The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 12, Number 12 4 June 2010

Copyright 2010, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 281st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We reveal the mysterious technology behind solid state drives before Dan sneaks around NYC with a Canon SX210. Then we play surgeon with a digicam eyelet (why are they so tiny?) before we recommend three free ways of showing your images on your own site. Read on (you can graduate later).


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please show your appreciation by visiting their links below. And now a word from our sponsors:
C A N O N

Pro Printers for Professionals

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S I G M A

The Exception to the Photographic Rule

Sigma's line of cameras are designed to obtain the highest quality end-result photo possible.

The Sigma DP1 introduced the world's first compact digital camera with the 14 megapixel Foveon X3 direct image sensor; the same sensor used in our SD digital SLR camera. Since then, Sigma has continued to improve upon this amazing camera and the result is the DP2s, with a 24mm f2.8 focal length and faster auto focusing, a power save mode and a new rear-panel design making operation of the camera completely user friendly.

The Sigma DP2s gives the photographer full creative control and ease of use. It's the new DP2s!! Visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?sg1 for more information.

N I K O N

Nikon COOLPIX with up to 26x optical zoom.

Get Close: COOLPIX S8000, 10x optical zoom
Get Closer: COOLPIX L110, 15x optical zoom
Get Closest: COOLPIX P100, 26x optical zoom

Nikon's COOLPIX Zooms

Zoom makes them fun. Their lenses make them Nikons.

Zoom in and get the story!


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

Feature: All About Solid State Drives

It's a new season in the storage device game. The familiar mechanism-free approach of our flash memory cards and thumb drives has made it to the big leagues where hard drives play ball. But can the Solid State Drive rookie phenom handle big league pitching?

SSDs looked pretty good in spring training, showing off some very attractive qualities: no moving parts, the fastest read speeds possible, lower power consumption and -- not least -- tolerance for heat and vibration. Perfect for the laptop circuit, you might think.

But their weakness at the plate has been worrisome.

The problem with SSDs is their finite storage life, known as write endurance. You can only write to them a certain number of times before they ignore you. It's a lot of times (roughly between 20,000 to 1,000,000 write/erase cycles depending on the type of flash memory cell used) but for the kind of nearly constant writing a hard disk in a computer needs to perform, it's an issue that needs special engineering.

TWO KINDS OF DRIVES

On a conventional hard disk, data is written to any free sector and read back from that sector on demand. If the data in the sector is changed, the hard drive controller just overwrites that sector, assigning a new Cyclic Redundancy Check value at the same time. Some sectors are used repeatedly, others never get touched -- and that's no threat to your data.

But on an SSD, changed data is written to a just-erased block without touching the block that has the original data. That's one way to even out the use of the drive. But the SSD controller has to keep tabs on which blocks are current.

So the controller keeps track of how many times each block has been used and reuses those that have been used the least before reusing the others. That's called wear leveling and even your flash card does a little of that.

WEAR LEVELING

But that's where the similarity stops. The SSD controller has a lot more work to do than a flash card. It keeps track of how often a block is accessed and if it's not often, it moves it to a more frequently used block to give that block a rest. It's constantly trying to even out the use of the drive independently of the operating system's write requests.

That static wear leveling ensures you won't have an unused driver or rarely-touched file sitting on your SSD that, when you finally try to access it, is corrupted. It will be continually refreshed so it's readable when you need it.

RECONDITIONING

While performance is spectacular on a new drive, as you use most of them, it seriously degrades. It takes longer and longer for the controller to write to the SSD. To recover performance, laborious reconditioning is required. One day that may be automatic, but at the moment, you have to do it yourself. Windows has the TRIM command and there are hardware-specific wiper utilities for drives running other operating systems.

Suddenly you wonder if the kid wasn't brought up to the bigs too soon. Maybe he should be sent him down for a little more engineering at the minor league level (say, the iPod circuit).

To find out just how ready SSDs are for the big leagues, we cornered a Silicon Valley batting coach who asked to remain nameless before a recent day game.

Q&A

Q. Why would anyone want to use an SSD?

A. Performance. That's it in a sunflower seed shell. Nothing reads faster. You've got very quick start-ups and your applications load instantly. You don't wait for a platter to spin the data under a head for you. It's just there. Of course, it costs a lot more per gigabyte. But if you have to fly, you have to fly.

Q. So it's a lot like a thumbdrive, only bigger?

A. Not really. Thumbdrives -- even the flash cards you use in your camera -- don't work as hard as a hard drive. You write to them very seldom compared to a hard drive. You read from them a lot. But reading doesn't hurt them.

Q. What does hurt them?

A. Erasing -- which you have to do before a write -- and writing. That's what wears them out. So the controller has to be careful to write efficiently to the SDD to maintain a reasonable life expectancy. One way it does that is by writing in small pages to a larger block the controller knows has already been erased, so every write doesn't need an erase. But there's a limit to the number of writes you can make. A generous limit, but a limit.

Q. Which is what?

A. Well, it depends. For a typical laptop user, say, a sophisticated controller can stretch the lifetime of an SSD to maybe four or five years. A bit longer than the life of the laptop. In fact, I've never seen an SSD come back because it's worn out. Even after a years in the field. So you might put it this way: with an SSD, you won't have to worry about replacing the hard drive before you replace the laptop. It won't crash.

Q. Sounds good to me. So what's the problem?

A. Besides write endurance -- how often you can write to it -- there's the issue of data retention or how long an SSD holds the data after you remove the power. You really wouldn't use an SSD for archiving. After about a year the data on a heavily used drive needs to be refreshed. But you can get 10 years data retention right out of the box on an unused drive. So it depends how much the drive has been used.

Q. So an SSD doesn't store data like a hard drive?

A. No, it uses these NAND floating gate transistors that maintain a certain state not a particular value. So you have to erase a block before you can write to it. You have to establish one state (say a logical zero) before you can apply voltage to change it to another state (say a logical one).

Q. Really?

A. Well, this is where it gets interesting. Write endurance and data retention go together. The drive manufacturer can spec a higher endurance if the user can live with lower data retention. And, just the opposite, lower endurance can buy higher data retention. Depends.

Q. So why you have to do reconditioning?

A. Say you have block sizes of 512K and, like any hard drive, you write to full blocks. Well, the data you write could be 4K or 8K or just 16K, so you aren't using the whole 512K. There's always a mismatch between block size and what you write to the block. So you end up with a lot of unused capacity. Maybe half the drive is actually unused. You have to do get that space back.

The controller always tries to write efficiently, storing the writes in its DRAM buffer until it can write them sequentially to the drive (rather than randomly as the computer has requested). Then it just maintains pointers to the logical blocks in DRAM. That minimizes the number of erases and writes.

And it even uses some scratchpad space on the drive -- which we call over-provisioning -- to organize things.

But over time, as the drive fills up, it has a tough time finding this scratchpad space. Up to 72 percent full, write performance is the same, but between 72 and 93 percent full, it drops off dramatically.

So, with reconditioning, you consolidate the data and free up all those little empty areas, putting them back in harness. It's just garbage collection.

Q. How much over-provisioning do you need?

A. Well, you know, you buy an SSD in a binary capacity of, say, 64-GB. That's 64 times 1024 times 1024 times 1024. But the drive is sold in billions of bytes calculated as 64 times 1000 times 1000 times 1000. The difference nets out to seven percent over-provisioning. You don't have access to that space (and don't know it).

Buy a 60-GB drive and you have 13 percent over-provisioning. Because you're really buying a 64-GB drive of which you can access only 60-GB. And a 480-GB drive is really a 512-GB drive with 13 percent over-provisioning. But a 50-GB drive or a 400-GB drive just has more over-provisioning: 27 percent.

The more over-provisioning you have, the less often your drive has to recondition itself because it prevents the drive from filling up. You'll notice that magical 72 percent full mark, under which write performance stays high is the same as 28 percent of the disk free, which is what 27 percent over-provisioning is. So performance on a disk with 27 percent over-provisioning -- and a smart controller -- doesn't degrade.

Q. So what should I look for in an SSD?

A. Besides price, you want to look at capacity. It not only tells you how much over-provisioning you have but larger drives are faster because they write in parallel. A 128/256-GB class drive is actually about twice as fast as a 32/64-GB drive. That's a lot different than a conventional hard drive, whose performance is constant despite its size because it depends on buffer size and spindle speed.

Q. What's next in SSD technology?

A. We're going to see continued write performance improvement, although it will still be limited by the SATA connection in the computer. We'll also see advances in how we monitor the health of the hard drive. And, maybe most exciting, there's really no requirement that SSDs be shaped like hard drives. We may start seeing SSD-designed machines that are thinner and smaller than our tablets, laptops and other devices today.

Now that's interesting, we thought, as we thanked the coach and climbed up to our seats as far away from those 98 mph fastballs as we could get. Some developments we like to observe from afar.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon SX210 User Report

By DAN HAVLIK
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX210IS/SX210ISA.HTM on the Web site.)

A lot of digital cameras seem to suffer from the Goldilocks Syndrome: this one's big and too pricey; that one's small and doesn't have enough features; but nothing out there is just right. One camera that seems to be making a bid for the "just right" slot is the 14-Mp, 14x optical zoom Canon PowerShot SX210 IS. Indeed, the Canon SX210 digital camera hits so many sweet spots for consumers: it's small enough to take on a trip, has a long zoom with optical image stabilization and retails for under $400, it makes you wonder what Canon left out. In terms of design and image quality, not much: this is a great little camera that's the perfect traveling companion for any family vacation.

LOOK & FEEL

Available in three different colors -- our test model was classic black with silver trim -- the Canon SX210 could easily be mistaken for a "style" camera but it has more horsepower than that. With dimensions of 4.2x2.3x1.3 inches and a weight of 7.5 ounces with the battery and card, the Canon SX210 is easily small and light enough to fit in a small bag or a coat pocket. The camera's rectangle shape with smooth, rounded edges is also ergonomically pleasing, though its protruding lens housing might get snagged when trying to retrieve it from a pocket or bag. I particularly liked the shallow trough on the top and sides of the Canon SX210 which allowed for a firm grip on the camera.

Though it looks and feels solid, the camera is made of polycarbonate and aluminum and is comfortable to hold and shoot with even if some of the camera's controls -- such as the zoom toggle -- are a bit small for my large hands. The round, metallic shutter button is a nice size for a camera this compact, though and when you power on the Canon SX210, it feels ready to take pictures.

Speaking of powering on the Canon SX210, once the camera is engaged it loses it compactness, as the 14x zoom telescopes out. (Not surprising.) Depending on where you place your left finger, you may also feel the flash trying to pop up. Putting a little pressure on it will keep it down which is a big change from the previous model which always extended the flash when it was powered on, even when you didn't want it. One other thing you might notice about the Canon SX210 is its recessed stereo microphone on top for recording sound with movies.

CONTROLS

While the controls, particularly the zoom toggle on top, are a bit small for people with large hands and fingers, it turns out they're not difficult to adjust. Hitting the tiny recessed power button on top will extend the 14x zoom and trigger the pop-up flash if you need it. (Otherwise just press the small flash back down.) Moving the little zoom toggle on top to the right zooms in on your subject while moving it to the left zooms out.

The knurled mode dial on the top right rear is easy to reach with your thumb, though changing settings on it takes some force. A tight mode dial that locks in settings is preferable to a loose one which can be accidentally switched, especially when it lies under the thumb; it might have been made a little looser, but it's a minor point.

Conversely, switching between shooting photos and HD video is a very fluid process thanks to the dedicated Movie button on back of the camera, which is identified with a red dot. Pressing the button almost immediately starts the video mode with the LCD screen switching from 4:3 to widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. This came in handy while photographing a concert as I was easily able to begin shooting a movie clip when the singer performed one of my favorite songs.

Pressing the Playback button to the right of the movie button calls up images or videos on the nice, large 3.0-inch screen. With 230,000 dots of resolution, image/video playback looks crisp on the LCD. To zero in on close-up detail of a shot, use the zoom toggle during image playback. Below the Playback button is a small Command dial which controls some settings and lets you scroll through images. In the center of the dial is a Function/Set button which calls up the function menu overlay on the left side of the LCD during shooting or playback. Below the command dial are a Display button for changing data read-out on the screen and a Menu button for calling up menus.

LENS

The lens on the Canon SX210 cranks the zoom even further than its predecessor, moving up from a 12x to an extremely versatile 14x optical zoom. That's impressive for a camera this small, offering the equivalent of 28mm to 392mm on a 35mm camera. There's also an additional 4x of digital zoom, but I avoided using it because it degrades picture quality. The lens aperture ranges from f3.1 to f5.9 which, as expected, moves to the smaller apertures (higher f-stop numbers) as you zoom. The result is slightly darker zoomed shots, but that's the price you pay in a camera this small with such a long focal range.

Overall, though, the lens produced excellent image quality with impressive sharpness in good light. If there were some softness in the corners of images -- both at wide-angle and telephoto -- it wasn't any more pronounced than you'd find with other compact cameras with shorter zooms. Even better, the camera's image stabilizer was very effective in maintaining sharpness when racked all the way out to 14x. Birders and nature lovers will find this camera more than adequate for getting decent shots of wildlife. I got some nice shots of a shy robin hidden in the overhanging branches of a tree. At the same time, the 28mm wide end of the lens is great for landscape photos or family portraits.

Where the lens falters slightly was in Macro shots. As was the case with the previous model, while close-ups of flowers and other plant-life looked sharp on the camera's LCD, when reviewed full screen on a computer monitor they were disappointingly soft. So while this may not be the ideal close-up lens, it succeeds it so many other ways with rich detail, accurate color and impressive sharpness, it's hard to knock it.

MODES

Canon doesn't skimp on the mode options for the SX210 IS, offering a slew of presets for beginners and enough manual settings to keep more experienced photographers happy. The main settings, available via the Mode dial, include Easy, Auto, Program and the more popular presets such as Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets and a setting that optimizes the camera for Indoor shooting.

You can dig a little deeper by turning to SCN on the dial, which accesses the Special Scene modes including Low Light (max 6,400 ISO at 3.5-Mp resolution), Beach, Foliage, Snow and Fireworks. Even more unique is the Smart Shutter mode which gives you the Face, Smile and Wink self-timer options. And if you really want to try something fun, there's a Fish-eye setting and a Miniature mode which mimics the effect of a Tilt-Shift lens on dSLR.

While the Fish-eye worked well in creating fun, distorted close-up shots, I had less success with the Miniature mode, which deliberately blurs the edges of an image to create a very narrow plane of focus. As with true Tilt-Shift lenses, if you really want to produce the "toy" or "miniature" look with this mode, shoot down on a scene from above, preferably something with people or vehicles in it to "miniaturize." More seasoned photographers will appreciate that Canon's kept the Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual options on the Canon SX210's mode dial as well.

MENU

Canon doesn't take too many liberties with the menu options on the SX210 IS and even first-time users should be able to figure out the settings relatively quickly. In shooting mode, hitting the Menu button calls up a two-tab layout with photography settings under the camera icon and internal adjustments under the wrench/hammer icon. Under the shooting settings tab, you're given the option of adjusting the Continuous AF; AF-assist Beam, Safety MF, Flash Settings, Image Review duration, Review Info and Display Overlay, among others. Scroll further down and you can adjust the Image Stabilizer mode, Date Stamp and assign custom settings for the Movie button.

In the Playback mode, there are options to run a slide show of your images, erase, protect, rotate or pick favorites. You can also do some basic image editing right in the camera including auto contrast adjustment, red-eye correction, trimming and resizing. The Playback menu offers a tab for basic printing options for your images directly from the camera. Under the wrench/hammer icon, you can adjust some camera operations including turning on or off sound and adjusting sound options; turning on or off "hints & tips"; formatting your memory card; lens retract time; power saving modes; time zone adjustment; date and time setting, language selection and more.

The Function menu lives under the Func/Set button. It's a modified version of the old Function menu that was a whole lot easier to use. This one looks more slick, but is a little more difficult to use. Menus roll like a slot machine wheel and once you've found the item you want to adjust, you have to toggle right on the Multicontroller to select the next wheel to make your selection there. Not ideal. The Multi-controller itself has no silkscreened icons on or around it, but it still serves to access Focus, Exposure compensation, Flash mode and Self-timer options. Just press lightly on the Multi-controller and an icon appears onscreen representing the dial. Not a bad idea for a camera which little room thanks to the very wide screen.

STORAGE & BATTERY

The Canon SX210 IS takes a standard SD memory card (2-GB or less), SDHC memory card (more than 2-GB, up to and including 32-GB), SDXC memory card (more than 32-GB) and Eye-Fi wireless transfer card. When shooting at the 14-Mp, Large (4320x3240) setting, a 4-GB memory card in the SX210 IS can record up to 1,058 JPEG images. (There is no Raw setting.) A 16-GB memory card can record up to 4,334 Large JPEGs.

The Canon SX210 uses a proprietary NB-5L Lithium-ion rechargeable battery with a CIPA rating of 260 shots per charge. The battery is stored in a slot on the bottom of the Canon SX210 next to the memory card.

SHOOTING

Because the Canon SX210 makes a great little traveling companion, I spent several sunny days traipsing around New York City with it, photographing and shooting movies of friends, family, children, dogs, street life, parks and even a concert. Though it's packed with features including its impressive 14x zoom lens, the Canon SX210 fit easily into my inside coat pocket right next to my iPhone.

On the subway ride to meet an old friend for lunch, I pulled the camera out and inconspicuously fired off a few candids of my fellow subway riders. Since it's virtually silent when you turn the sound off and keep the flash pressed down, no one seemed the wiser that I was photographing them. The lighting in the subway was poor so I cranked the ISO to 800, set the optical image stabilizer to Continuous and fired away.

While none of these shots were masterpieces -- Walker Evans can rest easy -- they were decent and at ISO 800, image noise was noticeable but not distracting. At ISO 1,600, there was a lot more noise but considering that the Canon SX210 squeezes 14 megapixels onto such a small image sensor, it could've been much worse. Lighting in the restaurant was better than it had been on the subway but was still a bit dark and even though I could've added a little fill with the camera's small and slightly underpowered pop-up flash, I decided to keep it down.

My flashless, ISO 800 shots of my friend and her three-year-old son weren't as crisp as I may have liked -- a little bit of motion blur despite the high ISO and image stabilizer -- but they weren't bad either. I especially liked the natural, candid look of the photos with bold, but not over-saturated color and accurate skin tones.

If there's one shortcoming to the Canon SX210 as a candid shooter it's overall sluggishness. It takes about a second or two to start up, a second or two to focus in low light and a second or two to cycle from shot-to-shot. All told that adds up to a lot of seconds, so if you're planning to photograph a skittish subject with the Canon SX210 -- my friend's son had missed his nap time and was getting restless -- you're going to have to do a lot of pre-focusing to keep up. (Once you've pre-focused, shutter lag isn't a problem.)

Out on the street in the daylight, the Canon SX210 was faster, if not quite a speed demon. While walking down a street in Chelsea, I spotted a cute dog carrying a newspaper in its mouth. After asking the owner if it was OK to take the photo, I bent down and got a couple of frame-worthy shots of the dog.

I then brought the camera to the High Line, a park in Manhattan that was created from old, elevated subway tracks. When I pulled the zoom back to 28mm, it was certainly wide enough to photograph the park and the surrounding cityscape, but I would've liked it to be just a notch or two wider, as on some competing models that go as wide as 24mm. OK, maybe that's asking a lot from a camera that already offers an abundance of riches, but it would be nice for the follow-up model.

In the evening, I brought the camera to a concert and its discrete design, surprisingly good low light abilities and long zoom let me sneak some shots and videos of the performers without causing too much of a ruckus. Speaking of videos, the 720p HD movie setting produced bright and sharp footage that stayed steady even when zoomed in to 14x. Fortunately, unlike the previous model, you can optically zoom while shooting movies.

As an outdoor landscape and nature camera, the Canon SX210 fared well and I was able to get some nice shots of the Hudson River, George Washington Bridge and surrounding wildlife including birds and squirrels. I do wish it was a better Macro camera, though. While many of my shots of flowers and plant life look sharp and colorful on the Canon SX210's 3-inch screen, they were surprisingly soft when I viewed them on my computer screen.

Overall, though, shooting with the Canon SX210 was a very pleasurable experience and if you're looking for a compact and relatively inexpensive "do-everything" camera, this latest SX-series model from Canon has the goods.

CONCLUSION

The Canon PowerShot SX210's predecessor was a very popular camera with a few flaws. With this follow-up, Canon has ironed out some of the kinks of that earlier model and, in the process, created one of the best all-around, affordable compact cameras I've tried.

Its impressive 14x (28mm-392mm equivalent) lens is capable of serving all your photographic needs on your next family vacation, whether it's taking group shots of loved ones or scenic landscapes; or zooming in on wildlife such as lions, tigers or birds. (Oh my!) If the image quality isn't as good as a dSLR or even a chunkier super zoom model, for a compact camera that fits in a coat pocket or a bag and costs under $400, it's a sweet deal.

The Canon SX210 IS has one drawback, though: it's a slow performer, not uncommon in the pocket long zoom category. Slow to start-up; slow shot-to-shot; and slow in image playback. If you want to take candids of kids or pets with this camera, be sure and pre-focus or you may miss the shot.

While the bump up to 14 megapixels seems unnecessary, it doesn't dramatically affect image quality, with the Canon SX210 performing decently in low-light at ISO 800. Make no mistake though: the Canon SX210 is a fabulous little camera which offers a lot in a well-designed and highly portable package and earns a Dave's Pick.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: Attaching a Wrist Strap

Now that the self-threading needle problem has been definitively solved (http://www.spiraleyeneedles.com), mechanical engineers can devote themselves to the problem of the reluctant eyelet.

Our informal study of about 25 digicams a year reveals that it is getting harder and harder to thread the loop of a wrist strap through a camera's eyelet. And yes, we account for age by hosting an annual Wrist Strap Attachment Invitational every summer open to all ages. Nobody can do it.

To survive the laid-back demands of casual reviewing, we've developed two sure-fire methods ourselves. We're reluctant to share them only because we're afraid it will give manufacturers the idea they don't have to design eyelets with genuine holes in them any more.

We're only persuaded to share our secrets by the thought that it might encourage eyelets worth four star reviews. Most now wouldn't rate a single star.

So how do we do it when a simple push through the eyelet isn't enough?

The first trick is to use a paperclip. The clip has to be modified first, though. We straighten the long loop out, leaving the inner loop as a sort of handle. And at the very end of the straightened loop, we introduce a hook small enough to navigate most eyelets.

Then, when the wrist strap gets stuck in the eyelet, we merely fish it out.

This doesn't always work, unfortunately. It depends on two things. The first is a large enough eyelet to get the hook in. The second is a wrist strap loop that is open enough to hook. You'd be surprised how often neither is the case.

In those tight situations, we resort to a few inches of sewing thread. Don't use black. It's too hard to see. A light color makes the job a lot easier. Fishing line would do the trick, too.

We simply extend the loop of the wrist strap by slipping the thread through it and knotting it up. Then we send the skinny threaded loup through the eyelet first, grabbing it as it comes out to lead the thicker wrist strap loop through.

Only after we've slipped the wrist strap itself through its own loop to secure it to the camera do we cut off the thread. You can also do it backwards (pass the thread through the eyelet first, then attach the strap and pull back).

That method takes longer, so we reserve it for those occasions when the hook doesn't work. But one or the other will get the job done.

Which is more than we can say for eyelet designers these days.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Three Ways to Roll Your Own

We learned to type in the third grade. Two of us kids just decided to do it. And when it came time to hand in our reports on a California city (ours was Stockton, the world's largest inland port), we were the only two who had typed them.

So we've been attracted to the keyboard from infancy. And that's probably why we've always taken advantage of the free personal Web hosting feature offered by the various Internet service providers we've used over the years. It's been a great way to learn Web technologies over the years, from HTML to CSS to JavaScript to PHP to MySQL to Ajax and on and on.

For most users, sharing images online means uploading to Flickr, SmugMug, EasyShare Gallery, Phanfare or any of a number (and there are quite a few) other online photofinishing services. Many of them let you store albums at no cost, while some offer paid archival storage.

But if you, like us, would prefer to roll your own, we can recommend three free tools to get you up and running. Each one presents your images in a different way, but all of them do it 1) for free, 2) painlessly and 3) attractively.

PHOTOBLOG

If you'd like to post the occasional image with a little accompanying text, consider a photoblog. You can publish a photo a day, like our Photo of the Day contest (http://www.dailydigitalphoto.com/potd-images/ir_potd_enter.htm), which certainly draws people back to your site for a fresh peek. Or you can publish only when you feel like it.

We've used a free WordPress plug-in called Yet Another PhotoBlog by J.P. Jarolim (http://johannes.jarolim.com/blog/wordpress/yet-another-photoblog). That should tip you off that we use WordPress too.

Installing WordPress and keeping it updated have been unpleasant tasks in the past, but the last two updates we've done were painless. Our ISP, in fact, is happy to install it for us (it isn't that big a deal, though, if you know how to type). And now that automatic updates are easy, it's really a breeze.

Plug-ins can be updated easily, too. J.P.'s simply allows you to upload an image, which it resizes several times for various purposes. We've had some issues with it in the past (uploads not uploading, images not displaying) but a few minutes in the support forum and tweaking the HTML usually solved them. Recent releases have been very solid.

ALBUMS & SLIDE SHOWS

We're always taking pictures at dinners, parties, weddings, picnics, you name it. To share the images, we upload a set of them resized for the screen with another set of thumbnails, all created automatically by software we wrote. You can do the same thing straight from Lightroom or any image management program, of course.

But our software generates an XML data file of the images that Adobe's free Spry framework for Ajax (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/spry/home.html) turns into a gallery of albums. The latest one is displayed with a set of small thumbnails on the left side of the screen with an enlargement of each image on the right.

A slide show starts immediately when you enter the page but it can be stopped so you can manually navigate the images. You can even just click on a thumbnail to go directly to that image.

We added a date display to the thumbnail section (so you know when the images were taken) and a caption to the images (so we could have a little more fun on the keyboard).

A popup menu above the thumbnails lets you select any of the albums we've stored online.

POPUP ENLARGEMENTS

Our home page shows a small image with some text but we wanted a way to enlarge that image without leaving the home page. There are some simple ways to do that in JavaScript, but we were looking for something a little more elegant.

We found it in Lytexbox (http://www.dolem.com/lytebox), a JavaScript module with a companion CSS file and a set of images used for controlling the slide shows it can build.

Based on Lokesh Dhakar's Lightbox, Lytebox goes a little further (and works better on Safari) by offering self-running slide shows in addition to the single image enlargement and group image display (a manual slide show, in effect).

It was easy to install and configure so that single little image would pop up over our grayed-out main page into a full-blown slide show, giving us a second way to display a group of images.

CONCLUSION

So there's our personal recommendation for three ways of displaying your images online using the free personal Web hosting offered by most ISPs. We've been very pleased with each of them. And visitors to our site even more so.

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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 Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe

Visit the Nikon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f781

Read about the Plustek OpticFilm 7600i scanner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeaf816/0

Read about a variety of lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=3

Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8

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Dave's Deals

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Subscribe for Great Deals!

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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: CanoScan 9000F

Was nicely surprised to see a review of the CanoScan 9000F so soon. I am considering this unit. Quick question: for film, how would you rate it compared to the Nikon Coolscan 5000ED?

-- Jim Rickey

(Well, we can't compare them because we've never used the Coolscan. In fact, trying to find any Coolscan model to review has been impossible. Even the last remaining model (9000). What the flatbeds lack these days are bulk scanning efficiencies (like slide loaders). It's true they don't always match the density range of dedicated film scanners, but with multiexposure, you can work around that easily. We'll post an update when we can compare the results of SilverFast and VueScan multiexposure with ScanGear's admirable capture. -- Editor)

RE: MioNet

The MioNet problems Ralph Nordstrom mentioned, the dropped link and having to reboot, are most likely Vista problems. I had the same problem. It was so bad I did not put any of my data on the computer and was considering sending the machine back to the manufacturer as their tech support, too, was powerless to solve the problem. And this with a minimum of software installed.

I solved the problem and am quite happy with the computer. My solution: I installed Windows 7. Without knowing more of the details, I would guess that Ralph's computer is a 64-bit machine. I have a friend who has a 32-bit Vista machine that does not have this particular problem.

-- Richard Schuh

(Thanks, Richard. We forwarded that information to Ralph. It's a complex issue and any light that can be shed on it is appreciated. -- Editor)

RE: Empty Cartridge Printing

I am seriously considering buying the Canon Pixma MP640.

Will the device work if only one cartridge is in place? I remember an old Epson that had to have all full color and black cartridges in place before it would work.

-- William Bolender

(Good question, William. While a few devices will print with an empty cartridge, it's a bad idea. The problem is that it endangers the nozzles on the print head. With no ink in the cartridge, the nozzles dry out and to get back to work you're buying not just an ink cartridge but a new print head, too. If memory serves, Canon protects you from that by refusing to print with an empty cartridge. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

In a letter (http://forums.camerabits.com/index.php?topic=5603.0) to Camera Bits customers, Founder and President Dennis Walker explained why the popular import utility won't be seen on the iPad. "The bottom line is that the requirement to use the iPad Photos app to access your photos on a flash card, plus the connectivity issues, means the iPad is not something that a professional would likely tolerate," he concludes.


Phase One (http://www.phaseone.com) has rescued Expression Media 2 (formerly iView MediaPro) from Microsoft. Visit the site for some special limited-time offers.


Canon (http://OhRanger.com/Canon) is again offering its Photography in the Parks series of free digital photography workshops in Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Jackson Hole, Yellowstone and Acadia this summer. The company provides dSLRs and lenses for workshops hosted by a professional photographer.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has quietly added a Knowledge panel to Photoshop CS5 to deliver interactive step-by-step guidance through 70 tutorials written by expert authors. The tutorials can themselves drive Photoshop, executing commands when you click links. Log in to CS Live and look for Knowledge under Window->Extensions.

Configurator 2.0 has also been released with support for HTML content, improved layout tools, support for containers plus popup windows and more.

The company has also released its Photoshop Camera Raw 6.1 plug-in with new lens correction functionality and Raw file support for 10 new cameras. Lens correction allows you to automatically apply profiles that correct for geometric distortions, chromatic aberration and lens vignette effects as well as manually make vertical and horizontal perspective transforms.

Adobe has also released Photoshop CS4 11.0.2 [MW], an update that "addresses a number of critical issues and vulnerabilities discovered after Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Photoshop CS4 Extended (11.0 and 11.0.1) software were released."


Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released RAW Developer 1.8.10 [M] with support for 14 new camera models and several other improvements and bug fixes. New camera models include the Sony NEX-3, NEX-5 and A450; Panasonic G2 and G10; Fuji S205EXR and HS10/HS11; Leaf Aptus-II 8 and Aptus-II 10R; Sigma DP1, DP1s and DP2; Hasselblad H4D-50; and Casio EX-FH100.


X-Rite (http://www.xrite.com) has released its X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Digital Negative ProfileManager, free to registered owners of a ColorChecker Passport. ColorChecker Passport combines three photographic targets into one pocket size protective, self-standing case that adjusts to any scene.


onOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com) has announced its Photoshop plug-ins are all now compatible with Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop CS5 Extended, including Mac 64-bit. The compatibility update is free to registered owners of current versions of the Plug-In Suite and component products.


LQ Graphics (http://www.lqgraphics.com) has released Photo to Movie 4.5 for Mac OS with a cleaner, integrated user interface and improved stability.


Rocky Nook has published The Canon Camera Hackers Manual by Berthold Daum, which covers the Canon Hack Development Kit for PowerShots. The $29.95 title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 27 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/193395258X/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Tamron (http://www.tamron.com) has announced starting June 7 and every Monday for 12 weeks, Tamron will release a one-minute episode of dDSLR Know-How with Tamron: Series 201 on YouTube.

The company has also announced a full-day seminar series led by nature and landscape photographer Sandra Nykerk (http://sandranykerk.com) in Seattle (July 13), Los Angeles (July 15), Chicago (August 10) and New York (August 12).


Creative Light (http://www.creativelight.com) has introduced a new series of Deluxe Reflectors with a special "squircle" shape and integrated handles designed for location shooting. Available in four different fabric combinations (translucent, silver/white, sunsilver/white and gold/white), the reflectors come in 24", 32" and 47" sizes.


LrSaver (http://retail.lrsaver.com) has been updated to version 0.97.7 [MW], which improves presentation color accuracy and resolves memory leaks and bugs in the Lightroom screen saver application.


Boinx (http://www.boinx.com) has released FotoMagico 3.5 [M] with new plug-in support for Apple Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, Motion and Adobe After Effects. The native plug-in integration allows videographers and motion graphic artists to animate still images and render directly within the host applications.


Andrey Tverdokhleb (http://www.raw-photo-processor.com) has released his free Raw Photo Processor 4.1.4 [M] with improved precision in color management; support for the Sony A450/NEX-3/NEX5, Hasselblad H4D, Olympus E-PL1; new profiles for the Sony A900/A850 and more.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released GraphicConverter 6.7.2 [M] adding GIF animation conversion to filmstrips, LSM file import with LZW/16, FUJI file import, support for Finder style sorting and more.

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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

PhotoRescue: http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

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Signoff

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

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

Happy snapping!

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

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