The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 12 11 June 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 125th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We've grown attached to MediaPro, especially now that it's cross-platform. Excuse our second Sony review in a row, but this one's got a gorgeous LCD and a very fast shutter. We just looked at the pictures for our book review, but we tell you how to phone in your own photos to a gallery. Enjoy!


TOPICS

SPONSORS
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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: iView MediaPro -- What the Pros Use

Sometimes you need a second opinion. In the midst of our review of MediaPro, iView Multimedia's asset manager (and a little bit more), we asked our better half Joyce to take a look at a catalog of over 12,200 images we've collected since 1993 in PhotoCD and JPEG formats.

"Wow, this is cool!" she confirmed.

What she especially liked was being able to scan through legible thumbnails of every one of our images not on film. "I forgot we had some of these," she confessed.

The nice thing was that we just had to burn a CD with our 64-MB catalog and the free iView Catalog Player (for Mac or Windows, or both) to share this treasure. The competent Player also let her search for Thanksgiving images or Scrapbook pictures or any Exif field she might have wanted (like the capture date). And all without keywording, since the Player, like MediaPro, can search on the original image's path name -- and our path names always include the date and a descriptive slug.

Turns out this is just the tip of the iceberg, but that is where you plant the flag.

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?

Based in London, iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) was founded in 1996 by Yan Calotychos. He developed the software to manage the scan, translation subtitles and voice recordings he juggled in his day job producing multimedia CD-ROMs (remember those?).

He quit his day job.

iView got its bearings as Macintosh freeware, grew into a shareware product and propagated itself by being bundled with Roxio's Toast and Nikon's digicams. Recently, it ventured into new territory with its first Windows release.

We used some of those early versions (when we had just a few hundred images, most of which we wanted to forget we took) and have been studying MediaPro since version 2.x was released.

In addition to its $199 MediaPro and free Catalog Reader, the company also offers the capable $49.99 Media asset manager, limited to formats other than Raw and catalogs to 8,000 entries. See http://www.iview-multimedia.com/products/compare.php for a comparison with Media Pro.

IN PERSPECTIVE

To be imperfectly honest, it's hard to place MediaPro. On the one hand, programs like iPhoto and Adobe Photoshop Album do an admirable job of handling the organizing and sharing demands of the average user. On the other, not even the 16-cylinder asset manager Canto Cumulus quite does what MediaPro can do.

Among asset managers, we've reviewed Cumulus, QPict and Extensis Portfolio. It seems as if we had to learn German to use Cumulus and, while we have fond memories of Portfolio (especially its ability to keyword on import), it's been broken a long time for OS X users. We look forward to reviewing version 7, but the delay is distressing. QPict, on the other hand, has only one fault. It isn't cross platform.

You might think we're being picky. But then there's MediaPro (see our illustrated review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/IVM/IVM.HTM).

As Apple moved the target, iView refocused its sight. It is, hands-down, the most actively developed asset manager available. And now it is not only cross-platform, but its free catalog readers (which also play perfectly serviceable slide shows) are available for both Macintosh and Windows. We've long sought a simple cross-platform slide show viewer we could burn on the CDs of our images we leave behind with hosts, friends and family.

But as we used MediaPro, we came to appreciate its design hallmarks:

No wonder we keep seeing MediaPro at presentations by pros like Jeff Schewe and Greg Gorman.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

MediaPro on Macintosh requires a PowerPC, OS 9.1 or OS X, CarbonLib 1.5, QuickTime 6, 8-MB RAM on OS 9 and 13M free disk space. On Windows, it requires a Pentium class processor, Windows 98/ME/200/XP, DirectX 7.0, QuickTime 6, Internet Explorer 5.5, 128-MB RAM and 12-MB free disk space.

NEW IN 2.5

Since it's been around so long, a rundown of the features new to version 2.5 might be helpful. If you're new to the program, skip ahead.

User interface improvements include redesigned toolbar icons, Safari-style tabs on the Mac version, state navigation (like your Browser's back button) in the Organize Panel, which itself can be configured.

Support for Adobe's Extensible Metadata Platform standard means the program can now read and write XMP annotations. XMP fields are mapped to MediaPro fields so files annotated in Photoshop 6 using IPTC fields and files annotated in Photoshop CS using XMP data would appear correctly annotated in MediaPro. Catalogs can also be exported as XML data files.

The Organize Panel has been reorganized into a Catalog Index (the old Field Finder), with Color Labels and Catalog Sets. The Folders Panel has been renamed Catalog Folders as part of the Organize Panel.

You can customize Color Label names and colors.

File format support now includes Kodak SLRn and SLRc digicams and improved PDF/EPS support.

Built-in JPEG compression of thumbnails reduces catalog size over 50 percent compared to MediaPro 1.5.

INSTALLATION & UPDATES

Installation was state of the art. On both Macintosh OS X and Windows XP, a double click took care of everything, without disturbing anything. U.S. English, French, German and Japanese language support is tailored to the default language of your operating system (or the last language used).

To complete installation, we entered our license number in the License menu.

In addition to the PDF manual available online, iView offers additional resources on its Web site, including tutorials, customer support, forums and updates retrievable from a Check for Updates menu command. Did we say state of the art?

WORKING WITH MEDIAPRO

MediaPro creates a catalog file, which can grow quite large, that is simply a database of your asset collection. Each record represents one file somewhere and may include the size of the file, the dimensions, a thumbnail, keywords, all sorts of data. You can even add up to 16 custom fields of your own.

Assets may be image files, sound files, HTML files, movies, anything. MediaPro understands 70 basic file formats and over 50 advanced file formats (Raw, PDF, fonts, etc.). The Windows version, missing JPEG 2000 support, lags a bit behind the Mac in format support.

"It would be nice," Joyce elbowed us, "if these thumbnails were a little larger." Indeed, they might have been. We used the default 96x96 pixel size, assuming iView knew more about it than we did. It's a quite serviceable size, easily identifiable. But if we realized we were going to distribute the 64-MB catalog, we might have made them twice as big, even three times larger. MediaPro can make thumbnails up to 640x640, which is the resolution digicams bragged about in 1998.

Thumbnails are a world of their own. Image editors are fond of embedding them. Digicams can hardly resist. And MediaPro is happy to pick them up or render its own (which, it notes, are better and smaller). You even have your choice of resampling methods (nearest neighbor, bilinear and bicubic).

That's about the only decision you have to make. There's no need to configure a catalog (although you certainly may, adding a description, a password, encryption and file locking).

With the design work out of the way, you're ready to get to work.

THE WORKSPACE

MediaPro's working window includes a menu bar, a toolbar below it, the Info and Organize Panels on the left and the Viewing Area on the right. The Panel dividers can be dragged to adjust their width and height.

The Viewing Area can display three different views: List, Thumbnail and Media.

IMPORTING

Our sample catalog was built by dragging one CD after another into the Viewing Area. It took about an hour, much of which we spent admiring ourselves in the shiny reflective surface of the discs.

But MediaPro is just as happy to download images from your cabled camera or inserted flash card. It will even delete them from the card, if you ignore our advice to only use the camera to delete.

Or you can tell MediaPro to watch a particular folder and, when new images show up, catalog them.

FILE INFORMATION

We were content with having a thumbnail of every digital image in the house. For about 10 minutes. Then we wanted to see certain collections. A graduation, a Thanksgiving, a Christmas, the gang at the rehab clinic, you know.

In addition to the thumbnail and location of the original file, the catalog stores information relevant to the type of file it is and tags to organize it. It picks up the embedded file info (a.k.a. metadata) on import but you can add tags afterwards. The Info Panel displays all this at a glance, with expandable main headings for Media Info, Photo Exif/Cue Points/Movie Tracks, Annotations, Keywords and more.

Annotations are actually the 19 pre-defined International Press and Telecommunications Council fields, which Adobe has rolled into its XMP standard. MediaPro can read XMP metadata in JPEGs, TIFFs, PNGs and native Photoshop files.

