The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 8 15 April 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 147th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We get above it all with Robert Cameron before Dave grabs the new Olympus D. Then we scan every kind of film we can on the i900 before explaining DMax and its cousins. Have fun!


TOPICS

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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: Robert Cameron Retrospective

According to his business card, he's the world's oldest one-eyed aerial photographer. Hemorrhaging retinas have retired his left eye but at 93 (make that 94 on April 21), Robert Cameron is enjoying a one-man show at the Presidio Officers' Club in San Francisco. Running through June 26, the free exhibit is titled "From Above: A Robert Cameron Retrospective" (http://www.presidio.gov/Visiting/Events/Above.htm).

The word "above" wasn't chosen casually. Cameron is the photographer behind the Above book series (http://www.above-books.com). He's done San Francisco four times. New York was last year's best seller, with 15 shots of the Twin Towers. He's covered 22 cities with 2.5 million books in print worldwide, not to mention 270,000 Above calendars.

Cameron has been a film guy since his father handed him a Brownie 1A at the age of 10. These days he relies on his Pentax 6x7 mounted on a 10-lb. gyrostabilizer with six Takumar lenses ranging from a fisheye to a 400mm. The gyro, on exhibit with the prints, is a small canister with helium inside and two gyros whirling in a 2-inch vacuum that mounts to the bottom of the camera. It takes eight minutes to reach 22,000 RPM (and half an hour to wind down). But it keeps the camera steady when he climbs into a helicopter to chase the half dozen shots he's hoping to get. He usually comes back with about 20.

The trick is not to go up with a pilot who has less than 5,000 hours in the air. By then, Cameron observed, the pilot has been through everything and can get him back safely. But even a pilot who's been through everything can be in for a surprise with Cameron. To shoot the Golden Gate Bridge on its 50th Anniversary, he waited until nightfall, got up to 1,400 feet and waited for the fireworks to start. Their ceiling was supposed to be 1,100 feet, but 1,400 proved to be too close for comfort. The pilot got them out of there -- after Cameron got his shot.

He likes helicopters because they can hover. But sometimes even that isn't enough. When his pilot pointed out the tip of the Transamerica Pyramid peeking through a hole in the fog, Cameron grabbed his camera and told him to back up. And he got the shot before the hole disappeared. Helicopters, he said, are tripods in the air.

He learned aerial photography in the service during World War II, shooting images of military installations for the War Department. When the war ended, thousands of aerial photographers tried to make a living at the craft only to find it a very expensive way to shoot. Cameron solved the problem by becoming a publisher, founding Cameron & Co. in 1962.

Following his father's advice to create something people want at a price they can afford, he's kept the price of his coffee table Above series below $30. As a free Internet bonus, he'll autograph any title you buy, with any personal dedication you request, too.

The exhibit occupies nine rooms, displaying 57 stunning images, some of which range up to nine feet long. Rooms are dedicated to San Francisco, the West (Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Seattle), his books, the East (Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago), London and the Thames Valley, Paris and the Ile de France, Mexico, Hawaii, the Great Parks (Presidio, Marin Headlands, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Alaska, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and Hearst Castle).

The huge images were printed at Color 2000 (http://www.color2000.com), a San Francisco color lab. They require, Cameron said, "a good deal of cropping and composing" considering how they are captured.

From the heights he inhabits, you might think Cameron is above that "digital thing," too. But, no, he expects to get into that "soon." You just can't keep a good man down.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus D-590 Zoom -- The New D Delights

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D590/D59A.HTM on the Web site.)

The $299.99 D-590 is the newest entry into Olympus' popular consumer line of D series digital cameras. Small enough for the average shirt pockets, its 3x optical zoom lens and 4.0-megapixel CCD capture good images suitable for printing as large as 8x10 inches. And it presents an interesting variation on a popular Olympus theme.

A sliding lens cover has long been a favorite Olympus design, but was often so large it felt a little clunky. The D-590 enjoys the convenience of a sliding cover, but reduces the size and bulk of the cover itself. It slides back and forth across the lens, but inside the front panel. A sliding switch controls the cover and the camera's power and is much easier to operate. The previous lens cover design made a great finger grip but the D-590 really doesn't have much of a grip at all. Still, I like the new design. Just plan on using that wrist strap.

Equipped with a 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (a 35-105mm 35mm equivalent), maximum aperture ranges from f3.1 to f5.2, depending on the zoom setting. The D-590 focuses from 1.6 feet to infinity, with a macro setting focusing as close as 8.0 inches. Super Macro focuses as close as 3.5 inches, but disables the flash and zoom. The D-590 offers as much as 4x digital zoom, increasing its zoom capabilities to 12x. For composing images, it features a 1.8-inch TFT color LCD monitor. Olympus eliminated the optical viewfinder, presumably in the interest of more accurate framing and a slightly smaller camera size.

Operating under Program Auto exposure control by default, the D-590 has an uncomplicated, straightforward user interface. A multi-page LCD menu system accesses the available settings, although you can adjust flash mode, the self-timer, macro mode and zoom externally. An initial short-cut menu screen precedes the main Record menu to set Exposure Compensation, Image Size and White Balance options instantly or continue to the Record menu. Aperture and shutter speed are always automatically determined (but not reported), with shutter speeds ranging from 1/1000 to 1/2 second (extended to four seconds in Night Scene mode).

By default, the camera uses a Digital ESP metering mode, analyzing subject contrast and brightness across the entire frame. Spot metering is also available. The Exposure Compensation adjustment increases or decreases exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments. White Balance options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent and Fluorescent modes. The built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced (fill) and Suppressed (off) modes.

Program Auto is the main exposure mode with eight preset Scene modes also available, including Portrait, Indoor, Beach/Snow, Cuisine, Landscape+Portrait, Landscape, Night scene and Self Portrait modes. Portrait captures the subject in front of a slightly blurred background, while Indoor is better under indoor lighting. Beach/Snow balances the exposure for bright scenes, while Cuisine boosts saturation, contrast and sharpness for appealing images of food. Landscape+Portrait captures both the foreground and background in sharp focus, great for portraits in front of scenery. Landscape sets focus to infinity for sharp backgrounds. Night Scene extends the available shutter times to four seconds and automatically combines the flash with the slower shutter speed (you can also cancel the flash). The lens remains locked at the wide-angle setting in Self Portrait to make aiming easier and help you get a sharply-focused portrait for those "prove you were there" shots.

The Self-Timer provides a 12-second delay. Sequential Shooting captures a rapid series of images while the Shutter button is held down. The actual number of images depends on the size and quality settings, as well as memory card space. You should be able to capture up to four shots at the camera's HQ setting, at about one frame per second. The 2-in-1 Photography mode records two vertically-oriented, half-sized images. After capture, the images are saved side-by-side as one image, giving a split-screen effect. As with many Olympus cameras, a Panorama mode is available when using special Olympus xD-Picture Cards, recording up to 10 consecutive images that can be merged into a single panorama with the provided Olympus software. For more creative effects, you can transform color images to sepia tone or black-and-white pictures through the camera's Playback menu. Finally, the D-590 has a Movie mode that records moving images (with sound) as long as the memory card has room, at either 320x240 or 160x120 pixels.

The D-590 stores images on xD-Picture Cards and comes with a 16-MB card. I strongly suggest buying at least a 128-MB card though, so you don't miss any important shots. At full resolution, the 16-MB card will only hold about five 2272x1704 images. A CD-ROM loaded with Camedia Master [MW] accompanies the camera, providing minor image editing tools, as well as utilities for organizing images and a panorama tool. A second CD-ROM features the full instruction manual, as a small basic manual is the only hard copy provided. The camera comes with a single lithium-ion battery pack and charger. Also included is a video cable for connecting to a television set and a USB cable for downloading images to a computer.

TEST RESULTS

Color: Overall color was very good and its white balance system also performed well. It handled the difficult incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait test moderately well in Auto mode and very well with its Incandescent white balance setting. Skin tones were good, if sometimes a little too red. Color accuracy was better than average and saturation was generally correct, with only a slight weakness in strong yellows. Overall, a good performance.

Exposure: The exposure system was pretty accurate, requiring only the average amount of exposure compensation in shots that required it. Under the deliberately harsh lighting of the Sunlit Portrait and in the Outdoor House shot, it produced very contrasty images, losing some highlight detail. Shadow detail was typically only moderate, with a moderately high level of noise obscuring the finer details.

Resolution/Sharpness: It performed about average on the laboratory resolution test chart for its 4-Mp class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height in both directions. I found strong detail out to at least 1,200 lines. Extinction of the target patterns occurred around 1,500 lines.

Image Noise: Shots taken in all but rather dark conditions looked pretty clean, with relatively little evidence of detail lost to anti-noise processing. Shooting under rather dim conditions in Night Scene mode did produce noisy images, as you'd expect. What bothered us most was that the D-590 cranks up its light sensitivity in flash mode, when shooting distant subjects. This makes flash shots over 10 feet very noisy.

Close-Ups: It performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.26x1.69 inches in the normal macro mode. In Super Macro mode, the minimum area measured about 1.09x0.82 inches. Resolution was high in both shots with softer details on the coins and brooch in the Super Macro shot due to the close range. Details softened very slightly toward the corners of the frame, but were fairly sharp at the center. The flash throttled down a little too much for the macro area and underexposed the shot, almost certainly due to the bright reflection from the brooch though. Much better than average Macro flash exposure.

Night Shots: The D-590 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/8 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, with warm color from the Auto white balance setting. You could still see the target at the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) light level, but the exposure was quite dark. Noise was high and the camera's autofocus system had a little trouble at lower light levels. Since city street-lighting corresponds to about one foot-candle, the D-590 can capture bright images at slightly darker light levels, but you'll need the flash for darker settings.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The LCD monitor proved to be fairly accurate, showing about 97 percent accuracy at wide-angle and about 98 percent at telephoto.

Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion was about average at wide-angle with approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared quite a bit better, as I couldn't find a single pixel of pincushion or barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was relatively low with about five pixels of faint coloration.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: The D-590 is solidly in the middle of the range for most parameters, with a shutter lag that ranges from 0.84-0.88 second in full autofocus mode and cycle times on the order of two seconds. Startup and shutdown times are also typical of cameras in its class.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time of just over two hours in capture mode, the Olympus D-590 does better than most compact digital cameras. I recommend purchasing a second battery for extended outings, but for casual use, the included battery will probably be sufficient.

Print Quality: Prints from the D-590 looked very good up to about 11x14 inches. At that size, they were a little soft, but looked fine on the wall. 8x10 prints were quite sharp at any viewing distance. In all cases, we saw very little evidence of lost detail due to anti-noise processing. Images shot under low-light conditions appeared rather noisy at 8x10 and larger, but looked fine at 5x7 and below. A notable exception though were flash shots with the subject more than 10 feet from the camera. Our flash test shot at 14 feet was very noisy, even when printed as a 4x6.

CONCLUSION

The D-590 is the next generation of Olympus' user-friendly D series digital cameras. With its available Scene shooting modes, 4.0-megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom lens, the Olympus D-590 is flexible, convenient and easy to use. The point-and-shoot style will put novices at ease, while a handful of exposure and capture modes handles a range of shooting conditions. Its compact size and fully-covered lens assembly makes it well-suited for travel as well. The D-590 has more of a high-quality feel than its predecessor and it cuts a smaller profile as well. Easy pocketability and a very friendly interface makes the Olympus D-590 a good second camera for more experienced enthusiasts, while the attractive price lets novices jump into the digital arena without a large investment.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Microtek ScanMaker i900 -- Best of Both Worlds

We had planned to squirrel away the winter scanning a few hundred old slides. Since we had already discussed using your digicam to copy slides, we wanted to use a film scanner this time. Just how feasible would it be to scan a bunch of old slides with a film scanner?

We hit a snag right out of the box. Our film scanner was a 35mm scanner.

All of our old slides were in 35mm mounts but they weren't all 35mm frame size. Some of them were almost as large as the mount. And some were smaller squarish sizes. It's amazing what mankind has managed throughout history to fit in a 35mm mount.

So we resorted to a flatbed. Not just any flatbed, though. We've scanned transparencies on a flatbed before. We got great results from an expensive Agfa Dual years ago and miserable results from an inexpensive Umax with a transparency adapter.

This time we went for a pretty interesting product from Microtek (http://www.microtekusa.com), the ScanMaker i900. It featured the same dual bed design of the old Agfa and, at $599.99 list (minus a $50 rebate coupon at http://www.microtekusa.com/images/rebatei900.pdf), was closer in price to the Umax. Most importantly, it really didn't care how big a transparency we wanted to scan. Read the illustrated review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/MI9/MI9.HTM) to see our sample scans.

CRITERIA

Of course, there are a few other attributes it needed to qualify. Take a look at Kim Brady's Guide to Desktop Scanners (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/SCANG/SCANG.HTM) from our Sept. 21, 2001 issue for more detail on the following important features.

Inexpensive flatbeds usually boast something as low as 1200-dpi optical resolution (although the trend is upward). If you scan a 35mm film frame at that resolution, your maximum enlargement for a 300-dpi dye sub printer is 4x6. To get an 8x10, you have to be able to scan 2400 dpi (and some people think math isn't our thing). So the low number of the scanner's optical resolution had to be a least 2400. The i900 has 6400x3200 dpi optical, so at 3200 it qualified.

In olden days, the only way to copy a slide was to dupe it. And duping always results in a loss of quality. Typically, detail is lost in both the highlights and shadows, increasing contrast. Naturally, we had about 100 dupes to scan. Precious dupes but dupes. We needed a scanner that could capture as much detail as remained in those dupes, above those high 3.x maximum optical density figures you see on most flatbeds. The i900 has 4.2.

Unlike digicams, most scanners (even inexpensive ones) capture more than eight bits per channel. Eleven, 12, even 14 bits are common, but the i900 captures a full 16 bits. This gives you quite a bit more information to work with.

Finally, we knew we'd be scanning some large files, so we wanted a fast connection. The i900 has both Hi-Speed USB 2 and FireWire ports. We set up the FireWire connection.

With the i900 we got a little more than we bargained for. Because it's a flatbed, it can batch scan up to 12 35mm slides or negatives at a time. At 77 megabytes each, that's probably enough for one batch.

Finally, there are a couple of software items that speak to quality. The inclusion of SilverFast Ai impressed us. Even more, the inclusion of IT8 reflective and transparent targets (with the associated data files on CD).

More companies should supply IT8 targets with their scanners. If not, you have to buy these tools to actually calibrate your scanner. By including them, Microtek makes a statement. And the statement is simply, "Quality."

THE COMPANY

Quality is no stranger to Microtek. The company claims a number of industry firsts from the world's first 300-dpi black-and-white sheetfed scanner in 1985 to the world's first USB and SCSI scanner in 1999. With over 100 patents worldwide, Microtek dedicates over 20 percent of its staff and over 10 percent of its revenue to research and development.

Founded in 1980, the company is headquartered in Industry Park in Hsinchu, Taiwan. The company has major operations and distribution channels in 53 countries around the world. In the United States, Microtek is located in Carson, Calif.

SPECS

The full specs for the i900 follow:

IN THE BOX

Included in the box are all the cables you need (power, USB and FireWire) and a set of SnapTrans templates. SnapTrans templates are plastic inserts the size of a sheet of paper that let you mount multiple filmstrips, slides or transparencies with little more than a snap. The loaded templates fit into an opening in the lower, main staging tray so the film can be scanned with no glass between the sensor and the film (like film scanners and unlike flatbeds with transparency adapters). The included set contains templates for 35mm mounted slides, 35mm filmstrips, 6x9cm film, 4x5 film. Also included is an 8x10 glass film holder assembly to handle larger transparencies. A set of 10 vinyl strips for the glass holder is also included.

Both a reflective and transparent IT8 target are included.

Macintosh software for OS 9 includes Microtek ScanWizard Pro, Microtek Scanner ICC Profiler, Color Matching System, ABBYY FineReader, Ulead PhotoExplorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader. OS X software includes Microtek ScanWizard Pro, Microtek Scanner ICC Profiler, Acrobat Reader. Windows software includes Microtek ScanWizard Pro, Microtek Scanner ICC Profiler, Color Matching System, ABBYY FineReader, Ulead PhotoExplorer and Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Included for all three platforms is Photoshop Elements 2.0 and SilverFast Ai.

We also tried Ed Hamrick's VueScan with the i900, scanning reflective and transparent materials and doing OCR with the latest version. The i900 is fully supported.

Support by email or through the Web site is free. Microtek offers one year of complimentary installation support and fee-based advanced troubleshooting, support and consulting through the MLI Consulting Group. The unit includes a one-year limited warranty.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Macintosh system requirements are 128-MB RAM (256-MB to use Digital ICE), G3-G5 processor with built-in USB or FireWire port, OS X 10.2 or later.

Windows system requirements are 128-MB RAM (256-MB to use Digital ICE), Pentium III processor, USB or IEEE-1394 port, Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP.

INSTALLATION

We installed the i900 twice. Hoisting this behemoth around is not for everyone. At roughly 25 wide-bodied pounds, it's awkward to pull out of the box and hard to lift. Enlist an associate.

That, of course, only speaks to the quality of its construction. It's built like a tank. Considering the sensitive optics, that's a good thing.

Once positioned, you have to unlock the chassis (as with any flatbed). A screw on the bottom can be rotated with a coin or screwdriver. To unlock the chassis, turn the screw counterclockwise until it pops free. It will extend slightly below the bottom of the scanner when unlocked. Lock the chassis before moving the scanner by pushing the screw in and turning clockwise until it's snug.

Connect the cable of your choice to the appropriate port on your computer and you're almost ready to go. You should really install the software before powering it on so your computer knows what is being plugged into it.

Software installs are a lot less painful than they used to be and we have no pain to report in this case. We installed both SilverFast Ai and Microtek's ScanWizard Pro. We had already installed VueScan.

Every one of these three programs knows about ICC profiles and wants one for the reflective bed and another the transparency tray of the i900. ScanWizard Pro actually insists you calibrate and profile the scanner. That's really the last step and all these programs make it easy (if you read the documentation). We can't applaud Microtek enough for including the IT8 targets you need to actually do this. It's the last step to the installation.

PUTTING IT TO THE TEST

Over several weeks, we scanned a variety of material, starting with some 90+ year old black-and-white prints from Germany. Then we scanned some 35mm Tri-X negatives we'd developed ourselves. Color negatives developed at one-hour kiosks were not far behind. Then we scanned a reference set of 35mm slide images with a good deal of contrast and saturated color.

We were impressed with the quality the i900 delivered in each case. The 4.2 DMax delivered excellent shadow detail and the 3200-dpi optical resolution delivered sharp detail. Our notes from scanning each of the various materials follow.

Reflective art. No special template is required to scan reflective material like photos. You simply position the material upside down (so the scanner can see it) with the top near the front, just as you would with a photocopier. The 8.5x14-inch glass is bordered by markings in inches and centimeters. A flat black background is attached to the hood of the scanner.

35mm color slides. The SnapTrans template for slides is, well, a snap to use. You can load 12 at a time in individually numbered windows. The slides are held securely in place by flexible plastic springs. As with everything scanned from the bottom tray, the film should be loaded with the emulsion up, wrong reading. And, as with everything on this scanner, the head should be toward the front.

Scanning 35mm film format as 16-bit channels at 3200-dpi yielded 77-MB files that captured detail in the darkest areas as well as the highlights. Reduced to 8-bit channels, they were 38.8-MB files.

At 3200 dpi, you get enough data to resize (without resampling) for printing at 300 dpi. That yields a 10.1x14.9 image. Which is more than we felt we needed to make 13x19 prints on the Canon i9900 or the Epson 2200.

We examined our originals on the light table with a 10x loupe. Everything we saw there, we found in the scan. Shadows, however, were noisier than scans from a film scanner.

Slides are clearly the most demanding material to scan. They're small, so they challenge a scanner's optical resolution. And they have the densest shadow detail, challenging, requiring a high DMax to distinguish detail there. In both cases, the i900 was up to the challenge. These slide scans were nearly as good as any we've done on a dedicated film scanner.

35mm negatives. The SnapTrans template for 35mm filmstrips, which takes two individually numbered strips of up to six frames each, is the trickiest of the set. The hinge, at the narrow end, slides to be able to align the individual frames to the plastic frame partitions for each strip.

So you open the plastic lid for each strip, drop your strip into the holder, line up the first bank area between frames with an arrow on the holder (which is not the final alignment) and close the lid until it snaps. As it closes, it slides the film strip into what should be the correct alignment in frame partitions, but we found we had to slide the lid back and forth a bit to match up. That's why the hinge slides, after all.

Different cameras will advance the film differently and the developing and drying process shrinks each roll differently, too. So don't expect all frames to line up perfectly. Why does Microtek put those little plastic partitions in the template, then? They help you put the image where the scanner software expects it to appear. If you need more precision, of course, you can always use the glass holder.

On one occasion we ran into trouble with this template. A handcut strip of film slipped below the holder and sliding the lid back only smacked the film edge against the side of the frame partition, preventing the lid from moving back into the holder so it could be raised. Our film was locked into the holder. We resolved this by carefully prodding the film back into the holder from the bottom, touching only the base with a gloved hand.

Negatives play a trick on DMax. The scanner's ability to distinguish tones in the shadows become its ability to distinguish tones in the highlights when you scan negatives. Given the wide latitude of negative film in general, compared with slide film in particular, this presents an interesting challenge to any scanner.

The i900's 16-bit channel capture is a boon for this, though. It may seem like overkill to capture 16-bit channels of what is typically a snapshot, but the reward is a much finer image than was ever squeezed out of that film before. This is particularly true of poorly exposed negatives whose prints from the one-hour machine disappointed you years ago. The i900 can bring them to life.

Converting color negatives to positive is a black art. We discussed it at length in two Advanced articles, explaining what the orange mask does and the proper way to account for it. Fortunately, Microtek's two software solutions both include advanced negative conversion modules that, if nothing else, are excellent starting points. SilverFast Ai includes NegaFix and ScanWizard Pro has a similar feature, as does VueScan.

RESTORING PHOTOS

In fact, just as Microtek engineered the hardware with no holds barred, the included software has every tool you need to do some otherwise hard work. We've mentioned the negative conversion tools. But let's look at the restoration tools.

There are two types of damage that occur to prints. One is color fading and the other is physical damage to the emulsion caused by folds, scratches and tears.

Microtek's ScanWizard Pro addresses both with its PictuRescue system. PictuRescue combines the color restoration technology of Microtek's ColoResue with Digital ICE's infrared defect masking and repair. SilverFast Ai has its own tools to address these issues (see our SilverFast review http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/SF6/SF6.HTM).

Using these corrections is straightforward. In the Scan window, do a Prescan and select only the image area (no border or background). In the Settings window, just select the level of Digital ICE to use (Normal, Strong) to fix physical damage. To automatically restore color, just click the Automatic Color Restoration checkbox.

Digital ICE requires two passes over the image and more RAM. It scans the image in an infrared pass that maps the image defects and scans it for its visual properties. Adding RAM can help processing speed, but it's an inherently longer process. Note, also that this approach is not for film or halftoned images.

We've been meticulously restoring the odd but precious antique image for a long time now. It's demanding work, even with something as sophisticated as Adobe's Healing Brush. It ranges from simple scratch removal to the reconstruction of facial features. It also ranges from duplicating meaningful patterns to filling in fuzzy background features. No mere software algorithm is going to have the intelligence to handle the full range of repairs.

So don't expect miracles when repairing physical defects like tears. You can do better in about as much time using the Healing Brush or a clone tool. But automatic color restoration is a huge time saver. It can be very difficult to find the sweet spot without a tool like this.

QUIBBLE METER

Just a couple of quibbles. Behavior became unreliable scanning within Photoshop with 512-MB RAM and 7-GB free disk space. Running either ScanWizard or SilverFast without Photoshop loaded worked better.

You can get the job done with any of these programs but it could be a more pleasant experience. We're comfortable with VueScan and SilverFast. We knew what to look for in ScanWizard, but its selection of film types leaves a lot to be desired.

So prepare yourself for a little software frustration. Especially if this is new to you.

CONCLUSION

Looking for a scanner that can handle film as well as flats is like looking for a camcorder that can take great stills. If you ever did find one, no one would believe you. They really address different problems.

But the i900 attacks the problem with a large dual bed design, adequate optical resolution precisely controlled for multiple scans and a high DMax to capture shadow detail. And Microtek supplies the IT8 targets you need to calibrate it.

Our tests showed that whether we ran it from ScanWizard Pro, SilverFast Ai or VueScan, we were able to get excellent results with both flats and film (positive and negative). We're starting to wonder about that dual-purpose camcorder and even the Fountain of Youth.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Defining DMax, Dynamic Range and Bit Depth

They are as intertwined as a knot. And nearly as hard to unravel. Scanner manufacturers boast a dynamic range of 3.6 or a DMax of 4.2. And before you can scan anything, you have to decide whether to capture eight or more bits. Let's clarify what DMax, dynamic range and bit depth are all about.

To put the subject in perspective, remember the world we look out upon has a brightness range as high as 1:10,000 when the sun is up. Yet, the typical black and white print has a brightness range of just 1:100, the blackest shadow reflecting only one percent as much light as the brightest highlight.

That range of densities (or measurable tones) from one to 100 is the dynamic range of a black and white print. Like the Richter Scale measuring the force of earthquakes or a PH soil tester in the garden, dynamic range is expressed logarithmically. With white assigned a value of 0 and 4 assigned to very black (although the scale doesn't stop there), the scale would label a range of 1:100 as 2.0. A dynamic range of 3.0 would represent a range of 1:1000, 10 times greater than 2.0.

To calculate the dynamic range a device can capture, you have to know the minimum and maximum density values it can record. That's nothing more than how bright a white and how dark a black it can see. Subtract the dark value, DMax, from the light value, DMin, to get the dynamic range. If your scanner has a DMin of 0.3 and a DMax of 3.6, its dynamic range would be 3.3.

If you're scanning a print, you need a scanner with a dynamic range of at least 2.0, which most scanners today greatly exceed. But if you're scanning film (negatives or slides), you need a wider dynamic range. Negatives have a dynamic range as high as (roughly) 2.8 while slides can be up around 3.2 (with a DMax of no more than 4.0, usually). If you're scanning film, you want a scanner with a DMax of 4.2 or higher to clearly distinguish shadow detail. If you can find a flatbed that does that, you'll be happy.

The captured tones are represented as digital data. A number in short. How large the number can be is determined by the bit depth of your capture device. If it captures eight bits per channel (making a 24-bit RGB color image) like most digicams, each channel can record 256 tonal values. Those 256 values, filtered for red, green and blue, deliver up to 16.7 million possible colors. Which is enough data for your screen and your printer.

But it's not enough when you want to manipulate the tones or shift the color in the image. Do that with a 24-bit color image and you introduce banding or gaps in the transitions between one value and another. It's a subtle but unavoidable posterization of the image.

So, for tonal and color manipulation, it's better to capture a high-bit scan. A scanner that can record 12 bits per channel, can capture 4,096 tonal values (well up from 256). A 14-bit scanner can manage 16,384 values. And a 16-bit scanner can capture 65,536 values.

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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 Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe

Visit the Minolta Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77f

Emily asks about Raw versus JPEG at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9deca/0

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

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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: The Rise of CMOS Sensors

I've been reading you for a number of years and enjoy every issue, often passing it on to others with a strong suggestion to subscribe.

I've been wondering about the relative merits of CCD and CMOS sensors. I recall reading something several years ago that talked about CCDs being superior and that CMOS sensors were only to be found in cheap, low-end digicams. Lately, however, CMOS seems to be the hot item, being used in high end dSLRs such as Nikon's D2x. What gives?

-- George Keller

(Dave wrote the definitive work on CMOS and CCD sensor design in his review of the Canon EOS D30 in our Dec. 1, 2000 issue. As he points out, CMOS technology has a number of exciting advantages over the CCD, but Canon invested a lot in taming the inherent image noise and quality issues that came with the lower cost and other advantages of CMOS sensors. You're right, it looks like other high-end companies are finding CMOS a worthwhile investment now. -- Editor)

RE: Converter Lens?

I have a Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 and have some interest in the tele extender, but my only experience with an extender in the past was awful. The resolution was so poor I got better images by boosting the enlargement of my negatives. It was a Tamron, attached to a Tamron zoom lens on a Canon camera. Could I expect the same kind of falloff in lens speed and image sharpness with Konica Minolta's extender or has newer lens technology made this a non-issue?

-- Leo Stutzin

(We don't have any experience with Konica Minolta's lens converters, but a while ago we did a round up of Nikon's Coolpix converters (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LENS1/LENS1.HTM) with sample shots. Add our recent experience with the Malibu spotting scope (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/MLB/MLB.HTM) for another perspective. You can expect some falloff, the amount depending on the converter, but we've been pleased with the two Coolpix converters we use. Wouldn't live without them, actually. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

As Photoshop celebrates its fifteenth year, Adobe (http://www.adboe.com) has announced Version 9 of the venerable image editor, along with a revamped Creative Suite. We've been using betas of the suite for several weeks and will review the release when it ships. See our news story with screen shots of new Photoshop features (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1112587380.html).


Digital Camera Battery (http://www.digitalcamerabattery.com) is having a sale on its external power packs, starting with a 40W battery, case, three-hour international charger and cable for $349.


O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published Photoshop Elements 3: The Missing Manual by Barbara Brundage in 499 pages for $39.95. The company has also just published iPhoto 5: The Missing Manual by David Pogue and Derrick Story in 388 pages for $29.95.


iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) and Phase One (http://www.phaseone.com) have bundled MediaPro and Capture One PRO for $499, a savings of $199, through May 5.


Bobby Cronkhite (http://bobbysoftware.com) has released ZeboPhoto 1.6 [M], adding features to the Print Layout window, a custom Cooler Colors Picker, a Magnifier window, Previews in the Open dialog and updated icons.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has added OCR to VueScan 8.2 [LMW]. Ed Hamrick writes, "To do OCR with VueScan, either set 'Input:Media' to 'Text' or set 'Output:OCR text file' -- both do the same thing. If you have text in multiple columns and/or multiple places on the page, try drawing the crop box around the specific block of text and press the Save button."


Neven Prasnikar writes to tell us Art Plus (http://www.artplus.hr) offers a free file recovery program for memory cards called Digital Photo Recovery [W].


Total Training (http://www.totaltraining.com) has announced a series of DVD videos covering Adobe Creative Suite 2 hosted by Steve Holmes and Deke McClelland. Prices vary by program covered from $129.99 to $299.99.


Xequte (http://www.xequte.com) has releases its $37.50 Smart Pix Manager v8.0 [W] multimedia management and viewing software.


Liquid Mirror (http://www.liquidmirror.com) has released its $19.99 Images: In Context! 1.5 [W] to apply more than 70 image filters and effects to an image with a right-click in Windows File Explorer.


Talasoft (http://www.talasoft.com) has released its $19.95 TalaPhoto 2.5.1 [MW] with the ability to import iPhoto albums or selected photos, drag-and-drop and copy/paste from iPhoto, support for 8-bit grayscale images and other improvements.


The free JAlbum 5.2 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net), a Java-based Web photo album generator for movies and photos, adds faster updates for large albums, improved memory handling, JSP 2.0-style syntax for inserting simple expressions, support for MP4 files and more.


Comm-Unity Networking Systems (http://www.cnsplug-ins.com) has released its $65 CNS Image 1.0 [M], a FileMaker 7 plug-in for manipulating digital images in container fields.


Echo One (http://echoone.com) has released its $12 DoubleTake 1.5 [M] to stitch two photos together with drag-and-drop iPhoto support.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released iLife '05 updates, including iPhoto 5.0.2, which "addresses issues with application performance on older Macs and improves the stability of book layout, slideshows and more."

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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

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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
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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