The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 12, Number 1 1 January 2010

Copyright 2010, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 270th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We start the year with a promise to shoot more in the rain -- with the right protection. Then we uncork the champagne for the Sony H20, a 10x zoom with Manual mode and 720p video. Auld acquaintance should not be forgot, we find, when it comes to a venerable LaserJet. And if that makes you misty-eyed, a visit to the optometrist should clear things up. Happy New Year!


TOPICS

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N I K O N

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N Y I P

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Feature: Roughing It -- Raingear for Your Camera

This time of year, a vow to get out and exercise more is not just a traditional New Year's resolution. It's something of an annual rite. Pat your belly if you know what we mean.

But somehow the camera seems to always just nod knowingly with a "you go right ahead" while it sits there on its fat battery grip as we pull on our parka.

Not this year.

It may be inclement out there, but the camera is coming along for the ride, er, hike. That's because there are now plenty of ways to protect it from the elements.

THE PROBLEM

The problem is wet weather. Wet weather is not well represented in the photo albums and contests of our era because cameras are now more electronic gadget than mechanical marvel. You no more want to take your camera out in the rain than you want to drop your cell phone in the tub. It can ruin your day.

But there are some great rainy day shots out there waiting for the photographer with the right rain gear to capture the image.

The trouble with rain gear, though, is that (as you may know from personal experience) it cramps your style. Nobody shows up on the Sartorialist (http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com) under an umbrella.

And protective gear can cramp your photographic style, too. Do you shoot from a tripod or handheld on the street? Do you need a flash or can your camera crank up to an acceptable ISO? Do you review each shot on the LCD or can you shoot blind?

Some gear works for one and not the other approach. So a brief survey of the options can be helpful in narrowing the field to a few solutions you can use.

SOLUTIONS

Some photojournalists rely on waterproof digicams and single-use disposable underwater cameras for work in heavy weather. These devices work just the same in the rain as they do in the sun, with no special protection required. And in toxic environments single-use cameras can be tossed away -- which is not an option with an $2,000 dSLR.

But you're not going to brave the elements to take snapshots, are you?

The solution that lets you take your good camera and expensive glass out in bad weather is a cover. And there are a lot of them, some free and some as expensive as $200. Which is still a good deal compared to an underwater housing. And more convenient, too, letting you skip the meticulous cleaning by disposing of them.

Any solution has to take into account several issues:

And it has to do all that without letting water drip inside or through the fabric onto the camera, of course. That's the waterproofing.

The kind of shooting you do will determine whether you can get away with a free solution or have to rely on the $200 deal.

THE PLASTIC BAG

In San Francisco plastic bags are becoming a rarity as retail outlets have been obliged to move to recyclable materials, but they can still be found. Trash bags of various sizes, sandwich bags and even shower caps can get the job done.

The trick to using a plastic bag is to take the time to fit it to your camera before you're out in the elements. Put your camera in the bag so water won't get in through the opening. Make sure you can operate all the controls from outside or align the opening so you can get at them. Mark where the lens and viewfinder touch the bag, then remove it and cut small holes there. A lens hood, gaffer tape or rubber bands can keep the bag from slipping out of position in the field.

If your zoom lens extends out from the camera body and you compose your shots with an LCD, a clear shower cap may be a better idea than an opaque garbage bag. The elastic band may be all you need to seal it up, too.

You can also avoid the tailoring if you happen to have some rain clothing ready to be recycled. Just snip off a leg or arm, slip your camera in with the lens pointing out one end and the eyepiece out the other.

That's essentially what the $4.19 Op/Tech 18-inch SLR Rainsleeve (http://optechusa.com/product/detail/?PRODUCT_ID=73) is. You get two in each package, can mount the camera on a tripod or use it handheld, see through the viewfinder and use a long (or even a short) lens.

Of course, a large plastic bag is also something of a poncho, which can keep both you and your camera dry until the sun comes out at least.

COMMERCIAL OPTIONS

Fit is the problem with any rain gear. Setting up a plastic bag for one-time use can get old fast but skipping the setup doesn't get you a better shot if your lens has to shoot behind plastic.

Instead, the solution may be to move up to gear designed to protect your camera from the elements. At around $50, these commercial options don't do it all but one or another may do just enough for you, especially if you prefer to shoot in shorter focal lengths.

Short lenses require the cover to bunch up around the camera body. Long lenses, especially when fully extended, stretch it out. So you really have to measure the length of your gear to know which size to buy.

Most of these covers pack small (the size of a deck of cards) but can handle a long zoom. They use various methods of attaching the cover to the hood and the camera.

Here are a few options (use the sites' search boxes to find these products):

SERIOUS GEAR

At the high end, affording more options, AquaTech and Think Tank Photo make some serious gear for long zooms. It can feel a little like using a film changing bag, but if it protects your camera and lets you function, too, it's a small price to pay.

The $174 AquaTech Sport Shield requires a $32 eyepiece for Canon or Nikon gear to create a waterproof seal. It also requires a lens hood for the lens you'll be using. An accessory SportShield flash rain cover compatibly with Canon, Nikon and Metz shoe mount strobes is available for $65.

AquaTech (http://www.aquatech.net) products use a "multi-layer barrier fabric system" featuring an exterior treated with a Teflon water-repellent finish and an interior coated with three layers of a "specially engineered formula" to create durable waterproofing. Water won't penetrate the fabric with less than 10 meters of vertical water pressure directed right at it.

The bag design includes sleeves with drawstrings for hand and tripod access, an eyepiece cover flap and the flash access. The $184 SS-300N model accommodates longer lenses (200-400mm).

Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) has just announced two additions its Hydrophobia line of rain covers whose model numbers indicate the focal length of the zooms they can accommodate. The 300-600 model will be joined later this month by two versions of 70-200 model, the $139 standard model and a $145 model with a built-in flash protector.

The Hydropobia, which also requires a lens hood for the lens you'll be using and a $35 eyepiece, includes a camera strap that, in combination with an internal lens strap, can be used to carry the camera. The cover's protection isn't compromised by any special camera strap routing nor are you inconvenienced by having to remove your camera strap to use the cover.

A lens cap cover is also included as is a small pocket to store the eyepiece when not in use. And an L-shaped zipper makes it easy to get inside the bag to strap the lens to it.

CONCLUSION

There are a lot of reasons to take your best gear out in miserable weather. Dramatic skies, once-in-a-lifetime sporting events, parades that are rained on, shots you just can't get when the sun is out. But there's no reason to risk expensive damage to your camera and lenses with the wide array of rain gear tailored just for them.

The trick is to find the style of rain cover most useful to the way you work. And with the variety of options available, that isn't much of a trick at all.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Sony H20 -- Uncork the Champagne!

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/H20/H20A.HTM on the Web site.)

In a word, "Finally!" Sony has finally shipped a digicam with an HD movie mode. And as one culprit who has been "encouraging" them to do that for some time now, let us be the one to uncork the champagne for the Sony H20.

That isn't the only thing to like about the $279 Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-H20, though.

The Sony H20's 10x optical zoom with a 10-megapixel sensor turns out to be a very nice match, delivering 13x19 prints indistinguishable from more expensive gear, frankly. And you'll also be glad to find Sony's face detection technology, selected face memory (which "remembers" a specific face, which it will set focus, exposure and white balance for), anti-blink function (which takes two shots in Soft Snap mode, recording the one with less squinting), red-eye reduction, Smile Shutter technology (which fires the shutter when a smile is detected) and SteadyShot optical image stabilization plus High ISO sensitivity. Not to mention a Bionz processor.

But the first thing we liked about the Sony H20 was obvious the minute we opened the box.

LOOK & FEEL

And that was our delight at finding a small 10x zoom in that box instead of a bulky mini-dSLR. We've probably been hanging out with too many 20x zooms lately, but we were getting weary of having a mini-dSLR draped over our shoulder every time we went out in public.

But the Sony H20 is engaging. It isn't quite shirt-pocketable, but it's flat enough to slip into a coat or bag. If you have enough credit cards in your wallet, you can balance its weight by putting it in the opposite pocket. It does have some heft, which helps stabilize it when you press the very sensitive Shutter button. But the Sony H20 isn't really worthy of a shoulder strap. We just used a wrist strap.

The Sony H20's 10x zoom has a removable lens cap. Sony includes a tether, which we tied to the wrist strap. It dangled in the way often enough to annoy us. Which reminded us that most of the time we don't tether a lens cap, we pocket it.

The Sony H20's grip is not, as on many digicams, decorative. It's a real quarter-inch protrusion wrapped in textured hard rubber with a thin bar running up and down the inside edge to give you just a little more to hang onto. On the back of the Sony H20, the same material is used for a thumb pad. And that works very well.

CONTROLS

The 3.0-inch LCD with 230K pixels on the back is the main control on the Sony H20. Sony tends to rely on its Menu system more than many manufacturers, which keeps costs down by eliminating buttons.

What buttons there are, though, are good quality and useful. On the Sony H20's top panel, the small Power button has a miniscule green LED at its center to indicate status. Right behind it is the Smile button, which delays the Shutter until someone in the image (without a beard) smiles enough to crank the Smile Indicator over the tipping point.

The Sony H20's large chrome Shutter button itself and the ringed Zoom control are ideally sculpted. In the corner, a knurled Mode dial offers Movie, Manual, Program, Intelligent Auto, Easy and Scene modes.

On the back panel, you'll find the usual four-way navigator with an OK button in the middle. The Sony H20's arrow keys are dedicated to specific functions as well. The Up arrow toggles Display options on the LCD, the Right arrow cycles through the Flash modes of the popup flash on the top panel (Auto, Forced On, Slow, Off), the Bottom arrow lets you set the self-timer on or off and select a 10 or 2-second option.

Above the Sony H20's four-way navigator is the Playback button. You can leave the lens capped, press Playback and when you're done, just press the Power button to turn the camera off. It's amazing how many cameras do not get this right (switching to Record mode before allowing you to power off the camera).

Under the Sony H20's four-way navigator is the Menu button you'll resort to quite often and the Trash button, which you may need much less.

MODES

Sony has bucked the trend on the Mode dial keeping things relatively simple without dumbing down operations. It was refreshing to see.

On the one hand, the Sony H20 has an Easy mode that makes it safe to hand off the camera to the family member who can never leave things the way they find them. They can only change the image size, self-timer and flash settings. And you also have Scene modes that no one uses, but still do a great job in sticky situations. The Sony H20 includes High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Advanced Sports Shooting and Gourmet in its Scene modes.

On the other hand the Sony H20 has a real Manual mode along with Program mode. In Manual mode, you just press the OK button to use the Left and Right arrow keys to set the aperture and the Up and Down arrow keys to set the shutter. Could not be simpler (and is often maddeningly more complicated). Bravo.

While the Sony H20 has a nice range of shutter speeds to select from in Manual mode, it has only two apertures. Wide-angle offers f3.5 or f8.0 while telephoto offers f4.4 or f10.0. That's not uncommon on a digicam.

Program Auto is not quite as exciting since it sends you to the Menu system to make any changes. To EV, for example. You can't independently adjust the shutter or aperture.

But Sony doesn't leave it there, either. You get a third hand, so to speak, with the Sony H20's Intelligent Auto that can identify Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight using a tripod, Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Landscape, Macro or Portrait modes. Being able to tell Macro from Landscape is a real blessing, pioneered by Sony years ago with its disc-based digicams.

In fact, the four-way navigator's Macro settings are either Auto Macro or Macro On. There's no Macro Off. On our first foray with the Sony H20, we inadvertently left Macro On in Program mode and were greatly relieved to find out it only gives priority to close-up subjects, so our landscapes were just as sharp as if we had left it set to Auto Macro. On many digicams, the landscapes would have been too soft to print.

Movie mode is simple work, too. Select Movie on the Sony H20's Mode dial, press the Shutter button to start recording and press it again to stop recording. Sound is available as is optical zoom (which may be picked up by the mic). And, in another rare but appreciated touch, zoom is controlled. Too many digicams zip in or out, so that any kind of controlled composition impossible.

We used a SanDisk Memory Stick Pro Duo to record movies at 720p, for which there are two options. The Sony H20's Fine HD option shoots 1280x720 frames at 9 Mbps while the Standard HD options shoots the same size at 6 Mbps. A VGA option is also available that records at 3 Mbps. On our 512-MB card, we could shoot a 6:40 Fine HD movie, 9:50 Standard HD movie or 19:50 VGA movie.

If the Sony H20's Shutter button was unusually sensitive in still recording (we often took a shot when we merely wanted to half-press to focus), it's less responsive in Movie mode. Sometimes we weren't sure we were actually recording a movie after pressing the button, but apparently we were.

The Sony H20's microphone sits right between the grip and the lens barrel, protecting it a bit from the wind, but don't expect great audio quality from any digicam.

LENS

The 10x optical zoom lens (with 2x digital zoom) ranges from 38-380mm for stills and 39-390mm for 16:9 movies or 47-470mm for 4:3 movies. Aperture ranges from f3.5 to f8.0 at wide-angle and f4.4 to f10.0 at telephoto. Sony's SteadyShot optical image stabilization is also included.

With 10 elements in nine groups (including one aspheric element), the Sony H20's Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar optic looks like a real camera lens, not a compact lens. And it performs like one, too.

The lens pops out pretty quickly (we never felt like we had to wait for it) and zooms in two sections. It retracts rapidly, too, so you won't bump it putting it away.

MENU SYSTEM

The Sony H20's Menu system is a hierarchy of context-sensitive settings. The three main contexts are Recording, Playback and Setup.

In Record mode, the Menu button takes you to a list of settings that varies with the particular recording mode selected on the Mode dial. In the Sony H20's Easy mode, for example, options are limited to the Image Size and Flash settings. In Program mode, however, options include EV, ISO, White Balance, Focus, Metering Mode, Smile Detection Sensitivity, Face Detection, Flash Level, Red Eye Reduction, DRO (dynamic range optimization), Color Mode, Contrast, Sharpness and SteadyShot.

In Playback, the options depend on whether you're relying on the internal memory or a Memory Stick Duo card. They can include Slide Show, Date List, View Mode, Filter by Faces, Add/Remove Favorites, Retouch, Multi-Purpose Resize, Delete, Protect, DPOF, Print, Rotate and Select Folder.

Finally, the Sony H20's Settings options are organized into five categories: Shooting, Main, Memory Stick Tool, Internal Memory Tool and Clock Settings. These settings control general camera behavior you won't want to change very frequently. Both the Record and Playback menus include an option to switch to the Settings menu.

The Sony H20's Shooting options, for example, include whether to display grid lines or which flavor of digital zoom to use. You can also enable a two-second Auto Review and save the image's orientation information with the image, among others.

In another change from its long-standing practice (and one we never failed to gripe about), the Sony H20's menu options now wrap so if you come to the end of the line in Image Sizes, say, pressing the same navigator key once more takes you to the beginning. You don't run into a brick wall.

The Sony H20's menu system bothered us much less than previous Sony menu systems. But there are still far too many Recording options buried in the system. One more button on the back panel that we could define to function as EV, for example or an ISO button with Playback moved to the Mode dial, would have been a great improvement.

STORAGE & BATTERY

The Sony H20 includes 11-MB of internal memory suitable for emergency storage of still images. Just take out the Memory Stick card to use internal memory. You can later copy images stored in internal memory to Memory Stick card or to your computer. But only the Sony H20 can write images to internal memory.

For routine image and movie storage, use a Memory Stick Duo. Up to a 16-GB Duo Pro is supported, although the Sony H20 does not support Access Control security.

The Sony H20's proprietary NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery packs 3.6 volts. The battery is rated at 290 shots, according to CIPA standards. In our experience, the battery never failed on us and we did not feel obliged to charge it before every outing. We did notice, however, that after inserting the battery, the first power-up was uncharacteristically slow as the Sony H20 calibrates the charge remaining.

Sony does sell a $39.99 AC-LS5K portable AC adapter for the H20.

SHOOTING

There are digicams you love to take with you, digicams you feel obliged to take along and digicams you "Strongly Dislike" packing along. The Sony H20 is in the first group. It was a great companion.

That's partly because the images we captured were a pleasure to review afterwards on the computer. That often isn't the case. Things may look fine on the camera's LCD, but when you view them on the big screen, they fall apart. Not with the Sony H20.

In fact, that 4-MB image of pink flowers printed at 13x19 as if it came from a dSLR. There was very little even a close examination could show to say it came from a digicam. When you get results like that, you look forward to taking a few pictures.

And having a high resolution 16:9 image size option made it even more fun. This is one thrill that's not generally available on a dSLR for some reason but it's a great match for your HDTV. And you'll find it flatters a lot of subjects, too. The Sony H20 records a 3648x2056 pixel image in 16:9, which means you don't sacrifice quality (there's a 2-MB 16:9 option if you only want lower resolution).

The shot of the Range Rover against Twin Peaks and the copper dome with the Vespa are two good examples of images that really shouldn't be cropped as anything but 16:9. They're portrait orientation, though, which doesn't tax your HDTV.

The Sony H20's zoom control was refreshingly smooth and precise, making it easy to compose these shots. A light touch zooms slowly while full travel on the control zooms faster.

You can detect some purple fringing. In the Herbie shot, for example, the Toyota's rear window shows some on the left side and the wheels and hood of the car parked behind it show some, too. But it's pretty mild and doesn't detract from the general sharpness and clearness of the image.

The Sony H20's noise was remarkably well controlled for a Sony digicam, too. The ISO 1600 shot of the jars and cans is full-resolution and certainly shows noise in the shadows but the text on the capers jar was unusually clear. The shot was taken in so little natural light you wouldn't have thought to turn the camera on. To get both accurate color and that level of detail is pretty impressive, if not perfect.

Sony also does a great job with another touchy subject where digicams are concerned: holding onto highlight detail. The fountain shots (there are three of them) are all high key but even the detail of the cat spout did not blow out the highlights. There's really great detail in the shot, too, down to the drip of water on the cat's chin and what we take to be painter's brush strokes on its snout.

Reds were a little too intense for our taste, particularly the geranium, which is not, believe us, irradiated. But that's par for the course on a digicam, too.

You might think we'd be used to it by now, but the octopus cable with USB and AV connectors that plugs into the bottom of the Sony H20 still irks us. For one thing, you have to sit the camera on its face (in this case on the lens cap) to cable connect to your computer. For another, it isn't an HDMI cable so for best results with your HDTV you'll want to buy one. Look for the VMC-MHC2 HD output adapter cable.

In-camera slide shows (what you'd do if you connect to your TV) are still among the best of any digicam. Sony offers four styles (Simple, Nostalgic, Active and Stylish) that match music and transitions for a sophisticated presentation.

CONCLUSION

We liked the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20 the minute we opened the box and saw how compact it was. It isn't small, no, but it isn't a brick either. And since it includes a 10x optical zoom, that's saying something.

We weren't really thrilled about the interface, which sends you to the menu system for common adjustments like EV compensation. But we did appreciate having a Manual mode. In fact, every digicam should have this range of options on the Mode dial (plus the rare Aperture and Shutter priority modes).

Image quality was surprisingly good. There was the usual chromatic aberration common in long zooms but the images seemed sharp corner-to-corner and color was good. That wasn't a surprise, but the color and detail at higher ISOs was. The Sony H20 simply captured some excellent images.

We can't think of a situation indoors or out that the Sony H20 wouldn't be able to handle. And with its range of options (like Manual mode and HD video), you can even play around a little, too. The 10x zoom beats the daylights out of 3x and 5x zoom digicams if you're traveling and the image quality is among the best we've seen in a small camera and the price is tough to beat. That easily earns it a Dave's Pick.

Return to Topics.

Feature: DIY Printer Repair

The other day the black and white workhorse printer at the bunker started misbehaving. An HP LaserJet 4M, it was failing to push the sheets all the way out. They would stop at the top just as they exited and fold up like an accordion at the rear end, jamming the printer.

Fabulous! we thought. We can replace that dinosaur at last. It has lived a long and useful life. But in black and white. We can pick up a color laser printer for a few bucks and finally dream in color.

Then we did some research. Research is a funny thing. It sits you down and gives you a talking to. You come to your senses.

Our research showed us that, yes, we could buy a sweet little color laser printer with network connections that could handle Postscript for a few hundred bucks. But we'd be refinancing to buy the color cartridges. Ouch.

The reason we had kept the LaserJet humming all this time was for inexpensive black and white printing. So we decided to take a cup of kindness and invest in it a little to keep that option. Auld acquaintance should not be forgot, we realized.

The first trick was to repair it. And the first task there was to diagnose it. So we headed over to FixYourOwnPrinter.com (http://www.fixyourownprinter.com), which subscribers will recognize from our Deals section.

They do have a wonderful database of problems from which you can diagnose your ailment and find the product that repairs it. In our case it was the pull-out rollers. They had hardened over the years and were now too slick to push even rough paper out of the printer. After a sheet or two, the paper hung up on the last curve out of the printer and got swallowed back into it.

We logged onto FixYourOwnPrinter where there's no funny business. The question "What printer do you need help with?" completely covers the main page of the site. We typed in "LaserJet 4M" and immediately got a list of repair kits with an explanation of what problem they solved.

We found our problem right away: "Paper jams as it exits printer, starts out as intermittent and gets progressively worse. Paper has accordion folds at bottom." So we clicked on the kit description.

The kit description page was pretty extensive. After repeating the problem's description, it explained the cause, "Fuser drives paper out faster than the worn out exit rollers can push it out of the printer. This causes the paper to fold up." Then it offered the solution, which was to replace the worn out parts.

Kit contents were listed (a lower roller, an upper roller, four roller holders, a drive belt and the instructional material on CD or VHS). And then a graph of the difficulty level was displayed. Our repair, on a sale of 1 to 10, was a 4. We can handle anything up to a 5, no problem.

And the fix was pretty inexpensive, too. The HP LaserJet 4/4+/5 Exit JamĘKitĘwas just $39.95 (minus a $4 discount using the Deals code for subscribers).

We slept on it. Then, on a Saturday morning, we brought up the site and ordered the repair kit. It shipped on that Monday and arrived Wednesday morning.

We cleared our work table and placed the LaserJet gently on top where we could easily get to any side of it.

Then we popped the CD that comes with the repair kit (a VCR tape is optional) into our laptop and got down to business.

We decided to watch the video through once to see exactly when you're supposed to call the fire department, then we stepped through it procedure by procedure. We'd watch a procedure, pause the video and then do it. If we had any qualms, we'd back up the video and watch it again. And again.

We had surprisingly few qualms. And a lot of time. We would guess the second time through this would be infinitely faster. But as a first-timer carefully negotiating the inside of our LaserJet, it took us a leisurely two hours to complete the repair. There was, in our defense, a lot to dismantle.

But we did the repair successfully with no surprises. If a procedure requires a bit more force than a first-timer might be inclined to exert, the video tells you. Much appreciated advice, that.

The resolution of the video left a bit to be desired but it was adequate for showing you where to work and the narration always explained what to look for when we couldn't quite see it in the video. As it is, the video is 368.2-MB.

Sheets started pouring happily out of the printer without a problem after that.

FixYourOwnPrinter also sells remanufactured toner cartridges. They do the remanufacturing themselves to "meet or exceed OEM specifications." Which means they replace parts others leave behind. And the price is rather modest, about half the price of a new cartridge.

And while inkjets are practically disposable these days, FixYourOwnPrinter does come to the rescue of Epson Stylus owners who need a reliable head cleaning solution to resuscitate their behemoths. It's a $9.95 one ounce bottle of cleaning solution with a syringe applicator (and a 2 on the Difficulty Level). "This is the same chemical used by Epson in their service department," the company promises.

So we are back in business just like it was still the twentieth century when you printed everything in black and white at a price you could afford. Long live the dinosaurs!

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 Visit to the Optometrist

The other day we wandered down to the optometry department in the big medical building we frequent for our regular exam. We put our money on the counter, got blasted with a puff of air by a young lady who was apparently having the time of her life doing just that to innocent visionaries like us and finally found our way into Dr. Wong's darkened office.

With uncommon agility he quickly went through the various tests and pronounced us fit to cross the street without the aid of other species or theatrical props. In fact, he added, there's no change in our prescription.

We were uttering a sigh of relief (glasses are not cheap) when he innocently asked, "Any questions?"

Well, yes, we had one.

How should we set the dioptric adjustment on our dSLR?

Of course, we know how we do it. And we know what the manual says. But how should we do it?

The manual isn't misleading and we aren't wrong, let us hasten to clarify. You do want the data presented on the viewfinder to be sharp. You do adjust the diopter wheel until it is. And you should see a sharp image in the viewfinder when your autofocus lens racks out to infinity. So we can confirm the adjustment by focusing on just those few things. Simple, really.

But what we were actually asking Dr. Wong was how we should do it.

"Well, you should focus with your right eye," he told us. "It's better than your left eye." Of course, we've always used our left eye, probably wearing it out prematurely. Switching to the right eye would be an adventure. But an exciting one.

At least we'd get to wear down the other side of our nose now.

"And use the minimum magnification," he advised. "Just set the diopter where it first comes into focus. Any stronger is merely compressing the image, making it appear sharper than it is."

Ah, we always like to go a click or three further than the minimum just to have a margin of error. No, no.

With those two admonitions fresh in our mind, we rushed home to blindly reset the diopters on all our cameras. Now if we can only remember which eye to use!

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In the Forums

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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: Stereo Scanning

My father purchased a Revere Stereo Realist camera in the early 1950s and used it through his death in the mid-1970s. Consequently I have a large library of family photos in the twin slide format of the stereo camera. I want to transfer these images into non-stereo CD format.

I have a Canon 8400F flatbed scanner. Is there any way for me to use this scanner to capture images from the stereo slides to transfer to CD?

-- Rev. T. Michael Dawson

(That should work fine. The Realist film format is 24mm, so the scanner can illuminate the full frame (either frame of the stereo set would do). You won't have the right size film holder, but you can make a guide out of cardboard, actually, to help you align the film to the transparency unit (use the 35mm holder as a guide). You might also find this site helpful: http://www.stereoscopy.com/faq/index.html -- Editor)

RE: Cataloging on the Web

As the in-house photographer for a nonprofit craft organization, I am looking for a better catalog program which will enable me to organize and share photos with individual artisans who are both Mac and PC users.

I'm currently using iView, which I find quite cumbersome and not user friendly. The idea is that I keep the original images and that the artisans can access thumbnails in a way similar to iView's Catalog Reader. Do you have any recommendations of other programs which may be better for our purposes?

P.S. Have been an avid reader of yours for over four years. Keep up the great work!

-- Arthur Radin

(It's probably a good idea to move away from proprietary catalog files and their platform-specific readers to a tidy little Web gallery (password protected if necessary) accessible from any Web browser. Generating the gallery is not that big a deal. You can do it within iView or most image editing software. Paying for a Web site to store these galleries may seem onerous to a non-profit, but it may already have a domain name and Web site for fund raising. One of the advantages of a Web gallery is the ability to see more than thumbnails, including larger views of specific images, a slide show, even Exif header data. As far as replacing iView's cataloging (without giving up gallery generating), try Adobe Lightroom. Assigning keywords and building collections automatically is very flexible. And the demo is free (there's even a free beta for v3.0 on the loose at the moment). You might also enjoy Peter Krough's "The DAM Book" (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0596523572/?tag=theimagingres-20) for more on this. He goes into great detail on cataloging your collection and the various solutions involved including iView and Lightroom, among others. -- Editor)

RE: Waste Ink Tank Full

I have a Canon i9900 printer. Earlier this year I had to mail it to a repair facility in Seattle. The excess ink reservoir was full and had to be replaced. With the mailing charges this became a very expensive procedure.

Will I run into the same problem with the Pro9500 Mark II or will I be able to replace the reservoir on my own? Please advise. I really like the results I'm getting with my prints and would like to continue using Canon products.

-- Richard Hansen

(We never have one around long enough to get that error, but apparently, all Canon inkjets work this way. Some HP models recycle the ink rather than blot it, HP claims but that would seem to risk contamination. On a more positive note, we did find some links on the Web that discuss cleaning the printer yourself. Our favorite: http://www.ehow.com/how_4492150_ink-tank-canon-photo-printer.html -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

We note the passing at 82 of photographer Bob Willoughby (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/arts/28willoughby.html?hpw) who revolutionized Hollywood glamour photography with his candids of the stars, starting with Judy Garland in 1954. His spontaneous, on-location work captured intimate portraits of Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Dustin Hoffman and other stars in the galaxy of showbiz's bright lights.


PocketWizard (http://www.pocketwizard.com) has updated its MiniTT1 Transmitter and FlexTT5 Transceiver firmware for Canon to v5.0 with rear curtain sync, pre-flash boost and automatic camera detection, among other refinements.


GroupSmarts (http://www.memoryminer.com) has released its $40 MemoryMiner 2 [M] with Ken Burns-style pan and zoom, a Maplines overlay on a Google Maps view, a revamped Web viewer with Geo/Media RSS feed and Flickr support, support for iPhoto Faces, reverse geocoding support, optional Adobe XMP/IPTC metadata embedding, direct audio and video annotations recording and more.


Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) has released its $199.95 Viveza 2 Photoshop plug-in [MW] with global image adjustments, level and curves adjustments, global or selective shadow recovery, fine detail structure control and interface improvements.


Akvis (http://akvis.com) has released its $129 Magnifier 3.0 [MW] resizing application or plug-in with support for Snow Leopard, a new interface, more output size units, an option to select image resolution when resizing, 64-bit processing, Photoshop Elements 8 compatibility and more.


Bibble Labs (http://www.bibblelabs.com) has released $199.95 Bible 5 Pro [MW]. The Raw converter lacks some features of v4.1 but the company promises the full suite in a free v5.1 update. Meanwhile, the new release fixes a few bugs, notably with keyword editing and stack rolling.


HDRsoft (http://www.hdrsoft.com) has released its $39 Photomatix Light v1.0 [MW], a simpler version of its $99 Photomatix Pro HDR image editing software. A maximum of five source files can be merged into a 32-bit image which must be saved at a lower bit-depth.


VisibleDust (http://www.visibledust.com) has released its $19.95 EZ Sensor Cleaning Kit with four Vswabs with cleaning liquid in a small travel-safe bottle.


How about a Color IQ Test (http://www.xritephoto.com/ph_toolframe.aspx?action=coloriq) from those crazy guys at X-Rite? All you have to do is drag and drop the color swatches in hue order.

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One Liners

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

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