The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 12, Number 18 27 August 2010

Copyright 2010, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 287th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Dave reflects on Sony's revolutionary new translucent-mirror camera. We, meanwhile, are stuck on a mountain with Dr. Kook talking about how to hold your camera. Then we find out why our wide-open prime lens compositions are unfocused. And finally, after a particularly dismal experience with a recent review unit, we remember a bygone era when things were, well, better.


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Feature: Sony Alpha A55/33 Shooter's Report

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA55/AA55A.HTM on the Web site.)

Combining breakthrough translucent-mirror technology with Sony's high-speed CMOS sensor prowess, the new Sony Alpha A55 and A33 break important new ground for consumer dSLRs. The Sony A55 in particular delivers higher capture speeds than any other consumer-class dSLR, as well as true phase-detect live autofocus during video recording. Thrown in multi-shot technology (Handheld Twilight, Sweep Panorama and Auto HDR modes) from Sony's digicam line and the new cameras offer features not found in any other dSLR, regardless of price.

I had a chance to spend a few days with a late prototype of the Sony A55. After running a couple thousand shots through it (it does have a very fast Continuous mode) I found it to be a pretty compelling camera, combining remarkable shooting speed with a host of other capabilities that really set it apart from most of the market. It's by no means perfect, but unquestionably expands the range of shooting capabilities open to consumers with average pocketbooks.

IN THE HAND

Leaving their advanced capabilities aside, the Sony A33/A55 are also remarkably compact cameras. Because the mirror doesn't have to form a viewfinder image, it can be mounted at a steeper angle than normal, removing some thickness from the camera body and the space for the mirror drive system could be trimmed from the sides. As a result, the A33/55 body is notably compact.

I really didn't find the smallish grip too objectionable. The design naturally encourages my middle and third fingers to curve downward, my pinkie to fold underneath the body and to carry the weight of the camera on my middle finger, between the second and third knuckle. My customary two-handed dSLR grip, with one hand on the lens' zoom ring made for a comfortable and secure hold.

Grip comfort/security is greatly aided by the deeply sculpted thumbrest on the camera's back. Combined with the textured rubber used over the whole right half of the body, it provides a very secure grip for my thumb and does a lot to make up for the small front grip. The rubber coating also contributes to a feel of solid build quality, by damping the body vibrations that often make small and light cameras feel tinny or cheap.

I did find the small body and grip a little problematic when shooting with a heavy lens, though. I spent quite a bit of time with the excellent Sony 70-200mm f2.8 on the camera and did experience some wrist fatigue. Since the camera is capable of very fast live autofocus during video recording, I often wanted to zoom during the recording, something that would be anathema on a conventional video-capable dSLR. So I had to carry more weight in my right hand, so my left could operate the zoom ring more smoothly and the small grip made it difficult. When shooting normally with smaller lenses, though, I never found the grip uncomfortable.

ELECTRONIC VIEWFINDER

Where a conventional dSLR has an optical viewfinder, the Sony A33/55 substitutes an electronic display with an eyepiece attached. The image for the EVF is taken from the Sony A55's main image sensor, so the camera is essentially always in Live View mode. Mechanically, the Sony A55's eyepiece projects out from the back of the camera a fair bit, to leave room for the camera's autofocus system in front of the EVFs micro display and viewfinder optics. I actually liked this rear projection, as it left a bit more room for my nose. Happily, the neckstrap eyelets are arranged such that the camera hangs lens-down when on a neck strap, so I had no trouble with the projecting eyepiece poking me in the chest.

I've never been a fan of EVFs. While they do permit much more information overlay than conventional optical viewfinders, I've always felt that their limitations have outweighed their advantages. In particular, EVFs usually have limited sensitivity and dynamic range, not to mention low refresh rates and poor resolution when compared with the view through a conventional optical viewfinder.

But I was surprised to find myself as comfortable as I was with the EVF on the Sony A55. It by no means corrects all the ills of the genre, but does go a long way in the right direction. It still loses highlight detail in scenes with both deep shadows and strong highlights, but I found it workable most of the time. I could generally make out clouds against the sky, important for framing landscape shots. It also seemed to do pretty well under low light conditions, although I didn't do a lot of night photography with it. Still, the large pixels of the Sony A55's APS-C size sensor mean that its EVF is much more able to form a usable viewfinder image under dim lighting than is that of a typical digicam. Under really dark conditions, I'd still like to see it gain-up a bit more, though, even at the cost of slower refresh rates.

The time-multiplexed full-color RGB pixel technology generally worked well to deliver very high resolution with no gaps at all between the pixels. The only place I was aware of the EVF pixels were in diagonal strokes of letters on the various VF info readouts or on the electronic level display, when the indicator lines were tilted. I never saw pixel jaggies when looking at the subjects I was shooting, even in the case of sharp high-contrast edges.

The one thing some users might find distracting about the Sony A55's EVF is the RGB "rainbows" you can see when either your eye, the subject or the camera is moving rapidly. Each pixel of the display shows its red, green and blue information sequentially, so if the viewfinder image is moving rapidly relative to your eye, you'll see red, green and blue ghosts or trails around bright objects. I didn't notice this at all until someone pointed it out to me, but after they did, it became unreasonably annoying for a while. After a couple of days of shooting with the camera, though, I again became largely unaware of it and now have to deliberately look for it to be aware of the effect.

The EVF can serve as both shooting and playback display. As mentioned earlier, the ability to check your shots and make camera settings without taking your eye from the eyepiece leads to a slightly different and more efficient shooting style; one that encourages you to learn the camera by feel and memory, rather than looking at the controls as you press them. In only had a few days with the camera, I can see that greater familiarity will produce a very efficient shooting style.

A final benefit of the EVF is it lets you keep the camera to your eye during video recording, something no other dSLR currently offers, although some SLDs do.

I've left perhaps the most salient characteristic of the Sony AF55 EVF till last: It's huge. The view through the Sony A55's eyepiece is much more like a full-frame dSLR than that of any competing sub-frame model currently on the market. It manages this with a comfortably high eye point (and plenty of dioptric adjustment) for eyeglass wearers, at least when simply viewing the live viewfinder image itself.

It turns out that the live viewfinder image doesn't cover the full screen in 3:2 aspect mode, but is normally confined to roughly the central 80 percent of the available display area. When you switch to the Fn menu display, though, you need to press your eye pretty close to the eyepiece to see the menu items on the left and right sides of the screen. With my eyeglasses on, I had to shift my eye to the left or the right to see the menu entries on the sides or else really mash my eyeglasses against the eyecup. Switching to 16:9 aspect ratio expands the image to fill the left and right of the EVF's LCD as well, which is also problematic for eyeglass wearers.

HIGH SPEED SHOOTING

A major point of Sony's translucent mirror technology is to permit autofocus operation and image exposure to overlap each other, enabling very fast continuous burst shooting with accurate autofocus tracking. It in fact does a remarkable job of delivering 10 fps full-resolution shooting speeds, although in some respects, the experience is still rather different than shooting with high-end pro dSLRs with that sort of burst capability. The heart of the difference has to do with what image the Sony A55 is showing you through the viewfinder at any given moment.

High-end professional dSLRs drop the mirror between exposures, providing a direct (however brief) view of the subject between shots. In contrast, in their highest-speed capture modes, the Sony A33 and A55 display a static image of the shot they've just captured. Rather than seeing interrupted glimpses of your subject in motion, the A55 displays a procession of still images, each lagging the subject motion by 1/10 second (at the highest frame rate, about 1/6 second at the highest "normal" continuous capture rate).

I'm not remotely an experienced sports shooter, so I can have trouble tracking fast-moving subjects under the best of circumstances. And I found tracking fast action closely based on a series of static images delayed by 1/10 second was quite a bit harder still. After a little practice, I got better at it, but I sometimes resorted to tricks like keeping both eyes open while shooting or shooting in short bursts and using the time between bursts to get the subject properly framed with full-time live view again.

I found the AF tracking to be very fast and pretty accurate, almost too fast in some cases. If I let the central AF point wander off the subject for a fraction of a second, focus would quickly shift to the background. Many of my missed-focus shots were the result of this. Some high-end dSLRs have an autofocus setting to adjust how quickly they respond to momentary loss of the subject. If Sony were able to add that to the A33/55, it could go a long way to reducing the number of missed shots.

While the viewfinder display led to a bit of a learning curve for tracking fast action, its buffer-clearing speed is an ongoing issue. The A55 can capture shots with amazing speed, but once its buffer is filled, things slow dramatically. In fairness, with something like a half a gigabyte of memory buffer, it's perhaps reasonable for it to take a while to get all that data dumped out to an SD card, even a fast one. Also mitigating the issue is that the camera would indeed let me resume shooting after it had dumped a few shots to the card (as do most dSLRs). The most irritating point was that it seemed to take forever before the Sony A55 would let me look at what I'd just shot. If I'd filled the buffer, it took upwards of 15 seconds before I could even view the first image on the LCD -- and a good while longer before the buffer was completely empty and the camera was back to its maximum burst-length capacity.

This dead-screen issue was so pronounced that I dropped back to 6 fps rather than 10 and shot in short bursts. More than with many cameras with lesser speed or buffer capacity, I found myself shooting to manage the camera's buffer, more than simply focusing on the subject and the action taking place.

For all my complaining about the difficulty of tracking sports subjects with the Sony A55 and its dead-screen issue, though, the difference between it and other consumer-level dSLRs is little short of astonishing. It may not be a direct substitute for a Canon 1D Mark IV or Nikon D3s, but if your budget is under $1,000 and you shoot any fast action at all, the Sony A55 (or its slightly slower and lower-resolution sibling the A33) is a hands-down slam-dunk purchase decision. There's nothing else in the large-sensor segment of the digital camera market that remotely approaches its high-speed capture capabilities.

VIDEO SHOOTING

Video capture is an area where the Sony A55's translucent mirror technology makes a huge difference relative to pretty any other dSLR and relative to even fast-focusing SLDs. Every other interchangeable-lens camera currently on the market either doesn't autofocus at all when recording videos or has to resort to slower and/or more obtrusive contrast-detect focusing. Because the Sony A55's phase-detect AF system is always looking at the subject, fast autofocus at wide open apertures during video recording is no problem.

Phase-detect AF isn't just faster, though, it's much less noticeable in your videos. Because phase-detect AF actually measures the amount of mis-focus, it can command the lens to go directly to the correct focus setting, without hunting back and forth. In comparison, contrast-detect AF has to try different focus settings one after another, checking to see whether each amounted to better or worse focus than the one that preceded it. This can be quite distracting in the recorded video, as you can visibly see the focus shifting back and forth, even when the subject isn't moving.

It's not all a bed of roses with video and live AF on the Sony A55, though. While it tracks action very well, focus actuation with the kit lens is far from silent: In anything but a very loud environment, the "chock... chock" of the lens' focus operation is painfully apparent in the audio track. Even with the ultrasonic motor-equipped Sony 70-200mm f2.8-GB lens attached, focus noise was quite audible in quiet environments. Another really annoying (and entirely avoidable) audio artifact is the loud click that's recorded at the very end of each video clip; the sound of your pressing the video on/off button to stop the recording. I experienced this with the NEX-5 as well and it honestly seems like a bug to me. With as much buffer memory as the Sony A55 has, it should be fairly easy to just lop off the last fraction of a second of the video captured, to avoid recording the button click.

The Sony A55 has the best video AF of any interchangeable-lens camera currently on the market, but if you plan on doing much video recording, I'd suggest you also plan on buying an accessory external microphone to record the audio.

EXPOSURE ACCURACY

While we didn't encounter any exposure accuracy issues in our lab tests, I had a little trouble with the Sony A55's exposure system in the field. Under bright sunlight, I was generally shooting with -0.3 EV of exposure compensation dialed in. Looking at my photos on the computer later, it seemed that many of them really could have used -0.7 EV. The overexposure bias seemed fairly universal under bright lighting, regardless of whether the subject itself was low- or high-key. Shots under lower lighting didn't seem to have the same issue, though.

Besides the overexposure bias, I also found the metering system was prone to more variation than I'm accustomed to seeing in a dSLR. The few times I had it locked down on a tripod, shot-to-shot exposure seemed pretty consistent, but on several occasions shooting handheld, I found significant variation between successive shots, apparently resulting from fairly minor changes in framing. I'd of course expect exposure to vary to follow changes in the scene, but the amount of variation I saw between very similar shots taken with the A55 was unusual.

BATTERY LIFE (OR NOT)

The one negative that most stands out actually has little to do with the Sony A55 as a camera. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about shooting with it isn't whether I'll be able to bring back the shots I want, but whether the battery will last long enough to do so. I have no doubt the Sony A55 will meet the fairly generous shot-life numbers quoted under the CIPA specs, but with the camera rattling off hundreds of shots in amazingly short order, what most struck me was just how fast I seemed to run out of battery life. It's so easy to run through a full battery in just a couple of hours of active shooting that two batteries should be considered a minimum for a day of serious shooting.

CONCLUSION

While I found enough to quibble about to justify my role as a reviewer, I also found the Sony A55 and A33 to be uniquely compelling cameras. The most telling point was how hard I found it going back to an ordinary dSLR after just a day of shooting with the A55.

I've long been an avowed EVF-hater, but the viewfinder display on the Sony A55 is good enough that I found myself sorely missing it when I returned to shooting with a conventional sub-frame dSLR with a typically small optical viewfinder. The Sony A55's shooting speed matches that of professional models costing literally thousands of dollars more thanks to the unique pellicle mirror design and its uniquely Sony features (Handheld Twilight/Multi-Shot ISO and Sweep Panorama modes in particular) take the A55 places no other dSLR has gone before. I was also pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the Sony A55's grip was, given the tiny body size. I still prefer having more to wrap my fingers around, but this is as good a grip as I've seen on a dSLR body this compact.

While its primary target clearly is not the entry-level shooter, the Sony A55's Auto+ mode takes it closer to true "just push the button" simplicity in Auto mode than any other camera, enabling novice-level users to enjoy the multi-shot and other Scene modes without having to worry about which to use when. At the other end of the spectrum, for the enthusiast with time to become acquainted its capabilities and familiar with its quirks, the Sony A55 expands the realm of amateur photography further than any dSLR.

In the A55 and A33, Sony has used outside-the-box thinking to deliver a uniquely capable, functional and well-designed dSLR. Hot on the heels of their category-redefining NEX-3 and NEX-5, Sony's engineers have now likewise redefined what consumers can expect from an dSLR.

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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:

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Beginners Flash: Camera Position

Sometimes we run into a complete nut on our little trips around the city taking gallery shots with review cameras. The other day we observed a surprisingly neat fellow in a white coat observing a number of people on Twin Peaks. He barely moved.

But he was (with the help of a catering truck we had no hope of budging) blocking our way, so we engaged him in a little chat. Turns out he's certified. Dr. Kramer Kook, OCD.

He was trying to figure out just what the most popular camera position is. "It's my specialty, you see."

After years of research, he confided, he's found most people like to hold the camera with two hands at eye level. "With the singular exception of people taking self-portraits," he qualified his finding.

We wondered if he'd reached any conclusions about how far they stretch out their arms.

"How far they stretch out their arms," he repeated, "is really a function of age. Older people stretch their arms out further than younger ones, who tend to hold the camera pretty close. This," he surmised, "has to do with being able to see the image on the LCD, including the tell-tale icons, and reading whatever important text might pop up. Like a low battery warning."

Nearly everybody stands straight up, too, he hastened to add. "Even when photographing children, who, when upright, are barely so." He chuckled at this observation.

We knew we weren't going to be able to stop him now.

"In nearly all these cases," he extended his arm, "the camera, seen from the side, intersects a straight line from the eyes of the photographer to the eyes of the subject. The subject, that is, is observed strictly through the camera's LCD.

"I refer to this as the Direct Camera Position. It would surprise most of those I've observed to know that it's only one of several possible camera positions.

"The others, by definition, are indirect camera positions. The Overhead Camera Position, for example, points down at the scene. The LCD may remain visible and, indeed, some LCDs can actually be seen from a sharp angle so the photographer can compose the shot.

"That virtue is helpful with the Ground-level Camera Position, too. At ground-level the camera may point straight ahead, consuming a good bit of pavement in the lower third or half of the frame, or it may point upward.

"Then, of course, there's the Self-Portrait Camera Position in which the lens is pointed back at the photographer, who is usually embracing a friend or lover as a prop. As good an excuse as any," he chuckled again.

Perspiration dripped freely from his forehead. He paused to catch his breath.

"In the Spherical Theory of Camera Positions," Dr. Kook continued when his pulse had slowed to normal, "the camera can travel anywhere along what one would describe as the surface of a sphere. It's good to keep this sphere in mind for all the alternatives it offers the photographer. Just by moving the camera to a different position along the sphere, a quite ordinary shot can become a most striking one!"

Our neck tired from nodding, we bid the professor adieu and cycled home the way we had come. He didn't seem to notice we'd gone. His arms were still waving in wide arcs high above the sparkling city below him.

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Advanced Mode: Using Fast Primes With Live View

We're not sure how to describe the problem. Either we're succumbing to the siren song of our old primes or we're returning to our less sophisticated roots. Whatever the reason, we've been shooting with 35mm and 50mm primes on our subframe dSLRs lately.

They're old primes. Galileo probably polished them. But they've seen what we've seen for over 30 years now (Jimmy Carter was President, that's how we remember). So we're old friends. And they haven't slowed down. They're the fastest lenses we own.

But they aren't autofocusing old friends. They're manual focus only. And it can be difficult to find focus manually on a dSLR focusing screen. We considered a brighter focusing screen like the KatzEye (http://www.katzeyeoptics.com), but we're afraid of all forms of surgery. Instead, we've been fudging. Focus a little too far and a little too short and find the sweet spot in between.

That's how we compensate for the lack of any real focusing aids on the focusing screen of our dSLRs. No split-prism or microprism collar (unless you get a KatzEye, that is). Just that imitation ground glass made of microlenses.

One problem with our workaround is how long it takes. Your subject may not be in the mood to smile for five or six seconds. They may be accustomed to shooters whose lenses can autofocus.

The big problem, though, is that it's just impossible to judge focus wide open with a fast lens. Why? Because the focusing screen wasn't designed for lenses that fast. Our widest apertures, we noticed, are all about the same brightness. When f1.8 is as bright as f4, you aren't seeing what's in focus at f1.8. The focusing screen's microlenses show more depth of field than the lens sees.

So what looks sharp to us in the viewfinder turns out to be out of focus on the print. In the optical viewfinder, we had focused an f1.2 aperture using an f4 image.

Which might make that bright third-party focusing screen seem like the intelligent choice. But even bright focusing screens have their drawbacks (like spot metering with apertures slower than f3.5 and a loss of contrast).

Hang on, though. If your dSLR has Live View (Focus Check Live View on Sony Alphas), you've got a very helpful alternative a button push away.

We tend to think of Live View as a compositional aid for scenes where the camera has to separate itself from our eye. Or for special situations like macro photography or tripod work. It shines in those cases, no question.

But as the undisputed final arbiter of focus, you can rely it even in common situations. Like shooting with old manual-focusing primes.

There are a few reasons Live View is so helpful.

The first is that it shows you precisely what the sensor sees. It isn't an approximation like your optical viewfinder. There's no back or front focusing with a manual focus lens, no mechanical compromise, no slight disagreement between the optical path to the viewfinder and the path to the sensor. It's exactly what you're going to get when you snap the shutter.

The second is that it lets you magnify the image. This is what makes it so useful in macro photography. But it also helps in those situations where you just can't quite see what's in focus. It lets you peer in a little more closely to see what's going on.

The third is that the auto gain of the LCD when stopping down the lens brightens the image so you can more easily see the effect of a smaller aperture. Depth of field preview becomes easier to appreciate in Live View than the darkened port of the optical viewfinder.

And a fourth reason is you can superimpose a grid on the LCD so you can make sure you're shooting level.

But can you really hand-hold Live View?

The big obstacle is camera shake. Especially if the mirror is banging around and you're surprised by it. One way around that is to use Continuous Release mode rather than Single. You can discard the sacrificial first shot and use a sharper subsequent shot.

Otherwise, when we shoot with the primes wide open, we find Live View is the only way we can be assured we've focused sharply on the subject and blurred what we thought we had blurred.

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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 the Nikon "Friends of the 8800" discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a

Visit the Olympus dSLRs Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea6bcb

A user comments on the Casio EXILIM EX-FH100 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeb0db1/0

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

Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2

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Just for Fun: The Era of Happy Endings

(Describing another frustrating tech support experience the other day, we sighed, "The era of happy endings must be over." Then we realized no one had written that fable yet. -- Editor)

Once upon a time in the Land of Unusual Occurrences, Every Little Hiccup was resolved simply by holding your breath. Even more serious things like Massive Unemployment, which indeed was unusual, were routinely unwrinkled. In that case, for example, by imagining new industries which, inevitably, required a new workforce.

It was simple. Or rather, it was the Era of Happy Endings.

In those days, the world was managed by people with Open Eyes. They blinked, of course, but they knew when to blink. Not in the face of an unusual occurrence, let's just say.

No one really minded if the people with Open Eyes kept their mouths shut as long as they kept their ears open. Mouths have a habit of repeating themselves regardless of the circumstances (and sometimes even in the face of Obstinate Questions).

Not that the people with Open Eyes who managed the Land of Unusual Occurrences never spoke. They spoke. And not in whispers. And not to describe the Merely Tolerable as Fantastic. Or Some Old Prejudice as Universal Knowledge. No, nothing like that at all. Instead, they were often heard to say (after a pregnant period of silent listening), "I have a solution." Or, "Let's try this."

But, after all, it was their job to come up with solutions or, lacking that, a new approach that might lead to one. Which isn't really hard to do if you open your eyes long enough to see the problem in the first place.

And then too, it was the Era of Happy Endings in the Land of Unusual Occurrences.

The ideas they had made sense. The products they manufactured worked. The workers who made them were proud. The consumers who bought them were delighted. That's just how everything went in the Era of Happy Endings, no matter how unusual the occurrences.

It's worth remembering how things were in the Era of Happy Endings. We still live in the Land of Unusual Occurrences, after all. Even if the Era of Happy Endings is over.

You can tell that it's over by all the merely tolerable products that win fantastic awards and the old prejudices that get pawned off as common knowledge. Not to mention the problem solvers who haven't a clue what the issue is. They proudly point out that they never blink. But that's only because they never open their eyes.

So the ideas they have do not even come close. And the products they manufacture never work. And the workers who make them pretend their job benefits are good. And the consumers who buy them, return them after becoming unhinged by an hour or two with customer support. And the unusual occurrences become everyday realities.

Yes, the Era of Happy Endings is over, everybody knows that. But it wasn't just a fairy tale. It's how we all got here, in fact. We were supposed to be the happiest of Happy Endings.

But look at the mess we made. Just open your eyes -- but, you know, don't hold your breath.

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RE: A Child's Guide

The "Beginners Flash: A Child's Guide to Photography" was wonderful!

As is your newsletter in general. I've been a avid reader for a number of years now, and I rely on your thorough knowledge of photography and clear writing to enhance my own image-making and enjoyment of the field. You can see a few of my images at: http://www.redwoodblock.com

Keep up the good work!

-- Doug Foxgrover

(Thanks, Doug! Enjoyed your site, too. Tell me a bit about how you did the conversions? -- Editor)

All of the images began as digital photographs I took. My darkroom/studio is mostly Photoshop and Painter. I make and use lots of layers, some of the whole image and some of selections. I use filters, tools, blending modes, masks and many color and brightness manipulations. I don't have one technique or recipe -- I've tried to narrow it down, but each emergent image needs/wants its own handling -- just like in the analog darkroom.

I aim toward results closer to printmaking, painting and/or drawing, as opposed to photo-realism. I also bring out texture, both of the image (emboss/deboss) and of the media (paper and ink). Since these images were made, I have begun to produce handmade paper, a luxurious object and medium.

I start with pictures based mostly on composition, color and/or subject matter and strive to produce final images that offer a sense of recognition, yet amazement and wonder, to the viewer. I like it if people puzzle a little about what's going on, if they are curious and "drawn in" to the image. (In printed form, there is always more to see by looking at these images up close, in addition to the view across the room). My images can engage the viewer at both close- and far-range, not just either one. That also works as a metaphor for near- and far-ranging goals/sights/ideas, etc.

I have a new show opening in September, for which I'm still producing, so I better get on with it. Thanks again for your great newsletter. All the best to you at Imaging Resource!

-- Doug

Interesting short on kids and cameras. Thank you.

Coincidentally, I just finished the second week of teaching Nature Photography to kids at our Tallahassee Museum (http://www.tallahasseemuseum.org).

This was part of Summer Camp there and a great experience for kids of all ages. I have been volunteering there for, oh maybe, 40 years!

My first week was with a younger bunch while this last week was with 12-14 year-olds. These kids, while for the most part using point-and-shoot digicams (among them a couple of Coolpix, a Canon Powershot and several smaller Canon, Casio, Kodak, Fuji etc.), shot surprisingly well and asked intelligent questions.

It kept me on my toes. Of course I couldn't really answer all the "how do I get my camera to do this" questions. But I did manage to get some of them through the menu system to a likely answer.

But when yesterday we sat down with my computer expert co-leader (who took some awesome shots with a Verizon Droid cellphone) and put the kids choices into a sort of slide program, I was truly amazed at the quality and the variety of shots.

These kids had imagination, thought outside the box and well, did I say I was amazed?

And delighted too, to see so many of them take a real interest in nature and take photos that not only were technically sound but illustrated a relationship with the world around them.

There is hope for the future, Mike, at least with the segment that has parents thoughtful and financially stable enough (there were scholarships available too) to bring their kids to the Museum.

-- Nick Baldwin

(And the thought that they can all read too really cheers us up <g>! Sounds like you had just as much fun as they did, Nick. -- Editor)

RE: Xipels?

I think you invented a new term in v12n17, or I missed the rise of a new technology -- "To keep the math simple let's say you have a 20x15 xipel sensor." "xipel"? (Occurs multiple times in the letter response regarding aspect ratios and pixel loss). <grin>

-- Clayton Curtis

(Yep, new term. A xipel is an imaginary photo site on sensors with no more than two digits of resolution in any dimension. We didn't want anyone to think we were talking about pixels. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

The Ansel Adams Publishing Trust has file suit in federal court in San Francisco against Rick Nosigian for selling prints and posters under the Adams' name. The suit claims Nosigian and PRS Media Partners have "acted knowingly, willfully and with malice" in marketing prints from glass negatives Nosigian once bought at a garage sale and claims is Adams' work.


Cosina (http://www.cosina.co.jp) has announced support for the Micro Four Thirds system standard, joining Olympus and Panasonic. The company will offer Cosina and Voigtlander lenses with its Micro Four Thirds cameras and in October will introduce its Nokton 25mm f0.95 lens in the format.


Alien Skin (http://www.alienskin.com) has released its $199 Bokeh 2 [MW], a lens simulation plug-in to manipulate focus, vignette and depth of field.


Singular Software (http://www.singularsoftware.com) has released its $150 PluralEyes [MW] to automatically synchronize audio and video clips without the need for timecode, clappers or any special preparation.


Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) has announced its $159.95 HDR Efex Pro [MW], a Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture plug-in featuring the company's U Point selection technology, proprietary tone mapping algorithms, automatic image alignment and more. The product will ship in October.


Nikon (http://support.nikonusa.com) has updated its Capture NX 2.2.5 with D3100 Raw file conversion, Picture Control settings changes, correction profiles for new lenses, Mac Snow Leopard compatibility and more.

Earlier the company released an update for View NX 2, which included Transfer 2 in the View NX 2 folder along with Message Center 2.


Archive Photos (http://www.gettyimages.com/EditorialImages/Archival) offers "historic and contemporary images of the American experience" from Getty Images.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $34.95 GraphicConverter 6.7.4 [M] with an option to scale after cropping, PDN previews, batch sepia toning, improved Paperport import, an updated Raw importer and more.


JetPhoto (http://www.jetphotosoft.com) has released its free Studio 4.9.1 [MW] with style settings for Google Earth and Google Map, more GPS tagging options, interface improvements and bug fixes.


Houdah (http://www.houdah.com) has released its $30 HoudahGeo 2.6 [M] with support for publishing projects to EveryTrail.com trips and CloudMade instead of Google Maps for manual GPS tagging. The company explained, "Unfortunately Google has decided to start charging disproportionate fees for our use of their services. Rather than burden our users with a monthly use fee, we have decided to move to cheaper CloudMade solution and swallow the cost ourselves. This affects only the Map Inspector and Map Geocoding features. Integration with Google Earth remains available for geocoding photos from satellite imagery."


Google (http://picasa.google.com/mac) has released it free Picasa for Mac 3.8 with Face Movie (an automatic slide show focusing on an individual), simultaneous batch uploads to Picasa Web Albums and Google contact groups, an Edit in Picnik option, XMP support with Exif support, support for color profiles and more.


Apple (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4286) has released Snow Leopard Graphics Update with "stability and performance fixes for graphics applications and games in Mac OS X v10.6.4."


Findley Designs (http://www.findleydesigns.com) has released its $12.99 iPod Access Photo 1.8 [MW] with support for the iPad and iPhone 4, plus a fix for a problem reading thumbnails on the iPhone 3 and 3GS using iOS 4.


The free JAlbum 8.9.3 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net) adds automatic repair of broken links in subfolders when repairing links in parent folders, higher precedence for image-specific and folder-specific variables (over global user variables), a faster API for file copy operations, improved Google maps integration in the Turtle skin and more.


Adobe (http://www.photoshop.com) has released Photoshop Express Editor, Photoshop Express Organizer and Photoshop Express Uploader, a free set of integrated online apps for editing organizing, syncing and sharing photos on Photoshop.com.

Earlier the company had released its free Photoshop Express for iPad and iPhone. Formerly known as Photoshop.com Mobile, the newly-branded application brings quick and easy photo editing organizing and sharing technology to the iPad.


Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com) has announced its $1,099 EOS 60D dSLR and four new L-series lenses and two new accessory extenders for professionals and advanced amateurs. The 60D features a 3.0-inch, 1,040,000-dot Vari-Angle LCD, Full HD video recording, in-camera Raw processing, Creative Filters and an 18-megapixel sensor. See our preview (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E60D/E60DA.HTM).

The new lenses include an EF 8-15mm f4L Fisheye USM lens ( the world's widest fisheye zoom), the EF 70-300mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM lens, the EF 300mm f2.8L IS II USM and the EF 400mm f2.8L IS II USM super-telephoto lenses and the new Extender EF 1.4x III and Extender EF 2x III.

Canon also announced its EOS 7D Studio Version dSLR for professional school and event photographers with four levels of locking camera controls for studio environments and a Canon Barcode Solution to link customer data directly with the image file. With the Barcode kit, the 7DSV is $2,599. Body only is $1,829.

The company has also announced its $299.99 PIXMA MG8120 and $199.99 PIXMA MG6120 Wireless Photo All-In-One printers with its new Intelligent Touch System and Full High Definition Movie Print. Both printers use six ChromaLife100+ inks but the MG8120 includes a built-in film adapter unit for scanning slides and negatives. Note that the MC5220 we reviewed in the last issue does not use the Intelligent Touch System.

Finally, Canon introduced its $99.99 SELPHY CP800 compact photo printer, which features a new tilt LCD screen in addition to a new Shuffle feature that selects images from a memory card to be compiled all on one print.


Nikon (http://www.nikonusa.com) has introduced its $699.95 D3100 dSLR and four Nikkor lenses. The 14.2-Mp DX-format CMOS D3100 with the new EXPEED 2 image processing engine features an enhanced Guide Mode and full HD video. See our preview (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D3100/D3100A.HTM).

The new glass includes: the AF-S DX 55-300mm f4.5-5.6-GB ED VR, the AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6-GB ED VR, the AF-S 24-120mm f4-GB ED VR and the AF-S 85mm f1.4-GB. The three zooms use Nikon's Virbration Reduction II image stabilization and all four have Nikon's Silvent Wave Motor technology.

The company also announced its $349.95 Coolpix S1100pj, a refresh of its projector camera with a 40 percent brighter projector and its $179.95 Coolpix S5100 with 720p HD video and a tripod detection function to optimize settings for handheld or tripod use.


PictoColor (http://www.pictocolor.com) has released its $124.95 iCorrect Portrait 2.0 with full compatibility with the Adobe Photoshop CS5 in both 32 and 64-bit Windows environments. The new version also seamlessly integrates noise removal and sharpening technology with PictoColor's skin tone technology. The company said this is the first "in the process of creating new Photoshop CS5 Win and Mac 32/64 bit versions of our iCorrect plug-in product line to be released over the next few months."


Rocky Nook (http://rockynook.com) has published The Wild Side of Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher. Learn how to build a shift/tilt lens for your dSLR from an old 120mm film camera, try the camera toss, shoot images from a kite, use a peephole door viewer as a fisheye lens or build your own pinhole camera. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952512/?tag=theimagingres-20).


NTI (http://www.nticorp.com) has released Shadow 5 for Mac with volume cloning, folder merging, a mini status window and a new look and feel for the $49.99 backup program.


Mamiya (http://www.mamiya-usa.com) and Phase One (http://www.phaseone.com) have announced the V-Grip Air for the 645DF. The companies said the new grip is not only the first vertical grip with a built-in wireless flash trigger but also "the first and only wireless flash sync solution for a medium format camera system capable of delivering sync speeds as fast as 1/1600s."

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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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