The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 8, Number 6 17 March 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 171st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Ah, St. Patrick's Day. We attempt to make you green with a review of Louden Photographic's clever extension of MagneFlash technology to copy table design. Then we try it with a new Olympus that has to be used to be appreciated. Dave clarifies just what goes into a Preview and a Review before we describe an interesting product that you order with your camera. Now to go kiss a stone.


TOPICS

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Feature: Zenon MagneFlash Copy Table

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

When we recently reviewed a book on camera hardware hacks, we bemoaned the lack of those photographer-engineered solutions that always fascinate us when we visit one or another pro in his studio. Peter Louden has engineered some one-of-a-kind solutions that are not far from that fun, but he also sells them to other photographers.

We reviewed his unique MagneFlash strobe panel (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/ZMF/ZMF.HTM) a while ago and recently he sent us his latest wonder, a copy table that uses MagneFlash technology. He makes three sizes and we tried the mid-sized one, which fits on a typing table and illuminates objects less than a square foot in size.

A STROBE SOLUTION

The MidiCT packs a much more powerful punch. It includes three 5600-degree Kelvin flash panels, a large one that forms the base of the unit, a smaller one to illuminate the back of the scene and another small one for overhead illumination. Each has its own power switch so you don't have to use all three on any shot. Each also has a Full/Half power switch and a Table/Boost switch. Those switches set the light output to either half, full or a stop over.

The flash panels enjoy the same efficient electrical engineering of the Zenon MagneFlash, requiring only one AA battery for the small units and two for the mid-sized unit and no more than four for the largest unit. You can recharge all the batteries for the mid-sized unit in a typical four-cell recharger.

The unique light panels also enjoy a similar efficiency in light diffusion. We asked Peter to explain just what they're doing. "The Copy Table panels each use two panels, the top one, which is opal acrylic, allows about half of the light to pass through it giving a small amount of diffusion," he said. "The underneath panel transmits light along its thickness (similar to fiber-optic)."

On the bottom panel, "a pattern is imposed. Where the transmitted light hits the pattern, light is thrown forward into the top acrylic." The majority of the light output is actually spread by the pattern rather than by simply diffusing it, as in most other systems."

What Peter has done is spread the flash output evenly over even the large flat panel. "The existing panel flash systems like the 57 and 68 use a similar system," he explained, "but I have been able to apply the principal over a much larger area in the Copy Table panels. In fact, there is no reason why this cannot be applied to very large, thin panels, particularly when the use of two panels in this way can form a rigid structure with a relatively low weight."

The trick, he said, "is combining the choice of materials, the transmitting patterns and the efficient low voltage electronics, while keeping control of the color temperature of the output light. The nature of the light coming out is kept relatively pure."

But these aren't flat panels, actually. Each of them is winged or bent toward the subject. And that required special treatment to ensure even light distribution over the whole panel, Peter told us.

The panels are all triggered several ways:

We tried every combination and had no trouble triggering the unit no matter where we were standing when we hit the shutter button.

The three light panels are held in position by a set of black PVC tubes that you push fit together. There is an additional acrylic panel to hold your subject, which sits between the back light and the bottom table light. Two larger side reflectors can also be positioned to bounce light on the front of the object just by mounting them in different PVC posts.

The unit can deliver about 200 shots per charge at maximum power from the four included NiMH rechargeable batteries with a three second recycle time and a color temperature of 5600 degrees Kelvin. We didn't have to wait between shots or have to stop shooting to recharge or replace batteries.

ASSEMBLY

The instructions were terse and the illustrations meager, but a careful reading of each step did illuminate the process. We managed to make one mistake, putting the left side bar on the right side and the right on the left, but that was easily corrected. The new design makes that mistake harder to make.

The top panel on our unit was a bit heavy for the PVC tubing and tended to wobble a bit but this has no effect on performance. This is more rigid on the new design.

A white acrylic plastic sheet, molded into a vanishing horizon bend, sits on top of the rear and bottom panels, forming a seamless and reflective stage. In the new design, a thinner, more flexible and clear acrylic sheet slips into rails in the side bars. The flexible design reduces shipping costs.

We had a little trouble seating the batteries in the battery compartments, particularly since they are under the light panels. The newer units use a larger battery compartment to accommodate the slightly fatter NiMH cells.

And we had trouble when it came time to recharge the batteries, something you want to do before any prolonged use. Getting to the three compartments in our tight quarters meant partly dissembling the unit. We'd have very much liked an AC adapter alternative. The batteries are great for using the unit on location (although tear-down isn't convenient), but more typically, you'll use this in one spot, no doubt near an electrical outlet and having a plug would be a lot smarter than popping batteries out of hard-to-reach locations.

It is, however, easy enough to tear down and store. We think of it as somewhat less troublesome than setting up a bathroom darkroom.

FIRST SHOTS

We really had no idea how to set the camera after we turned all the lamps on and put an object on the table. Our first thought was to use fill flash to fire the MidiCT.

That worked. And it worked very well. After all, at 1/1000 second, the strobes are making the exposure, not the camera settings.

Then we got brave, switched to a PC sync cord and Manual mode on the camera. We picked a ridiculous f-stop/shutter speed combination (more suitable to full sunlight) and still got great results. This was a depth of field we simply weren't used to from our soft box shots. And we were hand holding the camera at this shutter speed, too. So we had an unusual amount of freedom.

Peter modestly observed that the quality of the Zenon light captures metallic surfaces like digicam bodies more accurately than the diffused lighting of a nylon tent (whether using strobes or flood lamps). We had the chance to test the Zenon against an incandescent tent configuration and he's right. The metal objects actually look like metal, rather than plastic. It's a noticeable difference, preserving texture and a specular highlight rather than dampening them.

DUAL USE

One of the advantages of MidiCT is that each of the panels functions as a slave flash unit. In addition to using them on the Copy Table, you can set them up independently of the table to illuminate more complex setups or in place of a reflector. If you do that, remember to take advantage of the off-table boost switch to double the output.

Alternately, however, as a fill, the half-power setting works well. The panels are shaped much like face-flatter reflectors, designed to add catch light to the eyes and soften facial features. Just set it to half power and pose your model over it. Modesty forbids showing you samples of our self portraits. But it works.

USING THE TABLE

We learned a few tricks shooting with the table:

We're posting a gallery of images (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/ZCT/ZCTTHMB.HTM) taken with the Copy Table. All of these shots were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 990 using Auto white balance. Manual exposure mode was used with the shutter set to 1/1000 second and the aperture stopped all the way down to f7.9, usually. We varied the aperture only and only to f7.1. All shots were hand-held (and not very steadily, either).

The Copy Table itself was set to Full exposure on the bottom and back panels and half exposure on the top panel (except for the second light bulb shot). We angled the side reflector to the front of the subject for the Mini Cooper shots.

Exposure was triggered from the Nikon's flash, but the flash was masked by slide film so it didn't factor into the exposure. While we did shoot some tests with the MagneFlash (which can trigger the Copy Table, too), we didn't include those tests here.

The verdict? Excellent color balance and capture. Note the metallic surfaces, the perlite surface on the Kodak Picture Viewer, the red flower, the hacky sack leather. Also, note the unusual depth of field on the shot of the batteries and the eye glasses. Both were shot in Macro mode with a wide-angle converter.

For the sake of comparison, we've also posted a gallery of shots lit by Photoflex's First Product Kit (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/FPK/FPKTHMB.HTM), a nylon tent illuminated by two 250 watt incandescent lamps. It, too, does an excellent job, but the comparison is interesting. We had to open up the lens and slow down the shutter a good deal, but we could meter our scene. The diffusion provided by the tent helped some shots (like the Panasonic recorder's LCD screen) but hurt others (the Viewer and camera textures). We did color balance the images (all shot on Auto), but really should have shot with an incandescent white balance setting.

NB: Both sets of thumbnails appear a good deal darker than the original, full-sized images. The sample shots in the body of this review are much more representative of the in-camera results, although they have been resized for the Web, of course. The thumbnails do, however, show how the effect of the different illumination on the same objects, although we really didn't fiddle with the tent configuration as much as we might have.

A REDESIGN

We discussed our Copy Table problems with Peter by email and he gave us an update on some design changes he's made to the unit. We also chatted with him at PMA in Orlando, Fla. before filing this review.

Regarding the side bar slipping, he said, "The twisting of the side bars is inconsistent. Some assemblies are more prone to it than others when heavier subjects are placed on the Copy Table. This aspect has already been altered and the main acrylic is now supported by a crossbar. Additionally, two screws are used to prevent any twisting of the side-bars."

The white acrylic plastic sheet has been updated, too. "The acrylic sheet is now clear with our diffuser cloth (included in the new assemblies) optionally placed on top -- no reflections when the cloth is used, good reflections when not." In fact, the unit now ships in a flat box because the acrylic sheet is thin enough to be shipped flat and shaped by the channels in the frame that it slides into. Our unit had a thicker, rigid acrylic sheet that was already shaped for the table.

And the wobbling top section got a redesign, too. "The top of the acrylic sheet now hooks into a slot on the top bracket that holds the overhead lighting panel -- the result is a much steadier top section," Peter explained.

The battery boxes on our unit have been replaced as well. Rechargeable NiMH AAs are slightly bulkier than their alkaline cousins. Fortunately, Peter was able to find a roomier battery compartment to accommodate them. He also appreciated our suggestion for adding an AC adapter to use an outlet and is working on a recharger/adapter solution.

PRICING & AVAILABILITY

The Copy Table comes in three sizes:

All kits include lightweight acrylic lighting panels, variable power with short flash duration (1/1000 sec.), push-fit PVC framing, AA rechargeable power, power boost switch on each panel for off-table use. Peter offers a 30-day money back guarantee if not completely satisfied.

All product is shipped from Ipswich, England, using DHL. In the U.S., you can order from Bill Stocks' eBay store (http://stores.ebay.com/MagneFlash). "With Peter's great shipping performance and customer support," Bill noted, "I have been able to achieve a 100 percent positive feedback from all my eBay customers."

In the U.K., the Zenon product line can be found Beckham Digital (http://www.beckhamdigital.co.uk).

CONCLUSION

We continue to be impressed with Zenon's unique product line. And, at the same time, impressed with how responsive Peter has been to our quibbles. Those quibbles have no doubt delayed the review, but the product shipping today is better than the one we tested.

What he can't fix, however, is the sort of issues that really require a higher production volume. That will no doubt bother some.

But as we walked the floor at PMA 2006 recently, we found no other product that does what the Zenon Copy Table does. The trick is the very efficient MagneFlash strobe panels that provide the power of strobe lighting but diffuse it evenly and efficiently thanks to their unique engineering.

Peter claims to be more an electrical engineer than a photographer, but his products solve artificial lighting problems in unique and compelling ways. Had we built this ourselves, you'd kill to get one of your own with not the slightest regret the frame was made of PVC tubing instead of carbon fiber. Because it does the job like nothing else.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus SP-350 -- Excellent Image Quality

By STEPHANIE BOOZER and SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SP350/SP35A.HTM on the Web site.)

SHAWN'S USER REPORT

When you first see the product shots of the $399 Olympus SP-350, it's not impressive. Its big grip on the right really looks silly, especially in the front shot. Holding and using the camera, however, gives a very different impression.

The big grip gives you a far better hold on the camera than other small cameras in this class, yet the camera still travels well.

Two other factors changed my opinion of the SP-350 very quickly: the hot shoe and the printed image quality.

The SP-350 sat on my desk for about a week as I worked with other cameras. I kept looking at one part of the camera, but its significance didn't sink in until I finally started the review. It has a big hot shoe on top! I rummaged around in our equipment and found an Olympus FL-36 bounce flash. Now we're talking photography. The small flash looks somewhat monstrous on the small SP-350, causing it to tip over when the lens is extended, but flipping the flash head up into bounce mode stabilizes it. Bounce position also transforms the camera's images from very good to excellent.

I had a great time getting pictures of the family that were a notch or two better than I normally get from a point-and-shoot. Sure the combo is bigger, but the better lighting is totally worth it. You can also tune the combination, switching the built-in flash on or off to act as fill or not. The only drawback with this is the significant increase shutter lag due to the FL-36's pre-flash pulse (designed to gauge proper flash exposure). The best aspect of digital is that you can check results and reshoot in seconds and shooting extra doesn't cost you more than time.

Olympus makes a smaller flash, the FL-20, but it doesn't bounce, which is what I liked most. Still, with the FL-20, you'd go a long way toward eliminating red-eye.

The SP-350's printed image quality really blew us all away. For a small camera like this to produce decent quality 13x19 prints at ISO 400 is a significant milestone. You won't be able to do that with all subjects, because certain grays do still produce some noticeable color noise, but most photos print just great at 8x10, which is the maximum most people will expect. See the Print Quality section below for more.

The only complaints I have about the camera are the slow write time to both internal and external memory and the more pronounced shutter lag than I'm used to. But if you're a patient photographer or need a very good and small solution while traveling, you'll find the SP-350 a satisfying photographic tool.

CAMERA OVERVIEW

Though the SP-350 is compact, it packs in a lot of detailed features, including full manual exposure control, 24 preset Scene modes, an 8.0-megapixel CCD and a large, 2.5-inch LCD monitor. The SP-350's compact dimensions are perfectly suited for shirt pockets and small purses, with an automatic lens cover that makes it quick on the draw as well. The included neck strap is handy when shooting over a boat rail or while riding on a ski lift, but I'd recommend picking up a soft case to protect the SP-350's flat-black body panels from scratches.

The SP-350 features a 3x, 8-24mm zoom lens (a 38-114mm 35mm equivalent). Maximum aperture ranges from f2.8 to f4.9, depending on the zoom setting. Lens threads connect Olympus' accessory conversion lenses, extending the camera's wide-angle and telephoto capabilities. The SP-350 uses an efficient contrast-detection autofocus system, with focus ranging from 7.9 inches to infinity in normal mode. A Macro setting focuses as close as 11.8 inches. There's also a Super Macro option to get as close as 0.8 inches. By default, the camera uses an iESP autofocus area setting, which automatically sets the focus based on the subject's proximity to a range of AF points around the center of the image area. Through the Record menu, you can opt for a Spot AF setting, which will instead base focus only on the very center of the frame. Area AF mode lets you manually position the AF area just about anywhere in the frame. In addition to its 3x optical zoom, the SP-350 also offers 5x Digital Zoom. Keep in mind though, that digital zoom simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD and thus results in lower image quality. The 8.0-Mp CCD produces high-resolution images, good enough for prints up to 16x20 inches with good detail and sharpness, as well as lower-resolution images for sending via email or for printing 5x7- and 4x6-inch prints.

For composing images, the SP-350 offers a real-image optical viewfinder and 2.5-inch TFT color LCD monitor, which features a very bright and clear display. The optical viewfinder has no dioptric adjustment and a slightly low eyepoint. The LCD monitor provides a fairly detailed exposure-information display and a histogram option is available for checking the exposure graphically. There's also a framing guideline option, which divides the image area into thirds horizontally and vertically or adds diagonal lines, to help you line up difficult shots. In Playback mode, the LCD monitor provides image enlargement and an index display. And the SP-350 also features a helpful Guide button. Hold down the Guide button when in menus and the screen displays a context sensitive help message. With the SP-350, you're never lost and don't have to remember what everything means. Just press the Guide button.

Exposure control is uncomplicated and straightforward, despite its full manual exposure control offering. Most of the exposure options are controlled through the multi-page LCD menu system, which is fairly simple to navigate. An initial shortcut menu screen pops up before entering the main Record menu, offering quick-access options for the camera's White Balance, Image Size and Macro or you can choose to just enter the main Record menu itself. The SP-350 offers full Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual main exposure modes. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 15 seconds, with a maximum eight-minute Bulb option available as well. In addition to the available shutter speed and aperture settings, the user can also adjust Exposure Compensation, ISO, White Balance, a white balance adjustment tool, Metering and Flash modes. The built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill and Off modes. There's also an external flash hot shoe, for attaching a more powerful flash unit. You can also adjust contrast, saturation and sharpening.

Scene mode offers Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night Scene, Sport, Night + Portrait, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Behind Glass, Cuisine, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select 1, Shoot & Select 2, Beach, Snow, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2 and Underwater Macro. Each mode sets up the camera for specific shooting situations and a concise explanation of each mode appears on the LCD screen as you scroll through. Most of the preset modes are fairly self-explanatory, as they handle very distinct situations. However, the Shoot & Select modes deserve some explanation. Both take a sequence of shots but Shoot & Select 1 locks focus on the first frame (great for faces) while Shoot & Select 2 adjusts focus for each frame (better for sports and action shots). When you've finished the sequence, the images are displayed so you can delete the unwanted ones. Another option on the Mode dial is the My mode, which lets you save as many as four sets of custom settings.

Self-Timer mode provides a 12-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the image is actually captured. The SP-350 features three Sequential Shooting modes, which let you capture a rapid series of images while holding down the Shutter button. A High Speed Sequential option captures images at a faster frame rate, while an AF Sequential option sets the focus before each shot, thus slowing down the cycle time. Panorama mode is available when using Olympus brand xD-Picture Card storage cards (but not cards from third parties), recording as many as 10 consecutive images. 2in1 mode captures two images displayed side-by-side in a full resolution file and Timelapse Photography mode captures a series of images at preset intervals. Movie mode captures moving images with sound at either 640x480 or 320x240 pixels at 15 or 30 frames per second. Another interesting feature is the ability to save images in groups or albums. You can save as many as 12 albums, each containing a maximum of 200 images. The Album option in the Playback menu accesses saved albums, letting you select one for playback.

The SP-350 stores images on xD-Picture Cards, but does not ship with one. It does have 25-MB internal memory, but you'll want to get a card along with the camera so you don't miss any important shots. Large capacity xD Picture cards are available up to 1-GB and I suggest buying at least a 256-MB xD-Picture Card. A CD-ROM with Olympus' Camedia Master software [MW] accompanies the camera, providing minor image editing tools and the ability to stitch together multiple images shot in panorama mode, as well as utilities for organizing images. A second CD-ROM holds the SP-350's more advanced instruction manual, which is more detailed than the basic printed manual. For power, the camera uses either two AA-type batteries or a single CR-V3 battery pack. I'd recommend picking up a set of rechargeable batteries and keeping two charged at all times. Read my NiMH battery shootout page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/BATTS/BATTS.HTM) to see which batteries currently on the market are the best and see my review of the Maha C-204W NiMH battery charger (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/C204W/C204WA.HTM), my current favorite. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such as transferring images to a computer. Also included with the SP-350 is an AV cable for connecting to a television set and a USB cable for connecting the camera to your computer to transfer images.

Test Results: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SP350/SP35A.HTM#specs

CONCLUSION

The 8.0-Mp, 3x-zoom Olympus SP-350 is an excellent performer where it counts: printed image quality. It has a wealth of features in a surprisingly compact body; and though it's not the most attractive design you'll start to like it right away when you shoot with it. Featuring a full range of exposure control, in addition to 24 preset Scene modes, the SP-350 caters to a large audience. Novices will appreciate the availability of point-and-shoot control, while more experienced users will enjoy the availability of full manual exposure control. A large 2.5-inch LCD monitor provides accurate framing and a great place to view pictures, with a real-image optical viewfinder available to save battery power, a feature disappearing from most digicams with a large LCD. Though the camera's Auto white balance setting tends toward a warmer color cast, overall color is generally pretty good and exposure about right (though high contrast under harsh lighting). Though the slow shutter lag and image transfer times could have been better, the printed image quality of the SP-350 really surprised us. Even at high ISO, its images were usable far larger than most competing models. For the traveler or hobbyist photographer looking for a small capable camera that has impressive output, the Olympus SP-350 is a clear Dave's Pick.

Return to Topics.

Feature: What Constitutes a Review?

By DAVE ETCHELLS

One of the things that makes running a photo review Web site such a pleasant experience is the relationships I have with some of my fellow publishers. As frequently happens, I was chatting online with Phil Askey (http://www.dpreview.com) and Jeff Keller (http://www.dcresource.com) the other day and we found ourselves remarking on the confusion that seems to reign over what constitutes a "Preview" vs. a "Review," "First Look," etc.

With the three of us using different terminology for varying levels of coverage of the products we review, we were concerned that the distinction between simple reporting on basic camera functions and features based on manufacturer's specs vs. deeper reporting based on our own experience and testing might not always be clear.

For all three of us, it's important that readers understand the underpinnings of our writing and never confuse a recitation of manufacturer-published specs with data collected through our own tests or opinions formed by direct experience with the products in question.

With that in mind, we here at Imaging Resource, together with Phil at dpreview.com and Jeff at dcresource.com have agreed to use the following designations for different levels of camera review treatment on our respective sites:

PREVIEW

A Preview includes:

HANDS-ON PREVIEW

A Hands-On Preview includes:

It may also include:

REVIEW

A Review includes:

Our purpose here isn't so much to set out all that a review on our site could be, but merely what it should contain at a minimum. It doesn't, for example, mention our subjective experience, which we're including more of in our reviews. We clearly distinguish between situations where we've had our hands on a product and where we haven't -- and whether the hands-on experience was with a full production model or a prototype. There's been a lot of examples of "reviews" on the Web lately where the author has never so much as shot a photo with the camera in question, a practice that does a severe disservice to the reader.

(Much the same principles Dave cites for camera reviews are at play in the scanner, printer and software reviews done primarily by your newsletter editor. Product announcements appear on the site's news page apart from reviews and the reviews themselves reflect solely our experience using the products for an extended period on real-world projects. We often also interview the people behind the product to clarify features or resolve problems. -- Editor)
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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:

Note also that our continuing PMA 2006 coverage (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06/PMAS06.HTML) has a few new videos up, including New Printers at PMA, Sony at PMA, Camera bags at PMA and Canon at PMA.
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In the Forums

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

Visit the EOS 20D 'Share Your Pictures' Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9ad5e

Visit the Kodak Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77d

A user asks about emailing photos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea0d88/0

Arnold asks about Canon FL lens adapters at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea22c8/0

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

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Just for Fun: Woodworking With a Digicam

Once upon a time there was this doting father named Tom Beshara who had two daughters. And they were growing up fast. Sure, he had the baby shoes bronzed, the foot and hand prints, but he wanted "something more."

He remembered the impression an ultrasound image of one daughter's profile had made on his wife Lorie as it flickered on the video monitor. A profile!

But not just any profile. Fascinated by optical illusions, Tom decided to use his daughters' profiles as templates for wood turnings. In the negative space left by the object (and the shadow it cast), you'd be able to see their profile. He called it a Pirolette.

For a long time, there were only two in the world (one for each daughter), but a couple of years ago his daughters persuaded him to make them for others. So he founded Turn Your Head (http://www.turnyourhead.com) and, with no more than your digicam (and $150), you can have your head turned.

To pose, stand in profile about two feet from a blank wall. No need to smile (it distorts your profile, you know). Hold a stiff 8.5x3.5-inch paper (a letter folded neatly in thirds) about an inch from your face and look at the long edge.

The camera should be held at the height of your face, centered on your nose and square to your profile. Crop in both your entire head and the paper. You can do this yourself if you mount the camera on a tripod and set the self-timer.

Then you just send Tom the JPEG to turn your Pirolette on his lathe in three to six weeks.

They're not bad looking objects d'art, but we'd like to see a couple of options. Maybe a goblet or a mortar and pestle set, say. Or, if you have a large family, why not a set of bannister post caps? They'd have to be shrunken heads, probably, but they'd cast an impressive shadow.

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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: The Magic Camera

You forgot the focusing system on this baby, able to capture information about the shot so that when you get back to post process -- you can pick and choose what is in focus or the degree of focus.

-- Rick Hansen

(<g> -- actually, that's what the DxO hybrid lens does, but that's an accessory, we admit. Our depth of field options don't let you edit focus information but the DxO does. -- Editor)

RE: Green Cards

Although I am up in years, I am "green" when it comes to digital cameras. I recently purchased an Olympus C-5500 Zoom, 5.1 Megapixel camera. It came with a 16-MB Picture Card. Following indications in your Web site, I decided to purchase a 256-MB Picture card. How many pictures can be stored (save) on each of these cards?

-- Oscar Mendez

(It depends on 1) what size images you record and 2) what compression setting you use. The C-5500 can save quite a few different size images from 2592x1944 pixels to just 640x480 pixels. And it can save each image with either Fine or Normal compression. Fortunately, we've done all the math for you on the Picky Details page for each camera we review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C5500/C55DATA.HTM). Those numbers represent what you can store for the standard size card (16-MB in this case), so to figure what a 256-MB card can store, multiply by 16. -- Editor)

RE: About Those Photo Stamps at PMA

I've had the idea for years that it would be cool for the Post Office to provide a few images to select from for the postage printed at the counter (and online), instead of just the bland postage-text currently produced.

-- Paul Sentner

(Well, not at the counter, please, Paul. The lines are slow enough <g>. But a kiosk might get a few stamp purchasers out of line. -- Editor)

RE: Flip Cap

I've seen another Olympus C-740 UZ wearing a lens cover with the stays attached to the lens and which flips open for use. Even saw one in a magazine, but no clue how to get one. Olympus denies knowing anything about it. Am using the "dangler" that came with my digicam but sure would like to have the convenience of the flipper. Any idea on where I might get one?

-- Roger Patterson

(Dancraft (http://www.olycap.com) distributes the $9.50 Olycap. It's a rubber sleeve that slides over your lens protrusion and has a spring-loaded hinge that pops the lens cap to the side when released. -- Editor)

RE: Happy Birthday

My loving wife is giving me a D50 for my birthday! I've decided to buy the 18-70mm lens that kits with the D70 instead of the one usually offered with the D50. I'm not sure about the longer zoom. The 55-200mm f4.5/5.6 seems to be the only option and I get lost trying to search reliable info. Is there something better within a, say, $400 limit? Hate to bug a busy guy, but those are the guys that know and are worth bugging.

-- Henry Arance

(Visit our sister site http://www.slrgear.com to learn more about your lens options, including third-party Nikon mounts. At about $700, Nikon has an 18-200mm lens with image stabilization (VR2, they call it) but we don't see that available anywhere at the moment. If you were going to buy two lenses to cover that range, this might make a lot more sense, particularly since it adds image stabilization. Meanwhile, you can always pop an old Nikkor on -- or, lacking that, build a pin hole lens <g>. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Micron (http://www.micron.com) has entered into an agreement to acquire Lexar (http://www.lexarmedia.com), exchanging each of 81.6 million outstanding common shares of Lexar stock for 0.5625 shares of Micron stock. Lexar would continue to operate as a wholly owned Micron subsidiary and would cease trading on the stock market.


MemoryMiner 1.04 [M] (http://www.memoryminer.com) includes the first version of a Flash skin for media and XML data exports, Address Book link enhancements, localizations (French, German, Italian, Danish, Japanese, Traditional Chinese) and more.


JAlbum 6.3.2 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net), a Java-based Web album generator, now includes a tint filter, an MP3 background music option for the Slide Show skin, an updated XP skin, an option to exclude images recently added to the image directory and more.


Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released its $99.95 RAW Developer 1.4.6 [M] with support for the Nikon D70s, Canon 1D Mark II N and Leaf Aptus 75 cameras and fixes an issue with the Open Recents menu specific to Mac OS X 10.3.9. Improvements include new camera default settings and default white balance presets for Leaf and Phase One digital backs.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released its XMP Toolkit Version 4.0 Prerelease 1, a software development kit for the company's Extensible Metadata Platform, a labeling technology for embedding metadata into a file. The new version adds the ability to easily find, add and update XMP in popular image, document and video file formats.


PhotoTeKNiK (http://www.phototeknik.com) has released its $49.95 ImageDuster Pro 2.1 [W], an application that automatically removes dSLR sensor dust spots from images. It also operates in manual mode and can apply a dust map image to a series of images.


MultimediaPhoto (http://www.hdrsoft.com) has released its $69 Photomatix Tone Mapping Plug-In 1.0 [MW] to reveal details in highlights and shadows in High Dynamic Range images. Controls include adjustment for luminosity, strength, color saturation and white and black clipping.


The Art of Photography Show (http://www.artofphotographyshow.com) is an international exhibition of photographic art held from April 20 to June 4 at the Lyceum Theatre, San Diego. A total of 9,535 photographic entries were submitted by over 2,700 artists from around the world. About 100 pieces will be selected by Arthur Ollman, director of the Museum Of Photographic Arts (http://www.mopa.org).


LQ Graphics (http://www.lqgraphics.com) has released Photo to Movie 3.3.1 [M] to address a problem exporting movies using QuickTime 7.0.4. The company is also looking for beta testers for version 4.0 of the program.


Vladan Nikolic (http://www.e18error.com) maintains a Web site on the Canon E18 error, focusing on instructions for repairing it and a board for posting experiences with it. An E18 error can occur when the lens gets stuck while it is extended or when sand or dirt get into it.


Kepmad (http://www.kepmad.com) has released its $19 ImageBuddy 3.3 [M] with typographic enhancements and file name alignment options.


We've found a couple of free image viewers for Mac OS X. Album Shaper [M] (http://albumshaper.sourceforge.net) is a free image viewer and catalog program with basic image editing functions. Xee (http://wakaba.c3.cx/releases/mac/Xee1.2.1.zip) [M] is just a free image viewer, nothing fancy.


Blue Pixel (http://www.bluepixel.net) has announced its $149 Nature's Best Photography Experience, a seminar series on nature photography led by Daniel J. Cox. Beginning in March and visiting 16 cities across the country, the full-day seminar is designed to teach attendees how to work with the latest technology, capture better images and work more efficiently throughout the digital workflow process.

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One Liners

For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

Archive and distribute your digital images: http://PhotoShelter.com

Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com

PhotoRescue: http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter: http://www.lockergnome.com

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Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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