|Volume 10, Number 5||29 February 2008|
Welcome to the 222nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. A leap year edition should have something special and this issue does. It's our rather lengthy review of the Eye-Fi wireless SD card that can turn nearly any camera that uses SD cards into a WiFi digicam. We had to buy one to review it (which may explain why there aren't any other professional reviews out there), but nothing's too much for our subscribers! Then we give you the recipe for those clever black and white images with color highlights, discuss a new CompactFlash format and award our Missing Oscar. Enjoy!
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When we finally caught up to the Eye-Fi at PMA, we fell in love with the idea. So much so that we gave it two of our PMA Envy awards (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS08/MRP/pma-envy.htm).
The Eye-Fi is a $99 SD card (with a USB card reader) that combines 2-GB of storage with a Wireless G transmitter. A small application on your computer communicates with the SD card through your router and links to a Web application that can upload your images to any of 20 file sharing services.
It promises, in short, to turn your SD-capable digicam into a WiFi digicam.
We've been big WiFi fans for a long time. We've reviewed several wireless Nikon Coolpixes. And a Canon wireless digicam. And we've used SD WiFi cards before in both a Kodak series 3 printer and Kodak EasyShare One camera.
But those devices all had firmware support for WiFi communication. How could an SD card like the Eye-Fi sneak images to your computer behind your camera's back?
In fact, the more we thought about it, the more questions we had. Can it transmit images to a WiFi printer like the HP C8180? Can you dump your images to a laptop without going through the Internet? How fast a card is it? What's the power drain on your camera? Can you pop it into an SD-CF adapter and use it in, say, a Nikon 990? Can you email images?
Unfortunately, review units are scarce, we were told at the show. Which may explain why there are no professional reviews of the product. We put our business card in the hopper and hoped, but we didn't rely on that approach. One rainy day we hunted around the Web for a deal and found an open-box refurbished one for 10 percent off.
STATE OF THE ART
WiFi capability, we've noted in our most recent Nikon Coolpix reviews, isn't evolving so much as eroding. In the past, cameras could upload to your WiFi-enabled laptop even if it wasn't connected to the Internet and they could print to any WiFi printer. Companies even sold WiFi USB adapters to enable wireless PictBridge printing.
With Kodak's EasyShare One, we took a picture of our plate in a local restaurant and emailed it to our friends through the restaurant's open server. Over dessert, we shared our online gallery of the day's shots with our companions.
But today, WiFi cameras are much more limited. Nikon's digicams, for example, only upload to my Picturetown. You can't get them to send your images from the camera directly to your own computer. Canon no longer offers a WiFi digicam. And Kodak's One has faded away, too.
Research firm IDC claims WiFi connectivity is a big hit with camera consumers, who say they'll pay $86 more for it. But your average Bluetooth camphone can communicate more easily with more devices than the currently available WiFi digicams. In part, the eroding of WiFi capability has been the result of efforts to make setup easier.
So where does the Eye-Fi fit in this scene?
HOW IT WORKS
It's easy to focus on the card itself as the story, but the real action is in the software. After all, the camera doesn't know anything at all about the card. It can't display a menu on its LCD and prompt you to initiate a transfer, like a wireless Coolpix might.
And it can't manage battery power either, like a popup SD card on your PDA or an EasyShare One. Nope, the card's job is pretty much limited to staying awake. To that end Eye-Fi recommends turning off any power saving option on your camera so your images can be copied before your camera goes to sleep.
Managing the transfer is really the work of two applications: the Eye-Fi Manager software that runs in the background on your computer and the Eye-Fi Service that runs on the Web. They work together but independently, too. And much of what they do depends on how you've configured your card (as we'll explain later).
Let's just say you've set up the card so it copies your images both to a folder on your computer and to one of the 20 online sharing services Eye-Fi currently supports. And that your Eye-Fi card has been updated with the latest Smart Boost feature (a free firmware update).
With power on, when your camera comes within range of your router and your computer is on and running the Eye-Fi Manager software in the background, images are pulled off the card and copied to the folder on your computer that you selected when you configured the card.
If your computer is off or the Manager software isn't running, the images are sent to the Eye-Fi Service on the Web which routes them to your online sharing services and copies them back to your computer when it next runs the Manager again.
Only JPEG images are transmitted. No movies, no audio files, no Raw files.
Uploading images to the Web isn't as fast as transferring them from the card to your computer. This is particularly true of cable broadband connections, but DSL connections typically aren't very fast uploaders either. So performance is much improved when your computer is on and images can be pulled off the card to the computer first.
The Eye-Fi Manager software also configures your card when you attach it with the included USB card reader. You can add networks, change destinations and adjust other settings. We'll look at that right after a brief look at the technical specifications, system requirements and camera compatibility.
SPECS & REQUIREMENTS
The technical specifications are:
The card itself is based on Atheros Communications' AR6001GL Radio-on-a-Chip (http://www.atheros.com/pt/AR6001GL.htm) with automatic power save deliver and Atheros' proprietary, low-power sleep mode to extend battery life.
- Wi-Fi Security: Static WEP 40/104/128, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK
- Range: 90+ feet outdoors and 45+ feet indoors
- Storage Capacity: 2.0-GB (1.0-GB is defined as 10^9 Bytes)
- Power: advanced power management optimizes use of camera power
- Card Dimensions: SD standard 32mm x 24mm x 2.1mm
- Card Weight: 0.1 oz.
System requirements include:
- Eye-Fi Card requires Internet connection to set-up and WiFi network for wireless transfers
- Eye-Fi Card works with virtually all digital cameras accepting SD memory cards
- Eye-Fi Card works with 802.11g, 802.11b and backwards-compatible 802.11n wireless networks; it is a Wireless G device, supporting up to 54 Mbps.
- Eye-Fi software runs on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS X (10.3, 10.4 and 10.5)
- Eye-Fi software works with Internet Explorer 6 and 7 (Windows only), Firefox 2.0 (Windows and OS X) and Safari 3 ( OS X 10.4-10.5)
While the SD format would seem to promise widespread compatibility, Eye-Fi does maintain a list of compatible cameras (http://support.eye.fi/compatibility). Some manufacturers present no problem, like Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, Nikon, Panasonic and Samsung. Others, like HP, Kodak, Pentax and Polariod, have the odd exception.
So the next question is what about cameras that use CompactFlash cards? Can you slip the Eye-Fi card into an SD-to-CF adapter and put that in your camera?
Eye-Fi demurs that they neither support nor test such arrangements, but they do provide a little advice nonetheless. They suggest using an SD/SDHC CF adapter, rather than the more common SD/MMC CF adapter, especially if you're trying this in a Canon 20D, 30D or 40D.
Formatting the Eye-Fi card in an adapter "has caused the Eye-Fi card to fail," the company also notes.
And finally, the company observes that the wireless range of the card is "noticeably reduced." That stands to reason. You are, after all, shielding the card in a metal jacket.
Some experimenters have reported the card adapters damaged their cameras, bending the CF pins in the camera card slot. That required a repair that cost up to $200 on average.
The card arrived in our mail just a couple of days after Amazon sent it (although it took them a week to process our order for some reason). The open box package didn't look too bad, actually. It was a little scuffed and the small Quick Start Guide has obviously been used before, but the card and reader were without a blemish.
And the box itself was nicely designed. Push in one end and the FCC information pops out on one side as the card and its reader pop out on the other. Kind of fun, really.
Step One, according to the Guide, is to connect the card reader to your computer. The EyeFi card is shipped inside the reader. We tried to connect through an unpowered hub, but we had to pull the hub and connect directly.
When we did, a removable device identifying itself as CANON_DC appeared on our Desktop. When we clicked on it, we saw three folders: DCIM, EyeFi and MISC. That's probably not what you'd normally see. Our hunch is that the previous owner of this card owned a Canon digicam and had reformatted the card in the camera.
Step Two is to install the software located on the card. The actual procedure varies depending on whether you're using a Mac or a PC. Since this was a refurb, we didn't have the software on the card.
No problem, though. We just went to the Eye-Fi site to download the software. It's a quick download, 2.3-MB for the Mac version and just 1.2-MB for the Windows executable.
Once you've found the Eye-Fi Manager application, you copy it to your hard drive and launch it.
Step Three is to configure your card. Configuration starts by testing your firewall settings so the card and software can talk to each other. Sounds hairy, but it was a piece of cake. In three quick steps, the software tested our firewall by listening for incoming connections, testing them and testing outgoing connections. We passed, the Manager loaded in our menu bar and took us to a Web page to create an Eye-Fi Account.
You need an online account to be able to activate your card and actually upload photos. Eye-Fi only needs to know your email address, your first and last names and your password. The page charmingly warns you to make sure you have your camera with you because you're just seconds away from uploading your first image.
As soon as we did that, the site informed us we had to update our card's firmware to version 1.0741. We clicked the "Update" button. The page told us not to pull the card until it's been updated and gave us an estimate of the time remaining (which was just a few seconds).
Once that was done, we confirmed we wanted our card named Mike's Eye-Fi Card, as the Web page suggested. Then we selected a wireless network.
The software actually found our network (and our neighbor's, too -- hi, guys!). When we selected our network from the popup menu, our password manager popped our password in, too. We then clicked "Connect Card to Network" and waited while the wireless network connection was tested. It connected, confirmed the password, received a network address and contacted the Eye-Fi server.
That last step took a while as some 233 items were being copied before we got an error message. "Unable to connect to Eye-Fi server. This will occur if network redirects your browser to a splash screen when first connecting. Otherwise, please move closer to the preferred Wireless Router and Retry."
That was when we remembered reading that Eye-Fi doesn't support Safari (although the company does claim it now supports Safari 3.0). We had a similar problem with Safari and HTML forms when we tried to configure a DSL modem recently. We had entered the modem code from the bottom of the modem into a field on a Safari page but the server kept telling us it wasn't the right code. Of course it was. So we entered it in Opera and it worked. Something fishy about Safari, apparently. Or the character set encoding. Anyway, we copied the URL into Firefox and recreated our account. This time, we connected to the Eye-Fi server in the blink of an eye.
You can add more networks, but you have to be within their range and mount the card in the USB drive to do it with the Eye-Fi Manager software. You can't do it from the camera. So if you were at a friend's house and wanted to push the images up to his drive, you could install the software (or bring your laptop), mount the card and add your friend's network. A bit cumbersome but you only have to do it once.
The next step was to select an online photo service. "Upload Photos to the Web?" the page asked. Well, OK. The choices were Flickr, Fotki, Sharpcast, Kodak Gallery, Photobucket, Walmart, Webshots, Windows Live, SmugMug, Costco Photo Center, Snapfish, TypePad, dotPhoto, Vox, Shutterfly, RitzPix, Phanfare, Facebook, Gallery 2, Picasa Web Albums and (coming soon) even Nikon's my Picturetown.
We have accounts at three of those, so we picked one at random (after updating all their local clients, grumble). We entered the user name and password for one service (you can always add more but images are sent to every service you add) and then continued to the next step.
That was to select a local destination. We don't use iPhoto (or we could have just had the photos sent to iPhoto). So we created a special temporary folder for Eye-Fi transmissions and pointed to that. Another piece of cake.
Then the online manager told us we were ready to Upload Your First Photo! To do that, you remove your card from the reader and put it in your camera. We slipped it into a Coolpix S510 we are (still) reviewing.
Then we turned on the camera, took our picture (that was what it said to do) and watched in horror as the camera buzzed and our picture showed up as a thumbnail with a progress bar in a little window below the menu bar on our laptop. Then, seconds later, it was uploaded to our online service. The Eye-Fi Web page for our account showed us it was uploading our image and, indeed, when we visited our service, it was there.
There was just one more step, the page told us. Turn off power management on your camera so uploads can complete.
Our image was indeed stored locally in our Eye-Fi temp folder in a folder with the day's date, a nice touch (and optional). The Eye-Fi Web page took us right to our folder, provided an upload history, settings for the card or our online accounts and links to more help.
Pretty nicely designed software, we thought.
With the bar for WiFi cameras as low as it is, the Eye-Fi looks about as good as a typical WiFi camera. But the WiFi limitations are significant.
We popped into our local library with free WiFi access, for example, and turned on the camera to transmit images (something we've done with several WiFi cameras). But without first bringing our laptop with us and adding the library access point to the card through the USB reader, it wouldn't recognize the access point.
We've got two WiFi printers here, but there's no way to transmit an image to either of them. Neither knows about the other and without the ability to push the image off the card, it never gets to the printer (which doesn't know how to pull it off the card like Eye-Fi Manager).
We might set up a watch folder to route new files to the printer, but that would print every file we transmit. Not a great solution.
So, theoretically at least, putting WiFi on a card isn't as comprehensive a solution as putting WiFi in a camera. But giving us the option to copy the image to either or both our computer and an online service, the Eye-Fi does more than current Nikon WiFi-enabled Coolpix cameras.
The Eye-Fi card itself is not one of the fastest cards on the market. It isn't an SDHC card, that is. The company says only that the card's "read/write speed is on par with standard SD cards currently on the market."
The reason to ask, however, is if you want to record broadcast quality video at 30 fps. And since you can't upload video, there's no point using the Eye-Fi to record it. But I was able to record 640x480 pixel video at 30 fps with no problem on the S510.
To test card speed, we plugged the Eye-Fi USB card reader into a free USB 2.0 Hi-Speed port on our computer and ran a timing programming (no human stop watch) that copied a 5,340,774 byte JPEG to and from the card. We ran the test three times for the Eye-Fi and three times for a SanDisk USB/Plus Ultra II card.
Copying the file from one location to another on the hard drive took 0.08 seconds.
Copying the file from the hard drive to the Eye-Fi card averaged 4.0 seconds. The same test on the SanDisk Ultra II card averaged 1.7 seconds. So the Eye-Fi was about half as fast, but you don't copy files to the Eye-Fi.
Copying the file from the Eye-Fi card to the hard disk (which you might do), averaged 0.86 second. The SanDisk averaged 0.31 second, a bit better than twice as fast.
Typically transfer rates using the Eye-Fi card will be throttled back by your network performance, however, so the card speed isn't really an issue for file transfers. In fact, our 8.1 megapixel images copied over very quickly to our computer over our Wireless G network.
But the Eye-Fi's speed is an issue for clearing your buffer and shooting in continuous mode. And in that regard, the timings suggest it isn't really dSLR caliber.
One thing that struck us right away was that setup was really a breeze, something we don't believe we've ever said about a WiFi setup before. That isn't because Eye-Fi makes WiFi easy (you still have to know a router's name and password) but the configuration procedure is well designed. It was nearly fun, even though we ran into a glitch or two.
In fact, the company has built a very appealing Web site (http://www.eye.fi) with a fabulous FAQ (http://support.eye.fi/faq). There is a phone number you can call to talk to a human being, but it really wasn't necessary.
A far as performance goes, it seems the Eye-Fi starts WiFi-ing the minute a new image is stored on the card. It would be smarter if it only powered on and looked for the router in Playback mode. But apparently, it can't tell. It either has power or it doesn't. So as soon as you take a shot, it's uploading. The grinding noise is your indication it's working.
Even so, Eye-Fi says the card gives priority to capturing photos not transmitting them. We didn't experience any conflicts, but the buzzing card was a bit unnerving.
Not all cameras grind when the Eye-Fi is active, we discovered when we tried it in a Coolpix L14 here for review. That was silent, although we could feel the camera warm up from the power draw.
When we put our laptop to sleep with the Eye-Fi Manager software running, it paused 30 seconds before it finally went to sleep. If we quite the software first, it went to sleep instantly, as it usually does.
It isn't the camera but the card that communicates with your computer. Adding networks and even services requires reconfiguring the card using the card reader and Manager software. So a public hotspot (even if it doesn't require any kind of login) just won't work (you need the USB reader and Eye-Fi Manager software to tell the card to add that access point). Eye-Fi actually recommends connecting solely to your home network. Your friends with Bluetooth phones will no doubt make fun of you.
But you can swap the card from camera to camera. And if you do, any image captured on the card will be sent to your computer and/or your sharing service the next time the card is in range of your router.
We may have fallen in love with the idea when we first saw Eye-Fi but after using one for a week, we're no less smitten. Both the online software and the background software are well designed and well integrated. The setup and configuration process was very easy, even if it isn't possible to set up the card for networks you aren't connected to.
Performance, whether transferring images from the card to our computer or to an online service, was efficient. Transfers to our computer were pretty quick in fact.
Best of all is that we can indeed move images from an SD camera to our computer wirelessly. We don't have to upload them to an online service (as Nikon obliges you to do with my Picturetown), bypassing our computer. But you can also upload to an online service.
So while it may be a limited WiFi experience, the Eye-Fi does do exactly what it promises. Which, it turns out, is more than most promise these days.
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: Olympus Stylus 790 SW (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OS790SW/OS790SWA.HTM )
- First Shots: Sigma DP1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DP1/DP1A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus Stylus 820 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OS820/OS820A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix P5100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CP5100/CP5100A.HTM)
If you've ever wanted to turn a favorite snapshot into an arty black and white shot with a spot of color to highlight just one part of the image, today is your day. It's not only easy, it's fun.
Here's the concept, which works in any good image editing software. You open your image and create an adjustment layer for hue/saturation. Then you set that layer to desaturate the image so it's a black and white photo. To return color to a part of the image, you use your paint brush tool to paint black on the adjustment layer mask, which reveals the underlying color.
Here are the steps in Photoshop (which should work in Photoshop Elements and most other image editors that support adjustment layers). Open your color image. Use the Layer menu to add a New Adjustment Layer of Hue/Saturation, accepting the defaults. In the Hue/Saturation dialog, turn Saturation off (just drag the slider all the way to the left). That turns the image into a black and white -- without discarding any color information.
Great, so now all we need to do is bring back some of that color.
Select the paint brush tool, make sure it's painting black, and scrub around the adjustment layer where you want color to appear -- and it will!
You'll probably find it easiest to use a pretty soft and large brush to blend the effect, but there's no rule. You probably want 100 percent Opacity, though, to get the full effect.
Made a mistake? Just swap your black foreground color to white and paint over the mistake.
When you're done, just Flatten the image to consolidate the layer mask and the color image and save it as a JPEG.
Sometimes progress irks us. It irked us this week as we researched a new flash memory card format called CFast. CFast is the latest CompactFlash specification, designed to be much faster than current cards.
Can't have too much speed. The faster the card, the quicker data gets out of the camera buffer. And that means the quicker the camera recovers its fastest shot-to-shot speed.
Card speed is labeled in two ways. You may see the megabytes per second transferred (like 20 MB/sec.) or the number of times the transfer is faster than a CD player (like 133x that old 150 kilobytes/sec. rate). A card that transfers 20 MB/sec. is a 133x card.
SD card transfer speed tops out at about 20-MB a second (or 133 times 150 KB/sec.) -- even for SDHC. CompactFlash tops out at about 45 MB/s or 300x. It's the fastest card out there. Which is why it's what you see in the high end dSLRs pros use. We're still haunted by the array of Canon dSLRs USA Today set up to capture Barry Bonds' record breaking home run that managed 30 frames a second (http://www.sportsshooter.com/special_feature/30fps). That's, uh, video speed.
The typical interface on CompactFlash cards has been IDE or parallel ATA (like your hard drive), getting up to 20 MB/sec or 133x speeds. But the very fastest CompactFlash uses Ultra Direct Memory Access, achieving up to 45 MB/sec. or 300x.
We've always thought of memory cards as an investment. We buy the fastest, highest capacity cards we can get our hands on (at a reasonable price) because we figure they'll be around long after our camera itself is gone.
But CFast blows that theory out of the water. It's not backward compatible. So it only works in CFast devices. And to make sure you don't try to mate its new slot design with some old CompactFlash pins, the key on the side is different. CFast cards won't slide into CompactFlash devices.
It is, however, fast. Based on the SATA interface (like that in the newest high-speed hard drives), a CFast card can transfer 375 MB/sec. or 2500x that old CD player. Ouch.
So when will this new standard hit the shelves? According to a recent CNet report (http://www.news.com/8301-13580_3-9877176-39.html?tag=nefd.lede), as early as the second quarter of this year said Bill Frank, executive director of the CompactFlash Association. And when will we see cameras supporting the new cards? Frank says both Canon and Nikon engineers are participating the card's specification development. He expects it to take no less than year before cameras appear with CFast support.
Now where did that piggy bank go?
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe
Visit the Casio Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f775
Karen asks about megapixels and noise at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea7b40/0
David asks for advice on choosing a camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea7b55/0
Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae
The choice for this year's Missing Oscar of the Best Inkjet Printer was clearly a popular one, doubling the number of nominations we received last year. Alas, only two nominators could win copies of Andrew Darlow's 301 Inkjet Tips and Techniques, a 500-page encyclopedia of inkjet printing (http://www.inkjettips.com).
Fortunately we have software to make random drawings like this guilt free.
But we hardly needed it because the two nominators each made excellent -- and rather compelling -- points about their nominees.
Steve Mangione nominated his Epson Stylus Photo R1800 (http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/consumer/consDetail.jsp?oid=53540919). "Not only does it do everything it is supposed to do, like make great pictures in every size up to 13x19 and also use roll paper, but it also does something I've never seen promoted, mentioned or advertised," he teased us.
"Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to use my printer for over six months. That's six months of never being turned on. I hadn't done anything to prepare for this and so I was very surprised to turn it on and make prints without having to do any maintenance: no head cleaning, no alignment, nothing. I just went in, sat down and made prints. That was totally unexpected and I think it deserves an award."
We agree, Steve. Don't try this in the Mojave Desert, though. Steve has the fortune to live not far from Niagra Falls (which would keep any printer from drying out).
Steve's sentiments were echoed on the other side of the continent by Charlie Young. But Charlie put an interesting twist on his nomination, too.
"Picking one printer for an Ersatz Oscar is quite a daunting task," he warned us. "It would be just as hard to pick 'the best' dSLR. But, if there were an Ersatz Hersholdt Lifetime Achievement Award for inkjet printers, I would nominate Epson for the award."
Lifetime achievement for a product line that has the half-life of polonium-210 (140 days, we understand)? No, Charlie, we complained, we need a model number.
"As hard as it is to settle on just one Epson inkjet printer it would have to be the Epson Stylus Photo 2400 (http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/consumer/consDetail.jsp?oid=53540920). I don't own one but I've drooled over others prints from that fine machine," he conceded.
The Drool Test is good enough for us. The envelope, please!
This year's Missing Oscar for the Best Inkjet Printer goes to Epson for its Stylus Photo R1800 and R2400 models!
And a big thanks for Andrew Darlow for making it a rewarding experience for our two nominators, too.
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RE: M1 B&W Scanning?
I located your site about three hours ago -- how time flies when there is so much information available. A great resource indeed, well done.
My interest is currently in locating a flatbed film scanner for black and white negatives, 35mm to 4x5 large format. I thought the Microtek ArtixScan M1 seemed like a good model until I read the page on film scanning and saw it did not handle B&W negatives (in the section under "One Problem")!
Is this limitation across the Microtek range or is the i900 suitable from B&W negatives?
-- Alan(You've misunderstood, Alan. Because the M1 does not do infrared scanning, it can't use Digital ICE or SilverFast's iSDR to remove defects from color film. But Digital ICE and SilverFast iSDR do not remove defects from black and white film -- and never have -- because they mistake the uneven emulsion of black and white film for a defect. In short, it's Digital ICE and SilverFast iSDR -- not the M1 -- that doesn't handle black and white film. The M1 does fine. But since you are not in North America, this issue doesn't affect you. The F1 available to you does include infrared scanning. That won't do anything for black and white scanning, but some people find it helpful when scanning color images that have not been well treated. -- Editor)
RE: Nikon Image Verification
What is "Image Verification" (a menu item in my Nikon D300)?
-- Al Clemens(Image Authentication is Nikon's approach to image forensics, allowing its Authentication Software to verify an image has not been altered since capture. That's important for law enforcement, government agencies, media and insurance companies, among others. When you enable it in your camera, image authentication data is imbedded in the image file and an icon is displayed with the image on the photo info display on the camera. The software can parse the embedded information and report the status of the file: The Image Information has been changed, The Image Data has been changed, Detection Function is OFF, etc. -- Editor)
RE: Portable Drives
I wrote a number of letters to insidecomputers.com but they have not replied to my questions about their portable 100-GB hard drive. I hope that you can answer my simple question. Does the 100-GB Digital Partner work with CompactFlash cards like the Extreme III 4.0-GB cards? There is nothing about these large size flash cards on their site.
-- Stephen Stefanoff(It always makes us nervous when a company doesn't respond to a legitimate question. We can't tell you anything more about that product either, but we did find a competing 'digital partner' by Nachus (http://www.nachus.com/nachus/en/products/pdp.htm) whose specs do confirm "FAT12/16/32 support for memory cards." The specs seem similar enough that it may be the same device. In cases like this a credit card and a publicly posted return policy are your best friends. Jobo (http://www.jobo.com) makes a range of devices like this and you can also build your own with the Hypderdrive space (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/CES07mrp/ces-tuesday.htm#hyp). But as we said in our report on the Space, "We're not big fans of devices like these because they merely shift the risk of carrying a single copy of your images from your card to the device. There's no redundancy, no second copy, once you erase your card. So they're little more than storage devices with the convenience of a card reader." -- Editor)
RE: dSLR Movies?
Just wondered, now that Live View is available on many dSLRs isn't the technology already there to do video capture? Is this one of these things that the technology producers are just holding back for the next round of new models?
-- Andrew(We don't think they're holding back video capability, Andrew. The dSLR is really quite a different beast from a camcorder or digicam. Live View has evolved to the point where it doesn't have to drop the mirror to focus, but the contrast detection focus achieved by reading data off the sensor isn't responsive enough for video. In fact, a tripod is recommended. We suspect there are similar issues with maintaining exposure. Even digicams, however, are having a hard time keeping up with the demands of video. There are still only a handful of cameras that can shoot 720 HD video at a 16:9 aspect ratio. And not for extended periods, either. We're not really sure a 640x480 30-fps video mode is going to be very interesting in the HD world we're moving into. But we're just guessing. Only time will tell <g>. -- Editor)
RE: Software Compatibility
I bought a Nikon D300 to shoot Raw images but am having software issues with the NEF files. My specific challenge is getting Paintshop Pro X2 to work with my D300 NEF images after downloading them with NK Transfer. It works with my D40x NEF images when downloaded with PhotoProject. Do I need to bite the bullet and get Photoshop?
Is there a chart with a "threads" that shows end-to-end paths for how a NEF (12 or 14 bit) can be downloaded from the D300, converted to Raw if required, then edited, then converted from NEF or Raw to JPG, TIFF, etc.?
-- Jerry Ervin(Support for new Raw formats is always problematic, regardless of the manufacturer. Certainly the D300, as one of the newest dSLRs, won't have broad software compatibility yet. How quickly one or another product achieves compatibility is another subject. High end software like Adobe Camera Raw (for Photoshop) and Lightroom are updated faster than products that are not designed for professionals. And the manufacturer almost always includes software that can read their Raw files. Nikon, for example, includes Capture NX.... What can you do if you prefer some other image editing software? Well, you can use Adobe's free DNG converter to convert a Raw format unsupported by your software into a Raw format it can read (assuming your software supports DNG). And in fact, that's the "thread" many people prefer. -- Editor)
IDC has released Q4 and Year End 2007 U.S. Digital Camera Market Share Review (IDC #211047). Among the findings:
- Digital camera shipments including dSLRs grew 31 percent to 16.6 million units in Q4 2007. Despite a lackluster overall holiday season for CE, the digital camera market continued to defy expectations and post strong growth. Experienced consumers flocked to dSLRs, while doorbuster deals for Black Friday ensured players like Kodak, HP and Sony would be able to maintain and grow their shares.
- Canon was again number one with share of 23 percent, followed by Kodak (20 percent share) and Sony (18 percent share).
- From a yearly perspective, the U.S. market grew to 37.7 million units, a rate of 23 percent. Canon was number one for the third year in a row with a share of 23 percent, followed by Sony (18 percent) and Kodak (16 percent).
Hewlett-Packard (http://www.hp.com) celebrated the 20th anniversary of the HP Deskjet printer with over 240 million customers for the world's best selling brand. The original Deskjet cost $995 and zipped along at two pages a minute -- but sold a million units. Current models are priced as low as $29 and print up to 36 pages per minute. The company has put up an inkjet timeline at http://www.hp.com/go/deskjet20 (let's hope they let their narrator out of that well).
Apple (http://www.apple.com) has updated iPhoto to version 7.1.3 to address "issues with wire-bound books and cards."
DataRescue has updated PhotoRescue (http://www.datarescue.com/photorescue), its image recovery software, to version 3.1.3 with "additional cameras, a few bug fixes, optimized thumbnail rendering and a new help mode for the Mac version, which isn't yet active," according to Pierre Vandevenne, president.
Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has released updates for Capture NX [MW], its image editing software based on U Point technology and Camera Control Pro [MW], its dSLR remote control software. Capture NX 1.3.2 includes support for D60 Raw images, plus sharpening and lens adjustment fixes. Camera Control Pro 2.1.0 also supports the D60, improves response in the Viewer and corrects a time lapse issue on the Mac, among other fixes.
The company also revamped its Web site with a new visual user interface that among other features "utilizes images to display information about Nikon's products and services. Visitors to the site will also have an ongoing opportunity to offer feedback and suggestions about the site's content and usability to help define the evolution of the site over the coming months and years," the company said. An interactive blog (http://blog.nikonusa.com) accompanied the launch.
PhotoShelter (http://psc.photoshelter.com), a community of over 20,000 photographers, has created the PhotoShelter Widget, a Web site enhancement that enables bloggers and Webmasters to constantly stream the latest images available on the PhotoShelter homepage slide show. Each day PhotoShelter highlights images from The PhotoShelter Collection, an open-but-edited marketplace for commercial photography from professional and amateur photographers.
Script Software (http://www.scriptsoftware.com) has released iWatermark 3.11 [MW] with speed, user interface and other improvements.
Neat Image (http://www.neatimage.com) [MW], a Photoshop plug-in to reduce noise, uses a large library of camera and scanner profiles to handle noise from high ISO images, film grain in scanned images and JPEG artifacts. The plug-in is available in three editions, including a free demo and a $59.90 Pro edition.
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 8.4.60 [LMW] with skew correction. Any document or photo that has been placed in the scanner slightly askew can now be straightened from within VueScan.
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