The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 1 9 January 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 114th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We start the New Year with a little fireworks of our own, reviewing an unusual flash that can improve any digicam eBay photo. Dave gets his mitts on a beautiful bargain from Olympus. Then we reveal the mysterious dual nature of that self-timer on your digicam. And finally, we get into remodeling without breaking a sweat.


TOPICS

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

Feature: Zenon MagneFlash 57Plus -- A Brilliant Idea

We confess. Our disdain for the flash units built into every digicam (and proliferating like a virus into some dSLRS even) is so strong that we think of them as inherently defective.

We've written around this subject for a long time. We told you how to use natural light with shutter priority mode, reviewed a terrific soft box for studio shots and described our elaborate off-camera flash set-up. But we have long wished for a simple off-camera flash solution we could recommend.

A few months ago, newsletter subscriber Bill Stocks put us on to Peter Louden's Zenon MagneFlash. Peter sent us a review unit and we've been playing with it for weeks now.

The Zenon MagneFlash line is nearly, nearly, nearly the simple solution we've wanted. Our only reservation, really, is that it isn't designed to light up a room of family and friends at a party. But it's wonderful for macro shots and portraits and it plays very, very well with all sorts of digicams. So let's take a look.

THE MAGNEFLASH LINE

There are several MagneFlashes: the 57, the 57Plus and the DL.

The MagneFlash 57 is the base unit. A compact black ABS case holds the rechargeable NiMH batteries and the lamp is attached to a unique 5x7-inch reflective panel. On the left side of the case is a power switch and a Hi/Lo output switch. The other side has the power adapter socket and, on the 57Plus model, a PC synch socket. The rear of the unit has a small LED standby indicator. The bottom of the case has a hot shoe mount with no electronic leads. Instead, the unit is triggered by a built-in infrared sensor on the front of the case. You don't need any cables.

The MagneFlash DL, currently in testing, features a trigger delay to work with digicams that always use a pre-flash (like most Olympus and Minolta models).

FIT & FINISH

We were a little disappointed with the fit and finish of the MagneFlash. It seems built on a kitchen table assembly line rahter than something produced by the robots at Mitsubishi.

But we were more than a little impressed with the design of the unit. And that carried over to our appreciation for its performance. It may be a little funky, but it knows what to do with what it has.

THE PANEL

And what it has is that unique 5x7 panel with an intimate relationship to the lamp hidden in the small black case.

We assumed the unit worked something like a big bounce flash. You can't see the lamp. So no red eye. But the reflector is a bit unusual.

When we asked Peter about it, he replied, "You are correct, the flash lamp is in the black case but it is attached to the edge of the panel. Reflectors on all sides of the lamp catch all the light and feed it into the panel, which acts like a fiber optic. The refracted light is spread over the panel.

"Behind the panel is a metal reflector which gathers any light going out the back. In front of the panel are lenses/polarizers which channel the light forward into an ideal shaped 'lobe.'"

Rarely do we ask a question and get such a satisfying answer. Who is this guy, we wondered. So we asked.

THE DESIGNER

Peter, it turns out, was the technical director of Bowens studio lighting originally sold in the U.S. by Bogen in Newark and Calumet in Chicago (among other countries). Many of the studio lighting monoblocks and powerpacks still being sold were designed by Peter and his teams. He also made special units for Calumet. Just for fun, he was the technical director for Cambo in Holland where his team designed the Ultima, a large format, full movement advanced camera for professional digital backs. He also was involved in designing studio equipment for Zone VI in Vermont, Connecticut and elsewhere.

He started his own company five years ago to produce the first lighting kit specifically designed for digital cameras. It received good reviews in magazines like the British Journal of Photography and What Camera. He then designed and supplied electronic information panels (the Framer) to UK businesses and local councils.

It was not until he produced the Dual Force Pro power packs three years ago that he began exporting equipment to the U.S. The MagneFlash is the latest design, but by no means the last he tells us, to be developed and produced by Louden Photographic under the Zenon banner in England.

USING THE MAGNEFLASH

The trouble with unique devices is that the user (namely ourselves) is often befuddled. How exactly do you use the thing?

A conveniently small manual accompanies the flash (along with a charger and two very small IR filters designed to stick to your digicam's flash). We read it but we thought we'd ask Peter for a little more guidance. We weren't disappointed.

"The panel will give around f8.0+ at 1.5 feet using ISO 200," he said. "This is over most of the panel's surface as opposed to the point, on-axis measurement taken with a conventional flash. The Lo setting on the Plus gives about one stop down from this. When holding the MagneFlash near the camera and close to the subject, the Lo power setting gives nearer the correct exposure. Where you have control of the aperture and have to stop down to get a good field of focus, the Hi setting would be preferable. Obviously when using the unit further away, the Hi setting is the norm, though the 57Plus is not designed for distance shots such as large group photos etc. (though it is good for head and shoulders).

"For daylight fill-in, the unit is better than most since its color temperature and flash characteristics match daylight conditions better than conventional computerized flash. For example, very good results can be obtained for a portraiture shot with a daylight backlight and a single MagneFlash to the front (slightly to one side and above nose level). In this way, high-key lighting can be obtained whereas without much daylight, the MagneFlash is designed for low-key portraiture.

"The 57 or 57Plus also works very well as augmentation to studio flash. Customers who already have the Zenon ADF mini-studio kits use the MagneFlash as a third or fourth light source with good results. See http://www.nigelburkin.co.uk for one example.

"As a guide, the area of coverage at 1.5 feet is about 1.5 feet by 1 foot. At the normal distance for an adult head-and-shoulder shot, the area of coverage is greater than the distance between the top of the head to the shoulders."

OUR TESTS

Much as we love it when we can get someone else to write our reviews, we feel somewhat honor-bound to actually use the thing ourselves and see what happens. You can see our results (shortly) in the illustrated version of this review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/ZMF/ZMF.HTM).

We charged the unit overnight using the supplied adapter, even though it only takes six hours for a full charge. It turns out that one charge is good for a lot of flashes, roughly 250 per charge. But once the 1,000 charge cycles are used up, you can't replace the batteries yourself.

Two dark IR filters are supplied with the MagneFlash, a small one and a large one. We applied one of the filters over the flash on our Average digicam. The two filters were all it took to fit several various digicams lying around here. But you could no doubt make your own from some old exposed slide film, too.

We set the flash to always fire, so it would trigger the MagneFlash. And we mounted the charged MagneFlash on an old Vivitar pistol grip we really like. You can buy inexpensive pistol grips anywhere.

We set our Average digicam to ISO 200 and its aperture to f8. We really didn't bother with the shutter speed, varying it according to how much of the background was important to us.

As we shot, we noticed the internal flash was working pretty hard, requiring a long recycling time. Setting it to a lower power is probably a bright idea, since that's enough to trigger the MagneFlash without draining the battery.

The IR filter for the camera flash was pretty sticky. Repeated removal and reattachment isn't something we tested, but we didn't feel it was entirely debugged. You don't have to block the onboard flash, but it's a good idea. Unfortunately, it isn't always a good idea. Too bad there isn't a 3M Post-It adhesive for filters.

RESULTS

Briefly, our experience was that the unit was remarkably adept at lighting macro shots and very handy for daylight fill (especially because of its 5600-degree Kelvin color temperature). We found the lighting a little more harsh than ordinary bounce flash for larger scenes.

But we also found it a pleasure to use. That was partly because we mounted it on our old Vivitar pistol grip, making it easy to hold. But it was also because it was easy to get a feel for the lightweight MagneFlash. And since it was untethered, we were able to put it anywhere we could reach.

If you haven't used off-camera flash before, you might not appreciate that remark. Just think of being able to tell the sun exactly where it should shine. That's what the MagneFlash does for you.

PRICE

Here's the product list (all prices include shipping) in a nutshell:

Zenon products are available from Louden Photographic, 16 Millers View, Ipswich IP1 4QB UK, phone 01473 211384, cell 07990 908052.

CONCLUSION

We admit to having an aversion to using flash for close-ups. Products or people, once we get close, we avoid flash.

But the MagneFlash provides well-behaved flash for macro shots of even highly reflective objects and knows how to flatter portraits. As a sort of untethered bounce flash on steroids, it easily eliminates the possibility of red eye. And packing 250 shots per charge, it's ready even when you aren't.

The proof is in the pictures and the MagneFlash lets us take pictures we were afraid of shooting. It isn't a solution for all your flash shots, but for close-up product shots and portraits, it's the least expensive professional approach we've seen.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus C-5000 Zoom -- Great Pictures, Great Price

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OLYC5000/C50P.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

Olympus has made a practice of following the introduction of a higher-end, fully featured model with a slightly de-featured version at a significantly lower price. Recently, Olympus returned to this successful strategy with the introduction of the C-5000 Zoom, a 5-megapixel digicam that updates the earlier 4-megapixel C-4000 Zoom.

The C-5000 Zoom offers just about every enthusiast feature you could ask for, excellent image quality and an amazing $349 street price ($399 list). However, it's missing a few of the extras on the C-4000, like the histogram display, movie editing capability, viewfinder diopter adjustment, AF modes and Multi-Spot exposure metering.

Still, the camera is capable of handling just about any exposure situation, with an intuitive user interface.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

The C-5000 Zoom fills the niche vacated by the very successful C-4000 Zoom. With a slightly more curvy and fashionable body design, it offers a 5-megapixel CCD for even higher resolution and an external flash hot shoe. The C-5000 Zoom measures only 4.1x2.9x1.8 inches, a good bit smaller than its predecessor. It's also a bit lighter, weighing 9.6 ounces, including card and battery. While it's more of a handful than Olympus' D-series compact models, the C-5000 Zoom is still fairly easy to stash in a large pocket or purse.

Like its more advanced cousin the C-5060 Zoom, it offers a wide range of user controls, including a one-touch white balance function (with a very useful white balance adjustment feature for minor color tweaks), spot autofocus, wide-ranging contrast and sharpness adjustments and QuickTime movies. It also incorporates an advanced Noise Reduction System, which uses dark-frame subtraction to minimize background noise in long exposures shot under low light conditions.

The C-5000 Zoom features both an optical, real-image viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, color TFT LCD monitor, with 134,000 pixels. When the LCD monitor is engaged, it automatically displays detailed exposure information, with the current exposure mode, f/stop setting, shutter speed and exposure compensation overlaid on top of the viewfinder display (a nice feature not found on every digicam). At the bottom of the monitor, the number of images available in the current resolution setting is displayed. It also provides a very helpful numeric/bar graph distance display when using the Manual Focus option, as well as a digital zoom bar that shows the camera's 3x optical zoom in operation.

The 7.8-23.4mm 3x zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera, with an f2.8 maximum aperture. In addition to the C-5000's 3x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to 4x with the digital zoom function. A set of accessory threads on the camera body accepts an optional lens adapter for accessory lenses (macro, wide-angle and telephoto auxiliary lenses) mounted in front of the camera's own lens.

The C-5000's image file sizes include: 2560x1920; 2272x1704; 2048x1536; 1600x1200; 1280x960; 1024x768; and 640x480 pixels. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed TIFF format that produces full-resolution images free of compression artifacts.

The C-5000 offers Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority and Manual exposure modes. Auto mode controls the exposure completely, with you setting only basic options like zoom, macro mode, etc. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as one second. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, while 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 1/1000 to four seconds. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, with shutter times as long as 16 seconds. There's also a selection of preset Scene modes including Self-Portrait, Night Scene, Landscape/Scene, Landscape/Portrait, Sports and Portrait modes. Finally, the My Mode feature provides a custom setup for the camera, letting you select complex combinations of settings with a single menu choice.

The C-5000 provides five ISO options (light sensitivity settings) of Auto, 50, 80, 160 and 320, automatic exposure bracketing, Digital ESP and Spot metering modes, Single AE Lock modes, plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values in one-third-step increments. White balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Cool Fluorescent or Quick Reference (custom or manual white balance) to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions. A white balance color adjustment function lets you fine-tune the color balance across a wide range from red to blue.

Image contrast, sharpness and saturation adjustments are available through the Shooting menu and a Function menu option allows you to capture images in black and white or sepia tone. If they're fine-grained enough, I particularly appreciate finding contrast and saturation adjustments on a camera, as they let me customize the camera's default "look" to match my personal preferences. The adjustments on the C-5000 do pretty well in this regard, although I'd like to see both more subtle steps and a wider overall range. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits and a Remote Control mode for use with the included IR remote.

Movie mode records QuickTime movies without sound, for maximum times dictated by its internal buffer memory, in either SQ (160x120 pixels) or HQ (320x240 pixels) modes. A Sequence mode is available for capturing multiple images at up to 1.7 frames per second and a Panorama mode allows you to take up to 10 shots with the same exposure and white balance, for subsequent merging with Camedia's Panorama Stitch software in the computer. Continuous mode can automatically bracket the camera's exposure, snapping either 3 or 5 shots in succession and varying the exposure by anywhere from 0.3 to 1.0 EV between shots. The 2-in-1 mode captures two individual images, saved as a single split-screen image.

The camera's internal flash offers five operating modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, Red-Eye Reduction and Slow Sync), with flash range extending to approximately 12.8 feet. Slow Sync flash mode uses a slower shutter speed with the flash, allowing more ambient light into the photo and includes the option to fire the flash at either the beginning or end of the exposure. The C-5000 also includes an optional Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash. A proprietary hot shoe on top of the camera connects an Olympus external flash unit. You also can increase or decrease the internal flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments.

The Olympus C-5000 Zoom ships with a 32-MB xD-Picture Card for image storage (larger capacity cards up to 512-MB are available separately). You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images and Olympus' Auto Connect USB interface means the camera will automatically appear on your computer's desktop under Windows ME/XP/2000 or Mac OS 8.6+. A video output jack and cable let you play back your images on an external video monitor, which can also be used as a super-sized viewfinder in capture mode. Software includes Olympus' Camedia Master utility package, which provides minor organization and editing tools, in addition to a panorama stitching application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Macintosh and Windows are also supplied.

TEST RESULTS

Color: Very good color. Slightly oversaturates some strong primary colors and has a slight tendency to produce a warm cast in images, but good overall. The Auto and Daylight white balance settings sometimes resulted in a slightly warm color balance. Color accuracy was quite good, although saturation was a little high for my taste on some shots. Outdoors, skin tones were pretty good, though slightly pink, but the blue flowers were purplish. Indoors, the Manual white balance again won out and overall color was nearly accurate. The Manual setting produced the best results on many occasions, with good white values on the House poster and Davebox and it handled the very difficult household incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait test quite well.

Exposure: Accurate exposure, but high default contrast. An effective contrast-adjustment option though. The C-5000 Zoom's exposure system handled most of my test lighting pretty well, actually producing more accurate exposures with its default setting than is often the case for some of my more difficult subjects. Indoors, the camera required an average amount of exposure compensation and produced accurate exposures. The camera's high contrast limits dynamic range under harsh lighting, but image noise is lower than average in the shadows, preserving detail there. Despite the high contrast though, the camera both distinguished subtle tonal variations on the Q60 target and held onto significant shadow detail on the Davebox shot, a worthy accomplishment.

Resolution/Sharpness: Very good resolution, ~1250 lines/picture height. The C-5000 Zoom performed well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 900 lines per picture height horizontally and about 1,000 lines vertically. I found strong detail out to at least 1,300 lines horizontally and 1,200 lines in the vertical direction. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,600 lines.

Image Noise: Good to average noise levels, but less objectionable than in some competing cameras, thanks to a nice tight grain pattern. As CCD resolution has increased (and pixel dimensions have shrunk), image noise has become an increasing factor. Five megapixel digicams have generally shown higher image noise than did their two- and three-megapixel forebears. In the case of the C-5000, I was pleased to see that image noise was generally low and maintained a very fine grain pattern even at high ISO settings.

Close-Ups: Exceptional macro performance in Super Macro mode. Its normal macro setting captured a slightly large minimum area in the normal Macro mode, at 6.64x4.98 inches. Not surprising since the closest focal distance is 7.9 inches. In Super Macro mode, however, it captured a very tiny minimum area of just 1.84x1.38 inches. As is often the case with digicam macro shots, the corners of both images were fairly soft, particularly in the top corners of the frame. The flash throttled down well for the normal macro area, but would be ineffective at the closer Super Macro mode.

Night Shots: Great low-light shooting capabilities, even at the lowest ISO setting, but an AF-assist light would be a big help. It performed well at low light levels, thanks to its variable ISO capability and maximum shutter time of 16 seconds. In my testing, it produced clear, bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, at the 80, 160 and 320 ISO settings. At ISO 50, images were usable down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level (1.3 lux). Color balance was slightly warm in the dim lighting, but improved in the brighter shots. It also has an optional Noise Reduction mode, which does a good job of eliminating image noise. The biggest limitation for low light shooting is its autofocus system, which only operates reliably down to a bit below 1 foot-candle or about the level of typical city street lighting at night. An AF-assist illuminator would be very welcome.

Viewfinder Accuracy: Great accuracy from the LCD monitor and pretty good results with the optical viewfinder as well. The optical viewfinder showed about 91 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 89 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor proved to be more accurate, showing about 97 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 98 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor did a good job here and even the optical viewfinder is better than average.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion was slightly high at the wide-angle end, measuring approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, where I found only one pixel of barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was moderate, showing a maximum of about five or six pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines and a moderate amount of color. Apart from the somewhat high barrel distortion, the only other distortion I noticed was some softness in the top two corners of the frame.

Shutter lag and cycle time: The C-5000 is on the slow side of average in terms of shutter lag, with shutter delay ranging from 1.01 to 1.14 seconds at full autofocus. Manual focus delay is fully 0.57 seconds, but pre-focus lag is quite a bit better, at 0.183 seconds. Cycle time is average, at about 2.4 seconds between frames, with no apparent buffer memory coming into play. Not a first choice for fast-paced action, responsiveness was one of the few disappointments with the C-5000.

Battery Life: The C-5000's worst-case battery life (LCD on, in capture mode) is a slightly disappointing 92 minutes. But this is balanced by the camera's very low power consumption when the LCD is left off. With the LCD off, it can run for nearly 8 hours on a fully charged battery. Playback-mode life is very good as well, at just over 3 hours.

CONCLUSION

The Olympus C-5000 Zoom maintains the high value tradition established by the earlier C-3000 and C-4000 models, offering a very strong feature set at a very affordable price. Although its features are trimmed down slightly from the top-of-the-line C-5060 Zoom, the C-5000 still offers all the features most enthusiasts crave, including a full range of exposure controls, extensive creative controls for tweaking image parameters like contrast and saturation, a hot shoe for use with external flash units, a handy IR remote and body threads to support the use of add-on optics like macro, telephoto and wide-angle accessory lenses. The main differences relative to the C-5060 are a 3x vs. 4x zoom lens, no sound recording and no live histogram display for exposure feedback.

It offers very good color and accurate exposure as well. I find its default tone curve to have too much contrast for my tastes, but the optional contrast adjustment works well and helps tame the high contrast in situations with harsh lighting. In common with other 5-megapixel models, image noise is higher than we saw in earlier two- and three-megapixel cameras, but the very fine, tight grain pattern in the C-5000's noise made it much less objectionable to my eye than that of many of its competitors.

All in all, a very nice digicam with great functionality, at a very good price. An excellent value for the enthusiast on a budget, this would also make a nearly ideal camera for photography students. Highly recommended.

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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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Beginners Flash: The Dual Nature of Your Self-Timer

Everyone wants to get into the picture, you may have noticed. Even the photographer. So rare is the digicam that does not have a self-timer, delaying the shutter release either 2 or 10 seconds after you press the shutter button.

Ten seconds is enough time for even the graceful to sashay their way from the back of the camera into the group shot (front center, usually). The rest of us feel obliged to scamper, which also obliges us to try to smile as we're catching our breath and everyone else is asking, through gritted teeth, when the shutter is going to trip.

But two seconds is too fast for even action photographers to leap into the group. The two-second self-timer has another purpose -- and one that's easy to overlook.

That short delay is ideal for preventing those blurry shots you get in poorly lighted places when you can't use flash. A long delay works, too, but the short delay is a little easier to predict.

When your camera is set to Auto mode, a dark scene will slow the shutter to at least 1/60 second and maybe even slower. One-sixtieth second is fast enough to hold your camera steady without a tripod, but it gets chancy after that. Even at 1/60 second, though, the mere act of pushing the shutter button can introduce camera shake, capturing a blurred image at best.

Camera shake caused by pressing the shutter button is just what the short self-timer can prevent. Activate the self-timer function, press the shutter and by the time the shutter trips, you'll have steadied the camera again.

The only disadvantage is that two seconds is a little beyond the ability of most of us to foretell the future. So it works best with subjects that don't move.

The next time you get blurry shots from having to shoot a dark scene without flash, remember the second way to use the self-timer. Timing, after all, is everything.

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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 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee94123

Visit the Kodak Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77d

John asks about photography books at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee96f54/0

Ralph asks about macro and optical zoom in a non-SLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee96d53/0

Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8

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Just for Fun: Remodeling With a Digicam

We were the last guys on the block with the original garage door installed on these homes 50 years ago. After we discovered the doubloons buried in the backyard, we called the garage door company that had helped us out a few times in the past and had them explain our options.

There were a lot of options. But we made up our minds and shook hands.

Soon after the estimator left, we grabbed our digicam and walked across the street to shoot a picture of the front of the place. Garage door closed. Then we walked a few steps up the street and shot a picture of our neighbor's house. Garage door closed. Not that we coveted their garage door, but their door closely resembled the replacement we'd chosen.

A couple of minutes later, we were looking at the front of our place from the comfort of our office chair. It was floating in a window on our monitor. We drew a selection around the garage door and opened the image of our neighbor's place.

Because they were shot at the same distance, they were the same size in the photos. We just had to paste his door into our selection.

Of course, his door was a different color scheme. So we sampled the main color of ours using the color picker tool, picked a paint brush, set its mode to Color only and painted his door our color.

It was five minutes, that's all, before we had a print of our new facade. We did a few variations, painting the door in two colors, adding a hedge (by cloning our neighbor's large weeds), overlaying a family portrait on it (try 50 percent opacity for extra realism), things like that.

From the samples, though, we were actually able to determine the paint scheme we could live with. We had a couple of weeks to evaluate our decision before the painter even showed up. We just looked at the prints every morning over orange juice.

And when the painter was done, the effect matched exactly what we'd done. Let us repeat, exactly. He couldn't figure out how we got a picture of the door before he had finished painting it.

Which could be a problem down the line. Years from now, looking at pictures of the place, we'll probably argue about when we had the door replaced. And one of us will no doubt produce this image as Exhibit A, dated even, to prove when we did it.

One of us will have to remember that it was just the artist's conception. Except we didn't need an artist. Just image editing software.

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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: How Many Megapixels Are Enough?

Does it make sense to spend extra money on a 4- or 5-megapixel camera if I intend to use 1-2 meg mode a vast majority of the time?

-- wtsaila

(It does. Hard to find a 1-2-Mp digicam with comparable features to a 4-5-Mp model (stuff that matters like flash options, manual mode, shutter/aperture priority, etc.). We used to shoot shows with a 1-Mp digicam because all the shots were going on the Web. Then we started using a 3-Mp model because we had more control over what the camera was doing. Same size final images, but better shots because it was just a better camera. Megapixels aren't a good measure of a camera's capability any more. -- Editor)

RE: The More Things Change

Hey, here's a question for you. Last year, I believe it was, one of the PC magazines reported on a device that would replace standard film in SLR cameras essentially making them digital cameras. Do you know anything about this device as in the maker or pricing or release date? I would like to know more but have unfortunately discarded the magazine that had the article. Any information would be a big help. Thanks.

-- Tony Cancelliere

(You aren't the only one who asked this week, Tony. A company called Silicon Film actually produced a prototype in 2001. But it never made it to retail. Pop "Silicon Film" into the Google search engine to learn more. -- Editor)

RE: B&W Printing Issues

I have long been a subscriber to your excellent magazine and always have found much of interest.

Having spent many years as a professional photographer from my Knightsbridge studio, I now specialize in the digital restoration and improvement of damaged and imperfect photographs.

Among other requirements it is vital that I should be able to produce the best possible prints in black and white. This I can no longer do. Using the black cartridge to print from either grayscale or desaturated modes, the prints suffer from lack of contrast, poor saturation and banding.

I use an Epson Stylus Photo 1290, together with Photoshop 7. Mac G4 867-MB OS X 10.3.2

I have been trying to get help from Epson technical for some weeks. I have sent, at their request, both sample prints and a CD from the originals. Apart from being unable to agree as to which driver I should have installed, they cannot improve on the same banding from which I suffer.

They inform me that banding is inevitable when printing halftone with the black cartridge alone. Their advice was that I should print from grayscale mode to color printing. The fact that it is impossible to hold a consistently neutral tone throughout the full black to white range seems either unknown or unimportant to them.

My monitor I profile using ColorVision's PhotoCal and I have made appropriate print profiles with the ProfilePlus application, (though I doubt this makes any difference).

I need to know: 1. What driver should I use 2. What should I set in the print space profile setting 3. 4. 5. ... Anything else I should know?

I have read elsewhere that the Epson Stylus Photo 1290 can produce superb quality prints from the black cartridge alone. It seems that their technicians are doing the firm a disservice by denying it.

-- Robin Adler f.r.s.a.

(Poor contrast and saturation is an accurate description of printing grayscale with black ink alone. Don't. Epson is recommending a quadtone print so you can build density and retain shadow detail by printing with four inks instead of just one. But you're quite right that it's no simple thing to neutralize a quadtone. In fact, that's the big selling point of printers featuring three gray inks (like Epson's 2200P and 4000 and HP's 7960). The theory is that the three photo grays will print neutral. Cone Editions (http://www.cone-editions.com) can outfit Epson and Canon printers with gray ink sets, as Executive Editor Kim Brady pointed out to me.... Profiling can be as much of a problem as a solution, unfortunately. After calibrating your monitor, you'll also want to build (and perhaps edit) a device profile for your printer. That profile will describe your printer's gamut, dynamic range and tone reproduction characteristics of the colorants. So you need a different profile for each kind of paper you print. You can be fairly confident in the consistency of the inks from batch to batch, fortunately. The best book on this subject that I've run across is "Real World Color Management" by Fraser, Murphy and Bunting (cf. the Book Bag section). It clearly lays out what you have to do to get consistent color. -- Editor)

RE: Great Way to Start the New Year!

Just wanted to send a New Year Thank You. I really enjoy your newsletter and appreciate your witty writing style and good, down to earth information.

-- Vera

(Well, our intern was right about one thing. We have the nicest readers. And we really appreciate your encouragement. Thanks, Vera! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

It's been quite a week with Macworld in San Francisco and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. We've reserved our usual items for news not covered in our show reports (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM) since Dave and Michael Tomkins hit the slots and yours truly iPodded around Moscone.


Rob Galbraith (http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-6451-6410) has reprised his report on Mac vs. PC processor performance for digital photographers. "Laptops aside," Rob reports, "the combination of faster hardware and better software has brought about a significant performance jump for pro digital photographers using the Mac. And while the PC is still quicker overall, the Mac is at least back in the race."


A traveling robotic geologist from NASA has landed on Mars and returned stunning images (http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov) you can print on your home printer of the area around its landing site in Gusev Crater. A mosaic image taken by the navigation camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit showed a 360 degree panoramic view of the rover on the surface of Mars. Spirit traveled 302.6 million miles to reach Mars after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., June 10, 2003.


The Web Photo School (http://www.webphotoschool.com) has developed an educational CD-ROM for Olympus' E-1 dSLR. E-1 owners receive instruction on getting started, followed by information on photo resolution and printing, white balance indoors, white balance outdoors, depth of field for table top, depth of field for portrait and an Olympus product page. Additional lessons include using white balance to modify color, creating brushed metal reflections, creating special effects, shooting for auctions, shooting jewelry, shooting outside, shooting inside, shooting fashion, modifying light for portraits at sunset and adjusting white balance for interesting effects.


The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has released FocalBlade 1.02, a Photoshop-compatible plug-in to sharpen photos for screen display and printing as well as for producing looking blur, soft focus and glow effects on 8- and 16-bit images.


Koingo Software (http://www.koingosw.com) has released its $9.95 Slide Show Magic 2.0 [M] to create slide shows using QuickTime image formats with scaling, titling and an audio track.


MultiMediaPhoto (http://www.multimediaphoto.com) has released a Mac OS X version of its $99 Photomatix Pro [MW] to blend bracketed images into one image with an extended dynamic range.


Econ Technologies (http://www.econtechnologies.com) has released its $20 Portraits & Prints 1.3.2 [M] to import, catalog, edit and arrange digital photos. The update features a contextual menu for Red-Eye mode.


ToThePoint Software (http://www.ttpsoftware.com) has released its $19 Photologist 1.5 [W] to organize and edit digital photos and create slide shows and Web photo albums. It features a search feature, batch processing and can automatically include iPhoto albums.


Alera (http://www.aleratec.com) has introduced its all-new $349 DVD Slim Cruiser Quad and $399 DVD Slim Cruiser Quad Plus that record DVDs at 4x, twice the speed of currently available competitive products.


Fantasea (http://www.fantasea.com) has introduced its $149.95 CP-3 underwater housing for the Nikon Coolpix 2100 and 3100 digital cameras.


Epson (http://www.epson.com) has introduced its $599 Epson P-1000, a portable device for viewing, storing and sharing photos with a high-quality Epson 3.8" LCD screen. It can read CompactFlash Type I and II, and IBM Microdrive and can support Memory Stick, Smart Media, Secure Digital and Multi Media Card with an optional third-party adapter.

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One Liners

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

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

Curtin Short Courses: http://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

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Signoff

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

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
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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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