|Volume 9, Number 20||28 September 2007|
Welcome to the 211th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We get excited about HP's compact portable printer with a touch screen and only three inks. Then we get excited about Canon's new number one ELPH. We even get excited about Rick Sammon's new DVD and a font management utility. And finally, we also get excited about a shot we missed, but it isn't quite the same thing.
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(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/HPA626/HPA626.HTM on the Web site.)
It wasn't really that long ago that we fell in love with a Fargo 4x6 dye sub printer. Some of those 4x6 prints are still around but most of them have faded quite a bit. Somehow in the intervening years, inkjet technology has outrun dye sublimation printing, providing less expensive but longer-lasting prints. And HP has been at the forefront of inkjet development.
The A626, HP's new $179.99 compact printer, invigorates the best of its compact technology with a touch-screen transfusion. The very large LCD is a window into some smart firmware with loads of bells and whistles. Making the most of its three color ink cartridge, it can produce both 4x6 and 5x7 prints.
If you like to have prints from your camera, this is a great little print factory. And you can take it with you, too. Let's take a closer look.
Feature Number One is the compact size of this inkjet printer. It looks like a small boom box. That's too big for a briefcase but with its own handle, you can just carry it. Or pack it in one of HP's $30-35 compact printer carrying cases. Don't forget the small power brick, though.
The single ink cartridge, an HP 110 tricolor filled with Vivera ink, is pretty compact, too. The three colors are cyan, magenta and yellow. No black, folks. No light magenta, no light cyan, no green, no photo gray. And yet the prints stand up well to the competition.
Feature Number Two is page size. This compact printer can do both 4x6 and 5x7 prints (along with panorama prints and post cards). Being able to print 5x7 is a real plus.
Feature Number Three is the 4.8-inch touch screen interface. It's easy enough to navigate (we never got lost and always found the icon we needed to do what we wanted) but it also provides a lot of animated help that's very welcome.
Which leads us to Feature Number Four: the firmware. There's about 200 graphics and frames you can add to your images, not to mention captions (from an on-screen keyboard) and drawings (using the included stylus). Usually this stuff is just fluff but I found much of it useful. Drawing on the screen is pretty crude (you can't manage a signature, really) but sometimes all you need to do is circle something. Too bad you can't save these edits, but at least you can do them.
There's more to the firmware than that, though. HP's Photo Fix brightness and contrast enhancements are helpful for images that don't pass through an image editor. You can also get rid of red-eye and indulge in HP's slenderizing distortion, which makes everybody look thinner.
HP includes a poster-size Setup Guide that gets you going in seven simple steps.
You can optionally attach a USB cable to the back for a computer connection, a Bluetooth adapter to the PictBridge port or a camera or thumbdrive to the PictBridge port. And you can insert everything but a SmartMedia card into the card reader.
- Unpack the printer. This is often more difficult than it should be, with protective tape securing delicate parts for shipping. But the A626 was easy to unpack. Mostly the protection is for the shiny plastic surfaces (why doesn't someone make a bruiser of a printer with unscratchable material?). Do make sure to remove the protective sheet from the LCD so you can follow the bouncing ball.
- Plug in the power adapter to a wall outlet and then to the back of the printer. Press the Power button to start it up. It plays a charming little tune.
- Pick your language. It's your first chance to use the touch screen. Don't be shy, it's fun!
- Install the print cartridge. The printer can actually show you how on its LCD. No need for the manual or those hard to read illustrations. Just watch the animated presentation and replay it as often as you like. Mainly you want to make sure you take the tape off the cartridge's contacts and push the thing all the way into the printer until it snaps into place.
- Load photo paper. When you open the big front output tray, the small back input tray also opens and the LCD pops up, too (pinch the blue-gray tabs on the side of the LCD toward the front to close the LCD). Drop some paper in there with the glossy side facing the front of the printer. Align the paper to the power connection side and push the blue-gray paper width guide up against the other side of the sheet. The printer can handle two widths of paper, so you have to set the guide when you change widths. You can extend the little blue-gray paper support to help stand up the 5x7 sheets.
- Print your first photo. Well, print the alignment sheet, anyway. Then pop a memory card into the printer and watch them come up on the screen. Tap one and then tap the print icon to start printing.
- Get creative. Built into the A626 are several ways to customize your print. You can add decorative frames, draw on the image with the included stylus, apply color filters and text.
Card Reader. We copied some images into a subdirectory of an SD card and popped it into the A626. It displayed them correctly and we spent an hour or so printing our favorites and playing around with some of the creative options.
We thought we'd pop the same card into the Kodak 5300 to make some comparison prints, but the 5300 couldn't read any but the first image on the card. There's probably an explanation but, well, HP doesn't need one.
We printed some borderless 5x7s in about two minutes each. We edited a few of them using the built-in editing options, usually just changing the brightness. All of them were run through HP's Photo Fix enhancement routine, which you can disable from the Preferences screen.
We also tried few borders and added some type to them. If the image file was large, this was often a bit sluggish compiling the border image with the photo.
Computer. We had no trouble printing from our usual applications and HP's Print program. We made a USB connection to the printer but we also used a Bluetooth connection. The A626 was easily found and we sent an image file to it which printed with no problem.
This was the least fun we had with the A626, actually. We actually missed the touch screen.
Bluetooth. Bluetooth printing was a snap. You do need a Bluetooth adapter. We used a D-Link, plugged into the PictBridge port in front. HP does sell a more expensive adapter but anything will do, really.
Then we found a picture we liked on our Razr cellphone, went to the menu to select Copy and the Razr looked around for a device, found the HP and sent it off.
We hadn't put any paper in the printer, but the HP calmly suggested it was the bright thing to do. When we'd loaded the paper and tapped the onscreen OK button, our print came out.
Considering what we threw at it, the A626 impressed us with its robustness. It read our cards and thumbdrives. It printed without complaint via Bluetooth, PictBridge, USB and the card reader.
The A626 might be more fun at a party than a punch bowl. Camphones can Bluetooth to it and digicam users can pop their cards into it. That just leaves the cost of consumables to the host.
The cost of consumables is the cost of paper and ink. HP doesn't really offer any options for the A626, since you're locked in to the Vivera dye-based inks in the 110 cartridge.
Using a porous paper like HP's Advanced Photo paper provides instant dry and water resistant performance.
But with dye inks, porous papers produce very short-lived prints. The problem is ambient ozone exposure, as Henry Wilhelm of Wilhelm Imaging Research (http://www.wilhelm-research.com) explains in his report on the permanence of all types of 4x6 prints (http://www.wilhelm-research.com/ist/WIR_IS&T_2007_03_HW.pdf).
You can get color prints that will last up to 105 years using HP's swellable Premium Plus photo paper. They aren't instant dry or water resistant, however.
HP claims its Premium Plus Photo paper is "dry to touch soon after printing. Recommend wait 7 days before inserting into album or under glass cover. Keep unused paper in the plastic bag and reseal the box. Store the packaging flat, in a cool place." Not bad advice.
For our testing, we used HP Advanced Photo paper but we'd stick to Premium Plus for anything we wanted to last on a refrigerator door.
Right out of the printer, the instant dry HP Advanced Photo paper print is tacky but you can't leave fingerprints on it. We ran the corner of a fresh print under the tap for a minute and we could see that the tone had darkened after it dried, but very little. Water resistant, indeed.
Only one ink cartridge is supported, the tricolor 110 with cyan, magenta and yellow inks. The 110 ink cartridge lists for $20 but can be found online for under $17.
HP Premium Plus Photo paper is available in 100 sheet packs in the 4x6 size for about $22.
HP also bundles paper with ink in value packs like the HP 100 Photo Pack 120 Sheet for about $45, which runs about 38 cents for each 4x6. Not much difference from buying the paper and ink cartridge separately.
That's more expensive than what Kodak claims for its new all-in-one pigment printers. And those do include a black ink. But Kodak has three different quality levels, starting with a 10 cent 4x6 on flimsy photo paper, a mid-level 4x6 at 15 cents and a 25 cent print on heavier photo paper.
Oddly enough, in side by side comparisons, we had a hard time telling which print we liked best. The Kodak had deeper shadows and more contrast but the HP prints held their own, particularly in dim room light. Where the HP prints had trouble was in low key subjects but flesh tones and brighter colors looked very good.
The good news is that both prints exceeded what we'd expect from a lab. And we didn't have to work to get that level of quality. It just came naturally to the A626.
Even though they're inkjets not dye sub printers, we're fond of HP's compact photo printers. Toss some paper in the slot on top, pop in your card (or plug in your camera) and presto, you've got prints. They can do a lot of other tricks (like add captions and titles or remove red-eye) but all you really need sometimes is an appliance not a power tool.
We like the little A626 inkjet. Yes, it only uses three inks -- and you can tell in the shadows (no black). And only swellable paper will do (with those dye inks). But the touch screen interface is terrific, it prints 5x7s and Bluetooth (if you have an adapter) is a nice bonus, too. Not too shabby.
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD850IS/SD850ISA.HTM on the Web site.)
From the start, we couldn't avoid referring to the Canon SD850 IS as the SD800 IS. We set up our review folder that way and continued the mistake with our gallery shot folder name and so on. Even the Overview seemed to make the same mistake, referring the SD850 IS's predecessor as the SD700 IS, ignoring the SD800 IS all together.
But Canon insists the SD850's direct predecessor really is the SD700 because both cameras offer a 35-140mm zoom. The SD800 sets itself apart with its 28-105mm zoom. But other than that and an optical zoom range improved from 3.8x to 4x, the Canon SD850 is an SD800. Think of it as a choice of lenses at the top of the Digital ELPH line. That's a line that has established itself at the top of the digicam heap where image quality and user experience are the measures for all other comers.
But the other defining feature of this line may be a disadvantage to some: no manual control of aperture or shutter speed. If you're looking for a good digicam and don't want to worry about things like that, though, the Canon SD850 is your baby.
Physically, the SD850 is almost exactly the same camera as the SD700. The main differences are on the back panel. The dark mask around the SD700's LCD has been replaced by a gray mask on the SD850 and the elliptical buttons on the SD700 are round on the SD850. There is a small thumb grip on the SD850, a grid of nine tiny bumps. The color scheme and use of chrome highlights still strike us as modern, even fresh. And the SD850 can sit up on its side so all the type reads right.
It isn't as svelte a camera as many ultracompacts like the Sony T series, Nikon S series or Fujifilm Z series, but heft is helpful in a small camera when you actually press the shutter. It stabilizes the body of the camera. The SD850 ranks average in weight among entry-level cameras, but on the high end of average. So it's a little awkward in a shirt pocket, but fine in your jacket. As grips go, the SD850's is minimal. The raised type spelling "Canon" on the front and the small bumps on the back are it. But here again, the heft helps, providing something to get your hand around. No complaint from us about this grip.
Like other ELPHs, the SD850 is comfortable not only to carry but to shoot with, easily managed with just your right hand. The Control dial icons are large and clear and there are just four buttons to learn, two of which do the heavy lifting. You'll never have to hunt for the large Shutter button or the Zoom lever surrounding it. The SD850's Power button is not quite as convenient until you learn to press it with your thumb. The SD series is small, relying on a tiny lithium-ion battery and miniature SD memory cards to make a compact package you can take anywhere in any pocket. And small as it is, it's still large enough for a big 2.5 inch LCD so you can enjoy your photos as soon as you take them.
Display/Viewfinder. Unlike most small digicams, the SD850 gives you both a large LCD and an optical viewfinder. Optical viewfinders are not as accurate as LCDs, they're harder to see through and they don't change with the aspect ratio. But one thing they all do well is let you compose your shot in bright sunlight, something not every LCD can manage. The optical viewfinder on the SD850 shows just 78 percent of what the sensor captures, while the LCD shows 100 percent (even a bit more). The SD850 does have a widescreen shooting mode, so the LCD is preferred for framing those shots.
The LCD, however, is usable in bright sun and quite sharp with 230,000 pixels (up from the 173,000 of the SD700). You can see the display at a rather severe angle, so you aren't shooting blind when you have to hold the camera over your head to get the shot. Of course, you can't beat an LCD when it's time to show off the shot. The big, 2.5-inch LCD is just the ticket for that.
The SD850 ranks above average (and well above) for startup time, shutdown time, autofocus shutter lag, pre-focus shutter lag, cycle time, LCD size and download speed with USB 2.0 Hi-Speed support.
The only categories the SD850 ranks average in are its weight (which we find advantageous) and its 4x zoom (which is a bit better than the standard 3x zoom ratio these days).
The SD850's flash recycle time ranks below average at 7.5 seconds but that often points to a more powerful flash. Luke's flash tests tell the whole story, but our informal shooting around the house impressed us by how well the flash lit up even large rooms.
But with image stabilization on the SD850, we avoided flash shots. We left IS on all the time except when shooting a comparison test. The only time you really should turn it off is when you have the camera mounted on a tripod. In full sunlight, IS helped stabilize the inevitable camera shake of a 16x digital zoom shot (and we took a lot of them). In dim lighting, it stabilized the slow shutter speeds that let us capture exactly what we were seeing. It did it so well, the SD850 was usually able to keep ISO sensitivity below 200 when using IS.
Low light performance is really top notch. Nearly everything in our Low Light table is well exposed even down to 1/16 footcandle at ISO 200.
Macro with the SD850 was a delight, too. You don't have to get right on top of a subject to shoot macro. We engaged it for most of our full frame flower shots to capture the texture of the petals, for example.
Movie mode doesn't offer a 16:9 option, but it does offer a Fast Frame Rate of 60 fps, twice the broadcast standard of 30 fps. That means you can shoot slow motion with the SD850.
A 16:9 wide aspect ratio is available for still shooting, however (although you can't tap into digital zoom when using it). It's somehow a more pleasing aspect ratio to us, more the shape of your two eyes than the 4:3 ratio (or even the traditional 3:2) that frames a print so well.
A full charge on the battery delivers about 230 shots, according to Canon. If you turn off the LCD (an option since you have an optical viewfinder) that jumps up to 700. So if battery power is running low, turn off the LCD to extend shooting time. Playback is good for six hours, Canon claims. That far exceeds our performance for a day's shooting.
The SD850 combines some pretty powerful technology in a high performance package that takes no effort to enjoy. The Face Detection and Red-eye Correction of its DIGIC III processor, the high ISO 1600 option and image stabilization for shooting in low light, the 4x zoom starting at 28mm and the 8.0-Mp sensor make this machine adept at everything from portraits in natural light to scenics of places you see once in a lifetime.
Face Detection is so quick you won't be penalized for leaving the AF mode set to Face Detect all the time. We didn't do that for the Gallery shots but it wouldn't have taken the SD850 any longer to focus if we had. And that means Face Detection isn't limited to a special mode (like Portrait mode only). Very nice.
Our Gallery shots start with two sets of the zoom range images from Twin Peaks. As the Exif data shows, the first set was shot with Image Stabilization on (Shoot Only mode). We don't notice much of a penalty for keeping image stabilization on, frankly. Neither matching shot is sharper than the other. We do see a little flare in the highlights (the white roof at the bottom edge for example) that is increasingly common in small digicams.
The SD850's color is saturated but still natural, although the clouds really pop out of the sky in the 5.8mm wide-angle shots. Digital zoom is disappointing, although atmospheric haze handicaps a shot of that distance. A shot like the Bay Bridge, taken a 4x digital zoom (16x total) with image stabilization is just the kind of thing you want to be able to do from Twin Peaks (or any scenic spot) so the range is nice, but the detail is quite soft.
If long range scenics were a bit disappointing in detail despite their attractive color, indoor shots were much happier. The mask shot shows little noise and sharp detail. The orchid, taken in Macro mode, shows off the detail the SD850 can capture in the shadows, although the 1/60 exposure looks a little soft at f2.8.
But for proof that image stabilization is worth the extra pesos look no further than the Grape Goddess, a small bottle cap shot at 1/11 second in a dark corner of the room at ISO 200. Despite that slow shutter speed, it's sharp (see her banner) with little noise (since the ISO didn't have to be cranked up past 200). Your average digicam can't bring home that shot. The SD850 can.
What's ISO 1600 good for then? Well the image of the corks shows both good detail and good color (a tough assignment at high ISO), though the color range of the original is quite limited. Grain doesn't hurt a shot like this (where there's lots of texture in the subject), but there isn't much of it compared to other ISO 1600 shots we've taken.
The doll shots are also in two sets. The first set was really disappointing, given the high ISO performance and image stabilization. So we gave it another shot on a brighter day in the basement and did see detail and some color in the images. The eyelids and eyebrows on the ISO 1600 shot are sharp and there's color in the eye as well. You can even see the cracks in the doll's face. That's pretty remarkable at 1/10 second -- but notice we were shooting at f5.5, not wide open at f2.8. At ISO 800, color is stronger and despite the 1/5 shutter speed the detail is still sharp enough to discern if not quite as sharp as the ISO 1600 shot.
While color seemed a bit too saturated to us, it was still well within the bounds of realism. But you might not appreciate that from the thumbnails of, say, the roses. You really have to look at the full resolution version of the image to appreciate the color capture. They're a bit oversaturated as thumbnails.
Knowing we were able to shoot in dark quarters without a flash meant we could take home some unusual shots, like the WPA murals at Beach Chalet. The SD850 only had to go to ISO 200 to shoot them at f2.8 and f3.1 and we came home with some souvenirs many other digicams wouldn't have been able to get.
Macro shooting was a ball, too, letting us enjoy things up close at our leisure like the small cactus plant whose spikes were growing whiskers. You just don't notice details like that when you're revving up the garbage disposal and looking for the hand towel.
Like other digital ELPHs, the Canon PowerShot SD850 IS is designed for the person who doesn't want to worry about shutter speeds and apertures to get good pictures. If Auto mode doesn't do the trick, then Programmed Auto accesses options like White Balance, EV compensation and Metering. And if that's too much trouble, there's a healthy selection of Scene modes to solve almost any problem.
That ease of use is reflected in the SD850's cleverly sculpted shell, which seems to have an invisible grip and its simple control layout. It extends to features like Face Detect autofocus and its excellent image stabilization. The SD850 is an excellent performer, with superior focusing and low light performance matched with a powerful flash that recharges quickly. With a day-long battery, you couldn't ask for a better companion than the SD850, no matter where you're going. The SD850 takes top spot by a nose in the popular line, an easy 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: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/W80/W80A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix S200 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPS200/CPS200A.HTM)
- Sample Images: Sony Alpha A700 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA700/AA700A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T20/T20A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS Digital ELPH (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD850IS/SD850ISA.HTM)
- Previewed: Canon EOS 40D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E40D/E40DA.HTM)
- Reviewed: HP A626 Compact Printer (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/HPA626/HPA626.HTM)
There's something about video training DVDs that we just don't like. They take time to watch. And unless you take notes or have a photographic memory, you walk away from the experience with only a thought or two more in your head. Furthermore, they stink as references.
But there's something about dSLRs that mystifies new owners. Even the least expensive ones are not inexpensive, so it's hard not to be a little intimidated at first. You don't want to break it, after all.
Which usually means you don't spend a lot of time with it even if you want to. Of course, you may also be juggling a baby on one hip or just be disappointed with the range of the kit lens or have any other number of obstacles in the way of your enjoyment of that new camera.
And that's where something like Rick Sammon's Digital Rebel Training DVD can be helpful. It's a large collection of video segments, all of them brief (some really too brief), followed by a PowerPoint-style summary of the topics covered that go through everything you really need to know to use Canon's EOS Rebel XTi. Pop it into your computer or play it on your TV.
Rick, a Canon Explorer of Light, has published 27 books, hosts the Do It Yourself network's Digital Photography Workshop and writes for several photo publications. He's published seven DVDs and has traveled the world with his camera.
All that experience comes to bear in this DVD. After an introduction in which Rick introduces everyone (hey, it seems like a party), the Get Started segment covers setting the exposure mode, using memory cards, handling the battery, the LCD monitor, holding the camera and a discussion of the digital workflow. The Exposure segment starts with an introduction to exposure modes, a tour of Canon's Basic and Creative picture modes, three exposure videos and a discussion of auto focus. A segment on Lenses shows how different focal lengths cover the same scene, with Rick's recommendations.
With that under your belt, you're ready for some assignments. The Getting a Great Shot section covers sports, indoor natural light, white balance, sunrise/sunset, using reflectors and diffusers, and image stabilization. The Flash segment shows you how to add a flash, use fill flash in daylight, how to reduce reflections and tips for using the built-in flash. The DVD concludes with Rick's top 10 photo tips.
But because it's video, you get to see Rick and his crew handle the camera, a bag full of lenses, even some flash options. You see how comfortable they are passing the lenses around, taking a shot, changing camera settings, taking another shot. You almost feel like an apprentice. Before you know it, you want to grab your camera, run into the garden and shoot some wild apes.
That's the real value of this DVD. Rick's enthusiasm is catchy. The video segments are playful but technically solid. Shoots are set all over the place, including the Bronx Zoo, Universal Studios in Orlando, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and what looks like the dark side of the moon to us.
It's not a reference work, there's no index, you'll never learn where he got that shower cap to diffuse the built-in flash, but you may revisit one or another segment to refresh your memory. The sunrise/sunset video, for example, discusses composition, filters, using a tripod, setting EV and focal length -- quite a tour de force. You almost can't wait for the sun to set.
Some other segments, though, are really too brief to be any value. The sport mode segment and the image stabilization segment really don't do justice to their subjects. Fortunately image stabilization is covered elsewhere on the DVD.
But those are minor quibbles. If you need a little encouragement, this is a great way to get it. Rick loves people and he loves the XTi. Spend an hour with this DVD and you will, too.
Rick Sammon's Canon EOS Digital Rebel Personal Training DVD published by Wiley's Photo Workshop imprint, DVD, $19.95 (or $14.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0470180757/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Modern operating systems are intimidating. The more you know about them, the scarier they are. So most of us don't poke under the nice desktop interface that Windows or Mac OS X presents. Not even for Halloween.
We were initiated into home directories and multiple users and passwords and file permissions and users and groups and other strange things one night under a full moon near a steaming caldron. We don't much like black cats anyway.
But we drew the line at fonts. We love fonts. The invisible sort of fonts nobody else uses. Berkeley. Bodoni. Garamond. Trajan. Caslon. Castellar. Oh, don't get us started. We have a lot of them.
In the old days, we managed them quite well with a nice little utility that didn't quite make the leap into the netherworld we inhabit now. And while that netherworld has a place (or three) for fonts, we've never figured out where they should go. Somehow fonts got installed (sometimes rather sneakily) and we could find them (in those long font menus) and use them.
It turns out, however, that fonts can cause problems. And a lot of fonts can cause a lot of problems. Not that ours ever did (as far as we know). But better to manage them than be plagued by them.
Unfortunately, all the utilities we found to help us manage them were more trouble than the fonts themselves. You're nodding your head right now.
Then we read about a free font utility with an interface like iTunes that runs on Windows or Mac OS X. Suddenly we couldn't resist. We had to try Linotype's FontExplorer X (http://www.linotype.com/fontexplorerX) -- even if the very idea terrified us.
Linotype is a font foundry. They sell fonts. So, surprise surprise, you can buy Linotype fonts right from FontExplorer X. Like iTunes, as we said. That doesn't bother us because we don't have a problem with Linotype fonts. Linotype, Adobe, Monotype, they're all good. Linotype just had the bright idea to take the spell off fonts.
FontExplorer X does a lot of things, but what we liked about it from the start was that it let us collect our fonts. And eventually get rid of duplicates.
Certain fonts that have to be in a certain place for your operating system to function. FontExplorer X knows about them. But some third-party products dump their fonts in the same place (just to be safe). And FontExplorer X knows about them, too. So the first thing we did was have it clean up our system font folder.
It does that in a spectacularly civilized way by moving the fonts into a special folder. You then have the option of importing them into FontExplorer X. Which we did. That set up a repository (or collection) of all our non-system fonts (but you can tell it to use any arrangement you like). They are organized alphabetically in folders, in case you want to visit them.
The program can also check the integrity of fonts and report any problems. And it can display the whole character set and set sample paragraphs so you get an idea of what a font looks like in action.
The next trick is activating the fonts you really need or want to use. Which can change on a document-by-document basis. FontExplorer X manages that for you by automatically activating and deactivating fonts with smart sets. It even includes plug-ins for some particularly particular applications (like InDesign and XPress). You can also organize your fonts by play lists, er, sets that can be activated or deactivated manually.
Or you can just sit back and enjoy the stability.
We've been running it on our systems for a few weeks now. What do we think? It's sweet, really sweet. Like candy in a Jack O'Lantern.
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 Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea646c
Visit the Panasonic Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea297f
Anna asks about formatting a memory card at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea6631/0
Richard asks about low light compact cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea6629/0
Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2
We had gone to Berkeley to borrow the rare autobiography of Ganna Walska after visiting Lotusland (http://www.lotusland.org), her estate in Santa Barbara. It isn't rare because it's valuable, we think, but just the opposite. So there aren't many copies around, but the University of California dutifully had one.
She had signed this book in a hand so large that it would have made John Hancock blush. She seems to have had a knack for making men blush. Not by embarrassing them, but just the opposite.
We laughed, put the book in our satchel and wandered down University Avenue to have lunch at a little Italian restaurant called Venezia. It's a treat we've indulged in over the years. The place is quiet by the time we get there and quite relaxing if you don't mind colorful underwear hanging over your head in the faux piazza (complete with fountain) that is really the dining room. And the food is wonderful.
So we had our lunch, flipping through Ganna's diary, stumbling over the names she drops every other paragraph. Most of them were men blinded by her beauty and unable to deal with her wealth, as she tells it, although we can't image either being much of a problem.
She fancied herself an opera singer and, although she admits to having had a thin voice unless the faucet in the bathroom was running, she claims the press never gave her any respect. Had she known Rodney Dangerfield, we're sure she would have found that he would not have been able to handle either her beauty or her money.
We had brought along the Nikon Coolpix L12 we were reviewing to take some gallery shots, so we took a Macro mode shot of her signature on the flyleaf. Then we walked up Addison to take a few urban shots.
In front of the Berkeley Rep Theater, the sidewalk is something to see. There are brass plaques of poetry embedded in the cement and we took our time reading them and shooting our favorites. Brenda Hillman, Michael Palmer, Sandra Gilbert, Maxine Hong Kingston, good stuff. And the little L12 did an admirable job in the glare snapping them up for us and posterity.
Then we put the camera away. Don't ask why. So we wouldn't drop it. Or have to think about it. Or worry about it. Big mistake.
Just then a burly fellow ambled past us with a serious smile on his face and turned into the theater.
We glanced up at the theater's facade and saw a poster for the current one-man show "Great Men of Genius" profiling the lives of "P.T. Barnum, Bertolt Brecht, L. Ron Hubbard and Nikola Tesla, exploring the nature of genius and the pride, insanity and chauvinism that bind these men together." The one man, pictured on the poster? Mike Daisey. You might describe him as burly.
That's who had walked right by us. With the camera in our pocket!
Our grief was only lessened (a bit) when we googled the Berkely Rep site and found to our astonishment a few MP3s of Mike at work. We particularly liked the piece on P.T. Barnum and his 160-year-old black nursemaid to George Washington. Why did people go to see something they knew couldn't possibly be true? Oh, Mike explains it (http://www.berkeleyrep.org/season/0607/mp3/md-barnum.mp3).
It wasn't her beauty. Nor her money. And she didn't have much of an act, either. Ganna, we suspect, would have understood.
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I felt that LightZone would be a good buy, but v3 would not open on my PC. On complaining to Light Crafts I was told I should have taken advantage of their 30 day free trial to find this out!
Their official line is, "LightZone 3.0.6 requires a processor that has SSE2 support. Something AMD didn't support until early 2004 with the introduction of the Athlon 64 processor, Intel introduced SSE2 in 2001. LZ 2.3.2 was the last version that didn't require CPUs with SSE2 support."
So I am stuck with version 2. Please warn your readers about the SSE2 requirement. Until I read the small print on LightZone's requirements, I had never heard of SSE2 -- and I still do not know what it is.
-- Derek(SSE2 stands for Single Instruction, Multiple Data Extensions 2. It's a processor instruction set of about 70 functions that Intel derived to replace MMX. SSE3 was released in 2004. We do actually have that listed in the System Requirements section of the draft review, picked up from the LightZone site. But I've also asked Georges about the requirement. And I've forwarded your email to him for follow-up. -- Editor)
Your newsletter keeps getting better and better. Considering that for the last two years that I've known about it, it has been the most photographic of any information source I can find, I am always newly pleased with each issue. The feature on LightZone in the current issue answers questions a photographer would want to know before we even ask. I'm looking forward to the full review. Thanks very much for your work.
-- Mark Lough(Thanks, Mark! LightZone is an interesting approach to image editing, so we thought a little backgrounder would be helpful. Glad you found it useful! -- Editor)
RE: Noise & Image Size
In your reply to Max Tiller's Small Sensors & Noise post, you didn't directly answer his question: "If one was to drop the 9-megapixel camera to its next lower resolution, which happens to be five megapixels, would one have less noise?"
I think the answer would be that since the photosites are still physically the same size there would be no difference in noise. When you set the camera to lower resolution, you're just not recording all the pixels. Right?
-- Robert Mathews(When you use record a smaller image size, the sensor still captures data at each photo site but the image processor combines information from neighboring sites to reduce the total number of pixels. Your image is resized in the camera, in short (some cameras only offer a reduced size at high ISO). That averaging of information suppresses noise. You can get the same effect with your image editor. But the reduction is proportional to the square root of the number of pixels being averaged, Dave told us. Dropping from eight to five megapixels, he explained, yields only a 30 percent reduction in noise. -- Editor)
RE: Dan's 13x19 Frame Alternative
Cool coverage on framing 13x19 prints. It's been a big bugaboo of mine since all these great 13x19 printers have been coming out. So hard to self-frame this irregular sized print.
While your method sounds great, I'm too lazy and cheap (cheaper than you, I'm sure) to deal with having the mats cut. So I've been buying these great 13x19 metal frames from Frame Destination. I guess they finally got the message that people are clamoring for this solution.
Here's the link: http://www.framedestination.com/showitem.aspx?productid=rffdix00000000515000
While they perhaps don't look as good as having a mat in there -- or prevent the print from touching the glass -- they're so simple and inexpensive, especially if you buy them in bulk. Now I just print an image (with a white border) from my Canon Pro9500 (awesome printer, by the way), insert and hang. Very chill.
But you're right about the metal frames scratching. What type of acrylic paint do you recommend for touch-ups?
-- Dan Havlik(Thanks for the tip, Dan! On metal frames, we use Liquitex (Mars Black). It goes on flat with any small brush and washes up with water. You have to look hard for the touch up to see it. On wooden frames, we use an old George Bailey trick (George is old, but so is the trick), a professional framer we profiled a while ago. He just swipes the scratch with a colored felt marker that matches the finish. Maybe we shouldn't have told anyone, though.... -- Editor)
Apple (http://www.apple.com) has updated its iLife '08 applications (excluding the iMovie HD version compatible with iLife '08). No updates for iWork '08 applications were included. Also included is iLife Support 8.1. The release notes explain, "This update supports system software components shared by all iLife '08 applications, improves overall stability, addresses a number of other minor issues, and supports general compatibility issues. It is recommended for all users of iLife '08."
DataRescue (http://www.datarescue.com) has updated PhotoRescue 3.1.1 [MW], its image recovery solution, with support for recently released cameras, improved recovery, integrated card wiper function and more.
Michael Tapes (http://rawworkflow.com) has published his $49.95 DVD titled Raw without Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, explaining why Raw should be the preferred shooting mode and how photographers can maximize information captured by their digital camera easily and without stress or fear.
Intel, HP, Microsoft Corp., NEC Corp., NXP Semiconductors and Texas Instruments have formed the USB 3.0 Promoter Group to create a superspeed personal USB interconnect to deliver over 10 times the speed of today's connection. The group said it is committed to preserving the existing USB device class driver infrastructure and investment, look-and-feel and ease-of-use of USB while continuing to expand its capabilities.
Nikon (http://support.nikontech.com) has released two free utilities, Nikon Transfer and ViewNX [MW]. ViewNX can display the focus point in an image, as well as rate and label images.
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Photoshop Elements 6 and Premiere Elements 4 [W]. The products are available separately or together in a single retail package for $149.99.
BenVista (http://www.benvista.com) has released PhotoArtist 2.0 [MW] to apply artistic effects to photos using filters, brushes, paint mixers, blends or an auto-effect generator.
Plasq (http://plasq.com) has released its $24.95 Comic Life 1.3.4 [MW] with improved stability, an iPhoto '08 library fix, improved compatibility and more.
Rocky Nook (http://www.rockynook.com) has published The Nikon D200 Dbook, a 580 page PDF covering digital photography basics, taking pictures, image optimization, lenses, accessories and more.
Houdah (http://www.houdah.com) has released its $29.95 HoudahGeo 1.2.8 [M] adding copying/pasting of coordinates between images, faster loading of the map window, sticky settings for the map window and other more.
Bobby Cronkhite (http://bobbysoftware.com) has released his $25 ZeboPhoto 2.0 [M], adding over 40 effects to the image viewer.
Fantasea Line (http://www.fantasea.com) has announced its FP-5000 housing for the Nikon Coolpix P5100, providing access to all camera functions and depth rated to 60 meters/200 feet.
For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
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