The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 9, Number 10 11 May 2007

Copyright 2007, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 201st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. It's not quite the same thing but we concoct a rough simulation of Canon Picture Styles you can use with any JPEG. Then Dan takes a look at a 16:9 digicam whose output is designed for the big screen. And SLRgear's Jim Tanner compares Canon's new 70-200mm zoom against a few prime lenses. If you're new to this game, Joe Farace will show you how it's played in a beginner's guide that's fun for even old pros to read. Finally, we reflect on the portrait business. And Happy Mother's Day!


TOPICS

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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: Picture Styles for the Rest of Us

When we wrote about Canon's Picture Styles in the last issue, we couldn't help but wonder how hard it would be to do something similar for ordinary JPEGs no matter which camera took the picture.

Canon's Picture Styles manipulate the sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone of an image to affect a certain, well, style -- such as Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Monochrome, etc. And what image editing software doesn't let you fool around with sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone?

But stop right there.

What are sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone, anyway? And do you need a master's degree in photo science just to play with your pictures?

Sharpness is just a measure of how distinct edges are in an image. You take a picture of a flower. Is the edge of that in-focus petal sharp against the one next to it? Or is it a little soft? Image editing software can actually over-sharpen that edge. You can, in short, edit sharpness.

Contrast is just a description of how black the darkest tones in the image are and how white the lightest tones are. A low contrast image of, say, a beach in the fog, won't have any black in it and no bright white. But a chrome bumper will have a lot of pure white and maybe even some pure black. That's a high contrast image. Image editing software can redistribute those tones, so the darkest tones in the beach scene can be made black or the brightest tones in the bumper can be made gray instead of white, if you really want.

Saturation is a measure of just how vivid the color is. If it isn't vivid at all, if it's desaturated, it's actually a black and white image, with only brightness information (tones or luminances) and no color information at all. If it's quite vivid, the image may even seem to fluoresce. Somewhere in between is natural color.

Color tone might mean anything at all, but in this case it refers to a shift (often subtle) of color values that emphasizes a particular part of the color spectrum. So in a landscape, you might want bluer blues for the sky. And for a portrait, you might prefer more luminescent skin tones. You can get that, leaving the other tones pretty much alone, using custom curves. Almost every image editing software has a Curves command.

But wait! No need to open the hood and get your hands dirty to manipulate color tone.

Last week we stumbled across James Delaney's article (http://www.unfocusedbrain.com/projects/match_color/) on using Photoshop's Match Color command to borrow color palettes from classical paintings and other sources to apply to JPEGs for a, well, classical look. The same trick can be used to build a library of picture styles you can apply to your JPEGs.

Photoshop isn't the only image editing software that provides this handy command but you may have to hunt around your software a bit to find it. In Paint Shop Pro, for example, it's called Image Palettes, where it's often used to remap an image with Web safe colors. The essential things the command needs are the ability to read one image's color palette and apply it to another image. And by color palette, we mean nothing more than just the set of hues at each brightness level that appear in the source image.

The fun in this game is in selecting your source image. James picked classic paintings to turn his images into simulated works by the Old Masters. Even if your source image isn't 24-bit color and the art itself is covered in yellowed varnish, this can be a fun effect. You can shoot your own classic paintings in a local, public museum's permanent collection or download a few from museum sites on the Web. Apply the painting's color map to your photo, add an artistic filter with some brush strokes in it, print the image on canvas and you've started a career as a modern portrait painter.

But you can apply the color map of any image to any other. A monochromatic sea scene can cast an eerie pall over an otherwise lovely landscape. A bright field of flowers can turn that sea scene into a Martian ocean. And, as James suggests, you can instantly age an image by applying the color map of an old, faded slide to it.

Effects can be more subtle, too. Save that perfect image and apply its color map to less perfectly exposed but similar images. Standardize a whole set of images (taken at a wedding reception, for example) with the color map of one of them.

And if you find a few that work really well for a lot of different images, you might as well make a library of them, naming each of them for their intended use.

With control over contrast, saturation, sharpening and color tone (with either custom curves or color mapping), you have everything you need (except the secret sauce) to simulate a Picture Style.

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Feature: Casio EX-S770 -- Svelte Wide Screen Movie Maker

By DAN HAVLIK
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EXS770/EXS770A.HTM on the Web site.)

No one else makes ultraslim cameras like Casio and its latest model in the svelte EXILIM line -- the 7.2-megapixel EX-S770 -- raises the style bar once again. As I remarked in a review of the Casio EXILIM EX-S600 last year, EXILIM cameras look a lot like the popular RAZR cell phones from Motorola and the new Casio EX-S770's resemblance is even more pronounced. And like the latest RAZRs, the Casio S770 comes in different colors including silver, red and purple.

As with most of its cameras, Casio doesn't skimp on interesting features with the S770. Along with a standard 3x optical (38-114mm equivalent in 35mm) focal range, the S770 has a very bright 2.8-inch LCD with a very respectable resolution of 230,400 pixels. As usual, there are 34 scene modes, which Casio dubs "Best Shot," including an eBay mode that captures images at reduced resolution with auto macro focusing. More unusual is the new 16:9 movie mode which lets you shoot wide-screen video clips for playback on your widescreen TV. The Casio EX-S770 also boasts special new software to convert documents and Web pages on your computer to JPEG format for viewing on the camera's large (by digicam standards, anyway) LCD display. Another cool feature on the S770 is a Continuous Flash Mode (known as Rapid Flash) which allows three flash shots to be captured in a single second. The tradeoff, of course, is that flash range is roughly halved and ISO is raised.

All these features in such a slim but solid model come at a price -- $380 list, to be exact, though we've seen it for as low as $250 online.

USER REPORT

Form vs. Function. At just 17mm at its slimmest point, the Casio EXILIM EX-S770 is about as ultracompact as ultracompacts get at 3.7x2.4x0.7 inches. With the SD card and rechargeable lithium ion battery, it weighs just 5.08 ounces.

The S770's corners are rounded and the front faceplate, aside from the space for the lens, is almost completely smooth. There's no metal finger grip on the front which makes the S770 more attractive but harder to hold. Definitely use the wrist-strap to avoid accidental drops.

The S770 is composed mostly of metal which gives the camera an attractive and durable body. On the downside, all the attention to maintaining a smooth appearance has produced buttons and controllers that are way too small for the human hand to access quickly. I tested this camera during a blisteringly cold week in New York City and it was impossible to use with my gloves on. Taking them off didn't help much either. The S770 also seemed to have the smallest zoom rocker I've tried, making it very difficult to adjust. While much of this miniaturization has to do with the huge screen, there's still enough room on the right side of the rear panel for larger controls.

Along with being difficult to operate, the descriptions beside each button are written in an opaque white font that's difficult to read. While Casio's designers should get kudos for creating a very lovely looking ultraslim camera, they need to make greater efforts toward building buttons usable by humans.

Nice Display. But then there's that big LCD that fills most of the back of the camera. It's great to see that Casio not only made the display huge, they pumped it up with 230,400 pixels, which is great for playback and live preview. To speed up playback, however, the screen takes a second to res up, so it briefly looks out of focus. The same is true on immediate playback after capture which made me initially think a lot of my shots weren't sharp.

Otherwise, though, the camera takes full advantage of all that space on the wide screen. Along with being able to see your images clearly, the S770 offers one of the best info displays I've seen on a compact camera. Pressing the (tiny!) DISP button on top lets you choose between a Panel layout which shows all your current settings in a gray bar along the right side. You can also choose a Normal layout which letterboxes the sides of the wide screen and overlays current settings in the corners. Half pressing the shutter will instantly give you live settings, including f-stop, shutter speed and ISO the camera is choosing.

While, alas, you cannot select aperture or shutter speed manually, it's nice that the display at least shows you what will be used before you shoot. You also have the option to add a live histogram; choose among five brightness settings; and pick the type of preview. Preview types were curious though, including Dynamic, Vivid, Real, Night and Power Saving. I went with "Dynamic," though I didn't notice a world of difference from some of the other options.

Speed Freak. Like its predecessor, the S770 is a speedy little camera which you can depend on for quick, candid shots. The Quick Shutter setting lets you immediately shoot a picture without having to wait for autofocus to engage. This is a great feature though the autofocus is actually quite fast on this camera. The S770 powers on and is ready in just 1.7 seconds, pretty good considering the camera actually has a lens to deploy. At the full autofocus wide setting the S770 takes 0.63 second to capture a shot, according to our tests. When pre-focused, though, the S770 is one of the fastest compact cameras we've tested, taking just .09 second to capture a shot when you half press and hold the shutter button.

The S770 wasn't bad shot-to-shot either, with the camera able to take a Large Fine JPEG image every 2.55 seconds in Single Shot mode, as averaged over 20 shots. On the downside, the S770 suffers from "early shutter penalty," which is when a camera refuses to snap another shot if you press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode. But the S770 freezes the frame as it focuses. This can be a real problem when taking action photographs, regardless of the camera's shutter lag, so take note.

Overall though, I was impressed with its speed and never felt it was struggling to keep up with my picture-taking. Flash recycling time, a nightmare on some compact cameras, was also fairly decent, averaging 4.6 seconds with the flash at maximum output. Even better is the "Rapid Flash" function, which is labeled "Flash Continuous" under the Continuous shooting tab in the menu. Rapid Flash can take three flash shots in quick succession. Flash output is roughly halved allowing recycling time to be virtually instantaneous. Unfortunately, the ISO is most often raised to 800, which produces soft images.

Image Quality Qualifiers. Image quality from the 7.2-Mp S770 was pretty close to its 6-Mp predecessor, enabling slightly sharper prints at 11x14 size. Like the S600 though, this is definitely not a camera to turn to when shooting in low light without a flash.

ISO is only manually selectable to ISO 400. The camera will automatically select an ISO 800 setting when it detects low-light, non-flash shooting conditions. Since ISO 800 shots are too soft, S770 users should stick to ISO 200 maximum.

At the same time, the S770 suffers from over aggressive in-camera noise processing that robs shots of detail, regardless of ISO. While images looked OK from a distance, when you zoom in you can see visible anti-noise processing. The result is images that look soft even when they're in focus.

Though the 3x optical lens (38-114mm in 35mm equivalent, f2.7-5.2) suffers from softness in the corners, this is fairly typical for cameras in this class. For the most part, sharpness was good in the central area of images. Also typical of super-small cameras, there was some purple fringing in areas of extreme contrast.

Many of my daylight images turned out just fine, but others were inexplicably underexposed. A look at the levels histogram shows no clipping, but I had to make a pretty significant adjustment to both the highlights and mids to make it all appear properly exposed.

Features. Casio has developed a reputation for offering extensive Scene modes on its cameras. Even though the S770 is one of the slimmest models in Casio's line, there is no skimping on the selection of modes in this model. With 34 Best Shot settings in all, it can be set to adapt to a range of situations.

With so many modes, Casio does a good job of differentiating each one in the Best Shot menu. Hit the metal "BS" button on the back of the camera to see three pages of images identifying each Scene mode. If you tap the zoom button when in the Best Shot menu, you'll receive a close-up of the selected image and text that briefly describes what the mode does.

A new feature on the S770 is its Data Transport storage function which can move business documents, emails and Web pages from your computer to the camera for viewing on the 2.8-inch LCD. While the function could really have been explained better, it's quite easy to use once you get the hang of it. Just load the Data Transport Software, connect the S770 to your computer via the included cradle and then print out the document you want transferred. In the print dialogue box, select the PDF button and access the pull down menu which allows you to convert your document via the Casio Data Transport option.

Once you choose Casio Data Transport, the software will automatically convert the document and transfer it to the S770. You can call up your document on the camera by pushing the (tiny!) DATA button on top. While, at first, your document will be too small to read, you can zoom in using the zoom toggle and it will enlarge to a readable, if cramped, format. Though the S770's screen is large by digicam standards, it's no match for even the smallest laptop screen, so don't expect to be able to see too much of your info on the display. It is a helpful feature, though, if you're traveling and want to save an address, location or tourist map from the Web for later access. Along with Web pages, I had no trouble converting and transferring Word documents. If you want to transfer stored photos from your computer to the camera, the S770 also includes Photo Transport software.

Wide Screen Movies. I found the S770's Movie mode extremely easy to use. Unfortunately, as an Apple user, I again had trouble getting Casio's DivX files to play on my Macbook laptop. Casio, like an increasing number of camera makers, has decided to use the DivX video codec for its movies. DivX is a popular third party software which uses the MPEG-4 format to compress long video clips into small sizes while maintaining good visual quality. The problem for me was that despite loading a special "Movie Component" for OS X in my QuickTime folder, I still couldn't get my clips to display video on my computer, just sound. (The free DivX Player for Mac 2.0b2 beta has just been released at http://labs.divx.com/node/133. -- Editor)

And that's a shame because the S770's movie function (especially its 16:9 widescreen option) is very fun to use. I loved the widescreen effect, even if I could only enjoy it in playback on the camera's LCD, and appreciated how easy it was to start recording a movie. Instead of having to change a menu or dial selection to video mode, just press the (tiny!) red button on back and the recording starts automatically. I only wish I could have found an easy way to play the clips back on my Mac.

CONCLUSION

Casio's tradition of producing slim and sexy ultracompact models that don't skimp on features continues with the EX-S770. Along with a sleek and solid metal design, the S770 comes with enough bells and whistles to please even more demanding digital camera users. I really liked the camera's 230,400-pixel, 2.8-inch widescreen LCD. It's not only great for composing and viewing images, it also allows a near-full Function menu to stay on the display for quick access. The screen is also well suited for playing back the 16:9 widescreen movies the S770 can make. Movies are unfortunately not easily made Mac-compatible. The S770 is one of the speediest ultra-compact cameras I've tried, with virtually no shutter lag when you pre-focus.

Image quality, however, was spotty. In normal daylight conditions, the S770 captured good, if slightly underexposed images that look good enlarged to 11x14 inches from arm's length. When you look closely at those prints, however, you notice how aggressive the anti-noise processing is, obliterating fine detail. I also found the S770 had below average low-light capability for shooting without a flash, with user-selectable ISO peaking at just 400. Though the Continuous Flash Mode allows three flash shots to be captured in succession, resulting images are very soft due to anti-noise processing. The camera's svelte form factor also made it hard to use. Buttons and controls on the S770 were so small I had a tough time operating them. So while the Casio EXILIM EX-S770 has a lot going for it in style and features, it just misses out on being named a Dave's Pick.

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Feature: Canon 70-200mm f4L IS -- Sharp as a Prime

By JIM TANNER
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php?product=999 on the Web site.)

The new Canon 70-200mm f4L IS's performance is so good that it occurred to us to compare it with some of the best Canon primes we've tested. Here's my reading of the blur plots.

CANON LENSES

Canon 85mm 1.2L. In the common region (f4-f16) for these two lenses the Canon 85mm f1.2L is a little sharper in the center than the Canon 70-200mm f4L IS. This isn't surprising because the Canon 85mm f1.2L is one of the sharpest lenses we've tested to date. Looking at other characteristics, the zoom's Chromatic Aberration (CA) is only slightly higher than that of the 85/1.2, as is its shading ("vignetting"). Geometric distortion is the only place the zoom gives up almost anything to the pricey prime and even there it's well-controlled relative to many other zooms. Overall, the fact that the 70-200mm's performance is this good relative to a really superb prime is testimony to just how good the less expensive (zoom) lens really is!

Canon 100mm f2.8. In the common region (f4-f32) for these two lenses, the Center Sharpness performance is essentially identical, as is CA performance. Shading and distortion are slightly higher on the zoom, but again not bad at all. Again, the zoom holds its own against a very good prime lens.

Canon 135mm f2. In the common region (f4-f32) for these two lenses, the Center Sharpness performance is essentially identical, with the zoom just slightly softer at f4. CA, shading and distortion are all slightly higher with the zoom, but the differences aren't large. One more time (this is getting boring), the zoom holds its own against a very good prime lens.

Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS. Turning to a more common zoom lens, we see that, while the new Canon 70-200mm slightly outperforms the Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS over the entire common range f4-f32, the difference would not be visibly significant if we use DxO's assertion that blur differences of less than one BxU are generally not perceivable. The 70-300mm's shading and distortion performance is also very similar to that of the 70-200mm f4L IS. Where the difference becomes much more apparent though, is in CA performance, the 70-200mm doing significantly better than the 70-300. Overall, the 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS holds up surprisingly well against the 70-200mm f4L IS, but the 70-200mm does have notably better CA performance.

SIGMA, NIKON

Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX DG HSM APO. In our earlier tests of this Sigma lens, we were impressed with its center sharpness. Its essentially identical performance here with the Canon both lends validity to our earlier surmise about the Sigma and reemphasizes the obvious "sharpness" of the Canon. When you look at the full 3D blur plots for the Sigma though, it's clear it does lose some corner sharpness at 200mm and f4, flattening out at smaller apertures. The Sigma's CA is higher at the ends of its focal length range, but actually better than the Canon at 100mm. Vignetting and shading performance are very similar, the Sigma doing slightly better in the vignetting area. No question about it, the Sigma is a great lens at a very good price. The Canon does edge it in sharpness across the frame at 200mm and adds Canon's incredible 4-stop IS into the bargain.

Nikon 70-300mm f4.5-5.6-GB IF-ED AF-S VR. This isn't really a "competing" lens, in that Canon shooters aren't likely to be bolting it onto the fronts of their cameras in any great numbers. But we thought you might be interested in this comparison. Center sharpness of the Canon and the Nikon 70-300mm f4-5.6 VR lenses are essentially identical over the aperture range f4-16, although the Nikon is extremely sharp at 70mm, if a good bit less so at 200mm. As diffraction effects begin to degrade images for f22 and f32, the slightly larger pixels of the D200 assist in giving the Nikon a better performance than that of the Canon. Shading is very similar between the two lenses and distortion spans a similar range as well, although the Nikon shows a bit more pincushion over some of its range. The biggest difference comes in CA performance, where the Canon has it all over the Nikon. In fairness though, the Nikon sells for about half the price of the Canon del, which also helps justify its variable-aperture zoom design. This Nikon also includes Nikon's VR (Vibration Reduction) answer to Canon's IS systems. Nikon claims a 3-stop shake-reduction for its technology, a stop less than the Canon, which is the first to claim a full 4-stop reduction in blur caused by camera shake.

CONCLUSION

It isn't easy to improve on an almost flawless lens like the Canon 70-200mm f4L, unless you add 4-stop image stabilization without degrading any of the optical or build qualities.

This lens tests and performs as well or better than, any lens tested recently. It is quite sharp across its entire aperture-focal length spectrum; chromatic aberration, vignetting and distortion are all quite reasonable; focusing is fast and accurate; the build is L-class; and the new 4-stop image stabilization is downright startling in its effectiveness. The only downside may be the price, which breaks the kilo-buck barrier and is almost double that of the non-IS version.

Despite the hefty price though, we expect a lot of non-IS owners will be selling their lenses to upgrade to the Canon 70-200mm f4L IS -- it's that good. Very few medicines cure "shaky hands" -- this one does and with fantastic optical quality as well!

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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: Getting Started With Digital Imaging

There are a lot of digital photo books for beginners. We'd bet the military industrial complex (nevermind the farm) that most of them are published by publishers who know nothing about photography. That would make them ideal guinea pigs for their own titles, but our second bet is that they don't read their own work. And who can blame them? Most of it is junk, either talking down to the dummy in you or flattering you that only certain dollar bills are used by "professional photographers" and those are the ones that can buy this book.

Hooey.

If you're just getting started (and who isn't), you don't need to be seduced into following a number of steps to do whatever the publisher thinks you want to know about. All you really need is the big picture. What's this stuff all about? What can you do? How do you do it?

You need, in short, to be shown, not told.

Enter Focal Press, one of the most credible publishers of photography books, and Joe Farace, a guy who actually takes pictures and writes almost at the same time. Joe shows you how to get started.

The Focal Press proofreader took a holiday on this title, but that doesn't really diminish the enjoyment of reading it, a pleasure we did not deny ourselves (although we did successfully avoid trying to guess what movies his chapter quotes came from).

Take a look at the list of the chapter titles wrapped around the charming introduction and full glossary in this 280-page, nicely illustrated book: Welcome to the Digital Darkroom, Tools of the Trade, The X Files: Don't Fight the Future, Before Opening Raw Files, Working With Raw Files, Opening the Software Toolbox, Understanding Layers, Traditional and Non-Traditional Tools for Digital Methods, Power Tools, The Monochrome Difference, Making Photo Quality Inkjet Prints, Preparing Images for the Web.

No clueless publisher told Joe what to write.

In fact, those topics might seem scattered unless you're into this subject. And if you are, you probably wish you knew more about using layers and just how to navigate the digital darkroom, what the fuss about Raw files is, what power plug-ins actually do make life easier in there, where you should turn the world of color into a black and white image, how to get a decent print out of your inkjet and a few more juicy topics. Topics that matter.

The other thing we'd like to point out about that chapter list is there's no conclusion. Joe promises to get you started, but the race is still to be run. The beauty of this book is that he really gets your engine revving, showing you how to do things you never thought you could.

And as he does so, he explains in an entertaining way stuff like the difference between a Celeron and Pentium chip, degrees Kelvin, or how to safely install a printer driver. Joe knows a lot and it leaks out here and there.

We'll share just one leak with you. "I have discovered," Joe writes early on, "that if I can't make the final image look the way I have previsualized it in 20 minutes, I am never going to do it." That's pretty good advice for dummies or pros. It suggests you aren't using the tools the right way or that your image just can't be stretched where you want to pull it. Right off the bat, Joe saves you a few hours of frustration.

Unlike many competing titles, Joe generously invites you into his digital darkroom, shows you around and asks you what you want to do. Then he shows you how to do it. It's almost like having a buddy show you the ropes. You can't beat that approach.

Getting Started with Digital Imaging by Joe Farace, published by Focal Press, 280 pages, $29.95 (or $19.77 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/024080838X/?tag=theimagingres-20).
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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 Olympus eVolt E-500 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea0505

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

Lou asks about zoom lenses at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea5688/0

Mohit asks about comparing SLR cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea5640/0

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

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Just for Fun: A Snapshot of Modern Portraiture

The other day, we were clicking through our morning reading when we came across Hannah Fairfield's article "All Work/All Play: 'Moms-with-a-camera' are taking over the child photography business" in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/business/yourmoney/15cameras.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5090&en=01f9f6f973baefcb&ex=1334289600&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss).

In the article, Fairfield describes how the affordability of dSLRs (and lots of practice) has turned a few new moms into professional portrait photographers who shoot other people's kids in their natural habitat. No need for a studio or any of that intimidating equipment either to get the perfect shot in natural light of that infant happily amusing itself.

And not much need for marketing, either. Word of mouth does the trick, with an assist from events like portrait parties (where kids play and parents pay if they like the shots) and, of course, inexpensive Web sites to tout the business.

Parents appreciate the generally less expensive enlargements, too, according to the article. So business is booming.

What strikes us about this phenomenon isn't that professional portrait studios are taking a hit but that people are actually paying for portraits.

No doubt they've got their own camera. And little doubt it's a digicam. Even less wonder that it's an inexpensive digicam (what with the cost of a college education these days). And no surprise at all that the shutter lag on the thing is so bad that they've been reduced to buying portraits from someone with a dSLR.

It could just be that we'll see less of this as soon as expectant parents start investing in better cameras than low-end digicams. And with the simplicity a Canon Rebel or Nikon D40 (just to cite two popular options) brings to the game, price is the only problem.

Of course, some people have a knack for this sort of thing and others don't. And boning up on the subject (by subscribing to this newsletter, may we humbly suggest) won't hurt. But even more importantly, we've come to love the informal portrait -- and capturing that snapshot of the soul is within almost anyone's grasp.

It was a different story long ago. Emulsions were so slow that only a formal portrait was possible. The subject would have to be still for half a minute to get a sharp shot. No blinking, either, as the photographer counted off the exposure. Imperiously.

People dressed up for the things, too. And posed before painted backdrops that evoked anything but their natural habitat. No doubt you've got a few examples around the house, an ancestor or five hanging on the wall.

We have a few here. One day we noticed a remarkable resemblance between the features of our great grandfather and our oldest nephew. Both of them had short-cropped hair and the old image was taken when Nonnu was about nephew's age. The resemblance was masked only by Nonnu's handlebar mustache.

But the photo was a family portrait, so to make our point, we cropped just Nonnu's face and chest into the picture. The suit jacket, the tie, the handkerchief all made it in. The painted background happened to be featureless behind his head.

It was still a formal shot, but the crop changed everything. People intimately familiar with the family photo asked us where we got that picture of him. They'd never seen it, they swore.

It was the crop that did it. Isolated from the group, he doesn't look like a man surrounded by his wife and two kids. He looks like a man who is thinking of something the second before you come into his field of vision, just before his eyes lock on you, his eyebrows rise and the bars on that mustache start to vibrate with his warm welcome.

While the formal portrait hasn't entirely disappeared (think school yearbooks, wedding packages, business portraits), our tastes have changed. We want to see a recognizable moment. The clothes we usually wear. Our hair as the wind blew it. A little drool on the chin, no problem. Let's just catch that smile, that funny face we love. Something, well, genuine.

When our youngest two nephews visited the other day, they decided to explore the garden with swords improvised from garden stakes. We caught them fending off our intrusion with a camera on a weathered bench, swords brandished and growls reverberating from their throats while laughter squinted in their eyes. They are instantly recognizable as the rascals we love. Not so, we suspect, in coat and tie before a painting of some mythological countryside.

After all, it isn't the background that makes the Mona Lisa such a captivating portrait. It's the promise of a smile, just before the hint of one. It's her face, revealing only as much as she suspects we can capture.

Oh and we can now, too. We don't need a Leonardo da Vinci. Just a good camera.

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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: Picture Styles

Do Canon Picture Styles work for non-EOS digicams, too?

Just bought a Canon 3S, having no earthly need for a dSLR in this day, and age. Though I've already got a full plate getting to know the extent of this digicam's capabilities, am curious about whether Canon's PictureStyle stuff is only for their dSLR models, or for their simpler digicams such as mine, as well?

-- Rog Patterson

(It certainly sounds like a good idea, but Canon only makes it available for its EOS dSLR line. The company thinks of it like selecting an emulsion, and therefore targets it toward professionals. But we think of it as, well, fun, so we like your idea, Roger -- enough to work out a rough equivalent in this issue's lead feature. -- Editor)

RE: Repairing It Yourself

Way cool! I have an old 990 lying around in a drawer because the battery door latch is broken -- I'll be giving them a call to see if I can do this myself! Thanks for the tip, didn't think it would even be possible so I never Googled it! ;] L8r!

-- Carsten

(I think there are a lot of 990s waiting for that repair, Carsten. And it's not as hard as it sounds, really. Good luck! -- Editor)

Your newsletter makes great reading, and I liked what you wrote about the Nikon battery compartment door repair. Question: is there anywhere literature for do-it-yourself repairs available on Canon PowerShot G1?

Mine suddenly stopped working electrically, as if there has been a wire inside disconnected. I am looking for schematics, how to open the housing, check wire connections, and similar. Please advise.

-- Otto Hempe

PS: The Fuji Finepix S9100 review is very interesting, as is the FinePix F30, which I own.

(There's a notorious fuse in the G1 that blows, Otto. Taking the camera apart (and putting it back together) is not for the faint of heart. And finding the part isn't easy either. But here are a couple of links to get you going. Repair notes, and illustrations: http://www.dragon-sys.com/Canon_G1/. Just an illustration: http://members.optusnet.com.au/~jono/PowerInterfacePCB.JPG. G1 parts list: http://www.f20c.com/stuff/canon/partslist/POWER%20SHOT%20G1.PDF. And more reading: http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=75807. -- Editor)

RE: Nikon D40 Lenses

What lenses, other than the Nikkor AF-S, can autofocus on a Nikon D40. Can I get a list of lenses compatible with the autofocus in this camera?

-- Osama Sidat

(The D40 does not have a mechanical focus drive motor, relying instead on the lens to supply the motor. Consequently, only AF-S, and AF-I designated lenses can autofocus on the D40. So just make sure to confirm that any lens you are considering has a built-in focus motor. Shawn's User Report on the D40 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ND40/ND40A.HTM) goes into further detail, praising the decision for looking forward rather than back. -- Editor)

RE: Onion Skin

I have a question about finding a type of printer that prints on Onion Skin paper. I have not come across a printer like this in stores so I was wondering if there is a good place I can find a printer that can handle this type of paper.

We have tried using this paper on laser printers but it causes a lot of jams.

-- Chris Karagouncesan

(We don't know of any printer that can handle a sheet that thin, Chris. Onion skin paper usually runs between 7, and 10 lb. weights, and printers of all stripes generally don't do well below 16 lbs. But that's what you're looking for: a printer whose minimum basis weight is 7 lbs. It should be listed in the specs. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

The Los Angeles Center for Digital Art has announced its 2007 juried competition for digital art and photography. Submit three original JPEGs in any style of 2D artwork and photography where digital processes were integral to the creation of the images plus the $30 registration fee (http://www.acteva.com/booking.cfm?bevaid=133352).

First prize is 10 prints up to 44x60 inches on canvas or museum quality paper (approximately a $1500-$2000 value) to be shown in a solo exhibition in the main gallery from June 14 to July 7. Five second place winners will receive one print of their work up to 24x36 inches ($150-$200 in value) to be included in upcoming group shows and will be scheduled into group shows within 12 months.


Mark Morris (http://www.photouplink.com) has released his $29.99 PhotoUpLink for Aperture 1.5 [M] to upload images to any server at any size with support for any ODBC data source that supports large binary objects.


Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has updated LightZone, its image editing software based on the Zone System, to version 2.4. A re-vamped ToneMapper now offers a single slider to edit an image, as does the Black & White tool. A new Vibrance control joins a new Raw Adjustment tool. And the Noise Reduction tool has a new user interface.


Fantasea (http://www.fantasea.com) has announced three new underwater housings will be available at the end of May for the Nikon D40x, Coolpix FL10 and FL11. The company plans a housing for the Coolpix P5000 soon, as well. The housings feature a new design which allows for increased diving depths of up to 200 feet.


JoeSoft (http://www.JoeSoft.com) has released Klix [MW], its $49.95 digital picture recovery software that recovers all common image formats.


Findley Designs (http://www.findleydesigns.com) has released iPod Access Photo [MW] to copy photos from your iPod to your computer. It offers viewing by album, automatic selection of the highest resolution available, copying of individual photos and albums back to the computer, copying of all photos with a single click, full-size previews and support for multiple iPods. iPod Access Photo is a Universal Binary priced at $12.99 for Mac OS X 10.3.9 and up or $19.99 for Windows Vista/XP/2000.


Focal Press will published The Adobe Photoshop Layers Book by Richard Lynch in July. The $39.95 title is available through our Amazon affiliate discount program for just $26.37, a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0240520769/?tag=theimagingres-20). Richard has also released over 100 tools for Elements 5.0 users, including CMYK color separations, RGB channels, Luminosity and Color Separations, Channel Mixer, Color Balance, Duotones, Layer Styles, Layer Masking, Blend If Transparency, Path tools and more (http://hiddenelements.com).


Rocky Nook has published Close-up Shooting: A Guide to Close-up, Tabletop and Macro Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher. The $24.95 title is available through our Amazon affiliate discount program for just $16.47, a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952091/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Andrei Doubrovski (http://www.SimplePhotoshop.com) has released the CS3 version of his Photoshop video book As Simple As Photoshop. The 104 video clips run three hours and can be downloaded as a 21-MB file for $18 or shipped for $20.


Olympus (http://www.olympusamerica.com/digital) has released Olympus Master 2.02 [MW] to support conversion of Raw files captured with the 410/510.


John Fox (http://www.memoryminer.com) has released his $45 MemoryMiner 1.5 [M], updating the interface with a dynamic toolbar and introducing MemoryMiner Remote Annotation Web Service, the first of several Web services to be rolled out this year. Other highlights of the new version include a Quick Search field and a number of enhancements and bug fixes.


Plasq (http://plasq.com) has released its $24.95 Comic Life 1.3.3 [M] to layout and caption digital photos as comics. The new version improves performance and enhances printing and exporting functions.


Ovolab (http://www.ovolab.com) has released its $19.95 Geophoto 1.2 [M] to organize and view images by location on a 3D map of the Earth. The new version improves both the loupe and tag cloud while fixing a small bug.


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has released a new version of Phanfare Photo [MW]. The Windows version can now acquire images directly from your camera or card reader, edit albums offline, display upload progress and perform a few other tricks. The Mac version gets improved reporting detail, the ability to choose lead section images, and adds slideshow options.


DivX Labs (http://labs.divx.com/node/133) has released its free beta 2 of DivX Player 2.0 for Mac. The Universal Binary includes full screen playback and Divx VOD support.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 8.4.20 [LMW] with enhancements for Epson scanners and improved user guide and bug fixes. It's available in a $39.95 standard edition and a $79.95 professional edition.

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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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