|Volume 8, Number 3||3 February 2006|
Welcome to the 168th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Raves about the Nikon D200 have been tempered by an unusual artifact that Dave analyzes with his penetrating forensic skills. Sony's latest slim digicam with a big LCD adds image stabilization, the hottest feature on the planet. Then we expand our advice about buying a bigger memory card before introducing an unusual visitor. Don't miss it!
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By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D200/D200A.HTM on the Web site.)
In his Nikon 200 User Report (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D200/D200A.HTM), Senior Editor Shawn Barnett alluded to one qualifier in his otherwise high praise of the Nikon D200. The issue has to do with what has been called "banding" by various users who've encountered it, but which I choose to call the "corduroy effect." The term "banding" has been commonly applied to quantization effects in images (also called posterization), a very different phenomena from what we're seeing in the D200. With the D200, the effect most often manifests as alternating light and dark streaks extending on either side of significantly overexposed objects against medium-dark backgrounds. The streaks are oriented across the narrow dimension of the frame and are two pixels wide.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about discussing this issue. The effect only occurs under a specific and very limited set of exposure conditions and many D200s on the market in fact may not show the effect at all. By devoting as much coverage to it as we are, we may be making a bigger deal of it than it deserves. Bottom line though, while it may be a non-issue for many photographers, we felt it important to let our readers know as precisely as possible the range of conditions under which the problem may occur, so everyone can (a) decide for themselves whether it would be an issue relative to their own tastes, shooting style and typical subjects and (b) know how to trigger it in their own cameras, so they can determine to what extent it manifests or not in their particular units.
As I write this, Nikon is looking very closely at the images we've sent them to determine what's going on and what might be done about it, but we haven't yet heard their reaction. We'll of course pass along to our readers anything we hear from Nikon.
WHEN IT HAPPENS
Keeping in mind the forgoing caution that this may be more molehill than mountain, here's what we currently know about the effect and the very specific conditions under which it occurs:
The subject of our test shots is a compact fluorescent bulb in the stairwell going down to our test studio. The camera was focused on an edge of the bulb from a distance of about eight feet. The color temperature of the bulb measured 3100K on my Minolta color meter. Just in case it matters to anyone, the bulb in question is a Panasonic EFG23E28 23-watt globe light.
- It is very ISO-dependent, invisible (in the two cameras we've seen at least) at ISO 100, becoming more prominent up to about ISO 400 and then diminishing again at higher ISO levels.
- It is most commonly triggered by a moderately-sized area of significant overexposure (more than 1.5 to 2.0 stops beyond the level that produces luminance values of 255). Small catchlights don't seem to trigger it. More extreme overexposures (more than about 5 stops beyond being blown out) don't seem to trigger it either.
- There needs to be a dark but not totally black area immediately adjacent to the overexposed area. We found it most easily in areas with luminance levels between about 40 and 120.
- There needs to be a fairly crisp, abrupt edge between the overexposed region and adjacent darker area.
- The effect is much more visible in images processed from NEF files through Nikon Capture 4 than in images captured as in-camera JPEGs.
- There's quite a range of variation between cameras. Some show it, others don't, even under "worst case" conditions.
- In at least one instance we've seen on the Internet, a faint pattern of alternating stripes covered the entire frame, even in areas far from any significant light overload. This was a night shot with a fairly long exposure, but we don't know the specifics of the exposure. Thus far, this appears to be a relatively rare occurrence.
- There may be some sensitivity to the color of the light and type of light source. We've seen the problem manifest with both strobes and compact fluorescent lights, but weren't as successful at triggering it with ordinary incandescent lighting. Pointing the camera at the sun (or a strong reflection of it) also didn't produce the effect. Most cases that we observed involved very yellow-hued highlights, but we can't say conclusively that it might not occur with other colors as well.
As I noted above, the scope of the effect can vary quite a lot from camera to camera. The first sample of the D200 we received (serial number 0014) showed it to a much lesser extent than did a second sample (serial number 8487).
The effect seems to require a significant overexposure across a noticeable area. In the example shots, the exposure parameters were about 2.5 stops up from the level that would have just blown out the bulb and the globe of the light bulb covered about 510 pixels vertically in the area from which the crop was taken. We began seeing the effect at an exposure level 1.5 stops up from the beginning of saturation, but not at levels lower than that. Interestingly, with very strong overexposure (somewhere around 5 stops past being blown out), the effect virtually disappeared. We also didn't find any evidence of it in specular highlights in portrait subjects' eyes from studio flash units.
As I also noted, the effect is very dependent on ISO. At ISO 100, neither camera we tested showed the effect under any shooting conditions we threw at it. As we increased the ISO, the effect appeared and became more prominent, until about ISO 400. Continuing to increase the ISO beyond that point significantly reduced the effect, most likely due to the more aggressive action of the camera's high-ISO noise reduction.
The samples we shot represent a somewhat artificial example. It's useful because it clearly illustrates the problem with a very well-controlled and repeatable subject. But what about a more typical shooting condition, with catchlights on a real subject?
To explore this, Shawn shot a few photos of his daughter Anna holding one of her beauty-pageant trophies with his studio strobes. We figured that this would be a good example of the very common situation where a specular surface in the scene reflects a catchlight image of the light source directly back into the lens. And before everyone points it out, no, you probably wouldn't ever be shooting portraits at ISO 400 under studio strobes. The idea here was simply to shoot a more natural subject with a good range of tonal values and varying patterns of light and dark.
Without tweaking the exposure or sharpening, the effect is visible but only if you know what to look for. Here, we can see a slight streaking in the folds of the trophy figurine's dress. The streaks from the larger of the two highlights on the figurine's sash cover a smaller area, but are a bit easier to see. No streaking at all can be found from the smaller highlights in Anna's eyes.
As you might expect, boosting exposure accentuates the effect and sharpening makes the edges of the artifacts more visible on-screen. This version of the image was processed from the same NEF, but with an exposure boost of +0.43 EV and Medium-High sharpening applied.
The effect can appear in "normal" subjects containing specular highlights, provided that the camera in question is one that's manifesting the behavior and that you're shooting at ISO 400. I'll add my standard admonishment here about the importance of actually printing images to evaluate them, rather than just squinting at things at 200 percent on a CRT. When we printed these shots on our Canon i9900 "reference" printer, the striations weren't really visible until we hit a print size of 13x19 inches. There, they could be picked out fairly easily by a trained eye, but the average person viewing the print would probably be able to see them only if they were explicitly pointed out. I couldn't see them at all until I was squinting at the image from a distance of about eight inches -- not exactly the typical viewing conditions for a 13x19 inch print.
Each prospective user will have to decide for themselves whether this is an issue or not. I'm sure there will be (even more) heated debate on this topic across the Internet in the weeks/months to come. Some will claim that all of the above is just an absurd level of nit-picking, while others will consider it a critical flaw.
Even between Shawn and I, there's a difference of opinion. For my own shooting, I'd be perfectly content with a camera like serial number 8487, although knowing that a few of my shots might show miniscule artifacts would probably bother the perfectionist side of me. Even though the chance of seeing this in any of my shots would probably be well under 0.01 percent. If I had a camera like serial number 0014, I'd not give it the slightest thought. Shawn maintains that either camera would bother him if he'd just spent $1,700 for it.
I don't dare say whether the majority of users would feel as either I or Shawn do, but will note that our experience has been that you really have to go looking for the phenomena to see it and have to shoot at just the right ISO and lighting conditions to trigger it at all.
WHAT CAUSES IT
What is it about the Nikon D200 that produces this artifact?
To clock the data off the array fast enough to produce its five frames/second full-resolution shooting speed, the D200's sensor engineers went with a design that reads out the data from both sides of the array simultaneously. Alternating pairs of columns of pixels are read out from side A or side B of the array.
Under normal exposure conditions, both sets of readout circuitry are very well matched, producing a seamless final image. Under conditions of extreme light overload though, either the sense amps are slow to recover after the overload or a there's small loss of charge transfer inefficiency (or some second-order effect involving the clamping circuitry that prevents charge blooming).
Regardless of the precise cause, a severe light overload can affect nearby pixels in the same column, as the data is clocked across the array to be read out. Darker pixels following a large number of overloaded ones will be rendered as slightly lighter. If all the pixels were read out in the same direction, there'd be a slight smearing of the highlight on one side, but the effect would probably be slight enough that most users would dismiss it as lens flare of some sort.
On the D200 though, because alternating pairs of columns are read out in opposite directions, pixels subject to the smearing effect are seen right next to pixels being read out in the opposite direction that haven't been affected by a light overload. The result is the pattern of alternating stripes that we've seen above.
Can it be fixed in firmware?
Only Nikon will know the ultimate answer to this. At this point, all we know is that they're investigating the issue. From our end, any speculation would be inappropriate. What we think should be trivial to do might prove to be impossible or (just as easily) vice versa.
The relatively minor (in my view) issue of the "corduroy" streaking aside, the Nikon D200 is simply a fantastic camera to shoot with and its other image-quality parameters are absolutely first-rate. We'll have our usual in-depth review with detailed image analysis posted soon, but the early results suggest Nikon has come up with another real winner. There's a lot of sophistication in the D200's operation and available controls that just aren't available in the market at less than twice its price. We see professionals flocking to the D200 as a much more affordable alternative to the D2x that gives up very little in the way of image quality or capability. For the really serious amateurs, this is simply the camera to buy, at least at this particular moment in the market. To our eyes, it's another clear home run for Nikon.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T9/T9A.HTM on the Web site.)
Sony cameras offer excellent features and performance, good build quality and great picture quality. Sony currently offers no fewer than nine distinct lines of cameras, spanning an incredible range of features, price and performance. In their compact line, they've now added a new 6-megapixel model that builds on the success of the preceding T models and adds a new Steady Shot mode to counter camera shake. With a 3x optical zoom lens, compact design and very generous 2.5-inch LCD screen, the new Sony DSC-T9 is about the thickness of a ladies' compact and very pocket friendly. Automatic exposure control offers point-and-shoot ease, with a handful of scene modes for more difficult shooting situations.
Modeled in the same sleek style as preceding Sony Cyber-shot T-series models, the $449.99 Sony T9 is ultra thin and compact, like a small makeup case. The camera's thin profile is chic and attractive, with smooth panels and very few protrusions. A horizontal sliding lens cover is a unique twist on the typical lens cover design and doubles as a finger rest when open. The T9 has a vertical lens design with a folded optic, which eliminates any lens protrusion on the front panel. With its diminutive size, the T9T9 is definitely pocket friendly and travel-worthy. The biggest feature on the T9 is its large, 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, which takes up most of the camera's rear panel. Though small and ultimately a point-and-shoot style digital camera, the T9 doesn't skimp on features, offering a 3x optical zoom lens with a range of focus options, a 6.0-megapixel CCD for high-resolution images, Steady shot image stabilization and a host of preset shooting modes and exposure options.
The Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 3x, 6.3-19.0mm lens is equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera. Normal focus ranges from approximately 1.6 feet to infinity, with a Macro setting that lets you get within 3.1 inches at wide-angle. A Magnifying Glass scene mode (described below) gets even closer, focusing as close as one centimeter (though it also uses digital zoom to enlarge detail). In addition to automatic focus control, the T9 offers a range of fixed focus settings, as well as Center AF, Spot AF and Multi AF focus area options. You can also select Single or Monitoring AF modes. An AF illuminator lamp on the front of the camera helps focus at low light levels, a very handy feature I wish more digicam manufacturers would add to their cameras. In addition to the camera's 3x optical zoom, the T9 offers a maximum of 2x Precision Digital Zoom. Sony's Precision Digital Zoom does an excellent job of minimizing loss of quality. There's also an option to use Sony's Smart Zoom digital zoom up to 4x, which enlarges images with less distortion than the traditional digital zoom (not available at the max resolution setting). Still, true optical zoom is always preferable for the best quality, as digital zoom simply enlarges the center portion of the CCD, resulting in lower resolution and softer detail. Also built into the T9 is Sony's Steady Shot technology, which reduces blurring caused by slight camera movement. The 2.5-inch LCD monitor is the only viewfinder and the generous size definitely helps with framing. The informative display reports a variety of camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed when the Shutter button is halfway pressed) and features a live histogram display in both Playback and Record modes. The Display button also controls the LCD backlight, offering bright and normal display options.
Exposure is automatically controlled on the T9, great for novices and casual users looking for simplicity. However, a range of preset Scene modes is available, as well as a handful of adjustable exposure options. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on (as does the sliding lens cover) and a Mode switch selects between Playback, Record and Movie modes. Within Record mode, you can select Automatic, Program AE, Magnifying Glass, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Candle, Soft Snap, Landscape, High Speed Shutter, Beach, Snow and Fireworks exposure modes. The Automatic setting takes away all user control, with the exception of flash, macro and resolution. Program AE mode keeps exposure control automatic, but you now have control over all other exposure variables. Both Twilight modes optimize the camera for low-light shooting by allowing shutter times as long as two seconds, while Soft Snap mode enhances skin tones and softens the subject slightly for flattering portraits. Landscape mode sets the camera up for shooting broad vistas. Snow mode enhances saturation to prevent loss of color in bright white snowscapes, while Beach mode ensures that blue tones are recorded accurately in lakeside or seaside photos. Fireworks mode preserves color by using a slower shutter speed to capture the full display. High Speed Shutter mode is best for moving subjects and uses faster shutter speeds to freeze action, while Candle mode preserves color in candlelight and soft incandescent lighting. Finally, Magnifying Glass mode magnifies the subject on the LCD display up to 3x (a separate function from Macro mode), focusing on subjects as close as one centimeter. However, keep in mind that this mode also employs the digital zoom function, which may degrade image quality slightly.
Although the T9 controls aperture and shutter speed, it does report both settings on the LCD, so you have an idea of what the exposure will be. By default, the camera uses a Multi metering system to determine the exposure, which takes readings from throughout the frame. However, Spot and Center metering modes are also available through the Record menu. You can increase or decrease the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents and sensitivity is adjustable to 80, 100, 200, 400 or 640, with an Auto setting as well. At slower shutter speeds or higher ISO settings, the T9 automatically enables a Noise Reduction system to eliminate excess image noise. The T9 offers Saturation, Sharpness and Contrast adjustments, as well as a Picture Effects setting that lets you record images in black and white or sepia monotones. White Balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent and Flash modes. In Full Auto, Program and Magnifying Glass mode only Auto and Flash white balance settings are available. The flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, Red-Eye Reduction and Slow-Sync modes.
In Movie exposure mode, the T9 captures either 640x480- or 160x112-pixel resolution moving images with sound for as long as the memory card has available storage space. At 640x480, you can choose between Standard and Fine quality options. Standard records at 16 frames per second, while Fine records at 30 fps and requires Memory Stick PRO Duo media. Multi Burst mode captures an extremely rapid 16-frame burst of images, at a selectable rate of 7.5, 15 or 30 fps. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images in it when viewed on a computer. (This is a useful tool for analyzing golf and tennis swings.) The same menu option also offers Exposure Bracketing and Burst options. Exposure Bracketing mode captures a series of three images at different exposure settings and you can set the exposure variance step size. Burst mode works like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera, capturing up to nine images in quick succession at the highest resolution. Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time the T9 actually takes the picture, giving you time to get into the picture.
The T9 stores images on its 58-MB internal memory or on Sony Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo memory cards, available separately as large as 2-GB. Since the camera doesn't come with a Memory Stick, I recommend purchasing a larger capacity card so you don't miss any shots. New to the T9 is an expanded slide show option in Playback mode, which lets you load music onto the camera to accompany slide shows, as well as choose slide show styles (such as Nostalgic, for example). For power, the T9 uses a single NP-FT1 Info-Lithium battery pack, which accompanies the camera, along with the necessary charger. An included multi-use USB/AV cable comes with the camera and connects the camera either to a computer or television. A software CD is loaded with Sony's Picture Package and Music Transfer software (for slide show accompaniment) and USB drivers, for downloading and organizing images.
Test Results: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T9/T9A.HTM#test
Arguably the best model yet in Sony's diminutive Cyber-shot T series, the Sony DSC-T9 delivers good picture quality and a great feature set in a rugged, super-compact all-metal body. The 6.0-Mp CCD is an nice feature in a camera this small and the large LCD monitor is quite impressive as well. The T9 showed good image quality, with good color and high resolution. Its image sharpness and noise levels aren't quite up to the level of the best full-sized 6.0-Mp cameras out there, but they're very good for a subcompact model. Relative to competing full-sized digicams, the T9 does have rather limited low-light capability and marginal flash power, but that's somewhat to be expected in a camera of this size. It's flexible exposure modes and features give the camera the versatility to handle most common shooting situations with aplomb. The camera's light weight and portable size are perfect for travel. New features such as the Steady Shot option and the ability to download music for slide shows are interesting additions to the T-series as well, increasing the T9's value and usefulness. Overall, the T9 is an excellent option for busy consumers looking for a tiny digital camera that performs very well as a point-and-shoot.
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:
- Reviewed: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T9/T9A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix P2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPP2/CPP2A.HTM)
- First Look: Olympus EVOLT E-330 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E330/E330A.HTM)
- First Look: Nikon D200 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D200/D200A.HTM)
In every one of our camera reviews, we warn you that your new camera doesn't ship with enough storage to shoot the average birthday party. We typically recommend a 128-MB or 256-MB memory card and we urge you to buy it right away.
Easier said than done, however.
The problem was amply illustrated by Janet Kukec, who wrote to us recently about her difficulty buying a large CompactFlash card.
"I have a Nikon D70s and purchased the Peter iNova book (thanks for the discount, by the way) and Peter strongly recommends using a SanDisk Extreme card to utilize the D70s great speed. So I go to buy one at one of my usual spots (Best Buy, Circuit City etc.). Nobody seems to have the Extreme card in anything but 512-MB, I want to get a 1- or 2-GB version.
"However, the stores DO have tons of different Ultra II cards. The Ultra II cards say they're super fast and for the professional etc. And they seem to have the same data rates that I remembered reading regarding the Extreme cards. Of course the pimple-faced debutantes at the retail stores have no clue about the differences between these two cards.
"So, I called SanDisk and asked them. They said that they are basically the same card except that the Extreme is more durable and it also includes free data-recovery software. After asking me what megapixel my camera was, he also said that I should get the Extreme and not the Extreme III, because Extreme III wouldn't work in my camera.
"So what card should I get for my Nikon D70?"
Let's distill this. The convenience stores generally don't stock anything over 512-MB (because they don't sell quickly). The types they stock are often not the fastest (because they do sell quickly) and often obscure brands. There's some confusion about what features are worth spending extra cash for (because nobody can explain the benefits).
Note, too, that we started talking about a mere 128-MB card and ended up looking for a 2-GB card.
That's because your card will outlast your camera. We have a stack of cards to prove it. Each new camera craved a bigger and faster card than the smart buy we arranged for our previous wonder. Video capabilities particularly cry out for fast cards.
But to find a top end card like the SanDisk Extreme, Lexar Pro or Kingston Ultimate, you have to shop on the Web. Visit our Flash Memory page (http://imaging-resource.pricegrabber.com/search_attrib.php/page_id=152) to compare prices. You'll find the difference between last year's top model and this year's isn't much.
For example, the Extreme III handles severe temperature (-13 to 185 degrees F) and does read/write faster (20-MB/second vs. the Ultra II's 10-MB/sec read and 9-MB/sec write). Two factors that are not very significant (today), we'd say.
The III also includes data recovery software. That's nice, but in a pinch (which is what data recovery always is) we prefer Photorescue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM) because it can recover from all sorts of things the other guys never thought of. But something is better than nothing.
Cooler logo on the III, too.
But does the III function in the D70s? SanDisk lists the Extreme III on their D70s compatibility page (http://www.SanDisk.com/Compatibility/Device(2776%29-Nikon-D70s.aspx). If Janet had called again, she'd probably have gotten a different answer.
So, check the manufacturer's Web site for compatibility with your current camera and order the fastest, highest capacity card you can afford online -- so your next camera can live with it, too. You may not live happily every after, but you'll stave off disappointment longer.
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about the Nikon Coolpix 8800 at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee9b16a
Visit the Sony Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6f789
Read about the EasyShare photo printer 500 at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eea13b2/0
A user asks about rapid picture taking and printing at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eea19c4/0
Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6b2ae
"What's your favorite thing about San Francisco?" our niece asked when she was last here. We didn't really have to think about it. "The people who visit."
The other day we welcomed one of our most unusual guests. His name is Flat Stanley. He came in an orange clasp envelope, a cartoon of a young boy whose outstretched arms were folded into a hug so he would fit in the envelope.
There was a letter, too. After introducing himself, he explained that some first graders at Council Rock Primary School are reading Jeff Brown's books about him. The first explains that a bulletin board fell on him one day, flattening him. But he had some great adventures when he was flat before he was inflated back to normal size again.
Turns out there's a lot you can do when you're flat.
You can mail yourself all over the world and even hop the Shuttle into space. But mainly what you can do is teach youngsters about the world they live in. Because sooner or later, every Flat Stanley sent out from the classroom returns from their visit with a story to tell the class.
And those stories are often in pictures. Which is why you're reading about Flat Stanley here.
We plan to take our Flat Stanley everywhere we go for a week or two. And everywhere we go, our digicam goes. So Flat Stanley is going to be in a lot of pictures. We'll print 4x6s and send them back with Flat Stanley as a souvenir of his trip. And our great nephew Ollie can tell his classmates all about what's in the pictures because he was just here himself, visiting. He knows the place like the back of his hand.
The Flat Stanley Project (http://www.flatstanley.com) is free, with a wealth of online resources. The only expense is postage to send Flat Stanley out into the world. And you don't even have to name him Flat Stanley. He can be Flat Anybody. We don't even see why he can't be a she if you draw your own Ms. Flat Anybody. And Flat Anybody can really be Somebody with a digital print of the sending child's face pasted on. The kids can take their own pictures of themselves and print them out (saving labor costs <g>). They can even scan a drawing for Flat Stanley to make multiple printouts or email a Flat Stanley (which eliminates postage costs).
A great idea, we thought we'd pass around. Now where did Stan go? We were trying to talk him into becoming an intern here for a couple of weeks. We're way behind on our reviews....
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You can email us at [email protected]. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.
RE: Lightroom Beta
It's a tantalizing article you wrote about Adobe Lightroom, but I can't seem to find a download of the software for Windows.
-- Ron Light(Right, there isn't a Windows beta. Only a Mac beta. But it will be released cross-platform. Which is something to think about <g>. -- Editor)
RE: Battery Chargers
Take a look at the "energy" series of chargers by Ansmann (http://www.ansmann.de/en/index.htm?view=list&pr2id=11). Ansmann is a respected name in Germany when it comes to rechargeable batteries for industrial use. Their chargers are the best I've come across. The "energy" series is the most advanced with everything you need from automatic detection of NiMH or NiCd through correct charging power for any state, recalibration to independent docks.
I use two energy 16s for 12 AA/AAAs and one energy 4, which is always in my photo bag and is designed to be portable.
While most charger manufacturers now offer all the more intricate features to get the best from rechargeables, one thing I've only found with Ansmann: they can charge more than four batteries at a time. With today's high energy demands, digicams, remote controls, phones etc., we use a lot of batteries.
-- Dierk Haasis(Thanks, Dierk! -- Editor)
RE: The Perfect Camera
I'm considering buying a dSLR but have noticed lots of things online about the hassle of dust accumulating in the sensor area and how difficult and time-consuming it can be to deal with dust removal. I don't mind camera cleaning but the issue with dSLR's seems to be a bit out of hand, with the possible exception of the Olympus model that self-cleans dust. Have you done an article specifically on this issue?
It's too bad that, as far as I know, there's not a dSLR with (1) in-camera optical image stabilization and (2) a built-in sensor cleaning mechanism. If these were combined with hi-rez features etc., the result would approach a more perfected camera. It's frustrating to know that these key individual technologies exist but aren't aligned in an integrated product.
I was reading your newsletter review of the Panasonic Lumix FZ30 camera and I started thinking... hmmm, maybe a camera with a built-in lens (sealed, no dust) is a more practical approach, especially since it has optical image stabilization. I had considered the Konica-Minolta 5D because it also has optical image stabilization and because I have a set of Maxxum lenses from my Maxxum 9000 film SLR. But, thanks to your terrific newsletter, I learned that Konica-Minolta is withdrawing from the camera business, sooooo -- I'm not going to get a 5D.
-- Barry Schlosser(Cleaning a sensor isn't really that big a deal, Barry. Take a look at "We Clean a dSLR Sensor" in the Sept. 16 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Image stabilization seems to be the hot ticket now that everything that zooms is autofocus. As for a high-end digicam, except for the Sony R1, none of the all-in-ones use a sensor comparable in size to those in dSLRs. That's a significant issue, as Shawn discussed in "The Digicam or dSLR Decision" in our July 22 issue and on the site at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SLRvsDIGICAM/SLRA.HTM. -- Editor)
RE: Anything Is Possible
I'm doing something that I never thought I would be doing, but then again, I've heard anything is possible with the intervention of the Internet.
So, how does someone who believes they have the ability to be a editorial stock photographer, become one? How do I find out who is looking for what in this enterprise? How do I contact them?
-- Dan(This article is a little dated, but the problem hasn't changed much <g>: http://www.apogeephoto.com/may2000/career.shtml. There are a number of online services -- like Printroom (http://www.printroom.com) and ShutterPoint (http://www.shutterpoint.com/Home-Photographer.cfm) -- that can host your portfolio and help with sales and fulfillment, too. Good luck! -- Editor)
RE: Where's Gamma?
I have Elements 3.0. I wanted to check my monitor because some of my prints have started to look way too warm. Elements was supposed to load Gamma when I installed it on my computer. It is not there. I called Adobe for help and was referred to a chat room. I have never been on one of them and I could not figure out how to do it. I asked Google how to download Gamma. The references I found on Google all start by saying "to use Gamma that came with Elements do etc." I have looked at the Adobe download site and can find no reference on how I can obtain a Gamma. Can you help?
-- Robert Bowers(Sure, we can help. Adobe Gamma is a program that will let you adjust your monitor display, Robert. It is installed with Elements 3.0 as a control panel. If you don't see it among your control panels, the trick is to uninstall Elements and then reinstall it (there was a problem with the 3.0 install). It should then be correctly installed. But you might want to read our "Profiling Your Monitor" in the May 13 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). We recommend the free Monitor Calibration Wizard (http://www.majorgeeks.com/download3912.html). It may be a little easier to use. -- Editor)
Thanks for your newsletter. I was particularly interested in your latest camera review since I have just treated (?!!) myself to a Panasonic Lumix FZ30 and while I am sure it is a fine camera I am woefully unimpressed with the noise quality. I couldn't sleep while thinking about my new purchase and so got up to do a simple test. While it is nowhere near as sophisticated as the ones IR do I think it demonstrates the problem OK.
Attached are images taken at various resolutions and ISO Speeds of a black computer screen with white writing telling the speed and resolution details, all were taken on the FZ30, hand held without flash (I was too tired to get my tripod out!) with the exception of the ones that say film speed 125. These were taken on my trusty 1.3-Mp Fuji FinePix 1300. None of the images have been doctored in any way, they are straight out of the cameras. So much for technical advances eh?
-- Tony Sharp(Well, an 8-Mp sensor of that size does exhibit noise at ISO 200 and above no matter whose label is on the camera, Tony. The sensor sites are crowded together so tightly they inevitably produce electrical interference. To combat the inevitable, manufacturers provide a noise-suppression routine that smooths things out before storing the image on the card. Unfortunately, this trick can also rob the image of detail. If it's any comfort we had the same problem shooting at Macworld with a 5.1-Mp digicam. We used two tricks to help the images (reducing the image size for the Web report, which averages adjacent pixels and running Photoshop CS2's noise reduction filter). But ultimately, we preferred to shoot with a 3-Mp digicam at ISO 400. No noise. dSLRs use a larger sensor and can shoot higher ISO images without noise as a result. -- Editor)(A very important thing to remember when looking at noise in your images is that the noise will likely look a lot different in printed output than when viewed on-screen at 100 percent. Try printing a high-ISO image at 8x10 inches and then again at 5x7 inches. In the case of the FZ30, you may find its ISO 200 shots look just fine at 8x10, despite how noisy they look on-screen. At ISO 400, it will likely still look a little rough at 8x10 (still way better than on-screen), but probably fine at 5x7. High-resolution cameras have so many pixels that what looks like large-grained, objectionable noise on-sceen ends up covering a very small area of the page when printed. That's why we now routinely print test samples from every camera at various sizes on our Canon i9900 studio printer before making any judgements or comments about image noise. -- Dave)
The OpenRAW initiative (http://www.openraw.org) is conducting a survey of photographers about their experience with Raw imaging technology. The organization notes, "many photographers and archivists believe that camera manufacturers are making important decisions about Raw image technology with little or no input from the people who buy and use their equipment or who are involved in the preservation of photographic works. The OpenRAW survey will give photographers and other interested parties an opportunity to have a voice in the further development of Raw imaging technology."
Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has enhanced its online image server with 10 different songs for slide shows, Web search within albums, slide show pan and zoom, photo size limit increased to 20-MB from 10-MB, new Link-to-Page feature. Phanfare Photo, the local application for album creation and background image uploading, has also been updated to include a slide show music control and a default setting for pan and zoom slide show effects. The Mac version has been released as a Universal Binary.
Camera Bits (http://www.camerabits.com) has released Photo Mechanic 4.4.1 [MW], with a Universal Binary release for the Mac version.
Ben Long (http://www.completedigitalphotography.com) hs released his free Separate JPEGs Automator action to move JPEGs named the same as their Raw counterparts into a separate subfolder so both Raw and JPEG versions of the file can be imported into Aperture.
Rob Galbraith (ttp://www.robgalbraith.com) reports that Apple is soliciting sample Raw images from professional photographers. Send the original Raw image, a 16-bit TIFF version created with Aperture using just the default settings and a 16-bit Tiff version created with the Raw decoder of your choice, also using the defaults. Include any comments, info about the camera, computer and software. Pack all that in a single folder and upload it to privftp.apple.com with username "proappcustomer" and password "media."
Rob also has an interesting article on the new Carl Zeiss Nikon F-mount ZF and screw-mount ZS lens lines. He asked *20 questions" of Kornelius J. Mueller, Marketing Manager in the German company's Camera Lens Division and got 20 answers.
David Ekholm has updated his free JAlbum [LMW] (http://jalbum.net) Web-album generator, adding a server mode tool to create albums automatically whenever a change to the file system is detected, support for Photobox print orders and more.
Rune Lindman Development (http://www.qpict.net) has released a public beta of QPict 7 [M], with a file browser, expanded Raw support, native DNG support and more.
Mac:method (http://macmethod.com) has released two book design plug-ins for Aperture, Fade To Black and Snowblind, with 20 page layouts and over 50 additional CoreImage based filters for $20 each ($35 combined).
The Perfect Picture School of Photography (http://www.ppsop.com) has announced its spring course schedule is available online. Online classes begin March 31.
The Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (http://www.lacda.com) has announced its Top 40 juried competition for digital art and photography. Submit up to three JPEGs or original work in any style of 2D artwork or photography in which digital processes were integral to the work's creation for a $30 entry free by Feb. 26.
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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:
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher