|Volume 14, Number 17||24 August 2012|
Welcome to the 339th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We play around with an app from Tiffen that puts filters and special effects at your fingertips. Then the guys gang up on the Android Coolpix for a group preview. Roger explains how to enter IR's Photo Gear Shopping Spree Sweepstakes on Facebook (that's $250 to some lucky soul) before we explain how to deposit the check with a photo. Then we go to a regatta. Have fun!
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(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/tiffen-photo-fx-ultra/index.htm on the Web site.)
As a mere lad in short pants pining for the companionship of, say, a faithful collie, we would distract ourselves with the Tiffen catalog of photo filters. The colors, for one thing were attractive. And there were so many of them. Without the examples, we could hardly imagine what you'd actually use them for.
Scrub up to the digital age and the concept of filters has become somewhat more abstract. They aren't little glass discs any more.
Sure, there are still a few glass discs around. Or we couldn't debate the utility of putting a protective filter over that expensive new lens. And a circular polarizer or neutral density filter are still best put on a lens rather than emulated in software.
But physical filters that mount on the front of your lens are just a part of the story these days. Fujifilm, which prides itself on still thinking film, got rid of the filter threads on some of its digicams in favor of basic in-camera filter effects (like a Yellow Wratten #8) that you can apply as you shoot in monochrome mode.
But you don't need a special camera (or even filter threads) to apply a filter to your images. When your image migrates to your tablet or computer, it can take even larger leaps of the imagination when it comes to filters. Some of them are actually special effects.
Which, after all, is what made Instagram a household name.
The wealth of options -- and the control over them -- are what's so great about filters in the digital age. Face it, on a film camera, using filters was entirely theoretical. That Wratten #8 was going to darken the sky and lighten foliage, yes. But you had no say in how much. You took what you got.
With a digital yellow filter, you can see exactly what happens and fade it back to something you like. Or dump it in favor of something more appropriate. You don't even have to know what direction to take it. In fact, you don't even have to click on another option because the array of options often includes a thumbnail of the effect to help you decide.
Talk about living in interesting times.
PHOTO FX ULTRA
Tiffen knows the difference between a filter and a special effect. Fortunately, both are on the guest list for the party that's Photo fx Ultra, which runs rather nicely on a iPad with iOS 4.3 or later. The app retails for $4.99 through the Apple App Store or iTunes (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photo-fx-ultra/id374564348?mt=8).
Photo fx Ultra is part of a suite of filter applications from Tiffen. The company also offers Dfx, a desktop application with a bit more meat on its bones, which we also plan to review. You can actually email Photo fx Ultra settings for import into Dfx. Tiffen also provides a filter set for the iPhone called Photo fx.
Now in its fifth version, Photo fx Ultra provides eight categories of 77 filters with 934 presets (all with thumbnail previews of your actual image). Tiffen describes the set as simulations of "Tiffen glass filters, specialized lenses, optical lab processes, film grain, exacting color correction, natural light and photographic effects plus a clever paint system with a variety of brushes."
Yes, that's a lot. But it's so well organized, you don't get lost in the maze. It even seems like there's room for a few more.
Take the eight categories, for example: Film Lab, Diffusion, Grads/Tints, Image, Lens, Light, Photographic and Special Effects. A few of them are immediately identifiable and you quickly become comfortable with the rest (like Image or Light) after a few visits.
Throw them all in one bucket, though and it's mind boggling. Here, boggle your mind with the full list:
Ambient Light, Auto Adjust, Black and White, B&W Looks, Black Diffusion/FX, Black Pro-Mist, Bleach Bypass, Bronze Glimmerglass, Center Spot, Close-Up Lens, Color Correct, Color-Grad, Color Compensating, Color Conversion, Color Infrared, Color Looks, Color Spot, Cool Pro-Mist, Cross Processing, Day for Night, Depth of Field, Diffusion, Dual Grad, Edge Glow, Enhancing, Eye Light, Faux Film, Fluorescent (FL-B/D), Fog, Glimmergass, Gold Diffusion/FX, Glow, Grain, Halo, Haze, HDTV FX, High Contrast, Ice Halos, Infrared, Levels, Light, Light Balancing, Mono Tint, ND Grad, Night Vision, Nude/FX, Old Photo, Paint, Pencil, Photographic, Polarizer, Pro-Mist, Reflector, ReLight, Sharpen, Sky, Smoque, Soft/FX, Soft Light, Star, Streaks, Strip Grad, Sunset/Twilight, Temperature, Tint, Two Strip, Three Strip, Ultra Contrast, Vignette, Warm Black Pro-Mist, Warm Center Spot, Warm Pro-Mist, Warm Soft/FX, Water Droplets, Wide-angle Lens and X-Ray.
Did they leave anything out?
Filters are one thing but Photo fx Ultra has a number of features worth noting, too. In fact, version 5.0 adds some sharing capabilities, so let's start there:
- Share your filtered image on Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, the Sincerely Ship & Print service as well as Email, Print, Copy, and Open In.
- Save a Photo fx Ultra look as a preset and bring it into Dfx.
- Version 5 renders the effects faster than previous versions.
- Retina ready.
- Maximum image size is 3072x3072. Larger images are down-sampled to 3072 on the longest side.
- Eight categories of 77 filters with 934 presets, including 65 film treatments (just for the record)
- Paint on the image using Color, Clone, Blur, Black and White, Mosaic, Red Eye, Repair, Scatter and Eraser brushes
- Crop, Rotate, Straighten
- Zoom into the image with the Close-Up Lens filter (pinch and spread are not available)
- Add multiple filters without saving
- Selectively apply filters by painting a mask
- Modify filters with sliders, on-screen controls or presets
- Edit in portrait or landscape mode
- Compatibility with the still image editions of the Tiffen Dfx Digital Filter Suite
- Quickly search for filters and presets
- Integrated (if rudimentary) Help
The interface itself is pretty straightforward, consisting of a menu bar with submenus for some commands, a left panel for presets, a film strip for categories and their filters plus the main working pane that displays the image.
All the thumbnails are renderings of your image, so you get a quick sample of the effects without having to try them out.
In detail, the main interface components are:
While the menu system is a little obscure, the screen layout is actually a very nice way to organize an awful lot of options. And Photo fx Ultra has an awful lot of options to organize.
- The bottom of the screen is devoted to the filter category display. A permanent menu bar lists all eight. When you click on one, the display below them changes to the available filters, which sometimes scroll right and left, depending on how many there are. They illustrate the effect with a thumbnail of your image.
- The left side of the screen shows the presets available for any filter you select. These buttons also illustrate the effect with a thumbnail of your image. It can look like a hall of mirrors, but the effects are pretty clearly distinguished. And they really help you intelligently apply the filter, showing you a range of options.
- The largest pane on the screen (you can't miss it) is for your image. When you pick a preset, there's often an overlay of controls (usually sliders) to adjust the effect or pick a color.
- At the very top of the screen is the obligatory menu bar that's as mysterious as a Chumash cave drawing. Reading left to right, the first group is Open (Camera Roll or Photo Stream) and Full Screen toggle. The second group includes Undo (the Lightning Bolt), Hide/Show Presets, Hide/Show Controls and the On-Screen Control (to adjust how much of the image is affected). Then comes Crop, Rotate/Straighten and Paint (which also makes masks), each of which has its own set of Paleolithic menu items. Finally, there's Search (to find a filter by name), Reset (a preset), Help (just a text file of info) and the Layer/Save/Share button.
- Some menu commands have their own submenu, indicated by the Cancel and Done buttons at either end.
USING THE APP
We did find ourselves visiting the Help file repeatedly to learn how to do something and it didn't let us down. It isn't fancy, just a text file formatted like your average Read Me, but it tells you everything you need to know.
File management was a little more confusing.
It's one thing to happily click on one or another filter and dabble with the presets. Each one refers back to the original image before working its magic so you aren't muddying the image with previous selections. That's clear enough. And much appreciated as you play around.
But suppose you don't want to play any more?
In that case you have two choices. You can Save the image or you can create a Layer and keep working. Layers are particularly helpful if you use the Paint tool to mask areas of the image to apply an effect to just a part of the image.
But Layers are not quite the full-blown layers of other image editing software that you can stack on top of each other, rename and move around, not to mention change how they interact with each other using various blending modes. Instead, these layers are more like snapshots that let Photo fx Ultra refer back to that state rather than the original image so you can use more than one filter on an image.
Tiffen does warn you in the Help file, that you can run out of memory adding layers. Performance may also degrade.
Those obscure icons on the menu bar are worth getting to know, too. Just a tap on the lightning bolt will let you compare the filtered image to the original, for example.
We didn't really miss the ability to zoom in or out of the image because mostly you are working globally on the image. Admittedly we didn't do a lot of painting or masking. If you need to mask the image, though, you'd want to zoom in to do it with some precision.
A few sessions into it, we realized there were a few places to look for black and white presets. That's when we became friendly with the Search option. Just type "bla" and a few black and white options were listed. When we couldn't remember where something was, this was a great way to call it forth.
To load your settings in Dfx v3, you email yourself the .dfx set up file, which has all the adjustments and filters used. You open that .dfx file in Dfx with the Open Setup command to get the filtered look you created in Photo fx Ultra. Everything but Paint and masks are transferred.
Clearly the meat and potatoes of this app are the filters and presets. The editing functions like crop, rotate and straighten are conveniences. But since you are working with JPEGs, they are necessary conveniences. You wouldn't want to be obliged to crop and straighten in some other app, save as a JPEG and then work on that second generation image in Photo fx Ultra only to have to save a third generation JPEG.
CLICK & SLIDE
Despite the many options this app puts under your fingertip, you'd get bored pretty fast if it was just a click this and click that operation.
In fact, the fun comes in making adjustments to the presets. They function like starting points -- excellent starting points -- for the effect, but they really don't bring with them the judgment you, as the viewer, do. Is it a little too much? Or not enough? Just move a slider and see for yourself.
The vignette filter is a good example. It places an oval vignette centered on your image with a gradation that fades to black. But you have a few options, starting with the fade. You can adjust both the softness and the amount of the fade. And you can change the color from black to anything else, like something from the image itself. But you can also move the vignette from the center of the image to, say, the center of the subject, spotlighting it.
As is our habit, we used a stylus on the iPad to interact with Photo fx Ultra, but the controls were designed for the cruder precision of a finger tip.
Had all these filters been available to us in the last century for $5, we would have forgotten all about the collie. Playing with Photo fx Ultra is a lot cheaper and just as much fun as any old dog.
With so many options, we appreciated the well-organized approach. But what we really enjoyed was fiddling with a preset's options once we'd found one we liked.
And presets are really the attraction here. Any image editor can achieve these looks -- if you know how to do it. But with a preset, you just have to find it and click to get the effect. Fine tuning it is just an added joy.
Outright prolonged applause!
By DAVE ETCHELLS, MIKE TOMKINS, ROGER SLAVENS and SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/nikon-s800c/nikon-s800cA.HTM on the Web site.)
Marking a true watershed in the photo industry, the Android-equipped Nikon Coolpix S800c merges Google's popular mobile operating system with a 16-megapixel, 10x zoom, WiFi-enabled pocket digital camera. The Nikon S800c shares all the benefits of Android 2.3, including the Google Play store and it has a better sensor than almost any smartphone or tablet on the market. Its 25-250mm lens ensures you can frame your subjects just like you want, whether near or far.
Starting at $350 in a white or black body, the Nikon S800c is the first digital camera to have a true operating system for over a decade and unlike the ill-fated Digita OS, Android is already quite well established. We think it's the first of many OS-enabled digital cameras to come.
FIRING BACK AT PHONES
The camera industry has long been trying to figure out how to compete with smartphones and tablets -- devices that take pictures, but don't take them nearly as well as most digital cameras. The Coolpix S800c is the first attempt to coexist with smartphones and tablets and even bypass them completely, uploading photos directly to sharing and storage sites.
Some manufacturers have approached the challenge by adding WiFi capabilities to their cameras, allowing photographers to transfer their higher-quality images to smart devices so they can be easily managed and shared via email, texts and social media. But with the Coolpix S800c, Nikon breaks new ground by bringing the smarts into the camera itself. Nikon says they worked closely with Google to optimize the integration between camera and Android system so that photo-minded consumers could get (at least some of) the best of both worlds in one device.
The Nikon S800c's Android system looks and feels like virtually any other Android-based smartphone. You interact with it through a large and bright 3.5-inch OLED on the backside of the camera, which has a capacitive touch screen, as most folks are used to on a smartphone. The Nikon S800c's WiFi connectivity lets you access and upload photos to your social networks, surf the Web and download virtually any applications (including dozens of photo and video apps) from the Google Play store.
Nikon told us that it chose Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), not 4.0 or 4.1, for the Nikon S800c because it wasn't as demanding on the CPU and required less RAM.
While it runs Android, it's important to remember that the Nikon Coolpix S800c is at its heart a camera. With a 16-Mp backside-illuminated CMOS sensor chip, a 10x-wide 25-250mm equivalent Nikkor zoom lens and an Expeed C2 processing engine, the Nikon S800c has a decent set of specs, putting its photographic capabilities well ahead of any other smartphone or tablet.
It measures just a bit bigger and rounder (4.4x2.4x1.1 inches) and heavier (6.5 ounces) than a typical Android smartphone. The camera features an internal flash, a continuous-drive mode that captures up to eight frames per second and various Scene modes and creative filters. Its built-in GPS is a rather standard implementation, but it does have the ability to download and store ephemeris information, meaning it will map your location quickly the next time you power up the camera (this info has to be downloaded manually according to our preliminary information). The camera also shoots Full HD video at 1080p with stereo sound.
Though we only had a short time with the Nikon S800c, we liked what we saw. The touch shutter works very well and the shutter lag seems pretty short. We also enjoyed the AF/AE touch-focusing system, which set focus properly with a simple touch of the OLED screen. The AF touch area is limited to about 70 percent of the total screen area so you can't focus way out on the sides of the screen.
The exposure settings on the prototype we played with seemed somewhat limited. Subject tracking also worked reasonably well, but it fared best with distinct color differences. Simple tonal differences weren't enough to keep the Nikon S800c on target. Also it likely couldn't track a very fast-moving subject.
The Nikon S800c has 4-GB of built-in storage, with roughly 1.7-GB for images, 680-MB for apps and presumably the rest for the Android OS. You can add an SD card for additional storage, though it was unclear whether that could also serve as storage for apps and content for Android.
TOGETHER BUT SEPARATE
The Android and camera parts of the Nikon S800c exist somewhat separately, so the camera operates in two different modes.
When you're taking pictures, you're in Camera mode and when using the Android apps, you're in Android mode. You switch between the two via touch-controls on the OLED screen and you have to explicitly switch back to Camera mode before you can take a picture. The shutter button does nothing while in Android mode, which we found a little disconcerting.
It doesn't take long to switch from one mode to the other, but we'd worry about missing a key shot if we were off fiddling in Android-land when something interesting happened. Since the penalty of exiting Camera mode could be missed shots, the Nikon S800c asks you to confirm that you want to switch to Android mode, with a second touch of the screen. Switching back to Camera mode requires only a single touch.
We're frankly a little undecided how to feel about the Camera/Android dichotomy.
On the one hand, we really want the camera to feel like a camera when we're shooting with it and that dictates an entirely different user interface than that employed by Android.
On the other hand, we'd like the integration between the two functions to be more seamless, at least to the extent of having the Shutter button override Android functions, to let us snap an image quickly.
As with most of our camera evaluations, we'll only know how we feel about the Nikon S800c's user interface once we've had a chance to live with it for a while.
Start Up. Having seen early attempts at putting a full-blown operating system in a camera (the Kodak DC260 for one example), an obvious concern was whether the Nikon S800c would be responsive enough, particularly on power-up. Operating systems take a while to wake up and get themselves loaded, but you want a camera to take a picture now, not 15 or 20 seconds later, once it's awakened.
Nikon dealt with this dilemma quite nicely in the Coolpix S800c. When you power-up the camera, it boots up in plain-Jane camera mode, so it's ready to snap a picture very quickly. We didn't time this, but it seemed as quick as any other digicam out there.
Once the camera itself is up and running, Android continues to boot in the background, with a slight change in the user interface displayed on the LCD monitor. This is pretty seamless. You don't notice any change in camera functionality but the UI change just lets you know Android is ready to go.
Transferring images from the Nikon S800c to your smartphone or tablet proved to be pretty easy. We played around with an early version of an Android photo transfer app that lets the camera connect to an Android phone or tablet. Nikon says an iOS version will be available shortly after the camera's release.
To connect with a phone or tablet, the Nikon S800c publishes its own WiFi node, which an app running on the smart device then connects to. The first time you connect to a given device, the camera and phone/tablet have to find each other and confirm that they're each talking to who you want them to. This is an Android-to-Android connection. You have to go into the Nikon S800c's Android mode to do it.
On the Nikon S800c, you select the Upload app from the Android app screen, while on the phone/tablet side, you choose the "Connect to S800c" app. Select Simple Setup on both and hit start on each as well. After a few moments, both devices will display a four-digit number that indicates they're communicating with each other. If the numbers do in fact match, you hit OK on both devices, after which they say, "setup complete," with another OK needed to confirm that.
With the two devices paired, you select Start Service on the camera and Connect to Camera on the phone/tablet. After another moment or two, the Nikon S800c will say, "Connected to smart device," and thumbnails of all the photos on the camera's card will appear on the smart device's screen. If the devices have been paired previously, you only need to do the Start Service/Connect to Camera part of the process to get going.
With all the Nikon S800c's thumbnails displayed on the smart device, you can rapidly scroll though them with swipes of the finger, just as you'd expect on a typical phone or tablet. Touching an image marks it for transfer and there are select/deselect all buttons on the bottom of the screen to do what their names suggest.
With the images you want transferred selected, you touch the Camera Download button (a little icon of a camera with an arrow pointing down and out of it) at the bottom of the screen and the images will transfer over to the phone/tablet. We didn't time this transfer, but it seemed pretty quick. It's probably only an 11-megabit "b" type WiFi connection, but that's still a pretty decent amount of bandwidth for moving 16-Mp images around.
Once the images are transferred to the smart device, you'll find them in a new folder inside your Android device's Gallery app. When the iOS version becomes available, downloaded photos will presumably be in your Photos app.
This was one small point of disconnect for us. We'd like to be able to immediately browse the smart device's photos from within the transfer app, rather than having to hop out to the Gallery application. Perhaps we'll see this in future versions of the photo-transfer app, but in the meantime, it seemed a little awkward to have to exit and enter another app to see what you just transferred.
Another, similar niggle, but one that there's probably no getting around: Since there's only one WiFi radio in the typical smart device, you have to exit the camera-transfer app before you can connect to a WiFi network with your phone or tablet and upload the transferred photos to your favorite sharing service. If your smart device has a cell radio in it, that form of transfer is immediately available.
Of course, with the Nikon S800c's Android capabilities, you don't have to transfer your image files to another device if you don't want to. You can connect to a WiFi network or even the WiFi hotspot on your smartphone and post your photos to social sites such as Facebook and Flickr from the camera itself and you can edit and manage your images with some pretty sophisticated Android photo apps. That's why we think this pairing of a much-better-than-smartphone camera with the Android's OS smarts will make the Nikon S800c a very popular choice when it's released in September.
By ROGER SLAVENS
Craving some new gear for your camera bag? Imaging Resource can help. Today we launched our first-ever sweepstakes on Facebook, where IR fans can enter for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate from our trusted affiliate partner, Adorama:
You can increase your chances of winning by sharing the sweepstakes with your friends. You'll receive two additional sweepstakes entries for each friend who successfully enters. As a bonus prize, IR will be awarding a $100 Adorama gift certificate to the fan who gets the most friends to participate.
Simply visit Imaging Resource's "Photo Gear Shopping Spree" Sweepstakes on Facebook, "Like" our page if you haven't already and submit your name and email address to enter. (Note: You will not be automatically entered if you already have "Liked" us on Facebook. You still have to click on the link and submit a sweepstakes entry.)
Once you've entered, you can share the sweepstakes with your friends via the special Facebook, Twitter and email invitations found on our sweepstakes page. The deadline to enter is Friday, Aug. 31, at 5 p.m. EDT.
Imaging Resource will conduct a random drawing from all entries on Monday, Sept. 3, to select the $250 sweepstakes winner and we'll also tally up your Facebook friends' entries to select the $100 sharing winner. After the winners have been notified and confirmed, we'll post the results on IR. Good luck entering the sweepstakes and stay tuned for details on more contests to come.
We're happy to announce a new feature on IR that gets you answers from a larger group of experts: people who actually use the cameras you're interested in every day -- actual owners.
We've partnered with Adorama and startup TurnTo to pilot a syndicated Q&A system that taps into the expertise of enthusiasts like yourself. Have a question about a specific camera feature? Need help deciding between two well-reviewed models? Simply click on the Q&A tab at the top of a camera review and type in your question, and it'll be sent out to dozens of actual owners. When someone responds (and someone will, because we photographers love to help each other out), the answer will appear not only on our site, but also in your inbox.
For now, we've set up orange Q&A tabs on a handful of the most popular cameras as a beta test of the feature. We'll roll out the feature on more cameras over the next couple of weeks after the initial beta period. Over time, the Q&A feature will draw on the experience of customers of other top camera retailers as well.
-- Arthur Etchells
Yeah, echoing Arthur, what's unique here is that your questions are directly emailed to people who we know bought the product in question. TurnTo tells us the average time from a question being posted to the first answer coming in is about an hour.
YMMV, of course, depending on what product you're asking about, and brand-new products may not have any actual owners yet (in which case, Adorama has a dedicated person on staff to go look at the camera on the retail shelf and answer the question), but what's unique about this is you don't have to wait for someone to stumble across your question and it'll be directed to people who actually own the product.
-- Dave Etchells
Other highlights since the last issue:
- Previewed: Nikon Coolpix S800c (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/nikon-s800c/nikon-s800cA.HTM) with some nice Android screen shots from that 819,000-dot OLED screen.
- Reviewed: Tiffen Photo fx Ultra (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/tiffen-photo-fx-ultra/index.htm)
- Reviewed: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM (http://slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1522/cat/11)
- Reviewed: Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5-GB ED VR AF-S (http://slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1526/cat/13)
Ann Carrns confessed last week in her New York Times Bucks Blog (http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/trying-to-deposit-checks-with-my-new-iphone/?src=rechp) to using her iPhone to deposit checks to her Bank of America account. It didn't go so well, so it was a confession.
She was only partly to blame but her part in the whole thing made us feel like some sleepy St. Bernard on a cold winter's night (which is about what we've got here every summer in San Francisco). We reached for the rescue supplies and, well, thought better of braving the fog to stretch out our arms over the laptop keyboard.
Problem One: "The app rejected my first two attempts as too blurry."
Well, sure, it's an iPhone. Every time you tap the ersatz Shutter button, you move the camera. And in the imperfect ambient light of your closet safe, you get a blurry shot.
The trick to a sharp shot is 1) lots of light (she resorted successfully to the kitchen) and 2) lifting your finger from the Shutter button rather than tapping it (yep, it's a secret).
Problem Two: "The image is blurry. Please retake a clear photo."
This was a different check, a handwritten check. Ann called customer service and got the always inappropriate advice to reinstall the software. That never works. Just lie to them. "OK, did that. Still doesn't work."
The answer to this problem is simply to give up. Some checks just can't be recognized, even if you took the shot with a Nikon D800E. It could be illegible handwriting (which, on the other hand, is an excellent technique for paying your bills) or a bit of scrawl that obscures essential printed data on the check, like routing information or the account number.
Then, too, the check may be too large. Some banks limit these transactions to checks under $1,000.
So just how do you do this reliably? Well, make sure you follow the advice your app gives you. But in general:
Five steps? Really? Sure, nothing in photography takes less than five steps.
- Find a flat, well-lit area. It's not cheating to turn on the room lights, but make sure you aren't casting a shadow when you stand over your check. If you have sunshine, use that nearby window.
- Encourage the check to lie as flat as possible, unbending folds and smoothing wrinkles.
- Place it on a dark, non-reflective surface.
- Align the check with the app's guides.
- Take two images for each check, one of the front and one of the back (endorsed "For Deposit Only").
In the reader comments following Ann's story, the consensus was that USAA's app, which has been around since August 2009, is the best at this with Chase, Schwab and Citibank ahead of Bank of America. We suspect, however, that this isn't about the phone technology or the app as much as it is about scanning sophistication at the other end of the transaction.
Which brings up an other point. You don't have to do this on your phone. USAA, for example, offers [email protected], a desktop application that lets you use your scanner, which is far more adept at this sort of thing with a bright light of its own, a flat field and sufficient resolution (although you only need 200 dpi, according to USAA).
We packed a bag, hopped a bus and joined the hordes of photographers at the Marina Green to get a shot of the America's Cup World Series (http://www.americascup.com/en/events/ac-world-series-2012-2013/san-francisco-us-aug-21-aug-26) catamaran regatta here this week.
But before we went, we set up our gear for shooting sailboats.
Shooting from shore calls for a telephoto lens, vacation zoom or megazoom digicam. Some of the pros nearby were shooting with 400mm and 600mm primes. But wider angle zooms and primes are good for shots of the boats at the dock or at anchor, too.
- Image Quality: Raw+JPEG with the least compression on the JPEG.
- Exposure: We want to be about f8 and 1/800 second preferred, letting the ISO wander up if necessary. For fast action, Shutter Priority at 1/1000 second. For sharpness, Aperture Priority at f8 and f11.
- White Balance: Cloudy (it's summer in San Francisco). Auto might be confused by the blue water and sky.
- Image stabilization is your friend.
- Pack extra memory cards.
- Use a circular polarizer if there's sun to cut the glare down from the light hitting the water.
But a lot of people were shooting with their phones. That's a nice wide view and video really shows off the speed of these cats.
So how'd we do? Great! On this trip we stuck an old Vivitar Series I 70-210mm with a Lensbaby Tilt Transformer adapter on an Olympus E-PL1 to get right in the boats. We set it at f8 most of the time, f11 a few times. ISO never wandered from 200 as shutter speeds were mostly above 1/500 second. Only 13 of the 109 shots were slower and none slower than 1/250 second.
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 ongoing comments about Canon dSLRs at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee92fbe
A reader asks if the DSC-P50 is compatible with Windows 7 at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee7af72
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You can email us at [email protected]. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.
RE: Jigsaw Explorer
As a longtime subscriber to your newsletter, I have to say you hit one out of the ballpark this time. I read the entire newsletter but especially enjoyed the Jigsaw Explorer. This is a wonderful option instead of card games for those of us who can actually remember things like real jigsaw puzzles.
I've attached a puzzle from a picture taken at Portobello Road in London on a slow Sunday morning. I moved the number of puzzle pieces up to 300 -- my "record"' was 1.47 hours (cheated and used the "edges" option or I'd still be working on it.)
Keep us the great work!
-- Joyce Stein(Thanks, Joyce! Yes, that Jigsaw Explorer is very, very well done. Just had to share it. And then try to stay away from it long enough to finish the issue <g>! Glad you enjoyed it. -- Editor)
RE: Canon 420EZ Manual
I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me where to get the instruction manual for a Canon 420EZ Speedlite. Canon doesn't have it and can't tell me where to get one. Thanks.
-- Joe Fillinger(Right, Canon has nothing on its site about the 420EZ. Probably because, as a 1987 product, it predates any convenient electronic distribution (printed copies only). We did find one place with a lot of information (http://mir.com.my/rb/photography/hardwares/classics/eos/EOS-1n/Flash/Canon_420EZ/index.htm). There's a link to a manual on that page, but it isn't in English.... But, you know, we'd caution you not to use it with any current digital camera unless you can confirm that the trigger voltage is within the camera's specs. Old strobes could sent 300 volts down the line, frying digital component designed to handle no more than six volts. We've written a lot about this in the Newsletter (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Just search for "trigger voltage." -- Editor)
RE: Image Database
A suggestion for future article/review: I would be very interested in a list of products (your review of these products would be a great bonus) that I would call a "digital image storage database." By this I mean an image storage software program that actually is a relational database that can be queried to enable retrieval (and sorting) of the "described" digital images.
Image "describers" come from "unique identifiers" attached to each image. These identifiers can be attached automatically, for example, by the camera when the image is made or manually added any time. Ideally, the number of such identifiers should be unlimited. The owner of the software should be able to add identifiers at will and name them as he wants. Their data type (i.e., text, number, date) should be able to be as he wants.
There are products out there now that have at least some of these characteristics but I have not been able to find any decent current list or review of them.
-- Tom Bittman(Lightroom, ACDSee Pro, Aperture, well, stop us. All these programs feature an "organizer" of some kind that's really an SQL Lite database (usually). You can search on any metadata (since it's stored in the database, often along with a thumbnail). And in fact, we've been doing that with recent camera reviews where we ask how many shots we've taken at which aperture, ISO, shutter speed, etc. Those would be the "describers" you refer to, we think. It's an interesting subject to us (among our database projects is a PHP/MySQL lens program we've written for internal use at Imaging Resource, in fact). Fortunately the facility is increasingly common if not very much reviewed or talked about. -- Editor)(Digital asset management programs, which tend to be big and expensive and aimed at corporate users, might give you more flexibility in creating user-defined fields. I found one site with a helpful roundup (http://www.capterra.com/digital-asset-management-software). -- Dave)
RE: Nikon 990
When you see Dave Etchells please tell him I enjoyed reading his article on the Nikon 990! I took your hint and went back to Vol. 2 No. 6 to read about JPEGs and happened across that other article.
I had not read it when I purchased my first digital camera -- you guessed it, the 990.
I still have it and except for the fact that the battery door is hard to operate (sometimes falling open), it still works. (-: I have printed a few very fine 8x10s from it so don't let anyone say you have to be satisfied with only showing on the Web!
So here's to beginnings and haven't we come a long way in just 12 years! Thanks again for your hard work.
-- Nick Baldwin(It must be your lucky day, Nick, because we wrote about the battery compartment issue and how to repair it in the April 27, 2007 issue in "Repairing It Yourself." We can confirm the repair is still working, too. Because our 990 is still working. -- Editor)
Eastman Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has announced it plans to sell its Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses as part of its plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company plans to focus "on commercial, packaging and functional printing solutions and enterprise services," ending the company's long history in photography and consumer print making.
Canon (http://www.canon.com) has announced a new EF lens-manufacturing milestone with the production of the company's 80-millionth EF lens on Aug. 3 during the 25th anniversary of the launch of EOS system.
The Strobist has published On Photographing People by Sara Lando (http://strobist.blogspot.com/2012/08/on-photographing-people-pt-1.html), a three-part piece by the Milanese photographer "on all of the things that get lost in the shuffle when thinking about lighting and lenses and cameras, etc."
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Revel 1.5 with photo albums you can share privately on AdobeRevel.com; new photo Looks including TinType, Glow, and Haze; and photo captions.
Pholium (http://pholium.com) has released Pholium 1.3 [M] with a fast, auto-layout wizard, an ebook style, a sample/guidebook, Dropbox sharing and more.
In a column titled Criminalizing Photography, James Estrin interviews Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, on knowing your rights. "Literally every day, someone is being arrested for doing nothing more than taking a photograph in a public place," Osterreicher notes. "It makes no sense to me. Photography is an expression of free speech."
Researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Hewlett-Packard Laboratories and 3M revealed a new printing method (http://news.ucsc.edu/2012/08/reflectance-paper.html) produces photos that respond to different angles of light like a three-dimensional object. The technique, which requires a "reflectance paper" covered with thousands of tiny dimples.
Adobe Press has published The Hidden Power of Blend Modes in Adobe Photoshop by Scott Valentine. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 37 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0321823761/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Distributed Art Publishers has published The Bitter Years edited by Francoise Poos and featuring 209 images by U.S. Farm Security Administration photographers. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0500544182/?tag=theimagingres-20).
SitePoint (http://www.sitepoint.com) has published the second edition of Photoshop CS6 Unlocked: 101 Tips, Tricks and Techniques by Corrie Haffly. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 37 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0987247875/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Rocky Nook (http://www.rockynook.com) has published Mastering the Nikon D800 by Darrell Young. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 47 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1937538052/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Tamron has launched a new monthly series of six-minute how-to videos coverings topics from travel and macro to pet and child portraiture. The videos can be seen on Tamron's YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/tamronvids).
Imagenomic (http://www.imagenomic.com) has released Noiseware 5 and updated its Portraiture and Realgrain plugins.
Everimaging (http://www.everimaging.com) has released its $9.99 Great Photo Pro 3.0 [M] with faster photo import, a separate Raw processing mode and improved stability.
We note the passing of Martine Franck (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/arts/martine-franck-documentary-photographer-dies-at-74.html?_r=1&hpw), noted for her 35mm Leica portraits of artists and unusual communities. A shy person, she once explained, "I realized that photography was an ideal way of telling people what is going on without having to talk."
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Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher