The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 5, Number 1 10 January 2003

Copyright 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 88th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Adobe steps into the photo organizer ring with Photoshop Album, Dave reviews a new 5-megapixel digicam from Olympus and we summarize the major developments at two big shows. What a year!


TOPICS

SPONSORS
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:
Maha
http://www.mahaenergy.com/

PowerEx is proud to introduce the new MH-C401FS 100 Minute Cool Charger. Some of the ground-breaking features include:

  • Cool and accurate charging of up to four AA/AAA NiMH/NiCD batteries in just 100 minutes
  • Unique FLEX Negative Pulse delivers a more complete charge
  • Switch manually between 100-minute rapid or 5-hour gentle charge
  • Four independent charging circuits
  • Limited lifetime warranty

To learn more visit: http://www.mahaenergy.com/products/PowerEx/Digicams/mhc401fs.htm

To purchase online: http://www.thomas-distributing.com/mhc401fs.htm

Olympus
http://www.olympusamerica.com/
Get a free 64-MB SmartMedia card by mail when you buy an Olympus C-4000 Zoom or D-550 Zoom digital camera.

The C-4000 Zoom has a 4-megapixel CCD and advanced features for extensive creative control. The D-550 Zoom features a 3-megapixel CCD and easy point-and-shoot operation. And the free 64-MB SmartMedia card ($50 value) holds up to 600 of the most realistic digital images yet.

Visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?soy for details and visit http://www.olympusamerica.com/promotions for rules and regulations.

Nothing's impossible.

Nikonusa.com
http://www.nikonusa.com
Nikon's Lenses & Flashes -- the Choice for Pro and Amateur photographers.

Committed to maintaining the highest quality in lens manufacturing, Nikon delivers lenses with unsurpassed sharpness, focusing accuracy, range and reliability.

The result is Nikkor optics technology, unequaled for clarity and true-to-life color reproduction. Like the new 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S, a wide to telephoto 3.5X zoom lens ideal for landscape, full-length portraits, and travel photography.

Or get superior optical performance with the new 28-100mm f/3.5-5.6G high-powered zoom lens featuring aspherical lens elements.

Then, shed the right amount of light on any subject with innovative flash technology. Nikon's new SB-80DX features a new design with selectable settings for customized flash operation, and the new compact SB-30 is designed for use with 35mm and digital SLRs, and select Coolpix models.

To learn more about Nikon Nikkor lenses and Speedlight flashes visit: http://www.nikonslr.com

Kodak.com
http://www.kodak.com
Kodak EasyShare software helps make the most of your pictures. EasyShare makes it easy to find, view and organize your pictures allowing you to edit and enhance your photos and provides easy access to online printing.

And to make it even easier to share EasyShare, it's now available as a FREE download. See Mike's review for more information.


Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 49,200 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Ten Rounds with Adobe Photoshop Album

"And in this corner, weighing 325 pounds at six feet ten inches tall, the reigning heavy-weight champion of the image editing world..." the crowd drowns out the introduction but we all know who it is. Adobe has stepped into the low-end be-all imaging software ring with Photoshop Album, a $49.95 retail product targeted for consumers running Windows.

But this fight won't be a walkover.

Among the contenders are Kodak's free EasyShare and Lifescape's $29.95 Picasa. We've already reviewed EasyShare and Picasa (see the Archive at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS). So, with no hitting below the belt, let's go 10 rounds with Album.

ROUND 1: SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Adobe told us this is a Windows-only product. Naturally we asked if there were any plans to release a Macintosh version. Tapan Bhat, the group product manager, explained that since this product was aimed at the consumer, Adobe would consider a Mac version when consumers start buying Macs.

We took that for a (not terribly informed) no, this release is for Windows. And Mac users really can't complain. They have iPhoto. Which, were it in the ring, would retain its title.

Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP with 128-MB RAM (though 256-MB are recommended) running on a Pentium III-class processor or higher. 150-MB hard disk space, 24-bit video, 800x600 monitor, CD-ROM drive, too. Adobe also recommends at least Internet Explorer 5.x (for the help system).

Meanwhile, give this round to EasyShare for being cross-platform.

INSTALLATION

We popped the beta CD with build 8533 into a Sony Vaio Digital Studio PC with a Pentium 4 and 512-MB RAM. It took 121-MB of disk space but quickly and easily installed.

That hefty space requirement is an indication that a lot of extras come with the program, including MP3s and CD/DVD templates.

ROUND 2: INTERFACE

We like Picasa's interface. We admire EasyShare's. Both are simple, uncluttered screens that let thumbnails of your images speak for themselves.

Album is complex and cluttered. Its very busy screen reminds us of rush hour traffic. This is just what "consumers" need? Maybe consumers raised on video games won't mind, but consumers who saw Spot run and those who see spots will certainly appreciate a less congested environment.

Adobe itself seems to suspect the interface is too much. They float a Quick Guide window on launch that hovers above the interface. The floating window solution employed by Quick Guide is, in fact, used extensively in Album.

We like the Quick Guide. It takes you smoothly through the program's capabilities (and it is a very capable program) and possibilities (it simply does more than its competitors). We'll try to do the same.

Round 2 goes to Picasa, though, for the cleanest interface.

ROUND 3: GET PHOTOS

The first thing you'll want to do after installation is to get some images.

After you've taken digital pictures for a while, you'll have a lot of images to get. Some on CD, some on your hard disk and new ones all the time in your camera. Album can handle all of those sources.

Click on Get Photos from the Quick Guide or the Tool Bar or in the File menu, select your source and watch your images as one by one each thumbnail is displayed in a floating window above a progress bar. When the import is complete, you see the thumbnails in Album's Photo Well. We imported about 500 images from a CD in just a couple of minutes.

Copying images from a camera was easy if the camera appeared to XP as a USB storage device. But older cameras, like our Average digicam, just weren't visible to Album (even though iPhoto finds it just fine). We used the Average's import program to copy its photos to our hard disk and then had Album get them. So you can't, but you can.

Our hard disk images are already on the hard disk, of course and our camera images are copied there. Our CD images were also copied to the hard disk (in an Adobe folder in My Pictures) -- but Album gives you the option of just indexing your originals rather than collecting them.

The dialog window for getting images from a CD includes a checkbox for Keep Original Offline, which copies only a small proxy of the image to your hard disk. It's an option because, if you have the disk space, having the original online is more convenient.

For that alone, give this round to Album.

KILLER FEATURE

Once you've got images in Album, you can immediately enjoy the one feature worth every penny, the one feature that compensates for any shortcomings, the, well, knock-out punch.

Right below the Menu Bar is a Tool Bar and right below that (well, we told you it was cluttered), is a Timeline. The Timeline is cool, but it isn't the knock-out punch. The Timeline is just a bar graph of your collection. The more pictures you shot on one day, the taller the bar is at that point on the Timeline. You can scroll through the Timeline to quickly locate images. Very, very nice, but perch yourself on the edge of your seat and scream for blood.

The knock-out punch is Calendar View.

Click Calendar on the Tool Bar and suddenly your collection is transformed into a kitchen calendar. On the bottom half is the month (the current month if no images are selected or the month the selected image was shot) but instead of annotating the days with things like "Valentine's Day" the days are illustrated with a thumbnail of the first shot you took that day.

No, wait, that's just a hint. The top of the calendar is a larger thumbnail of that image -- but that's not all, either. The larger image functions as a slide show. Just click on the Play button to see all your images from that day in the top panel.

It is, after all, the way you take pictures. So why not display them that way, too?

You know John's birthday is April 6, so shoot over to any April 6 to see his birthday pictures. Fourth of July, no sweat. Christmas? New Years? Festivus? You know the day, look up the pictures.

Oh yeah, click the small binocular icon to select any image displayed in the top panel.

ROUND 4: ORGANIZE

Album is the organized assistant you always dreamed of (except it doesn't do closets). When you bring images into Album, it sorts them by date. For images stored on disk, Album uses the file creation date. For images from your camera, it uses a date stored in the Exif header of the image. If you don't bother setting the clock in your camera, you'll bother.

We archive our images to CD in large batches, so we were afraid Album's file date sort would lose the original order, preferring the file date over the Exif information. But Album sorted our photos correctly.

And you can always adjust the date info for an image within Album.

But sorting is not always enough. Sometimes you have to label your images by the kind of thing they are. Album makes this pretty easy.

In fact, Bhat told us that, while the program was designed for consumers, Album's organizing power really excited the professionals who saw it.

Album uses tags to label your photos. You create a tag by clicking on the New Tag icon at the top of the tag window. You can even label the tag itself, storing it in Album's built-in hierarchy of tags, which includes People (like Family, which includes yourself by default and Friends), Places (we set up San Francisco, Tahoe and Wine Country for our collection), Events (like Weddings, Birthdays, etc.) and Other.

