Volume 8, Number 24 24 November 2006

Copyright 2006, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 189th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We're sending this issue a little early to help you get a head start on the holiday shopping season. The first article covers our top three cameras in several categories (including Budget) and the second covers, well, everything else!


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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: Camera Gift Guide

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

Want the best, most versatile camera or accessory for the money, but you don't have a lot of time? We can help. We came up with a list of can't-miss cameras for the holidays, so all you have to do is browse our summaries and click.


It can slip into your shirt pocket and you almost forget it's there. These three meet that criteria and take great pictures to boot. That's not easy to do, so we looked long and hard when picking for this category.

Sony T50 ( -- The 7.2-megapixel Sony T50 is souped-up little point-and-shoot camera that's great for shooting in various conditions. Aside from the extremely pocketable form factor, we love the effective Super SteadyShot image stabilization, the sharp 3x optical zoom Carl Zeiss lens (with sliding cover) and the excellent audio/video recording capability. The hippest feature is definitely the large 3-inch touchscreen with its onscreen virtual buttons and easy-to-read text, great for those who like touchscreens (for those who don't see the T10 below). The flash and AF-assist lamp are both powerful and they won't burn out the surprisingly robust lithium-ion battery too quickly. Overall the T50 offers some rare features for a subcompact and you get a versatile and powerful, but user-friendly camera in a very slim and elegant package. MS Duo, MS PRO. $356 to $499

Nikon Coolpix S5 ( -- The 6-Mp Nikon S5 distinguishes itself from the sea of ultraslim shooters with its wave-shaped all-metal design, which is sure to turn heads when you're out on the town. But the design is also functional: it accommodates a non-protruding 3x zoom lens with ED glass and makes the camera easier to grip. The S5's 2.5-inch LCD is packed with 230,000 pixels and has a wide viewing angle, making it a joy to frame and review shots. Getting around the menus is a breeze with the jog dial and a Quick Start mode gets you ready to shoot in a second. You also get in-camera red-eye fix, face priority autofocus and D-Lighting (for brightening dark areas), plus a handy One-Touch Portrait button and 15 scene modes. The S5 excels in daylight conditions, producing crisp images with impressively accurate color and our 8x10 prints looked good even at ISO 400. When style counts, you'll want this digicam in your pocket -- and you won't even notice it's there. Note: We had originally selected the less-expensive and newer Nikon Coolpix S9, but switched to the still-available S5 when we saw the test images for both side-by-side. The S5 is significantly better, worth the extra $40-50. SD or MMC. $226 to $299

Sony T10 ( -- The Sony T10 is amazingly slim and fashionable, but Sony didn't skimp on features, performance or image quality. The T10's excellent 3x zoom lens, 7.2-Mp sensor and top-notch SteadyShot image stabilization (rare in a subcompact) gave our test images a stunning sharpness with vivid color, even in low light. Our prints came out great even at 13x19 inches! Full Auto and Program exposure modes give you as much control as you want and if stills aren't enough, you'll love the excellent Movie mode. We're also hot on the superfast shutter response and speedy autofocus system and the gorgeous 2.5-inch LCD is a delight to use in any situation. Other features that make the T10 ideal for vacations include excellent battery life and a sturdy lens cover, which turns the camera on in a jiffy when you slide it open. MS Duo, MS PRO Duo. $287 to $399


The difference between Slim and Compact is just a few millimeters, but it's still an important distinction. All three cameras here offer something extra that few other cameras do at this size. The Canon SD800 IS has image stabilization and a wide-angle lens, the Nikon Coolpix S7c is the slimmest WiFi camera on the market and the Olympus 720SW is rugged and waterproof. All are highly recommended.

Canon SD800 IS ( -- The Canon SD800 IS may not be the slimmest camera out there, but it's still pretty small and packs a lot of features -- most notably a very good image-stabilization feature that lets you shoot easily in low light conditions. The 3.8x optical zoom lens starts at an impressively wide 28mm and retracts into the body to maintain the camera's pocketability. The SD800 IS also has face recognition technology that allows it to track up to nine faces at a time, setting focus and exposure to make sure everyone looks good. We also liked the long battery life, very capable movie mode and excellent download speed. The 2.5-inch LCD is bright and complements the optical viewfinder very well, while the refined user interface and excellent overall responsiveness make the SD800 IS a good choice for anyone who takes a lot of indoor shots. Ultimately, the SD800 IS offers more than any other camera at this size at a pretty decent price. SD or MMC. $349 to $399

Nikon Coolpix S7c ( -- Like the Nikon S5 above, the S7c has a sleek, curvy body that houses a non-protruding 3x zoom lens with ED glass. And they both share a rotary dial for flying through the menu system. But the big news is that the S7c can wirelessly upload your images to Nikon's Coolpix Connect photo-sharing service. Another highlight of this slim 7.1-Mp shooter is its huge 3-inch LCD. Even experienced shooters will appreciate Nikon's Feature System, which includes in-camera red-eye fix, D-Lighting (for exposure correction), Face-Priority autofocus and a One-Touch Portrait button. Two Best Shot Selector modes automatically choose either the sharpest or best-exposed shot from a series, while the Electronic Vibration Reduction provides digital image stabilization. With fun features like VGA movie recording with sound and a good Macro mode, this powerful WiFi-enabled camera is sure to please. SD or MMC. $294 to $346

Olympus 720SW ( -- The Olympus Stylus 720SW is simply the best waterproof camera on the market and it's the only one with true shock resistance (it can withstand a 5-foot drop onto concrete). But it's not just rugged. This compact 7-Mp trooper is a real looker too, with its curvy metal body. And it has a battery with stamina. The folded-prism optical system means the 3x zoom lens doesn't protrude from the body and a sturdy lens cover protects the glass. There's no optical viewfinder, but you can frame shots via the 2.5-inch LCD. Image quality is fine for sharp prints up to 8x10 inches and we like its point-and-shoot simplicity, 24 scene modes and movie-recording capability. The 720SW is an ideal companion for shutterbugs who need an easy-to-use camera that's built like a tank -- but doesn't look like one. xD Picture Card. $287 to $399


These cameras are a little larger and as a result camera companies can fit more features, better lenses and bigger batteries. They're designed for more serious photographers who want a Manual mode, but they can also be used by anyone, as they still include Full Auto and Scene modes. These three have great lenses that deliver great pictures.

Canon A640 ( -- Canon simply makes good cameras that work and the A640 is no exception. Its low-distortion 4x zoom lens, 10-Mp sensor and fast DIGIC II processor capture astonishingly great images with the shutter responsiveness you need. The A640 strikes the right balance between being approachable for beginners and flexible enough for experts, with its ample automatic modes and powerful manual controls like aperture and shutter priority. Our test images with the Canon A640 showed bright, attractive color and very accurate exposure, as well as good low-light performance. The 2.5-inch LCD is articulated so you can get those difficult shots -- either overhead or down low -- and it's very accurate. The A640 has an optical viewfinder as well for framing on sunny days. Other perks include a sensible user interface, a healthy set of Scene modes and an excellent Movie mode. The Canon A640 is a lot of camera for the money and the best 10-Mp digicam we've seen. SD or MMC. $302 to $424

Panasonic LX2 ( -- Evoking the classic rangefinder look, the compact Panasonic LX2 is actually a sporty high-tech powerhouse in disguise. It uses an actual 16:9 aspect ratio 10-Mp sensor to capture wide screen still images and video and you can view them on the high-res 2.8-inch widescreen LCD without that annoying letterboxing. It's perfect for widescreen TV owners, too, capturing stills and video like you're used to seeing them. We like the LX2's image quality for its rich detail, thanks in part to the updated on-board image processor (an improvement over the LX1) and remarkably effective Optical Image Stabilization system -- not to mention a nice piece of glass. The LX2's manual modes and infinitely tweakable settings are a big plus for photography enthusiasts, but the Lumix LX2 has plenty of auto modes so snapshooters won't be lost. SD or MMC. $384 to $497

Nikon Coolpix P4 ( -- The Nikon P4 doesn't have its P-series siblings' WiFi capability, but it has nearly everything else. This compact 8.1-Mp shooter is great for easy one-handed operation and we got some razor-sharp images with the high-quality 3.5x zoom lens. The 2.5-inch LCD is bright enough to see in direct sunlight. The P4 lets you set the aperture and shutter speed and we especially like that the range of settings is greater than that of most digicams. We're also impressed by the Vibration Reduction, especially at slower shutter speeds. But if you're into letting the camera do the work for you, the P4 has 16 Scene modes, plus red-eye fix, D-Lighting (for punching up dark areas), Nikon's excellent Best Shot Selector and face-priority autofocus. Best of all, this workhorse is wrapped in an attractive package that hides its utilitarian nature. SD or MMC. $279 to $399


Long zoom cameras are the ultimate all-purpose cameras, really, because their lenses allow you to cut out the clutter and make a great shot, regardless of the subject or your distance from it. These three choices bring in the details from afar and are well-rounded video cameras as well.

Canon S3 IS ( -- The Canon PowerShot S3 IS is an even better digicam than its popular predecessor, the S2 IS and its relatively compact design has a great feel to it. The 12x zoom lens (extendible via conversion lenses) and 6-Mp sensor -- aided by excellent image stabilization and an articulated two-inch LCD -- make normally impossible shots possible, with or without the powerful built-in flash. And the responsive shutter and fast startup time help you catch every photo opportunity. Our test shots reveal impressive color accuracy and low noise at most ISO speeds, while the manual and aperture/shutter priority modes let us create shots, not just capture them. But the S3 IS also caters to novices, with its user-friendly Auto, Program AE and Scene modes. Throw in a long-lasting battery, a capable and easily accessed Movie mode that records stereo audio and a very fast, quiet, ultrasonic motor driving the lens and the S3 IS is truly a photographer's dream! SD or MMC. $345 to $399

Fujifilm S6000fd ( -- Want a professional-feeling camera but not quite ready for a true dSLR? The 6.3-Mp Fujifilim FinePix S6000fd has a compact SLR-style body, but the 10.7x zoom lens (equivalent to a 28-300mm) isn't removable. It does, however, have a manual zoom ring so you're not left fiddling with clumsy motor-driven zoom, a real plus. A digital image stabilizer helps keep things sharp by automatically boosting the ISO sensitivity up to an impressive ISO 3200 while maintaining reasonable noise levels. The biggest highlight is a face detection system that finds faces and frames them individually in the high-res 2.5-inch display for better focus and exposure. And just like higher-end cameras, the S6000fd produces razor-sharp images with rich colors in just about any shooting conditions. xD Picture Card. $382 to $499

Nikon Coolpix S10 ( -- The Nikon S10 brings back the swivel lens design with a whole new purpose: putting a long zoom digicam into a pocketable body. The body twists so you can aim the image stabilized 10x optical zoom lens without moving the LCD. When closed, the camera measures just 4.4 x 2.9 x 1.6 inches. The 2.5-inch LCD boasts 230,000 pixels for sharp framing and picture viewing. We got some very sharp images with good detail and color, thanks to a sensor shifting image stabilization system and a 6-Mp CCD. Novices will get good results too, courtesy of helpful features like 15 preset Scene modes, Nikon's Best Shot Selector, in-camera red-eye fix, D-Lighting exposure correction and face-priority autofocus. But creative types can enjoy plenty of flexibility too, including seven white balance modes, four metering modes and five flash modes. SD or MMC. $310 to $399


You don't have to spend a lot to give a great gift. Our bargain choices are sure to please and the images they make just keep on giving, shot after shot. Our heartiest recommendation goes to the first choice, the Canon A530, available for an amazingly low price. It offers quality unmatched by its equivalently priced competitors, so the only two we could pick to place against it have 10x and 12x lenses.

Canon A530 ( -- The 5-Mp PowerShot A530 is a great value at a budget price. This isn't just for first-timers, though. In addition to set-it-and-forget-it operation and versatile Scene modes, you get multiple metering modes and a Manual mode that lets you set the aperture size and shutter speed. The body is compact, but big enough to accommodate good optics (including a 4x optical zoom lens) and it has both a 1.8-inch LCD and an optical viewfinder. The A530 fits well in the hand thanks to a handgrip, which also holds two AA batteries. We got surprisingly sharp, accurately exposed pictures with vibrant color and we liked the ability to print photos directly from the camera to a PictBridge-compatible printer. The Canon A530 is perfect for those who want to grow their photography skills at their own pace or for families with varying expertise levels. SD or MMC. $129 to $200

Fujifilm S5200 ( -- The Fujifilm FinePix S5200 may look like a miniature SLR, but it's actually a very affordable midrange 5.1-Mp digicam with an impressive 10x optical zoom lens. You get a lot of bang for your buck with fast autofocus, a virtually distortion-free lens, excellent battery life (using four AA cells) and Raw format support. While the S5200 has a Full Auto mode and five Scene modes, the camera really shines in Full Manual or Aperture and Shutter Priority modes. It also has plenty of extras like bracketing and continuous mode, as well as multiple flash modes and a very good movie-recording feature. We like the accurate color, sharpness and clarity of the images we shot with the S5200 and we didn't mind the lack of image stabilization thanks to an anti-blur mode that relies on fast shutter speed. The Fujifilm S5200 offers plenty of control and ease of use in a small, very well-designed package. xD Picture Card. $228 to $299

Panasonic FZ7 ( -- The Panasonic FZ7 is the third generation of the FZ series of long-zoom cameras, carrying with it some hefty improvements while maintaining a not-so-hefty size and weight (just over half a pound). We welcome the boost to six megapixels from the FZ5's smaller sensor, as well as a 2.5-inch LCD (compared with the FZ5's 1.8-inch screen). The Leica 12x optical zoom lens benefits from Panasonic's excellent MEGA Optical Image Stabilization, yielding crisp photos with bright colors on our tests even at full telephoto. While simple enough for rank beginners, it's really aimed at advanced amateurs who do recreational nature and travel photography in varied lighting conditions. For low-light shooting, we love the Panasonic FZ7's strong and quick-recycling pop-up flash and the EVF and LCD both work very well in dimly lit situations. SD or MMC. $257 to $349


SLRs are taking the market by storm. Finally, you can take extremely high quality pictures that are digital from the start, with terrific interchangeable lenses and you can get some of these SLRs starting between $500 and $600.

Nikon D80 ( -- Lusting after a Nikon D200 but can't quite justify the expense? The Nikon D80 -- a slimmed-down update of the wildly popular D70 -- is as close to ideal as we've seen among prosumer dSLR cameras. Our list of things we like about the D80 is extremely long, but a few items deserve special mention. For starters, the CCD has been beefed up to 10.2 megapixels, the button layout has been improved and the optical viewfinder is unusually big and bright. The included digital-specific kit lens is one of the best we've seen for casual photography: an astonishingly versatile 7.5x zoom (18-135mm) with ED glass and aspherical surfaces to control optical defects. We're in love with the pro-level control that the Nikon D80 offers over every aspect of shooting and our amazing test images are just about all the proof you'll need. The Nikon D80's user interface and ergonomics are some of the best in the business, thanks to a redistribution of the camera body's weight and it maintains user-friendliness despite having loads of bells and whistles. And if what's in the box isn't enough, the Nikon D80 is exceptionally extendible via optional accessories. Truly an excellent camera. It's also available in a kit with the 18-55mm lens and there are dozens more to choose from in the Nikon SLR system. SD. Nikon D80 18-135mm Kit: $1,260 to $1,299, Nikon D80 18-55mm Kit: $1,028 to $1,189, Nikon D80 Body Only: $879 to $999

Canon Digital Rebel XTi ( -- Canon's new and improved version of one of its best-selling consumer digicams is the Canon Digital Rebel XTi. With its 10.1-Mp CMOS sensor, this powerful SLR has plenty in common with its pro big brother, the EOS 30D. Hardware highlights include a 230,000 pixel 2.5-inch LCD that's bright and has very wide viewing angles, as well as an IR sensor that switches off the LCD automatically when you put the viewfinder to your eye. We were wowed by the improved AF system, which uses nine points just like the 30D. You can view luminance or RGB histograms and you can choose whether an image is rotated on the camera, on your PC or both. The XTi's excellent on-board editing tools include red-eye reduction and digital dust removal (in addition to physical dust removal); the latter is likely to show up in higher-end EOS models soon. Of course, the XTi captures beautiful images with remarkable detail and clarity -- we got surprisingly good 13x19 inch prints. And the XTi's high ISO performance really blew our minds. The Canon Rebel XTi comes with a very good 18-55mm kit lens and some great software for a price that screams value. The Rebel XTi is also compatible with over 50 other Canon EOS-system lenses and accessories. CF. Canon Rebel XTi 18-55mm Kit: $759 to $899, Canon Rebel XTi Body Only: $699 to $799; also available as a bargain SLR: Canon Rebel XT 18-55mm Kit: $620 to $760, Canon Rebel XT Body Only: $530 to $699

Pentax K100D ( -- The Pentax K100D is a surprisingly affordable dSLR that performs very well for the money, making it a good choice for a first SLR. Our favorite feature is the very effective body-mounted anti-shake mechanism. We got surprisingly sharp images even at shutter settings of 1/13 second. We were also impressed with the K100D's low-light performance; our prints came out great even at higher ISO sensitivities (which go up to 3200). The 18-55mm kit lens is tightly built and works well out of the box, though the body works with Pentax KAF lenses as well as a growing list of accessories. The manual controls are excellent and easy to use, but there are plenty of preset auto-exposure options for both experts and greener users. This is Pentax's best offering yet and the price is so low that you'll have money left over to pick up an accessory flash to spruce up your indoor photos. Pentax also offers a selection of excellent zoom and prime lenses to expand your kit. SD. Pentax K100D 18-55mm Kit: $552 to $699, Pentax K100D Body Only: $474 to $669


A big fast memory card is a gift any digital camera owner will love. It's a simple upgrade that puts more shots in the camera. The trick is finding out what kind of card they need. 512-MB cards of most types are available for between $30 and $60 and many 1-GB cards can be had for between $50 and $100. Check Kingston prices here (just reset the filter for all brands):

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Feature: Grab Bag Gift Guide

Returning from photokina earlier this year on a direct flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco via the polar route, the captain made an announcement. Apparently the price of fuel had risen mid-flight and we would have to land to conserve costs. He expected only a slight delay and apologized for the inconvenience as we waited for the bubble to burst.

So we found ourselves at the North Pole during the beginning of its busy season. The Big Guy was engaged with his accountant, discussing accounts naughty and nice. But a retired elf who liked to quote Latin poetry ("Caveat Emptor," he kept mumbling) offered to show us around. As luck would have it, we entered a complex devoted to photo gear. We took notes on everything for our gift guide and here's our list:







A welcome alternative to those cumbersome noose straps, they're simple enough that crafty types can make one.


We buy our digital filters from 2filter (, which discounts high quality, multi-coated filters from Hoya and Tiffen and provides some bundles, too. Prices vary on the size of the filter.










4x6 Printers

13x19 Printers


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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 Fujifilm FinePix S9000 at[email protected]@.eea12ab

Visit the Sony Forum at[email protected]@.ee6f789

A user asks for assistance with a lens at[email protected]@.eea40b5/0

Kathleen asks about a memory card error at[email protected]@.eea40d3/0

Visit the Pentax Forum at[email protected]@.eea2980

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RE: High ISO

Nice article on high ISO speeds, noise, grain etc.

Back in the dark ages of the '60s (1962, to be exact) I decided to emulate the quality of LIFE magazine photographers by shooting available light with a 4x5 Speed Graphic and Royal X Pan (ASA 1200?) processed in either Microdol X or some other exotic chemical. The theory was that the 4x5 neg would not show much grain in an 8x10 print which subsequently would be used for publication in a college yearbook. It worked.

I probably could have used 35mm Tri-X, but I didn't have a Leica and high speed lenses available. Also, at the time, I did not fully understand the ability to underexpose a stop or two and still make an "acceptable" print for publication.

Fast forward 40+ years to 2006. My Canon 20D can shoot ISO 3200. I use this on a regular basis when doing "family" events. I shoot in BW mode with no flash fill. The results are wonderful. The look is similar to what I saw in LIFE magazine. A little noise but if we accept the 4x6-inch print as a standard for snapshots, this mode is more than adequate.

Keep up the great e-zine!

-- Gregory Andracke

(Can't wait to try that! Thanks for the suggestion, Greg! -- Editor)

The article left out a fourth solution: make the lens opening larger. Cameras like Canon's G series have an f2.0 lens that lets in a more light. Wide angle lets in more light than telephoto. And so on.

I recall from the late 1970s a review of a f1.1 lens. It was enormous, but it let in a lot of light, great for night photography.

-- Ralph Grabowski

(Thanks for pointing that out, Ralph. Very little movement in that area on most digicams (f2.8 seems to be about it), though. But it is one good reason to use a dSLR, where you can enjoy f1.4 without working too hard. -- Editor)

You obviously have not been looking beyond the so-called Big Four. Take a look at the Pentax K100D model dSLR and I think you will be greatly surprised.

-- Tom Carter

(We have indeed reviewed that model favorably, Thomas. "Noise levels are quite low at the Pentax K100D's lower sensitivity settings, with only moderately high noise at the ISO 800 setting. Noise increases at the 1600 and 3200 settings quite a bit, with much stronger blurring, though results aren't surprising at such high sensitivity settings," our reviewer said. It does nicely illustrate the trend we mentioned toward higher ISOs. -- Editor)

RE: Rain, Rain

Our rainy season here in Northern California lasts over four months and we have family that we visit in the Seattle area, where it rains much of the time. Can you give us some help in choosing between the Pentax Optio W20 and the Olympus Stylus 750 (or do we have another choice?)?

Neither, apparently, takes terrific pictures, the Stylus 800 does not seem to be available anymore, the Pentax W20 is cheaper but lacks true image stabilization.

We would rather not risk our good cameras in the rain, but would like to have a camera with us as we do our walks.

-- Arnold Victor

(We sympathize (here in Northern California), particularly as it happens to be raining right now. But we think this issue is somewhat overblown, really. We had the SD900 out in the rain and no harm came to it. We did protect it, removing it from our jacket just to shoot, but it got wet. The thing to avoid is getting water inside the camera (spilling something on it). If the weather is heavy enough to threaten that, use an old pro's trick by shooting with the camera in a plastic bag (a sandwich bag should work) with no plastic obscuring the lens. -- Editor)

I stumbled on to an online site called FotoSharp ( that makes camera rain covers, and their mini cover will fit our Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ cameras, since these come with a lens hood. It wouldn't work for a SD900, though. Incredibly, FotoSharp will not charge you to try out their products. For this day and age, to find a merchant online who doesn't ask for your credit card number and actually trusts their customers is astonishing. Your order comes with an invoice, and if you decide the product will work for you, you pay. Otherwise, return it and pay nothing!

-- Arnold

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Editor's Notes

Canon ( has dropped the price of its EOS Digital Rebel XT to $599.99 (body only) and $699.99 (18-55mm kit lens).

MemoryMiner 1.2 ( [M] adds Google Maps, a new HTML/Javascript/CSS Story Viewer and more to the $60 digital story telling software.

Light Crafts ( has updated its $249 LightZone [MW] to version 2.0 with three new tools (Color Cast tool, Color Balance tool and a Histogram Preview), enhancements to existing tools and "significantly improved performance."

Digital Image Flow ( offers its $11.99 Digital Grey Kard with three color calibrated reference cards, a lanyard with clip, and a user's guide explaining how to achieve perfect color balance. The $14.99 Premium model has a detachable lanyard.

Think Tank Photo ( introduced its rotation360 backpack with a belt pack that can be tugged from under the pack around to the front.

Maha Energy ( has announced its MH-C9000 WizardOne battery charger and analyzer, capable of charging, conditioning, analyzing, cycling, forming and discharging one to four AA or AAA batteries, all while digitally displaying the battery capacity and voltage.

Boinx ( has released FotoMagico 1.8 [M] to read Aperture 1.5 format libraries to create its slide shows.

Iridient ( has released its $99.95 Raw Developer 1.6 [M] with three new noise filters for high ISO shots and performance improvements.

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One Liners

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Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners:


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Mike Pasini, Editor
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Dave Etchells, Publisher
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