The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 5, Number 21 17 October 2003

Copyright 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 108th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We play with an out-of-this-world compositing tool while Dave whistles over Kodak's 10x zoom. Then we rethink sharpening with Bruce Fraser before asking for your nominations for our Ersatz Nobel.


TOPICS

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Feature: MatchLight 3.0 -- A Compositing Toolkit

We opened the MatchLight software box and out flew three flying saucers. No kidding.

The 2.25-inch diameter compact, the 4.375-inch sedan and the 8.725-inch SUV equivalent all shared a family resemblance. At the center of each saucer was a gray half sphere. The flat dish of the saucers was trimmed in black on the outer edge, white on the inner and in between they sported a unique fluorescent color. The compact was done in optical pink, the sedan in optical green and the SUV in optical orange.

Our first thought was of George Lucas. We peeked carefully into the box and whispered, "George? You in there?"

When we shook the box, a rather pedestrian CD containing the MatchLight software itself rattled around -- but no George.

THE ART OF COMPOSITING

We thought of George (http://www.starwars.com/bio/georgelucas.html) because he's the poster boy of digital compositing, the art of creating a scene with nothing but bits and bytes. It sounds easy (maybe you've tried to paste in a missing family member in the latest group portrait) but it's deceptively difficult.

The hard part is making the composite believable. Sure, you can resize Junior to be slightly taller than Missy and even neatly erase part of him so he seems to be standing behind Granny. But the noon sun casting a shadow over his eyes just doesn't match the red-eye of the rest of the family. It's as if he were the kid from next door.

The trick to a credible composite is keeping the family resemblance, so to speak. In lighting and camera angle. And that's precisely what MatchLight's flying saucers are designed to do -- in the first commercial application of a UFO we're aware of.

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?

MatchLight Software (http://www.gomatchlight.com), a privately held company, is based in Seattle. President and CEO Mark Ippolito spent 18 years in the stock photography industry with Getty Images, PhotoDisc, Corbis and Comstock. Creative Director and Vice President of Technology Patrick Scanlon is a photographer (Sports Illustrated, Nike, QANTAS, Southern Pacific Hotels, Citibank) and conjurer of digital imaging and Internet based software/database systems. Founder Steve Fitzgerald is now the company's chief financial officer after overseeing development of the software and a 20,000 background image library.

They envision MatchLight as "the digital alternative to location photography." The software suite (which includes a Photoshop plug-in and a standalone compositing application), the flying saucers (known as LightTargets in their business plan) and the library of background images "enable catalog marketers, apparel retailers, print advertisers and others to consistently and predictably create realistic location composite photos from around the world-without ever leaving the studio."

The system, they say, "has the potential to save these customers 40 percent or more of the costs typically associated with location photography. When factoring in expenses for models, travel, hotels, location fees, photographer day rates, etc., a typical location shoot can cost upwards of $1,000 per image and well over $10,000 per day. Using the MatchLight system these same images can be created for less than $500 each. Moreover, with the MatchLight system customers are never faced with the unwelcome added costs due to bad weather or travel delays."

HOW IT WORKS

How is this possible? Alien intelligence, of course. Those little UFOs aren't really that "unidentified." In fact, they're known quantities. So, step one is to toss them into your image.

The gray dome reveals the angle of the light as well as how hard or soft it is. The ellipse of the saucer tells you what the camera angle is. And the optical ring not only makes it obvious the saucer isn't part of the scene, it also hints at the scale of the image.

All the background images available from MatchLight have one or another saucer in them. And that let's MatchLight's Photoshop plug-in calculate their camera angle, light characteristics (direction and elevation) and scale. MatchLight catalogs them and also keywords the images, noting whether they are landscape or portrait format.

That information is retrieved from the image itself by selecting just the saucer and running the plug-in. A little report, called a LightMap, can be generated and sent to the photographer, say, who can duplicate the setup in the studio for a near perfect match with any background the client wants.

Or, if you've got the perfect image, you can use its LightMap to search MatchLight's site for a background image that matches.

COMPONENTS

You know about the saucers. And we've told you about the plug-in to create and view LightMaps. But there's another component to the package called QuickComp.

QuickComp lets you match a foreground and a background image while the meter's running -- meaning, you don't have to do much more than load the images and let the application composite them automatically for you. With QuickComp you can quickly get an idea of how the whole thing is going to turn out without spending a lot of time building a high-resolution composite.

THE PRICE, HILDA

Actually, the price is rather modest considering the tariffs on alien commercial imports. The $499 Pro Edition includes the saucers and an expanded user license (you can create your own background images and automate searches for matching images). The Standard Edition is $199 and you can upgrade from Standard to Pro for $299.

Both editions include three high-resolution sample images and 50 high-resolution, royalty-free Smart Images ($199 value, if purchased on a CD). Additional single images (over 20,000 of them) are available for download at $99 each. The CD includes both Mac and Windows versions with PDF documentation (in just six pages).

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Well, this is interesting. The plug-in, of course, will run on any system that can run Photoshop 7.0. But QuickComp is a Java application that needs the Java 1.4.1 virtual machine.

Don't worry about that, though. Mac OS X v10.2.6 and later includes that JVM and the QuickComp installer on the CD will install it for PC users.

INSTALLATION

It's a manual install -- which we prefer, actually. You drag the plug-in to your Photoshop Plug-Ins folder and you put the application where you want.

The saucers can be kept in orbit until you need them.

NAVIGATING THE UNIVERSE

But use them you will. They can be carted around more conveniently than you might at first suspect because the compact fits under the sedan, which tucks into the SUV like a set of Russian dolls. And since the largest is only as wide as a piece of paper, you only have to accommodate the 1.25-inch height of the largest dome. So it's like packing a binder.

Locating them in your shot is a little more amusing. For foregrounds, products, objects, etc. you simply put them in a part of the picture that will be cropped out. For backgrounds, you have to find a spot that can either be easily retouched (like pavement) or covered by the subject. A little tour of the available images on the MatchLight site is instructive, but the idea is that they should stand in for the model.

The compact LightTarget is designed for close-ups, while the SUV is intended for long or full body shots. The different colors help the software cut to the chase. You can use any target you like, but there's one little catch. It has to have a minimum of 120 pixels of data in length or the plug-in won't be able to make any sense of it.

Once you've included one in a shot, you can make a LightMap of the shot. Open the image in Photoshop, draw a rectangular marquee roughly around the saucer (or LightTarget) and call the plug-in from the Automate option on the File menu where you'll see MatchLight listed.

That brings up the MatchLight dialog window with your crop of the LightTarget. There's not a lot to do here to create the LightMap. You have to tell the plug-in what color the target is, using a popup menu. Then you have to tighten up the crop on the LightTarget. You can use the Zoom radio button to zoom in when you click on the LightTarget until it fills the window. Then you hit the Marquee radio button (the other option) to draw as tight a box around the LightTarget as you can at your hourly rates.

Then you just click the Create LightMap button.

And in the blink of an eye, you get a LightMap, which looks like a PowerPoint presentation on your lighting genius. The LightMap shows one of five lighting types for the main light and the light's angle and coverage as well as its elevation. It also graphically shows the camera elevation and what the target should look like in the viewfinder. Elevations are noted graphically and in degrees.

You can save the LightMap as a JPEG (which can be printed for reference and emailed to collaborators). Then you can Find a Background by clicking that button in the MatchLight dialog window. It takes you to the site and does an automated search for images matching your LightMap.

The plug-in also lets you edit metadata like Copyright status and notice as well as contact information.

USING QUICKCOMP

QuickComp is the only actual compositing tool MatchLight provides, assuming you know how to composite images in Photoshop. The Java application provides a window with two panes, one for the Background image and another for the Foreground image. Between them is the Control Panel to refine the compositing effect.

The Background pane has three buttons: Select Background, Save and Clear Composite. It's the canvas where the composite will be assembled. The Foreground pane has two buttons: Select Foreground and Reset. Once you've loaded your two images, you spend your time fiddling around in the Control Panel.

The Control Panel has seven sliders to identify colors to drop. You click on the part of the image you want to remove and adjust the slider to expand or contract the selection.

There are four radio buttons below the sliders to modify their behavior: Crop, Backdrop, Erase and Unerase. Pick the appropriate operation to get out of any particular pickle.

When you've masked the foreground image the way you want, you click the Add Foreground to Background button below the four radio buttons. And the two images are composited.

It isn't a perfect composite, but it conveys the idea adequately. You won't be buying frames, that is, but you can show the client for proof of concept.

CONCLUSION

Much as you may hate to fly Junior home (again) for the group photo, there are some shots that are better not composited. Even George Lucas, with all his magic, had to dig an actual hole in the ground for his latest project, the Letterman Digital Arts Center (http://www.lucasfilm.com/presidio/2002).

But for adding realistic (but inexpensive) exotic backdrops in product photography, where attention isn't going to be paid to the whole composition (nor for prolonged periods of contemplation), this is impressive technology. MatchLight sees it as a useful tool for commercial photographers who want an alternative to location work but the product can also be used creatively, assembling multiple matched images in a single composite.

Apart from QuickComp, there's nothing really to learn, either. Just include a LightTarget in your shot. How you use the tool (with your own background or one from MatchLight) is really your own business.

Let's just say it can give you an "other worldly" feeling to go into a composite job with this tool in your bag.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Kodak EasyShare DX6490 -- A Serious Contender

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DX6490/D64A.HTM on the Web site.)

Kodak's EasyShare line of digicams have impressed me by living up to their name. But the new EasyShare DX6490 moves beyond pure ease of use to satisfy the desires of enthusiast photographers as well.

It sports a 4-megapixel CCD, a high-quality Schneider-Kreuznach 10x optical zoom lens with much lower than average distortion, a capable autofocus system that works at very low light levels and an electronic viewfinder system that also works very well in dim light. Its exposure system spans a range of control from fully automatic to fully manual and includes an external flash sync connector.

The DX6490 is easily the best consumer-level digicam Kodak has made to date and one that will compete very strongly in the popular long-zoom marketplace.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Kodak's color and white balance technology has long been among the best in the photo industry, but until now has been restricted to either the low end of the consumer market (EasyShare line) or the very high end of the professional world (pro SLRs). With the $499 4-megapixel, 10x-zoom EasyShare DX6490 though, Kodak takes a large step toward bringing their excellent color technology to the enthusiast market, while still retaining the ease of use for which the EasyShare line is known.

Quite compact despite the large lens, the DX6490 has a body design similar to a number of other long-zoom digicams, with a generous handgrip on the right-hand side, balancing the large lens on the left. It definitely won't fit into a shirt pocket, but the DX6490 is small enough for coat pockets, purses, backpacks, etc. and comes with a neck strap. The 4.0-megapixel CCD captures high-quality images, suitable for very sharp 8x10 prints, even with some cropping.

Perhaps the most exciting feature on the DX6490 is the camera's 10x Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon lens, the 35mm equivalent of a 38-380mm lens (the longest zoom available on any EasyShare model). The all-glass lens has 11 elements in seven groups, with three aspherical elements and lenses made from Extra Low Dispersion glass. Aspheric lens elements help produce sharp images from corner to corner, because they can bring light rays originating from the center of the lens and the edges into focus at the same point. ED glass reduces chromatic aberration (color fringes around objects at the edges of the field of view). Both technologies are found in higher-end cameras, but relatively few models in the DX6490's price range incorporate either.

Apertures range from f2.8 (f3.7 at telephoto) to f8 and are either manually or automatically adjustable. The camera's autofocus mechanism uses a multi-zone system to find the primary subject closest to the lens. Normal focus ranges from 2.0 feet to infinity at wide-angle and from 6.6 feet to infinity at telephoto. Macro mode ranges from 4.8 inches to 2.3 feet at wide-angle and from 3.9 to 6.9 feet at telephoto. The DX6490 also offers up to 3.0x Advanced Digital Zoom, increasing the zoom range to 30x. Keep in mind though, that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality in direct proportion to the magnification achieved, since it just "stretches" the center pixels of the CCD image. The DX6490 offers a 0.44-inch electronic optical viewfinder as well as a 2.2-inch color LCD monitor. The larger LCD monitor features a high-resolution, indoor/outdoor display, that's unusually clear and bright under most lighting.

The DX6490's LCD-based viewfinders are also much more usable under low-light conditions than those of most other cameras, down to about 16x darker than typical city street lighting at night. Kodak achieved this exceptional low-light sensitivity through a special CCD design that combines the charge from multiple rows of sensor elements to boost sensitivity at the expense of resolution. This sounds like something you wouldn't want to do, but most electronic viewfinders throw away most of the sensor data to match the limited resolution of the LCD screens.

Kodak's clever low-light readout system used for the viewfinder system also pays dividends in low-light focusing. Using the same technique of combining data from multiple rows of pixels, the DX6490 can focus accurately in very dark conditions.

Actually, the pixel-combining technique is only part of the story. The hybrid autofocus system uses a passive IR focusing element positioned above the lens, in addition to the usual contrast-detection processing using data collected from the CCD. The passive infrared focusing sensor can operate in complete darkness and is faster than contrast-detection processing under any light level. The passive AF system gets the lens into focusing range quickly and then the contrast-detect system fine-tunes focus. While the DX6490 focused with average speed in normal room light, the dual-mode AF system seemed to produce real benefits under low-light conditions.

The DX6490 offers a full range of exposure control, from the point-and-shoot style of Auto mode to full manual exposure control. The Power/Mode dial on the rear panel not only powers the camera on, but also offers options of Movie, Off, Auto, PASM, Sports, Portrait and Night settings. While Auto mode is best for general photography, the remaining preset modes help with special shooting situations such as night shots in the city or the winning goal of a soccer game.

Manual mode provides complete exposure control, with the user able to set both aperture and shutter speed. Exposure times range from 1/1700 to 16 seconds, a much larger range than previously seen on EasyShare digicams. Exposures in most auto modes are limited to a maximum of 1/8 second but extend to 1/2 second in Night mode. To access exposure times longer than a half-second, use either Shutter Priority or Manual mode.

The DX6490 employs a Multi-Pattern metering system by default, which bases the exposure on a number of light readings taken throughout the frame. Also available are Center-Weighted and Center-Spot modes. You can adjust overall exposure through the Exposure Compensation setting from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in half-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Tungsten and Fluorescent settings, which take advantage of Kodak's proprietary Color Science technology to achieve an accurate color balance under most lighting. ISO is adjustable to 80, 100, 200, 400 or 800 equivalents, plus an Auto setting with an ISO range of 80-130. The DX6490 also offers a handful of color shooting options (Saturated, Neutral, Sepia and Black and White), as well as a Sharpness adjustment. The built-in, pop-up flash is effective from 2.0 to 16.1 feet depending on the setting of the zoom lens and features Auto, Fill, Red-Eye Reduction and Off operating modes. Also included is a PC-sync socket for connecting a more powerful external flash unit (another first in the EasyShare line).

In addition to its still photography options, the DX6490 also offers a Movie recording mode for capturing moving images with sound at 320x240 pixels, at approximately 24 frames per second. Maximum movie lengths depend on the amount of memory space available, with a menu option to restrict length to 5, 15 or 30 seconds. A Burst photography mode captures as many as six frames in rapid succession (approximately three frames per second) while you hold down the Shutter button. The six-frame maximum burst length applies regardless of resolution. A 10-second Self-Timer mode is also available.

The DX6490 is compatible with Kodak's EasyShare camera and printer docks, which offer hassle-free image downloading and printing. The dock station also serves as an AC adapter and in-camera battery charger. The DX6490 has 16-MB internal memory, but the camera also features an SD/MMC memory card slot so you can expand the camera's memory capacity. I highly recommend picking up at least a 64-MB card right away, given the camera's 2304x1728-pixel maximum image size. It includes a single lithium-ion battery pack, providing plenty of capacity for longer excursions. Worst-case run time is about 2 hours and 42 minutes, longer than usual. A battery charger also accompanies the camera, but I strongly recommend keeping a freshly-charged second battery handy. The camera also comes with a video cable for viewing images on a television set and a USB cable.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The DX6490 showed really excellent color in all my tests. Colors were bright, accurate and appropriately saturated. In common with other EasyShare cameras, the DX6490's auto white balance system is unusually capable, handling a wide variety of light sources with ease, including the very difficult household incandescent lighting used in my Indoor Portrait test, although it left slightly more color in those shots than I personally prefer. A lot of other digicam manufacturers could stand to take a page or two from Kodak's color playbook.

Exposure: This was probably the weakest point of the DX6490, as it showed a tendency to overexpose in a variety of situations, especially outdoors under high contrast lighting. The camera had a tough time with the Outdoor House shot, as well as the Outdoor Portrait, where the camera's high native contrast resulted in dark midtones and lost highlight detail. Indoors, the camera required an average amount of positive exposure compensation. I'd really like to see a slightly more accurate exposure system on the 6490.

Resolution/Sharpness: The DX6490 performed very well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to at least 1,150 lines, although you could perhaps argue for as high as 1,200 lines in the horizontal direction. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,350 lines.

Close-Ups: The DX6490 did very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of 2.32x1.74 inches. Resolution was very high, with strong detail in the dollar bill, as well as in the fibers of the gray background. Because of the close shooting range and the DX6490's long 10x lens, the camera's flash was ineffective in this shot and underexposed the image a great deal. Plan on using external illumination for the closest macro shots with the DX6490.

Night Shots: The DX6490's excellent low light performance was one of the biggest surprises. It not only produced excellent color and moderate noise levels, but its viewfinder and autofocus systems worked down to the lowest light levels I test. Overall, quite impressive and a performance to shame many of its more expensive competitors.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The DX6490's electronic "optical" viewfinder is actually a little loose, showing just a little more of the image area than what makes it into the final frame. Still, frame accuracy is very close to 100 percent. The LCD monitor produced the same results, since it's the same view on a larger screen.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the DX6490 is much less than the average of 0.8 percent at the wide-angle end, where I measured only about 0.4 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end came out slightly better at 0.3 percent barrel distortion. Overall, this is a pretty low for such a long-ratio zoom lens. There's also surprisingly little softening in the corners of the image and chromatic aberration seems to be quite low as well.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: The DX6490 isn't a speed demon. Its shutter lag ranges from a moderate 0.88 seconds at wide-angle to a downright leisurely 1.43 seconds at maximum telephoto. Most consumer-grade digicams come in between 0.8 and 1.0 seconds (still grossly too slow, IMHO) and long-zoom models are often slower. The good news though, is that pre-focus shutter lag is a very zippy 0.126 seconds.

Battery Life: Thanks to a beefy rechargeable Li-Ion battery, the DX6490 has excellent battery life. With a worst-case run time of 2 hours and 42 minutes, it's easily in the top ranks of cameras I've tested.

CONCLUSION

Kodak's EasyShare digicams have consistently proved to be among the easiest to use and the DX6490 is no exception. The big news here though, is that the DX6490 is also a very respectable enthusiast camera, with a high-quality lens, full exposure control and a sync connector for use with external flash units. And it really raises the bar in several other areas, including low light performance, with an EVF and autofocus system that are surprisingly usable at low light levels.

The one complaint I have is that it tended to overexpose a fair bit under a variety of conditions. You can adjust for this with the exposure compensation control, but you really shouldn't have to.

I'd still call the DX6490 excellent, it's just that it could have been great if its exposure system were a bit more accurate. Still though, I have no reservations about naming the DX6490 a Dave's Pick. It's clearly one of the better long-zoom digicams on the market.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

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Advanced Mode: Sharpening Revisited

We caught ourselves the other day popping a card straight from the camera into a printer and making gorgeous prints. Full 8x10s from a 3.1-megapixel dinosaur. Rich detail. Perfect.

We didn't know whether to blame the optics, the subject, the printer, the paper or something else. But we were sure it wasn't us.

Then it struck us. We hadn't sharpened these images.

Some time ago, in reviewing nik Sharpener (which remains our tool of choice for routine sharpening), we discussed the role of sharpening in digital imaging. In short, we recommend you not use any in-camera sharpening option, deferring the task to the end, when you know just exactly where the image will be displayed. A different degree of sharpening is required for the Web than an inkjet or an offset press.

No disputing that. You want to sharpen for output.

But recently we stumbled across an argument by Bruce Fraser (http://www.pixelgenius.com/sharpener/why.html) that suggests you might want to sharpen earlier in the game.

To summarize Fraser's argument, the trouble begins in the sensor. No sensor is really fine enough not to soften an image. Even with superlative optics, the sensor will interpolate detail. No doubt you've got a landscape shot that proved this to you.

So, right off the bat, you want some sort of sharpening. A mild sort, no doubt, so subsequent operations (which Fraser is sensitive to) are not perverted. But something has to be done right away. He calls this Capture Sharpening.

That, however, won't be enough. As you look over the image, you'll want some objects to appear sharper. You won't, for example, care much about the sky. In fact, you won't want the noise in the sky sharpened. But you will, very much, want to make the bridge stand out against the sky, to use his test image. You want Creative Sharpening.

When you've taken care of Capture and Creative Sharpening, you can worry about Output Sharpening, Fraser says. And he advises you to "make the file look 'crunchy' on screen when sharpening for offset." You can view your image at 50 percent or even 25 percent, he says, to simulate the effect on the printed piece, "but the only truly reliable way to make the judgment is to view the printed result."

He concludes, "But for me the real payoff is that sharpening becomes a creative tool: the capture sharpen addresses the defects of the capture, the output sharpen addresses the defects of the output. In the middle, there's lots of room to play."

Indeed, the "middle" actually is a bit more common than you might at first believe. Sharpening just a model's eyes, for example, lends a good deal of impact to the image. Or the hood ornament on a classic restoration (but not the chrome grill). You can dramatize an image with selective sharpening alone.

Not every image is worth subjecting to the Fraser workflow, of course. And tools like nik Sharpener, which intelligently sharpens the image, can obviate the need for both Capture and Creative Sharpening. But tricks like this are how you get that one in a million image.

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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 Olympus E1 SLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee932a8

Visit the Minolta Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77f

Bill asks about resizing pictures at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee95288/0

Frank asks about red-eye at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee951d0/0

Visit the Canon EOS Digital Rebel discussions at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee946e1

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Just for Fun: Getting Real With the Ersatz Nobel

Once again the Nobel Committee (http://www.nobel.se) has squandered its prestigious award on ragamuffins dabbling in economics, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace, even literature, of all things. When's the last time an economist picked up your lunch tab? And what medical researcher discounted your prescription? What physicist changed your flat tire, what chemist cleaned your grout? And as for peace, well, that would be a dynamite idea.

No, the Nobel Committee isn't seeing the big picture. It's left to us (all of us) to once again recognize the one human endeavor that matters to everyone. Customer Service. And we do that by awarding our Ersatz Nobel Prize for Digital Imaging.

So it's time once again, colleagues, for your nominations for the Ersatz Nobel Prize for Extraordinary Customer Service in Digital Imaging.

If you've had trouble with a product that was happily resolved, you remember it. It may have surprised you that the company went to the expense it did or that the person you dealt with spent so much time and energy to resolve your problem. Whatever it was, tell us about it.

The biggest fish (in our humble opinion) will win the Ersatz Nobel Prize for Digital Imaging (and the accompanying priceless publicity). And, just to be fair, everyone else gets an Honorable Mention. We doubt you can ever have enough Extraordinary Customer Service.

To submit your entry, simply email us at editor@imaging-resource.com with the Subject line "Ersatz Nobel Prize" and we'll do the rest. Soon, please.

We happened to catch Macintosh troubleshooter Ted Landau's top ten tips when calling tech support (http://www.macfixit.com/article.php?story=20031010090136683) earlier this week, but the link now requires a subscription. Nothing else we read makes the point quite so well. To sum up, be precise and accurate in your description of the problem -- and make the tech person your friend. Maybe they can help, maybe not. But approach them as if they want to.

Unfortunately, we live in an era in which you can buy a perfectly defunct machine and, rather than return it to the vendor for a perfectly functional one, have to return it unused to the manufacturer for repair. The guy who thought that up is not getting even one of those chintzy Nobels for Economics.

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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: About Losing Images

Regarding Judith King's note about losing originals from her Memory Stick, you left out the moral to that unfortunate incident -- don't erase until you poke around in your hard drive and make sure everything is there and in good condition.

Thanks for your newsletter. It's a very helpful publication, especially when I've run into the same problems that readers write in about.

-- John O'Brien

(Well, the problem is that Judith and my friend Johnny (in the prior issue) both thought they'd copied their images to the hard drive. And they both know what they're doing (as Johnny likes to point out <g>).... We like to run a slide show of the new images to make sure they're really there, then copy them to two CDs and an external drive before we reuse the card. But it's still harder than it should be. -- Editor)

To help readers who accidentally remove photos on their digital camera cards, I have used a good, free utility from Convar (http://www.convar.com) called PC Inspector. It works even after reformatting in the camera, in my case a Olympus C2500L.

-- Keith Callow

(Thanks for the recommendation, Keith. Our bias is for cross-platform solutions (to keep things simple), so we routinely recommend PhotoRescue. But free is good, too <g>. -- Editor)

I just read the newsletter and your email response to Judith King. I was surprised you didn't tell her about PhotoRescue. That program can even recover images from a formatted memory card, providing you haven't used the card and overwritten the old images. Even if she has taken a few shots, there's a good chance that some of the old images could still be there.

I recently used PhotoRescue to recover photos for a friend who had come back from a Carribean vacation and could not retrieve the images. Apparently, something happened to the card when she started the download and it became unreadable. Using PhotoRescue, I was able to recover all but one or two of the images. The unrecoverable ones looked like half images and were probably the reason the card became unstable. I have also experimented with recovering images from a formatted card. It really works.

-- Dave Williams

(We mentioned the new release of PhotoRescue in the Editor's Notes section. But nothing will help once you reuse the card, as Johnny did. -- Editor)

RE: Blurry Eyed on Red-Eye

You write, "We think we know a better way of handling red-eye (and you can find it in our Archive at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html)."

But that turns up 42 articles on red-eye -- anything more specific?

-- TBD

(Sorry about that. A number of readers had trouble finding our Advanced Mode article titled "Red Eye." To find it, use your browser's Find command on the Index (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html) page. The keyword search returns any newsletter in which the term "red eye" appears. But the Index lists the headlines for every story in every issue. And the Archive lists the top three topics for each issue. Still, it's obvious we need a better approach. -- Editor)

RE: Exif?

Great newsletters!! Keep 'em comin'! Occasionally, reference is made to Exif data. Where is that data stored and how can I access it? I use both a Nikon 950 (at work, shooting documentation of improvement in my laser hair removal clients) and a Nikon 5000 (at home, shooting everything else). I transfer my pix with a card reader and use Photoshop 7.0 for enhancements.) Thanks in advance for your answer.

-- Deb Reed

(The Exif data is stored before the image data of each image file in a data header. You can read all the gritty details at http://www.exif.org/specifications.html if you like. You can see this data (which includes exposure information) in Photoshop 7.0's file browser. Click on an image and look at the info panel at the bottom left corner. That's a subset of the Exif data. Not all the data is user editable (exposure information, for example, is valid until you edit the image) but some is (like copyright information). The File Info command in Photoshop let's you look at things like the copyright. Catalog programs like Canto Cumulus, Extensis Portfolio and iView Multimedia can also read and write Exif data. -- Editor)

RE: MyMode

I have a MyMode on my digicam and while I think it is a neat feature, I have been trying to figure out what would be the best configuration for it. I was wondering how the pros set their MyMode settings.

Just coming back from vacation I had a situation where I was constantly shooting people outdoors in filtered shade against bright, high contrast backgrounds. Trying to manipulate the camera to take a good shot in this situation was very difficult. I am not a pro and ended up kicking up the fill-flash intensity while setting the exposure compensation to -1 for the background. Could I have set this in a MyMode?

-- Mary Jane

(Good question. Our saved settings vary quite a bit, depending on what we're shooting. And we can never remember between shoots how we set them, so we do a few tests, find something that works and save the settings for subsequent shots. Then if we bounce out of the saved settings to Auto, say, we can get right back to where we were (but without all the work). Typical situations might be exhibit hall shots, natural light shots, flowers. These aren't handled by Scene modes, but two or three little changes from Auto and we're in business. -- Editor)

RE: Reviews

Some few months back, I asked about a review of JASC's Paint Shop Pro. Your response sounded as if it would be forthcoming. Maybe I missed it, although I am a faithful reader of your newsletters. There are some of us that can't afford to spend several hundred bucks on Photoshop. Can you help me with a review of PSP?

-- Bob Peace

(You didn't miss it, Bob. In fact, thanks to your prompting, we contacted JASC again and Paint Shop Pro 8 arrived on Tuesday. -- Editor)

I'm a long-time user of ACDSee, though I stopped at ACDSee 32 v2.41 when the company seemed to make a shift from a good, solid, image viewer into a low-end editor. Now it seems ACDSee is evolving even farther in the "Swiss Army knife" mode, adding tagging (a la Elements and SmartPix). An unbiased review giving an idea of what the program actually does and whether upgrading is worth while would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

-- Clayton Curtis

(Thanks for the recommendation, Curtis. We'll request an updated review copy from them. We certainly prefer to write about what our readers want to read <g>. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

The beta release of Adobe Creative Suite arrived this week. So is it Photoshop CS or Photoshop 8.0? The About box doesn't lie. While the application name is Photoshop CS, the About box clearly calls it Version 8.0. Like we said in our preview last week, "You know the name, look up the number."


Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has lowered prices $50 on its Coolpix digicams and Coolscan film scanners.


See News Editor Michael R. Tomkin's photos of the Indianapolis Formula 1 race taken with an Olympus E-1 digital SLR (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1064903111.html).


Auto FX Software () has released its $179 Photo/Graphic Edges [MW], a suite of plug-ins to create painted edges, photo borders, photo tabs, frames, transfer effects, delicate feathers and image blends, burned edges and other effects. Order before Oct. 31 to save $30.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released its $50 Photoshop Album 2.0 [W]. Calendar View offers year, day or month views. Collections can reorganize images without moving files. The tagging system has been revamped. Mobile phones and Palm OS handhelds with Adobe Reader and TiVo digital video recorders can view images. New graphic templates are included, too.


SMaL (http://www.smalcamera.com) has released two rapid development kits: the Ultra-Pocket 4 Kit to help OEMs develop thin, affordable, 2-megapixel, credit card-sized digicams with LCD displays and the Ultra-Pocket 3 Kit for "extremely thin" 1.3-megapixel cameras with LCD display.


BR Software (http://www.br-software.com) has released its $35 PhotoArchiver 4.0 [W], a photo database designed to be easy and quick to use. Improvements in version 4.0 are simplified data entry, Navigator View for easy browsing, multilevel categories, full screen view with zoom, attach photos or documents to your photos and image editing with version control.


WiebeTech (http://www.wiebetech.com/mediawp.html) has published a white paper about hard drive capacity. The paper analyzes the mathematics behind the varying capacity claims of drive manufacturers and operating systems, providing an explanation for the majority of the numerical differences.

Return to Topics.

One Liners

For just $150 an insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

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

Curtin Short Courses: http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

Fast Ritz CF cards: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?ritzmem

Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com

Return to Topics.

Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Newsletter Forum: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=irnews
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

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

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