The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 9, Number 7 30 March 2007

Copyright 2007, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 198th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We evaluate some Creative Suite 3 options before reporting on Apple TV's ability to showcase your images on an HDTV. Then we look at a book dedicated to Nikon's wireless flash system. Enjoy!


TOPICS

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Feature: Creative Suite 3 for Photographers

Nothing is quite so revealing about the nature of Creative Suite 3 as its icons. Like elements from the Periodic Table of the Elements, they are simply two letters of text with different colored backgrounds. Gone are the more elaborate and elegant illustrations.

One reason for that is that there are simply more applications in CS3 than there were in CS2. In fact, there are more suites -- six in all -- listed here with full and basic upgrade pricing:

But for photographers, the compelling suite is no more than basic Photoshop (including Bridge for $649/199) with Lightroom ($299/199). Photoshop Extended addresses primarily 3D, scientific and video production needs, bringing Photoshop's 2D painting tools to those tasks. Photographers get, instead, Lightroom, a whole application. Not part of a suite, but at $398 together, less expensive than a suite, too.

SUITE BUNDLES

The Master edition includes InDesign, Photoshop Extended, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver, Contribute, Fireworks, After Effects, Premiere, Soundbooth, Encore, Acrobat, Bridge, Version Cue, Stock Photos, Device Central, Acrobat Connect.

The Design Premium edition includes InDesign, Photoshop Extended, Illustrator, Acrobat, Flash and Dreamweaver. The Design Standard edition includes InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat. Both editions also include Bridge, Acrobat Connect, Stock Photos, Version Cue and Device Central.

The Web Premium edition includes Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop Extended, Fireworks, Illustrator, Acrobat and Contribute. The Web Standard edition includes Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks and Contribute. Both editions also include Bridge, Acrobat Connect, Stock Photos, Version Cue and Device Central.

The Production Premium edition includes After Effects, Premiere, Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, Soundbooth, Encore, OnLocation, Ultra. Also included is Bridge, Acrobat Connect, Stock Photos, Device Central and Dynamic Link.

Individual applications can still be purchased, often bundled with other essential applications. In the case of Photoshop, Bridge is also bundled.

OUR EXPERIENCE

We attended a three-day Reviewer's Workshop at Adobe's San Jose facilities in January where we used CS3 to do a number of projects on an Intel-based Macintosh. Subsequently, the company provided beta copies of most of the applications in the suite, which we've been running for several weeks.

In fact, since the public beta of Photoshop CS3 was released, we've adopted it for our image editing needs, abandoning the CS2 version. It was not only stable enough to meet our demands (including running our favorite plug-ins), but the interface was significantly more polished and the launch time greatly reduced.

We've done much the same with InDesign CS3, preferring its interface to the CS2 version.

Beyond those two main applications, we've only experimented, primarily at the Workshop. We were impressed, however, to see O'Reilly titles incorporated as reference documents in Dreamweaver, a system-wide Javascript approach to automation and scripting, the integration of Macromedia tools and concepts (although Illustrator lags a bit behind here), the power of Adobe's Spry framework for Ajax and a good bit more.

But here, we'll cover some of the compelling new technologies in Photoshop and Bridge. For more information on Lightroom, see our debut coverage (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/LR1/LR1.HTM) and hold your breath for our full review.

USER INTERFACE

Photoshop CS3's flexible workspace, which you can configure on the fly, now features panels instead of palettes, which can be iconized to save space, one of the benefits of the merger with Macromedia. You can reduce all the panels to just icons and even hide the icons, revealing them when you mouse over that edge of the screen, something borrowed from Lightroom.

CAMERA RAW

The wealth of adjustments previously available only for Raw images has been extended to JPEG and TIFF images as well, although you don't have quite the same latitude with them.

Sliders are color coded so you know what direction, say, cools the temperature. An Exposure slider lets you virtually reshoot your image and a Recovery slider (from Lightroom) attempts to recover highlight detail. The Vibrance slider (from the RawShooter acquisition) adds saturation.

SMART FILTERS

Like Adjustment Layers, Smart Filters let you experiment with various effects without actually altering the pixel data. Convert the image to a Smart Object and whatever filters you apply appear as a sublayer. You can rearrange the filter sublayers, delete them, edit their parameters and turn them on or off.

QUICK SELECT

The new Quick Select tool does what the Magic (or, as some people call it, Tragic) Wand promised. Drag over an area and watch the tool snap out to the boundary of the area. Use the Shift or Option key to add or delete sections, just as with any other selection tool.

You can then fine-tune the selection using the Refine Edge tool, which offers a number of controls including Radius, Contrast, Smooth, Feather and Contract/Expand.

B&W CONVERSION

Using the new Adjustment Layer option of Black & White conversion, you have exceptional control over conversions from RGB images to black and white. Presets for various filter effects (like High Contrast Red Filter, Infrared, Neutral Density, Yellow Filter) adjust a set of color sliders.

Adobe told us it considered adding presets for common black and white emulsions (like Tri-X) but decided against it to avoid any legal gymnastics. However, it expects equivalent presets to appear from other sources since they're so easy to create and share.

With the Eyedropper tool selected and the Conversion dialog open, you can click on any area of your image and drag left or right to darken or lighten that area. You don't need to guess which color slider to use.

Finally, you can easily add a tint to the black and white conversion just by clicking the Tint checkbox and adjusting its Hue and Saturation sliders.

COMPOSITING

Compositing multiple images has improved in two ways.

Similar scenes opened on separate layers can be Auto Aligned to then remove transient objects like tourists passing by from, say, a shot of a monument or to erase a detail from one layer in favor of one hidden beneath it.

But you can also Auto Align adjacent images, taking advantage of the tool's ability to move, rotate and warp layers to align them seamlessly.

HDR

The Merge to HDR (High Density Range) function has been improved, using that new alignment technology to combine several identical compositions with various exposures into an image that retains both shadow and highlight detail from the set of images. It also uses a smarter internal algorithm (Adobe told us they hired the guy who wrote the book on that).

PRINTING

The print dialog has been redesigned to include everything in one pane, with a larger preview window. Much of this comes from HP's plug-in for CS2, but it now works with Epson and Canon printers, too.

VANISHING POINT

Vanishing Point has been enhanced to allow the wrap-around grid to be set at any angle now, not just 45 degrees.

LIGHTROOM INTEGRATION

Edits made to an image in Lightroom, which are stored in the Lightroom database, are visible to both Bridge and Photoshop. Likewise Photoshop edits are also written to the Lightroom database.

BRIDGE

Performance has been significantly improved in this version, which adds a Filter panel for easier searching (just JPEG images, for example), stacking thumbnails together, a loupe tool to inspect detail, side-by-side comparisons, offline image browsing and more.

You can also customize Bridge's appearance. And you have a number of ways to change its behavior when importing images, including automatic conversion to DNG, saving copies, renaming, creating subfolders, adding metadata. There's also a slide show mode with new transition options and zooming to 800 percent.

IS EXTENDED FOR YOU?

The Extended version of Photoshop CS3 primarily brings Photoshop's 2D painting tools to 3D, scientific and video tasks.

Extended can import a number of popular 3D formats, edit texture and wrap Photoshop 2D art on the 3D models, even changing lighting, rotation and model display (wire frame, solid, cut away, etc.). Using the Enhanced Vanishing Point, designers can measure in perspective and also export from Enhanced Vanishing Point to a 3-D model.

Extended now includes video format and layer support to edit video files frame by frame. The edited video can then be exported to a variety of formats including Flash.

Enhancements for the scientific community include a Measurement Log palette to calculate a range of values within an image, a Scale Marker to easily add a scale graphic to any image and a new Count tool to tick off features in an image simply by clicking on them (each click increments and displays the current count). Extended can also read and manipulate Dicom medical images.

While those features will find adoring fans among architects mapping out square footage, white coated lab assistants counting cells and video editors looking for that wow effect, they don't address the needs of photographers. That's what Lightroom was all about.

THE PHOTOSHOP-LIGHTROOM SUITE

But if you're confused about how to use Bridge, Lightroom and Photoshop, you're not alone.

According to Adobe, Bridge is really the cockpit for navigating a project through the Creative Suite. It may need some stock photos, a little contribution from Illustrator, some Photoshopping, a nice presentation in InDesign and some repurposing in Dreamweaver. And all of that can be tracked in Bridge through Version Cue. Bridge has a great deal of flexibility for importing images, but so does Lightroom.

Lightroom is, as the command post for your image collection, something of an alternative to Bridge. It does for photos what Bridge does for all sorts of files. If your only CS3 application is Photoshop, you may prefer Lightroom over Bridge even for just importing your images.

Lightroom, however, goes way beyond Bridge. It builds a database of your images when you import them. And that database stores even the edits you make to the images, leaving the originals untouched. These edit recipes can, consequently, be applied to a number of images very quickly, without rewriting every pixel in every image.

Lightroom can also handle many typical image editing tasks. We used Lightroom for our PMA coverage, adjusting exposure and white balance on a selection of images at once, cropping and straightening a few in the Develop module and then creating Flash slide shows and HTML galleries of the image sets that would have been too many images to include in our text reports.

But we had a few images we wanted to enhance in Photoshop for those text reports. And they profited from the custom color correction or image sharpening plug-ins we use.

CONCLUSION

With all the hoopla over the new Creative Suite bundles and two versions of Photoshop, it's easy to miss the more elemental solution of Lightroom and Photoshop CS3. But we find that combination to be a powerful photo suite in its own right, with just the right chemistry to handle any photo task we've thrown at it.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Apple TV -- An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Late Thursday on March 22, Apple stores began selling Apple TV, Apple's latest innovation. We tied our shoes, erased our memory card and stuffed our pipe with pipe dreams to set out in search of the mythological creature.

It was just as easy to find as we had heard. The store window was decorated with a silhouette of an appreciative audience watching an ad for the new box. "If it's on iTunes, it's on TV," the text above them read.

But finding the box inside the store took connections. We asked an idle fellow in a black mock turtleneck where the HD it was. "Oh, right here," he said, pointing behind the counter to the sales credenza with a small group of highly prized small packages. It was right to the left of the iPods.

We took a few pictures to prove we aren't making this up before a security guard informed us that photos were somehow frowned upon. Odd, we thought, considering this particular box attracted us simply because it promises to display our images on an HDTV. Still, we apologized gracefully and went on our way.

Not before, however, we had managed to acquire one of the boxes by quite unusual means (for a reviewer). But considering Apple's liberal return policy (minus a 10 percent restocking fee if we don't have a clue how to break the thing), how could we lose?

BACK AT THE RANCH

We had done a little research before setting off. All we really needed was the box and an HDMI cable. Our HDTV has two HDMI ports, one of which was unoccupied. Radio Shack recently advertised a six-foot HDMI cable for under $50, a miracle where these things easily go for $99 (unless you buy online from some place like monoprice.com).

But we were delighted to see the Apple store had XtremeMac HDMI cables for $20. Apple has this way of removing impediments to closing the sale, we've noticed. You know going in that you can't get this cheaper anywhere and that it's available. If you need a cable, here's one at a good price. You can, we hasten to point out, also connect to a TV using component cables.

So when we got back to the ranch (or bunker, as we more accurately call it), we had everything we needed.

HARDWARE INSTALLATION

The box is really a slipcase. You know, like the Library of America ships its classics of American lit in. Slide out the black enclosure with "Designed by Apple in California" foil stamped on the cover, untap the closed end and you have the box on one side above its power cable and software and the remote on the other. Two pieces. Simple.

Well, not entirely simple. Extracting the remote seemed tricky until we noticed the small flap designed to help us. Pull on the flap and the remote pops out.

The box itself is surprisingly slim, about as high as an external hard drive case (an inch, say). The front panel has a small power status light next to a larger IR receiver and the back panel has all the connections: power, USB, Ethernet, HDMI, composite video, analog audio and optical audio. WiFi is built in.

Inside is a 40-GB hard drive with about 33-GB free (a good chunk used by the stripped down OS X operating system) and a motherboard.

The black 5x5-inch User Guide is where we started.

You can connect the box to an HDTV with an HDMI port (for both video and audio), component video with separate audio (that's five connectors) or a DVI port using an HDMI-to-DVI cable for video plus a separate audio cable. You can also connect the box to a home theater receiver instead of an HDTV.

Our setup was just to plug into the free HDMI port on our HDTV. That's a very simple connection (if, uh, you can reach). Both audio and video come through the HDMI cable. HDMI cable connectors are generally a joke, flimsy and limp handed, shall we say, but the convenience is undeniable. The connection the XtremeMac HDMI made, however, was surprisingly secure.

The next step is to connect to your network. There are two approaches here. If you have a lot of data to sync, the smart thing to do is connect via the Ethernet port. That's faster than WiFi. In our case, concerned most of all with photos, either would work fine. If you're making a WiFi connection to your network, you don't really have anything to do. Apple warns about blocking the top of the box, which can cause interference with the wireless signal.

Then you connect the power cable to the back of the box (shove hard and wiggle) and to a power outlet (both prongs are normal size). Make sure the box is securely seated before you do that, though, because you're turning it on. It has a very nice soft, clinging bottom that won't slide around.

It's finally time to turn on the TV and select the box as the input.

You go through an initial setup routine that prompts for language, a network, network configuration and connecting to iTunes. As with any TV box, you just follow the instructions with the remote in one hand and your fingers crossed on the other.

SOFTWARE INSTALLATION

The minute you plug in the box, of course, the hard disk spins up (quite silently) and the status light flashes yellow. It turns solid green when the box is booted.

By then, we had turned on the HDTV and selected the input for our second HDMI port.

At this point, you're really configuring the software to display content.

Using the remote, you answer the prompts on the screen, scrolling with the arrow keys to the right option and pressing the center button to select.

It's actually pretty quick and painless (and even fun). First, you pick a language. Then a display resolution. Then you select a wireless network (imagine our surprise to find the nuns up the street have a network). Next, you select the security protocol for that network and a surprisingly efficient screen keyboard appears to enter your password. Kudos to the guys who designed that screen. We hate those things in general, but our password and the arrow keys made it a breeze.

When the box finds the network, you're treated to a little video eye candy that's a thrill to watch (considering the nuns up the street are our neighbors). Then the box tells you to launch iTunes and enter a secret pass code. We took a picture.

TUNING

Syncing your box with iTunes (v7.1.1) is how you put content on it. We went back down to the bunker to launch iTunes.

In the left hand panel where your playlists are, you'll find a Devices list. Your Apple TV should show up there. Click on it and you'll be prompted for the pass code. Once you type it in, you can name your box and register it. Then you can start syncing your content.

The easy way to do this, it seems to us, is to select the Apple TV in the Devices menu and pick the content tab you want to sync. These include Movies, TV Shows, Music, Podcasts and Photos. In that order, too. So photos -- what we were interested in -- can get ignored.

Our music is on CDs so we can copy it freely. Our movies are on DVDs so we can play them on any device. But our pictures are trapped in our computers.

You do not, hurray, have to import your images into iPhoto for iTunes to synch them to your box. You can simply enable the "Sync photos from" option and use the pull-down menu to select a folder on your drive. You can then sync all of them or selected folders or images. You can also drag the folders around to change the order.

So we were able to sync from our current stash of images. That was about 840 images.

You can also stream content, which is tempting, although the content isn't recorded. Sort of Internet radio for TV. And we do plan to sync some Fotomagico slide shows with sound (those would be QuickTime movies), too.

Synching wirelessly does take some time. We might have disconnected the box at this point and plugged it into an Ethernet connection on our network to speed things up. But this is really how we'll use it, we told ourselves and by then it was happy hour anyway.

And time to reflect on 1) the easy purchase with no deal breakers, 2) the elegant packaging, 3) the simple hardware installation and 4) the nearly fun configuration routine. All of which went flawlessly over a Wireless-G network with an Asante router, a Linksys router and an Airport Express router.

In fact, the box strikes us as the video equivalent of that Airport Express router. We really weren't sure what we could do with it when we first got it, but were intrigued by the possibility of streaming Internet radio throughout the house. It did that fine but it also gave us better coverage outside the walls of the bunker. We could look out over the ocean and pretend to work. It was just gravy that we could take the thing to hotel rooms to work wirelessly from the wired Ethernet connections provided.

So we're starting with a humble but seriously neglected desire to see our images in high definition on the big screen, which may just be the best digital frame in your house.

THE SYNC

It took a while to move over 800 images varying in size from 3-Mp to 11-Mp through our Wireless-G network. iTunes was on a box that has a wired connection to our router, so the only segment of the trip that was wireless was from the router to Apple TV. The slightly over 1-GB sync took about an hour. If it had involved just a day's event, we suspect it would have been reasonably prompt.

To test that theory, we set up a folder with 92 images copied from our collection, including Canon, Fujifilm and Nikon Raw images, totaling 402-MB. That's about what we'd shoot on the average outing. It took approximately three minutes to sync all that, well within range of everybody coming home, hanging up their coats, visiting the facilities and getting something to drink before sitting down to see the pictures.

We couldn't look at the box's disk to see what was on there, but iTunes does display a graph showing capacity with color keys for the various types of media. We did notice that our movie files were not included but our Raw format files were.

We weren't very selective about what we copied. Just all our recent images. Which was silly. You can't really pick and choose what to import from iTunes or what to display from the box's interface. We tried to sync from a folder of aliases, but that didn't fly. Next we'll try to sync from a folder set up with copied files we want to see on the big screen. A playlist for photos would have been nice, though.

Deleting content from the box is just a matter of deselecting it in iTunes and resyncing.

HOT BOX

As an appliance intended to be left on, the box runs hot. Our Panasonic HDD/DVD/VCR with a 40-GB hard drive does not. It goes to sleep and is cool to the touch. But Apple TV is quite warm on top (not to remind you avoid blocking the WiFi signal but because it functions as a heat sink), about as warm as our heater vent when the heater is on. It won't burn you, but it's not comfortable.

For its part, Apple recommends using the box in a place where temperatures are always between 32 and 104 degrees F.

There's a lot of whining about the size of the hard disk in this box. We've never been one to think of these things -- whether it's an iPod or the HDD in our TV recorder -- as a permanent or complete storage device.

Do you need your entire music collection on your iPod? No, just create a playlist and sync for that session or day or week.

Same with your video and photo collections. And particularly TV shows. Sync them when you want to see them and forget about it after. Or just stream them.

So 40-GB seems about right to us for that usage pattern. Our images were nowhere near choking the thing. But ask us in about six months, after a couple of updates, if we still feel that way.

One more note about the $20 cable from XtremeMac. Included in the box is a coupon for a free download of one digital audiobook from Audible. There's a small but varied selection of books on disc to selected from. But that was a nice touch.

THE INTERFACE

And, once again, we have to rave about the remote and the user interface. How many times have we had to scour a megabutton remote to find the right key and then been confused by a couple of options, picked the wrong one and gone down a road we didn't want to travel? Lots.

But the interface for this box is almost clairvoyant. Hold down the Up or Down key on a list, for example and it flies faster over the entries, stopping the moment you release the key. In fact, we didn't even have to look at the remote. The ring of arrows, the center key and a Menu button below were easily distinguishable by their location.

And everything you might want to look for can be found, too. How do you update the box? It was just a click away from the main list. Our box reported it was up to date.

It's simply the best interface and remote for any television product we've ever seen (TiVo is second and nothing is in third place).

BACK TO THE SHOW

You can't select which images to show, but you can change a number of slide show settings.

Slide Show Settings. Another simple list.

Those options include: Timer Per Slide, Music, Repeat (On/Off), Shuffle Photos (On/Off), Shuffle Music (On/Off), Ken Burns Effect (On/Off) and Transitions (which offers a selection).

Ken Burns Effect is on by default and makes a very pleasant experience, zooming and panning (but not rotating) your images. But it's not particularly intelligent, of course, so it can inadvertently crop out important parts of your images. Cropping is how it works (or there's nowhere to pan), so if it's important to see the whole image, just turn it off.

BTW, once you have images on the box, it uses them as a screen saver and even as a theme for the Photos option. That's a nice touch.

OK, so now that our images are on the box and our options have been explored, we're ready to see our images on the big screen.

QUALITY

Wow. Just gorgeous. Really sweet. OMG.

Our Panasonic recorder has an SD slot where we entice visitors to insert their digicam cards. We copy their images to the Panasonic HD and play them on the big screen -- which is always a hit. So we know what a high res display of a still photo looks like on this screen.

And Apple TV doesn't improve on that, of course. It just extends that from what we can get from the SD card reader to what we have on our computer. Which was what attracted us to this box when we saw it at Macworld Expo in January.

The slide show, enhanced with the special effects, is superior to what the Panasonic does. And the remote again seemed to read our mind. Pressing the Pause button did indeed hold the image if someone had to leave the room for a minute. Pressing the Right button didn't skip ahead, but that's probably a because the Ken Burns effect was on.

We have a bright 8-inch digital photo frame here for review and that's a big hit among our visitors. They like being able to see some photos (theirs or ours) without having to utter any special incantations over a keyboard. But it's a small screen and it displays only a subset of a photo's colors. It does a nice job, but we wonder what's the point of having a blank framed screen staring at us. You can, but we don't, leave it on all the time.

How you use a digital frame is a conundrum, consequently. But how you use a TV isn't. And a large screen HDTV just seems to make the most of your digicam's images, the way a 13x19-inch print flatters those images you flip through when they're just 4x6 prints. An HDTV may be the best digital frame you ever own.

CONTENT

We tried to sync a video podcast of Meet the Press to the box and it did copy it over but wouldn't play. The box is particular about what formats it will play and apparently this one didn't qualify (although the next week's podcast did). So it isn't quite true, as it says on the Apple Store window, that if it's on iTunes, it's on TV.

Digicam movies didn't make it either, as we noted above. No doubt there's a few ways to convert them to the right format. Leading candidates are QuickTime Pro's Export to Apple TV and VisualHub (can Roxio be far behind?). Just one more task for our virtual intern here.

Movie trailers were available but we found it a bit frustrating to watch them. The first few minutes would download in the blink of an eye, but our connection (the fastest DSL you can buy) apparently couldn't keep up with the box. Right in the middle of the trailer, it would freeze and the download would try to catch up -- but never did. We just got into the habit of watching half a trailer and then hitting the Menu button to revisit the list.

The next night, however, performance improved dramatically. We were able to watch quite a few trailers all the way through with no interruption. Just as we were about to cheer, though, the interruptions came back. It seems as if the trailer server just gets overloaded, but we didn't do any formal testing to nail down the culprit.

We built a short slide show in Fotomagico Pro 2.0, exporting it as a 720p movie. That wouldn't sync. So we exported it for iPod and that did sync, although it wasn't the resolution we wanted. Fotomagico has a lot of presets, but it also lets you customize how it exports a movie. So we tried a DVD export at 720 with H.264 compression. That wasn't quite it either, but VisualHub knew what to do with it. It took over half an hour to create a 44.4-MB file but it looked good on HDTV.

iTunes will report what problems your content has. The Device menu listing for your box will have a caution icon to the right of it. Clicking on the icon will display a list of the problems.

Which is very nicely displayed using Quarz graphics, apparently. Posters are shown alongside the list and then zoom down to postage stamps above the text description of the movie.

There's a music library on another Mac in the house that feeds an iPod and we'll try to sync to that for sound. But our machines are rather pressed for free space with lots of large images, so content like movies and audio are better left on portable media like discs.

STAY TUNED

Sometimes you don't need a home run to win the game. A walk can force in the winning run. That's pretty much how we feel about Apple TV after one day with it.

Apple has leveraged its investment in OS X (both the graphics engine and image format parsing), its investment in iTunes (both the software and the store) and its investment in wireless networking to load the bases. While the rest of the industry tries to find a way to wedge image display into the home theater with one or another incomprehensible scheme, Apple has avoided swinging for the fences and brought home the winning run. We can see our images on our HDTV now -- and, yes, we're up on our feet cheering.

We still have a few experiments to try with this set up and we'll report back here when we sift through the results. So stay tuned!

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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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Book Bag: Nikon Creative Lighting System

Kudos to Wiley for publishing such an esoteric title, but it's a subject that needs a book if there ever was one. Dave wrote extensively about it last year (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/NIKONCLS/NIKONCLSA.HTM). Peter iNova discusses it briefly but thoroughly in his Nikon ebooks. And now Denny Thomas, a professional photographer based in Austin, Texas who has been using Nikon's system "almost daily since it was first introduced," has sliced the subject in two for this title in Wiley's series of Digital Field Guides.

Part One discusses Using the Creative Lighting System in two chapters. The first covers Exploring the CLS and the second explains Setting Up the SB-600 and SB-800 flash units.

Part Two goes on to discuss Creating Great Photos with the Creative Lighting System in five chapters. Those include Flash Photography Basics, Wireless Flash Photography with the CLS, Setting Up a Wireless Studio, Real-World Applications and Simple Posing for Great Portraits.

Denny describes CLS as "the most amazing development to happen to photographic lighting in decades." It makes it possible, he explains, to control multiple strobes wirelessly. And you can do it all from the camera.

The amply illustrated Quick Tour that starts the book shows you just how easy it is to use either of Nikon's SB-600 and SB-800 flash units, which are "ready-to-go for quick snapshots, but also configurable for some complex wireless multi-flash photo shoots." The Quick Tour shows you how to mount the flash on your camera, explains that the camera and flash sync automatically and encourages you to take a few shots.

After you see how easy it is to use these strobes, Denny takes you on a detailed tour of both models. Sidebars explain basic concepts like what a Guide Number is. There's also a nice chart on Camera Compatibility to round out the first chapter, although recent Nikon dSLRs like the D40 and D80 aren't covered.

In the second chapter he goes through the flash modes, explaining each, before setting the flashes for wireless operation. It's a tribute to the system and Denny that it takes just a few pages to show you how to configure your camera and either unit for remote wireless action.

But that seems to have been a problem. The rest of the book (which is about half the pages) is filled with pretty boilerplate tips about weddings, concerts, sporting events with a little macro shooting and portraiture mixed in. He discusses using the system in the studio with umbrellas and flash-mounted soft boxes in much the same vein. The step-by-step instruction really doesn't require any experience to follow.

Which may be why the book disappointed us. Our quibble with Wiley's approach is that despite the step-by-step detail, the discussion never gets to the level an advanced amateur or pro would find interesting. We simply didn't learn much from the book. There are no lighting diagrams and lighting ratios, surprisingly, really aren't explored much (the reference in the index is to a side bar).

Instead of cute step-by-step procedures, we'd have appreciated a cheat sheet to quickly remind us how to set up for various situations. Fortunately, the Creative Lighting System is so straightforward, you can devise your own easily enough.

If Nikon's Creative Lighting System is really as amazing as everyone says -- and we think it is -- it deserves a little more study than this book gives it.

Nikon Creative Lighting System Digital Field Guide by J. Dennis Thomas, published by Wiley Publishing, 202 pages, $19.99.
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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 the Nikon 'Friends of the 8800' discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a

Visit the Olympus Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f783

Logan asks for help choosing a camera for a trip to Africa at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea51a4/0

Pete asks about flash units after 'going digital' at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea5017/0

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

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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: Start from Scratch?

I guess the time has come for me to enter the digital photography world. I am a retired photojournalist, worked for many years as a writer-photographer for newspapers and magazines covering the hospitality, food service and travel industries. Travelled to 30 or 40 countries, wrote many articles, took lots of pictures, all with my Olympus OM 2N bodies and a dozen or more lenses ranging from wide-angle to ultra telephoto and now I want to enter the digital world.

So what do I do with all the old equipment? What digital camera should I get? Should I try to use my present lenses with digital equipment? Does this make sense? Or should I get a digital camera with lots of capabilities built into the camera and stay light? Most of my photography in the future will be photos of family and friends and shots taken wherever we may travel. So I am asking myself: should I forget about trying to use my Olympus lenses in whatever route I go in the future?

-- Al Glanzberg

(Yes, it is overwhelming, Al. Just to make it a little more interesting, Olympus has designed lenses specifically for digital photography in its E-System. So your old glass won't mount on a new Olympus dSLR. Fortunately, Olympus lenses are among the more reasonably priced. And we've seen a dSLR or two bundled with two lenses at a very attractive price. -- Editor)

RE: Trigger Voltage

Do you know, by chance, if there is any truth to the fact that the voltage of the hotshoe is different than the PC terminal? I have been doing so much reading this week I am probably screwing up the information, but I thought I read that the top can only tolerate 6V and the terminal on the side (in the case of the 5D) can go higher.

-- Pete Crosta

(Rumor has it that some cameras can handle up to 250 volts on the PC terminal even though the hot shoe can only handle five or six volts. Canon EOS cameras, apparently, have the same voltage tolerance on the PC terminal as the hot shoe (but it differs by model). But older flashes can easily top 250 volts. My vintage Vivitar 283 hits 300. So the smart thing to do is use a Wein Safe-Sync. -- Editor)

RE: Brain Damage

Just wanted to personally thank you for the incredible amount of hard work you put into your newsletters. I can't imagine the "brain damage" you must go through to pull this off!

-- Guy M. Moore

(Thanks, Guy. Yes, it's hard to hide the evidence. Although we're hoping the effect isn't cumulative. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

We finally found a removable adhesive product strong enough to hold our Tabblo poster (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/TBL/TBL.HTM) on the wall at the foot of the stairs. Scotch Mounting Squares (http://www.3m.com) are double-stick foam square that hold up to two pounds. They work on wood, ceramic tile, gloss and semi-gloss painted walls, glass and refrigerators. Our poster has been up for a week now with no sagging. Being foam they'll no doubt have to be replaced in 20 years, but we're scheduled to paint before then anyway.


For an interesting essay on Apple TV, take a look at Phanfare CEO Andrew Erlichson's piece (http://blog.phanfare.com/2007/03/apple-tv-early-impressions/). Why connect to your computer when there's the cloud?


Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released version 2.3 of LightZone, its image editing software based on the Zone System. The new version features seamless integration with Aperture, iPhoto and Lightroom; a new Red-Eye Reduction tool; a new Black & White tool; and Lab color information in the Sampler.


PictoColor (http://www.pictocolor.com) has announced the release of its $99.95 iCorrect EditLab ProApp 6.0 color correction software [MW] for color correction and color editing in large volume workflows.


Kingston (http://www.kingston.com/look) has announced that the husband and wife wedding photography team of Jim and Lara Davis-Hicks of Davis Photography will be featured on Kingston's Look Who's Using Kingston page.


DataRescue (http://www.datarescue.com/photorescue) has released PhotoRescue 3.0 [MW], an update that puts a user-friendly interface on the stellar photo recovery application. The Mac version is also now a Universal Binary for native performance on both PowerPC and Intel Macs.


Taking its name from a young Alabama coal miner of the early 1900s, Shorpy (http://www.shorpy.com) is a photo blog about what life a hundred years ago was like. "We're starting with a collection of photographs taken in the early 1900s by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of a decade-long field survey for the National Child Labor Committee, which lobbied Congress to end the practice," the home page explains. "One of his subjects, a young coal miner named Shorpy Higginbotham, is the site's namesake."


Hahnemuhle FineArt (http://www.hahnemuehle.com/index.php?mid=810&lng=us) has introduced Photo Rag Pearl 320, a natural-white, OBA-free, pure cotton rag paper with the soft, smooth Photo Rag surface combined with the innovative Hahnemuhle pearl coating. The new paper features a high Dmax and a large color gamut.


iView (http://www.iview-multimedia.com) has released its Getty Images iView Submission Utility [MW], a free plug-in for iView MediaPro for signed photographers to Getty Images Creative image collections that cuts preparation time for stock photo submissions.


Extensis (http://www.extensis.com/portfolio) has released a free update to Portfolio 8.1 [MW] with support for 36 new camera Raw formats.


Boinx (http://boinx.com) has released FotoMagico 2.0.1 [M] to address a number of issues in FotoMagico 2.


HDRsoft (http://www.hdrsoft.com/index.html) has released its $99 Photomatix Pro 2.4 [MW] with a new option for reducing ghosting artifacts in HDR images, undo/redo Tone Mapping, white balance and output color space customization, support for more Raw formats and more.


Optunis Imaging (http://www.optunis.com) has released its $49 ChromaKeys 1.0 [M], a masking utility with support for several key colors, masking by region and marking image areas as opaque or transparent to preserve or remove sections.


Plasq (http://plasq.com) has updated its $24.95 Comic Life [M] to version 1.3.2 with multiple tails per balloon, multiple images within the same panel for easy composition, visual previewing of styles and more.


Ovolab (http://www.ovolab.com) has updated its $19.95 Geophoto [M] to version 1.0.1 with improved performance, minor bug fixes and a Getting Started guide (not to mention the new low price). Geophoto arranges and displays photos geographically on a 3D map of the Earth.


We ran across an interesting collection of Notes on the Resolution and Other Details of the Human Eye (http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/eye-resolution.html) that may make you blink. Or wink.

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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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