The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 18 3 September 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 131st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. What's every new parent want? A hybrid, of course. No, not the baby, the camera! A camcorder that takes stills. A digicam that takes movies. Dave's found one -- and at a price new parents can afford. Meanwhile, we discover two guys who have concocted a free plug-in that can change your style in a single click. Which gives us time to reflect on how hard all this stuff is. Before we take a break and launch a new contest just to prove what great photographers our readers 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: VirtualPhotographer Lights the Imagination

It's late at night with the last campfire of the summer dwindling into embers that throb as they try to emulate the late night neon of civilization. Most of the other campers are still in their sleeping bags as it occurs to you that photography is not about cameras or software or printers. It's about seeing.

"Seeing?" says your sleepy sidekick. "It's too late if you wait to see it. You have to anticipate it, man. Photography is about anticipation."

You know the man's never set up a product shot in his life but you keep quiet a minute. Besides, his remarks remind you of a song.

"In fact," he continues. "It has nothing to do with seeing. It's luck before the shot and it's imagination after!"

"After?" you hoot with the owls. "What are you talking about?"

"You know, when you have the image there on your screen and you want to do something with it. Crop it, tone it, color balance it, shift the balance, whatever. You work with that original image data to make something you could only imagine, not see."

Last time he makes stew for dinner, you swear. "Good night, Harlan," you sigh like you just missed the last bus home. But Harlan stays up, staring at the stars, wondering what but imagination could possibly have suggested constellations to our ancestors.

Imagination can be hard to come by. It doesn't hurt to practice it, but that's easier said than done. Fortunately, OptikVerve Labs has come to the rescue with a free plug-in that can, with a click, imaginatively dress your photo in different styles. It may be just the spark you need.

ABOUT THE PROGRAM

Colin Jones and Peter Rowe (who did the programming) are behind VirtualPhotographer. Prompted by a desire to "recreate the look of film" in a digital image, they mixed some noise algorithms and blend modes with a Gaussian blur to emulate film grain. Then they started to emulate different emulsions and added black and white conversions and soon developed special effects. That lead to implementing presets and saving settings and, well, they're still having fun.

"We love photography," they claim on the OptikVerve site. "So much so that we decided to combine it with our second love -- programming -- to create the types of digital photography tools that we ourselves would want to play with. We want to help photographers concentrate on taking pictures instead of worrying a whole lot about RGB, Alpha-channels, Gaussian blurs, layers or software licenses. We offer simple tools that speak in the language of the photographer. Easy-to-use tools. Mostly needing just one click."

With dozens of preset styles (and more in the free additional settings file also available for download), you can quickly dress your image with various amounts of film grain, a nice soft focus, a black and white conversion, a tint (you can even pick the color), contrast shifts and a lot more. You can get these effects without knowing a thing about your image editor, too. In fact, the guys are considering a standalone version.

But the presets can also be refined with a number of sliders that make it very easy to tweak the effect. And you can save any variation you come up with, too.

It can certainly make an instant expert out of you but it helps to know what contrast, brightness, grain, cool and warm mean. But if you aren't up on the jargon, you soon will be. Click on Cool and you'll immediately see what it means.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS & INSTALLATION

OptikVerve's VirtualPhotographer (http://www.optikvervelabs.com) is an Adobe Photoshop-compatible plug-in currently available for Windows 98/ME/2000/XP. A Macintosh version is under consideration, according to the company.

To install the 273K self-extracting archive, you copy the unzipped folder to any plug-ins folder you like. The plug-in has been tested with Adobe Photoshop and Elements, Jasc Paint Shop Pro, Corel Photo-Paint, MediaChance Photo-Brush, ACD Canvas, MGI PhotoSuite and CDH Image Explorer Pro. Launch your image editing software and look for the new plug-in in your Filters menu.

THE INTERFACE

Open an image in your image editing software, click on the Filter menu, find OptikVerve Labs and launch VirtualPhotographer. The plug-in will display your image in a large preview window with a set of controls to the right.

The Preview area shows you the effect of the preset you've selected. You can switch between the effect and the original by holding down the left mouse button over the preview.

Below the Preview are buttons to Enlarge the image to examine the effect (like film grain) more closely, Reduce it, show it at Full Size or Fit it in the Preview window. They look like editable fields, but they're really just buttons. There's also a Help button and a Progress bar that runs pretty quickly as the filter is applied.

A Presets popup menu is to the top right of the Preview, subtly indicating its importance. Click here and use your Down arrow key to see everything VirtualPhotographer can do with your original image. Among the over 70 options currently available are color presents like Bright Shade, Faded, Glamour, Halo, Less Tungsten, Natural Portrait, Photocopy, Sixties Slide, Shoe Box (negative), Slight Grain and Transparency. Black and white presets include Blue Tone, Copper, Fashion, Flashback, Hard Steel, Newspaper, Paparazzi, Sepia and Sulphur. The names really don't do them justice.

Below that is a Film Type pane which emulates the appearance of two film types and two slide films. Slides display more contrast than film. A brightness and a contrast slider let you fine-tune the effect.

Under that is a Film Speed pane which adjust the amount of grain applied to the image, which is a multiplicative Gaussian noise transform. ASA 25 through 1600 is emulated with a slider to fine-tune the setting. "The ASA ratings are tied to how much of this film grain is applied to the image," Rowe explained.

At the bottom of this center column of panes is a Settings pane to Save or Load your settings in .vph files you can share with others.

At the top of the right-hand column is a Photographic Style (emulsion/colored filter) pane to emulate film emulsion characteristics. In color mode, they shift from warm to cool to green. In black and white mode, they simulate colored lens filters. And, yes, you have a slider to fade the effect.

Below that is the Photographic Effect pane to blur, shift the color and blend effects. Yep, with slider.

Under that is the B/W pane to convert a color image to black and white. It uses any settings from the panes above and allows tints that can be adjusted with its slider.

The Process pane contains the Process and Cancel buttons to apply your settings to the opened image or cancel the operation.

OptikVerve claims VirtualPhotographer is "fully aware of Selections and Layers in your image editing software." So you can restrict its effect to a selection or a layer in your working image. But the plug-in does not preserve the transparency of a layer.

USING THE PLUG-IN

Image editors come with a healthy set of their own filters, of course. And some image editors make it easy to preview the effects. But VirtualPhotographer takes a slightly different approach.

It loads all the effects into one filter. You don't see the effects previewed side by side (as you might in Photoshop's Filter Gallery), but you can flip through them using the Down arrow key. So you don't have to know the heirarchy of filters to find the effect you want. When you settle on one you like, you can play with the sliders to fine-tune it. Very simple -- and effective.

On the Quibble Meter we got a few readings for buttons that look like editable fields and some confusing labels on others (easily resolved by trying the effect). A status bar with a little help message would go a long way in defining the labels. And a little larger Preview window (even a resizeable one) would be nice.

CONCLUSION

On a more serious level, the Presets inevitably work on a subset of the image data, reducing it to one or another effect. You won't, for example, be colorizing a black and white image with VirtualPhotographer. You can tint one or knock a color image down to a black and white or sepia (with more variations of sepia than we know what to do with).

But that takes us back to the campfire where Harlan is still staring at the stars, trying to find the Big Dipper. The Presets alter your image. They change the effect the image has on the viewer. They train your imagination to visualize what the world in color out your window might look like in, say, a high contrast warm tint. Once you get used to seeing your ordinary color images in various styles, your imagination stirs in the embers and your creativity flames up. That's when things really start cooking.

Jones and Rowe have made it easy for anyone to apply some great effects to their images and start seeing images in a new way. Not a bad deal for the price.

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Feature: Pentax Optio MX -- A $400 Hybrid Digicamcorder

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

INTRODUCTION

With the introduction of the Optio MX, Pentax has gained a competitive edge in the market by combining its tried-and-true digicam feature set with the capabilities of a digital video camera. Its radical design will turn heads with its swivel-mounted handgrip. It has a maximum movie recording time of 120 continuous minutes, a 10x optical zoom lens, swivel LCD design, 3.2-megapixel CCD and a host of creative and manual exposure features that make it versatile enough for just about any situation.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Uniquely designed as both a digital still camera as well as a digital camcorder, the $399 Optio MX is surprisingly compact and manageable. The camera's small body incorporates a flip-up LCD monitor and a folding hand grip that rotates 180 degrees, allowing you to hold the camera like an old-fashioned pistol-grip-style movie camera. The main body measures 2.87x2.32x4.09 inches and weighs 13.2 ounces with the battery and SD memory card. While that's slightly hefty for a compact digicam, it's actually quite comfortable to hold and fairly lightweight considering the 10x optical zoom lens. With its moveable hand grip and easily-stowed LCD monitor, the Optio MX folds into a very compact unit.

The Optio MX features a 3.2-megapixel CCD, which captures a maximum still image resolution of 2048x1536 pixels, suitable for printing images as large as 8x10 inches. Movie mode offers three resolution settings (maximum 640x480 pixels) with a range of compression levels. Depending on the amount of memory card space, the frame rate setting and compression level, the Optio MX can capture as many as 120 minutes of continuous video, considerably longer than the average three to four minutes of most digicams.

The Optio MX has a whopping 10x, 5.8-58mm lens (a 38-380mm 35mm equivalent). Maximum aperture ranges from f2.9 to f3.5, depending on the zoom position. Focus ranges from 1.31 feet to infinity in still capture mode and from 3.9 inches to infinity in movie mode. The camera offers two macro ranges, the first from 7.87 to 19.68 inches and the second, Super Macro mode, from 0 to 15 centimeters. Macro ranges are slightly different in Movie mode. In addition to manual and automatic focus control, the Optio MX also offers Spot and Multiple AF area modes. The camera's autofocus system uses a TTL contrast-detection method to determine focus, based on a five-point spread at the center of the frame. A maximum of 10x digital zoom is available in addition to the 10x optical zoom (effectively increasing the zoom range to 100x). A removable, plastic lens cap protects the lens when not in use. The lens also has a set of 37mm filter threads to attach an optional wide-angle lens.

To frame shots, the Optio MX features a flip-up, swiveling, 1.8-inch, color TFT LCD monitor, which rotates 210 degrees vertically and 180 degrees horizontally. The LCD monitor reports limited camera information in its standard mode, including camera mode, the number of available images, focus mode, date and time and battery power. An expanded histogram information display not only puts a small histogram on-screen for checking exposure, but also reports more exposure details, such as white balance, quality and resolution, ISO and metering mode. There's also a grid display option, which divides the image area into thirds, horizontally and vertically, to help you align shots.

The Optio MX doesn't skimp on exposure features, offering a full range of exposure modes. An Exposure Mode dial on top of the camera offers Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Audio and Picture modes. Program mode provides access to all of the camera's exposure options, with the exception of shutter speed and aperture. Shutter and Aperture Priority exposure modes provide user control over one exposure variable while the camera sets the other and Manual exposure mode provides full user control over both settings. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to four seconds, giving the Optio MX fair low-light shooting capabilities. Picture mode offers a range of preset shooting modes, including Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Self-Portrait (for holding the camera in front of you), Surf&Snow, Sunset, Night Scene, Soft, Illustration and Panorama. Audio mode captures sound only up to four hours and 22 minutes, though actual recording time depends on the space available on the memory card.

By default, the Optio MX uses Multi-Segmented metering, which reads the entire image area to determine exposure. Center-Weighted and Spot options are also available. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in quarter-step increments and an ISO adjustment offers an Auto setting, as well as 100, 200 and 400 equivalent settings. White Balance options are Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent and Manual settings. Auto Bracketing mode not only brackets exposure and white balance, but also image sharpness, saturation and contrast adjustments (which are also independently adjustable). Digital Filter mode captures images in black and white or sepia tones or with red, pink, purple, blue, green or yellow filters applied.

The Self-Timer provides either a two or 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the camera actually takes the picture. For shooting fast action subjects, Continuous and High-Speed Continuous modes capture a rapid series of images as long as you hold down the Shutter button. Though it's slow and pauses momentarily on occasion, the amount of available memory space determines the maximum number of images the camera will capture in Continuous mode and details like resolution size and shutter speed determine the shooting interval. High-Speed Continuous mode captures a maximum of three images in a single burst.

The camera's flash operates in either Auto, Off, On, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction or On with Red-Eye Reduction modes and is effective from 3.94 inches to 16.7 feet. You can also adjust the flash intensity, from -2 to +1 exposure equivalents in one-quarter-step increments.

Movie recording capacity is what gives Pentax bragging rights on the Optio MX. Rather than have a separate movie mode that captures only a few minutes at a time, the Optio MX can capture a maximum of 120 continuous minutes of moving images with sound (depending of course, on resolution, quality and available memory card space). Frame rate is 15 or 30 frames per second. In any image recording mode, pressing the Movie button on the camera's hand grip starts recording (a second press stops recording). Pressing the Shutter button while recording video locks the focus for as long as it's held down. A timer appears in the LCD monitor, counting down the remaining recording time. Movies can be recorded at 160x120, 320x240 or 640x480 pixels, with three compression levels available as well. Optical zoom is available while recording movies, as are the Landscape and Manual focus options. The Record menu offers a Fast Forward Movie option, which slows down the frame rate, so that when movies are played back, the action appears sped up (like time-lapse photography). A Color Mode option on the Record menu lets you record movies in black and white or sepia tones. You can also apply any of the digital filters post-capture through the Playback menu.

The Optio MX stores images on SD/MMC memory cards and comes with a 16 megabyte SD card. In light of the MX's video capabilities, you should get a 256-MB or larger memory card. The camera uses a D-LI7 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, which accompanies the camera, along with a battery charger. Since the Optio MX does not accommodate AA batteries in any form and can record a maximum of 120 continuous minutes of video, pick up an additional battery pack and keep it freshly charged. The optional AC adapter is also useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images or recording long events. A USB cable accompanies the camera for quick connection to a computer, as well as a software CD containing ACDSee, ACD Showtime and ACD Fotoslate software for Mac and PC platforms.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The Optio MX generally produced pretty pleasing color. Some bright greens and yellows were muted and some reds were oversaturated, but most of the spectrum was pretty accurate and the overall look of its images was nice. While its Auto white balance option had severe trouble with the household incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait test, its Incandescent and Manual settings did very well.

Exposure: It generally required an average amount of exposure compensation on the shots that typically require it. A couple of shots came out very slightly dark, but the effect wasn't too pronounced, so I'd still call its exposure accuracy average. Its default contrast is quite high though, causing it to lose highlight detail under harsh lighting. A contrast adjustment option on the shooting menu helps with this, but even at the low setting, contrast is still higher than I'd like for harshly-lit subjects. Shadow detail also tended to be somewhat limited.

Resolution/Sharpness: The Optio MX turned in an average performance for its 3.2-megapixel class on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to at least 950 lines vertically, 1,050 lines horizontally, so a fair average would be 1,000 lines. Extinction of the target patterns occurred around 1,200 lines. While its resolution wasn't too bad, its images were not quite as crisp as those of the best 3-megapixel cameras.

Image Noise: The Optio MX exemplifies a trend I've been seeing more of lately. While its absolute noise levels in flat areas of its images were fairly low, noise levels increase in regions where subject detail is stronger and the anti-noise processing very evidently fuzzes-out fine subject detail in areas of subtle contrast. Likewise, while image noise increases only slowly with increasing ISO, fine detail takes a heavy hit, particularly at ISO 400.

Close-Ups: It performed well in its normal Macro mode, capturing a minimum area of 2.98x2.23 inches. Resolution was very high, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill, coins and brooch. All four corners of the frame are soft, with the right side of the image being the worst, but this is common in digicam macro modes. In Super Macro mode, it focuses incredibly close, with a minimum area of 0.99x0.75 inches. However, lighting the subject is nearly impossible at the very closest range. The manual states the minimum focus distance in Super Macro mode as "0 cm." That's right, the camera can focus on dust (or anything else) that's actually touching its front lens element! The Optio MX's flash throttled down pretty well for the macro area.

Night Shots: The Optio MX offers a full manual exposure control mode, as well as adjustable ISO and a maximum shutter time of four seconds. Thus, the camera performed fairly well in the low-light category. It produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level at the ISO 400 setting. At ISO 200, images were bright down to 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) and at ISO 100, images were bright as low as 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux). Color was good, though slightly warm, with increasing warmth in the dimmer shots. Image noise was moderate at ISOs 100 and 200, becoming high at ISO 400. The autofocus system could focus as low as about 1/8 foot-candle, a very good performance, particularly for a camera with no AF-assist light. Overall, the MX would do fine at all ISO settings for typical urban night photography, as typical city street-lighting gives about one foot-candle of illumination.

Viewfinder Accuracy: Its LCD monitor was only a little tight, showing about 92 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 93 percent at telephoto. The Optio MX's LCD monitor isn't bad, but still has a little room for improvement.

Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion on the Optio MX is slightly high at wide-angle with 0.9 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared only a little better at 0.7 percent pincushion distortion (particularly high, but long-zoom cameras have more geometric distortion at the limits of their zoom ranges). Chromatic aberration was fairly low, showing only about two or three pixels of moderate coloration on either side of the target lines. The MX's images also lost less sharpness in the corners than I'm accustomed to seeing in digicam photos. Overall, the lens is of above-average quality.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time of just under two hours, the Optio MX's battery life is better than average. As always though, I strongly recommend purchasing a second battery at the same time as the camera, to have a spare.

CONCLUSION

Those wanting a hybrid digital still and video camera with a satisfying zoom and no costly digital video tapes to mess with may want to consider the Optio MX. With an available 120 minutes of continuous movie and sound recording time (depending on resolution, memory space, etc.), the Optio MX operates as both a digital still camera and a digital video camera.

I did find some issues with color saturation, particularly in strong yellows, as well as a little too much contrast overall. Likewise, video recording isn't quite up to the quality level of most digital camcorders, although I didn't see the "jumpiness" some reviewers commented on. A more serious issue is its sluggish shutter response in still-capture mode.

For its price, the Optio MX doesn't have any competitor, but for $100 more the Canon S1 IS is more responsive to the shutter button. Overall though, the Optio MX does serve the middle ground of camcorder and still photography in an innovative and lightweight package -- with one heck of a zoom and for a very good price.

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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: The Hard Way

Every now and then we find ourselves reverting back to that shoelace-challenged state that made kindergarten such a challenge. It happened again recently when we fiddled with the front derailleur on our peddle-or-perish heirloom 10-speed. Technically speaking, the derailleur wasn't moving the chain to the big gear in front.

So what, in our infinite wisdom and long experience, did we do?

First, we fiddled with anything that moved. That worked really well -- if the object of the game was to destroy the chain by dropping it off the front gears completely.

Then we got logical. We aligned the parts the way a mechanical engineer might have designed them to fit. Lovely to see -- but no movement at all.

We finally suspected this wheel had already been invented. So we dug into a book or two. We read through the procedure to adjust a derailleur. We adjusted each part precisely after moving the chain onto the right gears. No way, Calumet.

What's this have to do with the sometimes overly-technical thrills of digital photography? Well, it comes under the category of Nothing Is Simple. No doubt you've wished for a button where a seminar is required. Or a battery where an extension cord is your only choice. Or just a clue where your images went.

We may sometimes sound like we know what we're talking about, but we know that pain.

Fortunately, as we point out in this week's software review, you can sometimes have the button without suffering the seminar. We greatly applaud this approach.

But we're reminded of some puzzling advice by an uncommonly wise professor whose lectures we once attended. If you don't have a lot of time outside class, he advised, spend your time reading the recommended texts. If you do have time, he continued, spend your time reflecting on what you have read. This approach, he assured us, would make our blue books azure.

We find that morsel, puzzling as it is, illuminating even now. If you have no time, grab the one-button solutions, they will expand your mind. But if you do have time, invest it in understanding just what's going on. More slowly, perhaps, but more surely, too, your understanding will ripen. And that's the only way we'll ever get any more magical buttons -- if someone takes the trouble to understand what they are doing. So grasp concepts. And get the picture.

Frankly, that's what we've been doing the last few years in this newsletter and in our answers to your email. It makes things exciting. Fun. Wild. Music you can dance to. No right, no wrong, just shades of meaning. Well, we exaggerate, but you get the drift.

It's more fun than precisely following seven steps (in a particular order) to adjust your front derailleur. By some miracle, we managed to figure it out two days later. But the subsequent euphoria foolishly emboldened us to tackle our 45-year-old Hudson American Flyer model train, about which little knowledge survives. You'd think we would have learned.

So when you feel Old Frustration at the stove, shove it aside and boil some water. What you put into it is what you'll get out of it. How far would you have gotten, after all, if you never learned to tie your shoelaces?

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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 Canon EOS 20D dSLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9ad5a

Visit the Accessories Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2e5

Murat asks about depth of field at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9a867/0

Kathy asks about memory cards at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9aa02/0

Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8

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Just for Fun: Photo of the Day Beta

We've been staying up late at night working on a new way to prove just how talented and intelligent you are. We call it the Photo of the Day Contest.

We think we've swatted down all the Nile-virus-bearing bugs, but there may be a few niceties to add before we go live. So we're inviting you to make a submission or four at http://digital-photography-resource.com/potd/ir_potd_enter.htm (which is the entry form).

Don't worry, we won't award any prizes or display any winners just yet (we're still debating which of us will accept the highest bribes). So if you've always been shy about entering contests, this is your day. You'll have plenty of time to prepare yourself for seeing your name on the big screen when we do decide on a judge worthy of your submissions.

The entry form is self-explanatory (verbosely so, we might add). Just enter a title for your image, your name, your email address (for prize notification only) and browse your disk for an image to send us.

If you only post like Emily (politely, that is), you may want to know that images are resized to 480 pixels in the long dimension. You can do that yourself, if you like (remember to run a little unsharp masking on the downsized image, too). As a reward, it will take you less time to upload. But it isn't necessary (unless you have one of those 8-Mp digicams).

The image doesn't have to be from a digital camera, but it does have to be digitized (scanned by your scanner or copied with your digicam). And, yes, it can be edited (to death even). Using image editing software is half the fun, after all (but not required). Making everything legal is our fool-proof way of making it impossible to cheat.

But it does have to be your image, not someone else's (even if edited to death). And to be a winner, it has to be fit for public consumption. Just remember, even though you happen to be talented and intelligent, you are only a small part of our public viewing audience. Winners have to be digestible by all (G-rated).

When we go live, a daily winner will be selected and displayed on the site (all day, too). And at the end of each month, we'll select three prize winners for the month. Each one will actually get something, too. Fabulous things they don't usually give away on TV game shows. Really. Except that Dave already used up the kayak expedition to the Costa Rican rain forest during the alpha test.

Sound fun? Give it a whirl. Practice winning now while we're still looking for a judge and hustling prizes. We'll be indebted to you.

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Dave's Deals

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Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

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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: Rescuing Images

In your round-up of the Rescuers you didn't mention Lexar's ImageRescue. Luckily I haven't needed it yet, but tested it once after installing it from my Lexar CF card. Just looked into it again.

Without having done as extensive a test as you, I'd say it is quite a nice program, easy to use. The one time I used it, it did what I wanted. Don't know if it comes in two flavors (Win and Mac), only know the Win version.

Nonetheless, particularly since it comes for free (right, there's nothing like a free lunch) with Lexar's Pro cards, to me it may warrant an honorary mention -- or even a quick look into it?!

-- Dierk Haasis

(Yes, it is cross-platform. We just don't happen to have a copy. But read on.... -- Editor)

Great timing on the image recovery comparison. I had images on a 1-GB Lexar that I couldn't recover with Lexar's Image Rescue or with SanDisk's. Did the trial with PhotoRescue, pix were there, bought the system, downloaded it, images were saved and the customer and I were very happy.

-- Mickey W Sanborn

(Thanks, Mickey. We haven't seen a case where PhotoRescue has been beaten. -- Editor)

RE: Straightening Card Pins

I've had success using a tool made from an old hypodermic syringe needle for straightening bent pins in electronic equipment. A 16 or 18 gauge needle is about right for the CF card. File off the point and clean the swarf out the end of the bore with a sewing needle. Slip it over the recalcitrant pin and ease it back into line.

I worked in a scientific institution so fat needles were easy to come by. Those used by diabetics and addicts are too fine. Maybe a veterinary practice would be a possibility for a source of larger bore needles at the right price? Take the camera body and show the Vet what you're trying to do.

If all else fails you could buy a new packet of ten at a medical supply house. :-{

-- Phil

(You'd think we'd have a few syringes around the house but all we've got are these lousy Q-Tips. -- Editor)

Did you think to ascertain whether there might be residual voltage in camera on those pins? A nice way to introduce a short circuit. I have done it, although on a hard disk.

-- Tony

(Good point, Tony. You can never be too careful. -- Editor)

RE: A Suggestion

There is one topic I find absent on all of the digital camera review sites I have read. That topic is a comprehensive review of the movie feature on the cameras. There are many questions that a novice, such as myself, has about this topic. What are the best cameras for quality, storage and features in terms movie capabilities? What should we look for?

-- John

(Dave does fully report the video capabilities of each model in the Movie mode section. And we have written about Movie mode itself and discussed the main factors: supported video formats, image size, frames per second, limitations on duration and limitations on either zoom or sound. Recent model releases are surprisingly competent (one correspondent actually uses his Sony F-828 as a video camera). For DVD-quality production, look for a VGA image size (640x480) shooting at 30 frames per second (the video standard) with duration restricted only by card size (although you'll need an expensive fast card to keep up with 30 fps). Zoom and sound don't often go together (the microphone tends to pick up the sound of the zoom motor). Video accessories like shotgun mics and on-camera lighting aren't going to be available. Nor, generally, is a 16:9 aspect ratio. -- Editor)

My suggestion is having a section devoted to the various movie categories of each camera with the same vigorous standards used for picture quality. Perhaps a movie sample would be helpful. Unless I am mistaken, I do not find such a section on your site.

-- John

(Oh boy, there go our bandwidth charges! -- Editor)

RE: Arty Shots

For your next newsletter, another good art-from-photos editing app: PhotoArtMaster (http://www.domai.com/pics/pampics/index.html). I am waiting for their upcoming Mac version.

-- Eolake Stobblehouse

(Thanks! -- Editor)

RE: You Snooze, You ... Win!

Your short story about the couple that asked you to take a picture of them on San Francisco Bay and thus interrupting your possible nap time really brought a smile to my face.

A short story of my own -- the girl friend and I were on a trip to Yellowstone (you can't be an outdoor photographer without "doing" Yellowstone, right?). I had my John Shaw-like hat on, my Lowe Pro backpack with white lenses sticking out of it, my trusty Bogen tripod -- I could have been the poster boy for B&H Photo!

But lo and behold, not once but twice did couples come up and ask my "photographer's assistant" (the girl friend calls herself the "pack mule") to take their picture! I do have to admit she is much prettier than myself -- but as all photographers know, beauty and expertise aren't always in the same package! And, boy does she ever like to tell that story at any excuse whatsoever!

A suggestion -- in the future, perhaps you should take some of your camera gear with you when a quick snooze is in order? I've found that sitting down with camera gear attached to any part of my body is a magical sleep inducer and the same formula may work for you?

Thanks again for sharing your experience -- and really like your newsletters!

-- Mike Rooney

(Thanks, Mike! The world needs more reasons for napping. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Two recently-reviewed programs were updated just this week (we had nothing to do with, of course).

Prosoft Engineering (http://www.prosofteng.com) has released Picture Rescue v1.1.0 [M]. New features include a thumbnail preview of all recoverable images, drag and drop recovery (select the picture in the Image Recovery Window and drag it to a destination folder or the Desktop), Secure Card Erase to erase a media card with three levels of security, plus improvements in reliability and speed.

And iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) has released iView MediaPro 2.6 [MW], which adds Visual Basic support for Windows, a Getting Started dialog to help first-time users, iPhoto album imports, new image editing tools (transform, adjust color balance, adjust color levels), additional file format support (Sony, Pentax, Canon, Olympus, Minolta), improved compatibility with Photoshop documents and a number of bug fixes.


ArtBeacon (http://www.artbeacon.com) is offering three months free service for their six-step, do-it-yourself integrated Web shopping cart with direct payment from your customers via PayPal or credit cards.


Jasc (http://www.jasc.com) has released two new betas for the next version of Paint Shop Pro. "Some of you wanted more power, some of you wanted a Paint Shop Pro that was fun and easy to use. What's a software company to do? We made both!" Betas of powerful Paint Shop Pro 9 and easy Paint Shop Pro Studio are both available as free downloads.


Paraglyph Press (http://www.oreilly.com/paraglyph) has published its 272-page, $20 Camera Phone Obsession, covering how to get the most out of your camera phone, how to purchase the best camera phone, how to best shoot and print photos, what the best services are for sharing photos, and how to use camera phones with your computer.


Blue Pixel (http://www.bluepixel.net) will be running the $49 Just Show Me How seminar tour (http://www.puredigitalfun.com) that shows you what to do after you take the picture. The tour is sponsored by Extensis, GretagMacBeth, Lexar, Mirra, nik multimedia, Wacom and others.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has introduced its $775 Small Product Photography Lighting Kit, which includes two each of the Starlite 3200 lighting system, SilverDome nxt softbox and four-section Litestand, plus an instructional CD-ROM featuring assembly information and lessons on lighting small products like ceramics, crystal, arts and crafts items, coins, stamps, models, paintings, gems and jewelry.


Camera Bits (http://www.camerabits.com) has released its $150 Photo Mechanic 4.2 [MW] with background photo uploading, tagging by color class, external editor support based on file type, faster image scaling, new date variables, direct photo renaming from the contact sheet window and more.


Flash Point (http://www.flashpoint.com) has introduced Curio [W], a free photo album suite that features fast sharing via the Curio Instant Photo Server; easy editing and organizing using Curio Photo Album; and photo quality prints and gift using the Curio print and Gift Maker.


Photoshop World (http://www.photoshopworld.com) is just wrapping up in Orlando, Fla. after a sneak peek and demonstration of next-generation digital imaging products from Adobe and Wacom.


The PhotoImaging & Design Expo (http://photoimaginganddesign.com) will take place April 19-21, 2005 at the San Diego Convention Center.


Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has released version 4.0 of EasyShare [MW]. The update synchronizing Ofoto albums, improves searching, introduces Smart Albums and adds slide show soundtracks.

Kodak has also signed an agreement to buy National Semiconductor's imaging business. Kodak plans to hire National Semiconductor 50 employees based in Santa Clara, Calif. to strengthen its CMOS image sensor design and development for consumer digital still cameras and cell phones.


Agfa-Gevaert (http://www.agfa.com) will divest its Consumer Imaging division including its consumer film, finishing products and photo lab equipment businesses in a management buy-out/buy-in deal. These operations will be sold to the team currently running the division under a newly created, privately held company, AgfaPhoto, which will take over 2,870 former Agfa employees.


XtraLean (http://www.xtralean.com) has released ImageWell 2 [M], adding PNG support, larger watermark text with position options and minor bug fixes in the free image editor and file uploader.


Lemke (http://www.lemkesoft.de) has updated its $35 GraphicConverter [M] to version 5.2, adding an optional preview for RAW image import, ISOs in Nikon D70 JPEGs, Web-ready file names, smv and fig import, long filename support and more.


Edge Tech (http://www.edgetechcorp.com) has introduced its $25 9-in-1 Card Reader with an xD slot supporting xD-Picture cards, SD memory cards, MultiMedia cards, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Duo, SmartMedia, Type I/II CompactFlash cards and IBM Microdrive.


Stick Software (http://www.sticksoftware.com) has released its $10 PhotoReviewer 1.3 [M] to manage photos before importing them into iPhoto.


JicSoft (http://www.jicsoft.com) has released its $35 Himedia 1.50 [W] to organize, edit, share and enjoy your photographs and videos. Himedia categorizes your images into Album Trees by person, place, time, roll of film, resolution, import date and other factors to quickly and easily retrieve them.


Bobby Cronkhite (http://bobbysoftware.com) has released ZeboPhoto 1.5.2 [M] with manual and multi-picture slide shows among the improvements.

Return to Topics.

One Liners

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

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

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

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

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Signoff

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

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

Happy snapping!

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

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