|Volume 10, Number 3||1 February 2008|
Welcome to the 220th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We're coming to you from Las Vegas this week, where we're banging out Pasini Reports on PMA 2008. We'll have a wrap up report along with our Envy Awards next time. In this issue we discover a simple fix for screen burn-in and possibly even stuck pixels. Then we invite you to join us for a day with Nikon's D300 at a local photo studio. Finally, we discuss three points in an image's life it could use a little sharpening. Enjoy!
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We recently came across an interesting application that promises to do what it can about screen burn-in on plasma and LCD monitors and can even address stuck pixels on LCDs. JScreenFix (http://www.jscreenfix.com) is a free Java application that runs in full screen mode on your Web browser. It works on Linux, Macintosh and Windows systems. It can't help your CRT, but it may be a blessing for your LCD whether it's your laptop monitor or your iPod.
JScreen gives your stuck pixel a workout. Stuck pixels are "re-energized" by randomly switching the red, green and blue signals on and off very rapidly -- without straining the power supply. By cycling the signal between 15 and 60 times a second, the pixel is exercised and may actually function better.
To fix a stuck pixel, you first set your screen to its maximum resolution, disabling any screen saver and power saving feature. Then run the JScreenFix applet, positioning its small window over the stuck pixel. Every five minutes you move the window off the stuck pixel to see if it has been fixed. You can continue to run the applet for 20 minutes, after which it isn't likely to help. In that case, you can try to massage the pixel.
Massaging a pixel can be as simple as swirling a microfiber cloth over the stuck pixel. One or another direction may be more effective, we've found. The technique recommended by JScreenFix, however, is a little more involved.
Turn off your screen and wet a "tightly woven cloth." Using a single finger wrapped in the cloth, press the screen where the stuck pixel lies and turn the screen back on. When you remove your finger, the stuck pixel should be gone.
Fixing screen burn-in is a completely different process. The game is to equalize the over-exposed screen areas by burning the unaffected areas in full screen mode for about an hour. Over time, the difference between the areas will fade. And that "over time" is key. What JScreenFix is doing is aging your screen -- quickly.
A version of the program, called JScreenFix deluxe can monitor your screen usage to equalize the screen when you aren't using it. Some consideration has also been given to scanning a photograph of a white screen to determine which areas need additional burn time to even out the display.
NOT JUST FOR COMPUTERS
There are other versions of the program for other devices, including a video you can run on your PDAs, iPods and mobile devices to equalize them, too. Windows users are advised to run the applet in Firefox because Explorer can't handle the speed at which JScreenFix redraws the screen. Opera runs slowly for the same reason, but Firefox doesn't have a problem with the applet.
We haven't had occasion to try JScreenFix ourselves, but we're bookmarking it in case we do.
(Excerpted from our second D300 Diary installment posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/MRP/D300DY2.HTM on the Web site.)
SAN FRANCISCO -- Dogpatch is a nine-square block of San Francisco not frequented by tourists. It's both too residential and too industrial for the limelight. But it's one of those neighborhoods that make San Francisco what it is -- a delightful surprise on any street.
And one such surprise is Dogpatch Studios (http://www.dogpatchstudios.com), a recently renovated building that houses print, film and event space. Nikon managed to snag the third floor photo studio with its wall of northern light and view of downtown for an all-day, intensive D300 boot camp.
The event was organized by Nikon's Geoffrey Coalter who managed to drag Nikon's Lindsey Silverman out of his sick bed to explain to a few journalists what's so special about the D300. Joining your newsletter editor were PCWorld Senior Product Manager Melissa Perenson (http://www.pcworld.com), Rick Oldano of the Digital Tourist (http://www.thedigitaltourist.com) and Maximum PC Editor Gordon Mah Ung (http://www.maximumpc.com). Peter Gerba, Dogpatch studio manager, made us all feel at home in the cavernous studio.
Geoff had promised to include an actual, real live, working professional photographer (not to mention a model). And he delivered as promised with the affable John Blaustein (http://www.johnblaustein.com) of Berkeley. John's clients include such luminaries as J. Walter Thomspon, Hal Riney & Partners, Pentagram Design, Saatchi & Saatchi Direct, Young & Rubicon and Apple Computer, among many others.
We were also enticed to Dogpatch by that promise of a model. The model, alas, turned out to be Rob, a fireman from the fire house next door. Not our cup of tea but quite photogenic all the same. And a pro to boot.
A PERFECT DAY
Despite some pretty disastrous weather earlier in the week, the day broke clear. Our 10 a.m. start gave us just enough time to hitch a ride to Dogpatch with our better half, who happens to work just down the street from the studio. After enduring her coworkers' Bring Your Husband to Work Day jokes for an hour, we gathered our gear and found the studio.
Geoff and Lindsay greeted us at the door and introduced us to Peter, Rick and John. We immediately thanked Lindsay for his quick tutorial on Live View mode at the Pepcom event before the Consumer Electronics Show. His five minute overview had demonstrated us how we might use the D300 to shoot the Expo. With Active D-Lighting enabled, we were able to complete our photo coverage in much less time than usual, changing the white balance on only two of our dozens of images.
Our arrival had interrupted a discussion about the average life span of a new camera these days. Nikon's first SLR, the Nikon F, was introduced in 1959. The F2 made its debut in 1971. The D200 was introduced in 2006 and, while still available, the D300 elbowed its way onto the scene just a year later. Rick shuddered at the investment a new dSLR must require.
Almost on cue, the rest of the crew arrived and Lindsay took the floor to give us an overview of what's new and improved about the D300. We were all ears -- and eyes.
Lindsay has been with Nikon for 23 years. His job is to know every feature of every dSLR and Coolpix digicam in the lineup. We can't imagine it's really part of his job to evangelize them, but just try to interrupt him. He knows this stuff and he loves it.
He made a very astute observation about the tendency for pros to stick with what they know. You have to get the job done, so you don't experiment with new features like 51-point autofocus with 3D tracking. Instead, you find the single point autofocus setting (or eschew even that for manual focusing) and get the job done. Just like you always have.
Uwe Steinmueller of Digital Outback Photo (http://www.outbackphoto.com) is the patron saint of that approach. He shoots in Manual mode because that works on any camera.
But that was one of the reasons for calling this meeting, Lindsay said. Nikon wants to give harried journalists a chance to use these new features. And, of course, write about them.
We confess. Like Uwe, we're in the FM school of photography. Give us an all-mechanical camera like the legendary Nikon FM (no battery will keep us from our appointed rounds) and let us set the shutter speed and aperture manually. We'll get the job done. Focusing manually.
But today's dSLRs are battling each other to the death with intelligence. Sensor size isn't really the game, especially if you're going to print. Ease of use impresses no pro. But give us a feature that lets us get a shot nobody else got and you've made a convert. Or, in our case, let us get to bed before Jay Leno signs off after a day of walking the Expo floor and we'll evangelize for you.
Nikon's 51-point autofocus with 3D tracking is a case in point. You read about it, you scratch your head, you're maybe a bit embarrassed by your 9-point version (which you don't use anyway, preferring the single point autofocus you know and love), but what the hey.
No, no, no. This is big, Lindsay says. The auto scene recognition built into the D300 can recognize a subject's head and shoulders. So it can track the subject as it moves through space.
"It somehow knows," John confirmed, what (and where) the subject is.
The usual reply to this is, "Sure, most of the time." But who can risk missing the shot autofocus won't get?
But, as John pointed out (affably), the D300 still works like every autofocus camera before you. You can point to the subject and half press the shutter button to focus. You can direct focus.
But you don't have to. If, for some reason, 51 doesn't hit the target you're aiming at, just tap the shutter button a second time. It will refocus.
Well, OK, it was Nikon's donut after all. We set the D300 to 51 point AF and left it there all day. We did not miss a single shot, try as we might. Subject split on either side of the frame? Got it (them, we should say). In fact, we kind of liked seeing all the focus confirmation spots light up every time we half-pressed the shutter button. Suddenly we had an intelligent assistant with us.
We're usually pretty reliable when it comes to screwing things up. But we couldn't trick the 51 point AF into looking at the wrong thing. We tried all day, too.
The D300 features Nikon's first attempt at Live View, which lets you use the LCD rather than the viewfinder to compose your image in real time. The advantage, as with any digicam, is that you can position the camera away from your face, getting a unique (and sometimes the only) angle on the shot.
The problem with Live View technology generally is focusing. With the mirror up, the camera can't focus. This has occasioned some strange camera behavior, flipping the mirror down to focus and then back up to take the shot.
The D300 offers two different Live View modes. One keeps the mirror up and focuses quickly when you fully depress the shutter button. The other focuses with the mirror up -- as long as you're able to keep the camera still.
We used method one with great success for our Macworld Expo coverage and testified before the assembly. Method two really requires a tripod, but we can see using it to get more illuminating product shots.
Being able to experiment with new features isn't just a mind set. Nikon has provided a special menu on the D300 called My Menu that can be populated with the settings you'd like to experiment with (or just the ones you like to change a lot). Having them all on one handy menu makes it easy to enable and disable them.
You don't have to bother with autofocus modes, of course, because that's just a switch on the back of the camera, easily changed from shot to shot if necessary. That's the beauty of dSLR design to begin with: you have at your fingertips the controls you most often want to change.
The old film rewind crank position, for example, has buttons for image quality, white balance and ISO. Hold in a button and use one of the subcommand dials on the other side of the camera to scroll through the options. Later in the day, we found ourselves switching from NEF/JEG captures to JPEG captures just by scrolling through the image quality options. Piece of cake.
The D300 departs from previous Nikons in using a CMOS instead of a CCD sensor (which apparently makes that 14-bit Raw capture option possible). Whereas before, the highest ISO you could use without risking a disturbing noise pattern was about ISO 800, the new sensor, Lindsay claimed, unleashed him. He can go to ISO 3200 without worry.
We worry about ISO 3200. We worry less at ISO 1600.
But how do you explain that to the D300? Ah, there's a way. If you enable Auto ISO, you can set the base ISO and restrict any increase to the top limit you specify. So we can set the base ISO to 200 (the lowest the D300 offers, although it can simulate lower ISOs if forced to do so) and limit Auto ISO to 1600 max.
The LCD screen will warn you if conditions require the camera to raise the ISO from the base to an Auto setting. And it will tell you what that setting is. And it could be anything, not just whole stops, Lindsay said. You might go from ISO 200 to ISO 230. You can see that in operation if you look at the Exif data for our gallery images accompanying this story (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/MRP/MRP-D300-GALLERY.HTM).
This is another one of those features we avoid in our prudence. We stick with the lowest ISO speed for the highest quality image. If that won't get us the exposure we want, we gradually ratchet up the ISO until we get the shutter speed or aperture we need.
No, no, no. Let Auto ISO save the day. We set up the D300 to use ISO 200 unless it thought better. And it turned out we had a lot more latitude than we were used to. It's a digicam approach, no question, but with a big sensor the results are a lot more rewarding. Noise wasn't really an issue because we capped the expansion to ISO 1600 (and remember that we had an optically stabilized lens to give us about four stops to play with than normal). We had more latitude with no cost. What had we been thinking?
AUTO WHITE BALANCE
It's all new on the D300 and D3, Lindsay told us. You know how exposure metering depends on a database of metering patterns to tell if its looking at a landscape with a bright sky or a snow covered meadow? Well, Nikon has a white balance database that works much the same way, with 20,000 examples in its memory.
You can, in short, trust it. Unless you've got 30,000 in your memory.
This really flies in the face of recent wisdom. Recent wisdom suggest that if you know what the white balance of the scene is, you should just tell the poor camera so it can stop worrying about it. Daylight? Shoot daylight and forget it.
Our own feeling about this is that it's hard to tell what lighting we're shooting in. It isn't just our Ray-Bans. Everything seems mixed. This is the one feature we do trust more than our own judgement, perhaps because film gave us little choice. And now we're expected to tell Fluourescent 1 from Fluorescent 2.
John added an interesting, if sheepish, observation to the discussion. "No one ever got in trouble for warming up the daylight." As on the D200, the D300 lets you fine tune even auto white balance. To do it, you hold down the White Balance button on the left of the camera and spin the front command dial. This takes you through a range of settings from a6 to 0 to b6. On the D200 they range from +3 to -3 mired (about 13 degrees K each). What's that all about? Nikon's engineers thought plus and minus would clearly indicate warm or cold when they designed the D200. By the time they were working on the D300, the theory had moved to "amber" and "blue." We're alone with the engineers on this one.
But we took John's advice and warmed up Daylight to a2. That wasn't ideal for scenes of the blue bay or bananas on display in the Ferry building, but it was great for portraits.
HITTING THE STREET
In fact, that's what we all did next. Hit the street. We climbed into a van and drove down the Embarcadero to a pier near the Ferry Building and walked along taking shot after shot at various settings with our D300s.
We've posted a selection of our favorites in a special gallery with links to the Exif data (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/MRP/MRP-D300-GALLERY.HTM).
It's one thing to sit in a cavernous studio in a hip part of town absorbing technical detail. It's another to stumble over the poetry-strewn Embarcardero with a D300 in your hand trying to make photographs under the constant assault of curious seagulls. Fortunately we, too, were traveling in a group.
We asked John, just for fun, if there were certain f-stops we should avoid on the 18-200mm zoom lens. Were we liable to suffer chromatic aberration more severely at f4.5, say, than f5.6? Was f22 too soft?
He sighed. Hey, if f4.5 does what you want, shoot at f4.5. If you need f22, shoot at f22. You can get too caught up in the supposed tradeoffs and miss the effect you want if you don't try it.
Practical advice. And the truth is that we spend so much energy making fine discriminations between one piece of gear and another that we box ourselves in to a narrow, safe set of options that limits us to the same old.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the D300 automatically corrects for chromatic aberration. "You don't have to turn that on," Lindsay confirmed. It's always active.
Somehow that was liberating. We took some f22 shots that spanned a bay seal just a few yards in front of us and the other side of the bay far way, confident everything would be in focus. And later, in the Ferry Building, we opened the aperture wide to focus on one of a row of bottles of olive oil. We felt free to make extreme choices. Let the camera figure it out.
It figured it out, all right.
FLASH AFTER LUNCH
After sandwiches, pizzas and DayQuil (well, for Lindsay), we picked up our D300s and popped the flash up. Not to shoot with direct flash, though. No, no, no. We were going to use the flash in Commander mode to control an SB-800 external flash (or two) as we shot Rob, the model.
This is, in small scale, Nikon's Creative Lighting System. It turns your pop-up flash into an infrared remote control for any number of external flashes which you can, in turn, organize into one or two groups under the pop-up's control (or three using an SB-800 or SU-800 mounted to the camera's hot shoe).
And when we say remote control, we don't just mean trigger. You can change the volume, not just the channel. Each group of flashes can be set to fire at different outputs and you can control that directly from the camera itself, without visiting each flash in your setup.
To get the hang of this, we started with a single SB-800 bounced into an umbrella to light Rob from the side with a softer light than the direct flash would have provided. Lindsay set up his D300 to wirelessly signal the SB-800 to fire under TTL (through the lens) control so the camera could tell the flash when enough was enough.
He shot in Programmed Auto to start with, looked at the image, copied the aperture and shutter speed settings to Manual mode and made his exposure adjustments.
But the beauty of setting the pop-up flash to Commander mode is that you can ratchet down or up the amount of light the remote flash delivers. And, just to enhance the fun, you can do that for each group of flashes you are controlling.
To illustrate that, Lindsay tapped into a VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand) to hold a second SB-800 (without blocking the infrared sensor). Melissa volunteered to be the VAL and Geof spelled her.
That SB-800 was set up for Group B and configured with a different output than the original Group A SB-800. By adjusting the light output settings on the D300, he was able to adjust the light on Rob's face until he got just what he wanted.
The interesting thing about this process was how much fun it was. We weren't diagramming lighting schemes and measuring flash output with a meter and driving ourselves and Rob nuts. We were really just goofing around. But the results looked like we'd been working.
In fact, we all set our D300s to different settings for Group A and Group B. The two flashes didn't mind at all. We took a shot and looked at the results. Too much light from one or the other flash? We just made the adjustment on our D300, without affecting anyone else's adjustment.
We'd take a shot, make a change, take a shot, evaluating the results in that gorgeous 3.0-inch LCD on the D300. And we quickly managed to get something we hadn't planned or even seen, something dramatic that delighted us, just by making a few simple changes to the light output using the camera's menu system.
(Our macro shots of the D300 in our earlier diary entry were shot using the D200 and an SB-800, in fact.)
John was impressed. It was a lot easier than it sounded, which is probably why Nikon calls it the Creative Lighting System. There's really nothing quite like it.
While it may not surprise you that shooting a fireman can burn you out, we found ourselves collapsing mid afternoon into actual chairs. John fired up his computer to demonstrate how Nikon's TransferNX and ViewNX help streamline a workflow.
Here too we have different methods. But we have to admit an attraction to ViewNX at least. We're charmed it can display the focus points on the images but we also like the layout. What we miss from our aging iView MediaPro is the ability to rotate the image data (and copy images to other folders). Lindsay didn't think we really needed that (it was a defect of our applications) but that was the DayQuil talking. We need it to get images correctly oriented for the Web where Exif headers and orientation tags are meaningless.
Almost inadvertently (as these things happen), we stumbled on a discussion of how to evaluate apparent image sharpness.
It's no small problem for us. As we evaluate 10 and 12 megapixel sensors we seem to be seeing less and less sharp images. But they should, by all reasonable indicators, be delivering higher resolution. And our resolution chart looks pretty sharp with these high resolution sensors. Why the contradiction?
Turns out this had puzzled Lindsay too. When he asked Nikon engineers about it they suggested the problem was really one of scale. When you look at a 12-Mp image on your screen at 72 dpi, you have your nose to the glass at the candy store and are fogging the window.
To properly evaluate 10-Mp images and larger on your screen, they suggested, you should view them at 50 percent rather than 100 percent.
We'll have to try that.
Time flew (we were having fun) and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We all jumped in the van and parked right in front of the place. Bacar (http://www.bacarsf.com) provided a comfortable table for us to finish the day discussing sensor cleaning and archiving.
Not one of us really does either task the same way. That was refreshing.
The sensor cleaning discussion was amusing. We, like Lindsay, use a blower when necessary. But he uses it to blow debris off the sensor cover while we use it to such the dust off. We're fortunate in having pretty good control over the environment where we change lenses (that bunker of ours, usually), so we haven't had to deal with the problem much.
But John has. He uses Copper Hills (http://www.copperhillimages.com/index.php?pr=Tutorials) wet cleaning solution, which is what the lab guys at Imaging Resource rely on. For those trips where you can't bring your kit, we suggested Dust-Aid (http://www.dust-aid.com), a very simple adhesive-based product. It's something you can take on an airplane, it's a dry not wet method and it gets the corners just as well as the middle of the sensor cover.
We all agreed that the less cleaning, the better. And the less intrusive, the better, too.
The least intrusive on the D300, however is its anti-dust feature. The D300's anti-dust feature can be set to vibrate the low-pass filter in front of the sensor when you turn the camera on, off, both time or on demand.
The D300 can also take a dust reference photo that Capture NX can use to retouch Raw captures. That would be our least favorite alternative, of help only after the fact.
We all archive. Let there be no mistake about that. But we all find it overwhelming, too. Melissa, who brought up the subject, said she can easily come home from shooting athletic events with 16-GBs of images.
We talked about the Drobo (http://www.drobo.com) from Data Robotics, but it had some issues for Melissa. While you can mix and match drive sizes, its capacity is determined by the capacity of the smallest hard drive you install. And the file system is something of a mystery, she said. You can't just pull out a drive, stick it in an external enclosure and be able to read your files.
External drives were the device most relied on, of course, but Melissa wondered if they would spin up if left on a shelf for a couple of years. Or, we wondered, if their electronics would need firmware updates to be compatible with modern busses.
In the end, we recommended renewing your archive every few years on new media. It may seem like your archiving your archive, but it's really just a way to keep it fresh.
We reluctantly said goodbye to our colleagues at the curb and jumped on a bus to get home in time to get the previous newsletter draft done. It was also hard to put the D300 down (and we have no idea how we'll bring ourselves to part with it when the loan period is up). It's not just a rethinking of what we loved about the D200, it's a better camera in the same box.
We may have to change our identity and leave the country for a while to hang on to it until the D400 arrives some stormy November.
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:
- D300 Diary: Setting Up the D300 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/MRP/D300DY.HTM)
- D300 Diary: A Day with Nikon at Dogpatch Studios (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/MRP/D300DY2.HTM)
There are, it turns out, really three stages in the life of an image that call for sharpening. The trouble is that two of them are obscure. The one that isn't obscure -- sharpening for your output device -- is the squeaky wheel that gets all the grease. It gets so much grease, you may be reluctant to dabble in the other two.
But don't be.
You may have noticed, for example, that your Raw captures are noticeably softer than the JPEG images your digicam produces. No doubt the image processor in your digicam has already done some sharpening for you.
The goal of that sharpening is to improve the edges without bumping up the noise. It's subtle but you miss it when you don't see it.
The low-pass, anti-aliasing filter protecting your sensor from all your cleaning tools sets the limit on the detail your camera can capture. So you can develop a sharpening setting in the camera that works no matter which lens you mount.
High ISO shots are another subject, generating much more noise than usual. You'll want to apply noise reduction before you start sharpening. Some cameras can apply noise reduction on high ISO shots. You may be able to use your in-camera sharpening setting on top of that, but you'll have to run a few tests to see.
Scanned images need help, too. We get a lot of questions why high resolution scanners deliver such soft images. The scanning process itself softens the detail in the original and you have to bring it back by sharpening it. Good scanning software should let you decide just how much sharpening the image needs.
Whether you're shooting Raw images or scanning film, don't skip sharpening the source image.
If you got Step One right, you'll know in Step Two, where you sharpen image content. Sometimes referred to as creative sharpening, the goal of this task is sharpen the important edges in your subject and leave flat areas (like the sky) alone.
You do that with a mask. The mask protects the flat areas, but it also affects the width of the sharpened edges. Lightroom's sharpening tool illustrates this clearly (and is actually fun to use). In Photoshop a Layer Mask is your starting point. As with any mask, the old rule applies: white reveals, black conceals.
The creative aspect of this step is not just separating the flat areas from the detailed edges. It's also in determining (sometimes with your paint brush) just what to protect and what to subject to sharpening. The mask begs to be manipulated so you sharpen just the image content you want to sharpen. And that will vary with each image.
An alternative to the masking approach is to use nik Software's Sharpener Pro Selective (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/NS2/NS2.HTM), which lets you actually paint any degree of sharpening you set on any part of your image -- for example, to sharpen the eyes and eyelashes on a portrait.
If you've done it right (however you do it), you'll have a sharpened master image that can be optimized in the third step for the various requirements of different output devices.
This should be familiar territory because it has never really been optional, whether you were going to press or making prints. Every output process softens the image. So you always had to sharpen your image for output to get the most out of the AM print halftone, FM inket screen or continuous tone dye sub print.
And how you did that also depended on the size and resolution of the image (which imply the viewing distance) as well as the paper type.
The ironic thing about those factors is the print driver should know all about them. So the one stage of sharpening we're all aware of really could be taken care of automatically in the printer. One of these days.
With a well-tested sharpening setting applied in camera and a driver-smart sharpening applied automatically at output, that would leave us with only the creative sharpening to work out.
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 Pentax Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea2980
Joyce asks about setting the time and date on an F700 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea75fd/0
Read about the Kodak EasyShare 5500 All-in-One Printer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea719c/0
Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec
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RE: Herbert Keppler
I was truly saddened by the announcement of the passing of Herbert Keppler. I cut my photographic eye teeth on his many articles in Modern Photography. He was an icon in the photo industry and will be missed by all.
-- Charlie Young(Too true, Charlie. -- Editor)
RE: Image Quality
After reading your review of the XTi, my impression was that you liked the image quality a lot. I compared your still life samples of the XTi and the G9, using the low ISO versions. I'm no expert, but to me it seems like the G9 is significantly better in resolution. (Looking at the lines within the letters on the right hand bottle.) Is the G9 that good?
-- Eugene Tapp(First, the best comparison is with the resolution target (there are vertical and horizontal crops in the resolution section of the test results). Best to look at the originals (which have not been cropped and reJPEGed). Second, the amount of sharpening applied to these images may not be equivalent. dSLRs, in particular, profit from (even require) a good deal of in-camera sharpening when recording JPEGs. -- Editor)(Considering the 10- vs. 12- megapixel factor, you're correct that the G9's res is higher. As resolution goes up, those letters will appear sharper and sharper. To test that theory, look at the 21-Mp shots from the 1Ds Mark III. But if you look at the G9's high ISO shots compared to the Rebel XTi's high ISO shots, you'll also see why a larger sensor is better in the long run. That's where we really judge these cameras, because how large you can print a given ISO setting is where the rubber meets the road. Look at two sections of the Exposure tab: the ISO & Noise performance and the Output Quality sections. As resolution increases, I'm finding that what an image looks like at 100 percent onscreen (as seen in the ISO & Noise crops) means less and less in terms of printed performance. -- Shawn)
RE: External Flash
I received a Lumix FX55 for Christmas. Wonder if there is a way to add an external flash unit since it does not have a hot shoe. Also -- would it be practical to do so?
-- Donald Feinstein(Good question, Don. If your digicam doesn't have flash power control, you can attach a piece of dark processed slide film over the flash. Either way, the dim flash is enough to signal a slave flash to fire on cue from the camera. The technique is described more eloquently in our review of the Zenon MagneFlash (which relies on it): http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/ZMF/ZMF.HTM. -- Editor)
RE: Photography Computer
I'm in the market for a new computer and since I'm only interested in using it for photography and image manipulation using Photoshop I started looking on the web to see if there was a computer designed with the photographer in mind since digital imaging is so popular (such as the computers for gamers). But I couldÊnot find any.
In one of the forums someone said a gaming computer is not the best for photography because it is geared for 3D imaging and photography is 2D. I looked at the iMac video card and it has a card for gaming. I was thinking that since Photoshop was developed for the Apple computer the iMac would be the best? Just wondering if you have any info on computers for photography?
-- Earl Sager(Well, you might take a look at the system requirements for the software you want to use and buy a computer that somewhat exceeds the recommended (not the required) setup. Keys to Photoshop, for example, are the 64-MB video RAM requirement (not 32-MB on many older laptops) and the processor requirements. We'd suggest one of Intel's multicore processors among those. Unfortunately, Adobe lists only the minimum requirements. 512-MB of RAM, for example, won't get you very far editing today's 10-Mp images. You really want 2-GB RAM. You also want a 24-bit video card (not 16-bit) but that's almost standard these days. Monitors (whether on a laptop or desktop) and calibration hardware should be on your list, too. Not all monitors are created equal. LCD monitors have to perform some serious tricks to emulate 24-bit color display and cheaper ones just don't. You still have to calibrate your monitor. We've recommended the Spyder and the Pantone huey in the past. An iMac would be fine, Earl. You really can't go far wrong these days. -- Editor)
Thanks very much for your very informative reply to my query and I think my next computer will be the iMac with 2MB RAM. I really get so much info from the news letter on what is happening in the digital world, I feel it's one of the best, thanks again.
The news of the last two weeks has to be the truckload of product introductions at PMA 2008, just wrapping up tomorrow in Las Vegas. For all the details including video, press releases and Pasini Reports, visit our Live Show Coverage (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS08/PMAS08.HTML).
Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released LightZone 3.4 [LMW], its Zone-based photo editing software. This recent iteration includes seven style families and 38 pre-defined styles that can all be viewed and applied directly with just a click of the mouse. LightZone now instantly displays a real-time thumbnail preview of the image rendered in the chosen style when you hold your mouse over a style name.
Houdah (http://www.houdah.com) has released its $24.95 HoudahGeo 1.4 [M] to add geocoding from Google Earth, Wintec USB support, serial-to-USB converter support, Adobe Lightroom support, enhanced XMP sidecar support and more.
John Fox (http://www.memoryminer.com) has released his $45 MemoryMiner 1.8 [M] with a Flickr upload plug-in, support for Adobe Lightroom libraries in the Media Browser, support for GEDCOM files encoded using the ANSEL format, HTML export compatible with Safari 3.0 and more.
PhotoAcute (http://photoacute.com/studio) has released its $119 Studio 2.75 [LMW] tool for processing sets of identically composed photographs to produce high-resolution, low-noise pictures. It increases image resolution, removes noise without losing image details, corrects image geometry and chromatic aberration and expands the dynamic range. The latest release adds over 30 camera lens profiles.
The Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/blog/?p=233) has posted 1,500 photos with no known copyright restrictions to Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress) as something of a pilot project. "If all goes according to plan," Matt Raymond writes in the Library of Congress blob, "the project will help address at least two major challenges: how to ensure better and better access to our collections, and how to ensure that we have the best possible information about those collections for the benefit of researchers and posterity. In many senses, we are looking to enhance our metadata (one of those Web 2.0 buzzwords that 90 percent of our readers could probably explain better than me)." Pretty exciting!
The Dailide brothers (http://www.pixelmator.com) have released their $59 Pixelmator 1.1.2 [M], an image editing tool "for the rest of us" based on Core Image, Open GL and Automator with support for ColorSync, Spotlight and other Mac technologies.
PhotoLine (http://www.pl32.com) has released its 59 Euro Photoline 14.10 [MW] image processing program with new Working Layers, creation of Working Layers from function dialogs, enhanced creation of HDR images, Gray Mixer for conversion to black and white, Image Optimizer, a new Crop Tool, a new Ruler Tool, Test Strip and more.
Extensis (http://www.extensis.com) has released its $199.95 Portfolio 8.5.1 [MW], adding Leopard compatibility, the ability to save Catalog Types using current settings, improved XMP metadata support, Collect for Output improvements and support for more RAW camera formats.
For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
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:
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher