The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 18 2 September 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 157th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We test a wireless flash setup before Dave tries out an inexpensive image stabilized Lumix. And we sort out hot pixels and dpi in our Letters section.

But no doubt Hurricane Katrina's wake disturbs us all. Among the online images are the Times-Picayune's AP photos (http://www.nola.com/hurricane/photos) and Flickr's "citizen journalist" images (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/katrina and http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/hurricanekatrina). For those fortunate enough to be able to help, the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org) makes it easy.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
E-Book Systems
http://www.flipalbum.com

Looking for a better way to organize and share your digital photos?

FlipAlbum Suite from E-Book Systems may just be what you need.

FlipAlbum lets you create realistic 3-D photo albums with pages you can flip, like a real photo album -- complete with thumbnails, a table of contents and an index page. It's easy to use, with a natural and intuitive user interface.

Download your free trial copy today from http://www.flipalbum.com/dl/ir_01/.

Maha
http://www.mahaenergy.com/

The MH-C204W takes the top spot as Imaging-Resource's favorite charger.

  • Integrated, 100-240V worldwide power supply
  • Charges two AA or four AAA NiMH batteries in one hour
  • Three-stage charging process "tops off" batteries
  • Conditions and rejuvenates batteries
  • Very portable at only 4 oz.!

For a full review, visit: http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/C204W/C204WA.HTM

For more information, visit: http://www.mahaenergy.com

To purchase online, visit Thomas Distributing, an authorized premier distributor, and look for their Limited-Time, Special Introductory Promotion!


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: Wireless Flash for the Common Man

Fortunately, the age of dSLRs for the Common Man has dawned. The Canon Digital Rebel lightened the sky, the Nikon D70 evaporated the dew and a whole new slew of products are making it a gorgeous morning. We can hardly wait to break for lunch.

But it isn't only the dSLR that has become affordable. Some rather exotic complementary technologies are also tempting the old credit card. Take, for example, wireless flash.

Dave has written enthusiastically about Nikon's wireless flash system, both in Nikon dSLR reviews and PMA show coverage. "The SB-800 and SB-600 strobes look like standard on-camera flash units, but their capabilities go way beyond anything most of us would expect from such compact light heads. They have two amazing capabilities that combine to make for a portable lighting system of unparalleled flexibility. The first amazing trick is that they offer true TTL (through the lens) metering for wireless flash exposures, regardless of how many strobes you have slaved together for any given shot. The second, really amazing feature is that you can control the exposure and operating mode of up to three separate groups of flashes independently from the 'master' SB-800 attached to your camera."

See his video demonstrating the use of an SB-800 and three SB-600 units and a folding, portable light box to shoot cameras and other products at PMA (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS05/PMAS05VIDEO.HTML).

Canon, too, has a wireless flash system, but the granddaddy of them all is Konica Minolta's, which was developed nine years before Canon introduced their system.

Recently, we got our hands on a Konica Minolta wireless flash designed for Maxxum, Dynax and DiMAGE cameras. We'll explain (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/56H/56H.HTM) how it works, how to set it up and what to watch out for. Note, however, that each camera works differently with this flash. See your camera manual for the specifics.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND MUSIC

After shutter lag, the big disappointment in digital photography has been red-eye. Those cute little digicams never seem to have their on-camera flash far enough away from the lens to avoid red-eye. We're delighted to see Kodak and Nikon implement in-camera red-eye removal, but the prize-winning trick is to avoid the problem in the first place.

Changing the angle of the flash, so it can not bounce off the back of the inside of the eye is the solution. And there are two ways to do this:

  1. Bounce the flash (preferably off a known reflector)

  2. Move the flash off the camera

If you use both (as we prefer), you soften the shadows while avoiding red-eye.

TWO KEYS

When you expose for flash, the strobe itself becomes the shutter, illuminating the subject for a fraction of the time the shutter is open. Controlling the duration of the flash, rather than the shutter speed, is the first key to successful flash exposure.

When you move the flash off the camera, this gets tricky. If the flash takes the sensor with it, proper exposure is monitored at the flash position, not the camera position. Often this isn't a big deal, but it's a loss of precision that can cause inaccurate exposure.

Some flash units use a detachable sensor you can mount on the camera and cable to the flash. But cables tie you down. A better approach is to use the camera to control the flash with through-the-lens flash metering. The sensor is behind the lens at the sensor plane and monitors the light where it matters most.

The second key then is to establish communication between the external flash and the camera. A slave flash, for example, will fire when prompted by a main flash or a filtered main flash for a set duration that isn't monitored. Ideally, you'd like the camera to set up, trigger and control the remote flash. Wireless communication lets you do that.

Consequently, you have to get your wireless flash from the guys who manufactured your camera. If you have a Nikon dSLR, you'll want a Nikon SB-800 or SB-600. And, in this case, for a Konica Minolta 7D, we had a Maxxum 5600HS D Series.

SPECS

At $299.99, The 5600HS isn't inexpensive for a compact strobe, but reasonable for a powerful wireless flash. In addition to providing off-camera wireless flash capability, the unit boasts significantly increased range over the built-in flash and five-flash-per second continuous flash performance.

The 7D's on-camera flash ranges 39 feet at ISO 100 with coverage equal to a 24mm 35mm lens. At ISO 100 and full power with a coverage setting of 24mm, the 5600HS reaches 82 feet in wireless mode and 98 in normal mode. At ISO 100, the unit has a guide number of 100 or 184 feet.

Flash coverage can be set from 17-85mm. Coverage is automatically set from 24-85 using the Auto Zoom function. A built-in wide angle adapter flips over the flash lens to provde 17mm coverage. You can also set coverage manually to 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm and 85mm equivalents.

You can throttle the power level down from 1/1 to 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 or 1/32 settings. That's handy for manual mode.

The flash head rotates up to 45, 60, 70 and 90 degrees; down to 10 degrees for close-up photography; to the right at 30, 45, 60, 75 and 90 degrees and to the left at those same settings plus 120, 150 and 180 degrees.

The five-flash per second continuous flash performance is calculated on a 1/32 power level with Ni-MH batteries. You can get 40 flashes at that clip.

At 3x5.2x3.75 inches at 13 ounces (without batteries), the 5600HS fits the standard compact flash profile.

AA batteries power the 5600HS. While you can pop alkalines, lithiums or Ni-MHs into it, performance varies depending on the power source.

Konica Minolta manufacturers a number of accessories for this unit, including an off-camera cable, off-camera shoe (to match the proprietary connector to standard hot shoes), extension cable and a cable CD and triple connector for multiple flash units. An external battery pack holding six AA batteries reduces the charging time by half and doubles the number of flashes possible. And a bounce reflector set (V) includes an adapter and a large fabric reflector that folds up for transport.

Sto-fen (http://www.stofen.com) offers a version their Omni Bounce for the 5600HS, too.

THE KM WIRELESS SCHEME

Getting a grip on wireless flash is something of a goose chase. There's the flash manual, which often defers to the camera manual. And the camera manual, which can't speak for the flash. To understand how the 7D digital Maxxum works with the 5600HS we asked Konica Minolta's Phil Braden. Phil had helped us find a few accessories.

It turns out that the 5600HS behaves quite differently with the 7D than it does with a Maxxum film camera. All exposure computing is done before the shot is taken.

When you press the shutter button on the 7D, Phil explained, a series of 14 preflashes are fired, one for each of the 7D's 14 metering segments. The 14-segment exposure sensor reads the reflected light and the exposure computer factors that information in with the Subject Focus distance and position reported in the viewfinder, the ambient light brightness and the Distance if a D lens is attached. The calculation also considers how much of the flash's capacitor is required for the right exposure.

Then the shutter release sequence starts, raising the mirror, closing down the aperture, opening the shutter and firing the flash at the calculated percent of its power.

"For example," Phil said, "say 76 percent of the flash's power is needed for a group shot at 18 feet. The release sequence starts, mirror lifts, aperture closes, shutter opens and the flash fires 76 percent of its power."

WIRELESS SETUP

Bright scenes can make it impossible for the 5600HS to detect the signal from the built-in flash. Consequently, Konica Minolta recommends using wireless for interior or dark scenes rather than outdoor fill shots in bright sun. You can, however, get nice fill shots in shade outdoors.

Konica Minolta makes it pretty simple to get the 7D and flash into wireless mode. Just attach the flash to the camera's hot shoe, turn them both on and set the camera's flash to wireless. That will also set the flash to wireless mode and set the camera to the flash's wireless channel. Change the channel (there are four available) if you run into another 5600HS user and don't want to fire their flash for them <g>. You can then remove the flash from the camera and activate the built-in flash by raising it up so it can communicate with the 5600HS.

Without a cord to tether you within range of the flash, you can move freely around the subject. But you do have to keep one angle in mind. "The camera signal burst must reflect off the subject and into the flash receiver," Phil explained. "If the distance is too great and/or reflection of the subject is too little, the signal gets lost and nothing happens." You can twist the 5600HSD body around to face the camera to improve the working distance.

Setting the shutter speed is something of a puzzle. Buckle up. With Anti-Shake on (which is built into the camera body of the 7D), flash sync speeds up to 1/125 second are available. With it off, you use speeds only up to 1/160. Since the strobe is making the exposure, not the shutter, there isn't any advantage to Anti-Shake unless you're using the flash for fill.

But this is all moot if you enable HSS -- high speed sync -- on the flash. You can then use any shutter speed up to 1/4000 second to sync with the 5600HS as long as the flash head is in the direct, not bounce, position.

HSS uses a preflash, Phil explained, to determine the brightness of the set of strobe bursts to keep up with the shutter when it's moving at speed above flash sync speed. Rather than fire an intense burst of light for a very short time, the 5600HS sends a series of smaller bursts in HSS mode.

"Press the shutter button and the preflash bursts fire for exposure computing, the computer determines the brightness of each of the short exposure bursts, the exposure burst sequence starts, the shutter passes through the multi-burst sequence and is exposed as if it were daylight," Phil said. "This is how it works for any speed above 1/160 up to 1/4000. However, the working distance for HSS is reduced as the shutter speed goes up and/or the aperture is made smaller."

You can also set the ratio of the 5600HS on the unit itself to be either half or twice the power of a second external unit. But this is option if off when using just the built-in flash (which is used exclusively to communicate with the 5600HS).

WORKING WITHOUT WIRES

We tried a number of studio shots using the built-in flash to trigger the 5600HS remotely in both direct and bounce positions. We found ourselves spending a lot less time on adjusting settings than on modeling the light -- a nice change. You can see some samples shots in our illustrated review.

With the flash out of arm's reach, how can you tell if it's charged and ready to fire? The Autofocus illuminator on the 5600HS blinks. Being able to turn the 5600HS body toward you helps here, too.

A test shot is all you really need to evaluate your setup on a digital camera, but the 5600HS does have a modeling feature with several options to fire the flash without making the exposure. Just press the 7D's AEL button to fire a test flash. Firing once at the set light level can help calculate flash with a flash meter (which is otherwise confused by the preflash and wireless flash communications). You can also fire the flash three times at the rate of two flashes a second to evaluate shadows. Or you can fire it four seconds at a rate of 40 flashes a second, which helps evaluate shadows in macro setups.

We proved to ourselves that a dumb slave will be fooled into responding to the preflash. A smart slave might be set to ignore the preflash but the added light won't be part of the exposure calculation. So it will inevitably overexpose. When you go wireless, every flash has to be wireless. Alternately, you can use the 5600HS in manual mode.

QUIBBLES

The highest reading on our Quibble Meter was recorded by Konica Minolta's non-standard hot shoe. We also would have liked to have seen a built-in bounce card like the Nikon SB-800. But these complaints aren't deal breakers, just quibbles.

CONCLUSION

We've been pretty old school when it comes to strobe lighting. We use bounce flash, set the camera's f-stop and shutter speed manually and locate our guns where they'll flatter the subject.

But we've been charmed by wireless flash. Losing the cord makes a big difference both in setting up the lighting and composing the shot. You can put the flash where the light will most flatter the subject. And you can change position without worrying about affecting the exposure. That's nearly as good as shooting in sunlight!

Return to Topics.

Feature: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 -- A Unique Bargain

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LZ1/LZ1A.HTM on the Web site.)

With the minimalist styling of the company's Lumix series, the $249 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 sports a stabilized Lumix DC Vario 6x optical zoom lens. Measuring 4.0x2.5x1.3 inches, the LZ1 weighs 8.4 ounces with the battery and storage card installed. The LZ1's all-plastic, matte-silver body helps keep the camera's weight down, but does tend to feel somewhat cheap. There's only very minimal creak/flex to the body panels, but this was a common comment from several people who handled the camera during the review process. While it definitely won't fit into your shirt pocket, the LZ1 should easily fit in coat pockets and larger purses. An accompanying wrist strap adds a sense of security when shooting with the camera.

Fairly quick on the draw, the LZ1 is a convenient point-and-shoot with a handful of extra exposure features, plus the bonus of an optically stabilized lens -- unusual in a camera with this form factor and price. With the lens retracted, it still extended half an inch from the front panel and a smaller protrusion serves as the hand grip. Other than these, the body panels are mostly smooth and flat. When extended, the lens projects a further inch from the camera's front. The 5.0-megapixel CCD captures high quality images, suitable for making sharp prints as large as 11x17 inches or 8x10 inches with heavy cropping. Smaller image sizes are also available for emailing or Web display and a Movie mode captures video clips with sound. Still images offer two JPEG compression levels: Fine and Normal.

The LZ1 features a 6x, 6.1-36.6mm zoom lens (a 37-222mm 35mm equivalent). Aperture is automatically controlled, with either f2.8 or f5.6 possible at full wide-angle and either f4.5 or f9.0 at full telephoto. A maximum 4x digital zoom option increases the LZ1's zoom capability to 24x. Focus ranges from 1.6 feet to infinity in normal AF mode and from 2.0 inches to infinity in Macro mode. The LZ1 employs a five-point autofocus system which reads a broad active area in the center of the image. You can set the focusing system to use only three or one of these five focusing points or set the LZ1 to a spot AF mode to measure a smaller point at the very center of the image. The LZ1 lacks any form of AF assist lamp or manual focus mode. For composing images, the LZ1 forgoes an optical viewfinder in favor of a fairly large 2.0-inch color LCD monitor, although at 85,000 pixels the resolution is low. The LCD reports a fair amount of camera information, including exposure information such as aperture and shutter speed, as well as a Record mode histogram display which reports the tonal distribution of a scene several times a second, useful in determining any over- or under-exposure. The same information (including the histogram) is available in Playback mode as well.

Most exposure control on the LZ1 is automatic. In lieu of fully manual controls, a series of Scene modes gives you some control over your images -- although the camera does provide a handful of manual adjustments. Main camera modes include Normal (similar to Program Auto on most cameras), Economy (similar to Normal mode, but with several adjustments to save battery life), Macro, Simple (which hides most menu functions from beginners), Scene1 and Scene 2 (Portrait, Sports, Scenery, Night Scenery, Night Portrait, Fireworks, Party and Snow), Movie and Playback. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 8 seconds, with the one- to 8-second end of the range only available in the Night Scenery scene mode. In Normal mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure except for image size/quality, flash, ISO sensitivity, white balance, AF mode, self-timer and burst-mode. Economy mode sets the LCD brightness, LCD timeout and automatic power off to values that conserve battery life.

Scene modes tweak exposure to accommodate common photographic situations. Portrait enhances flesh tones and uses a large aperture to reduce depth of field, resulting in soft backgrounds with strong focal emphasis on the primary subject. Sports uses fast shutter speeds and wide apertures, in effect freezing fast-paced action. Scenery captures wide landscapes and sets autofocus priority to infinity. Night Scenery extends the slowest shutter speed to eight seconds to capture the color and detail of evening scenes without using flash. Night Portrait uses a shutter speed up to one second with the flash illuminating the primary foreground subject. Fireworks preserves fireworks by using a slow shutter speed up to 1/4 second. Party is best for taking pictures under dim indoor lighting with a flash. Finally, Snow captures good exposures in bright conditions and adjusts the white balance and exposure to ensure bright snow doesn't trick the camera into underexposure or color casts.

The LZ1 uses an Intelligent Multiple metering system, dividing the image area into zones and evaluating both contrast and brightness among all the zones to determine the best overall exposure. Exposure Compensation increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third step increments. A White Balance option offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Halogen and White Set (manual) settings. A White Balance Adjust function lets you bias the white balance from either a preset or the White Set option, with 21 arbitrary steps (10 either side of the default, toward red or blue). The LZ1 also offers a Color Effect setting with Cool, Warm, Black and White and Sepia color options. A Picture Adjustment menu option features an additional adjustment tool, with options somewhat deceptively labeled as Natural, Standard and Vivid. These options actually affect the amount of in-camera sharpening applied rather than color saturation, as you'd expect. Sensitivity equivalents include 64, 100, 200 and 400 ISO settings, as well as Auto. The LZ1's built-in flash operates in Auto, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On with Red-Eye Reduction, Slow-Synch with Red-Eye Reduction and Forced Off modes.

Three burst modes capture a series of consecutive images for as long as the shutter button is held down, with the high-speed burst mode capturing four images in one second at the highest resolution/quality. Low-speed mode captures three maximum quality images at three frames per second. An unlimited burst mode captures images while battery life and memory are available, at approximately one fps. For the former two modes, exposure and white balance are locked after the first photo; in the unlimited mode, exposure and white balance can vary from shot-to-shot. The flash cannot be used in the burst modes. Frame rate for all three burst modes varies with the resolution and the maximum number of images also depends on the amount of memory card space and file size. In high-speed continuous mode though, it can capture up to three large/fine JPEG images at just under three fps. This is a pretty good clip, but a bit low by current standards. A two- or 10-second self-timer option counts down by flashing a small red LED on the front of the camera. The self-timer can be used in the burst modes to capture three images automatically at the burst mode speed after the delay.

Movie Record mode records moving images without sound as long as there is available battery life and flash card space, depending on the resolution setting. Movies are recorded at 320x240 pixels, with a frame rate of either 30 or 15 fps. Like many cameras, the optical zoom, aperture and focus are set by the first frame of the movie. Some cameras allow digital zoom to be changed during movie recording, but not the LZ1. The optical stabilizer can be used during movie recording (in mode 1 only), as can the Color Effects function. The camera's Playback mode allows movies to be paused and cued in forward or reverse direction, but does not allow you to step through the movie frame by frame or edit it in-camera.

Images are stored on SD/MMC memory cards but no card comes with the camera. Instead, 14-MB of built-in memory is always available on top of any card inserted in the camera. While alone this would be far too small to be of any real use, it's nice to have if you run out of room on your card. I highly recommend picking up a high capacity card, so you don't miss any shots. These days, 128-MB to 256-MB cards are good tradeoff between cost and capacity.

Images can also be copied between the built-in memory and SD card, in either direction -- allowing you to offload images from the built-in memory without using a USB cable if you have a card reader in your computer and also allowing the internal memory to be used to keep your favorite images close to hand.

Two standard AA cells power the camera. Options include Alkaline, Oxyride disposables (included) or NiMH rechargeables. The optional AC adapter kit preserves battery power when reviewing and downloading images or shooting with the camera on a tripod. A USB cable and interface software are also packaged with the camera, for downloading images to a computer and performing minor organization and corrections. A software CD accompanies the camera, containing PhotoImpression and PhotoBase by Arcsoft for both Mac and Windows platforms, which provide photo manipulation and organization functions respectively. Also included for Windows users is the SD Viewer program, for creating slide shows, as well as USB Driver software and copies of Apple QuickTime and Adobe's Acrobat Reader. Finally, an A/V cable connects the LZ1 to a television set, for reviewing and composing images. The LZ1 is Digital Print Order Format and PictBridge compatible, with detailed print settings in the Playback menu.

TEST RESULTS

Color: The LZ1 typically produced good color, with only a slight tendency to produce color casts. It tends to strongly oversaturate colors that are already bright, but most color from it looked pleasing and natural. Skin tones were sometimes a bit pinkish, but generally within acceptable limits. Its Auto and Incandescent white balance settings had a lot of trouble with the strong color cast of the household Incandescent lighting of our "Indoor Portrait" test, but the Manual option worked very well.

Exposure: The LZ1 handled my test lighting quite well, though it produced very contrasty images under the deliberately harsh lighting of the Sunlit Portrait and the outdoor house shot. Dynamic range was slightly limited, with limited highlight detail, though midtones were moderate. It did lose a fair bit of detail in the shadows on the Davebox and Sunlit Portrait, however. Indoors, the camera required about average positive exposure compensation and the standard flash exposure was pretty bright. The LZ1 had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target of the Davebox. Overall, very good results.

Resolution/Sharpness: The LZ1 performed about average on the laboratory resolution test chart with its 4.1-Mp CCD. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally, however. I found strong detail out to at least 1,000 lines. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,400 lines.

Image Noise: The image noise is a little high, even at the lower ISO settings. At ISOs 200 and 400, noise is much more pronounced, with bright pixels and anti-noise processing at ISO 400 produces almost an Impressionist effect.

Close-Ups: The LZ1 captured a small macro area, measuring 2.11x1.59 inches. Resolution is high and detail strong, though blurring in the corners was quite strong as well. The camera's flash had trouble throttling down enough for the macro area though and greatly overexposed the shot. Plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots.

Night Shots: The LZ1 struggled a bit in our low-light testing, having problems producing adequate exposures in its normal shooting mode. This was largely the result of the one second maximum exposure time in normal mode. Night Mode fixes the ISO at 64, but lets exposures stretch to 8 seconds. Bottom line, the camera should work fine for typical city night scenes, but be sure to use a tripod to avoid camera shake on the long exposures.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The LCD monitor was close to 100 percent accurate at both wide-angle and telephoto lens settings.

Optical Distortion: I measured 0.8 percent barrel distortion at wide-angle, but only about 0.09 percent pincushion distortion at telephoto. Chromatic aberration was high at wide-angle, but much lower at telephoto. The strongest distortion I noticed was severe blurring in the corners of the frame on the House poster, though blurring wasn't as strong at full wide-angle or telephoto.

Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: Overall, the LZ1 is surprisingly quick, starting up and shutting down very quickly and showing good to excellent shot-to-shot speed in continuous shooting modes. Full-autofocus shutter response is smack in the middle of average at 0.8-0.9 second, although that's better than many long-zoom models. Shutter lag virtually disappears when you pre-focus the camera. Lag drops to an amazing 0.015 second. Single-shot cycle time is also fairly good at 1.7 seconds. Higher-end long-zoom models (including several from Panasonic) have faster shutter response, but for its price, the LZ1 does quite well.

Battery Life: Running from just two standard AA cells, the LZ1 did better in our power-drain tests than I expected. Worst-case run time in capture mode with the LCD on was a bit over two hours, even using standard 1600 mAh batteries. Current high-powered cells will give as much as 25 percent longer run times.

Print Quality: The LZ1 produced good-looking prints as large as 11x14 inches. At 13x19, its pictures were soft-looking, but acceptable for wall display. The LZ1's image noise was a little high, even at the lower ISO settings. At ISO 200 and 400, noise was much more pronounced, with bright pixels and anti-noise processing at ISO 400 produced almost an Impressionist effect. That said though, ISO 200 photos made fine-looking 8x10 inch prints. ISO 400 shots looked blotchy at 8x10 (but probably OK to hang on a wall and view from a distance of a foot or more). At 5x7 inches, ISO 400 shots looked much better.

CONCLUSION

There really isn't anything else like the Panasonic Lumix LZ1 on the market. It packs a 6x zoom lens into a surprisingly compact body and throws in Panasonic's excellent MegaOIS Optical Image Stabilization technology for good measure. It also offers 4-Mp resolution, very bright color without oversaturating skin tones, good macro focusing and excellent battery life. Like its big brother, the downsides are that its images get soft in the corners at the telephoto end of its range, shots captured at ISO 400 are noisy and its low light shooting and focusing a little limited. None of these are by any means fatal flaws though.

The LZ1 is a good little camera and without question one of the best bargains on the market for a long-zoom, optically stabilized digital camera. It just missed being named a Dave's Pick, but it deserves very serious consideration if you're looking for a long-zoom camera on a budget. You really can't match its combination of 4-Mp, 6x zoom and optical image stabilization for anywhere near its price. And its compact body design is an added plus.

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: A Shortcut to Set the Time

Digicams are so smart. Pop the batteries into your new camera, hold down the Power button to start it up for the first time and it complains that you haven't set the date yet.

The date and time are important to digicams because that information is included with every image in the Exif header that precedes the image data in each JPEG file. We remind you in this newsletter about changes in Daylight Saving's time for that very reason. It isn't fun to fix incorrect date and time data after the fact.

And it isn't much fun setting the date and time, either. But here's a tip that is obvious only after you try it: use the down arrow to get to high numbers and the up arrow to get to low numbers.

Say it's the 29th of the month. The display reads "01" by default for the month. Rather than scroll up to "29" just scroll down to "31," "30" and "29"! After July, scroll down not up. After the half hour, down not up. When you Fall Back, fall down to move the hour back.

This shortcut may not amaze your friends but once you try it, you'll always use it.

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:

Read about the Nikon Coolpix 8800 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a

Visit the Canon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f773

A reader asks about the difference between the Panasonic FZ5 and FZ20 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9ffff/0

Ivan asks about EV and ISO settings for indoor flash at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9f993/0

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

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

Return to Topics.

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: Rebel Hot Pixels

I just bought a Rebel XT and noticed several stuck pixels (purple), as well as one hot pixel (white). Despite extensive research on this issue, I can't get a rational take on what to think or even do about this problem. Do I exchange the camera and chance getting a worse off sensor, send it in for a warranty repair (i.e. pixel mapping and software based correction by Canon's technicians) or attempt to handle it in an appropriate manual or automatic software program only when I print this size of enlargement?

I can take a clean picture at ISO 100 at 1/60 sec., but if I drop the shutter speed down to 1/15 or 1/8 sec., then its "hello" to two or more purple pixels. Reviewers such as yourselves are always running tests on nearly every imaginable attribute of these cameras, such as resolution and image quality, but no one seems to be providing consumers with the results of a black frame test at 1/60, 1/10, 1 and 10 seconds for example, to determine how many pixels may be causing problems or are blowing out at ISO 100, 200, 400, etc.

-- Tom Spelts

(The key phrase in your email, Tom, is "if I drop the shutter speed down to 1/15...." Sensor cells aren't perfectly uniform in their response to light. We discussed this in our Aug. 11, 2000 article titled "Hot Pixels." What you are seeing is the effect of this lack of uniformity or dark current (false luminance readings in darkness) that make up more of the luminance reading in low-light conditions. As we said in that article, "But with exposures of a quarter second or less, hot pixels just shouldn't appear in your images. If they do, you've got a returnable product." -- Editor)

RE: DPI

We were asked for some photos that had to be preferably 300 dpi at 4.25 inches wide but at least 200 dpi. When I looked at the properties on my pictures, I found that all of them were 180 dpi. I use a Canon G-2 set on M1, Fine, 1600x1200 pixels in JPG format. These pictures turn out to be plenty large for pulling into grants, etc.

So I experimented with the camera and chose the large size and Superfine and Fine and took a picture at each setting to see what I would get. Low and behold they were still 180 dpi even though the file sizes were much larger.

How can I get pictures with a larger dpi? Can you explain how this all relates to my file sizes? Do I need a better camera to do this?

-- Fran Aring

(You don't need a new camera, Fran. There's really no fixed dpi associated with your images. Your G2 offers several image size options -- 2272x1704, 1600x1200, 1024x768, 640x480 -- but they are just pixels -- not pixels per inch.... The rule of thumb is to have two times the resolution (pixels per inch) of the printer's halftone screen (magazines typically screen at 133 lines per inch, but some books use 150 lpi).... If you set your G2's 1600x1200-pixel image to 300 dots per inch (as your printer requests), you have a maximum size image of 5.33x4-inches on the printed page. If you map it to 150 dpi, however, it doubles in size. 2271x1704 mapped to 300 dpi yields a 7.57x5.68-inch printed image. At 200-dpi, the printed image would be 11.35x8.52.... If you want to know what size your image will print at 300-dpi, just tell your image editing software (Image Resize) to use 300-dpi Resolution and to not Resample the image (so the file remains the same size). -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Lots of new digicam announcements since our last issue. Among the highlights:

Nikon has announced five new Coolpix models. The 8-Mp P1 and 5-Mp P2 are both Wireless G. The 6-Mp S3 updates the S1 with more resolution and a black case. The 6-Mp S4 is a pocket-sized 10x zoom that updates the 900-series swivel design. And the 6.1-Mp L1 is a 5x zoom entry-level digicam.

Pentax announced a pair of new models. The 6-Mp Optio S6 has a 3x zoom with a 2.5-inch LCD and 0.01 sec. shutter release. The 6-Mp Optio WPi offers JIS Class 8 waterproof performance with a 3x zoom and 2-inch LCD.

Ricoh has announced plans to build a digital version of its GR1 film camera, famous for its 28mm f2.8 lens. Rumors are flying that a Caplio R3 will update the company's Caplio R1, R2 and R2S models, which offered 4.8x optical zoom lenses in ultracompact bodies.

Olympus has announced several new models. The 6-Mp SP-500 has a 38-380mm 10x zoom and a 2.5-inch LCD. The 6-Mp Stylus 600 has a 3x zoom with 7.9-MB built-in memory. The 7.4-Mp SP-310 and 8.3-Mp SP-350 feature a 38-114mm 3x zoom and a 2.5-inch LCD. The company also introduced three FE digicams, a new entry level series: the FE-100, FE-110 and FE-120, featuring 4- to 6-Mp with 2.89x or 3x zooms and 1.5 or 1.8 LCDs. The P-11 is PictBridge compatible dye sub printer that can produce a 4x6 print in 33 seconds.

Hasselblad has announced four new products, including the H2D medium format 22-Mp digital camera, a film/digital H2 medium format camera and two digital backs.

After announcing the EOS 5D full-frame dSLR and an update to the EOS-1D Mark II, Canon also announced 12 new printers including three compact SELPHY 4x6 printers (28 cents a print), five PIXMA printers using the new ChromaLife 100 ink system, 6,144-nozzle print heads with droplet sizes of either one or two picoliters. Four PIXMA all-in-one devices round out the lineup.

For details on the announcements see our News page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS).


LaserSoft Imaging (http://www.silverfast.com) has announced the release of several new features in its scanning and image enhancement software. Automatic Descreening allows the user to scan preprinted materials without measuring the halftone's lines per inch. Noise Reduction with Multi-Sampling eliminates scanner noise in shadow areas where the CCD gets very little light to work with. PrinTao is a new professional printing function which provides page layout functions for images and text, generates drop shadows, adds templates for contact sheets, uses ICC profiles and can create PDFs.


The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has released a MacOS X version of its $49.95 ColorWasher to correct color, contrast, exposure and saturation of 8-bit and 16-bit photos. ColorWasher uses seven sophisticated methods called Cast Types for reconstructing lost colors and details in photos. It also features built-in mechanisms for hiding image noise, camouflaging overexposed areas, boosting contrast, keeping saturation constant and fixing chopped histograms.


Roxio (http://www.roxio.com) has released its $99.95 Toast 7 [M], calling it "the most significant upgrade ever" to its Mac CD & DVD burning suite. New features include multi-image High Definition slide shows with pan and zoom effects, transitions and background soundtracks, audio DVDs with over 50 hours of Dolby quality music and advanced navigation and data spanning, which allows users to backup large files, folders and applications across multiple CDs and DVDs.


Enrollment is now open for Digiphoto 101 (http://www.dpcorner.com/digiphoto), an online interactive digital photography course beginning Sept. 19 and taught by Arthur H. Bleich, professional photographer and feature editor of Digital Camera Magazine. The class is limited to 10 enrollees whose weekly assignments are critiqued online. Tuition for the 10-week course is $365.


Maha (http://www.mahaenergy.com) has introduced its $84.95 MH-C801D charger, an eight-cell one-hour AA/AAA charger. It incorporates a large LCD screen displaying the charging status of each battery.


Collectorz.com (http://www.collectorz.com) has released its $24.95 Photo Collector [W], a digital image asset manager featuring a user-friendly interface to its database engine. Assigning photos to a specific category or subject is as easy as dragging picture thumbnails between folders.


Extensis (http://www.extensis.com) has been awarded a patent for the Express Palette feature in Portfolio, its digital asset management solution, which provides instant search and drag-n-drop access to cataloged assets from anywhere on your system.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has celebrated its 20th anniversary as a developer of versatile lighting systems and an online learning resource with Photoflex Lighting School (http://www.photoflexlightingschool.com) and its Web Photo School (http://www.webphotoschool.com).


O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published its $14.95 Digital Photography Pocket Guide, Third Edition. Author Derrick Story shows readers how to discover the hidden potential in their cameras.

The company has also published Adobe Photoshop CS2 One-on-One by Deke McClelland with over 850 full-color photos, diagrams and screen shots to illustrate every step of the project-based tutorial. "I've designed the exercises in this book to impart a real sense of accomplishment," said McClelland. "When readers work through a project, I want them to learn the key concepts, sure. But I also want them to know why they're doing it. It's all very well to be entertaining and informative. But the experience has got to be empowering."


Bobby Cronkhite Software (http://bobbysoftware.com) has released ZeboPhoto 1.7 [M]. The easy-to-use image editor sports improved speed and performance with better memory management.


Scripts Software (http://scriptsoftware.com) has released its $20 iWatermark 3.0 [MW], to watermark and create thumbnails of digital images. This release adds iPhoto and iDisk integration, Address Book integration, support for orientation in Exif tags, the ability to use IPTC and Exif tags in watermarks, editing of IPTC data, a metadata explorer and batch addition of IPTC info.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 8.2.36.


KavaSoft (http://www.kavasoft.com) has released its $79.99 Shoebox Pro 1.2.3 [M], a digital photo manager that "uses Knowledge Base technology to learn about your world." The new release adds improvements for dual displays, a comments column in list view, updates thumbnail display of rotated images and more.


When you reduce the world to two dimensions, strange things happen. Here's proof (http://www.rense.com/general67/street.htm).

Return to Topics.

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

Return to Topics.

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

Go to Imaging Resource Home | News | Tips | Digital Camera Index | Scanner Index