The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 12 10 June 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 151st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Dave collars Microsoft's Weisberg to get the goods on their OS support for Raw files while Shawn tries to get a grip on the Rebel XT. We reveal all we know about entering serial numbers and the Letters column has some interesting tidbits on marking your gear with a safe ID.


TOPICS

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Feature: Microsoft Discusses Raw Format Support

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full news story posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1118162160.html on the Web site.)

Microsoft's recent announcement of forthcoming Windows support for Raw-format files stirred up quite a bit of interest, but left a number of questions. To resolve a few of them, we interviewed Microsoft's Josh Weisberg, group product manager for Windows Digital Media.

The 45 minute discussion revealed Raw files will now be first class citizens under the Windows OS, but it's equally clear this particular move doesn't really address the issues of encrypted or otherwise obfuscated file formats that have become such a source of controversy recently.

The Microsoft announcement was in two parts. First, Longhorn (currently slated for release in "second half, 2006") will rely on a codec interface for translating Raw image files. Second, a "PowerToy" accessory application will be released in the next two weeks to provide some support for Canon and Nikon Raw files in Windows XP. Microsoft's Digital Image Suite will also support Canon and Nikon Raw files in a near-future release.

POWERTOY

Q. What functions will the PowerToy encompass?

A. A few things. It adds thumbnails in Windows Explorer for Nikon and Canon Raw files and if you hover over one of those files, it will display more detailed Exif data. You can double-click on a Raw file and it will bring up a viewer that looks just like the image and fax viewer in Windows. From there or from the Photo Printing Wizard, you can print the image if you want. I refer to it as an application for "triage," when you want to quickly sort through a collection of just-shot Raw images, delete bad ones, make prints from some on your desktop printer.

Q. When will it be available, what will it cost and how will people get it?

A. It should be available in about two weeks. Like other PowerToys for Windows, users can download it for free from the Microsoft Web site, but there is no technical support offered for it.

Q. How does the PowerToy handle Raw-to-RGB conversion?

A. It uses the Canon and Nikon binary SDK code.

Q. Is the decoded RGB data available to other applications?

A. No, that ability of generic applications to open Raw-format files will have to wait for Longhorn.

LONGHORN

Q. Can you explain the overall plan for Raw support in Longhorn in a bit more detail?

A. Sure. There are really two components to what we're doing in Longhorn. One is that Longhorn will have an architecture for image codecs, providing extensibility for the set of image file formats that Longhorn supports natively. Codecs for standard image formats will be provided by Microsoft, just as we do now in XP, for file formats like TIFF, JPEG, etc. Raw formats are tough for someone like Microsoft to deal with though, because there are so many of them, they're frequently changing as new camera models come out and they're all a little different. Our plan is to handle arbitrary image file formats through codecs, provided either by the encoders of the data (manufacturers like Canon, Fujifilm and Nikon and Adobe with DNG) or by third-party developers.

There are two basic ways these codecs can be used. First, they'll allow supported Raw files to behave like any other image format in Windows. That is, you'll be able to double-click on them and pick what application you want to have open them, view their metadata, right-click to get image-specific contextual functions, etc. Most importantly, you can work with Raw files in applications that support images, without the application having to know anything about how Raw files work. For instance, you could open and place Raw files inside PowerPoint or Word documents. This would also be good for sharing scenarios, although I'm not sure how prevalent it will be with Raw users to share photos with friends or family.

The second level of using the codecs will be via the Raw API (Application Programming Interface) in Longhorn, which will expose some Raw conversion settings to the users, such as white balance, exposure, etc. Application developers will be able to access hooks for these settings, letting the user control how the Raw data is interpreted on the way into their end application.

Q. Barring the use of user controls during the import, what settings will be used for the converted photos?

A. The as-shot camera settings.

Q. Will Microsoft require that codec developers implement a certain minimum set of user controls in their APIs?

A. No, that's up to each developer, we won't force a company to use all the settings. There will be a total of about eight functions, but not all of them will necessarily be implemented by all companies. We did feel in our discussions that there was a consensus to support these functions.

Q. How will the RGB data be presented to the applications? 8- or 16-bit? sRGB, Adobe RGB or another color space?

A. The option for 8 or 16-bit data will be up to the codec developer, whether 16-bit data is supported or not. The Raw architecture supports a full 16-bit pipeline though. As to color space, we're not ready to talk about color in Longhorn yet. It's a great question and I wish I could, as there's a lot to talk about there, but that will have to be a discussion for another day.

Q. What's the deal with the "certification" process for codecs? What governs whether a codec gets certified or not?

A. There are a couple of reasons for doing this. First and foremost are security reasons. We don't want someone writing a codec that gobbles up your images or opens a security hole in the system. Beyond that, we want to do basic functionality checks, to make sure that files really will open in response to a double-click, that sort of thing.

Q. What about the issue of decrypting data that's been encrypted by the manufacturers? Would Microsoft be OK with someone doing that?

A. We're not getting involved in the question of who owns the bits, who has the rights to decrypt the data or not. We'll certify solely on the basis of functionality and security. However, the benefit of the Raw architecture in Longhorn is that any application can convert a Raw file without having to fully understand it. The codec would provide the conversion and in this example, decryption, for the application.

Q. Will there be any provision for application programmers to access the original Raw data, before it's been de-mosaiced and converted into RGB pixels?

A. No, the only output format will be RGB.

I want to be clear that we're not going after professional-level Raw conversion. We want to make sure that there are still opportunities for Adobe, Phase One and others to have a business opportunity to develop and market their pro-level conversion software.

Q. So this is really a convenient way to get files into applications like PowerPoint or an email program, but not really a means for professional photographers to manipulate images?

A. Well, yes and no. It's really a bit more than that, something in the middle somewhere. There is support for 16-bit data, so you can certainly get at a lot more image data than you can with a JPEG. There's also the whole matter of browsing and organizing images. You may want to sort through your Raw images without having to perform a conversion, but today you have to convert them before you can look at them.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon Digital Rebel XT -- An Impressive Update

By DAVE ETCHELLS and SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EXT/EXTA.HTM on the Web site.)

OVERVIEW

The Canon Digital Rebel XT builds on the huge success of the original Digital Rebel, a camera that literally turned the digital camera world on its ear when it was introduced. A 6-megapixel dSLR that sold with a lens for under $1,000, the Digital Rebel not only challenged Nikon, Olympus and Fuji in the dSLR business, but promised to cut drastically into the all-in-one prosumer market. Borrowing its name from their highly popular Rebel line of entry-level film SLRs, the Digital Rebel offered many of the same exposure features and improvements as the 10D, but slightly scaled back to keep costs under control and to provide some differentiation between the Rebel and its higher-priced sibling.

Where the original Digital Rebel left off, the Rebel XT now carries on and improves. The Rebel XT boasts an 8.2-megapixel CMOS sensor (yielding 8.0-Mp images) for even higher resolution images, better manual control over AF and metering modes, an adjustable EV step size, flash exposure compensation and a Custom Function menu for customizing the camera even further. It's a vast improvement over the preceding model, even though the original Digital Rebel was an excellent camera in its own right.

USER REPORT

Every great performance demands an encore and Canon was happy to oblige, following its original Digital Rebel with its $899 Rebel XT. The Rebel XT improves on the original in almost every way. It's smaller, lighter, faster, more versatile, more capable and takes on nearly every trait of the benchmark EOS 20D. Its 8-megapixel sensor is slightly lower resolution than the 20D, but features like the White Balance correction table and E-TTL II have been brought over intact. Nothing's perfect, however and there's a bit of a dust-up here at Imaging Resource about the camera's overall size; and in particular the grip.

Surprising Size. You notice it immediately: the Rebel XT is a very small camera. Not compared to most consumer-level digital cameras, mind you, but for an SLR, it easily rivals the Pentax *istD and comes close to many of the 35mm film-based Rebel SLRs in overall size. They've stuffed the basic guts of the 20D into a smaller package. The result is an SLR that easily fits in a jacket or sweatshirt pocket. Many buyers are going to love the Rebel XT for this reason alone.

But Dave's hackles have been raised by the Rebel XT's design. All he has to do is pick up the XT and he's immediately incensed. (And I mean incensed -- I'm filtering his comments on the subject quite a bit here.) The grip is way too small for his large hands and the control arrangement is too confining. It is smaller, but if you re-think how you hold the camera, you can still fit the pads of your fingertips in a decent position to maintain grip.

As I've shot with the camera though, I've begun to agree with Dave. The grip just isn't big enough for a medium to large man's hands. But I've placed this camera into the hands of several women and they all love it. Even my wife, whose hands aren't that much smaller than mine, really liked the grip and the Rebel XT's light weight, button arrangement and overall feel were just right (she was fairly familiar with our Digital Rebel, by the way, so this is an informed opinion).

Walkaround. We received the black body version of the Rebel XT and are also split on whether we like that or not. Its surface texture is similar to that of the EOS 20D, with a tendency to abrade fingernails, leaving temporary marks on the surface (fingernail dust, apparently). I like the look of the black body a lot; it gives the camera much more of a pro appearance. It doesn't offer as much grippable surface area as the former silver body though, feeling almost powdery. Skin tends to slip right off rather than stick. Also missing is any rubbery texture to the grip area.

There are three controls on the left of the lens: the flash pop-up button, the lens release and the depth-of-field preview. On the top deck are the shutter, main dial, mode dial and power switch. I'm glad to see that they moved the drive mode button to the back of the camera, where all the other controls reside, because I always forgot how to enter that mode on my own Rebel until I looked at the top deck.

The buttons on the back have undergone a slight redesign. The five buttons on the left have gotten bigger, with a reverse D shape. On the right, the five-way nav cluster is also different and smaller. Dave has trouble with these buttons as well. They just don't work right for him, not actuating consistently when he navigated the menus system. I haven't had as much trouble, but I'm used to dealing with PDA keyboards, where you have to use the tip of your thumb. Compared to the nav buttons on the original Digital Rebel, these buttons are actually raised slightly above the back surface of the camera body, whereas the buttons on the former are deeply recessed. One thing I like about these four arrow buttons is that rather than expect you to look to the status LCD to set something like White Balance, the camera goes straight to the menu screen for White Balance when you press the rear-panel button assigned to that function. The same is true for ISO, Metering Mode and AF mode. Pressing the Drive mode button still cycles through icons on the status LCD, but the icons appear directly adjacent to the button itself, so it's easy to see what's happening.

Also new, but present on nearly every other Canon digital camera, is the illuminated Print/Share button. It's combined with the LCD illumination button, which gives the status LCD an orange glow for about eight seconds.

Faster. If smaller didn't make the Rebel XT better for some, faster should do the trick for most. It now uses the same DiGiC II processor in the EOS 1Ds Mark II. Its influence shows in the quicker shutter response, improved buffer clearing speed (it writes 3.5 times faster) and greater frame-per-second throughput. Maxing out at three fps, the Rebel XT can capture a 13 frames before the buffer is filled. Canon claims 14 frames of buffer depth, but we consistently got 13 frames in our studio with the worst-case color-noise target we use for timing analysis. With varying subjects and a Lexar 80x 2-GB card, I've gone on as far as 40 frames. It's far better than the old Digital Rebel's four frames of capacity, to be sure.

Capable. As I mentioned, many new functions made their way over from the 20D, including a Black and White mode with many options. You can add the equivalent of Yellow, Red, Orange and Green filters, which darken the skies and other colors to varying degrees and you can add a toning effect, including Sepia, Blue, Purple and Green. Contrast and Sharpness can also be adjusted.

The EOS 20D's innovative White Balance Shift/Bracketing mode also made it into the Rebel XT. Presented with an XY coordinate graph, you can move the White Balance table around and set bracketing points along either the X or Y axis.

Also omitted from the Digital Rebel was the option to set your AF method and metering mode. You'll find that on the Rebel XT, One Shot, AI Focus and AI Servo methods are all user-selectable, as are Spot, Matrix and Center weighted metering modes.

Finally, a healthy set of Custom Functions have been brought to the Rebel XT, where there were none on the original. Nine in total, these include Long Exposure noise reduction, Mirror Lockup and First and Second curtain shutter flash sync.

Shooting. In the field, I found the Rebel XT a reliable performer that is faster than I'm used to and easy to use. Its small size was not a big problem when shooting gallery shots. All I'd need to be happy for casual photography is the optional vertical battery grip, since most of my shots are vertical.

It's great for photographing the family, given its low shutter lag and nearly instant power on time. AF seemed fast too, resulting in far more good shots than throwaways. In low light (which is almost always what you have indoors), you'll want to pop up the flash, as this is the only AF assist light that the camera offers. I also suggest setting AF to the single center point almost all the time for indoor shooting, as this is the most sensitive AF sensor in the camera. You should also feel confident cranking the ISO up to 800, since the XT has impressively low noise. ISO 1600 is also good, but unless it's absolutely necessary, you'll be happier at 800 and below.

Digital SLRs like the Rebel XT offer a smaller depth of field than most people are used to, making focus accuracy paramount. In general, you'll do much better using the center AF point for most situations, then recomposing as necessary. Put your kids in contrasty clothes to help the AF a bit when you're shooting indoors. You'll find the E-TTL II flash exposure performance is excellent, even for close-quarters indoor shots. Though the XT is better with limited lighting than most point-and-shoot digicams, you should try to shoot with a light source nearby to help the AF system.

There's no question that the Rebel XT is a leap ahead, offering a quality SLR in a very small package. I think it is ideally suited for its target market, the family shooter who wants to catch the kids at play. It gives you more of what you need to catch action at sporting events and is a good size for the traditional keeper of family photographs, the mom. Those who find the smaller size a problem can still opt for the original Digital Rebel, now available in a kit that includes the lens for around $800. You can also buy the new BG-E3 battery grip, which you can load with less expensive AA batteries. Since humans are vertical, shooting vertical is a great way to eliminate clutter in the background, so buying and using this grip by default would immediately improve your people photography. For travelers and anyone else wanting a powerful digital camera with a spectacular imager and the option of a few different lenses that take up little space, you'll not find a more portable SLR and certainly not a more capable one anywhere near its size or price range.

TEST RESULTS

In addition to the following comments, see:

Color: Very good color. Technically, it showed excellent hue accuracy and good saturation. Reds were a bit oversaturated, but not as much as most consumer digicams. Greens and blues were also slightly hot and the yellow swatch on the MacBeth target a bit undersaturated. Still, overall accuracy was very good and skin tones natural. The saturation adjustment covered a photographically useful range in nice-sized steps and had little effect on contrast, something not all cameras manage. The white balance system did a very good job, but had trouble with household incandescent lighting in both Auto and Incandescent modes. The Manual white balance option covered a very broad range of lighting conditions though. Overall, I was very pleased by the color handling, but would like to see it do better in Auto mode with incandescent light sources.

Exposure: Tests shots were exposed well, requiring about as much exposure compensation as usual. One exception was my Sunlit Portrait Test, where it needed only +0.3 EV, compared to the more typical 0.7 to 1.0 EV. It also showed really excellent dynamic range, preserving detail far into the shadows with minimal image noise, while holding highlight detail better than most cameras. The contrast adjustment control did an excellent job across a fairly wide range with little impact on color saturation. On a technical basis, Imatest gave the Rebel XT a weighted-average dynamic range rating of 9.57 f-stops and ratings of 9.24 stops for Medium image quality and 8.23 stops for Medium-High quality final images. All excellent ratings.

Resolution/Sharpness: Good results on the laboratory resolution test, with strong detail to about 1,600 lines per picture height, in both the horizontal and vertical directions. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until right around 2,000 lines. The kit lens generally does a very good job, particularly for such an inexpensive optic. It does tend to get a little soft at the telephoto end of its range, at small apertures though.

Image Noise: Canon's CMOS active-sensor technology and DiGIC image processing have always done very well in the noise department and the Rebel XT is no exception. Noise was pretty much invisible at ISO 200 and below and could be seen at ISO 400 only by scrutinizing the blue channel in isolation. At ISO 800, noise crept up somewhat and increased again at ISO 1600, but the ISO 1600 shots looked great, even when printed at 13x19 inches on our Canon i9900 studio printer. You'll be able to shoot at ISO 1600 with relative impunity, unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool noise fanatic. Even if you fall into that tortured cohort, you'll be hard pressed to find any fault with shots captured at ISO 400.

Close-Ups: Using the kit lens, minimum macro area was 2.75x1.83 inches, about average among the consumer digicams. The flash throttled down well at closest approach, but its position high above the lens led to some light falloff across the frame, from top to bottom. You'll want to use external lighting for your closest macro shots, but the Rebel XT is a competent macro performer, even with the kit lens.

Night Shots: It's a really excellent low-light shooter. Its autofocus system will work (albeit slowly, make sure the camera doesn't move the least bit) at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle, about four stops darker than typical city street lighting. With the camera's flash pressed into service as a (very bright) AF assist light, it can focus and shoot in total darkness. Image noise is excellent as well.

Viewfinder Accuracy: With a frame coverage of 95 percent, the Rebel XT shows about average viewfinder accuracy for a dSLR. I just don't understand why manufacturers can't make SLR viewfinders 100 percent accurate or at least get close to that level.

Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion with the Rebel XT's kit lens is about average at wide-angle with 0.85 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared much better with only 0.14 percent barrel distortion (about one pixel). Chromatic aberration was low to moderate at wide-angle, low at telephoto. Corners of its images were much sharper than average at wide-angle, average to a bit softer than average at telephoto.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Shooting speed is one area where improvements in the new Rebel XT relative to the original Rebel are most apparent. Autofocus speed is roughly the same, but every other measure of performance shows significant improvement over the prior model. Existing Rebel users will most appreciate/envy the XT's much greater buffer depth, shooting as many as 13 large/fine images before having to wait for the memory card to catch up. Once the buffer is full, the XT also writes to the memory card much faster too, emptying a full buffer in just 9 seconds, compared to 17 seconds in the earlier model. While the resolution increase in the XT may not be enough to get current Rebel owners to upgrade, the increase in shooting speed very well might.

Battery Life: The EOS 350D uses a rechargeable NB-2LH battery pack for power and comes with a battery charger. The optional AC adapter kit ACK-E2 taps into AC power. The power savings from Canon's new Digic-II processor chip are great enough that overall battery life is very similar to that of the original Rebel. Based on the CIPA battery-life standard, Canon rates battery capacity at 600 shots without use of the flash or 400 shots when the flash is used on roughly half of the shots.

Print Quality: Prints look just beautiful at the 13x19 inch maximum paper size of our i9900 and, judging from how clean they appeared, could be blown up a fair bit larger and still hold together quite nicely. Like many Canon cameras, the in-camera sharpening of the XT is rather conservative (a wise approach that insures no detail is lost to overzealous sharpening), but the result is that its images have a soft look straight from the camera. A little work in Photoshop crisps things up nicely though, revealing an amazing level of detail. The harshest tests of print size are high-ISO shots, but here again the XT came through with flying colors. ISO 1600 shots printed at 13x19 were noticeably grainy, but with most subjects (and viewers), you won't really be able to see it at viewing distances greater than about 18 inches. Printed at 8x10, ISO 1600 noise just won't be an issue at all, for any but the most extreme anti-noise fanatics. A very impressive performance.

CONCLUSION

The original Canon EOS Digital Rebel made waves in the dSLR marketplace, offering professional-level features and control at a very low price. Now the new Rebel XT brings dramatic improvements across the board, with better resolution and speed and myriad improvements in camera operation and user control. In almost every parameter, the Rebel XT offers significant enhancements beyond the original model, while maintaining the same (original) list price.

Despite its advanced feature set, the Rebel XT manages to span the full range of user needs, from the pure point-and-shoot user interested only in "green zone" operation to the professional looking for an inexpensive second body. As such, it's a nearly ideal option for families or other situations in which users of greatly varying experience levels need to share the same camera.

My one biggest gripe with the camera will be some users' favorite feature -- the small (tiny) hand grip. While I found shooting with the camera an infuriating exercise in frustration and crunched fingertips, women who picked up the camera immediately loved how it felt in their hands. My advice to ham-handed shooters like myself would be to pick up the optional battery grip. While not doing much for horizontal-format shooting, the battery grip makes for a very comfortable experience when shooting vertical-format images and generally gives the camera a better sense of balance.

All in all, the Rebel XT is a technological tour de force, delivered in a tiny, attractive package and with a set of user controls that are equally approachable by novices and professional shooters. Highly recommended and a shoo-in as a Dave's Pick.

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:

On Thursday, we moved everything (and that's a lot!) to a new server as part of our ongoing plan to ensure the site remains responsive for visitors.
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Beginners Flash: Surviving a Serial Number

We've been installing lots of review software lately and if we see one more serial number longer than Anna Karenina, we're going to throw ourselves in front of a train.

The process of actually installing the software has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. But typing in the license or serial number has gotten much worse. There are three big problems with these extremely long strings of digits and letters:

First, it can be hard to tell a zero from a capital "O" and the numeral one from a lowercase "l" because, for some reason, the license is almost always displayed in a sans serif font.

Second, it's a pain to type capital letters in the string. It can take hours to unknot our fingers after certain key combinations.

Third, you often have to type the thing more than once. First to unlock the product, then to register it online.

After lots of experimentation, we've come up with a few simple tips for managing these problems:

Problem One. Since the number is printed, you can't just change the font to something more readable to tell if an ambiguous character is a letter or a numeral. But you can quickly look over the string to see if there are any letters at all or if it's just a string of numerals. Capital "o" also tends to be rounder than a zero in most fonts, since a constant character width for numbers helps align them in columns. And the numeral one usually has a small stroke on top, even in sans serif fonts. You may also be able to detect a pattern of digits and letters, which can help predict what's expected at any particular position.

Problem Two. We rarely see a string that uses both upper and lower case letters. Do yourself a favor and press the Caps Lock key to lock in upper case letters without losing numerals as you type in the string (one more thing a typewriter can't do). That makes it easy to enter it with just one hand, too.

Problem Three. If you get your license number via email or from a Web page after an online payment, select the number by dragging your cursor over it, then copy it to the clipboard and paste it into the license number field of your registration dialog box. If you have to type it in from a printed label instead, see if the installer is bright enough to transmit it during online registration. Otherwise, copy what you typed and paste it into the online form.

We feel like apologizing for writing such a silly article but we are often so glad to remember these simple tips that we suspect it isn't at all our least valuable contribution. Just imagine us holding up that old Vulcan salute to Live Long and Prosper, no doubt a consequence of stretching to hold down the Shift key.

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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 Olympus Camedia C-770 Zoom Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9a06f

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

Shelia asks about the best camera for low light and 'simple' users at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9ef6c/0

A user asks about noise at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9ebbf/0

Visit the Software Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b0

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Dave's Deals

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Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

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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: Slide Scanning

Back in the dear old dead (for most of us, anyway) days of film cameras, I owned a slide duplicator which was an adjustable bellows mounted on a rail for scale and focus adjustment, with a slide holder at one end set in front of a piece of ground glass that spread the source light evenly. The other end of the bellows had a lens mount mechanism to permit it to attach to the camera, just like an interchangeable lens. Filters of all sorts could be screwed into the lens and the device could be screwed into the filter. An off camera flash pointed at the ground glass or at a reflecting gray card provided illumination.

Mounted on a single lens reflex, once I got the hang of focus and exposure/illumination, it worked like a bloody charm! It was so simple and worked so well that it makes all the discussion about today's very expensive, esoterically complex specialty scanners almost laughable. Almost, because nothing like it seems to be available today.

Unfortunately mine went the way of lots of good stuff and just disappeared. Do you or any of your many readers, know where such a device is available today? Keep up the good work with your excellent newsletter.

-- Thomas Bowling

(Yes, Thomas, we wrote about Nikon's Coolpix slide copier attachment in our Nov. 3, 2000 issue. That device relies on Nikon's excellent macro capability to deliver good results. Avoiding lens distortion and being able to focus sharply corner to corner are problems that vary with each camera. But they all share two other problems that dedicated slide scanners do not. They all interpolate color and none of them can match the dynamic range of the scanners. So you lose your shadow detail. We do it both ways, but the camera can't beat the scanner for slides. -- Editor)
(Another easy solution is Slide-to-Photo (http://www.slidetophoto.com), which pairs your digicam with a slide projector. Also not as good a solution as a dedicated slide scanner, but great fun for the whole family. It's $49.95 for a bracket/projector holder and small white screen to project onto. -- Dave)

I've learned so many things, thanks to you! Anyway, I'm going to ask about the use of negative film digital scanner. Most scanners now provide resolution in the thousands of pixels and image sizes up to 60-MB, so it takes a long time to scan just one job. The question is if it's really necessary to scan at such high resolution? Are there any resolution options? It's bogging my mind since I would like to have one in the near future. What I need is variability of common-size adjustment for different common-uses of the image and speed of course.

-- Biv

(Film scanners offer all that resolution because film is so small, Biv. You enlarge that little 35mm frame eight times for an 8x10. And scanning at 48-bit color rather than 24-bit color -- which is very helpful in photo restoration -- doubles the file size. To understand the difference between flatbed scanning of prints and film scanning, take a look at the Criteria section of our i900 review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/MI9/MI9.HTM). You can scan at any resolution, but high resolution scans don't limit your options. -- Editor)

RE: Tabloiding

I have about 10 tabloids of 12 to 24 pages that are several decades old.

I'd like to transfer those "newspaper" original pages to a DVD so that the pages can be focused, highlighted and discussed. But I want the pages intact to begin with so it is not just a clipping. I want to be able to start with a full page and zero in via the DVD screen.

This is a for class demonstration and can you refer me to someone who provides a service of placing a full legible page on a DVD that can then be manipulated for close up scrutiny?

-- Gary Arnold

(This is the traditional domain of microfiche providers but your digicam can do it, too. You need a tripod and lights (flash or bulbs in reflectors) set at 45 degrees on either side of your tabloids. Your digicam needs enough resolution to provide detail at your highest magnification. A DVD would sample down that resolution, however, making it unreadable (whoever makes it). But presenting the nearly 240 pages on a CD would preserve the full resolution file. You could use either slide show software, HTML or Adobe Acrobat Reader to navigate the images. -- Editor)

RE: Retro Requests

I'm a dinosaur that still uses Pentax SM cameras. I have several excellent lens and wonder if there is a digital camera that I could use these lens with. I realize I will need an adaptor and will probably lose the auto feature of the lens.

-- Frank Dobias

(We know of no Pentax screw mount dSLR, Frank. And we can't seem to find an adapter to turn those screw mounts into something that will work on dSLR (unless its a reversing ring <g>). -- Editor)

I've been a Rollei fan for years and I understand there is a digital replica of my twin lens Rollei 2.8c. I would guess that is more of a gadget/novelty item than a genuine digital camera. However, I plan to purchase one as soon I can find a dealer. To date, I have not seen any advertising or research on its availability anyplace.

-- W. Charles Eichenberger

(Ah, the MiniDigi! It is cute (and 2-Mp to boot) but much smaller than your Rollei. Here's our news story on it http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1098808169.html from October 2004. B&H Photo has it for $299.95. -- Editor)

RE: Got a Laundry Marker?

You might prevent some heartache! I wish I'd put my name and phone number on my two day old Olympus 8080 super wide camera the other day when I drove off with it on top of my car!!!!

Whether or not it survived the fall, I'll never know. But if it did and was found by a wonderful person, they still won't be able to return it. It never even occurred to me to put my contact info on it even though a friend of mine recently left hers in a New York taxicab. Better still, it might be harder for someone to sell it with a name and phone number engraved on it.

At least I'd just downloaded 300 photos from the card to my digital wallet.

-- Hilary

(Ouch! We've left our own digicam behind several times, but no one wants to have anything to do with it (another good reason not to upgrade). Waiters run after us. Thieves don't bother breaking the back window on the car. No respect. But it's a good idea to tag the camera with your ID (maybe just the phone number, though -- or use Boris for the name). The nationwide program Operation ID recommends your two-letter state abbreviation followed by your driver's license number. That protects your privacy. Contact your local authorities for more info and to borrow an engraving tool (or permanent marking pen) to mark your property. -- Editor)

RE: Canon A70 Call for Help

My 1-3/4 year old Canon A70 developed lines, distortions and a swirling purple/black pattern both on the LCD and in its pictures about one month ago. It appears to be intermittent.

I emailed Canon (Canada) and they denied there was a problem with the A70. But I've been to numerous Web sites referencing these defects. It appears to be a very common problem with other Canon users and not only the A70.

According to others who have had their camera repaired for $100, the problem returns shortly. I have the impression other users are at loss as to what route to take to resolve the issue. I think Canon should repair the defect free of charge.

-- Debbie Mecke

(While, we haven't run into this ourselves, a quick google of "Canon A70 defect" shows widespread reports of problems with that model. In some cases, an E18 error is reported on the LCD when the lens fails to fully extend. In others, image defects from lines appearing in the images to an abstract purple composition are reported. These failures don't represent the usual camera half life. But, naturally, these failures are all occurring after the one-year warranty. As you note, Canon offers a $100 repair or, in some cases, a $150 upgrade to a newer model. -- Editor)
(E18 is a "lens won't extend" error. Lens-extension mechanisms are pretty universally delicate and plenty of cameras by a variety of makers suffer the same problem. My strong suspicion is len-extension problems aren't more prevalent on Canons than other cameras but Canon reports a specific error code, so people report and talk about that mysterious E18 error. -- Dave)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

At its Worldwide Developer Conference this week, Apple (http://www.apple.com) announced plans to deliver models of its Macintosh computers using Intel microprocessors by this time next year and to transition all of its Macs to using Intel microprocessors by the end of 2007.

Apple demonstrated Mac OS X Tiger running on an Intel-based Mac to the over 3,800 developers attending CEO Steve Jobs' keynote address and distributed Xcode 2.1 to them, which compiles Universal Binaries that bundle PowerPC and Intel code in one application. Apple also announced the availability of a $999 Developer Transition Kit, consisting of an Intel-based Mac with preview versions of Apple's software.

The company will provide Transitive's Rosetta, code-translation technology, to transparently run existing PowerPC applications on Intel-based Macs at between 60-80 percent the speed of native software.

Finally, Jobs announced Tiger's successor Leopard would be released in late 2006 or early 2007.


Yahoo (http://photomail.mail.yahoo.com) announced PhotoMail [W] to easily embed photos on a local computer or the Yahoo Photos picture sharing service in email. Users will also be able to add captions to each photo or adjust its borders.


Sybex (http://www.sybex.com) has published Photoshop CS2 Savvy by Stephen Romaniello and Matt Kloskowski, Raw 101: Better Images With Photoshop And Photoshop Elements by Jon Canfield and the ebook Photoshop Sharpening: The Digital Photographer's Guide by Tim Gray.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has introduced a strengthened, more durable version of its LiteDisc Holder. The $72.95 two-section holder supports reflectors and diffusers, as well as foam core, Plexiglas and other semi-lightweight reflective materials.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $35 GraphicConverter 5.6.2 [W] to add Spotlight support, more Automator actions, Core Image filter support, batch IPTC conversion between Mac and Windows, an option to add an ICC profile when saving, improved PhotoRaw import and more.


LookWow [W] (http://www.lookwow.com) photo-enhancement software can add shadows, candlelight and sunshine or apply special effects like suntan, enhance lips and brighten smile, while using basic editing features to crop, resize, brighten, sharpen and recolor images.

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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).

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
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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