The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 9, Number 11 25 May 2007

Copyright 2007, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 202nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We continue our investigation of LCD displays with some interesting observations from an online discussion before a look at Panasonic's unconventional L1. Then we report on a new approach to manuals and pass along a little lesson we learned from some four year olds. Enjoy!


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:
DxO Labs
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HP
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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: How Many Colors Does Your LCD Display?

Our recent review of a digital picture frame pointed out that none of them display 24-bit color. They have a palette of thousands of colors, rather than the millions that 24-bit color can display, which is what your digicam or dSLR captures.

We ran across an interesting discussion of this issue in a recent Macintouch post on the class action lawsuit over the new Intel-based MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops. The same issue that affects LCD displays in digital photo frames affects LCD monitors, too.

Indeed, as one contributor to the discussion noted, the product specs PDF from LGPhillips for their 12-inch LCD clearly states, "Gray scale or the brightness of the sub-pixel color is determined with a 6-bit gray scale signal for each dot, thus, presenting a palette of more than 262,144 colors."

And yet, as we observed, there was a qualitative difference in the display of graduated sky tones on the photo frame, a Sony LCD monitor and a PowerBook. What's going on?

WHAT'S GOING ON

A post by Tom Fussy explains that "it may be news to a lot of Mac users but it's no secret in the industry that nearly every notebook computer sold uses 6-bit drivers, not 8-bit drivers, to drive the LCD panel." Apple, Fussy says, has never sold a laptop that uses 8-bit drivers.

So how can manufacturers claim 24-bit color display?

They do it with old fashioned dithering, according to Fussy. Well, not entirely old-fashioned.

The dithering is only done for the two least significant bits of each color channel using one of two methods. Spatial dithering sets pixels at different places on the screen to different levels, relying on the eye to average the values to the undisplayable color. Temporal dithering flashes different values at the same pixel location rapidly enough that you see just the undisplayable color, but requires such a fast refresh rate it isn't practical on a normal computer display.

Enter the hybrid solution. A little spatial dithering with a little temporal dithering and some randomization "to avoid pattern (space) and beat (time) distortion." Some companies do it better than others, but "the best are nearly impossible to detect from true 24-bit panels," he writes.

TESTING

How well does your LCD display 24-bit color with 6-bit drivers? You can test your own LCD with several free utilities. Photographer George Wedding points to three i the Macintouch discussion:

He also suggests putting them "on a USB thumb drive and evaluate specific LCD or notebook displays before making a purchase."

CONCLUSION

In the Macintouch discussion, photographer Rich Cruse observed, "I don't really care 'how' the MacBook displays millions of colors as long as it does a relatively good job of it, which mine now does [after calibrating it]. The photos I edit on the road with the MacBook need very little adjustment if any when I view them on my Apple Cinema display."

While that may be comparing apples to apples, the point is perfectly clear.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 -- Sigh!

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DMCL1/DMCL1A.HTM on the Web site.)

To call the Panasonic Lumix L1 unconventional in design would be an understatement. Where other cameras try to trim away unnecessary elements, the Lumix L1 tries to be even more block-shaped than the Olympus EVOLT body it's based on. Panasonic is either trying to convey a rangefinder aesthetic on this Four-Thirds system SLR or simply bowing to Leica's taste in camera body design, as the Leica Digilux 3 shares the same skin.

Dichotomy. The Panasonic DMC-L1 offers a lot I'm quite fond of and a lot that makes me weary. I love its analog approach to manual, with actual shutter speed and aperture dials in their traditional locations. But I can't ignore that the unnecessary porromirror design makes the camera heavier and wider than it needs to be; a serious fault in a camera whose excellent bundled lens is already quite heavy.

So before I start into the functional descriptions, know that I'm pausing frequently to fold my hands, look at the Lumix L1 and sigh.

Military Grade. Though I can't say for sure that its magnesium alloy body would stop a bullet, the L1's design certainly looks like it could. From the front the Panasonic L1 looks classic: a simple grip, a single button and two opaque windows make a nice backdrop for the massive f2.8 Leica lens barrel. From the back, the L1 looks over-engineered. A panoply of buttons surround the LCD screen and the optical viewfinder juts out from the back like the eyepiece of a missile targeting system. It's as if it were designed for the military with big, durable parts, with little thought for aesthetic appeal. With no disrespect intended, it's very much a Leica sensibility.

I'm sure there are plenty of Leica aficionados who would take issue with that statement, as most would think the L1 is too thick and bulky to be compared to the relatively slim elegance of an M-series rangefinder. I agree. Hence, I sigh.

That unique feel of a traditional Leica comes from a sense of precision. Not only is the machine precise, Leica was careful to leave out what didn't help make great pictures. No nonsense. Untrue to that heritage, the back of the L1 feels quite cluttered.

Grip. Unlike the Leica M-series, the L1 has a grip. Well, almost. There's a grip for your bottom three fingers, but your index finger has to reach all the way up over the fat top deck to perch upon center of the shutter speed dial to find the shutter button, whereas the E-330 had the shutter out on the much taller grip. As a result, I have to bring my middle finger up off the grip, where it covers the Lumix logo and sometimes the IR sensor. Since the IR sensor is an aid to the Auto White Balance system on the Lumix L1, it's not something I want to cover. Now I have only two fingers on the grip, one over the IR sensor and one on the shutter button. Sigh.

Dials. It's great to see dials with shutter speed and aperture actually marked with real numbers on a camera again. The shutter speed dial on the top deck allows analog adjustment until you get to 1/1000 second; from there, you have to roll the Command dial downward to select 1/1300, 1/1600, 1/2000, 1/2600, 1/3200 and 1/4000 second speeds.

The Aperture dial is released with a rounded button on the left of the lens barrel, as it is on most other lenses with an Automatic setting. You have to press this button to enter or exit Automatic mode. Set both dials to A and the camera is in Program mode. Move the Shutter speed dial off A to any setting and you're in Shutter Priority mode; and an S appears on the LCD's status display.

Likewise, if you set the Shutter speed dial to A and move the Aperture dial, you're in Aperture Priority mode. Pretty straightforward. Take both of them out of Auto and you're in Manual mode, also reflected on the Status display. The Status display will also confirm what you've set with these dials, so you don't have to constantly check your analog settings, nor look over the camera to verify what you've set on the lens.

Viewfinders. If you don't like the dim viewfinder, you can switch to the Live View mode. But I don't recommend it. I suppose if you're taking landscape shots or macro images, it might help to have that large LCD to use as a viewfinder. But if you're taking pictures of humans, dogs, monkeys or anything that can respond to the sound of the shutter going off, you're going to be very upset.

Olympus, Panasonic and Leica, all Four-Thirds system camera makers, are touting Live View mode in their cameras partially to differentiate themselves from the market of dSLRs. But there's an unspoken problem. To get this live view, you have to put up with a shutter lag that's many times greater than you're used to seeing on any digicam.

Here's what happens when you switch into Live View mode on the Lumix L1. First, you hear half a shutter sound as the mirror flips open. An image appears on your LCD. Terrific! This is exactly the image your sensor is seeing, with only a few milliseconds of delay.

OK, so usually it's a little out of focus at this point, sometimes a lot. So you do what you always to do focus: press the shutter button halfway. The mirror flips closed, the shutter closes and the onscreen image freezes. If you point the camera at something good and contrasty, the mirror and shutter close quickly and your Live View resumes with a partial status display that also shows one of the three AF points illuminated in red. If you point it at a non-contrasty subject, the mirror stays down quite a bit longer, many seconds longer, as the camera searches for something to focus on. You can look through the viewfinder at this point if you want, to point the camera at something contrasty if it's taking too long. Or you can try again by releasing the shutter button and pressing it again (shutter open, shutter closed and hopefully shutter back open).

Finally, to take a picture, you press the shutter button all the way. The mirror and shutter flip close to verify exposure and maybe focus, then back open, to make the shot, then back closed, then back open to resume Live View. To the casual onlooker, it will sound like you just took three or four pictures. You might even think that yourself. But you can make all that noise and not take any pictures at all. If you have the flash deployed in Live View mode, for example, you might think you took a shot, but instead you just focused twice while waiting for the flash to recycle. It's pretty frustrating and very confusing for your subjects who are already ready to get on to the next activity.

Portrait photographers beware: You'll have a lot of explaining to do. Everybody else: You're going to miss a lot of shots you thought you had when you first pressed the button to set focus. The bottom line is that while Live View is useful for very rough framing overhead (provided you can see the non-tilting screen), it's way too slow for actual use shooting humans or anything else that moves.

Lens. This brings us to what is actually the other half of the Panasonic Lumix L1: the beautiful Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm f2.8-3.5 optic with Panasonic's Mega Optical Image Stabilization. Its size is about equivalent to the camera body. Given that the body is so large, it's actually a nice fit, making for a nice, easy-to-hold L-shape, provided you use two hands.

Though the meager handgrip leaves the camera imbalanced when held with one hand, if you hold it with two hands, as you should, it's actually quite well balanced. The body weighs 1.29 pounds with a battery and SDHC card in place and the lens with hood weighs 1.12 pounds. It's a lot of camera at 2.4 pounds, but I didn't find it too much of a burden to carry.

As kit lenses go, this is one of the finest you'll find. It's a tad soft at wide-angle and also at telephoto (though a little sharper at telephoto when the subject is distant), but better overall at about 32mm (64mm equivalent). There's understandably a lot of chromatic aberration at wide-angle, too, but it's not terrible. It's the heaviest kit lens I think we've seen, but among the higher quality ones and only the third kit lens we know of with optical image stabilization. Given the $985 price tag of the lens alone, you almost get the L1 for free, with online prices between $1,300 and $1,500.

I took the opportunity to snick the Leica 14-50mm onto the very small Olympus E-410 while I had both of them and while large, it was a nice fit and worked just fine. Quite well, actually. See the Gallery for both cameras to see how they did after the switcheroo. The Olympus E-410, body only, for the record, weighs less than the Panasonic/Leica lens itself, at 0.95 pounds (434.6 grams), but the combo is still comfortable.

Switching a lens between brands: There's the true benefit of the Four-Thirds system realized, now that there is another brand.

The Panasonic L1 looks more Leica-like with the new Olympus 14-42mm kit lens attached as well. A big, mostly slab-front body with a small lens. If the body weren't so thick, it could almost be appealing with this new, smaller lens.

The Optical Image Stabilization worked very well, presenting a nice floating image when enabled. Though it's not as important at these focal lengths, it's still good to have in low light situations. When used in combination with Live View and the flash, however, it can chew up battery life.

Image quality. Here, like the Olympus E-330, the Panasonic's 7.5-megapixel sensor turns out good images. Our lab tests show good resolution and good color. Auto white balance had trouble with our indoor incandescent target, but it seems that few dSLRs get that setting right.

I have to say I was quite disappointed with my personal shots of the kids in bright daylight. Though I struggled and worked with the long shutter lag, with and without flash, plus the long flash recycle burden, I still didn't get sharp shots even at ISO 100. The flash probably forced a slower shutter speed, resulting in images that were soft across the board. Shooting in full auto, depth-of-field was out of control, yet there's not a single object in sharp focus.

White balance was good and printed results are quite good from our lab photos, with excellent print quality even at high ISOs and good color retention regardless of ISO. Shadow detail got a little darker and noisier as ISO numbers increased as well. I liked our lab shots a good deal more than my personal shots with the Panasonic L1, so I won't be taking the L1 on any more family outings.

CONCLUSION

Panasonic's first dSLR is a 7.5-Mp camera came into a market primed for 10-Mp cameras, yet it has a relatively high price. Its higher quality lens with optical image stabilization and wide aperture are largely responsible for that higher price. Though image quality is actually pretty good, in many cases comparable to a 10-Mp camera, its high shutter lag in Live View mode is a major strike against the $1,500 camera. Shutter lag more than doubles in this mode and adding flash extends shutter lag out to more than 3/4 second. There's no question that the lens is good and its image stabilization is nice for low light shots. The Panasonic L1's reasonable high ISO performance means that you can also hand-hold indoor shots without flash. But the lens and camera combination is quite heavy, making it a bad choice for most consumer photographic applications.

Many will look to the L1's Live View mode as its greatest benefit, but unfortunately, it's slow and confusing to use. The significant shutter noise of the Panasonic L1 will confuse not only the photographer's subjects, but also the photographer, as the shutter must close, then re-open to autofocus. Very often I thought I'd captured a shot, when in reality I'd only focused twice. The Panasonic L1 performs better when you ignore Live View mode and shoot with the optical viewfinder. This is unfortunately fairly dim, but not terrible. The viewfinder eyepiece sticks out from the body quite a bit, which is more comfortable for your nose, but not so great for your stomach when you hang the camera around your neck. Overall, though the Panasonic L1 takes good pictures of objects at rest, the shutter lag, weight, size and price make it less of a bargain. I can recommend it to photographers who shoot on a tripod frequently and don't take many shots of people, but those who do photograph people will find its Live View mode disappointing. The Panasonic L1 is beautiful, but not the best choice for most.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

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

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Book Bag: Sony Alpha A100, A Better Manual

Some people think -- briefly -- that manuals don't matter. It's no surprise to see the high school grad who thought his laptop documentation and CDs were as disposable as the box they came in. But we've also seen the Ph.D. who didn't think they were worth archiving either. After all, what could happen?

Then there's the used equipment purchase where the manuals just aren't part of the deal. We get a lot of email asking where a manual for an old digicam or printer can be found. The answer? Visit our Drivers Project page (http://imaging-resource.com/ARTS/DRV/DRV.HTM) for the customer support link for your equipment. There's often a PDF you can download.

And as a hardware reviewer, we know manuals are, if often inaccurate or incomplete, essential. We rely on a lot of sources to find out what's under the hood for each piece of equipment we review, but a camera without a manual isn't really ready for the store shelves yet.

But you don't need us to tell you that manuals are mostly difficult reading. They're poorly organized, obscurely written, badly translated, typeset too small and indexed inadequately. We don't love manuals, but we do need them. Eventually.

O'Reilly is doing something about this situation with its new Better Manual Series. The first title -- Sony Alpha dSLR A100, A Better Manual -- has just been released as a $9.99 illustrated PDF (http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/9780596529253/index.html). If you must, you can print it out on letter-sized paper (91 sheets of it), otherwise it fits compactly on your computer as a 4.7-MB file.

It's a model of organization, starting with just the thing you always open a manual to find: Quick Answers, which is a sort of FAQ for the camera, listing the top two dozen questions you might have, all of them linked to the answers in the book.

That's followed by 10 topics, including Introduction, Putting It Together: Assembly and Charging, Getting Familiar with the A100's Exterior, Setting Up the Camera, Basic Shooting Techniques, Instant Feedback in Playback Mode, Advanced Shooting, All About Flash, Your A100 and Your Computer. Bing, bang, bong. Why aren't all manuals organized that way?

Not only are the topics nicely laid out, but each discussion is heavily illustrated. One illustration, for example, shows you everything that comes in the box, all laid out on one page with arrows pointing to each item to describe it. Others include screen shots of menus and close-ups of dials and controls with critical points circled in red. There's even a sequence on how to attach the strap correctly.

One of the best things about this title, though, happens to be the author Ken Milburn, who has written three other titles for O'Reilly (and over two dozen total) in addition to a career shooting stills for Universal Studios, covers for Capitol Records, editorial shots for various publications and advertising shoots for even more.

Ken interjects helpful personal advice you just don't see in most manuals. "Don't do what I did when I was playing with this and choose Reset just below File & Memory," he warns. "If you do, it will start the file numbering system all over again and you'll have duplicate numbers for some of your images."

He also doesn't hesitate to recommend third-party solutions to sticky problems. Discussing alternatives to the viewfinder, he notes Sony's right angle and magnifier viewfinder attachments but also suggests Hoodman's solution, which is nicely illustrated. You won't find that in a manufacturer's manual.

If we have a quibble (and our Quibble Meter is always holstered to our belt, whatever we're up to), it's with the illustrations. It's not a big thing and probably to be expected when you have a white page and a black camera, but quite a few of the closeup images of controls and buttons are too heavily manipulated to make the objects clearer. And screen shots seem to be photographs rather than video out captures (so the lighting isn't even and there is some distortion). None of this really gets in the way, but it did surprise us.

On the other hand, for $10 (a dime a page), we can't complain (just quibble). It's a great idea, sure to be appreciated by any camera owner as a quick reference guide. And a pretty inexpensive gift, too.

Sony Alpha DSLR A100: A Better Manual by Ken Milburn, published by O'Reilly Digital Media, 91 pages, $9.99.
Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: No Shoes

"What does discipline mean?" the sensei, or teacher, asked the class of four year olds. "Anybody? Yes, sir?" he stepped toward a raised hand.

"That's close, very close. What else? Anybody?" he opened the question to the floor again. A few more hands, a few more stabs at it. They knew, they just couldn't say. Not precisely.

"That's right. It's doing something even when you don't want to," he crafted the definition in four-year-old terms. It was the theme for today's Hapkido session.

Later he would illustrate it by requesting his assistant and an older student both run across the mat. The student would do it but his assistant would say, "I don't want to" in her best four-year-old snarl. "Who is happier?" the sensei asked his class? The student, they all yelled.

The lesson got harder a bit later though when they played Sensei Says, a variation of Simon Says. Sensei says put your hand on your ear. So you do. If Sensei doesn't say, you don't. But it was hard for the kids not to mimic the master even if Sensei wasn't talking. "Take your fighting stance," he would say jumping into position -- and almost all the kids would jump, too. "Did Sensei say?" Oops. "Sit down if you made a mistake."

That can be hard to admit, even for four year olds. But as soon as the first one did, the master went over to him and praised him, "Give me five!" Soon, they were all sitting when they made a mistake. It was no crime to admit a mistake.

We were in the front row of two rows of chairs set up on the side of the mat for the adults. And from there, we were taking pictures (after confirming with our host that it was permitted), mostly at about 200mm. Close enough to see those little minds working while blurring the background nicely (with good bokeh, one might say). And ISO 800 to avoid flash (which is not a good idea near performers of any kind).

As the students were doing laps, the sensei walked up to us. We were sure we'd have to flash our "I'm Special" badge. You know, the one you use when you're late and don't have time to find a parking place or wait in line or otherwise exercise what might be called courtesy. (We don't have one of these, so don't ask where we got it. We try to be sensitive to those around us, imperfect art that it is.)

"If you like, you may take pictures on the mat," he offered generously. "Just take off your shoes." We thanked him with a bow.

We knew enough to turn our flash off but we'd never heard the no shoes rule before. "Photographs Permitted With No Shoes," sensei says.

Which brings us to today's lesson. Always ask for permission and observe the requirements whether they prohibit tripods, flash or even shoes. Even if, let's say, you don't want to. After all, you don't want to make a spectacle of yourself -- you want to be taking pictures of the real spectacle. You'll be happier.

Return to Topics.

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 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea55d4

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

Ron asks about a low budget printer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea5536/0

Tomos asks about printing photos at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea5608/0

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

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Just for Fun: The Ying and Yang of Digital Photography

Quote without attribution: "All she'd ever really wanted out of life was an honest man, a home in the country, and a good bottle of wine. She'd finally settled for one out of three, but had misplaced her corkscrew."

We found that on the back label of a bottle of Blue Lady sauvignon blanc we picked up at Lazy Acres, a local market. It's their house label. But we indulged in a little reflection and got to thinking it wasn't a bad description of digital photography.

We're traveling at the moment and it's a tough trip. To chronicle it, we've brought along a dSLR (a first for us) and two digicams, one a high end model and the other an entry-level model. Between the three of them, we expected to have a corkscrew for any bottle.

And, indeed, we have the full spectrum of digital options. That makes for an interesting comparison. Here's the ersatz lineup:

Three events on the trip illustrate each at their best, but any of the cameras would have served for any of the events. That's one lesson we learned. It's the photographer. No camera can make a clown into a photographer. Nor can it turn a photographer into a clown. The art has always been about making meaningful choices among limited options.

The first occasion was sister-in-law's birthday party. There was a pool party at another brother's house and a family meal (with charger plates for Chinese food, imagine) followed by a cake in the fading light of the day.

We used the entry level model to shoot this. Our outdoor shots at the pool had too much contrast when the scene had subjects in both the sun and shade. Sometimes we couldn't avoid that and shot anyway. It was technically a flaw, but it would have been rude to crop out certain relatives <g>. If the shot were a real winner, a contrast mask in an image editing program would fix the problem, anyway.

But the fun started with the cake. We racheted the ISO up to a believable 1600 and got natural light shots (no flash). We were far enough down the table that we were also unobtrusive, so the kids watching Mom blow out her candles weren't acting. That got some charming, charming images.

You could zoom in and wag your finger at the noise if you want (certainly an ISO 1600 and ISO 200 aren't the same image quality), but we weren't taking a picture of noise. We were taking a picture of some kids watching their mother have a birthday of her own (sure there's going to be noise <g>). At ISO 1600, this camera didn't shoot a lower resolution image, averaging a bundle of pixels to reduce noise. So the images had detail and we could certainly have run them through a noise reducing filter if we wanted a nice big print (for the next birthday present).

And the camera was small enough that we wouldn't have minded packing it along everywhere.

The second occasion was a walk along the lawn covered bluffs overlooking the Channel. They're being eroded by squirrels. We took the high end with us, screwing on a telephoto lens converter. This particular model is notable for not focusing very fast. And we can confirm that. In fact, focus often seemed confused. But what do you do when that happens on a cheap digicam? Aim at something simple at the same distance, half press the Shutter button and recompose. So we did. And we caught squirrels posing before they could scamper off. If that isn't an action shot, what is?

We really liked the feel of the high end model. There is a certain luxury to its rubber grips (thumb, too) and its retro design (harkening back to an expensive rangefinder). But the menu system was large type and colored well, too. It's a pleasure to use, really. We had to laugh when we did the math and realized that big converter was only giving us the equivalent of a 10x zoom, but we enjoyed picking either the wide angle or telephoto converter for an occasion and sticking with it. Using the rather ordinary 3.5x internal zoom wasn't as much fun.

Finally, we hauled out the big gun for an elegant evening at an exclusive address in the perfumed hillside overlooking everything. We sat outside as the late afternoon light hung on then faded away, replaced by the oak fire in the huge fireplace and the oil lamps on the table.

We'd brought along our wireless flash and pistol grip but had neglected to bring along batteries for the flash. No point asking a waiter for help. He had left demonstrated his abilities by leaving our Prosecco marooned in an ice bucket on the sideboard and our glasses empty half the time. No, all that Prosecco had to be good for something. We improvised by cranking the ISO up. Way, way up.

Even though we were beyond the boundaries of good taste in ISO, certainly too noisy for such a posh place, the shots were fabulous. The much larger sensor of the dSLR minimizes noise in the first place with larger, more sensitive sensors than the dim little things packed on a digicam. So increasing the gain on a dSLR isn't quite as crude as doing it on a digicam. And there's nothing quite like capturing the actual ambiance of a place rather than an unrecognizable moment in the false light of the flash.

The moral of this tale is simple. All we wanted to do was capture some good shots but each digicam lacked at least one important feature. But the lack of a corkscrew never kept a good wine from the glass. You can always get the shot if you know what you're doing.

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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: Onion Skin

This is a reply to Chris Karagouncesan's inquiry about onionskin paper.

Although not the same delicate stock as genuine onionskin, consider trying Neenah Paper's UV Ultra. It is often referred to as "vellum" and comes in a thin 17 lb. weight. I'd initially recommend paying the higher price and buy a few sheets at a boutique paper store like Paper Source. If you like the results and plan to use a lot, then contact a paper dealer and buy a ream of 500 sheets.

In either case, you will most likely find that any colors you lay down will be muted. Most printers depend on the whiteness of the paper to bring out the vivid colors. UV Ultra, being translucent, doesn't have the pure white to make colors snap. On the other hand, this may produce a pleasantly unexpected effect.

I just got word from Neenah Customer Service that the sheet works very well in inkjet printers but the drying time is slow so don't let sheets accumulate in the output tray. As always, try different printer settings to achieve best results.

-- Michael Sandow

Another option would be to use sticky tape or a similar temporary glue to attach the onion skin to a 16 to 20 lb. paper. You would be using the heavier paper as a carrier. Most printers will accept this thickness.

-- Wes Villazon

(Thanks, guys! -- Editor)

RE: Digicam Manuals

With little background in still digital photography, I am confounded by the barely-understandable instructions in the booklet provided with my delightful new FZ50. I think my problems with the book are caused by confusing translation from Japanese and possibly even a cultural difference in the rhetoric of the two languages.

I had hoped to find that a publisher such as produces the excellent Missing Manual series for Apple computer equipment might have done something for Panasonic cameras, but it would seem not. I suspect the reason may be that since digital cameras are in a constant flux of change, that competent books for a specific model would not be profitable.

I know I am not realizing the potential offered by this camera because of the inadequate manual and my inexperience. Can you offer a word or so of counsel?

-- William Cole

(Excellent point, William. It's inspired O'Reilly to publish a new series, as we point out in this issue's book review. Meanwhile, we recommend our full reviews (when available). They're quite thorough and cover every command on the camera. Look particularly, for example, at the FZ50's Operation & User Interface and Modes & Menus sections (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ50/FZ50A.HTM). -- Editor)

RE: Document Copying

Would you have any recommendations for a digital camera to be used taking photos of old documents in court house ledgers and other records. The ability to work well in low to moderate lighting is needed, as well as the ability to focus in for close work.

-- Donald R Clark

(Many digicams offer a Scene mode for copying documents that essentially just increases the exposure so white is not reproduced as gray. Some will actually let you correct perspective, as well (notably Casio models). But even a camera that can't perform those tricks can do this reliably and a dSLR with a macro lens would produce the best results. Increase ISO to about 400, restrict the shutter speed to no slower than 1/30 second and pop the EV up to 1.0 or higher for starters. If you are copying a small page, you may also have to go into Macro mode. And a small mirror placed on the center of the image will indicate correct alignment when you can see the camera reflected back at itself. -- Editor)

RE: Olympus or Nikon?

Which is best: Olympus E-510 with image stabilization in the body or the Nikon D40x with stabilization in the lens?

-- John Sheckells

(When getting into this level of gear, we prefer to evaluate lenses and slap whatever body is required onto it. And, taking it a bit further, we prefer to evaluate systems rather than just one lens. You're pretty much betrothing yourself when you buy a dSLR <g>. But Shawn, who's handled both models, had a couple of thoughts, "Well, without having reviewed either, I'd say the D40x with lens-based image stabilization. The D40x has a bigger sensor and lens-based image stabilization is generally superior. But I can't say for absolute sure until I at least review the E-410/E-510 to gauge sensor quality." -- Editor)
(Body-based stabilization has the advantage of making all your lenses into stabilized ones, but has the disadvantage that it won't be as precisely tuned to the characteristics of any given lens. In informal experiments, I've found body-based stabilization works better with shorter focal lengths and handles larger-amplitude shaking better than lens-based systems. Lens-based systems are generally much better than body-based systems when working with longer telephoto focal lengths. At 50mm or below, it'd be a tossup between the two approaches, but at 200mm and longer, I think lens-based systems would get the nod nearly every time. -- Dave)

RE: Print a Review?

As a new member I have found your review of the Nikon D40 SLR Camera extremely interesting and valuable. I have attempted to print the various sections but unfortunately much of the text on the right hand side of the paper was cut off. I have also tried to copy and paste into the word program again without success. Can you help me?

-- David Owen

(The new format wasn't designed with print in mind, David. But, thanks to your letter, we've developed a "Print This Page" link at the bottom of our reviews which may be deployed by the time you see this. In the interlude, you can generally avoid the multi-sheet per page issue by scaling the printing down to 95 percent or so. Or, you might prefer to print to PDF and either page through that document on your screen or print it full size on your printer. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) is leaping to the aid of Yahoo Photos customers who have been told their photos will be deleted at the end of the summer. Yahoo Photos customers will get six months free service -- and unlimited storage -- when they move their photos to Phanfare. And the company has built a transfer mechanism to easily move full-size originals directly from Yahoo.

According to Phanfare CEO Andrew Erlichson, "Yahoo announced three official outside partners for the Yahoo Photos closing: Shutterfly, Snapfish and Kodak. We are not among them. Yahoo does not yet have those integrations completed but we scrambled so that Yahoo photos customers can transfer their photos today to Phanfare."


Epson (http://www.epson.com) has developed Imaging WorkShop, a workflow application software package for use with high-end printers to meet the demands of advanced amateur and professional photographers. It will be available for purchase as downloadable software at the NewSoft Web site (http://global.newsoftinc.com).


Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released LightZone 3.0 [MW], its first paid upgrade, featuring over 20 built-in styles, a new Re-light tool (replacing the ToneMapper), a new History Pane, expanded Raw support, improved "learn-ability," revamped interface with separate Browse and Edit modes, style copying and pasting, stack and unstack versions commands, a new metadata editor and more. The $249.95 product is a $49.95 upgrade from previous versions.


Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/expression) has released the first version of Expression Media [MW], its $299 replacement for iView MediaPro, the digital asset management tool which is acquired in June of last year. iView MediaPro owners qualify for a free upgrade through Aug. 1. The 19-MB Windows Vista/XP download requires Apple Quicktime 7.1.5. The Mac OS X download is 12.2-MB.


Olympus (http://www.olympusamerica.com/digital) has released Olympus Master 2.02 {MW}, its free image editing software. The new version converts Raw files captured by the new Olympus E-410 and E-510 dSLRs.


Boinx (http://boinx.com) has released a beta of FotoMagico 2.1 [M] featuring "vastly improved export quality for H.264 and DV formats." It also adds a color adjustment feature to make a sequence of images match.


VisibleDust (http://www.visibledust.com) has launched its new Brite Vue XL based technology Sensor Loupe. The $69.95 Sensor Loupe is designed for examining the sensor of a dSLR for dust, illuminating the chamber with six LEDs.


Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com/Hidden/Special/May-June2007/index.html) is offering a manufacturer's rebate through June 30 on two of their most popular kits, a strobe and a continuous lighting kit. Buy the strobe StarFlash 100ws Mercury 5' Octodome Kit and get a free StarFlash 300ws head, or buy the continuous lighting Medium Digital StarLite Kit and get a free StarLite QL head.


The UCLA Library (http://digital.library.ucla.edu/latimesanddailynews) has launched Changing Times: Los Angeles in Photographs, 1920–90, an online collection of more than 5,000 photographs of "historically and socially significant people, places and events, as well as everyday life in Southern California" from the Los Angeles Daily News and the Los Angeles Times.  


DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has announced that DxO Optics Pro v4.2 software now supports the Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro and FinePix S3 Pro as well as the Pentax K10D dSLRs in a free upgrade for Standard and Elite edition users.


Ovolab (http://www.ovolab.com) has released Geophoto 1.3, its $19.95 image browser that organizes your photos by location. The new version displays cities on the 3D globe.


Vertus (http://www.vertustech.com) has released a public beta of Fluid Mask 3, its automatic masking software. The Windows XP/Vista version is available now and a Mac version "will follow shortly."


Chuck Westfall, Canon's director of media and customer relationship, celebrated his 25th anniversary with the company Thursday. We celebrate it too. Chuck has been a reliable source no matter the issue, an approach that is rarer than it should be.


Amazon (htp://www.amazon.com) has announced it has acquired Dpreview (http://www.dpreview.com), the digital camera review site founded in 1998 by Phil Askey. Dpreview will continue to function as a stand-alone operation based in London.

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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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