Volume 13, Number 4 25 February 2011

Copyright 2011, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 300th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Andrew examines the the second 14-42mm Olympus has designed for its Micro Four-Thirds cameras while David takes the Canon SX30 megazoom to the races. We relax with two books for iPhone photographers before awarding the Missing Oscar. Enjoy!


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Feature: Olympus 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II Zoom Lens

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

Toward the end of 2010, Olympus announced the replacement to its kit lens for the E-P1, the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 M.Zuiko, in the form of a "Mark II" version of the same lens. However there's much more than a name change at work here -- the lens has been completely redesigned.

The kit lens for the new Olympus E-PL2 Micro Four-Thirds camera, the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II M.Zuiko produces an effective field of view of 28-84mm when mounted on a compatible camera body. The Micro Four-Thirds format will restrict compatible bodies to Micro Four-Thirds mounts only; anything else would cause vignetting.

This lens isn't a "constant" lens, in that as you increase the focal length, the widest aperture is restricted (showing a higher f-number). While the smallest aperture remains f22 at all focal lengths, the widest shifts from f3.5 at 14mm to f3.9 at 18mm to f4.4 at 25m to f5.2 at 35mm and to f5.6 at 42mm.

The Olympus 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II zoom lens takes 37mm filters and is available as the kit lens with the E-PL2 camera or separately for around $300.


When the E-P1 was released with the first generation of this lens, Imaging Resource was the only Web site to report a problem ( with the lens. At certain shutter speeds, a blurring of details was present in photos taken with the lens. This problem was due to at least three factors: the first was old firmware, the second was the way this lens gets loose when extended and the third was the vibration from the bouncing of the shutter.

Now, having said that, my guess is that the first thing you're going to do is look up our review for the previous version of this lens in order to compare its performance with this version. However, you'll see that in our testing, the lens actually performed quite well. The reason is because our test shots weren't shot at the same problematic shutter speeds we used when we noted the problem and the camera was locked down on a very rigid support system. The vibration problem with the original lens was far worse when the camera was hand-held.

The good news is we repeated our tests with both the original lens and the new lens on both the original E-P1 and the E-PL2 and while the old lens again exhibited the problem on both cameras, the new lens does not show the problem on either camera. We're happy to report that Olympus's redesign of the collapsible kit lens eliminates what we saw as a noticeable flaw and we can safely recommend the 14-42mm II kit lens that's now bundled with the E-PL2.

In the mid-range (18-35mm) results are somewhat similar. At the widest end of the lens' performance (f3.9-5.2) the lens produces a small central portion of sharpness, degrading to softness in one corner or another. These results suggest some light de-centering with our sample of this lens. At 18mm and 25mm, stopping down to f5.6 removes this softness significantly, while at 35mm you need to stop down to f8 to get the sharpest results at that focal length.

At the longest setting, 42mm, the lens offers only above-average performance. There's no setting which offers tack-sharp images and it's a toss-up between f8 and f11 for the best performance. At any focal length, fully stopped-down performance is locked at f22 -- and best avoided, as consistently mediocre.


The new version of the 14-42mm M.Zuiko has dramatically improved its tolerance to chromatic aberration, specifically at the wide end (14mm), where it was most noticeable. It's still there if you look for it -- magenta-blue fringing on the edges of high-contrast areas -- but it's very slight indeed.


There's just very light corner shading when using this lens and only in two scenarios -- with the aperture wide open at 14mm or 18mm. In these cases you're looking at corners which are either a half-stop darker than the center (14mm) or a third of a stop (18mm).


As the performance for distortion is almost exactly identical to what we noted in the first version of this lens, I'll quote from that review: "There's a typical amount of wide-angle distortion when used at 14-18mm -- +0.7 percent barrel distortion along the edges and in the corners -- but it is uncomplicated distortion that would be easily fixable in post-processing. At 25mm the distortion evens out and is essentially non-existent from there all the way to 42mm."


The Olympus 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II M.Zuiko is very fast to autofocus, taking less than a second to go through its entire focusing range. The lens adopts the new MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) design, making it ideal for use in both still and video applications. The front element does not rotate when focusing, making life that much easier for polarizer users.


Curiously, macro performance has taken a bit of a hit compared to the previous model -- just 0.19x magnification instead of the previous 0.24x magnification. Minimum close-focusing distance is unchanged at 25cm (just under a foot).


The 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II M.Zuiko is an all-plastic lens, quite small given the design parameters of the Micro Four-Thirds system. What's truly remarkable is that the new version of the lens is even smaller and lighter than the previous one -- just 112 grams -- having shaved off 38 grams from an already petite optic. The lens features a matte black finish with a silver band by the lens mount. The plastic filter threads are even smaller than its predecessor -- 37mm instead of the oddly-sized 40.5mm -- but again, this is in keeping with the miniscule profile of the lens. The lens mount is metal.

There's only one switch on the lens, a zoom lock which keeps the lens in its retracted 14mm position. The camera won't operate at all if the zoom lock is enabled. If it is, the LCD will show an error message. This operation is unchanged from the predecessor lens. There is no distance scale and neither is there a depth-of-field scale.

The zoom ring is a half-inch wide, plastic with alternating raised ribs sections that run lengthwise to the lens. The ring turns about 50 degrees through its range of focal lengths and is quite easy to turn. There is some significant lens extension as the lens is zoomed out toward the tele end; specifically, the lens gets a half-inch longer at the widest angle setting (14mm) or the tele setting (42mm). At 25mm, it's at its shortest length. When retracted below 14mm for storage, the lens hides about an inch of itself within its structure.

The focus ring is located at the end of the lens, an indented plastic ring just 3/16" wide. The ring is a fly-by-wire design, controlling focus electronically, so there are no hard stops at either the infinity or close-focus ends. It's not the most friendly of manual focus designs, but the 100 percent magnification on the LCD really helps nail an accurate focus. Given that focus is electronically controlled, you can assign the direction of focus to be either left or right.

A notable improvement on the Mark II version of the lens is that the front element does not rotate during focusing operations. Our sample didn't ship with a lens hood and it's not clear whether one is available or not.


Finally, another prominent feature of the new kit lens is the bayonet mount on the front, which sticks out noticeably even with the lens fully retracted. You can attach three newly announced accessory lenses to it: the Fisheye, Wide-angle and Macro lens converters. The 14-150mm and 40-150mm lenses also accept the Macro conversion lens, though there must be some kind of step-down adapter for the 14-42mm lens, as the bayonet mount on the latter two telephoto lenses are larger, at 58mm, while the mount on the kit lens is 37mm (actually the size of the internal diameter, but apparently it's close enough).


Things are starting to look interesting for the Micro Four-Thirds mount. With Sigma, Carl Zeiss, and Schneider-Kreuznach having recently announced they will be making lenses for Micro Four-Thirds bodies, there should be some more choice in the foreseeable future. But for now, the alternatives are somewhat limited.


The Olympus 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II M.Zuiko fared very well in our tests, showing that Olympus lens designers have not been idle. The complete redesign of the lens has proven very effective, though if you've been happy with the original version of the lens, you probably don't need to rush out and get the new version.

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Feature: Canon SX30 IS User Report

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

The Megapixel Wars may have subsided somewhat, but that hasn't slowed the race for the biggest and baddest megazoom digicam. In this battle, manufacturers have leaped from 26x to 30x and now the Canon SX30's 35x zoom -- until recently the most potent in the industry. What this means for you is an astounding focal range of 24-840mm equivalent. Let's see if the Canon SX30 is the long-zoom digicam you've waited for -- or something to pass on by.


Most megazooms look like small dSLRs, but you can't change lenses and you won't get a dSLR-like response or image quality. Those are the negatives. Here's a real positive -- you won't go broke buying glass to achieve a similar focal range. For example, a 600mm telephoto from Nikon costs about $10,000. With a price like that, you can see why megazoom point-and-shoots like the Canon SX30 are so popular.

Just last year Fujifilm made headlines with the $500 FinePix HS10 and its 30x zoom (24-720mm). Olympus even claimed its $350 30x SP-800UZ was the world's "longest ultra zoom" at 840mm. Now Canon has matched that one and even gone wider with the PowerShot SX30 (24mm vs. 28mm), a real plus in our book. What this 840mm focal length offers you is pretty amazing, as we'll detail shortly.

The all-black Canon SX30 is one of the better-looking megazooms with an attractive, muted finish. As you'd imagine, the 35x lens takes up the front and like most cameras of this type, you attach the lens cover with a string to the strap. This looks a bit low-tech to me so I like putting the cap in my pocket. The lens accepts 67mm diameter filters with an optional adapter and there's also an optional lens hood. The only other items on the front besides a few subtle logos are the AF Assist/self-timer lamp and two stereo mics under the flash. Stereo sound is a big plus compared to some competing models. Overall the Canon SX30 measures 4.8x3.6x4.2 and weighs 21.7 ounces fully loaded.

On the top you'll find the flash adjustment key, a manual lift-up flash and behind that a cover that hides the hot shoe for an optional external flash. There's a Mode dial, the Power button and the Shutter button surrounded by a Zoom toggle switch at the edge of the comfortable pistol grip. The Mode dial has loads of options and they're pretty close to an entry-level dSLR. There's Smart Auto, Program AE, Aperture- and Shutter-priority, full Manual, two custom settings, three common Scene options (Portrait, Landscape, Sports) as well as Scene with 15 more choices. Many are pretty standard, but there are also Fish-eye and Miniature effects, which are unusual, if not especially useful. Finally there's a Movie option, even though there's a red video button on the back to quickly shoot movies without resorting to the Mode dial. Like most digicams, the Canon SX30 IS takes 1280x720p clips at 30 fps in H.264 MOV format.

On the rear is an electronic viewfinder (202K dots) with diopter control and a 2.7-inch vari-angle LCD screen with 230K dots. You can hold the Canon SX30 at interesting angles such as over your head or at waist level and still see the LCD. The EVF is surrounded by a rubber gasket which makes it comfortable to use -- and you'll need it, take our word for it.

Also on the back are shortcut and red video buttons. To the right of the screen is a comfy thumb rest to help keep the Canon SX30 steady. You'll also find a 4-way controller surrounded by a jog wheel for making menu adjustments. The points of the compass give you quick access to exposure compensation, ISO (1600 maximum), self-timer and focus (normal, macro and manual). The center Function/Set key gets you into various menus depending on the main mode setting chosen. Surprisingly, the flash adjustment is not here, but on the left of the flash itself. Menu and Display keys are below the controller. Press the Display key for more than a second and the LCD brightens up, a nice feature. Another excellent addition is the Zoom Framing Assist on the top right (more on this in a bit) along with Playback and AF Frame Selector/Delete keys.

On the right side of the Canon SX30 is a compartment for the USB/AV Out and mini HDMI out, while a speaker is on the left. The bottom of the Made-in-Japan Canon SX30 has a metal tripod mount and a door that covers the slot for the lithium-ion battery and an SD memory card.


The Canon SX30 has a 35x optical zoom with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 24-840mm. Yes, it's a ridiculous amount, but who are we to complain? The extreme wide-angle is great for landscapes, buildings and group shots. Checking out details from about a mile away is the province of the 840mm tele option. And, of course, there's up to 4x digital zoom if you want go even further. The Canon zoom has 13 elements in 10 groups, one Hi-UD lens, one UD lens as well as one double-side aspherical lens. The camera has Canon's optical Image Stabilizer to help cut down on blur, a real plus for extreme telephoto shots.


The Canon SX30 is as easy to use as you'd like or as complex. You can change contrast, sharpness, color saturation and even skin tones and you can control the major parameters including aperture, shutter speed and focus along with ISO sensitivity (80 to 1600). Canon's Smart Auto chooses among 28 options to "guess" the subject in front of it. Like other companies' Intelligent Auto offerings, it does a good job even though choosing from many more options than the competition.

With Program Auto you can change several parameters including ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation in 1/3 EV steps (+/- 2 EV), white balance (eight options), metering (multi, center, spot), bracketing, burst mode (1.3 fps at full resolution), flash level and resolution. With Shutter Priority options range from 15 seconds to 1/3200 second. A cool-looking sliding scale and nostalgic match needle display appears when you make your adjustments on the Canon SX30 IS; the same holds true in Aperture Priority with options from f2.7 to f8.0.

With Manual you can adjust aperture and shutter speed with the jog dial. You move between them by tapping EV on the 4-way controller. That's a bit of a head-scratcher, but who said everything or anyone is perfect? You also have C1 and C2 on the Mode dial to save Custom parameters to recall at a moment's notice.

In addition to the three Scene modes on the Mode dial, the SCN (Scene) icon, provides 14 choices such as Smart Shutter, Snow, Fireworks and so on. A Low Light mode captures 2-megapixel images at up to ISO 6400.

Finally, the Canon SX30 captures high-def videos using the H.264 MOV format (1280x720p pixel videos at 30 fps). Lower resolutions are available such as 640x480 and 320x240 along with a Miniature option. A plus is the linear PCM stereo sound. Audio recording level can be automatic or manually adjusted and there's also a wind filter option. Optical zoom and optical image stabilization are supported during video recording.


Unlike many megazooms, the Canon SX30 uses a lithium-ion battery rather than 4 AAs. It's CIPA rated for 370 shots on a charge using the LCD monitor or 400 shots using the electronic viewfinder. The camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC cards as well as MultiMedia, MMCplus and HC MMCplus media. You should always use higher-speed, higher-capacity cards for high-Mp cameras that shoot HD video. At least a Class 6 4-GB or 8-GB edition will suffice.


I've used many megazoom digicams but never one with a 35x zoom. Let me tell you, it really changes how and what you think you'll shoot. I'm swimming in my element with 24mm wide-angle photography, but 840mm? It really changed what I thought I should or could capture -- especially since if you're used to 140mm, you can get six times closer. As Captain Willard said in Apocalypse Now, the Canon SX30 really put the zap on my head. Before revisiting more old movie memories, let's talk about the recent days, i.e. the past few weeks with the Canon SX30 while visiting Cambridge, Massachusetts and steeplechase horse races in New Jersey among other sites.

Before getting into the results, I will say that shooting with the Canon SX30 is a blast. The focal range is amazing. As for basic handling and ergonomics, the Canon SX30 is relatively simple to use, but there are some pretty dramatic handling issues concerning the extreme telephoto, which I'll detail shortly. I did all of my shooting at the 4320x3240 pixel JPEG level (there is no Raw option). I started with Auto and moved through the Mode dial. All movies were shot at the best setting (720p). When done, I made full-bleed 8x10 prints with no post processing and viewed movies on a 50-inch plasma HDTV using a mini HDMI cable. Photos were closely examined (100 percent plus) on my monitor.

Shooting with the Canon SX30 changes the way you see. My eyes are pretty good (with the appropriate specs when required), but I'm not eagle-eyed. When I was shooting some scullers on the Charles River near Harvard, I was drawn to the overall scene -- river, trees, sky, boat wake and colors. I shot that. Then I hit the zoom lever and all of a sudden, the rower and his jersey -- which I could hardly see with my eyes -- filled the frame. Wow! The same thing happened when I shot the other side of the bridge. The 24mm gave me a nice scenic, but then I could get a close-up of the moon at extreme telephoto, which was barely in view at full wide-angle. Wow again.

When I took the Canon SX30 to the race track, I was similarly knocked out. From an attractive wide-angle, I then could capture horses galloping at the far turn. Standing on the second level, I had a nice overhead view of a colorful buffet table. Zooming in, I got close-ups of the cookies on a tray. Not to belabor the point, but this camera will change what you shoot -- even what you think you can shoot. You'll go zoom crazy as I did just experimenting with the focal range.

Now changing the way you see is one thing, but actually using the camera is another. Zoom operation wasn't as smooth as it should be. It seemed to get stuck as I moved from 24-840mm. This was annoying, as the camera seemed to struggle traversing the focal range.

Then there's the bigger issue of keeping your subject in the frame at extreme telephoto. I did not shoot with a tripod but rested my elbows on wide railings for support in most instances. With my eye firmly placed against the viewfinder, I appreciated the soft pad surrounding it. At 840mm, if your subject moves a fraction and you're not panning properly, it's gone. I found myself taking the camera from my face just to find where the heck it was.

Then I realized Canon put a Zoom Framing Assist button on the back just for this reason. Tap it and the camera zooms back so you can find your quarry. Hit it again and hopefully it hasn't moved in the interim and the lens goes back to your original setting. This is useful but not really geared for photographing horses rushing to the finish line or other speedy subjects.

The points of this exposition are two: the telephoto capabilities of this camera are outstanding and there's definitely a learning curve to making the most of it.

As you'd imagine with a telephoto this powerful, image stabilization is a critical feature. Canon gets kudos for implementing an excellent system. My faraway subjects barely had a hint of blur. I would recommend bracing yourself and the camera as best you can if you're not shooting with a tripod. Still I was impressed by the handheld results.

Although the Canon SX30 may look like a dSLR, it definitely isn't that responsive. I was able to grab some crisp shots of horses galloping by, but they were really one-offs. The camera is rated at 1.3 fps in full resolution burst mode, so don't expect to get a sequence of moving subjects. After all, this is a $399 all-in-one so one can't expect miracles.

The Canon SX30 has an articulating LCD and unless you're Iron Man or never had a caffeinated drink, you won't use it at extreme telephoto. At wide-angle, it's fun as you can shoot unusual angles. Although the screen is rated 230K pixels I didn't find this to be a drawback although 460K would have been nice. The screen works well even in direct sunshine; hit the Display button and it will instantly brighten, if you have any issues. The EVF is a bit small but fairly standard -- nothing great, nothing horrible -- it does a workmanlike job.

The Canon SX30 has a 14-Mp CCD sensor and if you've read reviews of cameras with similar resolution, you won't be surprised at the results. At lower ISOs (80 to 200) detail is good with best quality at 100 ISO. ISO 800 is a little soft but it probably makes a good 8x10; at ISO 1,600 you could get away with a 5x7 (see our Print Quality section below for more). I found this to be the case with my 8x10-inch prints made with no post-processing. I've been a fan for a long time of the color output of Canon's better point-and-shoots and the SX30 lived up to that standard. Purple fringing could be an issue with extreme telephotos. It was there at 100 percent enlargements onscreen but wasn't noticeable on 8x10s.

Our lab also found noticeable chromatic aberration at wide-angle but would only likely affect images printed 11x14 or larger. It's also present at telephoto, extending far into the frame, but it's much less noticeable here. Tungsten white balance is too pink in our Indoor Portrait test while Auto and Manual settings get it pretty close. Macro delivers an extremely sharp image at the center with strong CA radiating out from the center. Shutter lag at wide-angle is about average.

The movies taken by the Canon SX30 are a solid 720p HD and the optical zoom is functional while recording. After shooting at the racetrack I could readily understand why many of the TV cameras you see at sporting events are affixed to the ground on massive tripods. In other words, expect some shaky videos at extreme telephoto if you're hand-holding the camera.


You can find our Test Shots at and the Gallery Shots at


At around $399, the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS is not the most affordable Mega Zoom available. Yet it's currently the second most powerful optically in this class (the recently announced Nikon P500 is the first, at 36x). It's hard to appreciate the 35x 24-840mm zoom without seeing it for yourself -- it is amazing -- and you'll go zoom crazy just as I did.

Once you get that under control you'll find the Canon SX30 is a very good camera that takes quality photographs using Smart Auto or the many manual options available. Movies with stereo sound are an added plus. The camera isn't perfect -- no digicam is -- with its uneven zoom transit speed, relatively pokey frames-per-second response and other negatives detailed earlier.

All that on the table, I have no problems recommending the Canon SX30. Get ready to see things very differently. The Canon PowerShot SX30 is a Dave's Pick.

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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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Book Bag: Two Books for iPhone Photographers

Has it come to this? You've got an iPhone, you take some shots, you buy a book? Then another book? Just to "improve" your iPhone photography?

What kind of magic can a mere book perform?

Usually a book is just a way of avoiding the issue. You buy the book, sure, but you don't have to read it. You've acquired what you need when you sign the sales receipt.

But with an iPhone, why do you even have to go to that much trouble? Isn't it, um, intuitive? Obvious? Simple?

And condemned to mediocre images?

Two recent books suggest there's a lot more to the subject than just learning how to use the camera, taking a simple photo or living with lousy photos. And that "more," both point out right away, is the apps.

Apps are cheap -- if you don't count the time you spend playing around with them. And that's where these two books are most helpful. They save you time by pointing you in the right direction.

As heavily illustrated works, they aren't Kindle candidates, although an electronic version might have been nice. You've got to get the paper version.

The first title we tackled was Capturing Better Photos & Video With Your iPhone by J. Dennis Thomas. It's the only one that covers video, devoting a chapter to capturing video and covering it in the editing and sharing chapters. It's a bit slim on the iPhone itself and downright fails on accessories.

Not because it doesn't mention them. It does. There's a chapter. But the book borrows Scott Kelby's The Digital Photography Book format with a big photo on each page and some explanatory text underneath. You know, for those of us who can't follow a sentence from one page to the next. In the accessories chapter that means you get a photo demonstrating the effect but no photo of the device itself. That just doesn't work when you're talking about a case or a tripod adapter.

The book chapters include Get to Know Your iPhone, See It Like a Photographer, Understand the Impact of Light, Love the Apps, Create iPhone Video, Edit with Photoshop Elements 9, Edit with iPhone, Share Your iPhone Photos and Video and Accessories.

There really isn't anything that passes for depth in these chapters, though. They're more like photo captions than discussions, unfortunately.

On the other hand, Create Great iPhone Photos by Allan Hoffman sits down to talk with you. It's a very nicely laid-out book (although oddly the page format is the same on both sides), accommodating a much more detailed discussion.

So you get a thorough but concise overview of gestures in the Introduction. In iPhone Camera Essentials you learn how to actually use the shutter (press and release, don't tap), see your camera specs (all iPhones are not the same) and learn about the sync resolution issue. In Customize Your iPhone Camera you learn how to add new features to your phone and get introduced to a few replacement camera apps. In Photoshop in Your Pocket, you tour Adobe Photoshop Express, PhotoForge, Iris and PerfectPhoto, all photo editing apps.

The bulk of the book is in the next three chapters. In Filters, Effects and Recipes, you're introduced to apps that provide special effects like Photo fx and FX Photo Studio, with discussions about shooting panoramas and HDR images, among others. In the Retro Look, apps that mimic old technology (like Polaroids) or methods (like darkroom processing) are highlighted. In Fun and Offbeat Effects, there's a place for everything else from Photobooths to 3D effects.

Snap and Share covers using the major photo sharing sites while Your Photoblog shows you how to blog with images from your iPhone.

And in an especially nice touch, Hoffman concludes the book with For Inspiration, a peek at the work of six iPhone photographers and a list of places to go where you can learn more.

Capturing Better Photos & Video With Your iPhone by J. Dennis Thomas, published by Wiley Publishing, 186 pages, $19.99 (or $13.31 at and Create Great iPhone Photos by Allan Hoffman, published by No Starch Press, 202 pages, $29.95 (or $18.89 at
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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:

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Visit the General Q&A Forum at[email protected]@.ee718ec

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Just for Fun: The Missing Oscar for External Flash

Where's Price Waterhouse Coopers when you need them? Oh right, moonlighting in Hollywood.

So we had to do our own counting this year to award the Missing Oscar for External Flash. That threatened to delay the ceremony until sometime next year, but we took off our shoes to count on our toes, too. Nearly ran out of those, but we managed. Fortunately, we didn't have any trouble finding an envelope.

So, the envelope please!

The overwhelming favorite external flash turned out to be Nikon Speedlights, beating all the other nominations combined.

As Charlie Young put it, "I can't personally speak on behalf of the SB-900 or the newer SB-700 but I can definitely speak on behalf of my SB-800. It's never let me down! And it is compatible with all of my Nikon dSLRs. I've used it in some ticklish lighting situations and it passed the test with flying colors. With TTL mode and and its other options, IMHO, you couldn't ask for a better flash unit."

Lasse Jansson added, "Now the best external flash would be Nikon's SB-900. I have two of them and the intelligent flash technique is just fantastic."

"I did use some great 'potato masher' Sunpaks with all my medium format wedding cameras," Nick Baldwin reminisced. "And they were great. But when I began to use 35mm, it was of course all Nikon as that was the camera I used (bought my first one in 1964 -- can any of you top that!). So I will have to say the SB-900 at present is the one to beat. I've used three SB-800s and before that three or four SB-28s. I used them as slaves for all manner of setups."

Paul Zagorski nominated the Nikon SB-800 by sending us a very nicely lit example photo. And Jerry McLeod kept it brief and to the point, with a simple, "Nikon SB-900" to round out the Nikon votes.

To recap, here are the Nikons:

You won't be surprised to find out Canon finished second.

Richard Forest wrote, "I nominate the Canon Speedlite 580EX II. Powerful and extremely versatile."

And Joao Graca added, "My Oscar Nomination for best external flash will go to Canon's Speedlite 430EX II flash unit for its price/performance ratio." Something dear to our heart, too.

Recapping the Canons:

Which brings up the subject of frugal third-party alternatives. Two got votes, both from Paul Schutt.

His favorite on-camera flash is the Promaster 7500EDF for Nikon ( "Most flash for the bucks," he explained. And his favorite portable studio flash is the Speedotron Digital Explorer, for the same reason: "more bang for the buck, more full power flashes per charge." Both, he noted, "are really easy to use."

We did get one thoughtful entry a bit harder to categorize but when you're talking about bang for the buck, it really does take the cake.

Sandra Sandberg apologized, "Sorry, I'm not so advanced. Managing the overpowering sun is my idea of external light."

Not a bad choice, really. It's certainly external. And off camera enough to avoid red eye. Minor inconveniences like clouds, fog, even storms merely serve to diffuse it like big but free softboxes.

The only hitch is if you're shooting at night during a new moon. Then you'd better pack one of the other nominees.

Now where'd that envelope go? Ah, here it is. Ahem, the Missing Oscar goes to the Nikon SB-900!

As close as the vote was, you probably figured that out already without taking your shoes off.

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RE: Exif Contextual Menu

I just read the article in your latest newsletter for adding a service to display Exif information using Automator and Phil Harvey's ExifTool.

I want to recommend a Firefox extension called FxIF ( that also adds a contextual menu item to display Exif information.

If I do not want to open Aperture, I just drag the photo into my browser, which is almost always open, right click on the image to display the context menu and select Exif Data. The window that opens with the data will not close unless you close it, even if you switch tabs.

I have an iMac running Snow Leopard.

-- Ed Gelb

(Thanks, Ed! With the -h switch for HTML output and changing the application name from TextEdit to your browser (and probably a little fiddling to open a new tab or window instead of a new document), you probably can do the same thing with our code for any browser that supports AppleScript. -- Editor)

RE: Nikon D7000

The review of the new D7000 was very timely seeing as I just purchased one locally on Jan. 27. It is everything your review said it is ... and more.

-- Charlie Young

(Thanks, Charlie. We've passed that along to Shawn as a consolation for having to return the D7000 to Nikon. -- Editor)
(Yeah, thanks a lot. -- Shawn)

RE: CanoScan 9000F

I just ordered a 9000 from B&H last weekend, since Amazon was out of stock for 1-2 weeks. Now the 9000 is out of stock at B&H, listed as a 3-4 week delay at Amazon and listed as "deactivated" at Newegg. Are they about ready to replace it or are there just supply issues? Mine shows up tomorrow and I'm trying to decide what to do with it.

-- Brad Simmons

(My sources at Canon claim that everything should be back in stock "later this month." -- Editor)

RE: Great Job

Just a quick note to tell you you're doing a great job with this newsletter. You are the reason I own numerous cameras and tens of thousands of images. I really appreciate your work and recommend you to anyone who says "camera." Your newsletter is part of my Saturday morning routine.

Keep up the good work and pass this to anyone who contributes.

-- Bob Zimmerman

(Very much appreciated, Bob! Of course our readers are big contributors so we'll share the praise with them ... including you. -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

LPA Design, which engineers the PocketWizard wireless triggering system, has published a white paper ( on Canon 580EX II flash failures. While citing five factors in the 580 failures it observed, it noted that the newer 430EX II units exhibited no issues.

ACD Systems ( has released its $169.99 ACDSee Pro for Mac 1.7 for image browsing, viewing, cataloging, editing and printing.

Catch 30 Years of BAD Pictures (, highlights of Bruce Dale's 30 year career at National Geographic including 10 trips to China beginning in the late 1970s, the hologram cover for the 100th anniversary edition and mounting a camera on the tail of a jumbo jet for in-flight photographs.

Apple ( has released its Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.6, a 6.45-MB download which adds Raw support for the Canon EOS Rebel T3/T3i, Olympus E-5, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 and Pentax K-r/K-5 cameras and fixes processing issues with the Nikon D7000 and Coolpix P7000 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 and DMC-GH2.

Akvis ( has released its $72 ArtWork 5.0 [MW] with a new Watercolor painting style, an improved algorithm for the Oil style, new Smudge and Blur post-processing tools in the Deluxe and Business editions, an Animated Processing feature that paints the conversion in real time and new presets in the Oil, Comics and Pen&Ink styles.

Snapfactory has published its $150 Studio Lighting Essentials for Portrait Photography by Mark Wallace (, a two-DVD set of over two hours of lighting instruction distilled from Wallace's Phoenix workshops. We've just peeked at it and can't wait to get back to it. Very nicely done.

Thom Hogan ( reflected on dSLR video quality in a recent post, "In order of best video quality to worst on Nikon dSLRs: D7000, D3s, D300s/D90/D5000, D3100. In order of best video quality and handling to worst on dSLRs I've tried: Panasonic GH2 (by a clear margin), Panasonic GH1 (with hacks), Canon 5DII, NEX-5, Nikon D7000 (a fair ways down from the best), D3s. In order of audio quality: same list in same order, except the D3s is better than the D7000."

MOApp ( has released its $14.95 myPhotos 1.3.2 [M] photo browser and organizer that relies on your Finder folder structure rather than its own database.

Ohanaware ( has released its $29.99 HDRtist Pro 1.0 [M], an enhanced edition of the company's free HDRtist, adding a 128-bit floating point engine and tone mapping system, two generators (HDR and Exposure Blending), new sharpening options, one-click styles for creating HDRs, an enhanced interface and saving directly to iPhoto or Aperture.

Pierre Vandevenne has updated PhotoRescue ( to version 3.2.5 with support for the new Raw file formats of recently released cameras, substantially faster recovery speed on large cards and significant internal changes.

Photoflex ( has released its $1,825 TritonFlash lithium-ion battery powered strobe kit, including an extra small OctoDome SoftBox, the FlashFire wireless system and an extra battery. With a guide number of 185 at ISO 200, the 22 oz. battery provides up to 750 full power flashes on a single charge to two TritonFlash heads simultaneously at seven shots per second.

Zenfolio ( has introduced custom pages you can easily add to the built-in pages of your sharing site. You can also now place one free test order of five 8x10 prints with MpixPro to check your workflow and calibration.

onOne Software ( has announced its new dSLR Camera Remote designed for the iPad and updated the iPhone version to 1.4 with support for the Canon 60D and the Nikon D7000.

Bobby Cronkhite Software ( has introduced Fast Foto 1.0 for 4th generation iOS devices. The new app offers a push-button camera app with button presets for burst, delay and flash shots plus Scene modes for Macro, Outdoor, Action, Group, Portrait or Animal shots and export of up to five photos at once.

JixiPix ( has released its $7.99 VintageScene 1.0 to convert photos into retro, aged and vintage styles, controlling the age and color of photo effects, choice of paper color and age, overlays and borders, distressed and weathered effects, custom presets, a randomize option and more.

We note the passing of Raymond D'Addario (, a U.S. Army Pictorial Service photographer who covered the Nuremberg war crimes trials in 1945.

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Happy snapping!

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