The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 2 21 January 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 141st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We reflect on the major developments at Macworld while Dave takes a look at Pentax's latest. Then we review a nicely designed, new series from O'Reilly that focuses on the work, rather than just the software.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
DxO
http://www.dxo.com

Discover NEW 2005 DxO Correction Modules to unleash the full potential of your DSLR or Bridge Camera!

DxO Optics Pro and DxO Raw Engine, award-winning software automatically remove distortion, vignetting, lens softness and chromatic aberrations from your images (RAW/JPEG) in just seconds.

Download a FREE demo of DxO Optics Pro and also save $20 with our Imaging Resource special -- enter promotional code MAG51 when checking out from the store, valid until Feb. 4 for purchases over $60.

E-Book Systems
http://www.flipalbum.com

Looking for a better way to organize and share your digital photos?

FlipAlbum Suite from E-Book Systems may just be what you need.

FlipAlbum lets you create realistic 3-D photo albums with pages you can flip, like a real photo album -- complete with thumbnails, a table of contents and an index page. It's easy to use, with a natural and intuitive user interface.

Download your free trial copy today from http://www.flipalbum.com/dl/ir_01/.

Maha
http://www.mahaenergy.com/

The MH-C204W takes the top spot as Imaging-Resource's favorite charger.

  • Integrated, 100-240V worldwide power supply
  • Charges two AA or four AAA NiMH batteries in one hour
  • Three-stage charging process "tops off" batteries
  • Conditions and rejuvenates batteries
  • Very portable at only 4 oz.!

For a full review, visit: http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/C204W/C204WA.HTM

For more information, visit: http://www.mahaenergy.com

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


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

Feature: Macworld -- All the World's a Stage

After the recent Macworld Expo in San Francisco, we collapsed just a few blocks away. Fortunately, we fell into a soft leather armchair at the Mechanics' Institute (http://www.milibrary.org), refuge for dazed scribes like ourselves. We let our mind, twisted this way and that by one or another presentation, wander on its own.

It wandered back to the West Coast Computer Faire (http://www.imsai.net/history/wccf/wccf.htm), so long ago it was housed at Brooks Hall before moving to the new Moscone. We recalled being congratulated by a bystander there when we bought a copy of Thunder 7, now sold as Spell Catcher (http://www.rainmakerinc.com). We remembered a demo of VisiCorp's Visi On (http://toastytech.com/guis/vision.html), a precursor to Windows 1.0, which promised something called device independence that was all the rage. Then as now, the big issue of the day was never really answered. Was it safe to flip your floppy over and write on both sides of the 160K disk?

But what got us back on our feet was the memory of a fellow dressed in a sorcerer's hat hawking a pile of garishly colored letter-sized paperbacks. Russey-poo, he called himself. And if you bought his book (or if a bunch of you bought it at a discount), you could call him at any hour of the day or night to ask a computer (or more serious) question.

Russ Walter's The Secret Guide to Computers is still being published (http://www.secretguide.net) but the sorcerer's hat, figuratively speaking, has been passed on.

It's Macworld now, not the West Coast Computer Faire, that brings the illuminati to San Francisco. And it's Steve Jobs (who won't take your call) who wears the hat.

We approach every keynote with the skepticism of an adolescent and we come away with the enthusiasm of a five year old. It ain't the fountain of youth, but it is a nice curtain call. Macworld, after all, is a stage. And, as Jobs said at the conclusion of his keynote, "See you next year." Because the show must go on.

THE LINE IN THE SAND

Our preference -- after years and years of evaluating hardware innovations -- is to focus our wonder on software. That, we congratulate ourselves, is where the action is. Not in that state-of-the-art Osborne (now on eBay), but in the various small updates to Thunder 7. Not in those daisywheel printers but in ICC profiles.

But this year, we couldn't stop thinking about the Mac mini. Not because we want one (we don't). But because it's the answer to a lot of questions. Especially the kind of questions you get when you try to do things in Windows.

First of all, there's the noise issue. Tired of being a victim of teen rage, terrorists and ad spammers (with mortgages, medicines and myths)? Tired of the threat of viruses? Tired of worrying your machine will be taken over by some software you didn't even know you downloaded? Let me ask you one question. Would you pay $499 to be free of that?

Were I a Visi On type dude, I would. I'd get my email on that $499 box, if nothing else. Probably do all my Web surfing on it, too. In fact, it would be my gateway to the world outside. Let's take a $6.75 minimum wage, deduct the value of iLife '05 and figure that box returns 62 hours of your life to you. No brainer.

There have been some interesting price comparisons of Dell's cheapest offering with the Mac mini but they aren't quite comparing the same thing. As Dan Frakes notes (http://www.macworld.com/weblogs/editors/2005/01/miniapplesandoranges), they don't usually notice the Mac mini includes separate video RAM and a CD burner. And, yes, you can upgrade memory and pop a wireless card into it without voiding the warranty.

But the cogent point, it seems to us, is that you can just plug your PC monitor, keyboard and mouse into this thing. You can, uh, switch. You can even dump one in your luggage and visit your brother-in-law and borrow his monitor/keyboard/mouse to burn CDs of your photos for him.

It's the most exciting thing since the Radio Shack Model 100 (http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=233). Hardware that people are going to do some interesting things with, that is.

ILIFE

But what about iLife? Oh, software again. Well, we wouldn't bring it up, but Ed called us the other day (see "A Digital Perspective" in the June 29, 2001 issue). He'd seen our DVD of some family movies we threw together using iMovie and iDVD on a PowerBook. And he wanted to convert 26 hours of family video to a DVD. Could we help?

We chatted about it a bit (we suggested a slide show, you know, something you can do in one lifetime) before he decided to try a pilot project on his system. We didn't hear from him for a week, so we emailed him. Oh, the first attempt, a two hour video, took 26 hours to digitize, edit and burn to DVD -- and he wasn't happy with the quality. He'd already ordered a faster PC. We recommended a book.

If this had happened after Macworld, we would have recommended a Mac mini. iMovie, iDVD, OS X and FireWire. Get the SuperDrive upgrade to burn DVDs. Live happily ever after.

iLife does make this stuff simple -- and handsome. The Mac mini with iLife is a presentation appliance. Worth every penny.

PHOTO PRINTERS

The 4x6 print has become the standard print size for the home user. That's what we used to get at the drugstore and that's what we want at home (where we still have empty album pages). There are a number of small, even portable, printers, some enhanced with a PictBridge connection to print dye-sub or inkjet 4x6s. It's a movement. And the vanguard was on display at the show.

Olympus (http://www.olympusamerica.com) showed their P-10 digital photo printer. Its PictBridge connector means you can print 4x6 dye subs directly from a PictBridge digicam. Or use the USB cable to connect to your computer. The special ribbon and paper is sold together in 40 or 100 print boxes.

Canon also makes a couple of compact 4x6 dye sub printers, as does Hi-Touch (whose inexpensive standalone units we've previously reviewed). Hewlett-Packard's 4x6 Photosensor 325 and 375 are both inkjets, however.

Why all the 4x6 dye subs? Because they're foolproof. You get drugstore quality with no muss and no fuss. No computer either, usually. A trend indeed.

DATABASES & ORGANIZERS

We were a little surprised to hear from FileMaker before the show. But they'd put together a free suite of applications for creative professionals (lite versions but enough) and none other than Rick Smollen was going to give a presentation at their booth.

Smollen is one of the guys behind the America 24x7 project, which is one of Oprah Winfrey's favorite things. He's got a book for every state now (http://www.247states.com/app) and each of these publishing projects is managed by FileMaker. Unfortunately, the presentation wasn't very clear about just how this happens. But it got us thinking.

We've been wrestling with databases since dBASE II (back in the days of the West Coast Computer Faire), writing custom commercial applications in C (classified and commercial ad scheduling and billing, plus some circulation software). Database concepts can be difficult to pin down, but the real work is in building interfaces to them that prod users in the right direction. Which is why even though we all use them all the time (that checkbook, say), there's no iDatabase in iLife or iWork.

There is, however, iPhoto. That it's database driven is a secret, though. All organizers are, although Elements has confused the issue by offering database-like tools whose data travels with the image rather than gets cataloged in a database.

So why didn't Smollen use a photo organizer instead of FileMaker?

We like that question. It's like a shirt with self-rolling sleeves. Why? I'll tell you why. Because a photo organizer is small potatoes. A database program is iSpuds. You can do everything a photo organizer can do -- and a lot more. Like track publishing rights, permissions, photographer info, you name it.

Of course, the real question is how feasible is it for mere mortals to concoct a database their merely mortal staff can actually do business with. That isn't obvious without working with the product, which we plan to do.

If you do business with images, that matters. If you're a hobbyist, the organizers are enough.

MORE

Speaking of professionals, getting a start has always been the tough part. Services like Printroom (http://www.printroom.com) can help. You take pictures at some event, let everyone know the URL so they can get prints, upload the images and sit back while Printroom does the order taking, printing and follow-up customer service. You pay them a commission on each print, that's it. No monthly fees.

At the show Printroom was waiving its $99 signup fee, which leaves only its 13 percent commission per print on its online storefront service for photographers. That makes it risk free to try.

Marketing Manager Robert Bardin gave us a tour of the service. With printing centers in Emeryville, Calif. and Atlanta, the company provides a complete business solution including image hosting of up to 7,500 thumbnails, online print ordering and order fulfillment plus custom image enhancement. The template-based storefront designs organize your images into galleries that visitors can browse and order from. And the company provides customer service for returns or products damaged in transit.

Standard image enhancement services at 99 cents an image include adjustments to exposure (dynamic range, brightness, contrast, backlight compensation, dodge/burn), color (color balance and saturation) and red-eye removal. Premium enhancement at $1.99 includes the above plus facial retouching (skin tones, teeth, eyes, shadows on face) and sharpness.

Images are uploaded to the company's servers using proprietary software, recently enhanced for OS X. They've been around since 1999 so they've worked out the kinks.

Of course we found a lot more to talk about. You can read our full Keynote coverage (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1105481072.html) and Expo coverage (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1105569256.html) on the News page. But you already know what we really think <g>.

Think we'll give old Russey-poo a call and see if he's ordered a Mac mini yet. And what he ever did with that hat.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Pentax Optio 750Z -- Retro Evolution

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/O750Z/O75A.HTM on the Web site.)

The $599 Pentax Optio 750Z features a similar body shape and design to previous Optio models, though this new addition adds a swiveling LCD monitor and a retro black textured front panel. The rugged, metal body can withstand a lot of wear and tear and the front grip pad really sticks to your fingers. The camera features a high-resolution, 7.0-megapixel CCD and 5x SMC Pentax lens. Control layout resembles previous Optio models. The 750Z measures 3.9x2.4x1.6 inches and weighs a slightly hefty 8.9 ounces with the battery and memory card. The all-metal case no doubt contributes to the camera's weight, but it's still quite portable. Though too large for most shirt pockets, it should easily fit into coat pockets and purses. The neck/wrist strap is a welcome accessory as the camera doesn't offer much of a hand grip. The 750Z's compact design includes a built-in, shutter-like lens cover which opens when the lens pops out, eliminating the need for a lens cap. The telescoping lens keeps the camera front smooth when stowed and pocket friendly as well.

Built into the 750Z is a 5x, 7.8-39mm SMC Pentax lens (a 37.5-187.5mm 35mm equivalent). Maximum aperture ranges from f2.8 to f4.6, depending on the zoom setting, which can be automatically or manually controlled. Focus ranges from 1.97 feet to infinity in normal shooting mode, with a Macro option covering from 6.0 inches to 1.6 feet and Super Macro covering from 0.8 inches to 2.13 feet. Normal Macro mode is available throughout the zoom range, while Super Macro is only available with the lens at full wide-angle. The 750Z offers both manual and automatic focus control, with Spot and Wide AF modes. There's also an Infinity/Landscape fixed focus setting and a manual focus mode. In addition to the optical zoom, the 750Z offers as much as 8x digital zoom, for zoom capability of 40x.

You can use the optical viewfinder or the 1.8-inch, color TFT LCD monitor to compose images. The LCD monitor swivels 270 degrees and can flip around to face the rear panel when closed, protecting it from dust and scratches. An informative display in Record mode reports not only shutter speed and aperture settings, but also a wide range of basic exposure options. Additionally, the Pentax 750Z's LCD monitor features a histogram display (both in record or playback modes) and problem areas are indicated with a blinking highlight/shadow overlay (areas in danger of overexposure flash red and underexposure danger zones flash yellow. Through the Setup menu, you can customize the LCD information display, which is very useful.

Exposure can be manually or automatically controlled. An On/Off button on top of the camera controls the power and a Mode dial lets you select between Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program, Picture, Panorama Assist, 3D, Digital Filter, Movie, Audio and Digital Exposure Metering modes. Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's straightforward on-screen menu system. You can control focus mode (Auto, Macro, Landscape, Manual or Spot AF point selection), the self-timer, drive mode, exposure compensation and the flash mode externally. You can also configure combinations of external buttons to control 17 camera settings. In Manual mode, you control aperture and shutter speed (from 1/2000 to 15 seconds) and all other exposure variables. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over one variable, while the camera controls the other. Program mode keeps the camera in charge of the basic exposure, though you control the rest of the settings. Digital Exposure Metering turns the camera into a light meter when you press the Shutter button. So you can get a reading on the scene, switch to Manual mode and set exposure.

By default, the Pentax 750Z uses a Multi-Segment metering system which reads the entire frame to find the best exposure. Spot and Center-Weighted options are also available. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments. You can also adjust the sensitivity setting between ISO equivalents of 80, 100, 200 and 400, as well as an Auto setting. When you can't determine exposure, Auto Bracketing mode can bracket exposure, white balance, saturation, sharpness or contrast. Auto Bracketing mode captures three images at different settings and you can adjust the step size. White Balance features an Auto mode for most average lighting conditions and offers Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Warm Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent and Manual options. The built-in flash is effective from 1.31 to 17.1 feet with the lens at wide-angle, with a more limited range at telephoto. Available flash modes are Auto, Off, On, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, On with Red-Eye Reduction and Slow-Sync (available in certain exposure modes).

Picture mode setting offers 12 preset Scene modes. You can choose from Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Night-Scene, Surf & Snow, Autumn Colors, Self-Portrait, Night-Scene Portrait, Sunset, Food, Sport and Fireworks settings. Each mode addresses a specific shooting situation and optimizes the camera for the best overall results. Panorama Assist mode lets you capture panoramic images, in either horizontal or vertical directions. Guide arrows appear on the LCD display to let you choose the direction in which photos will be captured (up, down, left or right). After the first shot, subsequent frames show a small translucent portion of the previous image to help you line up shots. Note that exposure is not locked from frame to frame, so some panoramas may still be best achieved by shooting manually. The accompanying software stitches the captured images together into one panoramic frame on a computer. The 750Z also offers a 3D recording mode, which debuted on the Optio 230. In 3D mode, the camera produces three-dimensional stereo pairs of images similar to old-fashioned stereographs. The camera helps you to capture two images of the same subject (one just slightly off-center from the other) and then combines them as a stereo pair in a single frame of image memory. A translucent display of the first image captured remains on the LCD monitor, so you can align the second image. Very slick, this eliminates one of the biggest problems with hand-held 3D stereo photography. The 750Z supports either Parallel format (you view the stereo photo with your eyes looking straight ahead) or the Cross format (you cross your eyes).

The 750Z also has a nice range of creative tools, including a Digital Filter mode with 10 filters for special effects. Color filters include Black and White, Sepia, Red, Pink, Purple, Blue, Green and Yellow and a Soft filter softens the overall image. A Brightness filter is also available, but only post-capture. An Image Tone option offers Standard or Vivid shooting modes, while image contrast, saturation and sharpness settings provide further creative options. The User setting on the Mode dial lets you save a set of exposure adjustments so that they can be quickly recalled. For example, if you frequently shoot under the same lighting conditions, saving a set of user options lets you quickly set up the camera without having to fish through LCD screens.

In Movie mode, the camera captures moving images with sound as long as the memory card has space. Movies are recorded at either 640x480 or 320x240-pixel resolutions and at either 30 or 15 frames per second. Limited exposure options are available. The 750Z also features an Audio recording mode, which records solely audio for as long as the SD memory card has available space. It also lets you record short audio clips to accompany captured images, like a voice caption. Time-Lapse Movie mode uses a slower frame rate to capture lengthy periods of motion (such as clouds moving across the sky), with capture ratios (the amount the camera will appear to speed up the action) ranging from x2 to x100. No sound is recorded in Time-Lapse Movie mode.

An Interval shooting mode snaps from two to 99 successive photos at programmable intervals ranging from 10 seconds to 99 minutes. There are also two Self-Timer modes, which provide either a two- or 10-second delay between pressing the Shutter button and the camera actually taking the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots. A remote control is available as an accessory, meaning you can take your time arranging the shot before tripping the shutter with the remote. For shooting fast action, Continuous Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images for as long as you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera. The space available on the memory card determines the maximum number of images the camera will capture in the series and details like resolution, shutter speed and the state of buffer memory determine the shooting interval. Finally, Multiple Exposure mode captures two or more images on top of each other, like double exposing on a film camera, an unusual but welcome feature.

The 750Z stores images on SD/MMC memory cards and comes with a 32-MB SD starter card. Buy at least a 128-MB card with the camera so you don't miss any shots. The camera uses a D-LI7 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack and both a battery and external charger are included. Since the 750Z does not accommodate any form of commonly available battery, I highly recommend buying an extra battery pack and keeping it freshly charged. The optional AC adapter could also be useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The 750Z produced slight color casts throughout my testing, regardless of the white balance setting. I typically noticed a red cast with the Auto white balance and a cool, magenta cast with the Manual setting, but none of the color casts were outside an acceptable range. Because of slightly dark exposures, color was also a little dark but fairly accurate. That said though, "more accurate" means less saturated, since most consumer (and many professional) digital cameras oversaturate color slightly. Despite the slight color casts, the 750Z handled the difficult incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait (without flash) better than most cameras, producing acceptable results with auto, incandescent and manual white balance options. Overall, generally accurate, but slightly understated color relative to much of the camera market.

Exposure: The exposure system tended to underexpose our test shots, almost regardless of the lighting setup. The high-key lighting of the Sunlit Portrait tricked the camera into underexposing, requiring a +1.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a reasonably bright image. Though contrast wasn't high enough to affect tonal handling on the Davebox, it did limit the dynamic range on the outdoor house shot and on the Sunlit Portrait, even with the camera's contrast control set to its lowest value. Shadow detail was marginal in most cases and the highlights were often too bright with limited detail.

Resolution/Sharpness: The 750Z performed well on the laboratory resolution test chart for its 7-Mp class. It started showing artifacts at resolutions as low as 1,200-1,250 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found strong detail out to at least 1,450 lines horizontally (corresponding to the vertically-oriented target elements) and 1,500 lines vertically. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,800 lines.

Image Noise: Some image noise is present even at the 80 and 100 ISO settings, though the grain pattern is fine and tight and levels are generally low enough that you need to look at the individual color channels in isolation to see the noise. At ISO 200, noise increases somewhat, but remains well within an acceptable range and there appears to be only a modest tradeoff of subtle detail to hold the noise in check. At ISO 400, the noise becomes higher, albeit with a relatively fine pattern. That said, the ISO 400 images are quite usable. Its noise-suppression algorithms work well at suppressing the noise, but do trade off quite a bit of subtle detail.

Close-Ups: The 750Z performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.61x1.21 inches. Resolution was very high and a lot of fine detail was present in the dollar bill. Details were soft on the coins and brooch due to the shallow depth of field from the very short subject distance. A moderately high level of image noise interfered with detail definition slightly, but results were still pretty good. Details softened quite a bit toward the corners of the frame, but were fairly sharp on the dollar bill. The flash throttled down a little too well for the macro area, producing a dark exposure. Still, results weren't too bad, considering most digicams' flash performance at such close range. Plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots.

Night Shots: The 750Z produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level at the 200 and 400 ISO settings (though you could arguably use the image captured at the 1/16 foot-candle, 0.67 lux, limit of the test at ISO 400). At ISO 80 and 100, images were bright down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, though the target was visible at some of the lower light levels. Color balance was reddish with the Auto white balance setting and the red cast increased as the exposure darkened. Noise was fairly low in most shots and even at ISO 400, image noise was lower than I expected. The 750Z focused down to between 1/2 and 1/4 foot-candle with its autofocus-assist light turned off and in more or less complete darkness (on nearby objects, anyway) when the AF light was enabled.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The optical viewfinder was very tight, showing only 82 percent of the final image area at both wide-angle and telephoto. The LCD monitor actually proved very slightly loose, showing just a bit more than what made it into the final frame, though results were near 100 percent accuracy.

Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion is lower than average at wide-angle with 0.6 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared about the same with 0.6 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is about one pixel of faint coloration. Sharpness is also much better than average in the corners of the frame.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: With full-autofocus shutter lag ranging from 0.84 to 0.93 second, it's solidly in the middle of the average range. Its shutter response when pre-focused is fast enough to capture fleeting action, but at 0.22 second, is slower than average these days. Shot-to-shot cycle times are slower than average, a bit over three seconds between shots in Single-Shot mode and 1.4 seconds for large/fine JPEG images in Continuous mode.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time of 154 minutes in capture mode with the rear-panel LCD enabled and 216 minutes in capture mode with the LCD turned off, the 750's battery life is well above average. In playback mode, the camera should be able to run over five hours on a freshly charged battery.

CONCLUSION

With a 7.0-Mp CCD, 5x optical zoom lens, exposure control ranging from automatic to manual plus a wide selection of creative modes and features, the Pentax Optio 750Z offers a lot of the functionality of higher-end digicams in a compact, easy to use package. The camera's levels of exposure control accommodate any level of user and novices will enjoy being able to slowly expand their control as they gain more experience.

New features like Digital Exposure Metering mode and customizable LCD display refresh the Optio line, while expanded options like an 11-point AF area and swiveling LCD monitor make the camera even more flexible. I liked the mix of features and functions a lot and found the retro styling with the pseudo-leather accents very appealing.

I was less enthusiastic about its color handling and shooting speed though. While its color rendering is technically more accurate than many digicams, that translates into somewhat understated colors and the saturation adjustment had too few steps to really tweak the color the way I wanted. I ended up with color that was either a little too saturated or a little too dull. Also, while its shutter lag was solidly in the middle of the average range for consumer digital cameras, its shot-to-shot cycle time was rather sluggish by current standards.

That said, the camera does have a lot going for it. If you like slightly less saturated color and don't need to capture rapid-fire action, the 750Z packs a lot of photographic capability into a compact, attractive package.

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:

And in the News section you'll find our Macworld coverage:

Return to Topics.

Book Bag: Photo Retouching with Photoshop

We confess. We have a stack of heavy paperbacks all with the words "Photoshop CS" in their titles. We're supposed to review them. Illustrious authors, too. But somehow, they all plow the same field. Only the color of the horse is different. And as far as we're concerned, that's a matter of personal taste.

What we'd really like to see is task-oriented rather than tool-oriented books. Which is what O'Reilly is now publishing with its Designer's Notebook Series. And notebooks they are. "In each notebook," the company observes, "the authors share their secrets in workshops that demonstrate the step-by-step creation of their work. Unlike any other titles available, these dazzling, full-color books offer professionals the creative license and technical know-how they need to create one-of-a-kind digital images using Photoshop."

These attractive (well, dazzling -- if a tad over-designed) notebooks are translations from earlier (2003) French editions. They tap into the features of Photoshop 6 and 7, and mysteriously even Photoshop CS. But their strength is in tackling the issues and their inventive ways of handling (one might even say transcending) them.

"Photo Retouching with Photoshop: A Designer's Notebook," the first in the series, shows how to digitally restore old images, enhance your photographs, work with a colorimeter, retouch a subject's face and blend several images together. The authors -- freelance photographers and photo retouchers -- present heavily illustrated but well notated, step-by-step lessons with scribbles here and there to emphasize points.

Gerard Niemetzky discusses Image Restoring, including how to preserve an embossed mat. Dominique and Antony Legrand do a little Digital Surgery (retouching the human body). Eric Mahe writes about Late Afternoon in Nosy Be (scanning negatives and compositing an image). Vincent Risacher gives a tour of the Beauty Institut (the glamor of retouching). Sails, Perspectives and Curves (compositing) is handled by Francois Quinio. Bloody Mallory (matte painting special effects) is Thibaut Granier's domain. Poisson Rouge presents Firely, creating a surreal illustration based on a photographic image. And Cyril Bruneau wafts poetic over Aroma (retouching a product shot). Zut allors, French indeed.

The slim, square book makes a delightful commute companion that provides food for thought that will quickly pass a lunch hour and inspire you to try something like it after dinner, too. Who knows, it may even bring home the bacon.

Photo Retouching with Photoshop, published by O'Reilly, 96 pages, $24.95.
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 Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9cdd9

Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2

Lucy asks about a compact travel camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9cc23/0

Ros asks about choosing a camera for a complete beginner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9cf0c/0

Visit the Seen on the Web Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ba

Return to Topics.

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!

Return to Topics.

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: Keynote Paged

Good article. I think Pages is cool though. I have used both PageMaker and InDesign and I find them hard to use. Any pro app takes weeks or months of training and after that regular use. That is no good for regular folks.

-- Eolake

(The promise of the iLife/iWork suite is indeed that mere mortals (even regular folks) can achieve sophisticated design. And this works (well) for forgiving design tasks like DVD menus, movie titles, slide shows. But page layout and typography are not forgiving. But our review copy is on the way and we've made a career of being wrong, so stay tuned <g>. -- Editor)

RE: Organizer Update

Would you consider looking at/updating the state of photo organizers (installed on your local computer)? It seems there is a shift or fall-out going on.

ACDSee has released a pretty buggy version 7 but has stabilized it, judging from their forums and my limited experience with the new version. However, it was dicey there for a bit and there wasn't even a new manual in any form yet.

Adobe Album may be dead as a separate product judging from the release of new features inside Elements.

Kodak's free product may morph as they (a guess...) make it into a free(?) local front end to their new Ofoto implementation. Packages like Roxio and Nero claim to offer still-image db's as part of their suites.

I hear nothing from Canto or Extensis recently, although I am now out of the pro photo/production world. Usta be in the thick of that stuff and know people at the companies involved in this db environment. Now I'm just a elementary teacher with a kid and a snapshooter's 3000-5000 image library (maybe a semi-organized electronic shoebox is a better analogy than "library").

I love being organized but the real need is for more time to be in front of the computer. If any of these boxes offered "time" as part of the package I'd buy in two shakes of a DVD burner!

-- Jonathan Rawle

(We're actually in the midst of updating our organizer reviews. Album: no actual database features in Elements on the Mac, although the Windows version includes an Organizer application descended from Album 2. EasyShare: already free (for some time). The Ofoto connection has been a problem, but they're working it out. Canto: released the single user version of Cumulus free over Christmas (the limited time offer has expired). Extensis: just released a significant update to Portfolio, which we'll review shortly. -- Editor)

RE: Canon i9900 Ink Levels

Very nice review of the i9900. I am able to check ink levels from a Mac using FireWire.

-- David Kassner

(Delighted to hear that, David. But our combination of an older i9900 and the current utilities running under Mac OS X 10.3.6 and 10.3.7 just wouldn't do it. Strange but true, and we are both. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Mitch Goldstone, president and CEO of 30 Minute Photos Etc., wrote to us recently about his Operation Photo to deliver "used digital cameras from consumers and manufacturers to Operation Homefront (http://www.operationhomefront.net), a non-profit connected with military families."

Send Mitch your old but working digicam and 30 Minute Photos Etc. will validate a $25 online gift certificate toward its digital processing photo service for each camera (maximum four) mailed to Operation Photo. The donated digicams will be packaged for distribution to military bases and military family support organizations across the nation. Each camera will include a 40 percent discount on Kodak-quality prints from 30 Minute Photos Etc. Service members abroad can also use the company's free photo sharing service to send pictures back home and order prints.

"I have contacted photo industry manufacturers and specialty dealers to seek their assistance as well," Mitch reported. "Although this was the week of CES, Kodak still responded instantly and was the first to agree to send cameras, Canon and the other leading manufacturers were also contacted."

For details, see Operation Homefront's press release (http://www.operationhomefront.net/NEWSFMHOMEFRONT/mitch2.htm).


DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has announced that future versions of its RAW converter DxO Raw Engine will support Adobe's Digital Negative specification. DxO Raw Engine is a key component of DxO Optics PRO a unique software package targeting serious amateur and professional photographers using dSLRs. The new version of DxO Raw Engine supporting DNG will be available in early 2005.


Shapiro Consulting (http://www.asiva.com) has released version 2.2 of its Asiva plug-ins Sharpen+Soften, Correct+Apply Color, Shift+Gain and Selection [MW]. Version 2.2 plug-ins use the HSI color space for curve-based selection, instead of HSV. The Intensity component and corresponding Asiva curve has twice the bandwidth of the previously used Value component, making luminance-based correction far more accurate than ever before. Sharpen+Soften and Shift+Gain now support the YUV color space, used widely in digital video applications. This color space provides certain advantages over RGB/CMYK or HSI for color corrections or other digital image enhancements.


The CompactFlash Association (http://compactflash.org) announced, "The CF+ and CompactFlash Specification Revision 3.0 is now available to download. Revision 3.0 increases the CompactFlash interface data transfer rate from 16MB/sec to 66-MB/sec, while maintaining forward and backward compatibility with old and new host systems. DMA interface mode is also included and reduces the processor power required to manage the CompactFlash data transfers. Ultra DMA 33 and Ultra DMA66 interface modes will increase the CompactFlash interface data transfer rate to 66-MB/sec. Both of these UDMA interface modes are well defined and tested by their usage on IDE hard disk drives. Faster PCMCIA ATA Memory and I/O modes have also been added and can provide interface transfer rates up to 25-MB/sec. With the addition of the UDMA feature, forward and backward compatibility is maintained with systems and CF cards operating with the interface data transfer rate of 16-MB/sec."


Legion Paper (http://www.legionpaper.com) has redesigned its Web site, making navigation easier and implementing a new search by brand, paper type or paper name. Included in the update are hundreds of product images and new ICC profiles for the Epson 4000.


Hi-Touch Imaging (http://www.hitouchimaging.com) has updated the Windows XP/98 driver for its 640PS (ID/GALA) to improve compatibility with IDesiree 2.1 and apply Windows color matching.


Edge (http://www.edgetechcorp.com) has announced its $228.95 Digital Picture Frame, a 5.75x8.25 remote-controlled device with built-in speakers to display images os loaded into its card reader and play MP3s on the card through its built-in speakers. The company is offering a Valentine's Day price of $198.95 after a mail-in rebate.


Qurio (http://www.qurio.com) has announced the winners of its Online Photo Album Contest. Paul Gorman's album "A Spectacular Day" won Grand Prize (a Canon Digital Rebel with Telephoto lens). Hillary Whitehead, Gordon Johnson, Brian Reid, Jerry DeLane and Michael Hollenbach took first place honors (1-GB Lexar flash cards). Then others won a free Qurio photo book as second place winners.


FamilyMail (http://www.familymail.com) has released FamilyMail 8.3 [W], an email program that places a user-friendly secure interface on top of Windows. Text and photos are loaded automatically, pages are turned one after the other and replying to emails is simple. FamilyMail lets seniors and other first-time computer users use email immediately and safely, without having to learn even the basics of computer literacy, the company said.


MyShoots.com (http://www.myshoots.com) announced its free hosting service designed for models and artists. MyShoots collects micropayments as small as 25 cents from the casting directors, booking agents and scouts who search its database.


Mike Johnston (http://www.37thframe.com) writes, "I'm pleased to announce my online column about photography, The Sunday Morning Photographer, is now being translated into Hungarian and posted on the Hungarian photography Web site fototipp.hu. The translation is done by Andras Shaeffer."


The Hotel Hana-Maui and Honua Spa (http://www.hotelhanamaui.com) has announced the third Robert Glenn Ketchum Visions of Paradise photography workshop May 1 to 6 with daily seminars, informal discussions, slide presentations and critiques of student work. The workshop is open to photographers of all levels but only 15 of you.


Peachpit Press (http://www.peachpit.com) has published its $34.99 Photoshop Elements 3 Down & Dirty Tricks by Scott Kelby.


Check the News page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM) for the latest hardware developments from Nikon (with Coolpix price cuts), Sony (CMOS commitment) and more.

Return to Topics.

One Liners

For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

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

PhotoRescue: http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

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

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

Return to Topics.

Next Issue

We've got the Subscriber Services page cooking and have sent some test emails using the new system. We've just got to get the bounce handler bouncing and convert the old mailing list to the new format. It won't be long now before we start mailing with the new system!
Return to Topics.

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
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

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

Go to Imaging Resource Home | News | Tips | Digital Camera Index | Scanner Index