The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 14, Number 2 27 January 2012

Copyright 2012, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 324th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We enjoy a few weeks with a gorgeous multifunction device before Dave reviews his new favorite camera. Then we learn a lesson from Francesca Woodman's work. Dig in!


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:
N I K O N

The amazing Nikon 1: Small is now huge

Huge is unbelievably fast
Huge is incredibly intuitive
Huge is remarkably versatile
Huge is delightfully stylish
Huge is surprisingly small
Small is now Huge

Introducing the Nikon 1 (click for the rest of this huge story): http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?n1s

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


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: HP Envy 110 -- What's in a Name?

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/hp-envy-110/index.htm on the Web site.)

Envy? That's the name HP has given to this handsome "e-All-in-One" device ("e" for being Web-enabled) as well as a line of laptops. But substitute the synonym Resentment and you'll be as confused as we are about the name.

Perhaps the company would like you to think that if you bring this baby home, all your friends will envy you.

There are indeed quite a few things we liked about the $249.99 Envy 110 but there are enough misses that we'd hold out for the Envy 410. And while we used the Envy exclusively as our all-in-one device for a while, we discovered one fatal flaw.

The fatal flaw? It's really pretty simple and it isn't, after all, its name. It's the paper tray.

FEATURES

HP justly touts the "cutting-edge design" of the Envy. It's an attractive box. But don't let that fool you. At 15x17, it requires the same (at least) footprint as other multifunction devices. It's just a good deal shorter at only four inches, about half the height of a more conventional device. And just to put a cherry on top, the input paper tray stays tucked into the bottom of the unit so it really is that squat.

That gives it a component profile that would look right at home in your stereo rack. Except you'd have to have about a 10-inch gap above it to use the scanner.

The piano black finish of the glass top cover (we used a microfiber cloth to clean it) is complemented by a bronzed metal finish accenting various edges and tabs. We did find that an attractive touch and a nice departure from the usual silver.

The Envy also distinguishes itself from other devices with its automation. You don't have to worry about extending an output tray. That isn't very unusual, but it is unusual that you don't have to worry about closing it back up. The Envy knows when to extend it and when to pull it back in.

Same goes for the touch screen panel, which racks out to greet you when there's something to do and swings back in when you retrieve your printout or power off the printer. The Envy seemed, now and then, a bit confused about when to close the control panel but it always knew when to open it.

Like other multifunction devices, the Envy is a WiFi printer you can easily share. That lets it also take advantage of HP's ePrint service which emails documents to the printer. And it's AirPrint compatible, so you can easily print from an iOS device. We printed photos from an iPad with no problem.

Of course, it also functions as a stand-alone device for scanning or printing. You can scan to or print from the small card reader or USB connection, too. The Envy can even print from the Web using apps to access services provided by companies like ESPN or HP's own Snapfish.

HP claims the Envy is whisper quiet. And mostly it is. We found the scanner particularly noisy during startup. Otherwise it was about as quiet a printer as any other, making a bit more noise during draft printing than high quality printing.

HP also calls the Energy Star-qualified Envy "the planet's first PVC-free printer" not counting the USB cable. That means its plastic parts contain less than 1,000 parts per million of chlorine. It does come in a cloth rather than a plastic bag inside the retail box. And the printer cartridges are 70 percent recycled plastic. The company has for some time been particularly environmentally conscious and that's certainly worth applauding.

Missing from this device is a transparency adapter (so you won't be able to scan negatives or slides) and CD printing, which is now available on Epson and Canon devices.

COPYING

Our real-life daily use of the Envy found us using it in a variety of ways. The simplest task was making copies without the computer.

Document Copying. Copying a document is one of the most common unattended uses of a multifunction device. Inkjets make very nice copies (no scumming from toners, no paper warping from the heat) and with a built-in scanner they can perform some useful tricks, too.

We copied a newspaper article. The copy was very nicely done, showing the barest tone for the brownish newsprint and even improving the color halftones. In addition, menu options allow you to set the brightness of the image, so we could have completely dropped out the background tone if necessary. We could also have chosen to print the copy in just black.

Photo Copying. High on the list of standalone uses is making copies of old photos. Someone visits, you go through your old albums just for fun, they want a copy of a picture of themselves when they looked good and ... well, you just pop it on the scanner bed, put some photo paper in and make a copy.

The Envy does make it that easy to copy old photos. From the Photo option, just select Reprint Photo. The LCD shows you how to orient your print on the scanner glass. Tap the screen to see a preview and access the Edit functions, which include rotate, crop, turn Photo Fix on, adjust brightness or choose a color effect. Color effects include turning a color image into a black and white and various toned options like sepia.

The quality of our test photo was very good if a bit darker and larger. It was our usual difficult image with a bright red background, a yellow pillow and a child's face in the middle. The skin tones were good, the detail like eyelashes perfect.

We also tried a black and white image because we'd had a little trouble printing one from the card reader. In this particular case the print was mounted on board that acted as a border, so we also cropped the previewed image. Cropping on such a small display is not easy, but we managed to get rid of the border.

The image quality itself was good. Some shadow detail was lost but the highlight detail was there. The image was a bit softer than the original with a slight reddish color cast and less contrast.

PRINTING

Card Reader. Our SD didn't drop down until we really gave it a push (something we didn't want to do until we knew how to orient the card). Subsequent card insertions sometimes got stuck halfway down for some reason. We may not have been perfectly perpendicular. Still, it shouldn't be that hard.

The black and white problem we mentioned above was a striated pattern in flat areas of the image. Stripes. But it looked to us like a clogged print head, so we tried it again, this time printing the original black and white image from Photoshop. Guess what? No stripes.

Duplex Printing. We're glad to see duplex printing becoming a standard on all-in-one printers. And very glad when it doesn't require a bulky accessory appended to the back of the printer, like the Kodak ESPs.

In fact, it's remarkable that the Envy can do duplex printing in such a small box. But it does. And very nicely. We experienced no jams or misalignments printing on both sides of plain paper.

The LCD explains what's going on during duplex printing, too. We wandered over to see why a quick draft printout was pausing every so often. "Ink drying," the LCD explained as the printer paused while the printed side of sheet dried for a second to prevent smearing. Nice touch.

AirPrint. There are a couple of ways to print from your iOS device these days. One for Mac users is the free AirPrint Activator (http://netputing.com/airprintactivator/airprint-activator-v2-0/), an OS X application that lets iOS devices print to any network printer that's also shared from one of the connected Macs. It listens for local network printer advertisements, making them available to iOS devices.

A somewhat more elegant solution (in that it doesn't require any configuration) is an AirPrint-compatible printer. There aren't many yet. Canon's latest multifunctions do AirPrint and so does the Envy.

As we explained in our Snapseed review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/snapseed/index.htm), it's a snap to print from the iPad to the Envy. 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.

Because our Envy was connected to our network wirelessly, we simply entered the router password on the 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.

Bluetooth. It may seem superfluous but we like to pop our D-Link DBT-120 USB Bluetooth receiver into the USB port of printers we test to see if we can send an image from our phone to the printer.

We did get power to the USB dongle but for this to work the printer has to provide PictBridge compatibility. And the Envy does not.

That means that you not only can't Bluetooth images to it but you can't cable your camera to it for printing.

From the Computer. Of course, you can print from your computer as well. We printed images directly from Photoshop letting the printer manage color since it knew all about its own paper. We also printed multipage documents and #10 envelopes from InDesign and Pages.

Plain text printing was fine, no problems. We printed photos on HP's top of the line Premium Plus sheet as well as some older tabbed 4x6 HP Premium paper. And again, the results were fine.

SCANNING

Scan to Reader or Computer. Not every multifunction device with a USB port actually lets you scan images to it. The Envy does. Easily.

You can scan to a networked computer as easily as to a thumbdrive or SD card just by selecting it as the destination.

Scans were quick but we found two problems. There was no way to set the resolution of the scan, just the destination and the kind of scan. The kind of scan for one of our tests was a Photo to File. We wanted to scan a 4x6 print. But the Envy treated our Photo to File like a Document to File, picking a low 200 dpi resolution and a large letter-size scan area.

Scan from Photoshop. No TWAIN driver is installed with the Envy software. So we couldn't access the scanner from Photoshop.

We tried to use VueScan's TWAIN driver and VueScan found the Envy but the Envy didn't respond to the Preview or Scan commands.

This may be a Lion issue, though.

We found the problem explained at HP's ePrintCenter, a very impressive home page for your Envy. HP Director software is not compatible with OS X 10.6 or 10.7. But "the scanning interface is now built into Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.7, and is supported by the Apple Preview and Image Capture applications. You can also scan from the Print & Fax window in Mac OS X 10.6, or from the Print & Scan window in OS X 10.7."

We used Image Capture to gang scan some prints. We did have a healthy choice of resolutions starting at 75 and going up to 1200 dpi. And we could even adjust image quality manually. But it was nothing like the control you have with a TWAIN driver.

HP Scan. There is also HP Scan, an application that did let us access the Envy from a computer. Again, the options were far too limited. There is nothing like HP Scan Pro (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/HPG3010/G3010.HTM#pro) unfortunately.

WEB SERVICES

Print Apps. HP pioneered the concept of a Web-enabled printer with apps that print things like tickets, recipes, coloring book pages, coupons, maps, news and more.

At first this capability was only available on its flagship all-in-one, but it's since percolated through the line to other models. And the Envy is one of them.

That row of icons on the LCD holds the icons for each app. The collection has grown quite a bit since we last checked.

And some of them (five at the moment) include Scheduled Delivery, so you can have fresh content printed on a regular basis automatically.

We remain confused by just where in the computing cosmos Print Apps fit in. It would seem tablets handle some things better (like getting the news) and a computer, one of which is usually near any printer, is no slouch either if you want to print something like tickets. Some things like coloring book pages and graph paper make sense to us.

For photographers, it's worth noting that you can access your Snapfish account to print images. And you can upload images from a card to your Snapfish account, too.

ePrint. HP assigns a screwy email address to every printer it makes that's ePrint capable. It never publicizes that address and doesn't respond to any email to that address either.

That's some security, but if you pass out your printer's email address so people can print things for you, you will expose the printer to all the spam you get in your In box. HP does provide spam filtering.

The service also reformats email to print, including any attachments.

Our first attempt generated an error email from HP's ePrint service. "There were more than 10 file attachments, or the total size of attachments exceeded the limit of 5MB," it guessed. We had attached a large image file.

Our second attempt went very well. It was nearly as fast as just giving the print command, actually.

We're not sure why we'd want to do this, though. We'd always want an electronic copy of any document emailed to the printer. So why not just email us the document and we'll print it if we want to?

The idea that it turns a printer into something like a fax machine only works for the recipient who requires a fax for the return of signed forms, say. Or the company selling you paper and ink. Not for you.

eFax. eFax is a non-HP service that allows you to send 20 pages and receive 20 pages a month. After registering with the service, faxes you receive are printed on the printer and faxes you send are scanned and then sent to the eFax server which then phones them on.

Again you'll want to keep plain paper in the tray if you enable this service because you aren't going to be very happy with faxes printed on 4x6 photo paper.

CONCLUSION

The Envy is an attractive all-in-one device -- with some brains, too. But we really felt handicapped when we relied on it to do our printing and scanning. It doesn't scan negatives or print CDs and the paper tray only holds one kind of paper at a time, which really killed us.

We give it good marks for its Web apps and ePrint capabilities -- if you have a use for them. We give it a standing ovation for its AirPrint support. Connecting to our router was also very easy.

The color bit depth is adequate for reflective material but that won't make anyone envious of the Envy's scans.

Print quality was generally just fine apart from a transient issue with striated black and white prints. Our color prints were perfectly fine once we started printing on the right side of the paper.

Normal office printing and scanning tasks were handled easily, though. And that really seems what the Envy was designed for.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Sony NEX-7 Shooter's Report

By DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEX7/NEX7A.HTM on the Web site.)

I had an opportunity to shoot with a prototype NEX-7 at a Sony press event San Diego and we've since tested a production sample at IR headquarters. Just to get it out of the way at the outset, I have to say that the NEX-7 is my new favorite camera.

I can't say enough about how great the new Tri-Navi interface is, the image quality is truly exceptional and Sony addressed many of the foibles of the earlier NEX-series user interfaces, although some still remain.

It's one heck of a package.

ERGONOMICS

The NEX-7 feels very good indeed in the hand. I found the front grip quite comfortable, despite the camera's small overall size. The shape of the grip encourages your middle finger to lay parallel to the camera body where there's enough space for even relatively large fingers. Your index finger is then perfectly positioned over the Shutter button and drawing it back slightly puts it directly above the top-panel Function button.

Here's an example of the subtleties of camera design. The Function button is toward the front of the grip, rather than centered front to back on the grip like the Shutter button. It turns out that it's positioned right on the line your index finger most naturally follows when withdrawing from the Shutter button. Further back on the body would have been a more awkward reach with a cramped feeling. It's one of those things you don't think about, but can make the difference between a pleasure or a pain in use.

On the back panel, the slight protrusion of the thumb rest leaves your thumb roughly centered between the two top Tri-Navi control wheels. It's a short, comfortable reach to hit the dedicated Movie recording button. Reaching down to the rear-panel control dial isn't as easy, requiring a two-handed grip on the camera. I didn't find this a problem, though, as the most frequently-accessed functions were mapped to the top dials and I almost always find myself holding cameras with both hands anyway.

With all the buttons and dials located on the right side of the camera, your left hand can be dedicated to providing support and adjusting the zoom or focus settings. This makes accessing all the right-side controls very natural and fluid. It was also easy to manipulate settings with my eye held to the eyepiece. The combination of the front Function button and the Tri-Navi controls on top and back let me adjust things like HDR settings or white balance tweaks without losing sight of my subject. Very nice.

TRI-NAVI INTERFACE

As wildly successful as the NEX-5 was, it's no secret many enthusiasts were frustrated by its beginner-friendly user interface. With the NEX-7 aimed squarely at enthusiasts, Sony designed an entirely new Tri-Navi interface better matched to their desires. I think they've done a pretty good job.

At the core of the NEX-5's interface problems was a simple paucity of buttons. Feeling that too many buttons would confuse the novices and digicam-upgraders the NEX-3 and NEX-5 were aimed at, Sony gave users only three to control the camera. That was probably fine for the point-and-shoot set, but it made accessing the camera's many capabilities a teeth-gnashing, thumb-reddening exercise. Everyone at IR had sore thumbs the day after the NEX-5 arrived, from incessant fiddling with the single control wheel. With the NEX-7, Sony has decisively addressed this problem, adding two more control dials on top of the camera and extra button and lever on the rear panel.

At the heart of the Tri-Navi interface are three control dials: the two new ones mounted edge-on at the camera's top, plus the rear dial familiar from earlier NEX models. Together they form a very convenient and flexible user interface that turned out to be even more effective in live shooting than was conveyed in pre-release presentations. In NDA briefings, Sony made quite a big deal out of the Tri-Navi interface, to which I frankly had a somewhat jaundiced view. After all, I've heard many times about some "revolutionary" feature or interface that turned out to be considerably less so in practice. In the case of the Tri-Navi control scheme, though, once I got down to live shooting with the camera, I realized that the hyped presentations actually didn't do it justice.

By default, the two top dials control exposure: aperture, shutter speed or exposure compensation, depending on the exposure mode. You can cycle through five different sets of control parameters, though, simply by pressing the Navigation/Function button on the top front panel, just to the right of the Shutter button. Exposure settings are always at the top of the list, but the others are programmable.

Sony's done a great job of making the Tri-Navi interface configurable. You can select from six different options for each slot in the round-robin of choices accessed via the Navigation button and one available option is None. If you select None for one or more of the option slots, it shortens the selection cycle accordingly. For instance, if you don't often use the D-Range or Creative Style settings, you could eliminate them from the rotation, so you'd only have three options to cycle through.

This may seem like a small point, but it impressed me with the thought Sony put into the interface design. Sometimes less is more and recognizing this speaks to a deeper understanding of how people actually shoot than I often see expressed in many product designs.

I found myself most often using (and loving) the basic exposure adjustments available in the Tri-Navi settings by default. As I became more familiar with the camera, though, I ventured deeper into the Tri-Navi world and became deeply appreciative of how quickly and easily I could do things like white balance tweaking or HDR setup that formerly would have required an extended trip into the menu system.

Thanks to the flexibility of the Tri-Navi system, the NEX-7 is a camera that richly rewards extended use and familiarity. As easy as the various options are to get to, it can take a little time to wrap your brain around all that's available. As you spend time with it, though, you come to really appreciate the power it puts at your fingertips. In some ways, the extent to which the NEX-7 rewarded time spent with it harkened back to its distant roots in the Minolta line, particularly the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D.

I think I first realized just how effective the Tri-Navi interface was during a long day of shooting with both the NEX-7 and Sony Alpha A65. While the A65 has a great user interface (very much in the upper tier of dSLRs I've shot with), as the day wore on, I had to force myself to take an equal number of pictures with the A65. It was almost like when I was first transitioning to digital and the immediacy of the digital experience made it hard for me to continue with my film bodies, even though at the time film held the quality edge.

The Tri-Navi interface was such a liberating, creatively productive interface that I was loathe to return to the more conventional dSLR world after using it. Once you try it, Tri-Navi may well spoil you for any other camera.

There are still areas where there's room for improvement. They're all relatively minor niggles, but a typical example is the screen for tweaking color balance. In this mode, the upper left wheel selects the white balance mode (Auto, Daylight, etc.), the right wheel controls the Amber/Blue adjustment axis and the rear dial controls the Green/Magenta axis. But there's no way to quickly restore the tweak adjustments to their neutral values. You have to adjust the setting of each axis back to zero using the dials. At the same time, the function button below and left of the rear dial is completely unused. Why not use it as a "return to zero" button? It has exactly this sort of use when setting Flexible Spot autofocus.

VIEWFINDER

After the Tri-Navi interface, the aspect of the NEX-7 that most affected my shooting was its OLED viewfinder.

On the positive side, the NEX-7's viewfinder (the same element is used in the Sony Alpha A77 and A65) really sets a new bar for EVF excellence. It has a reasonably high eyepoint, so is usable with eyeglasses, despite the huge image it presents. If you're used to the relatively tiny images of typical APS-C dSLRs, the NEX-7 will amaze you the first time you look through its eyepiece. The viewfinder image itself is huge, yet there's still room around the edges for very clear data readouts.

I've never been a big fan of electronic viewfinders. Their tonal range, clarity, brightness, resolution and update lag/refresh rates have made them poor substitutes for the tried-and-true optical versions.

But the limitations of earlier EVFs are being addressed and the OLED technology used in the TruFinder of these latest Alpha and NEX models takes another large step in the right direction.

The first thing that strikes you about the TruFinder is how big it is. It's really more a size you'd expect to see on a high-end full-frame dSLR selling for thousands of dollars. It's also incredibly sharp, the first EVF I've seen with XGA (1024x768) resolution -- a staggering 2.4 million RGB dots. It also shows 100 percent of the frame area the camera will capture, another feature more commonly associated with very high-end professional cameras.

One of my biggest EVF gripes has been poor handling of highlight detail. The TruFinder has some of the best highlight handling I've seen, but unfortunately gets into trouble at the other end of the tonal scale, with a tendency to plug dark areas of the image badly. (Why can't Sony apply the dynamic range optimization technology standard in their cameras to EVFs?) Also, even at maximum brightness, the TruFinder isn't nearly as bright as a sunny day, so I found that my eyes sometimes took a few moments to adapt when I first looked through it.

I did feel that the TruFinder's update lag and refresh rate were considerably better than last year's Alpha A33 and A55, although it's still not quite up to the zero millisecond lag provided by an optical finder.

Finally, of course, there are the things no optical viewfinder can do. For one, provide a true preview of the shot you're about to capture (including white balance and exposure) and for another offer an enhanced in-finder information display. This last was another minor disappointment, though. Where the SLT-A77's EVF information display was incredibly rich, in the NEX-7 it's been stripped down quite a bit. You can enable a pretty complete information display on the rear-panel LCD, but that same display isn't an option in the EVF. Still it's pretty quick to cycle through the different control options via the Function button next to the Shutter button, which shows you the current settings in the process.

While I still like the experience of looking through an optical viewfinder, Sony's new TruFinder addresses a number of traditional EVF issues and brings such a host of other benefits that I'd be happy to make the optical/EVF switch with it.

OPTICS

Optics are really the weakest link in the NEX product line. The 18-55mm kit lens is OK, but decidedly unspectacular and even primes haven't been very impressive. The new Carl Zeiss 24mm f1.8 lens is very good, but it also carries a list price of a thousand dollars. See our review on SLRgear.com (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1452/cat/82).

When Sony announced the SLT-A77, the A-mount world got a beautiful 16-80mm Carl Zeiss zoom for $850. Why not something like that for the NEX line? With the resolution the NEX-7 is capable of, it's a shame not to have a high-quality mid-range zoom to use with it.

On a positive note, I loved how easy it was to achieve accurate focus manually with the combination of the high resolution LCD and EVF plus the optional high-magnification focus-assist display available in manual-focus mode. I also found the "peaking" function to work quite well. This option puts a colored border around sharply-focused objects and makes it quite easy to find the correct focus setting. You can choose the highlight color and also adjust the sensitivity. These features will be particularly welcome if you mount foreign manual-focus lenses on NEXs via the myriad mount adapters available.

One other minor niggle in the NEX-7's user interface, though. As noted, the camera can optionally switch to a high-magnification viewfinder display to help with manual focus. The camera also has a "DMF" focus mode, in which the camera will first focus automatically and then let you tweak the focus manually. I find this very handy when working with difficult-to-focus subjects, but was annoyed to find the high-magnification display wasn't available in DMF mode. Why on earth not? The whole reason you'd use DMF mode is because you want to achieve more precise focus than the AF system can. Why then handicap the user by not offering a magnified viewfinder image to focus with? I've raised this issue with Sony and am crossing my fingers (but not holding my breath) that a fix make it into a future firmware update.

IMAGE QUALITY

Fancy features are nice, but ultimately a camera's value comes down to its image quality. Fortunately this is an area where the NEX-7 excels. I was particularly impressed with its resolution and sharpness, all the more so because it's visibly sharper than the SLT-A77, which uses the same sensor. The A77 knocked my socks off with its resolution and detail, but the NEX-7 kicks it up another notch.

You can get aliasing in subjects with fine repeating patterns. Given the 24-Mp resolution, though, such repeating detail has to be pretty fine indeed to alias. The fix is to shoot in DMF focus mode and slightly defocus the subject before snapping the shot.

When it came to color accuracy, the NEX-7 was slightly better than average for a Compact System Camera, but not dramatically so. There were some minor hue shifts in a swatch of colors, ranging from cyans through purples to reds and yellows. Saturation was higher than neutral at 111 percent on average, but that's in line with most other cameras in this class. And you can pretty easily tweak the saturation up and down to suit your personal preferences.

The NEX-7 also does very well with image noise. I expected to see a noticeable jump in noise, what with the tiny pixels of its 24-Mp sensor, but it's really quite well-behaved. I'd put it in the top tier of APS-C dSLRs, even those with somewhat lower sensor resolutions (16-18 megapixels, for instance). It doesn't do quite as good as the NEX-5N at very high ISOs, so there's some cost to the smaller pixels, but the difference isn't large.

SAMPLE IMAGES

You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEX7/NEX7A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEX7/NEX7GALLERY.HTM.

SUMMARY

I really liked the NEX-7 shooting experience. The Tri-Navi user interface was a revelation. The true measure of it is how hard I now find it to shoot with cameras having conventional controls. The NEX-7 has spoiled me for other cameras.

The new TruFinder EVF is another breakthrough in terms of resolution and improved tonal gradation, even if there is room for improvement.

And then, of course, there's the photos themselves. The resolution, low noise and appealing color left me very pleased with pretty much everything I shot. Well, at least everything that was a decent picture to begin with. Let's just say that none of the non-keepers were the camera's fault.

The bottom line is simple. The Sony NEX-7 is my new favorite camera. A resounding Dave's Pick.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

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:

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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 Canon Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f773

A user asks about high resolution projectors at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eeb562b/0

Read about Sigma lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=8

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

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Just for Fun: Ms. Woodman's Birthday Greeting

We like to do a little Christmas shopping at the museum store every year and this season was no exception. One advantage is that you can take an inexpensive break. Not an extravagant Department Store lunch, that is, but a walk through the galleries.

Which we did, catching a show of Francesca Woodman's photos. The show runs through Feb. 20 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

With the hustle and bustle of the season, we really didn't get much of a chance to reflect on what we saw at the time. We noted her small, square black and white images were all shot on film, the digital age not even a glimmer in anyone's eye when they were taken. We were not surprised none of the horizons were level, either.

Why not? Well, it would have been a way of saying this isn't commercial work. From an early age, Woodman made art, feeling no need to prove herself as a technician.

But, curiously, we didn't fall in love with any of them. Nothing we'd want to hang at home, so to speak. So we gave them little thought until, well, one morning in the shower.

We'd been thinking about the end of the month, which happens to be packed with birthdays (something must happen every spring). We have an unusually dense few days at the end of the month when two sisters are a day apart, one of which enjoys the same day as her cousin (who was born in the same year and even in the same hospital).

What brought Woodman to mind was something we'd heard the night before during the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor awards for George Carlin. One of the presenters defined suicide as a a statement to the Creator that, "You can't fire me, I quit!"

Born in 1958 in Denver, Woodman spent summers at an old farm in the Florentine countryside with her parents, both well-known artists. In 1975 she studied at the Rhode Island School of Design before going to Rome in an honors program. She moved to New York City in 1979, tried to get work as a fashion photographer and in 1980 became artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. On a January day in 1981 she quit this life. Her body of work by then included some 10,000 negatives.

That joke and the upcoming birthdays got Cuisinarted in my mind as the shower head pelted me with hot water. I tried to revisit the show in my mind.

Most of the images were self portraits. Nudes, primarily. Not particularly erotic ones, though. Nor flatly unappealing ones. Rather ordinary nudes of a young woman. The kind you usually see in a field or among dark trees or at the beach.

But these were nearly all set in what seemed to be the peeling rooms of abandoned buildings. Worn out rooms whose lamps had not been lit in years, whose floors had not creaked with footsteps for a decade, whose windows needed no frayed curtains to obscure the view. Old rooms, that is.

The combination of some young limb extending from a battered cabinet whose shelf life was long past expiration was the thematic tension in them. When you look at an image like that (pick one: http://www.heenan.net/woodman/), do you think about Decay? Or do you, as we did that morning, blink twice and find Fertility?

Renewal is born of ashes, not blister packs. The world around us is always falling apart. The economy, wars, inner cities, board rooms, you name it. No ashes, no possibility of renewal, Woodman reminds us with these images.

But we are her nudes, even as we age, the wonders and surprises of life, renewing existence despite the decay around us. Each moment we become another snapshot, another smile, another candle on a cake. Make a wish.

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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: Canon Pro-1 Profiling

I've read the Pro-1 makes it necessary to profile the machine to take advantage of its possibilities and that Canon color management does not provide good results. So to use the printer properly, you must also invest in a spectrophotometer.

Do you really need a spectrophotometer ?

-- S. Kibsgaard

(We did use a ColorMunki Photo to create paper profiles for the printer two different ways, as the review details. Is it necessary? No. A wide variety of third-party papers in addition to Canon's own papers come with their own profiles. And given the consistency of the ink and paper, that's certainly more than good enough. Commercial photographers may want to further distinguish their work with their own papers and profiles, though. -- Editor)

RE: Canon Pro-1 Chroma Optimizer

Just read in another review that Chroma Optimizer is not laying down a clear coating on the white areas even when clear coating settings is set to Overall. And they say the same about the Auto setting. Why doesn't Canon just do it like the Epson Gloss Optimizer?

It would be better to having an Auto Option which lays the Clear Coating just on the White Areas. It would deliver even Glossiness and save ink.

-- Jimmy Duney

(Read Dave's interview with Katsuichi Shimizu ( http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2011/11/01/imaging-resource-interview-katsuichi-shimizu-and-michael-duffett-canon ) for a better understanding of what the optimizer does. This isn't the same thing as polyurethaning the kitchen cabinets. The idea is to flatten the surface so the light rays are reflected in parallel. -- Editor)

RE: Digital ICE

Which is the best slide scanner with Digital Ice for Mac. Or does Digital ICE even work on a Mac. I was looking at the Epson V600 and wondered if that would work well as I have the same story as most others. My Dad has a few thousand slides mainly from the '60s that I want to convert to digital.

-- Janeen Balenovic

(Digital ICE and similar technologies from LaserSoft and VueScan rely on a scanner's ability to do an infrared scan of the original material. So the compatibility requirement is a hardware one: can the scanner do an infrared scan? An infrared scan reveals the physical traits of the emulsion it is scanning. Scratches and dust, appearing as 3D artifacts, are easily distinguished. But there are two emulsions which can not be corrected with this help. They are themselves layered and so appear to be defective in an infrared scan. One is black and white film, where the unexposed areas are washed of silver. And the other is Kodachrome. With those issues in mind, any scanner that can do an infrared scan can support defect removal technology from one company or another. They all do it fairly well. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

DxO (http://www.dxo.com) has released its second point update to Optics Pro since November -- and is offering a 33 percent discount through the end of the month. The new version supports the Canon S100 and Panasonic GF3/GF1/GF2 with 250 camera/lens combinations added since the first of the year.


Metabones and Conurus (http://conurus.com/info/136-breaking-news) have introduced a Smart Adapter that mates a Canon EF mount lens to a Sony NEX camera body. Electronic aperture is controlled by the camera body and all exposure modes are available. Image stabilization (if the lens has it) and Exif are supported, but there is no autofocus.


BrainDistrict (http://www.braindistrict.com) has released its $20 PaintSupreme [LMW] with full layer-based image editing and an intuitive interface to this new drawing, painting and image editing application.


Digital Film Tools (http://www.digitalfilmtools.com) has released Film Stocks, a plug-in that simulates 288 color and black & white still and movie film stocks and "historical photographic processes."


Overmacs (http://overmacs.com) has released its $4.99 PhotoSweeper 1.4.0 [M] a duplicate image finder and image browser with drag-and-drop from Aperture, improved performance for Duplicates Only and improved iPhoto integration.


Rocky Nook (http://www.rockynook.com) has published The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2: The Unofficial Quintessential Guide by Carol Roullard and Brian Matsumoto, covering everything from the camera's basic features to numerous advanced photographic applications. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/193395289X/?tag=theimagingres-20).

The company has also published the second edition of The Art of Black and White Photography by Torsten Andreas Hoffmann, focusing on image composition and image capture, with an emphasis on the creative aspects of black-and-white photography rather than on the digital workflow. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 36 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952962/?tag=theimagingres-20).


The National Press Photographers Association is accepting entries online for its Best of Photojournalism Competitions (http://bop.nppa.org) sponsored by Ohio University, PhotoShelter, Camera Bits and Canon.


Connecticut-based photographer Michael Melford has had his work immortalized on a postage stamp (http://usps.com) depicting Montana's Glacier National Park. The newly-issued 85-cent international price stamp is good for postage up to one ounce to Canada or Mexico.


Tamron (http://tamron.com) recently launched Tips for Taking Photos Indoors, part of its Mom-to-Mom Project. Tamron lenses are featured throughout the exhibit (http://tamron.myphotoexhibits.com/exhibits/5359-tips-for-taking-photos-indoors) including all-in-one zooms, macro, fast zooms and telephoto lenses.


Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $39.95 GraphicConverter 7.6.1 [M] with an option to display the browser preview without the alpha channel, improvements to the highlights and shadows function, an update for dcraw, reduced memory use and more.


Akvis (http://akvis.com) has released its $39 Refocus 1.5 [MW] with support for Raw and DNG files, new presets, improved compatibility with Lion and more.


NASA's March to the Moon image gallery (http://tothemoon.ser.asu.edu/gallery/gemini) now includes shots from the Gemini missions. The archive contains the first high-resolution digital scans of the original Gemini flight films, now available in several formats.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 9.0.76 [LMW] with improved automatic color balance using memory colors.


Dave remembers Sigma founder and CEO Michihiro Yamaki (http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2012/01/27/industry-leader-michihiro-yamaki-of-sigma-corporation-dies), who has passed away at the age of 78.

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One Liners

For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

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

PhotoRescue: http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

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:

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Happy snapping!

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

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