The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 5, Number 3 7 February 2003

Copyright 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 90th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We review an asset manager that doesn't get in your way, Dave zooms in on a Fuji long zoom and we have an interesting follow-up on systems comparisons. Plus probably the most unusual use of your images we've yet found.


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:
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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 53,600 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Portfolio 6 -- Fitting the Bill

If we really needed asset management software, we'd use it. Right?

Right. The trouble with most software designed to organize your image collection is that it isn't convenient to use. It makes more work, not less. So we get by, content to pay later.

But we don't really want to get by. Especially as the images pile up. We really want software that will describe, catalog, retrieve and share our images -- and that we will want to use.

Over the years, we've honed our requirements to just a few essentials:

  1. It has to be easy to catalog both old images and new ones, no matter where they are.

  2. It has to automatically keyword our collection.

  3. It has to collect Exif exposure data from our images when it catalogs them.

  4. It has to have powerful sorting capabilities. If we want to see our photos in order of Exposure Time, it shouldn't take more than a click.

  5. It has to have a powerful searching capability -- not just a multiple field search but a Google-like clairvoyance.

  6. It has to be cross-platform. These days that means Windows plus Macintosh OS 9 and OS X. We want it to be smart enough to share images with anyone.

  7. It has to be able to write CDs or DVDs of our collection that are readable on any platform.

  8. And it would be nice to have a few options for presenting or exporting the collection (like building an attractive Web page).

We'll spare you the suspense. We haven't found anything that does all that.

Among the industrial-grade standalone products (Canto Cumulus), ease of use is nearly unknown. It's hard to set up a catalog so it imports Exif data from JPEGs. It's hard to import images on a routine basis.

Among the organizer features of the new all-in-one breed of imaging software (iPhoto, Photoshop Album, Kodak EasyShare, Picasa), keywording and searching are shortchanged. Oddly enough Exif data is sometimes, too.

The cross-platform requirement may not be as important to you as it is to us. If that's the case, you might be happy with a few jewels (iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) and QPict (http://www.qpict.net) on the Mac, for example).

ENTER PORTFOLIO

At $200, Portfolio 6 from Extensis (http://www.extensis.com/portfolio) isn't inexpensive (although a $150 upgrade is available to Cumulus users). But we were smitten by how effortlessly it let us build (and maintain) a keyworded catalog.

So we took a closer look at Portfolio. Here's what we found.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Running on Windows 98/NT/2000/ME/XP and Mac OS 8.6+ and OS X version 10.2, Portfolio is as cross-platform as software comes these days.

On any of the supported platforms, you'll need 32-MB RAM and 25-MB disk space, plus at least version 4.1.1 of QuickTime.

We were excited to see Extensis release Portfolio 6.1 for OS X and much of our later testing was done with that version, a free update for users of 6.0.

INSTALLATION

No problems. An installer manages the install for you.

On the Mac, a Portfolio plug-in is written to your System Folder and an optional alias created. OS X seems to require nothing more than a neat little package in your Applications folder and a "plist" preference file.

Windows installations include a handful of items in the Start menu, in addition to the application folder.

We enjoy nagging you to register products like this. Not only does it let you tap into excellent online support (http://www.extensis.com/support), but it keeps you informed of updates and gives you access to free downloads of related goodies.

MULTIPLE COPIES BUT ONE ARCHIVE

We prefer to catalog only one copy of each image. But we are not safe with only one copy.

We have three -- and, despite our best efforts, have now and then over the years been glad to have as many as three. One of which, fortunately, is not within arm's reach, but offsite where it is updated only when the dust settles down.

Being able to have multiple originals is one of the advantages of going digital, after all. And, who knows, one day you might buy a new computer (and still want to see your old images).

So we copy our images (we don't move them) from our digicam to a hard disk. Then we copy the original again to another computer running a different operating system. We burn a CD of each of those copies and monthly we update our offsite collection. And eventually delete the temporary copies on the hard disks.

We consider one set of our CDs to be the archive. So we want to catalog that -- but it's mirrored by the other two sets.

CATALOGING OUR IMAGES

You can imagine that after all that copying, we don't have much patience with convoluted asset management routines.

Portfolio was easy to add to our production routine. After burning the latest round of images to CD (using a multi-session 9660 format), we just drag the new folder to our Portfolio database.

Portfolio asks us if we want to add any special keywords, but usually we don't. We get by just fine with the year, month and day and some descriptive phrase used in the folder name. It picks that up automatically.

At the same time it reads the basic exposure data from each image and stores that, with a thumbnail, in its database. It also happens to know the volume name of the CD. So if we want to retrieve any image in the database, it can tell us what disc it's on.

Cataloging isn't fast, but it isn't glacial either. A lot depends on the thumbnailing options you choose (their size and whether they are extracted from the image file or generated by Portfolio).

There is some setup involved before you start cataloging but we found it both comprehensive and simple. Exposure data stored in the Exif header of each image, for example, is not captured by default but only after you enable it. Other setup tasks are more along the lines of options (to create keywords from paths or not, for example).

There's a lot more power to this process than we're describing. We were able to easily adapt Portfolio to what we do and get it to do what we wanted done -- that's the important point.

BEYOND DRAG & DROP

A number of programs offer drag and drop cataloging. But they all have to be open. Portfolio doesn't actually have to be running. You can catalog your images from the Finder or Windows Explorer using its contextual menu plug-in. The Add to Portfolio option opens onto a list of all your Portfolio catalogs.

And if you use our recommended folder naming scheme (CCYY.MM.DD Descriptive Name), which turns your trip to Howe Caverns into "2003.01.15 Howe Caverns," Portfolio will, on import, assign "2002," "01," "15," "Howe" and "Caverns" as keywords. It will also ask you if the batch of images should have any additional keywords. Like "New York, stalagmites, stalactites, Buffalo Wings." Using the same trick, you can fill in the Photographer, Location and Event fields for the whole batch.

So keywording can be done automatically during cataloging. That's an efficiency every asset management program should emulate.

EXIF DATA

When you set up your catalog of images to include Exif data, the basic exposure information for each image comes along for the ride. That data includes Aperture, Date Taken, Date Digitized, Exposure Bias Value, Exposure Time, F-Number, Flash (on or off), Focal Length, ISO Speed, Light Source, Metering Mode and Shutter Speed.

Exif headers are more mysterious than they should be. Some camera manufacturers support the standard, well, idiosyncratically. Consequently, Portfolio's support is a work in progress. If the data you want isn't captured, you can try adding a Custom Field for the missing Tag ID Code to the Mappings list.

Finding the Tag ID Code is the trick. Scene Type, for example, is 41729. Flash Energy is 41483. Fortunately, these are all documented for the Exif standard itself in the Tag Support Levels table (page 66 in my copy) of the specification (http://www.kodak.com/global/en/service/tib/tib4317.shtml).

But finding a manufacturer's extra tidbits (maker notes, they're called) can be a real scavenger hunt. Try TsuruZoh Tachibanaya's site (http://www.ba.wakwak.com/~tsuruzoh/Computer/Digicams/exif-e.html) for help.

KEEPING TRACK

Portfolio is unusually flexible for an asset management program. We found it easy to adapt to our habits but we also tried doing business a bit differently.

For example, maybe you find it convenient to keep and catalog your images on your hard disk. Then one day you decide to move the oldest ones to CD.

Oops, isn't the catalog suddenly out of date?

Not if you used Portfolio's FolderSync feature to move them for you. FolderSync keeps your catalog in sync with your images when you use Portfolio to copy, move, rename or delete them. Do it once, not twice. Nice.

So you could use Portfolio to copy images from your digicam, rename them and catalog them simultaneously. Very nice.

FolderSync is essentially a file system that lets you see your images as you organize them. Use FolderSync instead of your operating system to handle routine file maintenance and you get a visual file system.

FINDING THINGS

Portfolio has a QuickFind function that looks like any other Find you've used, except for one thing. No dialog box. Just a handy field in the tool bar. Sort of a Google for your images.

But its searching power, based on the data it's collected on each image, is easily extended to a full dialog window of options. And these searches can be saved for reuse later. You can access your Saved Finds from the tool bar or a floating palette.

Since all the fields in a catalog are indexed, searches are very quick. And you can configure QuickFind to look only at certain fields to make things even faster.

There's one other place you can use the Find command, though.

Portfolio Express is a floating palette you can access in any application. It lets you open any catalog and perform a search. When you find an image, you can simply drag it from the palette and drop it in the application. No need to have Portfolio itself running.

So your collection is available in any application you might need it. Your whole collection. No matter where it's stored.

SORTING

The Find command disappointed us when it came to looking for images with an Exposure Time of less than 1/60 of a second. Portfolio looked at the Exposure Time field as a string of characters. Digits and punctuation, not a number or formula. So it saw both 1/500 and 1/2 as less than 1/60. Simply because 5 and 2 are less than 6.

Same problem sorting. Look over our list at the top of this review and you'll see this is the one thing Portfolio couldn't do.

Too bad because sorting on our test catalog of about 1,800 items was very quick. Using a List view and Customizing it to include whatever fields we wanted to see, we were able to sort our data very quickly. And we could save this view, even set it as the default. If you want to see your latest shots every time you open your catalog (instead of your first shots), you can do that in Portfolio.

WEB PUBLISHING

One of the nicer things Portfolio can do is build Web pages of your images, creating index pages of thumbnails linked to the master images.

It does this using HTML templates that are easy to read, easy to modify and easy to expand with your own templates. Variables in the HTML code are simply marked with percent signs.

Even nicer is that you can preview the various templates with your actual images before bothering to build the final HTML. Previews are surprisingly quick, too. We didn't have to wait for them.

Registered Portfolio users can also download PortWeb at no charge. PortWeb is a Web server plug-in that can dynamically create Web pages from Portfolio catalogs.

COLLECT & PUBLISH

It seems like every feature of Portfolio has some extra little touch.

With its Collect & Publish feature, Portfolio doesn't just copy your images to CD. It adds a free Browser application so whoever pops your CD in their system can preview, search and sort your images via a new catalog built just for the collection on CD. Versions of the Browser are available for Windows, Mac OS 9.

And this isn't just a file viewer. The Browser can sort, customize the display and use the Find power of the full program. It even does slide shows.

OTHER TRICKS

Yes, Portfolio will email your images using your email software. But it emails the original, no resizing, so beware.

A server version, handy when your group grows to between 10 to 20 simultaneous users, makes the product scalable to larger groups. And Portfolio SQL Connect adds high volume access to your catalogs as a front end to Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle 8i databases.

RESOURCES

Extensis provides online support (http://www.extensis.com/support) and a user forum (http://www.extensis.com/cgi-bin/forum/postlist.pl?Cat=&Board=portfolio). We also found Mark Anderson's Unofficial FAQ for Extensis Portfolio (http://www.portfoliofaq.com/pfaq) very helpful, too.

IT'S THE DESIGN

One day we'll run into an asset manager that can adroitly handle Exif data. But on all other counts, Portfolio fit the bill.

And with nothing to learn to tap into this sophisticated cataloging power and nothing to remember to locate and access your images, Portfolio is hard to beat.

You don't even have to be running the program to use it. Which is right up there with getting something for nothing in our book.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Fuji FinePix 3800 -- Long Zoom Bargain

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/F3800/F38A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

Fujifilm produces a wide range of digicam models, from bare-bones entry-level models to a high-end SLR. Their greatest success has been in creating good-quality midrange cameras that sell at very competitive prices. The FinePix 2800 Zoom was one of the best deals on the market last year with a 6x zoom lens and 2-megapixel CCD for only $399. Now, the FinePix 3800 goes a step further with a 3.2-megapixel CCD for only $50 more. Plus, the 3800 has an Aperture Priority exposure mode and a longer exposure time (maximum three seconds). It also accepts the new xD-Picture Card. Just like the 2800 before it, the 3800 offers excellent value for the money.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Almost a mirror image of the FinePix 2800, the FinePix 3800 updates the model with a larger CCD, partial manual exposure control and a slightly improved user interface. This new model also uses the new xD-Picture Card memory format, rather than the SmartMedia of its predecessor. To accommodate the camera's 6x zoom lens, the 3800's body is slightly bulky, but still compact compared to many long-zoom digicams. Highly portable and lightweight, the 3800 will definitely come along for the ride. Too large for a standard shirt pocket, the 3800 should fit into larger coat pockets and purses and comes with a shoulder strap to make carrying it easier. Measuring 3.9x3.0x2.7 inches, the 3800 weighs 10 ounces (with batteries and xD-Picture Card) and fits well in one hand. A substantial handgrip provides a very firm hold, nicely balancing out the weight of the lens barrel. The 3800 offers a 3.2-megapixel CCD, which delivers clear, sharp images as large as 2048x1536 pixels, suitable for printing as large as 8x10 inches with great detail.

The 3800's Fujinon 6x, 6-36mm lens is the equivalent of a 38-228mm zoom on a 35mm camera. A small, plastic lens cap protects the lens when not in use and tethers to the camera so you don't have to worry about losing it. The telescoping lens extends about an inch from the camera when powered on and promptly retracts when the camera is shut off. Apertures range from f2.8 to f8.2 and can be manually set through the Record menu (in Manual mode only). Focus remains under automatic control at all times, with a focal range from 2.6 feet to infinity in normal mode and from 3.9 to 31.5 inches in Macro mode. In addition to the 6x optical zoom, the 3800 also offers as much as 2.5x digital enlargement, depending on the image size selected. However, digital zoom compromises image quality, simply enlarging the center pixels of the CCD. Packaged with the 3800 is a lens adapter ring, which screws into filter threads on the inside lip of the lens barrel. The ring protects the lens when it's extended and accommodates Fuji's wide-angle, telephoto and macro lens adapters, which extend the camera's zoom capabilities. The 3800 offers both a TTL electronic optical viewfinder and a 1.8-inch, D-TFT color LCD monitor. The viewfinder display switches between the EVF and LCD monitor via a button on the rear panel, which means that the complete display is available on the EVF, including the settings menus. The viewfinder's information display reports various camera settings and an optional framing guide display divides the image into thirds horizontally and vertically for more accurate framing.

Though the camera offers Automatic and Manual exposure modes, exposure control is mainly automatic. The Mode dial on top of the camera puts the camera into Manual, Scene, Auto or Movie modes. Auto mode determines the entire exposure automatically, with the user able to adjust the zoom, flash mode and image size and quality settings only. Manual exposure mode expands user options to include white balance, exposure compensation, sharpness, flash power and aperture settings. Shutter speeds range from 1/1500 to three seconds, but are not reported on the LCD display. The Aperture Priority option under the settings menu offers three apertures and an Auto setting. The 3800 uses a 64-zone metering system to determine exposure, placing the greatest emphasis on the center portion of the image area. Light sensitivity is rated as equivalent to ISO 100 and is not adjustable. When shooting in Manual exposure mode, exposure compensation is adjustable from -2.1 to +1.5 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments. White Balance offers seven settings, including Auto, Daylight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent and Incandescent. The 3800's Scene mode includes Portrait, Scene (Landscape), Sport and Night Scene modes.

The 3800's built-in, pop-up flash operates in one of five modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed and Slow Synchro. Through the settings menu, flash power is adjustable from -0.6 to +0.6 EV values in one-third-step increments. For self-portraits or those times when pressing the shutter button might result in camera movement, the 3800 features a Self-Timer that delays the shutter release until 10 seconds after the shutter button is fully pressed. The 3800 can also capture movies with sound for a maximum of 200 seconds at the smaller resolution setting or 60 seconds at higher resolution, while in Movie capture mode. Movie files are saved in the Motion JPEG format, at either 320x240 or 160x120 pixels. A Voice Caption option allows you to record as much as 30 seconds of audio to attach to an image, post-capture. Continuous Shooting mode captures as many as two images at approximately 0.5-second intervals (depending on resolution settings and memory card space).

Images captured by the 3800 are saved to xD-Picture Cards (a 16-MB card is included). In addition to the 2048x1536-pixel resolution size, the 3800 also offers 1600x1200, 1280x960 and 640x480-pixel resolutions. Two JPEG compression ratios are available, including Fine and Normal. The Playback menu offers DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) settings for printing images on a compatible device. A USB cable and software CD accompany the camera, allowing for high-speed connection to a computer. The software CD contains Fuji's FinePix Viewer software, which organizes and displays downloaded images and provides printing and minor editing capabilities. Windows users can take advantage of PictureHello, which turns the 3800 into a videoconferencing tool.

The 3800 is powered by four AA batteries (a set of alkaline cells is included). An AC adapter is also a separate accessory, but helpful for saving battery power while reviewing and downloading images or when using the 3800 as a webcam. Unless you're taking advantage of the camera's webcam capability though, rechargeable batteries would eliminate the need for the AC adapter.

TEST RESULTS

The 3800 turned in a pretty good performance overall, particularly for such an affordably-priced model with a long-ratio zoom lens. White balance and color were really excellent under all conditions except household incandescent lighting and resolution was very good as well. Macro performance was only average and low light performance was a bit lower than average, but for everyday picture taking, the 3800 looks like a great choice.

Color: Color was excellent in my testing, a hallmark of Fuji digicams. Like many Fuji cameras, its white balance system struggled with the strong yellowish cast of the household incandescent lighting in my Indoor Portrait test.

Exposure: Exposure was generally pretty accurate, requiring only the usual amount of exposure compensation on both the Outdoor and Indoor Portrait tests. Other than these two shots, the default exposure was pretty accurate, across all my test subjects. The camera's default contrast was rather high though, causing it to lose detail pretty quickly in strong highlights under contrasty lighting conditions. Flash exposure was a little variable, low in the indoor portrait setup, but good otherwise, with an effective range of about 11 feet.

Resolution/Sharpness: Artifacts in the test patterns appeared at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height vertically and as low as 600 lines horizontally. I found strong detail out to at least 1,050 lines horizontally and about 1,000 lines vertically, reasonable numbers for a 3-megapixel camera. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,250 lines.

Night Shots: Night Scene mode extends the 3800's shutter-speed range to a maximum of three seconds, allowing it to capture clear, bright images at light levels as low as 1 foot-candle. The autofocus system also seemed to work acceptably at these light levels, a happy surprise. Color balance in this test was slightly warm, but noise was quite low.

Close-Ups: Macro performance was average, capturing a slightly large minimum area of 4.06x3.04 inches. Resolution was high, with strong, well-defined detail. There was only a little softness in the corners, but barrel distortion was a bit high.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The electronic "optical" viewfinder was a little tight, showing approximately 90 percent of the frame at wide-angle and about 93 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor turned in the same numbers, since it shows essentially the same view.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion was quite high at wide-angle, measuring approximately 1.15 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared a little better, measuring 0.62 percent pincushion distortion, but that's still higher than average. Long-ratio zoom lenses tend to have more distortion at the ends of their range, so the 3800 perhaps deserves a little grace. Chromatic aberration was low, showing only about three or four faint pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. The only other distortion I noticed throughout testing was some slight corner softness, but it did not extend far into the image area.

Battery Life: Battery life was excellent, among the best I've seen among cameras powered by four AA cells. Worst-case runtime (in capture mode with the LCD lit) was nearly four hours with a set of AA cells with true 1600 mAh capacity. I always recommend buying at least two sets of high-capacity AA batteries and a charger, but the 3800 is so thrifty in its power usage that you may seldom need to break out the second set.

CONCLUSION

The previous Fuji FinePix 2800 was an exceptional value for the money and the updated 3800 sweetens the deal. The 3800's 3.2-megapixel CCD is a welcome improvement, providing great image quality for a budget-priced digicam and its 6x optical zoom is excellent for distant subjects. Though it lacks enthusiast features such as full manual exposure options, the 3800 does feature an adjustable aperture setting, flash intensity and a selection of preset scene modes. For everyday outdoor shooting, the 3800 does very well and really sets the benchmark for an affordable long-zoom digicam. All in all, a nice feature set, a long lens and very good picture quality at a bargain price.

Return to Topics.

Guest Spot: Debugging System Comparisons Revisited

By CHRIS RUSS

Reindeer Graphics, Inc.

( cruss@reindeergraphics.com)

(In our last issue, cross-platform software author Chris Russ took Rob Galbraith to task for not isolating the effect of disk I/O speed in his tests of professional photo software running on both Macintosh and Windows (http://www.robgalbraith.com/diginews/2003-01/2003_01_07_macpc.html). In response, Rob re-ran his tests with a faster controller and hard disk on the Mac platform and found ... no difference. The results in, Chris graciously wrote us the note below, sampling the culinary possibilities offered by Corvus Brachyrhynchos (common crow, to the non-ornithologists among us). -- Dave)

THE 90-10 RULE

When programming, there is a tendency to write code that is "just good enough." This is true for several reasons. One, it works. Two, there is tremendous happiness that follows getting it done and great revulsion at going back to it. Three, bosses want you to be working on the next big thing and to "just ship it." The software might be a little slow, but hey, next year's machine will be faster. Why worry?

Believe me, I know. I've been there. Then someone important (be it a suit or a customer) comes along and says "That's too slow!" Enter the 90-10 rule. It works something like this: The computer spends 90 percent of its time running 10 percent of the code. If you speed up the right 10 percent, you'll get most of the benefit. The challenge is in identifying the right 10 percent.

In the last issue, I'd suggested that 10 percent in Rob Galbraith's tests of image processing tasks was the disk subsystem rather than the speed of the CPU.

DISK-BOUND OR NOT DISK-BOUND?

In the last two weeks, Rob has run a comprehensive set of experiments against his original testing suite with a faster controller and hard drive (partitioned as I recommended) and came up with some surprising results (http://www.robgalbraith.com/diginews/2003-02/2003_02_05_macpc2.html).

The results demonstrate, specifically, that the only things sped up with a faster drive are file copying (which seems logical) and some of the multitasking tests (up to three percent) -- but not the file conversion tests or CompactFlash card access.

After expressing strong opinions about the tests being disk bound, I found these results surprising. But convincing.

I was, as Rob's tests show, pretty far off the mark. (You know, it should have been disk-bound! Rats!) But Rob was absolutely right in his contention that the problem isn't the disk drive.

It wasn't history states, either. In his tests, Rob had set Photoshop to keep just one history state to minimize disk access.

MEGAHERTZ?

So what is the problem?

I still don't think it is just the speed of the CPU (yes, the great "Megahertz Myth" argument). And Rob can prove (with really convincing numbers) that it certainly isn't the disk drive.

THE SMOKING GUN

A clue to the problem can be found in the new release of MacBibble, Eric Hyman's RAW imaging processing program for the Macintosh (and companion to Bibble, the Windows equivalent).

Eric rewrote his code for version 3.0, achieving nearly a 10x speed improvement over assorted manufacturers' code. Not 10 percent, but 10 times, to the point that it is at least comparable to code running under Windows (http://www.bibblelabs.com/bibble/macnews.thtml#Speed).

So it appears that the problem lies in the code itself.

ONE MORE THING

Finally, I want to clarify my characterization of the PCs Rob used as "tricked out machines."

All were in fact off-the-shelf units, the Dell decidedly so. No overclocking was involved.

In calling them "tricked out," I was referring to the Alienware machine, with its 3.06 GHz CPU (http://www.alienware.com). While they are technically "off the shelf" computers, Alienware's whole raison d'etre is to make the Ultimate Gaming Machine. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if someone loaned one to me indefinitely....

I'll eat that crow now. Not too many feathers and plenty of horseradish on the side (http://www.quinion.com/words/articles/eatcrow.htm).

THE MORAL

There are some morals to this story:

Return to Topics.

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:

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: Use a Sun Pole

Getting acquainted with a Fuji FinePix 3800 (reviewed above) the other day, we noticed it shipped with a lens shade. Not many digicams do.

The small but hard silver plastic cone screws into the bezel around the protruding lens. It shades it from the sun and protects it from bumps, too. A great idea.

The rest of us are not quite doomed, though. Remember a simple trick and most of the time you can improvise a lens shade that's just as effective.

The problem lens shades are designed to solve is the flare that washes out your image when sunlight hits the lens directly. To get the best contrast when shooting into the sun, you have to keep the sun from hitting the lens.

And that's the simple trick. Shade the lens.

We've tried to train our left hand to hover just above the lens, casting its protective shadow over the glass. But we've never been able to tell if we were really shading the lens or blocking it or even anywhere near it.

In desperation, one day, we leaned against a street light -- and then it hit us. Put the camera in the shadow of any utility pole. Instantly, you have a lens shade.

Of course, other upright objects will do in a pinch (including most two-legged companions). But the concept is the same. To shoot into the sun, stand in some shade. It's the same as having a lens shade.

The only thing missing is the brand name.

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 Minolta DiMAGE F100 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8bb52

Visit the Compare Camera Prices Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee86028

Ronni asks about printing/pixels at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee90d59/0

Alastair asks about action shots at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee90c58/0

Visit the Toshiba Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6f78b

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Just for Fun: Tender Loving ... Contact!

We've been moonlighting. After Pops was transferred to a physical rehab unit recently, we started editing a Web site for friends and family to keep up on his progress.

While he was getting comfortable in his new digs, we idly scanned the laminated brochure attached to his bedside table. On the back page we read an invitation from Chicago-based TLContact.com (http://www.tlcontact.com) to set up a CarePage on their site devoted to our patient's progress -- at no charge.

The service was inspired by the Langshur family's use of the Web to keep their loved ones updated on the status of their first child Matthew. They used the Web to save themselves from having to phone everyone with updates on Matthew's condition and eventual release from the hospital.

Now anyone can use the service to broadcast news about births, operations, you name it. The hospital itself doesn't have to participate in the program, although some institutions are taking advantage of this unique approach to care-giving by branding their own version.

Despite our penchant to publish, we had been derelict when it came to updating everyone on Pops' situation. We didn't have the time or energy to do the job justice. And, frankly, we didn't think we had the time to manage a CarePage either.

But one night, on a lark, we set one up.

It was easy. We entered some contact information (visiting hours, phone number to the room, etc.) and posted an update on his condition in an easily-edited form like those you use to send Web-based email.

But the fun part was uploading a picture of him. TLContact provides a Photo Gallery for 12 images (and they'll even help you digitize them if you can't do it yourself).

So in five minutes we had a picture of Pops running alongside an update on his condition on a site of his own. We just had to tell everyone about it. TLContact.com makes that easy by sending you an email with logon instructions (including any password you assign) which you, in turn, can forward to anyone you'd like to admit to the site.

We forwarded the email to a few friends just to see what would happen.

They visited, that's what, and left notes, too. Under the Update and Photo, the latest Messages are displayed. And, as the Manager of the CarePage, we could peek at the Guest Book to see who had visited and how many times.

The only catch is that the hospital wasn't wired to the Web. So every day we printed out the new Messages and the Guest Book for Pops to see. If we posted new pictures, we printed the Gallery out, too.

Taking pictures at the hospital requires some sensitivity, of course. Pops had a private room and spent a good deal of the day in a gym, but no one likes to be seen without their hair combed. If there's any question about the appropriateness of shooting, just ask for permission.

Posting pictures, in contrast, was easy. We took a few shots every now and then, resized them to 640x480 and used the site's Browse button to locate them on our hard disk for automatic uploading. After they were on the site, we could add a caption, visible whenever a picture in the Gallery was clicked on for enlargement.

Everything was very, very easy to use. And performed flawlessly. A nice design. Well implemented.

As much as we enjoyed using the service, our family and friends enjoyed it even more. They were able to see pictures of the facility and Pops no matter what time zone they inhabited and to get detailed updates on his progress without trying to catch one of us on the phone. They also got his direct phone number and best times to call. And they could even send a message to him.

Every time we updated the site, they were automatically notified and could drop by to see what was new.

And Pops really enjoyed the daily encouragement. But, then, he always did love an audience.

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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: Of Pixels & Prints

I just purchased my first digital camera. It is a Fuji FinePix S602Z which is a 3.1 megapixel camera. Please tell me which pixel settings are best when you want to print good 4x6, 5x7 and 8x10 pictures.

The next thing I do not understand is that the picture's size changes with the number of pixels used when taking a picture. After downloading my pictures to my computer, some of the software that I am using makes it difficult to re-size pictures to a standard size format.

-- Roy & Carolyn

(First, shoot at the highest uninterpolated resolution your digicam offers -- so avoid the 602's interpolated 6-megapixel setting. Next, check your printer for its recommended pixel-per-inch setting. For our dye sub printers, we usually use between 200-300 pixels per inch, depending on the model. For our inkjets (even with 1440 dpi resolution), we like 150-200 ppi. Finally, set the number of pixels per inch in your image editing program (look for an Image Size command) depending on what printer you are using. That's the largest size print you can make. Resample down (and resharpen) for smaller sizes. -- Editor)

RE: Blink

How do I go about getting rid of red eye?

-- Beck

(Ah, a favorite subject. Take a look in the Archive and Index (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/) for the whole story (titled "Red Eye") but essentially you have two choices: 1) Use off-camera flash, not the built-in flash. 2) Use a paint brush in your image editor set to desaturate the color and paint over the red. Make the brush as big as the pupil and you can do that in two clicks. And Dave recommends trying your digicam's Red Eye Reduction flash mode. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

An anonymous San Francisco amateur photographer (http://www.sfgate.com) sent his Nikon 880 to NASA in Houston after capturing a shot of the space shuttle Columbia as it passed over California shortly before disintegrating over Texas. The four to six second exposure shows a mysterious purple streak (possibly lightning) hitting the shuttle at 5:33 a.m. Saturday.


The Language of Photography (http://www.ekcsm.org) is a series of eight 30-minute PBS broadcasts covering the "visual language of photography."


Apple (http://www.apple.com) released updates to iPhoto, iMovie" and iDVD, integrating the components of its iLife suite of imaging applications. Shortly after Happicon (http://homepage.mac.com/littlestar) released iFix* to tidy up some buttons and window shadows in both iPhoto and iMovie.


Peter iNova has published The Sony Advanced Cyber-shot eBook, a ten-chapter exploration of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F707 and DSC-F717 digicams and related accessories. Version 5.0 of Mastering Nikon Compact Digital Cameras by Peter iNova upgrades the Nikon eBook with two new chapters covering the Coolpix 4500 and Coolpix 5700. See the Deal above to order.


Fuji (http://www.fujifilmmall.com) has introduced a 256-MB xD-Picture Card for digicams. The new 256-MB card, which began shipping in January, can store up to 444 digital images, captured at 3 megapixels and recorded at normal resolution (average file size of 590KB).


Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com) has introduced the $249.99 i950 photo printer with a resolution of 4800x1200 dpi and an ink droplet size of two-picoliters for better photo printing in the mid-range tones.


Pictographics (http://www.picto.com) has released inCamera plug-in [MW] for $149.95, a digicam and scanner ICC profiling plug-in for Photoshop based on profiling technology previously available in their standalone applications inCamera Professional and ColorSynergy. inCamera plug-in includes a User Guide that explains how to create and use ICC input profiles in a Photoshop color managed workflow.


The Camera & Imaging Products Association has announced PictBridge (http://www.cipa.jp/pictbridge/) as "an industry standard enabling a range of digital photo solutions, including the direct printing of photos from a digital still camera without the need to use a PC."


Kartolina Photo 1.5 [M] (http://ezpzapps.com/kartolina) makes greeting cards from digital photos and automatically sends them via AOL, Outlook Express, Eudora and Entourage.


For three out of five professional photographers in the U.S., digital photography is creating business opportunities they did not have shooting film, according to a survey conducted by Kodak Professional (http://www.kodak.com/go/professional). Of those generating new revenue through digital photography, 61 percent said growth occurred immediately while 31 percent said they reaped benefits within the first 12 months.


Bibble Labs (http://www.bibblelabs.com) has updated MacBibble [M] to version 3.0, including G4-optimized multithreaded code, Photoshop 7 support and support for RAW files from Fuji, Kodak, Olympus and Nikon digicams.


The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has released ColorWasher [W], a $49.95 Photoshop-compatible plug-in for correcting the colors, contrast and exposure of photos with four automatic methods, a semi-automatic sample area feature, and 12 split view modes.


Extensis (http://www.extensis.com) released Portfolio 6.1 for OS X for $199.95.


Adobe released the AltiVecCore Update plug-in for Photoshop 7 (http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=2087), which "enhances the reliability of Adobe Photoshop 7.0.x software running on a Mac OS X system that uses the G4 processor."


The $19.95 Photo to Movie 1.1.1 [M] (http://lqgraphics.com) zooms and pans over still photos generating QuickTime or DV Stream files.

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Signoff

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Happy snapping!

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

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