The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 22 28 October 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 161st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Perfect time to introduce a new Web site dedicated to evaluating lenses and other gear you need to build your photo tool belt. And who better to evaluate that gear than us? We also take a look at an interesting point-and-shoot and reveal the winner(s) of our 2005 Nobel. No tricks, all treats.


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:
DxO
http://www.dxo.com

Free: Try DxO Optics Pro and win a Canon EOS 5D or a D2X!

Download a free and 100 percent functional demo version of our award-winning software. Test the award-winning optic corrections on your Raw or JPEG images: the software automatically removes distortion, vignetting, lens softness and chromatic aberrations in just seconds. DxO Optics Pro now also optimizes local exposure and reduces noise up to two f-stops.

New: unrestricted access to DxO Lens Modules! Works with the most popular D-SLRs.

Visit http://www.dxo.com/redirect/redirect_3.0imagingresource.htm to download DxO Optics Pro and enter the contest!

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: Imaging Resource Launches SLRgear.com

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Catch Dave discussing the new site on Photo Talk Radio at http://www.worldtalkradio.com/archive.asp?aid=5370 Saturday at 11 a.m. -- Editor)

It took a while for sensor size and resolution to catch up with the demands of SLR camera design. Early units were very expensive and their capabilities were modest. But now, in late 2005, dSLR prices have plummeted, performance has improved and a wide range of models are available for relatively affordable prices, in many cases costing no more than advanced film-based cameras of 10-20 years ago.

The age of the dSLR has arrived. And with it, we're proud to announce the launch of our new Web site SLRgear.com (http://www.slrgear.com)!

Much of the fun of SLR ownership comes from expanding your photographic tool box. The camera itself is only the beginning of your journey. You'll be adding lenses, flash units, filters, camera bags and other accessories for years to come. And that's what our new Web site is all about -- helping you select the best gear for your dSLR.

The new site does that three ways: professional reviews, user reviews and comparison shopping links.

OUR REVIEWS & TESTS

You know us for our in-depth camera reviews and comprehensive test shots and analysis. When we decided to expand our coverage to dSLR lenses and accessories, we didn't change our style. We're proud to offer our own comprehensive laboratory tests and analysis (explained below), with results that show rather than tell you how a lens performs using informative and interactive charts. No one else paints the picture this clearly.

Our interactive charts show at a glance the differences between lenses, making it easy to grasp the strengths and weaknesses of any lens. You can immediately see why that f2.8 zoom really is worth a thousand dollars. On the other hand, you'll be able to sniff out bargains in more reasonably-priced optics and understand exactly where the sweet spots lie in each lens's settings.

No matter your budget, you'll be able to find the best match between these lenses and your needs and make better choices than has ever before been possible.

USER REVIEWS

As revealing as they are, our own tests still tell only part of the story. Laboratory tests reveal a lot about sharpness and distortion, but little or nothing about the build quality of a lens, how it feels on the camera and how it does with real-life color and contrast levels.

That's where our reader reviews come into play. And that's our cue to invite you to participate. If you've shot with a particular lens or used a particular accessory, tell the world about it by taking advantage of this opportunity to share your experience.

If other photographers have helped you as you learned about this fantastic hobby, you can pass the favor along by sharing your own experience and knowledge about products you've used. Visit the forums (http://forums.slrgear.com) and answer questions, pass along tips and join this growing community of photographers.

SHOPPING LINKS

With each review, we post a list of links to help you shop for the best deal from a reputable merchant. The review itself lists five sellers and includes a link to a comparison of all the other sellers. The link reports how many sellers there are and the lowest and highest prices offered.

If you follow that link, you can sort on price and, if you include your ZIP code, actually get (thanks to PriceGrabber) the venders listed by lowest shipping cost to your location.

HOW WE TEST LENSES

At the heart of our lens testing lies the incredible mathematics and computer technology developed by DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com). DxO technology characterizes the optical performance of lens/camera systems with greater depth and breadth than almost anything that's gone before -- and largely automates the process, ensuring accuracy and repeatability and reducing literally billions of calculations to the click of a mouse.

With the data DxO Analyzer spits out, we create easy-to-understand 2D and 3D graphs. Use a slider to change the focal length or the aperture and watch the graph change to reflect the performance of that lens at that combination.

Here's a peek at our testing process:

The Target and Test Setup. The whole process begins with a deceptively simple target, an array of very precisely placed, computer-generated dots, mounted on a dimensionally stable substrate (it's very flat), maintained in a controlled-humidity environment. Humidity control is important to prevent any distortion or warping of the test pattern.

The test target is illuminated by incandescent bulbs in soft boxes, the brightness level controlled to plus or minus a tenth of an f-stop across the entire target area. The precisely uniform lighting is essential to the measurement of shading or vignetting in the lenses under test.

The target is shot with one of several reference dSLRs, using the same settings for exposure, ISO, contrast and in-camera sharpening. Three to nine shots are captured at each aperture and focal length combination with the camera mounted on a heavy-duty Bogen 3245 tripod with a 30-lb. weight slung from it to increase stability and reduce vibration. Depending on the lens involved, focus may also be micro-bracketed. For each lens tested, anywhere from dozens to hundreds of test images are captured and fed to the next stage of the process.

DxO Analyzer. Because the test pattern is precisely defined, DxO Analyzer can determine exactly where each dot in the image should be and exactly what shape it should be (a perfect circle). Because the program knows exactly where each dot lies to sub-pixel accuracy, it can determine just how the brightness falls off as you move from the white background to the black of the dot interiors. The sharper the image cast by the lens onto the sensor, the more abruptly this "edge profile" will transition from light to dark. DxO Analyzer can thus not only measure sharpness with unprecedented precision, but can determine how it varies across the focal plane.

Our Graphing and Display Software. Given the mass of data it's dealing with, it is perhaps no surprise that the data output from DxO Analyzer is a mind-numbing pile of numbers. Extracting and understanding it is far from easy.

That's where we thought we could help. We wrote software that converts the raw numbers output by DxO Analyzer into 3D and 2D graphs. For example, the blur data showing sharpness across the focal plane is transformed into 3D surface plots to show exactly how the sharpness changes across the image.

Because lens performance also varies with aperture and focal length (in the case of zoom lenses), we wanted a convenient way to display that, too. The solution was to create a Flash viewer to scroll through test results at various combinations of focal length and aperture and see how the "blur map" changes as a result.

Special thanks to Arthur Etchells for his work on the 3D graphing software and to Eugenia Broome for the Flash viewer she devised for us.

TESTS PERFORMED

DxO Analyzer makes a variety of measurements on the test images. Here's what they are and the way in which the data is presented.

Blur Measurements. Sharpness is probably the first characteristic anyone thinks of when considering lens quality and it's here the combination of DxO Analyzer with our own graphing and display software shows the most revealing results.

But sharpness is a tricky parameter to nail down mathematically, involving not only fineness of detail but the "crispness" of an image. Crispness can best be thought of as how abruptly transitions from light to dark or dark to light occur. In our camera-testing work at Imaging Resource, it's been obvious that cameras which score well on resolution test charts don't necessarily produce images that are sharp.

To address this issue, DxO devised a measurement called the Blur Experience Unit or BxU. One BxU roughly corresponds to a Blur More operation in Photoshop. Note that different cameras and different settings will produce different BxU numbers.

Working from 17 BxU data points provided by DxO Analyzer, a blur plot is generated for each combination of focal length and aperture tested and the resulting graphs are loaded into a Flash-based viewer utility that lets readers scroll through the plots to see where the lens is at its best and worst, making it easy to compare performance between different lenses.

Chromatic Aberration. CA, for short, is caused when a lens does not focus different colors of light at exactly the same point. This results in colored fringes around high-contrast objects, most often seen in the corners of shots captured with wide-angle lenses. You can certainly find CA at normal or telephoto focal lengths as well, but most people will have seen it in their wide-angle shots.

The CA data provided by DxO Analyzer reports the maximum and average CA in each image. These show just how bad the CA gets and (indirectly) how much of the image it affects. Some lenses produce large amounts of CA in the corners of the frame which quickly goes away as you move toward the center. In this case, you'd see a relatively high number for the maximum CA, but a relatively low one for the average. Conversely, some lenses may be better behaved in the corners, but have higher levels of CA across the frame. Such lenses would show lower numbers for maximum CA values, but higher ones for average CA.

DxO Analyzer provides CA data in several different units. We use numbers expressed as percentages of the frame height, as these values are reported with more significant digits. Our plots display maximum and average CA across a range of apertures, with separate plots for each focal length tested.

Since Analyzer only gives two numbers for each aperture/focal length combination, there's no need to make a 3D plot. We experimented with showing the CA results on a single graph, but with some wide-range zoom lenses, we found that the 10 or so separate graph lines was confusing. Also, having all the data on a single sheet made it difficult to visualize how performance changed as focal length varied. We finally settled on making a separate graph for each focal length setting, each graph showing how the CA varied with aperture. A modification of our viewer application (with only a single slider for focal length) lets readers scroll through the available focal lengths (for zoom lenses) and watch the CA curves move up and down accordingly.

Vignetting/Shading. Some lenses, particularly wide-angle, show some light falloff at the corners or edges of the frame, commonly called vignetting, although a more correct term is shading. With the test target illumination uniform to plus or minus 1/10th of an f-stop, DxO Analyzer can measure the light falloff very precisely.

Vignetting commonly varies with both aperture and focal length. People are probably most accustomed to seeing vignetting in their wide-angle shots, but it can occur at any focal length, depending on the trade-offs made by the lens designers.

Our graphs plot vignetting vs. aperture, with a separate line for each focal length.

Geometric Distortion. Also known as distortion, this refers to the tendency for lenses to bend lines close to the edges of the frame inward or outward. When lines near the edges of the frame bulge outward, the result is called barrel distortion and when they bend inward, it's called pincushion distortion.

Following long-standing convention, DxO reports distortion as positive (barrel) or negative (pincushion) numbers, measuring it as ratio between the deviation from a straight line and the length of the line being considered, expressed as a percentage. That's the same measure we use in our camera reviews. Since distortion isn't a function of aperture, we simply plot it vs. focal length. In most cases lenses show barrel distortion at wide-angle settings and pincushion at telephoto.

Architectural photographers are naturally averse to any geometric distortion. If you shoot mountains and meadows, you may not care much about it at all. But if you really need distortion-free images, DxO sells a really remarkable program called DxO Optics Pro to correct not only distortion but chromatic aberration and even quite a bit of lens blur as well. Visit their site (http://www.dxo.com) for details.

As powerful as DxO Analyzer is, it's very important to note there are some aspects of lens performance that our testing doesn't reveal. Those include far-field performance (especially for wide-angle lenses), statistical quality-control information and long-term reliability. But that's where the personal reviews contributed by our readers become particularly important.

PLANS TO EXPAND

As we launch SLRgear.com, we're focusing first on lenses, where we have the most value to offer with our unique approach to testing and visually illustrating performance. Initial lens listings cover Canon, Nikon and Olympus glass -- plus the "digital specific" or "reduced image circle" offerings from third-party lens makers Sigma and Tamron.

Our next task is cataloging the specs and manufacturer data for all the other third-party lenses, as well as those from other camera makers such as Konica Minolta and Pentax. The full lens catalogs of Sigma, Tamron, Tokina should be up by the middle of next week.

After that, we'll add entries for other accessories like tripods, flashes and camera bags, as requested by readers. We'll also continue to add to the lens test results on a regular basis. We plan to post new test results for at least a few lenses every month.

VISIT TODAY

So if you own a dSLR or you're considering taking the plunge, check out SLRgear.com. With one click you can see all our current test results, get a quick tutorial on interpreting those results and even find out what our results don't show. Have a look at our in-depth lens reviews, read what others have to say and think about leaving your own thoughts for your fellow photographers!

And don't be shy about letting us know what you think of the site and how we can improve it. There's a forum (http://forums.slrgear.com) just for feedback.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Casio EX-Z750 -- Delivering the Unexpected

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Z750/Z750A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

The Casio Exilim EX-Z750 is one of the latest offerings from a company with a long history of innovation in the digital camera field. They promise the "Unexpected Extra" in their products and the Casio EX-Z750 lives up to that billing, with 31 special shooting modes (including modes to capture and straighten images of white boards, business cards or other documents -- perfect for business or school note-taking). Compact, well-constructed and stylish, the Casio Exilim EX-Z750 is a great "bring along" camera for casual outings, business or vacation trips. Read on below for all the details on the EX-Z750!

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Rivaling some of the smallest digital cameras currently on the market, Casio's newest addition to its Exilim line of digital cameras is the $449 EX-Z750. It is sleek, stylish and very tiny, but don't let its small size fool you. The Casio EX 750 has a lot to offer. Measuring 3.5x2.3x0.9 inches and weighing just 5.6 ounces with the battery and SD memory card, the aluminum bodied EX-Z750 is a perfect match for small shirt pockets and purses. Clearly meant to tag along to just about any destination, the EX-Z750 is well-suited for travel, as it's about as thick as a deck of playing cards. The built-in lens cover automatically opens whenever the camera is powered on and the lens telescopes outward in well under two seconds, making it quick on the draw. You can quite literally slip it in a pocket and hit the road. With its 7.2-megapixel CCD, you can capture high resolution images, good for printing as large as 11x17 inches or 8x10 inches with some cropping. (A lower resolution setting is perfect for email attachments.)

The EX-Z750 features a 3x, 7.9-23.7mm lens, equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera. Maximum aperture ranges from f2.8 to f5.1, depending on the zoom position and remains under automatic control. Focus covers a range from 1.3 feet (40 centimeters) to infinity in normal shooting mode, with a Macro range from 3.9 to 19.7 inches (10 to 50 centimeters). The EX-Z750 offers both manual and automatic focus control and features Infinity and Pan Focus settings as well. A Quick Shutter mode records without waiting for Auto Focus to set focus, replacing Pan Focus for still photography. Pan Focus is a silent alternative to Autofocus available only in one of the camera's Movie modes. In Manual focus mode, the central portion of the image is enlarged as an aid to focusing. An AF Area option under the Record menu sets the AF point to Spot, Multi or Free, with the Multi setting automatically choosing the focus point from one of nine AF points arrayed in the center of the frame. The Free option initially sets the focus point in the center of the screen but you can move it with the arrow keys before setting the Set button to choose the focus point. A maximum of 8x digital zoom is available in addition to the optical zoom, effectively increasing the zoom capabilities to 24x. Keep in mind, however, that digital zoom always decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image.

For composing your shots, the EX-Z750 features a tiny, real-image optical viewfinder as well as a very generous 2.5-inch, TFT color LCD monitor (which takes up most of the back panel). The LCD monitor reports basic camera settings, including camera mode, the number of available images, focus mode, date and time and battery power, among various other mode information. Additionally, it reports the selected aperture and shutter speed, whenever the Shutter button is halfway pressed. It also displays an exposure panel with various adjustable parameters that vary from EV in Auto mode to f-stop and shutter speed in Manual mode. The Display button not only controls the amount of information on the LCD display, but also enables a small but live histogram to check your exposure settings. Through the Record menu, you can enable a Grid option that divides the image area into thirds, horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up and compose your shots.

The EX-Z750 offers automatic exposure control, which keeps things simple for novice users, but allows for manual by more sophisticated photographers. Shutter speeds range from 1/1600 to 60 seconds, with the available range depending on the exposure mode. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on and the Playback and Record buttons on the rear panel control the main operating mode. To determine exposure, the camera uses a multi-pattern metering system, which takes exposure readings from areas throughout the frame and then determines the best overall exposure. Despite its basic point-and-shoot design, there are options for center-weighted and spot metering. You can increase or decrease the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments, either by pressing the right and left arrow keys in Record mode or through an option in the LCD menu. An ISO adjustment offers an Auto setting, as well as 50, 100, 200 and 400 equivalent settings. White Balance options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2 and Tungsten settings, which handle most average lighting conditions. Image sharpness, contrast and saturation options are also available.

While you can control exposure directly in Manual mode, the EX-Z750 does offer 31 preset "scenes" for specific shooting situations, through the Best Shot mode option of the Record menu. Scene modes include Portrait, Scenery, Portrait with Scenery, Children, Sports, Candlelight Portrait, Party, Pet, Flower, Natural Green, Soft Flowing Water, Splashing Water, Sundown, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Fireworks, Food, Text, Collection, Backlight, Anti-shake, Pastel, Illustration, Cross, Monochrome, Retro, Twilight, ID Photo, Business Cards and Documents, White Board and Register User Scene (which lets you save the setup of an image you recorded as a Best Shot scene for recall later). The EX-Z750 provides a handy thumbnail display of 12 Best Shot scenes per screen so you don't have to remember them all to use one.

Most of the scene modes are self-explanatory, but several uncommon ones call for further explanation. Natural Green, for example, uses hard sharpness and high saturation to enhance green hues. Soft Flowing Water uses a slow shutter speed while Splashing Water uses a fast one. Sundown uses Daylight white balance with a red filter while focusing at infinity. Food slips into Macro mode but also punches up the saturation. Text uses Macro, too, but with hard sharpness and high contrast. Collection relies on Macro to capture your small treasures, displaying a composition outline, too. Anti-shake reduces the effects of hand and subject movement. Illustration posterizes the image while Cross applies a cross-shaped filter effect (point light sources shoot out rays at 45 degree angles). Retro uses low contrast and a sepia color filter. ID Photo creates multiple images of standard ID photo sizes. The Business Card option not only optimizes the camera for capturing images of dark text on a white background, but also applies a keystone correction to minimize any distortion from the shooting angle. This option works best with rectangular objects and it's best to fill the frame as much as possible with the document. White Board mode also corrects keystoning, but is intended for larger objects, like white boards and easel pads.

The EX-Z750 also features Movie and Audio modes. Movie mode records moving images with sound for as long as the memory card or internal memory has space. Movies are recorded in AVI (MPEG-4) format at either of three images sizes: 640x480 HQ, 640x480 Normal and 320x240 LP. HQ and Normal capture at 30 frames per second, while LP captures at 15 fps. The Audio mode records strictly audio in WAV format, also for as long as the memory card has available space. You can also add short audio clips to captured images through the Record and Playback menus. A Self-Timer mode provides either a two- or 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. An X3 Self-Timer setting takes three consecutive self-timer images in rapid succession, with a 10-second shutter delay before the first. The camera's flash operates in either Auto, Off, On or Red-Eye Reduction modes and features an intensity adjustment of +2 to -2 in whole step increments. The EX-Z750 also features a Flash Assist option, which digitally brightens underexposed flash shots.

The EX-Z750 stores images on SD/MMC memory cards and also features 8.3-MB of internal memory where Best Shot user setups, 320x240-pixel Favorite images and full-sized images (when no memory card is available) can be stored. Since the camera does not come with a memory card, I strongly recommend picking up at least a 128-MB or 256-MB card at purchase, so you won't miss any shots due to lack of memory space. A USB cradle also comes with the camera and provides quick connection to a computer for downloading images. The cradle also provides in-camera battery charging for the NP-40 lithium-ion battery pack. The cradle can also be used for displaying images on the 2.5-inch LCD monitor. An AC adapter is included for the USB cradle, but the camera itself does not have a DC-In terminal. Since the EX-Z750 does not accommodate AA batteries in any form, I also highly recommend picking up an additional battery pack and keeping it freshly charged. A software CD loaded with multi-language Casio Digital Camera Software and a detailed PDF instruction manual comes with the camera and provides minor editing tools and image organization utilities. (I applaud the inclusion of an electronic version of the manual, but really think that not including a full printed instruction manual with cameras is a disservice to consumers.)

Test Results: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Z750/Z750A.HTM#test

CONCLUSION

Tiny and stylish, the Casio Exilim EX-Z750 is packed with features. But with its 7.2-megapixel CCD and very fast shutter response it's also an impressive performer. Toss in full Manual exposure mode and its 31 preset Scene modes (not to mention Auto) and there's little this subcompact can't do. The mix of features and good performance should appeal to both novices and more experienced photographers interested in a fun digital camera for snapshots. Features like the whiteboard and business card modes that straighten note taking shots as well as the voice recorder make the EX-Z750 an exceptionally useful business tool, truly offering the "Unexpected Extra" that Casio claims for its products. Several kid and vacation modes also contribute to the EX-Z750's utility and its fast shutter response makes it a natural for sports shooting or just keeping up with a young family.

Its somewhat overaggressive noise processing tends to flatten out subtle detail somewhat, particularly at high ISO settings, but the effect isn't all that noticeable in prints, particularly at 5x7 and below.

A great "take anywhere" camera, the EX-Z750 is so tiny and versatile, you can slip it in a pocket and go, with the confidence that you'll get good images just about anywhere. Its pleasing color, good resolution, excellent battery life and unusual (but highly useful) special shooting modes make it a Dave's Pick.

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.

In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

Visit the Fuji FinePix F10 Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9f1a1/0

Visit the Minolta Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77f

Richard asks about SLRs and movie mode at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea08ab/0

Craig asks about the focal length multiplier at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea09a0/0

Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: The 2005 Nobel for Customer Support

We got so many nominations for this year's Ersatz Nobel for Customer Support that it slowed up the flow of spam to our account considerably. Apparently there is still such a thing as Customer Support.

"Without a doubt," Subscriber Arthur wrote, "Belkin should be at the top of the list. They have a 24x7 toll-free help line that will run you though any problem you have in setting up their wireless router. And, the last time I checked, it's in the U.S. No scripts here, just good live help whenever you need it. And no waiting!" And their lifetime warranties are just icing on the cake, we might add.

Hector nominated D-Link and Eveready rechargeable batteries. Both, he said, for their "excellent warranty service support in Canada."

Eric Perkins found "Hewlett-Packard gives unbelievably fine support to owners of their Designjet 130." In fact, Hewlett-Packard's Web site (http://www.hp.com) has long been the model for online support, too. Not only do they provide drivers and documentation but their online troubleshooting process is actually helpful.

And Henry Arance wrote, "My nomination goes to Nikontechusa.com. Had a problem, emailed them at night, by next day I found an email from them with the solution. Couldn't do it faster on the phone, given the times involved." And you don't always have to wait that long with their online Knowledge Base (follow the Photo Support link).

Now, a cynical curmudgeon might sniffle, curl their lip and say, "Yeah, but that's what they're supposed to do." Which, really, is a miracle in itself and worthy of at least a lifetime achievement award. But, just to appease that hypothetical cynical curmudgeon, we note Dierk Haasis' nomination.

"A few weeks ago I wanted to know a few things about the Hoodman FlipUp (http://www.hoodmanusa.com) for the D2x with the intention of buying one. I live in Germany, Hoodman has a Web site with an online store -- shouldn't be too complicated.

"Unfortunately the info I sought, the actual material used and how much the shipping would be, wasn't on the site or easily found. So I sent them an email and got an answer within a day.

"Afterwards I tried to order through their Web site, which didn't work. But eventually I saw the international shipping rate, which was higher here than in the citation I got by email. Nice again!

"Since the order process didn't work either with my preferred browser Opera nor with Explorer, I had to email them again. Not only were they eager to take my order by mail (often enough I encountered companies unwilling to sell me their product because I couldn't get their system to work; they wouldn't even take telephone orders or email orders), they warned me about security of my credit card details giving me the (obvious) solution right in their answer -- unsolicited. I love this!

"To boot, the FlipUp was here within six days, another not-too-natural feat (some companies need up to eight weeks shipping from the U.S. to Germany even discounting any customs delay).

"From my experience, particularly with big companies like Adobe or Microsoft or Nikon, Hoodman's service is outstanding and deserves a prize.

"PS: Hoodman even gave me the tip that the flipping part of the FlipUp could be dismantled if I only want the transparent protection."

The $34.99-$39.99 FlipUp, incidentally, is too cool not to describe. Replace the rubber eyepiece on your Canon dSLR with the FlipUp and you get not only an eyepiece but an LCD monitor protector and three-sided, flip-up hood. On Nikon dSLRs, you just replace the snap-on LCD protector to get protection plus a hood. Hoodman, which offers a "100 percent guarantee," is famous for providing hoods on NFL replay cameras.

OK, enough praise and adulation, we have a Nobel to award. And the only smart thing to do is split it among all the nominees. Customer service is something you can not encourage too much.

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: CCD Failures

Hearty thanks for the article on CCD failures. This is the kind of really useful information readers really like to see.

-- Wayne B

Thanks for CCD status report. Knowing Olympus C-730 UZ cameras have had this problem, my C-740 UZ may also be at risk, so good to know it is fixable.

-- Roger Patterson

(You're welcome, guys! -- Editor)

RE: CD Failures

I am having a problem with some Photo CDs I burned over the past few years (which worked OK at time) that are now either totally unopenable or show some pix as corrupted or damaged. They were all burned using Adaptec programs on a Sony burner and are multi session. Both JPEG and TIFF files are affected in same way.

Is there any way of recovering the missing photos?

I burn to CD as a way of storing photos off computer, so at present am feeling that the whole system is useless if I do not know which CDs will retain pictures.

-- Derek Cusick

(Archiving to CD is reliable but tricky, Derek. A little background here might help. Take a look at our article, "How Safe Are Your CDs?" in the June 2, 2000 issue and "Formatting CD-Rs for Image Storage" in our April 5, 2002 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Using the ISO 9660 format, burning on good quality media soon after purchase and storing in a cool, dry place are key. Some Adaptec software permitted a convenient packet writing scheme that let you write a few files at a time to a disc. Newer operating systems sometimes have trouble reading that format without a UDF driver. Which is why we recommend ISO 9660. We'll have a review of Toast 7 shortly, which handles that format very nicely. And newer hardware may have trouble reading what older hardware wrote (although the old gear should still manage just fine, if available). Finally, PhotoRescue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM) may be able to recover files with minor corruption. The demo will let you know. -- Editor)

RE: Konica Minolta Flash Adapter

You don't have to pay $40 for an adapter, just follow this link: http://www2.photim.com/Cmd/article.php?R=MS313

OK, I'll admit that if that's the only thing you order, then delivery will add considerably to the $3 price, which is relatively cheap, albeit with reduced posibilities (no electrical contacts -- only for wireless, but that's what this is all about anyway).

-- Klaus Ipsen

(Thanks, Klaus! That would do the trick. -- Editor)

RE: Burst Photos

First, let me say that I really enjoy reading all the articles in the newsletter.

I just purchased the new Sony DSC-H1 camera which is a very nice unit and I really enjoy it very much. However, I am not able to find any way to select one of the burst photos for use on the computer. They will run through the different shots but there is no way that I can find to select an individual frame to copy.

I was under the impression that the burst was for just such a purpose, to be able to get a good shot of something which may not occur again, etc.

If you are able to help me in any way to solve this delima, I would appreciate it very much.

-- Roy Holland

(Multi Burst is an odd format, Roy. As our H1 review puts it, "Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images in it when viewed on a computer." If you want just one of those images, you have to open the 4x4 composite image in an image editing program and crop it out. -- Editor)

RE: A Recommendation

You may have mentioned it in one of your newsletters I missed, but I think your readers would benefit from looking into the free Google program Picasa that can be used to store, sort, email, enhance and print their digital photos. The editing features are excellent especially for the beginner and the entire program is easy to install through a free download and easy to use. It does not affect any other programs you may be using so you have the best of both worlds.

-- Fritz Lauer

(Thanks, Fritz. Yes, we covered Picasa in our Nov. 29, 2002 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html)! Before Google got its hands on it, actually. And we did like it. -- Editor)

RE: Perfection

Unlike Roger, in the last issue, I think that the newsletter is perfect. I read each issue and enjoy it primarily because it puts the news and articles right there in front of me instead of making me click a headline to take me to an article on a Web site (like some other newsletters). A newsletter should be self-contained. Links for extra information are good, but if I wanted to be on a Web site, I'd go to the Web site!

-- Leigh T. Whittemore

(We've rarely been accused of perfection before, Leigh, but we take some comfort in knowing nobody's imperfect. There are on average 50 links in each issue, but they're primarily for reference or further reading. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Raw image workflow solutions are the hot topic this week. Apple and Light Crafts introduced new applications. And Pixmantec released the Premium 2006 version of Rawshooter.

Apple (http://www.apple.com) introduced Aperture [M] at PhotoPlus Expo in New York, its $499 professional image management solution scheduled for release in November. Optimized for the processing power of its latest G5 systems with the Core Image library built into OS X 10.4, Aperture promises to streamline the Raw workflow with selected image imports, a virtual light table to organize images and a loupe to examine finer detail, non-destructive editing, color managed workflow, some photo editing tools (with a one-click link to Photoshop), project management, layout and authoring tools for the Web and photo books. And all without converting Raw or DNG files to another format. Initial reaction of Expo attendees praised the application's speed and efficient and complete workflow. Minimum RAM requirement is 1-GB.

Windows users are not left in the dark, however. Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has announced its $249.95 LightZone [MW], Raw photo editing software to view, manage, edit and correct digital photographs and create prints. Based on light values and shapes, LightZone works in the same way that photographers think about their photographs, the company said. A free 30-day trial at is immediately available for Macintosh users and in November for Windows users.

Pixmantec (http://www.pixmantec.com) has released its $99 Rawshooter Premium 2006 [W] with an integrated image downloader, image formatting toolbox (straighten, rotate, crop), Curves and Levels support, color balance tools, noise suppression tools, a magnifier and RGB readout tool, batch renaming, image resizing to 200 percent, proofing and browsing functions plus extended camera support.


The recently released UPDIG guidelines (http://www.updig.org) "aim to clarify issues affecting accurate reproduction and management of digital image files."


iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) announced a major update of its $199 asset manager iView MediaPro [MW] to version 3.0 will be released Nov. 1. New features include a lightbox, streamlined workflow, support for more file formats improved contact sheets and batch renaming with metadata variables.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has introduced its First Studio lighting kits, highlighted by the new FirstStar, an 8-inch-diameter, parabolic-shaped reflector light. The kits include a $324.95 First Studio Portrait Kit with two reflectors, umbrellas, stands and 250-watt tungsten lamps; and the $349.99 First Studio Product Kit with two lights plus a medium-size LiteIgloo tent (of which there are three sizes) providing shadow-free illumination with a one f-stop diffusion rating.


O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has launched a new series of Photoshop Digital Studio Cookbooks. The $29.95 titles include Photoshop Retouching Cookbook for Digital Photographers by Barry Huggins, Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook by Tim Shelbourne, Photoshop Filter Effects Encyclopedia Cookbook by Roger Pring and Photoshop Blending Modes Cookbook by John Beardsworth.


Apimac (http://www.apimac.com) has released its $29.95 Apimac Slide Show 7.0 [MW] with IPTC, Exif and ICC tag display during presentation, UTF-8 support for text and interface improvements.


onOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com) has released Genuine Fractals 4.1 [MW], a Photoshop plug-in to resize images, adding batch processing, 14 presets for common image sizes, improved Zoom and Crop tools, keyboard shortcuts and more.


Boinx (http://www.boinx.com) updated its $79 FotoMagico 1.2.5 slide show application to export slide shows as movies resized for the new video iPods.


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has announced a gift certificate program available as an electronic download or a printed certificate presented in a red box with a bow.


Digital Foci (http://www.digitalfoci.com) has introduced its $299 Image Moments eight-inch, digital photo album picture frame in maple or walnut to display and share photos directly from memory cards. The eight-inch, 640x480 LCD displays 18-bit color, six bits per channel, for 262,144 colors.


The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has updated ColorWasher for MacOS X, a plug-in for 8-bit and 16-bit image correction, to improve compatibility with non-Adobe applications and Photoshop CS2 and fix some bugs with 16-bit operations.


Aram Kudurshian (http://www.aramk.net) has released Photo Drop 1.0 [M], which uses OS X's Scriptable Image Processing Server to create droplets that modify images dragged onto them.

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