|Volume 6, Number 20||1 October 2004|
Welcome to the 133rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We take an in-depth look at Adobe's new Digital Negative file format. Dave gets his hands on Canon's new generation G. And we launch our Photo of the Day Contest!
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Six months after introducing the concept at Photoshop World, Adobe has released an open-source raw file format specification accompanied by a free converter. The new format is supported by the concurrent release of a new Camera Raw plug-in and built-in support in Elements 3.0.
At Photoshop World in San Francisco this March, Adobe Senior Vice President Bryan Lamkin said, "we need to come together as an industry and define a digital master. And what I mean by digital master is a format that is permanent, that has permanence, that 100 years from now people will be able to go to a written record that says this is how that format is declared and interpreted."
This week the company unveiled its idea of a digital master, calling it the Digital Negative.
The sensor in a digital camera captures only grayscale information. To turn that luminance data into vivid color, each pixel is filtered so it records either the red, green or blue luminance of the scene. The data from adjacent pixels (filtered otherwise) are used to pad out the missing two-thirds of the color information for any particular pixel.
This technique of color interpolation sounds much less precise than it actually is. In reality, luminance data provides most of the information we need to decipher a scene. Color data is fairly uniform except at the boundaries of a color break, where small interpolation anomalies are often possible to detect.
Because color interpolation is essential to creating a color image, digicams immediately manipulate the raw data from their sensors to derive it. They may also apply color shifts (white balance) and other techniques (sharpening) so that the data stored as a JPEG on the camera's card is a few generations from the sensor data.
THE RAW APPROACH
That essential conversion obliterates the original data, of course. And with the 8-bit channels common in most digicams, that's usually an efficiency. But if your digicam captures more than eight bits per channel (say, 12), the conversion to a 24-bit JPEG may lose a lot of useful information.
By recording the original sensor data for each channel and delaying the conversion to the image editing stage of your workflow, you (not the camera) can decide which tones to preserve. In practice, this is equivalent to having under- and over-exposures available in the same image -- with your choice of white balance to boot. You just need software like Adobe's Camera Raw plug-in, to optimize the values.
Unfortunately, until now raw data was proprietary. Adobe, along with every other software company that supports raw image formats, has had to issue updates to handle each new raw format from every newly-introduced camera.
THE DNG SOLUTION
By standardizing the format of raw data, Adobe hopes to stay ahead of sensor development. Manufacturers who adopt the format, at least as an option, know their raw data will be compatible with any application that understands the DNG format.
This returns the benefits of the universally-supported JPEG format to the usually obscure raw file format. You no longer have to worry that a new computer system won't run the conversion utility for an older raw format no longer supported by the camera manufacturer. Likewise, you don't have to worry about specifying which raw formats you can handle, if you (like many publications) receive images from many sources.
So expect to see support for the format appear in applications from asset managers to image editors and from services like stock photo agencies.
Finally, this provides strong encouragement to manufacturers to store critical metadata in publicly accessible tags rather than bury them in undocumented Exif MakerNote tags. Photographers find it maddening when simple data like the ISO setting is hidden in a MakerNote instead of the standard Exif tag.
With a single open standard for representing the data captured by any sensor, the days of proprietary camera raw formats would be of only historical interest. We wouldn't have to live in them any more.
The key characteristics of the DNG format are:
- Using a ".dng" extension, the format extends the TIFF-EP format with additional tags to enhance interpretation of the raw data.
- In addition to sensor data, the specification embraces existing non-proprietary metadata.
- Sensor data up to 32 bits per sample can be stored uncompressed (bit-packed or padded to 16-bits per pixel) or with lossless JPEG compression, as specified the original JPEG standard (used, for example, by Canon in the ID, IDS and 20D).
- Sensor data is represented in a linear color space that is not white-balanced, usually the camera's native color space.
- Sensor data can be represented either in a compact mosaic form (single channel, filtered luminance values for each pixel) or demosaiced form (all channels represented for each pixel for sensors with unsupported mosaic patterns).
- Any number of previews/thumbnails at any size, either uncompressed or JPEG compressed may be included. Adobe DNG Converter 2.3, for example, saves a 256-pixel thumbnail in each output file.
- Lossless rotation is provided by modifying a single byte of the file, the required Orientation tag.
CONNOR ON THE SPECS
We asked Kevin Connor, senior director of product management for Adobe Photoshop, to elucidate a couple aspects of the specification. He generously took time from Photokina trade show to answer our questions.
Our first question had to do with the Exif MakerNote. The Exif specification calls it a "tag for manufacturers of Exif writers to record any desired information. The contents are up to the manufacturer." Camera manufacturers use it to record settings for custom features as well as some common ones like White Balance and ISO.
Q. Is the raw file's MakerNote tag in the Exif metadata excluded wholesale or copied into a new tag for archival purposes?
A. Actually, the DNG specification can support the full MakerNote [using the DNGPrivateData and MakerNoteSafety tags]. It is just as extensible -- if not more so -- than the existing Exif standard. The Adobe DNG Converter does not necessarily maintain the MakerNote for all cameras when the files are converted to DNG. This is precisely because this is private, unpublished data and Adobe does not have access to this information for all manufacturers. As a result, we are not always able to maintain it when converting the file to DNG. We do, of course, still maintain all of the image information, as well as the metadata required for a high quality image conversion.
In contrast, if a camera manufacturer chooses to support DNG themselves, then they can certainly include the entire MakerNote, because they know what it is.
Arguably, unpublished MakerNote tags can never really be considered archival, because they're not freely readable. In many cases, these tags may never be visible to the photographer, even when using the camera manufacturer's own software. Nevertheless, we do recommend that customers using the Adobe DNG Converter archive two copies of their files: the original camera-specific raw file that contains all of the metadata and the DNG file that is more likely to be readable in years to come. When manufacturers support DNG natively, however, there will be no need to archive two copies.
Q. What new tags does DNG add to the Exif metadata?
A. All of the new tags are documented within the specification. It's important to not use the term Exif to generically refer to all metadata, however. The additional metadata required in the DNG specification is not part of Exif. There are many metadata standards and Exif is only one of them. The DNG format itself incorporates several [TIFF-EP for Exif, IPTC and XML].
Most of the additional metadata that DNG requires focuses on describing the contents of the file so that it can be correctly interpreted by a software converter. These include such information as the arrangement of the color filter array used by the camera sensor and the color profile of the camera.
Q. Have any camera manufacturers signed on to this format yet? Any software companies?
A. We're not at liberty to name any companies that have signed on to the DNG format yet. We've been sharing the specification with all of the camera manufacturers since the beginning of this year and they're currently at varying stages of their consideration process. There are a number of hardware and software companies who are already looking at ways to fit DNG into their release schedules, but we have no specific plans yet. We don't expect a change to happen overnight, but it's quite possible that you may see some cameras appear within a year.
In fact, we asked a few of our industry contacts what they thought. Among those who had heard of the specification, they typically echoed Connor's comment.
"We are in talks with Adobe and actually included a quote for them at Photokina basically saying that a DNG is a good idea," said a spokesperson for Extensis. "Now we are reviewing the specifics of what it would take to integrate this into Portfolio, until we know the entire scope of the format, we can't comment on integration -- but we are investigating it at this point."
As the week ended, however, Rune Lindman announced the availability of a test versio of his Macintosh asset manager QPict (http://www.qpict.net) that supports the new format.
In addition to the full specification, Adobe released two white papers on the format, one for users introducing the concept and another for manufacturers.
At the same time, the company released the free Adobe DNG Converter 2.3 [MW]. The Converter can copy a folder of raw files to a destination folder, converting them into DNG files while renaming them on the fly. Options provide for lossless compression and preserved raw image data (mosaic).
Once you have a collection of DNG files, you can use the newly-released Camera Raw 2.3 plug-in to open them in Photoshop CS. The forthcoming Elements 3.0 will also support DNG files.
Camera Raw 2.3 doesn't provide any special handling for DNG files, but version 3.0 of the plug-in may offer a number of optimizations.
Adobe suggests in its white paper for manufacturers that the format be included as an option in Setup menus (just as TIFF and JPEG are now). It can be implemented as the native raw format, as well. Finally, manufacturers can provide a software utility to convert from their native raw format to DNG, supporting their MakerNote tags.
In short, Adobe has introduced the new format with tools to actually use it. And the support section of their Web site includes a forum for discussing your results as well. We applaud the company for their open approach to this open format.
A QUICK TEST
We ran the Converter on a handful of raw images including Canon CRW, Foveon X3F, Kodak and DCR Nikon NEF files. We used the default renaming scheme that replaces the original extension with a .dng extension.
The 5-MB to 17-MB files were converted in seconds to DNG files that ranged between 70 and 87 percent of the original file size. Files were written with creation dates of the DNG conversion, although presumably the Exif capture date was maintained.
Standard utilities to read Exif headers were unable to make any sense of the new format.
Opening the images in Photoshop CS identified them as Camera Raw format and launched the new plug-in. The files were easily manipulated using the plug-in's controls just as if they were the original raw files.
In Adobe's support forum for the new format, we followed a few intriguing threads after the format's introduction. Here are some highlights:
Adobe's Thomas Knoll observed, "One case I can think of where the DNG Converter may do a better job in the future is for the cameras for which I'm not currently able to extract the 'as shot' white balance. If some time in the future the manufacturer decides to document how the white balance is stored in the file or if some third party figures this out through reversion engineering, the 'as shot' white balance could then be made to work as expected."
Adobe's Chris Cox noted, "ACR 2.x requires Photoshop CS. We cannot update ACR 1.x to include DNG support." Along the same lines, Knoll said, "Camera Raw 3.0 will be released with the next major release of Photoshop.'
In response to a query about mapping bad pixels, Knoll said, "user controlled bad pixel mapping is a feature of raw conversion software, not of the raw format. DNG in no way prevents this feature."
On why lossless JPEG was preferred over ZIP compression, Knoll explained, "PNG uses ZIP compression, which does poorly on data deeper than 8 bits/channel, which most raw formats contain. I actually tried ZIP compression in prototype versions of DNG, but the compression ratio was much better using lossless JPEG."
TO LEARN MORE
For more information about the format, Adobe's Web site provides a wealth of resources. Key downloads include:
- DNG home page: http://www.adobe.com/products/dng/main.html
- The full specification: http://www.adobe.com/products/dng/pdfs/dng_spec.pdf
- Introducing the Digital Negative Specification: http://www.adobe.com/products/dng/pdfs/dng_primer.pdf
- Introducing the Digital Negative Specification: Information for Manufacturers: http://www.adobe.com/products/dng/pdfs/DNG_primer_manufacturers.pdf
- Camera Raw Plug-In 2.3: http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html
- DNG Converter for Mac OS: http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=2603
- DNG Convert for Windows: http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=2605
- DNG Support Forum: http://www.adobeforums.com/cgi-bin/webx?14@@.3bb5f0ec
The value of manipulating more than 8-bits per sample has long been an undisputed benefit of raw image formats. Using that data has required a skip and a hop in the workflow, however, converting the raw image into something that can be opened and printed using software that offered no guarantee of longevity as operating systems evolve.
With the DNG format, the immediate benefits of an extensible open standard for 16-bit channel data are accompanied by the promise of long-term archival feasibility.
But we suspect the format won't be of interest solely to pros. It also facilitates some neat image-saving tricks (like changing the exposure after the fact) that even snapshooters will love. Down the line, look for DNG behind some clever innovations in post-capture magic.
Meanwhile, outright prolonged applause for one company that put its resources where its public prognostications were.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G6/G6A.HTM on the Web site.)
The Canon PowerShot G series, introduced in the fall of 2000, has consistently been among the most popular lines on our site, thanks to its combination of a rich feature set, excellent optics and superior image quality. The new Canon G6 inherits the G5's excellent 4x zoom lens but bumps resolution up to 7.1 megapixels and incorporates quite a few other enhancements, making it a real winner in the high-end digital rangefinder market.
Retaining enhancements that debuted on the G3 and G5 models, the $699 PowerShot G6 introduces a new body design, along with a larger, 7.1-megapixel CCD. The G6 retains all the design elements I applauded in previous G models, including the rotating LCD monitor that's one of my favorites. The monitor swings out to face you, reverses and locks back into the camera's back panel (screen side up) or extends and rotates up to 270 degrees. This flexible LCD design lets you compose images while standing in front of the camera (with the remote controller or self-timer) or hold the camera overhead or at waist-level. And you can store the LCD face-down in its recessed compartment, protecting the delicate screen.
The G6 is quite a bit smaller than the G3, at 4.1x2.9x2.9 inches, weighing 16.7 ounces with the battery pack and CompactFlash card. While this may seem a little hefty compared to other compact digicams, the G6 is quite comfortable in the hand, thanks in part to its redesigned, chunky hand grip.
The G6's eye-level real-image optical viewfinder zooms along with its 4x lens and features a central autofocus/exposure target. The diopter adjustment slider below the eyepiece controls viewfinder focus and two LED lights on the right hand side report the camera's ready status. The optical viewfinder is very close to the lens, minimizing parallax between lens and viewfinder, but unlike the G3 and G5, the lens no longer protrudes into the lower left-hand corner of the viewfinder frame at wide-angle focal.
In Record mode, the LCD monitor reports the exposure mode, flash setting, single or continuous capture, metering and quality settings, plus the low battery and camera shake warnings as applicable. Also shown, if set to other than their defaults, are the exposure compensation, white balance, ISO speed, photo effect, bracket, flash exposure compensation/flash output, file format, digital zoom, red-eye reduction, macro/super macro, auto rotate, ND filter, AE/FE lock, manual focus and movie recording indicators. Even if the readout is disabled, camera settings are shown on the LCD display for six seconds after a change. The G6 retains the Playback mode histogram first seen on the G2, which reports the tonal distribution of the image. Overexposed highlights flash in black and white on the screen to warn you of potential problem areas. A small status display panel on top of the camera reports file size, battery power, the number of frames remaining and various other functions as they are enabled.
The telescoping, 4x optical 7.2-28.8mm zoom lens (a 35-140mm 35mm equivalent) has both manual and automatic focus. The through-the-lens autofocus system operates in either Continuous or Single Autofocus mode. The powerful FlexiZone autofocus option lets you move the focus area freely around the central 60 percent of the frame. The autoexposure system can be configured to spot-meter from the area being used to set the focus. Manual focus mode is accessed by pressing a button on the upper left side of the camera's rear panel and then adjusting the focus with the Main dial on the top of the front hand grip. A distance scale on the LCD monitor indicates how far you are from maximum and minimum focus. Manual Focus also enlarges the central portion of the frame about 2x, to make it easier to find focus. Macro mode focuses as close as 2.0 inches. Digital zoom enlarges to 4.1x.
The G6 provides as much or as little exposure control as you want. The main exposure modes, which Canon refers to as "Creative Zone" functions include: Auto, Program AE, Aperture-Priority (Av) , Shutter Speed-Priority (Tv) and Manual. Shooting in Auto mode puts the camera in charge of everything except the flash. Program AE lets the camera choose the aperture and shutter speed settings, but gives you control over all other exposure options (although a Program Shift function can bias the exposure for a faster shutter speed/wider aperture or a slower shutter speed/smaller aperture). Aperture and Shutter Speed Priority modes allow you to set one exposure variable (aperture or shutter speed) while the camera chooses the best value for the other. Manual mode gives you full control over all exposure parameters. The camera's aperture can be set from f2 to f8 and the shutter speed ranges from 1/2000 to 15 seconds. The G6 has an internal neutral density filter, that cuts the incoming light by a factor of eight. This three f-stop attenuation permits the use of slower shutter speeds or larger apertures with brightly-lit subjects for special effects like motion blur or shallow depth of field. It also makes it practical to use the flash for much closer macro shooting.
The remainder of the G6's extensive exposure controls include a White Balance setting with nine options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash and two separate Custom settings; adjustable ISO settings from Auto to 50, 100, 200 and 400; Exposure Compensation from -2 to +2 exposure values, in one-third-step increments; Auto Exposure Bracketing from +/- 1/3 EV to +/- 2 EV (three exposures in rapid sequence, with adjustable step sizes ranging from 1/3 to 2 EV); a choice of Evaluative, Center-Weighted Averaging and Spot Metering modes and Automatic Exposure Lock.
The G6's built-in flash actually offers no less than nine operating modes: Flash off, on (forced) and auto, with options for red-eye reduction and slow sync independently selectable for each of the two active modes. There's also a Flash Exposure Compensation control that can vary flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. The Flash Exposure Lock function locks the flash exposure setting based on a specific portion of the frame. A hot shoe accepts either dedicated Canon strobe units or third-party flashes. The G6 also supports the wireless capabilities of Canon's high-end EOS external speedlights, as well as for Canon's very flexible Macro Twinlight.
Special shooting modes include Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Stitch Assist and Movie modes. Portrait mode uses a large aperture to focus on the subject, while maintaining an out-of-focus background. In contrast, Landscape mode slows the shutter speed and maximizes depth of field. Night Scene mode illuminates your subject with flash and uses a slow shutter speed to evenly expose the background. The Stitch-Assist mode is Canon's version of panorama mode, in which multiple, overlapping images can be captured horizontally, vertically or in a rectangular group of four. Images are then stitched together on a computer using Canon's bundled PhotoStitch software. Movie mode captures up to three minutes of moving images with sound at either 10 fps at a resolution of 640x480 pixels or approximately 15 fps, with a choice of 320x240- and 160x120-pixel resolutions.
Continuous Shooting mode captures multiple, successive still images, at just over one frame per second, as long as you hold down the Shutter button. The number of images and actual shot-to-shot speed depend on several factors, including image size/quality and the amount of memory remaining on the flash card. High Speed Continuous Shooting mode captures approximately 1.6 fps. The Self-Timer/Wireless Remote Control mode can activate a two or ten-second countdown shutter-release function, as well as trigger the shutter remotely with the accompanying wireless infrared controller (with remote delays of zero, two or ten seconds).
Images are saved to CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards, with available pixel dimensions of 3072x2304; 2592x1944, 2048x1536, 1600x1200; or 640x480 pixels. Three JPEG compression levels are available, as well as a RAW data file format. A USB cable is provided with a software CD offering an impressive selection of utilities. Canon's own Digital Camera software package includes tools for downloading and organizing images, processing RAW files, stitching images captured in Stitch-Assist mode and operating the camera remotely through your computer. You can control nearly every aspect of the camera, including ISO, White Balance, Zoom, flash and EV settings and of course shutter speed and aperture. It's pretty impressive. Captured images are sent directly to the computer. ArcSoft Camera Suite 2.1 is also included.
The included A/V cable with the G6's remote control capabilities can make a very useful presentation tool. Power is supplied by a high-capacity rechargeable BP-511A lithium-ion battery pack and AC adapter, which are included. Batteries can be charged outside the camera (a positive change from the G5's in-camera charger). Also available as an accessory is a dual external battery charger and a car cigarette lighter connector.
Color: The G6 delivered what I've come to call "Canon color," characterized by bright, accurate hues, albeit with a tendency to shift cyans toward blue slightly, which seems to result in better sky colors. Caucasian skin tones were excellent and white balance was generally quite accurate. The auto white balance option had some difficulty with household incandescent lighting, but both the incandescent and manual white balance options handled it very nicely. All in all, very nice color.
Exposure: The exposure system handled my test lighting well, accurately exposing most shots and generally requiring about the average amount of exposure compensation on those shots that typically require it. Its default tone curve was a little contrasty, but the low contrast option did a good job preserving highlight detail under the deliberately difficult lighting of my Sunlit Portrait test, although that left the midtones and Marti's skin tones rather dark. Overall though, a good exposure system with good contrast control.
Resolution/Sharpness: The G6 started showing artifacts in the test patterns around 1,200 lines per picture height vertically and 1,000 lines horizontally with strong detail to 1,550 lines horizontally and 1,500 lines vertically. There were strong aliasing artifacts 100-150 lines lower than these levels. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,900 lines. Using its MTF 50 criteria, Imatest reported uncorrected resolution figures of 1552 line widths per picture height horizontally and 1334 vertically, a combined average of 1443 LW/PH. Correcting to a standardized sharpening with a one-pixel radius increased the vertical to 1493 LW/PH, giving a corrected average of 1523 LW/PH, an excellent result.
Image Noise: The G6 falls somewhere between the Nikon 8700 and Konica Minolta A2 8-megapixel units. But the very smooth, fine-grained nature of the G6's noise pattern makes it much less evident to the eye than the noise of many other cameras.
Close-Ups: The G6 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.11x1.58 inches. Resolution was very high, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill. The G6 lost some points in the macro category though, for the very soft corners in the image. Most digicams tend to have soft corners when shooting in macro mode, but the G6 is worse in this respect than most. The flash almost throttled down for the macro area, but still overexposed a little. The built-in Neutral Density filter fixed the overexposure problem though.
Night Shots: It produced clear, bright, usable images with good color down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at all four ISO settings. Average city street lighting at night corresponds to a light level of about 1 foot-candle. Some of the shots at the lowest light levels show a slight pink cast, but overall color is still quite good. Noise was low at the 50 and 100 ISO settings, creeping upward at ISO 200 and becoming high at ISO 400. Even at ISO 400 though, its pattern is so fine-grained it really isn't all that objectionable. And thanks to its bright autofocus-assist illuminator, the G6 can also focus in almost total darkness.
Viewfinder Accuracy: The optical viewfinder was very tight at telephoto, showing approximately 76 of the final image area. Results were a little better at wide-angle, showing about 83 percent frame accuracy. The LCD monitor proved more accurate, showing about 99 percent at both zoom settings (though my top measurement lines were cut off at the wide-angle setting, possibly from the barrel distortion). I'd really like to see a more accurate optical viewfinder on the camera.
Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the G6 was about average at the wide-angle end, with approximately 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better with approximately 0.3 percent pincushion distortion. Both numbers are within the average range among digicams I test. Chromatic aberration was very low, showing no more than two or three pixels of moderate coloration on either side of the target lines. The lens was also very sharp from corner to corner, further evidence of high quality optics.
Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: While not as fast as recent digicams using hybrid IR/contrast-detect autofocus, the G6's full-autofocus shutter lag times of 0.73-0.78 second is a significant improvement over the G5's 1.04-1.17. At 1.93 seconds/frame in single-shot mode, shooting large/fine JPEG files, cycle time is almost exactly the same as the G5, although the G6's buffer now holds 11 shots vs. the meager 4 of the G5. Continuous mode cycle times have slipped to just under one second per shot, down from 0.72 second on the G5 for normal continuous mode and 0.64 second, down from 0.51 second for high-speed continuous mode. Not bad, but probably not a first choice for sports or other fast-paced action.
Battery Life: The G6 offers very long battery life, given that Canon claims a 300-shot battery life, based on the CIPA industry standard. That's a fairly conservative rating standard, which includes use of the flash on a percentage of the images, shooting an image every 20 seconds, running the lens back and forth between wide-angle and telephoto focal lengths, using the flash every fourth shot and turning the camera on and off after every eighth shot. Canon also claims approximately 400 minutes run time in Playback mode, longer than the 312 minutes I projected.
Canon's G series has always been a favorite of mine, not to mention of our readers. It offers a nearly ideal blend of features and capabilities with excellent image quality and great battery life. Canon has once again upped the ante, managing to actually reduce noise while boosting resolution. I can't find much to complain about, other than the limited movie recording time at maximum resolution and the lack of a live histogram in Record mode, both relatively minor quibbles.
This is a powerful photographic tool and a pretty affordable one, considering its exceptional capabilities. While it's clearly aimed at the enthusiast, even complete novices will enjoy using the G6 in Auto mode. If you're in the market for a rangefinder-style prosumer digicam, the Canon PowerShot G6 should be at or near the top of your list. It's a Dave's Pick as one of the better models on the market.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: Kodak DX7630 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DX7630/DX76A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot S70 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CS70/S70A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon Powershot G6 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G6/G6A.HTM)
- Updated Review: PhotoRescue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM), which now includes a special section highlighting new features of the latest release (Raw files, disabled thumbnails and range recovery).
- Reviewed: Konica Minolta G600 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G600/G60A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon Powershot A85 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A85/A85A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Kodak EasyShare DX7440 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DX7440/DX74A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Maha C-204W International Fast Charger (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/C204W/C204WA.HTM)
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 comments from new owners about the Canon EOS 20D at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9ad5d
Visit the Buying and Selling Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ac
Heidi asks about the difference between HAD and CCD at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9b20c/0
Brennan asks about the five most useful digital imaging apps at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee97b1f/0
Visit the Infrared With Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee8e6b4
First of all, thanks to the many subscribers who tested our new Photo of the Day Contest. Your efforts helped us tweak our entry form and streamline the judging process. Late last night, we cracked a bottle of champagne over the bow and watched our ship sail.
But the party is on board, so we invite you to enter the contest (http://www.dailydigitalphoto.com/potd-images/ir_potd_enter.htm). Just observe a few simple rules:
Winners are notified by email on selection and are eligible for three monthly prizes. Winning entries are displayed on our news page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM).
- Upload a JPEG image. We display winners with 480 pixels in the largest dimension, so you might want to resize your image (it will cut your upload time too). The image may be edited, enhanced and modified as you see fit.
- While there is no restriction on content, we do not display images that are not in good taste.
- Finally, by submitting your work, you assert you own the copyright of the image and give Imaging Resource the right to display it in this contest should it be judged a winner.
We'd wish you good luck but you don't need it if you've been reading this newsletter <g>.
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RE: Disk Disaster Advice
I read your article on disk disaster and I have a few suggestions for Windows XP users. I have had numerous occasions to rebuild my hard drive and loading the operating system and applications from CD is very time consuming.
To eliminate this problem, I first partitioned my primary hard drive into two partitions. One partition contains the operating system and applications and the other all of my data files. I set up Netscape so my bookmarks and mail folders are stored with the data that is backed up regularly.
I then use Ghost to create an image of my hard drive partition with the operating system and applications. If I need to rebuild this partition, I just reformat it and reload the image. Reformatting takes the longest. This is about an hour job and when completed, nothing else is left to do, all settings are as they were when the image was made.
It pays to make a new image whenever you make any changes to either your applications or operating system. Even if I change hard drives, I can still load the old image and be running in short order. This has been a life saver. I use an older hard drive to back up my data as well as store the image, which can be compressed if this hard drive is small.
-- Gary Ester(Thanks, Gary! -- Editor)
RE: Free Image Editing Software
Any hope of getting a review or two of the latest and best freeware image editors for retired seniors who can't afford the high-priced products but want a full featured equivalent? Already have early edition of PaintShop Pro, but would like some fancier editing possibilities.
Thanks for your very informative newsletter. It was used to select my fairly recent purchase and I told the dealer about it as the best source of digicam info. I've also recommended it to a few friends.
-- Robert M. Schultz(Thanks, Robert, there's no better advertising! We've long wanted to do a little piece on free image editing software. Some are public domain because they were written with tax dollars, in fact. And they can do quite a bit (like Gimp, a cult classic on Unix). We've even programmed another (ImageMagick) to do a lot of the routine image processing on the site.... For less arduous fun, you might take a look at Irfanview (http://www.irfanview.com/) for Windows. It's a viewer, but it does some editing as well. And no doubt your camera came with some sort of editor, perhaps a version of the very capable Elements. -- Editor)
RE: Long Zoom
Thanks for your unbiased reviews, they are much needed and welcome to a novice like myself. I have a Kodak DX 6340 and am thinking of upgrading to a camera with more optical zoom, at least 10x. I have (thanks to your help) managed to select three options: 1) Minolta Z3 with 12x and Anti-shake, (2) Olympus C765 ultra zoom and 3) Kodak DX6490.
I am pleased with my Kodak but getting detail on reflective subjects in bright light is very hard, i.e. a swan or a sail on a boat etc. Is this because the camera is lacking due to low cost?
-- Michael(It's very difficult to hand hold a long zoom, Michael, so weigh each camera's anti-shake feature carefully.... Ah, highlight detail. The trick is to underexpose using the EV setting. The default multi-segment metering most cameras employ will just overexpose light subjects. And if you spot meter a light subject, you have to underexpose quite a bit. This is where a histogram display can be very helpful. When you see the tones taper off at the right end of the histogram, you've got it. -- Editor)(Kodak's wildly popular consumer digicams tend to have higher than average contrast, which may also be what you're dealing with. If you underexpose enough to hold highlight detail, the rest of the image may be too dark. I haven't tested Kodak's 6340, but the DX6490 handles highlights better than many of Kodak's lower end models. The Konica Minolta Z3 and Olympus C765 are both a little less contrasty than the DX6490 and let you adjust the contrast lower still. On the other hand, Kodak's color is hard to beat. Wonderful having choices, isn't it? -- Dave)
RE: Olympic Unerasing
Thanks for the review [in the Aug. 20 issue], Mike. A few comments about the test results:
- The Sony issue doesn't surprise me. Many older Sony cameras and some of the newer ones behave like Olympus/Fuji cameras: in other words, they perform true erases. The card ends up being completely blank. There is possibly a way to intervene at the low level there, but not on normal hardware.
- While I cannot affirm that we will always beat any competitor on any card (that would be unrealistic), I can assure you that if you ever see something that we miss and that some other product recovers, I'll be extremely interested. Our goal is to fix all these issues when they arise. I can't promise the result, I can promise the will.
-- Pierre Vandevenne, DataRescue(Thanks for the feedback, Pierre. And as far as guarantees go, that's not a bad one <g>. -- Editor)
Photographer Richard Avedon died today in a San Antonio hospital at the age of 81. He suffered complications from a cerebral hemorrhage on Saturday. "I've photographed just about everyone in the world," the New York Times obituary quoted Mr. Avedon. "But what I hope to do is photograph people of accomplishment, not celebrity, and help define the difference once again."
Arthur Bleich's Digital Photography Workshop Cruise (http://www.dpcorner.com/cruise) is an 8-day Digital Photography & Imaging Workshop Cruise for beginners and intermediates taught by professional photographers and sailing to Mexico from San Diego on Dec. 3. Featuring lectures, demonstrations, Photoshop sessions and picture critiquing of work shot both onboard and ashore, each attendee also receives hardware and software valued at more than $600 from participating sponsors.
Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has introduced its $499 Professional 1400 Digital Photo Printer, an 8x12-inch dye sub with a USB 2.0 interface and 50-sheet capacity.
ColorVision (http://www.colorvision.com) unveiled its re-engineered $299 Spyder2 colorimeter bundled with ColorVision DoctorPro, Pantone Colorist and nik Color Effects Pro 2.0.
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) and Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) have announced Adobe Photoshop Services provided by Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com), Kodak's online photo service subsidiary. Integrated into Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 and Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0, it offers Kodak photo prints, online sharing and photo merchandise directly from the software.
Epson (http://www.epson.com) announced its EasyPrint, which embeds important print driver settings into an application's Print screen, has been implemented in Elements 3.0.
At Photokina, Concord (http://www.concord-camera.com) demonstrated its WIT wireless technology with a standalone prototype, a pocket-sized 2x2-inch Wi-Fi device that plugs into a camera's USB port to transmit photos wirelessly over the Internet from cameras using mass storage technology.
O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published its $29.95 iLife '04: The Missing Manual by David Pogue.
Shapiro (http://www.asiva.com) has released its $49 JPEG Deblocker Plug-in [MW] to smooth out JPEG blocks in low saturation high luminance areas while preserving detail in the rest of the image.
Camera Bits (http://www.camerabits.com) has released its $150 Photo Mechanic 4.2.1 [MW], adding a Find command, new time variables, renaming options for conflicting file names, slide show shuffle mode and more.
LAJ Design (http://www.lajdesignsw.com) has released its $23 Quickie Web Albums 4.1 [MW] adding high quality image scaling, scale-to-size watermarking options and a few bug fixes.
Canto (http://www.canto.com) has released Cumulus 6.0.3 Service Pack 1 to address several bugs in Cumulus 6.0.3.
Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com) has released its free Ofoto Express [M] to import photos from iPhoto or folders, rotate and organize them, then upload multiple images to online albums.
Boinx Software (http://www.fotomagico.com) has released its $79 FotoMagico [M].
For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
YaWah Professional Image Server software: http://www.yawah.com/ir
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com
That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:
Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM Newsletter Forum: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=irnews Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher