The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 9, Number 3 2 February 2007

Copyright 2007, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 194th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We report on the new features in Lightroom 1.0 before we look at two new Olympus cameras that couldn't be more different. Then we reveal a hidden Photoshop control before announcing this year's Missing Oscar category -- and requesting your nominations, of course!


TOPICS

SPONSORS
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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: Lightroom 1.0 to Make Its Debut

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/LR1/LR1.HTM on the Web site.)

Adobe announced it would release Lightroom 1.0, its photo workflow solution, on Feb. 19 for $299 with a $100 discount until April 30 as a gesture of gratitude to the beta community that helped design it.

You don't need to register with Adobe or have participated in the public beta test to qualify for the discount, Tom Hogarty, Lightroom product manager, confirmed in a Friday press conference. And the product will not ship with Creative Suite 3 or be otherwise bundled.

One other date is worth mentioning. The public beta will expire on Feb. 28. To continue using Lightroom after that date, you'll need v1.0. The first time you run v1.0, it will update your beta database files to the final release format. Adobe recommends converting from the final beta 4 format, but the worst that can happen is that you have to reimport your images. The conversion itself does not touch your images.

Hogarty stepped us through the improvements in v1.0 over the final beta 4 release, but we have not yet seen a review copy of v1.0. Readers might also be interested in comparing our original coverage of the beta release (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/LRM/LRM.HTM) to see how far the product has come.

THE BETA & VERSION ONE

And that distance is largely the measure of the community of photographers who used the beta version of the product and posted feedback to Adobe. There were a total of over one million downloads of the beta with over 500,000 unique users, of which 8,000 actively participated in the online forums.

The product evolved through four beta releases since its release in January 2006. And the first commercial version incorporates further improvements, including:

Raw processing continues to be based on Adobe Camera Raw technology, but v1.0 will add support for the Nikon D40 and D80 and the Pentax K10D's PEF Raw format. The K10D can optionally record in Adobe's Digital Negative format, as well, and DNG is supported by Lightroom.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Lightroom's system requirements for both Windows and OS X are 768 MB of RAM and 1 GB of free disk space. But it's worth noting that 1 GB of RAM is recommended.

The application itself, Hogarty noted, is just a 22 MB download, smaller than many TIFFs.

On Windows, Lightroom requires Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2), an Intel Pentium 4 processor, and a monitor with 1,024 x 768 screen resolution. Hogarty said Adobe has tested v1.0 with Vista "as much as possible," but it is not Vista certified. Card reader support and CD/DVD burning issues are yet to be resolved. As we pointed out in our CES coverage, that situation isn't unique to Adobe. But the company expects to release a free update of v1.0 for Vista users.

On the Mac, Lightroom requires Mac OS X version 10.4.3 (Tiger) or higher, and a 1 GHz or faster PowerPC G4 or G5 processor or Intel Core Duo processor (including iBook G4 or PowerBook G4).

NEW IN VERSION ONE

Hogarty took us through each of the modules, highlighting the new features in v1.0, starting with the Library module.

While Lightroom doesn't take Bridge's file-centric approach to images, v1.0 will add a Folders path, replacing the confusing Shoot option. You can drag and drop images to different folders and the files themselves will move. The Collections option continues to provide virtual folders (or albums) if you prefer to organize your images that way.

Ratings has been upgraded with a Survey view in addition to the Grid, Loupe and Compare views. Survey view facilitates sorting and promotion with a quick 100 percent view. The star rating system with one to five starts, complemented with a color labeling system, is joined by a new Flag rating on the tool bar below the image. Click the pick or reject flag or use the Up or Down arrow to quickly tag images. Then use the Quick Filter for flags above the film strip to show the selection.

Version One also improves Keyword tags, offering nine sets and providing for custom sets as well, all of which can be drag-and-dropped to or from images. There's a Keyword stamper in the tool bar, now, to make it even easier to apply keywords. And some effort has gone into making it possible to import keywords from Photoshop Elements collections.

The import process has a few new wrinkles, too. You can now preview thumbnails before importing the images from your camera or collection, there are more flexible organization options on import, a checkbox enables creation of a backup copy of each image and file renaming is supported by templates that can include Exif data like the camera serial number.

The Develop module also gains a few tweaks. Beta 4 made image adjustment more intuitive, Hogarty said, allowing direct editing of the histogram, for example, and improving the Curves dialog with the suggested balloon range of adjustment.

But in v1.0, a targeted adjustment tool adjusts the tone curve sliders and the HSL sliders from within the image itself by pointing to an area that needs adjustment and using the Up and Down arrow keys to increase or decrease the value. The appropriate sliders will change without you having to identify which ones they are. And you can save those settings to apply to other images.

You can also save Snapshots of your work (the import, first pass edit, etc.). And you can create Virtual Copies of an image, automatically stacking them together. Virtual Copies require no additional disk space, Hogarty said, but have all the functionality of duplicate copies of your image. That's the magic of metadata editing (and generous disk sectors).

The Print module has been very well received, Hogarty noted, adding that it was the poster child for the scripting functionality Lightroom will offer when the team writes a software development kit after the release of v1.0. You can have multiple Identity Plates and the template editor can add any of an image's metadata to the output options.

FULL REVIEW

Hogarty said that since Lightroom development is independent of Photoshop, photographers can expect a higher frequency of updates than is the case with the Creative Suite.

We expect to have a review copy and will post a full review prior to release.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus SP-550 -- 28 to 504mm Long Zoom

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SP550/SP550A.HTM on the Web site.)

OVERVIEW

Olympus's most ambitious Ultra Zoom yet, the 7.1-megapixel Olympus SP-550 UZ features a whopping 18x (28 to 504mm equivalent) optical zoom lens, ranging from true wide-angle to long telephoto. The relatively fast f2.8 to 4.5 lens employs high-refractive, aspherical and extra-low dispersion elements to maximize sharpness and clarity and is also capable of focusing as close as 0.39 inches (1cm), an amazing feat considering the record-breaking zoom range.

To help ensure sharp, crisp results at longer focal lengths or in poor light, the SP-550 is equipped with both hardware and software image stabilization. Sensor-shift image stabilization, a first for Olympus, detects camera motion and moves the CCD to compensate, reducing blur due to camera shake. This is especially useful at longer focal lengths, where the slightest camera movement can result in a blurry image or in low light, when shutter speeds can be too slow for the typical user to hand-hold. The questionably named software-based Digital Image Stabilization simply boosts ISO sensitivity to gain a faster shutter speed. Faster shutter speeds help freeze subject motion, something that beginning photographers either don't know about or don't have time to think about. It remains to be seen just how well these two systems will work together in the SP-550, but we applaud Olympus for finally including hardware based image stabilization. It's essential for a model with such a long zoom.

The SP-550 also has a flexible, high-speed sequential shooting mode, which allows bursts at rates from 1.2 frames-per-second for 7 frames at full resolution, to as rapid as 15 fps for 20 frames at 1.2 megapixels. A separate mode uses a Pre-Capture feature that starts capturing shots the moment focus is locked, storing five frames just before the shutter release is fully depressed, compensating somewhat for user response time and shutter lag.

Other SP-550 features include a 7.1-Mp 1/2.5 inches CCD that delivers images up to 3072x2304 pixels in size. With such a long zoom, the SP-550 also uses an electronic viewfinder with diopter correction. Its 2.5 inch LCD has approximately 230,000 pixels, great for checking focus. There are four focus modes including manual. Exposure modes include full PASM (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual), Auto, Guide mode and 22 scene modes. The SP-550 provides a generous (perhaps overreaching) ISO sensitivity range of 80 to 5000 (with reduced resolution above ISO 1600). The SP-550 offers a VGA movie mode (with QVGA also available), capturing clips at 640x480 pixels at up to 30 frames-per-second in AVI format (Motion JPEG) with sound, for as long as the xD Picture card or internal memory has space. Enthusiasts will also appreciate the SP-550's Raw image file support.

The SP-550 stores images and movies on xD Picture cards or 20-MB of built-in memory. The 550 also offers audio-video and USB (full-speed) computer connectivity. Power comes from four AA batteries or an optional C-7AU AC adapter.

The Olympus SP-550 Ultra Zoom is expected to ship in March at an estimated street price of $500.

HANDS-ON PREVIEW

Olympus's latest iteration of the Ultra Zoom shows a little more promise than the recently reviewed SP-510. While the 510 attempted to recapture the look and feel of past successes like the C-8080, the SP-550 marks a somewhat late turn in the direction that the rest of the market has been headed for two years. The addition of real image stabilization to a longer zoom is probably the most significant development, followed by a new look.

Look and Feel. The SP-550 has a more SLR-like build, with a slight and probably unnecessary bulge out from the left of the lens (from the back). Combined with the big piece of glass out front, the pop up flash over top and the largish grip, the SP-550 will look more appealing next to small SLRs like the Nikon D40 and Rebel XTi.

It has a dark gray body, with both painted shiny plastic surfaces and more matte surfaces. These latter surfaces are either coated with or completely made from a thick rubbery substance that's warm and soft to the touch and provides a wonderful grip. This rubber surface also coats the substantial thumb-rest on the SP-550's back panel. The combination makes for a very sure hold on the camera.

Despite the rubbery assistance, the grip is smallish and you have to adjust your hold on the camera, holding it high in your palm. It's a pretty small camera, so that's understandable.

I really like the Shutter button on the SP-550. It's a little higher up on the body than I'm used to, but it's angled nicely; and I like the large chrome zoom ring around the shutter. It's becoming my preferred location for zoom toggles. I'm pleased to see a diopter adjustment dial on the SP-550UZ, an important feature even when the camera has an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical viewfinder.

The Mode Dial on the SP-550 doesn't thrill me, however, because it turns too easily and doesn't positively move to the next position. It can easily be turned to rest in-between settings, causing confusion and missed shots. Since this is a prototype, this could change with the shipping version, but this is the type of design element that doesn't usually change at this late date.

I like the Power button, a soft rubber button behind the Shutter release whose purpose is clearly marked. To the upper right of this is the Image Stabilization button. Press it to cycle through the two sensor-shift stabilization modes and press Set to select. I'd prefer that pressing the Shutter button selected as well, but at least there's an onscreen instruction to help you along.

The new Control Cluster works for me on the SP-550, whereas other recent Olympus digicams that used the same cluster were just too small overall to support what amounts to a nine-button array. But the SP-550's excellent thumb-rest above leaves plenty of room for the thumb to actuate the controls on purpose, rather than accidentally. The raised silver ring makes pressing the Four-Way Navigator very easy and feels of decent quality as well.

The pop-up flash is activated by pressing the manual release button on the left of the lens housing, the same place that most dSLRs use for this button. Unfortunately, the fully-automatic mode on the SP-550 cannot release this flash when it deems necessary. Instead the flash icon, shutter speed and aperture displays flash red onscreen.

Screen. The 2.5 inch LCD on the back delivers silky smooth images with its 230,000 pixels and checking focus seems pretty easy, except in bright light where the polished glass somewhat obscures the screen.

Optic. The most compelling feature of the SP-550 is its 18x lens. This is what gives long zoom digicams their greatest advantage over their dSLR competition. Matching a zoom of this range with a dSLR, the equivalent of 28-504mm on a 35mm camera, requires several lenses and several lens changes, while the SP-550 can do it in one smooth zooming motion. The 504mm end is an impressive sounding spec (not to mention what its 5.6x digital zoom does to it -- 2822mm!), but the real benefit that most other long zoom digital cameras don't have is that 28mm lens.

Very few digital cameras can capture what we need for indoor photography, so it's significant when any digicam has a 24 or 28mm lens. But achieving 28mm with a 504mm at the other end is impressive indeed. We'll have to wait for our test results before we rave further, but if they've held chromatic aberration and distortion in check, the SP-550 could be quite the little darling of the enthusiast crowd.

The other notable aspect about the lens is its f2.8 aperture at wide-angle. This changes to f4.5 at the 504mm end, but it's still useful to have a fast lens for low light shooting.

Stabilizing Influence. Also missing from the last three Ultra Zoom cameras was some kind of image stabilization. This has been a glaring omission from Olympus's entire line. Now they have a new sensor shift technology that will be necessary for such a long zoom on the very small SP-550.

Olympus is calling the new technology Dual Image Stabilization because they also employ what they've been calling Digital Image Stabilization. This is a software-driven strategy that raises the ISO and biases toward wider apertures in order to raise the shutter speed. It's more a mode that biases the camera's automatic exposure system than anything that can be called image stabilization. It's misleading marketing hype and as a recent editorial on dpreview.com offered, it's a practice that should be discontinued. This mode has always been better referred to as Sports or High ISO mode. We can only hope that with a genuine form of mechanical image stabilization at their disposal, Olympus will let Digital Image Stabilization fade into history.

More Goodies. A few other features of the SP-550 that are prominently mentioned might seem to exceed the capabilities of modern dSLRs, like the ability to capture 15 frames per second. While that's probably true, they don't mention that the resolution is reduced to 1.2 megapixels to achieve that. It's actually a capture mode that is included on many other digicams and is not invalid, but it's a little misleading, again. The Pre-capture mode is also not new, but certainly has its uses. When set to this mode, the camera begins to capture images before you press the shutter, something fairly easy to do at low resolution, since it's already capturing images and displaying them on the LCD.

Since they're bringing this mode to the front, we'll test it when we get a working sample. Though you might get crisper shots in this High Speed Continuous mode, this is the point at which I switch the camera to Movie mode and catch the live action with audio. The SP-550 can capture video at 640x480 up to 30 fps to the limit of the xD card.

Most appropriate for Olympus digicam fans, the SP-550 includes all four standard exposure control modes, Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual, in addition to full Auto, Scene and Guide mode. Guide mode is the most interesting, allowing users who don't want to think about what modes mean to just look at list of common shooting situations and let the camera pick the mode. Items like "Shooting into backlight," "Shooting subject in motion,," and "Super close-up photo," are easy to understand; but like Scene modes, I still wonder whether people use them much.

For the rest, we'll have to wait until we receive a full review unit. Just from holding and using the SP-550, it seems like Olympus is listening to the market and designing accordingly. The SP-550 looks and feels great and its optical specs do indeed impress.

Check back for a full suite of tests and sample images when we get the full shipping version.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus Stylus 770 SW -- So Real

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OS770SW/OS770SWA.HTM on the Web site.)

OVERVIEW

The second shock and waterproof digital camera in Olympus USA's new rugged line, the Stylus 770 SW improves on last year's Stylus 720 SW in a number of ways. The basic SW spec includes a rugged, waterproof body that can handle rain, sleet, snow or even snorkeling, which means you can now take pictures where you previously wouldn't dare take a camera. You can also drop an Olympus SW-series camera from five feet onto concrete. What's new with the Stylus 770 SW is that 1) you can go down to depths of 33 feet instead of 10, 2) you can freeze the camera down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, 3) and you can subject it to up to 220 pounds of pressure.

In addition to ruggedness, Olympus has added a bit of technology aimed to please the extreme sports lover. They've built a manometer into the 770 SW, which measures water and air pressure, enabling depth and altitude to be recorded with each image. Now you can reinforce your bragging rights with photographic and measured evidence.

The 770 SW is shockproof to the MIL-STD-810F standard, meaning it can withstand drops of up to five feet from any angle without harm. The new physical reinforcements mean that you can take the 770 SW into some very extreme conditions, including freezing weather on backpack trips and you can even put it into your back pocket without fear of damaging it when you sit down.

Despite its array of waterproof seals and shock absorption technology, the 770 SW remains pocket-friendly. Other features include an Olympus-branded 3x optical zoom with a 38 to 114mm equivalent focal length range and f3.5 to 5.0 maximum aperture. Because the lens is a folded optic, no lens elements protrude from the camera. This helps protect the delicate lens components and makes sealing the camera body easier. The lens is coupled with a 7.1-megapixel imager and the 2.5 inches LCD display has 230,000 pixels. There is no optical viewfinder.

Autofocus is via contrast detection and ISO sensitivity ranges from 80 to 1,600 equivalent and can be controlled automatically or manually. The 770 SW also offers what the company calls Digital Image Stabilization mode, which should not be mistaken for true hardware image stabilization. The 770 SW instead boosts ISO sensitivity to gain a faster shutter speed and uses software de-blurring technology, both of which will reduce blur, but can create noise and sacrifice image detail.

By default, exposures are determined with Olympus' Digital ESP multi-pattern metering, with spot metering also available. Users can also tweak the exposure with +/-2.0 EV of exposure compensation, in 1/3 EV steps. Shutter speeds range from 1/1000 to 4 seconds and the Olympus 770 offers automatic or preset white balance control courtesy of six presets, but no custom white balance mode. The 770 SW also includes a four-mode internal flash and offers beginner-friendly control over images courtesy of over 20 scene modes, including four underwater settings.

As well as still images, the 770 SW can also capture movies at VGA or lower resolution, at a rate of 15 frames per second with clip length limited only by available storage space and battery life. The 770 SW also has a 12 second self-timer to let you get into your own pictures. The camera stores images on xD Picture cards or 18-MB of built-in memory. It also offers video and USB computer connectivity. Power comes from a proprietary Li-42B Lithium Ion battery.

The Olympus Stylus 770 SW is expected to ship in March at an estimated street price of $380.

HANDS-ON PREVIEW

Olympus is improving. Not just their line, but they're raising the bar on camera design. They're taking a look at how electronics are being used -- and abused -- in the real world and building a camera that can handle it. I've called for this kind of change in consumer electronic design since I used my first Panasonic Toughbook, a ruggedized notebook computer that can be used outdoors in a downpour. After all, if even the most basic car can stand exposure to the elements, including water, bumps and minor impacts, shouldn't our electronics be able to handle the same real world? When I reviewed the 720 SW last year, I really liked it for its physical design and durability, but I wasn't as crazy about its image quality. Since we've only received a pre-release unit, I can't comment on whether they've made an improvement in that area with the 770 SW. The 720 SW's images did print very well, so if they at least maintained that, the new camera's specs will make the 770 SW far more attractive.

Greater Durability. The 770 SW's waterproof seals can now withstand water pressures down to 33 feet, compared to the 720 SW's 10 feet depth limit. Now it can also handle below-freezing temperatures, for those folks enduring sub-freezing temperatures on a regular basis. Its 14 degree Fahrenheit limit is pretty cold for a camera to handle and most often it'll be nuzzled in a coat pocket in such climes, where its waterproof build will presumably keep the steam from its 98.6F owner from damaging it. It can still withstand a five foot drop, as well, which is something so many people do to their cameras. So real.

But the true brilliance in the 770 SW is in the new crush resistance standard. The 770 SW can handle up to 220 pounds of pressure. What does that mean in the real world? When are you going to apply that much pressure? When you do like so many people do with thin cameras and stick it in your back pocket. I weigh 210 pounds. Since I'll only put a fraction of that weight on the camera when I sit down, I could put on another 100 pounds (Lord, please no) and still not crush the 770 SW. That's real-world durability.

I've received so many emails from people whose cameras have died. When I asked how they carried them, it was most often either loose in a backpack or in a front or back pocket. We have no idea how much pressure we apply to objects that we put in our bags and pockets. But I know that I have tossed backpacks to the floor without a thought before I remembered that I had a camera or computer in there and leaned against a wall with a backpack in-between. It's easy to forget that you have precious items in a pack or pocket.

If I've described your camera handling habits, the 770 SW is the one camera more likely to withstand your world. I hope other manufacturers follow Olympus's lead.

Look and Feel. Olympus has made a lot of changes to the 770 SW, none of them bad; but I'm not as pleased with its appearance. While the 720 SW looked and felt like it was machined from a solid hunk of steel, the 770 SW looks more like aluminum composite.

The feel is still solid and hefty, though, which helps stabilize the camera when shooting, unlike the other Stylus cameras we've reviewed recently. The shutter button, which I raved about on the 720 SW, is the same and easier to release than other Stylus models as well. Controls on the back are largely the same, except for the shape of the buttons, which are square rather than round.

I love the large lip on the back that serves as both a thumb grip and wrist strap lashing point. It's another design accent that shows off the 770 SW's solid build.

I'm disappointed to see the continued use of the term Digital Image Stabilization for High ISO mode, but we can't change Olympus overnight. I would prefer a mode switch to this button arrangement, because it's too easy to switch modes with an accidental thumb press. But at least the new buttons make it less likely, jutting out a little less than the 720 SW's round ones.

Other Stuff. There's also the manometer built in to record depth and altitude for improved record-keeping of where you've been; and the LED illuminator on the front for use while focusing and shooting underwater or even above ground. But we'll have to wait for the full shipping version before evaluating all that cool stuff.

I'll have to psych myself up for the parachute jump and diving expedition I'll need to take and that could take some therapy and soul-searching.

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.

Advanced Mode: Scrubbers in Photoshop

The first time we saw them, we were appalled. Scrubbers? In Photoshop?! We quickly scribbled down the details for finding them again and vowed to email the User Interface Police as soon as we could.

Then we tried one and liked it.

But let's start somewhere near the beginning and explain just what we're talking about. A scrubber is a very handy way of navigating a long data stream like a video track or audio track. Spin the dial clockwise to fast forward or counter clockwise to rewind. No need to crank to get to the beginning or the end and you can be as precise as you like, too. Just slow down.

The first scrubbers, mechanical dials on video editing machines, quickly found their way to consumer VCRs where fast forward and rewind had been awkwardly controlled with buttons. But software scrubbers have been around since the beginning -- and not just in video editing software. We can recall seeing them in a little photo editing app called Great! Photo years ago (1999, actually), before machines were really fast enough to update the effects as quickly as you could scrub.

But what are they doing in Photoshop? What's linear about a two-dimensional bitmap?

Ah, wait, wrong question. It isn't so much the bitmap that cries for sliders as it is the numerous sliders controlling one or another field in a dialog box or in the tool bar. It turns out sliders -- those long bars representing all possible values with an indicator you slide from one end to the other to set the value -- are perfect candidates for scrubbers. You can traverse the universe of values with less mouse movement. That's the big deal.

But where can you add a scrubber in a place already crowded with sliders, labels, field names, you name it?

Adobe decided they'd just make the field name a scrubber. Click on the field name, mouse to the left to decrease the value and the right to increase the value. Release the mouse button when you're there.

The trouble with this approach is that there's no visual clue that a scrubber exists. So how do you find them?

Just mouse over the labels of most fields that take numeric values, really. You'll find them all over the place in Photoshop CS2 and the beta of CS3. We'll just point out a few in CS2.

Take Levels for example. When you mouse over Input Levels or Output Levels, the cursor changes into a hand with its index finger over a left-right double-headed arrow. That's the scrubber. Select any of the three control points (shadow, midtone, highlight) or click in the appropriate field, then zip back to the scrubber and scrub.

One thing you'll notice is how much more precise the scrubber is. Grabbing a control point and sliding it skips a few values (ever try to get back to zero?). But scrubbing lets you fine-tune the adjustment. So it isn't just candy.

It works with Color Balance, too. Just select one of the slider control indicators and mouse over the Color Balance field name to get the scrubber. Suddenly you have fine control over your color shifts.

Image Size, too. Mouse over any field to scrub the value. And Rotate Canvas (which would be more fun with a live preview). The Brush tool's Opacity and Flow work, too. Just to mention a few.

You can modify the behavior of the scrubber with the usual culprits. Shift makes the scrubber jump in large increments. Option/Alt, conversely, makes very fine changes to the selected value.

Once you know they're there, it's hard to resist them because the deliver a precision that's easier to use than finding the number keys on the keyboard. And with a live preview, they make short work of your options, too.

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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:

Visit the Canon EOS 20D Digital SLR Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee9ad5a

Visit the Sony Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f789

Joshua asks about choosing between the Canon G7 and the Fuji S6000 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea47f0/0

Yvonne asks about software for the Kodak DX6340 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea495d/0

Visit the Professional Digital Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b4

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Just for Fun: Time for Your 2007 Oscar Nominations!

As a subscriber of this particularly moving publication, you are also a member of the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences. Each year at this time, members of the Academy submit their nominations for the Academy's legendary Missing Oscar.

You may recall the Missing Oscar as the one stolen Oscar of several years ago that was never retrieved. Every year we try to give it away on the theory that you can't lose what you don't have.

Past awards honored Best Slide Show Software, Best Photo Web Site, Best Shareware, Best Input Device, Best Digital Photography Book, Best Photo Gadget and Best Camera Bag. With only one missing Oscar, we change the category each time we present the award to make the rounds of exciting innovation in this industry.

This year the award will honor one of digital photography's most persistent aspects. It was there in the beginning and remains compelling today: the 4x6 Jumbo Print. It hasn't escaped our notice, in letter after letter, that many of the members rave about one or another retail photofinishing operation which they entrust to handle all of the 4x6 digital prints. To the surprising exclusion of printing at home, we add. And despite the rumor they have rules about which images they'll print.

If you love your retail photofinisher (whether it's online or accessible from a parking lot), tell us about it. Recommend them! If they've refused to make a print because the image "looked too good," tell us about that, too. If they do better with color and sharpness than you can at home, give them credit for their magic powers. Are they prompt? Cheap? Running for President? Then nominate them!

The winner will enjoy the Public Notoriety of the Ersatz Academy's Missing Oscar. Without the need to dress expensively (or at all). And, in further defiance of the regular Oscars, acceptance speeches will not be interrupted by live music at our virtual awards ceremony. Or any other kind of music.

To submit your nomination, email your testimonial with the subject "Oscar Nomination" to editor@imaging-resource.com before our next issue.

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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: CompactFlash ExpressCard

Delkin makes an ExpressCard/34 Card reader for CompactFlash (http://www.delkin.com/products/adapters/expresscard34/). This size will fit in all laptops, those with the bigger and smaller slots. I use it on my MacBook Pro and it is very fast.

-- Peter

(Thanks, Peter! -- Editor)

RE: Scanner Recommendation

I have been considering a flatbed scanner so that 1) I can scan some of my older negatives and 2) so I can start shooting slides and digitize the ones I consider "keepers" and then have them printed locally at Wolf Camera (who does a very nice job).

I just read your Microtex i800 Pro review and it seems like a distinct possibility, but before reading that I had read on photo-i (the UK site) a very favorable report on the Epson V700 Pro version. To add to the confusion, I understand Microtek is about to release a new flatbed model in February. So, my simple question is Which Of These Scanners Should I Buy?

I would use this to scan both old and future negatives and/or slides. Obviously the scanner would need to accommodate at least up to medium format size, which I think they all do. I might add that I don't enlarge most of my photos beyond 8x10, though as I approach retirement age I may consider doing more enlarging as I do more photographing.

-- Bud Babb

(Well, you only have one choice today. The Microtek M1 isn't shipping but the Epson V700 is shipping. We wrote about both in our Oct. 27, 2006 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Unlike the V700, the M1 will have an autofocus feature. But we've been using the V700 happily for a couple of months now. -- Editor)

RE: Minolta Support

I just purchased a refurbished Konica-Minolta Dimage Z20. I really enjoy it. I've been using the same Minolta X-370 film camera for almost 20 years. I like Minolta products.

I recently went to their Web site for information when I found out that they are no longer in business. Can you help me find out where I can get support for my camera? I did notice that Sony Corp. is taking care of support but for how long? How do I get parts or repairs? Can you help?

-- Brian

(Yes, wonderful gear! Sony has assumed all support for K-M gear, too, as you noticed. We've also updated our Driver Project support page (http://imaging-resource.com/ARTS/DRV/DRV.HTM) to reflect the new support URLs reported in the press release (http://esupport.sony.com/perl/news-item.pl?news_id=120&region_id=1). -- Editor)

RE: Wide-angle Zooms

I am interested in purchasing a wide-angle lens for my Canon 20D. On your site you do have an excellent review of the Sigma 10-20mm lens and comparison with Canon's own 10-22mm lens (which I find quite expensive). There is no mention anywhere on your site of the comparable Tamron 11-18mm lens which is about the same price as the Sigma.

Despite the fact that the Tamron has a "slower" (f4.5) lens (and a one mm longer focal length) vs. the Sigma (f4.0), my local camera dealer and your sponsored online sites recommend the Tamron over the Sigma as they feel the optics are better but do not have any comparison tests. Have you compared the two lenses or do you have any opinion about which is better?

Thank you for your reply. I have read with interest each issue of your online magazine for the past three years.

-- J. David Gaines, MD

(Actually, we have tested the Tamron 11-18mm (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/47/cat/23) and found it shows less shading (vignetting) and somewhat lower geometric distortion but more chromatic aberration at all but the widest focal lengths. It's perhaps slightly sharper in the center of the frame wide open but gets much softer at the edges. Our sample also showed a somewhat lopsided blur, with one side quite soft, the other quite a bit sharper at maximum wide-angle. I'd give the nod to the Sigma for its sharpness, but they each have their strengths and weaknesses. Read the reviews of both, see what you think, based on the type of shooting you intend to do. -- Dave)
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Editor's Notes

After a year in public beta, Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) announced its $299 Lightroom will be released commercially in the middle of the month with a $100 discount until April 30.

The company also updated its public beta of Bridge CS3. The new version fixes "a nasty memory leak" among other bugs, adds a flat file view filter to see all the content of subfolders, adds multiple monitor support, tweaks loupe behavior near the edge of images, opens JPEGs and TIFFs in Camera Raw and makes a number of other small improvements.


Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com) has released Vista, the Windows operating system successor to XP, with a Windows Photo Gallery feature to track even offline image collections.


Nikon (http://support.nikontech.com) has released firmware upgrades for both its D40 and D80 dSLRs.


Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) has announced its $319 Airport International rolling carry-on backpack to legally store bodies, lenses and accessories in overhead bins or under the seats of international carriers and smaller regional commuter aircraft.


RL Development (http://www.qpict.net) has released QPict Digital Asset Manager 7.0.1 [M], adding support for .flv movies, new icons and improved box appearance while fixing several bugs.


David Holmes (http://davidholmes.org) has just released an update to his free Phanfare plug-in to export images from Aperture to the service. He has similar plug-ins for SmugMug and PBase and is working on a Zenfolio plug-in, too.


Plasq (http://plasq.com) has updated its $24.95 Comic Life [M] to version 1.3.1 with a new copy/paste control for panels between document and several bug fixes.


The free JAlbum 7.0 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net), a Java-based web album generator, sports a redesigned interface and publishing section. High quality image scaling performance has been improved and native implementation of variable image sharpening added, among other changes.


Innovatronix (http://www.innovatronix.com) has introduced its $390 Tronix SnapPower, a 300-watt portable power supply for laptops and printers.


Preclick (http://www.preclick.com) has announced an April ship date for its free Preclick IPM, an Internet photo messenger that "eliminates digital photo email hassles and turns users' computer monitors into a dynamic picture viewer," according to the company.


SplashCast (http://www.splashcastmedia.com) has announced its free SplashCast [LMW], its rich media creation and syndication service to "easily create streaming media programs that combine audio, video, music, photos, text and RSS feeds and broadcast them live on any Web site, social network page or blog that chooses to subscribe to a user's 'channel.'" The company is currently conducting a public beta of the service.


The Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (http://lacda.com) will present Connectivity: Across Time -- Across Earth from Feb. 8 to March 3. Works include examples of digital photography, digital sculpture, manipulated images, photo compositing, custom camera images, 3D generated art, animated video, interactive and data driven art.


San Francisco's de Young Museum (http://www.thinker.org/deyoung) continues its exhibit of Elliot Anderson's Average Landscapes through May 20. His large transparencies mounted in light boxes are composites of up to 500 images of famous landscape views harvested automatically from photo sharing Web sites.

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One Liners

For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

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

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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