|Volume 6, Number 7||2 April 2004|
Welcome to the 120th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Hi-Touch has produced another winner with its 6x8-inch 730PS dye sub printer. Dave raves about the new Pentax dSLR, which takes K mount lenses. And we have a few other surprises for you, too, even if you've got an hour less to read this issue. While you're changing your clocks, don't forget to set your digicam's forward an hour, too.
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If you're going to start a revolution, there's no sense straightening your tie. We've reviewed two dye sub printers from Hi-Touch Imaging Technologies (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?hti) already because we were impressed with their revolutionary approach (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Not only are they high-quality dye subs rather than finicky inkjets -- but they don't need no stinkin' computer neither.
But with the 730PS, Hi-Touch has revolutionized paper size, too. The standard 4x6, 5x7 and 8x10 sizes were as tired as double Windsor knots to them. So they built the 730PS to make 6x8 prints (see our full review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/HT730PS/HT7.HTM).
It kind of reminds us of the days when all the labs were printing 3.5x5-inch prints and some wise guy thought of making Jumbo 4x6 prints. They were a lot easier on the eyes and pretty soon everybody was buying double Jumbos.
Why didn't Hi-Touch go all the way to 8x10? Well, for one thing, they might. But pausing at 6x8 has a number of advantages. For one thing, the 4:3 aspect ratio is more common among digicams than the standard 3:2 of the 35mm world. And it matches the aspect ratio of standard monitors, where most of the viewing gets done.
But regardless of the politics behind this revolution, we've gotten ridiculously fond of these 6x8s. You only have to buy an 8x10 frame, for one thing. And, boy, are they easy on the eyes. Which you can't say about most revolutions.
Hi-Touch Imaging Technologies (http://www.hitouchimaging.com) was established in Feb. 2001 in Taiwan. With 450 employees, their focus is in hardware ASIC design, moving mechanisms, firmware/driver/application development and color science. And every one of those talents is evident in the 730PS.
Since the introduction of the 630PS, we've seen HiTi printers showing up all over the place from our local photo dealer to major online retailers. The company has its own production team and manufacturing plant just outside Shanghai in Suzhou, China. The high performance production facility gives them the ability to manufacture large numbers of printers quickly and efficiently to meet demand worldwide.
"Our goal," the company said, "is to be the leader of the digital imaging revolution. After all, our digital prints are not the closest thing to photo lab prints, they are better."
The $399 (street $368) 730PS, which looks like a larger 640PS, sports five main features:
Behind these headlines are the specs. And they're impressive.
- It make prints in three sizes: 6x8 5x7 and 4x6. You have to swap out ribbons and paper for the different sizes, though, so it isn't as if you can print two 6x8s and five 4x6s unattended.
- A "new generation" ribbon provides "extra durability and superior color performance."
- High-speed printing. We clocked our 6x8s in 90 seconds (1:36, actually). Hi-Touch clocks them in 70 seconds (and just 45 seconds to do a 4x6 and 60 seconds for a 5x7). We started our clock the moment we hit the Print button, so just think of our time as real world and theirs as technically precise.
- Computer-free printing with the LCD controller -- or drive it from your computer via the USB interface.
- Built-in support for seven types of memory card: Smartmedia, CompactFlash Type I & II, Memory Stick, Secure Digital, Multimedia Card and MicroDrive. Unfortunately not xD Picture Cards.
- 301 dpi resolution (equivalent to a 4800-dpi inkjet, Hi-Touch said, and what the original 630PS produces)
- 30 sheet cassette for unattended printing
- 13.4x11x8.7 inches and 18.8 lbs. gross weight and 13.7 lbs. net
- Accessories include the Controller, Quick Guide, Paper Cassette, USB Cable, AC Power Cord, CD (with Printer Driver, Bundle Software and Electronic User Manual).
THE DYE SUB DIFFERENCE
Apologies for repeating ourselves every time we review a Hi-Touch printer, but dye sub printing remains an exotic technology. It's actually continuous tone printing (like real prints), not screened printing (as on an inkjet). It uses a heating element to heat dye impregnated in a ribbon to over 350 degrees, at which point it turns into a gas and migrates into the surface of the specially coated photo paper. Temperature controls how much dye transfers at any point on the paper.
In addition to yellow, cyan and magenta dyes, the ribbon contains a clear coating. Hi-Touch's Magic Coating Technology protects the dyes from UV light and waterproofs them, sealing the dyes into the paper.
With no messy inks, dye sub printing is very clean. Once in a while, you'll want to clean paper dust off the feed transport rollers inside the printer, but that's it. The 4x6 Hi-Touch dye subs use a $9.99 cleaning kit to do that (http://www.hitishop.com/accessory.html) after every 100 prints. The 730PS also uses an air filter behind the front grill, which can be replaced. The 730PS cleaning kit will be available in June, the company said.
The manual suggests covering the printer when not in use to prevent dust from entering it. Good advice. Our first few prints were marred by dust spots.
Any way you cut it, this is as clean and simple -- and beautiful -- as photo printing gets.
If you do attach the 730PS to an optional computer <g>, it connects to a USB port (and supports USB 1.1 and USB 2.0).
Drivers are provided on CD for Windows 98/ME/2000/XP. A Macintosh OS X driver, for all Hi-Touch printers, is available for download from the site but we needed a Windows computer to download it. The Mac download using various browsers hung waiting for a response from the Hi-Touch server.
We received our review unit just after Hi-Touch's 640PS won the DIMA Digital Printer Shoot-Out for Small Format Printers at the 2004 Photo Marketing Association trade show held in Las Vegas. Not content to rest on its laurels, Hi-Touch had just released a firmware update for the 730PS.
Unfortunately, we needed a Windows machine to run the firmware update. It took our Vaio about five minutes to update the 730PS from 0.91.07 to 0.92, fixing a paper mismatch error when using cleaning paper and another problem running the cleaning paper in standalone mode. We've updated the firmware on several Hi-Touch printers in the past without ever encountering a problem. And the 730PS is apparently able to update firmware from its memory card slot, like the other Hi-Touch printers.
You'll need 64-MB RAM, 150-MB hard disk space and a Pentium PC to run HiTi's PhotoDesiree image editing software, included on the CD, which enhances and modifies images and can adjust individual color preferences for all prints.
The printer manual is written in HTML so Mac users won't have to do without, but the printed Quick Installation Guide is really all anyone needs.
Of course, the big system requirement is actually your image. Just how much resolution do you need to print a 6x8 dye sub?
Hi-Touch says the 730PS prints at 301 dpi. So 8 times 301 is 2408 and 6 times 301 is 1806. And 2408x1806 is 4,348,848 pixels. But do you really need a 4-Mp digicam to print 6x8s?
No. We tossed a lot of 3.1-Mp images (2048x1536 pixels for 3,145,728 pixels) at the 730PS and never saw any resolution issues. We printed directly from our card and from our computers.
Of course, on the computer, we resized our images (between 118 and 150 percent) and ran an unsharp mask filter to optimize them for the printer -- something you aren't likely to do printing directly from a card. But the direct prints were fine, too.
Nevertheless, Hi-Touch recommends you stick to 4x6 prints with a 2-Mp digicam, 5x7 prints for a 3-Mp digicam and 6x8 prints for 4-Mp or greater digicams. That's a safe mapping of image pixels to the 730PS's resolution, but our experience showed 3-Mp images can print very well at 6x8 sizes, too. Don't worry, be happy.
You also need an electrical outlet. Actually assembling the printer and plugging it into the wall are often more difficult than you might think. Installing inkjet cartridges can take nerves of titanium.
Like other Hi-Touch dye sub printers, you simply place the printer, attach the controller and open a small door to load the paper cassette. Connect the power cord and optionally <g> the USB cable. Drop the ribbon in when you load the paper in the cassette and that's it.
Both paper loading and ribbon insertion are very simple. The ribbon is especially noteworthy because it isn't delivered on a spool that has to be threaded but in a cartridge that simply pops into place. Very nice.
ON PAPER SIZE
So what's with the 6x8 paper size? You know what to do with a 4x6, a 5x7 and an 8x10. But what can you do with a 6x8 and its 3:4 aspect ratio?
Actually, the trouble with most framed prints is that the frame is the same size as the print. A 4x6 print gets framed in a 4x6 frame and an 8x10 print in an 8x10 frame.
That may be economical but it suffers from a couple of drawbacks.
First, the point of a frame is to stake out a little real estate on the wall apart from the room itself. So some sort of border makes a very big difference in framing.
Second, putting a print in contact with glass isn't generally recommended. The paper and glass don't expand and contract at the same rate. And you'll no doubt get Newton rings where contact is under pressure.
So we applaud the 6x8 size precisely because there is no 6x8 frame. Buy an 8x10 frame with a 5x7 mat or cut your own 6x8 mat for an 8x10 frame. That leaves you a one-inch margin all around. We found that tidy format delightful for groups of three images.
Hi-Touch (http://www.hitouchimaging.com/consumable3.asp?lid=350) currently sells three paper kits for the 730PS:
But other kits are on their way:
- A pack of 30 6x8 sheets with a ribbon for $29.99
- A pack of 30 5x7 sheets with a ribbon for $23.99
- A pack of 60 4x6 sheets with a ribbon for $23.99
You can, of course, print two 4x6 images on one 6x8 sheet. But you can't use a 640/630 paper pack to print 4x6s. The ribbon cartridges are different sizes. So you have to buy 730 consumables (including the cleaning kit) for the 730PS.
- 30 6x8 1x1 sticker sheets (i.e., one 6x8-inch sticker per sheet)
- 30 5x7 1x1 sticker sheets
- 30 5x7 CD labels
- 60 4x6 4x4 stickers
- 60 4x6 4/2/4 stickers
- 60 1x1 stickers
We noticed the 4x6 format has a few new consumables since we last looked, including bulk paper kits. A 12-pack of 600 prints for $230 and a 300-print pack for $109.99. There's also a black and white 75-sheet pack for $26.99. Hi-Touch told us they weren't planning to offer a black and white kit for the 730PS but the jury was still out on multi-pack paper kits.
BTW, we recently had to run out to buy some paper for our 630PS. The nearby photo shop that sells the printer still doesn't sell the paper, believe it or not. The faraway shop sells it, but at a substantial markup. Plan ahead and buy online.
The six-button controller with a 1.6-inch color LCD provides the same computer-free interface to the printer's functions as the other printers in the line.
The Main Page displays a set of eight icons. On the top row are Photo, ID Photo, Index and Sticker. Along the bottom are Quick Photo, DPOF, Print All and Setup. A four-arrowed toggle button navigates the options and an OK button confirms your choice.
Setup has a Printout Setting option to make persistent changes to the brightness, contrast and color cast in the printer. After you correct a representative image from your storage card, the changes are saved in the printer, making it possible to calibrate the device to your environment. There's also a Matte Effect option to simulate a matte rather than glossy finish and a Date Print option to overlay the date the image was captured on the print.
Select Photo to scroll through the thumbnails of the JPEG images on your storage card one at a time. When you see one you want to print, press OK. Use the Up or Down arrow key to set the number of copies to print and press OK again. Continue through the card. When you've finished, press Print to batch print the set.
While previewing your images, you can press the Edit button. Functions available include Move, Rotate (not really necessary), Resize and Copies.
You can also Enhance the image, changing its Brightness, Contrast, Color R/G (hue shift from red to green) and Color B/Y (blue/yellow hue shift).
ID Photo is a pair of special ID photo formats that use matching die-cut photo paper. You can print 12 one-inch ID photos or 9 two-inch ID photos on a 4x6 sheet. An Index print can be formatted into 6x5, 8x7 or 5x4 columns/rows, providing a handy contact sheet of your card contents. There are also two Sticker formats, 4x4 and 4/2/4.
Quick Photo simplifies printing a single image. Just select the photo and press OK to send it to the printer.
Press Print after selecting DPOF to confirm and print the DPOF order.
Similarly, press Print after selecting Print All to confirm and start printing.
The 730PS isn't just a good idea. It's a well-executed concept that performs at a consistently high level (which is why it's little brother, the 640PS, won the DIMA Shoot-Out). You won't find an inkjet printer built as solidly, a company as dedicated to perfecting its products -- or a cheaper way to get the best print from your images. But most importantly, you'll be thrilled every time you click on Print. And that's a revolutionary thought.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ISTD/ISTDA.HTM on the Web site.)
Pentax is a camera maker with a long tradition in the film-based world, but a relative newcomer to the digital arena. They initially co-developed several cameras with Hewlett Packard, but now have stepped out on their own, with digicams entirely of their own design. Models in their Optio line are widely known for their compact designs and rich feature sets, featuring point-and-shoot control with additional exposure features for special shooting situations.
The Pentax *ist-D (also known as the ISTD or IST-D), the most advanced digicam available from Pentax, is a true digital SLR with a traditional 35mm body style. Its Pentax K lens mount accepts most Pentax K lenses and will be a big draw for enthusiasts already shooting with Pentax film cameras. The *ist-D has a 6.31-megapixel CCD, a full range of exposure control modes and enough custom settings to tailor the camera to specific needs. In a field that's rapidly becoming crowded with dSLR models, the *ist-D holds its own very well, in terms of image quality, capabilities, features and shooting experience.
After the success of its Optio consumer digicams, Pentax has now ventured into the high end of the prosumer digicam market, releasing a true dSLR, the $1,699 *ist-D. Surprisingly compact and light weight for a dSLR, the *ist-D looks a lot like a traditional 35mm SLR and ought to make current Pentax film camera owners feel quite at home with its familiar styling. Featuring a Pentax K lens mount, the *ist-D accepts a wide range of Pentax lenses, making the transition from film to digital even easier for current Pentax users. The *ist-D features a 6.31-megapixel (6.10 effective) CCD, which delivers high quality images as large as 3008x2008 pixels. Though built around a stainless steel chassis, the *ist-D has plastic (yet rugged) outer panels, which keeps the weight down while retaining a pleasant heft. Without the lens, the body weighs 24.7 ounces with memory card and batteries, which is fairly lightweight for a dSLR. The camera is also pretty compact at only 5.1x3.7x2.4 inches. In fact, Pentax boasts that the *ist-D is one of the world's smallest, lightest camera bodies for its class.
Like most dSLRs, the *ist-D's 1.8-inch color LCD monitor is reserved for image playback and menu display. For framing, the camera uses an accurate TTL optical viewfinder, complete with exposure information. A top status display panel reports more detailed camera information. A dioptric control adjusts the eyepiece for eyeglass wearers and a soft, rubbery cup provides some cushion when peering through the viewfinder. The *ist-D features Pentax's newly-developed SAFOX VIII phase-matching autofocus system, which uses 11 AF points across the image area, providing exceptional low-light focusing ability. You can manually set the AF area or leave it up to the camera. Focal ranges will vary depending on the lens in use, but you can select Single or Continuous AF modes or switch to manual focus.
The *ist-D offers "Green" Program AE (full Auto exposure), Hyper Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual and Bulb exposure modes. Hyper Program AE mode lets you rotate the camera's command dials to select from a range of equivalent exposure settings, while Green Program mode acts like a full automatic exposure mode. The Mode dial on top of the camera quickly sets the exposure mode and provides quick access to the White Balance, ISO and Resolution/Quality settings as well. Exposure settings are easily changed by using a combination of control buttons and dials and most can be made without delving into the LCD menu system.
An extensive Custom Settings menu lets you save three complete configurations that can be quickly recalled just by selecting a different Custom Settings group. Shutter speeds range from 1/4000 to 30 seconds, with a Bulb exposure mode for long exposures. A Noise Reduction option helps reduce the amount of image noise from long exposures and high sensitivity settings. You can adjust overall exposure from -3 to +3 exposure equivalents in either one-third or one-half step increments and choose between 16-segment Multi, Center-Weighted and Spot exposure metering modes. Light sensitivity ranges from 200 to 3200 ISO equivalent settings, while White Balance options include Auto, Manual, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent (white, neutral or daylight), Tungsten and Flash options.
The Drive setting offers Auto Exposure Bracketing, Consecutive Shooting, Self-Timer and Remote Control modes. Auto Bracketing takes three consecutive exposures at different exposure settings (the variation of which either you or the camera can control). Consecutive Shooting mode captures a series of images at short frame intervals (about five consecutive frames at intervals of 0.41 seconds). The total number of frames and the shooting speed depend on exposure, resolution and quality settings and memory card space. Self-Timer mode offers a 12-second countdown before firing the shutter, while the Remote Control mode enables the camera to work with the optional IR remote unit. Multiple Exposure mode combines up to nine exposures in one image. You can also manually adjust Contrast, Sharpness and Saturation settings.
A built-in pop-up flash unit operates in Auto, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, On, Off and Red-Eye Reduction modes. For more powerful flash or more control over flash exposure, the *ist-D also has a top-mounted hot shoe to connect Pentax dedicated external flash units. There's also a secondary X-sync terminal to connect off-camera strobe systems.
Three main image resolutions are available (3008x2008; 2400x1600; and 1536x1024 pixels), with an option to access two smaller resolutions if needed. Image quality options include Good, Better and Best JPEG compression levels, as well as uncompressed TIFF and RAW data formats. Image storage is on CompactFlash Type I or II and the *ist-D supports MicroDrives for huge on-the-go storage capacity.
The camera uses either four AA-type batteries or two CR-V3 battery packs for power or an optional AC adapter. A set of CR-V3 battery packs comes with the camera, but I strongly recommend purchasing a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH AA batteries and a good charger and keeping a spare set of batteries charged at all times.
SHUTTER LAG/CYCLE TIMES
Overall, the *ist-D is a pretty responsive camera. Shutter lag times are generally good, although shutter response in manual focus mode isn't as fast as much of the competition. Continuous speed is pretty good and the 5-shot buffer capacity is acceptable for a camera in its class.
Color: The *ist-D produced pretty accurate color, though I often noticed a slight warm or cool cast, depending on the white balance setting. I typically used Auto white balance, though the Manual setting did a good job too. Outdoors, the always-difficult blue flowers came out a little darker than in real life and with a bit more purple in them, common problems with that subject. I also felt that Marti's skin tones there were a bit more pale than they should have been. Indoors, the Manual and Incandescent white balance settings produced good results under incandescent lighting, but Auto failed miserably. Overall, I found the color very pleasing.
Exposure: The exposure system seemed biased a bit toward brighter exposures than those of most cameras. It required less positive exposure compensation on the Outdoor Portrait than most cameras (a good thing), but the Davebox and the outdoor house in the Far Field test were a little washed out at the default exposure setting. In contrast, the Indoor Portrait test required a lot more positive exposure compensation than the norm. Apart from that, exposure behavior was pretty predictable, so it was easy to learn to allow for its quirks. (The large histogram display was also helpful in seeing whether it had gotten the exposure right or not.) Like most digicams, the *ist-D responded to the deliberately harsh lighting of the Outdoor Portrait shot with a high-contrast image, but its contrast adjustment control worked exactly as it should, knocking down the strongest highlights and opening the shadows a fair bit at the same time. I'd like to see a greater range of adjustment, with five steps instead of three, but overall, the Pentax engineers have got a good handle on contrast adjustment.
Resolution/Sharpness: The *ist-D performed well on the laboratory resolution test chart, with clean detail (e.g., no artifacts) even as far as 1,000-1,200 lines per picture height. I found strong detail to at least 1,350 lines (although some less conservative judges might argue for 1,400 lines). Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,600 lines. With the *ist-D, Pentax has adopted a very conservative approach to in-camera sharpening, resulting in fairly soft-looking images. This is actually preferable to the over-sharpening in many other cameras. As a result, the images respond well to strong unsharp masking in Photoshop (try 250 percent at an 0.4 pixel radius or 300 percent at 0.3 pixel on any of my samples). That helps prevent the introduction of irreversible artifacts from the sharpening process. Prospective users might pass over the camera if they don't take the time to play with its images a little in an image editor. That'd be a shame, because its images actually do contain quite a bit of usable detail, they just need a little more attention to extract all of it. (Reviewer Phil Askey (http://www.dpreview.com) found the *ist-D's images looked sharper when processed from its RAW format files vs. the JPEGs the camera produces on its own.)
Close-ups: I don't commonly perform this test for dSLRs because the results depend entirely on the lens employed. In this case though, I couldn't resist the lure of the Pentax 100mm f2.8 macro lens. It did an excellent job, capturing a very tiny minimum area of only 0.94x0.63 inches. Resolution was very high, with a lot of fine detail visible in the dollar bill. However, details were again soft throughout the frame. The camera's flash was pretty completely blocked by the lens when shooting this close, so you'll need a macro ring or alternative lighting for shooting at this close range.
Night Shots: The *ist-D offers full manual exposure control, with adjustable ISO and a maximum shutter time of 30 seconds. Thus, the camera can capture bright images in very low lighting. The *ist-D produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all five ISO settings. However, some slight color shifts occurred depending on the brightness level. The *ist-D's optional Noise Reduction system has a fairly subtle effect on noise levels, but the noise wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be, even at the ISO 3200 setting. Even though it has no autofocus-assist light, the *ist-D can achieve focus lock at very low light levels. While the AF speed slowed significantly at low light levels, I found that my test unit could routinely focus at light levels as low as 1/4 foot-candle and sometimes as dark as 1/8 foot-candle, without using its focus-assist illuminator and with a lens with a maximum aperture of f4.0. This is a pretty impressive performance, 1/4 foot-candle corresponds to an exposure time of 8 seconds at f2.8 and ISO 100.
Viewfinder Accuracy: The *ist-D's dSLR viewfinder design shows about 96 percent of the final frame. I like to see SLR viewfinders that are 100 percent accurate, so the *ist-D has a little room for improvement. Still, these results are pretty good, as 95 percent viewfinders seem to be the norm on dSLRs.
Optical Distortion: Optical distortion will vary with the lens in use. The 100mm f2.8 macro lens showed essentially zero distortion. The 16-35mm zoom showed about 0.7 percent barrel distortion at its wide-angle end. Chromatic aberration was quite low with both lenses, showing only a single pixel of fairly faint coloration around the target lines and the 16-36mm about three to four pixels of color, also fairly faint.
Battery Life: Overall, the camera has pretty good battery life. Some dSLRs do a good bit better, but the *ist-D will run for nearly 12 hours in capture mode on a set of 1600 mAh NiMH batteries. Even in playback mode, it will run for nearly 3.5 hours. Using the latest 2000 mAh cells will give run times of 15 and 4.4 hours respectively.
In an increasingly crowded dSLR field, the Pentax *ist-D holds its own quite nicely. With street prices around $1,250, it faces stiff competition from the less-expensive Canon Digital Rebel and Nikon D70. But for anyone who owns Pentax K-mount lenses, the *ist-D offers anything you might want from a dSLR.
I liked its color rendition, found its metering to be more accurate than most and found its user interface and exposures were unusually well thought out. Image noise up to ISO 800 is lower than average. It also has a very nice feel in the hand, with excellent build quality and a pleasant heft -- all in the most compact body of any dSLR out there.
On the downside, images straight from the camera are rather soft, requiring sharpening in an image-editing program to extract the full amount of detail. As I noted though, this conservative approach to in-camera sharpening helps prevent sharpening-related artifacts that would be impossible to remove later.
All in all, the *ist-D is an excellent little dSLR, easily earning Dave's Pick status.
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:
- Test Images: Canon 1D Mark II (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1080771386.html)
- Reviewed: Pentax *ist-D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ISTD/ISTDA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Pentax Optio 33WR (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/O33WR/33WRA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix 8700 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CP8700/CP87A.HTM)
We were wondering why whenever you see an animal practicing some art it's always painting. Horses that paint with their tails or elephants that can wield a brush with their trunk seem to have better press agents than chimpanzees that can shoot video or cats that can photograph with their tails.
Of course, it's also possible no one has bothered to train a cat to shoot photos. And, we wondered, just how would you go about that? You'd have to keep it simple, explain the lens was a little like an eye that dilates when the light is dim. And the shutter is like, well, your attention span.
Probably run into trouble right there. We've given shutter speed a lot of thought. But the cat would probably just blink.
What separates humans from other animals is our ability to use various shutter speeds. As humans, though, we tend to take things too far (which is why, we think, cats nap). Shutter speed is just the starting point for talking about photographing motion.
You can control your shutter speed in various ways. On digicams with a manual mode, you set both the aperture and shutter speed yourself. On digicams with Priority modes, select Shutter Priority mode to fiddle around with the shutter speed (while the camera figures out the right aperture).
But even on digicams that only shoot in Auto mode, you may have Scene modes that exercise some control over the shutter. Landscape mode relies on a small aperture to get the best depth of field -- but that implies slower shutter speeds, too. Think of it as Motion Blur mode.
And no matter which digicam you have, they all have lenses and are therefore subject to the effects of a neutral density filter. They're gray so they don't alter the color balance of the scene. But they do cut down on the light that gets to the lens, making bright scenes dark enough to give you more exposure options, like slowing that shutter down.
You may know that using a fast shutter speed (it's relative, but try 1/250 and up) freezes motion. It helps prevent camera blur (since none of us holds a camera perfectly still) and can even see the individual spokes on the wheels of a speeding motorcycle (unlike a human being).
And you may know that using a slow shutter speed (1/30 and down, with a tripod) lets subjects moving across your image blur very slightly so they appear to be moving against a sharp background.
You may even know that if you pan your camera with a moving subject (at a normal shutter speed like 1/60 or 1/125), the subject will appear sharp against a blurred background.
You may also know that the little stroboscopic flash on your camera, which is faster than any shutter, has the uncanny ability to stop a hummingbird's wings in flight.
And if you've freshly awakened from the sort of siesta humans take (as opposed to a catnap), you may have put all this together. A slow shutter speed to expose the background, panning with a moving subject and a little fill flash to freeze motion gets you an image that breaks the sound barrier.
With a digicam, you can experiment with different shutter speeds to catch the right amount of blur. But it might help to know (if you don't already) that blur is largely determined by the speed that your subject moves across the CCD, not the arena floor. It's easier to get motion blur in a close-up of fingers drumming on a table than it is to get it in a 747 flying overhead, even if the plane is going much faster.
This may be of no immediate interest to your house cat, but hey, who says you can't teach an old cat new tricks?
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 Pentax Optio 555 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee96699
Visit the Canon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f773
Dave asks about editing JPEGs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee97fab/0
Mike asks about shutter lag at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee98920/0
Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae
One of the Imaging Resource's standard test images is "The Musicians" (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/O33WR/33WRMUSAWB.HTM). It depicts three costumed women of different races holding string instruments against a neutral background.
They aren't our favorite trio, but that's a matter of taste. We always liked Ernie Kovacs' Nairobi Trio. The three apes never spoke, of course, performing the Song of the Nairobi Trio (a.k.a. Solfeggio by Robert Maxwell) with one on the keyboard, one directing and the third using his drumsticks on the second's derby. It was an instrumental.
While they aren't as animated as that Trio, these elegant ladies are nevertheless wildly popular -- presumably because their performances are often, well, off color.
Besides seeing them in our test image, you may have seen them enlarged at one or another trade show booth or as sample images for one or another image correction tool.
So where did they come from? We asked Dave, since he likes that kind of music.
"Actually, the original of that image was part of the early Q60 standards collection from Kodak," Dave said. "There were actually a couple slightly different versions of it, one of which I have a copy of, with a different blonde in it. Kodak discontinued selling it long ago, but there are still many copies of the film floating around out there. A version is also on the ISO SCID disk of electronic images, intended for testing printers. That's the original source file for the poster I use as a standard digicam target."
We were a little disappointed to learn the ladies were only two dimensional. It would have been worth the plane ticket to Atlanta to meet them. From the looks of things, they could use a drummer. I mean "percussionist." It's been a long time since that gig with the Nairobi Trio.
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RE: Making It Move
You mentioned using Movie Maker for Windows XP users. But, I use Windows 2000 and can't run Movie Maker. What do you recommend for Windows 2000 users?
-- Jim Hager(Good question, Jim. We did a little research on this when writing the article but couldn't find any freeware. There are a number of shareware programs though (http://www.softlandmark.com/VideoEditing1.htm) and one highly recommended (inexpensive) program from Ulead called VideoStudio (http://www.ulead.com). But first see what comes with your camera. Sony digicams, for example, come with a variety of programs that can edit movies. -- Editor)
Timely article on digicams for short movies.
Problem: I have an Olympus which records a .MOV file. I also have Windows Movie Maker (free with XP) -- but this does not read .MOV! I don't want to purchase a QuickTime editor and a search of Google gives me a choice of more expensive conversion programs. Is there a free (or very low cost) conversion program out there so I can use my built-in Movie Maker?
-- Allan Porter(In fact, there are quite a few (free) options for converting .MOV to .AVI. So we won't pretend to recommend any <g>. Take a look at this discussion (http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=003qap) for a few leads. -- Editor)
Thanks for the lead. I downloaded RAD Video Tools. Installed and edited a three minute clip, all under 15 minutes!!
-- Allan Porter
RE: Washing Prints
Washing prints means to wash them with a photo siphon in large trays, the larger, the better. The prints must all be face down. Periodically, shuffle them. The siphon must reach the bottom of the tray so it can suck all debris out. The flow of water into the tray should be gentle. If the wash water feels tepid to your hand, it is too warm.
Matte prints can be easily dried face-up on screens (window screens work fine). Glossy prints on paper-backing will curl and stick together if dried on flat surfaces. They must be dried using stainless steel or chrome plates. The glossy side goes against the plate and a roller squeegee is applied to remove most of the water. The plates must be left on edge until the prints fall off. A little Photo-Flo in a final rinse helps them fall off and also makes the prints more uniformly glossy -- also, Photo-Flo keeps glossies from curling. The plates must be rinsed clean in soapy water before applying the next batch. Do not attempt to force dry the prints while on the plates because the prints will dry unevenly and be damaged or may stick to the plate -- resulting in loss of the plate.
Glossy prints on resin backs can be hung on lines with clothespins. They will curl as they dry, but straighten out when they are completely dry. They will have a matte appearance. I have used stainless steel clips, which could move on the line with good results.
If the glossies were properly "fixed" in a hardener, they can be left in the water a long time -- up to a week would be OK. If they were improperly fixed, they may not come off plates and if they do, the glossy surface will be uneven and they will be wavy.
-- Jerry Hicks(Thanks, Jerry! -- Editor)
RE: 8-Mp Noise
The reviews on the new collection of 8-Mp cameras all note the objectionable level of noise experienced when shooting at greater than 100 ASA equivalent. If one wished to use these cameras at say 400 ASA for high-speed or low-light requirements, does using it at a resolution of 5-Mp reduce the apparent noise appreciably?
-- Bill Robins(In this case (at least), Bill, size doesn't matter. The noise is a byproduct of the sensor itself. By the time the data is resampled (with noise reduction), it would indeed appear smoother in the shadows, but nothing new is going on with the original data. -- Editor)
Only a few days after we wished for it in our last issue, Apple (http://www.apple.com) released its iPhoto 4.0.1 update.
The company said, "iPhoto 4.0.1 includes many organizational and stability enhancements. Performance has also been increased throughout the application, giving you faster importing, smoother image viewing and easier Rendezvous photo sharing. This version of iPhoto also features improved thumbnail images in your photo library. To take advantage of this, your thumbnails must be upgraded, which may take a while, depending on the number of photos in your library." A 450-MHz machine can regenerate about 5,000 thumbnails an hour.
Apple also noted, "iPhoto does not use Page Setup scale percentage as a means of scaling printouts." The workaround is to select the size of the printout from the Size menu of the Standard Prints option in the Style pop-up menu in the Print dialog box.
Peter iNova (http://www.gmbooks.com) has released Version 2.0 of his $49.95 Sony eBook. The new 322-page eBook adds the DSC-V1 and DSC-F828 Cyber-shots to the original coverage of the DSC-F707/717. Also included are custom iNovaFX Photoshop Actions created exclusively for the V1 and 828 cameras. Order at http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?dgm for a subscriber discount.
Sybex (http://www.sybex.com) has published Al Ward's Photoshop for Right-Brainers: The Art of Photo Manipulation, which looks at the program as a tool for creative expression rather than a piece of software. The accompanying CD contains project files from the book, actions to implement techniques, stock images and more.
Fookes Software (http://www.fookes.com) has released its $34.95 Easy Imager 2.0 [W] to display, manage and batch-process images and produce photo albums. You can use slider controls to adjust images and view the results with the built-in viewer. Easy Imager's integrated Zoomify technology automatically scales images in Web albums to the browser window.
Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has created umbrella kits priced under $150 for its 45-inch adjustable white umbrella, adjustable silver umbrella and white/black convertible umbrella. Each kit includes a LiteStand 2218, Shoe-Mount Multiclamp and instructional CD.
O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published Ken Milburn's $44.95 Digital Photography: Expert Techniques. Addressed to experienced photographers moving to digital and those who want to make their digital workflow more efficient, the book focuses on solving the day-to-day problems of digital photography.
The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has released its $29.95 Photo Galaxy 2300, a collection of over 950 royalty-free, 2272x1704-pixel texture photos on CD-ROM. Among the 118 categories are Brick, cactus, canvas, clouds, coal, coffee, drops, fire, fireworks, gems, ice crystals, leather, lights, marble, metal, old paper, plastic, pool, relief, smeared, sparks and sunflower.
Lexar (http://www.lexarmedia.com) has released updated OS X drivers for it flash memory products. "In order for Image Rescue 1.0/2.0 or SafeGuard 1.0 to work with Mac OS 10.3.3, you need to download Lexar's driver updater," the company explained.
Public Knowledge (http://www.publicknowledge.org) has published its 40-page What Every Citizen Should Know About DRM, a.k.a. Digital Rights Management by Mike Godwin, senior technology counsel. Produced with the New America Foundation, the primer covers DRM's relationship to copyright law; an explanation of how DRM works; whether DRM should be imposed by government; and the potential threats posed by DRM not only to copyrighted content, but to the Internet. A PDF version can be downloaded at no charge from the site, where you can also order a hard copy.
ShareALot (http://sharealot.com) [MW] lets you share photos by dropping them into a folder on your desktop and entering an email address. The software then sends the photos directly to your recipient's desktop once they install the free software, too.
Sony (http://news.sel.sony.com) will debut its $520 17-inch SDM-S74 and $750 19-inch SDM-S94 LCD displays [MW] this month. The displays have internal power supplies and cable management.
Stick Software (http://www.sticksoftware.com) has updated its $10 PhotoReviewer [M] to version 1.2. The new version supports RAW images and adds a contextual menu, configurable thumbnails and external image editing software support.
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