Volume 8, Number 21 13 October 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 186th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We reflect on the big picture at photokina before Shawn finds a Sony you can tap with your finger to set focus. We describe a meter-less way of exposing (which works for the moon, too) and beg you for a little help with our annual Ersatz Nobel prize for Customer Service.


This issue of The Imaging Resource News is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please tell them you saw their ads here. And now a word from our sponsors:

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Feature: Reflections over the Rhine

(Excerpted from the illustrated version posted at on the Web site.)

We crossed the Rhine River on the Bensberg tram every morning during our stay in Cologne to cover photokina 2006. And we came back late in the afternoon over the same route on the Weiden West tram. Unable to eavesdrop in German, the daily commute provided a chance for some reflection on what we'd seen at the show.

While we spent the evenings compiling our show reports ( with Web galleries and getting the last issue of the newsletter out to you, we thought we'd skip the usual product recap to focus on some interesting trends.


The fate of the trade show in the century of the Internet has been far from certain. Seybold has given up the ghost, Apple (having invested in storefronts) pulled out of Macworld Expo Boston in 2005, which led to the cancellation of that classic and even the Photo Marketing Association Convention and Trade Show has seen a decline in visitors and exhibitors as the Consumer Electronics Show demands more attention.

But every two years, Cologne hosts photokina. It's the largest gathering of exhibitors in the imaging business, covering everything from cameras to photobooks, from lighting gear to frames, from camera clubs to contract negotiations. The business end of the exhibit is its spine, though, providing a rare chance to conduct face-to-face negotiations for many companies. That's not going away.

For the end user, this edition offered a chance to handle a company's entire product line (from Agfa to Voigtlander). The 10-building concourse organized the show along a workflow theme, covering input equipment, image processing, image storage, accessories and consumables, presentation and output services. Our daily show reports mimicked that organization, in fact.

There were reportedly some 6,000 journalists covering photokina this year. Getting their attention is, apparently, an increasingly difficult task, given the large number of exhibitors. Consequently some very big news was pre-announced with both Canon and Nikon introducing new and affordable dSLRs and Apple announcing an Aperture update the night before the show to a red-eyed but large crowd in the city's center.

Will there be another photokina? we wondered as we zipped across the floor, like the rushing leader among journalists, on our way to one or another exhibit. The buzz in the air was electric, we observed. A few blockbuster shows like CES and photokina still seem to be irresistible. Whatever else happens, bet on photokina 2008.


Being able to handle any company's entire product line is a thrill for any consumer. But it's something of a poisoned apple for a journalist. And being the only one of our crew assigned to write a report (with the more photogenic staff wrapped in video production), the task of seeing everything was beyond even the miseries of Hercules (who also didn't speak German).

We did, however, take our usual stroll through the show to get a feel for what was going on. And we were struck by the enormous and enthusiastic crowds, primarily packing the camera manufacturers' exhibits, which were themselves the largest we'd seen, often encompassing small studios and mini theaters where fans could raise their cameras to shoot attractive models swathed in dry ice, iridescent cosmetics and other accouterments of the theatrical arts.

Being the disappointed owner of an Average digicam, a Nameless printer and driving a humble Rumbolino, we can't be accused of favoritism to any particular brand. But that isn't true, we've seen over and over again, of most camera owners. Like everyone else in this business, we're asked for camera recommendations. We know you can't go wrong with any of the current models. And we fall in love with a new one every week, too, so we always have a recommendation.

But we've learned it rarely matters what we say. If you've owned a Canon, you'll buy a Canon. If you've owned an Olympus, you'll buy an Olympus. So we always ask, "What are you using now?"

And what we saw at photokina certainly did nothing to dissuade us from that approach. We found it very amusing to go from the Canon crowd to the Leica lovers, shooting not just the merchandise but the buyers. Each group seemed ready to paint their faces and cheer for their favorite company as they admired the new gear.

Brand loyalty may break down, however, when it comes to printers. Epson and Hewlett Packard printer fans, clearly, own all sorts of cameras. Even the Canon printer club, clearly, includes Nikon owners. And none of them likes buying the company's inks or papers!


The dSLR has been around long enough that buyers are aware of its problems. Like sensor cleaning. We were surprised to see so many new dSLRs following up on Olympus' lead in automatic sensor cleaning. It was, for many, a simple extension of their following up on Konica Minolta's in-camera image stabilization, shaking the sensor on start-up. And anti-static coating on the sensor glass is another feature routinely included, although we wonder what happens when you swab it.

Image stabilization is a very big deal, providing two to three stops more handheld possibilities and nearly relegating flash to the dust bin of history. It's a big deal in digicams because it provides more natural scene rendering than a digicam flash can. But it's also important in a dSLR.

There are two ways to get image stabilization in a dSLR: with an image stabilized lens having a wide range of focal lengths (like an 18-200mm lens) or with in-camera image stabilization, which turns every lens you own into an image stabilized lens. The alternatives have slightly different characteristics, but the benefit is undeniable.

Of course, we live in an autofocus age. The pleasure of twisting a focusing ring slowly until one subject or another comes into focus is lost to many. So having in-camera image stabilization may not be the great boon it at first seems like if you are buying new autofocussing glass anyway.

Leica seems to have thought about this more than most, offering a simple lens conversion so M-series owners can use their 1954 glass on the new M8 digital rangefinder (that would be a dRF, presumably). This isn't an autofocussing crowd, but having the lens data electronically available to the M8 is worth the trouble of converting. That data ends up in the M8's Raw format image file, which interestingly enough turns out to be Adobe's Digital Negative format.

We got our hands on both a film M7 and the dRF M8 and found the experience remarkably similar. In fact, the bottom of the M8 opens just like the M7, but instead of replacing film, you are accessing the battery and flash memory compartment. Focusing with a large bright viewfinder that does not rely on the lens to render the frame was a relief to our eyes and the smooth and silent focusing mechanism was such a joy to use we nearly beeped when we found focus.

The odd mix of rangefinder heritage and DNG file format made the M8 the most remarkable camera of the show for us.


Nothing slows the evolution of imaging software. Nothing. It's little covered in the hardware-centric world of imaging enthusiasts, but every printed image has to go through it one way or another. It's central. And it's also a real celebration of human ingenuity.

Unfortunately, it gets a lot of rotten tomatoes tossed in its direction, too, as users bemoan one or another design choice or direction the developers trek toward.

Early adopters of the Raw format quickly organized into nearly-armed camps around Adobe Camera Raw (and now Bridge), Rawshooter (subsequently bought by Adobe), Camera One, Bibble and a few other programs whose job was to optimize Raw images.

But those early efforts all required intricate workflow solutions to integrate them into the game. That spawned books, lectures and PDFs on the various options photographers have to employ this stuff without wishing for a world of film and pro labs again to restore some productivity.

Then Apple addressed the workflow issue in a more comprehensive way with Aperture. And Adobe followed quickly by releasing a public beta of its equivalent, Lightroom. These two applications were both on display at photokina in new releases. Aperture 1.5 finally opened its catalog up and Lightroom beta 4 continued its evolution by taking the mystery out of the Curve command.

But what isn't always appreciated about this evolution is the changing nature of image editing. One practitioner calls it metadata editing vs. pixel editing -- and that about sums it up.

The problem is that you return from an event or a shoot with more images than you can reasonably Photoshop. You can't open each image, apply some filters, save and move on to the next image, one by one, changing the pixel data in each file and still get the job done on time.

The solution is to shoot Raw and make edits to the metadata that can be applied to a set of similar images. The metadata stores these changes (including even crops) without ever touching the pixel data. This is not only infinitely faster, it's non-destructive. The original data is always available. And you can batch process your shoot into derivative JPEGS for print or the Web.

While this approach seems like a godsend for people who shoot a lot of images (like journalists and event photographers), it's not a comfortable box for others (like artists or studio photographers) who focus on a few select images. Hence the rotten tomatoes.

But these new tools are not going away and watching them evolve with developers relying on user feedback is fascinating.


There's nothing quite like (, as a few people reminded us at the show. Everybody is swamped keeping up with the new cameras, a few are chasing the new printers, fewer still the newest scanners. But Imaging Resource has taken on lenses and accessories, too. And the lenses are plenty of work all by themselves.

But you buy a dSLR for the system, really. The lens and accessory system is what makes the experience, bodies coming and going. And addresses that with graphs that show exactly how any tested lens performs.

The site uses DxO's software to profile a lens throughout its range of focal lengths and f-stops. And for a long time, DxO had no competitors. But in the evolving world of software solutions, that day is over.

Prolex Software (, which did not exhibit at photokina, has just released its Windows-only Lens Corrector Photoshop plug-in. But at the show, we spent some time with Nurizen's Sebastian Schroder, who wrote Acolens (, a Mac application that corrects optical distortion, vignetting and corner softness by profiling a lens.

These systems are intended for dSLR lenses (and priced that way), but it's possible to use them to profile digicam lenses, too. That could be a business opportunity because it sounds like work to us.

The human mind easily accommodates distortion except when the focus of attention is a face on the edge of the frame that has been spread wide by lens distortion. These tools can correct for that automatically. And by marrying the software correction to the glass, they promise some interesting optics for the future. DxO, for example, has already put their smarts into a Zeiss scope.

Distortion isn't always a bad thing if you talk to the Lensbaby guys. Their booth was packed with people intrigued by the new version of this selective focus lens which can now hold its position. We published close-up photos of the mechanism in our show report.


Those marriages between hardware and software can also get a little strained, though. We visited with DataRescue's Pierre Vandevenne, the wizard behind PhotoRescue and learned a bit more than we wanted to know about keeping up with flash technology to recover lost image files.

It seems the new higher-capacity cards require new readers. Pop a 4-GB or 8-GB card into your old reader and your operating system offers to initialize it for you. Don't go there.

Pierre noticed we were shooting the show with a digicam of the last century and confessed his affection for old digicams. He has a Nikon 950 himself and boasted that even his 2-Mp digicam takes better pictures than some of these modern wonders with tightly packed sensors that create a lot of noise. He also pointed out Nikon made a rounding error in the firmware that will zap your card if you fill it. Modern cameras (and cards) understate card capacity a bit to protect you.

He demonstrated by setting his Canon to Raw mode and popping in a card small enough to accommodate a couple or three Raw images. But the camera reported the card was out of memory.

Then he popped another card in a reader and used PhotoRescue to check the card, showing errors at the end of the card, which is fortunately little used (and why card capacity is under measured). That's another problem itself, since flash memory is subject to wear level -- you can only write to it so many times and if you write to just the beginning of the card over and over, that will cause some cards to fail sooner than they might if you had regularly used more of the card).


While there's certainly a market for in-house large format printing by individual photographers, the technology is mostly of interest to us for what it portends to the inkjet market in general. That's usually expressed in media (both ink sets and paper), but sometimes there are other interesting features.

Hewlett-Packard's Z line follows the introduction at PMA of its B9180, a pigment-based inkjet that uses a densitometer to calibrate the printer. The Z line goes one better with a spectrophotometer to read targets printed by the printer on any medium you want and quickly create an ICC color profile. And you can tweak those profiles to what looks good to you, a feature HP described as "democratizing color."

That sounds like a competitive advantage to us. Two photographers could buy the same printer and tweak it to deliver completely different results. Reliably.

And there are differences to milk with the the 12-ink Z3100 especially, which according to HP, has the largest color gamut of any inkjet printer yet. Both printers use Vivera pigment ink (like the D9180), featuring 200+ year permanence (vs. the Epson K3 set's 150-170). But while the eight ink set of the Z2100 is comparable to the K3's color gamut, the Z3100's 12 inks surpass it.


One advantage the reporter has over the consumer is that these trade shows never squeeze the wallet, just the review schedule. So we were fascinated to learn at IDC's presentation of its Consumer Imaging Survey what it really means to buy a digital camera these days if you live in Germany, the Czech Republic or Russia.

First the good news. You'll pay the same for a 10-Mp digicam today as you would have paid for a 3-Mp digicam three years ago. And buyers still look at megapixels above all, IDC found. Zoom range, image stabilization (you've been listening!), LCD screen size, optical viewfinder, startup/shutdown time and weight are also on your mind when you compare cameras.

The decision to buy or upgrade your digicam in Germany, where the average monthly wage is $3,390, means spending 9.6 percent of that monthly income. But in the Czech Republic, where the average monthly take is $787, it means parting with 35.6 percent of that month's pay. If you happen to live in Russia, with just $300 a month coming in, you have some serious budgeting to do, with a digicam costing 111 percent of your monthly income. Not a good place to work on commission.


In the end, it's all about the images, which require no translation. The show had plenty of galleries, but right next to the press room we couldn't miss "Sixty Years of Peace," an exhibit of post-war photos by the late architectural photographer Karl Hugo Schmolz. He lugged his 8x10 view camera around the city after World War II, shooting the bombed out city hall, opera house and other landmarks of Cologne before the rubble of former glory was carted away forever. His glass negatives were recently scanned and printed on huge, 40-square-meter canvases that were simply stunning in their detail.

We asked Jean Mohring, the director of the German-Dutch Society that was a sponsor of the exhibition, what these images of destruction had to do with 60 years of peace. "Churchill did us a favor," Jean told us. "He said, 'Destroy everything but the cathedral.'" Now Cologne wants to spread the message that peace is a good thing. "Look at this rubble," he warned, "and be careful. Be friends."

Crossing the Rhine for the last time, we reflected on Jean's words. Photography is a silent medium, but what it has to say can be heard very clearly even over the din of one camp or another. All you have to do is snap the shutter.

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Feature: Sony DSC-N2 -- Touch Me!

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

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2, an upgrade of the existing DSC-N1 model, derives its higher 10-megapixel resolution from a 1/1.7-inch CCD sensor, rather than the eight-megapixel 1/1.8-inch sensor used in the N1. This is coupled with the same popup Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom lens, which offers a 3x optical zoom range equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera. Also retained in the N2 is the N1's whopping 3.0-inch LCD display -- ideal for showing off photos and using the camera itself as a portable photo album. Given the size of the display, there's little room for buttons on the rear of Sony N-series cameras, so the company opted for a touch screen on the display, usable either with a fingertip or with an included stylus.

As with the N1, Sony has taken advantage of the LCD in the N2 to let the camera function as a digital photo wallet. As you capture each image, it's saved twice. One copy is saved at your chosen resolution on the camera's flash card or in 26-MB of memory reserved for image storage. The other copy is stored at VGA resolution in a further 26-MB of memory reserved for a photo album. You can then select favorite photos from the album for protection or delete images you don't like. When album space (enough for 500 VGA images) runs out, the oldest non-protected image is automatically discarded when a new photo is captured. This simple method should ensure that owners of the N2 always have a good selection of photos on-hand to show off, with a minimum of fuss.

Also retained in the N2 is a slide show mode with a range of transitions including pans, zooms, wipes and fades, all selected automatically by the camera and accompanied by music stored in the camera. You can replace the music with your own selections using the accompanying software, which will transcode your personal music to MPEG1 format to replace the existing four background music selections built into the camera. Music is stored in 6-MB of memory reserved just for that. As with the T50 model it is announced alongside, the N2 adds a "normal" slide show mode to the N1's functionality, however.

The N2 draws power from an InfoLithium NP-BG1 battery, with the useful ability to give an indication of remaining battery life in minutes. It includes both video and USB connectivity, offers some manual control over images (including both Aperture- and Shutter-priority modes) and also provides a selection of eight scene modes to offer an easier way for beginners to get the results they're looking for. Other changes from the N1 include a slightly stronger "smart zoom" mode, a minimum shutter speed of 1/2000 second, tweaks to the shutter speeds at which noise reduction is applied and slightly reduced burst capture rate/depth. As with the T50, the Sony N2 also includes Sony's Picture Motion Browser v1.1 software package.


Sony's newest Cyber-shot is quite a departure in interface design for digital cameras. In this day of Blackberries and Treos, a stylus and touchscreen aren't really that revolutionary in themselves. We use touchscreens everywhere: at the ATM, ticketing kiosks, even when we vote. But the last place I thought about using touch-screen technology was on a digital camera. (I still carry a paper date-book, if that says anything.)

So when I pulled the N2 out of the box, I was thrilled to see its minimal controls and maximized LCD screen. Now granted, Sony has been using touchscreens on their video cameras for a while, so it's a natural to put one on a digital still camera (in fact, Kodak did it for the EasyShare-One last year). The use of the touchscreen on the N2 and N1 is genius, as it greatly simplifies the interface and keeps the camera body nice and clean. With most of the controls accessed through that bright 3.0-inch color LCD display, there's really no need for a mess of buttons cluttering up the camera body.

The N2 is quite attractive, with a brushed metal finish on the front panel and a super sleek body that isn't trapped by a myriad of buttons, dials and switches. Dominating the rear panel is that huge 3.0-inch LCD monitor, with only three tiny control buttons lining its right side. Those with larger hands may find the N2 a little difficult to keep a good grip on, but the camera fit my own hand well. You'll definitely want to keep the wrist strap on when you're shooting, though, as the camera's smooth surface can be a bit slippery at times. The included stylus is attached to the wrist strap, so it's always at the ready for making changes via the LCD interface, but I found a fingernail or fingertip just as useful.

The ability to make menu changes literally by touching the screen saves quite a bit of time in camera operation once you get used to it. Sony set up the menus logically, with large virtual buttons to accommodate fingertips as well as the stylus. My only (minor) complaint is that the N2's LCD monitor does end up with a few smudges on it if you do choose to use your fingertips, but they wipe off easily with a soft cloth.

Paint Mode. What's interesting about the N2's touchscreen is its Paint function, found in the camera's Playback menu. Paint mode offers a mini image editing interface, with options for painting lines, stamping, cloning and rotating. While any serious retouching is better left to a more complete software package and a larger display, it is fun to be able to alter images in the camera and then print them directly to a PictBridge device.

However, take note, the N2 automatically saves any altered file at 640x480 pixels, which is really only best for printing snapshots and sending as email attachments. I don't know if the Paint utility will be useful for serious photographers, but some consumers may get a kick out of imprinting graphics on a photograph or circling an area of interest with the paintbrush tool.

A small quibble with the touchscreen interface is that the large semi-translucent buttons overlay large portions of the image. You can remove the buttons by pressing the Touchscreen button, but then you lose your ability to change to another image. So you end up having to press the physical Touchscreen button a lot to properly show off your images in their full splendor; better might have been to have a lighter, more translucent button for image playback mode than the rather than such bold and dark buttons.

Really Point & Shoot. Aside from the LCD menu, the most useful touchscreen function is using your fingertip to indicate the AF point in Spot AF mode. I found this useful in dealing with off center subjects, as I could literally tell the N2 exactly where to focus. That's what I call a point and shoot digicam!

True Manual Mode. Another bonus to the N2 is its Manual exposure mode. You can manually adjust the shutter speed and lens aperture, with a maximum shutter time of 30 seconds available in Manual mode, perfect for low-light shooting. The N2's shutter can snap as fast as 1/2000 second, too. And apertures range from f2.8 to f8 at wide-angle and f5.4 to f16 at telephoto focal lengths.

So the N2's Manual mode has enough range in shutter speed and aperture for some creative options. While it does offer a full range of automatic and preset Scene modes for novices and amateurs, it's nice to have the option for manual control when you want it.

ISO speeds go up as high as 1,600, though image noise is really quite high and obtrusive at the 800 and 1,600 equivalents. The maximum 30-second exposure time serves the camera well in low light and near darkness, as we were able to capture very bright images at the lowest light levels we test at (much darker than average city street lighting at night). Though noise becomes a factor, particularly with the higher ISO settings, the N2 can still capture quite usable images under very dim lighting, though you'll definitely need a tripod or some other form of stabilization to get the best results.

An advanced slide show function lets you turn your photos into multimedia presentations, complete with MP3 music accompaniment, as well as sophisticated wipes, fades and even "Ken Burns" effects, where the camera pans and zooms across a picture.

Equipped with a 10-megapixel CCD, the N2 captures image resolutions as high as 3468x2736, which is quite large. With a suggested retail price of $449.95, this is a lot of resolution for the money (plus a host of unique, fun features to boot). The Sony N2 is quite versatile, offering image contrast and sharpness adjustments, as well as color modes and useful tools like bracketing and Multi-Burst shooting.


Overall, I'd say the Sony N2 is another good bet from Sony. It's easy to operate, dextrous in a multitude of exposure conditions and is pretty to look at. The Sony N2 captures good-looking images with good color and exposure and though image noise can sometimes be a factor at the higher ISO settings, the Sony N2 is flexible in its exposure capabilities. All in all, a good value for the money.

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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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Advanced Mode: Sunny 16 for the Digital Age

The automation built into the modern digital camera is frightening. Spin the Mode dial to green Auto and the camera sets focus, measures exposure and picks the aperture and shutter speed for you. And almost always, you get a very nice picture.

There is another way to shoot, however.

And we don't mean Scene modes. We mean something very simple, actually, that doesn't rely on the camera's meter -- or any meter for that matter -- at all. Which, to our mind, takes it a bit beyond Manual mode to something you might call Intuitive mode.

Our first 35mm camera, an Argus C-3, offered only manual exposure set without the benefit of a light meter. That was no big deal in the era of the C-3. Every box of film came with a little fact sheet that explained how to expose that particular emulsion.

Kodak Plus-X Pan film, for example, has an ASA of 125 which, its sheet said, should be exposed at 1/250 second at f11 in bright or hazy sun with distinct shadows. Set your shutter to 125 second and stop down to f8 if it's cloudy but still bright, to f5.6 if it's overcast. If you're shooting in the shade on a sunny day, you'd also use f5.6.

Nobody memorized the fact sheet. Instead, we all just remembered the Sunny 16 Rule. Set the aperture to f16 and the shutter to one over the film speed for a sunny day. So our Plus-X would get an exposure of f16 at 1/125 (the equivalent of the fact sheet's f11 at 1/250, you'll note). Tri-X, with an ASA of 400, would work out to f16 at 1/400 second -- and, as it happens, the fact sheet cites f22 at 1/250 second.

All you have to remember from there is to open the aperture a stop for each of the following conditions: cloudy with no shadows, overcast/shade.

Those three ballpark exposures could be improvised upon to deliver a shallower depth of field, stop motion or otherwise alter the capture. It all really depended on the sensitivity of the emulsion.

This works for the moon, too (roughly, because each phase reflects sunlight differently), where it's never overcast. Try opening up a stop more for a full moon overhead and open another stop for each phase. Long exposures aren't a great idea because, uh, the moon moves. The Moony 11 Rule, therefore, is f11 at one over the ISO. So ISO 100 would require f11 at 1/100 second with f8 for a half moon and f5.6 for a quarter moon.

In his autobiography, Ansel Adams tells how knowing the brightness of the moon helped him capture his most famous image, Moonrise Over Hernandez. "With the camera assembled and the image composed and focused, I could not find my Weston exposure meter! Behind me the sun was about to disappear behind the clouds and I was desperate. I suddenly recalled that the luminance of the moon was 250 candles per square foot. I placed this value on Zone VII of the exposure scale; with the Wratten G (No. 15) deep yellow filter, the exposure was one second at f31."

There are two issues with adapting this time-tested approach to digital imaging.

The first is bad news. Most digicams don't have an aperture as small as f11, so you'll have to compensate with the shutter speed -- if you're lucky enough to actually have a full Manual mode on the thing. If, for example, your lens gets no smaller than f8, use a shutter speed of 1/400 instead of 1/100. This isn't a problem with a dSLR.

The second is good news. There is no emulsion (and no emulsion batches) to factor. You're using the same sensor all the time to capture photons, adjusting the gain to emulate ISO speeds from, say, 50 to 1600 or so. You can get a sense of what your camera can do and a feeling for the light.

That's the intuitive part we were referring to. And if you shoot 16-bit per channel Raw images, you even have a nice soft safety net of about a couple of stops, too.

Give it a try, there's nothing to be afraid of. If green Auto can do it, so can you. But you have the advantage of being able to improvise on the basic exposure value. Sunny 16 is just the ticket for the digital age!

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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 Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro at[email protected]@.eea01ee

Visit the Scanners Forum at[email protected]@.ee6b2ae

Donald asks about what equipment to take to Antarctica at[email protected]@.eea3ada/0

Aaron asks for help choosing between the Nikon D80 and the Canon XTi at[email protected]@.eea3b18/0

Visit the Casio Forum at[email protected]@.ee6f775

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Just for Fun: Nobel 2006 Nominations, Please!

You can be forgiven if it escaped your notice that last week was National Customer Service Week. No one really wanted you to know.

Keeping a lid on it was the only way to avoid the embarrassing likelihood that hundreds of ordinary customers would be wandering around trying to lay a wreath on the grave of the Unknown Customer Service Rep.

Let's face it, the smart cookies in the airport executive lounges have worn the backs of their silk suits bare congratulating themselves on cutting support costs. Or, worse, running the best call center in the world. There isn't one.

The remedy, as we wrote last week in our ISP story, is to switch. No support? No business. Bye.

An August survey by Accenture reported nearly half of the respondents switched at least one service provider within the past year because they didn't get any respect. That was 18 percent of retail customers, 15 percent of Internet accounts, 14 percent of bank customers, 12 percent of wired phone customers and 11 percent of cell phone customers.

But, as we also pointed out last week, some firms do get it. And often people within otherwise withering support systems actually do try to help, even if they've had no training other than the Golden Rule. Our Nobel for Customer Service is for them.

The catch is that we have to know about them. And that means every year at this time, we ask you to tell us about them. Just email your nomination before the next issue (oh, do it now before you have to call them again) to [email protected] and we'll give them what they deserve.

Our deeply-felt appreciation.

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Dave's Deals

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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: ISP Switch

Love your story on ISPs and broadband.

Here in NZ we have the same Evilempire clones (or clowns if you prefer), who have mindless "persons" reading from an Autocue when we ring to log a problem. Like you say, once past this road block and you can talk to a real technician, things get resolved!

The problem with broadband is that most ISP's rely on xDSL modems which are were designed by Bell Labs around 1995 (?) as an interim measure so customers could get a taste of high speed Internet over copper wires, until the telcos could roll out optic fibre to every existing customer.

Telecom wasted so much money on bad investments it now can't afford to reticulate with optic fibre. Even Australia's Telstra is backing out of optic fibre networks it promised to set up. They are still partly owned by the Government of Australia.

-- Allan Porter

(Thanks for the background, Allan! We have an added twist to the drama here as AT&T tries to build its fiber optic service (Project Lightspeed) to deliver TV service. Seems the cable companies that pay fees for the privilege are upset that the phone company can do this without paying a community franchise fee. AT&T wants the community franchise fee rescinded in favor of a state-wide fee. Which cable says will deprive poor communities of TV service. Ah, smoke signals. Someone ought to tax them, too. -- Editor)

RE: iNova

I want to thank you for including Peter iNova's material on the D80 in the last issue. His commentary and analysis are among the most articulate and brilliant in the industry.

-- David Ziff

(Thanks, David, I've passed your praise along to Peter, too. He sure did us a favor, filling the issue up so we could cover photokina <g>! -- Editor)

What wonderful readers you have.

-- Peter iNova

RE: USB Hubology

You mentioned your hub was a USB 2 unit. Does a USB system which uses a USB 2 PCI card (which I have just installed in my PC) require a USB 2 hub (which I don't have). The fellow at Best Buy said my Belkin USB (1?) hub would work fine and the speed of the entire system would now jump to USB2 standards. Can you help me out?

BTW, I received Stephen Johnson's digital book and I will be eternally grateful to you for suggesting it (plus the very attractive discount!) It is super!

-- Paul Castenholz

(Very glad to hear you like Stephen's book! Now, about that Best Buy Guy. He's wrong. A USB 1.1 hub will work on a USB 2.0 port but it won't run at USB 2.0 speeds (it can't). It runs everything plugged into it at 1.1 speeds. Here's the FAQ: -- Editor)

RE: Lifetime Warranties

Glad that you had good "Lifetime Warranty" experience.

But you should warn your readers to carefully read any warranty and inquire as to how the warrantor will implement the warranty, especially a "Lifetime Warranty".

Some years ago I purchased a router with a "lifetime warranty." When it failed, the manufacturer explained "lifetime" was not defined as ownership, but as the life of the product. Since the product was no longer supported, its "lifetime" had expired and so had the warranty.

-- R BD

(That's an interesting point. The terms of the warranty are set by the manufacturer, not the consumer's expectation. 'Lifetime' can indeed be construed to mean 'as long as you own the product' or 'for the life of the retail product' or any way the manufacturer wants. You should in fact read the warranty to see just what it covers. Or, as we used to say in the old country, caveat emptor. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

With the sun backlighting Saturn, Cassini scientists photographed two new rings around Saturn and confirmed the presence of two others ( And "where there's a new ring, there's bound to be a moon," said Dr. Jeff Cuzzi, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. Talk about a long zoom!

Jason P. Odell ( has published his $24.99 The Photographer's Guide to Capture NX, a 184-page PDF eBook with illustrated step-by-step instructions and practical examples of how to create stunning images with Capture NX. This book is a fully bookmarked and indexed PDF. With the purchase, you also get access to a private resource Web site with updates, new settings files and the the example NEFs used in the book.

Ben Long ( has written a four-part series on printing photos on a desktop printer that covers everything from selecting a printer to choosing a RIP.

iView Multimedia ( has released a free update to iView MediaPro [MW], its first since being acquired by Microsoft this summer. The update delivers more robust performance, including clearer error reporting and improved memory handling for both Mac and Windows customers, as well as a number of minor feature enhancements.

Arthur Bleich's DSLR Photography & Imaging Workshop ( will cruise the Western Caribbean March 8-16, 2007. The $1,995 eight-day workshop, limited to 20 attendees, will embark from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. to Belize, Costa Rica and Panama. Each attendee will receive over $1,000 worth of hardware and software gifts from participating sponsors and be able to borrow state-of-the-art cameras for use prior to and during the workshop.

Logitech ( has released a Windows version of its $79.99 NuLOOQ navigator with support for additional applications. The device significantly reduces repetitive use of shortcut keys or palette access to adjust values such as brush size, font size and even volume.

PictureSync 1.6 [M] (, a $14 batch uploading utility, has been released as a Universal Binary with geo-coding for Google Earth and support for both Aperture and Lightroom.

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One Liners

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Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners:


Curtin Short Courses:

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That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

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Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
[email protected]
Dave Etchells, Publisher
[email protected]

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