|Volume 13, Number 5||11 March 2011|
Welcome to the 301st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We were surprised how much fun the new Lensbaby optic is with a built-in aperture (if you keep a few tips in mind). Then Carl Garrard explains the Sony Alpha A560 dSLR's unusual features. We detail a framing solution before discussing everything you have to worry about to build a custom film holder for your scanner. Oh, and if your neighbors are springing forward, check the clocks on your cameras this weekend.
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(Excerpted from the illustrated review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/S35/S35.HTM on the Web site.)
If there has been one aspect of the design of Lensbaby products that was a little wanting, it would be the aperture design.
Marvel as we might at the little magnetic aperture disc snapping into position above the lens and levitating there until we pulled it out with the magnetic tool, there's nothing like simply clicking to change apertures.
We never made much of this in our reviews because changing apertures in a Lensbaby is a creative act. The aperture determines how much of the scene is in focus. Sure it affects exposure and depth of field, but in a Lensbaby it doesn't just affect focus, it determines it.
Generally speaking, we'd use an aperture disc of f11 to minimize the effect with handheld shots and one of f4 or wider to narrow the focus to a spotlight-like circle.
The problem, though, was that this relied mostly on our ability to imagine how large a circle of focus each aperture would provide. Or, alternately, try each one to find out what it did.
You can get pretty good at swapping out aperture discs but to an innocent bystander it still looks like work. And that's an impression you want to avoid whenever possible.
Enter the Sweet 35 (http://lensbaby.com/optics-sweet35.php).
In an impressive adaptation of the Composer housing design, Lensbaby has been able to concoct an optic with an internal 12-blade aperture controlled by an aperture ring on the front of the piece.
That's trickier than it sounds because as you focus the lens with the Composer housing, the optic shrinks inside and extends outside the Composer opening. You not only have to be able to grab the aperture control but you have to be able to see what you have set it to.
So the Sweet 35 aperture ring is about half an inch wide with numerals printed on the outside edge so they remain visible when the optic retreats into the housing.
Not that you'll be recording aperture settings. Instead, we suspect you'll be focused on the other end of the camera to see how an aperture change affects the focus area of your scene.
The 35mm focal length itself is a nice choice, too.
For subframe sensor cameras, 35mm is the new normal. Pop one on your camera and the view takes no mental gymnastics to take in. It looks about the way you thought it would. Nothing closer than it appears in the mirror. Nothing further away.
The Sweet 35 focuses as close as 7.2 inches in the Composer housing and opens as wide as f2.5. In contrast, Canon's 35mm f2 focuses as close as 9.6 inches. And Nikon's popular new 35mm f1.8 G focuses as close as a foot.
Neither of these representative 35mm primes, of course, is a selective focus lens. A selective focus lens narrows the circle of focus in a scene as you open the aperture, much as a depth of field in a normal lens becomes more shallower as you open the aperture.
The specifications of the Sweet 35 include:
- Focal Length: 35mm and the widest selective focus optic in the Optic Swap System (the Fisheye at 12mm is the widest but not selective focus)
- Focus Distance: When mounted in the Composer it's 7.5 inches to infinity. On the Scout it's 6.5 inches to infinity. On the Muse and Control Freak it's 3.0 inches to infinity.
- Aperture: 12-blade adjustable aperture
- Aperture Range: f2.5 to f22
- Type: Selective focus optic (as you open the aperture, focus constricts). At f2.5 the sweet spot is about 15 percent of the total image area on APC-C sensors, growing to 40 percent at f22.
- Construction: Four multi-coated glass elements, in three groups. The front element is not a flat protective piece but part of the optical system.
- Threads: 46mm front threads
- Price: $180
The Sweet 35 is compatible with the Lensbaby Composer, Scout, Muse, and Control Freak lens housings.
It is not compatible with the Composer with Tilt Transformer Micro Four-Thirds housings or current 37mm Lensbaby accessories.
We first mounted the Sweet 35 in a Lensbaby Composer for Canon EF. Of course we didn't do it correctly the first time, so we resorted to the thorough User Guide PDF (http://assets.lensbaby.com/userguide/sweet35.pdf) available on the Lensbaby site.
The first thing to do is rotate the Composer's focusing ring so the installed optic is as far forward as possible. That makes it accessible to the Optic Swap Tool, otherwise known as the cap of the Sweet 35 case.
A counter clockwise turn unlocks the installed optic after you've inserted the tool's three prongs into it. You can slip a finger into the installed optic to pull it out or turn the housing upside down to let it fall free.
To mount the Sweet 35 in the housing, you first have to open its aperture all the way. Since the aperture ring is on the front of the optic and you use the front of the optic to lock it into the housing, you want to be at the right end (the open end) of the aperture scale. There's a white bar on the Sweet 35 that aligns with the white dot under f2.5 to confirm you're in the right place.
The white dot aligns to the open dot on the face of the composer, too, when you insert the Sweet 35 into that housing.
With the dots aligned, you simply turn the Sweet 35 clockwise until it aligns with the solid white dot. It's a good idea to keep the Composer's solid white dot at noon on the housing because it indicates the active f-stop, too.
If you did it right, the outer ring of the Sweet 35 should be exposed outside the Composer housing. As you focus the housing, it shrinks back in but the numerals for the f-stops should remain visible.
Removing the optic requires rotating the focus ring to bring it forward, aligning the hollow dot of the Sweet 35 (near f22) to the hollow dot of the Composer, pushing in slightly and turning counter-clockwise until the hollow dot on the Sweet 35 aligns with the solid dot on the Composer.
So what does the aperture control? Just as the aperture on a normal lens controls depth of field, increasing what's in focus as you stop the lens down, the Sweet 35 increases what's in focus as you stop down.
But the Sweet 35 changes what's in focus in the plane of focus, rather than changing the number of planes in focus as a normal aperture.
It turns focus into a spotlight you can aim at your subject and expand or contract as you like.
Mounted in any housing but the Scout, the Sweet 35's focus area can be moved around the scene by tilting the housing. As Lensbaby's documentation notes, "A little tilt goes a long way." On subframe sensors you can throw the sweet spot out of the frame. And full frame sensors may exhibit slight vignetting.
One good way to get comfortable with this is to practice with an aperture open to about f4. The restricted focus spot is easier to find and it's easier to see it move around the scene as you tilt.
Judging Focus. One thing that immediately struck us was that changing the aperture changes the light reaching the viewfinder. At small apertures, seeing well enough to focus manually can be a challenge.
But it's even a challenge at large apertures. As we explained in Using Fast Primes With Live View in the Aug. 27, 2010 Newsletter:
"The big problem, though, is that it's just impossible to judge focus wide open with a fast lens. Why? Because the focusing screen wasn't designed for lenses that fast. Our widest apertures, we noticed, are all about the same brightness. When f1.8 is as bright as f4, you aren't seeing what's in focus at f1.8. The focusing screen's microlenses show more depth of field than the lens sees." So the captured scene can be a bit different than the scene you compose in the viewfinder. On three dSLRs we use, we can't see a difference in brightness at f4 and wider through the viewfinder.
The solution to this is either to carefully review your capture (enlarging to 100 percent to confirm focus) or use Live View to compose.
In fact, Live View is a really fun way to use the Sweet 35. Not only can you accurately set focus with the Composer, but you can see just what effect changing apertures has, especially at the wide end.
The rule of thumb here is that if you don't notice a brightness change with an aperture change when looking through the optical viewfinder, you aren't seeing focus at the wider apertures. As the Newsletter story observed, we found f4 to be about as bright as f2.5. Brightness did change between f4 and f5.6, though.
Using Flash. Artificial light presents its own problems. The sync speed of your shutter will be the limiting factor here. At 1/200 sec., the fastest sync on one of our dSLRs, we were constrained to f10 and smaller with a studio strobe we're testing set on only half power.
That would be true of any lens, of course, but it matters a lot more on the Sweet 35 because the aperture determines how wide focus is in your scene.
Outdoors. Our indoor test shots were all done on a tripod. For a little extracurricular fun, we took the Sweet 35 out for a walk.
We took the Sweet 35 on a hike up Twin Peaks after a day of storms and had fun shooting handheld. We found that f4 was a good place to start in Aperture Priority mode.
If the shot called for a larger circle of focus, it was no trouble to close down the aperture. If it called for a larger one, we opened up a bit, trying to keep the subject in the center of the focus area (which showed a bit larger than the capture, as we've explained).
Going back to f4 for the next shot prevented us from focusing on an area that would subsequently be out of focus if we opened the aperture.
We did look at the aperture ring to make sure we hit f4 but otherwise, it was easy to feel the aperture detents and the ring itself moves smoothly. Of course, there's no reason to hit the detents. You can certainly set the aperture between them.
It's impossible to imagine doing any of that with the magnetic ring apertures of other Optic Swap system optics.
Tilting the lens to move the focus circle to one side or another, one corner or another, was no problem and added to the fun. It's a different way to compose images and as much as we shoot on Twin Peaks, a refreshing change. We thought it might make an excellent way to use an older camera body, actually. Just mount a Composer and Sweet 35 optic on it for the occasional selective focus shot.
The only thing we missed with the review unit was a lens cap but Lensbaby informs us that the shipping units include one. We really enjoyed composing with the aperture ring, particularly with a dSLR that had Live View so we could see what apertures larger than f4 would do to the scene.
We also found the 35mm focal length just right for our subframe dSLRs. And the close focusing capability just added to the fun.
If you've invested in the Optic Swap system, the Sweet 35 is a confirmation of your intelligence. And it's never too late to demonstrate that. You can start quite nicely with the Sweet 35.
By CARL GARRARD(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA560/AA560A.HTM on the Web site.)
Sony's Alpha A560 represents its second traditional dSLR model to receive an incremental upgrade treatment and also the second to sport any kind of video. The Sony A560 is effectively replacing the Alpha A500 in Sony's lineup and comes with a host of improvements and cool extra features.
Features like Multi-Frame Noise Reduction, Sweep Panorama, Hand Held Twilight, a Dual Axis Digital Level Gauge and Focus Check Live View (which replaces Manual Focus Check Live View) are fun and useful. With the following additions, such as a Depth Of Field Preview button, Two Second Timer Mirror Lock Up, Release without Lens menu option and upgraded 15 point Auto Focus system with three double cross sensors, the Sony A560 gives the impression of a much more aggressive and refined mid-range dSLR offering.
LOOK & FEEL
Although the exterior finish of a dSLR has little impact on the overall handling, the more durable finish of the Sony A560 means less worry about fine scratches plaguing your investment and lets you think more about shooting instead. Plus it just looks a lot nicer. I prefer the all-black, more durable/professional looking finish of the Sony A560 and worried much less about scratching this model while shooting than I did with the camera it replaces.
The grip is mid-sized with a slight bias toward smaller hands. Supple and curvaceous are words that describe the A560's grip best yet there's a nice large indentation for the middle finger to keep the camera extra secure. In fact, only two digits are really needed to hold the A560 securely -- the thumb and middle finger. This frees the forefinger to actuate main control wheel/on/off switch/drive/ISO/focus-check live view without having to reposition your grip during the process. A nice layout, easy to use.
The Sony A560 is very similar in build to the A500/550 with the main difference being the finish, yet there are some small refinements in other areas worth noting as well. For example, the doors that house the Mic/Remote/USB and HDMI ports are a bit easier to open and close and seem to snap shut nicer. Buttons and switches seem to operate more smoothly with more refined tolerances and are a bit snappier as well. There is less rattling inside the camera than I experienced with the A500/550 dSLRs that undoubtedly was caused by Sony's Quick Auto Focus Live View mechanisms.
Overall the Sony A560 is improved in build compared to the model it replaces, but I did find one small issue. The slim sensor cover on the front of the grip causes some creaking when you squeeze the grip. It took me some time to find where the creak was coming from, but indeed this is the cause.
The viewfinder is similar in size to the A100 viewfinder, falling slightly behind a couple of competitors on the market in terms of magnification. The viewing area is 95 percent accurate and has a 0.8x magnification ratio.
The LCD overlay that highlights each individual autofocus point was a nice touch. When set to the wide AF setting, often a cluster of autofocus points will light up inside letting the photographer know where the Sony A560 is focusing. If you set the Sony A560 to Spot or Local autofocusing, the center or autofocus point you select will light up red when focus is achieved. If you choose AF area focusing, only one of the 11 autofocus points shows at all, that being the one you select manually. It's a nice little system to use once you get the hang of it, mainly because you can remove many of the autofocus points with a setting change.
The A560's in-body autofocus system is peppy and eager. I it slightly quicker than the SAM system on the kit lens and it's also slightly quieter, depending on the lens you use. Continuous AF mode in good light does pretty well at keeping up with the action, very similar to the A700's performance in speed, tracking and hit rates when using the more sensitive three center double cross sensors. The outer autofocus sensors aren't as reliable.
This mode replaces Manual Focus Check Live view and now allows two focusing options: contrast-detect autofocus with SAM and SSM branded lenses (that includes third party makers such as Sigma and Tamron) and phase-detection autofocus. A live luminescence histogram has also been added to the party and makes "FCLV" a much much better tool than "MFCLV" as a result. This is a huge addition to the Sony A560's functionality. The Sony A560 is now a very powerful photographic live view tool that exceeds any of the competition's live view experience.
Image magnification is the same as the A500/550: 7x and 14x magnification for hyper accurate manual focusing. Getting accurate exposure, framing and focus is quite easy with the A560's layout. Macro shooting is a blast in this mode. I found contrast-detect autofocus to be a tad slow, but it's very accurate.
The Alpha A560 is Sony's first traditional dSLR to have full HD video capture. Granted, this comes without autofocus capability, but I still find it very useful. I've never been a big video guy -- I'm more of a family-designated videographer. However, I find the ability to get big, high quality video files in my dSLR a nice touch. In use I wasn't bothered much by the lack of real-time autofocus. I guess I just don't miss the loud distracting sounds other dSLRs make during autofocusing.
I found the Sony A560's video implementation in Playback mode simple to operate and navigate. The built-in speaker doesn't really get loud enough during playback but this is pretty much par for the course on dSLRs. I didn't have to read the manual to figure out how to fast forward/rewind, turn up or down the volume or change folders back to still images after I was through watching the video. Pretty simple stuff. Note, though, that there are no in-camera editing tools for video.
Sweep Panorama. Here's a mode I had particular difficulty with. It takes practice if you intend to get a clean image free of stitching or auto-aligning errors. Some scenes were just impossible to get with a perfectly clean final image and I gave up entirely. Either the camera cut off the last portion of the image leaving a section entirely black or portions of the scene had stitching errors. Other scenes I could manage a clean shot eventually. I found that doing a practice sweep of my scene keeping the camera level and at a proper speed prior to making the final exposure helped matters greatly.
Multi-Frame Noise Reduction is an ISO setting (not a Scene mode). The camera will automatically micro-align six simultaneous exposures accounting for some small hand shake movement. It requires static subjects only as a result. This is the trade-off relative to the rather wonderful advantage of low noise images you gain at every single ISO setting (even ISO 100 benefits). I'm simply enamored by it. That it also allows for some amount of handshake (due to auto-aligning of all six images during processing) means I can handhold the camera and capture low noise high ISO images that would be throw-away images otherwise.
Sony claims a two stop advantage in lower noise at any given ISO setting. Getting keeper photographs up to ISO 12,800 is indeed quite possible. ISO 3200 images look as nice as ISO 400 single exposure images in my opinion, noise and detail wise.
Handheld Twilight. Although this Scene mode is largely automatic, I find it does exactly as its name advertises and does quite a good job at that. My only quibble with it is it defaults to selecting a very low aperture value (as low as it can go) to compensate for low light, instead of raising ISO values higher to compensate for light loss. It only seems to raise the ISO value if it needs too.
Niggles aside, it works quite well and is great for a quickie capture when you don't have time to think or adjust settings much. I actually ended up liking it more the more I used it. If I have time to make adjustments, I use the superior (in just about every way) Multi-Frame Noise Reduction ISO setting.
Advanced DRO. Sony's Advanced DRO calculates about 4,000 different areas of the scene in order to make single exposure images look as natural as possible. Adjustable in five steps, it's best used at lower ISOs because shadow areas end up suffering more noise as you raise the ISO value and strength setting of DRO+. Auto DRO is much like the A100's version, nearly useless in comparison, but it does make some slight noticeable differences to the scene with a bias toward preserving highlight detail. Its main advantage is it can be used with moving subjects, unlike the two previous modes I just discussed. It's a handy tool.
Auto HDR. This is your tool for extreme lighting circumstances and quite a powerful tool it is. Considerably more powerful than Advanced DRO. I found it best used with multi-segment metering to avoid biasing toward highlights or shadows when making an exposure reading.
Instead try to lock your exposure with fairly even metering of highlights and shadows (a centered histogram reading in other words). Rarely have I found a scene that requires the full six-stop setting to compensate for lighting extremes. Its like having six graduated ND filters built right into the camera. Pretty cool and nearly flawless, except that anything moving in the frame will have odd edges and ghost-like patterns as a result of the stacking. Lowered noise is another benefit of Auto HDR.
Speed Priority Shooting. With the A560's buffer and seven frames per second, Speed Priority shooting is quite the sports shooting camera as long as you aren't tracking a single object at high speeds and do shoot JPEGs only.
I find its buffer will handle only a few Raw files before the camera stops to write. After trying some actual real-life photography in this mode, I'm convinced it certainly has its place. If you want constant focusing and metering, the Sony A560 will still do five frames per second, which is just as fast as the A900, Sony's highest-end dSLR, and plenty for most circumstances.
You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA560/AA560A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA560/AA560GALLERY.HTM.
Sony has taken the steps necessary to make a compelling dSLR for the enthusiast in the continued absence of a replacement for the A700. Though some of us thought it was a little thick front to back, there's no denying the Sony A560 is a formidable camera, with a faster Live View autofocus mode than anything else on the market.
The Depth of Field Preview button is also an important inclusion, heretofore conspicuously absent from the A200, A300 and A500 Alpha models and its return is welcome. Slick tricks like Sweep Panorama and Handheld Twilight are quite useful modes that have worked their way up from Sony's pocket cameras, then into the NEX series and are now found in the new SLT line and both the A560 and A580. The Sony A560 looks like a good choice for the intermediate photographer who wants to try some of Sony's helpful features with the improved image quality we first saw in the Sony NEX cameras.
We've broken down the test results on the Image Quality and Optics pages, where we also show conversions from Raw, white balance performance, color, flash and how the various special modes like HDR and DRO perform. Be sure to check those out. Auto white balance is a little warm in tungsten lighting, but that's not uncommon among SLRs, unfortunately.
The Sony A560's image quality is quite good, using the same sensor used in the NEX cameras, which frankly blew us away with their high ISO performance. Its JPEG images are capable of outputting excellent 20x30-inch prints from ISO 100 to 400 and ISO 800 and 1600 shots look good at 16x24, which is really remarkable.
All told, the Sony A560 impressed us as a quality dSLR camera with plenty of speed and very high image quality, making it a 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:
- Reviewed: Olympus Pen E-PL2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EPL2/EPL2A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Panasonic Lumix GF2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DMCGF2/DMCGF2A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus 40-150mm f/4-5.6 M.Zuiko (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1374/cat/15), like most of the newer Micro Four Thirds lenses, this telephoto zoom lens is tiny, weighing just under seven ounces.
- Reviewed: Lensbaby Sweet 35 Optic (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/S35/S35.HTM)
- Reviewed: Sony Alpha A560 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA560/AA560A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon D7000 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D7000/D7000A.HTM), a refinement of the already superb D90, is a redesign that maintains a small, nimble body while improving nearly every major internal aspect.
It may have happened to you, too. You take a photo of something with an aspect ratio that just doesn't fit in a standard frame. Like some art work you admire enough to live with.
For us it was Vilhelm Hammershoi's "Rest" (http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/search.html?no_cache=1&zoom=1&tx_damzoom_pi1%5BshowUid%5D=2374). It's nearly square (but not quite).
We saw it when it was here at the de Young Museum, part of the Musee d'Orsay's traveling exhibition. And it was love at first sight. So we acquired the image, planning to frame it.
It's an unusual image, certainly. It's the back of a young woman. She is not sitting up straight, but leaning back on the chair, one arm over the corner of the chair. Breathing easily. There's a shadow running the full length of the left side of the image as if a door had been opened on her. Poetic in its stillness.
When we saw it, we cautioned ourselves to remember it was painted with a very muted palette. The colors were desaturated, we wagged our mouse trigger finger. It's as if even the color of her skin is at rest.
The print was about 10.5x12.25 inches. No frame from the old discount frame store was going to work, except a large one with a mat. But the original hadn't been matted and we didn't want to mat our reproduction. We weren't going to find a 10x5x12.25-inch frame, though.
Enter the shadow box solution.
We found a a shadow box that measured 14.5x17 at one of the discount frame stores we frequent. All black. That left about a two inch border on either side and at the top, the rest at the bottom, if we trimmed the reproduction so it had no border.
The trick would be floating the trimmed reproduction above the black fabric of the back of the box. We didn't want to glue it to fabric. We wanted it to cast something of a shadow, magically floating in space.
We had an adhesive backing board we planned to mount the trimmed reproduction on but we still had to "lift" it off the fabric background.
We grabbed a cork, split it into four even pieces and tried that. Just right!
To hold it all together, we drilled four holes in the back board (after carefully measuring exactly where we wanted our corks to stand on the board).
Then we sent a screw through each hole, flipped the board over and screwed in our cork stand-offs.
To attach the backing board, we used epoxy on the exposed ends of the cork. You might prefer hot glue, instead.
After it had set, we laid the reproduction over the board so see where to drop it when we exposed the adhesive. Then we removed the protective paper, laid the reproduction carefully on the exposed adhesive and were able to make minor adjustments as we measured each side in two place to make sure it was square to the frame with an even border.
Marvelous. Letting the odd-sized image float in the deep blackness of the shadow box made it seem even more restful. And the desaturated colors seemed stronger against the black than they would have been set off by a cream-colored mat.
And that shadow on the left side of the image just seemed right at home in the shadow box, too.
It was just what we want from a frame: to highlight the image rather than merely package it. Every time we look at it, we feel like we've just taken a short, restful break.
So there you are with your flatbed scanner and some odd-sized film. It's only odd, though, because it doesn't fit the film holders supplied with the scanner.
And the question bouncing around inside your head is just what you have to do to make scans of film this size with your scanner.
The answer is pretty simple: make a film holder for them.
But you're not immediately convinced. Why, you want to know, can't you just lay them on the glass and scan them like a print?
Well, you might be able to do that. It depends on your scanner. Some models actually make a little adjustment for film so the sharpest focus is a bit off the glass where its holders would position the film.
You can test that easily enough. Just scan something using the manufacturer's holder and then again without the holder. Is there any difference in sharpness?
Typically, you will indeed notice a difference. If so, it's time to build a film holder. But even if not, you may still want to build a film holder to make it easier to scan a lot of that film.
There are a few things to consider as you engineer your own holder.
It would be nice if film holders were designed like enlarging easels with adjustable blades but the tolerances are not as generous under a transparency adapter as they are under an enlarger.
- Light Source. Measure the dimensions of your transparency adapter's diffused light source to make sure it's large enough to cover your film. You might also try a scan with the top up to confirm it evenly illuminates the diffused area.
- Repeatability. One of the big advantages to using a holder in the first place is that it places the film in the same place on the glass each time so you can use a software template to find frames. Most scanners have some sort of alignment aid like a notch or a pin to make holder placement consistent. Consider how you might take advantage of that aid. If you don't find one, use two edges of the scanner's glass area to place your holder against.
- Materials. Film holders have been built with a number of materials from frozen corn dog sticks (painted black) to For Rent signs snagged at the local hardware store. You want something malleable enough that you can cut it (typically with an Exacto knife) but stable enough it won't fall apart (like cardboard). It will also have to be the right thickness to hit the focus plane. Mat board is easily cut and configured for alignment aids. A dark color will prevent light from straying, too.
- Focus Plane. If your scanner does adjust the focus plane for film, you'll want to guarantee your film lies in that plane. You can do this with shims or by using a material with that thickness. Shims are the less attractive option because they aren't part of the holder and may make it harder to use any alignment aid.
- Optical Path. Sandwiching the film between pieces of glass is an option (it does flatten curled film) but there are some pitfalls when you introduce another element to the optical path. Not all glass is blemish free (particularly the stuff used in inexpensive frames). Look for waves and bubbles. And glass may introduce Newton Rings when you close it on your film. You can buy anti-Newton Ring glass to avoid that or wave your film through a puff of talcum powder (which invisibly keeps the film from touching the glass).
- Calibration Window. The very first part of the holder the scanner will see is often exposed as a calibration window. Take a look at the manufacturer-supplied holders to see how much of the holder is cut away to accommodate calibration. The manufacturer's holders are your best guide for alignment, thickness and the calibration area.
Fortunately it's easy enough to build your own out of simple household materials in just a few minutes. And when you do, that odd film size won't be odd any longer.
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 the CanoScan 9000F scanner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeb0378
Visit the Pentax Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea2980
Follow the Sony Alpha SLT-A33 discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeb1a7e/0
Read about Canon lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=4
Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b8
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RE: GPS Cameras?
Isn't it about time that we had a review of the available GPS-equipped cameras and their capabilities -- especially speed of operation. I have an iPhone that is constantly on and consequently has an almost instantaneous GPS position. It is always in my shirt pocket under layers of winter-time clothing. I recently bought a Samsung WB650 in the hope of getting something similar. I have it switched on all the time in my hands, but the GPS is very sluggish -- why? It sometimes three or four minutes to update the position.
-- Tony Ramsey(It just so happens that we're wrapping up a review of Casio's Hybrid-GPS H20G. The hybrid part means it guesses where it is when it can't find the satellites. Finding the satellites is why things take so long in any GPS system. And when you think about it (where the signal goes to find stuff), it ain't that long. Five minutes, we've found, is what it takes for accurate positioning from a cold start. But subsequent syncs should be just a few seconds. Sounds like the Samsung may be resetting the GPS sync. -- Editor)
RE: 35mm Film Scanners
I went through your Web site and tried to ask if you were aware of any scanners that worked well with both 35mm slides and film and also with the old negatives, pre- and post-WW II. I have a bunch of negs from my dad, probably from an old box camera, 620 film I think and maybe some 110 and 127 film, all black and white, plus color slides and color negs, all 35mm. I would like to scan the negs and then pick and choose what to print. Any suggestions?
-- Concetta Schafhausen(The 620 film won't be scannable by the all-in-one devices, Concetta. It's just too big. So you're looking at the CanoScan 8800F, 9000F or Epson V600, all of which we've reviewed and would recommend for scanning your father's film. If you had any 4x5 film, though, that would mean only the Epson V700/V750 would work. -- Editor)
RE: Scanning a Lifetime
I have been beating the bushes for a while now, looking for the "right" scanner to commit a lifetime of photographic efforts to my computer and beyond. I have a fairly sizable accumulation of 35mm and medium format negatives and slides (including some infrared) and a range of old photographs dating back to when I was Snapshot Editor for my high school yearbook in 1949/50 (and an array of stuff even before that).
I became rather discouraged with the quality and capabilities of digital photography in the early '90s (when I could still get better results with my old EOS 620 and Mamiya 645 film cameras) and had just kind of pushed away from photography -- giving my old treasures up for lost until today's fast evolving (fascinating!) technology got me all excited again.
Anyway, long story short, I am trying to find a scanner to salvage and computerize my old stuff, without requiring a second mortgage. Thus far, my focus has tended to point to Canon's CanoScan 9000F, but something keeps telling me there may be a better choice (especially for those older Kodak 120/620 negatives and photographs). Well, you guys are my respected experts; I love reading your various reviews and critiques and I hope you may have some words of wisdom you can share with me about a scanner. Do you have any guidance or recommendations you are willing to share?
-- Howard Gibbons(Estimate an hour to scan every roll of film, Howard, and you'll see why one scan fan we know recently calculated it would take him (or someone else) 12 years to scan his lifetime collection. So we recommend finding a local lab with good gear (and attentive staff) to digitize a collection. Then buy a scanner to work on the images you really want to massage. The 9000F is fine for this and unless you are doing bulk scanning or large format scanning, nothing really beats it. -- Editor)
RE: Search Tricks
I would like to know whether it is possible and if so how, to search previous issues of your newsletter for reviews of specific dSLR bodies, lenses and accessories. In my case, the ones of current interest are the Sony A350, A900/850 and the A55. I used to save hard copies of the issues that dealt with these cameras and their related accessories, but your publication is so good that the accumulation of paper was becoming a problem.
-- Richard Roberts(Yes, after 300 issues, we can just imagine the towers of paper! Fortunately, we have a nice online archive that Google knows nothing about at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html and there's an index of stories with a full-text search option at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html as well. But to search for a particular camera and lenses made for it, we'd use a different approach. Camera reviews (in various states) are available by manufacturer at http://www.imaging-resource.com/MFR1.HTM and lens reviews at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/index.php are also grouped by manufacturer. Hope that helps! -- Editor)
Early color photography has been in the news lately.
First there was Frank Hurley's shots of Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Endurance voyage (http://www.howtobearetronaut.com/2011/02/shackletons-antarctica-in-colour-1915/), part of the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917. Hurley was the official photographer on the expedition.
Then there was the Smithsonian's discovery color photos taken by Frederick Ives six months after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/03/07/MN6K1I4BU4.DTL). Are there any earlier color photos of San Francisco?
Adobe (http://labs.adobe.com) has posted Lightroom 3.4 and Camera Raw 6.4 Release Candidates on Adobe Labs with support for the Canon EOS Rebel T3i/Rebel T3, Hasselblad H4D-40, Olympus E-PL1s/E-PL2/XZ-1 and Samsung NX11. Over a dozen new lens profiles and a few bug fixes are included as well.
Canon is publishing Getting the Most from Speedlites (http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/education/technical/getting_the_most_from_speedlites.do) by Syl Arena in four parts. The first part looks at the Canon lineup and built-in light modifiers. Subsequent parts will cover off-camera use, light modification and more advanced topics.
Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has announced a $29 per year plan with "the same great photo and video hosting with musical slide shows, your own URL at phanfare.com and awesome mobile support. The difference is that the $29/year version does not retain full size originals." The new low-cost option also does not include cnames, album sections, dropbox and multiple subsites.
Jake von Slatt hacked a Diana lens adapter for Canon and stuck it on an old Exa lens (http://steampunkworkshop.com/putting-old-lenses-canon-dslr).
Roxio (http://www.roxio.com) has released its $99.99 Toast 11 Titanium and $149.99 Toast Pro disc burning software [M] with a new interface, built-in video tutorials, recording to multiple drives simultaneously, save/reload of custom video profiles, direct upload to social networking sites and optimizations that "dramatically speed H.264 (high definition) video conversion or encoding." The Pro edition adds a Blu-ray Disc plug-in and four third-party applications: Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, BIAS SoundSoap SE, Boinx FotoMagico and SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 5.
Perpetual Kid (http://www.perpetualkid.com/comic-strip-picture-frame.aspx) has introduced its $17.99 Comic Strip Picture Frame, a multi-image frame with speech bubble stickers and a pen.
Sigma is celebrating its Fifty Year Anniversary with special events throughout 2011. Sign up (http://www.sigmaphoto.com/50th-anniversary) for its special 50th anniversary list to learn about prizes, events and fun content.
Lensbaby (http://www.lensbaby.com) has announced the addition of its Sweet 35 optic to the Lensbaby Optic Swap System. As noted in the review above, the $180 Sweet 35 is a 35mm selective focus optic with a 12-blade internal aperture.
BosStrap (http://www.bosstrap.com) has announced its $39.95 BosStrap Camera Sling System made of seat belt webbing that attaches to the strap eyelet rather than the tripod socket.
Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released RAW Developer 1.9.0 as a 64-bit application for Mac OS X 10.5 or later. Performance on Snow Leopard systems has been improved as much as four to six times, the company notes.
Boinx Software (http://boinx.com) has released its $149 FotoMagico Pro 3.7.5 [M] with more efficient audio playback and interface improvements.
Baseline Shots Blog (http://baselineshots.blogspot.com) is Mike Olivella's collection of tips, tricks and videos on various photo topics including setting up a studio and shooting a basketball game.
Jeff Bridges (http://jeffbridges.com/true_grit_book) has published his True Grit Book of panorama images from the movie set. Talk about wide screen.
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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:
Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher