The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 5, Number 12 13 June 2003

Copyright 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 99th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Can you really calibrate a digicam? We try. Dave, off to Japan this week, can pack any digicam but he likes Sony's P10. And we muse a bit about the moment of truth and priority modes.


TOPICS

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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: inCamera -- Calibrating Your Digicam

Recently (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/ICO/ICO.HTM) we praised Pictographics for their intelligent color correction utility, iCorrect. It's intelligent because it knows its own limitations. It can't tell sky from skin -- but you can and it's smart enough to let you. Brilliant.

But how brilliant can a utility to profile your digicam be, we wondered when we saw inCamera from the same smart people. All the profiling pros we talked to told us the same thing. You can't profile a digicam.

You can try, sure, but you'll go postal making it useful. The problem isn't the digicam. It's the environment. Too many variables. Sunlight, shade, flash, time of day. Yikes.

In fact, the only situation in which profiling the camera makes sense, we were told, is in the studio -- where every variable is controlled.

ENTER PICTOGRAPHICS

And that's where Pictographics (http://www.picto.com) comes in with inCamera 3.1, a profiling plug-in for Adobe Photoshop. See the illustrated version of this review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/INC/INC.HTM) for screen shots.

Right out of the chute, they confirm, "A new profile must be made each time the lighting changes, so inCamera is best suited for studio photography, where several pictures will be taken under the same lighting setup."

These guys do not play games.

But before you skip to the next story, think about this a minute. You probably have one camera in which the lighting never changes. Your scanner.

And in fact, inCamera promises it can profile your scanner "using the IT8.7/1 or IT8.7/2 scanner targets, which are available from film manufacturers for most photographic color transparency and print materials."

But to our surprise, we found inCamera useful for profiling a few difficult situations our digicam found itself in. We made things tough for ourselves by using inCamera with a digicam for this review.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS & INSTALLATION

You need an application that can tap into the power of Adobe Photoshop filter plug-ins to use inCamera. Versions of the plug-in are available for both Macintosh and Windows platforms.

Installation is simple. The installer creates a directory containing the plug-in and the extensive HTML help system (which links to the online FAQ). Copy the plug-in to each plug-in directory of any application that supports filter plug-ins. Done.

The first time you run the plug-in it asks for your name and serial number. That's it.

But make sure to register. There are two types of people in this world. Those who register their software and those who never upgrade anything. Even for free. Catch the wave, register.

HOW TO PLAY THE GAME

Whether you're profiling a digicam or a scanner, you play this game the same way:

  1. Capture one of the supported color charts with your digicam or scanner.

  2. Open the captured image of the chart in your image editor and use inCamera to make an ICC profile.

  3. Use that ICC profile by assigning it to other images that were subjected to the same conditions as the chart image.

If the words "ICC profile" and the concept of Photoshop color management scare you, relax. Pictographics' Help on these topics is worth the price of admission alone. We've really read no clearer treatise on the subjects. Read just a few sentences and you're suddenly the master of color management.

THE CHARTS

One of the cardinal rules of trouble-shooting is to start from a known state. The assumptions you make (whether you're aware of them or not) always get you into trouble. It's the same for color management. The known state in color management is called The Chart.

There are really three charts. The venerable ColorChecker with 24 blocks of color, the ColorChecker DC (designed for digicams with over 200 color patches) and the IT8 (which is really two charts: the IT8.7/1 for transparency scanners and IT8.7/2 for reflective scanners). The ColorCheckers are intended for non-photographic images and color negative film, while the IT8 is intended for scanning photographic positives.

Acquiring a chart is the only hurdle you'll have to face in using inCamera. They aren't cheap and they aren't universally available. They aren't cheap because they contain known values or measured colors, the production of which is not trivial. They aren't universally available because, well, they aren't cheap. And every now and then, just to pay your dues, you really should buy a new one.

The prevailing wind on the ColorChecker DC is that it isn't worth the expense or trouble. Use the old ColorChecker.

The old ColorChecker has four rows of six colors, 24 in all. The bottom six are neutrals running from white to dark gray. The top row includes skin tones, foliage and sky colors. The middle rows include the saturated primary colors red, green and blue as well as the secondary colors yellow, magenta and cyan.

Pictographics has devised a reference file for the undocumented ColorChecker that mimics its digital version in the ColorChecker DC chart. They also tell you how to make your own reference file, if you're inclined.

SHOOTING THE CHART

Your chart and your camera should travel together. Whenever you set up for a few shots, pull out the chart and shoot it. This drops a known state into the wild variety of the location itself. We know what the color patches of the chart measure and can use them to understand the scene colors.

There are a few tricks to shooting the chart. But not many.

We like to shoot the chart large. It's possible to shoot it small, as part of a scene (even to be cropped out later), but the idea of making a profile is to include the chart invisibly anyway. So we take one shot of the chart that fills the frame, minimizing any color artifacts.

It's important that the chart is evenly illuminated. No shadows. Pictographics recommends shooting the chart on a larger standard 18 percent gray card. It probably helps calculate auto exposure, too.

And it's important that you capture the chart without any image processing. If your digicam compensates for a color tint, disable it. If your scanner has an auto color correction mode, disable it. You want to capture the image the way your device sees it. The profile will do all the work for you later.

Once you've captured the chart on location, have fun. If you move indoors or outdoors or change the scene's variables in any other way (switching to flash, say), just shoot another chart under the new conditions.

MAKING THE PROFILE

Once you've captured the chart and a few images, you have the data to build a profile for that shoot. We're reluctant to call it a camera profile. Think of it as a control for the specific situation. It's almost always useful that way.

Before you work with the chart, however, you'll want to make sure Photoshop is configured to use ICC profiles when you want them used and not use them when, for example, you are profiling the chart. The Help system tells you exactly how to configure Photoshop to do that.

Then you can open the image of the chart and launch inCamera. In Photoshop, you'll find it under the Filter menu on the Pictographics' fly-out menu.

You'll see a dialog window open that displays your image, a grid overlay of white outlines and a column of settings above the OK and Cancel buttons.

In a nutshell, you tell inCamera which chart it's looking at with the popup Chart Type menu, drag the grid's handles so the squares align closely to the chart's squares and type in a profile name. Hit OK and you've created a profile for that scene.

SAVING THE PROFILE

As if it were actually that easy. Actually, where profiles are stored on any platform is generally a mystery. Fortunately, inCamera knows all about this and the Help system is very clear on where what can be found. The Help goes so far as to recommend how to name the profile for various systems and what the best places to save the profiles are.

Pictographics has made it easy enough for a child deprived of basketball camp to make enough money for soccer camp creating profiles. Assuming you've shot the chart, it takes just a few seconds to make the profile.

Even aligning the grid isn't a big deal. A little Show Samples checkbox displays what part of the chart is actually being read by inCamera. It proves you really don't have to be painfully precise with the grid overlay to get good samples.

And that's about where most companies would stop with a big "Ta Da!" But not Pictographics. They want to make sure you know how to use the profile.

USING THE PROFILE

To use your new profile, you have to set your image editor's color management preferences appropriately. OK, this isn't a very generic issue. We're thinking about Photoshop. How do you get Photoshop to prompt you for a profile when you open an unprofiled image from the shoot?

It's actually pretty easy. Pictographics suggests you set Photoshop's Color Settings so the Working Space is the revered Adobe RGB (1998) -- when everyone's eyesight was better -- and arrange the color management policies so RGB images are converted to the working space and Photoshop asks you what to do for missing or mismatched profiles. Simple.

Then, when you open an image freshly copied from the camera, Photoshop will ask you what you want to do -- and one of the options will be to apply your custom profile.

COLORIMETRICALLY ACCURATE RESULTS

Precision is a wonderful thing, but a small consolation if you don't like what you see. In fact, you may find your profiled images a little flat.

Pictographics recommends applying an S curve (darker shadows and lighter highlights) to profiled digicam images to enhance them after getting the color right. Scanned images, they say, are less disappointing.

That was about the only correction we typically made.

OUR TEST BED

Pictographics gives you two approaches to the issue of color correction. You can correct color in any image, regardless of its source (or even your knowledge of its source), using iCorrect. But you can also optimize color before the fact by shooting a known test target and using inCamera to build a profile based on that particular scene.

The advantage of the latter method, to our muddled mind, is that you are not blindly applying a single correction to a whole set of images. You are, instead, normalizing the scene to the response curve of your device's sensor. Over the long run, you'll get more right results.

We tested this theory in the garden. A deluge of spring rain got the roses blooming early and we dashed down the stairs with our tripod bouncing off the railing to get a few early morning shots.

The first shot was of the ColorChecker.

We missed a thin blade of a leaf that popped up over one of the gray samples, but you can retouch the image to eliminate that aberration (it's legal). You can also Show Samples to see if it will actually be sampled by the profiler.

Then we shot away, changing our EV setting to underexpose the bright flowers against the dark background.

We shot a second image of the ColorChecker for the other side of the yard simply because those blooms were all in the shade.

So we ended up with two profiles. One in the sunlight and one in the shade. And we had a nice marker in the ColorChecker images themselves to tell us when to quit using one and start using the other.

The results were interesting. Especially compared to iCorrect.

Our raw shots, despite our underexposure, were too saturated. The red roses looked like they'd been to a fluorescent hair stylist.

When we applied the profile, they jumped back to reality. They were a little flat, but they weren't saturated. We could apply the S curve trick to get a printable image.

The images in shade were a bit more trouble. The fence took on an unnatural color, even though the blooms looked good.

What intrigued us what that we couldn't get to the same place with iCorrect. Both corrections were pleasing, improvements over the originals, but different. iCorrect made a better screen image, to oversimplify, but inCamera made a better print image.

CONCLUSION

It's as silly to argue over iCorrect and inCamera as to discriminate between the first and second of a one-two punch. It's the knockout that counts. With both these approaches at hand, you have automatic control over color that would cost you hours of manual work.

We were surprised at how useful inCamera turned out to be. We thought the shifting conditions of most of our work would make it frustrating to use. Not so. We were encouraged enough by the initial results to keep it in our toolkit.

We did the product shots of the HiTi 640PS the same way we shot the 630PS, but for the earlier review, we used iCorrect to help the images. For the 640PS, we used inCamera's ICC profiles (with an S curve). See for yourself:

There's no silver bullet when it comes to color correction, but Pictographics has managed to bring some very complex color maneuvers within reach of anyone who can press a shutter button or click a mouse. Since that includes all of our subscribers, we're very pleased to have arranged a small discount on these products for you. Check the Deals section below (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?ico) for details.

Pleasing color is a subjective thing. But you'll get there quicker starting from a known state. And Pictographics gives you two ways to do that. Bravo!

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Feature: Sony DSC-P10 -- Take It Anywhere

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P10/P10A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

Sony is well known for its consumer camcorders, notebook computers and other multimedia products, blazing a long trail of innovations, including the first electronic still camera -- the Sony Mavica -- released in 1981. They've since developed a dominant position in the digital still camera market, with one of the broadest product lines in the industry.

In the "subcompact" market, they've developed a unique line of cameras with a thin, elongated profile. This shape lets them slide easily into small pockets, yet gives U.S.-sized fingers plenty to grab onto. With rugged metal cases, an appealing design and strong feature sets, Sony's subcompacts have enjoyed wide popularity.

The latest addition to the series is the $599 P10, with a 5.0-megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom lens and an expanded range of seven preset Scene modes to choose from. The P10 offers a limited amount of exposure adjustments, but more than enough to adapt it to most common shooting situations. The 3x zoom lens (with Macro mode) is great for recording a wide range of subjects, from close-up portraits to scenic vistas. Overall, a very functional camera with excellent image quality in a tiny package.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

The DSC-P10's shape and compact size rank it among the smaller Sony Cyber-shots, perfect for travel and leisurely outings. The P10's compact shape isn't all the camera has to offer, though. A 5.0-megapixel CCD and an all-glass, 3x zoom lens deliver sharp, clear pictures, suitable for printing as large as 8x10 inches. There's also an email size option that creates smaller-resolution files. Plus, the handful of preset Scene modes handle a wide range of common exposure situations, from beach scenes to night shots.

The P10's 3x optical zoom lens has a focal range from 7.9-23.7mm, the equivalent of a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera. Focus ranges from 19.7 inches to infinity in normal focus mode, with a macro setting that lets you get as close as 3.9 inches. Although the camera does not have a manual focus option, it does offer a range of fixed focus settings, from 0.5 meters to infinity.

The three-area Multi-Point AF system bases focus on one of three areas in the center of the frame. Through the camera's Record menu, however, you can opt for Center AF mode, which bases focus on the very center of the frame. Also available, through the Setup menu, are three AF operating modes: Single, Monitoring and Continuous. In Single AF mode, focus is set whenever the Shutter button is halfway depressed. Monitoring mode adjusts focus before the Shutter button is halfway depressed, which locks focus. Continuous AF mode also adjusts focus without a half-press of the Shutter button, but continues to adjust the focus even after the Shutter button is halfway held down, so that you can "track" a moving subject. The camera's AF illuminator helps the camera focus in dark conditions and works well with the Twilight scene modes.

In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the P10 also features up to 4x Smart Zoom, Sony's current implementation of "digital zoom." Unlike most other digital zoom functions, Sony's Smart Zoom does not resample the image, so no image deterioration occurs as a result. Pixels are simply excised from the central portion of the sensor's image and packaged as a separate file. When the optical zoom reaches 3x, Smart Zoom takes over, if enabled in the Setup menu. The maximum total magnification ranges from 3.8x for 3.1-MB images to 12x for VGA images. (Note though, that as a result, "Smart Zoomed" images will always be restricted to sizes smaller than the camera's full resolution.)

The P10 has a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor for framing shots. An information display on the LCD monitor reports a handful of camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed) and features an optional live histogram display as well. The histogram graphs the tonal distribution of the image, giving you a quick idea of any over- or underexposure.

Exposure is automatically controlled on the P10. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on and an adjacent Mode dial selects between Playback, Automatic, Program, Scene, Setup and Movie modes. The Automatic setting takes away all user control, with the exception of flash, macro and resolution. Program mode also automatically sets aperture and shutter speed, but gives you control over a number of other exposure variables.

Scene mode offers a range of preset exposure modes, including Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks and Fast Shutter. Both Twilight modes optimize the camera for low-light shooting by allowing shutter times as long as two seconds, while Landscape mode sets the camera up for shooting distant subjects. Snow mode enhances saturation and adjusts exposure, to prevent loss of color in bright white snowscapes, while Beach mode ensures that blue tones are recorded accurately in lakeside or seaside photos. Fireworks mode preserves color in shots of fireworks or other night light displays by fixing the lens aperture at f5.6 and setting the exposure time to the 2-second maximum. Fast Shutter mode captures fast-moving subjects by biasing the exposure system toward higher shutter speeds.

By default, the P10 employs a Multi-Metering mode to determine exposure, which reads the exposure from various sections across the frame. For higher-contrast subjects or more pinpointed readings, the P10 also offers a Spot metering mode through the Record menu. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure values, in one-third-step increments. You can also adjust the camera's sensitivity to 100, 200 or 400 ISO equivalents or use the Auto setting. The P10's adjustable White Balance setting offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent and Flash modes, handling a variety of common light sources. Under the Picture Effects setting, you can record images in sepia monochrome or select the Solarize or Negative Art options. The camera also offers Sharpness, Saturation and Contrast adjustments. The DSC-P72's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, Red-Eye Reduction and Slow-Sync modes and an intensity adjustment controls flash output.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures either 640x480- or 160x112-pixel resolution moving images with sound for as long as the memory card has available storage space. The P10 also offers Clip Motion and Multi Burst modes. Clip Motion records a series of up to 10 images saved in a single GIF file (a feature I enjoyed on previous Cyber-shot digicams). Multi Burst mode captures an extremely rapid 16-frame burst of images, at a rate of 7.5, 15 or 30 frames per second. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but are stored as a single large file with all 16 images. (This would be a fun way to catch someone crossing a finish line during a race or to analyze golf and tennis swings.) A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the camera actually takes the picture, giving the photographer time to run around and get into the picture. Also available on the P10 are Burst 3 and Voice Record modes. Burst 3 records three images in quick succession, with one press of the Shutter button. Voice mode records a short sound clip to accompany an image, useful for attaching voice captions.

Images are stored on Sony's Memory Stick media (a 16-MB stick is included) and they can be downloaded via a speedy USB 2.0 connection. An AV cable is also provided for viewing images or slide shows on your TV. The P10 is powered by a Sony InfoLITHIUM battery pack (NP-FC10 or NP-FC11 model) and comes complete with an AC adapter and battery charger. I like the InfoLITHIUM batteries because they communicate with the camera to tell you how much running time is left on the battery pack, but I always (strongly) recommend buying a second battery and keeping it charged and ready to go, especially when the AC adapter isn't close at hand. The P10 is pretty dependent on its LCD display (a large power drain) and you can't pick up extra batteries at the corner drug store.

TEST RESULTS

Color: Overall, the P10 produced good color, with only slight color casts for each white balance setting. Its Auto white balance option did a good job with the very difficult incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait test. Color was generally accurate and well saturated, although the P10 seems to really like greens. Foliage outdoors tended to be unnaturally bright. Skin tones and other colors came out looking quite good though.

Exposure: Exposure was pretty good, as the camera accurately gauged most situations, actually requiring less compensation in the high-key Outdoor Portrait shot than most cameras. Its default tone curve is quite contrasty though, causing it to lose detail in strong highlights shot under harsh lighting conditions. That said though, both the Outdoor and Indoor portrait shots required less positive exposure compensation than I usually have to use.

Resolution/Sharpness: The P10 performed very well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,100 lines per picture height in the vertical direction and around 800 lines horizontally. I found strong detail out to at least 1,400-1,450 lines. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,700 lines.

Close-Ups: The P10 did pretty well in the macro category, capturing an average-size minimum area of 3.72x2.79 inches. However, resolution and detail were excellent, with strong detail in the dollar bill, coins and brooch. There was a lot of softness in the corners on the right side of the frame and a moderate amount on the left side. (Digicam lenses often have a hard time bringing the entire subject into focus in their macro modes, due to curvature of field when close-focusing. The P10's lens seems to be particularly affected by this phenomena.) The P10's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area and overexposed the shot -- plan on using external lighting for the closest macro shots with the P10.

Night Shots: The P10's low-light shooting setup is a little odd, in that the longest shutter time of two seconds is only available in Twilight scene mode, but that mode leaves the ISO fixed at 100, with no option for user intervention. In normal shooting mode, you can adjust the ISO as high as 400, but the maximum shutter time is only one second. The net result is that the P10 actually produces the brightest low-light shots in normal mode, with the ISO set to 400, although noise levels will be lower in Twilight mode. Still, it's a very credible performer, producing good-looking images at light levels of a half a foot-candle or slightly below. -- And your photos will be well-focused too, thanks to a bright AF-assist illuminator LED on the camera's front panel, that can be enabled or disabled by the user.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The P10's optical viewfinder was a little tight, showing approximately 81 percent frame accuracy at both wide-angle and telephoto lens settings. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing about 99 percent of the final frame at both lens settings. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the P10's LCD monitor performed well in this respect.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the P10 is high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.0 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared somewhat better, as I found 0.3 percent barrel distortion. (Many digicams show about 0.8 percent barrel distortion at their wide-angle setting, still too high IMHO. At telephoto, the range seems to be from zero to a few tenths of a percent pincushion distortion.) Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing about three or four pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Battery Life: Thanks to Sony's InfoLITHIUM battery technology, the P10 shows better than average battery life among compact digicams, with 102 minutes projected runtime in capture mode with the LCD on and 182 minutes in playback mode. As always though, I still strongly recommend purchasing a second battery along with the camera.

CONCLUSION

With its small size and well-rounded feature set, the Sony DSC-P10 is an excellent ultracompact point-and-shoot digicam. Packed in a very small package is a 5.0-megapixel CCD, a sharp 3x optical zoom lens, seven preset Scene modes and a host of other creative options. I'd be happier with it if its default tone curve was a good bit less contrasty and likewise feel that it gets a little carried away with itself with bright greens. Apart from these quibbles though, the P10 is a very nice compact digicam in the 5-megapixel class. Like the rest of Sony's ultracompact Cyber-Shots, it makes a nearly ideal "take anywhere" camera for people not willing to sacrifice image quality for camera size.

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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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Advanced Mode: The Moment of Truth

Why does truth only get a moment? You'd think it could filibuster. What, after all, could interrupt the truth?

But truth only gets the last word. We sail along in one fantasy or another until we bump into a wall and have to change direction.

Taking pictures is no exception.

You buy a digicam for $300, forget the manual and set it on Auto to take shot after shot. Most of them come out. But you wish one or two special ones had joined them.

Photography is a forgiving art, but it's no pushover. A mistake is a mistake. On the other hand, there's no one right way to take a picture. Which may surprise you if you're always fiddling around to get just the right exposure.

There are several right exposures. And the moment of truth in photography is when you realize they are all options.

The point-and-shoot digicam obscures this fundamental blessing. You press the shutter, it figures everything out for you. No options. But take a step up the ladder and you have cameras with priority modes that make it all clear. Shutter priority or aperture priority. Choices.

Priority modes are possible because there is more than one combination of shutter speed and lens aperture that will capture the same amount of light. You can manipulate one of them and let the camera set the other to get the right exposure.

So why would you fool around with the shutter speed or the lens aperture?

The slower the shutter speed, the more fluid the image. Water doesn't freeze, it flows. Athletes aren't statues, they're blurs.

The wider the lens opening, the shallower your focus is. A portrait can stand out against the hint of background instead of being submerged in it.

Choices.

Cameras designed as if there were only one exposure worth considering are something everyone can enjoy. But you've arrived at the moment of truth as a photographer when you realize you have choices. And one of your first choices should be to find a camera that lets you exercise them.

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In the Forums

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

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

Visit the Olympus Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f783

Horace asks about exposure settings at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92dab/0

Ravishankar asks about megapixels and optical zoom at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92cd7/0

Visit the Scanner Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae

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Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

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We Have Mail

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

RE: Large Prints

As an exhibiting photographer converting films to digital files with a Nikon CoolScan IV, I would be very glad to learn of a resource for good quality large prints, say 11x14 or 16x20. Also, I think a discussion in the forum about photo papers might be very interesting and warrant its own thread. At present I'm looking for a good glossy paper with a long scale for printing some difficult night shots. In passing, I would recommend Great White matte paper for its very fine quality and very reasonable price.

-- William Bolton

(Take a look at the Feb. 21 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM/index-arch.html) in the Archive for "Mastering Digital Printing." There are a lot of alternatives and they are well covered in that book. We'll have to review exhibition requirements soon. It's an interesting topic that hasn't gotten much attention. -- Editor)

Thanks for your reply. I've also just tried some samples of the Great White glossy photo paper and it also is an excellent paper and very reasonably priced though difficult to find in stores.

-- William Bolton

RE: Ideas for You

I enjoy reading your email newsletter, but I have two topics I wish you would cover (and if you already have, I apologize):

  1. Review of WalMart digital image processing vs. doing it yourself. Walmart offers 4x6 at $0.26 each. I don't think you can beat this printing photos yourself, so what are the drawbacks? It is certainly much cheaper than Ofoto or any of the other digital printing services.

  2. How do you create a photo-album Web page and get it on the Internet? What sites are good? What software do you recommend? I personally would like to have a photo album on the Web that is password protected that I can give the password to my friends and family (protecting the privacy of my family in the photos). What is the best way to do that?

-- David Haas

(Great ideas, David -- thanks! Quick answers now, more to follow. Our review of the HiTi dye sub printers explained how you can get a 40 cent 4x6 print at home (no parking, gas or waiting). It's the waiting that gets us. The simplest way to put up a password-protected Web page is to use online photofinishers like Ofoto. Take advantage of the free space on their server and the free slide show software, rather than go through the hassle of resizing, coding and uploading your own (which will probably only have rudimentary protection). -- Editor)

RE: In Stock

Absolutely amazing. Shopping for a Nikon D100 with U.S. Warranty and finding that nobody has them in stock. The standard answer is "shipping in 2 to 4 weeks." This, regardless that all the ADVERTISING says IN STOCK.

Does this mean that all the camera companies lie in their advertising?

The U.S. Warranty adds $100 at some stores, $300 at others. Regardless, the D100 isn't available. The terrific discounted prices are imports without warranty.

-- Dave Felt

(Actually, Dave, this may be more a case of the manufacturer having something up its sleeve (like the Coolpix 5400) than the vendor pulling a fast one. Secondly, beware. It's a cruel world out there, especially if you're looking for a deal. Which is why we set up our preferred vendors program (listed in the right-hand column of every review), which has yet to fail any customer. -- Editor)

RE: Paint Shop Pro

You seem to ignore JASC products. I have used PSP version 7 for two years with great satisfaction. PSP is indeed a poor man's Photoshop. How about a review of version 8?

Thanks for your fine newsletter.

-- Bob

(Actually, Bob, we installed the beta of version 8 the other day, but it timed out before we could actually get to it. When that sort of thing happens, we sigh and move on. We've followed them ardently for some time, visiting them at trade shows and discussing a few of their innovations. And we like the company and their approach very much. When we finally get this worked out, we'll have a full-blown review. -- Editor)

RE: Filter This

One thing that has always bugged me since I bought my first digicam (a Nikon 880 a few years back) is why no company puts threads on the ends of their lenses, so we can put some sort of a filter ON the digicam lens itself. I've always been a little fanatical about protecting my lenses, but adding those tubes onto the camera body certainly uncompacts a compact camera by a significant amount. What am I missing here?

-- Ted

(Some do in fact have accessory threads -- the Coolpix line is famous for them (early models even had a glass panel protecting the lens). But the retracting zoom design complicates things. Good observation, though. Threads are one feature we insist on. -- Editor)

RE: Canon Printer Praise

Just received my new Canon i950 today. Color is great and printing time is OK. Since I am retired I bought based on picture quality and not quantity. Very pleased.

-- Wes

(Thanks for the feedback, Wes. Canon printers always get high marks. We'll have to see about reviewing the latest models. -- Editor)

RE: Glossy Paper for Laser Printers

Do you review printer paper?

I bought a Minolta color laser. I like the print quality to cost per print but I cannot find any laser paper or glossy laser paper heavier than 32 lb.

Do you know a source for glossy laser paper with a brightness of 94+ and greater than 50 lb?

-- Thomas

(Hmmm. In our laser-laden days, coated sheets always gave poor performance. The toner wouldn't fuse well to the coating. So we wouldn't expect to find a glossy laser paper. Fusing isn't the only problem. Toner is opaque (unlike inkjet dyes). You derive no benefit laying an opaque medium over a brighter reflective surface. You'll get better results printing on something like Hammermill Laser Print Plus, mounting the sheet on board and putting it under glass.... The maximum weight of the sheet depends on the paper specs of the printer. Very important to stay within those specs, of course. -- Editor)

RE: Spammer

I just cancelled my subscription since you are selling my personal info to spammers!

-- Bob Blolunt

(Bob, we wouldn't dream of selling your email address (which, besides your name, is the only "personal" thing we know about you). Our privacy policy is in the FAQ at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-faq.html for your review. And we mean what we say there. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Walt Mossberg of the Mossberg Solution has reviewed CD and DVD disc printing (http://ptech.wsj.com/archive/solution-20030611.html) on the Epson Stylus Photo 900 and 960 printers. Downloading the latest 960 drivers seems to cure to OS X blues.


Sony (http://www.sony.com) said it would start mass production of organic light-emitting diode displays, initially for mobile devices. The Super Top Emission active-matrix full-color OLED panels assembly line will start rolling in Spring 2004. Kodak has already released at least two digicams with OLED panels.

Sony also unveiled its new Qualia brand of high-end products. See the news story (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1055295083.html) for details.


Sybex has published Taz Tally's SilverFast: The Official Guide (http://www.sybex.com/sybexbooks.nsf/booklist/4197). Topics include image correction, scanner calibration, resolution, sharpening and batch scanning.


O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published iPhoto2: The Missing Manual by David Pogue, Joseph Schorr and Derrick Story.


The 37th Frame's Mike Johnston (http://www.37thframe.com) is taking pre-publication orders for his forthcoming (8-10 weeks) book, The Empirical Photographer, for $14.50.


Andromeda (http://www.andromeda.com) has released Mac OS X upgrades for its Photoshop compatible plug-ins ScatterLight Lenses, LensDoc, VariFocus and Perspective. Including the new RedEyePro, these five filters comprise Andromeda's Photographic Tools & Lens Effects Collection. Andromeda said it will release its Artistic Screening Tools Collection: Series 3 Screens, Cutline and EtchTone later this summer.


Michael Mulligan (http://agent0068.dyndns.org/~mike/projects/myPhoto) has released myPhoto 1.2 [M], a free PHP program to automatically create photo albums directly from iPhoto for Web sites running Apache and PHP.


Human Software (http://www.humansoftware.com) has released its $89.95 PhotoSpray 1.5 [MW], a Photoshop filter plug-in to spray pictures on top of RGB photos.


Auto FX (http://www.autofx.com/mystical_ttc/mystical_ttc.html) has released Mystical Tint, Tone and Color [MW] to apply Hand Tint, Antique Photo, Black and White, Color Bleach, Under Exposed and Tonal Sharpen effects to images. The standalone app and Photoshop plug-in is available for $149 (regularly $179).


WHTour (http://www.world-heritage-tour.org) is creating "a documentary image bank with panoramic pictures and interactive virtual reality films for all sites registered as World Heritage by the UNESCO." Of the 730 properties in 125 countries on the World Heritage list, WHTour has covered 52 sites so far.


Luminous Landscape (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/scanners/printfix.shtml) has reviewed ColorVision's PrintFIX 1.0, which creates color profiles of inkjet printers.


Devon (http://www.devon-technologies.com) has released ThumbsUp 3.0 [M], a free drag-and-drop utility for creating thumbnails. This version adds scaling by percentage, optional sharpening and more output formats.


Boxwork (http://www.boxwork.com) has released Gammawork 1.0 [M], a free monitor calibration tool that can handle up to four connected monitors, allowing independent adjustment of red, green and blue curves in addition to gamma adjustment.


Alex King (http://www.alexking.org) has released Photos 3.5b1 (formerly Gallery) [MW], a free Web-based system for storing, cataloging and retrieving photos. The new version extends browser compatibility, adds text searches of titles and descriptions and enhances the interface, among other improvements.


Big Green Software (http://homepage.mac.com/biggreen) has released EasyPhoto 1.2.5 [M], a $14.95 drag-and-drop application to rotate, resize and save email-sized images in over 30 formats.


UMAX (http://www.umax.com) has announced the AstraPix 540, a 2-megapixel digicam that can morph into a camcorder, Web cam or MP3 player for $149.

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One Liners

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

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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
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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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