Volume 7, Number 7 1 April 2005

Copyright 2005, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 146th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We highlight two of our favorite tools to create animated slide shows before Dave goes over Sony's palm-sized P200. Then we take a look at a new photo contest whose first prize will bump you into a higher tax bracket. No kidding. Oh, and set that clock in your digicam this weekend, too.

BTW, Dave is making his third appearance on Photo Talk Radio Saturday morning between 11:15 and 11:30 a.m. Eastern. With a Canon Rebel XT and a Nikon D2x in front of him, he'll answer caller questions about either of these hot new releases. Windows Media Player 9 or 10 is required to hear the show, which is archived after broadcast (


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Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at [email protected].

Feature: Fotomagico & Photo to Movie

Our ongoing Slide Show Project takes a look this time at two terrific animated slide show programs, one cross platform and the other Mac-only. Both provide mere mortals with the ability to pan and zoom their images in a slide show enhanced with transitions, music and titles.

Animated slide shows are a very different world from still slide shows (even with transitions, music and titles). Normal slide shows read your original full-res images fitting each uncropped image to the high resolution display of your monitor. In the animated world, images are rarely shown uncropped and are resized for video display (where resolution is usually but not necessarily much lower).

Secondly, watchable animated shows require some expertise to create. It's very easy to induce motion sickness in your audience, making people dizzy with pans and giving them headaches with zooms. But the learning curve is fun to climb and the view at the top very heady.


The $79 Mac-only Fotomagico ( is a gorgeous piece of software and has garnered some rave reviews in the short time it's been available. We've had some misgivings, though. First, the system requirements have always been pretty steep, although recent versions work better on older hardware. Second, while the interface makes it easy to use the program's powers, basic features like titles have been slow in coming.

But nothing quite prepared us for our first click of the Play button on our first slide show. We'd just run the demo show and then started a new show by dropping an image from our iPhoto folder onto the large Stage Area pane. We zoomed into the image, then clicked Play. Our screen started to fade, turning purple and losing brightness. Hitting the Escape key didn't help. We had to power down the laptop and try again. Nothing like that happened after rebooting, but a second installation on even older equipment did almost the same thing, freezing (no faded screen) the first time we hit Play. We're discussing this with Boinx.

In contrast, entering a license key is a breeze. Just copy it to the Clipboard and click on the Enter License button in the License dialog window. No typing. That kind of user friendliness is reflected throughout the interface.

We started with a title (but multiline titles can only be centered in their text boxes), using all the familiar font and text effects provided by the operating system (see below). Then we dragged a few images to the Timeline and used the Options tab in the right-hand panel to adjust their duration and transition.

Every program does this a little differently, but we liked how Fotomagico does it. It's very straightforward and easy to grasp. You can use the mouse to make changes or just type in values, if you prefer. And handy guidelines and snapping sounds reinforce otherwise hard to hit alignments.

The interface is divided into a large Stage Area pane in the upper left with a narrow Options pane to its right, both displayed over the Storyboard below. The Storyboard displays a set of keyframes with music but does not represent duration. During playback, the playhead actually jumps from one keyframe to the next.

For example, you can simply dump a folder of slides onto the Storyboard and have them play without any effects. That's a good starting point, we think. You can select an image and enable Pan and Zoom effects with a click. That changes the main pane display from a single image to starting and ending images with Zoom and Rotate thumbwheels. Select either image, drag it around, use the thumbwheels and adjust the starting and ending views of the images. A contextual menu option lets you preview the effect (minus the transition).

You can add a Title to any image. We've struggled with titles in movie editors, but this was a breeze. You can even animate the title by changing its position in the ending image.

Like some movie editing software, you can add Audio markers to your music to key image transitions. You can also key image transitions to a mouse click. And in that sense, Fotomagio keeps a foot in the full-res still image slide show world. In fact, unless you Export your slide show (creating an independent movie), Fotomagico loads your full-res images before displaying them. This can be a problem with high res images and quick timings, as the documentation warns.

You can also save your slide show as a Package containing all the full-res images and audio. Then anyone with a Mac and Fotomagico can see your slide show in full-res, rather than as a downsampled movie. And when you Present a high-res show on a high res monitor (like a 42-inch plasma display), there is nothing quite like it (although Photo to Movie is working on full-screen presentations for their next release).

Transitions are presently limited to Dissolve, Fade and Cut (none).

Fotomagico lacks P2M's ability to follow a path through multiple keyframes. But as a workaround, you can copy the same photo multiple times onto the Storyboard (creating a series of keyframes), copy the ending position of the previous slide and paste it as the starting position of the next using contextual menu commands. This handy technique can't follow a curved path and reloads the image, but does let you visit more than a start and ending position on an image.

Export was very simple. We created a QuickTime movie and watched it play right away. Our faster pans tended to blur but otherwise, the show was a delight to watch. Presets for NTSC and PAL video formats are included (and you can create your own). But the program really shines when you Present a show full screen.

Our freeze wasn't the only glitch we experienced. We had trouble changing point sizes once (deleting the title and starting over solved that). Selecting images to apply changes to a set of them was also an issue. Once we Selected All our images, we couldn't unselect them. We couldn't reliably select a set of three or four, either (just two at a time). This was all the more aggravating because the program became second nature very quickly.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.3, 800-MHz G4, recent graphics card "with a lot of VRAM, 64-MB would be best."


At $49.95, P2M ( has been around a lot longer than Fotomagico and it shows. It's also cross-platform (you can download the XP beta version for free). We preferred its handling of titles and its far more sophisticated panning options, although it took a while to grasp the interface. Literally.

One thing we immediately appreciated about P2M, though, is that its system requirements are less demanding than Fotomagico's. And yet, it leaves nothing out.

In fact, those panning options are very impressive additions we don't really want to live without. Spend five minutes panning across your images and you'll wish you could wander a bit along a curved path rather than just follow a straight line. P2M let's you do that by simply creating a keyframe for every bend in the road. You can pan straight from one keyframe to another or turn the path into a Bezier curve. In that mode, the keyframe acts like a point in a vector-drawn line. Click on it and you'll see two handles that determine the Bezier curve of the path coming into the keyframe and going out.

That's all you need to wander around your image, but P2M adds rest stops, too. You can actually pause at any or all of these keyframes for a second or two. This is a great way to highlight faces in a group photo, for example.

With a still slide show, there's no problem displaying everything for three seconds with a one second transition. But when you start zooming and panning, you have to add time to do it. P2M offers Motion Presets that allow you to save settings for Duration, Pause Before, Pause After, Ease In and Ease Out times.

Titles were easily set here, too, with the added option of Alignment of multiline titles (but, alas, no animation).

Audio is displayed on the Timeline as a waveform, which helps sync motion to the sound track. Additionally, you can record your own voice narration.

Transitions include Crossfade dissolves, Wipes (either direction), Cube, Iris (opening or closing), Zoom (in or out), Slide (direction plus in or out), Push (direction), Slide Changer simulation (background color), Color Fade (color to fade to and durations).

We liked the Timeline/Keyframe display at the bottom of the interface. Timeline display makes it easy to see or select transitions and durations while Keyframes makes it a breeze to add images or keyframes within an image and see starting and ending crops.

P2M exports include DV Stream (for iMovie prior to version 4) or Full Quality DV (for iDVD, Final Cut or DVD Studio Pro or further editing in recent iMovie versions) for both NTSC and PAL video formats, plus email (160x120, 10 fps, 16-bit mono), Web (240x180, 12 fps, 16-bit stereo) and CD-ROM (320x240, 15 fps, 16-bit stereo 44100-Hz) formats, plus custom screen dimensions. You can also select between the standard 4:3 or widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio.

The flicker we noticed in previews disappeared in the final export to QuickTime. In fact, LQ Graphics claims, "Photo to Movie also includes a revolutionary algorithm for optimizing each frame of the movie to nearly eliminate flicker from aliasing when showing the movie on a television."

But we had trouble grabbing the small handles on the keyframes to resize them. We would drag one to enlarge or shrink the keyframe only to see the whole keyframe move. We don't have this problem in Illustrator or Freehand but we never mastered P2M's sweet spot. Instead, we used the Zoom slider to resize and just dragged the resized keyframe into position on the image.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.2+, G4 400-MHz, 256-MB RAM or Windows XP with Microsoft .NET 1.1, 1-GHz CPU, 256-MB RAM with DirectX 9 and QuickTime recommended.


Both programs let you enter data directly or use your mouse to make changes. You may, for example, just prefer to type "100" for a full size display rather than fiddle with your mouse around the "99.7" and "101.1" clicks. But sometimes dragging the Duration out visually makes more sense than typing in a number, particularly when (as in P2M), you can see them all on the Timeline.

Both programs know all about iPhoto albums or iTunes collections, too.

Both programs allow you to set default values which include randomizing zooms and rotations, so you can quickly throw together a presentation. You can also hold an image at the start or end of its display before animation kicks in.

Both programs use the operating text services to provide Title options like font, size, color, shadow effect, opacity, kerning, line spacing, etc.

Neither program offers a free player to play their small native files. You'll have to export to QuickTime to share these shows. And the exports can be quite large.

Both programs feature online help. P2M also has a discussion forum on its Web site.


Resolution. While Fotomagico is designed to swallow those large original JPEGs your digicam spits out, neither program needs that kind of information to populate a 720x480 display (for DVDs, say). And if you're scanning images for a project, you might want to do a little math first.

P2M's documentation puts it pretty well. Your scans should have enough resolution to cover export video frame size (720x480 or 640x320, say) with the smallest key frame you're using. Doubling that provides the highest quality. So if you want to zoom in very tight to Grandma's face in her first grade class picture, make sure that crop covers the video frame size.

On the other end of the spectrum, either of these are great ways of turning your multi-burst shots of 16 shots in a single image into a slide show -- even though the resolution won't be very impressive. You can finally see these on your screen the way you saw them play in your camera.

Effects. It's easy to overdo the special effects. We overcame this by configuring a preset or default display duration (five second) and transition (a dissolve) suitable for most images. Then we selected individual images for special treatment with a lot less trouble than we had trying to standardize everything after import. But more about this another time.


P2M clearly shows the advantages of its longer development in its titles, timeline display with waveforms, Bezier path pans, recordable narration and flicker-free exports. But its keyframe handles are maddening. Fotomagico uses an attractive interface to take a slightly different approach, relying on the full-res images until you export. Unfortunately it offers fewer features (and a few more glitches) than P2M. But no sooner did we find some difference in feature sets than we discovered it on the upcoming features list. Both companies are working hard to improve their products.

Movie editing software (available free on either platform) can do much of what these products offer but not all (like rotations and high-quality exports) and not nearly as easily. We tried building a show in iMovie only to shake our heads at how tedious it was.

Leading your viewer by the eye through your images is great fun and you'll quickly learn how to do it with flair. Either of these programs lets you indulge in this addictive art. And if you do it in moderation, your audience will applaud.

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Feature: Sony DSC-P200 -- A Great Pocket Digicam

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


The P200 is the most recent in Sony's highly popular line of subcompact P-series digicams and is similar in many respects to the preceding P150. Offering a high-resolution 7.2-megapixel CCD, a 3x optical zoom lens and an expanded range of nine preset Scene modes, the P200 is a capable, yet very compact, digicam. New to the P200 is a larger, 2.0-inch LCD monitor and a variety of other improvements packed into a (very) slightly smaller body size. It's a great pocket camera to pack along no matter your skill level.


The $399 P200's shape and compact size rank it among the smaller Cyber-shots, perfect for travel and leisurely outings. It definitely passes the shirt pocket test and even fits in a small handbag. A compact shape isn't all the P200 has to offer though. A 7.2-megapixel CCD and an all-glass, 3x zoom lens deliver sharp, clear pictures, suitable for making prints up to 11x17, even with some cropping. There's also an email image size option and a handful of preset Scene modes to handle a wide range of common situations from beach scenes to night shots.

The P200's 3x optical zoom lens has a focal range from 7.9-23.7mm (a 38-114mm 35mm equivalent). Focus ranges from 19.7 inches to infinity in normal focus mode, with a macro setting to get as close as 3.9 inches. Although there's no manual focus, there's a range of fixed focus settings from 0.5 meters to infinity. The five-area Multi-Point AF system bases focus on one of five areas in the center of the frame. You can also opt for Center AF mode, which bases focus on a smaller central area of the frame or Spot AF, which pays attention only to a small area in the very center of the frame. Also available are two AF operating modes: Single and Monitoring. In Single AF mode, focus is set whenever the Shutter button is halfway depressed. Monitoring mode constantly adjusts focus before the Shutter button is halfway depressed, which locks focus (and drains the battery more quickly).

The AF illuminator helps the camera focus even in total darkness and works well with the Twilight scene modes. But the camera focuses quite well in dim lighting even with the AF illuminator turned off. This, plus exposure times to 30 seconds, gives it impressive low-light capabilities. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the P200 also features up to 4.6x Smart Zoom, Sony's implementation of digital zoom. Smart Zoom does not resample the image, so no image deterioration occurs. Pixels are simply cropped from the central portion of the image and packaged as a separate file. When the optical zoom reaches 3x, Smart Zoom takes over, if enabled, setting the maximum total magnification available for 5-Mp images at 3.6x, 3-Mp at 4.5x, 1-Mp at 7.2x and VGA at 14x. There's also a Precision Digital Zoom option, which digitally enlarges the image to a maximum of 6x (2x digital magnification with 3x optical zoom) regardless of the resolution setting.

The P200 has a real-image optical viewfinder and a large, 2.0-inch color LCD monitor for framing shots. We found the LCD monitor to be very accurate, but the optical viewfinder was very tight, showing only 80-84 percent of the final image area depending on the lens zoom setting. An information display on the LCD monitor reports a handful of camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed) and features an optional live histogram display as well. The histogram graphs the tonal distribution of the image, giving you a quick idea of any over or underexposure.

Exposure can be either automatically or manually controlled via the Mode dial which selects between Playback, Automatic, Program, Manual, Scene and Movie modes. The Automatic setting controls everything but flash, macro and resolution. Program mode automatically sets aperture and shutter speed, but gives you control over a number of other settings. Fairly unusual in a compact digicam, Manual mode lets you control the camera's shutter speed and lens aperture directly, useful when you need to achieve a particular effect automatic exposure control might not permit. Note though, that the P200 offers only two choices for lens aperture in Manual mode. When in Manual mode, the LCD screen monitors your exposure settings for under- or over-exposure.

Scene mode offers a range of preset exposure modes, including Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Candle, Soft Snap, Landscape, High Speed Shutter, Beach, Snow and Fireworks modes. Both Twilight modes optimize the camera for low-light shooting by allowing shutter times as long as two seconds, while Landscape mode sets the camera up for shooting distant subjects. Soft Snap mode warms skin tones and sets focus to slightly soft. Snow mode enhances saturation and adjusts exposure, to prevent loss of color in bright white snowscapes, while Beach mode ensures that blue tones are recorded accurately in lakeside or seaside photos. High Speed Shutter mode is for shooting action or bright subjects. Fireworks mode preserves color in shots of fireworks or other night light displays by fixing the aperture at f5.6 and setting the shutter to a two-second maximum. Candle mode slows shutter speeds and biases exposure to keep candlelit scenes looking natural. A tripod is strongly recommended for Fireworks and Candle modes.

Multi-Metering, Spot and Center-Weighted metering are available. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure values, in one-third-step increments. Sensitivity settings include 100, 200 or 400 ISO equivalents or Auto. White Balance settings are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent with a One-Push setting for manual adjustment. Picture Effects include sepia or black and white. Sharpness, Saturation and Contrast adjustments are also available. The flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, Red-Eye Reduction and Slow-Sync modes and intensity can be adjusted in an increment of one unit, higher or lower than normal.

In Movie mode, the camera captures either 640x480 in Fine (30 fps) or Standard (16 fps) modes or 160x112-pixel resolution moving images with sound as long as the memory card has room. 640 Fine mode requires a Memory Stick Pro card, while the card shipped with the camera is a standard, non-Pro Memory Stick. The P200 also offers a Multi Burst mode, which captures a16-frame burst of images at either 7.5, 15 or 30 fps. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation in the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images when viewed on a computer. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second shutter delay. And Burst mode records five full resolution images in quick succession, while holding down the Shutter button. As many as 85 VGA images can be recorded before the buffer is full.

Images are stored on Sony's Memory Stick media (a 32-MB stick is included, although higher capacity cards up to 2-GB are available) and can be downloaded via USB 2.0. An AV cable is also provided for connection to a TV. The P200 is powered by a Sony InfoLITHIUM battery pack (NP-FR1 model) and comes with an AC adapter and battery charger.


Color: Overall color was good to very good with only slight warm color casts from the white balance setting. Its color looks very similar to the P150, although skin tones were more orange. It handled the always-difficult blue flowers of my Sunlit Portrait test pretty well though. Indoors, its Incandescent white balance handled household incandescent lighting pretty well, but Manual white balance produced a really excellent shot.

Exposure: The exposure system handled my test lighting quite well, accurately exposing most shots. It slightly underexposed the very high-key Sunlit Portrait at the default setting, but a small amount of positive exposure compensation (+0.7 EV) brightened the midtones appropriately. Its default tone curve is rather contrasty (like most consumer digicams), but its contrast adjustment option helps correct that. Even with the low contrast option on though, the P200 didn't do as good a job as the P150 at holding highlight detail. The P200 had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target of the Davebox, however, and shadow detail was generally good.

Resolution/Sharpness: It performed well on the laboratory resolution test chart for its 7.2-megapixel class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,200 lines per picture height, in both directions. I found strong detail out to at least 1,600 lines horizontally and 1,550 lines vertically. Extinction of the target patterns didn't occur until close to 2,000 lines.

Image Noise: To achieve low levels of image noise for its resolution class, it trades away some subtle subject detail. While that loss isn't severe, the P200 doesn't do as well as the P150.

Close-Ups: The P200 performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.39x1.80 inches. Resolution was very high and detail strong in the dollar bill. Detail was also good in the coins and brooch, though both were soft due to the close shooting range. Details also softened toward the corners of the frame. The flash had trouble at such close range and overexposed the top of the frame, with a reflection on the brooch. Plan on using external lighting.

Night Shots: It did just a superb job on our low light test, producing clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at the 100, 200 and 400 ISO settings. Color balance turned pink in some shots, likely due to a shorter exposure time. Noise is low in most shots and even at ISO 400, image noise is lower than I expected, with a nice tight, fine grain pattern. The camera also focused very well in the dark. One of the better low-light performances from a consumer digicam.

Viewfinder Accuracy: The optical viewfinder was tight, showing only 84 percent of the final image area at wide-angle and about 80 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor actually proved loose, showing just a bit more than what was captured, though results were near 100 percent accuracy.

Optical Distortion: Geometric distortion is about average at the wide-angle end, with 0.8 percent barrel distortion. Telephoto fared quite a bit better with only one pixel of barrel distortion (0.03 percent). Chromatic aberration is lower than average, with six or seven pixels of fairly faint coloration. The P200's images are also quite sharp from corner to corner.

Shutter Lag & Cycle Time: Like most of Sony's current digicam models, the DSC-P200 is very responsive to the shutter, with full-autofocus lag times that range from 0.30 to 0.55 seconds and a blazing 0.013 (!) shutter lag in when pre-focused by half-pressing and holding the shutter button before the shot itself. Cycle times are also excellent for a 7-Mp camera, regardless of size, at 1.44 seconds/shot in single shot mode, with no apparent buffer limitation (when writing to a Lexar Memory Stick Pro card) and one fps for five-shot bursts. Multi-burst mode captures 16 small images at a time, at rates as high as 30 fps.

Battery Life: Thanks to Sony's InfoLithium battery technology, the P200 showed really excellent battery life compared to other compact digicams (actually, it's very good compared to any digicam), with 202 minutes projected runtime in capture mode with the LCD on and 402 minutes in playback mode.

Print Quality: Testing hundreds of digicams, we've found no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. We print sample images on a Canon i9900 and a Canon iP5000. The P200 had plenty of resolution to make sharp 13x19 prints, even with a little cropping. At the largest sizes, the loss of subtle detail caused by its anti-noise processing was visible in Marti's hair and features, but the prints are acceptable nonetheless. Subjects with strongly contrasting detail (like tree branches against the sky) showed no loss of detail, producing very sharp prints even at 13x19. Images captured at ISO 400 looked a little rough as 8x10s, but were acceptable at viewing distances of 10-12 inches or so. The ISO 400 image noise was invisible in prints 5x7 and smaller. Color-wise, the images looked absolutely beautiful when printed on the i9900, lush and vibrant, yet very natural-looking.


The P200 is hard to beat in the subcompact point-and-shoot digicam market. If you're looking for a great "take anywhere" camera with excellent resolution, great versatility and excellent color and tonality, the P200 is an easy choice. Definitely a Dave's Pick.

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Feature: ZugaPhoto.TV Launches Three Photo Contests

Gary Bernstein's ZugaPhoto.TV ( has launched three themed photo contests featuring a generous array of monthly prizes ranging from art prints to photo gear. It's the next step up from the Imaging Resource Photo of the Day Contest.

You have to pay (a little) to play, but the roster of prizes is very tempting. And if you win, you don't have to scratch your head wondering which prize to select from the many offered. You get them all!

And "all" is a lot. The First Prize haul is well worth over $1,000. Which could put you in a higher tax bracket.


Both amateur and professional photographers can enter the contests, which feature daily selections and monthly winners in three different categories: Event, Landscape/Nature/Travel and Portrait/Commercial photography.

Every day a single photo in each category is displayed on the site and the site as the Photo of the Day. At the end of each month, a first and second place winner in each category is selected from among those daily selections.

You can catch the current daily selections at the following URLs:


To enter, you first register (, selecting either a $5 monthly subscription or a $20 yearly subscription. The monthly sub makes you eligible through the end of the current month. The yearly sub makes you eligible for a year from end of the first contest deadline. Payments are handled online through PayPal.

Note that the later in the month you register for a monthly sub, the fewer days your image can be selected. Increase your odds by entering early in the month. Or really increase them by registering for a yearly subscription for only $15 more.

Armed with a password, you can then submit one original photo a month for each contest. You may submit the same photo in more than one category if the subject applies. There's a different entry form for each category, but one click in the left column of the contest entry page takes you to any one of them. You can also review the Contest Rules, Today's Selection, the Winners' Gallery and the Monthly Prizes with one click on any of the entry pages.

The entry form requires a Title, your Name, your Email address (for notification only), the Camera make and model and the Image file itself, as well as confirmation you have read and agree to the contest rules. You retain the copyright to your work but grant Zuga the right to display it. That's all there is to it.


Each contest has its own set of prizes, which vary month by month. Let's take a look at the current roster of prizes, each followed by their approximate dollar value. You do the math.

All First Prize winners regardless of category receive:

In the Events category, the First Prize also includes:

In the Landscape/Nature/Travel category, the First Prize also includes:

In the Portrait category, the First Prize also includes:

All Second Prize winners receive:


With that kind of lucre, it's smart to do a little research. Use the links above to follow the daily selections. There's also a Winners' Gallery where you can see at a glance the month's daily selections. And be sure to read Gary's Tips for our own Photo of the Day contest ( where he serves as our celebrity judge.

Then find a few of your favorite photos and enter one in each contest. Remember, five dollars buys you three chances for however many days are left in the month but just $20 buys you 36 chances over the course of a year.

We'd wish you luck, but you don't need it. As a subscriber, you've learned how to get the picture. All you have to do now is enter. That's the real trick to winning.

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New on the Site

At you can keep track of what's new on our main site. 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:

Read about the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z5 at[email protected]@.ee9e10e/0

Visit the Canon Digital Rebel Forum at[email protected]@.ee946e1

Frank asks for advice about choosing a camera at[email protected]@.ee9e052/0

Gil asks about a camera for use during vacation at[email protected]@.ee9df70/0

Visit the Professional Digital Forum at[email protected]@.ee6b2b4

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We Have Mail

You can email us at [email protected]. You can read our Letters policy at in the FAQ.

RE: The Sensor Brush Controversy

I spent nearly three hours with the inventor of Visible Dust's Sensor Brush system. I called him and he invited me to see what he is doing as I lived in the area and wanted to purchase the product directly.

Visible's brushes are hand made one at a time by a Canadian master brush maker. Under a microscope, I can see clearly the difference between commercial brushes and Visible Dust brushes. Under my scope the fibers are much smaller than any commercial brush I encountered in my comparison. The ends of the bristles, which are synthetic and not natural, are cut and clearly defined and very small in diameter, all the same and without the hooks and bent elements in other brushes I examined.

The designer of the system is an extremely bright and enthusiastic gentleman who gave his time generously to me to demonstrate his ideas, was gracious and without the guile of a sharpie businessman. And the product he is making is worth every penny -- if your camera's sensor is worth anything to you, that is. This is not an issue of opinion. This is a technology that requires meticulous and careful testing of product and method.

I own the entire system which cost me under 200 dollars Canadian. My camera cost ten times that much. I would say that makes the cleaning system a bargain especially since getting Canon to do it one time will more or less cost me the same for one cleaning.

-- Neil Fiertel

(Well, Neil, we did award the Missing Oscar to the Sensor Brush <g>! The controversy engendered by Petteri Sulonen's article "The Pixel Sweeper," however, raises an important question. It isn't whether Visible Dust's brushes are better. It's whether they have to be. The problem is how to remove dust from the glass protecting your dSLR's sensor. The Sensor Brush does indeed do that. Sulonen suggests the task isn't beyond much less expensive, if imperfect, brushes. And he gives a straightforward way to test any brush. We ourselves borrow a friend's linear accelerator, but there's something to be said for a less expensive but just as effective approach. -- Editor)

RE: Reformat or Erase Cards?

I have been trying for some time now, to get a decent and reasonable answer on the formatting or reformatting of digital camera memory cards. That is, how often and when should you do this. It seems the answers out there on the Internet are divided almost equally between pro and con. So far I have not seen an answer that makes a great deal of sense, so I have come to you guys for the facts.

-- Dave C.

(Good question, Dave. See the story "The Mysterious Death of SmartMedia" in our June 1, 2001 issue, which goes into the details of physical and logical reformatting. But to cut to the chase, the only rule is: Thou shalt not delete images or reformat any memory card in your computer. Perform both operations only in your camera. Cameras know exactly what format they expect to write to (there's quite a variety) and will write that format every time.... Why reformat? So the camera can write to your card. If you use the card in two cameras, reformat when you switch cameras. Some cameras write special directories when they reformat. Some use the DCF specification. Mixing them up only confuses the camera.... Why erase? So the camera has room to write new data to the card. Once you've copied the data from the card, verified the data was correctly copied and made backups of it, you can let the camera erase all the images.... It never hurts to reformat, especially if you have some question about the card format or its performance. But it isn't necessary. -- Editor)

RE: Last Resort

I am bothering busy you as a last resort. In Photoshop CS do you know how to change the color of the basic arrow pointer and round brushes from black to, say, red or blue so that they can be seen more clearly while processing black & white prints? I stumbled onto this by accident once in 5.5 but can't find it again. I have Win XP Pro.

-- Ron Lightbourn

(Cursor appearance is controlled by the Display & Cursors Preference with settings for Painting Cursors and Other Cursors. If you create a black and white image by desaturating an RGB image, the checkbox to display Color Channels in Color will show individual channels in color and set the cursor to a contrasting color. But if you convert your image to grayscale, you just get a contrasting black and white cursor. It can help to set the Painting Cursor to Brush Size if you're having trouble seeing the Precise crosshairs. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Adobe ( has announced the Adobe Photographers Directory, a listing of professional photographers accessible directly from within Adobe's creative professional products. Initially available in North America, the directory will eventually be extended to include photographers from other markets.

Adobe will be working closely with the American Society of Media Photographers to populate the new directory. As charter members of the directory, ASMP has also launched a Web site ( detailing how photographers can sign up. In addition, Adobe will work with the Advertising Photographers of America and other associations to make the directory a comprehensive professional photography resource.

Hi-Touch ( won two DIMA Digital Printer Shoot-Out awards with its 641PS and 730PS for dye-sublimation photo printing in the 4x6 and 5x7 categories respectively. The company reduced the price the 641PS from $329 to $299 and lowered the cost of a 5x7 to 60 cents and a 6x8 to 80 cents per print.

Add your face to Mount Rushmore or put your mug on a $100 bill with ZeallSoft's ( $29.95 FunPhotor 3.0 [W]. With over 100 templates, the program blends your portrait into the image, blurs the edges, adds custom text and includes a built-in email program.

Apple ( released its iPod Camera Connector.

Prosoft Engineering ( announced a new release of Drive Genius [M], adding the ability to shred free space, defrag more efficiently, attach disk images, duplicate volumes faster, extended verify/repair/rebuild functions and a friendlier interface.

The Macintosh asset manager Retrieva ( automatically categories your collection on import and can search Exif and ID3 tags or find similar images.

Holocore ( has released its $10 PictureSync 1.2 [M] to upload images to Web servers, including Webshots, Flickr and Buzznet directly from iPhoto and iView Media Pro.

Web Photos Pro ( [MW] builds Web photo albums with image thumbnails, smart uploading, automatic RSS and PhotoRSS feeds and more.

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Mike Pasini, Editor
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Dave Etchells, Publisher
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