The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 11, Number 12 5 June 2009

Copyright 2009, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 255th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We give the SpyderCube a spin while Andrew tries out Panasonic's kit lens for its Four/Thirds HD-capable camera. Dave takes a moment to thank readers who donated last time. Then we tell you all about photographing the newborn at the hospital. Enjoy!


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Panasonic
http://www.panasonic.com

Awarded "2008 Camera of the Year" by Popular Photography, the Panasonic Lumix G1 incorporates the ground-breaking Micro Four Thirds System, which combines the exceptional image quality and interchangeable lenses of a dSLR camera with the smaller size and full-time live view of a compact digital camera.

The result? We're part of a completely new class of camera that is redefining the world of photography.

Learn more about Panasonic Lumix technology and find the right Lumix for you at http://www.panasonic.com/lumix.

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Feature: Datacolor SpyderCube -- Beyond the Gray Card

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

Someone has probably already suggested you take those furry dice off your rear view mirror (what good have they done you anyway?). But we're here to tell you just what you should have hanging from your rear view mirror instead. It's the Datacolor SpyderCube.

The $59 SpyderCube is a small target you drop into your scene, point at the camera and take a test shot of before removing it and continuing your shoot. The payoff for inviting it to the party comes later when you edit those images.

Datacolor sees it as the perfect guide to navigating those mysterious settings your Raw image editor presents. If you've ever wondered how you should set things like Exposure, White Balance, Brightness and Blacks, this cube will tell you.

But it can be as handy as any gray card for JPEG shooters, too. Especially if you use applications that let you tinker with those advanced editing tools intended for Raw images.

But it's definitely not a gray card. It's a doohickey.

THE PRODUCT

It is indeed a cube. But it doesn't sit on one of its faces (smart cube). Instead, at the bottom corner there is a brass tripod mount. And at the opposite corner is a chrome ball with an elastic string to hang the doohickey from your rear view mirror or anything else.

So the corners give you some mounting options. It will stand on its own propped up on the tripod mount because it's so light. Or you can mount it on a light stand, a tripod or anything that uses the standard tripod screw size. Or you can hang it from the elastic string.

What you are hanging is the cube. It's made of ABS Cycoloy, a hybrid resin that is not only very durable but is fire-resistant, fade-proof and shock resistant. The colors are not painted on but the actual color of the plastic itself all the way through.

The bottom three faces are all black (representing the shadow values in the scene) but one of them has a half-inch diameter hole in it, revealing the interior of the 1-7/16" box. Datacolor calls it a black trap. It's that proverbial place where no light shines. So you can capture an absolute black even in a high-key scene.

The top three faces of the cube have one solid panel of gray and two panels split diagonally with white and gray. The 18 percent gray on all three faces represents the midtone of the image and its color temperature (or white balance). The white on two faces represents a true highlight value where either spectral highlights are misleading or no real highlight exists in the image.

And that chrome ball has a job, too, showing you the value of spectral highlights in your lighting so you don't confuse those values with your white highlight value.

And the whole thing is spectrally neutral so you can rely on it in any light. That's why you can also use it to color correct your image, in addition to correcting luminance values.

DOCUMENTATION

The QuickStart Guide included with the SpyderCube really says it all, but it's uncomfortably brief. The online User Guide (http://spyder.datacolor.com/pdfs/SpyderCubeUserGuide.pdf) goes into more detail. We found that comforting.

Even better, the Datacolor site has a few videos that illustrate the SpyderCube's features (http://spyder.datacolor.com/learn_videos_spydercube2.php), how to shoot with it (http://spyder.datacolor.com/learn_videos_spydercube3.php), how to edit a Raw image in Lightroom (http://spyder.datacolor.com/learn_videos_spydercube4.php) and in Photoshop's Camera Raw (http://spyder.datacolor.com/learn_videos_spydercube5.php).

In short, there are two steps to using the device: shooting it and reading it in your image editing software.

SHOOTING

Shooting it is easy enough. But it's fundamentally different from using a gray card. You are not setting exposure with the SpyderCube (as you would with a gray card). It's really too small for that, although you could manage using spot metering to lock in the reading of the gray face. But you'd want to make a plus half stop adjustment anyway since your camera meters not at 18 but at 12 percent gray.

Instead, you just have to take one reference shot with the SpyderCube in the same light as your subject.

Outdoors watch out for shadows falling on the SpyderCube (particularly from its elastic string) and setting it beyond middle distance (where its surfaces may become too small to measure). You may find it more convenient to simply hold it in front of you at arm's length to make the reference shot. It doesn't have to be in focus to work.

Indoors consider the location of your primary light and any secondary or reflected light when placing the SpyderCube.

Once you've set the SpyderCube in your scene, turn it so you see three of its six faces. Those would be the bottom black with the light trap and the two white/gray split faces above it. The assumption here is that your primary light is coming from above and either the left or right. Unlike a flat card, the SpyderCube gives you two angles of reflectance.

It can be hard to correctly orient the SpyderCube if you hang it by its elastic string, so for better control, stand it up. On flat surfaces the tripod mount is enough. For other surfaces, you'll want to mount it on some sort of stand.

Make sure the black face with the light trap is not being illuminated directly. Also beware of any reflections from nearby objects, which can show up on the semi-glossy finish of the SpyderCube faces.

In fact, Dave found reflections on the bottom black face common outdoors. "We found we had to watch for reflections from bright foreground objects, which could produce a color cast in what should be a neutral surface. One example was shooting outdoors on a sunny day, on a grassy lawn. Unless we took care to put a shade of some sort beneath the SpyderCube, the green of the grass would show up pretty strongly in our images of the black bottom surface of the cube. The solution to this was to carry a small piece of black cardboard (or plastic, or even a piece of Cinefoil) with a hole punched in it for the tripod screw. This keeps light from bouncing off the ground and then to the black underside of the SpyderCube and greatly helped with getting good black-point readings in brightly-lit surroundings. It only needs to be a couple of inches on a side (the screw hole can be most of the way toward one side of it), so it doesn't add much bulk to the overall solution."

And make sure one of the split white/gray faces is facing your main light. That way your image -- regardless of the subject matter -- will have white, middle gray and black reference points with a specular highlight and an absolute black.

With those values represented in your image, you can eliminate any color shift with the middle gray, set the highlight and shadow values and avoid any spectral highlight as you manipulate the histogram.

The advantage of the SpyderCube is that you are guaranteed to have a spectral highlight, a white highlight, a deep black shadow, an unilluminated pure black, and a middle gray in your image -- no matter what the scene holds.

Take a reference shot with the SpyderCube in the image or in the same lighting conditions as the image (if your subject is not nearby). Then put it away and take the shots you plan to use.

EDITING

You can use any image editor to edit your SpyderCubed images. The essential adjustments are White Balance, Exposure, Brightness and Black Level. So if your image editor has those adjustments, you're in business.

Same for Raw image editors. And working with 16-bit channels in a Raw edit really shows off what the SpyderCube can do for you.

The editing process (either way) involves four steps:

Step One: Set the White Balance. Use your image editor's White Balance tool to click on the gray part on the brighter of the two gray/white faces. The brighter face represents your primary light source. Click several times to make sure your White Balance tool isn't sampling too small an area. If the value changes significantly each time you sample the gray area, enlarge the pixel matrix the tool samples (say from 3x3 to 5x5 pixels) to avoid any noise a higher ISO image might have that could throw off the reading. Also avoid clicking in any reflection or shadow from the chrome ball.

Step Two: Adjust Exposure. Use any Exposure tool (usually a slider in Raw converters) to adjust the histogram so none of the color channels are clipped. Let those spectral highlights go, though. Hold down a modify key to see what parts of the image are being clipped as you make this adjustment.

Step Three: Set the Black Level. True black is represented by the black trap on the SpyderCube. Again, hold down a modify key to see what parts of the image are being turned black (and losing detail) as you make this adjustment. Let the trap go but consider what else in your scene is going with the black face of the SpyderCube when that goes. You might try to set this so you can barely distinguish between the trap and the black face itself.

Step Four: Adjust Brightness. The previous adjustment will have shifted the midtones, making them either too light or two dark, so you want to reestablish your midtones by using the Brightness tool. The gray value of the brighter face represents those midtones at 18 percent gray, which should appear in the middle of your histogram.

Datacolor recommends doing those four steps in the following order: 1, 2, 4 and 3. Since the midtone can shift in Step 3, we recommend taking them in the above order. Datacolor's David Tobie commented, "There is plenty of justification for nailing both ends and then tweaking the middle; I won't argue with that approach. But whatever order you use, it's best to revisit the others to fine tune once basic adjustments have been made to all."

There's no hard and fast rule for where to set anything after Step One. Only you know what the subject of your image is and how has been lit. These decisions depend entirely on your subject and the lighting, which is why the modifier key trick is very handy. It shows you just what parts of your scene are being changed.

To apply these settings to other images in the shoot, you simply save them as a Preset you can apply to them. You may also be able to just paste these settings to a selection of images, depending on what image editing software you are using. Investigate the batch editing capabilities of your software to learn more.

With a JPEG image and just a basic Curves dialog, you would use the gray eye-dropper to set the white balance on the brighter gray area of the SpyderCube, the black eye-dropper to set absolute black on the light trap and the white eye-dropper to set the highlight on the brighter white area of the SpyderCube. Again, everything depends on your subject and the lighting. Those are just starting points.

OTHER PRODUCTS

Nothing is quite like the SpyderCube. Except maybe the less elaborate basICCaliCube (http://www.basiccolor.de/english/basICCaliCube_E/Cube_index_E.htm) on which it is apparently based. But that doesn't have two split white/gray panels. Or a tripod mount (it has to be hung).

The WhiBal (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/WHB/WHB.HTM) is an interesting alternative, primarily for providing a lighter gray target, optimized for the linear capture of digital sensors. The SpyderCube, in contrast, provides three values (white, middle gray and black) so picking one optimal gray isn't an issue. The WhiBal does have a black and white patch on the printed label. But you'll have to take care to avoid picking up a glare from the primary light source and reflections from nearby objects. The WhiBal has only the one surface that shows up in the image, unlike the SpyderCube's three faces. But the WhiBal is large enough to use to create a custom white balance in the camera. And the WhiBal itself does not include a chrome reference. Practically speaking, both products work well.

That can't be said for a simple gray card (whether it's a pedigree Kodak card, a Macbeth ColorChecker chart or just a microfiber cloth in a handy middle gray). They just don't give you as many reference points.

Nothing but the SpyderCube, though, provides a range of tones from spectral highlight to pure black in a 3D object that reflects the main light at an angle. While it isn't flat like a gray card, it's small and light enough to clip onto or drop into a camera bag.

CONCLUSION

We used Lightroom, Photoshop (Camera Raw plug-in) and PictoColor's iCorrect EditLab Pro 5.5 to adjust both Raw captures and JPEG images by reading values on the SpyderCube. PictoColor enforces the correct adjustment workflow and made it easy to get good results. Lightroom was the most fun (that White Balance tool is a gas, really). And ACR is the sort of place you could move into for the rest of your life. But with the SpyderCube, they all delivered the goods with ease.

Opening a Raw image can be as intimidating as looking at the cockpit of an airliner. There are a lot of controls and fiddling with them tempts disaster. But with the SpyderCube in your reference shot, you can make a few key adjustments quickly, save them as a Preset and apply them to the whole shoot.

Our test images were shot with a range of different white balance settings and the SpyderCube made it possible for us to return all of them to the same color balance with just one click.

But we really appreciated having reference points for absolute black and a spectral highlight plus a white and black reference point in the image, too. Rare is the image that otherwise contains all that and the lack of one or the other can lead to some poor adjustments. With the SpyderCube hanging from your rear view mirror that doesn't have to happen.

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Feature: Panasonic 14-140mm HD -- Autofocus for Video

By ANDREW ALEXANDER
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1251/cat/69 on the Web site.)

The Panasonic 14-140mm f4-5.8 was released with the GH1 as its kit lens. The lens is significant in that it features an HD designation, incorporating a new drive motor that allows for "fast and accurate contrast autofocus." The lens can also be purchased separately from the GH1 kit. Mounted on the GH1, the 14-140mm produces an effective field of view of 28-280mm in 35mm film camera terms.

The 14-140mm isn't a "constant" lens, in that as you increase the focal length, both the minimum and maximum aperture sizes increase. Largest available aperture size from 14-17mm is f4, from 18-24mm it's f4.3, from 25-31mm it's f4.7, from 32-47mm it's f5, from 48-69mm it's f5.5 and from 70-140mm it's f5.8. The smallest aperture available is f22 at all focal lengths.

The Panasonic 14-140mm f4-5.8 uses 62mm filters and comes with a petal-shaped lens hood.

SHARPNESS

When used at its widest aperture, the 14-140mm exhibits some mild corner softness when used at either wide-angle (14-18mm) or at telephoto (100-140mm). For the rest, the image is remarkably sharp, even at the widest aperture, with performance of less than two blur units. Wide open you'll see the best performance using the lens at around 50mm (f5.5 at this focal length), with a sharpness rating of just over one blur unit.

There's not much of an increase in sharpness performance by stopping down to f5.6. By 50mm that's practically the maximum aperture anyway. But at 14-18mm the corners become a bit less soft. At f8 there's a bit more improvement in the corners and at 50mm it's tack-sharp.

Diffraction limiting seems to set in at f11, with a slight across-the-board decrease in image sharpness. Performance in the mid-range (24-100mm) is still good and even at f16 we still note performance in the range of 2 blur units. The corners of wide-angle and telephoto suffer again at f11 and smaller and at f22, everything is slightly soft with ratings of around 3-5 blur units.

So, in the focal length extremes (wide-angle and telephoto) there's some slight softness in the corners, but this is somewhat mitigated by stopping down to f5.6 or f8. In the mid-range the lens produces excellent results, even when used wide open.

CHROMATIC ABERRATION

On the whole, chromatic aberration is well-controlled. Average performance (CA visible throughout the image) is very low and maximum CA is only visible in the corners with the lens' focal length set to below 70mm (where it's still well-controlled) or to 140mm, where it's fairly noticeable. It's easier just to look at our sample images to see the CA effect, but for the most part, it isn't really an issue.

SHADING

The GH1 continues to foil our software in order to calculate results for corner shading. From a visual examination of our sample images, the trend of mid-range performance seems to continue. I don't see any corner shading when the lens is used around the 50mm mark, but there is some slight shading at either the wide-angle end or at full telephoto. In either case, there doesn't appear to be enough falloff to write home about.

DISTORTION

The G1 and GH1 cameras apply some post-processing to correct for distortion, which explains the dramatic results we see for distortion. In particular, while there is some barrel distortion when used at wide-angle (14-18mm), distortion completely disappears between 18-140mm.

AUTOFOCUS OPERATION

The GH1 uses an electrical "fly-by-wire" autofocus system, enabling fast and silent focusing. The lens was able to focus between infinity, close-focus and back again in under a second and small focus changes happened extremely quickly. This is very impressive performance, especially considering it's a contrast autofocus detection method.

MACRO

Macro performance is quite good, with a maximum 0.4x magnification rating (1:2.5 reproduction ratio). The lens' minimum close-focusing distance is just over a foot and a half.

BUILD QUALITY & HANDLING

Panasonic has led the way with micro-four-thirds lenses and miniaturization is the name of the game. For a zoom lens with a 10x rating the lens is quite small and comparatively light. It weighs just over a pound. The lens is constructed of dense plastic, with an gray/black matte finish. The lens mount is metal and the 62mm filter threads are plastic.

The lens has few controls to speak of, other than the zoom and focus rings. A single switch is available, which controls the Mega Optical Image Stabilization, turning it on or off. The lens has no distance scale or depth-of-field markings.

The zoom ring is the larger of the two, a thick rubber with raised rubber ridges. It is 7/8" wide and is mounted closer to the lens mount. It has about 40 degrees of turning action between wide-angle and full telephoto and doing so will extend the lens 2-3/8", almost doubling the length of the lens to 5-1/8". Add on the petal-shaped lens hood (1-5/8") and you have a possible total length of 6-3/4". The lens doesn't have any problems with zoom creep and the zoom action is nicely cammed, providing a smooth turn that has just the right level of firmness. The petal-shaped lens hood reverses onto the lens for storage.

The focus ring is composed of plastic with raised ribs and is 1/2" wide. The focus ring will turn forever in either direction, with no hard stops to indicate a focus limit. Thus it's hard for us to determine how many degrees of "focus action" are available in manual focus, though manual focus is handled extremely well by the camera. Just turning the focus ring brings up a magnified view section on the LCD, which assists greatly.

Panasonic has built Mega Optical Image Stabilization into the lens, useful for countering the effects of shaky hands holding the camera.

ALTERNATIVES

CONCLUSION

Panasonic has done well with this lens. The ability to autofocus during movie mode was an absolute must for the functionality and success of the GH1, which required a fast, silent autofocus mechanism. In this capacity, the 14-140mm delivers handily. Optically, the lens is no slouch, providing pleasantly sharp images in almost any situation and when used in the mid-range (24-100mm) and stopped down slightly, images are very sharp indeed. At the extreme ends -- wide-angle or full telephoto -- the lens shows slight faults: some chromatic aberration, distortion and corner softness, but nothing to the extreme. The only reservation I have about the lens is its aperture capacity: by 50mm, its maximum aperture is f5.6, meaning the heavy lifting for low-light images will be done by the camera with higher ISO settings. Used with reasonable light levels, this really isn't a factor.

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Publisher's Note: Thank You & Please

We were taught to say our please-and-thank-you's, so we want to thank the many of you who responded to our appeal last week to contribute to Imaging Resource in these difficult financial times. On the Internet, very few people typically respond to such appeals. It was thus very heartening to see how many of you did respond to last issue's appeal with donations and "subscriptions" (recurring donations).

Imaging Resource Newsletter readers are really making a difference! To keep the newsletter healthy, we need to see a similar level of response for every issue, but by golly, you folks out there really do care -- And your caring is making a difference! If you considered making a donation last issue, but didn't quite get around to it, would you consider doing so this time? Visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/SUBSCRIBE.HTM, pick an amount that suits your pocketbook and level of passion for what we do here and make a contribution. It really does matter.

Another thing you can do to help the site is to be generous about showing interest in our advertisers' messages. In a very competitive ad market, what ultimately distinguishes one site from another is how big a response the advertisers see from the readers. So whenever you're browsing our site, take a moment to click on one or two ads from our photo-related advertisers, to let them know they're advertising in the right place. (And if you can click once or twice more once on their site, that helps convince them that you're really interested, making your clicks count all the more.)

We've managed to pick up a good bit of advertising for June (although we'll be feeling the financial hangover from January through May for quite a while) and things so far look bleak for the summer months. One of the measures we've taken to deal with the ad shortfall has been to run quite a few "network" ads. These are generally for products not directly related to photography (T-Mobile's "Mobile Makeover" campaign, for instance), so they pay pretty low rates. While we hate filling up the site with off-topic ads, they're definitely helping keep the lights on and the servers fed, so we appreciate your patience with them.

Seeing the way our readers have responded to our plea for help has given me renewed confidence that IR will make it through the recession intact. We're having to cinch our belts pretty tight, but with readers like you, I'm confident we'll make it safely to the other side. A very heartfelt thank-you to those of you who have already donated!

-- Dave Etchells

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

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

Read about Nikkor lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=5

Gil asks about creating a custom Kodachrome profile at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeac78f/0

Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2

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Just for Fun: The Baby Arrives

The closest town with a Post Office was just a typo away from the Italian word for stork. So when the little boy decided to write to the stork for a little brother or sister (he wasn't picky, just lonely), his letter ended up there.

We don't know how things turned out for him, but this week we did find out how things turned out for our niece when she gave birth to an 8 pound 13 ounce boy. We got the news from her grandmother an hour after it happened and the cell phone pictures started showing up throughout the morning as one visitor or another met the new addition.

It had been a long labor ending in a C-section and we emailed our niece (she can't hear so we email each other) that we'd be around after she'd had a chance to catch up on her sleep.

Then it occurred to us that this child was in danger of being condemned to a life started with nothing more glamorous than cell phone pictures. We just couldn't just sit there and let that happen. So we packed a bag with hospital-friendly gear and set off on public transport to get the job done.

Hospital-friendly gear just means shooting in natural light with a dSLR that could handle high ISOs without spoiling them with grainy luminance noise (chrominance noise you can avoid by shooting black and white). No strobe not even a popup flash (he'll get enough of that in his lifetime). You want to be unobtrusive.

Almost every room in this hospital has two windows because the window wall is really two walls that form a corner (like a bay window with one less wall). That brought in a lot of light (well, enough light) on this overcast day. Had it been a sunny day, the windows had nice shades to diffuse the light. Diffused light was what we wanted and we had plenty of it.

The only trick was to position the camera so we weren't shooting into the light and capturing everybody as a silhouette. Even if we had overexposed for that sort of shot, the bright windows would have ruined the images.

So (most of the time) we stood between the windows and the subject (not just the baby, but the new mom and other visitors) careful not to cast a shadow on anybody.

The next trick was to set the camera for ISO 800 (we could easily go to 1600 if we had to) or, taking a bit of our own advice, to Auto ISO with an ISO 1600 cap. We set the shooting mode to Aperture Priority so we had some choice about how deep or shallow our focus could be. Auto White Balance was fine (no hospital lighting was on, fortunately). All pretty routine checks so far.

Having a zoom lens on the camera was a big help. It seems baby shots either make the tiny thing so small you can't see them or so large they seem featureless. Being able to zoom in but sculpt the facial features with light from the windows does a very nice job. We weren't shy about moving from side to side to see if the light worked better at a different angle.

The other smart thing we did was crank up exposure a tad. This gave the faces a nice, healthy glow in what were high-key images anyway. On a few cooler shots we cheated a bit by changing the white balance to a bit more warmer setting while still on Auto.

We also checked the histogram in the LCD to make sure we were not clipping any of the color channels. Everything else can be shifted (especially if you shoot Raw), but you can't fix clipping (otherwise known as severe under- or overexposure).

And we did shoot Raw, not having a second chance at this. Raw+JPEG, actually, capturing a large JPEG along with the Raw. It takes no longer to include a JPEG on our dSLR anyway so there's no penalty and the JPEGs would make it easy to quickly share the images.

When the new mom unbundled her babe to show us how small his hands and how long his toes are, we caught a nice shot of her hands and the baby's. It isn't all about faces, after all. The scale was the story there. And it turned out to be one of those shots that's not comic so much as moving. Blink and you miss it.

Of course we visited a while, too. This wasn't just a job, after all. We held the baby and asked him what he thought about the place (the world, you know, not the hospital). We apologized and agreed things could be better. But that's what he's here for.

Great uncles can be such a pain.

But they also don't have to hang around all afternoon. They can go back to their cave and copy the images to their computer. And share them!

Any number of approaches work very well and we're confident readers of this publication have devised clever approaches that do just the trick for them. That does not, in our opinion, include emailing pictures from a cell phone, however. That's great for immediately delivering one low-resolution image -- which is what everybody wants right away anyway.

But by the end of the day, everybody had five or six of those. And still they couldn't make out the baby's features.

So we copied our images to the computer, converting the proprietary Raw files into Adobe DNG format (expecting the kid to outlive all these companies). We copied just the JPEGs to another folder and used Lightroom's Import command to create database entries for them so we could 1) select the best ones, 2) rotate and crop them and 3) slightly adjust exposure on a couple. Then we exported them at full size to have a new set of images that we ran through our super duper secret automatic gallery making software.

Our SDSAGM software just tells the free ImageMagick imaging engine to resize to 800 pixels and sharpen each image while building the XML file we need to display a gallery on our personal Web site. We add captions for each image in the XML file, upload the thing to our site and we're done. Except to email everyone that pictures of the new kid in town are available.

We could have built a gallery in Lightroom for upload, of course, but we like our Spry (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/spry/) galleries better. And we could have used Phanfare or some other photo sharing site we like but we actually enjoy tinkering with our own site. And the way we have worked it out, it's no more work.

The idea of coming home to bury ourselves in this task, however, is made much easier by the thought that Lightroom will help. Apart from building the XML file we need, there isn't anything Lightroom can't do (and even then, a few hours with the Lightroom software development kit and it might even do that). It's a real comfort to know you don't have to juggle three applications or move back and forth to optimize the gallery or slide show.

We had that all done before dinner, less than the time it took to take the bus home (but, as our wise-guy nine-year-old nephew once put it when we told him we had beaten the bus home on our bike, "Some bus system.").

Which left us plenty of time to enjoy it ourselves, watching it over and over, seeing that little face, the tiny hands, the long toes, the untroubled forehead, the bruised nose, detail after detail. It makes you stop and think.

The post office in that little town we mentioned stopped to think, too. They knew some mistakes should be forgotten but others were a blessing. They erected a wire sculpture of a stork and displayed it prominently from the roof so anyone passing by would remember the small town they had passed through. But, then, what's in a name?

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RE: Smooth Skin

I'm writing because my professional photography friends said that this was the best resource for questions about cameras.

Here's my dilemma: I love to take pictures of friends and family at events. And when I take shots with my expensive compact Leica or Lumix, my pictures are so crisp that you can see every single wrinkle, pimple, age spot, small pox scar, etc. on everyone's face! And that's even on the lowest megapixel setting! But in the pictures that my friends take with their inexpensive cameras, people's complexions come out more soft and smooth, I guess because their cameras aren't picking up every little detail.

So is there a compact camera that is known for taking attractive and, dare I say, less sharply detailed shots of faces? I don't want to have to continue to spend hours retouching all the pictures I take of Aunt Gertha and Uncle Fred!

-- Karen Culp

(Yep, the Holga. Never accused of ever having taken a sharp shot <g>. But you don't have to go to extremes. You can start with Portrait scene mode. Every camera is different but it should at least use a wide aperture to reduce depth of field and that wide aperture should make things pretty soft.... If that doesn't tone it down enough, look for a sharpening option in your camera's menu system (and make sure it's at the lowest setting or off). Raw files tend to be soft (since sharpening has been skipped), so that's another option.... If your camera has a filter ring, you can screw on a UV filter and smear it lightly with Vaseline. That's not much fun to maintain between sessions, though, so you might prefer to simply stretch some old pantyhose over the lens. A piece of Saran wrap can do the job, too. In fact, anything you put in front of the lens will bend the light enough to obscure sharp detail. Hope that helps! -- Editor)
(If you need a heavy-duty, professional solution for making people look their best, check out the new version of Portrait Professional at http://www.portraitprofessional.com, which goes way beyond just smoothing out wrinkles. -- Dave)

RE: Auto ISO

I enjoy your newsletter here in South Africa.

I wanted to comment on the issue of Auto-ISO. I own a Canon A700 which, as you know, has lot of manual features. It has a simple Auto ISO and HI-ISO setting as well. The concept is great except the actual ISO setting used by the camera electronics is not retained. Consequently, testing this feature is almost impossible. Perhaps this problem has been corrected in later models.

-- David Mayes

(Actually, the ISO the A700 sets in either Auto setting is reported in the A700's Exif header (see http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A700/EXIF/YIMG_0572.HTM for an example, showing ISO 75 was used in Auto ISO). Most image editing programs and asset management programs will let you see that data. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

At the end of May, Canon (http://www.canonusa.com) promised an EOS 5D Mark II firmware update to permit manual exposure control of ISO, shutter and aperture in video mode. The company hoped to have it ready this week. So any day now....


Adobe has launched Photoshop Marketplace (http://photoshopmarketplace.adobe.com) where over 100 companies and organizations have submitted over 300 items including plug-ins, Photoshop workshops, events, user groups and learning materials.


Blurb (http://www.blurb.com) has introduced BookSmart 2.0 with a new 12x12-inch book size. BookSmart 2.0 introduces flexible containers to control page elements, precision tool bars, grid lines and the ability to save designed pages as custom layouts for reuse.


X-Rite Photo (http://www.xrite.com) has announced a $50 mail-in rebate through Sept. 30 for ColorMunki Photo (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/CMP/CMP.HTM).


Marketing Essentials International (http://www.mei500.com) has announced Skip's Summer School '09 for professional photographers of all levels. The workshop is designed to help you take advantage of new technologies while fine tuning your skills in lighting, composition, exposure plus marketing and self-promotion. It will be held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas from Aug. 16 to Aug. 19.


The Fashion 360 (http://bigfreeze.com/fashion360/test_01_small.html) is an intricate technical rig of 50 D700 cameras timed at different intervals to capture celebrities on the red carpet from a 360-degree visual perspective.


onOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com) has released dSLR Camera Remote for iPhone to use an iPhone to remotely control a supported Canon EOS dSLR connected to a WiFi enabled computer. A version for Nikon dSLRs is under consideration.

onOne has also released a free version of PhotoTools 2. The Lite version includes 14 of the most popular effects found in both PhotoTools 2 Standard Edition and PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition.


Jobo AG (http://www.jobo.com) has announced the Jobo Plano 8 digital picture frame, which is less than an inch thick and features an 8" high resolution TFT-Color-LCD display.


CT Media/Photography Institute (http://tunxis.commnet.edu/ctphoto) will hold its inaugural workshops in new facilities on the campus of Tunxis Community from July 5 to Aug. 1. Taught by 25 leading digital photography and computer masters, classes will focus on the "total experience" of digital photography.


Roxio (http://www.roxio.com) has introduced its $79.99 Easy VHS to DVD [M], a USB video capture device and software for converting VHS tapes into DVDs.


SimpleImage (http://www.simpleimage.com) has released its $19.95 SimpleImage 5.1.1 viewer and catalog program [M] with improved Raw image compatibility and better movie thumbnails.


How'd they make those Where amazing happens spots with Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Dr. J, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and nobody in the stands? All is revealed by Brickyard VFX (http://www.fxguide.com/article532.html).


Canto (http://www.canto.com) has updated Cumulus 8 [MW] with the Cumulus image editor, improved search, interface updates, multithreaded cataloging and metadata assignment, built-in watermarking and noise protections, automatic report generation, a table field for metadata, usage statistics, new user comment features and more.


ABSoft (http://www.neatimage.com) has released its $69.90 Neat Image Pro 6.1 for Aperture with manual fine-tuning, a graphical equalizer for noise profiles, a built-in calibration target, alternate viewer modes, adjustable brightness when viewing, improved metadata compatibility and more.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $34.95 GraphicConverter 6.4.2 [M] with support for NMEA data files in GPS tagging, import of Photostudio images, curves in batch conversions, find/replace for all frames and more.


Art Wolfe tells the tale of how he landed a couple of fishermen (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/wolfe/night_fisherman.shtml).


JetPhoto (http://www.jetphotosoft.com) has released its free JetPhoto Studio 4.5 [MW] with support for both camera position and camera direction in GPS tagging, address lookup and control of Flash slideshow timing.


Andrey Tverdokhleb (http://www.raw-photo-processor.com) has released his free Raw Photo Processor 3.9.6 [M] with support for the Panasonic GH1 and improved profiles for the Canon 450D, 500D, and 1000D and Mamiya ZD.


PhotoShowerCurtain.com (http://www.photoshowercurtain.com) prints your 3-Mp or higher photo on 100 percent polyester poplin shower curtains for $150 (narrow) to $200 (full tub) using a dye sub process so the image won't fade, crack or peel.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 2.6 to decode Raw files from the Canon EOS T1i, Nikon D5000 and Olympus E-30, plus iLife Support 9.0.3, iPhoto 8.0.3, iMovie 8.0.3 and iDVD 7.0.4, all available through Software Update.

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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
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

Happy snapping!

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

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