|Volume 4, Number 23||15 November 2002|
Welcome to the 84th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter, featuring a couple of extended reports. We give a powerful scanning package our wink of approval while Dave casts a cold eye on real world images from the Foveon X3. Our usual diversions will return next issue.
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We came to terms with scanners a long time ago by thinking of them not as unwieldy photocopiers but as compact process cameras.
A process camera is what newspapers and magazines used to rely on to make negatives of photo prints and page layouts. They were big. Room size. Or two rooms, really, if you count the darkroom behind them where you loaded halftone or line film. They could handle huge sheets of film and enlargements to 300 percent -- which often wasn't quite enough.
So when we cabled our first scanner to a Mac SE, we were delighted. We could sit down instead of run from room to room loading copy or film. And we could simply draw a marquee around what we wanted to copy instead of lining things up on the ground glass or the cheat marks on the camera back. We could even type in an enlargement or reduction without pushing the lens into its bellows or the copy stand off the end of its track. We even liked the cover that hid the exposure, having been regularly blinded by carbon arcs.
Over the years we've gone from scanner to scanner -- and from one bundled scanner plug-in to another. And we've come to pine for a software package that we could take with us as we upgraded hardware as well as one we felt comfortable using. There's a lot of junk out there.
We aren't asking for much. A Preview window goes without saying. But a densitometer to read the preview and set the highlight and shadow are often missing. A curve adjustment would be nice. And an easy way to size the image and set its resolution.
Sharpening is a convenience if often done prematurely (sharpening is best done as the last step in image correction, at final print size). But a good descreening filter to handle halftoned images is essential.
You tend to suffer whatever software comes with your scanner. But if you want to upgrade its capabilities or commit to a product that isn't vendor-specific, there are a couple of products we can recommend.
We've been using both Ed Hamrick's standalone scanning application VueScan (http://www.hamrick.com) and LaserSoft Imaging's SilverFast Ai and HDR (http://www.lasersoft-imaging.com). More about VueScan another time. Today, let's look at SilverFast.
LaserSoft Imaging is a German firm whose CEO and president is Karl-Heniz Zahorsky. "The original motive for the 'invention' -- meaning the conception, development and additional development of SiverFast Ai -- was to be able to produce one's 'own' image successfully, without requiring extensive training in reproduction techniques," he said.
Indeed, the product packs a lot of intelligence into itself. And while it is primarily a high-end tool equally at ease in either RGB or CMYK color modes, it does provide a sort of automatic mode for beginners called the ScanPilot.
SilverFast is well enough regarded that it's bundled with some high-end scanners. See, for example, Dave's discussion of version 5.5's menus and program layout at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/SS4000/SS40SOFT.HTM in the Polascan 4000 review.
Also available separately, its price depends on the particular hardware you'll use with it. You need a version for each scanner you'll use it with (as well as the manufacturer's driver). Generally, it is priced at $99 for more popular low-end scanners but goes as high as $999 for some high-end machines. Add about $125 for IT-8 color matching.
While more expensive than VueScan, it doesn't have VueScan's hefty memory requirements (ameliorated a bit by virtual memory). But VueScan doesn't need a driver, either -- making it a lifesaver for unsupported hardware.
SilverFast 6 is supplied as both a Photoshop and TWAIN plug-in and a standalone application.
SilverFast 6 (http://www.silverfast.com) is available in several packages:
- SilverFast Ai provides up to 48-bit color capture for over 150 scanners.
- SilverFast HDR handles 48-bit RAW image files rather than scans.
- SilverFast DC works with 24-bit color image files from digicams.
- SilverFast SE is a low-cost ($49) version of the program that contains NegaFix in version 6.
- And SilverFast PhotoCD is designed to work with PhotoCD images.
Version 6 sports a number of impressive features:
- Smart Removal of Defects. Dust and scratches, highlighted in red, are decreased or increased with real-time selection controls. Any image details that might be affected by SRD can comfortably be excluded with an exclude-mask.
- Selective Color Correction. Click on the color to correct and SilverFast automatically selects it. Use the controls, layers and masks to correct it.
- Adaptive Color Restoration. Bring back faded or weak color automatically, controlling the effect with a slider.
- Selective Color to Gray. Select which shade of gray to convert Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta or Yellow.
- Grain and Noise Elimination. A before and after preview shows the effect of three standard settings or a custom setting on noise and grain.
- Remove Multiple Color Casts. Up to four neutral points can be set and neutral density values edited. Click on a neutral to eliminate the color cast. Fine-tune by double-clicking on the tool to edit fields showing before and after RGB or CMY values.
- Job Manager. Batch automation by any other name.
- Standalone Application. Requires only 2-4-MBs with access to SilverFast Ai, SilverFast HDR, SilverFast DC or SilverFast PhotoCD.
- Silver Fast QuickTime Tutorials. Excellent, short but thorough examples of each feature in actual use.
SilverFast 6 runs on Windows 98/ME/NT4/XP/2000 with 128-MB RAM and 50-MB free hard disk space; and Mac OS 9.2 or later (including OS X) with 64-MB RAM and 50-MB free hard disk space.
The Photoshop plug-in requires Photoshop 5.5 or later.
Performance was noticeably better on our faster systems with more RAM.
A single installation of SilverFast 6 went well. We had a bit more trouble installing HDR with Ai, however. A little manual file copying removed a great deal of duplication. But more than likely, this only affects reviewers. Most users will install a single version.
The install was simpler than we recall with version 5.5.
We used SilverFast 6 mostly as a Photoshop plug-in but its behavior is similar as a TWAIN plug-in or as a standalone application.
As such, you Import the SilverFast option from the File menu and the plug-in launches.
Several windows pop up when you launch SilverFast. And you can configure which ones they are and where they appear. You'll want the Main window with eight correction buttons, two tabs and four dialog buttons, of course. You'll also want the Preview window with nine control buttons, the prescan and the help line.
Beginners will want the Scan Pilot window open with six scanning steps and a go/stop set of buttons that guide you through the process.
We also liked having the Densitometer window open.
With an interface this complex, we really appreciated the context-sensitive help. No matter where you move the cursor, a short but helpful explanation is displayed at the bottom of the Preview window. This was very helpful in deciphering what various buttons and controls did.
The key concept behind SilverFast is to shift the task of color correction off the puny shoulders of your 8-bit per channel image editor and onto the hefty shoulders of your (up to) 16-bit per channel scanner, where a great deal more information about an image can be manipulated without deterioration.
To work with your scanner's raw data, SilverFast depends a great deal more on the prescan than most scanner software, which only uses the prescan to let you crop the scanning operation to the smallest possible area. SilverFast has bigger plans for the prescan.
In fact, LaserSoft calls this the "prescan concept."
You might expect a slow prescan, but no, SilverFast is quick. Yet, all the image color correction tools we'd expect to use in Photoshop after a scan, are available to the prescan. By tweaking the prescan, you can milk the best data from your scanner for any particular image.
Special features often rely on a smaller, sample prescan of their own to show before and after effects. So each time you change a feature setting, you also rerun the prescan on a small but revealing area of the image to see the effect.
That may seem annoying, but it beats rescanning the entire image.
SilverFast is clearly something of a Swiss Army knife of scanner software, but it's also something of a twist-off cap to great captures, too. Anybody can get great results without really trying. The corkscrew and can opener are there if you need them, though.
For our first test scan, we chose (at random) a magazine ad of a sofa.
We told SilverFast to use the descreening filter on our halftoned image, setting it at magazine quality (133 lpi). Everything else we left at the default values.
We clicked the Prescan button to see what was in the scanner bed and when it showed up in the Preview window, we cropped it. Then we hit the Scan RGB button and waited as the scanner scanned the image.
In a few seconds, we got a gorgeous first scan.
But what fun is that?
To exercise the power of the program, we had to play around a little.
Our first delight was pretty harmless. In the Preview window is a small button that shows the brightest and darkest points in the prescan. This used to be one of the skills you paid a lithographer to know. But all you have to do is click and a red target hovers over either the bright or dark spot, depending on which button you hold down.
Our second delight was discovering you can scan more than one image at a time. Scan, say, a magazine page with a couple pictures of Roberto Benigni as Pinocchio and you can crop not just one but both. Each crop is a frame, identified with a number.
We also got a kick out of the histogram displays (there are multiple options, but we would have liked to see some transparency in the overlaid option) and the curves dialogs, whose manipulation using sliders was an education in itself.
We're grateful for small efficiencies, but there are some big ones, too.
The biggest of those is the Job Manager, accessible from the Preview window, which lets you scan all the frames to a specific folder in any of four formats.
But let's briefly revisit a few of those features touted above to enjoy a few more routine blessings.
The GANE filter has three settings to reduce grain and noise in an image. You can also vary the intensity, threshold and radius settings to refine your own setting.
To our amazement, we found this filter did an excellent job on a problem that has stymied us for years: removing the inevitable specular highlights caused by the reflections off textured photo papers. You know, those linen and pearl finishes that were very chic a while ago.
We did lose a little sharpness, but far less than in any other desperate measure we've ever tried.
USM & DESCREENING
You can use both Unsharp Masking and Descreening filters or either. USM will sharpen your image while Descreening will hide the halftone pattern in printed images. Sliders provide for tweaking the results.
DUST & SCRATCHES
In the Preview window, a Dust & Scratch Removal button provides software removal of artifacts common when scanning prints and negatives.
Press the button to get another button directly below it to display itself (well, the interface has some quirks). Click on that parameter button to bring up the dialog box with another preview button. That's where you start.
Click the preview button to scan the image again and display the defects that SilverFast recognizes circled in red. You can press a button to show the original, the correction or the marked-up original.
The marked-up original is handy for setting the parameters: white, black or all defect types; detection sensitivity; defect size limits; and defect intensity. And you can save these correction levels to disk for reuse.
You can further refine this tool by using masks. Lasso, polygon or brush modes are available.
With a few clicks, you've eliminated a lot of cloning (and even healing brush) time in Photoshop.
No one is born a scanner operator. And if we hadn't spent years behind a process camera, we wouldn't have understood how to play the game. In fact, we spent about six months trying to figure out the multiple exposures required to make a halftone. Until one day our film salesman Larry Johnson came by to demonstrate all the tricks of an old pro (like calculating bump exposures and using still development for tray processing).
Larry's gone on to greener pastures, but you can enjoy the same sort of help using the excellent QuickTime videos that demonstrate SilverFast's features in actual use.
The tutorials take up as much screen space as necessary and as little of your time as required to show you how to use each tool. This is enormously beneficial even if you know how to play the game because not everything in this package is intuitive (like that Dust & Scratch Removal button).
Despite our quibbles about the interface and confusion over the multiple packages and the dependence on the hardware manufacturer's drivers, SilverFast 6 does not disappoint. In fact, we were delighted with the Swiss Army toolset for tapping into the depth of our scanner and 16-bit channel images.
If your scanner software makes you feel like you're sitting in the dark playing a video game where you can never get to the next level, try SilverFast. It gave us the feeling we were back in the darkroom, making magic happen with an old pro in the glow of a safe light.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD9/SD9A.HTM on the Web site.)
Sigma has a long history in the photo industry, although they're better known for lenses than cameras. Sigma's lenses deliver sharp images at affordable prices, a combination that's brought them a huge share of the market among enthusiast film photographers.
This year, Sigma entered the digital market dramatically, leaping directly into the digital SLR fray, eschewing any intermediate steps in the consumer camera marketplace. The move makes sense, given Sigma's strong position as a lens manufacturer and their presence in the SLR marketplace. What's remarkable though, is the extent to which they've achieved parity with other major manufacturers in a single step.
Much of the credit for this goes to Sigma's use of Foveon's revolutionary X3 sensor, which stacks separate red, green and blue sensors behind every pixel of the sensor array. When compared to conventional CCD or CMOS sensors, which use a mosaic array of red, green and blue filters over the pixels, Foveon's X3 approach should yield almost twice the resolution for a given pixel count. The lack of any offset between color samples also promises to completely eliminate the color aliasing most digicams exhibit with fine patterns of high-contrast detail.
With the comfortable heft of a 35mm SLR film camera, the $1,799 SD9 features a 3.34-megapixel Foveon CMOS sensor with full-color pixels. The SD9 is the first in its price category to offer such a high-grade image sensor and indeed is the first camera in the world to use Foveon's X3 sensor technology. Capturing and storing images as lossless raw sensor data files, the SD9's included software provides an unusual level of post-exposure image adjustment. Add to this the benefit of full manual exposure control and an interchangeable lens design (with a very affordable line of high-performance lenses) and you have a worthy new contender in the digital SLR marketplace.
The SD9's body is slightly larger than the competing Canon D60 and Nikon D100, but quite a bit smaller and lighter than the pro-level D-SLRs from those companies. The SD9 feels pretty rugged, although I felt that the rather thin body panels on the front of the unit contributed to a slightly "tinny" feel there. While it does have the heft of an SLR design, the SD9 isn't by any means a heavy camera. It features an SA-type bayonet lens mount, which accommodates a wide range of Sigma lenses.
Manual focus is activated via a switch on the lens, but the SD9 itself has both Single and Continuous autofocus modes. A TTL optical viewfinder provides an accurate display of the frame area, with a unique view that lets you see a good bit of area outside the actual capture region. Called "Sports Framing" by Sigma, this is great for keeping an eye on fast-moving action outside the frame, but I felt it resulted in an uncomfortably small active area.
The marked viewfinder region indicates the active frame area with almost 100 percent accuracy. A detailed information display inside the viewfinder reports exposure and basic camera settings and a center AF target is useful for lining up your subject. As with most SLRs, the 1.8-inch LCD monitor doesn't act as a live viewfinder. Instead it serves primarily for image review and for display of the camera's setup menu. In image review mode, a detailed information screen not only reports exposure settings, but also includes a histogram.
Four main exposure modes are available, including Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. While aperture settings will vary with the lens in use, shutter speeds range from 1/6000 to 15 seconds (1/6000 to only one second at the ISO 200 and 400 settings). The SD9 has a cable release terminal to remotely trip the shutter via cable release, avoiding any camera movement caused by your finger hitting the Shutter button. The SD9 is also compatible with an optional IR remote release.
By default, the SD9 employs an Eight-Segment Evaluative metering system to determine exposure. It does provide the options of Center (spot) or Center-Weighted metering modes as well, though. In all exposure modes except Manual, you can decrease or increase exposure from -3 to +3 exposure values in one-half-step increments. I'd much prefer to see 1/3 step increments. ISO choices include 100, 200 and 400 equivalent settings, but keep in mind that the slow end of the shutter speed range contracts dramatically with ISO settings higher than 100. The final exposure option is white balance, with Auto, Sunlight, Shade, Overcast, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash and Custom modes. Because the SD9 captures files in the raw sensor format, any further image adjustments can be made with the interface software. The SD9's software offers a really remarkable level of control and is overall one of the best pieces of image adjustment software I've seen to date.
The SD9 doesn't offer a built-in flash, but does have an external flash hot shoe on top of the camera, compatible with Sigma's EF-500 DG Super SA and EF-500 DG ST SA flash units, as well as conventional "dumb" hot shoe flash units. Available Drive settings on the SD9 include an Autoexposure Bracketing mode, two self-timer modes and a Continuous Shooting mode. The bracketing mode captures three exposures, each at different exposure settings (one at the metered value, one underexposed and one overexposed). The self-timer modes offer 2- and 10-second countdowns from the time the Shutter button is fully pressed until the shutter actually opens. Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of images in rapid succession, with the actual frame rate and maximum number of images varying with the resolution setting and available memory card space. The frame rate runs about 1.9 frames/second for large images and about 2.7 fps for small ones.
The SD9 saves images to CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards and is compatible with the IBM MicroDrive. All files are recorded as raw sensor data with three resolutions available. For downloading images, the SD9 has both USB and FireWire/IEEE-1394 ports and comes with both cables, although I found that downloads from the camera were very slow, particularly when connecting via USB. A video cable also comes with the camera, for viewing images on a television set. For power, the SD9 utilizes two CR123A lithium batteries, as well as either two CR-V3 lithium battery packs or four AA-type batteries. An AC adapter is also included.
The SD9 offers sensitivity settings equivalent to ISO 100, 200, and 400 but the higher ISO settings limit maximum exposure time to one second. Image noise does appear to be an issue with the X3 sensor technology, hence the limitation on maximum shutter time as the ISO increases. If you intend to do a lot of night shooting, this might give you pause.
SHUTTER LAG & CYCLE TIMES
You get six shots in large/fine mode before the buffer has to clear, then you have to wait 45-65 seconds before you can capture the next series. With the small/basic quality setting though, you get about 30 images in a series, at the 0.37 interval, with buffer-clearing times of 114 to 124 seconds.
I measured the SD9's cycle time using three different memory cards: a Lexar 12x 256-MB, a SimpleTech 512-MB and a Mr. Flash 256-MB. Cycle times were fastest with the SimpleTech card, which seems to be the fastest CompactFlash card in my collection. As expected, times were slower with the Mr. Flash card, although there wasn't nearly as large a spread between the fastest and slowest cards as I've found with some cameras. The SD9 doesn't appear to take maximum advantage of faster CF cards.
Shutter lag times were much faster than typical consumer cameras but slower than those of the best pro SLRs. Shot-to-shot speeds were pretty good, but the buffer took a long time to clear, most likely a consequence of the large files (4- to 10-MB, depending on subject matter) that the SD9 writes in its RAW-only file format.
The SD9 is equipped with both USB 1.1 and FireWire/IEEE-1394 interfaces. The camera apparently does not function as a storage-class device. It didn't show up on my Mac OS 9 desktop, requiring me to connect via the provided Photo Pro software application.
When I tested download times with the camera, I had a hard time believing the results, they were so slow. It's possible there were software/driver conflicts on the machines I used for testing, but if so, the SD9 is the only camera that has succumbed to them.
On the Mac (a somewhat aging 500-MHz G4 with 640-MB RAM), I never managed to get the USB interface to work reliably at all. The Photo Pro software froze whenever I connected the camera. The FireWire interface worked on the Mac, but very slowly. I clocked the FireWire transfer rate at 268 KB/second, on the slow side even for a USB interface.
Giving up on the Mac, I switched to an even more elderly PC (350 MHz PII machine with 512-MB of RAM running Windows 98) to test the USB download speed and was amazed it could only move data at 35.7 KB/second. I haven't seen transfer rates that slow since the days of serial-port-connected digicams. I also installed the Photo Pro software on a Sony VAIO laptop, running Windows XP (1.2 GHz PIV, 256-MB RAM). The performance there was a little better, but only marginally so, with a transfer rate of 47 KB/second.
The bottom line is it's only marginally feasible to download directly from the camera via FireWire and completely pointless with USB. Plan on using a fast external card reader with the SD9.
The early results (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD9/SD9PICSA.HTM) indicate the following:
- Resolution is indeed higher than one would expect from a 3.4-megapixel sensor, but not quite on a par with the current crop of 6-megapixel SLRs from Canon, Fuji, and Nikon.
- The color on the MacBeth target looked pretty good, generally hue-accurate with good saturation.
- Image noise is a mixed bag, varying greatly as a function of color. In neutral grays and most colors, noise levels are only slightly higher than competing cameras such as the Canon D60. On the other hand, noise in red and magenta can be as much 2-3 times higher than other units.
- Depending on the color, noise is a factor with the X3, particularly in red hues. (Noise in other hues and in neutrals is only 10-20 percent higher than competing SLRs.) While I'd expected (and initially thought I saw) more noise in the blue and green channels, the red channel in fact often showed the worst noise. The 1-second limit this places on maximum exposure at ISO 200 and 400 plus 400 being the highest available ISO (compared to 1000-1600 in competing cameras) is a significant shortcoming.
- My initial reaction to the "camera" aspects of the SD9 was pretty favorable. In particular, I really like its user interface. Unfortunately, the more I worked with it, the more dissatisfied I became. The autofocus system seemed noticeably slower than those on other SLRs. Worse, several times it simply got lost, racking back and forth and then just stopping at an intermediate position, nowhere near in focus. If I held the shutter button down, the focus system would wake up after several seconds and focus, but this is the worst focus reliability problem I've seen.
- The SD9's delivered correct exposure most of the time, but it frequently underexposed shots half an f-stop. High-contrast images gave it the worst time and night shots were almost unmanageable. The camera seemed to be trying to hold detail in even the brightest speck of the subject, even if it represented a tiny amount of the total area. In night scenes, this required two to three (!) EV of exposure compensation, a level I've never needed with other cameras. The biggest problem was that the exposure response was unpredictable. I never knew if I had the right exposure until I examined the image on the LCD, with the help of the histogram and overexposure warning.
With its 3.43-megapixel Foveon CMOS sensor and three-color-pixel X3 technology, the SD9 has already made waves in the prosumer digicam arena. The X3 sensor does appear to offer higher resolution than conventional striped arrays of similar pixel count and the camera itself offers good value for the dollar. Exposure control and shooting flexibility are both very good and Sigma's broad family of affordable, quality optics will make this an attractive choice. While I'd really like to see exposure compensation in 1/3 EV steps rather than 1/2 EV ones, the excellent Foveon-developed software and raw sensor data file format makes up for that. More casual users may be put off by the lack of a JPEG finished file format though, as every image from the SD9 must pass through the software before it can be used.
The technology is impressive but not perfect. I fully expect a holy war to erupt on the issues of color purity and image noise with the SD9. Supporters will point to the SD9's excellent capabilities, good resolution and affordable price, while detractors will call attention to its higher than average image noise and maximum shutter time limitation. Mixed into the fray will be arguments about the look of images derived from a sensor with full-color pixels.
Ultimately, the decision to buy an SD9 rather than one of its worthy (but more expensive) competitors will be a very personal one. While the price/performance ratio of Sigma's lenses is hard to beat, the SD9 has some serious issues in the areas of autofocus performance and exposure accuracy. At the end of the day, the choice will in large part hinge on how much a shooter cares about long-exposure night photography or how sensitive they are to image noise. If nighttime photography isn't a big issue, you're not fanatical about image noise and you can afford the occasional AF or exposure bobble, the SD9 represents an excellent value. In good conscience though, I feel a need to point out that for about $400 more, you can have your pick of several cameras with none of these limitations.
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:
- The Great Digital SLR Shootout, Round One! (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SHOOTOUT/SHOOTOUT.HTM). Now that the Sigma SD9 has finally shipped, we hosted a shootout of all four digital SLRs selling in its price range: the Canon D60, the Fuji S2 Pro, the Nikon D100, and the Sigma SD9.
- Preliminary Review: Sigma SD9 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD9/SD9A.HTM).
- Short Review: Kodak EasyShare LS443 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LS443/LS44A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Minolta Dimage 7HI (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D7HI/D7HIA.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 Sigma SLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8eb05
Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2
Steve asks about a camera for wide angle shots at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8f138
Read about the Minolta Dimage Scan Elite III Scanner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8f094
Visit the General Q & A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec
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Again, you fellas have an uncanny knack of knowing what your readers need to hear. As for me, I have repressed the desire for an inexpensive but excellent film scanner for I realized those terms were mutually exclusive. Then, there you were with the Minolta Dimage Dual III.
I have also felt I was just fine with Elements 1 until your enticing article about E-2.
I have also persuaded my company to purchase five Maha chargers and four sets of NiMH batteries for our in-house communications. Although 1.2 volts, they are terrific and have never let us down.
The article on the One Eye is an unexpected pleasure and as a result I am looking into it.
Although I have the ability to speed read I decided to print your Volume 4 Number 22 and take it to work.
It was EIGHTEEN PAGES! Not a bit of digression or fluff, strictly business with a sense of giving and concern for your readers.
Off to purchase Elements 2 with the applicable discount for E1.
-- Don Blum(Eighteen pages -- without illustrations! <g> -- Editor)
RE: Safety in Numbers
You made a comment in the last newsletter about not trusting only one copy of your images in storage. So true. This is what happened to me just a month ago on vacation.
When traveling digital, one generally cannot carry enough memory in the camera to last a vacation, so it must be off-loaded to other devices.
When I was planning this trip, I had a laptop with a 2-GB hard drive, not much room for images. I wound up buying a slightly upgraded model of the same laptop with a 4-GB hard drive and that proved to be my salvation!
