Volume 2, Number 11 2 June 2000

Copyright 2000, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 19th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Worried about the stability of your CD-Rs? Wondering what good two CCDs are in a camera? Want to know how to shoot the candles off a birthday cake? Or the secret to retouching a flash shot with a gradient burn? Read on, it's all here!


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Feature: How Safe Are Your CDs?

If the rise in gas prices has you scared, siphon some comfort from the price drop mass storage has seen. The old dollar-a-megabyte holy grail is as antique as 99-cent-a-gallon gas.

And leading the way has been CD-R with prices for 650 megabytes of storage dropping below the $2 mark and often available for less than $1. Let's see, that's 0.15 cents a megabyte.

Over the years we've personally used -- and still use -- a number of different storage media including floppies, Zip disks, SyQuest cartridges, DAT tapes and CD-R and CD-RW discs. And these days you can treat CDs of either stripe much like any other removeable. You don't have to burn the whole thing at once.

Which makes CDs a terrific way to store digital images. We can transfer the images from a camera's removable storage to our CD and be done with it.

Assuming, of course, that a couple of years from now we can retrieve them. But, unfortunately, people do experience problems with CD media.

If you think CDs themselves are inherently faulty, don't write your opinion on a piece of paper. Nothing can go up in smoke faster. On the other hand, if you think CDs are bullet-proof, don't rely on them for armor. And if you're having -- or just had -- a problem retrieving files from a CD, don't jump to any conclusions. This is a complex topic with lots of suspects in the mansion besides the butler.

Let's see what the problems are and what can be done about them.


CD writers, like any disk drive, are analog devices. They spin. They start up and slow down. They rely on a certain specific voltage to do their job.

So even though you may have no reason to think otherwise, debugging a CD problem starts with your power outlet. Is it delivering clean power?

If we get much into that topic, we'll never get back to CDs, but it can't be ignored. Clean power is assumed by your system. Your system's power supply can adjust for small (and inevitable) variations in voltage, but it can't do anything about large ones or an electrical signal on what should be the ground.

We'll also assume you've successfully made the cable connection from your system to your burner. Including properly terminating the SCSI chain, if that's what you're using.

And while we're at it, let's jump to the conclusion that you've correctly installed your software (even updated it once or twice, not to mention updating the flash ROM in your CD writer).

Finally, let's assume you've got this baby down, have been burning CDs without much trouble for a while now and are comfortable with how the game is played. That, in short, you haven't had any trouble before.

Because what concerns us is the reliability of CD media.

A recent study (at found that "the quality of CD-R discs from experienced manufacturers has improved from 30 percent defective discs in 1998 to 13 percent in 2000." But the study also found that discs manufactured by, well, less experienced firms showed just the opposite trend. While 33 percent of those discs failed in 1998, in 2000 about 60 percent of them failed "mostly for high radial tracking and jitter."

Unfortunately, there's no simple way to guarantee what you buy will indeed work. But there are, fortunately, a few ways to improve your odds.


Your garden variety music CD from, say, Deutsche Gramophon featuring, say, Vladimir Horowitz, is not the same platter as the recordable CD you pop into your burner. It's pressed not burned. And rewritable CDs are a different thing all together. We've yet to find one that can be read in anything but the writer we burned it in. But that may be because we have some old CD readers here.

Recordable CDs use a cyan blue cyanine dye and a colorless phthalocyanine dye. They also need a reflective layer made of either an alloy whose composition is known only to the manufacturer or 24K gold (which is no secret to anybody).

Turn a CD-R over and you're likely to be momentarily blinded by an iridescent flash from the gold/gold, green/gold, silver/blue, or silver/silver surface. The dazzling variety is what you get when you combine the dye with the reflected surface.

Patents protect the formula for any particular CD, so to bring a new one to market, you have to develop a new formula (which, however, still conforms to the specifications laid out in what's affectionately known as the Orange Book).

Consequently, you really have no idea by looking whether a disc is sound or not. Even how translucent it is doesn't matter since it only has to reflect light in 780nm wavelength.

The real test is to try a few. Burn one and see if you can read it in your readers. See if other people can read it in theirs.


Oddly enough, it's easy to scratch a CD. On either side. On the label side, you can actually dig down into the data. On the shiny side, a scratch can confuse the laser beam as it tries to read the disc.

The solution to the data side is to use a CD label. They're round with a big hole in the middle and cover nearly the whole surface. Their adhesive is formulated not to damage the CD plastic to which it must adhere. Using any other kind of label may cause your disc to wobble in a fast CD reader. Not recommended.

The trick to removing scratches from the shiny side, is toothpaste. A very small dab will do. Lacking toothpaste (shame on you), a tiny bit of salt will serve. Both are mild abrasives. Wet your finger with water and make small circular motions lightly over the scratch until it disappears. You are actually gently grinding the imperfection away. And it doesn't have to completely disappear to become usable again. We've actually resuscitated disks that certain zealous office workers had tried to staple through.

A great deal has been written about the danger of writing on the label side. The worry is that the chemical composition of the ink will eat through the plastic and damage the data. Not quite enough has been written about the danger of not labeling your discs. Who needs 50 unlabeled discs to dig through when you want to find your shots of last summer's Fourth of July picnic?

We fearlessly write on less important discs with an alcohol-based Sanford Sharpie fine point permanent marker. It's one of the few products we own that says right on the barrel, "Do not shake," which, living in earthquake country, we can't repeat often enough.

But you might prefer a Dixon Ticonderoga Redi Sharp Plus, the Sanford Powermark, TDK's CD Writer, or Smart and Friendly's CD Speed Marker. In any case, avoid solvent-based pens. And ball points.

We do use labels on our more important discs. But that's probably because we can't resist designing them to print on our inkjet so they are suitable for exhibit at the Smithsonian some day.


Roughly speaking, your unrecorded CD-R media has a shelf life of 5 to 10 years. Things improve once you burn them, though.

The green disks using cyanine dye may last up to 75 years. The gold disks using phthalocyanine dye may last 100. And platinum disks using an advanced formula of the phthalocyanine dye may make it 200 years.

A lot can happen in 200 years, though.


A cool, dark, dry place. Leave a copy of your will with them. They'll no doubt outlive you.


So the day comes when you pop your CD of 1998 highlights into your reader and get the Unreadable Disk dialog box and the preposterous offer to Reformat. What do you then?

Calm down. There may be nothing at all wrong with your CD. Here are a few desperate measures:


Every medium fails. Even palm readers. But not all media falls at the same time. So strategy number one is to copy your images to two different media. Say Zip disks and CDs. Or SyQuests and tape, if we've scared you off CDs.

But don't keep them both in the same place. Keep one handy. Put the other one somewhere else. Another town is not too far away. A safe deposit box will do in a pinch. We're not being over-protective (for lack of a more colorful word), just taking advantage of the portability of this kind of storage. After all, the first thing people reach for in a fire is their albums. If you've got a safe off-site copy, you can reach for your pants instead.

Note that the flash point for data media is, unlike paper, merely 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Safes made to protect paper documents from fire guarantee only to keep the temperature under 350 degrees. You'll want to store your media in a place where you yourself would be comfortable.

Deterioration is a fact of life (don't ask me how I know), so expect your storage media to deteriorate, too. Maybe not as fast as paper or microfiche, but eventually it will be useless.

Fortunately we live in a time of blinding technological progress. No sooner have you copied your important images to floppy than Zips are invented. No sooner have you transferred everything to Zips than CDs are affordable. No sooner have you got everything on CD than DVDs are ... well, not quite yet. If you don't develop a survival strategy of your own, you'll probably be forced to copy your archives every five years by the sheer momentum of technological development. But it isn't a bad idea to do it anyway. You aren't wasting your time, just postponing the inevitable.

Which we have, at last, ourselves reached. Without using any (or much) gas, by the way.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Minolta Dimage RD3000 Sports Two CCDs

(Excerpted from the full review posted at on the Web site.)


Minolta is a traditional camera manufacturer of long experience, making a slow but steady entry into the digital realm. They produce an unusually broad line of film scanners, ranging from inexpensive 35mm units to a high-end model capable of handling any film type from 8mm to medium formats.

At the high end of their digicam efforts, they've used some unusual technology to create a sophisticated SLR (single lens reflex) camera, using two 1.5 megapixel CCDs in combination with a prism optical system to produce a final resolution of 2.7 megapixels -- and an unusually good tonal range. Minolta built the RD 3000 to use the Vectis lens mount, giving the camera an optical capability ranging from roughly 25mm wide angle to 360mm telephoto 35mm equivalents.

What's more, they offer the camera not only in the traditional body-only pro configuration, but also as a kit with a complete set of 5 lenses covering the full focal length range, for less than the cost of other digital SLR bodies alone.


As soon as see it, there's no doubt about the RD 3000's intended audience: This clearly isn't a toss-in-your-pocket digicam for casual family outings! It should be quite at home in a studio on a tripod though, where its size and mass matters less than it's smooth tonal gradations, interchangeable lenses and single lens reflex viewfinder system. Belying its physical bulk, it's actually lighter than it seems, weighing in at 32.1 ounces or 910 grams. The large body accommodates a prism system that gives you the benefit of an SLR viewfinder and dual half inch CCDs that result in a 2.7 megapixel final resolution. The camera accepts nearly the full range of Minolta's Vectis lenses and offers two external flash connections: a hot shoe on top of the camera and a PC sync terminal on the side. A design feature we particularly liked is the amount of non-LCD exposure control. What we mean is that all of the exposure settings are controlled by buttons on the camera body instead of an LCD menu system. In fact, the only time the LCD is used is for quick image review in Record mode and for viewing captured images and a short menu in Playback mode. This makes changing settings a lot faster and greatly extends battery life. A small status display panel on top of the camera reports all the exposure settings, memory card information and battery power.

As we mentioned, the camera's prism system makes the SLR optical viewfinder possible, meaning there's no need to use the LCD monitor for composing images. We particularly enjoyed the internal information display that reports exposure settings (aperture and shutter speed) as well as focus and flash indicators, among other camera information. (A feature common in professional SLR cameras, but rare in the "prosumer" digicams we've generally tested in the past.) A diopter adjustment dial on the side of the viewfinder is a plus for eyeglass wearers, although we'd like a higher eyepoint to provide more room between eyeball and viewfinder. As far as optics go, the RD 3000 accepts most of Minolta's Vectis lenses, meaning a range of lenses are available for it, with varying focal lengths and other characteristics. Our test model came equipped with a Minolta 22-80mm lens, which we found very easy to attach and detach from the camera body. The RD 3000 uses a lens release button, similar to many standard SLR designs, which makes changing lenses quick and uncomplicated. We assume that all of the Vectis lenses feature the Auto/Manual focus button we found on our test unit, allowing you to change the lens focus control. A useful feature for an autofocus camera is the way you can override the autofocus system on the RD 3000 by turning the focus ring while halfway pressing the shutter button. Interchangeable lenses means a lot of flexibility, a real benefit for serious users.

When it comes to exposure, the RD 3000 gives you complete control. The Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and full Manual exposure modes let you determine exactly how much control you want. A nice feature here is the Program Reset button, which returns all the exposure settings to their defaults, regardless of the exposure mode you're in. While available apertures will depend on the lens used, shutter speeds range from two to 1/2000 seconds in Shutter Priority and from 30 to 1/2000 seconds in Manual mode. White balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Tungsten or Custom, to match just about any light source. The camera's default sensitivity setting is ISO 200, but you can switch to 800 for low light situations. (We found image noise at the ISO 800 setting to be quite a bit lower than we expected, comparing with that of the best prosumer digicams at ISO ratings of 400 or lower.) You also have two choices for metering, a 14 segment honeycomb pattern that averages the entire image or spot metering, which reads the direct center of the image. Exposure compensation can be adjusted in any exposure mode from +3 to -3 in 1/2 EV increments. (A minor quibble: We really like to see 1/3 EV resolution for exposure compensation settings.)

There is no built in flash on the RD 3000, but the camera does offer a hot shoe and PC sync terminal for connecting up to two external flash units. When shooting with an external flash in Program or Aperture Priority mode, a Slow Sync option is available by pressing the Spot button simultaneously with the shutter button. When using a Minolta dedicated flash unit, you can also adjust the flash compensation level from +3 to -3 EV in 1/2 EV increments, a nice feature. A Continuous Drive mode lets you take up to five exposures at 1.5 frames per second, depending on the amount of card memory and image information to process. This mode is accessed by pressing the Drive button, as are the 10 second Self-Timer and Remote Control modes. The remote control is sold as a separate accessory and lets you fire the shutter immediately or after a two second countdown.

All images are saved at the 1984 x 1360 resolution size, with options for Super, Fine, Normal and Economy quality settings. Images are stored on a CompactFlash card (the larger Type II cards are accepted, including the IBM Microdrive), and all the standard write protection and delete functions are available through the Playback menu. You can also review images on a television set, thanks to the included NTSC video cable and output jack (we assume European models are PAL compliant). For connection to a PC or Mac, the RD 3000 is equipped with a SCSI interface and the accompanying Digital Desktop software allows you to download and organize images, perform minor corrections and enhancements and view groups of images in a slideshow format. Additional filters and plug-ins are available separately to increase your creative options.

We see the RD 3000 as being well suited to the professional studio photographer, or other users interested in the combination of extended tonal range, subdued color handling, and lens/exposure flexibility it offers. Although a great deal larger than most consumer digicams, the RD 3000's exposure features and versatile design easily outweigh its size. In particular, its understated color saturation handles skin tones beautifully, an area that's often problematic for the typical prosumer (or even some professional) digicams, due to inappropriately high color saturation. While we would by no means confine it to that market, the RD 3000 seems like an excellent choice for digital portrait photography. It should be useful to anyone wanting the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and full-manual exposure control in a digicam.


Overall, the RD 3000 isn't the fastest camera we've tested: With the provided lens, and shooting at fairly close range, the shutter lag in full autofocus mode was 1.97 seconds. When the lens was focused manually, the lag time dropped to 1.52 seconds, still far from speedy. Only when the camera was prefocused by half-pressing the shutter button did the time come up to par among digicams we've tested, with a delay of only 0.27 seconds. (Apparently, much of the shutter lag time is used for white balance and exposure computation, since manual focusing didn't significantly improve the delay.)

Shot to shot, the RD 3000 is quite fast when left in the Continuous Drive mode, with a cycle time of only 0.695 seconds (1.44 frames per second) when the shutter button is simply held down for a burst of exposures. You can also shoot single frames in Continuous Drive mode, simply by pressing and releasing the shutter when you want to take the pictures. Working this way, the shot to shot time rises to only 0.92 seconds for up to five frames at full resolution. This is quite fast, although after the fifth shot you have to wait for the first image to be cleared out of buffer memory before you can shoot another. This process takes the same amount of time as is normally required between shots in single-frame mode, 23 to 34 seconds depending on quality mode and image content. Actually, while its non-continuous cycle time is rather slow, the RD 3000 does better than many cameras in that it lets you shoot additional pictures in Continuous Drive mode as soon as space is available in the buffer, rather than forcing you to wait until everything is cleared out.

The RD 3000 is quite fast when starting up, taking only 3.9 seconds from power on to the first picture captured. Likewise, it switches from playback to record modes in only 3.0 seconds to the first picture. Switching to playback from record mode takes longer, about 6.75 seconds until a rather blocky low-resolution version of the image is displayed, 12 seconds for the full-resolution image to appear. Shutdown can be either zero seconds or several minutes, depending on your reckoning. If your main concern is to simply put the camera away, the time required is zero, since there's no lens to retract. On the other hand, if you want to shut the camera down so you can remove the memory card, you could wait as long as two minutes, if you've just shot a rapid-fire sequence of images in Continuous Drive mode.


Given its bulk, feature set and price, the RD 3000 clearly isn't a camera intended for the casual picture-snapper. On the other hand, its options for interchangeable lenses, excellent tonal range, and understated color handling make it well suited for professional use. (We felt that its slightly muted color saturation and excellent tonal range made for particularly nice skin tones.) Full manual exposure control, a very clean user interface (thanks to all those buttons), and dual flash connections lend versatility that we think many serious users will appreciate.

Return to Topics.

Beginners Flash: Make a Wish

"Get the lights!" you hear someone yell in panic. The room plunged in darkness, an unrehearsed (and strained) chorus of Happy Birthday tries to find its voice as you fiddle with your digicam, framing the Aged Wonder and Their Cake, wait for the right moment ... and (make a wish) snap.

Unfortunately, if you didn't blind everyone with the flash (because after reading last issue's advice, you remembered to turn it off) you got a blurry mess of a shot that looks a lot like a UFO landing. At least to several of the more boisterous guests.

But gorgeous cake shots -- that look like Caravaggio or Rembrandt painted them -- are easy. You just have to make a couple of adjustments about the time you hear "Get the lights!"

The first is to turn off the flash. It ruins the mood.

The second is to tell your automatic exposure system not to work too hard. It's usually intent on rendering the scene as if it were noon, exposing the dark room as if should look like a sunny sidewalk. You have to tell it, "Hey, this is a dark picture, relax."

Not in those exact words, though.

You'll find a feature called exposure compensation (also known as EV settings) somewhere in your camera's menu of options. The values range from minus something to plus something (two or five, usually depending on your camera). The minus settings are the equivalent of saying, "Relax, this is a dark picture." And the plus settings, "Yo! Attack from the Empire of the Sun Spots! Batten down the hatches!!!"

On a manual camera, EV settings are the equivalent (roughly, roughly; there are actually sophisticated algorithms that determine the precise combination) of changing the f-stop on the lens to allow more or less light in, or the shutter speed for the same reason, or some combination of both just to be clever.

How much should your camera relax for a cake shot?

A lot. Try -2 EV. That should give you a fast enough shutter speed to stop the candle blower in action (no blur) while illuminating the surface of the cake without burning out the decorations (no UFO).

The cake and the face of the honoree will be very warmly illuminated by the candles. You may even get the face of the person delivering the cake. Take a couple of shots as the chorus winds down and that birthday wish is made, you aren't taxing your camera with a flash recharge.

When the lights go back on, remember to return your EV setting to zero (where it normally is). And enable your flash again or you won't get any of those hilarious red-eye shots.

Return to Topics.

Advanced Mode: Fixing Flash Fall-Off

After red-eye, the big problem with flash photography is even illumination.

If you have a subject in the foreground and another in the middle, they will never both be evenly illuminated by a flash. Your foreground subject will be white as a ghost and your middle distance subject may be no more than a shadow of their former self.

And in some cases you can even watch the light fall off as the distance recedes. Take, for example, a picture of the plate in front of you at the dinner table, where you are sitting in your chair for the shot. No doubt the flash will overexpose the part of the table closest to you and underexpose the part furthest away, even though the subject itself (how about a plate of grilled jumbo prawns with linguine, just to give it a little, uh, color) is perfectly exposed.

Unfortunately the uneven illumination can ruin the shot.

But don't let that stop you from taking it. It's very easy to fix using a few image editing tricks. Tricks that will serve you well should you wish to dodge and burn other exposure problems.

Our particular problem of the linguine is similar to any gradual fall-off. Two or three rows of relatives, say. Or that gradually darkening wall that should be evenly illuminated.

In all these cases it's obvious where the light is strongest (closest to the camera) and weakest. Why, you could draw a line.

And, in fact, that's what you do.

Open the image in your image editing program and -- should you be lucky enough to have this feature -- create a new, empty layer. We'll draw a mask in this layer that tells our image editing program exactly what we think is wrong with the light in the picture.

(It's a good practice to immediately save the image with a new name after you open it, so you don't accidentally overwrite your original. That would make it impossible to show off your genius with before and after shots.)

Make sure your foreground and background colors (the tool settings, not the image) are the default white foreground and black background.

Then select the gradient tool (the one that makes nice smooth fills from one value to another) and make sure it is set to make a linear gradient. A linear gradient shades from light to dark in a straight line from the starting point to the ending point of the line we will draw.

Let's draw a line from the darkest to the lightest part of the image (top to bottom). Feel perfectly free to draw off the image, too, if there's no real light part. And don't feel you have to start at the top edge, either. Just try to track the light fall-off (straight up and down under normal circumstances).

You can always redraw if things don't work out in the end. It's just a mask, after all.

Next, set the opacity of the layer to something less than 100 percent. Try 50 percent. You'll begin to see your image come through if both layers are visible. This should give you a subtle gray gradation in the mask layer that is darkest where the part of your image is most burned out (the bottom, we'll say, in the case of our linguine).

But the trick to making all this work pay off is to select the "multiply" blending mode. Multiply takes the color information of each pixel in the image and multiplies it by the corresponding value in the mask, darkening where it finds black in the mask and leaving the image color untouched in any white area in the mask.

So you are painting in -- or burning -- the color back into the foreground.

But you are letting the image editing program do it as smoothly as mathematically possible with the gradient tool. While doing it as subtly as possible with the opacity setting.

After you've set the blending mode to "multiply" you'll see the effect. If you aren't please, just redraw your line in the mask.

Once you're satisfied, you'll have to flatten the layers into just one to save the image as a JPEG.

But by then you should have a shot of that linguine that is good enough to eat.

Return to Topics.

Just for Fun: Rose-Colored Glasses

Looking at the world through rose-colored glasses has been a popular pastime for a long time. While we can't remember the name of the optometrist who first came up with the promotion, we're pretty sure it wasn't a digital photographer. You don't need frames to find the world rosy if you've got a digicam. Just a rose filter.

Of course, why bother? You can do better than a bag full of film camera filters with just one little image editing program.

But there's more to filters than color shifts. In fact, shooting through all sorts of ordinary objects can give you a whole new (not always rosy) perception of the world.

Here are a few ideas:

First try shooting through one lens in a pair of glasses. Don't work too hard to crop out the frames. In fact, they make a nice statement themselves. Which is doubly emphasized if you compose the image so both lenses are in the picture. If the lenses correct for shortsighted vision, focus may have to be adjusted a little short of normal, but in bright light it probably won't be a problem.

Now try that again but through sunglasses.

Next, take a tour of the kitchen. You may find some glass plates, glass bowls and drinking glasses. This game is all about distortions, so imperfections are not flaws. Try shoot through the bottoms. And not just at distant objects, but rest the object on top of something (like a tablecloth) and see what develops.

Even more fun is to fill the glasses with water -- or a (lightly) colored liquid. And think of them like any other filter: get up close and shoot through them.

Shooting through these clear or colored objects will distort your subject in some amusing ways. Try shooting the reflections off the side of the glass, too.

If the whole thing makes you feel silly, just remember nobody will ever know how you got the shot of that wildly warped AOL CD if you don't tell them. They'll just assume you work for Adobe.

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

Help out other folks, win free stuff! (Dave here) -- I wanted to call extra attention to our sponsor (and "friend of the family" Web site) PCPhotoREVIEW: Alex Ismail there has done a fantastic job of pulling together user-review information on a wide range of digital photo equipment, accessories, and even software. If you have any experience to relate with any aspect of digital photography, I really encourage you to share it with the community by posting a review on Alex's site. -- You don't have to be a pro (that's the whole point), and sharing your experience is a great way to give something back in exchange for all those times someone else answered one of your questions. Why not drop over to PCPhotoREVIEW right now and leave a note (or a sample picture from your digicam)? Each review or sample photo you post enters you in a drawing for a free digicam or other great prizes! Visit:

Trial downloads of the (excellent) PhotoGenetics imaging program are still available. If you decide to purchase PhotoGenetics, be sure to come back through this URL ( to receive the special $5-off deal for Imaging Resource readers!

Whiteboard Photo, available directly from the Pixid Web site at, is available for Imaging Resource readers at $20 off the usual $99.95 list price, for a net of only $79.95 at only. See our review at on the Web site.

Return to Topics.

We Have Mail

You can email us at [email protected].

RE: Laser Paper

The increasing use of digital imaging and decreasing cost of color laser printers has prompted many manufacturers to offer special media for photographic prints. As with ink-jet printers, it is not a trivial task to match a paper to a specific printer. In most cases you will get the best results with a paper made by or recommended by the printer manufacturer. Also be sure to select the media type in the printer driver or through the printer's front panel. A common problem with laser printers is getting uniform gloss over varying shades. Advantages over ink-jet prints are speed, consumables cost, and longevity. Toners used in color laser printers are usually very stable and will not fade for many years.

-- Greg Marshall

(Thanks for the big picture, Greg. -- Editor)

RE: Action Photography

I just spent a Saturday night at the races, NASCAR style, in Rockford, Ill. I took along my Olympus C2020 and a trio of 32MB cards, and an extra set of batteries. I also had a CLA-1 adapter in place with a Skylight 1A filter to protect the lens.

Once the sun went down I set my camera to Aperture priority mode (f2.8), set the manual focus at infinity (I was in row 10), and shot some pictures. Once it got really dark I had to set the ISO to 200. I left the camera on the whole time and bumped the shutter when I thought I sensed a shot coming, to wake the camera up. With most of the camera settings preset, the shutter lag was almost nothing.

In retrospect I probably could have set the white balance to fluorescent once the sun went down.

I believe the biggest thing I did to reduce the shutter lag was to use manual focus mode. That seems to be the biggest time waster when taking a picture.

The camcorder trick mentioned by Marc Doigny is interesting, but it's hard to make an excellent 8x10 from 640x480.

Thanks for the great newsletter.

-- Mark Thalman

(I'd think going to manual focus was the biggest factor, but -- as this issue's review shows -- it depends on the camera. Thanks, Mark. -- Editor)

RE: How'd They Do That?

I am getting a lot of good usable info from your newsletter.

There is one subject area about which I am sadly ignorant: The technique for efficiently adjusting the photo image attributes (color, saturation, etc.) so that I get the same beautiful picture I see on my monitor screen, printed on paper by my printer. Can you suggest a source for the "smarts" I need? Right now I am spending a lot of time and materials with my primitive trial-and-error method. There's got to be a better way! Your help will be sincerely appreciated.

-- Art

(Well, not that we want to disclose our Top Secret Editorial Calendar, but this particular topic has been in our plans for a while and we do promise to address it. In the meantime, we'll give you a couple of hints. The range of colors your monitor can display -- and how it displays them -- is quite different from the range of colors (or gamut) your printer is capable of producing. Getting them to match as closely as possible is known as the Art and Science of Calibration. There are no doubt some tools installed in your system to help calibrate your monitor and, perhaps, even your printer. -- Editor)

RE: Nikon Coolpix 990

Awesome camera, great [Nikon] forums -- but they've trapped quite a few people who've owned prior Coolpixs and sold them. You can't install Nikon View 3 if you don't have the disc for prior versions -- which you just got rid of and can't get back. They send you to repeated worthless downloads of updates to Nikon View whatevers which won't install without original discs. I had to order a Microtech Imagemate to download my great new Coolpix images. But I think Nikon blew this one! I hope this isn't too cryptic, but if you've tried the new CP990, you'll know. Any thoughts?

-- Avrohm Melnick

(Ouch. I can understand the updating process requiring a prior version, but not the installation process. Sometimes the installer can get confused about whether it should be updating or installing if it finds some element of a previous installation. It can be hard to completely uninstall software manually on any platform, but programs that make it hard (they know who they are!) should include an uninstall option or program. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes CEO Mark Braunstein said, "The printer technology that we have acquired from Widecom enables us to print an excellent quality, high-gloss poster in 12 seconds from a digital file for an estimated total direct cost including labor and materials of $1.02; an unprecedented cost/performance combination in the industry. The team that I am bringing in will, over the next few months, build a world class Web site that will enable users to upload pictures and turn them into a poster for a cost to the user of $10 per poster." Unprecedented profit margin, too, Mark.

SanDisk Corp. has announced the first Internet-connected picture frame to utilize the CompactFlash card, the StoryBox(tm) Smart Picture Frame from Weave Innovations. StoryBox frames connect to the StoryBox Network through a normal telephone line. Users send their pictures via the StoryBox Network to other StoryBox Smart Picture Frames as well as email and photo sharing Web sites. Once connected, the StoryBox Network updates consumers' StoryBox Smart Picture Frames with personalized content from E!Online,,, Traffic Station and The Weather Channel. Kodak branded StoryBox Smart Picture Frames will be available at retail this summer with a suggested retail price of $299.

In a survey of home Internet users, InfoTrends Research Group, Inc. found over one-third have a scanner, while more than 10 percent have a digital camera. And more than half say that they have opened a digital photo that they received by email, while over 30 percent claim to have visited a commercial photo community site to view other people's digital photo albums.

Canon plans to introduce a 10x zoom lens with lens-shift optical image-stabilizing technology for digital cameras. The company will use the lens in future Canon-brand digital camera models and intends to market it to other manufacturers. The new lens adapts technology previously employed in video camcorders and SLR cameras for use in digital cameras. The lens's image performance and 10x zoom ratio are made possible by a new mechanical structure, Canon said, which makes possible precision movement of the correcting lens group, and a new optical design compatible with high resolving capability. Canon said its shift-method Image Stabilizer lens, which corrects for image shake optically, results in absolutely no image resolution degradation or variations in angle of view, and delivers effective image-stabilizing performance during exposure.

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Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
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Dave Etchells, Publisher
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