- Brendan

(Visit http://www.photopoint.com to order a CD of your albums. Ordering the CD (apparently being burned weekly since June 1) will retrieve your photos. Since the company ceased operations in Dec. 2001, that's your only option. -- Editor)

RE: Flatbed Slide Scanning

I have the HP Scanjet 5300C. How (or can) I use it to scan 35mm slides to make prints?

-- Paul

(For a flatbed scanner to copy a transparency like a slide, it needs an adapter made especially for it. The adapter replaces the cover, includes a light source and plugs into the back of the scanner. When you tell the driver software you're scanning a negative, the main light in the scanner is turned off and the light in the adapter is used. Without an adapter (and I don't see one for the HP 5300), you're stuck scanning reflective material. But at 1200 dpi, a digicam can probably do just as well as your scanner. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

The first JPEG virus (or W32/Perrun), which affects only Windows systems but has not been released on the Internet, has been submitted to anti-virus companies by the code's creator. An infected computer writes code into a JPEG file which has to be emailed or copied to a second infected computer to cause any trouble. The second computer executes the code embedded in the image. Clean computers can display the carrier JPEGs normally and without infecting their own systems.


Our Shooting Fireworks the Digital Way in the Archive at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS might come in handy next weekend.


Hewlett-Packard (http://www.hp.com) plans to introduce 50 new imaging and printing products by early next year, beginning with three new inkjets introduced at the PC Expo in New York. The $149 Deskjet 5550 features 6-color, 4800-dpi for grain-free photo prints. The networkable $99 Deskjet 3820 with 4800-dpi and the $79 Deskjet 3420 with 2400-dpi join the 5550 as the first models in the revamped line.


YarcPlus V2.0 (http://www.pictureflow.com/Pages/YP-Download.html) offers PictureByPicture Conversion to adjust settings for each picture in the file list.


PhotoWorks (http://www.photoworks.com) is now offering digital developing by mail. Customers will mail their memory card or a CD of images using a postage-paid envelope. A few hours after PhotoWorks receives the card, customers can view their photos online and within 2-5 business days, their prints and memory card or CD arrive by mail. To introduce the service, PhotoWorks is offering 19-cent 4x6 prints through the summer.


The International Imaging Industry Association (http://www.i3a.org) has introduced the Common Picture eXchange Environment to increase photofinishing choices for digital images. The CPXe initiative, based on a Web Services framework, will enable the transmission and printing of digital images between digicams, PCs, desktop software, Internet services, photo kiosks, digital minilabs and photofinishers -- regardless of the type of digital camera, PC or operating system they use. CPXe will allow consumers to upload, download and order prints of digital pictures at any retail location with any type of photofinishing equipment used by the retailer.


Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has announced its new EasyShare software will allow consumers to print digital pictures from home through retail photofinishers like CVS Pharmacy, Rite-Aid, Ritz Camera and Target. As part of its commitment to the Common Picture Exchange Environment initiative mentioned above, Kodak said it intends to migrate the EasyShare software directory of digital photofinishing providers to the open standards of CPXe.


According to Gartner Dataquest (http://www.gartner.com), U.S. digicam shipments are on track to reach 8.3 million units this year, a 30 percent increase from 2001 shipments of 6.4 million units. Gartner Dataquest calculates U.S. household penetration of digicams will be 17 percent by the end of 2002. By 2006, more than 50 percent of U.S. households could have a digicam.


Visioneer (http://www.visioneer.com) has announced the Visioneer PhotoPort TV 100, a TV-based digital photo appliance to view, edit, share and personalize photo albums taken with a digital camera. It consists of an intelligent card viewer, wireless keyboard, remote control, power adapter and video cable for $99.99.


Epson (http://www.epson.com) has announced PRINT Image Matching II, expanding their digital photo print matching technology. PIM II expands on the original PIM technology by improving and adding two new adjustment parameters. With 14 image control parameters including noise reduction control and custom scene settings, PIM II can also be implemented in RGB TIFFs in addition to JPEGs. The free PIM II plug-in for Photoshop/Elements will be released this summer from the PIM site (http://www.printimagematching.com).

Epson has just released a free PIM plug-in for Photoshop/Elements (http://support.epson.com/webadvice/wa0306.html) for PIM-enabled digicams and photo printers.


The Argus DC-3300 (http://www.arguscamera.com) is a 1.3-megapixel digicam with 32-MB of internal memory and a 1.5 inch color LCD display, capable of recording up to four hours of audio. It also features a SmartMedia expansion slot, a 3x digital zoom lens and can record up to five-minute videos. In addition, the $180 DC-3300 comes with a USB cable and a software CD.


ArcSoft (http://www.arcsoft.com) has introduced the ArcSoft Personal Software License for their digital imaging software. Under the agreement, customers purchase a license for all ArcSoft photo and/or video software and all subsequent upgrades, rather than continuously buying new versions. The license includes an online photo-sharing account, regular digital content updates and live one-on-one technical support for the annual subscription price. After a 60-day promotional period, ArcSoft PSL Photo and ArcSoft PSL Video will increase from $79.99 to $99.99 each per year. Likewise, ArcSoft PSL Multimedia will increase from $99.99 to $149.99 per year.


Alien Skin (http://www.alienskin.com) has announced a free public beta of Image Doctor, a set of image-retouching filters for Photoshop, Fireworks, Paint Shop Pro and other image editors [MW]. Image Doctor removes blemishes and defects, quickly repairs over-compressed JPEGs and replaces unwanted details and objects.


Applied Science Fiction (http://www.asf.com/download/download.asp) has released new versions of Digital ROC and Digital SHO plug-ins for Photoshop compatible programs on Macintosh.


Photographer Monte Zucker reveals how he lights portraits of people of color at the New York Institute of Photography Web site (http://www.nyip.com).


JetCityOrange.com publishes a photo-centric webzine "every Thurs [give or take]." A recent issue (http://www.jetcityorange.com/photos/Ofoto) discusses optimum settings for using Ofoto's online photofinishing.


fnord (http://www.fnordware.com) has released two free Photoshop plug-ins: j2k [M] reads and writes the JPEG 2000 file format and SuperPNG [MW] saves PNG files.


Nikon (http://www.nikontechusa.com) has released version 5.1.1 of Nikon View [M].

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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

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Signoff

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

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Newsletter Forum: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=irnews
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

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

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