|Volume 13, Number 25||16 December 2011|
Welcome to the 321st edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We share our solution for the proliferation of video formats with a review of Elgato's Turbo.264 HD. Attentive readers can enter the give-away contest, too. Then we work with CRU-DataPort's small, quiet, affordable RAID product that solves several storage problems anyone with a collection of photos faces. Finally, we indulge in our annual holiday special to express our gratitude to you for reading this long newsletter! Happy Holidays!
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In the film era it was simple. You shot either 16mm, 8mm or Super 8 film stock. And that was determined by your camera. Audio wasn't even part of the picture.
But digital video is a Tower of Babble.
First there's the option of Standard Definition or High Definition, primarily defined by the horizontal scan lines.
But while SD goes as high as 480 lines, it also supports 240 and 120 -- all in a 4:3 format that restricts the corresponding dimension to 640, 320 and 160.
HD, on the other hand, only supports 1080 or 720 horizontal scan lines. But they can be interlaced or progressive (known as Full HD).
Whether SD or HD, there's also the question of frame rate. Some cameras have a high speed mode (slow motion when you're viewing it) that requires a three-digit frame rate. HD is often captured at 60 frames per second. Standard broadcast quality dictates 30 fps and that's about what you get with the common 29.97 fps rate. But there are also 15 fps and 7.5 fps options not to speed things up but to reduce storage requirements. Often 15 fps, while a bit jerky, is a good compromise.
No matter which you choose, audio is no longer an option, it's assumed.
Once you've made those choices for your clip, you still have to worry about the format. The video format and the audio format, both. And when you've made those decisions, you may just find yourself locked out of more than one playback option, each of which has its own requirements.
So there's no getting around it in digital video: you have to convert to be seen.
We recommend exploring the DVD that came with your camera to see what utilities you can tap into for free. There are also a few third party applications worth exploring including Handbrake, CoreAVC, AVC Video Converter, not to mention Adobe Premiere Elements and Premiere, Pinnacle Studio and Sony Vegas, which add editing to the mix.
But to handle the simple conversions we do for camera reviews, we wanted something quick and simple. Foolproof couldn't hurt either.
Elgato (http://www.elgato.com), famous for its TV tuners, has been juggling video demands a long time. It's Turbo.264 HD software with a USB hardware helper called the Turbo is designed to convert the variety of video formats to the more universal H.264 MPEG-4 format so it can be played on iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, gaming consoles, smart phones, your TV or the Web (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).
It runs on Mac OS X only. There is no Windows version.
We've been using it to convert AVCHD video captured by some digicams into MPEG-4 clips you can view in your browser. The review clips otherwise wouldn't display. We've also used it to downsample some HD video to play on older computer systems.
And it's pretty easy. Just drag the clip into the Elgato window and click the Start button. Done.
The Turbo hardware helper is a USB stick that accelerates the otherwise laborious task of conversion. It takes a while to convert video. It's a lot of data. Having the helper is a big advantage. It simply takes less time.
And it works in applications other than Turbo.264 HD, including iMovie '09, QuickTime Player Pro and EyeTV.
While we don't edit clips for reviews, you can also combine clips or edit a clip, too. There's a switch at the bottom of the main screen that toggles combining the displayed clips on or off and editing requires only clicking on the clip's thumbnail to access the simple editor we discuss below.
Turbo has nine preset formats or profiles: iPod Small, iPhone, iPod Best, Apple TV, Sony PSP, YouTube, YouTube HD, HD 720p and HD 1080p. There's also a custom option, which is what we use to downsample. Those options convert both the resolution and bit rate downward to match the output device. It won't upsize the video, however.
Custom formats come in handy for handling old media on new output devices or new media on old output devices.
In the first case, say you have a 4:3 video digitized from some old family movies. You want to display it on an iPod. You can create a Custom setting based on the iPhone settings with an Aspect Ratio of 4:3.
In the second, if your old laptop can't handle Full HD video, you can just set the image size to something it can handle and leave all the other settings on Automatic.
The Custom options include:
In addition there are some Advanced Settings, which can really screw things up if you don't know what you're doing:
- Aspect Ratio: Auto, 4:3, 14:9, 16:9 and Wide (which crops to a widescreen format)
- Overscan: Auto, On (crop), Off (don't crop)
- Frame Rate: Auto, 14, 23.976. 24, 25, 29.97, 30 and Custom
- Data Rate: Auto, Custom (in kilobits per second)
Audio has it's own set of options:
- H.264 Profile: Auto, Baseline, Main, High
- H.264 Level: 1.0 to 5.1
- GOP Size: Auto, Custom (number of frames for each Group of Pictures)
- GOP Structure: Auto, I, IP, IBP, IBBP and IBRBP
- Interlace Mode: Auto, Frame, Field, MBAFF, PAFF
- Entropy Coding: Auto, CAVLC, CABAC
And (hold your breath), Turbo.H264 HD is AppleScriptable. There are even some scripts in the Elgato Knowledgebase to get you started. Although it's pretty simple. You just "add file [path/file] exporting as [profile]" and "encode."
- Sample Rate: Auto, 24.000 kHz to 48.000 kHz
- Channels: Auto, Mono or Stereo
- Data Rate: Auto, 64 kbps to 160 kbps
- Dolby Digital (for Apple TV or Custom profiles): Auto, On, Off
- Chapter Markers: Auto, On, Off
- Closed Caption: Auto, On, Off
Getting a clip into Turbo.264 HD is as simple as dragging it into the appplication's main window. But if you plug your HD camcorder into your computer's USB port, the software automatically detects it so you can preview and edit the clips stored there before importing them, which can be a real time saver. Especially since Turbo.264 HD doesn't have to convert them from the camcorder's native format into an intermediate format before rendering it.
While Turbo.264 HD will convert anything to H.264 MPEG-4 (even non-Mac formats like MKV or WMV), it doesn't include a license to convert every format. Windows Media format, for example, requires a separate license. Without the license, your WMV files will be converted to H.264 MPEG-4 but they'll have a watermark on them.
And it won't convert H.264 MPEG-4 back to any other format at all. Just H.264 MPEG-4.
You can tell it exactly where to put all the conversions, too. So it can automatically add converted videos to iTunes to sync with Apple TV or an iPad or any other device iTunes knows about.
What does convert, however, looks great. Turbo.264 HD uses Elgato's unique progressive scan method for video deinterlacing while following Apple's specifications for H.264 video.
And with the hardware accelerator it really doesn't take as long as we're used to it taking. Conversions of clips as large as one gigabyte do take a few minutes (roughly ten minutes on our i5 laptop), but that's about it. You won't be tying up your computer overnight.
That's about two to four times faster than without the hardware accelerator, Elgato estimates. It's a noticeable speed up even on a fast Mac.
In a word, it's the fastest conversion utility we've ever used. That excludes applications like Premiere with its GPU processing, of course, but if you just want to convert video to run on all your devices, Premiere is overkill and Turbo.264 HD is a blessing.
When you click on a clip's thumbnail, the editor opens displaying a timeline with a playhead. You can add stop and start triangular markers to the timeline to indicate what should be cut.
You simply move the playhead to the first section you want to cut, press the marker button at the bottom of the screen and two markers appear on the timeline at that spot. Drag the second marker to the right to highlight the last frame you want to cut.
Changed your mind and want the cut back? Just hit the Delete key to remove a marker.
When you've finished, just press the Done button.
A PDF manual accessible directly from the software itself accompanies Turbo.264 HD making it easy to get a quick answer from the Help menu when you need one.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
You can get Turbo.264 HD directly from Elgato or from the Mac App Store. The Software Edition, which you can test with a free trial edition, is $49.95. With the hardware accelerator, it's $99.95 (with a 10 percent discount and free shipping through Dec. 22).
Lazy as we are, we always took the time to plug in the hardware accelerator. It never took longer than the time it saved. Fortunately it isn't necessary but it is a worthwhile investment.
As we were putting this issue to bed, Elgato offered to give away one free copy of Turbo.264 HD SE, the software edition. To enter to send an email to [email protected] titled "Elgato Contest" with your full name in the body of the message. We'll pick a winner at random by the end of the year. Which, you know, isn't that far away.
Outright prolonged applause to Elgato for crafting a video utility that does exactly what it promises as simply and reliably as possible. And a hoot and a holler for the simple editor and Custom settings, too. Not to mention crafting it so it runs with or without hardware acceleration.
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/toughtech-duo/index.htm on the Web site.)
We've been taking digital photos since 1998. And in that time we've archived some 53,000 images. Our earliest images had pretty small storage requirements so our total disk usage is only 170-GB, although these days we're shooting about 4-GB a month.
And while all that would fit on today's typical laptop hard drive, storing them there isn't a good idea. Drives, like all mechanical devices, fail. Unlike other mechanical devices, which merely require replacement to get back on the road, drives that fail lose all their data.
So if you take photos and store them on a hard drive, you have also inadvertently appointed yourself a sort of photo historian whose job it is to preserve these relics of the past despite the failing mechanical devices.
We've discussed previously how to archive your collection to DVD and why you should refresh the archive every few years (DVDs don't last forever either). And that's still something we do and recommend to you.
But the other day we were trying to stuff yet another few hundred megabytes onto a bloated external USB drive and we thought there has to be a better way.
The old external drive category has diversified into several layers of complexity, probably more than any happy-go-lucky photographer cares to study. But that's what we're here for.
A simple 1-TB USB 3.0 external drive can be had for under $90 these days (even despite the flooding in Thailand that promises to restrict supplies). And that's good as far as it goes.
For a bit more cash, you can turn that into a 1-TB network drive. WD makes some nice solutions for the home and Apple builds one into its router. This approach lets you run backup software almost without feeling it on any machine connected to the network.
But backups and archives are different beasts, although they both eat drive space and like company. You can, of course, keep adding individual drives to your network or USB ports and populate them however you like, for archiving or backup.
But there's another approach called RAID or redundant array of independent disks. To play this game, you combine several hard disks into one logical unit. So your system still sees just one place to copy things to, but it's composed of multiple hard disks.
The advantage to this scheme depends on how you configure the RAID. And you have some choices. The two most common are RAID 0 and RAID 1, although the options go up to RAID 6, not counting hybrid variations. Remember, as far as your operating system goes, there's just this external storage unit out there.
RAID 0 combines the capacity of the various drives in the unit, splitting your data between the two drives to speed writes. So if you have two 250-GB drives, your system sees one 500-GB storage unit.
RAID 1 mirrors the drives, providing some redundancy for your data. There are usually two drives in this scheme (but there could be more) and they both contain the same data. As your system copies a file to the external unit, it is written to both drives.
While both approaches provide a second copy of your original data, RAID 1 provides a third. So if one of the drives in your RAID 1 fails (and, it must be added, the other does not), you still have a good copy.
And you can swap out the defective drive with a new one to rebuild the third copy. Which can take a while.
That's a dangerous concept. Some people think only one drive will ever fail at a time so they believe their RAID 1 is secure. But buildings burn down, blow away, flood and otherwise fail to protect single entity systems. Not to mention theft, malware, viruses and other evils. RAID 1 is simply not sufficient.
But it can be an important part of your survival strategy if you swap out one of the drives regularly and move it offsite. When you replace it, the new drive will be updated with a copy of what's on the drive you left in.
Unlike a USB 3.0 external drive, a RAID has to be managed. There has to be some smarts in the box. Call that the firmware.
And various units do offer a variety of intelligence, even including utility software to configure the firmware.
They also offer a few more ports. It isn't uncommon to find Ethernet, FireWire, eSATA, USB and even SCSI ports on them.
And finally they offer much simpler drive swapping than you may be familiar with if you've ever swapped a drive in your computer.
But the two big advantages of a RAID are capacity and data redundancy. Those are two things every photographer can appreciate.
THE TOUGHTECH DUO
So a few hundred words later, it's obvious that this is a topic that can get hairy fast. Simplicity is, therefore, one attribute any photographer would prize in a RAID.
And that wasn't lost on CRU-DataPort (http://www.cru-dataport.com) when it designed the ToughTech Duo.
In a few weeks it will be fours years since CRU-DataPort in Washington bought WiebeTech in Kansas. WiebeTech had made a name for itself providing high performance, portable storage solutions. CRU-DataPort focused on removable hard drive enclosures designed for physical data security and safe data transporting.
The WeibeTech guys are still in Wichita and the CRU-DataPort guys still in Vancouver, but they've delivered a very intriguing external storage solution that looks like both parents.
Sometimes things just work out well.
IN THE BOX
We were frankly astonished at what comes in the box. When CRU-DataPort says the ToughTech is portable, they mean it:
Not only is there a cable for about any connection you need to make, but there's a plug adapter for the power brick for any country you visit. Nicely done.
- Aluminum ToughTech Duo unit with the Oxford 936 chipset
- Leather travel case
- Vertical stand
- Power brick with multiple adapters (U.S., European, U.K. and Australian)
- eSATA cable
- FireWire 800 cable
- USB type A to A cable
- FireWire 800 to 400 cable
- Screw kit
- Quick Start Guide and Warranty (two year limited warranty)
A bare unit goes for between $410 and $475. You can also buy the unit with drives, if you prefer. With two 500-GB drives, MacMall lists it for $614 and with 750-GB drives, Amazon lists the ToughTech Duo at $683 (http://www.amazon.com/Toughtech-Duo-Qr-2X750GB-Ntfs/dp/B004KM0GDU?tag=theimagingres-20). Our test unit included two 750-GB Seagate Momentus drives.
You can also buy an empty drive sled for $36.96
The ToughTech Duo can also function with a single disk, in addition to its RAID 0 and RAID 1 options.
A tour of the hardware is revealing. The first thing you notice is that it isn't a large unit thanks to the smaller drives it uses. It's just 3.5 x 6.26 x 1.34 inches (WxLxH). It's weighty, though, at 1.65 lbs. with drives, 1.05 without. The accessories add a couple of pounds to the package.
On the back end, the connectors run from left to right: two FireWire 800 ports, a combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port, DC In (which we didn't need), and just above the power input a Power switch with a protective bezel around it so it isn't accidentally turned off.
Many external drives do not have a Power switch these days and I miss them. So I was glad to see one on the ToughTech Duo.
On the front of the case are the two bays for drives labeled 1 and 2 with a pair of activity LEDS above them. Two sleds slide into the bays. The sleds have a slide lock (with a red dot to indicates the unlocked position) and an eject lever you push in to release the sled from the bay. It's a very elegant system.
On top there are three LEDs to let you know what's going on: Power, System and RAID. A large LCD screen provides further information, which you navigate with a big four-way navigator to its right.
LOADING A SLED
The drive sleds are, again, a marvel of engineering. They require no tools to load or unload. Here's all you do:
It takes longer to read that than to do it.
- Push the sled eject lever in and it pops open
- Slide the sled out
- Push in the release button at the end of the sled to swing the side panel out
- Slide a drive into the sled with the label up until it mates with the mounting pins on the side of the sled
- Close the side panel, making sure the mounting pins are fully inserted into the side of the drive
- You can optionally secure the drive to the sled with four screws on the bottom (but we didn't)
- Slide the sled back into its bay
- Close the lever and lock the sled
The LEDs on the unit let you know what's going on:
THE LCD indicates the RAID level used and it status (Normal or Degraded). It can also display the temperature of the drives and allow you to change the RAID mode (which will erase all your data).
- Power is green when the unit is on
- System is configurable but glows amber when a drive reaches 50 degrees or red at 55 degrees (but you can set the temperatures; ours ran up to 50 degrees when in use making the unit hot to the touch)
- RAID glows amber when the RAID is degraded or red when the RAID has failed or is invalid
When you add a new disk to your RAID 1, the LCD will ask you for permission to add a new disk. When you press the Right arrow or Enter key, the disk is added to the RAID and it rebuilds while the LCD shows you how far it's gotten. A 750-GB drive takes about 2.5 hours to rebuild, CRU-DataPort said. But you can work while it's rebuilding.
CRU-DataPort warns (as we did) against thinking your RAID is a sufficient backup. "Follow the 3-2-1 backup rule," it advises. "Your data should exist in three different places on two different storage media and at least one of those copies should be maintained offsite." In a nutshell.
USING THE TOUGHTECH
CRU-DataPort markets the ToughTech Duo as a portable RAID. It's certainly small enough to pack along requiring not much more space than an external drives. If you use the FireWire port, you can leave the power adapter at home. You can power the unit via FireWire and use the eSATA port for data to speed things up, too.
The case is a ruggedized aluminum housing that requires no fans and runs very quietly. We can't call it ruggedized in any sense other than that the aluminum housing is pretty tough. But dropping a fragile drive in any housing is not a good idea.
Still, it's well enough sealed and strong enough to take onsite for a shoot or travel on vacation.
And it's as simple to use as a USB external drive. You just have to decide how to use it.
We used it two ways.
The first thing we did was configure it as a RAID 0 to work with Time Machine to back up a laptop running Lion. We ran it like that for a couple of weeks with no issues at all except it was hot to the touch. The case itself is not vented.
Then we got tricky and turned off Time Machine, erased it with Disk Utility and reformatted it as a RAID 1 from the front panel. Then we backed up a year of images to it. We removed a drive (which caused the ToughTech Duo to report our RAID was degraded) and added a few more images, then restored the drive and updated it. The update took a bit less than an hour.
Having the sophistication of a RAID device in a portable, affordable and attractive package is, well, irresistible. And with RAID 1 making it easy to copy of our current system for offsite safe-keeping, it becomes even more compelling. CRU-DataPort has designed an excellent solution to a persistent problem for any photographer. Bravo!
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:
- Interview: Panasonic Visits IR (http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2011/12/16/ir-sits-down-with-panasonic-to-discuss-the-camera-market)
- Reviewed: ToughTech Duo RAID (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/toughtech-duo/)
- Reviewed: Canon 400mm f/2.8 IS II USM (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1368/cat/10)
- Test Shots: Samsung NX200 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NX200/NX200A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Sony NEX-5N (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEX5N/NEX5NA.HTM). There's a new image sensor and processor that bring a wider sensitivity range and support for an electronic first-curtain shutter, gifting the NEX-5N with startlingly good shutter lag and burst-shooting performance.
- Reviewed: Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS II USM (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1369/cat/10/)
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 a variety of Printers at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6b2b8
Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6b2a8
Read about the Canon Rebel T3i at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eeb63b8
Read about Canon lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=4
Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6b2ae
Each year at this time, we try to come up with some special treat to express our appreciation for your subscription. You can still enjoy all of our previous specials by visiting the Archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Here's the list:
2010: Scanner Resolution Calculator (Dec. 17)
2009: San Francisco Photo Walk (Dec. 18)
2008: Two Paper Bookmarks (Dec. 19)
2007: "My Favorite Brunette" (Dec. 21)
2006: Card Size Calculator (Dec. 22)
2005: RSS Feed Generator (Dec. 23)
2004: dSLR Focal Length Converter (Dec. 10)
2003: Lens Calculator (Dec. 12)
2002: A Gift Certificate (Dec. 13)
2001: Mike's Holiday Recipe (Dec. 14)
2000: Aspect Ratio Calculator (Dec. 1)
1999: Resolution Calculator (Dec. 17
They all still work, especially the Gift Certificate, perfect for anyone on your list getting into digital photography. A PDF with a nice shot of the Golden Gate (not far from where this publication has been produced since 1999), you can download it (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?gsb) and print as many copies on your inkjet as you need. Then just remember to send an email to [email protected] with the subject "Gift Subscription" and the email address of the new subscriber in the body of the message.
And this year?
Early in November, we got a call from Agnes (whom you may remember as the frantic mom who attended her son Erasmus's graduation with no memory card in her camera (June 17 issue). She had a great idea for a Christmas present for her large, extended family. Make them a calendar, marking all the birthdays with a shot of the birthday people for that month's image. But she had a question about how to use the service she'd selected and we just happened to know the answer.
But what a great idea!
We mean the calendar part, not the 24 pages of content with 12 collages and all the rest of it. Although we think Agnes did it the smart way, using her Discount Warehouse Store's online feature to automatically assemble it -- all for a very affordable price, we have to add.
No, we thought we'd prefer a one-page calendar with one image. Instead of work, that sounded like fun.
The trouble with our idea, though, is that it won't be much use next year. And we like our gifts to you to keep on giving.
So we thought about it in front of the fire on one of those you-can-burn days where the particulate is not having a holiday party in the clouds. And while we acknowledged we'd at least have to make a 2012 calendar for you this year, we thought we ought to teach you how to make your own as well.
That way you can put that old inkjet to work making promotions for your pet cause every December. Just like your favorite financial institution does.
So let's get to it.
You can get the hard work done online with any number of one-page calendar generators. We liked David Seah's for our 2012 calendar (http://davidseah.com/compact-calendar/). There are a few alternatives linked at the bottom of his page, all of which save the calendars as a PDF, which is what you want. Some of them include holidays, too.
But with a spreadsheet you can roll your own, too. If you want special formatting (beyond the options those online tools provide), this is the way to go. For example, Seah's compact online calendar is available on his site in an Excel version or you can grab a Numbers template (http://www.numberstemplates.com/) that closely resembles his compact (and attractive) format.
We used the Numbers template to highlight both our publication schedule and holidays. The first day of the month is also highlighted. The template uses different cell backgrounds to do this but, as you'll see, we use a little magic to do something else with those backgrounds.
However you generate the calendar, if you create or export a PDF you can open it as a layer and scale it to fit over your image (without reducing its quality) in your image editing software. We used Photoshop CS5 to do ours.
The calendar layout covers about a third of a letter-size page in portrait mode. In landscape format it takes about a fifth of the page, although the text is necessarily smaller.
We selected a landscape image just to show off our photo. But we also tried a close-up shot of a dahlia in portrait orientation. You can't really lose, but you should consider the aspect ratio. Either crop the image to the aspect ratio of your sheet or you'll have to trim your sheet to the aspect ratio of your image. We decided to trim our sheet rather than crop our image.
Then we imported the calendar PDF to a layer of its own. Your PDF may come in with a transparent background. If so, you'll want to create a background for it so it remains readable over your image. For now, just create another layer between the PDF and your image and draw a background for the PDF that you can fill with white. Merge the PDF onto that white background.
Our PDF came in with a white background we had to extend a bit to make the borders even.
Next, blend the calendar into the background image. To do that we set the Layer Mode to Luminosity and the Fill to 70 percent. That let the image show through the calendar with some transparency. A nice effect.
You can download our 8.6-MB ZIP file (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/archive/v13/ir-cal-2012.zip) of both the JPEG of the calendar and a Photoshop document that preserves the layers so you can just load your own image and next year's calendar.
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RE: Nikon J1
The camera sounds great, but you still have to look at the back of it to compose your picture. Here in South Florida, that's a losing proposition. My daughter still uses my geriatric Nikon 995 and refuses to use one of my point and shoots. Me too! I make do with my D300 -- and actually prefer my old non-CPU lenses.
-- Al Clemens(On the J1 you do have to use the LCD to compose, Al. But not on the V1, which has an electronic viewfinder the camera switches to when you bring it up to your eye. We're pretty fond of our D300 with a few old primes on it, too. But we've been impressed with the V1 we're reviewing. -- Editor)
RE: Disc Printing on the Canon Pro-1
I just read your review on the Canon Pro-1 printer (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/canon-pro-1/index.htm). Of particular interest to me is the DVD printing capability. I've always hated the Mac software that Epson distributes so I printed through a VM running XP using the windows version of the Epson software.
About two years ago I after much frustration with dealing with image transfer between the VM and my Mac and VM issues with USB I started to look for another alternative. I found Discus 426 by Magic Mouse Software (http://www.magicmouse.com). This software is by far the best way to print on to a inkjet printable CD/DVD. The only quirk is you have to set the paper handling in the software to A4 to print to a disc, other than that it is just awesome.
I believe they support all printers but I can't say that for certain. I currently use it on a Epson Artisan 50, a $99 printer with truly professional results. And best of all it was cheap compared with the frustration of the Mac version of Epson's software and the time savings of not having to boot up the VM.
-- Michael Steinbach(Thanks for the tip, Michael. We've updated the review to include Discus and our experience with the Canon discs, which are not (ahem) waterproof. -- Editor)
RE: Fixed Mirror Cameras
I have a thought on cameras that use a fixed semi-transparent mirror to enable a true optical view finder to be used without the complexity and timing issues associated with flip-up mirrors.
Such devices are now used on cameras with less than full frame sensors. This means that light is shared between the sensor and the viewfinder. This must mean that the sensor gets less and is therefore gives a noisier image and that the viewfinder will be less bright than a flip-up mirror system. Both of these seem to me to be significant drawbacks rather than a step forward in image quality and user friendliness.
-- Chris Day(Actually, the current SLT fixed-mirror cameras from Sony employ a very lightly silvered mirror, used only to direct light to the autofocus system. Their viewfinders aren't optical but electronic, displaying an image from the main image sensor. The sensor does get less light in this scheme but only about ~1/3 EV. There's a slight increase in noise over cameras using the same sensor without the translucent mirror, but it's minimal.... Once upon a time, Canon had a very high-speed film-based SLR that used a pellicle mirror. That mirror did reflect light directly to an optical viewfinder. I don't have any specs for it, but it seems reasonable to assume it was about a 50/50 split, in which case the film (and the viewfinder) did see only half the light they would have in a moving mirror design; a full 1.0 EV difference. -- Dave)(And the benefits of this technology are continuous autofocus (even during video capture), having a very fast continuous release mode with autofocus and a slightly smaller camera body. -- Editor)
My Plustek film scanner came with a several-versions outdated copy of SilverFast. While the software integrated nicely with Photoshop via TWAIN, I found its out-dated interface a pain. Then, it stopped working when I upgraded Photoshop recently.
VueScan seems to pop up in all of your email answers to scanner problems, so I gave it a try. It was like a breath of fresh air! No multiple floating windows that obscure each other. Fairly simple settings. Great for batch-scanning. And to top it off, it fully utilized the multi-scan capabilities of the Plustek to squeeze every last drop of dynamic range out of my slides and negatives!
I highly recommend VueScan to everyone with a film scanner.
-- Lee Bornholdt(Thanks, Lee. Usually we recommend VueScan because it's the only solution for equipment that has been abandoned by the manufacturer. In many cases, you don't even need the manufacturer's driver, just VueScan. But we recently did a big project that involved scanning dozens of old slides and thought it would be a great opportunity to review the new SilverFast 8 (with its greatly improved interface). Unfortunately, after a handful of scans, it would crash. So we used VueScan and got the job done. We're not great fans of either interface, but we are big fans of getting jobs done <g>. -- Editor)
RE: Where Old Gear Goes
I have a lot of old film cameras (some collectable) and darkroom equipment I'd like to get rid of. The one collector I contacted only deals in used cameras and was not interested in darkroom equipment. I want to get rid of my stuff in one batch. Have you dealt with such a subject in your newsletter or can you point me to a possibility?
-- Bob Parrett(We don't know a specific source for your old gear, Bob, but you might enquire at any local art schools where the fine art of darkroom printing is still taught. Short of that, flea markets might be your best bet these days for a sale. But not all in one shot, unless you donate it. Maybe one of our subscribers has an idea? -- Editor)
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/downloads/updates) has released Lightroom 3.6, Camera Raw 6.6 and DNG Converter 6.6 final releases on Adobe.com. Originally posted as release candidates on Adobe Labs, the final updates provide Raw file format support for nine new cameras including the Canon PowerShot S100, Nikon 1 V1 and Sony NEX-7 while adding over 30 lens profiles to automatically correct unwanted distortion and chromatic aberration.
Apple has released Aperture 3.2.2 (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1463) to resolve "an issue that could prevent auto-imported Photo Stream images from being displayed in the library after your Photo Stream hits 1,000 images."
Unified Color Technologies (http://www.unifiedcolor.com) has released its standalone HDR Expose 2 and 32 Float v2 Photoshop plug-in. Both applications offer a redesigned architecture that enables real-time image adjustments. New features include a color-safe Dodge and Burn tool, familiar 32-bit Tone Curve and newly engineered batch processing engine and preset system.
Rob Galbraith (http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/content_page.asp?cid=7-11668-12183) reviews the new Nikon SB-910 Speedlight. "If you like the SB-900," he writes, "then you'll like the SB-910 even more."
Tamron (http://www.tamron-usa.com) has announced the 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 Di III VC (Model B011) zoom lens designed for the Sony NEX. It uses a 62mm filter and weighs 16.2 oz.
Zurich's cf/x software (http://www.cfxsoftware.com ) has released its $19.99 photo [M] retouching application to crop, enhance, annotate, frame, watermark and add transparency to photos in a single pass.
Optrix (http://www.optrixhd.com) has announced its $79.99 HD Sport Mount, the first weatherproof rugged case designed to transform iPhone 4, 4S and iPod Touch into an action sports camera. Optrix will be unveiling a series of video recording apps designed to measure lay speed, G-force, lap-time and more right onto their videos.
X-Rite (http://www.xritephoto.com) has released free software updates for ColorMunki Display software, i1Profiler software and i1Profiler D2LionEdition software for i1Display LT and i1Display 2 color calibration devices.
The free JAlbum 10.2 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net) adds faster album uploads to external sites, support for FTPS/FTPES file transfers, proper behavior behind HTTP proxies, updates to component libraries for script processing and transfers, updates for certain skins and more.
Fat Cat Software (http://www.fatcatsoftware.com) has released iPhoto Library Manager 3.7.2 with a number of tweaks and bug fixes.
Houdah Software (http://www.houdah.com) has released its $30 HoudahGeo 3 [M] with a one-window interface, improved performance, support for many more GPS devices, improved integration with iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom, offline reverse geocoding and a printable user guide.
Steven Frank (http://stevenf.com) has released his free Vowl [M] to display a slide show of random Flickr photos based on tags you specify.
Computerinsel (http://www.pl32.com) has released PhotoLine 17 [MW] with a Simple Browse window showing only the file list, a Trim Image function to remove transparent edges from an image, color profile embedding, selective color correction, smart removal (with neighboring content fill), a Remove Brush, a Liquid scaling mode (to maintain the size of major features while scaling others), new masking tools and more.
Akvis (http://akvis.com) has released its $72 NatureArt 4.0 [MW] with new presets for the Fire effect and the Sun and Lightning effects, plus the ability to apply an effect over a transparent area.
Overmacs (http://overmacs.com) has released its $5.99 PhotoSweeper 1.3 [M] with drag-and-drop of photos from iPhoto, a new option for Duplicates Only to skip Exif metadata, rules to select photos for the Auto Put Into Box command and interface updates.
The (free) premiere issue of Pix, the Photographer's Field Guide, is out in a free digital edition (http://digitalmag.pdn-pix.com/pdnpix/pi201112?sub_id=lWWaxGx9V411#pg1).
Boinx Software (http://boinx.com) has released its $139.99 FotoMagico Pro 3.8.3 [M] with improved quality on YouTube, fixes for transitions distorted on export to DVD and a fix for an iMedia Browser crash.
ABSoft (http://www.neatimage.com) has released its $69.90 Neat Image 7.1 for Aperture with performance optimizations, improved support for new CUDA-capable GPUs, improved GPU detection and error handling, a new version of CUDA 4, improved viewer behavior with the Magic Mouse, larger previews in the internal viewer and bug fixes.
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released its $79.95 VueScan 9.0.68 [LMW] with new and improved support for a number of scanners.
Michael Hiltzik pays his respects to Kodak (Michael Hiltzik) in the Los Angeles Times. "Nothing," he observes, "lasts forever."
We note the passing of Leo Friedman (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/theater/leo-friedman-photographer-of-broadway-dies-at-92.html?hpw), known for his photos of Broadway actors in over 800 shows, died on Friday at his home in Las Vegas at the age of 92.
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher