The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 8, Number 12 9 June 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 177th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Sony, on the wings of Konica Minolta, introduces its dSLR line and Shawn tells all. Then we reconsider the usefulness of Bluetooth in a digicam before revealing our tips for shooting in Auto mode. Finally, we congratulate all this year's graduates with a little fable we ran across. Bravo!

But first, we've got some news about our Photo of the Day Contest (http://www.dailydigitalphoto.com) that's too exciting to bury in the Notes section and too fresh to bake into a Feature. From June until August, new sponsor Canon will give an i9900 printer and EOS 30D camera to the first place winner, an iP6600D printer and PowerShot S3IS digicam to the second prize winner and an MPM800 photo MFP to the third place winner. Not a bad return for snapping the shutter!


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:
O'Reilly Media
http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com

Announcing the 2006 O'Reilly Photoshop Cook-off -- a great opportunity for you to serve up your favorite original Photoshop images and win some great prizes. Just start with your own original photos, choose a recipe or two from any of O'Reilly's Photoshop Cookbooks and fire up the graphics grill!

Images will be judged -- by first-rate Photoshop gurus like Katrin Eismann, Bert Monroy, Deke McClelland, among others -- on originality, appropriateness of technique, use of color and overall composition.

Contest runs May 15 to August 15. Winners announced at PhotoPlus Expo. For complete details and contest rules visit http://www.oreilly.com/go/ircontest.

Maha
http://www.mahaenergy.com/

The MH-C204W takes the top spot as Imaging-Resource's favorite charger.

  • Integrated, 100-240V worldwide power supply
  • Charges two AA or four AAA NiMH batteries in one hour
  • Three-stage charging process "tops off" batteries
  • Conditions and rejuvenates batteries
  • Very portable at only 4 oz.!

For a full review, visit: http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/C204W/C204WA.HTM

For more information, visit: http://www.mahaenergy.com

To purchase online, visit Thomas Distributing, an authorized premier distributor, and look for their Limited-Time, Special Introductory Promotion!


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: Sony A100 User Report

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA100/AA100A.HTM on the Web site.)

At first it was a little odd seeing the Sony logo across the front of a camera I immediately perceived as a Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D. It brought to mind Honda's first SUV, the Honda Passport, which I kept seeing as the then established Isuzu Rodeo. Honda had added Honda-like design accents and probably modified the ride and sound characteristics, but to all automobile aficionados -- Isuzu and Honda fans alike -- the Passport was an Isuzu Rodeo with a Honda badge. It's not that there was anything wrong with the Honda Passport -- nor the Isuzu Rodeo underneath -- it just didn't feel like a Honda. I'm afraid many will get a similar impression from the new Sony DSLR-A100 and miss out on a fine camera.

Since Sony had already announced their intention to partner with Konica Minolta on future SLRs, the resulting Alpha A100 is a little different, but camera buffs like myself will be expecting this to be more than a mere re-badge of a Konica Minolta camera.

After a few days of use I'm happy to say that my initial impression of borrowed design has melted away. The Sony Alpha A100 is Sony's first SLR, backed up by years of Minolta experience and Sony's reputation for design excellence. By naming it the Alpha -- the name used for Minolta Maxxum cameras in Japan for years -- Sony has signaled that they're not at all concerned about their new camera's association with the Konica Minolta line. Nor should they be.

Right up front, we should also get the names straight. Alpha is the name of the line, much as Canon has EOS and Minolta had Maxxum. The Sony A100 is a camera in the Alpha line. We will be referring to this camera primarily as the A100.

WHAT'S MISSING

I should make it clear that the A100 draws nothing from recent high-end Sony offerings like the F828 or R1, save perhaps for the nice metallic dials on the top deck. The lack of that "Sony stamp" is probably what makes it look so un-Sony.

Sony fans looking for their next camera will have to toss out what they expect from high-end Sony digicams, including the LCD menu interface, external flash compatibility and special night modes. The main menu is essentially the same as Konica Minolta's design, meaning anyone owning any Konica Minolta digital camera from the past four years will feel right at home; a fact Sony executives will not likely complain about. Sony flash owners will have to invest in a new Sony Alpha model with the proprietary KM hot shoe. Late model Konica Minolta flashes should work as well, though that remains to be seen. And there is no infrared night mode, nor the incredibly accurate laser-based AF assist that was on the F717 and F828.

UPSET EXPECTATIONS

Many expected Sony to be the second company to come out with an SLR that had full-time live LCD preview capability, a move telegraphed with the introduction of the Sony DSC-R1. Instead the DSLR-A100 leverages Konica Minolta's body-based anti-shake technology, which Sony calls Super SteadyShot. Though that's the same name Sony uses on all its stabilized digital cameras, Konica Minolta's system is not optical, but sensor-based: they move the image sensor in response to camera movement, rather than an element in the lens. This makes two major aspects of the Alpha system body-based: the AF engine and the anti-shake mechanism. It also means that all lenses that can be attached to an Alpha camera can benefit from image stabilization, whereas most others require the purchase of a special lens.

BENEFITS

Now that the talk of expectations and first impressions is over, I can get into what makes the Sony A100 unique. First, its APS-C sized, 10.2-Mp CCD sensor is the least expensive on the market. From our first experience, it's a pretty nice sensor, likely related, if not identical to the CCD in the Nikon D200.

That sensor is mounted, as I mentioned, on an improved anti-shake mechanism for from 2 to 3.5 stops of additional exposure "help" as you try to shoot in low light, countering every detected twitch. According to Sony materials, that means if you were shooting a 250mm lens, you'd normally be required to use a shutter speed of 1/250 to prevent motion blur. In theory, Super SteadyShot could keep the camera stable enough to get the same shot at 1/20 second. I can't vouch for that statistic, but I have captured some pretty impressive images in situations where I'd normally lose them to motion blur. I also find that the five bars in the viewfinder that indicate how much anti-shake latitude I have left help tell me just how shaky I can be. With a little concentration, I can bring those bars back down from three or four to one or two, where I'm better assured a stable shot.

With wider lenses, I've been able to get some impressive handheld shots at as low as 1/8 second at ISO 400. Now you're entering shots-of-the-baby-sleeping territory, where a good deal of Sony's target market for the A100 lives.

Sony has addressed another problem with SLR cameras that until now only Olympus had even tried to solve: Dust. Their new system includes a special indium tin oxide coating on the outermost glass, which resists static build up and the system shakes this glass to remove the dust altogether. No one guarantees that you'll never get dust on your sensor, but these measures certainly make it less likely. Whether this shaking is done by the anti-shake system is not mentioned.

There's a new processor onboard the Sony A100, which Sony calls the Bionz processor (pronounced like "beyonds" -- if that were a word). This is supposed to help enable a feature we haven't been able to see yet: Sony's hardware-based Dynamic Range Optimizer. We've tested our pre-release sample with our standard dynamic range target and haven't seen its effect. It could be that it's disabled on our units, so we'll have more when we do the full review. It's supposed to adjust an image's dynamic range to match the scene and rescue images that would otherwise be poorly exposed.

In addition to helping with sharpness and noise reduction, Bionz (honestly, I'd have preferred Beeonz; it doesn't look as nifty, but it at least follows a basic rule of pronunciation) also enables the potential of unlimited JPEG capture. In our testing, a very fast card was required, but it rings true even at three frames per second at the highest resolution, lowest compression.

CONTROLS & FEEL

True to Sony heritage, the new DSLR-A100 looks and feels excellent. Though the body is largely the same as the Konica Minolta 5D, the trim and accents are sufficient to make a difference. While the 5D embraced hard edges, the A100 is smooth and nicely contoured. Overall the body has a black spatter-painted stipple, except the front grip area which has a durable synthetic rubber grip. The Konica Minolta finger grip design is carried over, offering a ridge to separate the middle finger from the ring finger for perfect alignment every time.

That grip is backed up by the wave we saw on the back of the Maxxum 5D, which offers an excellent purchase for your thumb. My thumb tends to ride up a bit into the area where KM put three buttons; but Sony has eliminated one of the buttons and left an open space right between the EV compensation and AE Lock buttons where my thumb can rest and do no harm. Right there, on the highest lip of that thumb riser, is an LED that reports card write status with a red flash right where I need it.

Back here also is a large 2.5 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels. Tap the shutter release and the status display lights up. It's similar to the KM status screen, with the additional accent of an orange glow across, emanating from behind a horizontal central band. Sony has used this glow in early promotional materials, appearing as an orange ring, just like the corona around the Sun during a total solar eclipse. This orange ring surrounds the company's new line of lenses and appears in the function menus (but not the old Konica Minolta-inspired menus) and the orange color appears on many of the accessories and camera bags. (This accent color brings to mind the old Nikonos V underwater cameras, discontinued back in 2001.)

Getting back to the status display, it's offered in lieu of a separate status LCD, which has worked well for Olympus and Konica Minolta, both keeping the bill of materials down and making for a simpler interface. Rotate the camera and the display rotates too, both left and right. It does not go upside down for obvious reasons.

Even better, when you bring the camera up to your eye to take a shot, the LCD turns off. Two sensors beneath the viewfinder pick up my eye's proximity and take action. I like that. It keeps my glasses glare free. What could be better? How about if the Sony A100 started to focus once it knew I was looking? Those two sensors do that too. Pretty smart.

Where I don't like it is when I'm not shooting. I tend to carry an SLR in my right hand. As the camera passes my leg while I walk, the AF system comes to life, adjusting focus with each stride. That can't be good for battery life. Likewise, when I hold the camera close to my body, the AF fires up. This would affect anyone carrying the Sony A100 with a camera strap. The good news is that I can turn off Eye-Start AF. The bad news is that I miss it when I do.

FLASH WITHOUT POP

Just like the built-in flash on the Maxxum 5D, the Sony A100's flash doesn't pop up, either manually or automatically. You just have to know to grab the two metallic front rails and pull up. A very small flash swings into place that's about as powerful as most built-in SLR flashes, which is to say not very powerful at all. Still, it meets my expectations, handling most close range shots well.

Flash exposure compensation is included, accessible via the Function button/dial combination on the left of the top deck. You can easily and graphically adjust the EV setting against the Flash EV because when you flip up the flash, both scales appear on the status display (though only the main EV can be adjusted until you go back to the function dial to adjust the flash compensation). Seems like a handy system.

It takes getting used to, but the Function dial system works fairly well for accessing commonly used settings. Just a press on the Function button brings up the display for the item currently selected on the dial. Turn the dial to change available functions. Metering mode, flash settings, AF settings, ISO settings, white balance, dynamic range and color modes are changed on this dial, with a surprisingly straightforward and attractive interface.

The rest of the controls are typically well made. The four buttons down the left of the LCD are tight and responsive, as are all the others on the A100, including the depth-of-field preview button on the front. The only exception is the navigation dial, which appears to be eight-way rather than the traditional four-way. I'm hoping it's just because it's an early model, but frequently the wrong input is received by my presses and the camera goes in an entirely different direction than I intended. It's just too sensitive. When scrolling within a zoomed image, it does appear to be able to move diagonally, so an eight-way controller it must be. The center button, incidentally, is marked AF and it serves as both an AF lock button and an OK button for making final menu selections.

SHOOTING

In use, I found the Sony A100 quite nice. The Eye Start AF, despite it's obvious foibles, made me feel like the camera was as into photography as I was. It seemed always ready to do my bidding and followed focus as I moved the camera around a scene, maintaining focus all the way. That's a good experience. It handled inanimate objects very well and helped getting shots of sitting children. But teach them to walk and it's all over. The A100 could not keep up with other cameras that can track focus and stay on a swift toddler. I saw nothing like that in my early testing. In Continuous AF, it made some effort, but very stepwise; nothing like smooth motion.

I had the opportunity to test the Sony A100 with more than one lens. While my experience with the kit lens, a plastic-bodied 18-70mm f3.5-5.6, was a good one, the camera completely changed personality when I affixed the heavy and very sweet 35mm f1.4 G. The camera was faster and quieter and could do more in low light. I'm a prime lens fan, so I had fun with this $1,400 masterpiece. It felt and looked more like a gun barrel or a grenade than a lens and gave the A100 a sharp eye and an all-business feel. I was so lost in shooting pictures of dandelions on my lawn with this lens that while I was lying on my side to take multiple manual focus shots, some guy stopped his truck to see if I had passed out. Talk about getting into the joy of photography.

Later I shot with the 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 zoom lens and was pretty impressed with what that could do as well. Where I was really surprised was with the performance of the 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 vacation lens. I got some shots in the middle of the range that really blew my mind. I didn't push it like we'll do when we test it on SLRgear.com, mostly because this is a pre-release camera, but I think I'd strongly consider a lens like this on an Alpha, where I don't think I would on other systems.

Finally, Sony has three Carl Zeiss optics planned for the Alpha system, two of which are expected to ship along with that 35mm f1.4 G in late September, just in time for Photokina. They are the 135mm f1.8CZ and the 85mm f1.4CZ, list priced at $1,399 and $1,299 each. Just a month later, in time for the Holiday shopping season, the 16-80 f3.5-4.5CZ will ship.

This $699 lens is significant not only because of its Carl Zeiss moniker, but because it is roughly equivalent to the lens on the Sony DSC-R1: a 24-120mm equivalent Sony has touted as an ideal combination. It also bests most other offerings at any price in terms of wide-angle.

LIMITATIONS

There are bound to be limitations in an under-$1,000 camera, of course; but they are surprisingly few. First is the noise the camera makes. Not image noise, but audible noise. While I think they do an impressive job keeping the noise of the body-mounted AF motor in check, it can still make quite a racket if it's having trouble finding focus. When just looking through your camera can make a noise loud enough to turn all eyes on you, you might get some nice portraits (with often rude or quizzical expressions) but candid shots are out of the question. When you fire the shutter, you can hear the Super SteadyShot rattling around a bit too. I think this is mostly heard by the photographer, but it's another noise to contend with.

Though it's not obnoxiously loud, the shutter release sound is like sloshing a rake into a tubful of water. It's not a sound I associate with a precision tool. Some will like it, others will not. I do not, but it would not keep me from choosing the A100.

I do like that you don't have to fiddle with a flippy rubber door to connect the USB cable, but there's something I don't like about having to open the CF card door to make this common connection. The door just doesn't seem like it's made for a lot of wear, though I'd say it's the only piece of the A100 that seems a little weak.

I'd also wanted to shoot some test shots with my studio lighting, but right before getting the kids all dressed up, I realized my infrared transmitter wouldn't work on the Alpha's proprietary hot shoe and there was no x-sync either. This could easily be overcome with the purchase of some relatively inexpensive cables and connectors that will be available as early as September (I'm also guessing that they should be available under the Konica-Minolta brand already).

Shots from our test camera were pretty noisy at high ISO and the camera took an aggressive move against that noise that is typical of Sony cameras. The resulting images have smooshed details and a watercolor appearance at ISO 800 and 1,600. That behavior can likely be dealt with by adjusting sharpness settings and certainly by shooting Raw. Most cameras don't do that well at high ISO, so it's nothing new. The Sony A100's images at low ISO are stunning.

ANALYSIS

There are a few inherent problems in the 26 year old system Sony inherits from Konica Minolta, most obviously the body-based AF system that's a little slower and louder than the competition's electronically-controlled, much quieter systems; but where Konica Minolta likely couldn't, Sony might be able to make the necessary changes with their engineering might and significant capital if they choose. After all, Nikon made the transition from body-based to electronic lens-based AF control while maintaining backward compatibility; surely Sony can handle it.

The stakes are high and Canon and Nikon must be taking it seriously. This is the company that virtually owns the video imaging market, not to mention much of the content produced in movies and television around the world. In terms of cash flow, Nikon takes a distant third position behind the two mammoths of Sony and Canon. Add Matsushita (Panasonic), who just announced their dSLR with Leica optics and the battle's about to get very interesting.

But not yet.

Sony will make a lot of headway with the A100, but this mustn't be the only shot fired. The A100 is a good start, taking on the ever-popular Digital Rebel XT directly with more bullet points and higher resolution, but they must have a pro or semi-pro solution in the wings. Will it be a mod of the Maxxum 7D or an all-Sony concoction that takes on the Canon 30D and Nikon D100 with sophisticated Sony design wizardry? Arguably in terms of resolution the A100 does make a play in that direction, but other semi-pro features are missing, as it that Sony mystique.

If they do come out with a semi-pro version, it needs to be an all-Sony design, in my opinion, because though I've changed my view after a few days of experience, first impressions take place at the camera counter and in the browser window and what looks like a re-badged camera could sell fewer units. I'm amused with myself that I don't see it that way anymore, but I think many will.

I recommend resisting the impression that this is a re-badged Konica Minolta camera, especially if that carries a negative connotation for you. I liked both Konica Minolta dSLRs for their build and utility, but their output wasn't as good as it could have been; certainly nowhere near as good as we're seeing from the A100 in pre-release form. Everything about the A100 seems improved: fit and finish, speed, resolution and usability. With 19 lenses coming available (five at launch) in 2006 and 34 accessories coming by November, it's clear that Sony is serious about the Alpha camera system.

Look at the Sony DSLR-A100 as the first product of Sony's collaboration with Konica Minolta. Now that Sony has most of the relevant Konica Minolta folks onboard, there's no telling what direction the line will take. If the A100 is any indication, we stand to get some excellent cameras out of the deal, both from Sony and the competition as they join the battle.

CONCLUSION

As is always the case when we preview a pre-production camera, we reserve final judgement until we can see a full production sample. That said, our first impressions of the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 have been very positive. Our few days with it showed it to be a competent photographic tool that was enjoyable to shoot with and transformed our somewhat lukewarm first impressions into respect, admiration and a hope for a bright future for Sony's new Alpha line. Fit and finish were excellent, ergonomics were very good and the shots we captured with it were impressive. Resolution and color were excellent and the anti-shake system seemed to work very well. The only weak point we found at all was somewhat high noise levels at ISO 1600, but that could easily be a result of lower-grade sensors used for the prototypes. I think it's safe to say that there's a lot to look forward to with such an innovative and significant force entering the SLR market, apparently with a vengeance. We think the Sony A100 will be very popular, giving the Canon Digital Rebel XT and Nikon D70 a serious run for the money. Look for our full review very soon, as well as gallery shots from a full production version even sooner.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Bluetooth Reconsidered

Why isn't Bluetooth (http://www.bluetooth.com/bluetooth/) built into digicams like it's built into cell phones? Simple, according to us. Digicams have to send a lot more data. If you want wireless transfers from today's high megapixel digicam, you want WiFi (either B or G, really). That's why Canon, Kodak and Nikon all ship WiFi wireless digicams.

Until the Kodak EasyShare V610, anyway. We've been playing with it for a few days now and as much as the 10x zoom (and surprisingly sharp 40x digital zoom) impressed us right away, our affection has lingered over its Bluetooth transmitter.

At first we thought we were wrong about the advantages of WiFi over Bluetooth -- but we were merely mistaken. This isn't your ancestral Bluetooth. This is Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. At 3Mbps, that's three times faster than version 1.2 and less power mad, too.

How fast does a digicam have to be to transfer the 6-Mp images the V610 can capture?

That turns out to be an interesting question for anyone with a degree in the social sciences. Because the apparent speed (fast enough) is relative not to the file size but the kind of transfer you're doing.

Say you have 120 6-Mp images from your cousin's graduation. You want them on your hard disk so you can burn some CDs to use as coasters at the graduation party. And you want them there fast. Even Wireless G is going to test your patience because you know you could have copied them faster if you just popped the card into a reader.

On the other hand, say you want to print a 4x6 of The Moment when your grad grabbed that sheepskin. Maybe you want to print 12 of them for immediate distribution as a sort of incentive to the younger relatives. Well, that's different. Printing isn't fast, even at a minute an image. And you're only transferring one image to be printed 12 times. Bluetooth 2.0+EDR is fast enough for that.

In fact, it takes about 14 seconds to move a 624K 6-Mp image file from the V610 to an Apple PowerBook with Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. But it took 42 seconds to copy the file to a Kodak EasyShare printer dock plus series 3 with (unconfirmed rumor) Bluetooth 1.2.

Did you do the math? That's three times faster to the PowerBook than to the printer.

Here's a little more math. The Nikon P1 using Wireless G (the faster WiFi) can move a 2.6-MB file in about eight seconds. And your card reader, of course, can do it much faster.

And you can feel the difference between eight seconds and 56 (to be fair, it takes four of those 624K files to rank with one 2.6-MB file). When you transfer a file to your computer, you wait. You don't have to wait with a modern multitasking operating system under your keyboard, but you wait anyway. You want to make sure it gets there.

When you send a file to print, though, you aren't waiting for the transfer to finish. You're waiting for the print. And you know better, too. So you get busy with something else and when you come up for air, you spin over to the printer and take a look.

Canon took this lesson to heart, shipping a WiFi printer adapter with its WiFi SD430. "Print with it!" Canon screams. Its 5-Mp images transfer in about six seconds to your Wireless B device. The adapter plugs into the printer's PictBridge port.

Kodak's taken an interesting approach to the issue. On the one hand, the EasyShare-One and its 2006 version, which capture 4-Mp and 6-Mp images respectively, are Wireless B devices. But the V610 is a 6-Mp Bluetooth box. You don't get to email through EasyShare Gallery or view your Gallery Albums from any WiFi hotspot with the V610, but you can print. And, if necessary, transfer. And the V610 can even optimize the file size for you, transmitting smaller versions of the file to minimize the pain. You select which size to send when you connect.

So, on second thought, Bluetooth on a digicam isn't such a bad idea after all. Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, that is.

Return to Topics.

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:

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: Quick Tips for Shooting in Auto

Shooting in Auto mode (the green one) is a breeze. You don't have to do anything but frame your picture and press the shutter button. That's the attraction and we don't want to spoil it, but we do have a few suggestions. And they're even easy enough for us to remember and use. Because we love shooting in Auto, too.

TIP: Use the shutter to check focus and exposure

Half-pressing the shutter sets the focus and exposure (which is why it gets rid of shutter lag, too), but look at your digicam's LCD when you half-press and see if 1) the image is too dark or 2) the image is blurry. Take action below!

TIP: Use the shutter to adjust exposure

If the image is too dark on your LCD, it may be because sunlight is bombarding the lens instead of politely staying behind you. No problem, just aim the camera downward a bit for a second and half-press the shutter -- and hold it. Then reframe and shoot. You've just eliminated the sky from the metering.

TIP: Slip into Macro mode

If it's too blurry, you may be too close. Try slipping into Macro mode (usually one of the navigator buttons toggles it on if there isn't a separate button). If it's still blurry, try zooming a little. Zooming outward to wide-angle usually does the trick.

TIP: Change the EV setting

Even Auto uses an EV setting (it's zero). If you're shooting bright subjects against a dark field (like flowers on a bush), change the EV setting to underexpose about a stop, more or less. If you're shooting a dark cat on your rug, change the EV setting to overexpose about a stop. You aren't goofing around, you're compensating for the meter's preference to make everything middle gray (no matter what it is).

TIP: Turn off the flash

Ugh, terrible thing that flash. Try to live without it. Really. Auto will try its best to get a good exposure and may blur the image doing it. If so (and you're shooting a lot more under the same conditions), try a Scene mode like Museum.

TIP: Use a higher ISO

No Museum? Try setting your ISO as high as it can go. These days we're seeing some wild numbers. ISO 800, 1000, even 3200. Of course, they make noisy images, but you can fix that in most image editors (or even by shooting at a smaller image size). Don't be afraid of noise and higher ISOs.

Hey, you probably already knew some of these. But they all come in handy whenever we shoot in Auto. Use them once or twice and they'll be there whenever you need them.

Return to Topics.

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 Nikon D70S Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9f4e7

Visit the Olympus Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f783

Kay asks about buying her first digital camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea2ba0/0

Visit the Capture NX Diary Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea2c71/0

Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: The Class of 2006

My, what a difference a few years makes.

In 2002, we smiled politely as our sceptical relative Ed wondered how, if he went digital, he'd get that "flip-through feeling" he enjoyed jumping back in the car and flipping through his just-processed prints. We explained, through clenched teeth, about online photofinishing, free storage and slide shows for every one. This very graduation party for his daughter could be online in minutes, I explained.

He wasn't convinced. Had to pass the "My Dad Test," he said. He explained that his father is a smart man but you have to explain things to him in plain English. And then he gets it -- because he's a smart man. Fine. I told him he could take his digital camera to a photo store and let them make prints, just like he did now. That sealed the deal.

Now it's 2006 and we're headed back to Ed's for his youngest son's graduation. Ed's been trying to digitize his vast video collection of home movies, none of which apparently document his golf swing. In an effort to save his marriage, he briefly tried this on a Mac mini but got peeved when he couldn't hook up his USB 1.0 Dazzle converter to the mini to feed video into iMovie. He said he figured out how to do it in Windows. We haven't heard from him since. USB 1.0 is slow, but not that slow.

Anyway, we're pretty sure we'll be chatting about something else this time. There will be dozens of digicams and there will already be pictures online by the time we get there. Ed will probably be worried about the real estate bubble.

But, just as in 2002, we'll enjoy celebrating the graduation of a new class. As we said at the time, every now and then, you need a new generation.

We just didn't explain why. It seemed obvious, but apparently it wasn't. We tried to make it clear this year by printing our own graduation cards that explains why. It reprints our translation of a modern fable by Gianni Rodari called "The History of Mankind."

"In the beginning," he starts modestly, "the Earth was all wrong." He describes all the things you couldn't find because they hadn't been invented yet. "You couldn't find a pot or a stove to cook macaroni. In fact, come to think of it, you couldnŐt even find the macaroni," he explains. Mac and cheese? You're dreaming.

All you could find, he continues, were people.

Fortunately, they came with two arms. To get to work. "And," he quickly observes, "the biggest mistakes they were able to fix." He doesn't elaborate, but the point is clear. If you try to do anything at all, you'll make mistakes. And mistakes are what make our economy tick. Fixing them, anyway.

Which leads subtly to the end of this fable where he says, point blank, that there's still a lot of things to straighten out. "Roll up your sleeves, there's work for everyone."

Occasionally it may not seem so, but it's true. The world awaits your contribution, graduates! Ed especially so.

Return to Topics.

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!

Return to Topics.

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: Capture NXed?

Throughout all the long-lead stuff from Nikon and now through various beta-tests (yours being one of the best I've read), one question consistently goes begging: what about sharpening? Nik is all about sharpening. Do they bring interesting improvements in sharpening to NX? Can you use control points to sharpen? Is the loud silence on purpose?

-- reck

(Well, that's an interesting question (and thanks for the kind words, BTW). NX is copyrighted by Nik Software, not Nikon. Nik does indeed sell a world-class sharpening plug-in for, um, Photoshop. We reviewed both it (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/NS2/NS2.HTM) and its predecessor. And we use it ourselves. We even depend on it. Nik's about a lot more than sharpening, however (its noise reduction and color manipulation plug-ins are equally first class). But Nik sharpening and noise reduction do not appear to be part of the NX package. The sharpening and noise reduction appear are inherited from Capture 4. We also don't see any way to tap into a Photoshop plug-in. U Points do not directly affect sharpening. They only control the variables cited in the review. Hope that explains it. -- Editor)

Some initial Capture NX reviews seem to say that we should hold off making a Lightroom vs. Aperture decision for a while. Do you see this product performing the "workload" function?

-- C R Maclauchlan

(Well, it depends on your workload. We do see it chipping in to perform valuable color and tonal adjustments using U Point technology, the focus of our first diary piece. That's especially true if you're working with NEFs. We'd rank it a distant third in the file browser category, compared to Aperture (which is shipping) and Lightroom (which, as a beta even Adobe cautions against). More on that later. More troubling for our workflow, however, is that NX doesn't support Photoshop plug-ins (even those written by Nik). We prefer Nik Sharpener, for example, to NX's inherited unsharp masking function. But again, more later. In general, however, we'd warn against putting all one's eggs in any one proprietary basket. We like NX as a tool, not a system, but we'd say that about any of these products. -- Editor)

Where oh where are the adjustments stored? Yes, I know adjustments are stored within NEF files, but what about adjustments to a JPEG files? Are they stored in the header of the actual original JPEG?

-- Scott Rogers

(With a JPEG, Scott, you can't go home again. When you make an adjustment to a JPEG in NX, the file data itself changes. The adjustments aren't stored separately and it isn't a lossless edit, so to speak. Only when you edit a NEF (or save a JPEG as a NEF), are the edits saved in the header with the original data. But you can save a JPEG as a NEF and keep the original image with its edits. -- Editor)

RE: More About Filters

I was saddened by the statement that "creative filters are not much in demand by digital photographers." There is still a lot of value in a good filter even if it's of the old-fashioned homemade variety such as a dark nylon stocking, a smear of Vaseline or a scrap of metal window screening. Besides the fact that the equivalent effects in Photoshop too often look fake, it takes less than a moment to attach a filter, but it can take a long time to create something convincing in Photoshop. Why would anyone spend an hour staring at the monitor and fiddling with software instead of being out and about taking pictures?

-- Barbara Coultry

(Good point. We were referring to warming and cooling filters. Certainly not polarizing filters. And even less the really creative sort you've mentioned. Which, agreed, are indispensible. And a lot of fun. -- Editor)

Perhaps it would be worth a piece that addresses whether digicams (SLRs may differ from other cameras) as to the need for circular vs. linear polarizers??

-- Bruce Hyman

(Oh, you can't dispense with a polarizer, Bruce. But discussing linear and circular ones would be a nice topic, thanks! -- Editor)

RE: Scanning Help

I have a very complete collection of B&W Hasselblad negs and many Kodacolor 35mm negs. I wish to buy a scanner that will give me true results and realize that it probably has to have some compromises, but I'm so far out of my field, I would be grateful for any suggestions, books to buy, groups to join, whatever. I sure as hell can't get a straight answer from a photo clerk and I am willing to pay for the help. If you can steer me, it sure would be appreciated. I started shooting when ABC Pyro was common.

-- Ian Bruce

(We won't ask how many images you're planning to scan, but scanning film is a labor intensive project. It isn't unreasonable to farm it out to get your collection digitized, then scan the few you think deserve some attention. The scanners that can handle high volume just aren't affordable. But you can do very well with dedicated slide scanners like those made by Nikon (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LS4K/L40A.HTM ) and the defunct Konica Minolta (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/KM5400II/KM5400II.HTM). You can do nearly but not quite as well with Microtek (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/MI9/MI9.HTM), Epson, Canon and the rest -- which provide scanning solutions in flatbeds. Unfortunately slide scanner software is difficult to use across the board. We use SilverFast (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/SF6/SF6.HTM) and VueScan (http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/VUE/VUE.HTM) so we don't have to learn an interface for every box we review. There's a good book on using SilverFast by Taz Tally, reviewed in our newsletter (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html) under the title "SilverFast, the Official Guide." Read those reviews and you'll know more about it than any photo clerk. Wonder why he didn't ask? -- Editor)

RE: Bedtime

Wouldn't sleep be cool if we could photograph our dreams?

-- Fajerab

(In color? -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Portrait photographer Arnold Newman, who popularized the technique of shooting portraits of people in their own environment rather than the studio, passed away at the age of 88 earlier this week. He learned photography by making 49-cent studio portraits in Philadelphia before being published on the cover of Life and Look magazines, among others. His "environmental portraiture" style used the visual elements of a subject's surroundings to reveal them.

And yet, it was just the opposite for the photographer. "We don't take photographs with our cameras," he once observed. "We take them with our hearts and our minds. They are a reflection of ourselves, what we are and what we think."

Some of his most famous work is available at artnet (http://www.artnet.com/artist/12520/arnold-newman.html).


AOL has announced a partnership with Walgreens to enable users of its free AOL Pictures online photo service to order prints online and then pick them up at virtually any of the more than 5,200 Walgreens locations across the U.S. The new retail photo pick up service will be available through the AOL Pictures Web site (http://pictures.aol.com).


Completedigitalphotography.com has posted the free Phototoshop Camera Raw Version Control package [M] (http://www.completedigitalphotography.com/?p=430) to manage multiple versions of a Raw file.


iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) has released iView MediaPro 3.1 [MW], its digital asset management application. The free update is a Universal Binary and features a new Notepad tool, designed to enable communication between creative professionals and their clients. The company has also released a 3.1.1 beta to reinstate support for IPTC formatted metadata in exported files.


Boinx (http://www.fotomagico.com) has released FotoMagico 1.7 [M], which allows Apple Remote to wirelessly control presentations, integrates GarageBand sound tracks and supports drag-and-drop to add images, sound or text to slide shows.


No Starch Press (http://www.nostarch.com) has published its $39.95 The Art of RAW Conversion by Uwe Steinmueller and Jurgen Gulbins, demonstrating how to regain creative control by working with the Raw files.


Magix (http://www.magix.com) has released its $49.99 Goya Multimedia [W], a burning suite with integrated editing tools for photos, videos and music. Its online virtual hard drive, Magix SecuDrive, supports encrypted data backups too.


Featuring Dave Cross, Matt Kloskowski and Scott Kelby, Photoshop TV (http://www.photoshoptv.com) is a weekly program of tutorials, tips, secrets and new techniques for making the most of Photoshop.


DAZ Productions has launched its ArtZone (http://www.artzone.com), featuring virtual galleries, spotlight images, multimedia links, searchable artist profiles, forums, events and more. The service is free to artists.


Lemke Software (http://www.lemkesoft.de) has released its $30 GraphicConverter 5.9 [M], adding Sony Raw import, ICC import/export in PNG files, an option to create XMP metadata parallel to IPTC records, Core Image support for filters with two images, .tex import and more.


View the 2006 Noctilucent Cloud Gallery at the Space Weather site (http://www.spaceweather3.com/nlcs/gallery2006_page1.htm). Or take a look at the British Press Photographer's Year slide show (http://www.thepressphotographersyear.com/competition/results/#).

Return to Topics.

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

Return to Topics.

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

Go to Imaging Resource Home | News | Tips | Digital Camera Index | Scanner Index