The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 3 6 February 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 116th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We examine a new way of adding sound to images while Dave tests a 3-Mp digicam selling at 2-Mp prices. Some time-tested advice about caring for your stuff precedes our attempt to take the consumer's pulse.


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:
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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: SoundPix -- A Problem Like Maria

Sometimes, juggling all the latest digicams from Canon, Fuji, Kodak, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Sony and more, can be overwhelming. It's gotten so bad for Dave that he's been reduced to posting an ad (http://www.imaging-resource.com/rde/job.htm) for a full-time assistant.

We prefer to rely on our multiple personalities, all of whom share the same Social Security number. Still, when we feel a little like Captain Von Trapp with more than a handful of "children" to whistle into order, we wish just one of them was a nanny like Maria.

Maria was the idealistic girl in The Sound of Music whose career in the convent started to crumble when her superiors noticed her waltz on the way to mass and whistle on the stair. Somehow they even divined she had curlers under her wimple.

Her saving grace? "Maria makes me laugh!" as one of the nuns confessed.

The nuns fretted furtively over what to do with her, madly trying metaphor after metaphor. How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How do you keep a wave upon the sand? How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? Until, that is, they sent her to the beleaguered Captain who not only put her to work but made an honest woman of her, too.

Nice story, but if the nuns had simply owned a copy of SoundPix Plus, they could have gotten back to business with Maria in tow. SoundPix knows what to do with a problem like Maria.

THE PROBLEM

Many digicams can record sound. Some, like the miniscule Pentax Optio S, even function rather well as a memo recorder. But when you want to annotate a picture with a sound note, you find they just don't carry a tune well. The sound file is saved independently of the image file with nothing more than a pointer to it in the image file's Exif header.

That's the problem. You can easily lose the sound file when you copy the image file to your archive. They're independent.

Purists like the Captain don't really appreciate what's at stake. After all, we're happy taking our silent stills and worrying about getting faithful reproductions that have lasting value. But the Captain's kids are flashing their camphones at each other and phoning each other with the latest expose. A picture with sound would be cool.

That picture of a deer gets a "DO" and the sunset in the Alps gets a "RE" and the self-portrait gets a "MI" -- and pretty soon the phone lines are alive with the sound of illustrated music.

THE SOLUTION

SoundPix (http://www.soundpix.com) has developed an audio-imaging solution that ranges from integrated audio-image capture to desktop audio editing to serving audio over local and wide area networks.

In short, SoundPix technology embeds audio in the Exif header of JPEG image files. Its OEM developer's kit can do it at image capture in the camera or phone. Its SoundPix Plus application can do it on your computer. And SoundPix Web can share it over your home network or over the Web.

It's significant that SoundPix has addressed all three processes -- capture, edit and share. It has developed an architecture for audio images. So you can capture audio with the image or add it later and then effortlessly share audio images.

But it's also pretty handy that SoundPix has released SoundPix Plus, a $39.95 Windows application to record, embed and play audio in any JPEG. The company told us it is currently working on a Macintosh version to be released this quarter.

Let's take a closer look at this technology. See http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/SDP/SDP.HTM for the illustrated version of this review.

SOUNDPIX PLUS

Running on Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP, SoundPix Plus (version 2.0.0.58) requires 16-MB RAM, a SoundBlaster-compatible sound card and a microphone. We used a $10.99 Radio Shack clip-on computer microphone (Part No. 33-3026) with excellent results.

When you insert the CD, installation proceeds automatically. Both the application and the Explorer viewer plug-in are installed. An Example folder with 13 files is also installed.

When you launch SoundPix Plus, it greets you with not only its main working window, but also with an audio welcome.

USER INTERFACE

Under the main window's title bar with the standard Minimize, Maximize and Close buttons, is a menu bar with File, Edit, Sound and Help options.

The three steps of the embedding process are listed right under the large display pane: Step 1: Load an Image File, Step 2: Record/Load Audio and Step 3: Save JPG File. They function as both reminders and status flags.

More prominently -- and somewhat irresistible -- are the row of color-coded buttons just below: Load Image, Load Audio, Record Audio, Play, Stop, Email Picture, Slide Show View and Save.

The Help menu offers Registration, Help, a link to the company Web site and the (silent) About Box.

Very straightforward. Let's see if we can screw it up.

RUNNING THE PROGRAM

We clicked the yellow Load Image button and scrolled through the Examples folder to find Hot Car. You can never have too many hot cars.

A black Corvette was displayed in the image pane and the little list of three steps changed into two status notes (Image Loaded: Corvette-sp and Audio Loaded) and Step 3: Save JPG File.

The status note was one way we could tell the image had sound embedded. The other was that the Play button was active. So Play we did.

Turns out the car's for sale. Who would have guessed?

To distract ourselves from the very idea of driving around with the top down, we took a look at the menu options. Under Edit we found the Add SoundPix Icon option. Not a bad idea, we thought. We clicked and a small white bulls eye centered on the bottom left corner (so only a quarter of it was visible) rippled over the grassy scene. Tastefully done.

Not so tastefully, our saved images had a white bar panel below them with the note, "This picture has sound. To listen, download and install the FREE plugin at http://www.soundpix.com." You can disable that helpful message by unchecking the Add Listening Instructions option on the Edit menu.

Worse, though, image quality suffered significantly. We even noticed a hue shift in an image of our Rumbolino that turned its cherry red somewhat persimmon.

Edit also lets you Undo/Redo, Copy/Paste as New Image/Select All, Rotate 90 CW/Flip/Crop/Mirror, Resize/Add SoundPix Icon, Caption/Hyperlink, Slide Show View/Add Listening Instructions. A few of those tempted us.

We tried a caption. Would it just add it to the Exif header for some other application to pick up? Nope, it resized the image with our Text Annotation right under it, "I can't afford this."

So we clicked on Hyperlink. A dialog box prompted us for the Link Text and the Link URL. We dutifully entered City Tow's Web site and SoundPix put our link text in white in the right corner of the image.

We were only a little disappointed that we couldn't Undo either. By clicking on Caption again and erasing the text annotation in the dialog box, our caption did disappear. Same for the Hyperlink.

Likewise with audio. There's no obvious way to remove the embedded audio. You could, of course, record a millisecond of silence, but that's not surgically clean.

Well, how about changing the audio from a sales pitch to a non-profit request to donate your old clunker? We clicked Load Audio and saw "Great Time," a .wav file in the Examples folder. Other supported file types are .au and .mp3. SoundPix told us audio is stored in the Exif header with PCM or IMA-ADPCM encoding, in WAVE format, at 22khz 8-bit mono.

Suddenly our audio said, "We're having a great time! Wish you were here." That we could Undo. The Edit menu had "Undo Load Sound," which also restored the original sales pitch.

On the Sound menu we saw an Effects option that could enable Auto Play, Loop (continuously or a finite number of times) and toggle Audio Compression on or off. The default is no compression. From the Sound menu you can also Open other sounds and Record/Stop/Play loaded sounds.

We preferred to use the nicely colored Record Audio button to request donations. Piece of cake. When we were done, we hit Stop. And Play proved that even we couldn't screw this up.

With a fully edited JPEG featuring our desperate plea, an audio icon and an embedded URL, we were finally ready to Save. Or, in this case, Save As. We didn't want to overwrite the original file until we wrote down the contact number.

Unlike other programs that save JPEGs, this version of SoundPix doesn't offer any compression options. You might think it doesn't need any, since its job is to embed audio in the header. But it does offer Resize and Crop options, both of which require recompressing the image. The company told us they plan to "give the user complete control of the compression level" in a future version.

That showed up on our Quibble Meter along with the need to experiment to find out how to undo captions and links. It's remarkably easy to load, record, embed and play audio. But other tasks are not intuitive.

SLIDE SHOW VIEW

Take Slide Show View, for example. This option lets you create a slide show with sound but it takes a little getting used to.

The interface flipped into a slide show workspace, displaying our single image and prompting for another. The color-coded buttons at the bottom of the window offered Add an image to the show, Remove and Details, along with Load Audio, Record, Play and Stop. A Preview and Save button and a Single View button were also available.

Detail lists the Slide Number, its Title (the file name), Image Size in pixels, Audio in seconds, Slide Duration and Slide Transition.

You set those options using the Slide Details option under the Edit menu. There you can edit the Title, the Duration and set the audio to play over multiple slides.

You can also select from a short list of transitions, including Pan Left, Pan Right, Pan UP, Pan Down, Pan From Middle and Pan To Middle. We didn't notice them during playback, though.

SoundPix explained, "Transitions themselves aren't very elaborate and are often overlooked when viewing the slide show. One way to notice them is to set a different transition on four concurrent slides and watch the playback. You will notice that the slides are drawn to the screen differently. It's really set up to be more of a subliminal way to show progression in a slide show."

The slide shows are saved as a single SoundPix JPEG in which the first slide is the main JPEG data with the other slides saved as metadata along with the audio and captions for those slides.

FILE SIZES

The big question is how much embedded audio bloats image file sizes.

The original Hot Car image with the sales pitch was 462K. Our Donate a Vette plea with icon, caption and link came in at 122K. Our Cropped Vette with about three seconds of audio was only 71K. Which indicates the image compression level of the supplied sample images was pretty high.

So we tried one of our own. Our original 692K camera image became 260K when we added six seconds of sound. And it was a larger image (2048x1689 with the sound notice panel). Resized from 2048x1536 to 640x480 pixels (well, 640x528 with the panel), it was only 108K. Go figure.

SoundPix told us that six seconds of uncompressed audio "would be roughly 130K (about 65K compressed, as our compression is nearly 2-1)." Obviously SoundPix is rather aggressive with JPEG compression. The company claims their compression setting "isn't that much greater than the default for most image applications" but acknowledges it compresses more than your digicam does.

PARSING EXIF DATA

Which brings up another issue. Can programs that parse Exif headers (like your image editing software) parse headers with embedded audio?

Well, let's just say it's a moot point. SoundPix doesn't preserve the Exif header data of the original file. So apart from some file properties like creation date and width and height, you don't have any metadata other than the embedded sound. No camera information, no exposure information, no copyright information.

The company confirmed "all Exif data is removed from the images when they are resaved. This is the same behavior that is evident in most image editing software." It's true that editing an image can invalidate some Exif data (changing the brightness, for example, doesn't reflect the original exposure information). But not all of it (your copyright). So the most recent releases of most image editing software now preserves at least some Exif data.

But SoundPix is really making an email version of your image to share among family and friends. You aren't likely to miss (or even set) the copyright information.

CONCLUSION

Maria was a problem for the nuns in charge of her vocation until they found the proper place for her in the Von Trapp household. SoundPix is a bit like Maria. Rather reckless (of your image), but my what a lovely voice.

We could stand here and bellow authoritatively like the Captain but the recklessness is kind of endearing. We aren't falling in love, exactly, but seeing things in a different light. SoundPix may hijack your Exif header and squeeze the daylight out of your image data, but it makes your landscapes come alive with the sound of music. The result isn't an enhancement of your original image, it's an alternative.

We expect this technology to be a winner with camphones and point-and-shoot digicams. A great toy for kids but also fun for extended families. Just don't expect it to cook and clean.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Fuji FinePix A210 -- 3-Mp 3x Zoom Under $300

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A210/A21A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

Universally known for great color and performance, Fuji has also carved out a niche for itself by consistently providing good-quality consumer digicams at rock-bottom prices.

The latest in Fuji's line of bargain-priced cameras is the FinePix A210, the 3-megapixel twin to the 2-megapixel FinePix A205. The FinePix A210 carries on the value-leading tradition of Fuji digital cameras by offering a 3.2-megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom lens at a price lower than those of many competing 2-megapixel models.

As you'd expect, the FinePix A210 trades off a few features and capabilities to achieve its remarkably low cost, but the camera still takes good-looking pictures in daylight conditions and is simple enough for even rank beginners to operate.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Expanding the point-and-shoot options of Fuji's FinePix line of digicams, the $279 FinePix A210 is an affordable entry-level model offering good quality and value. Small, compact and very lightweight, the A210 offers a larger, 3.2-megapixel CCD than its predecessor, along with a Fujinon 3x optical zoom lens. Exposure control, however, remains automatic, with the convenience of point-and-shoot control. The A210's CCD captures enough information for prints as large as 8x10 and offers a lower-resolution setting for email attachments.

The camera's dimensions are just a little too large for most shirt pockets at 3.9x2.6x2.1 inches, but you could feasibly stow the camera in a larger coat pocket or an average-sized purse. Despite its size, the all-plastic body is extremely lightweight at just 7.9 ounces, including batteries and memory card. A sliding, built-in lens cover keeps the A210's front panel nearly flat when closed.

The A210 is equipped with a 3x, Fujinon 5.5-16.5mm lens, equivalent to a 36-108mm lens on a 35mm camera. Aperture is automatically controlled from f3 to f10.8, depending on the zoom position of the lens. Focus also remains under automatic control, ranging from 2.6 feet to infinity in normal mode, with a Macro setting ranging from 3.9 inches to 3.3 feet. The camera also offers as much as 3.2x digital zoom, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality. The A210 offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD monitor reports some camera settings and can overlay an alignment grid. The grid divides the image area into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up tricky subjects.

Exposure is always automatically controlled. The Manual setting simply expands the Record menu to include Exposure Compensation and White Balance options. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 1/2 second, but the LCD doesn't report it or the lens aperture setting. The A210 uses a TTL (through-the-lens), 64-zone metering system, which averages readings taken throughout the frame for the best overall exposure. The Exposure Compensation setting lets you change exposure from -2.1 to +1.5 stops in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent and Incandescent. Although it's not adjustable, the A210's sensitivity is equivalent to ISO 100, good for most average shooting conditions.

The built-in flash is effective from 2.6 to 11.5 feet depending on the zoom setting and operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed or Slow-Synchro modes. In Manual mode, the flash also offers a Red-Eye Reduction and Slow-Synchro combination mode. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between a full press of the Shutter button and the time that the shutter actually opens, helpful in self-portraits or group photos. The A210 also features a Movie mode, which captures movies without sound at either 320x240- or 160x120-pixel resolutions. Maximum recording times vary, depending on the resolution and amount of available memory space, with a maximum of 60 seconds per clip at 320x240 pixels and a maximum of 240 seconds at 160x120 pixels (although actual movie lengths will depend on the available memory card space).

The A210 stores image files on xD-Picture Cards and comes with a 16-MB starter card. It uses two AA-type batteries for power and an optional AC adapter is available.

It also comes with an adapter for the separate accessory PictureCradle, for quick image downloading when connected to a computer. The camera fits into the cradle sideways, lining up the USB/Digital jack with the cradle's jack.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The A210 delivered pretty good color throughout testing, with accurate hue and good saturation levels in most instances. I typically chose the Auto white balance setting as the most accurate, though it often produced similar results to those of the Daylight option. Outdoors, the camera handled the harsh sunlight pretty well (albeit with high contrast, see below), producing good skin tones and an accurate rendition of the always-difficult blue flowers. Indoors, the camera had a little difficulty with incandescent lighting, leaving more of a color cast in the image than I'd have liked, with both the auto and incandescent white balance settings.

Exposure: Exposure-wise, the A210 did a pretty good job overall. The high-key outdoor portrait needed only a small amount of positive exposure compensation, though I had to sacrifice highlight detail to get even reasonably bright midtones. Indoors, the camera performed well, needing only slight positive exposure compensation. The Davebox target looked pretty good, the camera differentiating subtle tonal differences quite well. However, under harsh, outdoor sunlight, its high native contrast caused it to lose both highlight and shadow detail.

Resolution/Sharpness: The A210 turned in a good performance on the laboratory resolution test chart for an entry-level 3-megapixel camera. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600-650 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to at about 1,000 lines and extinction of the target patterns occurred at about 1,100 lines.

Image Noise: The A210 showed what I'd call "moderate" image noise in the shadow areas of its images. This is an acceptable level for an entry-level camera, particularly since image noise didn't extend into the midtones or highlights.

Close-Ups: It performed pretty well in the macro category, capturing an average-sized minimum area of 3.6x2.7 inches. Color balance was a little warm, but resolution was very high. The dollar bill, coins and brooch all showed strong detail with good definition. The lower left corner of the frame was a little soft, but everything else is pretty sharp. The flash throttled down quite well for this shot, perhaps even a bit more so than I'd have wished. Overall, a decent macro performer with average coverage.

Night Shots: The A210 operates under automatic exposure control at all times and has a very limited shutter speed range. Thus, the camera has limited low-light shooting capabilities. In my testing, the A210 produced a barely usable image at the one foot-candle (11 lux) light level. Color was good, but the image was really too dark to be acceptable.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion is a little less than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.6 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only half a pixel of barrel distortion (about 0.03 percent). Chromatic aberration is also low, showing only very faint coloration on either side of the target lines.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The A210's optical viewfinder is quite tight, showing only 76 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 78 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor proved more accurate, showing approximately 93 percent accuracy at wide-angle and about 90 percent at telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the A210's LCD monitor has a little room for improvement and the optical viewfinder is much tighter than it should be.

Battery Life: With a worst-case runtime of 2 hours and 40 minutes on a pair of 1600 mAh NiMH AA cells, the A210 shows better than average battery life. I still strongly recommend purchasing at least two sets of high-capacity NiMH batteries and a good-quality charger though.

CONCLUSION

Fuji FinePix digicams have always been associated with good image quality and color, with solid performance even at the lower-end of the line. With a 3.2-megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom lens, the A210 offers the same great point-and-shoot convenience as the earlier A200 model, but with greater flexibility. Overall, it's a solid entry-level model, offering good resolution and an optical zoom lens at an exceptional price, closer to the prices of competing 2-megapixel models, giving you an extra megapixel for about the same cost.

It just missed being a Dave's Pick because of its difficulty with incandescent lighting and its limited low-light capability. It's a close call though, as the combination of 3 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom lens for less than the cost of competing 2-megapixel models make it a pretty compelling proposition. If you're looking for a rock-bottom price on a camera that'll mainly be used for daytime shooting, the A210 would be an excellent choice.

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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: Care & Feeding

The other day, our brother-in-law Chezzie dropped by. He sat at our desk and slapped our delicate laptop appreciatively on its closed lid. "So this is where it all happens, eh?" No, no, no, we shook our head, pointing to the Underwood manual typewriter whose cast iron frame has withstood oceanic voyages and earthquakes. He was unpersuaded.

Then he got up and wandered over to a digicam we'd left unsecured. We started to sweat.

"Mike, maybe you can tell me," he challenged us. "What can I do about my Potemkin E-99? I let my niece Silvia borrow it the other day and I can't get the battery compartment to close any more. Let me show you...."

We heard a little tinkle. "Sure, after dinner," we said, averting disaster.

We spend so much time telling you what to do when your equipment is on, that we may have falsely given the impression you don't have to worry about it when you aren't using it. In fact, you don't have to worry if you practice the proper care and feeding of your gear.

Your manual is a great place to start. It will warn you about every natural disaster except Chezzie. But practically speaking, what should you do? Here are some real-world tips:

Follow that advice and you'll be ready to shoot with the least fuss and muss. We are. If the dinner bell hadn't rung, we'd have been able to save the day by grabbing that camera and telling Chezzie to smile!
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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 Fuji FinePix S5000 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee94ff3

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

Kitty asks about tripods at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee97c33/0

Stephen asks about image dimensions at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee977ae/0

Visit the Pro Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b4

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Just for Fun: Are We There Yet?

Rain had been forecast and it was threatening. But rain has a mind of its own. So, several weeks ago, we set out under cloudy skies for Sunday brunch to take an informal survey of where the business is these days.

We decided to brunch at the art deco place where the waitress is friendly with champagne. The food (like the decor) is out of fashion, but still enjoyed by the clientele. We ordered a Shrimp Louie and sat back to enjoy the ambiance, pretty certain we wouldn't hear the word "megapixels" until the bubbles stopped rising in our glass.

The ambiance, in fact, was seated behind us, so we couldn't see them. An elderly mother being taken to brunch by her middle-aged son. He seemed to be under something of a cloud himself, having just gotten a new job from which, his mother drew out of him, he "wasn't making a living." He insisted he was doing better than most beginners, though. His customers loved him, wrote glowing letters about him, etc.

There are mothers and there are mothers. On our Mothers Scale, she wasn't nearly as bad as he thought. She was just a bit confused how he and his partner could do as well splitting 65 percent of a commission as he could alone at 50 percent. "But it's 65 percent, not 50!" he insisted. Her math obviously hadn't deserted her.

Same problem with his new diet. He had cut out bread. "Not even a single slice?" she asked, incredulously. Not even, he explained, it's a starch, it turns to sugar, it's bad for you. "So what do you eat?" A little herring, he allowed, on cottage cheese maybe. How can you not eat bread? she wondered. How can that be good for you?

To change the subject, he observed, "So what do you think about our new governor?" He repeated this three times before the topic of governor registered above the toast.

"Oh, you mean that German fellow," she finally acknowledged the subject.

"Austrian," he corrected her.

"They're the same, Austrians and Germans," she corrected him.

"Not to Austrians," he argued.

This time the cloud hung over her, not him. She remembered crossing the border, the guards. They looked just like him, she said. They even walked like him. In Warsaw, she told him, if you went into the street to get bread, you could be killed. You didn't know what to do.

He listened closely, heard the story out (not for the first time). "Who else is coming to your birthday party?" she finally thought to ask.

He told her. She wanted to know why one child and not the other. They're fighting, his son and daughter. And so on, the typical Sunday brunch conversation of an adult child and his mother. Jobs, diets, politics, history, family. We looked out the window wondering if the storm had really neglected us.

"Oh," the son's booming voice broke our reverie, "I bought him a digital camera so he could send me pictures on the computer." And did he? "He did. For a while. But then he got lazy." What? "He got lazy. He doesn't send any more pictures."

"Oh, he probably just has one of those viruses," the old woman suggested.

Ah ha! So there you have it, the first recorded instance of digital imaging breaking into the normal conversation of a Sunday brunch. We are, we lifted our glass of champagne, there now!

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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: AH, THE ILIFE!

Look, guys, speaking as a subscriber to your Digital Photo Newsletter, it's not worth wasting my time wading through all the ads and plugs to read a dumb-a^^ piece like Mike's review of Apple's iLife.

First we have a lot of rambling about how he picked up the wrong box in the store, how he thinks the four-license Family Pack version is too expensive and how he didn't like the way the box was packed.

Then we learn about all the trouble he's had using it on an unsupported configuration (no built-in SuperDrive, multiple iPhoto libraries) and his disappointment that it doesn't have features that it doesn't claim to have (ability to burn CDs for video playback). And then the final crushing discovery that GarageBand won't help you record great music if you don't have any musical talent. Golly.

Okay, I understand that you're really, really ticked that Apple wouldn't give you a review copy of the product, but this kind of whining is just petty. I read reviews to find out how well a product does what it claims it will do -- not how well it does what the reviewer thinks it should do or wishes it would do.

It all reminds me of the joke about the guy who goes in to buy a new Range Rover and asks the salesman if it can go off-road. Yes, it certainly can, says the salesman. The guy signs the papers and drives away and the next day comes back as mad as hell. "You fraud!" he yells at the salesman. "You assured me that my new Range Rover could go off-road. But I didn't get more than 10 feet from the dock before it sank right to the bottom!"

Kinda makes me wonder whether I can trust your positive reviews either.

-- Jim Williams

(Actually, at the Range Rover Expo keynote Steve Kneival told the crowd, "This new version really flies!" Which explains why the customer in the joke actually drove it off a cliff. Note, though, that he never did come back to complain.... But seriously, Jim, iPhoto Help documents the use of multiple libraries and this version of iDVD does not require a SuperDrive (ask Steve). But what sense does it make to unleash iDVD from the SuperDrive without allowing it, like Windows DVD authoring software, to burn CDs? They're perfect for slide shows. Mac users expect more from Cupertino and for $50, we deserve it, too.... Yes, we're as petty as anyone, but we have an excellent relationship with Apple's PR firm, which has generously supplied us with both hardware and software so we can tell you what we really think about the company's products. This time, though, we wanted to report promptly on the new release so we spent our own wampum. Time, after all, is just wampum. -- Editor)

Thank ya'll for your great review of the new iPhoto update in your last issue. I too, have been frustrated with iPhoto as a new Mac convert from Adobe Photoshop Album. I have decent cataloging needs and would rather sacrifice some of the image correction and slide show features for a better library system since I can do image correction in Photoshop and slide shows in iMovie. What do ya'll use at the office and is it pretty expensive? Is there a Mac program you would recommend for better library features?

-- Jesse Garner

(We've reviewed Canto Cumulus, QPict and Extensis Portfolio, Jesse. And we're about to review iView MediaPro and the new QPict. We use them all, actually, just to make ourselves miserable. But see the reviews and compare their capabilities to your needs. -- Editor)

Sorry you had so much trouble with iLife. I bought it last week and I love it. Granted iPhoto will never replace Photoshop, but I've had no problems installing any of the software.

All of it works like a charm. Even though I have no ear for music I really love Garage Band.

-- Michael Martin

(Our only installation issue was that iDVD wasn't installed -- and it should have been since it is now supported on systems that can't burn DVDs, as we reported in our Macworld Expo keynote coverage.... The rumor mill has it that OS X version 10.3.3, recently seeded to developers, addresses the import problems a number of users with large libraries have been having. We'd wait to upgrade until that's released. -- Editor)

RE: MagneFlash Filters

Bill Stocks forwarded a suggestion from one of your readers, Jim, about Post-it type glue modification for the MagneFlash Filters. We have carried out some work on this idea and found it to work with polyester transparent film coated with this re-usable glue. The results are a great improvement to what we had originally for the IR filters, so we have modified the design accordingly. Please thank Jim for his great idea. -- Peter Louden

(Will do, Peter. -- Editor)

RE: Digicam/Camcorder Hybrid

I just finished reading Edition 115. In the letters section, Lenita Smith wrote, "I would like to find a good camera that makes good 640x480 movies at 30 fps."

For years I have been wanting a good digicam that also takes good movies -- and I have found that in Sony's new 828. I am a Canon DSLR user (have been for years), but what convinced me to get the 828 as a "snapshot" camera were two things: CompactFlash slot and VGA 30 fps movie mode.

You probably already know this, but if you use a Microdrive (I use a Magicstor 2.2-GB) you can record VGA at 30fps; I get 27 minutes on this Microdrive. The quality is simply amazing. I shot 15 minutes at my sister's birthday party right after Christmas, then burned it onto video DVD (complete with menus, chapters, etc.) and was astounded at the results -- so much so that I am considering selling my Elura 50 MiniDV camcorder. I would love to never have to go through the pain of video "capture" from a camcorder again and 828 will let me do that.

The issue you mentioned about the sound of zooming being picked up by the movie is not a problem on the 828 because it is a manual mechanical zoom that is silent. To me, this is the first truly hybrid camera/camcorder.

-- Frank Phillips

(Thanks very much for the fascinating feedback, Frank! Particularly since this hybrid isn't a camcorder that takes stills but a digicam that takes movies. -- Editor)

RE: AOL PROBLEMS

I haven't seen a newsletter in my inbox for a while and I started to wonder what had happened. I have been a member from the beginning. Did I accidentally set a spam filter wrong? I miss you guys :(

-- Kevin

(Actually, several subscribers have written in the past several weeks with the same problem. Every one of you is in the database, all being sent the newsletter but suddenly none of you are getting it. You all also share one other attribute: AOL (although we've seen this sporadically with other ISPs as they introduce spam detection filters). One of our subscribers actually called AOL customer support, which asked them to ask us to talk to them. When we called, they didn't really want to talk to us at all. They wanted to talk to the company we use to mail the list. We put them in touch and are awaiting resolution of the issue after enabling extensive error logs for this issue. We aren't doing anything differently here, but apparently someone is. -- Editor)

RE: PANASONIC FZ10

Your logic escapes me that you're testing cameras that neither improve nor expand the capability of digital cameras already out there.

Here's a 12x optical zoom image stabilized 4-MB camera (the FZ10) and not a review in sight.

What gives?

-- Strat

(Despite several entreaties, Panasonic has resolutely declined to send us samples of their cameras to test. I'd like to review the FZ10, but I've thus far been too busy trying to catch up with cameras that I do have to chase after companies who can't be bothered to send a unit for us to look at. If I can get some of the backlog cleared (now that our protracted move is almost complete), I'm hoping to find the time to go hound folks like Panasonic (and HP) who have thus far been unreachable. -- Dave)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Next week, the Photo Marketing Association holds PMA 2004 (http://pma2004.pmai.org), its 2004 Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas. Already we've seen a flood of press releases announcing new cameras and equipment from Nikon, Canon, Kodak, Pentax, Fuji and others. You can catch those as well as our convention coverage on our news page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM), but we'll briefly highlight a few of this week's top announcements:

Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) announced its $999 D70 dSLR with a 6.1-Mp CCD and an 8.31-Mp Coolpix 8700 with an 8x optical zoom lens, but that's not all. The company added a $590 AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm lens for its dSLRs, a mid-range wireless SB-600 Speedlight and its 30-GB Coolwalker photo viewing/storage device.

Canon (http://www.canonusa.com) announced its $4,499 8.2-Mp CMOS-based EOS-1D Mark II will ship in April. See News Editor Mike Tomkins' analysis and comparison with the EOS-1D and Nikon D2H (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1075434066.html).

Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has added three CX-series digicams ranging from two to four megapixels, a $499 6-Mp DX7630 with a maximum 64 second shutter speed and a new Ultima Picture Paper which can, the company says, "last for more than 100 years in typical home display without protection from gas and humidity."

Pentax (http://www.pentax.com) announced a 3.2-Mp Optio 30, a 4-Mp Optio S40 and its Optio S4i* with a cradle charger.

Fujifilm (http://www.fujifilm.com) announced its S20 Pro along with FinePix A330 and A340 models.


Canto (http://www.canto.com) has released Cumulus 6.0.1 (myCumulus, Single User and Workgroup), with a built-in multilingual capability for Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and Solaris platforms. With multilingual capability, you can now switch between the English, French or German user interface with a menu command.


Ever wonder if your image editing application supports lossless JPEG rotation? Check the comprehensive list at http://sylvana.net/jpegcrop/losslessapps.html to see.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has introduced a $341.95 studio and a $493.95 location kits for its FlexDrop2 reversible chroma-key blue/green backdrop. The kits represent a savings of 20 and 25 percent respectively over buying the components separately.


Rune Lindman (http://www.qpict.net) has released QPict 6.0.3 [M]. The new version adds font selection in list view, a zoom slider for thumbnail sizes and other enhancements.


A round of applause for David Bradley, the IBM programmer who spent five minutes of his 28 1/2 years with the company writing the code behind Ctrl-Alt-Delete. He's retiring. "After having been the answer on final 'Jeopardy,' if I can be a clue in The New York Times' Sunday crossword puzzle, I will have met all my life's goals," Bradley told the Associated Press.

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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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