|Volume 7, Number 17||19 August 2005|
Welcome to the 156th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We conclude our review of CS2 with a look at what's really going on under the hood. Then we take a look at Kodak's stylish EasyShare V550 before recapping a digicam satisfaction survey with some interesting results.
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Because of, rather than despite, our focus on imaging, we've wanted to review the entire Creative Suite since we started using it. How does it change what you do, what you can do, when you match Photoshop with InDesign, Illustrator, GoLive and Acrobat Pro?
So we're concluding our three-part review of CS2 with this look (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/CS2/CS2SU.HTM) at using the Suite on real projects. It was preceded by our review of Bridge (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/CS2/CS2BR.HTM) and Photoshop (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/CS2/CS2PS.HTM).
The Suite can take you from producing prints in Photoshop using Bridge for browsing and even batch editing your images to constructing pages for either print, the Web or the screen (including the screens of mobile devices). Video production is missing, as is slide show production. If you're looking for either of those, the Suite won't help.
The Suite is about the Page.
And (we smile conspiratorially), there's no escaping the Page. There are pages on the Web, pages in our documents, pages in print. And central to this concept of pages is Adobe's PDF document model.
FROM POSTSCRIPT TO PDF
When it was introduced in 1985, Adobe's PostScript programming language entered a world where "there were no effective page-description standards, popular typefaces were used only with specific typesetting equipment, producing high-quality visual materials was restricted to specialists and the cost of producing most corporate communication pieces was prohibitive," as John Warnock and Chuck Geschke wrote in the preface to the 1990 PostScript Language Reference Manual.
But in just five years the proprietary world of the publishing industry was transformed by PostScript. "Today all major computer, printer and imagesetter vendors support the PostScript language as a standard," the preface's authors observed. "The major type libraries are becoming available in PostScript-compatible formats. The cost of producing high-quality, printed material has dropped substantially."
PostScript, Adobe's non-proprietary page description language, had become the standard. Berthold, Linotype, Merganthaler, Compugraphic and Addressograph evolved from the behemoth's of the printing industry into dinosaurs in the PostScript age.
With the development of the PostScript language into the Portable Document Format in 1993, Adobe extended its vision from imaging to document creation, from rasters to data. And they did it with a versatile cross-platform model that can be viewed on screen, on the Web or printed. Today the Web hosts over 165 million PDFs and the format has been extended with XML schemas to create intelligent documents.
The Suite's focus on the Page is, in fact, a focus on the Document. And PDFs are the consumable end of that. On the creative and production side, are applications that feature both seamless integration between themselves and non-destructive editing of assets.
DOCUMENTS & ASSETS
Documents may be made of pages, but pages are built of text, images and graphics -- discrete entities that exists outside the page. Companies like Cumulus, Extensis and iView Multimedia have developed proprietary database products called asset managers to catalog these entities.
While there's no such thing as an asset manager in the Suite, the Suite does manage assets through the Bridge by building caches and adding Extensible Metadata Platform data (http://www.adobe.com/products/xmp/main.html) to the assets themselves. Your copyright notice and a color profile are common examples.
Based on open standards (note the theme), Adobe claims adding metadata to the image data creates smart assets that "retain context" regardless of which application they are dropped into. If your application can parse the metadata, it can manage assets. Bridge is proof of that concept.
One (or two) more concepts and we'll play with the Suite. This one is worth the delay, though. It's the concept of Smart Objects.
It's one thing to store information about your asset with the asset, but it's another to make that asset indestructible. Place an Illustrator vector graphic in Photoshop and it becomes a Smart Object which retains its vector data as you rasterize it. Scale, warp, rotate -- it's no problem because the operation refers to the vector data, not the bitmap display.
This can make some large files, combining both bitmapped and vector data, but the price is small in the era of multi-gigabyte drives and the age of inevitable revision.
On the other hand, just because you are collecting metadata and image data in various formats under one roof, you don't have to shellac it with style information, too. The Suite introduces the concept of Object Styles, which record graphic, text and frame-level attributes to apply to design elements.
We're glossing over these critical technologies to show the lay of the land in CS2. A very sophisticated document architecture with complementary metadata technologies powers this version of the Suite. And it certainly whets our appetite for future versions.
GETTING TO WORK
We'll take a quick look at the workflow involved in producing a simple invitation and a more complex book using the Suite. Our Bridge review described an experimental imaging workflow previously.
Let's start with a couple of general observations.
All this power is very demanding. We ran our tests on computers outfitted with 512-MB RAM and anywhere from 4-GB to 30-GB of free hard disk space, a fairly common configuration these days. We really wished we had 1-GB RAM to run the Suite efficiently, though. If you're going to play this game, you need some serious hardware.
Secondly, each of the pieces in the Suite are legacy applications. Unlike Apple's iLife, where a common interface was handed down from one application to another, these applications all started life with their own way of doing things. Some standardization is going on, certainly, but we were often disappointed to find a new feature not implemented across the Suite.
Case in point is the Photoshop's new ability to configure its menus, hiding some options and labeling others in color. That's only in Photoshop at the moment. More mystifying is why the Updater in Version Cue ignores Acrobat Pro. Another example is the non-standard but legacy keyboard commands of each application. You can defeat them to some extent by redefining keyboard commands, but it would be nice if there were simply a Suite keyboard command set to activate.
Here's the job. Client comes in with a 5x7 color print and some calligraphy. They want you to create a file they can take to a copy center to run off 100 invitations. Tomorrow.
The cover image is a bit dark, a bit backlit. You'll want to shift the tonal range and probably correct the color for a little fading. You know that going in.
So you toss the print in your scanner, launch Photoshop and generously scan the print using your scanner's non-Suite plug-in at 300-dpi with 16-bit RGB channels, yielding a 48-bit color image whose tone and color you can manipulate without introducing any banding. You save it as a TIFF because you know you're going to edit it.
When the image pops up in Photoshop you make your adjustments, then change the mode to 8-bit RGB and save the image as a JPEG.
Next you scan the calligraphy. There are two pieces, one for the back cover and one for the spread (pages 2 and 3). You set the scanner for 1200-dpi and line art mode.
Those don't require any tone or color adjustments but they do need a little editing. The time of the event has changed and some punctuation has to be added. A little copy-and-pasting (with some rotation even) in Photoshop and you're there.
When you point Bridge to these three assets stored in one folder, you'll have large, clear thumbnails that help you see what you have without opening every file. You then assemble them in an InDesign document paginated for printing with the cover and back page on one side of a 7x10 page and the spread on the other side.
After defining the document size and drawing guides on a master page, you create two new pages in the document and drag your assets from Bridge to the appropriate pages. Save the document and print a dummy with crop marks on your laser printer. Trim and assemble for approval.
The client, right there every step of the way, approves. But you aren't quite done. You don't know if the copy center has InDesign CS2. Without it, they won't be able to print it. So you export it, using InDesign's built-in PDF preset for high-quality output. And you burn a CD (non-Suitely).
Next day you get a glowing email from the client, delighted with the invitation. And no distress call from the copy center.
Printing a book is a collaboration. And the collaborating starts early. As you generate assets -- text, images and illustrations -- you work in three of the Suite's applications, using Bridge to view the collection.
Setting up the InDesign document is the obvious requirement. Designing the master pages and setting up a hierarchy of text styles and a library of design elements is the usual process. But the Suite also let's you develop Object Styles to apply uniform wraps to your images, let's say. And it lets you save XML Snippets of design elements (including their position on the page) simply by dragging them to Bridge. All of these aspects of the document are, of course, editable, effortlessly evolving as the design evolves.
And they evolve beyond a single file when you create an InDesign Book document, which can regenerate page numbers, synchronize styles, build a Table of Contents, build an Index and provide access to each InDesign file in the book.
While the Suite doesn't include a word processor, InDesign itself functions admirably as one in either of two modes (especially since drag and drop editing has finally been implemented). You can use the Story Editor for a typewriter view of the text or you can simply edit the layout view. You don't have revision tracking and mail merge, but you have something more useful in our view. You can add layers to your document, which can themselves be visible or not. So you can have a notes or revision layer that comments on your final text.
With some text placed, it's time to bring in a few photos. You can simply drag them from Bridge and apply the appropriate Object Style to a Smart Object, which will retain any scaling or rotation if you replace the image. Of course, you've previously used Photoshop's Image Processor (perhaps from Bridge itself) to edit them non-destructively in Raw format and add a copyright notice to them.
Graphics generated in Illustrator can also be dragged into the InDesign document. But generating graphics in Illustrator has become much easier with Live Trace, which can automatically create a vector image from a bitmapped image and, with Live Paint, intelligently fill opened paths. Object Styles work here too, so you can update any number of graphics automatically just by editing the style they use.
Back to collaboration. Clearly, not everyone who needs to review the book is going to have the Suite. Again, the solution is to Export the document as a PDF, this time as the smallest size possible so it can be emailed. A quick trip to Acrobat Pro to turn on the ability to add Notes to the file using the free Reader 7 and everyone can view and annotate the book. Version Cue can even serve the draft as an online reviewable PDF to a small group of collaborators.
And if this book is going to press, make sure you take advantage of Bridge's ability to manage color consistently throughout the Suite.
Throughout this whole process, the assets you placed and the elements you created were all editable and easily archived for reuse in other projects or by other collaborators. Object Styles let us dress page elements like sidebars in different attributes all at once by changing the style or one at a time by applying a different style. Smart Objects let us change content while maintaining quality and object properties. Over and over again, the Suite graciously welcomes revision.
And with GoLive integrated into the Suite, you can repurpose the document into a Web site complete with site diagrams, Cascading Style Sheets and Smart Objects. With hypertext links, you can have all the functionality of a browser with the added ability to comment on pages by exporting the site to a PDF.
There's a lot more to the Suite than we've been able to describe in even three reviews. We neglected both Version Cue and Adobe Stock Photos, for example, subjects worth their own reviews.
But we hope we've clarified what Adobe is doing with the Suite -- and how it can do it. Where some companies live and die by proprietary formats, Adobe has profited from developing comprehensive and powerful open formats. No mean feat.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/V550/V550A.HTM on the Web site.)
The newest member of the EasyShare pack is ultra-thin and fashion-forward. Featuring a brushed-metal front panel and minimalist design aesthetic, the $399 Kodak EasyShare V550 is part of what Kodak calls the Pocket Series. The V550's innovative design includes a set of flat control buttons on the top panel, which are actually part of the panel itself.
Accompanying the V550 is a round and very thin Photo Frame dock that turns the camera into a picture frame, displaying captured images either as a slide show or individually. The dock also provides the same battery charging and image downloading functions as the standard EasyShare camera docks.
The V550 boasts a 5.0-megapixel CCD and large 2.5-inch LCD monitor in a very user-friendly point-and-shoot format. Measuring a mere 3.7x2.2x0.9 inches and weighing only 5.71 ounces with the card and battery, the V550 is quite at home in a shirt pocket or tiny purse, excellent for travel.
Built into the V550 is an all-glass 3x Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon zoom lens (a 36-108mm 35mm equivalent). The autofocus mechanism uses a multi-zone system to find the subject closest to the lens. You can change the AF area to read only the center of the frame and you can choose between Continuous and Single AF modes. The V550 has a maximum aperture ranging from f2.8 to f4.8, depending on the zoom position. Focus ranges from 24 inches to infinity in normal mode, with a Macro mode ranging from 2 to 28 inches. Landscape focus mode fixes focus at infinity, for distant subjects and scenery. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the V550 also offers as much as 4x digital zoom, which effectively increases the camera's zoom range to a total of 12x. For composing images, the V550 offers both a real-image optical viewfinder as well its generous and bright 2.5-inch color LCD monitor.
The V550 offers Auto, Portrait and Scene exposure modes, with Scene itself offering 17 modes. Auto mode is best for general photography, leaving exposure decisions to the camera. Portrait mode uses larger lens apertures to decrease the depth of field. The 17 preset shooting modes include Sport, Landscape, Close-up, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Snow, Beach, Text, Fireworks, Flower, Manner/Museum, Self-Portrait, Party, Children, Backlight, Panning, Candlelight, Sunset and Custom. Custom lets you save a set of exposure settings for recall later. Though the camera doesn't offer any manual exposure control, Long Exposure mode can record exposures as long as eight seconds.
The V550 uses a Multi-Pattern metering system, basing exposure on readings taken throughout the frame. Also available are Center-Weighted and Center-Spot modes. You can increase or decrease exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent and Open Shade settings, which take advantage of Kodak's proprietary Color Science technology to achieve an accurate color balance under most lighting. ISO options include 80, 100, 200, 400 and, at 1.8-Mp resolution, even 800. An Auto setting ranges from 80 to 160. The V550 also offers a range of color settings (High, Natural and Low color), as well as Black and White and Sepia modes. You can also adjust in-camera sharpening. The built-in flash is effective from 2.0 to 7.9 feet and features Auto, Fill, Red-Eye Reduction and Off operating modes. Whether you use the Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash or not, the camera automatically corrects Red-Eye. Self-Timer mode delays the shutter for 10 seconds. The V550 also provides an optional histogram display, which reports the tonal distribution of the image so you can graphically check exposure.
Movie mode captures moving images with sound. Recording stops and starts with a brief, full press of the Shutter button. Alternately, if you hold the button down for more than a second or two, the camera will stop recording when you release it. As you record, the duration of the movie appears in a counter on the LCD. The 32-MB of internal memory records movies up to two minutes and two seconds at the lowest quality setting. Movies can be recorded at 320x240 or 640x480 pixels at 30 frames-per-second. Motion Image Stabilization mode reduces blurring from slight camera movement. A tripod is still recommended for the most steady shots, however. Burst mode lets you capture as many as five frames in rapid succession (approximately three fps) while you hold down the Shutter button. The five-frame maximum number applies regardless of resolution, but may be hindered by lack of space on the memory card or internal memory. An interesting feature on the V550 is the camera's Blur Warning. If enabled, the camera reports via a series of color-coded shaking hand icons whether an image will be sharp enough for a 4x6-inch print. For example, green indicates an acceptable sharpness level, while a red icon indicates that the image is too soft.
The V550 is compatible with Kodak's EasyShare camera and printer docks, which offer hassle-free image downloading and printing. You simply put the camera into the dock and press a button to connect the camera and initiate image downloading. Included with the V550 is the EasyShare Photo Frame Dock 2, which, when connected to the camera, essentially turns the camera's LCD monitor into a picture frame. The dock also allows you to transfer images to a computer and serves as an AC adapter and in-camera battery charger. The V550 has 32-MB of internal memory, but the camera also features an SD/MMC memory card slot to expand capacity. I highly recommend picking up at least a 128-MB card right away, given the camera's 2576x1932-pixel maximum resolution size, though cards are available as large as 512-MB. For power, the V550 uses a Kodak EasyShare Li-Ion battery pack or the optional AC adapter. Since the camera does not accommodate AA-type batteries, I highly recommend picking up a spare battery pack and keeping it on-hand and freshly charged. Also packaged with the V550 are USB and AV cables, as well as a software CD loaded with the EasyShare software for downloading and managing images.
Lens. The V550 zooms over the equivalent of a 36-108mm range, fairly typical for its class. Though a little soft at wide-angle, with some noticeable coma distortion in the trees, the V550's lens still performs quite well. The 4x digital zoom takes it out to 12x total with the loss of quality that digital zoom creates.
Macro. The V550's macro setting performs well, capturing a small minimum area of 2.17x1.62 inches. Detail is strong and resolution high, with only a moderate amount of softening in the corners from the lens. Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode. The flash throttles down pretty well, but its light doesn't reach the lower left corner of the frame. Plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the V550.
Exposure & White Balance. Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was just a bit warm and reddish in Auto white balance mode and the Incandescent setting resulted in a more yellow color balance that looked more pleasing overall. The V550 only required a +0.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, much less than average for this shot. Overall color is a bit dark and yellow here, making the blue flowers very dark and purplish. Outdoor shots generally showed accurate exposure with slightly blown out highlights. Shadow detail also tended to fall apart, but nothing that would raise an alarm for a consumer digicam. Exposure accuracy overall was better than average, the camera requiring less exposure compensation than we're accustomed to seeing with consumer digicams.
Resolution. Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,250 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,600. The camera did produce slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies though, visible in the full-sized resolution target shots.
Sharpness & Detail. The V550's images are reasonably sharp, without any strong over-sharpening or edge enhancement on the camera's part. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
ISO & Noise Performance. The V550's lower ISO settings produced moderate noise, with only slightly blurred detail in the dark areas. As the ISO setting increases, so does the noise level and the amount of blurring that results and its images at ISO 400 are quite soft indeed. At ISO 800, noise is high, though not as bad as it could be. ISO 800 is available only at 1.8-megapixel resolution, because the camera combines several sensor pixels for every output pixel reduce noise levels. When printed, ISO 200 photos looked fine at 8x10 inches. ISO 400 ones were marginal even at 5x7 inches, but looked good at 4x6.
Low light: Our low light testing revealed some limitations in the lens and sensor's ability to gather and process light, but the V550's performance is more than adequate. Shutter speeds in the normal exposure modes are restricted to 1/2 second and shorter, limiting usage to normal indoor illumination levels or outdoor shots at dusk or earlier, even with the ISO set to higher values. The Night Landscape mode forces the ISO setting to 80 for minimum image noise, but permits shutter times as long as eight seconds. The net result in Night Portrait mode was that our test images were bright as low as 1/4 foot-candle, which is about 1/4 as bright as average city street lighting. Color balance was slightly warm from the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system worked unusually well, able to focus on the subject down to the darkest light levels we test, even with its AF-assist light turned off.
Saturation & Hue Accuracy. Most consumer digicams produce highly saturated color because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The V550 follows this trend, though it tends to overdo the strong red and blue tones a bit. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, making them too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. The V550 did render skin tones a bit on the pink side in most cases, but our sense is that most consumers would find the V550's bright color very appealing. The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Here, the V550 did quite well. Like most digicams, it shifts cyan colors toward blue, to produce better-looking sky colors, but the rest of the hues were quite accurate.
Timing & Performance. The V550 starts up quickly and has a very fast shutter response with the lens at wide angle. At telephoto though, the lag time of 0.95 second is on the slow side of average. But if you pre-focus the camera by half-pressing the shutter button, it's blazingly fast, with a shutter delay of only 0.086 second, among the fastest on the market. Shot-to-shot cycle times are average, at about 1.9 seconds for large/fine JPEGs and it can capture up to six shots this quickly before it has to wait for the memory card to catch up. Continuous-mode speed is quite good, at a bit over three fps for up to three shots in succession. The flash takes about five seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, about average. Connected to a computer, download speeds are fast enough that you probably won't need a card reader, but nonetheless aren't as fast as many other cameras. Bottom line, while not a first choice for sports or other fast-paced action, the V550 is responsive enough (particular at wide-angle lens settings) to handle most family photo opportunities.
Viewfinder. The V550's optical viewfinder was quite tight, showing only about 80 percent frame accuracy at both wide-angle and telephoto lens settings. However, the LCD monitor showed close to about 100 percent frame accuracy, though my standard measurement lines were just out of frame in the final shot.
Flash. Flash coverage was uneven at wide-angle but very good at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment. Even then the exposure was a little dim, with a strong pink cast. Night Portrait mode produced brighter and more even results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting. But no EV adjustment was required (fortunately, since the EV adjustment is disabled in this mode).
Print Quality. The V550 has enough resolution to make very crisp 8x10 inch prints. At 11x14, its prints were a bit softer looking, but more than adequate for wall or table display. At high ISO, image noise levels are held in check, but at the cost of rather soft-looking images. ISO 200 photos look OK printed at 8x10 inches, but ISO 400 ones are marginal even at 5x7 inches, but look fine at 4x6. Color-wise, the V550's images looked really great when printed on the Canon i9900, with bright, vibrant color.
Kodak's EasyShare digicams have consistently proven to be among the easiest to use of any I've tested and the V550 is no exception. While sophisticates may prefer more subdued color, we suspect that most consumers will love the bright, vibrant photos the V550 produces. Tiny, compact and super-stylish, the V550 is a perfect choice for novices, as well as more experienced users looking for a capable, yet travel-worthy fun digicam.
Earlier this week, J.D. Power & Associates released its 2005 Digital Camera Satisfaction Study based on surveys from 4,256 digital camera buyers from January through July of this year.
The study divides the market into four price segments: $199 and less, $200 to $399, $400 to $599 and over $600. It reports a single, overall satisfaction score for each company that had enough responses to be statistically significant, basing the satisfaction score on performance, connectivity, cost and appearance.
Support, in short, was not a factor. But the report observed that "the Internet plays an important role in helping digital camera buyers make their purchasing decisions, and buyers are relying less on recommendations from retail salespeople." In fact, 62 percent researched their buys on the Web.
The report also noted the Internet is how images are being shared these days with 21 percent of digicam owners posting to online services, an increase from 16 percent in 2004.
Unfortunately, not all companies garnered a statistically significant number of responses to appear in the rankings. Our tier rankings reflect the report's overall star rating rather than the mere score (based on a 1000 point scale). Here's the breakdown with scores in parentheses:
$199 and less: Kodak (831) ranked highest in performance, connectivity and cost. Sony (818), Olympus (810), Nikon (806), Hewlett-Packard (804) and Canon (796) followed in the next tier. Following them were Samsung (786), Fujifilm (774) and Polaroid (768). There was insufficient data for Casio, Konica Minolta and Pentax.
$200 to $399: For the second year, Kodak (869) ranked highest again in performance, connectivity and cost but also in appearance. Hewlett-Packard (837) and Fujifilm (825) followed. They were trailed by Olympus (823), Nikon (819), Konica Minolta (807), Samsung (807) and Sony (806). Behind them were Canon (795), Casio (795) and Pentax (789). There was insufficient data for Polaroid.
$400 to $599: Sony (861) ranked highest with "very strong satisfaction improvements" and high marks for appearance, performance and connectivity. Kodak (840) took second. Behind them were Nikon (806), Olympus (799) and Canon (796). There was insufficient data for Casio, Fujifilm and Konica Minolta.
Over $600: Sony (856) again. Nikon (843) took second. Canon (824) followed in third. Olympus (798) fourth. There was insufficient data for Konica Minolta and Pentax.
The study also reported that dSLRs are the fastest-growing segment in the market as they begin to attract "mainstream consumers."
But the study also noted significant improvements in less expensive digicams, noting, "buyers are increasingly satisfied with the functionality and speed of the cameras they purchase, particularly with cameras in the lower price segments. The gap in terms of camera performance between high and low-priced cameras has shrunk considerably compared to 2004."
We put that perception to the test by running a report on our camera database, ranking the shutter lag in Auto mode by camera type for the last few years. Indeed the average shutter lag in this year's compact models is 0.55 second. Last year it was 0.67 and in 2001 it was 0.91. That may be the best news of all.
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:
- Reviewed: Nikon D50 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D50/D50A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Adobe CS2's Photoshop (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/CS2/CS2PS.HTM)
- Reviewed: Kodak EasyShare V550 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/V550/V550A.HTM)
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9c0e0
Visit the Kodak Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77d
Philip asks about ISO and histograms at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9fcca/0
Brian asks about creating magazine quality photos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9fd6e/0
Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8
One of the best times to zone out is when you're standing in line. How dangerous is it? Just watch the guy in front of you and shuffle forward a couple steps every few minutes. By the time it's your turn, you have a minute to come to and remember what you're doing there.
Some people occasionally try to do this at red lights and stop signs, but the technique is not extensible. It only works standing in line.
We were standing in line at the Post Office the other day to buy stamps. We're Luddites when it comes to buying stamps. Yes, occasionally we use Stamps by Mail but the mental aggravation of waiting two days is never worth it. We much prefer to walk to the Post Office and stand in line.
Not, however, so we can be inspired to write helpful pieces like this one. Zoning out is just zoning out. The mind on vacation. Esthetic release.
Or so we thought.
Last time we stood in line to buy stamps, there was a distinctly painful yelping coming from the sidewalk. A puppy. Abandoned by its owner who had to mail some big envelopes. Who was standing in front of us. Fretting, not zoning.
"Hold my place?" he turned to us.
And off he went to reinforce the winey behavior, assuring the pup this is the way it always goes at the Post Office. The pup caught its breath but as soon as he came back, the yelping resumed.
In the meantime, our zoning interrupted, we observed the neatly dressed matron in front of us, a gap away. You can imagine any story you like about someone and, wonder of wonders, you'll never be right.
She was, we imagined, a retired school teacher (she had an erudite look of atonement about her). She had come in to get the precise postage for some overweight pieces, probably letters to the editor to various newspapers staffed by her less successful students.
Indeed, she had a lot to say. The postal clerk greeted her, blowing our theory. She probably worked in a nearby office and dropped in all the time with the office mail. Or maybe not. Maybe she flunked him and he had always been grateful, considering the job benefits.
When she volunteered she was mailing photos, we knew our zoning was over.
"Oh, did you do them on the computer?" the clerk asked as if he were complimenting her intelligence.
"Oh no," she blushed. "I had them done."
"Too much work, the computer," the clerk laughed politely.
"Well," she thoughtfully replied, "it's not bad for doing one or two large ones, but these are from a family reunion so I had to make a couple sets of four by sixes. Who has time for that?"
"I know what you mean," he nodded, as he weighed each piece and wrote the postage in the corner. She'd brought her own stamps, just needed the pieces weighed. Quite an independent mind. "It's so easy to take them," he continued, "but then you have to save them and print them...."
"And burn CDs to archive them," she interrupted with a sigh. Maybe she was a teacher after all.
"Right!" he laughed. He didn't look like the archival type. Probably has a Lost Images folder on his hard drive like the Lost Letters office at the Post Office. Probably nothing was safe with him.
She had quite a few pieces to mail, so they continued their conversation arguing the various merits of digicams and dSLRs, pigment and dye-based printers, the usual. No doubt a couple of subscribers.
We tried to zone but we were captivated by the idea of inventing a home photo kiosk so you could order 4x6s and come back in an hour to see them neatly stacked in separate sets. Or better yet, Prints by Mail, where you could drop a CD in a mailer and get 4x6s back in two days.
"Next!" bellowed the other clerk, a know-it-all who referred everyone to the table of postal forms to fill out labels and requests. We meekly asked for a book of stamps.
"You can get a book from the stamp machine next time," he informed us.
Yes, of course. But sometimes, inexplicably, you just prefer the human contact.
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RE: Decurling Film
May I suggest another approach to Leslie's problem of curling 120 film? Gepe makes 120 size slide mounts in 6x6 and 645 format with anti-Newton glass. Some stores with old inventory may even have the 6x7 mounts, not listed in their current catalog. If mounted and fixed in a slide carrier for the scanner, this should work to hold the film flat. I believe most better photo programs will have a function to allow scanning negatives in slide mounts. The anti-Newton glass does soften the image a bit but that is the tradeoff. The mounts are reusable and easy to work with.
This might be a bit neater, but not as much fun, as the talcum powder approach.
As always, thanks for a really useful newsletter. It is truly the antidote to the "How To Choose And Use Your Next Digital Camera" monthly magazines on the news stand.
-- Michael Sandow(Great idea, Michael. Thanks! And thanks for the kind words, too! -- Editor)
RE: Right Angle Attachment
You mentioned using a dSLR without one's glasses and I recently found that with my Canon 20D for the very first time in my life my myopic vision is sufficiently compensated with the diopter adjuster to actually allow me to see without glasses and thus, again for the first time see all the corners of the image without eyeball calisthenics. However, my main comment regards your wish that you had the adjustable angles of an LCD screen vis-a-vis the strict optical view of the dSLR.
This might still be a compromise but I love the right angle attachment made for the Canon. It is pricey, yes, but it is an optical marvel -- sharp as can be with no corner fall off and easy and bright to use. I much appreciate the Sony F828 for its rotating body and use it often for that reason even though its limitations due to noise at higher ISO settings preclude its use many times. The right angle viewer for the Canon more than compensates and is worth the compromise of another thing hanging off the camera. I cannot recommend it more highly.
Incidentally, the review "Flaunting CS2" was terrific. I was about to install it and now at least have some small handle on its new and wonderful features.
-- Professor Neil Fiertel(We love those diopters but when we take my eye away from them to look things over, it's all a blur. So we end up keeping our glasses perched on our forehead while using the viewfinder and flipping them down to see what's going on. -- Editor)
RE: Scanning 110 Film
I have 30 years of negatives in both 35mm and 110 format. I would like to convert these negatives to a digital format, to preserve on CD. Is there a negative film scanner available to accomplish this?
-- Lou Palombella(You need a flatbed, Lou. But not just any one. Thanks to its dual bed design, the Microtek ScanMaker i900 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/MI9/MI9.HTM) is just the thing. You won't need a film carrier but you'll get film scanner quality. Of course, 110 film is very small at 13x17mm (0.5x0.67in), but that's not as big an issue as it may appear. Let's assume your inkjet wants 150-dpi to make a nice print. Scanning a frame at the i900's 3200-dpi resolution, gives you a 1600x2144-pixel image. At 150-dpi, the largest print you can make from your 110 frame is 10x14 (roughly). At 300-dpi (for a dye sub, say), you have a very nice 5x7. The i900 also has the Dmax to handle film, so you'll be able to mine everything the film captured. Make a template (well, a mask) with cutouts on a large sheet of film or plastic sheet (drawer liner might work) for some filmstrips. Tape that to the glass carrier on the i900 and just drop your film in. You can make a scanning template with the scanning software to find each frame automatically. -- Editor)
If it's possible, I want to ask about the latest price for the Canon PowerShot A200 now. I hope I get a reply as soon as possible.
-- Emad Moris(For any digicam, just find our review at http://www.imaging-resource.com and look in the right hand column for the 'Check Prices' link. Prices are updated about 7 a.m. Eastern every morning and change daily. -- Editor)
Dave discusses a few of the hottest digicams on Photo Talk Radio (http://www.worldtalkradio.com/archive.asp?aid=4568).
Fifty-one percent of professional photographers say file management is the greatest challenge associated with digital photography, according to a survey conducted by iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com). The survey also found 35 percent feel the biggest advantage of digital photography is greater control and 25 percent said digital photography's biggest advantage is that it enables greater creativity.
Skerryvore Software (http://www.skerryvoresoftware.com) has released its $21 Simply Calenders 4.3 [W] to create and print calendars and planners in a wide variety of styles and any of 70 languages.
Photographic Research Organization (http://www.promaster.com) has introduced its Promaster XtraPower PRO 59-Minute Charger, a fast smart NiMH charger with a built-in battery tester.
David Ahmed (http://www.davidahmed.com) has updated his $15 ExhibitionX [M] to version 2.8 featuring 3D environments to display images and iPhoto albums.
Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has updated its $30 GraphicConverter [M] to version 5.7, adding direct icon export, a temporary visible grid option, bsb and psf import, favicon export, AppleScript control of color mode change, an option to rename by Exif data in batch renaming and more.
Prosoft Engineering (http://www.prosoftengineering.com) has released its $99 Drive Genius 1.1.5 [M] as an OS X 10.4 bootable CD. The utility includes a drive optimizer, a repair facility, testing capabilities and data integrity checking.
Seashore 0.1.6 [M] (http://seashore.sourceforge.net) is a free open source Cocoa image editor based on GIMP technology and the GIMP file format. It features gradients, textures, text/brush stroke anti-aliasing, multiple layers, alpha channel editing and more. The new release adds JPEG 2000 support, Posterize and Threshold plug-ins, rulers, tool tips and bug fixes for Tiger.
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
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com
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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