The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 14, Number 3 10 February 2012

Copyright 2012, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 325th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We've got two previews, one for Nikon's 36-Mp D800 dSLR and the other for a Micro Four Thirds OM from Olympus. Then we show you how to keep your ultracompact standing before begging (politely) for your Oscar Nominations for yet another entirely new category this year.


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 I G M A

Go Splash Proof and Stabilized
With Sigma Lenses!

Sigma introduces three new compact and splash-proof lenses:

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

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

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

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?sy6


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: Nikon D800 Hands-On Preview

By SHAWN BARNETT, MIKE TOMKINS and DAVE ETCHELLS
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/nikon-d800/nikon-d800A.HTM on the Web site.)

Three and a half years after introducing the D700, Nikon has unveiled the long-awaited D800. While it's still full frame, the new dSLR brings three times the resolution of its predecessor with its 36.3-megapixel sensor. That's more than any other 35mm-size dSLR currently on the market and sets the D800 apart from the company's recently announced professional dSLR, the Nikon D4. The D3 shared the same resolution as the D700, but the two lines have taken new directions.

Native ISO ranges from 100 to 6,400, but is expandable from 50 to 25,600. Whereas the D700 had no movie features at all, the D800 has the most current, offering Full HD 1080p at 30/24p and 720p at 60/30p. It even allows uncompressed 1080p signal via the HDMI port (8 bit, 4:2:2).

Nikon will offer another model, the D800E, a camera designed to remove the effects of the optical low-pass filter for sharper images than normal. This camera, Nikon warns, will also be more susceptible to producing moire patterns in images with repeating patterns.

Sitting down and playing with the Nikon D800 brought back memories of the D700. The Viewfinder is gorgeous, thanks to its 100 percent coverage and Brite View Mark VIII focusing screen. Putting the Nikon into 3D Tracking mode, it was really something to put the center point on a subject, then recompose and watch as the AF points stayed right on the subject.

SENSOR

The Nikon D800 is based around a newly-developed FX-format CMOS image sensor with an effective resolution of 36.3-Mp, a huge step upwards from the 12.1-Mp chips used in the earlier D700 model.

In the sensor's native 3:2 aspect ratio, the Nikon D800 outputs images at resolutions up to 7360x4912 pixels. There are also two cropped 3:2 aspect ratio modes which yield an effective 1.2x or 1.5x (the DX format) focal length crop and a 5:4 aspect ratio mode which uses the full height of the image sensor but trims the sides.

In all modes, there are three resolution options available. In 3:2 aspect ratio, medium resolution equates to 20.3 megapixels and even the lowest-resolution mode works out to about 9.0 megapixels -- surprisingly close to the full resolution of the D700.

ANTI-ALIASING

Like almost all Bayer-filtered cameras, the Nikon D800 includes an optical Low-Pass Filter sandwich of two filters just above the sensor. The LPF blurs incoming light just slightly, by a pixel or less, preventing aliasing patterns such as moire and jaggies. Unfortunately, this LPF also knocks out some subtle image detail, reducing sharpness. In some landscapes or studio work, moire is either less of an issue or its effects can be taken into account by the photographer. If you're always shooting in these circumstances, the blurring is merely reducing image detail for no good reason. So some photographers remove the low-pass filter -- not a job for the faint of heart -- or pay to have somebody else do it for them.

Nikon has acknowledged photographers desire for the maximum resolution by offering two versions of the D800. The standard Nikon D800 includes a low-pass filter appropriate to the camera's resolution, while a more limited-edition Nikon D800E variant replaces the standard Low-Pass Filter with a null LPF filter, increasing image resolution. Nikon's approach in this is interesting and has been the subject of some confusion.

First of all, the D800E does still use a LPF, but Nikon has used the second layer of the LPF to undo the effects of the first, creating a null LPF filter.

LPFs use two filters made of birefringent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birefringent) materials to produce a slight doubling of the image in two directions. The first filter splits and shifts the image microscopically in the horizontal direction, while the second filter does the same in the vertical direction. This results in four copies of the image slightly offset (less than a pixel to avoid moire and jaggies) for each other on the sensor surface.

In the D800E, Nikon has moved the vertical filter to the first position and introduced an inverse of it as the second filter. Light takes the same optical path through the D800E's LPF as in the D800' LPF, but the effects of the first D800E's first filter are reversed by the second filter. If the characteristics of the two filters are exactly opposite each other, the net result is the same as if there were no filter at all.

We understand that the Nikon D800E will still attempt to detect and remove moire in firmware before Raw processing, so even Raw files will not show moire. Nikon will also be providing a color moire correction tool in its Capture NX2 imaging suite.

Why go to all this trouble? Why not just eliminate the LPF altogether like a third-party LPF chop-shop?

We've asked Nikon that question, but the answer hasn't made its way back from Japan yet. We can speculate, though, that removing the LPF elements almost certainly changes the optics of the light path. For instance, while the birefringent materials refract light differently depending on its polarization angle, both polarizations of light are refracted to some extent. Removing the LPFs entirely would thus change the light path, introducing undesired consequences. By using an inverse filter to undo the effects of the first filter, the light refraction will be the same as in the standard D800, minus only the image-shifting caused by the normal LPF sandwich.

This also addresses the question why the D800E is slightly more expensive than the standard D800. It's not just a matter of not including the LPF, but rather that a null LPF is required. The null As a lower-volume component, the null LPF will cost more. It's also possible the null LPF elements need to be more carefully screened and selected, so their image shifts will precisely cancel. Finally, the D800E requires a disruption of the normal production line, with cameras being pulled out for special treatment and then re-inserted. Modified units also need to be tested separately, to ensure they meet the sharpness specs for the E version. Overall, the $300 increment in the price strikes us as a reasonable charge, given the above.

PROCESSOR

Output from the D800's new image sensor is handled by the company's latest-generation EXPEED 3 image processor, quite a step forward from the EXPEED processors of the D700. Although it's the same brand as the D4's image processor, we understand this refers to the firmware rather than the processors themselves. The processors are apparently different in the two cameras, as you'd expect given their fairly radical variation in pricing and feature set.

Like the D4, the Nikon D800 has 14-bit A/D conversion and a 16-bit imaging pipeline.

PERFORMANCE

The Nikon D800 can capture full-resolution images at up to four frames per second in FX mode. When using the optional MB-D12 battery pack and shooting in the 1.5x cropped DX format, this can be increased to six frames per second. Both figures are down from those of the D700, which was capable of five and eight frames per second respectively.

But when one considers the much higher sensor resolution, it's quite impressive that the figures are even close. The D800 has three times as many pixels as the D700, but the burst shooting rates are only about 20 to 25 percent slower. When shooting with the standard EN-EL15 battery, the DX-format rate falls from six to five frames per second.

Like the D4, the Nikon D800 starts up in approximately 0.12 seconds and has a claimed shutter release lag of 0.042 seconds.

Focusing. The Nikon D800 includes the next-generation version of Nikon's 51-point autofocus module, like the D4 and known as Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX. The new sensor has an improved working range of -2 to +19 EV (ISO 100, 20 degrees C or 68 degrees F) and an array of 51 focusing points.

It's also possible to select single-point, 9-point or 21-point modes. Thanks to the new color matrix metering sensor, which is also used for scene detection, the D800 is said to offer dramatically improved 3D tracking performance, able to track much smaller subjects with reduced tracking error. Another improvement courtesy of the matrix metering sensor's increased resolution is that the D800 now offers face detection autofocus even when shooting through the viewfinder.

Shutter/Mirror. Shutter speeds range from 1/8000 to 30 seconds, in steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV, as well as a bulb position. Flash X-sync is at 1/250 second for full power and as high as 1/320 second at reduced power without falling back to FP sync. The shutter is rated for 200,000 cycles, half that of the Nikon D4.

Exposure. A new metering sensor with 91,000 pixel resolution, the same as in the Nikon D4, has a working range of 0 to 20 EV in matrix or center-weighted modes and 2 to 20 EV in spot mode.

The 3D Color Matrix Metering III metering mode compares metered scenes to a large 30,000 image in-camera database, before determining exposure variables and it can now take account of the positions of human faces in the image frame even when shooting using the optical viewfinder. (Previously, face detection required use of Live View.)

Other metering modes include center-weighted (which either gives a 75 percent weight to an area of 8, 12, 15 or 20mm at the center of the frame or averages the entire frame) and spot (which meters on a 4mm/1.5 percent circle centered on the selected AF point).

VIDEO

Nikon completely overhauled video for the Nikon D4 and many of those features have made it into the D800. The Nikon D800 can capture Full HD (1080p; 1920x1080 pixel) video at either 24 or 30 frames per second (25 fps for PAL). For 720p (1280x720 pixel) video, a rate of 60 fps is possible (50 fps for PAL). Video can be shot using data from pixels across either the entire width of the image sensor in FX mode or with a 1.5x (DX-format) focal length crop, taking data from the center of the imager, without affecting the video resolution.

The Nikon D800 allows shutter speed, aperture and ISO sensitivity to be controlled manually, as required to adapt to changes in ambient lighting or yield the desired cinematic effect. There's also full-time contrast detection autofocus capability, including face detection and tracking functions, as well as the ability to focus manually. Nikon notes the D800's fast readout has reduced the likelihood of rolling shutter (aka jello effect).

Videos are recorded using H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format compression with B-frame macroblocks and linear PCM audio, a combination that's said to allow more accurate storage with lighter-weight file sizes. Maximum clip length is 29 minutes, 59 seconds when using Normal quality. Although there's a dedicated Movie record button, it's possible to configure the D800 to use the Shutter button to start and stop recording, allowing a greater range of accessories to control recording.

Audio levels for the built-in monaural microphone can be adjusted automatically or manually in a 30-step range, while external stereo mics have a 20-step adjustment range and the levels for either can be monitored on the camera's LCD. Additionally, the Nikon D800 includes a standard 3.5mm stereo audio output, allowing headphones to be connected to the camera for live monitoring of captured audio.

Even more unusually, it's possible to have the live feed piped to the D800's HDMI port as an uncompressed full HD signal, allowing it to be recorded using an external device and/or routed to an external monitor. If desired, this signal can be mirrored on the camera's own LCD at the same time; the off-camera feed doesn't have any overlays added, so as not to impact external recording devices. Note that when streaming to the HDMI port, the D800 doesn't write to the flash card slots, however.

One last video feature of note is the ability to edit movies in-camera, marking them with start or end index points.

CONNECTIVITY

The Nikon D800 offers a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed data connection, a first for a dSLR and something even its pro-oriented sibling the D4 doesn't provide. Other connections include a Type-C mini HDMI high definition video output, a 10-pin remote terminal (also used to attached compatible GPS devices), a 3.5mm stereo microphone jack (with support for plug-in power) and a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack (for monitoring audio during video capture). All the new ports on the side of the Nikon D800 leave no room for the older composite A/V output, however.

STORAGE

Unlike its predecessor, the Nikon D800 has dual card slots and can be configured to write images simultaneously to both cards, write Raws to one card and JPEGs to the other, stills to one card and videos to the other or to use one card as primary and the second as an overflow when the first card is filled up.

Unlike the earlier camera, though, its CompactFlash card support is limited to Type-I cards only (including UDMA-7 cards), with support for Type-II and Microdrive cards dropped. The other slot accepts standard Secure Digital cards, including not only the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, but also the higher-speed UHS-I cards.

The D800 can write either 12-bit or 14-bit Raw images with lossless or lossy compression or completely uncompressed. It can also save images as RGB TIFF files, Baseline-compliant JPEGs at 1:4, 1:8 or 1:16 compression levels or as both Raw and JPEG formats at the same time. It's certified compliant with version 2.0 of the Design rule for Camera File system, version 2.3 of the Exchangeable Image File format, as well as both the Digital Print Order Format and PictBridge printing standards.

POWER

The Nikon D800 draws power from a rechargeable EN-EL15 lithium-ion battery, the same as the Nikon D7000 and V1, rather than the older EN-EL3e pack of its predecessor.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The Nikon D800 is currently slated for late March 2012 delivery for around $3,000. The limited-edition Nikon D800E will follow in mid-April for about $3,300.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Hands-On Preview

By SHAWN BARNETT with MIKE TOMKINS and ZIG WEIDELICH
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/omd-em5/omd-em5A.HTM on the Web site.)

Raising the excitement around its Micro Four Thirds cameras, Olympus has added a new branch to the line with the OM-D E-M5. Once again, Olympus resurrected both the name and appearance of a successful camera line from the company's past to appeal to the sense of nostalgia we're seeing return to the digital camera space.

The new digital camera upgrades the sensor to 16 megapixels and includes a built-in electronic viewfinder, both firsts for an Olympus-badged MFT camera.

Rather than make their camera look like a modern, smooth molded plastic camera, Olympus pulled from its own past, returning to an easily recognizable form. But I can't deny that a flood of analytical thoughts and emotions washed over me when I first set eyes on the OM-D E-M5. Was I impressed or put off? Did they hit the right notes? Is it too similar or not similar enough to the old OM line? Am I overanalyzing and under-appreciating because I'm afraid I'm a little too fond of bringing back the old camera forms?

I have always been an OM fan and have owned several OM cameras over the years. I still have an OM-1, though I haven't loaded film into it for a decade. I was sad when the OM line finally ceased in 2002. They were solid, reliable little SLRs with great optics and a refined personality. The return of the name, if not the mount, is enough to stir a complex of positive and negative emotions in any former fan.

The main question I had was is it worthy of the OM name or is it just window dressing? After spending more time with the E-M5, all I can think is, worthy or not, it just makes sense. If Olympus is to make an EVF Micro Four Thirds camera, it should look like their last SLR, not some odd modern interpretation of a PEN with a bump on top.

What doesn't make sense is the camera's name. OM-D E-M5 is absurdly circumspect. Olympus wants to pay homage to the OM line while pointing out that it's digital, hence the D. Like we didn't know. Yet Olympus wants to keep pointing out it's electronic, hence the E in E-M5. I'd have preferred OM-5 or even OM-5D. We know it's electronic and we know it's digital, so OM-5 would have been simpler, more evocative of the past Olympus is so keen to recapture.

LOOK & FEEL

When I first saw the camera it looked a little strange, rather like a bootleg knock-off version of an OM camera. It more closely resembles one of the consumer OM models, like the OM-10, rather than the more pro versions of the camera, thanks to its wider pentaprism peak.

The OM-D design is reflective of the long Olympus heritage, just as much as the bi-level top deck on the PENs, Canon G-series and Nikon P-series as well. It's design and it's not always functional, but it does function to distinguish the camera.

At first it seems a little bit of a pygmy version of the original OM cameras. It's shorter, slimmer and narrower. It has a slight grip on the front, one with sufficient width, if not depth, for my fingers to get a good purchase. It's bolstered on the back by a large, tacky, hard-rubber ramp that serves as a thumb grip. It's quite nice; warm and smooth, yet grippy.

Even the left side of the camera's front has a good rubber grip, helpful while shooting overhead or looking at pictures after capture. A lens release button has the same shape and location as the PEN cameras, while the original OM system had the release button on the lens itself. The red lens mount alignment dot is still in the same position as the old OM cameras. An AF-assist lamp peeks out above the lens release button. The OM-D line also uses D-rings for the camera strap.

The weather-sealed 12-50mm lens covers a range from 24-100mm equivalent and includes a unique zoom mechanism. The mechanism is a momentary switch zooming the lens electronically with a twist of about 3mm left or right. I far prefer this to a single toggle on the left of the lens, as is found on Panasonic's X-series lenses. It is more intuitive, but not as fast as a mechanical zoom. Pull back on the zoom ring and it becomes a mechanical zoom control. Excellent. It's so cool that Olympus is designing interesting lenses with controls for real photographers. The motorized zoom is thus primarily for smooth zooming while shooting video. The only disadvantage is that the push/pull ring is easy to change accidentally.

The left side of the EVF housing has a Mode dial, while the right side has two unique dials. In Manual mode, the Rear dial adjusts shutter speed while the front adjusts aperture. In the center of the front dial we find the Shutter release button. The Shutter release button is spongy through the half-press, then firms up significantly for the final break. Just right of that is the new Curves button. Using the two dials on the top deck, you can adjust the onscreen curve for Shadows and Highlights and see the results in the onscreen preview. Just behind that is the Movie Record button.

The OLED monitor tilts vertically, up 90 degrees and down 45 degrees. The EVF is even more fun, sporting 1.44 million dots. It's similar to the VF-2 accessory finder, but with a different optical formula, according to Olympus, that allows for better visibility, with a 1.15x magnification and 18mm eyepoint relief.

SENSOR & PROCESSOR

At the heart of the Olympus E-M5 lies a new 16.1-megapixel Live MOS image sensor, whose output is handled by a TruePic VI image processor, the same as in the E-P3. The E-M5's imager has a 4:3 aspect ratio and allows capture of still images at a maximum resolution of 4608x3456 pixels. Raw images are 12-bit and stored using lossless compression.

Olympus claims the new image sensor provides not only higher resolution than earlier Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras, but also both higher dynamic range and lower noise. Total pixel count of the new Live MOS chip is 16.9 megapixels.

PERFORMANCE

The Olympus E-M5 improves on the already-swift autofocusing system of its predecessor, the E-P3. As in that camera, it uses contrast detection autofocusing, branded as "Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology," or "FAST" AF for short. Olympus again claims its new system offers the world's fastest autofocusing, so long as you're shooting with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ lens.

Compared to the E-P3, Olympus achieved the speed improvement by doubling the sensor readout speed again, reaching as high as a stunning 240 frames per second. There's a catch, though: the E-P3 can't read out as many pixel locations as at lower rates so the 240Hz refresh comes at the expense of contrast detection resolution (and hence, autofocus accuracy). For this reason, the E-M5 only uses the 240Hz rate for continuous autofocus and falls back to a slightly slower, but more accurate, 120Hz rate during single autofocus operation. Olympus also claims the increase in refresh rate for continuous AF allows better subject tracking performance.

Although the E-M5 uses contrast detection, it still has fixed autofocus point locations, just like the E-P3. The AF system provides 35-point focusing arranged in a 7x5 array that covers most of the image frame except the extreme edges. Focus modes include All Target (35-area), Group Target (9-area) and Single Target. In magnified frame AF mode, you can zoom to either 5x, 7x, 10x or 14x, allowing much finer-grained point positioning, with over 800 different focus point locations possible.

Face detection up to 8 faces is supported, as well as Eye detection with options for Nearer-eye priority, Right-eye priority or Left-eye priority. An AF illuminator is also provided to assist in low-light conditions. Focus servo modes include Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual Focus, S-AF + MF and AF tracking.

VIEWFINDER

One of the defining features of the E-M5 is its built-in viewfinder. It's quite similar to the VF-2 electronic viewfinder accessory for past PEN-series models, but we understand that it's a new optical design. Resolution is 1,440,000 dots, equating to approximately 480,000 pixels. That's an SVGA array of 800x600 pixels, with each pixel comprised of separate red, green and blue dots.

The E-M5 viewfinder has a 100 percent field of view with 1.15x magnification. Eyepoint is 18mm and the viewfinder's refresh rate is 120Hz. There's a diopter adjustment dial to the left of the eyepiece with a range of -4 to +2m-1 and the eyecup is removable. An infrared eye sensor automatically switches between the EVF and OLED monitor.

IMAGE STABILIZATION

The new image stabilization mechanism is dramatically different from the past design. The old design moved in only two planes and was a much larger mechanism, but the new design floats inside the camera and can compensate along five axes: yaw, pitch, vertical motion, horizontal motion and roll. Olympus says it's capable of up to five stops of correction.

VIDEO

Video recording is possible at resolutions up to 1920x1080 pixels (commonly known as Full HD or 1,080i), with a rate of 60 interlaced fields per second from 30 frames per second sensor output. Like earlier models, videos are saved using MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, however they are now saved in a MOV container and in the same location as still images. Two bit rates are available: either 20 Mbps or 17 Mbps and the maximum recording time is about 22 minutes for the former or 29 minutes for the latter.

At 1280x720 pixels, HD videos can be saved in either MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format with a rate of 60 interlaced fields per second at 13 Mbps or 10 Mbps or in Motion JPEG AVI format at 30 fps. Finally, 640x480 pixel (VGA standard definition) video is saved as Motion JPEG AVIs at 30 fps. The maximum file size for MOV clips is 4-GB, while AVI files are limited to 2-GB. At all resolutions, videos include 16-bit, 48kHz stereo linear PCM audio.

Like the PEN-series, the E-M5 offers a full set of exposure modes during movie recording: Program AE, Aperture-priority AE, Shutter-priority AE and Manual exposure are all supported, as well as Art Filter. In Shutter-priority and Manual modes, shutter speed is limited to less than 1/30 second. AE Lock is also supported.

Compared to the PEN-series cameras, the E-M5 is said to have better movie processing and much lower levels of rolling shutter achieved simply by increasing the readout speed. We're also told to expect fewer jaggies along straight edges.

A perhaps more significant improvement over the PEN-series (at least on paper) is sensor-shift image stabilization is now supported when recording movies. This should result in much more effective video stabilization compared to the digital IS system used in the latest PENs.

The new Movie Echo function allows you to momentarily freeze the image during video capture, after which the frozen image will "fade away" into the continuing video feed. Two modes are available: One Shot Echo (which only freezes a single frame) and Multi Echo (which continues to freeze frames at set intervals.)

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The Olympus E-M5 in either black or silver will retail for around $1,000 for the body only from April 2012. There will also be two kits including lenses. The black version of the E-M5 body and M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R lens will cost about $1,100. Alternatively, a black version of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ lens will be available with either the black or silver E-M5 body for $1,300.

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:

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: A Cure for the Flopsies

You know the problem. Your ultracompact digicam that slips as easily into your jeans as a smartphone is just too thin to stand on its own. Sure, you can put it down on a table but the minute a waiter goes by it wobbles and falls over.

So you improvise. You lay it on its back like a phone. But that can smear its 3.0-inch LCD with whatever puddle of gunk oozed there first. Or even scratch it. There's no Gorilla glass going on there.

Or you put it on its face, which can make a mess of its prettier side or dirty the lens cover or the lens itself.

Worse still, you just leave it in your jeans.

Even if you think you've solved the problem of the Flopsies with some unique engineering approach, it probably doesn't fly when you want to do a group shot in the wind at the top of some scenic hill with the self-timer.

We know you've heard about tripods before and we know you are against the idea on ethical grounds. So we won't go there.

It may even comfort you to know that this cure we found isn't our idea. Nope, it was our Brother-in-Law's idea.

He was visiting with his travel ultracam for a few days. He'd put it down on the table or set it up on some rock and it wouldn't fall over.

This began to grate on us. How could such a thin little camera stay upright in 30 mph winds? Or when Aunty Booty, as the kids call her, accidentally careened into the dining room table on her way to embrace him?

The trick, we learned when we asked, was something he learned on the high school football team, where he managed to get himself awarded the Most Improved Player award twice without playing four years. He called it the Three Point Stance.

The problem with a thin ultracompact is that it pretends to have four little feet on the ground but, practically speaking, the pairs are too close together. In effect, you have a two-point stance. And anyone who's had the champagne brunch with visiting relatives can tell you that isn't very stable in high winds.

So how did he get a two-pointer into a three-pointer?

We'd noticed his camera wasn't quite horizontal. When we asked, he pointed to a small device screwed into the tripod socket on the end of his camera.

It was the tripod connector from a Gorillapod.

Gorillapod (http://joby.com/gorillapod) is that very small, flexible tripod made of interlocking balls with rubberized rings that can be wrapped around anything. They're affordable too, the original model going for about $20.

What isn't clear if you don't own one is that the screw that attaches the Gorillapod to your camera actually is a built into a quick release plate. A very small one. With a twist to a small dial under the top of the tripod and a push of a big release button, the plate slips off the Gorillapod while remaining attached to your camera. So you can easily attach the camera to the tripod or quickly remove it.

Brother-in-Law just leaves it in. And it's wide enough to provide three-point stability for his little camera even on a windy hill top.

Being even cheaper than him, we stayed up late one night trying to figure out how to make one. It seemed to us that all you need is a short, nine-cent, quarter-inch/20-thread bolt, as we pointed out in our Feb. 23, 2001 article "Rock Steady Without a Tripod." And something with a quarter-inch hole punched in it to provide legs. Curved enough so the head of the bolt doesn't hit the ground.

Which can quickly turn into a lot more work than spending $20 for a Gorillapod. But to each their own torture.

So outright prolonged applause for our Brother-in-Law's cure for the Flopsies. It isn't the smartest thing he ever did (marrying Sister-in-Law easily outranks it) but it is clever.

Return to Topics.

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 about Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.ee92fbe

Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8

Read about the IR 2011 Travel Zoom Shootout at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeb75db

Read about Canon lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=4

Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Time for Your 2012 Oscar Nominations!

Every subscriber (this means you) to this exclusive if effusive publication automatically is, according to the bylaws, enrolled at no charge in the Ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences.

And every year at this time, the Board of Directors (that would be us) solicits your nomination for our famous if fictional Academy's Missing Oscar.

You may recall the Missing Oscar as the one stolen Oscar of several years ago (http://articles.latimes.com/2000/oct/17/local/me-37786) that has never been retrieved. Every year we try to give it away on the theory that you can't lose what you don't have.

Past awards honored Best Slide Show Software, Best Photo Web Site, Best Shareware, Best Input Device, Best Digital Photography Book, Best Photo Gadget, Best Camera Bag, Best 4x6 Jumbo Print, Best Inkjet Printer, Best Online Photo Sharing Service, Best Monitor and Best External Flash. With only one missing Oscar, we change the category each time we present the award to make the rounds of exciting innovation in this industry.

This year the award will honor the Best Photography Blog.

We highlighted Mike Johnston's "The Online Photographer" (http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com) in our July 16, 2010 issue and have mentioned Derrick Story's "The Digital Story" (http://www.thedigitalstory.com) and Kirk Tuck's "The Visual Science Lab" (http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com) but there are a slew of others we follow.

How about you?

Just send us the link to the blog you want to nominate (or vote for) with a word or two of praise. Remember, the more words you use, the less hard we have to work the week we announce the winner.

The winner will enjoy the Public Notoriety of the Ersatz Academy's Missing Oscar. Without the need to dress expensively (or at all). And, in further defiance of the regular Oscars, acceptance speeches will not be interrupted by live music at our virtual awards ceremony. Or any other kind of music.

To submit your nomination, email your testimonial with the subject "Oscar Nomination" to editor@imaging-resource.com before our next issue. We thank you and the Academy thanks you.

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

Support this Publication!

Visit the IR PriceGrabber Page twice a year!

Support this Publication!

Visit Amazon from this link!

Return to Topics.

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: Model Releases

I have a non-technical question. When is a model release required? I heard on a Boston radio station this morning about a new Web site similar to Facebook that encourages subway passengers to photograph other riders and post the images on their site.

There's some controversy over whether on not the T (Bostonian's name for the subway) should do something about this practice. My thought is that the Web site that publishes these photos needs model releases from all recognizable persons or face the possibility of civil law suits. I know that anyone can just take photos in public places, but publishing those photos is another matter unless they are news photos.

I looked this up on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_release and their short article appears to agree with me. While I have no intention of photographing subway riders, let alone publishing those images, I am curious about the ramifications of doing that. What are your thoughts?

I have been enjoying your news letter and Web site since the days of the Nikon Coolpix 950 which I still own but rarely use anymore. As I recall, I paid around $800 for that camera (at 2-Mp). My, what I can get for that money now.

-- Dave Williams

(Ah, the 950. We have a 900 and 990, the latter still useful for some product photography. Good thing products can't sue. As far as model release requirements go, there are a lot of tests. Does a person have a reasonable expectation of privacy on the T? Is the image for editorial use (that would include news photos)? Is the image something that might end up as stock photography? The Boston T Crush site (http://bostontcrush.com/) you mention claims, "the aim of our site is in no way to infringe on people's personal right to privacy [and] instead celebrates the attractiveness of passengers in an artistic expression" and provides a photo removal request form. For more on this subject, see http://asmp.org/tutorials/property-and-model-releases.html. -- Editor)

RE: SilverFast 8

I appreciate your Web site and the information on it. It has helped me make decisions on several purchases but I am wondering if you report problems as well as the attributes of products?

Case in point is the Silverfast software. The new Ai Studio 8 is very buggy. Tech support from Silverfast has a lot to be desired. Hopefully there will be an update addressing many of the issues that I have found.

-- Jeff Buchin

(The reason you haven't seen a review of SilverFast 8 yet is because we have, in fact, had some problems with it, as we mentioned in the Letters column a while ago. We've just installed release 5 for the CanoScan 9000F so we'll be retesting it to see if our issues have been resolved. Meanwhile be sure to use the company's support options (http://www.silverfast.com/show/support-start/en.html) to report problems. -- Editor)

RE: Shooting From the Sidelines

Your newsletter is an enduring jewel, especially your piece on Woodman and birthdays in your last issue. I have been a subscriber and donor for many years.

I have a Canon Rebel T1i. I use a Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS USM for distance. When I photograph my grandchildren playing lacrosse/soccer/football I cannot get in real close even standing on the sidelines.

Some of my fellow photographers use telephoto lenses the size of artillery shells and get close. I researched some of these large lenses and they are beyond my budget.

Friends have suggested Canon T1i teleconverter that appear to get me closer at a price that I can afford. However research is scant. What is your opinion of teleconverters and do you have any other recommendations?

-- Charles Cunis

(Andrew reported on four Canon extenders in October (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/index.php) and compared them (http://www.slrgear.com/articles/canon_tc/canon_tc.htm), too.... Scott Kelby (http://scottkelby.com/) often discusses shooting college and pro games from the sidelines. And Derrick Story (http://www.thedigitalstory.com/) shoots pro basketball from the rafters at the Oakland Coliseum. Scott uses a dSLR (and a monopod) while Derrick sneaks a m4/3 camera in with a long lens.... But there's more than one way to fry a fish. Our own approach (which works with a dSLR or a digicam) is to crop the image. Let's do some math. Your Canon has a maximum file size of 4752x3168 pixels. At 200 dpi, you can make a 23x15 print (if you had a printer that size). To make a 5x7 at 200 dpi, you only need 1400x1000. An 8x10 needs 2000x1600. Go back to your existing shots and try cropping at those sizes to see if that gets you what you want. In fact, though, 200 is generous. We tend to feed the printer about 150 dpi. That gets you an 8x10 with 1500x1200. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has announced it plans to phase out its digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames in the first half of this year. It will instead expand its current brand licensing program, seeking licensees in these categories. Kodak's consumer business division will focus on online and retail-based photo printing, as well as desktop inkjet printing. The company promised to honor product warranties and provide technical support and service for its cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames.


Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com) has announced four new PowerShot digicams: the WiFi enabled ELPH 530 HS ($349.99) and ELPH 320 HS ($279.99); the 20x zoom (25mm to 500mm) SX260 HS ($349.99); and the waterproof, shock-proof and freeze-proof D20 ($349.99).

The company also announced three Pixma office printers: the MX512 Wireless All-In-One ($149.99), MX432 Wireless AIO ($99.99) and the MX372 AIO ($79.99). The first two include AirPrint for wireless printing from iOS devices.

Finally, Canon announced its 2012 lineup of Canon Live Learning workshops in the U.S., which include access to the latest Canon equipment. Visit http://usa.canon.com/canonlivelearning for the full schedule.


Sigma has opened a refurb store: http://www.sigmaphoto.com/sigma-outlet-shop?sCID=0&sCSID=2#


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has been releasing sneak peeks at Photoshop CS6. Camera Raw with Lightroom 4 controls, background Save, faster Liquify and more. You can find the videos on John Nack's blog (http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2012/).


Nevercenter (http://nevercenter.com) has announced its CameraBag 2 [MW] image editor featuring non-destructive editing with a 32-bits/channel multi-threaded engine, layers, over 100 styles and filters, 25 editing tools including curve editors, Raw image support, a Remix slider for transitioning between variations and more.


Lensbaby (http://www.lensbaby.com) has announced new Macro Converters for its lens bodies and optics. The new $50 set includes one 8mm converter and one 16mm converter, which can also be stacked together to make a 24mm converter. They can be used with the existing Macro Kit's +4 and +10 macro filters.


Rocky Nook (http://www.rockynook.com) has published the second edition of its $44.95 Architectural Photography by Adrian Schulz. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 39 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952881/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Lemke Software (http://www.xe847.com) has released its first versions of Xe847, recently acquired from Digital Arts. Available as a $39.95 Photoshop CS5 plug-in or a $14.95 GraphicConverter plug-in, Xe847 reduces color-shifts; corrects contrast, brightness, gamma and gradation curves; applies global and selective color corrections; and improves blue sky, foliage and skin-tones.


BeLight Software (http://www.belightsoft.com) has released Image Tricks Pro 3.5 [M] with over 100 photo frames, 65 vector borders, 40 masks, interface updates, eight new image filters for Lion and a View menu option and keyboard shortcut to view at actual size.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 9.0.79 [LMW] with support for Epson Workforce DS-30 and fixes for Epson V500/V600, some HP printer/scanners and some Plustek scanners at 7200 dpi.


Prosoft Engineering (http://www.prosofteng.com) has released its $9.99 Photo Transformer on the Mac App Store "to categorize your photos by type, date or size."


MacInTouch has posted an ongoing discussion comparing analog to digital photography workflows (http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/photography) in which some old memories get stirred.

Return to Topics.

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

Return to Topics.

Signoff

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

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/news
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

Happy snapping!

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

Go to Imaging Resource Home | News | Tips | Digital Camera Index | Scanner Index