|Volume 6, Number 15||23 July 2004|
Welcome to the 128th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We couldn't wait to get our hands on the third version of Optipix. Dave could barely let go of the DiMAGE A2. And it takes maybe more than two hands to handle Ken Milburn's new tome. Call this issue a show of hands.
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They brought 16-bit channels to the ordinary digicam, then beat Adobe to 16-bit editing tools in Photoshop. Now Reindeer Graphics has released the third version of its little image engine that could with four exciting new tools. Harnessed in Photoshop actions they're one great way to run a railroad.
Rather than repeat our review of the earlier plug-ins in the Optipix suite, we'll just cite them here:
To learn how to blend ordinary 8-bit channel images from any digicam into a 16-bit channel image (artificial RAW, let's call it) see "Optipix Plug-ins Enrich Your Images" (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/OPT/OPT.HTM). You'll see an example of how the extended dynamic range built by Optipix retains detail in the shadows and highlights that just aren't captured in any one digicam shot.
To learn about the 16-bit editing tools like Layer Modes, introduced for Photoshop 7, see "Optipix 2 (or Photoshop 8?)" (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/OP2/OP2.HTM).
And to see what new tricks are up Optipix 3's sleeve, see the illustrated version of this review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/OP3/OP3.HTM).
REQUIREMENTS & PRICE
To run Optipix, you should be running OS 9 or OS X 10.1+ on the Mac or Windows 98/NT/2000/XP.
Optipix retails for $149.95 but purchases made directly through the Reindeer Graphics store (http://www.reindeergraphics.com/online-store/scstore/) earn a $15 discount. The upgrade from Optipix 2 is $75 or free for users who purchased Optipix 2 after June 10. A time-limited free demo is also available.
The plug-ins are copied to the Photoshop Plug-ins directory you select. You have to enter a registration number (the process depends on your operating system). If you're upgrading, you should archive Optipix 2 first.
WHAT THEY DO
The Optipix plug-ins enhance either 8- or 16-bit images, improving contrast, removing blur, averaging images, blending bracketed exposures, enlarging images without artifacts and sharpening without color shifts. With version 3.0, Optipix has improved the existing plug-ins and included four new tools:
The package also includes two insightful ebooks:
- Interactive Interpolation enlarges digital images, allowing you to fine tune how the interpolation is performed in an interactive preview that shows you what you're going to get.
- The Refocus tool is a blur remover for correcting focus problems and blurring caused by image processing. Reindeer Graphics President Chris Russ told us, "The guys at NASA really knew what they were doing when they corrected the Hubble pictures. I'm glad there is enough horsepower to do that on personal computers now."
- JPEG Cleaner is a one-step tool for removing artifacts from JPEG images. "Even at high quality settings (e.g. 90 or lower in Photoshop) we can still detect the JPEG signature in an image. The detail created by the JPEG compression process in a digital camera severely limits what you can do when enhancing or interpolating an image. Obviously we suggest people work in RAW, but if you're stuck with JPEG these are designed to help you cope," Russ noted.
- Grain Maker adds a realistic grain-like texture, rather than pattern, to an image. "I've had a lot of fun making B/W images with channel mixer and applying grain to my images," Russ said. "It's also useful for hiding seams where I've pasted images together. This is not the same as just adding noise and I think it is very useful."
And don't forget their free plug-ins (http://www.reindeergraphics.com/free.shtml), which can help acquaint you with the quality of their products.
- Digital Fine Print Workflow by photographer George DeWolfe describes a complete 16-bit workflow from the shot to the final print in just 76 pages.
- Photoshop for Digital Photographers by Professor John Russ is an introductory 217-page text about manipulating digital images.
The problem of resizing images has had a number of solutions wither at its feet. Why do you need to resize? To feed the voracious appetite of some output device, like a printer that demands 300 pixels an inch. If you've got a 2560x1920-pixel image, that only prints a 6x8 print on that 300 dpi printer. To get an 8x10, you need a 3000x2400-pixel image.
Photoshop's built-in bicubic resizing does at least as well as several commercial alternatives (particularly if you enlarge in 110 percent increments), as we've noted before. But that doesn't mean it's a raging success. You'll see artifacts and the inevitable softness of interpolating data that doesn't exist.
Interactive Interpolation doesn't pretend to do the impossible. Its great advantage is in letting you see what is possible. That's the "interactive" part. You can fine tune the three sliders until you see the best alternative, rather than blindly enlarge to a new image size.
Alongside the preview are the Sharpness, Edge Strength and Grain sliders. Sharpness can be set from 0 to 100 percent to determine how crisp you want the image to appear. Edge Strength ranges from 0 to 150 percent to enhance those edges that become fuzzy when enlarged. Grain adds 0 to 100 percent noise to the edges to mask any blockiness resulting from the enlargement.
If you have a particularly noisy image, you can try reducing it slightly before continuing with the enlargement. That will average out the noise.
Set the Image Mode to 16 bits (just because you can). Then load the second image buffer with your image. Use the Image Size command to resize the image and run the Interactive Interpolation plug-in from the Filter menu.
We tried this on a shot of our mother's rose. We compared Photoshop's bicubic enlargement to Optipix's Interactive Interpolation. This is the first time we've actually seen anything do better than Photoshop. It's subtle, but the Optipix enlargement is sharper. Being able to choose just how sharp and what happens at the edges was a real treat, though. Even the grain setting was clearly distinguishable.
Blurred photos are a fact of digital life. Auto exposure mode can't enforce a reasonable shutter speed and autofocus can't always tell what it's looking at. Nothing will ever really make a blurred shot sharp. But Refocus can remove the blur. The same algorithm was used to correct Hubble space telescope images before the optics were replaced.
Below the Refocus preview are two sliders, a Blur Radius and Noise Tolerance. A Preview checkbox lets you see what the effect of your settings will be.
The documentation suggests setting both sliders at about the same point and then "walk the noise downward until just before the characteristic 'ringing' artifacts appear."
Our very blurry test image was refocused to a somewhat more acceptable state. Unsharp masking can't quite compare. Even trusty nik Sharpener Pro didn't do quite as well a job. And that's intelligent unsharp masking.
Unless you shoot in RAW mode or uncompressed TIFF, your digicam may aggressively compress your image data. Despite the high compression ratio, artifacts aren't usually disturbing -- until you start processing your image with one or another filter.
JPEG Cleaner, run prior to any other image processing, can find the 8x8 JPEG pixel block boundaries in your image and process the pixels along those boundaries to make the steps less noticeable. You can even roll your own filtering using the Select JPEG Tile Boundaries plug-in under the Selection menu, if you prefer.
Think of it as a de-JPEGer that lets you take advantage of the other Optipix plug-ins without the handicap of high JPEG compression.
The filter can detect JPEG blocks on the whole image or a selection. Even if you crop the image without saving it, the filter can find the block boundaries.
Remember grain? For that matter, remember Tri-X (whose 50th anniversary it happens to be)? Somehow running Photoshop's film grain filter just isn't the same. It's too, well, regular. And the shadows are never mottled the way they used to be.
Enter Grain Maker. The dialog presents a preview on the left with a Grain Strength slider (0 to 100 percent) on the right along with a Grain Scale (Fine, Medium, Broad) radio button.
At its most subtle, you can simply add texture to a flat field to add some visual interest (well, confusion). But we enjoyed running it over a desaturated image. Made us feel like the high school yearbook editor back in the days of Tri-X.
Our graduate was the perfect model for that. We kept the gold sash, but desaturated everything else. We particularly like the mottled shadows, though.
On the Quibble Meter, there are just a few readings.
The previews use elevators to navigate the window (with a couple of buttons to enlarge and reduce from the default 100 percent view). We'd really like to see a grabber there, to slide the preview around more easily. Once you've honed in on a representative spot at 100 percent, though, you really appreciate the concept.
No matter how fast your system is, some of these calculations take a while. Considering it's magic, that doesn't really bother us. But it made the needle on the Quibble Meter twitch.
If you think Optipix is a little too exotic to add to your software suite, think of it as the nicest thing you can do for your digicam. We've been able to get dynamic range out of images captured by our old Average digicam that just wasn't built into it. And the tweaks you can now perform range from important edits like JPEG Cleaner to rewarding effects like Grain Maker. You really can't lose with Optipix. These are tools written by someone who not only knows about pocket protectors but who loves taking pictures, too.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A2/A2A.HTM on the Web site.)
The earlier Minolta 5, 7, 7i, 7Hi and A1 digicams were so successful among consumers that the company has decided to keep a good thing going under their new Konica Minolta brand name.
The new $890 DiMAGE A2 offers most of the same exceptional features found on the previous models, with a few updates to extend its capabilities. The A2 use the same sharp 7x optical zoom lens and host of fine-grained user controls that contributed to the earlier models' popularity, but switches to a new 8.0-megapixel CCD and adds a number of subtle but significant enhancements. Those include a new (much) higher-resolution viewfinder, USB 2.0 connectivity, a depth-of-field preview function and a faster 3D Autofocus system. There's also an improved movie mode with up to 544x408 pixels at 30 frames per second, a new Ultra-High-Speed Continuous Advance mode capturing VGA-resolution images at seven frames per second and a new minimum ISO sensitivity rating of 64.
Not all of the changes are upgrades. Some are reversions to the older 7Hi's specification, like the 1/4000 second fastest shutter speed (instead of the A1's 1/16,000) and the 12-bit A/D conversion (where the A1 was 14-bit).
Like the A1, the A2 features extensive creative controls (including an option to use the Adobe RGB color space), sophisticated camera functions and a user-friendly interface that make it appealing to advanced users, while its simple-to-use full auto mode lets you hand it to a novice with confidence. The camera's ergonomic design is a lot like a conventional 35mm SLR, with an elongated lens barrel and a lightweight magnesium alloy body with plastic outer panels hosting numerous dials, switches and buttons. Although the profusion of controls makes the camera appear complex, they're logically arranged and actually fairly easy to learn.
A 2/3-inch interlaced primary-color CCD with 8.3 million pixels (8.0 million effective), provides a maximum resolution of 3264x2448 pixels, among the highest available in a consumer digicam. Light sensitivity ranges from ISO 64 to 800 and may be automatically controlled by the camera or manually selected. Like the A1, the A2's color space includes two sRGB options (Natural and Vivid color), in addition to standard and embedded-profile Adobe RGB options for professional use in a color-managed environment.
That sensor resolution would be useless, however, if the lens couldn't resolve fine detail. The A2 appears to feature the same advanced apochromat 7x zoom GT Lens so impressive on previous models. While this lens stood alone in the A1 marketplace, other makers have now caught up with the optical design. Comprised of 16 glass elements in 13 groups, the GT lens has two anomalous dispersion and two aspheric glass elements for sharp, detailed images with minimal distortion and glare. The 7.2-50.8mm focal range (equivalent to a 28-200mm zoom in 35mm format) provides the flexibility for wide-angle interior and landscape shots, as well as close-up portraits and distant action in sports photography. The manual zoom ring is a pleasure to use, with a wide rubberized grip and smooth, mechanically-coupled lens action. A maximum aperture ranging from f2.8-f3.5 (depending on the focal length setting) is fairly fast, helpful for low-light and action photography. Macro mode lets you capture subjects as close as 9.8 inches from the lens, which translates to a very small 1.5x2.0-inch minimum capture area. A host of focus controls provide a lot of flexibility and on-demand manual focus lets you tweak the autofocus setting without switching to manual focus mode.
Like the A1, the A2 uses a conventional TFT LCD for its electronic viewfinder, rather than the unique reflective ferroelectric LCD used on the previous 5, 7, 7i and 7Hi models. Where the A1 had a viewfinder resolution of 235,000 dots (approximately 320x240 pixels) though, the A2's new TFT LCD viewfinder has an astonishing resolution of 922,000 dots (640x480 pixels). The additional resolution makes manual focusing much easier than with most EVF-based cameras and the dramatically higher resolution just makes it a lot easier to see what's going on. You can trade off some of the increased resolution to improve another area some EVFs have an issue with, the refresh rate. At 640x480, the A2's viewfinder offers 30 fps, still as fast as most electronic viewfinders. At 320x240 pixels, though, this doubles to an impressive 60 fps for liquid-smooth panning, very useful when tracking fast-moving objects. As with past Minolta SLR-style cameras, the A2's viewfinder does an excellent job in low light and offers unique flexibility, with a variable position eyepiece that tilts up as much as 90 degrees. The camera's 1.8-inch LCD monitor also tilts downward about 20 degrees or upward 90 degrees, making it more convenient when shooting at high or low angles.
The A2's exposure system offers three metering options: 300-segment Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted and Spot. The default Multi-Segment option divides the image into 300 separate areas, placing emphasis on the main subject, but integrating luminance values, color and autofocus information from across the image to accurately calculate exposure. The Center-Weighted and Spot metering options place most of the exposure emphasis either on the central portion of the frame or on a small spot at the very center of the frame, respectively. Exposure modes include Auto, Programmed AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual, plus four Digital Subject Programs specifically set up for Portrait, Sports, Night Portrait and Sunset exposures. These programs set not only aperture and shutter speed, but also Konica Minolta's exclusive CxProcess II image processing to optimize color balance and skin tones.
On top of all that, the A2 also provides a Digital Effects Control to adjust Color Saturation, Contrast and Filter (hue). The Digital Effects adjustments are particularly notable for their fine gradations and wide range. A Color Mode option offers special color effects and a black and white shooting mode, which can be adjusted via the Filter Effects setting. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. A Digital Enhanced Bracketing option for taking three bracketed exposures of an image automatically, features two different values adjustable to either 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments. In addition to exposure, this feature can also bracket any of the Effects options, including contrast and saturation. A customizable AE Lock button can be set to lock only exposure or both exposure and focus. White Balance is adjustable to one of six preset options (Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Shade and Flash settings), along with Auto and Manual options. Shutter speeds range from 1/4000 to 30 seconds, with a Bulb setting that permits manual control of exposures as long as 30 seconds. Maximum lens apertures are f2.8 at the wide-angle end and f3.5 at telephoto. A real-time histogram display mode helps verify exposure before capturing the image. A histogram display is available in Playback mode, too.
Autofocus performance is one important area where the A2 really shines. A Large Scale Integration chip powers the system, rapidly processing image data through its integrated high-speed 32-bit RISC processor. That's a lot of jargon to simply explain why the A2's AF system is noticeably faster than average among high-end prosumer digicams. The autofocus system can determine focus in one of three ways: Wide Focus Area averages readings from a large area across the middle of the frame (indicated on the LCD by a set of widely spaced brackets); Spot Focus Point reads information from the very center of the LCD (indicated by a target cross-hair); and Flex Focus Point lets you move a target cross-hair to virtually any position within the viewfinder, so you can focus on off-center subjects without having to aim, lock focus and then recompose the shot.
The built-in, pop-up flash offers two methods of flash metering. Advanced Distance Integration bases its exposure on the lens aperture, feedback from the autofocus system (how far the subject is from the camera) and a separate metering flash. Pre-Flash TTL (through the lens) uses a small metering flash prior to the main exposure to gauge how much light is reflected by the scene. The A2 also includes a top-mounted hot shoe for attaching external flash units. An external flash sync terminal offers a standard PC style sync jack for connecting to studio strobes or other external flash devices. Flash modes include Fill-Flash, Red-Eye Reduction and Rear Flash Sync, with Flash Compensation available from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments. A Wireless flash mode lets the camera work with certain Konica Minolta-brand wireless flash units. A manual flash mode fires the onboard flash at full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 or 1/16 power. Since manual flash mode doesn't use a pre-flash, it's perfect for driving studio strobes via conventional slave triggers.
Additional A2 features include a Movie mode (with sound) with a Night exposure option; Voice Memo mode; Standard, High Speed and Ultra-High Speed Continuous Advance modes; 2x Digital Zoom; Interval Recording of two to 240 frames in 30-second to 60-minute intervals; two- or 10-second Self-Timer; and three Sharpness settings. Five image quality levels include RAW and TIFF uncompressed files and a choice of Extra Fine, Fine or Standard JPEG compression settings. New to the A2 is a feature allowing both RAW and JPEG files to be recorded simultaneously for each image captured. Buffer memory permits up to three images maximum JPEG quality or RAW format images to be recorded quite quickly, but the RAW+JPEG option is unbuffered. Resolution options for still images include 3264x2448; 3264x2176; 2560x1920; 2080x1560; 1600x1200; and 640x480 pixels. Movie resolution options include 544x408 and 320x240 pixels, with frame rates of either 15 or 30 fps available at both resolutions and recording times of up to 15 minutes per video segment possible, depending on resolution, frame rate and memory card speed.
Konica Minolta has incorporated Epson's PRINT Image Matching II technology to ensure A2 images captured in autoexposure mode and printed on compatible Epson printers will be automatically color balanced to provide true-to-life hues and saturation. Newly-added support for PictBridge technology allows the A2 to connect directly to a wide range of PictBridge-compatible printers, allowing prints to be made without a computer.
Power is supplied by a NP-400 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (an optional AC power adapter is available) or an accessory hand grip with either six AA cells or two NP-400 packs. Konica Minolta's optional dual-head macro flash unit is one of the most capable solutions on the market for super-macro shooting. I can imagine a lot of medical or scientific applications for the A2's combination of 8-megapixel resolution and exceptional macro capability. USB and A/V cables also accompany the camera, for connection to a computer or television set. Minolta provides a selection of software including Viewer v2.3.2 for both Macintosh and Windows-based computers and Ulead VideoStudio 7 SE VCD for Windows.
Color: Colors were hue-accurate and neither over- nor under-saturated, although my use of the low-contrast option in the Outdoor Portrait shot reduced saturation there. I could have compensated with a saturation boost, but don't go that far in tweaking the shooting parameters for my tests. While Auto white balance did well, I generally found myself preferring the Manual option, especially under difficult light sources like household incandescent lighting. Skin tones were quite good and the tricky blue flowers of the Outdoor Portrait came out very nicely as well. While I find myself actually preferring the color from last year's A1 model slightly, the A2 does just fine.
Exposure: In several of my test shots, the A2 needed more exposure compensation than average, but the good news is that the live histogram works well for adjusting exposure. Its default tone curve is a little contrasty, but the contrast adjustment has broad range and fine steps, so you can fine-tune the camera's contrast to your liking.
Resolution/Sharpness: The A2 performed well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to at least 1,600 lines vertically, 1,650 lines horizontally. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until 1,900-2,000 lines, but even there some vertical detail is faintly visible. The A2 delivered roughly the same level of sharpness (to my eye, at least) as the Nikon Coolpix 8700.
Image Noise: On a purely numerical basis, the A2's images show lower noise levels than most of its competitors (tied with or just slightly better than the Olympus C-8080). As usual though, the cost for lower image noise is some loss of detail in subject areas of subtle contrast, as well as a rolloff of high spatial frequencies in its images. While the noise levels are low though, the grain pattern is on the large size of average, so noise in areas of flat tint may be more evident than that of cameras with more fine-grained noise patterns.
Close-Ups: The A2 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.94x1.46 inches. Resolution was very high and detail (even dust!) was very strong in the dollar bill, coins and brooch. There was surprisingly little softness in the corners of the frame, making this one of the better digicam macro modes I've seen. Color balance was slightly warm and reddish with Auto white balance, but exposure was good. The A2's flash throttled down a little too much for the macro area, resulting in a slightly dim shot, but it's quite surprising to see a digicam flash that's usable at all for macro shots.
Night Shots: The A2's maximum exposure time of 30 seconds and full manual exposure control give the camera excellent low-light shooting capabilities. In testing, the A2 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all five ISO settings. It offers a Noise Reduction option, which did indeed reduce noise levels pretty dramatically, but which left hot pixels here and there. In addition to its excellent low-light capture ability, the A2's electronic viewfinder is usable at light levels down to and even somewhat below the 1/16 foot-candle limit of my test. And its autofocus system can actually focus at light levels that low, despite the camera's lack of an autofocus-assist light.
Viewfinder Accuracy: The A2's electronic optical viewfinder is very accurate, showing about 100 percent frame accuracy at both wide-angle and telephoto zoom. Just a tiny fringe of the target lines were cut off at the bottom of the frame. The EVF also deserves special notice because it works at unusually low light levels, avoiding a common failing of EVFs.
Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion is higher than average at wide-angle with approximately 1.07 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared much better, with only 0.3 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is higher than I'd like, but average for its class, showing about seven pixels of moderate coloration on either side of the target lines. Compared to the other 8-megapixel models, that's common, matching the Canon Pro1 and Nikon 8700. The Sony F828 had somewhat less and the Olympus C-8080 the least of all. The big plus with the A2's lens though, is that there's very little softening in the corners of the frame, particularly with long-ratio zoom optics.
Shutter Lag & Cycle Time: It's a very fast camera overall and one of only two 8-megapixel models currently on the market with usable speed when shooting in RAW mode. (The other is the Canon Pro1.) Its shot-to-shot cycle time in single-shot mode is the fastest of any of the 8-megapixel models. On the downside though, its buffer capacity is a relatively modest (even paltry by current standards) three frames and TIFF-mode files aren't buffered at all. Likewise, while RAW and JPEG files are both buffered, the RAW+JPEG mode isn't buffered, greatly reducing its usefulness. I'd like to see a deeper buffer memory, but apart from that, the A2 is a really excellent choice for sports and other action photography. Buy a good, fast CF card. I found little advantage with 80x vs. 40x cards, but the A2 very definitely makes good use of a card with at least 40x speed.
Battery Life: The previous A1 had about the best battery life of any prosumer camera, but the A2 comes in a fair ways below that standard. Worst-case battery life is roughly two hours and twenty minutes of run time (capture mode, with the rear-panel LCD turned on). A big help though, is that the eye-sensing EVF eyepiece can be set to turn on the EVF's display only when your eye is actually pressed against the eyepiece. In this mode, run time is nearly 6 hours, excellent by any standard.
The Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 is the latest in a long line of impressive digicams from Minolta (now Konica Minolta, since last year's merger), carrying the tradition proudly into the 8-megapixel arena. Taken as a package, the A2 is tough to beat and is clearly at or near the top of the heap relative to the other 8-megapixel "enthusiast" cameras on the market. A powerful photographic tool and an easy choice as a "Dave's Pick." Highly recommended.
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:
- Reviewed: Olympus D-540 Zoom (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D540/D54A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Konica Minolta A2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A2/A2A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Sony DSC-P73 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P73/P73A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Sony DSC-P93 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P93/P93A.HTM)
We're blessed to be living at a time when so many practitioners of the art of photography are also rather handy with the pen. You'd think there were still some Medici around financing this Renaissance.
Ken Milburn, the author of Digital Photography: Expert Techniques, has complemented a commercial photography career with over 300 columns and articles and 20 computer books. His latest tome, in full color, takes us behind the screen to see just how the wizard does it. It's a very enjoyable -- and readable -- tour.
Author Stephen King once observed that people love to read what other people do at work. Milburn covers an awful lot of ground but the real attraction is seeing how he works. Which is to say how he solves the problems that afflict us all.
Well, maybe not all of us. He explains up front that he wrote the book for serious photographers (even if they're novices) using a prosumer or dSLR digicam and Photoshop. But the focus isn't on which keys to press to make magic but on procedures, so you really can use any image editing software (Elements is frequently cited).
Here's a peek at the topics he covers:
Chapter 1: The Digital Photographer -- The basics of shooting digital along with some recommendations of what's important when you're ready to buy. Nicely presented.
Chapter 2: Be Prepared -- Workflow hints (what to do when) that make it easier to enjoy shooting digital.
Chapter 3: Bringing Out the Best Picture -- Making RAW exposure corrections and managing the many images you take digitally.
Chapter 4: Panoramas -- How to shoot a panorama and how to stitch one together, including photomosaics, in which you slide the camera around the image to get a higher resolution shot.
Chapter 5: Photoshop Selections, Masks and Paths -- One of the earliest hurdles in the race to editing proficiency, he shows you how to select parts of your image, knock out backgrounds, etc.
Chapter 6: Basic Digital Photo Corrections -- The techniques any digital photographer should know to enhance what the camera captures.
Chapter 7: Converting Photos to Paintings -- Get that official portrait with a filter!
Chapter 8: Special Photographic Effects -- Manipulating the mimetic image into something to make Salvador Dali blink.
Chapter 9: Retouching and Rescuing Photos -- The digital airbrush to repair scanned imperfections as well retouching to highlight content.
Chapter 10: Creating Fictitious Photos -- Lifting elements from one image to use in another with seamless photo compositing.
Chapter 11: Color Printing -- Getting faithful color print from your dye sub or inkjet printer.
Chapter 12: Use Pictures to Sell Yourself -- An introduction to exhibiting your images, archival-quality, framing.
Chapter 13: Sell It on the Web -- Putting your portfolio on the Web.
These subjects are discussed in the light not only of Photoshop, but of third party applications that go where Photoshop doesn't. So Chaper 2 talks about Photoshop's File Browser but explains the advantages of iPhoto and Adobe Photoshop Album before delving into Canto Cumulus. Likewise, Chapter 7 starts out with an exploration of the painterly effects you can achieve using filters, moves on to creating natural media brushes, then discusses Corel Painter and Painter Classic before looking at buZZ Pro's watercolor rendering and the alternative approaches of Studio Artist and Deep Paint.
One might quibble that the software Milburn covers isn't comprehensive, but not us. The book almost weighs too much to handle as it is now. Which indeed makes us wish were back in that other Renaissance where they had guys around just to hold the books.
Digital Photography: Expert Techniques by Ken Milburn, published by O'Reilly & Associates, 474 pages, in paperback at $44.95.
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:
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RE: Travel Tips
As a photographer and a frequent air traveler, I would like to get in a quick word to let you know the majority of air carriers are more stringent nowadays about limiting carry-on luggage to one 9x14x22-inch bag. That size fits perfectly (flat or sideways) in the overhead compartments of most commercial planes.
I think one may be better served by getting a 9x14x22-inch bag knowing it will comply with ever more restrictive cabin luggage requirements rather than invest in a 10x16x24-inch bag, which may violate the carry-on bag rule of many air carriers in the future.
By the way, I have enjoyed your site since 1999 and I purchased my first digital camera (Olympus C-2000) based on your insightful review.
-- Andrew(In fact, our airline "features" older planes. Good advice, Andrew! -- Editor)
Just wanted to say "Thanks" for your newsletter. Although I have found it consistently useful, several information sources are "useful." As a professor in Journalism, I also want to compliment you on your writing style and substance. Very few newsletters consistently make me smile or in some cases as with this last one, laugh out loud (Uncle Stu and the airport visit). Thanks.
Incidentally, the TSA has ruled that professional photographer's cases do not count as "carry on" luggage. I've found, however, that not all airlines have "got the message." Nor, do all honor TSA's ruling. See: http://www.tsa.gov/public/interapp/editorial/editorial_1248.xml
And one CAN use "locked" baggage-if you use the correct lock system. See http://www.tsa.gov/public/display?theme=183&content=09000519800aece5 or http://www.tsa.gov/public/interapp/editorial/editorial_1634.xml
-- D. Thomas Porter, Ph.D.(The discrepancy between what the TSA rules and what airlines practice was a major motivation for the article. Travelers are well advised to familiarize themselves with their airline's policies. -- Editor)
Just wanted to tell you that your reviews are just about the only completely professional, honest and objective I've read on the Internet. I'm usually dumbfounded by the number and quality of consumer reviews that show that the writer probably hasn't even opened the owner's manual. It makes me have to come back and read your writings for the therapeutic benefits.
Based on your advice, I just bought an Olympus C60 Zoom with a 512-MB xD card for our trip to Nova Scotia and P.E.I. I hope there's something up there to photograph.
-- Dewey H Brett(Thanks very much, Dewey! Dave puts a lot of science into his stuff (building his own test equipment). But whether it's software or hardware, we really do use the stuff before we write about it. Have fun in Nova Scotia! -- Editor)
This was taken with an Olympus C8080 digital. Who said digitals can't take pictures of flowers?
-- Bob Filleul(Lovely! Diffused lighting is the ticket in your image -- one of the reasons we loved shooting in the Conservatory (ah, just pop that into the new search engine <g>). But for those sunlit shots, underexpose. -- Editor)
RE: Rule of Thumb
Here's a question I want to ask a professional. Often when I come into a setting (say, a children's event), I do not have time to take a few practice shots to get the lighting right. Is there too much flash? Do I use flash or just push the ISO up, etc.
Is there a professional rule of thumb if you get thrust into the action and start taking pictures? I'm going on a missions trip this week to visit orphanages in the former Soviet Union where the lighting is awful. Should I put my D70 on auto and use flash -- or push the ISO program mode up to 1000-1250 and go without flash?
-- T Wayne Knowles(Take a look at our article "An Auto Mode for Room Light" (use the Index at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html) . If that doesn't yield a satisfactory exposure, yes, use flash (off camera, preferably). But most of the time, that's enough. Good luck! (We note with pleasure how many of our readers are flying away, after our travel article.) -- Editor)(I shoot with a D70 myself and have found the default setting for the internal flash overpowers the available light, producing harsh "flash-looking" shots. Dial the flash down to -0.7 or -1.0 EV for a decent balance under a wide range of lighting conditions. For just enough fill light to open up the shadows, without looking like flash was used at all, try -1.7 EV. Overall, Nikon's 3D Matrix Balanced Fill Flash does an exceptionally good job of integrating with ambient lighting. The familiar technique of lightly underexposing to preserve highlights works well with flash, too. I do, however, routinely shoot the D70 at +0.3EV for non-flash shooting. -- Dave)
RE: Bottle Cap Tripod
Don't know if you guys saw the bottle cap tripod yet. It's a cool concept from some guys in Japan: http://store.yahoo.com/semsons-inc/botcaptripfo.html
I did a DIY version for under $4: http://www.jakeludington.com/archives/000227.html
-- Jake Ludington(So that's why everybody's carrying water bottles! Great idea! Now if only we can adapt it to corks. -- Editor)
I was wondering if you guys have ever heard of SeaLife. They make inexpensive film and digital cameras and accessories for underwater photography to 200 feet.
-- Chris(Ah, one guy who is diving instead of flying. We hadn't heard about SeaLife (http://www.sealife-cameras.com) until you mentioned it, Chris. We like the idea that all the accessories fit any model and the depth the housings can go is impressive. The price is pretty comfortable, too, but they're only 2.1 and 3.3-Mp digicams. Hard to test, though. Dave's bathtub in Atlanta is only 12 feet deep and San Francisco Bay has about three inches visibility. So let's ask the readers! Anybody use a SeaLife? -- Editor)
Google (http://www.google.com) has acquired Picasa (http://www.picasa.net).
"Picasa is an innovator in the field of digital photography and we're excited that the Picasa team is joining Google," said Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president, Product Management.
In May, Picasa announced a technology partnership with Google's Blogger service to make publishing digital photos with Blogger faster and easier.
Panasonic (http://www.panasonic.com) has announced three new digicams offering 12x zoom lenses with optical image stabilization. Konica Minolta (http://konicaminolta.com) recently announced its Z3 with a 12x stabilized zoom.
Transmutable Software (http://transmutable.com) has released the first version of Trevor F. Smith's $30 93 Photo Street. The program arranges your images by location on a map instead of by filename or capture time in an album or slideshow using free maps.
Bobby Cronkhite (http://bobbysoftware.com) has released ZeboPhoto 1.5.1 [M], image viewing and editing software made with REALbasic. Changes made to an image during a slide show can now be saved and the browser window now remembers the location of the last directory.
Cerebrosoft (http://www.b-gallery.biz) has released its $19.95 B*Gallery 2.2 [MW] with preconfigured themes to create HTML image galleries that can be updated, extended and shared.
No Starch Press (http://www.nostarch.com) has published Wallace Wang's $19.95 The Book of Nero 6 Ultra Edition, covering the popular but tricky CD and DVD burning program.
Zanka Software (http://www.zankasoftware.com) has released its free Footagehead 1.1 [M] with source code, to browse local and remote locations for images. It also searches, sorts and presents slide shows.
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has updated it $79.95 VueScan 8.0.9 [MW] with automatic cropping, support for more scanners plus Canon EOS and Nikon D Raw files, improved support for Minolta and Epson multi-function printers and improved OS X performance.
Mesa Dynamics (http://www.mesadynamics.com) has updated Beholder [M] which can search the Web or local folders for images, displaying thumbnails with link details and zoomed using its Prism Zoom technology.
Open Door Networks (http://www.opendoor.com) has released its $39 Envision 1.0 [M] (which we reviewed in beta), which turns any Web site or folder into a slide show.
Human Software (http://www.humansoftware.com) has released its $79 AutoSmooth 1.0 [MW], a smoothing Photoshop plug-in that preserves detail.
MultimediaPhoto (http://www.hdrsoft.com) has updated its $99 Photomatix Pro [M] to version 2.0, adding the creation of a High Dynamic Range image from bracketed shots, an HDR viewer and a Tone Mapping tool. The update for Windows will be released later, the company said.
Prosoft Engineering (http://www.prosofteng.com) has updated Picture Rescue [M], its utility to recover deleted pictures that was introduced at MacWorld Boston. The update fixes a problem with FAT processing.
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