The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 12, Number 3 29 January 2010

Copyright 2010, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 272nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We put Epson's Artisan multifunction device through its many paces before Andrew focuses on Nikon's new 70-200mm zoom. Our Notes are juicier than usual, too. Have fun!


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Feature: Epson Artisan 810 -- An Ambitious Device

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/A810/A810.HTM on the Web site.)

If there's a one-word description for the Epson Artisan 810 multifunction device, it's "ambitious."

Unlike most of the All-in-One devices we've reviewed recently, the 810 can fax (even in color), print on CD/DVDs, charge your portable devices and talk WiFi and Ethernet. And it offers a large, attractive (and smart) touch panel to control operations.

Oh, it also prints photos from 4x6 to letter size on a variety of Epson photo papers using a six-color, dye-based Claria inking system.

There's no transparency unit to scan film, but that's about its only limitation.

HARDWARE TOUR

The squat Artisan A810 takes up quite a bit of room with the built-in duplexer on one side (the back) and the LCD and output tray which extend on the front side. The scanner is actually perpendicular to the print path, making it among the larger AiO devices we've reviewed.

Unlike many other AiO devices, the Artisan 810 includes a document feeder with a capacity of 30 sheets, pretty essential on anything that faxes.

The feeder itself is also a cover. To use the cover as a feeder, you open the short panel and fold it back on itself, revealing the feed. Fan the paper, tap it tidy and slip it into the feeder, front side up.

The scanner handles originals as large as letter size paper (or two photos at a time) but the cover does not extend to accommodate thick material like bound books.

A fax is built-into the Artisan 810 as well but we didn't test it. We are subversively trying to bury the fax as a way of communicating since the text conveyed is only a crude image that can not be OCRed. Indulge us.

The very large touch screen is hinged near the top and gives a little whenever you tap on it. That's an unfortunate design. There's something annoying about the give.

While the large screen is touch sensitive, it's really three screens in one. The middle screen is entirely live but the two on one either side of it have button areas that are live only. Not a big deal. The buttons light up (in amber) when they are active and disappear when they are not, making it pretty easy to learn them.

Under the LCD is the output tray, which extends in four small shelves, that last of which flips up so paper doesn't fly out. It's fairly well obscured by the LCD but even more obscured is the input tray below it. You can reach under the extended output tray to yank out the input tray, though.

To the right of the trays is the card reader with slots for larger CompactFlash cards and smaller SD/xD/MS cards. It is nice to see CompactFlash supported. The device can function as a card reader, copying images to your computer (even wirelessly).

On the back, the right corner has the power connection while the left corner has all the data connections: USB, Ethernet, telephone line in and out.

COPYING

The Artisan 810 can be used on its own like any copier, so that's where we started with our usual tests.

Document Copying. To test the document copying function of the Artisan, we grabbed a New York Times Book Review and copied one of the reviews that had a nice color illustration we liked.

The newspaper had been sitting around a month, so the paper had darkened a bit. The scanner picked that up as a slight gray tone, but we have to add that the Artisan lets you manually set the brightness level (not all all-in-one devices do). So if this had been objectionable, we could have lightened it up a bit.

The color illustration came out very well, with the resolution of the original and yet with truer color (since the paper was really white and not yellowed with age).

The text, of course, was sharp and distinct. Not much of a challenge for any scanner these days.

It's worth pointing out that the glass isn't your only option for document scanning. You do have that feeder, too, for multi-page documents. That's a very nice option.

Photo Copying. One of the real pleasures of an all-in-one device is just how easy it is to duplicate your photos. You're flipping through the old family album, telling a younger member who people are and who they resemble when it suddenly occurs to you that you could copy the photo for them.

Our test photo is an infant on red cushions that's surprisingly challenging for many devices. That's usually because they are trying to match a high-fidelity print with just four colors. The dark hair is often lighter and the skin tone off.

The Artisan, however, adds light magenta and light cyan to the usual four color mix of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. It also offers a photo restoration mode when copying a photo. Our original is in good shape, so we went for a straight copy, as we usually do.

But we had to resort to the manual to see exactly how to copy a photo. The large touch screen LCD is a pleasure to use but the menus themselves are not well designed and the font is large but primitive. And, too, there are a few things you simply have to be told.

Like how to place the original on the glass. We at first put it down in the wrong orientation (the 4x6 has to lay out with the short side matched to the short side of the glass) and the Artisan complained about it. Nicely.

And we weren't sure if we should snug the print up to the edge of the glass or let it float. Let it float. One quarter inch away from the edge and any other print. You can do more than one.

We also needed to know how to make a copy of a photo rather than a document. Copy/Restore Photos is a different menu option from the Home screen.

After that, it went well. The scanner captured the image and displayed it on the LCD for cropping. You can also set the number of copies you want before continuing to the print settings display which had exactly what we wanted. A few seconds later we had a copy.

A very nice copy, too. The blacks were as rich as the original and the detail was preserved. The crop was just a bit tighter on the copy to make a borderless print. The skin tones were pleasant but slightly bluer. That struck us as more natural than the warmer tones of the Canon original. But warmer is better than natural when it comes to skin tones.

In short, it was one of the better photo copies we've made.

We did have a 30 year old print laying around that had faded a bit in the sun. So we scanned that with color correction enabled and it did improve the image from the yellowed print to a much cooler version with realistic skin tones.

Making color copies of photos may be technically challenging, but with all those old black and white images with no negatives in the family album, we were curious to see how it would do enlarging one to a 4x6.

Our black and white copies retained the detail of the original nicely but they had a slight magenta cast to them. We weren't too happy with that, especially because there's nothing you can do to adjust it.

With a color printer, you are likely to have a cast of some type. A warm cast is our preference, followed by a cool cast. But to have a magenta cast was disturbing.

PRINTING

Printing digital files doesn't require a computer either. The card reader itself and the USB port on the front of the Artisan can feed data to the printer.

Card Reader. The Artisan gives you quite a few options for printing images on a memory card inserted into its card reader.

You can, as on most AiOs, go through the images one by one and print them. You can also print all of them.

And you can even print an index of everything on the card. Most LCD-equiped AiOs don't trouble to offer this option. But Epson takes it all the way by letting you mark up the index for printing, too. You simply put the marked up index on the scanner glass, scan and the printer completes your order.

The Artisan goes even further, though. It offers options to print Photo Greeting Cards (a scannable order sheet is printed with your selected image; you mark your choices; scan the order form; and your card is printed), picture packages (multiple sizes of the same image), plus 2-up, 4-up, 8-up and 2-up layouts of multiple photos. There are also options to print an image on the upper or lower half of a sheet, print four ID-size photos on a sheet, print a jewel case insert and print a jewel case index of 24 thumbnails.

You can elect to place the photos manually or automatically, too.

Finally, the Artisan can print frames from MOV, AVI and MPG video clips taken with your digicam. You can print individual frames or a set of 12 frames to print as thumbnails. We have not seen that trick before.

USB Port. Yes, you can plug in a thumbdrive and walk through the LCD menus to print any photos the Artisan finds on it.

But we were curious if the port could handle a Bluetooth dongle. So we popped a Bluetooth dongle on the PictBridge USB port, fired up our Razr with Bluetooth cooking and looked for devices. The Artisan was discoverable, so we copied a photo to it and it printed out very, very nicely.

Templates. HP has inspired a ROM revolution in AiO devices, which now offer all sorts of built-in templates like lined paper and graph paper. The Artisan goes a bit further, offering to turn any photo into a coloring book page or a greeting card.

Unfortunately, coloring book looked nothing like a coloring book. It looked more like a mezzotint. Oh well, points for the concept.

Computer. Most of our photo printing is done from the computer through Photoshop or Lightroom or some such application. So we loaded the Artisan with Epson Premium Photo Paper in a Glossy finish and picked a few recent images to print.

We didn't make it easy on the Artisan, picking two difficult Raw images, which we processed in Adobe Camera Raw.

The first was a bronze statue silhouetted against the early afternoon sky. The clouds were high enough that there was some blue but the detail of the bronze statue, which filled the frame, was very dark. We had bumped up the Fill slider to bring it back.

With Photoshop managing the color and the right ICC profile for the Epson Premium Photo Paper in Glossy (installed with by the Epson installer) we got an excellent print on the first try. As a dye-based printer using a swellable sheet we had to wait a while to see the image stabilize, but it was right where we wanted it.

Only with a loupe could we detect the FM screen used by the Artisan. Even close up it looked like a continuous tone print to the naked eye.

The second image was also shot into the sun. It was a stalk of red leaves, transparent in the late afternoon, against a maroon metal fence. The leaves ranged in color from almost black to a brilliant red.

Again the Artisan handled the image without a hiccup. The first print was right on the money.

Duplexing. The 3x4x11-inch cassette that sticks out the side of the Artisan is the duplexer, enabling double-sided printing.

The 2-Sided Printing Settings dialog in the driver provides a simple but thorough set of options. The first is enabling two-sided printing, which then lets you select which edge of the sheet needs a binding margin (to punch holes, for example). That's explained clearly as either the long or short edge.

In a separate panel of the dialog, you select the document type among Text, Text with PHoto, Photo and Manual options. You can also adjust the Print Density and Drying Time.

We had no problem with the duplexer itself, printing two-sided documents even on very thick paper. And it's a nice way to save a penny or seven, too.

CD Printing. The Artisan can print from any of its sources onto a printable CD or DVD. For some reason Canon multifunction printers only permit this in their European versions. So it's nice to see Epson offering this to North Americans. We don't know of any other option.

You can make a test print directly from the scanner glass or an inserted memory card, for example, to see what your image will look like before printing it on the media. Or you can use the included Epson Print CD application to lay out the label design.

Print CD worked just fine for creating an attractive CD label. You can insert a background image and overlay text on it with special effects like a drop shadow. And, as on the printer itself, you can print a test label to see what your design will actually look like.

To actually print the disc, you have to close the output tray, lift the control panel all the way up and press the CD Tray button on the control panel. A short gray tray will slide out so you can drop a disc on its spindle. Press the button again to retract the disc (or wait a few minutes for it to happen automatically), then print your label.

The disc printed very quickly. When finished, the tray extends so you can lift your disc off the spindle. Our very first try resulted in a beautifully labeled disc. We only wish the contents would be worthy of it!

One nice thing about printed CDs is that they are no thicker than the CD, unlike labeled CDs, which do add to the thickness of the media and can jam in CD readers.

SCANNING

You can scan from either the glass or the automatic document feeder. The glass can handle up to two photos at a time. The feeder can scan up to 30 letter-size sheets (but only on one side). We found the feeder reliable and quick.

With 4800-dpi optical resolution, you can do nice enlargements of small items with the Artisan. That isn't true of all AiO devices. Kodak, for example, limits their scan resolution to 1200 dpi.

Epson didn't skimp on the bit depth either, scanning 16-bit channels (unlike Kodak's 8-bit channels).

And you can scan to a thumbdrive, too (also not universally supported), or a memory card. We had a little trouble scanning from glass to a thumbdrive (we got a corrupted JPEG) but scanning from the feeder to the thumbdrive and saving as a PDF worked fine (except that the PDF was an image, not text).

And yes, you can scan wirelessly. We scanned from Photoshop CS3 using the File Import command. The Epson was listed and brought up v3.73 of Epson Scan (the same product we reviewed in our the Epson V600 review).

We had a little trouble with our wireless scans to the computer. Our first scan (our old photo) was peppered with bright green pixels. The pattern did not resemble anything on the print or even the paper coating. Strange.

We tried another image, which was a closeup of a white rose. No green hot spots but we did get a very noticeable dither pattern. We tried various settings in Epson Scan to get rid of it but nothing worked.

Well, of course not. The scanner is so sharp it was picking up the screen pattern from the original!

When we scanned a continuous tone black and white print, we didn't see the dithering. But we did see a lot of small white dots that reminded us of the green hot spots in the scan of the old photo. Were these reflections?

Actually, they were dust particles. It never hurts to clean the glass between scans. Our old photo was really old and had some dust on it, which it left behind on the scanner glass.

In fairness, we rescanned our old photo and got much better results. Still, we could see a few bright green pixels in the scan. We're not sure what to make of it. It's a fairly minor defect, but it's a defect.

The wireless scans, by the way, came across very quickly, we have to say. Epson doesn't note any option to compress the data before transmitting it wirelessly, but it's as if it does.

MISCELLANEOUS

The Artisan has a trick or two up its sleeve worth pointing out. Apparently it can charge your USB device from the PictBridge port, for example.

We say "apparently" because it couldn't charge our cellphone. It did have the decency to report that it didn't recognize the device when we plugged it in.

Odd really because we have no trouble charging the phone from a computer USB port.

CONCLUSION

The more time we spent with the Artisan, the more impressed we were. Epson promises an awful lot with this versatile device. Everything from faxing to CD labeling with scanning to and print from thumbdrives and memory cards tossed in along with extensive photo layout options and template printing. And all of it wireless, too.

The only thing Epson doesn't promise with the Artisan is film scanning. If that's on your list, you'll have to keep looking.

Promises are one thing, performance another. In almost every case the Artisan performed as promised. We found the CD labeling gorgeous, the photo prints from Photoshop top quality, the stand-alone photo copying very good. We had some problems with the scanning (much of which were our own fault), particularly scanning to a thumbdrive. But that was it.

We're not entirely convinced the build of the Artisan is rugged enough for much abuse. There are a lot of small parts, delicate hinges (everything has a hinge on this thing from the automatic document feeder to the paper trays to the control panel) and wobbly supports (on the control panel). And it is a squat box that requires plenty of room for the duplexer on one side and the output tray on the other. More of an employee than a roommate, in short.

But we haven't found the perfect multifunction device yet. And the Epson Artisan 810 will be just fine until we do.

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Feature: Nikon 70-200mm f2.8-GB AF-S ED VR II

By ANDREW ALEXANDER
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1280/cat/13 on the Web site.)

The Nikon 70-200mm f2.8-GB AF-S ED VR II was announced in July 2009 and released later that year in November. The lens is the second generation in the 70-200mm series, intended to alleviate issues of corner softness and flare.

The $2,400 lens uses a constant f2.8 aperture and is designed to fill the 35mm film frame or FX image sensor. While the lens is completely compatible with DX sensor-based camera bodies, the effective field of view will be approximately 105-300mm. Accessories include a petal-shaped lens hood, attached tripod mounting bracket with removable foot and a soft lens case.

SHARPNESS

The previous version of the 70-200mm f2.8 had been accused of having unacceptably soft corners. Based on our sample of the new version of this lens, Nikon has dramatically improved this performance. Perhaps one of the most telling and interesting observations we can make is that the results for corner sharpness were nearly identical for both the sub-frame D200 and the full-frame D700.

The lens produces exceptionally sharp images at f2.8 from 70mm through to 200mm. At this aperture its "best" performance comes at 70mm, with just over one blur unit in the center and 1.5 blur units in the corners. The center becomes marginally less sharp as the lens is zoomed in to 200mm, but whether this is noteworthy is doubtful. Even at 200mm, we see just 1.5 blur units across the frame. Of the lenses we've tested across all manufacturers, none have achieved this performance at f2.8.

Stopping down does improve performance. At f4, the lens is basically as sharp as sharp gets, offering one blur unit across the frame from 70mm through to 105mm. At 135mm and 200mm, some peeping at the charts shows it is actually slightly above one blur unit, but at this point, we're picking the nits pretty closely. Performance at f5.6 and f8 is just as good.

Diffraction limiting begins to set in at f11 with some very marginal loss of sharpness and even at f16 we still note results of just 1.5 blur units across the frame. Fully stopped-down at f22, we note results of just under two blur units across the frame.

In summary, these are some of the sharpest results we've seen in a zoom lens.

CHROMATIC ABERRATION

For Nikon lenses, the D700 applies automatic chromatic aberration reduction, which is why we still like to do our subframe camera testing with the D200, which does not and gives us a fairer indication of the lens' performance, rather than the camera's. In this case though, the lens is exceptional at preventing chromatic aberration, with only nominal results to report from the D200. We found slight blue fringing in the corners at the 70mm and 200mm focal lengths at f2.8. On the D700, there is hardly any CA of note.

VIGNETTING

With the lens mounted on the D200, corner shading is not an issue, with any focal length and aperture producing less than a quarter-stop of shading in the corners.

It's slightly different when the lens is mounted on the D700. The focal length most affected is 200mm. The worst performance is noted with the lens zoomed to 200mm and the aperture set to f2.8 where the corners are up to two-thirds of a stop darker than the center. At other focal lengths at the f2.8 aperture, we note between a third and a half stop of shading. Corner shading is marginal for 70-105mm at f4; for 135mm, it's reduced significantly, but only marginal at f5.6. To completely remove corner shading at 200mm, you'll have to shoot at f11, where the corners are less than a quarter-stop darker than the center.

DISTORTION

Distortion performance has also been improved. The previous version of the lens targets an undistorted image at the 105mm mark but in the new version, Nikon has made 85mm the target point and distortion begins from there. As the lens is zoomed in toward 200mm, average (central) distortion becomes slightly barrel-distorted, while the corners take on a distinct pincushion distortion. On the D200 this effect is not substantial (at 200mm, we note an average of just under +0.1 percent barrel and extreme corners of -0.5 percent pincushion). On the full-frame D700 however, distortion is a bit more significant: at 70mm there is actually some noteworthy barrel distortion, +0.2 percent in the corners; at 200mm, the corners are distinctly pincushion distorted (-0.5 percent) with some barrel distortion throughout the image (+0.25 percent).

AUTOFOCUS OPERATION

Nikon has made some significant changes to the focusing system. None affect the overall speed of the auto-focusing system, which (similarly to the previous version of the lens) is incredibly fast, going from infinity focus to close-focus and back again in under a second. Small changes in focus happen incredibly fast.

The AF-S specification of the lens allows the user to override autofocus results by just turning the focusing ring at any time, however, Nikon has improved this feature by adding an additional A/M focusing mode. The convention on Nikon lenses for this switch has been M/A -- manual/autofocus -- and M for purely manual focus. The A/M"switch seems to add an additional layer of gearing to the autofocus ring, making a turn of the ring produce less of a change in focus. Nikon suggests this setting would be used in the case where a user did not want to accidentally change focus. However, in our sample of this lens, any movement of the focus ring still affects focus, regardless of the setting. When set to the A/M setting, the movement of the ring just has less of an effect.

Nikon has changed the parameters of the focus limiter switch. Where the previous version of the lens enabled the lens to be limited between infinity and 2.5 meters, the new switch enables the lens to be limited between infinity and 5.0 meters.

Finally, the lens no longer has the three focus hold buttons found in the previous version of the lens.

MACRO

The 70-200mm f2.8 makes a very poor macro lens, with just 0.12x magnification. However, its close-focusing range has been improved, at just 1.4 meters (around four feet from the end of the lens).

BUILD QUALITY & HANDLING

This is a large and heavy lens, slightly shorter than the previous version, but slightly heavier. Nikon's improvements to the previous lens include replacing the nine straight diaphragm blades with nine rounded ones, for improved bokeh performance (though truth be told, bokeh performance in the previous lens has been held in very high regard). Nikon has replaced two of the lens elements with ED glass, making for a grand total of seven ED glass elements (21 in 15 groups). Nikon has used its Nano-Crystal coat process to reduce flare and ghosting. Finally, the vibration reduction system employed is now the VR2 system.

Operationally, there has also been some redesign. As just mentioned, the focus hold buttons have been removed, a new focusing mode (A/M) has been added and the parameters of the focus limiter switch have changed. The windowed distance scale has been repositioned closer to the middle of the lens, so it can now be seen while the lens hood is mounted for storage. There are still no depth-of-field or infrared index marks on this scale, however. The Vibration Reduction switches have stayed the same: VR can be activated or deactivated with one switch and changed from normal (2-axis, panning) operation to active (4-axis) operation with the other switch.

The zoom ring hasn't changed much, retaining the rubber texture with large, raised ribs. It's about 7/8-inch wide and has great tactile feel. It's smooth to turn and offers only slight resistance, taking gentle pressure from two fingers. There are about 90 degrees of turning action. Nikon has changed the 80mm focal length marking on the previous version of this lens to a more conventional 85mm focal length marking.

The focusing ring is a different design, owing to the new shape of the lens. While the previous version had a distinct cone-like shape, the new lens is more cylindrical. Where the old version used a larger focusing ring and followed the expanding size of the front of the lens body, the new focus ring is a little less wide (one inch) and essentially flat. The extra space at the end of the lens is filled with an immobile ring-shaped rubber grip for extra stability when holding the lens. The focusing ring has a generous amount of rotation room, about 160 degrees between infinity and close-focus. The ends are bordered with soft stops, so an increased amount of resistance lets you know you've reached the end. The lens will focus past infinity. Finally, attached 77mm filters will not rotate during focus operations.

The tripod mounting bracket is permanently attached to the lens, similarly to the previous version and the foot can be removed (and perhaps, replaced with a third-party option which is directly Arca-Swiss compatible). The bracket itself is exceptionally stable and can be rotated fully 360 degrees around the lens. There are rotation points present on the lens body at 90 degree intervals and a knob tightens the lens well into its rotated position.

The lens hood has also been revised. The petal-shaped HB-48 (replacing the HB-29) is much shorter, down to 2 1/2 inches (compared to the original 3 1/4). This allows access to the manual focus ring with the lens hood in storage position. The reduction in lens and hood size makes it possible to place a camera/lens combination in a bag without having to reverse the hood.

We haven't had the time to extensively test the new VR2 vibration reduction system in this lens, but we can say through casual use that it does work, at least as well as the system in the previous lens. In conversations with other photographers who have taken to using this lens, we have heard nothing but praise for the new VR system.

THE CLOSE-FOCUSING FOCAL LENGTH CONTROVERSY

While the lens is marked as a 70-200mm focal length lens, this is only the case if you are focused to infinity. Focusing closer results in a reduction in the longest possible focal length. At the minimum close-focusing distance of 55 inches, the focal length is 128mm. This effect isn't actually all that new (it's the case with many lens designs), it's just been brought to light by the substantiality of the difference found with the new Nikkor. If it was 180mm instead of 128mm, people might not notice.

ALTERNATIVES

CONCLUSION

There's little doubt this lens represents some of the best optical engineering to date and that its purchase represents an investment not likely to lose its value. For Nikon shooters, the 70-200mm lens has been the de facto pro lens and Nikon has introduced excellent improvements. Whether they're worth the price depends solely on the intended use of the lens, though there's little doubt that working photographers will, if they haven't already, find much that justifies the upgrade.

(Andrew plans to complete an interesting assignment shortly. "We have been working on something really special: a sample variation study of five Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lenses," he explained. "It's often been said that there are better and worse copies of a lens, and we'll examine just how true that is." -- Editor)
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New on the Site

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In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

Read about SLRgear.com's test methodology at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=18

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Read ongoing comments about Canon lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=4

Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec

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RE: Canon Pro9500 Mark II Printer

Thanks for the comprehensive review of the Canon Pro9500 Mark II printer. I would like to know if it's inevitable that any pigment printer is going to become clogged if it's not used very frequently. My Epson R800 made beautiful prints, but I no longer use it because of the tremendous expense of cleaning the print head.

-- Nora Connell

(We sympathize, Nora. Epsons are famous for their tendency to clog. But actually, any printer will clog if it isn't used regularly. Printing every week should keep it healthy, although we've gone a lot longer between printouts on both dyes and pigment printers without having a problem. We must be in just the right climate <g>. We routinely leave test printers untouched for at least a week to see if they clog and none of the recent ones have. Not even the 9500. -- Editor)
(Epson's piezo heads are in general more prone to clogging, too. There's more ink in the piezo heads right behind the nozzles that must be flushed through to clear them. Canon and HP use thermal inkjet heads. -- Dave)

RE: Epson V600 Scanner

I was very interested to read your review article about the Epson V600. I'm one of the people you describe in your article: retiring, with shoeboxes of old photos to digitise.

I've been looking at Mac-compatible small scanners, thinking to buy one to digitize a drawerful of family photos from the 1960s to 1990s -- mostly color negatives, but also some colour slides. I wouldn't use most of the prints for scanning, because many have discolored over time. When I did have a few photos printed from the old negatives, the prints were excellent, so the negatives must be fine.

After reading your article, I feel disinclined to pursue the purchasing of a scanner myself but to find a lab to digitise everything. My ultimate objective is to be able to give each of my four children CDs with all the digital images, plus an album of prints of many of them; also to refresh my albums by replacing discolored prints. I'd like to get started on that very soon.

In addition, I'm likely to acquire fairly soon a large number of old black and white negatives and prints from the 1930s to 1960s. When that happens, again I'll be wanting to digitize and distribute among the older members of the family.

What would you advise in my situation?

Thank you very much for writing frankly about the problems for ordinary people. So many reviews are technical, hence barely understandable if one is not IT-oriented and they certainly don't give the flavor of actually using the equipment or software.

-- Anna Beth McCormack

(First, thanks for the kind words, Anna. Second, it does sound like you have quite a few images to process. If you figure an hour for each roll of film (just to scan, not to edit), you'll get an idea of the enormity of it for your particular case. But that's not to say a scanner is a bad idea. We prefer to have a good lab (with high speed professional equipment) digitize the collection. They can do it quickly, cleanly and with some automatic enhancements. But there are going to be a few images you really love and you may just want to have a go at them yourself. That's when scanning is fun and not merely a production chore. -- Editor)

RE: Gary Fong

I ordered the Gary Fong Flash Diffuser mentioned in the newsletter. When I used it I pushed the little plastic posts too far into the diffusion plate and the broke off ... my fault 100 percent. I wrote Gary Fong asking to order and pay for a new bracket. He sent me a new bracket at no cost despite my informing him that it was my fault entirely that it broke. It's nice to see a company that treats its customers in this manner. I'll certainly be on the look out for more products that I can use from Gary Fong.

-- Bob Ross

(Thanks for the great story, Bob. That really was nice of him! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

If our eyes blurred Gaussianly on the occasion ten years ago, Photoshop's 20th anniversary in February makes us feel like we could use an adjustment layer.

To celebrate, catch the interview with co-creator John Knoll (http://holykaw.alltop.com/origin-of-photoshop-explained-by-co-developer) in which he reveals the program's original name.

Or you could join The Photoshop Guys Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, Dave Cross, RC Concepcion and Corey Barker at the Palace of Fine Arts theater in San Francisco on Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. They'll be joined by Adobe's Russell Preston Brown, Terry White and Julieanne Kost.

Or you could just cuddle up with Derrick Story's 10-year-old story of the birth of Photoshop (http://thedigitalstory.com/2010/01/adobe_photoshop_the.html), featuring old Photoshop toolbars, application icons, a history-of-Photoshop timeline and photos of the Knoll brothers shot by Jeff Schewe.


Apple introduced its iPad tablet device (http://www.apple.com/ipad), a half-inch thick, 1.5 lbs. 9.7-inch 1024x768 LCD with Wireless N, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, optional 3GS, accelerometer, compass and 10 hours of battery life in 16/32/64-GB configurations available within 60 days. The device uses the iPhone OS to which it adds iBook and iWork apps. It also supports video output to an external display via a dock connector. A Camera Connection Kit includes two ways to copy images to the device: via a USB dock via the camera's USB cable or via an SD Card Reader.


Jobo (http://www.jobo.com) has announced two ultra-thin digital picture frames: a 0.37-inch thick Jobo Nano 8 Pro and 0.39-inch thick Nano 10 Pro, both featuring LED backlighting and a remote control.


Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released RAW Developer 1.8.8 [M] with support for the Canon 1D Mark IV and Fuji S200EXR. Improvements to the default ICC camera profile for the Canon 1D Mark III have also been made.


DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released DxO Optics Pro v6.1.2 for Windows with Raw support for the Pentax K-7, Sony Alpha A500 and A550 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 and DMC-GH1. The Mac version is "scheduled for release during the first quarter."


Bibble Labs (http://bibblelabs.com) has released Bibble 5 Pro 5.0.1 [MW] with support for the Canon 1D Mark IV and Olympus' E-P2, a one-click tool to set black/gray/white points and Andrea, a film simulation plug-in from Sean Puckett (http://nexi.com/andrea).


PocketWizard (http://www.pocketwizard.com) has announced a 30-day satisfaction guarantee on the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 system. Photographers can purchase the system, try it out for 30-days and if not completely satisfied, simply return it to their dealer for a full refund, no questions asked.


Tamron (http://www.tamron.com) has announced the first in its series of four photo contests for 2010. Dusk till Dawn asks entrants to submit sunrise, sunset and nighttime images by March 31. The Grand Prize Winner will receive their choice of one of these Tamron lenses: SP AF60mm F2 Di-II 1:1 Macro; SP AF10-24mm f3.5-4.5 Di-II; SP AF17-50mm f2.8 Di-II VC; or AF18-270mm f3.5-6.3 Di-II VC. Users of any camera equipment may enter the Tamron photo contest.

The company also announced ShareItWithTamron (http://www.shareitwithtamron.com), an interactive blog-style sharing site where you can answer regularly posted questions with a blog comment that includes your relevant photos and the stories behind them. The kick-off question: "Just how cold is it really? Show us your 'freeziest' winter shots and tell us all about the latest temps where you live or vacation."


Nikon (http://support.nikontech.com) has updated Capture NX2 and ViewNX, as well as WT-4 Setup Utility, WT-4 Camera Control Utility and Thumbnail Selector, for Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Windows 7.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/new.jsp) has released Lightroom 2.6.1 to correct a crash when processing "certain Leica M9 images."


Early Innovations (http://www.earlyinnovations.com/photolinker) has released its $49.95 PhotoLinker 2.1 [M] with support for Microsoft Bing maps, an address search field, enhancements for date/time shifting, native support for reading NMEA GPS log files, support for Sony Raw formats ARW and SR2 and more.


Light Blue Software (http://www.lightbluesoftware.com) has released Light Blue: Photo 2 with a complete redesign of every screen, more flexible invoice, quote and receipt templates, customizable sets of fields, scheduling of viewing sessions and other meetings as well as shoots and tracking of mileage and expenses.


Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) is now shipping its Hydrophobia 70-200 rain cover mentioned in our Jan. 1 Rain Covers story.


Rosanne Cashriel (http://sites.google.com/site/rorocash/imagestopdf) has released her free ImagesToPDF 1.0 [M] to create a single multi-page PDF document from a batch of PDF, JPEG, PNG and TIFF images with options to size each page to fit, make all pages the same size or set the dimensions of each page.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 8.6.03 [LMW] with "significant improvements to automatic scan cropping."


Daniel Morel is a Haitian photojournalist who was affiliated with the Associated Press there for 14 years. The New York Times interviewed him following the Jan. 12 earthquake (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/showcase-117/?hp).


We note the passing of Dennis Stock at 81 (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/arts/design/15stock.html?hpw). His portraits of jazz musicians evoked "jazz without the assistance of sound" and his 1955 image of actor James Dean walking in the rain of Times Square defined not just a role but a life. "Call it art or not," he said, "we photographers should always try to pass on our observations with the utmost clarity."

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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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