The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 10 13 May 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 149th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We listen to you, we do. You asked for a treatise on calibrating and profiling your monitor and here it is (oversimplified but coherent). Meanwhile, Dave takes Panasonic's 5-Mp long zoom for spin. And we take a look at a missing scene setting.

Dave's becoming a regular on PhotoTalk Radio. Catch his latest appearance in which he discusses how to shop smart on the Internet, at http://www.worldtalkradio.com/archive.asp?aid=3884 and stay tuned for future contributions.


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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: Profiling Your Monitor

We once knew someone who didn't calibrate and profile their monitor. They swore to us that the sky is green and the sea blood red. And they had the pictures to prove it!

Of course, you had to see them on his screen. As soon as he printed them, the sky turned blue and the sea green and he couldn't, for the life of him, get that printer to work.

The moral of this story is that calibration and profiling is not an option. It's the only way to get your monitor to stop lying to you. To set it straight. To get the goods. And because your monitor will drift back to its old deceitful ways when you're not watching, you'll have to calibrate periodically to keep it honest.

Fortunately, it isn't hard. It may be impossible, but it isn't hard.

HOW OFTEN

CRT monitors are a good deal less constant than LCD monitors, but both need to be regularly calibrated. CRTs suffer from phospher aging in the long term but in the short term changes to the monitor's electronics can affect gun voltages and beam currents.

LCDs aren't voltage dependent, so they're not as susceptible to drift as the electron guns in a CRT. But you do have to monitor the backlight as it ages.

We calibrate our CRTs monthly and our LCDs every quarter.

DEVICE OR EYEBALL

We use an inexpensive device called the Pantone ColorVision Spyder running OptiCAL software to do both of them. The Spyder doesn't need sleep, doesn't squint in the ambient light and isn't fooled by our Family Room Yellow walls, so it's much more reliable than, say, ourselves in evaluating what is right in front of its nose.

But you can do this by eye, too. Not nearly as well (you'll come up with a slightly different result every time you do it, while the Spyder will not), but it's better than not doing it at all.

EYEBALL SOFTWARE

If you're running Mac OS X, launch Displays in your System Preferences, click on the Color tab and click the Calibrate button. That brings up the Display Calibrator Assistant. If you're running Windows, download the free Monitor Calibration Wizard (http://www.majorgeeks.com/download3912.html) to calibrate your display.

There are other capable alternatives, so if you don't like those, consider Adobe's Gamma or Brock Brandenberg's SuperCal, both of which are cross-platform.

THE GAME

You're now ready to play the game.

The game is to 1) create the best viewing conditions you can, 2) evaluate your monitor's performance and 3) create a profile that describes it so when it says the sky is green, the profile converts the sky to blue.

CREATING CONDITIONS

The biggest environmental issue is ambient light, which should be the same each time you calibrate. You'll be able to see a lot more shadow detail if the ambient light in your room is dim. In a bright room or with overhead lights on (as in an office), much of that can be washed out. If that's the pickle you find yourself in, consider a monitor hood.

If the room light is dim, the color of the walls won't matter a lot (unless it's right behind your monitor, that is), but neutral paint is the ideal. If you do this for a living, paint the walls 18 percent gray. As important as wall color, though, is what you're wearing. You don't want that bright Hawaiian shirt reflected in your monitor.

The monitor itself should not be running any software that affects the display. Don't, that is, run Adobe Gamma and profile your monitor. Turn off any screen saver and don't let your monitor go to sleep during calibration. If it starts a slide show or goes black while a device is trying to calibrate it, you'll have to start over. Don't move the mouse anywhere near the color patch being measured, either.

Make sure your desktop pattern is neutral. Really. The picture of the dog, the family, the new silver hybrid are nice, even reaffirming, but they bias your color vision. Restore them later if you must (but promise to work in full screen mode so your desktop picture won't distract you <g>).

Confirm that your monitor settings are the ones you will actually use. Set the resolution, the refresh rate and any geometry options before you calibrate. Make sure your settings enable 24-bit color, too. Changing any of these things invalidates the profile.

Refresh rate and geometry are important to hold constant on CRTs. Changing either can affect the output of the high voltage supplies that drive the guns, thereby shifting brightness, contrast and color.

Clean the screen. Follow the manufacturer's advice. We use only water (but rarely) and a lint free tissue (a Kimwipe). Chemical cleaners can harm the antiglare coating on CRTs.

Finally, let your CRT warm up half an hour to stabilize. Your LCD is ready to go in just a couple of minutes.

CALIBRATING

Your software will step you through these settings in the right order, but we'll go through each of them to suggest what values to use.

Your monitor's contrast control sets its white luminance. On a CRT, turn contrast all the way up to get the brightest white the monitor can display.

Next use the brightness control to set the black level. Turn it all the way down. Your calibration software will typically display a gray box inside a black one and ask you to set the brightness so you can just barely detect a difference. This is pretty hard to do, but it's going to determine how much detail your monitor displays in the shadows. Shoot for the smallest possible difference (for more detail), not the clearest difference (which delivers less).

You'll be asked to pick a target color temperature. An LCD will have a native white point option (which you will ignore at your peril) but a CRT will give you a few options: 5000 degrees Kelvin (D5), 6500 (D65) and 9300 (D93), typically. 9300 is a beautiful blueish white but may seriously shorten your CRT's life. 5000 is the prepress viewing standard but looks dingy yellow to most people. We suggest you use 6500, the ISO standard for digital imaging.

Target Gamma is the next hurdle to jump. You're usually asked to pick between the old Mac standard of 1.8 and the PC standard of 2.2. The reason 1.8 is the old Mac standard has to do with the Apple LaserWriter's dot gain curve, which it approximates. We have better ways these days of getting the printer to approximate what we see on the monitor. Even though we're kind of a high-key guy, we have adopted 2.2. It gives us a slightly richer display, with smoother gradients with less banding.

If you're using a device to measure your monitor's output, this is when the software will tell you to attach it and let it read the monitor as it displays colors and tints and shades and takes readings to compare to the known values of the colors it's put up.

If you're doing this by eye, you'll be presented with patterns to match against a solid color. Don't look too closely. The fuzzier the image, the easier this is to do. Lean back, squint and don't be too picky. It either disappears or it doesn't.

PROFILING

The software actually takes two measurements. The first set is used to adjust the monitor's output. The second is used to create the profile to tell what color results from any given RGB values and what RGB values are needed to display any particular color.

With the conditions optimized for viewing and the monitor humming its best tune and all the readings taken, it's only a matter of writing the profile to disk -- and using it each time you start up. The software should do that automatically for you, asking only for a name, before writing the profile where your operating system expects to find it.

AN EXAMPLE

We actually profiled a couple of innocent laptops while we were writing this article. There's no time like the present, after all.

We took our own advice, too. We closed the shutters, cleaned the monitors and made sure their brightness settings were maxed out (there's no contrast control on an LCD). We told the Optical software to use the native white point and a gamma of 2.2 and gently laid the Spyder on the screen right where it told us to.

The Spyder read a series of red samples that went from near black to almost white. Then it ran green and blue samples through the same range. Then it spent a while verifying the color temperature.

When it had finished taking its readings, it built the profile and asked us to name it. We actually built two of them. One with a gamma of 2.2 and one with a gamma of 1.8. That way we can just swap profiles if we're really unhappy with the one we're using.

We also did this by eyeball with the Monitor Calibration Wizard, Apple's color profiler (System Preferences, Displays, Color, Calibrate) and SuperCal. We found each one of these eyeball utilities easy to use, although you may not be happy with the results. Just try it again (and again) until you get the hang of zeroing in the adjustments.

CONCLUSION

The point of all this is to tweak your monitor to perform as well as it can and then build a monitor profile that precisely describes what it can do -- and makes sure it does it. That will get you blue skies, nothing but blue skies. From now until you recalibrate.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Panasonic FZ5 -- 5-Mp Plus 12x Stabilized Zoom

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ5/FZ5A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

Panasonic started a little slowly in the digicam arena, but has really come on strong in the last year or two. The $499 5-megapixel Panasonic FZ5 is based on the 3-megapixel FZ3 we reviewed in 2004, which at the time was one of the best deals on the market for a long-zoom camera with anti-shake technology.

The FZ5 increases image resolution, swaps in a larger, higher resolution LCD display, adds a new orientation sensor and slightly refines the body design. Like its predecessor, the FZ5 offers a 12x Leica zoom lens, incorporating Panasonic's own Mega OIS Optical Image Stabilization technology. As I've said before, it's hard to overstate the benefit of this technology on long-zoom digicams. It makes an incredible difference in the usability of long telephoto focal lengths and the FZ5's 12x lens with Mega OIS is no exception. The long-zoom category is becoming increasingly crowded, but the FZ5 has the features and image quality to compete strongly there.

USER'S REPORT

Because I recently reviewed the FZ3, many of my comments here will contrast the FZ5 to its older sibling. Here, then, are some of the features and issues that stood out to me as I worked with the FZ5:

Fit, Feel and Finish. Much like the FZ3, the FZ5's all-plastic body felt a little lightweight, although my impression of the FZ5 in this respect is a bit more favorable. The lighter weight does mean the camera lends itself well to travel, though I'm a little concerned about its durability if it's knocked or dropped. Thanks to a reprofiled hand-grip and its light weight, it was quite comfortable to hold in one hand. The handgrip is fairly small though, leaving my rather large hands feeling cramped holding it.

Lens Quality and Focus Operation. The lens is again the standout on this camera and I'm happy to report its optical quality lives up to its Leica heritage. In particular, corner-to-corner sharpness is noticeably better than average and chromatic aberration is very low, although barrel distortion is just average at maximum wide-angle.

The FZ5 lacks a couple of key enthusiast features in the lens department, relative to its more sophisticated siblings. There's no manual focus adjustment option and while there are filter threads on the included lens hood adapter, there's no provision in the camera's menu system to adapt its focusing for use with accessory lenses.

Optical Image Stabilization. It's hard to overstate the value of image-stabilization on a long-zoom digicam like the FZ5. A 12x zoom is all but unusable in anything other than bright daylight without it. I don't have any way to measure the effectiveness of anti-shake mechanisms, but the FZ5's seems to be a bit better than average in its performance. For a comparison between Panasonic's and Konica Minolta's anti-shake technology, see the Optics page of my original FZ3 review. There, I said the FZ3's anti-shake performed slightly better than the Konica Minolta Z3. The distinction between competing anti-shake systems is pretty fine though. Any of the named cameras is a radical improvement over a similar model without an image stabilization system.

Shutter Response and Shooting Speed. Focusing speed on the FZ5 is somewhat improved compared to the FZ3, particularly when the lens is toward the telephoto end of its range, with two new high-speed AF modes. The new modes work by prioritizing the focusing system rather than the LCD/viewfinder display, which meant that the display could freeze momentarily during focusing. Honestly, this seems like a good trade-off though, and in the high-speed AF modes, focusing speed felt quite good and tested even better, with typical full-autofocus shutter lag numbers in the range of 0.32 to 0.35 second, among the very fastest consumer cameras on the market. It's too bad that a high-speed AF equivalent isn't available for the camera's nine-area focusing mode, which honestly still feels rather sluggish. Although perhaps only by comparison to the high-speed AF modes, as the 9-area AF option gave shutter lag times in the 0.51 to 0.56 second range. If you can pre-focus the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the shot itself, shutter lag is reduced to 0.135 second (a quick shutter response, if not quite as fast as the FZ3).

Another difference relative to the FZ3 came in the cycle time department. While the FZ3 could only snap shots every 1.56 seconds until the card was full (at least, with a 32x Lexar SD card), the FZ5 managed to capture at the faster rate of a shot every 1.23 seconds, despite the fact that the FZ5 is handling much more image data. In high-speed continuous mode, it can fire off up to four large/fine shots at a rate of 3.0 fps, a good rate for a consumer digicam. Continuous mode is where its reduced image data lets the FZ3 hold an edge, capturing up to 7 images at 3.66 fps. Thanks to its good continuous mode speed and particularly to its faster than average autofocus speed, the FZ5 should be well suited for shooting sports or other fast-paced action, as you don't need to use one of the non-high speed AF modes.

Viewfinder -- Eyeglass Friendly. With 20/180 vision, this is a topic that's near and dear to my heart. A lot of digicams require you to get your eyeball very close to the viewfinder in order to see the full frame and many more offer no dioptric adjustment to accommodate those of us with failing vision. The FZ5 does well on both counts, with a moderately high eyepoint (I could just about see the entire frame without touching my eyeglass lenses to the eyepiece) and one of the widest dioptric adjustment ranges I've yet seen in a digicam. The newly enlarged rear-panel LCD, with slightly higher resolution than on the FZ3, seems to have a fairly large range of viewing angles. Sunlight unfortunately hasn't really been much of an option here for the time I've had the camera, but based on the closest we've had to sunlight, it seems like the display is a little better than average visibility-wise.

Control and Menu Ergonomics. Another mixed bag here, I'm afraid. On the one hand, as was the case with the FZ3, I love the FZ5's menu system. I actually didn't find it anything special when I first looked at it, but once I started operating the camera, I found myself just flying through the menu system. I don't know what makes it so fast, perhaps just the subtle timing of how the menus respond to the buttons on the multi-controller, but whatever the cause, I ended up liking the FZ5's menu system better than those of most digicams I test. Likewise, the new button for the Optical Image Stabilization saved me having to delve into the menu to enable or disable the feature and was greatly appreciated.

On the other hand, I really disliked the action of the Exposure button on the camera's external controls. You use this button to switch the multi-controller from its normal functions to controlling the shutter speed and/or aperture settings and I found it terribly awkward to have to press the Exposure button before being able to use the multi-controller to change the exposure variables. What would work a lot better would be a multi-controller with a central button, of the sort used by many digicams these days, letting the central button take the place of the current Exposure button. Likewise, I was very disappointed to see that the Program Shift function has been removed. This was a nice feature that let users bias the camera toward a fast shutter speed/wide aperture or a slow shutter speed/small aperture, without really needing to understand what the values meant and set them directly in the Shutter/Aperture priority modes. Why it was removed is beyond me.

Bottom Line. Thanks to the significantly improved shutter lag times (with the provisos mentioned above), I found myself a lot happier with the FZ5 than I'd been with the FZ3. And the FZ3 was quite a nice camera in its own right. The larger LCD was a welcome change and the added resolution will allow for larger prints or more cropping of images -- definitely a bonus compared to the FZ3's rather limited resolution. The new orientation sensor may also make your life easier, if your workflow recognizes the corresponding Exif tag. All in all, the FZ5 was a camera I grew to find myself really rather liking, despite a couple of small quirks.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The FZ5 generally produced very good color throughout our testing. Strong reds, blues and greens tended to be a bit oversaturated, but color as a whole was more accurate than average. The FZ5 did tend to leave slight warm casts in its images, but they were well within what I'd consider to be acceptable limits. Skin tones were good, slightly more pink than in real life, but definitely acceptable. Indoors, the Auto and Incandescent white balance options struggled with household incandescent lighting, but the camera's Manual white balance option did very well. All in all, very good, pleasing color.

Exposure: The FZ5 handled my test lighting quite well, though the camera's slightly high native contrast resulted in lost highlight and shadow detail in harshly-lit subjects. In outdoor lighting, the camera generally required less exposure compensation than average on shots that typically need it, while indoors it required about an average amount of adjustment. Overall, very good results.

Resolution/Sharpness: It performed well on the laboratory resolution test chart for its 5.0-Mp class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,100~1,200 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found strong detail out to at least 1,400 lines horizontally and to about 1,300 lines vertically. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,650 lines.

Image Noise: The FZ5 generally showed moderate image noise with a fine grain pattern. There was noise in the blue channel, even at ISOs 80 and 100, but it was for the most part invisible when viewing the full-color image. At ISOs 200 and 400, the noise level increased, with stronger blue and yellow pixels present that were visible on-screen. Noise was most distracting at the 400 ISO setting, even though a modest amount of subtle detail was traded away to reduce it. While the noise at ISO 400 was quite distracting on-screen or in large prints, it didn't look bad at all in 5x7 inch prints and was for all intents and purposes invisible at 4x6.

Close-ups: It performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.59x1.20 inches. Resolution was very high and detail was strong in the dollar bill. The coin and brooch details were soft, due to the shallow depth of field that's a natural consequence of such a close shooting range. Details softened slightly toward the corners of the frame, but were fairly sharp on the dollar bill. The FZ5's flash was partially blocked by the lens though and thus ineffective for even moderate close-ups. Definitely plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the FZ5.

Night Shots: The FZ5 is a very good low-light shooter, able to focus in pretty dim lighting (about 1/6 foot-candle) and with the exposure flexibility to handle quite dark conditions. Its biggest limitation for after-dark use is its EVF/LCD viewfinder, which is really only usable down to about 1/4 foot-candle. Still, that's about 1/4 the brightness of typical city street lighting at night, so the FZ5 should do just fine for after-dark shooting in most lighted areas. The DMC-FZ5 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at the 400 ISO setting. At ISO 200, images were bright down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level, though the target is visible at the lowest light level of the test. At ISOs 80 and 100, images were bright down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level. Noise was fairly low in most shots, though it crept up to a high level at ISO 400. Since city street-lighting at night generally corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, the FZ5 should do very well for after-dark photography in typical outdoor settings.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The electronic optical viewfinder was quite accurate, showing about 99 percent accuracy at the wide-angle zoom setting. At telephoto, the top measurement line was cut off in the final frame, but the coverage was also quite close to 99 percent. The LCD monitor produced identical results, since it's the same view on a larger screen.

Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion was about average at wide-angle, with approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared quite a bit better, with only 0.2 percent pincushion distortion (about two pixels' worth). Chromatic aberration and corner softness were low at wide-angle and medium focal lengths, higher but still about average for a long-ratio zoom lens at the telephoto end.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: The FZ5 is a little slow off the mark, getting its lens deployed when you first turn it on, but after that it's quite speedy indeed. Shutter response is very good with a full-autofocus lag time of 0.51 to 0.56 second. Its shot-to-shot cycle times are exceptionally good, at 1.23 seconds for large/fine JPEGs, regardless of how many shots you take in rapid succession. That is, there's no arbitrary buffer limit. Continuous mode speed is also good, ranging from 2.14 fps in unlimited mode (run lengths limited only by card capacity) to 3.0 fps in high-speed continuous mode for up to four large/fine images in rapid succession. Very impressive overall!

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time just shy of two and a half hours in capture mode with the rear-panel LCD selected, the FZ5's battery life is very good. Despite this good battery life, I still recommend that heavy shooters planning long-term outings purchase a spare right along with the camera.

Print Quality: The FZ5's print performance was about what I've come to expect from a good-quality 5-Mp camera. At 13x19 inches, its prints were slightly soft-looking, but more than good enough for display on a wall, where they won't be scrutinized at close range. Prints at 11x14 and below were plenty sharp for any usage. Shots at ISO 400 were noisy-looking at 8x10 inches, but many users would doubtless find them suitable for display on a wall or table. At 5x7 inches and under though, the high-ISO noise really wasn't an issue. Color on printed output was also very nice and natural-looking, a good job overall.

CONCLUSION

The 5-Mp Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 is a very strong follow-on to last year's highly popular FZ3 model. Like the FZ3 before it, the new FZ5 offers excellent value in a long-zoom camera with optical image stabilization such an impressive feature set. Aside from the boosted resolution in this year's model, the new FZ5 offers significant improvements in shutter lag, minor boosts in cycle time and a larger rear-panel LCD, a welcome addition.

To my mind, the dramatic improvements in shutter lag in its high speed autofocus modes is the biggest news, as it makes the FZ5 a truly excellent camera for shooting sports and other fast-breaking action (like active toddlers or older kids at play).

Bottom line, the FZ5 is a very capable camera that offers a lot in an affordable consumer digicam, with an excellent 12x zoom lens and optical image stabilization to boot. With a full range of exposure control modes, including a full manual setting and no less than nine preset Scene modes, the FZ5 is an approachable camera for both novices and more experienced users alike. Its rich feature set, good image quality and overall responsiveness made it a shoo-in for a Dave's Pick award in the long-zoom category.

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New on the Site

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

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In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

Read about the Canon EOS 20D at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9ad5d

Visit the Nikon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f781

A user asks about battery life at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9e19c/0

Jessica asks for advice about choosing a camera for equine photos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9e9ef/0

Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae

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Just for Fun: Eric's Perspective on Scenes

Blurry shots. What's the story? Eric, a high-school sophomore of our acquaintance, unplugged himself from his iPod for a minute to see if we knew how to get sharp pictures without flash.

"Sure," we said. "Where's your camera?" He ran off and returned with it before we had a chance to think this through. Delay being of the essence, we asked, "And the manual?"

"Mom! Where's the manual for the camera?" he deferred to a higher source. She actually knew, however, so we hadn't bought much time.

Of course, we knew what we wanted to impart: how to avoid camera shake. We'd written about it in previously "An Auto Mode for Room Light" (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html). Punch up the sensor sensitivity, turn off the flash, set the Mode to Shutter Priority and the shutter speed to a handholdable 1/60 or 1/30 second and let the fun begin.

Except that was years ago. Scene modes hadn't been invented.

The trouble with Scene modes is 1) they aren't easy to remember and 2) some cameras are so cocky about them they leave off essentials like Shutter and Aperture Priority modes.

Eric had a recent vintage Nikon Coolpix. His model featured Nikon's exclusive Best Shot Selector, which we explored in "Have Your 'Best Shot' Taken." Set BBS on, press the shutter button and your Coolpix will take three shots, saving the largest JPEG, which (by definition) has the most detail.

That doesn't teach you anything, though.

So I explained the game. You can only hold the camera still at shutter speeds above 1/30 second. So you want to enforce that limit and let the camera set the lens aperture as wide as it must to get the right exposure. Which Scene mode lets us do that?

This is where the manual came in handy. It listed not only all the Scene modes but exactly what each one does, information that is not obvious.

Scene modes set a lot of options besides the aperture and shutter speed, including white balance, ISO, flash mode, focus and more. Some of these you can tweak and others you can't. You can almost always cheat, though, using the exposure compensation of the EV setting.

Eric wanted to shoot indoors without flash and not a lot of light. We needed 1) a slow shutter speed, 2) no flash and 3) high ISO.

Museum mode looked the most promising. Flash is turned off, but shutter speed can drop as low as one second, requiring a tripod (often not permitted in museums). And ISO was Auto. To its credit, it turns on BSS.

Sunset looked good. No flash, shutter speed drops as low as one second again and ISO is set to Auto. Eric had tried that (he's big on sunsets) but found the images appeared too red, probably from an under-exposure compensation setting to maintain the color.

Hmm. Shutter speed was the problem here. If you can't prevent it from dropping below 1/30 second, you risk camera shake blurring the picture.

Portrait was intriguing. It offered a 1/60 shutter speed (to sync with a flash setting, but the flash could also be off) and uses a large aperture to reduce depth of field. ISO was set to 100, though.

Beach/Snow also kept the shutter speed to at least 1/60 but also insisted on ISO 100, although it supported turning off the flash. Unfortunately, it overexposes by design (to avoid being fooled by bright sand and powder).

Night Portrait and Party/Indoor Scenes sound ideal but they both set the flash to Slow Synch with Anti-Redeye.

Documentation for Scene modes is not very extensive, even in the manual. And reviews often gloss over them to the extent you can't be sure your Portrait mode is the same as another model's. So experimentation is inevitable.

Can't find a Scene mode that works? Nikon's solution is to use Auto mode. Our solution in this case was to use Manual mode. We turned off the flash, set the ISO to 400, set the shutter speed to 1/60 and trained the Coolpix on a middle gray representative of the room light to find the right aperture (wide open by the time we figured it out). If you don't like what you get, we told Eric, change the aperture.

We were saved from further elucidation by the one word that can change anyone's mode. "Dinner!" came ringing out from the kitchen.

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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: Zuga Contest

You wrote, "When we announced the lucrative Zuga.net photo contests in our April 1 issue, some of you signed up. But some of you probably couldn't help but think we were kidding."

You're not kidding! Having some history in TV news, my first thought was that this was your contribution to the April 1st "fool the viewers/readers" sport that the media like to indulge in. Reading further, I felt that you'd overdone a perfectly good April Fools joke by talking about "Basalt tripods" among the otherwise quite plausible list of prizes.

I mean, come on!! Who's going to swallow that?

So I clicked on some links, all the time thinking, "They aren't fooling me!"

Clicked the http://www.BogenImaging.com link and quickly discovered they were in cahoots with you. Well, it's starting to look like a pretty complicated scam by now. Hmmmm, I guess no one will know if I click on the Zuga-photo link. <:-|

Hmmmm. :-[

Read the rules, paid the registration fee, posted an entry. Two days later, an email: "The photo with the filename 'Fire in the sky.jpg' that you submitted to Zuga Landscape/Nature/Travel monthly photo contest has been selected as the Photo of the Day for 4-5-2005."

Not bad guys! I can't wait to see your April 1st effort for 2006!

Can't wait to see the results for the April contests, either! (OK, I'm willing to concede that there might be some truth in it all after all) :-)

-- Ian

(You aren't the only reader who entered and won, Ian. But there isn't room to publish letters from everyone. Yours was the one that wondered least about conspiracy theories, though. -- Editor)

RE: The Short & Long of It

In your very helpful "Beginner's Flash," you wrote: "We use a 30 second interval most of the time. But we do switch to one or two minutes when the action is slow (meaning, we have to wake the camera for every shot). That shortens our battery life."

Not sure I understand that -- it seems counter-intuitive to me. If the action is slow, wouldn't you be better off with the shortest interval? Since you're unlikely to want to take a show quickly, aren't you better off putting the camera to sleep quickly (as with a 30 second interval)?

-- Ed

(Apologies for the obscurity, Ed! Let's see if we can figure out what we meant <g>. We use a 30-second time out when we know we're going to take a few shots in a row without pausing longer than 30 seconds between them. A birthday party, for example, where the cake is on its way and the guests are singing and the candles are blown out. When we're done, the camera will go to sleep in just 30 seconds until it's time to open presents. But when we aren't going to take several shots within a short time (when the action slows down), we set the timer longer. Like a sporting event where you want to be ready when something happens that just may not happen for a while (I'm thinking baseball here). The interval between shots is longer, so we let the camera stay awake longer. We don't want to miss the shot because we have to wake up the camera. We should have explained that better. Thanks for giving us a second shot! -- Editor)

RE: Scanner Cleaning

My HP ScanJet has this problem also [fogged glass in Joe's scanner in our April 29 Letters column] and it is most definitely not moisture condensation.

I suspect that one or more of the plastic materials used in the scanner construction or maybe the light tube itself, has evaporated off some volatile substance when heated.

The appearance of the glass is more like it has a coating of watery milk or some cigarette smoke trapped in there.

My guess is that the glass has to come off (don't ask me how) for cleaning with a solvent.

-- Neil

Joe asked about cleaning the inside glass of his scanner.

Plasticizer out-gassing or off-gassing, from plastic components inside the scanner will cause condensation on the glass, just as happens on the inside of automobile windows. Over time the glass becomes hazier and hazier.

My Visioneer 3000 had four screws on top. I would pull off the cover, unscrew the screws, lift off the top and clean the glass. I used Windex, paper towels and, when everything was dry, a can of compressed "air" to dust it all off.

I suppose this could be hurtful to the CCD sensors (which I never tried to clean) but scanning through a foggy glass is just a different kind of broken.

-- George Scheuch

(Thanks, guys! -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

If you're upgrading to OS X 10.4 Tiger, visit Macintouch's Tiger Compatibility page (http://www.macintouch.com/tigercompat.html) to see if your critical applications have any issues. We've installed Tiger on our test Mac and are generally pleased with the results but have a lot of work to do after an archive and install. One interesting change is that preference files are now binary, not text files, as Ted Landau points out (http://www.macfixit.com) in his article on application crashes.


iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) has released iView MediaPro 2.6.4, a free upgrade with Tiger and Spotlight support. The company is also conducting a survey to find out how pro photographers feel about digital photography (http://www.keysurvey.com/survey/53656/9d5c/).


Extensis has published its own Tiger compatibility page (http://www.extensis.com/en/support/product_compatibility.jsp), noting Portfolio 7 has "compatibility issues with Mac OS X 10.4 as well as reading XMP metadata from Adobe CS 2 files. A new version is under development and should be available shortly."


Automated Workflows (http://www.automatedworkflows.com) has released sets of Automator Actions for FileMaker, InDesign, iPhoto and Photoshop. The Photoshop Photographer Action Pack 1 includes an example workflow to create copyrighted, watermarked preview images in the program.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has shipped Creative Suite 2 [MW] (which we've installed on our test system for review shortly) and, at the same time, updated its free DNG Converter and updated Camera Raw to 3.1 to support over 75 camera models, including the newly added Canon EOS Rebel XT, Nikon D2x, Olympus EVOLT E-300 and Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom.

David Pogue, New York Times technology editor, published a comprehensive recap (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/05/technology/circuits/05POGUE-EMAIL.html) of the Nikon white balance support issue. Titled Pixels and Protocol, it even had a hopeful ending.


CS Odessa (http://www.conceptdraw.com) has released its $79 ConceptDraw Reporter [MW] to create photo-based text documents automatically using page templates for print, PDF, HTML and PowerPoint output.


Mike Johnston writes that The Empirical Photographer, his collection of over 100 articles on photography, is now available for $26 from his new publishing venture, Bearpaw Booksellers (http://www.lulu.com/bearpaw). He's planning a second title called Lenses and the Light-Tight Box, a collection of articles on photographic technique and craft.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has posted over 60 free step-by-step, easy-to-understand lighting lessons under three categories: Lighting Principles, Equipment Lessons and Lighting Lessons. The company plans to add more in the months to come.


Acronnect Software (http://www.acronnect.com) has released ImageEngine 2.0 [M], an Acrobat plug-in to work with images in PDF files and the less expensive ImageEngine Export 2.0, an Acrobat plug-in to export images from a PDF document as Photoshop files.


Color IQ (http://www.coloriq.com) has announced its $79.95 IQ Match [M], to match colors between monitors, digicams, scanners and printers, will be released by early June. A Tiger-compatible version for $129.95 will follow.


LaserSoft Imaging (http://www.silverfast.com) has released its $480 SilverFast PhotoProof [MW], an add-on for DCPro Studio and HDR Studio that optimizes RGB images in RGB mode and can display a CMYK simulation of the image "by means of RGB softproofing on the calibrated monitor." Using PhotoProof, image data doesn't have to be converted to CMYK.

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).

Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com

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
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Happy snapping!

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

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