|Volume 4, Number 20||4 October 2002|
Welcome to the 81st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. As they say in German, "Wow!" Dave shoots through Cologne with the 35mm sensor Kodak and the 24-bit color sensor Sigma. Meanwhile we enrich our ordinary images with a suite of remarkable plug-ins before indulging in one more reference we hope is German -- uh, germane.
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By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from Dave's full coverage at http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA02/1033204252.html on the site.)
Last week was definitely full of startling developments in the digital SLR arena!
Earlier in the week, I produced a fully detailed First Look at the remarkable new Canon EOS-1Ds (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EOS1DS/E1DSA.HTM), an 11.1-megapixel full-frame SLR. Little did Canon know that Kodak was lurking right around the corner with a 14-megapixel camera for the startling price of $4,995 ($4,000 street).
By show time, Kodak still wasn't comfortable sharing any pictures, as they were still tweaking their image processing. An advantage of Kodak's all-software image processing chain is that their cameras' imaging characteristics can be tweaked until the moment of release. In fact, as we've seen several times in the past, even fairly major changes and upgrades are possible after a camera has shipped. Kodak's post-sale software/firmware upgrade track record is about the best in the industry.
But I did get to look at -- and touch ;-) -- a DCS Pro 14n prototype and was quite impressed with what I saw.
The first thing that struck me about the camera was how light it is. If you're thinking about the massive SLRs of Kodak's recent past, think again. The DCS Pro 14n is positively svelte in comparison. It's still a noticeable handful, with a rather bulky grip and a fat-looking base to hold the prismatic (rectangular) Li-Ion battery, but it's surprisingly light in the hand.
I liked the 14n's user interface quite a bit, too, and snapped a few shots of its LCD menus (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA02/1033204252.html) to share with you.
KODAK'S PLACE ASSURED?
I'm not embarrassed to admit I largely wrote Kodak off in the professional SLR market when the multiple salvos by Canon and Nikon started hitting. The original D1 was a body blow, but with the combination of D30, D1x/h, D60 and D100 piled on top, it looked like a knockout. After all, how could Kodak compete with the very people they were buying camera bodies with? Wouldn't the costly camera bodies constitute an insuperable obstacle to Kodak's being competitive in the market?
Where I (and I suspect a lot of other people) erred is that Kodak actually doesn't need much more from Nikon apart from a metal chassis with a lens mount on it (although I believe they're also getting some of the autofocus "guts" of the camera as well).
At a Kodak press dinner, I had a long and stimulating conversation with Lance Drummond, general manager of Kodak Professional. When I raised the question of the viability of KPro getting camera bodies from Nikon to build their cameras, Lance was quick to disabuse me of the notion that this was an inordinate expense for them.
KPro has in the past purchased complete cameras from Nikon to be converted to digital cameras. But in the case of the DCS Pro 14n, Kodak apparently is taking very little apart from a body casting, lens mount and a few assorted pieces of electronics. In fact, the DCS Pro 14n carries only Kodak branding, not Nikon -- a first for Kodak.
One might also wonder how Nikon feels about Kodak competing with them in their own slice of the market. Wouldn't this hurt Nikon's market position?
Quite the contrary. Nikon wins in several ways with this relationship. With Kodak, Nikon and Fuji now all building digital SLRs based on Nikon's lens mount, Nikon's total marketshare is poised to grow steeply. And the more Nikon-compatible bodies there are out there, the more lenses Nikon stands to sell. And I strongly suspect that the lens business enjoys noticeably higher profit margins than camera manufacturing.
So, no matter how you look at it, this is a good thing for all parties. Which means it's a relationship that's likely to continue for some time. Kodak gets cost-effective camera body components, Nikon gets a bigger piece of the overall SLR/lens marketplace and the consumers win with a broader range of innovative products at increasingly affordable prices.
KODAK'S ERI FILE FORMAT
As part of my press visit with KPro, I got a chance to quiz pro back product manager Steve Noble and can say I finally understand how Kodak's unusual "semi-raw," JPEG-compatible ERI JPEG file format works. And it's a beautiful scheme.
Kodak announced the Extended Range Imaging format at this year's PMA show in February. At the time, it frankly struck me as a bit too good to be true. The basic idea sounds pretty simple. The Exif headers on JPEG files let really arbitrary data into them without affecting image rendering. Why not use the header to hold whatever part of a raw image doesn't fit into the JPEG file itself?
