|Volume 11, Number 4||13 February 2009|
Welcome to the 247th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We had an interesting chat with Adobe Engineer Jerry Harris, who has been working hard to make the Photoshop interface more intuitive. Then we look at Canon's G10. Along with the the Panasonic LX3 and Nikon P6000, it's one of the three big flagship digicams. And big it is.
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In a far-ranging interview last week, Adobe Senior Engineer Jerry Harris discussed everything from the Photoshop's new GPU processing to developing an interface that doesn't require you to learn (or remember) quite as much. Photoshop Product Manager Bryan O'Neil Hughes also joined the discussion.
After codeveloping PixelPaint and working at Apple, Harris joined Adobe in 1996 in time to work on Photoshop 5.0 and develop the new paint engine in version 7.0.
A LITTLE HISTORY
But Harris was just a kid out of college when he attended SIGGRAPH, the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques annual meeting. There he saw the Pixar Image Computer "just flying over these huge satellite images in real time, rotating them, zooming them." That vision never dimmed.
Not until Creative Suite 3 was well underway did Harris find a way to do the same thing in Photoshop. John Brandt had given him a little demo app that showed off a few things you could do by writing code that ran not on the main CPU but on a special chip dedicated to graphics called a Graphics Processing Unit.
The team was so excited by the demo that it tried to get some GPU code into Photoshop CS3. But that turned out to be very difficult. "Photoshop had a lot of very bright minds spending a lot of time trying to make the program draw as little as possible and not draw very often," Harris explained. "And trying to change that to be more of a video game mentality was a huge, huge chore."
But they made progress and discovered "we could do some other cool things." Those things may eventually extend as far as a more intuitive user interface, but the immediate proof of concept was much simpler: rotate the canvas in Photoshop CS4.
And indeed rotating the canvas to a more convenient angle to view or paint is no longer a matter of picking an angle from a menu or guessing at an arbitrary value. Instead, thanks to GPU processing, you just press the R key, grab the image and twirl.
Wait, as someone once said, there's more. The same benefits apply to scaling, too. As Hughes put it, "Just seeing things as they should be is really nice. I know it's always driven me crazy to know that since day one I had to look at my image at 25 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent. The GPU means it looks right no matter how I look at it whether it's video or still."
And there's still more. Harris observed, "MacPaint original had this pixel grid, if you remember, and it was lost over time because essentially we couldn't draw the grid fast enough. So it was nice to be able to bring that back into Photoshop CS4. That's really helpful when you're doing detail work.
"CS4 is really nice. It feels more fluid. You know we've been careful not to say it speeds up a lot of tasks because it's mostly the top layer of things it's speeding up now. You can rotate an image really fast but it's just a screen representation of the image."
Adobe has posted a TechNote (http://kb.adobe.com/selfservice/viewContent.do?externalId=kb404898) describing all of the GPU and OpenGL features in Photoshop CS4 including smooth display at all zoom levels, an Animated Zoom tool, animated transitions with One Stop Zoom, Hand toss image, Birdseye view, Rotate Canvas, smooth display of non-square pixel images, a pixel grid, GPU color matching, Draw Brush tip editing feedback and 3D acceleration. In Bridge, they include Preview panel, full-screen preview, slide show and Review mode.
SPEEDING UP PHOTOSHOP
As those examples show, tapping into the GPU isn't simply about speeding up Photoshop.
You don't need a GPU just to speed up Photoshop, Harris made clear. The first thing to do, he said, is "put as much memory in that machine as you can afford." And use a 64-bit operating system if you're on Windows, like the 64-bit editions of Vista or Windows 7. Avoid Windows XP, he said.
An operating system like Vista or Mac OS X has "modern window servers that use the GPU themselves to do all this eye candy. And they virtualize the hardware so if you have two things trying to use the GPU at the same time, it makes them play nice."
But you can't expect any more performance from that approach, Harris said. Modern CPUs have hit a technological brick wall. "You can't air cool a chip at over three gigahertz," Harris explained. It isn't about gigahertz any more.
"CPUs are slowly running out of gas," Harris said. "They can't speed up the clock frequency. And they haven't for a while. So they get a newfangled CPU out and they say it's faster but usually things aren't running faster because they're adding cores or something. It's hard to speed up a lot of CPUs so why try?"
And it's the same problem with coding for multicore processors. "It's hard to actually achieve that theoretical goal when running in parallel," he said. "So it's sort of like working with a bunch of mules. You might work with two of them but four or five, forget it. They don't want to behave. Where a GPU is more like a stream of fish you see in the ocean or a flock of birds. They just seem to do better with more of them. More naturally suited."
To get more performance, you have to move code to the GPU.
As Intel Chairman of the Board Craig Barrett said in a recent Gizmodo interview (http://i.gizmodo.com/5126890/intels-barrett-on-paranoia-the-core-craze-and-the-end-of-gigahertz), "You see, everybody's kind of looking at the same thing, which is, 'How do I mix and match a CPU- and a GPU-type core, or six of these and two of those, and how do you have the software solution to go hand-in-hand?'"
And, Harris added, AMD's Fusion (http://www.amd.com/us/Documents/AMD_fusion_Whitepaper.pdf) "is the same idea. What happens if you can get rid of that bus, if you had unfettered access to the pixel data? It could speed things up dramatically."
The nice thing about moving to GPU code is that you don't have to buy a new system to run the next upgrade. Instead of laying out $1,500 to $3,000 to speed up CS4, you can just buy a $200 video card.
The market for GPUs has been divided between AutoCad users at the high end and gamers at the low end. At NVision 08 last year in San Jose, the first GPU-oriented convention featured a huge darkened ballroom dedicated to gamers who set up their own boxes to compete with each other. At the same time, in a small room to the side, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsung talked about the data processing capabilities of the GPU that, harnessed together, were already providing supercomputing power to academics in Asia building their own machines.
Nvidia isn't the only GPU in town, though. ATI has been a major player and recently AMD with its Fusion project and Intel with Larabee promise even more options.
Intel, in fact, has recycled its Pentium design as a GPU in its Larabee project (http://arstechnica.com/hardware/news/2008/07/intels-larrabee-gpu-based-on-secret-pentagon-tech-sorta.ars), which bundles several Pentium-design chips into a GPU. "They're going to a simpler design but they're going to stick more of them on there and use the same amount of watts."
PICKING A GPU
So how do you evaluate a GPU?
If you're in that situation now, Harris suggested getting something that's been shipping in the last year. "If you're looking at somewhere between $100 and $400 for a consumer card, I'd try to err on the side of $200 to $300."
"Honestly, getting just any $200 card will do," Harris said. "If you want to future-proof yourself, try to get a card with at least 512MB of RAM. And get one that's more at the high-end of the consumer line. Say the 9000 series Nvidia or higher or a 3000 series or higher on the ATI side.
"These newer cards have floating point that's more dependable. So in the future when we do more on that GPU it will be a more solid foundation than these older ones. Because honestly with the older cards, they just wanted to make your video game look good. They weren't worried about accuracy. It was frame rate the ruled the video game market. That's all that mattered."
In fact early graphics cards (ones that do not support Shader Model 3.0) could not understand simple if-then conditional statements or manage running a loop to do something repeatedly until some condition was met. And some of these cards provided very little room for programs to run anyway.
But Hughes pointed out that any recent machine running a modern operating system probably has a powerful video card. "I run into very few people that bought machines in the last couple years that aren't able to enjoy these benefits and features. It's really more people like myself who have a dual G5 at home that's four or five years old. I went on eBay, found the right card and bought that. But with newer machines I don't see it as being an issue too much."
Harris also recommended looking for PCI Express 2.0 cards. "It's a technical term but a pretty important one. Some of the newer cards do PCI Express 2.0. And all it means is it's twice as fast as the previous one. That's important. It's something I would look for if I were buying a card or a new computer today, but it's usually not a problem with a new computer. I think they're all PCI Express 2.0 now."
PCI Express 2.0 addresses what's an important issue for GPU programming: getting data back from the GPU. That isn't important in game programming where no data is read back from the card.
But we're not yet at the stage where it's worth it to run two GPUs simultaneously (which is possible, as those academic supercomputers demonstrate). "It doesn't really help Photoshop right now, to be honest with you. And it probably won't help us in the short term future. But at some point it will help us.
"I would go for a better single GPU card," Harris added. "I would not invest in an SLI, where you can stick more than one card in the box. Crossfire and SLI. That's not particularly useful for Photoshop. In fact it's not useful at all. So I would go with a card that has more memory like Nvidia 260 and 280 or the ATI 4000 series cards with almost a gig of memory on them. You're pretty future-proof with that."
While a new GPU will give you smoother zooms and more accurate image display, it can also help run those calculation intensive operations like filtering. Both 3D painting and the Pixel Bender plug-in use the GPU extensively.
Hughes noted, "We're really careful about how we talk about speeding things up. I will tell you that with Pixel Bender (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/pixelbender) there's a checkbox to enable GPU support. And if you play around with those filters with and without that check it's really a dramatic difference in speed."
In fact, the Pixel Bender team built a toolkit that was used to put things like Rotate Canvas in Photoshop CS4.
BACK TO THE INTERFACE
If you thought Harris would be content popping that pixel grid back on the image, think different.
"You know how to move something," Harris observed about our basic motor skills. "When you used your first Mac, you had this idea of direct manipulation." Drag and drop. "Unfortunately, that seems to be frozen in time. That's still what direct manipulation is today for the most part. That bitmapped old user experience.
"We can do a lot better today. The iPhone has pointed the way. The Wii has pointed a different way. And if we can tap into those innate things you don't have to think about, then you can learn five or seven things in a short amount of time. You dive into them right away."
One such example is Birdseye view.
Hughes explained what it is, "In Birdseye -- and when we think about the Gigapixel Project (http://www.gigapxl.org) -- we've actually slightly downrezed this enormous image where you can zoom all the way into a window at Adobe and see a person in their office." It's Google Earth without the satellites.
Supersized images are not the exception they used to be. With 24-megapixel full-frame sensors and panorama image stitching, they're becoming common.
Harris pointed out, "More people are stitching images together so you're looking at a monster. And once you have all that data, content has to be king. So we've got to find a way to not have so much screen real estate devoted to palettes, but make a more fluid environment where your eyes are focused on what you're interested in and not, if you will, noise or sign pollution."
Birdseye does that, once you learn the trick of holding the H key down and clicking your mouse to zoom out, then reposition the navigator box to zoom right back in. The GPU makes that kind of an interface feasible for navigating a large image at full resolution.
THE ECOSYTEM & TWO THUMBS
Oddly enough, as we continued our discussion, the hardware and software strains started to merge into one ecosystem.
"If you look at this fundamental problem we have where the free ride is over, we will no longer speed up unless we work hand-in-hand with Intel, Nvidia and AMD," Harris said. "It's going to be hard work but it will pay off. If we don't, Photoshop's not going to speed up and that's one thing everyone can agree on: people will pay for performance. People appreciate that. And you can enable UIs, you just can't do it if you don't have that performance."
Fortunately, he noted, "This is a competitive and, so far, healthy environment. It's just nice to be able to work with all these partners who want to grow the market."
But there's another aspect to this, he continued, that the current user interface is inhibiting. "It's real sad, you know. It's great that tablets that used to cost $3,000 and weigh about 50 lbs. 22 years ago are now down to $200, but we're doing the same thing. You still have the same amount of expressiveness today that you did 20 years ago. Just in a cheaper, smaller form factor."
While many of us may be comfortable at the keyboard and have learned, over the years, how to find a feature buried in menus and dialogs, the younger generation isn't following in our footsteps. Two thumbs are all they ever lay on a keyboard.
"You don't have to explain a Wii do you? They get it. Even an iPhone. Put it in somebody's hands and they're so popular. I mean my kids are telling me about every two days, 'Dad, five more of my friends downloaded the Facebook app for the iPhone.' It's spreading out there like crazy.
"They've grown up with a Nintendo paddle in their hand. That was one issue we had with Birdseye. If people could add another finger to their hand to be more expressive in Photoshop, they probably would pay for the operation.
"We're out of keyboard shortcuts. So we need to find a way for people to be more expressive. So how this ties back into the ecosystem is we need to find a way to enable some use of the gadgets. If at all possible to tap into the skills this young crowd has, the Nintendo paddle skills or the Gameboy skills. They're using that opposable thumb of their non-dominant hand a lot more than we were at their age. They're good at it. You just watch them. They can sit there, they're not even looking at their phone and they can text message. It's unbelievable. We just need a way to tap into those motor skills."
The problem is that while Adobe was building more and more features into Photoshop, the user interface was becoming less and less intuitive. It's called cognitive load theory, Harris told us.
And solutions to the problem like Adobe Configurator (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/CFG/CFG1.HTM) require you to stay in what turns out to be a different mode than we inhabit when we are creating.
Harris told us this issue was graphically illustrated when he spent some time with a few artist friends.
One art professor told him about sitting accomplished fourth-year art students in front of a digital painting program and "basically watching them lower their skill level down to that of a high school arts student all of a sudden."
From another of the artists, he learned how "just the fact of having a color palette with a numeric feedback, geeked out these artists. They just started getting all geeked out about trying to use 255 variations of every color. And it just sort of took them out of their moment of serendipity. They couldn't create art very effectively."
And when one art professor demonstrated a few techniques to Harris, he couldn't describe what he was doing while he was doing it. "We started joking about it. It turns out this serendipity, if you watch these people get in their groove in the real world, they don't think a lot about how they use their tools. Everything's a small motor skill or something used at the subconscious level.
"What we have to figure out in the future is what about computer programs introduces cognitive speed bumps or speed bumps in serendipity, if you will."
Hughes observed, "I think there's a good reminder here that there's hardware performance and there's interface performance and the ideal solution is somewhere between where one compliments the other. I know Jerry has definitely shown that in the features he's implemented."
And Jerry replied, "When I was working on PixelPaint, I was the jack of all trades, finisher of none. There were all sorts of features, they were all buggy. It's funny that the ones that intrigued me the most were the ones that no one cared about. And I'm sort of past that these days. I don't want to waste a minute working on something that's not relevant.
"That's a hard goal, finishing a feature. I'll tell you that. You think you've got that thing captured and it's evasive."
It takes a little something more to push beyond the current paradigm, even when you've got a lot of skin in the game, as Harris put it. He cited John Worthington (who "hasn't stopped thinking about Liquify") as a case in point. "The Photoshop team is made up of people like that. That's what makes it strong. Everyone's got a little ..."
Hughes cut in, "a lot of passion."
"Yeah," Harris confirmed, "a lot of passion."
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G10/G10A.HTM on the Web site.)
Three digicams have made it to the top of the mountain. The PowerShot G10 joins the previously reviewed Panasonic LX3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LX3/LX3A.HTM) and the Nikon P6000 that breathe the thin mountain air reserved for the best digicams going.
They are not without their limitations, even if we can't quite call those limitations faults. Instead, the combination of features and foibles give each model its own personality.
And they each have their fans. Fans tend to be blind to the foibles and cherish the features in ways reviewers find embarrassing. And yet we've become a fan of this class, if only because we cherish the foibles, even if we're a bit unimpressed with the features.
The Canon G10 traces its heritage back to the G1 of 2000. At $999 and with a 3.34-megapixel sensor, Imaging Resource even then noticed the G1's "beautiful pictures!" The price has come down and the Mp count has risen, but the pictures are still beautiful, perhaps more than ever.
LOOK & FEEL
Oddly enough all three of these competitors have chosen a retro rangefinder design -- and stuck with it. That may make it easy to distinguish these high-end digicams from the companies' low-end dSLRs, but it also tends to inhibit design innovations.
The chief of the inhibited innovations is the viewfinder. To its credit, Canon formerly outfitted the G-series with an articulated LCD that could be swiveled into a variety of positions. But those days are long gone, starting with the G7. We never found myself needing the optical viewfinder, however. Good thing, too, because it only covers 82 percent of the frame at wide-angle and just 79 percent at telephoto.
Another rangefinder-like design feature is a bit more beneficial. These cameras, perhaps with the exception of the P6000, rely more on dials and buttons (even a joystick in the case of the LX3) than menu systems or (shudder) touch screens to control the camera. There is a mechanical interface to them, in short, that most photographers prefer over the arbitrary menu systems that are so hard to remember.
The Canon G10 pushes that concept much further than either of its competitors. You'll find a dial for EV, another for ISO and a wheel to control aperture and shutter speed.
All of these cameras offer a slightly thicker right-hand side that passes for a grip. And every one of them is quite comfortable to hold. But that's no truer than on the G10 which is twice as heavy as the LX3. The G10 needs a grip.
In fact, size is the one design aspect of the G10 with which Canon seems not to have concerned itself. Not only is it much heavier than its competitors, it's really too big for a pocket. We were uncomfortable carrying it even in a jacket pocket, although we used it mostly with a wrist strap rather than the included shoulder strap. Why? Because we didn't want to advertise that we were carrying a camera.
And like rangefinders of days gone by, all three of these cameras have hot shoes for an external flash. But unlike rangefinders, these are all intelligent hot shoes, ready for high-tech flashes, like the Canon 430EX.
Another way in which these digicams surpass their rangefinder inspirations is in optics. The primes of rangefinder days have given way to zoom lenses and, in all three cases, to converter lenses as well. Canon offers a teleconverter, Panasonic a wide-angle converter and Nikon offers both.
But the built-in zooms are quite different themselves. Canon's 28-140mm 35mm equivalent is unmatched for its 5x range. The LX3's 24-60mm range is the widest angle (making the even wider converter an odd accessory), but shortest "tele," reaching only a normal angle of view. The P6000 manages a 28-112mm equivalent, just 4x.
Zoom ranges have to be matched to optical defects to be appreciated, but with the LX3, in-camera processing to correct some flaws has even gone so far as to affect Raw captures. And, distressingly, even third party converters like the included Silkypix and the venerable Adobe Camera Raw honor those conventions.
Finally, to appreciate the G10 design among its competitors, you have to look at the sensor and image processor combination. While the we're all weary of the Mp war, Canon's 14.7 megapixels on its 1/1.7-inch CCD outranks the 13.5 on the 1/1.7-inch Nikon CCD and 10.1 on the 1/1.63-inch Panasonic CCD.
Add to it the new DIGIC 4 processor and you've got a dogfight with Nikon's database-enhanced Exceed system.
Using a camera is often quite different from admiring its specifications. At this level, any of these cameras is a comfortable fit in the hand with a responsive shutter and gratifying image capture. But we're not just talking family snapshots. We mean how difficult is it to adapt the settings to various situations? How flexible does the camera feel in the field?
While this is a question that begs for a subjective answer, there are a few simple questions to be asked. Just how hard is it to set the three factors that affect any exposure: aperture, shutter speed and ISO?
On a dSLR there are simple, dedicated manual controls for those options that save you from going to a menu system. On a digicam, the controls generally serve double duty and can be obscure.
On the G10, Canon has taken the dSLR approach. The LX3 takes the digicam approach with its joystick and the P6000 manages to live in both worlds, taking a subdial from the dSLR world and using the menu system for ISO.
The G10's ISO is controlled with a dial that rings the Mode dial. Settings include Auto, Hi, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,600. (A special Scene mode that shoots smaller resolution images can capture at ISO 3200, but that's not on the dial.) At a glance, you can see the ISO setting and quickly change it if you like. It's something we wish not only every digicam offered, but every dSLR, as most digital cameras of all types still use a button/LCD combination to set ISO.
Setting aperture and shutter speed is done with the wheel that rings the four-way navigator on the back panel. Our preference for this job is a subdial like you'll find on any dSLR. The wheel works but requires you to press a button above it generally reserved for metering mode to switch between aperture, shutter speed and metering mode when in Manual mode. In Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority mode, you just spin the wheel to control the only aspect you can in those modes. It's the same wheel you spin in Scene mode to change scenes, though, so while it works, you have to remember what mode you're in to use it correctly.
That isn't true of the very special single-purpose EV dial on the top panel of the G10 that we came to love as much as the dedicated ISO dial. While it ranges from -2 to +2 in third stop increments, Canon has also graced it with a small orange LED so you can read the active setting very easily. EV is often obscured on a digicam, so this dial is very much appreciated.
What's it do in Manual mode? It simply shifts the target up or down from zero on the exposure scale in the LCD. Actual exposure is indicated with a white/red bar and the target is indicated with a green bar.
If there's a button that should have gotten more attention, it's the Shutter button. It's a little too rangefinder for us, with a cupped ring for the zoom control and a small black plastic button within it to fire the shutter. It certainly works and we had no trouble with it at all, but it's one button and ring that could have been more pleasurable to use.
The Power button itself on the top panel is a small, slightly raised rectangle with a green LED that we found to be a helpful reminder. We applaud Canon for making it different in shape and size from the Shutter button, something not every manufacturer thinks of. Again, we would have preferred something like the LX3's switch rather than a button, but it works just fine.
The menu system will be familiar to PowerShots users. In Record mode, there are four tabs: Shooting, Tools, Themes and Our Menu settings. In Playback mode, Tools and Themes are joined by Playback and Print tabs. These control general camera settings and functions like card formatting.
For more specific options when shooting, the Function button in the middle of the four-way navigator brings up a menu with White Balance, Our Colors, Bracketing, Flash exposure compensation, Neutral Density filter, Image compression and image size options. Which ones are active depend on what mode has been set on the Mode dial.
The Mode dial has the familiar green Auto mode where the camera controls almost every exposure option, Programmed Auto, Shutter Priority (Tv for Time value) and Aperture Priority (Av), Manual, plus two Custom settings. There is also a Movie option, a Panorama option that helps align shots and a Scene mode that cycles through the G10's 17 Scene modes, which include Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Sports, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, Indoor, ISO 3200, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Color Accent and Color Swap.
"Don't forget the brick!" We would remind ourselves as we headed for the door. The Canon G10 isn't as big as a brick, but it is big and heavy enough to make us consider picking up a dSLR instead. That's not necessarily a good thing.
We took the Canon G10 on a variety of outings. Those included just local photo safaris looking for interesting compositions (there are a few Holy Hill shots from Berkeley in the gallery), Macworld Expo (a few of which ended up in our Expo gallery), Christmas dinner (an image or two of which were stolen by near relations for use on greeting cards), the usual ISO close-ups of the Rumbolino's stick shift and more.
Two aspects of those images stick out. First is the detail the Canon G10 captures with its 14.7-Mp sensor. The Canon G10's performance rivaled dSLRs of similar or slightly less resolution. Second is the noise that crept into the images, which is where the dSLRs left the G10 behind.
It's worth mentioning photographer Joe McNally's observation after using a Nikon D3x, "we never wanna be seduced by all those pixels to the point that we confuse a detailed picture with a good picture."
By the same token, you never want to skip a good shot because you might have to raise the ISO above 400. Some of our favorite shots showed plenty of noise but we're not one to complain about noise, having spent many happy years pushing Tri-X. The question is whether or not you got the shot.
If resolution is a wash and noise an argument for using a dSLR rather than the Canon G10, then size should be the G10's real advantage. It is indeed smaller than a dSLR, but it just doesn't feel like it. That perception really dampened our enthusiasm for using the camera.
But we found we could treat it much like a dSLR as far as shooting was concerned. And our favorites tended to be images we slaved over a bit, trying various settings until we got what we were looking for. That often involved Raw shooting, something the Canon G10 does well.
Raw processing was a lot of fun and there are a few you can play with in the gallery, too. While several digicams offer Raw capture, it's usually not a very practical option because the large files take so long to copy to the memory card.
But the Canon G10's DIGIC 4 processor handles the huge CR2 Raw files from the G10 very nimbly, even when writing a large JPEG along with the CR2 file. And there was a lot of information to mine from the Canon G10's Raw images.
On a stormy day, we shot a picture of a church on a hill (YIMG_0088.JPG) surrounded by dark clouds and framed by some trees. We captured the scene using Aperture Priority mode, our walkaround mode, at f8, 1/320 second (camera selected) and ISO 125 as Raw+JPEG. The image was captured in an sRGB color space, the only option on the G10.
The JPEG is a dramatic shot, the trees in the foreground silhouetting the scene with almost no detail, while the sky, which represents the highlight area of the image, retains the threatening tonal display that attracted us to the scene in the first place. The Noah's Ark-like church seems imperiled by the very object of its worship and you wonder if it will weather the storm intact, it is so exposed to the elements and far less resilient than the darkened trees framing the scene.
Still, the JPEG is a bit muddy, mainly because of the need to retain some detail in the stormy sky. It's the kind of shot that cries out for Raw capture so you can make some intelligent choices about which tones to retain in the final image, how to handle noise and what colors should be muted or vibrant.
So we opened the image in Lightroom 2 and played around with it. Lightroom 2 uses essentially the same Raw processing engine as Adobe Camera Raw and we might have used that instead.
We had trouble with Canon's Digital Photo Professional 3.5 software included with the G10. It failed to display G10 thumbnails (even JPEGs) and to open a CR2 file from the G10. So we downloaded the latest version from Canon's G10 page. Still no luck, although Canon's ImageBrowser was able to display our images.
Apparently, for DPP to display thumbnails, you have to use CameraWindow to download the images from the G10. But we couldn't even open an image in DPP.
In Lightroom, the latitude the CR2 file provided was a good deal more than we needed. We could have easily ruined the image, making it appear to be a sunny day, it seemed to us. But that's just what you want from a Raw file. Creative control.
We started by selecting various white balance options, finally settling on Daylight for its cool highlights. Cloudy surprised us by rendering the sky a warm color. But you can set the color temperature independently of these standard white balance settings if you prefer.
Then we gave some attention to the sky, using the Curves command to bring out as much contrast as we could without shifting the midtones much. After we rendered the sky as menacingly as possible, we moved to the shadows and were surprised to find our silhouetted trees actually contained full color detail. We really didn't want to distract from the tiny church at the center of the image, so we merely lightened the trees from complete black to very dark detail. And we kicked the vibrance up a bit to see the yellow paint on the church without turning the pink building under it into a brothel.
We also used Lightroom 2's camera profiles feature to set Camera Landscape with no adjustments.
The Canon G10 is an impressive photographic tool for the discriminating enthusiast. The switch to a wider-angle lens than the G9 makes the G10 more useful for more types of photography, yet the 140mm end still gets in reasonably close for tighter compositions.
Optical quality is quite good, especially considering the extremely high 14.7-Mp resolution, with only moderate softening in the corners. Image quality is also impressive, with good color control and low noise at most ISO settings, exemplified by the ISO 800 shots that are usable printed at 11x14. Autofocus performance isn't on par with SLRs, but action photography isn't what the Canon G10 is about; it's about quality photography in a small package.
Its solid body, analog ISO control, optical image stabilization and tons of features tuned for the enthusiast photographer tell of the Canon G10's purpose. A close look at the Canon G10's images makes it clear that the Canon G10 meets the enthusiast's standard. We've used no finer digicam and it easily earns a Dave's Pick.
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:
- Interviewed: Jerry Harris (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/HARRIS/HARRIS.HTM)
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 Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee92fbe
Visit the Nikon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6f781
Dan asks about near infrared versus far infrared at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eea47ac/0
A user asks about digital photography magazines at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eeab5f2/0
Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6b2b2
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You can email us at [email protected]. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.
RE: LensAlign Lite
I just received the LensAlign Pro with mirror but I don't have any instructions on how to use this contraption. Can you help or lead me to a Web site that shows them & I can print out?
-- Paul Magann(Read both of our reviews (see http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LA/LAL.HTM for the Lite and find the Pro in the Contents panel) and visit the LensAlign site (linked in the Contents panel) for the videos. You'll know everything we know. -- Editor)
When attempting to view your LensAlign Lite review, my virus scanner just reported that it detected the Rogue spyware scanner virus and terminated my IE 7 session. I thought that you'd want to know immediately.
-- Joseph L. Kashi(Thanks very much, Joseph! After we received your email, our sleuth news editor Michael Tomkins traced the issue to a Rhapsody ad that redirected visitors to a malware site. We removed it immediately. Then we set up an ad scanning procedure to catch problem ads before they're published. We really appreciate your quick notification. It was instrumental in solving the problem! -- Dave)
RE: Scanning Odd-Sized Film
I am not that familiar with older black and white negatives. The ones I have are 2.5 x 4.5 inches. I only measured the negative part not the edge around it. I have a lot of that size negatives and I need to make sure the V700 Epson scanner will do the job before I spend the money on it. Thanks.
-- Clay Sherman(If the included film holders can not hold your film, you can always tape the film to the V700 glass for scanning. That's how large film (8x10) is scanned. If you have a lot of them, you can make your own film holder out of cardboard. It's really just an alignment device on the V700. -- Editor)
RE: POTD Image Cousin
Just thought you would get a kick out of this. Someone captured a slightly different perspective, in color, of the second prize shot in your December picture of the day contest and posted it here: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap090203.html
-- Steve Cutter(That someone would be Tim Thompson. Dan Wittmier's shot, the December second prize winner, is in black and white. And it's instructive to compare the two images of lenticular clouds. -- Editor)
Engadget (http://www.engadget.com) reports that Canon has filed a patent application for a new way to do Live View autofocus using a semi-transparent mirror to transfer light simultaneously to both the image sensor and the autofocus sensor. See the full story: http://www.engadget.com/2009/02/11/canon-patent-application-offers-solution-for-live-view-autofocus/
Fujifilm (http://www.fujifilmusa.com) has announced its $399.95 FinePix F200EXR digicam with a new 12-Mp Super CCD EXR sensor offering dynamic range bracketing and ISO up to 12,800 at 3-Mp and ISO 6400 at 6-Mp. The 28-140mm (35mm equivalent) zoom is image stabilized. The company also announced its $129.95 A150 with 10-Mmp, 3x zoom, 3-inch LCD and face detection. Both cameras will be available later this month, the company said.
Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has announced eight new Coolpix digicams. The Style Series adds the S630, S620, S230 and S220 cameras. The Performance Series adds the P90, featuring a 24x Optical Zoom with 26-624mm in 35mm format, a new 3.0-inch vari-angle LCD monitor with tilt function and anti-reflection coating and 15 fps high-speed capability. The inexpensive Life series with Nikon's Auto Scene Selector and Smart Portrait System introduces the L100, L20 and L19. The L100 sports a 15x optical zoom covering 28-420mm in 35mm format.
The company has also announced its new $199.95 AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G lens. "When mounted on a DX-format camera body, it enables photographers to document their world with a lens that produces a picture angle similar to the field of vision as seen through the human eye," Nikon said.
DxO Labs (http://www.dxomark.com) has announced the addition of Raw-based image quality data and DxOMark Sensor rankings for an initial set of high-end professional medium-format cameras: the Hasselblad H3DII-39, the Leaf Aptus 75s, the Mamiya ZD, and the Phase One P45+.
Rocky Nook (http://www.rockynook.com) has published The Nikon Creative Lighting System by Mike Hagen with special emphasis on the SB-600, SB-800, and SB-900 strobes. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952415/?tag=theimagingres-20).
The company has also published the second edition of Scanning Negatives and Slides by Sascha Steinhoff, describing how to achieve the best possible digital image from a negative or slide and how to build a workflow to make this process efficient, repeatable and reliable. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/193395230X/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Responding to the difficulty of installing a suite of applications, Adobe's installer team has launched a blog (http://blogs.adobe.com/OOBE/) "to post all Installer and licensing-related information to users of Adobe products." To contribute, use the Post a Comment form at the bottom of the page.
HDRsoft (http://www.hdrsoft.com) has released its $99 Photomatix Pro 3.1.3 [MW] with an improved Lightroom Export plug-in, faster HDR generation and bug fixes.
Andrey Tverdokhleb (http://www.raw-photo-processor.com) has released his free Raw Photo Processor 3.8.6 [M] with a dot-noise remover for hot pixels, more white balance presets for Nikon, Fujifilm and Panasonic cameras), improved batch mode and more.
Digital Anarchy (http://www.digitalanarchy.com) has released Knoll Light Factory for Aperture to control 17 elements of lighting and ToonIt for Aperture to convert images into cartoons. Save $30 by ordering before the end of the month.
Art There (http://www.artlythere.com) has released its $33 Compositor 2.15.0 [M], adding Lab and YUV channel splits and more function key shortcuts.
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