My Minolta D7 uses a standard CompactFlash memory card. My 256-MB card holds almost 200 JPEG images or 26 RAW images. I have an adapter card to fit into the PCMCIA slot of a laptop; I put the CF in the adapter, the adapter into the computer and the download is much faster than camera directly to computer.
My drill was to copy the contents of the CF card to both my Travelstar and the computer's hard drives, clean it off and re-insert it into the camera. Two repositories, good move!
Back home, I transferred the images from the Travelstar to my computer's hard drive. Imagine my shock when I opened the images in a viewer and found large swaths of pink and other colors in horizontal bands, from none to several, in most of the images! I immediately and incorrectly thought it was the new Minolta D7 2.0 upgrade firmware, but I was wrong. When I checked the images loaded onto the laptop's 4-B drive, they were fine! A major WHEW!
That's why I have 1) my main hard drive on my desktop, 2) a D: drive that I clone to often (http://www.xxcopy.com) and 3) another HD that I copy my important data files to every few weeks and keep in my car. Am I paranoid? You bet! Hey, I earned my paranoia by an expensive course called "Experience!"
-- Paul(We've seen the same problem writing large images to CD over a SCSI chain. The interesting thing is that no error is reported by the OS because the file sizes are identical. But something is clearly out of whack.... We reboot before copying now to avoid any memory fragmentation that may contribute to the problem, but we've never actually resolved the issue. Among the suspects: the hardware cable and the device's write cache. Probably more. Which is why two copies done identically aren't much help either. Copying to different media over different routes -- as you did -- is the smart thing to do. -- Editor)
RE: Camedia Master Pro
I purchased an Olympus 520Z camera, which came with Camedia Master software to resize and do lots of wonderful stuff. But to email a picture I had to upgrade to the Pro version for $20. Did that and then found out that my Internet Service Provider and Camedia Master Pro would not work together. Called my ISP and they said it should work, then called Olympus and the tech said it was not their problem. Still cannot email a picture. Anybody else out there had the same problem? If so, how do you get it fixed?
-- Jim Stubbs(We traded a few emails with Jim to make sure he had entered his ISP's SMTP address correctly before Olympus sent him a patch. -- Editor)
RE: Warranty Exclusions
Just wanted you and your readers to know and comment on the following. I have purchased a Sony digital video camera and a Canon G-2 in the past two years from reputable NYC photo houses with extended Mack warranties. Unfortunately over the past 18 months, each camera had a problem and I sent them in over the last year for warranty repair.
It took over two months to repair the first under warranty for a cost of almost $300. They said moisture damage was the cause and it was not under warranty. On the G-2, I sent it in three months ago and just learned they wanted $399 for repairing "moisture damage" again. I do not live in a humid area and I am very dubious about the diagnosis.
I am concerned that the Mack extended warranty may be worthless and I am wondering if other readers have had similar problems. Is there another extended warranty program that is better?
-- Bill Falik(We sympathize, Bill. Insurance policies are always subject to one or another "exclusions." You've heard, no doubt, about Acts of God. You'll find them in the fine print <g>. If you look up "warranty" in the keyword search at our Index of Articles (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/) you'll no doubt run across the issue in which we recommend against buying extended warranties for digicams. And the follow-up letters from salespeople touting their benefits. We said then and still think your money is better spent on a bigger storage card or batteries than on any warranty. By the time you get home with your new purchase, there will likely be an upgrade announced <g>, anyway. If you sleep better at night with a warranty, rely on the extended protection some credit cards provide at the time of purchase. That's free. -- Editor)
Total direct prints from consumer digicams will grow from 4.5 billion in 2001 to 11.8 billion prints in 2005 worldwide (http://www.lyra.com/chart), according to a new study published by Lyra Research and Photofinishing News. The report, Opportunities and Challenges in Consumer Online Photosharing and Photoprocessing, studies trends in consumer behavior. While some 80 percent of digital photos were printed at home in 2001, the study projects that, in percentage terms, photos will increasingly be printed at retail locations or via an online service, with home printing accounting for just 53 percent of photos by 2005.
Meanwhile, a new study from InfoTrends Research Group (http://www.infotrends-rgi.com) projects worldwide revenue from sub-$1,000 digicam sales is forecast to reach $11.8 billion in 2007. Worldwide unit shipments of low-end digital cameras will reach 24 million units in 2002, capturing 28 percent of total worldwide camera sales (not including one-time use cameras). Unit volume is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16 percent to reach 51 million units in 2007.
SmartDisk (http://www.smartdisk.com) has begun selling an Accessory Pack for Digital Cameras at Wal-Mart. The $59.64 pack includes a SmartDisk Universal Reader that captures photos from the six most commonly used flash media cards. Other hardware accessories include rechargeable batteries and charger, mini-tripod, camera case, CDs, CD labeling kit and inkjet photo paper. Software includes SmartDisk MVP, ACD Systems FotoCanvas, and Power DVD.
PowerRetouche (http://www.powerretouche.com) has released a new Windows version featuring much larger preview panels and a new filter that traces edges.
ACD (http://www.acdsystems.com) has announced the release of ACD mPower Tools, a $49.95 set of tools to extend the photo and media functionality of Windows and other Windows programs. Features include: a dockable media bar to search images by camera metadata and other details; a right-click menu that enables editing, printing, sharing and managing of photo and media files; extended information and media display to view over 50 photo, video and audio files; an viewer/player for fast viewing of many file formats from within Windows.
Apple has released Image Capture SDK 2.0 (http://developer.apple.com/sdk/#ImageCapture) with both application development and camera/scanner module development kits. It includes sample code and documentation for using the Image Capture framework on Mac OS X 10.2 to access camera/scanner devices, and how to write camera/scanner modules. It also includes the CameraCheck tool, the Image Capture Browser and the ICANotificationListener tool.
Rob Galbraith reported Adobe will shortly release a file format plug-in for processing RAW files from several different digicams in Photoshop (http://www.robgalbraith.com/diginews/2002-11/2002_11_01_adobe.html).
A reduced-size standard for the MultiMediaCard was approved at the MultiMediaCard Association's (http://www.mmca.org) recent membership meeting in Boston. The new RS-MMC will store data for mobile phones in a form factor half the size of a standard MMC. The new cards will be manufactured and marketed by various members of the MMCA with density ranges of 16/32/64-MB available immediately, expanding to 128- and 256-MB later in 2003. Both standard and RS-MMCs have seven pins and can be used in existing host platform.
Monaco Systems (http://www.monacosys.com) has announced the release of MonacoDCcolor [MW], a $399 digicam profiling product for the professional digital photography market. Based on technology that is currently available in Monaco's flagship product, MonacoProfiler, MonacoDCcolor is focused on generating high quality ICC color profiles for digital cameras.
Rune Lindman has released QPict 5.2 (http://www.qpict.net) [M] with a host of new features and improvements. The upgrade is free for users of QPict 5.0 or later.
PhotoChannel (http://www.photochannel.com) said it will combine PictureIQ's TransForce and PhotoForce server products to offer wireless-enabled photo sharing, storage, and printing. PhotoChannel service providers, carriers, mobile Internet portal, and retailers will be able to deploy photo-based applications and services accessible by any mobile device next month.
Youview (http://www.youview.co.uk) has released ShopWindow, an application to quickly and easily post, manage and view up to 30 images on the Web at a Youview-hosted server. Six sample slideshows at the site show Youview ShopViewer and ViewManager in action.
The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has released Version 1.01 of HyperTyle for Windows, a $59.95 Photoshop plug-in for generating texture, surface, paint, erosion, transparency, edge, frame, shadow and other effects.
Olympus and Epson have announced a $75 rebate with the purchase of any Olympus Camedia digicam and either the Epson Stylus Photo 785EPX, 825 or 925 printer within 30 days of one another from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, 2003. The rebate coupon is available at participating retailers, Olympus (http://www.olympus.com/promotions) or Epson (http://www.epson.com/promotions).
Pictographics (http://www.picto.com) has released iCorrect Entree (http://www.picto.com/iCorrectEntree), a fully functional, entry-level version of iCorrect 4.0 for Windows XP. Subscribers to this newsletter (who read all the way to the end) can get the $19.95 application for free (http://www.picto.com/iCorrectEntree/introduction.htm).
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher