|Volume 13, Number 12||17 June 2011|
Welcome to the 308th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We publish the second excerpt from our forthcoming Yosemite ebook before Shawn plays with his latest favorite Micro Four Thirds camera. Then we wonder out loud what you can do when you forget your memory card. And we reveal the less-talked-about aspect of sharpness. Dig in!
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(Excerpted from the forthcoming illustrated ebook of the same name. Details at http://www.mikepasini.com/yosemite/ebook.php.)
INTERLUDE: SENSOR CLEANING
"So what are you shooting with these days?" we asked Eric, who is just graduating from college, before dinner. He's been going to Yosemite since he was a little kid and has learned to get up early in the morning to catch the light on Half Dome and stay out at night with the bears to capture the moon glow on the soft flow of the Merced River. Really beautiful stuff.
He showed us the Nikon D70 he had inherited from his cousin, his first dSLR. They have a big family in the habit of passing things down to each other. His cousin, in fact, had inherited a Nikon D90 from his uncle, who had just bought a Nikon D7000.
"But I have to clean the lens because the photos have a big splotch on them," he said.
"A small fuzzy spot?" we asked.
That sounded to us like dust on the sensor filter, we explained. Dirt on the lens isn't going to show up that clearly on the image (if at all). But a spec of dust on the sensor would show up on the bright areas of images that were shot with the lens stopped down a bit.
We got our Giottos rocket blower out and showed him how to safely clean his sensor filter. Well, one way to clean it. The least invasive way.
The D70 doesn't have a built-in sensor cleaning function (like most new dSLRS), so you have to do it yourself. First, we put in a freshly charged battery, just to be safe. The Tools menu has a mirror lock up option to get the mirror out of the way, so we activated that. Then we took off the lens, pointed the camera down (so the dust would float out of the camera) and pumped a few bursts of air into the chamber.
We tried to look at the sensor in the light of the room lamp to see if we could still see any obvious obstruction but it was pretty dim. You can't really see the small specs of dust anyway, but it doesn't hurt to look. Then we just popped the lens back on and turned the camera off to return the mirror.
To check it, we explained, set the camera to Aperture Priority, pick a small aperture like f22 and take a shot of a bright field like the sky. Then look over the image at 100 percent to see if you have any spots.
We were pretty sure he would see a few spots and the filter would need a wet cleaning after all these years. But that's a lesson for another time. Which gives you a chance to order wet cleaning supplies from Cooper Hill (http://www.copperhillimages.com).
There was a time when camera manufacturers frowned on any camera owner cleaning their own sensor filter. And with newer dSLRs, the vibration routine and anti-static filters seem to do a pretty good job keeping the filters clean. But knowing how to clean a sensor filter is essential if you own a dSLR -- even if you never switch lenses (zooms can suck dust in).
SECOND HIKE: MIRROR LAKE
One of the nice things about Yosemite is that you don't need to be a survivalist to enjoy it. You can motor in and never leave your car and still see wonderful things. Or you can shuttle to a few short walks to some of the more famous sites. Or you can take longer hikes to more secluded scenes. Its treasures remain accessible.
On our second day, we took a short walk toward Happy Isles to look at the 1996 slide area below Glacier Point. The walls of the valley are always primping themselves with slides. This one was particularly impressive because it involved free falling slabs of granite (http://seismo.berkeley.edu/events_of_interest/yosemite/eoi_yos.html). The 80,000 tons of stone fell 1,800 feet going 260 mph.
On the way, we were talking about the beauty of the place with Eric. "You need more than one eye," we sighed, referring to our cameras. And then it occurred to us that the TX10 could take 3D photos.
The trick to a 3D photo is actually to take two images, slightly shifted horizontally. That's what the TX10 does in 3D mode. To play back the MPO images, you need a 3D TV (which, surprise, Sony also sells). We didn't have one to try it out, but since we were reviewing the TX10, we thought we'd take a couple of 3D shots for the image gallery so folks with 3D TVs can download the MPO image and give it a try.
There's also an iSweep panorama mode that captures 3D. But, you know, we were in a rock slide area and anxious to get out of there.
And then we felt it.
Just a little drop we thought came from the rushing water of the Merced River scooting around those Happy Isles. And another. Was it raining? The sun was still shining. How could it be raining?
And then it stopped.
It can be hard to tell what's happening with the weather at Yosemite. There isn't much sky to observe from the floor. If the tall trees aren't closing the sky off, the granite walls of the valley are.
But with the sun out and no clouds in sight, we backtracked to Curry Village and set off for Mirror Lake along Tenaya Creek, catching up with Eric's friends Oscar and Casey.
Casey had caught a raindrop on her lens, so we offered her a microcloth to mop it up.
"How long have you had your Canon?" we asked her.
"Since 2009," she said. "I bought it just before going abroad to study for five months."
She loves her Rebel, she said, but wants to take a class to learn more about it. "It has so many settings," she observed.
"How long have you been taking photos?" she asked.
Well, we confessed, Jimmy Carter was president when we bought our first professional gear. But before that we bought cameras (and enlargers) at flea markets that worked perfectly well. The cameras all had the three basic controls we still use today:
Those are all the settings you really need to know, we told Casey. And we would have proved it by taking out the D300, setting it to Manual, but that's when the rain started coming down. We reached for the waterproof TX10 instead.
- Shutter speed to control how you capture motion. A slow shutter speed blurs motion while a fast one freezes it. Almost any camera has a nice selection of shutter speeds, although digicams don't always let you actually select one. But Sports Scene mode is always good for freezing motion. And some digicams have a Long Shutter Scene mode.
- Aperture to control depth of field. A wide open aperture narrows it, blurring the background, while a small aperture extends the depth of field, maximizing what's in focus. Smaller cameras with small sensors can't have a very wide range of options, unfortunately, sometimes offering only two settings compared to the seven on our 35mm prime lens.
- ISO to control light sensitivity. On a film camera this was dictated by the film speed. You couldn't change it from shot to shot or even let the camera adjust it on the fly, as you can now, when ISO has evolved into gain control, an amplification of an electronic signal.
We'd just reached Mirror Lake and the classic view of Mount Watkins (which is usually reflected in the perfectly still water). The top of the mountain was in cloud and the water was disturbed by rain drops but it still made an interesting shot.
Even more compelling was the 2009 rock slide a little further along the trail. It had caused a 2.5 magnitude earthquake early in the morning but no one had been hurt. The TX10's wide angle with a 16:9 aspect ratio captured a dramatic portrait of the slide.
By then the rain was getting serious.
Which provided a real test of the Speed Demon camera bag. Like all Think Tank Photo bags, it includes a black vinyl rain cover. But it wasn't at all clear to us how to use it as long as we were using the shoulder strap. The cover is just a bag with an elastic opening. Normally, with the bag sitting on a bench, say, you'd slip the cover over the bag and not worry about it. But carrying the bag with the shoulder strap attached to the loops on top, you can't do that.
On the other hand, we were getting drenched. So we put the bag on our head to protect us from the rain. If we'd thought about it, we'd have remembered the white shower cap we always carry with us to diffuse the camera's built-in flash. We could have put that on our head and used the cover to at least partly protect the bag.
The bag is water resistant, though, and despite the puddles of water that formed on top, nothing inside got wet, including the maps that were most exposed on the outside compartment. Outright prolonged applause.
INTERLUDE: THE AHWAHNEE BAR
Eric's sister Rachel had just celebrated her birthday and none of us had ever been to the Ahwahnee Hotel bar. So after we dried off, four of us took the shuttle over for a drink. We left the Speed Demon in the room to dry with dignity, slowly by itself.
As hotel bars go, the Ahwahnee is merely functional. There are a lot of tables in the well-lit room so you can order food there and still pay your rent. And the bar itself has less than a dozen chairs. Chairs, yes, not stools, because the bartenders work in a sunken floor something like an orchestra pit.
The nice thing, though, is you can take your drink somewhere less functional and more inspiring, anywhere in the lobby. Like by the huge old fireplaces that make you feel like people are still worried a Civil War might break out.
We managed to get in line, order drinks and, by some magic, grab three chairs at the bar. Rachel and her mother shared one, reducing the depth of field requirements you might say. So much for something more inspiring.
The occasion called for some photos so we pulled the E-PL1 out of our jacket. The white balance was well off but toward the warm end, which wasn't objectionable. But shooting down the bar at three people meant we'd need the maximum depth of field. So we bravely tried f11 at 1/4 second and held our breath hoping our subjects were no longer capable of quick movements.
Most of the shots had at least one person moving (always someone laughing) but a couple were right on the money. For snapshots, the slight movement just showed some life. And the rest of the shot was sharp thanks to the built-in image stabilization.
Image stabilization compensates for camera movement. If you have a very long telephoto lens, you know it's hard to keep it trained on your distant image. And you also know image stabilization can help you get a sharper shot. But at slow shutter speeds (in dark rooms like the bar) it also helps, letting you select a smaller aperture for more depth of field. Using flash would not have captured the ambience of the afternoon interlude.
A good while later, after dinner in fact, as we walked back to the shuttle, we saw what The Photographer's Emphemeris had predicted: Half Dome bathed in the light of the setting sun. Again, the E-PL1 came to the rescue.
The zoom was a little short so we concentrated on setting the scene by framing it with the dark trees to either side of us. Right in the center, though, was Half Dome burning in orange light. It's perfectly legal to crop an image, we knew. But you have to get the shot before you can crop it. And the E-PL1 let us do that.
(To be continued.)
By SHAWN BARNETT and MICHAEL TOMKINS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DMCGF3/DMCGF3A.HTM on the Web site.)
Rivaling not only the new Sony NEX-C3, but also Panasonic's own deluxe digicam the LX5, the Panasonic GF3 brings the Micro Four Thirds camp a new definition of small. As did Sony, to achieve this size, Panasonic had to rethink much of the control system, as shrinking bodies leave little room for luxuries like mode dials, switches and buttons. As a result, there's a learning curve to using the GF3, but for those seeking a very small compact system camera, the Lumix GF3 has a lot to offer in a very small body.
Along with the step-down in size, Panasonic kept the resolution of the GF3's sensor at 12-megapixels with the same sensor improvements that impressed me in the 16-megapixel G3 included in the GF3. Also of note, the GF3 supports Full HD video, that's 1920x1080 in AVCHD format.
The GF3 is tiny. Especially with the 14mm f2.5 lens attached, it really does dip down into digicam territory. It's a little taller than an LX5, but less wide; thickness of course varies with the lens mounted, but it's not far off, either. It's a close call with the Sony, but the GF3 makes the small, feature-rich G3 look big again. The Canon G12 and Nikon P7000, already larger than the GF2, can consider the gauntlet thrown down.
Compared to the GF2, the GF3 is smaller in width and height, but not thickness, 16.7 percent smaller and 16.2 percent lighter than the GF2, according to Panasonic.
The GF3 is indeed light, but still feels solid and a little better balanced than the NEX-C3, with the lens positioned just a tad closer to the center. The grip is scanty, at best only supporting a two finger hold. Similar to the grip on the G3 in shape, it's smaller and requires extra care to avoid dropping the tiny GF3. It might be a little better as a grip than the one on the GF2, though. I recommend at least a wrist strap with the GF3, if not use of the included neckstrap. I'm thankful they went with metal loop mounts for that strap, by the way, as the cloth-to-metal interface is prone to less noise than the metal-to-metal D-ring approach.
While the GF2 had a total of 11 control buttons (not counting the flash pop-up button), the GF3 reduces the count to only seven: Playback, EV, White Balance, AF-point, Drive and Quick menu/Function. Mode and Display settings are now made via the LCD's touchscreen overlay. Pressing the onscreen Display button, which appears in the lower right corner, cycles through available modes and pressing the Mode icon in the upper left corner brings up a circular display of nine bubbles, each with a mode. Turning the physical rotary dial surrounding the navigation disk moves from bubble to bubble or you can simply press one of the bubbles with your finger.
The 3.0-inch LCD has a 460,000-dot display that's sharp and vibrant. Unlike the G3 and Sony NEX-C3, the display does not articulate (tilt or swivel), but integrated touch focus features somewhat make up for that omission.
Sensor and processor. The 12.1-Mp Micro Four Thirds-format image sensor output is handled by a Venus Engine FHD image processor with the same image processing capabilities as the recently-announced Lumix G3. But the GF3's Live MOS image sensor has a total resolution of 13.06 megapixels, in place of the 16.68-Mp chip used in the G3. Base sensitivity for the GF3's imager is ISO 160 equivalent, while maximum sensitivity is unchanged from that of the GF2, at ISO 6,400 equivalent.
Performance. The GF3 is expected to best its predecessor by quite some margin in terms of burst shooting performance, a very welcome change. Panasonic rates the G3 capable of shooting 3.8 frames per second, 19 percent faster than the GF2's specs. JPEG shooters will be happy to see that burst depth is still restricted only by available space and battery life, given a fast enough flash card. For Raw shooters, though, burst depth is unfortunately still quite abbreviated, at just seven frames.
Optics. Around 20 lens models are now available for Micro Four Thirds format cameras and Panasonic itself offers a healthy selection of both prime and zoom lenses, as well as an unusual 3D lens, all compatible with the GF3. As you'd expect, a Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction system is included, to minimize the effects of dust ingested during operation.
Touch-panel display. An important difference between the GF3 and its predecessor is the lack of any provision for an external viewfinder. With no accessory port on the GF3's body, all interaction is handled through its 3.0-inch touch panel LCD, which appears to be unchanged from the GF2. The GF3's LCD has 460,000 dots for about 153,600 pixels, commonly known as HVGA (Half-size VGA). Each pixel comprises adjacent red, green and blue-colored dots. The panel has a 3:2 aspect ratio, approximately 100 percent coverage, seven-step brightness/color adjustment and a wide viewing angle (although Panasonic doesn't specify the actual horizontal/vertical viewing range).
Focusing. Like the GF2 before it, the GF3 offers up a 23-point TTL contrast detection autofocusing system, plus an autofocus assist lamp. As well as multi-point focusing, the GF3 also provides single, pinpoint, tracking and face detection autofocus modes. In single-point mode, the focus point can be placed anywhere within the image frame, by simply dragging it on the touch-panel display. Autofocus speed is said to be similar to that of the Lumix G3 and GH2 models.
You can also focus manually with a manual focus assist zoom that enlarges the display around the focus point, allowing precise focus tuning. Three zoom levels are available: 4x, 5x or 10x. As in the G3, the lowest zoom level shows an enlargement only at the center of the screen, overlaid on the full image, providing a reasonably intuitive way to focus while retaining your desired framing.
Exposure. The GF3 offers still image shutter speeds ranging from 1/4000 to 60 seconds. Images are metered with the Live MOS image sensor, using a 144-segment multi-pattern metering system and the GF3 also provides both center-weighted and spot metering modes. +/-3.0 EV of exposure compensation is available, set in 1/3 EV steps and the metering system has a working range of EV 0-18 (with an f2.0 lens at ISO 100 equivalent.)
Flash. Like the GF2 before it, the GF3 is said to be the smallest interchangeable-lens camera yet announced that includes a built-in flash strobe. The GF3's built-in popup flash has been relocated directly above the central axis of the lens, a position previously occupied by the hot shoe on the GF2 and this hints at an important omission. Unlike its predecessor, the GF3 has no provision for external flash strobes. There's no hot shoe and since the external accessory connector has also been removed, there's no possibility of a proprietary flash accessory being offered, either.
This change makes the built-in flash doubly important and unfortunately, it still has a rather modest guide number of just 6.3 meters at ISO 160 equivalent.
Creative controls. As in the G3, Panasonic has retained its two main creative control function groups from the earlier GF2 model in the GF3, but with new names for each.
The earlier My Color mode is now known as Creative Control and provides access to six effects, one more than in the G3. Choices are Expressive (pop-art style), Retro (soft, tarnished effect), High Key (brighter image), Sepia, High Dynamic (localized color and contrast enhancement) and Miniature Effect (linear graduated blur toward the edges of the image). The Film Mode function has also been renamed to Photo Style. This offers a selection of six presets, plus a custom mode, each of which can be tweaked in terms of contrast, sharpness, saturation (except in Monochrome mode, where it is replaced with a color tone adjustment) and noise reduction. Presets include Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery and Portrait.
There are also 17 Scene modes that help amateurs get the results they're looking for without the need to understand shutter speeds, apertures and the like, as well as Intelligent Auto and Intelligent Auto+ modes that both offer maximum ease of use, but differ in their level of control over the look of images.
Video. The GF3's movie capture capabilities are very similar to those of the GF2, but with a couple of important changes. The GF3 still provides for Full HD (1080i/1920x1080 pixel) or 720p (1280x720 pixel) video capture in AVCHD format, as well as for Motion JPEG capture at 720p resolution or below. Recording rates are likewise unchanged -- NTSC models offer either 30 fps for Motion JPEG, 60 fps for 720p AVCHD or 60 fps for 1,080i AVCHD, all captured from 30 fps sensor data.
The differences are threefold. Panasonic has dropped the non-standard 848x480 pixel WVGA video capture mode, replaced the GF2's stereo internal microphone with a monaural mic and improved maximum recording times. This last change can be pretty significant: where the GF2 was rated as good for 60 to 120 minutes of video capture with the company's 14-42mm lens, the GF3 is said to provide for 130 to 160 minutes with the same lens.
Connectivity. The GF3 includes a mini HDMI Type C high-definition video output with VIERA Link compatibility, which allows the camera to be controlled by the remote control of a Panasonic VIERA Link-enabled HDTV. VIERA Link is Panasonic's brand name for the HDMI Consumer Electronics Control standard, although compatibility with devices made by other companies is not guaranteed.
The GF3 also includes a proprietary connector that provides for both USB 2.0 Hi-Speed data transfer and standard definition NTSC composite video output with monaural audio output. The USB port has PTP (for PictBridge compatible printers) and Mass Storage modes.
Power. The GF3 draws power from a proprietary 7.2V, 940mAh battery pack rated as good for 320 shots on a charge when using the 14-42mm lens, based on CIPA testing standards. With the 14mm lens, this climbs just slightly, to 340 images, as the 14mm lens lacks optical image stabilization.
The GF3 really fulfills the promise first made with Four Thirds sensors: that of smaller lenses and smaller cameras. It took removing the mirror to get smaller, creating Micro Four Thirds, but now three generations on, I'm really talking small. Even pocketable. The Lumix GF3 with the 14mm lens slips into shorts pockets just fine and even better into cargo pockets. Stash another lens in the opposite pocket and your compact camera system is ready to go (but I really recommend a small camera case).
Packing for a trip on a plane, I naturally reach for a compact system camera, because their smaller lenses and decent image quality will deliver just what I need, yet even with a few lenses and a flash, take up less space than my toiletry kit. That's never been more true than with the GF3.
With the 14mm lens, it feels smaller than the LX5, if a little more hefty. As I mentioned above, the grip is a little too small, helping only two fingers get a purchase on the camera, but it does help enough for composing shots when you use a neck or wrist strap.
Taking the GF3 out for a few snaps is pretty much love at first click. Autofocus is insanely fast. Very little compares with the speed, not digicam, not dSLR. Panasonic has really done a great job with this. Yes, SLRs are generally closer in AF speed to the GF3, but I'm really talking about the prosumer and higher SLRs, not the low-cost ones whose price points are about on par with the GF3. That's not just in good light, either, even here at my desk in a dark room at deadline time, the GF3 just racks and focuses really fast. It's about as fast as I saw in the G3 and GH2, but I'll test it when I get a final unit.
The flash pops up with a rather erratic clatter, but settles into the right position well enough. Flash power is pretty weak, unsurprisingly, but should suffice for near portraits.
Switching to the 14-42mm lens, shown here mounted on the white body, still feels quite natural, as the lens barrel is small enough so as not to overwhelm the GF3. I also tried the Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6. It's a little heavier, giving the grip a little more of a challenge, but two-handing it works just great. Autofocus also seems to work about as fast with this lens.
Once I've taken a few shots with the GF3, I think of changing a setting and look at the back of the camera with something of a blank stare. Where's the Mode dial/Menu button/ISO button? Then I remember: Press either the Menu button at the center of the navigation cluster or press the Quick Menu button below that and you launch either the Menu or the Quick menu, both of which work differently. With the Menu, you're pretty much limited to navigating using the four arrow keys or the dial; but in the Quick menu you can use a combination of the dial and the navigation keys or opt instead to touch the icons on the screen. It's a little befuddling at first, but touching is obviously the easiest approach.
Several animations play as you switch between modes; when in a hurry, I'd love the option to ditch the animations and get to the controls (that may be possible, but I haven't delved into that yet). I started to like the virtual mode dial. Though there seems little reason that it should be arranged in a circle, except to emulate a mode dial, that didn't interfere with my ability to find and touch or spin to my desired mode.
Leaving any of these menus is done with a half-press on the shutter button and since Playback is also activated with a button, returning to shooting mode is done the same way. Entering Intelligent Auto is a little too easy for my taste, as I said about the G3 as well, but a menu setting makes it so that you have to press and hold the little button before it enters the mode, so that's a good feature.
Overall, shooting with the little GF3 is a heck of a lot of fun. I look forward to getting the shootable version so I can finish this writeup and give you the rest of the story. From what I can tell, the GF3 is going to be a very desirable camera, loved by travelers, families and enthusiasts alike.
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: Canon SX230 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX230HS/SX230HSA.HTM)
- Previewed: Panasonic GF3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DMCGF3/DMCGF3A.HTM)
- Previewed: Sony NEX-C3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEXC3/NEXC3A.HTM). The C3 sports a newly-developed Exmor APS HD sensor shared with the simultaneously-announced Alpha A35 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA35/AA35A.HTM). Sony has also updated its user interface with programmable controls, added picture effects like Toy Camera and Retro and a peaking function to determine the point of focus.
- Reviewed: Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC Macro (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1008/cat/31)
We can't pretend to know what it's like to face St. Peter at the Pearly Gates after, say, 80 years of flossing, taking out the garbage on the right night, sending belated birthday cards and the various other obligations of being human that the rest of the animal kingdom remains clueless about.
But we can't imagine it could be worse than finding your seat at your kid's college graduation after parking half a mile away and hanging onto your hat in the wind only to turn on your camera and see, "No Memory Card!" flash on the LCD.
It happened to a dear friend of ours only last weekend. We'll call her Agnes to spare her further embarrassment, condemnation and calumny. Email us for her real name.
Her son, who we'll call Erasmus just for the sake of appearance, was graduating from, well, let's just say it was Harvard since we're making names up. Erasmus had worked his, uh, Latin off with a major in Psychology (rare for a male, we're told) with a minor in Paintless Dent Repair. He knew he would be able to get a job in the latter -- and the former would no doubt help him sleep at night.
So it was big occasion. And we'd planned to be with them for the momentous occasion. Until we came down with an infectious disease that would have rendered an entire generation useless. So we stayed home. With our camera. And extra memory cards.
When Agnes told us later what had happened, we reached for our NyQuil. Was there nothing she could have done?
Well, as we like to say in the robust advice sector of this flirtatious economy, it depends.
Say she noticed it when she got up in the morning and wanted to take a photo of her snoring husband Dean (yep, not his real name). In that case she could have grabbed the car keys and popped into the local drugstore (Walgreens, Longs, CVS -- they all end in 's'). Behind the counter is an array of cards. She could have bought the $5 special and been fine or spent more if she wanted to take some HD video, too.
But say she noticed it only when, as we posited above, she was seated for the ceremony. We can only think of two (or four) strategies in that case.
The first is to hope she bought a camera with enough internal memory to record a handful of shots. In that case, of course, she wouldn't have gotten the error message on the LCD. She would only have realized she didn't have a card in the camera when she had taken five shots and it complained there was no more room.
The second is to hope she is sitting with her seven gadget-loving brothers, all of whom brought two or three generations of compatible cards. Which didn't happen either.
The third is to rely on the kindness of strangers. Someone only rows away would 1) have brought a spare card and 2) would let her use it, considering the gravity of the situation. That person would have deserved some sort of standing ovation, medal of honor, amicus brief before St. Peter or some such.
All else having failed, we hate to admit it, but Agnes did have her cell phone with her. In a pinch (and this is certainly a pinch), it would do.
We're distraught to think we'll never see Erasmus in his graduation gown and cap, all for the lack of a silly little piece of silicon.
But let that be a, well, lesson to us all.
We avoid increasing our vocabulary as much as possible on the theory that you can explain more if you use common words. But sometimes a strange word nicely encapsulates a concept that otherwise eludes even the brightest among us.
Hold that thought.
The problem, which has become epidemic with high resolution cameras (and scanners), is that when we examine our state-of-the-art images on our glamorous monitors, we get this sinking feeling in our abdominal cavity. The images just aren't sharp.
And yet, when you examine them in the field on your camera's LCD, they look razor sharp.
Explain how more resolution (like that on your monitor compared with the camera LCD) can deliver a less sharp image?
OK, time for that word.
There are two factors that determine how sharp we find an image. One is, indeed, resolution. Resolution provides the "information" we need to discern detail.
But the other, less notorious member of the gang, is acutance.
Acutance (http://www.brooksphotopedia.com/definitions/acutance.shtml) measures edge contrast. What's the difference in tonal value from one pixel to the next at the edge of an object in your image?
You can see that on your LCD, the jump in contrast is going to be high because a lot of data (resolution) has been thrown away. And, conversely, you can imagine, that the more information you are capturing, the finer the gradation between tones at the edge.
You know how to get more resolution in your camera or scanner. Buy it. But how do you get more acutance in your images?
Ah, that's what unsharp masking is all about.
And that's why we always answer those why-are-my-images-soft queries with a recommendation to sharpen them with unsharp masking. It's what makes your digicam JPEGs sharper than your dSLR Raw images and what turns an unsharp scan into a brilliantly cut diamond.
It turns out we've discussed unsharp masking in 57 of the 317 previous newsletters, mentioning it a total of 86 times. (The Index of Articles (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html) told us when we popped "unsharp mask" in the Text Search box.) And now you know why.
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 Sony Alpha NEX-5 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeb022b/0
Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8
Read about the Lensbaby Sweet 35 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeb359e/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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RE: Which Scanner?
I am preparing to purchase a scanner for 30 year old slides and prints. Having read reviews for Cannon's 8800F, Cannon 9000F and Epson V600 and plan to chose one of these soon. Will initially use with Microsoft but plan to purchase a Mac soon. Which of these three scanners has the best productivity and quality? Which works best with Mac? Do all have capability to scan multiple slides?
-- Richard(From a hardware standpoint, you should be able to get identical results from all three models on either operating system. We can think of only one peripheral company (Kodak) that delivers a substantially different software package depending on the operating system. And they aren't a factor in this contest. The real issue is the software. And here, too, a third-party utility nullifies any advantage, although we personally find Canon's scanning software easier to live with than Epson's. So, hard as it may be to say it, those three models are equivalent for your project. -- Editor)
RE: Which Camera?
I'm planning a trip to San Francisco this fall and need a sub-dSLR compact camera for urban photography!
Although I already own a Powershot S90 (and a Rebel T2i), my gusto goes toward a G10 (which is still available new here in Germany). Whenever I look at Your pictures of San Francisco taken from Twin Peaks me thinks the G10 captures the scene a little dull (but fairly detailed), whereas the G12's JPEGS look far more brilliant to me, with vivid color and good detail.
What was it? An overall tendency between the two sensors/DSPs or just very different light?
-- Peter(Well, the G10 images were shot on a bright but cloudy day. But both days were bright. Same lens, same DIGIC IV processor. Different sensor. And the G12 probably builds a better JPEG. -- Editor)
I read your review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EXH20G/EXH20GA.HTM) of the Casio EXH20 which I just purchased. The camera came with version 1.01 firmware which I used on eight photos I took last night. Except for the last one when I went in the woods, all were all tagged properly when I checked them after import into Lightroom.
Since this article suggested version 1.02, I installed it last night and then shot about 70 pictures today. Unfortunately, when I checked in Lightroom, the first few photos were accurate, but then strangely came up, with the standard link to Google maps, as a range of addresses rather than a specific one. And these were more likely to be wrong than the ones last night. Any ideas why my firmware upgrade was actually a downgrade, when it worked so well for you?
-- Ruth Happel(We doubt it's the firmware, Ruth. We consider the firmware update mandatory to get accurate GPS data. We also doubt you're seeing a range of location data in a single images. The Exif GPS tags don't support that (http://www.sno.phy.queensu.ca/~phil/exiftool/TagNames/GPS.html). Instead, we suspect you are having problems getting GPS data from the satellites, perhaps because of weather conditions, the terrain, the forest canopy. Turn the radio on and let it sync for five minutes (no matter what it says) and leave it on as you move around, even if you turn off the camera. -- Editor)
RE: HTML Version (2011 Answer)
Please change the delivery of the Newsletter to the HTML format. Thanks.
-- Richard G. Englert(The very first link in any issue takes you to the HTML version on our Web site (without the Dave's Deals section). We've discussed sending HTML but it's a much larger file (we keep it just under 49K as text now to avoid problems with Internet Service Providers suspicious of large messages). The HTML versions are usually around 61K. There are other issues with HTML but as advertisers lose the ability to function without it <g>, we're considering at least a pilot program. Stay tuned! -- Editor)
Yosemite -- this year with the large snow melting -- my favorite place in the world. Please share some of the great shots you got. And a movie on Luminosity Editing With Lee Varis.
A question though: I'm probably only 1 of 3 people in this whole world that would like a point-and-shoot (high-end) that does not shoot movies. Is that possible?
-- Bob McCormick(Thanks, Bob! We'll be publishing a lot of the images in the book. Landscape images may not be the most memorable (even if they are among the most pleasurable) images to look over but they're great learning tools. We fix problems and have some fun, too. Sorry, but we can't remember the last digicam we reviewed without Movie mode. Even our old Nikon 990 has it (no sound, though). -- Editor)
DxO Labs (http://dxo.com/us/photo) has released Optics Pro v6.6 with additional noise reduction and color controls as well as support for five new cameras and 100 DxO Optics Modules and FilmPack 3, the latest version of its reference software simulating 60- color and black and white silver halide film renditions. The products are available with a 30 percent launch discount as well.
Optics Pro now includes a newly-extended range for the chrominance noise slider on supported cameras. Additionally, noise can be manually reduced from JPEG images taken with any camera. With this new capability, all corrections available for supported equipment are now available in manual mode for any unsupported equipment.
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released new version of its three iPad apps. Eazel, available at $2.99 for a limited time, adds an image gallery to save your paintings. Color Lava can use the iPad camera to pick colors captures from images. Nav can transfer images directly from the iPad photo library into Photoshop.
Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) has released Snapseed to edit, share and enjoy photos on the iPad. Snapseed includes U Point technology to change brightness, contrast and saturation.
After its firs-ever firmware beta test, Leica (http://en.leica-camera.com) has released firmware update 1.162 for the Leica M9. The update features "a revision of sensor homogeneity for wide-angle lenses. The additional color calibration noticeably reduces chromatic differences between the center and the corners of an image, especially in critical shooting situations. Additionally, the software processes of the Leica M9 have been optimized, significantly reducing the 'red edges effect' and improving the menu's Italian translation," the company said.
onOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com) has released its $99.95 Perfect Layers 1.0 to create and work with layered files directly in Photoshop Lightroom or Apple Aperture.
Digital Anarchy (http://www.digitalanarchy.com) has released its $199 Primatte 5.0 chromakey software for Adobe Photoshop to automatically drop the background, add custom backdrops and color correct all in the Primatte interface.
DPaddict (http://www.dpaddict.com) has launched as "a fun way to view photos and get feedback on your photos," according to the developers. Instead of ratings, visitors evaluate one-to-one comparisons to rank images.
Sony announced its $650 NEX-C3 mirrorless camera (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEXC3/NEXC3A.HTM), the smallest yet and its $700 SLT-A35 compact dSLR (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/AA35/AA35A.HTM) featuring the company's Translucent Mirror Technology, enabling high-speed still shooting and responsive, accurate AutoFocus for both stills and HD movies.
Walter Dorwin Teague, designer of the Baby Brownie camera will be one of 12 designers honored on the Postal Service's Pioneers of American Industrial Design Forever stamps to be dedicated at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, 2 East 91st St. in New York City at 11 a.m. June 29. The event is free and open to the public.
Spider Holster (http://www.spiderholster.com) has introduced its modular SpiderPro Pad to carry two pro-level dSLR cameras without straps or bags. It fits SpiderPro Belts as well as third-party photography belts and backpack systems for trekking.
Tamron has launched its new mobile Web site (http://www.tamron-usa.com) for Smartphones and mobile devices. With GPS-enabled smartphones, you can now find Tamron authorized retailers, see information for local events, receive special promotional alerts, download rebate savings information and more.
Boinx Software (http://www.boinx.com) has released its $139.99 FotoMagico 3.8 with new transitions Blinds, Flash, Pixelate and Broken TV plus enhanced options for the existing favorites Fade and Flip.
Kingston (http://www.kingston.com) has introduce its pocket-sized Wi-Drive with integrated WiFi and four hours of battery life to add another 16-GB or 32-GB of space accessed wirelessly from your digital device.
LensRental's Roger Cicala stacks some filters (http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2011/06/good-times-with-bad-filters) to see what happens. "The good filters do a remarkable job," he notes.
ACD Systems (http://www.acdsee.com) has released its $169.99 ACDSee Pro for Mac 1.8 with interface improvements and support for batch copying files to new folders based on date and time.
Printing at Home (http://culturehall.com/artwork.html?page=15021) is a series of nine archaic inkjet printers hacked to disturb or disrupt the printing process, documented as a printing manual.
Joe McNally insists, "Time to shoot some fireworks." The guy who loves artificial light reveals how he got his favorite fireworks shots (http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2011/06/13/shooting-fireworks/).
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher