The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 8, Number 15 21 July 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 180th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. DxO keeps doing amazing things and Dave keeps managing to explain them. Shawn goes underwater with an Olympus (no need to hold your breath, the story is right here). And we clear up what zoom ratio is all about before waxing philosophically on creativity. What, after all, is summer for?

BTW, we're ramping up our printer reviews. Two recent Canons are done, some HPs are in house and we're awaiting a few Epsons. Don't miss them!


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Feature: DxO Announces Optics Pro v4.0

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1152400947.html on the Web site.)

DxO has announced a major revision to Optics Pro, their unique photo-enhancing tool, and "major" it is. They've improved speed and workflow, added some unique color management and manipulation tools, and broken new ground in distortion correction for ultra-wide-angle lenses.

A PREVIEW

Longtime readers will be familiar with DxO Optics Pro, which I awarded my "Best in Show" distinction in February 2004 at PMA. DxO Lab's "digital optics" technology can deliver amazing improvements in image quality, regardless of the quality of the lens itself. Cheap lenses shoot like expensive pro glass and high-end lenses achieve a startling level of clarity and low distortion.

In the slightly over two years since it's initial release, DxO has maintained an aggressive development schedule for Optics Pro, with four major releases (counting version 3.5 as a major release). The software now works with a wide range of SLR bodies and an even wider range of lenses, as well as many Raw file formats.

Now DxO's optical wizards have come up with a whole new range of features bundled into v4.0, including some of the slickest wide-angle distortion correction I've seen yet. The new version finally realizes the true potential of ultra-wide-angle lenses, rendering objects more or less as humans see them, with vastly reduced distortion.

We're not just talking about barrel/pincushion distortion here. That's old hat. What's being corrected this time is the stretching of objects that remains in ultra-wide-angle shots after you adjust for barrel distortion. DxO calls this "volume anamorphosis."

The best part is that DxO is offering a public beta of the new software, so you can play with it and see how it works without spending a dime.

WHAT'S NEW

The new features in DxO Optics Pro v4.0 fall into four areas:

Let's hit a few of the high points.

New Color Engine. The current DxO Optics Pro v3.5 includes both lighting and noise "engines," for dynamic range enhancement and optimized noise reduction of images from supported cameras. New to v4.0 is a Color Engine, which offers a number of new capabilities.

Multi-point selective color correction. Many programs for processing images from digital cameras offer white balance adjustment tools. Such controls generally work well for situations where the scene is lit from a single source, but are inadequate when the scene has multiple light sources present or color casts caused by reflection from a nearby colored object. Most white balance tools also require the presence of a neutral-hued object somewhere in the scene to use as a neutral reference.

Selective color correction is by no means a new feature. Photoshop's Replace Colors and Selective Color tools have been around for a long time, not to mention the common use of adjustment layers to make local color corrections. More recently, Nikon's soon-to-be-released Capture NX software (http://www.imaging-resouce.com/SOFT/NX/NT.HTM) takes advantage of unique technology from Nik Software, to help even unsophisticated users make selective color adjustments.

In v4.0, DxO Optics Pro, you can choose up to four separate points on the image and adjust each selected color independently for hue, saturation and brightness. As of this writing, we haven't had a chance to fiddle with the controls ourselves yet (we'll be downloading the public beta as soon as it's available), but a demo we saw recently was impressive for the ease with which colors could be selected and tweaked.

Color management and re-mapping. v4.0 also incorporates the results of DxO's careful color profiling of the various camera bodies they support. It's no secret that every dSLR model out there looks at color a little differently. The profiles developed for various dSLR bodies let DxO Optics Pro do a couple of potentially useful tricks. For one, it can remap any given camera's color space to deliver colorimetrically accurate rendering, either using a standard gamma 2.2 tone curve (which DxO calls a "Fidelity" profile) or using the manufacturer's tone curves (the "Camera Neutral" profile).

This strikes me as being very useful, as I've often had to fight with my cameras to give me accurate renditions of certain hues. "Red push" is a very common malady of digital cameras of all stripes. If the DxO profiles work as advertised, the ability to null-out various camera color biases promises to take a lot of pain out of post-processing, letting you at least begin working from a neutral, accurate starting point.

More unusual and a little harder to see a use for, is the ability of the DxO profiles and v4.0 to actually map one camera's color rendering into another camera's color space. Conceivably, you could make images from a Canon 1Ds Mark II look like those from a Nikon D100. That may not be a conversion someone would choose, but I can perhaps see photographers wanting to map between bodies from the same manufacturer: a Canon 1D Mark II mapped to match a 1Ds, for instance. This could certainly make life easier for photographers using multiple bodies on the same shoot.

Here's a list of cameras for which "Color Looks" are provided: Canon EOS 5D, 10D, 20D, 30D, 300D, 350D, 1D Mark II, 1D Mark II N, 1Ds, 1Ds Mark II; Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D, 7D; Nikon D50, D70/D70s, D200, D2x.

In addition to the predefined Color Looks, DxO Optics Pro v4 will accommodate custom-tuned ICC profiles created by the user using standard color management software.

Finally, beyond the profile-based color manipulation options, Optics Pro v4.0 offers a number of standard Color Modes, providing various combinations of contrast and saturation adjustments, including some color-specific changes in the case of Portrait Mode. Here's a list of the Color Modes available:

Faster processing, improved workflow. Specific performance boosts will be somewhat platform-dependent, but MacBook users will be particularly pleased to hear that version four is fully Mac-Intel optimized, providing a massive 500 percent boost in batch-processing speed.

Other speed enhancements include greatly accelerated image import speeds, preview feedback that's up to 3x faster when making image adjustments, with smoother and more rapid slider control and multi-threading that lets you continue adjusting images while other images are being processed. I saw this in the demo and it was quite impressive -- you could basically just hop back and forth between images, tweaking any or all of them and the rendering process would continue uninterrupted in the background. The program didn't seem to care if you happened to re-tweak an image it was currently processing, it'd just pick back up and redo it with the new settings as soon as you were done. Multiple simultaneous image previews are also now supported.

And the entire workflow of v4.0 has been analyzed and reworked by both photographers and user interface experts.

New Photoshop plug-in tool. Optics Pro is moving to become more of an all-in-one workflow application for digital photography, but for a lot of shooters, Photoshop is central to their process. With Optics Pro v4.0, the DxO Optics, Lighting, Highlight Recovery and Noise Engines are packaged in a single Photoshop plug-in, so all those capabilities are now available directly within Photoshop. The plug-in also lets you open both JPEG and Raw files and launch automatic corrections, without having to script or create an action inside Photoshop.

Third-Generation Optics Engine. Saving my personal favorite for last, several major enhancements involve distortion correction. Some features are basic but welcome, including a simple tool for getting horizons level and another for making perspective corrections.

Volume Anamorphosis. Now we come to my personal favorite feature, something DxO calls "volume anamorphosis."

Anyone who's played with extreme wide-angle lenses is familiar with the way objects near the edges of the frame get stretched, even after you've applied corrections for barrel distortion. Volume Anamorphosis corrects that!

Maybe I'm a little off in the head (no chorus of agreement, please), but this is just really exciting to me. How often have I tried a wide-angle group shot and the people in the corners of the frame have squashed-looking heads or people standing at the edges look 90 pounds overweight?

It turns out that you want to do slightly different corrections, depending on whether you're dealing with spheres (people's heads) or columns (architectural details or people shot full-length). To accommodate these different situations, Optics Pro offers two types of anamorphic correction Spherical or Cylindrical.

There's no free lunch here. Optics Pro is forced to introduce new (but less objectionable) distortions in the process of correcting the volume distortions. In the case of the spherical correction, you can see that the railing behind the group is more curved in the "after" picture than in the original. In the case of the cylindrical example, it looks as though the left and right edges of the image have been stretched vertically, making the people on the edges of the group look taller than they actually are.

You'll have to decide for yourself how you feel about the trade-off that's being made. Most of the time, I'd gladly accept some curvature of horizontals in exchange for normal-looking heads and I suspect almost anyone would prefer to be shown as taller but the right width, rather than wider but the right height. ;-)

SUMMARY

I've only scratched the surface of DxO's new release. I'm hoping we'll be able to do a full review of the new Optics Pro soon, but probably after the final version ships. In the meantime, DxO says they'll have a public beta of the Windows version of Optics Pro v4.0 available soon. Check their Web site for details. You can also leave your name and email via a form there, to be notified when the beta is available.

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Feature: Olympus Stylus 720 SW User Report

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OS720SW/OS720SWA.HTM on the Web site.)

Olympus has produced some excellent digital cameras over the years and has a broad base of loyal customers. It's a loyalty Olympus deserves because they've produced many innovative and practical camera designs. Perhaps the most compelling design feature the company has built into small pocket cameras started when they first introduced their Infinity Stylus line of film cameras, whose main advantage was weather resistance.

This year they deliver not only weather resistance, but water proofing and shock resistance in a slim, shiny package. The Olympus Stylus 720 SW offers what no other cameras offer, but that all should: the ability to stand up to the real world. Technology exists to make complicated machines like cars and computers withstand the rain, bumps and spills. It's long past time for camera makers to realize that cameras no longer live in professional studios where they can be pampered and cared for like fine, delicate instruments. Olympus has realized this and given us the 720 SW.

I was extremely excited about the advent of the 720 SW. Not only because it seemed to fit my philosophy of a camera for the real world, but also because I am the father of three children who have the same love of gadgets I do. That means when they see them, they want to grab them and both my one- and two-year-old then like to shake them, wave them and turn them on. Yes, both of these little boys can even seek, locate and press the power button, regardless of model. The apple doesn't fall far. Despite this dexterity, they have a tendency to drop them unless I'm carefully attending, usually holding the camera. Naturally, I keep all cameras out of their reach when I'm thinking clearly. But the concept of having a camera I didn't have to worry about come heck or high slobber was more than appealing. Add the pool, the kayak, the sailboat and the ever-present pocket where so many cameras die due to shock and compression and it's clear that a rugged camera just fits my life.

My only qualifier: it needs to capture good images. My benchmark? An Olympus Stylus Verve or a Canon A520, both 4-Mp cameras. At 7.1-Mp, the 720 SW should have no trouble. All I had to do was wait for the little guy to arrive.

Impressions. Cameras don't get cooler than this. Olympus did it up right in the design department, building a camera that both looks and feels solid. The 720 SW is Olympus's most attractive point-and-shoot to date. Its shiny metal body with brushed stainless accents make it look and feel like it was machined from a solid block of steel. It's light, yet steel-stiff.

The lens is not central on the front, nor does it protrude. It's a folded optic design, meaning the zoom mechanism is stacked inside with the sensor at the bottom looking up just like a periscope on a submarine. That means no fragile external moving parts that can break, an essential design element to a camera that stays rugged even in shooting mode. This opening is protected by a cropped circular bezel and a hefty metal door that swings out of and into place when the camera is powered on and off.

Mounted in the back bezel is a big 2.5-inch LCD. It's disappointingly grainy. Even text appears somewhat disjointed compared to the competition, but it is big and colorful. The buttons on the back, however, are excellent. Though small, they protrude sufficiently and have stiff domes behind them, likely due to their waterproof design, making each press a no-doubt affair. A large metal bar is screwed onto the right side to hold the wrist strap and serves as an excellent thumb hold. Two large hex screws on the 720 SW's front bezel make a decent grip for the fingertips.

I used to work closely with a machinist, an unusual but great kind of person to know. Even when they tell you it can't be done, they'll figure out a way that works and better than you imagined. The top of the 720 SW seems more machinist-conceived than anything I'd expect from a draftsman. All other elements are CAD, stamp and mold; all but the wrist strap mount and shutter release surface, which are clearly machined (at least the original mold was made from a machined part). As one who used to build custom machines, I can appreciate the multiple disciplines that went into the design of the 720 SW. That's why I say it's Olympus's most refined design yet. The result is a slick looking shutter arrangement that is less likely to be pressed except by the pad of a finger dipping down into the relief.

Least impressive are the two port doors. I don't think they're a real liability, but they don't feel as solid as the rest of the camera, molded of plastic rather than metal. They open with a unique sliding lock that forces the rubber gasket beneath into just the right position to maintain a seal. The gasket material inside isn't the usual O-ring arrangement, but a molded pad that comes to a sharp edge all around the area to be sealed. My trip to the pool proved it works just fine. You just have to remember to shake most of the water off when you open the doors to change the batteries, card or access the USB/AV port.

In terms of external build and design, the Olympus Stylus 720 SW is how all cameras should be built, no question.

Shooting. Taking pictures with the 720 SW is as simple as it ought to be, except when it comes to changing modes. It's a point-and-shoot auto-everything camera, so that's its main mode. To change modes, you press the mode button just below the Wide zoom button. The 720 SW defaults to still shooting mode, always returning to either Auto or Program when the camera is powered off and then on again. A second press takes you to what Olympus calls the Digital Image Stabilization mode. Sounds impressive, but unfortunately all that means is that the camera is going to automatically boost the ISO to as high as 1600 when necessary, resulting in a very soft, grainy image. Not a mode you want to slip into accidentally, but given its position near where your thumb rests on the back of the camera, it is possible to enter this mode unintentionally.

A second press on the Mode button takes you to the 720 SW's Scene mode, where all 25 capture modes are clustered, including the usual helpful Portrait, Landscape, Night, Document and other modes along with four distinct underwater modes. Vexingly last on the list is the Movie mode, meaning that every time you want to use a Scene mode, then switch back to Movie mode, you have to scroll through the available entries. I seldom use Scene modes, but underwater modes are more important because they compensate for color loss underwater, so I'd rather have a separate Movie mode available with a quick press. They didn't use a switch because it's more difficult to make waterproof, but I'd prefer a fourth button press to access one of the major modes.

Olympus now employs a Function menu much like Canon's. A press of the center button on the Multi-controller brings up this menu with access to commonly used functions: Mode (Program/Auto), White Balance, ISO, Drive modes and Metering modes. I like this treatment and I like the improvements in the Setup Menu. When scrolling through the list of items in the menu, you're no longer required to shift left to access the next tab, you just scroll to the end of the list and the 720 SW automatically shifts to the next tab. It makes more sense and reduces the likelihood of getting lost.

Waterproof, Shockproof. It took me awhile to finally drop the 720 SW. Not dropping a camera is a tough habit to break. When I finally did it was on the grass, in a pratfall designed to frighten an audience who knows how I care for cameras. Later I dropped it again by accident and then it kept happening. I keep looking, but there's not a scuff on the thing despite many impacts. It hasn't hit concrete yet, so that's probably why. But a hard desk, floor, carpet and grass haven't stopped it working. Nor have my toddlers, which is something. I left it with them for a day accidentally and the shiny 720 SW still works and looks great. I call that a true test. Olympus does warn that a drop to concrete will ding the finish, but the 720 SW should survive nevertheless.

Though timid in the gravity testing department, I was anything but in the waterproof zone. I eagerly dunked and swam with the 720 SW, taking both movies and underwater stills. An obvious problem with underwater cameras is that when you take them back out of the water you'll inevitably have a drop or two clinging to the lens. The 720 SW is no exception. A few shakes removed most of this, but small droplets usually remained in the image area. Images and videos taken in the pool also ended up looking like they were taken circa 1970 and aged thirty years. Call it an effect if you like.

Audio in the videos was a little weird, with water sometimes blocking the mic opening and muffling audio when switching between underwater and above water recording. Playback was also odd while the camera was wet. But there's no question the Olympus Stylus 720 SW was at home in the water and fun to use.

Image quality. I mentioned at the outset that Olympus has produced some impressive, ground breaking cameras and built a loyal base. I also mentioned that the 720 SW only had to meet the quality I experienced with the Olympus Stylus Verve or Canon PowerShot A520. Looking back at the images from those cameras and comparing them to what I get from the 720 SW, I'm afraid it's closer than I'd like. The color is muted and color detail is mushy at best, even at the lowest ISO. Colors on the Macbeth chart not only appear faded next to the sharply oversaturated Verve, it looks like each color was put into a blender and poured back into each square as a pulpy mess. Admittedly, the Verve's sharpness isn't much better, but the vibrant color ads a snap back to the picture. The Canon's colors are more tame and image sharpness in color areas is considerably better.

I don't get it. Olympus is capable of making excellent digital cameras. Witness the C-7000, C-8080 and E-500 to name a few. But the image quality coming from the 720 SW doesn't meet the standard. Remember, too, that this is comparing two 4-Mp cameras to a 7-Mp camera. When I look at the resolution test chart, however, I see a whole different story, with the 720 SW pulling an impressive 1,400 lines per picture height, while the Verve and A520 manage only a conservative 1,000 and 900 lines respectively. So the camera excels at black and white detail, just not color. I don't know what's happening in the Olympus models, but the mush looks as bad on the Macbeth chart as it does in a vibrant shirt.

The good news is that the extra three million pixels means that these mushy areas don't much affect printed images up to about 8x10. You have to look pretty close. Not quite as close on an 11x14, but low ISO images are still acceptable. We even found ISO 1,600 images printed at 4x6 to be reasonably acceptable. It's at the edges of any solid color that you'll notice the pulpy overspill, but it's not obvious when holding the print at a reasonable viewing distance. The higher resolution will allow larger prints from the 720 SW than you'd likely get from either of my benchmark cameras, so the camera does pass the test, just not with flying colors.

Olympus seems to be using the high resolution to make up for image noise in solid colors. You can find defects in any image if you zoom them to 100 percent on a computer monitor. Print is where it really matters, though, so that's why we look at the actual printed output.

My remaining concern is that the color is less saturated. You can tweak this in a photo editing program easily enough and guys like me are wont to do that anyway. But if you're not one of those folks, know that you'll end up with somewhat muted color. I think those who've experienced other 7-Mp cameras will be disappointed with the output of the 720 SW.

Tradeoff. I'm disappointed that I have to make excuses for the 720 SW. I'd like to say the images are as stunning as the camera. But this is a case where the camera is an excellent hardware design with somewhat mediocre image quality. But our printer tests show clearly that what I see onscreen doesn't really make a huge difference in printed output. Honestly, if you're like most shooters, you'll be happy to have this rugged beauty along for all your activities, getting images where you'd normally not risk having a camera of any kind. And a good majority of shooters are hardly using all those megapixels when they output their stack of 4x6 images (you only need two megapixels for a decent 4x6 people), so maybe Olympus is right with their strategy of building the camera not only for the rigors of the real world, but for how the resulting images will be used in the real world.

I look forward to a future model of the Stylus SW-series with slightly better image processing to go with its rugged good looks and practical versatility. Meanwhile, if you need a seriously sturdy camera for your next outing, the Olympus Stylus 720 SW will bring back printable images from places where other cameras would not likely survive.

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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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Beginners Flash: What '3x Zoom' Really Means

Our recent expose on the basic concepts of a zoom lens left unanswered probably the first question anyone ever has. "What's all this palaver about 3x and 6x and 10x zooms? Times what?"

While you could be forgiven for speculating it has to do with the number of attempts it takes to finally zoom into the right crop for your image, it's really pretty simple. It measures the ratio of the lens' widest angle focal length to its most telephoto focal length.

Get a pencil (with an eraser).

Say you've got a zoom lens in your digicam that, cranked to its widest view, reports it's the equivalent of 28mm in 35mm format, which is the standard we can all visualize. Now say there's a sticker on the body that boasts it's a 6x zoom. What's the highest telephoto focal length it can get to?

Just multiple 28 by 6. That gets you 168mm. So the range of that 6x zoom is 28-168mm.

What if it were just a 3x zoom? Multiplying 28 by 3 gets you just 84mm, so the range is merely 28-84mm.

Ten times is easy enough for a horse to figure out: 28-280mm.

But say that 28mm wide angle is only 35mm (not quite as wide). Yep, 10x is 35-350mm. And 6x would be 35-210mm, with 3x yielding 35-105mm. Notice, therefore, that not all 3x or 6x or 10x zooms are created equal. A 6x that starts from 28mm covers 28-168mm but a 6x that starts at 35mm covers 35-210mm.

What's the difference?

Well, there are two kinds of people in this world. One kind likes to take shots indoors, getting all the people around the table and zooming into the cake with the birthday candles lit. The other kind wanders through the woods looking for birds who never celebrate a birthday. The first kind (parents, realtors, anyone backed into a corner) needs a zoom with the widest possible wide angle (24mm would be dandy but 28mm beats 35mm). The second (sports fans, bird watchers, anyone too far away) needs a zoom with more reach (over 200mm at the very least, more with image stabilization), giving up some wide angle.

Unfortunately this hard-won knowledge is not transferable to telescopes, binoculars or microscopes, where the designation has to do with image magnification. The equivalent is referred to (perhaps more accurately) as the zoom ratio, rather than the zoom range. And therein lies the confusion.

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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:

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Just for Fun: On the Mythology of Creativity

Every now and then a feeling wells up in our otherwise hibernating soul and we feel we simply must address one annoying presumption or another about Creativity.

There is a mythology about it that substitutes for knowledge much like those old theories of a flat world with sirens and sea monsters once substituted for the globe and Jacques Cousteau.

For example, the idea that artists are either childish or disturbed.

Children, as Paul Wienpahl, our old Philosophy professor once eloquently put it, "are at the same time a blessing and a nuisance. You cannot do without them and you cannot live with them. Eventually, however, most of us learn to.... No matter how ingenious you are with children you have to learn to live with them.... It is not that children are difficult. It is that we have a time learning to live with them."

It's just the opposite behavior -- that of the difficult, childish person who does not trouble themselves with any sort of spiritual growth -- that gets passed off as artistic. It isn't.

As for the disturbed, we keep returning to a scene of Ermanno Olmi's "The Tree of the Wooden Clogs." The village idiot stumbles into the room where the poor family at the center of the story is sitting down to dinner. Without missing a beat, grace is said and the poor man fed.

The lesson demonstrated by this scene is simply that the more fortunate, no matter how unfortunate they are, have an obvious moral obligation to care for those who can not care for themselves. Disturbed, disabled, whatever they are, they are part of the picture. Looking away only makes us blind to them.

So you do not have to be either childish or disturbed to be creative. It is, as another luminary once put it, part of being human. "Each of us, as a matter of fact," writes Benedetto Croce in his Aesthetic, "has in him a little of the poet, of the sculptor, of the musician, of the painter, of the prose writer: but how little, as compared with those who bear those names [Michelangelo, Leonardo, Beethoven], just because they possess the most universal dispositions and energies of human nature in so lofty a degree!"

It is really just a matter of degree.

Which is why you often hear someone at the museum say, "I could have painted that!"

So if we can shake off the excuse that you have to be terminally immature or blessed by mental disease, how do you develop your creativity?

Well, our preferred technique is to rely on boredom.

If you caught our three-part series on Creativity and the CCD for PBS recently (just kidding, unless you write grants), you know how important we feel boredom (even depression) is to the creative act. Even with a motor drive you don't take pictures 18 hours a day.

But you do look.

And as you look you think. You wonder about this or that doorway in the mid-morning light. Or the fog confusing itself with the tide going out. Or that picnic table set out at sunset. Or that coat draped over a chair. Or....

Well, frankly, you can go nuts thinking about what you are looking at. So you turn it off now and then (television comes to mind, ironically). And rest.

This can pass for boredom (at best) or depression (at worst), depending on how long it goes on. We aren't inclined to dispense advice (unless you are an elected representative) but we don't mind casting the subject in a new light. Which is what photographers do.

Think about those turned-off moments not as permanent states or temporary dysfunction so much as preparation for the next creative act. And the worse they are, the bigger the prep.

A dusty old treatise on one of Europe's saddest poets first brought this appreciation to our attention. The author, G. Singh, reminded us the old word for the experience is melancholy. And its traditional function for the artist is recuperation from the last project and preparation for the next.

The Gatorade, even the oxygen mask, for the art athlete.

And when you feel up to it, nothing will be able to restrain you. You grab the camera, you dash out the door, you shoot like a madman and stamp your feet in frustration like a child. But you are neither disturbed nor childish. You are an artist at work.

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We Have Mail

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RE: Photo Blogging

I noted with interest your photo blogging article. I use Macs exclusively, but have not yet started using iWeb -- I'll have to check it out.

I'm not sure if any of my blogs are what you were looking for in your invitation, but feel free to check them out:

http://reflectionsofbeauty.blogspot.com is a picture (with exposure info) roughly every day of something "beautiful" and commentary, reflective in nature, about it.

http://justun-doit.blogspot.com/ also has a picture, but tends to be a more spiritual or introspective blog

http://frito-a-day.blogspot.com/ is a photo blog of our dog, Frito -- what, doesn't your dog have his own blog? ;-)

-- Steven F. Crisp

I read with interest your article on Photoblogs. I have for nearly a year maintained what amounts to two photoblogs. In the article you asked us to forward such URLs:

http://www.pbase.com/royalld/photo_a_day and http://royalld.blogspot.com

You may already be aware of the Photo-A-Day community on PBase (http://www.pbase.com/pad). If not, it is worth your review.

-- Dave Royall

(Thanks, guys! Keep 'em coming. -- Editor)

My publisher emailed me today about your inspired riff on my book, The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan (Stone Bridge Press). What you had to say was fascinating! I am one of those people who knows nothing about photography -- you know, the kind of person who buys the disposable cameras and wonders how come the pictures come out so crummy. But I may have to put that in the past tense. There are many skilled photographers who add haiku to photography -- last month I went to an exhibit in Virginia of such artwork by the photographer Roberto Kamide. And of course there is a lot on the Internet. Now I'm wondering whether as a haiku poet I should develop photography as commentary. Hmmm.... You've got me re-reading my own book for clues! (Not to mention reading your Newsletter.) Good work!

-- Abigail Friedman

(Thanks for the kind words, Abigail. And thanks for the tip on Roberto Kamide. If you decide to pursue photo haiku, remember our site when you have any questions. -- Editor)

Thanks so much for writing back. I may well evolve into a photographer/haiku poet and I will check out your site if that is the case.

By the way, Roberto Kamide is an excellent photographer, but not really a haiku poet -- which is why he got his son to try his hand at it. But there are a couple of people (at least) out there whom I know who are extremely well-respected haiku poets and photographers and you might want to do a bit of surfing the net about them:

I highly recommend Brooks Books Haiku, which has a terrific online photography/haiku at http://www.brooksbookshaiku.com/onlinehaiku.html.

-- Abigail

RE: Optical Viewfinder Fan

I've looked through quite a few digital cameras and even though some have just a little peep hole to look through, I need that. I need reading glass to see up close. I can see just fine at a distance. It is such a hassle to keep putting on and taking off the glasses to use the display screen. I've tried the Nikon with a huge display. For framing and taking the picture, I can barely do it. I really prefer the ones that have the settings in the viewfinder like my Konica Minolta A2. I can see and make adjustments without glasses. I noticed quite a few manufacturers are doing this now. Thanks for your reviews!

-- Sonny Adams

(Good point, Sonny. We hate pushing our glasses around, too. And in the sunlight, no LCD quite cuts it. -- Editor)

RE: Premiere Slide Shows

Can I create slide shows to music with Adobe Premiere 2.0? If so, is it overkill for such a task? What's your opinion?

I have a Nikon D200 and am just starting out and would like to have a small business creating slide shows.

-- Mary

(This is such an interesting subject, we've never stopped writing about it. We started our Slide Show project in 2002, which you can catch up on by visiting our Index (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html) and typing "slide ?show" in the Regexp Text Search. Meanwhile, yes, you can use Premiere 2.0 to create slide shows with music. It is not overkill. Premiere makes syncing music almost fun. But it falls a little short of other slide show software like Photo to Movie (http://www.lqgraphics.com) when it comes to panning and zooming. -- Editor)

RE: High ISO

Just read your review of the Canon SD700 and was surprised to see no mention of the Fuji F series, as the main brag on the Canon was on its low light capabilities. I had always thought that Fuji was the top performer for high ISO. Are they still ahead or does the IS tip the scales in Canon's favor?

-- Clayton

(Right, nobody beats Fuji's Finepix F30 at ISO 3200. The real trick isn't ISO, though. It's image stabilization. Even on the F30, ISO cuts back to 1600 when stabilization is active. -- Editor)
(We're just finishing our testing of the F30, and you're right, it does an excellent job at very high ISOs. The biggest part of the SD700 IS story is its image stabilization, which is a true stabilization technology, rather than just a boosted ISO, which a number of cameras call "stabilization" modes these days. -- Dave)

RE: Suggestion

Recent advances in pocket size cameras are beginning to make up for their small flash sizes by providing high-speed ISO settings and image stabilization. Shooting in low light is important to me, so I welcome these features. What chance of you doing a Best Buy in this category (small cameras used in low light)?

Keep up the great work on the site -- your reviews have helped me not only to choose the cameras, but also on how to use them!

-- Peter

(Good idea! -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Adobe (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom) has released a Windows version for the public beta of Lightroom. The Windows and Macintosh versions of Lightroom currently contain somewhat different feature sets, but the core of Lightroom remains consistent across platforms.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com/strobes.html) has announced the premiere of its Starflash strobes, a new family of all-inclusive, self-contained monobloc strobes. The new strobes will start shipping in late September at $799.95 for the high-wattage 1000 series, $599.95 for the 650 series and $442.95 for the 300 series.


Online photo-sharing service PhotoSite (http://www.myphotosafe.com) has launched a new product called PhotoSafe to conveniently and securely store their digital photos online for $2.99/month unlimited or $1.99 for 1,000 images. Once uploaded, images are stored on multiple PhotoSafe servers at different physical locations. Photos are stored as long as the member maintains their account.


MemoryMiner (http://www.memoryminer.com) has announced the release of MemoryMiner 1.1 with "many important new features, many enhancements and of course, bug fixes."


Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released an update to LightZone, its image editor based on the Zone system. Version 1.4 addresses licensing and editing issues, with a couple of bug fixes thrown in as well.


ITEM: BeLight Software (http://www.belightsoft.com) has released its free Image Tricks 2.2 [M], an image editor with over 30 filters. The new release adds eight more filters, two image generators, accelerated image rendering, color transparency adjustment, an expanded workspace and more.


KavaSoft (http://www.kavasoft.com) has released its $79.99 Shoebox Pro 1.6 [M], an asset manager that can import keywords from iPhoto and Cumulus. The new release updates the interface and backs up photos to external disks.


In version 6.5, the free JAlbum (http://jalbum.net) [LMW] adds an embedded Web server to share albums directly from your hard disk, the option to keep Exif data, regular expression syntax for the album engine and more.


XtraLean (http://www.xtralean.com) has released its $50 Shutterbug 2.0.3 [M] with code revisions to make QuickTime and Flash compliant with the Windows Internet Explorer June 2006 update, plus small bug fixes.


GoPro (http://goprocamera.com) has introduced its $79.95 Digital Hero Camera, a 640x480 video/still digicam that can store 260-360 stills or 32 10 second videos in its 32-MB built-in memory. The three oz. camera's wrist-mounted, shock-proof polycarbonate case is functional to 30 feet underwater and requires one AAA battery.

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

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