The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 6, Number 25 10 December 2004

Copyright 2004, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 138th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We look under the hood of Elements 3.0 while Dave raves about the Olympus C-7000 Wide Zoom. And we've conjured up yet another calculator to wish you the happiest of holidays.


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: Elements 3.0 -- More Than Meets the Eye

It's been over two years since Elements has been updated. It wasn't broke, but at that rate, Adobe might be. Still, how could Adobe possibly improve its competent entry-level image editing software famous for its extraordinary HTML Help and Tutorials on image editing?

Well, Adobe is not an ordinary company. Sometimes we wonder if it's a company at all. It seems more like a movement. A movement inspired by the Spot and then the Pixel. There's always more to Adobe than meets the eye.

And that goes double for Elements 3.0. As we used the new version, we kept interrupting ourselves to ask how they implemented this or that. We'd look it up in the Help system and find out a whole new architecture had been implemented. Elements 3.0 lays some cornerstones for imaging we find very exciting.

TALE OF TWO CITIES

We remain a bit perplexed, however, by the twin versions. The Windows and Macintosh versions do not share the same feature set. Nor the same price.

We spent no little time comparing Mac and Windows version 2 with this latest release to uncover exactly what was new. And we can tell you both versions include the following new features:

The $99.99 Windows version for XP/2000 adds 1) an organizer that seems borrowed from Album, 2) themed photo email using decorative backgrounds and frames, 3) Photo Compare to see several images side by side, 4) integrated image archiving with keywords to CD or DVD and 5) Quick Fix.

The $89.99 Mac version for OS X adds the Cookie Cutter to create decorative edges. It does not have the Album-inspired organizing or sharing features but does integrate nicely as iPhoto's image editor.

In this review, we'll look at the image editing features shared by both versions.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

System requirements for either system include a color monitor with 16-bit color or greater video card, 1024x768 or greater monitor resolution and a CD-ROM drive.

Windows system requirements are an Intel Pentium III or 4 (or compatible) 800 MHz or faster processor, Windows XP Professional or Home Edition with Service Pack 1; Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4 or later (Adobe applications on Windows XP with Service Pack 2), 256-MB of RAM (512-MB or more recommended), 800-MB of available hard-disk space, Adobe Reader 6.0.1 and Microsoft DirectX 9.0 software (included on application CD).

Mac system requirements are a PowerPC G3, G4 or G5 processor, Mac OS X 10.2.8 or 10.3, 256-MB of RAM, 200-MB of available hard-disk space.

REBATE

Included in the box is a $20 Rebate Claim Form valid through April 30, 2005 if you have a previous version of the program (serial number of photocopy of the CD or manual cover required). We strongly dislike this way of handling updates but when a product is so thoroughly rewritten it requires a CD, there really isn't a more efficient way of doing it.

INSTALLATION

Installation on either system is a breeze. Just pop in the CD and let the installer do all the work. It takes only a few minutes. We do recommend poking around the CD afterwards, though, for the Goodies.

One we especially appreciate is Epson's PIM plug-in to read PIM data stored in an image's Exif header on import to Elements.

Our favorite Photoshop plug-ins seemed happy in the Elements Plug-ins folder, but we didn't comprehensively test them. Other add-ons didn't fare as well, as we explain below.

We did experience one install problem. A second Mac copy installed on our backup system simply failed to launch. We held down the Shift-Option-Command key on launch to rebuild Preferences but that didn't help either. Turned out to be a missing font: Arial.

SERIOUS STUFF

Before we look at individual features and tools, we should point out some interesting things under the hood. Can you say, "Hemi?"

First to catch our eye were Keywords. The File Browser includes a Keyword palette to create and apply keywords to photos. Album creates a database of your image collection, storing keywords in the database file, apart from your images (which can be on CD or DVD archives). But where is Elements storing them?

It turns out Adobe is using Adobe's Extensible Metadata Platform labeling technology to add keywords to the image file itself (without requiring a database, like Album). XMP also tracks the file's history. And all this travels with the image file so it's available when you use it in, say, InDesign or Acrobat or Illustrator.

Of course, if you change a keyword (say, Peking to Beijing), files that use the old keyword (Peking) won't be updated with the new one (Beijing).

The second thing we found intriguing is 16-bit channel support and Raw file support. We hasten to point out that Canon CRW and Nikon NEF files are, in fact, Raw formats. Apart from Adobe's recently introduced DNG format, there is no standard Raw format. They're all different. Which is why Adobe developed DNG, which Elements 3 supports.

We've often discussed the importance of 16-bit channels for making color and tonal corrections to images. In effect, they let you make exposure adjustments after the fact. Under and overexposed shots can actually be corrected if 16-bit channels were captured using your camera's Raw file format. For more on this, see Bruce Fraser's $35 Real World Camera Raw, which takes a look at how "to set white balance, optimize contrast and saturation, handle noise, correct tint and recover lost detail in images before converting them to another format."

We applaud Adobe for supporting 16-bit channels even in Elements, where you might least expect it. We faulted Paint Shop Pro for sticking to 8-bit channels because we expect to see a new generation of tools that require 16-bit channel images to work their magic. This single capability brings a new dimension to digital photography and we're glad to see it in a $99 product, which was the price of the original Camera Raw format plug-in for Photoshop 7.

WHAT'S MISSING

Support for 16-bit channels doesn't, however, mean channel support. You still can't look at the red, green or blue channel of your image. Likewise, there's no support for CMYK files, just the more common variety RGB images your digicam makes. And you can't manipulate them with Curves, either.

That is, unless you buy Richard Lynch's Hidden Powers of Elements 3, which includes a Curves tool and lets you work with channels and CMYK files. The tools are matched to each version of Elements, as Richard explained to us.

"The tools that came with the book had to be re-mastered," he said, "and are all working fine now. They are being released with the new Elements 3 version of the book (http://aps8.com/hppe3.html), on the book's CD. The tool set in the book has been moderately expanded and improved compared to the tool set for Elements 2. Some of the additions are from what was formerly the free tool set."

The free tools Richard has offered with prior versions (http://hiddenelements.com/freetools.html) were substantial so we're not surprised to hear he's including a few on the new CD. While there are none available for Elements 3 yet, he has plans. "I am currently working on some conversions of actions that were converted for Elements 2 and I'm building some new tools for Elements 3 users. Once more of those are done, I'll be updating the site to reflect Elements 3 changes and adding free stuff as I have time."

That's good news. Richard's book ought to be included with every copy of Elements.

THE INTERFACE

The interface has undergone a major face lift. If the old interface seemed borrowed from Photoshop, the new one seems borrowed from Album. Despite our dislike of the complexity of Album's interface, we find it suits Elements very well.

If you want to play around with an image, you have a choice to make: Quick Fix or Standard Edit. Just click on one of the large buttons in the upper right corner to make your selection.

Quick Fix used to be a tool, an awkward one. Now it's an environment. Click on Quick Fix and the right hand side of the screen displays four palettes: General Fixes, Lighting, Color and Sharpen. Help is a click away on any of them and they each have irresistible jelly bean sliders that make you want to play with them. The color slider bars even indicate (with color) what their effect is. Saturation, for example, is gray at the left end and gradually intensifies to something like phosphorescent slime on the right. Hue, too, shows a rainbow of options. There's also an Auto button on each palette, but it's really more fun to play.

In fact, we took an image with an almost monotone blue color cast, clicked on Smart Fix to get something that resembled a bad print, decreased the Saturation and shifted the Hue from magenta to orange to get a perfectly corrected image in only three clicks.

The Standard Edit interface, with all the bells and whistles, has been improved immensely with the elimination of the old, cramped Tool Well in favor of a set of tabbed palettes that line the right side of the screen. With a click, you can collapse a palette, regaining screen space.

You used to have to dig around in the crammed Well to find the Filters tab, the Effects tab and the Layers tab. Now all three are combined in one palette using a popup menu. That makes a lot more sense.

We were very happy to see the Help text field is still prominently displayed. Help has always been one of the best things about Elements.

NOISE REMOVAL

The new Reduce Noise filter has three settings to play with. Strength (0-10), Preserve Details (1-255) and Reduce Color Noise (0-100). But even more helpful is its live preview showing you the effect of your settings. Click in the preview and you can also make a quick comparison with the original.

This is an important addition, actually. As Dave points out in camera review after camera review, the more pixels that are packed into small sensors, the noisier your images are at sensitivities above ISO 200. ISO 400, he often complains, is unusable for just that reason.

Generally speaking, the bigger the sensor, the better the image. Smaller sensors on prosumer digicams cram in as many sensors as they can to offer resolutions competitive with dSLRs but at the expense of increasing noise. The larger CCDs typically used on dSLRs have sensors that are not as small and consequently have less noise.

Results from the plug-in were pleasing if not thorough. The noise problem is really a bit more complex than it might seem. Take a look at our review of Dfine in the Aug. 8, 2003 issue to learn more about the different kinds of noise that can infect your image.

REDEYE REMOVAL

Previously to remove redeye, you selected a brush and painted it away. Now you use a tool and either click on the redeye or drag a selection around it. You can adjust the pupil size and the amount to darken, both by percent. This is a small change but a welcome one for its improved usability.

HEALING BRUSHES

The same might be said of the two healing brushes, one to touch up spots and the other to repair larger areas. Healing brushes resemble the Clone tool, but they're a bit more sophisticated, tapping into the processing power of today's more powerful systems to not clone some aspects of an image. Think of it as being able to paint tone, color and texture without cloning detail from a similar part of the image. The healing brushes are a more usable clone tool.

FUN STUFF

Any image editing software worth its Save command offers layers but we doubt many people are comfortable applying an adjustment layer or picking a layer mode. Fortunately Elements isn't shy about doing that for you. Click on an Effect and watch Elements go to work. As it does, it tells you what it's doing and you can watch the layers build as it does. It can actually be fun to watch.

But the new Cookie Cutter tool is actually fun to use. You select a shape, of which there are many in categories from Animals to Tiles. Then you can set its options, which include drawing (just by dragging) the unconstrained shape, or in the proportions it was defined with, at the defined size or a fixed size. A checkbox determines if the shape is drawn from the center or the top left. But wait! You can also feather the edge any number of pixels and crop the image. And when you release the mouse button, you can edit the shape outline, rotate it, resize it, whatever you want before the cookie is actually cut, so to speak.

AND MORE

There's more to this version of Elements than we have room for here, so we're going to cover it with updates to the online version of this review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/EL3/EL3.HTM) during the upcoming weeks.

CONCLUSION

Digicams take great pictures and most organizing software now includes rudimentary image editing commands to handle things like rotating the image, fixing redeye and correcting color balance and contrast. But you may find yourself yearning for more.

Image editing doesn't come naturally, however. Bravo to Adobe for building such a comprehensive help system with integrated tutorials and tips. It's among the best training material for image editing we've ever seen.

And with the improved interface, Elements 3.0 encourages you to take your images farther than your camera can. Of course, it includes those rudimentary and automatic fixes most programs offer. But there's also a lot of fun built into this program that makes it a pleasure to play with your images. And even more, under the hood is an engine that is pointed to the future of imaging.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus C-7000 Wide Zoom -- 7-Mp, 5x Zoom Winner

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C7000/C7KA.HTM on the Web site.)

Olympus has long been a dominant player in the digicam marketplace with one of the broadest lineups of digicams from pure entry-level point-and-shoot digicams to the exceptional E-1 SLR and the newer E-300 EVOLT. The 7.1-megapixel, 5x zoom Olympus C-7000 Zoom combines the flexibility of near-professional level exposure control to a compact, point-and-shoot body style. After working with it for a couple of weeks, the C-7000 impressed us as one of the better choices on the market for a full-featured yet compact digicam.

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

Following in the footsteps of previous Camedia C-Series digicams, Olympus presents the $599 C-7000 Zoom, a slightly more compact, but still feature-laden digicam. With a 7.1-megapixel CCD for higher resolution images and a full range of manual and automatic exposure controls, the C-7000 is well-suited to just about any user level. It measures only 4.0x2.3x1.7 inches and should easily fit into most average shirt pockets. It's also relatively light weight, at 8.99 ounces with the card and battery.

The C-7000 offers a wide range of user controls, including a one-touch white balance function (with a very useful white balance adjustment feature for minor color tweaks), spot autofocus, wide-ranging contrast and sharpness adjustments and QuickTime movies with sound. It also incorporates an advanced Noise Reduction System, which uses dark-frame subtraction to minimize background noise in long exposures shot under low light conditions. Happily, the C-7000 includes a couple of features I missed on the previously released C-5000: the histogram feature, Multi-Spot metering mode and adjustable AF mode. While those options are definitely a plus, the C-7000 goes even further with a Timelapse Photography mode and in-camera Redeye Fix option, making it a very capable camera with plenty of features to experiment with.

The C-7000 features both an optical, real-image viewfinder and a rear panel, 2.0-inch, color TFT LCD monitor, with approximately 206,000 pixels. When the LCD monitor is engaged, it automatically displays detailed exposure information, with the current exposure mode, f-stop, shutter speed and exposure compensation superimposed on the viewfinder display (a nice feature not found on every digicam) and the number of images available in the current resolution setting at the bottom of the monitor. It also provides a very helpful numeric/bargraph distance display when using Manual Focus, as well as a digital zoom bar (activated when digital zoom is on) that shows the camera's 5x optical zoom in operation and the progress of the digital zoom whenever you zoom past the range of the optical telephoto. In addition to the histogram display, the C-7000 Zoom offers a direct histogram option, which displays the white and black areas of the frame in red and blue respectively, revealing under or overexposed parts of the image. I actually found this much more useful than the histogram feature, as I could instantly tell which parts of the image were in danger.

The 7.9-39.5mm 5x zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-190mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a f2.8 maximum aperture. In addition to the 5x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to six times via digital zoom, which Olympus calls "seamless." The zoom does pause before entering digital zoom, however, so you won't cross over into the digital zoom realm without being aware of it.

Image file sizes include 3072x2304, 2592x1944, 2288x1712, 2048x1536, 1600x1200, 1280x960, 1024x768 and 640x480 pixels. Image quality options include three JPEG compression ratios, plus uncompressed TIFF and RAW formats that produce full-resolution images free of compression artifacts.

Exposure control includes Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority and Manual modes. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as one second. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, while the camera chooses the best corresponding settings. When used in A or S modes, apertures range from f2.8 to f8.0 and shutter speeds from 1/2000 to four seconds. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but offers shutter times as long as 15 seconds. Setting the camera to 1/2000 second in Manual mode requires that the aperture be set to f4 or above. At f2.8, f3.2 and f3.5 the maximum shutter speed is 1/1600. The same restriction on shutter speed applies in Aperture Priority mode as well.

Scene modes include Portrait, Sports, Landscape Portrait, Landscape Scene and Night Scene modes. Although the Scene Mode option itself is accessed by a dial, changing between the various Scene modes is done by menu, requiring at least eight button presses to change. A little awkward, in my opinion. Finally, the My Mode feature provides a custom setup for the camera, letting you select complex combinations of settings with a single menu choice.

The C-7000 provides five ISO options of Auto, 80, 100, 200 and 400; automatic exposure bracketing; Digital ESP, Spot and Multi metering modes; and exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values in one-third-step increments. White balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Cool Fluorescent or Quick Reference (custom or manual white balance adjustment) to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions, while a white balance color adjustment function lets you fine-tune the color balance across a wide range from red to blue.

Image contrast, sharpness and saturation adjustments are available through the Shooting menu and a Function menu option allows you to capture images in black and white or sepia tone. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits and a Remote Control mode for use with the optional IR remote.

Movie mode records QuickTime movies with sound, for maximum times dictated by internal buffer memory, at either 640x480 or 320x240 pixels and either 30 or 15 frames per second. Sequence mode captures multiple images at up to 1.1 fps, while Hi Sequence captures a maximum of two frames at 2.2 fps. Panorama mode allows you to take up to 10 shots with the same exposure and white balance, for subsequent merging with the included Panorama Stitch software in the computer with Olympus-branded xD-Picture Cards. There's also a Time-lapse mode for capturing a series of images over time, at preset intervals.

The pop-up flash offers five operating modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, Red-Eye Reduction and Slow Sync), with flash range extending to approximately 12.8 feet. The Slow Sync flash mode uses a slower shutter speed with the flash, to allow more of the ambient lighting into the photo and includes the option to fire the flash at either the beginning or end of the exposure, as well as add a Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash. You also can increase or decrease flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments.

The C-7000 ships with a 32-MB xD-Picture Card for image storage. You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images. Olympus' Auto Connect USB interface means the camera will automatically appear on your computer's desktop in Windows ME/2000/XP or Mac OS 8.6 or later. A video output jack and cable display images on an external video monitor, which can also be used as a super-sized viewfinder in capture mode. Software includes the Olympus Master utility package, which provides minor organization and editing tools, in addition to a panorama stitching application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Macintosh and Windows are also supplied.

TEST RESULTS

Color: Excellent color -- It did an excellent job with color, producing pleasing, natural results with good saturation. Colors were accurate and fairly well saturated (if just a hint dark) in the Sunlit Portrait, with good skin tones. The blue flowers, often problematic for digicams, came out almost exactly right, with just a hint more purple than in real life. The white balance system also did a great job, handling the strongly-colored household incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait very well with Auto, Incandescent and Manual settings, although Auto left a little more color in the image than I prefer. The MacBeth chart in Davebox target looked good as well, although it revealed a tendency to shift cyan colors toward blue. Color saturation was overall more accurate than that of most cameras, with reds held more in check than usual and most other colors almost dead-on. Overall, a very nice job.

Exposure: The exposure system performed well, requiring only average compensation on shots that usually need it and never making a significant exposure error. Like most consumer digicams, the default tone curve is rather contrasty, but its contrast adjustment control provides an unusually wide range of adjustment in fine steps. As a result, the camera did an excellent job handling the deliberately awful lighting of the Sunlit Portrait. Shadow detail was typically strong and contrast neither too high or too low. Bottom line, an excellent ability to capture images under a wide range of lighting conditions.

Resolution/Sharpness: It performed very well on the laboratory resolution test chart, showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,100 lines per picture height horizontally (almost 1,200 really) and about 1,000 lines vertically. I found strong detail out to about 1,500 lines. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,800-1,900 lines. Looking at the results from Imatest, the MTF 50 numbers tend to correlate best with visual perceptions of sharpness, so those are what I focus on. The uncorrected resolution figures are 1301 line widths per picture height in the horizontal direction (corresponding to the vertically-oriented edge) and 1285 along the vertical axis (corresponding to the horizontally-oriented edge), for a combined average of 1293 LW/PH. Correcting to a standardized sharpening with a one-pixel radius increases these numbers a fair bit, to an average of 1583 LW/PH, an excellent number.

Image Noise: Noise was very low with an unusually fine-grained pattern, which made it less objectionable than it would otherwise have been. The camera also did a very good job at trading off minimal detail in areas of subtle contrast to control the noise. There was very little of the blotchy watercolor effect that many cameras display as a result of their anti-noise processing. Even at ISOs 200 and 400, the noise level was really only moderately high and didn't interfere with detail definition. Unlike a majority of consumer digicams these days, I'd consider the C-7000 to be entirely usable at ISO 400.

Close-Ups: The C-7000 turned in an average macro performance with its normal macro mode, capturing a minimum area of 3.27x2.45 inches. But in Super Macro mode, it captured a very tiny minimum area measuring 1.17x0.88 inches. Resolution was very high in both shots, with fine detail. The flash had a little trouble, as it was partially blocked by the camera's lens. However, it did manage to throttle down for the normal macro area. The flash is (understandably) disabled in the super macro mode, so plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots.

Night Shots: It produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at both the 200 and 400 ISO settings. At ISO 100, images were bright as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) and images captured at ISO 80 were bright as low as 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux), though you could arguably use the image taken at 1/8 foot-candle. Color is good with the Auto white balance setting, though a slight warm cast increases in dimmer shots. Noise is comparatively low here. Even at ISO 400, image noise is only moderate, better than most digicams on the market. The Noise Reduction option doesn't really have a very strong effect on noise. This is actually to the camera/sensor's credit. The level of hot pixels is amazingly low with no noise reduction, so there's not an awful lot for the noise reduction to do when it's turned on. The C-7000 also focuses well under dim lighting, able to focus at light levels a bit below 1/4 foot-candle without its AF illuminator and in complete darkness with the illuminator enabled.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The optical viewfinder proved very tight, showing only about 77 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle and only 81 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor performed much better, showing about 99 percent frame accuracy at both zoom settings.

Optical Distortion: Optical distortion was pretty high at wide-angle, with approximately 1.3 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared much better with approximately 0.2 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration was excellent to moderate, showing about three to five pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines at wide-angle, but virtually none at telephoto. Sharpness was very good from corner to corner at normal and wide-angle focal lengths. At the telephoto end of the lens' range, some softness appeared in the corners, but fortunately didn't extend very far into the frame.

Shutter Lag & Cycle Time: With full-autofocus shutter lag times of 0.53-0.54 second and pre-focus lag of only 0.157 second, the C-7000 is a good bit more responsive to the shutter button than most cameras. Cycle times are good if not amazing, at roughly two seconds per frame, for up to four shots. Continuous-mode speed is excellent, at 0.38 second/frame or 2.6 fps in continuous-high mode, but only for bursts of two shots at a time.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time of 109 minutes in capture mode with the LCD illuminated, the C-7000 has good battery life for a relatively compact model, but I still highly recommend purchasing a second battery. Battery life is a bit better with the LCD turned off (144 minutes), but the optical viewfinder is so inaccurate that you'll probably spend most of the time with the LCD turned on.

CONCLUSION

The Olympus C-7000 Zoom carries on the high value tradition established by the previous C models, offering a very strong feature set at a very affordable price. It has the features enthusiast users crave (with the sole exception of an external flash sync connector), including a full range of exposure control, extensive creative controls for tweaking images, plus fine-tuning for white balance and flash power. The small camera has a quality feel, with tight controls and a nice heft. In addition, it accommodates less photo-savvy users with a range of preset scene modes, auto exposure options and a Redeye Fix option.

An excellent value for the enthusiast on a budget, this would also be an ideal camera for consumers wanting to gradually learn more about photography. All in all, just an excellent camera, one of the best Olympus has yet made -- in my humble opinion, anyway. Highly recommended 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 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b066

Visit the Olympus Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f783

A reader asks for help with choosing a digital camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9c3af/0

Julia asks about the 'best' 5 megapixel camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9c3bd/0

Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8

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Just for Fun: Holiday Special 2004

Each year at this time, we try to come up with some special treat to express our appreciation for your subscription. You can still enjoy all of our previous specials by visiting the Archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Here's the list:

They all still work, especially the Gift Certificate, perfect for anyone on your list getting into digital photography. A PDF with a nice shot of the Golden Gate, you can download it (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?gsb) and print as many copies on your inkjet as you need. Then just remember to sign up your recipient at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS using the Subscriber Services page.

For this year's gift, we thought we'd help you dSLR fans calculate the effective focal length of any 35mm lens in your collection. Pick your dSLR camera model, type in the fixed focal length of your 35mm lens or the range of your 35mm zoom and our dSLR Focal Length Multiplier will tell you the effective focal length or range of that lens.

The effective focal length simply represents the crop of your scene (but not the equivalent perspective) a 35mm lens would provide on a 35mm film camera. So if you put 50mm Nikkor lens on a Nikon D70, you'd be getting the same crop as a 75mm on your Nikon F3.

To get your own copy of the dSLR Focal Length Multiplier, just visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS for the online version of this issue. We've plugged it in right about here.

d S L R   F O C A L   L E N G T H   C O N V E R T E R
Select a camera from the following list:
Your camera:
Enter the fixed focal length of your 35mm lens:
Fixed focal length: mm
Enter the range of your 35mm zoom lens:
Wide angle focal length: mm
Telephoto focal length: mm
You've got a collection of 35mm lenses and you want to know what the crop will look like if you mount them on any of these dSLRs. Enter a fixed focal length or a zoom range (or both) and this program will tell you.

C O N V E R T E R   RESULTS
Fixed focal length equivalent:
35mm equivalent focal length: mm
Zoom lens range equivalent:
35mm equivalent zoom range: - mm
This reports what the 35mm equivalent focal length would be for the focal length you entered above -- which represents a similar crop of your scene but not an equivalent perspective.


It's our little way of thanking you for continuing to welcome this newsletter issue after issue. Happy holidays!

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Dave's Deals

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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: Gift Guide Continued

For the past five years or so I have been using a Kodak DC290. I paid a mortgage for this unusual looking camera that takes a whopping 2-Mp picture and can do strange things such as scripting and slide shows (none of which I ever used). To tell you the truth, its photos are very good, at least to my untrained eye.

However, lately I've been fancying myself to be a "good-photographer-in-the-making" and with the slew of multi-megapixel cameras on the market, I am thinking of upgrading. Herein lies my dilemma. Too many choices that even your holiday-buying guide doesn't help me sort through.

So, I would like recommendations in just the following two categories:

  1. A Henri Cartier-Bresson type, always-a-camera-in-the-pocket, quick-whip it-out-and-take-a-candid-photo, photo-journalist's need.

  2. A fashion photographer type, with-all-the-time-on-my-hand-to-set-up-and-focus, don't-mind-carrying-a-tell-all-huge-bag-of-pain-in-the-neck-accessories, need.

-- Puneet Kishor

(Look at the Canon PowerShot S60 and S70 (my top choice for you), both of which have a secure sliding lens door, a great lens, fast and intelligent AF and AE, excellent interface (non-Digita, thus non-slow) and a 28mm lens. Look at the Sony P150. Very small, very pocketable, excellent images. Look at the PowerShot Pro1 and PowerShot G6, though remember we're talking jacket pocket rather than shirt or pants pocket with these two -- but you're used to that. All four of these will give you better quality and greater resolution than the old Kodak. Henri Cartier-Bresson might more likely be seen carrying a Nikon Coolpix 8400, but that's the biggest of the cameras I've suggested. You might find the 24mm lens irresistible.... You also might be ready for a dSLR, if you never cared about slide shows and don't use Movie mode. The main advantage dSLRs have is larger sensors, which means greater light gathering capability and better lenses to gather light with. And gathering light is what it's all about. Look at the Digital Rebel, Olympus EVOLT and Nikon D70, in ascending order of price. You'll actually find the greatest image quality at the low end of the price spectrum with the Digital Rebel. -- Shawn)

Do you know of any good and relatively inexpensive monopods for a camera like a Minolta DiMAGE Z3?

-- Bob McCormick

(Yep, the Tracks Compact Travel Staff (http://www.trackspoles.com/travel.asp?Action=CompactTravelStaff), which doubles as a walking stick. We mentioned it in our Aug. 25, 2000 issue. -- Editor)

Thanks a lot for the nice mention of my book in your recent Gift Guide.

The second edition is just out! It's 50-60 percent all new: a) Every page of the book has been reviewed, overhauled, updated or revised; b) References to equipment, supplies, hardware and software have been reviewed and updated. New products have been highlighted wherever possible; c) Many of the examples, images and artwork have been updated or replaced; d) New chapters or sections have been added or broken out. These expanded topics include: scanning; finishing, coating and displaying prints; RIPs and special printing software; and new alternative digital output methods.

-- Harald Johnson

(Thanks, Harald! -- Editor)

RE: B&W & Read All Over

I am a great fan of your newsletter and I have one suggestion to make.

I have read dozens of reviews of inkjet printers and in none of them (that I recall) did I ever see any information on the ability of the printer to do good black and white photo printing.

There are still a few of us who love B&W photography.

A few weeks ago I gave up my old HP and bought a Canon i960. This machine does a wonderful job on color pictures, but what a disappointment when it came time to produce deep rich blacks.

What I am asking is this, can you include in your reviews of printers, some mention of what sort of job the printer does with black and white images? Black and white photography is not dead yet -- help keep it alive.

-- Glen Holden

(Thanks, Glen, with binders full of B&W negatives here, we appreciate your perspective and actually do print various black and white tests. It was a big part of the HP review and the Epson review, but we didn't mention it in the Canon review (comparable to the Epson 2200, actually, if a bit warmer in grayscale mode). It's a photo finish, but HP comes in fourth here with the Epson R800 still first in our hearts.... This is a much more complex subject than it may appear, nicely covered in Harald's book, BTW. Rather than deal with it here, we promise a full discussion in the depth it deserves. Stay tuned. -- Editor)

RE: Resizing Redux

Could you send me the instructions on resizing as I did not get that particular issue that it was in. I found out about it from a friend. Thank you.

-- B P

(See "Resize That" in the Letters section of the Nov. 12 issue in our Archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). We recently printed a two-megapixel image at 13x19 that came our surprisingly well. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Treat yourself to version 2.2 of Russell Brown's free Dr. Brown's Image Processor (http://www.russellbrown.com/tips_tech.html), a Photoshop JavaScript script to process large numbers of images, applying Camera Raw settings, resizing and converting formats.


Boinx has published an online Advent Calendar (http://apps.boinx.com/adventskalender2004.lasso) to help pass the time until Christmas.


Red River Paper (http://www.redrivercatalog.com) has introduced its 62 lb. GreenPix Photo Matte paper, made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled content with a top-grade photo inkjet coating and sturdy card weight and thickness. The company said the sheet has "only a limited number of hard-to-see specks inherent in post-consumer paper." Brightness rated at 97, 50 letter-sized sheets are $16.40.


MacFixit's Ted Landau (http://www.macfixit.com) writes about printing photos on his new Canon iP6000D and takes a peek at Elements 3, too, in his December mac.column.ted article.


Belkin (http://www.belkin.com) will flash its Camera Link so it can be used with 4-GB iPods. Contact customer support for details.


The $29.95 Web Photos Pro [MW] builds Web photo albums and galleries using customizable templates, resizing and compressing images and uploading only changed files while creating RSS and PhotoRSS feeds.


Holocore (http://holocore.com) has released its $8 PictureSync [M] to simplify uploading photos to Web sites from applications like iPhoto and iView MediaPro.


Biospace (http://www.biospace-corporation.com) has introduced its Wall-Album, a photo bulletin board that holds 12-25 prints without using pins, tape, glue or glass. Several sizes are available, ranging from $19.95-$24.95.


Auto FX Software (http://www.autofx.com) has announced its $199 Digital Delight Bundle, which include Corel Paint Shop Pro 9, nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 Select Edition, Mystical Tint Tone and Color and Mystical Tint Tone and Color Training Videos.


Canto (http://www.canto.com) has announced the availability of MediaSec's $59 MediaSign Digital Plug-in for Cumulus [W], which applies digital watermarking to assets.

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One Liners

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YaWah Professional Image Server software: http://www.yawah.com/ir

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Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com

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Next Issue

Alas, not yet our grand migration to our new email system for the newsletter mentioned last time. A new release of the software has us retesting everything from scratch. But soon, real soon.
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Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Newsletter Forum: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=irnews
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

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

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