The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 8, Number 4 17 February 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 169th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We run Microtek's affordable ScanMaker i800 through its paces before we slip the tiny Coolpix S3 into our pocket. Then we discover another classic for your digital imaging bookshelf, this one on working with Raw files. And finally we remind you to submit your Oscar nominations!


TOPICS

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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Microtek ScanMaker i800 -- A Scanner for Everyone

Microtek (http://www.microtek.com) announced its ScanMaker i800 at Photoshop World in Sept. 2005 and is just shipping a Pro version with upgraded software to read the included IT8 targets. We received an early review unit which sat by our side for a couple of months handling our routine scanning tasks.

It handled everything we threw at it -- line art, 35mm negatives, slides, prints -- rather effortlessly, regardless of which scanning application we favored at the moment. Not only is the i800 versatile, but it's also affordable at just $399.99 list.

What's affordable about $400 list? How about a Dmax of 4.0, 48-bit color and 9600x4800 dpi optical resolution on a legal-sized scanning bed with your choice of High-Speed USB 2.0 or FireWire ports?

Inexpensive flatbeds strain to get their Dmax (the maximum recordable density with 4.0 being very black) into the high threes, fine for the 2.0 dynamic range (Dmax minus the rarely stated Dmin) you need to scan reflective material. But slides can be up around 3.2 to no more than 4.0 (and negs a little less). Given a Dmin of around 0.3, let's say, anything less than a Dmax of 4.0 is going to have trouble capturing shadow detail in slides. For more about Dmax, see our April 15, 2005 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html).

An inexpensive flatbed may have an optical resolution as low as 1200-dpi (although the trend is upward). If you scan a 35mm film frame at that resolution, your maximum enlargement for a 300-dpi dye sub printer is 4x6. To get an 8x10, you have to be able to scan 2400 dpi. So the low number of the scanner's optical resolution should be a least 2400 for film. Which happens to be the current limit for 8.5-inch wide flatbeds. Manufacturers achieve resolutions greater than that by stacking CCDs at a half-pixel offset.

So the i800 brings the price of some heavy duty scanning features within range of those of us who don't scan images for a living. You can, we found, get very good results from it. See the full review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/MI8/MI8.HTM.

DESIGN

The solidly-built i800 is a conventional flatbed design. All scannable material sits on (and faces) a glass plate under which the CCD array tracks along the length of the scanner to make the image. Reflective material like a print is illuminated by a lamp in the scanner body. Transmissive material like a film negative or slide is illuminated by a lamp in the lid. The lid, by the way, stays up all by itself when you lift it up -- a feature that impressed everyone who saw it.

Power is supplied by an AC adapter brick. And both High-Speed USB and FireWire 400 ports are provided at the back of the unit, where a rather large cable connects the lid to the scanner body.

The front panel sports a number of buttons (a light touch does it) enabled by the Microtek Scanner Configuration utility software installed with ScanMaker 5.

INSTALLATION

A nice, clear, easy-to-follow poster accompanies the i800. Finding a spot for the long narrow scanner may be your biggest problem. The power brick and AC cord need a three-prong plug. Both USB and FireWire cables are provided to connect to your computer. High-speed USB, which is what we used, connected to a Belkin High-speed USB hub.

Three CDs are included, an Elements install and two ScanMaker installs (Standard and Pro) with a feature comparison checklist so you can decide which you want to use. We rather think the Pro version should have all the features of the Standard version, but that's not how it works. Only the Standard version pays any attention to the scanner's buttons.

Microtek's Jerry Jusek told us "the Pro version is a major upgrade of our existing ScanWizard and is available via free download as an upgrade for existing Microtek ScanWizard Pro users." Units shipped after our review unit also include LaserSofts's Silverfast SE scanning application.

The installation CDs also contain Ulead Photo Explorer and ABBYY FineReader OCR software for Mac OS 9 or Windows only. But the support site has a 35-MB download of FineReader that installs as a plug-in for ScanMaker 5 on OS X.

As with any flatbed, you have to unlock the imaging unit before you can use it. In this case, the lock is a red slide in the back corner.

And because the i800 has a transparent media adapter (the scanner lid) with a moving rather than fixed light source (to provide even, consistent illumination), you have to unlock that as well with the small slide switch near the hinge.

Part of any scanner install here is calibrating and profiling the device. But, unlike the i900 or the i800 Pro, the i800 does not include either IT8 targets for calibration or calibration options in software. Instead, the unit uses a default profile. That's better than nothing and if, like us, you want to roll your own, you can just order the i800 Pro.

SMART-TOUCH BUTTONS

We're not great fans of scanner buttons. While they are intended to make access to the scanner's features simple, they rely on specific software (a printer driver, an email application, etc.) that's once removed from the hardware itself.

In addition to the Power button, there are seven Smart-Touch buttons:

  1. Digital ICE: Interestingly enough, the button-activated version addresses physical defects (like scratches, rips and tears) of prints. To handle defects in film and transparencies, you enable ICE in software.

  2. Scan: Captures an image to a file or an application for further processing.

  3. Copy: Behaves much like a photocopier, scanning whatever is on the scanner bed and sending it immediately to your printer through your computer. Unlike an all-in-once device, however, this depends on installing a printer driver.

  4. Email: Opens the scanned image in your email editor.

  5. OCR: Converts a scanned image of text into ASCII text, saving retyping.

  6. PDF: Saves the scanned image as an Adobe Portable Document that can be viewed with Adobe Reader software.

  7. Custom: You can assign one of four common functions to this button: Power Saving (which turns the lamp off to prolong its life), Scan (a second Scan button with alternate settings), Fax (to launch a Fax driver on your computer) and Launch Application (to select an application to open the scanned image).

EZ-LOCK FILM HOLDERS

The film holders that ship with the i800 precisely align 35mm filmstrips, 4x5 film and 120 film on the flatbed where software can find each frame during batch scanning. Since you can load four strips of 35mm film, each with six frames, that's more than a small convenience. Film is loaded emulsion up.

The film holders for 120 and 4x5 film feature spring-actuated tension grips which hold the film perfectly flat during scanning for edge-to-edge sharpness. Curled film is a common scan problem for film this size, so it's big news to see it so deftly handled (and at this price, too).

You can also scan film up to 8x12 on the flatbed using a small Film Alignment Ruler that includes a clear calibration strip to help crop the image.

Using the film holders is simple enough, but spend a minute with the manual to see how to align the images (facing the glass) and lock them into the various holders.

To scan, you first have to remove the black mat that usually provides a background to reflective scanning. Simply slide the mat to the side away from the lid lock and lift it out. It's a little confusing until you realize there are plastic "springs" that hold it in place. The film holders then slip into the frame vacated by the mat.

Each of the film holders has a calibration strip at the front end of the holder (where the scanning starts, that is). Even without a holder, the Film Alignment Ruler includes a calibration strip.

We asked Jerry what the strip does. "The basic process of the calibration is to adjust for lack of uniformity in the light source and CCD elements. Of course, the lamp intensity is not uniform from edge to edge and all CCD elements are not identical, particularly in regards to noise."

We also asked about the 35mm strip holder. We had a little trouble with ours, which is a different design from the one used in the i900. The i800 holder carries twice as many strips but they are held in place by a long flexible flap on the top side of the strip. You should just be able to slip a film strip into the slot formed by the plastic holder and the flexible flap, but we found it took some effort. And when we tried to remove our film strip, it was stuck.

After removing the film, we were able to loosen the grip by running a thick sheet of paper into the slot and leaving it for an hour or two, but we recommend testing your holder for this before using it with your precious film.

OPERATION

We used SilverFast to do our dirty work since VueScan could not find the scanner on the USB bus.

Our first task was to scan a 30 year old negative in ScanMaker Pro (which knew about the film holder). We had no problem with that at all. The software did have the Kodak emulsion in its database to our delight and the resulting print looked like we'd taken the image yesterday when compared to the original, slightly faded print, which we'd kept out of the light all these years.

Our second task was to scan a road map for our lucky Cousin on his way to Italy. Our ancestral home is not on many maps, but we happened to have one that showed the road to the place, anyway. This is simply colored line art. Again, the scanner delivered excellent reproduction, this time in SilverFast.

Our third task was a nasty little problem we've never been able to solve: a print made on linen textured paper. This was pretty popular 20 years ago before the glossy print became the standard. Our test print is pretty bad: bad exposure from the small automatic camera, poor printing and that linen paper. It's also pretty old. But it's an image with a lot of sentimental value to us. So we're always looking for some way to retrieve it from the indignities it has suffered. SilverFast again did very well with it, minimizing the linen texture (if not eliminating it).

Task Four was, like the map, a scan of colored line art, this time Flat Stanley (http://www.flatstanley.com). The black mat made it impossible to see Stanley's cartoon outline, so we laid a piece of white paper over him before scanning. He'd been colored in markers, which translated into a bit more intense colors.

Our final task was scanning a few slides. This is where you can see the Dmax in action. All three of our samples have lots of detail in the shadows and the i800 managed to hang on to most of it. Again, we saw the oversaturation (particularly in the park shot) but that's easily corrected. Any of these scans would make an exceptional print.

CONCLUSION

The i800 has the resolution, bit-depth and Dmax to handle 35mm negatives and slides, prints and a variety of other scanning jobs without breaking a sweat. We applaud the inclusion of both High-Speed USB and FireWire ports. And we're happy to see a variety of EZ-Lock film holders, too (although we hope the 35mm filmstrip holder is not as troublesome as ours).

We're less impressed with front panel buttons than we might be, we suppose. But what really worries us is the inability to calibrate and profile this device. Fortunately, Microtek answers that quibble with the Pro version. But in that case, we'd quibble a bit more about the transparency adapter, a standard configuration certainly, but it does require you to scan film through glass. Again, Microtek has an answer (but it's about $100 for every answer, if you're counting): the i900.

So where does that put the i800? As one of the best scanners we've seen for someone who does not want to be bothered with calibration and profiling, who just wants the durned thing to work. And who happens to have a lot of things to scan, too -- film, slides, prints. And wouldn't at all mind if they could just press a button to do it! In that sense, the limitation we've noted are actually features. Fortunately, the box itself has the horsepower to deliver.

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Feature: Nikon Coolpix S3 -- Take It Anywhere

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPS3/CPS3A.HTM on the Web site.)

INTRODUCTION

The new Nikon Coolpix S3 is the company's third digital camera in a small, slim package, following the S1 and S2. The S3 has a larger 2.5 inch LCD and a slightly larger sensor, too.

Feature-wise, both the S3 and S1 fall somewhere between the recent Coolpix 5600 and 5900. Physically, however, the Nikon S3 is compact and extremely pocketable. Its 6.0-megapixel sensor can capture high resolution images and its 3x zoom lens gives you the focal length flexibility you need to frame your subjects well. All told, it's an excellent "take-everywhere" digicam that can handle just about any situation.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Slim and light, the $429.95 Nikon Coolpix S3 ranks among the smallest digicams on the market. A camera that can nearly be eclipsed by an ordinary credit card, it's designed to fit nicely into shirt pockets, pants pockets and small purses. It's so tiny (4.9 ounces with the battery and memory card loaded), I recommend keeping the included wrist strap securely around your wrist when shooting. The automatic lens cover makes it quick on the draw and eliminates any worry about losing a lens cap. The black body is smooth, attractive and simple. Built into the S3 is a 3x optical zoom lens with ED glass (Extra-low Dispersion describes the special glass used in Nikon's finer lens elements to improve optical performance) and a 6.0-Mp CCD for capturing high quality images, a macro mode capable of focusing as close 1.6 inches and no fewer than 16 preset shooting modes.

The S3 has no optical viewfinder, just a 2.5-inch color LCD monitor. The 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (a 35-105mm 35mm equivalent) offers maximum apertures from f3.0 to f5.4, depending on the zoom setting and is made up of 12 elements in 10 groups. The camera uses contrast-detection autofocus in normal mode, which ranges from 1.0 feet to infinity. Auto Multi-point AF selects the closest object, though it doesn't report more than an AF confirmation dot. In Macro mode, the camera focuses as close as 1.6 inches and automatically switches to continuous AF mode, focusing constantly when the Shutter button is not half-pressed. In addition to its 3x optical zoom, the S3 offers a maximum 4x digital zoom, which lets you crop even tighter (equivalent to a 420mm lens on 35mm camera). Keep in mind that digital zoom simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD, resulting in lower image quality. The 6.0-Mp CCD produces high-resolution images, good enough for printing to 11x14 inches with good detail, as well as lower-resolution images for sending via email or printing as 4x6-inch snapshots.

Like other entry-level Coolpix digicams, the S3's exposure control is straightforward. Operating mainly under automatic control, the S3's user interface is easy to learn. Most exposure options are controlled through the multi-page LCD menu system, although a handful of external controls access basic features. A Mode switch offers three options: Auto, Scene and Movie. The Framing Assist modes are optional in Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Night Portrait modes under Scene Mode, each offering a range of framing scenarios. For example, under Portrait mode, you can set up the framing for a centered single subject, a single subject off to the right or left, a close-up portrait, two subjects positioned side-by-side and a figure shot with the camera held in portrait rather than landscape orientation. Once a setup is chosen, faint yellow subject outlines appear in the LCD monitor to help you line up the shot for the best focus and exposure. Face-priority AF is another option under portrait, where the camera analyses the scene and puts a square around each face it sees, choosing to focus on the face closest to the camera. Sports mode offers enhanced options for capturing fast-paced action, such as a rapid fire mode that captures 16 tiny images in two seconds to form a single 4x4 image mosaic. The S3's other Scene modes are Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close Up, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy, Backlight, Panorama Assist, Underwater and Voice Recording. Each scene mode sets multiple camera options to configure it for the specific type of subject and shooting condition chosen. In Voice Recording mode, you can get about 4 hours 27 minutes of audio on a 128-MB card.

Though no exposure mode allows you to control the aperture or shutter speed directly, the exposure compensation adjustment can be set from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments. Shutter speeds range from 1/350 to two seconds. A White Balance adjustment offers five preset modes, an Auto setting and a Custom setting. The S3 uses a 256-Segment Matrix metering system to determine exposure, evaluating the contrast and brightness across the frame. ISO light sensitivity can be adjusted to 50, 100, 200 or 400 equivalents or Auto. You can also use Nikon's Best Shot Selector mode, which automatically chooses the least blurry image in a series shot while the Shutter button remains pressed. Best Shot Selector is one of my all-time favorite digital camera features.

The built-in flash is effective from about one to 8.2 feet depending on the zoom setting. I found it only marginally usable at 8 feet and ISO 100 with the lens set toward its telephoto position. Very limited flash range is an unfortunate tradeoff of tiny camera bodies. There just isn't enough room for a large flash capacitor. Flash modes include Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Anytime (Fill) Flash, Flash Cancel and Slow Sync. An option in many modes, Slow Sync combines the flash with slower shutter speeds, letting more of the ambient light into the exposure, making for brighter, more natural-looking night shots.

Most digicams today have special red-eye reduction flash modes, which pop the flash (or blink a bright LED) a few times before the shot itself, to make the pupils of your subject's eyes contract a little. The S3 goes quite a bit beyond the simple pre-flash red-eye reduction approach though, incorporating special software inside the camera that can detect and remove red-eye before saving the image to the memory card. The S3's system does indeed seem to remove red-eye very well when it's enabled, vs. when it's disabled and the post-processing did not seem to take an appreciable amount of time.

The S3 features Nikon's innovative D-Lighting option (also available on other Coolpix digicams). This Playback-mode option could be thought of as virtual fill-flash, in that it brightens shadow areas. There are a couple of important differences between D-Lighting and on-camera flash though. First and foremost, it brightens all the shadowed areas in the image, regardless of how far they were from the camera (that is, there's no light falloff as you'd have with a flash). Secondly, this is a post-capture option, one that makes a copy of the image with the D-Lighting effect applied, so your original image is undisturbed. On the downside, a third key factor with D-Lighting is that it will make image noise more apparent in the areas it has brightened.

Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and when the image is actually captured. Continuous Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images while the Shutter button is held down, with the actual number of images dependent on the size and quality settings, as well as the amount of memory card space. Multi-Shot 16 mode captures 16 thumbnail images in sequence, arranged in rows of four within a full-sized image. Movie mode offers four options: TV Movie 640 (640x480, 15 fps), Small size 320 (320x240 pixels, 15 fps) and Smaller Size 160 (160x120, 15 fps), plus Time-lapse movie mode (up to 1,900 still at specified intervals). The actual length of recording time depends only on the amount of available SD card space (there is no arbitrary limit set by the size of the S3's internal buffer memory) and appears in the LCD monitor.

The S3 uses SD memory cards, but none is included in the U.S. retail package. There's enough onboard memory, however, to hold about 10 "full resolution pictures," according to the box. I strongly recommend picking up at least a 128-MB to 256-MB memory card. Images are saved in JPEG format, with three compression levels available. A CD-ROM loaded with Picture Project software [MW] accompanies the camera. The camera also comes with a slim EN-EL8 lithium-ion battery and a charger. The S3 has good battery life for a subcompact, but at 190 frames, you'll definitely want to bring the charger for extended outings. The optional AC adapter uses a dummy battery that slides into the battery compartment. Also included is a video cable for connecting to a television set for slide shows and a USB cable for downloading images to a computer.

Test Results: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPS3/CPS3A.HTM#specs

CONCLUSION

The Coolpix S3 packs a lot of features into its small case. Its build is solid, with no creaks and has a pleasant heft but it shares some common limitations with other tiny subcompact models, like limited battery life and a tendency to produce soft corners in its images. But the S3 delivers very bright, snappy-looking photos with vibrant, hue-accurate color and good detail for making large prints. As a take-anywhere pocket camera, the S3 performs very well and will make its owner very happy with their purchase. The Nikon Coolpix S3 is a nice subcompact digicam, worthy to be chosen as a Dave's Pick.

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New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

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Book Bag: Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2

Make a little more room on your Classics of Digital Imaging bookshelf for Bruce Fraser's Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2. It's the "real world" part that persuaded us to stick our nose in this book. We've examined other Camera Raw titles only to be disappointed by the step-by-step instruction that was more trees than forest.

Fraser has a different agenda. He wants to teach you to fish. Not with a rod and reel, but with Raw files, Bridge, Camera Raw and Photoshop -- and techniques he's honed over the years. We picked up the book after our review of Lightroom and in the midst of our Aperture Diary, two products designed to obliterate the Bridge-based workflow. But whether you prefer Lightroom to Bridge or Aperture to either, Fraser's approach to Raw processing is classic.

You'd think we'd be bored stiff with another presentation on the pixel and the 16-bit channel. But this is a "real world" discussion. Fraser tells you why you shouldn't underexpose a Raw file to save the highlights by explaining the nature of a sensor's linear capture of photons. And then he tackles the limitations of highlight recovery in Camera Raw. "With digital," he says, "you need to turn the old rule upside down -- you need to expose for the highlights, and develop for the shadows!"

It doesn't hurt that he knows a good deal about the inner workings of both Camera Raw and Photoshop. Exactly how, for example, Camera Raw recovers highlights. But he only tells you what you need to know to make an exposure you can work with. He's never more interesting than relevant.

But getting a good Raw exposure is just the beginning of this engaging work of nine chapters plus a Preface.

Digital Camera Raw explains the grayscale nature of sensor data, the effect of linear capture on exposure, the control over what variables shooting Raw provides, the limitations of shooting Raw, an introduction to Camera Raw and the concept of a digital negative.

How Camera Raw Works describes a Raw file's anatomy, gamma and tone mapping, then talks about the process of image editing and its inevitable image degradation. Demosaicing and colorimetric interpretation are explained before a discussion of highlight recovery.

Raw System Overview introduces Bridge, Camera Raw, DNG Converter and Photoshop, showing you which does what when. Your options are fully explored but the operational details are saved for the next chapter, Camera Raw Controls. The following chapters -- Hands-On Camera Raw and Adobe Bridge -- show you how to process a Raw image in detail. And it's pretty interesting detail, as Fraser evaluates Raw images and make a wide number of edits to them. Fraser illustrates each point with Camera Raw screen shots of real world exposures and their corrections. You learn how to adjust a single image first and then learn several ways to edit multiple images simultaneously.

Once you've got the lay of the land, Fraser explains how to command the tools in It's All About the Workflow. The discussion isn't regimented into steps, but painted in easily recognized phases: image ingestion, image verification, preproduction and production. Fraser explains his own working practices, trade offs and principles along the way.

Next he explores how metadata can make your images smarter in Mastering Metadata. He goes beyond the usual dissection of Exif data into Adobe's XMP initiative and using metadata templates to do things like tag your images with your copyright.

He concludes with Exploiting Automation, in which discussions of batch processing and recording simple and complex actions lead to a few real world solutions.

More than merely teaching dance steps that can't be used when the music changes, Fraser teaches the concepts behind Raw imaging and the techniques to efficient Raw processing before dividing the work up among a common set of tools. He teaches you to fish, and considering what deep water digital photographers find themselves in these days, that's a blessing.

Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2 by Bruce Fraser, published by Peachpit Press, 314 pages, $39.99.
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In the Forums

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

Read about Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe

Visit the Casio Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f775

A user asks about camera file "compression" at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea1ec0/0

James asks about a telephoto lens versus high resolution in a camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea1de5/0

Visit the Infrared With Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee8e6b4

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Just for Fun: Time for Your 2006 Oscar Nominations!

As a subscriber of this moving publication, you are also a member of the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences. Each year, members of the Academy submit their nominations for the Academy's legendary Missing Oscar. Right about now.

You may recall the Missing Oscar as the one stolen Oscar of several years ago that was never retrieved. Every year we try to give it away on the theory that you can't lose what you don't have.

Past awards honored Best Slide Show Software, Best Photo Web Site, Best Shareware, Best Input Device, Best Digital Photography Book and Best Photo Gadget. With only one missing Oscar, we're obliged to change the category each time we present the award.

This year the award will honor the Best Camera Bag. If you've got a bag you love, nominate it. Maybe it not only protects your precious digicam but has room for a few extra memory cards and batteries, too. Maybe it easily attaches to your belt or can be used right from your shoulder. Maybe it's waterproof and shockproof. Any excuse will do. Just nominate it.

The winner will enjoy the Public Notoriety of the Ersatz Academy's Missing Oscar. You need not dress expensively (or at all). And, in further defiance of the regular Oscars, your acceptance speech will not be interrupted by live music at our virtual awards ceremony. You may talk to yourself as long as you want.

To submit your nomination, email your testimonial with the subject "Oscar Nomination" to editor@imaging-resource.com before our next issue.

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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: Nikon D200

I read your article about the D200 problem. Not too many could have noticed it thanks to the delivery problem (which seems to be greater than pictured). In my shop we have about 60 people waiting for their new toy. I took the demo unit we had to a concert with Clark Terry. The light on stage was real hard, dark background, spotlights on his face and the brass flugelhorn and his blue trumpet -- all of it absolutely perfect in the pictures. I even brought the camera up to what should be compared to ISO 3200. No stripes!

Now there are is a rumor going round in Sweden that Sony (the maker of the sensor in D200) noticed the problem and canceled all deliveries to change the sensor before it reached the market. At the same time, Sony raised the pixel count from 10.2 to 10.8 megapixels.

Is there any fact at all behind this to your knowledge or is it just normal Internet swabble like on so many other occasions?

-- Lasse Jansson

(Nikon has acknowledged the problem, as we report below and interestingly enough, we haven't seen any recent D200 deliveries either. In fact, the local Ritz dealer has never had even a single model for sale, although they did sell the one 18-200mm VR2 lens they saw. -- Editor)

Your discussion of the Nikon D200 Corduroy Effect caught my eye because of a similar result I have had with scanning a large number of 8.5x11-inch pages of mostly text with some line drawings printed back to back.

I have an Epson Perfection 3200 scanner with Silverfast software and when I scanned the first page the black areas on the reverse side bled through. I adjusted the software¹s midtone and brightness settings equivalent to an overexposure of two stops or more so that the bleed disappeared. In Photoshop the levels were adjusted to bring back the text to its original density and the ultimate image of the page was like the original.

However, the faint banding you describe for the Nikon D200 now appeared on my monitor, stretching horizontally across the page in several places. It was overlooked until I noted it on the sides of the page where it was not concealed by text or the line drawings. It appears that the effect is an overexposure artifact of CCD sensors whether in digital cameras or scanners.

-- Albert Klee

(Very interesting, Albert! -- Editor)

RE: Weak Flash

Recently I got my hands on a friend's Canon EOS 20D. He asked me to take a look at the performance of the internal flash, as he did not get satisfying results with it. And I had to confirm his problems. The internal flash seems to be quite weak and the camera does also not put it to a correct level of power when it is fired. I got much better results when setting the flash correction value to +1 approximately.

-- Andreas Pilich

(Built-in dSLR flashes really don't throw much light (enough for working a residential room, say -- about 15 feet wide open). The traditional solution for work that requires flash is to use an external flash (like Canon's 580EX) which are much more powerful. This is covered in the Flash (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E20D/E20DA7.HTM) part of the 20D review. -- Editor)
(On-camera flash units tend to be very careful to not overexpose highlights the least bit. This is good if you're critically concerned about highlight detail, but bad if what you're looking at is a subject with a few highlights and a lot of midtone detail. This sort of situation is exactly why the cameras have exposure overrides. That's an exposure issue though, not really a power issue. If you just can't get enough light on a subject at some distance from the camera, you may be dealing with a power limitation. Because the 20D's images are so clean (low in image noise), you can cheat a bit by boosting the ISO on flash shots of distant subjects. Cranking the ISO from 100 to 400 will double the effective range of the flash. Cranking it up to 1600 will double it again. -- Dave)

RE: Flat Stanley

This is just a comment on the Flat Stanley project. My granddaughter sent it to me and I being a Red Hat Society Queen Mother (you have read about the Red Hat Society of course?) Flat Stanley went with me to my Red Hat functions in addition to photos around the house. I made a slide show using a software program I have and made a CD which my granddaughter took to school which the class watched on a computer, in addition to regular prints. The slide show was a big hit in the classroom, so you may consider making a CD/DVD for your nephew to share.

When I took Flat Stanley to my Red Hat functions, I placed him in the center of the table next to our mascots and everyone enjoyed me telling them about Flat Stanley.

Enjoy!

-- Ann Chmiel

(Thanks, Ann! Indeed we had the pleasure of dining next to a monthly gathering of the Red Hat Society in December. We don't remember ever seeing a red sombrero before <g>. Everyone was having great fun. And the slide show sounds like great fun, too. We've assigned our iLife '06 review to Flat Stanley so he can make one himself! -- Editor)

RE: Canvas

I recently took some very beautiful photos with my Sony P200 and I would love to print the series on canvas and then frame them. I have the Epson 2200 printer. Is there any type of photo paper that you would recommend that is textured?

By the way, Flat Stanley (Blake) stayed with us for three weeks around Thanksgiving. He saw all the sites of NYC plus NJ and was in many wonderful photos before he returned home to California. I agree that it is the greatest project for kids (and adults -- I think my husband enjoyed having him more than any kid!).

-- Robin

(Actually, the 2200 is probably the perfect printer for this. It's designed to print on many kinds of supports and the pigment inks hold up well on them, too. Epson itself sells PremierArt Water Resistant Canvas in rolls. There are also Legion's Premium Canvas Paper, a similar poly/cotton blend. There are also textured papers that simulate the look of canvas (and other supports). Strathmore's artist inkjet papers include fiber, weave, velour, satin board, texture, canvas and translucent vellum. So, in short, you have a wide range of options. Try googling "canvas paper inkjet" to see. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Nikon has added an entry to its Knowledge Base that addresses the banding or Corduroy Effect reported in our D200 review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D200/D200A.HTM). The entry answers the question, "Why do I occasionally see vertical lines in my images?" citing patterns of vertical lines as "a digital imaging artifact." The entry further distinguishes between long banding, which appears "throughout an image," and short banding, which does not. The entry further notes that "a limited number of early-production D200 cameras may, in specific and uncommon shooting conditions, record images that can present an excessive pattern of fine pitch lines throughout (long banding)." The entry claims "Nikon will, without charge, evaluate your camera to determine if adjustment to the camera's image output level is required." Support personnel can evaluate an image to confirm the problem and that an adjustment "to the camera's image output level" will correct it.


Adobe (http://labs.adobe.com) has updated its public beta of Lightroom with a Universal Binary version. A Windows version, however, won't be available until after the final Macintosh release in late 2006. The new release also adds crop and straighten tools included in the Develop module; the ability to add music to slide shows; white balance support for the Nikon D2x, D2Hs and D50 cameras; hierarchical keyword sets; XMP Import and Export capabilities; improved Edit in Photoshop capabilities; and improved metadata handling.


The Associated Press has reported that Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has extended its lead over Canon and Sony in the U.S. digicam market, which grew 21 percent to 28 million units in 2005. Kodak's share increased to 24.9 percent while Canon and Sony dropped to 17.7 and 16.9 percent, respectively. Kodak increased digicam sales 43 percent over 2004, shipping 7.05 million digicams.


Wiley (http://www.wiley.com) has recently published Adobe Creative Suite 2 Bible by Ted Padova and Kelly L. Murdock ($44.99), Camera Raw with Photoshop For Dummies by Kevin L. Moss ($34.99), Digital Art Photography For Dummies by Matthew Bamberg ($34.99), Digital SLR Photography with Photoshop CS2 All-In-One For Dummies by Kevin Ames ($34.99), Photoshop CS2 Visual Encyclopedia by Stephen Romaniello ($39.99) and Photoshop CS2 Before & After Makeovers by Taz Tally ($29.99).


O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published its $29.99 Photoshop Fine Art Effects Cookbook by John Beardsworth, which explains how to use Photoshop CS2 to "transform everyday images into masterpieces that echo the genius of the world's greatest photographers, printmakers and painters."


Aspen Photo Workshops (http://www.aspenphotoworkshops.com) has announced its series of photography workshops for 2006. This year's programs include locations in Utah, Oregon, Alaska, Great Smokey Mountains, along with its course on Making Money in Stock Photography and The Digital Landscape. Stock photo shoots include Adventure Sports for outdoor enthusiasts and the Hawaii workshop for travel photographers. They have also added Custom Workshops for small groups and 1-on-1 instruction by appointment.


iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) has updated its MediaPro 3 [MW] to version 3.0.2, adding support for more Raw formats, an improved cross-platform path resolver, optimized operations on catalogs with 40K+ records and more.


Virtual Moment has launched Spitfire Photo Pro (http://www.spitfirephoto.com), an online image management service for professional photographers. The company said it's the first service provider to offer a turnkey solution for both agencies and photographers.


Nik Multimedia has changed its name to Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) "to better represent the company's focus on software development for the digital imaging market," the company said.

Nik also announced it has reached an agreement with Nikon that "enables technological collaboration between the two companies to develop and distribute digital photographic software and imaging technologies." Nik has produced and distributed proprietary versions of its Color Efex Pro plug-ins for use in Nikon Capture software.


LazyMask (http://www.lazymask.com) offers a clipping path service to beleagured production professionals with fast turnaround and low prices. The service outlines images to allow substitution of the background.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released an update to its iLife '06 [M] lineup, addressing problems with iPhoto, iDVD, iMovie HD, iWeb and iTunes. The updates are available via Software Update or as standalone updaters.


Synthetik (http://www.synthetik.com) has released its $379 Studio Artist 3.5 [M], adding dynamic liquid spreading paint effects, support for multithreading on dual and quad processor machines, enhanced animation, enhanced image editing and more.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $30 GraphicConverter 5.8 [M] as a Universal Binary with batch Exif text export, new slide show options and improvements to the print dialog and multimonitor support, among others.


Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released its $99.95 RAW Developer 1.4.5 [M], adding subfolder options, default white balance settings for Nikon dSLRs and support for Phase One digital backs in the new version.

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One Liners

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Next Issue

We're off to the Photo Marketing Association trade show next week in Orlando. In addition to our daily show reports, we'll recap the show in our next issue.
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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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