The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 16 5 August 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 155th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We dig into the new Photoshop CS2 before taking a look at another slim Sony. Then we discuss the joys of manually focusing before treating you to an optical illusion. Don't blink!


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: Adobe CS2's Photoshop -- Flaunting It

We continue our review of Adobe Creative Suite 2 with a look at Photoshop's evolution. Our previous feature on Bridge (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/CS2/CS2BR.HTM) also listed the system requirements for the Suite after a general introduction.

Adobe told us they used Photoshop's 15-year milestone to rethink some basic operations. The goal was to make the product more user-friendly for the legions of digital photographers marching their way. We've highlighted the improvements to tools, workflow and customization in our illustrated review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/CS2/CS2PS.HTM. Here we take a closer look at a few significant new features.

NEW MAC PLUG-IN ARCHITECTURE

This version of Photoshop has followed OS X's move from the legacy CFM format of Metrowerks CodeWarrior to Mach-O for improved runtime performance, true pre-emptive threads and a more easily maintained build system. The first version of Photoshop to support Mach-O plug-ins, Adobe has taken pains to include support for legacy (all currently shipping) CFM plug-ins as well.

We polled several plug-in developers about this change. One reported they were able to reduce the conversion process from CFM to Mach-O from three days to three hours a plug-in, suggesting this is far from a trivial recompilation. Another reported that while they have been able to convert their plug-ins with Adobe's assistance, they were concerned about the need to maintain two different builds for customers.

For end users, the crisis seems to have been averted. While earlier builds of the program failed to run any CFM plug-ins, the shipping release runs everything we've thrown at it, although it will display a warning if the plug-in includes an OS 9 version in the package. And since CFM support has been worked out, product manager John Nack told us, there's no reason to pull it from future versions.

ACTIVATION

With this release, Adobe has refined their activation implementation to allow you to install on more than one computer and "transfer" the activation to the computer you're using. So before you leave the office, you'd transfer the activation from your desktop to your laptop to be able to run the suite on the your laptop.

We installed the Suite on two machines and have not had to transfer the activation to use either, however. We think it's important to have two functional installs of the product, particularly in case an upgrade breaks something. We have no problem with a license that only allows us to run one at a time, but critical applications need functional backups. You should be able to boot from a backup external drive, say and be able to run the application. You can't do that with Quark XPress, but fortunately you can with the Suite.

NOISE REDUCTION

Integrated noise reduction will be welcomed by the increasing number of digicam owners unhappy with the quality of their ISO 400 and above images. As small sensors crowd more sensor sites onto the same small real estate to deliver higher megapixel images, noise increases to such an extent that ISO 400 sensitivity is often unusable. The new Reduce Noise filter with its Advanced settings cleans up a lot of that noise while also reducing JPEG artifacts.

The Reduce Noise filter lets you handle noise with four sliders and one checkbox. The Strength slider controls the amount of luminance noise reduction that's applied. Preserve Details protects hair and texture. Reduce Color Noise blends in random color pixels. Sharpen Details combats the noise removal's inherent softening but you can also use the Unsharp Mask filter to restore sharpness. The lone checkbox is Remove JPEG Artifacts to smooth JPEG images that were overly compressed.

An Advanced button lets you adjust the Strength and Preserve Details controls on a per channel basis.

You can save your settings to disk for reuse, something that could be very handy for images shot at ISO 400 or 800 on a particular camera.

OPTICAL LENS CORRECTION

Also impressive is the Optical Lens Correction filter, which corrects barrel or pincushion distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting and perspective flaws in all three dimensions. It does it in one pass with simple, intuitive controls, a live preview and an alignment grid.

This is remarkably easy to use -- if you can find it. It's buried in the Distort menu.

The Distortion slider runs from barrel to pincushion distortions so you either undo what you have or (even more fun) introduce a distortion.

Chromatic Aberration lets you Fix Red/Cyan Fringe or Fix Blue/Yellow Fringe using sliders.

Vignette has an Amount slider to darken or lighten a vignette, as well as a Midpoint slider to adjust the how much of the image is affected by the vignette.

The Transform panel lets you fool around with either the Vertical or Horizontal Perspective and change the Angle (or rotation) of the image.

You can also set the Edge to fill in blank areas of the image resulting from the various corrections. Options include Transparency, Color or Extend the edge pixels.

Finally, Scale accomplishes the same thing by cropping the image without changing the image size, interpolating back up to the original pixel dimensions.

SMART SHARPEN

The world needs a smarter unsharp masking filter. The new Smart Sharpen goes a long way toward that but has one fatal flaw.

There are five controls in the dialog. Amount, like its equivalent in Unsharp Mask, sets the amount of sharpening with higher values increasing the contrast between edge pixels. Radius, also like its cousin, sets the number of edge pixels affected by the sharpening (how many rows deep it goes).

Remove is a new option. It sets the sharpening algorithm. You can select Gaussian Blur (which is used by Unsharp Mask), Lens Blur (for finer detail and reduced halos) or Motion Blur (if the camera or the subject moved during the exposure). If you select Motion Blur, you can also set the Angle.

Also new is the More Accurate checkbox, best left unchecked to prevent creating noise.

Click on the Advanced radio button and you get the Shadow and Highlight tabs. They let you set a Fade Amount (to decrease the amount of sharpening in the Shadows or Highlights), Tonal Width (which restricts the effect to either the darker tones in Shadows or the lighter tones in Highlights) and Radius (ah, that's where Radius went).

That's all terrific, but the problem is that you are using a screen display to judge sharpening not for display on the screen, typically, but for printing. You should always tailor your sharpening for the output device and here Adobe provides no guidance. We'll continue to rely on nik Sharpener Pro for that (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/NS2/NS2.HTM).

HDR

If there's one new feature that represents this upgrade, however, it's Adobe's support for Radiancešs 32-bit channel file format.

We raved about Reindeer Graphics' Optipix plug-in to Blend multiple 8-bit images into a 16-bit image (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/OPT/OPT.HTM). Photoshop's new Merge to HDR automation tool takes that capability to 32-bit channels, although without providing any manual image alignment. Instead, Nack told us, it uses the same automatic alignment algorithms the Panorama stitching tool uses.

HDR, which stands for high dynamic range, uses the 32-bit Radiance format (.hdr) originally developed for visualizing lighting effects in virtual 3D environments. You can also save as 32-bit TIFF or PSD (although not DNG, which does support 32-bit channels). The format stores the quantity of light per pixel rather than the colors to be displayed on-screen using luminosity levels far higher than the 256 levels in 8-bits-per-channel image file formats. In fact, using Photoshop in 32-bit mode activates floating point color calculations. Where there are more colors than stars in the universe.

Why would you want to work in a color space that exceeds what you can see (which is, even with 16.7 million RGB combinations, only 518,733 actual perceiveable colors)?

As long as there has been photography, photographers have had to choose which luminances in the real world they would capture in the narrow range of their films or sensors and depict in the even more restricted mediums of their displays or papers. The prerequisite for any art is choice.

And in this new universe of HDR, some marvelous choices become possible.

But because you merge 8-bit or 16-bit channel images to build a 32-bit channel image, some special considerations come into play. Your subject, for example, can't move. Nor can your camera. And while you want to vary exposure, you can only do so by varying the shutter speed. If you change the aperture, you affect depth of field, changing the image. While you do want to bracket your exposures, the steps should be one or two f-stops, not the 1/3 or 1/2 stops most auto bracket features provide.

These restrictions suggest the experimental nature of 32-bit channel imaging. But expect to see more of it in future versions.

Once you've got a set of images, you can select them in Bridge and use the Photoshop Tools option to Merge to HDR. If you're working with Raw image, you may want to use the Image Processor in Bridge to convert them to JPEGs first, but it isn't necessary. Bridge just lets you batch process a selection no matter what you need to do. You can also browse and select images from Photoshop to merge.

But if your images don't have the usual Exif header information, Photoshop will ask you to manually set the EV value of each image so it can figure out how to blend the various images. Enter a different value for each image using negative whole numbers for the darker images, zero for the normal image and positive whole numbers for the lighter images.

The merge that Photoshop displays is really no more significant in tonal values or color than a thumbnail is in judging detail. You can't see everything in that file. But you can use it.

And Adobe's emphasis in this release on usability comes in pretty handy here. Under Image Adjustments you'll find Exposure. The Exposure dialog presents three sliders: Exposure, Offset and Gamma. OK, not too friendly. Actually, they should be labeled Highlight, Shadows and Midtones.

You can manipulate them visually, of course. But you might try setting markers for the highlights and shadows and watching the values change as you edit. To do that, close the Exposure dialog box and grab the Color Sample tool.

Assuming your image does not have specular highlights (which should be blown) and that you want some detail in your highlights, use the Color Sample tool to click in the highlight so you can monitor its value. Click in a shadow area, too.

In 32-bit mode, values can go way beyond the 0-255 of 8-bit mode. Clicking on the tool in the Info palette lets you choose between 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit values. The 32-bit values are, as you might expect, expressed in floating point numbers. You may prefer to work in 8-bit numbers to get displayable results or 16-bit numbers for more refinement.

Now bring up the Exposure dialog again and slide Exposure while monitoring those RGB numbers in the Info palette. When they start to vary from each other you've got detail. Alternately, you can use the Eye Dropper to set the highlight, shadow and gray point in the Exposure dialog.

The impressive thing here is being able to edit, not just blend, the HDR image. You can populate your highlights with detail, salvage detail in the shadows and shift the color without penalty. You can play with the image, discovering completely different effects as you move the Gamma or Midtone value.

No, this isn't a tool for snapshots. But in the choices it provides, it is a tool for the art of photography.

CONCLUSION

This is a surprisingly rich release for such a venerable application. It makes some complicated tasks easy to do well while blazing new trails for future development. Best of all, perhaps, it feels like Photoshop. You can integrate the new tools at your own pace without suffering a paradigm shift. But why shift the Photoshop paradigm? When you've got it, flaunt it.

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Feature: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7 -- Hold Me!

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T7/T7A.HTM on the Web site.)

Apart from its older brother the DSC-T1, the $499.95 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7 looks nothing like any of its Cyber-Shot predecessors. It's actually one of the most compact Cyber-shots. The camera's thin profile is chic and attractive and its all-metal body conveys a strong impression of ruggedness. The vertical lens design (similar to Minolta's DiMAGE X digicams) eliminates any lens protrusion on the front panel. As small as a makeup compact and almost the same shape as a credit card, the T7 is definitely pocket friendly and travel-worthy. Sony even offers a T7 underwater housing, so you can literally take it anywhere.

The most noticeable feature on the T7 is its large, 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, which takes up most of the camera's rear panel. Though small, the T7 doesn't skimp on features, offering a surprisingly 3x optical zoom lens with a range of focus options, a 5.1-Mp CCD for high-resolution images and a host of preset shooting modes and exposure options. The T7 is very much like the original T1, only a lot slimmer.

It's equipped with a Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 3x, 6.33-19.0mm lens (a 38-114mm 35mm equivalent). Normal focus ranges from approximately 1.64 feet to infinity, with a Macro setting that lets you get within 3.1 inches when the lens is zoomed to wide-angle and 9.8 inches at telephoto. Magnifying Glass scene mode gets as close as one centimeter (but uses digital zoom to enlarge detail). Tiny lenses like this often have poor optical performance, but our testing showed this lens to better than average relative to other members of its subcompact class.

Besides its default automatic focus control, the T7 offers a range of fixed focus settings through the Record menu, as well as Center AF, Spot AF and Multi AF focus area options. You can also select Single or Monitoring AF modes. Monitoring mode adjusts focus continuously (the T1's Continuous mode is missing on the T7). An AF illuminator lamp on the front helps focus at low light levels, a very handy feature I wish more manufacturers would add.

In addition to its 3x optical zoom, the T7 offers a maximum of 6x Precision Digital Zoom. Sony's Precision Digital Zoom does an excellent job of minimizing loss of quality, although there's no getting around the tradeoff between resolution and magnification that Digital Zoom implies. There's also an option to use Sony's Smart Zoom digital zoom up to 12x, which simply crops out the central portion of the CCD's image, without interpolating it to a larger-size file.

The 2.5-inch LCD monitor is the only viewfinder on the camera and the generous size definitely helps with framing. Unlike most digicam LCDs, the screen on the T7 is "transflective" (Sony calls it a Hybrid LCD), which means it functions every bit as well in full sunlight as it does indoors. Overall, this is one of the best LCD screens I've seen. The informative display reports a variety of camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed when the Shutter button is halfway pressed) and features an optional histogram display in both Playback and Record modes.

Exposure is automatically controlled but 10 Scene modes are also available, as well as a handful of adjustable exposure options. Record mode offers Auto, Program, Magnifying Glass, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Candle, Soft Snap, Landscape, High Speed Shutter, Beach, Snow or Fireworks exposure modes. Auto takes away all user control except flash, macro and resolution settings. Program mode controls shutter speed and aperture but allows you control over all other exposure variables. Magnifying Glass locks the lens at its telephoto position. Both Twilight modes allow shutter times as long as two seconds, although ISO sensitivity is set to its lowest value of 64. Candle mode keeps the nice yellow glow of a candlelit scene. Soft Snap mode replaces the usual Portrait mode, adding a softening effect to the image. Landscape mode focuses the camera on distant scenes. High Speed Shutter mode uses fast shutter speeds to freeze action. Snow mode enhances saturation to prevent loss of color in bright white snowscapes, while Beach mode ensures blues are recorded accurately in lakeside or seaside photos. Both Snow and Beach modes bias the exposure system to help avoid the underexposure problems most cameras have with these bright scenes. Fireworks mode preserves color by using a slower shutter speed and smaller aperture to capture the full display while maintaining a black sky.

By default, the camera uses a 49-segment Multi metering system to determine the exposure, taking readings throughout the frame. However, a Spot metering mode is available through the Record menu, good for high-contrast or off-center subjects. You can manually increase or decrease the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents and sensitivity is adjustable to ISO equivalents of 64, 100, 200 or 400, with an Auto setting as well. At slower shutter speeds or higher ISO settings, the Noise Reduction system automatically eliminates excess image noise. The T7 offers Saturation, Sharpness and Contrast adjustments, as well as a Picture Effects setting for recording in sepia or black and white. White Balance options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent and Flash modes. The flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto and Slow-Sync modes. Red eye reduction is enabled in the Setup menu and applied to all flash-on modes.

Movie mode captures either 640x480- or 160x112-pixel frames with sound as long as the memory card has available space. At the 640x480 setting, you can choose between Standard and Fine quality options. Standard records at 16 frames per second, while Fine records at 30 fps and requires Memory Stick PRO Duo media to support the necessary data rates. The T7 also offers a Multi Burst mode, which captures an extremely rapid 16-frame burst of images at a selectable rate of 7.5, 15 or 30 fps. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images when viewed on a computer. The same menu option also offers Exposure Bracketing and Burst options. Exposure Bracketing mode captures a series of three images at different exposure settings and you can set the exposure step size. Burst mode works like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera, capturing a maximum of nine images at five megapixels and fine compression at 1.4 fps. Pretty impressive for a subcompact, particularly the 9-shot buffer capacity. Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay.

The T7 stores images on Sony Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo memory cards, available separately as large as 128-MB for standard Duo cards and 1-GB for PRO versions. A 32-MB Memory Stick Duo comes with the camera, but I'd recommend immediately purchasing a larger capacity card so you don't miss any shots. Note too, the T7's high-resolution video mode requires PRO Duo cards to handle the high data rates involved. So get a PRO Duo Memory Stick to take full advantage of the T7's video capabilities.

The T7 is powered by a single NP-FE1 Info-Lithium battery pack, which accompanies the camera along with an external charger. Like most subcompacts, the tiny battery translates into rather short battery life, about 74 minutes in capture mode with a fully-charged cell, although this is still better than many subcompacts. An included USB cradle has no I/O functions, nor does it provide power. The T7 doesn't have any standard connection terminals itself, but comes with a connector terminal that features USB, DC In and AV Out connector jacks. Frankly, this is one of our gripes with the camera's design. The external port adapter is a kludgey solution for an otherwise incredibly sleek little camera. Another quibble is the manual. The Users Guide/Troubleshooting book often refers to the Read this First poster as the only source for information like Scene Modes. Would it have been that much more expensive to just replicate the contents of the poster in the manual itself? A software CD is loaded with Pixela Image Mixer software and USB drivers, for downloading and organizing images.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The T7 performed well when it came to color accuracy and saturation. Auto white balance generally did pretty well, but both Auto and Incandescent settings had trouble with the household incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait. Colors were quite hue accurate and saturation was excellent as well, with only strong reds and greens being somewhat oversaturated. Looking at our test prints, I was impressed with the good balance between vibrancy and a natural appearance. Very good performance overall.

Exposure: The T7 handled my test lighting quite well and in most shots required less than average amounts of exposure compensation. The exception was my Indoor Portrait, which took a full 1.3 EV boost, more than is usually required. Dynamic range was pretty good, but the camera's default tone curve is rather contrasty. Its low-contrast setting helps quite a bit with this, but produced odd color saturation artifacts on Marti's skin tones when I tried to use it for my Sunlit Portrait. Bottom line though, better than average exposure accuracy and pretty good dynamic range.

Resolution/Sharpness: It performed well on the laboratory resolution test chart with its 5.0-Mp CCD. It didn't start showing artifacts in the test patterns until resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found strong detail out to at least 1,300 lines. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,650 lines. Overall, a good performance for a 5-Mp digicam.

Image Noise: The T7 has average to a bit better than average image noise for a 5-Mp digicam. Noise in our test shots was low at ISO 64 and 100, became visible at ISO 200 (with some softening of subject detail) and was quite noticeable at ISO 400, with further loss of fine detail.

Close-Ups: It captured an average macro area, measuring 2.91x2.18 inches. Resolution was high, with only slight softening in the corners. The flash did a good job of throttling down for the macro area, though some fall-off is noticeable in the right corners of the frame.

Night Shots: Good low-light autofocus though. A maximum shutter speed of one second severely limits performance here (two seconds in Night Scene modes, but those modes force the ISO sensitivity to 64). If you plan on a lot of after-dark shooting, you should probably consider a different camera. Flash range is extremely limited too.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The LCD monitor was nearly 100 percent accurate at both the wide-angle and telephoto lens settings. The edges of my standard measurement lines were just cut off, but results were quite good.

Optical Distortion: I measured 0.8 percent barrel distortion at wide-angle (about average) and 0.5 percent pincushion distortion at telephoto (higher than average). Chromatic aberration was low at both wide-angle and telephoto. At wide-angle the lens shows some blurring in the corners, but only a small amount. Corner sharpness is better than average.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: More than most, Sony seems to have really gotten a handle on autofocus speed. Their cameras focus quickly and the T7 is surprisingly fast, particularly for a subcompact. Full-autofocus shutter lag ranged from 0.35 to 0.38 seconds depending on the zoom setting and pre-focus shutter lag was a blazing 12 milliseconds. Big kudos for getting one of the most annoying digicam shortcomings under control. It was also quite fast from shot-to-shot, managing a shot every 1.26 seconds in single-shot mode and capturing up to nine large/fine images at a time in burst mode at 1.43 fps. Very impressive, especially for a subcompact.

Battery Life: With a worst-case run time of 74 minutes in record mode and playback run time of 125 minutes, the T7 has worse battery life than most full-sized digital cameras, but such short run times are unfortunately common in subcompact models. Given the short battery life, my usual recommendation of buying a second battery right along with your camera applies doubly.

Print Quality: We found it had enough resolution to make good-looking 13x19 prints, although they were just a tad soft (more than good enough for wall display though). Images captured at ISO 400 looked a bit rough and soft when printed at 8x10 inches. ISO 400 shots still showed some image noise at 5x7 inches, but at an acceptable level. At 4x6 inch print sizes, noise ceases to be an issue altogether. Color-wise, the T7's images looked great when printed on the Canon i9900, with bright, vibrant color, but still very natural-looking.

CONCLUSION

The new T7 takes "thin" to a whole new level for a sophisticated digital camera design. By far the thinnest Cyber-shot, the T7 is noteworthy not only for its profile, but for the range of features and image quality Sony engineers managed to pack into it. While there are always compromises in a super-tiny digicam, the T7 does better than most. About its only significant limitations are somewhat limited low light capability and the short battery life and weak flash output typical of subcompacts.

Bottom line, a fine little camera, good enough to be a Dave's Pick. If you're in the market for a really compact digicam with few compromises, check out the T7. One word of warning though. Don't pick one up unless you plan to buy one. To hold a T7 is to want one!

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:

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Advanced Mode: The Fun of Manually Focusing

If you remember our feverish homage to hybrid focusing (we had to look it up ourselves, actually), you know we enjoyed the old days of film SLRs especially for their reliance on manual focus. In that article, we described a feature of some digicams that lets you aim focus using the four-way controller. We called it hybrid focusing because it wasn't quite manual nor quite automatic but half of each.

Autofocusing is not only a useful convenience, it also works very well. It adds a bit to shutter lag and battery usage and doesn't always hit the mark, but you can live with that. You can always 1) half-press the shutter button to freeze focus and shorten lag, 2) turn off continuous focus to save battery life and 3) guide focus to the right place by aiming, half-pressing and recomposing.

Hybrid focusing is an effective solution for situations that fool autofocusing. Like shooting through bars or glass to another subject or shooting in low-contrast scenes that don't give autofocus a hint. It takes a button press or two, but it isn't painful.

Unfortunately, on most digicams manual focusing is a lost art because it's usually an electronic (and digital) setting rather than a mechanical (and analog) adjustment. Some digicams can only step through a series of preset distance settings, click by click. Others provide a focus ring on a protruding lens, but it's only relaying electronic information to the lens. And seeing focus on an LCD in bright sun is not easy. The experience leaves a lot to be desired.

But the fun of manually focusing is not extinct.

We were traipsing about the estate the other day with a dSLR, following a Painted Lady butterfly with a macro lens. Bright sun didn't bother us because we had to use the optical viewfinder on a dSLR anyway. It was a nice, large, bright viewfinder, too. A pleasure to use.

We sometimes do and sometimes don't wear glasses when we shoot. In this case, we weren't. We had adjusted the viewfinder's built-in diopter by clicking its dial until the focus marks and the scene were both sharp in the viewfinder. As long as we could peer through the viewfinder, we were happy. But there's no denying that an articulated LCD is a big advantage for composing shots.

dSLRs have various ways of switching from autofocus to manual focus. On some, you do it on the lens, on others the body, on some either. Once the lens is free to respond to you, though, you're on your own.

And the first thing you remember (or discover) is that focusing is a creative control.

And it isn't just about what's in focus but how much, too. When you dial in focus, you're selecting the one plane of the scene that will be in sharp focus (even with the lens wide open). But as you stop the lens down, the planes in front of and behind that critical plane come into focus. Not quite as sharp but nearly.

But let's make this even more fun.

Sliding to the wide angle end of your zoom lens (or using a wide angle prime lens) increases the depth of field or how many planes appear sharp. And, conversely, zooming to the telephoto end of your lens reduces depth of field to a shallow few planes of sharpness.

There's one more trick but it involves your feet. Moving away from the subject will increase the depth of field for any given focal length. Moving toward the subject will decrease it.

How much? Well, doubling the f-stop doubles the depth of field. Doubling the distance between you and the subject, quadruples the depth of field (triple it and you increase it nine times because it's proportional to the square of the distance). Cutting the focal length in half quadruples the depth of field, too (its inversely proportional to the square of the focal length). And, yes, this is one time you really appreciate an 8-Mp sensor, since a 6-Mp crop will still make a nice 8x10. You can zoom out and crop later without sacrificing detail.

Out in the field with the cows, you generally find your spot, zoom to compose and focus the lens on the critical plane before considering how large an aperture to use for the depth of field you want to capture. Which means while the left hand dials in focus, the right hand can adjust aperture (usually through some command dial) to recompose the scene set by the focal length of the zoom. This turns out to be something you don't have to think about because you see the effects of your decisions in the viewfinder when you press the depth of field preview button. As you compose, of course, the lens is wide open, showing the shallowest depth of field.

We chose to keep our Painted Lady in sharp focus, of course. In the foreground. And that included the bright cluster of small flowers she had posed on. But both the background and a stalk in the foreground were blurred, making her the star of the show. We had zoomed to telephoto so we wouldn't disturb her and were actually able to move around a bit to get the best angle.

It was easy and fun to follow her around, but the real thrill came later when we looked at our images on the screen. Which is just the way it should be.

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

Read about the Olympus ES-10 scanner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee6db5d

A user asks for help in choosing their first digital camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9fb11/0

Luis asks about choosing a "macro" camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee9fa85/0

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Just for Fun: Seeing Is Believing

The other night, we did a little googling for Stouffer scales (http://www.stouffer.net/). In our youth, we did some lithography, relying on their Cameraman's 12-Step Guide to hand process lith film and their 21-Step Transparent Guide to test printing press plate exposures.

Turns out you can't keep a good man down. Stouffer is now producing some interesting guides for photographers and digital imagers. The TX Exposure Guide, the RZ9 Zone System Chart for photographers looked interesting. But even more so were the R2110CLC Reflection Color Calibrated Guide, the 1-T Resolution Guide and the Scanner Scales for digital imagers.

We're getting a little weary of IT8 targets and GretagMacBeth color charts.

But our googling turned up a few other oddities. The oddest of which would have been no mystery to a Stouffer scale but bedeviled us. Take a look at this:

http://web.mit.edu/persci/people/adelson/checkershadow_illusion.html

It's a drawing, not a photograph, depicting a 5x5 checkerboard in a corner of which sits a column which casts a shadow over the board. Entirely unremarkable it is, except one of the dark squares on the board is labeled A and one of the light ones in the shadow of the column is labeled B -- and the two are the same shade of gray!

The problem is that they definitely do not appear to be the same shade of gray. And yet, if you bring the image into your image editor and paste B next to A, you'll see they do.

What's going on?

For an explanation, we clicked on the perpetrator of this trick, Prof. Ed Adelson. Normally occupied by the Dept. of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Artificial Intelligence Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in this case, he was clearly goofing off. Nevertheless, he covered his tracks with a scientific explanation:

"Just measuring the light coming from a surface (the luminance) is not enough: a cast shadow will dim a surface, so that a white surface in shadow may be reflecting less light than a black surface in full light," he wrote. "The visual system uses several tricks to determine where the shadows are and how to compensate for them, in order to determine the shade of gray 'paint' that belongs to the surface."

He unveils these tricks of our visual system, of course. And then he concludes, "The visual system is not very good at being a physical light meter, but that is not its purpose. The important task is to break the image information down into meaningful components and thereby perceive the nature of the objects in view."

Seeing, in short, is not merely a matter of recording luminances. It's got something to do with making sense of them. Which struck a chord with us. If we never made sense of the luminances, why would we ever snap the shutter?

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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: LCD Framing

Enjoyed your comparison of SLR and Digicams. As an older fella I simply find the rotating LCD essential, unless I want to spend lots more on a chiropractor. When someone can put a rotating LCD on a dSLR and keep it reasonably compact, I and others will be there in a snap.

-- Martin Kimeldorf

(The LCD on the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D rotates to portrait display when you turn the camera on its side, Martin. Not physically, but it does redraw the screen. -- Editor)

RE: Graceland Redux

Thanks -- we were able to get our digicam into Graceland, as you said.

Now, two more questions. I have downloaded my pictures into my computer. If I erase all of the images in the memory card in the camera, how will I be able to get them printed at a Wal-Mart or another store? I'd like to use the memory card for new pictures.

I also have a new CD/DVD player that plays/shows JPEG pictures. How do I copy them to a CD to be able to view them on my TV?

-- The Remus Family

(You have several options. Wal-Mart lets you upload photos from home to http://www.walmart.com where you can order prints to be picked up at your local Wal-Mart. And most drop-off photofinishers accept CDs (as do most photo kiosks).... DVD viewing depends on the player. When you burn the Graceland photo CD as a data CD, pop it into the player and see if it can figure it out (we're betting it will). If it can't, you may have to burn the CD in a special format called a Picture CD. But see if it can read the JPEGs on the data CD first. -- Editor)

RE: Nikon Coolscan

I recently acquired a Nikon Coolscan second-hand and haven't had a smooth run with it. One problem I have been having is my scans are blurred on both sides (vertical) because the negative is not perfectly flat. I use mainly 120 film and printed one of the images myself and it was sharp. Since I bought it, I have had to have it repaired twice: once for a cracked carriage base (Fixations) and recently, for a faulty firewire port (Nikon). Do you have any suggestions to avoid the blurriness on edges?

-- Leslie

(Most likely the issue is that the film holder isn't flattening out the film you want to scan. Unfortunately, short of having a glass-sandwich film holder (which have a whole host of problems of their own, most especially Newton's rings, which are interference patterns caused by light bouncing between the film and the glass), there's not much to be done. There may be techniques for flattening pieces of old film without damage, but I don't know them offhand. One thought, though. AFAIK, the film usually curls toward the emulsion side, caused by the emulsion shrinking. If you put it in a humid environment, the emulsion should absorb some moisture and might expand slightly as a result. That could help relieve the stress that's causing the film to curl. -- Dave)
(One old trick for dealing with Newton's rings is puffing a small breath of talcum powder into the air and very quickly passing your film through it. The small grains of powder are enough to keep the film off the glass without affecting image quality. A similar trick is used in sheetfed offset printing, where powder is sprayed on the sheet as it exits the press to prevent the wet ink from offsetting onto the next sheet. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Celartem has announced the sale of its Extensis and Genuine Fractals Photoshop plug-ins and QuarkXPress XTensions to independent software developer onOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com). Products included in the sale are pxl SmartScale, PhotoFrame, Intellihance Pro, Mask Pro, PhotoTools and QX-Tools Pro from Extensis and the Genuine Fractals product from LizardTech. Extensis and LizardTech will continue to support these products until July 31 when onOne Software will take control of them.

Celartem plans to focus on its digital content management and distribution software including GeoExpress, Document Express, Portfolio, Font Reserve and Suitcase.


O'Reilly is launching AnnoyancesCentral.com (http://www.AnnoyancesCentral.com), a resource for real world/real time help, delivered with wit and some much needed humor by the authors of the Annoyances book series. At Expert's Blogs authors share their insight and answer your questions. The Daily Fix provides tips, tricks and fixes for a variety of computing woes. Robert's Rants are the musings and rants of O'Reilly's in-house curmudgeon and Executive Editor Robert Luhn.


Canto (http://www.canto.com) has announced a licensing agreement with MediaDex FZ LLC to take over the marketing and sales of the Canto Cumulus Single User Products and Options. In August, MediaDex will release MediaDex Professional and MediaDex Standard as shareware on the MediaDex Web site.


Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has announced its $599 EasyShare P880 (8.0-Mp, 24-140mm 35mm equiv., f2.8-4.1, wide-angle lens) and its $499 P850 (5.1-Mp, 36-432mm 35mm equiv., f2.8-3.7, image stabilized lens). In addition, Kodak is introducing a host of accessories including the new external $149.95 *P20 Zoom Flash, which intelligently and automatically interacts with the P880 and P850 cameras for additional flash range.


Ritz Interactive has directed Web Photo School to create photography schools for the Web sites of Ritz Camera, Wolf Camera, Camera World and PhotoAlley.com. URLs for each school include the company name and Web Photo School, such as http://ritz.webphotoschool.com. The new schools feature lessons on how specific digital cameras work, digital-imaging techniques for taking first-rate photos and use of equipment such as tripods, flash, reflectors, umbrellas, memory cards and spot lighting.


Boinx (http://www.boinx.com) has released its $79 FotoMagico 1.2.4 [M] as a free update with smoother playback on older machines and presets for HD and H.264 formats.


The Plug-in Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has released the $49.95 Plug-in Commander 1.60 [W] to handle various image formats, plug-ins and effect types from various graphics applications. It allows you to manage and preview your plug-in, tube and add-on collection. A feature-limited Light Edition is available as freeware.

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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:

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Happy snapping!

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

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