|Volume 7, Number 20||30 September 2005|
Welcome to the 159th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We indulge in a Total Training fest while Shawn takes the E-500 for a test drive. Then we reveal the only two things you need to know about exposure before reflecting on the big picture.
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We miss Julia Child. Her bravado in the kitchen was like a souffle that would not fall. Something like that, we've always thought, is needed not only to master French cooking but -- perhaps even more daunting -- Adobe's Creative Suite.
The salads, side dishes, entrees and desserts of French cooking that Julia demystified are not unlike the illustration, Web design, image editing and page layout of the Suite. Fortunately, each program comes with a little on-disc tutorial. Even more fortunately, those tutorials are only a taste of what Total Training can do.
ABOUT THE COMPANY
Founded in 1996, privately held Total Training (http://www.totaltraining.com) produces over 60 titles with more than 50 employees in Carlsbad, Calif. and the company's production facilities in Valley Cottage, N.Y.
The company's CD- and DVD-based titles feature industry experts and leading authors like Deke McClelland (Photoshop, Illustrator) and Steve Holmes (InDesign) covering their topics comprehensively in professionally produced and scripted video productions.
Total Training also enjoys a strategic partnership with Adobe, resulting in the tutorials included with newly-released Adobe products as well as the comprehensive training series available shortly after release.
President and CEO John Bell, partnering with Chief Creative Officer Brian Maffitt, found "printed instruction was tedious and classroom training was hard to find and often prohibitively expensive."
Their solution was to develop a video format that showed users how to do everything an application could do, providing the requisite original materials so students could try it for themselves. Not a lot different, really, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Except that cooking is less precise -- in a liberating way -- than page layout or image editing or illustration or Web production. Which may explain why there is still no PBS series on any of those hot topics. And why there are dozens of books published every quarter on each of them.
And video training turns out to require more than a little cash. Sure, a DVD is a far better investment than a two-day seminar on Photoshop. But it's not a far better investment than a good book. The Photoshop title alone is $299.99, InDesign is $249.99, Illustrator $199.99, GoLive $149.99 and an overview of CS2 is an additional $129.99. Whether you round those figures out or not, they're expensive -- well beyond the reach of most graphic artists and photographers (already concerned about their investment in CS2).
Great addition for the corporate library, however. Which brings us to our next reservation. Video training is very time consuming.
We have five titles here: Photoshop, Advanced Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and GoLive. You really can't run through any of these in a day. They're dense and require some reflection, some replaying, some testing and trial on your own to corral if not cement the concepts. If you spend a week on each of these, you're rushing. And we rushed.
Part of the problem is that you can't simply watch and become an expert. Watching is passive. When you read a book, even a reference book, you have to imagine the sequence of events. You're far more actively engaged than when watching a video. So to make the DVDs pay off, you have to do the exercises along with the presentation.
There is probably some segment of the creative community that responds to classroom training, but that's even less effective. You have to work with this stuff. It doesn't hurt at all to be guided, especially with such complex topics. And certainly that's why we try to do in this newsletter.
But don't kid yourself, watching a video does not make you an expert on anything but using a remote control.
Installation itself is no mystery. The installer handles everything with aplomb.
It creates a folder in your Programs/Applications folder for each title you've purchased. The lessons themselves are read from the DVD, but your hard disk holds small application files to access them. To view a particular DVD, however, you insert the DVD and click the Launchpad icon and its Start button.
In addition, you can also install the project files used in the examples and tutorials (really a good idea) as well as configuration files.
The configuration files are a double-edged sword. To be on the same page as the instructor, you should configure keystrokes and preferences to match the instructor's. Of course, those are their preferences and may not be the best choice for you. We found most of them helpful, but McClelland's advice on configuring the Bridge's cache caused us no little misery. We just operate differently.
Finally, by registering with Total Training (another bright idea) you unlock bonus training. We always recommend registering your software products. But we find locking topics like Vanishing Point and Smart Objects in the $300 Photoshop DVD a tad small minded. Probably not worth a scarlet letter, but shame on Total Training.
The products tout a closed captioning option, but when we visited the site to learn more (or download an update), we found it wasn't yet available. Kudos for thinking about it, though. It's clearly something that would be welcomed.
ON WITH THE SHOW
Put all those reservations and complaints aside, however, when you launch one of these titles. They're as entertaining as Suze Orman (if not dear Julia) and as inspiring as Rick Steves.
Deke's basic Photoshop DVD (three of them, actually), running about 21 hours and 50 minutes, is arranged in three parts: Fundamentals, Essentials and Photoshop's Finest Hours (more advanced tools). Not to mention the bonus materials on Vanishing Point and Smart Objects.
Fundamentals introduces the product, introduces Bridge and sets Preferences. Then it discusses navigating an image on screen, upsampling and downsampling it, cropping it, straightening it and correcting perspective. On to Variations, using the Fade command and correcting color. Then you correct red eye and learn how to replace color. Dodging and burning follow, with a look at the Sponge and Smudge tool. Cloning and compositing and repairing image defects with the Healing Brush and Patch tools are next. They're followed by a segment on the selection tools before Deke talks about translucency, the Multiply blend mode, Variations, Undo, History Brush and Snapshots.
Essentials covers Layers, Layers Groups and Comps, Opacity and Blend Modes, Advanced Blending, Layer Styles, Masking, Using the Channels Palette, Transformations, the Pen Tool, Text, Spell Checking, Fonts, Shapes, Paths, Printing and Actions.
More advanced topics include Adjusting Levels; Curves, Shadows and Highlights; Adjustment Layers; Camera Raw; High Bit Depth and Exposure; Sharpening Focus; Blurring and Averaging; Filters and Masks; Distort and Place; and Liquify.
The advanced topics are developed further in the Advanced Photoshop title's 10 chapters, which run about eight hours. They include Setting Up Shop (Preferences, color settings, keyboard shortcuts, color spaces, customizing the info palette, changing the background color and saving preference settings); Advanced Levels and 16 Bit; The Bridge and Camera Raw; The Wonders of HDR; The Art of Sharpen; Adding Blur and Removing Noise; Mixing the Perfect Monochrome; Duotones, Spot Colors and Gradient Maps; Advanced Retouching Techniques; Vanishing Point; and Smart Objects.
We found the attractive interface complex but navigable. The most important features are the main display window and the menu bar just above it, which references the Current Lesson, Current Topic within that Lesson and any Bookmarks you've set. Below the main display are the screen display options, video controller buttons and volume control.
There's more (Setup, Exit, Help, Content, About Us, Title and Author littered further from the main display). And that makes it busier than it has to be, really. But you get used to it.
The program does remember where you left it (fortunately, since it's inevitable you will) and the Lesson and Topic bars also pull down to reveal the Contents of each, so you can quickly zip to any topic on the disc. The Contents button shows everything at a glance, but there's nothing like an Index.
This really isn't a good format for finding the step you forgot in a complex procedure. It's an excellent format for demonstrating that procedure, but not for reference.
No complaints on the content or the presentation. Expert users may look in vain for a favorite, if obscure, keyboard command, but concepts are clearly explained and then demonstrated in an entertaining and engaging way using real world projects and examples.
But we did see one twitch on our Quibble Meter. After an introductory piece featuring your instructor, the lessons are screen captures of the various processes involved. The presentation screen is only a crop of a real screen, of course, so the presenter spends a lot of time dragging the active area or the focal point of the lesson into view. Sometimes this can involve opening or closing palettes, too. The dead time is a chance to either catch your breath or lose the thread, depending on your attention span. But there's too much of it, in general.
Unfortunately, these entertaining titles are expensive. No doubt the price is justified by the work involved in producing them, but you can do nearly as well with one of Deke's books on Photoshop -- and books (particularly electronic books) are a lot more efficient as reference works than DVDs.
If you're already up to speed with the basic concepts and just want to know what's new in a particular release or want to hone your skills filling in a blank or two, even great videos like these are not an efficient -- or cost effective -- way to do it.
But the less you know about the subject, the more valuable these titles are. They provide a comprehensive demonstration of nearly everything these applications can do. You can save a few years of learning the hard way by watching these videos and doing the exercises, referring back to the video when you hit the wall. In short, a mouth watering gift for the starving student learning these crafts.
By SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EV500/E500A.HTM on the Web site.)
Having spent several days with a prototype, I must say that Olympus's new EVOLT E-500 has been a pleasant surprise. I have enjoyed shooting with it at least as much as my favorite dSLR cameras and that is saying something. I've so far only tried an early pre-release camera, but from my experience thus far, I think the E-500 is going to make a lot of people very happy.
In September 2004 Olympus announced their first SLR aimed at consumers, the EVOLT E-300. I was glad to see them back in the market with a consumer SLR and I found that though it was an odd shape that remained difficult to accept, I liked quite a bit about the original EVOLT. It captured stunning images. Some of the images I captured with it are hanging in my home and office. The original EVOLT E-300 had many unique features, some of which were useful. The pop-up flash could be used simultaneously with an external flash to serve as fill light. Most competing camera designs can't achieve this. But the E-300 was heavy and way off balance. Much of the weight seemed to be left of the lens and the camera wanted to twist out of the right hand. We also found a critical metering flaw in which a bright object at the center of the frame would trick even the normally excellent Olympus Digital ESP mode into underexposing the image. Digital ESP takes readings from multiple areas of a frame to make its exposure decision and usually handles bright central objects well, without underexposing everything else; the common term is "matrix metering."
The E-300 was frustrating. I loved the images, but not the design; and this metering problem made the camera difficult to trust (I think this has been addressed with a recent firmware fix, but we have not tested it). Further putting me off were all the claims the company was making about how much smaller the EVOLT was than competing designs. Technically, they were right and their porroprism finder did flatten the top to enable that cool dual-flash trick. But the E-300 didn't seem smaller; and I've never had a problem with pentaprisms for all these years, so why were porroprisms better? It was a daring move and no one was surprised that it was Olympus who took the chance. Other chances they've taken in the past have changed photography forever.
Though I am a long-time Olympus fan, I was ambivalent about the E-300. That's why I'm so pleased with the E-500. No more odd designs to overlook, no more unique optics for no apparent reason, no more long, heavy body that forces you into vertical shooting mode by virtue of its sheer weight. The Olympus E-500 feels like, looks like and shoots like a nice camera. True to Olympus tradition, it's smaller and tightly built. If it ends up taking images at least as nice as its predecessor -- without the Digital ESP metering bug -- Olympus is sure to have a winner on its hands.
Just like the E-300, the Olympus E-500 has an 8-megapixel sensor, a Supersonic Wave Filter for sensor dust reduction and access to what Olympus is calling the "largest digital lens lineup" among competing SLR systems. The list of new items includes a 2.5 inch HyperCrystal LCD, dual media card slots (xD and CF), an auto pop-up flash (the E-300's was manual), a 49 point Digital ESP light meter, playback red-eye reduction and a few more exposure and color options.
If you're interested in a detailed feature-by-feature comparison of the Olympus E500 with a number of its competitors, see the SLR comparison table (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EV500/E500speccomp.HTM).
Whether a lot of the enhancements really matter or not will have to wait until we get a full review unit, because what we have here is not ready to have its image quality tested. But I can talk about a few of the enhancements and what it's like to shoot with the E-500.
Since I've said so much about the E-300's feel, I should start with the E-500's presence. It has the most balanced feel of any digicam since the Nikon D70 hit the scene two years ago. This is the sort of quality you really can't describe; it has to be felt. It varies depending on the lens attached, of course, but with the 14-45mm kit lens attached, the Olympus E-500 is wonderful to hold and shoot. It weighs 28.8 ounces compared to the E-300's 33 ounces with a card, lens and battery.
The grip isn't terribly deep, but it's wide enough that it offers a good long surface area to wrap your fingers around. The grip is nicely textured with a rubbery finish that is warm to the touch. Unlike the E-300, the Olympus E-500's grip is more conventionally cut, with a contoured trapezoidal shape, whereas the E-300 was a big round curve with a raised ridge for added traction. The butt of the grip rests perfectly in my palm and the pads of all four fingers find a home on the inside of the grip, if only just.
My index finger rests perfectly on the shutter button, without having to twist and contort. I especially like how easy it is to reach the power switch with that same index finger while maintaining a right handed grip on the camera. This was well-planned. This switch actuates much like the switch on the E-300 and the Canon Digital Rebel models, jutting out from underneath the mode dial, but it's far better placed on the Olympus E-500.
Only two dials grace the Olympus E-500 (with the exception of the diopter correction dial). The Mode dial has a look of quality and the main command dial reminds me of the dial on the back of the EOS 20D: loose enough that its easy to turn, but sure in its detents.
The rest of the controls are buttons and I have no complaints about their operation or placement. The traditional five left of the LCD serve the right purposes, operating the menu, flash and playback functions. On the right is a five way nav cluster, an AE/AF Lock button, Drive mode button, AF button and custom function button. The five way nav has dual functions, including White balance, AF, ISO, Metering mode and OK button. On top, behind the shutter is the EV button On the front, Olympus has emulated the easier position of the lens release button as seen on competing cameras from Nikon and Canon, instead of the rather distant and small button found on the E-300. This new placement makes it a one-motion operation to press this button and begin rotating the lens.
So the controls are pretty simple. Until you get to the menus. We recorded 276 menu screens on the Olympus E-500, so don't let the simple array of buttons make you think this is a camera with limited capability. Though I haven't explored every feature, I found the menu relatively navigable as Olympus menus go. More than normal, they've used full and sometimes multiple words to describe options, an excellent approach.
Getting back to the physical form of the Olympus E-500 for a moment, the door covering the dual-card slot is worth mention. It closes reasonably well with a plastic hook mechanism and swings to lock open, much like the E-300's door. Competing models don't generally lock open, but I'd like to see it more often. Inside, the CF card releases with a button, while the xD card ejects with a push. Olympus's inclusion of xD card compatibility makes perfect sense, offering existing Olympus owners the option of using their xD cards in their new dSLR. Offering CF cards similarly allows E-300 and E-1 owners to continue using their existing stock of cards.
I was also happy to see an orange spring-loaded retaining hook holding the battery in place behind the battery door, so the expensive lithium ion battery doesn't fall free when the door is opened. A fall can very often kill a camera battery. This retention latch was missing from the E-300.
With the major competition sporting between five and seven AF points at this price range, I am a little disappointed that the Olympus E-500 has only three. They're horizontally arranged and the user can select any one of the three or let the camera choose to focus on the nearest object. One of the three AF dots lights red when an AF point is chosen and focus has been achieved.
Auto focus seems to be reasonably fast, but I'll have to wait until we get our final test unit to comment on performance, including shutter lag and shot-to-shot timing.
While we're here in the viewfinder, I have to confess that I'm not crazy about the exposure information being clustered on the right side of the viewfinder window. It just seems unnatural to have to look that far off to the right to see what's going on with the camera; perhaps if the camera had a higher eyepoint, but I find myself pressing my glasses way up against the viewfinder to see what's going on.
When I first sat down to start shooting real life with the E-500 prototype, I naturally pointed the camera at my family. We sat around the table taking shots, both flash and natural light and had a blast. Now, I'm always taking pictures of my family and my son is always asking, "Me see!" after each shot, so they're pretty used to it; that's why it's notable that we all had so much fun with the Olympus E-500.
I think the reason was that big LCD. It wasn't just the 2.5 inch size: colors were vibrant, contrast was excellent and images were sharp. It was like we had little prints we could see right away, instead of a small, slightly washed out image like we're used to seeing from a great many cameras.
It wasn't until after I got back to the promotional materials that I remembered how Olympus reps had boasted about the quality of this LCD. They're calling it a HyperCrystal LCD and it appears to not only deliver a vibrant image around the breakfast table, with a 160 degree viewing angle, but it also performs well out in direct sunlight. We were impressed.
Much like an Olympus digicam, the EVOLT E-500 has a wide selection of Scene modes for common shooting situations. The Mode dial covers the basic Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports and Night Portrait modes, but the Scene setting opens up even more. Landscape and Portrait, Children, High key, Low key and Candle modes are among the interesting offerings that are not often seen on dSLR cameras. Also missing from the E-300 but present on the E-500 are separate Full Auto and Program modes.
In addition to Black and White and Sepia, Olympus has added new filter and tint modes to the Black and White shooting option. Much as you can on the Rebel XT and EOS 20D, you can set modes that emulate color filters used in traditional film-based black and white photography, useful for darkening skies, for example. Filters include Yellow to darken skies, Orange to enhance sunset shots, Red to give dramatic contrast in skies and Green to improve contrast in skin tones and foliage. Black and white images can also be tinted Blue, Purple and Green.
Three color settings allow the user to select the type of color output they want, a common strategy among consumer SLR manufacturers. Film and digicam manufacturers have been amping the color on our images for so long that when a dSLR comes along and gives us true color, we assume something's wrong; the color seems so dull. The human mind remembers colors more vividly than the eye sees them, so film companies like Kodak learned long ago to give our minds what they want. The E-500 does the same. The default setting is Vibrant, but you can set the camera to Natural and Muted if you like. Natural and Muted will be easier to modify later in programs like Photoshop, so experienced computer photo tweakers will want to use these settings, but consumers will probably be more happy with Vibrant mode (we'll see when we test the real deal).
Olympus is proud of the fact that they have the largest selection of digital-specific lenses on the market and four more have been added with the E-500 announcement. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Olympus often sets trends in photography and they were apparently right when they said it would be better to deliver more light straight at the sensor instead of continuing to use existing 35mm lenses. Most manufacturers have now come out with digital-specific lenses to better direct more of the light right to the sensor by tightening the image circle created by the lens.
While Olympus does indeed have more lenses, a great many of them are very expensive, built as they were for the professional using an Olympus E-1. Olympus now says they will have a total of 15 digital-specific Zuiko lenses available come late March 2006. Hopefully that will include a more healthy selection of prime (non-zoom) and affordable zoom lenses, both wide-angle and telephoto.
The kit lens is a 14-45mm lens, which is equivalent to a 28-90mm lens on a 35mm camera, due to the 2x multiplication factor that must be applied. Though they offer a lens that will take you out to a 14mm equivalent, it costs around $2,600, too much for consumers. Another option takes you out to 22mm equivalent (the 11-22mm f2.8 Wide Zoom), but that's also around $950. For the record, wide-angle is the biggest problem for modern consumer SLRs and is not unique to the Olympus line.
Concurrent with the E-500 announcement, Olympus introduced four new lenses, two intended for pros (with a price tag to match) and two that are more in line with consumer needs and price points. The 18-180mm will probably make a good vacation lens, with a 36-360mm equivalent measurement. It will retail for $499.99. The 35mm f3.5 Macro has a 1:1 magnification ratio, making it good for online auctions and other types of macrophotography. It's expected to be about $229.99. The other two cost two and a half to six times the price of the E-500: the 90-250mm f2.8 and 35-100mm f2.0 zoom lenses, with price tags of $2,499.99 and $5,999.99. Most prospective E-500 buyers needn't even bother looking at those, but I suppose it's nice to know that they're there if you need them.
MY FIRST IMPRESSION
I really like the Olympus E-500. It's comfortable to hold, handsome and seems to work quite well. It has almost all the features I'd look for in a dSLR, including a high enough resolution to stave off any feeling of obsolescence for the next year or so and a number of modes to assist and enhance a user's photography as they learn (or re-learn) the craft. No other manufacturer offers a sensor that cleans itself every time you power it on and few dSLRs currently on the market have a screen this big and beautiful.
While it was bold, the physical design of the original EVOLT E-300 didn't do justice to the technology that lay inside. The Olympus E-500 brings the company back to basics, with a time-tested design whose familiarity should attract more users. Here's hoping that the shipping version exceeds the abilities of the E-300 as is expected, because everything else about the camera just seems right.
With the 14-45mm lens the E-500 will have an estimated street price of $799. Their two lens outfit includes a second 40-150mm lens for $899 estimated street. The E-500 is expected to ship in October. Look for our full review soon.
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: Kodak EasyShare C360 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C360/C360A.HTM)
- First Look: Olympus E-500 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EV500/E500A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EOS1DS2/1DS2A.HTM)
- Updated Review: Sony DSC-R1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/R1/R1A.HTM)
Once upon a time, Gretel, all cameras had only one exposure mode: Manual. And then, Hansel, there were two: Manual and Auto (which really just adjusted the shutter speed). And today we live happily ever after with, well, many choices but only two alternatives.
Every digicam has an Auto exposure mode and Scene modes are quickly becoming just as common. But Manual? It's not only hard to find, it sometimes doesn't even let you near the shutter or aperture, hoping to distract you with mere exposure compensation or white balance adjustments.
Into the oven with that!
We much prefer cameras that offer -- usually in addition to Auto and Scene modes -- PASM modes on the exposure dial. PASM stands for Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes. Once you know what they can do for you, you can put your worries away for ever. They're all you'll ever really need.
That's because there have only ever been two controls to setting exposure. One, the shutter speed, is how fast the shutter opens and closes. And the other, the aperture, is how wide open the hole in the lens is. Each, in their own way, control how much like hits the sensor. PASM lets you decide whether you want to control neither, one, the other or both.
Let's look at these from the simplest to most complex.
Aperture Priority. The most common Auto mode on old 35mm film cameras controlled the shutter speed, which is mechanically the simplest adjustment to make. You select the lens opening and the camera adjusts the shutter speed. You may find that you have a range of apertures from f3.5 to f11 for a particular shot. You'd dial the lens collar toward f3.5 if you were shooting a portrait and wanted the subject to be sharper than the background. Or up toward f11 if you were shooting a landscape and wanted everything to be sharp. When shooting at the telephoto end of your zoom range, this mode's control over depth of field can be critical, though at wide-angle, it isn't nearly as important.
Shutter Priority. Turn to the S on the exposure mode dial and you, not the camera, control the shutter speed. As you change it, the camera adjusts exposure by compensating with the aperture. You pick a fast 1/500 second shutter speed to catch the Blue Angels as they fly a few hundred feet above you and it picks a wider lens opening so enough light can get to the sensor to make the exposure. Slowing the shutter down is also a great way to get a little more range from your flash. If you use a slower flash sync speed, you get more ambient light and a bit more range.
Manual. If you can chew gum and walk at the same time, you can learn to control both the shutter speed and lens aperture yourself. It isn't hard at all. The trick is to go through a decision tree for what you want to capture. Are you worried about stopping action? Start by setting the shutter speed to no less than 1/125. Are you more worried about depth of field? Start by setting the lens up around f11. Then check your exposure to see where you stand and dial the second control toward what the camera tells you is a good exposure. Finally, take it one more step by shifting either control beyond what the meter tells you to get an exposure Auto wouldn't. That's where all the dramatic shots really live, you know.
Program. Like Auto, Program mode sets both the aperture and shutter. You don't have to worry about a thing. Unlike Auto, however, it's not without its refinements. You can use exposure compensation (as you can with Shutter or Aperture Priority) to compensate for a bright subject (like a beach scene) or a dark subject (like a black cat), if you don't like the default settings. You can change the metering mode to hone in on just what's being evaluated, too. Even better, there's usually a command dial you can fiddle with to shift either or both controls without changing the overall exposure.
We tend to use Shutter Priority when the subject is moving, either to blur the movement (as in a waterfall or fountain) or to stop it (as in sports action shots). Aperture Priority is the ticket when depth of field is the issue, either opening it up with a wide aperture to focus on one aspect of the scene or narrowing it down to get as much of the scene in focus as possible, particularly at telephoto.
When we really don't want to consider the exposure of each shot, like at a picnic with changing light or where we're taking sequences of shots, Program is a blessing. It isn't always right, but we're smart enough to know when we have to help it a bit with exposure compensation.
True Manual, however, is our best friend. You can have too much help, too much automation, too many chefs in the kitchen (especially if one's an old witch). Every now and then, it's nice to have complete control over what's going on. And it's sometimes a surprise to remember there are, after all, only two things that control the exposure. Aperture and shutter speed, Hansel and Gretel.
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 Canon EOS 20D dSLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9ad5a
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It wasn't just Hurricane Katrina that had us humming that old B.B. King anthem. The thrill, the fun ... gone. Of course, that's what things do. They go. We all go. Humming.
Which, if you'll excuse this stuttering, is what makes capturing a moment in an image such a thrill. Sure, you can forget nearly anything. But if you can recognize something -- say in a photo or two -- you aren't gone yet.
Today, we found ourselves unfairly aggrieved when a light-hearted three hour medical test, a myocardial profusion scan, turned into a six hour ordeal, half of it in the waiting room. When it was all over, we were anxious to get back to, well, life. And in front of us were a pair of very, very old people. The gent kept his jeans up with a pair of snappy red suspenders. The gal, bent over with osteoporosis, steered a three-wheeled walker. We thought they'd never get to the elevator.
But our entourage was slower.
Unfortunately, the elevator door was faster than the gent, who caught his hand in it and got nothing more than a bruise for his gallantry. We pressed the Down button to save him, but it only opened the elevator door behind us. We jumped in and held the Door Open button (we're pretty good with buttons, after all) and invited them both in at their leisure.
But the poor woman had to back peddle and lost her balance, circling backward faster and faster until she fell into the arms of a young fellow just coming up the hallway. He righted her (and probably saved her life, considering what a broken hip means). Nonplussed, she wheeled into the elevator.
"Well," we observed, "you can still dance!"
"I sure can!" she laughed.
And just that quick, life reasserted itself. Not gone yet, no sir. Not gone yet.
"Aren't people nice," she said to her gent. And he nodded. And just like that the couple who a moment ago seemed to be an impediment had become two people we were glad to have met. Two we would certainly miss.
Like a snapshot, really. That reminds us why we suffer all this nonsense like myocardial profusion scans. We all go. But once in a while, we burn bright. Hopefully, we're properly exposed.
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RE: Astronomic Exposures
Mike, Phil Toleikis asked, "Has there been any reviews on digital cameras that are preferred for astrophotography? I would like to take some photos of the heavens and just wondered if you have any info on the subject?"
Your reply indicated long exposures are required, but that's not strictly true ;-)
Digital Light and Color has a PDF on astrophotography (http://www.dl-c.com) using a composite of multiple short exposures on its Articles page called Using Picture Window for Astrophotography. Well worth a look!
Thanks for an always interesting newsletter. I learn something from every edition.
-- Phil(Thanks, Phil! We didn't mean to exclude short exposures. But not all digicams can take long ones and those that do can certainly take short ones too. To combine multiple short ones into a nice long one, Dave recommended Image Stacker (http://www.tawbaware.com/imgstack.htm) [W]. We like Optipix (http://www.reindeergraphics.com) [MW] for this, too. -- Editor)
RE: The dSLR Decision
It's about time for me to spring for a dSLR. I am considering a Nikon D50 body (based on your recent review) and either a combination of the two Nikon (short and long) zoom lenses or a single Tamron or Sigma 18 to 200mm. I now use a single long zoom on my film SLR and like the convenience and find the quality adequate. I probably would be changing the Nikon digital zooms fairly often and the idea of having a single long zoom would be easier plus would avoid opening up the camera to dust less frequently. Any thoughts?
-- Paul Castenholz(Do D70 owners change the kit lens much? That would make an interesting poll. The D50 kit lens sticks to the wide-angle end, so a more versatile zoom makes sense. But what's the perfect range? We've been shooting with a 28-100mm zoom (with macro) and, while we like it, we wish we could get a little closer (120mm) and a little wider (18mm). We never seemed to mind our old 43-86mm zoom, oddly. But it's a smart idea to find a lens you can use most of the time, to minimize exposing the sensor. -- Editor)
I have been searching through your archives without success for a tip that I think I saw in the Imaging Resource Newsletter about three years ago for increasing the apparent sharpness of a low-resolution image by up-sampling to increase its pixel dimensions incrementally in several stages (and maybe applying a touch of unsharp masking as well). I've plugged all the buzz-words I can think of into your search box -- and come across lots of other interesting things on the way -- but it hasn't disclosed the topic I'm after.
Could you please point me to the source or was it all a dream?
-- Keith Birtwistle(You weren't dreaming, Keith. But the topic was covered in the Letters column, so keywording can be tricky ("resampling" would have worked, I can tell you in hindsight). It's in the Nov. 12, 2004 issue. Pop down to the Letters section (Resize That!) and see the follow-up in the next issue. -- Editor)
Many thanks for your lightning response to my query about incremental resampling. When you get old like me, you can't remember if something in your memory happened two or twenty years ago and I was simply looking in the wrong place.
I'd just like to say how much I look forward to that leisurely half hour on alternate Saturday mornings when I download and read your newsletter. I love your style of writing; it can't be easy to be entertaining and informative simultaneously and in such a relaxed style.
-- Keith(Thanks, Keith. Yes, it's awfully hard work, stretching the strands of the hammock we keep in the bunker to their breaking point on a daily basis. Once you get in the swing of it, it's tolerable. But the only time it can be said to be enjoyable, really, is when a reader appreciates all the work behind it. We're consequently very grateful for your follow up! -- Editor)
The war against red-eye took a decisive turn this week when Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) announced its $99.99 Photoshop Elements 4.0. Using a new face recognition algorithm, it can eliminate red-eye as images are imported from your camera to your hard disk.
Version 4.0 makes it nearly as easy to composite images, extracting portions of one image with advanced edge defringing by simply scribbling over the part of the image you want. It also corrects skin tone with a single click, regardless of race. And features enhanced sharing options.
Available for Windows only, it's also bundled with a new version of Premiere Elements for $149.99 that can import video clips from any digital video device, experiment with hundreds of professional transitions and effects and burn videos to DVD with custom menus or transfer them to portable video players.
Adobe told us that while there's no update at the moment for the Mac version of Photoshop Elements, "Our commitment to the Mac platform remains strong and we continue to move forward with development of the next version."
Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has released a Macintosh OS X 10.4 version of the Phanfare Photo interface to its photo sharing service (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHF/PHF.HTM). While a few features of the Windows version are missing, our early tests of beta versions allowed us to create and upload albums effortlessly. The service, $6.95 a month or $54.95 a year with unlimited storage, can now display Exif information in online album images, too. And the company is revamping its video options, increasing the limit to five minutes with a hard limits of 100-MB.
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has updated its free Digital Negative Converter and Camera Raw plug-in to version 3.2 adding support for the newest dSLRs.
Digital Foci (http://www.digitalfoci.com) has introduced its $399 Picture Porter portable digital photo album with hard drive and card reader. The compact player features a color LCD for viewing photos and videos. The reader supports CompactFlash I/II, MD, SM, MMC, SD Card, miniSD, Memory Stick, MS PRO, MS Duo and MS PRO Duo formats. Image format support includes JPEG, TIFF, BMP and Raw.
Albert Sierra at Foto Imagen Digital has an interesting interview (http://www.webpersonal.net/fotoimagendigital/olympuse500e.htm) with Olympus' Toshiyuki Terada on the Olympus EVOLT E-500, among other topics.
CNET has reported that Apple (http://www.apple.com) filed a patent in March for a laptop with a digicam in the housing that secures the lid to the base.
Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has announced LightZone [M], photo editing software that "allows photographers to edit and process their images in terms of light and objects instead of pixels."
Prosoft (http://www.prosofteng.com) has released Data Rescue II v1.0 [M], a data recovery utility, with an updated interface, assistant or expert mode, drag and drop recovery, Tiger optimizations and more.
The $39.95 Web Photos Pro 1.2 [MW] (http://www.webphotospro.com) adds image rotation and uploads to Live Journal Scrapbook and Club Photo in this release of the Web photo album and gallery creation tool.
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has updated VueScan to add an Auto file name output option.
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:
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
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher