The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 8, Number 11 26 May 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 176th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. First, we get our hands on a new image editing technology that's a breeze to use. Then Dave gets his hands on Sony's slippery little T30. And we have a little evolution to tell you about, too. Before we discuss protective filters.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Capture NX -- Editing for the Rest of Us

Before there was a thing called Photoshop, there was the grease pencil. A photographer would take his film to a lab, get it processed and deliver it to the client who would pick a few to have some enlargements made. Then the fun began.

The client would use a grease pencil to mark up the prints or transparencies. They might, for example, make a little mark in the sky and write a note to go with it like, "Bluer sky!" Or a big circle on a clump of bushes with a less subtle note, "Bring up detail." Or pinpoint a blemish and say, "Remove." And the image would go back to the lab for another print.

When we saw Nik Software's demo of their U Point technology at PMA in February (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06mrp/PMA4.HTM#upo), we were reminded of our old grease pencil. Both image editing approaches expect you to point at the problem in the picture -- and very little more.

THE TROUBLE WITH SOFTWARE

If you used a grease pencil, the problem was sent to a technician to solve. But these days, photographers themselves are expected to enhance their images -- often before the client sees them. And to do that, photographers rely on image editing software.

The trouble with image editing software is that it isn't easily mastered.

As a photographer, you know what Brightness is all about as soon as you underexpose a shot. And Contrast is no mystery either when the sun is shining brightly. Why you would use Levels to adjust them is a mystery, though. You may not quite grasp Saturation, but you know skin tones shouldn't glow like sunburn. How you fix that, though, is another question.

And those are global changes, affecting every pixel in your image. The real frustration comes in when you try to select just a part of the image to affect. You try the Magic Wand, you try the Lasso, you try switching to the more detailed Green channel, you give up. You can never be as precise as you'd like.

On the other hand, if you do give up and resort to one of the simpler image editors, you often find yourself gaining a little ease of use by giving up a lot of power. And rarely do you escape the drudgery anyway. Even with Photoshop Elements 4's new Magic selection command, you have to do a lot of touching up.

We have high hopes for Light Craft's LightZone, based on the Zone lighting system, but while we like compressing and expanding tones, we're hitting a wall after that. And that's not Light Craft's fault. That's the nature of the beast.

The trouble with software is, simply, that it has to be learned.

CAPTURE NX

That's what we were thinking, anyway, as we sat down earlier this week in front of an LCD monitor with Nikon's Mike Rubin and Lindsay Silverman. We were there to take a look at the beta of Nikon's Capture NX, which incorporates Nik Software's U Point technology.

Nikon believes there are a lot of enthusiast-level photographers out there who would like to improve the images they shot but are frustrated by the expense and difficulty of the software available to do it. These are people who get excited about shifting off Auto mode to get a better picture. And they'd love to tweak their images in software, too -- if the learning curve wasn't such a steep slope.

Nikon also realizes not every one of these people owns a Nikon. So this version of Capture is not just for Nikon images. You can open any JPEG or TIFF in Capture NX and even save them as Nikon Raw images in the company's proprietary NEF format.

Now why would you want to do that, we wondered?

UPOINT

To use Nik's U Point technology, that's why. Remember the grease pencil? U Point turns your mouse into a grease pencil. Just click on that flat sky, go ahead. But instead of writing a note, just adjust the Brightness slider that instantly appears where you clicked. How? Just slide it to the darker end. You've got a bluer sky more quickly than you could write, "Bluer sky!"

That's your learning curve.

In most image editing software, you'd have to build a highlight mask to avoid darkening the whole image and then get to the dialog box with the Gamma slider that lets you darken the sky. That's fun if you know how to do it, but even though we know, for some reason, we never look forward to actually doing it. Even with an Action defined.

Adding a U Point control point to the sky is a blast, we found out when we tried the reviewer's beta Nikon provided. A small graphic similar to a capital E with one more horizontal bar appears right where you click. The bars of the E are actually sliders.

The top slider controls the Size of the control point's sphere of influence. It tapers off at the edges much like a light source, Lindsay explained, but you can make it any size you want.

Under that are three commonly used sliders: Brightness, Contrast and Saturation. When you click on any of them, the full slider appears. As you make your adjustment, the image updates immediately (well, nearly), so you can see exactly what the effect is.

This gets even more fun when you realize the control point isn't glued in place. You can drag it around. And as you do, the image changes. It's a lot like waving a flashlight around your image, except this flashlight doesn't throw a dull yellow beam but a Brightness, Contrast and/or Saturation adjustment.

Actually, it can adjust more than that. Sliders for Hue, Red, Green, Blue and Warmth (or White Balance) can also be displayed. And you can use U Points to set the Black point, White point or Neutral, too. Just click on anything that should be neutral with the Neutral control point and instantly the image is color corrected.

In fact, just as you can have more than one control point in an image, you can have more than one Neutral control point. So if, as Lindsay pointed out, you have fluorescent and incandescent light sources in your shot, you can set a U Point to neutralize each. We're not aware of any other program that let's you set two neutrals, mixing color balance that easily.

SIZE MATTERS

How many pixels each control point affects is determined by the Size slider. But this is a very soft-edged sphere of influence. You don't control how hard edged it is, just the size. The control point relies primarily on hue, apparently, to draw its mask. It's not just an indiscriminate beam.

The spheres of influence around each control point were beginning to bother us during the demo because not everything in an image fits in a circle. At one point Mike was correcting the brightness of a river that flowed diagonally through the image. One circle wasn't going to do it.

No problem. He simply set up one U Point control point to his liking and duplicated it a couple of times to affect the whole river without bothering the banks of the river. Very nice.

And if you wanted a finer edge, he said, all you have to do is paint the effect out. View Selection shows you the mask the control point has built. But you can add or detract from it with the Paint Brush tool.

BEYOND THE LEARNING CURVE

Mike claimed that learning how to use a U Point wouldn't take much time. And we found it instantly accessible.

In fact, as Mike pointed out, the pleasure of using NX is not just being able to easily do what you want but being able to do a lot more than you ever could in any other image editor. Without giving up any power, we'd add.

Adjustment layers, masking, opacity, forget it. Just use a control point and save the image as NEF so you can go right back to the original any time.

THREE TEST IMAGES

Readers familiar with our other software reviews know we use the products on real projects. Even though NX is a beta, we had a pile of things to get done and thought we'd try some of them in NX first.

To see our first three sample projects, visit the illustrated version of our NX Diary (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/NX/NX.HTM). We start with a high-key image of a white rose with a yellow tint in the shadows to work out with a Neutral control point. Then we move to a scanned print of a badly backlit vacation image from decades ago that's restored with D-Lighting, Noise Reduction and a couple of control points in the sky. Our third trick takes a brown house with brown trim and changes the trim to green -- something that baffled Photoshop's Replace Color command -- using a single control point.

NEXT UP

Nikon expects to ship NX sometime in July. The beta is pretty rough for a beta, we thought, but accomplished for a proof of concept. Capture has always required a lot of memory and Lindsay told us one or two gigabytes of RAM wouldn't hurt. That's pretty much true of any image editing software working on today's 6-Mp images.

There's a good deal more to NX than our first look might suggest, however, including all the legacy commands Capture users rely on. But there are more than a few interesting new features, too. The built-in browser has some interesting labeling and sorting options. Edits can be applied in Batch mode and copied to selected thumbnails in the browser. There's support for Wacom pressure sensitive tablets. And a great deal more you can do with NEF files.

Which is why we've structured this ongoing review as a diary. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Sony T30 User's Report

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T30/T30A.HTM on the Web site.)

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30 is now the eighth in the T-series (though not all from this line made it to the U.S. market), with similar overall specs to its predecessors. The camera's thin profile is clean and understated, with smooth panels and very few protrusions and its mostly metal body is has just a few chrome trim elements to add a little flair.

The Sony T30 has a lens design that zooms internally, thereby eliminating any lens protrusion on the front panel, improving its pocketability. The lens cover slides vertically with a soft but firm "snick," a very nice feel to it, similar to the original T1, but missing from some more recent T-series models. I found myself wanting to open it by using the chrome accent strip as a finger-hold, but that didn't work too well. Simply pressing on the top edge of the cover worked much better once I got used to it. Likewise, pressing up on the bottom edge of the cover worked for closing the cover, but felt a little unnatural to me.

With the cover open, there's a slight lip to the right side of the camera body, providing a slight finger-grip, but that never seemed to be enough for me to feel comfortably secure holding the camera. Part of the problem is that the slick plastic covering the LCD extends across the entire back panel, providing little or no purchase for your thumb when you're gripping the camera. I very strongly recommend attaching the wrist strap to the camera's eyelet and using it regularly.

LCD PERFORMANCE

I'm always a bit leery of LCD-only cameras, as the LCDs tend to wash out in bright sunlight and in dim light, the refresh rate of the monitor often means that the viewfinder runs out of light way before the camera does when snapping pictures. Taking the Sony T30 for a spin outside on a sunny afternoon showed its LCD to perform very well in bright lighting, even with viewed in direct sunlight.

Indoors under dim lighting or outdoors at night, the LCD's performance isn't quite as impressive, but is way more than adequate for most shooting conditions typical consumers will be likely to encounter. Fiddling around in the studio with the camera, I found I could (just barely) use the LCD viewfinder at a brightness level of 1/8 foot-candle, which was also about the limit at which the camera could get a good exposure at ISO 800 or so. This is pretty darn dark. Typical city street-lighting produces a light level of about one foot-candle, so the T30 will produce usable photos in much darker situations than that and the LCD viewfinder will pretty much be usable for framing anything the camera will be able to take a picture of.

All in all, a much better than average LCD viewfinder and the huge 3.0-inch display is great for passing the camera around to share photos with friends and family. I've often joked that the next step will be LCD screens that wrap around the camera body, it seems that the T30's is getting pretty close to that point.

Another consideration with an LCD as large as the T30's though, is its susceptibility to cracking or being scratched if you carry it in your pocket (as its size and shape practically beg you to do). We don't have any way of measuring how sturdy or scratch-resistant these things are, but really, really recommend a small hard case for the camera if you're going to carry it about much.

I can speak from painful experience of what happens when a camera in your pants pocket comes in contact with the corner of a table or chair. A bump that doesn't feel like much of anything to you could mean sudden death for your camera. Really large LCDs as found on the T30 only exacerbate the problem.

HIGH ISO MODES

The Sony T30 joins a number of other 2006 model-year cameras in providing options for very high ISO (light sensitivity) settings, as high as ISO 1000. Given these high settings, we expected to see evidence of some sort of breakthrough in noise reduction, but were disappointed in those expectations.

Under bright lighting, the noise levels at ISO 800 and 1000 were indeed somewhat lower than we'd normally expect, but not that much lower. After the sun went down though, image noise really increased dramatically, to the point that even ISO 400 images showed a lot of image noise in the shadow regions.

In fairness to Sony though, I highly applaud the great improvements in subject detail we're seeing in the T30 over past models. They seem to have dialed-down the noise suppression processing on the T30, with the result that the camera does a much better job of retaining subtle subject detail when shot under better lighting. This is a very welcome improvement, addressing one of the few criticisms we've had of Sony cameras in recent history.

RESPONSIVENESS

Digital cameras are happily getting faster and more responsive across the board, an area Sony has done well in for some years now. The DSC-T30 felt very responsive when I was shooting with it. I rarely felt I was missing a critical moment because the camera was too slow. My habit of "pre-focusing" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before critical shots definitely helped with this (the T30 is positively blazing in that mode), but even when I was just punching the shutter button when I wanted to grab a shot, the T30 delivered the goods more times than not. Even in flash mode, where the shutter response is delayed slightly by the preliminary metering flash, the T30 felt more responsive than most cameras I handle.

IMAGE STABILIZATION

Arguably the biggest feature of the Sony T30 is its Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization. There are relatively few really small cameras that offer image stabilization (all current models from Panasonic, the SD 700IS from Canon and the X1 from the now-defunct Konica Minolta). The T30 is the first such from Sony, a leader in image stabilization through the years in their camcorder line.

I'm a huge fan of IS -- it's just so useful when you're faced with less-than-bright lighting. The old rule of thumb in photography that the longest shutter time you reliably hand-hold is one divided by the effective focal length. That is, for a 100mm equivalent focal length (about what the T30's lens is at full telephoto), you shouldn't expect to get sharp photos at shutter speeds any slower than 1/100 second. At the wide-angle end, the limit would be about 1/40th. A lot of pros can hand-hold at slower speeds than these and I used to be able to when I was younger, but these days I have a hard time even achieving the levels suggested by the rule of thumb.

For most casual shooters, image stabilization greatly extends the range of lighting conditions over which they can successfully hand-hold their cameras, permitting shutter speeds anywhere from four to eight times slower than the guidelines suggest. This means that they should be able to get by with shutter speeds in the range of 1/15 to 1/25 second at telephoto focal lengths, a pretty dramatic improvement. Image Stabilization won't save every photo from being blurred (and of course, won't do anything at all about subject movement), but it'll certainly save a lot of them.

MOVIE MODE

The Sony T30 also sports a very capable Movie mode, able to record 640x480 video at 30 frames/second. This makes for beautifully rich, detailed video imagery, but note that you need to use PRO-type Memory Stick media to support the very high data rates this kind of video generates. Non-PRO Memory Sticks will restrict you to the slower 16.6 frame/second movie rate.

I did encounter an audio artifact with the T30's video in some circumstances, that sounded like the camera was picking up the mechanical noise from either the autofocus or image stabilization mechanism. Some clips had it, most didn't.

BATTERY LIFE

The Sony DSC-T30's battery life was also very good, with over three hours (190 minutes) of run time in capture mode and 4.8 hours in playback. I always buy a second battery with any digital camera I've ever purchased, but then I have something of an obsession about not running out of battery power. If you plan on any extended journeys away from a power outlet, I definitely advise picking up an extra battery, but if you're just using it around town and for short events, you likely won't need one.

As just alluded to above, the T30 also uses Sony's InfoLITHIUM battery system, which means the camera can tell you exactly how much run time the battery has left, in whatever mode you're currently using. Sony has dropped this feature from some of their lower-end cameras (a shame), but retained it on the T30. It's one of my favorite camera features, as it completely avoids nasty surprises when your camera batteries fail at the worst possible moment. They still may, of course, but at least you'll know that you're running short well ahead of time.

CONCLUSION

All in all, the Sony T30 was a very enjoyable camera to use and its image quality was very good as well. I really wish it felt a little more secure to hold onto, but in most every other way, it's absolutely first rate and a lot of fun besides.

Return to Topics.

Feature: New Review Format, Test Targets

By SHAWN BARNETT AND DAVE ETCHELLS

We've been in the midst of a number of changes behind the scenes here at Imaging Resource, the first of which are now ready to be shared with our readers. Appearing first in our Sony H2 review is a new tabbed review format and two new test targets designed to deliver more essential information more quickly.

Because the extensive testing and analysis we do is so comprehensive, it often takes weeks or months before we can post a full review of a new camera model. Our readers tell us they appreciate the thoroughness of our testing and the fact that we subject all cameras -- from $100 entry models to $8,000 pro SLRs -- to the same battery of tests, but many have been requesting test results more quickly than our regular process could deliver.

Our limited resources have also meant that we generally have to concentrate our efforts on the more popular, most-requested cameras, leaving a lot of potentially worthy but lesser-known models with no coverage at all.

To address both these concerns, we've come up with a new basic review format, along with two new specially-designed test targets to let us cover more of each camera's performance more efficiently.

TABBED REVIEW FORMAT

Astute readers will have noticed "preview" pages appearing on the site for many cameras that we haven't yet reviewed. These pages contain a main Overview page with basic information about the camera, along with more detailed specs and shopping links for those cameras currently on the market. The preview pages have also contained hints of our new, tabbed review format. After a lot of back-end work, we've now posted our first review in this new format: the Sony DSC-H2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/H2/H2A.HTM).

The new tabbed format divides our coverage into key categories including Overview, Design, Operation, Optics, Exposure, Performance, Specifications and Samples. This new design will make it easy for readers interested in just a quick summary to see just that on the Overview page, without having to wait for the rest of the review to download. Likewise, those interested in the details of various aspects of camera operation and performance can access that information quickly, with the relevant test results posted right below the associated review content.

A key goal of the new format is to allow us to post sample images and test data for new cameras much more quickly. Once fully up and running, this new format will bring our readers significant test data very quickly after each camera's release, helping them make informed purchase decisions as soon as each camera hits the market. It will also help us provide basic coverage of many cameras that we'd otherwise not have time for.

TARGETS

Our new Still Life target and our new Multi target will be appearing on the Overview page for each new camera we get our hands on. We carefully assembled and arranged the Still Life's contents to reveal an extraordinary amount of information about a camera's performance. It will help reveal tone-on-tone detail, noise suppression, resolution of fine and highlight detail, shadow detail and several other factors.

Our new Multi target will look familiar to anyone who's read any of our reviews over the last eight years, as it's just a number of additional elements tacked onto the standard ISO-12233 test target. We left the components of the standard res chart viewable, like the hyperbolic resolution wedges since these are what most people look at on the ISO chart to judge camera resolution. Then we added a Grayscale, MacBeth chart, Kodak Color Separation Target and Kodak Q60 target to show most of the same elements we used to cover with the Dave Box.

Rest assured that what we cover in our full digital camera reviews hasn't changed; in fact we've added a few elements and enhanced the interface to make it a better experience with faster load times and as little or much detail as you like. Most important, once a full review is complete you will still be able to download our full suite of test images, served up straight from the camera so you can see any camera's output for yourself, straight from our lab to your computer and printer.

We're excited by this new format and our new targets and hope you will be too. We'll still be tweaking and refining the content and process in the coming weeks, so watch as we work to implement our whole vision for an improved Imaging Resource. Please let us know what you think of the changes! For more detail on the test targets, see our full write up (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/TESTS/SLMULTI.HTM).

Return to Topics.

Feature: New Lab-Grade Lighting

By DAVE ETCHELLS

Along with the changes mentioned above, we've also made a fairly major change in the lighting in our studio. We've switched from a dichroic-filtered, gel-diffused incandescent lighting setup, built around SoLux bulbs, to a sophisticated HMI (Hydrargyrum Medium-arc Iodide) setup.

The original SoLux lights were an excellent solution for our shooting needs and were more affordable. But changing bulbs and re-balancing the illumination was a tedious, painful process and the diffusion gels we used to achieve even illumination introduced a slight color shift toward warmer tones.

HMI lights are widely used in the television and movie industries to simulate daylight or to provide daylight-balanced fill lighting outdoors. Unfortunately, they're very expensive and they produce emission spikes we thought might cause metamerism with our test subjects.

A little research revealed that most, if not all camera makers rely on HMIs to simulate daylight. The emission spikes we were worried about are sufficiently narrow that they don't cause metameric problems with the vast majority of naturally-occurring subjects and the color spectrum otherwise is an excellent match for natural daylight.

To achieve proper intensity and color control, HMI lamps require a fairly complex electronic ballast, driving up the price considerably. Demand is also largely limited to the movie and TV industries, so there's no mass market out there to pull the prices down.

