The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 9, Number 16 3 August 2007

Copyright 2007, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 207th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Dave explains why the site was down at the end of last week, then we take a look at an inexpensive digicam that doesn't disappoint. We explain how images can be blurred and discuss the merits of different LCD screens. Finally, we revisit the retail experience. 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:
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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.

Publisher's Note: IR Site Returns to Normal

It was a long and hairy battle, but the Imaging Resource servers are now back to normal.

Apologies for our outage last Friday through Sunday. It was testimony that the best laid plans of mice and men (but particularly the latter) are prone to going astray.

The short version of the story is that a bad drive appears to have taken down our entire Redundant Array of Independent Disks or RAID. Compounding matters, problems with the DiskSync backup system meant that a restore process that should have taken only a few hours went on for almost 20 hours.

A word of warning to users of RAID 5 systems: The redundancy built into RAID 5 will tolerate the failure of any one drive in the system, but only in the sense that it can reconstruct missing data. This is now the third time in my career that I've seen a RAID 5 system fail completely. (I ran a small systems integration company in a previous life, else I probably wouldn't have seen as many.)

In this case, one of the drives in the array failed in a way that caused it to interfere with data flowing over the SCSI bus. Data from all the drives consequently became corrupt, as did any "reconstructed" data that was written back to fix an apparently failing drive. Because the fault affected data from all drives, the system wasn't able to identify which drive was the actual source of the problem. It did indicate a particular drive in the array, but that drive was actually fine, it just happened to be the drive at the particular position along the SCSI bus that was most affected by the bus problem.

So we had to completely wipe the array (actually moving to a new server chassis and full array of entirely new hard drives), reload the OS and restore from our online backups.

This was where the second major hassle developed. We use a system marketed by our ISP under the name of DiskSync. It proved horrendously unreliable. It did indeed preserve all our data (it does seem to do a good job of that), but kept hanging whenever it encountered a symbolic link (or alias) in the directory structure. This meant that the process proceeded by fits and starts, needing to be restarted many times.

It may be we just didn't know critical info about how to use DiskSync, but a utility that purports to be a backup solution for Linux shouldn't hang whenever it encounters a symlink, even in its default configuration.

Going forward, we're going to configure our servers so one of the secondary boxes will be able to stand in for the main server in a pinch. Performance might be lower on the secondary box and some of the housekeeping and deployment services on the primary box won't be supported, but the site itself would be able to stay up and running.

Longer term, we plan to install our own hardware here in Atlanta to have hands-on access ourselves when we need it. This solution will also involve a 24x7 "hot spare" synced with the primary server every couple of hours, so we can transfer operations with the flip of a virtual switch.

On the face of it, this would be a more expensive solution than our current one using DiskSync. But when you consider that the revenue we lost as a result of this outage could have paid for the duplicate hardware in one fell swoop, the economics change.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Nikon Coolpix L10 -- Kidcam for $85

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPL10/CPL10A.HTM on the Web site.)

Our nephew wanted a camera for Christmas the year he started First Grade. His prudent parents, who themselves owned a couple of digital cameras, bought him a disposable film camera to see if it would outlast his interest.

It didn't, so the next year he got an entry-level digicam which presented only two problems: remembering to charge the batteries between infrequent uses and remembering to download images from the large SD card. The latter was the bigger problem because he didn't have a computer of his own.

But he loves his digicam and wants to save every picture he ever took on that SD card. He likes looking through them. Especially if there are gag shots he took with his little brother. Well, at least now there's some evidence.

High tech gadgets trickle down slowly to children. The safety of having a cell phone was obvious, but putting an expensive and fragile device in small hands was just as obviously a short-term solution. So the cell phone industry started making phones designed for kids.

The digicam industry hasn't been quite so swift (despite a few toys), but its low-end, entry-level offerings are approaching that market. These products repackage older technology (particularly smaller LCDs) with a frill or two in the $100 to $200 price range.

Nikon's recent stratification of the Coolpix line into three series -- the Life series L models, the Style series S models and the Performance series P models -- targets different kinds of photographers with each line. The L series is designed "with the casual snapshooter in mind," Nikon says. It's the company's lowest priced line with list prices running from $120 to $200, which translates to street prices from $110 to $150 -- and I've seen the Nikon Coolpix L10 for as little as $85 recently.

But Nikon's L series is not just for kids. They're packed with the company's trademark in-camera enhancements: Best Shot Selector, D-Lighting, Red-Eye Fix and Face Priority Auto Focus. Every one of those is a useful tool you'll miss in cameras that don't have them. So they'd be ideal for anyone entering their second childhood, too, who might enjoy a simple digital camera to get shots of the grandkids.

The lightweight and attractive design of the L series is also something of a bonus compared to other entry-level offerings. These are good-looking cameras.

And they all come with Nikon glass. The Nikon Coolpix L10 and L11 use the same 38-113mm 3x zoom, while the L12 uses a 35-105mm 3x zoom that adds Vibration Reduction to the package (again, a real bonus).

The main distinctions between models are sensor size and LCD size. The Nikon Coolpix L10 is a 5-Mp digicam with a 2.0 inch LCD while the nearly identical L11 is a 6-Mp digicam with a 2.4 inch LCD. The L12, which stands alone anyway with its VR lens, is a 7.1-Mp digicam with a 2.5-inch LCD. And it's a bit more sensitive, too, raising the maximum ISO level to 1,600 from the 800 of the other two models.

There's one more distinction worth noting. Like the L12, the L11 has an ImageLink connection on its base and includes a plastic dock insert for use with Kodak EasyShare dock printers. But the L10 does not have an ImageLink connection.

We shot with all three for a couple of weeks and found them to be sturdy, reliable little cameras, easily pocketed and ready for action. We found them a little slow on the trigger compared to higher-end models and had some trouble focusing in Macro mode (normally one of the Coolpix line's great strengths). But you expect some shortcomings at this price level.

We have a Full Review of the L12 and a Express Review of the L11, but here let's take a closer look at the Nikon Coolpix L10.

DESIGN

Pictures just don't do it justice. The Nikon Coolpix L10 is really smaller than it looks. The bulging grip is in just the right place for your thumb to slip between the W and T on the Zoom lever. It's very nicely balanced.

The brushed chrome look is balanced, too, by chrome highlights around the lens, on the eyelet for the wrist strap and on the top panel. It's not flashy, but it's attractive -- much more attractive than its price tag would suggest.

Even with a pair of AA rechargeables loaded in the grip, it isn't heavy. And yet it has enough heft that pressing the Shutter button won't jar the camera and blur the picture. Balance.

The controls on the back panel are minimal so there isn't a lot to confuse anybody who picks it up. You'll find the Zoom lever right away (with its handy Help function for any Menu option on the T side) and right below it the Menu button. Shooting options like Flash, EV compensation, Focus mode and the Self-Timer are tucked into the Multi Selector, a single ring with an OK button in the middle. A Playback button and an Erase button sit just above the small Mode switch with settings for Auto, Scene and Movie modes. Very simple.

About the size of a wallet, it fits in your pants pocket or anything else as large, ready to go anywhere. And at this price, you won't worry too much if you leave it there, either.

LCD

Inexpensive digicams get that way by forgoing optical viewfinders. Optical viewfinders are helpful when the sun beats down on your LCD, making it hard to see what the camera sees. But they are pretty inaccurate and not otherwise much missed. Small price to pay.

The L11 uses a 2.4 inch LCD with 115,00 pixels while the Nikon L10 uses a smaller 2.0 inch LCD with 153,00 pixels to display the large-type menus of the Nikon Coolpix system. It's one of the distinguishing features between these two cameras. Although it obviously doesn't do anything for the size of the type, the higher resolution of the L10's smaller screen does make it more readable than it might be otherwise. The L10's LCD is also a bit brighter than that on the L11.

The LCD itself is usable in full sun, something we can't say about every one we've tried. It also resists fingerprints very well, another rare attribute. It has just enough resolution at 115K to show you what you've captured as well as display the large type menus Nikon is famous for.

You can adjust the monitor brightness over five steps in the Setup menu from its default setting of 3 to 5 (brighter) or 1 (darker), too.

PERFORMANCE

There's a trick to powering up a Coolpix. On the Setup menu, you'll find a Quick Startup option that skips the usual icon or animation and just gets down to business right away. Even with the telescoping lens, Quick Startup gets the camera going quickly. We were never bothered by the startup time when we shot with either the Nikon Coolpix L10 or L11.

Zoom performance was a different matter. Optical zoom was fine, smoothly racketing from wide angle to telephoto. But digital zoom steps more slowly through its range. That was annoying. But a disincentive to use digital zoom isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The Nikon Coolpix L10 offers three capture modes worth exploring: Single, Continuous and Multi-Shot 16. In Single mode, the camera reconsiders everything about the shot (focus, white balance, etc.) each time you press the Shutter button, causing quite a delay between captures. If you're trying to catch the action, Continuous is quicker, capturing two shots/second with a fast enough memory card (we used a Kingston 133x SD card to test with). This isn't at all bad for an economy-priced digital camera. You can capture 16 small images with a single shutter press in Multi-Shot 16 mode (at 2 frames/second, regardless of the speed of your memory card), which can be fun for stop action photography.

The Nikon L10 can take you a little deeper into the magic of photography with its Scene modes. These include Face-Priority AF, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-Up, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy, Back Light, Panorama Assist, and Voice Recording. Each of these settings configure the camera so you don't have to worry about how to get the shot.

Sports, for example, behaves a lot like Continuous capture mode, capturing 2.0 frames second after fixing focus. Night Landscape lets you get those National Geographic shots of ribbons of traffic light streaming through skyscrapers at night (if you use a tripod). Museum turns off the flash and enables Best Shot Selector so you can shoot in art museums without attracting a guard. Scene modes are worth trying out, they make it easy to get tough shots.

The same lens is used on the Nikon Coolpix L10 and L11, but it's a different lens than the optically stabilized lens on the L12. VR is worth every penny it costs and on the L12 it costs very few of them. It not only gets rid of the blur in telephoto shots, it lets you capture natural light images at shutter speeds so slow you normally would only get blurred images. (Of course, it only helps with camera shake, moving subjects will still be subject to blurring.) But you just might find the lens used on the L10 and L11 a bit sharper than the L12.

Macro mode is one of the hallmarks of the Coolpix line. Focus was hard to fix in Macro mode, but when we were able to do it, we had some fun. The flower shots are good examples. On the Nikon L10, Macro focuses from about 5.9 inches out, about the same as the L12. But where the L12 can focus in Macro mode at the telephoto end of its range, the L10 focuses at the wide-angle end. Still Macro really adds another dimension to the fun of owning a Nikon Coolpix, no matter your age.

While our Test Shots show higher than average barrel distortion at wide angle, almost every digicam shows some -- if it's got any wide to its wide angle. More interesting is the severe vignetting or dark corners at wide angle that you can see in our Twin Peaks and beach shots at 6.2mm (37mm in 35mm equivalent). That was a surprise.

Digital zoom was something of a disappointment on the Nikon Coolpix L10, but hardly worth complaining about. The shot of of downtown at 74.4mm (452mm in 35mm equivalent) is digitally zoomed and lacks detail.

While the L12 cranks up the sensor's sensitivity as high as ISO 1600, the Nikon L10 is limited to ISO 800. Expect to use the flash in low light. Fortunately, Nikon's in-camera Red-Eye Fix is a nice way of handling red-eye.

In fact, over the years, Nikon has built a suite of in-camera enhancements that really make a difference in typical photography. This started with Best Shot Selector, which simply checks the file size on a set of images, saving the largest (and, by definition, the most detailed). But it has continued with several other now common tools.

D-Lighting can brighten faces that were captured as shadows because of a bright light like a sunset behind them. Red-Eye Fix can find and remove any red-eye it inevitably finds in a flash image. And the newest kid on the block, Face-Priority Auto Focus can find the faces in the scene and set the focus on them.

Nikon gets a lot of shots out of two AA batteries, particularly if you use NiMH rechargeables. In our usual photo safaris around here, we never had a low battery warning with the Coolpix L10. You can get about 300 shots with NiMHs, which is more than you'll want to show anybody at one sitting anyway.

If NiMHs and a charger are too much of investment for your junior photographer, though, there are a couple of interesting alternatives. Oxyride AAs are good for 250 shots and lithium AAs for 600. The lithiums won't lose a drop of energy sitting undisturbed in the camera either. So if your photographer won't take more than 600 shots all year (well, up to 10 years), they may make sense.

SHOOTING

The most trouble we had shooting with these Coolpixes was right at the start. We couldn't find the Mode dial. Of course, we were looking for a dial, not a switch, and we were looking for it up top near the power button. Once we found it, we got back to work.

The Mode switch has three options: Auto, Scene and Movie. Playback mode is accessed via a separate button on the rear panel. The advantage of that approach is that you can hold in the Playback button and it will power the camera on without extending the lens. Very handy for showing off your pictures.

Our first outing we took all three L Series Coolpixes up to Twin Peaks for the zoom range shots. You can carry three of these, they're that small.

Many of the shots were taken from exactly the same spot, so you can compare the three cameras.

Shooting in bright sun and trying to evaluate exposure on the LCD was not easy. The LCD doesn't show you the full range of tones to begin with (no LCD really does), so your images will look a lot better on a computer monitor.

A number of shots were taken into the sun on that walk. With a histogram display, we might have ratcheted the exposure down a bit, although the L12 did better than its siblings holding onto the highlights.

But the main virtue of the L series Coolpix models is how simple they are to use. Pop one out of your pocket, press the Power button a second and line up the shot using the Zoom lever to compose the image. Then just press the Shutter button.

It's that simplicity that wins you over.

Movie mode was likewise a breeze. Just flip the Mode switch to Movie and, if you want, press the Menu button to set a movie size. They all fit on one screen.

The Nikon Coolpix L10 offers five movie options. If you have a fast (10MB/s) SD card, you can shoot "broadcast quality" video at 640 x 480 pixels and 30 frames a second. Otherwise you can shoot 640 x 480 at just 15 frames a second. You can shoot up to two gigabytes at a time, an impressive 39+ minutes in best quality mode, 56+ minutes one step down. You can also shoot at 30 fps but capture only 320 x 240 pixels. And you can capture 320 x 240 at just 15 frames per second, too. A much smaller 160 x 120 capture size is available at 15 fps, for a very compact video format.

CONCLUSION

Of the three L-series Coolpixes, the L10 and L11 are much more basic than the L12, with lower resolution sensors (5.0-Mp and 6.0-Mp vs. 7.1-Mp), a lower maximum ISO (800 vs. 1,600), and a simple 3x zoom vs. the L12's optically stabilized lens. The L12 also captures AVI movies rather than the MOV movies of the L10 and L11, which may or may not be a factor for you. (AVI came from the Windows side of the world, MOV came from the Mac, readers for both are available on both platforms these days though.) The L11, like the L12, can be used with printer docks. That said though, the L12 does cost almost 50% more than the L10 with a similar body style.

At this modest price level, you can't expect high-end performance but you do get good performance along with a suite of in-camera image enhancement tools that really matter. And you get Nikon's excellent Macro performance, too, although it's less remarkable at wide-angle on the L10 than on the more versatile L12.

We do miss manual control of aperture, shutter, and even ISO, but no child will. And certainly not an adult whose main interest is just in catching the moment. They'll find the camera easy to carry and use, especially with the large type in the LCD menus.

And that's the real charm of these L Series models. They're as simple as it gets -- with a little in-camera magic to help you handle the hard stuff. If that appeals to you, these are Dave's Picks. The L10 in particular strikes us as an exceptional bargain. It used to be that any digital camera selling for anything close to $100 was just trash, not worth even that modest expense. With the Nikon Coolpix L10 though, "bargain" doesn't have to mean "junk" any longer. It's a very serviceable little camera with a nice range of features and very decent image quality. A Dave's Pick for sure, in the "budget" category.

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:

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: Two Kinds of Blurry

Sometimes, we can't help it, we're not as anxious to be helpful as we might be.

"Do you know why the pictures I take with my digicam sometimes come out blurry?" Ms. Puzeld said to us at a reception the other day. She was indeed forlorn, a tear splashing into her champagne flute, and our heart went out to her.

"Blurry?" we sympathized, suggesting she tell us more.

"Like when I take pictures of my cats, they're just a blur," she stared into our eyes to see if her plight had wrenched our compassion tightly enough. "Or in the museum, they're blurry too," she sniffled. "I really like art and I love it when I can photograph my favorite paintings," she explained her odd hobby. "Do you think I should return the camera?"

"But not all of them are blurry, are they?" we offered some hope.

"Oh, no. I get really nice landscapes. And pictures of my car are good, too."

"I think I can help you," we promised, twisting the end of our mustache.

There are two kinds of blurry and she had them both. There's the cat blurry and the museum blurry. Both can be avoided but you have to take action.

Cat blurry is what happens when the star of your picture moves while the shutter is open. In the early days of photography, people had to hold themselves quite still for several minutes while the exposure was made. But even today, when you can snap a shot in a fraction of a second, your shutter can be open long enough for a cat leaping onto the sofa to appear in more than one place in the image. So the sofa may be sharp, but the cat is a blur.

The quick fix for this is to use the special Cat Scene mode on your camera. If you don't have one, Sports mode will do. That sets the camera to use the fastest shutter speed it can in that light.

Cat Scene mode won't help Museum blurry, though. When you are trying to take a picture in a museum, the light is almost always very low to protect the art from fading for generations to come. So your lens aperture opens all the way up to let in as much light as possible and your shutter helps out enormously by staying open until enough light gets through. Unfortunately, you are holding the camera during this long exposure. You breathe and fidget and the camera is, well, not as still as it should be. So the camera, like the cat, moves during the exposure and blurs everything. Even the painting that can't move.

You may actually have a Museum Scene mode on your camera or even a Best Shot Selector that lets you shoot three or more images at a time, saving the sharpest one (it knows, it knows). But the real fix for this is to stop moving the camera. You can't always use a tripod, but sometimes you can prop the camera up against a wall or post or sit it on a bean bag or even tie a string to it and step on the other end, pulling up (see our Feb. 23 issue for more on that).

But an even better solution is to get a camera with optical image stabilization (also known as vibration reduction). Just turn it on and leave it on. There's an element in the lens that will shift to compensate for your shake so your images are sharp even when you can't hold the camera still.

"So there's nothing wrong with my camera?" Ms. Puzeld asked with the hint of a smile on her lovely visage.

"Now what could ever go wrong with a camera?" we smiled back.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: A Shiny or a Matte LCD?

While the newest MacBook Pro models may have made news with their mercury-free, power-efficient LED backlit displays, they may be remembered for joining PC manufacturers like Dell by providing a choice in display options. Antiglare or glossy?

The trend in everything from digicams to phones to laptops has been toward glossy screens. People love them. They're so shiny they make any device look like jewelry. But non-glare LCDs have been the standard LCD display for a long time. Often the only option, in fact.

So what's the difference?

First of all, let's point out that the hardware difference amounts to a choice between polarizing filters incorporated on the LCD panel. The panels themselves aren't different. But a non-glare LCD has a polarizing filter with a non-glare surface treatment while a glossy LCD has one with a glossy surface treatment sometimes referred to as anti-reflective.

The non-glare filter has an uneven surface so light scatters off it. You can't see the unevenness because it's microscopic -- but it's effective. A glossy filter is quite smooth, of course, so the light transmitted from the LCD backlight is not scattered before it reaches your eyes -- but it also reflects ambient light rather than diffusing it.

Glossy LCD panels usually have an anti-reflective coating to reduce that light reflection. But these coatings can impair brightness and increase cost.

That filter, however, affects image quality, price and even color.

The advantages of a glossy LCD are immediately apparent. The images enjoy vivid color with deep blacks and a high contrast ratio. But the more easily scratched screen also reflects anything in front of it. And if you spend long hours in front of one, you may find yourself suffering eye strain.

Non-glare LCDs are designed to scatter reflections, making them easier on the eyes. They are also harder to scratch. But, taking this full circle, images are displayed with lower contrast and appear less vibrant. Blacks are not as deep because the ambient light is diffused over the screen, although better RGB filter performance and shutter aperture ratio can ameliorate that effect. So can working in a darkened room.

Tests by screen manufacturers on the inherent color space and grayscale display of their LCD monitors are usually conducted in a darkened room to avoid the effect of ambient light. And they generally show very little difference between the two types of LCD panels. Unfortunately, few of us work in darkened rooms. Unless we're way behind schedule.

One factor often cited in favor of non-glare LCDs is reproduction accuracy. Monitor calibration is essential in any reproduction circuit, even just printing photos, but an LCD display is limited to using six-bit color channels, as we pointed out in our May 25 issue. How well a manufacturer covers the gap from that to 24-bit color varies. And that's more critical than the polarizing filter.

In fact, Dave has just struck a deal with ColorVision to offer the excellent Spyder2PRO to our readers at a substantial discount that also helps directly support Imaging Resource. He's also developed some monitor-check graphics you'll see on all our review pages and the carrier pages with our sample images. See the new Monitor Calibration page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/MONCAL/CALIBRATE.HTM) for samples of the new graphics and with an explanation of how to use them plus a link to the special deal (http://www.colorvision.com/ir_offer.php).

Before deciding on one or the other, consider your own working conditions. Is there a lot of ambient light? Do you work outdoors? Do you work in an office with overhead fluorescents? Do you do a lot of reading rather than looking at images or video on the screen? Is your use intermittent or for long hours at a stretch?

But don't worry, you can enjoy either of them just as much in a darkened room.

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 Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe

Visit the Pentax Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea2980

Andrew asks about auto focus at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea6009/0

Mark asks for advice about purchasing his first dSLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea5f73/0

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

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Shacking Up

Out of the blue, blue sky, the Ni-Cad battery on one of the AT&T 2.4-GHz phones that came with our answering machine died. It had been in harness for years, we realized, when we thought about it. Time flies when you're on the phone.

Where do you go to get a special Ni-Cad battery (which takes about 16 hours to charge) when you're in a hurry? Radio Shack. They're down the street from anywhere you are and they have a lot of stuff you never thought you'd need.

So we went down there with our better half to take care of business.

One little footnote. We doubt the following conversation represents the innermost thoughts and feelings or even the technical expertise of the sleepy Radio Shack clerk. His lines are obviously the work of some corporate scribe, penned on a conference table amid garish bar graphs and elegantly simple Styrofoam and plastic service. The crumbs of a donut, perhaps, are all that might indicate the presence at one time of intelligent if medically compromised life. Now back to the show.

[Curtain up.]

Clerk: Can I help you?

Joyce: Yes, thank you. I need a battery for my answering machine phone.

[She hands the clerk the old one for reference.]

Clerk: Hmmm.

[He turns the battery over thoughtfully.]

Clerk: If you need a battery, you should consider replacing the phone. It isn't that much more. About $80 total.

[Pause.]

Joyce: Oh, it's not just one phone. It's a whole phone system with our answering machine. We have a couple of handsets. So we just want to replace the battery.

[Curtain.]

Just the end of Act One, relax. Out in the lobby, you're thinking over these strange developments.

First of all, a phone is much more expensive. The battery is $16 and the phone he had in mind was $80. Just for reference, 80 is more than 16.

Secondly, as she told him, his phone wouldn't work with the existing answering machine system. Why would anyone retire an answering machine with its list of phone numbers accessible by any of its wireless phones just because it was time to replace a battery in one of them?

And talk about missing the boat. She'll probably needed more than one battery. Very soon.

Oh well, when the lights dim, you go back into the theater for the next act.

[Clerk finds battery blister pack behind counter, gets customer phone number (a Radio Shack thing), rings up sale. Gets second wind.]

Clerk: Just one? How about your other handsets?

Joyce: I'd better make sure this one works first.

Clerk [changing the subject]: We're having a special sale on certain items today. Would you be interested?

Joyce [wavering]: Really? On what?

Clerk: Well, flashlights and this tool kit.

Joyce: I don't think so. Just the one battery, thank you.

[Curtain.]

Don't go anywhere, that's just the end of Act Two. We'll do a scene change for Act Three, promise.

Note, however, how sweet Joyce was. Polite, kind even. No demand to see the manager, no speeches, no graffiti on the side of the building in the dark of night.

[Scene: Sidewalk outside Radio Shack. Impending storm. Steam coming out of Joyce's ears. Editor leaning on parking meter, wet paint on his forefinger.]

Joyce: Can you believe that?

Editor: You have to wear your iPod when you go in there and just point at things.

Joyce: I mean he wanted to sell me everything in that store but what I asked for!

Editor: He'll never get a job at Nordstrom's if I can help it.

Joyce: Promise?

Editor: It's a deal.

[Storm lifts. Joyce and Editor walk hand and hand (the other hand) into sunset.]

The day before this incident, we'd heard an interview with Dov Seidman, a corporate ethics consultant who was pushing his book on that topic titled Why How We Do Anything Means Everything ... in Business (and in Life) (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0471751227/?tag=theimagingres-20).

He contends that the Internet and the stock market have made corporation shenanigans transparent, so corporations had better behave. By behaving (treating your employees and your customers as, um, you might wish to be treated), you can actually set yourself apart from the competition. Not because your competition doesn't know how to behave, but because you have established a valuable personal relationship with your employees and customers that your competition has not had the chance to establish.

You walk into an electronics store, he said, and tell the sales clerk you want to buy that 42-inch HDTV you saw advertised. The clerk either 1) points you to the pile of cardboard crates of HDTVs and goes back to his cell phone or 2) he walks you over to the display model and asks you a few questions about your needs, perhaps recommending something more suitable or explaining one or another feature candidly. He establishes a relationship with you and you value that relationship for its expertise and help. Sort of like why you read this unbelievably long newsletter every two weeks.

Radio Shack isn't the only store front passing off a pitch as expertise. No doubt you've been in a camera store and heard more than a whopper or two. We drop into our local camera every now and then when we run out of humorous material.

And yet, there are stores that know how to behave. We've had especially pleasant experiences as a rule in Apple stores, for example. Our obscure questions get answers, if not from our sales clerk then the person the sales clerk knows who to ask. Product is never pushed on us, but we're allowed to try everything out (even something as convoluted as video conferencing when we were looking into an iMac -- try that at CompUSA).

We think that's what Seidman is talking about. If you're going to do business with people, you'd better be a people person. You had better want a relationship with your customer, not more cell phone time at work. And you'd better know how to behave. Or you'll never get a job where they do know -- and where customers are happy to shop.

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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: TZ3 vs. A710

Thank you for the exhaustive review of the Panasonic DMC TZ3. I bought it based on your review, which was right on the money.

There are two things that really bother me about Panasonic's lack of refinement in this otherwise very nice camera. I have a Canon A710, which is a wonderful digicam except I wanted a 10x instead of 6x zoom and I wanted a 28mm wide-angle instead of 36mm. Other than that the A7120 is a superior product and much more user friendly in a number of ways.

The flash has less power. Printing a date on face of photo is not automatic, you must go back and do it only after photo taken and each photo must be done individually. A photo you take vertically can only be rotated by going into the Setup mode (it should be automatic as in the A710). The manual is a horror with page references to other page references, causing confusion and a lack of coherent clues. I had to call Panasonic to speak to a rep who told me about a few short cuts and gave clear info on a couple of steps I asked her about.

Otherwise there is little to complain about. Canon technology is obviously more advanced in the ergonomic department than Panasonic. I will use both cameras, side by side and understanding each has its own merits.

-- Hal Seitz

(Thanks for your hands-on feedback, Hal. Our test shots in the full review thoroughly describe any camera's flash capability, even testing the manufacturer's specified range. It's amazing how challenging it is to get something like automatic rotation right. First, the camera has to have an orientation sensor. Second, the software has to decide to rotate the data or the Exif orientation tag (which is not always read by imaging software). Nuts. -- Editor)

RE: Raw or JPEG?

My cousin had said Raw was the way to go for a quality image. For the photo that's really something worth framing. How much difference will I see if I save as a Raw file a picture that will be displayed at 8x10 or at most 11x14 instead of a JPEG?

Also, I've returned to serious picture taking as a hobby for just a relatively short time and I'm considering the purchase of a polarizing filter. Have you folks reviewed filters? Can you make a recommendation? I'd be using it for architectural shots to make a sky more dramatic. I've been using spot metering to that end and wonder in a filter has advantages.

-- Fred Haynes

(You can't tell the file format by looking at a print, Fred. Raw captures are a better choice for images whose tone or color you want to play around with. That's what your cousin is getting at. You see a great sunset, you shoot it in Raw and try to work back on the computer to what you saw with the camera. But you're shooting someone's birthday party, you shoot JPEG because you just want to get those images up on the Web or printed as 4x6 prints quick.... On the filter issue, see the article 'To Filter or Not to Filter' in our May 26, 2006 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). -- Editor)

RE: LCD Protectors

I note a comment in your last issue about LCD screen savers. A company called InvisibleSHIELD (http://www.shieldzone.com) makes a remarkably tough LCD cover for just about any electronic device. Although somewhat more expensive than other screen protection devices, their warranty is for life! I had ordered a cover for a GPS device that never arrived and they sent a replacement, no questions asked.

-- Bob Hardy

(Thanks for the recommendation, Bob! -- Editor)

RE: Black & White Printing

I need a printer to print 3D black & white and shaded color drawings in an 11x17 or 13x19 paper size. I'm thinking about the Canon Pixma Pro9000 for the 4800x2400 dpi, the large format, eight ink cartridges and the reasonable cost. I've used an HP K850 wide format and prefer the 4800x2400 dpi Canon over the 4800x1200 dpi of the HP.

The only thing that bothers me about the Canon is it has only one black ink cartridge. The Pro9500 has two blacks but I can buy a lot of black ink cartridges for the difference in price on these two Canon units.

Am I headed the right direction with what I've indicated above?

-- Jerry Ellis

(Not an Epson fan, then? I haven't seen the pigment Pro9500 yet, but that would be Canon's strongest suit. HP's would be the 3-black ink pigment B9180. A used Epson trumps them all, though, with third-party black pigment ink sets that give you smoother gradations from tone to tone. Take a look at Piezography's Neitural K7 archival inkset (http://www.piezography.com) to see what I mean. -- Editor)

RE: Moire

I will be scanning printed material (annual reports, brochures, booklets, etc) with the largest size being 8.5x11. These materials were designed by my design firm and now I plan to use them as part of a booklet to be printed using my HP 2550 color laser printer (600 dpi). I'm having trouble with a moire pattern using my HP all-in-one scanner. I need to get clarity of type, color and graphics.

-- Virginia Burns

(You're getting a moire pattern because you are scanning images that have been halftoned (created with tiny but visible dots). Almost all scanning software includes some way to de-screen those scans. So any hardware will do for this project. You just want to select the software's descreening feature, which essentially blurs the image so the screen can't be seen. Some try to figure out the screen resolution for you, others ask what it is. 133 is a good guess for commercially printed material, but you can use an inexpensive screen finder (graphics arts store) to find out exactly. Unfortunately if you have both type and images on the page that you want to scan, you have a conflict. The image has to be blurred to be de-screened but the type should remain sharp. You might consider doing a separate scan for each and assembling the best of both into one image. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has announced it has passed the 40 million mark in Nikkor SLR lenses this month. The first Nikkor F mount lens was introduced in 1959 but the brand goes back to 1932 when it was used with Leica and Contax cameras, too.


Lemke Software (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has updated its $24.95 GraphicConverter 6.0 [M] image viewer and converter, adding a Save for Web command, polygon selection tool, layer support, Goggle Earth support, more Automator Actions, measure functions, alpha tool support, Leopard compatibility and more.


Photographer Christopher Scholl (http://photographersjourney.com) lists 10 Firefox extensions for photographers, including Flickr uploads, slide shows and geotagging.


Keyspan (http://www.keyspan.com) has shipped its $129 USB 2.0 Server with two Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports to support USB devices and a 10/100 Ethernet port to connect to your network. The server supports bi-directional communication with printers to monitor ink levels and paper supply.


PictoColor (http://www.pictocolor.com) has released its $99.95 iCorrect Portrait 1.5 plug-in [MW] for Adobe Photoshop CS3 featuring full compliance with the latest Photoshop Plug-in software development kit from Adobe as well as support for Intel and PowerPC-based Macintosh.


O'Reilly has published Mikkel Aaland's Photoshop Lightroom Adventure. Both the title and most of the content of his new book emerged from Aaland's singular passion to road test Lightroom in Iceland with 11 colleagues whose work is featured in the book. While the photographers used version 1.0 or the program, Aaland rewrote the text specifically for Lightroom 1.1. The $39.99 title is available through our Amazon discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/059610099X/?tag=theimagingres-20) for $26.39.


Kingston (http://www.kingston.com) has announced an increase in the write speed of its CompactFlash Ultimate memory cards to 266x, twice the minimum sustained write speed previously available. The cards, available in 2,4 and 8-GB capacities, also include MediaRECOVER data recovery software.


Fujifilm (http://www.offZhook.com) has launched its Z-Inspiration Photo Contest to celebrate the recently announced FinePix Z10fd. The contest calls for Generation Z to submit original photos inspired by the letter "Z." Four Grand Prize winners will receive a VIP trip for two to New York City from Oct. 23-26 to attend Fujifilm's FinePix Z10fd Launch Party.

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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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