|Volume 8, Number 20||29 September 2006|
Welcome to the 185th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We're hearing more and more horror stories about broadband connections as providers upgrade systems and compete with each other, so we thought we'd tell you how we solved our unusually vexing problem. Then Dan gets wet with an Optio W10. You have subscriber Ed Marcus to thank for Peter iNova's contribution, since he asked if a D80 eBook was on the way. And on the subject of companies doing what they promise, we tell you what happened to a Belkin hub with a lifetime warranty.
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
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There are, we have often observed, just two kinds of people in this world. The two we are thinking about this time are 1) those who see the world as a Western with only cowboys and indians, white hats and black hats and 2) those who see the world as a circus, where the clowns are not restricted to one of the three rings but can be found anywhere.
We find it more amusing to pretend the world is a circus rather than a battle, but sometimes you can't avoid a fight. We'd been patiently but persistently working with our Internet service provider to resolve a broadband connection issue. But whenever we called tech support to report the loss of our signal, we had to talk to someone who didn't understand the technology and was obliged to go through a very long script proving (at our expense and inconvenience) that the problem was not on our side of the wall before they could pass us up the support chain.
Since we lost our signal every night at 8:20 or so, we eventually got a ticket number to resolve the issue, so we could bypass the screener and talk directly to the support people at the Network Operations Center. The problem with that was that by the time we called them to report the problem, they were closed for the day (past midnight where they were). The problem was not observable by anyone but us.
That led the bright lights at the NOC to throttle our connection speed down to near modem levels to avoid "interference" from street lights, etc. Indeed, that kept the signal at night. It also crippled us during the day. After lots of negotiating, we were able to persuade someone to set the speed at the higher level with loss of sync at night. We just used a dial-up connection at night to wrap things up (like sending this newsletter).
We'd been with Evilempire.net for a long time and observed that these things tend to eventually resolve themselves. A little patience and ... well, suddenly it was three years later, broadband speeds were tripling with new services available and we were still using a dial-up modem at night.
Plan B was a local ISP with very high marks. Plan C was the ambitious phone company, intent on world domination. Better prices from both for the first year (of course), but how was support? We called both. The phone company sent us on a nice little excursion through a screener halfway around the world before returning us to a salesperson who had no idea what we were asking about. A tech guy answered at the local ISP. It was a quick call -- he knew what we were worried about.
Since we already had a problem, we couldn't dispense with good tech support, so we went with the local ISP. We ordered online, were setup in just a few minutes with an account, lots of Web space and a dial-up number. In a few days our broadband service would be switched to their network from Evilempire.net by the phone company.
We spent the time writing to people to tell them we had a new email address. We keep our address book on our own machine, but our better half keeps hers on the server, preferring to get email via the Web. Evilempire.net doesn't allow you to export your address book there, naturally (they seem to have devoted a lot of time, money and energy making life difficult for their customers). But we found a way around it. Just display the address book, save the page and open it in any text editor. Edit it so you have just the stuff you need: a name, a tab and an email address on each line. If that tab-delimited format isn't importable, it's easy to convert into a comma separated values of CSV file using any Excel-compatible program. That CSV file should be importable.
So we were ready when the switch occurred late on a Friday afternoon -- except we lost both our data and voice lines. Catastrophe.
We were able to contact the ISP with our cell phone and they did something Evilempire.net never did do. They put a service call into the phone company, even telling us the ticket number.
We didn't understand, however, that the voice problem took precedence. To us it was all the same problem. But a couple of calls later, we got the picture. Unfortunately, dialing 611 on a cell phone takes you to the cell phone company's repair service, not the voice line. The voice line number refers you to a Web site, so we wandered over to a hot spot and logged in to register a problem only to find out we had to call an 800 number to report the problem. We did that, getting referred to the Web site again, but persisted until we finally got someone who tested the line and immediately made a tech appointment for Monday morning. But within a few minutes our voice line was restored. Not our side of the wall.
With that resolved, it was back to the data connection. We had sync at the modem but no data was getting through. So we had no Internet access. Another call to tech support. They made a Monday afternoon appointment for a phone company tech guy to come out to check the connection to our bunker.
When Napoleon the tech came out, he rewired our outside box (which had been rewired by a colleague of his) to reduce interference. We already had a splitter to separate voice from data, so there wasn't much he could do. He had sync, but couldn't log into our ISP to check data because his box didn't have the right protocol.
But we had a nice chat about losing sync at night. "You don't have any street lights," he observed. The ISP should have logged a report with the phone company with the time of occurrence, so they could investigate. "It's usually just a loose connection. But it can be a T1 line, too. Then we just move you." Happens all the time. But somehow Evilempire.net never managed.
When he left, we called our ISP. The tech had a bright idea. We have a stack of old modems around, so he suggested swapping out our current wonder. It didn't work, but he could see the older modem. He couldn't see the newer one. "They probably aren't configured correctly for our network," he guessed. He could send us a modem with a rebate for the whole price or we could try to configure one of our two modems.
We tried to configure the modems we got from Evilempire.net. But, we discovered, they weren't accessible. They'd been disabled by design, so they would only work with the Evilempire.net network. We ordered the new modem.
Meanwhile, we closed our account with Evilempire.net. This takes some skill. You think you're calling to cancel. They think you're calling to sign up. They try to find out why you're unhappy and then they promise you the moon. Hilarious. We already knew they couldn't deliver the service and we had already switched providers, anyway. We told them that up front so they wouldn't waste their time.
Point made, but deal not closed. We were then presented with an array of useless services. By switching first, we'd already taken care of things like notifying our friends of our new email address, so we didn't need to keep our email address. In fact, we were able to retrieve all our spam for a month following the cancellation.
(BTW, notifying everyone of our new address turned out to be a lot of fun. First, we got an email address from Google's gmail service, so our email would not be tied to any particular ISP. Then we sent a message to ourself from the new account and lumped everybody in the BCC address option. A Blind Carbon Copy won't publish your email list to everyone on it like a Carbon Copy. The fun part came later when we got a lot of replies, some from folks we hadn't heard from in quite a while. Very pleasant side effect!)
Before we hung up, we learned that Evilempire.net had just billed us for another full month of service (which they obviously weren't going to deliver). No refund, can't do it, the clown on the other end of the line said. We hung up and called Billing. Yes, no problem they adjusted the bill. Just another phone call. But what a way to treat people. They aren't called Evilempire.net for nothing.
It's been two months now since we made the switch and we haven't lost sync at night even once. And the enhanced speed (4813 down and 619 up at the moment) has let us make up for some lost time (from 103 down and 312 up).
Broadband connections are increasingly required for services like sharing pictures. In fact, we were astonished at how slow-loading even one of our reviews could be on dial-up. We could surf and email reasonably well, but we really couldn't do any of our imaging work online.
Broadband isn't simple. There are a lot of slippery rocks to hop on the other side of the wall. Our case was admittedly extreme. It involved an inconvenient location, wiring that was standard for voice but insufficient for broadband and an ISP that would not follow through with the phone company (preferring to outsource to a network provider who would not follow through with the phone company). We knew the problem wasn't on our side of the wall because we've set up broadband at a number of locations with nothing like this.
But the greatest impediment to our connection turned out to be the people providing the service. Which is so funny, we could cry.
We're glad the battle is finally over. Now we can sit back and enjoy the lion tamer. Oh, and send in the clowns, too.
By DAN HAVLIK
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OW10/OW10A.HTM on the Web site.)
Looking at the Pentax Optio W10, you'd have no idea there's anything out of the ordinary about it -- and that's a good thing. Though it has a Class 8 Waterproof rating (submersible for up to five feet for a maximum of 30 minutes of continuous use), the W10 resembles most other compact digital cameras on the market.
Considering it's also certified as JIS Class 5 dustproof, the second highest-possible rating, the W10's relatively svelte construction and smooth, rounded contours are doubly impressive. A Class 5 dustproof rating means that while it's possible for some dust to enter the camera, it won't be enough to interfere with your pictures.
The W10 weighs just 5.5 ounces with the battery and card. The exterior is relatively smooth and featureless, but it's slightly longer than average, and slightly off balance, with the weight of the battery on the far left rather than under the grip area. Still, it's light enough to hold steady with one hand. There's a slender metal finger-grip on the front of the camera and a small bone-shaped zoom rocker on the back that serves as a decent thumb grip. Maybe it's the power of suggestion, but the waterproof Optio W10 has a vaguely nautical feel to its design -- simple yet seaworthy.
The back of the camera is dominated by the 2.5-inch LCD. There's no room left for an optical viewfinder, but plenty of room on the right side of the camera for buttons. Despite the room, Pentax has followed the trend of most manufacturers and made the buttons quite tiny. Along with the bone-shaped zoom rocker, there's a tiny trash button, a small playback button and a very small four-way controller; and the menu button is pretty small too.
LARGE LCD, MEDIOCRE RESOLUTION
While the large LCD is great, the resolution is only 115,000 pixels, which renders captured images in playback slightly soft. The screen seemed to have a particular problem with straight lines. They suffered from a bad case of the jaggies, aka "aliasing artifacts." Many shots I thought were of poor quality when viewed on the LCD were perfectly fine on my computer. I'm glad I didn't delete them! Scrolling through images in playback was a breeze, though, with shots taking only a split second to pop up on the screen during review. This is the benefit of having a lower resolution screen, one that isn't often realized due to other cost cuts in the processor, cuts that thankfully weren't made with the W10.
In live preview, things were only marginally better. The W10's screen uses a fairly effective anti-reflective coating that helps cut down on glare from sunlight. However, viewing the screen indoors under bright lights -- or under natural window light -- left the images hazy and ghost-like, while dark areas were muddy. Even though having a 2.5-inch LCD would seem to be a big plus, with the allotted resolution I would have preferred a smaller screen.
The W10 is not a very nimble performer, powering on slowly and taking almost three seconds to get to the first shot. Since it does not have a retracting lens, it powers down at a quick 0.9 seconds. Getting from startup to first shot capture, the W10 is slower than average at 1.3 seconds, while the camera displays images after capture at an about average speed of four seconds. The W10 displays images already recorded on the SD card at a very quick 0.3 seconds, however.
The camera displayed some noticeable lag time, taking almost a second to take a picture when fully pressing the shutter button at its widest autofocus setting (38mm in 35mm format) and at its full telephoto autofocus setting (114mm in 35mm format). When the camera was pre-focused, however, it was an entirely different story with shutter lag dropping to 0.12 second when you half-press and hold the shutter button. Pre-focusing the W10 is essential if you don't want to miss your shot.
Shot to shot, the camera was sluggish as well, taking 2.51 seconds per shot when in Large Fine JPEG mode. In Continuous mode, it takes about 0.94 seconds per shot, or 1.06 frames per second for six frames total.
Image quality was better than I'd experienced in a waterproof camera. On dry land in bright sunlight, images were positively punchy, with color showing strong saturation which should please consumers, though more serious photographers might be put off by the pumped up hues.
The camera's 3x Pentax zoom lens (38-114mm in 35mm format) also produced surprisingly good sharpness in natural light. My experience with folded optics has been a mixed bag, at best, so the Pentax W10 surprised me in being able to maintain sharpness almost all the way to the edges. When it was zoomed out fully, shots showed some softness, but less than I'd expected.
The W10 also has a great macro mode with the camera able to focus as close as one centimeter. Thanks to the punchy color, I got some nice close-ups of flowers during a recent stroll through the city.
While things were fine when the W10 was set to ISO 64 in good light, in low light at ISO 200 and above, quality degraded significantly. Though ISO 200 was passable, shots taken at ISO 400 had serious noise speckling and shots at ISO 800 were a disaster. The flash was also underpowered and unable to give some basic fill to the shadows in shots I took of a carousel in New York City's Bryant Park.
I'm pleased the megapixel wars are being replaced by discussions of other aspects important to picture-taking: things like lenses, processors, and image stabilization. It's too bad though that camera manufacturers seem to be willing to slap on a high ISO rating on their digital camera knowing full well that consumers will be disappointed with the results. This will only further turn-off picture-takers already burned by 10-Mp compact cameras that produce noisy images.
TAKING THE PLUNGE
Though the W10 has an ISO 800 setting, low-light shooting is not its main purpose. The real purpose is to enhance its waterproof capability and in this area, I'm happy to say the W10 delivered the goods.
After shooting some nice shots on dry land, I brought the W10 to a friend's lake house in the Poconos to put it to the test. Since there are a lot of sunfish that swim up to the local dock looking for food, I simply dunked the camera into the water and started clicking away. Though shots were hit or miss, that was mostly due to the skittish nature of the sunfish, not to the camera's underwater ability, which was decent.
After my experience dipping the W10 in the water, I decided to take the full plunge. I jumped into the waters of Lake Log Tavern with the camera lashed tightly to my wrist. It was a strangely disconcerting experience to jump into a lake with a digital camera. I've accidentally soaked a lot of electronic equipment in my day and there's nothing that can send terror into a techno geek's heart more than getting liquids on expensive gear. The W10 fired up unphased, though, and I breathed a sigh of relief (figuratively speaking, since I still haven't mastered breathing underwater without scuba gear). Obeying that five-foot underwater max rule with the W10 was easy. For the most part, average consumers aren't going to be doing any deep-sea diving with their digital camera, just some splashing around in a pool, lake, or ocean. Since Lake Log Tavern is fed by an aquifer -- an underground spring -- the water is unusually clear, and great for taking pictures. Along with making sure the camera is always tied around your wrist in the water -- remember, it doesn't float! -- don't forget to switch to the Underwater Mode, which will pump up the blues in your images.
While bobbing up and down on a raft, I was able to get some fun pictures of a friend and not have to worry about damaging the camera. Even better, the camera performed great when fully submerged, getting an eerie shot of my friend floating beneath the surface.
Though the flash fired frequently underwater, I didn't notice a big difference between when it was on and when it was off. This is a rather low-powered flash, so don't expect much. There's also an underwater movie mode which was great fun with the camera capturing surprisingly sharp 640x480 video while fully submerged. In competing models, I've lost shots to lens fogging after underwater use but not with the Pentax Optio W10.
Though all this underwater stuff might seem like a gimmick, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed shooting in and around water. Many of the images I took at Lake Log Tavern were definitely keepers and without the Pentax W10, I wouldn't have them.
Though it's not the best all-around performer, the W10's main selling point is its sturdy yet attractive waterproof and dustproof design. And while shots captured at high ISOs may be disappointing, the W10 takes reasonably good pictures on dry land under adequate lighting. Still, it is truly fun to use -- in, around, and under the water. If you're looking for a light and pocketable camera to splash around with, the W10 won't leave you high and dry.
By PETER INOVA(We're pleased to bring you this excerpt from Peter's illustrated preview of the D80 (http://www.digitalsecrets.net/secrets/D80Preview.html). Rest assured he's hard at work on the eBook, which he hopes to publish around the holidays. -- Editor)
What do you get when you breed a D50 with a D200?
My cameras grew up. Had a kid. Went to school. Got a Degree. Settled in for a career in picture taking.
It was inevitable. That sexy D200 started dating the D50 and pretty soon sparks were flying.
Kids these days. You try to tell them all about the risks and dangers of the world. You try to give them a sense of right and wrong. You hope for the best and you take a deep breath as they go out on a date....
You tell them all about the cards and the batteries -- but no matter what you say or do, they're the ones who inherit life on their own terms, after all.
One day they come to you with a bouncing newcomer and say, "Dad, there's something we want to show you," and rather than get all senior on them, you pick the baby up and hold it. And it hits you. I mean, what were we doing when the world was new and full of sunrises and opportunities? Same sort of shenanigans. Ah, life.
Or in this case, a new camera.
With the D80, Nikon has given us the sweet spots of not just the D50 (SD Card, exposure mode macros, value-added pricing) and the D200 (big 2.5-inch monitor, 10 MP chip, 11-point focus) but some of the welcome heritage from the D70 (IR remote, fast-everything, Commander-mode flash control).
Really this camera is the successor to the D70/D70s camera that I've known and appreciated so well. And, of course, the D50 was the direct junior sibling to the D70, minus a few features, but minus a major quadrant of the price tag, too.
WHO BABY LOOKS LIKE
When the D70 appeared the biggest news was how much of the D100 was inside. Professional 6-Mp image, large continuous strings of shots, matrix metering, 7-point auto-focusing, menu ergonomics, intuitive handling -- in all, a machine worth its salt and its bread.
When the D200 appeared, the biggest news was its 10-Mp image chip plus all the inherited characteristics from the D100 again. Here is a camera with a huge, satisfying monitor with wide viewing and exceptional image, a weather-sealed magnesium frame, professional features out the gwank (an idiosyncratic technical term, but it suggests a Good Thing in this context) and a tremendously versatile Commander mode for remote SB-800/600 Nikon flash units.
In the D80, the same depth of Commander mode one finds in the D200 is available. That's enough of an incentive to get a D80 if you shoot with remote flash a lot.
Which brings me back to the studio and my D70. The D70 controls one channel of remote flash. You can always use an SB-800 in its hot shoe to control up to three exterior SB-800/600s if you wish and many photographers have bought these by the six-pack because they're so versatile, but the D80 gives you two selectable channels of flash control, plus its own. It does things you simply can't do even with a Nikon D2xs (no on-camera flash, can you believe it?).
The physics of the D80 are cut along D70 lines. Smaller than the D70 by an almost imperceptible degree, it's slightly squarer in shape in a few places, but fits my average-size hand just as well and positions some controls more ergonomically. Its body plan and control layout are considerately evolutionary.
On the camera exterior, 25 dedicated buttons, switches, dials or controls give access to functions in an intuitive manner. Few are obscure in their function. One notable improvement: while the DOF preview button is out of the way at the lower right of the lens (as visualized from the back of the camera) another button that wasn't on the D70 has shown up. It's the programmable FUNC (-tion) button and is easily reached by the right middle finger. This is even better positioned than it is on the D200. Most of us rarely need that DOF button, but we assign something essential to the FUNC button, once we learn how to make the camera sit up and speak.
Where the D70 had 25 Custom Menu Settings, the D80 has 32, hinting at greater functionality overall. If you have used a D70/D50, this camera will feel familiar but improved, which it is.
WHAT MAKES BABY TICK
The menu items have expanded to include the D2x/D200's battery meter that gives you exact +/- 1 percent understanding of remaining power. The battery is the same EN-EL3e intelligent lithium-ion type used in the D200. No, your old EN-EL2 cells from the D70 won't fit.
With the MB-D80 battery pack/vertical grip, two EN-EL3e cells can be used -- first one, then the other in sequence, allowing power replenishment without even having to shut down. This battery/vertical grip accessory also takes AA cells of several different types. Menu details allow you to inform the camera what kind you loaded into it, so the camera can predict their performance with greater accuracy.
ISO normally ranges from 100 to 1600. With ISO Auto set to Off, one can set H 0.3, H 0.7 and H 1.0, taking camera sensitivity into the Woah-Zone.
At H 1.0, you're shooting ISO 3200 and while it's grainy, it's not bad at all. I don't know what the Nikon Colorimetry and Grain Department did, but it's an improvement over the D200 at this Outer Limits, Twilight Zone of camera sensitivity. Throw the Optimize Image menu into B&W, tweak the Sharpening, Contrast and in-camera Filter (yellow orange, red or green) into the mix and blast away.
At ISO 3200, the camera flash suddenly has a guide number of about 58/190 (at IS0 100 it's 13/42), so shooting with a fast f2 lens could get your scene illuminated about a hundred feet from the camera.
Not kidding. I've taken shots with it with just those constraints. Set the camera on Manual M flash mode and run the power all the way up to Full and suddenly things closer than 60 feet will be so filled with light they'll overexpose.
Large images are the same as in the D200 at 3872x2592 pixels. Medium frames are 2896x1944 and Small frames are exactly half the Large at 1936x1296 pixels.
LIKE THE D200
As we noted in our D200 Preview (items that are the same on both D200/D80s):
- The chip itself has 10.92MP of photosites, but some of those aren't playing ball. They're sitting on the sidelines under a mask reporting to the computer things like, "This is what black looks like under current thermal conditions," and stuff like that.
- Almost nobody is jumping up and down with the next Hot Flash, but they ought to: The Medium frame from the D80 is 2896x1944 pixels big. That's 96 percent of the size of the D70's Large frame. In other words, the D80 Medium frame is a perfect D70 (6-Mp) frame after the downsampling.
- Somewhere in the far flung past somebody realized that having a light inside your refrigerator was a good idea. If they had required you to snap a separate switch to activate the light, you would have sent the fridge back to Sears with an angry note. Odd, don't you think, that it has taken until now to apply that 1937 Frigidaire thinking to a digital camera? But once the idea is out of the bag, it's going to be nearly impossible to convince other manufacturers not to copy Nikon.
- Here's what we mean: With the D80, pressing any button that has anything at all to do with altering something being tracked on the camera-top LCD data display, the camera does the logical thing, turning the backlight on so you can immediately see what you just did -- or tried to do.
- B-b-b-but what if you are in broad daylight? The light comes on. So what. It's an LED. It draws a gnats worth of power. If you need to quench the light, a menu item, 17; Illumination, turns it off.
WHO NEEDS IT?
Good question and inevitable given the same size images from the D200 and all. Where the D200 is structured physically to be a workhorse professional camera, the D80 is made to be the enthusiast's pride and joy.
Depending on your level of expertise and need to shoot in inclement weather with legacy Nikkor lenses while capturing fast sequences of action or doing time-lapse acquisition (all particular strengths of the D200), the D80 might not be your cup of tea. But if you shoot in decent weather conditions, don't have a closet full of Nikkors from pre-1990, aren't gathering storm cloud movie frames and rarely need 5 fps, you might wish to go to a camera store and handle one of the D80s.
If you can find one.
My hands and eyes say this: After spending eight full months digging into the D200 for our DSLR: Nikon D200 eBook, I know that camera inside and out and this camera is at minimum 82.5 percent of the D200, having subtracted:
But then again, the D80 has some unique things that the D200 doesn't:
- CompactFlash cards -- a professional standard
- Legacy lens interconnect for semi-auto exposures
- Menu intervalometer for incredible time-lapse shooting
- RAW and JPEG refinement compression options
- GPS data integration
- Professional Color Space choices
- Easy Folder system/File Name conventions
- Four separate internal Shooting menu banks
- Four separate internal Custom menu banks
- Weather seals all around
- Major focus options and combinations
- Bullet proof metal body (D80's plastic is still rugged, though)
- Custom Menu ergonomic organization by topical categories
- Matrix meter density (420 segments instead of the D200's 1005 segments)
- Super high external flash sync (up to 1/8000th on the D200)
- Repeating camera flash true strobe mode
- Selectable Beep frequency (ears age faster than photographers do)
- Most recent menu item tracking
- Display mode data items editing
- After Delete scrolling direction options
- Multiple Continuous frame rates
- 10-shot Multiple Exposure
- 5, 7 and 9-shot brackets (D80 only goes up to 3 shots per bracket string, ±2.0 stops)
- Rubber base plate where tripod meets camera
- Stabilizing mass and the balance that helps long lenses
By the time you add all these up, some of the value is lifted. Call this about 87.5 percent of the D200 when all the comparing is done. Then factor this in: it costs 59 percent of the D200.
- In camera effects (red eye reduction, after the shot filtering, cropping, superimposing, etc.)
- Simple, convenient $15 IR remote accessory
- Menu simplification setup (different from D200's)
- Auto exposure macros (Portrait, Sports, Full Auto, etc.)
- Image quality at the top ISO 3200 extreme is a tad better
- B&W shooting has Sharpening, Contrast and Filter options
- Lighter, smaller footprint, even with the MB-D80 pack installed
- More intuitive Review mode Zooming
- $700 less expensive
- A lot quieter per shot
Having experienced both the D200 and D80 intimately, my personal conclusion is that more highly advanced enthusiast photographers are going to get the D80 and save the $700 or simply convert that into more optics. Not a bad strategy at all. D80 shooters will miss out on CF cards, faster shooting and numerous operational features but the evolution of digital camera features is ongoing.
I know you want me to simply say something rash like "This Is The One, So Buy It" or "Save Your Money, It's A Dog," but neither would be true for you. Go see it for yourself and resist the temptation to throw your credit card at it this weekend over the Internet.
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:
- Coverage of photokina 2006 from Cologne, Germany: Our live show coverage include company news, videos and daily show reports -- with an extra slide show or two thrown in (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA06/PKNA06.HTML).
- Reviewed: Sony DSC-T50 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T50/T50A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Sony DSC-T10 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T10/T10A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Pentax Optio W10 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OW10/OW10A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix S6 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPS6/CPS6A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Kodak EasyShare P712 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P712/P712A.HTM)
We can still clearly recall standing before the bank of boxes at the SuperStore wondering which of the very similar USB 2.0 hubs to buy. A Belkin product rep just happened to be in the store that day and advised someone next to us that Belkin products include a lifetime warranty. How can you lose?
We brought home the smallest, fastest one we could find, a Belkin USB 2.0 Thumb-Hub and lived happily with it for months. Then one day, after repeatedly connecting and disconnecting a cable to one particular port, the port went dead.
Oddly enough, we were able to print through that port but we couldn't use any other devices we plugged into it. Apparently the printer didn't use all the contacts.
When we took it off line, we shook it and it made that rattling sound you don't want to hear in any solid state equipment. Something had come loose.
We decided to see if Belkin really stands behind their lifetime warranty.
It was late in the day when we logged on to the Belkin site and quickly found the page for customer support (http://www.belkin.com/support/) and the link to Warranty Support. To fill our the replacement request form for a Return Material Authorization, we had to know the model number and the date of purchase, information we typically record for our accountant anyway. The form also asked us to explain the problem. It claimed an average response time of 1-3 working days. That was Aug. 28.
Our email had an RMA from Belkin on Aug. 31. It was a charming note thanking us for using their product and explaining we should, "Please make sure the RMA number is written clearly on the outside of the package and send it (preferably by a carrier with shipment tracking abilities) to" an address in California. A phone number for questions was also provided.
We followed their instructions, added a short letter explaining the problem and identifying the problem port and got it in the mail that day. It wasn't worth sending by UPS or FedEx, really.
We also bought another hub. It seems you can never have too many of the things. The new Belkin hub actually let us consolidate a few other USB devices, freeing the second USB port on our laptop. Evolution.
And we lived happily with our new arrangement until Sept. 20 when UPS dropped off a brand new Thumb-Hub. We hadn't included the adapter and extension cord, thinking Belkin might simply repair the thing. But instead they shipped a whole new product.
And right there on the front it said, "Lifetime Warranty."
No product is immune from failure, even something as simple as a USB hub. Even though we immediately replaced the hub, requesting service under Belkin's lifetime warranty was painless. It took a few weeks to get the product replaced, but the company kept their word. And that, we find, is commendable.
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 comments about the Nikon Coolpix 8800 at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee9b16a
Visit the Kodak Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6f77d
Sheri asks for help downloading pictures at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee94995/0
John asks for help choosing the best camera with a docking station at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eea3953/0
Visit the Panasonic Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eea297f
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You can email us at [email protected]. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.
RE: POTD Protection
I can't find anything on your POTD Contest page (http://www.dailydigitalphoto.com/potd-images/ir_potd_enter.htm) that tells me how you protect my images should I choose to send them in for judging. Anyone viewing can Copy and Print via interpolation and voila all images sent in are now stolen. Do you provide image protection in any manner?
-- Rich(The image you send in, Rich, is reduced to no more than 800 pixels in the largest dimension, as the Guidelines explain. That size is only available when the image in the single image display is clicked. The other sizes are 150 and 480 pixel thumbnails. An 800 pixel image on a 300 dpi dye sub will only print at 2-2/3 inches in the largest dimension. Even at 150 dpi on an inkjet, that's just a 3.5x5 inch image, more or less. Because of the sharpening we apply, the images don't scale up well at all. The Guidelines also state that "you assert you own the copyright of the image and give The Imaging Resource the right to display it in this contest should it be judged a winner." We consequently display a copyright notice prominently for each image we select as a winner. We do strip the Exif information when we make these images suitable only for screen display, so adding copyright information in the Exif header isn't necessary. -- Editor)
RE: Slides to DVD
A friend told me Ritz photography outlets can burn slides to DVDs. I live in rural Illinois 125 miles west of downtown Chicago. Please tell me if this can be done, where your nearest outlet is, estimated cost and how to get it done. Many thanks.
-- Michael Gerberi(Michael, it certainly is possible for any photo lab with the right equipment (and staff) to scan your slides and write them to CD or DVD. You can learn about pricing just by googling "slides DVD." Add "Chicago" to your Google search and you'll see some local labs. One warning: slides always need to be enlarged for viewing or printing -- and that 'enlargement' should be done when scanning them by opting for high resolution. If your inkjet printer needs 150 dpi and you have your slides scanned at 300 dpi, you'll only get a 2x3 print. -- Editor)
RE: D200 Lens Kit
I read where someone said the lens kit offering of the D200 was the same as the D70s and that isn't so. Mine came with the great, versatile 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 ED G VR lens. And I got a special price for the combo. I use my D-200 for weddings, photojournalism, nature work and travel photography. It does a great imitation of a macro lens too.
-- Nick Baldwin(There are two D200 kits, one with the same lens as the D70s and one with the 18-200mm VR lens. The latter hasn't been available for some time (although we see it's in stock today at some places), whereas the former is generally available. -- Editor)
Most of the news lately has been made at photokina 2006 in Cologne, where we've been posting daily reports, videos and more (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA06/PKNA06.HTML).
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has announced an update to the public beta of Lightroom that unites the product feature set for Windows and Macintosh platforms, while adding refinements to the evolving workflow tool expected to ship in early 2007.
The company also updated its Camera Raw plug-in and free Adobe DNG Converter [MW] to support the Nikon D2xs, Kodak EasyShare P712, Panasonic DMC-FZ50 and DMC-L1 and Sony A100.
Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released Aperture 1.5 [M], with an open library, iLife '06 and iWork '06 integration, XMP metadata support, powerful new adjustment tools and an export API to extend the Aperture workflow to third-party applications and services.
Extensis (http://www.extensis.com/portfolio) has released free updates to Portfolio 8 [MW], adding improved stability and performance, updated Raw camera support, InDesign CS2 support and a QuarkXPress 7 Drag-and-Drop support filter for Mac users.
O'Reilly author Eddie Tapp and portrait/wedding photographer Monte Zucker take their digital photography know-how on the road with a Pro Tips Tour of 18 cities across the county starting early next month (http://zuckertapptour.com).
Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released an open beta of Lightzone 2.0 [MW], its imaging editing software based on the Zone System.
Zykloid Software (http://zykloid.com/posterino) released Posterino 1.0b4 [M], a photo composition application for creating "life posters," postcards, greeting cards and contact sheets from iPhoto pictures.
Eolake Stobblehouse emailed us a link to a "Good and cheap solution to hard flash light: http://www.abetterbouncecard.com." The video shows how to build your own flexible bounce card for flash.
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