The only problem is how much it adds to the size of the JPEG file. You can't just subtract the JPEG data from the RAW and save the difference. Well, you could, but the difference file would end up about as large as the original RAW file was to begin with. This is why it sounded too good to be true. Kodak claims the ERI data adds only about 30 percent to the size of a JPEG file, yet preserves almost all the information of the original RAW format.
It turns out that it does take a fair bit of digital legerdemain to accomplish this, but the process is actually fairly straightforward. Here's the process in a nutshell, at least at a conceptual level:
There! You're done and you have (a) an image that renders just fine in any JPEG-compatible application and (b) all the data you need to almost exactly duplicate the original RAW data that came from the sensor.
- Start with a RAW image and process it normally to a JPEG.
- Map the RAW data into an expanded 36-bit rendering space, using logarithmic magnitude coordinates for the RGB values.
- Now, take your JPEG version of the file and convert it "backwards" into the logarithmic rendering space.
- Subtract the two images, working in the expanded rendering space.
- Many pixels of the JPEG version of the file do indeed match the data from the RAW file exactly. Cool. For those parts of the image, you don't have to store any correction data in the Exif header.
- With a conservative JPEG compression ratio, a lot of the image area requires no correction to get back to the RAW data. This means you can compress the heck out of the correction data, even with lossless compression.
- Do a lossless compression on the "difference image" and stuff it into the Exif header.
For a lot of professional applications, the value of the ERI format is hard to overstate. You keep the ease of a JPEG-based workflow, so it's easy to whip out proof prints, send customers low-res electronic proofs, etc. But when it comes time to generate a really first-class print of a difficult subject, you've got all the highlight and shadow data to work with that would have been lost in a pure JPEG version of the image.
I think that ERI is going to prove to be a strong competitive advantage for Kodak, as true professional-quality SLRs continue on down the price curve. The market hasn't yet absorbed the import of it, but once it does, I think it will have a very salutary effect on Kodak's sales.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
Well gosh, I don't know. ;-) It's pretty obvious though, that Kodak has a lot of life still left in their KPro group. A lot will depend on how well executed the DCS Pro 14n is and how it's received by the market. If it delivers the same order of magnitude of image quality as its predecessors have though, I think we'll see Kodak playing an increasingly important role in the digital SLR market.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from Dave's full coverage at http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA02/1033071640.html on the site.)
There's huge interest in Sigma's SD9 camera and it revolves around its revolutionary new Foveon X3 image sensor. Unlike the Bayer sensors in competing cameras, the X3 captures real color data for all three colors at every pixel. In a nutshell, Foveon claims that X3-based cameras will offer better color, improve detail, and eliminate color moire.
Sigma recently announced the 3.43-megapixel SD9 would list for $1,800, only a few hundred dollars shy of 6-megapixel cameras from established brands like Canon and Nikon. Foveon says the 3.43-megapixel sensors will "have better color detail and are more immune to color artifacts than currently available 6-megapixel digital SLR cameras."
We directly compared Foveon's image quality with Sony's $1,000 5-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-F717. You can see our comparison images in the full text of this story (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA02/1033071640.html).
While these images weren't shot under the controlled test conditions of my test studio, they did provide an interesting glimpse of how the Sigma camera with the Foveon chip stacked up against a camera using a conventional CCD sensor with almost twice as many pixels.
Two shots are direct comparisons between the two cameras, shot under identical conditions, framed as close to identically as I could manage.
The framing issue was complicated somewhat by the difference in aspect ratios between the two models. The Sigma has a 3:2 aspect ratio, while the Sony has a 4:3. Following standard practice established for the ISO-12233 resolution test target, I framed the two shots to produce equal angular coverage in the vertical (narrow) direction of the frame.
The results were very interesting, at least partly supporting Foveon and Sigma's claim that the Foveon technology produces about twice the resolution of a conventional CCD with the same number of pixels.
This was most evident in the shot I snapped of a tabletop still life with a MacBeth chart and assorted other objects. The Foveon rendered the details of the fine text about as well, if not slightly better than did the F717's 5-megapixel CCD. This shot was taken indoors, under strobe lighting, with both cameras set to apertures of f8.
The second direct comparison shot seemed to favor the F717. Cologne has a remarkable cathedral at its center and I used it to shoot an example of an object at infinity with more or less infinite detail. Here, the shot from the 717 was noticeably sharper.
I'm a little puzzled as to why the second shot showed the F717 as having more detail than the SD9. The lens here was stopped down quite a bit, albeit not the f8 of the strobe shot above. So I'd have expected fairly great depth of field, certainly enough to catch any foreground detail, as well as the distant spire. Likewise, even though it was overcast, the outdoor light level was bright enough to produce a shutter speed well above the level at which camera shake could have produced any noticeable blurring.
What is clear from this brief experiment is that there is a very real and noticeable resolution advantage to the Foveon technology, on a pixel-for-pixel basis.
Foveon had some sample images at the show, comparing identical test shots taken with the SD9, Canon D60, Nikon D100 and Fuji S2. The comparison was marred somewhat because none of the competing cameras enjoyed any post-capture sharpening, leaving their images well below their optimal sharpness. This is particularly an issue with the D60, given Canon's well-known philosophy of using very minimal in-camera sharpening to preserve maximum image information. Still, even allowing for the lack of sharpening applied to the shots from the competing cameras, the resolution provided by the Sigma was very impressive.
Stay tuned for serious results, as soon as I can get my hands on a production-level test unit and run it through some proper tests.
I was also fairly impressed with the Foveon software interface for processing the raw-format files delivered by the camera. Among the highlights:
- The eyedropper color sampling tool has a little window that displays a 1:1 view of the image area and a readout of the RGB values under the dropper.
- The highlight warning slider in the tool panel can be turned on and off via the "show warnings" checkbox under the histogram display in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. You can also set the thresholds values at which the highlight and shadow warnings appear, simply by typing the appropriate numbers into the threshold text boxes.
- Contrast and brightness sliders in the tool pane use sliders marked Highlight and Shadow to split the tonal range in the middle and then stretch or compress the histogram in their respective areas. That is, the highlight slider takes the right-hand side of the histogram and expands or compresses it smoothly. The shadow slider does the opposite. Very slick, much easier and more intuitive to use than to read about.
- I also really liked Foveon's white balance adjustment. There's a one-click white balance adjustment to correct color casts by clicking on any neutral area of the image. You can then fine-tune the white balance adjustment by clicking and dragging the cursor within the color circle. What's neat about this is that it makes it very easy to do a "half-cast correction," to leave enough of the original scene's color cast in the final image to subtly evoke the color of the original lighting.
- Auto capability seems both powerful and fairly brainless to use. This is very important for the Sigma SD9, because the camera doesn't generate finished JPEG files on-board, but rather requires every file to be processed on a host computer.
The menu structure was quite efficient, with no control more than two levels deep. For the most part, the user interface was no different than literally several hundred other cameras I've tested over the last few years, but one point stood out. While many cameras offer histogram displays, the SD9's histogram is tied to the pan/zoom functions in playback mode. That is, it shows you the histogram of the local area that happens to be displayed on the LCD monitor!
This lets you zoom in on any area of the image to see exactly what's going on there. Note too, that the histogram displays separate curves for each of the RGB channels. This makes it easy to see even fairly subtle color casts in highlights and shadows.
I'd normally say at this point that I wish other manufacturers would take a page from Foveon and Sigma's books and implement the zoomed histogram display on their cameras as well. Unfortunately (well, fortunately for Foveon), they've patented this particular display wrinkle, so we're not likely to see it rippling across the digicam industry anytime soon.
There's a lot of promise here. If the sharpness and image quality hold up relative to the digital SLRs from Canon, Fuji and Nikon, Sigma may well find themselves a place in the digital marketplace. I was pretty skeptical about their chances early on, but am much more sanguine having looked more closely at actual images from the camera.
Blown highlights. Noise in the shadows. A density range only a mother could love. Ah, the common pitfalls of digital photography.
Mostly that's because digicam exposures are usually happy to record 8-bit channels. They only have to yield a 24-bit image, after all -- eight bits each for red, green and blue data. Your printer can't print more and your monitor can't display more either.
But to work with tonal and color correction in Photoshop, you want more than eight bits per channel. That only gives you the final 256 possible output values, so when you compress them as you edit you lose detail and when you expand them you get banding (or gaps between tones).
But switch to 16-bit channels and those 256 tones blossom into 65,536 grays. Take your pick.
Or try to take your pick. Most image editing software is severely taxed by doubling the number of bytes needed to manage a 16-bit image. Even Photoshop restricts operations for 16-bit images.
DO WE HEAR A BUGLE?
But riding to the rescue is Optipix [MW], a suite of Photoshop-compatible plug-ins from Reindeer Graphics (http://www.reindeergraphics.com) that provide indispensable tools for 16-bit channel editing -- and even some magic to turn your ordinary 8-bit channel images into 16-bit beauties.
The Optipix suite of image-enhancing plug-ins handles:
The exciting news is that each one works with both grayscale and RGB images in both 8-bit and 16-bit mode. You might not think that's such a big deal if your digicam or scanner only captures 8-bit channels for 24-bit color. But the real exciting news is Optipix will help you build 16-bit images from several 8-bit images of different exposure. Very cool.
- Contrast Control
- Auto Contrast
- Edge Enhancing
- Sub-pixel Nudging
- Safe Sharpening
Chris Russ, Reindeer Graphics president, said the company expects the Blend Exposures and Auto Contrast plug-ins to appeal to digital photographers but he also noted a few less obvious attractions:
- You can average a movie clip in Premiere to build a 16-bit scene average that you can use to reduce noise in the clip.
- By integrating the total amount of light from some fluorescent dye in a sample, you can reduce noise in microscopy.
- Astronomers can similarly integrate the total amount of light coming into the camera.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS & INSTALLATION
The $99.95 Optipix suite works in Photoshop 5, 6 and 7 on Macintosh OS 9 and OS X or Windows 95/98/ME/NT4/2K/XP.
Reindeer Graphics said the plug-ins conform to the guidelines in the Photoshop Developers' Tool Kit and have a very small memory footprint. Photoshop compatible programs that do not support 16-bit channels will run the plug-ins in 8-bit mode only.
Installation simply requires running the installer, which writes to the folder you identify as your Photoshop Plug-in folder. The 11 plug-ins installed are AddToBuffer, AutoContrast, ClearBuffer, EdgeEnhancer, Exposure, Nudge, SafeSharpen, Separator2, Separator3, Setup2nd, ShowAverage.
But you don't see 11 obscure plug-in names under the Optipix fly-out menu under the Filter menu in Photoshop. Instead, you see three groups of options. The first group includes Setup 2nd Image and Blend Exposures. The second group consists of Add to Buffer, Clear Buffer and Show Average. The third group adds Auto Contrast, Edge Enhancer, Nudge and Safe Sharpen.
They can all be scripted with Actions. And an example Action that demonstrates the Blend Exposures plug-in is included on the CD.
Excellent documentation for using Optipix is available on the Web (http://www.reindeergraphics.com/optipix). The suite also ships with a lavishly illustrated PDF that includes an intriguing essay by photographer George DeWolfe arguing that contrast control is the "supreme technical problem" of photography.
DeWolfe explains how the limited range of print imaging led to the invention of the Zone system and on to the breakthrough of the "Lightroom." The Lightroom (image editing software) provides not only more control over global contrast but greater control over local contrast than was ever practical in the darkroom, he adds. And that's just the first paragraph. But, boy, ain't it the truth.
Clearly, DeWolfe is a photographer.
So he wastes no time explaining how to use Optipix. Take two pictures with your tripod-mounted camera, exposing one for the shadows and the other for the highlights, changing only the shutter speed.
This requires overexposing one image to get shadow detail and underexposing another to keep highlight detail. Some digicams will bracket exposures for you automatically or you can do so manually. You need the tripod to maintain alignment (and it won't hurt if the wind isn't blowing). Most importantly, as DeWolfe points out, it's better to vary the time than the aperture (which would change the depth of field). The images must be identical.
The Optipix Blend Exposures plug-in will let you blend the perfectly exposed shadows with the perfectly exposed highlights in one image. It can handle about six stops difference between images. Good-bye burned-out highlights and muddy shadows!
And it's pretty simple to do. Open both images in Photoshop. Convert them to 16-bit mode to build a 16-bit mode image from your 8-bit exposures. Select the underexposed image and choose the Setup 2nd Image plug-in. Now that Optipix knows which image is underexposed, select the overexposed image and choose the Blend Exposures filter. Finish off by duplicating the result and saving it with a new name.
Everything but the first step can be automated as an Action and Reindeer Graphics includes one as a sample.
Russ told us that "the blending works by looking at the luminance of the two images within each pixel neighborhood [and we played with quite a number of neighborhoods] and seeing how 'extreme' they were -- how far from the center of the bi-cone. We're doing a weighted average between the two images and shoving values toward the center (128) to make room for the stuff at the extremes."
The Blend Exposures function was written by Russ' father, John Russ (http://hometown.aol.com/DrJohnRuss), a noted authority in image processing whose Image Processing and Measurement Cookbook is available online at the Reindeer Graphics Web site under Documentation.
In actual use, we sometimes wished we had a slider to set the "blending point." Where, that is one image leaves off and the other begins. But that's probably because it was so simple to blend the images, we were looking for odd jobs to do.
But DeWolfe notes the blend may soften contrast in either the highlights or the shadows. So he describes how to select them with Color Range using the Eyedropper tool and Fuzziness slider to isolate the problem. For highlights, he copies that selection to a new layer and uses the Soft Light Blending mode to locally adjust contrast. For shadows he simple adjusts the Curve of that selection.
Optipix doesn't limit you to working with just two images, though. In fact, you can average up to 32,767. You might want to do this to average all of your bracketed exposures or to eliminate noise in the blue channel or build a 16-bit channel image from 8-bit channel images.
"This process works with up to 30,000 images and both 8 and 16 bits per channel, including a mixture of both. It can even be used to 'average' a series of video frames using Adobe Premiere," according to the Web site documentation.
To average more than two images, open them all and select the Clear Buffer plug-in to start with a blank canvas. Then, for each image, select the Add To Buffer plug-in. When you've cycled through the images, just select the Show Average plug-in. Finish off by duplicating the resulting image and saving it with a new name.
Easier than pie.
REAL WORLD RESULTS
So we tried it (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/OPT/OPT.HTM) . We shot four images of some fingerless bicycle gloves tossed on the morning paper strafed with sunlight. Lots of contrast.
We exposed two stops under to two stops over, varying the shutter speed so the image would not be affected by any change in depth of field. Pretty ugly stuff.
And the middle shots, which is what we would normally have gone home with, had either muddy shadows in the gloves or burned out highlights in the sunlit newspaper.
A nightmare. The kind you try to correct in Photoshop -- but can't. Not even with a contrast mask. That's because the information just wasn't captured in the image.
But when you expose individual shots for the highlights and shadows to blend them with Optipix, you do indeed get the best of both worlds. We actually blended four images to get our richly-tone result.
Things get a little more complicated if your original images aren't perfectly aligned. They get even more complicated if they are 16-bit images.
You can easily check the alignment of 8-bit images before blending or averaging them by copying the second image to the first on a new layer and setting the Layer Mode to Difference. You'll see the misalignment pop out like an embossed filter effect.
Reindeer Graphics describes an elaborate method of aligning 16-bit images on the Web site (http://www.reindeergraphics.com/optipix/guide/align.shtml).
To align images, you might use Photoshop's nudge but that limits you to whole pixel moves. Optipix's sub-pixel Nudge provides a dialog window with X and Y distance fields. Positive values move the active layer down or to the right, negative ones in the opposite direction.
Reindeer Graphics recommends setting up four Actions to move your image, layer or selection up, down, right or left in 1/3 pixel increments (0.3333), the recommended sub-pixel distance to minimize noise. Assign a keystroke to each action and you're in business.
Sub-pixel nudging is a nice thing to have, but it doesn't guarantee alignment. You may still have to rotate your image and there's no sub-pixel rotation. Yet.
Optipix's Auto Contrast will set the highlight and shadow at the ends of the histogram, enhancing underexposed images without affecting color. You will get banding in 8-bit images, of course.
But with so many auto improvements built into Photoshop (Auto Levels, Auto Color), why do we need Auto Contrast?
Russ explained, "Auto Contrast is different from the built-in AutoLevels in that the colors are not shifted. Also, we throw away a tiny portion of the tails -- much less than Adobe's 1/2 percent. You will get slightly different results as you continue to reapply it, but we tried to minimize how much gets clipped. Yes, some of the image data gets clipped, but on the luminance scale it is somewhere on the order of 1/10 percent on the tails."
DeWolf recommends Auto Contrast as a "final contrast tweak" for images with a full tonal scale. We prefer the control of using the Levels command directly (nothing automatic) in Photoshop, but you can think of this plug-in as a very safe, smart alternative -- particularly useful in batch operations.
The Edge Enhancer plug-in provides unsharp masking (16-bit, too) while reducing noise, distinguishing between texture and edges with three main controls:
These three values are easily set with sliders and their effect quickly seen in a small actual-size preview.
- Noise Removing Radius dampens the noise in an image. As you move the slider to the right, the noise in the image disappears. So can the edges, however. Digicam images tolerate a setting between 0.2 and 0.4 while film scanners tolerate 1.0 to 1.4.
- Edge Sharpening Radius describes the width of edges. Recommended values are 2.5 to 7.5.
- Add Edge Emphasis fades the pure effect of the noise reduction with the sharp edges of the original image. Values indicate how much of the edge is added back, with a recommended range of 70-120 percent.
In addition, an Enhance option limits the edge sharpening to one of three options: Dark Edges, Light Edges or Both.
Enable the Autoscale Result checkbox to automatically run the Auto Contrast plug-in after the Edge Enhancer.
You should use the Edge Enhancer plug-in before Safe Sharpen.
The Safe Sharpen plug-in restricts sharpening to a small, safe amount, somewhat enhancing noise dampened by the Edge Enhancer but sharpening without a color shift. In fact, Reindeer Graphics claims it even tries to "fix" color as it sharpens. And unlike Photoshop's sharpen commands, Optipix's Safe Sharp works with 16-bit images.
We've been shooting with the same camera for a while now. We think we know what it can and can't do. And we fudge exposure this way or that to try to get what we're looking for.
But Optipix has turned our old iron into a new fire-breathing beast. Suddenly we're looking at what we can only describe as richer images.
That richness is a result of having 16-bit channels to work with -- even though our digicam records only 8-bit channels. It can be hard to convey in an ASCII review and even in an illustrated HTML version. But we've actually enjoyed working with Optipix, adding image after image to the buffer or fiddling with the Edge Enhancer -- because the results were always a pleasant surprise.
This is a great suite to add to your toolkit -- and our Dave's Deal below makes it even more affordable.
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:
- Special Coverage: Photokina 2002 (http://imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA02/PKNA02.HTML).
- First Look: Canon EOS-1Ds (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EOS1DS/E1DSA.HTM).
- Short Review: Pentax Optio 430RS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P430RS/O43A.HTM).
- Short Review: Pentax Optio 330RS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P330RS/O33A.HTM).
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 Sony camera prices at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee86100
Peter asks about camera choices for around $400 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8e7ec
Rick asks about shooting pictures at night at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8e89c
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We were accelerating uphill in the Rumbolino the other day when a taxi piloted by a former crop duster made an acrobatic move that required one more dimensions than you typically find on a street.
Or tried to honk. The Rumbolino's horn was out.
When we got back to the garage, we took a look under the hood. We aren't entirely convinced the Rumbolino was built after the invention of electricity. And peeking under the hood tends to confirm our suspicions. Little eyes looked back at us innocently.
After we fed the resident squirrels, we went back to the manual. It's written in German (Germans were buying Rumbolini then) but includes a nice foldout schematic of the electrical wiring. A nice but impossible to follow schematic of every single wire (excluding the stereo hookup and DirectTV connection).
Without a photocopier handy, we reached for a sheet of acetate and our old grease pencil to trace the route from the blown fuse to the horns.
What were we thinking?
Once the temperature dips below 50 degrees, you might as well be writing with invisible ink as a grease pencil.
So we finally had the sense to reach for that indispensable tool which has never failed us in any situation -- our Average digicam.
We stood up, framed the schematic in the viewfinder, set the EV to +2 since we were shooting a white page and not a gray one -- and fired. A couple of seconds later we had transferred the image to our Ordinary PC and were admiring the diagram in our Updated Image Editor from Recently, Inc.
We tweaked the contrast in Levels (just out of habit) and then used a little unsharp masking to firm up the line drawing.
Our next mistake was to try to trace the circuit freehand. Silly. Using the pencil tool and a nice three-pixel point in follow-me red, we merely had to hold down the shift key and click at every corner to let the computer draw straight lines right over the schematic.
We printed it to our Nameless inkjet printer, resized (but not resampled) to fit the whole page and just like that had an easy-to-follow diagram of the horn circuit.
Which you might think led us back to the garage to continue our adventure in electricity. But we aren't nuts. To short out a long story, we folded up the diagram to take to Luigi, the Rumbolino's mechanic, with a note to tell him to make sure his will is up to date.
Honk if you love digicams!
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RE: Memory Stick HDTV
I recently purchased a Sony KP-65WV600 wide screen projection TV specifically to be able to run slide shows using the Memory Stick picture viewer integrated into this model. Only upon reading the instruction book after purchase did it become evident that the viewer will only display photos that are DCF compliant. Photos taken with my Olympus E-10 and with my Sony DCR-TRV900 cannot be shown.
Is there a way to overcome this problem using my Sony computer? Simply transferring the photos to the Memory Stick in the computer does not seem to work.
-- Patrick Jewell(And to think that this is just what the Design rule for Camera File system was intended to simplify. Assuming the E-10 and TRV900 both create JPEGs intelligible to the host, this might be as simple a matter as organizing the files according to the specification. Not just copying the JPEGs, but copying them into the right place on the Memory Stick..... Inside the DCIM folder at the root level of the Memory Stick is a 100MSDCF folder with all your JPEG images. Put them there. The DCIM folder may also contain an MSSONY folder with an IMCIF100 folder for any email or uncompressed TIFF images.... Visit http://www.pima.net/standards/it10/PIMA15740/JEIDA_DCF_v1.PDF to learn more about DCF. -- Editor)
RE: Proofing the Pudding
Mike, I did what you told me about bringing my SmartCard and photo paper to Best Buy. We printed two photos from my SmartCard on the HP 7550 model.
The results were very nice. The salesperson told me this model is the only one that uses three cartridges: the tri-color, the photo color and the black cartridges. He said the other new 4800-resolution models will not get color as nice as this.
I told him beforehand I was comparing printers. Mine being an HP 952c which I only use for photo prints. Now after going home and printing the two photos on my printer the results were no different whatsoever. Facial tones and skin tones were very good.
So the only advantage to the new printers would be longer lasting photos. No thanks. If you can add to this I'd appreciate it.
-- Frank Grimaldi(First, bravo to Best Buy for running the test. They just raised the bar by actually demonstrating a product. Note, however, that Frank did bring his own materials, as we recommended when this question first came up.... Second, specs are fine and dandy, features are well and good, but there really is nothing like licking the ink off the sheet with your own eyes. -- Editor)
RE: Dazzle onDVD offDVD
It sounds simple enough. What I am seeking to do is to find a program to create slide shows of my pictures with music and burn them to a CD so they can play on the newer VCD-compatible DVD players. Apparently, it is not as simple as it sounds.
If you ever hear of a program that is successfully able to do such a seemingly simple task, I would like to know about it. But then, nothing is ever as simple as it seems it should be when there is a computer involved, is it?
-- Peggy Chenoweth(Readers, We traded a few emails with Peggy on this. We both failed to persuade Dazzle's onDVD to burn anything for us. She's also tried DVD PhotoPlay. We'll probably try tvCD next, but any other VCD recommendations would be appreciated. -- Editor)
RE: Sub-$100 Digicams
I have three digital cameras by Aiptek -- Mega Camera, Pocket DV and PenCam -- which are inexpensive, small, easy to use (even limited Video and audio) and fun. They all retail for less than $100. I may have missed any reports you did on this type of camera but would be interested in reviews of similar models.
-- Claude Mounce(We're keeping an eye on the under $100 category, Claude. As time goes on, it gets more and more interesting. And, as you say, it's been fun for a while already. Thanks for the recommendations! -- Editor)
Celartem (http://www.celartem.com) announced it has acquired plug-in developer Extensis for $9 million with up to an additional $2 million due over the next two years if revenue targets are met. Extensis' existing management team will continue operations in both Portland and the U.K. General Manager Craig Keudell, will become CEO of Extensis, Inc., reporting to the Celartem U.S.A. board of directors.
Pictographics (http://www.picto.com) has released iCorrect EditLab 3.0, the first of their iCorrect plug-ins developed under the new Adobe Photoshop 7.0 plug-in SDK. New features include: Adobe Photoshop 7.0 SDK; Macintosh OS X Native or Classic, 8.6 & 9.X; Windows XP/2000/ME/98; enhanced user interface; expanded image window area; grabber tool; edit memory color preferences; CMYK readout; color selection feedback; and new online user guide. EditLab 3.0 is $99 or $39.95 for EditLab 2.0 users. Orders before Oct. 10 are discounted 20 percent to $79.95 (http://www.digitalriver.com/Andromeda/EditLab3).
nik multimedia (http://www.nikmultimedia.com) has released Mac OS X versions of nik Sharpener Pro and nik Color Efex Pro plug-in software for Photoshop. Demo versions are included on the Photoshop 7.0 CD. See Dave's Deals.
YarcPlus [W] for Canon RAW files has been updated to version 2.1. Highlights of the free upgrade include: batch file renaming; post processing of auto levels/contrast, USM sharpening and resizing; unattended batch mode; and more. Visit http://www.pictureflow.com/Pages/YP-Download.html to download.
Photolightning 1.0 [W] lets you quickly download photos from your camera; preview; decide which photos to keep and discard; perform photo adjustments; rename if desired; and begin printing, emailing or sharing photos. Priced at $39.95, visit http://www.photolightning.com for a free 30-day trial.
Procreate, Andromeda and Auto FX Software are offering the Creative Xtreme bundle (https://www.autofx.com) with over 60 plug-ins worth $750 for $179 until Nov. 15.
Adobe has released Contact Sheet II plug-in update [M] (http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=1923) for Photoshop 7. Contact Sheet II can automatically create and place a series of thumbnail previews on a page and the Picture Package command can place multiple copies of a source image on a page.
Sapphire Innovations (http://www.sapphire-innovations.com) has released an update to Andrew's Plug-ins Vol 2.1.1 [W], a set of 35 Photoshop filters including blur, smear and displacement effects for $21.
Ulead Systems (http://www.ulead.com) has released PhotoImpact 8 [W] for managing, enhancing and sharing digital images. Features include dynamic file management and image adjustment, refined batch and single auto-enhancement, improved retouching brushes and professional color correction, as well as a host of new popular camera filters. The $89.95 ($79.95 downloaded; $49.95/$44.95 upgrade) program also creates slide show CDs that play on DVD players.
SCM Microsystems (http://www.scmmicro.com) has announced the $69.99 Dazzle TV Photo Show, a "no computer needed" device for viewing digital photos on a TV. Plug the TV Photo Show into the television's RCA video-in connector and insert the digital media card from your camera. Then, using TV Photo Show's remote control, play your slide show and rotate, plan, delete or zoom in on your pictures.
Lexar (http://www.lexarmedia.com) has introduced its $79.99 Digital Photo Player which connects directly to a television set to view images stored on Type I/II CompactFlash or SmartMedia using a remote control.
Lexar also announced a new line of Professional Series CompactFlash memory cards with Write Acceleration technology engineered to improve image file write speed up to 23 percent when used with partner digicams.
Delkin (http://www.delkin.com) has introduced the $159 eFilm Picturevision, a small set-top box to show digital photos on a television set. CompactFlash, SmartMedia, MemoryStick, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital and IBM Microdrives are all supported by the remote-controlled device.
Nikon (http://www.nikoncoolpix.com) has launched the Coolpix Cash Back Event, rebates and savings on select Coolpix digicams purchased between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 (http://imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1033497651.html).
Nikon has also released a firmware update for its Coolpix 5000 (http://www.nikontechusa.com), including RAW image capture and Exif v2.2 support.
Kepmad Systems (http://www.kepmad.com) has updated its $17 ImageBuddy [M] to view, grade, lay out, crop, mask, and overlay digital photos. The free version 2.5 update adds lossless JPEG rotation, support for JPEG2000 and improved integration with Mac OS X.
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has updated VueScan to 7.5.51 with a fast refresh preference and improved Mac OS X support for SCSI scanners.
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Dave Etchells, Publisher