|Volume 12, Number 26||17 December 2010|
Welcome to the 295th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We assemble the lightweight LensAlign MkII and discuss the latest WhiBal before a look at the Nikon D3100. Then, with business out of the way, we indulge in a little holiday gift giving. Happy Holidays!
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(Excerpted from the illustrated review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LAII/LAII.HTM on the Web site.)
Michael Tapes invented the simple device (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LA/LA.HTM) many photographers use to correct the back or front focusing errors made by their autofocus dSLRs. It was such a good idea that it spawned an imitator, Datacolor's $59 SpyderLensCal (http://spyder.datacolor.com/product-cb-spyderlenscal.php).
But Tapes isn't a tinkerer for nothing. While some of us prefer not to tinker with perfection, he never left the drawing table trying to improve on his first two designs, the LensAlign Pro and LensAlign Lite. By the time the SpyderLensCal was announced, he had already worked out his third LensAlign design.
And that design is the LensAlign MkII, a $79.95 version that replaces the LensAlign Lite. For a limited time, he's shipping it with an $18.95 WhiBal G7 Photo Gray Keychain Card at no extra charge.
We found nothing lacking in either of its predecessors, so why the new version? Tapes explained on his blog (http://mtapesdesign.com/):
"By simplifying the design and incorporating new precision manufacturing techniques, we were able to reduce the cost of the MkII, while maintaining the high quality standards of the original LensAlign Pro. As with the Pro version, the new MkII ensures absolute repeatability from one unit to another and from one focus calibration session to another.
"When I was designing LensAlign MkII, the ability to be packaged knocked down and shipped flat, was an important consideration. This allows a much smaller external package, supporting the requests from our LensAlign dealers, and reducing overseas shipping costs to our international customers by fitting into standard Flat Rate postal envelopes. Also the LensAlign MkII is able to easily travel when 'knocked down' to its individual parts. Assembly takes about two minutes, and requires no tools."
In fact, well after we'd written the review it occurred to us that storing the occasional-use tool might be an issue. They are bigger than a coffee cup with corners to boot. Being able to take it apart between lens purchases (or body purchases) is a nice enhancement.
But the key feature of all LensAlign versions has been what Tapes calls their patent-pending True Parallel Alignment sighting system.
Aligning the target is critical to determining back or front focusing. If you've ever tried to squarely line up a photo in your viewfinder, you know it isn't easy.
To make it easy, Tapes has devised a couple of systems. The Pro model introduced a sighting system, a small hole on a front panel that indicated alignment when a red target on a back panel could be seen through it. The Lite model added a magnetic mirror that slapped onto the devices only panel for alignment and was removed prior to focusing on the panel's target.
The MkII uses the Pro's sighting system. Unlike the Lite, it has both front and rear panels in a four-piece rather than two-piece structure.
As easy as the mirror is, we preferred the sighting system. No one ever earned seven years bad luck dropping a sighting system.
So what's the problem the LensAlign is designed to measure?
First, it's important to understand the problem is not focus but autofocus. Half press the shutter button on your dSLR and your autofocus lens will hunt for focus automatically.
It may not quite get there, though.
If it falls short, focusing in front of the target, we call that front focusing. If it goes long, focusing behind the target, we call that back focusing.
While the difference may be minuscule, it tends to shift the field of focus off (cheating it back or forward). And in precise focusing especially wide open, it's a killer.
Detecting the problem is often more difficult than it may seem. You may confirm the autofocus point in the viewfinder or using software than can display the focus point on your image (typically supplied by the manufacturer) and notice that actual focus was either in front of or behind that point. In short, you have to look for it.
The cause of the problem may be in the camera body itself or in a particular lens. Many recent dSLRs provide a microadjustment for autofocus with two modes: a default that can be applied regardless of the lens mounted and another for just the particular lens mounted.
The number of lens corrections the camera can remember varies. Nikon stores 12 in the D300 and D700 but 20 in the D3/D3X. Canon stores 20 in the 1Ds Mark III, 1D Mark III, 5D Mark II and 50D. The Sony A900 stores 30.
But first you have to test your lens-camera setup to see if you have a problem. And that's where the LensAlign MkII comes in.
Tapes sent us a preproduction unit, made with a less precise manufacturing method than that used for the production units.
While the seven-piece unit can be put together in a couple of minutes and taken apart just as easily, Tapes said it wasn't designed to be broken down after each session. "We expect people to disassemble it when traveling. We have tested 50 assemblies and disassemblies on these preproduction units with no adverse affects. The design is such that we allow for some wear on the notch retainers without affecting performance."
According to the PDF, assembling is an eight-step procedure. We took photos for you, so it was more involved for us, but we were impressed that no single step was tricky.
The mating slots use a clever design to lock them into place. If you've ever cut out paper figures and tried to get them to stand up with those half-moon stands, you know the problem. They fold closed or slip off.
The slot design uses a hole above the slot into which the mating piece slips a small nub. So it isn't just a slot but a slot with a small finger than snaps into a hole, too. Once you've seated a slot, only you can unseat it.
The pieces do lock flush to the edges, so you can snap down on a hard surface to align them. With the one exception of the back plate, which goes on only after the base plate is installed. The base plate raises the unit off the surface slightly.
We thought the top strut, which gives the unit its stability, would be a problem. The last piece almost always is. But we simply angled it in and snapped it into place on the rear plate. No problem at all.
Fortunately Tapes designed the ruler to be flexible enough to give a bit during assembly. Start by aligning the left side notches in the MkII and then bend it slightly upward to get the right side notches to slip into the matching notches on the MkII. Easier done than said, in fact. Removal is just the reverse. Bend it upwards to release.
The ruler is double-sided with a dark pattern on one side and a light one on the other. Your preference.
Once seated, the ruler is supported at the quarter, mid-point and three-quarter point, keeping it straight and rigid.
Tapes sent us a base plate that will be pre-assembled on production units. It's aluminum with four feet embossed into it and a hole for the tripod mount. An adhesive holds it to the base assembly, which it fits perfectly.
USING THE MKII
Tapes doesn't just design the LensAlign products. He documents their use, too. And the PDF that explains how to use the MkII is very clearly illustrated. Here's the basic procedure, which simply refines alignment in several steps:
Once aligned, you're ready to take your focus test shots.
- Rough Setup. The camera and the MkII have to, eventually, be parallel to each other. That doesn't mean horizontal, however. So you can set them up on two tripods (the MkII has a brass tripod mount) or a table or any other arrangement that will let them face each other. Leave a little room behind the MkII, too. Then just make sure the large focus target (not the ruler) is around the center autofocus point in your camera's viewfinder.
- From Behind the MkII. Now it's time to get precise with the camera-MkII alignment by using the MkII's back-sighting feature. Tapes notes it's optional but it's also convenient. Just look through the rear of the MkII with your left eye where you see a Rear Sighting Port circled around a hole. You should be able to see a small fuzzy porthole through which your camera will appear. Adjust the MkII until the camera lens is centered in the fuzzy hole.
- From Behind the Camera. Go back to the camera and check that the MkII target is still in the center of your viewfinder. Now find the hole in the center of the front target through which you saw the camera lens when you were behind the MkII. Adjust the camera until the rear red sighting dot appears perfectly centered in the front sighting hole.
- Confirm. So far you've been doing your precision alignment using the viewfinder. But it's the sensor you really want aligned. So use Live View or an alignment test shot to find out exactly what the sensor sees, enlarging the sighting dot until you can see if it is indeed centered in the sighting hole.
Take each test shot after throwing focus out and turning on autofocus. Snap the shot with a cable release or the timer to minimize camera shake. Then enlarge the LCD display to evaluate focus on the ruler.
If you have trouble seeing which line of the rule is sharpest, you can open the image in an image editor that has a Find Edges filter to make it easier to find the actual focus point.
Our previous reviews (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LAII/LAII.HTM#toc) have more details on the process.
From a design perspective, we greatly prefer the LensAlign products to the Datacolor SpyderLensCal. Both the focus target and the ruler are much more detailed. And from a practical perspective, the LensAlign is much easier to align.
The real question is choosing between the Pro and MkII models. Tapes helpfully lists the differences (http://www.mtdhelp.com/faqs/lensalign-how-to/what-are-the-differences-between-lensalign-pro-and-the-new-mkii) between them.
We recommend the Pro for shops where it will be in constant use by more than one person and the MkII for individuals who need to occasionally test a new lens or set up a new body with their lens collection. In other words, the MkII is that good. And for those occasions when only the Pro will do, you can rent it from LensRentals.com.
Whichever you choose, you'll get a very clear picture of your setup's autofocusing behavior. And if your dSLR offers a microfocusing adjustment, you can easily correct for whatever fault you find. Highly recommended.
For a limited time, Tapes is offering the $18.95 WhiBal G7 Photo Gray Keychain Card at no extra charge when you order a LensAlign MkII. He sent three different sizes to us for evaluation: the 1x2-inch Keychain Card, the credit card size Pocket Card and the 7.5x10-inch Reference Card.
The Keychain card gives up the black and white references but includes a scale and a clip. The other sizes all include the references and focus targets.
The G7 version is a significant revision to the previous G6 models we reviewed (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/WHB/WHB.HTM). Those were a rather thick plastic material designed with a luminance value greater than 18 percent gray with an L* value of about 70. The lighter gray takes advantage of the linear nature of a digital exposure, where most bits are devoted to the lighter tones.
The G6 cards could float and if you scratched them, they just revealed more of the same color.
Tapes measured each G6 WhiBal to guarantee it was within one percent of neutral (final G6 products were actually within half a percent). And that revealed that from batch to batch of the gray plastic, the number of rejects varied.
So he redesigned the cards using a new approach which allows more control over production, yielding thinner but more durable cards. In fact the new wallet-friendly Pocket card is the exact thickness and size of a credit card. While still water and scratch resistant, the G7 cards don't float. A compromise he was willing to make, Tapes told us. And they're a little brighter at about 80, again by design.
In addition to production run monitoring, Tapes still measures each one with a spectrophotometer calibrated and certified to NIST standards to guarantee they are within spec. And that spec is now within half a percent of neutral in both the a* and b* channels.
Just place one in your scene for a test shot and you'll have a neutral gray to set color plus a pure black and a pure white to evaluate tone.
As we noted in our review, the beauty of this calibrated gray card is that it isn't a camera setting you have to remember to reset.
By MIKE TOMKINS and SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D3100/D3100A.HTM on the Web site.)
The entry-level Nikon D3000 dSLR has sold well, according to Nikon, since it was introduced in mid-2009; and after a modest $50 decrease in list pricing at the start of this year, spent several months as the dominant seller at its price. While the Nikon D3100 isn't a direct replacement for the D3000, with the latter slated to continue in Nikon's lineup for the time being, the new dSLR retains a similar form factor and much of the feature set of its predecessor, along with significant upgrades in a number of areas.
LOOK & FEEL
The Nikon D3100's body is all-new, but its dimensions and weight are similar to that of the D3000: 4.9x3.8x2.9 inches and about 1.1 pounds without lens or 1.7 pounds with the 18-55mm VR kit lens. Since most controls have similar placement, the new body will offer a shallow learning curve for D3000 and Nikon D40 owners. Several new controls have been added, both for new features and quicker access to existing ones.
At the top right corner of the LCD is a new dedicated Live View switch. It's a momentary switch that rotates to the right to enter and exit Live View mode. When activated, the Nikon D3100 raises its mirror and opens the mechanical shutter to expose its image sensor, then clocks off a continuous data stream to provide a Live View on the rear-panel LCD. Whenever the Live View mode is active, the button at the center of the Live View switch acts as a dedicated Movie Record button: press to start recording, press again to stop.
The Info Edit button (marked with an i) is also a new addition to the entry-level line, as it previously shared a button with the Zoom-in button. The apparent reason for the change is that the Zoom button, in addition to offering zoom in Playback mode, now provides the ability to access a magnified view when using the new Live View mode, so the Info Edit button needed its own control. It also brings the D3100 in line with other recent Nikon dSLRs, with the D3000's shared Zoom/i button having been the sole exception in recent memory.
The small compartment door that housed the D3000's USB and standard definition video outputs has grown to encompass almost half the left side of the body and now houses two additional connectors alongside those from the D3000.
A new Accessory port allows connection with an optional GPS receiver unit, meaning that all Nikon dSLRs but the D3000 offer GPS connectivity. The same port is used for an optional MC-DC2 remote cord. There's also a new high definition HDMI port, which supports the Consumer Electronics Control (HDMI-CEC) standard, allowing certain playback functions to be controlled through an attached high definition display's remote control unit.
SENSOR & PROCESSOR
On the inside, the Nikon D3100 sports the pairing of a newly developed, Nikon-designed DX-format CMOS image sensor and a new generation of Nikon's EXPEED image processor. The sensor size -- roughly equivalent to that of a frame of APS-C film -- is unchanged, but where the D3000's CCD imager offered 10.2-megapixel resolution, the Nikon D3100's CMOS chip now provides 14.2 megapixels (4608x3072) from its 14.8-Mp sensor. That makes the D3100 the third-highest-resolution Nikon dSLR behind the 24.5-Mp, FX-format, D3x professional dSLR and the 16.2-Mp, DX Format, D7000 prosumer model. The difference in resolution between the D3100 and the bulk of Nikon's dSLR lineup at 12 megapixels is actually relatively modest, with only a little over seven percent more linear resolution available from the 14 Mp imager.
The combination of a new image sensor and image processor increases ISO sensitivity for the D3100, which offers ISO settings from 100 to 3200 equivalents in 1 EV steps, with the ability to increase this to ISO 6400 equivalent using the Hi-1 setting or ISO 12,800 equivalent with the Hi-2 position.
Full-time autofocus is now available during video capture, albeit at the expense of clearly audible focusing noise being picked up on the audio track. With no external microphone connection, there's no way to isolate the AF noise, short of recording sound on a separate device and replacing the audio track in post-processing.
The Nikon D3100's Movie mode is also unique among Nikon dSLRs for another reason. The D3100 is the first Nikon dSLR to offer progressive scan 1920x1080 pixel recording or what's commonly known as 1080p Full HD video. There's a slight catch, in that for Full HD, the Nikon D3100 can only record at a rate of 24 frames per second (23.976 fps), whereas at 1280x720 there's a choice of 24, 25 or 30 fps.
Movies are captured using MPEG-4 AVCHD/H.264 compression, with the file format being .MOV. Each video clip has a maximum length of 10 minutes and the Nikon D3100 does provide for basic in-camera video editing, with the ability to trim unwanted content from both the start and end of each clip.
In Guide Mode, the Nikon D3100 greets you with a friendly graphical interpretation of the menu system using icons labeled Shoot, View/Delete and Set up. A helpful change from the D3000's Guide mode is the addition of reference photos to demonstrate the effect of settings being applied.
Another change to the Guide mode is that, when the user has stepped through the process of answering questions and adjusting their setup per the camera's recommendations, the Nikon D3100 will now ask whether the user wants to shoot a still image using the optical viewfinder or Live View functions or capture a video. Depending on the answer, the camera will be automatically placed in the correct mode.
While the remainder of the menu system retains the same basic layout as in the D3000, the visual styling of the menus has also been updated. It's a relatively subtle change, but the the menu system feels cleaner and more modern.
TOMKINS SHOOTING REPORT
With an intuitive control layout very similar to the D3000, I felt quite at home shooting with the Nikon D3100. And with the bundled AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f3.5-5.6-GB VR lens, the combination is well-balanced and controls fell comfortably under my fingers. While it's about par for the course among smaller, consumer dSLR bodies, I did find myself wishing the D3100's grip were just slightly deeper. With my large hands, it was just a little tiring shooting single-handed, placing more of the weight on my fingertips than is the case with larger grips.
I'm especially a fan of the Function button on the left-hand side of the Nikon D3100's flash housing, which I configured to provide quick access to ISO adjustments without needing to enter the menu system. Likewise, the new release mode switch makes it easy to jump back and forth between single and burst shooting. The new Live View switch with its central movie record button is also a great design -- unlikely to be accidentally bumped, but perfectly positioned for your thumb to quickly launch Live View mode and to start or stop movie capture with a minimum of handling noise or camera shake. It's a shame that the LCD panel can't be tilted or swivelled, though, as this robs the Live View function of a little versatility. For example, shooting pictures of fall leaves with the Nikon D3100 held well above my head, I found it rather difficult to see my precise framing, as I was having to look at the LCD from an extreme angle. I still got the shot I wanted, but it took me five attempts to get the framing right.
I'm not the most active of movie shooters, but I did appreciate the ability to record at Full HD resolution. For videographers who are adept at pulling focus manually or who don't mind the limitations of autofocus in terms of drive noise being clearly audible in the captured video, the Nikon D3100 can prove a useful alternative to bringing both a still camera and a camcorder on every trip. The Nikon D3100's contrast detection AF is certainly not as fast as phase detection, but it's definitely at the point where I felt it was useful for static or slowly moving subjects. My fall leaf photo was taken on a fairly breezy day, but the Nikon D3100 still managed to lock AF in between gusts and capture a well-focused image without issue.
I found the Nikon D3100's high ISO performance to be very useful. Noise inside the standard ISO sensitivity range is generally controlled well and the in-camera noise reduction does nearly as good a job as I could manage in post-processing. With the expanded range enabled, noise did start to present itself rather more forcefully, but with a bit more time spent in post-processing or at more modest print sizes, I could see even the maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800 equivalent proving useful in a snip. As I've noted, I generally left the Nikon D3100's Function button mapped for ISO adjustments. But I actually found myself shooting with Auto ISO adjustment a lot of the time. With the ability to set a minimum shutter speed, the Nikon D3100's Auto ISO mode let me focus on framing images.
I do think that photographers unfamiliar with Nikon's user interface will perhaps be confused by one point, though. In the Shooting menu, there's an option to enable or disable Auto ISO sensitivity, but it's placed directly adjacent to a list of sensitivities that starts with a grayed-out Auto position. If you try to select this option, you're presented with the rather cryptic message that it is "not available with current settings." With Auto ISO sensitivity enabled, the numeric value chosen in this list is only a suggestion to the camera as a starting point. The grayed-out option only becomes available in Scene mode shooting, when the option to enable or disable Auto ISO instead becomes grayed out. It seems Nikon could make this more intuitive by simply hiding the unavailable optio, so you don't appear to have two conflicting options, only one of which is accessible in any given mode.
The omission of bracketed shooting, presumably to provide differentiation from more advanced Nikon dSLRs, is something I found more troubling. I tend to shoot in Raw mode for the versatility it provides in being able to adjust exposures in post-processing. But when I'm shooting in JPEG mode, I tend to opt for bracketed exposures instead, providing a little reassurance I'll have an acceptable exposure even with relatively difficult scenes. With the Nikon D3100, that's simply not an option. Thankfully, I found Nikon's metering system generally hit the nail on the head, with relatively few blown highlights and then only with harshly-lit subjects occupying a small portion of the frame, such as the sunlit white boat hulls shown above. With this particular exposure, I shot in Raw+JPEG mode and the Raw file offers good latitude to correct the clipped highlights. If I'd shot only in JPEG, though, there would have been no restoring them. Even at the entry-level, I consider bracketing to be a must-have feature.
That omission aside, I found the Nikon D3100 to be a pleasure to shoot with. The most important part of any camera is its image quality and the Nikon D3100 boasts plenty of resolution, coupled with fairly accurate color. The images I captured in my time with the camera represented my subjects well as I remember them and were generally sharp even in JPEG shooting, with only a slight resolution advantage to be found in shooting Raw. Colors were fairly saturated by default -- this is a camera aimed at consumers, after all -- but thanks to Nikon's standard Picture Controls, it's easy to dial that back a little and to obtain a rendering that one finds personally pleasing.
While I didn't need Guide mode and I think it's a little cumbersome, I can see it could be a useful way to help a complete beginner through the photographic process and to help them learn about the exposure variables they're adjusting in the process. For more experienced photographers, the Nikon D3100 offers most of the features you'd need, the omission of bracketing excepted. Overall, the Nikon D3100 is a camera I'd have few hesitations recommending.
You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D3100/D3100A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D3100/D3100GALLERY.HTM.
While the Nikon D3100 carries a list price slightly higher than that of the company's most affordable dSLR, it offers a number of very worthwhile improvements that make it easy to justify the extra cost. Key among these for most photographers will be its better image quality. For an extra $150 above the list price of the D3000, the Nikon D3100 not only provides significantly higher resolution, but also manages to yield much better high ISO performance to boot. The addition of Live View shooting will ease the transition from point-and-shoot cameras for consumers who've grown accustomed to shooting at arm's length. For $700 list in kit form, the D3100 also adds movie capture and bests many more expensive cameras in this area, with both Full HD resolution and live autofocus during movie capture. A limitation on frame rate at the highest resolution and issues with autofocus drive noise may negate either of these advantages, depending on your intended use, however.
As a camera aimed at the entry level, the Nikon D3100 must cater to photographers who've yet to develop their knowledge of the basics and a subtly refined variant of the Guide mode seen previously in the D3000 aims to serve this purpose. The addition of example images will certainly make it easier to gain some feeling for the adjustments you're making. Unlike Auto modes that make all the decisions on your behalf, Guide mode can at least prove educational, since you're given an understanding of what settings are being changed.
In most other areas, the Nikon D3100 turns in a solid performance, if not a particularly startling one -- but then, you wouldn't really expect that of an entry level model. Exposures are metered nicely and color is accurate, if a little oversaturated. Auto white balance does well, but is still a little warm under incandescent lighting. Flash coverage at wide-angle is a little uneven and the optical viewfinder still suffers the alignment issues noted previously in our D3000 review. On the plus side, though, the bundled 18-55mm kit lens turns in a fairly good performance, especially if shooting in JPEG mode with lens corrections enabled. Thanks to good in-camera noise processing, as well as a JPEG engine that yields lots of fine detail, the Nikon D3100 lends itself well to JPEG shooting and that's an important plus for a camera aimed at the entry-level, where Raw shooting isn't the norm.
The absence of features like exposure bracketing and the mechanical linkage needed to drive autofocus on older lenses mean that the Nikon D3100 won't make the ideal backup camera for Nikon shooters seeking a second body. That's not really its target market, though. For amateurs looking to move up from a point-and-shoot camera, the Nikon D3100 offers plenty of room to grow. The Nikon D3100 addresses several of the D3000's shortcomings for a relatively modest increment in list pricing, making it a much easier camera to recommend. It's a pretty easy Dave's Pick.
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:
- Full review: Nikon D3100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D3100/D3100A.HTM). With more resolution, Live View and Movie Mode, the new Nikon D3100 comes in at a price point a bit above the entry-level D3000. Is the higher price justified? That would be telling. Check out our online review to see how its images stack up against the D3000 and key competitors.
- First Shots: Panasonic GH2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DMCGH2/DMCGH2A.HTM). Panasonic's GH1 led the field in video capability among compact interchangeable-lens cameras when it was introduced, now they've updated the design with the touch-screen equipped GH2. We'll have a full review a little later, but for now have a full set of test shots posted for you.
- Reviewed: Panasonic FZ100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ100/FZ100A.HTM)
- Printer review: Kodak ESP 7250 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/K7250/K7250.HTM)
- Lens Review: Sony 16mm f/2.8 E (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1346/cat/82). Sony's NEX line has been the most popular mirrorless camera line we've ever reviewed. We're finally getting around to testing their lenses, the first being their 16mm prime.
- Lens Review: Carl Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1411/cat/98). A lot of Sony NEX cameras are being sold to lens enthusiasts, who find they can mount most any lens out there on these great little bodies, thanks to a short flange distance and the myriad adapters available. As an example, we test Senior Tech Luke Smith's own Carl Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon on the NEX platform. How's it measure up to the mass-market Sony 16 prime mentioned above? Read the review to find out!
- Accessory Review: LensAlign Mark II (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LAII/LAII.HTM). If you have a modern SLR with microfocus adjustment (and care about accurate focus), you need one of Michael Tapes' LensAlign devices. Period. His latest design reduces manufacturing cost and allows the device to be knocked down for easy shipping or storage. Highly recommended.
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe
Visit the Pentax Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea2980
Read about PhotoRescue at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee8cc4b/0
Read about Nikon lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=5
Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2
Each year at this time, we try to come up with some special treat to express our appreciation for your subscription. You can still enjoy all of our previous specials by visiting the Archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Here's the list:
2009: San Francisco Photo Walk (Dec. 18)
2008: Two Paper Bookmarks (Dec. 19)
2007: "My Favorite Brunette" (Dec. 21)
2006: Card Size Calculator (Dec. 22)
2005: RSS Feed Generator (Dec. 23)
2004: dSLR Focal Length Converter (Dec. 10)
2003: Lens Calculator (Dec. 12)
2002: A Gift Certificate (Dec. 13)
2001: Mike's Holiday Recipe (Dec. 14)
2000: Aspect Ratio Calculator (Dec. 1)
1999: Resolution Calculator (Dec. 17
They all still work, especially the Gift Certificate, perfect for anyone on your list getting into digital photography. A PDF with a nice shot of the Golden Gate, you can download it (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?gsb) and print as many copies on your inkjet as you need. Then just remember to send an email to email@example.com with the subject "Gift Subscription" and the email address of the new subscriber in the body of the message.
And this year?
It has not been lost on us that scanning is a puzzling task for many of our readers.
We've tried to help with our very short course on scanning (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V600/V600.HTM#sho). That introduces you to all of the important factors and trade-offs. It runs through Resolution, Sharpness, Dmax, Color Depth, Connection Speed, Batch Scanning, Software, Film Carriers and Calibration Targets.
It doesn't discuss defect removal (we prefer manual retouching for important images, relying on automatic defect removal only when we are scanning a batch of images). But that's about all.
What seems to continually confuse people (including us), though, is what resolution to scan an original. In our CanoScan 9000F review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/CS9000/9000F.HTM#com) we published a small chart to show some options. We found the numbers revealing but a bit obscure.
So we thought for this Holiday Special, we'd write a Scanner Resolution Calculator. To get your own copy of it, just visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS for the online version of this issue. We've plugged it in right about here.
You tell the Calculator what size your original is, what size you want the reproduction to be and what the repro is for and it will tell you everything else. Just plug the results into your scanner for the most efficient scan.
There are, as you will see, some choices to make about quality. We try to make them clear, explaining the tradeoffs in a special note. And while it isn't always easy to translate the resolution we propose to your scanning software, we give you a few points of reference: file size, scaling percentage and resolution.
We wish we could give you a new scanning software interface, but think of this as the next best thing.
And the very happiest of holidays to you, too!
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RE: Canon MG5220 CD Printing
I just bought the MG5220 at Future Shop, in Toronto, Canada and, contrary to what your review says, it certainly will print a printable CD. It comes with a doohickey that fits below the print head and there is a menu item for it. I haven't tried it because I didn't even know that printable CDs existed but it says it will do it. I already have a scanner for negs and 35mm film so that is not a problem.
I was looking for an expensive photo printer like the Epson R1900 or the Canon Pro 9000, but saw this little machine and decided to try it. It works very well, is simple to set up and is very compact. So far I am very pleased and I have saved a bundle.
-- Bob Marlow(Model capabilities vary depending on region due to licensing restrictions. Unlike your Canadian model, the U.S. review unit did not print CDs, nor was there any attachment included to do so. We understand that Epson has an exclusive arrangement with the U.S. patent owner, which we also heard is expiring shortly. -- Editor)
RE: Another Puzzle
Hi Mike, another puzzle for your expertise. Last weekend my wife and I were shooting a well lit indoor polo match. She was using her Nikon D90 with a Sigma 18-125 and I was using a Pentax K20D with a Tamron 18-200. We both were using an ISO of 1600.
At the same focal lengths, her correct exposure was about 1.5 to 2.0 stops faster than mine. I would get a correct exposure at 1/100 second at f5.6, she would get 1/200 to 1/400 at f5.6, both at 135mm. In fact her exposures showed greater shadow/highlight range.
Is this due to a better Nikon sensor? Worse T-stop transmission of my lens? Other?
-- Kurt Ingham(It wouldn't be the sensors. According to DxO, the D90 sensor at ISO 1600 behaves more like 1200 while the Pentax a 1600 is closer to 1500. If you swear you weren't using a filter, the thing to do would be to compare the Exif headers for a clue. -- Editor)
I examined the Exif data -- and mystery solved. She wasn't shooting at ISO 1600 (which is what she had said), but in fact at 3200 and 6400 -- called plus one -- which looks surprisingly good. Oh well, at least I found out some interesting info about the sensors.
-- Kurt(Glad the mystery is solved! -- Editor)
RE: Nikon & HDR Software
Do you think Nik Software is going to do software for Nikon to do HDR? I think you mentioned at one time that Nikon and Nik Software had an agreement. I don't like Photoshop and would like to see HDR in NX2. What can you tell me?
-- Paul P(Nikon did have an exclusive arrangement with Nik Software to use U Point technology in Capture NX for one year, as we recall. That was the extent of the arrangement. There are an awful lot of HDR options today. We've been collecting them for a comparison review in the newsletter. Meanwhile don't hold your breath waiting for Nikon to deliver HDR. Fortunately, the existing options are pretty robust. -- Editor)
RE: Scanning Question
Your Web site is wonderful. I've read most reviews of the scanners. I was hoping you could help me answer a question, since I have no experience scanning at all.
I need to scan 35mm slides. Probably have 3,000 to 4,000 slides. But not all need to be scanned -- just some of my favorites. I also have just started in large format photography (4x5). So, there is a potential future need to scan larger transparencies.
I would think a dedicated slide only scanner might be the best choice, but recent flatbeds make me wonder if I might be better off with the CanonScan 9000F or Epson V700/750? It's unclear, though, whether either of these units really can handle a 4x5 transparency.
Can you provide any insight?
-- Lawrence(Your best bet is the Epson. The CanoScan does not have a large enough transparent unit for 4x5. The Epson handles even larger film. -- Editor)
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Lightroom 3.3 and Camera Raw 6.3 with Raw file support to 15 new cameras including the Nikon D7000 and Canon Powershot S95, as well as lens profiles for over 60 new Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Sigma lenses.
The company also updated Photoshop to v12.0.2 to fix "a number of high priority bugs including painting performance and type-related issues."
DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released DxO Optics Pro v6.5.2 [MW] with Raw support in both its $99 Standard and $199 Elite editions for the Pentax K-5, the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3. Those prices are holiday discounts available until Dec. 25 only.
Apple (http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2518) has released Aperture 3.1.1, a 357.79-MB update to address "overall stability and performance issues and also includes specific fixes that: address compatibility with the iLife Media Browser, improve reliability when upgrading existing Aperture libraries and address issues with publishing photos to MobileMe, Facebook and Flickr."
The company also released Digital Camera Raw Compaibility Updated 3.5 to support the Canon G12, Leica D-Lux 5 and V-Lux 2, Nikon D700, Coolpix P7000 and Panasonic GF2 and GH2.
YPOC (http://www.ypoc.com) has re-designed its Web site to take all the guesswork out of converting photos into PhotoGiclees on canvas. Uploaded images are automatically evaluated to determine all canvas enlargements that will render excellent results. The company has also produced a series of video tutorials titled YPOC Basic Training (http://vimeo.com/channels/ypocbasictraining).
Tamron (http://tamron.com) has released a compact, lightweight lens with a 15x zoom ratio, 62mm filter diameter, Vibration Compensation image stabilization and Tamron's first standing wave ultrasonic motor system for SLR lenses, Piezo Drive. The 18-270mm f3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD (Model B008) dSLR ultra-high-power zoom lens for Canon and Nikon mounts will be released Dec. 20 with the development of a Sony compatible mount later.
Boinx Software (http://www.boinx.com) has released a much-improved PhotoBox 1.1, its $4.99 iPad app for iOS 4.2 to pan and zoom your full-resolution JPEG and Raw images on an external display.
onOneSoftware (http://www.ononesoftware.com) has released Perfect Resize, the next generation of Genuine Fractals, with new features for achieving sharp detail when enlarging images, new time-saving gallery wrap and tiling options and interface enhancements.
Zoner Software (http://www.zoner.com) has released its $69.99 Zoner Photo Studio 13 [W] with improved performance, transparency support, a Healing Brush and sharing tools.
Lowell (http://www.lowel.com) has posted Color Temperature & Color Rendering Index DeMystified, a new lesson in its online education Lighting Resource Center to explain working with color lighting sources found on location.
Camera Bits (http://www.camerabits.com) has released a public beta of Photo Mechanic 4.6.7 [MW].
Houdah (http://www.houdah.com) has released its $30 HoudahGeo 2.7 [M] with Bing maps and satellite imagery, updates to GPSBabel and ExifTool and the ability to remember the last locations where tracks or images were accessed.
Fujifilm has set up a site to celebrate its highly-anticipated, retro FinePix X100 (http://www.finepix-x100.com/x100/).
Looking for new glass but confused by all the options? Try LensHero (http://lenshero.com) to narrow down the choices before checking out the reviews at SLRgear.com (http://www.SLRgear.com).
The San Jose Museum of Art is exhibiting The Modern Photographer: Observation and Intention through July 3, 2011 (http://www.sjmusart.org/modern-photographer-observation-and-intention). Artists represented in the show include Ruth Bernhard, Walker Evans, John Gutmann, Andre Kertesz, Arthur Rothstein, Peter Stackpole and Weegee, among others.
Delicate subject. Are you your parents' tech support? Need a little assistance? Send your parents a tech support package (http://www.teachparentstech.org) consisting of a little video explanation of whatever bedevils them. Brought to you by Google.
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
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
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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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher