The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 17 20 August 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 130th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We eschew our usual software review to pit three unerase utilities against some empty storage cards. Konica Minolta impresses Dave with another little gem, this one in metal with full manual control at an attractive price. And we consider several ways of identifying prints that leave the studio. Now where did we put that gold medal?


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: Our Olympic Event -- Unerasing Digicam Media

Readers of Derrick Story's Digital Photography Hacks, recently published by O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com), may have seen my sad story about accidentally erasing (and losing forever) a rare image of my friend and his mother. That was long ago, before there were so many great programs to unerase your digicam's storage media.

The problem of accidentally erased and even reformatted media isn't behind us, however. Ironically that same friend recently brought over his CompactFlash card to print a few vacation shots on our whiz-bang Nameless printer only to find the card blank.

No matter which computing platform you use, there's a "helpful" transfer program that's dying to delete the images from your card after it's transferred them to your hard disk. You may even be tricked into accidentally deleting them from the card yourself after watching a slide show on your computer that seems to be reading the hard disk when it's only reading the card.

Faced with a blank card, you may think finding your lost images is a Herculean task. But these days so many programs vie for the honor of retrieving them that it's an Olympic event.

We lined three of them up to see who would take the gold, silver and bronze. To unearth recommendations from readers satisfied with other solutions enter "unerase" in our new Regexp Text Search feature on the Index page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NLTR/index.html).

THE CONTESTANTS

All three of our contestants are 1) cross-platform, 2) inexpensive and 3) have confusing names. They are:

They all claim to tackle not just erased images, but reformatted and even corrupted cards.

ABOUT PHOTORESCUE

For a long time, Photorescue (http://www.datarescue.com) was the only cross-platform solution. As a big bonus, DataRescue sells it through an affiliate program that lets you actually support sites you like (like Imaging Resource) when you buy through them (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.COM). Well, it's a bonus to us, anyway (although, we personally do not profit from it).

Released in 2001, PhotoRescue was the first program to display thumbnails of recoverable images. That feature made it possible for them to offer a guarantee that if the free demo previews an image, it "will be recovered or you get your money back."

While it can recover any file (even on large hard disks), it's optimized for JPEG, TIFF, GIF and BMP images while handling CRW, NEF, ORF, MRW and several movie formats, too. DataRescue claims the program can even rebuild images that have suffered minor corruption. It can use up to 12 different methods to recover your images, even recovering cards that can't be mounted on your Desktop. The company recommends using a card reader for recovery but notes the program may be able to work directly with your camera to recover images.

The interface confuses a few people with its verbose technical display, but the thumbnail display and recovery operation are simple to grasp. DataRescue has been responsive to our requests for help and their Web site offers a user guide, two-page guide, demo movie and a few FAQs.

ABOUT MEDIARECOVER

About the time we wrote our contribution to Hacks, MediaRECOVER (http://www.mediarecover.com) was released. We actually delayed our story a week while we tested a series of early releases. In the time since then, MediaRECOVER has been updated into a serious contender.

The well-designed interface makes it easy to see what's going on. And there's a good help guide to get you going, too (even a video on the site). The program recovers JPEG, TIFF, PNG, GI and BMP images as well as Raw image files from Canon, Nikon, Kodak and other camera manufacturers. It also recovers AVI, MOV and MPEG movie formats. In addition, the company claims it can repair corrupted files.

Unlike PhotoRescue, however, the card must appear on your Desktop to be recoverable. But it can be any media including a hard disk, Zip disk, floppy disc or a CD.

It also includes two interesting options:

ABOUT PICTURE RESCUE

Picture Rescue (http://www.prosofteng.com) is also attractively designed and offers a clearly-written, 10-page PDF explaining how to use the product. Prosoft claims it can recover images whether the card is in 1) a camera connected to your computer via USB or FireWire, 2) a PCMCIA adapter or 3) a USB card reader.

The program can recover JPEG, TIFF, GIF and PNG images as well as Raw formats from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Kodak, Minolta, Fujifilm, Sigma, Foveon, Casio and Sony. It can also recover AVI, MPEG and MOV movies. The company claims standard directory scanning, advanced file scavenging and media card copies are automatically performed when needed for optimum performance.

It isn't able to recover images from xD Picture cards reformatted in Olympus or Fuji digicams. And it can't recover them from CDs either.

Like PhotoRescue, you can select which images to recover from a display of thumbnails. Only MediaRECOVER omits this feature.

CARD FORMATS

Image recovery is possible because image data is never overwritten when images are erased or cards reformatted. It is overwritten, however, when you snap your next picture. Your window of opportunity is small, but it exists.

Erasing overwrites the first letter of the image file's name in the card's directory with the Greek character sigma, a nice convention all unerase utilities exploit.

And all digicam media use MS-DOS formats, which vary depending on the size of your card. Your digicam's firmware reads and writes file allocation tables using links of a specific size (12-bit, 16-bit or 32-bit links). FAT-12 was popular on floppies and hard disks smaller than 16-MB, but is used on cards up to 64-MB. FAT-16 was developed for hard disks larger than 15-MB but smaller than 2-GB and is employed on cards over 64-MB. Over 2-GB requires FAT-32. Understanding what FATs your camera understands tells you how large a card it can handle.

BEING SMART

Because it's your camera's firmware that has to make sense of the card, we always recommend erasing images and formatting your card only in your camera. Yes, your computer can do it, but there's no guarantee what it does will make sense to your camera, which is a lot less versatile at reading various FAT formats than your computer.

For a technical peek at this subject, take a look at DataRescue's white paper on SmartMedia, CompactFlash and Memory Stick Recovery (http://www.datarescue.com/laboratory/smartflash.htm).

OUR TESTS

We asked each program to unerase a 64-MB Lexar Memory Stick and a 64-MB Lexar CompactFlash, each erased in a digicam. We then used the same digicams to reformat both cards and asked the programs to try again. We wanted to simulate two typical real-world situations.

All of the programs read data from the card but write the recovered images to a separate storage device. We used the internal hard drive of our laptop. Each program let us choose which directory to use.

Operations can be speeded up by copying the card contents to a drive image. PhotoRescue describes how to do this manually and Picture Rescue does it automatically. Recovery speed from our PCMCIA adapter wasn't slow enough to require copying the card contents, but it may be worthwhile if you have a large card and a slow USB 1.1 connection.

Being able to select images to recover by their thumbnail is a time-saving feature we do find worthwhile. Cards can have images as old as those taken after the last format. Typically, you're only interested in the last round. And while you can prune a complete recover later, you have to wait until everything has been recovered to do your pruning.

Still, that's all minor stuff compared to whether or not the program can recover the images from your last shoot that you've just accidentally erased. That's the real event.

COMPACTFLASH EVENT

Our 64-MB CompactFlash contained six images in its last shoot. It also contained a QuickTime movie erased some time ago.

MediaRECOVER did not let us create a directory for saved images, but it did let us choose one. We changed its defaults to tell it our reader, a PCMCIA adapter, was about average speed and to Persist in trying to recover data. It confused our card with a CD-ROM, with a 62-MB capacity and 512-byte sectors. It took about a minute to recover 28 images, five of which were corrupt, writing them to the recovery directory as it found them. It did not recover the QuickTime movie. It did recover, without corruption, all the images from the critical most recent shoot. Recovered images were named sequentially using "IMGx.JPG" as a naming scheme. After a reformat, it recovered 28 images again, but seven were corrupt and only five of the six in the last shoot.

PhotoRescue identified the CompactFlash as FAT-16 formatted media with 4K clusters and a 512-byte root directory size. It ran eight recovery methods in a little over a minute before displaying thumbnails. We selected everything, saving 63.5-MB in our recovery folder. It recoverd 78 files, including an empty document file and one QuickTime movie. Of the 76 images, 13 were corrupted, although some of their thumbnails displayed correctly. None of the corrupted images was from the most recent shoot, all of whose images were recovered. Recovered files also had their original names. PhotoRescue was not able to retrieve the original file names from the reformatted card, otherwise it did just as well with that.

Picture Rescue, which also did not let us create a directory, took noticeably longer than its competitors, but that amounted to only three minutes. It displayed all the devices available using the operating system identifiers. That can be a bit confusing on a Mac where our card showed up as "/dev/ridsk6 on ATA bus (62-Mbytes)" -- the size our only clue. Once selected, however, a panel described the card contents correctly. The program recovered 80 images, 12 corrupted and 10 duplicated. It also recovered the QuickTime movie. All images from the most recent shoot were recovered. Recovered files were named with initials for their file type (J for JPEG, QT for QuickTime), image resolution (2048x1536, for example), a sequential number plus the file extension. J2048x1536-71.jpg, for example. A directory listing, consequently, may not appear in sequential order, since it is sorted by type, size and then sequence (but not properly since leading zeroes are omitted). Recovery results were the same for the reformatted card.

MEMORY STICK EVENT

The 64-MB Memory Stick contained 13 images in its last shoot and 12 images on the prior shoot. During the last shoot, an image was deleted in the camera.

MediaRECOVER took much longer to read through the Memory Stick than it did to read the CompactFlash. It identified the device as a 61-MB CD-ROM with 512-byte sectors. It recovered only nine images, one corrupted. It did not recover the last shoot completely. The corrupted image, the last it recovered, was the one deleted in the camera during the last shoot. It failed to recover any images from the reformatted Memory Stick.

PhotoRescue didn't take as long as MediaRECOVER to read the Memory Stick, which it identified as FAT-12 media with a cluster size of 16,384 bytes and a root directory size of 512 bytes. It found five directories and 29 files, 26 of them contiguous, recovering 49 megabytes of the 64-MB device using eight recovery methods. This worked out to 26 images, none corrupted, with the entire last and second-to-last shoot recovered. It also recovered the image deleted in the camera during the last shoot. But it wasn't able to recover anything except an empty MEMSTICK.IND file on the reformatted Memory Stick.

Picture Rescue didn't require any more time to process the Memory Stick either, but it retrieved 26 images, two of which were corrupted. It retrieved all 12 images from the second-to-last shoot and 12 from the last shoot. We seemed to confuse Picture Rescue by switching the directory to save images. It insisted it would overwrite images with the same name in the blank directory (that was true of the original directory), but wrote to the new directory and then complained the new directory didn't exist. We suspect it knew where it was but it wasn't keeping up with input events (in effect complaining we were trying to write twice to the output directory). It failed to recover any images from the reformatted Memory Stick.

PHOTO FINISH

The results speak for themselves but that's the Belgian national anthem you hear playing as the gold goes to PhotoRescue. The silver was taken by Picture Rescue, the bronze by MediaRECOVER.

The big surprise was the general failure to recover anything from the formatted Memory Stick. If this had been a real emergency, PhotoRescues's more advanced techniques might have been worth exploring.

MediaRECOVER's performance also surprised us. Our earlier tests yielded much better results than these tests indicate.

Picture Rescue scared us with its directory confusion or failure to keep up with our clicks, but it also recovered the QuickTime movie that MediaRECOVER missed and generally recovered more images than MediaRECOVER. We find its file renaming scheme unfortunate, however.

What didn't surprise us was PhotoRescue's performance. PhotoRescue was the only product to recover the last shoot on both cards. It also was the only one to recover original file names. And it was the only one to recover an image deleted in the camera during the last shoot. It's also the only one that let us create a directory to save the recovered images, an important convenience.

It's prudent, to say the least, to keep one of these programs handy. And which one, we think, is obvious.

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Feature: Konica Minolta G400 -- Armored Pocket Pal

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G400/G40A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

The Konica Minolta G400 follows the DiMAGE G500 as one of the more compact cameras in the DiMAGE line (though not as tiny as the diminutive X series). The G400 offers 4.0 megapixels, a 3x optical zoom lens and a very compact, all-metal body with a fully-retracting lens, perfect for travel. The availability of either automatic or full manual exposure control ought to please users with a range of experience and the flexibility of image color, sharpness and a range of exposure adjustments will satisfy more experienced users.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Don't let its small size fool you, Konica Minolta's $299 DiMAGE 400 digicam packs a lot of features into its tiny body. Boasting an all-metal, very compact body and full assortment of exposure options (including full manual exposure control and a nice range of color adjustments), the G400 should be a good fit for a wide range of users. The dual-slot memory system accepts both SD memory cards and Sony Memory Sticks (first seen on the Konica KD-400, the G400 extends compatibility to the Memory Stick Pro format).

Adding to the G400's attractiveness are a high-resolution, 4-megapixel CCD and super-fast startup time (1.2 seconds from power up to the first shot captured, very fast indeed). The sliding lens cover design eliminates the need for a lens cap and keeps the camera front smooth and pocket-friendly. Small enough for the average shirt pocket, it comes with a wrist strap for easy toting. The 3x zoom lens and 4.0-megapixel CCD capture high resolution, print quality images, with great color and detail.

Equipped with a telescoping, 3x, 5.6-16.8mm Hexanon lens (34-102mm 35mm equivalent), the G400's size doesn't compromise its optics. This lens produces sharper images than those of many full-sized cameras. Focus remains under automatic control and ranges from 1.64 feet to infinity in normal mode and from 2.36 inches to infinity in Macro mode. The record menu also offers three fixed focus settings. The G400 employs a Rapid AF system to quickly determine focus, much faster than the previous G500. Rapid AF estimates the distance between the subject and the CCD, but you can turn this option off in the Setup menu. Another useful focus tool is the Auto Bracketing feature, which will actually bracket focus in three steps.

The G400's lens has two aperture ranges, the first from f2.8 to f4.9 and the second from f4.7 to f8.3, as the lens is zoomed from wide to telephoto focal lengths. In addition to the camera's 3x optical zoom, as much as 2x digital zoom is also available, effectively increasing the G400's zoom capabilities to 6x.

Both a real-image optical viewfinder and 1.5-inch color LCD monitor are available for composing images. The optical viewfinder is rather tight, showing 82 percent of the image area, but the LCD is thankfully quite accurate. The LCD monitor reports camera settings information like the shutter speed and aperture settings, depending on the camera mode.

The G400 offers Automatic, Program AE, Aperture Priority and Manual exposure modes, plus a few preset Scene modes, including Portrait, Scenery, Night, Snap, Sports and Angel settings. Snap mode is for snapshots, setting up the camera for someone else to take a picture of you without fiddling with focus or exposure options. Angel mode enhances skin tones and uses faster shutter speeds, for capturing good portraits of fleeting expressions.

A handful of external camera controls activate most of the basic camera functions, but the G400's LCD menus are fairly straightforward and uncomplicated. The multi-functional Four-Way Arrow pad on the rear panel handles a lot of exposure options, which I appreciate. The sliding lens cover serves as the power switch, triggering the lens to extend forward when opened.

By default, the G400 employs a TTL center-weighted metering system, but a Spot metering option is available through the Record menu. An Exposure Compensation adjustment lightens or darkens the overall image from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to one second in normal shooting mode, but Manual mode offers maximum exposure times as long as 15 seconds. White Balance offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent and Tungsten options. You can also opt to record images in Black-and-White or Sepia monotones or in Cool or Warm color modes. The G400's built-in flash operates in Auto, Forced, Red-Eye Reduction, Suppressed and Slow-Sync modes. You can control flash power, from -1 to +1 exposure equivalents in half-step increments.

Movie mode captures 320x240-pixel moving images with sound as long as the memory card has space available. Like most cameras that record sound with movies, you can't zoom during recording to prevent noise from the zoom motor being recorded on the audio track. You can also record short sound clips to accompany images or longer sessions of pure audio for as long as the memory card has available space. Audio clips can be recorded when an image is captured or anytime afterwards.

The G400 offers two Continuous shooting modes: Super and Standard. Standard captures a series of images at 0.8 frames per second, as long as the Shutter button is held down, although the camera slows somewhat after the first six frames. Super Continuous captures a maximum of three images at 2.5 fps. Auto Bracketing lets you bracket either exposure or focus in three steps. The camera's Self-Timer mode offers a short delay (either three or 10 seconds) between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the shutter opens. ISO sensitivity can be adjusted to 50, 100, 200 and 400 eqiuvalents. Contrast, Sharpness and Saturation can also be adjusted, as well as the individual red, blue and green levels. You can also save specific exposure settings for up to two users.

The G400 stores images either on Sony Memory Sticks (either the original format or the new Pro units) or on SD/MMC memory cards, both available separately in a variety of storage capacities. A 16-MB SD card ships with the camera, but I highly recommend picking up a higher-capacity card, especially given the camera's maximum 2272x1704-pixel resolution and its resulting large file sizes. The camera uses a rechargeable NP-600 lithium battery pack, which comes with the camera, along with a battery charger. An AC adapter is available separately and uses a dummy battery to plug into the camera. Battery life is fairly good, with a worst-case run time of 97 minutes. The G400 has a USB jack and cable for downloading images to a computer. A CD-ROM loaded with DiMAGE Viewer software also comes with the camera, for downloading and organizing images.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The G400 had a warm cast with both the Auto and Daylight white balance options and in a variety of settings. Outdoors, the effect wasn't too pronounced, but the camera had a little trouble with incandescent lighting. Less than most, though. The slight warm cast aside though, colors were generally hue-accurate and appropriately saturated and skin tones were pleasing.

Exposure: The G400's exposure system delivered average exposure accuracy overall. It had high contrast at its default settings, but the contrast adjustment option worked pretty well, helping it hold onto color in my Outdoor Portrait test. But its ISO, contrast and saturation adjustments are pretty thoroughly buried in the depths of the menu system. A fairly short maximum shutter time required I shoot the Indoor Portrait test at ISO 200, which boosted the image noise more than it would have at ISO 100. While the G400 managed to hold onto highlights in the harshly lit Outdoor Portrait test, its dynamic range was limited on the dark end of the tone scale, where it plugged the shadows and lost detail.

Resolution/Sharpness: The G400 performed pretty 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 1,100 lines. Extinction of the target patterns occurred at between 1,350 and 1,400 lines. In shots of more natural subjects, the G400's images looked a little soft, but they seemed to take sharpening pretty well.

Image Noise: I was generally pleased by the G400's noise performance. Its images start out fairly clean at ISO 50 and the noise levels increase fairly gradually with increasing ISO. At ISO 400, the noise is very evident, but I'd say that it's not the worst I've seen from a camera in its price/performance class.

Close-Ups: The G400 performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.74x2.06 inches. Resolution was very high and detail was strong in the coins, brooch and dollar bill. Details were sharp, with only a little softness in the corners, a better performance than I usually see in mid-range digicams. Color balance was warm and yellowish with Auto white balance, but exposure was about right. The G400's flash throttled down a bit too much for the macro area, underexposing the shot. The flash sensor may have been fooled by a glint off a coin or the brooch, so don't hold the underexposure too much against the camera.

Night Shots: The G400 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at the higher (200 and 400) ISO settings. At ISO 100, images were bright as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.4 lux) and at ISO 50, images were bright only as low as 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux). Color balance was good, if slightly warm. Image noise was low (barely perceptible) at ISO 50, but as always, increased steadily with increasing ISO, becoming quite strong at ISO 400. The biggest weakness of the G400 for low light shooting is its autofocus system. It was a little hard to tell what the low light focus limit was, as the camera actually seemed to do better than it thought it did. It would blink its AF-warning icon in the LCD viewfinder at light levels even higher than the one foot-candle where my test starts. Despite this, it seemed to achieve accurate focus down to levels below one foot-candle. But don't rely on it for accurate autofocusing in dim lighting. Use one of the fixed-focus settings available in Manual mode.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The optical viewfinder was quite tight, showing only 82 percent of the image area at both wide-angle and telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 98 percent frame accuracy at both zoom settings.

Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion is a bit lower than average at wide angle, with 0.6 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto did better with 0.2 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is good to moderate, showing just a few pixels of coloration that ranges from faint to moderately bright on either side of the target lines. Corner-to-corner sharpness is also a good bit better than average, with less of the softness I've become so accustomed to seeing. Taken together, these results point to a fairly high quality lens on the G400, consistent with the results of my other test images.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: The shutter response in full autofocus mode is slightly on the fast side of average, with a range of 0.78 to 0.90 seconds. The same is true of its cycle time for maximum-quality images, at just under 3 seconds between shots. The one surprise was its exceptional speed when you pre-focus it by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button. In this mode, the shutter delay was a blazing 0.056 second (56 milliseconds), competing with dSLRs in that mode.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time (capture mode, with the LCD turned on) of 97 minutes, the G400's battery life is on the good side of average. As always though, I strongly recommend purchasing a second battery along with the camera.

CONCLUSION

Compact, feature-laden and stylish, the G400 offers point-and-shoot simplicity for beginners and full manual exposure control for more advanced consumers. While prone to image noise and/or reduced detail at higher ISO settings, I was quite favorably impressed with its image quality. The rugged, stainless steel body can withstand heavy usage and the small size is great for pockets. The 4.0-megapixel CCD and true, 3x optical zoom lens ensure high quality images with great color and detail, while multi-functional control buttons ensure less reliance on the LCD menu system and quicker shooting on the fly. The multi-tabbed menu bars are somewhat odd and their reliance on the poorly-placed Four-Way Arrow Pad are the camera's minor weak point. All in all, a surprising little digicam with features that earned it Dave's Pick status.

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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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Advanced Mode: Labeling Prints

At the magazine where we squandered our youth, the editors would prune the photo morgue once a year of industry luminaries no longer lighting things up. Like a dog at the dinner table, we'd scrutinize the back of the discarded prints looking for residual value, let's call it.

One day we ran across a stamped notation that said simply, "Credit to: Imogene Cunningham, 1331 Green St., San Francisco 9." Bingo, in other words.

The large rubber stamp Imogene Cunningham used was also favored by Ansel Adams. Adams applied his to the back of his print mounts. But he extended the art by using several stamps. The main stamp contained his full name and address with spaces for the title of the work, the negative date, the printing date and copyright. The additional stamps specified copyright notice, return requests and intended use. Today, he'd probably include a Web site and an email address with his contact information.

At the magazine, we were constantly unamused by contributors who went through a stack of 5x7 RC prints identifying the people in them on the back with a felt pen. As they stacked up the prints, each would absorb some of the slow-drying ink from the back of the previous print. Fortunately, we could sometimes wash this off.

When we had to write on a print (resizing instructions, say), we preferred pencil, writing lightly, with soft lead, to avoid making an impression on the other side. RC prints usually called for ballpoint.

Today it's hard for a photographer to avoid the convenience of using an inkjet to print one or another Avery label. A simple template in a word processing program (no names come to mind) or, better, a form in a relational database tracking your images (which should be a feature in any image organizer) can make it simple to label prints leaving the studio.

You may, however, prefer the old rubber stamp solution if your print is for exhibition and sale. But if it's for publication in a rag that still prefers prints, the archival qualities of the label adhesive won't be a consideration. Applying an adhesive label to the back of a mounted print isn't a problem either.

Laser printers, which bake toner on the label, aren't a good choice. The toner can easily transfer to any smooth surface it contacts.

A print is intended to be seen from the front but often the back has something to say as well. If you sell your prints, the back can be just as important as the front. But only if you label it.

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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 Kodak EasyShare DX6490 Zoom at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee95466

Visit the Minolta Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77f

Jay asks about the Olympus C-5060 for use by a beginner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9a917/0

Terri asks about choosing between two cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9a65f/0

Visit the Software Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b0

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Just for Fun: Got Snap?

We had settled comfortably on a public bench on the public pier just north of the Ferry Building, a free local paper blanketing our public body against the afternoon breeze. We were dreaming of nothing more ambitious than a nap.

It was not to be.

While we were left in peace, even by the gulls, we couldn't help notice a handsome couple walking out on the pier. No longer young, not yet antiques, they were holding hands as they wandered over to the railing opposite our bench. They laughed as they gazed out at the San Francisco Belle paddle wheeler moored at the pier just south.

The breeze carried their conversation our way. "See that boat?" the fella pointed across the water. "Yeah," she answered expectantly.

"Let's get our picture with it," he suggested. "We can ask that guy on the bench to take it. He doesn't look busy." She nodded enthusiastically. Way too enthusiastically for us to decline.

"Excuse me," she politely approached us. "Would you take our picture?"

She handed us a Canon PowerShot, pointed out the shutter button as a courtesy and rejoined her partner. No Snap Scene Mode here, folks. San Franciscans all know instinctively how to find the shutter button, how to fiddle with the zoom to compose the image, whether to take the shot in landscape or portrait mode and at just what angle.

Just as we've done for decades, we lined up another charming couple and, giving fair warning, snapped the picture.

We couldn't help smiling ourselves as we returned to camera. "Thank you!" she said, returning to the lucky guy.

We were on our way back to our bench to resume our position when we heard a cry of dismay. "Oh, excuse me again, please! Could you take another one? His eyes were closed!"

Until recently, they wouldn't have noticed that until they had gone home and gotten their prints developed. The digital age is obviously going to require a good deal more exertion on our part than we're accustomed to employing. We'll obviously have to extend the protocol to include reshoots now.

We smiled in a slightly asymmetrical way and took another shot. "How's this one?" we braced ourselves for more. We were, after all, inescapably at their service.

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RE: Panorama Mode

What Sony digicams (5.0-Mp and 6.0-Mp) have a panorama mode option like the Pentax 43WR?

-- Dorka Tirado

(If memory serves, no Sony offers a Panorama mode, in which the previous shot is ghosted on the current view so you can align the next shot. It's certainly nice to have but not necessary. Take a look in our Archives (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html) for the April 3, 2003 issue's "O Panorama!" for how to shoot them with any camera. As long as you follow those steps, stitching software like Adobe Elements or Photoshop will be able to assemble the image rather more convincingly than you can by hand. The big thing to remember is to lock the exposure. -- Editor)

RE: Standard Card Format

Am considering an upgrade from my three year old Olympus D490 Zoom to their C-740 Ultra Zoom. But I discovered the C-740 utilizes xD memory cards, therefore obsoleting my collection of SmartMedia cards used in the D490.

What are the chances of industry settling on one standard memory card within the next five years?

-- Rog Patterson

(Well, obsolete only in the sense you can't use them in your new digicam. You can certainly continue to use them with your computer, though, as removable storage. Don't expect to see a standard card format any time soon. Logically, the cards all behave the same (various MS-DOS formats) but the physical form factor is dictated by the camera design (small is better). Which only encourages the sort of "innovation" you're seeing. -- Editor)

RE: Painting a Photo

I'm looking for some software I heard about, I don't know if is a standalone product or a Photoshop plug-in. What it does is turn a digital image to a "painter" or watercolor effect and has such options as Monet, Van Gogh, etc. and you can select how much of this effect one desires. Have you ever heard of such software?

P.S. Check out my images at portfolios.com/phillauro

-- Phil Lauro

(Hands-down our preferred tool for this kind of thing is Synthetik's Studio Artist (http://www.synthetik.com). It's a standalone program that lets you select a style and then does the painting for you -- or you can mix and match styles and do the painting yourself. The interesting thing is that the various brush strokes are editable objects. There are various plug-ins (Photoshop includes a few, in fact) and Ken Milburn's "Digital Photography, Expert Techniques" has a chapter on the subject. But we don't find anything nearly as compelling as Studio Artist. -- Editor)

RE: PAL vs. NTSC

My nephew in Germany has a Fuji S602 zoom with only PAL video signal capability. You can imagine his extreme frustration to realize that he needs NTSC to project his pictures on American TV screens.

Could an electronically added update give us the much needed NTSC/PAL capabilities?

-- Herb Hintz

(I don't see a firmware update for the S602 at the Fujifilm site (http://www.fujifilm.com). While some digicams do let you select between NTSC and PAL video output in the camera setup menu, the S602 isn't one of them. But all isn't lost, Herb. The actual video captured to the storage card is a standard format (AVI or MPEG) that can subsequently be written to tape, CD or DVD for playback on either (but not both) NTSC or PAL systems (you decide when you author the disc). It's just the video out port that restricts output, not the file format. -- Editor)

RE: Pinned!

Should I send in my three month old Pro Shot1 to Canon to have the pins replaced or try to straighten the one out by myself? This is the first time I've ever had the problem over the past two years, but don't want to jeopardize my camera by making the slightly bent pin (one in the middle bottom row) weaker and then not being able to access the photos on the CF card. Haven't a clue how this happened and am quite upset. Would appreciate a professional's answer and then I'll make my decision.

-- Pat Schubert

(We've never had to straighten a pin on a CF connector, Pat, but we've straightened plenty of hard drive pins and chip pins. They aren't quite as rigid as you might expect. Still, in straightening, we always merely apply a little pressure. We don't bend them, we "influence" them. First call Canon to find out if they'll take care of this under warranty -- although expect it to come under the category of abuse. If they won't handle it under warranty, what have you got to lose by trying to straighten it yourself? -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Hasselblad (http://www.hasselblad.se) has acquired Imacon (http://www.imacon.com), the digital scanner and camera back manufacturer, to enter the professional digital photographic sector. Hasselblad Managing Director Lars Pappila said, "Using a combination of leading edge technology and strong photographic heritage, the new organization will enable us to increase the digitization for Hasselblad customers and introduce new customers to truly advanced professional digital solutions." Imacon Founder Christian Poulsen added, "The newly-enlarged Hasselblad can not only optimize the quality and value of the captured image, but also dramatically increase the pleasure of capturing the image itself -- the true essence of all photography."


Reindeer Graphics (http://www.reindeergraphics.com) has released a free Select Edges plug-in [MW] for Photoshop, featuring multiple types of edge detection.


Extensis (http://www.extensis.com) has released a Portfolio 7.0.1 Update that resolves issues with cataloging multiple volumes, assigning master keywords in Cataloging Options, upgraded Portfolio 6 catalogs and metadata being accidentally embedded into RAW files.


PictoColor (http://www.picto.com) has released its $149.95 iCorrect EditLab Pro [MW] with automated batch processing. At the same time, PictoColor is discontinuing other products in the iCorrect family including iCorrect Entree, iCorrect 4.0, iCorrect Professional Plug-in, iCorrect EditLab Plug-in and iCorrect EditLab Stand Alone application. The new product line includes CorrectPhoto for Windows XP, a photo editor; iCorrect EditLab Pro [MW], professional color correction and color managment software available either as a plug-in or standalone program; and inCamera [MW], an ICC profile creation plug-in for cameras and scanners.


Sony (http://www.sony.com) has introduced its $150 PictureStation DPP-FP30 with a footprint smaller than an 8x10 photo to print dye sub photos with or without a computer.


Rune Lindman (http://www.qpict.net) has released QPict 6.1.1 [M] with Canon EOS-1D Mark II RAW support, Exif support for Nikon D70 JPEG images, a slide show fade option and "a cool poof effect when removing media." It also contains several important bug fixes.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has introduced the LiteRoom, a tabletop-sized shooting tent for photography of small products using either flash/strobe or continuous lighting. Medium LiteRoom (24.5x32" and 17" high) is $174.95 and the large LiteRoom (34x45" and 24.5" deep) is $249.95.


Digital Railroad (http://www.digitalrailroad.net) has unveiled its online workflow and archive system to gives the power of a large photo agency to individual photographers. The service automates repetitive workflow, streamlining image delivery and communications and offers searchable online archives to unlock image revenue.


SceneMachines (http://www.livingpicture.net) has released their Euro 14.99 LivingPicture [W] to transform any digital image of a human, animal or even an inanimate object into an animated, 3D talking picture.


Transmutable (http://transmutable.com) has released 93 Photo Street 1.1 [MW], adding the ability to use your own map images.


Coolatoola (http://www.coolatoola.com) has released DV Backup v1.3.2 [M], adding direct file access, after-the-fact compression, plus minor fixes and improvements.


Q-Technologies (http://www.Q-Technologies.biz) has released its $19.95 PictureTheBatch 1.1 [MW], to batch process image files with drag-and-drop simplicity.


Kepmad (http://www.kepmad.com) has released its $19 ImageBuddy 3.1 [M], adding support for image borders and customizable multi-sided drop shadows on contact Sheets, plus a number of small improvements and bug fixes.


HexCat (http://www.hexcat.com) has released its $19 ViewIt 2.5 [M], an image viewer with quick image sorting, printing, importing, Exif tag support, format conversions, contact sheets and more.

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