The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 14, Number 7 6 April 2012

Copyright 2012, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 329th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Attach a shoulder sling and your tripod quick release plate at the same time with the M-Plate before you fall in love with the gorgeous Canon SX40 megazoom. Then build a photo ebook with us on the iPad before we going stylus shopping. Only then do we call it a day.


TOPICS

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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: Custom SLR M-Plate -- Attach the World

(Excerpted from the illustrated review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/customslr-mplate/index.htm on the Web site.)

Now that Industrial Designer Ben Wong at Custom SLR (http://www.customslr.com) has launched the M-Plate, he probably thinks he can take a day off.

Not long ago, when Wong designed the Split Strap, he probably thought he could take a week off. And before that, when he developed the C-Loop, he probably thought he could he'd never have to work again.

The more he comes up with, though, the more photographers want. At this rate, his coffee breaks are in danger.

C-LOOP

The $39.95 C-Loop started it all. Its two small arms swivel around a tripod screw so you can run your attached camera up and down a strap slung over your shoulder.

"We designed the C-Loop in response to how the traditional top mounted camera strap always gets in the way," Chief Operating Officer Ivan Wong explained. "By relocating the mounting position to the bottom of the camera and integrating a swivel, we discovered numerous benefits that improved the shooting experience when using a camera strap."

It's a clever idea that does make it easy to go from zero to 60 with your camera. But the strap itself kept Ben Wong up at night.

STRAP

A flat strap doesn't really lay across the shoulder well, making it at least uncomfortable and, with heavy gear, even painful. So Wong split the strap so it could conform to the shoulder, increasing comfort. The $35.95 Glide Strap or Split Strap also vents heat away, he said.

And the lightweight setup handles up to 180 lbs. that hang on your hip ready for anything. Just grab the camera and it slides right up the strap. The shoulder pad doesn't move, the strap slackens and you feel like someone just handed you the camera.

People liked it so much they begged Wong for one more feature. They wanted to be able to use the C-Loop with their tripods. But since the tripod socket was occupied by the C-Loop, that was a problem.

For Wong's free time, anyway.

M-PLATE

It took a while but he devised the M-Plate system to attach a C-Loop and strap while mounting the camera to any tripod or holster attachment. The $74.95 M-Plate actually mounts directly to Arca-Swiss or Manfrotto RC2 quick release but you can screw any other quick release into it.

But he didn't stop there, expanding the concept to include hand grips, flash brackets and video rigs. Not all of which have left the drawing board yet. A hand grip strap connection, the first of these add-ons, is available for an additional $10.

We have come to think of the M-Plate as more of an accessory system than a combo tripod/strap mount.

REWIND

The tripod/strap conflict never existed before the tripod socket became a strap eyelet.

Camera eyelets were used for straps. Tripod sockets for quick release plates. No conflict.

But camera straps are a nuisance. And a sling is a great idea. Your camera slides on the sling when you need it but hangs comfortably at your side while you're on the move.

Does it have to be attached to the tripod socket though?

No. As the BosStrap (http://www.bosstrap.com) shows, you can attach your sling strap to an eyelet, which is made for that kind of action in the first place. And that leaves your tripod socket free for your quick release plate.

BUT WAIT

What the M-Plate offers, though, is a docking station for a number of accessories. Do you use handheld flash? Do you shoot video? The M-Plate has a small accessory port machined into the side to screw in mounts for just such options.

They don't exist yet so don't get too excited but it's the kind of thing that makes the M-Plate worth investing in.

SYSTEM DESIGN

We tested a production M-Plate with a C-Loop and the Split Strap. We also used it with a Velbon quick release plate and a Spider holster pin.

The design and hence the assembly of the strap is complicated enough that a video is helpful. There's one on the Custom SLR site's instructions page (http://www.customslr.com/pages/instructions). There are six or seven parts to the puzzle (where two do on some sling systems):

Wearing the assembly across our body was very comfortable, in fact. and the cameras were attached to it with the M-Plate hung at our side, ready for action.

M-PLATE DETAILED

The M-Plate itself is meant to be left on your camera. It is screwed into the tripod socket with an Allen wrench. The one provided by Custom SLR has a ring on the long end so you can attach it to your key ring. We preferred to insert the long end into the screw, rather than the short end (forcing the use of the long end as a handle) so we used our own wrench. That way we could just twirl the Allen wrench to screw or unscrew the nut, tightening it with the small end.

The surface of the M-Plate in contact with your camera is cork. Cork is not a petroleum product and does, unlike money, grow on trees. It will protect the bottom of your camera.

With the plate attached, you can easily slide the camera into an Arca-Swiss tripod mount or click it into a Manfrotto RC2 quick tripod mount, as the company's Kickstarter video shows (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/customslr/m-plate-a-multi-function-camera-tripod-plate-syste). If you use another system, you can attach it to one of the plate's five holes, as we did with the smaller Velbon quick release.

A small arm protrudes under your lens from M-Plate. This is where you attach the C-Loop or the pin from . It's off the plate so it won't interfere with your tripod when you mount the camera on it. And therefore it's a good place for a Spider holster pin (http://www.spiderholster.com/blackwidow), too.

We reviewed Shai Eynav's Black Widow system (http://www.spiderholster.com/blackwidow) and Andy Cotton's Carry-Lite belt system (http://www.cottoncarrier.com) in our Aug. 8, 2011 Newsletter (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Cotton's mounting disc can also be attached to the M-Plate arm.

There are five five mounting holes to attach other tripod plates or accessories on the M-Plate, all of which are standard camera tripod 1/4"-20 threads.

The M-Link port sits on one side of the plate. You can order it with the optional $10 strap eyelet attached with another Allen screw. So you can, for example, run a wrist strap or hand grip from the eyelet to your camera eyelet. But this is also where Custom SLR plans to dock a flash bracket and video stabilizer.

IN ACTION

We used the M-Plate on a couple of cameras for several days, primarily with the C-Loop but also with the Spider holster.

The good news is that it works as advertised. We could use the tripod mount on the cameras for both a strap and a tripod quick release. It is almost weightless.

On an Olympus E-PL1, a mirrorless Compact System Camera, we had to adjust our technique a little to zoom the compact lens. The M-Plate arm didn't leave enough room between the lens barrel and itself to get a finger through. Not a big deal.

On a Canon Rebel, there was plenty of room -- and that's a pretty small dSLR.

But on both cameras, we had trouble getting into the battery compartment with the M-Plate attached. If you remove the optional strap attachment and slide the plate all the way over, you can just clear enough room to open the battery compartment on the Rebel XTi. No such luck on the E-PL1, though. You need 1.25 inches from the center of your tripod socket to the edge of your battery compartment to clear the plate.

We didn't have any trouble attaching other tripod screws to the M-Plate, include the Cotton Carrier mounts and the Velbon quick release but the Spider pin didn't screw completely in, although it was firmly attached.

You might be concerned whether your camera's tripod socket was designed to handle the weight of your camera and lens. We can't answer that but Custom SLR has a YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/customslr) of their testing videos.

CONCLUSION

We found the M-Plate, like the other Custom SLR products we've tried, thoughtfully designed and carefully manufactured. And we're actually looking forward to that flash bracket and video rig.

The one drawback is battery compartment access. The M-Plate does not release from the camera quickly, making it a bit of a chore to change batteries. So if your shooting requires regular battery swaps, this may not be the way to go.

Otherwise it uniquely -- and elegantly -- solves the tripod/strap connection problem.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Shooter's Report

(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX40HS/SX40HSA.HTM on the Web site.)

There's always a lot more to the cameras we review than any of us has a chance to explore. So this reviewer focuses primarily on the basic shooting experience in Program mode. But with this year's models, some of the more advanced features have been irresistible.

ADVANCED FEATURES

Handheld Twilight Scene mode is one of them. We're thrilled to report it has made it onto a Canon after appearing on other brands. It's really a winner for those very dark scenes in which nothing moves. And, in case you haven't guessed, it isn't just for twilight. Or night scenes. We took a shot of a car interior in a garage just to prove it opens up previously unphotographable scenes to the enquiring mind.

High-Speed Video is another. Like macrophotography, it shows you a world you otherwise can't see. With the Canon SX40 HS, we shot a few seconds of water boiling because water doesn't have to sign a release. But anything that moves is game.

Even some of the goofier effects were worth committing to memory. We like Canon's Fish-Eye effect. Toy Camera and Miniature were fun to play with, too.

And just when you thought low-light shooting was out for small digicams, with even ISO 400 suffered loss of detail, here comes a new round of cameras that can handle ISOs from 400 to 3,200 with grace. It's pretty clear that the manufacturers have been working on this issue -- and with more success than anyone expected. The Canon SX40 HS did better than most, too.

THE LENS

But getting back to the basics, what you have to love about the Canon SX40 HS is the lens. It's an astonishing 35x optical zoom starting at a very wide 24mm. You can easily extend the focal length beyond your ability to frame the subject -- even with Canon's image stabilization helping out.

And when you add 4x digital zoom to that, you're not going to leave the house without a tripod. Or, like us, you'll just confine yourself to the optical zoom range. Or something short of that.

Our gallery shot of the Golden Gate Bridge tower is a case in point. So is the flag atop the Ferry building. The tower was the maximum 35mm focal length equivalent of 3,206.4mm with 2x digital zoom. The Ferry Building shot was a mere 840.5mm, the full optical zoom. Both were very difficult to frame handheld. We consider them lucky shots, frankly. As is the Transamerica Pyramid at 4x digital zoom in the zoom series.

So if you want the maximum zoom capability in a camera, this is your baby.

SHOOTING

On the other end of the spectrum, macro shooting was a bit disappointing. You don't have to shoot macro at the widest wide-angle focal length (there is a bit of range there) but you do. And that means moving quite close to the subject. And distorting the subject quite a bit. The gallery has macro shots of a wet iris and some coins that are unhappily distorted. The iris even looks like it's drooping. Having just shot a more forgiving macro-capable camera with the Panasonic FZ150, we were disappointed with these limitations on the Canon SX40 HS.

We popped Photoflex's FlashFire trigger on the hot shoe to fire a StarFlash at our coins and it worked exactly as we expected it to. Having a hot shoe on your megazoom just adds to the fun. But once you've had the fun, you miss it on cameras that don't include one.

We did manage to get a bird shot for once, too. Birds being rather distant subjects in general, we did resort to 3.12x digital zoom and it isn't pretty as far as detail goes. But the shutter was very responsive, dSLR-like in fact.

More successful was our butterfly shot. No digital zoom. No macro. Just across the table from us. That long lens reaching discretely across and capturing every hair on its body. That's exactly what you want from a megazoom and enough right there to make the Canon SX40 HS a Dave's Pick.

Detail from the 12.1-megapixel sensor even on more ordinary shots was fun to get lost in. The carnation shot, the bricks, the yellow rose, all were nicely captured with some lovely blurring in the background. But the rosemary shot in sunlight against a dark background was overexposed. It does show how smart the focus is, though.

A walk along the Embarcadero on a sunny day provided plenty of opportunities to push the Canon SX40 HS as a photo-making machine. There were compositions to frame from awkward spots and obstacles between the camera and the subject.

But whatever captured our eye, whether it was the big rivets on an iron bridge or the red lamp on the bumper below it, it was delightful to compose the image with the Canon SX40 HS. Zoom was slow enough to compose carefully and long enough to compose without compromise. It took some fiddling to get Juan Marichal's statue just right against the sky because we were up the block and across the street, but it's just the composition we wanted.

The play of light on the under-bridge shots and fireboat shot says a lot about the subtly of color the Canon SX40 is able to capture. The fireboat in particular charmed us, its white ropes holding detail as the red paint in shadow gleams.

Absorbed in the fun of photographing these subjects on our walk, our only complaint was the weight of the camera. It's built tough and it can be tiring to hold for hours. But that's one of those problems that goes away with use as you build up those wrist muscles.

If, that is, you use a wrist strap instead of the shoulder strap included with the Canon SX40 HS. We prefer a wrist strap, so we found the SX40 HS more tiring than you would with it hung from a shoulder.

SAMPLE IMAGES

You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX40HS/SX40HSA7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX40HS/SX40HSGALLERY.HTM.

CONCLUSION

At first glance, the $430 Canon SX40 HS is simply a beautiful camera. When you get it into your hands, it's only just beginning to delight you. You'll enjoy the color and detail it captures long after you forget what fun it was to compose with it. The specs are reassuring, too. The Canon SX40's 35x optical zoom, ranging from 24-840mm, feeds a 12.1-Mp CMOS sensor that brings high-speed Full HD video captures with it. The 2.7-inch articulated LCD is just the ticket for framing awkward shots while the EVF does the job in sunlight.

Stepping back from the SX30's 14.1-Mp sensor improved high ISO performance and adding the latest DIGIC 5 processor brought chromatic aberration and distortion under control.

The Canon SX40 HS is heavier than other megazooms and macro shooting was a bit more limited, but these are small complaints. The heft is an indication of superior build and the macro issues a tradeoff with the zoom range. Print quality was also a pleasant surprise, with its lowest ISO settings easily producing a good 16x20-inch print and the highest producing a good 4x6.

Canon has produced some nice long zooms in the past but the Canon SX40 HS is among the finest megazooms we've had the pleasure to shoot with. That certainly earns it a Dave's Pick.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Pholium Brings Photo Books to the iPad

(Excerpted from the illustrated review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/pholium/index.htm on the Web site.)

With the release of its $9.99 Pholium (http://www.pholium.com) app, 58 North has put photo ebook creation and publishing in the hands of anyone with an iPad. Creating a book is simple and even includes image editing functions. Publishing is free to the first 10 people you send the ebook but just 99 cents for each additional batch of 10.

We just had to give it a try.

GALLERY

After downloading and installing the app from the Apple App Store, we registered our email address and gave Pholium permission to use location services.

The reason Pholium needs authorization to use location services is interesting. According to the company, GPS data embedded in images taken by iPhones and some cameras has led Apple to require developers to have location services permission to access photos on the iPad. "We do not, however, use (or even view) any location information on a user's device," the company told us.

We weren't too happy with the images we had floating in our Photo Stream, so we visited our MacBook Pro, imported a set of surfing shots taken with a Fujfilm X-S1 and let them percolate through iCloud to our Photo Stream.

We thought they'd make a nice first ebook.

When we had a few of them up, we Added them to our Gallery. The Pholium interface is pretty straightforward. Big stuff (Library, Studio, Gallery, Info) is on the bottom right. What you can do in each of those big things is on the bottom left. For Gallery, we had Add, Duplicate, Edit and Delete.

So we tapped Add, went to our Photo Stream and tapped on the images we wanted to add, one at a time. They were added so quickly, we really couldn't figure out a way to add multiple images before they were in our Gallery.

Does Pholium resize images when it imports them?

58 North's Robert Sinclair explained, "Pholium may resize images when they are imported from the Photo app, regardless of their source (iCloud, Camera Connection Kit, Wifi transfer, iTunes/iPhoto sync, etc), depending upon their size when transferred to the device.

"The resizing/optimizing is done to optimize the image quality (trying to maintain the best) with the book file size, as these are competing issues; these relate to both book sending and more importantly device performance. Images larger than 2048 on the longest side are resized to 2048 and images smaller than 2048 remain unaltered. If all images in a 42 image book are 2048 the book can be over 120-MB file size, yet at 2048 this accomplishes 2X the screen size of the iPad and iPad 2, and we are finding the same 2X image size on the new iPad, yet with better color saturation and performance.

"Pholium is about image quality and a smooth content consumption experience and these tend to be at odds with one another because we are now operating with three generations of devices. Our goal remains, optimizing to maximize both experiences across all devices."

We selected an image and tapped Edit. The image opened in a new screen with a set of controls along the right side: Brightness, Contrast, Exposure sliders; B&W, Sepia, Vibrance toggles; Reset, Undo, Save, Save New, Cancel buttons.

We were a little disappointed that there wasn't a rotate (to straighten a horizon) or crop function. We thought we might want to do both to some images merely to better fit the book format rather than a print format. So you might want to get your images cooking before you import them into the Gallery.

The book aspect ratio really mimics the 4:3 iPad screen rather than any particular book format.

STUDIO

Once we had some images in our Gallery, we tapped the Studio option and our menu changed to New, Edit, Review, Delete and Publish.

We started with New.

This took us to a rather plain looking book cover with a couple of lines for a Title and Subtitle. We clicked the text to make it our own (Surf's Up and A Day At The Beach). But we didn't like the font. Fortunately, you can change the font for the whole entry without selecting it. You can also change the size and the color.

To decide on a font color, though, we really had to pick a book cover color. Back at the book page, the menu offered Photos, Pages and Color. We picked a nice Moroccan leather red.

But wait, this is a book about surfing. So we went with sea green for the cover and sunshine yellow for the type. At first glance it appears you're limited to the colors on the pop-up palette but the very first one is a color wheel. So you can mix your own paint for both the cover color and font colors.

We thought it would help the cover to add a photo of the surf breaking right in front of the reader, so we tapped Photos, picked the photo and slid it around on the cover. We could resize it by pinching and spreading two fingers but we couldn't crop it.

We could reposition the title and subtitle, though, so we did that.

Next, the pages.

We mistakenly tapped Done under the cover when what we should have done is swipe the cover open. Of course. So we did that to get to the pages. You can put as many as 40 images in one book.

But to do that, you have to Add Pages. The Pages menu can Add or Remove pages. We added a bunch of blank pages and then went to the Photo menu to bring in some images.

A bold but light dotted line outlines the page margins as if you were going to print. It doesn't seem to represent a live area but is helpful for layout. You can easily bleed an image off the page.

You can put up to four images on any two-page spread or even a single page like the last page of the book.

The first page is a bit special. It holds text (and only text): the title and a preface of up to 255 text characters.

To manipulate images (besides just dragging them around), you can pinch and spread two fingers to zoom out or in. You can also rotate the images on the page with two fingers.

If you hold your finger on an image for a heart beat, a small menu appears to let you Send to Back, Bring to Front or Remove the image. Images tend to overlay each other a lot on such a small screen, so you do this quite a bit.

We found that if we used it as a border, our images crossed the gutter. You might wonder why there's a gutter at all in an ebook. We did.

The gutter overlays the images. But that makes sense. It's just a shadow, after all.

We didn't see a way to add a caption, but that doesn't mean there isn't one. In fact, a sample book we read later suggested using images of text.

Our images were all of the ocean and in the small Gallery crops of our Photo Stream it was very difficult to tell them apart. Since the display of images always started from the first one, we couldn't really tell where we'd left off. The thumbnails are really just too small for similar images. That seems to be an iOS problem, though, not a Pholium issue.

But when we made a mistake with our image selection, it was easy to Undo and go right back to the thumbnail display to pick another image.

After dropping in our photos and pushing them around into layouts we liked, we tapped the Done option and were returned to the Studio screen with our book displayed.

That's when we tapped the Review option. We could flip through the book or tap the Slideshow option to see a slide show of all of our images. That was almost better than the book.

We didn't (but you can) add an image to the back cover, too.

LIBRARY

We didn't want to publish our book until we took a look at a sample or two the company provided to inspire this review. To do that, you access the Library module and tap Manage.

There's a Downloads section and an Uploads section of the Shared Book Manager window. We downloaded the PholiumPhun book by the Pholium Team. It took a few minutes.

Once you've downloaded a book, you return to the Library and tap the Read option.

You might think you are limited to turning pages and admiring the images, but you can actually "lift" an image off the page by tapping it. Images are never upsized but if there's enough resolution, they'll be displayed full screen.

With an Apple TV, you can mirror the iPad and hence the book on your HDTV, too.

PUBLISH

After reviewing the sample book, we made a few inspired edits to our surf story and his the Publish option. Our title was then listed in our Library.

Once you Publish, the book is locked and you can't edit it again. Just like in real life.

We tapped the Send option and were prompted for a list of up to 10 email addresses. The first time you send, it's free, we were advised. It wasn't clear if we had 10 free sends or just one but the company confirmed that you only get one free send, even if you don't send all 10 at once.

How come is that? "The in-app Pholdas are 'consumables' per Apple developer agreements," the company told us, "and are fully consumed when the Send button is tapped -- regardless of how many recipients (up to 10 per Pholda) are used. Apple doesn't allow for credits to be held by their store."

To send more than 10 (or just send again), you use Pholda, the in-app-purchase tool that lets you buy 10 more sends for 99 cents. A Pholda, in short, allows you to send to 10 more people. And you can buy as many Pholdas as you like. But again, each Pholda is a one-time send, even if you don't use all 10.

It took a while -- several minutes -- to upload our book. We didn't mind, really, because it meant we were sending sufficiently high resolution images for iPad display.

EMAIL

We had listed our own email address when we published the title, so we anxiously awaited instructions on how to read the book.

Note that the company doesn't provide a way to sell your book. You can only give a book to other people. It's a form of sharing not unlike passing an album around.

In fact, it's probably best to think of this as photo album publishing than ebook publishing. Yes, it looks like a book and walks like a book, but without text options, it sounds more like a photo album.

Our email notification advised us we could download and read the book using the Pholium app on our iPad. If we didn't have an iPad, though, "you may download a PDF document of the pictures in the Pholium ebook by clicking below."

So we did that.

The PDF book bears no resemblance to the Pholium ebook, however. It displays one image a page with a counter under each image. All our fancy layouts were lost.

That's a bit of a problem because it means for anyone to see your ebook as you laid it out they have to own an iPad and buy the $10 app. There's no free Pholium reader.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

We really liked the simple text-based interface. And we liked the dark gray color scheme as well. It was easy and fun to put a book of photos together.

As simple as it is to edit, create and publish a book in Pholium, we found we had plenty of questions. And we were quite happy to find the Pholium site had all the answers.

The only drawback (and it's not a small one) is that you have to buy Pholium (and an iPad) to see the ebook. The PDF version bears no resemblance to the book, merely delivering your images one to a page.

We don't get that publishing model, frankly. If we wanted to share our Surf's Up ebook with our 50,000 newsletter readers, for example, they would have to buy Pholium ($500,000 right there) and presumably already have an iPad (or that would be $25,000,000 more). Meanwhile, we'd go nuts entering 50,000 email addresses 10 at a time. And by the end of it, we'd owe $49,500 which we couldn't recoup because you can't sell a Pholium book. So you'd better be happy with the screen shots in the illustrated review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/pholium/index.htm) because that's all we're going to share.

Of course with some 34 percent of high school kids owning a tablet, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, and 70 percent of those being iPads, maybe the model has legs after all, just not in the traditional sense of publishing. More as a cooler way of sharing, that is.

CONCLUSION

Like any new app, there are few things missing in Pholium.

Image editing could use a rotate and crop tool but you can always tap into another app to refine your images. More fonts would be nice but we can manage without that for the moment, too.

More importantly, we'd like to see captions. Even a photo album lets you caption the prints. We'd rank that a good bit higher than being able to incorporate video clips.

But the real missing piece is a free reader for Pholium ebooks. Without that it's going to be a little like selling poetry books only to people who write poetry.

The publishing model aside, the app itself is a lot of fun to use. Our ebook on surfing may never see the light of day beyond our iPad but it took us back to the sparkling beach on an otherwise overcast day.

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: Stylus Shopping

Whether a tablet is much use for image editing or not won't be the subject of this particular piece. We'll debate that in a review of some tablet image editing software one of these days.

But in the course of reviewing a few image editing apps on a tablet, it came to our attention that our forefinger was simply not as articulate a pointing device as, well, our middle finger.

Actually, it became obvious in the course of our Web browsing. We'd aim for a bookmark and end up with the onscreen keyboard. We never quite learned to aim higher. Higher seemed off.

But that's because it isn't the tip of your finger that makes contact but the pad of your fingertip. Quite a difference. And the difference can be a significant loss of precision when image editing.

So we took a tip from Russell Brown.

Brown does a lot of videos showing off image editing features on tablets these days. And in every one of them he uses a stylus to do it.

At first we thought, well, he's just an old man and this is his electronic cane. Then we thought, he's probably being paid to use these gadgets by the manufacturers, like a golfer with his sponsor's logo on his cap. Except, you know, you never see the name of the stylus.

So we finally concluded that he uses a stylus because he prefers to use a stylus. Simple.

Well, not that simple. There's a great debate these days about using a stylus with a tablet. Certain disreputable characters have suggested that any tablet that requires a stylus hasn't gotten its interface right. And then there's Dr. Brown.

This isn't really about the interface, though. It's about being able to see what you're doing. If you have to see precisely what you're doing, a stylus improves things dramatically (we've just found out). So it's about what you're doing, not the interface.

Convinced that we should try one, we started researching the subject.

We've used pens before. Our Wacom Intuos is an old buddy. And Wacom does indeed offer the Bamboo for iPad (https://www.wacom.com/en/Store/Bamboo-for-iPad.aspx), which presumably works with other touch screens. But it isn't cheap at $30.

For cheap, we found a handful of videos demonstrating how to make one yourself in just a few seconds using household supplies like a paperclip or aluminum foil for the tip-to-grip connection and a sponge (which unfortunately has to be wetted) or some 3M Magic Tape covering a hard point for the tip. Alas, we are not that cheap.

We were in a rush, though, and that ruled out a comprehensive review of the options. It struck us that nearly anything that actually works would do and a review would be a little like debating the merits of plastic or wood toothpicks.

Not to our surprise, a visit to the nearest Apple store revealed only one stylus included in a drawing app we didn't want. So we crossed the mall to Brookstone where a hero clerk named Tyler managed to apologize for having only one $20 pen-like stylus available because it was pink.

We have no trouble with pink. Especially when it's metallic magenta. Goes nicely with the UCLA (baby) blue cover on our tablet.

Brookstone does sell another model, a $10 stubby version with a fiber tip. That highlights about the only real choice (apart from color) you have to make: silicon or fiber.

Fiber (or foam or even that sponge) rubs across the screen with some resistance compared to silicon, which glides very smoothly.

We're not endorsing the Brookstone pen over anything else. It was simply all we could find within walking distance. And we couldn't imagine there would be a significant difference between models.

We were, however, surprised to find the silicon tip on the Brookstone stylus actually yields a bit when you press down, a nice touch. It isn't, in short, a hard rubber tip. It has a little bounce to it, a spring in its step, which we like very much.

If we had one complaint about it, it's the thickness. Maybe you prefer a Cross pen to a Montblanc but we find a thicker barrel easier to hold for long periods.

Minor issue, though. The big benefit was how easy it was to work with the interface not just in our image editing apps but in every app. We cleaned the screen (probably for the last time) and tapped happily away.

After a while we noticed a strange side effect of using the stylus. We felt smarter. Sort of like looking smarter in glasses, using a stylus made us feel smarter.

Even if it's a pink stylus.

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In the Forums

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Dave's Deals

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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: Fujifilm White Disc Problem

Another of the reasons the IR Web site is the best in the industry. Here in our (privilege-to-receive) IR Newsletter is the most complete and forthright evaluation of the Fuji white disc phenomenon written anywhere.

The X10 (Wow!) had me putting away some extra money toward the purchase. I was almost ready to buy when the white disc thing materialized. Glad I waited. Glad Fuji is addressing what must be a pretty major fix. Glad you published this wonderful explanation.

Thanks for all the blood, sweat and tears over the years. IR is one of the best parts of a digital photographer's life. Mine, for sure.

-- Mark K Lough

(Thanks very much for the kind words, Mark. We're hoping Fujifilm resolves this nasty little issue quickly. The X-series cameras are among our favorites otherwise. -- Editor)

RE: Wrist Strap

I have tried all sorts of shoulder straps, neck straps and wrist straps and, for one reason or another, have always been disappointed. My father, a very keen photographer since childhood and who was still taking photos from his bed only a week before he died at the age of 94 last year, showed me a trick that has been the best thing ever to fix this problem.

As he did, I use ... a dog collar.

You know, the short metal-linked chain, chrome-plated, that has a ring on one end and a clasp on the other. You push the free chain through the ring to make a loop which slips across your wrist. The clasp then attaches to a camera strap connector on the camera. Dad and I also affixed small key rings to the camera strap connectors which makes it easier to attach the clasp. Both sides because sometimes you want to strap the camera to the other wrist. This way you can still use a shoulder strap when appropriate.

The strap is strong and unobtrusive. To help stabilize the camera you can easily put some tension on the strap. When you have to put the camera down, for example while having lunch at a street-side cafe, you can easily attach the camera to a chair. (Then the strap is very visible and sends the message, "Don't even try!") Lastly, when not used it collapses on itself in a very small space.

The only, but minor, inconvenience is when you have the strap loose in your pocket when going through security at the airport, especially in countries where they don't speak your language. It takes some explaining why you have a dog-collar without a dog. I just make sure it is in my cabin bag.

Oh and the cost? Very cheap compared to anything you might buy in the camera shop. I actually have three attached to each of my frequently-used cameras so I can't leave home without one.

-- Ferry Saur

(Ha! Great idea, Ferry. And very fashionable. The only issue we'd have with it is the metal. It could bang up the camera pretty badly if you aren't careful. -- Editor)

RE: Blue Ray DVD Authoring

Mike, the moment I read Kathi Heriford's desire "for a super simple DVD creator for Windows 7 that will play on Blue Ray DVD players" and your request for help, I thought it worth a quick email to suggest she take a look at Photodex's ProShow Gold or Producer (http://www.photodex.com), both of these products being premiere slide show creators. They can do precisely what Kathi wants and a whole lot more, though admittedly, there's a bit of a learning curve.

-- Barbara Coultry

(Thanks, Barbara! -- Editor)
(Wow! Hi, Barbara! Great to see you're still reading us after all these years! (Barbara was one of our first subscribers and has stuck with us ever since.) -- Dave)
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Editor's Notes

Adobe (http://www.adobelabs.com) has posted Lightroom 4.1 as a release candidate on Adobe Labs. The update adds Raw file format support for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and corrects issues reported from the initial Lightroom 4.0 release. Unlike other release candidates, however, v4.1 replaces v4.0.

The company has also counted over 500,000 downloads of Photoshop CS6 Beta in the first week (http://blogs.adobe.com/photoshopdotcom/2012/03/thank-you-for-downloading-the-photoshop-cs6-beta.html).


Instagram has been released as an Android app. The Next Web (http://thenextweb.com/apps/2012/04/03/a-detailed-side-by-side-comparison-of-instagram-for-android-and-iphone/) compares it to the iPhone version.


The Revolve (http://www.revolvecamera.com) is an affordable, portable and extendable camera dolly conceived by Jeremy Canterbury as a Kickstarter project (http://kck.st/GP4NYB).


DxO Mark (http://www.DxOMark.com) reports the Nikon D800 sensor "achieves the best dynamic range and the highest color sensitivity ever measured, taking the lead on the DxOMark scale with 95 points." In comparison, the Nikon D3 and the Canon 1Ds Mark III both reached a DxOMark Score of 80 in 2007.


Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com/cloudprint) has announced its Pixma MG8220 and MG6220 Wireless Photo All-In-One inkjet photo printers now support Google Cloud Print allowing users to print from Gmail and Google Docs on a mobile device and from the Google Chrome browser. The Pixma MX892 AIO is scheduled to provide the same support in May.


Lensbaby (http://www.lensbaby.com) has released its $300 Composer Pro for Micro 4/3 cameras including the Panasonic Lumix G Micro System, Olympus PEN, Sony NEX and Samsung NX cameras. The Composer Pro for mirrorless cameras is compatible with the Lensbaby Optic Swap System and ships with the Double Glass Optic installed.


Motrr (http://www.motrr.com), led by the designers behind the Gorillapod, has launched the Galileo iOS-controlled robotic iPhone platform with infinite spherical rotation capability. Swipe your finger on the screen of your iOS device and Galileo orients your iPhone or iPod Touch accordingly. Shipping in the spring for $129.95, you can preorder via Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/449163977/galileo-your-ios-in-motion) for $85.


Sigma (http://www.sigmaphoto.com) has announced its newly-upgraded 50-150mm f2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM telephoto lens is available at the street price of $1,099 for Canon mounts with Nikon and Sigma mounts expected by the end of the month.


Profoto has launched Profoto Assistant (http://www.profotoassistant.com) with monthly photo contests open to full-time photo assistants and a Photo Assistants Directory where assistants can get listed and find work.


The Swiss firm cf/x software (http://www.cfxsoftware.com) has released cf/x cookie cutter, a $4.99 Mac OS app (99 cent introductory price and free demo) "to quickly cut a cute shape (e.g. heart, moon, angel, flower) out of any photo."

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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:

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

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