The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 16 6 August 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 129th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Sure, Dave sneaks away to the rain forest for a little R&R. But are we envious? Of course not. We take a side trip to Mars after discovering another breakthrough imaging application. We'd wish you were here, but then, you are!


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: 93 Photo Street -- X Marks the Spot

When Transmutable Software (http://transmutable.com) released its $30 93 Photo Street a few days ago, we yelled, "Eureka!" Plenty of prospectors have perished with a map in their hands looking for the spot where the treasure is buried. Trevor F. Smith's program eschews the X for an image. And that's worth a thousand words.

93 Photo Street lets you download a free map of any place in the U.S. where you've taken a few pictures. You drag virtual thumb tacks onto the map where you took the pictures. And you then link your images to that location so people can see what's there.

They can see what's there using a Web browser. 93 Photo Street outputs this data using a number of clever templates that show the map, the locations and the associated images in HTML. You just pick a template and build the HTML.

We've had maps before. And we've had shoeboxes full of vacation pictures. But nobody's ever put the two of them together this nicely before. Eureka!

It's so nice, we've illustrated this review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/93P/93P.HTM with an example map -- and there are more at http://transmutable.com/PhotoMaps/index.html for the curious.

FEATURES

With 93 Photo Street you can:

A free 30 day downloadable trial is available and free registration is provided for schools and not-for-profits.

In addition to the Transmutable Web site, Trevor maintains a blog. "I'm using my blog as forum and developer's log for interested photo mappers: http://trevor.typepad.com/blog/transmutable/ and anyone is welcome to join the conversation," he told us.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

93 Photo Street is a Java application that uses Sun's Java Advanced Imaging library to manage images. It runs on Windows 2000/XP or Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) or higher.

The recommended Windows system is a 1.0 GHz PC with 512-MB RAM. For OS X, Transmutable recommends at least an 800 MHz G4 with 512-MB RAM. The 21-MB Windows download includes Sun Java. "OS X ships with a relatively sane Java environment so I don't have to ship a JRE," Trevor told us in explaining the 3M Mac download.

The application itself takes less than 35-MB hard disk space. Your project files and Web do require a bit more, though.

Finally, you need an Internet connection to download free map data files.

WHO IS THIS GUY?

"After wearing a variety of hats in startups, I spent a few years at Xerox PARC as a research engineer. My urge to ship products to actual people was too much to ignore, so these days I spend my time making great software at Transmutable," Trevor says on his Web site.

But his urge to ship products preceded 93 Photo Street. In fact, he developed a Java application (http://trevor.smith.name/sfbikemap) to plot a bike route through San Francisco for the S.F. Bicycle Coalition (http://www.sfbike.org). It both draws the route on the map and prints the directions as text.

"The SF Bike Map was where I cut my GIS teeth, learning of the huge domain of knowledge that is modern GIS and cartography," Trevor explained. "In many ways the technical portions of the S.F. Bike Map were version 1.0 of the mapping components of 93 Photo Street. But all good programmers throw away version 1.0 (and all of the associated problems that reveal themselves later) and I am much more satisfied with the foundation of 93 Photo Street's maps."

And what about the name?

"I went through many names before picking 93 Photo Street, which derives from the address of where I was living at the time. It connotes photography and location, the two main themes of the application and it's a little silly because I want to ensure that it doesn't become a huge gadget-fest of an application like so many GIS and graphics programs," Trevor told us.

BEHIND THE CURTAIN

There's a lot of cool technology underlying 93 Photo Street. Researching this review, we spent a lot of time at some fun Web sites: Sun, NASA and Velocity, to name three.

Sun is responsible for more than the Java language. Their Java Advanced Imaging API, which 93 Photo Street uses to resize your images for the Web, provides a set of object-oriented interfaces to manipulate images easily. "I know that you have readers well educated in graphics technologies and I am always open for ideas on what defaults and knobs they would like to see in 93 Photo Street," Trevor said.

JAI is famous for its use by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory which recently released Maestro, a public version of the primary software tool used by NASA scientists to design goals for the Mars exploration rovers and analyze the images received from Mars. You can download Maestro [MW] for free from http://mars.telascience.org and use it to see what the rovers saw during the mission. It's like having Mars in your backyard. Fire up the inkjet and make a few postcards titled "Wish you were here!"

Velocity is a Java-based template engine. It makes it easy for Web page designers to use Java code. Web designers can focus on creating an attractive site, while Java programmers can focus on writing clean code. By separating the Java code from the Web pages, it's also easier to maintain a site. 93 Photo Street uses Velocity for its Web templates.

That means you don't have to wait for Trevor to make new templates. In fact, Trevor is running a 93 Photo Street Template Contest (http://transmutable.com/93PhotoStreet/contest.html) with a Canon S410 Elph 4-Mp digicam as first prize and a $100 Amazon gift certificate as second prize, plus a few other prizes. He's even written a tutorial (http://transmutable.com/93PhotoStreet/TemplateBasicTutorial/index.html) for writing templates.

USING THE PROGRAM

OK, earth to Mike! Come in! What's it like to use the thing?

Piece of cake, actually. Installation was no big deal, although we did need to download and install the free JAI library. But 93 Photo Street told us that anyway.

Once that was installed, we did the dance: 1) import a map, 2) drag location pins to the map, 3) import some images, 4) drag images to the location pins and 5) build the Web site.

It's tougher to make white chocolate mousse, believe us.

To import a map, you have to be connected to the Internet. Maps are downloaded from the U.S. Census road database or the U.S. Geological Survey elevation sets. There are also applications that can save map images which you can then use as photo maps. And you can also find maps on the Web, including those in David Rumsey's collection (http://www.davidrumsey.com).

We had some "out the window of a speeding car" shots along the Embarcadero doing nothing for us, so we downloaded the county map of San Francisco. We centered the Market/Herb Caen Way intersection and enlarged the map a couple of clicks to see the street names. Neat.

Then we loaded the image tray with the images we took from the car window. We presumed we had to be tidy about this, importing only what we wanted to use, but that isn't really the case. Import like crazy.

Then we decided which of our images we'd really prefer never be seen again. That left a few to be placed on the map. We simply dragged a location pin to the places the images represented, then dragged the images into the pane associated with the pin.

That was when our admiration for the program blossomed. You aren't limited to a single image. You can associate a slide show of images with a single location. Cool.

Before you know it, you're done. It's harder washing the dishes. They have to dry. It's more complicated ironing shirts. You have to lay them flat. 93 Photo Street does all the dirty work for you. You just sit back and give the orders.

But wait, there's more.

We'd have been happy to have just that: a map with stick pins in it. Click on a pin and the images roll up in the little window on the side.

You can have that, but Trevor has tapped into the Velocity engine to develop some pretty slick templates. You can, of course, display your map just like the program does. Or you can display every image under a slice of the map using the Printable All-In-One template. Or you can display the whole map, mouse over a location and get a slide show of images for that spot with the Dots With Details and Slide Shows template. You can even have the slide shows pop-up over the location pins using the Blue Sky with Popups template.

All this for $30. We didn't have the heart to ask him for a review copy.

QUIBBLE METER

For a spanking brand new application, you'd have to be a mutant yourself to pull out the old Quibble Meter and find any fault with 93 Photo Street. But, what can we say, we're mutants.

We couldn't find anywhere to enter a title for our Web site. "The title of the map is the same as the name of the saved file," Trevor explained. "So if you name your file 'My Great Photo Map.phmap' then templates will use 'My Great Photo Map' as the title."

We didn't know that because we weren't able to save our project file. Save As simply didn't write to the disk. Fortunately, the program was aware nothing had been saved when we tried to quit, so we were able to save then. A simple bug to be fixed in the next revision.

Saved projects are pretty small, since they're just XML files. Locations are described by their latitude and longitude. Nested under each location are the paths to the associated images. Simple.

We had some trouble telling one image from another as we imported them into the image tray because the import display uses a very small icon. So we tried to drag unwanted images out of the tray (not really necessary, unless you're a mutant) to the Desktop where we deleted them. Oops. That deleted the original image. Another bug. But you can remove an image by right clicking on it, which pops up a 'Remove' command.

As for the thumbnail display, Trevor said, "I completely agree and I've been working up a few designs for just that. I really like the way the Photoshop image browser works and I think something like that would be excellent for 93 Photo Street."

None of this actually impairs any functionality and we remain impressed by the solid design and comprehensiveness of this release. All the King's men and all of his executive assistants rarely match such an achievement.

To which we'd like to add that we found Trevor to be remarkably responsive to our quibbles and questions. Not only is this well-built app a one-man show, but the support hasn't been outsourced. Trevor takes care of his customers.

CONCLUSION

Even for those of us who have seen it all before, know where we're going and never have to ask directions, a map is a handy thing. And with the extra dimension of a slide show, it may soon become impossible to get lost. You can think of 93 Photo Street as a way to illustrate your maps or as a way to arrange your images by location. But whether you're a tourist, a real estate agent, a visual blogger or just someone who leaves their house every now and then, this is one tool you'll use. And delight in using, too.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Pentax 43WR -- Making a Splash

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/O43WR/O43A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

The $349.95 Pentax Optio 43WR upgrades the water resistant 33WR with a larger sensor and smattering of other enhancements. While not designed for deep-sea diving, the Optio WR models can withstand heavy rain, spray from waves and even an occasional shallow dunking.

The peace of mind this brings on trips and outings can hardly be overstated. Not having to worry that the least splash of water might ruin your digicam makes for much more carefree use. So when it came time to select a camera to pack along on my recent kayak expedition to the Costa Rican rain forest, I reached for the 43WR among the dozen options in the studio.

ONE SHOOTER'S REPORT

Given my general ineptitude around any body of water larger than a bathtub -- and my specific clumsiness in kayaks -- I wasn't about to take my Nikon D70 SLR on the boats. Figuring I had little to lose with the pocket-sized 43WR, I took it along, albeit with pretty modest expectations.

As it turned out, the expedition was a true acid test for the camera, both environmentally and photographically. While there was clearly no competition between the D70 and 43WR in terms of image quality, I was surprised how well the 43WR held up under some extraordinarily tough conditions and was very pleased with the dozens of snapshots it helped me bring back as mementos of a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

The big story with the 43WR is clearly its water resistant design. Pentax bills it as "water resistant" rather than "waterproof," as it isn't intended for prolonged submersion or for use as a diving camera. It turns out though, that the JIS Class 7 water resistance rating covers more than just idle splashes. The test for Class 7 water resistance involves submersion to a depth of one meter for a full 30 minutes.

That's more severe than anything I subjected the 43WR to on my trip, but I actually came pretty close. I was carrying the Optio in my pants pocket during a sea-kayaking trip when a particularly nasty breaker upended our kayak, spilling Marti, me and the Optio into the brine. Being a bit over six feet tall, my pants pocket with the 43WR in it was a good three feet below the surface and remained so for at least 5-6 minutes, until we finally managed to scramble back onboard the kayak in between waves.

While it didn't come up to the 30 minute time limit of the JIS Class 7 test, it should be pointed out that the camera was subjected to some pretty vigorous agitation throughout the episode, what with 1) wave action, 2) my not-very-coordinated swimming as I chased after errant water bottles and kayak paddles and 3) the beached-whale thrashing required to get myself back onto the kayak. Back at the beach, an hour or so later, I took the precaution of rinsing the camera thoroughly with fresh water. When I opened the battery and connector compartments, I found not a hint of moisture. The 43WR thus passed the "Imaging Resource water test" with flying colors. Less severe but nonetheless significant, it also survived after getting regularly and thoroughly soaked in the torrential downpours that make the Costa Rican rain forest what it is.

This of course, is exactly the sort of situation the 43WR is designed to withstand and just the usage that the Pentax engineers and marketing people hoped it would be put to. I'd never for a moment have considered bringing a conventional digicam along where I took the 43WR without a second thought. While I could certainly have put my D70 into a dry bag to protect it while traveling, the issue would then have become whether I'd ever be willing to take it back out of the dry bag to shoot any pictures.

I was also surprised by how rugged the 43WR's case is. Most of the time it was stowed in a low-slung pants pocket below the normal one on my pants. As a result, it ended up being knocked against branches and brush, as well as whacked against the side of the kayak. By the end of the trip though, it showed no sign of wear or tear, for all the abuse it received.

On the design front, I didn't at first like the 43WR's boxy outline and smooth sides, feeling that it would be too hard to grip when my hands were wet. The rubber corners on the case give some purchase, but they're not where your fingers would be when shooting. In practice though, I didn't find this much of a problem. The rubber corners did come in handy though, when extracting the camera from my pocket. I pretty quickly learned to grab it by the edges when pulling it from the pocket, as holding it front to back invariably resulted in fingerprints on the lens cover. Tugging it out sidewise would have been a little difficult to manage otherwise, but the rubber corners made it easy to grab.

That flat cover glass on the front of the camera over the lens did require some attention though. If it was clean, water generally seemed to bead up and roll off of it pretty well, but the least smudge would draw and hold the water. Mud naturally stuck and obscured the view. Fortunately, I had a microfiber lens cloth along with me most of the time and a quick swipe with it would bring the window back to ship-shape condition. Note though, that you need to be extremely careful when wiping this window, so you don't drag a speck of grit across it and scratch it. Take particular care in this regard on the beach or if the camera has been splashed with mud. It's a good idea to use a little of your drinking water to wash off the lens window from time to time.

Photographically, the camera did pretty well. Yes, its images came in a poor second compared to the D70, but they were more than good enough snapshots. The color from the 43WR was good, if slightly undersaturated. Image sharpness was OK, but wasn't what I'd expect from a higher-end 4-megapixel digicam. The most serious optical problem I encountered was a pretty nasty "purple fringe" on a few shots, where tree branches were outlined against the sky. Surprisingly though, the purple fringe problem only appeared in a few images.

Largely as a result of the shooting conditions, image noise was an issue in a lot of my shots. That said, it didn't bother me as much as I expected it to, based on what I had seen in the laboratory, before I took off. The rain forest canopy cuts out a lot of light and we had to deal with consistently overcast conditions on top of that. As a result, light levels were often very low, forcing me to shoot at ISO 400, which I don't normally consider usable. Faced with either noisy pictures or no pictures at all, I winced mentally, cranked the ISO up and shot away. The results were definitely noisy, but also eminently usable.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

A 2.8x, 5.7-16mm lens (37-104mm 35mm equivalent) has a maximum aperture range from f2.8 to f3.9, depending on the zoom position. It focuses from 11.8 inches to infinity in normal mode and 0.4 inches to 1.6 feet in Macro. The 43WR offers both manual and automatic focus control, with Spot and Multiple AF modes. Spot AF mode bases focus on the very center of the frame, while Multiple AF mode bases focus on a larger area around the center of the frame. There's also an Infinity/Landscape fixed focus setting that locks focus at infinity for shooting distant objects. The 43WR also offers a maximum of 4x digital zoom. It has a real-image optical viewfinder, as well as a 1.6-inch, color TFT LCD monitor, complete with an optional histogram display in both record and playback modes.

Exposure is automatically controlled, although the camera offers Program, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Portrait, Surf and Snow, Flower, Sunset, Fireworks, Snap, Movie and Panorama Assist modes. Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's on-screen menu system, which offers very straightforward navigation. You can control Focus mode (Auto, Macro, Landscape or Manual), the Self-timer, Drive mode, Exposure Compensation and Flash mode externally. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to four seconds and are reported on the LCD display when the Shutter button is halfway pressed (as is the aperture). Exposure Compensation ranges from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments.

The 43WR's default metering mode is Multi-Segment but Spot and Center-Weighted metering modes are also available. White Balance features an Auto mode for most average lighting conditions, but also offers Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent and Manual options. Sensitivity can be set to Auto, as well as 50, 100, 200 and 400 ISO equivalent settings. The 43WR's built-in flash operates in Auto, Off, On, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction and On with Red-Eye Reduction modes.

Movie mode captures moving images with sound up to available card space. Recording time appears in the LCD monitor and movies can be 640x480, 320x240 or 160x120 pixels and either 15 or 30 frames/second. A fast memory card is required for maximum recording times at the highest resolution and frame rate settings. Fast Forward Movie mode captures movie files without sound at a delayed frame rate (2, 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100x normal), which makes playback appear to be sped up. The optical zoom and focus position are locked at the start of movie recording and only the digital zoom functions whilst the movie is being recorded.

The 43WR also features an audio recording mode. Recording time is limited only by memory card capacity, provided that the card you're using is fast enough to keep up. You can also record sound captions for still images in Playback mode.

Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between pressing the Shutter button and the camera actually taking the picture. Continuous Shooting mode captures a continuous series of images for as long as you hold down the Shutter button. The space available on the memory card determines the maximum number of images and details like resolution, shutter speed and the state of the camera's buffer memory determine the shooting interval. Shot-to-shot intervals in Continuous mode range from 1.31 seconds for large/fine images to 0.88 seconds for small/basic ones. Multi-Continuous Shooting mode captures four frames at a time and saves them as one full-resolution image in a 2x2 matrix.

Panorama Assist mode captures panoramic images oriented in any direction and ACDSee software is included to stitch the images together. Interval shooting mode captures two to 99 images in a series at preset intervals ranging from 10 seconds to 99 minutes, in one-second increments. The starting time for the Interval sequence can be delayed by up to 23 hours and 59 minutes. Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness settings provide further creative options and a Color mode (full color, black and white and sepia tones) is available in Movie mode only. The 43WR also offers Pentax's versatile Color Filter option, though the effect is applied post-capture through the Playback menu. The Color Filter offers eight color filter settings (black and white, sepia, red, pink, violet, blue, green and yellow), a Soft filter and a Brightness filter adjustment.

The 43WR stores images on SD/MMC memory cards and comes with a 16-MB card. It's powered by either a single CR-V3 battery pack or two AA batteries. The 43WR connects to a computer via a USB interface and includes a USB cable, an A/V cable, a software CD loaded with ACDSee software and a QuickTime viewer.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The 43WR produced pleasing color in most of my tests, although it tended to produce either slightly warm or slightly cool color balance, depending on the White Balance setting. Skin tones were overly pink in the outdoor and indoor portraits, but not too bad. The blue flowers of the bouquet were a bit more purple than in real life, but again within acceptable bounds. On the Indoor Portrait (without flash), the Incandescent white balance setting produced a slight warm cast (compared to the very strong cast of the Auto setting), but the slightly cool-looking result with the Manual white balance option looked better to my eye. Overall, I'd rate the 43WR's hue accuracy and color saturation as being pretty good -- not outstanding, but better than average.

Exposure: The 43WR exposed most of my test shots pretty well, requiring fairly typical amounts of positive exposure compensation with the high-key test subjects. Its default tone curve is rather contrasty, but there's a low-contrast option that helps somewhat with harshly-lit subjects. The 43WR's flash is badly underpowered, though the Davebox target came out a bit bright. Still, the camera managed to distinguish the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target pretty well. The high-key lighting of the Outdoor Portrait resulted in slightly high contrast, but midtone detail was pretty good despite hot highlights. Indoors, the camera required an average amount of positive exposure compensation (+1.0 EV on the Indoor Portrait without flash). Still, I'd rate exposure accuracy as good overall, since the adjustment it required with high-key subjects was not unusual.

Resolution/Sharpness: It performed quite well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts at resolutions as low as 800-900 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to at least 1,100 lines horizontally and about 1,050 lines vertically. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,400 lines. This is a good performance for a 4-megapixel camera, better than I expected, given the 43WR's pictorial images were noticeably softer than those from the best full-sized 4-Mp models.

Image Noise: The 43WR showed higher than average image noise across the board, but its noise levels will be unnoticeable to most users at ISO 50 and 100. Images at ISO 200 are visibly noisy but usable.

Close-Ups: It performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.26x0.95 inches. Resolution is very high with quite a bit of softness in the corners, a common failing of digicam macro modes. The 43WR's flash had trouble with the macro area and overexposed the shot.

Night Shots: The 43WR produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, though only at the 400 ISO setting. At ISO 200, images were bright only as far as 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux) and at ISOs 50 and 100, images were bright only at one foot-candle (11 lux), corresponding to typical city street lighting at night. Color was warm with the Auto white balance option, the warm cast increasing somewhat as the light level dropped. The camera's autofocus worked reliably down to about 1/4 foot-candle, not a bad performance.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The optical viewfinder is very tight, with a large variance in accuracy between zoom settings. The viewfinder showed only about 73 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 85 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, though the bottom measurement lines were cut off in the final frame. Still, results were pretty good.

Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion is high at the wide-angle end, with 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared better, with 0.4 percent pincushion distortion. Both numbers are just on the outside average. Chromatic aberration is low, showing only about three or four pixels of faint coloration on either side of the target lines. The image is also much sharper than average in the corners. Overall, the 43WR's lens seems to be of surprisingly high quality.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: With shutter lag times ranging from 0.92 to 1.14 seconds in full autofocus mode, the 43WR is a bit slower than average. Pre-focus shutter delay is a respectable 0.22 seconds though and the camera's 1.14 fps continuous-shooting mode can be some help when shooting action. Overall though, not a first choice for fast-paced action photography.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time of 93 minutes on 1600-mAh NiMH cells, the 43WR doesn't do too badly for a two-cell camera. Using the optical viewfinder only saves a little battery power, boosting record-mode run time to just 104 minutes.

CONCLUSION

It's often the case sadly that the vacation moments you most want to preserve in photos happen when you leave your camera home, fearing the deadly effects of water, mud or dust. The Pentax 43WR breaks free of conventional limitations with a rugged, resilient case and water resistance to a depth of one meter. While its images aren't quite up to the quality levels of the best full-sized 4-megapixel models on the market, they're not bad, with decent color, plenty of detail and a surprising collection of features that can handle a range of shooting conditions. If you need a camera that can "take a licking and keep on clicking," the 43WR belongs in your travel bag. A Dave's Pick, thanks to its unique combination of features and water resistance.

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New on the Site

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

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Beginners Flash: Pen or Cloth

It's one of the great debates among camera owners, whether they're professionals or amateurs, whether they shoot film or digital, whether they're aware of it or not. Do you clean your lens with a pen or a cloth?

We've collected various perspectives on the issue ever since we wrote about the plain importance of actually cleaning your lens (Aug. 25, 2000). The task is often overlooked by new digicam owners, particularly while the credit card is being paid off. But every pro knows it's task number one before the shutter is pressed.

Our initial salvo cautioned against touching the lens, recommending a brush and if that fails, using only solvents from manufacturers you can sue if anything goes wrong. A breath and a quick wipe with a lens tissue is usually all we dare.

Readers replied about the mystical properties of the Lenspen (http://www.lenspen.com/), which has a little reservoir of graphite judiciously deposited on the lens surface for absorbing oils and polishing the coated surface. That sounded too abrasive for us, but we confess to resorting to it on a few occasions since then. Sometimes stuff happens. Lenspens clean up that stuff.

But over the years, we've found ourselves relying primarily on a gray microfiber lens cleaning cloth, Dave's preferred approach. It not only cleans lenses, it cleans the screen of our laptop. And you can launder it. So it will never abandon you (like those lens tissues you use once and crumble into grains of sand).

But it has one more advantage that only a photographer could love. It's the perfect middle gray. Illuminate it with the light falling on your scene and set your exposure to it. Pull it away, recompose and shoot. It's the perfect portable gray card.

Of course, you don't really have to choose. You can slip a Lenspen in the same pocket you tuck your lens cleaning cloth. But only one of them can help you find the right exposure.

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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 Casio Exilim Pro EX-P600 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9a747

Visit the General Q & A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec

Andy asks about color problems with digital cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9a670/0

Virginia asks about how-to photography books at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9a683/0

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

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Just for Fun: Somebody Sees the Trouble I've Heard

It's easy to fall into the rut of thinking digital imaging is all about, well, the picture. But a couple of guys at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have convinced the Library of Congress otherwise. If you can see it, they can hear it.

And this week they made the evening news when they agreed to apply their technology to the only known audio recording of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas.

But Vitaliy Fadeyev and Carl Haber made their discovery a while ago. "We developed a way to image the grooves in a recording that is similar to measuring tracks in a particle detector," Haber explained. The Berkeley Lab has developed a variety of methods to analyze data generated by high energy physics experiments at accelerators located at Fermilab and the European Center for Particle Physics in Geneva. "We thought these methods, which demand pattern recognition and noise suppression, could also analyze the grooved shapes in mechanical recordings," Haber said.

The process will sound familiar to anyone reconstructing damaged family photographs. The original recording medium -- whether it's a 60 year old shellac platter, a fragile Edison cylinder or a Dictaphone belt (which recorded the Kennedy gunshots) -- is photographed with a digital optical camera that can scan the grooves.

Enter the healing brush. The scientists programmed the system to map the undulating grooves etched in the grooves. The images are then processed to remove scratches and blemishes, then modeled to determine how a stylus courses through the undulations. Lastly, the stylus motion is converted to a digital sound format.

“We had to use the metrology system in a new way and measure a groove before we even knew its shape," said Fadeyev. "This enabled us to develop a non-contact way to measure delicate samples without the need for much operator intervention. It also has the potential to digitally reassemble broken discs."

Among the duo's hits are Marian Anderson's 1947 rendition of Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen and The Weavers' 1950 rendition of Huddie Ledbetter's classic Goodnight Irene. The Library of Congress hopes to restore some of the 500,000 delicate recordings in its collection.

"The groundbreaking research that our colleagues at Berkeley Lab are undertaking signals an important new direction for preservation of collections of this type, which we hope will be of benefit to libraries and archives everywhere," added Mark Roosa, the Library's director for preservation. We may soon be able to play Barney Google with the Goo-Goo-Goo-Ga-Ly Eyes (http://www.rienzihills.com/SING/barneygoogle.htm) without damaging the original cylinder (or attracting the attention of Barney's wife, who is "three times his size," according to the lyrics).

And we may finally find out how many shots were fired in Dallas that afternoon.

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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: Minolta A2

Thanks for a wonderful newsletter. You omitted to mention Minolta's "Anti-shake" feature. My hands are not as steady as they used to be and this feature, together with wide-angle and high pixel count, topped my shopping list.

-- Brian Dodds

(Thanks for pointing that out, Brian. While it didn't survive our "automatic" edits, it is in the full review. -- Editor)

RE: SeaLife

Not quite what Chris was looking for, but I've had good luck with the Aquapac (http://www.aquapac.net) cases. They're only rated for about 30 feet (great for snorkel, not scuba), but they have enclosures for more than just cameras and the price is great.

-- Don Pratt

(Thanks, Don! -- Editor)

RE: Infrared

First of all, thank you for your truly brilliant informative site. Is there any software or filter available to transform color images into B/W infrared?

-- Walter Pfeiffer

(Fred Miranda has a Photoshop action to simulate infrared (http://www.fredmiranda.com/DI/) -- his stuff is great, too. The problem is that you aren't capturing color so much as temperature in IR photography. So how do you convert a color capture to IR? You have to have translate colors to heat values. This might be quite a bit different for portraits than landscapes, though. A green hat (cold) and green foliage (hot), for example. Fred's action is designed for landscapes. -- Editor)

RE: Effective Megapixels

Thanks for continuing to provide such an informative newsletter. I always enjoy the contents, finding them to be very helpful in trying to understand this fast moving technology.

Question: What is the difference between "effective" megapixels and (plain vanilla) megapixels?

-- Chap Cronquist

(Thanks for an easy one, Chap! The sensor is populated with a certain number of pixels but not all of them end up in your image. Effective megapixels represents the number in your image, in effect, the working resolution. -- Editor)
(Those extra pixels are around the edge of the array where the RGBG (Red-Green-Blue-Green) interpolation runs out of RG pairs to pair up with BG ones to figure out the final pixel colors. And some pixels are also devoted to array calibration, dark-current compensation, etc. -- Dave)

RE: Making It Big

Enjoy your newsletter. It keeps me up to speed on just about everything. I was just wondering what advice you would give me about enlarging my digital photos by a commercial developer. I have found that I am really limited with my Canon S9000 and would like to make bigger prints. Keep up the good work.

-- G. J. Maffei

(The answer really depends on the requirements of the specific device you want to print on. One of the unappreciated variables of large prints, however, is viewing distance. You need less resolution to see a billboard than you do an 8x10 print. We're not a big believer in enlarging the data your camera has captured. That's the data, period. If a device really needs a specific resolution, you can fool it by using Photoshop's bicubic resizing. Tools like Optipix make a slight improvement -- but many others simply don't. -- Editor)

RE: Dated Question

What digital camera will print the date on each picture as they are taken? I know you can print date if you download to computer, but prefer not to do this. Like to have dates on each picture same as 35mm does.

-- Bill Fine

(These days, every digital camera records the time and date each image was captured (assuming you set it's clock <g>) -- unlike 35mm cameras without clocks. This data (and a lot more) is tucked into the Exif header of each image. So it's really a function of your printing software (or printer features, if you print direct) whether or not that data is overlaid on the image. Additionally, online photofinishers often provide that option. -- Editor)
(Kodak, Nikon and Sony generally include an option to imprint time stamps directly on the images. Look for it in the camera's Setup menu called Date Stamp or Date Imprint. -- Dave)
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Editor's Notes

The "decisive moment" came for pioneer photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (http://www.henricartierbresson.org) last Tuesday at the age of 95. His adoption of the 35mm Leica when enthusiasts preferred view cameras and his focus on photojournalism after the German occupation of France during the second World War changed not only photography but how we see the world.

His obituary in the New York Times noted, "He combined a Rabelaisian appetite for the world with a clarity of vision and intellectual rigor that linked him to French masters like Poussin. His wit, lyricism and ability to see the geometry of a fleeting image and capture it in the blink of an eye reshaped and created a new standard for the art of photography."


Sybex (http://www.sybex.com) has published Photo Finish: The Digital Photographer's Guide to Printing, Showing and Selling Images by John Canfield and Tim Gray.


On Monday, Apple updated iPhoto (http://www.apple.com/ilife/iphoto/) to version 4.0.2 which "addresses minor issues with Smart Albums and European books and provides notification when new versions of iPhoto are available." On Wednesday, the company withdrew the update without explanation before releasing version 4.0.3 Thursday.


Kozasoft (http://www.photostamper.com) has released its $14.95 Gena PhotoStamper vs.2.1 [W], which adds a reversible date stamp to digital photos with no quality degradation.


MemoryLinc (http://www.memorylinc.com) has released its Album product line through dotPhoto to automatically organize images into one multimedia storybook.


Canto (http://www.canto.com) has released Cumulus 6.0.3 [MW], a free upgrade for myCumulus, Single User, Workgroup and Enterprise to support of XMP files, the metadata standard for Adobe files. Opening catalogs or collections is faster, a cache speeds reloading recently viewed pages and a new sorting button is included. Fullscreen previews can be made into slide shows and keyboard controls have been expanded. WebAlbum is also included with this release.

Canto also introduced Cumulus Photo Suite to manage RAW image files from a wide array of digicams. The Suite includes the Cumulus Digital Camera RAW Filter and features the IPTC Information Window. The Suite costs $49 for single user installations, $325 for up to three or $395 for up to 10 Workgroup clients.


Fantasea (http://www.fantasea.com) has introduced its compact, injection-molded plastic $149.95 CP-5 underwater housing for the Nikon Coolpix 4200 and 5200.


Peachpit Press (http://www.peachpit.com) has published its $39.99 Photoshop Classic Effects by Scott Kelby covering essential techniques presented with step-by-step examples.


What costs more per ounce than Chanel No. 5 ($44.11) and Dom Perignon ($4.53)? Right, the ink in your printer. Inkjet ink runs $60.88 an ounce, according to a depressing article in the San Francisco Chronicle we don't have the heart to link to.


Keyspan (http://www.keyspan.com) has released Keyspan USB Server 1.1, a software update to its USB hardware that adds broader device compatibility, support for USB hubs, interface improvements and more.


Kodak (http://argon.asf.com) has released its $99.95 Digital GEM Pro, an Adobe Photoshop plug-in to reduce noise and grain in 8-bit or 16-bit images. At the same time, Kodak reduced the original GEM plug-in price to $49.95.

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Signoff

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Happy snapping!

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

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