The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 11, Number 1 2 January 2009

Copyright 2009, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 244th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We start the eleventh year of this publication with every word still available in our online archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). The secret to its longevity? An inexhaustible subject and you, of course! As far as the subject goes, we've got our review of Canon's top multifunction device, Andrew's review of a bargain 70-200mm lens, a tip for cramming more of your subject into the frame and a timely reminder. Let's get busy!


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Feature: Canon MP980 -- Top of the Line, State of the Art

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/MP980/MP980.HTM on the Web site.)

No sooner had we posted our Canon MP620 review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/MP620/MP620.HTM) of the company's inexpensive entry-level multifunction device than we heard a big thump outside the front door as a delivery truck sped away. It was the top-of-the-line MP980.

The array of Canon MP printers is astonishing. Sit down and make a list of exactly which features you want in an all-in-one device. We're confident you'll find a Canon MP that fits like a glove. So if the MP620 is too little and the MP980 too much, their derivatives should be just right.

Three big advantages of the MP980 over the MP620 are the addition of negative scanning, duplex printing and a gray cartridge for black and white printing. Although after our review, we did copy a few antique black and whites (from the 1920s) on the MP620, printing them on Canon Photo Paper Pro in color and they were spot on.

Among the advantages of the MP620 is its compact size. The MP980 isn't much bigger, but it's bigger. And that can matter in a dorm room or a TV den. We have a fond spot for the little MP620 and don't think it will disappoint you, either.

But we also have a lot of negatives (unlike a college kid) and it's a real blessing to be able to make a 4x6 print directly from film. So we unboxed the MP980 and got right to it.

FEATURES

The average price of the MP980 is just over $280 with a low of $180 and a high of $300. But you can get one for $100 off the $299.99 list price if you pick one up at the same time you buy a Mac from the Apple store.

And if you're not buying a Mac, you can still get the MP980 heavily discounted through the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate link for $275.99 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001DJ6C2W/?tag=theimagingres-20).

The feature list starts with Canon's ChromaLife100 ink system. Using Canon photo papers and one-picoliter droplet FINE print head technology, photos printed on the MP980 are rated up to 300 years archival storage. The MP980 also includes a gray ink to enhance the tonal range of black and white images.

We also found the no warm-up/low-energy usage feature of the MP980 very attractive. The high-luminance white LED scanner lamps are ready to go almost as soon as you press the Power button and they just as quickly switch to standby mode. We found ourselves leaving the printer on all the time.

And the WiFi connectivity was a real blessing. Just install the driver on any computer in the house and it can print to and scan from the MP980. You can also connect the MP980 via Ethernet or use the built-in card reader to print directly from memory cards.

Bluetooth connectivity is also supported with the use of an optional Bluetooth dongle. But we don't find it particularly useful. About the only thing that can send an image to the printer via Bluetooth is a cellphone and image from most cellphones hardly have the resolution to print a 4x6. Still, it can be done.

The 3.5-inch LCD displays images from memory cards as well as presents the MP980's menu system. An Easy Scroll Wheel navigates the menu system. The larger LCD displays type much larger on the MP980 than on the MP620, which may be a consideration for older eyes.

Unlike the MP620, the MP980 provides auto duplex printing so you can print on both sides of a plain paper sheet. That's particularly helpful with template printing (ruled sheets) but it also means paper cost savings.

Finally, Smart Copying uses Canon's Dual Color Gamut Processing technology to optimize copying based on the type of original.

COPYING

Our real-life daily use of the MP980 involved using it in a variety of ways, if not all of them. The simplest was making copies (without using the computer). There isn't even a lightness/darkness control to worry about.

Document Copying. High on the list of standalone uses is copying a document. Inkjets make very nice copies (no scumming from toners, no paper warping from the heat) and with a built-in scanner they can perform some useful tricks, too.

For example, we repeated our MP620 copy with a yellow receipt, a carbon copy really. There was some printed matter on it and some carboned dot matrix printing that was legible but just barely.

When we pressed the Black button to Copy it, the scanner dropped the yellow background and made a very readable image of the receipt. Better than the original, actually.

A color copy of a pale green sheet with black and blue handwriting also reproduced very well. It was easily read with the green dropping a shade.

Photo Copying. Another popular standalone task is making copies of old photos. Someone visits, you go through your old albums just for fun, they want a copy of a picture of themselves when they looked good and ... well, you just pop it on the scanner bed, put some photo paper in and make a copy.

The MP980 does make it that easy to copy old photos. Just select the Easy Photo Reprint option and put them on the scanner glass (it will advise you how to lay them out, unlike either Kodak or HP). It scans them and then presents them on the LCD so you can select them for printing (and indicate the number of copies you want).

You can preview the scan to see before printing if it's all right. Some printers just copy photos as if they were copying a document, so you don't realize you placed the image in the scanner in the wrong orientation.

You can also set the crop and enlargement visually. You simply use the Easy Scroll Wheel to include as much of the original as your paper size permits and move that around to crop exactly what you want in the image.

The quality of our first copy just blew our socks off. It was a difficult image with a bright red background and a yellow pillow and a child's face in the middle. The skin tones were an excellent match, the detail like eyelashes perfect and contrast just slightly subdued (the blacks were not quite as black). But even though both images were 4x6, the copy was slightly enlarged, just as it had been on the MP620.

One cool thing we learned about copying a photo on the MP980 is that you can leave it in the frame. The focus adjusted about 3/8 inch inside the frame to capture the image without removing it from the frame.

And if you just have the negatives, it really isn't much more difficult to get a print using the including slide/negative carrier. More about that in the scanning section.

PRINTING

Normal page printing to the MP980 was no challenge. Even duplex printing was fool-proof (just enable it from the Duplex Printing & Margin page of the printer driver).

Bluetooth Printing. Printing from a wireless device like a cellphone was simple, too. We popped a D-Link Bluetooth adapter into the USB port of the MP980, turned on our cell phone and copied the image to the printer. The printer printed it on a sheet of 4x6 paper and that was that.

PictBridge Printing. Cabling a digicam to the USB port of the printer lets you use the camera itself as your kiosk rather than the printer. Camera LCDs display images a good deal better than the printer LCD, so that might be an attractive alternative. And if you have several cameras with shots to print, it might even be more efficient, since each camera can select which images to print and how many to print before connecting to the printer.

Quality. With one-picoliter droplets and 9600x2400 dpi, the MP980 makes very nice prints from just four dye inks: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The small droplet size compensates for the minimal inkset.

At the virtual water color one day, we asked Dave to explain how four inks can match a high-fidelity inkset with light magenta and light cyan in addition the cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

"The main reason for pastel inks," he began, "was to permit finer gradations in very light areas of an image (or in darker areas, fine gradations of the 'contaminant color,' making subtle shadows in highly-saturated objects, which are rendered using a complementary color to that of the object itself).

"Early inkjets could only make droplets just so small, and drops could only be there or not, so the range of tones was somewhat limited in the highlights, and/or the highlights would get grainy looking because the printer would have to put down rather visible dots with very sparse spacing, to get the desired tone. With pastel inks, the dots themselves were lighter and less obtrusive, and you could put more of them into a given area in the highlights, both of which contributed to smoother-looking gradations in highlights.

"Now that the minimum droplet size is one picoliter, the individual dots are way below the size that a human eye can resolve, so graininess in highlights is no longer an issue. That's great news when it comes to ink costs, given the number of PC and PM cartridges you run through on high fidelity printers."

We printed a snowy scene with lots of highlight detail and a Chihuly glass exhibit with a pitch black background and both images were stunning. The icy highlights of the snow scene had exquisite detail with no screen artifacts at all. This tempts some people to call the prints "lab quality" but they're better than anything we ever got from a commercial lab.

Template Printing. Under the Settings menu option there are a number of templates you can print including variously ruled notebook paper, music paper, graph paper and more. This is very handy with school-age kids in the house -- it eliminates a popular homework excuse.

And yes, you can print the pattern on both sides with the MP980.

SCANNING

The MP980 can scan letter-sized reflective material as well as 35mm film strips and mounted slides. And it can do it wirelessly, too (from the MP980 or your computer). Or just write the scanned data to a thumbdrive or memory card in the card reader.

Canon provides not only the console on the MP980 to control scanning but its MP Navigator EX application software and ScanGear, its TWAIN driver. All are admirable examples of their genre.

Placing Documents. While the top left corner of the platen is marked with an arrow to align text documents, Canon recommends putting photos with a little space around them (3/8 inch) on the platen. That's because the scanner can batch scan them.

Scanning film is another matter, however. Inside the removable document cover you'll find the film guide, which can hold either a single strip of 35mm film containing up to six images or four mounted slides.

It's actually rather ingenious -- and among the best film holders we've seen. The base holds a removable filmstrip holder. Without the filmstrip holder, the base can accommodate four slides. It doesn't actually "hold" them, though. It merely positions them. You put the base on the platen first (there is a pin and indentations to align it), then drop the slides in, with the emulsion facing up as indicated on the base.

To scan a filmstrip, you open the holder and slip your filmstrip in. Just two small tabs hold down the film end by the hinge until you close the holder so the whole strip lies flat. Nothing rubs against the film as you align it, so there's no danger of scratching the film. Very nice.

Film Scanning. We scanned a couple of slides of show cars and a color negative using the TWAIN driver from Photoshop CS4. Both kinds of original scanned exceptionally well with good density range and accurate (even improved) color. Density range is usually an issue with a device like this but we were not disappointed in what the MP980 delivered.

We don't usually recommend multifunction devices for scanning film having seen some terrible efforts from HP (Kodak doesn't even offer the capability). But Canon seems to get this right. You can pop your old film negs into the MP980 and make 4x6 prints that won't just rival the old one-hour prints you have but will surpass them.

And it was easy to scan them, too.

Reflective Scanning. Scanning a print or document is not as difficult as scanning film. Density does not range nearly as far, so what shadow and highlight detail there is on the original is easily captured.

We were pleased with our reflective scanning whether we were copying prints as described above or using ScanGear to grab an image over the network.

Smart Scanning. The MP980 sports a smart scanning feature that turns out to be a bit more useful than it might at first appear. It can detect, according to Canon, "the type of original you're scanning -- a photo, business card, personal notebook or form -- then automatically scans and saves the image with the appropriate settings."

Some people new to scanning might be confused about those categories, but we came to find it a convenience even if you do know the difference between scanning a photo and a business card. It was a little like auto Scene modes in a digicam. One less thing we had to do.

The scanner can also detect and straighten several images on the scanner glass, correcting up to 10 degrees of skew. So you can load the scanner with prints and let it make image files for you. Another convenience.

WiFi Scanning. Both the MP620 and MP980 do WiFi scanning but you do have to install the WiFi driver using Canon's IJ Network Scan Utility, which (if you follow the installation directions precisely) appears after a reboot.

You just locate the scanner in that utility to register it so you can scan from the MP980 panel to that computer. Then you activate or add the printer to your printer list. The network version of the driver will be listed with a MAC hardware address.

In Canon's Solutions Menu software, which provides a sort of virtual control panel for the device on your computer, you can also direct the scanner to compress data it transmits over the network, so the scan happens pretty quickly.

The scanning command can Save to a folder on your computer (any computer on your network with the software installed), save a PDF, Email the scan, do OCR or you can fiddle with the setting manually. And there are a few to fiddle with, including whether the scanner auto detects a document or photo and how it crops (multiple images or various sized images in various orientations).

We've used other scanning aids in the past (notably HP's) without much enthusiasm, but this one was pretty straightforward. It handles everything automatically but lets you chime in if you prefer.

CONCLUSION

Having reviewed (and therefore lived with) several multifunction devices over the last year, we've come to expect a glitch here and there. A function not well implemented, a feature forgotten, quality that was good-enough but not great. The attraction has been convenience.

But Canon's MP line impressed us even at the low end with the MP620 and the top of the line MP980 simply fills out our wish list with film scanning and duplex printing. It may still only have four color inks but they do the job of six.

More remarkable was the excellent quality of the film scans, far better than anything we've seen in a multifunction device or even an inexpensive flatbed scanner.

And most appreciated by this user is Canon's commitment to engineering. The MP980 does a lot but it does everything well. Our nitpicking is limited to suggesting a wheel that includes arrow clicks.

Canon has raised the bar beyond mere convenience with the MP line. Outright prolonged applause.

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Feature: Tamron 70-200mm Takes on the Big Boys

By ANDREW ALEXANDER
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1090/cat/23 on the Web site.)

The Tamron 70-200 f2.8 telephoto zoom was announced in February 2008, updating and replacing their existing 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens. This economical lens was originally available only for Canon and Nikon lens mounts but Tamron has now made versions for Pentax and Sony users. However on these bodies the "one-touch" AF/MF switchover mechanism requires the camera body be set to manual focus as well.

The lens features a constant f2.8 aperture across all focal lengths and is designed to work on both sub-frame (APS-C) and full-frame 35mm image sensors. On sub-frame camera bodies the lens will have an equivalent field of view of either 112 to 320mm (Canon) or 105 to 300mm (the others).

Of all lenses in this category and specification, Tamron's is the lightest at 2.4 lbs. The lens ships with a soft nylon case and a petal-shaped lens hood and is available now for around $700.

SHARPNESS

Tamron has produced another lens that offers remarkable results for sharpness. Let's look first at the results of the lens mounted on the sub-frame D200. We see excellent results for sharpness when used wide open at f2.8. At 70mm we note central sharpness in the 1-blur unit range, with corner softness in the lower left and right areas at around 2 blur units; performance is similar across other focal lengths, with a sweet spot of 100mm, but 200mm shows some uneven performance with the center being somewhat softer than the corners (2 blur units in the center, 1.5 in the corners).

Stopping down to f4 cures the majority of any corner softness (or in the case at 200mm, central softness) and f5.6 presents the optimum setting for this lens across all focal lengths. Setting the lens to f8 or f11 still presents excellent results -- hard to tell from the results at f5.6. Diffraction limiting appears to set in around f11, but it's negligible, only really becoming a factor at f16, where the lens shows 2 blur units at 135-200mm. Results at f22 or f32 are uniformly soft, at around 3 and 4 blur units respectively.

Performance on the full-frame D3 is even better, though the corners show some softness that isn't apparent when used on the sub-frame D200. Between 70-100mm at f2.8, the lens produces tack-sharp results, but different lens elements must come into play at 135mm and 200mm, where we see significant corner softness (135mm) and odd central softness (200mm). Neither of these results is so extreme as to be overly noticeable, but they're worth mentioning.

As with the D200, stopping down to f4 tames any wildness and we note essentially tack-sharp results across the frame at all focal lengths. Using f5.6 as the aperture again produces optimal results, but it's hard to tell the difference between this setting and f8 or f11. Diffraction limiting sets in by f16, but it's not until f22 that blur results even approach 2 blur units and f32 where it barely exceeds that level.

In a nutshell, the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 produces remarkable results, seen more on the D3 than the D200. The results are slightly eccentric at f2.8 above 100mm, but stopping down to f4 cures anything that might be unpalatable.

CHROMATIC ABERRATION

The Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 handles chromatic aberration quite well. On the D200, we note some subtle CA in the corners at 70mm, but between 85-135mm this CA effectively disappears. Above 135mm, it returns, but only if you stop down to f8 or smaller. The worst case scenario is 200mm and f32, where we note significant corner CA (9/100ths of a percent of frame height) and also significant chromatic aberrations throughout the frame, not just the corners: in this case, just over 4/100ths of a percent of frame height.

On the full-frame D3, the results are predictably amazing, as the D3 removes CA automatically when shooting JPEGs. Consequently we also shoot our test shots in Raw mode and convert them with minimal processing in Bibble, to give a more accurate picture of how the lens performs. In this case it's similar to the performance noted on the D200: very good at 85-135mm, with some weak spots at 70mm and above 135mm.

