The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 11, Number 5 27 February 2009

Copyright 2009, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 248th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. First is a really condensed version of our extended review of X-Rite's ColorMunki, a clever device that can profile your display as well as your printer. Then Andrew gives the Pentax K20D dSLR a workout. Finally, we award the Missing Oscar after receiving your some enthusiastic nominations. Anybody want some gum?


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Feature: ColorMunki Photo -- All-in-One Profiling

(Excerpted from the full and illustrated review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/CMP/CMP.HTM on the Web site.)

X-Rite's ColorMunki Photo is a $499 spectrophotometer calibration device that actually does do all your device profiling in a compact, self-contained unit.

The company also offers the ColorMunki Design aimed at graphic designers and a less expensive ColorMunki Create that is not the same device as the Photo and Design models, which are nearly equivalent except for printer profile enhancement options and the inclusion of DigitalPouch in the Photo version. Just be glad you're a photographer.

So what do we mean when we say the ColorMunki Photo can do it all?

We mean ColorMunki Photo can not only profile your monitors (compensating for ambient light) but it can build ICC profiles for printer/paper/ink combinations and profile projectors. And it can calibrate itself without resorting to any external references.

But that's not all. It has a few other tricks up its sleeve, including fine tuning display profiles for a preferred gamut, automatically configuring applications to use a specific printer profile, extracting color from an image, capturing any color from any surface and previewing a PrintSafe color palette.

Profiling a monitor using a hardware device has gotten a lot easier, with software getting smarter and smarter, not to mention more and more helpful.

Building a printer profile -- which is really a profile of a printer's inks and a particular paper -- is not quite as easy. There are a lot of pitfalls that can invalidate the profile. But X-Rite provides a helping hand with video links on almost every page of the software, a call center to answer any questions you might have and an interactive, Flash-based, training video (available in six languages).

And the rest is just gravy. Delicious, satisfying, lip-smacking gravy.

THE MEAT OF THE MATTER

Building ICC profiles (ColorSync profiles on the Mac or Image Color Management profiles in Windows) is what this game is all about. Profiles describe what colors your device can display. On a monitor that involves the ambient light, the contrast and brightness, as well as the innate display properties of the LCD or CRT itself. For a printer, it involves the paper and ink combination as well as other print settings like resolution.

While the process of creating a monitor profile (the chief use of these things) is similar for the Pantone hueyPRO, Datacolor Spyder3 and X-Rite ColorMunki, the ColorMunki is a different beast than the other two. It's a spectrophotometer. They are colorimeters.

What's the difference?

A colorimeter measures luminous energy in the visible spectrum using three (or more) filters, much like the sensor on a digital camera. A spectrophotometer measures luminous energy throughout the spectrum. You zero or calibrate a spectrophotometer so it can report the percentage of wavelength absorbed compared to white.

In addition to its colorimeter Spyder3 monitor calibration device, Datacolor sells a separate Spyder3 Print package with a spectrocolorimeter that uses a number of differently-colored LEDs as light sources to provide a number of different looks at the color its viewing. But X-Rite's ColorMunki uses a spectrophotometer to do both tasks (as well as profile projectors) in one small package.

While it's a bit more expensive than a colorimeter (which can not create printer profiles), compared to the Datacolor combination colorimeter/spectrophotometer it's actually a less expensive solution.

The ColorMunki spectrophotometer, interestingly, has one of the smallest sensors we've seen. The two colorimeters -- the diminutive hueyPRO and the Spyder3 -- read a much larger area of your screen.

So while the hueyPRO might be an affordable solution for calibrating that computer in the den that you use for slideshows from the family digicam, and the Spyder3 a reliable tool for monitor profiling, the ColorMunki is an all-in-one solution for professionals who need to profile their monitors and build printer profiles for papers for which no profile is supplied by the manufacturer.

A TOUR OF THE HARDWARE

The ColorMunki itself is a compact unit even covered in its protective bag, where it measures 4.5 inches long, 4.25 inches tall and 2.0 inches wide.

The bag has a zipper that outlines the ColorMunki. When closed, the zipper pull itself bumps into the attached USB cable. The zipper pull also has an eyelet to attach the weighted strap.

Laying the strap over the top of your monitor will position the bottom of the ColorMunki against the screen. But take a look at the bottom first. You'll see a shutter in the bag that must be slid open to do the readings.

Take the ColorMunki out of its bag and you'll see a small button on either side of it in the corner nearest the USB port. Slide the button in to the other side (where it pops out so you can slide it back) to release the Target Flag, a small plastic finger that helps align the ColorMunki to read any particular spot whose color you want to read.

A Rotary Mode Dial accessible on either side of the ColorMunki determines how the device will function. We found it easiest to use our thumb on the right dial and our forefinger on the left dial, moving the dial with two fingers on either side of the ColorMunki rather than trying to spin just one side or the other. Spinning one side invariably meant we were restricting the dial's movement on the other side as we tried to support the ColorMunki.

The dial's mode options are:

Inside the dial is a half-circle hollow that is actually a button to trigger measurements.

CALIBRATING A DISPLAY

Launch ColorMunki Photo and follow the directions. Each step of the process is explained in a window, often with a link to video instructions. The videos are animated illustrations that clarify the text instructions. We really didn't find them necessary, but when we watched them, they were very clear.

After selecting the monitor to profile on multiple monitor systems, we were asked to identify the kind of monitor it is: LCD, Laptop or Projector. We didn't have a CRT attached but we didn't have a projector, either.

You are then asked to pick between two options for display calibration: Easy or Advanced. With Advanced, you are prompted for three additional procedures:

If you can't set Contrast or Brightness, you might as well use the Easy method. We tried both methods and achieved good results with both.

A large orange outline indicates where on the screen to lay the ColorMunki in its protective bag (whose soft material also protects your screen from scratches).

Then a series of color patches are displayed on the screen for the device to read. A profile is created at the conclusion of the measurements and activated immediately. A Before/After window lets you examine the difference.

The whole process is over in just a couple of minutes, among the fastest profiling procedures we've seen, although the Spyder3 can do a very quick profile, too.

CREATING A PRINTER PROFILE

Printer profiling is actually creating a profile for your printer/ink/paper combination. When you click on this option in the ColorMunki software, you are first asked to select a printer and to name the paper you will be using.

Inks aren't an option, but if you do use different inksets in your printer, you can simply create a profile for a different printer to represent the different inkset. With inkjet printers today, the inks are consistent enough that they do not require reprofiling every time you change a cartridge -- as long as you don't change brands.

The next window explains that two test charts will be printed. When you print the first one ColorMunki explains that you should disable any color correction function in the printer driver itself.

This tends to confuse people. Just walking through the printer driver settings itself confuses people. So finding the place where color correction is enabled can be an adventure.

But it's an essential step. The software can only point you in the right direction. It can't do it for you. But if you have any question about it, call X-Rite. They'll step you through your printer driver settings.

Disabling any color correction is important because you want to profile the printer not the correction. Correcting a correction won't work. You'll get hideous prints. So don't close your eyes here. Disable color correction.

You must, of course, also set the driver for the correct type of paper you are using and give it any feed directions it requires. Setting the paper type is just as important as disabling color correction. It tells the printer how much ink to lay down and even how far the printhead should be from the sheet.

You should print the charts on letter-sized paper (which isn't mentioned anywhere). And after all that, it's a bright idea to save the configuration. You'll use it again.

After printing the first target, you simply check a box that tells the program you've done that and continue. The target is labeled '1st Test Chart.'

On our system, checking that box also skipped the warning to wait 10 minutes for the print to dry. If you look at the left panel in our slide show you'll see the "Allow Test Chart to Dry" step (the third step) disappears, replaced by "ColorMunki Status," after we visit the print dialog to actually print.

Why wait 10 minutes? So the colors in the print set. X-Rite's theory here is that inkjets are printing on swellable papers that need to encapsulate the dyes. Some swellable papers require 24 hours, of course, but for this process, 10 minutes will do.

If you are using pigments on a porous paper, this does not apply so you can skip the drying timer with that check box.

Next you connect the ColorMunki and calibrate it before taking it out of its fabric case and reading the first test chart. There are a couple of nylon skids on the bottom of the device to help the ColorMunki glide over the paper.

But before you scan your first chart, consider your ambient light. During the day here in the bunker, we enjoy diffused sunlight (either from our shades or the fog). That's ideal for viewing prints. But if you're confined to an area illuminated by incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs, that's not so ideal and can skew what you see. The ColorMunki doesn't allow much light under it, so your profile won't be affected, but your judgment will.

Scanning the five rows of color patches on the test chart requires you to start and end on the white paper, holding down the ColorMunki button as you go. The ColorMunki software will let you know how you are doing. It will advance to the next row with a yellow marquee if the scan was successful, otherwise it will flash red to indicate you should scan the row again.

We watched the video to get an idea of the process before trying it. Our first attempts got the flashing red marquee because we started with the sensor a bit off the paper. We had positioned the ColorMunki itself off the first row. But all you have to do is start the sensor (look for the little hole in the bottom -- it's actually right at the six o'clock position of the ColorMunki dial) on the white paper, which does put the leading edge of the device over the first patch. The trick is just to use the throbbing lightbar as a guide. Start and end on the white paper.

We moved the device over each strip of 10 color patches fairly quickly. We didn't slowly drag it or zip over the strip. Just a smooth drag. And were five-for-five after figuring it out. It's a good deal easier than pecking at a number of patches, too.

The software then generates color patches for the second chart. And it takes a while (give it five minutes). When it's done, you are taken to another screen that prompts you to print the chart. The software reminds you to use the same printer settings you previously used.

After the second chart is printed, we again received a warning to wait 10 minutes before scanning it so the colors would set.

Once the sheet has normalized, you scan it just the way you did for the first chart. We were five-for-five again. It's pretty simply once you get the idea.

Then the software builds a profile. That takes a few minutes, too. So with the two 10 minute drying times and two five minute calculation times, you need about 30 minutes to create a profile.

Of course, the point of this exercise is not just to build profiles but to get color accurate prints. And to really finish the process, you have to enable the profile in your printing applications.

READING A REAL COLOR

Taking spot measurements can be addictive. You've been warned.

Launch Photo ColorPicker. It should detect the ColorMunki, assuming you've got it plugged in and set to Spot mode at the six o'clock position. You'll see it listed in the Resources section of the left panel. Click there to open the main panel for the ColorMunki.

Using the popup menu, you can set Spot for Scanning mode. There are links to videos just below but to build a palette of Spot readings, just click the View Measurements button and start taking readings.

To take readings, push in the small button in the corner of the ColorMunki closest to the USB port. That will release a small plastic target on the button so you can align the ColorMunki to the color you want to measure.

Once aligned, simply drop the ColorMunki flat on the color surface and press the button. Instantly the color will be read, transferred to Photo ColorPicker and displayed in the Measurements window.

CONCLUSION

The more we used the ColorMunki, the more we liked it. And the more we liked it, the more we used it. Which, when it comes to profiling devices, is more than half the battle. You want something you enjoy using because the more you use it, the more repeatable your results will be.

And we found it strangely liberating to be able to create printer profiles with ease. Just two easily scannable charts, taking half an hour of our time and the mysteries of printing on an odd paper were eliminated.

Beyond those basic functions, which are conveniently wrapped into one compact spectrophotometer and a single software application, we were impressed with Photo ColorPicker. It was a great way to experiment with color and color combinations. And it was made all the more useful by the ColorMunki's ability to read a color in the real world. You can start with a product and riff from there.

So, if you need to go beyond monitor profiling, the ColorMunki will get you there at an affordable price with easy-to-use software. Highly recommended.

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Feature: Pentax K20D -- Live View & More

By ANDREW ALEXANDER
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/K20D/K20DA.HTM on the Web site.)

Users of the Pentax K10D should feel right at home using a K20D. Generally, the K20D uses the same frame as the K10D -- the size, shape and placement of every button and dial is identical. There are three changes of note:

With 10 shooting modes selectable from the top-mounted selector dial, the K20D maintains the modes originally found on the K10D. The K20D also maintains the unique Green button, which is generally used to reset metering results to a camera-determined optimal setting. As well, the Raw button is maintained, forming an effective toggle between regular JPEG shooting and Raw mode shooting. Pentax continues to embrace Adobe's Digital Negative format, also available in the K10D.

With the increased resolution of the 14.6-megapixel sensor, the overall shooting speed suffers slightly. However, it makes up for this slight reduction in shooting speed with a larger buffer to accept the larger image size.

LIVE VIEW

The K20D introduces a Live View mode that channels raw data captured by the sensor directly to the LCD. Like most cameras equipped with this function, the reflex mirror must swing out of the way to allow access to the sensor, disabling the optical viewfinder.

Activate Live View mode by swiveling the power switch past the "on" position (the default setting of the depth-of-field preview switch is set to Live View mode, but can also be changed via a custom function setting to either standard digital or optical preview modes). It takes about a second for the mirror to swing out of the way and the mode to be activated. By default Live View mode shows the scene with an overlay of grid lines and autofocus points, either of which can be disabled in the Setup menu.

Activating Live View mode is useful for critical fine-detail manual focus, as the zoom dial can be used to enable 4x or 8x magnification. Using the system in the field, however, I found it was no substitute for the optical viewfinder. While Live View mode is enabled, you can't change aperture, shutter speed or ISO settings. Regular autofocus is also disabled, but the camera can slip quickly out and back into Live View by pressing the AF button. Only a few settings can be changed without causing the camera to exit Live View mode. Finally, actually taking a photo in Live View mode operates a bit differently than you'd expect: after pressing the shutter release button the camera swings the mirror back into position, meters and autofocuses, takes the exposure and then returns to Live View mode.

Live View mode is particularly taxing on a camera's sensor, so Pentax shuts off Live View automatically after three minutes. In addition, a temperature sensor will monitor the sensor and turn off Live View mode if the sensor gets too hot.

So while Live View mode can act as a very effective compositional and focusing aid, in practice, it isn't nearly as useful for regular shooting.

BURST MODE

Live View mode made possible another shooting mode new to the K20D, Burst mode. This mode allows you to shoot a continuous series of smaller images at a very fast speed of just over 22 frames per second. Live View output is simply saved as individual frames.

A maximum of 115 frames can be captured, which at 22 fps equates to about 5.3 seconds of continuous shooting. After this, the camera takes a fairly significant time to write all the images to the memory card, locking up the camera in the process. During the acquisition of these images, the images are shown on the LCD.

Similar to Live View mode, Burst mode has very limited application. Exposure settings (shutter speed, aperture and ISO) are locked during shooting. There's also a significant lag between pressing the shutter button and the commencement of shooting, though it's less obvious if the camera is set to Live View mode.

The images captured during Burst Shooting mode are comparatively small: 1536x1024 pixels. Adjusting the quality setting has no effect on the maximum number of photographs taken: 116 seems to be the maximum.

I found Burst mode to be more of a gimmick than a practical shooting mode. Pentax should be applauded for taking the first step toward providing a dSLR video mode, but it doesn't quite come together. The lag between pressing the shutter button and image acquisition, the 115-image limit and the lengthy write-out time makes it difficult to use effectively.

POP-UP FLASH

The pop-up flash guide number has increased from 11 to 13, a slight increase in light output. Flash modes include red-eye reduction, slow-sync and trailing curtain modes. Notably absent is the ability to select a manual level of flash output.

Flash exposure compensation ranges up to two stops in negative compensation or one stop positive. The flash covers a field of view of 28mm in 35mm film terms, which means it will fill the field of view produced by using an 18mm lens on the K20D.

A custom setting allows the camera to automatically set its white balance mode to "Flash" when the pop-up flash is used or remain with whatever white balance mode has been selected by the user. Flash recycling has been improved from 3.75 seconds on the K10D to 3.05 seconds on the K20D.

The pop-up flash can also be used as a wireless commander, activating compatible Pentax flashes remotely. In our tests with the Pentax AF-360FGZ flash, we found that in an outdoor setting we could reliably trigger the flash wirelessly at a range of about 19 feet. Indoors, with the light of the pop-up flash being reflected off of interior walls, we could trigger the flash at a range of 40 feet (and possibly further, but that was the extent of our testing area).

Wireless flash operation is interesting and more than occasionally useful and we could do a whole separate review of it. The Pentax wireless flash system works, it's just perhaps not subject to the same level of fine-tuning that's possible with similar systems from other manufacturers.

Oddly, shake reduction is not available when wireless flash operation is selected.

AUTOFOCUS

In the lab, the K20D revealed itself to be a very capable camera delivering good image quality overall with excellent fine detail. But at a sporting event, Publisher Dave Etchells found its autofocus performance severely lacking.

Dave used the K20D with the fairly high-end Pentax 200mm f/2.8 ED IF SDM SMC DA* prime telephoto lens to shoot one of his son's rugby games. It turned out to be an exercise in frustration, he reported, despite the fact that Pentax's SDM ultrasonic motor should have made the lens pretty fast to focus.

"Shot after shot," Dave said, "the camera just would not find the proper focal point, despite my being careful to use the center focus point and keep it on the player I was most interested in. Even when the action didn't seem terribly fast, the camera frequently misfocused, to the point that only about 50 percent of my shots were usable. In frustration, I switched to my Nikon D80, which had only its 18-135mm kit lens mounted. This didn't give me the reach I really wan.: Suddenly, 90 to 95 percent of my shots were sharply focused."

So while the K20D is an excellent camera in many respects, we really can't recommend it for capturing fast-pace action.

IMAGE QUALITY

ISO Performance. The new sensor of the K20D increases maximum ISO from 1600 to 6400. Image noise is quite well-controlled between ISO 100 and 400 and our review of 13x19-inch prints at these sensitivities showed excellent performance. 8x10-inch prints are still excellent at ISO 800. ISO 1600 however, shows quite substantial issues with both grain and color noise and edge detail is affected. That said, we have seen much worse performance at ISO 1600 on other cameras and 8x10-inch prints are still quite good, even at ISO 1600. Images shot at ISO 3200 and 6400 have an impressive amount of chroma noise throughout the image, which noise reduction does little to remove.

Noise Reduction. The K20D offers two options for contending with noise: slow shutter noise reduction and high ISO noise reduction. SSNR is available with a custom setting, activating at shutter speeds of 1/8 second or slower. The camera takes as long as the shutter speed to process the results through the noise reduction process. A 15-second exposure will take 30 seconds to show the results. In the custom setting, the K20D allows you to choose between Auto and On. On the K20D, there is no Off setting for SSNR.

SSNR is effective at dealing with hot pixels that tend to show up in long exposures. The K20D comes with a set-up function to deal with hot pixels ("Pixel mapping") and you shouldn't hesitate to use it if you see hot pixels in your exposures.

High ISO Noise Reduction is available to reduce the amount of noise produced in images captured at ISO settings of 800 or higher. At ISO 6400, strong noise reduction is enabled regardless of the setting chosen. Three levels of high-ISO noise reduction are available: weakest, weak and strong. The above ISO comparison series shows the effectiveness of these settings.

D-Range. D-Range "makes it more difficult for bright areas to occur in the image" (Pentax user manual). When employed, ISO 100 becomes unavailable, making 200 the base ISO option. In practice, the system preserves highlight detail that would otherwise be blown out if the scene were significantly overexposed.

White Balance. We faulted the K10D for its warmer-than-natural indoor and outdoor automatic white balance: with its default settings, the K20D offers the same warm color cast in both situations. Fortunately, you can fine-tune each of its eight white balance settings to your preference. The K20D offers not only a red-blue adjustment to warm-up or cool-down a given white balance, but also offers the option to move the color point between Green and Magenta points. A reference image shows the effect of your adjustment. This is perhaps one of the better implementations we've seen.

Pixelation Problem. In Shawn's K10D review, he noted issues with hot pixels showing up in certain images with fine lines, like window blinds. To our knowledge, this was never resolved and incidentally did not show up in the Samsung GX-10.

The K20D arrived at our lab with an even more severe pixelation problem, where dead pixels were showing up in just about any gray and some other solid colors, increasing as the ISO went up.

We let Pentax know and they came up with a firmware update (v 1.01) that solved the problem rather neatly. You'll still see the dead pixels from before the firmware update in the FAR shots and a few others. (To see the new versions, look for our sample images with "V1.01" in the file name.)

CUSTOM IMAGE SETTINGS

By pressing the Fn button and then the OK button, you can modify custom image profiles. For example, by default the Portrait image profile has a very neutral placement of saturation, hue, contrast and sharpness. If you want your portraits to be more saturated, you can override the default saturation setting.

The K20D offers five image style settings by default: Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape and Vibrant. A Monochrome option is also available, with the ability to simulate 10 color filters, everything from basic color filters to an infrared filter effect. The filter effects are quite convincing, a natural extension of how the image sensor can be used and might convince you to leave your filters at home.

The Monochrome conversion can be further modified with a Toning adjustment which allows you to dial in an amount of either selenium style processing (blues) or sepia style processing (browns). Contrast and sharpness can also be adjusted with this filter.

Helpfully, the interface allows you to take a sample image with the depth-of-field preview button or shows you the last image shot, to use as a reference image. Adjustments made in the interface are simulated in the sample image.

POST-PROCESSING MODES

Pentax has integrated a great deal of functionality into the K20D for reviewing and processing photographs in-camera. By pressing the Fn button in Playback mode, you have the ability to set up DPOF direct printing, play a slide show, convert from Raw to JPEG, compare photos side-by-side and add post-processing effects.

Post-processing effects include black and white or sepia desaturation, color treatments, a softness filter, an intense illustration-like effect, HDR (high dynamic range) processing, brightness modification and a questionable Slimming mode. It's interesting to play around with these functions and new images can be created with the processing effects added.

Unfortunately, the range of effects processing is slightly less powerful in post-processing than with the custom image settings described above. For example, you can't add an infrared filter effect in post, you have to set it up to shoot with that mode enabled.

Post-processing adjustments are saved as new images, which can take a while if you're working with 14.6-Mp images. Applying the illustration effect, for example, took 27 seconds to process.

DUST REDUCTION

The K20D uses the same suite of tools available in the K200D for contending with dust: a special coating on the sensor to reduce the chances of dust adhering to the sensor, a vibrating sensor carriage to shake loose any attached dust and finally, a new dust alert system that takes a high-contrast photo to show you where any stubborn dust particles remain on the sensor, aiding more traditional cleaning methods.

CONCLUSION

With its 14.6-Mp sensor, the Pentax K20D produces some of the highest-resolution photographs in its category. Noise isn't a practical factor until ISO 800, edges are well-preserved and even at ISO 1600 8x10 prints are excellent. Auto white balance tends to produce overly warm images but the Pentax white balance system is easily adjustable.

Pentax made a bold stride by including Burst mode. Shake reduction continues to be excellent, one of the best implementations we've seen. Live View mode makes an appearance, but it's more useful in a studio setting than in the field.

The K20D has enough features to appeal to the advanced photographer and the rugged construction to appeal to the professional. But Pentax is only now beginning to provide a few key lenses in its Supersonic Drive Motor line. Autofocus performance, while tenacious and effective, isn't as fast as other manufacturers.

With its high level of customization, both during and after shooting, the K20D offers a wealth of options for advanced photographers who like to tweak settings to perfection. But Pentax also offers a Green mode, which essentially puts the camera into full automatic.

When used properly the Pentax K20D can produce excellent images, making it easy to declare it a Dave's Pick.

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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 about the Pentax K20D at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeabd72/0

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

A user asks about choosing a camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeab3af/0

Read comments about the Canon MP620 Printer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeaac3c/0

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

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Just for Fun: The Missing Oscar for Online Photo Sharing

First Joaquin Phoenix wanted to be a musician, as he told Dave Letterman between chomps on his chewing gum. Then Ben Stiller, pretending to be Joaquin Phoenix, showed a sudden interest in a career change to cinematography at the Academy Awards -- after he got rid of his gum.

Meanwhile, we've been chewing on your nominations for Best Online Photo Sharing Service for two weeks now and we've come to a conclusion. We're going back to popcorn. It's too hard to pick a winner.

The final count was pretty evenly distributed, so we have no problem sharing the award among all the nominees.

They include (in no particular order): Facebook, Flickr, Nikon's my Picturetown, Picasa and SmugMug.

Jim Crowell singled out SmugMug for its "unlimited storage, a great interface, excellent service." Three attributes worth applauding.

But Dan Frissora had a longer list in praise of Google's Picasa. We quote him:

That all sounds good (especially the part about being free twice) but he doesn't mention chewing gum, which can be a sticking point.

While we ourselves have, from time to time, set up an account at one or another of these winners for the sake of a related review or two, we were a little surprised about Facebook. But indeed we confirmed with someone a lot more social than we are (not to mention a connoisseur of commercial pizza) that it has a pretty nice presentation for a gallery of images and has some nice options for sharing as well. You don't have to go elsewhere.

We were also surprised that only Nikon made the list among all the camera manufacturers who have thought this was an essential service. Kodak Gallery, HP's Shutterfly. Walmart and Costco didn't garner any votes, either. And let's not mention Adorama or RitzPix. Or anyone else for that matter.

The members of the Academy have spoken and that's what counts.

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RE: Olympus SP-590 UZ

When can we expect a full review of the Olympus SP-590 UZ, how it compares to the SP-570 UZ? What is the quality of the pictures at 675 ft., etc. I love the 570 -- the zoom on the lens does not bother me at all -- and I love the feel of the 570 (reminds me of the C-8080). I am afraid the 590 will not be as sturdy and be more flimsy for lack of a better word since it's six ounces lighter. Having the zoom control on top would not bother me. I love your reviews.

-- Kathi Heriford

(While we haven't received the review unit yet, Olympus is very good about getting them to us as soon as they're available. The SP-590 UZ starts shipping in March. -- Editor)

RE: Genius MousePen

Last Christmas my son gave me something I had been wanting for a while -- a tablet! It's a Genius MousePen 8x6. The stylus did not work at all, even after trying several new batteries in it. It was not returnable, so he had been trying ever since to buy a replacement stylus until this Christmas when he bought me a complete new set.

It seems a waste to have another new tablet and mouse still in their original bubble wrap, when someone else could be using it, if only a replacement stylus could be purchased. Don't other owners ever lose or ruin the stylus and want to replace it? Where might they do that?

-- Lynn Maniscalco

(Like your son, we took a look on the Web for supplier and weren't able to find one. Genius itself doesn't offer one on its site. So maybe the best idea is to think of the original set as a backup tablet and mouse should the set you're using fail. Interestingly, the price for the Genius MousePen setup is not a lot more than a replacement Wacom stylus, which are available. -- Editor)

RE: Mow the Lawn

My 13 year old son is looking for a small business to make some money on the side. I was thinking about him purchasing an Epson V700 scanner and starting a little business digitizing slides, film, etc. I know this model can scan 12 slides at a time. However, I am trying to figure out how long it would take to scan and save 12 slides.

-- Jordan Hoffman

(Our rule of thumb, regardless of the numerous variables, is to allow an hour for each role of film (say 36 images). It's a rough guide, but it prevents us from starting something we can't finish <g>. And then, when we do dig in, we often wish we were 13 again and could just mow a lawns in 15 minutes! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Olympus is celebrating its 90th anniversary by creating the Olympus Space Project (http://olympus-space-project.com) "to photograph the majestic beauty of our planet and raise awareness to protect it." The company's flagship E-3 dSLR and Zuiko digital lenses will journey to the International Space Station on the next Space Shuttle Discovery mission.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released updates for Photoshop CS4, InDesign CS4 and InCopy CS4. The Photoshop update addresses "a number of issues that could cause slow performance have been addressed," the company said. OS X users also got a plug-in (http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=4337) to disable multitouch gestures which can accidentally rotate the canvas on newer trackpads.


onOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com) released its $499.95 Plug-in Suite 4.5, the latest version of onOne Software's Photoshop plug-in collection, which combines the recently announced FocalPoint 1.1, Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition, PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition and PhotoFrame 4 Professional Edition in addition to Mask Pro 4 and PhotoTune 2.2.

The company also released its $259.95 PhotoTools 2 Standard and Professional Edition, a Photoshop plug-in that uses Actions to provide effects, corrections and production automation.


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has updated its iPhone application Phanfare Photon with the ability to send multiple photos and entire albums from the Phanfare service to Facebook, so you can share your pictures with your Facebook network of friends while maintaining an archival copy on Phanfare's secure, cloud-based servers. This version of Photon also adds several important features to help manage photos and videos.


Western Digital (http://www.westerndigital.com) has introduced its newly redesigned My Book World Edition network storage drive in one terabyte ($229.99) and two terabyte ($449.99) capacities compatible with PC and Mac® computers to provide automatic, continuous backup for all the computers on your network.


Dust-Aid (http://www.dust-aid.com) has introduced several new dSLR camera sensor filter dust prevention products and cleaning products. Dust-Shield is focused on the prevention of dust by blocking particulates from entering the mirror chamber. Dust-Swabs with Sensor Light is an illuminated swab for shining light and cleaning a sensor filter in a dark mirror chamber. Dust-Jet contains a replaceable filter to clean air blown through the bellows of the blower.


X-Rite (http://www.xrite.com) has unveiled an unlimited seat licensing policy for ColorMunki Photo, reviewed above. Existing ColorMunki customers are immediately covered under the new-unlimited policy and can obtain an updated license agreement by visiting Support (http://www.colormunki.com/photo).


Rocky Nook (http://www.rockynook.com) has published Photoshop CS4 Photographer's Handbook by Stephen Laskevitch. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952423/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $34.95 GraphicConverter 6.4 [M] with access to iPhoto albums, a GPS tab in the information window, support for more images in XMP metadata, SHS import, a remove blue function, clipboard support for PDF clippings and more.


JetPhoto Studio 4.2 [MW] (http://www.jetphotosoft.com) adds 16:9 Flash galleries, custom-sized Flash movies, Terrian map for photo geotagging with Google Maps, support for HTML tags in photo descriptions while making Google Map galleries, support for big preview images in Google Earth, batch append or replace in photo notes and other more.


Karelia (http://www.karelia.com) has released its free iMedia Browser 1.1.3 [M] with enhanced search, support for much larger iPhoto libraries and more.


Goosie Cards (http://goosiecards.com) are custom, laminated flash cards for children that can be personalized with your own photos and text.


Camera Bits (http://www.camerabits.com) has released its $160 Photo Mechanic 4.6 [MW] with watched folders; enhanced geotagging; new Upload templates for Secure FTP, Amazon S3, ExposureManager, Flickr, Gallery 2, SmugMug and Zenfolio; new HTML and Flash Exporter templates; a Convert Raw to DNG command; and more.


In reversing the 18-year-old policy prohibiting the press from photographing flag-drapped military coffins returning to the U.S., Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave the families of the fallen the final say. "I think that foremost in our thinking about issues like this should be the families and giving them choices," he said in announcing the change. Our April 30, 2004 feature Picture of the Year discussed the Seattle Times publication of Tami Silicio's digital image of a coffin being loaded on a plane in Kuwait despite the prohibition.

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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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New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
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Happy snapping!

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

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