The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 22 29 October 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 135th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We make some nice exhibition prints on Canon's sleek i9900 while Dave praises the DiMAGE Z3's image stabilization. We have a winner for our Ersatz Nobel, too. So read on and then set your digicam clock!


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:
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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: Canon i9900 -- The Big Picture

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/CI9/I9900.HTM on the Web site.)

Responding to your requests for more printer reviews after our Hi-Touch series, we vowed to hit the big three this year: Hewlett-Packard, Epson and now Canon.

HP stunned us with gorgeous dye-based inkjet prints (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/HP7960/HP7960.HTM) and Epson (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/ER800/ER800.HTM) impressed us with extraordinary pigment-based prints on a variety of media. How could Canon compete, we wondered?

Several ways, it turns out.

First, they've designed an attractive printer. Rather than build a box, Canon has sliced a cylinder. It's a refreshing change. And the effect is that this device, which makes 13x19 prints, actually appears compact on the table, closing in on itself to keep out dust.

Second, large prints. We'd have gone to our reward happily making 4x6 prints. Then we were stunned by the 6x8 Hi-Touch 730PS dye sub prints. And simply dazzled by the 8x10s we printed on the HP. But a borderless 13x19 is just heaven for exhibitionists.

At an affordable price, no less. We paid about $2.50 a sheet for 13x19 Canon Photo Paper Pro, a glossy paper sold in a 10 pack for $24.95. Canon also sells Glossy Photo Paper in a 20 pack for $35.95 and Matte Photo in a 20 pack for $10.75 And there are an assortment of other 13x19 papers from other companies, some at even lower prices.

Third, the inks. The usual CMYK is there, of course, with Photo Cyan and Photo Magenta, lighter cousins of Cyan and Magenta. But Canon has added green and red inks to extend the set to eight inks. And the cartridges lasted a good long time, were accurately monitored and very easy to replace.

Fourth, performance. Big is nice, but not if you have to wait half an hour. The i9900 is a quick printer, even at large sizes. Part of the reason is that Canon provides both popular high-speed interfaces. Another part are its 6,144 ink nozzles (twice as many as the i9100).

In short, Canon competes by delivering a well-designed $500 printer that can handle routine color printing (Web pages, business cards, correspondence) but is particularly adept at photo printing up to 13x19.

Behind the numbers are technologies that distinguish Canon from its competitors.

VIVID COLOR

Explaining its Vivid Color technology (http://www.canon.com/technology/detail/bj/vivid/index.html), Canon notes the trend to "emphasize the faithful reproduction of colors (sRGB) on monitors."

Calling that "an impediment to optimal color reproduction," Canon developed Vivid Color, which "determines the most suitable colors for each particular image and then makes adjustments using a proprietary method. As a result, the potential color range is expanded to include bright cyans and greens, which do not appear in the conventional sRGB color range."

Vivid Color parallels the tendency of digicam manufacturers to bump up saturation, as Dave often notes in his camera reviews.

Our experiments with it suggest it's intended for sRGB images only. Printing from Adobe RGB color space we disabled it.

CANON MEDIA

As Wilhelm Imaging Research (http://www.wilhelm-research.com) has pointed out, using third-party ink and paper lower your costs per print at the expense of their longevity. Wilhelm's tests with earlier Canon inks, for example, yielded a longevity of 27 years while the best third-party score was only five years.

Both the ink and the paper play major roles in the longevity of a print. But so does the way a print is displayed. Nothing beats dark storage, of course, but framing your print in archival materials behind UV-filtering glass greatly extends its life.

We did test with Canon Photo Paper Pro but also a few other sheets, including Ilford's Printasia (http://www.printasiafun.com) and TapeMaker's range of photo papers. Other reviewers have reported success using Calumet, Epson, Pictorico, ProJet, Mitsubishi and Konica papers.

Results were excellent with all papers using Canon's High Intensity inks.

Canon's inks are dye-based and for some professionals that's the kiss of death. But Wilhelm has been publishing some very impressive longevity figures for some dye-based prints, surpassing 70 years. Whether you are printing with pigment inks (offered with some Epson printers) or dyes, you can expect to be competitive with traditional color photo print longevity, which begins to fade after 20 years exposure to bright light.

With 30 percent higher intensity than normal inks, Canon's Bubble Jet inks used with Photo Paper Pro guarantees "photo-quality output that retains light-fastness for more than 25 years, without fading," according to the company's in-house evaluation. Wilhelm has rated i950 output at 27 years but has not tested Canon's i9900 ink set yet.

Canon's ink cartridges (like Epson's) do not include a new print head. So using third-party inks may clog the ultrafine ink nozzles of the printer's print head. At least on the Canon, you can replace the print head yourself. Epson print heads have to be replaced by Epson.

The ChromaPLUS eight-color ink set used in the i9900 extends the orange/red gamut (skin tones) 60 percent over six-color printing with a new red ink and extends the green gamut (foliage) 30 percent with a new green ink.

With Canon's Think Tank System, you only replace the individual color cartridge that's empty, rather than a multi-color cartridge (as with the HP). Moreover the ink level is actually monitored by optical ink sensors that shine light through a prism on the bottom of each ink tank. A low ink warning is triggered when the ink level is falls to 20 percent. You can easily pop them out to have a look for yourself, too, because the cartridges are transparent.

BUBBLE JET TECHNOLOGY

Getting the ink onto (even "into") the paper is the job of Canon's Bubble Jet technology (http://www.canon.com/technology/detail/bj/bj_mfdt/index.html), which resembles HP's thermal inkjet technology but differs significantly from Epson's piezo technology.

According to Canon, in a conventional thermal print head, "the temperature and viscosity of the ink when it leaves the nozzle can produce slight fluctuations in the amount and direction of ink discharged. The cause lies in the discharge process, during which pressure is first applied to the ink inside the nozzle and when this reaches the nozzle outlet, a droplet is formed by separating it from the rest of the ink. However, the amount of ink discharged differs with each droplet due to minute fluctuations in timing and the position of the nozzle at separation."

Canon's MicroFine Droplet Technology "heats and vaporizes the ink inside the nozzle to form microbubbles, in an ideal position closer to the nozzle outlet. Under the pressure of these bubbles, ink is ejected out of the outlet in microfine droplets. The nozzle is designed to limit the amount of ink to the space between the heater and the outlet so when bubbles form, all the ink under the heater is forced outwards and not even temperature variations can affect the droplet size. Pressure only needs to be applied to the discharged ink, a task that is efficiently carried out by microbubbles. The result is accurate discharge to the printed surface with almost no air resistance."

INSTALLATION

A power cord connects to the back of the printer and directly to a wall socket, no brick required.

After installing the removable ink head assembly, you unwrap and install eight ink tanks by simply popping them into the carrier. We usually fret about this step, but on the Canon it was foolproof.

You can use the printer directly with cameras that support either Canon's direct printing or PictBridge technology by connecting them with their USB cable to the USB port in the front of the printer.

To use a computer with the printer, connect to either the USB 1.0 port or the USB 2.0 Hi-Speed port. Macintosh users can also take advantage of the FireWire port. But the FireWire port doesn't support the printer utility software. To fetch data from the printer (like ink levels), you'll have to use a USB connection.

Although we didn't use a USB 2.0 cable to connect to the USB 2.0 port from our laptop's USB 2.0 Hi-Speed port, we didn't notice any slowdown or problems communicating with the printer.

Big buttons on the front right turn the printer on and resume printing after running out of paper. Both the sheet feeder and output tray extend in multiple sections, providing a straight-through paper path at all sizes.

SOFTWARE SETUP

True story. We didn't get this directly from Canon. It was shipped from our Atlanta office to us in San Francisco. To get a jump on the install, we went to the Canon Web site (http://www.canonusa.com) and downloaded everything we could find for the i9900.

This isn't bad advice in general, actually.

Rarely can you buy any hardware these days where the current version of the included software is up to date. You should always check the manufacturer's Web site for firmware and software updates before rubbing your hands together and licking your lips.

But that isn't a bad way to shop, either. Why not download the drivers and documentation while you're still shopping? You can see if there's a driver for your operating system. And the best time to read documentation is no doubt while you are still procrastinating over the purchase.

