|Volume 4, Number 22||1 November 2002|
Welcome to the 83rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Did you remember to set your digicam clock back an hour? Then you've got time for our review of Element 2.0, a steal of a film scanner and more slide show software recommendations.
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
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Elements may be at version 2.0 now but this puppy counts years differently. Based on Photoshop code (which is now up to 7.0), Elements (http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopel) behaves a lot older than other version 2.0s we've known.
Fortunately, the things we really liked about 1.0 are as strong as ever. Like the online help system. No matter what image editing software you own, we continue to recommend Elements heartily for its outstanding HTML Help and Tutorials on image editing.
HELP THAT HELPS
That comprehensive but concise Help is like a Global Positioning System for the rough terrain of image editing, making it a lot easier to navigate. Plus Elements continues to ride shotgun with Recipes for specific situations and context-sensitive Hints.
And Help has become even handier in 2.0 with a search field built into the shortcuts bar. Just type a keyword in the search field and a list of links is displayed in a window of its own. Click on an option and you're in the Help system -- right where you need to be.
Learning how to edit your images -- not just what to do but what not to do -- is complicated by the many different ways of getting the same job done. Sometimes there are tradeoffs and sometimes there really aren't. But without an expert at your side, how can you tell?
Elements Recipes can take you step by step through a number of common tasks. And more can be downloaded. Recipes are easily searched and guide you through some complex maneuvers.
But you don't have to beg. In the Elements Hints window you'll see an explanation of any tool you mouse over, not just its name but what it does and how to use it.
BROWSING THAT FINDS
While Elements Help remains the single biggest reason we recommend this program, we're glad to see some Photoshop 7 technology in Elements 2.
The File Browser, which was our best excuse to upgrade to Photoshop 7, is now part of Elements. It makes it about as easy as it's ever going to be to preview and open your images. The thumbnail display and familiar directory tree navigation are complemented with Exif data about your exposure and a preview. And the renaming options we raved about in Photoshop are here, too.
So count that as an excellent excuse to upgrade from Elements 1.0 to 2.0.
OK, the guy in charge of naming things at Adobe needs to turn off the TV. The Healing Brush was bad, but Quick Fix is really bad. This kind of thing can lead to Elements Anonymous and 12-Step Color Correction. Somebody take this guy to Keppler's Bookstore (http://www.keplers.com) for lunch.
But a rose is a rose. Quick Fix organizes Elements' power into simple choices. Open an image, click on the Quick Fix tool and you get a before and after thumbnail on top with correction options in three panes below.
The first pane offers Brightness, Color Correction, Focus or Rotate radio buttons.
The second pane offers different options for whatever you pick in the first pane. Select Brightness in the first pane, for example, and the second pane shows Auto Contrast, Auto Levels, Brightness/Contrast, Fill Flash and Adjust Backlighting radio buttons. And each of these options is explained in a Help panel just above the panes. You are never too far from help in Elements.
Pick one and the third pane displays whatever controls the option has (slides or maybe just an Apply button). Play around to see the effect in the preview thumbnail.
Not only can you hit the Undo button to unplay around, but you can Reset the image to square one when things get way out of hand. You learn by making mistakes. But Elements makes sure you don't have to pay for your mistakes.
A NEW TWIST ON SLIDE SHOWS
Tucked into the Automation Tools option on the File menu is a new trick: PDF slide show. You can't play these on your DVD player but with Acrobat Reader in general circulation (and free for those backward manufacturers who don't install it by default), a PDF slide show provides cross-platform playability with no hassle.
The documents can be quite large, however, so you may not want to email them. Each image takes a page of the document.
And while you can't add music, you do get a choice of transitions.
To play back the slide show, just double-click it and Reader will open it, black out your screen and go through the images at the interval you selected in the Elements dialog window.
That works pretty well. There isn't the control you might get with a QuickTime export (no forward/back/first/last buttons), there's no sound and you can't email it but it does work.
THE EMAIL ISSUE
Your camera takes glorious images but it doesn't have to transfer them over the Internet. And if you send one of those glorious images to a buddy who connects to the Internet by making a phone call, you are less one buddy. It will take forever to download your glorious image.
The solution has been to resize the image before emailing it. But this solution mystifies many people because resizing requires an advanced degree in calculus. Do you resample? Do you constrain? What's all this mean?
Elements Help will explain it all to you (yes, resample and constrain), but Elements will just do it for you. Under the File menu is a new command called Attach to Email.
Select that and Elements tells you that your glorious image is really too large to send over the Internet. Elements lets you Send Anyway, but it now offers to Resize. And once Elements resizes the image, it actually attaches it to a new email message in your preferred email program. You just have to enter the recipient.
It was a little scary but we took one for the team. Zip, bang, boom -- there was our resized image in the body of our email message. Wow.
A BRUSH WITH A MASK IN MIND
Making corrections or improvements to your overall image is one thing (global corrections, by name). Making them to just a part of the image is another (local corrections). To affect just part of your image, you generally have to become skilled in making selections.
There are lots of tools to help make all sorts of selections, but it is never very easy.
In olden times, you'd dip your brush into photo maskoid and paint over the parts of the picture you wanted to preserve. Then you'd airbrush the unprotected parts. Photo masking 101.
Elements lets you do the same thing with its new Selection Brush. You can use the tool to paint either what you want to preserve (Mask mode) or what you want to expose (Selection mode). And you can set the 'hardness' of the edge, too. Which is pretty important in making realistic edges.
But that's just a hint that Elements has inherited some new brush power from Photoshop.
You have, first of all, your choice of the Brush Tool or an Impressionist brush.
The Impressionist brush blurs your image in amusing ways, making it look like it was painted. Sort of. Changing the size of the brush makes the strokes more or less detailed. It's fun but there are more sophisticated ways of getting there if that's what you want to do.
The Brush Tool, however, has all the sophistication of a NASA machine shop. A small window provides a preview for the More Options palette where you'll find more controls than you know what to do with (Color Jitter and Scatter among them). But that's why the preview comes in handy.
GRAB A VIDEO FRAME
You may have tons of it lying in heaps all over your house, decaying day after day. Maybe you've started transferring it to your new computer, the one with the FireWire port and video capture software.
If so, you've probably discovered you don't get a second lifetime to watch what you did in the first one. Which is why everything was lying in a heap to begin with. Next to those shoeboxes of Jumbo prints you never have time to look at.
But you can do with video what you do with prints: pick a few to live with, print them, frame them, hang them up and walk by them from time to time until you get tired of them and replace them.
Elements makes it not just easy but fun to open a video file and scrub through the frames until you find the one image where everyone's eyes are open at the same time. The usual video controls are available, but so is a small frame indicator that's easy to grab and drag to the perfect frame. No stepping required.
Then you just hit the Grab Frame button and you've got the still in Elements ready for enhancement. And not only that, but the dialog stays active so you can grab another frame or six to compare them side by side. Very smart.
Under the Filters menu you'll find a Video fly-out menu which holds a De-Interlace filter to get rid of the scan lines and an NTSC Color filter to correct color. That's almost too easy.
Another valuable inheritance from Photoshop 7 is Picture Package Printing. This lets you efficiently lay out several prints of various sizes on that expensive photo paper you no doubt prefer to use with your inkjet printer.
Which gives you another excuse to upgrade from the earlier Elements.
Our only disappointment -- and it remains a big one in 2.0 -- is the lack of a Curves command. There are some things that can only be done in curves and a lot of things that are best done in curves. Even by beginners. But Adobe seems to think tricks are for kids and Curves for professionals.
We won't belabor the point, except to point out that it is the chief weakness of this product. Until Elements has Curves, you'll want an image editor that does.
System requirements are also pretty steep for a beginner, we must remind you. A Pentium running Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP with Explorer 5.x and 150-MB hard disk space or a PowerPC running Mac OS 9.1 through X with 350-MB free space. Either platform requires 128-MB of RAM.
While we've highlighted the new features that make Elements 2.0 welcome on our hard disk, we haven't mentioned how good it looks, how solid it feels and how well it performs. We had no trouble with anything we tried. And we had a lot of fun trying things. See for yourself with our illustrated review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/EL2/EL2.HTM).
Priced at $99 with a $30 rebate for registered users of version 1.0, Elements is also bundled with some new cameras and scanners.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/DSEIII/DSEIIIA.HTM on the Web site.)
With the introduction of the Dimage Scan Dual III, Minolta has significantly raised the bar for "low-end" scanners. While the DSD-III carries a low-end price tag at $449, its performance is anything but. And Minolta said they expect it to retail for well under $400. Considering its specifications and performance, this is a remarkable achievement. It dramatically outstrips the capabilities of any competing scanners currently marketed anywhere near that price.
The DSD-III feature set is a close match to the recent Dimage Scan Elite II, a high-end desktop film scanner I reviewed in April 2002. The DSD-III drops the former's dual USB/FireWire interface for a fast USB 2.0 connection. It retains the DSE-II's 16-bit A/D converter, but uses Minolta's own dust removal and color/tone correction software instead of the Digital ICE, ROC and GEM from Applied Science Fiction used in the DSE-II and other higher-end Minolta scanners.
The DSD-III is almost exactly the same size as the DSE-II, though with a charcoal colored case. At 5.7x3.9x12.6 inches, it weighs 3.3 pounds. It ships equipped to scan 35mm film but an adapter for APS film is an option.
The software CD shipped with the unit supports both Mac (8.6-X) and Windows (98/98SE/2000P/ME/XP) platforms, with standalone scanning applications for both, as well as a Photoshop acquire plug-in for the Mac and TWAIN drivers for the PC. Apple doesn't support USB 2.0 (that's what FireWire is for), but add-in cards are available.
Scanning resolution can be as high as 2820 dpi, with an RGB trilinear CCD element that slides across the film in one pass. This produces maximum image sizes of 2688x4032 pixels for 35mm or 1920x3328 pixels for APS.
Bit depth determines both color accuracy and the maximum density range the scanner can recognize. The DSD-III is built around a 16 bit A/D, an exceptional spec in and of itself, although its absolute density performance is about equivalent to the best 14-bit scanners I've tested. Still, the level of shadow detail the DSD-III captures is very impressive, particularly for such an inexpensive unit.
(SOME OF) THE DETAILS
The DSD-III is a very capable scanner and scores big in the ease-of-use department. Here are a few of the key points:
2820-dpi Resolution: The DSD-III very high scanning resolution caputres a lot of detail. Though several higher-end scanners offer resolutions as high as 4800 dpi, the DSD-III's 2820-dpi resolution is excellent for 35mm film.
Auto Dust Brush: While Auto Dust Brush and Pixel Polish don't perfectly replace Digital ICE, they do serve their purpose. Auto Dust Brush diminishes the effect of dust particles on the film's surface. It worked fairly well for removing dust specks, but had virtually no effect on scratches in the emulsion. I was slightly surprised to find the setting applies to all frames being scanned in a given film holder. I expected to be able to turn it on or off for individual frames.
Pixel Polish: Pixel Polish is Minolta's automatic color and tone correction tool and is also applied to all frames in the holder. It automatically assesses the image and makes whatever corrections it deems necessary. On the other hand, a Custom option lets you choose from preset themes, such as Underexposed, Low Contrast, Backlit, etc., to fix specific exposure problems. Pixel Polish seemed to work very well with images that had a pure white somewhere within the frame that the scanner could use as a reference point. Without such a reference, it tended to produce inaccurate results.
16 Bit/8x Multi-Sample Scanning: Theoretically, more bits of A/D translate into better dynamic range, although in practice dynamic range is often more limited by the analog circuitry and other parts of the signal processing chain. Still, all other factors being equal, I'd pick a 16-bit scanner over a 12-bit one any day of the week. When you have a high-resolution A/D though, one thing you can do to overcome image noise arising from the analog circuitry is to sample each pixel of the image multiple times and average the result. The DSD-III has a multi-sample averaging capability up to eight samples (the DSE-II permits up to 16 samples) and it works fairly well.
The DSD-III was surprisingly responsive for an inexpensive scanner and in fact significantly outperformed the Dimage Scan Elite II in most areas. The DSD-III software spends a little time after the scanner is finished to process the images.
One thing that speeds up the DSD-III's operation is that tonal and color adjustments are faithfully reflected onscreen in the prescan image, greatly reducing the number of prescans needed before undertaking the full-res scan itself. This speeds workflow quite a bit.
I found the DSD-III to be slightly faster when scanning slides (color positives) than color negatives, although the difference wasn't nearly as great as I observed with the DSE-II. All scanning times were very fast, in the upper echelon of performance among scanners I've tested, regardless of price.
This is now the fifth or sixth Minolta scanner I've reviewed and I've liked Minolta's software from the start. The big news with the DSD-III though, is the addition of Minolta's new Easy Scan Utility.
Included as a separate, standalone application, Easy Scan runs almost like a typical Wizard application on a PC, guiding you step-by-step through the scanning process. A set of directions instruct you to load the film, choose the film type, select an image, make any automatic adjustments, pick a usage (which determines the scan resolution) and finally, scan the image. The utility is perfect when you have a batch of negatives or slides that require little or no adjustment, as it greatly speeds up the scanning process. It's also ideal for novices confused by the myriad options advanced scanning applications offer for resolution and image adjustment.
When you need more control, the Dimage Scan utility can be used standalone or as a plug-in to Adobe Photoshop or the included Elements.
I haven't completed my testing but I can say even at this early date that the DSD-III's performance and image quality is very impressive, particularly in light of it's very low projected street pricing.
Color and detail in the DSD-III were quite good, as its scans looked almost identical to those of the higher-end Dimage Scan Elite II. I was somewhat surprised by the sharpness of its scans, given that it uses a diffuse, fluorescent light source. In my tests, the DSD-III delivered about the highest resolution I've yet seen from a scanner in its general resolution category (2700-2800 dpi units). Sharpness was also very good in the corners.
I did see more random image noise than on some scanners with less A/D depth, but the multi-sample scanning option was very effective in removing it. As with the Dimage Scan Elite II, the multi-sample option didn't remove a background pattern of streaks in the deepest shadow areas, evidently the result of imperfect calibration for the black level of the individual pixel sensors in its CCD array. In fairness to the DSD-III, these only appeared in the face of really extreme tonal adjustments.
Preview scan accuracy was quite good with the effects of even major tonal adjustments faithfully reproduced in the preview window, without necessitating another prescan. This is critical to achieving good scanning throughput. I was less thrilled though, that the scans generally looked a fair bit lighter in Photoshop than they appeared in the prescan window.
Minolta's film scanner line is marked by good user interface design, strong specs and excellent optics, at competitive prices. The DSD-III represents a dramatic leap in the price/performance equation though, really setting a new benchmark for high performance in a low-cost film scanner. If you've been putting off that massive project to digitize all your family slides and negatives, the cost of the scanner needn't hold you up any longer. Just a couple of years ago, this level of performance wasn't available in a desktop scanner at any price. Now you can bring a 16-bit, 2820-dpi, fast film scanner home for under $400. And Minolta's software makes it easy to use, to boot. Big kudos to Minolta for this one.
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:
- Illustrated Review: Photoshop Elements 2.0 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/EL2/EL2.HTM).
- Preliminary Review: Dimage Scan Dual III (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/DSEIII/DSEIIIA.HTM).
- Short Review: Toshiba PDR-3310 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PDR3310/P33A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Maha Powerex 401FS fast/slow charger (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/C401FS/C401A.HTM).
- Short Review: Fuji FinePix F401 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/F401/F41A.HTM).
- Compared: Canon EOS-1Ds & D60 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EOS1DS/E1DSPICS.HTM).
- Our product reviews now include PriceGrabber price ranges for reviewed products. The new data includes the low, high and average price reported by PriceGrabber.
Thanks again to those of you who emailed us recommendations for slide show software. Part I was published in our Sept. 20 issue available in the Archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS). In Part II, we catch up with even more recommendations:
Reading through these recommendations, one thing is clear. You have a lot of options. You can burn JPEGs to a CD or put a video presentation on DVD -- with quite a smorgasbord of options in between. We'll explore those options in a future issue.
- Robert Roy finds "Ulead DVD Picture Show [W] [http://www.ulead.com/dps] to work very well and it's cheap too!"
- Donna Szostak voted for Ulead, too. "It's simple and works flawlessly. It provides interactive shows you can select with the remote for your TV. My only complaint: You can't start music in the middle of a selection and can't fade it out. Also, you can only use one 'song' for each section of the slide show. You can even have your own photo behind the main screen menu with music of your choice as the back ground for the menu -- not bad for $29.95."
- Kevin Anderson put a vote in for tvCD (http://www.tvCD.com), which looks a lot like Dazzle's onDVD to us. "I have been very frustrated with digital video editing software and even video CD for stills. But I did in fact try the tvCD mentioned in one of your newsletters. While the software does have a few quirks, it produces a video CD that actually will run in a newer DVD player."
- Shelley Olds wrote, "Having just returned from Italy with 1,500 photos stashed away on my image tank, my husband has been bugging me to see them on the TV. I have an Iomega Fotoshow but I knew I could create a VCD using Roxio Easy CD Creator [W] (http://www.roxio.com). The slightly difficult part is writing the CD. You click on the box next to 'Launch Roxio Video CD Creator' to write a 'VCD format disk' then choose MPEG-VCD NTSC under the video format. To create the CD, choose 'Create CD from layout' from the Video CD menu."
- Shelley also sent a link to a roundup of inexpensive but capable slide show software (http://www.photosoftwarereview.com/shows.htm).
- Doug Sims also mentioned Easy CD Creator noting, "it takes a while to set-up and learn. My sister just recently purchased FlipAlbum 5.0 Suite [http://www.flipalbum.com] and it will create the FlipAlbum in an MPEG format, which can then be burned in VCD format. It is not the highest quality movie but it's pretty good and very simple."
- Dillian Lafferty suggests Pictures to CD & DVD by Magix (http://www.magix.com/select.html) because "you can set up a slide show with both music and voice at the same time. You can add short video and text. You have a short list of transitions for text and pictures. In addition, you can put up a menu on the TV and control multiple shows on one CD using the DVD controller. I found the program at CompUSA for $39.95."
- Tom Rathburn seconded Magix, "It burns CD-ROM, Video CD, S-Video CD and DVD. It compiles and burns faster than anything else I have tried. And I got it for $37.99 at J&R Music World."
- Joyce Guasch recommends Windows Movie Maker. "Import your photos and audio into WMM. Go to View, Options and set the time for how long you want to view your stills. Drag your photos to the storyboard or timeline. Do the same with the audio. Save your movie as DV-AVI NTSC. Burn the VCD with Nero. Nero will convert the AVI to MPEG-1. If you want more control over the conversion, use a program like TMPEGnc."
- Paulette Conlan is looking for that Ken Burns effect. As Dave pointed out recently, ImageMatics's StillMotion Creator (http://www.imagematics.com/index_dd1.htm) does that nicely. She also found PhotoJam (http://www.shockwave.com/sw/content/photojam) "but people who bought the software seemed to be very divided about how good it was."
- Leah Barrett Demers sent us a review copy of Callisto's $20 PhotoParade [MW] (http://www.photoparade.com). She cited three advantages, "It's easier to use than other digital photo production software. It lets people of any age/technical ability produce professional-quality slide shows with themes, music, graphics and even narration. It eliminates the need to attach multiple large JPEG files, so even dial-up Internet customers can share in the fun."
- Derek Drury added a note about a Part I mention, "The Royal Photographic Society International AudioVisual Festival Competition this year has a section for slide shows using PicturesToExe [W] (http://www.wnsoft.com>http://www.wnsoft.com)."
- Iain found a free one with simple instructions called LPJ-slide show [W] (http://hjem.get2net.dk/lpj/CreateCD.htm). "You can easily add MP3 songs to it and words to a frame or several that make it look like it's been filmed."
- For that Web page of your images, Tom Trottier recommends Web Album Generator (http://www.ornj.net/software/webalbum), which is also free, "uses style sheets and is XML and HTML standards compliant."
- Tom also mentioned AVShow [W] (http://www.magma.ca/~dgrass) which "was built by a photographer for photographers who like to create AV shows, in particular multi-projector shows using dissolve units." AVShow simulates "image blends, absolute control over sound synchronization, bulk time adjustments and a light table design facility." Tom confides, "It was built for personal use. I am making it available for others to enjoy as much as I do. If you like it and use it, please feel obligated to send me $30."
- Bob Mathews chimed in for iPhoto, Apple's free digital photo application. "I recently put together a 370-slide show of last month's Alaska trip, with music, using iPhoto. One feature I really like is that it creates dissolves from slide to slide. I put the show on CDs and sent it to my fellow travelers, even the PC users, who can download QuickTime Player free from Apple."
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 Sony CD300/CD400 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8e385
Visit the Accessories Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6b2e5
A reader asks about the "best" 2-megapixel digicam at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8ef15
Emil asks about sources for USB drivers at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8d493
Visit the Infrared with Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee8e6b4
Sometimes we suspect Dante hit on the idea of the Inferno while holding for a technician to help him with the latest upgrade to MS Parola. What else could explain the painstaking ordering of all the flatterers (your call is important to us), hypocrites (the update that breaks everything), thieves (updates that just fix bugs) and sowers of schism (hey, it's the other guy's product) in a descending abyss. The guy sure knew how to get even.
But getting even loses its appeal eventually. Ask Alfred Nobel, who made sure he could blow up anybody by inventing dynamite. Turned out, that wasn't enough. He wanted to be, well, constructive. Encourage the arts. Hence the Nobel Prize.
It's in that constructive spirit we announce this year's winners of the Imaging Resource Ersatz Nobel Prize for Extraordinary Customer Service in Digital Imaging. As always, this award is shared.
Leading the list, is Ritz Camera (http://www.ritzcamera.com). Charlie Young cited them "because their customer service is just the best in the industry, IMHO!"
Ah, praise unadulterated by detail. Clearly Charlie was overwhelmed. Our other winners, however, found happiness at the end of longer adventures.
Joining Ritz is Nikon (http://www.nikontechusa.com). Henry Arance had written to us about a very unusual problem with the CCD in his Nikon 990. His images of the sky had patterns of white dots in them, almost like a flock of birds -- but there had been no birds when he snapped the shutter.
Henry wrote, "I'm very impressed with the Nikon service. Took the camera to the Western Regional Service (Torrance, Calif.) Tuesday, explained briefly the circumstances and showed samples to Vic Zimmerman, assistant manager. He agreed with the New York branch that they have never seen this problem before. This morning (Friday) I got a phone call telling me that the camera was ready for pick up. Couldn't talk to Vic, but this is what they did: Replaced image control PCB [whatever that is], Adjust auto focus operation, Adjust CCD, Adjust A-white balance, Adjust system control, General check & clean. Charges $0.00. The camera is almost two years old, out of warranty. That is a class act."
Yeah, Henry, but did it solve the problem?
A week later we heard from Henry again. "This morning I took 20 shots of a perfect 'Santa Ana condition' blue sky and got 20 perfect shots. Happy end of story."
Free out-of-warranty service is, in the spirit of the Ersatz Nobel, "extraordinary." But even more so, was Lynn Batterman's experience.
His new Sony Vaio running Windows XP simply wouldn't work with his existing software or printer. By the end of the month Sony had released an XP driver for the printer but this isn't about Sony. It's about Ultimate Electronics (http://www.ultimateelectronics.com) in Colorado, where he bought the Vaio. Lynn had been having intermittent trouble using AOL with his modem -- which meant it was hard for him to get the newsletter. Truly intolerable.
"Went back to the store and complained," Lynn wrote, "and they gave me a new computer yesterday. Have been trying to load software ... and it has worked but I haven't done a shutdown, either. Anyway a big KUDOS for Ultimate Electronics in Colorado. You might want to pass my recommendation on as their usual return policy is 30 days and I've had the Vaio for four months. They also have a replacement if any product fails twice in the first six months."
And no questions asked, apparently. Kudos? Why, give them a Nobel, we say.
You may be able to catch more flies with honey or blow your antagonists to bits with dynamite, but flies and debris have little after-market value. We are pleased to recognize three companies that "made it right" for our readers -- Ritz, Nikon and Ultimate -- with this year's Ersatz Nobel Prize for Extraordinary Customer Service. Let's hope they set a trend.
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RE: To DVD or Not to DVD
Your article entitled "A DVD Slide Show" caught my interest. About six months ago I had the pleasure of making a DVD from a bunch of my favorite photos taken with several digital cameras.
The product I used was DVD Picture Show by Ulead running on my XP computer. I tripped over their product while browsing the Internet one day and I decided to try the free trial version. Liking it, I decided to spring for the big bucks and purchased it for about $30.
The process of building and burning DVD's was fun, quick, and painless. Perhaps one of the main differences is that DVD Picture Show is a basic product with few bells and whistles. It probably doesn't allow the customization and control that your authoring software had. But it produced a very satisfying, low stress result.
I converted the CD tracks to MPEG format using Easy CD Creator. I put the finishing touch on the DVD by making a label from one of my photos and named my spectacular "Steve's Photos, the DVD."
Because the results can be so rewarding and enjoyable, I'd like to see as many people as possible have access to this medium. Maybe you could have a follow-up story entitled "A DVD Slide Show, Quick and Easy."
-- Steve Edelstein(Thanks for the recommendation, Steve. We've asked Ulead for a review copy but have yet to hear. We asked Roxio for a review copy of Easy CD Creator, too, and that just arrived. -- Editor)
I think you would have been much better off looking into Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video (http://www.sonicfoundry.com). Vegas stands for "Video Editing, Graphics and Sound.
If you've ever watched a documentary on TV that relied on still photos, you'd notice that they don't stay "still"; instead, they zoom in/out, move around the picture, rotate it, etc. This is a piece of cake using SFVV!
Plus, because you have (say) a 1600x1200-pixel image being converted to 720x480, you lose a lot of resolution. By using SFVV's "Event Pan/Crop," you can zoom in on the picture, without it getting grainy and pixelated to see interesting details in your 2- or 3-megapixel images.
In addition, SFVV can be configured (via a couple preference settings) so that when you drag all your photos to the timeline from the Media Pool, it will set the duration of each image to the time you specify, and automatically overlap each one so that a transition can be applied between each picture (similar to Premiere's "Automate-to-Timeline").
-- Eddy(Thanks, Eddy. We've asked Sonic for a review copy. -- Editor)
I would like to suggest that you consider purchasing an Apple iMac G4 for your DVD burning. These computers are the easiest and quickest to use when working with multimedia. As a training specialist I get to use an IBM at work. I almost always end up taking the video home and working with it on my Apple. If you haven't used one, stop by an Apple store or CompUSA to check them out.
-- Noel(Thanks, Noel. In fact, we've asked Apple to provide a SuperDrive so we can burn our DVD project on it. Apple provides an excellent suite of software with the machine, including iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD, so no additional software would be required. And they even offer a free online seminar on DVD production (http://seminars.apple.com/seminarsonline/dvdauthoringsol/apple/index.html). -- Editor)
RE: Traveling with a Digicam
I bought a Nikon 950 three years ago and carried my notebook along to download pictures. Lots of stuff to carry and fraught with hazards. This year my wife bought a Minolta Dimage 7 and I got a Nikon 5700 just two weeks before we embarked on our annual six week trip to Europe. I also purchased a Minds at Work 20-GB MindStor that fit into a side pocket on my camera bag. We took along five sets of batteries for the Minolta and a charger and one extra battery and a charger for the Nikon. A spare 250-MB CompactFlash card was never needed.
We each took 3,500 pictures at the highest JPG compression and quality. When we returned home last week I connected the MindStor to my PC and copied the entire drive. We had created eight GB of files in sequential directories. We now have lots of work to do to cull out the junk and find those prize winning shots for this season's competitions in our local photo club (http://www.raritanphoto.8m.net). Barbara and I are Photoshop addicts and I have created a Web site to show off her PhotoImpressions which are digital watercolors of some of her shots (http://www.photoimpressions.d2g.com).
I am also a Premiere user (we used to be authorized Adobe dealers before we sold our business in 1998 and retired). I have created videotapes of several of our extended trips and always start the soundtrack with Willie Nelson singing "On the Road Again." Your piece on DVD burning was very interesting since I have just started looking at DVD+RW burners. Video tape is quite easy for me since I have a complete video edit suite and generally use S-Video tapes for a little better quality. It looks like I have a lot to learn about DVD video.
Sorry to have rambled on so much but your newsletter just got my adrenaline flowing and it just happened. Thanks for doing such a great job. I always recommend your newsletter to new digital camera buyers and they always thank me for having showed them the way.
-- Paul Eggermann(Aw, don't get me started doing my Willie Nelson impersonation.... The only thing (well, besides the price) that bugs me about the MindStor (and similar gadgets) is you end up with only one copy of your images. I just don't feel safe with less than two and I only relax when I've got three. On different media. -- Editor)
A year ago I wrote to ask where I could get a projector that would project from computer, TV or video/DVD direct onto an ordinary movie screen or white wall or, in my case, a canvas on an easel. There was nothing, although you kindly made a couple of suggestions that together would simulate what I needed to achieve. Then, last evening, my hostess brought out a projector called InFocus that did it all. It's a bit pricey at "several thousand dollars," but the resulting big screen images were grand. It goes to show that, if we are patient, technology and innovation will yield everything. Maybe you should review it.
-- Tap Pryor(Love to but where would I put it? -- Editor)
RE: Paint That Room Again
To get the color right, you might include a gray scale and standard color swatches in your picture -- and use comparable lighting (flash for sunlight).
Or if you didn't bring your Macbeth card, put your coat, purse, shoe, a dollar bill, or something else you can use to standardize the color later.
-- Tom Trottier(Ah yes, last issue we heard from Paulette, who "tried out" a large area rug by photographing it in the store and then cloning it into a picture of her room. Color matching can be difficult in such a project, but Tom's advice can save the day. Just don't forget your purse. -- Editor)
A little late for this Halloween (but not too late to bookmark) is Keith's Pumpkin Page (http://www.cox-internet.com/kcoleman) which details how to use a high-contrast print to carve a cool pumpkin.
Picasa [W] (http://www.picasa.net) is an automatic photo organizer that bears a striking resemblance to iPhoto. The $30 program finds images on your hard disk or imports them from your digicam then makes it easy to view, email, print or share them.
Apple has released SuperDrive Firmware Update 1.0 ( http://www.apple.com/hardware/superdrive) to be compatible with 4x media for DVD-R and 2x media for DVD-RW.
Lemke Software (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released GraphicConverter X 4.5. The new version imports PDFs, exports JPEG 2000, taps into Quartz text rendering, rotates Exif thumbnails and more. It also requires (after 10 years of free upgrades) a new $30 license key valid through version 5 to support continued development.
At the 28th Annual International Quilt Festival, Hewlett-Packard unveiled two technology-based tools for quilters -- the HP quilting community Web site (http://www.hp.com/go/quilting) and the HP Custom Quilt Label kit -- helping to incorporate digital imaging into quilts using digital cameras, PCs, printers and scanners.
Dealnews has launched dealcam.com (http://www.dealcam.com), a digicam price comparison search engine. Key features include deals on almost 400 digital cameras; merchants screened for satisfactory customer service; Web coupons; lists of Most Popular Cameras and Most Megapixels Per Dollar.
Epson (http://www.epson.com) has introduced the Stylus CX3200, an all-purpose printer, scanner and color copier for $149. The 5760x720-dpi, 6-ink, USB device prints border-free prints or copies without a computer or an 8x10 photo in as little as three minutes, seven seconds. It uses a new Exif Print feature to automatically compensate for advanced digital image parameters such as color space, noise reduction, white balance and more.
Epson also introduced the Stylus CX5200, a combination scanner, printer and color copier for $199. The device features DuraBrite ink technology, Epson's fastest four-color desktop ink jet, a new high-speed Micro Piezo print head and Resolution Performance Management.
Delkin (http://www.delkin.com) has introduced the eFilm PRO CompactFlash card optimized for use in professional grade SLR digicams in 128-MB, 256-MB, 320-MB, 512-MB and 640-MB sizes. Delkin said the eFilm PRO Card significantly reduces capture times with speeds up to and exceeding 3.6-MB per second sustained write time (depending on shooting conditions) using a new technology called DQD. DQD is a design and quality verification process that improves the performance of CF cards and is a Delkin exclusive.
Uwe Steinmueller at the Digital Outback Photo has published a series of ebooklets on RAW file workflow for four different digicams (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1035263547.html).
Mike Chaney of Digital Domain Inc., author of Qimage Pro and Profile Prism, compares the results of typical CCD Bayer interpolation with samples from the Sigma SD-9's Foveon X3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1035256392.html).
You can enjoy Kenneth Adelman's bird's eye view of the California coastline (http://external.californiacoastline.org) no matter the weather.
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 7.5.58.
For just $150 an insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
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
That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:
Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM Newsletter Forum: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=irnews Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher