|Volume 6, Number 24||26 November 2004|
Welcome to the 137th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We've been working all night like little elves to put together Gift Guides for both hardware and software before the traditional Thanksgiving weekend start of the holiday shopping season. The hardware guide was authored by Shawn Barnett, who recently joined the staff in Atlanta, with Dave. Your insomniac editor handled the software guide. We will all happily to respond to any questions.
But, as the sign in Nordstrom's says, we celebrate one holiday at a time. And this Thursday we have a date with a turkey. We've edited this publication for five years now, trying to put out the best publication bar none on digital imaging. And not a day has gone by that we haven't felt enormously grateful for the football stadium of subscribers who have, over the years, proven to be the most intelligent, creative and generous group we've had the pleasure to serve. Thank you. Very much!
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By SHAWN BARNETT AND DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full piece posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/GIFT/GIFTGUIDE.HTM on the Web site.)
Finding the right gift for the Holidays can be overwhelming. At Imaging Resource, our stock in trade is detailed reviews of nearly every digicam on the market, designed to give you all the information you need to compare and decide between the different models. Sometimes though, you don't have time for an in-depth model-by-model comparison. You just need to buy a camera now, but you also want to make sure that it's a good camera.
If this describes your dilemma, you've come to the right place. Here's a list of cameras that would make great gifts. These cameras are "no worries" gifts: good enough that you can rest easy they'll work well and be much appreciated.
Though our picks are by no means the only cameras to look at, they're some of our favorites. Feel free to research further in our Dave's Picks section (http://www.imaging-resource.com/WB/WB.HTM), which is constantly updated with new cameras and categorized in nearly every way imaginable.
Here, we've tried to keep it simple, listing digicams by category and price range, with alternates listed below. The full review has links to current price comparisons, too.
Also note that our choices are not intended for the enthusiast photographer, but for the average person interested in a digicam. If you're buying for an enthusiast, it's better to ask them directly for their preferences, perhaps even asking as if for yourself or for an enthusiastic friend.
Finally, if a digicam is not in your budget, there are oodles of digicam accessories that are inexpensive and sure to please, a few of which we've featured below the discussion on cameras.
If your photographer doesn't have the time or inclination to do anything more than learn where the button is that takes pictures, there's a digicam here just for them. We're thinking of the busy parent, grandparent or anyone who's confessed to you that all they want to do is point, shoot and get great pictures. Of course, if they don't fit that description, consider a digicam with more sophisticated options. Our first pick is actually one such, with room to grow as your needs require (if you want to go even more deluxe, take it 10 digits higher and go for the Canon A95 below).
Under $250: Canon PowerShot A85 and A75
With its attractive design and ingeniously simple interface, the A85 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A85/A85A.HTM) offers a near-ideal combination of ease of use, versatility, flexibility, good image quality with 4-Mp resolution and an attractive price of around $250-$300. Offering nearly identical features with only a little less resolution is the 3-Mp A75 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A75/A75A.HTM) for between $150-$220. Canon PowerShots are easy to use, well-built and deliver excellent color and sharpness. For those who want to learn more about digital photography, there are Manual and Scene modes to explore, a rare feature among cameras in this group. With a dedicated button for quick uploads to a computer or printer, both are sure to please.
Under $300: Olympus Stylus Verve
Just edging out Canon's SD20 here is the stylish and colorful Verve (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OLYVERVE/OLYVA.HTM). In just about every respect -- features, image quality, build quality and style -- the new Verve is the best digital Stylus yet and a great little camera by any measure. Thanks to its water-resistant and rugged metal-jacketed case, the Verve just begs to be taken along. Its image quality won't disappoint and its smooth contours and available colors make it a fashion statement that won't be missed. Highly recommended!
Under $500: Sony CyberShot DSC-P150
Compact digicams often trade away performance or image quality to achieve small size, but Sony's DSC-P150 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P150/P15A.HTM) somehow manages to avoid tradeoffs of almost any kind. Housed in its very small case is a 7.2-Mp CCD with a sharp, high-quality 3x optical zoom lens, nine preset Scene modes and a host of creative options. Its pictures are colorful and sharp, it has an excellent macro mode and it truly excels at low light shooting. Add excellent battery life plus a surprisingly fast shutter response and you've got a compact digicam that holds its own with most full-sized models. If you're looking for a great take-anywhere camera, the Sony DSC-P150 should be an easy choice. It's clearly one of the best subcompact cameras this year.
Other great choices:
Canon PowerShot SD300 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD300/SD3A.HTM). Supremely pocketable and charming 4-Mp digicam with a 3x zoom at a great price, between $360-399.
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/KMZ3/Z3A.HTM). Excellent, affordable long zoom that makes photography easy and fun for $360-399.
FAMILY/GENERAL PURPOSE DIGICAMS
Although it's easy to fall in love with the gadgetry of advanced digicams, what's most important is the camera's ability to get the shot. If your photographer would also like to grow with the camera, consider these digicams. Whole families would do well with these cameras, because they offer different levels of control for different kinds of users. Also consider the A75/A85 option above for this.
Under $250: Sony DSC-P73
The DSC-P73 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P73/P73A.HTM) is a great midrange model at a low price, with a 4-Mp sensor, a 3x zoom lens and a host of useful features. While easy to use in Auto mode, there's an expanded range of Scene modes to handle tricky situations. One of the best features of the P73 is its fast shutter response, making it much easier to capture fleeting moments and fast action. Overall, a nice all-around camera with a good balance of features and ease of use at an attractive price.
Under $400: Konica Minolta Z3
The Konica Minolta Z series has long been popular on the Imaging Resource site and for good reason. The Konica Minolta Z3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/KMZ3/Z3A.HTM) ups the ante again, further enhancing the core capabilities of past Zs with an impressive 12x optical zoom lens and a new Anti-Shake feature whose importance is hard to overstate on a long-zoom camera. The Z3 combines a novice-friendly design with a surprising array of advanced features to satisfy more expert users. It's one of the few cameras that has impressed us with its ability to make photography not only easy, but just plain fun.
Under $550: Olympus C-7000
The C-7000 Zoom carries on the high value tradition established by the previous C series models, offering 7.4 megapixels and a strong feature set at a very affordable price. Build quality is excellent and fit is tight. The C-7000 Zoom offers all the features most enthusiast users crave, including a full range of exposure control, extensive creative controls for tweaking image parameters like contrast and saturation and fine-tuning for white balance and flash power; all of it in an impressively small package. It also has a nice big two-inch LCD and a 5x zoom. The C-7000 Zoom accommodates less photo-savvy users as well, with a range of preset Scene modes, auto exposure options and a Redeye Fix option for eliminating redeye in portraits. It's an excellent value for the enthusiast on a budget, an ideal camera for those wanting to gradually learn more about digital photography on one camera.
Other great choices:
Canon A95 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A95/A95A.HTM). With a swing out screen, full manual control and even attachable accessory lenses, this is a camera that can grow just like the higher-end Canon G6. It's another great budget-minded enthusiast's camera under $399.
Kodak LS753 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LS753/LS75A.HTM). Great color and good looks come together with quick printing in this great, pocketable choice from Kodak. Combined with a camera dock, photography doesn't get much easier under $350.
Panasonic Lumix FZ15 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ15/FZ15A.HTM). The FZ15 has an attractive case, a nice feel in the hand, an excellent image-stabilized Leica lens and very good image quality. The 12x Leica zoom lens is a good bit sharper than average and Panasonic's image-stabilization technology works very well. This is a big, feature-rich camera that deserves a close look. Under $499.
Nikon Coolpix 8800. This is the deluxe long zoom, an 8-Mp wonder with a gaggle of features and a really long zoom (a 350mm 35mm equivalent) with image stabilization. It's the highest quality Nikon we've seen in a long time, significantly surpassing previous offerings. Around $799-$999.
Everybody likes a bargain. For the newbie, student, prodigy and even Scrooge himself, these digicams are just the ticket. Though there's a $450 price point here, it is absolutely a bargain for the price.
Under $200: Olympus D-540
With decent quality at a rock-bottom price, the Olympus D-540 Zoom (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D540/D54A.HTM) has great color, great flexibility, a 3.3-Mp CCD coupled with a nice 3x optical zoom lens, good build and great ease of use. For the price, it's tough to beat, just the ticket for new users and families looking for a small camera that can be shared by the kids as well as the grownups.
Under $300: Kodak DX4530
Shawn here. This is the camera I put my seven-year-old daughter in charge of as the family camera. It has a great lens and takes pictures that have great color. Using an EasyShare print dock, we quickly get prints that look like they came straight from a Kodak lab. Kodak's Color Science provides a white balance system that can handle most any light source and still deliver good-looking, color-accurate photos. With a 5-Mp imager, there's plenty of detail to make sharp 11x14 prints or 8x10s with a fair bit of cropping. If you're looking for an easy-to-use camera that delivers good-looking pictures with an absolute minimum of user input, the DX4530 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DX4530/D453A.HTM) is an amazing bargain. It's last year's model so expect to find on sale. And don't hesitate to look at similarly-featured Kodaks because Kodak continues to make winners in this category and price range.
Under $450: Canon PowerShot S60
Like its predecessors, the S60 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S60/S60A.HTM) offers a full range of enthusiast features (except an external flash sync connector), but remains easy to use for novices, thanks to its powerful Auto and Scene modes. This year, the S60 incorporates advanced optical technology from Canon that packs a true wide-angle zoom into its compact body design. The S60's 5-Mp sensor provides enough resolution for sharp 11x14 prints. Its clamshell design provides built-in protection for the retracting lens and the slim, elongated body fits easily into larger shirt or average coat pockets. Color and tone are excellent and the flexible exposure system is up to any challenge you throw at it. A really excellent all-around, compact, stylish digicam, not a bad choice for the student going off to college.
Other great choices:
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Xg (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/XG/XGA.HTM). This is the lower-priced alternative to the very slim Sony T1, with a vertical, internal lens design that Minolta pioneered. This thin, 3.3-Mp digicam conceals a 3x zoom and offers both automatic and manual controls. Also last-year's model, it's a bargain at $210-$300.
Sony T1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T1/T1A.HTM). They will sing your praises when they unwrap this little gem. Its sliding lens cover is the feature that grabs most people, with a feel you have to experience to appreciate. But it's the underlying technology that makes this a great camera: a 2.5 inch screen, a Carl Zeiss 3x zoom and a 5.1-Mp sensor in the thinnest package you can imagine. It's so coveted that prices remain somewhat high at $400-$499.
Panasonic Lumix FZ3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ3/FZ3A.HTM). It's a 12x zoom, 3-Mp digicam that delivers good images and a ton of capability in a lightweight and surprisingly affordable package. If you're shopping for a budget long-zoom digicam, the FZ3 makes a commanding choice at $310-$399.
Naturally not every gift-giving budget has room for a digicam, but there are a few basic essentials that go with a digicam that every existing digicam owner will appreciate.
Memory cards: Every digicam owner needs more than one memory card and most cameras these days come with only a very small card, so this is a fine choice. But there are many types of memory card. We suggest slyly asking. Common options are CompactFlash, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro and Xtreme Digital.
As for size, a 128-MB card is probably the minimum worth buying. With 512-MB and 1-GB cards going for $50 to $70, you can make quite a splash with just a little flash. Note that only recent cameras are likely to support the larger cards. For Memory Stick cameras in particular (usually Sonys), cameras a year or older will likely max out at 128-MB.
Card readers: For under $20, you can get a very cool and small Lexar Single Slot Multi-Card Reader USB Flash Drive that looks just like a USB Flash Drive (leave the card in and it is a flash drive). Open it up, however, and you'll find a single slot compatible with SD, MMC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro and xD. It comes with a cable or you can plug it directly into the USB port. Best of all, no software is required. For under $30, the Lexar USB 2.0 Multi-Card Reader reads SD, MMC, CF, xD, MS, MSPro and even Smart Media, which covers almost all bases for cameras made in the past five years.
Batteries. This used to be more of a no-brainer, because almost all digicams used AA-style batteries. Now, you have to know whether the camera uses AA or some proprietary Li-Ion battery. Either makes a good gift, with Lithium Ion batteries averaging around $50.
But almost anyone will appreciate rechargeable AA batteries because so many devices around the house use them. Our favorite charger is the new Maha Energy Powerex MH-C204W, which comes in several combo kits with AA batteries starting at $39.97. The basic kit includes a power cord, charger and four 2300mAh AA batteries. This is also a great choice for the dSLR owner with an external flash (which are notoriously power hungry).
Tripods. Still the best way to get sharp images in low light or any time; even if they don't know it, everyone needs a tripod. Mike still loves his Velbon (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/VEL/VEL.HTM).
Accessory Lenses. Many cameras accept either wide-angle or telephoto accessory lenses (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LENS1/LENS1.HTM) to extend the camera's capabilities. These usually also require an adapter, so make sure before you buy. Of course here, you'll need to find out what make and model of camera they have before you do anything else. This one requires some research, but the gift will be well-received, as almost no one buys one of these for themselves.
Cases. Knowing the camera's size is important here, to get just the right case.
Waterproof Cases. Is your target a watersports afficionado? Most small cameras these days can take a waterproof case. There's not much cooler or unexpected, than giving their existing camera underwater capability; and it's cheaper than a boat.
Lens Cleaning Kit. Much neglected these days, keeping a clean lens will always result in better pictures and they don't cost more than $20. We often recommend the LensPen (http://www.lenspen.com).
Photo Printers. We can recommend just about anything from Canon, Epson and HP, priced anywhere from $80 to $500 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT.HTM). Price most often dictates quality.
Card Reader/CD Burner. If your photographer likes to shoot on the road but is tired of the packing a laptop, consider the Micro Solutions RoadStor (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/RDS/RDS.HTM). Pop in a card and burn a CD. A newer model burns DVDs for larger memory cards.
Digital Photo Receiver. Big LCD digital picture frames can easily get into four figures, but Ceiva (http://www.ceiva.com) offers a 5x7 LCD in an 8x10 frame for only $150 (plus a $99 annual subscription to their image upload service that can update the frame's 20-30 images with a phone call). They currently offer a $25 rebate, too. Not a bad solution for distant relatives, especially if they don't have a computer.
Crafts. Pexagon (http://www.pexagontech.com) has introduced a Pixifun line of products including a photo key ring kit (makes six), photo magnet kit (makes five), photo sticker album, photo ID badge kit and a CD/DVD label kit that can turn images into products (and even gifts, themselves). Everything you need is in each $12.99 kit ($14.99 for the CD/DVD kit), including Windows software and supplies.
As subscribers to this newsletter know, Imaging Resource is useful even after you've purchased your hardware. From tutorials to free email support, we help you make the most of your gear. Your personal wish list this year may even include a few choice products we've recently reviewed.
We thought we'd complement our hardware recommendations with a list of software products whose design and implementation stand out from the crowd. Some of them are veterans we rely on daily, others are brand new products with exciting possibilities. Some are free and some are a little more, but all score well on affordability. We've listed them based on which platform they support.
Visit our Archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html) to find both the original review and a link to any illustrated review if you need more than our unqualified recommendation.
MAC OR WINDOWS
Adobe's Creative Suite upgrade (http://www.adobe.com) is one of the bargains of software history, if the priciest item on our list. Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive, Acrobat Pro and, of course, Photoshop. For the price of one of them, you can have them all. Or just upgrade Photoshop. "Adobe's upgrade pricing brings this suite of competent applications home for the price of a couple of parking tickets," we wrote in our Oct. 3, 2003 feature.
Of course, for under $100, Adobe's just-released Photoshop Elements 3.0 makes a compelling upgrade from the limited image editing that ships with most digicams and operating systems. We'll review it shortly.
Transmutable Software's $30 93 Photo Street (http://transmutable.com) "lets you download a free map of any place in the U.S. where you've taken a few pictures. You drag virtual thumb tacks onto the map where you took the pictures. And you then link your images to that location so people can see what's there." Our Aug. 6 review praised Trevor Smith's alternative to the narrated slide show as "a way to illustrate your maps or as a way to arrange your images by location."
When we reviewed iView's $199 MediaPro (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) in our June 6 issue, we built a catalog of every digital image we'd ever taken. Using the free reader, we were able to make CDs of the collection for Mac or Windows users. The $49 Media may be all you need to enjoy a similar thrill.
We use PictoColor's iCorrect family of products just to get a second opinion on almost every image we edit. We've praised their intelligent, one-click tonal and color correction for years. Use the link in our Deals section for the best price.
Same with nik multimedia's $129.95 Sharpener (http://www.nikmultimedia.com), which is also discounted in the Deals section. Like iCorrect, it applies intelligence to a common editing task, providing superior results. Not a single image we print isn't sharpened and nik's Sharpener is usually what we turn to.
Our highest recommendation, however, is a copy of DataRescue's PhotoRescue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM), an inexpensive utility to retrieve erased images from flash media that consistently beats the competition, as our Aug. 20 tests confirmed again. No digital photographer should be without a copy.
You can Google just about any problem for an answer, but if you want to understand the solution, you still have to read the book. The tomes that follow have become classics in their fields. You can catch up on our reviews of them in the Book Bag section of our Index (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html).
In the last issue we reviewed Peter iNova's D-70 eBook (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?dgn), but he has quite a few titles that match specific cameras. As a PDF, they can perform tricks ordinary paper books can't. And they come with hundreds of useful plug-ins, too.
Under Derrick Story's editorship, O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has been churning out a series of interesting titles. The indispensable Digital Photography Pocket Guide was last year's Christmas giveaway. This year O'Reilly published Digital Photography Hacks, in which we contributed a few pieces. Both make interesting reading for photographers of any skill level.
Still the encyclopedia of photo printing, Harald Johnson's Mastering Digital Printing answers every question. We've unfortunately read a number of competing titles that just get it wrong. This one gets it very right. Perfect for anyone who wants to see their work in frames.
Likewise, nothing really competes with Real World Color Management by Fraser, Murphy and Bunting. This comprehensive but easy-to-follow work covers everything you need to know about color profiling in the real world from three guys who do it for a living and actually lived to tell about it.
For practical tips on Shooting Digital, Mikkel Aaland surveyed 30 fellow photographers to find out how they do everything from packing for a trip to taking aerial photos. Great inside tips anyone will appreciate.
Scanning is photography in slow motion. Taz Tally's SilverFast, the Official Guide explains how to best spend that time, using one of the best scanning software solutions we've seen.
The products in this section require a Macintosh running OS X.
The $79 FotoMagico from Boinx (http://www.fotomagico.com) redefines the slide show. Integrated with iPhoto and iTunes, the zooming, rotating and panning controls apply to panorama images as well.
Open Door's $49 Envision (http://www.opendoor.com/envision), reviewed in our May 14 issue, turns any folder or Web site into a slide show (a Web show), providing a whole new way to see the Web. It's a browser for images that lets you build your own shows locally, too.
We raved about Reindeer Graphics' $149.95 Optipix 3 (http://www.reindeergraphics.com) in our July 23 issue, but we've been raving since version 1.0 when we first used it to blend bracketed exposures. It's a suite of Photoshop plug-ins that we called "the nicest thing you can do for your digicam." Version 3 adds Interactive Interpolation (so you can see how your resizing command will affect your image before you resize), Refocus, JPEG Cleaner and a cool Grain Maker. There are even a couple of PDF publications on the CD that any serious digital photographer will appreciate.
Pixture Studio's free QuickImageCM (http://www.pixture.com) is a contextual menu plug-in that lets you view, edit, print or convert image files without launching an application. Immensely useful just to look at a file and read its dimensions. We use it daily.
Zanka Software's free FootageHead (http://www.zankasoftware.com) is a local and remote image browser that can display folders of images in quick, full-screen slide shows. You don't have to import your images into iPhoto to get a nice show.
For anyone who has to edit an image or two for the Web, XtraLean's free ImageWell (http://www.xtralean.com) is a boon. Drag the image into ImageWell then resize, crop, rotate or add some effects and just click the upload button to put the image on the Web, copying its URL to the clipboard. We use it for news item thumbnails all the time.
Stick Software's $10 PhotoReviewer (http://www.sticksoftware.com) can help your photographer quickly review a large collection of images, culling the bad ones and keeping the good ones.
These products are for Windows machines. System requirements vary, though, so visit the site to make sure it will work for you and yours.
Qurio (http://www.Qurio.com) lets you 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 just have to click on a link in your email. Their browser launchs and in a second or two they're watching a nice slide show of your images. It's free but you do need a broadband connection. See our Oct. 15 review for the details.
Reallusion $29.95 FaceFilter (http://www.reallusion.com/facefilter) lets you "fine-tune facial expressions in your photos in an extremely simple, user-friendly manner," according to Michael Tomkins' Sept. 19, 2003 review. That's worth a smile!
Irfanview (http://www.irfanview.com) is really more than a viewer, providing a number of essential tools (like lossless JPEG rotation) and very nice slide shows -- and it's free.
If our list proves anything, it's that there's a wide array of creative and useful gifts for the digital photographer on your list. And you don't have to be an expert to make a purchase that will be appreciated either. You might want to underline that and leave it laying in open view if someone is shopping for you. With one or two of our items checked, just to be helpful <g>.
If you still can't decide, remember you can always give a free Gift Subscription to this newsletter in by downloading our attractive Gift Certificate (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?gsb) to present to the recipient and signing them up at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS using the Subscriber Services page. It comes with free email support you see reflected in each issue's Letters column.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: Canon EOS 20D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E20D/E20DA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus Stylus Verve (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OLYVERVE/OLYVA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Fuji FinePix S3100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S3100/S31A.HTM)
- Updated: The IR Driver Project (http://imaging-resource.com/ARTS/DRV/DRV.HTM)
- Revised: Photo of the Day Contest (http://www.dailydigitalphoto.com/cgi-bin/potd/potd.pl) now displays the monthly prizes.
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 Ricoh Caplio R1 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b8b8
Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8
Sago asks about buying online versus at a store at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9b43d/0
Amanda asks about high zoom cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9bab0/0
Visit the Techniques Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b325
This morning, with the newsletter in good shape for an unusually early distribution, we collapsed into our arm chair to read another chapter of Julian Barnes' delightful essays on the French titled Something to Declare. This one discussed the difficulty of following cooking recipes, a timely theme considering the number one question asked on Thanksgiving is "Mom, how long do you cook the turkey?"
Barnes tells us about the novice confronted with the simple instruction to "separate the eggs." After due consideration, the chef-to-be moved one to the left and the other to the right before proceeding with the second step, which Barnes tactfully does not disclose.
It's hard to believe you could get into that kind of trouble with today's televised cooking shows. It's just a matter of seeing how to slip the yolk from the egg white. "Oh, that's what you mean. Why didn't you say so?"
But sometimes it's about more than that. Barnes confesses his own tortured twist on an instruction by the celebrated English cooking writer E.D., who wrote (poetically even) to "melt the tomatoes." Tomatoes, of course, do not melt. And when Barnes found this out, he was happy to find out they do yield quickly to a potato masher.
As someone charged with writing about photography, we feel some kinship with E.D. Somethings yield to a precise step-by-step description. But somethings are a kind of dance. Writing about those things, the temptation is always to indulge in metaphor.
Reading about them, however, can be as challenging as trying to decipher how to melt tomatoes. Given that it's easy to miss a shot, to foul up a print, to be as disappointed with a flat image as with a fallen dessert, you don't need to be confused.
There's a tradition of precision in photography that's appealing to many. The Group f64 (http://kcbx.net/~mhd/1intro/f64.htm) certainly focused on that aspect as they tried to establish photography as an art apart from painting. But there are no precise recipes for art. At that stove, you melt the tomatoes.
Just a few weeks ago, looking for a gazpacho recipe, we were dumbfounded by the variety of instructions. To add celery or not? Bread or not? Which kind of vinegar? Ah, but we oversimplify. Tomatoes, cucumber, oil. That's all the recipes had in common, with ingredient lists that approached two dozen separate items. Fortunately, though, no eggs to separate.
See any precision there? No, but don't throw up your hands. It isn't impossible to make gazpacho. Appreciate it, instead, as an invitation to creativity. You can do this -- or that. If you do that, you can try this. If you prefer that, use this with it. Or not. Of course, you can't be very creative about separating eggs (either you know how or you don't), but if you get to the part where you melt the tomatoes, you can indulge your whimsy with a potato masher.
No question that the precise, step-by-step instructions, the CD-illustrated manuals on image editing software, the online help, the collections of cool actions are all useful nails. But it's helpful to remember no one cooks with nails.
To cook, you have to embrace deviation. You have to revel in creativity. You have to welcome mistakes as the somewhat inconvenient inventions they really are. But most of all, your eyes have to light up when someone suggests you melt some tomatoes.
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RE: Panasonic DMC-FZ3
You said the Panasonic DMC-FZ3 is "just shy of a Dave's Pick award in the long-zoom category." What is your first choice in this category and why, in a sentence or two? I have been looking for a while and am considering a Canon S1IS. Anything better out there, in your opinion?
-- Lynn Maniscalco(Actually, I've since upgraded the FZ3 to Dave's Picks status, after noticing that it's a lot faster on shutter lag when you avoid its nine-area autofocus mode. For the price, I think it's about as good as it gets and its image stabilization would put it ahead of the S1IS. And all of Dave's Picks are listed by category (http://www.imaging-resource.com/WB/WB.HTM) on the site. -- Dave)
Following your advice, I downloaded Qurio. Had some trouble at first, but they were great answering my email questions and later apologized for a server problem they had that was keeping me out.
Many of my friends and relatives can now enjoy several of my folders. Anyone can go to http://www.qurio.com, click on Photo Gallery and then "bhesselson" to see several folders of birds and pictures from Israel. Thanks.
-- Burt Hesselson(Thanks for the feedback, Burt. We've always found Qurio tech support to be very responsive, too. -- Editor)
I recently bought a Sony F828 camera but it only takes Sony batteries. I need to shoot 1,000+ pictures in a day and obviously that requires a lot of power. With my FujiFilm S7000, I got almost 1,000 pictures from one set of Maha batteries. As an emergency, I had a bunch of Energizer AA batteries.
Are there any other battery manufacturers out there that make Sony-type batteries? I've found a site (http://www.power101.com) that sells them at really good prices, but are they any good? To spend $90CDN on one Sony battery is outrageous. I went through this with my Canon and the battery dies after only about 40 pictures!
-- Iain S(Sony is a bit different from other manufacturers. Their InfoLITHIUM batteries actually communicate with your camera via an on-board chip. We have a few models around here that hold a charge longer than anything else and have been doing it for several years now. We did find one source offering an equivalent for under $50 (http://www.batterymart.com/battery.mv?c=cam-sony-dsc-f707-f717). -- Editor)(Digipower (http://www.digipowersolutions.com) makes Sony-compatible batteries and they're a reputable brand. I'm a little nervous about non-manufacturer batteries for Sonys though. Recently, some counterfeit (but Sony labeled) Sony batteries got into this country and started displaying various sorts of undesirable behavior from melting to exploding when being charged because their cell vents didn't work properly. As Mike noted, Sony's batteries are unique in that they include a chip that monitors charge in/out of the cells and reports remaining capacity to the camera. I'd stick with Sony's own models for safety's sake. Sony's camera/battery combinations do have unusually long run times. Even for 1000 shots per session, I'd bet you could get by with just a pair of InfoLITHIUMs. And look for a third-party battery charger to help in the field, recharging one pack while the other is in use.) -- Dave)
Well, after reading about resizing in the latest imaging-resource newsletter I had to try it.
So in Photoshop I opened an image of my grandson taken with a Nikon 5700 (5-Mp) and followed your instructions, just resampling to 110 percent each time. Amazing! I got to 13x19 (which is the likely size I will print if I ever can afford an i9900 printer) and the picture appeared near perfect on screen, using pixel view to examine it.
I have no separate unsharp masking tool so I tried the one in Photoshop. Ugh! Moving the slider just a little didn't do much. Move it a little further and zam, a horrible blotchy face appears. But at least I know how to get to larger prints now! Thanks.
-- T. Bennett Finley(Unsharp masking can be challenging. For some pointers, take a look at our nik Sharpener review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html) where we reveal both Dave's and my own preferred settings. Note that a little "crunchiness" is desirable for printing. But both the plug-ins we mentioned are a bit more intelligent than Photoshop's unsharp mashing. Which is the real reason we rely on them. -- Editor)
I read with interest and wonder why resampling at 110 percent larger image size several times is better than just doing a resample to the wanted size and res in one shot. Also why did you suggest setting the dpi at 150 to begin with?
-- Professor Neil Fiertel(Just a guess (not being privy to the proprietary algorithms) but our best guess is simply that the margin of error is smaller when you grow the file in smaller steps (and probably 10 percent is the smallest practical increase). Ah, 150. That's really about finding the minimum amount of data your printer requires (after which it is needlessly processing information it can't use). Try some tests. Print an 8x10 of the same image using 150-dpi and 300-dpi. If you notice a difference, keep bumping up the lower res version 25 dpi until you don't. That's the minimum your printer actually requires. If you don't notice a difference, keep bumping the low res version down until you do. That, too, is the minimum. For more on this, see Brian Lawler's "Resolving the resolution issue: How many dpi does it take to make an lpi?" (http://www.thelawlers.com/essays.html). That's really discussing scan resolution for AM halftone screens common in the printing industry. But it isn't much of stretch to apply his point to FM inkjet screening.-- Editor)
A survey by the Consumer Electronics Association (http://www.ce.org) reports "high satisfaction among digital camera owners" with 84 percent giving a thumbs up to their digicam.
iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) has released iView MediaPro 2.6.2 [MW] with support for Adobe's Digital Negative Specification.
Open Door Networks (http://www.opendoor.com) has released Envision 1.0.2 [M], a free upgrade featuring significant performance enhancements (especially for large Web shows), bug fixes and smaller download size.
O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published its first four Fan Books, colorful little guides that are a quick, fun way to get acquainted with your new device with tips and tricks to make you an instant expert. The first four cover the Treo, PowerBook, iBook and Xbox.
Kodak Austin Development Center (http://argon.asf.com) has released updates for all its plug-ins, including Digital ROC, Digital SHO and Digital GEM. The updates provide a consistent interface, better memory handling, improved usability and minor fixes.
Andromeda (http://www.andromeda.com) has released its $109 Shadow filter [M], a Photoshop plug-in that can add realistic shadowing effects to images.
Stunt Software (http://www.stuntsoftware.com) has released its $19.95 PhotoBooth 1.2 [M] to enhance printing from iPhoto.
Econ Technologies (http://www.econtechnologies.com) has released its $30 Portraits & Prints 2.0 [M] to import, edit, catalog and print images. The new release is joined by new $50 Pro Edition.
Myriad (http://www.myriad-online.com) has released its free Galerie 4.0 [M] to export an iPhoto selection as a Web page. The new version adds compatibility with GraphicConverter and iView MediaPro, IPTC data display, watermarks, keywords, slide show controls and more.
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