The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 11, Number 20 25 September 2009

Copyright 2009, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 263rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We discuss the two versions of Element 8 before we give Epson's $250 photo and film scanner a workout. That prompted us to lecture on current scanning specs. There won't be test, however.

The newsletter celebrates its tenth anniversary with this issue. Thank you for joining us!


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D A T A C O L O R

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Feature: Photoshop Elements 8 -- Country Mouse, City Mouse

As we sat through the demo of Photoshop Elements 8, we thought the story was how Adobe had started to harness all the horsepower in your computer to do some intelligent things for you. Less work, more play.

But as we studied the press materials (the software is on its way), it became clear to us that there are two versions of Elements -- which only resemble each other in name.

There's the Country Mouse version for the Macintosh and the City Mouse version for Windows. The City Mouse version has some very fancy artificial intelligence but, you know, you have to live in the city of Windows to take advantage of it. The Country Mouse version is far less sophisticated but isn't frightened to death all the time.

But don't feel too bad for the Country Mouse. A lot of the goodies the City Mouse enjoys in the Windows version of Elements 8 can also be sampled by the Country Mouse. Just not in Elements 8. If you catch our drift.

COUNTRY MOUSE

The system requirements for the Mac version left PowerPC users in the dust a version ago. You need a multi-core Intel processor running OS X v10.4.11-10.5.7 or 10.6.x with 512-MB RAM (although 1GB is recommended) and 64-MB of video RAM.

The top new features are:

The Mac version includes Adobe Bridge CS4 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/CS4/CS4.HTM#bri) with its marvelous carousel view of your images in Review Mode.

CITY MOUSE

System requirements for the Windows version include a 1.6GHz or faster processor, XP with Service Pack 2 or 3 or Vista or Windows 7, 1-GB RAM, a 16-bit color video card and a DirectX 9-compatible display driver.

The top new features are:

ABOUT MICE

So who uses Elements? Adobe knows who you are. And they told us.

COUNTRY LIVING

But if you own a Mac, what would make you interested in Elements? After all, you've got iPhoto (for free) with face and place recognition.

Adobe hopes you want more help editing images, making them not just look better, but combining them or recomposing them easily. And Adobe hopes you're so thrilled with those tricks that you'll want to learn more. The company is hoping, that is, you're as ambitious about the images on your computer as you are aggressive about taking more with your camera.

So you get a tool to whiten teeth and another to make the sky bluer and one more to paint the color out of most of a photo (which is still a really popular trick, apparently). You get a Scene Cleaner (that's Photomerge) to squiggle on what you don't want in the picture as you squeeze it without distorting it or squiggle on what you don't want to lose. You can squiggle elements on one image to be copied to another, too, making composites about as easy (uh, transparent) as they get. And you still get those Quick Fix edits that turn tricky tone and color edits into one-click corrections.

In short, you get Adobe technology (including Bridge and Camera Raw) to apply to your images. That's something Apple doesn't have, after all.

CITY LIFE

If that list seems like a pretty small inducement, you can make yourself transparently irate by looking at what the Windows version brings to the party.

For one thing, the Elements team (unlike those Lightroom guys) have made it a point to incorporate video into the product. Even if you don't get Premiere, you have basic video support (including tagging to XMP files in lieu of a standard video metadata format) in Elements Organizer (which ships with Premiere, too).

Even more, though, is the Auto Analyzer. The Analyzer scans both stills and video in the background, looking for all sorts of things. Yes, faces but not just faces. It looks for one face, a small group, a long shot and quality markers like poor contrast, blurry video, video without motion and more. And it tags what it finds.

It also automatically tags people. If it doesn't know who's in the picture, it asks. Once it has some names, it can auto complete your entry based on the names it has. After seeing someone's picture a few times, it starts asking if this image is one of the names it knows. It moves from "Who Is This?" to "Is This Alyssa?" Which you can confirm with a single click.

That works in batches, too. And it recognizes a person as they age by using comparable shots (no tricks there, really).

Adobe says this is the number one kind of tag. And being able to automate it may make City Mice a little less envious of iPhoto.

EDITING EASE

Apparently, both mice get the new editing features (and Camera Raw). The Full, Guided and Quick edits of the previous version are retained but Quick edits have a few more wrinkles.

Adobe has found that while users love sliders as a widget, they don't try the ones they don't understand. And one of the ones they don't understand is color temperature. So to encourage users to try the Temperature slider (and a few others), the company has added a small Variations icon near the slider. A click on the icon shows you a nine-image grid with example changes based on your image so you can see what changes the tool can make.

The Photomerge Exposure feature is a family of features to make it easy to composite images. Adobe Elements Group Product Manager Bob Gager demonstrated this with two images taken of his daughter at night in Las Vegas. One was a flash shot illuminating his daughter and the other was a shot without flash that captured the night lights in the background. With both images opened in Exposure, he scribbled over the well-exposed image of his daughter and it was instantly copied to the other image with all the edge blending needed without requiring any masking.

You can scribble to add elements and scribble to eliminate them. Very easy.

A transparency slider lets you tone down the exposure of the pasted image to match the background, too, providing a little more control over the final result.

The new Recompose tool taps into Photoshop CS4's content-aware scaling to let you resize any image regardless of the original aspect ratio. You can, for example, squeeze a horizontal image into a square image without distorting the main subject by eliminating the unimportant background areas. It's as if you took a pair of scissors and snipped out the space between the people in your image.

But Elements makes it very easy to use this new technology by providing more squiggles. A keep-this squiggle will prevent any distortion on the subject you squiggle over and a drop-this squiggle will remove that part of the image first.

PREMIERE ELEMENTS

Premiere Elements is only available for Windows (it's iMovie for Country Mice) but again Adobe has applied some intelligence using Auto Analyzer to make editing easier.

Organizer, which ships with Premiere Elements, too, can tag your videos just like stills. And it also tags scenes in them based on quality, making Smart Trimming possible. If there's a dead spot in the video, that scene is tagged and color coded on the timeline to make it easy to cut. That's a lot faster than cutting a scene in two to trim it. You can adjust the thresholds for what Auto Analyzer thinks is interesting and what it thinks is quality.

A Smart Fix applies filters to clean up the video (fixing, for example, a dark scene by applying a Brightness filter).

And a Smart Mix function can automatically drop the level of the background music when it detects a voice on the live video sound track.

Finally, Motion Tracking can identify movement by a character in the scene so you can drop clip art, a logo, a photo or even a moving box of video into the scene to follow that motion. In the demo, Premiere Elements Group Manager Mike Iampietro tracked his daughter crossing a stage with clip art of a cartoon bird that flew above her as she moved. Instant Disney, one of the other reviewers observed.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The price of Photoshop Elements hasn't changed: $99.99 or $79.99 with a mail-in rebate (if ordered by Oct. 31, no prior purchase required). You can also get it bundled with Premiere Elements 8 for Windows at $149.99/$119.99.

A Plus version of Elements is also available for a $49.99/year subscription that ups the free photoshop.com membership from 2-GB to 20-GB and provides more tutorials, artwork and templates. You can get a discount on the Plus version if you buy the subscription with the software: $139.99/$119.99 for Elements or $179.99/$149.99 for the Windows bundle.

The product started shipping Wednesday.

CONCLUSION

We suspect there isn't much logic behind the differences in the Macintosh and Windows versions. It seems more a question of resource allocation. Clearly if Bridge CS4 were superior to Organize, the Windows version would ship with it instead of Organize.

But Auto Analyze, which provides much of the sizzle in this release, is not in Bridge. So Mac users are still not getting what Windows users get in Elements, although they're paying the same price. And this when even Google managed to bring face recognition to both Mac and Windows versions of Picasa this week.

That would be distressing to us but the editing power of Elements is an upgrade from iPhoto and something you don't have in either Lightroom 2.5 or Photoshop CS4. It's both transparently simple and powerful.

We used to tout Elements as the editor to buy to learn about image editing, presuming one day you'd "graduate" to a fuller featured product. And certainly there are a lot of enthusiasts upgrading to Lightroom, enthralled by its streamlined workflow. But Elements has staked out a territory all its own, not so much in the studio as in the kitchen, where the chef can be a blogger yet still turn out masterpieces like Julia Child.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Epson V600 Scanner -- Scanning for Fun

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V600/V600.HTM on the Web site.)

"I've just retired and I've got a lot of old slides and negatives I want to digitize," this frequent request starts. "What scanner do you recommend?"

Frankly, we don't recommend a scanner at all. Figure an hour for every roll of film on your high-end flatbed scanner or even a dedicated 35mm scanner and, well, you retired too late. If the tedium doesn't kill you, something else will.

And scanning software is so difficult to use, you'll beg to be put out of your misery.

But nobody listens. They all want to buy a scanner. For $99, say.

So in the second round of the exchange, we try to explain the difference between a cheap flatbed scanner that can handle Jumbo prints and a real film scanner. That doesn't discourage anybody either.

Not that they'll buy a scanner that can handle film. No, no, no. They'll grab a multifunction printer or an inexpensive flatbed with a transparency unit on top.

We never hear from them again.

ENTER EPSON

Our personal forays into this wilderness are worth pointing out. A $100 HP G3010 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/HPG3010/G3010.HTM) did scan our test slide but it was no match for the $556 Epson V700 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V700/V700.HTM). We did get surprisingly good results from a $285 Canon MP980 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/MP980/MP980.HTM), though.

That might make you wonder if there isn't a sweet spot around $300 that can actually do the job now and then.

Epson has aimed its new $250 Perfection V600 scanner at the photographer who finds its V700 too rich for their blood but still wants a serious photo scanner. Like the Canon MP980, it has an LED light source, but it's twice the area of the Canon's light source for film.

The company sent us a pre-launch sample and we've been putting it through its paces. It should be available around Oct. 12.

HIGHLIGHTS

In a nutshell, the V600's more impressive features include:

Epson Product Manager Rick Day admitted that the V600 does not produce film scans that are as good as the company's V700/V750 high-end flatbeds. But, he said, it outperforms inexpensive flatbeds. We were particularly curious to see how it measured up to Canon's MP980 all-in-one, which is about the same price.

SETUP

We have a gallery (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V600/gallery/index.html) of the unboxing, setup and installation of the pre-launch sample V600 Epson provided. It arrived in a plain white box but the contents were neatly packed.

The installation poster is very clear. Unpack. Install the software. Connect the scanner and turn it on. Scan.

Although the scanner is very light and small, you really should not move it around once you've set it up. Scanners are delicate that way. The V600 has a lock on the back panel to protect the scanner from damage when it is being moved. The lock cleverly obscures the USB port when in the locked position. Make sure you lock the scanner whenever you do move it.

Software installation was pretty straightforward. On our system, Epson Scan wasn't the only thing installed. The HTML Guide was also installed. And the Epson Scanner Monitor application was installed. A directory with more Epson software was installed, too, but that was support software with items like Event Manager, Common and Copy Utility directories.

The V600 has a set of four buttons that can be defined by the Event Manager. You define a button by setting the action that's launched when you press the button on the scanner.

A TWAIN data source was also installed in our TWAIN data sources folder. In Photoshop that spawned an Epson Scan session that delivered the scanned image back to Photoshop.

USING THE SCANNER

After setting up a scanner, the first thing we normally do is scan our reflective and transparent color targets to profile the scanner. But Epson Scan, the only software that presently runs the V600, doesn't know how to read the values on the IT8 targets, so that was out.

For our tests, we worked from Photoshop CS2 using the TWAIN plug-in to access Epson Scan. Epson Scan has four modes: Full Auto Mode, Home Mode, Office Mode and Professional Mode. We chose Professional Mode for our more exacting tests, although we did use Full Auto Mode extensively.

Full Auto Mode is a great idea because people new to scanning could use some help. If cameras can figure out how to set themselves for half a dozen different situations, why can't scanners?

We tried document scanning by loading the scanner and pressing the front panel button to create PDFs. That worked well because PDF creation isn't handled by Epson Scan.

CASE STUDIES

Our first scan was the IT8 slide. We found it surprising Epson Scan would not let us edit the output dimensions, so we picked a resolution that delivered a scan as close as possible to the MP980 and M1 IT8 scans.

Epson Scan also insists on auto cropping the image. Nothing we did could adjust the crop to include the full image.

Slides. Our first image slide was the Yosemite shot we featured in the G3010 review. Again, we couldn't match the settings, but we did specify 48-bit scanning at 3200 dpi.

We also enabled a few Adjustments. Unsharp Masking (a checkbox with three selectable levels) is essential for slide scanning. But we also tried Color Restoration (another checkbox) because this is a very old slide.

Other options not particularly appropriate to this slide were Grain Reduction, Backlight Correction, Dust Removal and Digital ICE Technology.

Epson Scan reported that it would take four minutes to perform the scan. And that for film scanning, it can not adjust skew (an option buried in the Preferences).

On this test, the V600 most resembled the V700 rather than the G3010. Color balance was excellent, detail clear and the image pleasantly rendered.

We did convert to 8-bit channels, resize to match the other samples and did an unsharp mask at the new size.

The Maserati. Beating the G3010 isn't much of a test, but the MP980 (which also uses an LED light source) made a very nice scan of a Maserati shot on Kodachrome. It's a high contrast image whose color is difficult to get right. The red of the car paint and the green of the grass make for a difficult combination.

Again the V600 did very well. Color balance was very good, detail nicely captured. It's a bit bluer than the MP980 capture with less contrast but still credible.

A Rose. Our 120 film shot of a rose needed a little flattening. So when we slipped the front corners under the small fingers of the holder, we also laid the plastic flattener on the rear edge of the film. When we closed the holder, it helped flatten the film.

For this scan, we thought we'd pull out all the stops, scanning at the full 6400 dpi resolution.

It's a black and white image, so we restricted the scan to 16-bit grayscale. Just as using 16-bit channels in color gives you some room to play with tone and color, using a 16-bit channel on a black and white gives you some room to play with tone.

Scanning at 16-bits and full resolution took a long time, however. Epson Scan estimated 30 minutes for what turned out to be a 226-MB file. This is one of those tasks that would have been faster on a fast USB port, no doubt. But even then, you can see from this one example why you should retire early.

The image itself was a pleasure to work with. We made a large midtone shift to darken the petals, did a little dust removal (hadn't cleaned the negative very well, apparently) and indulged in some creative sharpening that delivered a gorgeous 112-MB image.

Color Negatives. Despite the wider latitude of color negative film, the conversion to positive makes this a more difficult scanning task. The orange mask necessary for making prints complicates things but each color negative emulsion requires a different curve to optimize the conversion. High-end software usually prompts the user for the particular emulsion to apply just such a curve.

Epson Scan doesn't. And while the scans show the same resolution as slide scans, the color balance can be quite a bit off. Color negative scanning was the one disappointment we had using the V600 but we can't blame the V600 entirely. This is one of those areas where the software's limitations also plays a role.

For our first test, we scanned eight negatives using both the Full Auto Mode and Professional Mode. In Pro Mode we could enable the color restoration feature, which helped punch up the saturation. But the negatives themselves didn't call for color restoration.

For a real-world comparison, we scanned the same film in a Canon MP980. The Epson tended to scan warm and since these were primarily seascapes, we got monotone images of gray skies and brown water. The Canon scanned cooler and gave us more recognizable images of the sky and sea.

Neither LED device delivered a very credible color negative scan, though. That's unfortunate because if there's one thing hiding in shoe boxes, it's a lot of color negatives.

Our second test was simply to switch film. The second emulsion we tried scanned with a much better color balance, although the curve needed some work to get the best results.

We simply applied a slight S curve to bump up contrast and the images came alive after 12 years in the dark.

Neither color negative scan experience was adequate straight from the scanner. And we shudder to think you would have to know how to make tone curve adjustments to get good results.

Prints. The prints from the same negatives scanned much better than the negatives. They were in pretty good shape, having enjoyed storage in a dark shoe box for nearly 20 years. And reflective scanning is a lot less taxing on the scanner than film scanning.

But again the Full Auto Mode delivered an almost monochrome scan while the Professional Mode scan came closest to the print. Which again suggests the software may be the culprit here.

We can't wait to try this again when VueScan supports the V600.

Documents. Document scanning is also not a very taxing task and the V600 handled it easily. Being able to create a PDF of a document is very handy but the V600 merely creates images of documents. It won't, for example, create a text PDF with HTML links. Just a picture of one.

CONCLUSION

We didn't really expect to spend as much time with the V600 as we did. Let that be a lesson to you if you're planning to scan your film collection. The software can turn what seems like a straightforward task into a frustrating experience. You know you should be getting better results but you just can't see how.

The Epson V600 is an affordable, lightweight, compact flatbed with a larger transparency scanning area than usual. Its LED illumination provides fast startup with low energy requirements and the film holders are easy to use without endangering the emulsions.

While the Epson Scan software was able to deliver very good results from slides and black and white negatives, it failed to reliably produce a credible color negative scan. And that made our experience with this promising scanner a disappointment.

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.

Advanced Mode: A Short Course on Scanning

Magic spells. Occult forces. Even evil spirits. That's what surrounds us when we sit down to scan something. We don't drag and drop. We trick or treat. We don't adjust a slider. We look for a broom.

Scanning remains a black art. Scanners are still more a mystery than your average digicam. And scanning software may get the job done but it never looks like it's up to the task.

And what is that task? And how does it get done? What are the things you really need to know?

Whether you're in the market for an all-in-one multifunction device, an inexpensive flatbed scanner or a film scanner, take our short course on scanning for the answers to those questions. And keep the lights on.

RESOLUTION

Two numbers represent optical resolution: the number of sensors in the sensor array and how finely the stepper motor can move the sensor down the scanner bed. The second one is usually higher -- and inconsequential.

So if a scanner touts an optical resolution of 4800x9600, it's the 4800 that matters.

An inexpensive flatbed may have an optical resolution as low as 1200-dpi (although the trend is upward). If you scan a 35mm film frame (which is 1.0x1.5 inches) at that resolution, your image size will be 1200x1800 pixels. Simple math.

Find out how many dots per inch your printer requires to make a high quality print. Do some tests to confirm the manufacturer's recommendation.

If you need 150 dpi to make a good print on your inkjet printer, the biggest print you can make with your 1200x1800 images is an 8x12 (on, say, 9x13 paper).

But if your printer needs 300 dpi (like a 4x6 dye sub printer), the largest print you can make from that same image is just 4x6. To get an 8x10 from that 35mm frame, you have to be able to scan 2400 dpi.

SHARPNESS

One of the more misunderstood aspects of scanning is sharpness. A raw scan will always look softer than the original. It's no fault of the scanner. As Taz Tally explains the phenomenon in his excellent SilverFast: the Official Guide, "Because a scanner does not capture all of the available image data but rather samples an image and averages the values, it tends to slightly lower contrast along high-contrast edges and smooth out the image."

The solution to this has always been to apply some sharpening to the scan. You can specify the amount of brightness to add to the edge pixels, the brightness difference to define an edge and how wide a border to be affected. In most Unsharp Masking dialogs those are Amount/Intensity, Threshold and Radius settings.

But in sharpening a scan (rather than a digital photograph), you'll want to affect higher contrast edges more than lower contrast edges. To avoid adding grain or noise to the low contrast areas of your scan, you'll want to increase the Threshold dramatically.

It's important to put this in perspective. There are three kinds of sharpening you can subject an image to. We usually talk about output sharpening, the last step in image editing, which is tailored to the output device, print size and viewing distance. But with a Raw image capture or a scan, you want to indulge in a little input sharpening as well. Between the two is the third form, which Bruce Fraser in his excellent Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop CS2 called creative sharpening.

But input sharpening is essential to scanning. Your scans will look disappointingly soft without it.

DMAX

To capture as much detail as possible from film, you need a very high Dmax, the maximum density at which shadow detail can be distinguished. Otherwise everything in the shadows is just black.

Most flatbeds brag about a 3.x Dmax, which is more than enough for reflective material. But dedicated film scanners have a Dmax as high as 4.2.

Density range is really what this game is all about. It's calculated by subtracting the Dmin or minimum density at which detail can be distinguished, from the Dmax. Dmax numbers are often inflated by cranking up the exposure so high that highlight detail is burned out (which would be represented by a much higher than normal Dmin). But it's hard to find a range rating from a scanner manufacturer, even when they underwrite independent tests.

You need a dynamic range of 2.0 for reflective material like prints. Slides can have a dynamic range of 3.2 to no more than 4.0 and negs a little less.

Assume a fairly common Dmin of 0.3 and handicap the Dmax figures you see. Yes, we're giving the manufacturers the benefit of the doubt (they didn't burn out the highlights). Then subtract the published Dmax (say, 3.4) for a dynamic range of 3.1.

But even a borderline dynamic range can be improved with multipass scanning. LaserSoft's ability to scan for the highlights and then scan for the shadows is a big help here.

COLOR DEPTH

Color scanners were using more than eight bits per channel a long time ago. If your red, green and blue channels each have 8-bit color, you have 24-bit real color (millions, in Mac parlance). Color scanners routinely read more than 8-bits per channel, although how many more is not often disclosed.

You can't see or print more than 8-bit channels but they're immensely useful for choosing which tones and colors you do want to see. So scanners usually offer a 48-bit scanning option using three 16-bit channels that evaluates the 48-bit data before delivering an optimized 24-bit image using 8-bit channels.

CONNECTION SPEED

High resolution scans result in very large files, so you need a fast connection to transfer that data from the scanner to your computer. Our test slide scans run about 61MB, in fact.

With Hi-Speed USB 2.0, the scanner does its part but your computer has to have a USB port that fast, too. Not all USB 2.0 ports are Hi-Speed (and Full Speed is slower than Hi-Speed), so you'll have to do a little research to see if your computer is up to this task.

BATCH SCANNING

A high-end flatbed like the Epson V700 can batch scan up to a dozen 35mm slides or negatives at a time. Less expensive flatbeds like the Epson V600 can scan either four slides or two strips of six-frame negatives. That beats the four-frame single strip of some low-end film scanners and high-end multifunction devices like the Canon MP980. And it saves you time.

SOFTWARE

Scanning software remains a good bit behind the times, much as if no one has done anything interesting yet in user interface design. The hardware control is there and the options, too, but you just can't find them, remember them or set them. It ain't easy. Even for us.

One solution to this is to buy and stick with Ed Hamrick's VueScan (http://www.hamrick.com). It works with nearly every scanner ever sold and can squeeze more juice out of a scan by accident than most programs can with infinite tweaking and twiddling. VueScan now has the added benefit of being able to save its Raw scans as Adobe DNG files.

Another solution we've long recommended is LaserSoft's SilverFast Ai (http://www.silverfast.com). The latest version creates a high density range file from two samples (one exposed for the highlights and another for shadow detail) that is faster and more effective than most multi-pass approaches. It can also automatically calibrate the scanner using a special IT8 target barcoded by LaserSoft.

FILM CARRIERS

One of the advantages of using the manufacturer's software, however, is it's usually aware of the location of the film frames in the product's film carriers. The frame finding technology in SilverFast leaves a lot to be desired (at least on the Mac version) and VueScan's approach is more like shooting in the dark. You end up selecting what you want scanned in the scan area.

There are two other film carrier concerns.

Scanners don't autofocus (with the exception of the Microtek M1/F1). So how do you make any necessary focus adjustments when scanning film? The V700 included small feet to change the elevation of the included carriers but most scanners don't. Third party carriers offer screw height adjustments. In a pinch, you can stick paper or board risers under the carrier to see if the change improves things.

Finally, the larger the piece of film you are scanning, the more trouble film curl is. Some carriers apply tension to the film to flatten it but others (like those on the V600) don't. The V600, instead, provides a flexible but firm piece of plastic to help flatten film in the 120/220 carrier. It's not as functional as tension since it merely sits on the base of the film, forcing it flat, and therefore has to be moved away from the image area. But it helps.

CALIBRATION TARGETS

Much as we like to see the inclusion of IT8 reflective and transparent targets (with the associated data files on CD) with any scanner, it's a rare thrill.

Any device in your color workflow should be calibrated and profiled. You need to know what the device can do, not presume what it can do.

We wish every scanner came with IT8 targets and software that knows how to read them to create a scanner profile. Lacking that, you have to buy these expensive tools yourself to actually calibrate your scanner. With its ability to scan bar codes the company imprints on its IT8 targets, SilverFast makes this easier than other tools. But VueScan can do it pretty efficiently, too.

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In the Forums

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RE: Thumbs Up

Compare the cost of additional 4- to 8-GB SDHC cards to thumb drives. Take enough memory cards, back those up to a portable PC and use them (un-reformatted) as a second back up. They take up less space, weigh less and cost less. It's a no brainer.

-- Peter Mullins

(Thanks, Peter. That certainly works (and you don't even need fast cards for it) -- except for the security angle. Which is what really makes the Verbatim approach interesting to us. It offers the capacity, the portability and the security we need on the road. -- Editor)

What I need is a backup drive that can plug into my camera and copy all the files off the removable data card. Packing a laptop on a long hike or trek is a pain -- keeping some camera batteries charged is enough of a hassle. Something that could run on the same AA batteries as my camera and automatically do an incremental backup of whatever it's plugged into at the press of a button would be just the ticket.

-- eaud

(There is something of a solution out there: a dSLR with two card slots (of which there are a few). Often the second slot can be used to mirror the first, so you have an instant backup. The real problem with a USB solution, though, seems to be that you need a CPU somewhere in there between the two cards to actually make the transfer. The camera ought to be smart enough to transfer files, but for this task, the computer's CPU is always used instead, so we just don't see the function in most cameras (although the odd wireless digicam could do this). The Sima Hitch USB Transfer Device (http://www.simaproducts.com) claims to be able to do this but we haven't tested it ourselves. -- Editor)

RE: Camera on Horseback?

I really enjoy your newsletter and continue to learn with every one. I enjoy using my Canon EOS Rebel XT; however, the camera is too bulky to use when I am horseback. I am looking for a camera that is lightweight (carry in my pocket?) but good quality for close-ups of grasses and flowers. I have "old" eyes so large viewing screen would be great. I am wondering if the Canon S90 is the ticket? Any suggestions?

Thank you for your great newsletter and your time.

-- Marcia England Jolley

(Thanks for the kind words, Marcia. We haven't gotten our hands on the S90 yet. We did just review the Sony TX1 (ultracompact with big LCD, nice auto Macro mode, very nice quality). But, you know, all those smaller cameras use very small sensors and won't deliver the same quality as your Rebel. The Four Thirds cameras (like the Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic GF1) are smaller cameras with big sensors but even they are not quite small enough to pocket. You might consider a snug camera harness (http://kgear.com/h/) for that XT. -- Editor)

RE: Manual Focus

I find it very hard to manually focus my Pentax K20D in low light -- where some of my fast "legacy" lenses are most useful. The screen is just too fine. Is there a replacement that would work better?

-- Kurt Ingham

(Katz Eye products (http://www.katzeyeoptics.com) are generally highly regarded, Kurt. They do make a K20D replacement (currently offered at a 10 percent discount). Easy user installation, too. -- Editor)

I followed your suggestion. At first I thought it a little pricey, but it works!!

-- Kurt Ingham

(Agreed, it is a little pricey. But each one is custom made and that split prism screen makes quite a difference for manual focusing. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Infotrends (http://www.infotrends.com) reports professional photographers are continuing to move to Lightroom. Of the 1,045 pros surveyed this year, 57.9 percent still rely on the Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop (down from 62.2 percent last year) with 37.0 percent using Lightroom (up from 35.9 percent) and 6.3 percent using OS X-only Aperture (a decrease from 7.5 percent last year). Results on the Mac platform alone show 44.4 percent (from 40.4 percent) using Lightroom to 12.5 percent (from 14.6 percent) using Aperture.


Google (http://picasa.google.com) has released Picasa 3.5 [MW] with face tagging.


Flickroom (http://www.flickroom.org/beta) is an Adobe AIR-based application for browsing Flickr albums with instant notification of any activity on your photostream, drag-and-drop uploading plus tweets, comments, faves and notes.


Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released its free Aurora Quick Fix [MW] for photographers who are want to quickly edit photos and share them online.


Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) has announced its $299 Airport TakeOff roller/backback strictly for carry-on camera gear at 14x21x8 inches. The backpack straps tuck into the back panel (held open with Velcro) so you can roll without zipping the straps away. The cavity in the well-built unit accommodates a 300mm f2.8 zoom, two pro dSLRs with lenses attached and other gear. A tripod cup is also included to strap a tripod to the side and the front panel can carry a thin laptop case.


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) now accepts Raw files up to 100-MB each from Phanfare Pro customers. You can upload from Lightroom, Aperture, the Web, the Phanfare Windows client or the Mac client. But you do have to upload a JPEG thumbnail of the file, too. Also announced is a new dropbox associated with any account so friends can upload images for you to include in your albums, saving you a step. And the service now supports iPhone 3GS video.


Gefen (http://www.gefen.com) has announced two DisplayPort solutions: its $399 DisplayPort KVM Switcher to use one display/keyboard/mouse with two computers and its $149 DVI to Mini-DisplayPort Adapter.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/downloads/updates) has released final versions of Photoshop Camera Raw 5.5, Lightroom 2.5 and DNG Converter 5.5 with Raw file support for the Nikon D300s, Nikon D3000, Olympus E-P1, Panasonic DMC-FZ35 and Panasonic DMC-GF1.

The company also released Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8, discussed above.


In Snow Leopard news, Adobe posted a knowledge base article explaining a unit type conversion error correctable with a simple update (http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/516/cpsid_51615.html). And OnOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/Open-Letter-to-Customers-Activation-OS-issues.pdf) published an open letter explaining the company's compatibility issues.


Skooba Design (http://www.skoobadesign.com) has expanded its Checkthrough collection with the ultralight $129.95 Backpack and the $189.95 Roller, a rolling laptop/business case. Developed in close coordination with the Transportation Security Administration, Checkthrough bags are specially designed and tested to pass through airport security X-ray screening without having to remove the computer.


Diana (http://microsites.lomography.com/diana/products/slr) has announced F+ SLR adapters for Canon EOS and Nikon F-mount series dSLRs to use Diana F+ special effects lenses. Lomography (http://www.lomography.com) may never be the same!


Need to build an online portfolio but don't have a bank loan or a degree in computer science? Take a look at Stacey (http://staceyapp.com), which lets you manage your content by simply creating folders and editing text files.


X-Rite (http://www.xritephoto.com) has announced ColorChecker Passport, a combination of color targets and calibration software to quickly and easily capture accurate color, instantly enhance portraits or landscapes and maintain color control from capture to edit in a Raw workflow.


Light Blue (http://www.lightbluesoftware.com) has released Photo 1.5.1 [M], a studio management system with enhanced time zone support for publishing events to Google Calendar, expanded support for SMTP servers, request reordering on the Shoot Detail screen, a Recent Shoots query, a Notes field on the Quotes tab and more.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 8.5.30 [LMW] with fixes for Snow Leopard issues with HP and Canon scanners, support for the Epson Artisan 710/810, WorkForce 310/610 and others, improved auto strip film alignment on Nikon film scanners and a fix for feeder problems in Snow Leopard.

Return to Topics.

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:

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

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

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