Volume 4, Number 3 8 February 2002

Copyright 2002, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 64th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Dave's landmark battery comparison highlights this issue along with a review of flash options and some thoughts on how "true" digital photography is.

And thanks to those who've responded to our appeal for help supporting this publication by visiting to get 25 free enlargements (worth up to $75) plus Printroom's Shoot & Share [W] software for just $9.99 (half of which goes to this newsletter). Cash donations may be made at if you prefer.


This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ad here. And now a word from our sponsors:
Maha/PowerEx Named Best Battery and Charger

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The Camedia C-700 UltraZoom is the world's smallest 10x optical zoom digicam with the 35mm equivalent of a 38mm­380mm lens. The 10x optical zoom is complemented by a 27x seamless digital zoom, extending the camera's maximum zoom range to 1026mm, a first for a camera this size.

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Read Dave's review then catch our latest promotions.

Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by over 43,500 readers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at [email protected].

Feature: The Great Battery Shootout



While everyone gets a charge out of batteries, I know the gory technical details are not universally appealing. So here's the bottom line from almost a year of off-and-on battery testing:

  1. The new Rayovac 1600 mAh cells were the slight overall winners in terms of capacity. The Rayovac one-hour charger delivers a pretty complete charge too, although the batteries get pretty hot. I measured them at 55.5 degrees C.

  2. The Maha PowerEx 1700 mAh batteries with Maha C204 charger come in a (very) close second, at a good price. The C-204 runs the batteries a little cooler, about 48 degrees C.

  3. The GP 1800s have almost exactly the same power capacity as the PowerEx 1700s and are also a good value. I recommend using them with the Maha C204 charger as well.

There! I just saved you reading the rest of a long, boring article! ;-)


I'll update this report on the site ( after testing these late entries:


Apart from the camera itself (and a sufficiently large memory card), batteries are probably the most critical element in your entire digicam equipment kit. Choose the wrong batteries and you can be left with a camera that's no more than an expensive paperweight when that once-in-a-lifetime shot appears.

Some cameras come with custom-designed rechargeable Li-Ion battery packs in the box. If you own one of these, there's no issue of which brand and type of batteries to buy, just be sure to get an extra battery pack and keep it charged as a spare.

A great many digicams use conventional AA-size batteries though, which opens a Pandora's box of battery issues. Let me go on the record right away, though, that I generally like AA-equipped cameras. It makes packing spare batteries a much more affordable proposition. And you always want to pack along at least one extra set of batteries.

For the AA cameras, standard alkaline batteries are almost completely worthless. If you've got an AA digicam, you need high capacity NiMH rechargeable AA cells and a good charger. As we'll see though, there's quite a range of performance between brands and models of NiMH batteries. (And even more variation between chargers, but that's a subject for another review altogether.)

Given the importance of NiMH batteries, I resolved to test as many as I could get my hands on. In typical Dave-fashion, I couldn't be content with anything simple or straightforward and so built my own test system with a microcontroller and A/D converter to collect all the relevant data. It turned out to be a good thing that I went to such an extreme, as I discovered that less-involved test protocols would have yielded inaccurate results.

The result is what's surely the most comprehensive study of NiMH battery performance accessible to the general public. As new battery models appear on the market from time to time, I'll add their data to this report on the site.


Even techies sometimes want to cut to the chase, so I'll summarize the results of my testing at the outset in the table below.

The column worth the most attention shows Watt-Hours, a measure of the total energy delivered by a set of four cells. See the discussion immediately below for a complete explanation.

The StdDev column shows the standard deviation (a measure of the variation between results from multiple test runs with the same make/model of batteries) and is an indication of the accuracy of the results.

The percent of Max column shows how much power each battery delivered relative to the best units tested and is an easy way to see how closely the various units ranked.

The mAh column shows the actual milliamp-hours each battery model delivered under the particular test conditions I employed.

Finally, the Min column shows the average runtime in minutes in my constant-load test setup.

As discussed below, it's interesting to note that neither mAh nor runtime at constant load correlate very precisely with total energy in Watt-Hours.

Battery models marked with an asterisk have only been through relatively few test cycles or tested with only one set of batteries. I'll try to fill these in as time goes by, to improve the quality of the data. Alkalines are marked (A). The emailed chart is formatted for a monospaced font.

Brand & CapacityWatt-HoursStdDev% of MaxmAhMin
Rayovac 16006.6904.9%100.0%1515109.3
Powerex 17006.6803.9%99.8%1514108.8
GP 18006.6773.3%99.8%1529110.9
Olympus 1600*6.5590.6%98.0%143199.0
Kodak 16006.4203.1%96.0%1435101.6
Yuasa 16006.3833.5%95.4%1438102.7
Radio Shack 16006.2666.0%93.7%1413101.0
GP 16006.2464.6%93.4%1413101.4
Powerex 1600*6.2442.4%93.3%1407100.4
Radio Shack 1500*6.2345.4%93.2%140199.8
Fuji 1600*6.1812.4%92.4%135093.3
Nexcell 1600*6.0632.9%90.6%137799.1
Powerex 15505.7553.7%86.0%126988.8
Quest 16005.5274.7%82.6%126191.1
Yuasa 14505.2495.0%78.5%117483.3
Nexcell 12004.6643.7%69.7%106777.3
Panasonic (A)3.407  50.9%77456.0
Duracell Ultra (A)3.406  50.9%78157.0
Energizer (A)3.301  49.3%75655.0


Most of us are accustomed to seeing batteries rated in milliampere-hours (mAh), a measure of how much current they can provide over time. A rating of 1600 mAh means the battery should theoretically be able to supply 1600 milliamps (mA) for one hour or 160 milliamps for ten hours, etc. The best NiMH AA cells today carry ratings of 1700 to 1800 mAh.

But it turns out that mAh is only part of the story. What we really care about is how much total energy a battery can deliver.

Energy is measured in watt-hours, the product of voltage and current over time or volts times amperes, measured over hours. (A milliamp is 1/1000 of an ampere.) To measure total energy, we need to measure the voltage and current moment by moment throughout the battery's discharge, multiply the two values together and total up all the individual readings. This sounds like a hassle and it would be, were it not for automated data collection and the versatility of spreadsheet software.

Still, I'd hoped I would be able to avoid the tedium of explicitly calculating energy capacity for every test run. I expected that overall run times in my simple test setup (see below) would be a pretty good measure of total energy, saving me the hassle of running all the data through a spreadsheet. I was quite surprised to discover that total run time was actually only an approximate indicator of energy capacity. When I ran the numbers, I discovered that some batteries that ran shorter periods of time actually delivered more energy than ones with shorter run times. Even more surprising, I found that even the measured mAh capacities of the batteries didn't correlate perfectly with total energy capacity.

This is pretty significant because it means that the usual battery-testing practice of just hooking a resistor across a battery pack and timing how long it takes the pack to run down won't give a very accurate representation of how well the batteries will power a digital camera.

Because my little test system measured voltage (and thereby current) continuously throughout the discharge process, I could accurately compute total watt-hours with just a little spreadsheet work.

The point of all this is that run times with a resistive load and even actual mAh measurements don't tell the full story. Watt-hours are the real McCoy.


There's a lot of gamesmanship with mAh ratings, but even the standard way of measuring mAh gives wildly optimistic values when compared to what the batteries actually deliver in typical digicam usage. The problem is that digicams gobble power in big gulps, while battery-testing standards measure power delivered in small sips. Batteries are much less efficient when driving heavy loads than light ones. Thus, even if a manufacturer tests and reports their batteries' capacities truthfully according to the accepted standard, the resulting numbers may have little to do with how well the batteries perform in real-world digicam usage.

Because of this load-dependent behavior, I set up my battery test system to run the batteries under loads closer to those seen in typical digicams. As a result, the mAh capacities I measured are generally quite a bit lower than the manufacturer's claims, but do give a much better idea of how the batteries will do when plugged into an average digicam.


Obviously, I couldn't stand around for an hour or more at a time, watching each set of batteries run down, let alone make constant voltage/power measurements on them as they discharged. My solution was to cobble together a little MSD (Mad Scientist's Device) battery discharge tester, using a Basic Stamp microcontroller, a Linear Tech A/D chip, a relay to connect or disconnect the batteries from the load, a couple of big power resistors (to serve as the load itself) and a few other components.

I tested batteries in sets of four, as they're most commonly used in digicams. I used a total load resistance of about 5 ohms, providing peak discharge currents of a bit under an amp (1000 milliamps), equivalent to a fairly power-hungry digicam running with its LCD turned on in capture mode. This isn't an absolute worst-case test, but should be pretty representative of what batteries will encounter with real-world digicams (as opposed to the sort of gentle discharge curves used by manufacturers when setting the mAh ratings). For the techies out there, this is a discharge rate of about 0.6C for 1600 mAh cells, as compared to the 0.1C discharge rate used to determine the normal mAh rating of batteries.

The system starts up with the relay open and no current flowing. I plug the batteries into the holder and press the reset button for the Basic Stamp, which starts the test program running. The program closes the relay, connecting the load resistor across the battery pack and measures the battery voltage. When the voltage has been measured (to 12-bit accuracy, with a full-scale range of about 5.5 volts) the Basic Stamp goes to sleep, waking up one minute later for the next reading. This cycle continues until the voltage from the battery pack drops below 4.0 volts, at which point the Stamp stops the test by opening the relay contacts again, disconnecting the load.

The Stamp then goes into a wait loop, watching for keyboard input. I set the terminal program on my laptop (the host computer for the Stamp) to capture data to a disk file and then type "go" on the keyboard, to tell the Stamp to play back all the data values collected.

After I've collected a batch of test results, I run them through an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the total energy delivered, actual mAh, etc. This is one of the most tedious parts of the testing because I haven't bothered to write a Visual Basic program to automate the data reduction.

In the end, a lot of very interesting data spills out the other end of the process, with some lesser-rated batteries performing better than higher-rated ones, mAh not correlating well with total energy and charging parameters making a huge difference in attainable battery capacity.


I found out right away that it was easy for results to vary as much as 50 percent between runs, depending on the charger used, the charge time and probably the phase of the moon. I settled on a protocol that involved charging the batteries for a minimum of 5 hours in the Maha C204 chargers (which brings them pretty nearly to full capacity) and then popping them in very low-rate trickle chargers for at least 10 hours more (most went overnight or longer).

This protocol seemed to reduce cycle-to-cycle performance variations to a minimum, although there were still individual runs that would be as much as 7-10 percent off the best performance a pack could muster. I attributed the under-performing runs to incomplete charging and so only accepted the runs that fell within a 3-5 percent window as being truly indicative of ultimate energy capacity. (The point of this testing was to determine the actual energy capacity of the batteries, not the effectiveness of a particular charging protocol.)

I'm pretty sure I could have come up with absolutely consistent results if I'd nailed down all the variables, but frankly I have too much else to do to justify spending the time doing that. The problem is that there's a huge range of possible variables: time from discharge to subsequent recharge, charging duration, current profile during recharge cycle, temperature profile during recharge cycle, time between rapid charge termination (when the batteries were switched to the trickle-charge topping-off/maintenance current) and subsequent discharge testing, temperature during discharge, etc. Trying to control for all of these parameters would be enormously time-consuming and quite likely yield little more in the way of information, other than reducing the variations between test cycles.

I'm pretty confident that my approach of averaging the results of the best test runs for each set of batteries and then averaging results for at least two different sets of each model of batteries gives a pretty good indication of ultimate performance.


One of the most interesting things I found was that the right (or wrong) charger can make a difference of nearly 2x in the results! The worst chargers (in terms of completeness-of-charge) produced "charged" batteries with only half the stored energy of ones charged with the best chargers. Interestingly though, the best overall results were obtained by combining the worst fast-charger with an inexpensive trickle-charger for topping-off and charge maintenance. This combination was also the gentlest on the batteries.

Stay tuned for a detailed overview of battery chargers. If you can't wait, we found the Maha C204 charger among the most consistent and it charged batteries close to their maximum capacity every time.


For all the effort I've invested in testing batteries, my results still need to be taken with several grains of salt.

First, my purely resistive test load is a bit easier for batteries to handle than the constant-power loads that most digicams present. As batteries discharge in a digicam (and their terminal voltage drops), the camera draws proportionately more current from them. This is a bit harder on batteries than the sort of load I used in my testing. Thus, Your Mileage May Vary when comparing my results here with actual digicam usage. (Not by much though, I don't think.)

A second factor is that, as just noted above, battery performance is very dependent on the charger used. Having the best batteries in the world won't do you a whit of good if you've got a lousy charger. To avoid seeing charger-dependent variation, I standardized on the most reliable high-performing combination I found, a Maha C204 followed by a long, low-rate trickle charge in a Maha 2A4 or a home-built trickle charger with similar characteristics. You may see very different performance than I measured here if you're using a charger that doesn't charge the batteries as completely as the C204/2A4 combination.

Finally, even with a consistent charging protocol, I still found a 3-5 percent variation between runs. Since the top-performing batteries are separated by less than one percent in their total-energy numbers, we really need to consider the number one position to be a tie between the top three models.


I made three discoveries as a result of my tests.

First, I was rather surprised that the Rayovac battery/charger combination did as well as it did. Besides Rayovac being a newcomer to the NiMH world, I'd seen rather disappointing results from other name brand batteries, namely the Energizer Accu Rechargeables (1200 mAh units, the results from which will be added to the chart shortly). I thus wasn't expecting a lot from the Rayovac 1600s. In fact, they actually just nosed out the Maha Powerex and GP cells that have long been my favorites.

Really though, it's a three-way tie for first place, between the Rayovac 1600s, the Maha 1700s and the GP 1800s, given there was a spread of only 0.2 percent between the energy capacities I measured for each of them.

See what I mean about manufacturer's mAh ratings not really being relevant? Models with ratings ranging from 1600 to 1800 all performed nearly identically in my tests.

Second, taking one step down in capacity yields great economy. The 1600s from Maha and GP are much better buys (in terms of watt-hours per dollar) than their higher-capacity siblings. The Yuasa/Delta 1600s are cheaper still and also a bit better on runtime.

But battery cost isn't terribly relevant. Spending another $4-5 for a set of batteries for your $800 digicam makes sense if you get an extra 5-7 percent run time, charge after charge. One missed picture would easily erase any benefit of cheaper batteries.

The final discovery came as no surprise at all. In digicam usage, even so-called "high capacity" disposable alkaline cells are pretty worthless. You could easily spend the equivalent of a good set of NiMH rechargeables and good-quality charger using disposable alkaline batteries for just a few weeks.


A special note of thanks to Thomas Distributing ( for generously providing most of the (dozens and dozens of) batteries and chargers. Thomas Distributing has about the widest range of power solutions for digital cameras I've seen anywhere on the Web and at some of the most competitive prices. If you have a digicam and need batteries (who doesn't?), you really owe it to yourself to pay them a visit!

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Guest Spot: Experiments in Flash


Cornell University Office of Visual Services

([email protected])

My first digicam, an Olympus C-3030Z, listed for $1,000. After that kind of money, I expected to get more than an "education" in the limitations of digital photography. After a lifetime of pushing everything from Linhof and Hassel as well as a wide variety of 35mm greats, I found the transition from film to digital most frustrating, particularly the miserable accommodations for flash.

I couldn't use any of six strobes I owned because the sync flash cord connector at the camera isn't a standard PC connector. Instead, it's a proprietary plug conceived by Olympus to keep users from using a destructively high voltage connection from an older, non-Olympus flash gun. This is not a deliberate guise to sell the expensive Olympus strobe but a safety measure to prevent frying the camera's delicate electronic trigger.

The next shocker was that I couldn't use any of my slave units either because the Olympus (like some other digicams) fires a pre-flash. This, I'm told, is to set the white balance for electronic flash lighting to properly render color.

Then, too, we have that annoying so called "red eye" prevention mode wherein the on-board Olympus flash stutters with a series of mini-flashes before the main flash fires. The idea here of course, is to generate enough bright light to close the pupils of the subject's eyes thus helping to minimize red-eye. It seldom works, wastes power, delays the exposure and distracts the subject. And you can't trigger a standard electronic slave unit because that first small flash will fire your slave before the actual exposure is made.

This quickly saps the professionalism out of serious flash work. But all is not lost. There is a fix for these problems that works quite well, but first get that whole red-eye mode out of your mind.


What to do? Did you know there are five different options of lighting with a single flash from normal 35mm film cameras? Let's look at them from a professional standpoint.

  1. Direct flash on camera. Suitable for sports or fast action events only.

  2. Off camera flash held at arm's length. Watch out for black shadows in cavernous areas.

  3. Bounce flash. Light from the flash directed (usually) toward the ceiling.

  4. Bounce flash with index card fill (popular for press photography).

  5. Hoodwinker.


What's a hoodwinker? This is perhaps the best of all worlds for single flash. Somewhere around 1972 a German strobe flash maker produced the first one. It was a small strobe flash gun that flashed a very small (wink) light which recycled instantly. The idea was to supplement existing light with just enough fill to put highlights in the eyes and soften shadows created with existing light. You could have all the modeling and faithful tones of the original scene without dark eye sockets. This was such a good an idea no one could understand it, so after only a couple years, the Hoodwinker faded away forever. It is relatively easy to make one if you know your way around in electronics but if you don't know about high voltage capacitors, forget it.

Fortunately, you already have a hoodwinker right there in your digicam. All you have to do is reduce the light output of the built-in flash. If your flash menu doesn't provide power settings, you can place something like a business card over the face of the strobe.

"How do I know how much light attenuation I will need to match the existing light and how do I get my know-it-all camera to let me use it?" you ask.

To answer the first part of the question, you can get a rough idea of how much light is attenuated by placing cards, pieces of paper or other semi-transparent objects over your exposure meter (remember these things?) and noting how many f-stops are lost.

Rather than a card, I use a piece of white rubber mounting tape, the kind used to stick things together, for a shot at 8-10 feet at f5.6. I leave the plastic backing on the tape and stick the tape right over the silly little flash gun on the camera.

Better yet, with the Olympus I discovered I did not need anything pasted over the strobe face. I can click the shutter while holding the tip of my index finger over the itty-bitty strobe. This effectively chokes down the light output by leaving only a very small area of the strobe face uncovered. Not very scientific but if you choke it enough you can get some interesting effects. Remember, if you cover it completely, you will still get your shot because you are exposing for existing light.

The only danger is overexposure. If you standardize at f5.6 at EI 400 for your existing light exposures and use your camera's aperture priority mode, letting the camera decide the shutter speed, you'll find that shutter speeds are around 1/60 second and easily hand-held in existing, good light.

Some limitations apply. Your target should be nicely exposed, blending in with the environment. While this works well in black and white you can get some very strange lighting effects in color.

That covers the hoodwinker but read on, the best is yet to come.


The plain truth is that two lights will beat one light every time.

To get that second side light, buy a slave that will fire on the second flash from your built-in strobe. Mine is a $120 Digi-Slave Deluxe 2000 ( and it works great. The Digi-Slave is far more powerful than the camera's strobe and since you now have the freedom to put that light anywhere you want, you can side, bounce, rim or back light with it -- the whole wazzulie!

With a few test shots you'll discover you can do all sorts of great things with the Digi-Slave's three light levels of output. You can create almost unlimited sets of lighting effects by using combinations of muted flash on camera plus the Digi-Slave.


With only the limited strobe built into the camera, you can't manage bounce flash very well but you can emulate a rather small bounce by placing a reflector in front of the light at 45 degrees to the axis. This will reflect the small light upward toward the ceiling and you will get "bounce flash."

Unfortunately, the Olympus offers very little area to mount a reflector. You can work around this by using aluminum foil tape, the kind that has a sticky surface on one side. Using scissors, you can cut a piece to cover the front of the strobe and also shape a footing to stick to the body just below the strobe. Bend the piece into shape and provide the 45 degree angle and start experimenting.

This is crude but it works. Results vary depending on the size of the room, height of ceiling and mode of flash. If you get sticky goo on the camera, a drop of lighter fluid wetting a paper towel will clean it up nicely.


The nice thing about digital photography is that you can experiment at near zero costs. You get instant feedback and can adjust and correct until you get what you want it. The 3030Z provides a fine set of controls especially in combination with overrides and aperture/shutter priorities. Great stuff for experimenting. You can learn to make much better images and have a lot of fun doing it. Enjoy!

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New on the Site

At you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Dave's been busy catching up on a number of reviews before heading to Orlando, Fla. for PMA 2002. Among the highlights since the last issue:

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In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at 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:

Discuss The Imaging Resource Great Battery Shootout at[email protected]@.ee89ea5

Compare Ricoh camera prices at[email protected]@.ee860ff

Mr. Jalapeno asks about NikonScan and clipped histograms at[email protected]@.ee89f8a

Richard discusses HP printers at[email protected]@.ee89e66

Visit the Beginners Forum at[email protected]@.ee6b2b2

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Just for Fun: Capturing the Light

Our eyelids fluttered a while ago only to find themselves in a chair at a lecture given by Drew Heath Johnson, the curator of fine art photography at the wonderful Oakland Museum. He'd just published a monumental tome on California photography (not unlike his predecessor Therese Thau Heyman's "Picturing California," in fact) humbly titled "Capturing the Light."

World travelers that we are (or have been), we knew light falls elsewhere with somewhat the same regularity as it does here and were inclined to return to our dreams of a world that requires no flash illumination. But the man made the preposterous claim that in 1850 the world had been changed by the California Gold Rush (his capitalization) and at the millennium (circa 2001) we were witnessing another such revolution.

To our dismay his lecture proceeded in chronological order. So we were obliged to stay awake until the end to find out exactly what he meant.

And that, we should have guessed, is not just the invention, but the wide-spread use of digital photography. "Until now," we thought we heard him say, "photography has always implied some relationship to the truth. But with digital imagining, all bets are off. The future is wide open."

This theory has, in fact, always been the Ace up our sleeve for ducking jury duty. But never has it been so bluntly put by such an authoritative figure (without, unfortunately, either a robe or a wig).

Still, coming from someone else's mouth, it ruffled our feathers. Was the man calling us disingenuous?

Photography is no stranger to the lie. It's why men wear makeup on television. And why no self-respecting newsroom was without an airbrusher. Even in the beginning, the opaque brush made more than one sky bright. Images have always been manipulated. As part, we like to think, of a sincere effort to retain the truth as it was recast in a less sophisticated medium.

Nixon didn't always sweat; it was the hot lights required by the cameras. The eyebrow or lips in a news photo that wouldn't make it from the print to the halftone was always airbrushed in.

Not to mention red-eye, the retouching of which is a white lie we all tell.

But the truth is not as easily dismissed as the curator presumed. It holds fast like the top to a new jar of tomato sauce.

Perhaps you've tried inserting your older sibling in your parents' wedding photo -- only to find the light came from an entirely different direction.

Not to say you couldn't, were you inclined, add a believable digit to your younger sibling's left hand or make your prim aunt appear to wink at Quasimodo, the waiter.

But perhaps even then you are implying some relationship to the truth.

If certain people didn't think of your kid sister as a monster, having extra fingers wouldn't prove anything. If your aunt put on less airs, what fun would her flirting with the waiter be?

Credible forgeries require something light does not yield: the willing suspension of disbelief. It's our own enthusiasm which makes them work. We see what we want to see. Which is also why fool's gold had its admirers during the California Gold Rush.

Here at Johnson's second revolution, let's not forget it's the harried photographer not the unfaithful photo who's responsible for maintaining some relationship with the truth. And our bet that he or she will capture that light is still on.

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We Have Mail

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RE: More 'Gripping' Tales

I was careless enough to lose the grip from my Nikon 950, but I cut a replacement from an old rubber hot water bottle and fixed it on with Araldite. It works fine.

-- Barry Wicks

(Great solution (the bottle not the hot water), Barry! Thanks for passing it along. -- Editor)

I read the reader's tip on replacing the rubber hand grips and it reminded me of an idea I had for my first digital camera in 1999.

To protect the face of the monitor screen I overlaid it with two-inch wide clear packaging tape. It requires care to make sure there are no air bubbles and to trim the edges. As the tape gets marred and marked, I remove it and the screen is as perfect as when it came out of the box. Then I replace the tape for the next six months.

-- Ken Collinge

(Sounds like you're unusually adroit, Ken! We can see ourselves bungling that operation pretty easily.... But in the Macworld Expo pressroom we did see a fellow with a clear adhesive "skin" on his titanium PowerBook and there are those clear screen protectors for Palm Pilots that make us think you might be on to something. -- Editor)

RE: Wacom Intuos2

I was helped by your review of the Wacom tablet. I've been thinking of getting the 6x8, but your review mentioned you had no trouble with the 4x5 and that the 6x8 seemed big. So I'll buy the 4x5.

Once again, your reviews focus on things unknown to the reader, which is what a review is for! I didn't know how well the soft keys worked, I didn't know how the button on the pen worked, etc., but your review clued me in nicely.

-- Chuck Waugh

(I'd actually requested a 4x5 from Wacom but they sent the 6x8. It's probably more representative of the line. The old 4x5 serves me fine, but I don't use a mouse on it. The 6x8 has a working area about the size of a mouse pad, so that might be something to think about. -- Editor)

RE: Delicate Digicams?

In talking with a camera repair man (who is working on my 35mm) he made the observation that digital cameras are delicate in all ways and finally succumb to short circuiting due to dust getting inside. He thought three years was about the average life span of a digital camera. Do you have observations on this subject?

-- Gerrit

(Oh, no more delicate -- or dusty -- than any other camera. Innovation is what really shortens the life of the average digicam (and three years is a lot of innovations to ignore). Our guess is that your repair man was just speculating and somewhat idly because he's probably never actually had to work on a digicam. That's how robust they are <g>! -- Editor)

RE: Another Happy Camper

I have been a silent reader for some months now. I have not seen you or anyone else mention Portfolio by Extensis. I have used it since v3.0 (now v5.0.2) on both PC and Macintosh (iMac and PowerBook) computers to catalog images. It has tremendous capacity. I have over 3,000 photos on it and my son-in-law has over 20,000!

-- Bruce M. Stewart

(Thanks for the tip, Bruce! We do have a copy here in the Software-to-Review obelisk that's piling up as a monument to our, uh, reflective nature. It's beginning to sound like we should do a comparative review, too. -- Editor)

RE: Where's the Zoom?

A co-worker and I were discussing the reason why so few low-to-moderate price digital cameras have more than 3x zoom. His explanation was that the low sensor pixel resolution was the real reason. He feels that because of the reduced light level in a zoomed image, you need more pixels in order to trigger on the reduced photon flux.

This doesn't make much sense to me. His theory would essentially mean that you end up averaging multiple adjacent pixels together -- which is exactly equivalent to simply using "digital zoom" without bothering with the optics.

Clearly, when you zoom, you will have reduced image intensity. I would think you have to compensate for that by a) increasing the exposure time (requires mechanical or electronic stabilization), b) increasing the aperture size (an unwieldy and expensive solution) or c) increasing the sensitivity of the sensor.

Thanks for any, uh, light you can shed on this question.

-- Russ

(Follow the money, Russ. A wide-angle fixed-focus lens is simply a lot cheaper than a zoom lens. -- Editor)

RE: Icing Sports Photography

I've been admiring your Web site and enjoying the newsletter for some time now. Keep up the great work! I contributed $10 at to help you keep the Web site and newsletter alive.

I bought my Canon G1 a little over two years ago along with the 1.5x extension lens for better non-digital zoom. A few weeks later I picked up a 256-MB micro-drive. This combo works extremely well for almost any type of shot I want. I shoot pictures of my son and his teammates on his ice hockey team then post the images on the Ofoto Web site for the team and parents to enjoy (

The G1 does a fair job at ISO 50 or ISO 100 but gets pretty noisy at ISO 400. Most of the on-ice action images are shot using shutter priority set at 125, aperture of 2.5, ISO 100 and continuous autofocus. Resolution is 2048x1536 without compression. Usually, about 20 percent of the 150 images from each game are good enough for the Web site but not really good enough for prints. To get that 20 percent, I spend a lot of time enhancing the images with Compu-Pic.

I figure the only way to alleviate this time consuming process and increase my 20 percent ratio is to buy a new camera that will take images at 400 or 800 ISO without noise.

-- J. Marsh

(Check out Fred Miranda's ISOR actions for Photoshop. They do a fantastic job removing high-ISO noise without harming fine image detail. For an example of how they work, read our Nikon Coolpix 5000 review, which shows the results of a Coolpix-specific version ( or just visit and click on his "actions" link for more details. Highly recommended! -- Dave)
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Editor's Notes

Our adventure with iPhoto [M] continues. If you want to beef up its image editing with Levels, Saturation, Sharpening and a few other controls, download the free PixelNhance ( Visit to enjoy multiple libraries. And Windows users can also order linen photo albums by turning on Java and visiting MyPublisher ( Apparently they come off an Indigo digital press using a 150 lpi screen.

Denny Curtin writes that his Olympus E-20 book/eBook came back from the printer on Feb. 3. For more information, visit and download a PDF pocket guide at -- or browse his digital bookstore through our shortcut (

FlipAlbum has announced a free upgrade to version 4.1 of FlipAlbum for registered users of FlipAlbum 4.0 ( Version 4.1 includes MPEG support, built-in themes, multi-select drag and drop objects from Windows Explorer and video playback outside preview mode.

A public beta test version of YarcPlus Canon Conversion Software [W] has been released at Michael Tapes developed the new user interface to the Yarc engine developed by Bruce Henderson. YarcPlus is a Canon Raw file Batch converter designed for workflows based on a dedicated browser/database (like ThumbsPlus).

Thomson Multimedia has announced a line of Matrix 3-D memory cards ( under its Technicolor brand name. The cards are expected to be priced so consumers can buy and use them like film (a 64-MB card will compare to the capacity and cost of a 3-pack of 35mm film).

Hamrick Software ( has released version 7.5b12 of VueScan.

With the current issue, PHOTO>Electronic Imaging ( has reduced its publication schedule to six times a year. The formerly monthly magazine cited insufficient advertising as the culprit.

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One Liners

For just $150 an insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

Curtin Short Courses:

Fast Ritz CF cards:

Lockergnome's Free Digital Media Newsletter:

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Mike Pasini, Editor
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Dave Etchells, Publisher
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