The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 13, Number 6 25 March 2011

Copyright 2011, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 302nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. News Editor Michael Tomkins reports on the imaging industry companies affected by the recent disaster in Japan. That leaves just enough room in this issue to follow Dan as he ducks into a bar to escape the blizzards of NYC and test the NX100's low light performance.

Michael's report includes links to two lists of reputable organizations where readers can contribute to the relief effort. As he observed in the extended online version of his report, the staff here remains "deeply shocked and saddened by the scope of this disaster and our thoughts and prayers remain with the people of Japan, as well as those in other countries affected by the tsunami, which caused damage as far as away as Peru and Chile."


TOPICS

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Feature: An Update on the Industry in Japan

By MICHAEL R. TOMKINS, News Editor
(Excerpted from the full story posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1300954258.html on the Web site.)

Two weeks ago, much of the northeastern coast of Honshu, Japan was devastated by the combination of the fourth largest earthquake recorded worldwide since the start of the 20th century and a tsunami that reportedly reached heights of 50-75 feet in some areas.

As well as leaving hundreds of thousands homeless, the 9.0 magnitude quake and its resulting tsunami caused major damage to the region's infrastructure. Although the recovery effort began almost immediately, it has been further complicated by an unusually large number of aftershocks -- almost 50 of which have themselves surpassed magnitude 6.0 -- as well as the difficulties faced at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant, which necessitated evacuation of a large area around the facility. Additionally, northern Japan has faced unseasonably cold weather and shelters are struggling to provide enough food, water, medicine and other supplies for the many people who've been left with nowhere else to turn.

IMAGING INDUSTRY

Many household names in the imaging industry have been directly affected by the disaster and we're continuing to do our best to keep readers apprised of their situation, but before you read on, we'd urge you to consider visiting the Google Crisis Response page (http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html) where you can make a donation toward the relief effort. Alternatively, the folks at Demystifying Digital (http://www.demystifyingdigital.com/Photo-Industry-News/Japan-Disaster-Relief-Efforts--Charitable-Donations/index.aspx) have compiled an excellent list of reputable organizations to which you can make a donation. (These link will all open in a new window, so you can easily return to this item afterwards.)

Since our most recent report (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1300136831.html) on the disaster, we were deeply saddened to learn of a fatality at Sendai Nikon Corp. and we understand Nikon has yet to confirm the safety of three further employees in Natori City. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues of these individuals and of course, with the people of Japan in general.

COMPANY ROUND-UP

Following is the latest information we have from a number of companies in the imaging field.

We're not aware of any further statement from Canon since that made on March 14. At that time, the company reported 15 employees were injured at its Utsunomiya facility, which sustained significant damage. Canon divisions at this location are responsible for production, research and development of a range of optical products, including EF lenses, as well as lenses for camcorders, broadcast cameras, business machines, LCD projectors and other specialized lenses, plus mirror projection aligners and semiconductor equipment. Operations at the facility were said to have been suspended as the company noted "time [would] likely be needed" before operations could resume in Utsunomiya.

In addition, the facility of a subsidiary company -- Fukushima Canon Inc. -- also suffered significant damage. No injuries have been reported at the facility, which produces inkjet printers, print heads and ink tanks, but this facility was also expected to take some time to return to operation. Several other facilities were also closed at the last report and their future operational status was still being determined. These include the Toride plant (office imaging products, etc.) and the Ami plant (LC and semiconductor exposure equipment), plus four other subsidiaries: Canon Precision Inc. (micro motors, miscellaneous sensors, toner cartridges), Canon Optron Inc. (optical crystals, evaporation materials), Canon Chemicals Inc.'s Iwama Plant (toner cartridges) and Canon Mold Co. Ltd. (plastic molding). No injuries were reported at any of these facilities.

Separately, Canon announced the establishment of an Earthquake Disaster Recovery Task Force, which is looking into measures to resume operations, including potentially shifting production to alternate locations where a facility's operations may need to be suspended for over a month. Canon also pledged $3.7 million to the Japanese Red Cross and other organizations, as well as offering to provide supplies as needed.

A March 15 statement from Hoya noted several employees had sustained slight injuries, although the company reported no fatalities, serious injuries or missing staff. The Miyagi factory of Pentax Life Care, which manufactures endoscopes, sustained slight damage and had temporarily suspended operations due to power outages and traffic issues. Pentax Life Care's Yamagata factory had already resumed operations, meanwhile. Some 30 locations of Hoya's Eye City retail contact lens chain had been forced to suspend business and a few locations were said to have sustained heavy damage that may require a period of months to rectify. Hoya's Vision Care division, which produces eye glasses, had also sustained damage to its Tohoku sales office and was closed as of the last information.

While Hoya's release made no specific mention of Pentax Imaging Systems, a subsequent press release issued by Pentax UK reports only minor injuries to employees, along with minor damage to the Pentax Imaging Systems headquarters.

Separately, Hoya pledged $1.2 million to the recovery effort and offered to provide specialized medical equipment such as rigid video laryngoscopes for intubation.

As noted above, Nikon has now reported the death of one member of its staff at Sendai Nikon Corp., in addition to three missing employees in Natori City. An earlier statement further reported some injuries to staff and noted the company had established an Emergency Headquarters for Disaster Control, headed by its president.

The company has reported damage to a number of facilities, which had to suspend operations. Among these, two sustained severe damage, although in both cases, Nikon expects operation to resume by the end of the month. These two facilities are Sendai Nikon Corp. in Natori, which produces dSLRs including the D3x, D3S and D700, and Miyagi Nikon Precision Co., Ltd in Zao-machi, which makes devices for LCD steppers and scanners. Other facilities listed as having sustained damage included Tochigi Nikon Corp. (Otawara; optical lenses, opto-mechanical equipment, electronic imaging devices), Tochigi Nikon Precision Co. Ltd. (Otawara; devices for IC steppers & scanners, lenses for IC/LCD steppers and scanners).

Tochigi Nikon resumed operations on March 18 and the remaining facilities were expected to do shortly after. While Nikon's most recent statement noted concern about the impact of rolling blackouts and supply issues on its Japanese facilities. The company stated it was doing its utmost to overcome these difficulties -- and evidence of this can be seen in the fact that the company has already contracted with Malaysian-based Notion VTec to produce dSLR body mounts.

Separately, Nikon pledged $1.2 million to the Japanese Red Cross and donated 1,000 digiams and SD cards to public organizations "to record the disastrous situations and help restoration from the disaster."

A March 14 press release from Olympus confirmed several employees sustained minor injuries, but didn't elaborate. The UK's Amateur Photographer magazine said the local Olympus office reported the company's digital camera production was unaffected and indeed the Japanese-language press release made no mention of imaging products. It also confirmed the Sendai sales office was undamaged and preparing to resume operations, although several endoscopy-related businesses (Aomori Olympus Co. Ltd., Shirakawa Olympus Co. Ltd. and the company's Shirakawa factory) have temporarily halted operations. Aomori Olympus is unable to procure supplies, while the other two companies had some damage to facilities, as well as a lack of power. A separate Japanese-language press release noted a repair facility at the Shirakawa location was expected to take two to four weeks to resume operations.

In addition, Olympus pledged $1.2 million and is planning to further donate industrial videoscopes and non-destructive testing equipment to the recovery effort. These tools can be of great assistance in locating survivors and in determining the safety of buildings and infrastructure.

Panasonic meanwhile, issued an advisory stating some employees had received minor injuries at the Fukushima and Sendai factories of Panasonic AVC Networks Co., which manufacture digital cameras and optical pickups respectively, as well as at the Koriyama factory of Panasonic Electric Works Co. Ltd. (electronic materials) and the Gunma factory of Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. (washers/dryers). The company noted it had not received reports of collapse or fire at any of its facilities and that it was temporarily suspending operations at the quake-affected factories pending a fuller evaluation of the damage. A subsequent Japanese-language press release further reported the resumption of some operations at the Gunma factory on March 14, the AVC Networks facility in Utsunomiya from March 22 and the Koriyama factory from March 23.

In addition, Panasonic pledged $3.7 million in donations, as well as providing 10,000 radios, 10,000 flashlights and 500,000 dry batteries to assist victims of the earthquake.

Casio, meanwhile, issued a March 14 press release stating the company's staff had received no serious injuries and its facilities were not believed to have sustained major damage. It was working at the time to confirm facility, materials and infrastructure status and to assure safety before resuming operation and noted it expected interruptions to vital utilities would play a role in determining when it could resume operations. Separately, the company announced a donation to the Japan Platform nonprofit relief organization, with the figure subsequently increased five-fold to $600,000, while still matching donations made by its employees and further donating clocks for use in temporary shelters and other facilities to help synchronize task forces.

While Fujifilm noted it had not received any reports of staff injuries, a press release issued by its UK branch (and mirrored by a later Japanese-language release) confirmed the parent company's Taiwa-Cho factory (responsible for production of the fixed-lens, APS-C sensor shod X100 digital camera) had sustained damage. This has necessitated a temporary halt in production of the Fuji X100 and the company is working to resume production as soon as possible. With the exception of a one-week delay in shipping the FinePix T300 in the Japanese market, the rest of Fuji's digital camera production is unaffected. In addition to the X100 production delay, the company's head-office issued a Japanese-language press release noting the Japanese market's service and support facilities have sustained damage, which has required a temporary relocation of these functions to other facilities.

Fujifilm also pledged $3.7 million in donations, as well as $5.8 million in relief supplies, including diagnostic ultrasound systems and dust/virus protection masks.

Being headquartered in Wakayama, in the south of Japan, Noritsu Koki and its recently-established subsidiary NK Works Co. Ltd. suffered no injuries or damage to facilities, according to a statement published by PMA Newsline. The company said production and distribution is ongoing and further noted it is working to reestablish contact with and offer support to its customers throughout the country.

Ricoh, meanwhile, issued a March 18 statement that it still had no reports of injuries at its facilities. Based on the plan in the release, all but four facilities should now be in operation. Ricoh Optical Industries Co. Ltd. in Hanamaki (optical products, projectors, welding machines, etc.), Hasama Ricoh Inc. in Tome (copiers and data processing equipment), Tohoku Ricoh Co. Ltd. in Shibata-gun (MFPs, printers, toner, bar code devices, peripherals) and Ricoh Printing Systems Ltd. in Hitachinaka (production printing products) were said to have no set plan for resuming operation. Ricoh facilities in Yashio (high capacity MFPs, refurbishing recycling), Atsugi (MFPs, printer parts), Gotemba (MFPs, printers) and Numazu (supplies, toner, etc.) are all in partial operation, as allowed by rolling blackouts.

Ricoh has pledged $3.7 million in donations toward recovery efforts.

SanDisk reported two of its fabs located some 500 miles from the epicenter of the quake were down for a brief period last Friday, but returned to operation later the same day. The company has reported no employee injuries and predicts minimal immediate impact on output.

Seiko Epson said on March 14 it hadn't yet received any reports of casualties, although some of its facilities were damaged. Hachinohe-based Epson Atmix Corp., which provides metal powders, metal injection molded parts and synthetic quartz crystal, was subject to a one meter tsunami, while the Fukushima plant of Epson Toyocom Corp. (optical devices, sensing devices, clock modules, oscillators, resonators and filters) was partially damaged and is also still under an evacuation order, since it is located within 20 kilometers of the failing Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. As of the statement, there was no set schedule for either facility to resume operations. Akita Epson Corp., which manufactures printer heads and crystal devices, received minimal damage and has resumed some operations. Finally, the Sakata plant (semiconductor manufacture) of Seiko Epson Corp. and Tohoku Epson Corp. (printer component manufacture) were believed to be undamaged, but had suspended operations due to rolling power cuts. The status of production facilities at these locations was still under investigation so there was no update on when production would resume.

In addition, Epson has pledged $1.2 million to recovery efforts.

Sigma released a Japanese-language statement on March 15, confirming no employees were injured. The company's Aizu factory sustained damage to both building and equipment but Sigma nonetheless resumed partial operation March 15. The statement did note Sigma was endeavoring to confirm the impact of rolling blackouts and supply issues on its operations.

Sony also reported no significant injuries to its staff. A March 22 statement noted several of its sites had been affected by the disaster and others had temporarily shuttered operations due to widespread power outages. While it was still evaluating the situation, the company said some locations that had initially been shuttered had partially or fully resumed operations, including Sony Manufacturing Systems Corp. (Kuki plant; surface mounting equipment), Sony Chemical & Information Device Corp. (Kanuma plant; Bonding Materials, Optics Materials) and Sony Energy Devices Corp. (Tochigi plant; lithium-ion batteries).

Facilities where manufacturing operations were still suspended included Sony Chemical & Information Device Corp. (Tagajyo and Tome plants; magnetic tapes, Blu-Ray discs, optical devices, IC cards), Sony Shiroishi Semiconductor Inc. (Miyagi; semiconductor lasers), Sony Energy Devices Corp. (Koriyama and Motomiya plants; lithium-ion batteries) and Sony DADC Japan Inc. (Ibaraki; CDs/DVDs). Sony EMCS Corp.'s Kisarazu Technology Center (Blu-ray disc recorder, home audio) was in partial operation due to rolling blackouts, while material supply issues were causing a temporary suspension at Sony/Taiyo Corp. (Microphones, headphones) and Sony EMCS Corp.'s Tokai Technology Center (Kosai, Kohda, Kohda, Inazawa; Broadcast and professional equipment, camcorders, digital still cameras, dSLR lenses, cell phones, LCD TVs). In an earlier statement, the Sony Corp. Sendai Technology Center was said to have ceased operation due to earthquake damage.

Sony has pledged $3.7 million in donations toward recovery efforts, as well as providing 30,000 radios and instituting a worldwide employee donation matching program.

A March 17 statement from optics company Tamron also reported no injuries to its employees, nor any notable damage to its three facilities in Aomori prefecture. It did however anticipate unavoidable disruptions due to damage to the Japanese transport network and systems and further noted it expected outages for its Japanese corporate Web site during periods of rolling blackouts.

Tamron has pledged $120,000 to the Japan Red Cross, plus $60,000 to the local Aomori Prefecture government from the three area plants, respectively.

PARTS SUPPLIERS

In addition, companies in many other business areas have been affected. These companies manufacture a wide range of components and chips used in digital imaging products which, while beyond the scope of our own focus, are nonetheless critical to the products we use and review every day. These include household names such as Fujitsu, Hitachi, Texas Instruments and Toshiba, as well as many lesser-known -- but none the less important -- companies.

For example, Toshiba is the world's second largest supplier of NAND flash chips used in memory cards, as well as producing CMOS image sensors. Fujitsu likewise supplies a variety of components that feature in digital cameras and the like, including some -- such as its Milbeaut image processor series -- which are specifically designed for use in digital imaging products. Although we don't have the resources to report on these companies, we're sure many readers will want to be aware of their status and the folks at EE|Times have assembled a pretty thorough analysis (http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4214018/Japan-quake--Tracking-the-status-of-fabs-in-wake-of-disaster) in this area.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Samsung NX100 User Report

By DAN HAVLIK
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NX100/NX100A.HTM on the Web site.)

Even if you've seen other compact system cameras before, the Samsung NX100 may make you go "wow." That's just what happened when I pulled the camera out at a bar recently and placed it on the counter. "Wow!' a friend of mine exclaimed as she reached over to touch the silver metallic top of the NX100. "It's so ... it's so ..."

That's an understandable response since the Samsung NX100 doesn't really look like much else on the market right now. It doesn't have the retro rangefinder style of the Olympus PEN cameras, nor does it sport the utilitarian edginess of Panasonic's LUMIX GF models. It also looks a lot different from the diminutive Sony NEX-5, which is one of the strangest looking models we've seen. The Samsung NX100 is not just unique in its design, it also offers a host of shooting features and options exclusive to Samsung's latest imaging products.

LOOK & FEEL

Samsung says the camera design was "inspired by the simple shape of dew forming on a leaf, which can been seen on the camera's shutter button and curved body." I have no idea what this means exactly but it sounds nice and the Samsung NX100 is a very nice camera to look at and shoot with. It's available in black or brown, both of which retain the silver top plate, giving the Samsung NX100 a subtle duo-tone look.

The slightly curving body is functional as well as aesthetically pleasing, giving you a place to grip the camera in lieu of an actual hand grip. While a rubberized grip may have ruined the smooth polycarbonate surface of the camera, it would have made it easier to hold. This is definitely a camera you'll want to keep a firm grip on at all times even if you're wearing the shoulder strap. It's a bit slick but not unwieldy.

Though the E-PL2 is an easier camera to hold thanks to its more pronounced rubber hand grip, I liked the clean look and feel of the slightly larger Samsung NX100 better, though I'm not exactly sure why. It must be all those smooth curving lines in the NX100 that brings out the minimalist in me. Though that sleek, stripped down look is more pronounced because, as mentioned already, the camera has no built-in flash. Add an external flash to the Samsung NX100's hot shoe and everything changes.

SHOOTING

Though I've enjoyed shooting with the recent crop of compact system cameras, I haven't found one yet that gives me the combination of speed and image quality I get with even an entry-level dSLR. And while the stylish and relatively compact Samsung NX100 ($499), which boasts a dSLR-size APS-C 14.2MP CMOS sensor, came close to the dSLR experience for me during a month of testing, it's a different animal altogether.

Cameras like the Samsung NX100, Olympus PEN cameras, Panasonic LUMIX GF series and Sony NEX models have caught on with photographers in large part because of how much they're unlike dSLRs. Where even consumer-level dSLRs take their cues from imposing, serious professional models such as Canon's celebrated 1D line or Nikon's popular D3 models, these cameras harken back to the loose, candid appeal of rangefinders with their discreet rectangular bodies and unobtrusive picture-taking demeanor.

Mirrorless cameras are also smaller than most dSLRs making them easier to tuck into a bag or backpack for a day of shooting. So what you may give up in autofocus speed and image quality, you make up in style, attitude and pure whimsy. These cameras can be a blast to shoot with and the Samsung NX100 was one of the most fun models I've tried yet.

Street Shooting. Since rangefinders have always appealed to street photographers -- I think the term is self-explanatory -- I brought the Samsung NX100 along on several recent photo jaunts through New York City. Unfortunately, winter storms pummeled the area just while I was working on this review so my street shooting trips were short and cold.

The dimensions of the Samsung NX100 were well suited to my large hands, made even larger by the wool Etre Touchy Gloves -- with exposed thumb and forefingers for gadgets -- I like to use for winter shooting. While I appreciated the clean, uninterrupted curved surface of the NX100, it's a bit slick especially in cold weather. Since there's no rubberized hand grip, this is a camera you have to keep a firm hold on at all times. Its polycarbonate body also feels a lot flimsier than the stainless steel Olympus PEN EP-1 and EP-2.

The slippery body is offset by the i-Function button on the 20-50mm lens. Though it's not exactly a revolutionary feature, i-Function is a smart one in that it allows you to change key settings without adjusting your hold on the camera. That's why I think the NX100 will appeal to more advanced photographers. Competing models offer a camera-controlled photographic experience on the surface and then ask you to dig through menus to make manual changes.

The recessed knurled mode dial was easy to turn with my thumb as I strode down 23rd Street on an overcast, snowy day. As an experiment, I decided to hold the camera at my chest, point it to the crowds of pedestrians coming my way and just click away inconspicuously to see if I could capture any "happy accidents."

Autofocus Speed. I didn't capture much with this shoot-from-the-hip method -- lots of backs of heads and off-kilter shots -- but I was pleasantly surprised with how fast the camera could autofocus. Slow contrast detection-based autofocus systems have been the bugaboo for many mirrorless cameras. In my field testing -- which jibed with Imaging Resource's lab results -- I found autofocus to be on the fast side of average. Lab test results rated shutter lag at full autofocus to be 0.43 second and telephoto to be 0.44. Not bad.

Cycle times, however, were a bit slow. Single shot was rated at 0.95 frames per second in our lab testing with the buffer clear in three seconds. In high-speed continuous mode, the NX100 could capture images at 30 fps but image size dropped down to 1.4-Mp and it took eight seconds for the buffer to clear. In full resolution continuous mode, the NX100 could capture large/fine JPEGs at 2.87 fps with the buffer clearing in four seconds; in Raw mode, 2.94 fps with the buffer clearing in a slow 12 seconds.

I played with several of the main settings including the three manual modes -- Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and full Manual (nice!). I also enjoyed the Smart Auto function that automatically picks a setting based on the type of scene detected. Like most cameras with a "smart" or "intelligent" mode, results weren't always accurate -- sometimes it would choose landscape for a close-up -- but it was on target about 60 percent of the time. Be forewarned, though: if you keep it in Smart Auto the camera will continue to adjust itself as you carry it, which can drain the battery more rapidly.

Video and Special Effects. The 720p, HD video mode is accessed on the Mode dial, though I wish it could be engaged just by hitting a button on the camera as with some competing cameras. The Mode dial turn takes a little extra time, but it didn't cause me to miss shooting some HD footage of a group of lively street dancers in Madison Square Park who were performing to promote a local gym.

I panned slowly so the distracting jello effect that comes from recording HD off a CMOS sensor using a "rolling shutter" was minimal. (Rolling shutter is common in all cameras that use CMOS sensors to record video but the severity of the effect ranges from model to model.) Pan too quickly when you're shooting HD and you'll see some seriously wobbly rolling shutter effects that might make you seasick. As with the Samsung NX10, this occurred both in Live View and playback of the image clips. Other than that, I found the HD video clips to be crisp and full of detail. On the downside, there is only a monaural mic and no port to add a stereo microphone.

Later, I captured some images of the classic Flatiron Building on the corner of 5th Ave. and 23rd St. and while the shots looked, ahem, flat because of the dull overcast light, I ran one through the Autumn filter in the Photo Style Selector in Playback mode and got a very stylish, retro look.

Further down 23rd St., I captured stills of the ornate (and infamous) Chelsea Hotel, which has been home to many writers, artists and rock musicians over the years. When pulled back to 20mm on the kit lens -- which converts to 31mm because of the approximately 1.5x magnification of the APS-C sensor -- I could capture some but not all of the hotel. Zooming in to 77mm equivalent allowed me to shoot the hotel's famous sign and New Orleans-style iron lattice work.

Later, I ran some of my images through the Smart Filter feature in image playback and got interesting results. Options include Vignetting, Miniature (which simulates the effect of a tilt-shift lens), Fish-Eye, Sketch (which transforms an image into a black-and-white etching), Defog, Halftone Dots (sort of an arty pixelization) and Soft Focus.

Images I captured from the window of my office looking down on the street after a snowstorm were quite dramatic after I ran them through the Miniature filter, making the people and the snow plows look like toys while defocusing the surrounding area.

While certainly not as impressive as using a dSLR with a real tilt-shift lens (which costs an arm and a leg, by the way), the Miniature filter was the best approximation of this effect I've seen on a consumer camera.

Image Quality. Overall image quality from the Samsung NX100 was quite good but with some bumps here and there. Let's start with the good points. The color, tone curve and detail from images shot in good lighting were quite good from a camera in this class.

Even though I shot on dreary, wintry days, images popped without being oversaturated. I thought the same about my 720p HD video clips despite the heavy incidence of wobbly rolling shutter effects during aggressive panning.

In low light, image quality was only so-so at ISO 1600. Noise levels at ISO 1600 were only a bit better than what I found from smaller-sensored Micro Four Thirds cameras like the Olympus EP-2 and Panasonic GF-1 when it really should have blown those cameras away because of its APS-C size imaging chip. Indeed, noise levels from the NX100 are actually higher than they are from the Olympus E-PL2. Even ISO 100 shots are very soft in the camera JPEGs, while Raw images at the same setting have a good deal of detail.

Images I shot at ISO 3200 with the Samsung NX100 were only fair. Chroma noise in the shadow areas was much higher than what you'd find with most entry-level dSLRs. ISO 6400 shots were pretty bad.

Our lab reported much worse results at both ISO 3200 and 6400, with images so riddled with noise they were described as almost "freakish." This is a shame because the Samsung NX100 has no built-in flash.

Compared to a dSLR. It's apples-to-oranges when stacking a mirrorless camera up against a dSLR, but with such a large sensor in the Samsung NX100, you'd expect it to do better. The kit lens was about on par with what you'd get with a dSLR, a little better than most at this price. Images were slightly soft in corners, less at telephoto, but not bad at all. Chromatic aberration was almost non-existent at both the wide and telephoto lengths and geometric distortion was negligible, thanks to post-capture in-camera processing.

Our lab tests show the Auto White Balance was a little warm, though I didn't find the effect too noticeable. Incandescent White Balance seemed about right while Manual was slightly blue. We were all disappointed with the Macro images taken with the 20-50mm lens. Images were soft and the point of focus seemed off a smidge. Noise suppression was quite overactive, even at ISO 100, blurring images unnecessarily, but printing those same images showed it not to be as big a factor.

What we found, though, was that images processed through Adobe Camera Raw look considerably better, such that we can recommend the camera to those willing to shoot and develop Raw using Adobe Camera Raw via Photoshop or Lightroom.

SAMPLE IMAGES

You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NX100/NX100A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NX100/NX100GALLERY.HTM.

CONCLUSION

At first it was hard to know what to make of the Samsung NX100. On the one hand, this stylish model is one of the best mirrorless cameras I've seen with an attractive, simple design that's comfortable to shoot with, not to mention the "wow" factor of its sleek good looks. The smart design extends to its smart interface that's easy to read and a pleasure to navigate.

It also has one of the fastest mirrorless autofocus systems, which is saying a lot since slow contrast detection-based AF has plagued some competing models. We also liked the helpful i-Function button on the 20-50mm kit lens and in-camera Smart Filters and Photo Styles. The Miniature setting offering one of the best canned tilt-shift effects we've seen.

It's not without its problems, especially in regards to JPEG image quality. Though the camera excels in good light, it struggles at high ISOs in low light. When shooting 720p HD, it produced crisp footage that suffered from a wobbly rolling shutter effect when we panned aggressively. Indeed, rolling shutter also affects the Live View image, so beware of motion sickness. We also weren't too pleased with the kit lens's Macro mode. The key negative: heavy-handed noise suppression even at the lowest ISO setting, compounded by the inability to adjust the noise-suppression settings. Nevertheless, printed results from these disappointingly soft JPEGs are reasonably good, so most users will be happy with the output. Enthusiasts wanting the greater sharpness -- often significantly greater -- should shoot Raw.

It took a little more work to reach this conclusion, given the very soft images we saw onscreen, but our usual test procedures revealed a camera with hidden qualities that cannot be denied. Fast autofocus, good industrial design, an innovative interface and good Raw and printed image quality combine to overcome the Samsung NX100's few shortcomings, making it a Dave's Pick.

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New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

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In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

Read about Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe

Visit the Panasonic Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea297f

Follow the Pentax K-x discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeafad8/0

Read about Tamron lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=7

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

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Dave's Deals

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We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.

RE: Archiving

I have hours of rare 8mm and 16mm film previously burned to DVD, hundreds of photos, all rare aviation of the 1930s, etc. I want to save/store them for future generations. What should I do? By the way I still use my old Webcor wire recorder, it works! Things do change, (remember Betamax), which is the reason I am concerned about reading these files in the future.

-- Paul Holsen

(There are two things to worry about for long-term storage, Paul. The first is the media itself. If you hunt through the newsletter archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html), you'll find our recommendations on that. But briefly, plan on copying your collection to fresh media every five years. The second is the format. For images, we recommend JPEG and DNG file formats. For movies, MPEG and AVI have long been standard but conversion isn't practical or, fortunately, necessary. -- Editor)

RE: SOS

I was reading in Scott Kelby's Lightroom 3 book and playing around hiding and revealing panels when I somehow got stuck in full screen mode. I mean really full screen: no controls to shrink/reduce/exit the software. And Escape didn't work either.

Finally I remembered to use Control-Alt-Delete to abort Lightroom but when I reopened it, same mess.

I re-read all the sections of this part of Kelby's book; looked in the index; got Sheppard's older volume and even an old Tim Gray one but this particular problem wasn't mentioned. I called several photog friends but many were out; one or two use Nikon or Canon proprietary software or they use Photoshop/Elements, so don't know Lightroom.

I tried searching Google but got nowhere. So, if you are online could you give me some advice?

-- Nick Baldwin

(Odd as it may seem, you can usually get to us on the weekend, but not this one, sorry. We had some storm damage that occupied our full attention. But for future reference, here's a nice list of all the Lightroom keyboard shortcuts: http://www.lightroomqueen.com/lrqebook3-search/30pages/lr3sample-38-keyboardshortcuts.pdf -- Editor)

RE: Review?

Would you consider reviewing the Pacific Image PowerSlide 3650 Slide Scanner? I have enjoyed some of your other articles on scanners and scanning software and would like to hear your opinion on this scanner. It is the only slide scanner I am aware of that will scan slides in bulk for under $1K.

Are you aware of a different bulk slide scanner in the same price range? I have some time to scan my thousands of slides, but not the patience to do them in small groups!

-- Thomas Teichrieb

(Ah, Pacific Image. You'll notice there aren't any professional reviews of that gear. They don't make review units available. There's usually a reason for that <g>. Nikon Coolscans are the only bulk loading slide scanners we recall but they weren't cheap and the software is out of date (you've got to use VueScan with them these days). The best tip for pseudo bulk scanning is to just buy a second film holder. While the first one is being scanned, you can load the second and dust off the film. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

A recent InfoTrends survey of over 1,700 professional photographers in the U.S. suggests the pro photo market is starting to recover from the effects of the recession.

According to the company, 2009 marked the first year-over-year decline in the mean number of digital images captured per month by pros since InfoTrends began surveying pros earlier in the decade. However, this number grew substantially in 2010 as pros took on more assignments and more jobs, affecting multiple segments of the digital imaging industry.


Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released Aperture 3.1.2 to improve "overall stability and performance, including specific fixes in the following areas: importing iPhoto libraries, reliability and responsiveness when using brushes to apply adjustments, reconnecting referenced master images."

The company also updated Snow Leopard to v10.6.7, which fixes Photoshop CS5 conflicts, including a settings warning and tool behavior.


Digital Anarchy (http://www.digitalanarchy.com) has released its $99 Beauty Box skin retouching plug-in for Apple's Aperture to smooth skin and remove blemishes. Features include automatic masking, smart skin smoothing, batch processing, advanced mask tools, sharpening, restore skin texture lost by smoothing and CPU processing.


Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com/canonlivelearning) has announced this year's Canon Live Learning, reprising the EOS Immersion Seminars and Workshops and the EOS Destination Workshops and adding Deconstructing the Story: Light, Sound, Motion & EOS HD .


The American Society of Media Photographers has launched Registration Counts (http://asmp.org/content/registration-counts) to create awareness of copyright issues, to encourage all photographers to register their work and to provide the tools and information needed for registration.


George Jardine, former Adobe photography/Lightroom evangelist, has published his Adobe Photoshop ACR Video Workshop (http://mulita.com/blog/?page_id=1062), 15 Camera Raw tutorials explaining each Camera Raw control in detail with real world examples, all presented using the language of photography. A free sample movie on the Basic Tab's Presence controls (http://mulita.com/training/sample-acr/) is available.


Akvis (http://akvis.com) has released its $69 HDRFactory 1.0 [MW] to create pseudo-HDR images from a single photo as well as HDR from multiple photos, removal of ghost artifacts, support for JPEG, TIFF, BMP, PNG and Raw formats and more.


DxO (http://www.dxo.com) has released Optics Pro 6.5.6 [MW] with support for the Canon 600D/1100D and Olympus E-PL1 cameras. The release also includes 48 new DxO Optics Modules, supporting lenses from Canon, Nikkor, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.


Nova Media (http://www.novamedia.de) has released its $11.99 FrameLoader in the Mac App Store to synchronize photos, music and movie files on a Mac with digital picture frames, SD cards and USB memory sticks.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Adobe Photoshop Express 2.0 for iOS devices with a new $3.99 Adobe Camera Pack as an in-app purchase. This Camera Pack includes functions to reduce noise, set a camera timer to a three- or 10-second delay and enable Auto Review.


Graphic designer Jessica Walsh reveals "what kind of photography and lighting equipment I have" on her blog (http://blog.jessicawalsh.com/?p=198). She explains, "A basic understanding of photography skills is important for graphic designers" if you want to be "happy with photos of your work."


Pinhole Press (http://www.pinholepress.com) offers notepads you can customize with your own photos, among a number of other photo products.


Stephan Tillmans (http://www.stephantillmans.com) shows a gallery or images of tube televisions just as they are switched off (under the "Leuchtpunktordnungen" link).


Alain Briot suggests Fifteen Thoughts on Composition at Luminous Landscape (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/composition_top_15.shtml).


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 9.0.23 [LMW] with improved frame alignment on Nikon scanners, improved document feeder scanning, support for more wireless and USB scanners on OS X and more.


We note the passing of Brian Lanker (http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2011/03/lanker.html). He won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Photography for "Moment Of Life," a photo essay on the newly popular Lamaze method of childbirth. The New York Times has posted a slide show of some of his work (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/parting-glance-brian-lanker-1947-2011/).

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One Liners

For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com

PhotoRescue: http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

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Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
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

Happy snapping!

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

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