The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 8, Number 26 22 December 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 191st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. HDTV is all the rage -- until you try to view your digital images on one. We suggest a few strategies. Then we report on a terrific little camera easily overlooked. We reveal a cheap way to temporarily hang prints, too. Finally, our little bonus gift to you this year calculates your memory card's capacity -- for several things. Happy holidays!


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:
O'Reilly Media
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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: Seeing Your Pictures on HDTV

With high-resolution, flat-screen TVs falling below the $1,000 price point and a new generation of high-resolution video game consoles on the market, High Definition Television sets are invading living rooms all over this year.

But they're not just for video. With one trick or another, you can even see your multi-megapixel digital stills on them. But it isn't as easy as it should be.

Inscrutable manuals are part of the problem, but so is product design. Few HDTVs and AV boxes accommodate cameras. And cameras still think television is low resolution. Let's sort out the problems and find a couple of solutions, one of which should work for you.

THE CAMERA PROBLEM

We're spoiled. Take some shots with your delightful little digicam, copy them to your computer and see them in all their glory on that sharp, bright little screen.

But connect your camera to your TV with the included AV cable (plugging the yellow RCA jack into the video port on your TV) and you get standard resolution (640x480 pixels) junk. On an HDTV, it looks even worse. Partly that's because you're expecting so much more, but upsampling the data to fill the screen can make you think you're looking at cell phone shots.

An HDTV has 1,125 horizontal scan lines (up from the 480 of standard resolution sets), using 1,080 for the image. Your images have at least 1,080 lines of resolution. So why doesn't your TV display them?

Today's digicams aren't very bright when it comes to AV output. They all convert your detailed multi-megapixels images into a 350K, 480-line image whose only virtue is that it will display on any TV set.

No digital camera yet outputs an HDTV signal via HDMI, say. So you can forget about directly cabling a camera to your HDTV to get high resolution display.

CARD READERS

Some HDTVs feature a built-in a card reader. Pop a MemoryStick into a Sony or an SD card into a Panasonic and you can watch an HDTV slide show.

If your monitor doesn't have a card reader, you can add one with Panasonic's ingenious solution. Its $129.95 DMW-SDP1 HDTV photo player (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1153505380.html) plugs into the HDMI port on the HDTV set to deliver images up to 1280x720 pixels. But just from SD cards.

That's a lot of money for just a single-format card reader, though.

A better solution is to find a card reader in an AV component like a DVD player/recorder. Pop your camera's card into the reader and the box can show thumbnails and run slide shows at the HDTV's highest resolution. Some recorders can even copy the images to an internal hard drive or CD. Prices run from about $200 to $500, depending on what components the box includes.

But even if you find a DVD recorder with a reader, there's no guarantee your card can be copied. Panasonic machines can burn an image from a card to DVD but only from an SD card. LG's DVD recorder/VCR has a 14-in-2 reader but it only displays the images, no copying. It can be frustrating -- even impossible -- to find just the combination of features you want.

MEDIA CENTER PC

The media center PC is a more expensive (put a comma in the price) but compelling solution. They're personal computers dedicated to playing your audio and video collection.

Some are built on Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition (http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/default.mspx). Others running Linux tap into the free MythTV application to do the same thing. Among the more interesting (and affordable) of the latter is TVease.net's Hannibal Deuce + (http://store02.prostores.com/servlet/tvease/Detail?no=8) with a 9-in-1 card reader and DVD/CD burner.

Hassle-free as these may be, there's a simpler, more affordable solution.

THE DVD PLAYER

Just burn a CD of your images on your computer and pop that into your DVD player. These days almost any DVD player knows what to do with a CD full of JPEGs. As long as they are all named .JPG or .jpg and the CD is burned in ISO 9660 format.

You'll be able to view thumbnails and get a slide show with a variety of options. If the images haven't been rotated, however, you'll be leaning over to view them or (if you're lucky) using a rotating option during playback to right them. Some systems can show Exif information, set DPOF print data and zoom in, too.

But DVD players tend not to feed more than 720 lines of resolution to your TV. Newer models with HDMI output can often display the image at up to 1,080 lines, though, presenting very crisp, bright images.

Burning a CD to play on your HDTV may seem a little like walking to the gas station, filling up a can of gas and walking back to your car to gas up (great exercise but frustrating). But sometimes that's your only option.

CONCLUSION

The video world is still not very accommodating when it comes to still photography. But there are signs (like card readers in DVD recorders) that things are improving. The incentive is certainly there, with more and more digicams being sold each year. But right now, if you want to show stills on an HDTV, your best bet may be no more exciting than a compact disc.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon PowerShot A640 -- A Real Sleeper

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A640/A640A.HTM on the Web site.)

The Canon PowerShot A640 couples a 10-megapixel CCD imager sensor with a 4x optical zoom lens that offers a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 35 to 140mm. That's a moderate wide-angle that reaches to a somewhat more generous telephoto than you'll find on most compact cameras. Maximum apertures vary from f2.8 to f4.1 across the zoom range. The A640's sensor yields an ISO range of 80 to 800, with shutter speeds of 1/2500 to 15 seconds.

Designed with ease of use in mind, the Canon A640 offers both a range of features that make it approachable to beginners, as well as the ability to exert more control over the photographic process. For the former category of users, there's a fully automatic mode and a generous selection of 13 Scene modes. For the latter, you'll find Manual and Aperture/Shutter Priority exposures possible, plus preset or manual White Balance and three Metering modes. A VGA-or-below Movie mode captures videos at a maximum of 30 frames per second, for up to one hour (or one gigabyte) per clip.

A USB connection allows easy offload of images from the SD or MMC card to a Mac or PC -- and unlike some manufacturers who are still clinging to the older USB 1.1/2.0 Full Speed standard, Canon has adopted a much swifter USB 2.0 High Speed interface in the Canon A640. For users without a computer (or those who like to make quick prints without the hassle of touching their PC), you can bypass the extra step completely and print directly from the PowerShot A640 to a Canon or other PictBridge-enabled printer via the same USB connection.

Though the Canon A640 has a relatively large 2.5 inch LCD, Canon retained a real image optical viewfinder in the A640's design. Not only can optical viewfinders save battery life if you turn off the LCD display, but they're also useful when ambient light makes it tough to see many LCDs properly. Power comes from four AA batteries and Canon includes single-use alkaline disposables in the product bundle. Also included with the Canon A640 is a 32-MB MultiMediaCard -- perhaps slightly larger than average, but still not sufficient for more than a handful of photos at the highest resolution and lowest compression. If you don't already have some, you'll want to purchase some rechargeable batteries and a larger flash card along with the camera.   User Report

The Canon lineup is so rich with options it's often hard to tell one model from another. If you want a camera powered by AA batteries, Canon's A-Series is the one for you. The A-Series digicams all use batteries you can find anywhere and give you a decent grip, too. Yes, they're a bit bigger than the Digital ELPHs, but their heft makes them more stable for handheld shots and they have more exposure options.

But even within the A-Series, you have options. The Canon A640 might, for example, be easily confused with the A630, except it has a 10-Mp sensor, a black body, support for remote capture and costs $100 more. But it shares the same lens, controls and body design, including a variable LCD you can swivel for a more comfortable view of your subject.

Design. A large 2.5-inch LCD is always welcome, but the Canon A640's is what Canon calls a Variable LCD (an articulated one, that is, that swings out and rotates up or down so you can compose a shot with the camera over your head or below your belt). Canon has also included an optical viewfinder, which despite its approximate rendering of the scene is indispensable when the glare of the sun makes it impossible to see what's on the Canon A640's LCD. Although here again, having an LCD you can move independently of the lens means you can often eliminate that glare.

As with other A-Series Canons, the A640 has a grip you can get your hands on thanks to the four AA batteries it uses for power. Although it's substantial, the grip isn't too fat to keep the A640 out of your pocket, although we tended to prefer to simply swing it from our wrist so it was ready for action.

The Canon A640 doesn't cheat on exposure options either. There's green Auto for those times when you have other things on your mind. And Program when you want to have at least EV control over exposure. But there are also Shutter and Aperture Priority modes. And -- drum roll -- a full Manual mode as well. Add a Custom mode to save a special configuration and there's really little you can't do with this digicam.

On the other end of the Canon A640's Mode dial, you have Movie, Panorama and Special Scene modes. They're also the primary Scene modes Portrait, Landscape and Night Scene.

The controls and menu system have, by now, evolved into a package that's really comfortable to use once you learn how to play the game. In Auto, you don't worry about the buttons at all. In Program, just hit the EV button and change the exposure with the Left or Right arrow keys. Shutter and Aperture Priority modes use those arrow keys to adjust their values, too. The Canon A640's Manual mode uses the EV button to toggle between aperture and shutter speed, both adjusted with those same arrow keys.

In short, the Canon A640 is a well-designed machine.

Display/Viewfinder. The Canon A640's 2.5-inch LCD is large by any standard, but it only displays 115,000 pixels. The big news, however, is that you can swing the LCD out from the back of the camera and twist it up or down or even face it forward for self-portraits. You can even flip it back so it pops right back into the rear panel as if it were an ordinary LCD. And if you tend to scratch things, you'll be happy to know you can close this LCD with its back facing outward to protect it. Once you've used an articulated LCD, you'll never want to be without one.

Often you just want to shoot from a lower or higher angle than eye level. After all, everyone knows what things look like from eye level. But drop the Canon A640 down to floor level, angling the LCD up so you don't have to lie flat on the floor and you'll get some marvelous shots of children at play in the low-rise world they inhabit. And when you're straining your neck to look over the crowd in front of you, just raise your arm with the LCD angled down to get an unobstructed shot from above One of my favorite photo tricks is to shoot at angles other than eye level. An articulated LCD makes this easy to remember and fun to do.

Luke, who shot the lab test shots with the Canon A640, didn't like the optical viewfinder. But kudos to Canon for including one. The sun can be just too bright to see the LCD when you've got the camera pointed in the right direction. Even an inaccurate optical viewfinder will give you some idea where your subject is floating in the frame.

Performance. I'm sensitive to slow startups and reluctant shutdowns. They actually change my behavior. If they're really slow, we leave the camera behind. If they're annoyingly slow, we leave the power on and hope the thing wakes up from sleep fast. But we prefer to manage my battery life by shutting down when we won't be taking a shot for a while and turning the camera on just before we want to shoot.

The Canon A640 is, we're happy to say, responsive enough that we can do that. We never seemed to miss a shot waiting for it to start up and we certainly never hesitated to shut it down for fear starting it up again would take too long.

Shutter lag is increasingly a thing of the past and the Canon A640 is responsive here, too. I didn't happen to shoot any action shots with it, but the time we decided to press the Shutter button and the actual trip of the shutter were not far from simultaneous.

And, as Luke observed, the cycle times are really pretty good. The Canon A640 clears the buffer after every shot in every mode.

Shooting. We took the Canon A640 on a bike ride up Twin Peaks with the A630 to shoot our usual cityscapes. It was an usually clear Fall day, so the A640 took some fabulous shots, among the best we've gotten there. If you want to know the difference in resolution between the 10-Mp A640 and 8-Mp A630, just study these shots.

One of the things we like to try up there is digital zoom. Canon's digital zoom isn't bad at all, a far cry from the old resamplings that led Dave to warn against ever using the thing. It may not be quite as satisfying as a few other companies manage (you can tell a digital zoom shot from a telephoto one), but don't feel like you have to avoid it.

Maybe it was the clarity of the air, but my shots of very distant objects came out much better than we're used to. The Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge are usually disappointing. They're flat here (nothing Auto Levels can't fix in a mouse click) but they fill the frame with detail.

You see this particularly in the three-shot sequence that starts at wide-angle and includes the rock wall right in front of me. There just happens to be an accommodating post right there that lets me steady the camera without hauling a tripod up the hill. From that same position, the next shot shows the full telephoto crop. And the last in the sequence shows full digital zoom. That's really quite a range at 16x (4x optical with 4x digital) and, as the bridge shots show (see the gallery), on a sunny day you don't need image stabilization to enjoy it.

We took the Canon A640 to a friend's home for a party and got some interesting shots. Unfortunately, none of my friends would sign model releases, so we can only show you the shot with everyone facing away from the camera <g>. But we took it two ways and you can learn something from each of them.

The first shot of the kids interacting with the TV's videocam was taken with the Canon A640's flash. And it pretty nicely lights up the room -- from the next room. Not many digicams have that kind of range. The far wall is evenly lit and the pictures on the mantel are all clear.

But we're not a fan of flash (the Canon A640 took about five seconds to recharge; too long for real life, if not very long for such a powerful flash). So we shot the scene again using natural light.

The first surprise was that the shot was well exposed under the ceiling cans. The custom white balance we used yielded a very warm scene, not the rendering Canon's auto white balance would have delivered. But the ISO 100 setting at 1/10 sec. was surprisingly usable. Sure, there's some blur from both the kids' movement and a little camera shake. But considering there's no image stabilization, it's remarkable what the Canon A640 was able to do. Shooting wide-angle, no doubt made the difference.

We noticed a crystal door knob in the sunlight, where it had acquired a purple cast from exposure to the sun over some 50 years, unlike its mate on the inside of the door. We used the Canon A640's Program mode so we could adjust the EV to capture the purple of the sunlit knob and that worked very well, dipping down as much as two stops to get what we wanted.

We missed having a live histogram for a shot like that, but the histogram available during playback was good enough to tell us where we were. After all, that knob wasn't going anywhere; not after 50 years.

But a more standard shot, like the back of a Photoflex Starflash strobe we're testing, showed another impressive aspect of the Canon A640. It's a pretty high-contrast shot taken at wide-angle with a shutter speed of 1/103 sec. (so you know it was Auto mode). But there's detail in the shadows and the highlights aren't blown out. The dynamic range this camera captures is excellent.

In fact, we weren't disappointed at all by our Canon A640 shots. The color was natural, the dynamic range didn't lose detail and the camera seemed to get shots in situations that were not very promising.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Enter the SLRgear Sweepstakes

By DAVE ETCHELLS

While most people visit SLRgear.com (http://www.SLRgear.com) for our unique lens test reports, a major feature of the site is user reports, written by people like you. To both encourage new postings and reward those who've already shared their gear experiences, we're happy to announce the Great SLRgear dSLR Giveaway!

Just register as a user on SLRgear (if you haven't already) and submit user reviews on photo gear you own or have had experience with. Anyone who has already submitted product reviews will be automatically included in the drawing (how could we ignore the great folks who've supported the site from the beginning?). It doesn't matter what kind of gear you're reviewing, there are listings for over 975 different products, including lenses, teleconverters, bags, tripods and monopods, tripod heads, cameras and strobes.

Every time you write a review before midnight Eastern time Jan. 15, 2007, your name gets dropped into the hat. When the sweepstakes closes, we'll reach into the hat to draw the name of one lucky winner. If the winner is outside the U.S., they'll receive $1,700 cash by wire transfer to their bank account. U.S. residents can choose to receive either the cash or their choice of a Nikon D200 or Canon 30D camera system, including a nice lens.

Do note that any taxes on prizes are the responsibility of the recipient. In the U.S., we are required to file IRS Form W-9 listing the value of the prize. Overseas, taxes are between you and your government.

Also note that Imaging Resource and SLRgear never share email addresses with outside companies, unless the terms of the contest or sweepstakes explicitly indicate that the data collected will be shared. This contest is an entirely private one for SLRgear, so no outside parties will ever have access to your email address.

That's it! The more user reviews you post, the better your chances of winning!

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: Low Tech Print Display

The problem started with that gorgeous -- but unwieldy -- Tabloo print of our dahlia montage (see the Sept. 15 issue in the Archive at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). We asked our local framer what they recommended for the 16x60-inch print. Three things. A $571 acrylic sandwich subject to scratching, a $383 simple black wooden frame with plexiglass and a mat or an even simpler $166 mounting on masonite (perhaps with a protective coating). Not cheap but, worse, none of the solutions really appealed to us.

We're not that picky, but the only spot we had for such a long image was at the foot of the stairs. And we didn't want glass there in case some young acrobat decided to take a flying leap into it. Or an aging ballerina slipped on a step and slammed headlong into it. Ideally, it would just lay flat against the wall, out of the way until the day someone accidentally destroyed it (and not themselves). Then we'd just take it down and be grateful we didn't have to repaint.

With no solution, we left the dahlias rolled up under an easel in the corner of the bunker and went back to work. We had a series of 13x19 printers to review and they were churning out big, beautiful prints. An embarrassment of riches, really. It's easy enough to lay a few 8x10s out to evaluate them over the course of a week or two, but how do you spread out a dozen 13x19s?

One December day we took the streetcar down to the art store to hunt for a pack or two of Strathmore's truly wonderful Photo Mount cards. They're heavy textured paper with an embossed frame perfect for a 4x6 print. Every Christmas we pick one of our images, print up a few for the family and fix them to the cards with the included double-sided tape.

Next to a hardware store, our favorite place to browse is an art store. So we wandered around a little to see what clever things they had.

The first thing that half-nelsoned our attention was a magnetic strip. Sure! We could hold up the poster with magnets attracted to the nails in the studs! Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time. If it were actually feasible, though, earrings would fly out to the side whenever they passed close to a wall.

But on another aisle we found a more subtle attraction: Glue Dots (http://www.gluedots.com). Poster Glue Dots, to be precise. They're a double-sided, pressure-sensitive adhesive that forms an instant but removable bond -- and they're archival, leaving no residue. They resemble those clear stretchy adhesives that seal flaps on mailers. And, unlike the custom frame solutions, 60 of them cost a mere $2.49. Which we can find under the couch cushions any time.

We put several of them on the poster to distribute the load and patted ourselves on the back. The poster laid flat on the wall (so ballerinas had the same clearance as before) and didn't sag. We also used them to temporarily mount a few of our 13x19s on some free wall space. In fact, it turned out to be a great way to try out a set of prints on the wall without putting holes in it for hangers.

But in the middle of the night the dahlia poster came down. Dahlias in winter, what were we thinking, anyway? The weight of the big poster was just too much. We probably need Billboard Glue Dots for that thing.

Glue Dots have their limits. Certainly they don't replace the elegance of a frame. They remind us a little of dorm life, really. But uncoated art papers (which seem self-matting, really) seem to thrive mounted naked on a wall with them. If only we could offset the sheet from the wall a quarter inch or so....

If you want to try out a photo layout on your wall or have a hazardous wall you'd like to cover with a print, try a few Glue Dots. In addition to Poster Glue Dots there are Removable Glue Dots, Permanent Glue Dots and Vellum Glue Dots, to name just a few.

Nothing lasts forever but once in a while, something sticks to the wall. With a Glue Dot or four, you can decide what.

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In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

Read about the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Printer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea4378/0

Visit the Panasonic Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea297f

Beth asks for help choosing a camera for product images at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea4362/0

Read comments about The Nikon Creative Lighting System at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea33dd/0

Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae

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Just for Fun: Holiday Special 2006

Each year at this time, we try to come up with some special treat to express our appreciation for your subscription. You can still enjoy all of our previous specials by visiting the Archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Here's the list:

They all still work, especially the Gift Certificate, perfect for anyone on your list getting into digital photography. A PDF with a nice shot of the Golden Gate, you can download it (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?gsb) and print as many copies on your inkjet as you need. Then just remember to send an email to editor@imaging-resource.com with the subject "Gift Subscription" and the email address of the new subscriber in the body of the message.

This year we thought we'd try something deceptively simple. We're always recommending you buy a memory card with a new camera because when a manufacturer does include one, it's far too small to be any use. And lately we've adjusted our recommendation to focus on 256- to 512-MB cards for cameras under six megapixels and 512-MB to 1-GB cards for higher resolution cameras as the most cost effective.

But how many images can you store on that size card? And what if you bought a 2-GB card?

It can be hard to find the answers to those simple questions. So often you just sit down at your spreadsheet and do the math. But the math isn't quite as simple as you might think.

Image Size is the main factor, of course. How many pixels wide and high your sensor captures. Your camera may offer several options (3488x2616, 2048x1536, 640x480, say) or just one. But multiplying the height and width only gets you the dimensions of the image, not its size. To calculate the image size, you have to multiply that by three. The Full Size Image reports the size of the data in the Red, Green and Blue channels of an uncompressed image.

Quality is the next important factor. You may store that data uncompressed or, more likely, using one of several JPEG compression options. Just how much each option compresses the file can be quite a mystery to solve, however. You are often simply not told. You can set the quality level in the Calculator using either a name or fraction. The Saved Size reports the size of the file written to the storage card.

If your manual has a table of values but doesn't tell you what fraction of the file size Fine or Normal are, you can use the Calculator to find out. Just keep changing the Quality option until you get a close match on the number of images for any particular card size reported by the manual.

One of the more obscure factors in this simple calculation is the fudge factor. Cameras won't fill a card to capacity. They leave a little elbow room for card errors at the high, little-used end of the card. So you never get what the straight math suggests you will. We've used a fudge factor of 95 percent, reserving five percent of the card for dead space and the directory.

Subject matter is the wild card when using JPEG compression. Some images compress much more than others, depending on how much detail the image has. A big blue sky over a flat quiet lake with a few blue mountains in the distance will compress into a much smaller file than a shot of pine needles on the forest floor.

But that's just still images. How about Movie mode?

The Calculator reports recording capacity in hh:mm:ss format for broadcast quality MPEGs of 640x480 pixels at 30 frames per second with monaural sound. Double the times if you use 320x240 pixels at 30 fps or 15 fps at 640x480. These times don't rely on the image size dimensions you enter, of course.

And how about Voice Memos?

Here we took a monaural WAV file that requires 480K for every 30 seconds. As you can see, packing an otherwise obsolete small card along for recording voice memos is not a bad idea. You get a little over a minute a megabyte. At last, we've found a use for those 8-MB and 16-MB cards the manufacturers include!

If all that information inspires you to shop for another memory card, you can check the latest prices on our Flash Card page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?pgfc).

To get your own copy of the Card Size Calculator, just visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS for the online version of this issue. We've plugged it in right about here.

C A R D   S I Z E   C A L C U L A T O R
Enter the size of the images
you want to capture:
Image Size: x pixels
Enter the amount of compression
you want to apply to your images:
Quality:

C A R D   S I Z E   R E S U L T S
Full Size Image:
Saved Size:
MB
MB
Card Size Images Card Size Images
32 MB 1 GB
64 MB 2 GB
128 MB 4 GB
256 MB 8 GB
512 MB 16 GB
Card Size 640x480 Movie Card Size 640x480 Movie
32 MB 1 GB
64 MB 2 GB
128 MB 4 GB
256 MB 8 GB
512 MB 16 GB
Card Size Voice Memo Card Size Voice Memo
32 MB 1 GB
64 MB 2 GB
128 MB 4 GB
256 MB 8 GB
512 MB 16 GB

It's our little way of thanking you for continuing to welcome this newsletter issue after issue. Happy holidays!

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Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

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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: Canon Pro9000

Regarding image quality on the pro9000 compared to the HP B9180 I personally care more about how accurate color reproduction is, not just how saturated colors are. How does the Canon fare in that area? The HP has been absolutely outstanding so far and my previous, admittedly cheap, printers have been an endless source of frustration in this regard.

That said, I have a bunch of very saturated images printed both on a LightJet on Fuji supergloss paper (a traditional chemical paper; excellent gamut and very dark blacks; reminiscent of Cibachrome) and a HP 9180, on HP's new "Advanced Photo Glossy" paper. The LightJet was done at a pro lab (Calypso Imaging in Santa Cruz); the HP I did myself (one try only; no tweaking). The two copies essentially match, so I don't know why you are seeing such a big difference.

Something about the angle at which you're looking at it maybe? Which reminds me that I don't much like the glossy surface of inkjet papers, since the Fuji supergloss is just so much better. My choice these days is semigloss or matte paper; it used to be that those had a very limited gamut on inkjets, but I find that (at least on my HP with pigments) they now rival the glossy papers. And they don't lose as much to reflections.

-- A Klaiber

(The image was a sunset, remember. The saturation of the subject image exceeds what the camera can capture to begin with but this is one case when a dye ink beats a pigment. You could say the dye-based printer was more accurate -- but neither could really be called accurate. We prefer to ask which is more credible.... Glossy paper delivers a wider density range, reflecting more light than semigloss or matte papers. Although the dye-based sunset was printed on semigloss (and the pigment on glossy), it still outshone the pigments.... There are many reasons why the Canon dye print might exceed your Fuji chemical print. Let's just say they aren't equivalents. We have a couple of 30 year old Cibachromes here. The Pro9000 prints are superior to them in every way.... But just to clarify, this isn't so much a contest as it is finding the right tool for the job. Nothing is permanent, not even pigments, so what are the advantages of each printer? One thing we could easily be chastised for is not printing enough skin tones, but we'll address that, too. -- Editor)

RE: Raw Deal

I upgraded from the Canon 20D to the Rebel XTi. In Microsoft Raw Image and Thumbnailer and Viewer version 1 from Dec. 2005 I can see my Raw captures from the 20D, but not from the XTi. When I call Microsoft, their people in India tell me to call Canon and email me Canon's help site and Canon tells me to call Microsoft. Does Microsoft have an upgrade that recognizes cameras like my XTi and the Nikon D80 and where?

-- Burt Hesselson

(We appreciate your frustration over the shabby treatment from Microsoft, which hasn't updated RawViewer in a year. Utilities (even PowerToys) that convert Raw formats have to be updated for every new format that appears. Canon is correct that it's Microsoft's problem to support the new format. Canon does supply utilities of their own to view its Raw format thumbnails, but they don't work at the operating system level. What to do? Try the free Adobe Lightroom beta (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom/). It provides thumbnail views but also a lot of other very helpful tools for managing your images. -- Editor)

RE: Big Problem

The last time I wrote I was contemplating a dSLR purchase and, Mike, you were to the point and helpful. Now I have an Olympus E-500 and I'm curious why the cameras are so big?

Thirty years ago I bought a OM-1, the smallest available at the time. I still have it and next to my Evolt 500 it's much smaller. What makes dSLRs so big? Especially when it seems that digicams are so small.

And why are all zoom lenses variable aperture lenses? That was just beginning when I bought me OM-1. I assume it's a cost thing.

-- Fred Haynes

(Well, as the Nikon D40 shows, they are getting smaller. Unlike their film counterparts, however, dSLRs have huge power requirements and small computers stuffed into their shells. As for variable apertures, see 'Zoom Lenses 101' in our May 12 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). The further the lens goes out, the more the light falls off. Usually a stop. -- Editor)

RE: Focal Length Multiplier Explained

I've been enjoying my (now old technology) Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom, but the (new) dSLRs have caught my attention. I need your help in understanding the relation between sensor size (diagonal) and lens focal length. My C-740 boasts a focal length of 6.3-63mm, which corresponds to a much longer length for 35mm, because the sensor size on the C-740 is smaller than that on 35mm film. How do I relate the focal length on dSLR lenses to my old 35mm mentality? Is the sensor area on the dSLRs comparable to 35mm film or what?

-- Chap Cronquist

(Very rare -- and expensive -- is a dSLR with a sensor as big as a frame of 35mm film. Most are much smaller, though a good deal larger than what a digicam uses. Nikon has standardized on a sensor with a 1.5 multipler, so a 50mm lens crops like a 75mm lens. If you know the manufacturer or the multiplier, you can use the Focal Length Multiplier program in our Dec. 10, 2004 issue to tell you the equivalent 35mm crop! -- Editor)

RE: 16:9 Aspect Ratio

I took the plunge and bought a Panasonic plasma TV (for the family) with an SD slot that plays slide shows and movies on the widescreen (16:9). I know Panasonic (Lumix) has the LX2 which has triple widescreen (LCD, CCD, 28mm lens). To my knowledge it's the only one out there. It's seems like there should be big demand for something like this. Am I the only one looking? Will Canon, etc. follow?

In the interim (and for about $200 more) I can step up to the Nikon D40. I know a little about cameras, but at 60 years and glasses have been relegated to being a point-and-shoot type and I need am LCD for viewing. The kit lens that comes with the D40 is an 18-55mm, seemingly very wide. I used to own SLRs in the old days and always lusted after a Nikon. Is the D40 that much better than the LX2? Is the 16:9 LCD and CCD on the LX2 ("triple widescreen") a gimmick or does it lead to better widescreen shots?

-- Howard Sherman

(We've just starting to see 16:9 aspect ratio options on a few brands (Casio's Z1000, for example). It's a feature we love, particularly when we're composing a shot. Ultimately, though, it's just a crop, so you can get the effect with any camera.... 16:9 CCDs are another matter. Few companies make their own sensors, but some do, and that's where to look for innovations like this.... The D40 kit lens isn't as wide as you think. The sensor in a dSLR is smaller than a 35mm film frame, making it hard to achieve a very wide-angle. On a Nikon, you multiply that by 1.5x to get the 35mm equivalent: 18x1.5 = 27mm and the 55 limit is 82.5mm.... A dSLR is really quite a different experience than a digicam. Shawn's written a nice comparison of the two you can read here: http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SLRvsDIGICAM/SLRA.HTM -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Adobe (http://labs.adobe.com) has released a beta version of Adobe Photoshop CS3 [MW], the next release of its digital imaging software. The beta is available as a Universal Binary for the Macintosh platform, as well as for Microsoft Windows XP and Vista. But you do need a CS2 license.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released Aperture 1.5.2 [M] to address "issues related to overall reliability and performance in a number of areas."


Photopolis [M] (http://homepage.mac.com/dschulius/Photopolis/frame.html) extracts the date you took your photo and assembles the photos taken in a week as a "house," creating a checker-board arrangement of houses in a city. Straight streets represent years and cross streets months, so you can see all your Christmas photos over the years by walking down the "December" street.


Polar Rose (http://www.polarrose.com) has announced an open beta trial beginning early next year of its software that combines automatic face recognition with 3D modeling for visual search applications. The company's technology, available as a free Web browser plug-in and royalty-free APIs, creates a 3D model from a single 2D image of a face, radically improving photo matching by compensating for variations in lighting, facial emotions and pose.


Nurizon (http://www.nurizon-software.com) has announced a free download demo version of Acolens [M], its optical distortion correction software.


Photodex (http://www.photodex.com) has released its $499.95 ProShow Producer 3.0 [W] slide show software for professional photographers. The new version creates multimedia slide show presentations in 14 different formats, including DVD, CD and now HD Video, Flash and QuickTime.


Sharpcast (http://www.sharpcast.com/download) has released its free iPhoto uploader [M], allowing iPhoto users to export iPhoto albums directly to their Sharpcast Photos Web albums where they're backed up, easy to share and automatically synced all the way down to the person's mobile phone and PC desktop.


Delkin (http://www.delkin.com) announced SensorScope System, a dSLR sensor inspection and cleaning solution. The lens-like SensorScope provides a 5x magnification lens and four bright LEDs to illuminate the sensor. The $189.99 system, available in January, includes a SensorVac, 12 SensorWands, SensorSolution, a cleaning guide and a scope carrying case.


LightCrafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) released LightZone 2.0.5 [MW], fixing a few bugs and improving the histogram in its image editing software based on the Zone System.


onOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com) has announced Genuine Fractals 5 will ship in Spring 2007. Purchasers of Genuine Fractals 4.1 or Genuine Fractals Print Pro 4.1 on or after Dec. 18 will receive a free upgrade to Genuine Fractals 5 once it becomes available.


X-Rite (http://xrite.com/promotion/isis) has announced Eye-One iSis, its latest automated color chart reader. Based on award-winning Eye-One technology, there's not even a button to press. Just insert the chart and measurements start.


Imaging Resource contributor Dan Havlik (http://www.havlikindustries.com) has a few new photo galleries at his site.

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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:

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Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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