|Volume 4, Number 25||13 December 2002|
Welcome to the 86th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Like ornaments on a tree, this issue is hung with gift ideas!
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 48,500 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at [email protected].
We got it into our head that what we needed most was a lightweight travel tripod.
Lightweight and tripod don't dance well together, but neither do travel and weight. It's been a long time since we dished out for a tripod, happily using a used Davidson Star D Conquest we picked up years ago for $17. We were hoping someone had, in the interim, developed something space-age: strong but light.
We know about "light." We mounted our flash setup (several pounds of gear) on a slim little Slik a few years ago and watched in horror as it tried to limbo. Even though our current setup doesn't weigh nearly as much, we don't want to give up "strong."
Popular Photography's Herbert Keppler described the requirements (http://www.popphoto.com/Film/PrintArticle.asp?ArticleID=69) for "the perfect SLR travel tripod" rather neatly: "all metal, weight under two pounds, folded size under 20 inches [so it can be stored easily in airline carry-on luggage], eye-level height, quick extending and folding via flip locks, rubber tips and spiked points on independently adjustable legs that can level the tripod on irregular surfaces."
Our Star D has screw legs, which annoy us (greatly). It takes about three full twists to loosen or tighten and we generally have to make it four partials. We'd always envied flip locks to release and tighten the leg extensions.
But the Star D has a nice geared center column. We like winding it up and down, precisely, just a hair. The alternative is quicker, though. Just release, move and tighten. But we do a lot of copy work, so the precision is appreciated.
The Star D doesn't have a quick release plate. We screw everything into it and everything out of it. So we thought a quick release plate might be a terrific life-style change.
Once again our tour of the local photo shops proved (generally) disappointing. One or two shops had something that intrigued us, but looking the models up on the Web for more information didn't close the deal. Mostly we saw limited selection and high prices. We really wanted to do this under $100.
Yes, that would be our hard-earned bucks at play. This isn't our typical review. It isn't an overview of the field or a comparison between similar models. It's just what happens when your erstwhile editor has to go out and buy something to live with for the next 20 years. Just a candid report from the battlefield.
We'd done a little basic research on the Web, but precious little. Not much information about tripods out there.
A while ago we were impressed with Larry Berman's story of his trip Southwest (http://bermangraphics.com/coolpix/swgallery.htm) in which he relied on a lightweight but capable tripod from Velbon (http://bermangraphics.com/coolpix/velbon.htm) manufactured by Hakuba. That turns out to be the tripod Keppler fell in love with, too.
Who are we to argue?
Velbon's original MAXi has turned into a series since those guys wrote about it. The original 1.9-pound 343E with ball head and sliding center column has been joined by the slightly less light ("heavier" doesn't apply to this line) 347-GB with a 3-way pan head, geared center column and leg braces. See our illustrated review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/VEL/VEL.HTM) for pictures.
We could handle the extra half-pound of the 347-GB and wanted the other features, so we opted for the 347-GB.
Features common to the MAXi series include:
Our preferences were strong ones, so we didn't agonize over which features we wanted. But the two models have different personalities and are inexpensive enough ($70-$99 on the Web) that buying the pair isn't a foolish extravagance.
- All die-cast metal construction
- Patented trunnion leg design, which accounts for the short fold size since the pins that attach the legs to the center ring are on the sides rather than the end of the legs
- Quick extension and collapse with flip locks
- Fits in carry-on luggage with a folded length under 18 inches
- Weighing 1.9 to 2.7 pounds, depending on model
- Extending as high as 61 inches
- Rubber-tipped legs that screw up to reveal spikes to handle slippery terrain
- Nylon draw-string carrying case with fabric shoulder strap
- Limited lifetime warranty
SUCKER FOR DESIGN
If Keppler and Berman weren't sufficiently persuasive, the Velbon's design was. We were impressed with the trunnion leg connection (it's how cannons have been mounted for centuries), the metal construction (right, just like a cannon), the compact size when collapsed (unlike a cannon) and the options for heads and center columns (dynamite, that).
Not everything is metal, of course. The flip locks and the handle are plastic. And the feet are rubber. But the stuff you want to be metal is metal.
Heads are a study in themselves. How, after all, do you decide between the convenience of a ball socket head and the control of a 3-way pan head. Or did we just give that away?
The ball socket of the original model includes a cork pad to firmly grip the camera bottom. We haven't used the ball socket, so we won't wax poetic here. But if you need to quickly chase the action and firm up your angle with a twist of your wrist, you'll want a ball.
You'll also want a ball if you're lazy and shiftless. Or just want the easiest way to position your camera. Loosen the thing, move your camera into position and lock it. Simple.
Because we do a lot of copy work, product shots and other work that enjoys a very small adjustment rather than a quick, large adjustment, we opted for the 4-way pan head.
QUICK RELEASE MOUNT
The camera mount (which screws into your camera's tripod socket) includes a rubber pad to securely grip the camera bottom. How you mount the camera to the plate (perpendicular or parallel to the lens axis) can determine what camera moves are available. Mounting a Nikon swivel design parallel to the lens will let you use the camera in either portrait or landscape orientations.
On the pad is a small metal plate that easily detaches from the head by flicking a plastic lever. A small spring-loaded button pops the plate up for quick removal once the lever has done its job. And you can leave the plate on your camera. Additional plates are available for $9.
That quick release mechanism is handy for resuming candids or portraits at events like weddings and parties. And it's one less reason for not using a tripod. You can't say, "Oh, it's not worth the trouble to mount the camera on the tripod -- I'll just fire away." All you have to do is slip the plate onto the head and flick the lever to lock it down. And the spring-loaded button even releases the lever for you.
A handle tightens the head into position easily. Loosen the handle slightly to pan the head 360 degrees. Loosen it a bit more to angle it in two of the four ways the head itself moves. There are no bubbles to indicate level but if that's an issue, you can always add your own.
A lock screw right under the plate lets you swivel the camera back and forth (up and down, depending on how you mounted it to the plate). That's the other two ways the head moves. A detent indicates where level is.
The center column on the original model simply slides up or down when you release the lock. Very quick, very easy.
We opted for the geared center column. We like gears. We like cranks. We are one ourselves. But mainly we like the precision of being able to slightly change position with the slightest pressure on the crank.
And, of course, you don't have to use the crank. With the lock screw loose, you can pull the head up or down. Mother didn't raise us to be like that, but sometimes we revert to our baser instincts.
The handle folds over so the small, one-inch protrusion of the knob doesn't snag on anything when you slip the tripod into or out of its (free) carrying bag. Nice touch, that.
On the other hand, worriers that we are, that little plastic handle seems like the first thing that will go. Maybe it's ABS plastic, we try to reassure ourselves. And where did we put that warranty?
If you grasp one of the top leg sections when fully extended, you can wobble it slightly back and forth. There's about an eighth inch flex in the legs. A lot less wobble than other lightweights we've used.
But more than the Davidson, which is so solid we once actually held up a broken garage door with it.
In normal use, however, the wobble isn't an issue. The tripod won't move when you press the shutter button. And wind doesn't bother it. If it isn't rock solid, it is steady.
But for extra stability a little trick is all you need. Grasp the center column and pull down. As long as you apply pressure, it won't budge.
The leg braces rigidify the top sections but they also mean that pulling one leg out pulls them all out. The legs, that is, move in and out together.
On the Davidson there are no leg braces and we are constantly kicking one or another leg back out to its wide position as we align the tripod. But on uneven terrain, we can straighten the tripod by moving one leg or another in or out without resetting its length.
With leg braces, your only option is to shorten a leg. Which is where the flip locks come in handy.
Velbon's flip locks are simple to use. Use your thumb to push them away from the lock and they're in the open position. Slide the leg out. Push them back in to lock the leg position. You don't have to use excessive pressure to lock or unlock them, so the whole process is really very quick.
It's also very precise. With screw locks like the Davidson's, you have to give the lock a little extra tug to make sure it's tight. And a little extra push to make sure it's open (or the leg can snag on its way out).
But don't get us started. There are probably wonderful space-age screw locks these days, but we've suffered enough.
Last but not least, we really appreciate the extra touch of having convertible feet. Screw the rubber feet out for a non-skid grip on linoleum and a protective hold on a rug. But screw them in to reveal quarter-inch diameter spikes that will grab hold of soil and less solid support in the field.
We cannot write a review without at least one complaint. And the standard tripod complaint here is color. The Velbon is painted a nice champagne with silver legs. It's pretty, but we prefer non-reflective black.
Legs, which are generally not reflected back into the shot, can be silver but we expect to have to shade the tripod now and then to prevent seeing its reflection in our images.
The warranty is reassuring. The pedigree (Berman and Keppler) is inspiring. But love has a mind of its own. And we did fall in love with this tough little tripod.
We used to admonish ourselves when we were about to take a tripod shot. "You are about to take a tripod shot. Get the tripod." Darkening clouds. Charleton Heston.
But with the Veblon, we're looking for tripod shots like a mountain biker looks for hills. "Yeah, there's one! Let's go!!!" Bright sunshine. Robin Williams.
We can slip it out of the bag, fully extend it and pop on the camera in seconds. That gives us more time to admire the scene and fiddle with our composition. If only we could stop staring at our new Veblon.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/SMPE/SMPE.HTM on the Web site.)
My wife Marti refers to my digicam as "the digital black hole," a depressingly accurate reference to the way pictures go in but never come back out. Digicams are great for quickly and cheaply snapping photos by the dozen, but it can be a bit of a pain to actually do anything with them afterward.
I think the ultimate answer for sharing photos is to assemble them into slide shows that can be easily emailed or burned to a CD. And judging from the amount of email we've received here about slide show software, a lot of our readers agree.
The problem has been that there isn't a lot of good slide show software out there. Most have either limited capabilities or are too cumbersome to use.
ImageMatics heard the cry for a simpler program focused solely on slide show creation. The result is StillMotion Creator PE (Personal Edition). I was a bit skeptical when ImageMatics told me it was "three click simple," but when I tried it, it proved to be exactly that easy.
The best part is that not only can you output your slide shows to formats that require no special software to view them, but they are compact enough to email.
And the release of StillMotion PE is well timed. It turns out to be a perfect accompaniment for that holiday present of a new digicam, as well as the ideal way for all our readers to share photos of holiday get-togethers.
WHAT IT DOES
Slide shows, that's it.
Neat slide shows with nifty transition effects and even sound tracks, but nothing more. If you want something to retouch your images, eliminate red-eye, drive your printer, send emails and oh yeah, sorta-kinda do slide shows, this isn't the program for you.
The single-minded focus does make it dead-easy to use, though. Just point it at a folder of photos and it'll turn them into a slide show (one second per slide with one second "dissolve" transitions are the default).
Still Motion PE provides a number of ways to output your show, including creating a self-playing slide show with its own built-in player, a self-installing screen saver, a Web page or an SWF file (to integrate them into Web pages). By the time you read this, I'm told it'll also create an auto-play CD-ROM.
Once it's made the basic, no-frills show, StillMotion PE lets you add any of a range of transition effects (like fades, spins and wipes with over 20 variations to choose from), create a title page, annotate the slides, insert text-only pages and add your favorite music from WAV or MP3 files.
Additional niceties included a panning feature to display panoramic shots and a cropping tool that lets you use just a specific area of an image.
One interesting thing I noticed was that text isn't "burned in" to the image but handled in a separate "layer" so that you can pan images under stationary captions.
You can also specify flat or textured backgrounds and mats or add your own custom backgrounds if the urge strikes you. You can even tell it to bevel the mat if you'd like.
STEP BY STEP
I collected a few images from our last vacation trip into a folder. Then I launched StillMotion PE and was immediately presented with the startup screen. No chance for confusion here, I wanted to create a new show from a folder, so I checked that item and clicked the OK button.
In just a few seconds, all the images in the folder appeared as thumbnails in what ImageMatics calls a "slide show view."
Now what? I clicked on the Preview button at the top, (it looks like a movie screen so even I could figure it out) and in a few seconds my slide show was playing in its own VCR-style viewer.
I think I clicked the mouse a total of about three times before I was looking at a slide show of all my pictures with dissolves between each slide.
OK, now that I've actually got a slide show, what do I do to share it with the world? The File Menu seemed like an obvious next step and there I found the Publish options: SWF File, Web Page, Screen Saver, Self-Playing Show or Auto-Playing CD.
What to do?
The obvious choice for email is Self-Playing Show (although sadly, only for friends with Windows machines), so that's what I chose. I got the usual file-save dialog box asking what I wanted to call the show and where to put it. I filled in the appropriate blanks and hit Save. The program spent a moment or two murmuring to itself, saved the file and then asked if I'd like to play my new show. I clicked OK and my slide show launched in a cool-looking player.
The resulting self-playing slide show file wasn't exactly tiny (about 300K bytes), but wasn't nearly as large as all the individual photo files that went into it. And I didn't have to resize all the files myself.
LETS GET FANCY
In just a couple of minutes, I had gone from a collection of digicam files to a slick little slide show on its way to my friends in an email. Pretty impressive, but I wondered what else can PE do?
While StillMotion PE's default shows look fine, there's a lot of things you can do to enhance and tweak them.
To adjust the settings for any individual image in the show, you just double-click on its thumbnail in the Slide Show View.
This brings up a tabbed control window, with headings for Show, Transitions, Label and Edit.
Show handles basic things such as how long a slide stays on the screen, but also has a checkbox to enable panning.
Clicking on Transitions takes you to the fun stuff. It displays a panel showing a miniature animation of the current slide dissolving into the next one. You can choose all manner of fancy transitions, including spins, pushes, wipes, zooms and more. Clicking on each effect immediately previews the transition and presents context-sensitive controls . For example, the spin transition lets you set the number of rotations to use. The Transitions panel also lets you control how fast the transitions will be for each slide.
A handy feature of the user interface is you can tell the program to apply your changes to just one slide, selected slides or all slides in the show. This is useful for quickly revising the defaults for your show, such as changing all the transitions or adjusting how long all the slides appear on the screen.
The Edit panel lets you do some basic but essential operations to the images. Most handy was the rotate selection, which lets you rotate images in 90-degree increments, to orient the image correctly.
Brightness and contrast controls provide image tuning and a very straightforward crop tool lets you select a portion of the image to fill the entire slide, essentially providing a zoom function.
My favorite feature is the Label tab. It lets you add captions and text descriptions to any slide. It's by no means a full-powered word processor, but it has all the flexibility you need for a typical slide show. You can place text anywhere on the slide, whether in the margins or on the image itself, in any color, font or size.
An Insert Blank Slide feature lets you add blank slides for creating text-only pages in the show. This struck me as a thoughtful addition, one that I haven't seen in many slide show programs.
The Show Properties option gives you control over things that affect the entire show. These include adding a title page, adding sound, framing and matting options, output size control for the slide show and the image and sound quality, which drastically affect file size.
The Sound tab lets you create slide shows with CD Quality sound. Imagematics paid a lot of attention to sound management, which is important because the sound track can take up more storage and bandwidth than the images themselves.
My new show was pretty much finished, but there were still other options available. In particular, a Panorama feature can automatically pan back and forth across a wide panoramic image stitched together from multiple images. The Bounce option pans back and forth across the image at a speed you set.
THE GREAT EQUALIZER?
The drive to multiple megapixels in digicams arises from the requirements of printed output. It takes a lot of pixels to avoid obvious-looking jaggies and artifacts in your prints. By contrast, computer displays let you get by with an almost laughably small number of pixels. 640x480 (that's about 0.3 megapixels) makes a nice-looking picture and 1024x768 a fantastic one.
Because it makes it easier to enjoy your photos on-screen, rather than in print, a program like StillMotion PE removes the need for multi-megapixels in your digital photos. Think of it as the "great equalizer," able to make even sub-megapixel digicam images entirely usable. Any digicam can generate images of sufficient quality to generate compelling slide shows with StillMotion PE.
Bottom line, StillMotion PE is very fast and easy to use and it allowed me to create a slide show I could share (and be proud of) without a lot of hassle and help. It's earned a permanent place on my hard drive, which really says something given the state of my hard drives these days.
SPECIAL FOR IR READERS
Imagematics hasn't released Still Motion PE to the general public yet, but you can download a free demo (http://www.imagematics.com/email/pe_IR_product.htm). All functions work, but an Imagematics banner is displayed across the output. Check it out, play with it, and if you agree that it's the slickest thing since sliced bread, you can register it for just $49.95, removing the banner.
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:
- Short Review: Nikon Coolpix 3500 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CP3500/CP35A.HTM).
- Updated: Battery Shootout (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/BATTS/BATTS.HTM).
- Short Review: Fuji FinePix A303 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A303/A303A.HTM).
- Updated: Sigma SD9 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD9/SD9A.HTM).
The under $20 gift has become an endangered species. And the surviving specimens tend to look terminally cheap. So we're always on the lookout for a nice gift item under $20.
O'Reilly's Digital Studio series has just published Derrick Story's "Digital Photography Pocket Guide," a 4.25x7-inch, 114-page handbook that -- at $14.95 -- breaths new life into the species.
Story has written extensively on digital imaging for O'Reilly but his dedication of this guide to photographer Galen Rowell (http://www.mountainlight.com), who died in a plane crash this year with his wife Barbara, speaks eloquently enough of his credentials. Using small format equipment, Rowell "pioneered a special brand of participatory wilderness photography in which the photographer transcends being an observer with a camera to become an active participant in the image being photographed."
That spirit animates Story's guide, making it particularly helpful to the new digicam owner. It is broadly organized into three parts.
The first section, titled "What Is It?" tours the outside of several typical digicams, pointing out what the controls do before explaining some of the hidden hardware like the image sensor and memory cards.
The second section, "What Does It Do?" is a dictionary of features, whose insights are augmented with both Practical Examples and Pro Tips. The entry for Focus Lock, for example, is accompanied by a Practical Example of "Two-Person Portraits." You know, when the camera focuses on the distant background right in between the two heads. The entry for Timed Value (Shutter Priority Mode) is enhanced with a Pro Tip on using a polarizing filter or your sunglasses (non-prescription, we should add) to use slow shutter speeds in bright light.
The third section, "How Do I..." reveals both shooting and computer tips and tricks from shooting in museums to presenting a digital slide show.
Finally, the guide includes eight handy reference charts covering flash, camera and metering modes; a very useful guide to EV settings; white balance settings; sensor to print size reference and memory card capacities.
So whether you are puzzled by a protrusion on your digicam or you have no clue how to shoot with fill flash, this little gem will help you out.
We have our quibbles, of course.
The next edition, one hopes, will put the "r" back in "syncho" (which we noticed all over the place) and tidy up the typos that unfortunately intrude in this otherwise well-executed design.
And the name of some entries in the second section are just a little too obscure for us. Timed Value?
The charts at the end of the book make up for that. They're something we'd like printed on a wristband, actually. Enthusiasts will not need the first section, but first time buyers will find it indispensable for its neat breakdown of basic, intermediate and advanced features.
But occasional digicammers will come back to this little guide time and time again to refresh their memory on certain techniques infrequently used and controls they know are there but can't remember quite where.
Here's the part where we exhort you to go out there and buy one of these. But actually, we think you should hold off. As the perfect gift, there's surely someone within reading distance who you might slip this review to and hope for the best. You'll thank them and they'll thank you.
Digital Photography Pocket Guide by Derrick Story, published by O'Reilly & Associates, 114 pages, $14.95.
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 Olympus C-4000 Zoom at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee8e111
Visit the Techniques Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6b325
Debbie asks about Canon PowerShot G2 batteries at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee8fac5
A user asks for low-light camera recommendations at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee8fab3
Visit the Kodak Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6f77d
Time flies when you're having fun, as Pops likes to say when he's doing the bills. And this is the last issue before the end of the holiday shopping season.
This year, something different.
First, something for someone on your list who's just getting into digital photography. And it won't cost you anything. We're talking about a Gift Subscription to this very newsletter. Which, as you know, comes with free technical support via email. Pretty nice.
Our course, we don't want you to look cheap, so we've put together a gift certificate with a nice shot of the Golden Gate as a background and an elegant new cursive font called Zaphino. It's a PDF, so you can download it (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?gsb) and print as many copies on your inkjet as you need. It'll even fit in a card. Then just remember to sign up your recipient at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS using the Subscriber Services page.
Now, what about you? We haven't nearly been able to enthuse about all the products we've enjoyed this year. So we're giving you a list of some of the things we haven't written up but really like. Combined with the special offers from our sponsors, we're sure there's something here to put on your holiday list.
Here are a few of our favorites:
As always, we wish you the happiest holiday season. This year may be a little different from past years, but we know all our subscribers have the creativity to make it special anyway. Pops, for example, is recuperating in the hospital this year but we printed a 4x6 of last year's tree for him and slipped it into a simple $3.75 stand-up frame that sits right by his bedside. "That's a lot less work," he smiled. And we were smiling, too. Just hope he likes the pictures of last year's gifts as much as the tree <g>.
- We've praised nik Sharpener (http://www.nikmultimedia.com) but haven't mentioned their Color Efex Pro set of 55 photo filters. They're available in various combinations like the Classic, Design, Artistic and Abstract sets. But among the more interesting filters are Polarization, Skylight, Graduated Sky Blue, Graduated Gray, B/W Conversion, Classical Blur, Color Stylizer, Monday Morning, Solarization, Pastel, Brilliance/Warmth and Sunshine. We generally don't dabble with special effects filters, but these quick-change artists can turn a lousy shot into an interesting image.
- We love CD-based training material but we've been enchanted by Total Training's Photoshop 7 series (http://www.totaltraining.com) hosted by Deke McClelland. We mentioned this as part of our recent Seybold coverage but we've been taking the 26-hour, 8 CD course (which you can buy in thirds). McClelland is very entertaining and the material moves along quickly. It somehow manages to teach novices and pros at the same time just as it covers Windows and Mac keystrokes with every command.
- For the longest time we've wanted to write about Synthetik's Studio Artist (http://www.synthetik.com) [M]. It's how we relax. We take an image, open it in Studio Artist and doodle. Or let Studio Artist doodle after picking a style. And in a few minutes, our photo has been transformed into a watercolor, an etching, an oil painting. Lots of products promise that, but Studio Artist really delivers. And each brush stroke is a vector-based object that itself can be edited. Even more, you can apply painterly affects to your video.
- We've only had it a couple of days, but HiTi's compact PhotoPrinter 630PS (http://www.hi-ti.com) has already delighted us with perfect 4x6 prints. Its 300-dpi dye transfer prints are equivalent to 4800 inkjet prints, truly continuous tone, quick and unsmudgeable. The USB printer comes with a Windows driver but also functions as a standalone unit with built-in CompactFlash and Smart Media card readers using a small LCD on a detachable remote. You'd think this wouldn't be affordable but at $240 for the printer and 40 cents a print, you can be your own photofinisher.
- Our quest for a cross-platform image organizer that's attractive, easy to update (so you actually do), captures Exif data and offers powerful searches seems to have been answered in Extensis' Portfolio (http://www.extensis.com). Adding images is as simple as dragging them to the index -- and if you use a date/event folder naming scheme, they are simultaneously entered with meaningful keywords. That makes searching a rewarding experience.
- Cleaning your lens is a snap with a $14 LensPen (http://www.inkjetart.com/sp/lenspen/pen2.html). One end has a graphite powder applicator to safely absorb grease from fingerprints. The other end has a brush to take care of dust. Quick now, take a look. Lens dirty?
- If you're the crafty type, consider making a bean bag for your photographer. They're terrific for stabilizing a digicam on the back of a chair for that holiday group shot. Here's instructions and a pattern to get you started (http://www.kuninfelt.com/projectsheets/rainclassic/happy_beanbag.html).
- We reviewed the Veblon MAXi series of tripods above, but keep an eye out for small tripod-like camera gadgets. They're often very handy. Our favorite is the $10 Clampette (http://mariposa.yosemite.net/hsmc), a C-clamp device. More useful than a roll of film.
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RE: External Flash
Great article and there is a lot of interest these days. Could you do a follow up on the Wein Peanut Slaves and the use of them on DC's without a PC connection. I think you have to do everything manually -- both camera and flash -- which doesn't seem like a good option for many. I have been told that you can't even use the zones (red, green, blue) on a flash unit but am not sure? Thanks for considering this.
-- Tamsterra(To use a Peanut Slave on an external as your main flash, change the power setting of your onboard flash to its lowest output or block it with a piece of dark slide film and turn off any preflash.... Flash exposure is, at heart, manual. The flash does the work while the lens just has to open in a timely manner at the prescribed aperture. The good news is what worked for us with a 35mm camera now works with our digicam -- plus we can sync at any shutter speed <g>. -- Editor)
Thank you and your readers for your suggestions on the run-around I have received on the Mack Warranty. I am encouraged by your readers to fight back. I received precisely the information I needed from your readers.
-- Bill Falik(Good luck, Bill -- and let us know what happens. -- Editor)
RE: Stabilization & the Olympus C-730
As a happy owner of an Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom, I'm glad to see that Olympus is continuing its tradition of making fine digicams with large magnification zooms. I believe this began with the C-2100 UZ and its pro cousin, the E-100 RS. However, I suspect that like the C-700 UZ and C-720 UZ, the C-730 UZ lacks electronic image stabilization present in both the C-2100 UZ and E-100 RS. It was said that this feature allowed tripod-free photography at extreme magnification. Does the C-730 UZ need a tripod for shots at full zoom?
-- Realtor(Stabilization hasn't survived in the latest Olympus long zooms, although we all think it's a fabulous feature. Cost. Size. So they say.... We can't honestly recommend not using a tripod at extreme magnification. And that Velbon (above) is a very nice, affordable one. -- Editor)
RE: Using a Reader
I have a Kodak 3400 digicam and recently purchased a single slot USB reader/writer to transfer pictures from the card to my computer. I can view them while in the reader but would like to download them so that I can erase the card for future use. Unable to do so. Help please.
-- SFHat(It's as easy as using a floppy disk, actually. Whenever you pop a card into your reader, it should show up as a removable disk in My Computer or Windows Explorer. Double-click to see the contents. Copy the images just as you would copy any file from a floppy. Just select them and drag them to, say, your My Picture directory.... But erase the card in your camera, not on the reader. Your camera may not understand what your computer did to the card. -- Editor)
RE: Christmas Wish
[Translated from the Italian]
First of all I would like to debunk a pair of extremely vague concepts, that are no use to me: Quality and Color Fidelity.
They are two very sacred gods, but, like all gods, you never get to see or touch them. I prefer to look for information, which is measurable and concrete. When I have all the information I need, I'm set.
And the information, in an image, is found in two places: resolution and depth of color. The ideal image has a lot of pixels and at least 12 bits per channel.
What's more important, pixels or bits? I would answer this way: the required resolution can easily be anticipated, while the exposure (except in studio photography) is much more variable. So, if I have to choose, I'd rather have a lot of bits rather than pixels.
Then there's the problem of time. Files are huge, memory is slow. I like to reduce dead time to the minimum.
Here Quality creates a problem for me. Why the devil must a 12-bit file have to be a "raw" format? Sure, it has more definition in the details than a JPEG, but the result is (generally) not worth the time it takes. On two counts.
A JPEG file is usually 10 to 20 times smaller than a TIFF, while a raw is only three times smaller. If you had a 12-bit JPEG export, you would have a file 3 to 7 times smaller. But a JPEG standard for 12 bits doesn't exist.
Another problem. With 12 bits you still have to watch the highlights. A burned out white doesn't contain information. So I should underexpose each photo at least a stop. But here's where photographers (even the pros) are annoyed, "I bought this marvel -- and it gives me nothing but underexposed photos! Shame!" If you try to explain that the information is all there, they don't understand. They understand bracketing, but the idea that one exposure can already capture all the information in a set of at least five bracketed exposures, they don't even want to discuss. With film you can't do that. Period.
So, Mike, I know what I want from Santa Claus. A 12-bit JPEG more economic in respect to size, memory (at least) five times faster, disks five times larger and so on.
But this year, at least, I won't get it.
-- Frank Tagliaferro(Well, there are still a few days left until Christmas, Frank. And considering the rate of change in this business that may be enough <g>. -- Editor)
A new standard to enable printing directly from digital cameras has been proposed by six digicam makers. Initiated by Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Seiko and Sony, the proposed DPS (http://www.camera-direct.info/) standard has also been endorsed by Fuji and Olympus. The standard would enable any DPS digicam to drive any DPS-compliant printer. Features include printing of selected single images or ganging several on a single sheet, printing all images in the camera or printing an index of images. It provides for scaling, cropping and date-stamping and allows the digicam to read the printer's status.
Nikon has announced the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8-GB IF-ED, a 70-200mm stabilized zoom (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1039701631.html).
Photoflex has launched a Web site for their Web Photo School (http://www.webphotoschool.com) with nearly 200 lessons taught by professional photographers. Eight free lessons are available on the site, including basic startup with a digicam, shooting basic portraits and photographing jewelry for print and the Web. Membership is $20 a month or $60 a year. Member lessons cover six categories: Basic, Digital, Portrait, Commercial, Outdoor and Small Business.
ACD Systems (http://www.acdsystems.com) has announced ACDSee 5.0 and ACDSee 5.0 PowerPack, will be released in German, Italian and Spanish languages and markets.
ACD Systems also announced the launch of three plug-ins created by Realview 3D: RealOptimizer Pro ($99.95), Realview 3D ($49.95) and Realview 3D Pro ($59.95) to optimize images with filters and add interactive animations and 3D pictures with hotspots to Web sites.
Caffeine Software (http://www.caffeinesoft.com) has introduce Curator, a shareware image display and organization application for Mac OS X.
Version 2.2 of YarcPlus (http://www.PictureFlow.com) includes exposure compensation for all Canon RAW files; ARF can now be applied to all output formats (TIFF, PNG, JPEG); faster ARF2 processing; Exif display enhancements, additions and corrections. The upgrade is free to YarcPlus registered users.
Extensis is shipping a new version of PhotoFrame (http://www.extensis.com/photoframe), a Photoshop plug-in to interactively design border and edge effects. The update includes over 1,000 new frames and support for Photoshop 7 and Elements 2 in Mac OS X and Windows XP.
Nikon (http://support.nikontech.com) has updated Nikon Scan for Mac OS X to version 3.1.4, featuring Jaguar support, faster scanning and a Photoshop 7 plug-in.
Mark Guzewski writes, "You may have been aware of FotoCrop [http://www.guzewski.ca/fotocrop], the photo-cropping companion to Paint Shop Pro. Well, the original version had issues with some versions of Windows 2000 and Windows XP, so I completely re-wrote it. It is more integrated into the PSP environment, which has good points and bad points. Oh by the way it's free, as in no banners, no ads, no spam, no cookies, no nothing."
On Dec. 19, digitalphotography.tv will launch the Maine Fall Foliage 2002 gallery (http://www.digitalphotography.tv), Charlie Morey's collection of 12 images taken in Maine during the state's foliage peak in mid-October.
The Plugin Site (http://thepluginsite.com) has released version 1.50 of Plugin Galaxy for AE, a collection of 21 plug-ins with over 150 animated video effects.
Through Dec. 24, Pictographics is offering iCorrect 4.0 (http://www.digitalriver.com/promo=262), a standalone application for Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, for $159.80 with free USPS shipping (a savings of $96.90).
Script Software has released Easy Card Creator (http://www.scriptsoftware.com/ecc) [M] for creating greetings cards.
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:
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher