The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 21 14 October 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 160th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. News Editor Michael Tomkins reveals what's behind the rash of recent service advisories. Dave pockets the latest evolution in Konica Minolta's X Series. We fool around with the new wireless Nikon and find an interesting book on image editing. Then we get serious about these Nobel nominations.


TOPICS

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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: CCD Failures: The Bigger Picture

By Michael R. Tomkins

(What had been initially dismissed as "user abuse" by some camera manufacturers turns out to be a problem plaguing companies using a Sony CCD. Imaging Resource dug deep to uncover what's behind it all, "actually a joint effort, mostly Dave and myself plus some feedback from Shawn," according to news editor Michael R. Tomkins. -- Editor)

Recently, we've reported on digital camera service advisories from no less than seven manufacturers, all of them offering to fix certain problems experienced by their customers regardless of warranty status.

In each case, the story has been similar. CCD sensor failures (particularly in conditions of high heat and humidity) leading to cameras that capture images with either no picture at all, or with extreme distortion and purple color casts. We've seen a significant uptick in emails about this problem over the last week or two. There has understandably been considerable concern among our readers, with many wondering whether this was an ongoing problem that could affect current cameras.

Fabrication of CCD image sensors is a major undertaking, quite different from fabrication of normal computer chips, requiring dedicated production lines. The expense of creating and operating these lines makes it relatively prohibitive for smaller manufacturers to gain a foothold.

The net result is that the CCD imagers used in the majority of cameras are created by one of a handful of manufacturers, with Sony representing a very significant portion of the total CCD sensor market. It appears that the sensors in question were manufactured on Sony's fab lines, and given that company's leading market position, the affected sensors have made their way into quite a range of cameras, camcorders and other products from a number of companies.

Thus far, Sony itself has announced a repair program, as have several other digital camera manufacturers. We expect to see additional repair programs announced by other digital camera manufacturers in the near future. The full extent of the problem isn't known, but information provided by Sony regarding their own repair program indicates that the affected cameras were manufactured between October 2002 and March 2004.

It should be noted that these are merely manufacturing dates. Cameras manufactured in March 2004 could easily have still been on retail shelves through the end of that year, and possibly even into early 2005. It should also be noted that with all of the manufacturers, the problem affects only certain models. Many cameras manufactured during the period in question will be completely unaffected.

THE PROBLEM

The root cause of the problem is only hinted at in the advisories, but our investigation of the problem has uncovered more specific information indicating two possible causes.

Semiconductor chips can be assembled into a variety of different package types and styles. Most chips these days are delivered in plastic (epoxy, actually) packages that are inexpensive, but that may not offer environmental protection as good as that of more expensive ceramic package types.

According to our contacts in the industry, the generation of Sony sensors affected by the problem were packaged in plastic, and the design or manufacturing parameters for the packages involved resulted in their being susceptible to elevated moisture and humidity levels in typical digital camera usage. Only in very unusual circumstances (high heat, very high humidity, high pressure) does this quickly lead to a problem.

In most cases, it takes a very long time for moisture to creep into a plastic chip package. Hence, only now, two or more years after the earliest of the cameras affected by this were manufactured, are we starting to see a widespread pattern of problems.

The plot thickened when Nikkei Business Press published an article (http://techon.nikkeibp.co.jp/english/NEWS_EN/20051005/109314) claiming, "Sony changed settings of a wire bonding system in the course of manufacturing process enhancement. As a result, the joint between wire and electrodes became weaker than before then." The article added, "An adhesive, used to bond the CCD sensor's glass and package, further degraded the wire joint surface. An iodine compound used to bond this glass and the package seems to have vaporized from inside the package, reached the wire joint and decayed the alloy on the joint surface."

That may explain why bumps and twists sometimes revived some models. Paul Taylor's synopsis of the problem (http://forums.canonphotogroup.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=11482) also suggests corrosion of the flex circuit contacts is to blame.

THE FIX

Based on what we've heard behind the scenes, the fix was actually a pretty simple one. Just bite the bullet and use the more expensive ceramic chip packaging. Sony also decided to remove the iodine compound adhesive from the CCD manufacturing process. (It's also possible that the issue of adhesive and package material are related, with different adhesives being used for plastic or ceramic packages.)

Repair program details vary from company to company, but so far all manufacturers have promised to correct the problem free of charge, regardless of the current warranty status of the individual camera. For specific details, contact the local office of their camera manufacturer, as the procedure will vary with the company and country.

Most companies are offering a fast-turnaround repair service, but some may instead offer a replacement policy. Some advisories have noted that for cameras outside warranty, any camera problems unrelated to the CCD sensor issue will be treated as regular unwarrantied service, which is logical. We'd expect this to be the case even for manufacturers who've not explicitly stated this in their service advisories.

Interestingly, while the scale of the repair programs are likely to be a significant nuisance for the camera makers, at least one source has told us that the cost of the repairs is actually being borne by Sony, not the individual camera makers. (Kudos to Sony if this is the case.)

THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION

Of course, the million dollar question in some consumers' minds is whether it is safe to buy current digital cameras.

Since camera makers seldom identify the exact supplier and model of imager they're using (let alone sensor packaging details), we have no way of knowing whether current cameras are sound. However, Sony is said to have introduced a test system to measure boding strength around March 2004 to prevent the problem from recurring.

We don't have a crystal ball, but given the range of dates mentioned in Sony's advisory and reports of the March 2004 test system, it certainly sounds like this particular problem was actually resolved over a year ago.

There thus doesn't seem to be any reason to hold off on purchasing current models. To the contrary, the responsible way in which this problem has been handled by the various companies involved bodes well for the future, should anything like this crop up again.

THE LIST

We'll report any further service advisories issued by camera manufacturers on our news page (updating our primary article at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1128958202.html to include new advisories) and encourage you to forward any you may receive to us. Pentax, Kodak, HP, Casio, among others have not yet reported a problem.

Following is the current list of digital camera models (excluding camcorders, PDAs, and other such products) that may be affected by this problem with our report on the service advisory in parentheses:

Return to Topics.

Feature: Konica Minolta DiMAGE X60 -- X-Evolution

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/X60/X60A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

The Konica Minolta DiMAGE X60 continues the company's long line of subcompact X-series digicams. Minolta really turned heads almost three years ago, when they introduced the diminutive DiMAGE X, a 2-Mp digicam in the form of a square block of metal, just barely over three-quarters of an inch thick. The DiMAGE X's clever folded optical system not only enabled the super-thin design, but started up quickly, since there was no need to wait for the lens to pop out.

This year's version, the 5.0-Mp Konica Minolta DiMAGE X60, while closely related to its predecessor the DiMAGE X50, does away with the optical viewfinder, reducing the camera's size and weight. It also replaces the X50's essentially useless bundled SD card with 15-MB of built-in memory -- much more useful since it's always in the camera in addition to your own flash card. Although there are a lot of hardware changes, the X60 will feel very familiar to owners of earlier X-series models. With each generation, Konica Minolta's X series has continued to improve and the images from the X60 offer high resolution and good color as well. If you're looking for a super-portable, easy to use and stylish camera, the X60 deserves a close look.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

With its prism-folded lens design, Konica Minolta's $349.99 DiMAGE X60 (like the DiMAGE X50, Xg, Xt, Xi and X before it) has a tiny, extraordinarily thin all-metal body. The X60's lens is horizontally mounted near the center of the camera's body, providing better separation between the front of the lens opening and your fingertips than previous X-series cameras that placed the lens vertically at the very edge of the camera. The new model is slightly smaller overall than the X50, measuring just 3.3x2.2x0.9 inches, and a tenth of an ounce lighter, weighing just 4.9 ounces with the battery and a memory card.

The unique folded optical design means no waiting for a lens to telescope out when the camera is powered up, resulting in very fast startup and shutdown times. It also keeps moving parts to a minimum and protects the lens inside the camera's body, reducing both power consumption and the risk of accidental damage. The sleek design includes a built-in sliding lens barrier which doubles as a power switch, eliminating any concern over misplacing a lens cap. The all-metal case is rugged and solid-feeling and should withstand the wear and tear of daily use better than most cameras. The 3.0x zoom lens is just a little more powerful than the X50's 2.8x optical zoom and combined with the fully automatic exposure control makes the camera suitable for most common shooting conditions. The 5.0-Mp CCD produces high resolution images for printing, as well as lower resolution images better suited for email.

The X60 has a 3.0x, 6.3-18.9mm lens (a 38-114mm 35mm equivalent), a little less wide and a little more tele than the X50. Autofocus covers a range from 4 inches to infinity. A Super Macro scene mode reduces this to just 2 inches. Depending on the lens zoom position, the maximum aperture ranges from f3.3 to f4.0. In addition to the optical zoom, the X60 offers a 4.0x digital zoom, in increments of 0.1x. Digital zoom, however, decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the central pixels of the CCD's image. The X60 offers a large 2.5-inch LCD display on which to compose images, which is about 98 percent accurate. At 115,000 pixels, resolution is the same as the X50's smaller LCD, so the display on the X60 looks rather more coarse than the previous model. Unlike the X50, there is no optical viewfinder on the X60, most likely because there's simply not room to fit one. In playback mode, images can be enlarged up to 6x, as an aid to checking critical focus and framing.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, with only a few options available. The sliding lens barrier on the front of the camera powers the camera on and a Mode switch lets you select between fully automatic, scene and movie/sound modes. The Scene Mode function, which customizes exposures for common photographic situations, offers a choice of Automatic Selection, Portrait, Sports Action, Landscape, Sunset, Night Portrait, Text, Super Macro and Auto settings.

Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's menu system, which offers very straightforward navigation. You can control flash mode, zoom, wide/spot autofocus, drive mode and either exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity or color mode externally, via buttons and controls on the camera's rear panel. Shutter speeds range from 1/1000 to four seconds. The right and left arrow keys control either the Exposure Compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity or color mode or are disabled in Record mode (depending on a menu setting). Exposure Compensation ranges from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third step increments. Sensitivity is adjustable to values of 50, 100, 200 or 400, with an Auto setting that sets ISO between 50 and 160 depending on the current light level. White Balance options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent and Fluorescent light sources. The X60's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed or Slow Sync modes (the latter being available only when using the Night Portrait scene mode).

A few extra shooting modes are controlled through the Settings menu. In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures 320x240-pixel images with sound until the memory card is full at a rate of either 15 or 30 fps. The included 15-MB built-in memory should hold approximately 20 seconds worth of movies at the highest frame rate or 38 seconds at the lower frame rate, larger cards will store proportionately more. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and when the camera actually takes the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots.

Continuous Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images when you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive on a 35mm camera. With enough space on the memory card, the camera can capture up to four large/fine images before having to pause to write the image data to the memory card. Image size and shutter speed can affect the shooting interval, but it averages approximately 1.6 frames per second. Multi-Frame mode captures nine low-res images at 1.5 fps, which are stored as a single image in a 3x3 grid. Finally, Audio Recording mode lets you record sound clips as long as 180 minutes (without an image), although maximum recording time is limited by memory card space. The 15-MB built-in memory can hold about 30 minutes of audio. The X60 also features a Voice Memo option, for recording short sound clips (up to 15 seconds in length) to accompany recorded images.

The X60 stores its images on an SD memory card (or the slightly less expensive MMC cards) or in its 15-MB of built-in memory. There's also a provision to copy images from the built-in memory to a Secure Digital card or vice versa -- or even to copy images between Secure Digital cards via the built-in memory. Connection to a host computer for image download is via USB. The X60 is a storage-class device, so it doesn't require driver software for Windows 2000/XP or Mac OS 8.6 and later. Download speed is also good at 751 KBytes/second on my Sony VAIO computer, running Windows XP. That's faster than USB v1.1 can support, so the X60 must in fact have a USB v2.0 interface.

The camera is powered by an NP-700 rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which is included along with its charger. A fully-charged battery is good for about 78 minutes of continuous operation, 20 more than the X50 managed with the same battery. Still, you'll want to pick up an additional battery pack and keep it freshly charged. The optional AC adapter may also be useful for preserving battery power when using the camera as a webcam, for reviewing and downloading images or when viewing images and movies on a television, via the supplied A/V cable.

Test results: (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/X60/X60A.HTM#specs)

CONCLUSION

Continuing the trend of the entire Konica Minolta X-series cameras, the X60 is a very slim, small and convenient digicam that offers just what most users want from this ultra-small category: good quality that they can take anywhere. Its very big 2.5 inch LCD is excellent indoors or out in bright daylight, so the optical viewfinder is not missed. The X60's ergonomics are well thought out, comfortable to shoot with one hand or two (though I recommend two when working the controls on this very small camera).

The X60 is a little slow at autofocus, high ISO images are grainy and its flash isn't all that powerful, but these are common compromises in cameras this small. Cameras like this are the only ones we recommend if you're actually going to put a camera in a pocket, because if they turn on, damage to the lens mechanism really isn't possible (the optics, of course, can always be damaged by keys and compression damage from sitting on a camera prevent us from really recommending most cameras as truly pocketable).

I'd like to see a higher resolution movie mode, beyond the X60's 320x240, but its stills are good quality at good resolution. Like the rest of the X-series, it's a great camera to bring along everywhere. If you don't want to lug your bigger camera along, the X60 will deliver good quality images in a pinch. After all, the best camera is the one you have with you when you need it and the X60's small, slim profile leaves you no excuse to be without it.

Return to Topics.

Feature: A Wireless Nikon

Nikon digicams are famous for several things: fidelity to natural color capture (rather than the high-contrast, saturated color of most consumer digicams), remarkable macro capability and, well, the company's resistance to auto rotation. The Coolpix P1 adds a new twist to the mix, though. Wireless file transfers.

Only the P1/P2 and the Kodak EasyShare-One currently offer wireless connections in a digicam. Nikon has taken a useful but far less ambitious approach than Kodak, however. Nikon's wireless reach extends only to PictureProject or a USB printer with its $50 PD-10 wireless adapter attached. Kodak's reach extends through its EasyShare Doc or local hotspot to its EasyShare Gallery Web site (and through that by email to anyone you like).

Regardless of reach, making a wireless connection has stumped a number of otherwise savvy users. A USB cable is easy to use. Just plug it in. Plugging into a wireless connection is not anywhere near as simple.

TWO MODES

While the P1 can communicate with PictureProject through the wireless router on your home network, it can also connect to a computer with a wireless adapter. Connecting to a router is called Access Point (or Infrasture) mode, while connecting to a computer's wireless adapter is called Camera to Computer (or Ad-Hoc) mode.

Either mode requires you to gather quite a bit of information from either your router or your computer. You need to know the Network ID (or SSI) before selecting the mode. Camera to Computer mode requires you to tell the camera the wireless channel, whether authentication is open or shared, the security employed (None, WEP 64 bits or WEP 128 bits), the security key format, the key index, IP address configuration, manual IP address if configured for manual. Access Point requires you to tell the camera the authentication, security, security key format, security key, key index, IP configuration and IP address, omitting only the channel. If your router uses hardware address filtering, you'll also need to know the camera MAC address, reported only in the Setup menu's Firmware Version option.

'WIRED' SETUP

With that information you create a profile using Nikon's Setup Utility and, ahem, a USB cable with the camera USB mode set to PTP and the camera in Setup mode. The P1 can store nine profiles. After naming the profile, you enter the information you've gathered and complete the process.

The Network ID can be a bit confusing. For an Access Point connection to an existing wireless network, the name of the router is what you're looking for. For a Camera to Computer connection, you can make up a name while creating the profile and then create the network on the laptop using that name. It can also be hard to find the wireless channel on a Camera to Computer connection. The default is usually 6. Both devices have to use the same channel.

If you have an existing wireless network, create a profile for that. If you don't, but you do have a wireless adapter in your computer, go that route.

You should also beware any firewall settings that block UDP port number 5353 or TCP port 15740. They're deal breakers. Be suspicious of any antispam software you've installed. It may have blocked ports without telling you.

INTEGRATED G

Unlike the EasyShare One (which uses a WiFi adapter card), the P1's wireless adapter is integrated within the camera body. It's also Wireless G (rather than Wireless B like Kodak), so connecting it to a wireless network won't degrade network performance to B speed [applause]. Some G networks are configured to prevent B devices from joining to avoid this problem, adding to the wireless configuration conundrum (for EasyShare One owners, anyway).

Transfer speed over our G network with no B devices awake, was quick. We moved about 17 high resolution images (2.2 to 2.6-MB each) and one 2.6-MB movie in about two minutes, roughly eight seconds an image. A blue LED on the side of the P1 flashes to indicate wireless activity.

SHOOT & TRANSFER

You can transfer images you've recorded, of course, but a special mode let's you transfer as you shoot. In this mode, a wireless connection is established and maintained. Whenever you press the shutter button, the image is captured and then transferred to PictureProject. From shutter press to the end of transfer took 19 seconds. Images are named with a STCN prefix rather than the DSCN prefix. You can configure this mode to display a message confirming transfer of each image and to save the image in the camera, both of which are disabled by default. Sort of like using your hard drive for flash memory. Slow.

But also worth noting is that the mode dial is set to the Wireless option. Which means you are limited to Auto exposure mode. The manual refers to a non-existing option to set the exposure mode for the wireless Shoot & Transfer option. One can only hope.

CONCLUSION

Wireless adds a few bucks to the cost of this basic point-and-shoot (WiFi licensing fees alone are not trivial). And it only talks to PictureProject (which isn't a bad iPhoto clone, actually). We were afraid the P1's wireless was merely a PictureProject file transfer gimmick.

But in use, it appealed to the dominant and lazier side of our nature. Set the dial mode to Transfer, select Transfer by Date (since we were too lazy to delete previous shoots) and pick the most recent folder or images and ... well, that's it. The computer puts up a dialog box telling us the transfer is underway and if we're feeling especially lazy, we watch the countdown. We did have the onerous task of turning the camera off when it was all over, unfortunately.

In short, despite our misgivings, we liked it. Fortunately, we were lazy enough to realize it.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

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Book Bag: Commercial Photoshop Retouching

Wait! Congratulate yourself. You weren't put off by "Commercial" in the title of this tome. No, you saw "Retouching" and tried to crash the party. Very bright of you. Prolonged outright applause.

It would be nice if we could just shoot and be happy. But in retrospect we always see something we might have done better. So the art of retouching beckons us all. And yet, beyond the press-this-key junk at the bookstore, the art of retouching remains a mystery. We, in fact, want to be an image retoucher this Halloween.

Glenn Honiball has bravely volunteered to demystify all this for us. And O'Reilly, no me-too publisher, has deigned to help. The result is an unusually inspiring read for 1) aspiring retouchers certainly and, perhaps surprisingly, 2) anyone who has ever been dissatisfied with what their camera did and wanted to make more of it.

In fact, Glenn's 20 years in professional retouching inform every page with a perspective your ordinary Photoshop tome just doesn't have. The aspiring pro will learn how to set up a studio, deal with clients, read spec sheets and deal with a fan-splattered wall of jobs. The amateur will learn how to make realistic changes to their images, whether it's adding blush to a cheek or compositing two images. In both cases, the real thrill is seeing a pro at work.

Take the first chapter, the Professional Retoucher's Studio, for example. "I have heard people swear by stylus pens, but for me," he writes, "the mouse works just fine." His advice about large screens and double screens and furniture is just as frank.

The second chapter, Shadows and Light, explains the biggest problem you can have combining two images realistically in the first sentence. "Shadows set objects into their surroundings." He moves from simple, accurate shadow creation to shadows for complex objects, explains how to avoid common shadow mistakes like using the wrong blend mode or shadow shape and discusses building a shadow library.

In the third chapter, Corrections: Improvements on Realty, he shows you how to use the History Brush to realistically edit images before tackling images that need more detail or whose color has to be neutralized. He continues with a demonstration of ways to use the Clone Tool before showing you how to brighten an image and change colors. That last trick he demonstrates by turning a black car white and a white car black, no mean feat.

The fourth chapter, Something from Nothing, shows you how to add effects to your images. Not goofball effects. Not movie effects. Realistic effects, like adding steam to a cup of coffee or a tea pot. Or turning a taciturn face into a Mona Lisa. Or making a Deux Chevaux move as fast as a Lamborghini.

Chapter five on Special Color Requests is for the pros, discussing the creation of touch plates for the press, merging spot colors into CMYK, converting CMYK to special colors, changing a four color image into a three color image, adding traps and changing overall color.

In chapter six, Merging Images, he presents a strategy for successfully compositing images, starting with selecting the components, building a position file and putting it all together in one image. He doesn't shy away from tough but unavoidable topics like isolating hair and dealing with Quark XPress's interpretation of clipping paths.

Chapter seven, Low Resolution on a Grand Scale: Making Low Res Look High Res, gives some good advice about testing a resized image on an ordinary printer and repairing artifacts of resizing but no tricks on rescaling itself. We wish he had more to say about upscaling tricks, but that's our only disappointment.

Chapter eight discusses Preparing Images for Newsprint. You'll learn how to optimize your image for the limitations of web presses soaking newsprint in ink by using Photoshop to simulate the problem. He covers correcting a color image for both color and grayscale reproduction.

In the ninth chapter, Preparing Images for Use on Packaging Materials, he shows you how to optimize an image for printing on mediums other than paper using a flexo press.

His professional perspective means Glenn's examples are CMYK not RGB projects, but we didn't find that a problem. Reproduction is a CMYK world, whether you send RGB data to your printer or not. And almost whatever you do in CMYK, can be applied to RGB images as well.

More importantly, the image problems he solves as he deals with the major issues in retouching beset us all. His solutions are speedy, sound (did we say realistic) and forgiving (hey, you can do them with a mouse). Spend a few hours with this book and your friends will wonder where you learned to make such realistic edits to your images. If they can even tell you made them!

Commercial Photoshop Retouching by Glenn Honiball, 260 pages, published by O'Reilly, in paperback at $44.95.
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 Olympus C-8080 Zoom at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee97eae

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

Tracey asks for help with her computer recognizing her camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea06a1/0

Dino asks about Nikon lenses at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea03de/0

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

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Just for Fun: Nobel Nominations Redux

Just imagine you've nicked your index finger, pressed it to your buddy's bleeding index finger and bound yourselves forever as blood brothers. One for all and all for one. The most sacred bond short of an IOU.

And then imagine yourself slipping on the ice plant, sliding down the slope to the edge of the cliff, grabbing the only root that survived global warming and hanging by that petrified thread 300 feet above the rocky boulders piled on the beach below to prevent further erosion. Quite naturally, you call for your blood brother. "Hey, bro! Heeelp!!!"

Is he close enough to hear you? Has the pounding surf drowned out your appeal? You pant breathlessly, your grip dissolving, praying for a response....

"Your call may be monitored...." you finally hear after an interminable wait. Outsourced again!

You don't really have to imagine this scenario. Just part with your hard-earned bucks, the ones you sweated blood for, open your new purchase, give it a run for the money and, at the third sign of trouble two minutes later, call the 800 number for customer support.

"Your call may be monitored...."

Why is it that companies think the moment you're in trouble is the perfect time to abandon you? While the company president is catering a BBQ for his top salespeople, you hang by a thread, explaining for the fifth time what the problem is as a harried call center employee tries to follow an incomprehensible script rather than address the obvious problem.

Scripts are for JavaScript. Put it on a Web site, not in a call center. When you need to talk to a person, you are asking for intelligence, not a decision tree mechanism any competent JavaScript programmer could code between Jolts. Who gets that?

We'll give a Nobel -- an Ersatz Nobel but a Nobel all the same -- to any company you nominate who actually delivers customer support. Just email your nomination before the next issue (oh, do it now before you have to call them again) to editor@imaging-resource.com and we'll make them famous.

But, please, don't leave us hanging.

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!

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We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.

RE: PASM

Nice article on PASM. You might mention that when shooting Aperture Priority (or anytime really, but then especially), a camera with depth-of-field preview is very helpful. I guess that only applies to dSLRs, since if you are composing on the LCD of a compact you get a preview automatically.

-- Tim Stein

(Excellent point, Tim. Thanks! -- Editor)

I wanted to compliment you on your PASM article. I have an old Canon FT sitting on the shelf here and, of course, it was 100 percent manual. Bought it in Japan back in 1968, compliments of Uncle Sam's Navy. The old FT works just fine and I still use it now and then. But shooting in manual mode was much easier on that camera than it is on today's fancy SLRs or dSLRs. Having the aperture control on a lens ring is a lot more intuitive, too.

Same for adjusting the shutter speed. Just the difference between digital and analog, I guess. When I try to adjust my shutter today I'm never sure if I'm moving the dial toward faster or slower. And I'm never quite sure if I'm still looking at fractions of seconds or if I've gone up to full seconds. Guess it's just hard to teach an old dog new tricks!

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoy your newsletter and Web site. Keep up the good work! I love this hobby of photography and you've become an integral part of my hobby!

-- Don

(Somehow it was easier to read the meter in our old film SLRs (whether it was a needle or an LED) than it is on a digicam. We really miss the old needle, actually. Which reminds us of an old story. You might enjoy the June 14, 2002 article in the archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html) titled "It's Not You, It's Mode Confusion." -- Editor)

RE: dSLR vs. Long Zoom

I know that for many it's heresy to even mention the two together, but I am on the "horns of a dilemma." I have progressed through several digicams after years of only SLRs, starting with the Olympus C 2100 UZ and presently with a Minolta A1.

I love the anti-shake/image stabilization in combination with very versatile zoom ranges, but I am less than happy with the dynamic range capabilities. If I move to a dSLR like the new Olympus E-500 with one long zoom lens (or a couple of overlapping ones), will the lack of image stabilization be a huge issue? I like to be able to take hand held shots in what are often low light situations. I considered the Nikon D 8800 before I tried it and experienced what for me was the fatal flaw of having an electronic zoom control. Thanks for any thoughts.

-- John Rose

(We like this kind of heresy, John. It gives us something to look forward to (a hybrid of some sort, say). The lack of image stabilization on handheld shots is a big problem with long zooms whether they are on digicams or dSLRs, especially for low-light shooting. For the past few weeks, we've been shooting with Konica Minolta's 7D and 5D dSLRs, both of which have image stabilization in the camera body (and thus making it available to any AF lens). We've been able to shoot sharp images at 1/5 and 1/10 second, well below what we can handhold at 1/30. But the longest focal length we've used is 100mm.... Ah, electronic zoom! We were instantly disappointed in a recent arrival because it zoomed so fast we couldn't control it. Reminded us of looking up numbers in the phone book. You're never on the right page.... The dynamic range issue is often ignored, but shooting in Raw mode is a tremendous advantage for difficult shots. Don't compromise on IS or Raw. -- Editor)
(In-camera image stabilization works better at wide angle and (sometimes) at longer exposure times, while in-lens tends to do better at extreme telephoto settings. The rotation sensor in the camera has to be a lot more sensitive to compensate for a long telephoto (less rotational vibration translates into greater displacement of the image than at wide angles). For other dSLR pluses, see Shawn's dSLR/digicam comparison (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SLRvsDIGICAM/SLRA.HTM). -- Dave)

RE: Old Folks

I may expect it of you, but expectation never lessens the pleasure when you write something that touches me. Your vignette of the old couple touched me and it did so quite deeply.

-- Barbara

Maybe not a snapshot at all -- I read this as if it were, if not a great portrait, a vignette which shows the best of humanity in an unlikely place. Well captured. Whoever wrote this can be proud enough of the piece to sign it.

Chesterton wrote that "Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly." The two old folks can certainly soar in their hearts. Thanks very much.

-- Harry M Kachline

First let me say I enjoyed your Just for Fun, "The Thrill Is Gone" segment. Its funny, entertaining and has a good message! You are such a good writer. I always enjoy your writing style. I'd say your newsletter is the only one I never fail to read.... Thanks.

-- Jamie

I just wanted to let you know I really enjoy your newsletter. It is very informative. Keep up the great work.

-- Terri Tatman (an avid subscriber)

Received my first emailing of your newsletter. For me, it is FAR too wordy ... almost "cutesy." The ratio of meaningful content to number of words is far too small.

-- Roger

(Fortunately, Roger, the content changes every issue. Stay tuned. We have a feeling the Halloween issue will not be cute. As for the rest of you, well, thanks! -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Apple (http://www.apple.com) introduced its long-awaited video iPod, but our enthusiasm was tempered by one little-noted spec. Color display remains limited to 16-bit (thousands) of colors, rather than the 24-bit we're used to seeing.


Promaster (http://www.promaster.com) has introduced its $89 SHD SLR tripod featuring an all-metal head with precision three-way control and a bubble level. The gear lift center column with tension control extends the tripod to 59.5 inches.

The company also introduced its $199 Macrolume TTL Digital Macro Flash, with dual, individually controlled flash tubes and a built-in variable diffuser. The detachable ring flash head can be mounted to most lenses using Cokin P Series adapter rings or the included 49mm or 52mm rings. A modeling lamp and autofocus assist lamp are also built in to the four AA battery powered unit.


Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) has released its $389 Airport Addicted backpack designed to hold large lenses, multiple camera bodies and a laptop within airline overhead storage dimensions. To help get gear through airport security, Think Tank Photo has posted Fear for Your Gear While Running Through the Airport (http://www.thinktankphoto.com/airport), a compendium of advice from professional photographers who travel for a living.


DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has upgraded its DxO Optics Pro [MW] to version 3.5 with faster processing and unrestricted access to all lens modules. The company also introduced a $79 Starter Edition of Optics Pro for high-end digicams.


MediaDex (http://www.mediadex.com) announced it has updated its Canto Cumulus Single User software as MediaDex 1.0 [MW]. "Technically, MediaDex 1.0 could be considered as a Cumulus 6.6 version," the company said, noting catalogs and preferences created by Cumulus can be migrated to MediaDex. A $50 standard version and $80 Pro version with support for Raw formats and Office documents are available.


Plasq (http://plasq.com) has released its $24.95 Comic Life 1.2 [M] to turn digital photos into digital comics, adding templates, fonts, styles, curved balloon tails, improved image and text handling, improved iPhoto integration and more. A Deluxe retail box is in the works, too, with many more templates, fonts and styles.


Mediaboard ONE 1.3 [M] (http://www.mediaboardone.com) is a $39.95 asset management application offering a digital light table, image and movie viewer, "intelligent" thumbnails, workflow automation, comments and keywords, license and model/property release information and Exif information extraction.

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

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Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

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

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