The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 11, Number 14 3 July 2009

Copyright 2009, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 257th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Phanfare is hoping you're interested in a dependable online archiving solution. Canon impresses us with its new flagship ELPH. We explain why your poppies look radiated and then help you remove a stuck filter.

If you need help with fireworks, our June 24, 2005 feature "Getting Creative With Fireworks" still says it all but the June 30, 2000 Advanced column "Shooting Fireworks the Digital Way" is worth a peek, too. See the Archive for both (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html).


TOPICS

SPONSORS
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P E N T A X

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P A N A S O N I C

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D A T A C O L O R

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P H A N F A R E

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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Phanfare Turns Another Corner

With its latest upgrade, Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) enters the third chapter in its history as an image and video hosting service, continuing an evolution that evinces a lot of intelligent design.

In our March 2005 review of the new service, "Phanfare for the Common Man" (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHF/PHF.HTM), we appreciated some forward-looking features. Albums were not branded with Phanfare's logo, uploads happened in the background (while you whittled away on a few captions) and full-resolution images could be retrieved from the service. "Think of it as an off-site backup," we suggested.

In the second chapter of its development, Phanfare converted its paid hosting service into a free social networking site. While the change upset early adopters who used the unbranded display for their business, the company hoped to expand its 11,000 paid user base. And in the first four weeks, they got more registrations than in four years with the original service. Ultimately they built the service up to 500,000 registrations.

Unfortunately, those registrations did not turn into customers willing to pay $54.95 for unlimited storage (the first 1-GB was free). They were primarily friends and family of the enthusiast photographers who put up albums. "We registered the audience," CEO Andrew Elichson explained in a recent interview. "And when you register the audience, it doesn't really do anything for you."

What Phanfare learned from this, though, was that while its virtues were lost on the general population, the content creators were interested in archival storage. "Our role," Erlichson said, "is to archive and preserve your photos and videos and to let you use them any way you want."

That's the best of both worlds.

On June 25, the company overhauled its service to support simple Web hosting of password-protected customer albums at yourname.phanfare.com. Mac and Windows clients were updated at the same time to support the new simple Web hosting model.

While that change resembles the first version of Phanfare, the innovations introduced in the second version are still there, primarily under the Friends & Family option. The company's iPhone and iPod touch apps and plug-ins for iPhoto, Picasa, Lightroom and Aperture are also still available. Conduits to move photos and videos to Facebook and Flickr still work. And the company continues to use Amazon S3 for storage. Finally, the company lowered the annual subscription price to $49.99.

But that's not all.

Erlichson said the company will shortly offer two paid levels of service after a 14-day free trial. The Pro and Premium versions of the product will offer different amounts of archival storage (storage will no longer be unlimited). The Pro version, which will debut later this summer, will also permit more album customization, subsites within your Phanfare domain, integration with your own URL and more.

Customers who are already paying for unlimited storage will continue to have it for the time being. And if you subscribe before the introduction of limited storage, you will get unlimited storage, too. A 15-day free trial (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?phn) is available.

But unlimited storage is not going to be offered to new customers indefinitely, Erlichson said, because it puts the company in an awkward relationship with its best customers. The ones who use the service the most are the ones costing the company the most. "I don't want to be in a position where I'm losing money on my best customers," Erlichson explained.

If, on the other hand, everyone is paying for what they use, features like Raw file storage or 30-minute HD video storage become feasible, he said.

Storage is the single greatest cost for a service like Phanfare, Erlichson said. Disk space, power and real estate are the main costs of storage "and two of those aren't getting cheaper," he observed. But the question is whether anyone will pay for it, and particularly if they will buy increased amounts.

Products like Swiss Picture Bank (http://www.swisspicturebank.com) and even Light Crafts' image editing software Aurora (http://www.lightcrafts.com/aurora) are offering paid archival storage. Online services like Facebook offering free storage subsample your images so they aren't archival at all. Some, like Kodak Gallery, require a minimum amount of purchasing activity to maintain albums at their site. There is a confusing array of options.

Erlichson said while consumers generally won't pay for archival storage, he thinks the enthusiast market will find "the standing of being a customer" valuable. They appreciate the value of contracting to have their originals safely stored offsite long term.

But as Peter Krogh points out in the new version of The DAM Book on digital asset management for photographers (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0596523572/?tag=theimagingres-20), there are problems with online archival storage. Uploads, for one, are quite time consuming, particularly with connections where upload speed is significantly less than download speeds. Storage costs can be expensive. Phanfare has offered DVD copies of archivally stored images but many storage services require you to download your data image by image to restore it. And finally, online services don't offer data validation of uploaded files.

On the other hand, if anybody is going to get this right, it would be a company like Phanfare that continues to evolve intelligently.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon SD990 IS User Report

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD990IS/SD990ISA.HTM on the Web site.)

What's the first thing you should do when reviewing a new flagship camera in the popular ELPH line? Drop it, of course.

That's a rare event for us, but it did prove one thing. The Canon PowerShot SD990 IS can take a hit. It wasn't a very abusive hit (just a soft drop to a carpet) but it was a typical one.

Reassuring as that might be, the real reason to consider the flagship ELPH is its long list of features. Features don't always interest the ELPH crowd, which would rather not wade through a review or tinker in photographic niceties, but that's the banner flagships like the Canon SD990 wave.

The Canon SD990 list starts with an almost ridiculous 14.7-megapixel sensor. It continues with a 3.7x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization. Add a DIGIC 4 image processor to handle face detection (at different angles and as a self-timer trigger), servo autofocus (which continuously tracks moving subjects when you half-press the Shutter button) and intelligent contrast correction. And include a Manual mode that lets you set shutter speed and aperture, a first for a digital ELPH.

LOOK & FEEL

The Canon SD990's shell has been redesigned from the SD950 that it so closely resembles, with an eye toward curves that should almost be called hips. Available colors are black or silver (if you don't count the limited edition red model created to commemorate the 100 millionth PowerShot). And, like the SD950, the SD990 is a bit bulky for anything called an ELPH. It's not what you'd call an ultracompact.

But the SD990 is small and it does fit in your pocket. It's as comfortable as a bar of soap in your hand as you carry it around. The slick surface is not friendly to sweaty grips but it does include a wrist strap that's more than handy.

There is no space for your thumb on back panel, but the buttons are very stiff so you won't accidentally press them when you grab the camera.

We managed to drop the camera by trying to stand it up on its side, like every other ELPH we've ever used. But this one is a lot less stable that way, even a bit worse than the SD950. There are four tiny pegs to stand on but the curved bottom and sides make it a little hard to find the flat spot and the weight is not at that end of the SD990.

The SD990 does have some heft, which we like in a small camera. It helps stabilize the body when you press the Shutter button, so no complaint there, but it does detract from what has been one of the ELPH's major attractions: ultra slim and light weight design.

Canon has retained the optical viewfinder in the SD990. It's actually required by Quick Shot mode, which doesn't display the scene on the LCD. More about that below.

At just 2.5 inches, the LCD seems a little small for a flagship camera. We're getting spoiled by all those lovely 3.0-inch LCDs that seem to have become standard this year. The LCD does have 230,000 pixels, though.

CONTROLS

We do like the SD990's big Shutter button and the Zoom control that rings it, which is our preferred arrangement. You don't have to look for the Shutter button. And once you're finger falls on it, you know exactly where the Zoom control is so you can compose your shots.

We weren't as happy with the Power button, finding it hard to depress. It's just too small for our fingers. When we press down, we're applying force mainly to the top panel, not the little button. We resorted to a fingernail to home in on the little sucker.

The Playback button can both power the camera on and power it off. The advantage to using the Playback button to turn the camera on is that it won't extend the lens, so you can just enjoying looking at your photos without worrying about the lens.

The Mode dial is simple enough with settings for Auto, P/M, Quick Shot, Scene and Movie clearly marked by icons. It's stiff enough that you won't accidentally change modes, too.

The custom Share button (which we set up for EV because Canon didn't dedicate a button to EV) and the Playback button under the Mode dial are both stiff. It's a good thing because your thumb will be grabbing the SD990 there. Display and Menu under the main control pad are also stiff and do what they always do on a Canon: change the LCD options and take you to the main Menu settings.

The main control pad has the usual Function/Set button in the middle to access shooting menu options and confirm menu selection. And the arrow positions have their assignments as usual, too. Up accesses the SD990's ISO settings (and rotates in Playback), Right accesses Flash modes, Down accesses the Release modes like the Self-Timer (and Erases in Playback) and Left accesses the Focus modes.

Just around the navigator, however, is a chrome ring replacing the Touch control dial of the SD950. We're getting less and less fond of these as a navigation tool. They are faster than pressing the arrow keys, but they are also hard to control. And sometimes they work, sometimes they are disabled.

In this case, we didn't make friends with the SD990's rotary dial but it did come in handy in the new Manual mode, which probably explains the switch from the Touch control dial.

LENS

The 36-133mm, f2.8 to f5.8, 3.7x optical zoom lens appears to be the same glass used on the SD950.

At wide-angle, the corners are blurred, but at telephoto they remain nearly as sharp as the center. With just a 3.7x zoom range, barrel distortion at 36mm is just moderate and barely detectable at 133mm.

Chromatic aberration is strong at wide-angle but much lower at telephoto.

And the SD990 includes Canon's optical image stabilization for better natural light photography and improved performance with the 4x digital zoom.

MODES

Our standing gripe about the ELPHs -- that Manual mode is just an Auto with a little fudging -- is hereby withdrawn for the SD990. There is a real Manual mode on the SD990 that lets you set the aperture and the shutter speed yourself. There are only two f-stops to play with, f2.8 and f8.0, but there are quite a few shutter speeds.

To get into Manual mode, set the Mode dial to P/M and spin the control dial's outer ring until a big M appears on the screen. To access the shutter speed and aperture controls, choose EV from the Function menu (or do what we did and define the Share key as EV and press that).

To actually set the shutter speed, use the control dial's outer ring. A scale will appear above the current value. To change the SD990's aperture, use the Left or Right arrow keys.

Unfortunately, Manual mode on the SD990 seems pretty lonely without Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes. For those, you still have to look at the G-Series or SX-Series Canons.

So what else is on the SD990?

The usual Auto, the limited Program and an associated Manual, the new Quick Shot, Special Scene and Movie modes. Scene modes include Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, ISO 3200 at 1600x1200 pixels only, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Color Accent, Color Swap, Digital Macro and Stitch Assist.

Auto restricts what can be adjusted to image quality (JPEG compression) and image size. ISO can either be Auto or Auto Hi, Flash can be Auto or Off, Focus can be Macro or Normal. And our hunch is if you use Auto, you probably don't bother changing any of those.

Programmed AE lets you change everything but the shutter speed and the aperture, it seems. ISO adds fixed settings from 80 to 1,600, Flash can be forced on for fill flash (in combination with flash compensation), Focus adds Infinity and Manual. There is also EV, white balance, Our Colors, Flash Compensation, Metering, Image Quality and Image Size settings on the Function menu.

And in the SD990's Programmed AE mode, you can slide right into Manual to adjust shutter speed and aperture.

Quick Shot mode doesn't update the LCD, explaining why the SD990 retains the optical viewfinder of the SD950. The LCDs EV, ISO, Flash mode and then a row of settings (white balance, Our Colors, Shutter release mode, image quality, image size, flash compensation and then a final row with a live histogram, status icons and warnings). In Quick Shot mode, the lens is constantly autofocusing so you don't have to half-press the Shutter button to avoid shutter lag. The idea is that this mode will get the fastest capture, perfect for sporting events or other live action scenes. Oddly enough, the LCD displays each captured image for review. Would you take your eye off the subject and away from the viewfinder to chimp at the shot you just captured? This does use the battery heavily (Canon says you'll only get 180 shots in this mode, so consider yourself warned).

The SD990 also offers 12 Special Scene modes that include Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, ISO 3200, Indoor, Kids & Pets and Night Snapshot. Sunset wasn't on the SD950. In addition to those, you also get Color Accent, Color Swap, Digital Macro, Stitch Assist and Movie mode.

Still image sizes include 4416x3312 (Large), 3456x2592 (Medium 1), 2592x1944 (Medium 2), 1600x1200 (Medium 3/Date Stamp), 640x480 (Small) and 4416x2480 (Widescreen).

Movie mode captures mono sound and H.264 format video in MOV files in either 640x480 or 320x480 image sizes, both at 30 frames per second up to 4-GB or 60 minutes a clip. Optical zoom is not supported, though digital zoom is.

Unfortunately, even the flagship ELPH can't shoot HD video. Shooting video at 16:9 seems a lot more natural than shooting it at 4:3 as 640x480 requires. And when the day comes that you have a widescreen TV, that 4:3 video is going to look dated.

STORAGE & BATTERY

The SD990 takes an SD/SDHC card to store images. It can also accept MMC, MMC Plus and HC MMC Plus cards. A 2-GB card will hold about 306 high quality JPEGs or 23 minutes and 49 seconds of broadcast quality video.

A full charge on the SD990's rechargeable lithium-ion battery delivers about 280 shots, according to Canon (unless you use Quick Shot mode, which cuts it to 180). If you turn off the LCD (an option since you have an optical viewfinder) that jumps up to 700. So if battery power is running low, turn off the LCD to extend shooting time. Playback is good for six hours, Canon claims. That far exceeds our requirements for a day's shooting.

There is an optional AC adapter available. The AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC30 could come in handy if you do much tripod shooting.

SHOOTING

We took the SD990 on a few long walks. It slipped easily into our coat pocket and was ready in a flash to shoot. If we'd had better control of the Power button, it would have been ready in half a flash.

We used Programmed AE most of the time (although we couldn't resist trying the new Manual mode). The doll shots, which you'll see in the Gallery section (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD990IS/SD990ISGALLERY.HTM), were taken with the SD990's ISO 3200 Scene mode, which bins the pixels into a small 1600x1200 pixel image.

Except for the doll shots, the SD990's 14.7-Mp sensor creates some very large JPEGs. We used Superfine image quality (minimal JPEG compression) and the 4:3 aspect ratio to get the largest size image and that ranged from 3.1-MB to 8.1-MB in the gallery images. The full resolution images consequently load rather slowly.

We found the SD990's color to be natural without the usual bumped-up saturation, although reds and blues are slightly oversaturated. You won't see much of that in the gallery shots, however, because they weren't taken in bright, sunny conditions.

We shifted focus modes a lot, moving from Normal to Macro and back again. We also set EV to different values, defining the Share button to be the EV button since it wasn't available on the control dial. We didn't play around with ISO, leaving it on Auto, which shifted from ISO 75 to ISO 200.

And, of course, we were constantly zooming to compose the image. The zoom control on the SD990 is very smooth, not jumping from one step to another. That makes composing a pleasure, if a bit fast. It doesn't respond to slight pressure by zooming slower like the SX200 IS, whose zoom steps from one focal length to the next. The SD990's zoom is either zooming or not zooming.

Throughout our shooting experience, the SD990 was a reliable and faithful companion. We liked what we saw on the LCD, although we weren't thrilled that the scene was masked by settings icons until we half-pressed the Shutter button.

Evaluating the images, though, was another experience.

We were surprised to see how much lens flare intruded. You might expect a little fringing in the corners at wide-angle, but how do you explain the wheel covers on the red car (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD990IS/EXIF/YIMG_0241.HTM)? We were also disappointed to see fringing on the edges of the orange rose (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD990IS/EXIF/YIMG_0244.HTM), although we appreciated how the -0.7 EV held the color without losing the stone border below it.

Perhaps the best shot was the ornate window (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD990IS/EXIF/YIMG_0246.HTM). The SD990 not only held the highlights very well but the detail from the 14.7-Mp sensor was enough to have captured a crane fly resting on the right side of the window frame. That's pretty remarkable.

And yet, the image of the bolt in the brick (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD990IS/EXIF/YIMG_0245.HTM), one of our favorite compositions in the gallery, falls apart when viewed at full resolution. The shutter speed of 1/143 second is fast enough to freeze any camera shake in Macro mode so the blur evident in the corners is all the lens. At full resolution, it simply doesn't look as sharp as the thumbnails promise it to be.

And that was the rule rather than the exception. See the sculpture of the big cat on stone in the park (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD990IS/EXIF/YIMG_0221.HTM). There's blooming from the cat's snout and the speckling of luminance noise in the metal and the stone and the foliage is disturbing.

Maybe, we thought, we've been looking at too many dSLR images lately. So we reviewed our Canon PowerShot SX110 IS gallery images. While there were certainly some of the same problems in those images, we preferred them.

Much of this (let's call them technical defects) disappear when you print the images. And just resizing them down a bit helps enormously, too. In fact, the doll images at ISO 3200 don't show any evidence of these optical defects because the SD990 resizes them to 1600x1200 pixels.

And while these defects are real, the problem is actually with viewing high resolution images more than with the SD990. Examining 10-Mp images and larger on your screen, as we noted in our Dogpatch story (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/MRP/D300DY2.HTM), "you have your nose to the glass at the candy store and are fogging the window. To properly evaluate 10-Mp images and larger on your screen, they suggested, you should view them at 50 percent rather than 100 percent."

So in our cat snout shot above, we simulated a 50 percent view. That helps a lot of the noise in the foliage and the blue flare glow above the statue's nose is less noticeable.

CONCLUSION

Despite our quibbles about its image quality, the SD990 is a good quality digicam. Corners are soft at full wide-angle with chromatic aberration, but that's no surprise. Image quality is better at middle and telephoto focal lengths. Barrel distortion is moderate at wide-angle and almost non-existent at telephoto. Color is bright and vibrant, with only slight oversaturation in some reds. Luminance noise is a little high even at low ISOs, with soft detail as low as ISO 80. Cycle times are a little slow (there's a lot of data coming off the sensor), but shutter lag is good. Lens flare also makes bright objects glow a little more than they should, a problem we don't normally see in Canon cameras.

Lens flare is visible at larger print sizes, but becomes less noticeable at 8x10. Luminance noise at lower ISOs is also not visible -- even on 13x19 prints.

The SD990 is a great companion that breaks the ELPH mold with a Manual mode that lets you set shutter speed and aperture independently of each other. The Servo AF tracking of moving subjects is a refinement with real benefits, as is the improved face detection. And while the 14.7-Mp sensor may have some issues, it does still bring home details you wouldn't have seen with your naked eye.

The Canon PowerShot SD990 IS is not just the new flagship ELPH, it's the best ELPH we've used. And that earns it a Dave's Pick.

Return to Topics.

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:

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: When Your Flowers Are Too Red

The great mass of photographers -- whether they are pros, enthusiasts or bald-faced amateurs -- rely on the discussion boards at popular photo sites to ask for help. There they are all too often insulted, caned and brow-beaten by the blood-drooling, snot-crazed, ear-waxed, two-fingered camera buffs who pass themselves off as authorities. A pretty sight it is not.

But here in this dreamland of a newsletter, subscribers are welcome to write to their humble, confused and sometimes succinct editor for advice. The discourse is -- what's the word -- civil.

In an emergency, where a quick answer is needed, we readily admit we don't know. Other times we can even help.

That was the case recently when an old, vexing problem was brought to our attention by a longtime reader who had just made a donation ( http://www.imaging-resource.com/SUBSCRIBE.HTM). You know, the ideal reader that writers imagine when they are fighting their spell checkers and looking up correct usage on, of all places, the Web.

She had ventured out early one morning to shoot some red poppies that had bloomed early in Spring. And when she got home, she was terribly disappointed to see the poppies were all strangely oversaturated. Everything else in the shot looked normal, which only added insult to injury.

"What happened?" she wanted to know.

She sent us her camera JPEG, unretouched, so we could mine the Exif data. There we found the white balance had been correctly set to Cloudy, the exposure mode was Aperture Priority (she's no dummy with one of those yellow books in her backpack) and then things got interesting.

ISO was bumped up to 400, probably because she had used an aperture of f7.1 to get a moderately useful depth of field, particularly on her closeups.

Then she had set the exposure value to +0.3, overexposing the bright subject a bit, which required a shutter speed of 1/13 second.

Having been brought up to be civil, we decided to walk in her shoes a bit (ballerina flats, we hoped, since our stilettos were still in the shop -- it's tougher than it sounds being an editor). We grabbed a garden-variety dSLR and sauntered out into the garden where it was accommodatingly overcast even if we only had a few orange daisies posing.

We set the dSLR to match her settings: ISO 400, Cloudy white balance, +0.3 EV, multisegment metering. Snap.

On the camera's LCD, things looked good. Very good. A nice match. The orange was vibrant, the surrounding green lush. We thought we had a good exposure and would have to resort to an I-don't-know.

Then we set the camera to what we had suggested she use. ISO 200 and -0.7 EV. Snap.

A darker image in the LCD. Underexposed indeed. It didn't match the scene, really.

But we knew better (on this occasion). When we opened the two images in our garden-variety image editing software, the first one (which we had liked so much outside) was much too light, all the detail blown out of the petals.

We tried to fix it up a bit, reducing the saturation in the reds. But the truth was that there was just no detail in those petals. Taking the saturation all the way to zero so there was only a black and white image proved that. The petals were white ellipses, almost like a mask.

On the second shot, however, there was excellent detail in the petals. Again, going momentarily to black and white made that clear. And it looked good on the screen, too. We were tempted to make the shadows a bit brighter, that's all.

All this was working with the JPEGs. But we had shot both images as Raw+JPEG using a large JPEG. For a shot like this, where you really expect to manipulate tone and color, shooting Raw is just the ticket. By skipping the camera's JPEG conversion of the raw data, you have a lot more flexibility -- which translates to fun in your image editing software.

So what happened? Why did the better looking LCD image turn out to be useless and the underexposed image just the thing? Why did the histogram of the useless image look just right and the histogram of the second image so backed up to the left?

Well, consider the subject.

It's a bright flower over there in the red/yellow spectrum. We had a look at the Imatest ColorChecker plot for her camera (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/MAX7/D7IMATEST.HTM) to see what happens to the reds. As the text explains, "Like most digital cameras, it tends to oversaturate reds, somewhat the 7D more than many." Indeed, you'll find a lot of forum discussion by Canon and Nikon owners about red flowers being too saturated, too. It's a common problem.

Exacerbating this proclivity, she had overexposed by a third stop. So she pushed the reds further out.

Overexposing a bright subject is no crime. It's simply overriding the meter's natural tendency to make bright things dull and dark things pale. But coupled with the oversatured reds, it took things too far.

And on the camera's LCD, you aren't seeing the whole picture. First, it's too small to show the lack of detail. Second, it's not showing 24-bit color (just 16-bit). And the histogram, which will be identical on the camera and in your software, may not show how much of the red channel has been clipped off the right end. You might see a nice big red bump on the right side, but not how much of that red histogram has fallen off the right end.

But knowing your camera oversatures red (and they all do), you can compensate for bright red/orange subjects by not overexposing but underexposing to keep them in range. Consider, as we said, the subject.

And if in doubt, bracket a few JPEGs in black and white mode. Then zoom in to examine the detail in each of them to decide which exposure is doing the job. Or do what the smart alecks do and just shoot Raw. You can recover your red highlights when you convert the Raw image in your image editing software. Either method will help.

As the Poet once put it, a poppy by any other name would smell as sweet. Then, of course, his editor got to it.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Removing a Stuck Filter

It happens. The UV filter you screwed onto your lens so easily just won't unscrew when you want to replace it with a circular polizer. It's stuck. It won't budge. Who glued it on when you weren't looking?

Nobody of course. It's just your bad karma balancing the account. Fortunately there are solutions short of taking a hacksaw to it.

The one that always works for us is to relax. Often the binding is caused by pressing a bit overzealously on two opposing points of the filter. So the circle behaves like an oval and binds. The harder you try to unscrew it the more stuck it seems.

To get that even circular pressure, the trick is to relax your grip and nudge the filter in a counter clockwise direction. You'll be amazed how easily it complies. Because, after all, it's still circular. It was just the pressure that was binding it.

You can optimize this technique with a rubber band. Just slip the rubber band around the filter and with a light touch, give the filter a little twist. The rubber band does two things. If it's stretched at all, it applies pressure evenly to the filter. And its rubber surface provides a better grip than the knurled metal of the filter ring.

That makes it preferable to rubber gloves, but since gloves are often handy, that works too.

Filter wrenches are thin plastic rings open at one end with handles you squeeze together to apply even pressure. You use two of them, one on the lens and one on the filter, which gives you a little more leverage than just holding onto the lens barrel with your free hand. That can be just the ticket for removing a circular polarizer. B&H sells a set that handles 62-77mm lenses for $4.95 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=251749&is=REG) and smaller sizes are available, too.

In the tricks-for-the-desperate department, you can try holding the filter (if it isn't a circular polarizer) against any flat rubber surface (a mouse pad, for example, or the heel of your hand or the heel of a shoe, if you're away from the house) and turning the camera. You can also try tightening the filter slightly to see if that dislodges any dirt binding it.

If that doesn't work, you can try warming or chilling the filter/lens combo to see if a change in temperature helps. A hair dryer is the conservative approach. One particularly desperate technique is to dip just the filter into recently boiled water for a minute, then twist the filter off.

If nothing at all helps, try a camera store. Resorting to force may be tempting, but it won't help.

You don't really want to grease the filter ring on your lens to prevent this. Lubricants of any type attract dirt. But you do want to keep both the lens filter threads and the filter lens threads (got that?) clean. Use a brush or compressed air. And do the job just before mounting the filter.

It may still get stuck, but at least you'll have made it easier to remove with one of the less involved methods. All of which tend to work better if preceded with a wave of the hand and a musical "Abracadabra."

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We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.

RE: Canon Pro9000 Mark II

How effectively does the Canon Pro9000 Mark II print text documents?

-- Gary Davis

(It just so happens we've been printing text documents from InDesign on it all morning, Gary. While they look great, there are some issues to point out. Inkjet text printing isn't as inexpensive as laser text printing, for one. The Pro9000 Mark II does not do duplex printing either (like, say, the Canon MP980). And it isn't a PostScript printer, if that matters. But text printing, in color and black and white, is no challenge for this printer. -- Editor)

Thank you for a thorough review of Canon Pixma PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II. I got this printer recently thinking I will have great fun printing my photos. Sadly it's one big disappointment. The prints are too red-blue and not being very good with "color management," I am having a really bad time and thinking of selling it. Canon customer service was very unhelpful, blaming Photoshop.

What am I doing wrong? My monitor has been calibrated and I never had problems with my previous, less "professional" printer. I am using Canon inks and paper. I have wasted lots of time and paper trying to adjust it but getting nowhere and very frustrated now.

-- Arletta

(Start by confirming all the ink cartridges are correctly seated. Then make sure your printing application is controlling the color. Look at the screen shots in the review's Important Print Settings by clicking on the thumbnails and studying the settings. With Canon inks and Canon paper make sure you're using the right ICC profile. Then make sure you've selected the right paper in the printer driver. Finally, disable the color correction option in Color Options. We'll bet this is where your problem is. A shift like you're describing can happen when the color is being corrected twice: once in the application and again in the printer. Just turn it off in the printer. -- Editor)

RE: Canon MP980

I liked your review of MP980. I just bought one, installed it and tried to print duplex. The outcome was disappointing because the page on the back was printed on its head. For reading this means turning the page on its head. This will not do with longer documents. Do you perhaps know what I might have done wrong? Thanks for any suggestion!

-- Susanne Von Falkenhausen

(We do, Susanne -- because we did the same thing! When you give the Print command hunt through the printer driver to the Margin panel and look at your Stapling options. You can "staple" along any side of the page and the second side of the sheet will be printed to maintain the orientation. Sounds like you have short-side stapling (top) set when you really want long-side stapling (left). -- Editor)

RE: Old Scanner Woes

I have a Dimage Scan Elite II which I have not used since I purchased a new computer. I am now running an iMac with a 24-inch screen and Mac OS 10.5.6.

When attempting to open the Dimage Scan Utility, I continually get a message, "Unknown Error. Confirm All Other Dimage Scan Software Is Closed." But no other Dimage software is open.

What do I do now?

-- Art Shapiro

(You buy software written not just for your scanner but for the processor (Intel not Motorola) and operating system (Leopard) you are running. Silverfast or Vuescan, that is. We've read one report of someone running the Dimage scanning utility (after installing the latest driver) under an early version of Leopard (http://photo.net/digital-darkroom-forum/00OPKw) but that was under Rosetta emulation of PPC code. Using the Photoshop plug-in would require running Photoshop under Rosetta, too. So it's really either Silverfast or Vuescan. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/downloads/updates) has released Lightroom 2.4 [MW] and Camera Raw 5.4 for CS4 [MW] while updating the DNG Specification (with new opcode lists for edits like lens corrections) and the DNG Software Development Kit to version 1.3 (http://www.adobe.com/dng). The updates support recent Canon, Epson, Hasselblad, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Sigma and Sony Raw formats.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released iPhoto 8.0.4 to address "a rarely encountered issue involving photos imported into a previous version that could affect overall stability and corrects references to a few points of interest and location names that were labelled incorrectly."


Nikon (http://nikon.com/about/news/2009/0630_01.htm) has announced an exclusive collaboration with Fujitsu BSC for Nikon camera firmware development beginning in August. The new venture hopes to establish firmware platforms and accelerate the speed and quality of firmware development by merging Nikon's "mechatronics control and image processing technologies" with Fujitsu BSC's "software technology, know-how and resources."


LaserSoft (http://www.silverfast.com) has announced a 70 percent discount on cross-grade SilverFast purchases (switching to a new scanner) through July 31. The current version 6.6.1 captures 64-bit color Raw files and 32-bit grayscale Raw files.


Auto FX Software (http://www.autofx.com) has released its $249 Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 [MW], a Photoshop plug-in with 60 filters to enhance an image's tone and color in a variety of ways.


Bellamax (http://www.bellamax.com) has released Bellamax Pro Online 3.0 with automatic Raw conversion. The automated color correction and enhancement software (also available for Windows and Linux) offers almost 40 parameters for global brightness and density adjustments plus local adjustments to skin, foliage and the environment. It can also distinguish between background and foreground for more local corrections.


Softimeline (http://www.softimeline.com) [W] offers "a better way to display photos, where unlike a linear slide show, the viewer can choose what to look at next," according to CEO Ron Kloss.


Sigma (http://www.sigmaphoto.com) has introduced its $950 10-20mm f3.5 EX DC HSM super-wide angle lens with Hyper Sonic Motor technology for quiet, high speed auto focus. It's the only ultra wide zoom with a fixed aperture, the company said. Canon and Nikon mounts are available now with Sigma, Pentax and Sony mounts coming later this month.


Phase One A/S, in conjunction with senior management employees of Leaf, has announced they have created a new entity, Leaf Imaging Ltd., to purchase certain assets of the Leaf camera business (http://www.Leaf-photography.com), including the Leaf brand product names, engineering design and production tools.

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Signoff

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

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Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
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Dave Etchells, Publisher
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