The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 14 8 July 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 153rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter, the first delivered with our new email software. We review an old favorite after it gets a rare update, Shawn looks at Canon's revision of its popular long zoom and we consider a convenience run amuck and a phenomenon worthy of its fame.


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: nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 -- More Than Finely Honed

When we reviewed the initial release of Sharpener Pro in Nov. 2000, we were already big fans of Photoshop's unsharp masking filter. And that review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/NS/NS.HTM) discusses unsharp masking in general, if you need a refresher course.

But since we became acquainted with Sharpener, we've printed no inkjet or dye sub photo nor published any Web site image from Seybold or Macworld without it. There are few utilities than can go five years without an update, but Sharpener is one of them.

The world of digital imaging has evolved enormously in five years, however. And Sharpener's latest release catches up by providing a Raw Presharpening filter and 16-bit mode. It goes a good bit further, however, by incorporating Sharpener Selective, based on a concept we first saw in Dfine, nik multimedia's noise reduction utility we reviewed in our Aug. 8, 2003 issue. Sharpener Selective lets you apply its sharpening filters to your image by (drum roll) brushing them on with your image editing application's brushes.

There's a lot to this impressive product (seeing is believing, so visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/NS2/NS2.HTM for the illustrated review). As we said nearly five years ago, it doesn't just make it easy to do unsharp masking, it makes it easy to optimize it. And there are few tasks that will improve your images more than sharpening them correctly. So let's dive in.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

There are two editions of nik Sharpener. The $169.95 Inkjet Edition and the $329.95 Complete Edition. Subscribers get a 10 percent discount (see the Deals section).

There's actually an intelligent difference between the editions. Which edition you need depends on how you are going to output your images.

The affordable Inkjet Edition gives you everything you need to make your own inkjet prints, including the Raw Presharpening and Display filters. Inkjet filters start with a general purpose filter and add optimized filters for Canon, HP, Epson and Lexmark printers.

The Complete Edition adds filters for photo labs and prepress work, including Fuji Pictrography, Lab Photographic, Halftone and Photographic/Dye Sub.

We'll quibble with the inclusion of the Photographic/Dye Sub filter in only the Complete Edition. We think that should be in both packages, given the popularity of 4x6 dye sub photo printers. Try the Display filter instead.

FEATURES

Version 2.0 includes several significant new features everyone will appreciate:

In addition, the new version adds a couple features that will appeal to professionals and serious amateurs:

Sharpener filters also support Photoshop Actions and batch processing, including Droplets.

RULES OF THE GAME

Unsharp masking is not a trick for sharpening up blurry images. The trick for that is to reduce them. The smaller they are, the more focussed they look. No, unsharp masking's job is to make your image crisp as the air on an autumn afternoon.

But not until you've made every other edit to the image. Unsharp masking is always the last thing you do.

And, just to make it interesting, the optimum amount of sharpening depends not on the image but on the output device. Screen display, the Web, an inkjet printer, a continuous tone print, a halftone in a book all have different sharpening requirements. That makes it nearly impossible to evaluate your results by looking at the image on the screen. Optimum print sharpening often looks crunchy on screen but is undetectable on the page, for example.

USAGE

You can use Sharpener 2.0 two ways:

Usually you'll just select the filter for your printer and adjust the settings in the dialog box.

INTERFACE

Sharpener 2.0's dialog box has a new skin and new control layout. Again much of this seems derived from Dfine, which is not a bad thing at all. Let's take the tour.

Basic/Advanced Tab. It may not look like a tab, but clicking Advanced takes you to the last stop on the tour (see below), while Basic displays the core controls, which essentially ask about your output device. Not everything on the following list of controls appears for every filter.

Image Width Slider. Sharpener picks this up from your image size settings as the final print width size. While it doesn't resize your image, it will adjust the sharpening to match any resizing you plan to do in the print dialog box.

Image Height Slider. Ditto. It's picked up from your image size settings and is adjusted to match output resizing.

Viewing Distance Slider. This usually neglected factor is critical. Walk up to a billboard sometime to see what we mean. Version 2.0 uses actual distances (in feet) but we did like the previous approach of Book/Small Box/Large Box/Small Poster/Large Poster. But actual distance is clearer. Just ask yourself if this image is meant to be viewed from your lap (as in a scrapbook), framed on a side table, framed on the wall, as a 10x14 print or a 13x19 print. Each requires different sharpening and this setting optimizes the sharpening for how far away you typically stand when you view this print.

Paper Type Slider. Yes, the paper itself affects the apparent sharpness. For Epson inkjets, as an example, this runs from textured papers to canvas to plain paper to matte to luster to glossy.

Printer Resolution Slider. Inkjets can print at several resolutions and here's where you tell Sharpener what you're up to. But if you don't see your resolution on the slider (which used to happen a lot with the prior version as inkjet resolutions outran the five year old filter), you can set a custom one in the Settings dialog box.

Use Autoscan Checkbox. The prior version used different filters for autoscanning or not autoscanning, but 2.0 let's you simply enable or disable this incredible, indispensible, fantastic option with a checkbox. Using it takes a bit longer, but we think it's nuts to turn it off. It's the intelligence behind Sharpener, distinguishing the unsharpened skin from the sharpened shirt. Especially appreciated in batch operations.

Show More Button. Click this to reveal the Quick Save Slots where you can customize and store settings. It also displays image information and your serial number.

Help & FAQs Button. Good stuff but you won't usually need it to get the job done. Very nice to have so handy, though.

Multiple Previews Button. The options are 1) single large preview, 2) two side-by-side landscape previews or 3) two side-by-side portrait previews. Each preview can be zoomed independently with sharpening turned on or off. So this goes a bit beyond Before & After (which you can see just by holding down the mouse button on the preview).

Analysis Mode Button. Three amazing choices: 1) no overlay, 2) a striped overlay in which the transparency of the stripes indicates the degree of sharpening applied to the underlying image and 3) a red mask in which the degree of sharpening is indicated by the intensity of the red mask with white indicating no sharpening. Patent pending, too.

Preview Toggle. Great for large single image previews. You can see the effect of the filter and the original by just clicking this toggle.

Zoom. While it defaults to Full View, you can toggle to the more useful 100 percent view by simply clicking on the ratio displayed. Otherwise use the plus and minus symbols to zoom in or out.

Save/Load Buttons. Yes, you can save your settings and load them later for similar images.

Cancel/OK Buttons. It wouldn't be a dialog box without these buttons.

Settings Button. This is what you click to store custom settings like printer resolution. But you can also use it to tell Sharpener if you are printing with four or eight inks or printing a quad tone.

Clicking on the Advanced Tab displays a set of five sliders and a Reset Controls button. The five sliders each have their own Eye Dropper tool to sample a color from the original image and a small box to identify the sampled color. You can adjust the degree of sharpening for any particular sample by moving the slider. This may sound like overkill, but it guarantees you will not sharpen your blue, blue skies. Very cool.

SHARPENER SELECTIVE

Most geniuses would wrap things up after coding the filters and rush out to be fitted for their Nobel Prize tux. But nik took all this sharpening smarts and applied it to the brush mode of your image application.

Just call up the filter, set it and use Sharpener Selective's Paint option to brush the effect on at the opacity of your choice. Use the Fill option to apply the filter to any selection or the entire image if there's no selection.

And if you have a pressure sensitive Wacom tablet, Selective will respond to the pressure, too.

If you like the results, just click the Apply button. Or just Discard the whole thing.

CONCLUSION

The proof, of course, is in the print. But even our screen shots show how Sharpener can protect areas of your image from oversharpening and noise. And because it can analyze an image with Autoscan, adapting its sharpening process on the fly, it's just the thing for batch processing.

The Selective tool makes it possible to paint sharpening onto a portrait, say, so you can sharpen the eyes without exaggerating skin blemishes. And the new sharpening views in the Advanced tab show exactly what the plug-in is doing.

Yes, it's expensive. But sharpening is a hard game to play well. There are few plug-ins you would use on every image you print or display. This is one of them.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon PowerShot S2 IS -- Long Zoom Refined

By DAVE ETCHELLS and SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S2IS/S2ISA.HTM on the Web site.)

Canon's previous long zoom, the S1 IS, is still one of the most popular 3.2-megapixel cameras still on the market. Indeed, it currently ranks Number Nine with our readers in the Top Ten Dave's Picks. Maybe it's the camera's handsome, burly looks or the low price for such a long, image-stabilized zoom.

There's no question the S1 IS hit a sweet spot in the market, but it has a few shortcomings: that 3.2-Mp sensor and high image noise at ISO 400.

Canon's new $499 PowerShot S2 IS with a 5-Mp sensor addresses both shortcomings. Its higher megapixel sensor allows for plenty of cropping after capture. And while it still has noise at high ISO (like all point-and-shooter digicams), it's far better controlled. Let's take a closer look.

Body. The S2 IS body is similar to the S1, with slightly more aggressive contours and accents. It shares the PowerShot look and feel, along with many of the same exposure options and features. At 4.4x3.1x3.0 inches and weighing some 18.55 ounces with batteries and SD memory card, it's only a little heavier and just a smidge fatter out front due to the larger lens.

The grip is sized just right, with your two middle fingers wrapping comfortably around, the pinkie curling underneath and the index finger resting comfortably on the shutter. Even Dave (who was positively incensed by the Canon Rebel XT's small grip) liked the grip on the S2 IS, finding it easy to hold and balance the entire camera.

The rest of the camera body is smooth and fits the hand nicely. All controls work as expected and the design is easy and comfortable. My only complaint is the odd power toggle/off button combination. I find myself turning it in the wrong direction. To access Record mode, whose icon is on the top left of the toggle, you have to put your thumb on the back of the toggle and move it to the right (which moves the indicator on the front of the toggle to the left).

Lens. The main attraction of this camera is the big lens. Just pull the zoom ring to the right and you're able to get right up on whatever you want. The S2 IS will take you out to the equivalent of a 432mm lens. And if you need to make your friends cry, you can tell them its 4x digital zoom gives you the reach of a 1728mm zoom (if not the clarity).

Image Stabilization. As if that almost ludicrous sounding focal length weren't enough, the S2 IS will help you get a solid shot even at the longest zoom settings. A computer-controlled lens element inside the lens is actually moved around in time with most detected camera movement. Like most such systems, it's calibrated to adjust for twitches, breathing, heartbeat, wind -- all the things we don't think about that affect our ability to hold a camera still.

Shooting in Continuous mode, the image starts to float as soon as you tease the shutter button. That tells you how well you're holding the camera. Just learn to wait for the image to stabilize. And carefully review your results. Switch to Playback mode and use the zoom lever to check for motion blur if you already know you're pushing it. If you're getting blur, you might need to raise the ISO, brace the camera against something or flip up the flash. The S2 IS sports several different IS modes. Faced with a really challenging situation, you'll probably find that the Shoot Only IS mode better at compensating for extreme shake.

Another area helped by image stabilization is video capture. Usually a feature of high-end video cameras, the S2 IS's always-present video mode is also enhanced by the camera's image stabilization, lending a more professional look.

AF. The S2 IS has seen an improvement in AF speed and sensitivity, due to its DIGIC II chip. This chip has been improving Canon's entire line over the last year, making all manner of functions faster and more efficient. One feature I'm missing though is the nine-point AF found on other cameras like the Canon S70 and the popular A95. In its place is the AF system borrowed from the Canon G6, called FlexiZone AF. This system allows the photographer to move the AF point all around the screen so focus can be set to wherever you deem important. In portraits, for example, you'd want to move the AF point to keep the eyes of your subject in focus. As much as I like that, in fast action settings, I've preferred the nine-point AF system, for its surprisingly accurate and speedy processing of image data.

There's a manual focus mode as well, accessible by pressing a button on the side of the lens. I suppose it's good to have, but I've never found it that useful. Even with the magnified view and distance scale, you have a heck of a time seeing any change as you focus manually. The AF system is reliable enough that I've never had to use manual focus.

LCD. The S2 IS is really a combination of much of Canon's best PowerShot technology and among the high points is the 1.8 inch flip out and swivel LCD. You really don't know you need this until you start to use it. Shots you'd have never considered are suddenly possible. Overhead, down low, even pictures of yourself can be framed with unprecedented accuracy and comfort. If you like to try new angles on a subject, you need a camera with a versatile LCD like this. Because LCDs generally wash out in sunlight, Canon wisely included an electronic viewfinder. It's a shame you can't have an optical viewfinder, but this compromise is necessary with such a long zoom.

Exposure. The S2 IS has the full complement of manual and automatic exposure choices. You can set the camera to Auto (green zone) or P (program) and just point-and-shoot. But if the lighting is challenging, a quick turn either left or right puts you in greater control. In Shutter, Aperture and Manual modes, you can control how much depth of field or how much you want to freeze or blur action. But in the Scene modes, you still wield control, because you're telling the camera what the situation is. My favorite is Night Portrait. For both night and indoor scenes, it softens the impact of the flash by dialing it back and leaving the shutter open a little longer to capture the scene's ambient light. The result is a better picture that tells a truer story of what I saw and wanted to capture.

Movies. The S2 IS has an unusually capable Movie mode for a relatively inexpensive digicam. Movie mode allows you to capture up to 1-GB of moving images and sound at either 15 or 30 frames per second, at a resolution of either 640x480 or 320x240 pixels. A gigabyte of movie is about nine minutes of action at the highest quality and frame rate setting. You need a high-speed memory card to record nonstop at the larger image size and/or higher frame rate. Its unique stereo microphones above the lens to the left and right do seem to create some separation, especially when subjects are nearby. Sound options allow you to change the recording bit rate and reduce wind noise on recordings, a nifty feature from Canon's camcorder line (and a first for digicams).

Movie mode is also unusual in allowing the zoom lens to operate while recording movies with sound. Most digicams disable the zoom during movie recording because the zoom motor noise would be recorded on the audio track. With the S2 IS though, Canon has chosen to allow zoom operation during movie recording, but at a reduced speed of actuation. The result is moderately successful. In quiet surroundings, you can still clearly hear the noise of the zoom motor, but it's not terribly intrusive, while in noisier environments, the noise is masked by the ambient sound.

New to the S2 IS is the ability to capture images during video recording. Because you activate video from the red and silver button on the camera's back, the main shutter button remains available to focus and snap a picture. And these on-the-fly still shots aren't 640x480 images, but full 5-Mp images. The video stream is interrupted for a bit under a second for this capture, which creates a gap, but Canon was clever in dealing with this. Playback inserts a shutter sound and shows the still image for just under a second.

It's clear the S2 IS designers were having a good time making not only a versatile camera, but a camera that would be fun as well. In addition to the color effects on the S1, the S2 has added a Custom Color setting. You can perform all kinds of tricks with this, including intensifying or dimming specific colors or even completely replacing one color with another. You can also easily darken or lighten skin tones and emulate slide film.

Memory. Add at least $70 to your budget for a nice-sized memory card because the camera only comes with a 16-MB SD card. If you plan on taking advantage of the video mode, get a high speed card (Lexar 32x or above or SanDisk Ultra or Extreme) of at least 512-MB, if not a full 1-GB.

Battery. With new high-quality NiMH AA rechargeables, I get very good battery life and direct tests of power drain show very good battery life indeed. An AC adapter is also available.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The S2 IS showed very pleasing color with good saturation and color accuracy. Skin tones looked very good, though the blue flowers of the bouquet in both the indoor and outdoor portraits were just a little dark and purplish. The camera's Auto and Manual white balance settings typically performed well, though the Auto setting had some trouble with the incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait. On that test though, both the Incandescent and Manual white balance settings worked quite well. All in all, the color should be pleasing to most users.

Exposure: The S2 IS handled my test lighting quite well and produced only slightly high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting of the Sunlit Portrait and the Outdoor House (although I shot the former using the camera's low-contrast option). While some detail was lost in the strongest highlights, midtone and shadow detail were quite good. Indoors, the camera required an average amount positive exposure compensation and the standard flash exposure was well exposed with pretty good coverage. In the studio, it had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target of the Davebox. Overall, very good results.

Resolution/Sharpness: It performed well on the laboratory resolution test chart with its 5.0-Mp CCD (effective). It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found strong detail out to at least 1,200 lines vertically and 1,300 lines horizontally. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,600 lines. In real-world subjects, I felt it frequently produced slightly coarse-looking detail, the result of a slightly soft underlying sensor image, coupled with slightly heavy-handed sharpening.

Image Noise: Some blue-channel noise was present even at ISO 50, but it really wasn't visible unless you examine the blue channel by itself. Subject details softened somewhat and noise levels increased as we moved up the ISO scale, but even the ISO 200 shots were usable for 8x10 prints. At ISO 400, the images became quite soft and the noise much more pronounced, making 8x10 prints rather rough-looking. At a print size of 5x7 inches though, ISO 400 images should be acceptable to most users and at 4x6 inches, noise entirely ceases to be an issue. All in all, a bit better than average noise performance for a 5-Mp digicam (which are a bit noisier than their 7-Mp or 4-Mp cousins).

Close-Ups: It captured large macro area in its normal mode, measuring 4.55x3.41 inches. Super Macro mode captured a much smaller area at 1.04x0.78 inches. Resolution was high, with strong detail. However, in Super Macro mode, the corners showed strong blurring. The flash throttled down pretty well for the macro area in normal mode, though the lens created a shadow in the bottom of the frame. Flash isn't available in Super Macro mode.

Night Shots: It's a pretty competent low-light shooter, capturing good exposures at ISO 200 and 400 down to the 1/16 foot-candle limit of our test, to 1/8 foot-candle at ISO 100 and 1/4 foot-candle at ISO 50. Its autofocus system worked down to about 1/4 foot-candle without the AF-assist light and in complete darkness on nearby objects with the AF-assist light on. For reference, typical city street lighting at night is about one foot-candle, so it should do quite well with typical urban night scenes. Image noise is on the high side, particularly at the higher ISO settings, but not far from average when compared with competing 5-Mp consumer camera models. Flash range is also better than average, usable to 14 feet with the lens at a medium-telephoto setting.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The electronic optical viewfinder and LCD monitor turned in the same results, since they essentially show the same view. Both were just very slightly loose, showing slightly more than the final image area, but very close to 100 percent.

Optical Distortion: I measured 0.8 percent barrel distortion at wide-angle and only 0.04 percent pincushion distortion at telephoto (about one pixel). Chromatic aberration was higher than average at both wide-angle and telephoto. Corner sharpness was pretty good overall, but some softening was noticeable at full telephoto.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: Startup time is quite fast at only 1.5 seconds from power on to the first shot, a very good number for a camera with a telescoping lens. With a full-autofocus shutter delay of 0.60 to 0.62 second, it focuses more quickly than most cameras. In high-speed continuous mode with a fast memory card, it really shines, shooting at 2.3 fps more or less indefinitely, until the card fills.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time (capture mode, with the rear-panel LCD in use) of just under four hours using 1600 mAh batteries, it has much better than average battery life. In playback mode, run time stretches to a bit under eight hours.

Print Quality: It produced nice-looking prints at 11x14 inches, but the finest detail had a bit of a coarse appearance to it. While its images start to get visibly noisy at ISO 200, they held together quite well in prints as large as 8x10 inches. At ISO 400, prints were a lot rougher looking, to the point that most users would probably find them too soft and noisy. Dropping to 5x7 inches though, even ISO 400 shots looked pretty decent and noise ceased to be an issue altogether at a 4x6 print size. Overall, I'd say its high-ISO print performance is a bit better than average among competing 5-Mp digicams.

CONCLUSION

The long-zoom digicam market is getting pretty crowded, so it takes a lot for a product to stand out. But the Canon PowerShot S2 IS is indeed a standout product.

Building upon the still very popular S1 IS model, the it shows substantial improvements in just about every parameter. Resolution is higher, autofocus performance and shutter response much quicker and Movie mode greatly enhanced and much better-integrated with the still-camera functions. Quibbles are that its images are a little coarser-looking than those from the best of the current crop of 5-Mp digicams and that image noise is a bit high at ISO 400.

Taken as a package though, it's one fine digital camera and a lot of fun to use besides. Highly recommended and an easy 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:

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: The File Association Game

In a perfect world (the kind where there aren't perfect storms, that is), you'd double click on a JPEG and your image editor would open up. Or your slide show program would display it full screen. Or your catalog program would open it so you could add a few keywords. Or....

As smart as today's major operating systems are, they don't have a clue what you'd like to do. And if, like us, you'd like to do different things, consider yourself a real trouble maker.

In simpler times, it was enough to associate a file with a program. You played the file association game differently on Windows than you did on the Mac. Windows relied on the file extension to figure out what program the file belonged to. The Mac used a resource fork setting to associate the file with a program.

Today, both platforms rely on the file extension. But that hasn't simplified anything.

When you install a major application, it isn't uncommon for it to ask you what kinds of files you want it to open when you double click on them. Elements 3, for example, will open any JPEG, TIFF, GIF, you name it, if you tell it to. Sometimes a few file types are selected by default.

Once set, though, it can challenge your sanity to unlink these associations unless you know a few tricks.

On Windows, PC Magazine's $5.97 utility QuickAssociation (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/01759,1654639,00.asp ) makes it easy to manage these changes. You can also go to the Start menu and select Set Program Access and Defaults.

On OS X, the trick is to use Get Info, set the Open With preference and Change All if you want other files with the same extension to be associated with the new application. You can also right or control click to get a contextual menu that will let you open the file with any application that one time.

Then there's good old Drag 'n Drop. Just launch your application yourself (or open your regulars on start up) and drag the little beasts to the particular application you want to see it in. Or just cycle to that application and use its Open dialog window to select the file you want.

If this all sounds like something MapQuest (http://www.mapquest.com) should be handling, you might prefer to launch Adobe's Bridge and use that instead of your operating system to open your files. In Adobe applications only, of course.

We're hoping Apple's upcoming Leopard and Microsoft's future Longhorn will simply use Bluetooth technology to tune in to the frequency of our dental fillings so the system can tell what we want without using our hands.

Return to Topics.

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 Nikon D70S Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9f4e7/0

Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8

Tanya asks about choosing the best digital camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9eea5/0

Vince asks about monitor/printer calibration at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9e50b/0

Visit the Techniques Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b325

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Advice for the Queen

Was it merely coincidence, we wondered, that Queen Elizabeth got an iPod shortly after Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles were wed? Our curiosity was informed by our own matriarch's enthusiasm for her new iPod. Mom's practically going door to door in the neighborhood to demonstrate the thing.

They have a way of restoring peace and quiet to the realm, certainly. But the enthusiasm iPodders have for their [hmm, it seems inaccurate to call it a gadget] strikes us as the sort of cultural sigh of relief that finally some [well, not gadget] works without extracting blood from its user.

That's why it isn't a gadget. Gadgets need to be fiddled with, tinkered with and tweaked. You expect them to do more than they can and are disappointed with them rather quickly.

Digicams are borderline gadgets. They offer the thrill of film-free photography but suffer the complexities of gadgets when it comes to dealing with your photos. Like printing them. Different sort of cultural sigh, unfortunately.

But the cultural sigh of relief for the iPod reflects an appreciation for more than a popular product.

When Mom got her iPod Shuffle (as a gift), she loved how small and light it is and how great the sound quality is. But she was amazed that she all she had to do was plug it into her G3 iMac keyboard and iTunes would pop up. Or that all she had to do was pop in her Frank Sinatra CDs, click Import and iTunes would make some old favorites available to her iPod. Or that she could pop onto the iTunes store to listen to a few bars of Il Divo. And see the album cover.

"The people that figured this out," she said, "should be on Charlie Rose."

But, as we've been trying to demonstrate to her for years now, it's an imperfect world. A few demos into her new career, she called us and wanted to know why it wasn't working any more.

We investigated. She's running OS 10.3.9 on that old box. A trip to the About This Mac display and More Info button revealed the problem. The G3's keyboard port was only making 100mA available to her iPod, so it wasn't, um, charging. The keyboard and her mouse were taking most of the 500mA USB port's juice.

We tried plugging it into the iMac directly but the G3's plastic case blocks the iPod from fully seating. So we took her iPod home to charge it for her and research a solution.

We had the same problem at home on a PowerBook that was otherwise unengaged for the evening. We could only plug in the iPod if we removed all the USB cables. But we had a USB extension cable floating around, so we were able to conveniently recharge her iPod in four hours. After, that is, telling the PowerBook not to go to sleep and shut off power to the USB ports.

Which gave us time to research a solution for Mom.

We didn't like the extension cable solution because she'd have to unplug her HP all-in-one printer/scanner to do the charging. Plugging and unplugging USB cables is harder than plugging and unplugging electrical cords.

We weren't interested in a powered USB hub, either, because we're on a fixed income and her G3 would still have to stay awake for up to four hours.

But true to the iPod experience, Apple had come up with a better solution: the iPod power adapter. A little brick, much like those that come with PowerBooks, with folding prongs and a USB port. Plug it into the wall and charge your iPod without a computer. Brilliant.

The solution delighted her as much as the iPod had. Not only was there nothing new to master, but she could now recharge on the road as she was doing her door to door demos.

We had to wonder when the last time a solution to a gadgetian problem had ever delighted someone. In an imperfect world, even effective solutions tend to disappoint. Especially in the world of digital photography, where even elegant solutions are not so simple.

Oh, our advice to the Queen? Let someone else take the photographs.

Return to Topics.

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: Graceland Revisited

Our camera policy was amended some time ago to allow digital still cameras that also record very short bits of video. It hasn't been spelled out in writing as yet in our posted policies. So far, it has worked for our frontline staff to deal with it as visitors ask.

-- Graceland Media Relations

(Thanks for the clarification. In short, gang, you can bring your digicam into Graceland to shoot stills, even if it has a Movie mode. If anyone gives you the runaround, simply tell them you just saw Elvis and he said, "No problem." -- Editor)

RE: Slide Scanner vs. dSLR

I have seen your review of Minolta Dual 5400 II scanner. How do you assess their scans of pro slides in comparison with dSLRs? Is a printed picture from the scanner better than from, let us say, 6-Mp cameras? Please write about such comparisons.

-- Aleksander Kozak

(As far as making a print goes, they each do very, very well. In fact, Kodak's tests when developing PhotoCD technology revealed that 6 million 24-bit RGB pixels can capture all the detail of a scanned film negative. So you can shoot digital without sacrificing quality.... Technically, scanners have two advantages: 16-bit channel capture fro 48-bit color and uninterpolated color (each pixel is filtered for red, green and blue). -- Editor)
(With a lot less pixels, a dSLR can deliver equally sharp-looking images. Film has a dynamic range advantage, but you can merge bracketed dSLR shots to get a much greater usable dynamic range. For high-ISO work, modern dSLRs completely blow away film in grain/noise levels at a given level of sensitivity. The Canon EOS 20D shooting at ISO 3200, for example, compares very favorably with a full-frame 35mm camera using ISO 800 film. And then there's color fidelity. When noted landscape photographer Steven Johnson switched to digital, he noticed was how much richer and more accurate the foliage color was in his landscapes. For my money, dSLRs win hands down. -- Dave)

RE: DVD Resolution

Maybe this has been answered elsewhere and I missed it. Reading your comments on 720 lines for TV and burning to a DVD reminded me of my own nagging question:

After taking lots of photos with my Canon dSLR and editing them with Photoshop CS2, I would like to share them with family and friends by way of my brand new HDTV. When I purchase the HDTV I also bought a new progressive scan DVD player reputed to up-convert conventional DVD movies to something approximating true HDTV. The picture quality when viewing a true HDTV source is wonderful, but watching my photos -- either on CD-ROM or DVD -- is so painful, I can't stand it.

I am doing something basically wrong, because it's not that the images are blurry -- they're not -- they are distorted, pixilated and otherwise almost un-viewable. You can tell what it's supposed to be, but it sure doesn't look like what I see on my computer monitor. My prints are beautiful, but that gets expensive, trying to print every picture!

What am I missing here?

-- Wayne Howard

(HDTV displays up to 1080 horizontal lines, so HDTV monitors offer several display options to upsample or frame lower resolution images (particularly for analog broadcasts). Some DVD players can upsample as well (as yours does). In addition, these monitors provide are all sorts of image processing features. Samsung's DNIe technology, for example, enhances detail, contrast and color.... When you author a DVD to display your images, the authoring software downsamples them to 720 lines (an NTSC non-interlaced accommodation). But you may not have to author a DVD to see your images on your HDTV monitor. If your DVD player features a JPEG viewer, you can burn a Picture CD-formatted CD to view higher resolution images. It may also be able to read a data CD or DVD burned with your high-res JPEGs. Your monitor may also provide some sort of JPEG viewing option (via a card slot).... In any case, what you don't want to do is burn a Video CD of your images. That's NTSC resolution period. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

The real fireworks this Fourth of July weren't on earth. NASA's Deep Impact mission (http://www.nasa.gov/deepimpact) sent an 820 lb., coffee-table sized probe into the comet Tempel 1.

The collision occurred at 1:52 a.m. July 4 at a speed of about 23,000 miles per hour. Naturally, the whole thing was captured by a digicam on the spacecraft that launched the probe.

The high and medium resolution CCDs were built by Fairchild Imaging. The high res device, one of the largest space-based instruments built specifically for planetary science, is the main science camera, providing the highest resolution images via a combined visible camera, an infrared spectrometer and a special imaging module.


Keyspan (http://www.keyspan.com) has introduced its $99 bi-directional Print Server to share USB printers on an Ethernet network. With four USB 2.0 ports and an auto-sensing, RJ-45 10/100 Ethernet port, it supports static IP, DHCP and Rendezvous/Bonjour protocols and works with Mac OS X 10.3+ and Windows 2000/XP. Its bi-directional communication allows you to use utilities that monitor ink and paper status.


Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com) has launched its $99.95 Digital Image Suite 2006, a package of easy-to-use tools to help organize, enhance and share digital images. Among the highlights are a black-and-white effects tool, intuitive cropping, Photo Story 3.1 to build slide shows with narration/music and pan/zooming, CD burning tools and Device Sync to share with mobile devices.


Extensis (http://www.extensis.com) has released a free update to its asset manager Portfolio 7 [MW]. Version 7.0.6 provides compatibility updates for Adobe's Creative Suite 2 and Apple's Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Additionally, the Portfolio Raw Filter 2 update adds support for 14 cameras, bringing the total to over 50. New additions are Nikon D2x, Nikon D2hs and Nikon Coolpix 8400/8700/8800; Olympus E300 and C8080; Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, Digital Rebel XT and Powershot G6/S70/Pro 1; Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D and Pentax *ist-DS.


MacScrapbook.com (http://www.macscrapbook.com) has introduced its $49.95 iRemember [M] to design, create, edit and print scrapbooks. iRemember includes clip art, templates, borders, backgrounds and a clip art browser.


Total Training (http://www.totaltraining.com) has announced the availability of three new DVD-ROM based training series covering GoLive CS2 ($99.99), the Creative Suite 2 system ($129.99) and advanced Photoshop CS2 techniques ($149.99).


Daniel Nicollet has created a Web site dedicated to macro photography (http://macrodream.iloweb.com). The site includes galleries, forums, news and links.


The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has released the $49.95 FocalBlade 1.04 [W], a Photoshop plug-in for sharpening, blurring, soft focus and glow effects on 8-bit and 16-bit images. A Mac version is planned.


Kevin Ames (http://www.amesphoto.com) will be teaching a five-day course this month based on his book Photoshop CS the Art of Photographing Women with live models at the Visual Institute of the Arts in Hawaii. The seminar is updated for Adobe Photoshop CS2 and includes new techniques.

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One Liners

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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

The great migration is over. The new mailing system lets you instantly manage your subscription from our redesigned Subscriber Services page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-subs.html). We sent a courtesy mailing July 1 to exercise the new system and will be tweaking it from issue to issue. That includes cleaning up some suspicious email addresses (mostly support/info/sales addresses). If we accidentally deleted you, our apologies. Just sign up again. We aren't planning to do much more cleaning.
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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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