The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 9, Number 2 19 January 2007

Copyright 2007, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 193rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We've been on the road the last two weeks, but filed a report last week from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and Macworld Expo in San Francisco. We can't tell you what we were doing this week (yet). But don't blink or you may miss the future.


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:
ACDSee Pro
http://www.acdsee.com

Bridging the gap between camera and final print ACDSee Pro is the photo manager for you, giving you the speed and ease-of-use only a professional tool can provide. Pro is ultra responsive to all your workflow demands and helps you get more work done in less time so you have more time to spend on what matters most -- your digital photography.

Download a free trial at: http://www.acdsee.com/dslr

O'Reilly Media
http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com

Make Your Work Routine as Efficient as Possible

Ready to take digital photography to the professional level? What you need is a workflow sequence that begins with preparation and ends when you send images out for publication or exhibit.

That's exactly what Digital Photography: Expert Techniques, 2nd Edition gives you. Not your ordinary "workflow book," Ken Milburn takes you through digital darkroom set-up and high-efficiency production techniques with Photoshop CS 2 -- everything from non-destructive editing that won't change any pixels in the original, to techniques that alter the image the most. Along the way, he shows you how to manage every version. This book is a must, whether you're a working professional or a passionate amateur.

Visit http://www.oreilly.com/go/ImgRes_dpet2 and use this code for a 30 percent discount: D6NBMG

Sony
http://www.sony.com

Introducing the Sony a100 DSLR camera.

Creative freedom. Under your control.

The a100 combines Sony's digital expertise with a family of 16 million precision-crafted lenses for a camera that gives you the confidence to explore.

Unique, innovative features help you get exactly the shot you want:

    Super SteadyShot built into the camera produces sharper images with any lens
  • 10 megapixel image sensor enables bigger, sharper enlargements
  • Anti-dust system helps keep images clean and beautiful
  • Continuous burst mode captures the action at up to three frames per second

    Explore more at http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?sny.

HP
http://www.hp.com

New From HP, Printers With a Built-In Eye for Color. Just Like You.

Introducing the new HP Designjet Z3100 and Designjet Z2100 Vivera pigmented ink printers with a built-in spectrophotometer for breakthrough color consistency and accuracy. In 8-ink and 12-ink.

To request a print sample, or for additional information, please visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?hp4. To speak to an HP Representative please call 1-800-888-5858.


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: CES for Photographers

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The Consumer Electronics Show doesn't focus on digital imaging. Among its 2,700 exhibits covering 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space, imaging firms are spread far and wide, making it impossible to visit many of them in one day.

But in trekking from Canon to Nikon to Olympus to Pentax and other camera vendors, we ran across some intriguing products for photographers nonetheless. Here are the highlights.

CELESTRON

Celestron (http://www.celestron.com) is famous for its telescopes. So how tough could it be for them to pop a spotting scope on a digicam? The $479 Vistapix IS70 answers that question with its two-inch LCD and 14x-magnification (objects are enlarged 14 times), fully-coated lens featuring a 70mm aperture and 210mm focal length attached to a 3.1-megapixel digicam with an SD card slot.

Spotting scopes are ideal for terrestrial viewing, providing high magnification with a wide enough angle of view to see something through the distortion of heat waves. They range somewhere between the 10x magnification of a long zoom and a 60x entry-level telescope. The Vistapix is unusual for a scope in that it includes, like a telescope, a small auxiliary wide angle lens to help aim the device in the right direction. It can be hard to find your subject at high magnification.

To test the handsome unit, we popped our SD card into the model on display in the booth and captured some intriguing stills and video. It took four guys in the booth to actually figure out how to record the images to the card (there's nothing to it, just pop the card in), but the scope did it.

Actually, in their defense, the problem wasn't the scope, but the Kodak digicam we were reviewing the images on. We couldn't see the video capture on the Kodak playback index. It turns out, we learned later, that a Kodak digicam doesn't support video taken on any camera other than itself. But the file was there.

There's a big switch on top that switches from the actual scope to a very small, wider angle lens just next to the scope. The smaller lens lets you view the whole field before zooming to the area you're interested in with the scope.

The flip-up LCD has a focus gauge that shows you just how well the scope has focused on its target. As you manually tweak focus, the magenta bar climbs up the screen. When you're ready to shoot, you just press the shutter button. If there's an SD card in the camera, the image is saved from the CMOS sensor to the card. Otherwise, it's saved in the camera's 32-MB of internal memory.

The Vistapix is a very attractive, well-built unit. You can use it as a scope through the eyepiece and capture images with the camera as well. But you can also plug it into your television via the AV port or your computer via the USB port.

EXPRESSCARD

If you rely on a laptop to process your images, you've probably got a collection of PCMCIA adapters for your various flash memory cards so you can just pop them into the PCMCIA slot of your laptop.

But if you've bought a laptop recently, you may be chagrined to find no PCMCIA slot. Don't despair and run out to get a USB card reader. There's a much better alternative.

The old PCMCIA slot with an eject button has been replaced by a new standard, the ExpressCard (http://www.expresscard.org/web/site/qa.jsp). No eject button (saving laptop manufacturers a few bucks) and higher transfer speed are the two compelling reasons to upgrade your adapter collection.

The joy of doing away with the eject button speaks for itself. But the speed bump needs a little explanation. PCMCIA delivers a little over 1000 MB/sec, a bit over twice as fast as FireWire 400 and USB 2.0. Which is why you preferred PCMCIA over card readers in the first place. But at 2000-MB/sec ExpressCard doubles what PCMCIA can do. Which is why you'll want to update your adapter collection to include ExpressCards.

Unfortunately, cards to read flash memory have been slow (and expensive) coming to market. But at CES, we found some. The 11-in-1 reader from SIIG (http://www.siig.com) is typical of the new breed, able to read SD, miniSD, MMC, RS-MMC, xD Picture Card and some types of Memory Stick.

What it can't read is CompactFlash, which is wider than the narrower ExpressCard form factor of 34mm. But some companies have managed to work around that limitation with adapters for CompactFlash cards that have a narrow bus connector and a wide card connector.

BROTHER EMBROIDERY

Computers and sewing machines have been dating for years. But Brother's embroidery system (http://www.brother.com) can reproduce your digicam images as embroidery.

The basic components of the system are 1) a Windows computer running Brother's $99 PE-Design software and 2) a USB Brother sewing machine (either the $1,800 Innov-is 1200 or $6,000 Innov-is 4000D, both of which are single needle machines; the six needle PR-600 II costs $9,999.95 but gets the job done more quickly)

At about 9,000 stitches a minute (if we heard right), you can embroider a monotone line drawing from a digicam image in about 15 minutes on even a single needle machine. The samples we saw at the Brother booth were impressive.

And the process is relatively simple (compared to printing an archival print with the right ICC profile, anyway). Once the software has digitized your image into an embroidery pattern, you copy it to a USB thumb drive. The drive plugs in to your Brother sewing machine, which reads the image and tells you on its touch-screen LCD step-by-step what to do on the machine to embroider the image on the fabric of your choice. The fabric is held taut on a 12x7 frame and the machine does all the work except changing thread color.

On the single needle machines, you have to rethread the needle every time the color changes (which is not a big deal on monochrome embroidery). The six-needle machine can run pretty much unattended, however, which accounts for its much higher price.

CANON

Canon (http://www.canon.com) was showing off those gorgeous dye-based prints from its Pro9000, which we recently reviewed (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/CP9K/CP9KA.HTM). But what caught our eye was its latest SELPHY dye sublimation 4x6 printer, the SELPHY ES1.

Canon has stood this little SELPHY on end. The $250 ES1 has a handle on top (that neatly hides behind it when you set it down), a retractable USB cord (so you always have it with you) and an optional battery so you can really print anywhere with this unit. It also has a card reader.

The unit has been designed to hold the combined ribbon/paper cartridge inside the printer (there's no paper cassette sticking out of the printer) without increasing the ES1's thickness. That makes for an interesting little dance at the beginning of each print job (which still takes only 60 seconds a print). The paper has to be fed from the cassette sideways, turned around and aligned to feed properly. We caught it on video for you through the yellow dye print stage.

Canon has also developed an intriguing new section of its Web site, which it calls Creative Park (http://www.canon.com/c-park). The site hosts a number of printing projects, many of them educational, that can be downloaded and printed on your own printer (a Canon, right?). Project categories include Greeting Cards, Scrapbooking, 3D Paper Craft, Calendars and more.

PENTAX

We were delighted to get our hands on the Pentax K10 (http://www.pentax.com) for a few minutes at Pepcom the night before the show opened. John Carlson said Pentax's compact dSLR is designed for people who want to make enlargements.

What makes it special? Body-based image stabilization that delivers 2.5-4 stops more exposure, all weather seals and a couple of interesting shooting modes. SV mode is a sensitivity priority option in which the camera changes the ISO (and enables noise reduction at higher ISOs). TAv mode acts like a Program mode for SV mode, restricting that change within an ISO range.

John pointed out that while the camera body is sealed, the lenses aren't -- but the company is introducing a 17-50mm and 50-135mm all weather lens in a couple of months. Finally, you can opt to save Raw images in Adobe DNG format. With an 18-55mm kit lens, the SD-card based K10 is $999.

LEICA

Also at Pepcom, we had an interesting chat with Christian Erhardt at the Leica booth (http://www.leica.com) after a Leica fan complained to him about the touch on the Leica M8 shutter. Christian told us that it's actually adjustable. Set by the women at the factory, it can be factory adjusted if the owner isn't happy with it.

OP/TECH

You read through our reviews and finally make the agonizing choice for a new camera only to find you aren't comfortable with the included shoulder strap. Maybe you want a wrist strap. Or maybe you just want to be able to quickly switch between a wide shoulder strap and a thin one and maybe occasionally even a wrist strap.

How are you going to do that quickly?

Op/Tech (http://www.optechusa.com) has a quick release system. Simply tie a plastic latch to your camera's strap holders and pop any strap (wrist or shoulder) to the latches. And there are quite a few options when it comes to straps.

Among the more intriguing features is the company's non-slip grip, a series of soft, rounded bumps that grab hold of any fabric. The neoprene straps has what Op/Tech has patented as a "control-stretch" backing that contours to the shoulder and neck, distributing weight over a larger area than usual. It also functions as a shock absorber, making heavy loads feel much lighter.

The company also introduced its new Rainsleeve weather protection for your camera. Each packages actually contains two Rainsleeves, which are large, clear plastic bags with a draw string to close one end around the lens (leaving it open). There's also a small opening for the eyepiece and another for your hand or a tripod. The cover itself isn't tailored to any specific device, but large enough to fit any camera and lens up to seven inches in diameter and 18 inches long.

HYPERDRIVE SPACE

One small booth drew quite a crowd. The Hyperdrive Space (http://www.hyperdrive.com) was the attraction, a portable storage device that copies data from 18 types of memory card.

Hypercard claims the aluminum Space is the world's fastest at 20MB/s, downloading 1-GB in less than a minute and 28-Mb/s USB transfers, with the longest battery performance, offering 100-GB of downloading on full charge of its laptop-equivalent lith-ion battery or 300-GB with an external pack (thanks to the black and white LCD, no doubt). It also features a 32-bit verification system with error correction coding (something your simple file copy doesn't do) and built-in clock for copy timestamping.

It's got some brains, too. It shuts itself down, parking the hard disk heads when inactive and can auto copy, format the drive and erase the inserted memory card. It can detect when an image has already been copied so you don't have duplicates on the drive. And it reminds you what the last backup was when you start it up. You can also do firmware upgrades from the hard drive.

Backups can be done at five speeds (hyper, ultra, high and normal) and the five button keyboard provides access to any feature in no more than five taps.

It's fairly compact at just 5 x 2.87 x 0.79 inches. The 1.8 inch monochrome screen is illuminated with a backlight, too. And there's a built-in power surge protector.

You can buy the space without a drive for $149. A 60-GB version costs $239 and the largest option, with a 160-GB drive, runs $359.

We're not big fans of devices like these because they merely shift the risk of carrying a single copy of your images from your card to the device. There's no redundancy, no second copy, once you erase your card. So they're little more than storage devices with the convenience of a card reader. If you don't need to review images on your storage device, though, the Space makes storing your images a breeze.

POPABRELLA

When we last saw the $35 Popabrella (http://www.popabrella.com), it was a charming solution for protecting your camera from rain and, more importantly, sun (shading the lens no matter which direction you aim the camera). But the company has added a compelling twist to the plot with a new silver interior lining designed for flash bounce.

Since you attach the Popabrella to your camera using the tripod socket, the ideal flash solution would be a strobe you can mount on the camera's hot shoe with a flash head that rotates to face backward and fire into the Popabrella, which can be aligned in almost any direction. The company is considering a gold lining as well, but at the moment, silver is the only option.

CONCLUSION

As interesting as we found these products, the most fascinating hour of the day was spent at a conference where some heavy hitters discussed the future of digital photography. Read our synopsis of A Glimpse Into the Digital Future (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/CES07mrp/ces-glimpse.htm).

Return to Topics.

Feature: Macworld for Photographers

SAN FRANCISCO -- In some respects Macworld Expo upstaged the much larger Consumer Electronics Show held in the same week, at least as far as those of us interested in digital photography are concerned. It wasn't the effect so much of a product announcement or two (although there were those) as much as a display of new directions in several areas.

NIKON CAPTURE NX

Nikon (http://www.nikonimaging.com), which did not have a booth at CES, was a popular spot on the Expo floor. In addition to their dSLR and Coolpix digicam lines, the company also had a few monster lenses set up apart from the display counters for their fans to peer through.

But the big news from Nikon was a new version of Capture NX, their flagship image editing software that's equally adept at manipulating Raw NEF images and JPEGs.

Highlights of the new release include:

And there are a few other tidbits that "will be announced as we go along." When can you get it? "We're shipping sometime soon."

STORAGE

In the course of our show coverage, we turned the odometer over on our Average digicam's file counter. Which means we've shot over 10,000 images with it. And no, we don't have 10,000 images in our iPhoto library or our Lightroom database or our Aperture database or even on our hard disk.

We store them on a series of CDs (when cameras didn't have more than 3.1 megapixels) and DVDs (for larger sensors). And we store them on an external drive. But we keep replacing the external with a larger version every year or so. And we suspect you're in the same boat. Lots of images, where to store them?

At CES, Kodak's Nancy Carr argued that the best place for them was in the sky. She meant Kodak Gallery. And Kodak has an intriguing new project called Golden Eye that can get them there the second you press the shutter button using Bluetooth technology.

The problem with that approach, despite its convenience, is that Kodak has the key, not you. And recent developments (a change in compression or full resolution availability, say) don't encourage much confidence in that arrangement.

We've been looking into network storage devices, which are essentially hard disks you plug into your network hub so everybody on the network can see them and backup important files (like our pictures) to them. And while they work with Macs, they are 1) pricey and 2) dicey (getting to work with Mac filenames, etc. since they aren't Macs). We weren't very surprised to see not a single network storage solution on the floor (but see Apple's intriguing solution below), although a couple of vendors promised one "sometime soon."

Instead, we saw much beefier versions of our external drive, starting with Western Digital's $550 My Book Pro Edition II (http://www.wdc.com), which provide a terabyte of storage in a dual-drive system. This is a handsome unit that stands up somewhat like a fat aluminum dictionary.

It ships configured as a one-terabyte striped array but you can reconfigure it as a RAID 1 array, turning it into a 500-GB external drive that backs itself up. With a RAID 1, when a drive goes down, you still have your data (about 142,000 digital photos, according to Western Digital). Just swap out the dead drive to get back your redundancy. The case has two large screws you remove to get inside and fool around with the two 500-GB SMART drives. If one goes down during the three-year warranty period, you take it out, leaving it on its rails and send it back to Western Digital for a replacement.

You connect it to a Mac via any of its three interfaces: FireWire 800, FireWire 400 or USB 2.0. There's also a capacity gauge on the drive to tell you how full it is. It ran warm to the touch but was quiet (at least in noisy Moscone).

A few booths away we found a cooler competitor from CalDigit (http://www.caldigit.com). Their S2VR dual-drive enclosure really was cool to the touch with a fan drawing air from the front across the drives and out the back.

It was quiet too. But a lot more expensive, running $474 for 500-GB and $949 for a terabyte. They also offer five and eight drive towers but these have SATA interfaces only. The smaller dual-drive model offers a triple interface: FireWire 800, FireWire 400 and USB 2.0. But that also knocks the warranty down from three years to two.

A switch on the back configures the drive for RAID 0 or RAID 1 mode. RAID 0, the striped approach, writes one track to one drive and another to the other drive, enhancing performance. RAID 1 mirrors the data of one drive on the other.

CalDigit claims is has "the only real hardware FireWire RAID 1 solution" because when a mirrored drive fails, only their drive lets you swap out the dead drive, replace it and rebuild it. We asked an engineer how silly it would be to rely on that feature for offsite backups, pulling a mirrored drive and swapping in a third one so you can take the first offsite. "That would work," he nodded, but it would take a couple of hours to rebuild the new drive.

Apple announced a somewhat limited solution to this issue with its new Airport Extreme (http://www.apple.com/airportextreme). The $179 unit will include a USB port when it ships in February. And that port can handle either a printer or a USB drive (or both if you attach them to a USB hub). The company claims that whatever's on the drive can become instantly available to anyone on the network. But a USB drive isn't going to have the kind of performance an Ethernet network storage device would, nor would it offer the RAID options network backup box should. It is a welcome storage option, of course, but even there, apparently not visible to Apple TV.

APPLE TV

In our Dec. 22 newsletter last year, we discussed several ways to show your digital photos on HDTV. And we weren't real happy with any of them. "The video world is still not very accommodating when it comes to still photography," we warned, suggesting your best bet may be nothing more exciting than a CD.

What a difference a new calendar makes. Two weeks into the new year, Apple introduces its $299 Apple TV (http://www.apple.com/appletv) to display the photos on any computer on your network (among other things). Suddenly it's simple to use that big screen in the living room to show the images you just copied off your camera onto your computer, which you'd do anyway, right?

The trim box, which looks like a thin-crust Mac mini, includes an Intel processor, 40-GB hard drive, Wireless B/G/N and Ethernet. In addition to a power port, it has one HDMI interface, component video, optical audio, analog RCA stereo audio. There's also a built-in infrared receiver to talk to the remote control.

The specs say it talks to HDTV capable of "1080i 60/50Hz, 720p 60/50Hz, 576p 50Hz (PAL format), or 480p 60Hz" but the tech on the show floor told us it was limited to 720p output.

It won't replace your DVR, though. The internal drive's job is to hold data from your networked computers, syncing whatever audio, video or photos you tell it to sync. You can alternately stream content from up to five networked computers to the device. And it's all done through iTunes.

What's that remind you of? Right, an iPod. It's an iPod driven by iTunes that uses the networked computers for its input and an HDTV for its output. So, if you can get your content into iTunes, you can get it on your HDTV. Apple says it will also display images collected in Photoshop Elements or Adobe Album on a Windows machine.

Much as we'd enjoy whining about what's missing and what might have been (like some access to our collection on external storage), Apple TV is no more disappointing than any other AV box we've looked into and it has the virtue of showing our stuff on the big screen.

THE LITTLE SCREEN

Then, of course, there's the problem of the little screen. The one on your camera. Actually, it isn't so much a question of "the" problem as it is the problem_s_ of the little screen.

LCDs, commonly the only viewfinder on a digicam, are hard to see in sunlight and they scratch easily. dSLRs have their own issues, forcing you to squint, flip up your glasses or just approximate a composition.

At the Hoodman booth (http://www.hoodmanusa.com) we found solutions for all of these problems. The company's Hoodskins are clear protective overlays for 1.5 to 4-inch digicam LCDs. You get 12 for $10.99. Hoodman, whose claim to fame are those hoods you see on the cameras at NFL games, also takes care of the sunlight issue with small hoods, flip-up LCD caps and hooded loupes.

But what caught our attention was its $130 H-RAV universal right angle viewfinder with a built-in 1x and 2x diopter. The device lets you get the camera off your nose and even compose a shot at floor level. But you don't have to look down to appreciate it, really. It's just a more convenient way to compose through your dSLR's viewfinder -- especially considering the view is magnified.

We were a little skeptical about the universal claim, but Hoodman knows what its doing. Four mounts are included, each one labeled for the kind of camera it works with. And four really did seem to cover it.

EPSON

Screens are not the only place images inhabit, of course. The print has always had a special place in the hearts of photographers (and collectors of the art). And now that even digicams can capture enough data to print 13x19 images without artifacts, the industry is delivering a new stable of 13x19 printers to create that special image in a format that's hard to ignore.

We recently reviewed Canon's latest entry, the Pro9000 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/CP9K/CP9KA.HTM), and have HP's B9180 in the wings. But Epson has just announced its $399 Stylus Photo 1400, a replacement for the 1280 due in early February. We got a peek at one on the Expo floor.

The 1400 uses Epson's Claria hi-definition dye-based inks to reproduce the Adobe RGB color gamut, a wider gamut than the 1280. It's a six-color set that rates 98 years longevity under glass on Epson papers, according to the company. The ink set includes cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, light magenta and one black cartridge that does not swap out.

Using Epson's Micro Piezo print heads, the 1400 prints variable droplet sizes to optimized detail in the highlights, the company said.

It can handle specialty media like canvas and watercolor paper and, with a special tray, also print directly on special CDs and DVDs. And it includes USB 2.0 and PictBridge connections. And a wireless Ethernet option is available, too.

But the 1400's biggest attraction may be its price. The Canon Pro9000 lists at $500, $100 more. And the HP, a pigment printer, lists at $700 (although you can save $105 on it through the end of the month). We noticed a trend toward very low prices on fairly competent digicams at CES and it looks like Epson is applying the same strategy to this large format printer.

DUST

There's been quite an expansion in products designed to remove dust from dSLR sensors. Having interchangeable lenses is great, but it exposes the inside of the camera to dust that eventually intrudes on the image path, settling on the glass cover of the sensor. Even if you're careful (meticulous let's say), you can expect to see dark blodges appear one day on your images. The only way to avoid it is to avoid removing the lens, which takes the fun out of a dSLR.

We've seen a variety of solutions. Green Clean (http://www.green-cleanusa.com) relies on the Venturi effect and a can of compressed air. Dust-Aid (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1167931526.html) taps into the technology of sticky notes that leave no residue. And then there's inevitable slightly moistened swab. Copper Hill (http://copperhillimages.com) has a nice tutorial on the process and sells its own product, SensorSwipe, which is what we use in the lab at Imaging Resource.

The various approaches are meant to handle various kinds of "dust." Those range from the floating sort that merely lands on the sensor glass, attracted by some static charge to the oily residue of some shutter mechanisms that glob on to the glass.

Green Clean exhibited at photokina last year, but we were surprised to see the granddaddy of them all, Visible Dust (http://www.visibledust.com) at Macworld. And they drew quite a crowd. Its Sensor Brush has a motor in the handle that spins the brush fibers so they acquire an electrical charge that attracts dust from the sensor surface to the brush. You don't push the dust around with this brush, the company said, but attract it. The company also offers a wet cleaning swab for more reticent debris.

Frankly, we find all of these products both effective and overpriced. Our Sept. 16, 2005 article on dSLR sensor cleaning (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html) describes our experience cleaning a sensor on a review unit. But we'd caution you not to be too cavalier about what touches your sensor glass. Don't improvise with a cosmetics brush, for example.

If you're nervous about that at all, you can send your camera to the manufacturer to be cleaned, of course. Or use software to map the dust spots and magically eradicate them.

SOFTWARE

Speaking of software, we ran across a couple of interesting niche products.

We mentioned Vertus' $200 Fluid Mask (http://www.vertustech.com) in our photokina coverage, charmed by its ability to extract a gnarly head of hair from the sky. Image editing software continues to improve its object extraction capability. We saw some easy-to-use tools in Elements, which seem to have migrated to Photoshop CS3, for example. But it remains a nasty problem, primarily because it takes some judgement to know where to draw the line between what's background and what's foreground, what to discard and what to keep. The improvements have been mainly in making a credible mask quickly -- and to be credible you have to clip inside the object, featuring it a bit.

Fluid Mask automatically identifies object edges but also provides pixel level mask control with its Region Editor, so you can refine just where the line is drawn. You can easily switch from the mask to a preview of your image to evaluate the results.

Once again the demo impressed us. We hope to have a review copy shortly to see just how easy it is to extract objects with Fluid Mask. If you do a lot of masking, a tool like this can quickly pay for itself.

In a small booth behind the huge Apple booth, we found Digital Film Tools (http://www.digitalfilmtools.com). The company, an off-shoot of a Los Angeles visual effects lab for the movie industry, sells filters for After Effects, Avid, Final Cut Pro and Photoshop.

We watched a few of these tools being demonstrated at the booth and were impressed with the interface and performance. The Web site has an excellent description of each tool with great Before and After shots.

O'REILLY

One of the best reasons to attend a show like this is the chance to sit down. We did that at the O'Reilly booth (http://www.oreilly.com) where three rows of directors chairs faced a podium for one or another of the publisher's well-regarded authors to talk about their work. When we dropped by Mikkel Aaland was talking about Lightroom.

At photokina we used Photoshop's Web gallery option to build our slide shows, but as nice as we thought it formatted Web pages, we had to edit the CSS ourselves to add captions. For CES and Macworld (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/MWSF07/gallery/), we relied on Lightroom to do the job, adding our captions in the IPTC Caption field while we ranked our shots in the Library module. We were also able to make some quick exposure and white balance adjustments at the same time. Then it was just a quick trip to the Web module to create the pages for our galleries of images.

Lightroom doesn't replace Photoshop, as Mikkel pointed out at the end of his presentation. But Photoshop is like a four-wheel drive vehicle, he said. It can go anywhere, but it can be less than a pleasant trip. Lightroom, in contrast, is like a Porsche. You can't go everywhere in a Porsche but it's a much smoother experience.

All that talk of seated operations was getting to us, so we grabbed an empty director's chair when the crowd dispersed (simultaneously with the end of the presentation). From that vantage point we were able to observe the master divulging workflow secrets as two or three people came up to ask questions.

Interestingly enough, Mikkel revealed to one curious questioner his directory structure for archiving his images. He groups them in folders named for the year and then into folders named by date.

But that logical and common practice wasn't what grabbed our attention. No, we just happened to notice he relies on pictographs seemingly derived from ancient Chumash Indian cave paintings to indicate with dry erase markers the remaining capacity on his external hard drive. Familiar with cracking code ourselves, we deciphered "300GB" and "15m BF trip" on the big box attached to his 17-inch PowerBook. We thought about it a minute and realized the "300GB" indicated capacity while the "15m BF trip" surely showed the remaining free space before he left for Macworld.

"What do you do, Mikkel?" we asked. "You going to erase that and write '10m AF trip' when you copy today's images to it?"

He refused to admit we'd figured it out, revealing only that if we really wanted to know, we'd have to buy his next book, which covered the subject indelibly.

Normally, we would have given him a standing ovation, delighted to hear he's deep in another of his apparently ghost-written wonders, but we were too tired from our trek in the CES desert and our dash to Macworld to get up. "Send me a review copy?" we asked for the last time that day.

Then, our job done, we closed our eyes and took a little nap.

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New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

Our Consumer Electronics Show coverage includes:

Our Macworld Expo coverage includes:

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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 Nikon D200 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea19a9

Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8

Visit the Infrared With Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee8e6b4

David asks about Canon Rebel XT lenses at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea477a/0

Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec

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Dave's Deals

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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: Aperture vs. NX

I use an iMacG5. I recently purchased a Nikon D50, replacing my Nikon F and those 10 different heavy lenses. (Lower back problem you see.)

The question: The advantages and features of Mac's Aperture and Nikon's new Capture NX and your recommendation.

-- Norman R. Smith

(Aperture and NX are really two quite different approaches to dealing with your images. Aperture addresses the workflow and your image collection in a comprehensive way while NX is primarily an image editor. It just happens to have one of the greatest inventions in image editing, however: U Point technology. It won't make your wallet feel any better, but you can use both of them together, relying on NX for Raw image editing and Aperture for knowing where everything is and making it easy to work with collections of images. The latest version of Aperture addressed a number of important issues, too. But before you crack open your wallet, try the public beta of Adobe Lightroom (http://labs.adobe.com). It's free and has had the advantage of lots of feedback from real users. It handles your collection like Aperture and can edit your images with some wonderful tools like NX (although not quite as fun as U Point). -- Editor)

RE: Sigma

As a point-and-shoot "photographer" preparing to move up to a dSLR and begin my learning curve, I wonder if you could suggest some links or maybe even do one of your quality analyses on the true and real world differences between "standard" Mosaic CCD sensors (10 to 12-megapixel range) and the so-called interpolative sensors, primarily the Sigma CMOS Foveon X3 and secondarily the FinePix system.

I've been researching for about six months and finally decided to go full dSLR, either Sony A100 or Nikon D80 vs. the Panasonic Z50. Then I happened across the Sigma Foveon X3 technology (looking forward to the facts on the SD14) and in doing some additional research found that the X3 system with CMOS sensors justs make more common sense.

I finally caved and bought a 2-Mp digicam about two years ago and now find that the high mexapixels digicams are providing excellent quality, especially with Photoshop manipulation, so I'm ready to make the financial and time commitment to make quality photos.

-- Ron

(Visit our Index page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html) for our Feb. 22, 2002 feature on the Foveon. The short version is that luminosity data is more important than color data. So having 8-bits of Red, Green and Blue data for each sensor that is not interpolated is much less helpful than having 12 bits bits of luminosity data for each pixel, as a visit to LAB mode will confirm. Where it matters is at the edge of color shifts and interpolation is sophisticated enough to handle that convincingly. -- Editor)
(Another issue with the Foveon technology is that the green and red channels are buried deeper in the silicon, so the green and even deeper red channels exhibit more noise than in conventional sensors, limiting high-ISO performance. And because the blue channel picks up small amounts of green and red light, while the green channel picks up a fair bit of red light, color management is more difficult. -- Dave)

RE: Sony, Konica, Minolta

While there seems a connection made between Konica-Minolta, those camera bodies and lenses produced purely for Konica cameras are not adaptable. At least from any and all sources of data.

Is this true?

That Sony seems more than attuned to a wide variety of lenses along with several memory card types offered me hope. The lame highway they have developed offering product data seems more inclined to glossing over and non-information.

-- Jim Blevons

(If I understand you correctly, you're wondering if the Sony A100 is compatible with Konica SLRs from before the Konica-Minolta merger. They are not. The Sony A100 is based on the Minolta Alpha line (Dynaxx/Maxxum) whose roots go far deeper than the merger, back to 1985. So you get Minolta and Konica-Minolta compatibility but not Konica compatibility. -- Shawn)
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Editor's Notes

Nik Software (http://ww.niksoftware.com) has introduced Team Nik to teach digital photo skills to pros and amateurs alike. The initial team includes Suzette Allen, Doug Box, Carl Caylor, Rick & Deb Ferro, Hanson Fong, Don Gale, Michael Gilbert, Joseph & Louise Simone, Tony Sweet and Vincent Versace.


Richard Lynch (http://www.hiddenelements.com) has released a free tool set for Elements 5 users, including Layer Masks, Highlight Masks, Shadow Masks, Channel Mixer (simple), Transform Selection, Luminosity and Color Separation, RGB Red Component Separation, RGB Green Component Separation, RGB Blue Component Separation and Color Picker.


Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released Raw Developer 1.6.2, adding support for the Olympus E-400 and a bug fix for an issue with image preview caching. Improvements have also been made to the default color rendering for the Leica M8 and Phase One P30.


Phanfare (http://blog.phanfare.com/2007/01/announcing-the-phanfare-api) has released a Phanfare API, making it possible for members of the Phanfare community to extend the software.


Bibble (http://www.bibblelabs.com) has announces its first Raw Workflow update of 2007, adding support for the latest Raw enabled camera formats and including several third party plug-ins for Bibble.


Sony Europe (http://www.sony-europe.com) announced the first Sony CompactFlash memory cards will be available later this Springas CompactFlash Type I cards with 66x and 133x transfer speeds and capacities between 1-GB and 4-GB. The products will be branded as part of Sony's Alpha 100 dSLR camera system.

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One Liners

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Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com

PhotoRescue: http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

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Signoff

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

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

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

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