The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 12, Number 21 8 October 2010

Copyright 2010, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 290th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Shawn got his mits on both the Panasonic LX5 and Canon S95 and somehow freed his fingers for two hands-on reports. We're expanding our New on the Site column to keep up with all the new dSLR and mirrorless models, plus reveal a bit more of what's happening behind the scenes at headquarters -- don't miss it. And we once again ask for your Nobel nominations. We always love to hear from you, you know.


TOPICS

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Feature: Panasonic LX5 User Report

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LX5/LX5A.HTM on the Web site.)

It used to be that only a few cameras came through our review cycle that really raised our interest as photographers. We tend to like and recommend a reasonable percentage of the digital cameras we choose to review, but only a few stand out enough that we'd like to add them to our own camera bags. No-nonsense designs that focus on premium optical and sensor performance are what most of us prefer and lately the SLD (Single Lens Direct-view) category has been delivering a steady stream of interesting cameras that answer the need on both counts. Still, no SLD has reached the small size of the Panasonic LX5 and Canon S95. These two compete in the everywhere-camera category, because they're small enough for most pockets or purses, but don't compromise as much on optical or low-light performance.

We've finally begun to see f2.8 lenses on a good many point-and-shoot digital cameras, but the LX5 and S95 are a full stop faster than just about anything else, opening to f2.0 at their widest focal lengths. Zoomed to its maximum telephoto, the LX5's maximum aperture is f3.3. But that's enough to create reasonable bokeh for relatively close subjects. Not bokeh approaching what an SLD or SLR will deliver, but not bad for a small-sensor camera.

The LX5 is noticeably larger than the Canon S95 created to compete with it. In its favor, the LX5 has a grip, a hot shoe and a 3.8x zoom with a wider maximum setting of 24mm. The Canon S95 has smaller body with fewer snags, an adjustment ring surrounding the lens and 3.8x zoom that starts at 28mm; it lacks a Record start button that drops you instantly into Movie mode, a strange omission from the company that pioneered this feature. Both have a 10-megapixel sensor designed to be better in low light, 3-inch LCDs (with different aspect ratios), pop-up flashes and f2.0 lenses.

With its advanced sensor, the LX5 should be able to take better pictures in low light. In my own use, though, I found the most advantage in the LX5's outdoor performance, where it turned in excellent detail and pretty deep depth of field even at f4. Indoors and in low light I had a lot more trouble with white balance and focus, missing too many shots for my taste.

There's no question the LX5 is a fine looking camera. It's also very likeable in its personality. The lens extends and zooms like a whisper, though it is a little slow. The LCD is beautiful and refreshes quickly. Autofocus is quicker than the LX3, as well and I really prefer the jog dial on the back over the joystick, which always seemed a bit out of place and clumsy. Popping up the flash makes me wonder what they were thinking, because the flash always hits the finger I'm using to actuate the release slider, so there's one knock; but that's not really a problem: just open it more carefully or learn to like having your finger popped up along with the flash.

Stabilization. One place the LX5 has no deficiency is in its optical image stabilization system. I'm always impressed when using Panasonic's stabilization, but they've outdone themselves with the new Power O.I.S. I got stable images I had no right to get and often in low light with slow exposures the person in the foreground might be blurry, but it was because they moved, not because of focus or a failure of the IS system. Concentrate on holding the camera still and the LX5 will take your cue. Suddenly the image is perfectly stable. You can see the camera still moving, but that image onscreen is not. It doesn't float. It just sits. A few times I've had to wonder whether I'd pressed the Playback button. It's the best I've seen.

Step zoom. It used to be we criticized cameras whose zooms moved in steps, rather than smoothly following the dictates of our fingers. Suddenly it's a hot option to have the lens zoom in steps, simulating a camera bag full of prime lenses. I turned the feature on. I'm not sure I get it. The list of options includes 24, 28, 35, 50, 70 and 90. It is nice to have repeatability, but I'd like the option to remove a few of the positions, as this seems too many.

Part of what makes the mode annoying is that the otherwise fine lens zooms so slowly. If this mode increased the zoom speed, it would be worthwhile. But it's sluggish. The advantage to sluggish outside of this Step zoom mode is that you have more time to pick whatever focal length you want, but I'd still like it to move faster. That could have been done with a two-speed zoom toggle, but instead it's slow to start, taking what seems like more than half a second and slow to travel once it's started.

Menus. The LX5 uses the same basic Panasonic menu structure that works well on all of their pocket cameras. My only complaint is that there are so many options, which isn't much of a complaint. There are seven pages of items on the Record and Setup pages, five items per page. Operation is straightforward. I like the Quick menu, but I'm not sure I would have chosen all the same items that Panasonic chose, especially the LCD backlight control. But again, all that is incidental on any camera. What they have is well-laid-out and works quickly.

Scene modes too are Panasonic's standard set, so I don't have much to say about them. I don't generally use Scene modes except on cameras that do multi-shot tricks that are useful low-light tools. The LX5 relies on its fast lens and sensor to deal with low light, which I prefer over a special mode.

The Playback menu has one interesting option called Leveling. A relatively fine grid is overlaid on the image and you can tilt the image to straighten buildings or match the horizon line. The image is automatically cropped, of course. You can also add text to your images, including things like location, name, date and time.

Pocket changes. As I mentioned, the LX5's big advantage is its relative pocketability. Even the lens cap is made well enough that it stayed on in my pocket. It has very strong springs behind a two-sided cap that really hold well. Cheap lens caps can come off in a pocket or bag, but this one didn't. I don't say that it won't, but it's a lot less likely than most. But there are basic disadvantages to putting the LX5 in a pocket, chiefly that two of the key dials change while they're in there. Nearly every time I pulled the LX5 from my pocket, either the Aspect ratio slider had moved or the Mode dial had. Mostly both changes are easy to detect before you commit to your next shot and the dials make changing the settings back to your preferred ones easy enough, but it would be a lot better if they stayed put a little better.

The good news about dials is that the new Rear dial is better behaved. It's almost difficult to turn by comparison, because it's so well-recessed. I prefer that to the way the Canon S95 handles their rear dial, because Canon again uses a very loose dial that changes Exposure value too easily with an accidental turn -- and there's no way to disable it. The LX5's rear dial requires a more deliberate effort to turn, which is good, because turning it in Aperture or Shutter priority modes changes those settings. That can make adjustment a little harder, but it's not bad. In Program mode it's even better, because you first have to half-press the shutter button and then you can turn the dial to perform a program shift, where the camera selects a different combination of aperture and shutter speed, yet maintains proper exposure. If you want to make EV changes, just press the dial in and you switch to that option. Press it again to switch back.

Low light. Most of the low-light shooting I did was inside buildings that were reasonably well-lit, but I also made some shots at a high school football stadium. The biggest problem I had there was with auto white balance. The stadium lights rendered skintones green, making them difficult to recover. I was able to fix them reasonably well because I'd shot Raw+JPEG and could fix them in Silkypix, the included Raw processing software. In some of my indoor shots, the white balance is right, but the color is muted, even at the lowest ISOs. Panasonic's color is muted such that I'd prefer to shoot in Raw and develop them all via Silkypix. The only problem with Silkypix is that Panasonic only bundled the Windows version and the only PC I use regularly is my netbook, which takes about 50 seconds to batch-process each photo -- and that's assuming that a batch-process is going to set everything right, which in my experience is unlikely. It's an extra step that enthusiasts would do well to take, but I don't expect many consumers to do so. The Mac version of Silkypix Developer SE, available from the Japanese Silkypix Web site, does open and convert the LX5's Raw images -- and that only takes 10 seconds on a 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac.

Saturation trouble. Most of our Gallery shots (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LX5/LX5GALLERY.HTM) will appear to be doubled, but that's on purpose. The first file is straight from the camera, the second, marked with an "a" at the end of the filename, is processed through Silkypix with the Memory 1 setting for the film. This increases saturation to a more acceptable level. I experimented with the different film modes on the camera, which appear to be different from the Silkypix modes, to get an idea of what each does, but I find the default settings for each to be a bit dramatic (see samples at right). Since our standard procedure for Gallery shots is to set it to Program and shoot with the defaults and I'd already flouted one of those standards by shooting most of the shots in Aperture priority mode at f4, I stuck to the Standard film type for most of the shots.

The good news is that you can create your own custom settings, raising the saturation and contrast if you like, but I still always shoot Raw to make sure I can rescue a good shot from the permanent damage that can be inflicted by noise suppression and JPEG compression.

Studio. As I sat holding the LX5, I considered the hot shoe, a feature found on few cameras of this size. I'd already tried the Olympus FL-35 flash with some success. I supposed my Dynalite IRT-1 infrared transmitter -- effectively a two-channel flash with a red cover on it -- would work to fire my studio lights. Since the LX5 is thought of as a take-anywhere camera for photographers, I wondered how it would perform as a portrait camera in a pinch, say, in case my SLR stopped working. I attached the transmitter, switched the flash setting to Forced, selected Manual mode and turned on the Step Zoom function (turns out that is handy after all when you want to be sure at what focal length you're shooting; I stuck with 70 and 90 equivalents).

Once it was all hooked up and working, which took no time at all, I was able to adjust exposure quickly and start shooting like I was using any SLR, albeit without the optical viewfinder. The results are pretty good. I enjoyed how responsive the shutter was and managed to capture about 125 usable images without thinking about it. Two of the better expressions I captured were out of focus, but only those two. That was disappointing, but otherwise, I'm pretty pleased with the images. Noise suppression is still a little too strong in the JPEGs for my taste, even at ISO 80, but I managed to get some sharp images out of the Raw files. Getting proper color out of the netbook was a greater challenge, though, as its screen is not calibrated.

Ultimately, the LX5 proved itself worthy of its high price tag by being able to stand in for an SLR in a simple portrait shoot. Was it easy? Yes. Was it ideal? Probably not, but it served me just fine. The key was shooting Raw; without that, I'd have been disappointed with the results.

Responsiveness. The LX5 autofocuses significantly faster than the LX3, taking 0.35 at wide-angle, compared to a glacial 0.77 second on the LX3. At telephoto it's 0.37 second vs. 0.76 second on the LX3. The LX5's times are closer to a modern SLR than the average point-and-shoot. Pre-focused, the LX5 and LX3 both take only 0.012 second, which as I just mentioned about the portrait shoot, is quite fast. In low light, the LX5 still focuses a little slower than I'd like, but that's true of an SLR as well.

While AF lag got shorter, shot-to-shot cycle time got longer in the LX5. While the LX3 scored 1.17 seconds between shots in JPEG mode, the LX5 takes 1.59 seconds. Both cameras also fail the "early shutter" test, which is where we press the shutter a second time before the camera can reset. Most cameras will quickly reset and trip the shutter again. The LX5, though, just stops and waits for you to release and re-press the shutter button before it will fire a second time; not the preferred response.

Shooting Wide-Open. I ran into an issue I haven't seen in some time, especially in a premium camera. When shooting outdoors in bright light, opening the aperture to f2.0 overloads the sensor in highlight areas, leaving vertical streaks on the LCD, which makes it hard to check focus and compose your image. The streaks don't show up in the final image because the mechanical shutter is closed during readout, but they're annoying all the same.

The shot at right was the first I noticed the phenomenon, I'd made the shot at f4 and 24mm with amazing depth of field, so I thought I'd see if f2 would blur the background a little, with the sign as the main point of focus. Well, it didn't, because the LX5 has amazing depth of field at wide-angle, even wide-open. But this scene was fraught with white and blue streaks centered on the sign and pillars in the background. Now that you know the LX5's lens has extreme depth of field at wide-angle, you probably won't bother trying to shoot at f2 in bright sunlight and thus won't run into this phenomenon often.

Movies. I had a few opportunities to shoot movies, most of them in Motion JPEG mode. The movies I shot at a football game came out surprisingly good, even handheld.

You can zoom in and out optically while you shoot and you can also adjust shutter speed and aperture as you shoot. It worked for me, but the videos I shot don't demonstrate anything in particular, except the sound the Rear dial makes when you turn it; none of those are included here. Just note that it's loud, so making the changes during recording will have to be edited in post. This is one of the few cameras on the market that gives you this much control over video and yet slips into your pocket afterward.

Manual. Well worth comment is how worthless the Basic Operating Instructions are, both printed and the PDF version. So little information is contained in its 44 pages, it's hard to believe it could be written about this very capable camera. There may be a full PDF manual on the disk, but I could not access it with my Mac.

Relative Resolution. Overall, the LX5 does quite well in low light and well at high ISO. It's not an SLR or an SLD and you'd be mistaken to expect it to be so. But it is among the better light gathering and recording devices currently on the market, with a great lens and a competent sensor. Better results can be obtained by shooting in Raw and developing on the computer later.

SAMPLE IMAGES

You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LX5/LX5A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LX5/LX5GALLERY.HTM.

CONCLUSION

I used the Panasonic LX5 and Canon S95 concurrently and liked a lot about both. The LX5 wins over the gadget lover in me. It just feels cool, like a pro camera miniaturized and captures impressive images. It is a little larger than the competition and those extra gadgety dials do change without permission, which is a minor nuisance. It's a nuisance that would set me searching for a suitable holster or strap, though, not one that would turn me away from the LX5.

My biggest problems with the LX5 are its occasional trouble with Auto White Balance and its tendency toward muted colors. The latter is the same problem I had with the GF1, Panasonic's SLD offering. The solution is to shoot in Raw and process the images afterward in Silkypix. If you can afford it, Lightroom or Aperture are even better solutions for image management and Raw quality tweaking. I could recommend just turning up the saturation or choosing one of the film modes, but the film modes seem too dramatic and would lock users into JPEG images that cannot be fixed.

The LX5 is fast to focus and extremely fast when you pre-focus. Zoom is a little slow to start and move, which isn't great when you're in a hurry to get the shot, but it's actually nice when you're shooting videos, so consider these two aspects. With a slow shot-to-shot time as well, the LX5 isn't necessarily for those in a hurry.

But the LX5 is not the camera I would recommend to someone asking "for the best camera." It is one of the best cameras out there -- for those who will take the time to learn its abilities and also take time with the images afterward. But usually those who ask "for the best camera" just want to point-and-shoot. The LX5 can do that, sure and does a good job, but at times it expects -- even demands -- that you know what the heck you're doing. In that sense, it's comparable to an SLR.

If you want to learn, if you want to grow as a photographer or even an advanced snapshooter, the LX5 is a great choice. If you already own an SLR and want to have something smaller that does a little more than the average pocket camera and has a fast, worthy optic, the LX5 is one of the better choices. Though I found a few things to criticize, I enjoyed it immensely. If you love photography, you'll love the Panasonic LX5.

It's a Dave's Pick.

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Feature: Canon PowerShot S95 User Report

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PS95/PS95A.HTM on the Web site.)

Fresh from reviewing the Panasonic LX5, I'm impressed by the similarities between the it and the $400 Canon PowerShot S95. Both have a 3.8x, f2.0, image-stabilized lens, a 3-inch LCD, a 10-megapixel sensor, a pop-up flash, a zoom toggle surrounding the shutter button and more dials than the average pocket digital camera. Of course, there are differences as well. The S95's focal length ranges from 28-105mm, while the LX5's covers a wider 24-90mm. The S95's LCD is a 4:3 aspect ratio, while the LX5's is 3:2. The S95 is also smaller and has no hot shoe, while it does have a unique reprogrammable front Control Ring. They are both aimed at the premium pocket market and also differ only slightly from their predecessors. For its part, the S95 is improved in some important ways.

SHOOTER'S REPORT

Here's another camera that we who work at Imaging-Resource.com can't help but consider for our own purposes. I try to have a camera with me wherever I go and when I'm not willing to tote a dSLR, I usually choose a pocket camera. Lately, though, I've found the new SLD cameras do a little better overall and don't take up so much space that they're a huge burden. You can't usually fit them in a pocket, but they're still easy to endure on a strap or even just handheld. That's the kind of camera that the Canon S95 and Panasonic LX5 are competing with, in addition to each other.

The LX5 is noticeably larger than the S95. The S95 slips into a pocket easier and has fewer protrusions to snag on pockets. Because two of the three dials are soft dials, it doesn't matter whether they turn in a pocket, while the LX5's dials and sliding switches tend to change in a pocket with annoying regularity. The Mode dial on the S95, for its part, stays right in place when in a pocket. Hang it on a strap and its less of a problem.

The Canon S95 does pretty well in low light, as did the S90 and a particular strength of Canon pocket cameras, Auto White Balance, gives the S95 an edge over the LX5.

What's Fixed. While the flash still pops up into your left index finger when it deploys and the S95 lacks anything resembling a grip, Canon's changes to the rear control cluster and thumb-grip made such a difference that I'm really enjoying my time with the camera. It's not making me angry most of the time and I'm able to get a higher percentage of shots than I did with the S90. The S90 was not a good experience, primarily because the rear Control Dial was constantly changing either the exposure compensation or the shutter speed or aperture without my permission. Since I don't have an S90, I can't be sure that the detents in the rear Control Dial are a little more firm, but I can say that this one is still fairly loose. As I mentioned, it's more like the Olympus E-P1, which I consider quite good, than the S90, which felt broken by comparison.

I added a small grip using Super Sculpey modeling clay, which bakes into a hard, sandable, paintable solid, attaching it temporarily with a 3M Command strip. Be advised that whatever adhesive you use might not stick well enough and you could drop your camera, but I made this one in lieu of buying a much nicer looking grip from Richard Franiec (http://www.kleptography.com/rf), just as a proof of concept. I made mine a little thicker than his to see if I could make the finger grip inside, for the balls of the fingers, which I did, but they don't really work the same on this scale. Regardless, all you need is a little more confidence with a front grip and your thumb raises up on the back, away from the loose Control Dial, as another reviewer pointed out. Without it, you want to move your thumb down to better oppose the fingers on the front in a tighter pinch. Either way, I've had a better experience, but with the grip, the problems I had with the S90 are a distant memory and I whip the S95 around with more confidence. Oh and the regular-strength Command strips come off cleanly every time.

But you don't have to get out the craft supplies to make the Canon S95 yours. Canon has given you at least two easy ways to make the S95 work the way you'd like. The Shortcut button and at least the front Control Ring are quite customizable.

Custom White Balance. Cameras often come to me with unusual settings from the Lab. I accidentally pressed the Shortcut button when I was first playing with the S95 and was annoyed when it automatically set the Custom White Balance. I went straight to the Set Shortcut button Menu item and set the button to "Not assigned." Despite having 20 options, I couldn't find one I'd want to use, especially since Record start is missing from the list. It wasn't five minutes later when I went back to the Menu item and turned Custom White Balance back on. It's actually incredibly handy for today's constantly changing light sources. With so many types of fluorescent lights in my house alone, Auto White Balance systems are quite challenged. But if I encounter a light source the S95 isn't handling right, I just find a scene with some white in it and press the Shortcut button. That takes a reading, momentarily blanking out the screen and sets the White balance to Custom. So long as there's something neutral in the scene toward the center of the frame, the setting is nearly always right. Setting it back to Auto takes a few more steps, pressing the Function/Set button navigating to the White balance control and choosing AWB with the right arrow.

The Shortcut button can also be programmed to "Not Assigned, Face Select, i-Contrast, ISO Speed, White Balance, My Colors, Bracketing, Drive Mode, Light Metering, Aspect Ratio, Select Raw or JPEG, Image size and Compression, Movie Quality, Servo AF, Red-eye Correction, AF Lock, AE Lock, Digital Tele-converter and Display off."

Step Zoom. One of the options for the front Control Ring is Zoom, which brings up a focal length rule onscreen, covering five common focal lengths: 28, 35, 50, 85 and 105mm equivalents. I like that there are fewer than are on the Panasonic LX5. But strangely the camera hesitates like a nervous kid playing musical chairs, not sure whether to move on to the next position, even when I've already clicked to the next stop. It wastes time, unfortunately, but it's not a deal breaker. It's nice to have the presets available when I need them and I can still zoom to a random focal length with the regular zoom toggle around the power button, so you can have quick access to both features without having to commit to either.

Other options for the Control Ring include Standard (which changes according to the exposure mode), ISO Speed, Exposure Compensation/Shutter speed, Manual Focus, White Balance, i-Contrast, Aspect Ratio and Custom, where you can set what you want for both the Control Ring and Control Dial. Frustratingly, though, EV Compensation remains the standard choice for at least one of the controls in Program mode; never is "EV Off" an option. That's all I'd like, a checkbox that disables either the rear Control Dial or else both dials, for the person who doesn't want to be bothered with either. Thankfully, as I've mentioned, my experience has been considerably better, so I'll let it go. Just be aware that if you accidentally turn either of these dials, you might adjust something you didn't intend, so be sure to check your status icons often.

Stabilization. Canon's new Hybrid IS works pretty well and while I haven't had the surreal experience I had with the LX5 of watching the image lock in space while the camera moved, I've been able to take handheld shots in some pretty low light. Hybrid IS is new technology from Canon that compensates for both shift blur and angular or tilting camera motion (point your camera at the sky then the earth to understand what I mean by tilting). I call the S95's IS a success. It works so well that I don't even think about it.

HDR. I have to admit, I really started having fun when I got out the tripod and started playing with the HDR Scene mode. I'm not really a fan of the overblown use of HDR that's rampant in the photo world, but I've also too often been in places that defied capture thanks to bright skies and deep shadows. I happened to try it on a day when the sky was filled with fast moving, mostly dark clouds, with the Sun peeking through now and then. The sky was interesting, but it wasn't possible to properly expose the scenery while maintaining the texture and shape of the clouds, even though they were darker.

Because it's a Scene mode, you're offered no control over the span of exposures captured in HDR mode, nor how they are combined. The S95 takes three shots and combines them in-camera, taking about two seconds to capture the images and four to combine them. Unlike Sony's HDR and low light modes, the S95 does not microalign each image and it won't intelligently delete objects that have moved between exposures. So you need a tripod and a static scene.

Low light. I didn't get in as much low light shooting as I did with the LX5. But where I did, the S95 did quite well. There's some noise even in low ISO images, especially in the shadows, which is strange for a Canon product. When I printed the images in question up to 11x14, though, I didn't see the noise. It was mostly luminance noise and it just blends in.

Many indoor shots are a tad soft, thanks to noise suppression, but again they make good prints, so it's hard to complain about that.

I wandered in to get some shots of my daughter sleeping in her crib. With just the bathroom light on some 20 feet away, she looks like she's in daylight at ISO 3200 with a one-second exposure, braced against the top rail of the crib. At least onscreen and in our thumbnails. But zoomed in it's pretty mottled. I found better quality at ISO 2000, with fewer yellow blotches. The Low light mode didn't even come close to ISO 400 and it was a 2.5-Mp mess of dark blotches at ISO 12,800. Clearly that mode needs more light and even then it's fairly soft detail compared to what 2-Mp cameras put out.

Shots I took in restaurants were certainly usable, but still mostly had soft detail thanks to the low shutter speed of 1/20 second. The camera held the image steady, thanks to Hybrid IS, but very often my subjects moved.

Responsiveness. Autofocus takes a little longer than the Panasonic LX5, about twice as long, at 0.641 second at wide-angle. That's a little slower than average for most pocket digicams, but telephoto is 0.617 second, which is average. Pre-focused shutter lag is 0.096 second. Cycle time is pretty slow, taking 2.58 seconds per shot, averaged over 20 shots. In Raw mode, it's 2.88 seconds. In Continuous mode, the S95 turns out 1.87 frames per second, which is pretty good, certainly better than the S90, which didn't quite manage one fps. Continuous Raw, though, dips back down, at 0.98 fps. Flash recycles in 6.0 seconds, a little slower than average, but not badly.

Movies. Movie mode is improved, now with 720p HD resolution, but unfortunately you cannot zoom optically while shooting a movie. Given the zoom motor noise, it's understandable that you'd not be able to zoom, but still unfortunate. There are three "effects" modes available when recording movies, including Miniature Effect, Color Accent and Color Swap.

Relative resolution. The S95 is slightly sharper with more detail than the LX5 and holds together with fewer artifacts, even at ISO 3200. They're both doing very well, though. ISO 6400 and 12,800 are both supported on both cameras, but we didn't test it on the S95. Neither is that great, though the ISO 6400 image from the LX5 produces a usable 4x6-inch print.

You can expect detail in reds to blur before other colors in the S95. I suppose the only positive effect is that it'll soften and de-emphasize reflections in photographs of hot red cars.

There's a slight improvement in detail retention as ISO of the S95 rises compared to the S90 and even at the lowest ISO 80 setting. That is a welcome sight.

SAMPLE IMAGES

You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PS95/PS95A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PS95/PS95GALLERY.HTM.

CONCLUSION

I'm extremely fond of the small form factor and rock-like feel and finish of the Canon S95. Switching back to a lower-resolution LCD, like the one on the Canon SD1300, really shows the value of spending a little more on a camera if you can.

Most of the rest of the Canon S95 is unchanged, with the same lens, same basic sensor, but an enhanced image-stabilization system. Some have been critical that it's not much of an upgrade, but after using the S95 for a bit, I think it's an improvement. Image quality is also slightly improved and when the resolution doesn't change, that's a good improvement to have.

Overall, the Canon PowerShot S95 has placed itself at the top of my shortlist for my next pocket camera. I'm still torn between the S95 and the Panasonic LX5, with its wider-angle lens, but the S95 has more of what you want a pocket camera for, in a size that's not so tough to pocket. Either way, the Canon S95 is a Dave's Pick.

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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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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 Sony Alpha NEX-5 discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeb022b

Visit the Pentax Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea2980

A photographer is searching for a camera for landscape photography at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeb1492/0

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

Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae

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Just for Fun: Nobel 2010 Nominations, Please!

Now why didn't we think of that. Giving a Nobel to the guy who invented in vitro fertilization, we mean. In vitro may be the best way to propagate excellent Customer Service.

There's no danger of overpopulation when it comes to good experiences with Customer Service. And even one bad experience is too many.

Like when Mom's antique Sanyo 13-inch TV (which must be over 30 years old) started flickering. We convinced her to switch to her first HDTV. She has cable (and we never have), so we were puzzled about how to connect the new TV.

Running the cable directly to the cable-ready HDTV got her HD broadcasts, but only with QAM station numbers (9.1, 9.2, etc. rather than the 1032, 1034 familiar to her) and she couldn't access the cable company's on-demand services. But running the signal through the HD-to-SD converter box supplied by the cable company only delivered SD signals to the HDTV.

So we logged onto the cable company's Web site and found the support section but absolutely no helpful information. So we opted for the chat option, hoping that someone who could type would be smarter than someone who could just talk.

After a laborious hour of trying this and trying that, the specialist told us to take the box in for a swap. It must be defective.

We doubted that.

So we called Customer Support the next day and were told (by a much brighter guy than the typist) that the box Mom had converts the original HD signal into the old SD analog stuff. We could certainly swap it for a box that delivers the HD signals with the usual station numbers and on-demand. For $8 more a month.

That hit our funny bone. "You mean if you did a new installation today at a place with only an HDTV, you'd stick the guy with an analog converter box unless they paid $8 more for an HD box?"

"Yes." Ah, the cruel world of cable TV. Someone tell them HD is the new SD. It isn't an upgrade any more.

As for the box itself, we did have an option. We could exchange the box at the service center or they could send a service rep to swap it out -- for another $20.

The next day we took the old box into the service center. The guy at the counter knew what we needed the minute we explained why we were there. "We just bought an HDTV," we said. "Oh, I'll get you an HD box."

Three days to get a modern signal from the cable company to a new TV.

Sometimes we think there isn't a happy customer service story out there. Which is why we award the Ersatz Nobel for Extraordinary Customer Service every year.

And this just happens to be the time (right now) to chime in with your story. Cheer us up, we dare you. In return, fame, fortune and health -- well, no promises. We'll just remind you that what goes around, tends to come around.

To submit your entry, simply email us at editor@imaging-resource.com with the Subject line "Ersatz Nobel Prize." Please. Before we get out the Petri dish.

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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: Profile a Projector

Is there any way to color correct a PC Projector? Mine projected very dark images?

-- Kent M. Mueller

(Yes, both the Datacolor Spyder and X-Rite ColorMunki can calibrate projectors. There are reviews of both on the site in the Accessories section (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACC1.HTM). -- Editor)

RE: CanoScan 9000F

I want to scan old glass negatives 164mm x121mm will the CanoScan 9000F do the job? If not, what will? I have a collection of approximately 13,000 old photos of the western district of Victoria from 1858 to 1960 so I need to get good quality scans.

-- Vern McCallum

(The light source of transparency adapter on the 9000F measures 3-1/8 x 10-3/4 inches, a bit shy of your negatives. Take a look at the Epson V700/V750. You can actually scan more than one at a time on that scanner's glass bed. Although to do 13,000 or them, we'd buy a hundred of them and throw a scanning party. -- Editor)

RE: Baryth Traditional paper

I am looking to find a good assortment of photographic paper in Baryth traditional. Where could I find some in eastern Canada or the U.S.?

-- Claude Michaud

(Most printer manufacturers offer a wide-ranging line of papers in several weights and finishes that resemble fiber printing paper for gelatin silver prints. Epson's Premium Lustre has often been cited as a close match for a traditional Baryth sheet, for example. And there are many others. Crane's Museo Silver Rag, Hahnemule's Pearl sheets and Canon's Fine Arts papers are all options. And more are coming. These aren't generally available (in, say, office supply stores), but you can always find them online, usually directly from the manufacturer. -- Editor)

RE: X-On/X-Off

I can't catch you, but I'll try for a virtual beer.

XOFF (ASCII) = Ctrl-S = octal 23 XON (ASCII) = Ctrl-Q = octal 21

All very useful back in the days of 300 baud modems or (even earlier) ASR 33/35 teletypes!

<grin>

-- Clayton Curtis

(Bravo! But it looks like the tap for virtual beers is stuck on X-Off. Hope it hasn't got a case of the Control-Z's. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Epson (http://www.proimaging.epson.com) has announced new high-end photo printers shipping in early 2011. Its $2,495 Stylus Pro 4900 17-inch sheet and roll printer leverages the technology of its more expensive Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900, including a TFP print head and UltraChrome HDR ink. The Stylus Pro 7890/9890 are 24 and 44-inch printers for less than $3,000 and $5,000 that combine eight-color UltraChrome K3 Vivid Magenta ink technology with auto-sharing Matte and Photo Black inks, plus a TFP print head to produce high quality prints at speeds about twice as fast as their renowned 900 series predecessors.

The company also announced its Signature Worthy media line of exhibition fiber paper in a variety of finishes. We've seen some samples, and in a word, they're gorgeous.


Roger Cicala has posted his Lens Repair Data 4.0 report (http://www.lensrentals.com/news/2010.09.20/lens-repair-data-40). It's the last one, though, because Lensrentals "will soon start putting the repair data for each lens on the item page in real time."


HDRsof (http://www.hdrsoft.com) has released its $99 Photomatix Pro 4.0 [MW]. The new version includes manual ghosting control, improved noise reduction and more.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released GraphicConverter 7.0.1 [M], a rewrite of the venerable image processing utility in Cocoa, adding GPS/geotagging data mapping with a few features of the earlier version still to come.


O'Reilly has published Elements 9: The Missing Manual by Barbara Brundage, available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1449389678/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Google (http://code.google.com/speed/webp) has announced WebP (pronounced "weppy"), a method of lossy compression for photographic images to "create smaller, better looking images that can help make the Web faster."


WD (http://www.wdc.com/en/products/wdapps/wdphotos.asp) has updated its free WD Photos to run on the iPad, displaying images stored on WD network drives at native resolution on the device.


The free Paddy (http://sourceforge.net/apps/mediawiki/paddy/) [W] allows Lightroom users to "assign any adjustment setting -- including moving the sliders and applying a preset -- to essentially any key, your number keypad, external keypads, and MIDI controller knobs and sliders."


The Census of Marine Life (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/10/04/first-marine-census-describes-the-wonders-and-troubles-of-the-seas/) took 2,700 researchers 10 years to accomplish. Talk about shy portrait subjects.


The Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/caption/captionliljenquist.html) has posted images from its Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Portraits acquisition of nearly 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs of both Union and Confederate soldiers.


Canon (http://usa.canon.com/yoursecondshot) has announced its Take Your Best Shot online sweepstakes through Oct. 31, awarding a PowerShot camera each week as a prize.


Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) has released Silver Efex Pro as a 64-bit plug-in [MW].


The International Press Association with sponsors Alien Skin Software, Manfrotto and Kata Bags have announced Not Another Photo Contest, Contest (http://internationalpress.com/blog/contest-rules) with nearly $8,000 in prizes in amateur and pro categories.


10B Photography (http://www.10bphotography.com) presents Blanco: Visions of Blindness by Stefano De Luigi, who spent four years documenting the various realities faced by the visually impaired around the world, traveling in 16 countries on three continents.

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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
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Happy snapping!

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

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