The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 23 11 November 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 162nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Recent photo printing data gives us pause before we look over Nikon's wireless P1 in depth. Our itch to solder gets scratched by an intriguing new title and we celebrate a certain approach we've found particularly helpful. You might, too.


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: See No Evil

In an Oct. 8 article published by the New York Times, Damon Darlin asked if the recent 30 percent drop in inkjet printer prices has made now the time to buy one.

Loaded question.

Even though you can get a nice printer for $200, the cost of consumables means you'll have to pay "at least 28 cents a print," he figured and "closer to 50 centers a print if you trust the testing of product reviewers at Consumer Reports."

But, he reveals, you can get 4x6 prints at discount clubs "as low as 13 cents" and online photofinishers like Snapfish (http://www.snapfish.com) can do it for a prepaid dime.

Darlin reports that of the 7.7 billion prints made in the year that ended in July, 48 percent were made at home. That's a decrease from the previous year's 64 percent, according to the Photo Marketing Association, but an increase in the number of photos (up 68 percent).

"The shallowness of the trend line [of the percentage of printed photos, which has risen from 31 percent in 2003 to perhaps 35 percent this year] also suggests that a new culture of photographs has been created." We do print but we also share and we can do that without printing. Use the 2.5-inch LCD or the free storage space of an online photofinisher and you can skip the printer.

Actually, Darlin discovered, people do both. They print at home and they outsource printing. They outsource the 30 to 40 4x6 prints they want to share and they print their 8x10 enlargements.

That's the gist of it. Readers of this publication may find all this amusing, since none of it's news, but we think it's worth bringing to your attention for what it doesn't say.

First, as more ordinary human beings (as opposed to gifted photographers) buy digicams you would expect the percentage of home prints to drop. All that means is that people who don't know how or are uncomfortable printing their own pictures (which, come to think of it, includes a lot of photographers) prefer to outsource printing.

Second, the 4x6 print is not exactly the gold standard. It's just what the amateur market always got from the corner one-hour. There's actually a new standard. The monitor. Burn a CD and pass it along. Upload to a photofinisher and pass the URL around. For a while there, not everybody had a monitor (OK, even now -- but these days picture takers are less inclined to accommodate the monitorless).

Third, who actually looks at all these prints? Why print something you flip through for a fraction of a second? All these years of looking through double Jumbo prints we were just being polite. Were we in the picture? No? OK, flip. Flip, flip, flip. That's about 40 cents going by at 0.33 seconds. And you think the price of inkjet cartridges is high?

What isn't being said, in short, is that printing photos is not merely a social obligation (although it may qualify as a sort of compulsion). You can do just fine with a slideshow (either sharing on online or just looking them over on your own screen).

The fun of printing is reserved for a few special images. You can actually spend a very rewarding afternoon printing one over and over on different papers and tweaked for different effects until you get something you didn't know was there in a size anyone can see.

Some people like to think a picture is worth a thousand words. Not all are. Some are worth a bigillion. But only the ones you look at are worth anything at all.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Nikon Coolpix P1 in Detail

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPP1/CPP1A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

The 8.0-Mp Nikon Coolpix P1 and its lower-resolution sibling, the 5.1-megapixel P2, are the latest in a long line of Coolpix digital cameras whose popularity began with the original Coolpix 900, Nikon's first "breakthrough" digicam. The new Nikons add wireless image transfers to this line of user-friendly models while enhancing a wide range of Scene modes and zapping red-eye with face recognition software to help novices capture good photos in tricky situations. The P1 bears a superficial resemblance to the Coolpix 7900, with all automatic controls and an extremely small form factor. But there's no optical viewfinder, the flash has been repositioned and the LCD has grown to 2.5-inches. Its wireless image transfer capability is relatively easy to configure (the "Wireless Features" section for more info), is a lot of fun to use and works quite well.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Portable and compact, the $599.95 P1 ranks among the smallest (if not the thinnest) digicams on the market. Slightly taller than a credit card (just about as wide) and a little under an inch and a half thick, the P1 is designed to fit nicely into shirt pockets and small purses, perfect for travelers. It's so tiny (weighing just 6.4 ounces or 181 grams with the battery and memory card loaded) that I highly recommend keeping the included wrist strap securely around your wrist when shooting. The automatic lens cover makes it quick on the draw and eliminates any worry about keeping track of a lens cap. The camera's black body with shiny silver highlights is attractive and understated. Built into the P1 is a 3x optical zoom lens with ED glass (which stands for Extra-low Dispersion glass, used in Nikon's finer lens elements to improve optical performance) and an 8.0-megapixel CCD for capturing high quality images, a macro mode capable of focusing as close 1.6 inches and no fewer than 16 preset shooting modes. Since the camera operates mainly under automatic control, its control layout and menu display are very user friendly.