Once you have a tag defined, you apply it to a photo by dragging it to the photo. Or a selection of photos. Any time you want. Very easy.

The only thing easier would be to apply some tags on import -- but Album doesn't do that.

The first photo you apply the tag to lends its image to the tag. If you don't like it, though, just double click the tag to pick another. The icon and text label attached to each tag make them a good deal more meaningful than either alone.

Album was prettier but no more functional that EasyShare, so call this round a draw between the two.

ROUND 5: FINDING IMAGES

Click on the checkbox next to any tag and you've instantly selected all the images with that tag. It's a checkbox because you can click on more than one. Weddings in the Wine Country, for example.

The Photo Well drops down a bit to reveal the search criteria you selected and checkboxes for how many items matched, how many closely matched and how many didn't match. Matched items are already checked -- and you can check closely matched items to expand your results.

But Album takes Finding further than tags with the Find menu option. You can hunt your images by date range (adjustable using the Timeline, too), filename, caption, history (what you did with them) and audio.

And don't forget that Calendar view.

But probably the most fun we had was searching for similar images.

Select an image, any image. Under the Find menu, select By Color Similarity with Selected Photo(s). Album retrieves images that are like the one you selected.

This gets you all your cloud shots or green fields or sunsets or ... well, you get the idea. It's a retrieval function we haven't seen elsewhere but could really make use of now and then. If you find yourself screaming at your monitor, "Hey, it looks like this!" you could use it, too.

This round goes to Album.

ROUND 6: FIX IT

If there's one aspect of Album that really disappointed us, it was the image editing capabilities. Considering they seemed lifted from Photoshop Elements, we were surprised. But maybe we shouldn't have been. Elements integrates nicely into Album by design.

Select an image that needs help and click on the Fix button in the Tool Bar. You get a floating window with tabs to display the Original, After (default) or both Before and After (our preference). You can zoom in if you need to, but with the After image displayed, it was large enough for us.

You never work on the actual original image, however. Album makes a copy for you. That's very important because you can never reconstruct an original. Its exposure data, for one thing, will no longer be valid. And you can always repeat your edits.

To the right are six possible corrections: Single Click Fix, Crop, Red Eye Removal, Brightness and Contrast, Lighting and Color Saturation.

It's astonishing how many images can be helped by either strengthening or diluting their color saturation. Don't neglect that tool.

Cropping and removing red eye need no introduction. When you need them, you need them and Album will take care of it for you easily. Red Eye Removal lets you adjust a crop around the eyes before applying its fix.

Lighting can lighten a dark shadow in the foreground using its Fill Flash slider. It can also darken washed out areas with its Backlighting slider.

Our preferred tool, however, is the Single Click Fix (and, yes, we know we haven't mentioned Brightness and Contrast). Take a look at our screen shot of a mosaic. You might be tempted to jazz that up with Brightness and Contrast. But we used Auto Levels in Single Click Fix instead. One click, with no slipping around on a slider.

Other Single Click Fixes include Auto Color, Auto Contrast and Sharpen. Sharpen was a bit too crude for us, which is a shame considering how a little sharpening is often a big help. Michael Slater, one of Album's originators, told us, "This is an artifact of the beta version that you are using and will be corrected in the shipping product."

You can Undo or Redo all these changes and even Cancel the whole thing if it gets out of hand. Changes are cumulative. You can pile them up on an image, although that rarely works well.

So why were we disappointed? The crudeness of some of the changes and the slowness of our pretty quick system. Changes simply took too long.

And we'd really like to see a batch mode to fix color. If your digicam's CCD shoots too warm or too cool, you'll want to correct every image you shoot. And not one at a time.

Call this round a three-way draw.

ROUND 7: SLIDE SHOW

Album does two kinds of slide shows. One is simply impromptu. The other is for reproduction.

Album's slide shows can include both music (some MP3s are included with the package) and transitions (but not very smooth ones).

We really liked Album's impromptu slide shows because they resembled iPhoto's. Just select some images, click the slide show icon in the Tool Bar and you're watching your slides set to music. Pop into the Preferences panel for slide show to change duration, music, whatever you like. Really easy, very gratifying, a joy.

If you want to save your slide show to send to people (email or CD), you use a slightly different approach.

Select your images, but then use the Creations menu item's slide show option. A Creation Wizard steps you through a more elaborate presentation, which even includes some attractive layouts.

Album takes another page from Elements by creating these slide shows as PDFs. The free Acrobat Reader (which also comes with a plug-in for your Web browser), easily handles these on either the Mac or Windows.

The PDF can be saved on disk, sent as email or burned on CD (either for viewing on your computer or as a VCD for viewing on a DVD player). You can also print it or order a professionally printed version.

We scored this round for Album.

ROUND 8: SHARING

Slide shows are just a hint of some really marvelous capabilities tucked into Album. Adobe wants you to do everything but creative image editing with Album and that includes making Web pages of your images, printing books and custom calendars of them, making eCards or just printing greeting cards, burning them on everything from CDs to VCDs to DVDs, you name it.

But they've also paid a lot of attention to making it easy to do these sometimes fiendishly complex things. And, like Apple, they've taken pains to provide a few attractive designs so you don't spend hours trying to make things line up right.

All these options begin with a selection (or you can drag an image into the Creation Wizard's workspace -- in a floating window). Once you have a selection, you click on the Start Creation Wizard button.

The Wiz shows you the built-in templates (which may be augmented with downloaded additions), customizes your creation, previews it page by page and then presents the output options mentioned in the previous section. Very simple, five-step process (including the selection).

Web page production is handled a little differently, but very ably.

And just to knock your socks off, an Adobe Atmosphere 3D Gallery option will let you walk through a museum of your images. It's cute but, to avoid embarrassment, buy Album for the Calendar view.

Score another round for Album.

ROUND 9: ONLINE SERVICES

The Online Services menu option includes Setup where you can contract with online service providers like MyPublisher to print calendars and books or online photofinishers to order prints.

We didn't test this, but liked how neatly it was organized, how nicely integrated into the other output options and what a variety of options were available.

Bhat brought along some sample output, too. The book was identical to the iPhoto printed book (down to the linen cover) but the calendar was special. We've seen our share of inkjet calendars but this one stood out for its professional production printed on nice paper.

This round goes to Album.

HELP

Who doesn't need help from time to time? Reviewers certainly do. We found Album's online help, in this beta, to be a little slight if nicely produced. Fortunately, Adobe creates Help from the same source files used to create the printed User Guide, so we hope the shipping version is a bit more thorough.

But Help is about Album not imaging, another important distinction between Album and Elements. We still rave about Elements for its fabulous image editing instruction.

ROUND 10: BACKUP

With a CD or DVD burner, Album can create archive discs that can be played on a Mac, PC or DVD player.

When you create the archive, you move the selected items offline, removing them from your computer's hard disk. At the same time, Album's reference to the photo is reset to the archive disk.

Album also offers a similar option for burning your collection to CD as a backup, keeping track of which images have already been backed up since last time.

Round 10 to Album.

CONCLUSION

Bhat told us Adobe wanted to build an application for digital photographers unchained from the analog model. It had to:

  1. Be a complete solution and scalable throughout one's lifetime;

  2. Protect the original images, keeping them safe and accessible; and

  3. Be simple, easy and integrated.

So Adobe designed Album to do four things:

  1. Find your images, no matter how many you have or where you store them;

  2. Fix them by providing simple tools to handle the most common problems;

  3. Share your photos in more ways than any other single program; and

  4. Protect your images from accidental deletion, disaster, overwriting, etc.

So how'd they do?

We think they did very well, winning six rounds outright, tying two others and losing only two.

OK, we aren't impressed with the interface or the image editing tools. But building your collection is as painless in Album as in any other product. Basic view options using the Timeline are probably more than enough, but the Calendar view was stunning. Tags are so well implemented you might actually be tempted to use them.

The output options are extensive but simple to use. Outright prolonged applause for making VCD and DVD production simple enough for even us. And tie-ins to companies like MyPublisher are to be applauded, too.

But we're most impressed that Adobe provided archiving and backup functions. That isn't as glamorous as a 3D museum walk-through of your images, but you can measure your IQ be counting how many times you use which.

Are they the new World Champ? Well, they do have that knock-out punch....

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus C-5050 Zoom -- Tri-Media Tilt

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C5050/C55A.HTM on the Web site.)

The Camedia C-5050 Zoom breaks to the front of Olympus' very popular line of Camedia digital cameras, expanding the high-end prosumer level to include a full 5.0-megapixel CCD with even more features than previous models. Like the 4.1-megapixel C-4040, it incorporates the same super-bright 3x zoom lens and a classic all-black advanced rangefinder-style body with textured, non-slip holding surfaces, including the rubberized-grip lens barrel. But Olympus managed to throw more features into the C-5050, expanding its versatility and exposure capabilities and improving the user interface. Measuring only 4.5x3.1x2.7 inches and weighing 12.8 ounces without batteries or memory cards, it's fairly easy to stash in a large pocket or purse.

Like its predecessor, the C-5050 offers many advanced user controls, including a Multi-Spot metering mode that averages up to eight selectable spot readings, a one-touch white balance function (with white balance correction for minor color adjustments), spot autofocus, contrast, saturation and sharpness adjustments and QuickTime movies with simultaneous sound recording capabilities. It also incorporates several new features, including a tilting LCD monitor for better viewing; advanced white balance options; a live histogram feature in Record mode; an external flash hot shoe for non-dedicated flash units; an array of Scene and function modes for more creative shooting; and an improved user interface with more external control. There's also a triple-slot memory compartment, with individual slots for xD-Picture Card, SmartMedia and CompactFlash cards.

The C-5050 Zoom features both an optical, real-image viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, wide-view color TFT LCD monitor, with 114,000 pixels. The LCD lifts out from the back panel and tilts upward 90 degrees for better viewing angles. It automatically displays the current exposure mode, f-stop setting, shutter speed and exposure compensation across the top and the number of images available in the current resolution setting at the bottom. The C-5050 also provides a very helpful distance display when focusing manually, as well as a digital zoom bar (when digital zoom is on) that shows the camera's 3x optical zoom and the digital zoom progress when you zoom past the optical telephoto limit. New on the C-5050 is a live histogram display, which highlights any potential over- or underexposure.

The 7.1-21.3mm 3x zoom aspherical glass lens (35-105mm 35mm equivalent) has a very fast f1.8-f2.6 (wide-angle to telephoto) maximum aperture. In addition to the C-5050's 3x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to 3.4x with the digital zoom, depending on the image resolution size.

Image file sizes include 2560x2400, 2288x1712, 2048x1536, 1600x1200, 1280x960, 1024x768 and 640x480 pixels in normal mode and 3200x2400 pixels when using Optimum Image Enlargement. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus uncompressed TIFF and RAW. While RAW images typically require processing via imaging software post-capture, the C-5050 Zoom's Playback menu offers a RAW editing function, which lets you adjust color, sharpness, etc. in-camera. The edited file is then saved as a separate JPEG.

The C-5050 Zoom 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, while Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, while the camera chooses the best corresponding settings. When used in A or S modes, apertures range from f1.8 to f8.0 and shutter speeds from 1/2000 to four seconds. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but with shutter times as long as 16 seconds. There are five preset Scene modes, including Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene and Night modes, for point-and-shoot style shooting. Additionally, in any of the main record modes (P, A, S, M, My or Movie), the Scene option of the Shooting menu lets you apply Night, Portrait or Landscape characteristics to the shot. Since not all of the Shooting menu options are available in the actual Scene modes, this is a way to get a specific kind of exposure without giving up any control.

The camera provides four ISO options (Auto, 64, 100, 200 and 400), automatic exposure bracketing, Digital ESP and Spot metering modes, Single and Multi-Spot Metering AE Lock modes, plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values in one-third-step increments. An advanced Noise Reduction System uses dark-frame subtraction to minimize background noise (particularly in low-light conditions and long exposures). White balance offerings are some of the most extensive I've seen, with nine settings (Auto, Shade, Cloudy, Sunny, Evening Sun, Daylight Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, White Fluorescent, Incandescent or One-Touch, the manual setting). With the manual white balance option, you can save four custom settings. A white balance color adjustment function enables you to adjust red and blue color shifts from +3 to -3 steps, providing excellent control over color balance.

Image contrast, sharpness and saturation adjustments are available through the Mode Setup menu and a Function menu option allows you to capture images in black and white or sepia tone (with additional White Board and Black Board settings for capturing text). An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock function locks an exposure reading independently of the autofocus system, without having to hold down the Shutter button halfway. AEL takes a single exposure reading or up to eight averaged spot readings for more accurate exposures. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits and an infrared remote controller with a three-second shutter delay.

Movie mode records QuickTime movies with or without sound, in either SQ (160x120 pixels) or HQ (320x240 pixels) modes. Four-second sound clips can be recorded to accompany still images, either with image capture or during image playback. A Sequence mode is available for capturing multiple images up to 3.3 frames per second and a Panorama mode allows you to take up to 10 formatted shots to compose with Camedia's Panorama Stitch software in the computer. A 2-in-1 capture mode snaps two vertically-oriented images in succession and saves them side-by-side as one image. The effect is like a split-screen view.

The camera's internal flash offers five operating modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, Red-Eye Reduction and Slow Synchro), with flash power extending to approximately 18 feet (5.6 meters) in wide-angle mode and to about 12 feet (3.8 meters) in telephoto mode. A non-proprietary hot shoe allows you to connect an external flash unit when additional flash power is needed. You can also increase or decrease the internal flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments through the Shooting menu.

A 32-MB xD-Picture Card ships with the camera but it also accommodates CompactFlash and SmartMedia card formats. A USB cable is accompanied by a video output cable to connect to a television set (which works nicely with the remote control). Software includes Olympus' Camedia Master 4.0, which provides minor organization and editing tools, and a panorama stitching application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Macintosh and Windows are also supplied.

FLASH

Olympus told newsletter editor Mike Pasini at Macworld Expo this is the first Olympus digicam that allows you to disable the pre-flash to sync with ordinary slave units.

Another nice feature of the internal flash system is its Flash Brightness adjustment, which allows you to change the flash brightness from +2 to -2 EV in one-third-step increments. When using the built-in flash with an external unit, you can use this feature to adjust the balance of light between the two.

CONCLUSION

The C-5050 Zoom is an impressive addition to Olympus' already stellar Camedia digital camera line. Increased image quality and expanded creative controls make the camera very versatile. I was very pleased with the C-5050 Zoom's performance under average shooting conditions as well as in low light. A 5-megapixel CCD, super fast lens, extensive exposure control and compatibility with three recording media put the C-5050 Zoom at the forefront of its class. At an introductory price of just under $800, the C-5050 Zoom is an incredible deal. Numerous features, excellent image quality and flexible controls make the C-5050 Zoom perfect for experienced amateurs and pros alike.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Showtime -- Macworld Expo & CES

While Publisher Dave Etchells and News Editor Mike Tomkins flew to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, we took the bus down to Moscone Center to catch Macworld Expo. See the site (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM) for our full reports, but here are some highlights.

MACWORLD EXPO

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fueled by the momentum of five million active users of OS X, Apple unveiled a revamped suite of applications that Apple's Steve Jobs dubbed iLife. The suite (http://www.apple.com/ilife) includes the already released iTunes 3, iPhoto 2 with image enhancement tools, iMovie 3 with a Ken Burns Effect and iDVD 3 with chapter support. Contrary to speculation, downloads of the first three are still free but you will be able to buy all four in a box for $49 on Jan. 25, when the updates are released.

The updated iPhoto 2 (http://www.apple.com/iphoto) includes:

iMovie 3 (http://www.apple.com/imovie) adds some impressive features for photo shows, too:

And iDVD 3 (http://www.apple.com/idvd) brings a few more features to the party:

But the key advantage of iLife is its integration, rather than any particular feature set.

For example, your iTunes library is easily accessible from iPhoto where you can associate any of the tunes with any album for slide shows. iMovie can easily add your iPhoto still images, which you can animate with the Ken Burns Effect. And there's no need to export iMovie projects so they can be burned in iDVD. With the new iMovie sound effects, plus the professionally designed themes for iDVD, Apple has brought a new level of polish to amateur DVD production.

iLife apps will be bundled with new Macintosh computers. On Jan. 25, iPhoto 2 and iMovie 3 will be available as free downloads from Apple. And the boxed CD with a single installer for all four apps will be available at the Apple store, Apple retail outlets and Apple authorized resellers for $49.

The PowerBook line enjoyed some freshening up as well with two new model introductions.

The big news is the new $3,299 17-inch PowerBook G4 (http://www.apple.com/powerbook/index17.html). It includes the world's largest notebook screen at 1440x900 pixels (but is still just over an inch thick), FireWire 800 (twice as fast as current FireWire/IEEE-1394 implementations), 802.11g wireless networking (at 56-Mbs rather than the 11-Mbs of current 802.11b implementations), built-in Bluetooth -- and a backlit keyboard with ambient light sensors.

The little news is the smallest notebook Apple has ever introduced. The 12-inch PowerBook G4 (http://www.apple.com/powerbook/index12.html) has 1078x768-pixel resolution, an 867-MHz G4, built-in Bluetooth and a slot to support an 802.11g card. A combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW version will be available later this month for $1,799 while a SuperDrive version is available for $1,999.

Both new PowerBooks have a lightweight aluminum alloy skin and are bundled with QuickBooks Pro. They both use a new latch that drops the screen behind the main deck and move connectors to the sides. Neither PowerBook will boot into OS 9, although OS 9 applications can still be run under Classic emulation of the OS.

Apple also introduced Safari (http://www.apple.com/safari), their idea of a Web browser. The free 3-MB download features speeds up to three times faster than Explorer and easy-to-use features like built-in Google search, drag-and-drop bookmarks and SnapBack site navigation.

Attendees of the keynote address were rewarded with copies of another new OS X application which, it turns out, Jobs had been beta testing all last year. Keynote (http://www.apple.com/keynote) is a $99 PowerPoint killer, tapping into OS X's Quartz graphics engine to add transitions and effects unknown to slide presentations of the past. It was, Jobs said, "built for me."

Along with 12 professionally designed themes, Keynote imports and exports PowerPoint, PDF and QuickTime formats using an open file format itself to entice add-on development.

On the show floor, Epson (http://www.epson.com) introduced its Stylus Photo 960 with direct CD printing and the 3200x6400 dpi, 48-bit, 3.4 Dmax, USB 2.0/FireWire Perfection 3200 scanner with transparency adapter in a $599 pro and $399 consumer configuration.

Extensis (http://www.extensis.com) unveiled Portfolio 6 asset management software for OS X in both server and personal editions, as well as Mask Pro 3. Roxio (http://www.roxio.com) provided a sneak preview of its Mac port of PhotoSuite to fix, print and display images. And Connectix (http://www.connectix.com) showed Virtual PC 6, which is up to 25 percent faster than version 5 on OS X and can launch Windows apps from the dock.

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW

LAS VEGAS -- Early highlights from the Consumer Electronics Show here include new cameras, a new television viewer and a new storage format.

Pentax (http://www.pentaxusa.com) introduced the OptioS, an ultra-compact but 3.2-megapixel wonder that fits in an Altoids tin. Available in March, the OptioS features a patented sliding lens zoom mechanism to allow the 3x optical lens to recede into the housing. A new Multi Chip Module in the circuit board and the redesigned chamber further minimize space in the OptioS.

Minolta (http://www.minoltausa.com) unveiled the DiMAGE F300 featuring a 5.3-megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom (38-114mm 35mm equivalent), a new noise reduction option and Minolta's Subject Tracking Autofocus and Area AF. Following the contoured design of the DiMAGE F100, the DiMAGE F300 is among the lightest and smallest 5.0-megapixel digicams with a built-in zoom lens, Minolta said.

Olympus (http://www.olympusamerica.com) announced its Stylus Digital line of digicams, adapting their 35mm point-and-shoot film camera series to a digital form. Stylus Digital cameras are ultra compact, all-weather and easy-to-use cameras, Olympus said. The first models include the $399 3.2-megapixel Stylus 300 Digital and the $499 4.0-megapixel Stylus 400.

SanDisk (http://www.sandisk.com) introduced its $79 Digital Photo Viewer to view photos taken with a digicam on a television screen by plugging a storage card into the photo viewer. Media slots for CompactFlash, SmartMedia, MultiMediaCard, SD and MemoryStick are built into the unit, which is slightly smaller than a VHS cassette. It includes a remote control to view multiple pictures in preview mode, delete, rotate and zoom. It also provides the setup for a customized slide show.

SanDisk and Sony introduced the Memory Stick Pro in capacities from 256-MB to 1-GB with copyright protection and data protection technologies. The cards will also be manufactured by Lexar.

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New on the Site

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:

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In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

Read about the Nikon Coolpix 4300 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8e1e5

Visit the Software Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b0

Chris asks about a good camera for action shots at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee90484

Ray asks about finding the holy grail of cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8ff4c/0

Visit the Canon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6f773

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Dave's Deals

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 Subscribe!

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We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.

RE: EasyShare

Thanks for the information about Kodak's Easy Share Software. It's the kind of a file management program I've have been looking for -- relatively simple yet comprehensive.

-- Paul Stitzel

(You're welcome, Paul. Simple but comprehensive is a tricky balance. Fortunately there are suddenly a lot of affordable options to explore. -- Editor)

RE: More to the Story

I just finished reading your review of the "Digital Photography Pocket Guide" in the Dec. 13 edition of your newsletter and I wanted to let you know that I found the critiques very useful.

Thank you for the thoughtful appraisal. Imaging-Resource is one of my favorite sites and I send folks there all the time because I respect the opinions you publish. Receiving an overall positive book review, with helpful comments, was encouraging as I prepare for the second printing.

-- Derrick Story

PS: I'll definitely make sure the editors get the "r" back in synchro :)

(Thanks for the kind words, Derrick! Let us know when it comes off the press and we'll put a mention in the Editor's Notes column. -- Editor)

RE: G3!

I don't know if you reviewed the Canon PowerShot G3 or not, but I received one as Christmas gift. I have only one thing to say about this camera......WOW!!! This is an absolutely amazing digital camera with some of the most outstanding "pro" type features I've ever seen in a camera at this price, $700. I'm a veteran television cameraman for ABC News in New York so I can tell you that I speak with a certain amount of skeptical clarity on issues relating to cameras and lenses, etc. But this G3 camera is the "real deal."

-- Ron Gordon

(Thanks for the feedback, Ron. I think you'll enjoy Dave's enthusiastic review of the G3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G3/G3A.HTM) <g>: "My tests of a production model of the G3 confirmed all my earlier conclusions about image quality: The G3 takes great pictures, with excellent color and tone." -- Editor)

RE: Digital Back

I have a Mamiya 645 Super. Can you please let me know if a digital back is available for this camera.

-- Simcha

(Here's one: http://www.logix-usa.com/KodakPB645Features.html -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Konica and Minolta have jointly released a letter of intent to merge "the management of both companies based on stock swaps through [a] spirit of equality." Taking "the creation of new value" as its guiding philosophy, the new Konica Minolta Holdings, Inc. will begin life with sales of $9.2 billion and almost 39,000 workers, 4,000 of whom are expected to be laid off.


Epson (http://www.epson.com) has announced a kit for its Stylus Photo 960 to print directly on printable CDs or DVDs placed in a tray that slides through the printer. The feature will be boxed with the printer in February. Current Stylus Photo 960 owners can redeem a coupon to receive a free CD kit with the CD tray and software.


Nikon (http://www.nikontechusa.com) has released updates to Nikon View, its digital imaging software for both the Windows and Mac operating systems.


Maha (http://www.mahaenergy.com) has announced 2000-mAh NiMH AA batteries.


PictureFlow (http://www.pictureflow.com), makers of YarcPlus, has released Archive Creator, a $40 archiving solution for Windows. Archive Creator will automatically span an Archive Set across multiple CDs thereby maximizing the storage potential while minimizing the time required to organize the files in an efficient manner.


Caffeine Software (http://www.caffeinesoft.com) has released version 2.8.3 of its $19 Curator [M] with improved stability, a fix for file permissions of rotated images and date sorting by newest images first.


Conceiva (http://www.conceiva.com) has released Lightbox 2.0, a Windows file browser and viewer that handles "all image, web, document, video and audio file formats," according to the company.


The $19.95 Photo to Movie 1.1 [M] (http://lqgraphics.com/software) creates a QuickTime movie or iMovie-compatible DV Stream file by zooming and panning over a still photo.


Ulead (http://www.ulead.com) has introduced DVD PictureShow 2 -- Digital Camera Suite for managing digital media and creating multimedia slide shows. The $49.95 suite includes DVD PictureShow 2, the newest version of Ulead's digital image slide show creation software and Photo Explorer 8, the latest version of Ulead's digital media management software.


Extensis (http://www.extensis.com/macworld/index.html) is offering a Macworld Expo discount of 25 percent for downloaded purchases of full products through Jan. 15. Products include Suitcase, Suitcase Server, Portfolio, Portfolio Server, PhotoFrame, Intellihance Pro, PrintReady, Mask Pro, PhotoTools, QX-Tools and QX-Effects.


PhotoSite TimeSaviour [M] (http://www.kalleboo.com) will turn folders pictures into a Web site with "thumbnails, image descriptions and much more," according to the developer.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 7.6 with new fields in the Files tab, Photoshop Elements as a Viewer option and faster scanning on some Epsons.

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One Liners

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Fast Ritz CF cards: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?ritzmem

Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com

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Signoff

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

Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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