The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 14 9 July 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 127th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Take a trip with us through airport security with your camera, then review Olympus's top of the line long zoom with Dave. We divulge a simple trick to get good color in flower portraits and see an old digicam in harness at the Wound Care Center.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Olympus
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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: Carry-On Camera Crew

We got a jump on the summer travel season recently to attend a nephew's graduation from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. A lot's changed since we last traveled with our Average digicam but we survived to tell the tale.

It was the kind of graduation that's more action than talk. A video presentation for the visual arts (everything from animation to sculpture, including photography) was followed by a jazz ensemble, a little vocal (concert choir, vocal jazz, opera, gospel), the orchestra (Turandot!), a dance presentation, a theatrical interlude and a little musical theater.

So, despite our solemn vow to always travel light, we couldn't resist taking some equipment along to capture the action. Our Average digicam, of course, and a palm-sized camcorder. We knew other relatives were bringing various digicams and various camcorders. And they knew how to use them, so there would be a lot of images to share.

But because we were flying, we wanted to leave the laptop at home. Were we planning to mooch CDs and burn time from our hosts (again)? No, no, no. We decided to bring just the Roadstor (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/RDS/RDS.HTM) to copy everyone's memory cards to CDs, one for everyone. That completed our list.

RESEARCH

These days, of course, travel isn't the adventure it once was. Mark Twain Roughing It, Jack London on the Snark, Charles Lindburg on a single tank of gas, Jack Kerouac on the fumes alone.

Nope, these days, you have to check in through the security industry. The Transportation Security Administration (http://www.tsa.gov) provides a checklist that includes dressing and packing suggestions as well as airport reminders. It's a good place to start your research, but it left a great deal to be desired.

The best approach is to visit your airline's Web site. What we learned there was everything we had to know. And, in fact, things played out exactly as promised by the airline, if not the TSA.

Bag size was one issue. Different airlines fly different planes configured differently for different routes. Generally, there's overhead bin storage for your large bag and storage under the seat in front of you for a smaller one.

There's checked luggage, too, but we were keen to avoid that on principle. If you do check luggage, note it must be unlocked. Don't even bother bringing the locks, if you want to see them again. Locks once promised to make checked luggage a bit more secure (than the unlocked kind, at least) but these days expect even your checked bags to be opened.

The TSA has a number of recommendations for checked luggage, but the interesting ones are 1) not to check film, 2) put personal belongings in clear plastic bags that can be inspected without being handled and 3) don't overpack (so the screener can close it up again). Expect your airline to restrict the number, size and weight of your checked luggage, charging for excess baggage.

PACKING STRATEGY

We looked up our airline's carry-on restrictions before we packed. Who needs surprises at the airport? We learned we could take one 10x16x24-inch bag plus a personal bag like a purse, briefcase, camera, food container or laptop bag. Some airlines don't count purses and others let you bring a separate equipment bag, so find out first.

We enthusiastically recommend Rick Steves' packing tips (http://www.ricksteves.com). You can be happy with just one carry-on bag. We didn't have to do any washing for a weekend, but what we brought could have worked for a month with a few suds. That left us with one more bag to "spend."

Which provided an interesting dilemma. The Roadstor has a nice case, perfect for travel, but it wouldn't accommodate a digicam or camcorder (although a PDA/camphone would fit). So we stuffed it with cables, batteries and cards and wondered where to stash our cameras and other essential gear.

By bringing extra charged batteries for our short trip, we didn't have to bring a charger. NiMH rechargeables do lose a little punch each day, but this was just for a weekend. In fact, one set of batteries lasted three days. In a pinch, a quick trip to the drugstore for four AA lithiums would have taken care of any emergency. We did bring one proprietary battery but the charging brick was small enough to drop in our big bag (even though we didn't need it).

If you must bring film (rather than buy it and have it developed where you're going), ask for a hand inspection. Yes, it used to be safe to let film go through screening equipment, but it's a new era.

So what were we going to do with the digicam and the camcorder?

Our soft Mon Sac bag (30 years and still zipping) is just a nylon shell. But our clothes make terrific padding. So we wrapped the digicam in a T-shirt and put the camcorder in its small protective case, packing both in the main compartment of our bag. It felt funny, but worked fine.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Our airline recommended arriving an hour and a half before a weekend departure. We planned to experiment with various forms of picturesque public transportation. Fortunately, all the public transport had Web sites with schedules, so we were able to plan our departure to the minute.

As the bell tower at the corner struck nine and launched into an uncompressible concert, we passed by on our way to the bus stop two blocks away. Traveling light has its compensations, we observed.

The bus arrived within five minutes and took us to the train station a mile or so down the hill. We bought a ticket and waited four minutes to board, right on time. Half an hour later, we were waiting for the airport shuttle. We boarded with other travelers and got to the airport an hour and half before departure. Strange but true.

And it was a lot cheaper than leaving the car at the long-term lot or taking a cab or private shuttle. Not a single security screener on the way, either.

THE SECURITY POLKA

The lines were enormous at the airport. Curbside check-in seemed to stretch into the next county and inside, the screening lines were even longer. An hour and a half indeed.

We'd purchased our ticket online but didn't bother getting a boarding pass. We really should have. Some airlines do seat assignment with the boarding pass, but not the Cloud Nine Airbus we took.

Instead, with no baggage to check, we went to an electronic kiosk for our boarding pass. The kiosk, which doesn't get ESPN or CNN, knows your account information from the credit card you used to book the flight (so bring the card). In seconds, we had boarding passes.

We'd dressed for the airport. Shoes that slip off, the least amount of metal that could hold up our pants (although Levi's, belt buckles and suspenders are an issue). Coins were inevitable considering our use of public transportation. But there's more. Keys, key chains, jewelry, cell phones, pagers, metal-framed glasses, pens and pencils, even chewing gum wrappers all make security devices nervous.

Like one in ten passengers, we were selected for special screening (proving we're in the 90th percentile in something). But most people aren't subjected to quite the scrutiny we went through.

Not quite knowing the dance, we watched the people in front of us and moved to the music. With boarding pass and drivers license in hand, we removed our shoes, belt and jacket, putting them in a plastic tray. Had we brought the laptop, we would have had to remove it from its bag and put it in a tray, too. We had put our keys and coins in our main bag before we got to the checkpoint so we didn't have to chase after them later. Each bag got a tray of its own. And the trays all went through the scanner. Pretty standard there.

"What speed film do you have?" asked the security lady helping us disrobe (well, partially) when she saw the Roadstor bag.

"No film," we answered.

"No film?" she sounded surprised. No doubt she expected to hand inspect any fast film. She wasn't worried about magnetic media like cards or tape.

We stepped through the little gate as our luggage was being scanned. Then we got the wand treatment. We sat down and held our feet and legs for one scan. Then we stood up and held our arms out like we were auditioning for Mel Gibson for another. "Keep them up, sir. Thank you," the screener encouraged us when we flagged. The wand was suspicious of our Levi's 501 button-up fly (which made us a little suspicious of the wand). But the security fellow only had us bend our waistband over to show it was a real button. That amazing act of dexterity convinced the wand.

Throughout the wand scanning, we watched across the way as each piece of our luggage was opened and various items lifted out for inspection. We really should have packed so anyone could have reassembled things, we admonished ourselves. As it was, we had plenty of time to restore order later.

There are no exceptions to the random selection process, we learned from our screener as we slipped our belt back on. We had asked how prosthetic devices like artificial limbs, casts and braces are handled (we'd heard horror stories). "They all get checked," the screener explained.

The TSA claims no screener will require you to remove a prosthetic device. Various airline reps seem to think otherwise (one airline even told us to bring an X-ray of the device). TSA does note that a screening supervisor or lead screener will "perform an explosive trace detection screening of your prosthetic device, cast or body brace." That includes taking a swab sample from the exterior of the device. A private screening during which you may have a companion and two screeners of the same gender should be available, according to the TSA.

Considering how little attention our electronic equipment got (the digicam stayed wrapped in our shirt, the camcorder in its case), that's surprising. A prosthesis is a functioning part of your body. If they're going to wand both sides of a Levi's button, expect them to examine it, sure. But if you require privacy, expect them to provide it.

We got through our inspection with time to spare. It was a hassle and left us feeling like the whole show was no more than spraying Raid on a cobweb. The security staff was professional, polite and competent, at least.

ACTION!

Like us, our gear arrived intact. A few hours after arrival we were driving up to the Walt Disney Concert Hall (http://www.musiccenter.org/wdch/g_const_01.html), the whimsical building, designed by Frank Gehry, where the graduation was being held.

The stage was lit well enough for a good exposure. In Auto mode our brother-in-law's Kodak CX7430 Zoom was shooting f4.6 at 1/8 second. The Average was better behaved, shooting in Shutter Priority at 1/60 and f4.0 with ISO 400. Setting focus on infinity or half-depressing the shutter button also help. Both digicams took great shots of the stage, though. We were far enough away we both knew not to use flash, which should never be used at a performance anyway.

The Kodak had it all over the Average when it came to video. With a 256-MB card, it could capture long musical passages or sequences of dance, capturing 640x480-pixel MPEG-4 at 13 fps with a mono sound track. The longest sequence, at 3 minutes 46 seconds used only 35.2-MB storage. It was a little jerkier at 13 frames per second than the camcorder stuff, but it really wasn't objectionable. And because the MPEG was on the storage card, it could easily be shared.

But even topping us was the fellow a few rows down with a camphone. He was getting nice shots of the stage every now and then and transmitting them to relatives who couldn't make it.

SHARING

The next day, we unpacked the Roadstor and cabled it to the kitchen television. We plugged in our storage card, wrote it to a blank CD, then copied it to a second and third CD. Then we got the Kodak card and did the same. Sharing is a two-way street.

We used the Roadstor's remote to watch the stills on the television but it couldn't display a few of the Kodak images (even though it copied them intact). Since it doesn't support MPEG4, it couldn't show the movies either.

But the graduate had a new Sony laptop running XP that could show all the images on the CD as well as the movies. So the Roadstor gets points for data backup and sharing, its real strength, although we were a bit disappointed (even though we knew better) that it couldn't show everything it copied.

CONCLUSION

If you plan to travel this summer, a little research will make your trip, if not more pleasant, at least a little less surprising. A lot has changed in the last few years, so be prepared.

If you plan to bring a digicam, consider how you're going to power it and how you're going to manage the images. Bringing plenty of blank storage cards is one approach, but we wanted to share (and duplicate) on the spot. And not just our own images, but the ones others took, too. The Roadstor was perfect for a short trip like this. On a longer trip, we would have taken the laptop.

"Bon voyage" has a more soulful ring to it these days. But if our experience is any clue, it's the trip and not the travel that's memorable once again. Have a great time!

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus C-770 Zoom -- 4-Mp, 10x Zoom Firecracker

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C770/C77A.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

The $699 Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom is the current high-end model in Olympus' ongoing line of long-zoom digicams. While the long-zoom market is getting crowded these days, Olympus pioneered it with its excellent C-2100 and maintains a commanding position with its C-765 and C-770 models. The Olympus C-770 UltraZoom sports a 4-megapixel CCD and a full 10x zoom lens, a new TruePic Turbo processor and a larger LCD, along with a range of features tailored to enthusiast users looking for full exposure control and compatibility with external flash units.

As with last year's C-740 and C-750, this year's C-765 and C-770 are near-twins, the principle differences between them being the C-770's enhanced flash capabilities and internal speaker. While the C-765 has only a conventional internal flash head, the C-770 sports both a hot shoe for external flash units and a unique dual-tube internal flash head that provides much greater flash range than most prosumer digicams. Compared to earlier models, this year's models have larger LCD displays, rely on Li-Ion batteries (rather than AAs) for their power and now accept only xD-Picture Cards, dropping dual-media compatibility with SmartMedia.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

Thanks to its compact size and surprising portability, the C-770 is a viable option even for heavy travelers. The same compact rangefinder-style design that's characterized Olympus digicams for several years is comfortable and familiar and compact compared to many other long-zoom digicams. The C-770 measures only 4.1x2.4x2.7 inches with the lens retracted and is only three-quarters of an inch thicker with the lens extended. Its plastic and light metal body weighs just 11.9 ounces, including the battery.

The C-770 features an electronic optical viewfinder, essentially a miniaturized version of the larger, 1.8-inch, TFT color LCD monitor. The C-770's EVF is a bright, clear display with a high eyepoint and a diopter adjustment. Both the LCD and EVF have detailed information displays and provide access to the LCD menu system. The EVF also performs unusually well under low-light conditions, a traditional weakness of EVFs. The 6.3-63mm, 10x zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-380mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a maximum aperture of f2.8-f3.7 (wide-angle to telephoto). In addition to the 10x optical zoom, images can be enlarged an additional 4x with the digital zoom, effectively increasing the camera's zoom capabilities to 40x. Maximum image size is 3200x2400 pixels, interpolated up from the 2288x1712-pixel sensor resolution. Lower resolutions of 2288x1712; 2288x1520 (a 3:2 ratio), 2048x1536; 1600x1200; 1280x960; 1024x768; and 640x480 pixels are also available. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed mode that produces full-resolution TIFF images.

Exposure modes include Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority and Manual settings. In Program mode, the camera controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as 1 second. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, while the camera chooses the best value for the other exposure variable. When used in aperture or shutter priority modes, apertures range from f2.8 to f8 and shutter speeds from 1/1000 to 1 second. Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but permits shutter speeds as long as 15 seconds. You can also put the camera into full Auto mode or select between Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene and Night-Scene scene modes.

The C-770 has five ISO settings (Auto, 64, 100, 200 and 400), automatic exposure bracketing, two metering modes (Digital ESP, Multi-pattern and Spot), plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent or Custom to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions. Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness adjustments are available through the LCD menu and a Function menu option lets you record images in black and white or sepia tones or in Whiteboard or Blackboard photo modes (for capturing text). An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock function locks an exposure reading, eliminating the need to hold down the Shutter button halfway while you reframe the image. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits and an optional remote control.

Movie mode records QuickTime movies with sound, in either SQ (160x120 pixels) or HQ (320x240 pixels) modes. Recording times vary with the resolution and the amount of memory card space. While the C-765 and C-770 can both record sound with their movies, only the C-770, with its internal speaker, can replay the audio. Two Sequence modes capture multiple images at short intervals (speed depending on file size), with an AF Sequence mode option that adjusts the focus between each shot. The C-770 also offers a panoramic mode and a 2-in-1 capture mode that records two images side-by-side (like a split-screen view). The camera's internal, pop-up flash unit offers six operating modes (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Night Scene and Night Scene with Red-Eye Reduction modes), with adjustable flash intensity.

It ships with a 16-MB xD-Picture Card. You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images. Olympus also provides a video output cable for connection to a television set. Software includes Olympus' Camedia Master utility package, a capable all-in-one image management program that provides basic organization and editing tools, in addition to a panorama stitching application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Mac and Windows are also supplied.

I've always been impressed with the user-friendliness and flexibility of Olympus' Camedia digicams. I really enjoyed the performance of the C-750 and its 10x lens and the C-770 Ultra Zoom appears to have filled its shoes nicely. The larger 4.0-megapixel CCD produces even higher image quality and the external flash hot shoe increases the camera's flexibility even more. The same excellent manual exposure controls, impressive 10x optical zoom and versatile array of exposure options return to handle a wide range of shooting conditions. Given the wide range of exposure options, there's no question that novices and advanced amateurs alike will find a lot to like in the C-770.

TEST RESULTS

Color: Overall, the C-770 produced accurate, pleasing color, under a wide variety of shooting conditions. Hue was accurate in most instances, saturation appropriate (although strong reds and blues tended to oversaturate slightly) and skin tones looked very natural. As is the case with most cameras I test, the C-770's auto white balance system had a hard time with the household incandescent lighting that's so common in the U.S., but its Incandescent and Manual white balance options did very well indeed. All in all, a very nice performance.

Exposure: The C-770 handled my test lighting quite well, requiring less exposure compensation than average on the outdoor and indoor portrait shots and generally producing accurate exposures on other shots I took. Like most consumer cameras, its default tone curve is somewhat contrasty, to produce the "snappy" photos most consumers prefer. As usual, this leads to lost highlight detail when shooting under harsh lighting conditions, but the C-770 differs from the run of the mill point & shoot models in that it has a very functional contrast adjustment control, accessible via its LCD menu system. Dialing the contrast down to its lowest level really helped to preserve highlight detail under the deliberately harsh lighting of my Outdoor Portrait test. Once again, a very good performance.

Resolution/Sharpness: It did pretty well on the laboratory resolution test chart, its 1,100 line resolution typical of 4-Mp cameras. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 700 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to at least 1,100 lines. Extinction of the target patterns occurred between 1,250 and 1,300 lines.

Image Noise: It does very well under bright to moderate lighting, with absolute noise levels that are a little higher than the best 4-megapixel models out there, but with a nice, tight pattern to the noise that makes it less obtrusive than it might be otherwise. Under low-light conditions though, the noise creeps up a fair bit and the C-770 is worse in this respect than the C-765 I reviewed previously.

Close-Ups: The C-770 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.25x1.68 inches. The camera's Super Macro setting produced even better results, capturing a minimum area of just 1.34x1.01 inches. Resolution and detail are excellent. As is often the case with digicam macro shots, all four corners of the frame are somewhat soft, particularly in the Super Macro shot. The Super Macro shot shows considerable chromatic aberration as well. The position of the C-770's flash directly above the lens results in a dark shadow in the lower portion of the frame and the flash severely overcompensated for the close shooting distance (likely tricked by the specular reflection from the brooch), so plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots.

Night Shots: It did pretty well here, producing bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at all ISO values except the lowest, 64. At ISO 64, images were bright down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, though you could arguably use the image captured at the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level. Color balance was slightly warm and the warm cast increased as the light level dimmed. Noise performance and the operation of the noise reduction option were a little odd, but too involved to go into here: See my comments on the Night Shots portion of the pictures page. A pretty good job, despite higher than expected noise.

Viewfinder Accuracy: It's electronic optical viewfinder was very accurate, showing 99+ percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 100 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor was also very accurate, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen.

Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion is quite a bit lower than average at the wide-angle end, with 0.5 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared better yet, at 0.02 percent barrel distortion (about half a pixel). Chromatic aberration is higher than average though, showing several pixels of pretty strong coloration on either side of the target lines.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Long-zoom cameras are great for sports, but often plagued by slow autofocus systems and the C-770 falls prey to this syndrome. With shutter delays of 1.07-1.17 seconds, it's not the worst camera out there, but definitely on the slow side. On the plus side, it has a deep buffer memory, able to capture up to five high resolution images without pausing in its fastest continuous shooting mode and up to nine high-res images in its slightly slower continuous mode.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time of only 79 minutes, the C-770's battery life is well on the short side of average. And, because it's an EVF-based camera, you can't save very much power by turning off the rear-panel LCD. I always recommend a second battery, but with the C-770 it's a necessity.

CONCLUSION

Olympus was an early innovator in the long-zoom category and has maintained a commanding presence for years. The C-770 represents the top of the line for 2004, offering good value and a very rich feature set and meeting the needs of both enthusiasts and novices alike. It's hard to find much in the C-770 to complain about and its relatively large buffer memory, extensive movie capability (including MPEG4 at 640x480), great flash range and external-flash compatibility make it a standout in many respects. If you're interested in long-zoom digital photography and need its unique capabilities, the C-770 definitely deserves strong consideration.

Return to Topics.

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:

We've also been busy testing a new way to search the newsletter archives (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html) and we like it so much, we're releasing it a bit early so you can enjoy it, too.

Until now you could search the site by visiting:

Now (drum roll), you can search the full text of all 127 newsletters using a regular expression (or not). Don't worry about capitalizing anything, either -- the search is case insensitive. The new regexp search is nearly instantaneous, too, so if you're tired of waiting for the keyword search, this is for you.

If your search term is found, the new tool will display not only a link to the newsletter in which it appears, but (ta da) a listing showing the found text in context, so you can see if it's worth retrieving.

Regular expressions are fun to write. They can be as simple as looking for either a Coolpix 900 or 950 (eg: "Coolpix (900|950)") or looking for more complicated things, like all references to Minolta scanners (eg: "Minolta.+?scanner"). Simple searches ("Epson Stylus") work just fine, too.

To learn more about regular expression syntax, visit Regular Expressions Info (http://www.regular-expressions.info/) or Starmerj's Perl RegExp Crib Sheet (http://www.itlab.musc.edu/docs/perl_regexp/).

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Book Bag: Wi-Fi Guide

The paradox of Wi-Fi is that it's a convoluted simplicity. On the one hand, there's nothing you, as a user, have to worry about. On the other hand, as an administration, it's a dense thicket of brambles.

But one thing is obvious: wires are yesterday. Whether you tether your camera to your computer or your computer to your network, the day is approaching when you'll be computing without wires.

Jeff Duntemann's Wi-Fi Guide is already in its second edition and the 500-page opus promises to help you save money setting up your own wireless system that's fast and secure using easy-to-find parts and tapping into the latest gear and support. That's promising quite a lot.

It falls a little short, somewhat like wireless itself. By Duntemann's own admission, this book is just for Windows users. "This book is about Windows, because that's where my expertise lies," he writes. But it's worse than that. His hardware recommendations are limited to a couple of manufacturers whose equipment he's used (it's just for D-Link and Linksys owners, too). While his anecdotal ramblings are amusing, they're hardly comprehensive enough to engender confidence in other brands. A number of major manufacturers (like Asante, Belkin, Buffalo) are hardly mentioned and mainly ignored.

But -- and this is why we're bringing this book to your attention -- Duntemann explains the underlying technology very well. That's a big plus (which we'll take over a promise any day). Whatever platform you enjoy, you'll learn what the difference is between a hub and a router (which one doesn't switch), how to design an efficient Wi-Fi network (handling blind spots), how to tap into free ones (right under your nose), how to build an antenna to maximize coverage (with a little wire), how to protect yourself from poachers and more.

We learned, for example, that if we upgraded our Wireless-B router to the faster Wireless-G standard, we'd be restricting traffic to B speeds as long as we had one B device logging in. But we'd enjoy greater range and be able to handle more users.

And we also learned what the difference is between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You may be transferring your camphone images to your laptop with Bluetooth, but you won't be transferring your dSLR images that way.

We really enjoyed the full discussion of these important issues and found them clearly delineated. It was just the narrow brand-name focus that disappointed us. We really wished Duntemann had been able to borrow a few devices for testing or been a bit less loyal to the specific brands he happened to buy. When it comes to Wi-Fi, the platform issues really aren't inherently exclusive.

Jeff Duntemann's Wi-Fi Guide Second Edition, published by Paraglyph Press, 500 pages, in paperback at $34.99.
Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: How to Take a Portrait of a Flower

Our wealthy 137-year-old Uncle Stu never met someone he didn't dislike immediately. It was a theory of our long-departed Aunt Sue that the meaner you are, the longer you live. That would explain, we think, why she went first. And why, when Uncle Stu gives us a rare smile, our eyes water.

A while ago one of the more intrepid family members talked him into replacing his stuttering Smith Corona (which he never liked because it was electric) with a flashy computer that took dictation. It wasn't long before Mr. Intrepid popped a CD full of digital photos into it for Uncle Stu. The old recluse sat there and watched a slide show of family members he hadn't seen in a long time, recalling all their hare-brained ideas, star-crossed romances and unsightly facial hair.

But a little later, reflecting on the experience, he wistfully revealed a fondness for the photos he'd seen of flowers. Everybody loves flowers.

You may have noticed, however, they are a lot more difficult to shoot than Uncle Stu. With your digicam set on Auto mode, they invariably look washed out, overbright and off color. Why can't a digicam capture a flower?

Well, it can. You just have to know one little trick.

The trick is to underexpose them. They are usually set off against a dark background (steer manure comes to mind), which Auto mode will try to correctly expose (or even overexpose), sacrificing the delicate highlights of the bright petal color.

Fortunately, there's a little button or command on nearly every digicam to tell it to ignore the manure and concentrate on the flower. It's called the EV setting, for Exposure Value. By changing the EV setting, you can cheat exposure under or over, usually in 1/3 steps.

Normally, it's set at zero, for no adjustment. To underexpose your flower, set it between -0.3 and -1.3. It may be difficult to determine the best setting from the LCD monitor in bright sunlight, but we tend to use -0.7 the most, no matter the color. -1.3 is a little dark, but can really help red roses. -0.3 is a bit timid, but just the thing for darker flowers.

If your camera offers a histogram display, take a look to make sure the graph isn't bumping up against the right-hand side of the table. If it is, underexpose a little more.

If your camera offers an Auto Bracketing mode, flowers are a great excuse to use it. A couple of quick tests will suggest the most useful three variations to try (-0.3, -0.7 and -1.0, if you need a suggestion).

We've been shooting flowers for Uncle Stu constantly since he revealed a soft spot for them. They're the one living thing he doesn't argue with. And, who knows, they may even soften him up enough for a better seat in the next world.

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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 Sony Cybershot DSC-W1 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee99a2d

Visit the Canon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f773

Joyce asks about picture size at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9a171/0

Robert asks about digital cameras and microscopy at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee988ae/0

Visit the Infrared With Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee8e6b4

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Just for Fun: A Field Trip to the Wound Care Center

Take the elevator to the eighth floor at one local hospital and you find yourself at the Wound Care Center. The Center treats chronic, non-healing wounds typically caused by diabetes and venous insufficiency, among other conditions. At the Center, most of these difficult wounds heal in 10 weeks with 85 percent healing fully.

On a recent visit, we discovered the healing process is monitored with the help of a digicam, a vintage Sony Mavica MVC-FD71 that uses 3.5-inch floppies. A floppy is dedicated to each patient and stored in a vinyl page of the binder that logs their case.

Seated in a podiatry chair, which appears to be a recliner built by BALCOR, the patient has a beautiful view out large picture windows, which also provide enough light to photograph the wound without flash.

Nurses remove any prior dressing and clean the wound. Then they apply a small sticker that identifies the wound by number and includes the date. The sticker also has a small ruler in centimeters, a trick of forensic photography to indicate scale.

A nurse begins by taking a close-up of each wound, framing the shot in the digicam's large LCD. The Mavica's auto macro mode means no fiddling with controls, which is particularly helpful while wearing rubber gloves. When each wound has been photographed, the nurse takes a middle distance shot to put the problem in perspective.

Later, the 640x480-pixel images of the wound are printed and trimmed to about 2x3 inches. Along with the floppy, they're added to the patient's log book, two shots a page, with room for notes. The inkjet prints aren't pretty, of course, but they clearly show the wound's condition from week to week as it heals.

Surprisingly, the images don't require perfect color rendition or high resolution to be useful.

Flipping through the images provides the doctors and nurses with a quick sense of how the wound is healing, even if they weren't the one who treated it last. And putting an old Mavica to use makes the Wound Center's $800 bill per visit a little more palatable. It could be worse.

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Dave's Deals

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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: Paint Shop Pro

I have Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro and Photopaint 11. Photoshop SE does not seem intuitive. Photopaint requires a manual. Paint Shop Pro is easy. Maybe I would be forced to use Photoshop CS if I were to go pro but I would not be looking forward to the transition. Thanks for covering Paint Shop.

-- Frank

(We have to say, image editing itself isn't really intuitive. Even the one-button fixes have to be explained (what's contrast? what's brightness?). So you understand it in the light of the program you used to learn it. And since none of them quite work the same, any other program will have a tough time competing with that first one. No transition, in short, is welcome.... PSP is full-featured, so you don't have to worry about changing horses -- except for that 16-bit channel issue. But you don't have to deliver 16-bit channel images to a client. In fact, it's a bad idea. They can't see the difference or print it. Eight bit finals are the rule (although, how you get to the best eight bits in a channel is another issue). -- Editor)

RE: Review Policy

I don't go along with your policy of only reviewing cross-platform programs. What percent of the personal computers are Macs? The last I heard it was 10 percent. and many of these are owned by graphic artists. Yes, many Macs are good computers, but so are many PCs. So you are leaving out a lot of people who use PCs. Review those programs like ACDSee.

-- Duncan

(Well, it's more a preference than a policy, Duncan (since it cuts our workload down). The real policy is to review interesting products (PSP and SoundPix, for example, are Windows-only products). One problem with ACDSee (which we have been following for years and do admire) is that their Mac product has lagged quite a bit behind their Windows product. We keep hoping they'll get in sync. -- Editor)

Hello and thank you for this remarkable Web site. I am wondering why Dave has not reviewed the Panasonic DMC FZ10 (12x optical zoom) digital camera. What brought this to mind was his review of the Konica Minolta Z2. I am looking for a long zoom camera and wondered what his opinion of the Panasonic DMC FZ10 is.

-- Marcia Wienert

(Alas, Marcia, Dave would love to review Panasonic's stuff but they won't send a review unit. Pester them. -- Editor)

RE: Summer Reading

I have been reading your Web site on and off for about 1-1/2 years now. I find it very helpful. I teach a beginning class in digital photography and yours is one of the sites I recommend for information and useful tips on photography.

-- Sam Feder

(Yeah, but what about the reviews, Sam?! Just kidding, thanks! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

The other day, we got an interesting note from Nick Repin of Cristalink Limited in New Zealand. "I have just come across your article Backing Up Is Hard to Do (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/DVB/DVB.HTM) about DV Backup and thought that you might be interested in reviewing Firestreamer (http://www.firestreamer.com), software for Windows that allows you to use a DV video recorder as a reliable storage device," he wrote. "Firestreamer works with the native Windows Backup Utility, supports compression and offers superior data protection." Indeed, we reviewed DV Backup hoping to inspire something similar for Windows. So we can't wait to get our hands on Firestreamer.

Meanwhile Coolatoola (http://www.coolatoola.com) has updated its $50 DV Backup [M] to version 1.3.


Howard Lipin and Michael A. Garcia have launched Photo Talk Radio (http://www.phototalkradio.com). Both were among the founders of Foto Guys Radio and the original Shutterbug Magazine Radio Show with The Foto Guys.


David Ekholm (http://jalbum.net) has updated JAlbum, his free Java-based Web Album generator. Available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other Java platforms running v1.3 of Sun's Java runtime, it's also available in 17 languages.


Sybex (http://www.sybex.com) has published Al Ward's $34.99 Photoshop Productivity Toolkit, which includes 600 Photoshop actions on CD.


RL Development (http://www.qpict.net) has released version 6.1 of its $35 QPict media asset manager with Raw file support and 40 new features.


Kepmad (http://www.kepmad.com) has update its $19 ImageBuddy [M] digital image printing program. It now supports online update checking, live window resizing, print-to-file for contact sheets, adjustable watermark transparency and more.


PhotoVu LLC (http://www.photovu.com) has introduced its $1,549 PhotoVu PV1910, a 19-inch, 1280x960-pixel digital picture frame with iPhoto and wireless support.


LQ Graphics (http://lqgraphics.com) has updated Photo to Movie [M], its $49.95 slide show generator with pan and zoom effects.


Dot Software (http://www.dotsw.com) has released its $30 theme-based Web-authoring program, Site Studio 1.0 [M]. Using a single window, you can construct a Web site with an image gallery and weblog whose look can be changed with a click.


Preclick (http://www.preclick.com) has released version 2.5 of its free Preclick Silver with red-eye, crop, black and white, sepia and album making features. At the same time, the company released its $19.95 Preclick Gold organizer that adds CD-burning and home printing.


Future Light Digital Workshops (http://www.fldigital.com) offers digital photo workshops in San Francisco. See the free article "Just how archival are my digital prints?" at their site.

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One Liners

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

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

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

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

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Signoff

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

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Newsletter Forum: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=irnews
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

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

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