|Volume 13, Number 26||30 December 2011|
Welcome to the 322nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We have some fun with Snapseed on an iPad before the crew takes six pocket long zooms on the dance floor. Then we award a copy of Elgato Turbo to one lucky subscriber. Happy New Year!
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(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/snapseed/index.htm on the Web site.)
In our review of Adobe's new Carousel service (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/adobe-carousel/index.htm), we bragged we wanted to take bad pictures to edit them on the iPad, it was so much fun. But we also admitted that Carousel wasn't the way to go on the Desktop, where there are more powerful tools.
Turns out there are more powerful tools on the iPad, too.
There are, of course, a lot of tools on the iPad. And we can't pretend to have any sense of their relative merit. We haven't tried many. But the rap is that they mostly do one or two things right. So you have to have a collection of them.
Fortunately some of our favorite desktop tools are migrating their way to iOS and Android devices. Other than Adobe, we were glad to see Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) bundle up its marvelous editing technology into a little app called Snapseed.
We spent a few weeks working with Snapseed on an iPad 2 and, frankly, it's software we could live with. A long, long time.
THE NIK TOOLSHED
Over the years, we've praised Nik Software for its sharpening technology and its U Point technology while enjoying its library of preset effects for both color and black and white work. Our own preference is to fiddle with the image ourselves, rather than pick a preset, so we haven't written much about Color Efex Pro or Siler Efex Pro. And we just haven't gotten to HDR Efex Pro either, shuffling that off to an HDR project that has been delayed by camera reviews.
For Snapseed, Nik Software seems to have tossed nearly all of that into the pot and stirred.
IT'S A SNAP
As editing software, it enjoys a remarkably simple framework. The company can add features just by releasing a new plug-in, which shows up as a filter. Filters are displayed on the left side of the screen in landscape mode or the bottom in portrait mode.
There's already been one such release and it didn't cost anything.
There are 13 filters in the current app. And the names make the functions pretty obvious: Auto Correct, Selective Adjust, Tune Image, Straighten & Rotate, Crop, Details, Black & White, Vintage Films, Drama, Grunge, Center Focus, Organic Frames and Tilt-Shift.
But they aren't hidden in some menu. They're just a collection of options for any photo you select in either your Photo Library (from either the Camera Roll or Photo Stream) or directly from the device's built-in camera. A button on the top left of the menu bar invites you to Open an Image. Another on the right offers Help, which includes a clever Overlay system (available for any filter too), online help, online videos, support contacts and more.
We're glad Snapseed doesn't use menus. A menu is hidden. A menu is work. Especially on a touch screen. But a collection of options is fun. You see some choices, you ask yourself what you want to do with this image and, well, you play.
The play pen is right next to the collection of image filters.
With an image open, you have four main options displayed below it: Compare, Revert, Save (which apparently always saves a copy of the original rather than overwriting it), Share. And we're not counting all those filters.
EDITING AN IMAGE
Tap a filter and the image takes over the screen with a menu bar at the bottom (you know, closest to your hands). Options are Back, Compare, the filter's main tools (like a Style popup menu or a feature slider), Undo and Apply.
Your finger does more than tap, though. To change what the filter does, you swipe it up or down. For the Black and White filter, for example, moving your finger up or down over the image displays a set of three features: Brightness, Contrast and Grain.
Once you select one (or accept the default), you just swipe your finger left to right to change the value. And that, it turns out, is a bit more interesting than using a mouse on a tiny slider in Lightroom or some other desktop application. You can quickly see what your options are at either end of the scale and refine your choice.
It's a little like conducting an orchestra with one finger.
Some filters even take advantage of Nik Software's U Point technology.
You can add a blue Control Point with an initial representing its effect (S for Saturation, say) by tapping the Add button and then the area of the image you want to adjust. You can drag the Control Point to any spot on the image. You can also pinch and spread your fingers on a selected Control Point to change what it affects. A red mask and a blue circle indicate its influence.
The border of the blue Control Point indicates the value of the setting with red for negative values on the left and green for positive on the right creeping down from the top.
U Point technology almost seems to have been designed for a touch screen. It's a great way to do a local edit.
And all these edits happen in real time. There's no progress bar to watch. Move your finger and you're making the change.
To see the original image again, hold your finger on the Compare button. You can quickly see before and after images by tapping the Compare button repeatedly.
Press the Undo or Apply button to go back or keep your changes. You can always Revert to the original image when you're done, even if you've saved the changes.
Then you just go on to the next effect you'd like to add or select the Share button to email, print or send to Flickr, Facebook or Twitter.
In the time we had to play with the app, Nik Software added a few new filters at no charge. After a simple update, the new filters appeared with the old ones as if they'd always been there.
Here's the complete list of the current collection with a short description of what each does.
Among the Basic editing features are:
The Creative filters include:
- Auto Correct. Automatically adjusts Contrast and Color Balance and provides controls to fine tune each.
- Selective Adjust. Use U Point technology to identify areas of the image whose Brightness, Contrast or Saturation you want the filter affect.
- Tune Image. Provides five options for fine tuning your image. Brightness, Ambiance (a contrast enhancement to balance backlit photos or very flat photos), Contrast, Saturation and White Balance.
- Straighten & Rotate. There are two arrows to Rotate (counter clockwise or left and clockwise or right) and a Straighten Angle slider. A moderately fine grid is displayed over the image to help with alignment.
- Crop. Provides a set of Aspect Ratios (Free, Original, 1:1, DIN for A4/A3/A2/etc., 3:2, 4:3, 5:4 and 16:9) plus a Rotate control to recompose an image.
- Details. Or sharpening by any other name, with Sharpen and Structure options that require just a slider. Structure enhances texture while avoiding the edges of objects. A Loupe button displays a 100 percent magnification of the image you can drag around for analysis.
It makes sense to make Basic adjustments before playing with Creative ones. And if you want your frame to match the effect, to use Organic Frames before other Creative filters. But otherwise, you're free to fool around.
- Black & White. Pick one of six Styles to apply to the image and adjust the Brightness, Contrast or Grain with a slider. Styles affect a look based on different brightness, contrast and grain settings.
- Vintage Films. Changes your digital photo into something that resembles "a vintage color photograph" using nine Styles or sliders for Brightness, Saturation, Texture Strength, Center Size or Style Strength. Center Size affects the vignetting of the style.
- Drama. Offers two of each Style: Drama, Bright and Dark. Sliders for Filter Strength and Saturation are also available. Nik Software says this is similar to one-shot HDR effects, enhancing textures and mimicking an over-processed effect.
- Grunge. Adds a random texture to the image while changing its colors and adding a vignette and center focus effect. There are five preset textures plus a Properties option to scramble the texture's angle and position. Sliders for Style (identified by number), Brightness, Contrast, Texture Strength and Saturation are also available.
- Center Focus. Styles include Lens Blur, Fog, Light 1, Light 2, Dark 1 and Dark 2. Sliders for Center Size and Filter Strength are also available.
- Organic Frames. Provides eight Styles for frames with a Properties option to randomize the texture of the frame. Sliders are available for Frame Width and Frame Offset.
- Tilt-Shift. Style sets either a Linear band or spreading Elliptical focus effect. Sliders for Transition, Blur Strength, Brightness, Saturation and Contrast are available. Move the Control Point to the spot you want focused sharply and then set the sliders to affect how much blur there is and how far it extends.
IMAGE SIZE ISSUE
It wasn't immediately apparent to us but we did eventually discover a dark cloud in this otherwise sunny iOS world.
On an iOS device it is difficult to maintain image resolution. An image can be downsized at almost any point in its trip from your camera to your photo archive if it passes through an iOS device.
So make sure the image in your Photo Stream is a full size image and not already resampled by the device.
Then, apparently, the only way to avoid having iOS resize the image on Save (if you are working on an iOS device) is to use Photosync, a $2 app with a free desktop companion application. In effect, you have Photosync save your image from Snapseed and transfer it to your desktop computer (http://www.ipadforums.net/ipad-faq/33767-ipad-photograph-size-2.html).
We edited a 2592x3872-pixel original image stored on iCloud from our desktop in Snapseed. And saved it in Snapseed.
Then we opened iPhoto on our desktop and discovered the image had been downsampled to 1371x2048.
There was no option in Snapseed to either use or save the full resolution image. And we have no idea what the resolution of the image we were working on actually was. It seems as if Snapseed itself doesn't fool around with either the resolution or compression settings.
Nik Software, in fact, claims Snapseed supports the maximum resolution of the device. An iPad 1 can save a 6.25-Mp image and an iPad 2 can save a 16-Mp image. That's well within range of our original image, so Snapseed must not have been resizing our 5.3-Mp image on the iPad 2.
But something did.
Turns out it was Photo Stream. On your desktop, photos are downloaded from iCloud and stored at full resolution but on an iOS device, resolution is "optimized" to speed downloads and save storage space. An "optimized version of a photo taken with a standard point-and-shoot camera will have a 2048x1536 pixel resolution when pushed to your device," according to Apple.
When you open an image it replaces a sample image in the main pane with the four main options: Compare, Revert, Save and Store. If you tap Store, you'll find a Print option.
Printing from iOS devices is a recent phenomenon. And our experience is very specific to Snapseed and the HP Envy 110 here for review. But it worked. Without a hitch.
The Print Options box that pops up offers a Printer button to select the printer you want to send the photo to and a button to adjust the number of copies. There's also the Print button to execute the command. Or you can tap anywhere else on the screen to dismiss the box.
That's all there is to it. No paper size, no quality, no color management decisions. Just Where and How Many.
Our HP Envy was connected to our network wirelessly. We simply entered the router password on the HP Envy's front panel for the router it found and we were connected.
The iPad found it and we were able to select it in Snapseed's Print Options box.
A few seconds later we had a print as Snapseed sent the image to the printer and it printed a 4x6 photo.
The whole thing was so painless we pinched ourselves.
It reminded us of sending an image from a Bluetooth phone to a printer with a Bluetooth dongle attached to its USB port. Not a lot of options but painless.
In an attempt to inflict some pain on ourselves, we went back to Carousel to see if we could print from there. Nope. There just isn't an option. It's not a system-wide function.
But we could save an image to our Camera Roll, which supports direct printing. Or, for more fun, we could open it in Snapseed, fool around and then print it from Snapseed.
We have just a few further notes on our experience to add:
Styles. One thing we found a bit less than optimum was Nik Software's tags for various Style options. Style 1, Style 2, Style 3, etc. just didn't match the whimsy of the rest of the app.
Nik Software doesn't like putting the filter name out there for you to see while you work with it, either. We didn't find that particularly annoying, wrapped up in our edit as we were. You have the tools in front of you, after all, and if you don't like them, you just have to go back to the main screen to select one you do want to use. But it is an odd omission.
Orientation. Rotating the iPad allowed us to maximize the image size depending on whether it was a landscape or portrait orientation.
Save Duplicates. While you can Save and Revert, we did miss a Duplicate option so we could save a few versions of our original image. Until we realized that's what Save is really doing.
Formats. Another tricky subject is formats. Snapseed supports JPEG, TIFF and Raw files but Raw files are only supported when transferred to the iPad using the Camera Connection Kit. Even then, you must turn on Location Services for Snapseed to allow Snapseed to use the iOS Raw processing.
Exif Data. With any edited image, the original Exif exposure data can be misleading. Snapseed only preserves it if you are syncing the image back to your computer directly and have Location Services on.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
Available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, Snapsheed can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/snapseed-for-ipad/id439438619?mt=8&ls=1) for $4.99.
Snapseed is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later.
Let's leave the price out of it. Let's not even compare Snapseed with other iOS photo tools. Instead, let's toss in our powerful desktop apps and just ask if Snapseed is the way we'd like to edit our photos.
Oh yeah, with our feet on the desk and our finger in the air.
Not only does it make the routine stuff (like Straighten or Sharpen) simple, but it gives you some cool effects like Drama (HDR), Center Focus and Tilt-Shift. So you can wring the most out of an image or take it to the Twilight Zone, whatever you feel like doing.
And it does it very quickly with beautiful results. We were surprised we could not turn a photo into a mess making all these unrelated edits. But we couldn't.
The only hitch we experienced was with that mysterious image resizing. We can't blame Snapseed for it, obviously, but it's something to be wary of.
So outright prolonged applause to Nik Software for shoehorning its impressive desktop technology into a little tablet you can use almost anywhere.
By SHAWN BARNETT with DAVE ETCHELLS and ROB MURRAY(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/TRAVELZOOM/TRAVELZOOMA.HTM on the Web site.)
Smartphones have punched a hole in many product categories, including the simple digicam. But one category that's withstood the onslaught is the travel zoom, a long zoom that fits in your pocket.
A pocket long zoom with its 12-18x optical zoom can handle nearly all family and tourist photography, bringing in far objects with a quick flick of the zoom ring. And recent offerings also start out quite a bit wider than models past, ranging from 24 to 28 at their widest.
Our contenders are the Nikon S9100, Panasonic ZS8, Casio ZR100, Canon SX230, Sony HX9V and Fujifilm F550. They appear here in the order we enjoyed using them, not including image quality or other performance issues.
DESIGN & HANDLING
Nikon Coolpix S9100. The slippery bar grip was insufficient, but at least there was something there. The flash deploys mechanically via a switch on the side. Overall, it appealed to us most in use, letting us forget about the camera and concentrate on shooting. Stereo microphones on the top deck flank three holes for a speaker.
Panasonic Lumix ZS8. The grip supplies a good mechanical ramp for the fingertips to grasp. Note the embedded flash rather than a pop-up design. It was simple enough to let us spend time on composition, forgetting about the camera. Four holes for a monaural mic appear on the top deck.
Casio Exilim ZR100. The textured grip was good enough, if a little far right to serve as well as it could. The flash is embedded into the front. Though it appears there's no AF-assist lamp, it's actually part of the flash assembly, represented by the dark patch on the right side. Two holes for the stereo microphone grace the top deck.
Canon PowerShot SX230 HS. Canon provides no grip on the SX230, although the logo texture does add some traction for your fingers. Rob found the rear dial helped make up for the lack of a grip on the front. Annoyingly, the motorized flash pops up whether it's needed or not. Stereo microphones flank the lens on either side.
Sony Cyber-shot HX9V. The grip provides the most rubbery feel, making it both warm and comfortable. The flash is motorized and pops up when needed, with a unique two-stage telescoping design. Rather prominent stereo microphones rise from the top deck.
Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR. The F550EXR delivers a good combination of both mechanical and rubber grip. But the flash pops up every time you power the camera on, regardless of the flash mode. Pressing it down retracts it somewhat, but it still doesn't quite seat properly until you power the camera off again. Stereo mics peer out from underneath the zoom toggle.
Nikon S9100. The S9100 primarily runs in Auto mode, with no semi-auto or manual modes. Instead the dial has Program Auto, Auto Scene, Scene and five positions to access Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Backlighting, Continuous and Effects modes.
Panasonic ZS8. Made more for enthusiasts, the ZS8 includes Program, Aperture and Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes. Intelligent Auto also graces the Mode dial, along with Movie, MyScene 1 and MyScene 2, Scene and Custom settings. Record and Playback are selected via a switch on the back of the camera.
Casio EX-ZR100. With two auto modes, Premium and Auto, the ZR100 doesn't bother with a Program mode, but it does include Aperture and Shutter priority as well as Manual exposure modes. Also on the list are HDR and HDR Art modes. Best Shot (Scene), Panorama and Best Selection modes round out the offering. The ZR100 also has a High Speed button on the top deck, capturing up to 30 10-megapixel images at 40 fps.
Canon SX230. Sporting a Mode dial most Canon dSLR users would recognize, the SX230 has Program, Shutter, Aperture and Manual on one side and Auto, Smart Auto, Movie Digest, Portrait, Landscape, Kids&Pets, Scene (seven additional scene modes including Handheld Nightscene), Filter Effects and Movie mode on the other.
Sony HX9V. The dial includes Program and Manual modes, but no Aperture or Shutter priority. It also includes not only an Intelligent Auto mode, but a Superior Auto mode, when you want the camera to use every arrow in its quiver, including its special multi-shot exposure modes. You'll also find Background defocus, Scene, 3D, Movie and iSweep Panorama modes.
Fujifilm F550EXR. An admirably simple Mode dial provides Program, Shutter, Aperture and Manual modes. SP (Scene Position) can be set to a wide range of Scene modes. Advanced includes a 360-degree panorama mode, Pro Focus mode and Pro Low Light modes. Auto is next, then EXR with four EXR modes: EXR Auto is an intelligent scene mode that selects the optimum EXR mode; Resolution Priority maximizes detail by producing 16-Mp files; High ISO & Low Noise uses pixel binning to increase sensitivity and reduce noise at 8-Mp; D-Range Priority underexposes half the pixels to save highlight detail while retaining shadow detail in the other half in an 8-Mp file.
Nikon S9100. 18x, 25-450mm. By far the longest lens of the bunch, this lens isn't quite as wide as a few others, but man can it get in close! It makes a low frequency buzzing sound that is not too distracting.
Panasonic ZS8. 16x, 24-384mm. 24mm is great for landscapes, not so great for portraits, but the ZS8 has a huge range to shoot from and its full 384mm equivalent is quite impressive. The zoom is quiet and smooth.
Casio EX-ZR100. 12.5x, 24-300mm. Also starting at 24mm, the ZR100 doesn't zoom in quite as much, having only a 12x zoom. It's still a very useful range. The zoom is quiet, smooth and fast.
Canon SX230. 14x, 28-392mm. Least wide of the bunch, the SX230 nevertheless gets in tighter than all but the Nikon S9100. 28mm is still respectable and useful for a travel camera, but we might be drawn to a model with a wider lens.
Sony HX9V. 16x, 24-384mm. 24mm again is great for landscapes and large indoor areas, plus you get an impressive 384mm equivalent zoom. The zoom is almost silent, but the lens jiggles a little in transit.
Fujifilm F550EXR. 15x, 24-360mm. Though it's as wide as the widest in this shootout, the F550EXR isn't quite as long. Zooming produces a high-pitched buzz, but motion is smooth and fast.
Nikon S9100. Despite eVR image stabilization, video is a little shaky and Jello-effect is noticeable. As we zoom out, the lens goes out of focus for a short time. Image quality is a little soft overall and lens distortion is not well corrected. 1080p30 video.
Panasonic ZS8. Marked by rock-solid image stabilization, video is quite good. There's no evidence of Jello-effect, zoom is smooth, exposure and focus remain stable as we zoom and video sharpness is excellent. 720p30 video.
Casio EX-ZR100. With moderately effective image stabilization, video suffers from moderate Jello-effect, but focus remains stable as we move out and the zoom is buttery smooth. The zoom toggle makes a creaking sound that is picked up by the mics on a quiet day. 1080p30 video.
Canon SX230. Very good exposure and video quality, pretty good image stabilization, a very minor hint of Jello-effect is present, but not bad at all. Motion is not as smooth as higher framerate models, though. Wind noise is noticeably louder than other cameras in this shootout. 1080p24 video.
Sony HX9V. Very solid image stabilization and minimal Jello-effect puts the HX9V second behind the ZS8 in this test. Video is sharp and fluid, zoom is smooth. There's a slight change of focus toward the end of the zoom, but the camera recovers very quickly. This is the only camera of the group to use AVCHD video, so you'll need a program that can play MTS files. 1080p60 video.
Fujifilm F550EXR. Quite a few problems. First, the exposure starts out rather bright, but quickly normalizes. Despite reasonably effective image stabilization, there's a pronounced Jello-effect. The AF system seeks quite a bit as we zoom out, going completely blurry about halfway out until we stop zooming. You can also hear the zoom motor. 1080p30 video.
Rough and ready is how we'd describe the Nikon S9100, despite its meager grip. It powers up quickly and its controls are very responsive. Among all the cameras with panorama mode, it's the easiest. Just turn it on, press the Shutter button and move the camera in any direction. The S9100 detects your direction of motion and begins recording the panorama. Easy comes with a small price, though, as the S9100 makes more errors than some of the other cameras we've seen.
Still, the Nikon S9100's strong suit was taking stills with its impressively long zoom. Vibration Reduction worked very well to stabilize images, important with an 18x zoom. You can also shoot 2-Mp stills while recording video without interrupted the clip. Still, lack of exposure control was a disappointment.
By far the greatest pleasure of shooting with the Panasonic ZS8 is its lack of bells and whistles, but it does have PASM. Its big brother, the ZS10, can't compete with its extremely noisy sensor. The ZS8 does quite a bit better in capturing detail and though it lacks GPS and fancy modes, it has an image-stabilized 16x zoom that brings home quality images. Our only complaint was Playback mode, where it's difficult to check focus primarily because it takes so long to scroll around in images.
Otherwise, it had a great grip, worked responsively and was great in low light. Incidentally, problems in low light was a particular problem with the ZS10 and the ZS8 runs counter to that tendency. Among all the cameras we tested, the ZS8 was most reluctant to raise ISO to get a good exposure, an admirable trait.
The Casio EX-ZR100 did considerably better than we expected. There are a few issues with image quality, particularly overprocessing, but operationally it was a pleasure to use. As advertised, the zoom is smooth and fast and the ZR100 is replete with special features.
It doesn't have a Program mode, per se, just an Auto, Premium Auto, but it also has Aperture and Shutter priority modes and even Manual mode. This unique camera also has a bevy of high speed capture modes, including 3, 5, 10, 15, 30 and even 40 shots at up to 10 megapixels per shot (it's a 12-Mp camera).
The only major downside to the ZR100 was that it frequently required exposure compensation, both positive and negative.
Canon's PowerShot SX230 IS stood out from the pack, with a bold color and unique body design. It also has one of the simplest operating styles, with Program, Time-value, Aperture and Manual exposure modes, as well as Auto, Intelligent Auto and a host of ready Scene modes on the Mode dial. Just spin the wheel and shoot. Unfortunately, its wide-aspect LCD made framing of 4:3 aspect ratio images more difficult to frame and confirm focus. The 16:9 aspect LCD is really better for framing HD video.
We also found the rear dial to be a bit fiddly and its lack of icons for the four function buttons was just a little annoying. Lightly pressing on the dial in the four directions brings up an onscreen menu, but most of our testers didn't like this. The lack of any kind of grip was also disappointing. Its final foible was that stubborn flash that insists on popping up every time you power it up and closes with a loud clack when you power down.
GPS, which we don't cover in this writeup, is fairly simple. Its only problem is a tendency to drain the battery a little too quickly, a universal problem among GPS-based cameras.
But when it comes to image quality and a rich feature-set, the SX230 has it. The camera's print quality sets it above most others and its image stabilization also works quite well. Indeed, its low light performance is also quite good, particularly its Handheld NightScene mode. You can also shoot 8.1 fps at a usable 3-Mp size and its super slow-mo video modes are interesting. Get used to its quirks and it's a faithful performer, without question.
Shooting with the Sony HX9V was both a pain and a pleasure. Pain came from the extreme lag before the camera would respond to zoom, mode or menu commands after powering it on. The rest of the time, the camera was quick, smooth and responsive, producing good image quality. And when we look at the test results, it just gets better and better.
We also appreciated special features like Intelligent Sweep Panorama and Handheld Twilight mode. Sony pioneered some of these modes and they're still quite good. Sometimes there's nothing that tells the story as well as a nice panorama and the High-Resolution iSweep mode produces a whopping 43-Mp panoramic image measuring 10480x4096 pixels!
Of course, if you've invested in a 3D TV, you can take advantage of Sony's ample 3D capabilities, from a simple 3D still to 3D Sweep Panorama.
The zoom lens is smooth, swift and quiet, yet it's pretty easy to zoom and compose images quickly and get a shot off. The grip is nice and warm and the camera pockets about as well as any of the competition.
Much as we liked the grip and slick good looks of the Fujifilm F550EXR, we weren't as impressed with its overall image quality, nor the performance of its much-ballyhooed EXR sensor. Overall, the camera would be a contender were it not for the lens, whose upper left and lower right corners are terrible. Its interface is good, reasonably fast at some things, even faster at others, like focusing and zooming. We particularly liked how it quickly zoomed in on found faces post-capture to help confirm focus.
Exposure was slow to gain up as we moved from dark to light or vise versa and as we've already mentioned, all videos start out too bright then dim back down to a good exposure, something you can see happen as you're capturing the video.
When we tried some of the special EXR and Advanced modes, we weren't that impressed. Certainly nothing that exceeded the abilities of any of the others with similar features, including the 360 degree panorama mode. They'd all be more worthy of consideration were the optics more even.
Image quality has done a lot to rearrange our list, the order arranged by how we liked the cameras while we were shooting, starting with the Nikon S9100. But once overall scores were tallied, the list reshuffled somewhat. The results of our Shootout place the Sony HX9V in first place, followed by the Panasonic ZS8, Canon SX230, Nikon S9100, Casio ZR100 and Fujifilm F550.
No. 1: Sony HX9V (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/HX9V/HX9VA.HTM)
The Sony moved up four places based mostly on lens, image and movie quality, three very important factors. It earned its original fourth-place usability ranking based solely on its very slow startup time, which was very frustrating, so bear that in mind. But once it gets going, the 24-384mm equivalent Sony HX9V excels by almost every measurement. Its full-autofocus shutter lag is shortest of them all, its lens quality is top-notch, its video quality also leads the pack and its image stabilization is among the best. It's notable that the low ISO is affected by Sony's aggressive noise suppression, which limits the largest print size to 13x19 inches instead of 16x20, but as ISO rises, the Sony does a little better than most. Overall, the Sony HX9V stands out as the best travel zoom.
No. 2: Panasonic ZS8 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ZS8/ZS8A.HTM)
Were it not for the ZS10's poor sensor, the ZS8 wouldn't even be in this shootout, so if it seems a bit outranked in the features department, that's why. But little brother did well against the big boys, earning second place with excellent optical quality, a simple interface, good battery life, fast autofocus and excellent image stabilization. We were also impressed with its indoor image quality, with a tendency to keep ISO low while still getting a well-exposed shot. Its 24-384mm lens performs well, if not quite as well as the HX9V's. One major difference is its lack of Full HD and a mini-HDMI-out port. Panasonic created this category, though and continues to turn out a high quality product, making the ZS8 easy to recommend.
No. 3: Canon SX230 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX230HS/SX230HSA.HTM)
There were quite a few strikes against the Canon SX230 in the operation department, which earned it fourth place for overall usability, but its combination of better image and video quality earned it a promotion by one level. The score between it and the Nikon S9100 was very close, though, coming down to the SX230's better indoor performance, better image stabilization and better video quality. Remember, though, that its 28-392mm zoom range is least wide of them all and its closest competitor, the Nikon S9100, has the longest zoom range and starts at 25mm. It was a close call and you might choose one or the other based on your desire for GPS (advantage Canon) or a wider, longer zoom (advantage Nikon). Suffice it to say that the Canon SX230 is a very good choice, only with a few operational foibles to drop it below the Sony and Panasonic above.
No. 4: Nikon S9100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CPS9100/CPS9100A.HTM)
We expected the Nikon S9100 to do better, considering how much we liked using it, ranking it first place for overall usability. But its performance indoors, its major Jello-effect in movies and fairly shaky image stabilization in movies really hurt its score by comparison. Still, two out of three of those items are largely due to the S9100's long and wide 18x zoom. Statistically it's pretty close to a draw between the Canon SX230 and the Nikon S9100 and for some that 18x zoom lens makes the decision for them. It's hard to beat a 25-450mm zoom in your pocket! So long as you're shooting mostly stills outdoors, we think you'll be very happy with the Nikon S9100.
No. 5: Casio ZR100
We were pleasantly surprised by the Casio EX-ZR100. It's a competent design with good performance and, as usual from Casio, a great set of innovative digital features. Slightly lower image quality in key areas demotes it beneath the four cameras above and its significantly shorter 12.5x zoom, ranging from 24-300mm, should have produced a little better image quality if it wasn't going to contend in the 14-18x range. Otherwise, we don't have a problem recommending the Casio EX-ZR100 as a travel camera, as well as one for action and high speed video capture, an area where it particularly excels.
No. 6: Fujifilm F550EXR
Sadly, the Fujifilm F550 doesn't just lose by comparison to the others, it's really not worthy of consideration due to the very poor lens quality. It'll serve as a snapshot camera, but don't expect to be too pleased with any crops or enlargements. Videos, too, will always start out overexposed and then get better. The much vaunted EXR technology doesn't add enough to bother with, which has been true with all the EXR cameras we've reviewed. If there's promise to the technology, we have yet to see it delivered.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/new-on-ir you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: Nik Software Snapseed (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/snapseed/)
- Reviewed: Travel Zoom Shootout (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/TRAVELZOOM/TRAVELZOOMA.HTM)
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about the IR 2011 Travel Zoom Shootout at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeb75db
Visit the Nikon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f781
Read about the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II printer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeacf6a
Read comments about Tamron lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=7
Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2
As you may remember from the last issue, Elgato (http://www.elgato.com) generously provided a free license for Turbo.264 HD SE, the software edition of its movie conversion product reviewed in that issue.
All we had to do was pick a winner.
We took our top hat out of its box, tossed all the names in and gave it a good shake before drawing one out. Before we reveal the winner, however, we want to thank everybody who entered. It was nice to hear from you.
And now to announce the winner. The free license goes to [drum roll] Laura Spicka! Congratulations!
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RE: Grain, Dust, Scratches
I'm new to film photography overall. I'd given a couple rolls of films I had to a photo lab to scan. Now, I've just purchased a CanoScan 9000F and, comparing those older scans to the CanoScans, noticed that the latter give way less film grain.
I must say I was very disappointed. Is this something to be expected from a flatbed or am I doing something wrong?
Also, the images are much softer and I get loads of dust and scratches.
-- Maya S.(First, compare the image sizes of the commercially scanned slide to your own. The smaller the image size, the less you'll notice grain, dust and scratches.... Now, about grain. There is film grain and there is noise and they are two quite different things. You don't have to live with either in your scans. But you'll have to learn how to set the scanner to minimize them and how to use software to eliminate them.... Dust and scratches are a bit different subject. With proper storage, you won't acquire dust. And with proper handling, you won't suffer scratches. You can get rid of dust with a can of compressed air. Both sides of the slide, remember. Scratches will have to be removed with software that reads an infrared scan of a color slide to find physical defects. You can do that manually too in image editing software.... So the lesson here is that scanning is a skill and takes some time to acquire. Fortunately, it can be a lot of fun acquiring that skill <g>. -- Editor)
I have an ESP 9250 Kodak color printer and I am disappointed that I can get only 25 8.5x11 full color prints from a No. 10 color cartridge before the ink is exhausted, after which the printer function is frozen including the black only print cartridge.
That's about 80 cents per copy instead of the 8 cents per color copy the manufacturer cites for its cartridges.
When I inquired at Best Buy where I bought the printer, they explained the print yield I obtained was fairly typical for any inkjet color printer and the 300 color copies per cartridge applied to prints where the color didn't cover the entire surface, say a chart or diagram containing only patches of color. I find this explanation difficult to swallow and wonder whether it is indeed true.
I would greatly appreciate your response as to whether I am stuck with this situation or whether I am being spun a yarn. Your answer may be of great value to consumers like myself who innocently buy a home color printer without expecting to pay almost $1.00 per print just for the ink.
-- Richard Woodman(It's true your yield for photo prints is typical. Photos use a lot more ink than the standard color business document cited in cost per page yields. Kodak actually produces a less expensive ink than its competitors using proprietary technology (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/K5300/K5300D.HTM#ein) but you still use a lot of it to print a photo. It's hard to measure yield with photographs because subjects vary greatly. Different colors are used for landscapes than portraits, for example. Finally, it's actually good behavior for a printer to shut down when a cartridge has been exhausted. It simply protects the very expensive print head.-- Editor)
RE: Which Scanner?
Thank you for your articles and comprehensive reviews of film and flatbed scanners. I have been looking at both the Epson V700/750 and the Plustek 7600i but need some advice from someone who has hands on experience with both scanners.
I have quite a bit of old 35mm and 120 B&W film that has important historical significance. Will the Epson V700 or V750 scan the 35mm film well enough for my purposes or would I be better off going with the Plustek? I would say that final output needed would be a sharp 8x10 print.
-- Jeff Buchin(The Plustek scans 35mm only, so the Epson is your only bet for the 120 film. But take a look at the CanoScan 9000F for a less expensive, high quality option that can handle both formats. -- Editor)
DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released Optics Pro 7.1 with enhanced stability, faster batch processing, over 150 new modules, enhancements to the image processing engine and support for the Sony Alpha 65, Panasonic G3 and Olympus E-P3/E-PL3/E-PM1.
Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released its RAW Developer 1.9.4 [M] with support for the Panasonic DMC-GX1 and Leica V-Lux 3, improved default color profiles and curves for several cameras, minor performance improvements and several bug fixes.
Marc Rochkind (http://imageingester.com/ingestamatic-info.php) has released Ingestamatic for Windows 7, the simplified version of ImageIngester, as a free, time-limited beta. A Mac version was released earlier.
Publisher Ilex and author Michael Freeman are publishing Photographer's i (http://www.photographersi.com), a $1.99 photo magazine with no advertising that's concerned "with the art of image making," according to Editor Marti Saltzman.
Computerworld (http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9222760/Hard_drive_manufacturers_slash_warranty_periods) reports that hard drive warranties have recently been reduced from five years to just one. As if that isn't bad enough, we noticed prices have increased dramatically since the Thailand flooding with some stores even rationing buyers to just one drive at a time.
iFunia (http://www.ifunia.com) has released its $18.99 AVCHD Converter 3.5.0 [M] to convert AVCHD or AVCHD Lite video to AVI, MPEG, WebM, WMV, MP4, MOV, and FLV with basic editing functions like trim, crop, merge and deinterlace, plus conversion profiles for mobile devices and video software such as iMovie and Final Cut.
Isa Leshko (http://www.isaleshko.com/Portfolio.cfm?nK=13552) has published photos from her Elderly Animals project on her site. "I have come to realize that these images are self-portraits," she writes, "or at the very least, they are manifestations of my fears and hopes about what I will be like when I am old."
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 9.0.71 [LMW] with improved Wi-Fi scanner connection with a firewall, fixes for LaserJet Wi-Fi scanners, a fix for the Epson V300 and more.
Start the new year "on the right foot" with RC Concepcion's Proof, a touching video about the power of a photograph on Joe McNally's blog (http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2011/12/30/gifts/).
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Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
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 SLR Gear: http://www.slrgear.com New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/new-on-ir Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/camera-reviews Q&A Forum: http://www.photo-forums.com Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/BETTERPICS.HTM
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher