|Volume 8, Number 13||23 June 2006|
Welcome to the 178th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Phanfare releases its Mac organizer, Dan slips a Coolpix S5 into his pocket and we review a comprehensive book on Raw conversion before describing an old lens trick. Keep cool!
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(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PPM/PPM.HTM on the Web site.)
For the last week, we've been playing with a sneak preview of Phanfare's first non-beta release of Phanfare Photo for OS X, the software that organizes your images for display on the Phanfare site.
Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) is the subscription-based sharing site that stands out from the crowd with its "zero-click" Web publishing, uploading your captioned images and video to attractively designed Web albums in the background while you work on world peace, global warming and raising your heirs. It also distinguishes itself by giving you access to your collection from any computer with the organizer installed.
We think that alone is worth the price of admission. Which is $6.95 a month, $54.95 a year or $299.95 for a lifetime membership.
In fact, it's one reason Imaging Resource was able to produce over 760 photos (some of them panoramas) and over a dozen videos for our PMA 2006 coverage earlier this year. The team used Phanfare Photo to upload almost all of them while the Phanfare server kept up with the demands of thousands of readers downloading gigabytes of data.
We reviewed the Windows version of Phanfare Photo in March of last year (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHF/PHF.HTM). Then we started playing with the alpha Mac version in August and the beta in September. The Mac beta kept pace with new features introduced in the Windows version, but as Phanfare CEO Andrew Erlichson put it, this Universal Binary release "is definitely 1.0."
This release also turns out to be not only a sneak preview of the Mac version but a sneak peek of some new features coming to the Windows version in a few days. Highlights include:
- Album sections. You can now have sections in any online album. So if you happened to be Landon Donovan, you might have an album called World Cup 2006 with sections for Czech Mate, Italian Generosity and Ghana Gone. Visitors to your site see the Album and its section table of contents.
- New AJAX-powered menus to navigate online albums. Just hover over a link and a transparent box drops down with links to all your stuff. They call this form of navigation "breadcrumbs" because you can backtrack without getting lost, but it's a pretty tasty way of getting around.
- Improved performance and stability for the Mac client. That's what makes this version 1.0. But the Phanfare target has been moving all this time, too. Not long after our review, the company added an RSS feature to keep your visitors up to date, video support (AVI, MOV and MPEG), camphone support, auto-captioning from Exif data, larger file size limits (which keep expanding), Phriends and Family link swapping without a password, image straightening, Flash conversion of video, auto extraction of Picasa captions, hidden Exif data, international character support, album search engines, improved Web slide show with Ken Burns effect (pan and zoom), new styles, music for slide shows, videos in slide shows and hidden individual photos. Busy guys.
- Auto rotation of images based on Exif orientation information. Drag a photo into Phanfare Photo and, presto, it turns itself right-side up. Thunderous ovation. Even iView MediaPro can't do this. Lossless rotation joins a rewrite of the Exif orientation field, height and width, the industry standard for auto-rotate on acquire.
- Support for iPhoto import at the roll and album level.
UNDER THE HOOD
If one thing is clear from that list, it's that these guys have been working under the hood, tweaking the engine that spins the wheels. And that sort of thing isn't always obvious to users. But it does leave some interesting tracks. Including:
- Image versioning. Your edits are made to copies of the originals, which remain available so you can revert to them at any time. Image editing tools are available to fix skew, red-eye, levels and more.
- Install Phanfare Photo on a new computer, log in and see your albums just as they appeared on your old computer. Yes, even if you switch from a PC to a Mac, you'll see all the albums you built on the PC from your new Mac. We've done it ourselves, setting up some albums on Windows, others on the Mac.
- DVD-quality video archive in addition to the streaming version, "so when the Internet gets faster, we can upgrade the viewer experience." The Flash 8 streaming video is exceptionally high quality.
- Unlimited storage with rather generous individual file size limits (20-MB for a still and video clips up to five minutes and under 1-GB with a monthly bandwidth limit of 8-GB), no advertising on your album pages, your visitors don't have to join anything, you get a personal URL at Phanfare, image/video hosting for other sites like eBay, integration with Shutterfly, Kodak EasyShare Gallery and Snapfish print and product ordering and more.
We had a busy Sunday. Drove over to Berkeley to pick up The Nephew and then we shot over the Richmond Bridge to Pt. Reyes for lunch just south of Marshall on the eastern shore of Tomales Bay. After a few oysters and some calamari at Tony's, we drove to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse (http://www.ptreyeslight.com/lthouse.html), whose fresnel lens casts its beam all the way to the horizon. We finished off with a cup of coffee at Drake's Beach before going back to Berkeley for dinner.
If ever an album needed sections, this was it.
Interface. When you launch Phanfare Photo you can see right away why Phanfare calls it an "organizer." In the left-hand pane of the window are your albums arranged chronologically (newest on top). A "+" and "x" at the bottom of the pane let you quickly add or delete albums.
The last edited album is displayed by default, but clicking on any other brings up the images (organized in sections) in the main pane of the window. Albums with sections have a plus sign in their icon. Click the icon to see the sections. Captions are indicated by small cloud balloons.
Along the bottom of the window below the main pane is the tool bar. Tools include: Web site options; Album Options, Style, Security; Image editing tools Import, Edit, Rotate, Auto Levels, Caption; Invite and View Web site.
You can do your work in that window and never visit the Menu bar, but there are few extras there. The File menu has an export command with options for full-size or Web-size versions. The View menu also lets you sort your images by caption, date, filename or in reverse order. You can also just drag and drop images in the main pane to change their order. And the Share command offers an Address Book, Invite Friends, Phanfare Friends and Web site and Invitation Reports.
We use Image Capture to copy what's on our memory card to our hard disk and, after rotating the images, copy the new folder of images to an external drive so we have two copies of everything before we reuse the card.
Sections. When we launched Phanfare Photo, we simply clicked on the "+" button to create a new album, added a little description and dragged our images the main frame. To create a new section, we used the command on the Menu Bar's File option. You rename each section just as easily as renaming the album and use the "x" button to delete any you don't want after all. Pretty simple.
Our Sunday images were rotated and didn't have any video (well, it is our day of rest). So we created a new album for some shots that were not rotated (no matter what we did) and did have a nice big fat 640x480, 30-fps, stereo AVI. Nineteen seconds of broadcast quality.
Rotation. We were just delighted (delirious, really) to see our stubborn images rotated immediately to the correct orientation. Image rotation is not as simple as it seems. There is the data itself and the header tags, which include orientation and height and width. There's no guarantee any of these things agree with each other, of course, and many modern digicams just fiddle with the orientation tag, leaving it to other software to correctly render the databased solely on that. Which usually does not happen, we've found to our dismay.
Video. We were even more delighted to see the quick preview of our video, but we did have to wait a while to see it play from our online album. But it's a 37.3M file. That's larger than most software updates.
When it did get to the site, though, it played marvelously well. The streaming was a bit behind playback, but once downloaded, it played flawlessly. A nice large image in stereo on our second monitor. And in slide shows, the background music drops in volume so you can hear the clip's audio.
Slide Show. We had even more fun viewing a slide show of our images, though. The state of the art has, thankfully, moved away from the mind numbing flashing with transitions inspired by Kodak Carousels to the Ken Burns-effect of a slight pan and zoom with music. A little movement keeps you on your toes and a little music makes them tap.
The default music selection includes: Air On a G String, Brighter Days, Children Go Where I Send Thee, Flight of the Bumblebee, Greensleaves, Heart of the Country, Jesu Joy of Man's Desire, Memories of You, Midnight Rider, Mozart's Rondo, My Dog Skippy, O Holy Night, Pachelbel's Canon in D, Paula Jane, Playful Spirits, Pop Pop Radio, Quirky Bounce, Spring, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Twinkle Twinkle, Under a Painted Sky, Welsh Piano with Female Vocals and Wicked Rock Taxi. You can preview these from the Album Options button that lets you select one for your show.
Album Styles. There are quite a few album styles to choose from, all listed with a thumbnail to make it easy to select one you like. You can change the album style or the style of your whole site.
Image Editing. If you click the Edit button or double-click on an image, you get a new tool bar at the bottom of the editing window, which displays a thumbnail of each image in the album in a scrolling bar along the top and the caption below the image.
