The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 14, Number 6 23 March 2012

Copyright 2012, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 328th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Hope you're sitting down. We preview the Photoshop public beta, discuss the 41-Mp Nokia smart phone, report our experience with the Fujifilm white disc issue, reveal our new wrist strap and make an "inspired" print. Something for everyone!


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

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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),
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  • 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.


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: Photoshop CS6 Beta Unveiled

(Excerpted from the illustrated preview posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/adobe-photoshop-cs6-beta/index.htm on the Web site.)

In its 22 year existence, Photoshop has never been offered as a public beta. But after the success of the Lightroom public betas, Adobe is releasing Photoshop CS6 beta to the public.

The new version features 62 percent more new features than the previous version, over 64 user-inspired enhancements and the new Adobe Mercury graphics engine to rev up performance, the company told us during a recent briefing. Zorana Gee, Photoshop product manager, said that while the CS5 release was all about converting to a 64-bit architecture and tapping into the GPU pipeline, this release is a much deeper one, focused on features.

Available as a free download from Adobe Labs, the beta period is expected to continue through the first half of the year.

Gee said the beta is based on Photoshop CS6 Extended with features like 3D editing and quantitative image analysis.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

System requirements have been bumped up a bit with 32-bit support dropped on Mac OS.

Basic requirements include:

Mac-specific requirements add:

Windows-specific requirements add:

INSTALLATION

After downloading, Photoshop CS6 requires a one-time login with an Adobe ID to activate the product, which you can create at that time if you don't have one.

With CS6, Adobe will be associating serial numbers with Adobe IDs rather than the computers the software is installed on. So there's no activation/deactivation dance when you want to move your software to a different machine.

Activation with an Adobe ID will have other benefits, according to the company. Those will include access to Adobe Creative Cloud and the Adobe.com community.

The company said it will also provide a 7-day offline option and contingencies for non-connected customers. According to Adobe, here's how those two scenarios play out:

Regarding the install process at activation, Adobe provides two options depending on whether your computer is temporarily offline or permanently offline:

Temporarily Offline. All CS6 customers will be provided a 7-day grace period after first launch of their product to connect to the Internet.

Permanently Offline. These customers will need to complete an Offline Activation process using an Internet-enabled device, also within seven days of the first launch. But the offline exception process is not supported for beta products.

If you do one offline exception, you have one more machine on which you can install. If you would like to install on two other machines, then you 1) connect the offline machine to the Internet and deactivate the software and 2) install the software on the other two machines using the serial number, either while online or going through the offline process.

FEATURES

Among the highlights of the public beta are:

Mercury Graphics Engine. Mercury was fast, among the gods. And Adobe expects the new graphics engine named after him to maintain the reputation. The company claims tools like Liquify, Puppet Warp, Transform and Lighting Effects now show results in real time without progress bars or lag between brush movement and display of the brush effect. "No tiling," Gee said. "It just happens."

Nvidia's CUDA is not required (or even used) but the more video RAM the better. The engine in Photoshop supports more GPU cards than Premiere.

Adobe Camera Raw 7. The basic tool improvements seen in Lightroom 4, as well as the new imaging engine, are now available in Photoshop with localized corrections improved as well. We found shadow and highlight control to be greatly enhanced in Lightroom 4 and are relieved to see the new engine appear in ACR 7, which can be downloaded from Adobe Labs for use with CS5, too.

Gee showed an iPhone image processed in ACR 7 to bring out shadow detail and highlight color. There are also about double the local corrections you can make.

User Interface Remodeled. The user interface gets a coat of darker paint from the usual neutral gray, although you can select among four different grays. The darker background puts the central focus on the image instead of the user interface, Gee said.

In addition, the user interface police have patrolled the handles, fonts and buttons to enforce a more consistent appearance.

Performance Improvements. You can now save in the background and tap into auto recovery with background save. This makes working with large files more convenient because you don't have to interrupt your work to save a large amount of data.

Rich Cursor Information. You can display more information (like coordinates) along with the cursor now.

Design Enhancements. Vector layers are new so vectors can now have adjustment layers. Dashed or dotted lines are a breeze now, too.

And you can now search layers by kind or attribute, too. Find adjustment layers, type layers, vector layers. You can also search by attribute like visibility (so you can delete all the invisible layers easily).

Photo Enhancements. Customer feedback was "huge" in designing features in this release, Gee said, particularly for image editing. Auto Levels and Auto Curves are "very popular" tools, Gee said, even if most of us don't, uh, admit it. Auto is "much much smarter," she said, analyzing the image according to a database to determine the type of image before optimizing it. Adobe has enhanced both Auto Levels and Auto Curves by skipping per channel optimizations in favor of these database optimizations.

There are also three new blurs: tilt-shift (miniature effect), iris field with a Nik-like interface that lets you set a sharp center for the blur and control the extent of the effect. But you can also add more than one blur effect to an image, which is photographically impossible, Gee pointed out.

Content-Aware Enhancements. Content-Aware technology has been extended to the Patch and Move tools.

With Content-Aware Patch, you can target the area you want Content-Aware Fill to use so it won't pull in extraneous colors or objects.

With Content-Aware Move you can select an object in your image and move it to another part of the image seamlessly. Well, pretty seamlessly. More seamlessly than in CS5, anyway.

Video. Video has been in Photoshop for a while but as a keyframe After-Effects method. But a lot of people prefer a timeline approach for slide shows and simpler video projects that don't merit Premiere or Elements. Adobe realizes we all have a lot of video clips we aren't doing anything with and CS6 aims to help.

AME support means Photoshop can read all sorts of video formats. Clips can be plopped on the timeline as a layer. It's easy to add more clips or stills to the movie timeline on their own layers. Transitions, pan and zoom on stills are all available.

And so are Photoshop's layer tools (adjustment layers), lens corrections and the type tool for titles, a first for video in Photoshop. Oh and audio tracks, too, of course, although Gee described them as "bare bones."

A 3D Color Lookup Table adjustment layer has also been added to combine all corrections in just one layer, providing a particular look or style for the video.

And the Mercury Graphics Engine renders on export very quickly.

JDI improvements. There are 65 Just Do It fixes in the beta that range from increasing the maximum brush size to 5,000 pixels (from 1,500) with onscreen resizing on the fly to reading common stereo image pair formats to locking multiple layers. Here's the whole list (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/adobe-photoshop-cs6-beta/Photoshop%20CS6%20JDI.pdf).

While the Mac version does support Lion's full screen mode, it does not support Lion's Save/Versioning feature. Gee said it really isn't compatible with how people use the program, especially when using layers with large files so the team devised its own approach.

CONCLUSION

We find the improvements significant, particularly in harnessing the hardware advances of the last couple of years with the new graphics engine and the update to Camera Raw.

Those are the big things but the small things like rich cursor information are the things you miss when you go back a version. Even the darker interface color scheme with the numerous user interface tweaks makes life in Photoshop more pleasant and productive.

But the beauty of a public beta is that you can draw your own conclusion. That's true if your copy of Photoshop is a few revisions old or even if you've never tried it before.

Be sure to let Adobe know what you think by submitting your feedback and keeping up on the beta via these avenues:

Return to Topics.

Feature: The Nokia 808 PureView -- Making Megapixels Zoom

(Excerpted from the illustrated story posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2012/03/14/the-nokia-808-pureview-making-megapixels-zoom on the Web site.)

That buzz you've been hearing isn't a swarm of early spring bees. It's the discussion about Nokia's 808 PureView smart phone, the one with a 41-Mp sensor tucked inside.

That's bigger than the 36.3-Mp sensor in the Nikon D800.

A week ago Damian Dinning, the head of imaging experience for Nokia smart devices, explained the concept in an article (http://conversations.nokia.com/2012/03/07/the-story-behind-the-nokia-808-pureview/) on the Nokia 808. He was there at the birth.

It isn't about the megapixels, he argued, explaining "the innovation and news is not the number of pixels but rather how those pixels are used."

HOW TO ZOOM

The team, Dinning said, was working on "imaging rich" phones that would include optical zoom. Mobile phone screen sizes were getting bigger and customers were demanding better image quality from their phones, factors which pushed the limits of optical zoom design.

The team nearly brought to market a device that used folded optics to zoom (like many ultracompact digicams) but scuttled the project due to the size of the camera module and its performance.

"It became clear to us that if we were ever to meet the increasing expectations and evolving market dynamics we were going to need to find a new direction in imaging," Dinning said.

As the team developed different optical zoom modules, they ran into significant problems: "performance in low light; image sharpness at both ends of the zoom range; audible noise problems; slow zooming speed and lost focus when zooming during video."

To use optical zoom, "you'd need to accept a bigger, more expensive device with poor f no., a small and noisy image sensor and lower optical resolution just to be able to zoom." Not good.

OPTICAL OUT

Then came the key discovery, inspired by the company's understanding of how to integrate large image sensors into small camera modules. The trick was to "use a sensor with somewhat higher resolution than needed at the time but output a lower resolution image than the sensor input resolution, possibly adding some upscaling/interpolation to provide a meaningful enough zoom range."

In short, they abandoned the idea of using optical zoom in favor of, well, digital zoom.

Time out.

TWO KINDS OF DIGITAL ZOOM

In the camera world we inhabit, digital zoom is not held in very high regard. But there are two variants of the concept.

In the common variant, a crop of the sensor is upsampled to the same image dimensions as a non-digital zoom image would be. If, for example, you have a 2000x3000 sensor and take a 1000x1500-pixel crop in digital zoom mode (to zoom in on the scene), the camera would interpolate that back up to 2000x3000 so it would be the same size as all your other images.

As sensors became larger, however, the upsampling became optional. In this variant of digital zoom -- often tagged Smart or Intelligent -- the crop simply isn't upsampled. So your 16-Mp camera takes 10-Mp or 5-Mp images when smart digital zoom is engaged. And that's plenty good enough for prints up to 13x19.

But in the camera world, you'll notice, all of the sensor pixels are normally used except when using digital zoom.

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

Nokia turned this approach on its head by establishing a 5-Mp image size for the 808 PureView and downsampling everything to it. A 5-Mp camera in a smart phone is still pretty cool. On a digicam, not so much.

Why would they downsample everything?

Downsampling "could create an output image with excellent low light performance, excellent optical performance as well as maintaining a low f no," Dinning explained. "Instead of trade-offs, there would be significant benefits, especially at the wide range of the zoom. As an additional benefit the file sizes would be small due to low noise whilst the level of detail would be way beyond anything seen before thanks to the pixel oversampling."

So by pixel binning -- as some digicams do in low light Scene modes that save smaller image sizes -- you gain some imaging chops. You can zoom. Noise is averaged out. And the file size is kept low enough to fire off to Flickr or FaceBook, etc.

There is an option to save the 41-Mp image in the 808 PureView (and zoom later in-camera), Dinning noted, but in typical use, you would be recording 5-Mp images.

Dave did a little math to explain the 41-Mp sensor size. "Zoom is linear, while pixels vary as an area or the square of the magnification. So 3x zoom = 9x the number of pixels. 3x wider and 3x taller: 41/9 = 4.56, so they're actually pushing it slightly to come up with a full 5 megapixels."

If Nokia were a camera company instead of a phone company, they would be marketing a 41-Mp camera featuring 3x smart digital zoom at a 5-Mp image size. But as a phone company, they're selling a 5-Mp smart phone with 3x zoom and great low light performance.

Nokia has posted some Nokia808 PureView images (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nokiaofficial/sets/72157629100338650/) on Flickr. Several image sizes are available for each image, including the 7728x4354 original and 1024x577 downsampled image. We printed a full resolution image on 13x19 Moab Slickrok Metallic Pearl and are pretty sure nobody is going to believe it came from a smart phone.

The company has also posted a white paper (http://europe.nokia.com/PRODUCT_METADATA_0/Products/Phones/8000-series/808/Nokia808PureView_Whitepaper.pdf) on its PureView imaging technology.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Fujifilm Addresses White Disc Problem

The Fujifilm X10 and X-S1 have become famous for one specific image quality issue: the so-called "white orbs" problem. These are circular white artifacts that seem to explode from bright highlights in an image shot at low ISO sensitivity.

We recently completed a shooter's report on the X10 and had the X-S1 here for a couple of days, so we got pretty familiar with the issue.

DISCS NOT ORBS

"Orbs" have a, ahem, long shadow in digital photography. The term usually refers to digicam flash shots of dust particles in which dust near the lens reflects the flash back to the sensor. It's also common in underwater photography where the water isn't as clear as the air.

The X10 white spots really don't resemble that phenomenon. There's nothing three dimensional about them. They're just white circles in the image, although sometimes they are alarmingly large ones. We'll refer to them as white circles or discs, as Fujifilm calls them, rather than orbs.

The X10 arrived here for review shortly before Fujifilm released a firmware update that, in part, attempted to deal with the problem. So we weren't aware of the issue until the firmware update brought it to our attention.

We had taken some photos with the X10 by then but we'd never noticed the problem.

BINGO

One day, after applying the update, we were shooting west in the afternoon, in fact, at the Palace of Fine Arts, the lagoon at our feet on a bright sunny day. The images looked good on the X10's LCD but when we reviewed them on our monitor, we saw big white dots surrounded by smaller dots floating on the lagoon's surface near us in a couple of images. There were perhaps a dozen of them in each image.

The shot was taken at ISO 100, f4.5 and 1/350 second.

The next morning, we tried to duplicate the problem by photographing a glass carafe of water and a wine glass with the sun directly behind them with light rays falling directly into the lens. A knife blade glinted in the sun as well. Plenty of specular highlights. But no white circles.

Miffed, we tried a different shot in the afternoon. This time it was a small window of diffused glass facing west. We got the white circles in EXR mode just where the glare of sun on the glass transitioned to the glass pattern. Then we tried Aperture Priority, going through a few apertures and again got the white discs.

We had a Nikon AW100 handy, so we took the shot with that camera too and noticed small white discs in that shot as well. But they were much smaller (negligible, really) and much fewer. But they were round. If we hadn't been looking for them, we wouldn't have noticed them.

That isn't true of the problem on the X10, however. The white discs vary in size but can be quite large, like spots on the image.

The shots are not exact equivalents (focus varied on the glass, which was in the background of the shot), but they were shot at the same time from the same spot with the same crop.

TWO FACTORS

We spent a few days becoming more skilled at getting the white discs into our images. Two things seemed essential: a specular highlight and ISO 100. To the extent the Dynamic Range setting affects ISO (and it does), it also factors in.

We could get a perfectly ordinary shot with normal specular highlights if the ISO were elevated. And even at ISO 100 we never saw white discs without specular highlights.

An ISO 100 shot that included a cane chair showed the problem at ISO 100. But we could easily soften the circle into a glowing highlight that was not at all objectionable simply by raising the ISO to 400.

A specular highlight is simply a reflection (from any angle, one might point out) that records as full white (red, green and blue channels are maxed out). A specular highlight exceeds the highlight detail in an image and can give a false meter reading. You do want it to go full white (off the right end of a histogram) because it isn't highlight detail. You want to keep your highlight detail instead from going off the right end of the histogram.

The problem on the X10 isn't full white on specular highlights. It's that the effect isn't contained to a few pixels at the spot of the highlight. It blooms, as Fujifilm describes it. Most blooms are not sharp edged, like the Fujifilm white discs, though. And they aren't perfect circles.

In the ISO 400 image, they lose their sharp edge and bloom.

We took a shot of a chair at ISO 100 using f4.5 and another with ISO 400 at f5.0, not a critical difference in aperture if a wider one. But the ISO 400 shot modulates the problem. So optics themselves don't seem to explain the change in the highlight.

THE PROBLEM

But examining another X10 window image without the white discs, we see cascading circles in the background window pane. So we presumed that the discs are not formed by imaging processing but on the sensor.

In a CES interview, Fujifilm Director of Marketing Kayce Baker said she had never seen the problem herself because she doesn't "shoot into the light" but acknowledged seeing examples elsewhere. She speculated before the firmware fix had been released that "that's part of the sensor. It's part of the way it's built."

Whatever the firmware update did, it wasn't entirely successful, as Fujifilm admits. "Blooming (White disk) phenomena," the firmware notes say, "which can be observed in EXR Auto mode, is reduced." Which we take to mean, "occurs less often." Because when it occurs, it really isn't "reduced," as our experience shows.

FUJIFILM RESPONDS

Recently Fujifilm released a statement addressing the issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2012/03/20/fuji-usa-preps-for-white-orb-fix).

"In February," the company explained, "we announced a firmware upgrade for the X10 (version 1.03) which does reduce the white disc occurrence specifically in EXR mode. It works by identifying scenes that are likely to get 'white disc blooming. When the camera recognizes such a scene, it automatically increases the ISO and optimizes DR (dynamic range). As the ISO increases, the white discs are less evident."

In effect, it raised the ISO when the histogram went off the right edge. The DR optimization, presumably, pushes ISO to avoid burning out the highlights.

But in the same statement, the company went a lot further, confirming Baker's theory that the problem has to do with the sensor itself.

"We will also develop a modified sensor," Fujifilm promised, "which will more universally resolve the 'white disc' blooming effect in all modes. We are working hard to make this new sensor available from late May 2012."

CONCLUSION

Rarely have we enjoyed shooting with a digicam as much as we enjoyed the X10. It is just the perfect shape (although we're no fan of the imprecise optical viewfinder) for a small camera. How we wish the Canon G12 had been that size.

And, we have to say the 624mm equivalent zoom on the X-S1 changed the way we looked at the world for a couple of days. It was like shooting through a scope, not a lens. We got some great shots of surfers at Ocean Beach (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/XS1/XS1-GALLERY.HTM) without getting our feet wet.

But we found the white disc problem a serious flaw, something that should have been caught and corrected before the camera went into production. Fortunately Fujifilm didn't duck the issue because these cameras deserve better.

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.

Advanced Mode: The Ideal Wrist Strap

After, well, a lifetime of experimentation and tinkering we think we've finally nailed it. The ideal wrist strap.

You may have noticed in a few of our camera reviews that we never use the included shoulder strap.

We're always careful to refer to it as a shoulder strap because if we call it a neck strap some poor soul is going to hang themselves with it accidentally. As a shoulder strap, the worst thing that can happen would require a few trips to physical therapy to set right.

But whatever you call them, they are too much strap for us. They bang into the camera or drape themselves across the lens or tie one hand behind your back or tangle the camera in the bag. Hang 'em, we say.

Instead, we prefer the barest lifeline. A wrist strap.

And we aren't too particular about it, either. We've used a nylon cord strung through one eyelet on the camera. Or a digicam wrist strap we found on the street. Nearly anything will do.

Nearly anything, that is, if we're slinging a digicam or a mirrorless. But when we pull out our dSLR with the big grip, things get dicey.

Usually we use a nice padded hand strap we picked up from Nikon that attaches to one eyelet and screws into the tripod socket on the bottom of the camera. But it's really stretching it to use it with the grip. And we have to wrap our hand around the knob that screws into the tripod socket when we hold the camera by the grip, which somewhat defeats the purpose of the grip.

What to do, what to do.

Well, the other day Al Stegmeyer, the inventor of the UPstrap (http://www.upstrap-pro.com), sent us a package of his latest straps. He's revised the lineup substantially since we discussed it in our Oct. 24, 2008 issue, expanding it into four different pad options for various size cameras.

We put two of those together for a wrist strap. We used the $10 SG-XX-LOOP strap and the $14 SG-XX-QR-E-V loop ends. There are two loop ends in a package, so this works for two cameras. Essentially they're quick release devices with a strong cord (125 lb. test on a 3/4-inch web) that loops into the eyelet with a plastic snap receptacle on the end. The strap has a plastic snap buckle that fits right into that.

Like all UPstrap products, they're well designed and manufactured with care. We won't wear it out in our lifetime.

We put one loop on our dSLR with the grip and another loop on a mirrorless camera we use a lot and move the strap from one to the other as necessary. We've also used a loop on big zooms like the Fujifilm X-S1.

But after a few outings we became annoyed by one little problem with the loop. The weight of the camera pulled the loop tightly around our wrist. Al probably thinks of that as a feature but we know from our Nikon hand strap that all you need is an open loop and the weight of the camera to keep the strap from slipping off your wrist. You don't need the loop to be snug against your wrist. In fact, it's not only annoying but it's hard getting in and out of it, something we do a lot. And we're no Houdini.

The fix was easy, though. We grabbed some strong sewing thread, looped it around one side of the small, sliding loop of web, knotted it, threaded it through the slot between the buckle and the other end of the strap and looped it around the other side of the small loop, knotting it again. In short, we used the thread to hold the wrist strap loop open. Without actually puncturing anything.

That's all it took to make the arrangement ideal.

Now we can slip our hand through the generous loop easily and grab either the horizontal grip or the vertical grip on the dSLR or just the grip on the other cameras. The camera won't go far if our grip slips and we can easy move from one grip to the other with the strap staying out of the way.

Even better all it takes is a snap to move the wrist strap from one camera to another. And the quick release ends are lightweight and unobtrusive.

Now that we've solve that vexing little problem, we're moving on to world peace. Where to start, where to start.

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:

Follow 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

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

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

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Imitating a Master

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery (or just bald-faced plagiarism) but it's also how you learn.

We spent an afternoon with Arthur Tress (http://imaging-resource.com/ARTS/arthur-tress-1964/) recently in which we wandered among about 70 of his Rolleiflex images of San Francisco from 1964.

They put us in a certain mood, one we wanted to stay in.

So we set an Olympus E-PL1 to monochrome and changed the aspect ratio to 1:1, which pretty much turned it into a little Rolleiflex.

That isn't how we normally shoot. But we decided to shoot that way the whole day as we took the bus to Fort Mason and walked around the Marina. For one day we'd look at the city the way Tress had.

We started right away at the bus stop, taking a wide angle shot of the environs. That also captured the storm clouds closing in, so we had the weather without relying on iPhoto's Journal feature to mine it for us.

But we got a little bold, following Tress's example, and even shot inside the bus. After that, there was no stopping us. We took shots from our hip as we walked down the street and composed others more thoughtfully, always looking for the offbeat and ironic.

We found some oddball sculptures of found objects assembled to resemble familiar things like a big old Graflex press camera. But even ordinary objects like a red fire alarm against a white wall cried out for portraits in black and white.

One thing we appreciated about the aspect ratio was that it was easy to frame things in a square. You don't have quite the stage you do with a 16:9 or even a 3:2 aspect ratio. It's more like a single spotlight.

The other thing we appreciated was worrying just about how the tones were being rendered, not the color. That encouraged us to play with the EV setting. Looking at Tress's contact sheets we noticed his exposures (which were always manual) weren't always right on the money. Auto exposure made it easier for us to get in range but we still had to use EV to shift the tones where they should have been.

The next day we took a look at our images.

We had tried hard to shoot a level horizon but we never do. We are always askew.

Otherwise we liked the shots a lot. We particularly liked the flow from one to the other. From the crosswalk at the bus stop to the interior of the bus to the buildings to the bay to the sculpture to the fire alarm and on and on. They didn't so much reflect on each other as move the story along. They were a narrative. But a silent one you could tell your own story to.

We told a story in a day. Tress told his in several months.

We happen to be testing the Epson R3000 13-inch printer so we set up a 240 pixel per inch, 13x19 page and drew some guidelines on it for four rows of three images each. Then we resized our folder of images to fit the 2.5-inch square image location and dropped all of them on the page.

It took us an hour or so to position them in sequence, cutting a few to get down to the final 12, but it was an enjoyable task.

We had some extra white space at the bottom, so we popped the date in there in a font that recalled the Roman empire. But we weren't quite done with our exhibit on a page.

We had to do something about the crooked horizons. They were disturbing. Most of them tilted to the right, all varying degrees. Once you realized it, it made you a little sea-sick.

So we rotated each image to make the horizon straight.

That, of course, meant that our neat columns and rows of perfect squares was now about as disciplined as a line of second graders going to a folk dancing class.

We thought about imposing black grunge-like frames on the images, cropping them back into squares but that seemed far too funereal for the subject. So we just printed it that way and took a look.

Yes, they were all over the place. But the odd thing was that it wasn't as disturbing as the neat squares with crooked horizons had been on the screen. Somehow the eye saw the level horizons and the mind was calmed, despite the rotation. Everything was aligned, if rotated.

Which, in itself, reminded us of Tress.

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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: Cropping Lesson

Your cropping lesson reminded me of an exercise we were given in an art class at the Institute of Design around 1951 (before it became part of Illinois Institute of Technology).

It required us to select a random one square inch of one of our watercolors and enlarging it to a new watercolor the size of the original. I was amazed by what you could get from that drastic a crop. Of course the number of pixels didn't matter.

-- Bob Schuchman

(Nice! It's astonishing what blind spots we have. These exercises to mine the field of view are never a bad idea. -- Editor)

RE: Tethered Shooting

Adobe may have dropped support for the D200 as far as tethering in Lightroom 4 but rest assured, the D200 surely does work tethered in Lightroom 3.6.

I've already ordered Lightroom 4. I'm going to be disappointed if it doesn't support D200 tethered shooting. Ah, planned obsolescence.

-- Larry CdeBaca

(Hmm, the Nikon D200 is omitted on the Lightroom tethered support page, as we noted last issue. Not sure why it isn't listed, although it appears it was not supported on some versions of Lightroom. But it does work with Lightroom 4, Larry. We just tested it. -- Editor)

In reference to the comment by Al Harvey about your article on tethered shooting, I would like to know how he was able to get Nikon Capture NX 2 to capture a tethered shot. I am using a Nikon D300 and I have not been able to get Capture NX 2 to display the picture. I am able to use Lightroom for tethered shots so the D300 connection and settings are correct.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

P.S. I have tried some other tethering software and discovered that they will only display JPEG format, not Raw files.

-- DS

(Pretty sure he meant Capture 4 or Camera Control Pro. Capture NX doesn't support tethered shooting. Sorry for the confusion. -- Editor)

RE: Blue Ray DVD Authoring

I am looking for a super simple DVD creator for Windows 7 that will play on Blue Ray DVD players. I have Roxio, but I need something easier. I love to make movies from my photos and play them on the big screen TV.

-- Kathi Heriford

(You stumped the chump, Kathi. Maybe one of our readers has a recommendation? -- Editor)

RE: Optics Pro or Lightroom?

I currently use DxO Optics Pro 6 and have much to learn. I use Gimp to edit and use Zoombrowser to print. I do not like jumping from program to program. Would Lightroom 4 be a good next step or do DxO and Lightroom duplicate each other?

-- Marcia Jolley

(DxO Optics Pro is unique, Marcia. It makes some pretty sophisticated edits automatically, so you really get a jump on your image editing. But you can't print with it. While it doesn't touch the original, it does require an export to make the changes. So essentially it's a bit-map editor.... Lightroom builds a database of your image collection and attaches editing instructions to record for any image you change. It handles a lot of routine edits for a shoot very efficiently and provides a lot of output options (like printing multiple images on a large sheet or making a Web gallery or printing a Blurb.com book).... You can send an image to Optics Pro from Lightroom (and get it back). DxO has taken pains to make that happen. Neither application is very good at making the kind of edits Photoshop does with its context-aware Healing Brush. But if you aren't erasing objects from your images, you won't miss it. Hope that helps. -- Editor)

RE: Sigma Lens Firmware?

I have a (1) Sigma 18-50mm, (2) Sigma 70-200mm, (3) Zuiko 14-42mm kit lens and (4) Metz 76 MZ5-32-2-M7 flash.

The Olympus E420 works fine with (1), (2), (3 -- as it came with this lens) and (4).

But when I set up the E-5 with (1), all flash pics were underexposed with (4) and the built-in flash.

Sent the E-5 back for a checkup but they couldn't find anything. Then I sent the Metz module back and they updated the firmware to v7.1.

Still the pics were underexposed, until a remark from an Olympus tech to try all the lenses, not only (1): E-5 with Metz 76 works fine with (2) & (3) but not with (1). In other words, when I use the Metz 76 or built-in flash of the E-5 with the (1), they do not communicate.

No updates were available for the 18-50mm. No response from Sigma to various emails. Is there any way to write to/persuade Sigma to upgrade the firmware for their 18-50mm?

-- KHL

(Because the lens works with the E-5 without the flash (say, in Program mode but also in Shutter Priority mode), we have to rule out a failure to communicate. In those modes the E-5 would be setting the aperture. Take a look at the Exif data for focal length, distance, lens type, etc. For a flash shot, too.... On a flash exposure, the flash itself is responsible for the exposure, not the shutter (which is too slow) nor the aperture (which is not controlled). Consistent underexposure means the flash is not delivering enough light long enough to the scene. And that light is calculated when the E-5 makes a pre-exposure flash, sometimes using the subject distance reported by the lens as a factor.... You are getting good flash exposures with other lenses (even longer lenses) on the E-5. It's just the 18-55mm that's underexposing. So assuming we have pre-flash, is the 18-55mm under-reporting subject distance? Measure out a shot and shoot with two lenses and compare the Exif data.... Meanwhile, as I suspect you know, you can certainly use the 18-50mm with flash in Manual mode. -- Editor)

I went through every mode possible with the E-5 as you suggested.

To my shock and dismay, all test flash pictures with the E-5, Metz 76 and Sigma 18-50mm combination were now properly exposed, with the exception of E-5, built-in flash & Sigma 18-50mm combination, where I have to alter flash intensity (full to 1/4th to 1/16th ), etc. here and there.

I suspect the update by Metz from v7 to v7.1 corrected some problems, the Sept. 2011 E-5 update may have corrected any lingering problems and the Sigma was fine all along!

The lesson? Don't play the blaming game. In this software age, test the equipment before buying.

Without your response and comments, I may never have bothered to test out all possible combinations E-5/Metz 76/Sigma 15-80mm. It required a lot of time, exhausting three E-5 and one Metz 76 battery. Thank you very much for your trouble.

-- KHL

(Happy endings are never any trouble <g>. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Adobe Labs has released Photoshop CS6 Beta as a public beta (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/photoshopcs6/) with content-aware added to the Patch and Move tools, a significantly faster graphics engine, a redesigned user interface and dozens of small tweaks. Anyone can download the beta, try the experience and provide feedback to the product team.


Apple (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1506) has updated Aperture to v3.2.3. The 635.54-MB download provides a number of enhancements including compatibility with iCloud and iOS 5.

The company also released Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.11 (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1513?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US) for the Nikon D800 and Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.10 (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1510) for the Canon PowerShot G1 X, Nikon D4, Panasonic GX1/FZ35/FZ38, Samsung NX200 and Sony Alpha NEX-7/NEX-VG20.


Fujifilm (http://www.fujifilmusa.com/support/ServiceSupportProductContent.do?dbid=881329&prodcat=879660&sscucatid=664262) announced it will "develop a modified sensor, which will more universally resolve the white disc blooming effect" in the X10 and X-S1 models by late May.


DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released FilmPack v3.2.1 [MW] to "interact perfectly with Adobe Lightroom 4."


Rocky Nook has published the second edition of The Nikon Creative Lighting System by Mike Hagen, which covers "everything you need to know about mastering Nikon's iTTL flash system." The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 36 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952997/?tag=theimagingres-20).


The $24 JAlbum 10.5 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net) features faster album downloads using simultaneous transfers, import of published albums from either the desktop or online version, an option to write GIF and PNG files as JPEG, updates for bundled skins and more.


Marc Rochkind (http://basepath.com) has released his $199.99 Ingestamatic 2 [MW] with custom fields, selection of fields to appear in the main window, JPEG and Raw image verification, a required entries option and more.


Plasq (http://plasq.com) has released its $29.99 Comic Life 2.2 [M] with ePub and CBZ exports, improved cross-platform file format compatibility and better stability.


A selection of rare images of Jamaica in 1891 (http://www.caribbeanphotoarchive.com/fineart) taken by Scottish photographers is being shown at MH Art & Framing in New York City from March 10 through April 24.


Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 9.0.89 [LMW] with improved DNG thumbnails and better automatic cropping. Chinese language support has been removed as well.

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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
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