SHADING

The Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 produces almost no light falloff when mounted on the D200; only when used at 200mm and f2.8. In this case, we note that the corners of the frame are 1/3 of a stop darker than the center. Not much to write home about there.

On the full-frame D3 however, light falloff is a bit more significant. In this case using the lens at any focal length and f2.8 produces between a half-stop and 3/4-stop of corner darkening, with an emphasis on the telephoto range. Stopping down to f4 cuts this effect in half and anything more drops this light falloff to below 1/4 of a stop.

DISTORTION

The lens contends with distortion very well, with some barrel distortion when used below 100mm and some pincushion distortion when used above 100mm (the lens is effectively undistorted when used at 100mm). When used on the D200, the lens produces 0.3 percent barrel distortion at 70mm and -0.3 percent pincushion distortion at 200mm -- in both cases, the results are evident in the corners. Average distortion is always barrel, but it's statistically negligible at under 0.1 percent.

On the D3, the results are a bit more significant, following the same pattern as noted on the D200, but a bit more skewed. At 70mm we note 0.6 percent barrel distortion in the corners and at 200mm it's -0.5 percent pincushion distortion. These aren't wild numbers, but if you need your straight lines to be straight, you'll need to apply some post-processing correction to your images.

AUTOFOCUS OPERATION

Tamron has moved away from mechanically-coupled lenses, by adopting electrical in-lens motors that move the lens elements. Consequently there is no screw to drive the elements and older bodies that use this method will not be able to focus this lens automatically.

However this does mean that the lens focuses significantly faster than previous mechanically-driven lenses, but it doesn't reach the blisteringly fast speeds of Canon's USM or Nikon's AF-S technologies. The lens also isn't as quiet as these styles, but it isn't objectionable.

It's important to note that the focus ring will rotate when the lens employs autofocus and Tamron notes you shouldn't touch the focus ring when it does, as it could cause damage to the lens.

MACRO

The Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 is labelled as a macro lens and with a reproduction ratio of 0.32x (1:3.1) it performs this function well. Minimum close-focusing distance is just over three feet (37.4 inches, 95cm).

BUILD QUALITY & HANDLING

The Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 has a plastic lens body, allowing the lens to be much lighter and presumably to cut down on the cost. Given the price of the lens, there are no dust or moisture seals. The lens mount is metal; the filter ring is plastic. The lens offers a windowed distance scale, marked in feet and meters. Tamron uses a unique system for setting the lens into manual focus mode: you shift the focus ring backwards and forwards. Supplied with the lens is a removable tripod ring.

The zoom ring is about an inch wide and rubber-coated, long ribs with small ridges in the middle. The ring takes about 70 degrees to turn through the entire zoom range. Because the lens uses an internal zoom operation, the lens doesn't extend and zoom creep isn't an issue. Interestingly, great attention has been paid to the focus ring, which is much larger than the zoom ring (two inches) and uses a longer version of the ribs used in the zoom ring. Manual focus operation is very smooth, with only the finger and thumb required to glide the focus along. There's a good range of travel, just over 90 degrees so it's easy to achieve proper focus. The lens has hard stops at either end of the focus range and will focus just past infinity.

The front threads on the lens take a 77mm filter and are plastic. However, the front mount doesn't rotate while focusing or zooming, which is good news for polarizer users. There's no aperture ring, so it won't work with older film bodies that can't set the aperture of a lens.

The petal-shaped lens hood works well to prevent lens flare and reverses on the lens for storage. The interior of the lens hood is ribbed. Using the hood will add 3.5 inches to the overall length of the lens.

ALTERNATIVES

As the 70-200mm f2.8 is one of the most popular lens configurations, there is great competition among manufacturers.

CONCLUSION

Price is obviously the major consideration when considering a lens in this category and with exceptional results for image quality, it's not just about the money when considering the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8. Sharpness results meet and even exceed those for brand-name manufacturers, however the concession is build quality and autofocus speed. Professionals may require these; everyone else may not. Either way, if it's image quality you're after, the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 delivers and doesn't hit too heavily on the pocketbook.

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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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Beginners Flash: The Diagonal Shot

If there is one shortcoming of digicam lenses that bites everyone sooner or later it's that wide angle isn't wide enough.

You twist your camera into its portrait orientation, you zoom all the way out, you back up into the wall, you stand on your toes or bend your knees but you still can't get the whole subject into the shot.

You can't really crop off the top of someone's head or the star on the Christmas tree. And you don't want to give up what's at the other end of the image either, maybe someone else's chin or the presents under that tree. And you and the wall are getting far too friendly.

What helps, even if it doesn't completely solve the problem, is shooting askew. Just turn the camera a bit until the top of your image is in one corner and the bottom of your image is in the opposite corner.

That's neither landscape nor portrait, although one or the other will be less disorienting to view. It gets you a good bit more of the scene, though. And it can add a bit of drama to it as well.

The trick is to remember to try it.

When you turn on the camera, it's easy to hold it up in its landscape orientation with all the icons and labels easily read and just start taking pictures. It's almost an afterthought to turn the camera 90 degrees into its portrait orientation -- even if your subject happens to be a portrait. Cameras just aren't designed to be held naturally that way.

So it should come as no surprise that holding the camera diagonally is even further from our minds.

And just when you're trying to do everything right, the last thing you want to do is something, well, unconventional if not outright wrong. Shooting askew just seems odd. Where's the horizon? What do you line up?

But that's how you get not only the subject into your composition but a little drama, too. The viewer has to hunt a bit to orient themselves in the scene. But the reward is worth it. They can see more of the show than they otherwise would if you just cropped the composition to fit a 90 degree portrait orientation.

So the next time you can't cram everything into the frame, break the rules and shoot askew.

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Advanced Mode: It's 2009!

At the weekly magazine that occupied our youth, the boss would put a little note up around this time of year to remind everyone which year it was. He wisely put it up on the clock in the production area. Everyone watches the clock, after all.

The year turns up in a lot of places at a magazine. Almost every page that isn't an ad has one somewhere, starting with the cover. And that little reminder -- always with an exclamation point -- placed right where we'd all see it every few minutes, saved all of us more than a few times from being about a year off.

These days we suffer as few hard references to the year as possible. Our code, which generates much of the boilerplate for this publication in its various forms as well as our reviews, can tell which year it is and stamp the right one in our copyright notice.

But you may share a particular Achilles heel with us when it comes to our camera.

Oh, the camera clock knows the year all right. No problem there. But we use the Comment area in our Nikons to add a copyright notice to the Exif header of each image.

If you do the same (and it's not a bad idea), you might take a moment to confirm you've got the right year. It's 2009!

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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 Panasonic cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea297f

Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8

Matt asks about aperture and crop factor at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeab270/0

Al asks about efficiently scanning a thousand 35mm slides at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeaa9d8/0

Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec

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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: Digital Photo Frames

I just enjoyed your photo frame article. It was very informative for me and opened my eyes to evaluating the multitude of these devices. In discussing aspect ratios, you don't mention 4x6. Ninety-nine and 44/100s of my photos are 4x6 prints.

Perhaps that's why my digicams have all been Kodak -- the 4x6 aspect option is a big plus for me! So are any frames 4x6? Or do I look for a 7.21 inch frame?

-- Ted Wolek

(Good question, Ted. Let's see if we can get this straight.... The 4x6 ratio is referred to as 3:2 and remains a carry-over from the 35mm format (not to mention ideal for 4x6 prints). The 4:3 aspect ratio more closely reflects the sensor size, the traditional 8x10 print size (once referred to as the ideal aspect ratio (matching 4x5 film). And 16:9 (or widescreen) is a match for some newer digicams (Kodak included) and HDTV.... There may indeed be 3:2 ratio frames, but we can't think of any off the top of our head. On a frame, it isn't too big an issue. There are sometimes display options to enlarge the image to fit or display it with black bars (letterbox). In fact, the GiiNii Wedge shows our portrait shots cropped to fit by width. So we get the star on top of our Christmas tree but nothing below it <g>.... Because it matches most digicam captures, 4:3 has been the standard, though and thanks to HDTV, 16:9 is making its way onto the shelves now, too. -- Editor)

One very important omission that your review does not cover is how the digital frame deals with images that are in portrait rather than landscape orientation. Some frames will rotate the images automatically, while others will not rotate at all. What is your view of this feature?

Some frames allow random playback, others just do sequential. Obviously the more choices the user has the more useful the product is.

When frames are turned off, some frames will start from the beginning image, while others will start where you left off.

This industry is still rather undeveloped and underexploited. Your article is good at pointing that out. Maybe next year will bring us better picture frames and a more "meaty" review.

-- Gerald Luke

(Yes, we focused on the issues affecting image quality rather than the many options regarding display in general, which vary from model to model. Some do provide an option for handling portrait orientation, but ultimately the only reliable workaround is cropping on the computer for display on the frame.... Random playback isn't much more interesting than sequential display because both modes are mind-numbingly repetitive. The real trick is to refresh the content frequently -- something not generally appreciated. But this wasn't an article about using the frame. Maybe we'll do something on that next <g>. Thanks for your thoughtful commentary, Gerald. -- Editor)

RE: Geomet'r GPS

Hello, I read your excellent article on the Geomet'r GPS device and bought one for my Nikon D300. I have been very pleased with the hardware performance. I did buy a split cable so I can use my camera port for other devices (remote release, etc.) while using the GPS. The literature that came with the unit was pretty basic and without your article I would not have known to click on the L column to get a pin on the map, etc.

My question is concerning the software. When I double click on an image and get the screen with the image and map that map is static. That is it can't be scaled and the type can't be changed. Also, the software has trouble scrolling the photos in large folders. Do you know of any similar software that is more feature rich?

-- David

(GPS mapping is available at some online sharing sites. One free Windows option is USAPhotoMaps 2.77 available form JDMCox Software (http://jdmcox.com). Maybe our readers have a few favorites? -- Editor)

RE: Nikon LS-30 on OS X

When I retired from the University, I received a gift: the Nikon LS-30 film scanner to be used with Mac OS 9. I used it scarcely for a while since I had not time enough to scan the thousands of slides I kept from my professional work and personal use. I had so many things to do after the 14 years full time professional activity.

Now I have more free time for personal things such as collecting the most important images from my collection to edit on CDs or DVDs.

The Mac OS has changed now into OS X that no longer supports the Classic OS 9, for the software v.2.2 I previously used. Furthermore the scanner has a SCSI connection, while new iMac G5 has "only" USB, Firewire, Ethernet.

Do you have any suggestion allowing to continue to perform scans with "my brand new old scanner?" I would be so grateful If you could help me to cope with that.

-- Salvator Levi

(Nikon does not support the LS-30 on Mac OS X. So Nikon software is not part of the solution. To connect the LS-30 to your iMac you need a FireWire to SCSI adapter. The $109 Ratoc converter (http://www.ratocsystems.com/english/products/FR1SX.html) is one such adapter. To replace the Nikon software, you have two choices. Lasersoft's SilverFast or Hamrick's VueScan. Both have OS X versions that support the LS-30 (and demo versions you can test before you buy). -- Editor)

RE: New Year, Old Camera

I have an Olympus 370-D digital camera that works great and I have had it a long time. I always download the pictures to my computer and usually email them to family. I also have an Epson PictureMate Photo Lab printer that I can put the SmartMedia card in to make 4x6 prints.

My problem is that the old PictureMate broke and I ordered a new PictureMate Dash but my SmartMedia card will not fit in the slot. Epson said I would have to upgrade to a new camera that uses an SD card.

But on your Web site it says that the camera has DPOF on it. Can I not hook the camera to the PictureMate like I did with the computer and have it print the pictures out on the PictureMate? I haven't tried this yet, didn't know the camera had it on there until I saw it on your site. Just an amateur here. I figured the camera being old would not be compatible with new things nowadays. Thank you for your time and help.

-- Lynn Womack

(Well, good question, Lynn. Both the printer and your camera understand DPOF but the trick is getting the printer to read the card where the DPOF instructions are stored. You can't just pop the card in because the card reader on the printer doesn't have a slot for SmartMedia (which is almost always the case these days). And we really don't know if connecting a USB cable between the printer and computer will allow the printer to see the card in the reader.... What we do know is that the Dash accepts CompactFlash cards. So if you get a SmartMedia to CompactFlash adapter, you can take the SmartMedia card out of your camera, insert it into the adapter and insert the adapter into the Dash. One more step, but otherwise what you're doing now. We just did a quick Google search for the adapter and found one for $3.50 (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=SMTOCF). Companies that sell printers often offer them as well. -- Editor)

RE: Scanner Quality

I am in the market to put my slides on DVDs. I realize that being 62, my eyes don't need a Nikon or professional scanner, nor can I afford one. Having just read your review of the HP G3010, confirmed my belief.

Still, I don't like to buy at the low end, so I am trying to decide between the HP G4050, and Epson V500 and I can't find reviews of either.

Since your company probably won't recommend one over the other (or another altogether), can you steer me to a site that talks about non-professional equipment? Either that, or somewhere where I can learn what is important and what isn't.

-- David Brockton

(Eyesight really has nothing to do with the quality of a scanner you need, David. High resolution is required for scanning film solely because of the tremendous amount of enlargement required to view the output. A 35mm film scan has to be enlarged 800 percent to make an 8x10 print. That requires the scanner's optical resolution to be at least 2400 lines an inch.... Film also has a wide density range. Inexpensive scanners barely capture a maximum density 3.0, while film scanners manage to hit 4.0 (black). So an inexpensive flatbed is not going to be able to see detail in the darker parts of your slides that a scanner built for film will capture.... Film scanning requires an awful lot from a scanner and the only two we've recommended for that task are the Epson V700/V750 and Microtek M1. They're the first two flatbeds up to the job. But the Canon MP980 reviewed above might take third place. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

"For the past year, half a dozen photographers have captured an image at the same time each day -- 7:15 p.m. -- then added a caption and uploaded the photo to the Web," begins Morning Edition's story (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98783519) about sametime715.com (http://sametime715.com) by Brad Walker and Micheal Lease.


HP (http://www.hp.com) has released iPrint Photo, a free iPhone application available from the Apple App store to print photos from the phone to or iPod touch to most HP inkjets connected to a local WiFI network.


Nvidia and Adobe are sponsoring a Pixel Bender Contest (http://www.nzone.com/object/nzone_pixelbender_contest.html) to encourage artists and developers to write Adobe Pixel Bender Kernels for Adobe Creative Suite 4. The first place winner will receive an Alienware Area-51 personal computer. Category winners will receive a Nvidia Quadro CX graphics card.


PictureCode (http://www.picturecode.com) has released its $79.95 Noise Ninja 2.0.5 for Aperture, a plug-in version of the standalone product with grayscale support, improved compatibility with other plug-ins and improved stability.


Camheroes (http://www.camheroes.com) is an online diary which lets friends and family to keep track of each other in just four clicks, as they go through their day, by posting iPhone photos on the site using a free app from the iPhone Apps Store.


Andrey Tverdokhleb (http://www.raw-photo-processor.com) has released his free Raw Photo Processor 3.8.3 [M], adding a new interpolation method and fixing bugs in Canon sRAW support.


The Gutenprint Project (http://gutenprint.sourceforge.net) has released its free Gutenprint for Mac OS X 5.2.3, updating its open source printer drivers for use with CUPS and Ghostscript with better support for several Epson printers.


Forensic Photoshop (http://forensicphotoshop.blogspot.com) hosts an "on-going discussion of the forensic uses of Adobe's Photoshop."

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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

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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:

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Happy snapping!

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

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