|Volume 10, Number 8||11 April 2008|
Welcome to the 225th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We discuss a clever hack for PowerShot cameras before Dave reviews a fast external drive from Western Digital. Then we describe our one-two punch for sensor cleaning. And congratulations to Reese Forbes, Larry Melton and Brad Stoops, the three winners of our drawing for two copies of Derrick Story's The Digital Photography Companion. No, they don't have to share. Derrick generously included an extra copy and since we still had our blindfold on, we just picked one more winner.
This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We've often wondered why digicams only get firmware updates to fix embarrassing problems that should have been caught in the prototype. Why aren't there any firmware updates that actually add cool new features?
A few Canon PowerShot owners must have been thinking the same thing. Lucky for the rest of us, they also write software. And the really fortunate part is they've started an open-source software project (free to use, free to modify) called the Canon Hacker's Development Kit to update PowerShots with, well, cool new features.
All you need is a PowerShot that uses a DIGIC II or DIGIC III processor and an SD card.
One of CHDK's coolest features, however, is how it works. You just load it on your memory card and activate it when you want to use it. It isn't technically a firmware update at all -- it just acts like one.
It only changes the code in the camera's memory (which disappears when you turn the power off), not the actual firmware burned into the camera's programmable memory chip. So you can't hurt the camera and you can always return the camera to its original behavior just as if nothing ever happened. Cool.
So what cool new features are we talking about? How about 1) a live histogram, 2) a battery status display, 3) a Raw file format and 4) the ability to run scripts written in a version of BASIC? For starters. There are other tweaks (like faster shutter speeds up to 1/10,000 second, depth of focus display, auto bracketing, higher compression Movie mode, long exposures up to 65 seconds, ability to use the USB port to trigger the shutter), too. More about those later.
It's all made possible by the ability of these guys to write new code for the DIGIC microprocessor in the camera.
Format an SD card in the camera to wipe it clean in a format the camera understands.
The first trick is to determine the current firmware version of your camera. There are different CHDK downloads for different cameras and firmware revisions.
To do this on a PowerShot you create an empty file called ver.req (version request) in the root directory of your SD card. There are various ways to do this but the FAQ gives (http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/FAQ) explicit instructions for Linux, Windows and Mac systems. Just make sure you don't create a text file.
Then turn on your camera in Playback mode (you can't switch to it, you have to start from it) and hold down the Set key while you press the Display key. You'll see a line like "Firmware Ver GM1E."
Once you know your model number and firmware version, visit the CHDK download page (http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/Downloads) to find the builds available for your camera. If there isn't one, you can check the Developer's page of the project to see if one's under development (http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/For_Developers).
Among the possible CHDK builds, there's a standard one with the basic features but there may also be a special build (http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK#Special_Builds) that implements extended features like syncing two PowerShots to take a stereo image (http://stereo.jpn.org/eng/sdm/index.htm) or firing the shutter when motion is detected.
Once you've found a build, download it and copy it to your memory card. There are two small files (about 110K each) to each build: PS.fir and Diskboot.bin that should be copied to the root directory of your SD card. There may be other folders and files to copy, too (hiding even more goodies like scripts).
With the card in the camera, start up in Playback mode and press the Menu button. Find the Firm Update option and confirm with the OK button. Your PowerShot will reboot.
If you get a splash screen, the firmware enhancement has been successfully loaded. If the camera hangs or does not respond to the Power button, the CHDK version isn't compatible with your camera. Just open the battery door and remove the batteries to turn the camera off, stick them back in and restart. No harm done.
You can set up the card so CHDK loads automatically any time you start the camera by using the program itself to make the card bootable and then locking the card. That won't prevent images from being stored on the card. But it only works on cards up to 2-GB in size.
To access these features, once CHDK has been loaded into memory, you have to slip into Alt mode by pressing a special key (configurable in the Alt menu), usually the Print or Shortcut key. Once in Alt mode (a small ALT tag is displayed at the bottom of the screen), press the Menu key to see what you can do.
Alt mode itself is only necessary to configure your options (but you'll want to do that; even the live histogram has lots of options), starting a script and other shortcuts.
An illustrated and comprehensive list of the functions available in CHDK is available at http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK_firmware_usage.
Here's a quick list of features (some available only in special builds):
- Raw file format. Capturing the raw data from the sensor without processing it in the camera let's you make decisions with your image editing software that are usually automated in the camera. These .CRW Raw files are not always recognized by other programs, but in a pinch you can use Adobe's free DNG Converter to change them into DNG files, which are generally supported.
- A live histogram. Based on Raw data from the sensor, the live histogram feature shows you if your highlights and shadows are properly exposed at the current shutter and aperture settings. You can use EV compensation to shift the histogram to one side or the other to improve the exposure.
- Zebra mode. In this mode, your preview will flash the shadows or highlights to indicate either insufficient or excessive exposure.
- A battery status display shows you how much power is left. Very handy as you learn about CHDK because, well, you'll be using your battery much more as you play around <g>.
- Loading a custom grid.
- The ability to run scripts written in UBASIC (see below).
- Faster shutter speeds (like 1/25,000 second).
- Long exposures (like 65 seconds).
- Depth of field calculator. When you press the Shutter button, the screen will display the depth of field and hyperfocal distance.
- Miscellaneous functions include a Calendar, Text Reader, games and more.
- Exposure bracketing. You can set both the number of shots to take and the difference in exposure between each. That lets you capture shadow detail in one, for example, midtones in the next and highlight detail in the last. Then, using any number of image editing programs, you can combine these images into one that displays a wider dynamic range than any single capture can show. You will need a tripod to do this.
- Focus bracketing. In Macro mode, depth of focus is usually very shallow. By taking a series of shots in which the focus is slightly altered, you can extend focus beyond what any single image can capture by using freeware to combine the images. You will need a tripod to do this, too.
- Higher compression Movie mode.
- Increased video recording time and length (to one hour or 2-GB).
- Interval Shooting. Take photos automatically at set intervals. Even with long exposures. You can combine the images into a time lapse video.
- The ability to use the USB port to trigger the shutter.
With CHDK running, you can automate your PowerShot with scripts written in UBASIC (http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/UBASIC). There are a number of scripts you can download (http://tools.assembla.com/chdk/browser/branches/grand/script) to do things like bracketing exposures by number of exposures and step size, focus bracketing, intervalometer, zoom and shoot, zoom video, tele-macro mode, macro DOFstacker, HDR shooting and more.
When you've found a script you want to run, download it and copy it to your card in a folder named CHDK/SCRIPTS. Then, with CHDK running, enter the script menu, load your script and set the options before leaving the menu. In Alt mode, pressing the Shutter button starts the script (just like recording in Movie mode). Pressing the Shutter button again interrupts the script.
Want to write your own scripts? No problem, just visit the UBASIC Tutorial (http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/UBASIC/TutorialScratchpad) to learn the language.
Besides the CHDK Wiki (http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK), there's a forum (http://chdk.setepontos.com/index.php) where you can discuss everything from the specifics of a release to feature requests. There are sections with help on using the stable releases, creative uses of the program, script writing and shooting and processing Raw images.
In fact, the forum isn't a bad place to start your exploration of CHDK.
Use at your own risk means just that but the CHDK site posts an interesting email from a Canon tech support rep which says, "After researching this software on the Internet it appears that CHDK doesn't make any actual changes to your camera. If you delete the CHDK software from your memory card or if you choose not to activate the CHDK software on the card (or remove and replace the batteries), then the camera will behave absolutely normally -- nothing has been (or ever is) changed, so the warranty is not affected."
That's the key point. CHDK is not firmware. It's simply software that loads into memory where the DIGIC processor can execute the code on demand.
But use it at your own risk. There are no doubt good reasons Canon itself chooses not to implement some of these features.
Of course, most of these models are probably out of warranty anyway, so the issue may be moot for you.
If nothing else, CHDK breathes new life in your old PowerShot. But it isn't just for old PowerShots, with support for a number of currently available models. By providing an architecture for extending the capabilities of your PowerShot, it can keep on breathing new life into your investment. You can even do it yourself, if you learn UBASIC. And you can't beat the price, either.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/WDSTUDIOII/STUDIOII.HTM on the Web site.)
It seems to be a fundamental law that "stuff" (whether it be socks in the sock drawer, coats and random junk in the hall closet or photo files on your hard drive) always expands to fill whatever space is available. Photographers seem particularly prone to this phenomena. While the proverbial shoebox storage for photo prints and negatives was bad enough, the advent of digital cameras catapulted the problem of image storage into another dimension, both figuratively and literally.
Hey, now that we're digital, the photos are free, right? So why not bracket everything you shoot, to make sure you get just the right exposure? Of course, if you really care about your images, you'll shoot Raw, to capture the maximum information for later tweaking. But JPEGs are awfully handy for a quick print or screensaver, so you'll probably want to shoot both Raw and JPEG. And of course, now that we can see what we're getting after each shot, you'll want to experiment with different angles, focal lengths, shutter speeds, flash settings, etc. The good news is that you're getting far more keepers than you ever did in the film era (if you're old enough to remember that distant time), but if you're like me, the ratio of total shots to keepers is only somewhat improved. There's just a lot more raw material to select from.
So after a photo session, it's not at all unusual these days to come back with several hundred shots, with maybe a dozen solid keepers buried in their midst. If you're like me though, you're probably loathe to throw any shots away: Chances are, the moment you decide to throw a real stinker in the electronic dust-bin, you'll realize that it was the only frame that showed Aunt Mabel in her Easter bonnet. Or the neighbor's kid in a great action pose on the soccer field. Or something. So you don't throw anything away and the image files accumulate like breeding bunnies, filling every nook and cranny of available disk space.
Then, for the digicam owner, there are those video files from your camera's movie mode. Yeesh, and you thought the still images were bad! It takes depressingly few minutes of video to burn through a gigabyte of storage.
And let's not even talk about backup! Of course you need to keep at least two copies of everything, as a hedge against the eventual, inevitable death of your hard drive. Plus backup copies of all your work documents, the home budget, Junior's world history report, etc.
So it's probably no surprise to find the typical photographer with their images strewn across a gaggle of miscellaneous hard drives, some here, some there, some backed up three times, others not at all. And at least once a year, we find ourselves scanning the Sunday newspaper ads, looking for the latest hot deal on yet another hard drive.
What to do? Well, we'll all probably continue buying hard drives at regular intervals, but recent drive technology is at least letting the intervals get a little longer. Technology can also help with the backup issue too, in the form of RAID arrays, which store your data redundantly on multiple hard drives.
MYBOOK STUDIO II
The latest answer to the drive-space conundrum comes from Western Digital corporation, in the form of their updated MyBook Studio II drive series. As their name suggests, these drives are designed to sit upright on your desk, table or shelf, looking like slightly overweight books. The drive has a very solid heft to it, but the plastic shell it's packed in felt a little flimsy to me. An aluminum case would have been nice, but undoubtedly would have driven the cost considerably higher.
Inside, there are two drive mechanisms, which can be arranged in either a RAID 0 (one big storage volume) or RAID 1 (one drive's worth of capacity, but with your data stored redundantly on both physical drives). The drive comes out of the box in RAID 0 mode and formatted as a Macintosh HFS+ volume, but software included on the drive lets you change it to RAID 0, as well as choose between Mac or Windows formats. (The software is also on a CD accompanying the drive, necessary if you want to change it to a Windows format and have only a Windows computer to work with).
Western Digital's Studio II models boost capacity over the original Studio line, now available in capacities (in RAID 0 mode) of 1-TB or 2-TB. (That's TB for Terabytes, 1,000,000,000,000 bytes of storage.) The new lineup also uses WD's GreenPower drive mechanisms, which consume 33 percent less power than standard drives, letting the Studio II units run cool and quiet.
GETTING CONNECTED: QUAD INTERFACE
Hard drive interfaces seem to have proliferated almost as much as the drives themselves over the last few years, to the point that you may find USB (1.1 or 2.0), FireWire 400, FireWire 800 and eSATA on your computer. The good news is that the MyBook Studio II units work with any of the above. They're USB 2.0 units, but USB 2.0 is backward-compatible with USB 1.1 connections. (Although USB 1.1 is so slow by comparison that you really wouldn't want to use it for a drive of this size. In a pinch though, it's nice to know that you could plug the drive into an older machine to retrieve your data.) The MyBook Studio II's FireWire interface is a clever 800/400 hybrid. The connectors on the back of the case are the smallish ones normally used for FireWire 800. The MyBook ships with an adapter cable though, that lets you plug it into a FireWire 400 connection, albeit at the slower FireWire 400 data transfer rates. Finally, there's an eSATA (external SATA) connector, in case you have an eSATA card in your computer.
FORMATTED FOR MAC, ADAPTABLE TO WINDOWS
I mentioned above that the Studio IIs come formatted for the Mac OS, but it bears calling attention to, so readers won't be surprised when they bring theirs home. As a (primarily) Mac user, this is a welcome change; I'm accustomed to having to reformat every drive I buy to work with my Macs, it's nice for a change to be able to just plug and go. For Windows users, it's no big deal, you just load the provided CD, launch the WD RAID Manager software, select the configuration and formatting you want and tell it to proceed.
On the Mac, the process is the same if you want to change from a RAID 0 to RAID 1 configuration, as seen in the screen shot above.
The WD RAID Manager software also lets you check the health of the drive, via the Info button, as seen above.
If you just want a quick check of the drive's health though, the software package installs a little menu bar utility called WD Drive Manager that'll show you the basics without having to launch a separate app.
I don't have a computer with an eSATA interface available to me, so could only test the MyBook Studio II on Macs with FireWire 800. The eSATA interface could be somewhat faster, as it has more available bandwidth than does FireWire 800. Given the transfer rates I measured though, I suspect FireWire 800 was pretty well maxing out the drive. It's also possible that newer Macs than the ones I used could have faster transfer rates over the FireWire bus. All that said though, the transfer rates I measured were really exceptional.
To test the unit (I had the 2-TB version), I connected it to a dual-processor G5 Mac tower (2.3 GHz version), which had some fast SATA drives mounted internally. I also tested it on the G5 XServe (dual 2.0 GHz processors) that we use as our office file server here. The XServe has a 2-TB SATA/SCSI array on it that's blazingly fast, which should avoid any possible limitation on the measured transfer rates due to the host drive's bandwidth.
I tested the unit in both RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations and found essentially identical transfer rates in the two modes. So I'm only showing the RAID figures below. Here's what I found:
The G5 reads 67.59-MB/sec and writes 66.67-MB/sec. While the XServe reads 71.10 and writes 54.05.
Those are some really fast transfer rates! If all you deal with is spreadsheets and word processing documents, you won't much care about this -- But then you probably don't need a drive like the MyBook Studio II either. When you're copying multiple gigabytes of data around though, transfer speeds of 60-70-MB/second are really nice.
BACKING UP IS HARD TO DO
The Western Digital MyBook Studio II drives all ship with a backup application as well, to help you keep your data backed up and current. WD Backup uses a wizard-like setup to set up automatic backups, as seen below.
The wizard lets you choose the backup destination (in this case, the MyBook), how many versions of files to keep when it encounters changes and whether you want the saved data to be encrypted.
An extensive list of "Smart Picks" can simplify setting up your backup system, letting you choose from more than 30 different types of files just by clicking on check-boxes.
Alternatively, you can simply select folders to be backed up in a normal file dialog.
A summary screen shows you what will be backed up and monitored.
Name the backup set and you're good to go. WD Backup will do an initial backup of the selected data and then monitor the various folders and file types involved and back them up too, whenever it sees something has changed.
I didn't play a lot with WD Backup, so can't report on how well it worked. It seemed pretty functional, should be a good solution for someone who wants a painless, automatic backup solution.
COOL AND QUIET
One thing that really stood out to me in my playing with the MyBook Studio II though, was just how cool and quiet it ran. I mean it was really quiet. If there was no other noise in the room, I could hear it making a faint whir, but if the AC was running, I literally couldn't tell if it was running without checking the pilot light on its front face.
WD touts the GreenPower drives the MyBook Studio II is built around, as having 33 percent lower power consumption than competing models. The MyBook is also smart about shutting down the drives when not in use too. Combined with a case with plenty of cooling holes and slots in it, the net result was that the top of the MyBook was barely warm, increasing only slightly in temperature under heavy, continuous use.
RAID 0 OR 1? WHICH FOR YOU?
One decision owners of the MyBook will have to make is whether to go for maximum storage space using RAID 0 or increased reliability, using RAID 1. This will be a personal decision for each user, but given the amount of space and the number of files that would represent, I'd personally opt for RAID 1 every time. It's not a 100 percent guarantee against lost data (the computer's OS could still corrupt the filesystem or the internal RAID controller could go bad), but it'll still put you way ahead of where you'd be with the RAID 0 setup. (Think about it, with a single volume spanning two physical drives, if either drive goes out, your data is toast. So it's arguably half as reliable as a single drive when running in that mode.)
Of course, if your data primarily resides elsewhere and you're just using the MyBook as a backup volume, then by all means go for maximum space with RAID 0. (And of course, for the truly paranoid, I'm sure Western Digital wouldn't at all mind you buying two MyBooks, running them both in RAID 0 mode and then using a software RAID solution to copy data redundantly between them. ;-)
One last thing that impressed me with the MyBook Studio II is that it's designed to permit owner servicing if one of the drives does go bad. You'll need to make sure you get another WD GreenPower drive as a replacement, but the case is made to open and allow you to swap drives. If you were running in RAID 1 mode, the drive will start rebuilding the redundant data as soon as you power it back up again. Nice.
Especially for Mac-based photographers, the Western Digital MyBook Studio II external hard drive line looks like a winning solution. They offer enormous capacity in a compact physical package, with built-in RAID capability, most any interface option you might wish for, excellent performance and low power consumption. WD tells us they'll be in the stores starting immediately, priced at $349.99 and $599.99 for the 1- and 2-TB versions respectively. Check them out, they could be just the ticket for storing your next year (or three's) photo files!
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 A350 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA350/AA350A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Western Digital MyBook Studio II Hard Drive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/WDSTUDIOII/STUDIOII.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon Coolpix L15 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPL15/CPL15A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus E-420 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E420/E420A.HTM)
It's been a while (and a few sensor cleanings) since we first wrote about cleaning your dSLR sensor in our Sept. 16, 2005 issue. My, how time flies when you're cleaning sensors.
On that occasion, we discussed the open heart surgery we'd performed on a Konica Minolta 7D. Successfully. But we'd only had to dislodge a spec of dust. "Dust is inevitable, perhaps even goop," we concluded, snapping off our rubber gloves. "Cleaning, fortunately, is not difficult."
We suspect it isn't even routine for many dSLR owners. We're thinking of people who locked their kit lens on the day they opened the box and have never removed it. But zooming and focusing that lens can actually suck dust in, so you aren't immune even if you never expose your mirror chamber. Even the air flow around that quickly moving shutter can attract dust.
And these days there's a new risk. Live View mode lifts the mirror so the LCD can display the scene in real time but that also exposes the sensor filter a great deal more than usual.
Along with the new risk comes new technology, too. Self-cleaning sensors are common now, with options for when to do the cleaning a part of the Setup menu. But even ultra-high frequency sensor vibration can only shake dust loose. And as for their effectiveness, well, it's pretty hard to come up with a reliable way to test. A year ago, Pixinfo's Rober Irhzy gave it a shot (http://pixinfo.com/en/articles/ccd-dust-removal) but, in fairness, the test doesn't reflect real-world conditions. And the cameras, not surprisingly, had a hard time.
But no matter how hard they shake, they can't get rid of goop. Lubricant, that is, which can practically weld a spec of dust to the sensor filter.
Dust and goop do require different techniques. In fact, you'll need to learn a few techniques, none of them acrobatic, to be able to clean anything that can take up residence on your sensor filter.
And it is a glass filter we are talking about, not the sensor itself. While it certainly isn't bullet-proof, it's not as fragile as you may think. Still, the best policy is to touch it with foreign matter as little as possible. And it's also important to know just what, if anything, your sensor filter is coated with before you do touch anything to it.
If the thought of this makes you queasy, some camera shops offer a sensor cleaning service for $30 to $50 with about a three-day turnaround. That's quicker than the camera manufacturer (which can run a couple of weeks). But who's going to be more careful than you?
There is a software solution, of course, in which a reference image is taken of the dust and used by various image editing applications to repair those spots on multiple images. We tend to reserve this for real emergencies (salvaging images after the fact), though, rather than suggest it as a routine way of handling dust.
So how do you know if you've got a problem?
You can't tell by looking through the viewfinder. That particular optical path bypasses the sensor. You have to look at an image captured by the sensor -- but not just any image.
You may have noticed a smudge or darker spot on images with an aperture of f11 or smaller. Or you can take a test shot designed to reveal dust spots by stopping down to f22 (or as close as you can get to it), zooming to at least 50mm, focusing at infinity and aiming at a brightly lit background (the daylight sky, a sheet of well-illuminated white paper inches from the lens, a laptop LCD screen filled with a blank, white document). The dark dust spots should easily stand out at full magnification.
Step one is to try to dislodge it without touching anything to the sensor filter. A blower like the $12 Giottos Rocket Air Blower (which emits no debris) is the recommended tool. If your blower has a brush on it, remove the brush to be safe.
Point the camera down and blow up into the chamber with your blower. We like to try sucking the dust off first, but blowing is quite a bit more forceful and therefore more likely to be successful. A manual blower won't be strong enough, however, to force dust into the viewfinder.
That's just one problem with cans of compressed air, although some cleaning sites recommend them. The other problem is the propellant. If you don't hold the can upright, propellant is emitted and can be deposited on the sensor filter you're trying to clean. It is possible, however, to gently pull the trigger with the nozzle aimed away from the mirror chamber to release any propellant before gently blowing the chamber out. But it's safer to use a hand blower.
Did it work?
Well, there are two ways to check. One is the hard way. Mount a lens and take another reference photo. The other is the easy way. Use an illuminated magnifier to examine the sensor.
Life being short, we employed the $14 SensorView from Copper Hill Images. It has a generous two-inch diagonal 3x magnifier with a bright LED lamp in a compact, portable case. Having the lamp below the magnifier lens was a big help: no shadows. The SensorView saved us quite a bit of time with a troublesome cleaning job recently that required several attempts to clean the sensor.
One of the big advantages of a blower is that you can fly with it. Many cleaning systems can't be taken on board commercial aircraft.
In any case, it's good policy to always start with the blower. Whatever it dislodges is that much less junk to clean up with your second approach.
You will need a second approach on occasion, no matter what the manufacturer says.
Some experts recommend a dry cleaning using either a brush or a low-tack adhesive pad like Dust-Aid. If you're flying, that may be a good idea, but it can also introduce problems because both approaches touch the sensor filter with dry (unlubricated) media.
When you get to the point of touching the sensor filter to remove a spot, you should know how your filter is coated.
Some sensors use an Indium Tin Oxide coating which is sensitive to some cleaning chemicals, particularly the methanol used in the popular Eclipse cleaning fluid. In response, Photographic Solutions developed E2, a cleaning fluid that is safe for ITO coatings. The ITO coating itself is optically transparent and electrically conductive, helping to dissipate static charges that attract dust.
Even a low-tack Dust-Aid pad, however, can be too tacky for some delicately constructed sensors. According to Ross Wordhouse at Dust-Aid, "Nikon is now permanently bolting the [D3's] piezo electric sensor filter to the sensor housing." Using a Dust-Aid Classic cleaning pad on the D3 filter won't damage the surface of the filter itself but may dislodge the filter from its housing. Dust-Aid recommends using the lower-tack Canon cleaner tapes on the Classic pads to clean the D3.
But using a brush or pad may or may not work, we've found. Rather than spend time finding out, we skip directly to the most effective method we've found: a wet cleaning.
You'll have to buy either (or both) the Elipse or E2 cleaning solution, a pack of lint-free Pec pads and a flexible wand in a size appropriate for your sensor. Rubber gloves aren't a bad idea either, frankly.
It doesn't take much practice to wrap a Pec pad around the wand so you have a nice, clean, cushioned blade on which to drip a couple of drops of cleaning solution. And it doesn't take much practice to learn how to efficiently swipe the sensor filter with the dampened Pec pad attached to the wand. You don't really need to apply much pressure, just skate the wet wand over the surface without brushing backwards. Magic incantations don't hurt, but the real trick is not to redeposit the stuff you're wiping up.
We use the SensorView to see how well we've mopped up the filter and if we need to go over it again, we do. When we think it's pristine clean, we take a reference shot and examine it carefully. We've never experienced a situation in which a wet cleaning did not get the job done.
That, in general, is our current approach: a quick shot with the blower followed by a careful wet cleaning if necessary. For details on various techniques, we suggest visiting the following sites:
- Tom Hogan (http://www.bythom.com/cleaning.htm)
- Curt Fargo and Larry Lyells (http://www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com)
- Copper Hill's Nicolas Russo (http://www.copperhillimages.com/index.php?pr=tutorials)
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 Fuji cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f779
Visit the Sony Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f789
Richard asks for advice on choosing the best scanning application at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea7d23/0
Adil asks about the Samsung NV8 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea7e5e/0
Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8
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RE: Vivitar 283
Your recent issue talked about the Vivitar 283 that can be used with the Wein Safe-Synch voltage regulator. This item cost about $50 and will allow me to use my old 283. But in looking through some eBay auctions, I found the 285HV for less than the regulator's price.
I will be using this on a D3 which is good for 250V. Do you have any thoughts on which direction you might go if you were faced with this decision?
-- Howard Meyer(Both options work, Howard. The Wein will let you safely use any 283 with the D3 and the 285HV (released in 2007 with a trigger voltage under six volts) is safe to use on the D3. But they both preclude you from one of the glories of the Nikon system: the Creative Lighting System and wireless flash. Without a pop-up flash, the D3 makes it a little more expensive to get started than, say, the D300, but one SB-800 or SB-600 used off camera and an SU-800 mounted on the D3 gets you going. We've really enjoyed wireless Nikon flash with our D200, the D300 at Dogpatch Studios and really miss it with the D3 (we've just got one gun). Except, of course, the D3 can crank ISO up to 12,800 and shoot in the dark! -- Editor)
I read an article a while back that said newer 283s have a lower trigger voltage suitable for use with digital cameras. I have several and used the newest one (several years old) on my Canon G3 and now my G6. It's easy to check the voltage.
-- Phil Humphries(We've heard that, too, Phil. In our Feb. 9, 2001 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html) we described how our electrician brother measured the trigger voltage on our 283, touching the contacts to the leads of his voltmeter. We wouldn't use a 283 of any vintage without making that simple test. -- Editor)
RE: D80 Lens Compatibility
I own several Tokina ATX-Pro AF lenses, including an 80-200/2.8, bought for Nikon 35mm cameras. They may or may not be D lenses. I'm contemplating a new D80 purchase. Questions: (1) Will these lenses autofocus and meter properly? (2) Will the 80-200 be too heavy for the D80 body? Thanks.
-- Larry Horton(According to the Optics section of our D80 review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D80/D80A4.HTM): "Most non-CPU lenses can be attached to the camera, but the shutter release will be disabled unless the camera is in Manual exposure mode and AF, metering, electronic analog exposure display and TTL flash control can't be used. There is however a list of non-CPU lenses and accessories that can't be used at all," which you'll find in the full review.... To answer No. 2, the lens may be heavier than the body, but that's not uncommon. The D80 won't be damaged by a heavy lens, if that's what you mean. -- Editor)
RE: What You See
This article brought back a lot of memories. At 16 I used the first money I earned to buy a drawing table.
In 1957 after high school and two years in the Army (in the basement of the Pentagon in the Army's first computer unit for processing morning reports) I got a job in publishing as a pasteup artist. Stuck with publishing, magazines and books, until retiring in 2000. Luckily the positions I had improved over the years.
Was in publishing for the advent of computers (Photon 200 was the first electronic typesetter I worked with), the move to offset printing then web offset and all the other fun things that happened over those years.
When interviewing for my final job in 1993, I was asked if the rapid changes in publishing technologies then occurring would be a problem for me (a concern about my age). My answer was that the rate of change in publishing was much less than in the past when you had to learn whole new technologies not just deal with improvements in systems and equipment.
My only complaint with the article is you did not mention a few of our most important early day tools -- the rubber cement pickup, the X-Acto knife (have the scars to prove I used it) and Rubylith. Rubylith was better than red Zipatone but almost impossible to see-through. One of my best days was when Amberlith replaced it and cutting overlays became a reasonable task.
Always enjoy the newsletter but this one was special.
-- bkgui(Our rubber cement pickup was just a ball of rubber cement and for an X-Acto knife we had single-edged razor blades (which we are occasionally tempted to take to a dSLR sensor!). Red Zipatone and Rubylith, though, yes (and Amberlith, too!). We'd cut them into standard sizes for half-column photos, one-column photos and other common arrangements and reuse them for years, cleaning off the rubber cement after the boards for each issue had been taken apart and keeping them in old cigar boxes covered in black paper to make them look a little classier <g>. -- Editor)
Mike, your 'What You See Is What You Get' article poignantly exemplifies why I like your (and Shawn's and Dave's and ...) newsletter so much. The articles are always informative, technically top notch and relevant to me in that you usually answer the questions I would have asked.
But photography is not just the equipment and light, its also the people. Our subjects, our teachers and our mentors. We always are aware of the former, but where would we be without latter? Thanks for reminding me as you often do, of the human side of the technology and process we love so much. It makes your newsletter unique and a must read.
-- Dan Frissora(Thanks, Dan! -- Editor)
Adobe (http://www.labs.adobe.com) announced Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 beta [MW] with dual-monitor support, localized dodge and burn correction and 64-bit support for Mac OS X 10.5 Intel Macs and Microsoft Vista 64-bit operating systems. Late Thursday afternoon, Adobe also released Lightroom 1.4.1 and Camera Raw/DNG Converter 4.4.1, resolving issues with the 1.4 and 4.4 releases.
The company also revised the terms of service for Photoshop Express beta, its online image editing software and sharing service. "The original terms of service implied things Adobe would never do with the content within Photoshop Express," the company explained.
O'Reilly author Mikkel Aaland reacted to the new Lightroom beta by proposing to leave town April 2. As he did with version 1.0, he took a collection of photographers with him to some exotic spot (Tasmania, this time) to road test the beta. You, too, can follow along (http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/adventure) at a safe distance.
IDC's report on worldwide digital camera sales in 2007 shows global dSLR growth hit 41 percent with 7.5 million units shipped. Canon held 43 percent of the market, Nikon 40 percent, with Sony third and Olympus fourth, both at six percent. Total digicam sales were led by Canon despite single digit growth rates, followed by Sony with 20.1 million units, then Kodak and Samsung surging into fourth place with 10 percent with 12.6 million units.
ExpoImaging (http://www.expoimaging.net) has released its $299 Ray Flash ring flash adapter, a portable and lightweight adapter for a hot-shoe flash unit. It relies on the hot-shoe to generate light and takes advantage of a camera's TTL metering capabilities. The 16 oz. adapter slides over the front of a camera's flash unit and locks into place.
Pandigital (http://www.pandigital.net) has released its new PanTouch digital frame line with three models that optimize the image resolution of photos in their internal memory, so more photos can be stored on a frame while maintaining excellent image quality. All three models feature a 6-in-1 memory card reader, standard and mini USB 2.0 ports, plus programmable on/off times, clock, calendar and alarm clock functions.
muvee (http://www.muvee.com) has announced a new logo and corporate tagline. The new tagline "life expressed" is about taking life's magical moments and giving customers the tools to express and share them. A new Web site will be followed by a new office opening in San Francisco. muvee also promised to launch new products over the coming months which embody a slew of patent pending technologies.
HDRsoft (http://www.hdrsoft.com) has released its $99 Photomatix Pro 3.0 [MW] with a new user interface and workflow improvements that make the creation and processing of High Dynamic Range images more intuitive. It also adds a second automatic alignment method for hand-held shots and an improved exposure blending method.
Boinx (http://boinx.com) has released FotoMagico 2.2 [M] with a Sharing Assistant (to replace the previous export interface), direct-to-Web publishing with themes, support for Elgato's Turbo.264, iChat Theater integration, a Quick Look plug-in, two-pass export for sharing plug-ins and more.
LQ Graphics (http://www.lqgraphics.com) has released Photo to Movie 4.1.0 [MW] with new transitions, support for multiple audio and title tracks, timeline resizing, improved rendering and a new media browser with support for Aperture.
Peter Krogh (http://go.footnote.com/thewall) has launched The Wall, a searchable Flash presentation of all 58,256 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Darren Higgins helped Peter stitch 1,494 digital images into a 400000x12,500 pixel image of the monument.
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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:
Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher