|Volume 11, Number 9||24 April 2009|
Welcome to the 252nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. News Editor Michael Tomkins takes us on a tour of Aurora, a new $20 image editing, management and sharing application before Shawn delights in the 25-300mm Lumix ZS3. Then we discuss how to hunt for coupons and how to fool Mother Nature. Finally, we illustrate a recent use of our own image collection in the service of a higher, if shorter, cause.
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By MICHAEL R. TOMKINS, News Editor(Excerpted from the illustrated news story posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1240318801.html on the Web site.)
Light Crafts Inc. has launched Aurora, an application that offers a range of image editing and management capabilities in one approachable, affordable program.
Following in the footsteps of the company's powerful but rather complex LightZone application, Aurora has a much simpler interface that helps users get good results without needing to understand the complex interplay of variables such as contrast, saturation, tone curves and the like.
Light Crafts' Aurora is designed as an all-in-one solution, providing a workflow that includes photo import organization, browsing, editing, backup, printing and sharing. Aurora's import and organization functionality is relatively straightforward. The program allows images to be renamed, rated, rotated and tagged with captions or keywords.
Users can then browse images either by folder or by searching on ratings, date ranges, tags and captions. Three viewing modes are offered: both filmstrip and grid views (each with user control over thumbnail size), plus a slide show view.
It's Aurora's non-destructive image editor that's likely to attract attention. A range of editing tools include Relight, Crispness, Color Strength, Color Warmth, Black & White and Tint. Of these, only the Relight tool has an optional automatic setting; the rest are all applied manually, but in a manner that's easy to understand.
When editing images using one of these tools, a row of preview images appear above the full-sized image, showing the potential effect of the tool. For example, the previews might show a range of cooler and warmer versions for the Color Warmth tool or the results of different filter color selections for the Black & White tool. As the user rolls their mouse over these preview images, they increase in size to allow better visibility. After a preview is clicked on and applied, it is marked as the current setting and (when applicable, for tools with variable strength) assumes the central position with new previews on either side.
It's simple, intuitive and makes it very easy for beginners to correct their images visually without really needing to understand the changes being made (and to revert the result should they change their mind). A couple of clicks on images that look better will soon guide the user to their desired result.
Certain tools on offer have some degree of intelligence as well. For example, the "Relight" tool is more than just a simple linear brightness adjustment, but instead varies its strength so as to pull detail out of shadows without blowing highlight detail. Aurora also includes face recognition capability, which assists in optimizing results for portraits.
In addition to the previously mentioned editing tools, there are also two further tools which don't feature the preview image design of the other tools: Red-Eye and Crop & Straighten. Aurora's Red-Eye tool runs automatically with no user intervention, beyond simply approving or rejecting its results. The Crop & Straighten tool allows the user to select an aspect ratio for cropping (or to crop freely) and temporarily applies a fine-grained grid over the image while rotating to assist with alignment.
When editing is complete and you opt to save the image, Aurora actually saves the result as a new file -- but the user interface cleverly shows only the edited image, hiding the original from view to avoid confusion. Should you later change your mind and decide you're unhappy with the new image, a couple of mouse clicks can delete the changes and restore the original file. It's also possible to duplicate either the original or edited image through the user interface, if desired.
ONLINE BACKUPS, SHARING
As well as its organizational and editing features, Light Crafts Aurora also includes provision for both backup and sharing of images.
The image backup functionality relies on Amazon's S3 (Simple Storage Solution) service and requires the user to sign up through Amazon, all achieved within the program. Pricing for Aurora's backup functionality is set at $4.95 per month for 20-GB of storage space -- likely plenty for the user group the program targets.
In terms of sharing features, as well as the aforementioned slide shows, Aurora includes the ability to print images directly from the program, as well as to upload images directly to photo sharing sites. Currently, Aurora has support for directly uploading images to Facebook, Flickr, Google's Picasa, Smugmug and 23 Photo Sharing.
Finally, it is possible to email images directly from Aurora and here the program offers support for either a local email client such as Outlook or Outlook Express or a Web-based email service such as AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, MobileMe or Yahoo! Plus.
With a price tag of just $20 and a trial version available for download, Aurora also verges on being an impulse buy. The program is available immediately for Windows users and a version for Mac OS will follow soon, with development currently well underway. Note that Aurora currently supports JPEG files only; we understand that support for Raw image files is planned for a future release. For more info and to download a trial copy, visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?lcaurora.
By SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ZS3/ZS3A.HTM on the Web site.)
Though the name has been changed, perhaps to get a few more digits for future models, the ZS3 is a continuation of a well-loved and respected line of pocket-long-zoom digital cameras from Panasonic, that includes the original TZ1 from 2006 (oh, so long ago in digital camera years). Though we had to ding the first model for some lens flare issues, we couldn't deny its blend of fun and utility. Gone is the lens flare, though and the Panasonic ZS3 delivers all the fun with a little more simplicity than we thought possible.
LOOK & FEEL
Some might not call it a pocketable camera, but I had no problem slipping the Panasonic ZS3 into my back pocket and shirt pocket when I headed out to shoot. At only 1.29 inches thick, it's really not much bigger than most pocket cameras and you certainly get a whole lot more zoom power than most of those offer.
The ZS3 is available in four colors, Silver, Black, Blue and Red. Each of them has a handsome silver bezel around each lens piece and a silver top deck. On the upper left front is the flash and in the upper right the AF assist lamp. A small bulge forms the ZS3's grip.
On the top you see a series of holes. From the left are holes for the speaker, then the two clusters to the right are for the two microphones. To the right of that is the power switch, then the Shutter button with the Zoom control surrounding it. Finally we come to the very simple Mode dial. This looks and works well, but it may be the only major weak point to the ZS3's design. It turns too easily (it's downright loose), so I accidentally changed modes quite often. If you turn it to the open area accidentally, the LCD says, "Mode dial is not in the proper position." Seems to me preventing that in the first place would have been easier than wiring the system to detect it and post this message.
Most of the controls are on the back of the ZS3 to the right of the LCD. Nine bumps serve as a thumb grip, just left of the Record/Playback switch. Though it works fine, I really prefer to have a button activate Playback mode, as most SLRs do and only some pocket cameras. Then when a photo opportunity strikes while you're in Playback mode, a press of the shutter button returns you to Record mode. But as I say, this switch works well enough and is easy to understand.
Just below that switch is the ZS3's instant-on Motion-picture button, which starts recording video with whatever settings you've preselected. I found it a little difficult to press this button without shaking the camera and would prefer it up closer to the top right corner of the screen. Below this is the navigation cluster, which serves to move around in the menus and also to adjust the various items embossed into the metal: Self-timer, EV, Flash and Macro. The Menu/Set button brings up the ZS3's Main menu and the left and right arrows move in and out of menu levels.
The Display button switches among the various display options and the Q.Menu button brings up a Quick Menu in Record mode and serves as the Delete button in Playback mode.
Ranging from 25-300mm equivalent, the ZS3's lens is capable of a very wide-angle view and a pretty long telephoto and it bears repeating that this 12x range fits into a pocket! Past pocket zooms have either neglected the wide-angle end to get a longer telephoto or skimped on the telephoto to get a decent wide-angle, usually only as wide as 28mm. But the ZS3's lens goes from a room-grabbing 25mm to 300mm, the same focal length you see the pros using at sporting events.
Image quality, as you'll see below, is pretty good overall, with some chromatic aberration and corner softness, but that's to be expected and is kept controlled well enough that we can't complain.
The ZS3's lens has the company's Mega Optical Image Stabilization, which works remarkably well. It's one of the most rock-solid in the business.
I really like how Panasonic has simplified Mode selections, with Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, MyScene 1, MyScene 2, Scene and Clipboard mode. Most users should just leave the ZS3 in Intelligent Auto mode and let the camera choose from its 28 Scene modes. It switches quickly into Macro mode when needed and recognizes faces automatically. Everyone with little experience in photography should just solve the loose dial problem by taping the mode dial into Intelligent Auto and just shoot, because it's gotten remarkably reliable.
The two MyScene modes are useful if you have more than one favorite Scene mode and want to keep them set and at-hand. Clipboard mode allows you to photograph important documents and maps to keep on your device for quick recall later. Image size is limited to 2 megapixels maximum and images are stored in the ZS3's internal memory. It's a great way to just grab a shot of the subway map as you start traveling in a new city and the ZS3's relatively high-res screen brings up enough detail to make it useful.
Face detect vs. recognition. The terms used to be interchangeable, but the ZS3 includes actual Face Recognition in addition to detection, where you can teach the camera which faces to watch for and quite literally focus on. It's intended both to prioritize which face is usually in focus, but also to help you find pictures of your family members as you look through your photographs later on your computer. I did a quick test (see the video online) to verify that it works as well as the Panasonic TS1. Results were mixed at best, but remember this isn't exactly a real-world test and some of the faces were captured in low light. I'm unsure how much the camera will learn as it goes along, but I don't think I'd rely on it to organize a set of photos at this point. It's still interesting technology.
The ZS3's menu is big and clear and in Intelligent Auto mode, it gets even bigger, taking up only four lines instead of five. The Quick Menu is handy, but doesn't seem much faster than the regular menu, thanks to the sheer number of jumps needed to get from option to option. Still, it's nice to have a choice which menu you use for commonly set functions and all of the available options do appear onscreen at once with the Quick Menu. This menu drops down from the top of the screen and allows you to change more common settings, including Stabilizer, Metering, AF mode, White Balance, Intelligent ISO, ISO, Intelligent Exposure, Picture size and LCD mode.
The screen is informative, giving you information about both the still resolution settings and movie mode settings, since both options are available at once. Pressing the Display button cycles through the available settings. The first and second screens are nearly identical: the first shows how many still shots you can capture with the available memory and the second shows how much video time you can capture. For some reason the second screen also omits the time and date from the bottom of the screen. The third screen omits all but the AF points and the third adds a grid. You can also choose to display an optional histogram on all but the blank screen, a handy tool to verify proper exposure.
STORAGE & BATTERY
The ZS3 stores images on SD and SDHC cards, whose maximum capacity is 32-GB. That'll be sufficient for most needs with this camera and indeed a 4-GB to 8-GB card should be sufficient unless you plan to shoot a lot of video. The camera also comes with 45-MB of built-in memory.
The ZS3's battery is a 895mAh, 3.6 volt lithium-ion design, model number DMW-BCG10PP. Battery life is around 300 shots, according to CIPA standards, though if you're going to shoot a lot of video, I recommend picking up at least one spare, as the battery depleted quite rapidly when I shot video.
I'm a big fan of small cameras with big imaginations. Whether that means they can shoot wide-angle views with ease or reach out and grab far off scenes or shoot video with some grace, I start to think of them as companions rather than just cameras. Well, the ZS3 does all three of those items quite well, so let's just say I've become a fan.
Zooming with the ZS3 is fairly fluid, though it tends to jump in large blocks, making fine framing somewhat difficult. I found that flicking the zoom control allowed me to move in fairly fine steps, which was a reasonable workaround.
Zooming while shooting video is enhanced, since it starts slowly and gradually speeds up, which I found better than the Panasonic TS1's "on or off" fast-all-the-time zoom. I zoomed in all the way and started to zoom back while shooting video and though I held the zoom all the way to the right, zoom started extremely slowly then gradually increased, slowing as it neared the end. You'll have to learn just how the camera will respond at different focal lengths before you can reliably use the ZS3, because it seems to zoom more slowly at full telephoto than in the middle focal lengths.
As I mentioned, the Motion picture button is more difficult to press while holding the camera than it should be, especially if you plan to start zooming. So despite the excellent image stabilization in the ZS3, the start of any video can be a bit shaky. Especially at the 300mm focal length.
In my TS1 review, I also mentioned it was a little odd there was no mask to tell me just what I'd be recording if I decided to press the red Motion picture button. You see, the default aspect ratio for stills on the ZS3 is 4:3 and if you're shooting an HD video, which is 16:9, you won't know how much of the top or bottom of the frame will be cropped until you press the Motion picture button. Well, it turns out there is a menu item for just such a mask on screen three of the Setup menu, called REC AREA. Set it to on and it will overlay a light mask top and bottom, one that's easy enough to see through that I didn't mind having it active all the time.
Unlike most digital cameras, the ZS3 also has a wind filter for its videos, which does help cut the wind noise when shooting movies outdoors. It's not completely removed, but reduced, which is how it is with most wind filters I've used.
Because one of the main differences between the ZS3 and the ZS1 (available for $100 less) is its AVCHD Lite movie recording and HDMI-out option, I went through some trouble trying to get a Mini-HDMI to HDMI cable so I could plug the ZS3 into my HDTV. I went to Walmart, Target, Staples and even Radio Shack, finding nothing, not even a step-down adapter. After my long search, I came back to the office to find that we already have one; but be warned that though it's a major feature on the ZS3, finding a cable to explore it will require that you venture online or to the nearest mail-order catalog. You may find one at BestBuy or another video specialty store, just not the general stores that tend to dabble in electronics.
Cable in hand, I went to explore the wonders of HD video from the camera. Perhaps it was my TV's settings or maybe just my TV, but it wasn't playing back like I expected. I thought I'd see smooth video with pixel-to-pixel crispness on my Samsung HDTV, but it just didn't happen. Video looked fine from a distance, but wasn't as crisp as DVDs look on my television. I wasn't able to spend a lot of time tweaking settings, so that's all I can say. Dave, however, went and plugged it into one of his Samsung HDTVs and said it looked fine and crisp, so be aware that like anything to do with HDTV, you're entering a more complicated realm than you might be prepared for. The ZS3 is primed for use on Panasonic HDTVs, using their enhanced Viera Link technology, which allows you to control the camera from the TV's remote control if you like. Because Viera Link is a superset of the HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) interface, Dave was able to control the camera's Playback menu via his Samsung TV's remote as well, but Panasonic does not guarantee that will work with all brands or models of HDTVs.
When recording AVCHD, it's important to remember to buy a Class 4 or 6 card, as it requires quite a bit more speed than the average card can deliver. I'm still happier shooting Motion JPEG for playback and editing on my computer.
Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.668 second at wide-angle and 0.792 second at full telephoto. It's not as fast as the average 3x zoom, but that's one of the prices you pay for a long zoom. Those figures were obtained using the default 11-point autofocus mode. The ZS3 offers a number of AF modes, including Face Detection, AF tracking, 1-point High-Speed and Spot AF. Pre-focus shutter lag is 0.127 second, not the fastest, but still quick.
Cycle time is also relatively fast, capturing a frame every 1.8 seconds in single-shot mode. Continuous Burst mode at full resolution captured a frame every 0.57 second or 1.77 frames per second, for a burst of 3 frames. Unlimited Burst mode is a bit slower at 0.69 second or 1.45 frames per second, but the camera seems to be able to capture frames indefinitely at that rate. The high-speed (3-megapixel only) option is very fast, at about 10.05 frames per second (0.10-second intervals).
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3's flash recycles in 5.8 seconds after a full-power discharge, about average.
Covering a range from 25-300mm, the ZS3 is a great companion, whether you're going out for a walk or on a long trip. Panasonic took a few simple steps to make the ZS3's interface easier to use and the results will appeal to most users. What I liked most was having a zoom lens that was long enough to encompass my vision: allowing me to shoot both very wide-angle and reach out a little further than normal with a 300mm-equivalent zoom.
Though image quality is a little soft in the corners at wide-angle, distortion is low at both zoom settings and overall image quality is excellent. Luminance noise is a little high at low ISOs, but chroma (color) noise is quite low and neither is a major factor in printed output until you get to 13x19-inches or higher, at least up to ISO 200. Movies are also quite good and I appreciate the light gray mask that shows which video aspect ratio you have selected. As we saw with the TS1's Face Recognition mode, it was good but not great, so enjoy the face detection instead, which is indeed great.
Overall, the ZS3 offers a lot of photographic power, covering wide and telephoto with better quality than many larger cameras and slipping quietly into a pocket or bag. It's just the type of camera that photographers would keep with them when they don't want to carry an SLR and would be a great backpack or biking camera, when weight, size and versatility are important. It's a sure and simple Dave's Pick and a clear signal to competitors that Panasonic is a serious force in digital photography.
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:
- Reviewed: HP Photosmart C4680 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/C4680/C4680.HTM)
- Reviewed: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ZS3/ZS3A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot SX10 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX10IS/SX10ISA.HTM)
- Previewed: Nikon D5000 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D5000/D5000A.HTM)
Online shopping still shares one trait with its more traditional brick-and-mortar variant. The discount coupon.
Recently, we watched Cali Lewis at GeekBrief.tv interview actor Greg Grunberg about Yowsa, his iPhone app for coupon-based shopping (http://www.geekbrief.tv/gbtv-549-yowza). In a nutshell, retail stores can publicize discounts through the iPhone that show up as barcodes that can be scanned at the register. Grunberg imagines a world where you don't pay for anything without checking your iPhone for a Yowsa coupon first.
But you don't need an iPhone to use a coupon. And if you're shopping online, just a few little free letters and numbers can do the trick. If you can find them.
Finding them is, in fact, the new game. In the old days, they used to come to you almost as if you'd earned them. Typically, they might be printed at the top of your address label on a direct mail piece or a catalog. Sometimes with the admonition, "Valued Customer, use this coupon before it expires!"
Those days aren't gone, but the action has shifted to your ground. You can go after those coupons instead of sitting around waiting for them to come to you. Coupon clipping has become coupon hunting.
Oddly enough, coupon hunting is not the first thing you want to do.
You first want to get some idea of a reasonable price range for the product you want. Just as our reviews are the easy way to find out if a product fits your needs, they're also the easy way to check prices for that very product via PriceGrabber's price comparisons. Click through to the stores that interest you to study their return policies (at least) before you decide on a store or three to do business with.
With a product and a store, you're ready to go coupon hunting. Any search engine will do, but the trick is to be vague. Enter the store name and the word "coupon" and maybe even "promo" and for extra credit "codes."
That won't turn up a bunch of coupons, but it will list a bunch of sites that collect coupons. Dealcatcher.com, Techbargins.com, Retailmenot.com, dealtaker.com all came up in a recent search for us. Just visit a few to see what coupons are active.
Some coupons really look like coupons and link directly to the store so you can immediately take advantage of them. Others require you to enter them on the store's check-out page. Either way, you save a few bucks.
And you won't have to sharpen your scissors to do it.
You may remember our little Nikon photo safari that started at Dogpatch Studio (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/D300DIARY2.HTM). We can't seem to get it out of our mind.
One thing that we keep revisiting is some advice we got from John Blaustein (http://www.johnblaustein.com), a pro from Berkeley who had joined us for the day. John's clients include such luminaries as J. Walter Thomspon, Hal Riney & Partners, Pentagram Design, Saatchi & Saatchi Direct, Young & Rubicon and Apple Computer, among many others.
As we embarked on our hike along the Embarcadero on that sunny day, John said, almost as an afterthought, "No one ever got in trouble for warming up the daylight."
We're so used to trying to precisely dial in an accurate white balance (whether in the camera or later, in Camera Raw or Lightroom), that the idea of fine tuning our white balance to lend it a subtle mood almost seemed like cheating.
You can get in trouble for cheating. But not, apparently, for warming up daylight.
To fine tune white balance on a Nikon dSLR, you hold down the White Balance button on the left of the camera and spin the front command dial. This takes you through a range of settings from a6 to 0 to b6 on a D300. On the D200 they range from +3 to -3 mired (about 13 degrees Kelvin each).
What's that all about? Nikon's engineers thought plus and minus would clearly indicate warm or cold when they designed the D200. By the time they were working on the D300, the theory had moved to "amber" and "blue." It can be confusing. As color temperature increases, the light becomes bluer or cooler. Warmer tones are lower on the Kelvin scale.
Nikon, of course, isn't the only camera manufacturer that lets you adjust the white balance in small increments of mireds. Look in your manual for white balance correction (which is not the same thing as Custom White Balance).
But even if your camera doesn't support that function, you can always do it in your image editor. In fact, that isn't a bad place to practice, whether you've shot JPEGs or Raw. See just how much of a shift makes a perceptible difference in your typical subject.
We took John's advice and warmed up Daylight to a2. That wasn't ideal for scenes of the blue bay or bananas on display in the Ferry building, but it was great for portraits. You can see the effect in our gallery shots (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/MRP/MRP-D300-GALLERY.HTM) and by checking the Exif data for the value inWhiteBalanceFineTune.
Who said you can't fool Mother Nature?
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 Sony cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6f789
Visit the Olympus dSLRs Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eea6bcb
Ronny asks about choosing a dSLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eeaa51e/0
Ryan asks for buying advice for a first time dSLR user at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eeac78c/0
Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee718ec
Sometimes we wonder what we're doing with all these images. And not just the thousands of digital photos we've snapped since 1998. There are also all the scans of prints in old albums and negative strips and mounted slides we've done, too.
Then something happens that reminds us what it's all about.
The other day Cousin Tony invited us to his son's baptism. We thought about a gift that would be both appropriate to the occasion and yet personal. Something, that is, that could only come from us.
That's where our photo archive came in. We thought it might be fun to introduce him to his long-gone relatives -- but we were not entirely sold on the idea. We'd just spent some time on the phone with another relative who has been building a database of the family. He called us because he thought we might know some dates.
Being a good sport, we struggled to come up with a few dates for him. You know the sort of thing. When the grandparents were married. When they died. The birth dates of a handful of nieces and nephews. Things we should know, no doubt, but that we always have to look up. Our ignorance was embarrassing.
That wasn't something we wanted to put on display again. Even if we did all the research, just plotting out the family tree would make the poor little guy look like a fly trapped in the middle of a spider's web. We didn't want to scare him.
Instead, we took a different approach. We went back to the oldest relative of his whose picture we had: his Great Great Grandfather in his youth. And we started the story from there, going through our digital scrapbook to copy any image we thought might come in handy.
It turned out to be quite a love story. At least the way we told it. How Great Great Grandfather fell in love with Great Great Grandmother and how their son (Great Grandfather) fell in love with his bride (Great Grandmother) and how their son (Grandfather) fell in love with his (Grandmother) and how his father (Dad) found his true love (Mom) just in time for our celebrant to be born.
We sprinkled the portraits with smaller pictures of all sorts of things along the way. The house in the old country, the ship they arrived on, even the manifest with their names on it.
Admittedly, it wasn't the whole story. But then, what is? At least we'd have lots and lots of branches to trace out in the years to come, we thought. Birthday presents, perhaps.
For the most part, the story was told in those pictures. We did have to write captions for the main images, leaving some of the smaller images for others to explain. The necessary captions were a little long for the usual scrapbook treatment, so we wondered how we could present the thing in one little, non-digital bundle.
We thought of making an album. His own family album. Not very long ago, Mom had impressed upon us the value of making 4x6 prints of all these images she was being emailed so she could just put them all in an album to show her friends. But when we went shopping for albums, we realized they couldn't accommodate the captions.
A book, of course, came to mind.
Certainly we might have done a photo book (as no doubt some of you have). But we never do things in one take. Version upon version upon version, day after day after day, revision after revision after revision, night after night after night. That's our method. We would have sent the thing off only to wake up in the middle of the night with a better idea.
So we wanted control over production, too. And that meant using the inkjet to print the book, binding it in a stiff presentation cover using some sort of ribbon and a hole puncher. It sounds primitive, but it actually works out very nicely. You punch two holes next to each other at the top of one side of the sheet and another set at the bottom and use two thick ribbons tied in a bow to bind the pages.
But how to print the pages? How to lay them out? What could handle photos and type with ease, especially considering all the revisions we knew we'd be doing.
Well, we returned to our old friend Pages (http://www.apple.com/iwork/pages).
First we looked for a suitable template. There really wasn't anything built-in and an online search didn't reveal anything for scrapbooking or albums or books.
But it didn't take us long to build our own from a template with things in it we did like. Pages uses objects whose properties can easily be changed rather than pre-built items you collect and can't edit. We just fiddled with the body text style, updating it with a click, and changed the style of the photos (using album corners just like in the old days, a neat little feature that all by itself made us glad we picked Pages).
We started using a letter-size page but that required enlarging our images far too much. They were falling apart. And that size book is a little unwieldy for a child. But it wasn't any trouble at all to change the page size to 8.5x5.5 from a letter-sized sheet (after we'd laid everything out, too). We handled the manifest as a fold-out insert.
Like our last Pages project, we never felt like we were working. We were just playing around. We did exhaust ourselves with revisions, just as we had expected. And we built a prototype to pass around the house for proofreading and comment, before printing the final copy on half sheets in an HP C4680 here for review (because it was full of free ink). We used Hammermill Laser Print for the text because it's a nice smooth 24 lb. sheet and held the images very, very well.
In fact, the original images (as you might imagine) varied quite a bit in quality. The real problems were with the color images but there was one very soft black and white image as well. We used Pages to adjust the images, sharpening the soft black and white and enhancing the color images.
Once you import an image into Pages, it lives an independent life in the document itself (which is really a directory made to look like a file in what Apple calls a package). So editing the original is no help. You have to fool around with the image you imported into Pages.
It was hard to do this well on the screen (we didn't really have a profile for the Hammermill and HP) but it went well enough with a little trial, a little error. None of the final images, which were quite reduced but still sharp, looked shabby.
And the story, even with its omissions, was a tear-jerker. What we managed to show, after all, were many of the people that little child would never be able to meet who had nevertheless made it possible for him to be here. They weren't just ghosts. They were young people in love, once upon a time. And we had the pictures to prove it.
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RE: Image Stabilization Reports
Thanks (again) for another very informative newsletter.
I'm looking forward to a thorough "read" of your comments on IS technology -- over an appropriate libation, of course.
Having just invested in a new Olympus SP-565UZ, I'd be interested to learn if that model has been -- or will be -- tested regarding its IS technology.
-- Chap Cronquist(Glad you find the IS testing interesting, it was certainly "interesting" to develop! (A lot of work, that is.) We haven't had plans to test digicam IS systems, as the IS testing procedure is so enormously labor-intensive. It'd be worth doing, though, to pick at least one and run it through its paces, just to see how a typical digicam IS system might stack up against those in SLRs and SLR lenses. I'll put it on the "someday" list. -- Dave)
Do you have the IS (or VC) report for the Tamron 28-300 VC lens?
-- Burt Hesselson(See http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showcat.php/cat/23 for all the current Tamron zoom lens reviews at SLRgear.com. We do list that lens, but it hasn't been reviewed yet. -- Editor)(We're working on a test of the Tamron 18-270mm VC hopefully ready sometime in the next few weeks. Ahead of it are the Canon 300mm f2.8 and Olympus E-520 body. The latter of which we think is going to surprise people with its performance. -- Dave)
RE: Of Monitors & Profiles
I now have a way of making monitor profiles. Although my monitor and printer appear to work very well together, the color on the monitor matching the color on the print very well, I always have to adjust the lightness/darkness by guess or by golly.
Once I make a monitor profile, I don't understand where to put it on my XP computer. Where can I go to find out about this?
-- T. Bennett Finley(XP comes up a little short in that department, but fortunately Microsoft has released a a control panel applet to manage color profiles. Here it is: http://www.microsoft.com/prophoto/downloads/colorcontrol.aspx -- Editor)
RE: MP980 CD Tray
I just read Mike Pasini's review on the Pixma MP980. I have one and agree it's a great buy. One question. I read on another site that it can print to CD/DVD. The CD carrier pulls down and is in the front behind the paper output tray. I found it but any idea if it's usable? Can't find anything in the manual.
-- Jim(In a word, CD printing on the MP980 sold in North America is "unsupported." Apparently you would need 1) a firmware update and 2) a CD tray. -- Editor)
RE: Proof Sheets
I have a zillion 35mm negative strips to archive. I have a dedicated 35mm Nikon scanner that does a great job on slides. In fact, I've successfully done about 5,000 of them, all my own stuff. But the idea of feeding separate strips of 4x or 6x negatives through the machine really does not appeal to me.
To start clearing up the mess, I'm putting the negatives into clear plastic archival preservers, holding 7 strips of 4 frames and 6 strips of 6 frames. These would just about go onto an 8-1/2 x 11 paper format, the idea being to make index prints, purely for identification and filing purposes. Quality is of no great concern, so long as I can recognize the images (I can't "read" color negatives so I have no idea what the great majority of my negs are all about -- and some of them are nearly fifty years old!). Once I can see what I've got, I can turn around and select such images that might warrant one-off scanning in the Nikon machine.
So, I'm looking for a flat-bed scanner that would do this for me, leaving the negs in the sleeves, not having to arrange separate strips on the plate, then re-load them in the preservers.
Is this a practical idea? Would the two layers of plastic, though clear, interfere so much as to make the images unrecognizable? Would the process time (and MB?) per scan be unreasonable? And if the basic idea is practical, which Microtek or other scanner would do the job, at some reasonable price?
Perhaps I should say that this is purely a domestic project, not a commercial one.
-- Jim(It's practical, Jim. Focus on most flatbeds is fixed. Some permit a slight adjustment, but I don't expect it will really inhibit identification of the image, which is all you require. If you scan at a low resolution, processing time won't be a big issue either. If you use a dual-bed scanner, you'll have to tape the plastic carriers flat (if they aren't flat). A flatbed with a transparency adapter skips that step. -- Editor)
RE: Exif Standards
I found an Imaging Resource news item on Exif 2.1 standards and was wondering if there is an updated link to download the current standard for Exif data?
-- Geoff(You can find the current docs here: http://www.exif.org/specifications.html -- Editor)
Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) unveiled the newest member of its dSLR lineup, the Nikon D5000. With the D90's 12.3-megapixel sensor, HD video capability and a new 2.7-inch articulating LCD, the Nikon D5000 doesn't clearly displace any other cameras in the lineup but fits between the D60 and D90 in both features and price.
Apple (http://support.apple.com) has released Aperture 2.1.3 [M], its professional image editing application. The 49.4MB update "improves overall stability and provides fixes for issues related to database integrity and compatibility with specific file types."
HDRsoft (http://www.hdrsoft.com) has released its $79 Photomatix for Aperture 1.0 [M] to create 32-bit HDR images with automatic alignment and tone mapping. Exposure blending is planned for a future release.
Human Software (http://www.humansoftware.com) has released its $299.95 Edit for Aperture 1.7 [M], an Aperture plug-in with 17 image editing modules. The new release adds a HyperFocal module for adding focal sharpness at any distance and improves the AutoDeNoise and PhotoLights modules.
DxO Labs (http://www.dxomark.com) has published Raw sensor performance data for the Fujifilm FinePix S100fs, the Olympus SP-565 UZ and the Panasonic Lumix DMC FX150.
Imagenomic (http://www.imagenomic.com) has released 64-bit versions of Noiseware Pro and RealGrain plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Elements 7 (Windows editions), free for registered users.
Kodak Gallery (http://www.kodakgallery.com) has announced free high-resolution downloads of your Gallery pictures and free shipping on all print purchases of $4.99 or more.
Creaceed (http://www.creaceed.com) has released its $39.95 Prizmo [M] to help your digicam function like a scanner, correcting perspective and lens distortion, optimizing exposure and image size plus sharing camera calibration data.
Houdah (http://www.houdah.com) has released its $30 HoudahGeo 2.2.5 [M] geocoding application with improved KML/KMZ output for Google Earth and bug fixes.
KavaSoft (http://www.kavasoft.com) has released its $80 Shoebox Pro 1.7.6 [M] with "several important stability improvements."
Karelia (http://www.karelia.com) has released its free iMedia Browser 1.2 [M] with search by title, artist, album, and genre for audio browsing, improved audio scrubbing, faster loading of photo libraries and stability improvements.
You don't have to like baseball to appreciate Photographer Joe McNally's tribute to Mark Fidrych (http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2009/04/20/goodbye-bird). "The Bird I knew, just a little," Joe writes, "was a big kid with a big heart, a cartoon character with a Boston accent, and a slightly, wonderfully cockeyed view of life around him."
Google has launched a similar image search feature (http://similar-images.googlelabs.com).
Koingo (http://koingosw.com) has released its $15.95 Image Smith 1.1 [MW] batch image processor, adding a file list view and a couple of bug fixes.
The free JetPhoto Studio 4.3 [MW] (http://www.jetphotosoft.com) has been updated with improvements for Flash galleries and Google Map galleries, enhanced map view, auto-rotation with Exif, a new interface and more.
Who needs jewels when Dr. Gary Greenberg (http://www.sandgrains.com/Sand-Grains-Gallery.html) has published his microphotographic portraits of grains of sand?
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
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