|Volume 7, Number 6||18 March 2005|
Welcome to the 145th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Shawn takes a walk with a $5,000 Nikon (anybody seen him lately?) after Michael Tomkins reflects on Kyocera's demise. We take a look at a handy little utility before awarding a controversial Oscar. Let's just say you don't want to brush this one off <g>.
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Victor Sazhin is an urban hero -- Vicman, the urban imaging hero. We've had occasion to mention Vicman's Photo Editor, a free Windows image editor (which may be the most cost-effective way to run Photoshop plug-ins). But Vicman is championing a new cause. He's going to rid us of the plague of camphone images afflicting the modern industrial world.
Not the images themselves, but their inevitable poor quality, which has come to resemble a style of its own. Low res, noisy, flat and even posterized images. Not quite as inspiring as Impressionism, but a long way from that dSLR that never rings.
Vicman's secret weapon in this campaign is his new (and inexpensive at $29.95) Mobile Photo Enhancer (http://www.vicman.net/mobilephotoenhancer). We took a look at it recently, throwing a batch of really bad images at it. It did so well we might just start wandering the streets passing out copies on CD.
This is a Windows 95/98/2000/NT4/ME/XP product that wants a Pentium III running at 800 MHz or higher with 128-MB RAM. MPE only needs a video display with 800x600 resolution and 256 colors, but more is always better.
You can download a trial version and run it without a license, but your enhanced images will be tattooed with the phrase "Unregistered version" striped across it.
Once installed, the MPE folder contains a Help folder for Help files and Tutorials, an Uninstall application and three interesting options:
The Tutorials are animated Java applets on the Vicman site that very nicely demonstrate just how to use the two applications.
- Process Multiple Images, an application to batch process a group of images
- Process Single Image, an application to process individual images
- Submit an Image. When you Submit an Image, your browser loads and takes you to Vicman's site, where you are invited to email images that are "processed badly by our program" to email@example.com. Vicman likes a challenge.
HOW IT WORKS
Whether you process images one at a time or in a batch, the same few fixes are applied. Let's take a look at just what MPE does to an image.
Vicman claims MPE will:
The interface allows you to adjust the strength of the Noise removal option by setting a slider to one of four values. A checkbox to Remove Color Noise is also available.
- Enhance color and contrast
- Reduce JPEG compression artifacts
- Reduce camera noise
- Lighten dark corners ("vignetting")
- Provide filter intensity control
- Save images in three common image formats: JPEG, BMP, PNG
- Preserve Exif data when saving in JPG format
A popup field lets you select among three color enhancement tools: Auto Contrast, Auto Levels and Fix Dark Corners. You can also select None to turn this feature off. It defaults to Auto Contrast, but you'll almost always prefer Auto Levels to handle color casts, particularly if you're using the batch program.
The single image program works a little differently from the batch program, but that basic noise removal and color enhancement approach is the same in each.
To process a single image, you load it in the Source Image pane on the left, make your two settings in the pane on the bottom and click the Process button to see the results in the pane on the right. Then you save the image in the format of your choice.
You can also tile the images horizontally or cascade them, in addition to the default vertical tiling. You can also zoom in or out and come back to the actual size with one click.
Finally, you can change the program's skin, choosing from seven options or turning off skins (commonly known as streaking).
Batch processing starts with an Image Selection window that makes it easy to navigate your hard disk to load images to process. You drag them into a Processing window, which lists the folders and files to enhance. A Preview window helps you determine what you have.
Clicking on the Next button takes you to the Set Parameters Windows. Here you can set the Noise Reduction slider, click on the Remove Color Noise box and enable Color Enhancement using either Auto Levels, Auto Contrast or Fix Dark Corners. You can preview the effect of your settings by double-clicking on any individual one of the images displayed as a thumbnail in the pane to the left of the parameters. It pops up in its own window with the corrections processed.
Clicking Next takes you to the Processing window where a progress bar competes with a before and after rendering of each image being processed. There's a Back button so you can change parameters, if you like, too.
When the images have been processed, clicking Next takes you to the Save Results window. Again, you can double click a thumbnail to see it at actual size. If you like what you see, just click one of the Save buttons (Save, Save As, Save All, Save All As) either overwriting or copying the originals. If you select Save All As, a dialog box comes up letting you select the image format and either put the files in a subfolder, add a filename suffix or save them in a different location.
The secret to all this is its simplicity. You just select the images, set the parameters (we'd just change to Auto Levels, really) and process everything. It's about as simple as image editing gets.
We worked with a really wide range of images. Some of them had too much contrast, some were really flat. Some were landscapes, some close-ups. Portraits and signage, too. Even night scenes.
In every case (except the high contrast images), MPE made a noticeable improvement in the image. The high contrast images just didn't have any detail to salvage in either the shadows or the highlights (depending on the image). But everything else profited from these basic image enhancements. They were still camphone images, but they looked healthy.
And it all happened very quickly, too. Most images took about a second to process, although some toughies took maybe three. Speedy processing would be the silver lining on low res imaging.
Our Quibble Meter had a few gripes, of course. Probably its batteries were running low, putting it into hyper-sensitive mode. We'd have liked to see a sharpening mode, nothing fancy, just an option. And a desaturation slider. And we'd like to be able to select both Auto Levels and Fix Dark Corners. And, finally, we'd like it to remember we always use Auto Levels by letting us set a preference. We're really not sure what good Auto Contrast is, unless your camphone shoots black and white.
We also tried our John Henry machine, using Photoshop CS to run iCorrect on the image. iCorrect knocked the saturation down quite a bit and gave us real skin and foliage colors. But Smart Blur didn't do nearly as good a job as MPE in hiding artifacts.
You don't actually have to limit MPE to camphone images, but we found it ran very slowly with three megapixel images (probably trying to reduce noise) and didn't know how to deinterlace video stills.
Now, if Philip Morris would put this in vending machines wherever camphones are sold and turn their powers of persuasion into a force for good, we could have a whole new generation of kids hooked on image editing. We think this is what Vicman has up his sleeve, really.
You've probably got a serviceable image editing program already. But you must know some kid with a camphone who doesn't know how badly they need one. Just visit Vicman, download MPE and start saving the world!
By MICHAEL R. TOMKINS, News Editor
Over the last few years, one of the things that has really made the digital camera market worldwide stand apart from other consumer electronics markets has been the sheer number of manufacturers rushing to grab a slice of the rapidly growing pie.
Digital cameras were the latest must-have product and hordes of consumers were rushing out to purchase their first digicam. Not only that, but many were willing to pay quite a premium to do so. Manufacturers happily rushed in to fill the void. Some brought with them a heritage in film cameras; others brought a heritage in consumer electronics. Some were essentially complete unknowns. Models spanned the range from high-tech cameras with almost every feature a consumer could ask for, to entry-level and toy digital cameras that offered pictures you could almost make out faces in, if you squinted just right.
Some manufacturers designed their own cameras, others tweaked designs from OEMs; some simply resorted to rebadging cameras from the OEMs just to have their name in the marketplace. Cooperation between traditional camera and consumer electronics companies blossomed as they strove to strengthen their respective offerings.
A few years down the line the market growth has slowed, with many consumers already having purchased several digital cameras. With image quality -- even in supposedly entry-level models -- already meeting many many consumers' requirements, the rapid expansion seen in a fledgling digicam market couldn't be sustained indefinitely. A handful of manufacturers from the film camera and consumer electronics fields had by now stamped their dominance on the majority of the market. That, coupled with rapidly falling digicam prices, left the remainder fighting each other on razor-thin margins -- something that can only go on for so long before the cash runs out.
A couple of recent news stories have confirmed this trend, with instantly recognizable names either leaving the digital imaging market or struggling for their very existence.
One such piece of news, courtesy of the British Journal of Photography, is that Kyocera (and its well-known Contax brandname) have ceased making 35mm film cameras and will end production of digital cameras by the end of the year. Contax first appeared in 1932 as a product of Zeiss Ikon AG and was later absorbed into a Japanese electronics company, Yashica. When Yashica themselves were taken over by Kyocera, the Contax brand was included as part of the deal.
Kyocera/Contax produced some fine digital cameras over the years, but the company also stumbled a few times -- most notably with the Contax N Digital, the world's first full-frame dSLR. The camera was a cutting edge product when announced, but struggled against numerous problems. Shipping delays, image noise, poor low-light AF performance, high power consumption and a product recall just a couple of months after the camera started shipping -- all took their toll. In the end what should have been an example of a trend-setting product befitting Contax's reputation became nothing more than a drain on the company's finances.
Kyocera isn't the only company with a rich history that has stumbled in the digital marketplace. Leica is a very well-known brand and one that evokes fierce loyalty among its users. The company that created the first ever 35mm camera in 1914 (albeit as a prototype) lists a number of other firsts throughout its product history. A partnership with consumer electronics company Panasonic looked to have given Leica a great boost in the digital market and the products of these companies' combined efforts have received great reviews.
Despite all this, however, Leica has recently found itself in financial difficulties, with sales dropping significantly year after year. A recent announcement that its forecast operating losses would lead to a loss of half the company's registered share capital prompted banks to partially sever Leica's credit lines. A press release on the Leica Web site puts a brave face on the situation, noting that the reductions in credit lines "do not as yet endanger the Company's solvency" and that Leica has just launched a joint-venture sales company in Japan.
Unquestionably though, Leica is facing one of the most difficult challenges in its 150-plus year history -- and it will have to make significant changes to survive in the digital world.
The difficulties faced by Kyocera/Contax and Leica illustrate perfectly what may be coming for some of the other smaller names in a rapidly consolidating digital camera market. There simply isn't enough growth to sustain so many manufacturers and the question isn't whether there will be more failures, but when (and who?).
For the individual companies involved, these failures will be heartbreaking -- but the world of digital photography as a whole will continue to move on unimpeded, with dozens of manufacturers remaining to spur healthy competition. At the end of the day the consumer wins, with digital cameras that are becoming incredibly capable, for a fraction of what they'd have once cost.
By SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the preview posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D2X/D2XA.HTM on the Web site.)
Rather than wait to do a full review of the new $4,999 Nikon D2x, we just couldn't resist taking this new wondercam out on the town for a few pictures. In addition to the D2x, we also had the AF-S Nikkor 12-24mm 1:4-GB ED DX lens and the AF-S Nikkor 17-55mm 1:2.8-GB ED DX lens, both of which are smooth operators with that Nikon quality feel.
True to the pro SLR design tradition, the Nikon D2x is big and heavy. A joint in my thumb was quickly complaining about the weight as I walked about town. This is no D70, the D2x's comparatively light and well-balanced sibling. Very much like its D1x predecessor and the D2H in construction and design, the D2x has an excellent grip both front and back and an almost equally robust vertical grip. I love the cut of the main grip, with an indent running along the length, offering a place for the pads of the fingers to get a good purchase. This is missing from the vertical grip, however.
Control buttons on the back are big and well-marked, quite a bit larger and easier to manipulate than on the D1x and D2H. I prefer Nikon's simpler menu system to other pro cameras on the market and the menu system on the D2x is both easier to navigate and more attractive than the menu systems on previous Nikon dSLRs. It's a straightforward menu system whose use is immediately obvious and doesn't require too many special button combinations to execute. Exceptions to this rule are applied well, as in the case of the Format function, which requires the user to press the Enter button instead of the usual right arrow button to launch this critical function. I'm also a fan of Nikon's button-based Format option. Just hold down the Delete and Mode buttons for a set amount of time and the camera formats the card.
The LCD is a big 2.5 inch TFT design, very sharp and clear, making image review and menu item selection that much easier. What's even better is that big bright optical viewfinder with a very high eyepoint, great for eyeglass wearers. A switch to the viewfinder's upper left closes a pretty impressive two-stage door from behind the viewfinder glass to keep out stray light during long exposures on a tripod.
Nikon includes a translucent plastic stand-off LCD cover to protect the LCD surface from scratches. I've frankly never understood its utility. I have never scratched an LCD glass on the back of a dSLR, but I've fogged up this silly cover often enough from a mere breath while looking through the optical viewfinder that I've taken to tossing it on a desk or stowing it permanently in a camera bag. I suppose there must be someone who lovingly cares for their plastic cover and appreciates it with every frame. For you, Nikon still includes this shield. For me, perhaps they should include a case for the shield so the shield itself doesn't get scratched in my camera bag.
While it's easy to get lost and forget about an important setting on a camera like this, I found it relatively easy to get back to proper settings, despite the many options on the D2x. Its user interface is intuitive and presented a very shallow learning curve despite the fact that I'm more accustomed to shooting Canon SLRs.
A FEW PARTICULARS
Though the news has been out on the Nikon D2x since mid-September of last year, I should mention a few particulars. By far the biggest deal with the D2x is its dual-resolution nature. It can be used as either a high resolution 12.21-megapixel SLR capable of around 20 JPEG shots at five frames per second or morph into a 6.87-megapixel speed demon that can deliver up to 34 JPEGs at eight fps. That's a far more versatile camera than Nikon has ever offered.
Initially, I found this dual-resolution feature a little perplexing and wondered how much sense it made in the marketplace. Now that I've had my hands on the camera, I think it's such a good idea that I can't help but wonder who would buy the recently announced 4-Mp Nikon D2Hs, whose only apparent advantage is its buffer depth. Otherwise, it too is capable of eight fps, but offers only 4-Mp images (albeit with a lower focal-length multiplication factor and a full-frame viewfinder).
With a few exceptions, the experienced photographer waits for the right moment to get the shot, rather than relying on the motor drive to accidentally capture the peak. In most instances where high speed continuous shooting does help, the Nikon D2x should be able to capture the critical action during the High-speed Crop mode's 2.5 second runtime. Though it'll cost a bit more than the D2Hs, the D2x will be a better choice for most photographers in need of a high resolution, high speed dSLR. Determining what the D2Hs might offer in addition to speed and buffer depth will have to wait until we receive one for review.
Getting back to the D2x, I like not only the bright viewfinder and clear, bright LED focus indicators (which I think are abysmal on the D70), but also their method of telling the user when High-speed Crop mode is active. Four corner brackets light up each time the shutter is pressed and a small crop icon flashes in the status display. Lines run between these brackets to more clearly indicate the capture area, but users can also replace the default focusing screen with another that only shows the corner brackets. That would be less distracting, but the lines are fine enough that I think most users won't care.
Rumored to be a Sony part, the other big news here is Nikon's use of a CMOS image sensor in the D2x. Like many other recent dSLRs, the sensor is APS-size (23.7x15.7mm), giving the lenses a 1.5x multiplier when in full 12.21-Mp mode, but a 2x multiplier when in Hi-speed Crop mode. We'll have more on the sensor's abilities when our testing is complete, but from what we've seen, its images look very nice, at least at ISO 800 and below.
If first impressions still hold value, the Nikon D2x seems likely to be a winner. Frankly, before shooting with the D2x, I was concerned about Nikon's position in the high-end camera market. The D70 was a great camera for consumers and a fine answer to competitors' offerings, but in the pro arena they've clearly lagged somewhat in the last year or two. I think the D2x brings them right back into contention with a pro camera that's not only rugged, good looking and high quality, but that excels where it counts: image quality.
Th D2x we have here is a full production sample, so we've prepared a few key shots for our readers to peruse right away, as well as collection of random Gallery shots from my outing with the camera. Visit our Nikon D2x Gallery (http://www.digital-photography-resource.com/gallery/showgallery.php?cat=642) to see all these shots, with the full-res, untouched camera originals available by clicking through the lower-res thumbnails. Stay tuned, we'll have a full review in a week or two.
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: Sony DSC-P200 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P200/P200A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus Stylus 410 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OS410/OS41A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Phanfare (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHF/PHF.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon D2x (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D2X/D2XA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus E-300 EVOLT (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E300/E30A.HTM)
We usually devote this entire column to a single title, but our recent reading suggested a different pattern. These four (count 'em) titles are not photo books, but they aren't quite off topic either. Instead, we think of them as cross-training. They strengthen mental muscles usually left to atrophy by the how-to photo books, a genre we're finding less and less inspiring.
HENRY MOORE: WRITINGS AND CONVERSATIONS
We found this remaindered at Cody's (http://www.codysbooks.com) for $6, read a few lines (since we're big Moore fans), put it back (at that astronomical price) and wandered away. But we wandered right back, captivated by what we'd read. A sculptor famous for his monumental holes, Moore also enjoyed reflecting on his art and life as an artist. This book collects his written and spoken thoughts by theme. And they're food for any artist's thought.
Here's an example. "People say 'Are you trying to be abstract?' thinking then that they know what you are doing though, of course, they don't understand what the devil it is all about. They think that abstraction means getting away from reality and it often means precisely the opposite -- that you are getting closer to it, away from a visual interpretation but nearer to an emotional understanding. When I say that I am being abstract, I mean that I am trying to consider but not simply copy nature and that I am taking account of both the properties of the material I am using and the idea that I wish to release from that material."
You don't have to work too hard to apply that to photography. It's precisely what Ansel Adams was doing with the Zone System in Yosemite. We're having great fun reading this articulate artist's reflections on the demands of his calling.
Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations edited by Alan Wilkinson, published by the University of California Press, 320 pages, $15.72.
WEB DESIGNER'S REFERENCE
Craig Grannell is no slouch when it comes to the Web. You might call him the Joan of Arc of Web standards. And as such, he's the perfect guy to lead all of us taggers beyond the confines of HTML into an updated design approach that incorporates XHTML and CSS.
He does that in a refreshingly well-designed way, taking you by the hand so you hardly notice what exotic new technologies you are traipsing through and trampling on. Suddenly all these obscure techniques become as friendly as a corkscrew and you can't wait to pop the cork.
We think this amounts to something like continuing education for people who create Web sites. But that's nearly all of us these days. Who hasn't published images on a Web site (a photo sharing service, for example)? Who hasn't made a New Year's resolution to create a Web site showing off the old portfolio? Who hasn't been disappointed or daunted by the task? Grannell helps you wrap your fingers around some powerful new tools, showing you the right way to make them work for you. In just a few pages, you're cutting through the stone of Web design like it was balsa wood.
Web Designer's Reference by Craig Grannell, published by friendsofED, 390 pages, $34.99.
APPLESCRIPT: THE MISSING MANUAL
Inscrutable AppleScript is the subject of two recent titles. Every Mac comes with free Image Event scripting, making it easy to read image data and convert formats. And you can easily assign profiles to images with ColorSync scripting. Not to mention run Photoshop by remote control. It's a shame something so useful is so inscrutable.
Adam Goldstein tackles the problem in the Pogue Missing Manual style. Amusing, helpful and thorough. And it would be the best thing out there -- if it weren't for Rosenthal's title (see below).
But whereas Ronsenthal has no problem organizing his discussion around concepts like variables, coercion and control statements (all of which he gives a very human face), Goldstein breaks AppleScript down to using tools to control, create, organize and play. There's a chapter on Organizing and Editing Graphics that covers scripting iPhoto, controlling Photoshop and using Image Events.
This somewhat friendlier approach to the subject makes the work more approachable but it can also be a little thin. Goldstein gives an excellent step-by-step tutorial on using AppleScript Studio to build an interface but his example application is too cute. It speaks a phrase in the automated voice of your choice, showing how to use only a subset of interface widgets. Compare below.
We always seem to want more out of these Missing Manuals and Goldstein's contribution is no exception. If you're intimidated by AppleScript, though, it's a great way to make friends. In that respect, it's unsurpassed.
AppleScript: the Missing Manual by Adam Goldstein, published by Pogue Press/O'Reilly, 326 pages, $36.95.
APPLESCRIPT: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE
But let's surpass it. For the last eight years Ronsenthal has been automating all-AppleScript graphing and document generation systems for Fidelity Investments, The Hartford, Showtime and The Boston Globe, among others.
One of the weaknesses of AppleScript is that there's no built-in method for letting the user set options. You can ask a question and select a file, but no sliders, no checkboxes, no radio buttons -- none of the user interface things so helpful on, say, a Web form.
Where Goldstein addresses this with a talking application, Rosenthal throws the book at it, showing you every widget and how to read its setting. Both show you how to use AppleScript Studio to build a dialog box, but where Goldstein's is illustrative of the technology, Rosenthal's is comprehensive. He's even put up a site for the book (http://www.applescriptbook.com).
While the book's organization is, consequently, a little like a carpet of pine needles on the forest floor, Rosenthal's writing style is quite readable. In fact, those obscure chapter titles are mere foils for the familiar way he treats them. He takes it easy on you, but not on himself. Examples are constantly honed and qualified by real world considerations. You won't find iPhoto mentioned, but you will learn a lot more about scripting a real-world workflow.
This leads him, in the end, to discuss even the business of writing automation software and why a typical project might cost $20,000 or $1,000 a day. Now there's a missing manual we wouldn't mind reading.
Applescript: A Comprehensive Guide to Scripting and Automation on Mac OS X by Hanaan Rosenthal, published by friendsofED, 850 pages, $59.99.
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 Nikon D2x Pro SLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9dd49/0
Visit the Kodak Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77d
Don asks for advice about ultra zoom cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9db9a/0
Byron asks about flatbed negative and slide scanning at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9d4c6/0
Visit the Seen on the Web Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ba
Members of the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences have submitted their nominations for the Missing Oscar, this year awarded to the best gadget. Ahem, the virtual envelope please (and don't push it)....
The Missing Oscar for 2005 goes to the Sensor Brush from VisibleDust (http://www.visibledust.com) nominated by Dierk Haasis.
"From an innovations point of view," Dierk wrote, "the Sensor Brush shows how useful and productive the interdisciplinary approach is. Originally designed for laboratory work in genetics, it is a rather inexpensive and easy to use tool to clean the image sensor (actually the glass filter in front of it) of your dSLR. A two-minute operation that saves the photographer hours of image post-processing."
Not only that, but Dierk praised the VisibleDust Web site, too, for "showing customers how to use the Sensor Brush with a vengeance, they will update whenever they find a better way to handle the tool!"
But there's a hint of controversy surrounding this Oscar (like any real Oscar).
In his recent article "The Pixel Sweeper," photographer Petteri Sulonen acknowledged the effectiveness of the Sensor Brush but observed, "To all appearances, the VisibleDust brushes look and feel just like inexpensive make-up brushes that you can buy in bulk from China for a few dimes a pop. A hundred bucks seems like a quite a big markup." (The link to the article is in Petteri's March 7 entry at http://184.108.40.206/petteri/pont/Whats_new/a_Recent_changes.html -- unfortunately the precise URL is too long to quote here.)
So Petteri did a little research, noting that you are only brushing the glass in front of the sensor, scratching would require scraping some trapped grit across the glass but the real trick is to avoid leaving residues and, finally, any nylon brush acquires a static charge when blowing air through it (even using a bulb blower).
A good brush, he claims, is soft nylon with a flat, square shape between 10-20mm wide and, most importantly, contains no glue, size or contaminants. And he details a simple way to test any brush (he tried both artists brushes and cosmetics brushes) by examining the reflection of a lamp on a multicoated filter cleaned by the brush. Petteri concludes the article with a six step brush cleaning lesson.
Ah, the critics. Never mind, the Oscar is going to the Sensor Brush. The only real complaint is its cost, no question it works. If only we could say that about a few other things. Now where did we put that Oscar?
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RE: PMA Coverage Follow-Up
About the effective gain in resolution when going to more pixels (Digital Rebel XT article): I know math is not your thing and it certainly isn't critical, but I get a gain of 15.47 percent in linear resolution when going from 6 to 8 megapixels: [(8/6)^0.5]-1 = 0.1547 = 15.47 percent
Let us know how you get 12.5 percent. (Did you think we wouldn't catch this?!)
Nevertheless, your point is right-on about the misleading nature of megapixels as a camera specification. Moreover, have you considered that increasing optical zoom numbers (or focal length) is more valuable than increasing megapixel numbers when upgrading one's camera? If one's goal is to put more pixels across a distant target, increasing zoom/focal length is a better deal, speaking linearly (which you usually are when discussing resolution).
Going for more megapixels is similar to negotiating for a cottage lot with more acres when your actual goal is to get a lot with more lakeshore frontage.
Do you suppose we could get the digicam makers to change to a specification using "square-root-megapixels"? Either way, it's as confusing as the f-number system!
-- Gene Widenhofer(Math not our thing? Not sure which staffer did that math, but they got a lot closer than we would have. They're just 19.2 percent off (roughly), well below our margin of error (50 percent). We'd ask Dave to respond directly, but he's pulling his hair out at the moment, repeating over and over, "He's right, it's 15.47 percent. He's right." -- Editor)
Your story said, "including Sony's DSC-H1, the first long zoom still camera from Sony with image stabilization."
But Sony made some digital still cameras in the floppy disc line that had image stabilizing! The Mavica FD line. They called it Steady Shot. One of their cameras was the FD91 with a 14x zoom and 1.3-Mp. I think they made a 20x also and a 2-Mp version.
Hope this fills in some blanks!
-- Whit(Ah! It had been so long ago that I'd clean forgotten the FD91! I actually reviewed it lo, those many years ago. Absolutely right, it was image stabilized way back then. Judging by the lens design, I suspect the technology was totally different from what is currently used. That lens had a big blocky front on it that apparently housed the stabilization actuator. -- Dave)
We just released an update to Phanfare. You can now enable RSS on your albums and let a friend add your album to their My Yahoo page or other RSS compliant reader. To enable RSS, go to Shring->Web site Options and check the RSS box. Then go to your album home page. An RSS button appears on the bottom right corner with instructions. Note that security is not compromised. We generate an RSS link with a random string in it so that only people who already have access to your albums can add your album to their RSS reader.
We have seen lots of new users from your review. We will keep in touch on the Mac version.
-- Andrew Erlichson(Thanks, Andrew. BTW, one person who viewed our test album actually ordered prints and told me they were very pleased with Shutterfly's service. The quality was excellent, the price reasonable and the turnaround faster than predicted. -- Editor)
Eventually, we will integrate with lots of print services so users can choose themselves.
RE: The Power of Adapters
Is it at all harmful to an AC converter to leave it plugged into a socket and thus sitting there apparently being "juiced"? To be on the safe side, I always unplug the one I have for my camera and also the one for my laptop, but is this really necessary?
-- Barbara Coultry(There's a great little discussion of this at Ric Ford's site (http://www.macintouch.com/macmini04.html) with actual test results. We have a few dozen of those little beasts here, all plugged in to power strips. Some need current all the time, so their strip is always on. Some power devices that are off or in reduced-use mode (like a sleeping laptop), so their strip is on, too. Some are connected to devices turned on only when the moon is blue. Their power strip is turned off until we need the devices. They all seem to draw power (they're warm) when plugged into a live socket -- even if the device they power is off. Much less, we assume, than when the device is on and drawing power from them. So leave the laptop's plugged in to a live outlet and plug the camera's in when needed. -- Editor)
RE: Resize Me
I have downloaded a shareware program called Downsize. It works so well I have forwarded the shareware fee to the creator. It's quick and effective, resizing a whole folder of JPEGs in one go, at infinitely variable size and compression. Designed to work with iPhoto, it displays the iPhoto albums as the default selection of folders or you can choose from any folder on your system. It allows options to frame the images and watermark captions. As a pro photographer this works well as I send screen proofs to clients. Highly recommended.
-- Terry Constanti(Thanks for the recommendation, Terry! Downsize (http://www.stuntsoftware.com) [M] can resize, watermark and frame images in batches with extensive compression and size options. -- Editor)
You know Gary Bernstein as the celebrity judge of our Photo of the Day Contest. But he's also the wizard behind ZugaPhoto.TV (http://www.zuga.net), the world's first and only broadband television network dedicated to photography and photo-imaging. And now ZugaPhoto.TV is about to launch three different themed Photo of the Day contests with one of the richest rewards we've ever seen. They're so rich, in fact, you have to subscribe to the contests on either a monthly or yearly basis. Register early (http://www.zuga.net/contest.php) for the contest launch in a few days.
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has announced that Hasselblad and Leica are among the first camera manufacturers to support the Digital Negative Specification. Hasselblad will allow export to the DNG format and Leica plans to include native support within their new cameras. Hasselblad and Leica join Phase One (Capture One), DxO Labs, Extensis Portfolio and iView in their support for this archival file format for Raw files.
A federal judge has issued a summary judgment in a patent infringement lawsuit against Multi-Union Trading Co. Ltd., ruling that the defendant's ink cartridges infringe Epson's patents. The Court found that 23 models of cartridges sold for use in Epson printers infringe Epson's principal patent claims. The lawsuit is now scheduled to go to trial in September on some defenses asserted by Multi-Union and the monetary damages and exclusion order sought by Epson. The infringing cartridges are often sold in the United States under the PrintRite brand and in generic packaging.
Fantasea (http://www.fantasea.com) has released its $999 FD-70, an underwater camera housing rated to a depth of 200 feet for the Nikon D70. The Fantasea FD-70 is a compact, lightweight, injection molded polycarbonate housing with ergonomically designed handles, making it easy to hold and use. The FD-70's interchangeable port system accommodates a wide variety of SLR lenses, allowing photographers to capture the widest variety of superior underwater images.
John Cowley at Lone Star Digital (http://www.lonestardigital.com) has published Simple Workflow with Filmlike Sharpening. "I found myself spending way too much time on my computer tinkering with my pictures after I transferred them from my cameras," John writes. "So I developed a new, simple, standardized workflow and sharpening system that I now use with all cameras & all pictures." It includes a free action to sharpen midtones on Raw images shot with normal sharpening.
Stuart Little (http://www.stuartlittle.info), a Scottish-based photographer and Photoshop expert, writes, "I provide online digital imaging, color management and Adobe Photoshop training to photographers in the UK and worldwide. I just thought I would email you and invite you to look at my new Web site, where you will find online video tutorials on Adobe Photoshop CS plus other exciting Photoshop-related resources."
PictoColor (http://www.pictocolor.com) has opened PictoMarketplace.com (http://www.pictomarketplace.com), an online store featuring professional color correction, calibration and profiling solutions for digital photographers.
Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has introduced connectors for strobes and hot lights made by Novatron, JTL and Lowel. All are made of heat-resistant cast aluminum for durability and long life. The Novatron connection is $62.95 while the other two are $79.95.
Michael Mulligan (http://agent0068.dyndns.org/~mike/projects/myPhoto) has updated his free myPhoto [M] to automatically share iPhoto albums. This release adds a fast caching system, the ability to combine multiple iPhoto Libraries into one site, full compatibility with iPhoto 2-5 and "countless bug fixes."
The MacZoom Team (http://www.maczoom.com) has announced a new version of its MacZoom.com Web site, a free community site which "allows you to see the best pictures of the Mac and iPod world. Members can upload their own pictures. Visitors just need to create a Free account to manage their favorites, post comments and rate any picture."
KepMad (http://www.kepmad.com) has released its $19 ImageBuddy 3.2 [M] to view, grade, layout, crop, mask and overlay digital images with iPhoto drag-and-drop support. The new version adds several contact sheet features.
Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $30 GraphicConverter X 5.5.2 [M] to view, edit, convert image formats. The new release can disable ICC profile handling in the clipboard.
Australian online photofinisher The Shoe Box (http://www.shoebox.com.au) has released a free iPhoto plug-in [M] so Australians and New Zealanders can order prints directly from iPhoto.
Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released its $69.95 Raw Developer 1.2 [M] an image conversion application for Raw images from over 100 digital cameras. The new release includes faster preview rendering, faster image loading, improvements to the demosaic algorithm, DNG support, a new Exif data window and more.
Bitpatterns (http://www.bitpatterns.com) has released its free iPhotoWebShare 1.0 [M] to share iPhoto libraries over the Web without using iPhoto. Photos can be viewed through Web browsers as the application provides thumbnails, a slide show-like view and automatic scaling.
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
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher