The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 11, Number 3 30 January 2009

Copyright 2009, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 246th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We've got a review of Michael Tapes' LensAlign Lite followed by the eagerly-awaited Canon 5D Mark II review. Finally, we ask you to nominate your favorite online sharing service for our annual Missing Oscar -- and have fun doing it, too!


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Feature: LensAlign Lite -- Fine-Tuning Autofocus Inexpensively

(Excerpted from the full Lite review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LA/LAL.HTM with the Pro review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LA/LA.HTM on the Web site.)

If Michael Tapes had been an ancient he might have gazed at his sun dial one day and thought, "Man, this thing needs a calendar function." And in a few weeks he would have invented and started shipping the moon dial. Using real ships, no doubt.

Instead, as a modern, Tapes wondered why there wasn't a simple way to measure back and front focusing. And before you know it, he had developed two solutions: the LensAlign Pro and LensAlign Lite (http://www.rawworkflow.com/lensalign).

The $139.95 LensAlign Pro (reviewed last December) is a focusing target with three planes that you can mount to a tripod. The $79.95 Lite model, which ships today, uses just two planes and requires assembly. Both are designed to make it very easy to align the sensor plane parallel to the upright focusing targets and to indicate, on a ruler, the amount of back or front focusing your camera/lens combination suffers.

This week we got our hands on the Lite model and after using it for a few days, we have to wonder if it's more Lite or more Version 2. But before we answer that question, let's take a look at the problem LensAlign addresses.

THE PROBLEM

What, in short is back or front focusing?

Back focusing occurs when autofocus locks at a distance further away than what you want the lens to focus on.

Front focusing occurs when autofocus locks at a distance closer than the focus target.

While the difference may be minuscule, it tends to shift the field of focus off (cheating it back or forward). And in precise focusing especially wide open, it's a killer.

Detecting the problem is often more difficult than it may seem. You may confirm the autofocus point in the viewfinder or using software than can display the focus point on your image (typically supplied by the manufacturer) and notice that actual focus was either in front of or behind that point. In short, you have to look for it.

But it can be measured with a variety of targets, including the LensAlign. In fact, that's the job the LensAlign was designed to do. Canon's Director of Media and Customer Relations Chuck Westfall published a manual procedure in the Dec. 2008 Tech Tips column (http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0812/tech-tips.html) of The Digital Journalist.

The cause of the problem may be in the camera body itself or in a particular lens. Recent Canon and Nikon cameras provide a microadjustment for autofocus with two modes: a default that can be applied regardless of the lens mounted and another for just the particular lens mounted.

The number of lens corrections the camera can remember varies. Nikon stores 12 in the D300 and D700 but 20 in the D3/D3X. Canon stores 20 in the 1Ds Mark III, 1D Mark III, 5D Mark II and 50D. The Sony A900 stores 30.

How do you tell the difference? If every microadjustment is back or front, you can find the common amount and subtract that from every adjustment. So if you have lenses that require an 18, 14, 7 and 4 adjustment, you can use a 4 adjustment for the body itself to limit the specific lens adjustments to 14, 10 and 3.

SOLUTIONS

Both the body and a lens can be adjusted to correct for either issue. Until recently, you had to send your gear to the manufacturer's service department to find out which one was the culprit and to make the adjustment.

But since the inclusion of microadjustments in recent dSLR bodies, homebrew solutions are legion -- primarily because there has been no other way to attack this problem. But they have their own drawbacks.

One step focus adjustments can be made on a scale of +/-20 units for most cameras. These units represent compensations made by the autofocus system in the camera and do not mechanically alter the lens. The adjustment is also proportional to the maximum aperture of the lens, with the maximum amount applied at the maximum aperture where depth of focus is smaller.

Some homebrew solutions advise you to focus on a tape measure running away from you on the floor, the camera held at a 45 degree angle. But as Westfall points out, "doing so will degrade the consistency of the camera's focusing measurement." Trying to autofocus on a single line on the tape measure, the autofocusing system (which is just multiple pairs of linear pixel arrays) only a few pixels from each active pixel array be able to see the target. "Ideally," he recommends, "the contrast in the reference target should cover the entire area of the camera's center focusing point, and the reference target should be perfectly parallel to the camera's focal plane."

THE PRODUCT

That, in a nutshell is what either LensAlign does. It provides a reference target you can easily align parallel to the sensor plane of your camera with a "tape measure" along side that reports the actual deviation. Tapes has hired two guys to do the job of William Tell's son: one to be the target and the other to say, "Ouch!"

The black LensAlign panels and base are made of extruded PVC like Tapes' WhiBal card (but much thicker). It's seems quite solid, flexing only a very little and probably warp free (not absorbent).

ASSEMBLY

Unlike the Pro version, the Lite arrives in four pieces, ready for assembly. It's so simple we managed without reading any instructions.

The four pieces are:

  1. the metal ruler

  2. the focus target (with pins to mount the ruler)

  3. the stand (which includes five stops for the ruler and a brass tripod mount) and

  4. the mirror

You simply slip the stand into the larger focus target, mating the slots provided, and drop the ruler onto the target's pins. When you've removed the protective paper from the mirror (pull hard), you're done.

What you can assemble, you can take apart. And that's one of the virtues of the Lite version, which can be stored flat when not in use. And, frankly, this is not a product that gets everyday use. You'll need it when you get a new dSLR body or a new lens, but the rest of the time it only looks as useful as a sun dial.

USING THE LITE

The concept is deceptively simple. You align the Lite with your sensor plane, let the camera find focus on the target, fire a shot and evaluate the image of the ruler to see if you are suffering front or back focusing.

There are really several aspects to doing this right. The first is the general setup, the second is taking the shot, the third is evaluating the results and the fourth is adjusting the camera.

Setup. Aligning the target to your camera's sensor plane is where the mirror comes in. But first, we popped the Lite to a tabletop tripod and mounted our camera on a tripod about six feet away. Dueling distance, we call it.

The mirror has a magnetic bar on the back which holds it on the front of the target. A hole in the middle of the mirror reveals one of the focus targets on the target panel, which has a couple of magnetic pins embedded in it to hold the mirror.

With the mirror attached, you simply align the camera to the Lite by framing the camera in the mirror. When you see the lens looking right back at you, you're aligned.

The Pro, in contrast, offers rear sighting (along with the mirror option), which is perhaps a bit quicker (if you have room to stand behind it). But let's not quibble. Both work well.

At the camera, turn off an image stabilization and set the camera to fire on either a remote release or using the self-timer. We also set the camera's autofocus to single point mode and the focusing mode to single (not continuous).

We racked the lens out to telephoto and set the aperture to wide open using Aperture Priority mode. You want to control the aperture for this test. Wide open gives you the shallowest depth of field.

Shooting. Once that's done, shooting is the easy part.

First, we manually set focus to infinity, as both Westfall and Tapes recommend for accuracy of the autofocus operation.

Then we half pressed the shutter button to set focus automatically and looked through the viewfinder to confirm the camera was focusing on the right target. Because we were using the center focus spot in the camera and had aligned the center focus target there, we didn't have to move the focus spot.

Then we started the self-timer by snapping the shutter.

We found it useful to flatten the ruler where the depth of field was deep. The magnetic pins in the front of the stand made it easy to quickly change the angle.

Evaluating. You can evaluate the captured image in your camera, magnifying the view of the ruler to 100 percent to see which number on the ruler is sharpest. If you have trouble telling, open the image in Photoshop and use the Find Edges filter (under Stylize) to make it more obvious.

You are front focusing if a number in front of the zero is sharpest and back focusing if a number behind the zero is sharpest.

Adjustment. If you need to make an adjustment, enter a value using your camera's Autofocus Microadjustment option.

Because the values on the ruler do not correspond to the +/-20 units in your camera's adjustment, you simply have to work by trial and error. Positive values move the focal point away from the camera while negative ones move it closer.

CONCLUSION

So is the Lite model really Version 2 of the LensAlign?

After using both, we confess to a slight preference for the Pro's back-sighting method of alignment. But a few minutes using either model is all it takes to get comfortable and start actually measuring back and front focusing.

The Lite has a few advantages, though. Flat storage and price. The Pro's more elaborate construction may also be an advantage in busy photo departments and the stability to handle the Long Ruler Kit that Tapes is developing for the LensAlign. But it's very hard to otherwise distinguish between them. They both get the job done.

The real question is how significant setting microfocus adjustment is. One camera manual mysteriously claims it "isn't recommended for most situations; use only when required." It's required, one would presume, when you notice the image isn't focused where the camera said it was. And this is something you'd most likely notice when depth of focus was narrow, as in low light photography or macro photography.

Dave notes, "If precise focus is critical for you, you need one of these. It's been our experience in the lab that most dSLRs are at least slightly off and that the focus error can vary quite a lot, depending on the lens in use. I really think that most serious photographers are going to want one of these."

Still, there is nothing like precision in our fog-banked existence and either LensAlign is a measuring tool that can cut through the vagaries of focus to help you fine tune the autofocus accuracy of your gear. Pretty sharp, we say again.

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Feature: Canon 5D Mark II User Report

By SHAWN BARNETT with MICHAEL TOMKINS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E5D2/E5D2A.HTM on the Web site.)

Called a premium dSLR at its introduction, the original Canon EOS 5D has aged significantly over the last three years. Nevertheless, it's still regarded by many as the best image-maker on the market in its class, with a remarkably smooth tone curve. Indeed, I said that images from the EOS 5D had an intangible quality that was difficult to quantify. Everything has a more "real" look to it, a truer representation. You feel like you can reach out and touch the object or person photographed.

Has Canon maintained that ethereal quality?

So much has changed in the market since 2004, it's a good question. Nikon has thrown down the image quality gauntlet, especially in terms of high ISO performance, that it would be understandable if Canon had to abandon the surprisingly good tone curve exhibited by the 5D.

LOOK & FEEL

The appearance of the 5D Mark II is all business. Controls are almost perfectly placed and will be familiar to owners of just about any Canon camera in its class dating back to the Canon 20D.

The camera is substantial, but not so bulky that it's hard to hold for those with medium-sized hands. The heft definitely adds to the 5D Mark II's stability when shooting and the big grip has a notch to help guide your hand to the perfect position every time. Those with smaller hands might find the 5D Mark II a bit cumbersome.

It's a full frame camera, equal in size to 35mm film. As great as that is, existing owners of more recent Canon hardware will have to leave their EF-S lenses out of the equation when considering a 5D Mark II as their next camera, because EF-S lenses won't even mount on the Mark II. Their short back focus design sticks into the camera body so much that it would get hit by the large mirror; as such, the camera won't accept the lenses at all.

Notably missing from the 5D Mark II is a pop-up flash, something I was happy to see on the Nikon D700 full-frame dSLR. Even for pros, a small flash in a pinch is a welcome option.

One bit that puts the 5D Mark II into the premium category is the small light sensor that appears just right of the power switch, which adjusts the LCD brightness based on the ambient light.

From the top I get a view of the finest kit lens Canon has ever bundled with a camera, the image-stabilized Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L IS zoom lens (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/145/cat/11). The Canon 5D, like its competitors, has no Scene modes, though it does have three custom modes where you can store your own settings. Another new addition from the Canon 50D is the new Creative Auto mode, which allows the user to adjust the Flash, resolution, drive mode and Picture Style, as well as shoot Raw. A special menu lets you adjust aperture settings in terms of desired background blur and exposure times in terms of whether you want the image darker or brighter.

SHOOTING

If you've shot with any Canon EOS SLR for the past 20 years, you'll be quite familiar with the controls on the 5D Mark II. They are laid out very well, making for a very utilitarian design whose true beauty is only discovered when you start to shoot.

Were it not for my familiarity with the Canon EOS design, the only criticism I'd give to the 5D Mark II is the location of its power switch, which is poorly located beneath the Quick Control dial. However, as I say, anyone familiar with EOS design will be accustomed to this oddity. I'm far more comfortable with the power switch around the shutter button, as it is on most Nikon SLRs. But that aside, I have to say it's all very easy to get used to.

ISO is probably the setting I change most often and I can do it with either the rear status display, the top status display or the LED display in the viewfinder. I use each method about equally. When I need to make a change in a hurry while still composing through the viewfinder, the ISO button is easy to find on the top deck, just a half-inch behind the shutter button. Once pressed, I just turn the Main Command dial to make the change and the numbers change in the viewfinder. When I check and make my initial settings before I begin shooting, I alternate between the other two status displays.

I've already said, but it bears repeating, that the AF cluster is probably the biggest adjustment a shooter switching from one of Canon's APS-C-sized dSLRs will have to make. I think a lot more such people will and ought to make this move, but I think the caution is important. You'll have to adjust the way you shoot. It really is quite something to have a camera's AF system covering most of your frame. Even though I generally shoot with the center point, when shooting candids I will sometimes lean on Multi-point AF systems to just make the best guess for me. Guesses were pretty reliable with the APS-C designs, but with a full-frame sensor, you not only have more to consider in the frame overall, the existing sensors, especially the center point, cover a far smaller percentage of the subject per point.

Add that the 5D Mark II's extremely high resolution full-frame sensor demands more from these lenses than ever before and you start to see why getting focus right is so critical. The very narrow depth of field offered when shooting a close-up portrait indoors means that getting the eye instead of the eyebrow in focus will make or break a picture. I'm very grateful for the 5D Mark II's AF Microadjustment feature because I was able to dial in several lenses before a recent shoot to ensure that my shots were indeed spot on. I had a bad experience with the original 5D at times, especially when shooting portraits.

My first shot with the 5D Mark II illustrates the point nicely. It's not particularly noteworthy as a photograph, but I like it all the same. My son's eye is the only sharp point of focus on his face, as well as the halo of his hair right within the same plane. It's a good illustration of the problem one has when shooting wide open with any prime lens, as well as the main reason one chooses to shoot with a prime lens. The color balance is very cold on this image, but that was accurate for the light, so it's hard to fault the camera.

Also worth noting is how the image is framed a little more loosely than I normally would like. It's because I knew I had my EF 85mm f1.8 attached and expected that I'd need to be a little further back than I actually needed to be, because I'm used to how this lens performs on a cropped sensor. That's another adaptation you'll have to make when switching to or adding a 5D Mark II to your arsenal: your expectations for each full-frame lens before you pull it from the bag. I'd have done better with a 135mm lens for this subject, the equivalent of an 85mm lens on a Canon cropped sensor.

Handy View. Another good example of Live View's utility was when I shot my family portrait for this past holiday. Though I wish I had a taller tripod, it was good I didn't, because there was very little room in the basement and I could just see the Live View on the LCD at that height and angle. I could have used a longer focal length and a taller tripod, but the main feature to see here is just the extraordinary detail. And yes, I did crop and touch up this shot before posting it here, since it features yours truly and I'm just not that honest.

Sports? Unless your timing is already well-developed, I don't recommend the 5D Mark II for sports photography, despite its six additional autofocus points to help with focus tracking. Most of me need a faster frame rate than 3.9 per second. As such, I did not do any sports shooting with the 5D Mark II.

However, if you really want to capture sports with the 5D Mark II, why not try its HD movie mode?

Movie Mode. The addition of 1080p high definition video recording capability is what makes the 5D Mark II unique among other EOS dSLRs. Able to record 1920x1080 pixels or 640x480 pixels, both at 30 frames per second, is a huge update compared to the original EOS-5D. The 5D Mark II is limited to either a four gigabyte file size or 29 minutes and 59 seconds of elapsed recording time.

The 5D Mark II records its videos as .MOV files, using MPEG-4 compression with PCM audio sampled at 44Khz, either recorded on the dSLR's built-in mono microphone or courtesy of a standard stereo microphone mini-jack. The 5D Mark II offers both the Lens Peripheral Illumination Correction and Auto Lighting Optimizer functions in Movie mode. The same is not true of the camera's still image High ISO Noise Reduction function, however.

But Movie mode isn't as easy to use as a fully automated camcorder. It doesn't autofocus "live" on the fly as most will be accustomed to and sudden changes of exposure level can cause momentary interruptions in the recorded video stream as the camera works to adjust settings. Exposure is also set automatically, including shutter speed (from 1/30 to 1/125), aperture and ISO sensitivity. You can use EV compensation to adjust exposure up and down and focus manually by turning the focusing ring on the lens, but it's best to do these things before you begin recording, because making these adjustments makes noise that the microphone will pick up and can cause camera movement whether on or off a tripod.

The advantage of using the 5D Mark II for video is the ability to use wide-angle and telephoto optics the like of which would cost you many thousands of dollars to duplicate on a high-end video camera. What you can do with bokeh (out of focus areas) to isolate your subjects from background and foreground, especially with short to long telephoto lenses, is pretty impressive. Fast lenses will also open up some interesting indoor and night cinematography opportunities to the fastidious video artist.

The video also suffers from the same Jello-effect I saw on the Nikon D90 produced by the top-to-bottom linear method the camera uses to draw an image off the sensor. If you pan rapidly, vertical lines in the image will appear to lean in the opposite direction of the pan. Pan back and forth rapidly and the entire image shakes like Jello.

Movie Snap. One other notable movie-related point is that the Canon EOS-5D II offers a "movie snap" function. Essentially, it has separate shutter buttons for movie and still image recording and if the user presses the still image shutter during movie recording, the camera will capture a full-resolution still image without ceasing to record the movie. It also inserts the still image into the movie, rather than leaving a blank frame. This concept will be quite familiar to those who use a Canon PowerShot S5 IS. It'll also remind you of spy movies where someone is taking dossier pictures of some suspect through a camera lens.

HDMI Output. There's a Mini-HDMI output port for viewing images on a high-definition display and you can obviously also watch your movies this way. The output is 1080i (interlaced), not 1080p (progressive), whereas the 5D Mark II's movie files themselves are captured and saved in 1080p, which is preferred. No cable is included, unfortunately, so you'll need a Mini-HDMI to HDMI cable or an adapter.

Black Dots. Shortly after the 5D Mark II shipped, users began reporting a strange "black dot" error, where small points of light were rendered with an accompanying black dot just to the right. I didn't see the phenomena until I took a special photo to demonstrate the issue. It took several lighting, lens and ISO changes to get a shot that showed the effect. These elements are very small and you are unlikely to see them unless the image is enlarged significantly.

In December 2008, Canon announced they were aware of the problem and working on a fix and on Jan. 7, the company released a firmware update to address the problem. A banding issue related to the sRaw1 format was also fixed with the firmware update.

CONCLUSION

The 5D Mark II is indeed a premium dSLR. It's not just the very high resolution that makes it stand out, but the excellent high ISO performance, effectively giving you the freedom to shoot handheld in conditions where you'd normally need a flash or a tripod.

Improvements over the original 5D abound, including a bigger viewfinder image, faster frame rate, a larger image buffer and a faster data path. Nearly all of the new features from other recent models have also been added, including a two-motor shutter and mirror arrangement, silent shutter mode, a comprehensive Live View mode, multi-stage noise suppression options and several features designed to improve common problems, like blown highlights, plugged shadows and vignetting. Two minor options pile on to make the 5D Mark II even more premium: a built-in remote control sensor and an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the LCD.

And High-Definition Movie mode opens up new avenues for enterprising photographers. Since the advent of Live View, it's been an obvious play and this is the best implementation I've seen. Video hobbyists have seldom had so much optical variety at their disposal for so little money.

When the original 5D debuted three years ago, it wasn't clear why most enthusiasts would want such a camera. Though it captured excellent, high resolution images, it was slower, bigger and more expensive. Today it's clear the market is ready for full-frame dSLRs that can turn out high image quality. High quality is one thing, but being a camera that can deliver high quality over a wide range of lighting conditions and different ISO settings is what makes the 5D Mark II such a compelling choice and a clear Dave's Picks.

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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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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 the Nikon "Friends of the 8800" discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a

Visit the Olympus DSLRs Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea6bcb

Norman asks for help with setting his camera's self timer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeab866/0

A user asks about color calibration at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeab8aa

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

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Just for Fun: Time for Your 2009 Oscar Nominations!

As a subscriber of this you-might-say "moving" publication, you are also a member of the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences. Each year at this time, members of the Academy are obliged to submit their nominations for the Academy's legendary Missing Oscar.

You may recall the Missing Oscar as the one stolen Oscar of several years ago that was never retrieved. Every year we try to give it away on the theory that you can't lose what you don't have.

Past awards honored Best Slide Show Software, Best Photo Web Site, Best Shareware, Best Input Device, Best Digital Photography Book, Best Photo Gadget, Best Camera Bag, Best 4x6 Jumbo Print and Best Inkjet Printer. With only one missing Oscar, we change the category each time we present the award to make the rounds of exciting innovation in this industry.

This year the award will honor the best online photo sharing service. Well, the one you tell us is the best, that is.

This is your chance to step up on the soap box and proclaim the virtues of Adoramapix.com, Costco.com, dotPhoto, Evernote, Facebook, Flickr, Gallery 2, Kodak Gallery, MobileMe, Moveable Type, my Picturetown, Phanfare, Photobucket, Photoshop Express, Picasa, PropertyPreviews, RitzPix, Sharpcast, Shutterfly, SmugMug, Snapfish, Typepad, Vox, WalMart, Webshots, Zenfolio or any other online service you may happen to prefer.

It's quite a list, really. And that's where you come in. Narrow it down!

Remember, the more words you use, the less hard we have to work the week we announce the winner. After all the delightful sharing your service has provided, now you can return the favor by nominating it for the Oscar!

The winner will enjoy the Public Notoriety of the Ersatz Academy's Missing Oscar. Without the need to dress expensively (or at all). And, in further defiance of the regular Oscars, acceptance speeches will not be interrupted by live music at our virtual awards ceremony. Or any other kind of music.

To submit your nomination, email your testimonial with the subject "Oscar Nomination" to editor@imaging-resource.com before our next issue.

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RE: Batch Cropping

I read in the last issue about the need for Batch cropping. I suppose one may use for that kind of operation ACDSee Pro v.2.5. Just crop in preview, go to another one, then convert and save entire collection. Excellent Raw processing software!

-- Andy Schifrin

(Thanks, Andy. We haven't seen the latest version, so we can't confirm if ACDSee will let you drag individual crops on a series of thumbnails and then write that cropping information to the Exif header of each image with a marked up thumbnail. The tricks here are 1) you have to be able to drag a crop on the thumbnail that is different for each image and 2) write the cropping recipe in to the Exif header, not export a new bitmap (for speed). Can it do that? -- Editor)

In ACDSee one can drag a crop and that cropping will be instantly applied only to the Raw thumbnail (Exif header, probably). Then we go to the next Raw image, draw another cropping and so on. After all that, convert the whole package to JPEG.

P.S. Don't miss ACDSee 9-band light equalizer -- marvellous thing!

-- Andy

RE: Focusing

Hey guys, I may have misunderstood, but when you wrote about focusing once, recomposing and focusing again I think I missed a point in the article "Focus or Frame First?"

When you recompose, often the subject is no longer front and center, but somewhere in the golden grid. Now if you autofocus again, you're probably gonna get a misfocus on something farther or closer away, unless you manually focus. Did you mean to suggest the second focus moment to be manual?

On my Olympus 3-E I can set a preference for only locking focus when I half press. That way, in dim light I find an edge to focus and lock, recompose, then fire. But clearly one must be careful when zoomed and close since the DOF is so shallow.

-- Martin Kimeldorf

(In that article, Martin, we were just pointing out that focus can shift as you zoom in and out. So if you set focus by half pressing or you locked focus and then changed focal length, you'll want to refocus before snapping the shutter. It's true autofocus can be looking at something you aren't, but that's another subject. Assuming you and autofocus are looking at the same thing, make sure you refocus if you zoom in or out -- particularly if the subject is a closeup. Now why didn't we say that to begin with <g>? -- Editor)

RE: Gamuts

Screen gamut varies considerably between manufacturers. Might I suggest that you check out Dell's expensive monitors to get a sense of this. There are gamut charts at the site last time I looked and there is a substantial difference. I have one of the wide gamut screens and it is clearly different and more accurate. I cannot speak of course how one measures it, but wider color spaces are what the expensive screens deliver. At a premium price, which I guess is what Apple has given the user on the premium laptops.

-- Neil Fiertel

(Thanks, Neil. There isn't such a substantial price difference between the 15- and 17-inch models that would suggest a higher quality screen was used. There is no question the 15 inch model is higher quality than the 13 inch model, however. In any case, Apple makes it clear (to us at the show and online as well) that the improved color gamut is relative to the previous generation MacBook Pro, not to the 15-inch unibody MacBook Pro. And that's what we wanted to clarify. BTW, Rob Galbraith has taken a look at a few recent laptop displays in this regard (http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-9320-9876) and drops Apple a few spots. -- Editor)

Thanks. I was told by the way true or not that the original MacBook Pro had a better screen and in the middle of the run they dropped to a lesser screen by a different manufacturer and did not talk much about it (of course). This was around the time that the lawsuits starting flying about the millions of colors argument (dithering vs. true color). I have the first edition of the MacBook Pro and connected to it is the Dell I mentioned and the gamut looks just fine on both, equivalent in all respects. I think that much of this discussion is like pixel peeping.

-- Neil

(Yes, it's a frustrating topic because there's so little hard data. The 16-bit data display issue, the 60 percent greater gamut claim (was the older 17-inch of lesser quality than its 15-inch cousin?), LED backlighting, etc. all raise concerns we can't resolve without more information. We'll have to dig a little deeper. Stay tuned! -- Editor)

RE: Small Fonts

I've used a 17-inch Dell with 1920x1200 screen resolution for the past couple of years. I've used various versions of Photoshop Elements on several different machines over the years, with PSE6 installed in the Dell when it was new. I also complained (loudly) to Adobe about the small size of the fonts and buttons when PSE is used with a high res screen. I really hoped they would have addressed this issue with v7. Not. <sigh>

-- Bruce

(We'll keep after them, Bruce. Trouble is they have all this market research <g>. But as time marches on, more and more of us have high resolution screens and none of us are getting younger. Maybe Adobe just needs a product manager over 40. -- Editor)

RE: Photo CD?

At one time and I recall until about three years ago there was a consumer photography service available called Kodak Photo CD that was different than the present JPEG Picture CD. It allowed someone in a household to see their "35mm Photos, Slides and so on" on a conventional television set but now it doesn't seem to be around for consumers.

Would you have any information about this and where as a consumer this can still be done today? I can't seem to find out the information so I felt maybe you would have some further information about this.

-- Louis R. Zarowin

(Well, Louis, Kodak no longer supports Photo CD. It required you to supply a roll of film which was subsequently scanned, stored on CD in several resolutions in a proprietary format and which could be played back in a Photo CD player sold by Kodak. If you have such a player, you can make your own Photo CD with the free KodakPCD utility (http://sourceforge.net/projects/kodakpcd/). Otherwise, most DVD players these days can handle JPEG playback, which is the format most images are recorded in. All you have to do is burn a CD full of JPEGs, pop it into your DVD player and you can see your images on TV. -- Editor)

RE: B&W

I've always been impressed by the B&W prints made by Ansel Adams -- granted, there's a lot of darkroom work involved -- but I thought I'd try my "hand" with my Olympus C-740. So, the question: What would you do to get the "best" prints: (a) take pix with the B&W mode on the camera, or (b) take pix with the (color) default setting on the camera and print them with a B&W printer, or (c)?

-- Chap Cronquist

(We think old Ansel would be having a ball these days. And probably live a lot longer sitting at a computer than inhaling glacial acetic acid in the darkroom, too. We have two concerns about capture for black and white photography. First, in the field, if you aren't capturing in black and white, you aren't really seeing what you hope to print. So, black and white capture mode can be a compositional tool.... But that approach sacrifices a lot of flexibility of a color capture. In Photoshop, for example, you can filter the image after capture if you have color data. And you can alter an area based on its color simply by identifying it and using a scrubber to see in real time what the effect will be. That's really a lot of fun and a great way to manipulate a black and white rendering.... Once you have a neutral image (either grayscale or RGB in perfect balance), you have two choices for printing. You can use just the black ink(s) of the printer (and here a printer with a light gray or two is a blessing) or you can use all of the color inks to print a monotone image (which can be quite rich in tonality). Try both approaches, see what you prefer.... In fact, that's not bad advice for shooting either. Shoot some black and white, shoot some color for conversion. Even of the same shot (in fact, Canon dSLRs let you capture color and evaluate B&W). Nothing about digital photography requires you to play just one way! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

A couple of enterprising guys have cobbled together software hacks to capture video on Canon EOS (http://www.canonrumors.com/2009/01/video-with-any-liveview-eos-camera/) and Nikon dSLRs (http://ogiroux.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/d700-shoots-vide/) that offer Live View. In both cases, the camera is tethered to a computer via USB and, while in Live View, the signal is captured to a file.


Adobe is asking Photoshop CS4 users who are experiencing slowdowns (particularly on Windows XP) to contact Adam Jerugim by email (see http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2009/01/photoshop_cs4_u.html for the address) to test "a small pre-release program that we're opening to public volunteers."


Adobe Labs (http://labs.adobe.com) has posted release candidate versions of Lightroom 2.3, Digital Negative Converter 5.3 and Adobe Camera Raw 5.3 with support the Nikon D3x and Olympus E-30.


Sigma (http://www.sigmaphoto.com) has announced its $800 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM 13.8:1 extended range zoom lens. The Hybrid Optical Stabilizer providing image stabilization in both the camera body and viewfinder for Pentax and Sony is the first to allow Sony and Pentax photographers to see the stabilized image in the viewfinder.


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has released a significant upgrade to Phanfare Photon, its iPhone application. The new version, available from Apple's App Store, includes bulk uploading, photo and video slide shows with music, image stabilization, photo editing and offline access, providing the first complete mobile photography solution for the iPhone.


Creaceed (http://www.creaceed.com) has released its $79.95 Hydra 2.0 [M] HDR software with a new default tone mapper and alignment technique plus a 1:1 Loupe.


WnSoft (http://www.wnsoft.com) has released its $75 PicturesToExe Deluxe5.6 [W] to create slide shows as executables and screensaver (.SCR) files, HD video, DVD video disc or iPhone video.


Rocky Nook has published Photographic Multishot Techniques with lessons on HDRI, super-resolution, focus stacking, and stitching images. It's available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952385/?tag=theimagingres-20) at a 34 percent discount.


Richard Lynch will be releasing the second edition of The Adobe Photoshop Layers Book for CS4 in March with preorders accepted on Amazon.com (http://aps8.com/taplbcs4.html). The new version of the book adds about 40 pages of new material, and a new section on manually making HDR images from exposures in 16-bit the Layers way. The book now has a user forum for reader questions and support (see http://photoshopcs.com/forum), and the hope is to build a community of people interested in advanced Photoshop use.

Meanwhile Richard has released free action tool sets for Elements 6 and Elements 7, which add a Color Picker, RGB channels (Component Blue, Component Green, Component Red), Layer Masks, Luminosity and Color separations, Select Highlights, Select Shadows, Simple Channel Mixer and Transform Selection.


Aaron Chang (http://www.aaronchanggallery.com) will debut his large format photos printable on a variety of mediums at the W in San Diego at the grand opening on Feb. 23.


DxO Labs (http://www.dxomark.com) has published detailed Raw-based image quality data and DxOMark Sensor rankings for the Olympus E-420 and E-510, as well as for the first commercially-released Micro Four Thirds format camera, the Panasonic Lumix G1.


David Pogue's Digital Photography: The Missing Manual is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0596154038/?tag=theimagingres-20) at a 34 percent discount.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released updates for its iLife Media Browser on OS X Leopard and iDVD in its iLife '08 suite. The company described both updates as improving "overall stability" and addressing "minor issues."


Andrey Tverdokhleb (http://www.raw-photo-processor.com) has released his free Raw Photo Processor 3.8.5 [M] with support for Sony dSLR white balance presets, an "optimize for post-processing" option, a fix for a problem with As Shot white balance for ARW files saved from Sony IDC and more.


Camera & Imaging Products Association President Tsuneji Uchida has announced the outlook on camera shipment forecasts for 2009 to 2011 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NPICS1/cipa.press090127_e.pdf). Digicam and dSLR shipments down, lenses up in 2009; everything up after, thanks in part to Asia and "other areas."


At the Luminous Landscape (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/blue-icebergs.shtml) scientist/photographer Mark Dubovoy explains why some icebergs and everything underwater are blue. Extra credit if you can guess (it has nothing to do with the economy).

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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

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

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Signoff

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

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Happy snapping!

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

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