|Volume 6, Number 4||20 February 2004|
Welcome to the 117th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. The gang returns from Las Vegas with some eye openers, one of which Dave even manages to review for this issue. We put layer masking up against two new tricks and once again request your Oscar Nominations!
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The Photo Marketing Association's 2004 Conference and Trade Show in Las Vegas last week was, according to some reports, not well attended. But from the reports by Publisher Dave Etchells and News Editor Michael Tomkins (and his wife Bethany, who ground out the press releases), there was more water than mirage in the desert this year. For example:
Highlights from Dave's and Mike's reports and a company roundup follow:
- Canon introduced three new printers, including a new wide format model. But for printing on 4.7-inch tiles, you'll need the Busjet printer by Sprin U.S. Hi-Touch introduced a larger dye sub.
- Casio impressed with a 6-Mp digicam, Kodak with its DCS Pro SLR/n and Konica Minolta announced its Maxxum 7 dSLR. New models were introduced by Canon, Nikon (with in-camera red-eye removal), Olympus and Sony. Kyocera has tackled shutter lag with RTUNE image processing in its Contax SL300R T. And Polaroid announced a new digicam featuring the Foveon sensor.
- Nikon showed its Coolwalker image player and Sony its Photo Vault, a handheld player of its own that burns Mini CD-Rs.
- Lexar introduced higher capacity, faster media as well as a 32-bit high-speed reader.
DAVE: BEST IN SHOW
Every year after the PMA show, people ask me to name the most interesting/exciting product. This year, the answer is easy: DO Labs' DxO Photo Pro software (http://www.dxopro.com), an amazingly powerful way to correct optical distortion and artifacts in digicam images.
Based on a briefing with DO Labs prior to PMA, I'd been expecting to see noticeable but subtle improvements in image quality with DxO Optics Pro. But when I finally had a chance to squint at before/after image samples myself, I was amazed by the improvement. What particularly surprised me was how much it enhanced images that had been shot with very high-quality lenses. The improvements were far from subtle, but instead were obvious -- even dramatic.
Most exciting still, was how thoroughly the software appeared to be able to correct softness, distortion and chromatic aberration in images from very inexpensive lenses, which showed rather poor image quality to begin with. Bottom line, the corrected results from a $200-300 zoom lens easily surpassed the uncorrected results from a $1500-1700 one!
So I picked DxO Optics Pro as the most significant product shown at PMA 2004. The technology could easily be embedded within a digicam's firmware, resulting in dramatic improvements in image quality, even with very inexpensive optics. It promises to raise the bar for image quality standards, while simultaneously allowing manufacturers to reduce manufacturing costs for their optics. More than any other product I've seen, it has the potential to impact the entire digital imaging industry and in a relatively short time frame, too.
For more info, read the whole story (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS04/1077065799.html).
MICHAEL: FOUR THIRDS SUPPORT
Until now, only Olympus has released products based on the Four Thirds System standard it created with Kodak. The company's first Four Thirds camera, the impressive E1 dSLR can tap into a series of Four Thirds System lenses. With Kodak and Olympus, Fujifilm has been linked to the Four Thirds System standard, although it has not sold any Four Thirds products nor detailed plans for future products.
Now, three more Japanese manufacturers have joined the alliance (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS04/1076703533.html): Matsushita, Sanyo and Sigma. Each is significant for a different reason.
Matsushita, whose products are sold under the Panasonic brand name, currently offers quite a range of Lumix-branded digicams. The company has formed an alliance with Leica to create cameras with past product announcements focusing on image quality, camera control, unusual features like long-zoom lenses -- which suggests Matsushita is serious about making inroads into the high end market. With no history of manufacturing SLRs and no ties to any particular lens mount, it makes sense for Matsushita to support a more open lens standard for a Panasonic-branded dSLR.
Sanyo likewise has no history of manufacturing SLRs, but could be significant for a different reason. Sanyo manufactures a significant number of cameras for third-party companies to sell under their own brands. While it's possible Sanyo intends to create a dSLR, it seems unlikely given their current distribution limitations and the lack of brand awareness outside Japan. But the company could be thinking about a dSLR design it could market to other companies.
Yet another possibility is that both Matsushita and Sanyo could just offer image sensors compatible with the Four Thirds System, since both companies manufacture a significant volume of CCD sensors.
Finally, we come to Sigma. Of the three companies, Sigma is the only one with any history of making SLR bodies and lenses, both for film and digital. While Sigma could decide to offer dSLRs with the Four Thirds mount, it seems unlikely because Sigma has its own lens mount. Much more likely, since Sigma manufactures lenses for a wide range of lens mounts, is that the company intends to manufacture Four Thirds System lenses. Given Sigma's reputation for producing good quality optics at very competitive prices, this would be good news for owners of Four Thirds-based cameras.
Hopefully all three companies will quickly make their involvement in Four Thirds known, though. Meanwhile, it's definitely important news that three more large manufacturers have thrown their support behind the standard.
DAVE: A NEW TESTING STANDARD
DO Labs' turnkey tool for testing digital cameras features a degree of accuracy, precision and repeatability unprecedented in the industry. And Imaging Resource will be one of the first large-scale test and review organizations worldwide to make its results available to our readers.
At the heart of the DxO Analyzer process is a precisely drawn test target, consisting of a rectilinear pattern of black dots on a white background. The test procedure is incredibly simple (provided that you're careful in your setup and lighting). Set up the target, illuminate it evenly (to within 0.1 EV), carefully align your camera so it's facing the target at a perfect right angle, frame the image so you've got the pattern of dots filling the active frame and snap a picture. Once the image is captured, you run it through a piece of analysis software running under Windows XP.
Because the test target is so precisely defined and has such simple geometry, the analysis software knows exactly where each dot should appear in the field of view (relative to all the others) and its precise dimensions, to sub-pixel accuracy.
Knowing what the target is supposed to look like, it's a pretty simple matter for the software to measure any deviations from the ideal that it finds in the test image. And this information results in a pretty complete picture of the optical performance of the lens/camera system being tested.
Perhaps the most compelling innovation in DxO Analyzer though, is its use of BxU units for expressing sharpness. BxU stands for "Blur eXperience Units," a mathematical measurement correlating very well with human perception of image blur or softness.
I've long maintained that the digicam world needs a more perceptually relevant measure of resolution than the ubiquitous ISO-12233 target. The problem is that a camera's ability to resolve the lines on the standard ISO target can have little relationship with how sharp the camera's images appear to users. At its simplest, sharpness and resolution have surprisingly little to do with each other.
Bottom line, DO Labs has developed a tool for evaluating optical quality that's far more accurate and objective than any other in widespread use. It also reduces image blur to a single, mathematically-determined number that correlates well with human perception and provides a means for measuring that number quickly and reliably.
As I write this, a target and software for executing the DxO tests has just arrived. I'll be setting it up over the next few days and running some preliminary tests with it. If its performance in my own lab matches what I've seen in demos, I'll be incorporating its results in all my future digicam tests.
DAVE: MAX LYONS & THE 1-GB IMAGE
I got to meet Max Lyons, the guy who stitched the 1-gigapixel image of Bryce Canyon from almost 200 separate D60 digicam photos (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS04/1076707253.html).
Max proved to be an interesting guy, who used his love of photography as an excuse to teach himself programming. He wanted to do things with images that commercial programs couldn't, so he wrote the code himself.
I've long used his simple Thumber program to generate little tables of thumbnail images on the site for my lowlight and flash-range tests, but Max's programming prowess extends far beyond that elementary level.
Pertinent to this article, Max wrote a slick front end for Helmut Dersch's PanoTools, called PTAssembler. PTAssembler takes a lot of the pain out of PanoTools' legendarily abstruse user interface, actually turning it into a reasonably tractable tool for creating large panoramas. Some months of playing with PTAssembler and ever-larger panoramas led Max into an addictive spiral that finally resulted in his 1-Gigapixel image.
At this year's PMA, Oce Graphics used Max's remarkable photo to demonstrate the extraordinary combination of output size and resolution of their LightJet printers. The result was a wall-filling poster. What was really amazing about this print was that you could get right up on it, squint hard and still see detail. Tons of fun for anal-retentive resolution freaks like myself. (You'd have to be one yourself to understand.) If you are one of us though, you owe it to yourself to check out Max's little program, along with PanoTools. Fair warning though, this stuff is highly addictive!
Catch up on all the show coverage at our PMA Special Report page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS04/PMAS04.HTML). Here's a breakdown by company:
- Adobe Extends Camera Raw File Support in Photoshop CS
- Alera Introduces New DVD/CD Digital Photo Copy Station
- Busjet 'Slab' Printer Takes Media 4.7 Inches Thick!
- Canon Announces EOS-1D replacement; PowerShot Pro 1, PowerShot S1 IS, three new ELPH digicams, two new A-series Powershots; speedy wide-format pigment printer, i9900 photo printer, i80 printer
- Canon EOS-1D Mark II: Analysis and Comparison
- Casio Announces Impressive 6-Mp Compact Digicam
- Concord Announces Sleek, Stylish 5-Mp Camera at $379.99
- ColorVision Introduces Low Cost-High Quality Calibration Systems
- Delkin Adds eFilm Pro SD and High Capacity Gigabyte Memory Cards; Expands Battery and Reader/Writer Product Line; Fast Cardbus Adapter for SD and Memory Stick
- DotPhoto Site Integrates Broadcast-Quality Music, Voice and Special Effects with Photographic Technologies to Enhance Digital Photography Experience; Online Pro Photographer Services
- DxO: Best in Show 2004 PMA -- DxO Photo Pro (with exclusive sample images); DxO Analyze; the BxU Unit
- Epson's $99 Stylus Photo R200 Offers Direct CD/DVD
- Epson, Cosina Show Interchangeable Lens Digital Rangefinder
- Eyetop 'Wearable Viewfinder'
- eXaNetworks Launches Low-Cost, Low-Bandwidth Photo Sharing
- New Foveon X3-based Digicam From Polaroid
- Fujifilm Announces S3 Pro dSLR; FinePix A330, A340; S20 Pro
- Four Thirds System Adds Support From Three Manufacturers
- Hi-Touch Introduces Large Format Printer
- Kodak: Photo Printer 6800 Delivers 5x7 Photos; DCS Pro 14n successor; 6-Mp DX7630 digicam; 3 New CX-series digicams; Ultima Picture Paper Lasts More Than 100 Years
- Konica Minolta Announces DiMAGE Xg; DiMAGE Z1; DiMAGE A1 Successor; Maxxum 7 dSLR
- Kyocera Announces Contax SL300R T With RTUNE Image Processing
- Lexar Media: High Speed 60x Secure Digital Memory Cards; High-Speed 32-bit CardBus CompactFlash Reader; Camera Bits' Photo Mechanic Software; Enhanced Memory Stick Media 4x Faster; 8-GB CompactFlash; 80x Professional CompactFlash Cards; 1-Gigabyte Secure Digital Memory Cards
- Max Lyons and His 1-Gigapixel Panorama
- Nikon Announces Two New Coolpix Digicams; D70 dSLR; Coolpix 8700; New AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f3.5-4.5-GB IF-ED Lens; New SB-600 Speedlight, Coolwalker Photo Viewing/Storage Device
- Olympus Announces New Ultra Zoom Digicams; Stylus 410; D-540 Zoom; D-580 Zoom; C-8080 8-Mp, 5x Zoom Digicam
- Panasonic Shows Lumix DMC-LC1
- Pentax Announces Optio S4i, Optio S40, Optio 30 Digicams
- Phase One to Expand dSLR Support For C1 RAW Workflow Software
- SanDisk Announces Shoot & Store, the World's First 'Consumable' Flash Memory Cards; 4-GB Type-I CF for FAT16; Leads In Capacity
- Sigma Announces 24-60mm f2.8 EX DG Lens
- Sony: PictureStation System; Photo Vault Mini CD-R Station; ImageStation; Accelerates Standard Memory Stick Media; Pocket DVD Camcorder; DSC-W1 Digicam; Four P-Series Digicams; Lab-Quality Photo Printing in the Living Room.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C8080/C88A.HTM on the Web site.)
Olympus is one of the truly dominant players in the digicam marketplace, with a product line that ranges from bare-bones entry level models like the D-390 to its all-digital SLR, the E-1.
The Camedia C-8080 Wide Zoom has evolved from the previous top-end C-5060, borrowing user interface elements from some of Olympus' earlier pro models, such as the E-10 and E-20. The 5x wide-angle zoom lens reaches to 28mm and offers a very fast maximum aperture range of f2.4 to f3.5, unusual in a longer-ratio zoom lens. Besides the 8-megapixel CCD, new long/fast zoom lens and improved user interface, the C-8080 also incorporates a phase-detection autofocus system using an external phase-detect sensor for faster autofocus performance.
We'll have to wait for a production model before we'll know what sort of photos the C-8080 snaps, but based on its specs and features, it appears to kick the bar up another notch for high-end prosumer digicams.
Olympus' C-series digicams have a long, distinguished history, reaching back to the original C-2000. With each generation, Olympus has advanced the design a bit further, steadily increasing features and capabilities. The newest model, the $999 C-8080 Wide Zoom, is somewhat akin to Olympus' E-series cameras morphed into a more compact body, offering a 5x optical zoom lens with a minimum focal length equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera, the same size (but higher-resolution) CCD used in the E-series cameras and a wide range of manual controls matching or beating entry-level dSLRs in the same price range.
Boasting an 8.31-megapixel CCD, the C-8080 captures a maximum resolution of 3264x2448 pixels. Measuring 4.9x3.3x3.9 inches and weighing 25.2 ounces with battery and xD-Picture card installed, the C-8080 is a bit too large to be stashed in a coat pocket or purse, so use a small camera bag for adequate protection.
Like its predecessors, the C-8080 offers many advanced user controls, including a Multi-Spot metering mode that averages up to eight spot readings, a one-touch white balance function (with optional manual white balance correction for minor color adjustments), spot autofocus, contrast, saturation, hue and sharpness adjustments and a QuickTime movie mode with simultaneous sound recording. And it offers a markedly wider-angle zoom lens than most and a useful 5x zoom range.
The C-8080 features both a 0.44-inch electronic viewfinder with 240,000 pixels plus a rear panel, 1.8-inch wide-view color TFT LCD monitor with 134,000 pixels. The LCD (which is unusually usable under bright conditions, up to and including direct sunlight) lifts out from the back panel and tilts up about 90 degrees or down about 45 degrees for better viewing angles when the camera is held above or below eye level.
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 listed across the top of the monitor (a nice feature not found on all digicams) and the current image size and quality, storage media and number of images remaining on the memory card in the current resolution setting at the bottom of the monitor. The C-8080 also provides a very helpful distance display with numeric indications when using the manual focus option. A zoom bar (activated when digital zoom is on) shows both the camera's 4x optical zoom in operation and the 3x digital zoom's progress.
An optional live histogram display shows the tonal values of the subject at your current exposure setting. A new histogram display option indicates over or underexposed areas, highlighting them with a series of red and blue outline boxes. The LCD monitor also offers three framing assist guides, a set of outlines for lining up portraits and center subjects as well as a set of lines dividing the screen into thirds vertically and horizontally.
The 7.1-35.6mm 5x zoom ED glass lens is equivalent to a 28-140mm lens on a 35mm camera, with an f2.4-f3.5 (wide-angle to telephoto) maximum aperture. The three ED (extra-low dispersion) glass elements in the lens help reduce chromatic aberration. In addition to the C-8080's 5x optical zoom, images may be enlarged up to 3x with the digital zoom. The C-8080 Zoom also sports an autofocus assist illuminator (that may be activated at the user's discretion, greatly extending the camera's usefulness for low-light shooting) and a range of focus control options.
The C-8080's image file sizes include: 3264x2,448; 3264x2176; 2592x1944; 2288x1712; 2048x1536; 1600x1200; 1,280x960; 1,024x768; and 640x480 pixels. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus uncompressed TIFF and RAW formats. The C-8080 also offers the option to simultaneously write a RAW file and a JPEG file in your choice of resolution and compression. While RAW images usually require post-capture processing via imaging software, the C-8080 Wide Zoom's Playback menu offers a RAW editing function, which lets you adjust color, sharpness, etc. in-camera. The edited file is then saved as a separate JPEG.
The C-8080 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 15 seconds. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but with a Bulb setting that permits exposure times as long as 8 minutes. Four preset Scene modes include Portrait, Sports, Landscape 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.
The C-8080 provides unusually fine-grained control over its ISO equivalency with 11 options (Auto, 50, 64, 80, 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320 and 400), automatic exposure bracketing, Digital ESP, Center Weighted 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 (particularly in low-light conditions and long exposures).
The 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). Manual white balance can have 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. I've often found cameras produce a characteristic color cast under various lighting conditions that would be easy to correct if only you could. This need applies to Manual white balance settings, as well as preset ones. While Manual white balance options are designed to fully neutralize the color cast of any given light source, more often than not, they instead leave a characteristic color cast of their own. Alternatively, you frequently want to remove some of the color cast of the scene lighting, but not all of it, to call to mind 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 large number (15) of small steps, letting you make fine-grained adjustments over a broad spectrum of available colors.
Image contrast, sharpness, hue 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. As with the white balance adjustment, the contrast, sharpness, hue and saturation controls offer fairly fine-grained adjustments, meaning you can use them to really customize the camera's response to your needs and preferences, rather than using them only as special effects.
An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock function locks an exposure reading independently of the autofocus system, without having to hold down the Shutter button halfway while you reframe the image. 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. (Another handy and very powerful feature.)
There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits and an infrared remote controller with a three-second shutter delay. The C-8080 ships with the new RM-2 IR remote that offers only shutter control, but the camera itself is compatible with the original RM-1 remote (still available), which provides control of the zoom lens and several other camera functions as well.
Movie mode records QuickTime movies with or without sound, at either 160x120; 320x240; or 640x480 pixels. When sound is enabled in movie mode, only digital zoom is available while actively recording, to prevent the noise from the lens motor from interfering with the movie audio. When sound is turned off, the full range of optical plus digital zoom is available during recording. Four-second sound clips can also be recorded to accompany still images, either at the time of capture or later during image playback. A Sequence mode is available for capturing multiple images at up to three frames per second and a Panorama mode allows you to take up to 10 sequential shots, formatted for merging with Camedia's Panorama Stitch software in the computer.
The camera's internal flash offers five operating modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, Red-Eye Reduction and Slow Synchro). Casual tests seemed to show a range of at least 15 feet at ISO 100. (Stay tuned for my eventual update, based on a production model.) A standard hot shoe allows you to connect an external flash unit when additional flash power is needed and the shoe's contact supports either generic "dumb" flash units or Olympus' own dedicated strobes. You can also increase or decrease the internal flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments.
The C-8080 ships with a 32-MB xD-Picture Card for image storage but the camera 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 to download images and if you want a larger viewfinder (or image playback) display, Olympus provides a video output cable for connection to a television set (which works nicely with the optional RM-1 remote control, for adjusting framing while shooting or for running a slide show in playback mode). 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.
No conclusion just yet, as I haven't seen a production sample of the C-8080 Wide Zoom. What I have seen so far is impressive though, with a load of features, what looks like a great lens, a new and faster autofocus system and 8-Mp resolution. What remains to be seen is the final color and tonal quality and also to what extent Olympus beats the high noise prevalent in 8-megapixel sensors. Stay tuned, this is going to be an exciting year in digicams and the C-8080 Wide Zoom is definitely a model to watch!
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:
- Preliminary Review: Kodak Pro SLR/n (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SLRN/SLRNA.HTM)
- First Look: Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C8080/C88A.HTM)
- Illustrated Review: SoundPix Plus (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/SDP/SDP.HTM)
Every now and then, a subscriber writes to us with an image editing problem that defies words. So the problem doesn't make it into the Letters column even when the solution is instructive.
Recently Terry wrote to us when pictures she took at her daughter's wedding suffered from blown highlights. The highlights were pretty important in this case because they were the wedding gown itself. It simply had no detail. All white. Could anything be done?
We asked Terry to send us an image.
At the same time, subscriber Ron wrote to us to ask if we'd played around with a new plug-in from Kodak's Austin Development Center (formerly Applied Science Fiction) -- its $99.95 Digital SHO Professional Plug-In (http://www.asf.com). The guys in Austin do, in fact, supply us with both betas and release versions of their stuff, so we were familiar with it.
And, as we've previously noted, we've been using Photoshop CS (http://www.adobe.com) since its release. CS has an interesting new Shadow/Highlight image adjustment command that is also just right for this kind of problem.
We tried both SHO Pro and Shadow/Highlight on Terry's image. And both improved the detail on the gown. Easily.
But, as some readers may recall, we're rather fond of a technique involving layer masking for saving under and overexposed images.
So we also tried that. Any image editing software with layers and blending modes can do this trick. No need for a plug-in or upgrade. And its versatility is unmatched.
We decided we only wanted to change the exposure of the gown. So, no matter which approach we took, we had to select the gown.
We started with a luminosity mask (Command-Option-~ [M] or Control-Option-~ [W] in Photoshop) but it included more than the gown. So we erased everything on the mask layer except the gown itself. We could just as easily have selected the gown with the Magic Wand, though.
Because we wanted to reveal detail in the gown, we used the gown itself as the mask. In some cases, like fixing flash fall-off, you might prefer to use a gradient fill rather than something from the base image itself. Up to you.
Then we had to choose a blending mode. We had, that is, to tell Photoshop how to combine the pixel on the original, background image (the base) with the corresponding pixel on the layer mask (the blend) to calculate a new and improved pixel (the result).
Remember that an image contains red, green and blue values for each pixel, a number between 0 and 255 (dark to light) for each color channel. On the original image, there are three of these values, one each for the red, green and blue values in an RGB image.
The corresponding pixel in the mask layer (the blend) can contain another full set of three values, as in our luminosity mask, or just a gray value between 0 and 255 (black and white), as we do in contrast masking. Depends what you want to do.
Blending modes (like Overlay, Multiply or Screen) calculate the result pixel from the values of those two pixels. Overlay actually uses two different calculations: the one used by Multiply mode and the one used by Screen mode. So let's look at all three.
In Multiply mode, base color values are multiplied by the blend color value, producing a darker color. Great for overexposed areas like the wedding gown. White areas of the mask preserve the base color, black areas turn the base color completely black and anything in between darkens.
Screen mode lightens the base color values. Which is perfect for underexposed areas. The base color values are multiplied by the inverse of the blend and base color values. So black preserves the base color while white turns it white and anything in between lightens.
The Overlay mode either multiplies or screens the base color values with the blend color value, depending on the darkness of the base color value (128 is the cutoff). Darker values are multiplied and lighter values are screened. That's why you invert a contrast mask (making the shadows lighter and highlights darker).
BACK TO THE PARTY
With an overexposed gown, we used the Multiply mode on the mask layer at full opacity. That multiplied the Red in the base by the Red in the blend, the Blue by the Blue and the Green by the Green.
That enhanced the contrast a bit much, so we brought down the highlights a little using Curves. With Curves, we could hold the midtones and shadows simply by anchoring them with a click. Whatever we wanted.
And there it was: the lace, the embroidery, everything restored.
Just for fun, we tried using a flat mask of the gown. We selected the transparent areas of the layer mask, inverted the selection and filled it with black. With Multiply mode, that bumped each pixel up by the same amount (the strength of which you can adjust with the layer's Opacity). The effect was darker but with less contrast, so we abandoned it.
What we like about layer masking is the control it gives us. We determine what area of the image is affected (the mask, which we can even paint on to change how it behaves), how it is affected (the blending mode for the layer but also the tonality of the mask itself) and how much (the Opacity of the layer).
That may sound like a lot of work, but it only took seconds to try each approach. And it's free and its flexibility is unmatched.
Ron made the point that SHO Pro is easy to use. And it is. So is CS's new Shadow/Highlight command. But we got more detail from the gown using a layer mask and more color in Ron's landscape using a contrast mask.
We've discussed different applications of layer masking before, so if you're curious, take a look at Fixing Flash Fall-Off (May 2, 2000), Contrast Masking (May 31, 2002) and Luminosity Masking (March 7, 2003). It's a very valuable technique to add to your image editing bag.
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about the Olympus C-750 Ultra Zoom at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee913a3
Visit the Canon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f773
Jamali asks about a printer multifunction at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee97668/0
Dave R. asks about editing JPEGs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee97fab/0
Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec
One very special bonus of being a subscriber to this byte-bulging publication is that it includes free membership in the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences. But "free" is not entirely without obligation.
Just as subscribers are obliged to read at least the Subject field of our emailed newsletter, members of the Academy (namely, you) are requested each year to submit nominations for the Academy's Missing Oscar.
You may recall the Missing Oscar as the one stolen Oscar of several years back that was never retrieved. Every year we try to give it away on the theory that you can't lose what you don't have.
Past awards honored Best Slide Show Software, Best Photo Web Site, Best Shareware and Best Input Device. With only one missing Oscar, we have to change the category each time we present the award.
This year the award will honor the Best Digital Photography Book. Which begs the question of what, exactly, is a book? We'll accept nominations for anything at all resembling those hefty printed things you buy at book stores, anything that Acrobat Reader can open (usually called ebooks), anything that, in short, can pass as a book. We aren't picky.
Be assured the winner will enjoy the Public Notoriety of the Ersatz Academy's Missing Oscar. And, unlike the regular Oscars, may speak as long as they want and thank everyone in the latest census at our virtual awards ceremony.
To submit your nomination, email your testimonial with the subject "Oscar Nomination" to firstname.lastname@example.org before our next issue.
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Just a note to tell you that I received your newsletter yesterday. I had not seen it in quite a while, so, hopefully, the AOL blocking has been removed.
-- Nancy(Thanks for the feedback, Nancy! I'm hearing just that from several AOLers, so you may indeed be right. We did nothing different, our subscribers did nothing different and our mail service did nothing different. But suddenly the water is flowing again. Hmmm. -- Editor)
In your 2/6/04 edition I noted an item in the mail section about problems that some AOL subscribers were having receiving their newsletters. As a longtime AOL user (and beta tester) I can tell you that the current spam filters are adaptive. They learn what you consider spam. But they are not flawless and sometimes take the most innocent stuff and put it in your spam folder.
There are two solutions:
Finally, love the newsletter. Keep up the good work.
- Check your spam folder every day. If you find an item there that is not spam, click the button that says "This is NOT spam." That will "register" that email address so that you always get their email.
- Add the mailing list "From" address to your address book. Since your newsletter arrives as "From: firstname.lastname@example.org" simply add this email address to your address book. You can name it anything. I chose to call it "First Name" Digital, "Last Name" Photo. This guarantees you will always get the newsletter.
-- Steve Rosenberg(Very much appreciate the solutions, Steve! -- Editor)
You guys never fail to amaze me. Technically, socially. Your observations about the Sunday brunch conversation were so insightful. Thank you.
-- Paul(It must have been the bubbly. -- Editor)
RE: It's the Water
Just a quick note to help all those picture takers that drop their digital camera in the water. Quickly remove batteries, card and open camera to dry. Let sit for about two months. Then put batteries in, tap the camera lightly and it will probably work. All this presumes that the camera was in water less than a minute or two. Sure was surprised when mine started working again. Of course this happened after I purchased a replacement. The camera was a Kodak DX4330. Who says cameras can't swim!
-- Bob Daly(Thanks for the success story, Bob! -- Editor)
RE: Photo Cataloging
Have you looked at IMatch (http://www.photools.com)? This $50 image management product packs a lot of features and has great support. Two issues I could see for your readers is 1) Windows only and 2) for some, it may do too much.
FYI, I am not associated with IMatch, Photools or Mario (the author) other than I have been a very satisfied user of the product for several years.
-- Jim Wilt(Thanks, Jim. We'll check it out. -- Editor)
RE: More on Movies
Can you explain what the difference is between what reader Frank gets with his Sony DSC -F828 and what I get on my Canon G3 -- just for those of us who are not so advanced and do not frequently use that feature of our digicams?
-- Earl(Sure, Earl. There are three big points: 1) While the G3 capture movies up to three minutes long, the Sony DSC-F828 is limited only by the size of the storage card (apparently). So Frank can get 27 minute movies. 2) The G3 captures about 15 frames per second, while the Sony captures 30 frames per second, which is what video uses. Less frames per second means choppier motion. 3) The G3 movie image size is either 320x240 or 160x120 pixels while the Sony captures 640x480 pixels, video-standard resolution. In short, as Frank noted, the Sony can shoot video while most digicams merely promise to shoot movies, often without sound or zoom. -- Editor)
RE: Camera Shake
I handhold nearly all of my pictures (a moderate number of which are at telephoto settings) and for me, I find that camera shake (or better, the lack of it) is a major factor in the overall quality and consistency of my pictures. I understand the influence and inter-related relationships that maximum lens f-stop (and sharpness at maximum f-stop), ASA setting, noise and vibration reducing techniques (including Nikon's BSS) can have on the ultimate outcome of pictures taken under these conditions.
How would you rate the Minolta vibration reduction vs. the Nikon BSS?
-- Mike Sloop(We like Nikon's BBS but it doesn't actually stabilize the image, so you still may not have a sharp picture. An optically stabilized image could easily outperform BBS. Minolta stabilizes the CCD rather than the lens (as, say, a camcorder might) and Dave found its performance very impressive. Moreover, it has the advantage of stabilizing the image taken at the moment you prefer, rather than over some few seconds. And finally, stabilization seems indispensable with a long zoom (at least in our hands), despite its rarity. -- Editor)
PhotoVu LLC (http://www.photovu.com) has released its $1,549 PhotoVu PV1900, a wireless, 19-inch LCD digital picture frame. The built-to-order 22x28-inch and 21 lb. custom matboard and frame gets a DHCP address from your server so you can manage it from your browser. It retrieves JPEG images up to 8-Mp from any computer connected to your network or from "a USB Memory Stick through its built-in USB port."
The Plugin Site (http://www.ThePluginSite.com) has announced Harry's Filters 3 [W], a free Photoshop-compatible plug-in containing 69 useful image effects. The new version includes 14 new filter effects, 30 new presets, a new blending feature with 20 blending modes and a new brightness slider. The preview was enlarged by 200 percent and several old filters have been improved. A Paint Shop Pro 8 incompatibility has also been fixed.
Kepmad (http://www.kepmad.com) has released ImageBuddy 2.9.6 [M], adding Snap-to-Grid for page layouts.
Ulead (http://www.ulead.com) has released DVD Workshop 2 [W]. The DVD authoring software adds a visually intuitive storyboard interface to its extensive set of built-in tools.
Coolatoola (http://coolatoola.com) has released DV Backup 1.2.2 [M]. The new version adds buffer underrun/overrun protection, drag-and-drop backups and more.
Imatronics (http://www.imatronics.com) has released Panorama Express [W] to create, edit and publish virtual tours at an introductory price of $149.
MJE Computing (http://www.mjecomputing.com.au) has released its free IdlePictures 1.3 [M] for locating and managing pictures in an iPhoto library that have not been added to an album.
PhotoImaging & Design Expo (http://www.PhotoImagingandDesign.com) has announced that celebrated photographer Douglas Kirkland will present at the upcoming Expo, May 5-7 in San Diego. Kirkland will conduct a live photo shoot entitled Glamour and Portraits for Advertising and Publicity. Sponsored by Canon USA, it will present three different lighting approaches.
Wyka-Warzecha (http://www.easycalendarmaker.com) has released its $29.95 Easy Calendar Maker [W] to easily make calendars from your photos.
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher