|Volume 9, Number 14||6 July 2007|
Welcome to the 205th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Weary of the march of technology, we indulge in a little regression this issue with a look at Presto and HP's Printing Mailbox for people who like your pictures but not computers. We continue the theme with a peek at a Web site that can help you recapture the past. But the bulk of the issue is Shawn's hands-on review of Nikon's D40x, which just happens to dovetail nicely with Peter iNova's largest ever eBook. Old, new, you know what to do. Enjoy!
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We were paging through the New York Times Book Review section the other day when we came across a full page ad for "The HP Printing Mailbox." It's a color inkjet printer with a modem that connects to Presto (http://www.presto.com), a service that sends email (including digital photos) to the printer.
The combination is being marketed to anyone with an elderly (grand)parent or two who, for one reason or another, is not friends with a computer, let alone the Internet. But it's not a bad idea for anyone who likes your pictures but not computers.
You buy the printer, plug it in at your parent's home, set up their Presto account on the Web (or by phone) and just like that, the printer starts printing email to your parent. The email printout includes a phone number so the parent can contact the sender -- they don't have to (can't) reply by email.
Unlike your own email, what goes to the printer is not spam and is ad-free. That's because Presto only sends email from the addresses you enter (or white-list) when you set up the account. Setup tasks include setting up an email address for the recipient (who has the printer) and specifying up to five times a day when the printer will dial in to the service to check for email. And you, as the administrator of the account, can drop by the Presto site to find out how that tri-color ink cartridge and the printer's 50-sheet paper supply is holding up, too.
In addition to reformatting and sending your email to the printer, there are a few free newsletters (like recipes from Wolfgang Puck, news from the Wall Street Journal and features from Better Homes & Gardens) to keep the printer humming.
There are two components to this deal: the HP printer and the Presto service.
The 600-dpi printer lists for $149.99 but can be had with our Amazon discount for just $99.99 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000JERC8A/?tag=theimagingres-20). It includes the HP A10 Printing Mailbox, power cord and adapter, print cartridge, sample letter-sized paper, a phone cord, user guide, setup poster and a 60-day money-back guarantee.
The tri-color ink cartridges run about $25 for the 7 ml HP 95 cartridge and $35 for the 14 ml HP 97 high capacity cartridge. The printer is designed for letter-sized plain paper like HP's Multipurpose paper. If you plan to send a lot of pictures, buy a nice smooth sheet. Photo paper is really overkill.
As a printer, it's a large appliance, measuring 15 inches wide by 18.4 inches deep and 6.5 inches high. And it weighs 13 pounds (quite a big baby). While it needs to be close to a phone outlet, it doesn't need a separate line. To share a telephone outlet, you just plug the phone into the printer (like a fax machine).
The Presto service itself costs $10 a month or $100 a year, you can choose either plan. The white-listed addresses can send unlimited email to the account. And that email can be automatically reformatted by the service to print in color with pictures. And the plan includes toll-free phone support.
The reformatting option is clever. Email sent to the recipient's email address is formatted as Presto Mail in a variety of styles that include calendars and themes (birthday, thinking of you, etc.). All you do is write your email, attach your photos and Presto does the heavy lifting using codes in the subject line like "[Presto BestWishes]" to reformat with the BestWishes style. Kind of makes you wonder why Hallmark didn't think of this.
You have to love the simplicity of this concept. And that may be it's most important feature.
By SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D40X/D40XA.HTM on the Web site.)
Nikon out-flanked the competition last Fall with the introduction of the 6-megapixel D40, a small, easy-to-use dSLR with good quality at an affordable price. They fairly bracketed the competition, namely Canon's Digital Rebel XTi, with the Spring 2007 introduction of the Nikon D40x, a 10-Mp dSLR with the same ease of the D40, but with resolution to match the XTi.
This is my favorite kind of review to write, because the D40x is an excellent camera, easy to recommend. The D40x is so similar to the D40 that the form and function are essentially the same (to summarize: terrific in almost every aspect).
Physically, only the badge on the D40x is different from the D40. Internally, it has a 10-Mp sensor instead of 6. The new sensor brings a few other changes thanks to its different technology.
First, the flash sync speed goes down to 1/200 from 1/500. This same change occurred between the D70 and D80. In both cases, the reason is that Nikon switched from "gating" the CCD at higher shutter speeds to including a faster shutter mechanism. This change reduces the chance of "blooming" in images where a bright highlight like the Sun in the frame can overload the sensor.
Second, the Nikon D40x is capable of a slightly faster 3.0 frames per second in continuous mode, as opposed to the D40's 2.5 frames per second.
Third, the ISO range now includes 100, instead of just 200 to 3200. So you can achieve slower shutter speeds or wider apertures in bright light than with the D40. Theoretically you might also get better noise control at ISO 100, but the D40's noise performance is so good I can't see a difference.
Unlike a move from 8 megapixels to 10 megapixels, the jump from 6 to 10 megapixels is indeed a large one. View both images at 100 percent onscreen and you can see just how much larger objects are. It turns out this is an excellent way to gauge how much more detail you're getting. Your screen resolves at only one resolution, so if you set both images to match, you can see how much detail you have in each image. If you're not going to be doing a lot of cropping or enlarging beyond 11x14, you won't notice much difference between the D40 and D40x except the average file size. I would be happy with either, but our tests do show that the D40x has greater dynamic range than any camera we've tested.
Finally, the Nikon D40x's image buffer doesn't go on forever like the D40 can when capturing JPEG images. Instead, depending on the subject, it fills after about seven shots when set to Large/Fine JPEG.
There is one point that owners of older Nikon lenses should know right up front. The D40x was designed to work primarily with AF-S lenses and AF-I teleconverters. The Nikon D40 and D40x are built specifically for entry-level consumers and abandon compatibility with the majority of Nikon's older AF lenses. Though you can still mount old lenses and focus manually, most older lenses require a body-based screw-drive mechanism that the D40s lack.
I maintain that this was a wise move on Nikon's part to help keep the price low and the camera small, but I have occasionally missed that compatibility, especially when wanting to mount a prime (non-zoom) lens on this pleasantly small SLR. There are currently no short prime Nikkor lenses available in AF-S. (I now carry a small SLR with a 50mm prime attached as my everyday camera; I prefer the low light performance and reduced depth-of-field possible with such an arrangement.)
Those who still want to use legacy lenses in autofocus mode, many of which are still in the Nikon lineup, should opt for the D50, D70 or D80. Note that you can still use older lenses with the Nikon D40x if you're OK with manual focus. The D40x can still control aperture on lenses marked D and G and it will illuminate the AF points when an area is in focus. For more complete detail on this relatively complex issue, see the Optics section of this review.
I think it's a safe bet that most Nikon D40x owners will prefer the quieter, more modern AF-S lenses that are currently 23 in number, plus three teleconverters.
Gripping the Nikon D40x is like settling down in your favorite chair. Not only do you feel right at home, the chair feels at home with you, having formed itself to match your shape. The Nikon D40x already matches. My index finger finds the shutter release perfectly and the remaining three fingers fit quite well around the grip. Though I wouldn't mind a slightly deeper grip, this is quite good for a camera this small and a slight recess gives my fingertips a good place to settle, offering tactile feedback that tells me I have sufficient purchase on the camera. My thumb finds its special notch high up on the D40x's back, right between the AE-Lock button and the Command dial. It's just a minor nudge to either of these controls, just like picking up my drink from the side table without taking my eyes off the book as I sit in that comfortable chair. Effortless.
Rather than use the good quality knurl around the Mode dial, I found myself most often sliding my thumb up to spin the Nikon D40x's Mode dial to my next setting. It's easier to move it in a counterclockwise direction and easy enough to go all the way around, so that's my normal mode. The top of the dial isn't flat, but domed and it has a texture that my thumb finds easy to grip.
Since I seldom use camera straps, the lashing points on the camera often bother me, jutting out into my hand or swinging around as they often do. But the strap loops on the Nikon D40x are recessed into the camera body on both sides, a welcome change from all past Nikon dSLR designs, which either flop and rattle on the pro end or jab into your hand on the consumer side.
Controls. The Nikon D40x's control layout is simple and easy to adapt to. I even like the position of the Function button, which you can program to bring up your most frequently adjusted menu item. I currently have it set to ISO. Just press the Function button on the side of the lens with your left thumb and turn the Command dial. The status display lights up the Fn box and you can see the ISO numbers ramp up or down.
A good many other essential items are shown on the Nikon D40x's Status display and can easily be controlled with only a few more buttons. Just press the Zoom/Info button and select the icons across the bottom or right side of the screen with any of the four arrow buttons on the Multi selector. When you reach the one you want, hit the OK button in the center of the Multi selector and a menu is displayed with photographic examples for the various modes. Make your selection and press the OK button again. You're ready to shoot with your new setting. The example shots are very much like those we've seen on consumer digicams over the past few years and it is appropriate to see them here on the Nikon D40x, an SLR aimed at consumers.
LCD. The screen is a big, bright 2.5 inch display with a wide viewing angle in all directions to help you show off your pictures. The camera is so small that the screen seems to dominate the back panel.
I'm overjoyed to see that there's no silly snap-on screen protector in the Nikon D40x box. They fog up, add two extra surfaces to reflect glare and just bug me. I'm told the screen cover is good for protecting the screen from shirt button scratches. My usual nylon buttons don't mar anything, but I suppose harder buttons might. To this day, however, I've never even seen a scratched LCD display on an SLR; so just be aware, use the care you should with your fragile photographic tool and you should be able to maintain a scratch-free LCD cover glass with little trouble.
Most SLR manufacturers have ditched the additional monochrome LCD in favor of using the main color LCD as a status display on their consumer SLRs. About half have also recognized that it helps to have the LCD turn off when you put the camera to your eye. Nikon is not among that half. The Canon Rebel XTi and Sony A100 have IR sensors in place to detect your face against the viewfinder so that the screen shuts off. The Nikon D40x and Olympus E-510 just keep the LCD on until you half-press on the shutter button. It's not a big problem in good light indoors or out, but when it gets dark, it's a nuisance, one that gets worse if you have glasses. The glare just bounces around in that optical mess. If you half press the shutter, however, the Status display goes off. It comes back on about a half second after your release the shutter. You can release the Nikon D40x's shutter only halfway and keep shooting with the same AF setting and the LCD does not come back on.
If you like, you can turn off the D40x's status display, which Nikon calls the Shooting Information Display. On by default, it goes off after a few seconds at idle to save batteries and comes back on when you press the Info button behind the Shutter release button. You can choose among three displays and pick different ones when in PASM vs. full Auto and Scene modes. The Graphic display is set by default. It shows a wheel in the left corner that represents a shutter speed dial and aperture display. The aperture display "stops down" to approximate what the lens blades will be doing, but it only moves after several turns of the Command dial. The same goes for the shutter speed graphic. It seems like a good idea to educate those who are unfamiliar with how cameras work, though they'll have to be the types to pay close attention. You can also have your own picture there as a backdrop in Wallpaper mode. For the most part, I prefer the Classic display, with its no-nonsense, bold digital display of the important data. It looks essentially like the monochrome Status LCDs you'll find on semi-pro and pro SLRs.
Regardless of the display chosen, the LCD is slow to refresh as you change settings. That includes aperture, shutter speed and EV (exposure value) settings. This is a D40 problem that hasn't been fixed in the D40x. I found myself particularly frustrated with the EV settings, because I frequently overshot my goal, thinking the camera had missed my input. When attempting to set -1/3 EV, for example, the camera wouldn't make the change, so I'd turn the Command dial again. Then the camera would catch up and move it to -2/3. The LED display in the optical viewfinder doesn't have this problem, however, moving instantaneously to reflect your choice. This is an unfortunate bug that makes using EV adjustment and manual modes with the Nikon D40x difficult.
Optical Viewfinder. Luke, the lab technician and I both found the diopter control difficult to set. We also noticed that the D40x didn't adjust for our eyesight well enough (which isn't unusual for me). Rather than the wheel Nikon used on the D200 and D80, the D40x has a slider next to the rubber eyepiece. Changing it while looking through the viewfinder is cumbersome and you frequently slide past your desired setting due to the force necessary to move it in the first place.
The viewfinder display is very good, showing all the important information, including which AF point is selected and there's a little question mark icon that flashes in low light or any other situations the Nikon D40x thinks you should make an adjustment. To see what's up, just pull the camera from your eye and press the question mark button on the left of the LCD display. Here in my office, it usually says, "Lighting is poor; flash recommended." I think that's a good feature to have in a consumer camera and the note's not condescending. What I don't like is the incessant flashing of the question mark in the viewfinder and on the back LCD when I'm trying to do something unconventional. It's not a big deal, though, just a rant and one enthusiasts might want to make note of: the D40x's help feature just might bug you.
AF Points. Praise the designers for putting bright LED brackets on all three of the D40x's AF points. Even the excellent Nikon D80 still has the very cool looking, but too often worthless LCD/faint LED combo. I prefer a bright red LED to tell me where the camera is focusing, as exists on the entire Canon SLR lineup. These are big, obvious brackets. And yes, there are only three, but I'm really not as jazzed as I used to be about multiple AF points. I more frequently lock a camera to its center point and work from there. The center point is usually more accurate and I find that SLRs just aren't as accurate as digicams have been at guessing what I want in focus.
There is one small problem related to AF points and the D40x's size. As I mentioned, I prefer to lock it to the center AF point, but putting the D40x into Single Area mode is the only way to set this. Unfortunately, you can't exactly lock it to the center point; instead you use the left and right arrows on the Multi-controller to select which AF point you want to use. Because the area for your thumb on the D40x is small, I find I accidentally press the left and right arrows on the Multi controller, changing the default AF point. That's a bit of an unwelcome surprise when you raise the camera to your eye for a quick candid portrait and the D40x focuses on the subject's belt. Most users will do better to leave the D40x in Closest subject or Dynamic area modes.
Flash. It's a small step down that the D40x doesn't have the D40's 1/500 second flash sync, especially since neither camera's built-in flash is capable of FP mode, which can allow sync up to 1/4000 second with the proper external flash. As I mentioned, the reason the D40x doesn't have this speedy x-sync is because they've put in a full-speed shutter mechanism, rather than relying on electronic "gating" of the sensor array.
Put simply, gating a sensor means the exposure is made by opening the shutter completely, then turning the sensor on and off at the speed you desire. For the D40, the maximum gate speed is 1/4000 second. But why is the flash sync speed reduced on the D40x? Because to make a flash exposure, the shutter must be completely open while the flash fires and the fastest speed that allows this is 1/200 second. At 1/250, the second curtain of the focal plane shutter has already started closing before the first one fully opens, so when the flash fires, part of the sensor will be covered by one of the shutters. So between 1/250 and 1/4000 second, the shutter never fully opens and is instead an increasingly narrow slit that travels across the sensor. There are ways to overcome this with external flashes, which pulse as the slit travels across the sensor, but the D40x's on-camera flash is not capable of this FP or Focal Plane mode. Mount an SB-800 and I think the story changes.
The other missing component to the D40x's flash picture, shared by the D40, is its inability to serve as a Commander in the Nikon Wireless Lighting System. Again, mount an SB-800 and that limitation can be overcome, but you'd do better to purchase a Nikon D80 if you want to employ the Nikon Wireless Lighting System, because each SB-800 will run about $320-$400.
Image quality. It's the D40x's excellent image quality that makes recommending this little dSLR so easy. I'm most impressed that they were able to improve on the D40's already stellar high ISO performance. Hoping to catch my son napping in the afternoon this week like I did when I reviewed the D40 last Fall, I instead found him watching a movie with his brother. It was a good moment, so I pressed the Function button to select ISO 1600, extended the 18-135mm lens to 75mm and snapped off a few shots handheld. It's no great art, but it's a cute picture of two brothers cooling off on the futon after playing one hot Summer afternoon. This is just the kind of photo most D40x owners want from their new camera: a candid indoor shot without flash. It's a little soft and grainy, but still natural looking.
With the 18-55mm kit lens, I'd have had to move closer, which would have distracted them from their gaze. That's why I strongly recommend the 18-135mm kit if you can afford it. Equivalent to a 27 to 202mm lens, the 18-135mm lens is bigger, but it's better and has just the right reach for almost all family photography. When I reviewed the D80, I've never felt more instantly at home with a camera and lens combination. Shooting at an amusement park, I could go wide for the scenics and then set up for a head and shoulders portrait from just about any vantage.
Looking at my Gallery shots, I was surprised how saturated the colors were. I had to check the camera to verify I had it set to Normal; I did. Dave and I find both the contrast and saturation on the D40x's Normal setting are too high for our purposes, even if most consumers will be pleased. Their reality will be just a little more punchy and beautiful and that's what most folks want to see. Those interested in making their own after-capture tweaks to the image will do better entering Custom mode and making their own mix of settings.
I also had the sweet little Nikkor 55-200mm VR lens with me, which was introduced at PMA 2007 concurrent with the D40x. Available for between $240 and $300, this lens seems like another great choice for the D40x owner seeking a little extra reach with help from optical image stabilization. It's equivalent to an 82.5-300mm lens on a 35mm camera, yet is both small and light. We haven't tested it on SLRgear.com yet, but the shots I got with it seem pretty sharp corner-to-corner.
At full telephoto indoors or shade, the AF system is slower to acquire focus with the 55-200mm VR, which I expected. The image stabilizer is sometimes jittery starting up, making a little buzzing sound, but it stabilizes quickly. I don't think this is Nikon's best VR system, as it often seems unable to compensate for my movement when set to full tele, but it's still nice to have the extra help.
One other plus with the D40x that we found when we ran our Imatest "deep analysis," which we usually reserve for SLRs, is its quite superior dynamic range. It actually delivers better highlight and shadow gradation in its JPEG images than all other cameras we've tested, including the remarkable Fujifilm S3 Pro. This latter camera has a sensor that's specially designed to produce a wide dynamic range, blending the results from high-sensitivity and low-sensitivity pixels, so the fact that the D40x beats this purpose-built pro camera is significant.
Looking at the images side-by-side, we tended to prefer the D40x's output as well. Analyzing Raw files from both cameras, the S3 Pro did edge the D40x slightly; but it beat everything else on the chart. What does that mean for you? It means you're more likely to get both the white wedding dress and black tuxedo exposed properly in the same shot; and if you don't, you're more likely to be able to recover some detail from these areas if you need to. Both shadow and highlight detail will be more rich and have more depth, where other cameras will just transition from gray to black in one or two steps.
Nikon really shocked the market with the D40. Just four months later they did it again with the Nikon D40x. Its jump to 10 megapixels brought more than just resolution enhancements, it brought a new shutter, slightly greater speed and, surprisingly, better low light performance than the already impressive D40 offered. That's tough to do when you're raising resolution.
No matter how you look at it, the Nikon D40 stands up well against the competition, with great image quality at all speeds and near-perfect utility as a family camera. Its very fun to use, polite, attractive and well-built; just the kind of companion you want to have along on your next family outing. The Nikon D40x doesn't really obsolete the D40, which we continue to recommend strongly and list as a Dave's Pick, but it's a little better in just a few key areas, which is high praise indeed. Own either and you'll know why we've made the Nikon D40x a Dave's Pick.
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:
- Reviewed: Nikon D40x (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D40X/D40XA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus FE-250 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FE250/FE250A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot SD750 Digital ELPH (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD750/SD750A.HTM)
- Diary: Kodak EasyShare 5300 AiO, Part II (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/K5300/K5300B.HTM)
It's hard to keep up with Peter iNova's eBooks. For one thing, there's more in them than a shelf-full of digital photography books. For another, there's more in them than any camera manual no matter how many languages it's printed in.
We've recommended them before just as a terrific tutorial on this stuff, but we've also used them to evaluate potential dSLR purchases. It beats buying two cameras and returning one. The detail and discoveries go so deep that even the manufacturers buy them to find out about their products.
Not long ago, Peter sent us his D200 and D80 tomes, published in a new format designed to fit the screen rather than the page. We copy the manuals to our hard disk and refer to them when we forget how to set the flash for remote operation or set the non-CPU lens data. But even more, the new format recognizes the primacy of the screen experience. His rollover illustrations and numerous links just can't be duplicated by a printout.
But the layout also works very well for those indispensable cheat-sheets. Readers "can always print out any range of pages in our eBooks for reference. They will lose the interactive examples, movies, hyperlinks and animations, but sometimes paper goes places laptops shouldn't," Peter said.
The new format, however, is no reason to take lightly his latest eBook on the D40/D40x (http://www.digitalsecrets.net/D40). Forget counting sheep, you can flip pages -- all 1,013 of them -- to dream about one of these cameras. That laser-printed proof was 4.2 inches thick. Nearly an ottoman.
Peter explained how this title grew so large. "Considering that the reader is most likely starting into digital photography and the camera is less feature-rich than the D70/D80/D200 -- but still exceptionally capable, extra care has been taken to explain a wider range of techniques, work-arounds, how-to-get-there-from-heres and pitfall avoidance therapy."
With pages devoted to one feature, menu item or control at a time, it's simple to see at a glance what the hardware can do. But there's always more to an iNova title: iNova Actions.
Those include 660 Photoshop actions that Peter has refined over the years. He explains, "Size-critical ones that work for 10MP images but not with 6MP images have been cleaned up to work with either size. A number of new ones have joined the group, taking advantage of Photoshop CS3's new features, such as Auto-Align Frames.
"Other new Actions are iFaces for portraits; it takes 10 years off. Several variations of the iIRbw are new. That one makes a plausible infrared image from a color shot. I was dismayed with other Faux IR Actions, so I made some of my own.
"The entire iNovaFX Photoshop Actions Chapter 10 was thrown up in the air, restructured into clusters of Actions with a common thread and re-formatted in a more logical manner. What was 38 pages is now 58 pages and greatly easier to absorb."
While you need Photoshop CS3 to read the D40x Raw files anyway, the new Actions take full advantage of CS3 improvements like Photomerge capability and the Lens Distortion and Noise Reduction filters.
The disc also includes what Peter described as "the richest resource a NEFarious Nikonian could want." That's the 210-page Raw Materials volume written by Uwe Steinmueller of the Digital Outback Photo.
That's what we'd call a good deal. But to make it even better order from our Deals section and get free shipping. Fortunately, everything fits on one disc.
Hindsight is the mother of all invention. As soon as you find out what you should have known, you invent a story to explain why you behaved as if you didn't know it.
Had George realized one whack would have felled that cherry tree, he never would have let the girl next door play with his axe. Once he knew, he invented a plausible explanation for the short life of that tree. "I did it."
It's no mystery why the next version of Mac OS X includes a backup feature called Time Machine. The attraction isn't just the comfort of having a backup, it's the power of being able to revert to the devil you knew. Don't like iTunes 7.3 with iPhones support? Revert to version 7.2 and whistle while you work again.
Except it can be impossible to find that old version where you last found it. Software vendors are not keen on supporting old versions of their stuff. It's like sending an old girlfriend a birthday card every year. Gets old fast.
Enter OldApps.com (http://www.oldapps.com), a site for sore eyes.
"The Idea behind our site, OldApps.com," the About page says, "is to provide most of the current and old versions of software online for free." Need an old version of ACDSee? Oldapps.com has 14 of them, all the way back to 1.0. How about iPhoto? There are 10 of them, back to 1.1.1. And all of them are checked by the advertiser-supported site "so you will never end up with any malware, trojan and/or virus."
The downloads are free, but we should point out that the software often isn't. OldApps.com doesn't distribute what it calls "illegal software." So while you can download 14 versions of Paint Shop Pro from 2.0 to 9.0, you can't install any of them without the right credentials.
The site's philosophy is simple. "Software updates are being released more and more frequently but not every computer is able to keep up with the minimum requirements of new software. For those of you whose computer is not able to meet new requirements we are happy to help you folks out."
Just make sure the old version doesn't have any security vulnerabilities. That's the kind of hindsight you don't need.
We bookmarked the site the minute we found it. You never know when you should have known what you do now.
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 Pentax K10D at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eea528b/0
Visit the Casio Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f775
Emmanuel asks about Nikon versus Canon at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea5ced/0
Joan asks about panoramas at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea5cd4/0
Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2
Things were happening out on the street last week, if you managed to unchair yourself. We've been shooting a lot of Gallery shots for one or another digicam, so we were out and about. Last Friday, June 29, was something special, though.
The big attraction was the inaugural iPhone sale at 6 p.m. We hiked down to the closest Apple store after 5 p.m. to see how things were going.
It was very well organized, in fact. Security guards were putting up ropes to manage the crowd, which was kept outside the mall entrance behind a very long rope to await the store's reopening at six. There were maybe 200 people in a good mood when we walked by to see what the store itself looked like.
The store must have closed at 5 p.m., we guessed, to drape the windows in black with the promise of reopening with iPhones at 6 p.m. More ropes were being put up to manage the line in front of the store and two official-looking store guys stood in front of the door. You would have thought Paris Hilton was coming to buy the Queen of England an iTunes gift card.
We continued our walk into Borders where we stopped dead as soon as we got in the door. Another step and we would have waded into a sea of kids and parents listening to two adults talk about the last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and latest movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Presumably. We didn't stick around to find out but both are being released this month. The hosts were promising "really cool stuff" in each and we could hear the delighted screaming all over the store.
Finally, on the way home, we happened to walk by the roped-off movie theater where Michael Moore's Sicko was opening later that night. A nurses association was sponsoring the screening, a table outside proclaimed. And the news on television, all week, had been full of Michael Moore segments and interviews. You'd have to have been living in a hospital not to have noticed.
All of these events came with their own complete chorus of complainers, too. The anti-Apple chorus is always in tune, rattling the windows about how much money the iThing costs. The anti-Harrys not so much, somewhat intimidated by the hordes of little monsters actually sitting down quietly to read something. But they're made up for by the anti-Moorians who make plenty of noise themselves.
What exactly can we make of all this?
Oddly enough, it reminded us of a paradigm shift in software programming many years ago.
In the beginning, software ran the show. Programmers wrote software that would wait for you to do what it was expecting. If you guessed wrong, you got a beep. There's even an ASCII character (7) devoted to the beep as if it were another character in the alphabet (perhaps an annoyed exclamation mark).
But then someone had a bright idea. What if the user ran the software? Turned out it was a pretty popular idea. Software learned to look for events like a mouse click and figure out what you wanted done.
We thought of that design shift as we wandered by these three big cultural events last week. Rather than put a product on the shelf, advertise it and wait for sales, these three events themselves created interest in -- and demand for -- the products that surpassed anything ordinary advertising could do. And the products were not even on the shelves yet.
People called in sick with the iFlu perhaps to be in line with none other than Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak at his old hang out, the Valley Fair Mall, buying iPhones for his kids. And people will stand in line to buy the new Harry Potter at midnight, staying up all night to see how fast they can read it. And they stood in line on opening night to see Sicko so they could tell everyone else about it.
If you were still at your computer, shopping online, you missed it. The iPhone had to be bought at a store because there was a 2-4 week wait for online orders. Harry Potter has to bought at a store, not on Amazon, to get read through that night. Sicko had to be seen that evening before anyone else got a chance. You had to be there.
Compare that event-driven publicity, we suggest, to the Kodak AiO rollout that went unnoticed at Best Buy (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1174524422.html). Apart from a CNET review and our 5300 Diary (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/K5300/K5300B.HTM), almost nothing has been written about a product on which Kodak has pinned such big hopes. Hardly anyone has heard about it.
Of course, the product counts for something, too. The iPhone, Harry Potter, Sicko don't require much research. To buy an iPhone you just have to make one choice: the 4-GB or 8-GB model. The new Harry Potter just has to be distinguished from previous volumes and Sicko just requires getting the show time right. Buying a camera isn't that simple, unfortunately. The proliferation of models with different features is, well, confusing. And when consumers are confused, they don't buy.
Would you stand in line to buy a new printer or camera? No? Can't blame you, really. And yet a lot of people did stand in line for a phone, a book and a movie. There's a lesson to be learned there.
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RE: Reactolite Filter?
Do you think a filter made from a Reactolite lens would be of any use on a camera? Could it act like a neutral density filter? I did email Hoya UK a few weeks ago but never got an answer. I am going to try my local opticians to see if they will loan me there large sample lens and give it a try.
-- Martin Bruntnell(The problem with blown highlights isn't too much light. You can just shorten the exposure time and/or stop down the aperture to cope with that. The problem is dynamic range, the range of light-to-dark values within the scene. A neutral density filter (or a Reacolite lens) just changes the overall brightness level, but does nothing to change the range between the lightest and darkest elements of the image. While it makes the highlights darker, it makes the shadows darker at the same time. -- Dave)
RE: Zoom Creep
Kudos on the zoom creep solution! I've been the satisified user of a rubber band on my Minolta 70-210 for a number of years.
-- Mark Van Alstine(<g> Thanks, Mark! The price is right, too! -- Editor)
RE: Wacom Nibs
Regarding the Wacom pen nib replacement availability in Canada, the nibs can be purchased from Vistek (http://www.vistek.ca). Here is the link: http://www.vistek.ca/details/details.aspx?WebCode=211150
-- Janice(Thanks, Janice! -- Editor)
RE: Marketing Question
Hi, I'm Kenyan and I have some quality digital photos. How can I market this for others to buy out there?
-- Makori(Well, there are lots of ways. You can license them to a stock photo agency like http://www.istockphoto.com (observing their submission requirements) or display them on a site like Printroom.com to sell prints or license them from your own site. The real question is how much time you want to devote to marketing them. -- Editor)
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Photoshop Lightroom 1.1 with added functionality and support for Windows Vista. Lightroom 1.1 updates libraries to catalogs, adds a flexible image management system for multi-computer workflows, improved noise reduction and sharpening and Raw file support for 13 additional digital cameras from leading manufacturers including Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Phase One.
Martin Evening has a detailed look at the new version on his Lightoom-News site (http://lightroom-news.com/lightroom-11-update/).
Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released v3.0.5 of LightZone, its intuitive image editing software based on the Zone System. In addition to bug fixes and support for more dSLRs, this is the first version available in the low-cost Basic configuration.
Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released its $125 RAW Developer 1.7.0 [M]. New features include automatic highlight recovery processing, an improved pattern noise filter, full screen image preview support and a new option for use of DNG style camera color rendering in addition to the existing support for ICC camera profiles. It also adds support for 15 new camera models including the Canon 1D Mark III, the Nikon D40x, the Fuji S5 Pro, the Olympus E-410 and E-510, recent digital backs from Phase One, Leaf, Mamiya and more.
Pandigital (http://www.pandigital.net) has introduced a new line of Digital Photo Frames with a significantly enhanced features as well as a new line of wireless and battery accessories. Wireless WiFi and Bluetooth modules let you send photos to the frame via a WiFi network or Bluetooth-enabled device. The battery accessory powers the frame away from an outlet, providing up to three hours of viewing time. All accessories fit neatly on the back, maintaining the frames' sleek design. See our news story (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1183390914.html) for details.
The National Association of Photoshop Professionals has announced the release of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Basic Training, a new training class by Matt Kloskowski, NAPP education and curriculum developer and host of the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Killer Tips podcast (http://www.lightroomkillertips.com). For $69.99 ($49.99 for NAPP members) The course is available as a 21-day online course at http://www.photoshoptraining.com. Each day, class attendees visit the Web site to download the day's materials. Then they simply watch the class session and following along with the tutorial.
Mustek (http://www.mustek.com) has introduced its $199.99 PF-A1020BC Digital Photo Frame, a 10.2-inch TFT LCD display panel along with a set of interchangeable faceplates. The 3:2 aspect ratio screen has 720x480 resolution to display photos directly from a USB thumb drive or MMC, SD, CF, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro memory card. In addition, up to 48 photos can be stored in the frame's internal memory.
Epson (http://www.epson.com) has announced the PerfectionR V200 Photo photo and film scanner, featuring 4800 dpi optical resolution, 48-bit color scanning and 3.2 dynamic range for only $99.
Touchpoint Studios (http://www.touchpointstudios.com) has released its Touchpoint Gallery [W], a new way to have fun with your digital images (locally or on the Web), diplaying them in 3D scenarios like a photo album or art gallery, as a screen saver and as wallpaper. Enter the code "FATHERS" during June for a 25 percent discount on the $24.95 unlimited version.
Optunis Imaging (http://www.optunis.com) has released version 1.0.2 of its $49 ChromaKeys utility [M]. Highlights of the new version are new ways of importing images, including support for drag and drop.
Blaise Aguera y Arcas shows off his baby Photosynth, based on Seadragon's zoom and navigation technology, at TED2007 (http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/129). Will Photosynth "utterly transform the way we manipulate and experience digital images?" See for yourself.
David Ekholm has updated his free JAlbum [LMW] (http://jalbum.net) to version 7.2. The Java Web album generator adds an option to delete or clean files from prior albums, arbitrary ordering of images and folders, random images and folders shuffle, drag-and-drop folder rearrangement on remote servers and other more.
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
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher