The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 10, Number 9 25 April 2008

Copyright 2008, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 226th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We recalibrate with the Spyder3 before we shoot around with Sony's W170. Then Phanfare's Andrew Erlichson proposes an intriguing combination of features for his ideal camera. Just in case you want to procrastinate.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
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:
Sony
http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?sy2

There's more to see when you move away from the viewfinder.

The new Sony Alpha dSLR camera has a tiltable Live View LCD screen that gives you a real-time view of what you're shooting, so you can capture every moment without being glued to the viewfinder.

  • 2.7" Live View screen tilts up or down for low or high-angle shots
  • 14.2 megapixel image sensor delivers the highest resolution in its class
  • Super SteadyShot in-camera image stabilization
  • A broad sensitivity range enables you to capture beautiful color images even in very dim light

Learn more at: http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?sy2

Aperture Users Professional Network
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Aperture Intensive (http://ApertureIntensives.com) two-day hands-on workshops in Aperture 2 cover every aspect of the program's operation, a real boot camp for the veteran or new Aperture user.

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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 editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Datacolor Spyder3 -- Charming Color Into Compliance

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SPYDER3/SPYDER3.HTM on the Web site.)

The beer around here recently turned green, as it does every year in the middle of March for some inexplicable reason. The thirsty encourage it by wearing a bit of green themselves. At the bunker, we decided to take this seriously by painting the whole place green.

Going green may be one of the newer virtues, but we predict it will never catch on where your monitor is concerned. Monitors cry out for a certain kind of balance that's frankly admirable. It makes your photographs look real, too.

The well-balanced monitor does not come out of a box. It takes some adjustment to get it right. Some people flatter themselves that they can do this by eye. And then never do. Others have been reading us for years and believe what we tell them: you need a little gadget to get this reliably right enough to do as frequently as it needs doing. A monitor calibrator.

Years ago we thought we'd seen enough of these gadgets. We'd calibrated our monitors and planned to live happily ever after, recalibrating every month or so with the same gadget.

Then things got interesting.

Pantone, famous in commercial printing circles for getting color right, came out with a little stick of a colorimeter called the huey that not only calibrated your monitor but stuck around to monitor the ambient light, adjusting monitor brightness as the room light changed.

Our review of the hueyPRO (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/HUEY/HUEY.HTM) noted the dissatisfaction our Atlanta lab guys had with its predecessor. But we found no such issues with the hueyPRO and continue to use one on our second computer here.

But in that review, we confessed we were long-time devotees of Datacolor's Spyder. Our main keyboard with two monitors has always relied on a Spyder for calibration. But those Spyders didn't monitor ambient light and they took longer than the hueyPRO to calibrate.

Enter the Spyder3.

Smaller than the Spyder2 (with a much more flexible USB cord, incidentally), it seems to have learned a few tricks from the huey. Like the huey, it comes with a stand (something the Spyder2 didn't have) and it can monitor ambient light (as did the Spyder2). It's also a good deal faster than the Spyder2, requiring 5 instead of 7 minutes for your first calibration and just 2.5 minutes to recalibrate. The Spyder2 recalibrated as slowly as it calibrated. It only knew one way.

It's also got the largest screen sample area (or aperture), which increases light sensitivity about 400 percent, according to Datacolor. Couple that with a seven detector color engine (which nobody else has except the Spyder2) and the Spyder3 can see things other colorimeters can't.

Like its predecessor, it can calibrate multiple monitors but the software has grown up. It's a lot easier to do the trickier things than it ever has been. And there are a few new tricks, too, like recording your monitor's white luminance history.

We never complained about our older Spyders but we never reviewed them either. Each one had some issue that seemed to require duct tape to resolve. But not the Spyder3. Datacolor seems to have gotten it right this time.

MORE THAN ONE SPYDER3

Datacolor use the Spyder3 name in a number of packages. The two colorimeter packages -- the $169 Spyder3Pro and the $279 Spyder3Elite -- use the same hardware with different software. A third package -- the $499 Spyder3Print -- is a spectrocolorimeter with software to calibrate your printer.

This review discusses the Spyder3Elite. It adds the following software features to the Spyder3Pro:

INSTALLATION

Installation is pretty straightforward. You 1) install the software, 2) plug in the Spyder3 and 3) launch the software. The Quick Start Guide steps you through that, adding that after calibration, you can 4) have the Spyder3 monitor your profiles and ambient light.

But there are a couple of other things you might do before that. The first is to clean your monitor. Datacolor provides a two-step Klear Screen wet and dry screen cleaner to do that. The other thing is to let your monitor warm up. CRTs take about 30 minutes to stabilize while LCDs are ready in just a few minutes (but it doesn't hurt to wait half an hour). Make sure no direct light is falling on your monitor.

You should also decide whether you want to use the suction cup or the weight to hold the Spyder3 to the surface of your screen. You can use either method on either a CRT or an LCD. We were able to angle our screens so gravity did as well as the suction cup. We don't like sticking anything to our screen.

Finally, make sure you've disabled any screen saver. You don't want the calibration process interrupted by your screen saver just as the last measurements are being made.

During the software installation, Datacolor installs Spyder Utility as a Startup Item on your system. Spyder Utility makes sure your display profiles and their matching calibration data are loaded at startup for each calibrated display. It also checks that they are still in use (including the more stringent Spyder Certification standards, if applicable) during your session. And it optionally monitors ambient light levels, too, warning you if the light levels are too low and reporting generally what they are in its pull-down/popup menu. Spyder Utility's main job is to adjust monitor brightness to compensate for ambient light to the extent that's feasible.

Another part of the installation worth noting is the extensive HTML Help system. You can access it directly from within Spyder3Elite, the calibration program.

The age of your monitor is not an insignificant factor, to put it gently. Monitors in use for over five years may profit much from calibration, but that doesn't mean they're capable of correctly displaying the full gamut of colors that a new monitor would. The Spyder's job is to measure what your monitor is doing and profile it so the specified color is displayed but if your monitor can no longer display that color (say the green gun is shot), no profile is going to make it display it.

CERTIFICATION

Spyder Certification is an option you can enable during the calibration process that will let Spyder Utility check a number of conditions to confirm your monitor is within the parameters defined for certification or report which parameters are out of spec.

The parameters checked include:

CALIBRATION & PROFILING

Once you've installed the Spyder software and connected the Spyder itself to your USB port (a hub is fine), you're ready to calibrate and profile. There's no need to disable any currently active profile.

Calibration, as the Help file explains, keeps your monitor in a consistent state so that it displays colors in the same way, day after day, month after month.

As noted in Imaging Resource's Spyder2 review, that involves determining:

Once the software knows how the display is behaving, it can correct it by loading correction curves into the video card (or sometimes the monitor itself), to produce a smooth tone curve and neutral greys. This step also adjusts the monitor to the gamma setting and color temperature that you want. (The sRGB standard uses gamma 2.2 and a white point of 6500K.)

With the display producing smooth tones and neutral greys, the software can create a color profile describing the display's color characteristics. Programs like Adobe Photoshop can use display profiles to compensate for the known quirks of a display device and insure accurate color rendering.

It isn't hard to make the physical connection between the Spyder and your monitor. But what often isn't appreciated -- with any hardware calibration device -- is the consequences of the choices you make in the software itself. These can, frankly, invalidate the process.

That's why having a user-friendly calibration program is essential. A lot is made of the hardware but how you use the software can make or break the profile.

SOFTWARE

So what did we think about the software? Much improved. We didn't run into embarrassing questions, really. And when we were torn between options, we found the software was all too happy to chime in with an expert opinion, sort of like a tax advisor.

Let's step through the calibration process to show you exactly what we mean.

The Calibration process involves three steps: selecting Calibration Settings, Measuring the Display and Creating the Profile.

To set Calibration Settings:

1. When you launch the Spyder3Elite application, it presents a screen asking for the display you wish to calibrate. A popup menu allows you to select between displays. Whichever display you select, the window moves to that display.

2. If the display hasn't been previously calibrated by the application, it presents the New Display screen to ask you to identify the type of display (CRT or LCD) and what controls are available on it (Brightness, Contrast, etc.). If the display has been previously calibrated using the application, the program suggests (by drawing a box around the radio button option) that you either check the current calibration (whose settings are displayed) or recalibrate. Recalibration is much faster than the initial calibration, skipping the RGB gradient readings.

3. You are then asked to select the target values for the display. A few suggestions are made and the Help button is always there for more information. We selected a Gamma of 2.2 and a White Point of 6500K.

4. You can then select whether or not to enable Spyder Certification. If you do enable it, the software will monitor the display and alert you if it falls out of certification.

5. Next you can enable Gray Balanced Calibration, which Datacolor recommends for all displays unless you want to expedite your CRT calibration, where it isn't much of an advantage.

6. You can then enable Ambient Light Compensation, analyzing the room light condition as part of the calibration target. Five light levels are detected: Very low, moderately low, medium, high, very high. Datacolor recommends using LCDs at medium and darker and CRTs at moderately low and darker. In changing conditions, you can set this off.

7. Confirm the current settings.

Then you're ready to Measure the Display.

1. An image of the Spyder3 is shown on the screen to guide placement of the real thing. Click the Continue button to begin measuring.

2. The screen will display a sequence of colors under the Spyder3 colorimeter, starting with Red, then Green and then Blue before going through neutral colors. Various shades of RGB are displayed for the initial calibration but recalibration just displays the solid colors.

All that's left is to Create the Profile.

1. When the process is complete, you specify the profile name. We always like to add the date to the suggested name. Datacolor takes care of the rest.

SPYDERPROOF

After your profile has been created, the application displays the SpyderProof screen allowing you to compare your calibrated monitor to its uncalibrated state.

A series of 16 images, four in black and white, are displayed. The Switch button lets you quickly compare the two states.

A final screen reminds you not to change the controls and to recalibrate on a regular basis.

STUDIO MATCH

The Studio Match function works in two ways: matching multiple displays connected to one computer or displays connected to multiple computers.

Datacolor warns that a perfect match (particularly between a CRT and LCD monitor) isn't the game. Studio Match will match the displays "as closely as possible."

After selecting the displays to match, you confirm the match settings of Gamma and White Point before measuring luminance and measuring the displays. The final step is to create the profiles.

AMBIENT LIGHT

Being able to measure ambient light is an interesting feature. There are two schools of thought about compensating for ambient light. The first is that if you have to compensate for ambient light, you're in trouble. The second is, well, get real.

A shop that does color correction for prepress, for example, has long known it should be working in windowless rooms painted a middle gray with very dim ambient lighting. That ambient lighting won't change from hour to hour, no matter what the weather is. Monitoring ambient light might be useful in this situation only to point out, as the Spyder3 will, that the ambient light isn't the same as when the monitor was calibrated. Which could happen when the janitorial staff turns on the overhead fluorescent lights.

A home office, however, will find it hard to avoid a window or to employ a room darkening shade if the room is shared with guests or other family members. Here, adjusting the ambient light makes a difference. You aren't getting the best view of your image because the room is too bright to begin with, but you'll find the image isn't unreadable when you return in the evening to work on it.

In between these situations, there's quite a few of us. We may have space that is only used for image editing but more likely it's office space that could use a little illumination once in a while, too.

GUIDANCE VS. HELP

Monitor calibration, with all its jargon, can be intimidating. And providing a Help screen that defines the jargon into merely technical terms really doesn't help. We've often been further confused by some of the monitor calibration help we've gotten. And nothing turns you off faster than being confused.

Fortunately, Datacolor has put together an excellent Guidance system. It's all HTML, so it comes up in your browser when you click on the Help button on any screen. And there's a handy index to let you explore the subject at your leisure.

What makes it a Guidance system instead of merely a Help system? Well, each topic is handled in several levels. There's the short answer that leads the discussion, an explanation of the "purpose of this step" and the long answer that explains the topic in detail. Finally, there's a link to the Datacolor Web site for more information.

Advice like that is not just help. It's guidance.

A STEAL

The $279 Spyder3Elite and the $169 Spyder3Pro can be had for at a discount that also helps support Imaging Resource at the following links:

CONCLUSION

We've always trusted a Spyder to calibrate our main monitors. And at first we were resistant to employing yet another Spyder. Things were fine, why screw them up? But the Spyder3 is a significant improvement over its predecessors.

There are the technical improvements like its increased light sensitivity, not to mention the unique seven detector color engine it shares only with the Spyder2. But the improvements we most appreciate are the user ones like the more flexible USB cord, the smaller colorimeter (which is easier to place on an LCD) and the faster and more efficient software.

That last is the most important because it means there's really no reason to put off recalibration. It only takes two and a half minutes. We almost look forward to it these days.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 -- Laugh, Smile, Grin

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/W170/W170A.HTM on the Web site.)

Sony's W series packs some of the company's most exciting technology into an affordable, compact package. While not as slim as the T series, the Sony W170 is still an attractive digicam. It's what's inside that you'll love.

The 10-megapixel sensor, Carl Zeiss 5x zoom and 2.7-inch high resolution LCD are the most obvious attributes. You might not immediately appreciate that the lens starts at a real wide-angle 28mm equivalent rather than the more typical 35mm. And it has Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization, too. Not to mention automatic Macro mode, so you don't have to shift into Macro when you get close.

Face Detection may be last year's news, even coupling it beyond just focus to flash, exposure and white balance. But the Sony W170 adds a wrinkle this year with the ability to tell the difference between adults and children.

Adult/Child priority shows up in Smile Shutter mode, too, which may replace your typical use of Self-Timer mode. In Smile Shutter mode, you press the Sony W170's Shutter button but nothing happens until someone smiles. You can even change how big a smile it takes to trip the shutter. Sony describes the levels as laughs, smiles or grins.

Scene shooting has gotten a bit more intelligent, if not quite as smart as Kodak's latest digicams. It's nice to see a little competition in this arena. Cameras could be smarter and they should be. In this case, the Sony W170 can tell the difference between Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Twilight, Twilight Portrait and Twilight using a Tripod. That's not a bad start.

There's still a Bionz image processor in the W series, but it now lets you choose the degree of dynamic range optimization you want. There's a tradeoff in Continuous Shutter mode speed for choosing more processing, but it's worth it most of the time.

There's also still ISO 3200 but it doesn't deliver the same image quality as the lower ISO settings. And that quality was once again a pleasure to view on the screen and even in large prints.

MODES

There's no Manual control on the Sony W170, but there are three automatic modes: Easy, Auto and Program Auto.

Easy mode is a simplified camera environment designed for beginners or anyone who wants to keep things simple. It provides easy-to-read on-screen instructions and limits the number of camera settings so you can't get into too much trouble. Image Size (just Large and Small) and Flash (Auto or Off) are the only two Menu options. The screen shows how many shots can be fit on the card in very large type.

Auto provides Image Size (which includes a 16:9 aspect ratio), Face Detection, Rec Mode (single or continuous shutter), Scene Recognition options, EV, Red-Eye Reduction and Setup options.

Program Auto adds ISO, White Balance, Flash Level (but only plus or minus), DRO options (Dynamic Range Optimization of plus, standard or off), Color mode and SteadyShot.

With its Intelligent Scene Recognition mode, the Sony W170 can recognize five scenes: Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Twilight, Twilight Portrait and Twilight using a Tripod. There are two additional modes in Intelligent Scene mode: Advanced, which takes two shots of the scene and Auto, which takes one.

Standard Scene modes include Beach, High Sensitivity, Landscape, Snow, Soft Snap, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Fireworks, Smile Shutter and Underwater. The Sony W170 Menu system gives you access to Twilight, Beach, Snow, Fireworks and Underwater. The others are on the Mode dial.

Most of those modes are familiar, but this year Sony's portrait modes have evolved to distinguish between adults and children. Hit the Sony W170's Menu button and find the Face Detection option for your four choices: Off, Auto, Child Priority or Adult Priority.

Face Detection has grown up a bit itself, now adjusting not just focus but exposure, white balance and flash, so skin tones appear more natural and red-eye is reduced.

If you think that's funny, wait until you try Smile Shutter, a special Scene mode that won't actually trip the shutter until someone smiles. We can't get anyone around here to smile, so we couldn't test this in normal circumstances. But that didn't stop us. We slipped into Smile Shutter mode, pressed the Shutter button and walked around the house until we found a picture of someone smiling. That did it. The shutter flipped and the flash fired. It really works. If you don't have a beard, anyway.

High Sensitivity mode kicks ISO up to 3200. See the Shirley Temple doll shot for what that accomplishes. Sony claims its Clear Raw Noise Reduction system suppresses color noise, but there's enough luminance noise to be disturbing. Detail is sacrificed for color.

All of this is "illuminated" by a Function Guide mode (which you can turn off) that explains functions and settings by displaying a helpful note in a balloon on the LCD.

Movie mode was big disappointment. Broadcast quality isn't news these days, having become a standard feature. LP versions that use less frames per second are a nice touch (you don't need broadcast quality for a quick clip) and small email formats are worth having, too, for bloggers especially.

But shouldn't an HD camera have 16:9 movies in 720 resolution? For some reason, Sony continues to avoid this feature. In fact, Sony doesn't even supply a cable with the W170 to connect it to your HD television. Which is too bad because its 1080i output for stills is worth watching on HDTV.

Even worse than standard TV resolution, though, is that you can't zoom in Movie mode. Not with the 5x optical zoom and not even with the 2x digital zoom. Most digicams these days let you use the digital zoom -- and 10x total zoom with Super SteadyShot would be fun on this camera. Bummer.

PERFORMANCE

Startup and shutdown times for the Sony W170 were both average for its class. We found it a little sluggish compared to its competitors, but you can blame that big glass for the delay.

Autofocus lag was above average (significantly) as was pre-focus lag (where you half-press the Shutter button). Cycle time was above average, too, but we have to note that a lot depends on your DRO setting, which requires extra processing time and can slow cycle time down accordingly.

Autofocus was generally quick and reliable with the nine-point autofocus system but we experienced situations where the camera just couldn't focus. That can be pretty maddening. There is a semi-manual focus option, which lets you set focus to half a meter, a meter, three meters, seven meters or infinity.

Flash cycle time was well below average. That usually indicates a powerful flash, but not in this case, where the flash range was achieved only by kicking up the ISO significantly and capturing a good deal of noise.

If you study our flash range table, you'll wonder what Sony was thinking. Our table is shot at ISO 100 and every image is too dark to be taken seriously. They don't even look as good as the High-ISO shooting mode.

But Sony is playing the flash game a little differently, relying on an ISO boost to make the weak flash more effective. Unfortunately, it's quite an ISO boost, shooting at ISO 800 for wide-angle to reach out 13.8 feet and at ISO 500 for telephoto to manage 8.9 feet. There's some real noise in the shadows at ISO 800. And worse yet, flash recycle time is 11.6 seconds, well below average.

Makes you kind of want to switch to High ISO and forget the flash all together. But the W170 suffers from noise beyond ISO 400.

IMAGE QUALITY

Our first impression from looking at thumbnails of the 10-Mp images was not a good one. But it was only the thumbnails that were disappointing. The actual images were really quite strong. To prove it, we printed them full bleed on letter-sized photo paper and was impressed at the sharpness and color.

Our lab ISO shots reveal the only real problem with the W170. As early as ISO 200, the image starts to break up, losing resolution and mottling the color. Sony fans don't seem to mind the company's preference for color over detail, but if you're new to the brand, it's something to study.

How does that work in the real world? Most of our Gallery shots were taken in Program Auto so we could fiddle with more options. We also enabled DRO for them (although there's no Exif field to prove it) and Super SteadyShot (Anti-Blur in the Exif Makernotes).

Our usual hydrant shot is a good test of DRO in action. We often see the white highlights of the hydrant bleed into the dark green background. There is a little of that around the top, but it's pretty well contained. Texture (well, the cracked paint) is pretty well held throughout, as is the darker detail of the green hedge. We don't usually see this scene so well rendered.

Our first print, which really impressed us with both its color and detail, was the Pontiac badge. This is an old car and you can see the rust on the chrome and the dust on the primer. When you look at the full resolution version, you can see a number of problems with the primer, but you may be looking too close. Make a print and you'll see what we really liked about it: it all comes together.

One shot that didn't render naturally is the tree detail. We took the shot because, in the shade, we were hoping to capture some saturated color. Instead, the image looks overexposed, the ISO pushed to 200.

Another issue you can't miss is the Ligurian lemon cake the incredibly gifted Rachel whipped up for us one evening on spring break (flattery, we hope, will get a replay). That's white frosting not orange. The modern kitchen lighting fooled the Sony W170's auto white balance rather easily.

Our High ISO shot at 3,200 is Shirley Temple (well, the doll). It was taken in near darkness, so the color is almost fictional, but appreciated. Close inspection shows the detail is pretty impressionistic. But there are times you'll settle for that. No flash, too dark, switch to High ISO and go home with the capture.

Print quality is pretty good. The Sony W170's ISO 80 shots make a decent 13x19, if you can ignore the slight softening and chromatic aberration in the corners. ISO 400 shots are better at 8x10 and ISO 1600 shots restrict you to 4x6 territory. ISO 3200 shots are a bit soft, even for 4x6. The low contrast areas lose all detail, while high contrast areas stay sharp, creating a surreal appearance. That happens with other cameras, but not to this extent. Sony's really turned up the anti-noise machine, perhaps a bit too much.

CONCLUSION

The Sony W170 is a compact bargain, including the hottest technology Sony has introduced in its 2008 lineup. It has a Bionz processor, face detection technology that can tell a child from an adult (and even hold the shutter until they're smiling), High ISO, Super SteadyShot, in-camera editing and an HD output signal.

Despite all the fancy features and the attractive body, what makes the W170 a Dave's Pick is its image quality. Don't take a loupe to these 10.1-Mp images, but print them and you'll see what we mean. Good color and detail at large print sizes. It's enough to make you laugh, smile and grin.

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New on the Site

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

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Guest Spot: The Camera I Want

By ANDREW ERLICHSON
(Andrew is CEO of Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com), which recently transitioned from a paid image hosting site to an archival photo and video sharing network for families. -- Editor)

I own two digital cameras today. I own a Canon 5D dSLR and a very small Powershot SD870 IS.

The dSLR takes gorgeous photos with great depth of field control and amazing low light performance. Alas, when I carry my usual set of lenses (16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L and 85mm f1.8) and a flash in my Lowepro backpack, it's like bringing along another child on our family excursions. I take care of the camera and my wife takes care of the kids. I would estimate my bag weight at 10 lbs.

The Powershot SD870IS is great outdoors, but you can't really blur the background on a portrait with the camera (the focal length is too short), it is not that responsive and the low light performance is mediocre to bad. On the plus side, the camera is small enough to ski with and takes great video. It is light at 5.8oz!

WHAT I WANT

The camera I want is a point-and-shoot camera that combines the best of both worlds. The camera would use the sensor of the Canon 40D (1.6 crop factor relative to a standard 35mm, 10-megapixel) and have a built-in 22mm (35mm equivalent), f1.8 prime, coated Canon lens. That would provide a view that looks like a standard 35mm lens. The camera would also provide a digital cropped mode to create the equivalent of an 85mm lens (53mm lens in cropped form factor).

Let's call this camera the Canon T4, named in honor of the Yashica T4 (http://www.o-dub.com/photos/yashica) that offered something similar in the world of film. The Canon T4 would be the enthusiast's travel camera of choice. I am going to estimate the weight at 10 ounces, three ounces less than the Canon G9 disaster, but we are losing optical zoom.

This camera would likely be about the same size as the Canon G9, but a lot flatter. And it would have amazing image quality and awesome low light performance. You could shoot indoors, without flash, at IS0 1600. When used in cropped "portrait" mode at 85MM equivalent, it would produce images that are approximately four megapixels. But since these bits would be from a high quality prime lens and 40D sensor, you would be perfectly happy with them. (No optical zoom please. Just lowers image quality and makes for a darker lens.) Background blur (bokeh) would come naturally to this camera because of its bright maximum aperture and longer focal length.

WHILE WE'RE DREAMING

While we are dreaming, let's imagine this camera has a few creative modes like Aperture priority, Shutter priority and decent shot-to-shot time. It would omit the optical viewfinder in favor of a bright LCD. The optical viewfinder would be annoying in digital crop mode anyway. It wouldn't scrimp on the auto-focus system.

Who would buy this camera? Prosumers and amateurs who want the quality of a dSLR but the weight and convenience of a point-and-shoot. This camera would take images that were indistinguishable from the Canon 40D at 35mm (equivalent). The camera would also sell into the photojournalism market. Might be a lot more convenient to carry around a war zone than a dSLR. Remember when rangefinders and photojournalism where synonymous?

It seems like this camera is technologically possible today. This is what the PowerShot G9 should have been. Instead the G9 is a heavier version of the Powershot SD line with no real benefit in image quality or high ISO noise and bad depth of field control.

What do you think? Want one?

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In the Forums

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

Read about Olympus dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea6bcb

Visit the Nikon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f781

Linda asks for advice on taking close-up pictures at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea8244/0

A user asks about ISO/lens equivalence at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea8333/0

Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae

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Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

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We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.

RE: Sensor Cleaning

I read your great newsletter (very informative!) about cleaning sensors. I was wondering, why can't camera manufacturers include a screw on filter that goes in between the lens and camera? Why expose the innards of a camera anyway if they don't have to? It is a lot easier to wipe off a filter rather than to clean stuff of of a sensor.

-- Sue

(The Sigma SD9 had one, in fact. And Dust-Aid is actually developing just such a device (http://www.dust-aid.com/08dustshield.html) and at least one camera manufacturer does offer that (who was it now?). The problem, though, is that you're interrupting the optical path with two more surfaces. Uncoated usually, too. So you risk more flare and some loss of image sharpness. -- Editor)

RE: WD MyBook & Vista

I had a few problems with WD's hardware/software and Windows Vista. I bought the 1-TB HDD version. The backup software won't work automatically unless you are logged on as an 'Administrator.'

The software cannot backup your entire computer (operating system) like the Vista Windows backup can in Control Panel.

Their "Button Manager" software (part of the MyBook software), does not work with Vista. A new version is promised shortly.

I did not get a license key with the package I bought, although the paperwork says there is a key supplied in the box. I had to get an unlock key directly from WD.

-- David Mitchell

(Thanks for the feedback, Dave! The rule of thumb (on any operating system) with these externals is to use the operating system's software or reliable third-party products. The branded stuff included with these packages tends to be a little too cute and a way too flaky. (As you know.) -- Editor)
(I tend to agree with Mike about bundled software. Sometimes manufacturers will bundle versions of third-party products that are good, but in-house stuff is always suspect to me. I gave a quick overview of WD's stuff for the Mac out of a desire for (reasonable) completeness, but wouldn't actually use it myself. Given the amount of data flying around here (we have several terabytes of total storage), we keep multiple redundant copies on multiple machines, syncing to each other every night. So I'm already well-entrenched with a complicated but robust solution. -- Dave)

The best way to set up is to have the computer boot from the RAID 1 drives. The computer's internal drive can then be used for additional storage or a permanent backup of the OS. You can copy everything over to the RAID drives with a cloning program such as Super Duper (or its equivalent on a PC).

Then, if one drive goes down, the other just takes over until you replace the bad drive and, when that's done, all the data is copied from the working drive to the new drive until you have two redundant drives chugging along again.

I have an ARAID 2000 system (http://www.accordancesystems.com) with its own hardware controller built in that makes this even easier by having the drives in trays. If one goes South, you simply pull out the tray, replace the drive with six screws and slide it in again and the copying begins to take place.

For more info, see: http://www.aftercapture.com/pdfs/5/ac10_Raid.Bleich.pdf

-- Arthur Bleich

(Thanks, Arthur!)

RE: Digicam Lenses

I am a beginner in photography and have just bought a Kodak ZD710 camera. I am a keen birder and also bought the 1.4 telephoto lens for the camera. What I am trying to find out is am I able to fit a generic telephoto lens to this camera. All Kodak will tell me is that I must buy their product, which I have already done. Their telephoto lens plus the 10x optical zoom only gives me 14x zoom and I need more for birding pictures. Do you know if I can purchase a reasonably priced more powerful telephoto lens for this camera?

-- Rob Winearls

(The ZD710 does not have a removable lens, Rob. Your only options to extend the range beyond 380mm on this camera are 1) the 1.4 teleconverter Kodak recommended and 2) digital zoom (which at 5x takes you quite a bit closer at lower resolution). Recently, we've seen some much longer optical zoom ranges (18x) achieved by Olympus (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SP560/SP560A.HTM), Fujifilm (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S8000/S8000A.HTM) and Panasonic (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ18/FZ18A.HTM). The trick with these cameras is how quickly they focus (which determines their shutter lag), which our reviews detail. -- Editor)

RE: Digitizing Slides

What are you currently recommending for digitizing Kodachrome slides and negatives? I am on Mac.

-- Stan Kukawka

(The dedicated slide scanners we like are the Nikon Coolscans. The flatbed film scanners we like are the Epson V700/V750 and the Microtek M1. Software: either SilverFast or Vuescan (both of which work fine on OS X, including Leopard). Intriguing alternative: setting up a dSLR to go through a stack of slides rapidly. The big problem with slide scanning has been the time it takes. With a dSLR, you get much improved quality over the old digicam methods and faster throughput than with a scanner. But setting up a reliable system isn't easy. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Ah, Earth Day. Each time a Ritz Camera (http://www.ritzcamera.com) customer buys a special edition ECO-Green color Nikon Coolpix S52 camera, Ritz will make a donation to Carbonfund.org to help prevent nearly two tons of carbon dioxide from harming the Earth. The donation will also make the customer carbon neutral for one month by offsetting their carbon footprint.

Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com/environment) announced its Canon Forest program, will begin in May and run through August. For every 10 new and existing Canon Generation Green products registered, Canon will plant a tree and offer consumers the opportunity to take part in several volunteer programs that will help to revitalize urban parks, gardens and public lands.


Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has introduced its $169.99 Kodak ESP 5 AiO Printer, a small, sleek design that can print, scan and copy. It has a 3-inch color LCD display along with memory card and USB slots to allow consumers to view, edit and print with or without a computer.


Guy Kawasaki has launched Alltop.com (http://alltop.com), a collection of RSS news feeds assembled by human beings. The photography page (http://photography.alltop.com) lets you keep up with dozens of top sites.


Colorjinn (http://www.colorjinn.com) has released its free Calibrize calibration utility [W]. The site also features a Color Management Primer.


Boinx (http://www.boinx.com) has released FotoMagico 2.2 [M] with Quick Look to see inside your slide show in Leopard without opening it, Web export themes and iChat Theater support.


MasRizal & Partners (http://www.image-compressor.com) has released Image Compressor for Windows to compress image files using the company's proprietary Digital Eye method "without visible quality loss." A home edition is available for $49.99 and a pro edition for $99.99.


DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has announced a DxO Optics Pro v5 public beta testing period for Mac users. The public beta features the new Raw converter and noise removal technology in the Windows version, support for the Canon EOS 40D, Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Nikon D300 and Nikon D3 camera bodies and improvements to the software.


Nikon (http://support.nikontech.com) released updates to Capture NX, its image editing software and ViewNX, its free image browser. Those went well. But its D3 v1.10 firmware update was withdrawn when it was discovered it corrupted image data in Continuous release modes with an FX or 5:4 image area and Raw or Raw+JPEG quality settings with 14-bit Raw bit depth. A revised update (v1.11) was released just today.


PictoColor (http://www.pictocolor.com) has announced iCorrect Online, a Web-based color correction and color editing application built on its iCorrect color technology. Currently in beta, it automatically removes any color cast, corrects the tonal range and adjusts overall brightness and saturation.

Return to Topics.

One Liners

For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com

PhotoRescue: http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

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Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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