The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 13, Number 8 22 April 2011

Copyright 2011, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 304th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Olympus made quite an impression on us with its G12, S95, P7000, TL500, LX5 killer. Maybe digicams aren't quite dead yet (despite the news from Flickr, reported in our Notes section). Then we reveal the one scanner setting that will bring your antique prints to life before we leave you to digest almost double the news we usually condense for you. Things are happening!


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Feature: Olympus XZ-1 Stakes High-End Claim

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/XZ1/XZ1A.HTM on the Web site.)

The Olympus XZ-1? Y? We mean, why? Why slap your flagship digicam with such an unimaginative, hard-to-remember, indistinguishable name? Just to add to the confusion, seen upside down, it looks like 1-ZX. Sure, everybody does it. Guess who these belong to: P7000, TL500, LX5, S95, G12. They could belong to anybody.

But as it happens they belong to the Olympus XZ-1's competition. The very high-end of the digicam world. Nikon, Samsung, Panasonic, Canon and Canon again, respectively. And, frankly, the worst thing about any of them is their name.

But they don't need more trouble. As it is, digicams are having a hard time distinguishing themselves from the high-end cellphone cameras (which all have better names). Long zooms have made a compelling argument for continuing the breed. And the quality of the flagship breed is undisputed -- until you compare them to the Micro Four-Thirds crowd. Then you have to love these flagships for their more compact size.

The image quality barrier has been the digicam sensor size. Micro Four-Thirds cameras have larger sensors, perform better with less light and have plenty of resolution to go with an interchangeable lens set.

So the flagships have gone to faster glass. Panasonic and Canon both offer f2.0 lenses. Nikon gets to f2.8. And Samsung matches Olympus XZ-1 at f1.8. That, it turns out, is pretty exciting.

LOOK & FEEL

Shawn described the XZ-1's design in the Hands-on Preview so we'll just confirm a few issues:

Grip. We never did get used to the grip on the Olympus XZ-1. Probably because there isn't one. While there's a nice rubber pad on the back panel for your thumb, Olympus left the front of the camera bare. It makes for an attractive camera front but what we would have given for a strip of plastic down the front. Something like Richard Franiec's new Olympus XZ-1 grip (http://www.kleptography.com/rf/), which is even more than a strip of plastic, offering a nice curve for the fingers to sink into.

The problem is that the weight of the camera is not where you grip it, but at the lens. So the Olympus XZ-1 is always slipping south on you. We used a wrist strap to prevent accidents but it really needs a grip. Had we owned the camera, we would have applied something to the front.

Battery Door. The battery door also continually confused us. Opening it is clear enough. Just fingernail the latch back and the spring-loaded door opens. But we kept thinking we had to move the latch back to lock the door when we closed it. It's spring-loaded, too. No need.

Controls. While the controls are easy enough to master and free of most design mistakes, there is one problem we never solved. The Mode Dial is set on the right and back edges of the top panel. We were always accidentally changing modes taking the camera in and out of our jacket pocket. Shawn had the same problem and we're both professional athletes of uncommon intelligence.

The problem is that it's just too close to the edge not to inadvertently change the mode when you are retrieving the camera from your pocket or camera case. Eventually we stopped doing that, but it was a problem.

Lens Ring. We thought we might have problems with the control ring on the lens. We would nervously fiddle with it when the camera was in our pocket. And it does move very easily, more easily than an aperture ring on an SLR lens. But we really didn't have much trouble with it because our hands were never near it when we were shooting. And fortunately fooling around with it when the power is off doesn't change its setting.

It's just a tad too loose for our taste, though. Like any fly-by-wire control, it's unnerving. You feel like you're adjusting the setting, but you're only putting in a request. A few milliseconds later it's approved or ignored or tabled for discussion.

At first we dug through the manual looking for a different kind of discussion on setting its function. But it's not up to you. It's up to the shooting mode. Olympus did a nice job picking what the lens ring controls in each mode, but we'd still like to vote.

Scroll Wheel. It was nice to see the Scroll Wheel (on the back) do double duty in Manual mode as the shutter speed control (at least after you press the EV button). But it also points out the main problem with the Olympus XZ-1's body design: not enough buttons. Canon G12 users win this round. But then that's one reason why the G12 is a brick.

OLED. Just loved it, really. Until we got the images on the computer. Usually we feel obliged to warn you that the camera display isn't worthy of the capture so study the histogram. In this case, it flattered the capture. We should have worked a little harder on the exposure than we did, prematurely satisfied by what we saw on the OLED.

We found the OLED menu display unusually attractive, although the font size was small. We can confirm Shawn's perception that the OLED displays color a bit more saturated than it is actually being captured. But unlike Shawn, this did cause us grief. Well, continuous uninterrupted disappointment anyway.

On the other hand, it was very difficult to use in direct sunlight. We really couldn't frame images or even see them in either Shooting mode or Playback.

EVF. Lucky for us, we had the chance to use the $250 VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder with the XZ-1. It's one of those accessories that precludes the use of a wrist strap. You're better off anyway with the shoulder strap, to which you can Velcro the included VF-2 fabric case.

You don't always want the VF-2 on the camera, actually, because it requires you to shoot with the camera close to your face. It can be used like a dSLR viewfinder, with your nose smashed into the OLED or you can unclip it from its dock and swing it upward on its hinge. This isn't as useful as it sounds, because you still have to get your eye to the eyepiece. You can't, that is, use it at your belt like a twin reflex camera or an articulated display.

When you do peer into it, it's a refreshing sight. It's a bigger view than you may be used to from a dSLR and a very bright one, too. It's easy to fall in love with, frankly.

A button on the VF-2 switches between the OLED and the VF-2 for display. We found that a little disconcerting. We would compose using the VF-2 but we always wanted to check the exposure on the OLED. There's no option for that. Review is on the VF-2, although Playback is on the OLED.

It attaches to the hot shoe for stability with a data connector plugging into a slot just below the hot shoe in a very secure fit. It does preclude the use of the hot shoe for controlling an external flash but you still have the pop-up flash, which you can use as a trigger. There is no PC sync connection.

By twisting the rubber eyepiece, you can fiddle with the dioptric adjustment, too. It's really well done.

Lens. The i.Zuiko lens with 11 elements in 8 groups is a 4x optical zoom starting at a 28mm equivalent and reaching 112mm (6.0 to 24.0mm actual). That's a wide-angle starting point (which left us a bit short in the telephoto department for those distant shots of famous places you take on vacation).

Digital zoom is a combination of approaches. When enabled with image size at full resolution, only digital zoom is used. With an image size at less than full resolution, the Olympus XZ-1 first zooms the image and crops it to maintain quality before using purely digital zoom.

The most remarkable feature of this lens, though, is how fast it is. At wide-angle, the maximum aperture is f1.8. And at telephoto it is still f2.5. As Shawn points out, that isn't greatly more than the competition. But this is one spec that matters.

You can do a lot with that just by itself, but Olympus has enhanced it with a low light mode on the Mode dial, Neutral Density filter options in the Menu system (so you can use fast apertures in sunlight) and high ISO speeds (from 100 to 800 in Auto and up to 6,400 in Manual) for dark scenes.

As nice as the maximum aperture settings are, the minimum isn't too shabby either. At both wide-angle and full telephoto, we were able to use f8.0. And there's lots of stops along the way.

The Olympus XZ-1 also features sensor-shift image stabilization, which it calculates affords a two-stop advantage in low light. If you shake the camera slightly when it's off, you can hear the thunk of the stabilizer system.

Modes. As you might expect from any high-end digicam, the Olympus XZ-1 provides the standard PASM and Scene shooting modes. But there are a couple of other modes to explore, too. Here's a brief rundown:

Intelligent Auto mode enables the camera to automatically select among Portrait, Landscape, Night+Portrait, Sport, Macro and Low Light modes. A small icon in the bottom right corner changes to indicate which mode the camera has selected. A Tips option is available on the OK settings menu where color icons keep things simple for the other options. You can change the color saturation, color image and brightness settings as well as blur the background -- all with real-time feedback in the OLED. Olympus calls this Live Guide.

Program mode gives you access to all of the controls on the settings menu. Exposure is controlled by setting an EV value using the Up button. At the same time, the lens ring lets you pick among ISO values. For equivalent exposures with control over the aperture or shutter, you have to use one of the priority modes.

Aperture Priority has new meaning on the Olympus XZ-1. Aperture options include 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.5, 2.8, 3.2, 3.4, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.6, 6.3, 7.1 and 8.0. That's quite a range for a digicam. To change apertures, you simply rotate the lens ring. There isn't a direct correlation between the ring position and aperture, however. It seemed like the first click wakes it up and subsequent clicks change the setting.

Shutter Priority adjust the shutter speed from 60 seconds to 1/2000 second at fine intervals, again by using the lens ring.

Manual mode lets you control both the aperture and shutter speed. The lens ring controls the aperture and the rear scroll wheel controls the shutter speed. The scroll wheel goes into shutter speed mode when you press the EV or Up button. Once you know the trick, it's a snap. There is also a Bulb setting (up to 16 minutes) among the shutter speed options.

Scene mode includes e-Portrait, Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Self-Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Multi Exposure, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Underwater Wide, Underwater Macro, Pet and Panorama.

The Olympus XZ-1 does not offer a sweep Panorama mode, limiting you to three shots. You can elect to have them stitched in the camera or saved as individual frames you can put together later on your computer. The latter has the advantage of not restricting you to a 1600x1200 image size.

Particularly noteworthy are the Multi Exposure and Underwater modes, which are not usually provided.

You'll want to encase the Olympus XZ-1 in an underwater housing like the $300 PT-050 underwater case before trying the Underwater modes, but Multi Exposure is easy to play with. The XZ-1 simply combines two exposures, overlaying the first shot on the OLED as you compose the second. Auto gain is enabled to control the combined exposure. Considering how easy it was to make double exposures on film cameras, it's surprising to see how few digicams offer this function. It's a lot of fun.

Custom mode can save shooting menu settings other than EV. To save settings, you enter the Setup menu with the Menu key and use the Custom Mode Setup's Set option. To delete the settings, you use the Reset options.

Art mode offers five special effects: Pop Art (high saturation), Soft Focus, Grainy Film (black and white), Pin Hole (strong vignetting), Diorama (central focus only), Dramatic Tone (high contrast). These effects are accomplished partly with camera settings but primarily with post processing, so if you are shooting Raw, the camera will also record a JPEG image.

When you first access the option on the Mode Dial, all the choices are available. You simply scroll through them with the arrow keys or the scroll wheel before selecting one with the OK button. But to change from one to another, you use the lens ring.

Low Light mode optimizes settings for low light, handheld shots, establishing a safe shutter speed (which seemed to be a rather conservative 1/100 second), opening the aperture and raising the ISO (again rather conservatively). It's a nice concept, but we preferred to roll our own low light settings.

Movie mode is not on the Mode dial itself but accessed at any time with a special Movie button on the back panel. That has the advantage of applying any selected Art Filter to the capture.

Options are simple to set up. HD Quality offers a 1280x720 image size in 6:9 aspect ratio while SD Quality restricts image size to 640x480 in a 4:3 aspect ratio, both at 30 fps. Sound recording can be muted. Optical zoom is available and autofocus functions (if a bit slowly). Movies are recorded in AVI Motion JPEG format, which restricts clips to a 2-GB maximum.

As Shawn noted in the Preview, Olympus uses image stabilization for video that crops the capture and responds slowly to your camera moves. We're sure the pizza chef in this clip could have used a little dough stabilization like it, though.

MENU SYSTEM

The XZ-1 behaves more like a PEN camera than an Olympus digicam, as Shawn said. That's a good thing. It just doesn't have as many buttons, relying instead on the menu system. Not such a good thing.

The Menu button calls up the top end of this hierarchy, featuring four tabs for the Camera Menu, Movie Menu, Playback Menu and Setup Menu.

For settings that may change from shot-to-shot, the OK button displays the shooting menu along the right side of the OLED. Options vary depending on which mode you are in but include ISO, Color (natural, vivid, etc.), White Balance, Self-Timer/Release mode, Aspect Ratio, Image Size, Movie Quality, Flash setting, EV, Metering, ND Filter, Focus mode and Face Priority.

The Olympus XZ-1's arrow keys on the scroll wheel are shortcuts to EV (top), Flash (right) and Self-Timer/Release (bottom). They let you select an Autofocus point (left).

The XZ-1 also offers what Olympus calls Live Control from the menu system. This gives you real-time feedback on the OLED when you change a setting that affects image rendering. So if you increase saturation, you see saturation increase on the OLED.

STORAGE & BATTERY

The XZ-1 includes 54.6-MB of internal memory, a rather generous amount. But you'll still want to slip an SD card into it.

You can store four Raw images in internal memory or nine large, fine images. A 1-GB SD card will hold 70 raw and 173 large, fine images. You can store a 12 second HD clip with sound in the internal memory or 3 minutes, 34 seconds of video on a 1-GB card. Clips are limited to 2-GB each by the AVI format. Olympus rates the Li-50B lithium-ion battery for about 320 shots, which is pretty good. We didn't run into an low battery conditions on our shoots. And we didn't recharge between shoots.

The charger is compact, but really only a brick that plugs directly into an outlet. It has no bay for a battery, only a USB connection. You plug a USB cable into that and connect the cable to the Olympus XZ-1 to charge the battery in the camera. That, of course, disables your camera whenever you have to recharge the battery. But if your cellphone hasn't gotten you used to that, get used to it anyway. That's how your electric car will work too.

Olympus does offer an optional battery charger, the LI-50C, for about $25.

SHOOTING

We'll second Shawn's experience of the Olympus XZ-1 as "a pleasure to use most of the time." The "most of the time" problem for us was having to resort to the menu system to make the changes we wanted to make. But the pleasure part was that we had some real choices. It was fun to consider how we might capture a familiar scene a little differently. And it was just as fun to think about the best way to approach a new venue. Very few digicams give you that kind of a thrill.

A few experiences are worth highlighting:

Super Macro. Shooting Super Macro was fun, but we had a problem with focus on one subject. We didn't expect depth of field to be more than very shallow so focus was critical on the little clay figurine. But autofocus seemed to focus on the figure's hands not his face.

It was hard to see this on the OLED itself. The small image appeared in focus. But there were two solutions. One was to simply move the focus point up to the face from the center of the image. The other was to use Manual Focus. That had the advantage of showing an enlargement of the image on the center of the OLED frame as we changed focus.

Exposure. We took a walk on an overcast day through Golden Gate Heights, taking pictures of rain-kissed flowers, shiny rocks and wavy walls. The light was very nice, saturating the color of the flowers and evenly illuminating surfaces.

We shot almost everything in Program mode without changing the EV. But when we looked at the images, they were mostly overexposed. They just were not as dark as the scene had been. We hadn't noticed this on the walk. Things looked very nice on the OLED, actually.

We were able to salvage the shots in DxO Optics Pro simply by applying a custom curve that dropped the middle tones most of all tapering off to the highlights and shadows. We made the same correction in Photoshop to confirm the solution.

Setups. We hit the OK button a lot as we shot with the Olympus XZ-1 to change aspect ratios and focus mode.

We moved for 4:3 to 16:9 to 3:2 to 6:6 (shouldn't that be 1:1?) aspect ratios constantly, depending on the subject. That adds another thrill to composing and while it isn't as convenient as the switch on Panasonic lenses, it isn't burdensome. We might have liked to be able to assign aspect ratio to the lens ring actually. But it is programmed for ISO in Program mode.

Focus modes were another setting we found necessary to change. Autofocus was our default and we would have liked to have left it at that, using the Left arrow button to change which part of the scene to focus on when it wasn't at the center.

And the Olympus XZ-1 does automatically shift into Macro mode -- but only in the somewhat restrictive Intelligent Auto mode. So we had to shift for ourselves. The camera has two Macro modes, actually: the common Macro for nearby subjects that are not kissing distance from the lens and Super Macro for when you get the lens right up into the subject's face (at wide-angle). There is also a Tracking mode and Manual Focus, which we often resorted to when Super Macro wasn't precise enough.

And when we did resign ourselves to cheating the exposure down a bit, that was one more setting to fiddle with. That one, fortunately, is on the Up arrow key, so we didn't have to sneak into the Menu system for a third setting. The Menu system does remember where you left it, but that's no help if you have to change multiple settings.

Firmware Update. There was a firmware update for the Olympus XZ-1 so we downloaded it. But unlike other updates, this one required installing a 5.7-MB application. And it required a restart of our computer.

This really isn't the way to handle a firmware update. Let's just leave it at that.

Fortunately, the update only resolved a problem with the Power button on dedicated flash units so it would have made no difference to the tasks we were testing.

Twin Peaks. The first time we took the Olympus XZ-1 to Twin Peaks for the zoom series, we didn't bring the VF-2 viewfinder. That was a mistake. Using the XZ-1 in strong sunlight just isn't feasible without it.

We could not see the OLED clearly enough to frame the image of the Golden Gate Bridge. Even shading the OLED, it was as if no image at all appeared. We were barely able to make out the outline of the dark trees in the foreground to get our bearings, but we saw no bridge in the OLED.

And we seriously misread the exposure of the zoom series itself. We'd left the camera in Aperture Priority mode with the aperture wide open. The 1/2000 second shutter speed the camera resorted to (its maximum) wasn't fast enough to prevent overexposure. Had we really wanted a wide open aperture, we could have used the neutral density filter. But we were just asleep at the wheel and couldn't tell how far off our exposure was by looking at the OLED in sunlight.

It's certainly true that you can see unshifted colors from any angle when viewing the OLED. And that the image itself has deep blacks and saturated color. But it was consistently misleading. We liked it, sure, but it didn't represent the captures accurately. So beware.

ISO. Funny how people rave about the Art Filters and moan about high ISO noise. We had some fun (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/XZ1/YP4080408.HTM) trying out ISO 6400 when we thought of it as an art filter. (See our Print Quality section in the online review for more on the practical limitations of the Olympus XZ-1's range of ISO settings.)

Bouquets to Art. Every year the de Young museum puts on a flower show. Various floral artists prepare a bouquet to one or another work of art in the permanent collection and they are displayed together. It's a short show, only a few days (not even a week), but there are about 150 displays. We took the XZ-1 on the last evening.

We stuck with Aperture Priority so we could control depth of field. We knew after the first shots that we would be using open apertures and slow shutter speeds. But we had to hand-hold the camera (no flash) so we bumped the ISO up.

How far? Well, we knew Olympus restricts Auto ISO to ISO 800, so we settled on that. We were delighted to discover later that noise wasn't objectionable at that speed. And that gave us a few apertures to play with at shutter speeds above 1/30 second.

With exposure settled, we considered aspect ratio. There were a lot of people but they were surprisingly considerate about stepping in front of a camera. Well, except one guy who seemed to think it was what you do when you see a camera. But there's always one guy. And he can't be everywhere at once.

Still, the wrong aspect ratio would crop in things we didn't want, so we were constantly moving from our preferred 3:2 (for 4x6 prints) to other aspect ratios. Our second favorite was 16:9, which let us get a slice of the scene (horizontally perfect for HDTV) and third was 6:6, which more often than not very neatly captured compositions of the flower arrangements and the images that inspired them. We did grab a 4:3 once or twice, too, but only as a last resort.

More rarely but never far from our mind, we considered focus. Almost everything was taken with focus set to AF for autofocus at normal distances. But a few shots were taken with Macro. The problem was, as the guards were quick to point out, we were required to stay a foot away from the installations. Not a macro lover's favorite vantage point.

Even juggling two menu settings was a pain, though. The problem was that they weren't close to each other. So we were constantly spinning the control wheel to get to them. We really wished we had just one button we could set for either of those options.

When we imported the images into Lightroom 3, we were glad to see that ISO 800 hadn't been too noisy. Or very noisy at all, really. We've seen ISO 400 look worse.

But there were other problems with the exposures that the OLED had masked.

We made two corrections to all of the images: White Balance and the Blacks setting. We found a more neutral white balance and increased the blacks two units. That made a dramatic difference in the images, comparable to the curve shift we used for the rain shots.

A number of shots also required highlight recovery. The Olympus XZ-1 wasn't careful about highlight exposure (all these except a couple with black backgrounds were automatic exposures) so hot spots on white flowers often burned out. We were able to recover them, though, in Lightroom.

We also had to recover shadow detail on a few images after bumping up the blacks. In general, though, this was best handled by increasing the fill light rather than undoing the black setting (which was pretty moderate). It was more a case of the Olympus XZ-1 not exposing for shadow detail.

These corrections were not really enhancements. They were fixes for exposure problems that we couldn't tell we had with the OLED.

Those images were destined for a slide show on our personal site so we didn't worry as much about detail as if they were going to be 13x19 prints. Noise suppression at ISO 800 is pretty active, which really robbed the images of detail while smoothing the colors nicely. But that's pretty much par for the course these days -- even with flagship digicams.

SAMPLE IMAGES

You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/XZ1/XZ1A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/XZ1/XZ1GALLERY.HTM.

CONCLUSION

Olympus has entered the flagship digicam fight with a winner. It's learned from its competitors, avoiding the brick in favor of an almost too svelte box, adding a manual control with the lens ring, including a pop-up flash and a hot shoe, avoiding the noise of a 14-megapixel sensor for the sanity of a 10-Mp sensor, delivering a versatile zoom range that starts wide enough and concentrating on optical performance.

As a low-light tool, the Olympus XZ-1 has both strengths and weaknesses. Its brighter lens can deliver 1/3 stop more light but its sensor leaves much to be desired, faltering after ISO 400. Still, that optical performance issue doesn't stop at "stops," it continues into the corners of the frame, where we find excellent performance, giving the XZ-1 an edge where even Photoshop can't reach. No matter how you try, short of cropping, you can't return the S95 or LX5's corners from the smudge we see at wide-angle to anything resembling the relatively crisp image we get from the XZ-1.

The Olympus XZ-1 is a pleasant companion that behaves more like a mature offering than a maiden voyage in this tough crowd. A Dave's Pick, the Olympus XZ-1 promises to put some enthusiasm in any enthusiast photographer.

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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:

- Redesigned: Our carrier pages for the Test Shots and Gallery images (both the 800-pixel thumbnails and the full resolution images) have been updated. A menu bar now makes it easy to view a popup Exif header display or navigate back to the thumbnail pages or the review. Look for the new design on our newest reviews.

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Beginners Flash: A Secret Scanner Setting

If you're scanning small photos, hold it right there! Because there's a scanner setting you should check before you press that OK button. It isn't always obvious but it can make a world of difference.

What's the big deal? Well, small photos are often just contact prints.

Old black and white photos taken before the 1930s, for example, are typically contact prints. The negative was placed right on top of the photo paper before the exposure was made. With the advent of 35mm cameras using smaller film, prints were typically projected onto the photo paper to make the subject large enough to see.

Projected prints are what most of us alive today grew up with. And seen from arm's length, they look pretty sharp.

But they're nowhere near as sharp as those antique contact prints.

Unfortunately, the common default settings for scanning a print on an all-in-one device or a flatbed scanner assume you're scanning a projected print.

One Nameless model, for example, restricts scans of prints to 300 dpi even though the scanner can scan as fine as 1200 dpi. That restriction makes sense -- for same size or slightly enlarged reproductions. As we often point out, your inkjet printer really only needs around 150 dpi for the final image size. You probably won't be able to tell the difference between a print made with a 300 dpi scan and one made with a 150 dpi scan.

If you have a modern 4x6 print and want a 4x6 or 5x7 copy, that is.

But what if you're scanning one of those antique contact prints (which are often rather small)? That 150 dpi setting will still reproduce the image well if you only want a print the same size as the original.

But you're missing a golden opportunity to see detail hidden in the print that you just can't see at arm's length.

It may not look like it, but you can actually change the scanning resolution manually. Either type a new number in the resolution box or pop it up to see what other choices you have. And pick a larger number. That's the secret.

That sets the scanning resolution to get as much detail as the scanner can. On our Nameless scanner, we used 1200 dpi because we wanted to make very large prints (13x19, actually). But you don't have to go that high (the file size will be pretty large) to see more than the default value would show. Try to go at least as high as you need to fill your monitor with the image, though. You can minimize the file size by scanning as grayscale rather than color, if it gets too big.

Call it enlargement mode. It's like using a magnifying glass to examine the fine detail hidden in the contact print.

What you see on your monitor will astound you. Instead of blotchy pixels, you'll see detail in faces and clothing you miss looking at the original print. And, yes, when you print it, it will still be there. Just make a larger size print. Often a 4x6 is large enough to see what you're missing.

And seeing what you're missing can make a world of difference.

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In the Forums

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

Read the Nikon 'Friends of the 8800' discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a

Visit the Olympus Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f783

Discuss the best camera image quality for around $500 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeb3fa7/0

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

Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec

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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: Family Scans

I read about the problem that Donald McLean has with his family pictures. I also read your recommendation on camera scanning. Good one.

Years ago we discussed this problem and I looked up some old articles that you wrote. I can tell Mr. McLean that camera scanning is the simplest way to do it. The images will have the same quality of the camera's images and it takes only a blink of a second compared to the 5-15 minutes a scanner would take. And Photoshop will fix the rest.

The only problem that I still can't get around is to get good results from color negatives. Black and white is OK. Slide film is OK. But the orange backing of the negatives are still giving me grey hair.

Your newsletter makes my day. Always interesting, thrilling and fun.

-- Lasse Jansson

(Thanks for the encouragement! Our two-part Advanced Mode column on Correcting Color Negatives discusses the problem of the orange mask (which is really for printing) and how to build a custom curve to deal with it. You might try to open the JPEG in VueScan (or some other scanning software) and use one of its negative curves to adjust for it. But you can always roll your own. And Mark Segal has just posted his method (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/techniques/scanning_colour_negatives_raw_or_not.shtml) at Luminous Landscape. -- Editor)

RE: Voice Memo

G'Day Mike! Thank you for advice about using a better quality macro lens to copy/digitize my slide collection. I'm considering the Sigma 50mm macro and was about to buy a Nikon D3100 until I read about the forthcoming D5100.

With all these new features (that I will never use) the one thing I was hoping Nikon would include is a Voice memo. My first dSLR was a Minolta Hi7 with both movies and voice memo. Extremely useful when in the gardens photographing plants and flowers.

-- Ron Moodycliffe, Down under in Australia

(That feature seems to be disappearing fast with the advent of video capture. Interesting trend. -- Editor)

RE: Canon MP950 Repair

I am very upset that Canon does not support service spare parts to keep the MP950 in operation. My machine experienced an error code 6500, so I took it to the Canon authorized and listed repair center and after paying a charge of $49.75 was informed a logic board was needed and would be ordered. Weeks passed and I was then informed that said logic board is no longer available from Canon, pick up your useless MP950 immediately and no refund will be given. Do you think that I will replace the MP950 with another Canon product? No way.

-- Enrico Caruso

(We hear you, Enrico. With no hope of repair, it seems obvious there shouldn't be a charge for an evaluation. When we take the 1967 Rumbolino to my mechanic with a problem, he doesn't charge to diagnose it. He just says, "Fortunately, Mr. Pasini, you can still get parts for these cars." We've asked our contacts at Canon to look into this. If they can't help you, perhaps they can modify the policy. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Adobe has released Creative Suite 5.5 with advances to HTML5, Flash authoring, digital publishing and video tools plus the integration of tablets with its Photoshop Touch Software Development Kit. The later is the only change to Photoshop CS5, requiring a small free update to wirelessly control the application from an iPad. Three sample iPad apps will also be released: Nav (a remote control for Photoshop), Lava (mix colors for Photoshop palettes), Eazel (a painting app that transfers the image to a Photoshop layer).

One early third-party application of the SDK has been made by DI Direct (http://www.di-magazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=122:di-issue-03-out-now&catid=3:newsflash) to drive Photoshop from magazine articles on the iPad. "Thanks to the new Photoshop Touch functionality from Adobe, you'll be able to read the technique in the magazine, tap the step entry and see that step performed in Photoshop," the publisher explained.

Adobe said CS5.5 signals a new release strategy of milestone releases every 24 months (instead of every 18 months) and significant mid-cycle updates at 12 months.

A new subscription payment method was also announced by the company (http://www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/faq.html#subscriptions) as an alternative to the rather hefty cash outlays the various Suites require.

The company also released a white paper on optimizing Photoshop performance (http://wwwimages.adobe.com/www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/products/photoshop/pdfs/PhotoshopCS5_performance.pdf).

And finally, the company released Photoshop Elements 9.0.3 (http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=5012) to provide "a fix for certain broken workflows involving the use of PSE 9 with Wacom tablets."


Camera Bits (http://www.camerabits.com) is offering Photo Mechanic for $60 through April 30 to celebrate the company's 15th anniversary. Our review is still in progress but, after months of regular use, we can recommend the product for anyone looking for an image browser.


The Pulitzer Prize (http://www.pulitzer.org) for Breaking News Photography was awarded to Carol Guzy, Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti of The Washington Post for "their up-close portrait of grief and desperation after a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti." The prize for Feature Photography was awarded to Barbara Davidson of the Los Angeles Times for "her intimate story of innocent victims trapped in the city's crossfire of deadly gang violence."


MyPix2Canvas.com (http://www.mypix2canvas.com) is offering a 30 percent discount on canvas prints to celebrate Mother's Day when you use the promo code MYMOM30.


"May I post this photo on my blog?" Pia, Erin and Yvette help answer the question (http://www.designspongeonline.com/2011/03/how-to-credit-just-check-the-poster.html).


Techcrunch (http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/17/iphone-4-camera/) reports that the Nikon D90 is the "most popular camera" on Flickr with the iPhone 4 not far behind. "If the trend continues (and it's actually speeding up), the point and shoot is finished," the report predicts.

Our own Photo of the Day contest (http://www.dailydigitalphoto.com/cgi-bin/potd/potd.pl) tracks a bit differently with 76.7 percent of entries shot on a dSLR, 21.9 percent on a digicam, 1.1 percent on a mirrorless camera and 0.2 percent on a smart phone. But we count 173 different digicams and 92 dSLRs, we should note. We've even got a few film camera entries over the past nine months. Now what does that tell you?


Phoozl.com (http://www.phoozl.com) has launched the Spring edition of its Alphabetography Photo Challenge: the Four Seasons on Facebook (http://apps.facebook.com/alphabetography). The contest runs through May 22.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released GraphicConverter 7.2 [M] with sorting into subfolders, a Select Last Selection command, additional movie options for batch conversion, import options for importing from cameras, WebP import/export (Intel only) and more.


Eye-Fi (http://www.eye.fi) has released updates to its Pro X2 cards and Eye-Fi Center to support Direct Mode WiFi router functions that enable the cards to transmit directly to an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch running its compatible app.

The product line now includes the Connect X2 4-GB, Mobile X2 8-GB and Pro X2 8-GB (reduced $50 to $100). Apple Stores continue to sell the Geo X2 4-GB card exclusively.


The free JAlbum 9.3 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net) adds improved privacy control when uploading albums, import of album projects from Online jAlbum by using the integrated import wizard and other improvements.


The Wireless Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens (http://www.artefactgroup.com/wvil) is only a prototype but we can drool can't we? The WVIL merges "the connectivity and application platform capabilities of today's smart phones and wirelessly connects them with interchangeable full SLR-quality optics."


Can Layers save you from a speeding ticket? Apparently: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/20/business-owner-casts-reasonable-doubt-on-accuracy-/?page=all


Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) has announced its Retrospective 5, the first shoulder bag designed for dSLR, Micro Four Thirds and rangefinder systems with room for a standard size dSLR and up to three lenses or a complete Micro Four Thirds or rangefinder camera system. The product ships in May but we've been using an early version and find the size just right and the quality spectacular (as usual).


DigiLabs Pro (http://www.digilabspro.com) has announced Client Creations, wedding album packages for pro wedding shooters that include a leather storage box, software and instructions for wedding couples on how to quickly create high-quality albums using their digital photographs.


Parade has launched its quest to find America's Most Beautiful Landscapes. To vote or enter the amateur contest visit http://www.parade.com/news/this-land through April 29.


Rocky Nook has published Photography for Kids! by Michael Ebert to introduce children between the ages of 8 and 14 to the world of photography. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 40 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952768/?tag=theimagingres-20).


TidBITS Publishing (http://oreilly.com/catalog/9781615421312) has published its $15 Take Control of Media on Your iPad by Jeff Carlson to explain how to read ebooks, enjoy music or audiobooks, watch video or view photos on your tablet.


Layers for Lightroom? Sure, onOne Software has just released Perfect Layers as a free public preview (http://www.ononesoftware.com).


JetPhoto Studio 5.1 [MW] (http://www.jetphotosoft.com) adds a performance boost, gallery enhancements, support for video files, support for panorama and stereo files, support for geotagged videos, an enhanced slideshow for dual displays and more.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 9.0.30 [LMW] with support for networked scanners, including automatic network discovery, without requiring drivers to be loaded.


The PBS NewsHour looks back at the Lingering Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill with AP photographer Gerald Herbert (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/04/one-year-on-photographer-captures-the-lingering-impact-of-the-gulf-oil-spill.html) on the anniversary of the disaster.


We note the passing of Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/parting-glance-chris-hondros) and photographer/filmmaker Tim Hetherington (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/parting-glance-tim-hetherington), on assignment for Panos Pictures, who were killed while covering the Libyan conflict in Misurata this week.

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One Liners

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

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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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