The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 13, Number 22 4 November 2011

Copyright 2011, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 318th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We stay indoors to print with Canon's new Pro-1 while Shawn takes a hike with the Sony NEX-C3. Then we award that Ersatz Nobel. Oh, make sure your camera clocks Fall backward this Sunday if your wall clocks do.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please show your appreciation by visiting their links below. And now a word from our sponsors:
S O N Y

The New Sony NEX-5N Camera

"Incredible! It's like a DSLR camera that fits in my pocket."

  • Up to 10 fps shooting to capture fast action
  • Exmor™ APS-C HD CMOS image sensor for 16.1-Mp resolution
  • The performance of a DSLR in about half the size and weight

Learn more about the incredible new Sony NEX-5N at: http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?sn5

S I G M A

Go Splash Proof and Stabilized
With Sigma Lenses!

Sigma introduces three new compact and splash-proof lenses:

  • The 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 II DG HSMin wide angle lenses (an arena pioneered by Sigma),
  • The 120-300mm F2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM featuring Sigma's own FLD glassin the telephoto zoom category, and
  • The powerful 150mm F2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM in the prime macro category.

All have been enhanced to include optical stabilization and Sigma's new splash proof design. Coming very soon. Get ready!

Visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?sgm for more information.

P E N T A X

Capture More, Carry Less
With the PENTAX Q!

The new PENTAX Q is the worlds smallest and lightest interchangeable-lens camera, with a rugged white or black magnesium-alloy body, a range of available lenses, and an advanced 12.4 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor for low noise, amazing detail, and full 1080p HD video.

The Camera. Evolved. Learn more about the amazing PENTAX Q at: http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?pxq


Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Canon Pro-1 Launches New Era

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/canon-pro-1 on the Web site. See also Dave's interview with Canon at http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2011/11/01/imaging-resource-interview-katsuichi-shimizu-and-michael-duffett-canon.)

It's no secret that Canon has been playing catch-up to Epson when it comes to exhibition-quality photo printing. But the new Pro-1 isn't panting for breath. Canon has designed it for commercial, professional work intended not just for exhibition but for years of appreciation -- in one form or another -- after.

While Canon considers the Pro-1 the perfect partner for the high-end images of commercial photographers, you don't have to run a photo studio to appreciate the Pro-1. We think it may find a home with any photographer who appreciates image quality, accuracy and consistency.

Canon has outfitted it with a full complement of black inks making it the first 13x19 printer the company has designed for black and white printing. And it brings CD printing to U.S. customers for the first time in a 13x19 printer.

The company has also developed a new set of Lucia inks with increased black density for color imaging. With a 4 picoliter droplet size, Canon revised just how the Pro-1 lays down ink from its new 12,288 nozzle print head, too. So strictly from an image quality perspective, the Pro-1 makes some interesting arguments.

But it doesn't stop there. The new inks are packaged in what the company calls tanks rather than cartridges. They load in the front (both paper feeds are now in the back). The tanks feed the print head through a tube system that is stabilized by a mist fan. Ethernet and Hi-Speed USB are the connections. So the Pro-1 makes some good productivity arguments too.

We set one up in the bunker here and had just a few days to put it through its paces before Canon U.S. announced it. We'll update our online review as we use it more in the days ahead, but there's no sense keeping you in suspense.

It delivered great images right out of the box.

FEATURES

The quick list of the Pro-1's main features include:

PIONEER PRINTER

This feature set sounds more like a round map for a new printer line-up than a flagship in the current Pro line.

In fact, Katsuichi Shimizu, managing director, member of board and chief executive of Canon's inkjet products operations worldwide, told Dave at the PhotoPlus show (http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2011/11/01/imaging-resource-interview-katsuichi-shimizu-and-michael-duffett-canon) that the Pro-1 line will likely expand both with less expensive models suited for enthusiasts and larger models for the high-end pro market.

The less expensive models won't likely included the "off-axis" tank ink system and would rely on few colors. The higher-end models would print on larger sheets.

CONSUMABLES

Tentative pricing for the 36 milliliter ink tanks is $35.99 each. The Chroma Optimizer tank is $29.99. Canon plans to offer multipacks for additional savings.

So a complete set of inks is $425.88. In our experience with other pigment printers, however, you don't use all the inks equally with colors like red lasting a long time while gloss optimizers are the first to run out. The Pro-1 bucks that trend with surprisingly even ink usage, however.

Because the Pro-1 can print varied images on a variety of surfaces a page cost is not feasible to calculate.

PERFORMANCE

The Chief Inspector of Large Prints around here dropped in for a visit the other day and pronounced the first handful of 13x19 prints we'd done on the Pro-1 better than anything she'd seen us do before. "It's just another level of quality," she said.

So they make a good impression. Even the first ones.

Those first prints were Raw files from a Nikon dSLR and an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera converted using Adobe Camera Raw (and heavily manipulated, sharpened and even converted to grayscale) to 8-bit images with Photoshop doing the color management using Canon-supplied ICC profiles. That's what we do when we want the most out of the image.

There is some price to pay for that, though. By relying on Photoshop to manage color, you forego some of the advances the printer manufacturer sneaks into the picture. So we did eventually try printing from Easy-PhotoPrint, too.

Our first images were all printed with the High quality setting in the printer driver, perhaps accounting for the longer-than-advertised print times we experienced. The printer was never waiting for data.

We then spent some time with black and white imaging as well, converting color images in Photoshop and again letting Photoshop manage the printing.

First Print. We let the printer sit with the power on for an hour and half before making our first print. There was some startup time involved after sending the 13x19 Yosemite print to the printer before printing began but it was just a few seconds.

We were surprised how quiet and stable the Pro-1 was as it printed. It didn't shake the table (as some 13x19 printers have) or make more than a whisper of noise. You could easily be heard on the phone over the printer (we were). There is a constant hum as it prints but otherwise you just hear the print head swooshing back and forth. Occasionally the fans come on.

The driver options seemed a bit simple for such a high-end printer (especially after the Epson R2000), although there were options for applying the clear coat. And the ICC profiles were a bit confusing too. There were two for the Canon semi-gloss sheet we were printing. Apparently the 1/2 profile is higher quality than the 3 profile. Canon could stand to document this with the paper and on the Web.

The first print came out quite well, taking about 16 minutes on the High quality setting. Our network connection was to run the data from our computer to a router via a wired connection and from the router to our Ethernet switch. But the switch is 10BASE-T unlike our faster router. Still, the printer was never waiting for data. We wondered about the buffer size on the printer but after thinking about it a bit, we suspect it had to do with the High quality setting, which may slow things down.

The supply levels didn't show any difference after the first print.

That first print was a full color image from Yosemite. Blue sky, clear creek, waterfall, granite cliffs, trees. We made our usual adjustments to the Raw image, sharpened it and sent it off to the printer as a 24-bit image.

The borderless 13x19 print held no surprises. Our blue was sky blue, our cliffs were sharp and rocky, the trees stood out, the creek seemed cold. We felt like we could walk right into the image.

We got the loupe out to look over the dot pattern. For a four picoliter dot size, it was remarkably difficult to detect. No doubt the Photo Cyan and Photo Magenta help with the color gamut but the new screening technology knows how to place a dot.

Black & White. In our enthusiasm for printing a grayscale image, we forgot to load the Pro-1 with paper. The yellow LED at the top of the Resume button flashed at us until we did. One press and it went right back to work.

We did enable Grayscale printing in the print dialog for our grayscale images, which were converted from color using Photoshop's Black & White conversion sliders as detailed in our June 3 Newsletter story (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html) on Lee Varis.

Our initial impression is that the Pro-1 grayscale prints are very rich prints. We didn't feel like we were bumping into the printer's limits with any of them. And we thought we'd really like to try a few more things before coming to any conclusion. That's a far cry, though, from worrying about the color shift on a quadtone or the limited range of a single color black ink. So we're already ahead of the game.

The Pro-1 uses five monochrome gray inks: Photo Black, Matte Black, Dark Grey, Grey and Light Grey. That makes for rich detail in the shadows and smooth tonal gradations in the midtones. And there's no cartridge switching necessary when changing from matte to glossy papers.

Our view of Yosemite Valley on an overcast day needed that sort of subtlety to express its drama. And it got it. Half Dome was clear in the distance, easily recognizable. We didn't have to hunt for it.

Again the dot pattern was minimal, only detectable in the highlights. Grain was never so subtle.

Shutdown. At the end of the first day, we closed up the printer trays and pressed the Power button to shut it down. It went through a shutdown routine that took about a minute, maybe less, before the LED on the Power button turned off. That seemed pretty quick to us. You could leave it on until you were just about the leave the studio.

Startup. The second day with the Pro-1, we powered it on to print a CD. The white LED on the Power button flashed while the printer prepared itself. Less than a minute later (perhaps half a minute) it was ready to go. Very nice. It really didn't give us a chance to get impatient -- either shutting down or starting up.

CD Printing. Previously, thanks to an exclusive contract, only Epson provided CD printing capability in the U.S., although Canon printers in other parts of the world included CD printing capability. HP doesn't think its customers want to print on CDs but Canon has added the capability to a number of its U.S. printers this year, including its all-in-ones.

Unfortunately it isn't as simple as including the CD tray. Canon's software wasn't nearly as refined as Epson's. There are a number of layouts to select from, yes. And you can import any of your images into the layout and change the type. But the options are pretty limited, enough to aggravate anyone who's done any graphic design.

Still, we were able to print a CD design for our Yosemite photos this year using Easy-PhotoPrint EX.

Actually printing the CD was a bit confusing as well. Don't touch the printer until you've gone through Easy-PhotoPrint's routine. All the way through Print. Then switch to your printer driver display for the all-clear to load the CD tray. You'll notice that the Resume button is flashing orange when the printer is ready for that.

The tray itself is loaded with the narrow end forward. If you're using a normal size disc, you remove the insert for small discs. Then drop in your printable disc (with a white coating).

To load the tray into the printer (with the orange Resume button LED flashing), open the output tray drawer and find the finger pull just under the "Canon" on the front of the printer to open the CD slot. Then slide the tray into the narrow opening until the two white arrows on the tray align with the two white arrows on the slot.

Printing was quick after that and the results were gorgeous.

CREATING COLOR PROFILES

The Pro-1 was designed to handle a wide variety of papers from typical photo papers to fine arts media. That's one of the strengths of pigment printing, which does not rely on a swellable surface to encapsulate the ink.

It's also one of the ways professionals distinguish themselves. By printing on papers they select, learning how to get the best results from them and sticking to them.

But to produce the best results, you have to either find or create ICC profiles for each ink and paper combination.

To do this, we relied on a ColorMunki Photo (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/CMP/CMP.HTM), which we used with both X-Rite's excellent software and Canon's Color Management Tool Pro (http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/professional/products/printers/desktop_printers/photo_inkjet_printers/pixma_pro_1#DriversAndSoftware), which can be downloaded at no charge from the Canon Pro-1 page.

We've detailed the process using the X-Rite software in our earlier review, so we'll just add that the Pro-1 driver doesn't make it easy to disable color correction (Linear Tone color mode was as close as we got). Instead of rehashing the X-Rite process, we'll walk through the process using Canon's software.

The Main Menu presents two options: Create ICC Profile and Calibrate Printer. We'd already calibrated the printer when we set it up. What we want to do with a new paper is create an ICC profile.

There are also a couple of options for the measuring instrument, including the i1 Pro and the ColorMunki. So we selected ColorMunki. And we indicated we were profiling the Pro-1 in the Printer popup menu.

The printer driver was set up with color options obviously disabled. That's a good reason to prefer the Canon software.

The software then prints three sheets.

Then you go back to the Main Menu (or nearly). One click takes you to a screen that looks like the Main Menu with a new option: Measure Chart and Create ICC Profile.

The software then wants to calibrate the ColorMunki. It won't see the device if you connect it through a hub, so make sure you have a direct connection.

Once calibrated, you can start reading the charts. It's a little confusing, but the third chart is printed first and the first last, so you actually start reading the last chart printed first.

A misread generates a double beep, otherwise a single beep indicates success. It goes pretty quickly. We only had trouble reading one row.

Then you just name and save the ICC profile.

It's not as straight-forward a process as the X-Rite software and it therefore takes longer, but it isn't onerous, either. And having the color correction definitively turned off is a big help.

FINE ARTS PAPERS

By fine arts papers, we mean nothing more than those thicker sheets of 13x19 photo paper like Canon's Museum Etching, Photo Rag, Premium Matte and Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss. Toss in that Kodak Premium Photo Paper Matte, too.

But toss in your favorite sheets as well, no matter who makes them (including Epson). One of the design goals of the Pro-1 was to make a printer that would perform well with any profiled paper.

That's why Canon provides profiling software at no charge for the Pro-1. You will have to provide your own hardware device to read the color patches, but it's reasonable to assume a pro (and any serious amateur) would already have one for monitor profiling.

Loading. On the Pro9000 and Pro9500 printers, you load thick media one sheet at a time through the front of the printer. It's a process that took some explaining, requiring the output tray be lifted up and reset at a flatter angle and the paper path cleared before manually aligning the edge of the sheet to some marks.

For the Pro-1, Canon has redesigned thick media handling. You now load it from the rear Manual Feed Tray, which handles anything from an 8x10 to a 14x17 as long as it is 4 mil or 0.1 mm thick.

The rear Manual Feed Tray is as simple as the rear Feed Tray but it only accepts single sheets. You just open the tray (making sure the other tray is closed) and pull out the extension to support larger sheets. Then just drop in your paper, adjusting the side guides to fit.

You do have to slide the paper down into the slot a bit to seat it. That can take a bit of effort with a stiff paper like Museum Etching. But don't just drop the sheet into the slot. It has to make the bend to get to the stop.

That's a big improvement, though, over the older method.

THE PRINTS

Canon shipped its semi-gloss paper to us for testing. That shows off the improved gamut, the better brightness of the pigments, the gloss optimizer. By laying down as smooth a pigment surface as possible, light isn't scattered when reflected. Not a small trick with four picoliter droplets.

We also tried a paper from left field, that Kodak matte, which we calibrated. Results were consistent and reliable, matching our monitor display faithfully (although, of course, not identically).

And we tried Canon's Fine Arts papers, too. Both in color and black and white.

We found it surprisingly difficult to get a bad print. Even our first print was more than acceptable. We weren't at all surprised by what came out of the printer, either.

For the first few days, we printed current work we hadn't printed before. Then we switched to some old favorites whose 13x19s had been printed on the Canon i9900, Pro9000, Pro9000 Mark II, Pro9500 Mark II and the Epson R2000.

The first thing we noticed was how well the older printers had done. There was nothing wrong with those prints. And in some cases, though the Pro-1 did very well, we preferred them. That was mainly an issue with the particular media we had printed on.

The biggest difference we noticed was in our black and white prints. The Pro-1 was able to produce a neutral print where the Pro9500 Mark II produced a monochromatic print with a slight color cast.

Sharpness and detail from identical files was harder to evaluate. In some cases the images were simply printed on different kinds of paper, making it impossible to draw conclusions.

But we aren't done with our comparison prints yet. We'll update the online review when we've done the analysis.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The Pro-1 is available this month for $999.99.

Canon told us printers destined for the U.S. market are already on the boats, some even in port here already. The company has just brought online a new printer plant in northern Thailand on high ground, so production can continue there and in Vietnam. The company expects no short-term availability problems.

CONCLUSION

While it's just too soon to draw any conclusions about the Pro-1 here, we can say it was a breeze to set up and the first prints out of the box (even using Photoshop to manage color) were good enough to frame. So it's no surprise Canon is providing a Pro-1 as the monthly first prize for our Photo of the Day Contest.

It started up quickly in the morning and shut down promptly at night, running reliably and quietly all day. We had no problem feeding paper or CDs, no paper jams, no crashes, no issues at all.

It was easy to make gorgeous prints.

But we've only just begun to see what it can do. And that's probably the highest praise we can give a printer.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Sony NEX-C3 Shooter's Report

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEXC3/NEXC3A.HTM on the Web site.)

The Sony NEX-C3 is remarkably small, with a decent grip and a smallish rear thumb rest. Some will find its very small size problematic, especially given the larger size and weight of the lens, but I found it just fine knowing what I was getting away with by carrying it. It's really a lot like taking a pocket long zoom digital camera and attaching a big lens to it (if you use the 18-55mm kit lens, rather than the 16mm). So it's a little awkward at first. But when you remember that you have a larger sensor -- the same size as most consumer dSLRs -- in this insanely small body you really do feel like you're getting away with something.

As such, the NEX-C3 was an ideal hiking camera. Out walking a nearby trail, I was able to bring along both the NEX-C3 and the Olympus E-PL1 in a small satchel. Both cameras were so light, the bag felt like it was empty. Since I was out with an unannounced camera, I was careful to conceal it when it wasn't in the bag. It hid completely behind my palm with my thumb and index finger wrapped around the lens barrel. Since it's even smaller than the NEX-5, with fewer soft edges, it was comfortable to hold this way.

The LCD wasn't as good in bright light as I'm used to, mostly because of the very reflective outer glass, so the tilting screen came in handy. I shot high up and down low with relative ease, though when shooting vertically from down low, which I do often, I had to guess and hope I was framing correctly, which wasn't always the case. Some of my shots were ruined because I cut off feet or tops of heads, especially when framing shots of my toddler.

I attached the small flash that comes in the kit, which came in handy without adding a lot of weight. I made several images that needed a little flash and it was easy to just flip up this little accessory and see what happened. I found it powerful enough for fill inside 20 feet. Because it doesn't flip up very far, you can expect to see some red-eye.

Optics. I was very happy with the NEX-C3, all I wanted was some variety in the lens department. The new 30mm f3.5 shows Sony's commitment to adding lenses to the lineup, as does their list of projected lenses, due by 2012. What I needed on that hike (and had with the Olympus) was an extra-wide-angle zoom lens and a light and small telephoto. The Sony 18-200mm lens is still smaller than most dSLR lenses, but it is a little big on the NEX-C3.

Controls are similar to past models and I still find it a bit fiddly having to go into a menu for things that should have their own buttons, especially when there are so many steps and screen changes along the way. But that's one of the tradeoffs when cameras get this small and the programmability of four of those buttons means I can at least make the NEX-C3 work the way I want it to.

Revisiting the NEX-C3 after playing with the NEX-5N and a slew of other compact system cameras since, I still find it a tight little design that's as nice to hold as it is to use. Several of my old shots with the C3 were a little softer than I liked, but I didn't say much about it because of its prototype status. I'd been thinking that the 18-55mm lens our sample came with wasn't as good, but looking at our Still Life target at the lowest common ISO (200) shows the NEX-5N to be a little sharper than the NEX-C3, a distinction that becomes more apparent as ISO rises. We shoot the Still Life target with our laboratory standard Sigma 70mm f2.8, a remarkably sharp lens. And while both are what could be called sharp, the NEX-5N's ISO 100 and 200 shots clearly redefine sharp when put next to the NEX-C3's images.

30mm. Since I was concerned about the 18-55mm, I did a little more shooting with the new 30mm f3.5 Macro lens and found that to be more fun. Zoom lenses, for all their practicality, tend to make me lazy, so I like the challenge of shooting with a prime. While it's about as long as the kit zoom, the 30mm Macro sports a lot less glass, making it both lighter and a little less impressive. Its objective lens is only about 14mm across, yet it's surrounded by a shiny bezel that looks a little like an extension of the lens. That seems a little bit like cheating and for fans of big glass optics, it's a bit disappointing, but it's not the first time we've seen it.

I liked the 30mm, but noticed some rainbow lens flare when shooting with the sun hitting the lens. Our copy did not include a lens hood and a quick glance online doesn't show a hood available. Because most of the Sony SEL lenses have the same 49mm cap size, they also seem to use the same hood bayonet mount, so the 18-55mm hood works, though I doubt it would have helped in the shots that included the rainbow.

Sweep Panorama. One of our favorite Sony innovations is Sweep Panorama and the NEX-C3 does fairly well even in these relatively low-light shots. It's a bit of a trick each time I do it to get the right speed, capturing enough images to cover the range before the buffer fills. If you don't sweep fast enough, you end up with a gray bar on the right or left of the file (depending on the direction you sweep), but if you go too fast, especially on a dreary day, you end up with blurry images.

DRO and HDR. The NEX-C3 has Dynamic Range Optimizer and High Dynamic Range modes. At first I thought the C3 was confined to Auto modes, but that's due to an interface quirk. While you're selecting the Auto HDR mode, for example, the second soft button in the lower right has changed to Option. Pressing this button allows you to use the rear dial to choose from five levels of DRO adjustment or six levels of EV for HDR.

It's a little frustrating that you can't use a two-second self-timer in HDR mode, the one place I needed it more, with my slightly wobbly tripod. I'm not likely to use either mode, but if I did need a little more help with dark shadows against bright skies, I'd go straight for HDR Auto.

Movie. Movie mode is limited to 720p Fine quality at best and encoding is MP4, not the more compact AVCHD standard. But the NEX-C3's movies will more easily play on computers without special software. Movie quality is pretty good, with good contrast and detail. Other video options include a 720p at Standard quality and 640x480.

Menu. I have to momentarily rant about the Menu system, too. One aspect, the main screen containing six icons, is poorly conceived. Too many of the items you want to set are in separate menus, where normally they'd be under the Camera icon. ISO, for example, should not be under Brightness/Color; this menu shouldn't even exist. The only reason I can think to include Image Size and Brightness/Color menus as separate icons is because six icons filled out the wide screen better than just four. Remembering where I should search for a given setting among these three icons is a constant nuisance with all of the NEX cameras I've used. Add that certain settings become unavailable in certain modes and the NEX series menus can be pretty frustrating.

On the positive side, Sony made many improvements over the initial iteration of the NEX menu, including menus that wrap around when you've reached the end and a general tendency to return to the last menu item selected, so it's easier to return directly to your last modified item for more changes or to disable them altogether.

Minor usability issues aside, though, there's no question that the NEX-C3 is a very competent little camera, one that's attractive and very small.

SAMPLE IMAGES

You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEXC3/NEXC3A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEXC3/NEXC3GALLERY.HTM.

CONCLUSION

When Sony set out to revamp and more clearly delineate its consumer NEX camera, they did so by making it about as small as the more enthusiast-targeted NEX-5. With the launch of the NEX-5N and NEX-7, we see quite well where the NEX-C3 sits in the lineup. It's designed to appeal to the discerning consumer who wants a handsome, small, tight Compact System Camera that can go anywhere and bring back quality images and videos.

The Sony NEX-C3 is a lot of fun to shoot with and its sporty design looks great hanging around your neck. It's also comfortable to use with a wrist strap, being just a little smaller than most super zoom digital cameras. We liked the tilting LCD and the grip is good, with a texture that provides good hold. The menu continues to give us trouble but we're content to live with it, especially given the improvements to its overall behavior.

The 720p video worked well enough, with stereo audio to boot. Autofocus was pretty smooth and accurate in most situations. Sweep Panorama and Handheld Twilight modes make short work of formerly difficult photographic problems and the Peaking function makes manual focus considerably more accurate than most other methods that we've seen.

Overall, the NEX-C3 is a great consumer Compact System Camera that will serve a broad base of users. Image quality is very good with remarkable ISO performance from 200 to 1600, printable to 20x30 inches. We did have some problems with the kit lens, with soft corners and noticeable chromatic aberration. And image quality was not quite as good as the NEX-5N, despite the matching 16-megapixel resolution. It turns out the 5N corrects the lens's shortcomings and produces slightly sharper JPEG images with less noise -- for about $100 more. But that doesn't take away from the NEX-C3's quality build, great images and low price, which combine to make it a Dave's Pick.

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New on the Site

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

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In the Forums

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

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

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

Read about the Canon Pro-1 printer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeb680a

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

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

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Just for Fun: The 2011 Nobel for Customer Support

The 2011 Ersatz Nobel for Extraordinary Customer Service seems to have broken a record for fewest nominations ever. Could it be that no one bought anything, we wondered. Less maybe, not nothing, we think. Must have been the word "extraordinary."

We did get ourselves nominated (again), which is always gratifying. Thanks, Jay Vada.

Just for that, we'll give you a little bonus prize (instead of awarding ourselves a Nobel). For a list of all the non-camera (collaborative) reviews your editor has done, just visit http://mikepasini.com/services/reviews.htm where they're organized by category. We needed a list so we could easily reference our reviews when replying to calls of distress, so we might as well share it with you. You can thank Jay.

Norette Underwood actually nominated someone. "Katherine at Hunts Photo and Video in Massachusetts." Norette cited Katherine at Hunts (http://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com) merely for "great" customer service, but you know, that clears the bar. So, Katherine, wherever in Massachusetts you are, congratulations! You get a share of this year's Ersatz Nobel.

Earlier in the year, C.R. Lytle told us a charming tale about a problem he had with his iMac and Plustek software, which we'll quote from liberally here:

"I emailed Plustek on a weekend," he began, "and got a call back the next Monday in the afternoon. First, the callback was from the USA! (Yea!) Second, the person was beyond helpful. With his guidance, I got online, downloaded the latest version(s) and went to town setting up workflows for my (very old) Kodachrome slides. He explained everything he told me to do. We scanned the color calibration slide, set up some preferences and scanned slides (which, of course, he couldn't see). We spent almost an hour on the phone and he insisted on staying connected until I was comfortable understanding what 'we' were doing. I've never had support like this from anybody except my dearly departed mother."

It's that generous confusion of "your" problem for "our" problem that really marks extraordinary customer service. That's probably what got Norette to mention to Katherine, too. You feel like you have an advocate instead of an adversary.

So we give a share of the 2011 Ersatz Nobel to that anonymous tech support person.

We had our own extraordinary experience as a customer just a few weeks ago.

Somehow we had run out of ink again. Not really ink, Gloss Optimizer. You really run through that stuff on semi-gloss paper with pigment inks. So much so that Epson sells it two to a pack for the R2000 we were testing.

We did a little online research and, of course, everybody has it online. Nobody would say if it was in stock, though. So we drove to Office Depot and Best Buy but no dice. They do stock inks for office inkjets but not high-end photo inkjets.

We didn't have time to order online. We had to get a few prints to the Post Office so they could get them to our destination (which, if you must know, was the site of a surprise 30th wedding anniversary).

What to do?

The last time this happened, we ended up driving to Palo Alto's Keebler & Shuchat, which has everything. The clerk there suggested we try Calumet in San Francisco next time because it was closer to us (which should have earned him an Ersatz Nobel but the timing was off).

So that's what we did.

It's quite a big old warehouse, the floor packed with gear. On one side is the long camera counter and on the other the inks and papers line the wall.

We asked for Gloss Optimizer and Cary Tuner, a sales associate, took a look around. When he came back with it, we had a little chat about the business, the floods in Thailand, the students taking up photography, the need to stay up on the latest software (they have a classroom upstairs) and the new Calumet. I got, in short, more than the Gloss Optimizer I came for.

Somehow when you order online you never get more than you expected.

So to Calument, Plustek and Katherine we award the 2011 Ersatz Nobel for Extraordinary Customer Service. Well earned!

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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: Long Shutter Speeds

I'm a photographer who doesn't like carrying around all my gear anymore (I've got Nikons and lenses from 24mm to 400mm+). I've been waiting for a compact digital camera that can be put in my pocket and off my wife and I go. I found your review on the older Panasconic ZS7 with its awesome tele and macro but the big plus was the 15/30/60-second long exposure time which would let me get a photo of the Northern Lights or a still of the stars. A 45-second exposure will keep them pinpoint, 60 seconds will start to trail. The Nikon Coolpix S8200 and S9100 sounds awesome but the slowest shutter speed is 1/30. Do you know of a compact digital camera with awsome zoom and wide angle with the 60 second+ shutter exposure?

-- Jim Fantozzi

(On digicams, long shutter speeds are, as a rule, only available in a Scene mode. There's a reason for that, Jim <g>. A digicam sensor is so small that prolonged exposures lead to a lot of noise, so a very aggressive noise reduction filter is always applied to those shots. If you're used to the quality of your Nikon SLRs, this is not going to make you happy. Look for a larger sensor in a smaller body. There's quite a few options between a digicam and a dSLR these days. -- Editor)

RE: Wobbly Lenses

Last October I bought a refurbished Canon EOS 5D Mk II camera directly from Canon Online at about a $600 dollar discount. At the same time I bought several Canon lenses from B&H Photo.

No matter which lens I attach to the camera, it has a slight wobble which does not feel right. Some of my photos are blurred with the IS turned on and some are even blurred with the IS turned off and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod and firing remotely.

I want to know if wobble/blur is common with Canon. This camera has only been used for approximately 4,000 shots, has never been dropped or mistreated nor have the lenses. I recently bought the cheap EF 50mm USM lenses at B&H and even it has a slight feel of wobble after being locked in place.

-- Bill Porter

(Because you've experienced the problem on multiple lenses, we can rule out the lenses themselves. Unfortunately that leaves the body. Having taken 4,000 images with it, though, it would seem you're outside any return policy or free repair option. But it should go back to Canon for repair. There should never be any wobble between the lens and the body. -- Editor)

RE: Coins

Great articles and reviews on scanners. I have just one question. I want to scan about 10,000 coins (not rare coins) for which I would need a camera setup.

But I think there is a program I can buy that lets you put 12 or 30 coins on a scanner, then scan and it will automatically separate the scan into the 12 or 30 pictures. That would save me days of work.

So is this program similar to when you have slides and do 12 at a time? Do you know of any high end scanners that can do this?

You guys are great, just tell me which one you would buy and I will do it.

-- Bill Klusaritz

(Any scanner these days can scan a set of prints laid out on the glass and save them as individual files. Even all-in-one devices. But we're not sure this would work well with coins. When we tried to scan four coins on a Kodak ESP 7250, only two were detected and they were cropped too tightly. Another problem is the flat lighting, which obscures detail. A camera setup would probably do a much better job. A small shooting stage with a couple of 45 degree lamps and just a quick shutter snap for each image. It would be pretty quick work. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released its $55.99/year Carousel in the iTunes App Store and Mac App Store, providing access to your entire photo library from your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and Mac OS. No manual syncing. The same photo-processing engine used in Lightroom. We've been trying it on Mac OS and an iPad this week and will have a full review.


Apple (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1463) has released Aperture 3.2.1, a 635-MB download which fixes unexpected quits at launch, crop tool behavior, rendering issues when cropping, onscreen proofing menu display and more.


Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com) has released its Digital Photo Professional 3.11.1 [MW] with fixes for displaying 5D Mark II shooting data and saving photos shot with the 5D and T3 after conversion.


Phase One (http://www.phaseone.com) has released Media Pro 1.1 [MW] with support for more Raw formats, German and French localization and significant performance improvements.


Akvis (http://akvis.com) has released its $75 Chameleon 7.5 [MW] with improved compatibility with Lion, support for GPU acceleration, compatibility with Photoshop Elements 10, an option to use the OS X File dialog for opening and saving files and more.


The $29.99 Pixelmator 2.0 9 [M] (http://www.pixelmator.com) in the Mac App Store adds full Lion support, a revamped interface, vector drawing tools, vector shape tools, a Healing tool with content-aware fill, Sponge and Burn/Dodge tools, a Red-Eye tool, a Smudge tool, Eyedropper and Pixel tools, a new Type tool and more.


Think Tank Photo (http://thinktankphoto.com) has redesigned its Modular Rotation System and Modular Rotation System Skin components, adding new cases and pouches. The Modular Rotation System is padded for outdoor shooters and the Modular Rotate Skin System is unpadded for indoor use. The new system is expected to ship in early December.


onOne Software (http://www.ononesoftware.com) has released its $299.95 Perfect Photo Suite 6 [MW] with Perfect Effects (the next generation of PhotoTools), the new Perfect Portrait for retouching, Perfect Mask (the next generation of Mask Pro), a new version of Perfect Layers, plus Perfect Resize, FocalPoint and PhotoFrame.


Rocky Nook has published Ten Photo Assignments by Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler. Each assignment includes a list of goals, detailed instructions, illustrations and examples. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 32 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952792/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Meanterm (http://www.meanterm.com) has released its $0.99 Unik 2.0 duplicate image finder in the Mac App Store with access to the iPhoto library, batch deletion, recognition and comparison of rotated and flipped images and improved performance and stability.


Overmacs (http://overmacs.com) has released its $5.99 PhotoSweeper 1.1 in the Mac App Store with a Duplicate Only search method, improvements for the Auto Put into Box function, an option to turn off the Glossy effect for thumbnails and improved performance and memory use.


Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (http://www.wppionline.com/show/register.shtml) has announced registration is now open for WPPI 2012.


Prosoft Engineering (http://www.prosofteng.com/products/picture-party.php) has released its $1.99 PictureParty at the Mac App Store. The app turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into a picture frame using themed frames for holidays, milestones and travel.


Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science has published Eric Fossum's lecture Photons to Bits and Beyond: The Science & Technology of Digital Image Sensors (http://image-sensors-world.blogspot.com/2011/10/eric-fossums-lecture-on-image-sensors.html).

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One Liners

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

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

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Signoff

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

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM
Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM

Happy snapping!

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

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