|Volume 14, Number 22||2 November 2012|
Welcome to the 344th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We take a peek at FocusTune, the Panasonic GF5 and shooting a dark museum exhibit before awarding the 2012 Ersatz Nobel. But our thoughts are with those suffering through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Disaster doesn't play favorites, which keeps the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org) busy. Finally, if you're changing your clocks this weekend, don't forget your camera clocks, too.
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(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/focustune/index.htm on the Web site.)
Over the years Michael Tapes Design (http://michaeltapesdesign.com) has evolved its LensAlign device for correcting back or front autofocusing errors. But recently Tapes came at the problem from another angle.
While the LensAlign is an optimized target for evaluating autofocus accuracy, it still takes your own eyeballs to evaluate the results. And to be accurate, one shot won't do it. You really need a range of shots to appreciate the average error, throwing out the poorest attempts and mixing in viewfinder and Live View approaches.
With the new FocusTune application, Tapes automates that evaluation. Point the Windows or Mac OS product to a set of images of the LensAlign target (or a printed target) and it will tell you the best micro adjustment to make.
That makes the micro autofocus adjustment faster and more precise, according to Tapes.
We participated in a beta program, primarily focused on the Mac version in our case, so we saw this baby in its gestation period.
Tapes told us FocusTune will work as well with a special printed target as with a LensAlign. But, as you might imagine, there are some advantages to using a LensAlign:
"Without LensAlign you have to take a full sweep of -20 through +20 at 5 step intervals for example," Tapes said. "But other than that the results are the same."
- Perfect parallel alignment of the sensor to the target
- The ability to "see" the 0 AFA results, which minimizes the amount of pictures you have to take
Tapes plans to offer a 16x20 hard-plastic printed target to allow full alignment of the camera sensor to the target. "This can be used in general, but is also needed to evaluate left and right focus points as compared to the center focus point," he said. "FocusTune has a mode for that."
Using FocusTune is a two-step process. The first is shooting the target and the second is feeding the shots to FocusTune for evaluation.
Tapes described the process of shooting the target to provide FocusTune with enough images to derive an accurate correction. Here's the shooting process:
Once you've got a healthy collection of images, you import them into FocusTune and perform the analysis. Here's the software process:
- Set the autofocus microadjustment on the camera to zero, open the lens up for the minimal depth of field
- Camera setup: large/fine JPEG, Manual mode, a white balance other than Auto, ISO up to 800 (higher to avoid camera shake), Monochrome picture style, viewfinder eyepiece closed, single center point autofocus (not Canon spot AF), single shot (not continuous release), wide open aperture, shutter delay or cable release preferred
- Take a couple of shots of the LensAlign, defocusing between shots and mixing in a few Live View shots
- Evaluate focus by eye on the LCD to see if there's an obvious front or back focusing issue, indicated by something other than the 0 on the ruler being sharp
- Take a series of 10 shots with different autofocus microadjustment settings surrounding the suspect front or back focus. So if you have a slight back focus, you'd take a series of four shots each at every microfocus setting between 0 and -10, defocusing each time.
Behind the curtain, FocusTune evaluates the images for autofocus consistency, throwing out the outliers, compares focus among the rest of the images and determines the sharpest aperture.
- Load the image files (but you don't have to tether the camera to a computer for this)
- Set options (labels, etc.)
- Rename files if desired, which tells you what the autofocus setting is
- Crop target image so the program knows what to evaluate (although the shipping version seems to be able to figure this out by itself)
- Pick an output directory
- Run the analysis
- View the results, reported in a PDF file
How it does all that is Tapes' secret, but he did concede the program does not analyze the ruler. "I experimented with that and found that the resolution is just not good enough at the proper test distance," he explained. Instead it analyzes the FocusTarget sharpness.
In just a few seconds, FocusTune reports its results.
After entering our purchase information at Michael Tapes Design's e-store, we were able to download both the Mac and Windows versions of FocusTune. When we ran the program for the first time, it prompted for a key, which we found on the order page.
After that, the application launched. No problem.
Tapes has written a comprehensive User Guide (http://www.mediafire.com/view/?58m52dxssyb66z5) for FocusTune and posted it as an online PDF.
As noted above, we beta tested the Mac version. While the application fails to observe some common Mac interface conventions, Tapes was responsive to our complaints. As the product matures, we expect they'll be addressed.
Meanwhile, let's take the tour.
There is a main menu but it's merely decorative. All the action takes place in a main window that has button icons for Import, Select All, Remove and Quit above a filename list pane on top, fields for handling the focus target and crop in a small window below them, as well as fields for Process Control (like renaming or analyzing the files).
It reads a bit more scattered than it is, although at first it's disorienting. Windows users are used to that sort of socks-on-the-floor design, but Mac users expect a little Human Interface Guideline goodness.
Mac users will also be surprised to find that the PDF report is written to the folder that FocusTune resides in. That's typically one of the two Application folders. Tapes promised that would be addressed promptly in a future version.
Despite all that, the application functions well. And in a utility like this, that's what counts.
The only other program we're aware of that does anything similar is the $99 FoCal from Reikan (http://www.reikan.co.uk/focalweb/) which requires you to tether the camera to a computer for its fully automatic calibration shot acquisition (at least with supported cameras).
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
Available now from Michael Tapes Design (http://michaeltapesdesign.com/focustune_signup.html), FocusTune is $29.95 or $19.95 for LensAlign owners, which includes a license key for both Mac and Windows versions.
Tapes has also devised a free trial system (http://mtd.forumatic.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=21), which consists of a demo program restricted to special demo files for full operation but allowing "you to load your own camera files into the application and view the metadata on the display grid, as well as use the rename feature."
Apart from the interface, we really appreciated having a tool to help analyze our LensAlign shots. It sure beats using the Find Edges filter in Photoshop to highlight what's in focus.
In fact, knowing we had a quick and convenient tool to analyze the images, we were encouraged to take many more than we usually do to refine our autofocus adjustments. And guess what? That gave us a more accurate adjustments in the end. Just as promised.
Can't complain about results like that.
By MIKE TOMKINS(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/panasonic-gf5/panasonic-gf5A.HTM on the Web site.)
Quite a few compact system cameras and large-sensor compacts have crossed my desk lately and although it wasn't the smallest, the $749 Panasonic GF5 was certainly toward the bottom end of the scale. On mounting the bundled LUMIX G x Vario PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens, the advantage became more clear. The pairing of camera and lens really offered a much more compact package than you'd get with a dSLR and yielded a worthwhile savings even over many competing mirrorless models.
Better still, it did so while retaining a modest handgrip on the front. I'm not a fan of interchangeable-lens cameras with completely featureless front panels. They're too tiring to hold for any length of time once I mount anything more than the smallest and lightest of lenses. I dare not loosen my grip for fear of dropping the camera.
That's not to say the Lumix GF5 had perfect handling though. I'm a little over six feet tall with hands to match and the rear-panel control layout was rather cramped for my liking. The four-way controller with integrated dial in particular was small enough that I had concerns about accidentally turning the dial while trying to press the buttons, although it seldom actually happened.
In fact, my main problem with that control ended up being my frustration with the fact that it never registered the first click when turned or when I reversed the rotation direction. Initially, I thought this was simply a sensitivity issue, but I came to realize that it's by design, as it only ever happens on that first click -- subsequent detents never failed to be registered.
The video button was also a little troublesome. The combination of a near-flush position on the top deck and a very short throw with almost no feel meant I typically had to look at my index finger to be sure I had the button covered, before starting video capture.
The lack of a Mode dial, too, was a bit of a shame. While I could emulate a Mode dial by turning the rear dial while viewing the Mode display on the LCD panel, this was a wholly unsatisfying experience, because it was so slow. It takes quite some time to step all the way around the 'dial' in this manner, as there's a pause at each position -- you can't simply flick rapidly through the positions as you would with a real Mode dial.
It ended up being much easier just to reach over and press my chosen mode on the touch panel, but that reinforced the feeling that I was using an electronic gadget, rather than a photographic device.
I could forgive these quirks, though, because I understood them to be part and parcel of achieving the Panasonic GF5's compact body. The small, light package, after all, is one of the key advantages of a mirrorless camera over a dSLR.
A CHANGE OF HEART
Once I got out and started shooting, I found the Panasonic GF5 altering my perception of mirrorless cameras. I've tended to think of them as merely a backup to a dSLR or an alternative for the photographer who's willing to make sacrifices for the savings in bulk.
Sure, they offered a smaller package, but they did so by dropping features I relied upon: the viewfinder, phase detect AF sensor and so on. While I still missed the presence of an optical viewfinder, the array of external controls and the battery life of a dSLR, I didn't really feel I was making a sacrifice in shooting with the GF5, though.
Why the change of heart?
Its extremely fast autofocus: in our testing the GF5 locked focus as fast or faster than many dSLRs. And my real-world shooting bore that out. Even with moving subjects, I didn't find myself cursing the autofocus as I've done on some recent compact system cameras. I could live with some of the other disadvantages of mirrorless, but it turns out the slow AF of many models was the real showstopper for me.
I mentioned battery life as an issue of mirrorless cameras, by the way, and it's simply part of their nature. The main power draws -- image sensor, processor and LCD panel -- must all be active not only for capture, but also during image framing. That power draw means CIPA battery life ratings are about half what you could expect from an SLR and the real-world difference will be greater, depending on how much of your time you spend framing your shots.
But the GF5 certainly had enough juice to get me through an afternoon's shooting on a single pack, although I still found myself turning it off immediately after exposures. That wasn't only to avoid wasting battery power, but also because I noticed the handgrip really gets quite warm during shooting. Not alarmingly so -- my smartphone gets much hotter -- but it was enough that I noticed my fingertips getting uncomfortably sweaty and was more than I'm used to from most cameras.
Of course, the size advantage of the Panasonic GF5 comes in no small part due to its collapsible kit lens, which is only one of two choices available. The other option has the same focal lengths and maximum aperture range, but a larger and heavier non-collapsing design, no power zoom, can't focus quite as closely and is a bit less expensive.
The power zoom lens is great for videos, offering variable speed and making it really easy to adjust the zoom during video capture without shaking the camera. Each time I needed to zoom, I did find myself reaching in front of the shutter button before remembering the lever was on the side of the lens barrel, though. Apparently Pavlovian conditioning applies to camera design, too. And frankly, I kept forgetting the manual focus lever altogether -- tucked low-down on the side of the lens barrel is not the greatest of positions.
I'd say the power zoom lens was a no-brainer despite the extra cost, were it not for the fact that it shares the blur issue we ran into during our Panasonic GX1 review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/GX1/GX1A.HTM).
That problem, unfortunately, does crop up in real-world shooting and unless you shoot manually, you do have to pay attention to it. I lost more than a few shots to it or at least ended up with shots that weren't as sharp as they could have been.
It's easily avoided just by paying attention to your shutter speed when shooting near telephoto and keeping it above around 1/300 second or so. If you don't pay attention though, the Panasonic GF5 will happily select shutter speeds within the affected range under autoexposure.
Frankly, it's a pain to work around. The alternative -- buying the manual-zoom variant of the lens -- will save you some money, but you lose the smooth, jostle-free zoom for videos and sacrifice much of the camera's size advantage. Tough call and one likely answered by how much video shooting you plan to do and whether size is your main priority.
Another key area of the Panasonic GF5 is its touch-screen interface. I've said before I'm not really a fan of touch screen cameras and that's still the case, but I must admit that I'm starting to warm to them on Panasonic's recent models.
There's no question that they can offer advantages, especially for shifting the point of focus during video capture. The GF5's touch screen though is not as sensitive as the capacitive types on modern smartphones. You need to touch reasonably firmly for it to be registered.
The display is also very prone to fingerprint smudging. Since it isn't the brightest around, I found myself often having to stop and wipe the smudges away. Otherwise, it could actually get tricky to see my subject when shooting outdoors in bright ambient light and especially in direct sunlight.
Nor is it as intuitive to use as modern smartphones. While you can swipe left or right to switch between images in playback, for example, there's no pinch-zoom functionality. Instead, you have to press and hold for a moment to enable digital zoom, something that will have less experienced shooters digging through their manuals.
The touch screen also dictates much of the camera's interface. The Panasonic GF5's menus have to cater to clumsy fingers and so they can't fit many options on each page, leading to a lot of separate pages of menus. In total, there are no less than 21 menu pages, with just five options per page, which means a lot of stepping through pages of options.
The same issues apply in other areas, such as choosing creative controls (three onscreen at a time, with five pages) and Scene modes (shown like stacked playing cards, with only one card fully visible at any time and 23 of them to flip through.)
On the plus side, there's a nice live preview of the effects for creative controls, with a curious variable size. Changing the size doesn't actually mean you fit any more or less items on screen, so I'm not quite sure what the point of the smaller size would be.
The new side menu is something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it lets you have a preview that's almost free of overlays, rather than the clutter of distracting UI elements typical of touchscreens. On the other hand, it's easy to change a setting there, then forget where that settings change was made because the menu is minimized. Out of sight, out of mind. The button with which the side menu is opened and closed is also quite small and easily missed with a thumb.
Likewise, I had issues with accuracy of the bottom left corner. Only one button -- in the creative controls screen -- seemed to use that position, but I often had to press twice or more to get it to register. Otherwise, though, the screen was pretty accurate, just not very sensitive.
The Panasonic GF5's filters and some of the Scene modes can be quite a bit of fun, if you're the type who prefers not to be stuck behind a desk fiddling with Photoshop. There's a full set in the gallery (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/panasonic-gf5/panasonic-gf5GALLERY.HTM).
One nice touch compared to some of the competition is that the GF5 still lets you shoot Raw files right alongside your images with creative filters or scene-mode effects applied, so you can experiment safe in the knowledge that you've still got your unretouched original image data safe at hand. Many cameras disable Raw output when effects are enabled. The JPEG preview in the Raw files will show the effect used in the JPEG version of the image, so it's easy to relate the two versions to each other, beyond the fact they share a file prefix.
It's a little bit of a shame that the HDR mode is a single-shot effect, rather than a true multiple-shot HDR. That means, unfortunately, that you're limited to the dynamic range available from the sensor, which somewhat defeats the purpose. Still, it does offer quite a significant difference with the right shot, without making the effect totally unnatural, as you can see in the example below.
You can always shoot and merge your HDR exposures manually, too. The bracketing function is handy for that.
Panasonic's i.Resolution function was much more subtle. I've included a series in the gallery, but there really didn't seem to be much of an effect for me. The shots in the series are, respectively, a regular Program exposure, followed by i.Resolution Extended, Low, Medium and High. For good measure, I threw in a shading compensation shot, which does brighten the corners noticeably.
Shooting all these different filters and effects in both Raw and JPEG did emphasise something for me, though. For a Raw shooter, the Panasonic GF5's Raw burst depth is really rather limiting and unless your subjects are relatively static you don't get many chances to nail the shot before your buffer fills. Nor is the burst depth incredibly swift in the first place, although that's easier to live with than the burst depth. If you're a JPEG-only shooter, you can rattle off exposures until your card fills without the camera slowing, though, which is nice.
The Panasonic GF5 lacks any external flash connectivity and so you're limited solely to the built-in flash. That's rather weak and quite prone to red-eye. Hence you'll most likely want to leave red-eye reduction enabled and this also automatically performs red-eye removal if the reduction step didn't fully squash the problem.
Flash exposures struck me as fairly accurate, as did exposure metering in general. My review shooting is always bracketed and as you'll see in the gallery most shots I've selected had no exposure compensation. The few needed some negative exposure compensation were mostly down to the scene itself being rather dark, rather than the camera getting the exposure wrong.
I did think the GF5's noise reduction was rather over-aggressive though and its maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800 equivalent could tactfully be described as optimistic. For my own shooting, I found ISO 1600 a good tradeoff between quality and noise levels and ISO 3200 felt as far as I was willing to go if absolutely necessary. I wouldn't see ISO 6400 and above as anything except a last-resort if flash or a longer exposure time wouldn't get me the shot, as there's some pretty ugly blotching in shots at the highest sensitivities and detail falls off significantly.
You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/panasonic-gf5/panasonic-gf5A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/panasonic-gf5/panasonic-gf5GALLERY.HTM.
With that said, overall I felt the image quality was pretty good for the size of the package. Could I have gotten some of the shots the GF5 missed with my dSLR? Yes, probably, thanks to the bigger sensor. Would I have done so, though? I don't believe so, as my dSLR would probably have been left at home, where the much smaller and lighter Panasonic GF5 would have been more likely to make the trip with me.
Certainly, I got plenty of shots I was very happy with in my time with the Panasonic GF5. For my money, the most important aspect of any camera is that it doesn't get left at home. Any other quirks you can work around, but you can't work around a camera that isn't in your hand when you need it. That makes the Panasonic GF5 a pretty attractive proposition, in my book!
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:
- Reviewed: Canon T4i (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/canon-t4i/canon-t4iA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Pentax K-30 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/pentax-k30/pentax-k30A.HTM)
- Previewed: Samsung Galaxy Camera (http://www.imaging-resource.com/http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2012/10/29/video-preview-samsung-galaxy-camera-capabilities-demonstrated)
- Previewed: Canon 6D wireless remote control (http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2012/10/29/video-preview-remote-controlling-the-canon-6d-via-wireless)
- Reviewed: Panasonic GF5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/panasonic-gf5/panasonic-gf5A.HTM)
- Reviewed: FocusTune (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/focustune/index.htm)
- Previewed: Nikon 1 V2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/nikon-v2/nikon-v2A.HTM). See also our video preview with Nikon's Steve Heiner (http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2012/10/25/video-preview-hands-on-with-the-nikon-v2).
- Reviewed: Samsung NX20 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/samsung-nx20/samsung-nx20A.HTM). This small camera with a big 20.3-Mp APS-C CMOS sensor is capable of taking winning photos with lots of gorgeous detail along with top-notch full HD videos.
- Reviewed: Pentax 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 (http://slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1384/cat/46)
We visited the de Young Museum the other day to have a look at an exhibit of paintings, sculpture and drawings from the William S. Paley Collection (http://deyoung.famsf.org/deyoung/exhibitions/william-s-paley-collection-taste-modernism).
No intention whatsoever of shooting anything. You can't shoot special exhibitions anyway. Right?
Wrong. At least for this one. As long as you didn't use flash, you could shoot everything in the show.
We're not sure why it's OK to use the focus assist lamp, but that's still OK. We turned ours off anyway. It just seemed to rude to other art lovers.
We realized you could photograph the Paley collection when we noticed a fellow with a digicam on about the same route as us shooting every painting. Then we saw the "No Flash Photography" sign, implying of course you could indeed shoot the show.
Pretty cool when you think about it. You could take home as many Paleys as you want, print them on your photo printer, buy frames for them and live like a rich guy in Manhattan the rest of your life, surrounded by fine art.
And many of the paintings were small, so you could enjoy them at full size even with a letter-page size photo printer.
Still, we had no desire to get the camera out of the bag and fiddle around.
For one thing, the Paley exhibit was particularly poorly lit. Nearly everyone had to put their nose on the placards to read them. Each person then apologized to everyone around them for not being able to see. If eyeballs had trouble in that light, we rationalized, a camera would have an even harder time.
Which was a position we maintained until we got to the last room and saw Georges Rouault's "The Clown." You can see a reproduction in the de Young blog (http://deyoung.famsf.org/blog/constructing-collection-paintings-power-and-william-s-paley).
We are a sucker for images of clowns even since the first trade paperback cover illustration of one on Henrich Boll's novel "The Clown." Pagliacci's story always brings a tear to our eyes and Boll's recasting it in postwar Germany is a wonderful read.
What struck us about Rouault's clown, though, was that it wasn't painted on a single piece of canvas or paper. Instead, it was painted on scraps of paper pasted together on a board. You could see the seams clearly. Even in that light.
The placard explained that he'd been inspired by an old clown he saw sitting at a gypsy wagon repairing his brightly colored costume. So Rouault repaired his canvas for the clown. The poetry was what got us. We whipped out the camera.
The first shot we took was of a WhiBal, Michael Tapes' digital gray card. That would help us correct the white balance later. We shot the WhiBal in the same spotlight that fell on the painting but we focused on the placard.
Then we framed up the painting as squarely as we could and took a shot in plain old Program mode. You know, to avoid any suspicion that we know what we're doing. "Look, officer," we could say, "we're shooting in Auto Program mode. We're not making any money on this!"
When we got the shot back to the bunker, we pulled it up for analysis.
The vital stats were revealing. The zoom lens was wide open at its focal length but only f3.9. ISO was cranked up automatically to 1600, a scary thing. And shutter speed was a barely sensible 1/20 second -- except the Olympus E-PL1 we used features body-based image stabilization. So 1/20 second was safe.
And in fact the image was sharp.
We applied the WhiBal white balance correction to the image generated by the Raw file and a slight crop later, it was ready to print.
It's tricky moving the image of an artwork from your screen to paper -- and not for the usual reasons of printing any photo. You have to pick a finish that doesn't get in the way of the original support if it's visible. A matte paper? A semi-gloss? Canvas? We went with semi-gloss.
We didn't worry too much about the noise at ISO 1600 either. It wasn't visible on the print. Of course by then Adobe Camera Raw had minimized it. And the detail that most mattered to us (the patched paper) was as obvious in the print as the original.
Except, you know, you could see it in broad daylight on our print.
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about our Waterproof Shootout 2012 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eebba0c/0
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We can happily say we had a few more nominations than last year for our Ersatz Nobel for Extraordinary Customer Service. And we aren't ersatzing about it, either.
In fact, the first one we received (a few weeks early, but within the correct calendar year) was from the Publisher Dave Etchells himself.
He bumped into an error during a file copy using SuperDuper and filed a support inquiry using the in-app reporting tool with Shirt Pocket Software (http://www.shirt-pocket.com/superduper/). Within 20 minutes Dave Nanian emailed him back, "Download and install the update from my Web site...."
"Really amazing in this day and age," Dave observed. That doesn't even happen in our dreams.
Of course, we had our own nomination to make this year, too.
As we pointed out in our review of StickyAlbums (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/stickyalbums/index.htm) two issues ago, Founder Nate Grahek has phoned customers who email support questions if he finds a phone number in their signature.
Nate believes one way he can compete with the big boys is by delivering better customer support than they do. And it's really no contest. StickyAlbums support answered our obscure emails promptly, even contacting the developer to get an explanation for one phenomenon that puzzled us. And we won't even mention the Live Support option available when using the Web app.
Charlie Young chimed in again with a confession, "I didn't think I'd be making a nomination this year."
You might think Charlie just couldn't help himself, but he found himself blessed by an unusual turn of events.
"I'd like to nominate Tamron's customer service center for this prestigious award. You see, I purchased a new 18-270mm zoom lens for my Nikon D7000. I was able to get in on a mail-in rebate from Tamron. On Oct. 24 I received an email notification that my rebate would be here in two weeks.
"Well, imagine my surprise when I received the rebate in today's mail on Oct. 25. Customer service just doesn't get any better than that IMO. This is my first ever Tamron lens and I'm well pleased with it."
Isaac Kaplan nominated B&H Photo with a charming, "I know, dull, but their customer service is just consistently above and beyond." We don't find that dull at all. In fact, B&H Photo has been nominated before.
"Typical example," Isaac continued, "is a lens return I had to do back in June. The rep was both efficient and knowledgeable. I was exchanging the Canon 70-200 zoom f2.8 IS, because it was too big and bulky for me, and I wanted instead their f4.
"A typical conversation devolves to getting some type of authorization number and instructions. My interaction was more like a short tutorial. The customer service rep knew all about my lens choices, he knew about Canon, he wanted me not to make the same mistake twice, and get the best product for my needs.
"He took his time with me. And that was for a return! BTW, this interaction was by phone from California."
Nope, not dull at all.
Isaac had a brilliant idea for us, as well. "If you're going to award an Ersatz Nobel," he wrote, "it should be based not only upon the principle of great customer service, but, consistency, not like those Swedish prizes for 'one great discovery, and he's the winner.'"
There's an idea: the Lifetime Ersatz Nobel for Extraordinary Service. If only extraordinary customer service were that routine!
Meanwhile, we have a Nobel to award. And as we always do with compelling multiple nominations, we're splitting it among all the nominees mentioned above. Customer service can not, after all, be encouraged too much.
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RE: Pro-100 Grayscale Printing
I expected a grayscale print comparison of the Pro-100 with the Canon Pro9000 Mark II, since I thought that was the primary area of potential improvement between those two similar printers introduced at similar price points.
-- Gene Brown(Oh, it's no contest, Gene. That's why we put the Pro-100 up against the multi-black pigment printers' black and whites. We always had to resort to a quadtone to get a rich range of tones from a one-black dye printer like the Pro9000 Mark II. And then we had to do battle with subtle color casts. -- Editor)
RE: Swellable Printing Paper
The Achilles heel of dye based printers is the dearth of swellable paper in today's market. In fact, my favorite swellable, Ilford Classic Pearl is now showing up as a discontinued product.
So I would qualify the nod given to the Canon Pro-100. The stock you can print on is essentially limited to Canon glossy finishes. In fact many of the papers mentioned in the review such as the Canon Museum Etching fine art matte paper (used in the b&w print test) and Ilford Smooth Pearl aren't suitable for dye ink longevity.
As much as I love dye for my prints, I think the writing is on the wall -- pigment has won the enthusiast/pro market.
-- Garrett Bernstein(Canon's Luster sheet, used for many of the prints in the review, is new. We don't have any information on it, just a box of it, but we like it quite a bit. Then, too, there will also be glossy and semi-gloss. Moab makes some very nice metallic coated sheets and Ilford has a Smooth Pearl and Smooth Gloss in two weights. So there are options, but you're right, uncoated sheets aren't a good choice and "swellable" seems to have disappeared from the spec sheets. Our own rule of thumb is to avoid glossy/semi-gloss sheets that are "instant dry" because that's code for porous, not swellable. -- Editor)
Well it is a little bit maddening, because most (if not all) paper manufacturers claim that their products are dye compatible. Presumably, by compatible, they mean that the ink will adhere to the paper, but that's coyly ignoring longevity.
Ilford use to be upfront about recommending that dye stick with swellable, but I noticed today that those web pages have been taken down. Now all their paper is compatible with dye & pigment. Sigh.
-- Garrett(Indeed. The Ilford Galerie Prestige sheets we're using here for testing do say they work on all inkjet printers but work best with pigment inks. We asked Ilford to clarify that. -- Editor)
RE: Ink Counters
Just read your review of the Canon Pro-100 with great interest! We still use Epson Stylus Photo pigment printers (R2400, R800) for client work. These aging machines are a pain to maintain in that the waste ink reservoirs, when full, render the printer unusable until it is reset by Epson or a third party utility (at a cost of $10). We have rigged the overflow circuits to bypass the reservoirs and empty into a stand alone container. We also use third party discount inks with no apparent loss in image quality.
What we want to do is rid ourselves of the need for Epson to service our printers when the waste ink counters are maxed out; return shipping and labour costs are making these printers uneconomical for us.
You're actually doing pretty well on that count. Canon, which doesn't talk about these things, pretty much disables the printer, period. You buy another one when the waste blotter is end of life.
So does the Canon Pro-100 need to be shipped back to a Canon service center when the waste ink counter is maxed out, assuming it has a waste ink counter? Or, if there is a counter, can the owner reset it and replace the waste ink reservoir pad? Our Epson Pro 4000 allows us to reset the counters and replace the waste ink reservoir -- nice!
-- Garry Fraser, Contre Jour Studios(Third party inks are more an issue of longevity (fading) than quality, Garry. As for the ink counter issue, you're doing very well if you can reset the Epsons. Canon doesn't say anything about this, but we understand the ink blotter must be factory replaced on Canons. -- Editor)
Time Magazine's Director of Photography Kira Pollack gave five local photographers access to its Instagram feed (http://web.stagram.com/n/time/) to cover Hurricane Sandy. "It was about how quickly can we get pictures to our readers," she said. Forbes has the story: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2012/11/01/why-time-magazine-used-instagram-to-cover-hurricane-sandy/
DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released Optics Pro 8 [MW] with enhanced performance and an improved interface which makes it much easier to enhance your images. See our news story (http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2012/10/24/for-dxo-optics-pro-eight-is-easy) with a sample shot from Ian Coristine.
Think Tank Photo (http://thinktankphoto.com) has announced November availability of two new Retro bags large enough to include a laptop. The Retrospect 40 has a pocket for a 13-inch laptop while the Retrospect 50 holds a 15.4-inch laptop. Both can handle a pro-size body with a 70-200mm f.28 lens and still have room for a second body.
The company also announced November availability for its Glass Limo Backpack, which holds a 600mm f4 lens or pro-size body with a 500mm f4 lens in a narrow backpack that complies with airline carry-on requirements.
Jeffrey Tranberry (http://blogs.adobe.com/photoshopdotcom/2012/10/windows-8-and-photoshop.html) blogged that "Photoshop CS6, Lightroom 4 and Elements 11 are compatible with Microsoft Windows 8." He added the only issue is with "document window transparency/flickering in Photoshop CS6 caused by video drivers."
Tranberry also announced (http://blogs.adobe.com/crawlspace/2012/10/heads-up-photoshop-system-requirement-changes.html) that "all subsequent Photoshop feature updates specifically for Creative Cloud members will also require 512-MB of VRAM in order to use the 3D features found in Photoshop CS6 Extended." Photoshop CS6 Extended system requirements has suggested that much VRAM but it will be enforced in future upgrades.
Chantel Tattoli tells (http://www.themillions.com/2012/10/frankly-singing.html) what happened when "I told my father I'd been assigned to report Frank Sinatra, Jr.'s concert, told him I had a second press pass for a photographer. My father heard me loud and clear. He went out and bought a telescopic Nikon."
Apple (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1604?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US) has released Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 4.01 with support in Aperture 3 and iPhoto '11 for Canon M/G15/S110/SX50 HS, Nikon D600/J2, Panasonic FZ200/G5/LX7 and Sony NEX-F3/RX100.
The company also released Aperture 3.4.2 (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1607) and iPhoto 9.4.2 (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1608) with performance and stability enhancements plus more reliable Photo Stream switching between the applications, among other fixes.
George Jardine has released a free bonus video (http://mulita.com/training/sample-catmanage/) on "a very cool technique for helping you move your photo library to an external hard drive, while keeping everything linked up."
Available on Adobe Exchange (https://www.adobeexchange.com) and built with Configurator 3 (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/configurator/), the free Photoshop Features panel (https://www.adobeexchange.com/store/products/335) lets you explore, try out and learn the new and enhanced tools and features in Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CS6 Extended.
Skyhorse Publishing has published Top Travel Photo Tips from Ten Pro Photographers by Chuck DeLaney, based on interviews with 10 pros who share their secrets for great travel shots. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 25 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1581159951/?tag=theimagingres-20).
The company has also published The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography edited by the late Susan Carr with advice from industry experts and a variety of tips. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 41 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1581159218/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Mirko Viviani (http://www.lynapp.com) has released his $20 Lyn [M], a lightweight, fast image browser with geotagging and sharing features.
Rocky Nook has published Panobook 2012 with 150 winners from over 1,600 entries in the Kolor 2012 Panoramic Photography Competition. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 35 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1937538176/?tag=theimagingres-20).
The PBS NewsHour (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/july-dec12/rickard_10-29.html) featured Doug Rickard, who creates images of "people captured in the photographic drive-bys that make up Google Street View."
The N.Y. Times New Old Age blog (http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/how-to-shoot-a-photo-to-remember/) has some advice about taking photos of your loved ones at the end of their lives.
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