These are not world-class tools and certainly not in the same league as iPhoto's image adjustment palette, but they're available. Of them all, we liked the Unsharp masking tool the best. Red-eye is, we understand, being worked on as we write. Auto Levels is always handy. The Crop tool worked as expected. And you can enlarge the image easily with a little slider in the lower left-hand corner of the image. You can't work on selections. All the changes are global.
We didn't see the Straighten tool and, in fact, the option was grayed out in the Menu bar.
Uploading? Attentive readers will note we haven't said anything about uploading. There's no Upload button because, as we've pointed out, Phanfare uploads automatically in the background as you work.
Captions. And you do work. One thing you do is title your albums and write descriptions for them. But the big task is captioning the images. You can have Phanfare Photo do this automatically for you, cribbing some data from the Exif header or the filename, but it's more fun if you write your own doozies.
There's more than one way to caption an image in Phanfare Photo. You can do it when you're editing the image itself, but that's the slow way.
Phanfare Photo offers a turbo captioning command under the Menu Bar's Album option that displays all your images with a caption slot, so you just have to tab through them to enter captions. We just loved that.
Options. There are a lot of options but they are nicely hidden away so you can get to them when you need them without tripping over them when you don't. The familiar interface niceties of tabs organizes them intelligently under the main buttons or menu items where you'd expect to find them. It's a nicely thought out architecture.
We could go on, but the beauty of Phanfare Photo is that it's a quick hit. You're in and out in a couple of heart beats, your album published without clicking a button. You can add captions any time and all at a gulp, including titles and descriptions for albums and sections of albums.
Not only do we highly recommend it (as a gift, too), but we use it and have relied on it for our own convention coverage. Rather high praise.
By DAN HAVLIK(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPS5/CPS5A.HTM on the Web site.)
Based on looks alone, the new Nikon Coolpix S5 has it all -- sleek, sexy and ultra-slim. In case you didn't notice these traits at first glance, the marketing folks at Nikon have paired the S5's Wi-Fi enabled sibling the S6 (which looks nearly identical to the S5) with uberwaif supermodel Kate Moss in a new ad campaign.
But there's more to the 6-Mp S5 (and the 6-Mp S6, for that matter) than just appearance. To fit a larger Nikkor ED Glass 3x zoom lens into the camera so it doesn't protrude, Nikon's designers have transformed that flat rectangle design, so common to slim cams a few years ago, into a flowing all-metal wave-like chassis with a slight ripple on the left side to accommodate the lens. The features packed into the S5's skinny body are also pretty decent: a 2.5-inch LCD with 170-degree viewing angle, a fun new slide show called Pictmotion, an easy-to-use new jog dial selector, a new One-Touch Portrait button and Nikon's Feature System which includes In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, Face Priority AF and D-Lighting. Sound like a nice package? Read on and I'll tell you whether Nikon delivers the goods.
The venerable Coolpix line has gone through many iterations and the the new S5 is Nikon's latest spin on a very popular product line. Just 0.8-inch at its slimmest point, the S5 is designed to be slipped into your pocket and trotted out to a restaurant, bar, party or other special event. Naturally, the market for this camera -- as evidenced by the ads featuring Kate Moss -- are the young, hip and trendy "club kids" that camera manufacturers have been targeting for years with these increasingly diminutive pocket cameras. The biggest gripe against these ultraslim models, though, has been that picture-taking has suffered as cameras have gotten more svelte.
With the Nikon S5 (and the S6), Nikon has aimed to confront that problem. For one, despite its small size, the camera has a 3x optical zoom Nikkor ED Glass lens (which stands for Extra-low Dispersion, describing the special glass used in Nikon's finer lens elements to improve optical performance), equivalent to 35-105mm in 35mm format. The nice lens is joined by a very good 6-Mp sensor, Nikon's Feature System and 15 Scene Modes.
What you give up is agility and speed. Despite the presence of a glorious new jog dial -- which positively blazes through pictures and menus -- getting the hang of where all the settings are can be a bit tricky. And though the Nikon S5 is relatively quick shot-to-shot, unless you're consciously holding the camera steady in non-daylight settings, images tended to be slightly blurry. With just a maximum ISO sensitivity of 400, low-light shots require flash, which slows down picture-taking and subtracts from the atmosphere of your pictures.
Ride the Wave. While, in all honesty, I had been getting a bit bored with the recent crop of slim cameras, the wave design of the new Nikon S5 and S6, made me sit up and take notice. With dimensions of approximately 3.7x2.3x0.8 inches, a weight of 5.3 ounces (with battery and SD card) and a smooth metallic surface that's cool to the touch, the S5 is a camera you can put in your pocket and truly forget about until you're ready to shoot.
One of the reasons I've never been particularly fond of slim cameras is that I couldn't figure out the best place to put my fingers. The Nikon S5 has partially solved that problem by having the grip-end of the camera be slightly curved inward thanks to the wave design. Nikon has also placed a wedge-shaped thumb-grip in the right-hand corner of the rear of the camera which helps to stabilize it. But let's face it, holding one of these models is never going to give you the comfort and security of holding, say, an ergonomically designed dSLR. So make sure you have a good grip on this slick camera or it will slip out of your hand. To that end, it's also advisable to attach the strap and keep it looped around your wrist when shooting.
Another downside of ultra-slims is control size and placement. The Nikon S5 has solved some of those problems with its new rotary dial, which, while not quite on par with the celebrated Apple iPod scroll wheel, comes pretty darn close. The dial is great for scrolling through images (up to ten per second) or menus -- or for just absently spinning around. On the downside, the on/off button is so small you almost need a safety pin or the end of a paper clip to trigger it. The miniature zoom rocker, while obviously placed inconspicuously for style reasons, is also an unfortunate choice. Having to squeeze your fingers into the little hole to adjust the zoom causes a slight shake, which can increase blur. But that's the cost of choosing a stylish small camera.
Sweet Screen, Cool Slide Show. With 230,000 pixels on its 2.5-inch screen, the Nikon S5 is great for reviewing images and framing shots during the live preview. There's no optical viewfinder, which I'm missing less and less on this type of camera. To combat glare, the Nikon S5's screen has a brightness adjustment and a nice wide viewing angle rated at 170 degrees. Though the Nikon S6 increases the screen size to three inches, the resolution is the same, so the S5 gives the impression of a sharper picture.
The only gripe I had about playback is the camera defaults to a setting that will show the picture only with its data displayed, too. To hide the text, you have to go through several menus until you find Monitor Settings where you can adjust Photo info on playback. Confusing.
The new Pictmotion "In-Camera Creative Slide Show Entertainment," as Nikon calls this technology for playing back images, shows off the screen's strengths as a great way to share photos with friends. I first saw Pictmotion on an S6 demo unit at the PMA show in Orlando last February. I was impressed with it then and am still impressed with it, though it's slightly more difficult to use than I first thought. While it's basically just a glorified slide show, it's a good one. You first select images and then pick a style (Motion, Moody, Classic etc.) to display them in slide show, which then varies the way images cross fade and pan across the screen. You can choose from either five pre-installed music files (Pachelbel's Kanon and Turkish March are two) or load an MP3 music file. While I was never able to figure out how to fully customize my Pictmotion slide shows on the Nikon S5 -- such as adding my own music files -- the feature was still fun to use. Also, it took me a long time to realize the camera automatically picks the last ten images you shot, not everything on the card, for the slide show, which seems like a strange limitation.
Speed Bumps. Nikon makes the right choice in having the S5 default to Quick Startup, which forgoes the requisite Coolpix animation screen so the camera powers on quickly and you're ready to shoot in about a second. Though the tiny zoom lever takes some getting used to -- and it helps if you have long fingernails -- the camera reaches full 3x optical zoom (105mm in 35mm format) in a matter of seconds.
The camera also defaults to a Blur Warning setting which, while useful, will slow you down if you're trying to snap pictures quickly. With Blur Warning on, a prompt on the screen will inform you if a picture you have taken is blurry and will then ask you if you want to save it. Unless you have a very small memory card in the camera, I'd advise turning that setting off immediately since many images taken in low-light without a flash will trigger the blur warning. With Blur Warning off, the camera is relatively fast shot-to-shot, though it typically took half a second or so to write an image to the card, during which a spinning hour glass would appear on the screen. Not exactly a speed demon of a camera -- 2.2 frames per second in Continuous mode -- the Nikon S5 does fairly well for its class. It's certainly not the camera you would take to photograph a sporting event, though.
Night and Day. As for image quality, the Nikon S5's probably not going to win any head-to-head shootouts with more advanced, bulkier models, but it did produce pretty crisp images with good color in standard daylight conditions. I also shot with it on a couple of hazy days in New York City and the camera did a fine job getting accurate color under muted sunlight. The camera's Back Light setting helped me capture a very usable image of the Manhattan Bridge under less than opportune circumstances. Images also had good sharpness -- thanks, no doubt, to the Nikkor ED glass -- even toward the corners and there was a low incidence of purple fringing and flare. Aperture on the lens ranges from f3.0 to f5.4. Under lower lighting indoors without flash, the Nikon S5 was less consistent, producing images that were often blurry. With a maximum ISO of just 400 (some competitors are offering up to ISO 1,600), you'll probably want to use a flash indoors with the S5.
A strong selling point for the Coolpix line is Nikon's Feature System which includes In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, Face Priority AF and D-Lighting. In-Camera Red-Eye Fix combines a pre-flash with in-camera procecessing to reduce red-eye in portraits. In Face Priority AF, which is the real gem of the system, a yellow smiley face appears on the screen and then locks a box over any face it detects. This has the obvious advantage of locking focus on the faces looking into the camera, rather than on the background, a common problem with AF cameras. The only apparent blip in the technology is that since it detects the presence of two eyes, it cannot lock in a facial profile, only a face that is looking straight at the camera. D-Lighting works in Playback mode to increase brightness and clarity in underexposed areas of a picture by automatically adding light and detail where needed. Also part of the Nikon system is a new One-Touch Portrait button on top of the camera which combines Face Priority AF with In-Camera Red-Eye Fix to help users improve their portraits. Aside from the One-Touch Portrait button (which also lets you access D-Lighting), it takes a little while to figure out how to access all these features -- especially on a menu-driven camera like the S5 -- but they really do give you some great basic tools for improving your images.
Speaking of menus, the Nikon S5 and S6 feature a revamped GUI (Graphic User Interface) that's an improvement on the previous version and features a circular mode menu. The GUI is pleasing to look at with black and gray selections highlighted yellow as your scroll through using the jog dial. Though some of the iconography is difficult to understand (why does a flag mean Languages and a "C" denote Reset All?) there are descriptions at the top of the screen in fonts that are easy to read. There's also a setting to make the menus text-driven rather than icon-driven, depending on the user's preference.
Extras, Extras. The S5 has ample scene modes for such a petite camera including four with Scene Assist -- Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Night Portrait. Scene Assist is a selection option that helps the user compose pictures with the help of framing guides displayed on the monitor. There are also 11 advanced Scene Modes -- Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night landscape, Close up, Museum, Firework show, Copy, Back light and Panorama assist. There's also a Voice Recording mode, BSS (Best Shot Selector) and Exposure BSS.
The Nikon S5 charges its proprietary lithium ion battery via a Nikon Coolstation Dock. The Coolstation MV-14 for the S5 includes USB and Audio Video connectivity for transferring images to a computer. While the dock is, well, pretty cool, a smaller dedicated battery charger would have been a plus for a camera so portable. Based on CIPA standards, the S5 can capture about 210 shots on a full-charged battery.
Though it's probably not the camera you want to use to enter any photography contests, the Nikon Coolpix S5 is definitely a very appealing choice for anyone looking for a small, svelte and yes, sexy camera they can take anywhere. While image quality was inconsistent in low-light and the camera was a bit sluggish for quick shooting purposes, in standard daylight and even cloudy conditions, the Nikon S5's 6-Mp sensor combined with its Nikkor ED glass lens captured generally sharp images with surpisingly accurate color. And you don't need to be Kate Moss to appreciate that.
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:
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix S5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPS5/CPS5A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Kodak EasyShare C663 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C663/C663A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot SD600 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD600/SD600A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Kodak EasyShare Z650 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Z650/Z650A.HTM)
There are, as the authors of this slim book point out, a lot of books about digital photography in print. We have stacks of them here, mostly waiting for us to come up with some idea as clever as Simon Rodia's Watts Towers (http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Watts_Towers.html). We don't like most of them, but the covers are colorful and might make attractive garden sculpture.
It didn't take us long, however, to appreciate a new title by Uwe Steinmueller and Jurgen Gulbins from No Starch Press. When we requested a review copy "The Art of Raw Conversion," we wondered if these guys could hold their own against similar titles by Bruce Fraser and Mikkel Aaland. How many books about Raw processing can you digest, after all?
But they take a different approach we found valuable.
The core of the book, Chapters 4 through 8, covers every current Raw processing program (with the exception of the not-yet-released Nikon Capture NX). There are separate chapters for Adobe Camera Raw (and Bridge), RawShooter, Aperture and Lightroom. And one chapter discusses Phase One, Bibble, Canon Digital Photo Professional, Nikon Capture and Iridient Digital in 23 pages.
In each case, the authors describe setup options and a typical workflow generously illustrated with screen shots, so you can get an idea of what it would be like to live with these monsters. That saves you a lot of downloading, installing, testing and uninstalling.
But we also found the other chapters wise in real world advice. Uwe has been shooting digital a long time and publishing his experiences at Digital Outback Photo (http://www.outbackphoto.com). And while he runs a Windows system, Jurgen uses a Mac. Jurgen is the author of some 25 computer and photography books, but this is his first in English. So not much slips through those cracks.
Before the software tour, Raw files themselves are explained, Basic color management covered (including creating profiles and profiling your monitor), but they also discuss how to approach shooting Raw (what to set and what not to set on the camera, what to fiddle with on the computer). They take some pains to point out why "good" color isn't "accurate" color.
After the tour, they get into how to perfect a Raw image (dealing with sharpening, noise reduction, chromatic abberation, distortion, vignetting, perspective, dust), techniques for batch processing (all those Raw files have to turn into JPEGs), Adobe's DNG format, working with metadata, profiling your camera, calibrating your Raw converter and converting color to black-and-white images. A glossary and list of resources ends the book.
All this is presented in a very attractive book purged of what the authors call "our somewhat German English," which has been yielding into clear, concise prose that was a pleasure to read (despite quite a few typos).
This book is really about managing the process of working in a Raw world. The authors don't beat any of these topics to death, but they present a comprehensive picture without ever merely skimming the surface. You get practical advice informed by lots of experience that doesn't take weeks to get through. "Our goal is to present the essential information as simply as possible, but no simpler," they write in the introduction. They've done just that.
The Art of Raw Conversion by Uwe Steinmueller and Jurgen Gulbins, published by No Starch Press, 222 pages, $39.95.
It's taken a while, but we finally got our hands on a dSLR that mounts our old glass. That, after all, is one of the incentives for shooting with a dSLR. And it's been just as much fun as we were afraid it would be <g>.
But we found ourselves more than a little disappointed by the absence of two common digicam features.
We keep staring at the Mode dial hoping to find that Chaplinesque icon for Movie mode. Boy, do we miss taking movies (after a few years of ignoring the feature). Something about being able to zoom with sound just can't be beat. We even prefer it (greatly) to using a camcorder. Digicams just take better movies.
The other thing we miss is Macro mode. It always makes us feel a little like some foreign explorer with a grant to shoot a PBS documentary on the life we don't notice all around us. We sneak up to some plant in the yard, set the zoom to optimize Macro and shade the LCD to see what's going on in Bugville. Amazing stuff.
The kit lens shipped with the dSLR we have on loan, gets about a foot away and does have a "Close-up" shooting mode. But it isn't quite the same thing. We aren't talking about capturing same size or enlarged images of our subjects.
Then we remembered a little old trick we used to pull with our antique glass.
When you mount a lens on your camera, it reduces the big real estate scene onto the small real estate of the sensor. When you shoot macro, you're in tight to the subject and need a lens that can focus at short distances.
The little old trick is to reverse the lens so you are gathering light with the end best suited to short distances. And you do that with a reversing ring that screws into the front element of your lens and provides the bayonet mount your camera body needs.
The reversing ring lets you move the nodal point of the lens farther from the focal plane, reducing the need for lens extensions and permitting the object distance to be longer than it otherwise would be. And perhaps even delivering better image flatness.
With the lens reversed, focus is simply a matter of moving the camera closer or further from the subject. Our dSLR can't meter through a non-computer lens and can't set the aperture on a reversed lens either). Because we were running from one subject to another, we simply relied on the histogram displayed with the automatic image review to adjust exposure so neither end of the histogram hit the wall. We might have used our Gossen light meter if we were shooting the same setup over and over.
For the most part, we adjusted exposure by changing the shutter speed. Depth of field is precious in macrophotography, even in full sun, so stopping down to f11 or so was not a luxury. We generally hand held at 1/160 second, but got on the tripod for some slower shots.
We shot Raw images rather than JPEGs. So they were a little soft straight from the card. But the color and the detail were astonishing.
And the magnification was breath taking. A reversed 50mm lens delivers 1.14:1 magnification, while a 35mm lens achieves 1.6:1 and a 28mm lens 2.28:1 ratios. We even tried it with a 43-84mm zoom lens, which made it a little easier to focus since we just had to slide the front element in and out rather than move the whole camera.
We can't wait to print some 13x19s and take another trip to the frame store. Talk about blowing up an image.
Now if we can only figure out a way to take movies. The thing does shoot quite a few frames per second and has a rather large buffer, too. If we could just rig up a mic....
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about Canon Digital SLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe
Visit the Panasonic Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea297f
Ronald asks about digital camera/camcorder combos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea2e1a/0
Morry asks about Tamron Adaptall lenses at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea2f2c/0
Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8
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RE: Sony Alpha Support
I read your good article on the new Sony Alpha camera. Thank you.
Question: Do you know if Sony tech support will support the dSLR line of cameras or if it will continue to be a part of the Konica Minolta organization that went over to Sony?
I ask this because my local camera store advised me that Sony's support in the camera line has a very poor reputation for customer satisfaction.
-- Jerry Jones(We don't know the details of how Sony will integrate resources from Konica Minolta into their corporate structure, but it does appear they've taken on quite a number of former Konica Minolta people as part of their overall move into the dSLR space. It's not clear how many of those people will be associated with the service operation, but it would certainly make sense that a fair number of them would be. -- Dave)
RE: Card Readers
I do get your newsletters and appreciate your hard work!
I have a Konica-Minolta A2. A couple people told me lately that by downloading my images directly from my camera I was loosing quality and/or pixel numbers. They said that using a card reader eliminates this loss. I have never heard of this. Do you know what they are talking about? Or, is this a sales pitch that they heard from a store sales person?
-- Sonny(Downloading images from your camera to your computer using a USB cable does not lose either quality or data. Every camera comes with a USB cable to do exactly that. So why would you want a card reader? First, you may find it more convenient having a cabled device waiting for your memory card than cabling your digicam to your computer. If you have more than one memory card, this frees your camera to keep shooting (and saves battery life), too. Second, if the reader is a USB 2.0 device and your computer has a USB 2.0 port, the reader may copy images faster from the card than your camera, if it's a USB 1.x device or 2.0 Full speed (like the A2). If you have a laptop, an alternative to a card reader is a PCMCIA card adapter for your memory card. You just pop that into the PCMCIA slot and copy through that interface. However you copy files, though, you should confirm the copy. Modern operating systems don't bother checking the two files after the copy (too much overhead). So run a slide show to confirm everything copied correctly. -- Editor)
RE: Newbie Questions
I deal with lots of photos every day, but it's just recently I started dealing with the real photography. I just bought a PowerShot S3 IS.
I took shots with high ISOs from 400 to 800 and was a bit shocked to see disturbing noise in my shots. ISO 400 is disturbing, 800 is a lot more terrible, especially in low light. I found that the higher the ISO speed, the more accurate the focus and details especially in maximum zooming and the brighter the images when shooting in a lesser light condition. But the noise is a huge dilemma. Is there a way to get better shots at high ISO speeds or is it just the S3's uncurable weakness?
Since I'm avoiding the noisy ISO 400 and 800 settings, low lighting is a bit more tricky. I've read your article about the use of helpful EV/exposure compensation. Unfortunately, the EV setting is disabled in manual mode. So I have to rely on the shutter speed and aperture alone. Why's that?
The last question, is a room well lit with several cool, daylight-type lamps (the bright, low energy lamps) adequate enough for taking good pictures? I wonder if, like tungsten, those lamps "blink," impairing the images shot by digicams.
-- Biv(Noise at high ISO is normal on a digicam (dSLRS do better thanks to their much larger CCD/CMOS sensors), which crams a lot of pixels onto a small CCD. The tradeoff is between noise and detail. You can't restore detail, but you can reduce noise. Photoshop CS2 has a powerful noise reduction filter. I've also been impressed with Nik's Dfine, Noiseware and Ninja Noise (built into Bibble these days).... EV has no meaning in Manual. When you adjust shutter and aperture, you are changing the equivalent of an EV setting. When you can only adjust one or the other, you need EV to tell the camera which way to cheat exposure. But in manual, you are by definition controlling everything so don't need to cheat.... We just ran under a cool daylight fluorescent energy lamp and took a shot with the S3. 1/15 second and sharp with a good histogram. No blinks, but at 1/15 second we wouldn't expect any. -- Editor)
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has discovered a bug in OS X 10.4 that causes mild posterization within a range of yellow/orange/red tones primarily in Epson and HP printers. The bug is apparently a fix for an issue with Photoshop 9.0, which version 9.0.1 broke. Hold your breath, revert to 9.0 or build yourself a custom profile (http://www.computer-darkroom.com/pwp_901/pwp_901_1.htm).
Panasonic (http://www.panasonic.com) announced it will made its $1,999 DMC-L1 dSLR available in the United States in early September. The camera will include a Leica D Vario-Elmarit lens with the first optical image stabilization system designed specifically for the Leica lens.
Bibble Labs (http://www.bibblelabs.com) has released Bibble 4.8 [MW] in Pro and Lite versions with a redesigned lens correction tool that handles barrel and pin-cushion distortion, as well as chromatic aberration and vignetting. A new plug-in performs robust black and white conversion and includes a spot color feature.
Adobe (http://labs.adobe.com) has updated its public beta of Lightroom [M], adding features suggested by beta testers to allow greater control over export size and resolution, refined metadata selection with print output and RGB value readouts for greater editing precision.
Olympus (http://www.olympusamerica.com/e1/sup_firmwareupdates.asp) has released firmware updates for the EVOLT E-330 and the EVOLT E-300. The E-330 update enables autofocusing in the Macro Live Preview "B" mode. Both updates improve exposure precision in Macro mode and when using spot metering.
iView Multimedia (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) has released iView MediaPro 3.1.1 [MW] with improved support for IPTC metadata during file synchronization, metadata sync now works with Nikon, Kodak and Canon Raw image formats, major scripting engine update on the Windows version, improved rendering of Nikon Raw image files.
Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released Aperture 1.1.2 [M] to address "issues related to overall reliability and performance." The 14.2-MB download is "recommended for all Aperture users."
The company also released iPhoto 6.0.4 with new greeting card and postcard themes and a fix for the .jpe import problem.
Fantasea (http://www.fantasea.com) has announced five new fully-functional housings for Nikon Coolpix cameras, a new dSLR housing for the Olympus E330 and upgraded dSLR systems for the Nikon D50, D70 and D70S. The company also announced three new flashes and new accessories for this summer's dive season.
Kepmad (http://www.kepmad.com) has released its $19 ImageBuddy v3.4.0 [M], enhancing its Page Layouts with custom images sizes and improved photo watermarking for both Contact Sheet and Page Layout printing.
Visifex (http://www.visifex.com) has released its $19 ImageMachine 1.0 [M], image editing software that uses the graphics processor to apply 33 image filters to over 70 file formats (including many Raw formats).
LQ Graphics (http://www.lqgraphics.com) has released its $49.95 Photo to Movie 4.0 [M] as a Universal Binary with full-screen previews, improvements in missing image handling and memory management, drag-and-drop timeline editing, direct exports and more.
Connected Flow (http://connectedflow.com) has released FlickrExport 2.0 [M], a plug-in to export from iPhoto directly to Flicker, adding uploads to existing Flickr photosets, a list of your Flickr tags to apply before uploading and more.
Can't get away this summer? Jump (vicariously) on the Cameratruck (http://www.cameratruck.net), the world's largest mobile camera as it travels across Spain.
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
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
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
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher