The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 5, Number 6 21 March 2003

Copyright 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 93rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We look at a compressible file format that can enlarge 1200 percent before Dave takes Canon's ESO-10D for a spin. Then we review a book everyone with Elements should grab before awarding the Oscar somebody did grab.


TOPICS

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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 54,800 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Celartem's Vector Format for Zooming

"The photographer in Blow-Up, who is not a philosopher, wants to see things more closely. But he discovers that, in enlarging too much, the object itself decomposes and disappears."

So Michelangelo Antonioni once explained the problem. In his movie, a photographer prints a set of 16x20s. He sees some strange things. So he photographs the prints and blows them up again. One key image gets blown up yet again. In the process, he discovers a crime.

Of course, in real life that technique only gets you an enlargement of grain -- not more information. And even more so in digital imaging. In "enlarging too much," the image disintegrates into pixels.

UPSAMPLING

Why do we want to enlarge an image? It's certainly large enough when we look at it on our monitor. Why larger? Ah, to have enough pixels to print it.

When you Print, suddenly your image turns into a postage stamp just when you need a postcard.

So you find Image Size in your image editor, change the size from 2x3 to 4x6 and resample the image, creating quite a few more pixels, a larger file and a bigger print.

Except it doesn't look very good. You can see the pixels, blotches of color, diagonals that look like stair steps.

Some image editors offer several options for calculating just how they go about adding the extra pixels. But generally, they are just different ways of guessing what they should be. Filling in the blanks.

Once you snap the shutter, you can't add information. You can't add detail. You can only spread it thinner. Until it "decomposes and disappears."

PIXELS & VECTORS

What if you don't think of your image as a collection of pixels in rows and columns but as a mathematical description of pixels. Genuine Fractals (http://www.lizardtech.com) did just that years ago with its popular $159 Print Pro plug-in to resize images saved in its own proprietary STN vector format.

In the days when some curmudgeons thought digicams didn't quite have the resolution for high quality four-color printing, Genuine Fractals Print Pro was the photographer's friend. It made it possible to resize images to the requirements of the prepress gatekeepers.

It works quite well, as Imaging Resource's review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/GF/GF.HTM) some time ago showed. And Lizard Tech even offers an OS X version now. You can learn about the technology behind it online, too (http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/Edu/Fractal/Fgeom.html).

Also of interest is the $69 S-Spline from the Dutch company Shortcut (http://www.shortcut.nl). S-Spline runs under Windows and both Mac OS 9 and OS X. A live preview shows you the result from any of several different enlargement algorithms and the Pro version even lets you tweak S-Spline's proprietary method.

But for the past few months, we've been playing with a product that promises both resizing to 1200 percent and lossless compression: Celartem's $120 VFZ (http://www.celartem.com).

CELARTEM

Celartem's name is derived from the Latin saying, "Ars est celare artem." The trick is to hide the trick. You don't go up to a work of art and say, "Gee, how'd they do that, Marge?" You go up to a work of art and say, "Wow. Beautiful." And somebody behind you says, "Sssshhhh!"

The company was established in 1996 to "develop and provide advanced technology and services for archiving, distribution and rights management of high-quality digital images."

CEO Jiro Shindo, a former professor of art history at the Kyoto Art Institute in Japan, developed Celartem's Vector Format for Zooming. He was researching ways to optimize the management and archiving of high-quality digital images for the art museum market, whose collections were then just beginning to be digitized.

Shindo teamed up with The Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France at the Louvre Museum in Paris to devise a new file format compatible with JPEG, TIFF and BMP formats. We first saw their efforts at Seybold San Francisco in 2000. They were zooming in on the Mona Lisa's wrinkles.

The company has since released a free VFZ viewer, a standalone application and plug-ins to read VFZ files in Photoshop, QuarkXPress and Acrobat Reader. Versions are available for both Macintosh (but not OS X) and Windows platforms. The company also hopes to incorporate VFZ chips into digicams, printers and other digital input/output devices. But software sales is the present focus of their efforts.

Not long ago, the company made news by acquiring Extensis (http://www.extensis.com).

ABOUT VFZ

VFZ uses a combination of pixel and vector information to reformat images with "zero quality loss" up to 1200 percent. A file saved in VFZ format is also completely reversible to its original JPEG or TIFF format while enjoying up to two-thirds compression of the original image size.

Even at that reduced storage size, the file contains six quality levels, providing thumbnails as well as enlargements. There's no need for separate email, Web, screen and print versions of your images -- you can have one source with multiple uses.

In short, the format adds high-quality digital imaging archiving to the resizing game.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Windows requirements are a Celeron 500-Mhz or faster processor, Windows 98SE/NT4.0/2000 or later, 128-MB RAM (with 256-MB recommended), 1.5-MB disk space and a 24-bit color display. That's all fairly standard stuff.

Macintosh requirements differ only in requiring at least a G3 processor and Mac OS 8.5 or later. No version for OS X has been released.

OPENING AN IMAGE

Well, here's the fun part.

VFZoom can open any file supported by QuickTime (including JPEG, TIFF, etc.). But it doesn't simply open the file. It converts it to VFZ on the fly. And it takes no more time to convert than to open the file. Very quick.

QUALITY LEVELS

So what are you looking at when VFZoom displays your image?

You can specify just which of the six quality levels to display by using Change Level on the Tool option of the menu bar. There's also a slider in a small navigation pane to the left of the image.

Proof Level (Level 0) and Levels 1 through 5 are available. Level 5 displays the highest quality.

Proof Level holds less than 10 percent of the original image data. Celartem suggests using Level 1 and below for low resolution proofing. Level 3, with about 35 percent of the original data, is a "good quality level for printing and normal use." Including display on the Web.

The difference between Level 4, Level 5 and the original can be difficult to distinguish, the company said, "because the differences in the data are in a high-frequency band." Archive masters at Level 5, which is fully reversible and suitable for professional print quality.

Switching quality levels was very quick, too.

LOSSLESS COMPRESSION

A VFZ file is roughly 60 percent the size of an original TIFF image. VFZ files compare well to high-resolution, uncompressed TIFFs, but can easily be larger than digicam JPEGs.

A 3040x2008-pixel, 17.8-MB TIFF image might typically yield an 11.1-MB VFZ file.

We cropped an image from a four-megapixel camera into a 339x272-pixel, 110,274-byte JPEG to test file sizes. The proof file, exported at the same size, was 37,964 bytes. The Level 3 file, recommended for normal use, was 138,365 bytes. The highest quality Level 5 file was 207,801 bytes.

PFZ

When you export an image, you have three output choices. VFZ and TIFF are two of them. But PFZ -- or Protected VFZ -- is the third. PFZ asks for a username and a password which it stores with the image, so only someone who knows both can open it.

ZOOMING ALONG

Celartem promises 1200 percent enlargement without loss of quality. Not only detail but color, as well. But they warn that low resolution images will simply magnify low resolution. Capturing images at a resolution of 1000 ppi or higher put the zooming capabilities of VFZ to work, they said.

Which is not saying much, really. If you can see everything at 100 percent, certainly enlarging to 1200 isn't going to reveal more. It just makes it bigger (one pixel covers, say, four screen pixels instead of one). But if you can't see everything at 100 percent (the monitor is subsampling the image), enlarging will reveal more, certainly. Suggesting you scan at 1000 ppi means you won't see everything when displaying the image at 100 percent on a 72-dpi or 96-dpi monitor, of course.

The real test is whether enlarging the VFZ file to 1200 percent looks better than resizing to 1200 percent in your image editor. You can do that 1200 percent in steps (as Adobe has recommended in the past), so no leap is too great to calculate a reasonable result. But no matter how you do it, you want the method that creates the fewest artifacts.

So we did a Bicubic enlargement of our little image in Photoshop and compared the two. Photoshop did fine, even in one gulp. We saw no significant difference between the two images in either color or sharpness. We tried it again but on a different image. Same difference.

This, incidentally, is not the same as merely using Photoshop's zoom tool to enlarge the screen image to 1200 percent. That's a little like trying to serve hamburger as steak.

CONCLUSION

We were looking forward to working with the VFZ format. Its advantages are compelling: a single format for any resolution plus lossless compression. And with Extensis on board, we may be seeing more of it.

But the tools to use it still seem adolescent. In fact, the Photoshop plug-in is still just a beta and only imports. And nothing runs under OS X. Development seems to have stopped in 2001.

Nor could we justify it on quality. It offered no better detail than our Photoshop enlargements of digicam files.

So VFZ strikes us as a good idea that is languishing. Or have we looked so closely we can't see it anymore?

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon EOS-10D -- Breaking Barriers

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E10D/E10DA.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

Look along the sidelines at any pro sports event and the array of big, white Canon lenses will speak volumes about the company's presence and reputation in the world of professional photography. At the Spring 2000 PMA show, Canon announced the EOS-D30, their first digital SLR, which turned the Digital SLR market on its ear with excellent features, image quality and a surprisingly aggressive price.

Now Canon has done it again, updating last year's already affordable D60 SLR with the new EOS-10D, in the process dropping the price to an announced suggested retail price of $1,999. I'm told that that translates into a street price of $1,499, an astonishing price for a camera with the 10D's capabilities and one that will put "no excuses" digital photography into the hands of thousands more photographers.

While the EOS-10D has roughly the same six-megapixel resolution as the D60, there are so many improvements to so many aspects of camera performance and image quality, that I suspect even some D60 owners will be tempted to upgrade. Or to simply purchase a 10D to have a second body. All in all, an impressive upgrade to an already excellent camera and one that's accompanied by an eye-popping price drop!

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

Canon's EOS-D60 digital SLR was arguably one of the most in-demand digital cameras throughout all of 2002. Consequently, it was a great surprise to many of us (myself included) when dealers began running out of them in early 2003 and word came down it was no longer being manufactured.

Now we know why. Not content to rest on its laurels, Canon had something even better up its corporate sleeve. What's most impressive about the EOS-10D though (apart from the astonishing $700 drop in retail price relative to the D60) is the sheer number and scope of the improvements that Canon has made.

Apart from the specifications of pixel count and sensor size, shutter speed and basic metering system, there's hardly an aspect of camera operation that hasn't been significantly improved. The new model offers the same excellent exposure control and image quality (actually, better image quality), but with an improved, seven-point autofocus system, updated electronics, a faster processing chip, improved signal processing algorithms to reduce noise and improve color fidelity, improved autofocus performance, multiple color space capability, direct printing capability and much more. The camera body itself looks much the same as the D60, but now sports magnesium-alloy body panels and an enhanced control layout. The camera's 6.3-megapixel CMOS sensor captures the same maximum resolution of 3072x2048 pixels, with two JPEG compression levels and a RAW format, but image quality appears to have been stepped up another notch. Exposure control is very similar to the previous D60, with the addition of a new "Flash Off" shooting mode and the EOS 10D continues to operate and feel much like its 35mm EOS cousins.

Like the D30 and D60, the EOS 10D features Canon's standard EF lens mount, which accommodates a host of lenses. Aperture and focal ranges will vary with the lens in use, but the camera itself has an improved autofocus system that uses a seven-point array for more accurate focus (as opposed to the D60's three-point AF system).

Seven AF points are laid out in a cross pattern in the viewfinder display and the camera assesses all seven points to determine the proximity of the subject and consequently the best point to use in determining focus. The same One-Shot and AI Servo AF modes are available, the latter adjusting focus continuously for moving subjects and the 10D's AF system is considerably more nimble than that in the D60 and the D30 before it. The EOS 10D offers what Canon terms "Predictive AF," which basically tracks the rate at which a subject is approaching or receding from the camera and accurately focuses based on the subject's predicted position. (A feature that sports photographers will no doubt appreciate.) An AI Focus AF mode switches back and forth between One Shot and AI Servo AF modes, depending on whether or not the subject is moving. Additionally, you have the ability to manually select one of the seven AF points as the controlling focus point or leave the area selection under automatic control.

The EOS 10D offers a TTL optical viewfinder, which displays an impressive amount of exposure information. The 1.8-inch, rear-panel, color LCD monitor is for image review and menu display only. The EOS 10D also features a small status display panel on its top panel, which reports a large number of camera settings as well.

Exposure control is exceptional, with a full range of modes to choose from. Basic exposure modes include full Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual and Auto Depth of Field modes. Auto Depth of Field mode is quite useful, in that it intelligently uses the seven AF points to determine the nearest and most distant points of the subject. It uses that information to get the best depth of field while using the fastest shutter speed possible.

Within what Canon calls the Image Zone, are a handful of preset scene modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Close-up (Macro), Sports, Night Portrait and Flash Off. The newest addition here is the Flash Off mode, which essentially disables the flash but leaves exposure under automatic control. With these scene modes, the 10D becomes approachable for even rank amateurs.

Shutter speeds on the EOS 10D range from 1/4000 to 30 seconds, with a Bulb mode available in Manual mode for shutter times as long as 999 seconds. Metering modes include Evaluative (can link to any AF point), Partial and Center-Weighted. The camera's Exposure Compensation function increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in either 1/2 or 1/3-step increments. The EOS 10D also features Auto Exposure Bracketing, ISO values from 100 to 3,200 and AE lock.

White balance options include six presets, an Auto setting, Custom setting (manual adjustment) and a Kelvin temperature setting with a range from 2,800 to 10,000 degrees Kelvin. You can also bracket white balance through an LCD menu option. Color space options include sRGB and Adobe RGB and the Parameters setting lets you adjust contrast, saturation, sharpness and color tone.

The EOS 10D has a Self-Timer mode, which provides a (fixed) 10-second delay after the Shutter button is pressed before the shutter actually opens. You can also trip the shutter remotely with the optional wired remote control, which plugs directly into the camera body. A Continuous Shooting mode captures a maximum of nine frames at approximately three frames per second, while the Shutter button is held down. In addition to the top-mounted external flash hot shoe and PC sync terminal, the EOS 10D has a built-in, pop-up flash with Redeye Reduction and Slow Sync settings. A Flash Exposure Compensation function controls the flash exposure and a Flash Exposure Bracketing option works similarly to the normal Auto Exposure Bracketing.

Images are stored on CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards and it's compatible with IBM MicroDrives. (The 10D also supports FAT 32 directory structures, allowing it to use memory cards over 2-GB in size.) The camera doesn't come with a memory card, so I highly recommend at least a 128-MB card for starters. Really though, plan on at least a 512-MB, given the camera's high resolution and handy RAW+JPEG file format.

A USB cable connects the camera to a computer and accompanying software CDs feature Canon's EOS DIGITAL Solution Disk software and a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0. The Canon software is required for processing the camera's RAW files, including those saved with an embedded JPEG image. The EOS 10D has a Video Out jack and includes a cable for connecting to a television set. For power, the EOS 10D uses a Canon BP-511 battery pack and comes with one battery and a charger.

CMOS

Canon's EOS 10D is now the third high-end digital camera we've seen using CMOS technology and it is likely that the price advantage it has over its rivals (the Nikon D100, Fuji S2 Pro and Sigma SD9) is in large part due to the choice of the CMOS image sensor. (Not to mention Canon's in-house semiconductor fabrication capability.) The image sensor in the EOS 10D is only slightly smaller than those used in these two cameras and significantly bigger than the sensors used in consumer cameras, as can be seen in the comparison photo above, which shows the CCD sensor from Canon's PowerShot S20 digital camera alongside the CMOS sensor from the original D30.

