The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 5, Number 24 28 November 2003

Copyright 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 111th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Album gets tougher to beat and Olympus delivers a 27-110mm 35mm-equivalent zoom. We reveal how to use a digicam as a ladder, but the highlight of this issue is the letters section. No turkeys here!


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Kodak.com
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Nikonusa.com
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The Nikon D100 -- the Best of Both Worlds.

Designed to meet the needs of the experienced SLR user, this lightweight, full-featured digital SLR offers a 6.1 Effective Megapixel CCD to capture high-resolution images up to 3008x2000 pixels for brilliant, large prints.

Precise image control technologies like 3D Matrix Metering, Five-Area Dynamic AutoFocus with Focus Tracking and Lock-on(tm) and a new built-in Speedlight with D-TTL flash control capability put you in complete control.

Add a full-color LCD monitor, simple USB connections, full compatibility with dozens of AF Nikkor lenses and accessories, plus Nikon Capture 3 software for remote operation and superior image management, and you've bridged the gap between your 35mm and digital worlds.

To learn more about the D100 visit: http://www.nikonslr.com


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: Photoshop Album 2.0 -- The Gloves Come Off

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PA2/PA2.HTM on the Web site.)

In the summer, the Adobe Trio dropped by to sing the praises of the beta of Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?pa2).

Lead singer Jim Mohan (and senior product manager) assured us that they'd carefully studied our quibbles about version 1.0 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PSA/PSA.HTM) and completely redesigned the product.

We were all ears.

VERSION 1.0

We thought the original Album acquitted itself very well, taking six rounds in a virtual 10-round bout with Kodak's EasyShare (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/ESY/ESY.HTM) and Lifescape's Picasa.

The rounds they lost, though, were big ones. Album isn't cross-platform and we found the interface cluttered.

Since then Kodak has released an OS X version of EasyShare and Picasa has had a minor update. But Adobe has taken off the gloves. We went a few rounds with the shipping version recently to see what Jim was talking about.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

To run version 2.0, you need a Pentium III or 4 class processor or equivalent, Windows 2000/ME/XP, 128-MB RAM (but 256 are recommended), Explorer 5.01 or later updated with the relevant service packs, a color monitor capable of displaying thousands of colors at a resolution of 800x600 pixels and a CD-ROM drive.

PRICE

You'll have to pay $49.99 for version 2.0, even if you have version 1.0. But if you're upgrading, you can send in the $15 rebate card that comes in the box. You'll need the serial number from 1.0. You can also pick up Album bundled with Elements for $129 ($30 rebate).

We're no fan of rebate programs, which are typically outsourced and whose timeliness is unreliable. Sure, send the card in, we tell ourselves, but forget about it. Some companies let you track the progress of your rebate -- but they should be paying you interest while you track.

INSTALLATION

Grumble, grumble. We're pretty religious about maintenance updates but apparently we missed one for Album 1.0. When we tried to update to 2.0, the new version (which removes the old version) couldn't make any sense of our catalog files.

But by the time we found out about that, version 1.0 had already been wiped off our disk by the installer. So we couldn't simply go back to 1.0, install the maintenance update and then reinstall.

The installer should check before removing the earlier version. After all, the code to check is in the application. It's just run at the wrong time.

The solution was to have 2.0 rebuild our collection from scratch, scanning our drive for images. Not a great solution. Any work we'd done in the application (like tagging) was lost and our offline CDs wouldn't be included.

So, if you're upgrading, check for an update to 1.0 before installing 2.0.

THE INTERFACE

Album does a lot of things. It transfers your photos to your hard disk, organizes them so you can find them, touches them up a bit, assembles them into productions you can share and archives them, too. You can enhance the image editing substantially with Elements (or Photoshop for that matter) or any free Windows image editor (Irfanview (http://www.irfanview.com) and Vicman's Photo Editor (http://www.vicman.net) are two).

The doorway into this world is the new Quick Guide. It presents six icons for Album's major functions: Get Photos, Organize, Find, Fix, Create and Share. There's also a button to access an Overview and another to get Help. Finally, a check box disables the doorway, so you just enter the application when you launch it.

But the existence of the Quick Guide suggests a problem. And that problem is an interface that tries to do everything at once.

Album 2.0 is prettier than 1.0 but still jumbled. At first glance, it struck us like a Web browser with a tool bar of familiar icons and a large pane to show thumbnails. But that's where the similarity ends.

The Title Bar of the window itself announces that this is Album with the usual icons to minimize, restore and close. Under that is a small Menu Bar with File, Edit, View, Find, Creations, Online Services and Help commands.

Under that (oops, here we go) is a Shortcuts Bar populated with buttons (some with text) for common commands. The default set includes Back and Forward navigational buttons, a Home icon to select all photos, Get Photos, Fix, Create, Print and Share. Then there are three tabs on the right of the shortcuts bar to display items in the Photo Well, display the Organizer's tags and collections panes and display the Calendar View. Finally, the Shortcuts Bar includes an Adobe logo button to take you to its Web site.

The Menu Bar is easy to overlook (although that's where you backup, adjust dates and set preferences). And the Shortcuts Bar really should be the Menu Bar with the Quick Guide icons.

Under the Shortcuts Bar is the Timeline, a terrific way to navigate your image collection. It's a bar graph of the number of images shot in any particular month. You can drag a marker along the Timeline to display the images for the month it rests on. Or you can set end points for a wider range (narrowing down the display in the Photo Well). In short, it's a convenient way to quickly navigate your collection.

But the marker and end points ought to be one tool. This confusion of options really drove us nuts. We'd rather have one selection tool that can be stretched to cover a range than one tool to pinpoint and another to select a range. It reminded us of Word (and that ain't good).

Sorry, not done with the interface yet.

Under the Timeline is the Find Bar, using a lot of screen space. Drag tags or an image on it for a quick search. Drag the Family tag to it, for example, to see all your family pictures. Drag an image and Album shows other images it thinks look like it. But why is it a full bar?

Then we come to the Photo Well. This is really your work area, your light table, your sorting bin. Each thumbnail includes the date and time of the image and icons for its tags (with medium-sized thumbnails). An icon also indicates if the image is offline.

Album catalogs your image collection, creating a database entry for each image. So it can know about images that are on a CD offsite somewhere.

So why wouldn't you display the Photo Well all the time? Two reasons. The Calendar View and Organize function.

Calendar View replaces your light table with either a year, month or day calendar. In the monthly calendar, a thumbnail of the first picture taken each day fills the square for that day. Next to the monthly calendar is a date display with the starting image and the option to add a Daily Note below it. Controls let you see a slide show of images with their notes for that date.

We thought we'd miss the refrigerator style calendar of 1.0, but we didn't really. The monthly pretty much gives us that, just in a different layout.

The other competition for the Photo Well is the Tags pane. More about that later.

Under all that is the Options Bar. Depending on your view, you can change sort order or thumbnail size here.

And finally, below the Options Bar is the Windows Status Bar.

At first glance, it's confusing. And that's a shame, because Album does a lot of things very well. You should look forward to seeing its shining face as you launch it.

GETTING PHOTOS

The tools are there to do things, of course.

The first thing you'll want to do is get your photos. You can get them from your digicam or mobile phone just by plugging it in -- a big help for occasional photographers. Images are copied onto the hard disk and a record is entered into the Album catalog.

And that includes in-camera movies (which will actually play in the Photo Well).

Remember, you can also just catalog images already stored on CDs, without copying them to the hard disk.

ORGANIZE

Thumbnails of your images are displayed in the Photo Well organized by date. Dates are picked up from the Exif header, which includes the moment the image was captured. If your image doesn't have an Exif header, Album uses the file creation date.

Dates are where organization starts, but there's a lot more to it. Album includes some keywords (like People, Places, Events) but it allows you free reign to create your own categories and subcategories of keywords. An easily editable icon built from the first tagged image helps remind you what the category is all about.

Fortunately, though, it automatically generates keywords from the original folder name using the new Instant Tag. So if you're archiving four years of CDs and you've named the folders in some meaningful way, you've got keywords you can use without keywording anything yourself. Nice.

But adding keywords is just as important, really. And Album 2.0 makes it much easier, fully implementing drag-and-drop keywording. Select a bunch of images, drag a tag (or three) to keyword them. Or drag an image to a tag. Either way, it's keyworded.

FIND

The point of tagging images with keywords is to make it easy to find them in a few years (or days). You don't want to have to look for your vacation photos from Alaska or try to remember what year you went to Niagara Falls. You want Album to look and remember. Keywords do that.

All you have to do is click on the tag and the Photo Well will display image thumbnails with that tag. Or choose a single picture, drag it to the top of the Photo Well and Album will find other photos that look like it.

Album has some other clever ways of finding things for you, too. You can actually find photos by how you've used them. When you imported them, who you got them from, who you emailed them to, when you printed them, when you exported them, when you ordered online prints or shared them online, when you used them in Creations or Web Galleries or 3D Galleries.

REORGANIZE

One day you'll get a bright idea. It's unfortunate, but it happens to all of us. You may, for example, want to do a CD of images celebrating your in-law's anniversary. You'll want to include all sorts of images, antiques and modern ones. No one category can quite cover it all.

Album 2.0 introduces the concept of a Collection to help you. We've been calling your stash of images a collection. Album extends that concept by letting you make subcollections without moving anything.

Behind the Tags pane is the Collections pane. Create one called Anniversary and, as you scroll through your complete collection of images, drag the ones you want to use to the Anniversary Collection. When you're done, click on the Anniversary Collection and that's what the Photo Well will display.

Collections are ideal for rounding up the posse before you make a new Creation, like a CD or photo book.

FIX

Wish we could skip over this and just point you to an image editor, but Album has made these essential tools hard to gloss over. There are three main fixes.

Single Click Fix can correct lighting or color and sharpen blurred images. Slider controls let you fine-tune the results.

Red Eye Removal and Cropping take no more effort than making a selection (one eye at a time) and clicking the tool.

Filters for Photo Conversion can morph your image into a sepia tone or a black and white image.

You'll want more, but you can do a lot with just these.

CREATE

Jim told us pros really like their keyword tagging system. But the occasional user will appreciate Album because it's comprehensive. You don't have to have an image editor to fix red eye, for example. And it can also print greeting cards.

So the strong suite of Album is what you can make with it. Creations.

You'll want, for example, to print an image now and then. Or create a slide show. Or make a greeting card featuring your photography. You can do all that without leaving Album.

But you can also make calendars, Web pages, 3D galleries and printed photo books (like those iPhoto guys get). And pretty nice ones. The new templates are not all done by designers with crayons.

The requirements for these kind of projects can be complex, particularly when you are asking a third party to make the print or print the book. So Adobe provides Creation Templates and Creation Wizards to guide you.

And they are cleanly laid out, easy to follow and even check for errors. We made a Video CD in just five minutes, rearranging our images and using a nice template. We could easily have added music (captions would have taken a bit more work). The one image Album warned us would be severely cropped, actually turned out just as we'd hoped. And, yes, it was easy.

SHARE

Sharing has been bumped up a notch, too. Emailing is easier than ever and you can send not just individual images but slide shows exported to PDF. Wizards will take care of that for you, too, sizing your email to match your connection speed.

You can share images in your catalog by synching your Palm OS handheld with your computer and sending pictures to it. You can also send pictures to your mobile phone or TiVo Series 2 DVR.

And, of course, you can burn DVDs and Video CDs for playback on a television without leaving Album. Jim told us Roxio preempts the Album burning software, though, so beware if you've installed a Roxio product. They're discussing the problem (which we've hit too; we never got our Roxio products to run on a Vaio that had CD/DVD burning software already installed).

And, finally, Adobe Atmosphere 3D Galleries are a virtual world your Web visitors can stroll through to see your images.

PROTECT

We gave Adobe big points for providing an archiving and backup solution in version 1.0. And we want to applaud them again. Back up to either CD or DVD with one click. Make two. Then get one backup to a second location. You won't have to reach for your photo albums when the smoke alarm goes off. You can actually grab some clean underwear.

CONCLUSION

Our grumbling about the interface is something personal. When you've worked in Album a while, you get used to it. It isn't a pleasure to use, but it functions. The real pleasure is behind the interface. You'll enjoy it again and again.

Apple and Adobe seem to be working the hardest at this software category. Their second versions are both grand efforts. Mac owners have iPhoto but Windows users need to install their own solution. Don't rely on Windows alone to manage your image collection. Not when there's something as affordable -- and comprehensive -- as Album.

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Feature: Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom -- A Classic Refined

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C5060/C56A.HTM on the Web site.)

Olympus' C-series digicams have a long, distinguished history, reaching back to the original C-2000. With each generation, Olympus advanced the design a bit further, steadily increasing features and capabilities.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

The newest addition to the line, the C-5060 Wide Zoom, builds on the successful C-5050 with a 4x optical zoom lens (whose minimum focal length is a 27mm 35mm equivalent), a slightly larger CCD, a Bulb shutter setting and enhanced histogram and LCD display options. Additionally, the C-5060 sports a slightly different body style, reminiscent of the C-5050's classic rangefinder-style body.

Boasting a 5.1-megapixel CCD, the C-5060 captures a maximum resolution of 2592x1944 pixels, with an Optimum Image Enlargement option that produces interpolated images as large as 3264x2448 pixels. Measuring 4.6x3.4x2.6 inches, the C-5060 weighs 18.1 ounces with battery and CompactFlash card installed.

Where the C-5060 improves on its predecessor is with the markedly wider-angle lens, enhanced histogram display capabilities that really help you determine the best exposure settings and a handful of other exposure option tweaks.

The C-5060 features both an optical, real-image viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, wide-view color TFT LCD monitor, with 134,000 pixels. The LCD appears to be a new design for Olympus, as it's unusually usable under bright conditions, up to and including direct sunlight. The tilting LCD monitor lifts out from the back panel and tilts up about 180 degrees, then swivels around another 180 degrees for better viewing angles when the camera is held above or below eye level.

The C-5060 also provides a very helpful distance display with numeric indications when using the manual focus option, as well as a zoom bar (activated when digital zoom is on) that shows both the camera's 4x optical zoom in operation, as well as the digital zoom's progress, when you zoom past the optical telephoto limit.

An optional live histogram display shows the tonal values of the subject at your current exposure setting, helpful for checking the exposure before capture. A new histogram display option indicates the actual areas of the frame that will be over or underexposed. The LCD monitor also offers four framing assist guides, with a gridline display and a set of outlines for lining up portraits and center subjects.

The 5.7-22.8mm 4x zoom aspherical glass lens (27-110mm 35mm equivalent) has an f2.8-f4.8 maximum aperture. In addition to the C-5060's 4x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to 3.5x with the digital zoom. The C-5060 Zoom also sports an autofocus assist illuminator, greatly extending the camera's usefulness for low-light shooting, plus a range of focus control options.

The C-5060's image file sizes include: 2592x1944; 2288x1712; 2048x1536; 1600x1200; 1280x960; 1024x768; and 640x480 pixels in normal mode and 3264x2448 pixels when using Optimum Image Enlargement. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus uncompressed TIFF and RAW formats. While RAW images usually require processing via imaging software post-capture, the C-5060 Wide Zoom's Playback menu offers a RAW editing function to adjust color, sharpness, etc. in-camera. The edited file is then saved as a separate JPEG.

The C-5060 Wide Zoom offers a great deal of exposure control, including Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority and Manual exposure modes. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, while Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed and the camera chooses the best corresponding settings. When used in A or S modes, apertures range from f2.8 to f8.0 and shutter speeds from 1/4000 to four seconds. Shutter speeds higher than 1/2000 are only available when the lens aperture is set to f8.

Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but with shutter times as long as 16 seconds, as well as a Bulb setting for exposure times as long as 120 seconds.

The C-5060 also has five preset Scene modes: Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene and Night modes. Additionally, in any of the main record modes (P, A, S, M, My or Movie), the "Scene" option of the Shooting menu lets you apply Night, Portrait or Landscape characteristics to the shot automatically. Since not all of the Shooting menu options are available in the actual Scene modes, this is a way to let the camera set itself up for a specific kind of exposure without giving up any manual control.

The C-5060 Wide Zoom provides five ISO options (Auto, 80, 100, 200 and 400), automatic exposure bracketing, Digital ESP and Spot metering modes, Single and Multi-Spot Metering AE Lock modes, plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values in one-third-step increments. An advanced Noise Reduction System uses dark-frame subtraction to minimize background noise.

The C-5060 Wide Zoom's white balance offerings are some of the most extensive on a prosumer digicam, with a total of 11 settings (Auto, Shade, Cloudy, Sunny, Evening Sun, Daylight Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, White Fluorescent, Incandescent or One-Touch, the manual setting). With the manual white balance option, you can save up to four custom settings. A white balance color adjustment function lets you dial in red or blue color shifts from +7 to -7 steps (arbitrary units) for both the preset white balance options, as well as the Manual settings.

This feature deserves some added accolades. Often a camera produces a characteristic color cast under various lighting conditions that would be easy to correct -- if only you could. While Manual white balance options are designed to neutralize the color cast of any given light source, they often introduce a color cast of their own. And sometimes, you want to remove some of the color cast but not all of it, to capture the mood of the original setting. Olympus' white balance adjustment option lets you dial-in separate tweaks for each of the camera's white balance modes, including the Manual options. The control offers a very large number (15) of very small steps, letting you make very fine-grained adjustments over a very broad spectrum of available colors.

Image contrast, sharpness and saturation adjustments are available through the Mode Setup menu and a Function menu option allows you to capture images in black and white or sepia tone (with additional White Board and Black Board settings for capturing text). As with the white balance adjustment mentioned above, the contrast, sharpness and saturation controls offer fairly fine-grained adjustments.

An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock function locks an exposure reading independently of the autofocus system. This lets you set the exposure using the Spot Metering option, without forcing you to also focus on the particular object you based your exposure on. AEL optionally takes a single exposure reading or up to eight averaged spot readings for more accurate exposures.

There's also a 12-second self-timer option and an infrared remote controller with a three-second shutter delay. The C-5060 ships with the new RM-2 IR remote that offers only shutter control. The camera itself is compatible with the original RM-1 remote though, which controls the zoom lens and several other camera functions.

The C-5060's Movie mode records QuickTime movies with or without sound, at either 160x120; 320x240; or 640x480 pixels. Four-second sound clips can also be recorded to accompany still images, either at the time of capture or later during playback. A Sequence mode is available for capturing multiple images at up to three frames per second and a Panorama mode can take up to 10 sequential shots, formatted for merging with Camedia's Panorama Stitch software in the computer. A 2-in-1 capture mode snaps two vertically-oriented images in succession and saves them side-by-side as a single image.

The internal flash has five modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, Red-Eye Reduction and Slow Synchro) and reaches approximately 13 feet in wide-angle mode and 8 feet in telephoto. A standard hot shoe supports either generic units or Olympus' own dedicated strobes. You can adjust the internal flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments.

The C-5060 ships with a 32-MB xD-Picture Card, but it also accommodates CompactFlash type I or II cards, including MicroDrives. You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface and if you want a larger viewfinder (or image playback) display, Olympus provides a video output cable for connection to a television set. Software includes Olympus' Camedia Master utility package, which provides minor organization and editing tools, as well as the panorama stitching application mentioned above. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Macintosh and Windows are also supplied.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The C-5060 produced pleasing, accurate color in most circumstances, with appropriate saturation. Its ability to make fine adjustments in white balance settings is a flexible, powerful capability. I did find myself liking the slightly brighter color of the earlier 5050 a bit more. That said, the 5060 delivered excellent color.

Exposure: The C-5060 did a good job with exposure, requiring less exposure compensation than average on the high-key Outdoor Portrait and about an average amount on the Indoor Portrait (without flash). Despite its somewhat high default contrast, the C-5060 proved to have a very good dynamic range.

Resolution/Sharpness: Very high resolution, 1,250-1,300 lines of strong detail. The C-5060 performed very well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 900~1,000 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to at least 1,300 lines horizontally, 1,250 lines vertically. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,700 lines.

Close-Ups: Excellent macro performance even with the flash. Super macro gets really close. The C-5060 captured a minimum area of only 3.04x2.28 inches at the normal setting. In Super macro mode, results were quite a bit better, at 1.32x0.99 inches. Resolution was very high, corner softness very slight. The C-5060's flash throttled down well for the macro area.

Night Shots: Really(!) excellent low-light performance, with great color balance and very low noise, even without Noise Reduction enabled. A bright autofocus-assist illuminator, too. With full manual exposure control, adjustable ISO and a maximum exposure time of 16 seconds, the C-5060 has no trouble with low-light shooting. It produced clear, bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all four ISO settings. Most impressive was the C-5060's handling of image noise. Even with the optional Noise Reduction disabled, noise was very low. An excellent job!

Viewfinder Accuracy: The C-5060's optical viewfinder is quite tight, showing about 77 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 81 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing about 97 percent of the frame at both zoom settings.

Optical Distortion: High barrel distortion at wide-angle, though telephoto has virtually no distortion. Optical distortion on the C-5060 was a little higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.0 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better though, as I couldn't find even one pixel of pincushion or barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was fairly low, showing only a few pixels of relatively faint coloration on either side of the res target lines.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: The C-5060 Wide Zoom is a pretty fast camera overall. It starts up and shuts down a little slowly, but its full-autofocus shutter lag is better than average and shot-to-shot cycle times are quite good as well, at about 1.5 seconds per frame. Continuous shooting speed is merely average at 1.3 seconds/frame in normal continuous mode, but very fast at 3 frames/second in high-speed continuous mode. A good, if not exceptional, choice for action shooting.

Battery Life: The C-5060 shows really excellent battery life, among the best in its class. It consumes almost no power when its LCD is off in capture mode. In worst-case power-drain mode, a freshly-charged battery should last for 3.9 hours, much better than average.

CONCLUSION

The C-5050 Zoom was an impressive addition to Olympus' excellent and perennially popular Camedia digital camera line, yet the updated C-5060 Wide Zoom manages to offer a number of useful upgrades. With a 35mm equivalent focal length of 27mm, its wide-angle capability is as good as it gets among prosumer digicams without auxiliary lenses and the Olympus-brand wide adapter goes quite a bit further yet. The lens is also quite sharp from corner to corner and chromatic aberration is relatively low as well. Color is accurate and appropriately saturated, if not a little less vibrant than that of the previous 5050. The fine adjustments possible for contrast and saturation make it possible to customize the camera to meet your specific shooting preferences and the ability to dial-in separate tweaks for each of its white balance settings is an unusual and highly welcome feature.

All in all, it's hard to find much to fault on the camera, a fact made more remarkable by its $699 estimated retail price. Highly recommended and definitely a "Dave's Pick."

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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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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 Minolta DiMAGE A1 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee93f5d

Visit the Toshiba Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f78b

David asks about scanners versus digital cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee94813/0

Simon asks about photos for a competition at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee95fd2/0

Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee6b2a8

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Just for Fun: Put a Digicam in Your Toolbelt

When the first storm of the season blew through here the other day, we lit a fire, put on some music and enjoyed it. Until we heard a disturbing "plop" under the skylight in the entrance hall. A leak!

The next day we stood under the skylight and peered up with all the authority we could muster. But the skylight was far enough away that it didn't have to reveal its secret.

You might think we ambled downstairs, got the ladder and climbed up for a look. Good idea, but no ladder. All we have is the step stool we use to take aerial photos of the products we review. Any higher and we get dizzy.

These little catastrophes are orchestrated to drive you nuts (especially when they fall with the frequency of rain drops), but we have the calm of a person who deducts expenses for a living.

After a good night's sleep and some serious pacing, we realized the answer was right in front of us all the time. Get the digicam!

We grabbed our step stool, then the digicam, popped it onto the lightweight Veblon tripod we reviewed (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/VEL/VEL.HTM) a while ago, extended the legs and climbed up the two steps of our step stool.

Then it hit us. How are we going to fire the shutter? How are we going to see what we're shooting?

Sometimes, fortunately, reality is easily appeased. First, we racheted back the zoom lens to a nice wide-angle view to maximize our depth of field and take in as much of the scene as we could. Then we set the digicam on the self-timer, hit the shutter button and hoisted the tripod up until we could aim the lens at the spot where we had seen the drips.

When we lowered the digicam, we reviewed the shot on the LCD to see how well we'd captured the scene and if it was in focus. After confirming the validity of our methodology, we took a few more shots from different angles. We only refined the technique a tiny bit by turning on the flash and switching to red-eye mode so we had a few extra seconds to aim the digicam. The preflash indicated what we were pointed at, too.

In less time than it takes to bake a frozen pizza, we had documented the inside of the skylight. A few prints later and we were able to analyze the problem. We found the source of the leak (some nice rust spots) and prepared to get an emergency disbursement bill through Congress.

Tripod, digicam, zoom at wide-angle and self timer. A little more complicated than your cordless DeWalt, but no less indispensable. Now if we could only get Photoshop to apply the repairs!

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Dave's Deals

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We Have Mail

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

RE: The RoadStor

(Thanks for all your feedback on last issue's RoadStor review! As a result, we've updated the online review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/RDS/RDS.HTM to mention competing products Nixvue Vizor, Alera Digital Photo Copy Cruiser and the Apacer Disc Steno CP200. And we've detailed the screen messages and file formats, too. So we'll just highlight a couple points here. -- Editor)

Does the RoadStor do error checking like the Apacer Disc Steno? If not, do you think it's desirable?

-- CuRoi

(Good question. It does not do any kind of error checking. And checking later on your computer is, well, pointless if not impossible. Probably a good idea to review the images on television before wiping the card. We never had any corruption in several weeks of use. Still, I wish it did check. Points for Apacer. -- Editor)

Just read the last issue. I had no idea there was a product like this available. I would like to know where it might be for sale.

-- Donald Dunn

(In the U.S., you can get it from CDW, Ingram, Insight, Office Depot and Tech Data. In Canada, at Best Buy, Future Shop and Staples. Or directly from Micro Solutions, of course.)

Last night I caught up with some friends at a wedding. Being the geeks that we are, sitting at our table at the reception chatting about photography toys (they use an Optio 550, I use an assortment of EOS and Coolpix bodies), I found out they bought the Apacer unit over a month ago and took it on a holiday to Italy (they'd just returned to Oz a week or so ago). They are very happy with it.

They made a point of writing every CD twice and putting each set of CDs in a different person's luggage. Seems like a healthy level of paranoia to me! ;)

-- David Burren

(Forget the RoadStor, take me to Italy! I'll even toss a CD into the Trevi Fountain for you. -- Editor)

RE: Paper & Ink

A good source for professional paper is http://www.bhphotovideo.com. I visited their store when I was in New York a few months ago and thought I'd died and went to heaven. They have everything! Purchased some Photo Rag paper by Hahnemuhle, which gives excellent results. Unfortunately I was unable to consider other specialty papers because my old HP printer was not able to handle the weight.

-- Paulette

I have been pleased with the service of TSS Photo (http://www.inkjetart.com), which carries a large variety of papers and a large dollop of help as well. Also Red River Paper has been helpful.

-- Harry

Try inkjetart.com and/or redriverpaper.com. Both are good sources for paper of many types.

-- Ron Lynch

(Thanks, Paulette, Harry and Ron (for seconding Harry)! -- Editor)

I would be very interested in knowing the name of the retailer of the $17 refill kit (mentioned in the letters column). This sounds like a very good deal. I have been refilling cartridges for my HP 970 for the last two years, with variable results. The discount inks I have been using fade very, very quickly.

-- China Brazzil

(We asked Gene and his response follows. -- Editor)

I've found the best kits only at membership discount stores Sam's and Costco. Other places that ought to carry them still offer none or lesser refill kits that will not please photographers. That remark applies to Wal-Mart Super Centers, Best Buy, Staples, to name just a few.

Sam's sells a Stratitec kit for under $17 with all 6 colors, plus two extra bottles of black. It includes a single syringe with injector needle, plus a cartridge drill and plugs for sealing the cartridge holes, along with instructions. The amount of ink is about 500 ml. For the Canon i950 cartridges, this means about 6 refills per bottle, neglecting the inefficiencies described below.

Costco sells a kit from Interactive Media Sales (http://www.ims-ink.com) for under $17 which also provides all six colors plus two extra bottles of black (a total of 480 ml, again about 6 refills per bottle). There's a manual cartridge drill, hole plugs and complete instructions. This kit, however, features bottle caps with injector needles, so you don't have to wash a syringe when you change color.

Inefficiencies: The cost of refilling a cartridge (the $12 Canon BCI-6BK, for example, which requires 10 ml of ink, would be $17x10/480 = $0.35, a savings of 97 percent(!!). You can't really get there because photographic printing is heavy on Photo Cyan and Photo Magenta. Also, refilled OEM cartridges do not last indefinitely. If the maximum is six refills per cartridge, you have to purchase a set of OEM cartridges (or third-party replacements) every seventh time. If you are not supremely careful, you will also lose some ink by spillage and putting the wrong color in a cartridge, etc., not to mention what finds its way onto your hands and clothes.

Interchangeability? IMS, for one, will not go into detail about the similarity of its ink to OEM ink, although it acknowledges its ink is water-soluble. I did establish to my own satisfaction that the inks contained in these two kits are so similar they may come from the same 1000-gallon vats somewhere. Placing small drops of the inks close together and then allowing them to mix shows no mixing line or chemical reaction. Matching colors are indistinguishable and I intermix the brands with no noticeable effect.

-- Gene Widenhofer

RE: RGB+E Sensor

I am considering Sony's DSC F828. But I wonder whether Sony's new RGB+E sensor technology will affect photo editing. Can Photoshop Elements handle the extra information contained in RGB+E?

-- Ben

(The RGB+E color space is only used at the sensor level. The files the F828 produces contain only conventional 24-bit, RGB pixel data in them. -- I confess I was surprised that the added color information captured by the sensor would still be visible after the images were converted to conventional RGB color space, but the results aren't to be argued with. Although so far I've only seen the sample photos provided by Sony itself, as I haven't shot any test images with the camera. Hopefully we'll have a production model to test soon. -- Dave)

RE: Folic Acid By Any Other Name

I am creating a Web directory, http://keoz3.com/vitamins and would like to include your Web site imaging-resource.com under the "vitamins" category.

-- Freddy K. Peterson

(Freddy, note the correct dosage is only one every two weeks. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Reindeer Graphics (http://www.reindeergraphics.com), developers of Optipix 2.0, has published a free update to George DeWolfe's Digital Fine Print Workflow. The update explores ways to use 16-bit layers in Photoshop CS.


Sony (http://www.sonystyle.com) has dropped the price of its F828 from $1,200 to $999.95.


O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published a color edition of Derrick Story's Digital Photography Pocket Guide.


Vertical Moon (http://www.verticalmoon.com) has released its $49.95 SWF 'n Slide 1.0 [MW] to output slide shows as Macromedia Flash SWF files or QuickTime movies.


Kodak (http://www.kodak.com/go/DCSsoftware) has posted firmware version 4.4.3 for the DCS Pro 14n.


Desktop Designs (http://www.slideshowdesktop.com) has released its $24.95 Slide Show Desktop 2.8 [W].


Triscape (http://www.fxfoto.com) has released FxFoto [W], an all-in-one photo application for importing organizing, fixing and sharing images. The standard edition is free and a deluxe edition is available for $29.99.


Phase One (http://www.c1dslr.com) has released its $599 C1 PRO v1.2 RAW Workflow software for OS X.


Bluebox GmbH (http://www.picturefinder.com) has released its $56 Image Info Toolkit 1.5 [MW] to edit text in JPEG and TIFF headers.


Thinkerton (http://www.thinkertons.com) has released its $12.50 Burnz 1.0.4 [M] to burn ISO-9660, RockRidge and Joliet CDs without writing to the hard drive first.


The free iPhoto Buddy (http://nofences.net/iphotoBuddy), enabling multiple iPhoto libraries, has been updated to version 1.1.7, providing support for Panther.


Lightbox (http://www.lightboxsoftware.com), a $25 image management program designed for photographers, has been updated for Panther. Version 1.0.2 also enhances CD burning and Raw previews, adds contact sheet printing, support for moving images offline and more.


Stick Software (http://www.sticksoftware.com) has released PhotoReviewer 1.1 [M], a $10 photo management utility to review, sort and rename photos.


Microtek has released a temporary workaround (http://www.support.microtek.com/panther.phtml) to support their non-SCSI scanners on Panther while they develop new drivers.


Rune Lindman (http://www.qpict.net) has released QPict 5.2.8 [M] featuring Panther compatibility and a few bug fixes.

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Signoff

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Happy snapping!

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

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