|Volume 4, Number 24||29 November 2002|
Welcome to the 85th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Start your holiday shopping with some interesting new offers from our sponsors. Then relax with Michael Tomkins' review of the easiest Windows digicam application ever, Dave's review of the Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom and our long-promised solution to off-camera flash.
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:
Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 48,100 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at email@example.com.
By Michael R. Tomkins, News Editor
(We've augmented Tomkins' Comdex report with a few notes of our own in brackets. -- Editor)
Lifescape Solutions Inc. has released Picasa (http://www.picasa.net), an interesting new program designed to browse your digital photos and share them with friends -- either through an on-screen slide show, by email or as prints.
["Interesting" indeed. The program impresses immediately as a knockoff of iPhoto, recognizing attached digicams and easily managing photo import but without HTML export or some of the fancier print options. It's not only attractive and fun to use, but easy to use. If you're having trouble getting photos from your digicam to your computer and onto your printer, this might be just the ticket.]
IT'S THE INTERFACE
With an unusually attractive interface for a PC program -- Mac users will recognize OS X as the inspiration for a lot of its visual style -- Picasa is a very easy program to use.
[Lifescape said it conducted a series of studies on human "ethnographics" and intuitive, visual "mental ergonomics" to create the interface.]
Fire it up for the first time and it will help you seek out photos on your hard drive(s) or select specific locations to watch for images. You can quickly organize your photos into albums and organize multiple albums into "collections" (the albums in a collection are grouped together in the album list on the left of the screen).
The majority of your screen is dedicated to viewing the photos themselves, either as thumbnails in one of two sizes (grouped by album) or as a small preview of an individual photo.
In the preview mode, you have the ability to perform a couple of simple automatic adjustments to the image -- contrast and saturation (courtesy of the Enhance button) or red-eye removal.
[Enhance seems to do a relatively timid Auto Levels correction.]
You can also rotate your images losslessly in 90-degree clockwise steps (repeating the process if you want to rotate the image 180 degrees or counter-clockwise).
More complex adjustments -- or any manual editing -- need to be performed in another program. Picasa can launch your photo editor and have it load a specific image for you when necessary.
Picasa's search function doesn't currently make the program well-suited to dealing with very large photo collections, as it allows the user to search only for words in album titles and descriptions.
However, in talking to the company at Comdex's Digital Focus press event, we were told that captions for individual photos will be possible in an update which should be released in December. This is a significant change, which will greatly expand the program's capabilities and make it more appropriate for managing your photo collection.
Picasa really shines in its very nicely designed photo sharing functions. A slide show mode is coupled to what Lifescape calls a "timeline." Like Canon's ZoomBrowser software, which scrolls through individual photos by the time they were taken, Picasa scrolls through entire albums by date.
The slide show can either be manually controlled with a small toolbar at the bottom of the screen or set to automatically change photos every few seconds. Two nice visual touches are the "fade" transition between images in an automatic slide show and the way the timeline uses an image from each album as a stylish looking backdrop whilst you choose an album. A few more transition types for the slide show might be a nice addition to a future version, but overall we're very impressed with this portion of the program.
We encountered a minor bug in the timeline and slide show, which Lifescape is currently working on solving. On certain video cards -- apparently including the ATI Rage Mobility M1 AGP in my laptop -- the timeline and slide show (the latter only when in auto mode) are shown at VGA (640x480) resolution, rather than the computer's default resolution.
Sharing photos is a snap in Picasa. Simply select one or more images from your albums and small thumbnails will appear in a holding area at the bottom of the screen. Click the Hold button to select another batch of images without the first being dropped from this holding area.
Once you've found all the images you want, a quick click of either the Print, Email, Export or Order Prints (from Picasa's online photofinishing operation) buttons will take you to the relevant portion of the program.
The Print button brings up a new screen where you can choose to create a full-page print, 4x6 prints (two per page), 3.5x5 prints (four per page) or contact sheets with up to 42 thumbnails per page. You can also choose whether to crop your images top and bottom or add borders left and right to make them match the aspect ratio of the standard print sizes. Duplicate prints can be made by clicking Plus or Minus buttons and you can select and setup your printer. Finally, you can opt for standard mode ("Good quality, compatible with most printers' resolutions, especially HP.") or optimized mode ("Highest quality, uses your printer's resolution. Test on inexpensive paper first.") We haven't had a chance to test the print quality achieved by Picasa but the interface is certainly friendly and simple enough for a beginner to understand.
[Ed Chao, chief operating officer of Lifescape Solutions, told us, "Picasa is the front end for our print service. We want to provide the best overall experience for users, and decided to integrate this into the app."]
The Email button gives you the option of sending your images via Microsoft Outlook or Picasa's own email routine. Your selection can be saved and the question skipped in the future if you choose. Images are resized and recompressed automatically for you and attached to a blank email. The size and compression ratio are not currently user adjustable, but again in talking to Lifescape reps we learned that they're planning to add some user control over this process.
[A couple images resized in Picasa and emailed to our account through Picasa's server failed to display as JPEGs in any image editor or browser. Chou was surprised and suggested we contact tech support, meanwhile explaining, "We built our own email client and servers to take care of users who use AOL mail or web mail clients. (Otherwise, the experience would be pretty poor.) When you email through your default MAPI client, the pictures do not go through Picasa servers -- only when you use the Picasa client."]
The Export button simply allows you to make duplicates of the images you selected, either in their original resolution or resized to 320, 640 or 1024 pixels wide in a new folder on your PC. Finally, the 'Order Prints' button is self-explanatory -- click on it and your images are automatically uploaded to Lifescape and you can then choose print sizes and quantities for delivery by mail.
Unlike some competing programs we have covered recently, Picasa is not being offered free through co-branding or print revenues, but is instead available for $29.99. For a first incarnation, the result is fairly impressive -- the program has a very clean, attractive interface and is simple to learn and use.
Equally impressive is the company's commitment to making the program even better. In talking with company reps, we mentioned a number of small points that we'd like to see changed and were told that the next release (a free upgrade available in December) will address these issues. In fact, on several points Lifescape staff told us that features were to be added before we'd even asked about them. The company is obviously listening closely to customers and reviewers and working to satisfy their requests. As well as the planned updates already mentioned, features such as compatibility with a wider range of graphics formats (including MPEG video) and more are on the way.
["Mac version?" Chou repeated our question. "Yes, we have been thinking. Haven't reached a decision yet."]
There's quite a lot of competition among software vendors to make your digital image collection as easy to manage as a shoebox full of film prints. With a little more development, we have no doubt that Lifescape's Picasa will become a leading contender.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C730/C73A.HTM on the Web site.)
Succeeding the successful Olympus Camedia C-700 and C-720 Ultra Zoom digicams, the under-$600 C-730 Ultra Zoom ups the ante with a whopping 10x zoom lens, increased manual exposure control and an external flash terminal. (Note though, that the 730 and 720 will apparently coexist in the market for some time now.)
The C-730's advanced features include updated white balance offerings, additional preset Scene modes and a maximum exposure time of 16 seconds. All of the previous C-720 offerings remain, such as the variable ISO, fast 1/1000-second maximum shutter speed and AutoConnect Storage Class USB (providing plug-and-play transfer of images to Windows 2000/ME/XP and Mac OS 8.6 and higher, without the need for additional driver software). Versatility is clearly the theme of the C-730, as Olympus provided as much or as little exposure control as anyone could want. While primarily aimed at more experienced digital photographers (those who want to step up to a camera with expanded capabilities), the C-730's Program mode nonetheless allows point-and-shoot simplicity and the six preset shooting modes excel at common shooting situations. (There are also three Slow-Synchro flash modes for evenly exposed night scenes.)
The C-730 combines compact size, trim design and good portability, which are always desirable attributes in a digicam. The same compact SLR-style design that's characterized Olympus digicams for several years now prevails again with the C-730, though with a slightly longer lens assembly. Compared to other 10x zoom digicams currently on the market, the C-730 is remarkably compact, measuring only 4.2x3.0x3.1 inches with the lens retracted and only three-quarters of an inch more with the lens fully extended. It weighs just 11.2 ounces without batteries, light enough to fit into a large purse or waist pack, but its classic silver and metallic gray color combination, enhanced by a satin finish, makes it deserving of its own protective camera bag or pouch.
The C-730 features an electronic optical viewfinder, essentially a miniaturized version of the larger, 1.5-inch, TFT color LCD monitor. The C-730's EVF is bright and clear, with a good, high eyepoint and a diopter adjustment, both of which make it comfortable for eyeglass wearers. Both the LCD and EVF have detailed information displays and provide access to the LCD menu system. The EVF remains active at all times, but battery life is surprisingly good regardless. The EVF also seems to be pretty usable under low-light conditions, a traditional weakness of EVFs. The 5.9-59mm, 10x zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-380mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a maximum aperture of f2.8-f3.5 (wide-angle to telephoto). In addition to the C-730's 10x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to an additional 3x with the digital zoom, effectively increasing the camera's zoom capabilities to 30x. The C-730's maximum image resolution is 3200x2400 pixels, interpolated up from the 2048x1536 sensor resolution. Lower resolutions are 2048x1536; 1600x1200; 1280x960; 1024x768; and 640x480 pixels are also available. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed mode that produces full-resolution TIFF images.
The C-730 offers a great deal of exposure control, including Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority and Manual exposure modes. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as 1/2 second. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, while the camera chooses the best corresponding settings. When used in AP or SP modes, apertures range from f2.8 to f8 and shutter speeds from 1/1000 to 1/2 second. Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but permits shutter speeds as long as 16 seconds. You can also put the camera into full Auto mode or select between Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene, Night-Scene and Self-Portrait scene modes for easy capture of what might otherwise be tricky subjects. A built-in popup flash has good range and an external sync connector supports external flash units.
The C-730 provides four ISO options (Auto, 100, 200 and 400), automatic exposure bracketing, two metering modes (Digital ESP Multi-pattern and Spot), plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent or Custom to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions. Image contrast and sharpness adjustments are available through the LCD menu and a Function menu option lets you record images in black and white or sepia tones or in Whiteboard or Blackboard photo modes (good for capturing text). An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock function locks an exposure reading, without having to hold down the Shutter button halfway while you reframe the image. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits.
The C-730's Movie mode records QuickTime movies with sound, in either SQ (160x120 pixels) or HQ (320x240 pixels) modes. Actual recording times vary with the resolution and the amount of memory card space. Additionally, the C-730 lets you record short, four-second sound clips to accompany images, either in Record or Playback modes. Two Sequence modes capture multiple images as fast as 1.2 frames per second (depending on file size), with an AF Sequence mode that adjusts the focus between each shot. The C-730 also offers a Panoramic mode and a "2-in-1" Capture mode that records two images side-by-side (like a split-screen view). The camera's internal, pop-up flash unit offers six operating modes (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Night Scene and Night Scene with Red-Eye Reduction modes), with adjustable flash intensity.
The Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom ships with a 16-MB xD-Picture Card for image storage, but also accepts SmartMedia memory cards. Larger capacity cards are available separately, up to the current limit of 128-MB. (256-MB xD-Picture Cards should be available by early 2003.) You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images. If you want a slightly larger viewfinder (or image playback) display, Olympus also provides a video output cable for connection to a television set. Software shipped with the unit includes Olympus' Camedia Master 4.0 utility package, a capable all-in-one image management program that provides basic organization and editing tools, in addition to a panorama "stitching" application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Mac and Windows are also supplied.
I've always appreciated Olympus' C-series of digicams for the flexibility they provide and I immediately liked the C-730 Ultra Zoom. The inclusion of more in-depth manual controls (similar to those of the C-3020 and C-4040) enhance the C-730's versatility with a nice array of exposure options to handle a wide range of shooting conditions. The availability of full manual exposure control and an external flash connection make the camera a good choice for advanced users, while the range of preset scene modes makes the 730 approachable for novices as well. The benefit of 10x optical zoom goes without saying and the EVF viewfinder provides much more accurate framing than a standard optical viewfinder. Overall, the C-730 Ultra Zoom is a nice addition to the Camedia line.
The Olympus C-730 is equipped with an all-glass lens, with 10 elements in seven groups. The 10x, 5.9-59mm lens provides a focal length range equivalent to a 38-380mm zoom on a 35mm film SLR, a moderate wide-angle to quite a long telephoto. Apertures range from f2.8 to f8, with the maximum aperture setting dependent on the lens zoom position, ranging up to f3.5 at the maximum telephoto position. Normal focusing distance extends from 4 inches to infinity, although the near limit is a pretty strong function of zoom setting, ranging from 4 inches at full wide-angle to 3.3 feet at full telephoto. The C-730 offers two Macro settings, the normal ranges from about 3 inches to 2.0 feet. Through the Record menu, a Super Macro option lets the camera focus as close as 1.6 inches. The Macro/Spot button on the back panel adjusts the focus range for close-up subjects and includes an option for spot metering in Macro mode.
SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES
The C-730 is an average to slightly slower than average camera overall. Startup and shutdown are a little leisurely, as the telescoping lens mechanism is rather deliberate in its motions. Shot to shot time is slightly over 2 seconds, not bad, but not a category-leading performance either. It has a decent-sized buffer memory though, helpful for grabbing relatively large numbers of shots in rapid sequence. Autofocus speed is about average, although better than that of the C-720 and not bad compared to some other long-zoom cameras. Continuous shooting mode is a bit slower than average at roughly 1.2 frames/second. All in all, not terribly slow, but a faster shutter response could have made this an excellent camera for sports shooting, with its long zoom able to reach out to capture distant action. As it is, unless you can pre-focus the camera in advance of the action, you'd have a hard time capturing critical moments. On the other hand, if you're dealing with subjects where shutter lag isn't that important, the C-730 gives great long-zoom performance at a bargain price.
Overall, the C-730 Ultra Zoom performed very well, producing excellent color under the majority of shooting conditions. The C-730's auto white balance system was pretty accurate, introducing only a hint of red into some shots under my studio lights and handling even the extremely difficult incandescent lighting of the "indoor portrait" test surprisingly well.
For the most part, the camera's white balance system handled testing well, with the Auto option typically providing the best results. However, I often noticed a slight reddish cast with the Auto setting, particularly under our studio lights (here the Manual setting performed well).
The C-730 performed well on the resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height in the vertical direction and around 600 lines in the horizontal direction. I found strong detail out to at least 1,000 lines vertically and horizontally. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,300 lines. A very good performance for a long-ratio zoom lens.
The C-730's electronic optical viewfinder was very accurate, showing 99-plus percent frame accuracy at the wide-angle zoom setting. However, at telephoto, the viewfinder was slightly loose, showing just a hair more than what's in the final image. The LCD monitor showed the same level of accuracy, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen.
Given the C-730's increased manual exposure controls and maximum exposure time of 16 seconds, I expected great low-light performance. I wasn't disappointed here. The C-730 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, at all three ISO settings. Color balance was warm from the Auto white balance setting, but images were bright and clear. The C-730's Noise Reduction feature did a good job eliminating excess image noise. Even at ISO 400, at the longest exposure, noise was only moderate. Really excellent performance here.
The C-730 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 1.57x1.18 inches (40x30 millimeters). Resolution was high, with great detail in the dollar bill, coins and brooch. (I could even see the tiny dust particles on top of the smaller coin.) Some softness was noticeable along the left side of the frame, but this is a very common failing of digicam lenses in ultra-macro shots, most likely caused by the optical phenomena called "curvature of field." Because of the close shooting range and the C-730's very long lens barrel, the flash was ineffective with this shot. Plan on using external illumination for extreme close-up shooting with the C-730.
The addition of a manual white balance option and increased manual exposure controls greatly helped the C-730's performance throughout my testing. Overall color and saturation were good and the camera's low-light and macro shooting abilities are outstanding.
Photographers who routinely deal with distant subjects know there's simply no substitute for a long-ratio zoom lens. With a 10x zoom lens and three megapixels of resolution, the aptly-named C-730 Ultra Zoom offers a very affordable and functional entry into the realm of long-telephoto digital photography. It takes good pictures, with good color and tone and offers an expanded range of manual controls relative to its predecessor and sibling, the C-720 Ultra Zoom. As regular readers know, I'm normally no fan of electronic viewfinders, which are generally useless in dim lighting. The EVF on the C-730 seems better than most in this respect though and the total package offers really excellent value in a long-zoom camera. There's plenty of resolution for sharp 8x10 prints, color and exposure are very good and the 730 offers all the features true enthusiasts demand, while remaining very approachable for novices. All things considered, the C-730 Ultra Zoom is an excellent buy in a long-zoom camera.
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:
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix 4300 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CP4300/C43A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Olympus C-50 Zoom (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C50/C50A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Olympus C730 UltraZoom (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C730/C73A.HTM).
- Illustrated Review: SilverFast 6 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/SF6/SF6.HTM).
- Test Shots: Canon EOS-1D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EOS1DS/E1DSPICS.HTM).
- Updated for the Holidays: Dave's Picks (http://www.imaging-resource.com/WB/WB.HTM). The new Dave's Picks has more categories and more cameras in it, and is driven directly from our features database so keeping it updated is a snap.
- Cropped Images: The Great Digital SLR Shootout (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SHOOTOUT/SHOOTOUT.HTM?photo=geir). Reader Geir Rune Ladehaug took the time to make some detailed crops from one of our images, showing side by side comparisons between the four cameras.
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot S230 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S230/S23A.HTM).
Well over a year ago (and let's leave it at that), we promised to tell you how we resolved the problem of using our antique but extensive off-camera flash system with one or another of our digicams.
The problem with on-camera flash is just like the problem with that bent piece of iron that passes for a tire jack in the trunk of your car. It just doesn't work in the field.
It's mounted too close to the lens to avoid red-eye and too weak to light up anything further away than 10 feet.
We hate to shoot with direct flash anyway. Long ago we bought a powerful little strobe we could point straight up to bounce its light off a white card attached to it, yielding much softer shadows and better modeling. We always bounce, baby.
That old system was significantly enhanced by a couple of plastic heads for the strobe from Sto-fen (http://www.stofen.com) and a pistol grip with an extension so we could hold the light on either side of us or high above, depending on the subject. We copied this convenient set-up from press photographer Bill Harvey, our mentor.
And it was beautiful -- except that the powerful old strobe shot 300 volts through the camera whenever it was triggered. Our Average digicam can handle about 6 volts. Then the contacts begin to fry.
We had some options. A new strobe (the newer versions of our antiques are safer, we're told) for about $70. A new system (but that was a lot to replace). A slave (but slaves can be problematic for digicams that do a preflash). Or a voltage regulator.
We opted for the $40 voltage regulator, a Wein Safe Sync that had a hot shoe mount to fit into any hotshoe and its own hotshoe to receive another hotshoe mount. Safe Sync models are available in other configurations as well.
Well, not exactly available. And that's why this story took so long.
We checked the Web (where we found one dealer who listed it but never had it in stock). And we canvassed the local camera shops. None of them even had the part number (which we could recite like a mantra). One guy at a very reputable store told us the company was in financial trouble and no longer shipping product.
So we gave up.
Then a reader steered us to B&H (http://www.bhphotovideo.com), whose catalog he was just about to devour. Catalog devotees ourselves, we visited the site and signed up for the 200-page wish book.
And right there in the Slaves & Light Control section on page 76 was our Wein.
We leapt over to the Web site and placed an order. Very nice site, with policies fully disclosed, in-stock status posted and tracking available. Product pictures and detailed product information, too. All the stuff we look for in an online vendor.
A few days later, the elusive Safe Sync was finally ours.
Our Average digicam requires a proprietary sync cable with a hot shoe at the far end. We mounted both the digicam and the hotshoe to a bracket. Not a big deal, but not worth detailing since the particulars were peculiar to us.
We mounted the Wein to the sync cord hot shoe and mounted the remote sensor for our flash to the Wein. A real Dagwood of a sandwich.
The remote sensor has a nice, long cable to the flash unit, itself mounted on the pistol grip and embellished with the Sto-fen bounce attachment.
That's all we had to do to set up the hardware.
The next challenge was to guarantee consistent exposure even though we would be zooming and moving around. With our 35mm setup, we set the aperture and shutter speed to match the setting on the flash and went to work. Not one bad exposure ever, no matter what we did.
We wanted that kind of carefree shooting with our Average, but it took a bit more work.
While you can do this in automatic mode (the only mode some digicams have), the cruel facts are that the camera's meter hasn't a clue about exposure in dim light. So we moved to manual mode where we could set both the aperture and shutter speed to match the strobe's output, as we used to do.
The first step was to turn off the internal flash while triggering the external flash. The internal flash can serve as a fill light at reduced output, but we didn't need it with our bounce. It can also serve to set off a slave unit. But we had the Wein and cable arrangement for that. So internal off and external enabled.
Our flash gave us the best range using f8 at the sync-able shutter speed of the camera. For our digicam, that was any shutter speed. We weren't restricted to a mechanical 1/60 or 1/125. The question is really how much available light you want to include in the image, since the flash itself is faster than the shutter. 1/1000 would include none; 1/60 would include a bit. We could, with a spin of a mode dial, change that on the fly. Nice. Very nice.
We set it to 1/125 for starters.
The aperture was another matter, though. Normally whenever you zoom, the aperture changes to take advantage of more illumination at wider angles or less at zooms where the distance between the lens and CCD are greatest. Well, we didn't want that.
Since we were in control of the light itself, we wanted to set the aperture for the light we were about to cast -- and leave it there. So we dug into the bowels of our digicam's manual to learn how to set the Fixed Aperture option. When we zoomed to compose our shot, the f-stop didn't change.
All these changes to the default settings were stored in a user setting so we could just flip to it whenever we wanted. Which beats trying to remember everything.
In between every two or three words in the sentence above we took a number of test shots to see where we were and what the problems were. The above distillation, therefore, was informed by a number of numbskull settings.
But as we shot away and groaned at the results, we were able to whittle the problem down to one or another setting on our camera.
Until finally we have the equivalent off-camera flash capability we had with our 35mm setup. And that's saying something.
Along with the Safe Sync, we picked up a Wein Peanut Slave for $14. This plugs right into our old flash units but it also plugs right into a PC cord. So not only is it inexpensive and useful for any flash with a PC outlet, it is also flexible enough to be manipulated.
We mounted the flash on a tripod with the Peanut Slave and put a colored filter on the flash (a custom set sold for the unit). To control the light output, we replaced the flash sensor with a variable power unit (all specific to our ancient flash, which is why we wanted to keep the setup viable). Setting a little dial anywhere from Full power to -5 stops beats moving the flash closer or farther away. Especially in tight spots.
One important caveat, though, is that our Average digicam does not require a pre-flash to set white point. Some cameras do, and of those that do, some let you disable it but others don't. The solution is a slave flash that fires on the last flash, not the first. Visit Digi-Slave (http://www.srelectronics.com) for units that do just that.
But here's where having a digicam really shines. We were able to check the results of our strobe lighting setup immediately, which we couldn't even see in real time (just plan and configure). After a number of small adjustments, we got the results we were expecting.
How often can you say that?
With a reliable external flash setup, we enjoy several advantages over our old 35mm setup, including all the benefits of digital photography to begin with, like no film costs (including Polaroids on the set).
We also enjoyed composing the extended zoom range and varying the background light with the unlimited shutter sync speeds. And the whole thing weighs a lot less, too, so it's an ideal press setup, not just a studio rig.
The big bonus is the elimination of red-eye. With the flash held at arm's length and bounced from the Sto-fen Omni Bounce, it just doesn't happen.
But the most enjoyable aspect of the transformation was what didn't change.
We are able to hold our flash in any position using the pistol grip, an inclination we love to indulge. Above the camera, high left or to the right or even underneath. And we can easily turn the camera from a horizontal to vertical orientation.
Above all, we had our entire flash setup (a couple of Vivitar 283s, to finally name names) with accessories at our disposal again. That's quite a bit of gear, it turns out. Not something we could replace with a single flash.
It certainly took a while to refit our 35mm external flash system to our digicams, but it wasn't just an illuminating exercise. It's all the advantages of our 35mm off-camera setup coupled to the wonders of our digicams with a little Wein Safe Sync. A brilliant combination.
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about the Canon PowerShot S230 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8f478
Visit the Seen on the Web Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ba
Kenneth asks about moving images from camera to computer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8f833
Maria asks about connecting an old scanner to a new PC at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8f795
Visit the Pro Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b4
Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:
Subscribe for Great Deals!
We deliver -- just
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.
I would urge you to email Bill Falick (who wrote in about the extended warranty where everything seems to be excluded due to 'moisture') to tell him to contact his local state attorney general's office. Especially if he lives in New York (he said he bought everything at a NYC store). They might have other complaints about the warranty company and might be able to intercede on his behalf. It is worth a try considering how much the repairs are costing.
-- Michael Farrington
With regard to Falik's problems with the Mack warranty: He may be able to get some satisfaction by contacting the New York City Bureau of Consumer Affairs and the NYC Better Business Bureau. I had a problem with a discount camera outlet there and from my computer in San Francisco lodged complaints with both bureaus and was rewarded for my efforts with a free camera battery and the resolution of the problem. It seems just a word from either of the bureaus causes retailers and hopefully Mack to straighten out any difficulties.
-- Mike Kemper
I had a very similar problem with Mack -- they said the camera was dropped! That camera was NEVER dropped. If it was, it was in their shop. The camera is a G2 that exhibited a dark spot discoloration (only for blue) in the center of the image. Cost: 196 bucks.
BTW, they did not fix the problem.
-- Harv(Thanks, guys. We should have reminded Bill to fight back. Even if the issue isn't resolved in your favor, you've at least made it more expensive for the company to treat its customers poorly. -- Editor)
In general I agree with you and rarely buy warranties. However, when purchasing an open box item from Circuit City, it seemed a good idea -- -and it was!
My 1997 Hi 8 camcorder succumbed early to poor design and tough conditions (no service contract) and bungled repairs in Zimbabwe in 1999. My 1999 digital TRV510 quickly found need of repair on the service contract and after two failed attempts to get it done right (no cost to me) this past summer, Circuit City gave me a new camera under their "lemon policy" with a five year service contract and refunded me the $44 difference I had originally paid.
When there is so much that can go expensively wrong with a digital camcorder, I think that the investment is worth it for the ordinary user.
-- Morris Taber(Thanks, Morris. As your investment goes up -- which it does with a camcorder -- some insurance is worth considering. But you may need only the extended warranty protection offered by one of your credit cards. That costs nothing extra to protect your investment. -- Editor)
RE: Dry Mounting
I just acquired an old Seal 200 dry mount press in perfect condition. I have been searching the Web for information on dry mounting inkjet prints but found nothing but a lot of incomplete/inaccurate information. Do you know of any resources that I can go to?
I normally print 8x10s on an HP 1220 and just purchased an Epson 1280 for larger prints. I use HP and Epson Glossy Photographic papers. Do you have any advice? I will start to experiment but would like to have some starting point.
BTW, I sent my Nikon 5700 that failed in France in September to Nikon on Thursday, Oct. 17 when I returned. On Saturday the 19th I received a note saying they had received it and there would be no charge. On Monday, the 21st, I received the camera back with a new lens assembly. What service. Nikon is a class act!!!!!
-- Paul Eggermann(See our chat with Master Framer George Bailey in the 15 June 2001 issue at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/ and check out the discussion at http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=001EaD. -- Editor)
RE: Secret Revealed!
Very interesting about the Sigma SD-9 and the SilverFast software for scanners reviewed in the last issue. As usual you have a depth of knowledge which is impressive and you let slip why today!!
I used to work at a newspaper and got to have great respect for the photoengravers and their sixth sense for the bump! It made all the difference on how my photos printed in the paper!
Any you were doing it back then -- NO WONDER YOU UNDERSTAND IN DEPTH!!
Keep up the great work!
-- Gene Hastings(Thanks for the kind words, Gene! You're right about that sixth sense. A fellow named Carlson came along and developed a halftone computer that made it a lot easier, but before then, it really took some magic -- and always a light touch in the developing tray. -- Editor)
Pixelgenius (http://www.pixelgenius.com) has released the $49.95 PhotoKit plug-in [MW], a photographer's toolkit of 129 digital replications of analog photographic effects.
PictureFlow (http://www.PictureFlow.com) has released Archive Creator, a Windows archiving program that automatically spans an Archive Set across multiple CDs and makes an HTML index of the source files.
To celebrate the redesign of its Web site, Ulead (http://www.ulead.com) is offering 50 percent off DVD PictureShow and DVD MovieFactory. And to kick off the release of PhotoImpact 8, the company is sponsoring the 2002 Ulead Digital Imaging Contest (http://activity.ulead.com/contest/us/pi8/runme.htm), which runs through Dec. 15. The Grand Prize includes a 4-Megapixel digicam, Epson Photo Printer SP825, SimpleTech 128-MB Flash Card, Aiptek HyperPen 6000U Graphics Tablet and Ulead PhotoImpact 8.
MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95 and Windows NT 3.5x will all officially reach end of life status (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/lifecycle.mspx) at year end, according to Microsoft.
Apple is working on a fix for unexpected quits when ordering prints or publishing a HomePage from iPhoto under Mac OS X 10.2.2.
The Seybold Bulletin (http://www.seyboldreports.com) reports Adobe is being sued by Shell and Slate Software over Photoshop 7.0's Healing Brush tool. Shell and Slate owns Kai's Power Tools and Kai Power GOO.
Pictographics (http://www.picto.com) has released iCorrect Professional 4.0 plug-in for Adobe Photoshop products, developed under the new Photoshop 7.0 plug-in SDK and optimized for the Mac OS X and Windows XP. New features include a larger selectable image viewing area, a preview mode to quickly compare the corrected image with the original and an enhanced technology and interface for modifying and creating Memory Color definitions.
Andromeda has released RedEyePro (http://www.andromeda.com/info/redeyepro.html), a Photoshop filter to reduce red eye for Mac OS 9/X and Windows.
Alex King (http://www.alexking.org) has released Gallery, a Web-based application for managing (storing, cataloging and retrieving) digital photos on Windows, Mac, Unix or Linux running Apache (or IIS on Windows), PHP and MySQL.
In a similar vein, the Exhibit Engine (http://photography-on-the.net/http://photography-on-the.net/ee) is a PHP/MySQL application for smooth and versatile online photograph display. It gives detailed technical info on each photo, with text descriptions and gear info.
Wilhelm Imaging Research (http://www.wilhelm-research.com) is updating its print longevity information in December.
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