|Volume 10, Number 24||21 November 2008|
Welcome to the 241st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. You've got a week to study our Gift Guides before Black Friday. The camera list even includes a few models whose reviews we've yet to publish. We also managed to squeeze in a review of a terrific DVD on strobe lighting produced by Nikon. That should brighten your day!
And thanks for everyone who visited http://ir.pricegrabber.com to support our efforts. The response was, well, awesome. Thank you!
This issue is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Used Camera Buyer
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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.
This time of year the virtual water cooler freezes over into a miniature replica of the rink at Rockefeller Center and one or another of the staff can be found hanging desperately to its sides. While you might not think that puts anyone in a position to reflect on the year's camera reviews, you'd be surprised.
That's almost all we do around here. Reflect on reviews.
What camera to buy is, hands down (please!), the number one question we get. We are amused that our competitors caution against even asking them the question -- and certainly Dave and Shawn have no time for free advice. But we lead a more leisurely life here in the bunker and often do answer such queries. From subscribers, that is.
After all, your editor has written User Reports for 22 cameras this year alone. Not to mention scanners, printers and software. So we have some sense of what's going on, although it's surprisingly hard to name any favorites.
Our own experience being limited, we've tapped into the IR staff's recommendations to come up with this list of general recommendations in several meaningful categories quoting recent average prices.
When it comes time to buy, however, and you decide to buy online, please do us the favor of getting to your vendor via our Buy Now page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/buynow.htm). The day they come to repossess the water cooler, we won't be able to do any more reflecting.
FULL-FRAME SLR DIVISION
Nikon D3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D3/D3A.HTM) -- The first Nikon that can stand with its film brethren, the D3 goes far beyond the film cameras, not only with its stunning capture rates and low light performance but simply because it's the most responsive camera we've ever used. $4,324
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E1DSMK3/E1DSMK3A.HTM) -- Long hailed by many as a rival to medium-format digital cameras for less money, the 1Ds is extremely popular in the professional portrait and fashion photography world. $7,145
Nikon D700 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D700/D700A.HTM) -- With the D3's sensor in a more compact, affordable package, the well-built D700 with superb features and a smart interface is adaptable to almost any kind of photography. $2,780
Canon 5D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E5D/E5DA.HTM) -- Still a winner in image quality. $2,074
SUBFRAME SLR DIVISION
Nikon D300 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/D300A.HTM) -- Nikon's D300 is easily one of the finest dSLR cameras on the market. Its 12.3-megapixel sensor delivers stunning images up to ISO 6400 and its 14-bit A/D conversion means you can get better quality in your JPEG and Raw images. $1,645
Canon 50D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E50D/E50DA.HTM) -- The 50D includes most of Canon's cutting-edge dSLR technology, delivering excellent low-light performance, impressive printed output, very fast shutter lag times, solid build, superb customization, 14-bit captures at 6.3 fps and excellent image quality. $1,253
Nikon D90 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D90/D90A.HTM) -- The Nikon D90 is an exceptionally well-rounded dSLR offering, with just about everything an aspiring photographer will need and quite a few of the advanced features found on the higher-priced dSLRs in Nikon's line. $1,234
STARTER SLR DIVISION
Canon 450D Rebel XSi (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/XSI/XSIA.HTM) -- The Canon XSi's redesigned body is simple and handsome and the grip has a little more room for medium-sized hands. The real story is in the Canon Rebel XSi's image quality and there's plenty to tell. $717
Nikon D60 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ND60/ND60A.HTM) -- Like its predecessors, the Nikon D60 is so easy and fun to use, it's almost immediately become one of the most popular dSLRs on the market. A near-ideal model for those making the move to their first dSLR or for more advanced users looking for an attractively-priced second body with great image quality. $598
Olympus EVOLT E-520 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E520/E520A.HTM) -- Everything we liked about the E-510 but with three image stabilization modes, a larger LCD and revised screen-printed icons. $628
MICRO FOUR THIRDS DIVISION
Panasonic G1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DMCG1/DMCG1A.HTM) -- Panasonic's Lumix G1 is a quite elegant little interchangeable-lens digital camera with much of what made the L10 interesting, most of what makes an SLR more useful, plus most of what's great about the standard enthusiast digicam. $790
ULTRA LONG ZOOM DIVISION
Canon SX10 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX10IS/SX10ISA.HTM) -- Replacing the S5 IS, the SX10 is a bit larger (the body, the 1/2/3-inch CCD and 20x zoom) with the same nicely-integrated Movie mode and significantly improved high ISO performance. $373
LONG ZOOM DIVISION
Canon SX110 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX110IS/SX110ISA.HTM) -- The Canon SX110IS's 10x optical zoom lens covers a broad range equivalent to 36-360mm on a 35mm camera -- a moderate wide-angle to a pretty substantial telephoto. The lens is also faster than many, with a maximum aperture ranging from f2.8 at the wide-angle end to f4.3 at the telephoto end of its range. $239
Panasonic TZ5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/TZ5/TZ5A.HTM) -- A very compact, image-stabilized 10x zoom that starts at 28mm, the TZ5 improves on the highly popular TZ3. $266
HIGH-END DIGICAM DIVISION
Canon G10 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G10/G10A.HTM) -- The G10 picks up where the company's previous flagship, the G9, left off. And that was at the top of this impressive heap. $469
Panasonic Lumix LX3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LX3/LX3A.HTM) -- Compact with an improved grip, the LX3 distinguishes itself with a zoom that starts at just 24mm and stretches only to 60mm. And the quality of the images was an unqualified joy to behold. Which, in the end, is what really matters. $420
Nikon P6000 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P6000/P6000A.HTM) -- Perhaps the Coolpix P6000's most unusual feature is its built-in GPS. There's also built-in Ethernet, but it remains frustratingly slow to focus. $463
MID-RANGE DIGICAM DIVISION
Canon A590 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A590IS/A590ISA.HTM) -- With an 8-Mp sensor, image-stabilized 4x zoom lens and 2.5 inch LCD, the A590IS is one of the standout bargains this holiday season. $142 (as low as $115)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/W170/W170A.HTM) -- With a big lens and a stack of features, the Sony W170's Dynamic Range Optimization retains highlight and shadow detail. Sony's Face Detection is smarter, able to find smiles and differentiate between children and adults. $260
ULTRACOMPACT DIGICAM DIVISION
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD1100IS/SD1100ISA.HTM) -- Add optical image stabilization to the SD1000 and you get the SD1100 with better performance at night and indoors plus slightly better image quality. $182
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T700/T700A.HTM) -- It's not only beautiful (with a touchscreen that's fun to use), but it can hold a year's worth of pictures and -- with the optional HDTV cable -- display them in a scrapbook or a pan-and-zoom sideshow format in high resolution on your flatscreen HDTV. $380
The Canon PowerShot SD990 IS Digital ELPH (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD990IS/SD990ISA.HTM) -- The stylish new flagship uses a 1/1.7 inch CCD with 14.7 megapixels and a DIGIC 4 image processor. We haven't tested it yet, but if it's as good as the SD950, it will be a winner. $369
The Canon PowerShot SD880 IS Digital ELPH (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD880IS/SD880ISA.HTM) -- Updating the SD870 IS, the SD880 IS shrinks the shell but uses a larger 1/2.3 inch CCD sensor harnessed to a DIGIC 4 processor delivering excellent high-ISO capability for a compact model. $272
Pentax W60 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/W60/W60A.HTM) -- Waterproof to 13 feet, freeze-proof to 14F, with a 5x zoom and great image quality. Fast too, with shutter lag approaching entry-level dSLR speeds, up to 3 fps at 5-Mp reduced resolution. And surprisingly good high-ISO shooting. $274
This time of year, we usually phone the ever-shrinking North Pole for a little advice from the pros on gift giving. But this year, the elves called us.
"Hey, buddy, howz it?" we heard.
"Just fine, just fine. But how are you guys? I mean with the world-wide financial crisis and global warming and ..."
"Sloooow dooown," they all laughed. I was on the speaker phone, apparently.
"What's so funny?" I asked, a bit miffed.
"Nothing, really," they snickered. "It's just that you've just explained why our Naughty List is so much longer this year. And that makes our Nice List a lot shorter. So we've actually had time to play with the toys and goodies this year instead of just make them."
"Yeah, I guess I never though of it that way. The Nice List must be really short this year."
"Oh, you have no idea," they chuckled. "We could take vacation now but we're all on standby in case anybody turns over a new leaf."
"Hmm, sounds to me like there might be some product shortages this year."
"Shop early," they giggled. "That's why we called you this year."
Indeed, with Black Friday only a week away and bargains (for U.S. shoppers anyway, thanks to the strength of the dollar), we had no time to waste. We sharpened our pencil and made a list of our own to share with you. Although some of the prices look more like tax deductions than gifts, we were delighted to see many items are less expensive this year than they were last.
- Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers by Harold Davis (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0596529880/?tag=theimagingres-20) focuses on the three factors you can actually do something about when you take a picture. Talk about fundamentals! $29.99
- The Digital Photography Companion by Derrick Story (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0596517661/?tag=theimagingres-20) is the beefed-up version of Story's classic Pocket Guide that makes it clear that if you want your pictures to be different from snapshots, you have to learn how to drive. The camera, that is. $24.99
- A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting (http://www.nikonmall.com/detail/NIK+11484) with Bob Krist and Joe McNally is a new DVD from Nikon School that can take you from a life of red-eye to painting with light. Reviewed below. $39.95
- Window Seat by Julieanne Kost (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/KOST/KOST.HTM) is again on our list (especially for people who fly a lot). It's a down-to-earth book on creativity, photography and digital imaging, featuring sections that sandwich her portfolio of images culled from 3,000 originals between advice on remaining creative in a need-it-yesterday world and a technical appendix that reveals the equipment and techniques used to create the images reproduced in the book. $39.99 (or http://www.amazon.com/dp/0596100833/?tag=theimagingres-20)
- Peter iNova's Canon & Nikon dSLR eBooks (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?dgn) are classics in digital photography education. They put paper manuals to shame with over a thousand images (many of them animated illustrations) in a 500-page (even 1,000-page) PDF you can copy to your computer. Each title includes basic instruction and over 500 custom Photoshop actions. $49.95
- Lensbaby Composer (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LBC/LBC.HTM) -- We've always really enjoyed shooting with a Lensbaby, but the Composer takes the fun to another level. The hip ball joint is the easiest Lensbaby we've ever used, solving the nagging problems of its predecessors. And the interchangeable optics promise to open up a whole new dimension in selective focus, allowing you to decide just what level of blur you want. $270
- Canon EF-S 18-200mm IS (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1219/cat/11) -- "To sum up," the slrgear.com review concluded, "the Canon 18-200mm ─/3.5-5.6 IS offers slightly better performance than we're accustomed to seeing with vacation lenses, with image stabilization thrown into a very portable form factor." $495
- Nikon 18-200mm VR DX (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/250/cat/13) -- A Nikon classic, the only lens you'll ever need. $660
- Tamron 18-50mm Di II LD (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/355/cat/23) -- Its f2.8 aperture is really sweet for subframe cameras, a bargain for its image quality compared to the competition. $400
- The cure for the 18-55mm kit lens blues is a 70-300mm zoom. Canon owners will love the $605 Canon EF 70-300mm IS USM (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/253/cat/11) while Nikon owners should enjoy the $560 Nikon 70-300mm VR AF-S (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/992/cat/13) -- both are image stabilized.
A stocking stuffer memory card of the right type is always welcomed:
- Eye-Fi SD card (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/EYE/FI.HTM) -- Everybody loves this gadget. It's a 2-GB SD card with WiFi built in. This card turns any SD-capable camera into a WiFi camera. Lose the USB cable. $99
- SanDisk SD/USB Card (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SDUSB/SDUII.HTM) is an SD card that folds in half to reveal a USB connector. Very, very convenient. No reader necessary, no cable either. Available in 2-GB ($20), 4-GB ($40) and 8-GB ($50) SD and SDHC versions.
- CompactFlash (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?memcf)
- Secure Digital (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?memsd)
- Memory Stick Pro Duo (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?memmspro)
- xD Picture Cards (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?memxd)
- GE/Sanyo Eneloop NiMH AA Batteries (http://www.eneloop.info) are ready to use when you buy them, have a long shelf life, high performance at 2000 mAh, are environmentally friendly, inexpensive and compatible with current chargers. When you buy them, they'll have at least an 85 percent charge because after sitting on the shelf for a year, they'll retain that much. $11.88 for four
- M-Rock Bags (http://www.m-rock.com) -- The Teton is the only holster big enough for a vertical grip and includes a bungie cord on the bottom for stuff you can't fit inside, plus an all-weather cover. $70
- Lowepro (http://www.lowepro.com) Sling Bags make it easy to get your camera out. The SlingShots, in four sizes, carry your equipment like a backpack but let you at it like a fanny back. From $83 to $180
- Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) has an Urban Disguise line in seven sizes ranging from $69 to $189 that "allow you to travel in style and protect your valuable equipment without attracting attention to yourself as a photographer." Three versions can handle a laptop, too. From $99 to $189
- UPStrap (http://www.upstrap.com) makes straps that won't slip or break under extreme duress. And they've got a model for any camera. Top quality components and a simple design make them a favorite of many pros. From $23
- Op/Tech (http://www.optechusa.com) has a dizzying range of camera strap systems. But the prices won't make you swoon.
We buy our digital filters from 2filter (http://www.2filter.com), which discounts high quality, multi-coated filters from Hoya and Tiffen and provides some bundles, too. Prices vary on the size of the filter.
- Circular Polarizers can capture the world as it appears through your shades.
- Neutral Density filters can knock down bright sunlight to give you more control of depth of field.
- Infrared filters limit capture to infrared wavelengths if your camera does not have an IR blocking filter on its sensor.
- An external flash. A dedicated speedlight (with wireless capability) can open new doors of creativity for your photographer. Typical units: Nikon SB-600 $200, SB-800 $400, SB-900 $500; Canon 430EX $200, 580EX $350
- Ultimate Light Box. This inexpensive flash diffusion system (http://www.harbordigitaldesign.com/lightboxkits.aspx) gives you a studio full of options in a compact collection. Bounce diffusers for $20, Box Kits for $85, Pro Packs for about $120
- Adobe Creative Suite 4 (http://www.adobe.com) -- Performance is the best feature of all and with this release of the Creative Suite, Adobe escapes earth orbit. By tapping into the GPU and harnessing multi-core processing power, CS4 is faster than any prior release. But it's also more uniform, with a common user interface you can customize (in Photoshop) with the free Configurator. Various configurations priced separately.
- Lightroom 2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/LRM/LRM.HTM) makes workflow child's play. $299
- Aperture 2 (http://www.apple.com) is Apple's idea of a high-end image editing workflow. $199
- Nik Software (see the Dave's Deal below) has been pretty busy this year. They've revamped their line of Photoshop plug-ins, updating Sharpener Pro and Dfine while introducing Silver Efex Pro and Viveza. The new versions incorporate U Point technology, an approach to image editing we find a lot of fun. They aren't inexpensive plug-ins, but they are actually worth the money and therefore make a superb gift.
- Boinx Fotomagico (http://www.boinx.com) -- It's our favorite way to make slide shows on the Mac . From $49
- VueScan (http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/VUE/VUE.HTM) is an affordable and comprehensive scanning software solution. Buy one copy, use it on any scanner you own. $39.95/$79.95
- PhotoRescue (http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM) remains the leader in image recovery software, now handling movie files as well as images. $29
- Imagenomic's Noiseware, Portraiture and RealGrain plug-ins (http://www.imagenomic.com) can intelligently reduce the noise of your high ISO images without erasing their detail, automatically retouch portraits to eliminate flaws and add film grain effects. $239.85 for the suite
- MemoryMiner (http://www.memoryminer.com) is the modern way of telling your family's story. $45
- Linotype FontExplorer X (http://www.linotype.com/fontexplorerX) can impose order on anyone's Windows or Mac font library, saving them disk space and sanity. It's free, too.
- Photoshop Express (http://www.photoshop.com/express) is a free online image editor you can use with your photos stored on several other online services. See our review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PSX/PSX.HTM) for the details. You get 2-GB of storage on Adobe's servers, too.
- Phanfare Photo (http://www.phanfare.com) is a file sharing service that uploads your images automatically as you organize them (with captions and movies, too) that has grown in to a social networking site. And it's free this year, too!
- Swiss Picture Bank (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS08/MRP/sneakpeek.htm#swi) -- This online storage service charges three cents each for 30 years storage or six cents for 99. The first 100 images are free when you open an account.
- Zenfolio (http://www.zenfolio.com) can set up your budding pro in business selling their images. The new hosting service provides a complete storefront with order fulfillment for a percentage of each sale (you set the markup) with a modest annual subscription fee for the service.
- Gorillapod (http://www.joby.com) -- Available in several sizes to support different weights, every Joby Gorillapod has a quick release mount attached to three legs made of interconnected balls that can wrap around and lock to any surface. And there are even accessories for them (like spike feet and a flash clip). From $24.95
- Manfrotto 685B monopod (http://www.manfrotto.com) -- It's simple. Step on its foot, pull it up to the height you want and shoot. Click the trigger to collapse it. About $170 without a ball head ($30 or so)
- Berlebach Tripods (http://www.berlebach.de/e_index.php) -- Imported from Germany by HP Marketing, these wood tripods made from ash have been around since 1898. Beautiful, solid, weathered ash, kiln dried, rigid, immune to environmental changes and vibration free. In a range of sizes from a tabletop that sits on the ground on up. A 7 lbs. tripod that rises from 20 to 64 inches goes for under $200.
- Digital picture frames? We've reviewed a basic Pandigital (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/PDGTL/PD8.HTM) and a Pantouch frame (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/PNT/PANTOUCH.HTM), are testing a very thin Giinii (http://giinii.com/) and peeked at a few Kodaks. Prices vary but compare them side-by-side for brightness and expect to spend over $100.
- Canon MP620 (http://www.usa.canon.com) -- You can pick one of these up for $50 if you buy a new Mac, which makes it an interesting accessory. An all-in-one device with no film scanner, it can not only print wirelessly from any computer on your network, but scan wirelessly, too. $150
- HP C8180 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/C8180/C8180.HTM) is the company's top of the line all-in-one device, mating a 9600-dpi scanner capable of both reflective and transparency scanning with a printer that also includes CD/DVD burning and label printing with LightScribe. But it also wins the Congeniality Award for its touchscreen interface, card reader and its connectivity options: Hi-Speed USB, PictBridge, Wireless G and Bluetooth. $368
- Kodak ESP-7 (http://www.kodak.com) -- With WiFi and Ethernet plus an intelligent paper tray system and Kodak's inexpensive pigment inks, the ESP-7 all-in-one just lacks a film scanner. We've only attended a briefing on the ESP-7 but liked what we saw a good deal more than the 5000-series all-in-ones that introduced Kodak's remarkable printheads and inks. $199.99
This category really didn't introduce any new wrinkles this year as companies devoted their attention to refining their easily networked all-in-ones. We still like the HiTouch and HP 4x6 printers with a nod to Canon's SELPHY line as well, though.
- Canon Pro9000 (http://www.canonusa.com) -- With its 8-color ChromaLife100 ink system and FINE printhead technology, this unit is the one the lab uses to evaluate cameras. <A HREF="http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/CP9K/CP9KA.HTM" TARGET="_new">Our review</A> was pretty glowing, too. Average online price: $456
- Epson R1900 (http://www.epson.com) -- Epson has fitted a roll printer to its enthusiast 13x19 pigment printer so your panoramas will turn your friends green with envy. And at these prices, everybody can be an enthusiast, enjoying 13x19 prints. $550 ($400 after rebate)
- HP B8850 (http://www.hp.com) -- HP stripped its B9180 13x19 pro pigment printer down to enthusiast size with the B8850. You get the same great inks (including three blacks) and all the specialty papers (like canvas) if not the very thick ones. And the same maintenance routines too. Your black and white prints will make your friends turn green with envy. $550 ($500 after rebate)
- Epson V700/V750 Photo (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V700/V700.HTM) -- It uses two lenses for up to 6400 dpi resolution and a Dmax of 4.0, handling both film and reflective art. $550/$800
- Microtek ArtiScan M1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/M1/M1.HTM) -- The only flatbed with autofocus. Unfortunately, the company will no longer be selling the M1 in North America (see the news item below), so act now. Average online price: $569
- Eizo ColorEdge CG222W (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS08/MRP/pma-sat.htm#eiz) -- It's hard to believe you can work in front of this gorgeous monitor and feel the least bit stressed out. Its relaxingly bright and even light massages your eyes. And it just about has the sRGB and Adobe colorspace covered, too. Really the nicest monitor we've seen. $1,500
- Apple's 24-inch Cinema Display (http://www.apple.com/displays/specs.html) is currently undergoing a major revision to LED backlighting and a new DisplayPort connector. $900
- Dell 22-inch Widescreen Flat Panel Monitor (http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/products/Displays/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=dhs&cs=19&sku=320-6107) gets rave reviews. $299
- WhiBal (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/WHB/WHB.HTM) is a small gray card with a lanyard that is actually calibrated. You know exactly what it should measure when you open an image with it in your image editing software and can instantly adjust the color balance. From $30
- Macsense Geomet'r (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/GEO/GEO.HTM) is a GPS receiver for Nikon dSLRs that writes the location date directly to the image's Exif header. $145
- Apple TV (http://www.apple.com/appletv) is still the best (and easiest) way to show your high resolution images on an HDTV. $299
- Datacolor Spyder3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SPYDER3/SPYDER3.HTM) monitor calibration systems. The $279 Spyder3Elite and the $599 Spyder3Studio are not cheap, which is why they make nice presents that will not be returned. You can get a 30 percent discount by visiting http://spyder.datacolor.com/products.php and applying the discount code IRHOLIDAY during checkout.
- Brother's embroidery system (http://www.brother.com) can reproduce your digicam images as embroidery. The basic components of the system are 1) a Windows computer running Brother's $99 PE-Design software and 2) a USB Brother sewing machine (either the $1,800 Innov-is 1200 or $6,000 Innov-is 4000D, both of which are single needle machines; the six needle PR-600 II costs $9,999.95 but gets the job done more quickly).
- Pirolettes (http://www.turnyourhead.com) are $150 wood turnings that cast a shadow in the shape of your profile. Also available is a $50 portrait (a flat version) that can be framed.
- Photostamps (http://photostamps.com) can print a sheet of perfectly legal stamps with either an image or a logo on them in just one day. Two sheets of 20 stamps are about $17.
- USB extension cable. This is especially nice if you use one of the SanDisk SD/USB cards mentioned above. It just gives you a flexible, easily manipulated USB port.
- USB 2.0 hub. Inexpensive but look for a 2.0 Hi-Speed USB port, even if it comes with a power brick. Providing power to the hub means you can attach power-hungry devices like external USB drives to the hub without draining your laptop's battery.
- External drive. Speaking of which, nobody ever has enough external drives. Compact 2.5-inch drives in small enclosures are more expensive than 3.5-inch drives for the same capacity. Network drives let you share the drive among a number of computers. And some drives even feature one-click backup capability. Dave recommends the Western Digital MyBook Studio II (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/WDSTUDIOII/STUDIOII.HTM) from $350.
- Drobo (http://www.drobo.com) -- This "storage robot" takes external drives one spin further. It's a robot. You populate it with up to four drives of any size (they don't have to be the same) and your data is protected without configuring or managing the box. The robot does it. And tells you how things are going with a traffic light system (yellow means buy a bigger drive to swap in). Ingenious. $499
- Merchandise from your images? Absolutely! Nothing says I-love-you like a T-shirt for Dad branded with that picture you took of him dozing after Thanksgiving. And Mom will love her high school picture on her T-shirt (you can even color her hair they way it should have been). You not only express what's truly in your heart, but you save gas and these things aren't that expensive to begin with! Consult your favorite online photofinisher.
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 T700 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T700/T700A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Panasonic G1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DMCG1/DMCG1A.HTM)
We recently spent a leisurely two and half hours (over several days, actually) watching A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting, a new DVD from Nikon School that can take you from a life of red-eye to painting with light.
That's a big jump but it didn't feel like it. By the time we got to the heights of using multiple strobes in the fast-fading light of dusk, we had no vertigo.
That's because Nikon has organized the subject material -- using strobes -- in two main sections. One is a tour of lighting fundamentals and the other is a handful of real world situations that put what you learn in the studio to work in the real world.
In the tutorial, National Geographic Traveler photographer Bob Krist explains the fundamentals of using artificial light, showing you how to evaluate the direction, color and quality of light.
He does that with a model and tethered shooting so you can see instantly what the effect of placing a light or bouncing it or adding color to it does to the scene. Your knowledge grows as he refines his approach to the shot, bit by bit.
And it really does grow. We can't remember a similar teaching aid in any format that quite so well explains what you can do with a strobe. Krist discusses the situation, pointing out the problem to be solved and shows just how simple it is to get great results.
By the time you get out in the field with photographer Joe McNally, nothing really surprises you. But McNally really puts those basics to work, first in a ballet school, then at a wedding and finally on location at the harbor where he handles several difficult shots. Each situation is a little more complex, but McNally discusses the issues clearly, shows how to use a strobe or reflector or sync mode or white balance adjustment to paint the image he wants with the light he has.
Both Bob and Joe are excellent companions on this lighting adventure, but the real star of the show is Nikon's Creative Lighting System.
First, it's wireless. With either the pop-up flash, a commander or a Nikon strobe, you can communicate with up to three groups of strobes (not three strobes, but three groups of them). And by communicate, we mean not only fire them but program them to adjust their output -- from your camera. So, for example, you can set Group A to be your main light, Group B to be a background fill and Group C to be a foreground highlight, adjusting each group individually without affecting the others.
Because the flash exposure is metered through the lens with Nikon's iTTL system, you can pop on a diffuser or move the flashes behind a panel without changing your exposure. In fact, the system encourages you to experiment with different effects to create an image that might have been just too much work otherwise. Our favorite example of this was McNally's last shot at the ballet school on an overcast day. He mounted a strobe outside the large studio window protected from the wet by a plastic sandwich bag, put an amber filter on it and shot inside the studio to create the effect of late afternoon sunlight.
Throughout the DVD, Krist and McNally identify the cameras, lenses and strobes they are using. And they use almost everything, not just the top end stuff. The D300 was used with its pop-up to control remote strobes, the D3 with a commander. Various lenses were used to control depth of field and angle of view. The SB-900 was used to focus the light on a couple of occasions, but the SB-800 and SB-600 also got plenty of use. McNally even found a use for Nikon's ring lights.
For $39.95 from the Nikon Mall (http://www.nikonmall.com/detail/NIK+11484), this is a great textbook on strobe lighting. When we finished watching it, we didn't feel the need to buy more gear. Instead, we felt like grabbing our strobe and trying a few new tricks with it. High praise, indeed.
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:
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I suggest you be more specific with your wording on your request to trade favors. I tried, or maybe, did you the favor. But alas, you use the term merchant link and that is not a term on the PriceGrabber page. Did you mean sponsored links, or just compare prices, and then on a merchant, or what? I tried them all just to be safe that I am helping out.
-- Alvin Ginsburg(Agreed, "merchant links" is a bit technical. When you compare prices, you'll see a list of merchants (like Buydig and 17th Street Photo). Clicking on those links pays our bills. -- Editor)
RE: Slides to DVD
I'm in the process of digitizing Kodachrome slides and have run into a problem I hope you can shed some light upon. When I load the scanned images into iPhoto they are sharp. When I create a slide show in iPhoto the images are sharp. When I burn the slide show to a DVD, the images become less sharp, almost like a soft focus. What am I doing wrong?
-- Stan(The problem in general is one of resizing for TV. A QuickTime movie/iPhoto export may resize your originals to just 640x480 but even an iDVD resize will be no more than 720x480. iPhoto, displaying to your screen, doesn't have these limitations. You might try working with smaller, sharpened images in iPhoto to begin with (doing the resizing and sharpening manually, so to speak). Some people have had better luck doing the slide show entirely within iDVD (which is limited to 99 images and one transition). Alternately, Fotomagico (http://www.boinx.com) can output a rather sophisticated presentation to any number of resolutions. And it's pretty clear about what it's doing, too. -- Editor)
RE: Scanner Q
Since the day I started going to public libraries (some time ago) I have felt the need for a special╩scanner to copy old articles from big newspaper collections, which are very difficult to work with because of their size and weight.
This special scanner should do the following: 1) be as thin as possible, 2) have a flat, removable cover to allow me to put my notebook on it, and 3) work upside down over the documents with the control buttons on the side.
Is there such a scanner?
-- Vivaldo Quaresma(Well, yes, there is such a device but it's your digital camera. With the right optics, no flash, careful setup, you can capture an image that can be converted to text with OCR software if necessary but is certainly readable. -- Editor)
RE: Kodak Printer Help
We have a Kodak 5500 all-in-one and we love it. It just started to show that a new black ink cartridge was low shortly after installation. We took it out and reinstalled it and it works fine for a while. When the prompt comes up we just pop it out and reinsert it and we are good to go. Black last a long time.
We just now started to have black copies print with a light print line across the full page. We cleaned the print head and tried all the suggestions in Kodak's manual but we still have the lines.
Printer about six months old. Any help??? Can you provide Kodak phone number for help with our problem.
My husband wanted to buy one when his office fax bit the dust and could not find one anywhere.
-- Kimberly Mejac(Not surprised your husband can't find one because Kodak has replaced them with the black ESP line. Look for an ESP-9 for the same features as your 5500. Meanwhile, visit the main Kodak page for the 5500 at http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml?pq-path=10581&pq-locale=en_US&_requestid=15176 and scroll down for support links. There you'll find (search "new cartridge low") that Kodak recommends a firmware upgrade you can do yourself to resolve that situation. For the banding problem, you'll be directed to the Step-by-Step Solutions and Repair pages. The first questions will ask about damage to the print head and the label on the cartridge. Then you're directed to do a print head cleaning and a Deep Clean. If all this fails, Kodak will authorize a replacement print head. You can complete the replacement request by phone at 1-800-421-6699 but you do need a reference ID showing you've jumped through the hoops on the Web. Hope that helps. -- Editor)
DxO Labs has unveiled dxomark.com (http://www.dxomark.com) a new Web site to publish key objective metrics of sensor performance for a variety of cameras measured directly on the RAW image. Available as a free online resource, dxomark.com makes it possible for the first time to assess the intrinsic quality of a camera before the impact of any Raw conversion.
"There are many valuable resources reviewing the image quality of digital cameras, but none of them consider the actual Raw signal straight from the camera sensor," explains Nicolas Touchard, vice president of marketing, DxO Labs Image Quality Evaluation business. "Demanding photographers who shoot in Raw should only care about the genuine quality of the Raw image, yet until now they have had to rely on measures based on converted Raw images, obviously biased by the processing applied to them, whether embedded or performed offline with a software Raw converter."
Adobe Labs (http://labs.adobe.com) has released the company's free Pixel Bender plug-in for CS4 [MW], which "provides automatic runtime optimization on heterogeneous hardware" to run Photoshop filters much faster than they have ever run before.
The company also released Configurator [MW] to build custom Photoshop CS4 panels configuring the application's interface to fit specific needs. See our preview (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/CFG/CFG1.HTM) of Configurator.
Pandigital (http://www.pandigital.net) has announced it will support Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Live FrameIt application starting with its Kitchen Technology Center frame, which combines an HDTV, digital cookbook, digital photo frame and RSS feed capabilities. FrameIt (http://frameit.live.com) streams images stored on photo sharing Web sites.
Luminous Landscape's Michael H. Reichmann has posted an uncut version of his interview with Henry Wilhelm, founder of Wilhelm Imaging Research, which is famous for its work on print permanence (http://luminous-landscape.com/whatsnew/#301).
La Cie (http://www.lacie.com/silverkeeper) has released its free SilverKeeper 2.0 [M] backup application. "Almost any read/write device that can mount a writeable volume on the Macintosh Desktop can be used with SilverKeeper," the company said.
Akvis (http://akvis.com) has released it $72 ArtWork 1.0 [MW] to give photos the impression of an oil painting with varying degrees of control.
Microtek announced a change in its sales strategy for digital imaging products in North America. The company said it "is moving from an emphasis on selling a wide portfolio of consumer and professional scanners and digital imaging products to an exclusive emphasis on developing OEM relationships and vertical market opportunities."
Search millions of photos from the LIFE magazine photo archive via Google (http://images.google.com/hosted/life).
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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
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Mike Pasini, Editor
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