|Volume 12, Number 22||22 October 2010|
Welcome to the 291st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Optics Pro enlivens your post processing options with an intriguing update. Shawn goes to New Mexico to shoot balloons. And Dave emerges from the lab to describe the new image stabilization test process. Then we suggest more work for your scanner before awarding the 2010 Nobel. Enjoy!
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When it announced version 6.5 of its Optics Pro this week, DxO Labs simply pointed out it would include "high dynamic range capability from a single Raw image" and improved "accessibility and productivity."
But in a press briefing the day before the announcement, DxO Sales and Marketing Director for Photography Cyrille de La Chesnais demonstrated there's a lot more going with this release.
Key to this upgrade is the company's harnessing of its extensive sensor data to image editing issues like noise reduction. It's no secret that faced with a Luminance and a Color noise slider, most Raw shooters are sliding in the dark.
But with Optics Pro 6.5, the program consults the sensor calibration data DxO has developed to automatically set the sliders. So you start off with an optimized image rather than a default Raw conversion.
The implications of this are significant.
SINGLE SHOT HDR
The first of which is Single Shot HDR. In Photoshop CS5 this is a style applied to a single image. In Optics Pro it becomes a new way to expose images.
Cyrille demonstrated the power of Single Shot HDR with an image of a church interior that had been exposed for the stained glass window. The scene was otherwise very dark. But applying Single Shot HDR to the capture lit up the interior without blowing out the window. And when he zoomed in to a detailed view at 100 percent, we could see that Optics Pro had minimized the noise without losing the color saturation.
This can change how you think about Raw exposures. As Bruce Fraser put it in his Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2, "correct exposure in the digital realm means keeping the highlights as close to blowing out, without actually doing so, as possible." If you underexpose, he warned, you waste "a lot of the bits the camera can capture, and you'll run a significant risk of introducing noise in the midtones and shadow." Overexposure, on the other hand, can be recovered so slight over-exposure is preferred.
But with Optics Pro 6.5, you can let the software worry about noise reduction in the midtones and shadows, exposing for the highlights. Slightly underexposing Raw captures, even by as much as a full stop, may become the new normal.
In effect, the camera captures the highlights while the software, through Single Shot HDR, develops the shadow detail later using automatic local exposure correction.
Another twist on the same technology is higher ISO shooting. The problem with shooting at high ISO with a capable dSLR (or even just ISO 400 and above on a small sensor digicam) has been noise. But if Optics Pro 6.5 has your back, you can shoot up to ISO 100,000, Cyrille claimed, and still recover color and detail.
Again, DxO leverages its knowledge of sensor characteristics to automatically adapt noise removal for each image. And as it does so, it also optimizes exposure and makes optical corrections.
"You don't have to play with the sliders at all," Cyrille said.
On computers with OpenCL-compatible graphic cards, DxO claims a 25 percent productivity increase. OpenCL allows the GPU to do data processing, enhancing performance.
DxO uses the GPU to enhance both the responsiveness of the user interface and batch processing time.
Other user interface improvements include a large preview window for image evaluation before adding an image to a project and integrated Lightroom support (including external editor functionality, Lightroom 3 catalog browsing and writing images back to the Lightroom 3 catalog).
We've long appreciated DxO's automatic optical corrections. They're quick and painless and always improve the image. We never want to go back to the uncorrected image.
The problem has been support for all the lens and camera combinations we might have. There are currently over 2,500 modules but the company has promised to introduce 600 per quarter in 2011 to reach a total of 5,000 by year end.
That's another welcome development.
THE HDR PLUG-IN
DxO is also working on an HDR plug-in for Optics Pro that will composite several bracketed images. Its ability to handle several images distinguishes it from the Single Shot HDR option built into Optics Pro 6.5.
Designed to appeal to photographers pursuing either artistic or realistic HDR renderings of their images, the plug-in provides automatic image alignment of handheld shots and ghost removal of subjects that have moved between shots. You can even select which ghosted object to render, which to erase.
Where the subject is still, it provides a new way to capture difficult shots. Cyrille suggested it for museum shooting where flash and tripod use is prohibited or just when shooting telephoto with a high shutter speed to reduce camera movement blur.
The plug-in does not restrict your tonal and color flexibility either. After processing the image, you are still working with a Raw image, not a JPEG.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS, PRICING, AVAILABILITY
Requiring just 2-GB RAM and 400-MB disk space, Optics Pro Windows requirements include a Pentium 4 or higher (Pentium Dual Core recommended), Windows XP/Vista/7 32/64 bits (or a 64-bit OS with 4-GB RAM to process Raw images larger than 20 megapixels).
Mac requirements are an Intel Mac with OS X 10.5 or 10.6. And the Mac version will be released concurrently with the Windows version.
The $169 Optics Pro will be released in early November. The HDR plug-in, whose price is not yet determined, will be available at the end of November, Cyrille said.
Cyrille readily admitted that there's only so much water you can squeeze from a Raw exposure. You can achieve, that is, the same results in Lightroom 3 as in Optics Pro 6.5. The difference is that Optics Pro 6.5 starts where you might eventually get in Lightroom 3.
It gets the jump on Lightroom due to DxO's sensor data, which is used to automatically move the luminance and color noise reduction sliders to their optimal settings.
The GPU processing and HDR plug-in are more than icing on the cake, too. In short, this is a very exciting development for anyone shooting Raw.
We've secured a review copy and will be working with the beta until the final release when we'll post our experiences. Stay tuned!
By SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the illustrated review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1287183239.html on the Web site.)
Nikon USA hosted several editors and photographers at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2010, the World's largest hot air balloon event on Oct. 6 and 7. The purpose was to give the editors in attendance access to the latest Nikkors and the Balloon Fiesta offered tantalizing targets to train those lenses upon.
Though it sounds like two full days of shooting, it was really only a few hours with balloons and lenses, with photo opportunities starting at 5:00 a.m. and ending at about 8:30 a.m. when the morning breezes kicked up and the balloons began to drop from the sky into the surrounding area. Because the Balloon Fiesta launch area is the size of 54 football fields, once I set out with a lens I knew I wasn't going to make it back until several hours later, so I didn't get time with as many lenses as I'd have liked. But I really got to know two lenses in particular fairly well: the new 16-35mm f4, which I used on the Nikon D3100 and the 24mm f1.4, which realized its potential better on the Nikon D700.
THE WIDE ANGLE ZOOM
The AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f4-GB ED VR lens was a little long on the diminutive Nikon D3100, but the focal length range the combination offered was ideal for a day of shooting in a vast field of massive hot air balloons. Equivalent to a 24-52.5mm lens on a 35mm camera, it was not a compromise in utility to use it on a DX camera. Well, perhaps because it retails for more than twice the cost of the D3100, it would have been better placed on a full-frame camera, but it was still quite usable for this subject. I can't say a whole lot about chromatic aberration or other major factors we'd normally discuss, because the Sun rose so swiftly I didn't think to change the ISO from 1600 so that I could see the finer points of the lens, but on a DX camera, you're less likely to see most of these defects anyway.
A closer look at the images in the galleries for each lens (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/zsamples/nikon24f14/Nikkor24gallery/index.html) will show you how well the Nikon D3100 does at higher ISO settings, to be sure. I've included links for each full-size image at the top and bottom of each image.
THE TELEPHOTO ZOOM
Later that morning, I opted for the Nikon D700 and the very long AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f4-GB ED VR II lens. It was good I went for the full-frame camera, as we in the Nikon tent were close enough to the field that most of my shots were made at 200mm. Such a long lens is a little awkward to use shooting into the sky and I kept trying to think how I could get a little further away and still shoot over the tents and people. One of my companions, Ellis Vener, quietly answered that question when he sought higher ground a little further back on top of the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.
That afternoon we visited the El Pinto restaurant in Albuquerque, a true New Mexican restaurant, festooned with bundles of dried Anaheim chili peppers. (A quick review of their food: The Green chili enchiladas were an explosion of flavor and I've never sampled a more honest guacamole outside my own home. Highly recommended.) After enjoying their cuisine, we were privileged to meet the owners of the restaurant and tour their adjacent salsa manufacturing and canning facility.
John and Jim Thomas, the twin brothers who've taken over operation of the family business, emphasized the company's low-impact approach to manufacturing and farming the raw materials for their salsa and chili crop. From the factory hardware they've purchased second-hand and rebuilt to serve their purposes to their use of sustainable farming practices, the company prides itself on taking care of the environment and its employees while producing a quality product. They even showed us their composting operation, where select restaurant and factory scraps are processed into mulch for their chili farming operation.
A PRIME TOO
Needless to say, it was another opportunity to try out the new Nikon glass and I employed AF-S Nikkor 24mm f1.4-GB ED prime lens, which I enjoyed enough that I also used it the following morning back in the balloon fields.
I like working with one focal length, as it forces me to innovate. With my feet hurting from the day before, though, I'm afraid I didn't do as much zooming with my feet as I normally do. Instead I tried capturing sequences of balloons rising and ascending into the air. Having no tripod, though, I wasn't happy with the results, so I've mostly posted shots from the ground as the Special Shapes balloons rose. It gave a great view of all the other balloons in the sky, while still emphasizing the size of these flying works of art.
A SHORTER TELEPHOTO ZOOM
For the flying competition that followed the Special Shapes Rodeo, I grabbed the venerable yet still new AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8-GB ED VR II. With the full-frame sensor in the D700, this lens was perfect for a balloon event, especially the Prize Grab Flying Competition.
The peculiarity of Albuquerque's position in the New Mexico landscape lends itself to something that wouldn't be able to happen in normal terrain. The balloonists are able to return to the field after flying away. Called the Albuquerque Box, the phenomenon is driven by low winds forced to come in from the north, which push the balloons south of the field upon initial launch. Once they've reached a certain altitude, high winds from the south begin to push the balloons back north again, where they can descend into the low winds for a another push south.
Perfectly demonstrating this phenomenon, the balloonists descended onto the field, sometimes in big groups, in an effort to grab $2,000 prize packages that sat atop five 20-foot poles spread out on the field. Though I was distracted by our effort to get to the chain saw carving event that wouldn't actually start until after we'd left for the day, I did manage to get a shot of what I'd sought since the event began: a unique and pleasing pattern of a group of balloons printed against a blue sky.
Also sponsored by LowePro and Manfrotto, the event was a great demonstration of Nikon's new lenses. I regret that I didn't shoot with more of the 14 new lenses on offer, but one can only do so much when limited to one lens in a 78-acre field.
One surprise I found while walking around the event was the dominance of Nikon dSLRs among the wide array of fellow Balloon Fiesta visitors. I'm always taking an unofficial tally of SLRs to see what's trending in the market and I've never seen such a marked shift to Nikon anywhere. I began to hunt for other brands and only came up with a handful to my astonishment. Albuquerque's balloon fields seemed at least 85 percent Nikon.
Check out the galleries for a demonstration of what these four lenses can do:
It's nice to see Nikon cranking out such quality glass, matching the capability of today's high-res sensors so well. When in Albuquerque, check out El Pinto Restaurant and Cantina too and see about getting a balloon ride, as they seem to be available year-round.
Also see Ellis Vener's gallery (http://www.ellisvener.com/data/slideshow/5/BallonFiesta2010/index.html) of the Special Shapes balloons for another look at what the 200-400mm lens can do, as well as some of the other lenses he tested.
By DAVE ETCHELLS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.slrgear.com/articles/ISWP2/ismethods_v2.html on the Web site.)
It's been said that the perfect sometimes stands in the way of the good and after more than a year since our last posting of image stabilization results on SLRgear (http://www.slrgear.com), we have to admit that's been the case with our prior IS testing methodology.
While our previous approach for IS testing produced truly quantitative measures of IS shake reduction performance (as far as we know, the only such on the Internet), the process of arriving at those results proved to be so labor-intensive that we just couldn't afford to do it on a regular basis. As a result, after a very laborious development process, stretching over almost two years, we realized we simply weren't going to be able to incorporate that particular IS testing methodology into our normal lens testing workflow.
A THOUSAND IMAGES
The problem was that we had to shoot and analyze anywhere from 500 to 1,000 images for each lens at each focal length tested, to develop enough data to calculate the specific number of f-stops of shake reduction the systems provided. This took days of lab time, days of number-crunching on a fast computer and days of analysis. The results were uniquely revealing of IS performance, but the effort just wasn't supportable.
Because image stabilization is such an important part of the current lens and camera market, though, we felt we really needed to give you at least some idea of how IS systems perform -- for every lens we test, rather than once in a blue moon. From the very beginning, our IS testing has shown a huge range in performance, with some systems working much better than others (and at least one lens we we examined literally showing no IS benefit at all). Clearly, we need to communicate differences of this magnitude to you.
While we'd someday like to come back to a more quantitative approach, we realized that we don't need to measure IS performance to a tenth of an f-stop to be able to say that one system is excellent and another basically worthless. Even between those extremes, camera shake and IS behavior are pretty statistical. It's not as if a good IS system magically makes all your shots above a certain shutter speed tack-sharp. It's more a matter of shifting the odds in your favor, simply giving you a higher percentage of "keepers" at slow shutter speeds with IS than without. When you're pushing the limits, the difference between 50 percent and 55 percent keepers probably isn't that big a deal, but the jump from 10 percent to 90 percent surely is. Bottom line, we decided that more qualitative IS performance data would much better serve our readers than no IS testing at all.
STACKED BAR CHART
What we decided to do was to go back to a simple stacked bar graph. Each bar represents the percentage of shots captured at each shutter speed that were Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Unacceptable. Comparing graphs like this for the IS-On vs. IS-Off case (just mouse over any graph) gives a pretty good idea of how a given lens or IS-equipped camera body performs, even if it's not precisely quantitative.
We'd used graphs of this sort in some of our very early testing of image-stabilized digicams on Imaging Resource, but had been aiming for a more quantitative approach on SLRgear. While they're not minutely quantitative, though, simple bar graphs like this at least show the overall behavior of IS systems and can help separate the figurative sheep from the goats.
There's an important point to be made about graphs of this sort, though (or about any IS system measurement, for that matter). Without an objective and repeatable way to characterize blur in test images, the results become pretty much meaningless. Anyone can tell the difference between a really blurred image and a really sharp one and there'd be no disagreement between different people as to which was which.
The problem comes when you start trying to make finer distinctions. Relatively minor differences in what you call "good," "acceptable," "marginal," or "unacceptable" can significantly distort the results, resulting in unequal comparisons between systems. Small shifts in judgment from day to day or from person to person can make a very noticeable difference in the apparent performance of the systems being tested.
It's not just a matter of potential variation in the judging, though. What about differences between the camera bodies used for testing or even the underlying optical performance of the lenses themselves? If one lens is inherently softer than another, how do you reliably decide when its increase in blur (caused by camera motion) matches that of a lens that started out sharper? Do sharp lenses get a pass because motion blur can soften their images slightly before they would reach the point at which softer lenses start out? Are soft lenses penalized? Can you consistently, reliably and objectively separate and quantify image softness caused by camera shake from that inherent to the lens optics themselves?
Extreme motion blur has a clear directional component to it, but smaller amounts of camera movement will often produce image softness without a clear directional component. The biggest issue by far, though, is the difficulty of reliably judging incremental blur. It's relatively easy for humans to say that image A is blurred more, the same as or less than image B. But we have a very difficult time telling whether the increase in blur from image A to B is the same as in that from C to D, when the starting points differ more than slightly. Judgment of incremental blur between different lenses shot on different cameras is thus very likely to be inconsistent. Clearly, these issues must be addressed for IS test results to have any validity.
Our answer to all these issues is to base our IS tests on objective measurements of blur, rather than relying on the vagaries of human judgment or on the ability of a tester's "calibrated eyeballs" to consistently determine incremental blur relative to each lens' baseline sharpness.
Our methodology is quite simple, built around the objective blur measurements provided by DxO Analyzer. For each test, we begin by determining the exposure parameters we'll shoot with (focal lengths, shutter speeds, apertures, ISO levels and light levels) and then capture a set of 10 or more reference shots for each distinct test condition, with the camera locked down on a rigid mount.
The average blur values measured from these shots establish the baseline sharpness of the lens for each test condition. We then capture two sets of handheld shots across the range of shutter speeds of interest, one set with IS on and the other with IS off.
We then subtract the average baseline blur values from the blur measured for the handheld images at each shutter speed. This effectively removes blur arising from the camera or from any limitations in the lens' basic resolution, leaving behind only the blur caused by camera shake.
We then sort the results into the four sharpness categories we've established, using specific numeric thresholds. And a spreadsheet program creates bargraphs showing how many shots fall into each category.
The initial choice of blur thresholds defining the performance categories is of course highly subjective. Overly stringent or overly generous choices can obviously influence the outcomes. Within a reasonable range, though, consistency is the most important requirement.
If our standards are tighter than your own, pay more attention to results falling into the "Acceptable" or even "Marginal" categories. But if your work requires more critical standards, look more to results in the "Good" category. As long as the thresholds remain the same from test to test and system to system, you'll be able to decide for yourself how to interpret the results.
Here's how the blur categories we've established translate into practical, real-world results:
- Good. For most people, entirely acceptable for all uses. You might be able to see a difference when compared side by side with shots from a tripod, but most people would feel that 13x19 inch prints would be acceptably sharp. At lower print sizes, most users would be hard-pressed to see any difference between handheld and tripod shots.
- Acceptable. Slightly soft 13x19 inch prints, but acceptable for most uses. Most people would find 8x10 inch prints plenty sharp.
- Marginal. Very visible softness, but the images might be usable for non-critical applications even to 8x10 inches; 5x7 inch prints would be fine for most users.
- Unacceptable. Very blurry; pretty unusable. The low end of this range might be OK for 5x7 or 4x6 inch prints, but most shots in this category would be unusable for any purpose.
What should you expect?
Less-steady shooters get a bit more benefit from IS systems than more stable ones. Most readers should thus expect to see the same or better levels of shake reduction than what we've measured. You may not be able to hand-hold to shutter speeds as low as those shown in our graphs, so your overall performance will be shifted toward higher shutter speeds.
But the improvement you'll see from IS Off to IS On may actually be greater than that seen by a rock-steady shooter like our main lens tech Rob. In other words, our results for the amount of improvement from IS should represent the lower end of what you'd experience in practice.
What constitutes acceptable will of course depend on the photographer and the particular application involved (a photo to hang on the wall vs. one for use in a magazine spread that will be examined closely, for example).
But again, a blur result in the "Good" range would produce an acceptably sharp 13x19 print. The "Acceptable" range would make a tolerably sharp 8x10 print. Shots in the "Marginal" range might be OK at 5x7 inches or smaller. "Unacceptable" shots would likely be pretty blurry-looking, even at 5x7 inches.
The bottom line of our IS testing process is test results that will provide a reasonably reliable and consistent basis for evaluating IS system performance. The amount of improvement for a given system is still subject to some variation based on the camera-holding abilities of the individual photographer, but our results overall will give a very good indication of what an experienced, fairly steady shooter can obtain with the lens or camera body in question.
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:
- First Test Shots: Canon 60D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E60D/E60DA.HTM). This is Canon's new "entry level pro" dSLR, positioned above the EOS-T2i but below the EOS-7D. It's an interesting hybrid of the two. We just received a full production sample of the 60D and by the time you read this should have most of our standard test shots posted. Image quality looks very good (as we'd expect); it's a beautiful camera! Could one be one coming to a Christmas Tree near you? Check it out and compare against the other models above and below it in Canon's lineup, the Canon T2i (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T2I/T2IA.HTM) and Canon 7D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E7D/E7DA.HTM). For the competition, compare it to the Nikon D90 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D90/D90A.HTM).
- First Test Shots: Sony A290 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA290/AA290A.HTM). Read our Sony A290 Preview (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA290/AA290A.HTM) and visit the Sony A290 Samples page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA290/AA290A7.HTM) for all the test shots we've taken so far, including links to select Raw files. And compare the Sony A390 Samples page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA390/AA390A7.HTM) to see test shots from the A290's more fully-featured sibling.)
- Reviewed: Pentax X90 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/X90/X90A.HTM). The Pentax X90 offers several functions absent in competing megazoom digicams like an interval timer and the ability to automatically correct for lens distortion in-camera. But we did note some user interface quirks and image quality had some issues.
- Reviewed: Olympus SP-800UZ (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SP800UZ/SP800UZA.HTM). The Olympus SP-800UZ has an incredible 30x zoom range that reaches all the way out to a jaw-dropping 840mm-equivalent telephoto. It's an interesting package that manages to set itself apart in a hard-fought market.
- Reviewed: Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1328/cat/31)
- IS Tests: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1316/cat/11)
- IS Tests: Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR II AF-S (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1324/cat/13)
- IS Tests: Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO ( http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1328/cat/31)
- IS Tests: Sony SLT-A55V (SLR body-based IS) (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1364/cat/80)
We were invited to dinner at a friend's house the other day. They had family in town and wanted to celebrate with a BBQ. An informal occasion, in short.
After dinner as we sat around the table, one of the parents brought out a school project. They had to trace out a bunch of circles on a sheet of colored paper and then cut them out. So some of the adults helped out, sitting around tracing the master shape repeatedly on a new sheet before taking the scissors to it.
That threatened to delay dessert, we observed, so we leaped into the fray. "Hey," we smiled, "why not just make one master, scan it and then print it on the other sheets?"
We got our dessert just a few minutes later.
Scanners are an under-utilized tool, it occurred to us as we sipped our coffee. We tend to think of them only in relation to photos. That's less true of multifunction devices, but even then, we presume they're fit only for copying flat originals.
And that's all my suggestion boiled down to anyway.
But they are pretty handy replacements for measuring tapes and rulers, too, it occurred to me when the caffeine reached my skull.
How many times have you tried to cut out a cover or overlay to fit some object like a camera LCD or cell phone, measuring and trimming repeatedly until you got a close enough fit that, for all your care, wasn't very pretty?
You could have just scanned the object, printed the scan and used that as a template. It's like working with a dress pattern.
So the next time you're starving for dessert or dreading interminable snipping to get a good fit, think of your scanner as a measuring device.
It's the perfect fit.
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 Coolpix P100 Discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeb067d
Visit the Olympus dSLRs Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea6bcb
Read about the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II printer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeacf6a/0
Read ongoing comments about a variety of lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=3
Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2
We were standing in the checkout line as our groceries were being scanned when we noticed the bagger's name tag. He was a big kid, probably a linebacker on the high school football team. But the name tag didn't quite describe him. It said, "Rosemary."
We thought better of asking him about it. And good thing because he was relieved by a petite colleague still working on the subtler points of applied cosmetics who had a name tag with "Basil" on it.
The baggers were all wearing name tags with herb names on them.
Ginger, Jasmine, Pepper even Alfalfa we could understand. But Sassafras, Parsley, Mint, Garlic and Horseradish seemed like employee rights violations.
On the other hand, what a great way to learn about customer service. Thinking of yourself as a herb instead of the main dish. "What can I do for you?" the only thought on your mind.
Well, no wonder they were nameless. That kind of service is practically fictitious.
Fortunately Charlie Young ran across one who wasn't at all fictitious. Nameless maybe, but not fictitious.
And it's a baseball story too. We'll let Charlie tell it (because the Giants are still in it as we write this and we've got a towel to twirl).
"Over a month ago," Charlie reminisces, "the Major League Baseball scene here out West got pretty dicey. The Dodgers were in the hunt for the post season, so were the Padres and the Giants [Editor's Note: not in that order].
"Well, lo and behold, my new HDTV was having trouble picking up the cable feed for the Dodgers network. So I called my 'local' cable company to see what was wrong.
"After three calls to customer service (which by the way is in Phoenix, Ariz.), still no Dodger baseball.
"In desperation, I found an honest-to-goodness local service rep. He pretty much said the same thing as the others, but he did say something looked hinkey on the return signal from the DVR box.
"So thanks to this 'prince among men' a repairman was dispatched the next day. This guy was no slouch either. He discovered a bad cable connection which was also hooked up wrong.
"So I did get to watch the Dodgers choke and not make it to the post season!
"The award should go to a guy named PK that works for Cox Cable in Las Vegas."
Without further ado, we hereby bestow the 2010 Ersatz Nobel for Extraordinary Customer Service on PK at Cox Cable in Las Vegas. We may not have his proper name, but we're pretty sure his name tag isn't a spice label. He's the real deal.
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RE: Scanned Your Article
I've been reading your wonderful, thoroughly engaging article titled "HDRi & RGBI -- Archival Scan Formats?" that ran back in February of this year and have a few short questions I hope you can help me with. It's in regard to the following excerpt:
"File Processing. Once you have scanned to Raw, however, your processing options are very limited because image editing software (like Photoshop) doesn't know what to do with the infrared channel of either the RGBI or HDRi file. If you open the Raw TIFF in Photoshop, for example, the Channels display will only indicate the composite and red, green and blue channels. The infrared channel is discarded.So if you do any image editing on the file and save it, you will lose the defect removal information."
Just so I'm clear on this, in order to retain corrections made with infrared in the scanning stage, exactly what would you need to compromise within a Raw TIFF scan? And is there another file format you would recommend in which the infrared data would be retained when opened in Photoshop?
Thanks very much for any insights you can offer!
-- Larry(Think of both RGBI and HDRi as proprietary Raw formats that can only be processed (safely edited) in the applications from which they sprang (SilverFast or VueScan). The infrared channel just isn't seen or saved by other applications. We asked Adobe about this (how come DNG can't do this, in short) but never got an answer. -- Editor)
I have really enjoyed moving to digital photography. I use to have an OM-1, OM-2 and OM-4 with some expensive lenses (what do I do with the last OM and long lens?) and enjoy never having to say, "Where can I get more film?"
But after owning two point-and-shoots, one Olympus SP-950UZ and a Sony Alpha, I have encountered my first question. Why isn't there an after market product to cover the LCD screens to help protect them from misadventure?
My problem is that I somehow blundered and poked the screen on the Olympus. Of course this made the screen into a marvelous modern art display, though I could still use the eyepiece for picture taking. Olympus repaired the screen for $117 or so, but now I am frightened about ruining it and the Sony screen through personal stupidity.
There has to be a reasonable way to shield these screens when not in use.
-- Dick Swenson(Well, there is, Dick. Actually, there are. You have a lot of options (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&N=0&Q=&Ntt=camera+LCD+protector&A=endecaSearch). The first is just a case. A guy we know has bashed up a couple of LCD screens. He carries his pocket camera in his, um, pocket. A padded softcase that hooks to your belt solves that problem. If traveling, a hard case can save the day. We like the Otter Box (http://www.otterbox.com).... The second is a film overlay on the LCD screen itself. We've tried one over an otherwise unprotected dSLR LCD but decided it interfered too much with exposure evaluation. One such is Hoodman's Super Hoodskin (http://www.hoodmanusa.com/prodinfo.asp?number=SHSK+XL), which unlike many claims impact protection.... The third is a hard plastic cover, typically seen on dSLRs. The camera manufacturer tends to be the reliable source for these but the B&H link above has some alternatives. They are designed for particular models, though.... The fourth is a hood like the Hoodman HoodLoupe (http://www.hoodmanusa.com/products.asp?dept=1017) but that can be a bit awkward to pack along. Hope that helps. -- Editor)(Larry, you can use an Olympus Pen or Panasonic G-series camera with the Olympus OM Adapter MF-2 to continue using your fine Olympus glass. I've rediscovered my 50mm f1.8, which still offers that great Zuiko quality. -- Shawn)
Apple released iLife '11 (http://www.apple.com/ilife/), highlighting revisions to iPhoto and iMovie. iDVD and iWeb have not been updated for this version of iLife and the suite remains 32-bit.
iPhoto '11 (http://www.apple.com/ilife/iphoto/) now includes new full-screen modes to browse and edit photos, Facebook enhancements to share photos and view comments without leaving iPhoto, enhanced email functions for photos, new slide shows, enhanced book printing and embossed letterpress cards.
iMovie '11 (http://www.apple.com/ilife/imovie/) adds audio editing improvements, one-step special effects, face detection, new sports and news themes and simple trailer creation for your home movies.
The company also released Aperture 3.1 (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1315) with stability and performance improvements.
Eye-Fi and Devicescape have released a WiFi Report (http://www.devicescape.com/wifi_report) showing 55.9 percent of respondents wish they could email or share photos and videos immediately while 67 percent think their cameras don't have enough sharing capability. Also of note, only 24.3 percent feel their service provider is adequately explaining coverage and options, and only 47.5 percent believe they have the proper tools to access the Internet using their smartphones.
The Sixth Annual Photo Expo West (http://sandiegophotoexpo.com) has expanded with over 35,000 square feet filled with new products and an expanded line-up of professional photographers teaching over 36 seminars and performing 20 hours of live demos. The event will be held during the second weekend of November at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego, Calif.
Canto (http://www.canto.com) has released Canto Cumulus 8.1.3 [LMW] to address minor usability issues found across the Cumulus product line, with important improvements made to Cumulus Sites and the Cumulus Web Client.
Lensbaby (http://www.lensbaby.com) has introduced Scout with Fisheye, its Fisheye Optic Swap module fitted to a new, straight in and out manual focusing mount called the Scout. Other modules in the Optic Swap system can be used with the Scout but you can't rotate the focus spot, which is always centered on the Scout.
Rocky Nook has published The Digital Photography Workflow Handbook by Juergen Gulbins and Uwe Steinmueller, an "all-inclusive, definitive resource that will help you avoid crucial mistakes as you master the craft of photographic post-processing." The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952717/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Blurb (http://www.blurb.com/bookify) has released Blurb Bookify, an online bookmaking tool designed to streamline the creation of high-quality photo books with a curated collection of layouts, fonts and design elements. You can drag and drop images directly onto a page and the page will design itself.
Clixtr (http://picbounce.com/4hnhj) has released PicBounce, a new and improved camera app for the iPhone featuring simple and fast uploads to Facebook and Twitter.
onOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com) has released Perfect Presets, a new volume of free Lightroom 3 presets.
X-Rite Photo Marketing (http://www.xritephoto.com/seasonsofcolor) has announced its Seasons of Color Photo Contest. Each week for the next 12 weeks, photographers are invited to submit their original images that best represent the week's featured Pantone Plus Series color. The top 10 winners each week, determined by popular vote, will receive an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport.
Boinx Software (http://boinxsoftware.com) [M] has released FotoMagico 3.6, a slide show generator, featuring iMediaBrowser 2 integration, updated Flickr support and a FotoMagico Remote price reduction.
Andrei Doubrovski (http://elementsplus.net) has released his $12 Elements+ 3.0 [M] to unlock undocumented advanced functions in the program through dedicated dialog boxes. Features include paths, Smart Filters, channel mixer, soft proofing, layer groups, Smart Object functions and more.
Corner-A (http://corner-a.com/photostyler) has released its $30 PhotoStyler 4.5.1 [M] with a new interface and a few bug fixes.
Apparent Software (http://www.apparentsoft.com/imageframer) has released its $39.95 ImageFramer 3 [M] to apply photo-realistic frames to digital images with watermarking, batch processing, multiple mats and color adjustment for frames.
For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
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