The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 12, Number 11 21 May 2010

Copyright 2010, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 280th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. In a newsletter exclusive, we evaluate Kodak's sharing technology in its 2010 cameras that relies on a Share Button App to send to Kodak's Pulse frame, among other places. Shawn sneaks Sony's new SLDs out for some shots in the wilds of Atlanta. Dig in!


TOPICS

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Feature: Kodak Says 'Just Press Share'

We met with Kodak before the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year and again a month ago to look over their consumer digital imaging products for 2010. If we made a word cloud of the two briefings the biggest word in it would be "sharing."

It's an interesting strategy.

The trouble with all sub-$200 cameras is that while the images may be better than camphone images, they're still a hassle to share anywhere other than the camera's LCD. That's where Kodak hopes to impress you.

The company has long invested in an impressive infrastructure for sharing, going back to its acquisition of Ofoto (now Kodak Gallery) and its free EasyShare software. But the camphone world has always been a step ahead, making it simple to wirelessly send an image or a video wherever you are.

Has Kodak caught up?

OUR EXPERIMENT

To find out, we set up a little Kodak world of our own for a few weeks. We borrowed a $129 M530, $199 M580 and $349.95 Slice digicam, a seven-inch $129.95 Pulse picture frame and a $149 PlaySport pocket cam.

The Pulse picture frame wasn't our only intended destination. We also wanted to email images and upload the same images to Kodak Gallery in addition to our own computer.

Kodak Product Marketing Director Peter M. Palermo promised the enhanced Share function on these devices would let us do all that (and more, in fact) in just three easy steps.

SHARING 2010

Kodak's enhanced Share function is accessed from the Share button on the M-series digicams and a Share menu item on the touch-screen Slice. The three easy steps to sharing your photos are:

  1. Take the picture

  2. Press the Share button

  3. Plug the camera into your computer

If this reminds you of Kodak's you-press-the-button-we'll-do-the-rest slogan, your long-term memory is fine. Kodak is famous for simplifying the complexities of a process into just a few steps.

Of course, there's a bit more to it than these three steps. Like Install the App. Nothing would happen when you plug the camera into your computer if you'd neglected to install the Share Button App [MW], right? Right.

Then you have to do a little setup. That's a short process in which you enter log-on information for each photo sharing service you want to use. A wizard walks you through the process.

The App detects when you connect a camera to your computer. It first copies the images from the camera with an option to erase them from the camera (which can, fortunately, be disabled). Then it sends them to the services you've previously indicated using the camera's Share button to check boxes on each image for various options like Flickr.

You have to tag an image for sharing in Playback mode. Press Share and a menu of check boxes appears. You can select all of them or individual ones to indicate how you'd like the current image to be handled by the Share Button App. Options include online sharing services (Flickr and Facebook are the only two supported), Kodak photo frames and email addresses stored in the camera (up to 32, Peter said).

It takes a long few minutes to get from the computer to the Pulse WiFi frame (taking the long route via the Kodak Pulse cloud) but the other transmissions are faster. Images are sent at full resolution (even to email addresses), although some services resize them (like Kodak Pulse).

Video can also be distributed this way. The Share Button App can send your video clip directly to YouTube. The lower-priced M530 and M550 offer VGA video but the M575 and M580 offer 720p video. And the PlaySport, which also takes nice 5-Mp images if you can abstain from the lousy digital zoom, can shoot 1080p.

We took a lot of video with the PlaySport. And passed it around at parties. It was a hit, just as the Zx1 had been. But video always cries out for editing (at least ours does) so we didn't share any of it.

TAGGING HELP

Sounds good (and it actually works as well as it sounds) but you don't have to be clairvoyant to foresee that after a few uploads you're faced with another problem. How do you manage your image collection?

The busy Chief Memory Officer of the household, as Peter calls you, can't be bothered copying images into cleverly-named albums and keywording them for retrieval in a scheme you'll remember in old age. For one thing, you prefer to shoot. You communicate by shooting. With a thousand words for every image, a single emailed image beats blogging.

But denial doesn't solve the problem.

We're not sure face recognition and automatic keyword tagging does either, but Kodak has added them to the mix to make it easier to find things when your collection grows. And when you consider the Slice can hold 5,000 images at a resolution sufficient for a 4x6 print and the Pulse frame can hold 2,000 images, you're going to want to be able to find things easily.

So how's this work?

All the cameras can detect a face straight on by recognizing the geometry of eyes, nose and mouth. But they also can be trained to recognize up to 20 faces to automatically tag the image file with the name of the person.

After taking a portrait, the camera will identify the faces it sees in the image and prompt for a name. You use the built-in screen keyboard to identify the selected person. And the camera gradually learns that face. In subsequent detections, it will ask you if this is Elizabeth (or Margaret or Sharon). And it tags the file accordingly.

These face identifications are stored in a private part of internal memory managed by the camera.

In addition to face recognition to tag photos, the Slice also offers location tagging. Its internal memory has a database of 10,000 city names with the latitude and longitude of the center of the city. You assign a location (like San Bruno) and the Slice records the name of the city and GPS coordinates for latitude and longitude in the Exif header.

The M-series cameras offer a preset keyword. You simply enter a keyword to add to future images and turn the feature on so the keyword is added to each image as you take it. So you can automatically tag Susan's 6th Birthday if you remember to do this before you start shooting.

The advantage? Using face recognition tags, location tags and keywords makes it more likely you can quickly retrieve relevant images from your entire collection without having to organize the images in albums. Date search is also available, if all else fails.

DESTINATIONS

While the Share Button App knows how to handle Flickr, Facebook, Kodak Gallery, the Pulse cloud and ordinary email, that's it. That may not bother you if you live in the Kodak universe but if you've invested in Shutterfly or Costco or your own FTP server or SmugMug or TypePad or WalMart or Zenfolio or Phanfare or any other place, you can't get there from the Share Button App.

And it isn't just the Share Button App's fault. The camera firmware has to know about these places to allow you to check them as a destination when you hit the Share button.

Eye-Fi (http://www.eye.fi) has been playing the sharing game with its WiFi SD cards for a while now, too. And they support some 25 services. But there's no direct upload to the Pulse cloud. And individual images can't be sent to different places.

THE PULSE

The reward for taking the trouble to share (and there always is some) is having your images seen. The $130 Pulse frame makes that almost as simple as just passing your camera around in Playback mode.

At seven inches, it's a little too small to see across the room. After all, a 4x6 print is seven inches diagonally. And the touch interface relies a bit too much on icons. It still takes us a while to find the right icon for what we want to do. We forget from one day to the next what each one does.

And you do have choices. You can play all the images or just the recent ones (although recent isn't the latest). You can limit playback to images from just one source. On the other hand, you can't sort the images or zoom into an image.

But you can set the duration for up to 30 minutes an image. Too short a duration hypnotizes you into staring at the screen image after image. Too long bores you. We ended up preferring 30 seconds, which allowed for the usual dinner table distractions.

So it helps to learn your way around the Pulse's limited operating system.

Or you can set the frame's options at the Pulse site (http://www.kodakpulse.com). There are three tabs there: Add Pictures, Current Pictures, Frame Settings. You can add pictures from your computer as well as online sources like Facebook and Kodak Gallery. You can see what's in the frame now and how much room they take (47 images used two percent of the capacity and 97 three percent). And you can adjust the frame settings. A 44-page PDF manual is also there.

The Pulse's real trick, as Peter put it, is that it solves the mother-in-law problem. He was speaking of his mother-in-law Judy, in fact. Who just happens to have a WiFi router in the house (which is required).

The problem, which isn't restricted to mother-in-laws, is refreshing the content. All the frames in our bunker are always off because, well, they have nothing new to say. Our prints hang framed on the wall because they always seem to remind us of one important thing. But the images in our digital photo frames don't rise to that level.

The Pulse, however, has its own email address (which you set up at the Pulse site). Anyone can send an image to the frame just by emailing it. The body of the email is discarded and only the image is stored on the frame for display.

Because it relies on an email address that is exposed to various nefarious forces once it is shared in an email or included in an address book, we asked Peter about security on the frame itself. The Kodak Pulse cloud, he said, does have "rigorous spam protection" but no whitelisting at this time (although Kodak is working on it, Peter told us). You can, however, block certain email addresses to prevent a former friend from uploading images to your frame. We didn't have any trouble with spam on the Pulse.

Setup -- even WiFi setup -- is easy. Plug it in (there's no battery option) and it looks for WiFi networks. If you select one that requires a password, it prompts for the password. And you're done.

Images emailed to the Pulse always go through the Kodak Pulse server, which resizes them for the frame. The Pulse can connect to Facebook and Kodak Gallery, too. So anything you or your friends post can show up on the Pulse, too. We had friends email us photos and it was fun to find them a few minutes later.

It includes a timer to turn it on or off at certain times of the day. That turns into a real blessing, actually. We had no trouble setting it for working hours and letting it run that way. For four dollars a year, Peter calculated.

No calendar or clock function, which we didn't mind. We hate adjusting the time on Yet Another Clock.

A card reader (SD, Memory Stick, xD Picture card) plus a USB port for thumbdrives is behind a cover on the back. You have the option of copying images from any inserted media or just playing them from the media.

We liked the frame despite a few quirks (like the fill-frame option that distorts the image and flickering transitions). But even more, we liked it as a solution for those geniuses who keep emailing us stuff from their iPhones.

DESIGN

In general, we liked the plug-and-share concept, particularly for Kodak customers. We wondered what kind of customer research Kodak does for things like the frame. Peter gave us a glimpse.

First, Kodak conducts customer satisfaction surveys with purchasers of each of its products to identify problem areas. Apparently they're a pretty meek crowd. If you have to ask, we mean.

That leads to a selection of "solution options" that Kodak develops in-house.

Kodak takes those concepts back to a group of its customers selected from among 1,200 consumers it regularly calls upon. The members of the group rotate in and out of the group. So, like jury duty, it isn't the same people all the time.

That group spends a weekend giving the company feedback on the proposed solutions. Probably in some dreary place like Las Vegas.

From that feedback a couple of solutions are turned into Flash prototypes.

But wait, Kodak isn't done yet. Those prototypes are presented to a focus group for evaluation before the eventual solution is chiseled into stone. Or burned into the next product's firmware.

UNFORTUNATELY

The one problem we bumped our heads against in all this sharing strategy was a surprising one. Image quality.

Kodak has devoted as many brain cells as anyone to squeezing the best picture out of a small sensor capture. And it wasn't long ago we were admiring 8x10 prints from Kodak digicams that captured difficult subjects admirably.

But we saw some pretty strange results with last year's long zoom and this year's M-series and the Slice didn't do much better. Even the Pulse won't show images as well as your computer screen -- we've got some poinsettia shots that have no detail in the red leaves at all (the original M580 image was a disaster as well).

We ended up with quite a few more disappointing images than we get from competing products. Any of them. It kind of took the fun out of shooting pictures, frankly.

And if your $200 digicam disappoints you, are you going to bother to take it with you all the time? Won't your cellphone do? You bet. As Adam Osborne once observed of IBM, you don't have to be the best to be Number One. You just have to be good enough.

And good enough means being able to snap a shot with the camera you've got on your phone so you can send it to a friend to show them you spent the afternoon at the ballpark (ha ha).

CONCLUSION

To answer our original question: No, Kodak hasn't caught up with the convenience of sharing an image that a cellphone provides.

But its sharing strategy is a bit different. It makes it easier to share a lot of photos in several ways all at once. That's a step forward.

So, while we pulled our hair out at the image quality, it is still better than a typical cell phone (although not for long, we suspect) and the sharing technology does let you send the contents of your card to places that provide online sharing and to various email addresses at the same time -- including the Pulse frame.

The touch-screen Pulse frame shares the limitations of all such devices (16-bit color, a simple operating system) but it was the star of the show. Everybody who saw it in action wanted one. While they liked the simple interface, what they really liked was how easy it was to get new images: just email to the frame.

If we had a word cloud for all the comments we had about these Kodak products, Pulse would have been the big one. With "sharing" not far behind.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 Shooter's Report

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEX5/NEX5A.HTM on the Web site.)

Sony makes cameras that are easy to love. Not all of them are perfect, but when it comes to design, Sony usually has an edge. That was lost with many of the Alphas, with the exception of the high-end lineup. We definitely see more of Sony's acute design skill built into the $650 NEX-3 and $700 NEX-5 (configured with the 18-55mm kit lens). Though physically they are very different, functionally they are nearly identical.

I have to be fairly stealthy when shooting outside with new cameras, but these are small enough I was able to conceal them with one hand. I just wrapped my thumb and index finger around the lens barrel and extended my palm over the grip: all you see is the front of the lens.

While they don't power-up quickly, the Sony NEX cameras do focus and fire quickly, especially in good light. Focus can take a little longer in low light, as with most contrast-detect cameras. Powering the camera on, though, is a little like watching yourself wake-up after a very deep sleep. You flip the switch and nothing happens. Then after half a second, the icons appear onscreen. Then after another half-second, the view begins to fade in, from blackness to a dim vision, to full brightness.

I confess I've never seen a camera do this. It takes long enough that I've more than once had to check to make sure the lens cap wasn't on.

Although I'm a fan of many larger dSLRs and the Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, I have to say, shooting with such a small camera feels very natural. There are people who won't like a large lens on a small camera body, but I can't think of anything more appropriate in the digital age. Lens, finder and grip: that's what a photographer needs. No, an LCD isn't always the ideal viewfinder, but for the target market it's the right choice and allows Sony to make the camera very small. An optional optical viewfinder will be available, Sony said.

LOW LIGHT

I'm glad Sony included a flash rather than made it an aftermarket purchase, as Olympus did with its first two Pens. I'm also glad you can take it off. It's absolutely tiny, rests right above the lens and jacks in via a special connector concealed beneath a plastic door. A thumbscrew tightens the flash in place and on the NEX-5 at least, the flap marries neatly with the flash's thumbscrew door. As I say, it rests flat above the lens but must be flipped up to activate. The camera senses when it's flipped up and fires in the selected mode.

Regardless, what's better than a cute little flash that comes off with ease? A camera that doesn't usually need a flash. And that's what you get with the Sony NEX-5. As if it weren't enough to have a camera that does Sony's cool Handheld Twilight mode, Sony made some strides that improve its high-ISO performance noticeably. It's no Nikon D3x, but it still does better than a good share of its competition in our low light tests.

I really enjoyed shooting in low light with the Sony NEX-5, with only Auto ISO enabled. It's not going to perform miracles, but it does get you indoor shots that you'd never get otherwise.

HANDHELD TWILIGHT

A cool Scene mode called Handheld twilight does a trick that some of Sony's backlit-sensor cameras introduced last year. No, this sensor is not backlit, but it will fire off six shots at a hand-holdable shutter speed and combine them into one usable image that you'd never get without using a higher ISO. But don't think that you're going to sneak into your kids' bedroom to get a cute shot of them sleeping, because the relatively loud -- if cool-sounding -- shutter has to fire six times, a salvo that's sure to wake most people.

Similar to HHT is Anti-motion blur mode, which biases exposure toward a fast shutter speed and also fires off several images that it combines into one to eliminate motion from camera movement, which is amplified by use of telephoto lenses. Again, this makes quite a bit of noise and those nearby might wonder what you're doing. (Just tell them they wouldn't understand.)

EASY PANORAMAS

I'm also impressed that Sony managed to put their Sweep Panorama mode into the NEX series. The Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 have to fire much larger shutters than their Cyber-shot counterparts, then combine the images into one shot.

It does not work as well as Sony's Intelligent Panorama mode, which analyzes the scene to find moving objects and put only one image of said objects into the final panorama.

For example, a car traveling through the scene might appear more than once as the camera sweeps across a scene, but intelligent Panorama would delete the multiple images from the scene when possible, leaving only one image of the car. As I swept across a street scene, all the buildings were fine, but cars moving with the pan had an extra tail and nose added to their length, while cars moving counter my motion were shrunk to just a nose and tail, with no middle.

Not the best, but since most folks shoot panoramas of relatively static scenes, it'll work well enough in most common situations, where objects are distant and not moving rapidly.

AUTO HDR

Another multi-shot mode designed to improve your images is the Sony NEX-5's HDR mode. Dynamic Range Optimization does a little electronic processing to enhance shadows and maintain highlights, but when that's not doing the trick, you can (after some fumbling in the menus) activate Auto-HDR.

Again, this handy mode fires off three hand-holdable images that expose for the highlights, the mids and the shadows and combines them into one image that has usable detail in all of these areas. Often, these images can look flat, because they essentially process out image contrast. The good news is that the Sony NEX-5 also saves a copy of the middle exposure before building the HDR image, giving it the next number in the series.

While I've often been pleased with the HDR image onscreen, I was occasionally glad I had the regular exposure as well, since HDR can too often just look surreal. Not just from the NEX, by the way, but all HDR images.

The Pentax K-7 has this feature as well, but Sony's implementation automatically aligns all three images, even when handheld, while most of the K-7's shots need to be made on a tripod to avoid image mis-alignment.

FOCUS

Focus seemed active at all times whether I had continuous focus on or off. I usually use Center point AF option but the Sony NEX-5 has a strange habit of just giving up and selecting the entire image as the center, especially in low light. I'm not really fond of that. I want to know it's going to focus where I tell it, so I switched to Flexible Spot, which has the added benefit of moving to just about anywhere onscreen, corner-to-corner, just missing the edges. Not bad at all.

Focus is also fairly fast, pretty close to some of the other contenders in this space. Wide and tele full autofocus lag times average 0.44 second and pre-focus shutter lag is 0.12 second. Startup to first shot is about 1.0 second, but in reality it's about 2.0 seconds before the screen comes fully alive.

I have no complaints about focus at all with the Sony NEX-5. If you set the camera to Continuous AF, though, focus will tend to wobble very rapidly as the contrast-detect AF system rapidly checks and rechecks focus many times a second. It can be quite strange to see an entire building pulsate as you try to hold the camera steady, but rest assured the camera is doing what you told it to.

BOKEH

Put simply, bokeh is the quality of the out-of-focus areas in an image. Sony boasts that the NEX's larger APS-C sensor (which allows a narrower depth-of-field) combined with its optics give better bokeh than Micro Four Thirds cameras can.

It seems to be true of the two kit lenses, with background elements appearing a little softer and smoother from the Sony. The quality of bokeh can vary quite a bit, though, depending on which lens you use.

SIMPLER MENUS?

Of course, it's not all great news. The Sony NEX-5 is a blend of more traditional digital camera design with a dSLR sensor and interchangeable lenses, but the best of both worlds were not always chosen. In this case, Sony says it completely redesigned the interface to make it easier to control with only a few buttons, but it really brings to mind the inconvenience of some of Sony's recent Cyber-shot menu systems.

My first impression of the NEX-5's menu system was quite positive, because it was snappy and beautiful. The most attractive item is the Scene menu, in fact, which includes high resolution photos to illustrate the purpose of each. Very nicely done. For the first time, too, the sound that accompanies menu selections -- a sharp click -- is actually quite nice.

Unfortunately, my initially positive reaction to the menus didn't survive actually trying to use them.

Rather than using the truly simple menu from the other Alphas, Sony opted for a more complicated scheme that uses buttons to get to icons to get to menus, some of which are pretty long. And when you get to the bottom of those very long lists, the menus don't wrap back up to the top. Worse, once you've found and adjusted a menu item, you're dropped into Record mode, rather than back to the Menu. To make further adjustments, you have to hit Menu again and start all over from the top.

Thanks to the large, high resolution screen, there are plenty of icons to tell you about the camera's settings. But to change any of them, you have to first look on the four-way navigator, then hit the Menu button (provided it's available, since it is a "soft" button, whose use may change as the mode changes). Once the Menu pops up, you have to choose the right one from among six: Shoot mode, Camera, Image Size, Brightness/Color, Playback and Setup. Here's where tabs would have been nice, because it's not exactly obvious that ISO and DRO are hidden under the Brightness/Color menu rather than the Camera menu.

And a Quick menu would make changing things like ISO or DRO/HDR more easily accessible. As it is, you have to press the Menu button, navigate to Brightness/Color, scroll down to DRO/Auto HDR and press the center button. Then the screen goes completely black and you're taken to the live view, where the little DRO/Auto HDR options pop out of the right side of the screen. Rotate the control dial until your selection appears and press the center button again. Take your shot!

The big problem I have isn't how hard it is to turn on, though. It's how hard it is to turn back off, because I seldom want to shoot in Auto HDR for more than a few images and then I forget I have it set for the next shot until it rattles off another three shots. Then I have to go back into the menu, navigate to Brightness/Color -- you get the idea. What's worse is if you need to change a setting on the Setup menu, which contains 35 items. Format is number 29.

There are also many instances when a menu option is just grayed out and the pop-up explanation doesn't offer any remedy. The Face Detection option for example, is grayed out by default and the only way to activate it is to turn on Multipoint AF and Multi-area exposure. While the camera has 80 photography tips, none of them address such a fundamental issue as this. There's always the manual, yes, but some of this stuff should just be automatic (turning on face detection should automatically enable Multipoint AF and Multi-area exposure).

And you can't review both images and videos in Playback mode at the same time. If the last thing you shot was a still, when you press the Playback button you'll only see still images. To see movies, you have to switch to Movie mode or else shoot a quick movie. You can also hit the Menu button, select the Playback menu item and scroll down to Still/Movie Select, press that menu item, then select between Still and Movie on a separate screen.

This might be because scrolling through movies takes a long time -- like two or three seconds per item -- while stills are easy to flick through. Rather than please consumers, though, idiosyncrasies like this are going to make users think they've lost images or videos. Hopefully this is due to the prerelease nature of the NEX cameras.

MOVIE MODE

Certainly the hot feature among dSLRs these days is video capture with interchangeable lenses. Their reasonably inexpensive optics open up new levels of creativity to budding videographers. The large APS-C sensor allows better low light performance and lets shooters use selective focus as a storytelling device, quickly switching attention from one subject to another using only the focus ring.

Dave has prepared a huge writeup (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEX5/NEX5VIDEO.HTM) on all the Sony NEX-5's video capabilities, which we encourage you to check out, but the basics are that it records 1080i video at 60 fields per second in full AVCHD.

Most impressive is that it focuses fast enough to track a subject running full speed at the camera. There are some question about what subject is more likely to get its attention, but as I've mentioned, the Sony NEX-5 seems to be checking focus all the time, whether you're shooting stills or video.

CONCLUSION

Sony has done just what they needed to. They've shaken up the camera market. Even though they were fourth to the Single Lens Direct-view digital camera category, the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 are unique cameras that will be remembered for their design as well as their excellent image quality.

As a longtime Sony fan, I've been waiting for a camera that really feels and works like a Sony. While I wish Sony had stuck with the tried and true Alpha menu system, everything else about this design represents Sony at its finest. Dave and I agree that despite the menu, we'd both be happy to own and carry the NEX-5 to just about any event where a dSLR would be inappropriate or cumbersome. I might even feel confident using the NEX-5 as a backup camera should my dSLR fail.

The Sony NEX-5 is not a camera for the seasoned pro, but it just might serve anyone wanting dSLR quality in a very small, pocketable form factor. We were surprised by the NEX-5's good image quality at all ISOs and its printed quality was remarkable. For a small camera to output ISO 3200 images that look amazing when printed at 13x19 inches: that's worth noticing.

What was more of a surprise was Sony's ability to put Sweep Panorama mode and both Handheld Twilight and Anti-motion blur in a camera with a larger sensor and large shutter than its Cyber-shot digicams.

Overall, we're really impressed with the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3. Both offer higher image quality than their rivals, in a package that's smaller than their large-sensor rivals. It's fun to carry and shoot and gorgeous to behold with a bevy of features you're going to want to explore. If they can improve the menu, fix the Playback mode and add a Quick menu, we'll be even more excited. But for now we're content to have great looks, great features and excellent, category-leading image quality, making the Sony NEX-5 a Dave's Pick.

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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:

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Read about the CanoScan 8800F scanner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeafede/0

Read about Sigma lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=8

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RE: MioNet

I'd like to share with you some of the experiences I've had with MioNet. The bottom line is I uninstalled it from my Vista computer and no longer use it. The software proved to be very flaky, dropping connections at inopportune times for no apparent reason. The only way to get the connection back was to reboot the computer -- very dissatisfying. So after several months of frustration with a serving of cussing stirred in I finally uninstalled Mionet and am much happier.

If you check the Internet for Mionet reviews I believe you'll find my experience is not unique. When communicating with WD customer support I commented they must get a lot of complaints about Mionet and the agent confirmed that they did. It's a mystery why WD continues to use a product that gives their otherwise excellent hardware a bad name.

-- Ralph Nordstrom

(Thanks, Ralph. We sympathize. What MioNet does is a complex trick to pull off. We're not surprised it doesn't work well for everyone. In our case, we were accessing the NAS via an unwitting relative's iPhone so no computer was involved. The NAS was connected to a Linksys Wireless-G router running DD-WRT (not the Linksys firmware). And our ISP is ridiculously reliable. We just used the WD Photos app (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/WDP/WDP.HTM) to look at the images on the NAS. Piece of cake. We were just looking at Vista problems in the MioNet knowledge base and, yes, there are quite a few. Issues ranged from packet filters to incompatible network drivers to configuration settings in just the few we peeked at. Makes us very glad we just tried this with a phone! <g> Sorry to hear your experience was so bad but thanks again for the feedback. -- Editor)

RE: Cleaning Old Photos

I am in charge of scanning some very old family photos and a few negatives (mostly black and white). Can you recommend a way of cleaning the photos? And the negatives (dust, dirt and scratches)?

-- Glen Standridge

(Good question! We store both prints and film carefully, so when it's time to scan them, we don't have to do much cleaning. But we always use a little blast of compressed air (on both sides of film) to remove dust. Recently, though, we tried scanning some film that had suffered flood damage (water and mud). We used a Plustek film scanner (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/PLTK7600/7600.HTM) without doing any cleaning to get a baseline image and it did very well, cleaning up the images.... So for dust, compressed air is our tool. For scratches, we prefer to rely on the scanner's infrared scan and software reconstruction (like the Plustek or Digital ICE or Canon's FARE 3 technology) for bulk scanning and image editing software retouching tools for important images. Dirt is another matter. There are commercial film cleaners, but you really have to test any product on a blank frame to make sure it won't damage the emulsion first. -- Editor)

RE: A Few Thousand 4x6s

Hi, Mike, always enjoy your news. I learn lots! I own a V700 (great machine) and I have a few thousand 4x6 color prints. Anything on the market that allows me to feed each print to the scanner and store the scan on my hard disk? I'm lazy, not really, it's lot of work laying each on the glass plate.

-- Paul J. Holsen II

(Thanks for the kind words, Paul! To answer your question, there are machines that can digitize a stack of 4x6 prints, but they're commercial systems. That's one reason we recommend using a pro lab to digitize a lot of images. And if you go that route, you might as well have the negatives scanned (assuming you have access to them).... There's no flatbed scanner that does this as quickly, although almost all of them now allow you to throw four images on the glass, scan them and save them in separate files.... But even better a few readers have bragged about their home setups for copying slides (and prints) using their dSLR with the right lens and lighting. So there's a few options for you. -- Editor)

RE: 'Rebooting' a dSLR

My computer geek son says, "A dSLR is a computer; to fix your problem you should try rebooting it by removing the battery (button battery as well) temporarily." My three-month-old 5D Mark II has started acting erratically -- after being on for five minutes the whole camera starts shaking in my hands, like heavy focus hunting. Meanwhile the One Shot box and the f/stop box exchange places twice per second. All this is out in bright sunlight.

-- Ron Light

(We gave the same advice as your son in our 'When All Else Fails' newsletter article, Ron. It's a good place to start. If your camera maintains settings between battery replacements, a good second step is to find the Reset option in the Setup menu to restore factory defaults. If you suspect it's the autofocus, try turning that off as well to see if the behavior persists. And swapping lenses might help isolate the problem to the lens itself. While you have the lens off, take a look at the electrical contacts. Make sure they're clean. Good luck! -- Editor)

RE: DiMaggio

I really loved your DiMaggio's grave photo with the glossy black headstone, the sun pushing through the trees, the long shadows, the little puddle of clover flowers in the foreground, all framed by the beautiful tree. I kinda have a thing for gnarly trees.

I don't know what came over me but as soon as I saw your photo, I knew I had to play with it in Photoshop for a while -- I hope you don't mind. You can talk about (and then dismiss) bracketed shots and tripods and shooting later in the day ... but tinkering with it from the comfortable chair in front of my computer ... that's how I play the game!

I've attached a lower res "save for Web" version of it for you. It has great possibilities in black and white as well!

Really beautiful photo. Thanks for sharing.

-- Janet Kukec

(Nice job, Janet! Actually the gallery photos are just exactly for that -- to download and play with them. The ones we shoot are often a good deal less than perfect (but, we like to think, representative of typical use) so even more fun <g>. We particularly like the lens flare you added to the sun. Helps a lot. Well done! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released Optics Pro v6.2 for Windows and Mac, providing support for the Canon 550D and Sony Alpha dSLR-A450 in both its Standard and Elite editions and the Canon 1D Mark IV and Nikon D3s in its Elite edition. In addition, 85 new DxO optical modules are now available.


Adobe Labs (http://labs.adobe.com) has posted Camera Raw 6.1 Release Candidate with support for more Raw formats, the new CS5 Lens Correction functionality and more.


onOne University (http://www.ononesoftware.com/webinars) will broadcast Bokeh: The Science of Focus and the Art of Blur, a free webinar with Vincent Versace, on May 24.


Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) has announced it is dedicating a percentage of sales of its newly-launched $99-$159 Retrospective line of shoulder bags to Fifty Crows Foundation (http://www.fiftycrows.org). Fifty Crows Foundation hopes to bridge the gap between venues and distribution mediums for documentary photography and to encourage public dialogue on the issues raised through the photography.


ACD Systems (http://www.acdsee.com) has posted ACDSee Pro for Mac Beta 1.2 with a new batch workflow tool, a Quick Search tool and other improvements.


Akvis (http://akvis.com) has released its $72 ArtWork 3.5 [MW], which transforms photos with painterly effects, with the ability to save guides to a file, plus 64-bit compatibility and Photoshop CS5 plug-in compatibility.


Blue Lamp Software (http://bluelampsoftware.com) has released $19.95 PrintSprint 1.6 [M] to print photos in iPhoto or Aperture or on any mounted volume. Features include browsing, rotation, sizing, cropping and batch printing.


Unshake 1.5 (http://www.zen147963.zen.co.uk/Unshake) is a Java-2 and C program which "improves blurred and shaken photographs by working out the form of the blurring, then deducing what the picture would have looked like if it had not been blurred."


Imagenomic (http://www.imagenomic.com) has released Portraiture Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS5, CS5 Extended and Elements 8 with native 64-bit support on Mac OS X. The update is free of charge to registered users and can be downloaded from Imagenomic's Web site.


Datacolor has announced the launch of an online photo contest called Real New York. Photos "should illustrate iconic images that speak about what the real New York is through its sights, textures, spirit and more," the company said. Entries will appear online (http://www.datacolor.com/therealnewyork) where visitors can view and vote on the images until July 24. The grand prize is a trip to photokina, the first runner-up gets a LensBaby Composer and the second runner-up wins a $250 B&H gift card.


Profoto (http://www.profoto.com) has announced its BatPac portable "power-in-a-bag" unit that combines a dedicated inverter and a high capacity battery. BatPac provides up to 600W continuous power from two integrated separate mains outlets and will power all D1 monolights: 250, 500, 1000Ws.


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has released a new Web version of Phanfare organizer that "mimics the interactivity and immersiveness normally found only in downloadable desktop software," the company said.

The company also announced Phanfare Premium customers now have HD video and other features like domain name support and Raw file storage previously reserved for Pro customers.


Dermander (http://www.dermandar.com) is a free (and simple) Web-based panorama stitching program.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 8.6.32 [LMW] with support for searchable PDFs and the Canon 8200F.

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One Liners

For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com

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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
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