|Volume 8, Number 5||3 March 2006|
Welcome to the 170th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. A mixed bag this time with condensed PMA coverage and our Missing Oscar. And probably the only perfect camera review you'll ever read. Abracadabra!
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Our team coverage of the Photo Marketing Association's 2006 convention and trade show was itself newsworthy this year. With Publisher Dave Etchells, Senior Editor Shawn Barnett, News Editor Michael Tomkins, Videographer Andrew Alexander and Photographer Luke Smith, we produced over 760 photos (some of them panoramas), 11 videos (so far), 53 booth reports, dozens of news releases and even four floor reports by your newsletter editor.
This year our booth reports were hosted by Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com). We uploaded full resolution images and annotated the reports using Phanfare Photo (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHF/PHF.HTM). We gave it quite a run for the money this week without breaking it. Through Wednesday, Phanfare served 35,602 pages of our PMA coverage, a total of 24-GB of data. And it converted all our booth report video into Flash, too.
But the real news was on the show floor, of course. More than a few attendees resorted to motorized carts and Segways (http://www.segway.com) to get around, but we stuck with our boat shoes, hoping not to sink. Links to our full coverage are in the New on the Site section below, but we'll highlight what we saw here, although we didn't cover the major camera announcements. So, while in no way could it be described as comprehensive (boat shoes don't roll), you should be able to sail through it.
Before the show opened, we warmed up by strolling through the official Sneak Peak for the press. In a small ballroom, a few dozen companies made themselves available early to discuss their products.
Lefty Navigator. It had only been a couple of days since Logitech revealed the NuLOOQ (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1140718423.html) navigator, an innovative device used to navigate program commands and the NuLOOQ tooldial, customizable software that provides quick access to design tools. We've been running the tooldial software for a couple of weeks now, so we grabbed Logitech Vice President of Business Development Pratish Shah and got the full demo. We were impressed with how Photoshop disappeared leaving you in control of your image using just the navigator and the tooldial. It was our first look at the navigator and we were impressed with its build. It's hefty, solid and very responsive.
Jewelry Printer. We were attracted to the sparkling output of the Roland MPX-70, not your ordinary printer. In fact, it's a USB impact printer that can imprint a photo on all sorts of jewelry up to three-quarters of an inch thick. But if you pony up the $3,000 for the printer, you get an entire business. You get enough blanks (from dog tags and charms to pendants and chains) to make $2,000 in sales, a merchandising kit (including a display case with sample output), the software to manage images and add text and borders and a business plan showing the return on your investment, just in case you have to get a loan from your bank.
iDVD Lite. Expect to hear a lot about muvee, which is sort of an iDVD Lite for your images. Grab a group of photos, throw them at muvee, select a presentation style and some music and in the blink of an eye, you've got automatic pan-and-zoom with your music and a canned style that includes special effects and transitions. It turns the ordinary slide show into an event. You can run it on your computer, of course, but Nikon has licensed a version that runs in its newest Coolpix digicams.
Vibrant Raw Converter. Michael Tapes gave us a thorough demo of Pixmantec's RawShooter premium 2005, which is available in a free version (with a bit fewer features, of course). We were particularly impressed with its Vibrance command that applies saturation only where the color is not already saturated in a "scene adaptive" method. But there's enough more to this Windows-only product to warrant a full review.
Unicode Cataloger. We spent some time with Shayne Bowman who showed us all the new features of iView MediaPro 3.0. Among which, we particularly like the new Notepad feature that lets anyone who views your catalog, grab a few images, toss them into a list and add a comment they can email you. They've also implemented Adobe's XMP metadata template and added unicode support for foreign languages. There's a lot more to talk about here, too.
Custom Postage. How about your mug on a postage stamp? Photostamps (http://photostamps.com) can print a sheet of perfectly legal stamps with either an image or a logo on it in just one day. Two sheets of 20 stamps are about $16.
Mini Albums. Finally, we couldn't help watching a tiny Zoom Album (http://www.zoomalbum.com) being folded from one piece of paper, the adhesive removed from the back of each page in the patented process and a cover slapped on in just a few minutes. Software makes it easy to crop your images to the square page format. Assembly is really quite simple and the books are not expensive at under $20 a kit.
SONY'S AVAILABLE LIGHT
Make no mistake about it, there were plenty of exciting new cameras at the show, too. We got our hands on a new Sony at the Sony shoot and a few others later at Pepcom.
We took a shuttle from the convention center to Universal Studios after Sneak Peak. But even the shuttle had to sneak into Universal. We arrived at a back gate and trudged in to the Hard Rock Orlando where we took a seat, listened to an overview of the 2006 lineup and stood in line to get a camera for a test drive.
Each camera came with a Sony Memory Stick of some sort. We ended up with a 2-GB Pro Duo, half the length of the original Memory Stick and a bit thinner, too.
We took the new $250 Cyber-shot W50 digicam for spin around the cafe. It's an attractive, slim package with a large,2.5-inch LCD and 32-MB internal storage. Its 6.0-Mp sensor is matched to a Carl Zeiss 3x zoom like its little brother, the W30. But the interesting thing about the W50 is its sensitivity. It can record as high as ISO 1000.
The Cafe is romantically lit, let's say, so we walked around taking pictures in the dark. Yes, at ISO 1000 you get noise. But you also get the picture. And we liked that a lot.
In one room, Sony was showing its new SnapLab, an "on-location printer." At 25 lbs., it's something of a portable kiosk with a large flip up LCD that can not only display and select images from media loaded into its card reader, but can also make some edits like crops and red-eye reduction. It can print 3.5x5 4x6 or 5x7 inch dye sub prints depending on which media you load. A 5x7 takes about 17 seconds to print. Don't get too excited, though. This little box will run you about $1,700.
Revived at the Hard Rock, we caught a ride at sunset to Pepcom's DigitalFocus at the Dolphin Hotel in Disney World.
It was a theme party and the theme was Hollywood and the Oscars. A couple of giant rotating Oscars guarded the bar, an ice sculpture with framed images embedded in it. The stars of the show, however, were the 22 companies exhibiting.
Among them, our favorites were:
- Lensbabies (http://www.lensbabies.com) was showing its $159 Lensbaby 2.0 and Lensbaby Macro Kit, which is a strange little lens for your dSLR with a flexible extension between the camera mount and the front of the lens. As you manipulate the front element, the part of the frame that's in focus changes. Squeeze it in and more of the distant image is in focus. Twist it around and the focus spot moves, too. Interchangeable magnetic washers change the aperture and thus the size of the focus spot. The lens itself is a coated, high refractive index, low dispersion, optical glass doublet that is about a 50mm equivalent. A macro kit can get focus as close as two to three inches away. Very clever and a lot of fun to play with.
- Fujifilm was showing their F30, whose claim to fame is not only its remarkably sensitive ISO of 3200 but its "intelligent" flash. Apparently, the flash takes the focus distance information into account so it can throttle down if you've got a person right in front of you. Clever, if not quite intelligent.
- Pantone brought its $89 huey monitor calibrator along. Its thin profile attaches to your screen with small suction cups. The software simplified the calibration process, avoiding those embarrassing questions about gamma, white point and the like. Even more interesting, though, is that the USB calibrator doesn't sit in a box between calibrations. It monitors room light, adjusting the brightness of your screen through the day.
HP GOES PIGMENT
Both Canon and Hewlett-Packard introduced new 13x19-inch printers, but HP stole the show with is $699 Hewlett-Packard Photosmart B9180 pigment printer, which features 200 year print life, according to a Wilhelm study. Henry Wilhelm himself was at the HP lunch the next day to confirm it and happened to mention he was happy to be alive to see it, too.
Watching HP make peace with pigments was nearly entertaining. Wilhelm discussed the history of pigments in art, going all the way back to cave paintings and not skipping Joan Crawford's tri-chrome carbro on his way to the B9180.
There were sample prints and testimonials but we found photographer Michael Fry's comments hit closest to home. When he evaluates a printer, he said, he looks for 1) deep, rich blacks so the image pops out, 2) the ability to produce rich, saturated colors, 3) the capacity to print subtle gradations in tone and color, 4) sharpness for detail, 5) permanence to reassure buyers, 6) color accuracy and consistency and 7) a close match to what he's produced on his monitor.
Fry said the B9180 actually produced deeper blacks than the dye inks he's used. He admitted the color saturation isn't quite as intense as on the 8750, but it's still quite high. He was surprised he could be less aggressive with unsharp masking and still produce a sharp image, relying on the printer's hue accuracy to distinguish objects. His black and white prints (using the three-ink HP system) were neutral and exhibited smooth tonal gradations.
He confessed to not being an ICC profile type of guy, but had printed the same file on different B9180s and gotten identical prints using a profile developed for yet another early unit by a third party. The B9180 features a three-level approach to color management. It starts with a closed loop calibration system in which you print a target and then feed it back into the scanner so it can read its own output to calibrate itself. Then there's some sophisticated print head management going on that is smart enough to compensate for closed nozzles, for example, or just tell you when it's time to replace the print head. Unlike HP dye printers, the print head is separate from the ink cartridges, holding two ink cartridges each in the eight-ink system. Finally, HP has developed a Photoshop plug-in to simplify the print driver's color management options.
Images right out of the printer are waterfast (permanent right from the start). And ink costs should run about 28 cents for a 4x6 roughly in line with other printers.
Ah, noise. Luminance noise, chrominance noise. The speckles you see in the smooth areas of your image at high ISO and low light. The bane, if not the grain, of digital imaging. We reviewed Nik Software's Dfine in our Aug. 8, 2003 issue. But at the show, we met two intriguing competitors.
Eric Hyman showed us the latest version of Bibble, released just before the show. It includes Noise Ninja, which Eric has skillfully integrated into the Raw processing workflow as naturally as if it were a temperature or exposure setting.
His demo was impressive, too. The sample image was a backlit view of a sunbather's back. The original was indeed unusually noisy. The model's right side was sunlit, so you could see the hairs on her arm. Noise Ninja did it's magic with the noise on her back but left the hairs pretty much alone. It wasn't a miracle cure, but it was a significant improvement.
Even more intriguing, however, was Imagenomic's Noiseware. Chief Operating Officer Art Ghazaryan walked us through a demo of this innovative approach to handling noise.
The innovative thing about Noiseware is that it doesn't need a camera noise profile, like nik Software's Dfine, for example. Instead, it analyzes the image itself to detect both types of noise. And despite taking that extra step, Art said, it's faster than its competitors Noise Ninja and Dfine (four seconds to process a 16-bit 8-Mp image).
They spent about six to nine months working on just the patented algorithms themselves. And yes, they are self-learning, he said. They even learn when to train themselves. And you can step in any time to tell them to ignore an oversharpened image, say.
Art took the noise out of an ISO 1600 8-Mp image with one click. Presets let you tell Noiseware what kind of subject it's dealing with. For example, a landscape would have a lot more detail than the polished fender of a classic car.
It also has a DetailGuard command to tell it how aggressive to be in both noise detection and noise removal. And you can bracket the results, too.
You can also sample up to 10 non-contiguous regions of the image to clue in Noiseware to the problem.
Noiseware is available as a Photoshop plug-in for Mac and Windows, in a mobile edition for camphones and in a software development kit for developers.
We spent an evening with Adobe to get the scoop on a couple of items.
First, Photoshop Elements 4.0 for the Mac is ready for release. We spent a good deal of time making sure most of the Windows features we had liked were in the Mac version. Like simple masking where you scribble on what you want and don't want and Elements does the rest. And automatic red-eye removal that does not require you to do anything at all. There is not the same face recognition software the Windows version uses to tag people in images, but they haven't entirely given up on the idea, either.
Second, Lightroom Beta has recently been updated and we got the cook's tour of the new features. Hierarchical tags was one reason Lightroom had to rebuild your image database on first launch. Even more interesting, though, Adobe revealed it will indeed release a Windows beta sometime this summer, prior to the fall launch. And then, we observed, all those nearly 3,000 Lightroom forum participants will be furious that they have to pay for a product that, really, they must already feel they own. We were assured Adobe is sensitive to that and is trying to think of some nice way to thank them.
The user feedback has been tremendously important to the company in the development of the product. It's hard to get beta testers who actually make much noise, it turns out. But the public beta actually had people redesigning the interface. And comments came from photographers Adobe often doesn't get much input from, like event photographers. So the product, like Photoshop itself, is taking on a life of its own, Adobe's Kevin Connor told us.
The next day as our boat shoes were starting to sink, Kyle Kappmeier took pity on us at the Gitzo booth, offering us the new Gitzo Traveler monopod to lean on. It uses a new, 30 percent lighter weave of six strands of carbon fiber. We picked it up and thought we dreaming -- it has almost no weight. You aren't sure there's anything in your hand at all. Less than a pound, the specs say. Fold it up and it's just 14.3 inches long. One quarter twist of the neatly tucked grips extends all six sections to 56.1 inches, ready to bear up to 9.9 lbs. Which we somewhat exceeded.
We danced over to the Lexar booth to find out more about this plug-in for Bridge we learned about last night at Adobe's reception.
There's a small catch. The plug-in only works with Lexar's ActiveMemory CompactFlash cards. That's because only those cards have a reserved location on the card that is not overwritten when it is reformatted. That ActiveMemory location is where a photographer can store IPTC metadata which can be read by the plug-in and written to each image as it is being stored on the computer.
We dropped by the O'Reilly booth just as Mikkel Aaland was accosting Bill Yates, one of eight or nine actual newsletter subscribers. We leaped to his aid by taking a photo of the attempted assault. Mikkel saw us, naturally and pointed an accusing finger. "Me?! You're the one who's dangerous," he yelled at us. "One more sentence out of you might have killed him!"
Mikkel was there to promote his Photoshop CS2 Raw. We'd asked him earlier how it compares to Bruce Fraser's book on the same subject. "Good question," he stalled. "They're complementary," he explained. Bruce's work deals with the technical aspects of Bridge and Camera Raw and DNG and Raw files whereas his is a more casual approach to the power of Raw imaging. News editor Michael Tomkins stole a copy for us, so we'll find out for ourselves and review it in the newsletter.
We didn't have to steal Julieanne Kost's new book from O'Reilly, Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking. When we spoke to her earlier about it, she described it as the story of how to do a personal project. It's really a three-part book. It begins with a list of ways to stay creatively alive that is more practical than inspirational (which we mean in a good way, you know). Then it moves right in to a portfolio of photographs Julieanne took through the window of one airliner or another, with commentaries describing her experiences and thought process. Finally, it concludes with a technical section that explains how the images were shot, manipulated and prepared for printing without describing every little keystroke.
Peter Krogh was also lurking around the booth during the show to promote his The DAM Book, which we did review in our Dec. 9, 2005 newsletter (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html").
Optical design has always been constrained by the physical limits of optical science and the practical limits of expense. But DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has jumped both hurdles by tossing software into the mix.
As DxO's Nicolas Touchard explained in an Imagining Resource video interview (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06/PMAS06VIDEO.HTML#pma07), inexpensive cameras can enjoy advanced features when they combine image processing with optics. The first thing it achieves, he said, is taking pictures in very low light (3-4 lux). A wider aperture can be used without introducing more lens elements.
The second trick is getting rid of the autofocus actuator, mimicking autofocus in software. Even with no moving parts, the lens can still autofocus via software.
The upshot is that you can take photos in situations darker than city street lighting at night (11 lux) that are perfectly focused. The IR video actually has a test showing the difference between current technology and a prototype of DxO's hybrid lens. The hybrid looks as bright as if it were taken in daylight.
UPOINT, WE POINT
At the other end of the process, the recent collaboration between Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) and Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has produced an image editing program unlike any we've seen. Capture NX, based on what Nik calls UPoint technology, edits an image by adjusting the properties of as many color control points you set in the image.
Nik's Josh Haftel demoed the UPoint aspect of Capture NX by opening an image of a woman in a field of flowers with a blue, cloudy sky behind her. The sky was a bit dull, so he clicked in it. A small graphic similar to a capital E with one more horizontal bar was overlaid on the image where he had clicked.
The bars of the E were, in fact, sliders for Brightness, Contrast and Saturation. In addition, each color control point can have Hue Red, Green, Blue and White Balance sliders.
Adjust the sliders and you are also adjusting every other pixel in the image with the same characteristics as the color control point's single pixel (and those characteristics include the surrounding pixels).
Yes, that's a little too far reaching. In fact, the clouds became a little too blue when he adjusted the sky's color control point to be brighter.
The solution is to add another control point to adjust the clouds. Control points negotiate between themselves whenever you add them and adjust their sliders to decide who controls which pixels. They remain visible so you can find them as you work, too.
While the technology works on NEF, JPEG and TIFF files, there is no support for DNG files in Capture NX.
We caught up with Victor Sazhin at the VicMan booth where he was doing demos of his newly-released $29.95 Photo Toolkit for Windows (http://www.photo-toolkit.com). The toolkit integrates directly into Windows Explorer, popping up under the Image & Fax Viewer toolbar to provide image editing options. It can also function as a standalone application.
Among the operations available is Red Eye Remover, an automatic red-eye removal that does not require you to do anything more than click its button. It's right 90 percent of the time, Victor told us. For the rest, you just draw a marquee around the eye and it automatically removes the red, desaturating and darkening the pupil. There are faster red-eye removal tools, Victor admitted, but none as good at detection and correction.
The VicMan Makeup plug-in makes it easy to correct skin imperfections. Several brush tools, each addressing a specific skin defect, approximate neighboring areas to overcome the defects, making the skin look natural and smooth.
Photo Toolkit also contains a unique technology for whitening teeth without precise brush strokes. Based on "advanced statistical processes," the tooth whitening brush preserves the color of the lips and whitens only the teeth.
The advanced Color Correction module provides levels, contrast and gamma correction, either automatically or using more advanced methods, like automatic saturation correction and illumination flattening.
The red-eye and teeth whitening plug-ins rely on cybernetics, Victor told us. VicMan trains the algorithms in their lab and distributes the "educated" algorithms in the final product. Algorithms without training just don't perform as well, he said.
He also showed us My Pictures 3D, which creates an animated three dimensional gallery of images in your My Pictures folder. You can use it as a screen saver or to create a self-running slide show.
VicMan has also developed a patent-pending software distribution method that allows original equipment manufacturers to install Photo Toolkit in their cameras. Camera owners just have to plug their cameras into a computer that uses any Windows operating system to launch the software. No other installation or activation is required.
In fact, Victor said VicMan is developing a small USB hub with a flash drive to host the applications. Plug a digicam into the hub and the hub to a computer and you can access both the digicam and the flash drive loaded with Photo Toolkit and anything else you want to store on it.
Didn't see anything that grabbed your eye? Take a look at our full reports to see what we left out. Or better yet, wait until next year!
One of our usual camera reviews would be something of a let down after the glamour of PMA. So we indulged in a flight of fancy as we flew home and scribbled down just what the perfect camera would look like.
Before we knew it, we'd invented the Magic Camera. No model number for this baby because this is it. You can't improve on perfection.
Ever find Waldo? Then you'll be good at this. Many of the features we'll be describing actually do exist in current hardware. Just not on the same camera. See if you can divine the inspiration for the less fanciful ones.
The body features a comfortable SLR design with an articulated LCD viewfinder. But the Magic's viewfinder is detachable. And wireless. And functions as a remote control using the zoom rocker and shutter button on the side of the frame.
The main operating controls can be accessed comfortably with one hand. Either hand. The body has a reversible design that simply requires you to attach the power pack/control grip on whichever side of the camera you like (much like a portrait grip).
The Magic Camera has interchangeable lenses featuring the mount you already own (whatever it is, there's a Magic with that mount -- say, the Magic Nikon Edition or the Magic Zenit Edition). But you really don't need them because the kit lens runs from a macro shot that focuses as close as one inch to somewhere in the scope range (around 36x) with optical image stabilization, of course. Oh, about that macro. No need to shift into a special mode. It's as automatic as a Mavica.
So why change lenses? Gnarly effects, dude. Xtreme photography. How about a mind-warping fish eye? Or a selective focus Lensbaby? Or a pinhole? Or an anastigmatic to make everyone look 20 lbs. thinner?
Even better, how about a software lens like that DxO concoction that requires no moving parts to autofocus and can see in the dark?
Apart from special effects, the only reason to remove the Magic kit lens is if you scratch it.
At the heart of the Magic Camera is its full frame sensor made from synthetic silicon harvested from ordinary lawn clippings. Everybody wants full frame, even if we don't really need it. But it would be nice to mount that 28mm Zenit and get a 28mm angle of view again. And, after all, it's Magic.
Sensitivity ranges from ISO 25 to ISO 3200 and every sensor site captures all three channels of color in a full 16-bit channel. That's right, a 48-bit color sensor. Just the thing for global warming.
For some real fun, however, the data the sensor captures is recorded in Adobe's DNG format, version 3 (which by then will have addressed Eric Hyman's reservations about the color matrix problem). Look, who in their right mind would design a canvas that required special glasses to see? Only Lenscrafters. Same for file formats. The only guys who would encrypt data so even the creator (that's you, the photographer) can't read is the guy who makes the tool that can read it. So DNG. It isn't Magic, but it is open.
Nothing fancy here. Just a RAID of two SD-sized and CompactFlash fast cards. That's a "redundant array of independent disks," meaning every image you capture is written to two cards simultaneously. They're large enough, easily, to hold a day's shoot. Or a mini-series if you shoot in Movie mode.
But wait, there's more. That's just storage, you know. The Magic Camera actually has enough internal memory to match that capacity. So you have three copies of every shot you take and never have to wait for the camera to write your image data to the card, which is like mailing a letter when you can send an email.
The Magic Camera's power supply only has to be recharged weekly with heavy use. Casual use will require a recharge every month or so. An optional solar panel which slips into to the top panel of the body like a black-and-white LCD makes the Magic self-recharging.
The Magic Camera breaks new ground in exposure modes. There are none. None needed, really. The Magic has sensors to tell if it's night or day and read the temperature and wind conditions to tell if it's indoors or outdoors and the microphone is always on to tell if there's a party going on. It knows, in short, what the situation is.
But it does offer creative control. You can collapse or expand the planes of focus and elongate or freeze motion. A couple of control dials on the grip handle that. Complete manual override, too, for sentimental reasons.
Considering the Magic's ISO range, it's hard to imagine a situation you might need flash, but as a creative option, flash is not to be underestimated. The onboard flash pops up (launches, really) on demand, using a magnet to levitate a foot above or to the side of the camera (user selectable -- just by pushing it around). And it adjusts its color temperature to match the ambient light.
Magic Camera owners are treated with the sort of respect that their judgment in purchasing a Magic product warrants. They are obviously smart, creative people.
Every month, the company ships them a small token of its gratitude in the form of the legal stimulant of their choice. A quarter pound of Peet's coffee, a half-bottle of their favorite wine, a hand-rolled cigar, a nifty Pez dispenser, a banana, you get the idea.
There is no 800 number for support. Instead, the company invites all the customer's friends (and family) to a villa in Tuscany for support training. Then, whenever the customer has a question, any one of their friends can answer it in passing conversation. No need for subcontinents at all.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
The Magic Camera is not cheap. It is, however, affordable on a sliding scale matched to your income. Students must agree to sign over a portion of their future earnings, for example. The company does not indulge in illusions when it comes to profitability.
Unfortunately the camera is not available at this time. You may, however, preorder by emailing the editor of this newsletter. Your credit card will be charged prior to shipping, but only to the extent we imagine you've already enjoyed the Magic Camera.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. The big news since the last issue is our PMA 2006 coverage, featuring over 760 images, 11 videos (with more to come) and four floor reports.
PMA 2006 COVERAGE
- News coverage including 53 Booth Reports, dozens of news releases organized by company, plus links to the videos and floor reports: http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06/PMAS06.HTML
- Video coverage (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06/PMAS06VIDEO.HTML) of Canon at PMA 2006, A Tour of Kodak Imaging Sensors, DxO Labs Digital Optics Technology, Nikon at PMA 2006, Fujifilm FinePix F30 and V10, DigitalFocus, Calibrate Your Color with ColorVision, Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1, Sneak Peak to PMA 2006, Kodak V-570 Dual-Lens/Dual-CCD Camera and Olympus E-330 SLR with a Live Preview. A few more videos are still being edited, so stay tuned.
- Floor Reports: Three Sneak Peaks (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06mrp/PMA.HTM), A Little Perspective (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06mrp/PMA2.HTM), Mike Sweeps the Floor (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06mrp/PMA3.HTM) and The 35.2 Billion Dollar Pixel (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06mrp/PMA4.HTM).
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 comments about the Nikon Coolpix 8800 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a
Visit the Olympus Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f783
Tommy asks about dSLRs and dust at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea2096/0
C Lo asks about taking close up pictures at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea2038/0
Visit the Professional Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b4
Members of the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences (you guys) have done their job, submitting their nominations for the Missing Oscar, which this year will be awarded to the best camera bag. Now, it's time for us to do ours. Which is, with no further delay, to open the envelope and see who bags the award....
Bob Schuchman nominated the Tamrac 5696 Digital 6 bag. "I originally bought a smaller version in the same family for my Canon Powershot S3 IS," Bob said. "It had room for the camera with lens retracted, extra batteries and SD cards. Then I bought an adapter to be able to apply 58mm filters, a lens shade, etc. The depth of the S2 IS increased by 2 inches. After looking at several other manufacturers lines, it turned out that moving up to the larger Tamrac Digital bag was a perfect fit for the S3 IS with the adapter attached. It also lets me carry a few filters, the lens cap and the extra batteries and SD cards. And now with the adapter installed I don't have to watch the lens cap pop off when I turn the camera on."
The Digital 6 combines closed-cell foam for shock protection with open-cell foam for vibration dampening and fit. It's designed for quick access with a Speed Flap top, a zipper-closing Speed Pocket on the lid and a Windowpane-Mesh pocket inside the top for filters and lens caps. A front accessory pocket has memory and battery pockets and a special fitted pocket holds extra memory cards. In addition to its EasyGrip handle, it has an adjustable, removable shoulder strap and belt loop. See: http:///www.tamrac.com/5696.htm
The LowePro Orion AW II backpack got a nod from Dan Blanchard. "All weather cover, durable. Can be used on the shoulder but better when the waist strap is used making it like a giant bum-bag (fanny-pack to your sort I believe)," Dan wrote. "The weight is then on your hips not your shoulder. Zipped top opens away from you for easy access. Enough space for at least one dSLR with grip and five lenses. Small pockets on waist flaps for batteries or cards. Front pocket for bits -- filters or what have you. Top pocket that I find useful for maps and similar inside. Brilliantly engineered and comfortable to wear all day with a fair weight of glass in it ;) To me it's almost the ultimate bag. Add a rigid internal structure so that you can sit on it too and that would do it."
Lowepro's update of its original Orion AW has two compartments. The upper one has a mesh pocket, two digital memory pockets, a large zipper pocket perfect for holding an MP3, Mini Disk or CD player and a headphone cable port so you can listen to music while you're on the go. The lower compartment has a removable insert made of high-density, closed-cell foam with movable padded dividers and soft, brushed-tricot lining to protect LCDs. The padded contoured shoulder harness has SlipLock attachment loops, a detachable waistbelt and mesh-covered back pad. See: http://www.lowepro.com/Products/Backpacks/classic/Orion_Trekker_II.aspx
Hiwaystar liked LowePro, too, but a different bag. "My nomination is my Lowepro Mini Trekker Classic."
This lightweight backpack features a flexible interior and comfortable harness. Its attachment loops take optional SlipLock add-ons. See: http://www.lowepro.com/Products/Backpacks/classic/Mini_Trekker_Classic.aspx
Gerard Kowalski confessed, "I have more than a few bags, but the one that seems to hang around, over 18 years old and never let me down. Has traveled with me on five continents, all sorts of abuse, showing some age but so am I. My Oscar Nomination is the Domke F2."
Jim Domke's made the original F2 for his own use in 1976 to hold two cameras (with or without motor drives), six to 10 lenses up to 300mm, a flash, 10-20 rolls of film and more. We've used a smaller version ourselves for years. See: http://www.helixphoto.com/CameraBags/Domke/classic/f2.html
Finally, we heard from Charlie Young, who not only nominated a bag but also gave us an idea for next year's award. "My Bag of the Year Oscar nomination goes to my LowePro Nova 5," Charlie wrote. "I used this bag extensively on a recent trip to Texas. The bag had plenty of room for several lenses, two camera bodies and my Nikon SB800 flash and other accessories. I know camera stores aren't in the running this year but if they were, I'd nominate Samy's Camera for best customer service Oscar. Maybe next year."
The Nova 5 is a lightweight should bag with an all-weather cover and overlap zipper, a NoDrop pocket for filter changes and a pressed-foam should strap. It has plenty of pockets, too, including mesh side pockets and an inner mesh pocket. See: http://www.lowepro.com/Products/Shoulder_Bags/allWeather/Nova_5_AW.aspx
There's unfortunately no way to divide a Missing Oscar. But we did divine a nice solution. We thought we'd open the large Digital 6, squeeze the Nova 5 inside, slip the Orion AW II into the Nova 5 and the Domke F2 into that and slip the Mini Trekker in the F2 before -- finally -- putting the Oscar in. That way, they can all share the prize.
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RE: PMA Coverage
[Translated from the Italian]
I'll bet you and the rest of the team are pretty beat, but it was worth the pain. The reporting you guys did at PMA is the best by far and what you did really put it over the top. And in addition, all of it was put on line very well.
You can imagine the pleasure it was to follow the show through the eyes of someone who looked at the same things I would have. The Popabrella was not to be missed, a real touch of class!
-- Frank Tagliaferro(Thanks, Frank! -- Editor)
I am looking to purchase a portable photo storage device but could not find anything in your archives about some of the new tech that is available. Could you perhaps cover some of them in a future edition.
-- Jon Lutzen(Well, when we don't travel with a laptop, we've been pretty happy with the RoadStor (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html), one of several CD/DVD burners with a built-in card reader. But we're very unimpressed with the small hard disks that copy your cards. The big problem (and it's really big) is that none of these cute little boxes can duplicate your images. Lose the drive and you've lost everything. -- Editor)
Love your newsletter -- read all the material from the screen of my computer. Often down in the middle or toward the end, I find something that I should have a copy of and thus my dilemma.
Printing out 17 or more pages of the complete report may be ink, paper and printer wasteful. However I can't seem to find (from my computer) which pages that I wish to print contain the stuff that I wish to retain.
-- Paul(Two ideas, Paul: 1) Simply select the text you want to print, copy it to the clipboard (under the Edit menu of any modern OS), open a new document and paste. 2) Print the full newsletter as a PDF (various tricks there, but OS X does it quite simply), open the PDF and print the range of pages that contain the information you want. The second trick is handy for heavily formatted text (which the newsletter is not). The first should do the job. -- Editor)
The Birmingham News has published a special report entitled Unseen. Unforgotten. (http://www.al.com/unseen) of never-before-published images of the civil rights movement in Birmingham. In Nov. 2004, News intern Alexander Cohn went through an equipment closet at the paper looking for a lens only to find a Kodak photo paper box marked "Keep. Do Not Sell." The box was full of negatives, the work of News photographers covering the events of the day. The story wasn't a pretty one, however, so most of these images were not published before this special report.
Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released a Windows version of its $249.95 innovative photo editing software LightZone [MW]. We covered the product in our Macworld 2006 coverage (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/MWSF06/MWSF2.HTM#lig).
Boinx (http://www.fotomagico.com) has updated its $79 FotoMagico [M] to version 1.5.1, adding recognition of iLife '06 album types, improved Slide Show Settings presets, help for fine-tuning pans and zooms, some major performance improvements when editing and more.
Apple (http://www.apple.com) has updated iPhoto to version 6.0.2 to resolve "several minor issues with playing shared slide shows in Front Row."
O'Reilly has published Mikkel Aaland's $34.99 Photoshop CS2 RAW, covering the entire RAW process from when, why and how to shoot RAW, to using the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in converter and new Bridge navigation software.
Richard Lynch has released his $14.99 set of over 100 Hidden Power Tools [MW] (http://www.hiddenelements.com/hppe4_tool_list.htm) for Elements 4 users. Richard's book The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 4 will also be available by the end of the month, covering both Mac and Windows version.
Xtralean (http://xtralean.com) has updated its free ImageWell [M] to version 2.1, adding a Send To Folder option, a random file name generator and other changes in the Universal Binary release.
Elliot Glaysher has released his free VitaminSEE 0.7 [M] (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~glaysher/VitaminSEE.html), an image viewer that focuses on interface responsiveness and speed.
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