After some searching, we did find what appeared to be one of the best deals on the market, the Digi-Mole 400 units by Mole-Richardson. Combined with Photoflex SilverDome NXT softboxes and Manfrotto wall booms, we have created a simple and compact solution for illuminating our lab test targets. The combination gives us a wash of true ~5500K daylight, balanced to within 0.1EV across our entire target area.

The Digi-Mole ballasts are pretty compact, much smaller than ballasts on other HMI units we've used on occasion. They're cooled via the large black cooling fins on either side, so you need to provide some clearance around the units. They run quite warm (but not hot) to the touch, but are very quiet because they have no fans. There is a slight "singing" sound in the studio from the HMI arcs themselves, but it's not annoying.

As you might gather, this is a pretty dramatic equipment upgrade, putting our lab's lighting on a par with the camera manufacturers themselves. It also creates a dividing line of sorts in our camera testing, as from this point forward, we'll be using this light source in place of the one that we began with, now over eight years ago.

We're sure our readers will have a lot of questions about this change. We've tried to anticipate as many of them as we could in our full report on the new HMI lights complete with FAQ (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/TESTS/HMI.HTM) if you'd like more detail.

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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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Advanced Mode: To Filter or Not to Filter

One of the more obscure topics in digital photographer is filters.

We don't mean those creative filters required by film photography to achieve effects that can often be recreated with a mouse click in your image editing software (and all on the same unfiltered image). Apart from a good polarizer (whose value no one questions), creative filters are not much in demand by digital photographers.

No, we mean those protective UV and Sky 1A filters. Some higher-end digicams and, of course, all dSLR lenses are candidates for this sort of protection. Fasten your seat belts, strap on your helmets, there are some bone-jarring bumps on this ride.

They're called "protective" because their chief benefit is to protect your expensive glass from the inadvertent fingerprint, the windblown twig, the high-flying regurgitation act of a seagull, the accidental bump are better absorbed by a flat piece of glass. Worst case, you can replace a dinged filter for a few bucks. Replacing a lens will make you cry all the way to the bank.

But it isn't exactly a slam dunk that you need a protective filter. Putting anything in front of your lens affects the light reaching your sensor, possibly degrading the image.

But does it affect it significantly? And if so, is the effect desired?

Let's eliminate the Sky 1A filter right off the bat, since it's designed to alter the color cast of your image, slightly warming it. Some digicams will let you shift their default color balance a bit cooler or warmer if you like. If not, you can set up a default color profile to automatically be attached to any image copied to your hard drive to achieve the same result.

Consider instead the nearly innocuous UV or Haze filter, whose work is mainly done either by the lens glass itself (for wavelengths shorter than 350nm) or the atmosphere (at least at sea level) and does not affect color balance. On a digicam, its work is often also done by the UV filter on the sensor itself, required to achieve a realistic color balance.

The big issue with adding a UV filter isn't so much one of sharpness as it is of light transmission, which itself can affect sharpness. A plain glass filter will reflect 10 percent of the light reaching it, roughly five percent off the front surface of the glass and another five off the back. In effect, it's slowing your lens down 10 percent. And it can confuse TTL flash sensors.

The solution to this problem is coating. Coating enhances light transmission, letting about 97 percent of the light through with just a single coating on both the front and back surfaces of the filter, quite an improvement over just 90 percent for an uncoated filter.

But coating also helps remove ghosting and flare (even more an issue for sensors than for film), especially between the back surface of the filter and the front element of the lens. It also protects the surface of the filter.

Some filters are multicoated. Light transmission tends to increase with more and more layers of coating. A filter coated on both surfaces 12 times can achieve 99.7 percent transmission.

To tell if your filter is multicoated, look at the reflection of a light bulb on the angled surface of the filter. A multicoated filter will reflect the image of the bulb multiple times in different colors. A monocoated filter may show a slight tint change but an uncoated filter will show no tint change. Compare the filer reflection to the reflection of glass from a photo frame to help appreciate the difference.

The trade off becomes clear. An inexpensive filter will take the fall for your expensive glass, but will increase flare and reflections while decreasing the amount of light getting to the sensor by as much as 10 percent. A multicoated filter will eliminate those disadvantages, but they aren't cheap.

At Imaging Resource, our test shots are all done without filters. And even our gallery shots are taken without filters. You get the unadulterated picture.

But we're careful, too. We carry the cameras with the lens caps on (or the lenses retracted, in the case of digicams), removing them only to take a shot. And even then, we're very careful (especially on macro shots) to safeguard the lenses from any obstructions or flying debris.

That isn't always possible in the field, especially for photojournalists. And for our own personal equipment, we often do protect it with filters. But the choice is yours. We hope we've made it a bit better informed.

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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 Olympus SP-310 Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eea286f/0

Visit the Canon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f773

Michael asks about buying a camera suitable for an 8000 meter climb at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea2b4f/0

Laura asks if image stabilization is worth it at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea2c0b/0

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

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Dave's Deals

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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: A Perspective on Lenses

Upon reading your comments on focal lengths I wanted to point out that if you enlarge from a frame shot with a wide-angle lens taken at the identically same position the portion of the frame identical to what would be seen in a long lens you will have essentially the identical picture down to identical depth of fields and so forth so long as the f-stop was the same.

Focal length merely crops the image when getting longer. It does not change the image.

So-called wide-angle distortion not caused by lens error (barrel or pincushion) and so forth is really just how something looks from the position the picture was taken from and not some inherent quality of the wide-angle lens and ditto for the long lens. It is all about perspective and the fact that a wide-angle lens will image a very wide area allows for us to move in close on an object and still get the overall image brings us into unusual perspectival conditions.

It is neither a distortion of the perspective nor a true emphasis of it. It is a one eyed view of the world from that particular spot.

Most often of course, a telephoto will not close focus which makes this particular point moot but it is about principle and having listened to a lecture on physics and cosmology, one wants no doubt to be accurate!

Depth of field is the other constant if the f-stop is held to be a constant. Enlarging a wide-angle image at f5 will be identical to a tele or long lens at f5 if the images are identical in size and shot from the same spot. It is physics talking again.

The circle of confusion which is how one judges sufficient sharpness is an approximation of sharpness and not to be confused with focus since there is but one very narrow plane related to the wavelength of light that is truly in focus at any particular setting. We simply perceive that more than that is sharp enough. A wide-angle lens by keeping the size of the circle of confusion small since the imaging results in smaller samples of the objects, give one the impression of greater depth of field but again, enlarging that field to the same size as that of the telephoto/long lens will show that the circle of confusion is absolutely identical at the same f stop.

And so, after all this, it is in the eye of the beholder that the magic occurs. The physics remains -- unmoved!

-- Neil Fiertel

(Thanks for covering the graduate seminar, Neil! -- Editor)

RE: Making Them the Same

Love your newsletter. Thanks.

I read the article about adjusting the monitor. I do it often with a Spyder. The most important thing for me, though, is to find a way so that the colors on the pictures I print on my Canon i960 look exactly like what they did on the monitor. There are always differences. Knowing how they will print would make color adjustments easier and would probably be more useful than exact colors on my LCD.

Do you know any source where I can get that kind of information. I would be eternally grateful.

-- Les Brown

(Take a look at "A Perfect Print" in the Dec. 9, 2005 issue (which also references a printer review). The trick is to use the right printer profile for the ink and paper you are using. Monitor calibration is indispensable for onscreen display and using the right printer profile is indispensable for getting accurate prints. "Accurate" means not a lot more than something you're happy with. You can't duplicate what you see in nature (the brightness range alone is out of reach) and that applies to a lesser extent to your monitor, too (which has a larger color gamut than any print). What you're really looking for is a credible equivalent to both what you see in nature and on your monitor. -- Editor)

RE: Minolta Scanners

Are Konica Minolta film scanners still in production? It's my impression that these scanners are no longer available, at least in the U.S. (just try to find one at big dealers like B&H). We all know that Konica Minolta is no longer in the digital camera business; Sony bought all the rights and manufacturing designs, patents, etc. from Konica Minolta. One wonders if Sony might pick up the scanner line as well from Konica Minolta. Any one know more about this?

There is still discussion here and on the forums about Konica Minolta scanners, with users recommending people buy them, but if you can't find them anywhere, what's the point? Does Nikon have a lock-up on the market by default?

-- John Heck

(To our knowledge, Konica Minolta no longer manufacturers scanners. But you may still be able to find the company's products at some distributors and certainly in the used market. Nikon makes very good slide scanners, but we're seeing some very capable flatbeds these days. Odds are that's where the real competition will be. -- Editor)

RE: Start With a 1.2-Mp Digicam

I have been reading your site for most of 4 years. I am a legally blind nature photographer. I can't see through the viewfinder but mainly use autofocus and can see the colored light blink or flash. My photos are processed in Photoshop where the largest JPEG I can take is put on the screen. There I do my composing and then photofinishing.

You helped me through my progression of cameras and I have improved my craft. My latest is the Canon 5D where for the first time I can see some of the images. I have a photograph hanging in the Division of Birds Office, The Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. This past year I have had four first place winners in photo contests. I now have a Web site, http://www.frankplanes.com and I have to say I never thought I would reach these heights when I started with my Sony 1.2 megapixal camera.

But you folks have been a great help and I look forward to your newsletter every month. Thanks again for all you do.

-- Frank Planes

(Thanks, Frank -- and congratulations! Very nice site. -- Editor)
(Thanks, Frank, for the inspiration and feedback. The site (and newsletter) are an enormous amount of work for all involved. We earn a living at it, but it's the love of images and photography, and the boost we get from readers like you that really make it worth doing! -- Dave)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Photoshop CS2 9.0.1, its first CS2 update, which addresses a number of minor problems. The company also released a security patch updating Bridge to version 1.04.


Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com) introduced Windows Media Photo, a new image format using the WDP file extension that promises "image quality comparable to JPEG 2000 with computational and memory performance more closely comparable to JPEG." The WDP compression algorithm is efficient enough to run in-device and can deliver "mathematically lossless compressed images that are typically 2.5 times smaller than the original uncompressed data," the company said.


Royal Consumer Information Products (http://www.royal.com) has introduced two digital picture displays. The $249 8-inch Royal PF 80 comes with a credit card sized remote and three interchangeable frames in silver, wood-grain brown and black. The $199 5-inch Royal PF 56 comes with a black frame with other color options are available online. Both models are desktop or wall mountable and support CompactFlash, Smart Media, Memory Stick, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital and XD Card formats.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released iLife '06 updates, adding features to iWeb and fixing a number of bugs. The updates are available as individual downloads or via Software Update.


Boinx (http://www.boinx.com) has released FotoMagico 1.6 [M], which recognizes ColorSync profiles, adds transitions and improves exports (except for that nasty black screen problem).


Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released RAW Developer 1.5 [M] as a universal binary application, plus improvements to the image demosaic algorithm for diagonal edge detail and reduced color noise along high contrast edges. Two advanced sharpening methods have also been added.


BlitzTools (http://www.blitztools.com) has released its $19.95 WaterMarker 3.0 [M] to stamp text, copyright signs, images, Exif data (like camera model, focal length or exposure details), dates and more on your photographs.


A few young men (like around age 10) are trying to make a name for themselves shooting pictures of exotic cars in Beverly Hills (http://www.car-parazzi.com).


Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga had a Plan (http://www.raster.art.pl/gallery/artists/grzeszsamga/grzeszsmaga.htm) to shoot 10 apartments as if the ceilings had been removed. It took two years, but it's quite, uh, revealing.


Bored? Play around with this bottomless zoomable photo mosaic (http://interact10ways.com/usa/information_interactive.htm).

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One Liners

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

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

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

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

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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
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Happy snapping!

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

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