The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 9 30 April 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 122nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. With Mother's Day looming, we salute one digicam-toting mother who made a difference. Dave reveals which camera his kids think is cool. And Michael Tomkins reports on a new tool to sort through your images.


TOPICS

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Feature: Picture of the Year

A Web site and a digital camera independently played large roles in telling a somber story over the last two weeks.

For the last two and a half years, a Department of Defense policy has prohibited news organizations from showing images of homecomings of the war dead at military bases.

But Russ Kick, who runs the Memory Hole Web site (http://www.thememoryhole.org), filed a Freedom of Information Act request for "all photographs showing caskets (or other devices) containing the remains of U.S. military personnel at Dover AFB." Dover is the largest military mortuary in the United States.

His request had been denied until an April 14 letter by Air Force Colonel Laurel Warish told him, "The photographs are being provided on a CD."

Established during the Gulf War in 1991, the policy wasn't consistently observed during the Clinton presidency when the president himself often took part in ceremonies honoring the fallen, as had President Reagan. Clinton met the victims of the U.S.S. Cole and the body of his friend Ron Brown. And similar images were published from Ramstein in Germany during the Afghanistan War and from Andrews Air Force Base.

But in March 2003, the Pentagon issued a directive stating, "There will no[t] be arrival ceremonies of or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from" air bases.

Despite the policy, the Pentagon did contract to have such images shot "for historical purposes." Those were the 288 images the Air Force sent to Kick on a CD. An additional 73 photos on the CD were of the Columbia astronauts.

According to Warish's letter, "We removed all personally identifying information of the remains as release could rekindle grief, anguish, pain, embarrassment or disrupt the peace of mind of surviving family members, thus invading their privacy."

After Kick posted the images on his site April 22, Lt. Col. Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman, said the release of the photos was in violation of the Pentagon's rules and no further copies would be distributed.

SILICIO'S SHOT

But Kick was scooped by the Seattle Times, which on Sunday, April 18, published an image (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4807865) taken at Kuwait International Airport by Tami Silicio, a cargo contract worker for Maytag Aircraft.

In a Times interview, 50-year-old Silicio explained that her cargo job included sending out the dead. She had once emailed her mother about waiting for a flag-drapped coffin as it rose to her cargo door. The coffin was escorted by four military personnel standing at attention and saluting. "They were with him as soldiers," she wrote, "and I stood by him as a mother."

On April 7, the day she shot the photo published by the Times, 20 war dead were being secured for takeoff by half a dozen workers. Silicio, who told the Times the plane felt more like a shrine than an airplane, took two shots with her Nikon Coolpix.

She found one image particularly moving. It was a shot down the length of the fuselage lined with coffins. She emailed it to her friend Amy Katz. They had met five years earlier in Kosovo when they were both working for Texas-based Halliburton.

Katz was moved by the image, too. She emailed it to the Times which, after a dozen phone calls and 40 emails with Silicio, published the photo with her permission. Times photo editor Barry Fitzsimmons said he and the paper's senior editors were concerned that she understand the possible fallout from publishing the image.

In fact, her husband David Landry, an ex-marine, had gone to a base official to ask if a contract employee could actually release a photo of coffins on a cargo plane. He was told no, he said.

While a Monday meeting in which the couple was told they had violated company and base disclosure rules left them hopeful, on Tuesday they were both fired. Silicio was fired for taking and releasing the photo. Landry was fired for helping her.

Silicio engaged Zuma Press, a photo agency, to sell the rights to the image. She said she will select a charity involved with the families of soldiers and contractors who died in Iraq to receive proceeds from the sale of the photo's rights.

THE DOVER TEST

Debate over the merits of publishing both Silicio's photo and the Dover photos has been grinding a lot of axes, primarily over the Dover Test.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton observed some years ago that in weighing any foreign engagement of the military, the Dover Test has to be considered. When the American public sees flag-draped caskets returning to Dover Air Force Base, will they still support the war effort?

The Bush administration has denied the Pentagon photo policy is an attempt to circumvent that test. On the PBS's nightly Newshour, Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for media operations, said the policy "was born out of a desire to find the right balance, the balance between respecting the privacy of our servicemen and their families, particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and that in providing access to news media to all our military operations."

Whitman explained, "I think, you know, we should all take a look at this, perhaps in the shoes of the mother or the father who has lost a son or daughter or a husband who has lost a wife or a wife who has lost a husband."

The policy has consistently been attacked by the news media. Representing them on the Newshour was Dana Milbank, a White House correspondent for the Washington Post.

"Those images are very powerful," he observed. "And the White House, if a lot of these images are coming out repeatedly, coupled with images of violence in Iraq without images showing progress, this could really undermine public support for the war. So we don't know what the motives are. We know the effect is quite beneficial for the policy not to have them out there."

He said the Post had no qualms about publishing the photos because "in these images we have no idea who any of these soldiers were. I mean they were unknown soldiers to us. They didn't come out with their names attached and obviously it's not identifiable because they're all in identical caskets with identical flags on top."

A LETTER

Among the letters to the editor published by the Seattle Times after Silicio's photo was printed was one from self-described photojournalist Greg Farrar.

He noted, "The 1954 Pulitzer Prize in news photography was won by Virginia Schau, an amateur snapshooter with a Kodak Brownie, photographing a harrowing rescue of a truck driver from a cab dangling off the side of a bridge.

"In my view as a photojournalist, the second such amateur snapshooter, Tami Silicio, should be nominated for and should win next year's Pulitzer Prize," he continued, "not only for the moving content of her photograph of flag-draped coffins, but for the courage it took to make this photograph and the courage it took to allow its publication.

After noting she lost her job, Farrar explained the role of the photojournalist. "A photojournalist's ultimate goal is to show the truth or at least an accurate piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes up the truth, in a way that can't be done by the written word or in sound bites. That's our guiding inspiration.

"This piece of the puzzle has been impossible to come by until now and a thousand fellow photojournalists around the world would like to shake Tami Silicio's hand and say 'Well done.'"

THE IMAGE

Three abreast, seven rows deep, the perfectly aligned caskets fill the fuselage of the C-5 bearing them home. Strapping the coffins in, cargo workers in military uniform bend over their charges. The ceiling of the fuselage is exposed, gear lines the wall on the left.

Silicio didn't use flash, which would not have been able to light the length of the fuselage anyway. The cargo worker closest to the camera is a blur thanks to the slow shutter speed.

Unlike the 288 official photos, this image is not particularly well composed. Silicio seems to have quickly taken the shot in an idle moment. But the effect brings us into the shot in an informal way, like a documentary might. We seem to be standing there, too. But not like rubberneckers at the scene of an accident. Instead, we seem to share the burden of bringing home the fallen.

They are each draped in a flag folded identically over their coffins. But they are each unknown soldiers. And as such, they appear to stand for more than their own sacrifice. They are rectangles and rows within the tube of the fuselage. Square pegs fitting round holes.

It is hard to find anything offensive about the image. Instead, it invites us to appreciate the price the fallen have paid. They didn't get up. There is little comfort in that. And perhaps that's the real complaint.

CONCLUSION

A deeply divided nation debates a single taboo image months before deciding who will lead the nation for the next four years. Sometimes the millions of dollars in campaign contributions don't have the impact of a single Coolpix image shot by a weary cargo worker not quite overcome with her charge. Sometimes, in short, it takes a mother to see the picture. For that alone, we second Farrar's nomination.

There will always be attempts to tailor the news. Certainly, the media pools for war coverage are one such. But you don't need credentials to tell a story. And armed with nothing more than a digicam, one ordinary citizen took a picture worth more than a mere thousand words. She ignited a debate that engaged the nation.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Minolta DiMAGE Xg -- Too Cool to Leave Behind

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

INTRODUCTION

Minolta really turned heads over two years ago with the diminutive DiMAGE X, a 2-Mp digicam in a square block of metal, just barely over three-quarters of an inch thick. This year, Minolta has introduced the fourth update to its popular X line, the DiMAGE Xg. The new model borrows last year's 3-Mp Xt upgrade, keeping an almost-identical body, adding several new features and removing in-camera battery charging and video output. With each generation, Minolta's X series has continued to improve and the image quality of the DiMAGE Xg is arguably the best of the lot with bright, clear colors and seemingly a sharper lens as well.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

With its unusual vertical lens design, Minolta's DiMAGE Xg (like the DiMAGE Xt, Xi and x before it) has a tiny, extraordinarily thin, all-metal body. The same size and weight as its predecessor at a mere 3.6x0.92x2.6 inches and just 5.0 ounces (including battery and SD memory card), the DiMAGE Xg is one of the smallest digicams on the market. There's no excuse for leaving it behind, since it can tag along in even the smallest shirt pocket or be quickly tucked into an evening bag or pants pocket. The unique folded optical design means that there's no wait for a lens to telescope out of the body when the camera is powered up, resulting in very fast startup and shutdown times. The sleek design includes a built-in lens cover, which conveniently slides out of the way whenever the camera is powered on, eliminating any concern over misplacing a lens cap. The all-metal case is rugged, feels solid and should withstand the wear and tear of daily use better than most cameras. The 3x zoom lens, combined with the full automatic exposure control makes the camera suitable for most common shooting conditions. The 3.2-megapixel CCD produces high-resolution images for printing and lower-resolution images for emailing.

The DiMAGE Xg has a 3x, 5.7-17.1mm lens, the equivalent of a 37-111mm lens on a 35mm camera. The autofocus covers a range from 5.9 inches to infinity. There's no separate macro mode, but the 5.9-inch close-focusing combined with a telephoto lens setting produces very good macro performance. Depending on the lens zoom position, the maximum aperture ranges from f2.8 to f3.6. In addition to the optical zoom, the DiMAGE Xg offers a 1.1-4.0x digital zoom, in increments of 0.1x. You can choose between the real-image optical viewfinder or the 1.6-inch, color TFT LCD monitor to compose images, although as usual, the LCD monitor provides the most accurate framing. The optical viewfinder is unusually tight, showing only 72-75 percent of the final frame area. In playback mode, images can be enlarged up to 6x.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, with only a few exposure options available. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on and a Mode switch lets you select between Record and Playback modes. Newly added to the mode dial is the Scene Mode function, which customizes exposures for common photographic situations: Portrait, Sports Action, Landscape, Sunset and Night Portrait. Startup time is claimed to be slightly faster than the DiMAGE Xt at approximately 0.8 seconds, although in my own tests, the camera consistently took 2.1 seconds to capture the first picture after power-up, still pretty fast.

Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's on-screen menu system, which offers very straightforward navigation. That said, you can control flash mode, lens zoom, wide/spot autofocus and your choice of either exposure compensation, white balance, drive mode or ISO sensitivity externally, via buttons and controls on the camera's rear panel. Shutter speeds range from 1/1000 to four seconds, though the active value is not reported. The right and left arrow keys on the camera's back panel control either the Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Drive Mode or ISO sensitivity or are disabled in Scene mode. Exposure Compensation ranges from -2 to +2 exposure values in one-third step increments. Sensitivity is adjustable to values of 50, 100, 200 or 400, with an Auto setting as well, that varies the ISO between 50 and 160, depending on the current light level. White Balance is adjustable through the settings menu, with options for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent and Fluorescent light sources. The DiMAGE Xg's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed or Slow Sync modes.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures either 320x240-pixel or 160x240-pixel images with sound, with duration limited only by the size of the memory card. Movie frame rate has been improved from the DiMAGE Xt's 15 frames per second to either 15 or 30 frames per second. A 16-MB SD card should hold approximately 21 seconds worth of movies at the highest resolution and frame rate, larger cards will store proportionately more.

Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and when the camera actually takes the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots.

Continuous Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images when you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera. Provided that there's enough space remaining on the memory card, the camera can capture up to five large/fine images or over a hundred small/economy mode images before having to pause to write to the memory card. Details like image size and shutter speed can affect the shooting interval, but it averages approximately 1.4 to 1.5 frames per second.

Audio Recording mode lets you record sound clips as long as 180 minutes (without an image), although the maximum recording time is limited by the amount of available memory card space. A 16-MB memory card can hold about 30 minutes of audio. The DiMAGE Xg also features a Voice Memo option, for recording short sound clips (up to 15 seconds) to accompany recorded images.

The DiMAGE Xg stores images on an SD memory card and a 16-MB card accompanies the camera. It also works with the slightly less expensive MMC cards. Connection to a host computer for image download is via USB. The DiMAGE Xg is a storage-class device, which means that it doesn't require separate driver software for Windows 2000 and XP or for Mac OS 8.6 and later. Download speed is also very good. I clocked it at 837 KBytes/second on my Sony VAIO computer, running Windows XP. That's faster than USB v1.1 can support, so the Xg must in fact have a USB v2.0 interface.

The camera is powered by an NP-200 rechargeable lithium-ion battery, one of which is included with the camera, along with the necessary battery charger. The optional AC adapter is useful for preserving battery power when using the camera as a webcam, for reviewing and downloading images or when viewing images and movies on a television, via the supplied A/V cable.

TEST RESULTS

Color: Color from the DiMAGE Xg was generally very good. Colors were accurate and properly saturated in all my test subjects. The camera did a better than average (if not wonderful) job with incandescent lighting indoors. The white balance system left some color cast in the images shot under incandescent lighting, but for the most part did better than most cameras under that light source. Color outdoors was very good to excellent as well, with good skin tones and good handling of the always-difficult blue in my Outdoor Portrait shot. Overall, I found the DiMAGE Xg's color to be accurate and very pleasing.

Exposure: Like the DiMAGE X, Xi and Xt before it, the DiMAGE Xg did pretty well in the exposure department. It's a little prone to losing highlight detail in contrasty scenes under sunlit conditions, but not more than usual. As with the Xi and Xt before it, I was pleased by how well it did under fairly dim indoor shooting conditions, where it could produce sharp, well-exposed images. My biggest complaint was that it seemed to have larger than average increments in exposure between adjacent exposure-compensation settings, despite it's supposed 1/3 EV adjustment step size.

Resolution/Sharpness: Like most subcompact cameras, the DiMAGE Xg's images were just a little soft when compared with the best full-sized 3-megapixel digicams. The Xg's lens does appear to be somewhat improved over those of previous X-series cameras, with better sharpness in the corners and less chromatic aberration, my two main complaints about the earlier models.

Image Noise: The Xg's images were characterized by low levels of image noise, particularly at ISO 50 and 100. Noise increases sharply after that, becoming noticeable at ISO 200 and rather objectionable at ISO 400. (Personally, I don't consider the Xg's images at ISO 400 to be usable.)

Close-ups: It performed pretty well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.90x1.43 inches. Resolution was high and detail was strong in the dollar bill, coins and brooch. Details were slightly sharper in the coins and brooch, however. As is common with digicam macro shots, there was a lot of softness in the corners, extending down the entire left side of the image. The Dimage Xg's flash had some trouble throttling down for the macro area and overexposed the shot. Plan on using external illumination for the closest shots, but overall, the Xg is an excellent macro performer.

Night Shots: The Xg's low light performance is about the same as that of the Xt, meaning it can shoot good-looking images under typical city night lighting, but it wouldn't be your first choice for shooting under really dim lighting (although you can get recognizable images all the way down to the 1/16 foot-candle limit of my test at ISO 400). Image noise levels are generally quite good and the optional Noise Reduction system reduces some of the image noise, but not to a great extent. Like the Xt, the Xg has difficulty focusing at light levels darker than about 1/2 foot-candle (about half the brightness of typical city night scenes). A manual focus option, AF-assist illuminator or both would be quite welcome.

Viewfinder Accuracy: One of my biggest gripes with the DiMAGE Xi and Xt persists in the Xg. Its optical viewfinder is very tight, showing approximately 75 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 72 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 98 percent accuracy at wide-angle and about 99 percent at telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Dimage Xg's LCD monitor does very well, but I'd really like to see a more accurate optical viewfinder.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the Dimage Xg is a little higher than average at the wide-angle end, measuring 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared only a little better at 0.5 percent pincushion distortion. (Most 3x-zoom digicams have around 0.8 percent barrel -- still too much IMHO -- at wide-angle, but 0.3 percent or less pincushion at telephoto.) There's about six or seven pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines, but it's fairly faint, indicating only moderate chromatic aberration. The good news is that Minolta seems to have made significant improvements in the Xg's lens. It's much sharper in the corners of the frame than were the lenses of previous X-series models.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Overall, the word that best describes the Xg's performance is "average." It's fast starting up, on the fast side of average for full-autofocus shutter lag, very fast for pre-focus shutter lag, but on the slow side in shot-to-shot cycle time. Continuous-mode performance is average, but the camera's deep, 10-shot buffer is nice.

Battery Life: Like most subcompact digicams, the DiMAGE Xt's battery life is a little limited, but significantly improved over the Xt. In its worst-case power drain mode (record mode with the LCD enabled), battery life is about 112 minutes, a very good performance indeed. Because the Xg lacks an external power terminal, I wasn't able to conduct my usual power measurements, so I don't have numbers for battery life in playback mode or with the LCD turned off. Minolta claims 240 minutes in playback mode and I have no reason to dispute that number. The Xt's power consumption dropped to nearly zero with the LCD off, so I suspect the Xg would behave the same. As always, despite the Xg's generally good battery life performance, I still strongly advise purchasing a second battery when you buy the camera.

CONCLUSION

I've been a fan of Minolta's X line of subcompacts since the original version was first introduced nearly three years ago. Ultra-compact digicams often seem to involve a lot of compromises and tradeoffs, but the DiMAGE Xg takes very nice photos under a wide range of conditions, offers a decent range of exposure control (exposure compensation and white balance adjustments) and has surprisingly long battery life for a subcompact model.

You do give up a little resolution relative to the best full-sized 3-Mp cameras and I'd really like to see a more accurate viewfinder, but there's plenty of resolution here to make sharp 8x10 prints. And Minolta seems to have significantly improved the edge sharpness of its lens with this generation, a welcome improvement. Its compact size, solid feature set and rugged all-metal case make the DiMAGE Xg a great "take anywhere" camera, appealing to non-techies as well as enthusiasts.

For the novice user, it's very easy to use and takes nice pictures. For more advanced users, it makes a great second camera, something that you'd just toss in your pocket without thinking. As much as I rant about "cameras in drawers not taking pictures," that's exactly where my digicams live much of the time. With the DiMAGE Xg though, I at least have a fighting chance.

I actually own the earlier DiMAGE Xi. Whenever there's a trip or outing in the offing, it's a race between my two teenage sons to see who can get first dibs on the Xi. Although we have a load of other cameras in the house, the Xi is invariably the one they gravitate toward. It takes good-looking pictures and is just so cool, they can't resist it.

Bottom line, it's not going to be the ultimate camera for Ansel Adams types, but if you want to have no excuse for not having your camera with you, the DiMAGE X makes a great companion. The DiMAGE Xt easily qualifies as a Dave's Pick.

Return to Topics.

Feature: JottoSoft Sorts Wheat From Chaff

By Michael R. Tomkins, News Editor

A recent email from software developer Jahn Otto Naesgaard Andersen tipped us off to a useful (and free) tool he's just released for fellow digital photographers.

On purchasing a Canon EOS-10D digital camera, Jahn became aware of a problem we're all too familiar with ourselves -- sorting through the literally hundreds or thousands of photos digital photographers can take in a single shoot, deciding which are keepers and which aren't. Being a programmer, Jahn decided to work on a solution to the problem himself and created the cleverly named Pixort (http://www.jotto.no/pixort).

We managed to find a little while to experiment with the program ourselves and while it has a few rough edges we'd like to see "sorted out" in future releases, it is overall a rather elegant solution to the problem. Choose a directory of images and you're shown a panel of thumbnail images (which you can align either horizontally or vertically and move around the window -- or even onto a separate monitor if you've got a dual monitor setup).

Click on a thumbnail and a larger preview of the image is shown scaled to fit in your remaining screen space. You can then rotate the image (if necessary), opt to delete it immediately or give it an arbitrary score from one to five depending on how much you like it.

Depending on how you've configured the program, images are moved to or duplicated in target folders you've assigned for each possible score and the next image can then be automatically shown (or you can choose another to view manually). A nice touch is the ability to select multiple images for comparison side-by-side (each image has a rating/rotation/deletion pullout and the images needn't be of the same orientation as each other).

Pixort is definitely simple and easy to use and for a first release we think Jahn's done a great job! We'd love to see the program developed further and a few more features added. We couldn't find any way to zoom in and view images 1:1 onscreen, which would definitely be nice to have -- as would a way to see under/over-exposure (often difficult to judge on laptop LCDs) -- a simple histogram and flashing under/over-exposure warning would suffice, although the ability to adjust the warning thresholds and view the histogram for each color channel would be even nicer. We'd also love to see a little more intelligence in the positioning of preview images -- currently if you view two portrait images simultaneously, they're shown positioned one above the other, with acres of unused screen surrounding them.

If you've been looking for a solution to the problem of sorting the wheat from the chaff in your digital images, though, we can heartily recommend the first version of Pixort regardless. Given the price (or lack thereof -- the software is distributed free of charge), this is one tool most PC photographers will want in their collection. Mac users will have to wait, for now -- Jahn notes that the program should be able to be ported to other platforms fairly easily, but he doesn't currently own a Mac with which to work on such a port. (Mac users can meanwhile try iPhoto 4's new previewing tools (http://www.apple.com/iphoto), ImageBuddy (http://www.kepmad.com), Cameraid (http://www.cameraid.com), among others. -- Editor).

Incidentally, if you'd like to put a smile on your face, be sure to view the Terms of Use on Pixort's "About" page... :)

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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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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 Olympus C-8080 Zoom at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee97eae

Visit the Minolta Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77f

Rob asks about non-USB options at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee987c2/0

Patti asks about picture sizes when emailing at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee98b6f/0

Visit the Software Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b0

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Just for Fun: Documentary Powers

Every now and then we are amused to find yet another new use for our digicam. We're beginning to wonder if we aren't a bit dense. Why didn't this occur to us before, we always wonder?

The latest new application to strike us made us wonder if it wasn't time to adjust our meds. It was so obvious, it was staring us right in the face.

Right! Photograph your meds.

We were facing a rather extreme situation, but we think a shot of your prescription medications (or even the day's array of vitamin supplements, for that matter) is a great idea. It lets you double check your daily dose with a visual, rather than simply rereading the description (and perhaps getting lost again). And when the prescription changes, you can update the image very quickly with your digicam and inkjet printout.

The way we did it might be instructive. We took a legal pad, wrote the name of each pill with its dosage on every other line and laid out the pills themselves on the same line.

If you're using white paper, change your EV to +1 or more to compensate for the bright subject. Our yellow sheet photographed just fine, which was the point of using it. And it's kind of cheery, unless you're an attorney.

For a tightly framed shot of the meds and their descriptions, you'll probably be shooting in Macro mode. And the brighter the light, the easier it will be to get a handheld shot. We shot in the shade of a sunlit room.

We needed several shots for medications throughout the day (morning, lunch, dinner, evening). And each shot required several medications. We carefully copied them out from the master list we got at the hospital, double checking to make sure we'd done it right.

Of course, with the price of pills these days, we used the subject of our product shots for that day's doses.

With a point-and-shoot film camera, you'd never try this. The image would be too far away to read and too blurry to tell one pill from another. But your digicam, with its Macro mode, zoom lens and exposure compensation make it simple to do.

Here's to your health!

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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: Backing Up

I've just read your review of DV Backup, thanks for your complimentary words.

There are more features in the pipeline with DV Backup. Upcoming is a useful addition whereby restoring selective files will not require the entire backup to be played through to pick out the files. DV Backup will calculate a tape destination schedule based on the selected files and will go directly to the relevant tape areas and "dip in" to the archive to extract the selected files (before moving on to the next area).

Also there are plans to support backup to hard drive in a way which can be easily dumped to tape once the selected hard drive area is full.

Other features such as backup sets where you can collect commonly backed up files and folders under one title (which can also be backed up incrementally) are imminent, too.

-- Tim Hewett, Coolatoola.com

(That last would be ideal for vacationers backing up digital photos. And being able to efficiently snag a single preference file, say, out of an 80-MB backup will no doubt be welcome. But most impressive, is the continued development of this handy solution to a big problem. -- Editor)

Here's my considerable experience for Windows home use.

Add a second hard drive, preferably of the same capacity as the C drive. From a DOS window, run the freeware XXCOPY (http://www.xxcopy.com) with these arguments: xxcopy c:\ d:\ /clone /yy

That makes an incremental backup, adding and deleting files so that the D drive is the same as the C drive. It will also make a perfectly functioning Windows 98 system, when you make the drive active with fdisk. Win2K and XP lock 14 system files that prevent this useful function.

If I'm a good boy I do this once a day or if I'm working with just uploaded digital photos, I'll do it several times as I sort and alter. A good idea after any important file is put on the C drive.

OK, this won't deal with, say, a fire in my house. So I have yet another drive just for data files. About every month or so, I XXCOPY my important data folders to it. It stays in my car.

In all probability, this is all I will ever need. But every year or two, I burn the most crucial data files (digital photos) to CD and mail them to my parents. Or you could do a hard drive and keep it in the office.

-- Paul

(Thanks, Paul. XXCOPY is indeed a fabulous utility. We put our offsites in our car, too (which is garaged several miles away to keep us unusually fit for walking the aisles at trade shows) -- but out of the sun. -- Editor)

RE: Electronic Viewfinders

As usual, this was a most interesting newsletter. However, I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of EVF viewfinders. You state, "No EVF can match an optical viewfinder in low-light situations." I own a Minolta Dimage 7i with an EVF. I can focus and frame pictures in light so dim that I can't see the details with my naked eye. The image is much brighter in the EVF. With the D7i, the viewfinder switches to black and white before boosting the gain and the image in the EVF is truly amazing.

It is true that in dim light, any moving objects (or camera motion) cause the viewfinder image to smear, but I quickly got used to that and wouldn't trade that EVF for any optical viewfinder.

Thanks again for the best newsletter of its type on the web.

-- Dave Williams

(Indeed, Dave, the Minolta is an exception. In his review, Dave wrote, "Time and again, I've seen EVF-equipped digicams that are capable of taking pictures in conditions far darker than levels at which you can see what you're shooting in the EVF.... Minolta's EVFs in the Dimage 7 and now the 7i have proven to be exceptions to my thinking. The Dimage 7i's EVF works down to incredibly low light levels and also has surprisingly high resolution under normal lighting." -- Editor)

RE: Blue Teeth

I wonder if you can get us a listing of 4-Mp cameras with Bluetooth capability?

-- Jorge Albertal

(We're not aware of any 4-Mp Bluetooth digital cameras, Jorge. It's a daunting prospect, given Bluetooth's transmission speed and the amount of data in a 4-Mp file. Which is why it's popular for Web cams but not high-resolution digicams. Wireless access to images still in your camera is feasible using Mac OS X 10.3, however. See http://www.macdevcenter.com/pub/a/mac/2003/11/10/rendezvous_images.html for example. -- Editor)

RE: VHS to DVD

I have several VHS tapes of my Wife's Brother in His band before he passed away. I would like to find a good reasonable program to record them to DVD. I have a DVD burner and want to use it but all the programs I have read about require some way to change the VHS analog video to digital video.

Do you know of some program that will do that? Any info will be greatly appreciated.

I really enjoy your newsletter.

-- Roy

(This is easier than it may sound, Roy <g>. Get your hands on a digital camcorder, cable the video out and audio out to the camcorder, pop in a tape and record the output from your VCR. You've just converted the analog tape to a digital tape. Some camcorders don't require you to actually record the digital signal to tape. They can also be connected (via iLink/FireWire) to your computer and pass the signal through so it's recorded on your hard disk. Most likely, though, you'll capture the digital recording to disk with some utility that came with your computer (iMovie on the Mac; several for Windows). Once you have the footage, you author a DVD disc -- which means build the main menu and at least one button to play your footage. Link the button to your footage, burn the DVD and you've got it. The gotchas are 1) a digital camcorder, 2) a recent vintage operating system (OS X or Windows XP preferred) and 3) lots of free hard disk space. -- Editor)

RE: Slide Show Software

Can you recommend a good Windows slide show program that has transitions and can email with my music and can write to a DVD? Have been looking all over the 'Net but cannot find one with all needs. Keep up the fantastic newsletter, I tell all my friends about you!

-- John Sheckells

(We haven't gotten around to reviewing it yet, but Photo2DVD Studio 3 (http://www.photo-to-dvd.com/photo-to-dvd-feature-index.html) looks promising. Of course, you wouldn't email a DVD presentation. Otherwise it meets your specs. You might try emailing a PDF slide show of your images, though. Products like Adobe Photoshop Album let you make them (and DVDs) very easily. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Mac OS X apparently can't tell time. Mount a card or a digicam in OS X, copy the images and they will all have the wrong time stamp. The number of hours off varies (perhaps by location).

The Exif header does include the correct date and time of capture. You can use iView MediaPro (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) to reset the file time stamp.


Belkin (http://www.belkin.com) announced its $89.99 Digital Camera Link for iPod will be available May 1 to connect a third-generation iPod via the dock connector to a digicam's USB port to transfer images to the iPod.


PictoColor (http://www.picto.com) has released its $39.95 CorrectPhoto for Windows XP at a $29.95 introductory price. CorrectPhoto combines the award-winning iCorrect "point and click" color correction technology with a complete set of picture editing tools in an easy-to-use Windows XP digital workflow wizard. A trial version is available.


dotPhoto (http://www.dotphoto.com) has announced a Mother's Day Special of 20 percent off on picture frames with free prints available until May 31.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has announced support for 13 more digicams in the free 2.2 update to its Adobe Photoshop CS Camera Raw plug-in. Adobe now provides raw file support for 63 camera models from Canon, Contax, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Nikon, Olympus and Sigma.


Forgent (http://www.forgent.com) has filed two separate patent infringement lawsuits against 31 companies in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, seeking injunctions against the use of its patented JPEG technology as well as damages. The defendants are Adobe, Agfa, Apple, Axis Communications, Canon, Concord Camera, Creative Labs, Dell, Kodak, Fuji, Fujitsu, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, JASC Software, JVC, Kyocera, Macromedia, Matsushita, Oce, Onkyo, PalmOne, Panasonic, Ricoh, Riverdeep (d.b.a. Broderbund), Savin, Thomson, Toshiba and Xerox.


Roxio (http://www.roxio.com) has released Toast Titanium 6.0.5 [M] with an Auto-Play option added to DVD Video and support for 12x and 16x DVD burners.


Peachpit Press has published iPhoto 4 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide by Adam Engst for $19.99.


Paraglyph Press has published Jeff Duntemann's $34.99 Wi-Fi Guide, Second Edition.


Synthetik (http://www.synthetik.com) has updated its $379 Studio Artist [M] to version 3.02. The program is a resolution-independent raster paint synthesizer with animation and auto-rotoscoping.


Alamy Images (http://www.alamy.com) announced it now offers stock images from over 175 agencies and 2,500 plus photographers from around the globe, including many recently-added U.S. and Canadian contributors. The 330 percent growth in content in the last year gives Alamy the distinction of representing the largest number of stock agencies in the industry, the company said.


Canto (http://www.canto.com) has released Cumulus 6.0.2, a free upgrade for myCumulus, Single User and Workgroup. Enhanced stability and performance complement both new features and the reintroduction of some old favorites. Cumulus 6.0.2 also includes a Quark XPress (QXP) filter on Mac OS X.


Ondine (http://www.ondinecomputing.com) has released its $29.95 FastEZ CD and DVD Maker [W] to create slide shows, videos or music discs for playback in home CD or DVD players. A 30-day trial version is available.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released version 5.1 of GraphicConverter [M], its image editing program for Mac OS X and Classic. Highlights of the new release include previews and icons with digicam downloads, invert selections, Applescript access to all Exif tags and improved compatibility with Photoshop plug-ins.

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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:

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Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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