The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 8, Number 18 1 September 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 183rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. After a revealing review about a folding SD card/USB drive, we turn our attention to the revamped Rebel. Then Peter iNova tells us how he turned eight months with the Nikon D200 into an all-new eBook. Finally, we help you safely update the firmware on an EasyShare printer. And you thought it was a holiday weekend!


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:
Sony
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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Mysteries of the SanDisk SD/USB Card Revealed

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

Some very interesting things can fly under a reviewer's radar. SanDisk's Secure Digital card with a split personality is one of them. It's been around for a year and half, but that just means you can find it at your favorite vendor by now (and you may even have saved up enough for it, too). What is it again? Oh, it's a combination SD card and USB flash drive.

Ordinary mortals buy either SD cards for their digicams, PDAs, MP3 players and whathaveyous and then you get a little USB thumb drive for everything you don't post on MySpace like backups and prototypes. USB drives are small but not as small as a postage stamp-sized SD card. SD cards and thumb drives have about the same capacity for about the same cost.

So in January 2005 SanDisk unveiled to the world an SD card that behaved like a USB drive. It had to be shaped like an SD card to fit in SD devices, of course, but all the USB end required was a connector. The housing doesn't really matter to a USB device as long as it doesn't prevent it from plugging in. But USB drives do ship with caps (which are a snap to lose) to protect their connector.

LIVING HINGE

We don't know what they serve in the cafeteria at SanDisk but the card guys decided to put a USB connector at the opposite end of the SD connector and cover it with half the SD card. They built a little plastic hinge in the card so it could split in half. Sounds flimsy but actually polypropylene (if that's what it is) can open and close at least a million times (http://efunda.com), which is several thousand more than we have time for. They call this a living hinge, whose molecules are oriented along the hinge line to make a life that long possible.

Unfortunately, when you bend the card in half it makes a snapping noise, as if you just broke it. Science class humor, probably. You didn't break it, it's just the little (but hard) plastic catch releasing.

PROTECTION

One other physical problem had to be addressed by the engineers. SD cards are small. And small stuff gets lost. So you need a place to hang the SD card when it isn't in a device or plugged into your computer. The engineers came up with an ingenious solution that really makes you wonder if they take all their vacation time. A keychain.

The keychain is cool. Thin, black and transparent (so you can see if the SD card is in there or not). But it doesn't come with a User Guide. How you get the SD card in the keychain is not as clear as the keychain cover. We felt more than a little prehistoric as we monkeyed around with it, trying to get it to open.

But at the bottom of the clear cover, there are embossed, caveman-like symbols in the shape of a carbon dateable arrow. You actually slide the clear cover in the direction the arrow is pointing (to the left) and it swivels open so you can slip the SD card inside it. That way, you are more likely to find the thing when you misplace it.

A more traditional plastic storage case is also included with the card, BTW.

MORE HURDLES

Physical issues aside, there remained some strange technical hurdles. Configured as an SD card, we popped it into a digicam and immediately started shooting pictures and movies. With 1.0-GB of memorable real estate nothing could stop us. That's 130 6-Mp images -- or, more menacingly, a half an hour of video. Enough to start our own Colbert Report, even if you factor in our O'Reilly. We could be famous with this thing.

Well, one thing could stop us. Our quickly diminishing external storage. Say you have a 20-GB external drive and you like to fill up your 1.0-GB card every afternoon. You won't get through the month. A scary thought.

To fill up that external drive, though, you have to pop the card into a USB port. And popping it into a USB port turned out to be another thing all together.

Naturally, we wanted to know if it would work with our Commodore 64, retrofitted with four USB 2.0 Hi-Speed ports amply supplied with 500 mA of juice (which is how much juice the card drinks). And why not? If we were the kind of person who just plugged this sort of thing into our Dell or MacBook with a big ta-da, we'd have graduated from engineering school instead of correspondence school (you know, where reviewers learn their trade).

There's no confusion about which end to plug in, but there is some confusion about which side is up. You actually insert the card upside down. The lettering is underneath with the USB contacts facing up. You won't read that anywhere on the Web but here.

When you correctly insert it, a little blue LED lights up and the card appears on your desktop as GEMINI, a removable drive. What else. The Twins. Right.

Being completely inept ourselves, we were unable to get the card to mount no matter what we did. So we flipped it back to its USB shape, put it in a PCMCIA card adapter and slipped it into our PCMCIA port, just like we do with any other SD card. And that, to our great relief, worked.

We finally saw a picture of an inserted card on the Web (the SanDisk site is no help at all) and figured out what we were doing wrong. Not only did we have it upside down but we weren't pushing it all the way in. It's a tight fit.

The design compromises, it turns out, were all made to the forgiving USB end. Typically, USB devices have the USB logo on the plug and that logo always faces up (so you don't insert it upside down). Nobody tells you this, but once you realize that's the convention, you live longer with less stress. The SD/USB card doesn't have any such logo. All the cool graphics are on the other side so you remember how to insert the thing in your camera.

But once we knew how to play the game, we never lost. The card mounted whether we plugged it directly in a USB port or into a hub. The little blue LED came right on and we could copy files to and from the card.

Now that, we thought, is pretty cool. Here we have 1.0-GB of storage as small as a thumbnail that can slip into a camera, PDA, MP3 player or whathaveyou and still funtion exactly like a USB thumb drive. And, it's fast. Taking the old 150KB/sec CD standard as 1x speed, the SanDisk Ultra II SD Plus USB is a 60x card, reading 10-MB a second and writing 9-MB a second. And SanDisk gives you a lifetime limited warranty, too. But then, whose lifetime isn't limited?

The price? Oh well, you should be able to find it for around $65. Or even less if you find one someone lost. Talk about street pricing!

Return to Topics.

Feature: A Peek at the Canon Rebel XTi 400D

By DAVE ETCHELLS and SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/XTI/XTIA.HTM on the Web site.)

Though it's already the hottest selling dSLR on the market, the Canon Digital Rebel XT was due for an upgrade and right on the expected 18 month schedule comes the EOS Digital Rebel XTi (called the EOS 400D overseas).

Though it's their lowest price model, the Digital Rebel line has been a leader in showcasing new features before they appear in the company's higher-end cameras. The Rebel XTi plays both catchup and leader, adding features that other cameras have added in the past 18 months, like a bigger LCD and higher resolution, while leading in areas others have yet to catch up. In comparison to other EOS cameras, the XTi is the low-price resolution leader and includes sensor cleaning technology that no other EOS has.

We'll outline and explain some of these major features and get you a hands on user report as soon as we can; but meanwhile, here's our overview of Canon's EOS Digital Rebel XT.

NEW FEATURES

Sensor Improvements. Canon makes its own CMOS sensors and the images they produce are hard to beat. Canon claims that the 10.1-Mp chip in the Rebel XTi chip's high-ISO performance will be on par with that of the Rebel XT and EOS-30D. The pixels in the Rebel XT's sensor are on a 6.4 micron pitch, while those in the XTi's sensor are spaced only 5.7 microns apart, the smallest pixels on an EOS dSLR to date.

Smaller pixels mean less light-gathering ability, which means the camera has less information to work with and is more likely to make errors, which we call noise. To counter that possibility, Canon engineers developed a more efficient cell layout with more of each pixel's area devoted to light gathering. They've also improved their microlens fabrication to reduce the gap between microlenses by a factor of two over their earlier designs. The result? The Rebel XTi's pixels have about the same light-gathering ability as the larger ones in the XT's sensor. We'll obviously have to wait until we have a production sample to test, but if Canon has succeeded, the Rebel XTi's ISO 1600 performance should be every bit as good as that of the XT. This is encouraging. The practical increase in resolution in going from 8 to 10 megapixels is pretty small, but it would be nice to get there with no loss in noise performance.

LCD. The Canon Rebel XTi joins the lion's share of current dSLRs with its larger, brighter 2.5-inch LCD with 230,000 pixels. Its viewing angle is 160 degrees, to help you show off your images to more people than the XT allowed. The increased size of this color LCD has forced the elimination of the monochrome Status LCD, so the color LCD now turns on when the camera is in ready mode, serving to replace the Status LCD's functions, as we've seen on KonicaMinolta/Sony and Olympus models. The Rebel XTi also senses when you put the camera to your eye and turns off the display to eliminate glare from the bright screen.

The XTi's LCD screen is like that on the 30D and other recent Canon dSLRs, but it appears to be a different component. The viewing angle of the other displays is specified as 170 degrees, while the XTi's LCD is 160 degrees. That 160 degree viewing angle spec applies to both vertical and horizontal directions, too. The screen on the Rebel XTi was configured to have most of its vertical viewing angle oriented in a downward direction.

Canon also said the new unit has both a more transparent LCD and a brighter LED backlight. So the Rebel XTi screen is about 40 percent brighter at its maximum setting than the screens on the EOS 5D and 30D. Canon does say though, that at its brightest setting, the screen's gamma changes to brighten the midtones. While making it easier to see under bright lighting, it does make the image look overexposed and significantly washes out highlights. It's thus important to keep the screen brightness near the middle settings for critical evaluation.

Burst Rate and Buffer Depth. The Rebel XTi's burst performance is the same as the Rebel XT's (three fps), but this is just about right for a consumer camera and compares evenly with most of the competition. It does represent an increase in data transfer rates, because the XTi has to handle data 25 percent faster than the XT, given the greater amount of data generated by the two million extra pixels. Where there is a performance improvement, though, is in the XTi's buffer depth. It can shoot 27 large/fine JPEGs or 10 RAW images before having to wait for the memory card to catch up, compared to 14 and 5 shots for the XT, respectively.

Dust Reduction Technology. The biggest news is Canon's new three-stage self-cleaning system. Other manufacturers have addressed the dust issue, starting with Olympus and now Sony. But Canon's solution takes multiple approaches. Internally, they've made modifications to keep key parts, like the shutter mechanism and even the body cap, from shedding dust. To further suppress dust, the surface has been treated with an anti-static coating to actually repel the menacing stuff.

Should those methods not work, the Rebel XTi's dust reduction system shakes the dust from the unique front plate of the camera's low pass filter, which sits in front of the actual image sensor. This knocks most of the dust off, where it will fall to one of the four sides and discover a very sticky adhesive to which it will hold fast.

The active portion of the new dust removal system runs every time you turn the camera on or off, but it isn't expected to introduce any power-on time delay. A small sparkle appears in the lower right corner of the Status display when the cleaning operation is being run and a limiter will turn off the vibration function if the camera is powered and off too often to keep the piezoelectric device from overheating. You can also interrupt the cleaning cycle by pressing on the shutter.

This first component of the low pass filter is also approximately one millimeter from the other part of the filter. This isn't so much to give the filter room to shake rattle and roll, but the air gap will let some light pass around smaller particles of dust, reducing its overall effect on images.

Finally, a new function has been added to the Rebel XTi that allows you to manually map the dust on your sensor. Just point the camera at a white wall and the camera records a map of each particle's location over the sensor. This data is appended to the file and you can later subtract the dust using the included Canon's Digital Photo Pro software on a computer to remove it later.

New User Interface. The user interface differs sharply from what has gone before. The small monochrome data readout formerly used to display shutter speed, aperture and other camera settings has been dropped, to make room for the huge 2.5" color LCD screen. This means that functions formerly served by the data readout have now moved to the large color screen, which now becomes command central for operating the camera. The basic operating controls (main dial, "cross" or arrow keys and various other buttons) remain the same as in the XT, but those controls now control status indicators on the main LCD screen.

When you power up the Rebel XTi, the huge display screen immediately lights up, showing the current status of the major camera settings. This display remains on when the camera is active, except when the screen is being used to show menu options or an image is being played back. The display screen is turned off anytime you bring your eye to the viewfinder, to save power and prevent the glare from the screen from interfering with your use of the viewfinder. (This last feature is reminiscent of dSLRs from Konica Minolta and Sony, which also use the main LCD screen for camera status display.) The large display screen can be turned on or off explicitly via the DISP button on the camera's back. A power lamp on the top of the camera tells you when the camera is on, a useful indicator if you've turned off the primary LCD.

The larger LCD screen makes room for eight new items on the status display: ISO setting, AF frame display, White Balance adjustment, White Balance Bracketing, Red Eye Reduction Mode, Shooting Display mode, Beep and something called "Dimmer Offset." Dimmer Offset appears to refer to a variable display that can alternate between showing exposure compensation settings for either the internal flash or an external speedlight. The new user interface also takes advantage of the color LCD, using color changes to call attention to exposure compensation settings.

One downside of using a large color LCD screen for a basic camera status display is that a big full-color screen uses a lot more power than a little monochrome data readout. This is most likely why the Canon Rebel XTi's battery life is slightly less than that of the Rebel XT.

SOME THINGS BORROWED

As we mentioned, there's a lot of new stuff, but a lot of what's in the new Rebel XTi represents the best of Canon's latest innovations copied over from the EOS 5D and 30D.

Autofocus Improvements. Easily the most useful hand-me-down of the bunch is the 9-point AF system from the 30D. The key here is not the two extra points over the Rebel XT's 7-point AF, nor is it the diamond arrangement, it has to do with AF speed and accuracy. Our own informal testing showed the 20D and 30D to be far faster at locking focus than the Rebel XT, even though it is among the fastest we've seen. Now it's faster and because it's identical to the 30D, it also offers the "dual-precision" center AF point found on the 30D.

Dual-precision AF points have two sets of focus sensors, one spaced to permit use with f5.6 lenses, the other set to operate with f2.8 lenses. When you attach an f2.8 or faster lens to the XTi, the central AF point will automatically focus more accurately; no user intervention required.

Viewfinder Changes. The Canon Rebel XTi's viewfinder incorporates a couple of features from the viewfinder on the 30D, namely a Flash Exposure lock indicator on the left side and a white balance adjustment indicator on the right. The Red-Eye indicator icon is now displayed on the rear-panel LCD screen, so is not present in the viewfinder.

The nine AF areas from the 30D's AF system are visible, but they retain the look of the AF areas in the Rebel XT, a hollow box with a point in the center that illuminates bright red when the point is active.

Apart from these changes, the viewfinder appears to be essentially the same as that of the previous XT: Viewfinder blackout time is specified as 170ms for shutter speeds of 1/60 second or faster, dioptric adjustment ranges from -3.0 to +1.0 and the same Precision Matte focusing screen is used.

Picture Styles. The Canon Rebel XTi incorporates the Picture Style feature that first appeared in the EOS 5D and 1D Mark II N. Canon clearly intends to spread the concept across the SLR line. Picture Styles are an extension of the previous "Parameters" concept, basically combinations of presets for contrast, sharpness, saturation and color tone that tweak the camera's response to better suit various subjects or applications.

Styles include Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome and User Defined 1, 2 and 3. You can either directly modify the User Defined styles or modify an existing Style and save it to a User Defined space. In the Monochrome Style, you can choose from an array of filters and tones to modify your monochrome output. Filters include Yellow, Orange, Red and Green. Tones include Sepia, Blue, Purple and Green. Each style's preset settings can be adjusted by the user, but the basic setups provide excellent starting points for various subject types and fill somewhat the same role as different film emulsions did back in the days of chemical-based photography.

New Direct Printing Functions. As a major player in both image capture and printed output, Canon has always been a leader when it comes to making direct connections between their cameras and their printers. Like all their digital cameras, the Canon Rebel XTi supports printing to any PictBridge-compatible printer, but the XTi offers an expanded feature set that matches or exceeds the capabilities of the 30D. Here's a list of the printing capabilities added since the Rebel XT:

Battery. The XTi's battery is the same as the XT's, the NB-2LH, but because of the larger display, its function as a Status display and the new self-cleaning system, battery life is reduced. You can expect 500 images at room temperature (without flash) and 360 shots with 50 percent flash usage. At freezing temperatures, that expectation goes down to a still-respectable 370 and 280 shots without and with flash.

HANDLING & OTHER DETAILS

We are told that the formerly anemic grip on the Rebel XT has been shored up a bit on the Rebel XTi, with just a little more to hold onto. Anything will likely be a welcome change, but we'll reserve judgment until we hold one (stay tuned).

A small green LED has been added on the top panel of the camera to indicate power status, since the Status LCD is now gone. The new integrated Status LCD can go off before the camera actually sleeps, so the power lamp seems like a good idea.

Image sizes are 3888x2592 pixels, 2816x1880 or 1936x1288, with Fine and Normal compression plus RAW and RAW+JPEG combinations.

Another benefit of the Canon Rebel XTi's very similar body style is that it uses the same battery pack as the XT, the BG-E3. Though it weighs a little more than the XT, at 510 grams without the battery or card, we found using this battery grip with the XT was a nimble combination. Given the Canon Rebel XTi's reduced battery capacity, the frequent shooter would benefit from this accessory.

The Rebel XTi kit comes with the standard EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 (non-USM) and the camera is available in silver and black finish. This lens, by the way, is widely regarded as a quality, if cheaply constructed lens.

Canon has dropped one thing from the Digital Rebel XTi and that's $100 off the price of both the kit and body-only cameras. The kit debuts at $899, while the body-only package is $799. The Rebel XT -- still a formidable camera in its own right -- will stay in the line for the rest of the year, with the price dropping to $799 for the kit and $699 for the body only. The Rebel XTi is expected to ship in mid-September.

GREAT TIMING

Now that all of Canon's major challengers have shown their cards, it's good to see the Canon Rebel XTi answer so many of the challenges presented. Adding a larger screen, more pixels, dust removal technology and greater buffer depth meets several challenges presented directly by cameras like the Nikon D80, Sony Alpha A100 and Olympus E-500. Reducing the price of a camera that likely still leads in high-ISO image quality significantly raises the stakes.

Where Canon does not answer some of the challengers is in offering body-based image stabilization. Nor do they address the Nikon D80's inclusion of an impressively long focal length lens at a low price.

However, Canon has long been a pioneer in image stabilization and offers an array of image stabilized lenses and they have a growing selection of EF-S lenses in addition to their 50+ lenses to choose from, all of which will work with the Digital Rebel XTi. And answering the dust problem in such a comprehensive manner is a good step toward answering a real-world problem, though.

Return to Topics.

Feature: iNova's Eight Months With the D200

DigitalSecrets this week published its latest eBook, DSLR: Nikon D200 by Peter iNova and Uwe Steinmueller. But it's an eBook unlike any other they've published.

When Peter got his hands on an early D200, he found that "Nikon really did their homework on this camera." He planned on taking three months to do an eBook worthy of it. "Funny how things like that bend into the direction of realities. It took eight months of day-in/day-out work. Deep camera."

To do the D200 justice, "We poured more into this one than any of them in the past and even transformed the whole thing into a new format, upped the interactive component everywhere and even embedded some super-quality, very colorful time-lapse movies at HD resolution into the PDF pages. When you click on them, they almost fill the screen, illustrating full motion and the relative effect of all the continuous modes."

As with previous eBooks in the DSLR series, High Resolution and Ultra Resolution PDF files give the reader 200 percent and 400 percent viewing on Windows and Mac computers with the included Adobe Reader software. Images exceed the quality of those in printed media because they aren't halftoned. You can zoom well into the images for critical comparisons of example photos. Some illustrations are up to 28 layers deep, allowing interactive control of different illustrated relationships like depth of field, the effect of camera adjustments and custom image quality selections. Groups of pages may be printed horizontally on letter paper.

The core Camera Operations chapter features 19 pages of detailed information on selected Nikkor lenses appropriate to the D200 with commentary on their quality, approximate current prices and feature details. Even the two latest Nikkors, the 18-135mm DX and 70-300mm VR II are included.

Actions. "We take the view that for a camera this advanced, the chief editing program for its owners is Photoshop and we have included a vast array of Photoshop Actions customized to the D200," Peter said. "Our catalog of Photoshop Actions has grown. In this package, the count has gone well above 600 individual Actions, each performing a correction, enhancement, conversion or useful tweak to D200 images. Many new ones have joined the list and all have been cleaned, oiled and adjusted for the D200. There's even a whole chapter of image enhancements you can perform with Photoshop Elements for photographers learning how to edit with that program."

Peter added, "One of them gives results to any image that the LensBaby produces, except that the Action lets you tune the idea a number of different ways instead of making it a permanent part of the shot. Another related one lets you treat images to make large subjects look like table-top miniature scenes. Most of the previous Actions got a make-over or were re-written from the basement up."

He's most proud of the action "that gets a digital photo with 1600 percent of the dynamic range of a normal exposure! Beyond Photoshop's HDR technique and far higher in quality than any RAW exposure, this technique is a new addition to our iDynamicRanger Action series which first combined multiple exposures into one long dynamic range image in 2001. Here's a page (http://www.digitalsecrets.net/secrets/D200News3.html) that shows what it achieves -- and how Photoshop's HDR technique is inadequate to producing acceptable results from the same string of exposures."

Beyond Tips. The eBook reveals how to adapt legacy Nikon fisheye optics to the D200 without camera modification. The results are high quality full-circle fisheye images with 184-degree views and nearly infinite depth of field. "Until they saw my results, nobody at Nikon even knew that this was practical, let alone possible," Peter said.

Another scoop reveals how to remotely trigger SB-800 Nikon Speedlights wirelessly and repeatedly, up to 50 flashes per second, through the camera's extensive flash features plus some essential know-how.

"Nikon's manual is excellent at explaining what each button and menu item is," Peter said, "so we dig into what each feature and setting can achieve in solving real-world photographic issues. There are many things in this camera that can be combined with each other to produce new kinds of images. Many photographic techniques are simply beyond the horizon of the instruction manual. Real photographs are a combination of the photographer, the camera, the lens and the processes that finish the image. It's not just about the camera."

Esoteric techniques are explored like multiple exposures, 3D imaging, infrared shooting, multi-shot panoramics, exotic flash methods, long exposure zooming, using the white balance circuits to create strong color filter effects and even professional considerations for the digital darkroom's equipment list. A Web-hyperlinked interactive Appendix brings resources to the reader from around the world and a 38-page D200 Gallery shows a wide range of images, treatments, lenses, challenges and results.

A separate 146-page volume, RAW Materials by Uwe Steinmueller illuminates Raw shooting, interpretation of images by various software packages including Apple's Aperture and Adobe's Lightroom.

The 632-page DSLR: Nikon D200 published by Graphics Management Press includes 624 Photoshop Actions in 75 groups. See our Deals section to save $6.50 on all shipping for the $49.95 eBook.

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: Updating a Kodak Printer Dock

We've had a Kodak EasyShare printer dock here for a while now. And recently we had to review a Nikon that featured ImageLink capability. It comes with its own dock cradle to dock in an EasyShare to display and print photos.

But when we put the Nikon in, it only glowed like an expensive night light. What was wrong? The firmware, that's what. We were outdated.

How did we know?

Well, despite our infallible sixth sense of these things, we checked. First we needed to know what the existing firmware version was. With a camera in the dock, we pressed the Red Eye Reduction and Print buttons at the same time for about five seconds. The firmware version was displayed on the camera screen. Without a camera in the dock, you get a printed status sheet that shows the boot loader versions and the firmware version, all handy numbers.

Then we needed to know what the latest firmware version was. A quick trip to the Kodak support site for the dock printer plus series 3 printer showed us that indeed there was a firmware update available. And a driver update, too. And not only that but there was an update for Kodak's EasyShare software, as well. My my.

We did install the new EasyShare and the new printer driver, too (which doesn't need the printer to be up to date). Then we focused on the firmware update.

At the Downloads and Upgrades page of the Kodak support site for our model, we selected our operating system. Even though the printer doesn't have an operating system, you need to send the firmware to the printer from your computer, so you have to have a compatible updating program.

As soon as we did that, we saw the new version number (higher than our existing version), the file size (12-MB) and the download time (38 minutes by dial-up and 4:10 by Cable/DSL). That's also where we saw the print driver update, by the way.

The next screen displayed the installation instructions along with the benefits of the new firmware. We're a sucker for "minor bug fixes." Those would be the things we always meant to complain about but never got around to actually complaining about. Somehow, we think it would cover the new Nikon, too.

The install instructions are pretty straight-forward. Download the update. Turn off the printer (by removing the power cord). Then ....

Well, then we connected the otherwise WiFi printer dock to our computer with a USB cable. That's not in the instructions, but we didn't need even the chance of an interruption for something this critical. After that we resumed with the instructions.

To put the printer in upgrade mode, you hold the Print and Red Eye buttons down for about two seconds while you plug the power cord back in. That actually tells the printer to look for a new brain.

You can then go back to the computer and run the updater. But you might find the Read me interesting. We certainly did. It told us about a few problems:

Stuff you wish you knew, right? And now you do. There was more (with workarounds) but we won't impose on your patience any more.

The updater asks for the update file, included with the updater and then sends it to the printer. This is the critical moment you don't want interrupted. A few minutes later and our printer was smarter than ever.

It even made friends with the Nikon, displaying the captured images in a slide show and printing a couple we selected.

A firmware update may sound like something a techie should do, but it's really no more trouble than copying a file. Just follow the directions and you won't have any trouble with the update and less problems with the printer down the line.

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In the Forums

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We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.

RE: Passports

I took my husband's passport photo and he took mine -- just stood against an almost white wall and shot hand-held, adjusted the levels in Photoshop and cropped to the specifications. Not a big deal. And tremendous improvement over photos we had arranged to be taken "professionally" for prior passports.

-- Fran Schiavo

I am truly an amateur photographer but feel I can produce a fine quality image by this time in my life. This is in reference to the latest article on "Advance Mode: Shooting Passport Photos." I laughed out loud at the complexity of the article. I have been taking passport images of myself, family and fiends for the past 40 years, first with wet film and now with digital and never went through all the fuss as stated in the column.

You know what size the image must be, firstly, it's on the passport application. Accurate dimensions are the most important and the rules of what to have on and not have on.

I always take the images on a cloudy bright day, outside, so no shadows exist (never use a flash). Always find a light background and if that is impossible, bring a 30x60" white matte board and have someone hold it up behind the subject or tape it to a surface. Shoot straight forward after all it is a mug shot and not a glamour image.

I print on heavyweight paper and make sure it is sharp, clear and with good contrast. I've even printed in B&W. I do it all in 20 minutes.

-- Georgia Robinson

(Well, it wasn't an article about the easiest possible way to take a passport photo, after all. It was an article about how to take one that won't be rejected (no black and whites anymore) in these trying times. Our comic experience taking our own only proves, as we said at the start, that anyone can do it. Well and quickly. But you do have to know what the specifications are. And one more benefit of making your own is that it's a bit more convenient to bring along copies in case you need to replace your passport. -- Editor)

RE: Mirror Slap?

Thanks for a great Web site. I check it regularly and recommend it to my students too. (I teach digital photography at our local community college.)

I was wondering if you or your reviewers ever talk about SLR mirror slap noise. I've only handled a few dSLRs and the mirror slap noise from each varied greatly. Camera noise is an important factor for me and perhaps it might also be for others.

Is it possible to include this topic in future dSLR reviews?

-- Bill Meserve

(Thanks for the idea, Bill. We've passed that along to the guys who review the dSLRs. Shawn says the Nikon D80 is noticeably quieter than other dSLRs. My guess is that it's more shutter noise than the noise of the mirror because all SLR mirrors bang into a thick foam cushion (which we wrote about replacing recently). -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes


For the third consecutive year, Kodak EasyShare digital cameras in the $200-$399 price range have ranked highest in customer satisfaction in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Digital Camera Satisfaction Study. Twenty-one Kodak digicams were evaluated including the C-series models, the 12x zoom P850, the high-zoom Z-series, the WiFi EasyShare One and ultra-compact V530, V550, V603 and V570 models.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has updated VueScan [LMW], improving cropping in the preview of multiple images, adding support for scanning four photos at a time on a flatbed, adding preview auto refresh, improving auto cropping, cropping of skewed images and more.


Extensis has launched a new online forums site at http://forums.extensis.com for open discussion on all things related to Extensis and its product lines. Members are encouraged to post tips, tricks, questions and general discussion on font and digital asset management markets.


Stick Software (http://www.sticksoftware.com) has released its $15 PhotoReviewer 2.0 [M], adding direct camera import, thumbnail views, Exif support, histograms, a magnifier, side-by-side image viewing, full-screen mode and more.


School of Visual Arts (http://www.sva.edu) will offer a Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography beginning in the fall of 2007. The new one-year degree program curriculum consists of nine 3-credit courses and a 6-credit summer thesis project, including: Digital Materials and Processes; Digital Asset Management and Workflow; Personal Vision, Storytelling and the Art of Editorial Photography; Color Management and Output; Advanced Image Processing; Photo Illustration; Large Format Printing; Studio Management and Practices; and Scripting and Automation. Application information is available from SVA's Office of Graduate Admissions at (212) 592-2100 or gradadmissions@sva.edu. The program will be chaired by Katrin Eismann, who is currently on the faculty of the BFA Computer Art Department and the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department at SVA.


ViewMinder (http://www.viewminder.com) has released its $64.95 Expert ViewMinder 3.10 [W], an asset management program designed for photo enthusiasts, journalists, news organizations and the other professionals. Instead of using a string of keywords to explain what an image shows, ViewMinder lets the user add an unlimited number of people, events, locations and things to a metadata tree. A free version limited to 250 images can be downloaded from the site.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has announced its Project: Photoshop and Lightroom education road show with Colin Finlay will begin on Sept. 5 at over 25 colleges and art schools across the nation. Adobe is also launching a destination Web site (http://www.projectphotoshoplightroom.com), which provides participating students with a universal place to share their work and blog about their experiences.

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One Liners

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Signoff

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

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
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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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