|Volume 10, Number 25||5 December 2008|
Welcome to the 242nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Shawn finds four inexpensive digicams that won't disappoint you before reviewing the first Micro Four-Thirds camera. Then Adobe explains the Creative Suite 4 installer. We tell the sad story of a defunct memory card (and how it was replaced) before explaining the trick to using the same color labels in Lightroom and Bridge. Finally, the news section notes the unusual significance of next Friday!
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By SHAWN BARNETT
There are a lot of low-priced digital cameras out there, but the quality ranges from pretty good to just awful. To help you find a good inexpensive camera, we rounded up a whole batch of them, ran them through our tests and picked out the few true bargains.
Our list of qualifying cameras -- whose prices hover around $100 give or take $20 -- included Fujifilm FinePix J10, Casio Exilim EX-Z9, Panasonic Lumix LS80, Samsung S860, Kodak C813, Nikon Coolpix L18, Olympus FE360, Sony Cyber-shot S750, Canon PowerShot A590 IS and Canon PowerShot A470.
We looked at all the basic aspects we think make up a good quality camera: shutter lag, optical performance, image sharpness and detail vs. noise and noise suppression, color rendition and flash performance.
Bear in mind that these cameras are not the best of the best, but if you only want to spend $100, these are among the best you'll find, with many retailers selling all three of these cameras for $99 or less. For the best of the best, visit our Dave's Picks page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/WB/WB.HTM) and look under any category except Budget.
Our top four bargain digital cameras are:
Fujifilm FinePix J10 -- http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/J10/J10A.HTM
Always able to get good quality from an inexpensive pocket digicam, Fujifilm has done it again with the FinePix J10. Its 8-megapixel sensor delivers good quality images with good color and reasonable optical quality for the price. You'll find some noticeable barrel distortion at wide-angle, as well as chromatic aberration, but the latter is only obvious in prints larger than 8x10. Indoor shots with tungsten lighting are a bit yellow for our taste, but the J10's flash shots are well-exposed. Otherwise images are smooth, with reasonably low noise and good sharpness. The J10's shutter lag is a little on the slow side, taking 0.79 second to focus and capture a shot, but it's still usable. The Fujifilm J10 is a surprisingly good budget digital camera. Average Price: $109
Panasonic LS80 -- http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LS80/LS80A.HTM
With a 3x zoom, a 2.5-inch LCD and an 8-Mp sensor, the Panasonic LS80 has all the basics covered and it even includes extras like optical image stabilization and Intelligent ISO. Image quality is pretty good, with vibrant color and minimal noise in the shadows. Optically, corners are a bit soft, but not bad up to 8x10. Detail is decent in the center even when printed at 11x14 and chromatic aberration is also well-controlled. There's some barrel distortion, but it's not bad and auto white balance handled incandescent lighting quite well. Shutter lag is again a little long, taking 0.8 second to focus and take a picture, but that's one of the tradeoffs at this price. Flash range is good, at about 12.1 feet at wide-angle and 6.7 feet at telephoto and the camera does raise the ISO to 400, making for a little more noise overall. A very good performance for a budget digicam. Average Price: $123
Canon A470 -- http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A470/A470A.HTM
Clearly offering the most bang for the buck at a price closely approaching $100 is the 7.1-Mp Canon PowerShot A470. With a 3.4x optical zoom and a 2.5-inch LCD, the Canon A470 doesn't skimp on features. Its shutter lag time is a little more bearable than the two above it on this list, with full-AF lag coming in at 0.5 second and a shot-to-shot time of 1.27 seconds. Corner sharpness is good when printed up to 8x10 inches and chromatic aberration is minimal. The A470's low-ISO images easily handle enlargement up to 11x14 inches. Even ISO 800 shots produce good 4x6-inch prints. The interface is easy to work with and autofocus is snappy and accurate. The A470 has a lot of Canon's best features rolled right into a camera with a very low price, which is the very definition of the word "bargain." Average Price: $115
Canon A590IS -- http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A590IS/A590ISA.HTM
The Canon A590 IS is the most feature-packed of cameras in the budget category and its price reflects that, with an average price currently hovering around $135. The good news is that's just the average. It's available online from reputable retailers for as little as $112.95, definitely putting it the budget category. Looking at the camera itself, the A590 IS is one digicam that delivers a lot of capability and good photos at a low price. We also like the fact that A590 IS is well-suited to both novices and advanced users. Total beginners can put it in "Easy" mode and snap away, but a full range of features (including full manual exposure control) will satisfy more advanced users. The A590 IS offers 4x optical zoom, an excellent range of exposure modes and options and is very user-friendly. Face and Motion Detection ensure good-looking portraits, even of moving subjects and an intelligent selection of preset Scene modes offer great exposure flexibility. The A590 IS has a bright 2.5-inch LCD display, but also features a real-image optical viewfinder to help conserve battery power. Not a perfect camera by any means, but a near-unbelievable buy at its current less-than-$120 street price. Average Price: $137
Remember, those are just average prices, click on the link to visit our landing page for the camera and shop for the best price by clicking on the big price in the orange "Save Money!" box!
For more quick and easy recommendations on the best digital cameras, be sure to visit our Dave's Picks section (http://www.imaging-resource.com/WB/WB.HTM), where we've posted the cameras we like most after running them through our thorough laboratory testing. You can search by category or just check what's hot among our current Top Ten listings.
By SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DMCG1/DMCG1A.HTM on the Web site.)
As SLRs get better, they seem to get bigger as well. Two of the leading dSLRs on the market, the Canon Rebel XSi and the Canon 40D/50D are bigger than their predecessors. But there's a rebellion stirring -- a rebellion not just against size, but against the SLR itself -- and the $799 Panasonic Lumix G1 marks its arrival.
Stung by the lack of success of its Lumix L1 and L10, Panasonic went back to the drawing board and created a new camera category. It's the first mass-market Micro Four Thirds interchangeable-lens digital camera. Like the original Four Thirds system, Micro Four Thirds seeks to throw off the encumbrance of 35mm SLR design. But in addition to rebelling against 35mm's large lenses, they're dumping its moving mirrors, expensive pentaprisms and often complex, expensive solutions to the problem of integrating Live View into a dSLR. Panasonic's solution is the Lumix G1, 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.
The beauty of an SLR is it delivers a truly live image to the photographer's eye by gathering light from the same lens that will be used to make the image and reflecting it through a series of mirrors. In the old days, that kept the film in place to receive the image when the photographer pressed the shutter button. Of course, that meant they had to move the mirror out of the way and open the shutter to expose the film, all of which takes time. The Panasonic G1 eliminates the mirror altogether, because today we have sensors that can not only capture a low-noise still shot, they can deliver a live view electronically.
At first glance the G1 has an odd shape, with certain features out of proportion to the overall camera's size. The center flash/viewfinder hump is wide and low, the mode dial is unusually large and the shutter button seems to stand out, while the 14-45mm lens seems disproportionately small. It's unusual, quite burly looking despite its small size.
The G1's soft, rubbery skin has a sheen as elegant and warm as it feels. Though it is small, the grip is good and the camera is sufficiently wide that it still feels substantial. The thumbgrip on the back has a nice bevel up toward the right corner, a design element that probably couldn't have been done better given the short stature of the G1.
The left front of the G1 has a flat area good for gripping as well. Though the G1 rests in my palm comfortably, my fingers struggle to turn the small lens ring. It's grippy enough, but smaller than normal and stiff enough to require two fingers to turn. That's not a criticism, really, just an observation. While I was impressed with Olympus's small 14-42mm f3.5 lens that comes with the E-420, the Lumix 14-45mm f3.5-5.6-GB Vario lens is smaller still and includes Panasonic's Mega Optical Image Stabilization. It's impressive that they built such advanced technology into so small a lens.
Though the G1 has the gold L badge on the front that I've always associated with the inclusion of a Leica lens, neither of the Micro Four Thirds lenses currently available is a Leica, though the first three Panasonic Four Thirds SLR lenses were. Apparently the little L is a secondary Lumix logo.
On the G1's top deck are two switches that surround the mode dial. One powers up the camera, the other sets the drive mode. I just love switches, especially for oft-changed items. The mode dial is large and unfortunately it's too easy to turn, making accidental mode changes more likely.
The shutter release button is mounted on a metal stand, positioned out on the top of the grip. It's similar to the Panasonic L10's shutter release, but is flat instead of round.
Just below the G1's shutter button is the Front dial. In Manual mode, you press in on the dial to switch between Aperture and Shutter speed settings on the LCD; in Program mode, pressing in on the Front dial activates the EV adjustment mode.
LCD and EVF. It's easy to forget the G1 is not an SLR, but I'm reminded when it comes to choosing whether to use the LCD or the electronic viewfinder to compose my images. I'm wont to just bring the viewfinder to my eye by default, especially out in daylight. Eventually I learned you can set the Custom Menu to allow automatic switching between the LCD and EVF, thanks to the infrared sensors on the right side of the EVF eyepiece. With the LVF/LCD AUTO option set to ON, the camera switches to the EVF when you bring the camera to your eye. That's more convenient than a live-view SLR, because you have to choose to turn on the LCD's live view mode, whereas here all you need to do is move the camera.
Both the LCD and EVF are remarkable in their clarity and sharpness, with the LCD resolving 460,000 dots and the EVF resolving 480,000 RGB pixels.
Swivel. The LCD has the best kind of swivel, which swings out and pivots to face most directions, even forward for self-portraits. You can choose to turn it inward to protect the LCD as well; though oddly the camera won't automatically switch to the EVF at that point, until you raise the LCD to your eye. If you don't have it in LVF/LCD AUTO mode, though, you have to manually activate the EVF with the LVF/LCD button. The good news is that if you fold the LCD inward, it does at least turn off.
The swivel hinge itself is firm yet smooth, with a solid feel and it stays where you put it.
You can choose to leave the LCD off and the EVF will only come on when you bring the LCD to your eye or you can use the LCD panel as a status display. Just cycle through the modes with the Display button.
The LCD's 3:2 aspect ratio is the mode I'd choose to shoot with, but you can also use 4:3 (as we did to shoot most of our test shots) or 16:9. Unlike the Panasonic LX3, the overall pixel width of 4,000 doesn't change as you switch aspect ratios, so to get the full 12 megapixels, shoot in 4:3 mode. It'll give you more pixels to crop from later.
EVF. The electronic viewfinder is particularly impressive, easily the clearest EVF we've seen. It uses an LCOS (Liquid Crystal On Silicon) chip to display the viewfinder image at a 60 frame per second refresh rate, besting most any other electronic viewfinder on the market. As I move my eye around behind the viewfinder, there is a tendency toward barrel or pincushion distortion at the edges depending on where your eye is, so be sure not to confuse that with lens distortion when aligning objects such as buildings or horizon lines.
Another difference between the EVF and the LCD is the relative contrast ratio. When looking through the EVF at a scene with a high contrast ratio, detail in shadow areas falls off abruptly into relative blackness, while the same shadow scene on the LCD still holds detail. It's just a difference in the amount of contrast the LCOS chip inside is able to display compared to the LCD.
Histogram. It's great that you get an optional histogram with the G1, though I'm disappointed that only the background is translucent. What's a major bonus, however, is the ability to move the histogram around the screen to wherever you like. There's also a crosshairs gridline feature that you can also move around the screen.
Focus. The G1 uses contrast-detect autofocus, but it still manages good speed and accuracy.
Snicking the AF dial into Manual focus mode brings a nice surprise too, as it's very easy to get sharp focus via both the LCD and EVF. Just turn the focus ring on the front of the lens and the camera zooms to 10x. I found it easy to make fine focus adjustments and actually see a difference onscreen, despite the fly-by-wire focusing ring. Even when the display gained up and got grainy in low light, there was still enough resolution and contrast to judge focus thanks to the zoom.
Fast flash recycle. We were surprised in our testing with just how fast the G1's flash recycled. After a full-power flash, it was ready to fire again in 1.4 seconds. Most cameras take about five seconds. Raising the flash power output to +2 changed the recharge time to four seconds, but that's still pretty impressive. Flash range was good for a small strobe, exposing well at 13 feet at wide-angle and 11 feet at telephoto.
Speedy. Also impressive is the G1's fast continuous mode and buffer clearing speed. 3.15 frames per second is good for a digital camera at this level and with a Class 6 SDHC card, write times can be quite fast as well, with five Raw + Large Fine JPEGs shuffling off to the card in 3.5 seconds. Indeed, if you're shooting just Large Fine JPEGs, you can shoot and shoot more than 250 frames without a detectable slowdown and probably more (250 was the limit to our patience).
Fast shutter lag. While not quite up to current dSLR camera standards, the G1's shutter lag numbers are still good, better than most digicams. At wide-angle, it'll capture a shot in 0.37 second and at telephoto it's a little faster at 0.36 second. For contrast-detect with an SLR lens, that's pretty fast. Naturally it'll be different from lens to lens. Pre-focus shutter lag is blazing fast, at 0.077 second.
Though it's a little bit of a drag that the screen blacks out before exposure to allow the shutter to close, I haven't found it a problem yet. The G1's autofocus is impressively fast and seems pretty accurate.
Image stabilization. Panasonic's Mega O.I.S. is impressive in most of the company's cameras, but I'm particularly pleased with how well this little 14-45mm (28-90mm equivalent) lens stabilizes the scene. Whether at telephoto or wide-angle, I get a rock-steady image. Even when I zoom it in and try to shake the camera, the image stays impressively steady. My heartbeats, which often smudge images when I'm really concentrating on a subject, have little effect on the Mega O.I.S. in this lens.
Depth-of-time preview. The G1 has a depth-of-field preview button, below the five-button navigator on the back, which stops down the lens aperture to your current setting. But the G1 also has a unique mode called Shutter Speed Preview. First press the Preview button to activate the depth-of-field preview, then press the Display button. The camera will then leave the aperture stopped down and essentially expose the sensor at the selected shutter speed, refreshing the display at the intervals set. For example, if you want to capture a waterfall at f8 to get most of the picture in focus and you want the water to appear as a soft cascade, you can set the camera to the aperture you want and see the live effect onscreen. If it's too bright or dark, you can make the necessary adjustments to ISO, aperture and shutter speed and work out just how you want the photo to look without taking a bunch of test shots.
There are a few aspects I miss with the G1 that you'd get with an SLR. The first is the lack of a real-time optical live view of my subject. An SLR gives you the view at the speed of light, but electrical live view systems introduce some lag as the image is captured, processed and written to the LCD. Extra lag means that you're more likely to miss the moment you see on the screen, adding to the overall shutter lag.
You also don't get a live view of moving subjects when shooting in Continuous mode. While it's great you can capture 3.15 frames per second, the G1 only serves up the images you've captured while it shoots in Continuous mode; there's no return to live view in this mode, so you just have to aim and fire, hoping to get lucky, whereas with a dSLR, the mirror moves back into position between frames, so you can keep the camera pointed at the subject. That's true even with the professional cameras that can crank out 10 to 11 frames per second.
We also encountered two errors that we haven't seen before. First, if you accidentally press the lens-release button even slightly, a black screen comes up saying, "Please check that the lens is attached correctly." You can get around this error message if you set the SHOOT W/O LENS option to On. And while I haven't seen it, the lab guys report that inserting an SD card often resulted in an error message that the camera could not communicate with the card. When they removed and reinserted the card, it worked just fine. These were most often Panasonic SDHC cards, strangely enough.
Compared to its closest competition, the G1 delivers better image quality than the Olympus E-420, but slightly less than the Rebel XSi. That's about what we'd expect given the relative age of the E-420's sensor and the larger size of the Rebel XSi's sensor relative to the G1's smaller, higher resolution sensor.
Because it's a small SLR-like design like the E-420, I was very concerned it might have the E-420's odd tone curve, the only major drawback we saw to that camera. According to our Imatest results, the G1's dynamic range performance is quite a bit better and the tone curve looks more natural than the E-420's, with more detail in the shadows and better performance in the mids.
As for overall image quality, we found the G1's performance to be quite good, but it doesn't match the Rebel XSi at higher ISO settings.
Softness. I was surprised by an overall softness to most of my gallery shots. Thankfully they do sharpen up well in Photoshop and at 12.1 megapixels, it's not as big an issue when printing.
Overall, the lens and camera combination was quite good. Colors look good, detail is strong despite the softness and white balance is pretty well on in most situations. Even indoor incandescent lighting is detected and compensated for about as well as I'd like: leaving just enough warmth to remind you that it's tungsten lighting without having a yellow cast. In short, no red flags go up in the image quality department.
We got better results when shooting Raw in terms of image sharpness.
Improving upon the digital camera often comes through the addition of some high-tech gee-whiz feature, like face detection or intelligent ISO. Though the Panasonic G1 has those features, its significant addition is more mechanical, with the addition of interchangeable lenses. Sure, we already have dSLRs that can do that, but most of them are quite a bit larger and they have to do tricks to enable live view, tricks that take more time and money. The G1 has most of the benefits of an SLR without the necessary time delays inherent in live view with a dSLR.
And it takes a pretty darn good picture too. Because the sensor is smaller than modern APS-C-sized dSLRs, you'd expect image quality to be slightly lower, but printed results really show surprising parity. I took a couple of 13x19-inch print samples from the G1 and the Canon Rebel XSi down to the lab guys and asked them to pick their favorites. It was too close to call. There were preferences in some areas, with the XSi showing slightly more detail and higher contrast than the G1, but in other areas, the G1 actually delivered more detail, especially at lower ISOs; but this also differed by subject texture, color and contrast. Both cameras produce excellent image quality, which is pretty high praise for the live-view-only G1.
About the only time you know that the G1 isn't an SLR is when you're trying to shoot action in Continuous mode, because you can't track a subject as it moves through a scene. Instead, all you get are brief glimpses of the images you've already captured. If action is your thing, you'd do better with an SLR. But as a second camera or a small primary shooter that will let you shoot at odd angles and carry a smaller camera bag, the Panasonic G1 is impressive and a certain Dave's Pick.
With the release of Creative Suite 4, Adobe was again taken to task for the performance and behavior of its installers. Responding to those complaints, Photoshop Product Manager John Nack promised to look into the issue with the installer team. Recently, he published two statements from the team on his blog (http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2008/12/notes_from_installer_mgmt.html).
Barry Hills, who leads the engineering teams for Creative Suites shared technology, explained that when the installers for CS4 became his group's responsibility, the team focused "almost all of our development time on one thing: make the installer experience more robust." And, he noted, the company has had 51 percent fewer tech support installer-related calls for CS4 vs. CS3 over the same period.
The group also focused on making the tech support experience better, writing an AIR-based utility to review the installer log and bring up the relevant Tech Note for any issue it discovers.
While data transfer rates improved in the CS5 installer, he observed, net install times increased because more apps and files are installed in CS4.
The group continues to look at ways to customize the install process, selecting fewer items and allowing more choices, he added. "And YES! I agree that we should not require 3rd party apps to shut down before installing," he said, adding "I am strongly on the side of being able to browse the Web and do other things while you are installing."
Hills began his statement encouraging feedback directly to him and he concluded it with some examples he's already received, as well as his email address. "I am quite serious when I ask you to contact me directly if you are so inclined. I may not tell you what you want to hear but I will be open, honest and take your issues seriously and use that information to influence the CS5 plans," he wrote.
Eric Wilde from the Suite engineering group also contributed a statement in which he observed the complexity of the Suite's multiple layers of package management "are not adequately supported by platform install technology for both Mac and Windows." So Adobe has had to roll its own.
The issue here is that each product "must be installable both as a component of the Creative Suite and as a standalone installer for when the user purchases just a point product. In addition, there are extra layers of shared technology across the products that must be package managed accurately to make sure the uninstall of any one product does not break the other products remaining on the system."
He concluded, "We do recognize the troubles felt in enterprise environments and are diligently working to address those problems as quickly as we can."
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:
- Test Shots: Canon EOS 5D Mark II (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E5D2/E5D2A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Pentax K200D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/K200D/K200DA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PIXMA MP620 Printer (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/MP620/MP620.HTM). It may not be expensive, but the review is one of our longest (too long even to excerpt for the Newsletter).
- Test Summary: Panasonic Lumix FZ28 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ28/FZ28A.HTM)
- Test Summary: Canon A2000 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A2000IS/A2000ISA.HTM)
- Test Summary: Canon SD880 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD880IS/SD880ISA.HTM)
We were setting up the lighting for some product shots of a printer, testing each setup until we found something that flattered our silver and black subject. A typical day at the bunker. But when we hit the Left arrow to compare the current shot with the last shot, the camera told us there was nothing to compare.
In fact, the shots weren't being written to the memory card.
We'd been having intermittent problems with this card for about a month. No particular reason. But every now and then, it would just fail to record anything, as if its directory had gotten hosed.
The fix had been to reformat the card, but when we tried it at our product shoot, we got an error message. Our Canon reported Err 99 and our Nikon reported CHA.
There was nothing wrong with either camera. A fresh card proved that. But neither camera could actually use the troublesome card. And when we popped it into our laptop, it wouldn't mount. Not in Windows, not in Mac OS X. Our most verbose diagnostic reported only that the card had input/output errors when we tried to reformat it.
OK, the card was dead.
Fortunately we didn't have anything stored on it that hadn't already been copied, but frankly that wouldn't have been a problem. PhotoRescue, as well as several other recovery programs we tried, was able to read the card to retrieve anything left on it. We just hadn't left anything on it.
Funny thing but once bitten, twice shy. We haven't mentioned the brand name because, you know, this happens to everybody once in a while. But rather than replace it with another one from the same company, we took advantage of the opportunity to order a new card, slightly faster, from a company whose products have not yet failed us.
But the card did feature a lifetime warranty.
So the next morning, with nothing to lose, we called the warranty department. They swiftly connected us to technical support. We told them our tale (just as we told you) and the tech support guy gave us a case number right away, switching us back to the warranty department.
They gave us two options. We could send the defunct card in and they would send out a replacement on receipt. Or they would send us the replacement with a $30 hold on our credit card and we'd have 10 days to return the defunct product. Rather nice of them to provide an option, we thought, opting for the faster approach. And within 48 hours we had the replacement, which arrived faster than the new card we had purchased.
The whole thing took 10 minutes.
We wouldn't wish a card failure on anyone, but if you have one, you don't want to have to buy another card. We won't name the company except to say it's a major brand. Buying from a reputable company (you know, with a name you've heard of) doesn't guarantee you won't have problems, but it can make a difference when you do have problems. A very nice difference.
One of the challenges of dealing with any data -- whether it's a steak or a few hundred images -- is cutting it into bite-sized pieces. Labeling those pieces helps to establish their status. And if all this sounds a little obscure, well, it's meant to be.
Sometimes you just need an obscure way to organize your images. Color labels is just obscure enough. Only you really know what the difference is between an image with a red label and one with a yellow label.
If you're using a Lightroom workflow with occasional visits to Photoshop via Bridge, you may have noticed that the color labels you apply in Lightroom don't make it into Bridge.
As John Nack recently explained in a blog entry (http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2008/11/labels_between.html), that's because each application lets you customize color labels with text strings.
With no more than a keystroke, you can apply a color-coded phrase to an image. Red might be "Reject" and Green "Approved." With no more than a filter, you can see which images were rejected and which approved. "Think of it as a specialized, powerful form of keywording," Nack suggested.
But Bridge and Lighroom only store the text associated with the label, not the color, to the image's metadata.
So if, say, you assign color labels with custom text to your images in Lightroom and open them in Bridge, you'll find that Bridge displays them all as white labels, not the color labels you assigned in Lightroom. That's because Bridge can't find the stored text in the text of any of its current color labels.
That can happen if you just change the label text in Bridge, too. Images assigned with the older text will generate white labels.
So how do you get these two to play nice? You assign the same names to each color in each application.
In Bridge, you can assign the names in the Preference dialog box. In Lightroom, you can assign them from the Metadata menu option under Color Label Set with the Edit command. Using the same names in both applications maintains compatibility, as the Lightroom dialog box explains.
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 the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eeaa2b0/0
Visit the Canon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f773
Joe asks about prints coming out darker than on his monitor at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeaa7e6/0
Paul asks about a good beginners kit for a dSLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeaa9a3/0
Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae
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RE: Mining Memories
I wanted to thank you for mentioning MemoryMiner in your latest newsletter. It really does mean a lot to me that you've been so supportive of our humble little efforts.
Two things that might be of interest to you:
I'm actually quite proud of the Memory Lab, since it creates a replicable model: in addition to being a workaday tool for the museum's own digitization efforts, it's being used as a kind of "NPR Tote Bag" for museum subscribers.
- A video of a talk I gave this past summer at the Los Angeles Idea Project (LA-IP) conference (a TED spin off). The software demos show some work in progress for MemoryMiner 2.0, which is coming along nicely: http://www.vimeo.com/1275905>http://www.vimeo.com/1275905
- A blog post about Memory Lab, a permanent installation built around MemoryMiner at the Magnes Museum in Berkeley: http://musematic.net/?p=516>http://musematic.net/?p=516
-- John Fox(Thanks, John! -- Editor)
You cited the Nikon 18-200mm VR DX ("a Nikon classic, the only lens you'll ever need. $660") and I'm wondering how that compares with the new Tamron 18-270 I have my eye on. It's slightly less expensive and somewhat longer, although not Nikon optics, and I'm not sure if the f-stops are the same. But I'm ready to replace my old Tamron 28-300 with something that can go a little wider.
-- Lynn Troy Maniscalco(You can compare the specs at least at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1217/cat/23 but we haven't reviewed it yet. There is one very happy user review, though. -- Editor)
I ran into a small problem when a customer came into my shop telling me about his filter adventure.
He has a Nikon D3 and the amazing 24-70/2.8 nanocoated lens. He uses B+W filters but told me that pictures came out real bad with the filter on, much better without.
??? I said, not knowing what to tell him.
Some days later a photographer friend of mine told the same story. He even brought his equipment in to show me. A bright shot without a filter showed a woman in a knitted pullover with beautiful colors and excellent sharpness, exposure perfect.
But he wanted to reduce the reflections in a window in the background so he put on his B+W circular polarizer. Oh what a bad picture! Bad exposure, bad focus, bad colors.
So I called my friend and Ersatz Nobel Prize winner Lasse at Lasses Cameraservice. He had not heard this. But after a few hours he called back telling me Nikon had told him they do not recommend filters on the new N lenses.
When I later had a chance to meet photographer Joe McNally for his flash show I met another Lasse (Pettersson this time) from Nikon Nordic, a guru of digital photography in Sweden. I asked him about the filter problem. "It's better without!"
Have you heard anything of this before?
-- Lasse Jansson(Yes, we have. There's an article in the archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html) titled "To Filter or Not to Fitler," in fact. Canon, for example, warns against using a filter when shooting flash (it interferes with the TTL reading, if we recall). And uncoated filters are a known to bounce a lot of light around, especially inside the lens. But it is odd that a high end lens like the 24-70mm would prohibit the use of a polarizer. We would think a multi-coated (expensive) polarizer wouldn't be an issue. -- Editor)
RE: International Acclaim
Just wanted to let you know, I really look forward to and enjoy each of your newsletters! I'm new to this (hobby) and you guys do a great job!
-- David Jacques(Very much appreciated, David! -- Editor)
I'm a professional photojournalist working for two state governments for 14 years in India.
Your newsletter is excellent. I am regular reader. Your coverage and reviews are very, very useful. Whatever photo magazines I'm reading in India, for my satisfaction I have to read your newsletter every month.
(Thanks, Guruswamy! -- Editor)
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Camera Raw and DNG Converter 5.2. Camera Raw 5.2, compatible with CS4, adds a Targeted Adjustment Tool for on-image adjustments, output sharpening for print or screen and snapshots for saving settings in a single reference. New camera support includes Canon 5D Mark II and G10, G1, FX150, FZ28 and LX3 and Leice D-LUX 4.
According to Adobe, "With the release of Camera Raw 5.2 (and upcoming release of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.2), there is an important exception in DNG file handling for the Panasonic DMC-LX3, Panasonic DMC-FX150, Panasonic DMC-FZ28, Panasonic DMC-G1, and Leica D-LUX 4. For those who choose to convert these native, proprietary files to the DNG file format, a linear DNG format is the only conversion option available at this time. A linear DNG file has gone through a demosaic process that converts a single mosaic layer of red, green, and blue channel information into three distinct layers, one for each channel. The resulting linear DNG file is approximately three times the size of a mosaic DNG file or the original proprietary file format."
That ensures the Panasonic and Leica "intended image rendering from their proprietary raw file format is applied to an image when converted DNG files are viewed in third party software titles. The same image rendering process is applied automatically in Camera Raw 5.2 and in Lightroon 2.2 when viewing the original proprietary raw file format."
Adobe added this exception is a temporary solution that would be resolved by a future update to the DNG specification "to include an option to embed metadata-based representations of the lens compensations in the DNG file, allowing a mosaic DNG conversion."
The company has also published Adobe Configurator 1.0 User Guide (http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/files/ConfiguratorUserGuide.pdf), a 40 page PDF about its free application for creating Photoshop CS4 panels. The guide includes sections on basic usage, exploring the tool set and sharing panels.
Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has announced its $7,999.95 D3X dSLR based on a 24.5-Mp CMOS 35mm chip similar to Sony's. With ISO 1,600, five fps burst speed at full resolution, 138MB Raw images files and D3 sealing and controls, it's expected to ship later this month.
Lunar lovers should look up Dec. 12 when the Full Cold or Long Nights Moon is just 222,500 miles away (more or less), closer to Earth than it's been in 15 years or will be again for eight years, and 12 percent larger than usual. In short, it's ready for its close up.
LaserSoft (http://www.silverfast.com) has released SilverFast 6.6.0r4 for Canon Scanner users with "a significant quality boost while delivering much faster scans."
GiiNii (http://giinii.com/product_giinii7w.html) is shipping its $120 7-inch wide screen Wedge digital picture frame (no tipping point!), with 800x480 pixel resolution, 512-MB storage, a 4-in-1 card reader, USB port plus calendar and clock functions.
PictoColor (http://www.pictocolor.com) has released its $39.95 CorrectPhoto 3.2 digital photo editor featuring AutoRez crop, photo resize and OneClick color correction. The product and crop and resize images for print, HDTV, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, eBay, real estate listings and the Web.
PictoColor's Wayne Huelskoetter has started a digital photo blog (http://www.correctmyphotos.com) "dedicated to people who have a digital camera and don't have a clue what to do with it. It is for my friends who call and ask, "Wayne, How do I...? (you can fill in the blanks.)"
The free JAlbum 8.1 [LMW] Java-based web album generator (http://jalbum.net) now includes a Quick Publish button to publish and update at the same time, support for widgets (like comments and counters), startup scripts, RSS feeds with camera data, the folder and image user variables and more.
Lemke Software (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $34.95 GraphicConverter 6.3 [M] with digital picture frame export, ExifTool support, Photostrip export, GPS time zone support and more.
As we reported in the last issue, scanner manufacturer Microtek is closing its North American operations on Dec. 12. Based in Taiwan, the company will "continue to provide support to customers in North America by telephone, e-mail, and over the Internet from the http://support.microtek.com site. Customers who need a replacement Microtek scanner or television under the terms of Microtek's product warranty will be able to contact Microtek and get a replacement," according to a company spokesperson.
Dealhack (http://www.dealhack.com/deadlines.php) has posted a page detailing holiday shipping deadlines for online merchants. The list reports various shipping options (standard, expedited, fastest) as well as exceptions and includes the customer service number.
For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:
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