The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 7, Number 24 25 November 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 163rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We're sending this issue a little early to help you get a head start on the holiday shopping season. We even shoe-horned our Camera and Accessories Gift Guides into it just to get you in the right mood. Enjoy!


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

New DxO Optics Pro v3.5

Faster, more advanced and better value for your images!

Award winning software automatically corrects optics faults, optimizes local exposure and reduces noise up to two f-stops. Also converts RAW files. When you buy DxO Optics Pro, you now have unrestricted access to all DxO Lens Modules!

New: offers support for the Canon EOS 5D.

Try the software for free and win a Canon EOS 5D or a Nikon D2X!

Visit http://www.dxo.com/redirect/DxOOP3.5/Imaging-Resource-news.htm

E-Book Systems
http://www.flipalbum.com

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

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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: Camera Gift Guide

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full piece posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/GIFT/holiday05/guide.htm on the Web site.)

Picking from the overwhelming array of digicams on the market can be way too much work, especially if you're buying for someone else. We look at cameras all day, so we came up with a list of "can't miss cameras" for the holidays, so all you have to do is browse our summaries and click.

To make it even faster, the list is sorted by price, so you need only look at the section for your budget. If you need more info on any of the cameras, just visit our comprehensive review of each. To purchase, click on the "Check Price" link, to compare prices from dozens of merchants. Super simple. The type of memory card used (Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card, CompactFlash, Memory Stick, xD Picture Card) is also abbreviated at the end each review in case you want to buy a card to go with it.

We wish you and yours a very happy holiday season!

UNDER $199

Price doesn't necessarily tell you everything. We managed to find five models that really don't compromise a whole lot over their higher-priced relatives, delivering excellent images and still offering good control for the photographer.

Canon PowerShot A520 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A520/A52A.HTM) -- We put this at the top of the list because if you're in a hurry, you really can't go wrong with the A520. It's an excellent all-around digicam that will serve the needs of just about anyone, regardless of technical ability. Sporting four megapixels and a 4x zoom, its controls range from absolute automation to complete creative control. Compared to past Canon models, the new A520 uses only two AA batteries, instead of four, so it's both lighter and less power hungry. It's a near-ideal combination of simplicity, versatility, flexibility, good image quality and great color, at an attractive price. SD or MMC.

Canon PowerShot A410 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A410/A410A.HTM) -- It seems every season has at least one standout bargain. This year, it's the A410. We put it a notch below the A520, because it isn't quite as capable, but for a solid, basic digicam that'll give you great-looking photos for a rock-bottom price, the A410 just can't be beat. Some shoppers may be inclined to dismiss the A410 because it's "only" a 3-Mp model. But three megapixels is plenty of resolution to make nice, sharp 8x10 inch prints, and the A410's color quality is second to none. Widely available online for under $130 including shipping, this camera's photos quite honestly surprised us with how good they looked.

Sony Cybershot S40 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SS40/SS40A.HTM) -- Small and simple to use, the S40 has a 4.1-Mp CCD, 32-MB internal memory and a nice range of exposure options. The S40 is easy to use in full-auto mode and its seven Scene modes help with tricky subjects. The 1.5-inch color LCD monitor is small by modern standards, but the overall design and layout is user-friendly and hassle-free. Its biggest strength is its very fast shutter response. While most companies make a low cost model by cutting out features, Sony has made a low cost model with a decent quality Movie mode with audio and most of the features found in the company's $400 cameras. SD or MMC.

Nikon Coolpix 4600 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CP4600/CP46A.HTM) -- Small and light, the Coolpix 4600 offers a 4.0-Mp CCD, a 3x zoom and nice range of Scene modes. It would be a good choice for anyone who wants an easy-to-use camera that delivers good-looking pictures with pleasing color and plenty of resolution. Its extensive Scene modes and unique framing-assist options greatly extend the camera's capabilities, making it easy to bring back good-looking shots of what might otherwise be difficult subjects. Red-Eye Fix deals with red-eye as it happens, expunging it from photos as they're saved, an excellent feature. SD or MMC.

Kodak EasyShare Z700 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Z700/Z700A.HTM) -- Here's a real bargain with a slightly longer zoom. The Z700's automatic exposure control performs surprisingly well in a wide variety of conditions and the range of partial manual exposure controls extend the camera's capabilities nicely. A wide range of Scene modes helps with special shooting conditions as well. The 4.0-Mp CCD captures high resolution images with plenty of detail to make sharp 8x10 inch prints, while the 5x optical zoom comes in handy for capturing distant subjects. It's also much quicker off the mark when it comes to capturing your photos, with shutter lag that's quite a bit better than most digicams and good shot-to-shot cycle times as well. SD or MMC.

UNDER $250

Just $50 more (and sometimes only $20) gets you into a new range of mostly newer cameras with slightly higher resolution than the under-$199 category. They're often newer, but many are high quality bargains, like our first offering below.

Canon ELPH SD200 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD200/SD2A.HTM) -- Getting a Canon ELPH for under $250 is quite exciting, especially considering the quality of this camera and the photos it delivers. It's a 3.2-Mp subcompact point-and-shooter with a 3x zoom, all in a very small and light package. Thanks to its high-speed DIGIC-II processing chip, it's also very responsive for a subcompact digicam and its movie capability goes far beyond what you usually see in such a small camera. All of us at IR found it to be an exceptionally enjoyable camera to use and we loved its beautiful color output. SD or MMC.

Sony Cybershot S90 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S90/S90A.HTM) -- The S90 is an easy-to-use but very capable offering from Sony, with a 4.1-Mp CCD, 32-MB internal memory and a nice range of exposure options. It provides more manual exposure control than most compact entry-level models, yet is easy to use in full-auto mode and its seven Scene modes help with tricky subjects. The large 2.5-inch color LCD monitor is excellent for framing and reviewing shots and its overall design and layout is user-friendly and hassle-free. Its biggest strength though, is its very fast shutter response and good shot-to-shot speed. The S90 makes an excellent choice for shots of active children or sports action. Memory Stick.

UNDER $350

This price point marks the low-end of digicams that offer a little something extra over the lower priced cameras. Either a subcompact build, long zoom or special sensor distinguish digicams in this, our largest category. This is the "sweet spot" of the market, with highly capable cameras at surprisingly affordable prices.

Nikon Coolpix S1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPS1/CPS1A.HTM) -- The Coolpix S1 packs a lot of features into a very small, attractive package. Its 5.1-Mp CCD, 3x zoom lens and a surprisingly large 2.5-inch LCD gives you the power to take great pictures anywhere. Very bright, snappy-looking photos come from the Coolpix S1, with vibrant, hue-accurate color and plenty of detail for making large prints. The S1's color will appeal to the majority of consumers, who have again and again shown a strong preference for bright color. It has extensive Scene modes and unique framing-assist options that greatly extend its capabilities, making it easy to bring back good-looking shots of otherwise difficult subjects. SD or MMC.

Fujifilm F10 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/F10/F10A.HTM) -- Looking for a good camera to capture the kids? The 6-Mp 3x zoom F10 may be it. It's much more sensitive and has much lower image noise than previous FinePix models, has good color and white balance performance and focuses very quickly, particularly in its optional High Speed Shooting mode. The autofocus system also works well under dim lighting, with one of the brightest AF-assist illuminators we've seen. Fast autofocus and shutter response are key to capturing fast-moving subjects such as sports action or active children. Fast action also implies a need for fast shutter speeds and that's where the F10's excellent high-ISO capability really comes into play. Being able to shoot very clean images at ISO 400 rather than ISO 100 means being able to use shutter speeds four times faster. That could be the difference between a blurred mess and a crisp image of your subject. xD.

Kodak EasyShare Z740 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Z740/Z740A.HTM) -- Kodak's EasyShare Z740's fully automatic exposure control performs surprisingly well in a wide variety of conditions and the range of manual exposure controls extend the camera's capabilities nicely for more advanced users. A wide range of preset Scene modes helps with special shooting conditions as well. The 5.0-Mp CCD captures high resolution images, with plenty of detail to make sharp 11x14 inch prints and the 10x optical zoom really gives you what your eye wants to see. The color produced by the Kodak Z740 should appeal to most consumers, too. It's bright and vibrant, yet doesn't over-saturate delicate skin tones. A great choice for novices wanting to learn a little as they go, more experienced users will also appreciate its more advanced features. Kodak's optional bundle includes the EasyShare Printer Dock Series 3, which is an excellent deal for someone wanting a complete photography solution. SD or MMC.

Nikon Coolpix S4 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPS4/CPS4A.HTM) -- It's been a long time since we've seen a good twist camera. They'd pretty well disappeared until Nikon thought of a great reason to bring them back. They've mounted a 10x lens on the swivel and made the most compact 10x zoom on the market. The Nikon Coolpix S4 packs a lot of other features, including a 6.0-Mp CCD and a wonderfully large 2.5-inch LCD. The Coolpix S4 delivers bright, saturated color that most consumers are likely to find very attractive, yet manages to produce very natural-looking skin tones as well. The unique Nikon-only Best Shot Selector is a great help for capturing sharp images in dim lighting without a tripod, helpful with such a long lens and the D-Lighting feature does a great job of opening up shadows, making for much more natural-looking images under difficult lighting conditions. SD or MMC.

Sony Cybershot P200 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P200/P200A.HTM) -- Taken as a package, the P200 is hard to beat in the subcompact point-and-shoot digicam market. It packs a 7.2-Mp CCD, a sharp, high-quality 3x optical zoom lens, two-inch monitor, nine preset Scene modes and a host of other creative options in to a very small, well-built package. The P200 is a very responsive camera, with excellent shutter lag and shot-to-shot cycle time numbers, excellent battery life and surprisingly good low-light capability. Its color is bright and vibrant, but natural-looking. Memory Stick.

UNDER $450

These are mostly high end digicams whose prices have just begun to fall. You can find some bargains on this group, but rest assured you're really getting a fine camera. Again, these usually have that "something extra" that makes them especially desirable. Note too though, that "higher end" doesn't necessarily mean "harder to use." Even advanced digicams have super-easy Green Zone modes that turn them into easy-to-use point-and- shoots.

Nikon Coolpix 7900 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CP7900/CP79A.HTM) -- Sleek and attractive, the Nikon Coolpix 7900 sports a 7.1-Mp CCD and a digital vibration reduction mode for capturing less-shaky handheld movies. Extensive Scene modes and unique framing-assist options greatly extend the camera's capabilities. The Nikon Coolpix 7900 has excellent image quality, good styling and an exceptionally rich feature set. Going beyond Red-Eye Reduction flash mode, the Coolpix 7900 can be set to actually remove red-eye from pictures after capture. An excellent feature. SD or MMC.

Canon PowerShot ELPH SD550 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD550/SD55A.HTM) -- The SD550 has a handsome, sleek, curving body design that just speaks quality. While it's a mostly automatic camera, the SD550 gives you plenty of control where it counts, including ISO and exposure compensation. Thanks to its high-speed DIGIC-II processing chip, it's also very responsive for a subcompact and its movie capability is very good. Images are sharper than is common in such a small camera and its 7-Mp CCD manages to keep noise levels under control, even at ISO 400. It's speed, feel and image quality all combine to make one fine little digicam you'll be glad to have along. SD or MMC.

Casio Exilim EX-Z750 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Z750/Z750A.HTM) -- Tiny and stylish, the Casio Exilim EX-Z750 is packed with features. Its 7.2-Mp CCD and very fast shutter response make for an impressive performer. Toss in full Manual exposure mode and its 31 Scene modes 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 digicam 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 Z750's utility and its fast shutter response make it a natural for sports shooting or just keeping up with a young family. A great "take anywhere" camera, the Casio EX-Z750 Zoom 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. SD or MMC.

Kodak EasyShare V550 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/V550/V550A.HTM) -- A good all-around choice, the Kodak EasyShare V550's fully automatic exposure control performs surprisingly well in a wide variety of conditions, requiring less exposure adjustment or tweaking than do most competing models. For more difficult shooting conditions, a wide range of preset Scene modes extend the camera's capabilities nicely. The 5.0-Mp CCD captures high resolution images, with plenty of detail to make good-looking 11x14 prints and a handful of helpful tools such as the Blur Warning, Motion Image Stabilization and automatic Red-Eye Correction are very welcome additions. We really liked the blue LEDs that indicate which mode is active, as well as indicating relative charge level when the V540 is in its cradle. Most people will love the bright, vibrant photos the V550 produces. SD or MMC.

Olympus Stylus 800 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S800/S800A.HTM) -- The 8-Mp, 3x-zoom Olympus Stylus 800 is the best Stylus Digital model to date. Its body design is trim and compact, with much better-feeling controls than those of earlier models. It offers the same water resistance that makes the rest of the Stylus line so practical for go-anywhere photography and sports a 2.5-inch LCD monitor. The LCD on the Stylus 800 does much better than average in bright sunlight, offering a wide viewing angle, and does remarkably well in dim lighting. It's a very capable, highly portable point-and-shoot camera, with good image quality and a better than average lens. Its simplicity and 20 Scene modes make it easy for even novice users to bring home great-looking photos at a resolution previously available only to dSLR owners. xD.

Panasonic Lumix FZ5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ5/FZ5A.HTM) -- The 5-Mp FZ5 is a very strong follow-on to last year's highly popular FZ3. Like the FZ3 before it, the FZ5 offers excellent value in a long-zoom camera with optical image stabilization and an impressive feature set. Aside from the boosted resolution, the FZ5 offers significant improvements in shutter lag, minor boosts in cycle time and a larger rear-panel LCD. The dramatic improvements in shutter lag in its high speed autofocus modes is the biggest news, making the FZ5 an excellent camera for shooting sports and other fast-breaking action. SD or MMC.

Sony Cybershot T7 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T7/T7A.HTM) -- The T7 takes thin to a whole new level with a 5-Mp sensor and 3x optical zoom. By far the thinnest Cyber-shot to date, the T7 is noteworthy not only for its profile, but for the range of features and image quality packed into its tiny frame. Its lens is particularly impressive, not so much for its absolute quality as for the extent to which it avoids some of the severe problems with soft corners and high chromatic aberration we've seen in so many subcompact cameras in the past. It has great color, solid resolution and good dynamic range. Despite its tiny size, the T7 offers a strong feature set, great shooting speed and excellent video capabilities. One word of warning though. Don't pick one up and hold it unless you plan to buy one. They're that addicting. Memory Stick Duo.

UNDER $500

We're definitely into the true high end of consumer cameras here, with some of the newest cameras sporting the most advanced capabilities available. Here you'll find features like true "no excuses" Movie modes for superb video quality. There's even a wireless model, that can connect to your WiFi-equipped computer or network for image downloads and printing with 'nary a wire in sight!

Canon PowerShot S2 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S2IS/S2ISA.HTM) -- The long-zoom digicam market is crowded these days, so it takes a lot for a product to really stand out. But the S2 IS is indeed a standout product. Building upon the already very popular S1 IS model, the S2 IS shows improvements in every parameter. Resolution is substantially higher, autofocus performance and shutter response are much quicker and its Movie mode is greatly enhanced and much better-integrated with the still-camera functions. At the same time, the excellent image stabilization system has been carried forward and image quality is very good. The S2 IS is one fine digicam and one that's a lot of fun to use besides. Highly recommended. SD or MMC.

Nikon Coolpix P1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPP1/CPP1A.HTM) -- The Coolpix P1 is Nikon's first effort at a consumer-level WiFi camera and it has a lot to offer. In addition to WiFi, the P1 has an 8.0-Mp CCD, a 3x zoom and a 2.5 inch LCD. Image quality and resolution are both first-rate, making it a good choice for anyone who wants an easy-to-use camera that delivers good-looking pictures with pleasing color and plenty of resolution. 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. SD or MMC.

Canon PowerShot S80 -- Canon's continually refining the high end of their PowerShot portable model. It's not as small as an ELPH, nor as versatile as the G6, but the S80 is the most camera you can get in a small space from Canon. It has speed to spare, with its 9-point AF quickly analyzing a scene and picking the most likely object to put in focus. Its 28mm equivalent lens is impossible to get elsewhere in a camera this size and nearly impossible in an all-in-one digicam of any kind. Add its excellent video mode, 2.5-inch LCD and super-simple menu system and you have one of the finest digicams you can buy. SD or MMC.

UNDER $600

So what's beyond high end? Enthusiast models! These are for the serious photo buff, who wants the ultimate in image quality, with the ultimate in creative control. The cameras here offer many of the capabilities of a Single Lens Reflex, but in a convenient all-in-one package and usually with a long zoom lens.

Kodak EasyShare P880 -- Aimed at the buyer who wants some of the versatility of an SLR with the live LCD display of a digicam, the P880 is an interesting option. Its 8-Mp imager is combined with a 5.8x (24-140mm f2.8) optical zoom and 2.5-inch LCD. The value of an integrated 24mm lens can't be overstated, especially for travel photography. An external flash can be added for greater light control and its 25-point AF system offers good accuracy, surpassing most dSLRs. SD or MMC.

Fujifilm S9000 -- Similar to the P880, the Fujifilm S9000 is intended to serve the customer who wants more control and better optics. Its 9-Mp sensor is coupled with a 28-300mm 35mm equivalent lens, with the emphasis on the telephoto end of the zoom range. Though it has a distinct SLR look, its lens is not interchangeable; nor would most folks need to with this 28-300mm built right in. It is about as big as most SLRs, however. Images look good and contrasty up to ISO 400, a very good performance for a non-SLR. xD or CF.

UNDER $1,000

Here we've picked all dSLRs for several reasons. First, few all-in-one choices compete well against these models. Second, most of the excellent all-in-one choices (that are available at this time in mid-November) are even higher in price than many of these dSLRs. Finally, if you're serious about getting action shots and active family shots, especially indoors, there's no better option than a dSLR. The age of the dSLR is upon us and these are our current top choices.

Many think that SLRs add a level of complexity they're not prepared for, but nothing could be further from the truth. The cameras listed here offer Full-Auto shooting modes, as well as an array of Scene modes, just like modern all-in-one digicams. In Full-Auto mode, they are point-and-shoot easy, but focus faster and perform much better indoors than most all-in-one digicams.

Nikon D50 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D50/D50A.HTM) --The D50 delivers most of the features that made the D70 such an exceptional product but at a lower price. What is most surprising about the D50 is that its image sensor and some aspects of its image quality, are actually superior to those of the higher-priced D70S. You do give up some features relative to the D70S, but there's just an awful lot to like about the D50, from the grip size that will feel comfortable across a wide range of hand sizes to its excellent ease of use in Auto mode. The D50 is just an excellent match for the family photographer or for anyone wanting exceptional value in an entry-level dSLR. SD.

Olympus E-500 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EV500/E500A.HTM) -- As the lightest and smallest dSLR on the market, the Olympus E-500 is another fine choice for a family or photo enthusiast camera. Its 8-Mp sensor and improved metering system make some very fine images, with only one rival on the market at this price. It's comfortable to hold, handsome and works quite well. It has almost all the features you want in a dSLR, including high enough resolution to stave off any feeling of obsolescence for the next year or so and a number of modes to assist and enhance a user's photography as they learn (or re-learn) the craft. No other manufacturer offers a sensor that cleans itself every time you power it on and few dSLRs have a screen this big and beautiful. xD or CF.

Canon Rebel XT (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EXT/EXTA.HTM) -- Small and very popular, the XT manages to span the full range of user needs, from the pure point-and-shoot user interested only in full auto operation, to the professional looking for an inexpensive second body. As such, it's a nearly ideal option for families or other situations in which users of greatly varying experience levels need to share the same camera. Putting it simply, the XT is a technological tour de force, delivered in a tiny, attractive package and with a set of user controls that are equally approachable by novices and professional shooters. Though other small affordable dSLRs have entered the market since the XT's debut, none are a match for its astonishing low light capability, buffer capacity and very smooth images. Highly recommended. CF.

Konica Minolta 5D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/KM5D/KM5DA.HTM) -- Though it doesn't offer the highest resolution among other low-priced dSLRs, the 5D has a special feature none of its competitors offer: in-camera anti-shake technology. Physically the 5D handles very well, looks good and feels solid. A large 2.5-inch LCD graces the camera's back and it has the courtesy to dim when you move your eye to the viewfinder so you're not blinded by its bright, vibrant color. Images up to ISO 800 are very usable even at 8x10 inch print sizes, which is a good benchmark. At lower ISOs, images are excellent. Its kit lens has a very high optical quality and you can attach a wide range of quality optics as your needs expand. CF.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Accessories Gift Guide

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full piece posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/GIFT/holiday05/guide.htm on the Web site.)

Not every budget can handle a digicam and many people on your list are likely to have one already. What they need are accessories to go with that camera. Here are a few ideas to help you find just what they need at a reasonable price.

BATTERIES

Every camera needs a battery, the trick is finding out what kind their camera takes. If it's AA, you can pick up NiMH rechargeables and a charger at a reasonable price. Our favorite is the MAHA Energy Powerex MH-C204W, which comes in several combo kits with AA batteries starting at $39.97. Visit Thomas Distributing (http://www.thomas-distributing.com) to buy.

If your recipient doesn't have a camera that takes AA batteries, find out what kind it does take and look it up online. They cost between $30 and $60 and will be very useful accessories. You can find out what kind of battery it is by slyly asking, "That's a nice camera. What kind of batteries does it use? I'm thinking of getting one just like it."

MEMORY CARDS

Though there are many types, a large memory card is a gift any digital camera owner will appreciate. It's a simple upgrade that can reap great benefits in terms of making the camera more fun and useful. The trick again is finding out what kind they need. After you do that, it's a simple matter of determining what you can afford. 512-MB cards of most types are available for between $40 and $60 and 1-GB cards cost between $60 and $100.

Here are links to check prices for the most common kinds of cards:

USB CARD READER

Pick well and there's no way to go wrong with a card reader. Most can be had for between $8 and $30. The Kingston USB 2.0 Hi-Speed SD/MMC Combo Flash Card Reader is a super choice for the SD cards that so many cameras use these days and can be found for under $8 (without shipping). And a reader like the Lexar USB 2.0 Multi-Card Reader will handle just about any memory format out there for between $10 and $30. An Olympus reader is required for 1-GB xD Picture Cards.

CAMERA CASES

Most don't know it, but all digital camera owners should really buy a case for their camera, regardless of size. It's just too easy for a delicate camera to get crunched in a pocket or purse. Some excellent case manufacturers make hundreds of shapes and sizes and for most digital camera sizes, even the excellent LowePro cases and bags are affordable ($59.95 to $69.99).

LowePro Slider. Small, form-fitting and light, the LowePro Slider was made for small ELPH-size digicams. The cases offer good impact and scuff resistance in a form that doesn't add too much bulk. Coming in three sizes, they're just $24.99. It helps to find out the dimensions of the camera in question so you can pick between the Slider 10, 20 or 30 (they're all the same price).

LowePro SlingShot AW. For the dSLR or Prosumer camera owner, there's nothing on the market that competes with the new LowePro SlingShot. It's a cross between a backpack and a more traditional over-the-shoulder camera bag. Using only one strap, the SlingShot is slung across the chest and can quickly be brought into position at the left side to give access to a camera and lenses. Just as quickly, it can be slipped back into place on the back for continued hassle-free carry. Thoughtful enhancements include a microfiber cloth positioned to allow easy protection of the rear LCD, a built-in memory card pouch and LowePro's AW (All Weather) fabric and sealing for excellent protection from the elements.

SENSOR CLEANER

Whether they know it or not, nearly all dSLR owners will one day need to clean their camera's sensor due to dust building up and affecting their images. One of our favorite cleaning systems is from Copper Hill Imaging (http://www.pbase.com/copperhill). The Copper Hill cleaning method is straightforward and safe and in our routine usage here at Imaging Resource, is exceptionally effective. Better yet, the products sold by Copper Hill Imaging are very reasonably priced. Best of all, Nicholas R (proprietor of Copper Hill) has put together an amazingly detailed tutorial on sensor cleaning, free for all. Kit prices start at $36.95 and should be considered mandatory accessories for any dSLR owner.

EXTERNAL DRIVE

A great many vacationeers realize they'll need a place to offload their pictures while they're on vacation. Those who have them bring their notebook computers along. But that's a bulky, heavy proposition. For those who can't afford a notebook or who wisely don't want to commit to the extra weight, there's the SmartDisk FotoChute External 20-GB Photo Storage Drive. Using your camera's USB cable, just connect to FotoChute, press a button and the images begin streaming from your camera to the onboard 20-GB storage drive. When you're home from your vacation, you plug the FotoChute's disk into your computer and access it like any other hard drive, downloading your photos with ease. It's a great concept and is well-executed in SmartDisk's FotoChute. Between $144.17 to $254.72.

KATA RAIN COVER

The ultimate gift for the die-hard photographer is a tool that takes care of their gear when they don't have the sense to come in out of the rain. The Kata E-702's clear plastic cover keeps rain out while allowing the photographer to see all his controls and the all-important LCD. Black sleeves allow access to be constrained with drawstring and toggle locks. The combo can even be mounted on a tripod for extra stability.

For prosumer digicams, Kata also makes the E-690, though it's somewhat harder to find. Search sites like B&H (http://bhphotovideo.com) for Kata E-690.

SEARCH!

We could go on, but of course there's the entire Internet to mine.

Tripods. Still the best way to get sharp images in low light or any time; even if they don't know it, everyone needs a tripod.

Accessory Lenses. Many cameras accept either wide-angle or telephoto accessory lenses to extend the camera's capabilities. These usually also require an adapter, so make sure before you buy. Of course here, you'll need to find out what make and model of camera they have before you do anything else. This one requires some research, but the gift will be well-received, as almost no one buys one of these for themselves.

Cases. Knowing the camera's size is important here, to get just the right case.

Waterproof Cases. Is your target a watersports aficionado? Most small cameras these days can take a waterproof case. There's nothing much cooler or unexpected, than giving their existing camera underwater capability; and it's cheaper than a boat.

Lens Cleaning Kit. Much neglected these days, keeping a clean lens will always result in better pictures and they don't usually cost more than $20.

Photo Printers. We can recommend just about anything from Canon, Epson and HP, priced anywhere from $80 to $500. Price most often dictates quality.

That's it for now. If we run across more great ideas and bargains, we'll be updating the online version of this guide (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/GIFT/holiday05/guide.htm) accordingly. Happy Holidays from all of us here at Imaging Resource, your best source for digital camera news and reviews. If you have questions or comments, please email us.

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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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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 EOS 20D "share your pictures" Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9ad5e

Visit the Olympus Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f783

Adrian asks about the differences between the Maxxum 5D and the 7D at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea0cca/0

Readers ask for help choosing the "best" digital camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea0c28/0

Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae

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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: dSLRs With AAs

Please inform JV Brown that the Nikon D100 also takes AAs in its add-on grip. It's very handy to be able to buy batteries in the field when there's no recharging power to be had. Keep up the great fun ;)

-- Dan

All Pentax *ist-D dSLRs take AAs.

-- Arthur Bleich

(Thanks, guys! -- Editor)

RE: Photographer's Vest

We have been satisfied with two options. My wife found a fishing vest on sale (they're not exactly cheap either) which has a lot of cool pockets. I am using a contractor's vest sold by Duluth Trading, which has deeper pockets and works pretty well also. Duluth Trading (http://www.duluthtrading.com) also makes clothing out of fire hose, which must be durable. If one goes for form/function instead of the "Photographer's Vest" genre, then any specialty shop, police, fire, contractor, etc., can have a "fitting" solution.

-- Harry M Kachline

(Great idea, Harry! -- Editor)

RE: Card Reader

I purchased an Olympus 1-GB card as I was going on a trip to California and wanted the large capacity for tons of images. Prior to leaving I tested it in my Lexar reader and much to my surprise it would not read it. I contacted Lexar who advised they would update my reader and instructed how to return. To make a long story shorter, after receiving it back and 16 subsequent emails I am back where I started.

You gave me good advice, buy an Oly xD MAUSB 300, which I did and it's great. Thanks for your advice and keep the good info coming.

-- John

(We can't really think of any reason the Olympus card wouldn't work in the Lexar reader -- and neither can Lexar, apparently. Glad the Olympus reader saved the day. -- Editor)

RE: Print or Blog

I found your statement about printing to be very compelling. (Then again I've always liked your reviews and especially your op-ed pieces.)

I discovered that I print far less when I have a photoblog.

Lately I discovered I could convert my photos to a DVD with music (and play that in the background at parties). This is a big jump (in convenience and cost) over the proverbial slide show we used to have in the 1950s and '60s.

Lastly, I wrote the book Digital Photo Journal. In this I project another avenue for people. Selecting your most "meaningful" picture to journal about and typically post on a blog or even email or perhaps print.

-- Martin Kimeldorf

(Ah, a blog! We like that idea, Martin. There are quite a few very nice photo blogs on the Web. We'll have to highlight a few of them in an upcoming issue (and review your book, too)! -- Editor)

RE: Best Lens?

Need advice on buying a lens for my D350. Should I opt for the Canon 28-200mm or the Tamaron/Sigma 28-300mm?

-- Siddharth

(Well, Siddharth, that's a good question for our new site SLRgear.com (http://www.slrgear.com). You can compare how each performs throughout its range and decide for yourself what you can live with. Pretty cool! -- Editor)

RE: Thanks

I don't want to bog down your emails but I just had to let you know how much your newsletter has meant to me and I'm sure many other readers. Though I don't often buy products directly from your links, I do use them for researching a product and then buy it from a local distributor. I just prefer having local service and/or being able to see the product first hand. Some such purchases include two digital cameras, a movie camera, a scanner and a new printer. I do order many of the software reviews on line since most let me try them with a demo first.

Just wanted to let you know that even if a reader doesn't show he/she is an active reader, we are still out here merrily buying products and bringing sales to your great publication. For me, I appreciate all the reviews and tips you send out and your Web site is the best in the field. Combined, they have made my purchases happy ones and my searches for yet better software easier. Your reporting is concise and reliable. YOU ARE APPRECIATED! Thank you and keep up the good work.

-- Robert Perreault

(Thanks, Robert! Every click helps the site and your kind words are very much appreciated here. We're grateful for readers like you! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Digital Domain (http://www.ddisoftware.com) has released its $49.95 Qimage v2006.200 [W] with features that make batch printing and processing easier. The new Instaview feature can instantly preview thumbnails from the new 3D thumbnail grid, preview prints on the preview page and preview file names in the queue. The new Print Proofs feature allows printing of watermarked photos for client review. And the simplified Send-via-Email command lets you select a few thumbnails, right click to select Send-via-Email and choose a size/resolution.


DxO Labs (http://store.dxo.com) has released DxO Optics Pro 3.5 automatic image quality enhancement software. The new version incorporates DxO Optics Engine v2, improvements to DxO's Lens Softness removal capabilities and preserves up to 40 percent more image area when eliminating geometric distortion. Other improvements include an enhanced user interface as well as dramatically increased batch processing speed on multi-processor computers.


O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published Peter Krogh's $34.95 The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers, providing a solid plan, practical advice, and a workable system for filing, finding, protecting, and re-using photographs in 304 pages.


Fantasea (http://www.fantasea.com) has released its $999 Fantasea FD-50 camera housing for the Nikon D50 dSLR camera and its $280 FSB800 flash housing for the Nikon SB800 flash, providing underwater protection to 200 feet.


Phanfare Photo (http://www.phanfare.com) has released a new version of Phanfare Photo for the Mac that fixes several bugs and improves performance.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) has announced the release of Fernando Escovar's $39.95 instructional DVD Photographing Cars 1.0. Two other DVDs are scheduled for release early next year: Photographing Swimwear in February and Aerial Action in April.


Camera Bits (http://www.camerabits.com) has released its $150 Photo Mechanic 4.4 [MW], which can now embed and update IPTC and/or XMP metadata, supports XMP sidecar files, adds IPTC/XMP tools for updating existing archives of IPTC-captioned photos and more.


Belltech (http://www.belltechsystems.com) has released its $39.95 Greeting Card Designer 3.0 [W] to create greeting cards with your photos or other artwork and print them on your printer.


SmartKite (http://smartkite.com) has released its $24.95 SnipClik 1.0 [W] to resize, rotate or stamp your photos without leaving the application you're working in.


PhotoFiddle (http://www.photofiddle.com) offers one-week turnaround on customized photo artwork you design online using dozens of designs, finishes and collage templates.

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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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