The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 23 12 November 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 136th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Our Nikon D70 eBook review is so big, it counts as our second feature this issue. Your constant pleas to Panasonic have finally paid off as Dave reviews the second Lumix we've received. And then we get Dave to explain memory card speeds. Check the letters for even more goodies.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 -- Stabilized 12x Leica Lens

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ3/FZ3A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

Panasonic's been a player in the digicam market for the last couple of years, but until now, we've not managed to get our hands on any of their cameras to test. The 3-Mp DMC-FZ3 is the second Panasonic I've reviewed and I was as pleasantly surprised with it as with the 4-Mp DMC-FZ15 before it. If you're in the market for a relatively affordable long-zoom digicam with optical image stabilization, the FZ3 could be it.

USER'S REPORT

I start my reviews with an overview of all the camera's features and functions. But I'm starting this review by relating more of my personal impressions. This approach is frankly more time-consuming, but my hope is it will be more useful to readers.

Fit, Feel and Finish. The FZ3's all-plastic body felt a little lightweight and cheap. The lighter weight did mean it was a bit more comfortable to hold in one hand, though. Its hand grip is smaller than the FZ15's, leaving my rather large hands feeling a little cramped, but the lighter weight offset this. The FZ3 was comfortable to hold and should fit even very small hands quite well.

Lens Quality and Focus Operation. The lens is the standout on this camera and its optical quality lives up to its Leica heritage. In particular, corner to corner sharpness is very good and chromatic aberration very low, although barrel distortion is somewhat high at maximum wide-angle. There's no manual focus adjustment option and, despite filter threads on the included lens hood adapter, the menu system doesn't have an option for focusing with accessory lenses.

Optical Image Stabilization. A 12x zoom is all but unusable in anything other than bright daylight without image stabilization. I don't have a way to measure the effectiveness of anti-shake mechanisms, but the FZ3's seems to be about average, about as well as the Canon S1IS's but not quite as well as the Minolta DiMAGE Z3's. But all of these are a radical improvement over a long zoom without image stabilization.

Shutter Response and Shooting Speed. Ugh. As with the higher-end FZ15, the FZ3's sluggish shutter response is the single biggest fly in its figurative ointment. In full autofocus mode, it takes from 1.23 to 1.50 seconds to focus and grab the shot, a veritable eternity if your subject is anything other than a still life. If you pre-focus by half-pressing the shutter button, things get a whole lot better, with the shutter lag reduced to a blazing 0.037 second.

Another difference relative to the FZ15 (and presumably the FZ20 as well) came in the cycle time department. While the FZ15 could snap shots every 0.54 second until the card was full (at least with a 32x Lexar SD card), the FZ3 could only manage a shot every 1.56 seconds. In High-Speed Continuous mode though, it could rip through up to seven large/fine shots at a rate of 3.66 fps, amazingly fast for a consumer digicam. Continuous mode aside though, the FZ3's sluggish shutter response and modest single-shot cycle times keep me from recommending it for shooting fast-paced action.

Viewfinder. With 20/180 vision, this topic is near and dear to my heart. A lot of digicams require you to get your eyeball very close to the viewfinder to see the full frame and many more offer no dioptric adjustment to accommodate those of us with failing vision. The FZ3 does well on both counts, with a moderately high eyepoint (although not quite as high as that of the FZ15/20) and one of the widest dioptric adjustment ranges I've yet seen.

Control and Menu Ergonomics. Another mixed bag here. On the one hand, I love the FZ3's menu system. I didn't find it anything special when I first looked at it, but once I started operating the camera, I found myself just flying through the menu system. I don't know what makes it so fast, perhaps just the subtle timing of how the menus respond to the buttons on the multi-controller, but whatever the cause, I ended up liking the FZ3's menu system better than those of most digicams I test.

On the downside, I really disliked the action of the Exposure button. You use it to switch the multi-controller from its normal functions to controlling the shutter speed and/or aperture settings. I found it just terribly awkward to have to press the Exposure button before I could use the multi-controller to change exposure. A multi-controller with a central button would work a lot better.

TECH SPECS

The FZ3 boasts a 12x, 4.6-55.2mm telescoping Leica zoom lens equivalent). Focus is always automatic (no manual mode) ranging from 0.98 feet to infinity. Macro mode focuses as close as two inches at wide-angle and 3.94 feet at telephoto. Aperture adjusts automatically or manually, with an f2.8 to f8.0 range.

The FZ3 offers nine active autofocus areas, but you can also limit the active area to three or one AF points. The camera automatically sets the focus based on the part of the subject closest to one or more of the AF areas and highlights each area that it's using in the display with a white box. There's also a Spot AF mode, which employs a smaller central focus area. Continuous AF focuses on moving subjects, but only works with single area AF modes.

In dim subject lighting, a bright LED autofocus assist light automatically illuminates when autofocus is active. The AF assist beam is rated as effective to about 4.92 feet. Even without the AF assist light in play, the FZ3 focuses better in low light than most cameras, down to a light level of roughly 1/6 foot-candle, about one-sixth the brightness of a typical city street scene at night. With the AF assist beam enabled, it can focus in total darkness.

You can turn Image Stabilization off through the Record menu or set it to Mode 1 or 2. In Mode 1, stabilization operates continuously, while Mode 2 keeps it in standby, activating it only when the shutter is released.

The FZ3 offers excellent exposure control, with Program AE, Shutter Speed Priority AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual exposure modes and a handful of special settings for specific shooting situations. Scene modes include Portrait, Sports, Scenery, Night Scenery, Night Portrait, Panning, Fireworks, Party and Snow modes. Exposure compensation can be adjusted from 2 to +2 exposure values, in one-third-step increments. The metering system offers three operating modes, which include Multiple, Center-Weighted and Spot.

The FZ3 offers six White Balance modes, including Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Halogen, Flash and a manual White Set. You can fine-tune the white balance by adding more red or blue in all modes except Auto, using WB Adjust. ISO film speed equivalents are Auto, 80, 100, 200 and 400. The FZ3 features long-exposure Noise Reduction, which uses dark frame subtraction.

Auto Exposure Bracketing captures a series of three images, each at a different exposure setting. You can manually set the exposure variation between shots in one-third-step increments, up to as much as +/- 1 EV. The camera makes all three exposures in rapid succession with just one press of the Shutter button.

The FZ3 has three Burst shooting modes. Low Speed mode captures a maximum of seven consecutive frames at a bit over 2.0 fps, while High Speed mode captures a maximum of seven images at about 3.75 fps, as long as you hold down the shutter release. There's also an Infinity mode, which limits the number of images only by memory card capacity and shoots at approximately 2.0 fps. While the higher-end FZ15 required a 32x memory card to shoot non-stop in Infinity mode, the lower-resolution FZ3 was able to shoot without pausing with a non-speed-rated Lexar SD card.

Movie mode records MPEGs at 320x240 pixels, at either 30 or 10 fps. Recording times are limited by frame rate and memory card capacity. Zoom is disabled during the recording process and exposure is fixed at the start of recording. Movies are recorded without sound. Movie mode captures continuously to the limit of card capacity, even on slower memory cards. Flip Animation Mode lets you connect a string of images together to make a 20-second movie that resembles a flip animation. You can record as many as 100 consecutive images to create the animation.

The FZ3's built-in, pop-up flash operates in one of six modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction (Auto), Forced, Red-Eye Reduction (Forced), Slow-Sync (with Red-Eye Reduction) and Flash Off. Flash exposure can be adjusted from -2 to +2 EV. Flash started to fall off at the 14 foot limit of my test at ISO 80 and with the lens toward the telephoto end. I was a little surprised there's no sync connector for an external flash unit.

The FZ3 uses SD/MMC memory cards with 8-MB SD card supplied with the camera. Entire SD/MMC cards cannot be write-protected, but the FZ3 allows you to write-protect individual image files, protecting them from accidental erasure unless the card is formatted.

Still images can be saved at one of five resolutions (2016x1512; 1600x1200; 1280x960; 640x480 pixels or HDTV at 1920x1080 pixels), while movies are recorded at 320x240 pixels. Two JPEG compression levels available: Fine and Normal, plus an uncompressed TIFF setting.

The FZ3 connects to a host computer via a USB interface and the included USB cable. A video-out port supports both PAL and NTSC timing formats. The software CD includes USB drivers, ArcSoft PhotoImpression, Panorama Maker and PhotoBase applications [MW].

The FZ3 is powered by an internal Panasonic CGA-S002A rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. The camera ships with one battery pack and a charger. An AC Adapter Kit is sold separately, with a power adapter, DC coupler and power cord.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The FZ3 produced good to very good color. It tended to leave slight color casts in its images, but they were very subtle, less than its big brother the FZ15, which were not bad. Skin tones were just slightly warm and the blue flowers in the bouquet had a purple cast. Under the difficult Incandescent lighting of our Indoor Portrait, Auto and Manual white balance settings both produced very good results. Most Auto white balance systems have a very hard time with this subject.

Exposure: The FZ3 did a good job with exposure, accurately exposing my studio shots and requiring only a small amount of positive exposure compensation for the Sunlit and Indoor portraits. Though the high-key lighting of the Sunlit Portrait resulted in high contrast, highlight detail was good, but the midtones were slightly dark. Still, the results were quite good for a camera with no contrast adjustment option. Shadows typically showed moderate detail and the camera captured a good tonal range on the Davebox target. The one notable exposure error I encountered with the FZ3 was overexposure of my Far Field test shot of the house in outdoor sunlight.

Resolution/Sharpness: The FZ3 performed pretty well on the laboratory resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600~800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found strong detail out to at least 1,100 lines horizontally, although only to about 1,000 lines in the vertical direction. Extinction of the target patterns occurred around 1,300 lines.

Image Noise: The FZ3 generally showed pretty good image noise levels. Noise was low at the 80 and 100 ISO settings, increasing to a moderately high level at ISO 200. Noise became quite strong at ISO 400, with a full grain pattern and bright pixels. Even at that though, it wasn't as bad as ISO 400 noise in some competing models. Panasonic has generally done a very good job of preserving subtle subject detail, rather than reducing everything to mush as part of their noise-reduction strategy.

Close-Ups: The FZ3 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.6x1.2 inches. Resolution was very high and showed a lot of fine detail. The flash was too far behind the lens to be effective at closest approach, being mostly blocked by the lens barrel. Definitely plan on using external lighting for close-in macro shots with the FZ3.

Night Shots: With an adjustable ISO setting and a maximum exposure time of eight seconds, it performed about average in the low-light category. The camera produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color, only at the ISO 400 setting. At ISOs 80 and 100, images were bright as low as 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) and at ISO 200, images were bright down to 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux). Given that average city street lighting at night corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle though, it should do just fine for most outdoor shooting at night under artificial lighting. Color was good with the Auto white balance setting. Image noise was low to moderate at the lower ISO settings, but increased quite a lot at ISO 400. The FZ3 focused down to a bit darker than 1/4 foot-candle with its autofocus illuminator turned off and in complete darkness with the AF illuminator on.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The FZ3's electronic optical viewfinder was very accurate, showing about 98 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and about 99+ percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor was also very accurate, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion was higher than average at wide-angle with approximately 1.07 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared better with approximately 0.2 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration was quite low, with only very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. The corners of the images were generally sharper than I'm accustomed to seeing in consumer digicams, although at maximum telephoto, detail in the corners softened somewhat.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: The FZ3 is very slow in its default AF mode, but in any of its single-area modes is much faster, with wide-angle shutter lag of ~0.5 second and telephoto lag of ~1.0 second.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time of 129 minutes in capture mode with the EVF on, the FZ3 does better than most digicams, but serious users should still plan on buying a second battery to bring along as a spare on extended shooting sessions. Oddly, it seemed to consume more power when the EVF was used, rather than the LCD. Run time in capture mode with the rear-panel LCD on was 140 minutes.

CONCLUSION

On the whole, I was favorably impressed with the Panasonic DMC-FZ3, although personally think that the somewhat more capable 4-Mp FZ15 is a better value, despite its $100 higher list price. The FZ3 is a very capable camera that offers a lot of capability in an affordable consumer digicam, with an excellent 12x zoom lens and optical image stabilization to boot.

With a full range of exposure control modes, including a full manual setting and no less than nine preset Scene modes, the FZ3 is an approachable camera for both novices and more experienced users alike. Recommended, but its sluggish shutter response and only so-so shot-to-shot speed in single-shot mode left it just shy of a Dave's Pick award in the long-zoom category.

Return to Topics.

Book Bag: DSLR: Nikon D70

In our April 6, 2001 issue we called Peter iNova's Nikon Coolpix eBook a Mai Tai on Proverbial Island (the one where you get to take just one book). And, reading that early appreciation, we wouldn't mind quoting more from it in describing his latest edition: DSLR: Nikon D70 by Peter iNova with Uwe Steinmueller.

But in the intervening years, our appreciation has deepened.

We've noticed no camera manufacturer has ever bundled Peter's seminal works with their camera despite the universal high praise. Why? It's simple. Manufacturers never admit to any problems with either digital photography in general or their cameras in particular. With a chapter like Peter's "The Top 40 Photographic Problems," the book would never get through the first committee approval meeting.

And yet, anyone who's ever pressed a shutter button is relieved to hear there are 40 known solutions. It's encouraging.

That generic help is fleshed out with insider tips for particular camera models. But if you don't happen to own the specific model highlighted, you might take a pass. That would be a mistake. We said in 2001 and we'll repeat, "the eBook is worth having whether you own a Nikon or not. The Photoshop actions don't know what camera took the image they are working on. And the text of the book leaves no basic question unanswered. Sure, there's extra stuff about Nikons, but you can blink if that bothers you."

Incidentally, Nikon made this less of an issue by just announcing a $100 rebate through Dec. 31 on the D70 (with or without a lens).

ONE MORE REASON

We've been wearing out the floor trying to decide just which digicam we should invest in next. So we looked forward to some insight on the D70.

Frankly, after years of shooting digital, we're a lot less enamored of the SLR model than we thought we'd be. We've grown to appreciate using the LCD as a viewfinder, having a live histogram, shooting short video clips, swiveling the lens independently of the LCD, pocketing our camera. With a dSLR, you give all that up.

So we looked to Peter and Uwe for some insight. What could we do with a D70 that we couldn't do with, say, a Sony DSC-F828? When you're about to spend $1,000 on a camera you'll live with for a few years, a $50 book by a couple of guys who have been using one for a while is a good investment.

Let's see what you get for your money.

PACKAGE

"This eBook," Peter writes in the Preface, "is the product of two authors who each own and use the D70 to capture images of many sorts. Peter iNova shoots as creative director of Metavision. Uwe Steinmueller shoots fine art naturalist photography and is an expert in Raw image format gathering, processing and printing."

Together they've produced a package that covers everything from what a pixel is to how to process Raw images, going well beyond a single PDF. The package includes:

That's quite a package for under $50 (and you can save $6.50 on shipping if you take advantage of our special deal at http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?dgn).

EBOOK CONTENTS

Now that you know the table of contents is only a part of the package, let's see exactly what it includes.

The D70 eBook covers:

Uwe's eBook is divided into two parts:

And Uwe has chimed in here and there throughout the larger eBook. We were particularly charmed by his note on why he only shoots in manual mode in Chapter 4.

CHAPTER FOUR

In fact, Chapter 4 is the part of the book that puts D70 in the title. But it's an enjoyable read, entertaining in a way manuals are not (you know, written by a person).

It begins with a tour of the camera, its control layout, exposure modes, card recommendation, power options -- all spiced with tidbits like using the camera's Auto/Manual focus switch rather than the one on the lens, using CR2 lithiums to power the camera in a pinch, why the camera never shuts down.

Performance is highlighted along the way, as we learn how the camera powers up instantly and is always at the ready, unlike many digicams. Special attention is paid to explaining the design so you can take advantage of its efficiencies.

Peter considers the full range of typical setup decisions (focus mode, image size, compression setting), liberally sprinkling the discussion with practical advice. When you're ready to shoot, he gives you just enough of the D70 menu system to get to work before explaining each Scene mode.

"Instant response is the hallmark of the D70. It's the first dSLR to act and react this quickly," he writes in discussing the image review system. Snap the shot and it appears instantly on the LCD. Peter then explains how to evaluate the screen display, including the histogram.

His discussion of Flexible Program Adjust, in which Program mode's default shutter and aperture settings can be adjusted using a command dial, is nicely illustrated with a shot of the D70 showing how to access that dial as well as the EV adjust dial with one hand. You appreciate the design that went into such details when you see exactly how to use them.

Both the 18-70mm AF-S Nikkor D70 kit lens and alternative Nikkor lenses are extensively covered, the discussion delving into slide copying and T-mounts for telescopes. The advantages of particular Nikkors are discussed in detail.

The discussion on focusing leads to white balance which leads to metering, wending its way naturally through all the menu options.

There's also a hefty section on dealing with the D70's "character traits," little peculiarities like the easily fogged monitor cover (and how to avoid it) or the safety switch on the focus-assist light that shuts it down for 10 minutes. Practical problems like standing the camera up, offloading images from the card and cleaning dust off the sensor are also covered. There's even a discussion on how to use the lid from a tin of smoked oysters to make a bounce flash reflector.

Then Peter tackles the new SB-800 flash and the advantages of Nikon's Creative Lighting System technology. After exhausting that topic, the chapter continues with a discussion of using older Nikon flashes (which ones work, which don't and what their limitations are). Peter lays out all your options.

Nikon Capture software is then compared to Photoshop. Nikon includes only a trial version of Capture, so the comparison helps you decide whether to spring $100 for a license. Perspective control and dust management are highlighted.

Finally, a number of accessories are discussed, including remote controls. And we say "finally" very lightly. We've skimmed over a lot of what this chapter covers.

RAW STUFF

Uwe's accompanying 60-page tome on Raw file worflow is also a very readable presentation, clearly explaining the difference between JPEG and Raw formats.

"In-camera JPEG is like shooting a Polaroid (where you just shoot and get your image processed immediately) and the RAW is like the film that can be developed and enhanced in the dark room," he writes. His PDF explains how to handle what your sensor captures, helping it evolve from a data file into an image file.

You'll learn why sharpening a Raw image is critical, how to evaluate a histogram, when to set white balance and how. But, like Peter, he gives you all your options, discussing how to optimize your camera settings if you decide you just want to shoot JPEGs.

After describing the Raw workflow, Uwe shows you how to use Adobe's Camera Raw plug-in, Phase One's Capture One DSLR (C1) and Nikon's Capture to achieve the optimal image from the sensor data.

CONCLUSION

After reading through these PDFs, we came to appreciate what the D70 can do. From small aides like viewfinder gridlines (which can be disabled) to major issues like power up and shutter lag and well beyond to how it behaves shooting Raw images, we learned in a few hours what it would have a taken a month and a thousand bucks to find out.

Even more, this one publication can literally take you off the street and make you conversant with what's going on today in digital imaging. It's like hanging out with a couple of pros who are so excited about what they're doing they can't stop talking about it. And showing you with illustrations exactly what they mean.

It remains the single best addition to any camera kit, providing an encyclopedic discussion of digital imaging with a specific discussion of your camera and a wealth of Photoshop actions to get you going with image editing magic.

dSLR: Nikon D70 by Peter iNova with Uwe Steinmueller, 378 pages, on CD at $50 directly from the publisher at http://www.digitalsecrets.net/.
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:

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Dave Reflects on Memory Card Speed

Recently a subscriber asked for advice about memory card speed. We cornered Dave at the virtual water cooler and distracted him with the question while refilling our bota (http://www.botaofboulder.com/site_files/products_bota.html, if you have to ask). Fortunately, we remember the whole discussion (hey, we use high quality memory):

"Memory card speed is unfortunately a pretty gray area these days," Dave launched into it. "Lexar and SanDisk both have fast cards. Lexar ranks their cards with speed ratings of 32x, 40x or 80x indicating relative transfer rates under best-case conditions. Theoretically, an 80x card is twice as fast as a 40x one, but the actual speed will depend as much on camera electronics as on the cards themselves. SanDisk's Ultra and Extreme cards also have high speeds, but not specific ratings. Some other companies also make fast cards, but it's hard to know how they'll perform without testing them."

Does anybody test them, we wanted to know.

"Rob Galbraith (http://www.robgalbraith.com) has a very extensive matrix of tests of CF cards in different dSLR cameras, but that database doesn't extend to non-SLR models. The catch is that different cameras are more or less capable of taking advantage of fast cards. While a 80x card from Lexar will generally be faster than a 32x one, some cameras may be too slow internally to take advantage of the difference. And some cameras will run faster with Lexar cards, but slower with SanDisk, while others will do just the opposite."

Ugh. No wonder no one tests them. But why is that, we asked (the bota only half full).

"Well, most modern cameras write sensor data to fast buffer memory rather than wait for the slower memory card to finish recording the data. Buffer memory lets you shoot continuously relatively quickly until it fills up. Then you have to wait for the buffer to dump its contents to the card. So if your camera uses buffer memory, the only speed difference between cards is how quickly the buffer empties. Until you fill the buffer, the shot-to-shot speed depends on the camera, not the card. The one exception is shooting in RAW or TIFF mode, when buffer memory isn't used."

Does Movie Mode use buffer memory, we wondered, screwing the cap back on the bota and slinging it over our shoulder.

"Card speed can have a big effect on Movie Mode. In Movie Mode, many current cameras write directly to the card, recording until the card is full -- provided the card is fast enough. Slower cards force the camera to stop after a certain amount of time. While not an absolute rule, 32x cards are fast enough to keep up with most cameras' Movie Mode."

We wanted to ask Dave what the speed designation actually meant but he had a call to take. So we dug it up ourselves from our April 6, 2001 issue. 1x is a minimum sustained write speed of 150K a second, which you may recognize as the old CD player standard. Those 32x cards write 4.8-MB/sec. Makes us thirsty just thinking about it.

Return to Topics.

In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

Read about the Canon PowerShot A95 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b62c

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

Shitalkumar asks about exposure vs. ISO at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee90931/0

A reader asks about interpolated pixels at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9bab9/0

Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae

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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: Canon i9900

I've been enjoying my i9900 for a few months now. Terrific!

For a great glossy paper that likes Canon's non-pigmented dye inks, try Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss, available at Sam's Club at 25 cents per 8x10 sheet (in a box of 100 sheets). Sixty-five percent savings compared with Canon's Photo Paper Pro. Let me see you detect any difference in print quality!

That clever little prism in the ink cartridge is not just a prism, it is a frustrated-total-internal-reflection reflector which senses only when the ink reservoir is really empty. It doesn't work by shining light "through" the prism. When ink covers the prism, the light goes through into the ink, where it is absorbed. When dry, the reflector returns the projected light to a detector.

Thanks for reviewing printers!

-- Gene Widenhofer

(Thanks, Gene! -- Editor)

Great reviews on the new Canon i9990 printer and the Minolta Z-3. I'm drooling on my keyboard about getting both, but alas, my DiMAGE 7 and Epson 960 will just have to last a while longer.

Can you make a quick comparison between the i9900 and the Epson 2200?

-- Bob McCormick

(Stay tuned, Bob, the 2200 is on its way. Expect some difference between Epson's pigments and Canon's dyes. And Epson is famous for printing on all sorts of media. The Epson is a bit more expensive, too. -- Editor)

RE: Underwater Photos

I am going to the islands this winter for a week and was wondering if you would consider an article on taking pictures underwater. Does the waterproof housing for your digital camera work or is it better to buy a dedicated underwater camera? How much do you need to spend?

I took photos last year with a box camera and was very disappointed with the pictures.

-- Mary Jane Gavenda

(Macintouch (http://www.macintouch.com/digitalcameras03.html#oct05) has been having an interesting discussion on this, with a lot of great links. Canon's excellent resource (http://web.canon.jp/Imaging/uwphoto/index-e.html) is one of them. It's pretty easy to ruin a camera underwater, so I'd look for a housing for my older digicam and make sure I could use the controls and fire a flash. Even a spec of sand in the o-ring can cause flooding at a certain depth. But in my case, we're talking strictly about the bath tub <g>. -- Editor)

Wow thanks, Mike! I had not read any information on the subject until you pointed me to these links. Canon even details how to color balance the photos. Definitely not putting a housing on my Oly 5060 but I do have an older D40 that I'll try to find a case for. Sounds like for snorkeling even the bags may do the trick.

-- Mary Jane

RE: Resize That!

Do you know if there's a good Photoshop plug-in available to take a 300-dpi image higher and avoid interpolation? I have an image that screams to be framed as a 16x20 but, when I set the dpi under Photoshop's Image Size to print at 300 dpi, it only yields enough for an 8x10. I have this lovely Epson 9600 large format printer that is just itching to be used! Can you offer any assistance or suggestions other than purchasing a 1,000,000-megapixel camera?

-- Pete Crosta

(We've reviewed one or two over the years, Pete, but none have ever performed better than Photoshop's built-in bicubic resampling. The trick is to avoid softening the image. Go back to Photoshop's Image Size menu, set Resampling off and set the dpi to 150 for starters. Then enable Resampling with Bicubic and change your measurement units to percent. Confirm that Constrain Proportions is on. In the document size field enter 110 percent. As many Photoshop experts have pointed out, by increasing the size in 10 percent increments until you get to 16x20, you avoid softening the image. Then run an unsharp masking filter on the image (we mentioned Optipix Safe Sharpen but we also use nik Sharpener) and make that 16x20! -- Editor)

RE: Qurio Q

I would like to better understand how Qurio provides protection against:

  1. Access to non-authorized folders/files on each user's PC

  2. Illicit access to an individual folder whereby someone could upload a virus or other type of hack or download info/data from other folders on a user's PC

  3. Someone editing or deleting original image files on a user's PC

  4. Other potential threats that I may not be thinking of compromised by this type of access.

-- Bob Crnkovich

(A hardware firewall, typically built into an inexpensive router, provides protection against all four threats, Bob. But Qurio does not actually let other people access your computer, according to Qurio support. Your copy of Qurio periodically checks the company's server to see if anyone wants to see your pictures. It uploads the requested images to that server (which also caches them). The server then passes them on. You can disable the uploads and restart them any time, too. -- Editor)

RE: Lithium

Just a dumb question that's been nagging me for a bit. Why don't Li-Ion batteries come in a AA form factor? Assume there's some reason or rationale.

-- JT

(Safe recharging of Li-Ion batteries requires a protection circuit, usually built into the battery pack. The circuit limits peak voltage of each cell curing charge and prevents cell voltage from dropping too low on discharge. Cell temperature is also monitored.... You can find Lithium AAs that are not rechargeable (Energizer makes them) that last a good long time and don't lose any power sitting on the shelf. They cost more to use than rechargeables, but they are wonders in an emergency. -- Editor)
(Recharging is critical for Li-Ion cells to avoid bad things (like explosions). Plus Li-Ion chemistry cell voltage is a minimum of 3.4 or 3.6 volts, too high for a single AA cell. The non-rechargeable Lithium AAs use a different chemistry that permits a lower cell voltage, but that formulation isn't rechargeable. -- Dave)

RE: Customer Service

Just read your bit about the Saskatoon London Drugs and thought I'd let you know this is what we get and expect at most of our bigger stores here in Canada.

I'm from BC. We have a London Drugs, a Future Shop and a Staples, plus a few other stores and we get this kind of service all the time. Competition is fierce in electronic sales, which translates into good service and deals for the customer.

Not to take anything away from London Drugs, but my favorite store is Future Shop. Anything you buy can be returned up to two weeks, for a full refund or an exchange, no questions asked.

I bought my last digicam that way. I bought one camera, used it for a week, then exchanged it for another. At Future Shop, you can claim any price reduction within 30 days from the original purchase. I've taken advantage of this, so I know it works and I've ever had any problems.

The customer is always right.

-- Dave C

(Yet another reason to move to Canada, Dave. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Extensis (http://www.extensis.com) has released a free update to Portfolio 7 [MW], featuring support for MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, an updated filter for Raw images and new and updated SQL connect modules for Microsoft SQL, Microsoft MSDE, MySQL and Oracle databases.


PixelGenius (http://www.pixelgenius.com) has released its $99.95 PhotoKit Color 1.0 [MW], a Photoshop Automate plug-in to apply color corrections, automatic color balancing and creative coloring.


The free JAlbum 5.1 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net), a Java-based web album generator, adds sharpen and blur filters, two tutorials on publishing albums, improved support for skins and more.


New Riders Press has published Scott Kelby's The Photoshop Elements 3 Book for Digital Photographers for $34.99.


Best Buy (http://imagelab.bestbuy.com) has launched a photofinishing service that allows customers to upload digital pictures through the company's Web site, then pick up 29-cent 4x6 prints from one of its stores.


Digital Element (http://www.digi-element.com) has released its $199 Verdant, a Photoshop plug-in to add lighting, shadows and more to 3D, randomizable, unique plants and trees that can be rotated and scaled.


M-Rock (http://www.m-rock.com) has introduced its Everglade and Sierra bags, which feature U-shaped lens cradles to secure cameras with attached lenses up to 6-inches long.


Digital Dozen (http://www.photocleaner.com) has released version 3 of its $24.95 PhotoCleaner [W], an automated photo enhancement program.


Trilateral (http://www.trilateralsystems.com) has released VirtuFrame 2.3.1 [M] into the public domain.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released GraphicConverter X 5.3 [M] with a customizable browser toolbar, transitions in exported slide shows and more.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released its $79.95 VueScan 8.1.5 [LMW] with overall speed improvements and support for all Canon scanners.

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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:

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Happy snapping!

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

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