The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 10 14 May 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 123rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We discover a slide show program that is not like any other we've tried. Dave takes a new approach to review Canon's new flagship PowerShot (tell us what you think). And we share a simple tip to capture an impossible shot.


TOPICS

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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Envision Reinvents the Slide Show

Our on-going Slide Show Project has been reporting different ways of creating a slide show of still images for several years. It's a bit like a recurring dream in which we find ourselves in a familiar predicament, try a new approach but, in the end, still wake up screaming.

This week, however, we ran across Envision (http://www.opendoor.com/envision) from Open Door Networks, a unique approach that, while still in beta (and thus fitting our budget), runs like a dream. At least for Mac OS X users (but anyone can check our illustrated review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/ENV/ENV.HTM for the details).

Envision caught our eye for several reasons. It can, like Beholder from Mesa Dynamics (http://www.mesadynamics.com), scour a Web site (or any local folder) for image files. Unlike Beholder's thumbnail view, though, Envision can present the images it finds as a slide show, even with dissolve transitions. But unlike other saved slide shows, these shows are based on a location rather than a fixed list of images. So they can be different every time you run them.

We had to think about that a moment.

Open Door deftly describes Envision as simply a new way to experience the Web. "The Web has evolved into such a visually rich place that users need tools beyond their Web browser to fully experience it," said Alan Oppenheimer, Open Door's president and a creator of the original AppleTalk Network System. "Envision provides Mac users with one of those tools."

For example, one of the included sample slide shows, CNN.sshow, displays images from CNN's site. You can leave the small window running in a corner of your screen and get CNN image updates every few seconds, complete with captions (culled from ALT tags or the link text). Curious about one of the images? Double click it and Envision will take you right to the story using your default Web browser.

Point Envision to a museum site and you can get a nice slide show of the current exhibit. Instead of scrolling around the site and clicking on thumbnails, the images come to you. Which is a pretty nice way to view photo galleries and portfolios, too.

But even if you don't have a broadband connection to the Web, this is a useful utility for viewing images in folders on your hard drive. If you use Image Capture to copy images from your digicam to your Mac, you can set it to automatically display the new images by running a slide show pointed to your download folder.

There's some intelligence at work here, obviously, but you appreciate just how smart it is when you study all the options Envision lets you fiddle with. You can set a number of criteria for where to look and what to retrieve, as well as how to show it.

In a nutshell, Envision offers automatic scanning of locations for images; full screen, window-based and thumbnail displays of the images; automatic, manual and shuffle play modes; multi-window, multi-show capability; a high degree of user customization; and scriptability with AppleScript.

We thought this enterprising technology was worth a closer look.

INSTALLING THE PACKAGE

The downloadable public beta, which expires Aug. 1, includes the application itself, release notes, the beta license, a users guide in HTML and a collection of Web shows.

There are dozens of Web shows but they'll be among the smallest files on your drive. We looked at two randomly: 992 bytes and 4,517 bytes. With no need to store the images themselves, the show files can be pretty small.

You'll need OS X 10.2.8 or the recommended 10.3.3. Also recommended are a broadband Internet connection, 1-GB free disk space for cached images and a Web browser for getting more information about the images.

Installation is as simple as copying the files on the disk image to your Applications folder.

THE BASICS

Launch Envision and the Envision, File, Edit, Show, Window and Help menus appear on the Menu bar.

The Envision menu includes an About box and Preferences. The File menu lets you create and run slide shows. The Edit menu is the basic Cut/Copy/Paste/Delete/Select All with Undo/Redo. Show lets you control the slide show behavior (Pause/Refresh/First/Next/Last, Poster/Shuffle) and its display (Hide Status Bar/Info). Window Help is provided via the Mac's Help Viewer. An HTML user guide provides the same information.

But most of the time you are living in an Envison document window. A Previous and Next button (like any of the iLife applications) sit to the left of the URL/location text field. To the right are a Play/Pause button, a Settings button, an Info button, a Thumbnails button and a Bug Reporting button.

Below the controls is the display area.

WATCHING SLIDE SHOWS

To get a feel for the Envision experience, just run one of the many slide shows included with the beta. Sample shows cover a wide array of topics including art, astronomy, coins, comics, maps, news, posters, sheet music, stamps and more.

Like any slide show, Envision runs automatically, displaying each image in sequence. But you have some interesting options, too.

Menu commands are complemented by key commands and often by buttons on the display window. The buttons provide a handy visual reminder of what you can do and for full-screen playback, the key commands are essential.

If you click the Info button, an Info drawer slides out from the bottom of the window. The drawer displays the image's URL, the URL with a link to the Web page containing the image, the caption text and the image's size in bytes and pixels. We suggested photographers would love to see data from the Exif header of digicam JPEGs and Alan expressed some interest in that.

You can jump to the Web page containing the image by clicking on the link displayed in the Info drawer or just by double clicking the image. You can also use the Info from Web option in the Show menu. Envision always gives you several ways to do things.

Captions are derived from either the ALT tag or the text of the link to the image. Envision shows the caption in the Info drawer, but it can also draw it over the image. You can tell Envision to never draw it, always draw it or draw it only briefly, too.

You can navigate the images 1) automatically (letting Envision run the show using an interval you can adjust), 2) with the Previous and Next buttons, 3) the Menu commands or 4) using the Thumbnail button.

Because the images are cached on your hard drive, you can easily navigate back a few images. Just press the space bar to pause the show and click the back arrow to find the image you want. Pressing the space bar again resumes the show.

If you enable Shuffle Play, Envision displays the show in a different order each time, much like Random on your CD player.

You can save a displayed image simply by dragging it to your Desktop.

And you can run, if not watch, more than one slide show at a time.

CREATING SLIDE SHOWS

Making your own slide show is as easy as pointing Envision to a folder of images with the New From Folder command or to a Web site with the New command. You can also display just a single image.

Save the show as a .sshow file to double-click when you want to run it again.

The default settings (which you can customize using the Preferences dialog) are well chosen. But you'll no doubt want to customize your own show. Envision lets you filter unwanted images as well as change how images are displayed. Let's look at each in turn.

CHANGING CONTENT

When pointed to a Web page, Envision downloads the page and scans it for images and links to images. It follows links to other pages for more images, too, to a depth of two levels by default. But you can change that, of course.

So to control content, in general, point Envision to a good starting page (often not the home page of a site), refine where it looks for images, set the criteria for displaying images and possibly delete specific images (like ads) from the show. You do all this from the Settings dialog window.

The Site Scan pane of the Settings dialog lets you specify the URL to start parsing and the URL to end parsing. You can tell Envision whether to show pictures from the main page and whether to show pictures from linked pages. You set how many levels of linked pages to explore and whether to include pages from other domains. You can substitute bigger images for thumbnails and whether to scan image maps. Finally, you can specify when to rescan: only on request, each time through the show, once an hour or once a day.

After you've pointed Envision in the right direction, you can use the Image Selection pane of the Settings dialog to tell Envision what kinds of images to display. Options include minimum and maximum size in KB, plus minimum height and width in pixels. You can skip files with certain names, skip GIFs, skip pictures from certain Web sites or any other Web sites and skip deleted pictures. And you can tell Envision to display pictures only from pages with certain keywords. Separate windows for filename, hosts, deleted images and keywords can be displayed for editing those options.

CUSTOMIZING THE DISPLAY

With Envision configured to show just what you're interested in, you can configure it to display what it finds in several ways. These options are in the Show pane of the Settings dialog.

You can set the number of seconds between pictures (which, practically speaking, comes into play once they're cached). You can set whether to show the picture's caption briefly, always or never. You can choose between a dissolve or no transition and between a black or white background. We think a range of neutral gray backgrounds might be appreciated by photographers.

You can toggle whether to start the slide show automatically, to expand images and to animate GIFs (in Panther only).

The Window menu offers a few more options. You can Zoom the display window to as large as possible or Minimize it in the dock. You can display the current image at actual size or trim the window to fit the image. You can set the display area to the full screen, displaying a translucent Play/Pause button for 10 seconds over the image when the mouse moves. Finally, you can hide or display the toolbar.

The Show menu offers one additional display option, to use a Poster image. A Poster image is an image Envision displays while downloading the first image in the show.

PREFERENCES

Envision sets a number of default values you can adjust via the Preferences dialog. There are four panes: Basic, Show, Image Selection, Site Scan and Application.

They closely resemble the Settings dialog, except show-specific options (like Start at URL or Show Deleted Images) are missing. In addition, the Application pane lets you set whether the paused indicator is shown briefly, always or never.

APPLESCRIPT

The Standard Suite classes of application, color, document, item and window are provided and the commands close, count, delete, duplicate, exists, get, make, move, open, print, quit, save and set are included. The Text Suite holds classes for attachment, attribute run, character, paragraph, text and word.

The Envision Suite includes a document class and the commands pause and play.

When we brought up the issue of AppleScript (perhaps setting up a watch folder to launch Envision), Alan replied, "Yes, we plan to add significant AppleScript support in the future. It has just the bare-bones stuff right now. We do see Envision as a very flexible tool. I think you may even be able to do what you want without AppleScript."

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

Open Door expects to ship the final version of Envision by July. Pricing has not yet been determined (not even a ballpark figure).

We did ask Alan about a Windows version. Was it even possible? "A Windows version is certainly feasible, but we have no plans for such a product at this time," he said.

PROOF OF CONCEPT

The sample slide shows included with the beta are impressive to watch. We were a little surprised to see how watchable a slide show you could build from just the captioned images at a site.

In fact, we were particularly impressed with the slide show built from a Library of Congress exhibit titled "When They Were Young, A Photographic Retrospective of Childhood" (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/young/young-exhibit.html). The Web page itself is something of an index, three images per row, with extensive captioning. For some reason, we can't help focusing on the caption to the detriment of the image (we practically have to shut our eyes when we watch a subtitled movie). But seeing the exhibit through Envision let us concentrate on the images, not the captions. And it certainly beats peering over a line of gawkers at the museum.

But we couldn't help but wonder how our own images, sitting quietly on our hard drive, might look in Envision.

We routinely dump our camera images to a folder called New, where we rotate them and prep them for archiving. So we created an Envision slide show from a folder, taking the time to disable any Web-related options (not that it matters much, since slide showing is a slow art). We called it new.sshow. When we changed the contents of the New folder and reran new.sshow, we instantly got a different slide show without doing anything in Envision. If you've ever built individual HTML pages to display images linked to each other in sequence to simulate a manual slide show, you can appreciate our delight.

Now just imagine a wireless photo frame fed by a networked Mac running an Envision slideshow. Could be local images or Web images. With a CNN news show on the hour.

The main drawback is that Envision slide shows aren't easily shared. Sure, you can email a slide show document to someone with no trouble at all. But they are only getting the instructions, not the images. They have to be able to run Envision to see anything.

CONCLUSION

It's such a simple idea we don't know why Dave didn't think of it <g>. That it works at all is wondrous. And that it is flexible enough to bend to our needs is really more than anyone has a right to ask. As a beta, it runs like a dream. With a happy ending for once.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon PowerShot Pro1 -- Sophisticated Rebel

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PRO1/PRO1A.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

The $999 PowerShot Pro1 is the latest in a long and highly popular line of Canon digicams. Canon has long been a dominant player in the film and digital camera markets, well known for their high-quality optics, technical innovations and aggressive product development. Over the last few years, they've developed a powerful lineup of digicams, ranging from surprisingly feature-rich entry-level models, all the way to the extreme high end of professional dSLRs.

At the high end, the PowerShot G2, G3 and G5 have been perennial favorites on the Imaging Resource Web site, while at the lower end, last year's PowerShot A70 was the most popular camera on the entire site. In the SLR realm, they revolutionized the industry in 2003 with the introduction of the Digital Rebel, the first dSLR to sell for under $1000. With the introduction of the 8-megapixel Pro1, the PowerShot line has a new flagship model, with a unique 7x zoom lens, ultrasonic focus motor and an EVF/LCD viewfinder combination.

REVIEWER IMPRESSIONS

In the past, this section of the review has been a condensed description of each camera's features and functions. This time, I decided to try something a little different, collecting my impressions of the camera, which would normally be scattered throughout the review, and tell readers a bit more about how the camera feels in use.

With the identically priced Canon Digital Rebel on the market, it's a little curious Canon would produce a high-end PowerShot to compete directly against it for the same user, someone searching for a little more from a digicam and willing to pay $999 to get it. In many ways the Pro1 actually surpasses the capabilities of the Rebel. Its high-performance lens -- the first PowerShot to offer Fluorite and UD glass -- earns the distinctive red ring of Canon's professional L-series lenses, although to be frank, I still found very noticeable chromatic aberration and loss of sharpness in the corners of the Pro1's images. Its 8-megapixel sensor can capture higher resolution images than the Rebel's 6.3 megapixels. The swing-out LCD display makes the Pro1 more versatile still, offering easy capture over crowds, down low or in tight spaces where the Rebel owner would just have to point and pray. Then there's movie capability and intervalometer (time-lapse) capability. Though the Rebel could do the latter with a little programming, the Pro1's movie mode is completely out of reach.

There are other advanced features on the Pro1 that the Rebel could have but doesn't. Items like flash exposure compensation and first and second curtain flash sync, both of which seem to have been left off the Digital Rebel to keep it from competing with its big brother the EOS 10D. To understand this apparent incongruity, you have to remember the Pro1 is the top of the PowerShot line and the Rebel is the bottom of the EOS line, so some overlap is to be expected. The Pro1 was built to exceed the capabilities of the G5 and it does that with ease. The Rebel was built for quick, high-quality still-image capture with EOS lenses in a small, inexpensive package. Both have different purposes and are likely to attract different users with that same $1,000 to spend.

There will be many fence sitters nonetheless. For the occasional shooter who wants high quality and the semi-pro who appreciates the benefits of digital in the G-series digicams, the Pro1 offers a lot for the money. Because the beauty of the Pro1 is in its usability, I want to spend some time describing how it feels to use this unique camera.

Wrap your fingers around the well-formed grip and the Pro1 almost whispers, "Let's go." Representing years of PowerShot development, the control arrangement on the Pro1 is excellent. The three fingers of your right hand, middle to pinkie, are given a great hold, comfortably opposed by the sizeable thumb grip, perhaps the deepest we've seen. Your index finger rests on the chrome shutter release naturally, with the Main dial just a few millimeters away. To the immediate right of your thumb are the power control, Manual focus and AE/FE lock buttons and to the left is the Mode dial. Just down to the left are the all-important Function/Jump and Four-way navigator. These four main control groups are within easy reach for natural and quick operation. Because there's no bulge on the left of the camera, the left hand naturally cradles the underside of the camera with the thumb and index finger free to control the zoom ring surrounding the lens. To shoot low for a unique vantage, swing out the LCD and tilt it about 40 to 50 degrees and you can easily maintain this comfortable and stable grip.

When it's time to change the battery or CF card, just shift the balance of the camera to your left hand and use your right to pull the battery/CF door open. Its spring-loaded mechanism takes over just beyond 60 degrees and opens the cavity wide. A press on the battery release or CF card button brings each out for easy replacement. No fumbling with different doors or turning the camera upside down as we saw in the G-series. There's room for both thumb and forefinger to grab the CF card, unlike many of Canon's smaller cameras.

A light press on the back of the power toggle releases the lock to ease swinging the toggle left or right. A quick swing to the right puts you in Record mode as the lens comes out quickly. If you accidentally go left into Playback mode, you can just press the shutter release to go directly to Record mode, an important feature to help prevent missing that great shot. Turn the Zoom ring and the lens gradually comes out over three inches at full length. The lens has focal length markings that appear as it moves out of the camera barrel, a nice touch for those of us accustomed to thinking of focal length in terms of millimeters referenced to a 35mm frame. A press on the flash button doesn't immediately pop up the flash, but the mode icon does change on both LCDs. When you next press the shutter release halfway, the flash will pop up in time to get your shot.

The only significant drawback to the Pro1 becomes apparent at this point, which is a rather lengthy screen freeze as the camera focuses. It becomes more noticeable as you zoom in, since the camera's shutter lag becomes longer at telephoto focal lengths (like most digicams). Photographing pets and kids becomes more difficult, because the little creatures sometimes get up and move out of the frame while the camera does its focus calculations. Panning to track a moving subject is also almost impossible because of this delay. Normally this could be overcome with an optical viewfinder, but the Pro1 has an Electronic Viewfinder to accommodate its long zoom.

The zoom on the camera is indeed quiet and relatively fast. Controlled by an Ultrasonic motor which makes it quiet, its resolution isn't as high as I'd like. Turning the ring slowly moves the lens assembly in clear steps (I counted 38 steps from wide to tele). Because the zoom control actuates an electronic switch, it doesn't always respond as you turn it, as when the camera is busy. The zoom is nonetheless very fast and focus is quiet.

The AF point is the last aspect we should touch on. With a press on the Set button, it can be moved around 60 percent of the screen using the Four-way navigator, excellent for concentrating on the eyes in portraits. Spot metering can also be locked to this point via a menu setting.

With other extras like a built-in neutral density filter (to permit longer exposures under bright lighting), two macro modes (standard and Super), an extended capacity battery and features you can only get with a non-SLR digital camera, like movie mode and stitch assist mode, it's clear that the Pro1 has a place in the photo enthusiast's bag. The ability to capture RAW images, the option to use the Adobe RGB color space and the high-resolution imager round out the picture. The Pro1 seems to be an excellent choice when detail and precision are important, because its images are excellent. The photographer wanting to capture action would be better served with a dSLR in his bag though, because the electronic viewfinder and viewfinder freeze during the autofocus delay make these types of photography difficult.

TEST RESULTS

Color: Overall, the Pro1's color was accurate and well-saturated throughout my testing. Its white balance system performed very well, without any significant color casts, although the Outdoor Portrait shot ended up with just a slight yellow tint. I found Auto and Manual typically did the best job, though Daylight handled the difficult Musicians target the best. Indoors under household incandescent lighting, both Incandescent and Manual did very well, albeit with rather different looks. Incandescent produced a slightly cool-toned image, while Manual left a bit more of the warmth of the original scene. Both images look quite nice though and it's great to have a camera that gives you two excellent options under difficult incandescent lighting like this. Across the board, the Pro1 delivered very nice looking color, under a wide variety of light sources

Exposure: The Pro1 did a good job with exposure, for the most part requiring fewer exposure compensation adjustments than most cameras. The high-key lighting of the Outdoor Portrait resulted in high contrast, but the low-contrast option helped a fair bit. I'd really like to see more steps in the contrast control though, extending further in the low-contrast direction. Despite its somewhat high native contrast, the Pro1 showed good dynamic range, preserving shadow detail very well, with fairly low noise.

Resolution/Sharpness: The Pro1 performed very well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,100 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions, but offering strong detail out to at least 1,600 lines vertically, 1,650 lines horizontally. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until 2,000 lines, but even then, some detail is discernible. Overall, the Pro1's absolute resolving power was pretty much the same as the other leading 8-megapixel cameras and its corner sharpness was about in the middle of the pack as well.

Image Noise: The Pro1 delivers very clean-looking images at its minimum ISO of 50, but the noise levels increase quite steadily beyond that point. Its noise levels more or less track those of the Sony DSC-F828 and Nikon Coolpix 8700. For most users, noise will be negligible at ISO 50 and 100, noticeable but acceptable at ISO 200 and objectionable at ISO 400. On a positive note though, there's relatively little loss of subtle subject detail caused by anti-noise processing, at any ISO setting.

Close-Ups: The Pro1 performed exceptionally well in the macro category, capturing a very tiny minimum area of only 0.97x1.29 inches (25x33 millimeters). Resolution is very high, with excellent detail in the dollar bill. The coins and brooch are soft due to the shallow depth of field at the very short shooting distance (not at all the fault of the Pro1), but the level of fine detail in the bill is excellent. As is often the case with digicam macro shots, all four corners of the frame are rather soft, due to curvature of field at this very close shooting distance. While it would be better if this were not the case, almost every camera I test that shoots anywhere near this close ends up with softness in the corners of its images. The Pro1's flash is in a bad spot for macro shooting, especially given the very close range, so you'll definitely need an alternative light source for the closest macro shots.

Night Shots: The Pro1 produced clear, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all four ISO settings (although at ISO 50, the best shot was at the 1/8 foot-candle, 1.3 lux, light level). The automatic white balance setting did a very good job here as well. Color balance was just a little pinkish at the lowest light levels, but overall color was much better than average for such low-light conditions. Noise was quite low at the lower ISO equivalents, rising to a moderate level at ISO 200, becoming distracting at ISO 400. Low-light operation could be enhanced by the bright white AF-assist light, but it unfortunately is only available when the flash is active (?!). Surprisingly though, even without the AF assist light, the Pro1's hybrid AF system can focus (albeit slowly and slightly hit-or-miss) down to incredibly low light levels, actually even lower than the 1/16 foot-candle limit of my tests (!).

Viewfinder Accuracy: The electronic "optical" viewfinder was very accurate, showing 99+ percent frame accuracy at both wide-angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor was also very accurate, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Pro1's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in this regard.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion is higher than average at the wide-angle end, measuring 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, with only 0.06 percent pincushion distortion (about two pixels). Chromatic aberration is higher than I'd have expected, given the L-series glass in the Pro1's lens, with about seven or eight pixels of fairly strong coloration on either side of the target lines in the corners. It's likely that the chromatic aberration was exaggerated somewhat by corner softness, which I noticed in a few shots (most visibly in the macro shot).

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Thanks to its hybrid phase-detect/contrast-detect autofocus system, the C-8080 Wide Zoom is pretty responsive to the shutter button, with full-autofocus shutter lag ranging from 0.63-0.74 seconds, depending on the zoom setting of the lens. While that's good compared to lower-end cameras, it's somewhat slower than the equivalent lag times of 0.55-0.58 for the Olympus C-8080 and 0.46-0.55 seconds for the Nikon Coolpix 8700. It falls within the slower end of the 0.25-0.69 second range of the Sony DSC-F828, but it is slower overall than the blazing 0.39-0.45 seconds of the Minolta DiMAGE A2. The biggest problem with shutter lag on the Pro1 though, is that the LCD screen freezes while the lens is focusing. The Pro1's cycle times are quite good, faster for JPEG images than all but the Sony DSC-F828 and Minolta A2 and faster than any competing 8-megapixel models when shooting RAW-format files, thanks to the fact that its buffer memory works even in RAW mode.

Battery Life: I wasn't able to test the Pro1 power drain explicitly, because I didn't have an adapter to fit its proprietary power connector. But in its worst-case power drain mode (capture mode, with the LCD on and the camera kept awake), it lasted a very impressive 191 minutes (3 hours, 11 minutes). This is almost exactly equal to the performance of the Sony DSC-F828 and easily beats all the other 8-megapixel contenders.

CONCLUSION

Canon has produced a consistently excellent line of digicams for some years now and there are never less than two or three different Canon models on the top-10 list of models most favored by Imaging Resource readers.

The new PowerShot Pro1 kicks things up another notch, with its 8-megapixel CCD and long L-series zoom lens, with its very useful 28mm minimum equivalent focal length. It scores big points for its beautiful images, powerful exposure and focus controls, great build quality and excellent cycle times (particularly when shooting in RAW mode). In fact, the Pro1 is really the only 8-megapixel model out there that I'd consider acceptably fast to use in Raw mode. It's also great at low-light photography, its EVF/LCD viewfinder system able to show usable subject detail under very low-light conditions. For close-up work, its super-macro mode gets incredibly close, able to satisfy the most fanatic bug-hunter. It feels great in the hand too and ties with the Sony DSC-F828 for having the best battery life of any of the current crop of 8-megapixel cameras.

On the downside, I was surprised to find as much chromatic aberration and softness in the corners as I did, given the L-series lens. Its single most annoying trait though, was the way its viewfinder display freezes when the lens is focusing. This might be just me, but I found it very distracting.

Bottom line, I don't think that any of the 8-megapixel digicams amount to a slam-dunk over the others. A lot depends on your particular shooting needs and preferences. But the Pro1 will be an easy choice for anyone interested in RAW-mode shooting, is faster shot-to-shot than most of its competition and has a viewfinder that does quite a bit better than most under dim lighting. All in all, a strong contender in the 8-megapixel derby.

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New on the Site

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

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Beginners Flash: A Bright Idea for Bright Backgrounds

It was a lovely day. Bright, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. You could see the ocean sparkling out the dining room window, so James invited everyone to pose in front of it.

There was only one problem. It was so bright outside that it was impossible to get a good exposure of the view out the window and, at the same time, get a good exposure of everyone in the room.

If James filled the frame with the window, the view was correctly exposed but we were just underexposed silhouettes. If he filled the frame with us, the window was way over exposed -- just as if he had hit the backlight button on a camcorder.

What to do?

The trick is to expose for the view and turn on the flash. Your flash has several modes, one of which is Forced or Always On. Cycle through the flash modes until you see it. Then, whenever you press the shutter, the flash will fire. Even in full sun.

Frame your shot to expose the view, half-press the shutter to hold the exposure setting and reframe to include your silhouettes. Press the shutter button all the way down and the flash will fire, lighting up those smiling faces.

It may light them up too much. If so, see if your digicam lets you rachet down the flash's power to a half or a quarter of full power. If it doesn't, back up a bit and close in on the shot with your zoom so the flash has farther to travel.

James was far enough back to get the shot just by forcing the flash on. He took a look at what he'd captured and joked, "Hey, that's a really bright idea!"

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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 Canon PowerShot S60 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9935c/0

Visit the Toshiba Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f78b

Bartek asks about choosing a camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9813f/0

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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: Picture of the Year

Thank you so much for the article about the images of returning dead American soldiers taken by Tami Sicilio and the FOIA efforts of Russ Kick. I appreciated the careful weighing of the issues surrounding secrecy and the importance of open discussion (and viewing) of the issues that remain vital (or should) to all Americans -- freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

I didn't expect to read about it here, but I am glad I did.

-- Sean Graff

Picture of the Year? ... hardly. Tami Silicio should never again get a job from our government, via contractor or otherwise and Russ Kick needs to find a new profession. Just one veteran and former combat photographer's opinion.

-- Randy Janoski

Thank you (Huge Thanks) for the information about the confining of certain types of information that is in practice today. Especially, thanks for the links. I hope Tami Silicio's photo gets recognition. Her efforts speak as loudly as the image. Thanks again. The newsletter and site are, as always, good information.

-- Mark K Lough

Kudos for your eloquent article on the importance of the Silicio photo. Courage is direly needed and in the current environment, rare to find in the media. An equal kudo has to go to The Seattle Times for the courage to publish and for the perspective and support they gave.

Truth is always a threat to fraudulent entities.

-- Paul Nickelson

Your feature article "Picture of the Year" was the most moving, powerful pieces I've read lately. Excellent work!

-- Tony

RE: Popping Pills

Why are you ingesting so many pills? Are your meds strictly necessary? I know it's hard work running a site such as yours but the gallery of shots you are generating (no pun intended) should have you concerned. Go for a better diet, lead a healthier life -- a little less stimulants and junk, a little more water and fresh air. Whatever it takes. Modern medicine is a great thing in many ways but we've survived for 40,000 years plus without taking little pills. Be Well.

-- Dan (a concerned reader)

(Thanks, Dan! But don't worry -- we ourselves lead a med-free life. The story was actually about a family member's meds, although we didn't bother to get into the complexities of a case that requires such an array of magic potions. -- Editor)

RE: Video to DVD

You told one of your readers that in order to put VHS tape to a DVD he must first convert it. If he was to use a Dazzle Digital Video Creator 80, which has inputs for regular RCA audio & video connectors with a USB output, he could record directly to his hard drive, edit and then output to a DVD burner. The product does all this for $69.95 on the Pinnacle Systems Web site.

-- Michael

(Thanks, Michael. The conversion to which we were referring was from analog to digital video, but you're absolutely right. Some video boards with RCA jacks do it but any digital camcorder does, too. -- Editor)

RE: Bluetooth Alternative

Although this answer doesn't fit the question [about 4-Mp Bluetooth digicams), here's my take:

Nikon's D2H offers wireless transmission of photos while you shoot. A highly interesting feature for certain in-the-field jobs and obviously for studio work.

It's a 4-Mp camera, although not Bluetooth.

-- Dierk Haasis

(Thanks, Dierk! -- Editor)

RE: Slide Shows

After a lot of experimenting with various programs, here is my rather uncomplicated way to make photo/audio slide shows.

I use Windows Movie Maker 2 (a free download) to create a slide show with audio. With Microsoft Plus Digital Media Edition I add all sorts of neat transitions and effects (like zoom in and out). I also use Photoshop to make up templates and narration slides (similar to what you can do in Power Point).

If you want to be able to burn a VCD or a DVD, on the Save Movie Wizard screen you must highlight the "Other Settings" button to save it as an AVI file. Then I open it in My Sonic to burn it as a VCD or DVD.

Surprisingly I can view the VCD version on my very inexpensive APEX DVD player but a friend could not view it on her more elaborate DVD player. It's cheaper to burn CDs rather than DVDs.

There are some pretty good Web sites for Movie Maker 2 and I learned a lot from a book called "Windows Movie Maker Zero to Hero." At this point I'm not adding video files although I have included some brief video clips taken with my digicam.

-- Paulette Conlan

(Thanks, Paulette. As you point out, if your display device is a television, you can put on quite a show using video editing software to create a movie of your stills. And you can distribute the DVD project on either CD or DVD, although not all DVD players handle CDs. -- Editor)

RE: Screen Protector

To avoid scratching the LCD monitor on my digicam, I bought Avery 3276 Window Decals. Big savings ($10.99) on what is basically the same product sold to protect LCD screens on a PDA. Do wish I had thought of this sooner, as my much used and cherished Olympus C-3000Z was scratched in normal use. The package contains six 8.5x11 sheets that are easy to remove and leave no residue.

For what it is worth, your e-letter is worth its weight in gold. Hope this will be helpful to all the other digicam users out there.

-- Tommy Cronan

(Thanks, Tommy! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

For the first time, Windows users can tap into iView Multimedia's (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) $199 iView MediaPro and $49.99 Media asset managers. The version 2.5 update for Mac and Windows features an improved user interface, enhanced folder and file management and Adobe XMP support. A free iView Catalog Reader is also available for both platforms.


Are your photos blurry in iPhoto? Check Apple's "Picture look blurry in iPhoto" Knowledge Base note (http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=93807) for three workarounds.


Support Farm (http://www.supportfarm.com) provides support and project help to visual effects artists and other media professionals. The cost of each support call is $2 per minute after a free online consultation.


Funtigo (http://www.funtigo.com) has debuted a new version of its photo sharing site that includes music and group email features. The new features are provided at no extra costs as part of Funtigo's normal subscription plans, which range from $1.49 to $7.99 per month.


Canto (http://www.canto.com) has released its free Cumulus WebAlbum, a tool to create Web-based albums built on static HTML pages. With WebAlbum, users can select records in Cumulus to convert the originals for display on the Web. Albums created with WebAlbum can be uploaded to a Web server with the integrated FTP client.


Roxio (http://www.roxio.com) has announced Toast 6 will soon be DVD Double Layer compatible. The new DVD +R DL capabilities will let users burn nearly twice the data (from 4.7-GB to 8.5-GB) or record more than three hours of MPEG-2 video content on a single DVD +R DL disc.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Version Cue CS 1.0.1 Update to address "several issues." The company also released its Photoshop CS MultiProcessor Support Update for OS X 10.2.4 to address "an issue that caused image corruption when rotating bitmap images and an issue that caused a program error when using the Magic Wand tool."


Sybex (http://www.sybex.com) has published its $29.99 Photoshop CS Accelerated: A Full-Color Guide.


David Brooks of Shutterbug Magazine has published the second edition of his $20 ebook, Digital Darkroom Resource CD. The CD contains 16 chapters totaling 227 pages in PDF format for $20 plus $2 shipping and handling. Prepaid mail orders may be made to David at PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 8.0 with support for reading raw files from many digicams, an improved interface and support for per-color analog gain on Nikon scanners.

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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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