The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 21 15 October 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 134th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. What if you didn't have to upload files to share them? Install Qurio and you can skip that laborious step. Dave praises Fuji for their E550 while we read up on camphones. Finally, we call for your nominations for our Nobel dedicated to that ever elusive phenomenon called Customer Service.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Olympus
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Maha
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For a full review, visit: http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/C204W/C204WA.HTM

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To purchase online, visit Thomas Distributing, an authorized premier distributor, and look for their Limited-Time, Special Introductory Promotion!


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: Qurio Reinvents Photosharing

Online photosharing is free -- in theory. The big problem is that you have to upload those high resolution images to your preferred provider's server, someplace like Ofoto (http://www.ofoto.com), that is. And that can take a while. So (dirty little secret), you often just don't bother.

Does it have to be that way?

What if you could just email your friends and family to let them know you've just copied some new pictures to your hard drive. To enjoy them, they'd just have to click on some link in your email. Their browser would launch and in a second or two they'd be watching a nice slide show of your images.

Qurio (http://www.Qurio.com) turns that imaginary scenario into reality. And to their credit, they do it in a safe, secure way.

THE TRICK

The trick to it is using your computer (which, after all, is where the images are stored) and a broadband connection (DSL or cable modem) to serve your images. By serving your own pictures, you avoid the drag of uploading high resolution images.

That approach might remind you of one or another peer-to-peer hacks like Limewire or Kazaa. But Qurio isn't a peer-to-peer solution in which you and anonymous guests are directly linked. In between your computer and the people you invite to see your images stands Qurio like a virtual bouncer with no aspirations to higher office. If visitors aren't on the list or aren't dressed right, Qurio's network server doesn't let them in.

Qurio's Instant Photo Server is only one piece of the company's imaging software, though. The company also provides Qurio Home Photo Center, free album software that resembles Apple's iPhoto with easily ordered photo products that includes prints calendars, photo books, greeting cards and more.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Let's start at your friend's end of the connection. To view your images, visitors should be running their monitors at 1024x768-pixel resolution. That's small type for older eyes, but fairly standard for Web image viewing.

They must also have Microsoft Explorer 5.2 or higher, although the company said it's "working to improve guest page browser compatibility." Macsters who prefer Safari will be glad to know that using Safari Enhancer to enable the Debug menu and changing the User Agent to MIE 5.22 also works. So, Windows or Mac, your audience only needs Explorer to see your images.

Yes, it's too bad you have to pretend, especially for a browser-based solution that relies on Java Server Pages. Naturally, we prefer cross-platform solutions that don't require a specific browser. But at least Qurio is free.

When we groaned about this to Qurio's Rick Thompson, vice-president of marketing and sales, he told us something we hadn't heard before. "On being cross platform, you may find it interesting to know that our core development team is all from Apple. So, they have an interest in being cross platform too. The challenge for the first release of our product is that 94 percent plus of the market is Windows-based and Apple has iPhoto which is a very nice product and would be hard to displace. We will soon be addressing browser compatibility so all Apple users can view Qurio Online Albums."

At your end of the connection, you need Windows XP or 2000 and about 60-MB disk space for Qurio plus whatever space your images require.

What you don't need, though, is any network configuration or setup. Considering what a nuisance Microsoft has made file sharing, this should get a Nobel prize.

INSTALLATION

After you download the Qurio package from the company's server, run the installer. You'll be required to restart to activate some special features included in dynamic link libraries installed with the program.

These include a Right Click to Import option for easily importing a folder of images into Qurio, an auto-detect feature that senses when you've mounted a flash card or CD and provides an Import to Qurio option. And the editing tools (crop, red eye, brightness, etc.) need a restart to work at optimal speed.

To actually share your images, you have to do one more thing: choose a Qurio ID. Since the Qurio server is protecting your system from unwanted intruders, it has to know about you. You make up an ID and the server assigns a Web page address for your public albums.

If you choose something like "aguthrie" for a user ID, your Web page address would be http://aguthrie.quriophotos.com. Visit http://shutterbug.quriophotos.com to see a real Qurio installation as a guest.

After registering an ID, you'll get a confirmation email right away.

GETTING TO WORK

Launching Qurio Home Photo Center actually launches Explorer. As a Java Server Pages application, your browser runs the show. Once upon a time, all software was expected to become browser-runnable. Qurio is.

The layout is easy on the eyes, but there are a lot of things going on. By the top left corner logo are icons for your Cart and a Log Out (soon to disappear). Cart takes you to Qurio's Shopping Cart page where you can order products. Log Out, a holdover from a previous version that required you to log in, just returns you to your Qurio home page ("my Qurio").

At the top right is what would normally appear in a File menu: Home, Pictures, Albums, Photo Gifts, Help. These are Qurio's primary functions, each elaborated with a submenu displayed below as you mouse over them.

In addition, the shortcut bar at top of the main work space below the menu system has two icons for Show Pictures and Show Albums. And at the bottom of all this is another row running the width of the browser window with an icon to Show Clipboard.

Beneath the logo on your home page are icons for working with Albums, including Select All, Deselect All, Delete Selected, Add to Clipboard and Order Prints.

Add to this your right mouse button and various widgets like checkboxes to select an item and arrows to display item menus and you nearly have a photo video game. It all sounds more confusing that it actually is, though, because 1) the interface is deployed consistently and 2) you can proceed pretty much as if you're at any Web site. You know what to do without being told.

HOME

The Home menu item provides access to your Home page and My Account (see the illustrated version of this review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/QUR/QUR.HTM).

The Home page displays a wealth of information. Large icons are doors to ordering prints, making calendars and cards, designing photo books and importing pictures. There's also a box with links to help with Getting Started, Importing Pictures, Organizing Pictures, Editing Pictures, Sharing Pictures, Buying Prints, Creating Photo Gifts and Pricing. Finally, the Home page displays a box with more general imaging links covering Benefits of Digital Photography, Photography Tips and Understanding Your Digital Camera.

All this support material is unillustrated text and installed on your hard disk.

The My Account page displays your Qurio ID, name and email address. These aren't editable, just a display. Next to that display is a box of links for Show Public Albums (with a count), Edit My Account, My Preferences, My Cart, My Orders and Reset Server (which deletes all your images and albums).

Edit My Account lets you change your contact information for Qurio orders. Your name, email address, mailing address and phone are all here plus two other options. The Qurio.com Listing is an option to include a link to your public albums in Qurio's online photo gallery. News & Offers is an option to receive news and special offers from Qurio. Qurio promises on the page not to sell any of this information to third parties, using it solely for processing your ecommerce orders.

My Preferences sets either a List or Table default view, limits Search Results (200/500/1000/No Limit), sets items per page display to 10/25/50 and provides a checkbox to let visitors download your full-resolution original images (which isn't something you can do at, say, Ofoto.com).

Speaking of which, it's time to import some pictures.

IMPORTING IMAGES

Imports can be triggered automatically using Qurio's auto-detect feature or they can be done manually, navigating to a folder or image and right clicking on it to bring up the Import to Qurio function.

The Import Wizard lets you select keywords and photo information (artist, copyright, image description) to be attached to any import. In addition, if you select a folder with subfolders of images, the images will be organized into albums named after the subfolders. Before you know it, your images are organized.

We're big on keywords. Qurio provides a set of fixed keywords: Family, Friends, Pets, Work, School, Organizations, Birthday, Vacation, Wedding, Sports, Holiday, Graduation and Reunion. A popup menu lets you select whichever are appropriate. When you subsequently search on keywords, checkboxes let you select the ones you want.

That's nice, but spoiled reviewers that we are, we want to make our own keywords, of course.

There's more, though. If you launch Importer from your system tray, imports can be further customized, selectively importing pictures one at a time or in batches.

Once images have been imported, the Importer lets you View the album and Invite others to view it from your hard disk, too. You simply enter their email addresses (separated by a comma).

THE INVITE

With a Subject of "You are invited to view [album name], a Qurio online album," your invitees get the following message:

"[Your name] has invited you to view a Qurio Home Photo Center online album named, '[album name]'. To view the album and see a slide show, please click on the following link: [link]

"Explore the album and learn how you can download pictures order prints and buy photo gifts.

"To get the 'the fastest photosharing on the Internet', visit http://www.qurio.com and download a FREE copy of Qurio Home Photo Center."

All they have to do is click on that link and if your computer is running and your broadband connection is up, they can view your album.

"Sharing photos with Qurio is 10 to 25 times faster than sharing with email or online photo sites," Thompson told us. "For example, I have a Canon Digital Rebel and I can import 25, 6.3-Mp images from a flash card and share them over the Internet in less than one minute."

BUT WAIT!

Just as we were going to press, Qurio added real time Album stats to the package. On the Home page, a Dashboard of stats shows you:

PICTURES

The Pictures menu item gives you a global view of all your images from which you can search for particular names or descriptions and sort using four criteria. The menu attached to each image also lets you switch to the Album view of your collection.

ALBUMS

The Album menu item gives you a view of All Albums, lets you Search or Sort Albums and gives you the option of creating a new album. But the real magic is hidden in the Menu option of each item object.

There you can View Slide Show, Edit Album, Show Info, Invite, Export Album and Order Prints. Yes, the blue Shortcut bar above adds View Contents and View Slide Show while the left-hand icons add Order Prints, but the little Menu option has all the options that make Qurio special.

This duplication of function and scattering of options may sound aggravating. And we've spoken often against confusing interfaces and the need for simplicity. But Qurio has a different philosophy. You know what you want but not where it is, so they put it in more than one place (like the Shortcut bar) to make it easier to find. Most programmers like to put it in one place and make that as obvious (to them anyway) as possible. Don't think you're doing it wrong in Qurio. You can do it any way that works. And it works because the designers have been pretty clever in thinking about where you're going to look.

SLIDE SHOWS

Browser-based slide shows are a few laps behind their standalone counterparts. Options like transitions and audio are just not feasible. In fact, getting a Browser-based slide show to automatically switch to the next image is a feat of software engineering.

Qurio offers a manual First, Back, Forward, Last and Jump to Number slide show on the Shortcut bar. But on the blue bar at the bottom of the slide show pane, there's an automated show that includes three speeds: Slow, Medium and Fast. There's also a Stop button.

Double clicking on an image displays the full size image, resized to fit your screen with a resize button to show it at full resolution or fit-to-screen. If you've enabled full-resolution downloads in Preferences, your guests can download the original image with a right click of their mouse.

The Image menu offers Edit Picture, Show Roll List Albums and Get Full Size options.

IMAGE EDITING

Editing tools include Brightness & Contrast, Auto-Fix, Sharpen, Crop, Rotate 90 Clockwise, Rotate 90 Counter-Clockwise, Fix Red-Eye, Mirror Horizontal an Mirror Vertical. From those options, you can see how indispensable some editing is and we applaud the inclusion of these tools.

Select a tool and sliders may appear to let you adjust it or it will just be applied when you click the Apply Edit button. You can Undo or Redo the Edit, too. So there's no penalty for trying.

PHOTO GIFTS

Qurio makes it easy to get prints from 3x5s to 8x10s in glossy or matte finish (as little as 25 cents a print for 4x6s), 5x7 greeting cards printed on card stock with an optional frame on your image and personalized greeting inside, 12- or 18-month calendars that highlight special dates (like your birthday) and photo books.

Best of all, you don't have to buy them yourself. Your visitors can order their own.

CONCLUSION

So with all this capability, you may be thinking there must be some sort of catch. Well, there is. To share your albums, you have to leave your computer on. This doesn't bother NASA or Shutterfly or eBay, but it may bother you.

But that's about all that will bother you. Qurio makes it easy to import images, organize them into useful albums, share them instantly and even turn them into sophisticated products after a few essential edits. And it does all that using the familiar interface of a browser, albeit only one browser.

Give it a spin. You'll turn some heads.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Fuji FinePix E550 -- Among Fuji's Finest

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E550/E55A.HTM on the Web site.)

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Small, compact and lightweight, the $399.95 Fuji FinePix E550 will please point-and-shooters as well as experienced photo enthusiasts with its full range of exposure options from Scene modes to full Manual mode.

Using Fuji's fourth generation 6.3-megapixel Super CCD HR, it produces files as large as 4048x3040 pixels. Because of Fuji's unique Super CCD pixel layout, the sensor's 6.3 million diagonally-arranged honeycomb-shaped pixels translate into 12.3 million normal square pixels in the final JPEG image file. Despite the increased size, resolution in the final file is roughly equivalent to a 6.3 million pixel image from an ordinary CCD, although I can personally attest that Super CCD images do seem to capture at least slightly more subject detail than conventional sensors with the same pixel count.

While it delivers slightly more subject detail, the downside of this unusual interpolation scheme is that the E550's image files are a good bit larger than those from competing 6-Mp cameras, which means fewer images fit on memory cards or hard disks. But with storage options cheaper than ever and getting even cheaper all the time, this is much less of a consideration than it has been.

While the handgrip makes the camera a little tight for shirt pockets, the camera is still quite compact at 4.1x2.5x1.4 inches. The hybrid metal/plastic body with the batteries and memory card is surprisingly light at 10.1 ounces. The 4x telescoping lens and built-in lens cover keep the F550's front panel fairly smooth when not in use, allowing the camera to slip easily into a pocket or purse.

The E550 features a 4x Fujinon lens (32.5-130mm 35mm equivalent). Aperture can be automatically or manually adjusted from f2.8 to f8, with the maximum aperture gradually reduced to f5.6 as it zooms to the full telephoto zoom setting. Focus can also be manually or automatically adjusted, ranging from 2.0 feet to infinity in normal mode or from 3.0 inches to 2.6 feet in Macro. The E550 uses a TTL contrast-detection autofocus mechanism and offers an adjustable AF area. The autofocus system works very well in daylight or bright indoor lighting, but does poorly after dark, just barely managing to focus at light levels equivalent to typical city street lighting. Manual focus provides no numeric distance scale, so you have to focus using the LCD, hard in daylight and little help at all in dark conditions.

In addition to the 4x optical zoom, the E550 offers as much as 6.3x digital zoom, depending on the image Quality setting. For framing shots, there's both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 2.0-inch color LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder is a little tighter than most, showing only about 78-84 percent of the final frame area, depending on the zoom setting. The LCD viewfinder is much more accurate, showing 100 percent of the final image area. The optical viewfinder has a rather low eyepoint. Eyeglass wearers can just barely see the entire viewfinder image, even with their lenses pressed against the viewfinder bezel. And there's no viewfinder dioptric adjustment to compensate for less than perfect vision. An information overlay reports camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed) on the LCD monitor and a framing guideline option displays an alignment grid.

The E550 offers a full range of exposure control, with Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual exposure modes, along with Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Night Scene options. In straight Auto mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure, except for options like zoom, macro and some flash settings. There is no "forced off" flash mode, but if you don't want to use the flash, just don't pop it open.

Program AE mode lets the camera control aperture and shutter speed, while the user controls all other variables, including exposure compensation. In Program AE mode, you can select from a range of equivalent exposure settings, simply by pressing the up and down arrow keys. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes provide user control over one exposure variable, while the camera controls the other. Finally, Manual exposure mode lets you control both aperture and shutter speed independently.

Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to three seconds, depending on exposure mode. Metering options include the default 64-zone Multi mode as well as Spot and Average options. Exposure Compensation lets you increase or decrease the automatically-determined exposure from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent and Custom settings. Sensitivity settings are Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400 and 800 ISO. The Auto option actually ranges from 80 to 640 equivalents. To reach ISO 800, the camera brings the resolution down to three megapixels to reduce image noise. There are color and image sharpness adjustments, as well as an Auto Exposure Bracketing mode. Continuous shooting modes capture four images or the last four of up to 40 exposures.

The built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, Slow-Synchro and Slow-Synchro with Red-Eye Reduction modes. The Red-Eye Reduction mode fires a pre-flash before the exposure to make the irises of your subjects' eyes contract, avoiding the red-eye effect. Slow-Synchro combines the flash with slower shutter speeds, to capture more ambient lighting. An intensity adjustment adjusts flash output from -2/3 to +2/3 EV, in one-third-step increments. The flash doesn't pop up and fire automatically, even in Auto mode, but the LCD screen shows an Open Flash/shake warning when the indicated shutter speed falls below 1/60 second, giving the user the option of opening the flash or firing without it. Self-Timer mode provides either a two- or 10-second delay. Movie mode captures movies with sound at either 640x480- or 320x240-pixel resolutions, both at 30 frames per second. Maximum recording times vary, depending on the resolution and amount of available memory space. A Voice option in Playback mode records short audio clips to accompany captured images.

The E550 stores images on xD-Picture Cards and comes with a 16-MB starter card. I have to say, I would much prefer for FujiFilm to reduce the cost of the camera by $10 and include no card at all rather than cripple the user with such a tiny card. At the full interpolated 12-megapixel file size of this camera, you can get a grand total of two images on this card.

The E550 uses a pair of high-capacity NiMH batteries, a set of which are included with the camera, along with a charger. Battery life was a very pleasant surprise, with a worst-case run time of three hours with the included batteries. Also included is a USB cable, an A/V cable and a software CD loaded with Fuji's FinePix software.

TEST RESULTS

Color: Auto white balance handled most lighting situations well, although it left a color cast in the Indoor Portrait shot and there were minor color casts under other lighting conditions as well. Manual white balance worked very well under a wide range of light sources. The E550 shows the oversaturation of most consumer cameras but it's relatively slight and the effect is quite pleasing. Overall, a very good job.

Exposure: It handled my test lighting well, accurately exposing most of the studio shots. Like most consumer digicams, it had a somewhat contrasty tone curve, which led me to use only +0.3 EV on the Sunlit Portrait, producing rather dark midtones and shadows, while still losing some detail in the highlights. I saw similar behavior on the harshly-lit Far Field shot as well. Overall, a workmanlike performance, not wonderful, not terrible.

Resolution/Sharpness: The E550 started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height on vertical edges, 1,200 lines on horizontal details. I found strong detail out to 1,600+ lines, although there were a lot of artifacts at that level. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until around the 2,000-line limit of the target.

Image Noise: Image noise is on the low side of average and the camera also doesn't trade away too much subject detail to achieve that, at least at low ISO settings. Fuji has finally dropped the minimum ISO of their Super CCD cameras to 80, a very welcome change, as the image noise levels decreased significantly in the process. Noise levels were quite low at ISO 80 and 100. At ISO 200, noise was somewhat more noticeable, but the main impact was loss of subtle subject detail. At ISO 400, great amounts of detail were lost and the noise artifacts were rather obtrusive. At ISO 800, the camera forces a 3-Mp image size to reduce noise, but the images were still soft and a little ugly, although probably not worse than a typical 3-Mp camera at ISO 400.

Close-Ups: The E550 captured a very small macro area, measuring only 2.38x1.79 inches. Details were much softer in the corners of the frame. The E550's flash was partially blocked by the lens, casting a strong shadow that dominated the lower portion of the images. Plan on external lighting for your closest macro shots.

Night Shots: It produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux) light level at the 80, 100 and 200 ISO settings. Increasing sensitivity to ISO 400 produced a reasonably bright image at the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux setting), while ISO 800 produced a bright image at 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux). You could see the test target at 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux), but the image was pretty underexposed. Color balance was slightly warm with Auto white balance, but not bad. The E550's biggest problem for low-light shooting is its autofocus system can only focus reliably down to about one foot-candle, roughly the level of typical city street-lighting at night.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The optical viewfinder was tight, showing about 84 percent at wide-angle and only about 78 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, though was actually a little loose, showing just a hair more than what made it into the final frame.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion was high at wide-angle with 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end measured only 0.07 percent barrel distortion (about two pixels). Chromatic aberration was average to a little above average, showing about five or six pixels of moderate coloration on either side of the target lines at wide-angle focal lengths. The E550's images were quite sharp from corner to corner at wide-angle focal lengths, but softened somewhat in the corners at normal focal lengths and developed very soft corners at the telephoto end of the zoom range.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: With shutter delays ranging from 0.64 to 0.75 second, the E550 is faster than the average of 0.8-1.0 second I've found in cameras of its class. When "pre-focused" by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button prior to the shot itself, the shutter lag drops to a very brief 0.076 second. Shot-to-shot cycle times are also quite good, at 1.56 seconds between shots at the camera's highest resolution and no apparent buffer-size limitation. It will snap photos that quickly until the memory card is filled. A four-shot Continuous mode grabs a shot every 0.34 seconds and is ready to snap the next photo 10 seconds after the last shot has been captured. Finally, the camera starts up and shuts down quite quickly (only 1.3 seconds from power up to the first shot captured).

Battery Life: The E550 sips power sparingly from its batteries, with a worst-case runtime of about 136 minutes on 1600 mAh NiMH cells. In playback mode, runtime is a very impressive 4.5 hours. Better yet, the E550 ships with a charger and pair of very high-capacity NiMH batteries (rated at 2300 mAh, actually 2200 mAh), which should push the worst-case runtime over three hours.

CONCLUSION

With their 6.3-Mp, 4x-zoom FinePix E550, Fujifilm has created one of their best digicams to date. Its color is very good, resolution excellent and noise levels at low ISOs are very low as well. The E550 is also fast. Its lens comes out quickly, AF points are picked quickly, it switches between modes and menus with snap and both shutter response and shot-to-shot speeds are quite fast. And it's stingy with battery power.

The E550 spans a usability range from rank beginner (in full Auto mode) to sophisticated photographer (in full manual exposure mode). This makes it a great choice for households and also a good choice for someone looking for a camera that's easy to use to get started but that has additional features you can tap into with experience.

The only complaints with the camera are its limited low-light capability and more distortion in the lens than I like to see. When you consider the aggressive price that Fuji's brought it to market though, the E550 is a nearly unbeatable bargain. There's nothing anywhere near its combination of resolution, features and image quality for anywhere near its price. It was an easy choice for me to make it a Dave's Pick!

Return to Topics.

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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Book Bag: Camera Phone Obsession

We're as obsessed as anyone about camphones, so we were excited about Peter Aitken's new book Camera Phone Obsession. And we weren't disappointed.

The author of 40 books and hundreds of articles, Aitken has been obsessed with other topics for 15 years now. Here he presents a thorough overview of the camphone phenomenon in 10 chapters with a useful appendix of resources.

Chapter 1 argues for The Camera Phone Revolution, claiming the 83 million camphones sold last year can't all be wrong. Why the interest? "A camera phone can make anyone a photographer," he argues, defined as someone who "is almost always looking for that next photo." Unfortunately, this early chapter seems to be addressed to kids as it explains photography as art, the lure of a camphone's inherent limitations, camphone culture, digital "shoplifting," cool stuff like moblogs or cellcerts and even retro cool stuff like scavenger hunts.

Chapter 2 discusses Getting the Camera Phone Setup That Meets Your Needs. Aitken explains image resolution, display, video clips, zooming (digital only), flash (well, it's more like illumination), night mode, storage capacity and connectivity. He discusses service plans in general and how to shop for a phone. Helpful stuff, thoroughly handled.

Chapter 3 covers Photography Basics for Camera Phone Users. But there really isn't more to it than Push the Button. You can't focus and exposure is automatic (but only the shutter speed changes, he says). So he talks about composition in a top-tips way we didn't find terribly inspiring.

Chapter 4 explores Processing Your Photos with Software. After describing file formats, resolution and image size, he takes us on a tour of what you can do with an image editor without losing that arty low-res quality he trumpeted earlier.

Chatper 5 tackles Printing Your Photos both at home on an inkjet and using an online print service. But he goes further, discussing what to do if you don't have a computer.

Chapter 6 chats about Sharing Your Photos by email, online albums and online photo sharing services (including a tutorial).

Chapter 7 examines Moblog Madness, using your camphone to create a mobile Web log. After explaining what it is and the culture of moblogging, Aitken compares using an online service to rolling your own using publicly available scripts. It's a brief discussion, but the links will take you the rest of the way.

Chapter 8 covers Moblogs Step-by-Step, specifically using Textamerica with notes on Yafro, Mlogs and Flickr. More on setting up your own and the art of promotion.

Chapter 9 addresses Camera Phone Legal Concerns and Etiquette. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Asking permission and using model releases are discussed along with the concept of digital stealing (for example, snapping a picture in a magazine you don't buy).

Chapter 10 describes Cool Projects You Can Do with Your Camera Phone, including making T-shirts, panoramas, magnets, diaries, greeting cards and even doing a little fund-raising (well, it beats washing cars for that trip to Washington, D.C.).

The Appendix provides a list of links to service providers, hardware, reviews, stores and more covering all the topics discussed previously, including software, moblogging, printing and etiquette.

While it appears to be written for a pretty young audience, there's a lot in here for anyone. It's a great resource of links to start learning about camphones, at least. And its coverage of the subject is comprehensive.

"Camera phones are really different, and they are causing a lot of changes in our day-to-day lives," Aitken argues. But a revolution? And we weren't very taken by his camphone as art argument, either, which goes, "the low resolution and other technical shortcomings of camera phone photos can make them look less like a photograph and more like a painting or drawing."

To put camphone limitations in perspective, consider that a small 1.8-inch LCD monitor on an old digicam has 110,000 pixels while a cellphone's 200x150 image has only 30,000 pixels. Even at 352x288 pixels, a cellphone has only 100,000 pixels. If that's an exciting proposition, well, you're obsessed.

Still, you can't ignore an elephant. This is big. Imagine putting today's simple 1-Mp camera in a PDA, perhaps via an I/O slot and being able to transmit what you shot via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi instantly. Of course, you don't have to imagine it. It's already here (well, where you can get Wi-Fi, anyway). Without the bandwidth or quality limitations of today's camphones.

But camphones are fun (more fun that a wallet full of pictures, certainly) and we're for fun. No matter your age, Aitken's book is a great introduction.

Camera Phone Obsession by Peter Aitken, published by Paraglyph Press, 252 pages, $19.99.
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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 Nikon Coolpix 8800 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a

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

Jeff asks about the differences between TIFF and RAW at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9b56c/0

Maurice asks about digicams and heat at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9b481/0

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

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Just for Fun: Nominations for 2004 Nobel

Our eyebrows have been on high alert lately. We seem to be constantly surprised.

Peeking at your Picture of the Day Contest entries (http://www.dailydigitalphoto.com/potd-images/ir_potd_enter.htm) has been an unforeseen job benefit. We aren't the judge but we check the submissions now and then to make sure the software we wrote for the project is doing what it should. And we always dawdle. Really marvelous stuff!

On the other hand, we've gotten a slew of disturbing emails about recent purchases from vendors who are less than scrupulous. We've been referring correspondents to our "Introducing Betsy & The Holiday Wishbook" story in the Nov. 2, 2001 issue. We discuss a number of less than honorable marketing ploys in that article. And it's still relevant, unfortunately.

Which makes this year's Ersatz Nobel Prize for Extraordinary Customer Service in Digital Imaging all the more important, colleagues. Extraordinary Customer Service may be a dynamite idea, but could it be that fewer and fewer are getting a bang out of it?

Maybe we've reached the point where a smile counts as Extraordinary Customer Service. Tell us about your happy experience. Surprise us.

To submit your entry, simply email us at editor@imaging-resource.com with the Subject line "Ersatz Nobel Prize." Let's hope we have a winner.

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Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

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: Help

Have been reading your newsletter with enthusiasm for many years now. Learning always. I am currently trying to help a retired friend back into their love of photography through digital. They bought a cheap little Dolphin 2-Mp camera to start with.

Could you help me in the direction of a preferably free program that will allow simple uploading of photos to a PC running Windows 98 and simple editing software. I currently use the Camedia software that came with my camera, however this does not seem to find this little camera even in my XP computer.

-- Len Diffin

(Take a look at Picasa (http://www.picasa.net), which we reviewed in our Nov. 29, 2002 issue. It does run on Windows 98 and it's free, too! -- Editor)

RE: Of Devices & Drivers

I need to copy images from a Pentax Optio S4 to my computer but don't have a Pentax Optio S4 driver to install. Help me. Thanks.

-- Ngo Minh Tuan

(Visit our Drive Project page (http://imaging-resource.com/ARTS/DRV/DRV.HTM) for the link to Pentax downloadable drivers. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Wilhelm Research (http://www.wilhelm-research.com/4x6/4x6_permanence_preview.html) has published Display Permanence Ratings for 4x6 printers. The Epson PictureMate's pigment-based prints came in first at 104 years followed by the dye-based HP Photosmart 324 and 375 inkjets at 82 years (with their black and white prints scoring 115 years). Dye sub printers fared poorly, led by the Olympus P-10 at 8 years followed by Canon's CP-200, CP-220 and CP-330 at 7 years and Sony's DPP EX5 at 4 years.


Corel (http://www.corel.com) announced it has acquired Jasc Software. Corel will maintain the former Jasc facility in Minneapolis for the Paint Shop family operations. The acquisition is expected to officially close by the end of October.


Honeywell (http://www.honeywell.com) has sued 34 companies including Apple and Dell, alleging patent infringement for technology the company said increases image brightness and reduces the appearance of "certain interference effects" on LCDs.


Reuters reports Olympus (http://www.olympusamerica.com) will introduce music players next month in 5-GB and 20-GB sizes. The larger player includes a camera and storage for about 20,000 pictures that can be viewed on its 3.7-inch LCD.


Rumor site ThinkSecret (http://www.thinksecret.com) speculates Apple will introduce a $499 color, 60-GB iPod with A/V ports and iPhoto support within the next 60 days.


Bibble Labs (http://www.bibblelabs.com) has released Bibble 4.0 [LMW] in a $129 Pro and $69 Lite version.


Mystik Media (http://www.mystikmedia.com) has released Blaze MediaConvert 3.0 [W], its $40 batch conversion program for over 80 image, audio, animation and video formats.


Alera (http://www.aleratec.com) has announced its $269 Digital Photo Copy Cruiser Plus that copies memory cards directly to CD with disk spanning technology for large cards. It can also play DVDs on TV.


Hi-Touch (http://www.hitouchimaging.com) has announced new dye-sub printers: the $199 631PS can read CF/SM/SD/MS/MS PRO/MMC and MicroDrives, the $349 730PL skips the standalone capabilities of the 730PS and the 730GALA is a large format version of the 640GALA. The company is also working on the 641PS, which updates the 640Ps with Link-Print printing directly from the camera and the 640 Amphi to print PVC ID cards and business cards.


The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has announced its PhotoWiz Contest 2004, a photo contest featuring 66 prizes worth over $6,400 that runs until Dec. 31.


MultimediaPhoto (http://www.hdrsoft.com) has released its $99 Photomatix Pro 2.0, which combines differently exposed images of a high contrast scene into one image with details in both highlights and shadows. Version 2.0 adds the creation of a High Dynamic Range image from bracketed shots, a tone mapping tool, an HDR viewer and an improved interface for exposure blending.


Rob Galbraith (http://www.robgalbraith.com) has reviewed Sensor Brush and its companion Sensor Clean liquid/swab combo. The Visible Dust (http://www.visibledust.com) products clean dSLR sensors without streaking or scratching.


Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com) has released its $249 Virtual PC 7 [M], featuring G5 support, 10-30 percent better performance, better graphics handling, simpler printing and a new setup assistant.


Scalado (http://www.scalado.com) has launched CAPS 2.0, its imaging software platform, a camphone solution that supports imaging applications. The new version cuts memory requirements up to 98 percent, reduces CPU requirements almost 92 percent and reduces image processing time 10 percent.


Talasoft (http://www.talasoft.com) has released its $19.95 TalaPhoto 2.4 [MW] with MultiPrint to print multiple images on a page, WebDesigner to build Web photo pages and PhotoMovie to build slide shows.


Stick Software (http://www.sticksoftware.com) has released its $10 PhotoReviewer 1.4 [M], adding support for QuickTime video and sound, configurable key commands, better subfolder support and more.


Epson (http://www.epson.com) has released its $2,195 Stylus Pro 4000 Professional Edition [MW], combining the printer, Epson's fastest Ethernet card and a custom-designed PostScript Level 3-compatible RIP from ColorBurst.


OnTheGoSoft (http://www.onthegosoft.com) has released its $9.95 Passport Photo 1.1 [W] to print passport and identity photos from digicam images.

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One Liners

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

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
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

Happy snapping!

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

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