While the IPTC specification includes a copyright field, it's not the same one used by Photoshop to mark the filename in the title bar when you open the image. Adobe also uses a custom flag to tell whether an image is copyrighted or not. This proprietary copyright data is aggravating, to put it mildly. We see no way to add it outside Photoshop. And using the IPTC field makes no impression on Photoshop.

But just a minute. Where are these annotations stored? What good is copyright information stored in a catalog file? How about writing it to the copyrighted file?

Well, you can do that if you synchronize catalog items with their originals. When you sync annotations using the Action menu, IPTC, QuickTime and XMP metadata are written to and imported from the original file. So you can batch annotate your catalog, then let MediaPro update your originals without having to open and close each file.

Fortunately, you can Auto Fill annotations by filling one out (say, your copyright) and saving it as an Auto Fill using a drop down menu in the Info Panel. Then just select the records to apply it to and use the drop down menu to pick the Auto Fill. An auto-completion feature is also available to finish typing city, state and country names, for example.

The information cribbed from metadata is extensive enough to obviate the need for much keywording. Annotation of copyright is a bright idea, but the field is problematic. Still, MediaPro makes this an easy job. Portfolio makes it a touch easier, but not much.

FOLDER MANAGEMENT

MediaPro's Folder Panel lists the folders containing your cataloged images. You can click on a folder to see what it contains in the Viewing Area. If you use our patented folder naming convention of date and event, this can be a quick way to find a set of photos.

But you can also manage your folders from the Folder Panel, opening, moving or revealing both files and folders, renaming and batch renaming files, resetting or updating paths, creating or renaming folders and deleting either the catalog reference or the original.

MAKE

One of the more interesting Menu options is Make. From this menu, you can run a Slide Show, burn a backup CD, create an HTML gallery or contact sheet and do various format conversions and metadata extractions. Let's look at the two most exciting.

Slide shows (also available in the free Reader) really don't require any attention -- but they do need access to the originals. Which wasn't feasible with our 12,200+ image catalog. Still, when we copy images off a card to our hard disk, we drag the new folder into the Viewing Area to use the JPEG rotation action to correctly orient them and then we run a slide show. A very nice slide show with cross fades to a black background. Which can be saved as a QuickTime movie.

Creating a Web gallery is just as easy, providing eight different themes (plus any you create yourself). This popular option is well implemented (we used it for our last Seybold report). It's a great way to use the free disk space allocated to your account by your Internet service provider. You probably have 10-MB sitting around doing nothing. Just upload a Web gallery and send the URL to all your accomplices.

IMAGE EDITING

We like to linger over our image editing, performing feats of magic and undoing them at will. But for those images that need just a quick and routine fix, MediaPro provides a number of tools.

In the Media tab of the Viewing Area, display any image in the catalog whose original is within reach (not archived offline) and click on the Image Editing tool. A small window pops up with a thumbnail and list of tools. You can crop, resize, rotate, sharpen edges, remove grain, remove red eye, convert to duotone, adjust saturation, adjust brightness, invert photo negative, auto enhance or use a preset enhancement.

Select a tool and another window pops up, with any necessary controls, to let you complete the edit. Very simple, easy, effective.

SCRIPTING

MediaPro has extensive AppleScript support but Windows users will have to wait a bit more for Visual Basic support. A number of AppleScripts come with the Mac version, which includes a Scripts menu option. In addition, MediaPro plays nicely with other applications, integrating itself to the extent you need and no more.

CONCLUSION

Sometimes we feel like a knight errant trying to find the perfect cataloging program while image editing software adds their features behind our back. But even Photoshop CD's File Browser could learn a few tricks from MediaPro. It's been honed by battle against real demons and doesn't require seminars, tutorials and videos to appreciate.

It isn't perfect. There are some issues with Canon Raw files (why did Canon name some with a .TIF extension?) and catalogs greater than 16,895 images (but that's a bug to be fixed in the next release).

But we like it. We like that it's a standalone rather than integrated tool that lets us do a few things we have to do without imposing a certain world view on us. For a long time, we used it solely to rotate images and run slide shows and it didn't complain. Then we used it to make HTML galleries. Now we use it to distribute collections of images with a cross-platform reader that can sort, find and show the pictures. And now that we've harnessed ImageMagick to AppleScript and Perl on Mac OS X, we like that we can add our new tools to it, too.

MediaPro does a lot of little things right. Don't be surprised if this useful tool starts to grow on you. As a very clever person once put it, "Wow, this is cool!"

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Feature: Sony DSC-W1 -- Bright & Fast

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/W1/W1A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-W1 is among the latest in a long (and incredibly broad) line of digicams that reflect Sony's commanding position in the marketplace. Sony's P-series digicams have been hugely popular in the compact and subcompact markets, but Sony has also recently introduced three cameras that divert significantly from the P-series form factor: the rangefinder-style V1, the ultra-slim T1 and now the mid-size W1.

The W1 is a more rangefinder-styled P100 with a few features of the V1 and T1 thrown in for good measure. Most of the functions and the 3x zoom lens and small built-in flash are like those on the P100. However, the W1 has the 2.5 inch LCD screen of the T1, as well as the more standard rangefinder body of the V1, which lets it accept accessory lenses. But unlike the other models (which use InfoLithium batteries), the W1 uses two high-capacity NiMH AA rechargeable batteries.

The W1 has a 5.0-megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom lens and an expanded range of seven preset Scene modes to choose from. It also offers a Manual mode for greater exposure control if desired, though it has no Shutter or Aperture priority mode. The 3x zoom lens (with Macro mode) is great for recording a wide range of subjects, from close-up portraits to scenic vistas. Like the P100 and most other new Cybershots, the W1 has greater speed than previous cameras thanks to the company's new Real Image Processor. The identical Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar lens on the P100 also graces the W1.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Though Sony's P-series digicams, with their unique long-and-slim design, are quite popular, launching a camera like the $399 W1 is probably a smart move because it has a more traditional shape, like many of its competitors. The P-series is so small and slim that some consumers might not consider them serious digital cameras. Of course, they'd be wrong. Sony's P-series models offer excellent image quality, feature sets and performance -- but impressions at retail count for a lot. The W1 has a more serious look that more conservative buyers, upgrading from a film camera, are likely to be comfortable with. Sony leads in the digicam market with its current designs, but it seldom hurts to attract more customers.

A little taller and thicker than the P100, the W1 is also not as wide, taking up only a little more volume overall. Its major advantage over the P100 is the 2.5-inch LCD that absolutely dominates the back of the camera. To get this fine and useful display used to require purchase of the $550 T1. Now it can be had for $150 less in an equally capable camera, plus the addition of something the T1 lacks: an optical viewfinder.

Though the LCD is huge, Sony somehow managed to keep all the necessary functions close at hand and easy to operate. Grab the camera in your right hand and your middle and third finger naturally grab the aggressively raised and angled ridge on the front of the camera. Your thumb finds its home over the nine raised bumps nestled between the monitor and menu button on the left and the soft but large ridge on the right. Above is the zoom control and below the Five-way navigator; all within easy reach, but the buttons are firm enough that they're not easily activated by accident. It's not impossible, though, so be careful, especially when shooting vertically, because your thumb can move and press a button unintentionally.

The mode dial's position on top of the camera, surrounding the shutter button, is both good and bad. It's less likely to be accidentally changed here and its firmer detents keep it from being spun while in a pocket, as sometimes happens with the P100. It's just not as natural a position for the shutter release. I prefer it a little further forward and perhaps at an angle. Still, there's no question where the shutter is and it's still easy enough to get to with your index finger.

Pressing the nearby power button produces a fairly swift reaction. The LCD comes on, the camera chimes and the lens assembly extends out faster than most other cameras. The effect is futuristic enough that most new buyers will probably spend a few minutes turning the camera on and off just to hear and watch the lens come out. When you start to think about taking a picture, however, the experience quickly becomes all about that wonderful 2.5 inch LCD display. More like a frame in a gallery than an LCD viewfinder, you'll be able to quickly acquire subjects and better frame your shots. The display appears to be one of the new generation of "transflective" units, meaning that it's surprisingly usable in very bright lighting, even direct sunlight. This is often a severe limitation of rear-panel LCD digicam displays, one that the DSC-W1 avoids entirely. Reviewing images is also easier with the larger display, making the camera's 5x Playback zoom especially meaningful.

A half-press on the shutter begins the focus operation. In low light, a bright orange LED illuminates the scene when necessary, reaching quite far. The fast Multi-point AF determines the closest object and focuses quickly, showing brackets around the areas that will be in focus. Everything about the camera says quality and performs competently. The only possible exception is the oddly placed Memory Stick door, positioned on the left of the camera body with the AC and A/V jacks. It's not just the location, but the mechanism that holds the door shut. It closes tight, to be sure, but there's no slide lock for added security. Time will tell how well this arrangement wears. It's not bad, just a questionable place to put your multi-hundred dollar Memory Stick Pro.

The battery door releases with a push on a small plastic arrow and the batteries immediately fall free, so you'll need to have a hand ready (dropping rechargeable batteries often renders them useless). Included with the camera are two Sony NiMH AA Stamina batteries, delivering 2100 mAh at 1.2V. Not bad. They'll last about 170 minutes of on-time, capturing up to 340 full-resolution images. (Sony's official ratings, not mine.) With Alkaline batteries, that number drops sharply to 35 minutes of battery life and around 70 images, but at least you can use them in a pinch. Sony includes a charger and two batteries. I suggest you buy at least two more.

TEST RESULTS

For those of you who read my review of the P100 in the last issue, the comments below are virtually identical. The two cameras apparently share the same lens, sensor and internal electronics. But there are minor differences in image quality between them.

Color: The W1 produced good color, with only a slight color cast with each white balance setting. It did particularly well in the Outdoor Portrait, with natural-looking skin tones and a flawless handling of the difficult blue flowers. Indoors though, it had a little trouble with household incandescent lighting, leaving more of the warmth of the lighting in its final images than I like. I felt the W1 actually did a slightly better job with outdoor color rendition than the P100, although the differences were very slight.

Exposure: As was the case with the P100, the W1 seemed more accurate than most cameras, requiring less exposure compensation adjustment under difficult lighting conditions than usual. Like most consumer digicams, its default tone curve is somewhat contrasty. But its low-contrast adjustment is much more effective than most cameras, taming even the extreme contrast of the Outdoor Portrait.

Resolution/Sharpness: As you'd expect from its 5-megapixel sensor and sharp lens, the W1 performed well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height vertically and around 800~900 lines horizontally. I found strong detail out to about 1,250 lines vertically and 1,300 lines horizontally. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until 1,600-1,700 lines.

Image Noise: Overall, I was surprised and impressed by how clean the W1's images were, with noise levels lower than I expect from a 5-megapixel camera, let alone a compact model. But, the low noise came at the cost of flattened subject detail in areas of subtle contrast. (Very visible in Marti's hair and features in the Outdoor Portrait.) There was also some blooming in areas where a bright, highly saturated color abutted a dark area. I give the W1 high marks for low noise levels, but wince at how much subject detail is swallowed up by its noise-suppression processing.

Close-Ups: The W1 performed quite well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.31x1.74 inches. Resolution was high, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill, coins and brooch (though the coins and brooch are soft due to the close range and limited depth of field). All four corners of the frame are somewhat soft, an unfortunate limitation of digicam lenses in macro mode. The W1's flash almost throttled down enough for the macro area, but was still a little bright and was blocked by the lens in the lower portion of the frame.

Night Shots: The W1 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all three ISO settings. The W1 does an excellent job controlling image noise here. Even at ISO 400, noise is only moderate. A great job overall. The bright autofocus-assist lamp lets the camera focus on nearby objects even in complete darkness. Even without the AF assist, the P100 can focus (albeit slowly) at light levels as dark as about 1/8 foot-candle. Quite impressive.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The W1's optical viewfinder was a little tight, showing about 82 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 86 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor proved to be a little loose, showing just slightly more than what made it into the final frame. Still, frame accuracy was near 100 percent.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the W1 was about average at the wide-angle end, with about 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end did much better, showing only 0.04 percent pincushion distortion (about one pixel). The Zeiss lens quality showed in the P100's images, which were sharper from corner to corner than those of most cameras. There was also relatively little chromatic aberration, as the color fringes around the resolution target elements, while a little broad, were pretty faint.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: The W1 is a very fast little camera, with really excellent shutter response (0.30-0.60 seconds) and cycle times (a blazing 1.24 seconds/frame) and very quick startup and shutdown times. But it penalizes you for pressing the shutter button too quickly to take a second shot, just sitting there until you release the shutter button. While a number of cameras do this, it's a pretty significant design flaw. Overall though, the W1 is one of the fastest cameras on the market, regardless of size or price range, with its cycle time performance distinguishing it from the P100.

Battery Life: Because it uses a custom power connector, I couldn't perform my usual exacting measurements of the W1's power drain. Its sister camera, the P100, had excellent battery life though. And Sony claims 170 minutes in capture mode with the LCD on, 290 minutes with it off and 340 minutes in playback mode, all with NiMH AA cells. These are excellent run times, particularly for a camera powered by two AA cells, but I still highly recommend purchasing another set or two of high-capacity NiMH batteries.

CONCLUSION

Functionally, the Sony DSC-W1 is a dead ringer for the slightly more compact P100 in a differently shaped and slightly larger body with a larger 2.5 inch LCD. It competes with models like Canon's PowerShot S500 in the subcompact category and should be a strong player there, with its excellent mix of features, functions, small size and image quality.

It provides more manual exposure control than most compacts, yet is easy to use in full-auto mode with six preprogrammed scene modes to handle tricky subjects. Its photos show excellent color and sharpness, although it shares with its P100 sibling some white-balance weakness under household incandescent lighting. Likewise, it achieves its surprisingly low image noise levels at the expense of image detail in areas of subtle contrast. But it did a very good job with dynamic range and highlight detail using its optional low-contrast setting. The DSC-W1 also has very good macro capability and is unusually capable when shooting under low light conditions. Finally, while I couldn't test its power consumption directly, Sony's specs and my own experience both suggest very good battery life.

Add in a surprisingly fast shutter response, very fast shot-to-shot cycle times and a (relatively) huge and very readable 2.5" LCD display and you've got a real winner with fewer tradeoffs than you'd expect to find in a camera packed into such a small case size.

If you're looking for a great take-anywhere camera with great versatility and excellent color and tonality, the Sony DSC-W1 should be an easy choice. A Dave's Pick, although I have to say that I'd be happier with it if its noise-suppression processing were a bit less aggressive.

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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: The Art of Photographing Women

Of course, we assumed there was a companion title (The Art of Photographing Men) but our research failed to find it. Apparently, the more profitable sequel would actually be The Art of Photographing Cats.

Actually, the rampant sexism aside, Kevin Ames' harnessing of Photoshop CS to the practical application of, um, glamour photography, is, well, enlightening. He breaks the topic into two chunks: workflow and projects. Just to prove he's serious.

Workflow covers some meaty subjects, including bit depth, color correction, lighting, archiving, proofing and using Photoshop in a non-destructive way. Certainly, no one would quibble with that agenda. That it's charmingly illustrated, with downloadable working files, is only a plus.

Projects takes those basics into the real world. Well, we're kidding, really. The first project is making a perfectly well-proportioned lass into a Barbie. The second considers the fate of the Pinup. Then Ames sobers up with portraiture, retouching and black and white before losing it with lingerie, location and swimwear.

It's a pity, really. Under this veneer of shallow prurient interest, Ames actually puts the Photoshop pedal to the metal. This, he shows us, is how the thing works when you actually have something to do. And you can download images from his Web site to work alongside him.

If he'd only been a livestock photographer or the official NASCAR photographer or John Cleese's Web photographer (http://www.thejohncleese.com), we'd be falling all over ourselves to recommend this title.

As it is, we'll just have to give it a little further consideration.

Photoshop CS: the Art of Photographing Women by Kevin Ames, 352 pages, published by Wiley Publishing, in paperpack at $34.99.
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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 Minolta Dimage Xg at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee98f20/0

Visit the Canon Digital Rebel Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee946e1

Kris asks about long exposure shots with the Sony F717 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee99419/0

Ann asks about buying in the UK or the US at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee98c34/0

Visit the Pro Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b4

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Just for Fun: You Call Us

"Don't call us, we'll call you," the snicker behind the cigar says in the classic Hollywood brush-off line. The undiscovered actor shuffles out of the studio to a life of telemarketing.

No more, friend.

Just hurry over to San Francisco's Rx Gallery (http://www.rxgallery.com) and register for the Mobile Phone Photography Show, running through June 18. Then use your cell phone to shoot pictures and upload them to the gallery. Take whatever you want, send as many as you like. Call. Call often.

The exhibit, curated by Kurt Bigenho and Gregory Cowley, includes a Webcam (http://www.rxgallery.com/mpps/live/index.html) to peek in, but evening hours on Thursday through Saturday reveal the most action. The gallery is otherwise open by appointment, although the show can be seen from the street at 132 Eddy via a window-display photo booth. Too bad the Web site doesn't show a few shots.

"What will people do with a camera they take with them everywhere? What type of photography will non-photographers produce?" the curators want to know.

Don't just tell them, show them! It could be your big break.

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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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RE: Epson R800 & Epson 960

Saw your current review and it sounded very similar to the 960 that I've had for several months now. Do you know of a features comparison anywhere?

Also, have you any info -- or pointers -- for getting/using third party professional printers to get (single copy) large format prints on watercolor paper or canvas?

-- Bob McCormick

(The two models are very close (but you do have a built-in sheet cutter on the 960). There's a half-picoliter difference in droplet size but the biggest difference is the inks. The R800 uses pigments and the 960 dyes. So the R800 can make those 75-year archival lightfast claims while the 960 claims a more modest 27 years.... Large format requires only an Epson 2000/2200 or 4000, which many professional photographers use to make exhibition prints. You may find a photo lab that offers the service, too. -- Editor)

RE: File Browser Flaw

I am familiarizing myself with Photoshop CS. Its new File Browser is a great improvement over Photoshop 7's, but a single shortcoming renders it still quite useless to me.

There seems to be no way to have it show under each thumbnail the pixel dimensions (say 2592x1944) and file size (say 2,300 KB). This leaves me therefore, as before, still dependent on the File Browser of ACDSee 6, using Photoshop as its image editor.

Do you know how to make CS show this additional information? The Metadata file properties is surely too slow and cumbersome a way to find such basic stuff.

-- Ron Lightbourn

(It's not so much a shortcoming, Ron, as a different design. As you note, that information is available in the metadata pane of the File Browser, rather than in the thumbnail display. -- Editor)

Mike, as always I appreciate your reply, but how can it not be a shortcoming? I usually have two or more versions of many of my images -- a large JPG from my digital camera, a small JPEG for emailing, a TIFF neg and a tweaked TIFF. As thumbnails they all look more or less alike. I need to be able to choose at a glance the one I want. Surely other serious photographers want this too?

-- Ron Lightbourn

(Ah, try the Search option (the binoculars icon). You can restrict the view by file size and/or Exif metadata. So you can quickly sample the File Browser view for thumbnails, tweaked TIFFs, etc. The File Browser does show filenames, so if that's not acceptable, you might consider some filenaming scheme that makes the content more obvious. You can batch rename your images in the FB, as well. -- Editor)

RE: SKINS

Kirk Lyford's best piece of magic since his venerable TestStrip is a plug-in called SkinTune (http://www.phototune.com/skintune_intro.html). What it does is the necessary and subtle skin-tone adjustments that Photoshop is a bit too heavy-handed with. I grabbed one of my husband's photos of two white men with different skin tones plus one black man -- always a nightmare for a photographer. Either the white folk look like they've been exsanguinated or the black folk end up disappearing into darkness. After running it through SkinTune, all faces were properly exposed and, as a bonus, a slight color cast in the picture disappeared.

-- Barbara Coultry

(We'll have to put that on our list. As you note, the tonal range makes the subject difficult. But that's what image editing is for. Contrast masking can help and we've been pleased with the results from the Skin memory color button in iCorrect. -- Editor)

RE: Olympus in 3D

I have an Olympus 750. It can take two pictures on a single frame. Is this a common feature on digital cameras? I would hate to be reinventing a well-known wheel. Using this feature and a slide bar, I take two pictures of the same view, sliding the camera between the two exposures. I use my compact HP printer to make a 4x6 print. The print is perfect stereogram for a 3D view of the scene using an old fashion Holmes stereoscope.

-- Sam Leber

(Great idea, Sam! No, not all digicams can combine two shots in a single frame. Pentax takes 3D imaging seriously (even sold an adapter for their film SLRs and now many of their digicams have a 3D mode with a plastic viewer included). -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Picasa (http://www.lifescapeinc.com) has introduced the BloggerBot. "When you use Hello to send pictures to BloggerBot, it resizes them and sends them straight to your Blogger-powered Web site. It automatically formats everything, so you don't need to know any HTML. Just send a picture to BloggerBot and type in the story behind it. BloggerBot does all the hard work," explained CEO Lars Perkins.


eSoft Imaging (http://www.diptool.com) has released its $34.95 Foto Balloon 1.0 [W] to add cartoon-style balloons to images.


Kodak's Austin Development Center has released its $99.95 Digital GEM Airbrush [MW], a Photoshop plug-in to smooth skin surfaces without blurring or affecting the detail of important facial features.


ClearHeart (http://www.photogia.com) has released PhotoGia' [MW], a set of Photoshop Actions designed to simplify the image enhancement process. The $199.99 PhotoGia' can be purchased at an introductory price of $99.99 until July 15.


The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has released Version 2.0 of ColorWasher [W], a Photoshop plug-in for correcting colors, contrast, exposure and saturation in 8-bit and 16-bit photos.


Extensis (http://www.extensis.com) has released its $199.95 asset manager Portfolio 7 and $3,499.95 Portfolio Server 7 for Macintosh.


Express Digital (http://www.expressdigital.com) has announced Express Digital Days at authorized dealer locations in North America on June 23, July 21 and Aug. 25 to demonstrate the power of software in the digital workflow. Participants may register to win one of three digital backpacks from Lightware.


Photoflex has just overhauled its Web site (http://www.photoflex.com) to provide customer-friendly information on its lighting products. The site also offers drawings for Photoflex products and tuition to its Web Photo School. Next drawing is Sept. 15 and offers five prizes, including a $519.95 OctoDome3 Kit and a $341.95 LitePanel(tm) Kit.


PixelGenius (http://www.pixelgenius.com) has released PhotoKit-EL 1.0 [MW], a Photoshop Elements 2.0 plug-in that replicates traditional darkroom effects like tone adjustment, color balance adjustment and conversion to grayscale, along with other effects such as sharpening and graduated tone adjustment.


Carsten Blum (http://www.bluem.net) has updated Exif Untrasher to version 1.3.6.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released its free Adjusted Refresh [M] plug-in for Photoshop CS to speed updates in filter previews.


Pixingo (http://www.pixingo.com/photofirst) has released PhotoFirst [M] to organize, annotate, RAW convert, compare, enhance and create professional, client-ready output from digital photographs.

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Mike Pasini, Editor
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