UTILITY SOFTWARE

The Bubble Jet Utility software lets you perform a number of maintenance tasks:

EASY-PHOTOPRINT

Printing photos is a lot harder than it has to be. Sure, there are a lot of options and a hierarchy of decisions to be made. But software should gently guide you along the process.

Canon's Easy-PhotoPrint does that. It's the easiest printing software we've ever used. And it did everything we asked of it. Three steps and you're home.

In fact, it did more than we asked, actually employing color management by supporting Adobe RGB color space rather than sRGB and profiles for the printer and Canon papers (as well as generic papers).

We used it to print the first 8x10s that rolled off the printer. Piece of cake. So let's get real, we thought. How about printing that sequence of card stunts from the Cal-UCLA barnburner at Memorial Stadium? How about a stack of 4x6 prints?

Step One was to navigate to our game shots. The program displayed them in rows. When we clicked on them, the counter incremented to one. Arrows on either side of each image counter let you adjust the number of prints you want to make of that image.

Step Two was to select the paper. We loaded the printer with 4x6 sheets of Canon Photo Paper Pro, a stiff glossy photo paper. We selected the size (4x6) and the type (Photo Paper Pro). You can print any size the printer supports (although 8x10 was missing) up to 13x19. There are more generic options for glossy photo paper and matte photo paper, too.

There are a couple of other options on this tab, too, including Vivid Color and Noise Reduction. We preferred disabling Vivid Color but we did turn on Normal Photo Noise Reduction.

Step Three was to, well, Print. Our images were arrayed along the bottom of the window. All we had to do was pick a layout. We selected Borderless at full size and clicked Print.

A dialog box popped up telling us how to set the operating print dialog box we were about to see. We confirmed the Standard setting and clicked Print again and grabbed our timer. The 4x6 prints were printed last to first (so they were stacked correctly) without offsetting on the bottom of the next print, taking just 38 seconds each.

The Preference settings reveal one clue to this magic. Images are optimized automatically. You'll note we did no resizing or sharpening or color correction. We didn't have to.

PRINTING BIG

A large print is not meant to be scrutinized with a 10x magnifier. It's meant to fill a wall. You should be able to stand back and admire it. Several of you. With cocktails, say.

Given that comfortable viewing distance, we were able to print even 3-Mp images at 13x19 that just blew away our visitors. "Hey, you could sell these," they'd say, which was as close to an offer as we got.

But you don't need an 8-Mp image to print large. To get our 3-Mp images print ready, we enlarged them so we had at least 150 pixels an inch of data using Photoshop's bicubic resizing. Then we used Reindeer Graphic's Safe Sharpen plug-in to sharpen them up intelligently. And then we printed. Simple as that.

We didn't waste much time framing them, either. We found 18x24 black metal frames for $15, bought mats for $7, cut them ourselves and had a very attractive package for less than $30 a print. Definitely time to add a couple rooms to the house.

We also scanned an old slide at much higher resolution, feeding the printer 300 ppi and getting absolutely no grain or artifacts. You really could take a loupe to the image and not see a flaw.

What was astonishing about the 3-Mp images was the color, which appeared almost three dimensional. Viewed from a distance just out of arm's reach, they appeared without artifacts. Hand held, you had to scrutinize them to see any flaws introduced by resizing and sharpening. The detail and density range exceeded the Cibachromes we have here.

CONCLUSION

Let's see. High resolution, microfine droplets, extended color gamut, speed, great software, affordable, even a nice looking box with high-speed ports, plus support for printing directly from some cameras. We thought we were in heaven when we saw our first 13x19 zip out of this printer but we suspect heaven doesn't have gear this good.

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Feature: Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 -- Anti-Shake 12x Zoom

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/KMZ3/Z3A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

The Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 is the latest Z in a long line featuring uncommon innovation, aggressive pricing and superior optics. The original Z1 was Minolta's first long-zoom digicam for the consumer market and has been one of the most popular cameras on our site. The Z2 also proved to be popular, with a higher-resolution 4.0-Mp sensor and expanded movie capabilities. The new Z3 extends the zoom range to 12x and adds Minolta's anti-shake technology.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Similar in shape and size to the preceding Z1 and Z2, the $499 Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 offers many of the same excellent features and exposure options as the previous models, though now with an impressive 12x optical zoom lens and an anti-shake feature to reduce blurring due to camera movement. Maintaining the full-featured reputation of the Z1 and Z2, the Z3 offers full manual exposure control and a host of creative shooting options in a fairly compact, very user-friendly package. Measuring a mere 4.27x3.15x3.29 inches and weighing 16 ounces with the cap, batteries and SD memory card, the Z3 is quite compact for such a long-zoom camera, but still a bit too chunky for a shirt pocket.

Covered in solid black plastic body panels with a matte finish, the Z3's body is built around the large lens barrel. A substantial handgrip provides a solid hold, but the rest of the camera is fairly compact. Its 4.0-Mp CCD produces high resolution images for making sharp prints as large as 11x14 inches with some cropping, as well as lower resolution images better suited for email. With its range of exposure options, 12x optical zoom and high resolution CCD, the Z3 is a versatile and capable performer.

The Z3 is generously equipped with a 12x, 5.83-69.9mm lens (a 35-420mm 35mm equivalent), representing a range from a moderate wide-angle to a very substantial telephoto. Maximum aperture ranges from f2.8 to f4.5, depending on the lens zoom setting. Focus ranges from 2.0 feet to infinity in normal mode, with Macro ranging from 0.3 to 8.2 feet. A Super Macro setting gets as close as 0.39 inches for really impressive close-ups. I found that the camera would focus close to the Macro range even with Macro disabled, at least at wide-angle. At telephoto, minimum focusing distance seemed to be about five feet, regardless of the Macro setting. Though the Z3 normally judges focus from a large area in the center of the frame, a Spot AF mode is also available, which determines focus from one of five hotspots, arranged across the middle of the frame.

The Z3 offers Manual focus, as well as a Full-time AF mode which continuously adjusts focus whether the shutter button is pressed or not. This may be helpful in tracking moving subjects, but doesn't reduce shutter lag with stationary subjects. You can also opt for a Continuous AF mode which employs Predictive Focus technology. This option continuously adjusts focus and attempts to track a moving subject to "predict" where the next focus area will be. In addition to the optical zoom, the Z3 offers as much as 4x digital zoom.

For composing images, the Z3 offers a 1.5-inch LCD monitor, as well as a smaller, electronic optical viewfinder LCD display. Unlike previous Z-series models, these are two distinct displays (previous models used the same LCD which would pivot between the full LCD and the viewfinder). The Mode switch on the camera's rear panel determines which display is active and the full information and image displays are available on both (including the LCD menu). The LCD is quite sharp and during manual focusing, the central portion of the display is magnified by about 3x.

For eyeglass wearers, the Z3's eye-level viewfinder is a bit of a mixed bag. It has a dioptric adjustment with a fairly broad adjustment, at the nearsighted end of its range accommodating even my own 20/180 vision. On the downside though, the eyepiece has a fairly low eyepoint, making it hard to use while wearing glasses. I could see the entire frame with my own glasses on, but had to press the eyeglass lens right up against the eyepiece, something I'd prefer not to do, for fear of scratches.

When it comes to exposure, the Z3 offers a wide range of options, including Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual modes, with five preset Scene modes and a Movie mode available as well. In Auto mode, the camera handles everything. Program AE mode keeps the camera in charge of aperture and shutter speed, but allows the user to adjust all other exposure settings. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes provide partial manual control, letting the user adjust one variable while the camera selects the other. Finally, in Manual mode, the user has complete control over the exposure.

Scene modes include Night Portrait, Sunset, Landscape, Sports Action and Portrait modes. Night Portrait allows use of the flash with longer exposure times for more even illumination; Sunset mode sets white balance to Daylight and biases the exposure to produce saturated colors in sky shots; Landscape mode uses a small aperture to produce greater depth of field; Sports Action mode biases the exposure system toward faster shutter speeds; and Portrait mode uses a larger aperture to decrease depth of field, slightly blurring the background behind the primary subject.

Aperture settings range from f2.8 to f8, with the actual maximum and minimum values depending on the lens zoom position. Shutter speeds range from 1/1000 to 15 seconds in Manual and Shutter Priority modes, with a true time-exposure setting permitting exposures as long as 30 seconds. Maximum exposure time in Program AE, Aperture Priority, Auto and the Digital Subject Program modes is four seconds.

The true time-exposure option on the Z3 is a very unusual and welcome feature on a digicam. Most digicams with long-exposure options have a Bulb mode, in which the shutter is kept open as long as you hold down the shutter button. The disadvantage of this approach is the need to keep your finger on the shutter button often causes camera shake that can blur the final images. With a true time-exposure mode though, you press the shutter button once to open the shutter and then again to close it. With the camera mounted on a tripod, the momentary minor jiggling as you press the shutter button to open the shutter dies away quickly, allowing very sharp images with very long exposures. Kudos to Konica Minolta.

The Z3's new Anti-Shake option also helps with blurring from camera movement, which is more pronounced when shooting at full telephoto. When enabled, the Anti-Shake system turns on when the shutter button is pressed. It has two modes of operation though. In Disp+Exp mode, the anti-shake system actuates whenever the shutter button is half-pressed, so you can see its effect in the LCD monitor. In Exp-only mode, it only activates for the exposure itself, saving battery power. I personally prefer the visual feedback of the Disp+Exp mode. You should note though, that Anti-Shake is only effective for minor movement. It won't counteract strong camera movements or reduce blur caused by a moving subject.

For longer exposures, the Z3 features a Noise Reduction setting that uses dark-frame subtraction to reduce image noise resulting from long exposure times. While it helps, I found in my testing that the Z3 did much better at moderate light levels, down to roughly 1/4 the brightness of typical city street lighting at night.

By default, the Z3 employs a Multi-Segment metering system. You can opt for Spot or Center-Weighted metering modes, too. Exposure Compensation adjusts from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third step increments. Light sensitivity is adjustable to ISO values of 50, 100, 200 or 400, with an Auto setting as well. White Balance options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent and Flash light sources, plus a Custom setting. The Record menu also offers Sharpness and Contrast adjustments, as well as a Color setting with Natural, Vivid, Black and White and Sepia color options.

The built-in, pop-up flash operates in Auto, Auto Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-Flash, Fill with Red-Eye Reduction, Suppressed or Slow-Sync modes. You can control the intensity of the flash from -2 to +2 EV. You can also attach a more powerful flash via the external hot shoe on the camera's top panel. The flash connection is proprietary to Konica Minolta accessories, including the Maxxum Flash 2500, 3600HS and 5600HS units, but an adapter unit is available (if nearly impossible to find at retail) that provides a standard PC-style sync connector.

In Movie mode, the camera captures 640x480 or 320x240-pixel resolution moving images with sound, with a Fine quality option available at the larger resolution. The recording time per segment varies with the available memory card space, as well as with the resolution, quality and frame rate selected. You have an option for Standard or Night movie modes and can set the frame rate to either 15 or 30 frames per second. In Movie mode, you can zoom digitally or optically, though noise from the lens motor will also be recorded. Zoom is very slow -- better for good movies -- so you don't hear the zoom motor as much as the zoom control itself when you activate it too vigorously. Finally, another unique feature of the Z3's Movie mode is the ability to capture single frames of the movie during playback and save them as separate still images.

For shooting fast action, the Z3's Standard and Ultra High Speed Continuous Advance modes capture a rapid series of images while you hold down the Shutter button. UHS mode captures up to 15 frames at 1280x960 at a rate of 10 fps, while Standard mode captures frames at about 2.16 fps. The actual frame rate and maximum number of images in a series will depend on the resolution setting, subject matter and the amount of available memory space.

Progressive Capture begins continuously acquiring images when you press and hold down the shutter button, saving the last few captured when you finally release the shutter button. At maximum resolution, standard Progressive Capture will save the last six images captured, while UHS Progressive Capture will save up to the last 15 1280x960 images. Progressive capture is very helpful for capturing fast action, when you don't know exactly when the critical moment will arrive. The Z3's action-capture capabilities are further enhanced by its shorter-than-average shutter lag times, ranging from 0.26 seconds at wide-angle to 0.46 seconds at telephoto.

Auto Exposure Bracketing mode captures three consecutive frames at different exposure settings, varying by 0.3, 0.5 or 1.0 EV steps. The camera's Self-Timer mode provides a two or 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the camera actually takes the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots.

The Z3 uses SD memory cards and a 16-MB card accompanies the camera. I highly recommend picking up a 32x, 128-MB card. The Z3 is a USB mass storage-class device, so it doesn't require driver software for Windows 2000/XP or for Mac OS 8.6 and later. It uses four AA-type batteries and an optional AC adapter is also available. An A/V cable is also included.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The Z3 produced very nice color overall, with proper saturation and generally accurate hue in most cases. Where most consumer digicams artificially pump up their color saturation to produce bright, snappy-looking prints, the Z3 takes a more conservative and therefore generally more accurate approach. The Z3 does also have some minor hue errors, shifting purples toward blue, greens toward yellow and oranges toward red. Overall though, the Z3 produced good-looking images throughout my testing.

Exposure: The Z3 had a tendency to underexpose slightly. Contrast was typically high, leading to slightly dark midtones if I adjusted the exposure to preserve the highlights. But shadow detail was pretty good and the camera's contrast adjustment worked quite well. Indoors, the camera required an average amount of positive exposure compensation, though the flash tended to underexpose a bit more than usual.

Resolution/Sharpness: The Z3 performed pretty well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 900 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to 1,150 lines horizontally, although only 1,000 lines or so vertically. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until 1,400 lines.

Close-Ups: The Z3 performed pretty well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.74x2.06 inches. In Super Macro mode, performance was even better, with a minimum area of 1.12x0.84 inches. Resolution was very high in both, with a lot of fine detail, good clarity and sharpness. Details softened slightly in the corners of Super Macro shot (a very common failing of digicam macro modes), but remained sharp through the frame in the normal macro shot. The flash had trouble in both macro shots, overexposing the image in the normal macro mode and creating strong reflections in the Super Macro shot.

Night Shots: The Z3 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, at all four ISO settings. However, color was only good to 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux), beyond which it picked up a pretty severe orange cast, though the exposures were still fairly bright. The Noise Reduction system did a good job controlling noise, which was extremely high in the shots taken without Noise Reduction enabled. Even with it enabled though, bright noise pixels appear in the longest exposures, becoming quite numerous at the lowest light levels of my test. The bottom line is the Z3 will do very well with typical city street lighting at night and even a fair bit darker. What's more, the Z3's autofocus system worked just fine, even at the 1/16 foot-candle limit of my test.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The electronic "optical" viewfinder was very accurate, showing 99+ percent of the final image area at wide-angle. At telephoto, frame accuracy was close to 99 percent, but the final image was shifted upward slightly, so that the top measurement lines were just out of frame. The LCD monitor was also very accurate, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the Z3 was slightly higher than average at wide-angle, measuring approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared much better with only 0.05 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration was low at wide-angle to normal focal lengths, but increased to a rather high level at maximum telephoto. At all focal lengths though, the Z3's images showed very little softening in the corners, a common digicam lens malady.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: With full-autofocus shutter delays of 0.26-0.47 second, it's one of the faster digicams on the market, particularly impressive for a long-zoom. Its shot-to-shot cycle time of just over a second in single-shot mode or 0.46 second in continuous shooting mode are quite fast as well. Its ultra high-speed mode captures 1280x960 pixel images at 10 frames/second, an unusually rapid clip. Quite impressive, a good choice for sports and other action shooting.

Battery Life: Powered by four AA batteries, battery life is excellent. Worst case run time with 1600 mAh batteries was just shy of three hours, extending to 3.7 hours in playback mode. With modern high-capacity NiMH cells, your run times could easily be 30 percent longer.

CONCLUSION

Anti-shake technology's importance is hard to overstate on a long-zoom camera like the Z3. If your budget can handle the $50-100 premium that image stabilization typically adds to a long-zoom digicam, you'll almost certainly not regret the investment. The difference it makes in practical usability of a long-zoom digicam like the Z3 is quite amazing.

Once again, I'm impressed with the way the Z3 combines a novice-friendly design with a surprising array of advanced features to satisfy more expert users. While I'd like to see just a bit higher color saturation, the Z3 is a really enjoyable camera to use, absolutely recommended for those in the long-zoom market and definitely a Dave's Pick.

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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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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 Olympus Camedia C-770 Zoom at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9a06f

Visit the Buying and Selling Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ac

Grant asks about the importance of sensor size at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9b79e/0

Patti asks about picture size when emailing at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee98b6f/0

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

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Just for Fun: The 2004 Ersatz Nobel for Customer Service

Our "Ersatz" Nobel may be a fake Nobel, but it's a real prize. The "Ersatz" designation merely distinguishes it from its lesser cousin. How? We think subscriber Herb Hintz's etymological flashback illuminates that very well:

"I grew up in Germany of an old Prussian family," Herb wrote, "and when I saw the word Ersatz, my memory flashed back in time many, many years ago.

"We had many words with Ersatz, as in Ersatz Kaffee (artificial coffee made of toasted cereal or chicory. We also had the Ersatz Krankenkasse (where you went to get a permit to see a doctor, as Germany is still famous for socialized medicine). In the old Prussian military we had what we called an Ersatz Battalion, a unit ready to relieve a bunch of worn out soldiers.

"Ersatz was used in many different ways but was never top of the line, always limping behind the great stuff by a couple of inches. When we had an Ersatz Reifen we meant the spare tire, hidden in the trunk.

"The Ersatz Nobel Prize awarded to some lonely and totally anachronistic but highly ethical salesperson may never be awarded, but as an optimist I sincerely believe that there is someone out there waiting for his moment in history."

Herb's optimism wasn't misplaced. Subscriber T. Bennett Finley wrote to us about "the absolute best service" he ever received. Just listen to this:

"I purchased an external DVD writer from them. It would not work on Firewire on my computer (it would work on USB). They took it back without a quibble and gave me a full refund.

"I also purchased a Sony MiniDV from them. A week later it would not work. I returned it and, although I had to wait a week for a replacement to arrive, they did replace it with no hesitation.

"Their photofinishing center provides the best 4x6 prints from both 35mm and digicam that I have had in this city. They may not be the cheapest but certainly the best.

"And last of all, the staff are courteous, helpful and seem to know their stuff."

The place subscriber Finley raved about is the Saskatoon branch of the London Drugs chain, headquartered in Vancouver, B.C. That's Canada, in case we aren't being clear. Imagine that. Not only Canadian, but a chain store. That's like Boston winning the World Series.

So to London Drugs the 2004 Ersatz Nobel for Extraordinary Customer Service. Cheers!

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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: Lossless Compression

I was wondering if you were going to do an article on lossless digital compression anytime in the future? I have a very useful jpeg2000 format option as an Adobe plug-in, but of course, there are no other programs or cameras utilizing this format. Seems that we have been placed in the jpeg jail cell by these manufacturers.

-- Kevin

(Good Question, Kevin! We touched on this in our Adobe DNG feature in the Oct. 1 issue. Adobe opted for lossless JPEG over JPEG 2000 because of the processing demands of JPEG 2000, which makes it impractical for in-camera use -- particularly for 16-bit channel images. According to Adobe's Chris Cox, JPEG 2000 "would probably require quite a bit more RAM and CPU power in the camera to get reasonable compression times. I don't think even the current DSLRs would want to tackle JPEG2000." And Adobe's Thomas Knoll added, "Most of the compression ratio testing has been performed on 8-bit RGB data, which is very different from 10 to 14-bit raw Bayer mosaic data. The original lossless JPEG algorithm happens to do fairly well on this type of data, which is why most camera manufacturers who use raw compression use algorithms either identical or very similar to, lossless JPEG." -- Editor)

RE: QURIO

The Qurio idea seems great on the surface, however I have some questions.

Qurio gives you free software and a free service. How are they going to make money? I don't think that people who can view pictures online almost anytime they want are going to order a lot of prints. They can also download (perhaps) or at least capture the displayed image and print it themselves.

Even though you invite certain people to view your images, your computer is going to be exposed to the net. It shouldn't take long for some bot to find it and make it known to others. Since people who understand the Qurio concept will know that this computer will be on all or most of the time to serve images, the computer will be a tempting target.

I run Win98. It works fine. Everyone knows that upgrading a Microsoft product (especially the OS) is a dicey proposition at best. Sending the people I want to see my images a CD (under $1 each including postage) is much more appealing than a OS upgrade. Plus they can view the images whenever they want, not whenever my PC happens to be on.

-- Stefan Sobol

(Money: Qurio offers many imaging products other than prints as well as a turnkey photo business solution based on their technology.... Security: it's your broadband connection to the Internet, not Qurio, that's a security risk. It's essential to protect your computer from attack by installing a hardware or software firewall.... BTW, Qurio's Risk Thompson observed an interesting trend: "Market research shows: 1) 70 percent of digital camera owners have a broadband connection and 2) 70 percent of broadband households currently leave their Internet connection 'always on,' and the trend is increasing. So, clearly PC's and Internet connections are becoming more like another household appliance (i.e. 'always on'). The days of 'booting up' your PC every time you want to use it are quickly becoming a thing of the past. People want instant email, instant Internet access and instant photo sharing and this will continue to drive 'always on' percentages even higher." -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Apple (http://www.apple.com) introduced its iPod Photo in $499 40-GB and $599 60-GB models with a dock with audio and video out, earbud headphones, 1.4m AV cable, 1.2m 30-pin to FireWire cable, a 1.2m 30-pin to USB cable, AC adapter, black carrying case and a CD with iTunes 4.7 [MW].

The two-inch, 220x176-pixel color LCD displays photos in thousands of colors, preserving the aspect ratio using a letterbox mask. The AV cable plugs into the earphone jack to display images on a TV using the built-in slide show software. Images are downloaded to the iPod via iTunes. The product does not support direct downloads from digicams or video playback.


Wetpixel (http://www.wetpixel.com) covered DEMA 2004 in Houston, noting, "Two years ago, digital underwater cameras and housings were barely on the map. At least year's DEMA Show in Miami, we witnessed manufacturers announcing numerous digital products in a migration frenzy that has become the norm in shifts from analog to digital technology. And this year, where did all the film products go? They are almost literally no film products being shown at the DEMA this year."


WeibeTech CEO James Wiebe has posted a white paper (http://www.wiebetech.com/pressreleases/firewireevolution.pdf) analyzing FireWire evolution and predicting SATA will be the next hot storage technology.


PhotoVu (http://www.photovu.com) has released its $1,299 PhotoVu PV1940 [LMW], a 19-inch, wireless, 1280x960, digital picture frame with an optional 40-GB removable hard drive.


Qurio (http://www.qurio.com) has released Qurio 1.2 [W] with guest and album statistics.


Human Software (http://www.humansoftware.com) has released its $69.95 PhotoLight 2.0 [MW], a Photoshop plug-in to generate realistic lighting effects with over 200 effects, including glows, fog and lights and shadows cast through many different shapes.


iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com/) has released MediaPro 2.6.1 [MW] with improved support for iTunes audio files, QuickTime movies, voice annotations in slide shows, Nikon NEF previews, long filenames and better Image Editor performance, along with some bug fixes. The new version loses file associations on OS X, however, so add an .ivc extension to your catalog files until the next update.


Boinx (http://www.fotomagico.com) has released its $79 FotoMagico 1.0.1 [M] to burn DVDs directly with iDVD, improve playback performance, improve QuickTime export and fix a number of bugs.


MMI (http://www.mmisoftware.co.uk) has released its $10 quickWebAlbum 1.5 [M] to build HTML photo albums with a Javascript slide show from a folder of JPEGs.


Charlie Morey (http://www.digitalphotography.tv) writes, "Yosemite Renaissance, a non-profit organization for the support of the arts at Yosemite, has granted me an Artist-in-Residence award." One of eight recipients, Morey will receive a free month's lodging at Yosemite to create new images for an artists-in-residence exhibition at the Yosemite Museum with one image going into the museum's permanent collection.


Stunt Software (http://www.stuntsoftware.com) released its $19.95 PhotoBooth 1.0 [M] for enhanced printing directly from iPhoto.


Photoflex Inc.'s Web Photo School (http://www.webphotoschool.com) has relaunched its Web site with new free and paid digital photography lessons.

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One Liners

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Signoff

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Happy snapping!

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

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