|Volume 8, Number 22||27 October 2006|
Welcome to the 187th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We muse a bit about scanner technology, inspired by two new flatbeds. Then Dan takes the 16:9 LX2 for spin. We review Eddie Tapp's book on setting up Photoshop and suggest a crafty way to handle your old prints. All to avoid awarding this year's Nobel for Customer Support, a lost art if there ever was one. What better weekend to turn your camera's clock back?
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We had a long chat with Microtek's Parker Plaisted the other day about the company's plans for the M1, the first of a new generation of scanners. Just a couple of feet away from us, Epson's remarkable V700 was humming quietly to itself. Between the two of them, they represent the state of the art in desktop scanning.
And that state is, well, exciting. We've finally got desktop scanners that can really handle film. As far as Parker's concerned, the M1 is a film scanner. You just get to scan reflective art, too.
The V700 might make the same claim. With a dual lens design, it kicks into super resolution mode for film scans as high as 6400 dpi. And it does it with a 4.0 dynamic range that can digitize a slide at 2400 dpi in a minute.
The M1, like the i900 it overshadows, is a dual bed design. With no glass between the sensor and the emulsion a lot of problems disappear. Its 4800 dpi is plenty to scan film, although Parker wasn't sure what the dynamic range would work out to be. The M1 is very much still on the drawing board.
THE M1 IN A NUTSHELL
Microtek touts the $699 M1, scheduled for a February release, as the successor to the dual bed i900.
So one of the first things we asked Parker was, "So what's wrong with the i900?" If you've read our review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/MI9/MI9.HTM), you know we liked it a lot. How could the M1 improve on the i900's dual bed design with enough resolution to scan 35mm film and 4.2 Dmax to see what it's scanning?
Three ways, he said.
About a year ago, the engineering team began upgrading the internal circuit design to handle more data at faster speeds, so the next generation scanners from the company would scan more quickly.
Secondly, that (and the expiration of certain exclusive supply agreements) allowed the next generation to enjoy higher resolution. At 3600 dpi, the i900 is no slouch when it comes to scanning resolution, but the M1's 4800 puts it in competition with the Epson V700's 6400 dpi with the unique advantage of what Microtek calls its EDIT architecture. EDIT is, simply, the dual bed design Microtek first made famous with the Agfa Duo Scan. It uses a tray below the scanner's glass plate to scan film, eliminating the glass from the optical path (like any other film scanner). Flatbeds that scan film do so with the aid of a transparency adapter that illuminates the film from above as it sits on the glass plate.
Thirdly, the M1 will feature autofocus rather than the fixed focus of the i900 to provide the best visible scan, small depth of field and ICE for film (which, it occurs to me, is a fourth way).
Parker said the company was working with Kodak to develop the film version of Digital ICE. Microtek partnered with Applied Science Fiction (subsequently bought by Kodak) to develop the reflective version of Digital ICE, using opposing lamps to map defects in the surface of a print. The film version uses infrared LEDs focused on a different plane to do the same thing but it's still in development.
At $699, the M1 is priced about as much as an entry-level dSLR to appeal to enthusiasts with a large collection of film to scan. The new film holders, which slip into the film tray, are similar to the i800 holders with their tension technology in film sizes above 35mm to flatten those typically curved sizes.
The name, Parker explained, was derived from the Artix brand for its film scanning capability, the M from Microtek and the one to indicate a new series.
Beyond the name, it isn't yet clear what the scanner will include. A standard and Pro version are possibilities, with various combinations of Microtek and SilverFast (SE or Ai) scanning software in addition to other bundled software. It's also possible the scanner could ship with a second set of its new tension holders to increase scanning productivity. And transmissive and reflective targets are also a possibility.
But the company has until February to sort all that out.
We'll have a full review of the V700 shortly because we think it's a significant product. But meanwhile, take a peek at just one thing we've been doing with it.
It just happens to be here with HP's B9180 13x19 pigment-based printer, the rage of PMA 2006. One thing the B9180 purports to do well is black and white printing. It has three gray inks (light, medium and dark) to help it.
We got the idea into our head to scan a 1970s 120mm black and white negative of some roses. We shot it with a 4x5 Calumet view camera one afternoon for the cover of a wedding invitation. We processed the Pan X film ourselves and made a nice print that we subsequently turned into a halftone and actually printed on an AM Multi 1250. That's seeing a job through to completion.
The Epson has just the single bed. You mount film in various holders, place them on the glass, aligning the holder's pins to a couple of holes in the bed frame and remove the white cushion blind from the lid of the scanner so it can backlight the film. Simple.
Getting the film into the holder was a bit of a trial, though. There isn't much of a margin for the holder to grab. And film tends to have a slight curve, the emulsion a bit tighter than the base. The Epson holders don't quite stretch the film flat, but the scanner managed to focus just fine.
We actually used Ed Hamrick's VueScan to do the scan, although we tried the SE version of SilverFast that ships with the scanner. Somehow Vuescan (which we reviewed at http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/VUE/VUE.HTM) just makes sense to us. In no time, we had a nice 16-bit grayscale image to play with. We also tried a 48-bit RGB version.
We also had a lot of dust and little threads. Home processing wasn't the most immaculate way to develop film and our attempt to blow off the dust that had settled on the negative was, apparently, a bit too delicate. Better safe than sorry, though.
Besides, Photoshop's Healing Brush is nearly perfect for these small imperfections. For a minute there, we felt as if we were spotting prints again.
Despite the glass, the Epson did a remarkable job. We just sat and stared at that 30 year old rose breathing through its petals as if it had just bloomed yesterday. The detail was just stunning.
The print wasn't bad either. But it was one of those things you could spend a weekend printing, tweaking the tones, getting from one nuance to another. And enjoying it.
It was really a blast from the past.
Both scanners are worthy candidates for those of us with shoeboxes of images to scan. The compulsion to scan everything, of course, has to be avoided. We personally avoid it by remembering that everything we scan has to be dated and captioned to have any value to future generations.
There are better solutions for that anyway. The Kodak system we saw at PMA that can scan both the front and back of a print to identify it while processing a whole shoebox would be the painless way.
But you don't need a collection of film to enjoy these machines. What you can do with 4800 dpi at home is have some fun with a roll of film or a special image whose color print has faded into a mere ghost of itself. And with any of today's inkjet printers, you can turn that old 3.5x5-inch discard into a vibrant and vital image in just a few minutes -- or a whole afternoon, if you prefer.
You might think of scanners as slow cameras and printers as very slow LCDs. And this race as the one that was won by the tortoise.
By DAN HAVLIK(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LX2/LX2A.HTM on the Web site.)
Panasonic made quite a splash last year with photographers (and reviewers) when it released the LX1, a rangefinder-style shooter with a boatload of features that Imaging Resource's own Mike Pasini called "an excellent little camera and clearly one of the best bargains on the market." Mike also said, in his review, that there was "nothing quite like" the LX1 at the time. That still holds true with the new LX2.
Like its predecessor, the LX2 is clearly inspired by the surging popularity of widescreen (16:9) televisions. Employing a unique set of "triple-wide" features, the LX2 combines a 28mm wide-angle Leica lens, a 16:9 wide CCD and a 16:9 wide LCD. (Did I mention that this camera likes it wide?) If going wide isn't your thing, the camera has a very easily adjusted aspect ratio switch on the lens barrel that toggles between 16:9, 3:2 and 4:3 settings. If you're the type who likes to count pixels, the LX2 has a 10-megapixel CCD that uses the full resolution of the sensor when shooting at 16:9. (The LX1 had a maximum 8.4-Mp sensor at 16:9.) When you flip the switch on the LX2 to 3:2, resolution drops to 8.5 megapixels, while in 4:3 it goes to 7.5 megapixels. This isn't because you're capturing less detail at these ratios, it's simply that the frame is cropped so there's less data.
But why would you want to shoot boring old 4:3 or 3:2 in a camera that can get postcard-like panoramic shots at 16:9? Better yet, the LX2 now has a 2.8-inch LCD that lets you see the entire wide-angle shot on the screen without letterboxing. Other improvements include Panasonic's new LSI Venus Engine III image processor which is designed to lower noise at higher ISOs and a new Intelligent ISO Control system which detects subject movement and automatically adjusts ISO and shutter speed to suit the lighting conditions. Light sensitivity has also been increased to ISO 3200 on the LX2, but only in a special High Sensitivity scene mode. Even without these changes, there's much to talk about with the LX2, including many impressive manual options and Panasonic's tried-and-true MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer.
In Range. With all the new dSLR cameras on the market, there are some reviewers out there who have dubbed 2006, "the year of the dSLR." Because of the ongoing collaboration between Panasonic and Leica, however, I might be more inclined to call it, "the year of the rangefinder." The LX2 carries on the same classic Leica styling as the previous model, looking virtually identical to the LX1. Like the LX1, it comes in silver or black and while the test unit I tried out was silver, for my tastes, the black stays much truer to the classic rangefinder style.
Aside from the superficial styling of the camera, the LX2 is certainly no rangefinder. Since the huge LCD takes up most of the rear of the camera, there's no room for an optical viewfinder, a scenario that is becoming almost standard on digicams these days. Despite its slightly boxy profile, the LX2 is a compact digicam with enough contours and a not-too-obtrusive snub-like lens (28mm-112mm in 35mm equivalent) to fit comfortably in a bag or coat pocket. Dimensions of the camera are 4.2x2.2x1.0 inches and weight is just 7.6 ounces, so while it has as many features as some prosumer models, it's far more portable.
Though the appeal of the LX2's design might be generational -- it certainly looks like what a camera should look like to anyone who can still remember the glory days of film -- it also has enough flash to appeal to younger photographers. Whether the network of manual options on the LX2 will interest anyone beyond the advanced amateur set remains to be seen. I hope it does, because once you start exploring the LX2's broad functionality is when fun begins.
Wide Screen. The biggest improvement on the LX2 from its predecessor is the 2.8-inch LCD screen which displays images in full 16:9 ratio. While the LX1's 2.5-inch screen was quite large, it was saddled with a 4:3 aspect ratio, so shots captured at 3:2 or 16:9 would be displayed with a black border, much like looking at a widescreen movie on your old TV. No fun at all.
With the LX2, the effect is reversed, which is the way it should be. Images captured at 4:3 or 3:2, are cropped with black bands on the left and right side while in 16:9, the entire panoramic scene can be shown on the screen. This effect is great for sharing photos with friends. Hold up your wide screen shot on the camera and you'll get plenty of "ooo's" and "ahhh's" from pals. Remember: to take full advantage of the LX2's widescreen 10-Mp sensor, you'll want to be shooting in 16:9 anyway. And because the LCD screen has 207,000 pixels, images in live preview and playback will look sharp on the display.
Quick on the Draw. I was pleasantly surprised with the LX2's all-around performance, especially considering the amount of features crammed into this rather diminutive little model. Along with lowering noise at higher ISOs -- which it seems to do, to some extent -- the new Venus Engine III processor in the LX2 really keeps this camera moving. Though the lens extends out about an inch when powered on, it takes only 1.7 seconds for the LX2 to get to first shot and only an additional 0.7 second until the first shot is written to the memory card. Shutter lag, without pre-focusing, was also pretty impressive at just 0.60 second with the camera at full autofocus at the widest angle. At telephoto, shutter lag was 0.70 second. When pre-focusing, there was very little lag at all, with the camera able to capture a shot at a blink-of-the-eye speed of 0.022 second. Shot-to-shot times were also good with the LX2 able to capture an image every 2.1 seconds in single Shot mode when images were in Large Fine JPEG file size setting.
Since this camera is aimed at slightly more advanced photographers, it can capture images as uncompressed Raw files. (The LX1 also had a TIFF file setting which is no longer available on the LX2.) It captures a Raw file in Single Shot mode every 5.84 seconds. In Continuous High Mode, it captures a Large Fine JPEG image every 0.43 second for a respectable frame rate of 2.32 frames per second.
Near Pro-Level Image Quality. Since it's aimed at more advanced users and boasts a very large image sensor and a Leica-branded lens, I wasn't surprised to see very good quality images. Overall sharpness with the 4x, Leica DC lens (f2.8-f4.9) was solid, even in images shot at 28mm in 16:9 mode. Since I had so much fun going wide with this camera, most of the pictures I took with the LX2 were at the full-wide setting. Along with being great for landscapes, vacation photos and group portraits, the LX2's capabilities for going wide should appeal to real estate photographers. The only clear sign this camera is not designed for pros was in the color rendering which tended to oversaturate toward blue and reds, a common scenario for most consumer-oriented digicams.
The LX2's sensor offered great detail though, especially in panoramic shots I took of 5 Pointz, a sprawling converted factory in my neighborhood in Queens that uses its exterior to showcase the work of graffiti artists. The only situations in which the camera seemed to lose some sharpness were in areas of extreme contrast such as where the edges of a building meet the sky. Unlike some point-and-shoot models, though, there was little to no purple fringing or chromatic aberration in contrasty shots. While a bit saturated, skin tones weren't pumped up so much that they were rendered ruddy or pink as on some more entry-level models.
ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 1600, with a 3200 option via high sensitivity mode -- surprisingly higher than the LX1's ISO 400. Thanks, most likely, to the new LSI Venus Engine III image processor, noise was noticeably down from the LX1, which could not produce images suitable for printing at ISOs above 400. On the LX2, ISO 800 is about as far as I'd push it. I was able to get some very cool shots of a Hibachi chef deftly slicing up vegetables in a nearly dark restaurant.
Intelligent ISO Control, which detects a subject's movement and adjusts ISO and shutter speed, helped a bit but not substantially. I suggest making your light sensitivity adjustments manually. The downside though, is that the LX2 kills a lot of subtle (and even not-so-subtle) subject detail in the quest for lower image noise. Shots at ISO 400 look OK but distinctly soft printed at 8x10, and shots at ISO 800 really can't be printed larger than 5x7, although they do look just fine at that size.
Though it's become almost a standard feature on Panasonic's cameras and one which I rarely, if ever, turn off, the MEGA O.I.S. system did a good job stabilizing shots in low light and decreasing image blur. In general I keep it set on MEGA O.I.S Mode 2, which only turns on when you half-press the shutter. In Mode 1, the MEGA O.I.S. is on at all times, which helps in image composition but significantly decreases the battery life and actually reduces the IS system's ability to deal with camera shake.
The only area I saw where the LX2 couldn't compete with a dSLR was in dynamic range. Except in perfect scenarios such as in early morning or late afternoon when the lighting is very soft, the LX2 failed to capture the subtle differences between light and shade that give great images their "pop." But before you click off this review and go looking for the latest prices on a Rebel XTi or Nikon D80, remember you won't get a camera and lens with such a wide focal range for less than several grand. Last time I checked, the LX2 was selling for just under $500.
Incredible Functionality. I could spend days talking about the LX2's functionality -- which includes a variety of manual controls and some very good automatic features -- but I'll just touch on the high points here. Though there are a lot of creative manual options on this camera, if you're someone who likes the camera to do all the work, set it to the simple and reliable Auto mode or one of the camera's comprehensive 17 scene modes -- including the newly added "Beach" mode for shooting in strong sunlight or the "Aerial" mode which helps when shooting out the window of an airplane.
For more control, switch to Program AE to have exposure automatically adjusted by the camera. The camera's handy joystick -- a small round nub in the center right of the back of the camera -- gives you easy access to some basic settings. Hold it down for about a second and it brings up unobtrusive shortcuts to changing the AF mode, light metering, white balance adjustment, ISO settings, image size and compression format.
Switch the camera to Aperture Priority AE mode and you can adjust Aperture via the joystick while the camera automatically picks a shutter speed based on your selection. In Shutter Priority AE mode, you pick the shutter speed and the camera chooses a matching aperture. In Manual mode, the exposure is adjusted by your choice of both shutter speed and aperture. Though these PASM "magic letters" are common on most professional cameras, it's great to see them offered on a camera like the LX2.
Focusing options include a 1, 3 or 9-point autofocus function with AF assist lamp. Exposure variables are determined using an intelligent multiple, center-weighted or spot metering system and users can tweak the exposure with +/-2.0EV of exposure compensation, in 1/3EV steps. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 60 seconds -- quite a bit longer than is common on many digicams -- and the Panasonic DMC-LX2 offers automatic or manual white balance control with five presets -- two more than in the LX1 -- plus two custom white balance modes that let you save white balance measurements for common situations for later recall. The LX2 also includes a built-in five-mode flash, with a range of up to 4.9 meters at wide-angle or 2.2 meters at telephoto.
If you like widescreen movies, the LX2's movie mode takes full advantage of the 16:9 format with a higher-than-average movie resolution of 848x480 pixels at 30 frames per second with sound. The camera can also record movies with VGA (640x480) resolution at 4:3 aspect ratio, but not at 3:2. While there is a "high definition" movie setting of 1280x720 resolution, I would not recommend it because it only captures HD movies at a herky-jerky frame rate of just 15 fps. Instead, I'd say go with the 16:9 at 848x480 pixel resolution setting, especially if you have a widescreen TV.
The LX2's proprietary lithium-ion battery has an above average life of 300 shots per charge, according to CIPA standards. The camera records images on Secure Digital or MultiMedia cards, while a not-so-generous 13M of built-in memory will only be good for a couple of photos fresh out of the package. In addition, the LX2 supports the new SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) standard, which extends the maximum capacity to a theoretical 32-GB with sustained transfer rates of up to six megabytes per second. To handle Raw files, the camera ships with SILKYPIX Developer Studio 2.0 SE.
The Bottom Line. If you love shooting wide-angle, panoramic images but don't like the fuss of "photo stitching" software or the expense and weight of a dSLR with a wide-angle lens, Panasonic has created a specific class of compact cameras just for you. While last year's ground-breaking LX1 had plenty of great features for capturing images wide enough to be played back on widescreen televisions, the new LX2 has refined those features and, to quote Chef Emil Lagasse, "kicked it up a notch." With a 10-Mp sensor, a 28mm Leica lens that captures detail-rich images at 16:9 aspect ratio and a 2.8-inch LCD that plays them back without cropping, this camera is great for capturing postcard-like landscapes, group shots or real estate photos. And there are enough automatic and manual functions to keep you poring over this camera's bells and whistles for days. While the LX2 could certainly be enjoyed by beginning users, it's photo enthusiasts who will get the most out of this sophisticated and snazzy little model.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: Panasonic LX2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LX2/LX2A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Pentax K100D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/K100D/K100DA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon D80 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D80/D80A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Casio EXILIM ZOOM EX-Z1000 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/Z1K/Z1KA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix P3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPP3/CPP3A.HTM)
Eddie Tapp does two hard things well in his Photoshop Workflow Setups.
First, he concocts a generously illustrated book with concise and easy-to-grasp text. He might, we thought flipping through it at first, have done one of those CD productions. He's done a few of those, it turns out. We enjoy watching video presentations, certainly (particularly with popcorn and champagne), but we admit to a fairly dismal retention rate. We keep watching them over because we can't remember what they taught us.
But then we read a bit of the text. From the beginning. And we discovered the illustrations were, well, just illustrations. Screen shots showing what Eddie was talking about. Not fossils with long captions. They worked very well. We could tell because 1) we spent most of the time with the text, just glancing at the screen shots for clarification every now and then and 2) we remembered what Eddie was writing about. The page may be two-thirds illustration but the text was rich.
So this hybrid as it were, is well conceived and executed. Not your typical Press This Key instruction book. Which is a wonderful thing because it's part of a series, O'Reilly's new Expert Studio. So we can expect more of this good thing.
The second amazing thing Eddie does with this thin book is talk about Photoshop in a new and helpful way. He focuses on the interface. And that's no small feat. It seems since the Creative Suite saw the light of day, the interface has inspired many of us old hands to ignore much of the new and cling desperately to the old. We use CS2 much as we used Photoshop 3.0 -- and this book showed us the error of our ways.
Eddie does that by pointing out the workspace game is a matter of tools, menus and palettes. The ability to arrange these -- well, to get rid of them -- is the advantage of creating a workspace. And once you've mastered that, you can apply it to things like Bridge (and dare we say Lightroom).
But an interesting thing happens when you let Eddie show you around Photoshop. It isn't a Photoshop manual, understand, but he manages to discuss issues like the advantages of LAB mode, a good number of History States to save, how to manage Actions and other practical tidbits. He has a knack for being thorough yet concise, showing you the big picture without putting plantation shutters over it.
There are just six chapters but they're all jewels. Chapter One covers Creating Efficient Workspaces in Photoshop (no matter what you use it for). Chapter Two devotes itself to Getting Familiar with Palettes (focusing on a few key palettes). Chapter Three handles Setting Important Preferences like scratch disks, plug-ins, caches and display options. Chapter Four continues with Customizing Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus. Chapter Five covers Working in Bridge, discussing its preferences, handling XMP sidecar files and automating your workflow. Finally, Chapter Six talks about Tapping into the Tools.
The index is a sparse, which frustrated us, but the book isn't so long you can't flip to the general discussion and dig down to see what Eddie has to say about whatever it is you're looking for. In that sense, this is more a tutorial than a reference guide.
And it's taught by someone who knows what he's doing. Eddie is the Director of the Institute of Visual Arts in Maui, Hawaii. He served six years as the Chairman of the Committee on Digital and Advanced Imaging for the Professional Photographers of America where he holds the Master of Photography, Master of Electronic Imaging & Photographic Craftsman degrees, API (Approved Photographic Instructor) and is a Certified Professional Photographer. He also is the Commercial Council representative to PPA for the GPPA. Eddie serves on Adobe's Photoshop beta team and on National Association of Photoshop Professionals Photoshop Dream Team.
Photoshop Workflow Setups by Eddie Tapp, published by O'Reilly, 198 pages, $29.99.
You mean we've never told you about our photo strips, ribbons of prints that flow like Old Man River? Maybe we were just too embarrassed by how simple it is to make one. We thought everybody already knew about it.
The idea came to us after the holidays one year. We never had Venetian blinds (you know, the kind that are delivered by a van with 'Blind Man Driving' painted on the back) to hang our holidays cards. So we came up with a simple way to display them as they came in.
We started with some red paper tape folded over on itself and attached to the top of the door with a thumb tack. We left the sticky side facing out (a little longer, that is) so we could press a card against it.
When the next card came, we added some tape to the back of the first one, sticky side out and attached the new card just below it, butting right against it. In a few days we had a nice river of cards flowing down the door.
Why not do that with some of these old prints hiding in drawers, we wondered.
Prints have the advantage of being a little more manageable than cards. They don't flop open, for one thing. And they aren't so heavy that you have to keep attaching them to the bottom. You can branch out, adding a small one to the side of a print.
You don't even need any fancy tape. But the thumb tack is a good idea if you want to display them over a door. It's flat enough to slip under the jamb without scratching the paint off and when you remove it, no one will ever know it was there.
We like to stagger them so your eye has to move a little as you scan down the stream of images. For an extra flourish, we expose a little colored tape at the top and a little at the bottom, doubled back over itself. It has a certain scroll appeal that way.
Doors aren't the only place that could use a little of this kind of decoration, either. The side of bookcases and a strip of wall too narrow for anything but a light switch are two other favorite places for our rivers of images.
Funny thing. All our rivers are images of people. Friends we haven't seen in a while. Rascals who were once infants. Proud owners of new vehicles. Budding chefs savoring their latest achievements. All images of people. People we don't get a chance to see much any more -- but don't forget either. Because, well, we see them every day.
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about Canon Digital SLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe
Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8
Dirk asks about pro photographers and editing photos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea3d10/0
Andy asks for help choosing a compact, high zoom, anti-shake camera with an optical viewfinder at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea3965/0
Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae
No sense splitting atoms over this year's Ersatz Nobel for Customer Service. Just two outfits did well enough to inspire and nomination and consequently share the prestigious award.
Tom Bryant nominated Cox.net (http://www.cox.net) for nothing special except their "great speed and reliability. Well, that is special. Cox.net's support or tech help is rarely needed."
We've actually had some experience with Cox.net ourselves. When we work from Santa Barbara, our host plugs us into a Cox.net cable modem link. And we haven't missed an issue yet. Whenever there's been a problem, it's always turned out to be our host's fault, not Cox.net <g>. So we can second that nomination.
Charlie Young came up with a nomination for a brick and mortar camera store with a nice online complement featuring reduced prices (since service is reduced as well). "My Nobel nomination this year goes to the fine folks at Samy's Camera," he writes. "I've never had an issue with them that they couldn't resolve. They really know how to do things right."
We spent a happy half hour going through the site (http://www.samys.com) and have to agree with Charlie. They know how to do things right. Their policies were easy to find and quite reasonable. As were the prices. We especially liked the Rebates page, which lists every current rebate deal (with expiration date) and the Closeouts page. But we even ran into an interview or two on lighting techniques that was a good read.
The decline in the practice of Customer Service is reflected in the bemusement of most of our readers who no doubt tried in good faith but failed to come up with just one example from their personal experience in the past year. We gave this some thought the other day and resolved to add a little encouragement to the lonely sales reps and badgered phone jockeys who, if it were up to them, would bankrupt the company with charitable acts.
With them in mind, we recall Jack London's observation about a virtue much like customer service, which, he said, "is the bone shared with the dog when you are just as hungry as the dog." We had to stretch that one a bit, but let our stretch inspire others!
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RE: Over the Rhine
Finally I saw it in print!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! The section on image processing in your "Reflections Over the Rhine" is right on!!!
I think most of us, mere mortal photo enthusiasts (probably the largest market segment) fall into the category of those taking lots of pictures but focus only on a very few selected images. We do take the pictures in Raw, because we never know which will pass our scrutiny, so our first emphasis is comparisons for selection purposes. Many many pictures taken, viewed, chosen, compared and then Photoshopped.
So, the workflow starts with download
> duplicate and burn'm all and then reduce to Keepers, eliminating bad ones, but still keeping most. But then comes the first dilemma:
Hmmmm! Do I select before or after I optimize in a Raw developer?
If I don't optimize before, then I rely for my selection on the Raw presets, which may be way off. Even if not off, I lost the flexibility of Raw for that purpose. As I don't shoot similar images in a controlled identical shooting situations as pro's tend to be able to do, processing all the images before choosing the winners is not a feasible proposition.
Therefore, what I'd like to be able do ideally is this:
Be presented with the Raw presets in the viewing/comparing/selecting environment (e.g. Bridge) where I take the numbers down from 200 to 10 or some such), but have a convenient instant access to the primary Raw processing controls: at least to white balance and exposure, without having to move into the Photoshop environment for them.
I hope you will continue to make us mere mortals heard by developers, teachers and reviewers alike.
-- Bob K(Two thoughts. One, before selecting, try ranking. Two, look into creating (and applying) a custom Raw conversion for the initial display of your thumbnails. The default is a starting point, but may be misleading, as Bruce Fraser points out in his "Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2." We reviewed Bruce's book recently and can recommend it especially for "single-shooters" (of which he's one). -- Editor)
RE: Sunny 16
Enjoyed your piece about exposure the old fashion way. Your first camera was an Argus C-3, mind was an Argus A2F. The cost for a new one was $15. I purchased a used one a few years back for $40.
The Argus actually has an exposure "meter." You sort of matched the brightness of the scene to a series of different neutral densities "filters" on top of the camera and then move a slider and read the f stop and shutter speed. (I hope I am right on this as it has been more than 65 years since I used the "meter".)
The Argus calculator was awkward so I quickly used the calculator method you describe (Sunny 16 rule) except I set the shutter at 1/250 and the aperture at the square root of the ASA. My next camera was an Argus C-2. Know the difference between the C-3 and the C-2? The C-2 had no flash.
I can't count the number of cameras I have had since that A2F, but I am now on my six generation digital.
-- Duncan Heron
P.S. If you want to know why I got the A2F in the first place read here: http://www.newsobserver.com/978/story/369062.html That first basic camera used 127 film and it was really cheap.
(Hey, that Argus light meter sounds like an incarnation of the Zone System <g>. Good thing we never saw it or we might have fallen in love! We wrote the article because we miss the old approach, which was much less precise perhaps but a bit more engaging. And when we thought about it, it seemed our modern tools are a lot more forgiving. -- Editor)
I have a Panasonic TZ1 which I enjoy greatly -- however I have been trying with little success to take telephoto pics of a full moon, with very poor results, due mainly to overexposure I think -- even using the Starry night or night modes.
Can you recommend a good way of achieving clear shots (assuming using a tripod of course)?
-- Frank Mansfield(Yes, use a tripod, Frank. We gave a set of exposures to try in the last newsletter. Try thinking daylight instead of night mode for exposure. It's daylight on the moon. You don't need to expose for the night, just the surface of the moon. -- Editor)
Kodak's A Thousand Words (http://1000words.kodak.com) is "a place for stories from the people of Kodak. We love what we do and we want to share our stories about imaging and its power to influence our world. We invite you to join our conversation with stories of your own."
Cooliris (http://www.piclens.com) hs released PicLens Beta 1 for Mac, a plug-in that can display photo collections at Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket and Image Search on Google, Yahoo and Ask with an array of options.
Adam Tow (http://www.tow.com/annoture) has released his $15 Annoture 1.0 [M] to copy metadata to and from Apple's Aperture and iView MediaPro. At the same time, he released Timeature, which can set the Image Date field stored in the Aperture database to either the shooting date in the Exif header or the file creation date.
PictoColor (http://www.pictocolor.com>) has released its $29.95 iCorrect OneClick [MW], a new point-and-click color correction plug-in based on PictoColor's professional-level color technology, works by simply clicking on an area in the image that should be neutral (black or white or gray) to correct the white balance, fix the exposure and improve saturation.
Phanfare (http://my.phanfare.com) has released MyPhanfare [MW], a tool to manage your Phanfare albums from the Web using any computer (without requiring Phanfare software).
Maha Energy (http://www.mahaenergy.com) has introduced the MH-C800S, a new, affordable eight cell smart charger for AA and AAA batteries. With eight independent slots that can charge one to eight AA or AAA batteries in any combination around one to two hours, it's like having eight chargers. The unit has a large LCD screen to display the charging status of each battery and uses the same precision microprocessor as its professional sister model MH-C801D.
LQ Graphics (http://www.lqgraphics.com) has updated Photo to Movie for Mac OS to version 4.0.3. The new version adds a scrubber during full screen preview, a full screen preview option for looping the movie, audio scrubbing in both regular and full screen preview and the ability to delete photos in photo organizer. It also fixes a few known issues.
O'Reilly and Rocky Nook have published the $44.95 Fine Art Printing for Photographers by Uwe Steinmueller and Juergen Gulbins. The 246-page book covers color management, profiling, paper and inks. It demonstrates how to set up a printing workflow as it guides you step-by-step through the process of converting an image file to a fine art print.
Adobe (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom) has updated Lightroom [MW] to beta 4.1, which resolves an external editor conflict, corrects export orientation for constrained portraits, resolves a missing image error in large Web galleries and provides Photo Binder platform compatibility on optical media.
Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) and iView Multimedia are offering a bundle of Nik Color Efex 2.0 Select and iView MediaPro 3.0 for $229, a $119 savings.
Apple (http://developer.apple.com) has posted an Aperture software development kit to control "the entire export process from Aperture, version 1.5."
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher