|Volume 13, Number 16||12 August 2011|
Welcome to the 312th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Canon's touchscreen ELPH gets some love before Andrew reviews a long lens for Micro Four-Thirds cameras. We discuss some handy (and new) uses for your camera when you travel. Then we discuss George Jardine's technique for black and white conversion. There's something for everyone!
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By DAVID ELRICH(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/500HS/500HSA.HTM on the Web site.)
With a 4.4x zoom and a 12-megapixel sensor, the easily pocketable Canon 500 HS is targeted at the casual shooter but has a touchscreen interface that's both intriguing and confounding at the same time. The 500 HS has plenty of features, though, starting with an f2.0, 24-105mm image-stabilized lens, 1080p Full HD video and 8.2 frame-per-second (reduced res) capture, along with a whole host of special modes for easy photography in many situations, including low light.
LOOK & FEEL
The PowerShot ELPH 500 HS looks similar to one of the models it replaces, the SD3500 IS. The only difference is the extra Playback button where the SD3500 had no buttons at all. The Canon 500 HS is able to get away with fewer buttons because it has a touchscreen. And for the record, the 500 HS also replaces the SD4000 IS with its 10-Mp CMOS imager and 3.8x zoom (28-105mm). In fact, the 500 HS is something of a combination of the two.
Our review unit had a nice pewter silver tone but it's also available in pink and brown, two decidedly unattractive colors. Although it has the classic ELPH box and circle design, it has rounded and beveled edges, taking it beyond the usual hard-edged rectangle. Since the 500 HS has a wide 3.2-inch LCD screen, overall it's wider than the usual digicam, measuring 3.96x2.18x0.98 inches and weighs 6.56 ounces with battery and card.
There aren't too many distracting logos and icons on the front and the ELPH "circle" has nicely accented color. Also on the front is the flash, self-timer/AF Assist lamp and two pinhole mics to capture stereo sound for the videos.
On the top is the Power button and the Shutter button surrounded by a very tiny raised zoom toggle and a switch that moves between Auto and Program. The zoom toggle is way too small and almost pokes your finger with its relatively sharp edge. I haven't encountered an issue like it before. It's definitely not Canon's finest hour.
There's no Mode dial on the top, back or anywhere else; you'll use the touchscreen to access everything. At this point you might expect me to say, "If you're looking to adjust aperture and shutter speeds look elsewhere." Surprisingly, this point-and-shoot lets you make those tweaks -- just like the SD4000 IS -- but with more limited control than you'd get on a PowerShot S95/G12. At full wide-angle, available apertures include f2.0 to f8.0, while shutter speeds of 15 seconds to 1/1000 second are available at all times, with 1/1600 second available in bright conditions when it's needed, particularly in Aperture Priority mode. In Tv (Shutter Priority) mode, however, the camera can only be set up to 1/1250 second. The 500 HS also has an ND filter, which the camera employs when necessary, like when you're using a wide aperture in bright light. "ND" appears in the lower left corner when the filter is active.
For controls other than Power, Shutter, Zoom and Playback you simply use your fingers to tap or swipe through your options on the touchscreen. The Canon 500's 3.2-inch LCD screen has 461K dots with very good contrast and was mostly usable even in direct sunlight. It had some reflectivity issues and like every touchscreen, a handy cloth is important in order to remove fingerprints. The screen has good, strong blacks and it's a winner. I wish Canon hadn't buried the LCD brightness adjustment so deeply in the menu system, but perhaps next year.
On the right side is a compartment for USB/Stereo AV and mini HDMI ports as well as the eyelet for the wrist strap. The door hinge is plastic, so a slow and easy touch is required. On the left is a speaker while the bottom of this Made-In-Japan digicam has a metal tripod mount and compartment for the battery and card (it accepts newer SDXC media). The battery is rated a weak 180 shots, per CIPA standards. The Canon SD3500 was rated at 220 and the SD4000 250, for comparison.
The 500 HS has a very wide 4.4x optical zoom with a 35mm equivalent range of 24-105mm. The largest f-stop is a bright f2.0. The lens is made up of seven elements in six groups. There are two double-sided aspherical lenses (including one Ultra-High Refractive Index Aspherical lens) and one single-sided aspherical lens. Macro gets as close as 1.2 inches.
There aren't any! Yes, this may be an overstatement, but given there's no Mode dial or four-way controller you'll make all your changes via the touchscreen.
There is one big difference between Canon's 2011 and 2010 touchscreen ELPHs. The new Canon 500 HS has a slightly smaller display (3.2 vs. 3.5), but I gladly gave up that real estate for a better-positioned, dedicated Playback button on the lower right. The button for the SD3500 IS was tucked between the operation and on/off switches and was a bit cumbersome.
More importantly, the slightly smaller screen gives you more space to rest your thumb for a sturdier grip. Both cameras have a weird feature called Active Display where you tap the side of the camera to move through your shots during Playback. And you can advance through the photos by tilting the camera if you didn't want to swipe through them. You can also press on the left and right of the screen, which will turn into an arrow (one that's hard to see because your thumb is there); press and hold and it scans rapidly through the images. Swiping also works well enough, provided you press a little harder than you would on the average smartphone.
I'm all for taking chances and open to new advances in camera design, but I thought banging on the side of a camera and shaking it seemed a little risky.
Even Movie recording is activated via the touchscreen. There's a red dot in the upper right corner of the touchscreen. Just tap it and you can record HD clips. Video quality is better at 1080p, too.
When I received the Canon 500 HS, I expected a similar Auto and Program setup to the 300 HS and so many other Canon point-and-shoots. But this ELPH has many of the tweaks one expects on the more enthusiast-oriented PowerShot G12, S95 and SD4000 IS. I can't think of too many aim-and-forget cameras with Aperture and Shutter Priority, yet that's what you'll find here.
Of course this is an ELPH, so the Auto setting is very consumer friendly. It has the Smart Auto system of the 300 HS to recognize 32 scenarios and adjust accordingly. Adjustable options in Auto are limited, which is also typical. All you can change is still/movie resolution, compression, aspect ratio, flash (Auto/Off) and the self-timer.
Move the top switch toward the left to Program and a much wider imaging world opens up. In the basic Program mode you can adjust ISO (Auto, 100-3200), White balance (six picks including custom), exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV) and flash (four options instead of the two in Auto). Tap the P in the upper left corner and a plethora of choices appears, arrayed as square buttons, six across the screen. Along with Aperture- and Shutter Priority there are classic scene modes (Portrait, Kids&Pets and so on). There are also a number of fun filters such as Fish-Eye, Miniature, Toy Camera and Super Vivid.
This ELPH is designated HS, which stands for High Sensitivity, because it has a BSI (backside illuminated) CMOS sensor, a DIGIC 4 processor and a brighter lens, all optimized for better performance in low light. Features like Handheld NightScene uses this high sensitivity capability to its fullest, combining several shots to reduce blur and noise in low-light situations.
High Definition video is practically part of the camera owner's Bill of Rights in 2011 and the 500 HS records Full HD 1920x1080 videos at 24 fps with stereo sound and supports optical zoom. It uses the MPEG-4 AVC H.264 codec (MOV format). Clip length is limited to about 10 minutes. You can also shoot at lower resolution if you simply want to post some clips online. The range of resolutions includes 1920x1080p at 24fps, 1280x720p at 30fps, 640x480p at 30fps, 320x240p at 30fps. The onscreen red Record button appears in all modes and works in most modes, applying whatever effect is selected, including Miniature mode.
The menu system looks like the Canon menu systems found on more traditional cameras, except you use your finger or thumb to scroll up and down or left and right to get the parameter you want, then tap on it rather than press an OK button. It works just fine, though you have to press a little harder than on a cell phone.
I liked the ability to change the background colors of the text to your preference (mine was orange) but there's also blue-gray, khaki and pink.
When you're in Auto there are just a few choices available and you get to them by tapping the Function button on the lower left, then pressing the appropriate text or icon. In Program you can swipe through the options which show up as large, very readable icons. It's nicely done.
When I reviewed the SD3500 IS I took exception to the fact the Menu icon doesn't appear until you tap Function. This time around it didn't seem as frustrating; it was just a different approach. Just remember that you have to press the Function button in the lower left, then look to the lower right for the Menu button to appear.
I used the Canon 500 HS over a period of several weeks traveling to New Jersey's Asbury Park (the original "Jersey Shore" where rocker Bruce Springsteen played). Most of the shots were taken outdoors and I performed my usual indoor tests in available light (flash off).
Touchscreen. I found the touchscreen -- one of the key features of this digicam -- quite enjoyable. Moving through the options is a breeze, although using your fingernail rather than a fingertip gets better results for specific changes. And if your nails aren't long enough, the camera's wrist strap has a slider with a small stylus you can use to tap the screen. This is a very smart just-in-case addition and better yet, it can't get lost like a separate stylus.
The touchscreen can also set the autofocus area and, in Face-detection mode, to select a face you'd like the camera to emphasize. In Face-detection, once the face is selected, the camera will continue to track the subject, setting focus and exposure accordingly until you press the shutter. When not in FD mode, the camera waits for you to half-press the shutter before focusing. When you do, the selected AF area zooms in a small box to help confirm focus. Unlike other recent cameras with touch, the Canon 500 HS has no touch shutter mode, where the camera focuses and fires on whatever subject you select.
I'm a big fan of digicams with wide-angle lenses and in this case it's 24mm. At 24mm, you have to watch for distortion of faces, so it's better to zoom in a little with a camera like this but 24mm does wonders for landscapes and architectural images. The Canon ELPH 500 HS has a 4.4x optical zoom (24-105mm) so you're not getting the most potent mega-zoom on the block, but then again this is a compact digicam that weighs less than seven ounces fully loaded.
I did all of my shooting at maximum resolution (4000x3000 pixels Fine) and Full HD video. The camera worked well with decisive autofocus. The zoom moved smoothly and quickly through the limited range, but that little edge on the toggle was still annoying. Canon claims 3.4 fps at highest resolution, but my speed was under 3.0 -- which is still pretty good for a point-and-shoot. The lab tested it at about 2.2 fps with large/normal JPEGs. As is the case with many digicams, you have to be in Program to access the burst mode. In Auto it's only single shot. There's also a High Speed Burst scene mode that Canon claims will capture up to 8.2 frames per second, but the fastest we could record was 6.3 fps.
Asbury Park is a fabled and faded seaside town that has undergone extensive renovation over the past few years. I remember shooting building exteriors with a 6.1-Mp Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D dSLR (circa 2005) and the peeling paint of the Paramount Theater on the boardwalk was a good test for image detail. The building has since been painted, but the it's still a challenge with its many colors and frescoes. The Canon 500 HS handled it well. Mega blow-ups on the monitor of brick grout showed just how much detail this camera captured, though the red bricks appear quite soft, just as we saw in the red leaf fabric of our Still Life shot in the lab. A dozen prints also reinforced what my eyes were seeing. I even captured seagulls on the fly. Photos taken outdoors of buildings, signs, amusement cars and a kids' water park are less challenging, but all were very high quality and very sharp, far better than the shots taken with the Canon 300 HS. Although both have similar "engines," the lenses are different and clearly the 500 HS has better glass.
Filters. Filters are becoming quite popular and the 500 HS has its share of fun ones. Even with the wide 24mm lens, the camera has a Fish-eye option that adds some over-the-top perspective distortion to your images. I suggest using it for landscapes rather than people, unless you want to raise the ire of your subjects. Others include Toy Camera and Miniature that offer nice tricks but don't ring my bell. I enjoyed Super Vivid which takes colors on a bit of a psychedelic journey.
Handheld NightScene is not a filter per se but as with the 300 HS, I liked the results as it combines three shots in dim light to bring out detail and reduce noise. I took some shots using Handheld NightScene, then raised the ISO up to the maximum of 3,200 in Program for comparison. I also shot in Low Light mode which drops the megapixel count to three. Just like the Canon 300 HS, low-light shooting with the Canon 500 HS is not only possible but something you'll like.
LCD. It was a very bright day during my walk along the shore and the screen held up for the most part, even with the sun directly behind me. In some instances my face reflected off the LCD. Not being a total narcissist it was annoying, as was having to dig way too deep in the menu system to brighten the display a little. These were the most extreme conditions, however. In relatively normal use indoors and out, the screen was more than satisfactory as the 461K dots delivers the goods -- quality, color and contrast.
Video. I recently reviewed a $1,699 JVC 3D Full HD camcorder that captured spectacular video, so it takes a lot for a still camera's movie-taking capability to impress me -- not surprisingly, I wasn't overwhelmed by the Canon 500 HS. It takes 1920x1080 videos at 24 fps (not 30 or 60) so the results were decent but a bit jerky. Colors were fairly accurate and it offers optical zooming. With the switch set to Program mode, you can also use 11 of the built-in effects for video. Not all effects are available, though, including fish-eye, toy camera and creative lighting.
There are also Super Slow Motion modes: 640x480p at 120 fps and 320x240p at 240 fps and an iFrame mode that records 1280x720 at 30 fps. It records stereo sound, but if you zoom while shooting, the noise may be picked up on your soundtrack. As with all digicams, the small mics magnify wind noise and a breezy day at the shore sounded like the center of a tornado. Even so, it's a nice tool to have at the ready if the occasion arises; just don't expect camcorder quality.
You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/500HS/500HSA7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/500HS/500HSGALLERY.HTM.
I really liked the color, tone and sharpness of photos taken with the Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS. Although it doesn't have all of the options of an enthusiast-grade digicam (it's missing full Manual) or even an entry-level dSLR, it has decent options for aperture and shutter speed. I doubt many buyers of this ELPH will even go there, but at least it offers something for those who want to go beyond Smart Auto. It has a nice selection of filters and handles low light well, thanks to Canon's HS system. Touchscreen operation was quite good. Some may not like it, but don't count me as one of them. The 500 HS does have one very serious shortfall: short battery life, likely due to the touchscreen. A spare battery is an absolute must if you purchase this camera.
The only major operational flaw is the hard edge on the tiny zoom toggle. The 500 HS is essentially a combination of last year's SD3500 IS and SD4000 IS with some improvements including better low-light shooting and higher video resolution. Call me crazy, but I'd like to see Canon incorporate this touchscreen on a mega-zoom and a true enthusiast camera. If purists can begrudgingly accept electronic viewfinders in dSLRs, a touchscreen shouldn't be such a big leap of faith. For all its minor foibles, the Canon PowerShot 500 HS is a winning ELPH worthy of a Dave's Pick.
By ANDREW ALEXANDER(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1373/cat/15 on the Web site.)
The Olympus M.Zuiko 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 was announced in August 2010 and on store shelves the following October. The lens was designed to fit the Micro Four-Thirds Mount and accordingly offers the user a telephoto range of focal lengths, the equivalent of 150mm to 600mm.
This lens isn't a "constant" lens, in that as you increase the focal length, the minimum aperture increases. The following list reflects the change in maximum aperture for the lens: f4.8 at 75mm, f5.1 at 100mm, f5.6 at 150mm, f6.1 at 200mm and f6.7 at 300mm. The smallest aperture is f22 across all focal lengths.
The lens takes 58mm filters, but does not ship with the LH-61E lens hood. It's available now for around $800.
The 75-300mm provides excellent results for sharpness at the nearer end of its telephoto range, with performance quickly dropping off as the lens is zoomed in past 150mm.
At 75mm to 100mm, the lens provides almost tack-sharp results, even used at its widest aperture. Stopping it down only provides marginal gains in sharpness and it's tack-sharp all the way down to f16, where diffraction limiting has set in. Even at f22, the lens provides very good results.
At 150mm, we begin to see some of the lens's shortcomings. It's good, but not great, when used wide open at f5.6, with the top of the frame appearing softer than the rest. Stopping down to f8 returns very sharp images, almost tack-sharp and no further gains are made as the lens is stopped down to f11. At f16 diffraction limiting has set in, as above.
At 200mm and 300mm, results for sharpness are only above average, with 200mm faring slightly better than 300mm. You have to stop down to f11 to get decent sharpness, as by f16 diffraction limiting has already begun to rob the image of clarity.
CA is controlled well at 75mm, but zoom in to any degree and it becomes slightly noticeable in the form of red and blue fringing in areas of high contrast.
Corner shading is only noticeable when the lens is used at its widest aperture and even then, the extreme corners are only a third of a stop darker than the center. Stop down the lens slightly and corner shading becomes negligible.
Olympus performed a little magic here and kept distortion to a minimum. It's present, but not extreme, with the corners showing some pincushion distortion. This distortion is at its most prominent above 75mm, but even then it's only around -0.3 percent in the extreme corners.
The Olympus 100-300mm f4.8-6.7 M.Zuiko is very fast to autofocus, taking less than a second to go through its entire focusing range. The lens adopts the new MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) design, making it ideal for use in both still and video applications. The front element does not rotate when focusing, making life that much easier for polarizer users.
The lens isn't a dedicated macro lens, producing just 0.18x magnification. The minimum close-focusing distance is just under three feet.
Given that the lens uses the same filter size and bayonet mount as the 40-150mm M.Zuiko, I see no reason why the Macro Lens Converter (MCON-58) would not work on this lens as well. Using this adapter reduces the minimum close-focusing range to just 9.0 inches on certain lenses (possibly including this one, but Olympus' press information doesn't make it clear).
There doesn't seem to be any information at the time of writing concerning what magnification is offered by the adapter.
BUILD QUALITY & HANDLING
The Olympus 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 M.Zuiko is an all-plastic lens, quite small given the design parameters of the Micro Four-Thirds system. The lens is available in either a matte black or silver-gray finish, with a silver band by the lens mount. The plastic filter threads take 58mm filters and the body mount is metal. There is no distance scale, depth-of-field scale or infrared index.
Our lab technician Rob Murray notes that even with image stabilization, it's tricky to work with a 600mm-equivalent lens. Without an eyepiece to provide a third point of support, you've just got your extended hands to keep things somewhat steady. MacGyver might be proud of our solution, using bungee cord to attach a Hoodman H-LPP3 Loupe to the LCD screen: The Loupe is available for around $80, but you'll have to find your own bungee cord or shell out another $20 for the Hoodman HSLRM straps and see if they'll attach to your camera body.
The zoom ring is an inch and a quarter wide, plastic with alternating raised ribs sections that run lengthwise to the lens. The ring turns about 90 degrees through its range of focal lengths and is quite easy to turn. There is some significant lens extension as the lens is zoomed out toward the tele end, adding two inches to its overall length when zoomed out to 300mm. Zoom creep isn't a factor with this lens and there is no lock to prevent it.
The focus ring is located at the end of the lens, an indented plastic ring that's a half-inch wide. The ring is a fly-by-wire design, controlling focus electronically, so there are no hard stops at either the infinity or close-focus ends. It's not the most friendly of manual focus designs, but the 100 percent magnification on the LCD really helps nail an accurate focus. Given that focus is electronically controlled, you can assign the direction of focus to be either left or right. The front element doesn't turn during focusing operations.
Our sample didn't ship with the LH-61D lens hood, which is a circular-shaped, bayonet mounted model that appears to be able to reverse onto the lens for storage. The lens hood will run you $25.
- Panasonic 100-300mm f4-5.6 ASPH MEGA O.I.S. LUMIX G VARIO. Perhaps the most obvious alternative to the Olympus, we haven't yet tested the Panasonic 100-300mm; it's somewhat less expensive, but should mount and work properly on an Olympus micro four-thirds body. ~$550
- Panasonic 45-200mm f4-5.6 MEGA O.I.S. LUMIX G VARIO. Much less expensive than the Olympus 75-300mm, the Panasonic 45-200mm isn't as sharp a lens, but it's slightly smaller, distorts less and offers better results for chromatic aberration (however, our results were found on a Panasonic G1 and could be somewhat different on an Olympus body). ~$300
- Olympus 70-300mm f4-5.6 ED Zuiko Digital. With an adapter, the Olympus 70-300mm Zuiko should work properly on a micro four-thirds body; the resulting combination might be a bit long and heavy, however. The Olympus 70-300mm lens itself is almost as sharp as the f4.8-6.7 M.Zuiko, so unless you have an existing collection of Olympus glass you want to take advantage of on your micro four-thirds body, it's probably not worth the bother. ~$300
- Olympus 40-150mm f4-5.6 ED M.Zuiko Digital. If you don't need quite as much reach, the 40-150mm is an excellent telephoto option -- as sharp close up and sharper than the 100-300mm at 150mm, with better results for CA, distortion and corner shading as well and not quite as expensive, either. ~$400
There aren't currently many choices in the ultra-telephoto category for Micro Four Thirds and without having tested the Panasonic 100-300mm, it's hard to recommend the one over the other. Optically the Olympus 75-300mm does very well, but not where you'd want it to -- it's super-sharp at 70mm, not at the 300mm where I suspect the grand majority of users will want to use this lens. At 300mm, it's only above average, there's noticeable chromatic aberration and the maximum aperture of f6.7 is one of the slowest I've seen for SLR lenses. Even Tamron and Sigma seem to draw the line at f6.3.
However, for the magnification it gives you, it's a truly remarkable package, weighing in at just under a pound. So if you're not a purist who will be scrutinizing every image with a loupe, but rather a photographer who wants to get closer to the action without carrying 18 pounds of camera, this lens may very well be what you're looking for.
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 PowerShot ELPH 500 HS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/500HS/500HSA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 ED M.Zuiko Digital (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1373/cat/15)
Summertime. Vacation (maybe even back to school already). Stop the mail (good luck with that). Travel.
Of course you'll bring your camera (and its charger) but you don't have to wait until you unpack to take advantage of it. In fact, this is one situation where the camera in your cellphone is more useful than your digicam.
Turns out there are a handful of situations that call out for documentation but don't require high resolution. Here's a few:
On arrival, there is at least one opportunity not to be missed either. But switch to your digicam.
- Before stuffing everything into your suitcase, take a shot of it all. It isn't much help for this trip but it could be helpful in deciding what to bring on the next. Particularly if you're a serial overpacker. Just make a print and cross out the stuff you didn't wear.
- Snap a shot of your parking spot (including the space number) in the airport garage so you know where you left your car. You don't have to be in an airport garage to find this handy, of course. It's useful when you park in any unfamiliar parking lot.
- While you're at it, snap a shot of your luggage (front and back, including the tags). If they get lost you'll have a photo to describe them, not just a text description on the claims form.
- If you check in with a smartphone app, protect yourself from the foibles of immature apps and no cell access by taking a screen shot of your boarding pass. If you can't retrieve the pass using the app, you can just pull it up from your photo album. A paper printout is a good Plan C. Stick it in your carry-on luggage in case it has to be checked at the gate.
- And if you're going through security with a screen-based pass, turn your screen brightness all the way up. Auto brightness settings in the security area may dim the screen enough that scanners can't read the pass.
There's one app you might want to use before even booking your flight. It's FlightTrack Pro (http://www.mobiata.com), which can instantly give you the on-time record of the flight (some flights, we've found, are routinely delayed and bad bets if you have to make a connecting flight). And it's handy at the airport too when the status of your flight is less than reliable. It often knows what's going on with the flight before the gate attendants do.
- Photograph the rental car during the walkaround. Nothing so discourages a dispute about nicks, dings, scratches and missing hubcaps (we could tell you a story about a black Chevy Cobalt from New Jersey) as your camera.
Accessing WiFi and power as you travel are two headaches you can avoid, too.
Wherever you're going, have a safe trip. Have a great trip, in fact. And if you're staying home, there's always those photo albums to look through. And the cheapest form of travel ever invented: a phone call to loved ones you can't be with.
- Research free WiFi access (http://www.wififreespot.com/) before you go. If you're traveling through places where you have to pay for it, consider Boingo's various low-cost deals for unlimited access (http://www.boingo.com), including in-flight access.
- Power outlets are generally available in airports but often in use. By bringing an extension cord, you can ask to share without inconveniencing anyone.
- Put your name and address on your charger. If you leave it behind, you might see it again. And if you arrive at your hotel without one, ask at the desk if they've got any spares. There's often a box full to choose from.
- Some form of auxiliary cellphone power is a bright idea. Kingston makes a small recharger and there are devices that use a 9-volt battery to provide a bit more up time.
We spent an enjoyable half hour recently watching George Jardine go through the options for black and white conversion. There are quite a few these days.
George has encapsulated his thoughts in a free video (http://mulita.com/blog/?p=1244) available on his site. As George tells it, "As I was working through scripting for the Black & White segment of my new Adobe Camera Raw series, it just kept getting longer and longer and longer. Which ... just might be a problem. But as I dug into it, it also just kept getting more and more interesting! So I decided to spin it out, and turn it into a separate, and completely free tutorial."
If you aren't familiar with Jardine videos, this is a great one to sample. You'll immediately appreciate the clear screen capture (George just takes over your browser window at high resolution). And it won't be long before you appreciate his clear exposition with no ums, uhs or errant mousing around. They're polished productions.
George starts by surveying some common digital black and white conversion techniques. There's our old friend Grayscale in the Photoshop's Image Mode menu item. And the Saturation Slider in the Hue/Saturation/Lightness dialog (or the Desaturate command, which does the same thing). There's also conversion from RGB to Lab Color mode and selecting just the Luminance channel. Finally, there's the Channel Mixer, which has a Monochrome checkbox.
Even if you don't use Photoshop to do black and white conversions, the techniques are common enough you'll recognize them.
He tries all of those on the same image, pointing out the color shifts. You might think one or the other of these techniques might distinguish themselves but George doesn't give out any prizes.
Instead, he pulls up a color gradient that covers the spectrum and teaches a little color theory using CHROMiX ColorThink (http://www2.chromix.com/colorthink/index.cxsa) to illustrate a few concepts about color space. That actually clarifies the problem.
And the problem is simply what George calls color contrast. The question to ask is which method gives you the most control over how to render each color of the spectrum as a tone.
We don't mind giving the ending away since you have to see this in action to appreciate it anyway.
But the answer is None of the Above. Instead, George shows how to use the new Black and White conversion sliders in Camera Raw, Lightroom (and Photoshop's Black & White conversion tool) to create tonal separation between colors.
He tosses in a couple of other tricks we won't reveal, too, but that's the gist of it. To get a great black and white conversion, you have to be able to manipulate the colors individually. And the new sliders give you exactly that control.
We shortly became addicted to pulling up color images and converting them to black and white using the sliders. Starting at the top and dragging them dramatically to the left or right showed immediately what influence they had on the image. Clicking between Default and Auto also gave us a clue about which slider would have the most effect in any particular image but you really do, as Geroge says, have to play with them to find out.
And so we did. We simply went down the ladder, making big adjustments to see the effect and then settling on the setting that gave us the tone with the most contrast. As advanced techniques go, it was pretty easy.
The transformations were startling, as well. We started to see black and white images that had a drama we hadn't previously been able to portray.
Which isn't bad for a half hour investment.
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:
Follow the Nikon 'Friends of the 8800' discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a
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A user asks about choosing the right dSLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeb140c/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: Duplicate Hell
Over the years we've been collecting JPEGs, backing up JPEGs and copying around JPEGs (and NEFs for that matter) onto who knows how many hard drives, USB drives, DVDs, CDs, computers, laptops, netbooks, cellphones and what have you. Complicating this is that Nikon rolls the image number back to 0 and both my Nikons use the same naming conventions (note to self on future purchases!).
Should I succeed in getting all files onto a single computer (even if they are on separate drives and directories, but even better if it can access that data across the home network) is there a tool you could recommend that would help me eliminate all the true duplicates and as a bonus, identify multiple generations of the same image? I expect file name, size and date would be important and probably best taken from the exif data since the OS has done who knows what with the directory info.
Next on the bucket list is being able to quickly review, score and delete (JPEG and NEF) the remaining images. Your input on this process too would be welcome.
Thanks again for the newsletter and Web sites. You're the place I go to first for well thought out information on all things digital imaging.
-- Dan Frissora(Thanks for the kind words, Dan. Nikon cameras offer continuous numbering in one of the setup menus and, on Nikon dSLRs, you can also set up a filename prefix (like your initials). To organize your network collection the simple way, see our Feb. 25, 2000 article 'Dealing with Space Junk' (which also appeared in O'Reilly's "Digital Photography Hacks"). As you go through your devices finding images, file them in the new structure by capture date. Photo Mechanic, as I described in the Yosemite series, can sort your images by capture date if the filename is no help. There just happens to be a long discussion of this on Macintouch (http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/photography/index.html#d25jul2011), BTW. Once you've got your archive in shape, consider building a database. The database is where you'd record things like rankings and do things like searching the archiving. Take a look at Lightroom, which won't disturb your archive. That's it in a nutshell <g>. -- Editor)
RE: Document Scanning
While your scanner reviews are great, as a museum curator I need to not only scan old slides and photographic prints, but documents as well. For me the color of the paper for the document is as important as the color of the image on the slide. I need a scanner that can do both documents and slides at a really good quality. Many of our 1,500 or so documents date to around 1800 are quite fragile and are on the norm almost 8.5x13 inches.
-- Scott Scholz(Document -- or reflective -- scanning is not as demanding a task as film scanning, Scott. Anything that can handle film will do documents well. But we don't know of one current flatbed that can handle 13-inch originals where 11.7 inches is the max. A better solution is to photograph the originals with a dSLR, flat-field lens and professional lighting setup. -- Editor)
RE: Unerasing Cards
Hi, just read a number of tutorials on your Web site and wanted to mention the free software recovery mini disk from buying a CompactFlash card from SanDisk.
Have used it twice on CF Cards with very good success. It takes a while to find all of the images, since it's reading the entire card looking for whatever is there. If you give it the time it needs, it works. This was on cards that had not been written over but had been camera formatted.
Thanks for a great Web site and information.
-- Mike Goodwin(Glad it worked for you, Michael. Most such utilities can handle a straightforward recovery. The trouble comes when things aren't straightforward. Even something as simple as a card from which just one image had been deleted during the shoot can confuse most utilities. We haven't tested in a while but PhotoRescue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM) handled those less-than-straightforward situations equally as well as the simple ones. And it continues to be actively developed. -- Editor)
While LaserSoft (http://www.silverfast.com) has announced SilverFast 8 will ship this month, Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) is offering a competitive VueScan upgrade for SilverFast owners who do not plan to upgrade. Hamrick's will wave the $40 premium for VueScan Professional over its $39.95 VueScan Standard.
Canon has revealed Captain America: The First Avenger used Canon EOS 5D Mark II dSLRs to capture many of the movie's action shots. The small camera was mounted on the interiors and exteriors of moving vehicles to capture dramatic action shots while remaining invisible to the film cameras shooting the same scene from a distance.
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released a plug-in security fix for Photoshop CS5/5.1 to address "a security vulnerability in the GIF file format, where opening a malicious GIF file would cause the application to crash. This update is recommended for anyone who opens GIF files in Photoshop."
Camera Bits (http://www.camerabits.com) has announced the first public beta of Photo Mechanic 4.6.8 to address "issues discovered after the release of Photo Mechanic 4.6.7, but primarily it is for Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility." The Legacy version of the beta is for OS 10.4.11 through 10.5.8 users while the other is for is 10.6 and 10.7 users. A Windows version will be released soon, the company said.
CloudBerry Online Backup (http://backup.cloudberrylab.com) provides Windows users an automated backup and restore process to Amazon S3 and a few other leading cloud storages.
Rocky Nook has published its $34.95 Mastering the Nikon D7000 by Darrell Young. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 45 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952806/?tag=theimagingres-20).
The company has also published its $39.95 Panobook 2011, the result of 553 participants entering 2000 images in its panorama contest. The hardcover opens into a 24-inch spread to show off the images. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 35 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952830/?tag=theimagingres-20).
La Figa: Visions of Food and Form (http://www.LaFigaProject.com) is a coffee table book featuring models wearing nothing but edible creations. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1935359754/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Tenba (http://www.tenba.com) has added a Photo/Laptop Daypack and Photo/Tablet Daypack to their Discovery collection and a Photo/Laptop Daypack and Photo Sling Bag to their Vector collection.
Going Candid ... (http://book.85mm.ch) is a free "book about street photography in the digital age."
Photo.net has posted Finding an Audience for Your Photos by Harold Davis (http://photo.net/column/harolddavis/finding-an-audience-for-your-photography/intro/).
Neatberry (http://neatberry.com) has released its $14.99 Sketcher 1.1 [M] to render a photo with "the look of a pencil sketch, watercolor, pastel, or oil."
Andrey Tverdokhleb (http://www.raw-photo-processor.com) has released his free Raw Photo Processor 4.4.0 [M] a more compact interface, additional presets, new profiles and more.
MacPhun (http://www.fxphotostudioapp.com) has released its $39.99 FX Photo Studio Pro 1.1 [M] with over 150 effects that can be applied to digital images, including tilt-shift, textures, vignettes, lomo, night vision, comics, vintage and more.
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