The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 11 27 May 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 150th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter (who's counting?). We scan the new Konica Minolta 35mm slide scanner while Shawn compares Nikon's D50 to its Canon competition. Then we reveal our plan to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.


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: Konica Minolta Elite 5400 II -- Outside the Box

Just as we were wrapping up our review of the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 what does Konica Minolta do? It releases the $599 DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 II. It was back to the drawing board for us.

Konica Minolta had already gone back to the drawing board themselves, though. And the differences between the two models are noteworthy.

The metal case of the original has been replaced by a white plastic box that can stand up without assistance. And the FireWire and USB ports of the original have been reduced to a single USB 2.0 port on the 5400 II.

One disappointment remains. If your images are not 24x36mm 35mm frames, forget it. This is strictly a standard 35mm slide scanner. No other formats need apply.

But what made the 5400 famous hasn't been tampered with: that 5400-dpi resolution.

The 5400 II does show some evidence of evolution, too. First, it improves conversion of negative film with its new Film Expert Algorithm. And second, it's faster than the 5400. Using an improved drive mechanism, optimized internal processing and proprietary optics, scan time is down to 25 seconds a frame. It also uses less power (20 vs. 30 watts) and is a bit wider and shorter.

But our enthusiasm was tempered when we learned the included software could not actually calibrate the scanner. Konica Minolta does include profiles for scanning positives and negatives, but you can't scan an IT8 target and build your own profile in the supplied software.

Fortunately, since version 8.2.13, VueScan supports the scanner (although VueScan identifies it as a 5400, not a 5400 II). So you can profile the scanner in VueScan.

Working with the 5400 II was a pleasure. The faster speed seemed to make up for, well, everything else. We had both 5400 models here and kept gravitating toward the II. Let's see why.

IN THE BOX

The scanner ships with two plastic, hinged holders. One holds four 35mm slides, the last of which can be swapped with the holder in the scanner. The other holds a six-frame strip of 35mm film.

They are not identical to the 5400's holders, though. Those have pointed feed ends, rather than the blunt ones of the II. The negative holder has lost a couple of frame struts. Negative film isn't always framed precisely the same, although it's hard to see how this accommodates any deviation.

Glass mounted slides can't be used in the slide holder. The glass reflects the scanner light. Paper mounts can be between 1-3.2mm thick.

Also included is a USB cable, the AC adapter for power and a reset tool (so you won't have to unbend a paper clip) to close the scanner door. Someone explain to me why scanner manufacturers always include a cable (or two) while printer manufacturers never do. There should be an ISO standard on this.

Two CDs are along for the ride. The 5400 II CD includes drivers, profiles and Konica Minolta's scanning software suite. The other is an Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 CD. An instruction manual and a warranty card complete the kit.

Unlike the 5400, the 5400 II does not include a scanner stand. The 5400 stand helped keep that narrower, longer unit upright. The 5400 II is stable enough without it.

FEATURES

Hightlights of the 5400 II features include:

The 5400 supports several automatic image correction technologies as well:

Three scanner software applications are also included:

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Macintosh systems require a PowerPC G3 or later (G4 recommended) running OS 9.2.2 or OS X 10.1.3-10.1.5, 10.2.1-10.2.8 or 10.3-10.3.6. We've been running version 1.1.5 of the 5400 software (after reinstalling) as well as the latest VueScan under Tiger 10.4 without a problem. But since our Tiger box does not have USB 2.0, we didn't run the 5400 II software on it.

Windows systems require a Pentium 166-MHz or later (Pentium III or above recommended) running Windows 98/98SE/2000/ME/XP.

Both Macintosh and Windows systems need 128-MB RAM (256-MB RAM recommended), 600-MB hard disk space on the startup disk, an 800x600 monitor displaying 16-bit color (but 1024x768 with 24-bit color is recommended), a USB port (1.1 is supported but with files as large as 42.2-MB, 2.0 is really more than a recommendation).

In addition to the USB port on your computer, Konica Minolta recommends several USB boards for use with the scanner. Windows recommendations are Adaptec USB2connect 3100 and 5100 plus their DuoConnect. Both Macintosh and Windows recommendations include Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 5-Port and 3-Port PCI cards.

Recommended RAM requirements vary depending on which functions are used. 16-bit channel scanning requires 128-MB RAM (256-MB recommended), while Pixel Polish, Digital SHO/ROC/GEM require 256-MB RAM (512-MB recommended). Pixel Polish requires an unused block of RAM four times the size of the scanned image.

Hard disk space requirements also leap when using more sophisticated functions. 16-bit scanning, Pixel Polish and Digital SHO required 1.2-GB with 2.0 recommended. Digital ROC/GEM needs 1.8-GB with 3.6-GB recommended. And 16-bit Digital ROC/GEM needs 3.0-GB with 6.0-GB recommended.

Fast user switching is not supported on either Macintosh or Windows operating systems.

A QUICK TOUR

Like the 5400, the front panel is simple. Apart from powering the scanner on or off and loading film holders, you really don't need to access it.

The On/Off button with the indicator lamp is at the top to the left of the film holder slot. Below it but still to the left of the slot are the Scan and Eject buttons. The Scan button (also called the Quick Scan button) launches the DiMAGE Scan Launcher. Protruding from the bottom of the face plate is the Manual Focus dial. When enabled in the software, this adjusts focus by twisting left or right.

The back panel has just the one USB port and a connection for the power adapter.

GETTING TO WORK

There must be a special trade school somewhere on a lost continent that teaches film holder engineering. We mere humans must fiddle with these things until, in exasperation, we frame the manual illustrations on the wall closest to the scanner.

The trick to loading a film holder is to remember that down is up, up is down, right reading is upside down. Since holders are uniformly black (to avoid reflecting light), telling up from down can be challenging. Indicators are embossed, but it would be nice to add Braille.

The slide holder has two latches at the bottom (which is actually the top when inserted into the scanner) and helpful frame numbers oriented correctly that disappear when you open the holder. Well, at least you don't have to worry about portrait and landscape orientation. Everything is landscape.

Load four slides emulsion down (so they appear right reading) and close the holder. The last slide can be replaced without ejecting the holder from the scanner.

The negative holder has a single latch. Same drill. Emulsion down, right reading.

To load the holder into the scanner, observe the Up arrow embossed near the feed end. It will be upside down as you load the holder.

But first, launch your scanning software.

With the software expecting something to do, gently push the holder into the scanner. The scanner will grab the holder and feed it in to do an index scan, which shows the software what's in the holder.

Ejecting the holder can be done in the software after you've scanned everything or just by pressing the Eject button. We prefer to control the scanner from the software interface, but the button is helpful when the software fails to respond.

THE SOFTWARE

We generally prefer not to use the manufacturer's scanning software, opting instead for VueScan or SilverFast. The advantage, for a reviewer, is being able to focus on the hardware. The 5400 II ships with several proprietary scanning applications, which we did test. It does not include a copy of SilverFast.

We can heartily recommend the Easy Scan utility. It takes you step-by-step through the scanning process, with buttons to enable all the advanced features and even an edit option to adjust the final image beyond what the scanner likes. Instructions were very clear and easy to follow and we got excellent results quickly.

We have been less thrilled with the main Scan utility, but the problem is the interface rather than the functionality. There are more icons than you can easily take in, even after becoming familiar with them. We found ourselves continually referring to the help message box in the upper right to find out what any particular icon was doing. You can get the job done, but you have to work at it.

The Batch utility is accessed through the Launch utility, which also provides access (via individual buttons) to the Easy Scan and Scan utilities. After configuring Master settings for the batch scan and initializing the scanner, you can scan holder after holder of images. You can even configure the Quick Scan button to run the Batch utility. Very nice.

RESULTS

We scanned black-and-white positives, color negatives and color positives. You can see samples in the illustrated version of this review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/KM5400II/KM5400II.HTM).

In each case, the results showed fine detail and excellent tonal range and color capture. It's difficult to draw the line between the raw capture and the corrected file (particularly in the case of negatives), but we saw some gorgeous histograms.

On the other hand, we found it very easy to mangle an image by applying all sorts of corrections. When you need them (to restore faded colors, say), they're nice to have. But for archiving your film images, less correction goes a long way. Postponing corrections like grain suppression may not be efficient, but it's very easy to oversharpen an image, for example. And bumping up the contrast (or letting Pixel Polish do it automatically) clipped our shadow detail a bit more than we like.

What impressed us especially was how easy it was to confuse a color negative conversion with a slide capture. We didn't find much fault with the 5400's negative conversion and there's little evidence of the new Film Expert Algorithm in the 5400 II. You don't, that is, have to select a film type (as you do in VueScan). We threw a very oddly colored Kodak Gold 200-2 emulsion at it and got a very nice conversion (VueScan handled this well, too).

Detail at 5400 is impressive. You aren't likely to see this if you are scanning for small output. But 5400-dpi surpasses the old 4000-dpi standard.

In short, the scanner itself seems to outrun the software. So if you're unhappy with your scan, change your settings and try it again. The 5400 II can do the job.

CONCLUSION

It's hard to beat a box that can quickly (25 seconds) scan 16-bit channels with a dynamic range of 4.8 (implying a higher Dmax, the maximum density it can record) at 5400-dpi resolution (a 42.2-Mp file) with multi-sampling to reduce random noise. We miss the FireWire connection and begin able to create our own profile in the DiMAGE Scan software with an IT8 target.

Probably its biggest drawback, though, is its lack of versatility. It can only scan 24x36mm 35mm film. That, however, is also something of a convenience. You never have to crop or configure multiple target areas.

So if high quality 35mm film scanning is on your to-do list, this is a great way to get it done. When Konica Minolta went back to the drawing board, they went outside the box to engineer a remarkable scanner.

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Feature: Nikon D50 -- A Family Mode dSLR

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D50/D50A.HTM on the Web site.)

MANUFACTURER OVERVIEW

Nikon launched the era of the mass-market pro dSLR with the D1 several years ago. They ended a bit of a lull with the breakthrough D70, a particularly strong product combining an excellent feature set with an superb kit lens.

The new Nikon D50 inherits a lot from the D70 but at a lower price and in a simplified format intended to capture the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of the vast family photographer market.

This is only a first look at the D50, based on a prototype. We'll update this review on the site with a full set of sample photos and test results once production samples become available.

USER REPORT

Through 2003 and 2004, it was starting to look like mighty Nikon was in danger of falling permanently behind its traditional camera-making rivals, especially in the area of SLRs, both professional and consumer. Canon's Digital Rebel, announced in 2003, had surprised the market with its low price and excellent image quality and Nikon's only early response was a pre-announcement of the D70 to keep Canon's sub-$1,000 SLR from wooing the many Nikon faithfuls eager to switch to dSLR photography. With Christmas coming on, the Digital Rebel was looking pretty attractive. Canon's EOS 1D Mark II, 1Ds Mark II and EOS 20D rounded out their semi-pro and professional lines, giving them market leadership in the professional dSLR arena.

2005 has seen Nikon answer this challenge though, starting with the impressive Nikon D2x, a powerful professional dSLR that offers the best of both high resolution and high speed photography in one camera, something Canon users would require two cameras to achieve (both the 1Ds Mark II and 1D Mark II). Though the D2x doesn't offer the 16 megapixels of the 1Ds Mark II, its 12-Mp images are excellent, taking scaling to very large sizes exceptionally well. It offers an alternative that makes a lot of sense for news agencies and pros of all kinds.

Whether it's by design or not, I notice a pattern when comparing the Canon and Nikon SLRs. None of the cameras Nikon is currently offering are directly comparable to their Canon rivals. The Nikon D70 was aimed at the Digital Rebel and EOS 10D, but it ended up somewhat closer to the more expandable and higher resolution 20D and ultimately fell somewhere between the two in terms of price, capability and even in the users it attracted.

The new Nikon D50 follows suit, offering a feature set that lies somewhere between those of the Digital Rebel and the new Digital Rebel XT in size, weight, cost and capabilities. It has a 6-Mp imager that produces excellent images in a lightweight package that is slightly smaller than the D70. While the D70 was targeted at the enthusiast crowd, the D50 is clearly aimed at the family photographer.

Feel. Like the D70, the D50 has a well-balanced feel in the hand. Though it is smaller, the D50 still feels substantial, as if it were carved from a solid piece of strong plastic. The D70 has a better, more refined look and feel but the D50 is nonetheless very good, feeling less like a fragile camera and more like something that could survive the rigors of family life.

As with any camera, the first thing you'll notice is how well the grip was designed. Here the D50 again falls between other cameras on the market. We went on at some length about the Rebel XT's grip. We felt it was too small for most male users, yet the informal survey I conducted among women showed they found the XT's small grip very appealing. I conduced the same test among a small sample of women, using the D50, Canon EOS Digital Rebel and the Digital Rebel XT. All found they preferred the XT, with the D50 coming in second. On the other hand, men included in our survey strongly preferred the D50 and Digital Rebel over the XT for its larger grip area.

My own testing, which includes at least a few hours (sometimes months) shooting each of the cameras, leads me to prefer the D70's grip overall, with its deep cut inside the grip for the pads of the fingers to sink into, something missing from all other cameras I routinely shoot with. The 20D and Digital Rebel come in after that, then the D50. My only criticism of the D50 grip is a lack of rubbery texture to enhance the grip; other than that, I think it offers an excellent compromise for the target market, which will of course include many different hand sizes.

Controls. The number of buttons and dials has been reduced on the D50 compared to the D70. This simplifies the controls and brings them more in line with what the Digital Rebel offers. For example, while the 20D and D70 offer two control wheels for exposure control, both of the Digital Rebels and the D50 offer only one. On the D70, many users never know that the front Main Command dial is even there and I've gotten email from folks who were frustrated by their inability to set aperture in Manual mode because they never noticed the front dial. Lacking the second command dial, both of the Digital Rebels and the D50 require that you press the exposure compensation button in Manual mode to adjust the Aperture.

Buttons on the D50 are also significantly bigger for easier identification, but are also more recessed than those on the D70, probably to help avoid accidental activation. As for the button count, the D50 has 13 total (including the shutter and lens release buttons), the D70 has 16 and the Rebel XT has 19 buttons. Fewer controls are not always better, however. Two of the Rebel's more important buttons are dedicated to zoom in playback mode, a function that's a little more complicated with the D50. Nevertheless, the D50's control layout is excellent, with clear markings and only a few nested functions (buttons that serve multiple purposes).

LCD. The D50's two-inch LCD bests all four other cameras mentioned here, with the D70, 20D and both Digital Rebels being 1.8 inches. Fonts naturally appear bigger on this screen and the effect is something reminiscent of a preschool illustration, though it does not appear it is intentional. It is a bright, clear, readable screen and an excellent menu system. A detailed status LCD sits on the camera's top panel, offering nearly the same content as the D70.

Storage. On the right side, opening with a slide toward the back, is a small door that conceals the SD card slot. This is the first Nikon SLR to use SD memory, though most of Nikon's point-and-shoot models and the latest Pentax SLRs use SD as well. The choice makes sense for this market. Though high capacity CompactFlash cards are generally cheaper, it shouldn't be long before 2-GB and 4-GB SD cards are available at reasonable prices; and for now, you can get about 280 full 6.1-Mp images on a 1-GB SD card, quite a few shots in anybody's book. It is also true that CompactFlash cards can be had with greater read/write speeds, but the D50's sizeable buffer and fast write times mean that users should hardly notice a difference. In single shot mode, the D50 can take a shot every half second until the buffer gets full at around 23 frames. From there, it takes a shot every 0.7 seconds. Since most folks don't shoot that many frames in rapid succession, it's not likely to be an issue.

There are only two drawbacks to SD cards that potential buyers need to remember. They're easier to lose and they're easy to launch. Nikon has taken care of the latter problem. Usually when you press down on the card to release it, most SD-based devices are spring-loaded enough that they can launch the memory card across the room. Nikon appears to have taken some extra measures to keep that from happening. Just as with their battery retention mechanism, something holds onto the SD card even after it's been pressed in and ejected. A gentle pull frees it from the camera's soft but sure grip. This is the first consumer device I've seen with this kind of sophisticated mechanism. As for losing the cards, well, that's something you'll need to buy cases for, because SD cards are as light as potato chips and I manage to find them in some of the strangest places. The only good news here is that I've never had one fail even after going through the washer and dryer. Sounds crazy, but it's happened more than once.

Lens. The lens in the D70 kit was a high-quality ED glass lens with a metal body. It was an expensive lens going up against a reasonable quality Canon lens that came with a simple plastic body that was not very expensive at all. Nikon's new DX lens for the D50 is also an ED glass element, but now with a plastic body. Surely, just as with the Digital Rebel, it's one of the areas Nikon chose to cut costs to meet the $900 price point. We haven't done a lot of testing with the prototype, but to all appearances, it's a very good lens. Its build is tight, its appearance and action smooth and its focus motor is quiet. This 18-55mm lens matches specs exactly with what ships with the lowest price XT kit lens, with a f3.5-5.6 aperture, except for the Extra-low Dispersion glass of the Nikon optic. Also available at the D50's launch is the ED 55-200mm, f4-5.6 lens that also has the lightweight build of the 18-55. Together, they should give photographers an excellent range of focal lengths, at a reasonable price.

Autofocus. AF speed is about equal to competitors, though differences in lens design make it difficult to do a side-by-side comparison.

One problem I noticed in the D70 that seems to have migrated to the D50 is that neither focuses as well as the Canons I've worked with. Though the D50 has an AF illuminator that works without the flash popped up (a very nice feature, as the Canon's flash has to be deployed because it uses a pulsed flash for AF assist), the Canon XT consistently performed better for me in low light and in low contrast scenarios. I had the XT, 20D and D50 arrayed on my desk for comparison and was trying a few shots to see which shutter mechanism was quieter, aiming the cameras at my white polo shirt. It had texture and pattern to it, but it was mostly white. Both Canons focused instantly. The D50 ran all the way to infinity, then all the way back and gave up. Trying to focus on text on a white page in a shaded window from five feet away got similar results. This isn't a huge problem until you try to focus with the AF point at the center in Single point mode and your subject is wearing a white or other uniform-color shirt. You'll do better in these situations either moving the AF point manually or setting the camera in another mode. Most often, the camera focuses fine, but I have been frustrated a time or two, more often than with other SLRs of this class.

Image Capture. The D50 is a breeze to use. Like most modern SLRs, digital or otherwise, there's a nice, safe green zone to select so you can just compose your shot and press the shutter. The camera chooses the AF point, exposure and pops up the flash if necessary -- and the results are usually excellent. This bears emphasizing for the D50's target market. Set to green mode, it truly becomes a point-and-shoot camera. So novice users in the family should have no need to feel intimidated by it. There are also the traditional pre-defined exposure modes, like Portrait and Landscape and the four modes that give the user more traditional photographic control, like Program, Aperture, Shutter and Manual modes.

New to the mix is a mode that has long been needed in this range of cameras, which Nikon calls Child mode. I can't tell you how many emails I get from parents asking for a camera that can help them capture their active children, especially given how slow some digital cameras are at setting focus. Child mode not only sets the camera to focus on the closest object -- most likely the child -- it sharpens images and makes colors more vibrant while keeping the skin tones under control. In general, I recommend people with active kids look to an SLR, because only an SLR can really keep up with busy toddlers or kids playing sports. I told my 18 month old to run around while I snapped pictures and got two out of four shots in focus and of reasonable quality. If you have a child of your own, you know that's pretty darn good. Child mode is a welcome addition that will be particularly popular for the D50's most likely group of buyers.

Also new is Nikon's default color choice. Instead of the D70's bias toward more technically accurate color, Nikon took a page from the Rebel's Parameter 1 setting and chose the more saturated IIIa (sRGB) mode as the D50's default originally intended for nature and landscapes, according to the manual. Consumers have consistently shown that they expect color from their cameras that's more vivid than real life, so this was wise. Users can enter Optimize Image/Custom mode to change this color mode setting to either Ia for more "normal" color or to Adobe RGB.

Impressive. When I first heard there would be a new Nikon SLR below the D70's price point, I expected a cheap, stripped down, hollowed out shell, a shadow of the D70's excellence. Not so. The D50 is sharp, solid and appears to be quite capable. It's in every way a credit to the Nikon line and it stands strong against the other fine SLRs on the market. Because our initial review sample is a prototype, we haven't taken a very close look at image quality, but if it's as good as the rest of the camera, the D50 will be an excellent family SLR, one that offers room to grow as the family grows and changes. It would also make a natural second body for the D70 owner with an expanding lens collection. It's missing one key component that the enthusiast is likely to want, which is the ability to remotely control other flashes from the built-in strobe, but existing D70 owners already have cameras that can do that.

Competition is good and it's nice to see Nikon back in the game with another solid offering. Though I said that the D50 falls between the 6-Mp Digital Rebel and 8-Mp XT, it compares well with either. The major difference most will focus on is resolution, but in all truth, there just isn't that much difference between an 8-Mp and a 6-Mp SLR sensor. Comparing the widths of the images in pixels between the D50 and the Canon Rebel XT shows a difference of only 15 percent, favoring the Rebel. To my mind, that doesn't amount to enough of a reason to go with one camera over another.

CONCLUSION

Nikon and Canon have been fierce rivals for decades and the advent of the digital era has only intensified the competition. Of course, this is nothing but good news for the consumer, as the battle between these two (not to mention the rest of the growing pack of manufacturers) has resulted in a continuing stream of innovation and cost-cutting.

The latest result of this process is the Nikon D50, delivering much of what made the D70 such an exceptional product but at a lower price and with the camera's size and user interface retooled to meet the needs of the family photographer. Or anyone else who wants a feature-rich, easy-to-use, compact (but not too small) dSLR for a bargain price.

Final judgement will have to wait for a production sample, but if the D50's image quality is on par with the rest of the camera, this should be another big winner for Nikon. There's just an awful lot to like here, from the just-right grip size to its excellent ease of use in "green zone" to its complete feature set bound to appeal to advanced users. If its image quality measures up, this is going to be a very, very popular camera.

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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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Book Bag: iPhoto 5, The Missing Manual

You have to admire the authors of books about software. Under the Latest Update Bridge some little programming trolls are just waiting for an author's cart to rumble across so they can release a newer version.

David Pogue and Derrick Story have fought the good fight with iPhoto, which itself has maintained a yearly update schedule lately as part of Apple's iLife suite. The latest version of their Missing Manual is printed on coated stock in full color, a first. There are 100 pages more than in their iPhoto 2 book but the price has jumped, too.

You get a little more for your money with these guys, though. The Missing Manual covers not just iPhoto but Digital Cameras. Digital Photography, more aptly. Part One discusses buying a camera but goes into composing images and has another 44 pages on how to handle everything from portraits to weddings and camphones to digital movies.

Part Two gets to iPhoto with chapters that cover importing your images from a camera, organizing them (and finding them) and editing the ones that need work. Editing takes on a new dimension in iPhoto 5 with the editing widget, which resembles a Raw converter application. This powerful but delightful set of sliders can make some dramatic improvements even to pleasing images. The effects can be hard to reproduce in print, but the idea is ably conveyed in the new format.

Part Three, titled Meet Your Public, discusses the many ways iPhoto lets you share your images. Slide Shows (which have been upgraded significantly in iPhoto 5), prints, online sharing (emailing, publishing photos, .Mac slide shows and more), publishing a photo book (again with new options), handling movies (now supported by iPhoto) and creating iDVD slide shows.

Part Four goes even deeper into the iPhoto landscape with a chapter on screen savers, AppleScript and using Bluetooth to transfer camphone images to iPhoto. It also has a chapter on file management, including how to backup and manage iPhoto libraries.

The Appendixes include a chapter on troubleshooting, another on every menu in the program and one that lists further resources (including Imaging Resource).

All of it is generously illustrated and written in clear style that gets right to the point with an occasional wink. And the tips (like how to cope with fluorescent lighting) and insider information (like why you get a thumbnail when you double click an image for editing) are icing on the cake.

We ripped right through all 388 pages one afternoon and dug back in to build a DVD full of slide shows of old family slides. The grand tour was great but the authors didn't fail us when we needed help on a specific topic, either. Next time, though, they should print the book on archival paper. It has become a classic.

iPhoto 5: The Missing Manual by David Pogue and Derrick Story, published by O'Reilly Media, 388 pages, $41.95.
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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:

Visit the Canon Digital Rebel Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee946e1

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

Peter asks about resolution at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9ed26/0

Kumar asks about Exif date and time stamping on photos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9ec46/0

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

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Just for Fun: Go Long

We've finally thought up a way to get into the Guinness Book of World Records (http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com). All we have to do is convince Joyce to get in the car and drive three miles to the cliffs above the beach. We'll set up the Malibu scope (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/MLB/MLB.HTM) and attach our Average digicam to it, aiming it where we expect to see her.

When she comes into view, we'll call her cell phone. "Smile," we'll say. She will, no doubt. And, after accounting for a brief transmission delay, we'll snap what will surely be the record for a Long-Distance Portrait in Which the Photographer Prompted the Subject to Smile.

No, you won't be able to see her smile. But we won't need a soft filter to obscure any crows feet, either. Let's call it Giacometti portraiture. Alberto Giacometti was famous for his tiny, scribbled silhouette sculptures of human beings moving in but removed from a crowd.

If that's not a world record, well, it's a least worth a Guinness.

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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: A Spyder By Any Other Name

In the last newsletter, you published a review of the OptiCAL Monitor Spyder. I believe what you were referring to was actually the Pantone ColorVision Spyder calibrator.

-- Allison

(Correct, Allison. The spyder's full name is Pantone ColorVision Spyder. But we call him OptiCAL for short, after the calibration software it uses. He hasn't bitten us yet. -- Editor)

RE: Photoshop CS & 16+ Bits

Recently I tried the new Photoshop CS 2. I saw the new 32-bit mode for images, which is not fully editable. It is said that the higher the bits, the richer the quality.

That's easily understandable, but I wonder if there is a difference to our perception, because if not, why would we waste more efficiency for nothing? And since Photoshop began their recent "higher than 8 bit" trend, is it really a brand new technology? And in what kind of images it is usually used?

-- Biv

(No, the technology isn't new. Scanners have been capturing more than 8 bits per channel for a long time. What's new are the tools to edit 16-bit channels. The benefits of working in 16-bit (and more) channels are the choices you have for tonal and color correction. Adobe explains, "Because all the luminance values in a real-world scene are represented proportionately and stored in an HDR [32-bit] image, adjusting the exposure of an HDR image is like adjusting the exposure when photographing a scene in the real world." Ultimately you do indeed convert to 8-bit channels for display and printing. But you will indeed see in that converted image what is not possible to attain in 8-bit channels. We have a little demonstration of this in our earliest Optipix review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/OPT/OPT.HTM) where we take five shots of a dark bicycling glove and bright newspaper and merge them into a 16-bit image to create a composite with detail that does not appear in any single 8-bit image. And you are looking at an 8-bit composite, too. Tonal and color correction options. That's what it's all about. -- Editor)

RE: Scanners

I am a regular reader of your newsletter and a regular visitor of your Web site. I was able to decide which camera to buy based on very good reviews on your site (a Canon A95), I always recommend your Web site for camera reviews to my friends, you guys are doing great job! Keep up the good work!

I've got a question for you. I was going through your Scanner Web page for a flat bed with 35mm negative scanner. The Microtek ScanMaker i900 review is tempting but it blows my budget. I would like to know if any of the cheaper scanners are capable of scanning good images and can we make a good quality 4x6 print from a scanned image?

-- Ajay

(What's special about the i900 is how well it also scans film. Almost every other flatbed scanner scans film through the glass at lower resolution detecting less detail in the shadows than the i900. But scanning reflective prints is not as tough a job and even a $100 multipurpose printer/scanner can do an excellent job (and even make the print for you). -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Epson (http://www.epson.com) has revamped its pro printer lineup with not only new models but a new ink system called UltraChrome K3. The K3 inks are an 8-color pigment system featuring high density pigments, pro print permanence ratings (up to 108 for color and 200 years for black and whites), high-gloss Microcrystal Encapsulation, immediate color stability, improved scratch resistance and black density up to 2.3 with an L* value of 4.1.

The ink set includes three new blacks (Black, Light Black and Light Light Black) to improve overall gray balance while enhancing midtone through highlight detail yielding a smoother tonal range and eliminating metamerism and bronzing. The three level black ink system uses the unique driver technology of the new Stylus Photo R2400 and Stylus Pro 4800, 7800 and 9800 printers.

Introduced with the new ink system were four new large-format printers: the 13-inch wide R2400 (which replaces the venerable 2200 but not the R1800), the 17-inch wide 4800, the 24-inch wide 7800 and the 44-inch wide 9800.


O'Reilly has published its $19.95 Assembling Panoramic Photos: A Designer's Notebook, the fourth title in its Designers Notebook series. Translated from the French, the book covers specific digital montage techniques experts use to assemble panoramic photographs.


Kodak Austin Development Center (http://www.asf.com) has announced "no charge updates" for its KADC Photoshop plug-ins. The version 2.0 updates feature larger preview and navigator windows and more efficient memory handling. The company has also revamped their Web site, simplifying the download and ordering process.


Pixmantec (http://www.pixmantec.com) and Imagenomic (http://www.imagenomic.com) have announced they will be jointly marketing their respective software products, RawShooter Essentials 2005 and Noiseware. Working together, the two tool sets enhance the RAW conversion and noise removal workflow. The companies said they also intend to explore joint product and technology development.


GretagMacbeth (http://www.gretagmacbeth.com) has announced several enhancements to its Eye-One color management solutions including an accelerated Eye-One Pro spectrophotometer, enhanced Eye-One Match software version 3.2 and a new, easy-to-use digital camera module.


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has announced several enhancements to its online photo sharing service, including a referral program; integration with Shutterfly, Kodak EasyShare Gallery and Snapfish; date range support for albums; auto album date generation during import; optional auto-captioning during import; and a new support site.


OnTheGoSoft (http://www.onthegosoft.com) has released Passport Photo 1.3.2 [W], which creates passport photos from digital photos.


Neat Image (http://www.neatimage.com/mac) [LMW] is a $49.90 digital filter designed to reduce visible noise and grain in digital photographic images. It uses "the most advanced noise reduction algorithms in the industry" and free device noise profiles for your imaging device.

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One Liners

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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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Next Issue

We've just received a major update to our new mail software, which we've installed and are testing among ourselves. So far, things look good enough that we're hoping to start using it next month.
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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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