Canon has continued to be fairly closed-mouthed about its CMOS sensor technology, but has revealed a few details. As with other Active-Pixel CMOS sensors, Canon's does in fact have a signal amplifier located at each pixel site. More intriguing though, is that they also claim to have an A/D (analog to digital) converter at each individual pixel site as well. If so, then it must be a very different sort of A/D than is normally used with CCDs, as those circuits are quite complex and space-consuming. I keep expecting that we'll hear more details as Canon's patent position is solidified, but so far, not much information has been forthcoming.

It does seem though, that there's been some genuine innovation in Canon's back labs. It's unusual these days to see a company moving toward vertical integration, developing component technology in-house rather than farming it out to specialist companies. Canon has been moving strongly in the opposite direction, bringing not only sensor technology in-house, but the processing circuitry as well, with their much-vaunted DIGIC chip. Based on the pricing of the 10D, it does appear that there's been some cost advantage in this approach.

SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES

Overall, the EOS-10D is a pretty fast camera. Its roughly three fps in continuous mode is equivalent to competing SLRs and shutter lag is very good. The nine-frame buffer memory is great for capturing rapid action and should prove more than adequate in all but the most intensive sports photography applications.

As with the D60 before it, though, I was puzzled by how quickly the 10D seemed to process each shot after its buffer filled (e.g., after the first nine shots), but how long it took to completely clear the buffer. If it was snapping additional images every second or so, how could it take 28 to 85 seconds for the buffer to empty completely? Out of curiosity, I experimented with much longer run lengths and discovered that the 10D apparently has two buffers (just like the D60). After the first buffer fills, shooting proceeds at a somewhat slower pace for some number of shots (until the second buffer fills?), after which cycle times increase pretty dramatically.

Unlike the D60 though, I didn't observe this behavior in single-shot mode. After the first nine shots that filled the main buffer memory, the cycle time between shots fluctuated wildly, ranging from 0.61 to 4.03 seconds.

I'm not sure how to interpret these results, but the bottom line is a bit more graceful degradation of cycle time once you get past the limits of the primary buffer memory than is usually the case.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The EOS-10D turned in a nearly flawless color performance. Its photos were just about spot-on accurate in daylight and it did very well even under the extreme color cast of the household incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait test. Colors were hue-accurate and neither under- nor oversaturated. Skin tones in the outdoor shot were just slightly yellowish, but the effect was quite minor. Its white balance system did very well with most light sources, even under the very dim lighting of my low-light tests. To my eye, the manual white balance option often resulted in very slight cool (blue or green) color casts, but again the effect was minor. Overall, really excellent, accurate color.

Exposure: The exposure system performed very well in the majority of conditions tested. It was considerably more accurate than most with the high-key, high-contrast Outdoor Portrait shot, requiring little if any positive exposure compensation. Most of its other outdoor shots were properly exposed as well, without any manual compensation. The one shot it seemed to have trouble with was the Indoor Portrait test (under household incandescent lighting), where it required 1.0 to 1.3 EV, more than average. Tonal range was excellent, with very good tonality in both highlights and deep shadows and the Parameters-menu contrast adjustment covers a very useful range, with appropriately-sized steps between settings. On my Davebox test, the 10D had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target, while still holding excellent detail in the deep shadows. Overall, an excellent performance, although I would have liked to have seen more accurate exposures on the indoor portrait test.

Resolution/Sharpness: The EOS-10D did an excellent job on the "laboratory" resolution test chart, helped by the excellent characteristics of the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens that I used to test it. It didn't start showing artifacts in the test patterns until around 900 lines per picture height and they were very faint even at that point. I found strong detail out to at least 1,300 lines horizontally and 1,200 vertically, although there was still meaningful detail beyond that point. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,550 lines. As I observed in other shots with the 10D, the image is just slightly soft, but takes unsharp masking very well in Photoshop.

Night Shots: This was an area where the 10D really shone, but also one where it revealed some of its limitations. It captured really beautiful, clear, bright and low-noise images all the way down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, at all ISO settings, from 100 to 3200. However, I found that the autofocus system only worked reliably down to somewhere between 1/2 and 1/4 foot-candle. This is about one and a half stops darker than typical city street lighting. With the 550EX Speedlite attached, the strobe's AF-assist illuminator would let the 10D focus in total darkness, but the camera by itself was somewhat limited. I'd really like to see an AF assist light on the camera itself. Perhaps on the next generation? Back on the noise issue, this looks like one of the 10D's real strengths. At lower ISO settings, it seems to perform about the same as the D60, but once you get to ISO 400 and beyond, the 10D walks away from its predecessor. In moderate lighting (where the AF system has enough light to focus by), the 10D will be a stellar performer, as its images at ISO 1600 (and even 3200) are amazingly clean.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The EOS 10D's through the lens viewfinder showed about 96 percent frame accuracy, just slightly above Canon's assessment of 95 percent accuracy. I personally prefer viewfinders to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, but this is the level of frame coverage most competing cameras offer, so no points off in this area.

Battery Life: Canon claims that the 10D will deliver slightly better battery life than the D60, which was an excellent performer in this area.

CONCLUSION

Given the tremendous popularity of the EOS-D60, I was very surprised when it disappeared from dealer's shelves in early 2003 and the word came down that Canon had stopped making it. The EOS-10D will immediately dispel any longing for the D60 though, as it's a genuinely more capable camera in almost every respect.

While the image sensor still has the same resolution, the numerous upgrades in nearly all other aspects of the camera's operation (most notably in the AF performance) really makes the 10D a whole new camera.

The other half of the story is price. Based on the suggested list price of $1,999, the 10D should sell for around $1,499, a jaw-dropping price reduction of $700 relative to the D60. For at least a little while, the 10D will be by far the least expensive removable-lens digital SLR on the market.

Oh, in case it wasn't obvious, this one is highly recommended!

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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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Book Bag: The Hidden Powers of PS Elements 2

We were scratching our head the other day wondering why there are so many books about Photoshop Elements if it's so easy to use. Then we picked up Richard Lynch's slender tome, The Hidden Powers of Photoshop Elements 2. This one's different. It's the only one you'd find us reading under a safe light.

Lynch isn't writing for any dummies out there. He's addressing the photographer who has a copy of Elements (either bundled or otherwise inexpensively obtained), a Photoshop appetite and a darkroom sense of humor.

When we reviewed Elements 1.0, we applauded its HTML tutorial material. Worth the price of admission all by itself, we insisted. And while we couldn't complain about what was included, we bemoaned the absence of Curves (and continued our wail when 2.0 was released). We had the temerity to hope that since Elements was amenable to plug-ins, someone would craft a Curves plug-in.

That's exactly what Lynch has done. With the Curves plug-in and the other tools included on the book's companion CD, Lynch makes it possible to tap into the Photoshop engine under Elements' hood. And that is very cool.

So, without further ado, if you use Elements, get this book. Install the tools. And thank you, Richard Lynch.

Once you've got the tools installed, you'll have some time on your hands. That's what the book is for. It's divided into five parts that follow a fascinating introduction in which Lynch confesses that, after 10 years of Photoshopping, Elements changed his life. Worth the read while you're standing in line to buy the book.

Part I, Preparation and Concepts for Serious Image Editing, covers imaging basics and editing essentials. The process. The tools. What tone, contrast and color are. What color management does.

Part II, Wrestling with Image Tone and Contrast, is not just for wrestlers. While Lynch gives you the step-by-step to put a half Nelson on your toughest images, he also provides a tool to automate the procedure so it's no more trouble than watching your clothes spin dry. He shows you how to separate tone and color before explaining how to manipulate the image tones. That includes sharpening and dealing with noise. It's also where Curves makes an appearance.

Part III, Serious Color Correction, takes what you've learned about tone manipulation and applies it to color. Then it goes beyond that to discuss color-specific operations like hue/saturation and color balance adjustments, saturation masking, painting color changes, making duotones, channel calculations and mixing, color separations and CMYK.

Part IV, Rebuilding Images, explores creative composition techniques, including how to paint images.

Part V, Images in Print, combines a discussion of vector-based imaging with printing options. Those options curiously omit dye sub printers but do cover inkjet and laser printers.

Part VI, Images on the Web, discusses creating and using Web graphics.

An Appendix covers the toolbox, explains resolution, details file types, discusses bit depth, documents blending modes and points readers to the book's Web site (http://www.hiddenelements.com) where you can download a few free tools.

We really enjoyed the discussion in the introduction and parts II and III. That's the stuff you could read in the darkroom under a safe light. Where color is reduced to the black and white world of the printing press. In fact, Lynch even has you running your paper through your inkjet multiple times, just like a press, to get the benefits of true duotone or quadtone printing.

We were less enthralled reading the chapters about Web graphics and vector-based images. Somewhere in-between fell the chapter on rebuilding images in which he actually constructs a photorealistic image in Elements. Nice stunt but weren't weekends made for couches?

But, as someone said earlier, this isn't your typical Elements book. It has hidden powers. Exactly the ones we've wished for.

The Hidden Powers of Photoshop Elements 2 by Richard Lynch, published by Sybex, 292 pages with CD, $40.
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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:

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Just for Fun: The Oscar for Input Device

Members of the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences have submitted their nominations for the Missing Oscar, this year awarded to the best input device. And now it's time to announce the winner.

Special thanks to Allan Porter for being the first to nominate. There should be an Oscar just for that. Allan recommended the MS Optical Trackball 1.0, "because of less hand movement required. Also you don't bump into things as you do on a cluttered desk, with a mouse!"

Indeed, our desk was cluttered -- with candidates.

Starting with the basic issue input device. These days a two-button mouse with a scroll wheel is standard fare on Windows systems while Macs still ship with a one "button" mouse, relying on modifier keys to simulate the functions of a second button.

But mice are evolving.

You may have noticed they are almost all optical these days. No more mechanical problems. No rollers or balls to clean. Just these neat red beams.

Wired mice are nice but wireless mice twice as nice. Scroll wheels are swell but touch pads ringa da bell.

And when you get tired of mice (and trackballs), there are pens that add pressure sensitivity -- and some that even add tilt sensitivity.

Finally, we've been seen playing at trade shows with yet another permutation from the old USB port. Devices like Griffin's PowerMate (http://www.griffintechnology.com) or CAVS's ShuttlePRO and SpaceShuttle (http://www.contouravs.com) don't replace your mouse but they do give your other hand something to do.

What were we thinking when we decided to award the Missing Oscar this year to the best input device? It's more than one category.

So we called upon the Ersatz Judges, all members of some Executive Board or another.

Much as they liked the simplicity of Apple's device (how can you go wrong?), they really enjoyed having a scroll wheel (what window shows all?). But much as they liked the scroll wheel, they liked the touch-sensitive pad on the Kensington StudioMouse (alas, a Mac-only product) and the zoom button just below it for enlarging images in certain graphics applications (http://www.kensington.com).

Nothing quite beat the Wacom Intuos2 (http://www.wacom.com), though. With both pen and cordless mouse (which navigates the corded tablet), you want for nothing.

Until, of course, you see one of CAVS's shuttles with a hefty dial and a handful of programmable buttons.

In fact, each of these devices had their attractions. In fact, when it came time to award a winner, we found ourselves holding the Missing Oscar but no input device! We did a double click only to realize each Judge, enamored with one or another of the little things, had disappeared with their own particular preference, the robed rascals!

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Dave's Deals

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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: DVD Slide Shows

I am technologically challenged and have yet to invest in a digital camera. Can regular scanned pictures be used to create the slide show with music? How much control is there with timing the pics with the music? Have the updates in the reviews become available yet? I'm sure I'll have more questions later, but thanks for answering these.

-- Letha K. Bauer

(If you can save it as a JPEG file, it can be added to a slide show program. Each program has a different method for adding music. In the simpler programs, you tell the program what music on your hard disk you want to hear when the slides are playing. But you can use movie editing software to slice and dice both music and images, too. Apple makes a nice compromise with iDVD by tailoring the slide display duration to the length of the music, if you want. Saves doing some math <g>. -- Editor)

Just read the newsletter. I don't have a DVD burner, but can create a slide show that plays on my DVD Player using xatshow (http://www.xat.com/xatshow/index.html). Not sure if you were aware of this little tool. So simple, I could do it!

-- Mike Sam

(Thanks for the link, Mike! Note, though, that Video CD is limited to MPEG-1 while DVD requires MPEG-2 files. Any VCD, therefore, will have lower resolution images than a DVD. -- Editor)

RE: PMA 2003

As always, Imaging-Resource's coverage of PMA was my favorite. But let's face it, PMA this year was a big nothing. A lot of repackaged technology. A bunch of new pocket cameras fit for my teenage daughter. An unspecific Oly 4/3 system that may as well have been a clay model. A nice lens from Nikon. A "that's nice" camera from Canon. And some unremarkable software.

Boy, do I feel like an idiot waiting for the show before making the final decision to buy last year's D100.

The only thing I can think of that would have drawn anyone to PMA 2003 was the opportunity to walk-off a few calories.

But, again, thank you for being there and keeping us so well informed. I just hope the happy hours were worth the trip.

-- Bill Van Dyck

(I'm afraid we've all been velocitized by the pace of development in this sector. Where was that 16-bit sensor full-color sensitivity in that lightweight SLR body compatible with all my old glass with the detachable LCD monitor? Maybe this was a show to regroup and to introduce some hardware (like the 3.2-megapixel Pentax Optio 33L with 3x optical zoom that fits in an Altoids box) designed for your daughter -- before she gets her hands on your new D100! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

"Digital camera penetration is attempting to move into core consumer groups but still lacks mass-market appeal primarily because of the lack of easy, affordable ubiquitous printing solutions at mass retail locations in North America," according to Ron Tussy, principal analyst for Imerge Consulting Group. The company recently issued a new report titled "The Worldwide Consumer Digital Camera Forecast and Market Overview, 2002-2007."

"Still with double digit growth rates laying ahead in this sector," he added, "it is expected that the North America consumer digital camera sector with sell more units than film cameras, excluding one-time-use cameras, by 2004 and will outsell film cameras worldwide by 2006" he observed.

According to Infotrends (http://www.infotrends-rgi.com), European placements of photo kiosks and digital minilabs are increasing rapidly with about 7,000 kiosks and 4,000 minilabs shipped in 2002. Kiosk shipments are expected to grow to nearly 13,000, with minilab shipments expected to hit nearly 8,000 units by 2007.


Now through April 30, Adobe is offering rebates of up to $150 on both full packages and upgrades to their software line when you buy two or more of them. Visit http://adobe.mx0.net/r?ccJWcnETTlTEcHnvWq for details.


Apple is offering the new InFocus X1 Projector for $1,499 when you buy it online from the Apple Store for Business by March 28.


Hi-Touch Imaging Technologies has released new firmware for the recently reviewed 630PS, which handles larger images (http://www.hitouchimaging.com/download.asp?lid=420&productid=4).


Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com) has announced discount pricing on Kodak DuraLife prints for orders of 51 or more prints. Prices start at $0.49 for a 4x6 print. With the discount, 4x6 prints cost as low as $0.43 per print. Ofoto's 5x7 prints are $0.99 but volume discounts cost as low as $0.85 per print.


Computer Conversions, Inc. (http://www.data911.net) has announced a flash media data recovery service in addition to its tape media recovery and conversion services. CCI charges $100 for recovery of pictures from flash media cards under 1-GB. There's no charge if no pictures are recovered.


WiebeTech (http://www.wiebetech.com) lowered the price on its DesktopGBTM FireWire enclosures, offering the 120-GB DesktopGB at $189.95 and offering the user configurable FireWire/USB2 DesktopGB enclosure at $79.95.


To keep up with developments as they happen, visit Mike Tomkins' news page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM).

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One Liners

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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

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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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