The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 8 16 April 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 121st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We don't like to harp, so we found another backup solution. And Dave needs it now that he's gotten his hands on Nikon's D70. But no matter which camera you've got, you'll want to know what's in our Book Bag this time. And if that isn't enough, well, there's more!


TOPICS

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Feature: Backing Up Is Hard to Do

Backing up was simpler when it didn't involve gigabytes of data. Much simpler. Now it practically requires a U.N. resolution.

So we've kind of given up on the possibility. We bought a "little" 30-GB FireWire external drive and just copy everything over to it once in a cyan moon. We boot from it just to prove we can and then ignore it (except for ephemeral but crucial files like our newsletter drafts) until the moon shines cyan again.

Meanwhile, we back up more permanent data like our digicam images to CDs. Unfortunately, this seems to require hours with on-site and off-site copies and duplicates for the on-site copies. One night we caught ourselves watching the CD burn, waiting for the Verify button. Had we really nothing else to do?

LOW TECH SOLUTION

That's when we realized this is exactly what great literature is for.

So in the last few months, we've dusted off our copies of several intimidating tomes to pass the time while our backups were running. It's been a surprisingly gratifying experience.

First, we've found modern stuff rarely works. You need old stuff. Old stuff is long, first of all. But it's also bite size. A whole chapter can be consumed during a burn or a verify. How'd the ancients know?

Second, let us recommend a few beauties for your consideration:

HIGH TECH SOLUTIONS

Not every situation lends itself to our low-tech solution. Reading Boswell on the job could accelerate your layoff, for example.

For years we relied on Dantz's Retrospect (http://www.dantz.com), which could copy not only our system to digital tape, but anything on the network, too. On the rare occasions we needed an old file, it delivered. But it was pretty complicated. And when we changed operating systems, it didn't come along for the ride.

By then we were in gigabyte territory and had no SCSI port to connect our tape backup device anyway. So we started reading in earnest, using our external drive for system and temporary backups and CDs for final data backups.

Why didn't we try an online backup service? Well, copying gigabytes of data over even our broadband connection didn't appeal to us. We weren't fooled into thinking an offsite backup under someone else's control was the same thing as having both an offsite backup and a local backup, both under our control. The point of a backup, after all, is access. You don't want someone else controlling it.

But last summer we stumbled across a really clever solution for Mac OS X users (although why some virus-writing adolescent doesn't adapt the open source code gnutar on which it's based to Windows eludes us). It's DV Backup by Tim Hewett at Coolatoola.com (http://coolatoola.com).

DV BACKUP

Hewett's solution was to use his 1999 Digital8 Sony DCR-TR7000E as a tape backup device. After all, it writes digital (not analog) data to inexpensive media and easily connects to a speedy FireWire port. And it's portable.

If you're running OS X (Jaguar or Panther) and have a digital camcorder that uses DV or Digital8 format tapes (either PAL or NTSC), you too can back up to your camcorder. (See the illustrated version (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/DVB/DVB.HTM) of this review.)

The evaluation version lets you do everything except multi-tape backups. It limits you to a 1-GB backup on the first run, 50-MB for subsequent runs and no more than three backups per tape. It also lets you test your camcorder for compatibility before spending $25 on an access code good for all version 1.x updates.

ERROR PROTECTION

When recording video, the occasional blip (say, from a defect in the tape) isn't a problem. That same little tape error in your checkbook data can make you of unusual interest to the IRS, however. Any backup program, consequently, has to provide error protection and correction.

DV Backup does it by recording fixed-sized data blocks of about 10K. For each block of data, it can, after performing some math, record data useful for error correction. If there's an error in the original recorded block, Hewitt explained, "the error correction chunk can be used with all the other data chunks to reconstruct the one which was corrupted."

The program offers different levels of error protection. A 1:1 ratio provides complete error protection for each data block. But it also uses half the tape for error protection. You can select less error protection, designating that one block of error protection data protect, say, four or six data blocks. That uses less tape, but it can only correct one data block. So if more than one error occurs, none of the data can be corrected.

CAPACITY

DV Backup can record in SP or LP mode. We expected that SP, which uses more tape for the data, would be more reliable. But in practice "only one existing user has reported having any difficulties using LP mode and most use it exclusively without any problems," Hewett noted.

Count on 15-GB per hour of tape in LP mode and 10-GB per hour in SP mode.

SPEED

The level of error protection you select affects the time it takes to make the backup. But even the fastest backup will send you to the bookshelf. With no error protection, you can transfer about 1-GB every six minutes. With full protection (duplicating all the data), the same data takes 12 minutes.

Network backups are possible, too. Hewett said that data is streamed to and from the camcorder at 3-MB/sec. "Many 100-Mbit networks will keep up with this without any problem assuming they are not heavily used by others at the same time." But that's too fast for CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives or USB 1.2 devices. Hewett simply recommends copying data from those devices to your hard drive to back it up.

HARDWARE RELIABILITY

No, camcorders were not designed as backup devices. Does reading and writing data to them hasten their ultimate demise?

Last summer, when DV Backup first came out, this was a theoretical discussion. But the jury is in. Hewett said his Sony, used for thousands of backups during development, "has never had a problem and continues to restore data from tape with a very low error rate. No other user has reported any problems."

We're inclined not to worry about it. Our old tape backup device was a good deal less sophisticated than the hardware in our camcorder and it functioned reliably for years.

OPERATION: PREP

Your camcorder provides its own source of power, using either its internal battery or household current. We prefer to plug it into the wall, but we also like to have the battery charged in the event of a power failure. Backups take too long to do twice and you can't read in the dark.

Make the FireWire connection just as if you were transferring video to iMovie. Connect your camcorder, switch your camcorder to VCR mode and start DV Backup.

If you haven't confirmed your camcorder's compatibility, run the camera test to confirm whether DV Backup can control your camcorder via FireWire.

When you pop in a tape, DV Backup scans the first 20 seconds of the tape (after rewinding, if necessary) to see if it's new. When it detects a new tape, it requests permission to format it. You're prompted for the tape length, tape name and the recording format (Normal or Strict, which is useful for JVC camcorders).

The program then writes a 30-second blank header on the tape before displaying a blank table of contents. To avoid errors, the table of contents is recorded about 200 times on the tape.

If your tape already has data written to it, DV Backup displays the table of contents (after rewinding). It's pretty smart about tape management.

OPERATION: BACKUP

With DV Backup running and a formatted tape in your camcorder, the fun can begin. Make sure you have 100-MB free disk space for DV Backup's temporary files. Then just drag the files and folders you want to backup to the table of contents list. You can also click the Backup button to select files.

An options box is displayed to let you browse the files selected. You can manipulate the list to remove what you dragged or add new sources. Each item has a checkbox to enable its backup, but it's easier to scroll through them and uncheck the dialog box's checkbox. You can also Calculate Size to see how much data you're backing up. This is all a bit unFinderlike, but functional.

You then select the error protection level, add any descriptive comments, choose whether to verify the backup, whether to use gzip compression and whether to follow symbolic links (aliases). Then you tell DV Backup whether your camcorder is using SP or LP mode.

If your data spans more than one tape, DV Backup will ask you to confirm you want to do a multi-tape backup. That requires blank tapes (or tapes you want to overwrite). DV Backup will record to the end of the first tape, rewind it, update it and eject it, prompting you to insert another blank tape. And so on. When the backup is complete, DV Backup prompts you to insert the first tape to update the table of contents.

Otherwise, for single tape backups, DV Backup rewinds the tape to the end of the last backup and starts a new one.

If you enabled verification, it starts right after the backup has been recorded. The tape is left at the end of the data, ready for a new session. You can then see a list of the backed up files.

Incremental backups follow the same procedure, except only one folder at a time can be incrementally backed up. Viewing the list of backed up files at the end of the backup will show you which files were freshly copied.

The program also writes a copy of the main table of contents at the end of the backed up data as a safe copy. It's overwritten when you record another session.

Before quitting DV Backup, you should click Update TOC to save any changes to the table of contents to the tape. DV Backup will remind you, if you forget. But don't forget or you'll lose any backups added to the tape since it was inserted.

OPERATION: RESTORE

Just as you used the table of contents to select files to backup, you use it to select files to restore. Instead of dragging them to the table, you drag them to the Finder, where you want them to be written in a special "Restored" folder with the date. Simple as that.

SCHEDULED BACKUPS

The Actions menu lets you schedule unattended backups, adding a time/date/day/month and repetition rate to the normal backup options display.

It's up to you, however, to guarantee your system is running (not sleeping) with enough hard disk space, the camera on and attached with a formatted tape loaded and DV Backup running with no other camcorder application launched.

You should also make sure your system doesn't go to sleep (check your Energy Saver settings) and that you aren't scheduling more backup than fits on your tape. Because multi-tape backups require your presence to switch tapes, you can't schedule them.

CONCLUSION

We've used several versions of DV Backup, including 1.2.2, with a Sony TRV240 and Digital8 tapes. And we find the program does just what it promises.

Tapes are sequential, not random and thus not as efficient as an external drive. But this is a great solution for those of us who don't have a cousin in the disk drive business. Tapes are cheap and reliable. And if your laptop can't burn CDs, it's a great way to back up vacation pictures while you're on the road. Your camcorder probably comes along anyway <g>.

The icing on the cake is that Hewett has written a solid program, now mature, whose features have grown with each release. DV Backup is simple to use and does not disappoint.

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Feature: Nikon D70 -- 6.1-Mp dSLR for Nikkor F Mount

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D70/D70A.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

In early 1999, Nikon entered the professional digital arena with their first dSLR, the D1. The 2.7-megapixel imager and $5,850 list price for the body rocked the pro camera world. Less than two years later, they raised the bar again with the D1x, a 5.47-megapixel camera at an even lower price than the D1. Last year saw the D100, with a 6.1-megapixel imager for under $2,000 (street $1,500). This was the first Nikon to draw in the advanced amateur film-SLR owner who has been waiting for a digital equivalent.

Then Canon introduced its sub-$1,000 dSLR with a bundled lens at that magical $999.99 price point. As they did in the film arena with their N55 to N80 range of cameras, Nikon answered.

Nikon's answer, the D70, does not include a lens at the sub-$1,000 price, but it has a lot more features and a more solid feel than Canon's Digital Rebel. For $300 more, users get a special 18-70mm lens (equivalent to a 27-105mm zoom on a 35mm camera) and can add almost the entire range of Nikon's F-mount AF lenses.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

In a bid to bring dSLR photography into the mainstream, Nikon has introduced the D70. Looking much like a 35mm SLR, the D70 has a professional, though simplified appearance. Equipped with a 6.1-megapixel CCD, the D70 captures very high-resolution images with superb detail and excellent color. Replete with auto and manual exposure modes, the D70 is ready for every type of shooting, with an instant-on feature for immediate picture-taking and several scene modes that bias the settings for the best results in common shooting situations.

The D70 has a standard F lens mount to accommodate most of Nikon's 35mm lenses. With the F mount, a huge range of lenses originally developed for film cameras can be used on the D70, although older lens models have a few limitations.

The D70 offers several focusing options, including Manual, Single-Servo AF and Continuous-Servo AF for moving subjects. A five point AF system can be used in three modes: Single Area, Dynamic Area and Closest Subject. In the first two modes, the user is free to pick a focus point. You can set the AF Point Lock switch to L to keep the focus point set indefinitely at the location you've chosen. Switch it to the dot and it can be changed, but again only in Single Area and Dynamic Area modes.

The D70 features a true TTL optical viewfinder. The information display along the bottom shows shutter speed, exposure compensation, flash status, focus point and mode, focus lock and flash status among others.

Five focus areas are marked by round-edged rectangles that overlay the image. Whether chosen by the user or the camera, the active focus area is highlighted in red when focus lock is achieved under dim lighting or turns black if the light in the frame is brighter. Custom setting 8 activates an optional Grid Display, useful for matching to the horizon line in landscape shots, walls and floors in architectural shots or when using a tilt or shift lens.

As is the case with most dSLRs, the D70's LCD monitor is solely for viewing captured images and displaying the menu system, not for framing shots. Also important to realize is that dSLR cameras capture only stills, not video or audio.

Nikon has added quite a few Scene modes in addition to the usual Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes. The D70 has a full Auto mode for point-and-shoot convenience, as well as Portrait, Landscape, Close Up, Sports, Night Landscape and Night Portrait.

In Program mode, rotating the Main command dial adjusts through the possible combinations of aperture and shutter speed while maintaining proper exposure. This allows you to decide dynamically whether to emphasize depth of field or speed of capture.

Using a combined mechanical and CCD electronic shutter, the D70 is able to achieve speeds from 1/8000 to 30 seconds. This is twice the maximum speed of its brother the D100. In manual mode, Bulb is also available, up to a maximum of 30 minutes. Bulb exposures can also be controlled via remote, an important feature for blur-free long exposures.

Nikon's trademark D color matrix metering is available by default when using G or D type lenses. It's considered 3D because it gathers distance information from the lens to further optimize the meter's effectiveness. Inherited from the Nikon D2H and F5 is the very high resolution of this 3D matrix metering system. The Canon Digital Rebel has a 35-zone matrix meter and the Nikon D100 has a 10-zone matrix meter, but the D70 has a 1,005-pixel metering sensor, separate from the main image sensor, that covers the entire frame.

Sensitivity settings range from ISO 200 to 1600. We found even ISO 1600 produced entirely acceptable results, with noise levels that were low, if not negligible. A special noise reduction mode can reduce noise in longer exposures with shutter speeds slower than one second. When Noise Reduction is active, the time to process each image more than doubles and "Job NR" blinks across the top of the status LCD while the processing is taking place. Surprisingly, my tests showed that having NR active also slowed continuous exposures even in bright lighting, regardless of the shutter speed being used.

In Program, Shutter, Aperture and Manual modes, exposure can be adjusted between -5 and +5 EV in increments of 1/3 EV. The camera can also be set to adjust EV in 1/2 EV increments, if you prefer. EV adjustment values show on the Status LCD only when the EV adjustment button is pressed, though in the viewfinder the scale is skewed on the exposure readout any time an exposure compensation has been specified. Exposure compensation can be immediately reset to 0 -- along with all other custom settings -- via a two-button combination, both marked by a green dot next to both the Bracket and Exposure mode buttons. This is a handy feature I'd like to see on other cameras.

Auto Bracketing can help you with EV adjustments of up to plus or minus 2 EV. The camera will take one shot underexposed by the amount you set, one at the "metered exposure" (determined by the camera in Program, Shutter and Aperture mode; by the user in Manual mode) and one overexposed. The sequence can also be "metered," under, over. Three presses on the shutter are required to complete each bracketing sequence. The sequence can also be applied to flash exposures and white balance settings.

In the case of White Balance, Auto Bracketing works a little differently. Only one press on the shutter is required to produce the desired number of frames. Users choose between two and three frames and which direction they want to go. A little experimentation is required, as is a thorough read of the manual.

With white balance in Auto, the camera adjusts the color temperature from 3,500 to 8,000 Kelvin using both the 1,005 pixel RGB exposure sensor and the CCD image sensor. This is a wider range than the D100's Auto white balance (but I'd still really like to see it extend lower, to handle the incandescent lighting common in U.S. interiors). Both offer the same preset options, from Incandescent (3,000K) through Fluorescent (4,200K), Sunlight (5,200K), Flash (5,400K), Cloudy (6,000K) and Shade (8,000K). You can also preset a white balance by pointing the camera at a white or gray object. You can fine-tune the color balance of all white balance settings (except Preset) from -3 to +3 arbitrary units. The D70 also offers Hue, Tone and Sharpness adjustments. Tone curves can be set to Auto or set from Normal (0) to Low Contrast (-2), Medium Low (-1), Medium High (+1), High Contrast (+2) and Custom, which allows you to download a custom tone curve created in Nikon Capture 4 on a PC.

There are three color modes, two of them sRGB and one Adobe RGB. The first sRGB (mode Ia) is optimized for skin tones and is the default. The second is Adobe RGB (mode II), offering a wider gamut than sRGB, meaning it can capture and deliver more colors to a program like Photoshop, especially in the green range. It's recommended for photos that will be modified extensively on a computer. The second sRGB (mode IIIa) is optimized for landscape shots and apparently more closely approximates the color space of the previous D100.

In more than a few ways, the D70 is superior to its higher priced predecessor and one of those is its Continuous Capture mode. It's not only faster at 3 frames per second compared to the D100's 2.5 fps, it also can capture far more frames without pausing. When using a fast CompactFlash card, like a SanDisk Ultra II, the buffer doesn't fill very quickly. The faster the card, the more quickly the new buffer can offload the data and in the case of high resolution images saved with the "normal" JPEG compression setting, the buffer may never fill at all. This is truly amazing and a first with any digital camera we've seen. But you need a card with a speed rating of 60x or more.

The pop-up flash has an ISO 200 Guide Number of 49 feet (ISO 100 Guide Number would be 36; though the D70's ISO starts at 200, so this is only stated for comparison). With a CPU lens, Nikon's i-TTL is invoked, allowing complex measurements via low-power, "almost invisible" pre-flashes right before the main flash, which the camera combines with distance information from the lens CPU. This is excellent for fill flash, because the D70 uses its 1,005 segment Matrix meter to balance foreground lighting against backlighting. With a non-CPU lens, the built-in Speedlight supposedly only works in Manual mode, but my test unit showed no difference in behavior with a couple of my older lenses.

Flash sync modes include Front-curtain sync, Red-eye reduction, Slow sync, Slow sync with red eye reduction, Rear- and Slow rear-curtain sync. In full Auto, Portrait and Macro modes, Auto front curtain sync, Auto with red eye and Off are the only options. In Night Capture mode, both Auto flash modes are of necessity Slow sync. Flash Exposure Compensation allows the user to adjust brightness from -3 to +1 EV, providing for very subtle fill-flash effects.

The D70 uses Type I and Type II CF cards and MicroDrives. In addition to three JPEG compression levels, images can also be saved as NEF-format compressed RAW images or simultaneously as RAW + JPEG files. Resolutions are 3008x2000, 2240x1488 and 1504x1000. When printed at 200 dpi, these can produce images as big as 15x10, 11x7.5 and 7.5x5 inches, respectively. A USB cable comes with the camera, as well as Nikon PictureProject software and a 30-day free trial of Nikon Capture. A video cable appropriate for the market (NTSC or PAL) is also included.

One EN-EL3 Lithium Ion battery pack powers the D70, providing 7.4V at 1400mAh. Unfortunately, there's no battery pack/vertical grip planned for the camera, an advantage both the D100 and Digital Rebel have.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The D70 delivered accurate, very appealing color in all my test shots. Colors were hue-accurate, bright and appropriately saturated, although the very bright red and blue primary color blocks in the MacBeth chart of the Davebox test were a little oversaturated. Portrait Image Optimization produced particularly good results with skin tones.

Exposure: The D70's exposure system was very consistent, although it tended to underexpose shots by anywhere from 0.3 to 0.7 EV. This isn't an entirely bad thing since the camera tended to hold onto highlights. If I wanted to shoot more for the midtones for snapshots, I could just dial in a +0.3 EV adjustment. The high-key Outdoor Portrait that normally needs a 0.7-1.0 EV boost only required +0.3 with the D70. This was impressive, indicating the D70 is less likely to be tricked into underexposing high-key subjects. I did find though, that the Indoor Portrait took quite a bit more exposure boost than usual, so the D70 seems to be a bit fooled by incandescent lighting.

Resolution/Sharpness: The D70 started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,200 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to at least 1,400 lines horizontally and 1,200 lines vertically. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,650 lines. Nikon apparently chose a less aggressive antialiasing filter than in the D100, which produces the crisper-looking images, but also leaves it open to moire problems with repeating patterns. Compared to the Canon images, the D70's photos look just slightly crisper. Overall, I'd rate the D70 and Canon EOS-10D and Digital Rebel as having nearly identical resolving power and image sharpness.

Image Noise: Numerically, the D70's image noise levels are very close to those of its competitor, the Digital Rebel, on an ISO-for-ISO basis. (But of course, the Rebel goes down to ISO 100, at which point it has lower noise than the D70's ISO 200 minimum will allow.) To my eye though, the D70 wins the noise derby handily, as its noise pattern is finer-grained and therefore less objectionable than that of the Rebel. Even at ISO 1600, the D70's noise is unobtrusive and quite acceptable. (IMHO at least.)

Close-ups: Given that so many D70s will be sold with the 18-70mm kit lens, I did the Macro test on it. It was only so-so for macro shooting, with a rather large minimum area of 3.56x5.35 inches. This is close enough to shoot typical small objects for eBay, but if you need really good macro performance, you'll want lenses like the excellent Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8. The Digital Rebel's 18-55mm kit lens does quite a bit better at macro shooting, with a very small 2.53x1.69 inches minimum subject area.

Night Shots: The D70 performed very well in the low-light category, capturing clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color and surprisingly low noise at all four ISO settings. Auto white balance produced a slightly warm color balance in a few shots, but color was generally quite good. The biggest surprise here though, was how clean the images were with Noise Reduction disabled. There was virtually no difference between the images with and without it. In fact, the 1600 ISO shot showed slightly better noise performance with it turned off.

Viewfinder Accuracy: Working with the 18-70mm lens, the viewfinder showed 95 percent of the final image area at wide-angle and about 97 percent at telephoto.

Optical Distortion: I measured approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the 18-70mm kit lens range, but only 0.3 percent pincushion distortion. Both figures are about average for a 3.9x zoom lens, but both are also a bit higher than I like. Chromatic aberration was surprisingly low, showing only very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. The images were also quite sharp from corner to corner. Overall, a very good performance for a zoom lens, the 18-70mm is a high-quality piece of optics.

Battery Life: Nikon claims battery life of between 400 and 2000 shots, depending on the lens used and flash usage. My own experience seemed to support Nikon's battery life claims. The D70/EN-EL3 combination seemed to offer really excellent battery life, as I could shoot literally hundreds of photos without draining the battery. Nikon said they will not offer an external battery pack/vertical grip for the D70.

CONCLUSION

When Canon dropped their $999 Digital Rebel bombshell on the dSLR market last year, a lot of people wondered what Nikon would do. Canon has a lot of experience making well-performing, yet very cheap film SLRs and they have the further advantage of being vertically integrated, making the sensor and primary processing chip used in the Digital Rebel as well. Could Nikon compete?

The D70 answers that question with a resounding "yes". It's a tremendously capable dSLR that noticeably advances the state of the art. The lens is first-rate, with a wider focal-length range and faster maximum aperture than the Canon equivalent and the camera itself just feels good in the hand. It's also remarkably responsive, with true instant-on availability, a responsive shutter and truly exceptional continuous-shooting ability.

Naturally, none of this would mean anything if the D70's images weren't up to snuff, but image quality is absolutely first rate as well. All in all, the D70 is an excellent camera, with features and performance well beyond what one might expect from an attractively priced dSLR. Highly recommended!

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New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

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Book Bag: Photoshop Studio Skills

We've been insulating our studio with stacks of new Photoshop books. We fully intend to read through our insulation, at which point we expect it to appeal at least as excellent kindling. There's always more insulation on the way.

But once in a while, an intriguing Photoshop title slips through the cracks in the wall. Photoshop Studio Skills, for example. At roughly 7.5x11 inches, it was hard to pack tightly between the studs anyway.

The cover cites no author because it's a compilation of Photoshop articles from the Australian design magazine Design Graphics (http://www.designgraphics.com.au/). The impressive list of contributors includes Rita Amladi, Daniel Brown, Russell Brown, Katrin Eismann, Bill Fleming, Julieanne Kost, Brian Lawler, Michael Ninness, Carl Stevens, Daniel Wade, Ben Willmore and Colin Wood.

Topics, which cover both Photoshop 7 and CS, include:

As you can see, a wide variety of intriguing subjects is discussed. And if you had the book in front of you, you'd see they aren't just discussed but nicely illustrated. In fact, primarily illustrated.

The discussion appears as captions to the step-by-step illustration of each technique. And the illustrations are not just screen shots, but include helpful pointers and guides in red, too. It's a very easy-to-follow presentation (if only the book would open flat).

So a Hall of Fame group of Photoshoppers tackles a far-ranging list of topics with bar-no-expenses book production. This is one Photoshop title that won't leave you cold.

Photoshop Studio Skills, published by Wiley Publishing, 320 pages, $34.99.
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Advanced Mode: Viewfinders & the Zoom Factor

For many years, I've kept a framed print on my desk, no larger than a 35mm slide. But it packs a powerful message. It's a guy in sunglasses standing on an Italian beach holding up a huge yellow notice headlined, "Adesso Basta!" Every now and then, I look up at this guy on the beach telling me, "That's enough, Stop!"

We often talk about engineering tradeoffs in the same way. You can have a compact body but not a long zoom, say. You can only have a 3x optical zoom and "adesso basta." The same goes for optical viewfinders.

You can't build an optical viewfinder that can track a zoom lens over a 5x zoom ratio. Well, you can but good4nuttins like us will complain about the distortions, lack of brightness and price. At 5x, you hit the "adesso basta" factor.

Unlike editors, engineers don't take breaks. "Adesso basta!" just means back to the drawing board to them. And when they went back to the drawing board for those 8x and 10x prosumer zooms, they returned with the Electronic Viewfinder. The EVF sounds like a great idea, but it has its own "adesso basta" factor. Light sensitivity.

With an optical viewfinder, you take live feedback for granted. Granny blinks, you see her blink. But an EVF itself blinks. To appear live, the EVF's LCD has to be redrawn no less than five times a second (a lot less than even those choppy 15-fps movies some digicams make). The faster the redraw, the less time available to gather light. So even a stumbling five times can gather light for only as much as 1/5 second. In short, the faster the refresh, the darker the image in the viewfinder.

Engineers tend to be quite a bit more reluctant than editors to call it a day. So just because available light gets dim, doesn't mean they throw in the EVF towel. They compensate.

One trick is to slow down the refresh rate in dim light. You may have noticed this. Another is to amplify the signal the CCD captures (sort of like changing ISO equivalents), so the EVF gets an enhanced image. Which you may also have noticed -- particularly using an LCD monitor in dim interior lighting. The noise you notice in ISO 400 and above images is much more tolerable in a EVF whose small size and refresh rate tend to minimize the effect.

But the catch is that if you judge the image by the EVF, you'll often think it's too dark to shoot. It isn't. It's just too dark for the EVF to display a live view.

No EVF can match an optical viewfinder in low-light situations. But don't be fooled by the EVF, either. You can often get the shot even if the EVF can't show it. In this case, you're the one who should shout, "Adesso basta!"

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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 Nikon Coolpix 8700 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee987b2

Visit the Sony Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f789

Mark asks about reducing depth of field at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee98b15/0

Larry asks about sensor size and pixel count in relation to picture quality at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee98c26/0

Visit the Troubleshooting Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f84f

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Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

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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: HiTi 730PS

I am usually/almost always entranced by what I read in your Newsletter. This latest time it is the HiTi 730PS that has captured my attention and this time, dammit, I wish to do something more than just sigh and drool. How/where can I purchase one of these lovelies?

-- Lynn

(Thanks very much for the kind words, Lynn! Visit http://www.hitouchimaging.com/wtbuy.asp for a list of all the local vendors. -- Editor)

I've read inkjets are better than color lasers for printing photos. Everyone talks DPI but can you compare DPI between different types of printers? Can you quantify differences in quality and cost per print between the two? Is there a new generation of color printer coming out, as there seems to be a lot of discounting?

-- Jack

(Supplies are where the money is, Jack. As one HP scientist observed, low-end printers cost less than a set of new cartridges for them.... Ah, DPI. Inkjets use their DPI to print frequency modulated screens. Lasers use them to print amplitude modulated screens. Dye subs alone build different densities at each dot.... What's it cost? Inkjets run $2.50 for each 8x10, a dye-sub costs 40 cents for a 4x6. Buy an inkjet for enlargements, a dye sub for photo prints and a laser for text with pictures. Or just get an inkjet to do it all. -- Editor)

RE: The Epson Kit

In a recent issue, you mentioned a product from epsonkits.com. I'd like to set the record straight.

Epsonkits was started by a former employee of ours who resigned late last year. Before he left our employ, we noticed a box of 100 syringes and one of our fill bottles missing. The former employee worked as an order entry person before he started selling on eBay and then started the site. He had the chutzpah to advertise he was selling our product cheaper on our own message board! After I banned him, he did it a second time. I then posted a warning about him on our board.

Subscribers of this newsletter can get a Dave's Deals discount for the real thing on our site (http://fixyourownprinter.com).

-- Moe

(Thanks for setting the record straight, Moe. We're big, big fans of fixyourownprint.com and have been for a long time. Apart from the inexpensive repair solutions, readers, the site offers a wealth of documentation that has been helpful to us on several occasions. Moe doesn't just sell syringes. He even includes video instruction with his repair kits. So shop there first. We do. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

The next version of Rune Lindman's QPict asset manager will feature improved support for RAW files from over 100 different camera models, including the recently released NIKON D70. "We are now seeking input from people working with RAW files," Rune said. "We will randomly give away 10 full copies of the software among those who participate. All participants will get a 60 percent rebate from the full price!" The number of participants is limited, so sign up (http://www.qpict.net) soon.


Keyspan (http://keyspan.com) has announced its $129.99 USB Server whose four USB 12-Mbs powered ports, RJ45 LAN connector, 10/100 autosensing and IP addressing allow USB peripherals to be shared by client Macs running OS X and Windows PCs running 2000 or XP. The first release of USB Server software supports USB printers, USB multi-function printers, USB scanners and USB HID devices.


Reindeer Graphics (http://www.reindeergraphics.com) has released a demo of Optipix 2 [M] with a Windows demo coming soon. The demo functions for one week and is limited to 640x480 images or selections. A compressed version of the Optipix Guide is included.


Focal Press (http://www.focalpress.com) has published the second edition of its $36.95 How to Cheat in Photoshop by Steve Caplin, which covers Photoshop CS with discussions on selections, composition, light and shadow, working with heads and reflective surfaces.


Flaming Pear (http://www.flamingpear.com) has released its $20 Polymerge 1.0 [MW], a Photoshop-compatible plug-in filter to combine similar photos into one image.


Kepmad (http://www.kepmad.com) has released its $18 ImageBuddy 2.9.7 [M] with drag-and-drop support of thumbnails to page layout, backgrounds linked to files and more.


The $49.95 Photo to Movie [M] (http://lqgraphics.com) has been updated to version 3.0.3, adding a spin transition, preventing recompression of embedded images and more.


Kingston (http://www.kingston.com) has released its $349 1-GB CompactFlash Elite Pro card featuring write speeds up to 5.2-MB/sec. and read speeds up to 6.1-MB/sec.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) reported over 400,000 standalone copies of iLife '04 (not counting copies bundled with new computers) and strong sales of OS X pushed by Adobe's Creative Suite. The company is offering free shipping through June 15 on iPhoto books ordered from iPhoto 2 or later.


Charlie Morey's Three Days in Yosemite (http://www.digitalphotography.tv/yosemite) depicts three days of rain, bright sunshine and snowfall separated by dynamic transitions.


Wiley (http://www.wiley.com) has announced three Photoshop CS titles. Photoshop CS Complete Course with CD ($44.99) teaches the full range of tools and techniques by creating a portfolio piece. Photoshop CS Bible, ($59.99)covers high-end topics like optimizing Web graphics, convolution kernels and displacement maps, actions and batch processing and advanced color adjustment. *Photoshop CS Illustrated ($29.99), available in May, is Design Graphics magazine's manual and instant reference.


dotPhoto (http://www.dotphoto.com) is offering free online photo editing including RGB Color Adjustments, Auto-Fix, Cropping, Red-Eye Fix, Mirror-Image, Photo Borders, Rotate Left or Right, Zoom in/out and Undo.


Kaidan (http://www.kaidan.com) has released its $99.95PiXiMation 1.0 [M] to create 3D rotational object movies with inexpensive free-spinning turntables like lazy susans and the Apple iSight camera (recommended), Orange Micro iBot, ADS Pyro 1394, Unibrain Fire-i and most Macintosh Web cams and FireWire camcorders.

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One Liners

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

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

Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

Fast Ritz CF cards: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?ritzmem

Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com

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Signoff

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

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