|Volume 5, Number 17||22 August 2003|
Welcome to the 104th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. With exciting news from Sony, Kodak, HP and Canon, we were tempted to do a 4-GB newsletter this time. Then we read Executive Editor Kim Brady's article on photo kiosks and returned to our senses. Only images are worth a thousand words.
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By KIM BRADY
It's been a little more than a year since my neighbor's daughter came knocking breathlessly at my door with a great treasure in hand: a set of inkjet prints of her new baby niece. She shuffled through the small stack of prints with excitement, apologizing for the smudges and running ink, which were caused, she said, "When I took them out in the rain." These prints were made in a family that lives computers, but they hadn't resolved the problem of print durability.
As digital photography improves, family snap-shooters and even advanced photo enthusiasts are looking for simpler ways to manage and share their images than printing at home. Fortunately, consumer and professional photo labs are also searching for new output solutions. They've watched film sales drop and demand for digital services rise and now finally, lab equipment manufacturers are responding with sophisticated new printing systems -- centered around standalone digital kiosks -- that are reasonably priced for the small photo lab.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
Many photographers have turned to online printing services, like Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com), to acquire high-quality photographic prints from digital files. This is the perfect option for online shoppers who are willing to wait a few days for their prints. I've been thrilled with the quality of prints I've received from Ofoto's Web site and Sony's picture-sharing Web site (http://www.imagestation.com) has great online album features and the capability to make a bound book of the new baby, if you choose.
Another option that's been growing in popularity is over-the-counter digital processing. Most one-hour photo labs have installed digital card readers in their minilab equipment, enabling them to read media cards right out of the camera and make prints using conventional photo processing equipment. "It's just like developing a roll of film," says one lab owner. "You bring in your digital media card or CD-ROM, we log it in for identification and tracking, then you return an hour later to pick up both the media card and your pictures. You can even order a Photo CD and/or index print of your images, so they're permanently archived and you're free to erase the media and start over."
Both of these options offer significant advantages. The images are printed on high-quality photographic paper that is archival, stable and looks like a real photograph and the color balance, contrast and exposure are automatically determined by the lab's sophisticated processing programs. Best of all, if a picture doesn't come out the way you wanted, many places allow you to return it without paying for the print.
But what if you want more hands-on control of the picture-making process? For example, you may want to print only a few files on the card, determine your own cropping or order different sizes or even multiples of some images. All of these options and more, are available through digital photo kiosks. In fact, if you pick the right model, a photo kiosk can become your own color processing lab, with options to crop, lighten, darken, remove red-eye, change color balance, convert to black-and-white or add sepia tone to your prints. Some also print greeting cards, business cards and other photo novelty items.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
As with any service-related product, you are most likely to receive the best customer support at a photo store that specializes in selling photographic products and professional/consumer film processing. Store employees are trained to watch the kiosks and make sure customers who need help are offered assistance as soon as possible. Most owners said that after the first visit, users are able to complete orders on their own. Though it varies by location, photo stores are also more likely to keep the machines up and running and they have the best record for screening output quality. Of course, all this service comes at a price. Photo labs typically charge at the higher end of the cost-per-print range (40 to 60 cents for a 4x6 print and $6 to $7 for an 8x10 print).
One-hour photo labs are another good source for digital printing -- both over the counter and when using a photo kiosk. I've met some very knowledgeable photo lab managers at the major drugstores and discount stores in my area, especially those that have been in the minilab business a long time. The only drawback I've encountered is that these facilities usually have fewer lab personnel on duty, so they can be backed up when business is brisk and they are not as well trained to handle problems with the machines.
The advantages of using a one-hour photo lab can easily offset these issues, however, especially if you order large numbers of prints. Just like film processing, discount labs typically charge at the lower end of the cost-per-print scale. (Walgreens and Wal-Mart charge 29 cents for a 4x6-inch print from the Fujifilm kiosk, while Sam's Club -- a discount warehouse club -- charges only 20 cents. Kodak, which usually sells its prints ganged on 8.5x12-inch sheets for $5-$7, are $4.50 at Sam's and occasionally drug stores offer Kodak specials -- two for the price of one.)
Some of the least successful installations I've encountered are the standalone kiosks found in grocery stores, consumer electronics stores and other retail outlets that do not have in-house labs. Many of these businesses have only one staff member capable of demonstrating the kiosk and the machines are frequently "down," waiting for a technician to come fill the paper or ink supply. But they can come in handy in a pinch.
WHICH KIOSK IS BEST?
Your choice will depend on several criteria: 1) Do you want conventional photographic, dye-sub or ink-jet prints? 2) Are you willing to wait an hour or do you want five-minute service? 3) What kind of controls do you want? Do you prefer to press one button for 30 prints and let the software determine cropping and exposure or do you want maximum control over each picture?
Those photographers who are primarily concerned with archival prints will most likely want conventional photographic prints, which are ordered through a kiosk and then transferred to a minilab for processing. If lab business is slow, you can often get your prints in less than an hour.
Agfa and Fujifilm both offer digital kiosks networked to the store's in-house minilab. Agfa's e-box is a digital order station that networks to the Agfa d.lab system and the Agfa ImageCube is a standalone kiosk that allows you to transfer images from your digital media to a CD. You can search for Agfa dealers at: http://www.agfanet.com/en/dealerloc/cont_dealerloc.php3.
Fujifilm manufactures two versions of its Aladdin Digital Photo Center -- a standup kiosk and a countertop model. Both can be directly networked to a Fujifilm Frontier Digital Lab System or one of Fuji's digital color printers. Frontier digital labs use the highest-rated archival color paper on the market -- Fujifilm Crystal Archive -- expected to last 80 to 100 years without noticeable fading. To locate a Fujifilm provider near you, visit: http://www.fujifilm.com/JSP/fuji/epartners/MapFindPage.jsp?photo=true.
Kodak has been distributing its Picture Maker kiosks for nearly 10 years. Initially, they were made for consumers to scan their own prints and make copies or enlargements. Since then, the Picture Maker family has grown to include three models: One writes files to a Kodak CD for processing, another outputs only 4x6-inch prints and the third outputs several image formats on 8.5x12 sheets of thermal dye-sub paper. The downside of this last system is that you pay the same price for three 4x6 prints as you do for one 8x10 ($5 to $7), which is much more expensive than buying a single 4x6-inch print on other machines. To view demonstrations of the Kodak Picture Maker Print stations and search for Kodak kiosks in your area, visit: http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml?pq-path=9/502/503/505&pq-locale=en_US.
Sony introduced its photo kiosk, the Sony PictureStation, at PMA in February. The company also announced an agreement with Kinkošs business stores to install 800 units throughout the U.S. In talking with a local Kinkošs dealer, it appears that the Sony kiosks are replacing existing Kodak machines. The first trials took place in Atlanta-area Kinkos, but the kiosks are now showing up in Kinkošs, Kroger, and independent photo labs in other areas of the country. Sonyšs PictureStation comes in both stand-alone and countertop versions, and offers prints ranging in size from wallet to 8x10 inches. The kiosk interface is one of the easiest Išve used, especially when making fine adjustments to contrast, color balance, and brightness. Therešs even a backlight option for pictures that are underexposed in the foreground. Instead of printing three 4x6-inch prints on an 8.5x12-inch sheet of paper, the PictureStation has a separate printer for each picture size. Prices ranged from 59 cents for a 4x6 to $4.99 for an 8x10 print. To find a Sony PictureStation in your area, visit: http://bssc.sel.sony.com/Professional/markets/market_10003.html?m=10003.
GETTING GOOD KIOSK PRINTS
Like any photographic output device, digital photo kiosks have their own quirks, which you'll soon learn if you use them on a regular basis. The following tips should help you survive your first few encounters.
- Always know how many images are on your media card or CD before you insert it into the kiosk. Some machines tend to pass over random files for no particular reason, especially when you're handling files that are very small (less than 300KB) or very large (more than 3.5 MB). If a file doesn't show up, ask the lab technician to help you identify the problem. (Note: Most kiosks read only JPEG files.)
- If you're critical about print reproduction, try copying the files to your hard drive first, make any adjustments in your image-editing software, and write the finished files to a CD for printing. (Print an index of the CD contents to cover Tip 1.) All kiosks accept CDs. To avoid the issue of over-sized files, I convert all my images to 150-300 dpi, and trim the image size to 8x10 inches or smaller.
- When editing your photos for printing, keep in mind that kiosks are set up to print only standard-format images. If your image doesn't fit within a standard format (4x6, 5x7, or 8x10), and you don't want it cropped, build a new file with your image editing software, (make sure it's the same resolution as the original, but with larger dimensions) and paste the original picture inside. The photo will print with a white border, but you can trim it off later, and you won't lose any of the original image area.
- All photo kiosks have some editing capabilities. Though it will take longer to submit an order, I've found it's always best to preview each image on the kiosk monitor, and take full advantage of the machine's editing tools before placing your order. The kiosk monitor is calibrated to the output device, so you'll know right away if your print will look the way you expect. And some machines, like the Fujifilm Aladdin, have a habit of cropping in slightly on every picture, so I always check it and "crop out" to make sure the entire picture is printed.
- If you bypass the editing features and select "Print All," the kiosk or minilab software is free to do a global adjustment, so that all the pictures fit within an average exposure range, eliminating any high-contrast or super-saturated colors. If you're using a kiosk networked to a minilab, you may be able to alert the technician behind the counter to maintain the exposures you have set, but the way I look at it, I'm still spending less time preparing my images on the kiosk, than I would be printing them at home.
- If you want to print black-and-white images, make sure you convert them to RGB format before printing. This doesn't seem to be a problem with the Kodak Picture Maker, but the Fujifilm Aladdin doesn't read monochromatic files well. They may show up on the kiosk monitor, but they transfer to the minilab in a "negative" format (if at all). The "expanded" feature set available on the Wal-Mart and Sam's kiosks has a black-and-white option that solves this problem, but I have yet to find a black-and-white option on the "abbreviated" feature set installed on other retailer's machines.
- If you're not sure how your pictures will look printed on a kiosk, start out by printing 4x6-inch "proofs," and then move up to larger prints if you like the results. A 4x6-inch print is much less expensive to throw away than a 5x7 or 8x10, and if you have the option of turning back prints you don't like to the lab, you'll create much less animosity when they have to "eat" the prints you don't like.
It's difficult to rate image quality from one kiosk to the next. If you print the same image on three different models, you'll see slight differences in color, saturation and (in some cases) highlight and shadow detail. However, most consumers would find all three prints more than satisfactory if viewed on their own. I've encountered one professional portrait photographer who uses photo kiosks to output her customer's prints (they're that good!). For you, it will be a personal decision based on a little experimentation and hopefully, a good experience with one of the kiosks you try.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/F828/F82A.HTM on the Web site.)
Sony's introduction of the F282 redefines the high end of its lineup with a real breakthrough digicam, on several fronts at once.
At a time when 5-megapixel cameras are beginning to become commonplace, Sony has leapfrogged the competition again, extending the F717 "big lens" concept by boosting the sensor resolution to 8 megapixels (!) and the lens to a 7x zoom (a 28-215mm 35mm equivalent) with a fast f2.0-2.8 maximum aperture.
And the F828 is the first vehicle for Sony's new RGB+E image sensor, which adds an "Emerald" (more or less a cyan color) filter, replacing half of what would otherwise have been green pixels on a normal CCD chip.
There's another significant departure internally that frankly surprised me given Sony's recent history: a Type II CompactFlash memory slot!
Add this (and a bit more) together, and the result is the new F828, a burly (over two pounds) uber-camera to redefine the high end -- period.
The F828 resembles the previous F717 with its rotating lens barrel, but with a larger body, larger lens and an all-black metal case. The F828 retains the features that made the F707 and F717 such impressive products like Hologram AF and Night Shot technologies, but adds a longer-sequence Burst mode with Speed Priority and Framing Priority settings, as well as a RAW data format and a handful of Noise Reduction modes for low-light shooting.
The rotating lens barrel that accounts for much of the F828's bulk continues to be one of my favorite design features. You can rotate the lens approximately 100 degrees -- from about 70 degrees upward to 30 degrees downward. The tripod mount is on the bottom of the lens barrel, so you can tilt the body up to view the LCD monitor more clearly when the camera is mounted on a tripod.
The lens barrel features two separate control rings, one for focus and the other for zoom, operating much like a standard 35mm lens.
On the F828, the zoom ring is directly coupled to the lens mechanism itself, making for very precise control. The large lens is heavy though, contributing to the camera's hefty (!) 34.5 ounces (2 pounds, 2.5 ounces). You have to use your left hand to support the lens, while your right grips the body.
The body itself is relatively compact, though a fair bit larger than the body on the F717, with a much more substantial handgrip. In fact, the handgrip is large enough that small hands might find it awkward to hold.
The F828 is equipped with a super-sharp 7.1-51mm Carl Zeiss lens (equivalent to a 28-200mm lens on a 35mm camera), an impressive 7x optical zoom ratio. Equally important is that the wide-angle end of its range goes all the way out to 28mm, wider than most digicam lenses (very handy for realtors and others who need maximum angular coverage for cramped shooting conditions). The aperture can be adjusted automatically or manually and ranges from f2-2.8 to f8 depending on the zoom setting. An additional 2x Precision Digital Zoom function (14x total zoom) can be turned on and off via the Record menu, but remember that quality is always an issue with digital enlargement. That said, Sony's Precision Digital Zoom seems to cause less quality degradation than the normal digital zoom used by some other digicams. One difference seems to be that the required interpolation is done with raw CCD data, before the JPEG compression is applied.
The F828 also offers as much as 5x Smart Zoom when shooting at the VGA resolution setting, effectively increasing the total zoom to 35x. Smart Zoom is Sony's digital zoom feature that limits its magnification to that which results in a 1:1 mapping of sensor pixels to final image pixels. It's new to Sony's line, but Fuji's consumer cameras have worked this way for a few years now. Overall, this is how I think digital zoom should work, so kudos to Sony for getting onboard with it.
Sony offers both wide-angle and telephoto converters as accessories for the F828, which mount in front of the lens via the 58mm filter threads that line the inside lip of the lens barrel.
Focus on the F828 ranges from between 9 and 27 inches (23-69 centimeters, depending on the zoom setting) to infinity in normal mode and from 0.8 inches to infinity in Macro mode. Manual focus is set by turning the focus ring at the end of the lens barrel, just as you would a standard 35mm camera lens. An Expanded Focus option automatically magnifies the image 2x whenever you rotate the focus ring, providing just enough resolution to accurately set the focus using the monitor.
I really like the feel of a digicam with a manual focus that works more or less like that on a standard 35mm camera lens. The F828's focus ring isn't directly coupled to the lens elements (like the zoom control), but just instructs the camera's CPU which way to move the focusing elements. This takes some getting used to.
Also, the proportionality between focus-ring movement and focus adjustment seems to depend on how quickly you turn the ring. It can take many slow turns to traverse the full focal range, but a quick twist goes instantly from infinity down to a couple of meters. This is doubtless an attempt to deal with the slow slew rate of most "fly by wire" digicam focusing systems. It definitely improves the focus response compared to other cameras, but I still find manual focusing on the F828 to be slightly disconcerting.
Arguably the biggest news with the F828 is that it's the first vehicle for Sony's new "RGB+E" image sensors, which use four different color filters, rather than the usual three. Most digicams distinguish color using red, green and blue color filters over their individual sensors. The F828 adds "Emerald" (more or less a cyan color) filters, replacing half of what would otherwise have been green pixels on a normal CCD chip.
This new sensor color space promises to dramatically improve color rendition in some parts of the spectrum. In particular, it reveals more shading and detail in highly-saturated yellows, reds and oranges and renders some shades of blue and blue-green more accurately. From samples I've seen so far, RGB+E looks like it holds great promise for significantly improving both color accuracy and the rendering of subtle hues in brightly-colored subjects.
Given that the sample I received doesn't have its color dialed-in yet, I'll have to withhold judgment on the RGB+E sensor technology for the moment. It certainly looks interesting though. I highly applaud Sony's innovation in exploring new camera color spaces to improve image quality. Based on preliminary results, it looks like they've achieved a real breakthrough in digicam color fidelity.
In the marketing literature for the F828, Sony touts the camera's use of a true "Linear Matrix computing process" to convert the four-color RGB+E data to conventional RGB. This is just a fancy way of saying the four colors are converted to RGB by multiplying the four color values for each pixel by a coefficient and summing the results for each of the target primary colors. What puzzles me is that I thought this was how you always do color transformations. Given Sony's hype over their use of this approach, it seems likely that other digicams more often use a different technique that's less accurate, perhaps trading off computational speed for accuracy. Regardless of the specifics, it does appear that the F828 offers a new level of color rendition, even in its prototype stage of development.
Like many Sony digicams, the F828 offers a number of special recording modes, including RAW, TIFF, Voice, Email, Exposure Bracketing and Burst.
While many other digicam makers offer their own versions of it, RAW mode is new to the Sony line with the F828. RAW mode simply records all the picture data, exactly as it comes from the image sensor. RAW files are generally losslessly compressed, so they take up less space than TIFF images, but don't exhibit the artifacts and data loss that characterizes JPEG-compressed files. RAW-mode file formats are prized for the ability they give photographers to make color balance and even minor exposure adjustments after the fact, working with the exact data that the camera captured originally. As of this writing, Sony hadn't yet released its software for manipulating the F828's RAW-mode images but we're told it will be available by the time the cameras ship to retail stores this fall.
SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES
Given the prototype status of the F828, I decided to not run a full set of timing tests on it. I've found that camera timing and autofocus performance often change significantly from prototype to production models. But speed is one of the major points Sony is making for the F828, so I slapped the prototype into the test jig to run a few quick numbers. Wow!
Even as a prototype, the F828 is faster than any other "prosumer" level digicam I've tested! Full-autofocus shutter lag was only 0.39 second at wide-angle and just 0.61 at maximum telephoto. Since the typical range is between 0.8 and 1.0 second, the F828 is clearly in front of the rest of the field. The Fuji S602 had been the fastest prosumer camera I'd tested, with a lag time of 0.56 second at wide-angle and 0.80 second at telephoto. So the F828 looks like it'll easily take the crown as "fastest prosumer camera," at least for now. And what a great camera for sports shooting, with that long 7x optical zoom lens!
IMAGE STORAGE & INTERFACE
The F828 uses either the proprietary Sony Memory Stick (compatible with Memory Stick PRO) or CompactFlash Type I or II cards for image storage. The camera is also compatible with the IBM MicroDrive. CompactFlash cards insert into a compartment on the right side of the camera, while the Memory Stick slot is tucked away inside the battery compartment.
Sony's provision of a CompactFlash card slot is a real departure for the company, but a very welcome feature. Most prospective purchasers of this camera will already own a digicam and there's a good chance that their existing card will be in the CompactFlash format. Sony's addition of a CompactFlash slot thus removes one purchase barrier for many users.
The camera does not ship with a memory card, as the large image size really calls for a large capacity memory card and Sony evidently didn't want to run up the cost to the extent that would have resulted from including a large card. (Most users of this class of camera purchase their own large memory cards in any case.)
No firm "conclusion" yet, as all I've seen at this point is a very early prototype of the camera. What I saw was impressive though. Loads of resolution, respectable image noise levels, a very fast shutter response and new color technology that seems to convey some very real advantages. All in all, a very impressive offering. I'll withhold final judgment until I can thoroughly test a production model, but the F828 looks like a real breakthrough digicam, on several fronts at once. If you're shopping for a digicam in the roughly thousand-dollar price range, you'll definitely want to stay tuned to see how this one turns out once it hits production.
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: Canon PowerShot G5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G5/G5A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Minolta DiMAGE A1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A1/A1A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Casio Exilim Z3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Z3/Z3A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Minolta DiMAGE S414 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S414/S414A.HTM)
UPS knocked on the door the other day and left us a heavy box. Finally, we cried out, a book about scanning!
Wait a minute, you say, this is about SilverFast, not scanning. And what's SilverFast anyway?
Well, SilverFast is a scanning application (which also runs as a Photoshop plug-in) from LaserSoft (http://www.lasersoft-imaging.com). It's bundled with many scanners and available for even more. If you're new to scanning, you can just run ScanPilot (setting it on autopilot, so to speak) and let it fly. But if you miss your old process camera, you can twiddle with it all day. We reviewed it (Nov. 15, 2002) with respect.
We did quibble (respectfully) about the interface, however. It's so complex, you have to use a special dialog window just to simplify it. And the documentation wasn't easy reading. The product, a gem, cried out for a book.
Well, actually, we cried out -- when we saw "SilverFast, the Official Guide." We're occasionally asked to recommend a good book about scanning -- and nothing ever comes to mind. But this could be it, thanks to SilverFast's prescan concept.
SilverFast works a bit harder than your typical scanning application. It does a quick prescan to give you enough information about your image to manipulate it as if you'd already scanned it and gone to work in your image editor. After you've made the big corrections, it does the high-resolution scan, using all of your scanner's bit depth to squeeze as much quality out of the scan (rather than the file data) as it can. So touring SilverFast, you are really getting an advanced degree in image editing.
And author Taz Tally (http://www.tazseminars.com) does it in less than 200 pages. That takes 12 chapters plus a couple of appendices and a CD covering more advanced topics (including calibration, slides and negatives).
A peek at the table of contents is educational itself. It comprises something of a syllabus for a course on scanning:
Chapter 1 -- The Basics of a Scanned Image. The difference between a bitmap and a vector image. Bit depth, channels and shades of gray. Resolution. Color theory and modes. File formats.
Chapter 2 -- Behind the Magic: How Scanners Work. Converting light into digital signals. CCD configurations. Scanner resolution (which we found particularly sobering and insightful).
Chapter 3 -- Up and Running with SilverFast: Quick Start. System Requirements. Workspace. Scan Control Window. Acquiring your first image. Finding help.
Chapter 4 -- Automatic Scanning: Working with the Prescan Image. Preparing the scanner and the image. Calibrating. Auto Adjustments.
Chapter 5 -- Manual Scanning: Working with the Prescan Image. General defaults. SilverFast tools. Image information tools. Image corrections and tools. (This is really where the fun begins.)
Chapter 6 -- Fine-Tuning the Color in Your Scans. Densitometer points. Color correction with curves and other tools. Masking. Color restoration. (And this is where the real fun takes off. Va-voom.)
Chapter 7 -- Getting Control with the Expert Dialog.
Chapter 8 -- Sharpen, Smooth, and Remove. Sharpening explained. Controlling unsharp masking. Descreening. Grain and noise reduction. The dust and scratch removal tool.
Chapter 9 -- Seeing the World in Black and White. Line art (simple, complex, color).
Chapter 10 -- Power User Tips. ScanPilot, Scan frames, batch scanning, Job Manager.
Chapter 11 -- Getting a Grip on Color Management and Output. Creating an ICC profile in SilverFast. Acquiring and accessing profiles. Color management workflows. Output tips.
Chapter 12 -- Using SilverFast HDR, DC, and PhotoCD. Variations on a theme, these SilverFast products are designed for images already digitized.
Bonus 1 -- Making Slides Come Alive
Bonus 2 -- Positive Experiences from Your Negatives
Appendix A -- Manual Calibration
Appendix B -- Keyboard Shortcuts
A Foreward, Introduction and Index round out the contents.
Tally has been doing this a while. He previously published "Avoiding the Scanning Blues" and "Electronic Publishing: Avoiding the Output Blues." He's also developed a 10-step scanner and digicam calibration target and kit. And he writes a prepress column for Photoshop User magazine in addition to conducting seminars on electronic publishing.
So, unlike the SilverFast documentation, this book goes down easily. And if the brief overview of the contents above looks intimidating, relax. Tally writes in a clear, engaging style than makes this stuff accessible no matter what level of expertise you don't bring to the page.
We have no idea why the two bonus chapters (scanning slides and negatives) weren't included in the book -- or why, since they're supplied as PDFs, they aren't in color (particularly the chapter on negatives). But don't skip them. This isn't much discussed and needs to be.
Even if you don't use SilverFast, this book will teach you the secrets of the masters of image manipulation from cleaning your original before scanning it to removing color casts.
And, of course, if you do use SilverFast, you can stop crying. Well, one more hoot for Sybex would be OK.
SilverFast: the Official Guide by Taz Tally, published by Sybex, 198 pages, $30.
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 initial comments about the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee94123
Visit the Canon Camera Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f773
Peter asks about photo file to CD sessions at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee941d9/0
Dennis asks about motion sensing cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee940e4/0
Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae
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RE: Two Common Misconceptions
There is a common misconception you've reinforced in your current newsletter, namely that a smaller than 35mm imager does change your lens into another one.
That is certainly nonsense, if you use a Nikon DSLR for instance with a nearly 1.5x angle-change a 50mm lens does not become a 75mm tele; only the angle recorded is more narrow. You won't get any change in perceived perspective or depth of field, that is you are not as lucky now to shoot lions in Tanzania from far away with a "multiplied" 300mm becoming a 450mm; you still have to go up to them nearly half-way.
This, BTW, is not only important for the lens manufacturers and sellers -- they will still sell higher priced tele lenses -- but also for the photos taken as the perspective will only change if you change your point of view in relation to the object.
Which clears up another misunderstanding: Perspective does not change by changing lenses and standing still. Anybody with a darkroom (easier with a digital darkroom as in Photoshop) can test that, take a picture with a telephoto lens, change the lens to a wide-angle, but shoot from the same point the same object, which now appears much smaller. If you now crop the wide-angle shot to the same detail the tele shot shows, you will have essentially the same picture. "Essentially" because the cropped image will be more grainy/noisy.
-- Dierk Haasis(Right, Dierk. That's exactly why lenses are described by their focal length. And why we translate digicam focal lengths into their "35mm equivalents." On the one hand, it's true that all lenses of the same focal length form images of the same size, no matter what film size or CCD size they form the image on. On the other hand, folks want to know what kind of crop they can expect -- which is not entirely revealed by the focal length because of the focal length multiplier. Whose role we were exposing in our reply. -- Editor)
RE: What's a Shutter?
I don't recall seeing this discussed on your site (or anywhere else): What exactly is the shutter on a simple digicam?
The image is always on the screen, so if there is an actual shutter, it must always be open. This doesn't make much sense.
Are shutters and shutter "speeds" actually just "virtual?" And, what exactly causes "shutter lag?"
It would seem that the capture of the image which already exists before the button is pressed would be instantaneous.
I presume digital SLRs have actual shutters. Is this correct?
-- Luke Smith(There are two kinds of shutters: electronic and mechanical. Some digicams have both, the Toshiba PDR-M700, for example. Most have just an electronic shutter. In the electronic shutter, the CCD sensors accumulate light for the duration of the shutter speed selected -- 1/30 second or 1/60 or 1/500, for example. Mechanical shutters work as they always have. A curtain is raised/lowered for the duration indicated.... Shutter lag is something else all together. It amounts to all the calculations required before the shutter leaps into action (electronically or mechanically). Typically this involves finding focus, setting white balance, setting exposure options (usually both f-stop and shutter speed), etc. That's why you can significantly reduce shutter lag by pressing the shutter button halfway before the shot, freezing all the calculations. -- Editor)
RE: Pop Quiz
- Is there any relation between number of pixels and imager size?
- What controls ISO sensitivity?
- Are there tradeoffs between high ISO sensitivity and something else?
- Are all manufacturers CCD sensors pretty much the same or are there significant differences?
- Ditto above for LCD displays.
- Etc., etc., etc....
-- Chap Cronquist(1. Assuming a constant sensor size, yes. But don't assume that. 2. Multiplication. Each sensor element reacts to light and reports a value between 0 and 255. That's all it can do. Electronics can do more, though, by boosting the value. Sort of like turning up the volume. 3. Yes, noise. At lower ISO levels (without gain) the difference between detail and artifact (or noise) is minimized. As you bump up the gain, the difference is minimized. To see brightness where it's pretty dim, you make it brighter. But you are also making darkness brighter. You get brightness where there isn't brightness. 4. There are significant differences. But it's often hard to tell who is using what. Fuji's Super CCD and Foveon's chip are unique designs. Canon (and now Sony) uses a different color filter matrix than other manufacturers. Sony CCDs are in a lot of digicams. 5. Ah, pretty generic. Although we're about to see much brighter ones and organic ones. Nothing stands still very long. 6. Precisely why we keep after this, week after week. It's a moving target. Hope this helps a bit -- we're always around to fill in the blanks, Chap! -- Editor)
With email filtering company MessageLabs intercepting over a million messages Tuesday and Postini catching another 2.6 million in 24 hours, the Sobig.F virus at least doubled normal email traffic on the Internet, according to a Cnet story (http://news.com.com/2100-1002-5066444.html). That followed the Blaster worm that disabled many PCs.
Pierre Vandevenne, who this week released new demo versions of PhotoRescue (http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM) which now recover non picture files for free, noted, "A small word about our other product, the IDA Pro Disassembler. It has become the de-facto standard for hostile code analysis and was once again instrumental in helping defeat the Blaster worm that attempted to attack Microsoft's Windows update site this weekend. Several IDA Pro-generated analyses were available minutes after the worm surfaced. This week has been extremely busy for us."
HP (http://www.hp.com) got things rolling with over 100 product introductions, including the 8-ink Photosmart 7960 photo printer, ultra-thin Scanjet 4600 series see-through scanners, the wireless PSC 2510 Photosmart all-in-one device (printer, fax, scanner, copier), Image Zone all-in-one photo software, the 5.1-Mp with 8x zoom Photosmart 945 digicam, the Photosmart mobile camera designed for PDA and pocket PCs, low-priced but heavy Everyday photo paper and, finally, DVD Movie Writer dc3000 with built-in analog video capture.
Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) introduced the $499 EasyShare DX6490 Zoom, a 4.2-Mp digicam with a 38-380mm 35mm equivalent Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon 10x optical zoom lens.
Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com) introduced the 6.3-Mp EOS Digital Rebel at several price points (just $899 in the U.S., higher elsewhere) and configured with ($999) or without the new EF 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 zoom lens.
Canon also announced the $498 PowerShot A80 with 4-Mp, a 3x optical zoom lens and a tilt/swivel LCD display like the G-series cameras.
Coolatoola (http://coolatoola.com) released its $30 DV Backup 1.1 [M], to backup data from a Mac to a DV or Digital8 camcorder. The new version adds several new backup features (multi-tape, compressed, incremental and auto-repeating scheduled) plus volume names for tapes, display of percentage of tape used and remaining space available.
LaserSoft (http://www.lasersoft-imaging.com) is releasing new versions of its SilverFast line that include its excellent QuickTime movies in the Help system.
WiebeTech (http://www.wiebetech.com) is shipping the MicroGB800, a FireWire 800 version of its popular MicroGB+ pocket drive with an Oxford OXUF922 FireWire bridge, AC adapter, carrying case and a mini USB2 port. With a 60-GB/7200RPM drive, data transfers at a rate greater than 2.1-GB per minute.
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) posted a free Photoshop 7.0.1 G5 Update for Apple's new G5, replacing the AltiVecCore plug-in and Adobe Color Engine.
CD/DVD burning gets two new Mac OS X products. NewTech InfoSystems (http://www.ntius.com) released Dragon Burn for audio and data CD and DVD discs as well as mixed-mode and CD extra discs. For data, Dragon Burn supports ISO 9660 MS-DOS and Joliet, HFS (Mac OS) and HFS+ (Mac OS Extended) file systems. Hybrid Mac OS and ISO 9660 file system combinations are also supported.
Roxio (http://www.roxio.com) said it will release Toast 6 early in September for $99.95 with a $20 rebate coupon for existing owners. The new version can share recorders or set up shared burning servers and features automatic backups, 128-bit encryption and compression (for Mac-only CDs and DVDs) plus streamlined recording of various media types.
On Aug. 27 Mars will come closer to Earth than ever before in recorded history (http://188.8.131.52/science/mars.asp) -- just 34,649,589 miles away, the brightest object in the night sky after the moon itself.
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
Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com
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:
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher