|Volume 5, Number 7||4 April 2003|
Welcome to the 94th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. But who's counting with so many goodies piled up? This issue we look at Adobe's Camera Raw and JPEG 2000 plug-ins, Dave plays with the all-weather Stylus 300 and we spring into panorama images. Finally, we find a Web site with some wonderful images of happier days in the Middle East. Oh, and don't forget to set your digicam clock ahead an hour this weekend.
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The breakneck race to the megapixel CCD that has continued unabated now to the 14-megapixel digicam might make you wonder what the future of digital imaging can possibly hold. Adobe's recent release of two plug-ins (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?pcr) suggests a different direction.
In fact, the company admits that while the new Camera Raw and JPEG 2000 plug-ins have been released for $99 now, they'll be bundled in a future version of Photoshop. That's ruffled some feathers, but we aren't bird watchers. As Adobe said, this stuff is too important to wait.
And it's a lot of work to implement. Ask any of the number of third-party developers who have written software to display and manipulate these proprietary image formats.
There's no little confusion about RAW. First, RAW doesn't stand for anything. JPEG does (Joint Photographic Experts Group). TIFF does (Tagged Image File Format). RAW really just stands for unprocessed or raw data. Its buddies are all acronyms, so it plays along.
Not every camera saves an image as raw CCD data. That's uninterpolated color (just eight bits per sensor, rather than the interpolated 24). And uncompressed data, although much less than stored in an uncompressed TIFF (if a bit larger than a JPEG). And saving raw CCD data also circumvents the post-processing tricks your camera can perform like sharpening and color correcting. Finally, the raw data isn't quite edible; you need smart software to convert it into a viewable image.
So what good is it?
Well, it's the original uncontaminated information captured by the camera. Which has caused it to be compared (oft, as the poet says) to a film negative. There are, in fact, many photographers who save only the raw data. No JPEG, no TIFF, just RAW.
They aren't shooting snapshots, of course. They're shooting images they want to manipulate later. And because RAW formats generally tend to include more than 8-bits per channel (12-bits, for example), they can manipulate both color and tone without suffering the inevitable banding or posterization of corrected 8-bit channels.
This has often been compared to recovering underexposed and overexposed images. But before we get too carried away, let's just say it postpones much of what we typically do in the camera to the comfort of a seat in front of a computer monitor.
WHAT CAMERAS SAVE RAW DATA?
More and more digicams now offer the option of saving raw sensor data to the memory card.
Among the more prominent are Canon's EOS-1D/1Ds/D60 and PowerShots 600/A5/A50/G1/G2/G3/S30/S40/S45/Pro70/Pro90IS; Kodak's 14n; Fujifilm's FinePix S2 Pro; Minolta's DiMAGE 5/7/7i/7Hi; Nikon's D1/DH/D1x/D100 and Coolpix 5000/5700; and Olympus' E-10/E-20N and C-5050 Zoom.
Canon calls its raw data a CRW file while Nikon has named its raw data files NEF files.
Once you've captured raw data to your storage card, what do you do with it? You transfer it to your hard disk, like any other image data, but then you have to use your camera's proprietary software to open the RAW files, manipulate them and save them in a format the rest of the world can enjoy. That workflow, notice, leaves the original untouched.
The manipulation (at the photographer's leisure, rather than on the spot) is what the game is all about. Typical manipulations include changing the white balance; shifting the apparent exposure; altering tone and color; and sharping or smoothing.
The manufacturer of your camera knows what the CCD is capturing, so their software can read and display that data. Some enterprising souls have divined the various proprietary RAW formats (each manufacturer's is different, with Canon's perhaps the most different of all). And they've written software to streamline processing of several RAW formats.
Bibble Labs (http://www.bibblelabs.com), for example, offers Eric Hyman's Bibble [W] and MacBibble [M] to handle raw files from the Nikon D1/X/H/100, the Fuji S2 Pro, the Kodak 720 and 760 and the Olympus E Series.
Pictureflow (http://www.pictureflow.com) offers YarcPlus [W] by Bruce Henderson and Michael Tapes to handle Canon CRW files. Similarly, Breeze Systems (http://www.breezesys.com/BreezeBrowser) offers BreezeBrowser [W] to convert CRW files and Canon EOS 10D and Powershot S50 files.
And now Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has joined the party with its Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in [MW] that handles all of the prominent cameras listed above in either Photoshop or Elements.
The Adobe Camera Raw plug-in installs simply in the File Formats folder of the Adobe Photoshop Only folder of the Plug-Ins folder. That enables Photoshop to Browse (with thumbnails) or Open raw image files just like any JPEG or TIFF. File access is transparent to the user. See the illustrated review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PCR/PCR.HTM) for screenshots.
Once an image has been selected, however, the plug-in steps in, displaying a dialog window offering a number of image adjustments with live preview.
The window's title bar includes the image name and basic exposure data (aperture and shutter speed, for example). A large preview window with a transparent histogram overlay takes up most of the window with buttons for the zoom, grabber and white balance tools to its left. Below the preview are an image magnification popup, checkboxes for the preview and the histogram display, RGB data for any pixel and two buttons to rotate the preview.
Below that are popups for:
Below all that is a checkbox to display this dialog only if the option/alt key is held down.
- Color Space (which should be set to your Photoshop working color space), Size (which permits resampling the image -- with an improved algorithm for upsampling),
- Depth (to open the image in Photoshop with 8 or 16 bits per channel; in Elements there's no 16-bit option), and
- Resolution (with a text field for the value of the printing resolution).
To the right of the preview is where you'll spend most of your time.
Below the OK and Cancel buttons is a panel of nine sliders. A popup above them determines if they are set to the default settings, the previous settings or a custom setting. You can load and save the settings, as well as apply them as a default to any image from that camera.
Your first settings control the white balance. A popup lets you quick choose between As Shot, Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash and Custom. You can further refine your choice with a temperature slider that reports degrees Kelvin as you move it and a Tint slider (to handle green or magenta casts).
To manage tonal adjustments, a set of five sliders are arrayed in the order you should adjust them:
Below those five is a Sharpness slider (0 to 100 ranging from no unsharp masking up). Unsharp masking is the last edit you want to perform, so if you plan to do anything more to the image, set this at zero.
- Exposure (-2 to +4 f-stops; hold down the option/alt key to preview where the highlights are clipped),
- Shadows (0 to 100 to increase the values that map to black, clipping the shadows; hold down the option/alt key to preview what's clipped),
- Brightness (0 to 100 to compress rather than clip the highlights after setting the white and black points above),
- Contrast (-50 to +100 to adjust midtone values from less to more contrast), and
- Saturation (-100 to +100, ranging from monochrome to double the saturation).
To reduce noise and moire patterns a Smoothness slider (0 to 100) handles both chroma and luminance noise -- and quite nicely. There's also a Moire Filter checkbox to enable the plug-in's color moire pattern reduction filter. Like those herringbone jackets.
Because we're in Photoshop, applying settings to a folder of images can be scripted as an Action that can also save the images in TIFF, PSD, JPEG or PDF formats.
However you alter the raw image, the original data remains untouched. You are actually converting the raw image data into a Photoshop working image according to the settings you apply in the dialog window.
The Camera Raw plug-in provides comprehensive adjustments. But they're all global. You may want to work with Curves or Levels either globally or on a selection to further refine the image before saving it as either a TIFF or JPEG.
But here's where JPEG 2000 comes in. You can tap into JPEG 2000's lossless wavelet compression to save your image as either a standard JPEG 2000 file (JP2) or an extended JPEG 2000 file (JPF) with a JP2 compatible option if you add an ICC profile.
When you Save As and select JPEG 2000 from the formats popup, Photoshop opens the JPEG 2000 dialog window. A large preview is flanked on the left by a zoom tool and grabber. A magnification popup below it includes a text field reporting the approximate download time. You can select what device it uses (cell phone, modem, etc.) from the Download Rate popup on the Download Preview pane of the three panes of options to the right of the preview.
Under the OK and Cancel buttons the first of those three panes, JPF Settings, offers the main settings:
Below them is a button for Advanced Options.
- Target file size;
- A Lossless compression checkbox with a numeric Quality popup adjustable with a slider; and
- Checkboxes for Include MetaData, Include Color Settings, Include Transparency (when appropriate) and JP2 Compatible.
Advanced Options displays a window with popup menus for Compliance, Wavelet Filter and Tile Size. Those are followed by a Metadata Format pane with three checkboxes for JPEG 2000 XML, XMP and Exif. Below that is a Color Settings Format pane with checkboxes for Include ICC Profile, Enumerated Profile and MAT/LUT Profile. Cancel and OK buttons follow that.
An Optimization pane sits below JPF Settings, offering three popups: Order, Region of Interest and Enhance. Your image must have an alpha channel for the latter two to be active.
We tapped into Imaging Resource raw data images from Canon, Kodak, Fuji, Nikon and Olympus cameras.
Two things struck us right away.
Opening images with the plug-in wasn't fast. A lot more processing goes on than merely reading 24-bit image data from, say, a JPEG file. While MacBibble seemed a bit quicker, that was merely our impression. We wouldn't call anything fast.
Similarly, adjustments were far from fluid. Sliders tended to stumble more than slip along their range even on spry hardware.
The histogram overlays the image but is transparent. It displays overlapping bar graphs for the red, green and blue channels as well as luminance in white.
We didn't find either the rollover help messages or the slider tags particularly, uh, illuminating. But we did find the tools fairly comprehensive. We were able to set the white point, black point and shift the midtones of these images. We particularly liked being able to preview the content, not just the tonal values, of the highlights (Exposure) and shadows (Shadows) that were about to be clipped.
Our main disappointment was the JPEG 2000 plug-in, because many of its options were dimmed for no discernible reason. With no documentation, we weren't able to test all the options.
But that's the trouble with peering into the future. It hasn't happened yet.
Which is why we're uncomfortable predicting it. It tends to surpass our wildest imagination.
Still, much as we may marvel over true color sensors, the future of digital imaging would seem better served by increased dynamic range in the sensors themselves, increased channel bit depth and lossless compression algorithms like JPEG 2000. These are developments that can be realized in tomorrow's tools.
And we can hardly wait.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OS300/OS30A.HTM on the Web site.)
Long a favorite among consumers, Olympus' Stylus series of film cameras has dominated the bestseller list in the film world for some time. Now, Olympus brings the coveted Stylus brand name into the digital arena with the Stylus 300 Digital.
With its 3.2-megapixel CCD, 3x lens, all-weather body design and compact size, the much-anticipated Stylus 300 Digital was one camera I was eager to get my hands on. The fully automatic system requires very little user intervention with only a handful of creative options, but has the benefits of five preset Scene modes and a QuickTime Movie mode (without sound).
The all-weather body can withstand water spray from any direction, but isn't meant to be fully submerged in water. Still, rubber seals and a separate plastic chassis inside the metal body provide excellent protection against water splashes and rain. As long as you keep it from getting completely submerged, you needn't worry about taking this camera to the beach, on ski trips, sailing trips, etc. The real question is, "Where should we go next?"
The $449 Stylus 300 is no bigger than a tiny cell phone and features a sleek, curvy design that's comfortable to hold and easy on the eyes. The camera's trim, compact dimensions are perfectly suited for shirt pockets and small purses and the all-weather body means you can take it just about anywhere (except under water). A sliding lens cover also acts as a power switch and keeps the front panel smooth enough to quickly slip in and out of pockets. The included wrist strap is handy when shooting over a boat rail or while riding on a ski lift, but I recommend picking up a soft case to protect the camera's attractive body panels from scratches.
The Stylus 300's metal body is one key to its all-weather rating, equivalent to IEC standard publication 529 IPX4 (which essentially means it can withstand water splashed from any direction). Inside the metal body a plastic chassis provides the first level of protection against the elements. Rubber seals around compartment doors and even the lens mechanism also help prevent any leakage. Because the camera is so tightly sealed, Olympus designed an airflow control system to prevent the camera from overheating or building up air pressure from the zooming lens. Overall, the Stylus 300's all-weather design is an impressive feature on a digicam, making it rugged enough to withstand much abuse -- from the weather or even a mischievous kid with a squirt gun.
The Stylus 300 features a 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (a 35-105mm 35mm equivalent). Maximum aperture ranges from f3.1 to f5.2, depending on the zoom setting. The Stylus 300 employs an efficient contrast-detection autofocus system, with focus ranging from 1.6 feet to infinity in normal mode. A Macro setting focuses as close as 0.7 feet and works across the camera's entire zoom range, which is often not the case. Opening the lens cover triggers the lens to extend from the camera body about 5/8-inch, automatically placing the camera into Record mode. The Stylus 300 also offers 4x Digital Zoom, but keep in mind that digital zoom simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD and thus results in lower image quality. The 3.2-megapixel CCD produces high-resolution images, good enough for prints up to 8x10 inches with good detail, as well as lower-resolution images for sending via email or for printing 5x7- and 4x6-inch prints. For composing images, the Stylus 300 features both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch TFT color LCD monitor. The LCD monitor provides a limited exposure-information display (shutter speed and aperture aren't reported) and is controlled by a small Display button adjacent to it. In Playback mode, the LCD monitor provides image enlargement and an index display.
Exposure control on the Stylus 300 is uncomplicated and straightforward, like most of Olympus' consumer-oriented digicams. The camera always operates under automatic exposure control, but offers a selection of preset Scene modes for specific shooting situations. Most of the exposure options are controlled through the multi-page LCD menu system, which is fairly simple to navigate. An initial short-cut menu screen pops up before entering the main Record menu, offering quick-access options for the camera's White Balance, Image Size and Exposure Compensation. You can also just enter the main Record menu itself. The camera automatically determines aperture and shutter speed (from 1/1000 to 1/2 second), but Exposure Compensation (to lighten or darken the image), White Balance (to adjust the color), Metering (to read light from the whole frame or just the center) and Flash modes are all user-adjustable. The Stylus 300's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill and Off modes.
A Virtual Dial (first seen on the D-550 Zoom) accesses a range of preset shooting modes. The up arrow in the Four-Way Arrow pad enables the dial, which is actually an LCD display of the available scene modes. The right and left arrow keys scroll through the modes, rotating the onscreen dial. Program Auto is the default, but Portrait, Landscape Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Self Portrait and Movie modes are also available. Each mode sets up the camera for specific shooting situations, with Night Scene mode extending available shutter times to four seconds. Portrait mode uses larger lens apertures, to capture the subject in front of a soft-focused background, while Landscape Portrait uses smaller lens apertures to get both the subject and the background in sharp focus at the same time, great for portraits in front of broad vistas (for example, the family standing in front of the Grand Canyon). Self Portrait mode is an interesting feature that lets you point the camera at yourself (in-hand), zooming the lens to wide-angle for a sharply-focused portrait. (This is a great mode for those shots of you and a friend in a cool location or when you want to prove you actually visited a certain place and there's nobody around to snap your picture for you.) Finally, Movie mode records moving images (without sound) with maximum lengths of 16 or 70 seconds, depending on your choice of resolution (either 320x240 and 60x120).
Also included is a Self-Timer/Remote Control mode which works with the included remote control accessory (a nice touch), allowing you to fire the shutter from a short distance away, after a two-second delay. For a motor-drive effect, Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of images at a rate of just over one frame per second, while the Shutter button is held down. The "2 in 1" photography mode records two vertically-oriented, half-sized images. After capture, the images are saved side-by-side in one image, giving a split-screen effect. As with many Olympus cameras, a panorama mode is available when using Olympus brand xD-Picture Card storage cards and records as many as 10 consecutive images to blend into one panoramic image. Finally, you can create sepia tone or black-and-white pictures from your full color images through the camera's Playback menu.
The Stylus 300 stores images on xD-Picture Cards and comes with a 16-MB card. Cards as large as 256-MB are available, although 128-MB is the largest you can easily find in stores. I suggest buying at least a 64-MB xD-Picture Card. A CD-ROM loaded with Olympus' Camedia Master 4.1 software accompanies the camera, compatible with both Windows and Macintosh platforms (including Windows XP and Mac OS X). Camedia Master provides minor image editing tools and the ability to stitch together multiple images shot in panaroma mode, as well as utilities for organizing images.
For power, the camera uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack and comes with a charger. For backup, I recommend picking up a spare battery pack and keeping it charged, although the camera's battery life is unusually good for a subcompact model. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks like transferring images to a computer. Also included with the Stylus 300 is a video cable for connecting to a television set and a USB cable for connecting the camera to your computer.
Here's a summary of my key findings:
Color: Color was good throughout my testing, although it had some trouble with the warm-hued incandescent light source in the Indoor Portrait test. It performed well in daylight and fluorescent lighting as well, although I don't have a formal test target to evaluate the latter. The camera has higher than average contrast, which loses some highlight detail under harsh lighting and captured somewhat pale skin tones in my Outdoor Portrait test. Overall though, the Stylus 300's color was both accurate and pleasing.
Exposure: Exposure was pretty accurate, although as I said, it had higher than average contrast. This caused it to either lose highlight detail or plug-up the shadows under high-contrast lighting conditions, but under less-harsh lighting its images were quite acceptable.
Sharpness/Resolution: I was quite surprised by how sharp the lens is, producing images that were sharp from corner to corner. Most compact cameras show a lot of softness in the corners of the frame. The Stylus 300's images were much more reminiscent of those from larger, higher-end models.
Close-Ups: The Stylus 300 performed well in the macro category, helped by a macro mode that lets you shoot with the lens at full telephoto. It captured a minimum area of 2.77x2.08 inches. The camera's flash also throttled down quite well for the macro area, producing good exposures even at the closest shooting distances.
Night Shots: Night Scene mode is the best option for low-light shooting, increasing the shutter speed range to four seconds (as opposed to 1/2 second in Program AE). In this mode, the camera captured bright images as low as one foot-candle (11 lux), which corresponds to average city street lighting at night. You could use images captured at 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux), but the autofocus system had trouble at light levels any darker than one foot-candle.
Viewfinder Accuracy: The optical viewfinder was a little tight, showing 88 to 89 percent of the final frame area. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 98 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and close to 100 percent at telephoto, almost perfect. I'd like to see a more accurate optical VF, but the Stylus 300's is actually better than those of most digicams.
Optical Distortion: Optical distortion was about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. This is about average among cameras I've tested, but I'd really like to see much less geometric distortion in digicam images than what passes for average. The telephoto end fared much better, showing only one pixel of pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing about three or four pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines.
Battery Life: Like most Olympus cameras I've tested, the Stylus 300 showed very good battery life, particularly for a compact model and most especially when the LCD was left off in capture mode. I still strongly recommend purchasing a second battery but the Stylus 300 does much better than most compact digicams.
The Olympus Stylus film cameras are currently among the best selling point-and-shoot models available, widely popular across a range of consumer experience levels. Now, with the Stylus 300, Olympus brings the popular Stylus brand into the digital world, a move that should go over well with Olympus fans. Besides its user-friendly interface, compact design and good picture quality, its excellent (and unusual) water sealing makes the Stylus 300 a very appealing choice for a "take anywhere" camera. Battery life is excellent as well. Overall, the Stylus 300 shoots as good as it looks and is rugged enough to stand up to knocks and the occasional rain storm: A combination deserving serious consideration by anyone in the market for a compact, stylish digicam.
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:
- Reviewed: Olympus C-750 Ultra Zoom (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C750/C75A.HTM) and Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C740/C74A.HTM).
- Short Review: Olympus Digital Stylus 300 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OS300/OS30A.HTM).
- Reviewed: Kodak Pro 14n Digital SLR (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/14N/14NA.HTM).
- Short Review: Pentax Optio 330GS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P330GS/P33A.HTM).
We've been screwing around lately. Not quite 360 degrees, but near enough. And certainly more than your typical wide-angle. In fact, we just can't help ourselves. Sometimes we just have to take more than one shot of the scene that stretches languidly before us, sighing in the afternoon breeze.
We've been smitten by panoramas.
Certainly there's enough material in San Francisco with the ocean, the bay and the bridges. Not to mention the lakes. And the hills. And....
But the cameras we've been testing have been pretty accommodating, too. With various "assist" or "scene" modes designed to make it easy to shoot a panorama. And often the cameras ship with custom software to stitch the separate images together.
Naturally, we thought this would make a great tutorial. So we boned up on the subject, devouring the manuals and scouring the Web for advice. Well, we started to bone up. But we got distracted by the fresh air.
In fact, we found out you don't need a special mode or special software and you don't have to follow all those rules to get a fascinating alternate view of any familiar scene (try this in your garage before spring-cleaning for laughs).
We will make one product recommendation. Photoshop Elements (http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopel/main.html). We relied entirely on its Photomerge feature to make sense of what we shot and it did a remarkable job stitching otherwise unmatchable ends together.
There are rules, of course. Here are a few:
We broke every rule. Photoshop Elements saved us.
- Overlap each successive image between 15 and 50 percent (but not more). That minimizes lens distortions.
- Try very hard to maintain the horizon (while keeping the camera level) at the same place in each shot, varying no more than 10 percent vertically. Otherwise you have to crop a lot off the top and bottom of the panorama to get a common border. So you may get a pretty short image if you bounced the horizon around a lot. A tripod takes care of this perfectly.
- Keep your camera perpendicular and your feet in the same spot. And use the optical viewfinder to pull the camera closer to the axis of rotation.
- Use the same exposure for each shot. Lock automatic exposure or use manual mode.
- Use a safe f-stop (like f8) that suffers the least chromatic aberration at the edges. Avoid wide angle settings that really distort the horizon and don't touch the zoom rocker between shots.
- For landscapes, swivel the camera on its own axis (as if you're using a tripod), not yours. For close-ups, slide the camera parallel to the subject, rather than swivel it.
Granted, it could not automatically figure out what we had done. So we dragged each image onto the work area and aligned them (pretty roughly). Then we let Elements tidy them up. And shazam! We had ourselves a panorama.
Since out shots were handheld, we had to crop the final panorama to get a regular top and bottom edge. But then we just sat back and smiled. What a perspective!
We find 360 degree panoes disorienting, so we usually took just two or three shots (much less than even 180 degrees) with about 20 percent overlap, generally at wide-angle in Auto mode. Nuts. But it worked.
We weren't really running into exposure variations at that constrained angle. But we did get some wild distortions. In fact, our first attempt to stitch two images together was in Photoshop using a big canvas and changing the opacity of the image on one layer to align them. But we found that unless you fool around with the perspective, they just won't match. And that kind of fooling around strikes us as just too much work.
You do need a little mathematical wizardry and pixel squeezing help. And we really like how simple Elements made the whole thing. It intelligently blended images we couldn't align so the stitches were seamless.
One other thing we found helpful was that horizon advice. We picked an imaginary line across our frame -- either one or two thirds down -- and made (pretty) sure each shot put the horizon on that line.
Once you see your unusual perspective on the screen, you're going to want to print it. If you aren't blessed with a roll-fed printer that can indulge your widest desire, wait until you have more than one panorama to print and assemble the two or three of them on one page, resizing to fit them lengthwise. Brainier types will actually scale them to fit those APS landscape frames you can find here and there.
You can also cut and tape them together, though, to get every glorious detail.
But whatever you do, don't let all the caveats and advice intimidate you. This is just too much fun. Screw around with one panorama and you'll be dizzy with delight.
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-750 Ultra Zoom at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee913a3
Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec
Cyrus asks about choosing a digital camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee91919/0
Bobby asks about saving digital pictures at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee91ac9/0
Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8
It was only yesterday that the bombed city in the news was Beirut, not Baghdad.
So imagine our surprise to learn recently that the roof of a 10-story building in the Central District of Beirut is the home of the Arab Image Foundation. The AIF is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 by a group of curators and artists to preserve the work of regional photographers from the late 19th century to the present.
According to their mission statement, "The Foundation aims to promote photography in the Middle East and North Africa by locating, collecting and preserving the region's photographic heritage. Our collections will be made available to the public at large in museum and gallery exhibitions and in published monographs."
And, in fact, much of the 50,000 photos in the collection will be available on the Foundation's Web site (http://www.fai.org.lb) this summer if the foundation's director Zeina Arida has anything to say about it.
The site, with English, French and Arabic versions, is already worth a visit, though. All the site's pages use a black background broken only by white text and, of course, images from the collection. Which, fortunately, are used generously.
It's nicely organized, too, in several sections:
But the Exhibitions page, which lists 10 recent exhibitions, each with a selection of up to 10 images, was our favorite. While most of the images were black and white, there were also a few color images, many of which were hand-tinted.
- Profile (humorously illustrated) describes the foundation's objectives, its operation, members and funding.
- Collections discusses the acquisitions policy and the background of photography in the Arab world (worth a visit itself). Did you know the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Yessai Garabedian held the first photography workshop in the region in the 1860s?
- Exhibitions recaps 10 recent shows.
- Publications lists three titles published by the Foundation, with a selection of images from each.
- Films describes two titles with low-res clips.
- Diaspora includes an appeal for images of Arab immigrants and their families.
- Center for Photography discusses the heart of the foundation's business.
- And Contact lists some important email addresses.
There are some real gems here, like the 1935 image of the Alfred Roch family in Jaffa dressed for an Easter Masquerade party. Or the anonymous 1926 image titled "Near the Dead Sea" in which a group dances buoyantly in the water, the sun low over the sea. And right after that one, don't miss "Skaff in four different positions" from 1922.
Spend an hour and you can't believe it's the same place as the one we see on the news every day.
A family portrait, everyone dressed to the nines and lined up by height. A woman dressed as a man, for a laugh. A bride in her gown, another leaving on her honeymoon. A tourist photographed in Arab dress in the studio. Bedouin warriors, Druse women, a Jewish settler. A group piled into an MG at the tennis club.
Our photographs, we were reminded, resist showing us as what people say we are, or what we think we are, or even what we hope to seem. They simply reflect who we have been. These images at the AIF recall happier moments not very long ago. In fact, only yesterday.
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I read with some interest your story "Celartem's Vector Format for Zooming." As you mentioned, upsampling using Photoshop bicubic enlargement did not seem to introduce appreciable artifacts. As digital cameras grow in megapixels, upsampling to create larger print images (unless you plan to print billboards) will become less of an issue.
However the need for image file compression can only grow. Have you written or evaluated compression software like:
ERMapper (http://www.ermapper.com). With its roots in satellite imaging and mapping, they offer a free compressor program (for images up to 500-MB), free viewer and plugins for Photoshop, AutoDesk, etc. Its proprietary compression is not (technically) lossless but I've had great success compressing color slide images -- scanned at 4000 dpi (56-MB TIFF) -- down to about 800KB (~70:1).
GeoExpress (http://www.lizardtech.com). They claim a visually (?) lossless compression of up to 20:1.
-- Ihor Prociuk(Thanks for the leads, Ihor. -- Editor)
I totally agree with your conclusion. The industry doesn't need yet another proprietary format. As a matter of fact you are much better off with a standard TIFF file in most cases.
TIFF can store both 8 and 16 bit data, hold multiple resolutions (pyramids) for fast zooming etc, supports both lossless and lossy compression and all kinds of color spaces including CMYK and cieLab. It holds Photoshop layers, text, effects, transparency and everything that Photoshop can store in a native PSD file. It supports ICC profiles and all kinds of metadata such as IPTC and Exif.
But most importantly: TIFF is a widely supported open standard it requires no special plug-ins etc. to place a TIFF file.
Since version 6, Photoshop supports all the features mentioned above. Take a look at http://www.YaWah.com to see a standard TIFF used for real-time zooming without any plug-ins or Java applets.
I have also examined a few of the "magic" software packages that claim to extract information from images that never was there in the first place.
Although such software may in some cases trick the unaided eye to believe that what you see is "real" or "better looking" I found that a good bicubic interpolation algorithm like Photoshop's works just as well or even better when dealing with real images in a professional workflow.
-- Kristian Ottosen
(Thanks, Kristian! Standards do have their advantages -- and you've highlighted TIFF's nicely.)
RE: Data Recovery
I read the item in your latest newsletter about flash media data recovery services and thought I should let you know about Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery (http://www.z-a-recovery.com ). It works and it's free. After installing it, I picked up an older 8-MB Smart Media I hadn't used for several years. I was able to easily recover 15 pictures that my Olympus camera told me were not there!
-- Bob(Thanks, Bob! -- Editor)
RE: Another Slide Show Program
There is a $20 shareware slide show program called Digital Slide Show (http://www.digitalphotoslideshow.com) that, with one caveat, is wonderful. It is for Windows computers, not DVD players or Macs, BTW.
The caveat? In a large show, synching the music can be a nightmare. The sound track runs on its own timeframe.
BTW, the only DVD player I've ever used plays VCD's (MPEG-1) just fine.
-- Paul(Thanks, Paul! The issue with reading VCDs in DVD players concerns the media itself. Recent players include two lasers to read both DVD discs (red 635 or 650 nanometer lasers) and CD-R/RW media (780 nanometer light). Older ones couldn't see the recordable CDs (but try CD-RW media, which tends to reflect more light than CD-R media). -- Editor)
RE: Scanner ABCs
Is there a book that will help me learn how to properly use all of the capabilities of my Nikon 4000 ED Scanner. I can find a lot of books for Elements 2 but none for the Nikon Scanner.
-- Mike Maracci(Sounds like an upcoming article <g>. Meanwhile, you might glean some ideas from our recent review of SilverFast 6 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/SF6/SF6.HTM). -- Editor)
Larry Berman, a professional sports photographer in the mid 1970s, has been scanning his old slides (http://BermanSports.com). The task inspired him to write an article about using current technology to resurrect the past (http://bermansports.com/project.htm).
Pictographics (http://www.picto.com) has released iCorrect EditLab 4.0 for $99.95 (59.95 for updates). New features include edit ICC input (digital camera or scanner) profiles; save color corrections as ICC input profile; linear 16-bit correction mode; create and add custom memory colors; improved brightness/Contrast adjustments; Photoshop Action enabled.
Alien Skin (http://www.alienskin.com) has released the $129 Xenofex 2 [MW], a collection of 14 Photoshop special effects plug-ins to simulate natural phenomenon like clouds and lightning or distortions like puzzle, mosaic, crumple, flag, television and rip open.
Long Time Coming: A Photographic Portrait of America has been published by Norton for $65 with over 400 photos of pre-World War II America culled from 145,000 shots now housed in the Library of Congress.
Human Software (http://www.humansoftware.com) released PhotoFixLens [MW], a $39.95 Photoshop plug-in to correct lens distortion.
Minolta (http://www.dimagemessenger.com) has released Minolta DiMAGE Messenger v1.0.1 for $30. The update consumes less operating system resources.
Applied Science Fiction (http://argon.asf.com) has released Digital GEM, a $79.95 Photoshop plug-in to isolate and manage noise/grain in both highlight and shadow areas.
Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has introduced a small HalfDome2 softbox. The $154.95 white-interior small HalfDome2 is 9x35x18 inches. A silver-interior model is $224.95.
DataRescue has updated PhotoRescue to support the latest Canon and Nikon cameras, Olympus RAW files, enhanced recovery for 1-GB cards and added help files for the Mac OS X versions. See our review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM) for the latest demos.
We reported the recent demise of Caffeine Software (http://caffeinesoft.com) but they've since posted a link to a 56-MB Mac disk image (ftp://ftp.cs.unm.edu/pub/stone/StoneStudio/CaffeineApps.dmg) of the "latest officially available versions of our TIFFany, Curator, PixelNhance and Cycles applications."
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released version 7.6.28 of VueScan.
To keep up with recent price reductions from Sigma and Canon, as well as firmware upgrades from Canon and Nikon, visit Mike Tomkins news page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM).
For just $150 an insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
Curtin Short Courses: http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
Fast Ritz CF cards: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?ritzmem
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