The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 5, Number 2 24 January 2003

Copyright 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 89th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Dave explains Fuji's revolutionary new CCD before reviewing one of his favorite subcompacts. Reindeer Graphics' Chris Russ discusses Rob Galbraith's recent comparison between computing platforms. And there's even a bit more.


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

GretagMacbeth
http://www.i1color.com
You should really see just how good you can be.

Spend only seconds to watch a show.
Hear what others say, and see what they know.
Link to a place where you might even win.
The color management system that's really in.

http://gm5.customispots.biz

Or visit us at http://www.i1color.com.

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
The Nikon D100 -- the Best of Both Worlds.

Designed to meet the needs of the experienced SLR user, this lightweight, full-featured digital SLR offers a 6.1 Effective Megapixel CCD to capture high-resolution images up to 3008x2000 pixels for brilliant, large prints.

Precise image control technologies like 3D Matrix Metering, Five-Area Dynamic AutoFocus with Focus Tracking and Lock-on(tm) and a new built-in Speedlight with D-TTL flash control capability put you in complete control.

Add a full-color LCD monitor, simple USB connections, full compatibility with dozens of AF Nikkor lenses and accessories, plus Nikon Capture 3 software for remote operation and superior image management, and you've bridged the gap between your 35mm and digital worlds.

To learn more about the D100 visit: http://www.nikonslr.com


Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 53,530 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: New Fuji CCD Enhances Dynamic Range

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full story posted with illustrations at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1043202460.html on the Web site.)

The range of light to dark values that can be captured by the CCD in a digicam has always lagged badly behind film. But this week Fuji promised to close the gap.

Announcing their "Fourth-Generation" Super CCD technology, Fuji has unveiled a breakthrough in dynamic range for CCD sensors. The new approach cleverly trades off resolution for dramatically improved dynamic range, offering as much as a 400 percent improvement in highlight "headroom" relative to conventional technologies.

The root of the problem with CCDs is that they are essentially linear devices, with a hard limit on the range of illumination they can accurately record. Once a CCD's charge wells are full, it stops responding to incremental exposure. If the subject gets any brighter, there's no change in the amount of charge stored by the CCD.

This is very different from the way film responds to increasing exposure. Even finicky slide film (which digital sensors are often compared to) offers some differential response to increasing illumination beyond that required to fully expose the film.

CHARACTERISTIC CURVES

The so-called "DlogE" curve for, say, Fuji's Sensia 100 transparency film uses the vertical axis to show the density (opacity) of the film, while the horizontal axis shows the exposure level. As you'd expect for positive slide film, the density is the lowest when the exposure is the highest. Graphs of this sort are referred to as the "Characteristic Curves" of the film involved.

What's interesting about characteristic curves of film emulsions is the way they "tail off" at both high and low exposures. At the highlight (right hand) end of the curve, it flattens out quite a bit as you get to high exposure levels. This means the film begins responding more gradually to changes in exposure and as a result can manage to continue to show at least some response at much higher light levels than it would otherwise.

By comparison, CCDs are "linear" throughout their range, with the result that they respond very predictably up to a certain light level, but then stop responding altogether at levels higher than that point.

This limitation of CCDs is well-known -- and there are things camera designers can do to minimize it. This is why I have that horribly-lit "outdoor portrait" shot in my standard test suite, to evaluate how well cameras handle light overloads in strong highlights. Almost anything you might do to improve a CCD's tolerance for overexposure will have undesirable effects in other areas of its performance, however. So there's no way conventional CCD technology can match film's tonal response without displaying a cure worse than the disease.

FUJI'S APPROACH

But here comes Fuji with a very clever approach to the problem. Rather than try to engineer a single CCD sensor to match the broad dynamic range of film, they've instead added a second, low sensitivity sensor to each pixel of the CCD array. The resulting cells look something like an octagonal insect with a small (detached) pill-shaped head. Standard ("HR") Super CCD pixel layout. Dual-Element "SR" Super CCD pixel structure.

While it sounds counterproductive to add a reduced-sensitivity sensor to the CCD array, it turns out to be just what's needed to mimic the exceptional dynamic range of film. Fuji points out that this is exactly how film emulsions work, using a combination of high- and low-sensitivity layers to respond to varying levels of exposure. The low-sensitivity sensor is designed to have a light sensitivity only a quarter that of the main element. That means it can tolerate light overloads 400 percent higher than the main sensor element, without saturating (ceasing to respond). Fuji calls the new, lower-sensitivity sensor elements the "R" pixels and the larger, more sensitive elements the "S" pixels.

With a little clever post-processing, the camera can combine the output signals from the two sensor elements, to mimic the long "tail" on film's DlogE characteristic curve.

The resulting curve doesn't look much like a conventional DlogE curve, but the effect is much the same. The sensor can continue to provide a proportional response even in the face of as much as a 400 percent light overload. The result is that cameras using the new "SR" Super CCD sensor approach should do a much better job of holding highlight detail under high-contrast lighting conditions.

In an actual image, you'd notice how the shadow detail is preserved by the "S" pixels, while detail in the brighter portions of the image are recorded by the "R" pixels.

Fuji has promised us some actual sample images captured by prototype "SR" type Super CCDs.

A HUGE BREAKTHROUGH

To my mind, this is a huge breakthrough. Simply put, it extends the ability of digital cameras to deal with adverse lighting conditions. More than most digicam innovations, it holds the potential to really impact the picture-taking of the average consumer. Just think of how many washed-out, pasty faces you've seen in flash shots or how often you've tried to take shots in full sun (like my "Outdoor Portrait" torture test) with unappealing results.

Fuji's development of the SR Super CCD technology is a bold move for another reason as well.

The industry as a whole has been engaged in a race to cram ever-more pixels onto each chip. In fact, simultaneously with this announcement, Fuji also unveiled their Super CCD HR sensor, a 6.63-megapixel design significantly increasing the resolution of their 1/1.7-inch chip.

But the further we go in that direction, the less perceptible the benefit is for the average consumer. The move from 3 to 4 or even 5 megapixels has made relatively little difference in the picture quality enjoyed by the average consumer. While it's true that a 5-megapixel camera lets you crop your shots more than you can manage with a 3-megapixel one, this is a moot point for the average consumer, who rarely manipulates their images.

With the SR technology, Fuji is breaking away from the blind pursuit of ever-higher pixel counts and instead trading off some of that resolution to provide better quality photos with more tonal information in them.

Thus, I suspect that even some enthusiast shooters would happily trade away some resolution if it meant being able to hold onto more critical subject detail in highlight areas. In fact, the enthusiast crowd may very well become the most enthusiastic adopters of Fuji's SR technology.

CONCLUSION

Of course, as with any fundamentally new technology announcement, we won't be able to tell how it will play out in practice until we can see it reduced to practice, in production-level products we can test and evaluate.

To stretch a paraphrase a bit, the proof of this particular pudding will be in the shooting and we won't get to do that for some while yet. In the meantime though, I highly applaud Fuji's bold move to step out of the mindless megapixel race and turn their attentions and engineering expertise to the critical issues of tonal quality and dynamic range. Here's hoping they're successful in bringing SR technology to market and that it will spark similar innovation by other camera manufacturers.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Minolta Dimage Xi -- A Favorite Subcompact Updated

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

INTRODUCTION

Minolta really turned heads last year when they introduced the diminutive Dimage X, a 2-megapixel camera in the form of a square block of metal, just barely over three-quarters of an inch thick. The Dimage X's clever "folded" optical system not only enabled the super-thin design, but made for rapid startup times, since there was no need to wait for the lens to telescope out when the camera was turned on.

This year, Minolta has updated the Dimage X, increasing the resolution of its CCD to a full 3.2 megapixels and adding sound capabilities. Based on my tests, I'd say they've also improved the camera's color handling too. The net result is a nice boost in image quality in one of my favorite subcompact camera models.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

With its unique, vertical lens design, Minolta's $499 Dimage Xi, like the Dimage X before it, has a tiny, extraordinarily thin all-metal body. Measuring a mere 3.3x2.8x0.78 inches and weighing only 5.4 ounces including the battery and SD memory card, the Dimage Xi is one of the smallest multi-megapixel digicams on the market. With the extremely compact design, there's no excuse for leaving it behind, as the camera can tag along in even the smallest shirt pocket or be quickly tucked into an evening bag or pants pocket. The sleek design includes a built-in lens cover, which conveniently slides out of the way whenever the camera is powered on, eliminating any concern over misplacing a lens cap. The all-metal case is rugged and solid-feeling and should withstand the wear and tear of daily use better than most cameras. The 3x zoom lens, combined with the full automatic exposure control makes the camera suitable for most common shooting conditions. The 3.2-megapixel CCD produces high resolution images for printing, as well as lower resolution images better suited for email.

The Dimage Xi has a 3x, 5.7-17.1mm lens (a 37-111mm 35mm equivalent). The autofocus covers a range from 9.8 inches to infinity. Depending on the zoom position, maximum aperture ranges from f2.8 to f3.6. In addition to the optical zoom, the Dimage Xi offers 4x digital zoom, which decreases the overall image quality by simply enlarging the central pixels of the CCD's image. You can choose between the real-image optical viewfinder or the 1.5-inch, color TFT LCD monitor to compose images, although as usual, the LCD monitor provides the most accurate framing.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, with only a few exposure options available. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on and a Mode switch lets you select between Record and Playback modes. Thanks to the all-internal lens design, there's no need to wait for the lens to extend before you can shoot, so startup times are very short -- less than three seconds. Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's on-screen menu system, which offers very straightforward navigation. That said, you can control flash mode, exposure compensation and the lens zoom externally, via buttons and controls on the camera's rear panel. Shutter speeds range from 1/1000 to two seconds, though the value is not displayed. The right and left arrow keys on the camera's back panel control the Exposure Compensation, adjusting it from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third step increments. Sensitivity is adjustable to values of 50, 100, 200 or 400, with an Auto setting as well. White Balance is adjustable through the settings menu, with options for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent and Fluorescent light sources. The Dimage Xi's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed or Slow Sync modes.

In addition to the basic exposure options, the Dimage Xi also offers a few extra shooting modes, controlled through the settings menu. In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures 320x240-pixel resolution moving images with sound, for as long as the memory card has available space. The included 16-MB SD card should hold approximately 41 seconds worth of movies, larger cards will store proportionately more. Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay. For shooting fast action subjects, Continuous Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images when you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive. Provided there's enough space on the memory card, the camera can capture up to seven large/fine images or over a hundred small/economy images before having to write to the memory card. Details like image size and shutter speed can affect the shooting interval, but it averages approximately two frames per second. Finally, Audio Recording mode lets you record sound clips as long as 90 seconds (without an image), although the maximum recording time may also be limited by the amount of available memory card space. The Dimage Xi also features a Voice Memo option, for recording short sound clips to accompany recorded images.

Images are stored on an SD memory card and a 16-MB card accompanies the camera. The camera also works with the slightly less expensive MMC cards. Connection to a host computer for image download is via USB. The Dimage Xi is a storage-class device so it doesn't require driver software for Windows 2000/XP or Mac OS 8.6 and later. Download speed is also quite good, in the range of 500-575 KBytes/second. The camera uses an NP-200 rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, included with the camera along with a battery charger. The optional AC adapter is also useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images or when viewing images and movies on a television, via the supplied A/V cable.

DESIGN

The design of the Dimage Xi almost dictates a one-handed grip, something that took me a little getting used to. I almost always hold a camera with both hands to minimize camera shake. With the Dimage Xi, when I steadied the camera with my left hand, I was frequently putting my finger over the lens. Not a big deal, as I quickly got used to just using a couple of fingers on the bottom left corner of the camera, but something to watch for.

TEST RESULTS

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the images from the Dimage Xi. Although I suspect the lens and most components are the same as those used in the original Dimage X, I felt that the Xi overall produced noticeably better pictures and it showed less of the corner softness I observed in the original Dimage X as well.

Color: Color was accurate and appropriately saturated in my various standard test subjects. I was particularly impressed by how well the camera did with even quite dim incandescent lighting indoors. Both auto and incandescent white balance settings did a better job than most cameras handling the strong color cast of common U.S. household incandescent lighting. I wouldn't go so far as to call the DXi's color "stunning," but it was quite accurate and pleasing.

Exposure: Like the Dimage X, the Dimage Xi did pretty well in the exposure department. It tends to lose some highlight detail in contrasty scenes under sunlit conditions, but not more than I'm accustomed to seeing in other digicams. The biggest surprise was how well it did under even fairly dim indoor shooting conditions, where it produced sharp, well-exposed images even under rather inadequate living-room lighting.

Resolution/Sharpness: Like most subcompacts, the Dimage Xi's were just a little soft when compared with the best full-sized 3-megapixel digicams. It also showed some softness in the corners of the frame, although I didn't feel it intruded as far into the picture as the Dimage X.

Close-ups: The Dimage Xi's macro capabilities were about average, with a minimum capture area of 3.47x2.61 inches. One positive point though, is that its flash does a good job of throttling down for close-up work, something that many cameras can't manage.

Night Shots: A two-second maximum exposure time and fully automatic exposure control limit the Dimage Xi's low-light shooting capabilities slightly, but the adjustable ISO with a maximum setting of 400 lets it do a surprisingly good job in dim shooting conditions, down to a limit of about 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) or light level roughly 1/4 that of typical urban street lighting. An automatic noise-reduction feature keeps image noise under control, even with fairly long exposures at high ISO. On the downside though, the Xi had some trouble focusing at the darkest light levels and lacks manual focus to overcome this.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Dimage Xi's optical viewfinder is tighter than average, showing 80 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and only 77 percent at telephoto. Images framed with the optical viewfinder also have extra space at the top and left sides of the frame, which is something to consider when framing images. The LCD monitor is actually just slightly loose, as the darker measurement lines I typically use were just cut off in the final images.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the Dimage Xi is about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 0.8 percent barrel distortion. This is about average but I'd really like to see much less geometric distortion in digicam images overall. The telephoto end fared only slightly better with a 0.5 percent pincushion distortion, higher than most cameras. Chromatic aberration is a mixed bag, as there's relatively little color showing, but what's there is spread out quite a bit by the corner softness. This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.

CONCLUSION

Overall, I was quite impressed with the Dimage Xi, even more so than with the original Dimage X. Ultra-compact digicams often seem to involve a lot of compromises and tradeoffs, but the Dimage Xi takes great photos under a wide range of conditions, offers a decent range of exposure control (exposure compensation and white balance adjustments) and has a surprisingly long battery life when the LCD is left off. You do give up a little image sharpness, relative to the best full-sized 3-megapixel cameras, but there's plenty of resolution here to make sharp 8x10 prints.

Its compact size, decent feature set and rugged all-metal case make the Dimage Xi a great "take anywhere" camera, appealing to both non-techies and enthusiasts alike. For the non-techies, it's very easy to use and takes nice pictures. For the enthusiasts, it makes a great second camera, something to toss in your pocket without thinking.

Bottom line, it's not going to be the ultimate camera for Ansel Adams types, but if you want to have no excuse for not having your camera along with you, the Dimage Xi makes a great companion. I definitely put the Dimage Xi in the "highly recommended" category.

Return to Topics.

Guest Spot: Debugging Galbraith's System Comparison

By CHRIS RUSS

Reindeer Graphics, Inc.

( cruss@reindeergraphics.com)

(On Jan. 7, Rob Galbraith published his test of four computer systems (http://www.robgalbraith.com/diginews/2003-01/2003_01_07_macpc.html) for "RAW photo processing speed," concluding "the fastest dual processor Mac has been soundly thumped by one of the fastest single processor PCs." For a programmer's perspective on the issue, we asked Chris Russ, the wizard behind Optipix's cross-platform performance, what he thought. -- Editor)

In Rob Galbraith's article "In Pro Digital Photography, Megahertz Matters" I think Galbraith missed a few important variables that greatly affect how his "comparison" turned out.

First of all, virtually all of the operations he was testing were disk bound. What this means is that they were highly dependent upon the speed of the hard drives and the interfaces to them. So the computer's CPU was actually spending most of its time waiting for the disk to do its thing.

If you're going to use a bunch of tricked-out machines against a stock Macintosh, at least put in an ATA-133 (or better) controller and a faster hard-drive. In order to reduce costs, Apple has recently been using slower drives and controllers. An ATA-133 card costs a paltry $100-$200 and can dramatically speed up disk bound processes (like Photoshop!). Low seek-time hard drives also make a difference.

Secondly, the other factor is that he was testing third party software, much of which was not optimized for the G4 either because of difficulty in programming, time to market or because optimization really wouldn't matter much (especially for disk-bound algorithms).

A fairer test would have used images that fit in memory (which would have at least eliminated the speed of the hard drive and the interface as variables). At the same time, it would have been a good idea to reduce the History to a small number of previous states.

So, you could probably use a RAM disk for file conversion, but that really doesn't make sense, does it?

Let's look at the tests themselves:

Issue: Processing RAW Photos

Fujifilm RAW File Converter LE 1.0 -- This is disk-bound and third-party software. There was no pressure on the manufacturer to make it faster.

Canon File Viewer Utility 1.1 -- Disk-bound and third-party. Look at how much slower the 2.5-inch hard drive is in the TiBook.

Kodak Photo Desk 2.0 -- Disk-bound and third-party. Even PC laptops are slower.

Bibble Labs MacBibble 3.0 beta/Bibble 3.04 -- Even Eric Hyman (the author) says it wasn't G4-optimized.

Nikon Capture 3.5 -- Disk-bound and third-party.

Nikon NEF plug-in for Photoshop -- Disk-bound and third-party.

Issue: Single Image and Batch Processing in Photoshop 7.01

Multi-step resample -- Disk-bound!

Unsharp Mask -- Actually isolates processor speed if the image is small enough to fit in memory and the Mac was faster. Imagine that!

Batch process using Web site Action -- Disk-bound

Batch process using event Action -- Disk-bound

Process photos into a Web Photo Gallery -- Disk-bound

Issue: Multitasking with Photoshop 7.01 et al.

Every single one of these tests is disk-bound. They all involve converting one file type to another (or resampling) and exacerbate the performance of the disk.

Issue: Cataloging Photos in Extensis Portfolio 6

Same thing.

Issue: Transferring Photos from Card to Computer

Can you say "Writing to the disk?" Disk-bound.

CONCLUSION

Only one of these many tests actually tested the CPU speed of the Macintosh. Only one. And in that test, the Mac was faster and the TiBook put in a really respectable showing.

What Galbraith's article does demonstrate is that the speed of your hard drive makes all the difference in the world.

Return to Topics.

Book Bag: The Digital Photolab

There are, you may have noticed, subjects which people don't speak about. To learn about them, you have to roll up your sleeves and make a lot of expensive mistakes. One of these subjects is black and white digital photography.

Fortunately, in 1999, George Schaub gave us "The Digital Darkroom: Black and White Techniques Using Photoshop." Intended for the photographer just getting familiar with computer imaging, it remains a valuable introductory work. But recently Schaub has taken the subject even further with the publication of "The Digital Photolab: Advanced Black-and-White Techniques Using Photoshop."

Schaub, an admirer of Paul Strand and Minor White, has written extensively and taught workshops and seminars that cross the boundary between silver and digital imaging.

He's organized "The Digital Photolab" into three main sections: an illuminating personal Introduction; a plain-talk Calibration, Setup and Materials section; and the real eye-opener section of Image Workshops that show off various approaches.

The Introduction tells Schaub's story as he incorporated digital technology into his routine, enhancing his darkroom work in silver imaging with the blessings of a new method of making images.

Calibration, Setup and Materials describes a system for creating repeatable results, dealing with how to control contrast and color cast by calibrating your setup. Schaub details simple eyeball monitor calibration and a clever way to make a step wedge to get acquainted with your printer. More could be said on these subjects, but this is the stuff you have to know to avoid going nuts. How to acquire digital images via digicams and various kinds of scanners is also explained, highlighting the fundamental issues of resolution and output specifications. Schaub discusses file formats, how to save images on disk (working from a copy) and creating contact sheets. The section closes with a discussion of paper, ink (including why to print black and white as RGB) and print longevity.

In Image Workshops, you begin to appreciate the 10x10-inch format of the book, as Schaub spreads before you images in transition. There's less text here but the images give you plenty to chew on. And the effects are simply but thoroughly explained so you can achieve the same results yourself.

The section starts with a tip on using the Variations command before showing six ways to handle Contrast including Basics, Using Levels, Flat Negatives, High-Key Effects, Color Conversions and Tonal Blending. And he's just getting started.

In Burning and Dodging, Selection Tools, Retouching and Restoration, Creative Options, Refining the Image and Emulations and Effects, he covers an extensive gamut of techniques. You'll see how to make selections for local rather than global tonal corrections, how to retouch glass plate negatives, how to set up a duotone or tritone, how to colorize an image using the Channel Mixer and how to emulate albumen prints, cyanotypes and hand colored prints, among others.

What we particularly like about Schaub's approach, though, is that it is not a Photoshop manual. The pages aren't devoted to screen shots of dialog windows (whose settings Schaub simply notes like formulas) but to the images. The original, a first or second take and the final -- sometimes with a second thought or two. It is, in short, a book a photographer can love.

We were listening to an interview with Rondal Partidge the other day in which he said black and white images, unlike color images, "plug into the thought." As much as we fret about color reproduction in digital imaging, black and white imaging is never far from our mind and we're delighted to have a book that plugs into it this well.

The Digital Photolab by George Schaub, published by Silver Pixel Press, 176 pages, $29.95.
Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Balancing the World

An Italian poet of sufficient expertise to have won the Nobel Prize once wrote that one day is enough to make everything right, let bygones be bygones, restore balance to the world.

We thought of Quasimodo this morning as, uncharacteristically, we rose before the sun, bundled up and got in the car to be somewhere early. Riding south, our gaze drifted out over the Pacific Ocean. The waves, breaking with exaggerating liveliness in the wind, perked us up.

Then we noticed the white foam and spray of the breaking waves suffered a slight magenta tint.

Not entirely awake (nor driving, we hasten to point out), we reached for our mouse to neutralize the highlights.

One click is enough to balance the color (to paraphrase the poet) -- in most editing applications.

What were we thinking?

Sure, it was a magenta tint. Undeniably. We misplaced our rose-colored glasses years ago.

But the sun was still below the hills in the east. The whitecaps were picking up the color cast of the sky. A gorgeous thing, really. Let it be. Unbalanced.

Having a few miles to go, we took this a step further.

Your digicam probably has a White Balance feature. If you are even somewhat civilized, you leave it set as it came -- on Auto. Auto White Balance neutralizes the highlight in your scene when you press the shutter, so you avoid color casts derived from the various light sources illuminating the world. Like sunshine, tungsten light bulbs, cloud cover, energy saver bulbs, fluorescent tubes and more exotic breeds, plus situations with mixed lighting.

It works very well, of course. Miraculously well. But Auto White Balance would have turned our rose waves into white ones.

To capture that pink in this morning's spray, we'd have to override the automatic adjustment by setting the white point manually.

That involves calling up the White Balance function via button or menu, selecting Manual (which should zoom the lens out as far as it can go) and pointing to a white without the magenta cast (say, in the shade) before selecting the Calibrate option.

Generally, Auto and Manual are the only two White Balance settings we use. But there are several more, depending on the camera we're toting. We may have settings for Sunlight, Cloudy, Incandescent and Fluorescent, too.

Oddly enough, these settings, optimized for specific lighting situations, often are less helpful than Auto. This is partly because real life is an analog trickster, not a digital deacon. Light is often mixed, light sources rarely consistent from one location or time to another and measuring the local white is always better than presuming what it is.

The extra settings have a predictable effect, compensating for a specific color cast. Sunlight and Cloudy, for example, warm an image to compensate for the blue light of the sky. Incandescent gives a scene more blue to mollify those yellow bulbs and Fluorescent adds a purple cast to counter the green light of office tubes.

They are, in short, a set of built-in filters.

And among the most powerful of them is Manual. There's no law requiring you to sample a white in your scene, after all. Want a green cast to your setting? Sample someone's purple shirt.

The Exif data of exposure information stored with each image doesn't include the White Balance setting, so no one will ever know how you worked your magic.

Just remember to reset the White Balance function to Auto when you're finished shooting the scene. One click may be enough to balance your color, but it's also enough to really screw things up, too.

Return to Topics.

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 Olympus C-720 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8d106

Visit the Techniques Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b325

Matt asks about printing photos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9081e/0

Learn the difference between exposure and ISO at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee90931/0

Visit the Hewlett Packard Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6f77b

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Super Bowl Sideline

Sunday's Super Bowl XXXVII (http://www.superbowl.com) will prompt 40 million avocados (http://www.avocado.org) to sacrifice themselves as Super Bowl guacamole while the game is being played in "Avocado Country."

The match-up between the Raiders and Buccaneers, broadcast to an estimated worldwide audience of 80 million, will probably spread that guacamole thin.

But we can't make any other predictions. The game is played on the field. Not without the help, however, of imaging technology.

We're not talking about television cameras, though. We mean what the coaches and players use to review the last series or scoring drive to see what just happened and make adjustments.

Game-day technology has come a long way since a New York Giant assistant coach named Lombardi prompted owner Wellington Mara to drop Polaroids from the upper deck of Yankee Stadium down to the field in a sock weighted by a cleat.

But the idea is the same. Get a quick picture of both the formations and the play's progression to review who did what when.

Teams travel with full-blown production crews now, which start setting up their gear about four hours before the game. But they can't use videotape during the game. The league doesn't permit it.

So sideline analysis is done from stills captured from video. Cameras are set up in end zones to best show line play and at the 50-yard line to get another perspective.

Video of each play is immediately transmitted to monitors on the sideline and in the coaches' box. Coaches hit a print button, grab the printout, mark it up and file it in color-coded binders for the offense and defense.

Typical screen grabs are from just prior to the snap (ah, that's why everyone has to be set for one second), just after the snap (catching the first move everyone makes) and even after the play.

The images are printed using hardware developed for ultrasound imaging, which (just to make things interesting) can be affected by the ultraviolet rays in sunlight. The printers start each half with a fresh roll of paper.

Players study the prints for any clue they might reveal. They see how their opponent is playing them off the line or how players away from the ball finish the play. The photographic feedback waiting for players coming off the field helps them refine their own immediate impressions of what actually occurred.

So those commercial breaks are really intense study periods. Unless you happen to have some guacamole handy.

Return to Topics.

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!

Return to Topics.

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: Photoshop Album

As I read your Adobe review I came to the description of its excellent calendar view into a giant collection of pictures. I agree. It is the reason I bought ACDSee 5.0 after a round of testing a few top programs.

I have a lot less experience than you and Dave with current programs but I believe it would be fair to tell people that ACDSee has this feature, too. I had the same reaction to a calendar view. It seemed the stand-out feature difference between ACDSee and competitors ThumbsPlus or BreezeBrowser.

Love getting the Newsletter. All the best to you and Dave.

-- Jonathan Rawle

(Thanks Jonathan! We limited the scope of our Album comparison to just the two other recently-reviewed do-all programs: Picasa and EasyShare. While it's true ACDSee offers a calendar view of your images, it isn't quite the same as Album's. You have to scan from the calendar to your collection in ACDSee, whereas in Album you only look in one spot. A calendar view is a great feature, agreed, but we prefer Album's implementation. -- Editor)

I do understand that Photoshop Album is for Windows only. Nevertheless, as a Mac-User (Mac only) I'd be interested to read such a detailed comparison as the one you offered us -- but between Album and iPhoto.

-- Daniel

(Excellent request, Daniel. iPhoto was always in the back of our mind as we played with Album, in fact. And we suspect the reason Adobe didn't make Album cross-platform is simply iPhoto. How can anyone compete with it? Album offers a few more commercial output options, the calendar view (which is very nice) and a far more sophisticated keywording system. But iPhoto does something nobody else can. It integrates seamlessly with your music collection (iTunes), your video editor (iMovie, with its new Ken Burns effect) and your DVD authoring software (iDVD). Adobe had to build in VCD/DVD output -- and I think they did a nice job -- but Apple's approach has a synergy we find more promising. -- Editor)

RE: Picasa Slide Show

I am interested in Picasa, but running a slide show in the trial edition, I found I could not change pictures manually. At one point, the choice of manual or automatic showed up, but after choosing automatic, I could no longer revert to manual. Could you please tell me how that is done?

Second, can the images in Picasa, during a slide show, be projected out so that a digital projector displays the images on a screen, controlled by the computer?

-- Jim Dort

(In version 1.5, click on the image during the slide show (interrupt it) to get manual control back. This is a change from version 1.0. If you don't like it, just email them. They seem pretty responsive.... To project your images from any program, run your video output to a projection TV, for example, rather than to a monitor. -- Editor)

RE: Step Up By Stepping Down

I have a Sony DSC-F770 1.2-megapixal camera. I have a step-down ring to bring it to 46mm for my wide-angle, macro and 2x telephoto accessories.

I'm planning on buying a 5.2-megapixal Sony DSC-F717. If I buy the proper step-down ring for the new camera, can I use the accessory lenses on the new camera?

And if I bought the same brand lenses in the proper size for the new camera, would there be any benefit as far as the picture is concerned? How does the increase in megapixels come into play?

-- Frank Planes

(Stepping down to a smaller diameter accessory could cause vignetting (darkening around the edges/corners of the frame). The accessories would work, but you might find the field of view limited, particularly with the F717's lens set to Wide-angle. Probably not an issue for Macro and Telephoto shots, though. With the right-size accessories, you won't get the vignetting.... The increase in megapixels just means you'll see more detail in whatever area the lens is covering. And it'll be a very noticeable increase in detail, going from the 1.2 megapixels of the 770 to the 5 MP of the 717. You're going to love it! -- Dave)

RE: Slide Shows

I have followed the various discussions and contributions on the subject of slide show-programs with increasing interest.

Although I have selected PicturesToExe and AVShow2 for my coming evaluation, maybe this might be an addition to readers in Europe: "ColorFoto" (published in Germany and available in many European countries) has a comparison of 17 different slide-show programs in its January 2003 issue. Visit their Web site (http://www.colorfoto.de) and fill-in "diaschau" in the search-box.

-- Leo van Heumen

(Thanks for the link, Leo! -- Editor)

RE: Shooting Infrared

I just purchased a Minolta Dimage 7Hi camera thinking I could use it for infrared work and was told by Minolta it can't do infrared. I would like any information from anyone who might know how to make it work or any group I can contact of persons who use this camera. It is a great disappointment that I cannot get infrared photos. I tried using the Hoya R72 infrared filter and got a very bright circular spot in the center of the image.

-- Al Sheppard

(To make a long story short, digicams tend to permanently filter out their natural IR sensitivity (although the original Dimage 7 did not). To see if you have any chance of capturing IR energy, take a picture of your remote control in action in low light. If you see the LED, there's hope. For a nice little discussion, with lots of links, visit http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=003PZs -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Operation Photo (http://www.operationphoto.com) converts digital images shot by active-duty, military personnel stationed abroad into Kodak prints, which are processed and mailed to U.S. addresses on the same weekday they're ordered. Mitch Goldstone and Carl Berman founded Operation Photo as a division of their Irvine, Calif.-based 30 Minute Photos Etc.


Harald Johnson (http://www.dpandi.com) writes that his new book Mastering Digital Printing, published by Muska & Lipman, was "the number one-selling book of all Arts and Photography books" at Amazon.com recently. We hope to have a review shortly.


Jasc (http://www.jasc.com) has released a public beta of Paint Shop Photo Album 4, scheduled for a March release at $49. Built on the software formerly known as After Shot, it helps share, organize and enhance digital photos.


The Erie Times-News (http://www.goerie.com) reports that a Human Race Machine was set up at Mercyhurst College to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The computer takes your picture and morphs it into the features of another race. No prints, though.


Terri Harber of the Nevada Appeal (http://www.nevadaappeal.com) asks, "Is it cruel to dress up cats and dogs for photos?" She hopes so because she's "been tortured by viewing more children and animals -- especially cats -- in silly clothes and inane poses than anyone deserves." It's a special feature in the paper called Capital Snaps.


Caffeine Software (http://www.caffeinesoft.com) has released its $29 Curator 3.0 [M], which can organize photo albums freeform or by folder, batch edit keywords and enhances sorting.


Asiva (http://www.asiva.com) has released version 1.3.0 of Asiva Photo [MW]. The free update is accompanied by nine QuickTime tutorials.


The $5 ZeboPhoto 1.1.5 (http://zebo.info/zebophoto.html) [M] sports multi-image layouts for slide shows.


PhotoPage 1.6a1 (http://waves.apple.com/people/jav/PhotoPage.html) [M] builds Web sites of your images, creating the HTML, thumbnails and links. New options include watermarks and download links.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released version 7.6.6 of VueScan, with popup tips and a rendering intent option.

Return to Topics.

One Liners

For just $150 an insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

PhotoRescue: http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

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

Return to Topics.

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

Go to Imaging Resource Home | News | Tips | Digital Camera Index | Scanner Index