Wireless Transfer Mode is the P1's most glamorous feature, but it's a far less ambitious implementation than Kodak's EasyShare One. The P1 transmits images only to Nikon's Picture Project software either directly to the computer or via a wireless router. A connection profile is created in the camera using setup software on the computer while the camera is connected via USB. Full resolution images of about 2.8-MB take about 8 seconds to transmit over a Wireless G network with no Wireless B devices present to slow transfers. When Wireless B devices are present on the network, transfers take about 60 percent longer. A Shoot & Transfer mode lets you transfer images immediately after each one is captured with options to confirm the transfer and to save the images to the memory card. Working in concert with Nikon's Picture Project software, Shoot & Transfer mode makes possible "live" slide shows, where new images are added to a continuously running slide show as soon as they're shot. Great for parties, weddings, etc. Wireless printing is also supported using a profile created for a networked printer or a printer using Nikon's PD-10 wireless printer adapter.

To compose shots, the P1 provides only a 2.5-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD monitor provides more accurate framing than an optical viewfinder but it also decreases battery life. The camera's 3x, 7.5-26.3mm zoom lens (a 36-126mm 35mm equivalent) offers maximum apertures from f2.7 to f5.2, depending on the zoom setting and has seven elements in six groups. The camera uses contrast-detection autofocus in normal mode, which ranges from 1.67 feet to infinity. Multi-point AF chooses among nine autofocus points to find the nearest object. The chosen AF point is then illuminated in the LCD display. Users can also choose to position the AF point manually, anywhere within the central 60 percent of the frame using 99 focus areas. A Center focus mode can be used with AF lock (half-pressing the shutter release) to focus on off-center subjects. In Macro mode, the camera focuses as close as 1.6 inches and automatically switches to continuous AF mode, focusing constantly when the Shutter button is not half-pressed. The closest focusing is possible only when the lens is set to a fairly narrow range of wide-angle focal lengths.

In addition to its 3x optical zoom, the P1 offers a maximum 4x digital zoom. The 8.0-megapixel CCD produces high-resolution images, good enough for printing to 11x17 inches with good detail, as well as lower-resolution images for sending via email or printing as 4x6-inch snapshots.

In the tradition of the entry-level Coolpix line, the P1's exposure control is very straightforward and its user interface easy to learn. In addition to Auto, the P1 offers Programmed Auto and Aperture Priority Auto, 16 Scene modes, Movie and Setup modes. The Mode dial also includes options for Wireless Transfer mode and control of ISO, White Balance and Image Quality/Size.

Eleven of the 16 scenes offer three effects including Normal to tweak the setting. And a quick reminder of what each effect does is only a tap of the Help button away. Scene modes include Portrait with Face Autofocus (using a face recognition algorithm to set focus), Portrait, Party/Indoor, Night Portrait, Landscape, Panorama Assist, Night Landscape, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Fireworks Show, Back Light, Close Up, Museum, Copy and Sports. In Night Portrait, for example, Effect 1 reduces the background blur, while Effect 1 radiates point sources of light to enhance the nightscape. These tools make the P1 extremely flexible in a variety of conditions, providing almost worry-free operation with some creative control.

Depending on the exposure mode, the P1 offers a wide range of exposure options. Though no mode allows the user to control the aperture or shutter speed directly, the exposure compensation adjustment can be set in any mode (except Fireworks Scene mode) to deal with high contrast, dark or light subjects. This is a nice touch. Exposure compensation is a pretty essential control, but it's disabled in the Scene modes of many digicams. The Exposure Compensation adjustment optionally increases or decreases overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments. It is not reported on the LCD display, but the Coolpix P1's shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 8 seconds.

A White Balance adjustment offers seven preset modes, an Auto setting and a Custom setting for manually determining the color balance from a neutral white or gray object. The P1 uses a 256-Segment Matrix metering system to determine exposure. You can also access Center-Weighted, Spot and Spot AF metering options (Spot AF ties the spot metering point to the AF point). ISO light sensitivity is rated at 50 during normal shooting (64 for the P2), but the Coolpix P1 can set it as high as 200 when conditions require it or the user can manually select the ISO from the four available options. You can also access Nikon's Best Shot Selector mode (one of my all-time favorite digicam features), which automatically chooses the least blurry image in a series shot while the Shutter button remains pressed.

The built-in flash is rated as effective from approximately 1.67 feet to 12.5 feet, depending on the lens zoom setting. Maximum range is only 6.7 feet at telephoto. The flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction (which includes automatic red-eye removal during image storage if any is detected), Anytime (Fill) Flash, Flash Cancel, Rear-Curtain Sync and Slow Sync (night) modes. Rear-Curtain Sync fires the flash just before the shutter closes, creating streams of light trailing bright moving objects.

Most digicams these days have red-eye reduction flash modes, which pop the flash (or blink a bright LED) a few times before the shot, to make the pupils of your subject's eyes contract a little. The P1 goes quite a bit beyond that though, incorporating special software in the camera to look for and remove red-eye before the image is saved to the memory card. The one downside is that this causes a rather long delay of 6-7 seconds before you can capture the next shot.

Another unique feature of the P1 is its innovative D-Lighting option. This is a Playback mode option that could be thought of as a "virtual fill-flash," in that it brightens shadow areas.

Other camera features include a three or 10 second Self-Timer mode. Continuous Shooting mode offers seven ways to capture a series of images while the Shutter button is pressed, including Single (one image each time), Continuous H (up to five images at 2.3 fps), Continuous L (up to 19 images at 2.0 fps), Multi-shot 16 (16 thumbnail images in sequence, arranged in rows of four within a full-sized image), Ultra HS (up to 100 images at 640x480 with Normal quality at 30 fps), 5-shot buffer (one fps until shutter is released, recording only the last five images) and Interval Timer Shooting (shutter released at regular intervals).

Movie mode offers seven options: TV Movie 640* (640x480, 30fps, 3 minutes 35 seconds max on 256-MB card), TV Movie 640 (640x480, 15fps, 7:15 max on 256-MB card), Small size 320 (320x240 pixels, 15fps, 14:15 max on 256-MB card) and Smaller Size 160 (160x120, 15fps, 47:05 minutes max on 256-MB card). The actual length of recording time depends only on the amount of available SD card space. An Electronic Vibration Reduction option acts like an image stabilization utility (but only in Movie mode), reducing the effect of camera movement.

New movie options on the P1 include both Sepia and Black/White movie modes and a Time Lapse option. Sepia and Black/White modes always record at a size of 320x240 pixels and 15 fps. In both modes, a 256-MB memory card can hold 14 minutes and 5 seconds of action. Time Lapse mode records individual 640x480 frames at adjustable intervals and then plays them back at 30 fps. The interval between shots in Time Lapse mode can be adjusted to 30 seconds or 1, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes.

The P1 stores images on SD memory cards, but the standard retail package in the U.S. includes no memory card. There is enough onboard memory, however, to hold up to 11 "full resolution" pictures, according to the box. Files saved to internal memory can be easily copied to an SD card and vice versa. Given the camera's beefy 3264x2448-pixel maximum image size, I'd recommend picking up at least a 128-MB or 256-MB memory card so you won't miss any important shots. Images are saved in JPEG format in one of three compression levels. A CD-ROM with Picture Project [MW] provides organization and image editing tools. The camera comes with a slim EN-EL8 lithium-ion battery and a charger. Also included with the P1 is a video cable for connecting to a television set for slide shows and a USB cable for downloading images to a computer or to set up WiFi profiles.

WIRELESS FEATURES

Currently, only the P1/P2, the Kodak EasyShare-One and the just-announced (but not available in the U.S. until January 2006) Canon PowerShot S430 offer wireless digicam connections. Nikon has taken a useful but far less ambitious approach than Kodak, however, extending only to a computer running PictureProject or a USB printer with its $50 PD-10 wireless adapter attached. Kodak's reach extends through its EasyShare Doc or local WiFi hotspot to its EasyShare Gallery Web site (and through that by email to anyone you like).

Unlike the EasyShare One (which uses a WiFi adapter card), but like the forthcoming Canon PowerShot 430, the P1's wireless adapter is integrated within the camera body. It's also Wireless G (rather than the slower Wireless B that Kodak chose), so connecting it to a wireless network won't degrade network performance [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 a G network with no B devices 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, for a transfer rate of about 350 KB/second. When both B and G devices were connected, the transfer rate dropped to about 225KB/sec. A blue LED on the side of the P1 flashes to indicate wireless activity.

"Plugging into" a wireless connection is not anywhere near as simple as using a wired connection. The software that ships with the P1 simplifies matters somewhat, particularly on simple networks, but if you're dealing with a sophisticated network setup with high security, you may find yourself scratching your head. We'll take a look at a simple case below, then share a few notes that might be helpful if you're dealing with something more complex.

While the P1 can communicate with PictureProject through the wireless router on your home network, it can also find PictureProject on a computer with just a wireless adapter and no network in range. Connecting to a router is called Access Point (or Infrastructure) mode, while connecting to a computer's wireless adapter is called Camera to Computer (or Ad-Hoc) mode.

Either mode requires a fair bit of information about either the wireless router or your computer. Some of the information is gathered by the Nikon software automatically, but depending on the network setup, there can still be a fair bit that needs to be entered manually. The P1 stores network connection information in a profile. Each profile holds information for one image transfer, computer printer or wireless printer adapter connection. The camera can hold up to nine different profiles, chosen via a menu option whenever you set the Mode dial to Wireless mode.

To create a profile, you launch Nikon's Wireless Camera Setup Utility and then connect the camera to the computer with the provided USB cable (make sure the USB connection is set to PTP mode). Once the software detects the camera, you'll be prompted to enter a name for the profile and select an icon from among six different choices, to identify the profile in the camera's WiFi Connection menu. That done, you need to provide some basic information about your WiFi network setup.

We set up the P1 to connect to an Ad Hoc network to a WiFi-equipped computer not otherwise networked. We created a new network named "demo" by selecting Create Network from the AirPort (WiFi) menu on our Apple PowerBook. We selected the WiFi channel we wanted to use (we arbitrarily chose 6), whether we wanted to secure it and, if so, with which protocol. To keep life simple, we chose to leave the network open. This is about the simplest case. If we were connecting in Infrastructure mode, through an existing access node, the information to be input would be exactly the same as above, with the exception of channel number. In Infrastructure mode, the camera will hunt through the available channels to find the network it's looking for.

To secure your network (always a bright idea), you also choose the type of security (WEP 64 bits or 128 bits), the authentication type (Open or Shared), the Security Key Format (ASCII or Hex), type in the key itself and select an optional key index of 1 to 4.

Once the options are set, you can create a printer profile (if the computer you're using has printers associated with it for output). Once both computer and printer profiles are created, the software downloads them to the camera and then prompts you to disconnect the camera from the computer.

Now that you've got a connection profile loaded into the camera, you're ready to make the connection.

When you switch the camera to Wireless Mode (the blue antenna icon on the Mode Dial), it will first ask you to select a connection profile, as shown above. Select the profile the corresponds to the network you want to connect to. (You could easily set up a profile for the office and another one for home.) After selecting the network, you'll see a screen that says "Connecting to the network," while the camera searches for the network you've chosen.

Once the camera finds the network, it pops up the Wireless menu, with two pages of options, as shown above. The options here are somewhat self-explanatory. Easy Transfer simply copies all the images from the camera's memory card onto the host computer, while Shooting Date, Marked Images and Selected Images let you transfer some of the images selectively.

Shoot & Transfer transfers images to the host computer immediately after each one is shot and you can even combine this function with a live slide show running on the host computer. This option struck us as potentially being the most fun, as you could leave a slide show running on a laptop at a table at a party, with images being added to it in real time as the affair progressed. (Although, as our lab guy Luke pointed out, you might end up with a bunch of photos of people standing around looking at the computer.) Image files transferred in Shoot & Transfer mode 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. This mode does slow the shot-to-shot cycle times of the P1 substantially though, because the camera makes you wait until each transfer is complete before letting you snap the next picture. (Also worth noting is that the video output on the camera is disabled in Shoot & Transfer mode, so you can't use an external monitor as a super-size viewfinder.)

Finally, PC mode displays thumbnails of all the images on the camera's memory card in the Transfer application's window, letting you select which ones you want to copy over, controlling the transfer process from the computer. (The screen shot above shows the Transfer window.)

CAVEATS & GOTCHAS

Wireless Mode is pure "point & shoot". Technically speaking, this isn't a "gotcha," but it's a factor that annoyed us. Wireless Mode is an entirely separate mode on the Mode Dial and and it corresponds to the Full Auto setting in its operation.

Ad Hoc vs. Infrastructure Mode. This is an either/or choice, dictated by how the computer is set up. If the computer's WiFi link is being used to connect to an access point, then you have to use Infrastructure Mode. If the computer is creating its own network, you have to use Ad Hoc mode.

Security conundrums. We initially had a lot of trouble getting the P1 to play on our network in infrastructure mode. The first challenge was that we normally run our WiFi using WPA encryption, which is much more secure than the more common WEP. WPA is not supported by the P1, so we temporarily downgraded our network to WEP. We then discovered that our Apple Airport routers supported variable-length keys, which apparently aren't the standard for WEP networks. If you're setting up a WEP network, make sure that the keys are exactly 5 characters long for 64-bit WEP and 13 characters for 128-bit. No more and no less, the keys must be exactly 5 or 13 characters long. Also, the older 40-bit encryption is not supported.

Auto running/updating slide shows. This was one of our favorite features, but there's a minor trick to getting it to work. To automatically add new photos to a running slide show, go to Shoot & Transfer mode, snap one photo and let it transfer to the computer. This will make a new transfer folder. Launch a slide show in Picture Project from that folder. Now, any more shots captured (while still in the current Shoot & Transfer session) will be uploaded automatically and incorporated in the live slide show. Transfers will be a lot faster if you shoot at the 1-MB resolution. (It took about 5 seconds after snapping the shutter for a 450K 1-MB-size photo to appear on the host computer on a mixed Wireless B and G network. If you are running only 802.11g, the transfer should be 30-50 percent faster.

Mixed Wireless B and G networks. Most new WiFi gear supports the higher-speed Wireless G standard, but there's still a lot of Wireless B hardware out there. You can run both types of devices on the same network transparently, but there's a significant performance hit for doing so.

Firewall settings. As noted by our Newsletter Editor Mike Pasini, who also worked with the P1, beware of any firewall settings that block UDP port number 5353 or TCP port 15740. They're deal breakers, as the P1 needs those ports to communicate.

Battery charge level. Sometimes when we had trouble establishing a connection, the battery was close to being exhausted. There wasn't an obvious battery-low indication until some time after we began having trouble, but it's notable that we seemed to have fewer problems when the battery was closer to full.

Operating range. The P1 seemed to have a fairly typical operating range, when working with our Apple PowerBook and Airport access points. We tested working range with the PowerBook (a 15" Aluminum version) and found that the camera worked just fine at a distance of 25 feet or so, with a wall and bookcase between it and the computer. Thirty feet and two walls was too much. Mike got slightly shorter range than he's used to with his wireless laptops.

THE WIRELESS BOTTOM LINE

Our wireless experience with the P1 wasn't one of unalloyed joy. It's safe to say though, that a lot of the frustration could have been avoided had we simply stuck to the bare-bones standard settings for wireless devices. We also might have avoided some pain if we'd made sure that the P1's battery was fully charged before we started mucking about with the WiFi.

Once the wireless link was set up and running properly though, a wireless digital camera proved to be a pretty beguiling proposition. File transfers were dead-easy and the Transfer by Date option appealed to our lazy nature. Just select Transfer by Date, pick the most recent folder of images and ... well, that's it. The computer put up a dialog box telling us the transfer was underway and if we were feeling especially lazy, we could watch the countdown. Pretty slick. And we've already raved more than enough about the Shoot-&-Transfer-to-a-running-slide-show feature for parties. All in all, a pretty nice little package and the P1's images were first rate too. Very cool!

CONCLUSION

Will WiFi-connected cameras be the next big wave in the digital camera market? Perhaps -- and perhaps not. Regardless of whether they'll ever achieve dominance though, it's clear we're going to see more of them over the next year or two. The P1 is Nikon's first effort at a consumer-level WiFi camera and it has a lot to offer.

Most importantly, beyond the snazzy WiFi capability, first and foremost it's a very capable camera. The P1 has a rich feature set, easy enough for any beginner to use in its full-auto green zone mode, but with a surprising amount of control available for more sophisticated users through its myriad menu options. For novices, its extensive Scene modes greatly extend the camera's capabilities. And image quality and resolution are both first-rate. Overall, a good choice for the point-and-shoot user who wants an easy to use, compact digicam with a surprising range of capabilities.

At the same time though, it's an appealing option for the more advanced shooter looking for a pocket camera. The WiFi feature adds to the price and is still not as brainless/painless as it might be, but is reasonably easy to set up, has a high cool factor, and the Shoot & Transfer mode could be a load of fun at parties. A Dave's Pick for its image quality, good styling and rich feature set.

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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: Hacking Digital Cameras

Take a minute to check the outstanding balance on your credit card. No, the projects in this book won't cost you much, but you'll want to make sure your digicam has been paid for (and is, consequently, obsolete). The hacking Chieh Cheng does on his cameras tends to make them non-returnable.

A quick glance at the Table of Contents shows you this is no ordinary digital photo book. You see lots of references to dissassembling, building, making, modifying, controlling, jury-rigging and drilling.

Part One focuses on camera modifications. You learn how to build triggers (wired and wireless; to delay or shoot intervals), add a tripod socket, grab sensor data from a few Nikon and Casio cameras (nothing new here), build battery packs, set up a universal remote control to work with your camera and update the firmware on your Canon Digital Rebel.

Part Two switches to lenses. Accessory lenses are explored as well as step rings. Chieh shows you how to build your own lens adapter with PVC pipe. Then he takes apart a Cokin 0.5x wide-angle lens to reconfigure it. He turns a dSLR body cap into a pinhole lens and goes into T-mounts and macro adapters, showing you how to make your own (including wiring it for auto operation).

Part Three covers "Creative Photography Hacks." Using and making filters, shooting infrared and removing the IR blocking filter from a Sony DSC-P92.

Part Four discussing "Building Fun Camera Tools" like a car mount, a headrest mount, a bike mount, a camera stabilizer, a flash bracket, a monopod and a 500-watt studio light. This chapter held a lot of promise for us, but we ended up with a finer appreciation for product design.

Part Five goes into "Flash Memory Hacks." How to modify a CF Type I adapter into a Type II adapter and scavenging Microdrives from various MP3 players.

The Quibble Meter shuddered a few times through the book. The big problem is that so few of the projects show an image of the finished device. A rather startling approach, suggesting fit and finish are after thoughts. Another quibble is that many of these hacks are of, well, academic interest. Do you really want to glue a piece of wood to your digicam to mount it on a tripod? Get a bean bag. Do you really have to buy a book to make a pin-hole lens for your dSLR or screw on a filter?

But there are some interesting things to learn here. We liked the discussion on soldering technique, the explanation of circuits and seeing how to take apart a few camera bodies. It was fun to watch Chieh cobble together some inexpensive solution to a problem. All of which, admittedly, you could google just as well. And in the case of Raw image formatting or removing IR sensors, you would be well advised to rely on Google.

While we found it interesting to read, nothing we came across actually inspired us to warm up the old soldering iron or threaten the pristine condition of our camera collection. Which, come to think of it, is pretty odd. We don't know many professional photographers who haven't hacked up some device to do something they wanted to do. And those projects always interest us.

Hacking Digital Cameras by Chieh Cheng with Auri Rahimzadeh, published by Wiley, 520 pages, $24.99.
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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 Olympus eVolt E-500 Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eea0505

Visit the Sony Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f789

Henry asks for purchasing advice at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea0a76/0

Neal asks about converting film pictures to digital at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea0c26/0

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

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Just for Fun: The Parable of the Prostheticist

Sonya the physical therapist agreed. The leg was not aligned. So off we went to see Wayne, who snuck us in without an appointment. Not only is Wayne a prostheticst, he's the patron saint of prosetheticsts (or will be once certain formalities are satisfied). We've read the lives of all those other saints and it was all driver's ed for them in comparison.

We dropped Pops off at Wayne's, coming in long enough to find out this wasn't a short pit stop. "OK, I'll be back in about 15 minutes," we promised. "Yeah, about that," Wayne agreed, "if I don't screw it up." Then we took off to do an errand, hitting every stop light on the red (about 63 of them) except for one intersection where the cross traffic had a stop sign that a cab was in the process of running.

So it was more than 15 minutes. More like 17. Or 30. Which is why we were surprised that Wayne was happy to see us.

"So you write about digital cameras?" he smiled.

Apparently he'd uncovered our secret while we were doing our errand. Not independently wealthy. Not a genius. Not working graveyard either. Just a scribe with a flexible schedule. And Wayne just happened to be looking to buy a camera.

There's a certain parallel between hitting 63 red lights and buying a digicam. And a certain parallel between learning to walk on an artificial leg and going digital. There's a reason saints are different from scribes, too.

They know how to have fun.

We've been writing this "Just for Fun" column since issue three. Our inspiration for it was a clever executive who moved from one company to another making each profitable in turn by simply avoiding indulging in the obviously unprofitable business. That was the secret to his success. Don't be tempted, don't be silly, don't be clever, be smart. But his actual mantra was entirely different, we learned later. If it isn't fun, it isn't worth doing.

OK, he was married 47 times and divorced just as many, but as a business proposition, he made a point missed in many mission statements.

If you don't enjoy what you're doing, it's just work.

In fact, this is Wayne's secret -- and why his canonization has been delayed. No matter what the problem is (and he's seen problems), you first have to find out if people have heard the one about a Rabbi, a priest and a contractor who walked into a bar in Mecca....

Fun is not, in short, illegal or immoral or unhealthy or unprofitable. As you weigh your options, forget megapixels and focus on the features you love. When you shop for your camera, be open to a surprise or two. When you take it out of the box, leave buyer's remorse in the bag. You can't go wrong, don't worry about it. Life is too short. Just enjoy it and spread your enthusiasm around. You deserve to have fun -- and so do the people around you.

"No," we confessed to Wayne. "Dave writes all the hardware reviews. Want his email address?" And we smiled all the way home.

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Dave's Deals

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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: Love It But ...

Hi! I love your Web site and your reviews. Well written, understandable and give me just the information I need to make buying decisions.

One area that has been a problem, though, is that you don't talk very much about problems that buyers have. The Casio Z750 is a good example. Based on your review and the review of others, I was all set to buy one. Then I started reading all the forums and comments made by users who were having troubles with Casio's customer support and lens problems with the camera. Out of nearly 100 reviews by users who had purchased the Casio 750, about 50 had the same lens complaint.

Somewhere along the line, I think you need to factor into your reviews problems that users are having and perhaps even get a comment from the manufacturer (Casio in this example). That would be really helpful.

But other than this suggestion, you've got a great site and we thank you!

-- John Lewison

(Visit our forums (http://www.photo-forums.com) for feedback from owners of the various models, John. The reviews focus on design and technical specs while repeating the same 100 test shots and field testing the cameras by shooting a set of gallery shots as well. While we didn't experience any lens problem with the review unit, we don't typically have products long enough to experience the sort of things buyers might after a few months of use. -- Editor)
(A very good point, John. As Mike points out, we can't report what we don't see -- or comb the Web to track user experience with the 100 or so cameras we review every year. The Web sorely needs a place to log buyer camera experiences and we'd be the obvious guys to do it. Just need the time to figure out all the database stuff in between the 100 reviews and now the lens tests for our new site SLRgear.com. But we'll definitely put it on the list. -- Dave)

RE: Any AA dSLRs?

Digital cameras certainly are great to use, however the makers and designers of such cameras leave a lot to be desired.

So many of the digital cameras (dSLR or even point-and-shoot) use special (expensive) batteries. This is a real pain when you're a wildlife photographer and finding any type of battery is nearly impossible, much less trying to find a power source to recharge special batteries. I sure hate to have to cut short a trip into the wild just because of the $#@ battery.

At least Olympus in most of their C-XXX (non-dSLR) models use regular, somewhat easier-to-find AA batteries. So guess what type of digital camera I use? I don't know of any dSLR that uses AAs.

Many of the point-and-shoot digitals have extras accessories that can be added to the primary lens but for some reason, it is difficult to find any info on such accessories -- even from the maker of the camera.

-- JV Brown

(The Canon 20D and Rebel XT and Konica Minolta 7D can take AAs in their pistol grips, John. But the advantage of the lith-ion batteries is 1) they last a lot longer and 2) are more compact. In fact, the 7D can use two of its lith-ions for those six AAs. And they don't lose their charge nearly as quickly sitting around as those rechargeable NiMH AAs.... On the converter lenses, we did a roundup of Nikon Coolpix converters a while ago (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LENS1/LENS1.HTM), but other than that, you don't see much. Very true. -- Editor)

RE: Vested Interest

First of all I would like to thank and compliment you and your team for all of the excellent knowledge you have provided!

I'm having some issues trying to find a vest as durable as my camera bag. A "Tough Traveler" I've carried too much equipment in for nearly 30 years now and I just wrote them to see if they might make me a "Photographers Vest" that would stand up to the "unintentional" abuse/overuse that all of my equipment must suffer through (i.e. 1,700,000 plus miles on my motorcycles -- there have been 60 of them -- all the while with my camera gear). The vibration, weather and crashing that my camera equipment must endure and the "locations" I go necessitate the best equipment I can afford. So I'm looking for the definitive Photographers vest. Can you help or guide me in that direction please?

-- Tim Kelly

(We're still perfecting the garbage bag poncho, Tim. But we feel your pain. Readers? -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Charlie Morey (http://www.lulu.com) has published his 2006 Legends of American Motocross Calendar with 14 images in the 26-page 8.5x11-inch calendar. Morey captured the formative years of professional motocross in the U.S. for Cycle News Newspaper and Dirt Rider Magazine.


iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) has released its $199 iView MediaPro 3.0 [MW], adding a lightbox view with histograms, enhanced interface, optimized workflow and smart image rotation.


LaserSoft Imaging (http://www.silverfast.com) has enhanced its SilverFast Ai Studio and SilverFast SE Plus with its patent-pending Multi-Sampling with Auto-Alignment, reducing CCD noise so much more Unsharp Masking can be applied.


JAlbum 6.0 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net), a free Java Web album generator, adds a new image management, drag-and-drop image arrangement, lossless JPEG rotation and more.


Wacom (http://www.wacom.com) has introduces its $369.95 Intuos3 6x11 pen tablet with an aspect ratio for multiple monitors or a widescreen displays.


Complete Digital Photo (http://www.completedigitalphotography.com) has released its free Photoshop Automator Actions 1.0 [M] of 56 actions to control Photoshop CS via Automator.


HernanSoft (http://www.hernansoft.com) has released BurnX Free 1.5 [M] to burn multisession, hybrid CDs and erase rewriteable media.


TweakerSoft (http://www.tweakersoft.com) has released its $29.95 LensTweaker 1.0 [M] to remove lens distortion from digital photos either automatically (after calibrating the camera lens) or manually with visual feedback. It can also read metadata and adjust image tonality and color.


The Plugin Site (http://www.thepluginsite.com) has released its $69.95 LightMachine 1.01 [W] to adjust tonality, virtual lighting and color without selections and layers.


Echo One (http://echoone.com) has released $12 DoubleTake 2.0b7 [M] to stitch images together with drag-and-drop image positioning, seam width adjustment, diagonal seams and more.


KavaSoft (http://www.kavasoft.com) has released its $79.99 Shoebox Pro 1.5 [M] with CD/DVD archiving, additional top-level categories and more.

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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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