The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 9, Number 4 16 February 2007

Copyright 2007, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 195th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. In this issue, coming to you from Incline Village, Nev., we take a look at ACDSee Pro, Kodak's new print system and a 4-GB Lexar SDHC card with reader before awarding the Missing Oscar. Now back to tend the fire.


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:
Sony
http://www.sony.com

Introducing the Sony a100 DSLR camera.

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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: ACDSee Pro -- Bargain Photo Manager

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/AP9/AP9.HTM on the Web site.)

ACD Systems (http://www.acdsee.com) calls its $129.99 ACDSee Pro a "photo manager." Designed to streamline a photographic workflow, it competes on the Windows platform only with Adobe's Lightroom. Like Lightroom, it has relied on user feedback to evolve into a particularly useful tool.

The company also offers ACDSee 9 photo manager for $39.99, which does not handle Raw images. This review looks at the Pro version, but many of the features are the same.

ABOUT PRO

ACDSee Pro lets you view, process, edit, organize, catalog, publish and archive your photo collections. The whole ball of wax. And those photos can be Raw files or JPEGs. There's full ICC and ICM profile support and conveniences like visual tagging to help you manage your collection of images.

ACDSee's heritage is instant full screen viewing of thumbnails in over 100 different formats. That includes Raw files and Adobe's DNG format, too.

A Compare Images tool shows each of up to four file's properties below the thumbnail, highlighting differences in bold. You can lock photos so the zooming and panning you do to one affects them all. There are underexposure warnings so you can adjust threshold values. And a histogram is displayed for each image.

Tagging lets you quickly identify your favorite shots. Using the Browser, Viewer or Compare Images tool, a single keystroke lets you tag or untag an image.

You can also customize the interface so it makes sense to you. You can choose which buttons are displayed on the File List toolbar. You can manage the various window panes, view files with non-standard image extensions, customize the Properties tab, create custom Info Tips, set ratings as easily as tagging images and create contact sheets.

The efficiencies include batch editing of IPTC and Exif metadata, file names, rotation, resizing, color cast removal, sharpening and more.

But when you want to focus on a single image, Pro provides all the tools you need to make highlight and shadow adjustments, fix common problems from skin blemishes to lens flare, heal (maintaining color, lighting and texture) or clone problem areas, crop, rotate, resize, apply over 40 filters and correct perspective and lens distortions.

Besides ratings, Pro helps you organize your images by date, format, size, metadata and keywords. The Calendar pane organizes and displays images by date. Search lets you find images by any criteria. And you can search offline image collections, too.

Output options include slide shows and Web galleries. But you can also email images through ACDSee's online photo sharing service SendPix.

Printing options range from standard size prints to custom sizes, including contact sheet printing you can setup for any number of rows and columns.

A Sync feature lets you backup your images to an external drive. You can also use the Database Backup Wizard to copy your image database. And you can also copy your collection to DVD or CD discs using the convenient Burn Basket.

The chief complaints about the product are its browser-based appearance, lack of Unicode support (for accented characters) and serialization of CD volumes in the image database (which has problems tracking multi-session ISO 9600, but you can elect to use the disc volume label instead from the options dialog). But it's a very full-featured and affordable tool set for managing a traditional digital photo workflow.

THE INTERFACE

The default interface has a lot going on, but isn't unfamiliar. You first see the Browser when you start up from the shortcut icon on the desktop, but the program also has Viewer and Edit Mode interfaces.

The Browser is fairly busy, with 12 panes to its window, but most of them can be closed if you don't want to see them. You'll find the usual suspects here, from the file list pane to the thumbnail display to a database info and metadata display.

The Viewer displays individual image or movie files. Double-clicking an image in the Browser takes you right into the Viewer. Pro really shines in Viewer mode, usually displaying JPEGs instantly as you click on the Next or Previous button.

Edit Mode, accessible from the Tool bar in either the Browser or the Viewer, provides a set of editing tools for any image that includes Exposure, Shadow/Highlight, Color, Red Eye Reduction, Photo Repair, Sharpness, Noise, Resize, Crop, Rotate, Effects, Watermark, Add Text and Lens Correction. Undo and Redo buttons are also available.

While the modal concept is clear enough, we did miss the somewhat clearer orientation a program like Lightroom presents where the modes are not small buttons on a tool bar but large tabs. While you can customize much of the interface (from populating the tool bar to assigning keystrokes), you can't change that.

USING PRO

Importing Images. Like other image organizers, Pro can detect when you attach a device like a camera or thumbdrive and automatically import the images. It maintains a collection of preferences for each device you mount and you can edit those to store images from one device in one place and another in another, use a particular naming scheme, etc.

We had trouble importing images from a USB thumbdrive, but it was reviewer trouble, not typical user trouble. Pro could see (and copy) images and pseudo images the Mac OS had put on the drive in addition to the legitimate images we had copied. Images, for example, that were in the Trash folder were tagged for import, duplicating a few filenames. We resolved the problem by deselecting everything and just selecting the legitimate images.

Adding a copyright. A typical task for anyone taking a lot of shots at once is to add a copyright notice to the metadata header of each image. It's a job that cries out for batch processing. So in the Browser, we selected all our images.

Here's where we were bitten by the interface again. With one image selected, you can view the images Properties (the Database, File, Exif, IPTC or Custom metadata) an even enter values in the editable fields (colored in blue). With multiple images tagged, you might think you are applying that data to all the images, but you're not.

To do that, you use a different interface. Click the Batch Tools interface icon on the tool bar and select the Batch Set Information command. There are tabs for Database, Exif, IPTC and Advanced Options (restricting entry to only blank fields, for example) and a Preview pane with shows the file names of affecting images and the new value being assigned to this particular field (only one at a time, that is). Exif fields only take one screen, but IPTC use a set of four tabs to navigate to all the fields. Pro makes it easy to insert metadata values in these fields (even Maker Notes) with a popup menu by each field.

You click the Perform button to actually write the information to each file's metadata and a progress bar indicates how long that's taking. And you have to click a Done button when the operation has finished to return to the Browser.

That in a nutshell is Pro. An awkward interface with great power hidden behind it.

Editing an Image. Most workflow tools suggest you might want to do heavy duty editing in another application, but Pro doesn't. If you want to work with layers, or do local tonal or color editing, Pro won't help other than to set your preferred image editing software as its default editor with full drag-and-drop support from Pro to that product. But Pro otherwise has a pretty full set of options extending from noise reduction and unsharp masking to lens correction and special effects. And including Image Repair to clone and heal image defects.

We tried two common edits. The first was an image of a dark bronze statue against a blue sky. We'd exposed for the shadows and lost much of the blue sky. Could Pro restore it?

We used the Shadow/Highlight button to adjust the highlights independently of the shadows and did indeed recover the blue sky. It was a little too saturated but the Color Boost slider let us tone it down a bit. An Exposure Warning button marked clipped tonal highlights in red and shadows in green so we could maximize our edit without losing data.

You can compare Before and After versions either by holding down the Preview button or clicking the Preview Bar button to show the realizable Preview Bar. The Apply button applies your edits to the image, but you still have to save the image since its pixel data has been altered.

Next we selected an image that had a few defects. The defects were simply physical artifacts on the facade of an old building. Rather than call a contractor, we thought we'd just remove them with the Photo Repair tool.

You have two options: Heal and Clone, both of which require you to right click a source area in the image before you can left click to edit the problem. Heal compares the lighting and color of both the source and destination areas, maintaining the texture as it removes the blemish. Clone simply duplicates the source pixels on the destination area.

In our case, we wanted to Heal the image. As we moved around the image, we right-clicked to set a new source area and left-clicked to edit, easily removing the blemishes from our image.

You can adjust the Nib Width (brush size) and Feathering (softness of the edge). When you are finished editing and return to the Browser, you are again prompted to save the image, rewriting the file.

One thing you can't do, however, is apply a healing edit to a set of images. Say, for example, you discover your dSLR sensor attracted a spec of dust to it and all 140 of your wedding photos have a goomer in the lower left quadrant. To heal that defect, you have to open, edit and save all 140 of those images.

A metadata image editor, on the other hand, records that change as a short instruction in the metadata of the image, not altering the original pixel data. You can then copy that instruction and paste it into the headers of the other 139 images in just a few minutes.

Raw Processing. Pro generates thumbnail previews for Raw images but it also provides Raw image processing much like Adobe Camera Raw. The large preview pane actually has two tabs, one for the unprocessed image and another for the preview image. The unprocessed image is, of course, processed or you couldn't see it.

Rather than create an .xmp sidecar file or write the edits to the images metadata header, Pro writes the edits to its database, reapplying them on the fly. You can always save versions of the original, however, as a JPEG or TIFF.

You can apply (and even share) Raw processing presets but we just dug in and made some Exposure, Color and Detail edits to a shot of a recent sunset.

We started on the second tab, actually, with the Color options. We set the White Balance from the 18,000 degrees Kelvin recorded As Shot to about 8,000 degrees and bumped up the Saturation a bit.

Then we went back to Exposure and clicked on the Curves tool to create an S curve with a bit more overall brightness. Eyedroppers are available for setting Black, White and Neutral, but in a sunset that's moot. There's also an Exposure Compensation slider which we used to lighten the image even more.

When we went to the Detail tab, we selected a 1:1 image view. That took a good 10 seconds or so to render. We used the Navigator button to zero in on a part of the image that showed some detail, although the Navigator thumbnail was nearly black since it seems to rely on the unprocessed data. Detail provides two commands: Sharpness and Noise Reduction. We made some changes and clicked Done, which presented us with a dialog box and progress window showing the changes were being applied.

While operations were slow on our vintage Vaio, it's worth pointing out that Pro is editing the Raw image in 16-bit not 8-bit channels. That puts it a leg up on strictly 8-bit editors like Paint Shop Pro.

Web Album. Creating an album of images you can upload to the Web on the free server space your ISP provides is another advanced task that workflow applications provide but image editors tend to skip. It's tremendously useful, however, for quickly sharing your images with family or clients without relying on a photo sharing site. But it's also a lot of work to do it well.

We selected a set of images for display and used the Create menu to Create an HTML Album in three steps. The dialog box is pretty complex, but in this case we didn't much mind. A Preview button was available at any step to help us see what effect our decisions would have and we could backtrack by pressing the Back button.

The first step is to select a style. Pro shows you nine options, primarily varying the layout and information display. They were a good set of nine, too, with important variations. The next step is Gallery Customization, which only allows you to include, exclude or modify the header and footer and to select an output folder. Finally, you set Thumbnail and Image settings. Here you can select which metadata to display as well as what restrictions to thumbnail size and format you want. But you can also edit the page color and fonts here.

The HTML pages and resized images were generated quickly enough and the result was just what we expected from the template. Clicking on a thumbnail shows the image on a page by itself, from which you can click through the images and run a slide show (although Explorer defeated our efforts there).

Database. One aspect of workflow managers that isn't always as transparent as it should be is database management. These programs create a database file to store important information about your images outside the images themselves. That makes it easier to manage a large collection, whether it's all on your hard disk or offline on CDs or external disks.

Pro does provide an interesting Database menu option that can catalog your image files on any medium, rebuild thumbnails and metadata, convert older ACDSee database formats to the newest format, import other database formats (like Album and Photo Disc), export, back up and restore the database, quarantine files that have generated errors, optimize and maintain the database.

The last two are particularly interesting. Optimize removes obsolete data and reduces extra space used by database fields before reindexing all the database tables. It can speed up performance and recommended periodically. The maintenance function actually summarizes your database, reporting a folder count and thumbnail count and showing how much space each take on your drive (with a pie chart no less). A directory tree indicates which folders contain thumbnails. You can remove all database information, thumbnail files and even optimize the database from this window. Very nice.

More. There's certainly a lot more to this application than we can cover here, even in an extended review. But we plan to use Pro as our Windows tool of choice for the next few months and will update this review with our experiences.

CONCLUSION

Your camera may have shipped with free image editing software. If not, there are several free options out there including Picasa and Irfanview. But there isn't a free Windows workflow tool. And as soon as you take a few hundred images, you're going to wish there were.

Fortunately for Windows users, ACDSee is an inexpensive workflow tool. And there's really not much ACDSee Pro can't do. If you shoot just JPEGs, it's a fabulous bargain at $40. If you shoot Raw, it's only a bit less compelling at $129.99, particularly since it does not offer metadata editing of image characteristics (although you can batch edit IPTC metadata like copyright). And that's really our biggest qualm about recommending the product.

But it provides a single environment to import, sort, catalog, edit, create HTML pages and contact sheets, archive and track your image collection. And while we may have qualms about the interface, the horsepower behind the application makes a very sweet sound.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Kodak Breaks Into All-in-One Inkjet Market

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/KAO/KAO.htm on the Web site.)

After three years of top secret development, Kodak has introduced three printers ranging from $149.99 to $299.99, and a revolutionary set of low-cost inks with three basic paper types available in both glossy and matte finishes. The first two printers in the system are expected to be available in March with the fax-capable model available in May.

But rather than sell the razor to make money off the blades, the company is taking a new approach inspired by the frequent-flyer model that rewards more active users. Kodak will consequently sell the printers at full price, relying on an exclusive distribution agreement with Best Buy (in addition to direct sales) to enforce the list price. But it will bundle the ink and paper in packages that deliver print prices as low as 10 cents a print.

THE INKS

Key to the system is Kodak's new pigment ink system. Kodak claims that using its inks, you can save up to 50 percent on everything you print. Spending $15 on its color ink yields at least 105 4x6 photos compared to 48 on other systems, the company claims. And spending $10 on its black ink yields 349 pages compared to 145. A 10-cent print can be realized with a Kodak Photo Value Pack, which includes a color cartridge and 180 sheets of Kodak Photo Paper.

Susan H. Tousi, Kodak research and development director for inkjet products, said Kodak drew on pigment grinding patents going back to its film emulsion technology to develop its miniscule 20 nanometer ink pigments with polymer binders. The exceptionally small size of the pigments, she said, accounts for a color gamut that exceeds dye-based inkjets. And, indeed, the test prints we saw included some very saturated images.

And because the inks are pigments instead of dyes, they have a longevity of 100 years, "with no qualification," she added. You don't have to keep them under glass or in the dark to get that 100 years, Tousi explained. They'll remain lightfast for 100 years exposed and unprotected. Kodak has engaged Torrey Pines Research (http://www.tpr.com) to test the lightfastness of the new system, preferring it over Wilhelm Research (http://www.wilhelm-research.com) for its testing of "atmospheric pollutants," she said.

The ink system is packaged in two cartridges: a large black cartridge used for text only and a large color cartridge. Kodak counts five inks in the color cartridge, but it's essentially a four-color system. The five inks include the standard Cyan, Magenta and Yellow inks, plus a Photo Black that is also used to enhance standard black text printing. The fifth "ink" in the color cartridge is actually a clear gloss optimizer overlaid on the white or uninked parts of the image to ensure an even gloss to the print.

THE PAPERS

Tousi also showed us the new three-tiered paper line introduced with the printers that makes printer setup automatic. The top two tiers feature a stiff photo print weight, while the least expensive tier is a thinner sheet. All three are coded on the back using gold diagonal lines whose line weight and distance between lines tell the printer what kind of paper it's printing on so you never have to think about it.

All of the papers have a porous surface instead of the swellable gel-coated sheets used by dye-based printers to encapsulate the dyes for longevity. Porous papers dry instantly, because they suck the pigment into the sheet, unlike swellable papers. By using pigment inks on the porous sheet, the prints last much longer than dye-based prints.

Coverage does vary on the different sheets. A tier-one print can be done in 28 seconds, but the higher quality tier-two and three prints require 37 seconds. And cost differs as well. A tier-one print can be done for 10 cents, but a 4x6 tier-two costs 15 cents, and tier-one 25 cents.

THE PRINTERS

With a permanent printhead using 2.7 and 5.6 picoliter droplets, all three printers in the new Kodak all-in-one line share the same print engine. Tousi confirmed that, as inkjets, you still have to use them regularly to avoid clogging those heads, but thanks to the lower ink costs, flushing them out doesn't hurt your wallet as much.

In addition to the print engine, all three models share the same scanner mechanism and the same built-in paper tray (with a 4x6 cartridge you push in to engage). They also all rely on Kodacolor technology to enhance images automatically.

All of the printers employ a very simple snap-in ink cartridge arrangement that makes it easy to install either cartridge by simply slipping it into the large bay and clicking it into place. It's just as easy to remove a cartridge by pinching the two finger holds together and lifting it out.

The $149.99 5100 offers just a dual-port USB connection available on the other two models, as well. You can cable a PictBridge-compatible camera to one of the ports or a Bluetooth wireless adapter to print from your Bluetooth camphone, digicam or Bluetooth laptop. We saw very quick text printing and high-quality photo printing via Bluetooth during our visit with Tousi.

The $199.99 5300, which we hope to have here for review next month, adds a card reader to the input options with a large 3.0-inch LCD to review images. Operation was very simple. Insert the card and review the images on the LCD. Press the Print button when you see an image you like, and a borderless print soon pops out of the printer. You can also press the Proofsheet button to print an index of all the images on the card. You then mark the thumbnails you want to print and the layout you want and scan that information back into the printer.

The top-of-the-line $299.99 5500 adds a document feeder and fax capability to the 5300, and includes a duplexer to print on both sides of a sheet. Kodak plans to make the duplexer available as an option on the other two models as well. The LCD is a little smaller than the 5300's at 2.4 inches, but still generous.

Tousi said the printer will configure itself for a generic photo paper if it detects a non-Kodak photo paper.

SCANNING

Two features worth noting on the scanners are their batch scanning and storage capability.

Tousi told us that you can load the scanner glass with several images and the built-in software will crop and save them individually, straightening them as necessary, after the batch scan.

That feature will tie in to a new version of EasyShare software to ship with the printers, which will be able to archive the scanned images and copy them automatically into an album on EasyShare Gallery, Kodak's online photo-sharing and photofinishing service.

But you can also plug a thumbdrive into the USB port and save the images to the drive, she said. Which is not a bad way to pass on a favorite shot or four from the family album to a visiting grandchild.

CONCLUSION

In our multifunction printer testing and reviews, we've found the low-end HP all-in-ones and high-end Canon all-in-ones best of breed. But these current best-of-breeds all suffer in comparison to the new Kodaks when it comes to ink usage. We were impressed with the quality of the prints we saw during our visit with Tousi and the performance of the 5300 printer itself. We look forward to comparing prints from the Kodak four-color system to identical images from six- and eight-ink dye-based systems.

Multifunction printers are the top sellers in both the United States and Europe. Small 4x6 printers using either dye-sub technology -- like the Canon's SELPHY printers and Kodak's EasyShare docks -- or dye-based inkjets like HP's line of compact printers are treasured task-specific alternatives. But the cost of keeping them supplied often means you print less, not more.

And that's precisely the problem Kodak has tried to address with its new system. According to its own studies, Kodak says over 70 percent of us limit our own printing because of the cost of supplies. And roughly 30 percent of us say we would print more if ink were less expensive.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Lexar's 4-GB SDHC Card and Reader

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the illustrated news story posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1171400668.html on the Web site.)

Lexar this week announced their Professional 4-GB SDHC card, rated at 133x. I received a review sample of the new card and ran it through its paces.

The new cards promise the potential of write speeds up to 20-MB per second, according to the company. Expected retail is $149 and the market is anyone owning an SLR compatible with SDHC who wants to shoot Raw instead of or along with, JPEG images. SDHC cards only work in cameras and readers built to support the new standard, so Lexar is including a small reader with the card. I tested both.

Slipping the gold and blue card into a nearby Nikon D80, I began my testing. First I wanted to see how it performed in the camera, where speed matters most. I set the camera to ISO 1,600 to speed things along in terms of shutter, but also to add the factor of noise, which usually makes the images harder to compress. I set it to continuous mode and set the quality to Raw plus JPEG Fine.

I was still limited to six frames before the buffer filled; no surprise there. But the buffer clearing time was about two seconds faster than the SanDisk Extreme III SD card we used for the original D80 test back in summer, 2006: 11.7 seconds compared to 13.8. Any improvement in buffer clearing time is good.

It took some time to fill the card, which ultimately held 544 files total, for 272 pairs of images (one Raw, one JPEG). Each Raw file was 10.3M and the accompanying JPEGs averaged 4.5-MB. If you remember that a Megabyte equals roughly a million bytes and that each byte is 8 bits: well, that's a lot of ones and zeros flying around very fast (1 megabyte = 8,388,608 bits, so those six shots total 744,908,390 bits. But I digress).

Next came copying the full card to a computer. Most people copy from the camera to the computer, so I used a USB 2.0 cable between the Nikon D80 and my iMac G5 1.9GHz. It took 6 minutes, 29 seconds to copy all 3.82-GB. That's 9.82-MB per second read time, a whole lot faster than the D80 tested last summer, which was 2.8-MB per second using the card mentioned above.

Since most people interested in speed should be using a card reader, I tested the included reader and got a read speed of 14.44-MB per second. Much better.

Because Lexar specified a 20-MB per second write potential, I decided to see how it would handle the same files coming into it from the computer. I took the card out of the reader and slipped it back into the Nikon D80 to format it, then loaded it back into the reader. I began to copy the entire 3.82-GB folder with 544 files into this little sliver of a card. 5 minutes, 48 seconds. 10.97-MB per second. Not the maximum write speed of 20-MB, but that's heavily hardware dependent and you seldom reach the potential speeds stated. I haven't seen it happen.

Though this story was supposed to go up this morning, there was a bit of concern that I wasn't reaching the maximum speeds with this card. I've never heard of a card or peripheral actually bumping up against the maximum test spec, but the Lexar release says that the new card should have the "minimum sustained write speed capability of 20-MB per second," so I wanted to do some more testing to be sure.

I tested it in about five other computers and came up with widely varying numbers. Mostly, the numbers corresponded with the individual machine's bus and processor speed. The maximum write speed was 16.7-MB per second on a 2.41GHz Athlon 64, whose bus speed I could not determine. Oddly, the read speed on this machine was lower, at 14.6-MB per second. This attribute flip-flopped depending on the machine. Most of the machines I tested averaged around 10-MB per second write and 10-14-MB per second read time.

After talking with Lexar's John Omvik, it became more clear. The cards are tested and classified at the factory on a special machine to determine each card's minimum (and probably maximum) sustained speed, using a special machine by Testmetrix. Only cards that demonstrate that "minimum sustained write speed capability of 20-MB per second" get branded Professional 133x SDHC. Because the Testmetrix machine is testing the card's capabilities, it's specially designed to write directly to the card, unencumbered by an operating system, controller or a slow system bus. Though no camera exists today that can write to that spec, we now know the card can handle any future machine that does.

So clearly Lexar's new Pro card is indeed fast and the included reader isn't bad either. Its $149 price tag is a nice surprise to go with that much capacity.

More SLR users are shooting Raw for the greater control it affords and cards like this give users more confidence to shoot in Raw plus JPEG. Okay, I'd still fill the thing up in an afternoon of shooting and need maybe four for an event shot in Raw; but the card count would be higher without high capacity cards like this. There's no question that read speeds are important too, because I remember copying images with USB 1.1 before I got a Firewire card reader. My 20 minutes watching the progress bar on a 1-GB CF card went down to 2 minutes with Firewire. Now SD is gaining that kind of speed, which should please Nikon and Pentax dSLR owners.

The new cards are expected to ship next month.

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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:

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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 Fujifilm FinePix S6000fd at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea428f/0

Visit the Canon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f773

Dan asks for help choosing a camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea4a86/0

Lori asks about Canon lenses at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea49a6/0

Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8

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Just for Fun: The Missing Oscar for Retail Prints

Right after we wrote about printer sharing, we got an email from a subscriber who never prints at home. "The camera store prints are so much better and cheaper. And they will reprint any 'proof' I don't like the color of too."

There are certainly a lot of camera stores out there, so we decided to award this year's Missing Oscar to one of them for doing just what our correspondent claimed. Printing better and cheaper and reprinting with no questions asked.

For the first time in the history of the Missing Oscar, the Members of the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences (you guys) submitted a unanimous choice. With no further delay, let's open the envelope....

LuAnn Hunt's nomination for Kodak's EasyShare Gallery (http://www.kodakgallery.com) explained, "I have been using their Web site since 2003 and I now have over 400 albums on their server -- without a lost picture, ever! I can't say enough nice things about them, but let me give you a few...." Her list of nice things was so eloquent, we thought we'd just quote it verbatim as the award citation:

  1. QUALITY prints!!!

  2. PROMPT customer service!!!

  3. NEW PRODUCTS -- LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the photo album books and the accordion fold card!!!

  4. FREE SOFTWARE available to upload pictures from their sight

  5. EASY editing tools

  6. RETURNS -- NO PROBLEM, THEY WILL FIX/CORRECT ANYTHING WITHOUT QUESTION

  7. I recommend Kodak as one of the best Digital Photo Web sites to my digital camera classes (I teach at a local community college part-time)

  8. GREAT PRICES!!!

  9. SALES & DISCOUNTS FOR GOOD CUSTOMERS!

LuAnn is in the communications and marketing business, if you can't tell, so we left her capitalization just the way she sent it. Or maybe that shouting is an artifact from her part-time teaching. Either way, we think the emphasis comes across like the sparkle on a golden statuette.

EasyShare Gallery began life as Ofoto, a very early sponsor of this newsletter. They were among the very first to get online photofinishing right. And since the acquisition by Kodak, they haven't lost anything. So we're pleased to award the 2007 Missing Oscar to Kodak EasyShare Gallery. Bravo!

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Dave's Deals

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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: Scrubbers Unite

I also like the new scrubber in CS3 for adjusting black and white tonal levels. You can scrub any point on the black and white image to change it's associated tonal values live (without curves, levels or color channels).

-- Jeff Adams

(And there's no clue that you have to click the eyedropper to do it. We mentioned that in the HTML version, but had to cut it from the newsletter. -- Editor)

RE: Comparing Sensors

Hope you can answer a simple question whose answer has eluded me on some of the forums I belong to: What would a 8.5 to 10-megapixel point-and-shoot sensor's output equal compared to a 6-Mp dSLR? Would the point-and-shoot's output be equal in quality to the 6-MP dSLR?

-- Doug Wilson

(The dSLR sensor is significantly larger than the digicam sensor. See Shawn's article "The Digicam or dSLR Decision" (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SLRvsDIGICAM/SLRA.HTM) for the whole scoop but I'd take the dSLR 6-Mp output over the digicam every time. They're that different. -- Editor)

RE: Dark Copies

I have a Nikon D80. Recently I shot some JPEGs, had them printed and they turned out great. I told the lab where I had them printed I wanted them burned to a CD. When I put them on my computer they are so dark you can barely see the image. After taking them back to the lab, they have no answer for me. Can you help me with this problem?

-- Belle Spall

(Copying files should never change their content. What a mess we'd all be in if it did! The prints you liked were, no doubt, optimized by the lab. It's conceivable that the originals are, in fact, underexposed and the lab simply adjusted the tonal values to get good prints. You can check that in an image editor by examining the histogram (using Levels, say). -- Editor)

RE: Diopter Adjustment

In the Lensbaby 2.0 article that you reference at the beginning of your 3G review, you note that you want to make sure your viewfinder diopter is adjusted correctly and you mention this is best done with another lens on the body. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you adjust the diopter by focusing on the viewfinder grid? (I was taught to do this with no lens on the body, so you can only focus on the grid and not on something through the lens -- I skip this part with my dSLR to minimize mirror and CCD exposure to dust).

-- David Mayer

(Ah, good question. The viewfinder is where the action is, correct. Focusing to the viewfinder is perfectly sensible. But in this era of autofocus lenses, you can focus on the viewfinder targets and then half-press the shutter button to confirm focus with a lens. But check your camera manual for its recommended procedure. -- Editor)

RE: Repair Information

I have a Panasonic Lumix camera that needs repair. Where can I send it or take it?

-- Dawn Lantero

(Recently we've gotten several queries about repair shops. Your manual should give you a customer support phone number for repair, but you can also dig through the manufacturer's site (http://www.panasonic.com/support/ in this case). There's some troubleshooting tips and warranty information there, too. These days only the manufacturer can handle a repair. -- Editor)

RE: Big Print Resolution

I have been thinking of upgrading to a larger printer -- like the Canon Pro9000 or the HP version but can I make good prints larger than 8x10?

When I load a digital image from my Canon 20D into Photoshop and set the image size at approx 8x10 I find the resolution is close to 300 dpi but not quite. If I up the size to 11x14 the resolution falls way down and it has always been said that 300 dpi are needed for really good prints.

My Canon 20D has an 8-Mp sensor. Am I missing something here? I can go to a specialty place that uses large Epson printers and come out with a great print even at 16x20. What am I not understanding here?

-- T. Bennett Finley

(Oh, you don't need 300 dpi. We like to target about 180 for an inkjet, actually. You can test this theory yourself with whatever printer you have now. Just try printing something at 180 ppi and the same thing at 300 ppi and see if you can detect a difference. One other consideration worth mentioning is viewing distance. No one scours a 13x19 print with a loupe except the guy who printed it <g>. -- Editor)

By golly, you are right, Mike. I tried as soon as I received your reply (the most prompt I have ever received -- you must have been sitting at the computer) and yes, without a loupe I cannot tell any difference between the 300 ppi and the 180 ppi. Made on my HP 7960 printer which up until now, the best printer I have ever owned.

-- T. Bennett Finley

RE: Scanner Connection

I'm still using my Nikon LS-1000 slide scanner with a SCSI-1 connection on a slow Windows 98 machine and transferring the scanned images via flash drive to my Windows XP computer to work on them.

I'd just like to be able to connect the LS-1000 to the faster computer and have the information for updating the drivers but cannot find the right connector. My son suggested a series of adapters but I am told this would probably slow things down to the point of becoming almost useless. Is this true?

-- Lynn Maniscalco

(If you plug a SCSI-USB 1.0 adapter into a USB port, you'll be limited to that port's 1.50-MBps speed, rather than SCSI's 4 to 320-MBps (http://mozillaquest.com/Hardware/Belkin/Belkin-SCSI-USB_story01.html). A better option is a PCI SCSI card -- if your PC has PCI slots. Or a PCMCIA SCSI card if you have a PCMCIA slot. Then you just need a SCSI-1 to SCSI-2 adapter (which won't slow things down). -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Nikon (http://support.nikontech.com) has posted an update to Capture NX, its image editing application featuring U Point technology, with support for its D40 and D80 dSLRs and a host of improvements including Vista compatibility. Many of the changes were first previewed at Macworld Expo in January.


David Linker (http://homepage.mac.com/dtlinker/ScanAgain) has released his free Scan Again 1.0 [M], an interface to the Scanner Access Now Easy utilities (http://www.sane-project.org) that provide "standardized access to any raster image scanner hardware (flatbed scanner, hand-held scanner, video- and still-cameras, frame-grabbers, etc.)."


Rocky Nook (http://www.rockynook.com) has published Sascha Steinhoff's $44.95 Scanning Negatives and Slides: Digitizing Your Photographic Archives with versions of SilverFast, VueScan, NikonScan included on a DVD. Save 31 percent via our discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952016/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Peachpit (http://www.peachpit.com) will publish Martin Evening's Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers in mid-March. Save 34 percent via our discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0321385438/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com), which now supports Vista, has released Phanfare Screensaver [MW] to automatically pull images from a Phanfare account and display them edge-to-edge on any computer. CEO Andrew Erlichson suggests, "Install the screensaver at the grandparents' house and you don't even need to tell them when there is new stuff on your Phanfare site; they just get it automatically on their desktop."


PhotoWorks (http://www.photoworks.com) has released its free PhotoStreamer2 for Mac to connect to the company's online photo services to upload, view, caption, rotate and place orders for photo books, cards, calendars and other more.


Phase One Capture One Pro (http://www.phaseone.com/iview) and iView MediaPro (http://www.iview-multimedia.com/phaseone) are now available together for $549, $149 less than if purchased separately. Purchasers will be eligible for free upgrades to Capture One Pro version 4 and Microsoft Expression Media when those applications are available.


HP (http://www.hp.com) claims its redesigned print cartridge packaging for North America will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 37 million pounds in 2007, the equivalent of taking 3,600 cars off the road for one year.


The Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (http://www.lacda.com) has announced an open call for a juried competition of digital art and photography with a deadline of Feb. 18. Entrants may submit three JPEGs of original work. Forty winners will be selected and exhibited March 8-31.

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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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