The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 8, Number 1 6 January 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 166th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Join us for a look at a clever two-eyed digicam, a free photo school and the latest Olympus Stylus. Then we explore Bluetooth printing and even go shopping for a dSLR. A little something for everyone!


TOPICS

SPONSORS
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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: Kodak EasyShare V570 -- Two Lenses, One Digicam

By SHAWN BARNETT & DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/V570/V570A.HTM on the Web site.)

When you review the number of cameras we do, it's nice when something unique comes along. When it also actually answers a need, it's even better. Kodak's V570 is just such a surprise, from a company that offered plenty of surprises last year.

At first blush, the $399.95 V570 is just another small, stylish digicam with a 5.0-Mp sensor. Closer inspection reveals a 2.5-inch LCD screen in a slim, lightweight body and a retro design sensibility. It's when you power the camera up and that lens cover slices out of the way that the uniqueness is revealed. Two lenses! The glass on top is not just an artistically-placed optical viewfinder, it's another lens. Two folded optics, each with their own 5.0-Mp sensor. The top lens is wide-angle, fixed at 23mm and the bottom lens is a 39-117mm zoom.

Kodak has answered a need that has gone un-met in the point-and-shoot camera world: true wide-angle photography in a small space. Before the V570, the widest you could get in a small camera was 28mm in the larger Canon S60, S70 and S80. A 24mm lens was available elsewhere, but in only in a few, far larger cameras (including Kodak's own EasyShare P880).

The V570's 23mm is wider than we anticipated. But they didn't just make it wide, they compensated for at least some of its faults (barrel distortion) at the same time that they extended its ability to capture wide vistas with a surprisingly capable in-camera panorama mode. The pano feature has been most impressive. Though it is limited to three shots, it's capable of producing a big, 180 degree panorama, processed in the camera. With some care in capturing the shots, it does a very good job of stitching, eliminating the need to fiddle with images on a computer. Realtors will no doubt flock to this camera for its innate ability to capture more of a room than any other. The quick and simple panorama mode makes it even more compelling.

THE PROBLEM OF DUALITY

Many unique ideas come with unique problems though and the V570 is no exception. Before we go any further, the first thing you should do (after unpacking your new V570 and inserting the battery) is to turn off Digital Zoom. As we'll explain below, this will save you a lot of frustration and possibly very poor image quality when shooting at intermediate wide-angle focal lengths.

The top lens is the wide-angle lens, fixed at 23mm to help maintain optical quality and save space in the camera. It's very difficult to control distortion and optical artifacts in ultrawide zoom lenses and they tend to be quite bulky as well. Like most digicams, the V570 starts up at its widest angle, too wide for most people shots. You'll need to zoom in. The catch is that to make the smooth transition from 23mm to 39mm that people expect, that first bit of zoom has to be digital. Digital zoom means the 5.0-Mp image will be cropped and then sampled up, which always creates fuzzy images. For small amounts of digital zoom (say, to an equivalent focal length of 30mm or less), the image degradation won't be noticeable on 4x6 or possibly even 5x7 inch prints. Between 30-39mm (before the camera switches to its optical zoom lens) though, image quality progressively degrades and at 38mm or so, it's downright awful. No surprise really, the camera is cropping the sensor's image so much that it's only using 1.78 megapixels at that point.

Once you reach the top of the wide-angle digital zoom (marked red on the zoom indicator), the zooming stops. This is to allow you to decide whether you want to switch to the other lens. You must release the zoom button and press it again to switch to the 39-117mm lens and return to the world of true 5-Mp images. Honestly, it's a pain. Since we don't like digital zoom, we opt to turn it off on all cameras, including the V570. The idea that we're going to take lower quality images if we just zoom in a bit bothers us, so we prefer to just switch from 23mm to 39mm in a single jump. You still have to release and press again to go from 39mm to 23mm, but that's probably good to keep you from slipping into ultra-wide by accident and the delay in doing so is minimal.

Another important fact about the 23mm ultrawide lens is that it doesn't change its focus. That makes for faster shot-to-shot times at full wide-angle, as well as in digital zoom mode under 39mm, but it is always a compromise. Kodak is depending on this fixed-focus lens's great depth of field to keep everything in focus. According to the camera's specs, the 23mm lens should render subjects in focus at distances from 31.5 inches to infinity. This seemed to work for the most part, but we felt that a lot of our closer-range shots captured with the 23mm lens were less sharp than similar ones from the zoom lens at 39mm. The one careful comparison that we did with the same subject framed similarly with both lenses actually gave a slight edge in sharpness to the 23mm, but that was for a subject 20-30 feet away from the camera. We'll try to compare the performance of the 23mm and zoom lenses more closely when we write our full review of the V570.

Again, we don't think these issues are deal-breakers, but the V570's operating mode is different and prospective buyers should be aware of the difference. More to the point, the 39-117mm lens is actually a 3x optical zoom lens and the camera covers the advertised 5x range between 23 and 117mm with either one sizeable jump at the low end or a smooth ramp there, but employing varying degrees of digital zoom. It's unfortunate Kodak chose to bill the V570 as a 5x zoom camera rather than as the 3x-zoom-plus-ultrawide-lens that it is. Calling it a 5x zoom will leave a lot of people dissatisfied with its performance over the range from roughly 30-39mm, because consumers these days pretty well expect the "x" rating of a camera to refer only to optical zoom capability. It would be a shame if people are turned off by the confusing labeling, because the camera really does offer some unique capabilities.

SHOOTING WITH THE V570

Startup time is a little slower than we've been seeing from some competing models these days, but shutter lag figures are right in line with the rest of the market. The best lag numbers are naturally turned in by the non-focusing 23mm mode, averaging a somewhat variable fifth of a second (quite fast indeed). In the optical zoom mode, the shutter lag goes up to 0.3 and 0.5 second for wide and telephoto settings respectively. Not terrible, about average in a market where most are getting a little faster.

In use, shutter lag is not the noticeable impediment to getting good shots. It's the slow digital zoom. Since the camera always starts up at 23mm, you always have to step through the very slow digital zoom to get to the 39mm "real" lens for better composition and higher quality. Quickly composing a shot of kids is difficult when your zoom can't keep up with their rapid changes.

Kodak would do well to release a firmware update that allows users to set the 3x zoom lens as the default startup lens, because this would place the camera in its fastest mode and allow the user to zoom in or out. Starting with the highest optical quality by default would make the V570 much easier to use. Alternatively, just turn off Digital Zoom. This will let the camera jump very quickly between 23 and 39mm.

It's also important to note that the ultrawide lens can only focus as close as 31 inches. That's not too close, so you have to actually zoom out of UW mode to be able to use Macro or Landscape Scene modes. Yet another reason to start out with the 3x lens instead of the ultrawide.

Another quirk we didn't like was how the camera behaved between shots. We like an image review mode, but we prefer the camera abandon the review when we've pressed the shutter or started to zoom. The Kodak V570 does the former, but not the latter. If you press the Zoom toggle immediately after snapping a shot, the camera will zoom without showing how far, which is frustrating when it zooms too far. You can sidestep this by lightly tapping the shutter button to kill the review mode, but really, the camera should be smarter than that.

Image quality-wise, the V570 captured excellent color, but the images were softer than we expect from a 5-Mp sensor. Its "practical resolution" (what you actually see in prints) is closer to that of a 3- or 4-Mp model. Its noise-suppression algorithms are also prone to obscuring fine detail, particularly when contrast is low. All digicams do this to some degree, but we noticed it more in the V570.

PANOS

Shooting panoramas is so easy and fun with the V570, we found ourselves doing quite a few. In panorama mode, the camera shows you a small rectangular crop of the previous exposure to act as a guide in lining up the next shot. If you keep the camera straight and level and rotate it around the center of its body, this works quite well. Or use a tripod. The V570's tripod socket is just a millimeter or two off the centerline of both lenses, which is close enough to perfect centering to produce excellent panoramas. You do have to be fairly accurate when lining up the images or else you will find a seam or duplicated elements where the camera stitched the images together. But it's still quick enough we could see ourselves creating more than a few panoramas to show when we wanted something more dramatic than a snapshot. And at the risk of mentioning it once too often, this camera should be an absolute slam-dunk for realtors.

In other respects, the V570 resembles other digicams of this kind. It has a stack of Scene modes that address some important settings that not all do, like Sports, Children (in bright light), Snow and Beach, for a total of 19 Scene modes. Like the V550 before, the V570 also has an excellent MPEG4 video mode that takes good quality, compact videos. And a Favorites mode allows you to pick photos that you want to carry around with you (via software on the computer) and upload them to the camera.

CONCLUSION

Our recommendation is if you need a very wide-angle lens frequently, by all means give the V570 a look. It has good image quality for what it does and will give you that room-grabbing view when you really need it. Turning off the digital zoom will keep you sane and sticking with the pure optical zoom will keep your pictures crisp. If you're just looking at the V570 as an all-around 5x point-and-shoot without regard for its ultrawide-angle capability though, you might want to consider a different design with a single optical zoom lens spanning the entire range. Not to disparage the V570 though. It offers an absolutely unique set of capabilities for shooting at ultrawide focal lengths and making in-camera panoramas, a combination available nowhere else in the market. It's just that novice point-and-shoot users who aren't savvy enough to disable its default digital zoom option are likely to become frustrated with it.

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Feature: Going Back to Photo School

Ever wonder why pro photographers use a white umbrella to light certain shots? Or how they decide when to use a gold reflector instead of a white one? Or how they get that shadowless illumination on small objects?

Well, wonder no more. Imaging Resource has partnered with Photoflex to present the Web Photo School, an ongoing series of lessons to explain exactly those kinds of things. The lessons cover three different general topics: Camera Lessons, Photo Lessons and Product Lessons.

Each lesson at the Web Photo School provides clearly written text with copious illustrations so you can see each step and the results of every operation, including before and after comparisons.

From time to time, new lessons are added, so it's always worth visiting http://ir.webphotoschool.com to see what's new. Most recently, a set of Product Lessons have been added to demonstrate how to use Photoflex's new First Studio line.

Here's a list of the current offerings:

CAMERA LESSONS

Learn how to set specific camera functions to get great photos. The Canon EOS Rebel is used to demonstrate concepts that apply to digital cameras generally.

PHOTO LESSONS

Pros know lighting makes the photo and the Web Photo School reveals a few essential techniques using Photoflex products to make it easy.

PRODUCT LESSONS

In this set of lessons, the Web Photo School explores how to use a variety of Photoflex lighting gear to solve common problems.

ABOUT PHOTOFLEX

The products featured in the lessons are designed by Photoflex, a lighting products company run by photographers. In 1998 the company created a subsidiary enterprise, the Web Photo School, to offer easy, step-by-step online lessons for photographers of all skill levels.

The birth of Photoflex stems from the day in 1985 when Gene Kester was setting up to photograph a cover for Architectural Digest in a dining room overlooking San Francisco bay. A rod in a commercially made softbox broke as he and his partner positioned the softbox above a beautiful table laid out with classic silver and china. The two commercial photographers replaced the rod, but the new one also broke. Reluctantly they turned to a softbox Kester had constructed out of foam core and aluminum sheet metal, held together with duct tape. As they raised the homemade softbox over the expensive set, they prayed that it wouldn't break.

Although Kester avoided disaster for this assignment, he felt increasingly frustrated with the softbox options then available. He turned to Scott Reeves, an old friend from their days in the ski industry who manufactured fiberglass rods. Working with Kester's design, Reeves created a collapsible rectangular softbox with extruded, fiberglass rods easily superior to the hollow rods of other softboxes.

Kester liked the new softbox and asked Reeves to make a few more to outfit his San Francisco studio and a set for location work. Reeves replied that a minimum of 100 would be necessary for production of the softbox to be feasible financially. Kester gulped but placed the order.

A few weeks later he took the softboxes to a small photography trade show in San Francisco. The innovative new product sold out within two hours. The owner of a major retail store offered to display more at his shop and another 100 sold quickly. A sales rep who saw them at the store said a rep group to which he belonged could sell even more. It did.

Even though he'd developed a commercial photography clientele that included Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Macy's and Bullock's, Kester literally saw the light. He sold his interest in the studio to his partner and teamed up with Reeves to start Photoflex.

Some time ago, we reviewed Photoflex's Basic Digital Lighting Kit (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/PHF/PHF.HTM), the first product Photoflex designed for digital photographers and plan to review more Photoflex gear this year. But no matter whose gear you use, spending a few minutes at the IR-Web Photo School will make you a better photographer.

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Feature: Olympus Stylus 600 -- Weatherproof, 24 Scenes & Help Mode

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OS600/OS6A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

The Olympus Stylus 600 Digital features a 6.0-megapixel CCD, 3x lens, an all-weather body design and compact size. It also introduces an innovative help system that should inspire its competitors. While it lacks both sound recording and an optical viewfinder, it does provide a large and bright 2.5-inch LCD monitor to compose images. Like other Stylus Digital models, the fully automatic system requires very little user intervention and has only a handful of creative options, but has the benefits of 24 preset Scene modes, including a QuickTime Movie mode. The all-weather body can withstand water spray from any direction, but isn't meant to be fully submerged in water. Still, rubber seals and a separate plastic chassis inside the metal body provide excellent protection against water splashes and rain. As long as you keep it from getting completely submerged, you needn't worry about taking this camera to the beach, on ski trips, sailing trips, etc.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

The $299 Stylus 600 retains the large, 2.5-inch LCD monitor and automatic sliding lens cover of the Stylus 500, but bumps its sensor resolution up to six megapixels. While it lacks the 500's sound recording, the camera's even trimmer, more compact dimensions are perfectly suited for shirt pockets and small purses. And the all-weather body means you can take it just about anywhere. Although the camera cannot be submerged in water, it can withstand light rain and water spray without damage. The included wrist strap is handy when shooting over a boat rail or while riding on a ski lift, but I'd recommend picking up a soft case to protect the Stylus 600's attractive body panels from scratches.

The Stylus 600's metal body is one key to its all-weather rating, equivalent to IEC standard publication 529 IPX4 (which essentially means it can withstand water splashed from any direction). Inside the metal body, a plastic chassis provides the first level of protection against the elements. Rubber seals around compartment doors and even the lens mechanism also help prevent any leakage. Because the camera is so tightly sealed, Olympus designed an airflow control system to prevent the camera from overheating or building up air pressure from the zooming lens. The all-weather design is an impressive feature on a digital camera, making it rugged enough to withstand much abuse -- from the weather or even a mischievous kid with a squirt gun. Water is anathema to most digital cameras, leaving me worried whenever I'm out shooting in even a slight drizzle. While the Stylus 600 isn't by any means an "industrial grade" digital camera, it's comforting to know that random splashes of water and puffs of dust won't send it to an early grave.

The Stylus 600 features a 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera). Maximum aperture ranges from f3.1 to f5.2, depending on the zoom setting. The Stylus 600 employs an efficient contrast-detection autofocus system, with focus ranging from 1.7 feet to infinity in normal mode. A Macro setting focuses as close as 0.8 feet and works across the camera's entire zoom range, which is not often the case. There's also a Super Macro option that gets as close as 2.8 inches, for real close-in shooting. By default, the camera uses an iESP autofocus area setting, which automatically sets the focus based on the subject's proximity to a range of AF points around the center of the image area. Through the Record menu, you can opt for a Spot AF setting, which will instead base focus only on the very center of the frame. In addition to its 3x optical zoom, the Stylus 600 also offers 5x Digital Zoom. Keep in mind though, that digital zoom simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD and thus results in lower image quality. The 6.0-Mp CCD produces high-resolution images, good enough for prints up to 11x14 inches with good detail and sharpness, as well as lower-resolution images for sending via email or for printing 5x7- and 4x6-inch prints.

Missing on the Stylus 600 is any kind of Mode dial. Instead, the camera relies on small buttons to toggle between Program Auto and Scene modes or switch to Playback mode. But the button concept proves its worth with the new Guide button. Hold in the Guide button and the screen displays a context sensitive help message. With the Olympus Stylus 600, you're never lost and don't have to remember what everything means. Just press the Guide button.

For composing images, the Stylus 600 offers only the 2.5-inch TFT color LCD monitor, which features a very bright and clear display. I'm not a particular fan of cameras without optical viewfinders, but the viewfinder on the Stylus 600 is better in some respects than many. Unlike many LCDs, the one on the Olympus Stylus 600 remains pretty visible in strong sunlight, although there are times you simply can't see what it's showing you. Under low light conditions though, the Stylus 600's LCD screen goes dark at light levels a good bit above those that the camera can actually shoot at, making me wish for an optical viewfinder in those situations. The LCD monitor provides a limited exposure-information display (shutter speed and aperture aren't reported), though a histogram option is available for checking the exposure graphically. In Playback mode, the LCD monitor provides image enlargement and an index display.

Exposure control on the Stylus 600 is uncomplicated and straightforward, as is the case with most of Olympus' consumer-oriented digital cameras. The camera operates under automatic exposure control at all times, but offers a wide selection of preset Scene modes for specific shooting situations. Unlike some digital cameras, the Stylus 600 doesn't report the exposure values it's selected on-screen. Most of the exposure options are controlled through the multi-page LCD menu system, which is fairly simple to navigate. An initial shortcut menu screen pops up before entering the main Record menu, offering quick-access options for the camera's White Balance, Image Size and ISO or you can choose to just enter the main Record menu itself. The camera automatically determines aperture and shutter speed (from 1/1000 to 1/2 second in most modes and a maximum of four seconds in Night Scene mode), but Exposure Compensation (to lighten or darken the image), ISO (the camera's sensitivity to light), White Balance (to adjust the color), Metering (to read light from the whole frame or just the center) and Flash modes are all user-adjustable. The Olympus Stylus 600's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill and Off modes.

Program Auto is the default Shooting mode, but Scene mode (accessed by pressing the Shooting mode button -- there is no Mode dial on this camera) offers Portrait, Landscape, Landscape+Portrait, Night Scene, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select1, Shoot & Select2, Beach & Snow, Under Water Wide1, Under Water Wide2, Under Water Macro and Reducing Blur. Each mode on the Olympus Stylus 600 sets up the camera for specific shooting situations and a concise explanation of each mode appears on the LCD screen as you scroll through. Most of the preset modes are fairly self-explanatory, as they handle very distinct situations. However, the Shoot & Select modes deserve some explanation. Both take a sequence of shots but Shoot & Select 1 locks focus on the first frame (great for faces) while Shoot & Select 2 adjusts focus for each frame (better for sports and action shots). When you've finished the sequence, the images are displayed so you can delete the unwanted ones.

Other camera features include a Self-Timer mode, which provides a 12-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the image is actually captured. A Sequential Shooting mode lets you capture a rapid series of up to 12 images as fast as 4.3 frames per second at 1600x1200, while holding down the Shutter button. Actual frame rates and the total number of images will depend on the image size and quality settings, as well as the amount of available space on the memory card, but the burst length is limited to about five shots in large/fine mode. As with many Olympus cameras, a Panorama mode is available on the Stylus 600 when using Olympus brand xD-Picture Card storage cards (but not cards from third parties) and records as many as 10 consecutive images to blend into one panoramic image. The camera's Movie mode captures moving images without sound, at either 640x480, 320x240 or 160x120 pixels, at 15 frames per second. Maximum recording time depends on the resolution and available memory space. The camera's Playback menu offers a nice range of effects to choose from, including sepia tone or black-and-white color options and lets you add a Frame and Title, too. You can also resize images to a smaller resolution more suitable for email. Another interesting feature on the Stylus 600 is the ability to save images in groups or albums. You can save as many as 12 albums, each containing a maximum of 200 images. The Album option in the Playback menu accesses saved albums, letting you select one for playback.

The Olympus Stylus 600 stores images on xD-Picture Cards, but does not ship with one. It does have 7.9-MB internal memory, but you'll want to get a card along with the camera so you don't miss any important shots. Large capacity xD Picture cards are available up to 1-GB and I suggest buying at least a 128-MB xD-Picture Card. A CD-ROM loaded with Olympus' Camedia Master software accompanies the camera, compatible with both Windows and Macintosh platforms (including Windows XP and Mac OS X). Camedia Master provides minor image editing tools and the ability to "stitch" together multiple images shot in panorama mode, as well as utilities for organizing images. A second CD-ROM holds the Stylus 600's more advanced instruction manual, which is more detailed than the basic manual that's included in book form. For power, the camera uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack and comes with a charger. For backup, I'd recommend picking up a spare battery pack and keeping it charged at all times, especially considering the large LCD monitor and lack of an optical viewfinder. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such as transferring images to a computer. Also included with the Olympus Stylus 600 is an AV cable for connecting to a television set and a USB cable for connecting the camera to your computer to transfer images.

Test Results: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OS600/OS6A.HTM#specs

CONCLUSION

As the latest in that company's Stylus line of compact digital cameras, the 6-Mp, 3x-zoom Stylus 600 is to my mind one of the best Stylus Digital models to date. Its body design is trim and compact, with a button-based interface simpler than that found on 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 big, beautiful 2.5-inch LCD monitor to view your photos on. While the LCD on the Stylus 600 does much better than average in bright sunlight and offers a wider than average viewing angle, I do wish that Olympus had kept an optical viewfinder for low light shooting. That quibble aside, the Olympus Stylus 600 is a very capable, highly portable point-and-shoot camera, with good image quality, a better than average lens and a unique help system that won't leave you stranded. Its point-and-shoot simplicity and 24 preset Scene modes make it easy for even novice users to bring home great-looking photos. Another Dave's Pick for Olympus!

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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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Beginners Flash: Bluetooth Printing

King Harald Bluetooth, legend has it, united the malcontents of his day in Norway, Sweden and Denmark (only to be usurped by his son Sven). The old Dane lent his name to the personal wireless technology that was designed to do the same for peripherals (mice, keyboards, headsets, printers) in several applications (like computing, communications and other markets). The Bluetooth logo, in fact, combines the runic alphabetic characters H, which looks like an asterisk, and B -- the King's initials.

As a personal wireless technology, Bluetooth wasn't designed to move big files over long distances like WiFi. Its range for the more common Class B power devices is about 33 feet (room size, that is) and its speed is fine for small bursts of data, but sluggish when transmitting big files like 6-Mp image files. On the horizon, however, Bluetooth 2.0 promises to be up to 10 times faster than version 1.2 in certain applications and generally three times faster.

So while you find Bluetooth on your laptop and your PDA and your cell phone, you don't find it (well, with rare exception) on your digicam. But we were surprised to find it in a couple of Kodak EasyShare 4x6 dye sub printers we reviewed recently (the Printer Dock Plus Series 3 at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/ES3P/ES3P.HTM and the Photo Printer 500 at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/ES500/ES500.HTM).

How, we wondered, do you use it?

Two ways immediately occurred to us. First, to transmit images from your Bluetooth laptop to your Bluetooth printer, avoiding the USB cable. Second, to print cell phone images directly from your phone. In either case, the game's the same.

First, you have to set up the Bluetooth connection, much as you might connect a cable between two devices you want to talk to each other.

The EasyShare printer's Bluetooth setup is easy. You just plug it in. By default, Bluetooth is on, although you can turn it off by pressing the Bluetooth button on the front of the EasyShare printer. Hold the button down a few seconds to keep it off.

The phone wasn't much harder, particularly since we'd already set it up to use a headset, so we knew the drill:

But that's all setup. Once you've registered a few devices with your phone, you just have to make sure Bluetooth is running and the devices are powered on. Your phone looks for them on the Bluetooth channel when it needs to connect to them and you're in business.

So how do you print a picture?

The details differ from phone to phone but the script is similar:

There's no print menu or even a Print command on most phones, so adjusting things like number of copies or page size isn't easy. But the EasyShare printers have a button to print one-up, two-up, four-up or nine-up on a 4x6 sheet. A VGA camphone with 640x480 pixels prints at full resolution in the four-up setting.

If you enable Bluetooth printing from your laptop, of course, you get the full printer dialogs you usually use. Only the cable is missing.

A 50K cell phone image transmits pretty quickly, of course. With the quality you'd expect of a 50K image. But it's kind of fun to instantly publish a few casual photos, commonly known as Snapshots. They were named after Duke Snapshot of Rochester who knew how to make things click. Ah, you're smiling, where's the phone?

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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:

Follow the Aperture Diary discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea137d/0

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

A user asks about the meaning of SLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea1392/0

Chris asks about choosing a camera for action shots at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea15a8/0

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

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Just for Fun: We Go Camera Shopping

We succumbed to our sister-in-law's half nelson. Sure, we'd help her pick out a new dSLR. Before Christmas. Honest.

Finally, she let go.

The first rule to observe as her consultant was simple. We knew her old SLR was a Canon. So she was going to buy a Canon.

The second trick was harder. Seem knowledgeable.

As far as pricing goes, it was no problem to seem knowledgeable. Nobody really discounts dSLRs. They're too popular.

But, we explained, if she ordered online she'd avoid sales tax (that's $8.50 for every $100 here) and could even get free shipping. Of course, that would take some time.

She didn't have time. What she has is two kids, a husband who can make himself disappear and a job that takes her out of town every month. She knew the three local retailers she felt comfortable doing business with. And as soon as we walked by one, she did that half nelson thing again and steered me in.

"I don't even know which counter to go to," she confessed as she released me. I reassembled my wardrobe and told her to keep walking. The good stuff was always in the back. That way, by the time any would-be thief could get back to the front door, the warranty would have run out.

We scanned the display case and, more importantly, the shelves behind the counter while the salesman finished helping some other desperate customer.

They had the Canon Rebel XT, the Nikon D50, the Konica Minolta 5D (whoops, sold out) and the Olympus E-VOLT E-500 with a spectacular two-lens bundle under $900.

"Can I help you?" the pleasant sales fellow offered. We explained we were interested in looking at a dSLR. Particularly, the Rebel and the D50. Naturally, he pointed out the Olympus. And when we expressed some interest in the 5D, he confessed he didn't have one. Well, fine, we said, let's see the Rebel and the D50.

He helpfully pointed out the inferiority of the least expensive options and what great things would happen in the world if we only upgraded to a better this or that. Our sister-in-law hazarded the observation that she hated the red-eye she couldn't avoid with her point-and-shoot and that prompted our man to jump a full display case away to the off-camera strobes. Actually, we pointed out, she isn't going to need much range. Most of her flash shots are within 15 feet.

He was dispirited by our remark, but regained his nerve when I pointed out that what appealed to us about the 5D was the image stabilization built into the body. A little image stabilization goes a long way -- like two or three stops. So you can handhold in dimmer light than you think.

He didn't have the 5D, but he had a terrific IS lens for the Rebel: the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM lens, equivalent to a 27-136mm 35mm zoom. With a metal mount, full-time manual focus, three-stop image stabilization and fast autofocus, it was a bargain bundled with the Rebel, if bargains can be said to come with commas. There was even a nice instant rebate.

She tried it.

It's range was good enough that she really wouldn't be switching to another lens much, if ever. But being able to change lenses is only one advantage of a dSLR. She'd be rid of the red-eye and, more importantly, she'd have a much more responsive camera. No shutter lag to speak of. And with this fast focusing lens, she was already experiencing that responsiveness.

She bought it.

And a few indispensable accessories, too, we might add. A fast 1-GB CompactFlash card. A camera bag. And most indispensably, a 67mm UV filter to protect that expensive lens.

"Think she wants the extended warranty?" the salesman hazarded. No, no, no, we hastened to explain. She's using one of those credit cards that doubles the manufacturer's warranty. And she just bought a bunch of accessories, pal.

Sticker Shock? Sure. Buyer's Remorse. Instant. But as soon as she started using the camera, she experienced Unfettered Delight. Suddenly the 4x6 printer that had been sitting idle for a year was going through ink cartridges like a kid with juice boxes. She was back into photography, with an enthusiasm and aptitude she never showed for anything else except, maybe, pro wrestling.

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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: Dust Inside a Lens

I bought a Canon 28-135 zoom lens with image stabilizer about a year ago to use with my Canon 10D. Shortly after getting it, I noticed dust spots on my images. I figured I wasn't cleaning the lens enough, but eventually looked into the lens itself. I can see dust on the glass between the glass layers. How can this be and can I get it fixed? While this lens was not extremely expensive, it wasn't cheap.

-- Lynn McClune

(We agree you shouldn't have dust inside the lens. Call Canon about that, certainly. But <g>, dust inside the lens wouldn't be focused at the sensor plane. So if you actually see spots on the image, it may be that the glass covering the sensor on the 10D needs cleaning. Dave recommends the Copper Hill kit and we did write a short piece on sensor cleaning a few issues ago (it's more frightening than difficult). Hope that helps! -- Editor)

RE: New Format

Just read your review of the Canon A610. Your reviews have always been my favorite, they fuel window-shopping dreams! I noticed the new format and that just made a great thing greater. Excellent work!

-- Cindy

(Thanks, Cindy! Shawn and Dave worked hard on the new format to illustrate the test results so you can now see what we're talking about. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was the occasion for a number of camera announcements. As always, you can get the details from our daily news coverage (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM). Here's a brief round-up:

Sony unveiled its 6-Mp Cyber-shot DSC-S600 and its hybrid Cyber-shot M2. Sanyo announced its Xacti VPC-HD1. Kodak introduced its 6-Mp, 10x zoom EasyShare Z650 and two new C-Series digicams. Fujifilm announced the FinePix V10 with Real Photo technology to control noise, the FinePix F470 and two new A-Series digicams. Pentax unveiled its 8-Mp Optio A10 with image stabilization and its Optio E10. Hewlett-Packard introduced seven new digicams, ranging from five to eight megapixels with fixed and 3x optical zooms. Panasonic launched three new Lumix digicams, led by the 5-Mp Lumix DC Vario with a stabilized 3x zoom.


Kodak (http://www.Kodak.com/go/easysharesw) updated its free EasyShare software to version 5.2. The new version introduces an enhanced Favorites feature and a Quick Print function.


At Macworld Expo in San Francisco next week, Belkin (http://www.belkin.com) will be showing its CableFree USB Hub, the world's first four-port wireless USB hub. Available in early spring, the high speed hub requires no software. Gefen (http://www.gefen.com) showed its Wireless USB Extender at CES, which also uses Freescale Semiconductor's Ultra-Wideband technology.


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has updated the Macintosh version of its Phanfare Photo application. New features include iPhoto import, automatic updating of the software, export originals, red-eye and other transforms.


Boinx (http://www.boinx.com) has released its $79 FotoMagico 1.5 Beta [M] with 10 new transitions, screen selection, set slide duration to audio and export improvements.


Bibble Labs (http://www.bibblelabs.com) has released Bibble 4.5 [MW], its Raw workflow software supporting close to 70 dSLR and prosumer cameras. The update includes support for the Nikon D200, as well as the Olympus E-VOLT E-500, SP310, SP350, Sp500UZ, Pentax *ist-DS2 and Sony DSC-R1.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has updated its $30 GraphicConverter [M] to version 5.7.4, adding print preview, ratings, batch dither, scroll wheel tool size modification, merge movies frames into an image 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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