The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 9, Number 19 14 September 2007

Copyright 2007, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 210th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. It's back to school for image editing with LightZone, whose philosophy we attempt to elucidate. Then we confess our love-hate relationship with Canon's TX1 hybrid digicam/camcorder. Can't connect your camera to your computer's USB port anymore? We explain why before theorizing on when to shoot Raw and when to stick to JPEG. Roll up your sleeves!


TOPICS

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Feature: LightZone -- A Smarter Image Editor

It seems like it was years ago that we wandered into the Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) booth at Macworld and had a long chat about this new image editor based on the Zone System with the quirky selection tool. Well, it was.

We've wanted to write about it from the start, but the company kept updating the application. They write code faster than we can churn out review paragraphs. But we're finally getting our chance to tell their story.

We could write a two volume book on LightZone without mentioning the Zone System, but we might as well get it over with now. You do not need to know the Zone System to enjoy LightZone. With the latest versions, the program has grown into something much more accessible.

But according to Light Crafts, that was the little seed from which this bean pole grew. Which makes it a good place to start.

ZONES

"We decided to use the Zone System for image analysis and manipulation," Light Crafts founder and CTO Fabio Riccardi explains in his blog (http://fricc.blogspot.com), "because most photographers seem to have chosen it historically between other methods and because, aside from being a methodology for obtaining consistent results in the darkroom, it seems to be a powerful framework for thinking about images."

In fact, early versions of the program were designed for old pros making the move into digital imaging who found Photshop intimidating and wanted something that intuitively made more sense to them. Not too much to ask.

In a nutshell, the Zone System suggests you spot meter your scene and intentionally shift its luminance values.

Why would you do this? To express yourself. Once upon a time, photography was considered less than an art. The Zone System was one proof that it was, indeed, an art. Because you could choose your luminance values.

Ansel Adams was a great proponent. As a musician he couldn't help but compare visual tonal values to audible ones. His film negatives were, to him, compositions. His prints, performances. Playing with the tones on his negatives made him a composer.

In the age of digital photography this should all be a lot less work than spot metering and filtering light to a piece of film. And indeed it is (if you know what you're doing). "What seems to be required is a place where 'visual thinking' can be performed," Fabio astutely observes.

LightZone provides that place with its ZoneFinder tool, which posterizes a thumbnail of your image into luminance zones, and its ZoneMapper tool, which lets you change the luminance of any particular zone, compressing or expanding the tonal scale.

So no longer do you have to have some sense of what each emulsion can do and how any particular filter will alter which luminance values that appear where in your scene before you ever press the shutter. With LightZone, you can simply open an image, graph the luminances with ZoneFinder and move them around to your heart's delight with ZoneMapper.

But manipulating the tones of a digital photo is not quite as simple as it sounds unless you understand linear color space.

LINEAR COLOR SPACE, LOGARITHMIC EYES

As Fabio notes, "Gamma adjusted color spaces are bad for image editing." Gamma adjustment occurs when the data the camera captures is processed by the camera's image processor (Canon's DIGIC, Sony's Bionz, Kodak's Color Science chip, etc.) into a 24-bit JPEG with 8-bit channels. This redistributes the linear data so more bits are used in the shadows and less to represent the highlights while trimming the total bucket of bits down to what you can actually see.

Which is fine if you're happy with the image. If you want to manipulate the tonal values or shift the color, you inevitably get banding when editing a 24-bit gamma-adjusted image. Just look at your image's histogram before and after.

"With modern computers with lots of RAM and fast CPUs," Fabio explains, "we can afford processing images with 16 bits of precision per channel, which is plenty of resolution for all practical purposes."

And, indeed, high end image editing software like Photoshop lets you do 16-bit channel editing, rather than the 8-bit channel editing of entry-level software. But that's not good enough for Fabio. "The problem of linear editing is that tools like Photoshop have been designed with gamma adjusted images in mind. Linear encoded images have most of the 'stuff' in the low pixel numeric values and very little in the higher values."

As Bruce Fraser explained in his white paper Raw Capture, Linear Gamma and Exposure (http://www.adobe.com/digitalimag/pdfs/linear_gamma.pdf), digital captures correspond exactly to the number of photons captured. "If a camera captures six stops of dynamic range, half of the 4,096 levels are devoted to the brightest stop, half of the remainder (1,024 levels) are devoted to the next stop, half of the remainder (512 levels) are devoted to the next stop and so on. The darkest stop, the extreme shadows, is represented by only 64 levels."

"Our eyes see things on a logarithmic scale, that is shades of gray seem to vary uniformly (perceptually) when they actually double in lightness intensity," Fabio continues. The trouble is a digital capture is linear. Twice as bright mathematically is only a little brighter to us. That's why all the data is buried in the darker end of the image, why your dSLR images look darker than those JPEGs you've been shooting with a digicam (which has adjusted the gamma for you).

Photoshop does give you a few tools to massage the data out of the dark end of the image, but LightZone's ZoneFinder and ZoneMapper "present the information to the user in a logarithmic scale, thereby spreading the intensity information across a large range of values which is using effectively the computer screen real estate and allows to conveniently adjust images on a scale that is natural for the eye."

You can more easily see what you've got to play with, Fabio argues, with LightZone's tools.

So it was developed and sold to photographers who were willing, even enthusiastic, about wringing out every little bit of information they could from their images.

Then version 3 came out.

THE REVOLUTION

With the third version of this oft-updated application, Light Crafts introduced styles. Styles are simply recipes of edits. You can apply them to any image to see what effect they have. You can combine them. You can change the order in which they are combined. You can remove them. You can, in short, play with them.

You don't have to know anything at all about the Zone System, linear captures or logarithmic scales. Just what you like and what you don't like.

LightZones's styles are a sort of automatic transmission for image editing. Unlike the silly little buttons to improve your image that some low-end image editing software provides, styles lets you set a direction (by picking one style over another) and then adjust your speed (using sliders to adjust the effect).

That puts LightZone in the hands of mere students (which most of us are, frankly). Whether we ever learn the Zone System or not, we can easily see just what a high-end image editor can do for their photos.

When we spoke with Light Crafts CEO Georges van Hoegaerden recently, he told us the company had begun this adventure with LightZoom intent on developing the best technology it could. He's quite proud of the product's best of breed digital signal processing with noise reduction, Raw editing and batch processing tools.

And the price is right, too. The Mac or Windows full version is $249.95, significantly cheaper than Photoshop. And a Basic version, which does not include multi-image editing or batch processing, is just $149.95. There has always been a Linux version, but apparently that's not for sale.

"Cameras don't reproduce reality," Georges explained. A more advanced camera isn't the solution. "But every dollar you spend on the editing side gets you immediate payback," he said.

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

Image editing itself has undergone a revolution and LightZone provides yet another sophisticated option for those who prefer metadata editing over pixel editing.

Traditional image editing software like Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro actually alter the pixels in the image file when you save your edited image. The original data is overwritten with the new and improved data.

But the new crop of image editors -- like Aperture and Lightroom -- only read the original data. When you edit an image, the changes are recorded as a recipe in the database each of these programs creates to manage your image collection. This metadata editing requires an export to see the edits independently of these programs but it also makes it easy to apply the very same edits to any number of images just by copying the recipe to their database entries.

So if you have dust on your sensor and you clean it for one image, you can lift and apply that edit to all the other images with the defect. With a traditional editor, you would have to clone away the defect on each image.

LightZone does things a little differently.

It is, like Aperture and Lightroom, a metadata editor. Your original image file is not overwritten. But it does not create a database of your image collection. So where are the metadata edits stored?

LightZone stores them in a companion file with the same root name with "_lzn" appended to it and a JPEG extension. Georges told us this file has a rather large 1024x768 thumbnail as the JPEG image but is not the full resolution file. That's a large enough image to do anything on the screen. In one case, our 3.1-MB image became a 400K lzn JPEG. The smaller version didn't have the Makernotes of the original Exif header but did have exposure information.

Georges isn't fond of digital asset management software. He thinks that's the operating system's job. When applications try to do it, there are performance issues. Instead, he prefers to use the best tool for each task.

There are two issues here: where the metadata edits are stored and how to manage your digital images.

You don't have to resort to a floating appendage to handle metadata edits. The LightZone scheme reminds us of all the inconveniences of the XMP sidecar, a file containing just metadata for the parent file.

Who says metadata can't reside in the header of the original file? That was Adobe's solution with its DNG Digital Negative format, which easily accommodates edits without resorting to either a database or a sidecar file. LightZone can open DNG files (and presents its Raw Tone Curve and Raw Adjustments options when it does so) but it won't save the file except as an LZN JPEG.

On the second issue, we tend to agree with George. Despite all the tools installed on our hard disk to catalog our collection, we've managed to arrange it with the standard file system. No doubt some health professional would have something to say about that.

We, on the other hand, will have more to say about LightZone in our full review, coming shortly.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon PowerShot TX1 -- A Hybrid With Power

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/TX1/TX1A.HTM on the Web site.)

If we can build a car that runs on gasoline and electricity, why can't we have a digicam that takes great stills and terrific movies too? And let's make it as small as a Canon ELPH while we're at it.

Well, Canon has. And the diminutive $500 TX1 has a lot of charm, too, shooting 7.1-Mp stills and HD video through a 10x optically stabilized zoom with a 4x digital zoom (for a phenomenal 40x reach) -- and adding ISO 1,600 into the mix just for fun. And they didn't forget to fit a flash in there, too.

Sure, there are comprises. You want an ELPH form factor with a swivel screen, you get a 1.8 inch LCD. The control layout is awkward and the Zoom lever is more like a one-way street. Forget fast start-up or shut-down with an LCD that swings open and closed.

But just try to find anything else like it.

DESIGN

This hybrid's specs read like a digital camera's, but its physical design resembles a small palm-sized camcorder.

One advantage of the physical design is the 10x zoom you get compared to those compact lens-like digicam optics. Another is the all-metal construction really built to take some abuse.

Having a full-blown PowerShot tucked inside a camcorder is really sweet. You can tap into camera features like extended ISO and Face Detection autofocus but still enjoy camcorder bonuses like a 16:9 aspect ratio and component video playback of 720 pixel video.

Despite its small size, the stainless steel body is no lightweight at 8.5 ounces. Yet for a long zoom (which is what this puppy's pedigree is), that's remarkable.

But you only have to pick it up to confront the first compromise. It's not easy to hold. Right-handers-only need apply, but even they will have problems. Your thumb goes on the back near the Zoom lever, your index finger on top by the Shutter button, but your middle finger has to slide down under the lens (something we had trouble doing) and your pinky has to rest under the bottom to provide a little slip-proof support. Every one of those positions is a bit of a stretch.

The biggest stretch is between your index finger on top and your middle finger in front. In fact, Canon even warns in the Basic Camera Guide (yes, two manuals again), "Be careful not to block the lens, flash, microphones or speaker with your fingers."

Worse, though, the Zoom lever really has no leverage when you press up to zoom in. Your index finger is on the Shutter button, so it can't force down as your thumb pushes up. That tilts the whole thing down so the lens loses sight of the scene. Only zooming out seems to be stable with that grip. And it wasn't just us who had trouble. Luke Smith, who takes the 164 lab shots, put it this way, "Weird control positions never feel comfortable."

Not that we could recommend a better arrangement. The back panel controls are just above the Zoom lever in a compact arrangement of Display button, Menu button, Navigator and a joystick OK button that function just like their counterparts on any current PowerShot.

Below the Zoom lever is a big Movie button. Like the S3, this box is ready to shoot movies the minute you press the Movie button. There is a Mode dial on the side of the Zoom lever with Playback, Auto, Manual (such as it is on PowerShot) and Scene modes.

The tripod socket is almost an afterthought, protruding from the front edge and offering very little real estate to stabilize the mount.

The stereo microphones are on the back of the swiveling LCD and the speaker grill is on the main body just under the Power button.

That all makes sense. But the grip itself is too much of a stretch.

PERFORMANCE

Yet another compromise imposed by the camcorder form factor is the slow startup and shutdown time. For a long zoom, it isn't bad in light of the competition, which usually has to rack out a lens quite a bit.

But you have to swing up the LCD and swivel it into position, too. Which takes quite a bit longer than it takes the lens to pop out. And that isn't really reflected in our timings.

Zooming, however, is as smooth as buttah, so long as you use two hands. Even zooming into the digital zoom range works seamlessly. And that gives you a 40x zoom from the wide-angle focal length. It's image stabilized, too.

And when you get down to pressing the Shutter button, good things happen. Fast. Both autofocus lag and pre-focus lag are above average for a long zoom, good news for birders.

Cycle time is a leisurely one second in Continuous mode (and 1.68 seconds in Single Shot mode). But there are actually two Continuous modes, one that focuses continually (and takes that full second) and another that doesn't (and gets about 2.2 shots a second). Here, as in Movie mode, a high speed SD card makes a difference.

Scene Modes. There are really very few Scene modes on this camera. Canon seems unable to simply group all its Scene modes under one menu, however, making it very difficult to find what you're looking for.

Special Scene modes are available under the Scene mode option on the Mode dial. Those include Portrait, Night Snapshot, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach and Aquarium. But Canon also includes a number of Shooting modes not very different from Scene modes like Color Accent, Color Swap, Super Macro and Stitch Assist. Those are under the Function menu.

Lens. One of the highlights of using this camera, though, was the lens itself. There is moderate blurring in the corners, as our Test Results show, but its images are sharper than many digicams can manage.

Canon doesn't divulge the aperture range except to cite the maximum aperture is f3.5 at wide-angle and f5.7 at telephoto. But we don't think we have a shot in the Gallery with an aperture smaller than f5.7 and some bright sunlit shots are just f3.5. That translates to a shallow depth of field generally.

The focal length range is 6.5 to 65.0mm, a true 10x optical zoom with a 39-390mm 35mm equivalent. Despite that long range, the barrel distortion at wide-angle is only a moderate 0.89 percent. And the pincushion at telephoto is just 0.2 percent.

Add 4x digital zoom to that range and you're seeing things you aren't supposed to see at a 1560mm telephoto equivalent.

With the lens shift image stabilization, you can actually observe them, too. It has three modes: Shoot only, Continuous and Panning.

IMAGE QUALITY

Ah, well, this was a mixed bag. An interesting mixed bag.

There are, for example, a few of the usual technical flaws our Test Report always uncovers. Like moderately high chromatic aberration at both ends of the focal length range and moderate barrel distortion at wide-angle. Corners are soft, too. But nearly every digicam we test has the same small problems.

Then there was the familiar saturation issue. Take a look at the red carpet in front of the stadium for the All-Star game. It's blinding. But so are the cable cars for the National and American league. They're just way oversaturated. That problem is pretty common, too, but the TX1 doesn't give you any way to tone it down.

Scenes with little red in them did a lot better, like the statue of the seal or any of the shots at the yacht harbor behind the stadium. Reds really are a special problem for the TX1.

But contrast was a bit strong for our taste, too. You can see this on both of the statue shots (which you'll find in the Gallery). Juan Marichal's statue has pretty good detail in the chiseled stone base, but the bronze is a bit too dark. Willie Mays just looks overexposed.

Both are in bright sunlight although there is some shade falling on Willie Mays. But look at the exposures. Marichal is f3.6 with ISO 172 and Mays is f4.0 at ISO 400. In fact, a lot of the images taken in bright sun were ISO 400 with large apertures.

Our favorite shots were taken in shade or indoors. Like the masks, the orchid, the corks and the fish-head bottle opener. And they're all ISO 200, mostly at f3.6.

We didn't include any of our doll shots in dim light because they just didn't fly. Even at ISO 1600 with image stabilization we couldn't get a sharp image.

There is one handy feature related to high ISO shooting we really liked, though. If you enable the Auto ISO Shift feature, when the current ISO setting is too slow for a handheld shutter speed (indicated by the red shaking-hand icon), you can just press the Print/Share button to kick the ISO up high enough to hand hold the camera.

MOVIES

The TX1 can capture movies with stereo sound and using digital zoom at either 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios. There are a lot of cameras that offer a 16:9 letterbox aspect ratio option for image size. Surprisingly rare is one that extends that to Movie mode, however. The TX1 is one of those rare birds and if you've got an HDTV, that's great news.

The Canon TX1 not only shoots 16:9 movies, but it shoots them in high definition, too. That means that they offer more resolution than broadcast quality 640x480 pixels.

In video the critical dimension is the little one, representing vertical resolution. The TX1 shoots 720 pixels (not 1,080 but not 480 either) in that dimension and 1,280 horizontally. Our nine second HDTV clip of Barry Bonds arriving at the stadium for the 2007 All-Star game consequently consumes 42.2-MB. Fortunately the TX1 has an LP record mode that can cut that storage requirement in half. LP mode is available for both 640x480 and 1280x720 resolutions.

The HD movie capture looks great on an HDTV using nothing more than the included component cable to send the signal from the camera to the monitor. No dock to buy, just use the included cable and turn on the TX1 in Playback mode. Very nice.

To get that much data from the sensor to the card at that rate (a full 30 fps), you need a fast memory card. Canon recommends a "super high-speed memory card with a transfer rate of 20-MB/s or more."

Another nice touch is the built-in wind filter. Anyone who has ever tried to record sound on a digicam knows the slightest breeze is recorded as sonic booms on the audio track. In the Setup menu's Tools tab under the Audio option, you can set the Mic Level and turn on the Wind Filter. Frankly, with the gales we have here, we didn't notice much effect, but it's the thought that counts.

SHOOTING

True confession. Our first impression of the TX1 wasn't a good one. We didn't like the grip. We didn't like the small LCD. Trying to zoom, something we really like to do to compose our stills, was frustrating. But the more we used the TX1, the more we liked it.

It would not have been our first choice to take down to the All-Star game, but we were glad to have it when we got swallowed up by the crowd. We could hold it over our head without getting weary and actually see what was going on over the taller guys in front of us waving their arms around with those LCDs that didn't let them see what the camera was looking at. Our view was so good that the very short woman behind us watched the whole show in the TX1's LCD too. There is nothing quite like an articulated LCD, even if it measures only 1.8 inches.

Image stabilization didn't hurt at all at the show, either. Most of the shots of the ballplayers arriving were taken at between 42 and 65mm, well toward the telephoto end of the lens. But they're sharp and the heads tend to be in the center of the shot, suggesting we were actually able to compose the image. Gotta love image stabilization.

The other thing that really endeared the TX1 to us was the 16:9 aspect ratio. Not just the aspect ratio itself, though, but the whole nine HD yards -- not just stills but HD movies, too. Canon takes HD seriously, even including a composite cable so you can plug the TX1 right into your HDTV and use the digicam controls to run a slide show. That's the ticket. No dock to buy, no magic incantations, no nonsense. Just plug and play.

You could complain you only get 720 lines instead of 1,080 but wait until you see the file sizes of those 720 movies. They're huge. You'll be buying six packs of 4-GB cards.

We really like shooting 16:9 stills. The picture of the Bay Bridge behind the sailboat masts is a good example. If we shot that 4:3, you wouldn't notice that the bridge was anything but background. At 16:9 it becomes part of the subject. Why is this picture so wide? Because of the bridge!

Same with the seal statue. You could shoot that 4:3 and get the whole seal body in, but it's more effective shooting just the elongated neck at 16:9. And the clock tower behind it only plays into the effect.

The last thing we really liked about the TX1 was its Macro modes. Super Macro really made things interesting because you can put the subject right on the lens. That makes for some intriguing possibilities. Imagine the transparent subjects you can shoot through.

Unfortunately, there was no getting around the problem with the grip and zooming. We took the TX1 to a wedding and when we saw everyone snapping stills with their digicams and nobody shooting video, we started taking video with the TX1.

But it wasn't great stuff. We cut one toast off by inadvertently pressing the Movie button, which stopped recording. We picked it up right away again, but that doesn't even count as a blooper.

We also found we just weren't zooming in or out of a scene. At all. Yes, you can overdo that, but sometimes you really should be using the zoom. It took two hands to do it with the TX1. The left hand steadies the camera by grabbing the LCD -- which is also where the stereo mics are.

So we were very disappointed by the wedding video clips we captured. The worst video we ever shot. And all because we just couldn't comfortably control the little TX1.

OK, that's our confession. We promise we won't do it again.

CONCLUSION

This still/video hybrid is surprisingly capable taking stills or video. While the stills tend toward the high contrast, over saturated style preferred by many snapshooters, the video is nothing short of high definition in a letterbox format. Despite our initial misgivings, we grew rather fond of the little thing. Maybe when we grow up and have extremely large hands, we'll actually be able to shoot with it.

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New on the Site

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

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Beginners Flash: How a Computer Sees a Camera

You plug your camera into the USB port on your computer -- but nothing happens. And it was working fine the last time you used it. What happened?

Oddly enough you're least likely to suspect the real culprit. It isn't your operating system. It isn't your transfer software. It isn't your image editing software.

The culprit is actually an obscure setting in your camera's Setup menu. Look for the USB option and see whether it is set to Mass Storage or PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol, called PictBridge on some cameras).

Mass Storage is short for mass storage class mode, a very basic file transfer protocol for USB transfers that lets your camera mimic a card reader. Connect a camera in this mode to your computer with a USB cable and your camera will look like an external storage device to your computer. You can copy files manually just as you might from a thumbdrive, floppy disk or card reader.

PTP, on the other hand, lets you do a lot more than transfer files. It can automatically start image file transfers and control your camera's shutter, zoom and exposure settings. It's also the required protocol for PictBridge connections to printers, which let you specify how many copies of which images to print.

PTP has been supported by Windows since ME and Mac OS X since 10.1. There's no need to select Mass Storage on your camera's USB option if you're running one of those operating systems. Setting it to PTP will allow the system to automatically transfer files from the camera and use the camera with PictBridge compatible printers. And you won't have to eject or unmount the camera as you do when USB mode is set to Mass Storage.

As it happens, Mass Storage is usually your camera's default USB option. So if you reset your camera to its defaults, you have probably changed the USB option from PTP back to Mass Storage. While you can transfer images using Mass Storage, some applications have to be prompted to look for the camera. PTP, in contrast, allows some applications to automatically copy images from the camera to your computer as soon as it's connected.

So the next time you run into this problem, just confirm PTP or PictBridge is selected as your USB setup option.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: When to Shoot Raw

High end digicams and dSLRs offer both JPEG and Raw file format options. And combinations of Raw with JPEG sometimes, too.

Conventional wisdom would have you shooting Raw (as the most versatile format) all the time. But should you?

Why shoot Raw? Why shoot JPEG? Actually, the answer is simpler than the question.

Every JPEG starts life as raw data, actually. Raw files simply skip the camera's post processing and write the unadulterated data directly to storage. With more bit depth than a JPEG, the Raw data lends itself to penalty-free tone and color correction on the computer.

If you'd let the camera process that data down to eight-bit channels, you'd pay a penalty to shift the color or tone later on your computer. That penalty is called banding, the gap between one tone and another whose most extreme example is posterization.

So you want to shoot Raw when you believe your image will profit from tone or color correction. That's often true of landscapes and dahlia gardens, for example, but it's rarely true of birthday parties.

Many events don't require the kind of subtle tone and color correction that help a landscape leap to life. In fact, if you postpone all the image processing for dozens of birthday party pictures, you may never distribute the images. Instead, you want to streamline the production workflow, letting the camera do all the image processing so you can get the images out the door.

Raw provides the greatest editing latitude, essentially postponing all the transformations made in-camera to your image editing software. JPEG delivers a final product immediately after capture. Some photographers like to do their event shooting as JPEG and their more artistic shooting as Raw. You can have your cake and eat it too (Raw + JPEG) but that's a lot of data to store on your card and hard disk. And there are image processing utilities (nearly every image editing program, that is) than can batch convert Raw images into JPEGs. So you have lots of options.

You don't have to shoot Raw just because you can. But there's nothing like it when you want to push the envelope.

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In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

Read the Olympus EVOLT E-510 discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea61a0/0

Visit the Casio Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f775

Nina asks about choosing an SLR for extreme close-ups at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea6480/0

Paul asks about scanners for graphics designers at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea6189/0

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

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RE: iLife vs. Aperture

Great article, a lot I didn't know about Steve Jobs.

I noticed in iLife '06 how iPhoto was beginning to look a bit like Aperture, which I have held off from buying as I am unsure how much more it offers over iPhoto or how different it is from Adobe Lightroom.

Now I see iPhoto '08 has nondestructive editing, too. In '06 it keeps the original but makes a duplicate in another folder, whereas I understand Aperture only records the metadata of edits, never creating a new image until an Export or Save As is executed.

Is this right?

-- Terry Constanti

(You're right. iPhoto '06 didn't touch the original (just a copy), but it did edit the pixels of the copy. Metadata editors like Aperture, Lightroom, Lightzone (and iPhoto '08) record edits as recipes (instructions) that are applied to the original pixel data when the image is viewed. -- Editor)

RE: Inexpensive 13x19 Frames

Thanks for the information on framing 13x19 prints. I've been cutting mats and using 16x20 frames but there is still some area that I couldn't use. This will solve the problem.

Regarding resources, Michael's has a 16x20 frame or two 11x14s in a package for about $7.99 either way. The frame is a very inexpensive black plastic but it uses real glass and has a substantial backing board with a lot of clips. I wouldn't try to sell a photo in this frame but it's great for giveaways.

As always, thanks for providing substance over fluff.

-- Michael Sandow

(Our own experience with plastic frames hasn't been very good. This particular building retains the heat during the day and when the temperature gets into the '90s, we've seen plastic frames actually warp. The Format brand that grasps the glass with an attractive thin plastic edge actually lets go of the glass in the heat. So we restrict myself to metal or wood. Not an issue in an air conditioned building, however. -- Editor)

Thanks for the info regarding framing. Perfect timing - I'm looking to get a new printer and never thought of that aspect of the decision.

-- Bob McCormick

(You're welcome, Bob! Now clear some space on your walls <g>. -- Editor)

Thanks for the print framing article in the last newsletter, very useful. My main question is how do you get a 18x24 mat to fit in an 18x25 frame? Is the frame at least a half inch wide to cover the missing inch?

You don't say where you order your mats from, presumably Aaron Brothers or Cheap Pete's? Come to that, you don't say where you get the frames either. Perhaps you are understandably just protecting your supplies.

I'm trying to get prints done by sending digi files from the UK to Canada to be printed and am wondering if anyone does a service as you describe. How would you do this? I don't trust sending glass frames from here.

-- Dan Blanchard

(We just got new glasses, things should improve shortly <g>. Yes, that's a typo. The standard size frame is 18x24, not 18x25. We do give the part number for the mats at Cheap Pete's. For the frames, we mention the brand name (available at Aaron Brothers). We're reluctant to mention local stores because they're not useful to all our readers.... If we understand the problem, you want your images printed and then framed at the destination. The big photo sharing sites like Kodak Gallery do this (not sure about international restrictions, though). We'll put this on our research list, though. -- Editor)

RE: Small Sensors & Noise

I have been using a Fuji Finepix F20 which is a 6.3-Mp digital camera, which gives very good results at ISO 2000. Some noise is noticeable but not excessive.

Fuji makes a larger point and shoot, the 9100. The 9100 has a 9-Mp sensor. Most users of the 9100 say noise is excessive at 400 ISO and above. There has been discussions that too many MP are crammed into a small sensor on these point and shoot cameras. If one was to drop the 9-Mp camera to its next lower resolution, which happens to be five megapixels. Would one have less noise?

-- Max Tiller

(We reviewed the S9100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S9100/S9100A.HTM) earlier this year. That review contains ISO and noise performance tests under the Exposure tab and Gallery shots (under Samples) that show high ISO performance. The review also discusses high ISO performance shooting in museums. We liked the camera very much, in fact. But it's true older cameras with smaller megapixels produced less noise at ISO 400 (an ISO they never exceeded). Compare your ISO 200 shots to the S9100's full resolution images at ISO 200, ISO 400 and ISO 800 in our review. -- Editor)
(Max, I recommend the Fujifilm S6000fd as one of the best cameras on the market, and a great example of what you suspect: In pushing megapixels, manufacturers have abandoned image quality. Ask them, and they admit less is more, but they have to answer the call for more pixels. Technology will catch up, but when lower quality manufacturers announce 12-Mp cameras, Nikon, Canon, and Fujifilm feel compelled to answer. Buyer beware: let the technology catch up first. The S6000fd has a great lens and a great sensor. If I didn't already have an SLR, I would own an S6000fd. -- Shawn)

RE: Olympus USB Speed

I have a Olympus E-500, with which I intend to be taking a lot of photos in the next week. But I recall seeing a complaint about the down load speed for this camera, and it occurred to me that maybe a card reader would be a good investment. What do you think?

-- Fred Haynes

(The E-500 does create large files and is hamstrung by the Full Speed USB 2.0 port. Full Speed is not Hi Speed USB (those are official designations detailed in our June 27, 2003 article "When USB 2.0 Is Really Just USB 1.1" in the archive at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html), and that's probably what you're referring to. So a Hi Speed USB 2.0 card reader would be helpful if the USB port on your computer is also a Hi Speed USB 2.0 port. Nothing is ever simple. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

J.D. Power and Associates (http://www.jdpower.com) has released its 2007 Digital Camera Usage and Satisfaction Study. The study, redesigned for 2007, examines camera model lines in four body-style segments: point-and-shoot, premium point-and-shoot, ultra slim and digital single lens reflex, measuring four factors to determine customer satisfaction: picture quality, performance, operation and appearance and styling.

Point-and-Shoot: Fujifilm Finepix F series (749 of 1,000 points), Kodak Z series (744) and Canon PowerShot A series (739)

Premium Point-and-Shoot: Canon PowerShot SD series (829), Panasonic DMC-FZ series (785) and Kodak Z series (783)

Ultra Slim: Casio Exilim Zoom series (802), Canon PowerShot SD series (796) and Kodak V series (787)

dSLR: Nikon D series (822), Sony A series (793), Canon EOS (788), Pentax K series (787) and Olympus EVOLT E series (783)

The study also found that dSLR camera owners take more than twice the amount of pictures per month than do owners in any other segment. Overall, camera owners take an average of nearly 140 pictures per month, while dSLR camera owners take nearly 400 images per month.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Lightroom 1.2, Camera Raw 4.2 and DNG Converter 4.2 [MW] with support for 14 new cameras. The products are updated together to ensure Raw format settings compatibility.


Bibble Labs (http://www.bibblelabs.com) has announced the release of Bibble 4.9.8e [LMW] with full support for the new Canon 40D including sRaw and tethered shooting.


Adobe Photoshop Product Manager John Nack reported last week (http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2007/09/photoshop_expre.html) that "the crowd at Photoshop World got a quick preview of Photoshop Express, a new application currently in development at Adobe." He also posted a screenshot of the Web application "that's meant to make Adobe imaging technology immediately accessible way to large numbers of people."


Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released its $250 LightZone 3.1 [MW] with new capabilities for quickly changing the look of objects within a photograph, determined by color or luminosity. With a single operation, users can now change the exposure of the sky in an image, sharpen only the yellow flowers in a field or quickly modify the exposure of a face.


ACD Systems (http://www.acdsee.com) has released its $129.99 ACDSee Pro 2 [W] with next-generation workflow management and Raw processing functionality tested by thousands of professional photographers. The upgrade was developed with input from more than 2,500 photographers who beta-tested the program.


Corel (http://www.corel.com) has announced its $99.99 Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 [W] with faster viewing, sorting and processing downloaded photos thanks to the all new Express Lab. Beginners benefit from a wide range of automatic, one-click adjustments while advanced users can take full advantage of the program's manual adjustments providing more direct control over each photo.


Digital Foci (http://www.digitalfoci.com/) has announced its $199 Image Moments 8 (Model IMT-083) digital frame with interchangeable frames on an 8-inch high-resolution 800x600 digital LCD screen with 500:1 contrast ratio, USB connection, 256-MB internal memory and 8-in-1 card reader.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has introduced its $299/399 iPod Touch in 8-GB and 16-GB versions, an iPod with the iPhone interface. While the 8mm-thick device made news for its music and video capabilities, it can also display photos synced from iTunes using the touch interface. Tap, flick, pinch. Your portfolio may never be the same.


For an interesting peek at the touch interface in general and a virtual light table to boot, take a look at Jeff Han's TED talk (http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/65).


Zykloid Software (http://zykloid.com/posterino) has released its $24.95 Posterino 1.2 [M] with integrated support for buying postcard coupons and support for desktop pictures, screen saver pictures, user pictures, favorite pictures and iChat icons.


AKVIA has updated its $97 Coloriage 5.0 [MW] as a standalone application and a plug-in to a photo editor. Adding color to black and white photos or recoloring areas on a photo with Coloriage is as easy as handling a coloring book. In fact, coloriage is French for coloring book.


Stefan Mueller (http://www.circularorbit.com) has released his $12.99 Picture Box 1.2.5 [M] to tag images from the Desktop.


Starting Monday, you're invited to participate in America at Home by taking digital photographs of what "Home" means to you and submitting it to http://www.MyAmericaAtHome.com. Selected photos will be published in a 224-page coffee table book entitled America at Home to be released in March 2008.

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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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