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DC REVIEWS: Archos PMA 430 • FujiFilm F10 Thin Zoom • Alienware Workstation

TM

Think Like
A Pro

Photo © David Bergman


for The Heart Gallery NJ
We’ll show you how!

YOU DON’T NEED


FANCY EQUIPMENT TO
TAKE GREAT PICTURES! PAGE 32

OLYMPUS C-7070 PAGE 42

SONY CYBERSHOT PHOTO ACCESSORY


ROUNDUP
DSC-P200 PAGE 44 • Little Things Make a Big
Difference

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• The stuff you want

OCTOBER 2005
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Photo Organizer Software


Compared TOP FOUR for Windows
www.digicamera.com
VOLUME 9, ISSUE 36

F E A T U R E S
20 FEATURE Accessorize Your Olympus E-300 EVOLT
If you only use the kit lens and built-in flash, you’re missing half the fun!
32 FEATURE Think Like A Pro
To capture great pictures, take your cues from the best
48 FEATURE RAW Power!
How to find the digital diamond in the rough
60 FEATURE Using Pigment Inks in Dye-Based Printers
Open up a whole new world of possibilities in your old printer

R E V I E W S
DEPARTMENTS
12 REVIEW Norazza Digital Cleaning Kit & Norazza Data Destroyer
4 Toolbox
12 REVIEW MediaGear 7in1 USB 2.0 Card Reader
4 Contact Sheet
12 REVIEW Kinetronics Speckgrabber Pro Kit
8 Masthead 12 REVIEW LensPen Digi-Klear Display Cleaning System
9 Cool New Stuff 12 REVIEW Promaster Xtrapower Express Batteries and Charger
12 Photo Gadgetry 12 REVIEW RoadWired MegaMedia, @ttaché, and PV/Pro (page 24)
72 Advertiser Index 12 REVIEW Tenba Travelite S-6 and ProDigital D-10 (page 24)
72 Reader Service 12 REVIEW LowePro Rezo 170AW and Rolling MiniTrekker AV (page 24)
26 REVIEW Konica Minolta magicolor 2430 DL color laser printer
30 REVIEW Archos Portable Media Assistant 430
32 REVIEW Dust Away cleaning system
32 REVIEW d_skin optical disk protectors
38 REVIEW Alienware Area 51 MJ-12m 7700 mobile workstation
40 CAMLAB FujiFilm F10 thin-zoom camera
42 CAMLAB Olympus C-7070 camera
44 CAMLAB Sony CyberShot P200 camera
46 CAMLAB Casio EXILIM EX-750 thin-zoom camera
52 CAMLAB Concord DVx video/still camera
54 CAMLAB Olympus C-5500 camera
56 CAMLAB FujiFilm S3 Pro digital SLR camera
66 CAMLAB Second Look: Epson Perfection 4990 Scanner
C O L U M N S
8 EDITOR David MacNeill
DCM at your service
18 BEGINNER’S MIND Melissa Perenson
Four top photo organizers compared
62 IMAGING WORKSHOP Al Francekevich
Lights, camera, actions!
82 VIEW FINDER Conrad Blickenstorfer
Zoom, zoom

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 3


Editor David MacNeil
Vol. 9, No. 36 • October 2005
Publisher
Christopher Perretta
General Manager
Andrew Eisenberg
DCM at your service
Editor-in-Chief

T
David MacNeill he internet, or more specifically the whizzing through the wind-
Executive Editor web, has forever changed the way you ing two-lanes of Tuscany. Be-
Conrad H. Blickenstorfer and I gather information. Printed fore we launched our
Feature Editor magazines, particularly enthusiast technical own photography maga-
Arthur Bleich publications like Digital Camera, must adapt zine, I used to occasion-
Technical Editor to the new reality or face extinction. ally pick up Outdoor
Bob Shell Where do you go when you want to find Photogra-
Imaging Editor current pricing and availability information pher, just
Al Francekevich
on a new piece of photo equipment? One of to get in-
Contributing Editors the many photography websites, of course. spired to
Ernest Lilley
Kirk Linsky How about when you want to compare an go out-
array of specs from six different laptops? doors
Adventure Photographer / Writer
Jonathan Cox Google them. Want to find the absolute lat- and take
Editor-at-Large est on a firmware update for your digital some pic-
Edison Carter SLR? Visit the manufacturer’s website. tures.
Contributing Writers & Photographers But I’ll wager these quick fix data snip- You’ve told us what you want and so we
Leo Heppner pets are not the only aspects of photogra- are adapting to meet your needs. With this
Beau Hooker phy that interest you. There are times when issue, we’ve replaced the news-oriented De-
Melissa Perenson
Natasha Ryan kicking back in a hammock and reading velopments section with a new section called
Database Management
about some fabulous new piece of gear in Photo Gadgetry. Here you’ll find those little
Prestige Periodical depth is extremely enjoyable — even if it’s things that can make your rig perform the
Advertising Manager something you’ll never be able to afford. way you want it to without costing you a
Linda O’Hara / linda@mobilemg.com Looking at printed samples of what this gear bundle. Beginning next issue, we’ll launch
Advertising Coordinator can do is also rewarding as well as instruc- a new section devoted to photography soft-
Alyssa Guelzow / alyssa@enoblemedia.com tive. And for step-by-step instruction, noth- ware for Windows and Macs — editors, al-
p 415.861.5290 ing beats print for ease of use. bums, special effects, Photoshop plug-ins,
West Coast Advertising Sales Director I read Road & Track, even though I am and so on. You’ll also see more comparative
Chris Connors / cconnors@enoblemedia.com not even slightly interested in buying a new round-ups with clear winners in popular
p 818.223.9880
Ferrari or Porsche. I like my little gray MINI categories. We hope you enjoy these changes
East Coast Advertising Sales Director
Cooper S just fine, but still enjoy the vicar- and that they make the time you spend with
Jeff Adler / jadler@enoblemedia.com
p 201.843.4004 x 102 ious experience of reading about supercars us more relevant and pleasurable. –DM

PHOTO BY DAVID MACNEILL USING OLYMPUS E-300 WITH OLYMPUS ED 11-22MM LENS & FL-36 FLASH
Printed in the United States of America

Digital Camera Magazine is published


bimonthly by D.C. Publications, Inc.,
under license from Westwood Media
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orders must be in U.S. funds. Contents
copyrighted © 2004. All rights reserved.
Contents may not be reprinted in whole or
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company all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs if they are to be returned,
and no responsibility can be assumed for
unsolicited material. The publisher does
not endorse and assumes no liability for
any of the products or claims of service
advertised in the magazine.

8 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com


COOL NEW STUFF
E D I T E D B Y D A V I D M A C N E I L L

STUNNING IN BLACK AND WHITE A SATELLITE PHONE FOR UNDER $500!

Nobody can say we’re not


living in the future now, baby.
You can buy a satellite phone for a
mere $475 and pay only $50 a
month for 120 minutes usable from
anywhere in North America, South
America, Europe, and Asia. The Glob-
alstar Qualcomm GSP-1600 also
switches to standard terrestrial CDMA
or AMPS cellphone mode when you’re
within range of a tower. It can also be
Media Street has released a new archival black and white used as a 9.6 kbps modem if you’re
inkjet system designed by a fine art photographer. This desperate to get online. In satellite
complete printing solution for select Epson printers incor- phone mode, you get 3.75 hours of
porates Media Street’s new Generations QuadBlack pig- talk time and 19 hours of standby.
ment ink set and fine art papers plus special software to One of these and a solar trickle charg-
produce exhibition quality black & white photo prints. er and you got the ideal emergency
mediastreet.com communicator for when you’re off the
beaten track.
CREATIVE TRAVELSOUND 500 globalstar.com
coloradodiscoveries.com/shop/globalstar.html
The vast majority of laptops have crappy speakers driven by
wimpy amplifiers. The TravelSound 500 clips a 4-watt digital
stereo amp and a pair of high-quality speakers directly to SAMSUNG IS IN VOGUE
your display, or it can sit on a desk using its flip-out stand. It
can be powered by 4-AAA batteries, an AC adapter, or from
your USB port. There’s a With trends indicating that women
port for an external sub- outspend men in the gadget de-
woofer and the thing runs partment, Samsung knows that
an impressive 30 on-the-go women desire full-
hours on a set of featured multimedia phones
alkaline batteries. in eye-catching and com-
creative.com pact “fit in my evening
purse” designs. Beginning
FAST USB 20 LAPTOP-CAM February 22, 2005, on the
heels of New York’s Spring
The Creative Live! Ultra for Notebooks has a wide-angle lens Fashion Week, Samsung
that captures video with a 76 degree field of view (almost 50% and VOGUE will debut
wider than the 52 degree view Anna Sui Mobile by
offered by most webcams) Samsung, a limited edi-
and offers true USB 2.0 tion couture phone.
support for video with up Accompanied by an
to twice the frame rate of Anna Sui signature case,
common USB 1.1 cameras. a Sui Rouge #371 lipstick,
creative.com and a designer phone
charm, Anna Sui Mobile
by Samsung is available with
T-Mobile service.
www.AnnasuibySamsung.com

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 9


PHOTO GADGETRY Edited by Leo Heppner

W
elcome to a new
section we call
Photo Gadgetry. Here we
will look at all the cool
gadgets that you can buy
to make your life easier as one for each of my camera bags for the
road. I use the MediaGear 7-in-4
a digital photographer. USB 2.0 Card Reader. It’s inex-
pensive (only $5.95!), fast, compact, reli-
(Isn’t that why you got able, features a removable USB cable and
works with all popular memory cards.
www.mymediagear.com
into photography, to play
While we’re talking about memory cards,
with all the cool If you’ve got a digital camera, you’ll need over time dust, dirt, corrosion and carbon
memory cards to shoot pictures. The one build-up can occur with your digital cam-
gadgets?) that came in the box is enough for only a era. This problem can cause faulty camera
few pictures; you’ll need to get at least an-
other card with more memory. I like
Kingston Technology’s new
Elite Pro Compact Flash and
Each issue we will focus Secure Digital Cards. They are high
speed rated (66X), which means that you
on the most interesting can shoot faster and take more consecutive
photos than with standard speed rated
cards. Also, when you transfer your photos
new accessories to to the computer, they will load into the
computer considerably faster. Who has time
complement our camera to wait transferring hundreds of photos? operation and corrupted files, meaning
Using a Kingston Elite Pro Card will make missed photos! To keep your digital cam-
reviews. To me, and I your life much easier. Also, it comes with a era in the best condition, I use the No-
lifetime warranty; you should always pur- razza Digital Cleaning Kit. They
chase a card with a lifetime warranty as it make kits for all of the popular cards, just
suspect to many of you, assures you that the product has to be bet- buy the kit for the type of card(s) you use.
ter than those that don’t offer it. Kingston Simply drop the cleaning card into the cam-
it’s those critically offers memory cards in all popular media era’s media slot and it will clean and polish
formats; Compact Flash up to 4 Gigs and the connectors inside the camera. Each kit
important accessories Secure Digital up to 1 Gig. With prices of is good for up to 20 cleanings and also
Memory cards going down almost daily, it comes with those handy moist wipes in foil
makes dollar sense to purchase a card of at pouches to keep your monitor and camera
that really complete your least 512 MB. body clean.
www.kingston.com
quest for great Another useful Norazza product is the
To save time transferring captured images, Data Destroyer. I’ve been using it for
photography. –LH as well as conserving your camera’s battery a year and it’s wonderful. As we all know,
power, I always use a card reader. I have sev- Identity Theft is a major issue in today’s
eral; one for my computer at the office and world. I’m sure you wouldn’t want an un-

12 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com


To wrap up our discussion of cleaning de- 1, 2, 3 or 4 cells at a time. The charger au-
vices for this issue, I recommend the use of tomatically recognizes the capacity of the
LensPen’s new Digi-Klear Dig- battery you have inserted in each slot, in-
ital Display Cleaning System. dividually tests the integrity of each cell and
As you may be aware, the original LensPen then charges each battery individually un-
has been available for several years. I have til it has reached its maximum capacity. The
found that this fantastic product works the charger fully charges your Ni-MH batter-
best for keeping your lenses and filters clean. ies in just minutes. Most fast chargers claim
Now with Digi-Klear (comes in silver in- that your batteries are ready when they have
stead of black color), they wisely altered the been charged to just 80% of their capacity.
scrupulous person to obtain your person- shape of the cleaning tip to safely and ef- The Promaster charger will continue to
al files and images from your discarded CDs fectively clean the corners of monitors (the charge until your batteries reach 95% ca-
and DVDs. The handy Data Destroyer cre- tip now has a semi-triangular shape). The pacity before reverting to the trickle charge
ates a pattern on both sides of the CD or mode. You’ll get almost 20% more power
DVD, rendering it useless. It’s simple to op- from your batteries with every charge. I
erate, just load your disk into the unit and have personally experienced this; recently
it’ll automatically feed itself though. It only I charged my AAs in another brand of
takes seconds to operate. It looks good on smart charger (name withheld) ‘til it indi-
your desktop and it doesn’t take up too cated a full charge, then I transferred the
much space. It’s affordable insurance from batteries to the Promaster charger and it
potential problems and it’s easier and safer continued charging for about 10 minutes
to use than shears. longer! This charger will fully charge your
www.norazza.com AA Ni-MH batteries in less than 20 min-
unique self-replenishing tip (you rotate its utes. Also, most fast chargers cause your
While we’re talking about cleaning cam- cap on the cleaning tip after each use) and batteries to get very hot. In time, the extra
eras, you should check out Kinetron- cleaning compound will not spill or dry up.
ics’ Speckgrabber Pro Kit. This LensPen also has a smaller version of the
handy device will safely remove those pesky original, named miniPro for small optical
dust specks from optics, films, glass, SLR lenses such as those on point and shoots.
mirrors, electro optical devices and other There’s even their new cell-Klear, utilizing
delicate surfaces. Kinetronics created this a tiny cleaning tip, for cell phone lenses.
new tool to facilitate the removal of small What will the guys at Parkside Optical think
particles by attaching a tiny rubberized tip of next?
to a thin rod with a rubberized handle. With www.lenspen.com
just a gentle touch small particles are cap-
tured by the surface of this amazing mate- Now that we’re using digital cameras, we’re
rial. The kit includes a bottle of cleaning in the battery business whether we like it
solution and their fine Anti-Static Tiger or not. You have AAs for cameras, flashes,
Cloth. Although the literature says that it’s camera grips, meters, PDAs and the list goes
good for cleaning CCDs, I would avoid on and on. Rechargeable batteries and
touching the CCD with any product in fear chargers have improved immensely during heat can destroy the life of your batteries.
of damaging the unit. the past few years, from the standard Ni- The Promaster charger utilizes a fan that
www.kinetronics.com Cads from years ago to the latest and far su- keeps everything cool, a useful trick that
perior Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) works. The charger is packaged with 4-2400
rechargeable batteries and fast chargers. The mAh high capacity AA cells.
folks from Promaster has just released their www.promaster.com
new XtraPower EXPRESS 4 Ni-
MH Batteries and Charger. This You’ll need to carry your expensive digital
new charger uses smart controlled charg- cameras and other equipment in the field,
ing technology. Most chargers require that whether you’re shooting a child’s birthday
you charge batteries in pairs or four at one party or the CEO of a corporation. I own
time. The 4-channel charging system in the many bags and they all serve a particular
XtraPower EXPRESS allows you to charge purpose. If I’m bringing my laptop to a

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 13


PHOTO GADGETRY Edited by Leo Heppner

pact camera, PDA, cell phone and more. It


sports two separate sections for files and up
to 8 x 11 photos. And it’s a beauty too; black
Ballistic nylon that’s good looking, cleans
well and smooth to the touch. It’s got a slim
profile and the contoured 4-layered shoul-
der pad with moisture-wicking mesh and
friction overlays helps keep the bag on your
shoulder. It’s the most comfortable strap I
have ever used! Its overall size is 15”L x
12”H x 7”D; it’s plenty large but not an
overkill. The folks at RoadWired really have
a winner here.

If you don’t need the larger size and abun-


dance of pockets of the MegaMedia because
you’re only carrying a laptop, power sup-
ply, card reader, cables, and a few other
items, then the Roadwired Stan-
dard @ttaché will be a fine choice. It
has the same basic design, quality materi-
als and construction, but with a substan-
tially thinner profile.
www.roadwired.com

If you don’t need to carry your laptop but


instead want to bring a modest DSLR sys- anywhere inside the bag. There’s plenty of
tem, I urge you to try Tenba’s Trav- pockets with mesh material to hold mem-
elite S-6 Bag. Travelite series repre- ory cards, cables, filters and others small
sents Tenba’s newest entry into the popular items. The removable and adjustable strap
sports a massive non-slip pad. You can’t go
wrong with Tenba’s new series.
www.tenbagear.com
photo shoot, I’m carrying it in Road-
Wired’s MegaMedia Bag. You For those who want to travel even lighter,
won’t believe how much equipment that you’ll enjoy the new LowePro Rezo
this bag can carry! With 36 different com- 170 AW. First of all, it’s lightweight and
partments and pockets, it will let you bring compact, but packs lots of gear because of
your laptop, power supply, cables, mouse, its tall and slim design. The top conve-
card reader, files, pens, memory cards, com- niently opens away from you when you’re
wearing it; the soft, protective, brushed tri-
cot lining allows the padded dividers to be
priced camera bag market and it’s a good placed almost anywhere to adjust specifi-
one. The bag has lots of welcomed features, cally to your equipment and there’s even a
built like a brick and priced right. The S-6 built-in memory card pouch on the inside
will carry up to two camera bodies, four of the bag’s lid. More thoughtful features
lenses and a small flash. The external di- are a removable and adjustable non-slip
mensions are 9.75”L x 14”W x 7.5”D. The strap, built-in All Weather Cover, stretchy
Tenba DuraTek black exterior fabric is neoprene rubber side pocket, belt loops,
rugged yet soft to the touch and the interi- one SlipLock attachment loop and a padded
or fabric of light gray colored SofTek is soft handle. Probably the most clever feature of
so it allows the padded dividers with hook this bag is the large built-in Microfiber
and loop material to be attached virtually Cloth used to clean the camera’s monitor
14 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com
and to keep it from getting scratched from The interior dimensions are 4.5” x 6”
items rubbing on it when you close the lid. x 2.7”. There’s plenty of pockets and
As you can see, this bag is designed for dig- compartments and there’s no hook &
ital from the ground up and you’ll be hard loop material; it’s got all zippers for
pressed to find a better compact bag. a secure and water tight fit. The Ape
www.lowepro.com Case MC420 is a handy little pouch.
It stores four batteries, two memory
For carrying point-and-shoots, I rec- cards and other accessories that fits
ommend Ape Cases from No- on your belt. Now that’s convenient!
razza. Ape Cases are aptly named; www.norazza.com
they are built strong with Ballistics
Nylon, thick padding and sealed with There are new digital photography toys com-
zippers to keep your camera safe. ing out every day. Some work and some
The black exterior is handsome and don’t, but when you find gadgets that work,
the yellow interior is not only useful not only do they make photography more
to find small items in the bag but it’s fun, they might make you a better photog-
also a fashion statement. They have rapher.
many models to choose from in the –Leo Heppner
Ape Case Digital Series. My favorite
is the AC220.

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 15


Beginner’s Mind Melissa Perenson

Four Top Photo Organizers Compared


F
resh back from vacation, you have lection. These four programs span the gamut 03-21-05-Shinjuku and Ginza. I use dashes
cards, or maybe even a laptop, packed of upfront expenditures. The PictureProject instead of slashes because the Microsoft
with digital images. You thought tak- I used is admittedly a year old—the version Windows file system can’t accommodate
ing the pictures was fun? Nah—now, the fun that shipped with my camera when I first slashes in the folder name.
is really just beginning: You have to sort bought it. ACDSee 7.0 sells for $50. Picasa Then I move the folder to my designat-
through those hundreds of photos you costs nothing beyond the free download, ed Pictures folder, erase the card, and start
snapped while gone. while BreezeBrowser Pro is the priciest, at again. Now, those pictures are on my hard
Sound familiar? It should: Between the $70 downloadable from breezebrowser.com. disk—the challenge lies in finding them
current crop of high-megapixel point-and- Of the four, sadly I can’t say I’ve settled again. How do you do your sorts? If you
shoot cameras, and the explosion in digital on just one. Choosing an image browsing have a good solution, let me know via email
SLRs for the masses, chances are you’re tak- and organizing tool is not like a Chinese at mperenson@digicam.com.
ing more photos than ever before. The menu, where you can pick food, er, features,
quandary becomes, what do you do with all from columns A, B, and C. For now, I’ve PictureProject
of those bits-and-bytes? And how do you come to the conclusion that I’ll need more Considering that PictureProject 1.0 (now at
begin to manage them? than one of these programs on my system, 1.1)shipped with my Nikon, it’s logical that
Myself, I find I use up to an average of depending upon the task at hand. And I sus- I’d install it immediately and start to use it.
4GB a day when I’m on a vacation, shoot- pect you’ll feel much the same. Unfortunately, I found it to be woefully de-
ing with a Nikon D70 and 2GB high-speed signed. The user interface is kludgy, and
CompactFlash cards (shooting in RAW + Sorting: A System in Progress sometimes counterintuitive. If I were using
Basic JPEG mode). Bottom line: I can come It took me time to come up with a system, PictureProject to import images, maybe I’d
back from two weeks of travel with 60GB of but I finally have. Sort of. I consider my dig- have found it easier to use. But for access-
images that have to be stored and sorted. ital image card to be the equivalent of a dig- ing images already on my hard disk, the soft-
The storage part is almost less-daunting ital negative—so I’m loathe to delete any- ware’s import process quickly proved an-
than the prospect of sorting and viewing thing once I’ve shot it. noying. And, I shied away from it for
hundreds and hundreds of images. Doing Instead, I prefer to transfer the card in its importing from a card: I’d found the import
so effectively means coming up with a file- entirety. I actually rename the image folder slow, and preferred using Windows Explorer
and-folder structure that matches your on the card itself, so when I transfer the im- instead. As a convenience, PictureProject of-
shooting habits, as well as finding a software ages using Windows Explorer—generally fers the option to upload files to Nikon.net
program that works best to sort, organize, the fastest way to transfer raw data from the after transferring them to your hard disk,
and retrieve your images. card to your PC—I’m not going to acci- but again, this is only useful for the small
I recently gave four programs a try— dentally erase another folder generically percentage of users inclined to rely on on-
Nikon’s PictureProject 1.0, ACDSee Sys- named DCIM (just in case I got sloppy while line.
tems’ ACDSee 7.0, Google’s Picasa 2, and copying images a previous time). The biggest advantage I found in Pic-
Breeze Systems’ BreezeBrowser Pro 1.1—in When I rename the folder on the card, I tureProject was its integrated image editor,
my first attempt to find a program that append a date and location or other de- which offers a host of image enhancement
makes sense for my system and photo col- scription after the ubiquitous DCIM nomen- capabilities, including the ability to easily
clature. I do auto-adjust an image. It also displayed RAW
this in part just images quite cleanly—better than the oth-
because it er programs I looked at here.
saves a few
keystrokes of ACDSee 7.0
deleting the With an image browser, a means to catalog
DCIM every and archive images, an image editor, and a
time I transfer way to create photo discs and backup discs,
a card; I also ACDSee has lots of appeal. But the cost of
do it because it admission is high—and I’m not talking
makes it easy about the impact on your wallet. In spite of
to find my im- its interface improvements, ACDSee has a
age folders (as steep learning curve, and much of its pow-
opposed to er feels buried behind menu options and
other stray im- tabs.
ages I might The default screen manages to be both
have socked busy and streamlined at the same time—dis-
away on my playing a cacophony of image information
hard disk). So, at once (file name, size, resolution time, and
a typical folder date, for example). You can customize the
might look like screens to display what you what—but that
this: DCIM- requires you to head into Tools/Options,
18 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com
and play trial-and-error with a slew of oth- to use a slid-
er customizable options. I liked how you er control to
could rate your photos on a scale of 1 to 5, instantly re-
and then just view all of the photos with a size these im-
given rating. I also liked how you could cat- ages from a
egorize images by subject—Albums, People, teeny-tiny
Places, Various to start with, plus you can stamp to
create your own categories. You can even something
cross-categorize an image as falling into more more com-
than one of those subjects (for example, if I fortably visi-
had an image of a bride I captured in Tokyo, ble.
I could file it under People and Tokyo, if I However,
were so inclined). this approach
This program also has a way for you to fails if your
search for files and folder, as well as search images are
by specific categories and file properties. If contained in
a file is buried on your hard disk and you subfolders,
know something about it, chances are you’ll whereby the
find it with ACDSee. higher-level
I’ve only just touched on the capabilities folder de-
of ACDSee 7.0, and you probably will, too. scribes the
It’s a great choice if you want a well-inte- general con-
grated package that makes it easy to browse tent therein, and say the lower-level fold- BreezeBrowser Pro 1.1.2
and backup images. But if you’re really go- ers are dates. It also fails if you do as I do, I’ve saved the best for last. This tool is well
ing to tap its searching and organizing pow- and rename the top-level folder, and keep worth its price of admission. Aimed at pros
er, be prepared for a sizable time investment the rest of the folder structure intact upon and enthusiasts, BreezeBrowser Pro is handy
to do those ratings and the categorizing up transferring from a memory card (I end- and fast, and has some indispensable fea-
front. ed up with four folders in a row generi- tures.
cally labeled 100NCD70). Picasa does let The no-frills interface lacks design finesse
Picasa 2 you edit that folder’s label without chang- and has a few rough spots; still, you get
Ah, where to start about this little gem of a ing the original folder name, but the straight to your images, no fuss, no muss,
program? Search engine giant Google process is tiresome for a volume shooter and no importing required. You have three
snapped it up a year ago, tweaked the code, like me who has already assembled and views—a thumbnail view (with a Windows
and released an update earlier this year as a sorted a large image collection. If you’re Explorer-like pane on the left that shows you
free download via its Web site. And like first importing your images directly from your PC’s folder structure); film strip views
Google’s site, Picasa is now a lean, mean im- a memory card, though, Picasa fixes this (thumbnails and image info on left, full im-
age viewing machine. issue, by automatically prompting you to age shown at right); and the main view,
Picasa takes a cue from Apple’s iPhoto name the collection of images. which shows the image, its EXIF data, and
(which I don’t go into here because I’m a The integrated image editor is slick, its histogram. You can tag images across
PC, and not a Mac, user), and provides a easy, and effective, with multiple levels of multiple folders, to compare images or cre-
straightforward and fun means of browsing undo. As a bonus, changes you make won’t ate a slideshow.
thumbnails of all of your photos. The first affect the original image (they’re remem- BreezeBrowser Pro supports RAW con-
thing that jumped out to me about Picasa bered only by Picasa), so the effects can be version for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta,
was its blazing-fast browsing speed. Even removed at any time. The software is also and Olympus, and provides image en-
importing images from my hard drive efficient in how it lets you email, blog, and hancements (including sharpening, cor-
proved to be a breeze; this operation con- backup your image collections to CD or recting gamma and color saturation) for
tinued in the background as Picasa searched DVD. I loved how you could easily create RAW files. Plus, it lets you retain EXIF data
for, and found, long-lost photos, buried on another copy of a collection of images upon converting from a RAW file to a JPEG
my hard drive. from different folders—a feature I’ve or TIFF.
The clean, streamlined interface has a sought for some time—and how you can As someone who knows where her im-
pleasing design which is mostly easy to view images by the date taken. The ages reside, I loved how easy this software
navigate. I say mostly, because, as with slideshow feature feels more limited—no made it to speedily browse my images, with
most applications, Picasa has its share of exporting to DVD, although you can ex- no startup hassles as I had with all of the oth-
quirks. For one thing, once images are im- port to CD (just not in a format playable er programs. I also loved seeing the EXIF
ported, the program’s folder-tree left pane on a DVD player). data, so I could learn how I achieved a shot.
reflects just the folder name that contains In spite of a few interface kinks, I’ve The template-based HTML generator for
the images. This drill down enables you quickly become attached to Picasa. I can’t creating basic image Web pages is a snap,
to easily browse, in the right-hand pane, rely on it for sorting and organizing by sub- and even lets you add watermarks and cre-
which contains the image thumbnails ject, but I am finding a great tool that I plan ate an online ordering system that taps into
from all folders imported into Picasa An to add to my imaging toolkit. After all, you PayPal’s shopping cart. Nifty indeed.
added fun bonus comes from the ability can’t beat the price. –Melissa Perenson
www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 19
Accessorize Your Olympus E-300
If you only use the kit lens and built-in flash, you’re missing half the fun!

A
s our feature editor, Arthur Bleich, wrote lar camera is the Olympus-developed Four ital SLR cameras, lenses, flash systems, and
in his review in our previous issue, “With Thirds sensor and lens system, which allows support accessories. As has often happened
the E-300 EVOLT, Olympus has come for a much smaller design overall than tra- in the digital photography space, the “pro-
up with an ideal reflex camera for serious ditional SLR cameras. The target imager is sumer” camera that follows the “pro” cam-
photographers at a very affordable price. If smaller than a 35mm film frame, so the lens era is in many ways more powerful and ap-
you’re ready to step up to an 8-megapixel mount, internal optics and various support pealing than the high-ticket version.
digital SLR, the E-300 is an exceptional cam- mechanicals can be smaller. Technology moves ridiculously fast in this
era that will give you superb images and help Traditionalists may look askance at the realm; both Canon and Nikon found them-
you achieve your creative vision.” E-300, but personally I find the “flattop” selves in the same place with the release of
Pretty strong endorsement from Arthur. look appealing and even a bit retro — from the EOS 10D and D70, respectively.
I’ve been his editor since we launched this a distance, the E300 looks almost like a clas- Bottom line is this: cameras like the E-
magazine in 1998 and I can tell you that he sic 35mm German rangefinder from the 300 are leveling the playing field by blurring
doesn’t gush easily. By reading his review, mid-20th century. the formerly clear demarcation between con-
he convinced me to borrow an E-300 kit But this camera is about far more than a sumer and professional photography gear.
from Olympus for an extended time, just to cool body design. This is the entry level to With a camera like this in hand, you can cap-
see what all the excitement was about. Had Olympus fledgling professional line of dig- ture pictures with about as much facility as
Olympus actually revolutionized the digital the big boys do — provided you have the
reflex camera? That’s a tall order. eye, the training, and the experience, of
course.
Punctuated equilibrium Oh, and you’ll need some stuff that does-
Now that I’ve spent a considerable amount n’t come in the E-300 Kit box: better lenses,
of quality time with the E-300, I’ll say right bigger flashgun, some fast memory cards,
up front that this camera is more evolu- extra battery packs, and a bunch of cables
tionary than revolutionary, though in the and gadgets. To give you a head start, I’ll tell
punctuated equilibrium sense that is current you about the accessories I
in evolutionary biology circles; this is a big chose to round out my
leap forward but not a whole new species. arsenal for the way I
Rotating the mirror mechanism and shoot. It’s not a com-
prism/mirror optics into the body of the prehensive round-
camera makes loads of sense in a dig- up of all available
ital camera because you have so much accessories, but
more room to play with. There’s no this is what works
film spools or motor drive, of course. for me.
More to the point with this particu-
20 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE
1. Memory Need a longer lens but can’t
The first thing you should buy to start tak- pony up the several thou-
ing advantage of all your E-300 has to of- sand dollars needed
fer is a fat, fast CompactFlash card from for a long
a name-brand maker. Lexar, SanDisk, telepho-
Kingston, and other makers offer speed-
rated cards aimed at pro use in DSLR
cameras that can take advantage of the
speed boost. For my tests I used all three of
the brands I mentioned above in capacities
ranging from one to four gigabytes. All per-
formed beautifully for me with no speed ad-
vantage favoring one brand over another
that I could perceive. I’m sure one of them
is faster than the
others, and I’m
sure I’ll hear all
about it from the
PR folks at all Prefer
three companies. shooting to? Get the
My advice to sports action, ani- Olympus 1.4x Tele
mals, and other subjects Extender. This little adapter takes your
captured at some distance such a classic por- 200mm out to 380, which doesn’t sound like
traiture styles? For this use I chose the Olym- much until you
pus Zuiko 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 ($899). An-
other impressive piece of gear, yet not
oppressively heavy or unbalanced like old-
school 35mm film lenses often are when at-
tached to a lighter, smaller DSLR body.
Though the 50-200 has a stout mount-
ing collar for tripod use, I usually re-
move it and shoot handheld unless I’m
you is to not indoors. Like the 11-22mm, the 50-
worry about it 200mm is world class. Fully buzzword-
and just look for enabled, with ED glass, internal fo-
a good deal. cusing, aspherical lens elements, and
Don’t even think so on. It’s a joy to use and perfectly
of buying any- suited to the E-300 body.
thing smaller
than 1GB. Eight-megapixel photos eat up
smaller cards way too fast to be fun, so realize that this is
live large and shoot with abandon. equivalent to 560mm in the 35mm world.
That’s one seriously long lens — practi-
2. Lenses cally a telescope. There is some minimal
Next on your list should be a lens or light and optical performance loss using
preferably two: one ultra-wide zoom and an extender over a purpose-built mega-
one telephoto zoom. If you can only af- zoom, but it still takes fantastic pictures
ford one lens right now, get one that best and the camera takes care of exposure com-
suits the kind of photography you shoot pensation needed.
most. As I like photographing landscapes Like the E-300 camera, all these Zuiko
and interiors, I chose the Olympus Zuiko lenses have nonvolatile internal flash mem-
11-22mm f2.8-3.5 ($899). This is a gor- ory that allows you to field-upgrade your
geous lens, with a 35mm equivalent range investment to the latest firmware. That takes
of 22-44mm — perfect for most of the a little of the sting out of the high prices,
scenes I like to capture. The wide maxi- as this makes your purchase that much
mum aperture gives me excellent natur- more future-proof. Olympus has already
al light performance. Edge to edge sharp- issued one round of updates, which I in-
ness and light distribution is excellent, but stalled in about twenty minutes with zero
most important is the lack of barrel dis- hassle. Be sure to follow the instructions
tortion at 11mm, or maximum wide an- to the letter, though. If you skip a step you
gle. I know it’s at lot to ask someone to could render your camera or lens useless
spend almost as much on a lens as they did and you’ll have to ship it back to Olympus
on their camera, but that’s exactly what I’m for repair.
going to do. Try one and you won’t want to If you’re going to shoot in dusty or wet
shoot without it. conditions, get some high-quality clear fil-
with the E-300, so the level of automation
is amazing. Turn on the camera with the
FL-36 attached and they both come on.
Want to add more power or a bit of fill flash
to a bounce shot? Pop up the internal flash
FOR MORE INFO… and the two work together in perfect har-
mony. Need a bit more help getting the aut-
ofocus system to lock on to a difficult sub-
OLYMPUS . . . . . .www.olympus.com ject? The Fl-36 will emit a red grid pattern
LEXAR . . . . . . . . .www.lexarmedia.com on your dark subject from across the room.
Need more light at the edges when shooting
SANDISK . . . . . . .www.sandisk.com with your ultra-wide lens? Flip out the FL-
KINGSTON . . . . . .www.kingston.com 36’s built-in diffuser panel to disperse the
light output even more.
ROADWIRED . . . .www.roadwired.com My favorite use of an external flash is
LOWEPRO . . . . . .www.lowepro.com
to aim the rotating head up to bounce off
the ceiling. In most cases you get smooth,
TENBA . . . . . . . . .www.tenbagear.com balanced light that seems to come from
everywhere and nowhere. Faces aren’t blast-
ed out and the background doesn’t
conditions, get some high-quality clear fil- go dark and underexposed. For
ters that fit your lenses. Get the low-profile interior photography, a good
kind to minimize any vignetting, particu- flash is absolutely essential.
larly on your ultra-wide. I haven’t
bought clear filters yet so I don’t 4. Power
have a preference, but any good You’ve learned by
name brand will do. If you fre- now that the true
quently shoot around open water, consumable in
get a good circular polarizer to digital imag-
eliminate the reflected glare. Un- ing is bat-
filtered, it’ll play havoc with your tery pow-
metering system and make that er. Unless
beautiful lake look more like you sit in
a studio
all day
with
easy access to an
AC jack, you’ll want to invest
in a spare rechargeable battery pack
($50). Olympus has achieved re-
markable longevity in the E-300. You
can shoot all day with this thing on a
charge. Personally, I’ve never run out
of juice on any of my modest photo
expeditions, but I carry a fully
charged spare anyway, just in case.
People photographers will want to
consider the Olympus HLD-3 Battery
Holder ($99), a screw-on extension
to the E-300 that adds two more bat-
teries to your power supply while also
offering a second set of critical con-
trols for vertical shooting. It adds to
the heft, of course, but if you need max-
imum untethered power, this accessory is
aluminum foil than water. the way to go.

3. Flash 5. Cases and other stuff


This is another hard sell to the uninitiated. You may want a wireless remote to control
A good flashgun will cost you about two the camera, and not just so you can easily
hundred bucks. You can buy compatible capture group shots with you in them. In
flashguns from other than your camera’s critical tripod shots using natural light, you’ll
manufacturer, but to make life simple and be using longer exposures that can easily blur
get the best results, get the FL-36 ($239). if you use your finger to press the shutter.
Olympus designed this unit to perfectly mate Use the RM-1 remote control ($19) and
seamlessly.
A couple of
years ago I was for-
tunate to have the
use of a Nikon
dream rig built
around the D1x, their
flagship camera at the
time. I had over twen-
ty thousand dollars
worth of pro gear in that
bag, which weighed about 25 pounds. My
Olympus E-300 rig can be had for less than
$3000 and weighs under 15 pounds com-
plete, including the manual. Best of all, in
my semi-professional hands my E-300 rig
can do everything the Nikon system could.

– David MacNeill

www.olympusamerica.com/evolt

breathe easy.
Speaking of relaxing, you’ll be
very unhappy if you drop
your E-300, so use the
strap that comes with the
kit or, even better, get
the GS-2 Grip Strap. It
makes the camera part
of your arm. Don’t
leave home without it.
You’ll need a
good case for all this
gear, and not just some
garden variety case will
handle all these larger
lenses and such. My fa-
vorite is the RoadWired
Photo/Video Pro case, but then again I
helped design it for them and I’m vain with 11-22mm mounted, the
enough to think I did an utterly fantastic 50-200mm, a spare battery
job. (Incidentally, I derive zero financial and a few cards, I like the
gain from the sale of these cases.) Other Tenba ProDigital D-10
faves in the case space include LowePro ($95), a compact shoulder
and Tenba. Both makers offer a stagger- case that’s tough as nails yet
ing number of carrying systems appro- light in weight.
priate to your new rig. Just be sure you Close-up photography
don’t overbuy, as your E-300 rig, while often requires specialized
powerful, occupies less space and weighs double flash rigs or ring
considerably less than 35mm-derived pro flashes, as well as special
DSLR camera systems. For expeditions off-shoe cords, clamps,
where I may be hauling along a rented and other arcane stuff.
mega-zoom, I like the LowePro Rolling Olympus offers a range of
Mini Trekker AV ($279), a brilliant design special lighting systems for
from one of the top names in photo cas- this purpose, all of which
es. For traveling light with, say, the E-300 mate with your E-300
REVIEW
I
Konica Minolta magicolor 2430 DL

f you think inkjet or dye-sub printers are


the only game in town for quality photo
output, think again. The Konica Minol-
Super photographic images from a laser printer? You’ve got to be kidding!

check how the dots had been laid down.


And since that’s not the way photos are
ordinarily viewed, it doesn’t matter
ta magicolor 2430 DL color laser printer at if the dots are big or small, ran-
only US $499 is the new challenger and dom or ma-
whips out beautiful images fast and on the
cheap.
A laser printer? Come on, I’ve got to be
kidding, right? They’re supposed to be big
and ugly and expensive and the pictures they
output look like you’re viewing them
through a screen door—coarse, grainy and
just plain awful. Not any more. In fact, when
I framed and hung two identical prints, one
output on the magicolor and the other on a
top-of-the-line inkjet, I’d have given odds
you couldn’t tell which was which, unless,
of course, you used a magnifying glass to

What’s Hot:
• High quality image output
• Moderate initial expense
• Perfect for multiple users
• Fast printing of both
images and text
• Prints on plain paper.
• Can take up to 45 lb than one computer, the
(90 lb index) paper stock printer can be networked through
• Low cost per image either Ethernet or a variety of high speed USB
• Two-sided printing with- trixed. The proof is in how the image looks– switches available from Belkin (http://tinyurl.
out bleed-through that’s all that counts. com/4wm2b).
• PictBridge compatible The 2430 DL arrived well-packed and
weighed in at 44 lbs with its four toner car- Manual labor
• No ink/paper color profiles
tridges pre-installed. All I had to do was plug Unfortunately, no useful written documen-
needed
it in, run a USB cable to the computer and tation or quick-start manual came with the
• Extremely long print life
boot the utilities and documentation CD. printer—only a meager installation guide and
• Excellent tech support and
That’s when I ran into the first hurdle. The a caution booklet both of which had less than
warranty driver insisted on “speaking” Spanish. At a page of English among 21 different languages.
first I thought it was because the printer had The real meat is on the CD—a Reference Guide
What’s Not: been shipped to Miami and it knew where (140 pages) and the more useful User Guide
• No written manual or quick- it was. But that would have given it too much (144 pages) which you’ll have to plow through
start guide credit—it was just a glitch and a quick call and print parts of to learn how to operate the
• Limited to 8.5 x 14-inch prints to tech support solved the problem. printer. Count on at least an hour for that; if
• Somewhat noisy At only 16.9 x 19.8 x 13.4 inches, the magi-
color will fit comfortably almost anywhere
you’re anxious to get going, begin by printing
out pages 7-14, 20-48, and 64-71. On a more
• Not PostScript compatible
but don’t place it too close to you—it thumps upbeat note, the 2430 DL carries an excellent
• No borderless printing
and whirs when it prints and sometimes gives one-year warranty. If tech support can’t solve
• No drivers for Mac OS 9
a burp or two even when it’s idle. Unlike most a problem, Konica Minolta will ship you a re-
• All images have similar surface
laser printers, where the paper rolls past a se- placement printer by two-day air and have
characteristics (matte/lustre) ries of fixed-in-place toner cartridges, the 2430 yours picked up—both at their expense. You
• No extensive color controls (but DL’s toner cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, can also extend that warranty for one or two
can be adjusted from within and black) rotate. This keeps the printer com- years at US $80 or US $140 respectively (which
imaging program) pact but also makes it go though a song and I would highly recommend) or buy an on-site
dance routine for each print. If you have more service policy.
Laser vs. Inkjet Quality
The two cat’s-eye pictures are scans of the
same photo, one of them output on the
Konica Minolta magicolor 2430DL at 2400
dpi and the other printed on a premium
inkjet at 2880 dpi. The magicolor lays
down its dots
through a screening
process while the
Laser printers form their images by heat- The 2430 DL can print at three different inkjet uses a more
fusing dry toner to paper. Unlike inkjets, resolutions: 600 dpi, 1200 dpi, and 2400 dpi. random dot pattern
where paper type plays a large roll in deter- If you look closely, there’s a just-noticeable that gives the illusion
mining how the image will look, laser print- difference in detail between 600 dpi and 2400 of a smoother, more
ers couldn’t care less. A photograph will look dpi but 1200 dpi seems to be neither here- continuous tone im-
just about as good on any old lightweight nor-there and I noticed a slight color shift age. However, the
paper as it does on thicker stock. That can at that resolution. I found myself sticking to
trick you into thinking the image is inferior 2400 dpi—Konica Minolta says it only costs laser print is actual-
when, in fact, you’re being fooled by the about a penny more per print as opposed to ly sharper when
thinner-than-inkjet paper it’s printed on. If outputting at 600 dpi because the printer viewed at this large
you use thicker paper stock like NCR’s uses just a smidgen of additional toner; it magnification. Hold
Glossy and Matte Presentation Papers, it lev- produces the higher resolution by running the page away
els the playing field; pictures begin to feel a different algorithm to lay down a tighter from you, however,
(and therefore look) a lot more like inkjet dot pattern on the paper. and you’ll see that
prints. But you’ll never get the variety of out- both images begin
put that inkjets produce when using differ- 100-year print life to look the same
ent types of paper surfaces. The best way to Color prints from the migicolor have a pre- because the eye
describe magicolor prints is that they fall dicted life of over a hundred years unless cannot resolve fine details as it gets fur-
somewhere between a matte and lustre sur- they are subjected to extreme heat while ther away from them. Except for differ-
face, with a slightly soft sheen. By the way, stacked together. Prints are also very inex- ences in the paper surface, pictures print-
don’t run inkjet paper through a laser print- pensive compared to those output on injets ed on the magicolor and the inkjet looked
er; the coated surface can mess up the print- and dye-subs. According to Konica Minolta’s identical at a normal viewing distance. –AB
er’s drum. calculations, a 7.5 x 10-inch color print costs
REVIEW
about 31-cents, which includes the expense
of replacing the printer’s drum ($149) after
several thousand prints have been run. My
own seat-of-the-pants calculations were
and the colors would still be right-on. In
fact, the driver gives you only a few
choices to play with: brightness, contrast,
and saturation. And that’s all you really
around 44-cents which is still pretty low. need.
And prints just fly out of this machine! I One of the 2430 DL’s touted features
clicked on “Print” and the first 2400 dpi, 8
x 10 photo rolled out in just 35 seconds; sub-
sequent copies of the same image took just
12 seconds each. Black and white photos of then replace later it to use for a smaller one,
similar size and resolution took 15 seconds do not do that with the 2430 DL. If you re-
for the first copy and just two seconds for move a toner cartridge before its time well,
each additional one. Compared to the speed then, that’s its time and even if it’s still full,
of an inkjet printer… well, there just isn’t any it becomes a pricey doorstop. If you reinsert
comparison. The magicolor would be perfect it, the printer will refuse to run, giving you
to take to events where you could shoot, say, a message that the toner is out. I know this
portraits and deliver a finished product to your firsthand, having blown over US $400 worth
subjects in just a few minutes. of toner one memorable afternoon. Thank-
What’s also a timesaver is that you don’t fully, it didn’t cost me anything but when I
need to bother with ink and paper profiles called tech support, even they didn’t know
—recommended for inkjet printers—to get that you couldn’t remove and then re-insert
color-perfect results. Remember, with laser still-good cartridges. I finally found that lit-
printers paper type doesn’t enter into the tle caveat buried deep on page 64 of the
equation; you could print on a shopping bag User’s Guide on the CD.

Skeptics, listen up
Undoubtedly some skeptics will read this re-
view and doubt that the quality of a laser
is that it is PictBridge 1.0 compliant; you print can ever equal that of an inkjet image.
can print pictures directly from your dig- I imagine they might be the same ones (as
ital camera if it has that feature. But was I) who once said that inkjet prints could
there’s a price to pay. Not that the print- never equal the quality of silver halide pho-
er doesn’t do its job, but it’s that Pict- tographs (now they surpass them, of course).
Bridge, still in its infancy, gives the magi- All I can say is that I, too, had my doubts
color its marching orders. I connected an about the 2430 DL but ended up thorough-
Olympus E-300 via its USB cable and was ly impressed by what it could do. And re-
sorely disappointed. First, the printer re- member, you can also knock out flawless
quires an extra 256MB of RAM (which text at 20 pages a minute and quickly print
was installed) for full functionality and brochures and other material—even on both
best image quality when printing using sides—without the slightest bleed-through
PictBridge. So that’s an extra US $150 (large, two-sided photos are a piece of cake).
right there. Which wouldn’t be so bad Am I going to throw out my beloved Ep-
if it didn’t take so long for most pic- son inkjet printers? Not a chance, because
tures to print out—in some cases up they can still give my images a variety of
to five minutes per image. The feature “looks” that I like due to a wide choice of
I was most interested in, printing a se- paper surfaces. And my 2200 can also give
ries of small index pictures from the me bigger prints than I can get with the 2430
camera’s memory card worked faster DL. But when I compare inkjet prints made
but, alas, there was no way to have the on matte or lustre paper with those the magi-
file names print out under each picture color produced on comparably thick paper,
to quickly identify them. So don’t ex- I am awed by the quality. I mean, who would
pect miracles here—at least not yet. have thought the old laser workhorse could
Unlike inkjet printers where you can become such a stunning showhorse? Not me.
remove a cartridge if it’s low so it won’t At least not until now.
run out during the middle of a big job and – Arthur Bleich
28 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com
REVIEW
A
Archos Pocket Media Assistant 430

rchos wants to know how much you


can take, literally. I’m not talking about
how much media and other data you
Archos wants to know how much you can take, literally

a stretch on a single charge


of the easily removable
3.7-volt lithium-ion
can cram onto a 30-gigabyte hard drive — the rechargeable battery pack.
upper limit of that is fixed. No, what they want The PMA430 ships with
to know is how many functions you want in an elaborate cradle sprout-
one pocket-size device, and when that thresh- ing connections for just
old is found, how much money are you will- about everything under
ing to hand over to possess one? the sun. All jacked in and
First attempt: the almost ridiculously well- sitting next to
endowed Pocket Media Assistant 430, now your home
shipping for a mere $799. That’s a lot of cash, theater rig and
but when you read the list of what the PMA430 media com-
can do, it doesn’t seem so bad: puter, it’s al-
■ Video recording from any analog media most comical-
source at slightly better than television reso- ly well
lution in the MPEG4 format for video and connected, but it all works as advertised. screen or TV, Archos would
MP3 for audio; have been suffocated overnight with restrain-
■ Playback on a crisp, bright, 3.5-inch LCD Storming the citadel ing orders from Big Media’s legal goon squads.
touchscreen with 320x240 pixels and 262,000 Now the reality. I hate to break it to you, but The one thing I cannot forgive is the al-
glorious colors, or connect to any television the Archos PMA 430 is as much a technology most comically complex hoops you, the end
monitor/home theatre system with standard demonstration as it is a useful consumer prod- user, have to jump through to take a piece of
RCA or S-Video input ports; uct. All but the geekiest among us will stum- visual media and make it playable on the
■ Store, organize, and play digital audio files ble over user interface quirks, playback limi- PMA430. Even the documentation that comes
in MP3, WAV, and WMA formats; tations, and byzantine media preparation with the device is apologetic about this atro-
■ Record and rip stereo audio straight to procedures involving multiple pieces of soft- cious state of affairs. MPEG4 is not really a sin-
MP3 using an external mic, the internal mic, ware from all over the net. gle specification as much as a collective set of
or any stereo line level source, up to 192 kHz The PMA 430’s interface clumsiness I can guidelines. A QuickTime movie, for example,
at 48 bits, or lossless stereo WAV format; forgive — this is a Linux-based device, so it’s encoded in proper MPEG4 format, won’t work
■ Store, organize, and view digital photos not exactly been given Apple-class treatment in the Archos without transcoding it into an-
in JPG, BMP, PNG, and GIF file formats, ei- in the polishing and user testing department. other variant using third-party software you
ther copied from your computer or down- With Linux, you take the rough with the have to pay for. There are many examples of
loaded directly from your digital camera us- smooth because you are (a) cheap and (b) like media that won’t just work in this device —
ing USB Mass Storage compliance; to fix things yourself. Thus, the fonts look basically, anything that isn’t ripped either by
■ Play widely available games in either Mo- yucky, the colors are amateurish, and the var- a PMA430 or on another computer using
phun or Qtopia formats; ious interface controls work differently de- DivX or XviD encoders will probably fail to
■ 802.11b WiFi to browse the web and pending on which part-time student pro- play without a fair bit of tinkering. If you like
check your email accounts, or use an option- grammer hacked out the code on that piece of downloading lots of little pieces of utility soft-
al USB ethernet adapter to use wired networks; the puzzle. It’s a UI trainwreck, but once you ware from the net, installing it, then making
■ Maintain your calendar appointments, get used to the abuse it’s really not so bad. Like it all work like an assembly line, then you’ll
task list, address book, and notes, then sync a Stockholm Syndrome for bad software, over love this aspect of PMA430 ownership.
them with Outlook on your Windows PC; time you can learn to love your kidnappers in To be fair, most potential PMA430 buy-
■ View, but not edit, standard Office doc- spite of your better judgment. It’s a human ers will be most interested in recording TV
uments including Word, Excel, and Power- survival mechanism that had made Bill Gates shows for viewing elsewhere and elsewhen,
Point, as well as TXT, CSV, and soon (Archos the richest person on Earth, money earned like a mobile TiVo with a built-in display. Af-
promises) Adobe PDF documents, either from the profits gleaned from decades of soft- ter this will be those who want to copy DVDs
copied from your computer or emailed; ware abuse. If he wasn’t such a generous phil- and old videotapes into the device for personal
■ Legally enjoy any Windows Media Play- anthropist, his tens of millions of victims use. Beyond media use, the obvious mobile
er-compatible DRM-protected digital media would have stormed his mighty citadel and computing aspects of wireless net access and
file, including movies and music downloaded forced him to use his own software until he personal information management are pretty
from online services; went completely insane. compelling. If this unit had a phone and a
■ Run Linux programs; This machine’s media playback hassles mapping GPS receiver in it, the word “con-
■ Create your own applications using the are also forgivable, as they really aren’t Archos’ vergence” wouldn’t begin to describe it.
Archos SDK. fault. Without, for example, the inability to – David MacNeill
Crikey! All that for a paltry 800 clams? play back a recorded DVD on any device but www.archos.com
And you can do all this for up to ten hours at one unique PMA430 and not on a computer
REVIEW Dust Away
Sensor cleaning solution for digital SLR owners

L
ike a buzzing,
biting mosquito,
dust is a constant
annoyance. It’s on our
lenses, it’s on our pho-
tographs and it finds it
way onto our imaging
sensors. If you follow
your camera manufac-
turer’s recommenda-
tions you probably
send your camera off
to be cleaned at least
once a year or you de-
cide when you can no
longer deal with
cloning out all the dust
particles appearing as
black dots in your im-
ages. The cleaning
process at the manu-
facturer can some-
times take as long as eight weeks, leaving
you without a camera. Since I can’t han-
dle waiting that long every time I need my
d-skin optical disk protectors
camera’s sensor cleaned, I always clean it
myself. For the past three years I have I f you have ever lost important data because a
CD or DVD picked up a bad scratch or scuff
you’ll appreciate the new d_skin CD/DVD
unharmed. As insurance for valuable data these
should become very popular.
The only caveat I could think of is that some
been swabbing the sensor with a sensor
cleaning solution. It takes a while and it’s protectors. Think of them as jewel boxes that computers use very thin slots to accept CDs, so
an expensive process that costs about $8 stay on your disks while they are being played. thin that even a CD with a label stuck on won’t
for each cleaning. The d_skin protectors come in a neat metal slip into the slot, and a CD protected by a d_skin
I discovered a new product that seemed can, five to a package for $5.99 list price. Do might not fit into some of those, but I didn’t
so simple that I was skeptical that it would they work? As an informal test I put a d_skin have access to one to try.
work. I’ve been using it after every photo- onto a CD I had just burned and took an old I plan to put d_skin protectors on my most
shoot for the last two months, and since then
rusty nail to it. With pressure I was able to important back-up CDs and DVDs as an extra
I haven’t had to use Photoshop to clone out
damage the surface of the d_skin, but the CD layer of protection. –Bob Shell
any dust spots. It’s so easy to use and all you
need is canned air to make it work. Spray surface underneath remained www.d-skin.com
the canned air on the sensor brush fibers for pristine and
5-20 seconds, making sure you don’t shake
the can. This removes particles from the
brush fibers. The next step is to slide the
brush fibers from left to right over your cam-
era’s sensor. It’s that easy! Repeat the entire
process if needed. If you’re tired of sending
your camera out for cleaning or using swabs
to clean your camera’s sensor, you have to
try this little gem. It’s worth the price.
–Jon Cox

Dust Away
Econo 1.6X Kit
Price: $89.95
www.visibledust.com
Think
Like
a
Pro
By Arthur H. Bleich

32 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com


P
rofessional photographers
usually take better photos
than you do because, a) they
shoot more and, b) they have
developed methods to assure
that knock-out pictures are delivered to
their clients. You, too, have clients (family
and friends) and although they may not be
as demanding (because they’re not paying)
you still have an obligation (and hopefully
Photo © Jon Cox
a desire) not to bore them with trivial snap-
shots.
No doubt about it, serious photography
is difficult because it requires both a mas-
tery of technique and an eye for esthetics.
Sometimes one gets in the way of the oth-
er and visual chaos results. But if you think them to pose for some portraits. Tell shot most of his great pictures with
like a professional photographer, you’ll find them up front you know this may one camera and a 50mm lens.
it a lot easier to get the kinds of results that’ll not be their idea of fun but you
have both you and your “clients” saying: promise it won’t take more than 15 04 Find a long-term project to work on.
“That’s a great shot!” Let’s begin. minutes. Most of them can live with You wouldn’t think it, but most pros
that, though they’ll probably still have a pet project they’re working
01 Have a goal in mind whenever you
decide to shoot pictures. Don’t just
think it’s an eternity. If you offer a on aside from their commercial as-
reward, that will sweeten the deal signments. Though it sounds like a
wander around hoping that some- considerably. busman’s holiday, it keeps their eye
thing will catch your eye. Decide, for in shape and allows them to shoot
example, that today’s the day for 03 Don’t fixate on equipment. Many whatever (and however) they want
shooting unique doorways, or seals photographers constantly gripe that without having to answer to a client.
at the zoo, or something equally spe- if only they had this or that camera Committing to a long-term project
cific. With your mind (and eye) fo- or lens, they could make better pic- also will allow you to make adjust-
cused on one objective, you won’t tures. That really ap-
get frustrated trying to find things plies to only a few ar-
to take pictures of or come back with eas, mainly sports and
a lot of junk. In essence, you are tak- wildlife where, indeed,
ing on an “assignment” that has some long telephoto
some structure to it and you will be lenses are required.
forced to shoot accordingly. You’ll But you know what?
also end up with lots of good pic- Even if these com-
tures to choose from instead of a plainers had those
smorgasbord of images, none of lenses, they’d find an-
which may be very good because you other reason why they
didn’t spend enough time on each couldn’t bring home
Photo © David Bergman for The Heart Gallery NJ

of them. the bacon. Learn to


make the most of the
02 If you want to shoot great candid
pictures of kids, pretend to ignore
equipment you have
and you may find you
them. With younger kids, be pleas- don’t really need as
ant at first but if they continue to much as you thought
bug you with questions or start to you would. Unless
Photo © Arthur H. Bleich

ham it up for the camera just don’t they have assistants


answer and keep the camera up to along, most pros leave
your eye. They’ll quickly become the kitchen sink at
bored and go back to their activities, home and travel light–
forgetting that you’re there (which a couple of camera
is exactly what you want). Dealing bodies and a few lens-
with pre-teens and teens requires ne- es. The legendary
gotiation, especially if you want Henri Cartier-Bresson

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 33


ments as you move along. As you your intended subject so you know
shoot and see your results, you be- what to look for before you even
gin to think about how certain im- turn your camera on.
ages could be improved and you can
then make a mental note of what to
do the next time out. To begin with,
07 There are things you should always
have with you—extra memory
pick a subject that you can spend at cards, batteries, a tripod and all that,
least a half-day a week with over a but most pros have a much longer
one or two month period. This list and it goes beyond throwing an
could be a bridge or building shot iPod into their camera bag for en-
from different viewpoints at differ- tertainment. One of the most valu-
ent times of day, or a sports or able pieces of gear you can have is a
singing group that meets periodi- pair of kneepads (do I hear some
cally, or a series of pictures on al- snickering, out there?). Most pho-
most any subject. tographers simply duck-squat when
trying to shoot dramatic low-angle
05 Stop counting pennies (actually dol-
lars). When film was in its heyday,
shots and that can just about wreck
your body. An inexpensive pair of
film and processing were expensive. knee-pads from Home Depot can
If you did your own darkroom work, let you get down and dirty with a
paper and chemicals added to the smile on your face. You can even
cost. Here’s something all pros wear them under an old pair of jeans
learned early on: if you wanted to get Photo © Beau Hooker so you’re ready to hit the ground at
good, you had to shoot a lot of film any time. For less extreme shots,
and if you did your own developing bring along a lightweight folding
and printing, you couldn’t count
pennies when it came to making half
06 “Preparation, preparation, prepara-
tion.” That was the late Johnny
canvas stool (about 13-inches high)
so you can sit low and shoot, say, at
a dozen or more prints of the same Cochran Jr.’s mantra and you’d do the sidelines of an event. And at the
image to get one that was perfect. well to heed it. When pros get as- other end of the spectrum, most
You just had to forget the price or signments, they don’t just throw pros carry a small ladder for times
you’d stop shooting or printing too their camera gear in a bag and take they need a little added height to im-
soon. The easiest way to do that was off. In the early stages of my career, prove their viewpoint.
to buy 100 rolls of film at a time and I sat next to a National Geographic
500-sheet boxes of paper so you
could just dip into an endless supply.
photographer on a plane to Alaska
and watched as he went through
08 Force yourself to shoot the same
subject from different points of view
Today, as a digital photographer, you notebooks worth of material he had and at different times of day. At first,
don’t spend a cent on film or pro- researched for weeks before leaving this can be a killer because it takes
cessing so you’re way ahead. Put that on his assignment. Years later, I some thinking and a lot of work. But
money toward buying a dozen or found myself doing the same thing if you look at images shot by pros,
more inksets and a few hundred because it’s the only way to make you’ll find that most of them have
sheets of paper—all at once—so you sure you have all your bases covered been shot at an unusual angle or
can work on an image until it reach- and know what to look for. Now, with unusual lighting (early or late
es perfection without thinking about with the Internet so easily accessi- in the day or at night). Pros have to
running out of supplies or how much ble, there’s just no excuse for not bring back eye-poppers and shoot-
it costs. learning everything you can about ing the subject straight on at noon
just doesn’t cut it. After awhile, it
Photo © Jon Cox

will just become natural for you to


think in terms of different angles and
lighting and your pictures will sud-
denly begin to jump out at viewers.
Pros also love wide angle lenses be-
cause they give a unique look to an
image and can add some deliberate
distortion. Buy a wide-angle lens and
learn to love it, too.

09 Pros read many of the same books


and magazines about photography
that you do and listen to a lot of
chatter about which cameras, lens-
es, printers, computers, and software
are supposed to be the best. But they
don’t go switching around wildly be-
cause that can lead to disaster. If you

34 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com


Photo © Bob Shell
work on oil rigs and how his

Photo © Bob Shell


“aunt” was always com-
plaining because, even
though the money was
good, she and the family
didn’t see him for weeks at
a time. He would immedi-
ately see nods and smiles
and the ice was broken. OK,
maybe you think he was
cheating a bit but it worked
and no one was hurt by it.
If you use this technique, re-
member not to have an im-
mediate member of your
family in the same occupa-
tion or you may be expected
to know more than you do.

11 Props can make or break a


shot. Many pros drag a
whole bunch of them along
if they are appropriate to
13 There are a few things you should-
n’t do. One of them is relying on
their assignment. A little girl your sequence (or burst) mode to
is just a little girl, but a lit- catch a great action shot. Shooting
tle girl with a red balloon a sequence of images doesn’t guar-
can really catch your eye. antee you’ll catch the peak of action;
Scenic photographers fre- the only way that’d be a shoo-in is
quently carry a duffel bag if your camera could fire at about
full of different colored jack- 30 frames or more per second and
find that the camera and lens(es) ets and hats for their foreground that’s not possible yet. Besides, even
you have are giving you good results, subjects to wear so they stand out. if it were, think of the memory card
stick with them. If shooting in JPEG If you shoot pictures of kids and requirements. Before motor drives
yields good prints, there’s no need teens, encourage them to bring became available on film cameras,
to get bogged down in RAW. Some along their favorite toys or posses- sports photographers relied on their
photographers actually like to use sions; it’ll make the shot more in- own sense of timing to stop the ac-
complicated processes—it makes teresting and your subjects will be tion. Guess what? They did a pretty
them feel superior to others. You more comfortable in front of the good job of it. All it takes is practice.
don’t need the latest and greatest to camera. The other thing you should avoid is
make good pictures; constantly being too quick to erase “bad” im-
changing your gear and techniques
may actually hold you back as you
12 Always keep your eyes open for pic-
ture possibilities that are not main-
ages. Many pros have gone through
their film negatives after the passage
constantly struggle with new learn- stream. For example, I know a sports of time and have found great images
ing curves. Most pros keep things photographer whose most interest- they overlooked when they first shot
simple so they can concentrate on ing shots are not of the game but of them. Digital makes it too easy to
the image-making process. You things big and small that surround make quick (and often wrong) de-
should, too. it. In the world of motion pictures cisions to delete pictures. Only scrub
these are known as cutaways, scenes obvious garbage—if you’re not sure,
10 One of the most difficult things pho-
tographers have to learn is to over-
related to the main action but not
part of it. Fans in the stands, play-
keep it.

come their reluctance to approach ers in anguish over losing or tri-


people they don’t know and ask if umphant in victory, a referee tying
they can photograph them. A pro his shoelaces, bored pitchers in the
once told me how he was able to es- bullpen, and so on. Similarly, every-
tablish quick rapport with subjects, day things that you walk by a thou-
putting them at ease while he shot sand times bear closer examination.
their pictures. He said he always had A rope tied to a pole can make a
an imaginary aunt, uncle, nephew, great design shot if you move in on
Photo © Arthur H. Bleich

or niece in his pocket who was in the it and frame it well. Even a water
same occupation as his intended sprinkler head can look like a mu-
subject. For example, if he was pho- seum piece if you take the time to
tographing oil workers on a rig, he’d shoot it at a unique angle when the
tell them how his “uncle” used to light is right.

36 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com


Photo © Jon Cox
14 Imaging programs will not improve
your photographic skills. This may
sound like digital heresy but slavish
devotion to these programs can im-
pede your progress as a photogra-
pher. When film was king, many of
the world’s greatest photographers
never went near a darkroom—they
handed their “take” to a lab for pro-
cessing and then edited their slides.
Imaging programs are great for ad-
justing brightness, contrast, color,
sharpness, and for getting rid of im-
perfections and unwanted elements
but that’s all you need to know how
to do. If you spend a lot of time with
your imaging program, that’s less
time to shoot. The secret is to shoot
correctly to begin with so the time contacts that can be valuable to you Many pros got their start in the field
you spend on the computer is min- in the future. The State of New Jer- by doing photography for non-prof-
imized. And spending US $650 for sey recently asked top pros (like its. Choose a charity in your area (it
Photoshop when $80 for Elements David Bergman who’s been featured could even be your place of worship)
will suffice is simply an exercise in in DCM) if they would photograph and let them know you’re available
conspicuous consumption or keep- kids who were up for adoption. to do some volunteer photography
ing up with the Jones’s, both of They wanted appealing images that for them. It’ll be good for both of you.
which are despicable would give an insight into the kids’
personalities rather than just mug Arthur H. Bleich (arthur@dpcorner.com) is a pho-
15 Pros frequently donate their time to
charitable projects and so should
shots that they’d used in the past. As tographer, writer, and educator who lives in Mi-
a result, more kids were adopted and ami. He does assignments for major publications
you. It will give you a good feeling each photographer came away pro- both in the U.S. and abroad, and conducts digi-
to know just how powerful photog- foundly touched by the experience. tal photography workshop cruises, the next of which
raphy can be as a force for positive You can see the results at The Heart will sail on December 3, 2005. Visit his Digital
change. And you will make a lot of Gallery <www.heartgallerynj.com>. PhotoCorner at www.dpcorner.com.

Photo © Jon Cox

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 37


REVIEW
Y
ou won’t see many personal com-
Alienware Area 51 MJ-12m 7700

puter reviews in this magazine, but


when you do, it’ll be something ex-
Most powerful Windows-based mobile computer we’ve ever seen

traordinary. We requested a review sam-


ple of the Alienware Area 51 MJ-12m
7700 mobile workstation because of its
impressive specs, making it suitable for
professional creative production work in
video, audio, and serious still photo-
graphic work.
Don’t be turned off by the garish, sci-
ence fiction graphic treatment. This ma-
chine may be marketed to gaming fanat-
ics but underneath it’s all business. I’ll let
the specs below speak for themselves, but
taken together in actual use, this machine
delivers devastating performance, on par
with the best desktop machines.
Not surprisingly, this beast is freakin’
enormous. I have end tables at home that
are smaller across, and the thing weighs
almost 13 pounds. Under your arm,
it feels like you’re carrying an at-
taché packed full of stuff. The
power brick is the first I’ve ever
seen that is actually about the
size of a real brick and weighs
almost as much.
But, oh! what you get in
return. Blistering desktop-
class Pentium 4 speed, a gor-
geously bright 17" widescreen (1680x1050 Our tests were, predictably, flat-out Specifications
pixel) display with a built-in VGA camera, amazing. We ran a full array of pro-grade • 3.8GHz Intel Pentium 4 microprocessor
dual hard drives (up to 200GB’s worth) photo and video editing applications with • 800MHz frontside bus, 1MB cache
configured in either RAID 0 or RAID 1 stunning results. Just for laughs we installed • NVIDIA Quadro FX Go 1400, 256MB DDR3
striping, up to 2GB of RAM, state-of-the- Half-Life II and the thing ran so well one • Up to 2GB of PC2-4200 SO-DIMM RAM
of our editors actually got dizzy and had to • Up to 2 100GB SATA hard drives, RAID 0/1
art NVIDIA graphics subsystem with DDR3
stop playing. It’s almost ridiculous how fast • 17" 1680x1050 widescreen display
vRAM, dual optical drives, and a full-size • 4 USB 2.0 & 2 FireWire ports
keyboard. this thing is.
Other nice features include the ability • DVI, serial, parallel, and PS2 ports
• S-Video, Video-in, 5.1 audio (SPDIF) ports
to play CDs and MP3 disk while the com-
• Gigabit ethernet, 802.11a/b/g wireless
puter is turned off. There are controls of • PCMCIA Type II ACPI CardBus slot
the front within easy reach — even an LCD • Flash card slots: CF, SD, MMC, MS , MS Pro
panel for track info. Watching a DVD on
this unit was completely immersive. Be- Dimensions & Weight
tween the huge display and the four speak- • 15.6” x 11.7” x 2.1”
• 12.75 lbs. (sans power brick)
ers + subwoofer underneath the case, it was
easy to kick back in our office chairs and Contact: www.alienware.com
just watch the show. Price as tested: $3142
I’m a Mac guy who relies on a 17" Pow- (1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, DVD-R,
er Book G4 for everything. If I was a PC guy, 1680x1050 display with camera, NVIDIA
this would be my computer. –DM GeForce Go 6800 graphics card)
CAMLAB

I
am a big fan of Fujifilm digital cameras. We re- nology offers images of higher perceived resolution in very low light conditions, and take shots without
cently reviewed Fujifilm’s FinePix E510 and E550 and quality than what you’d get from a regular CCD flash where other cameras need a flash. Addressing the
compacts and found them to be delightful 5 and of the same resolution, and digital zoom and movies complaint that digicam batteries don’t last long enough,
6 megapixel cameras equally well suited for beginners yield better quality as well. We found all of that to be the F10 was announced as being able to shoot 500
and those interested in advancing their photography true in our review of the Super CCD HR-equipped pictures on a single charge of its Lithium-Ion battery
skills. Somehow, Fujifilm has mastered the art of mak- FinePix E550. However, the F10 comes with even pack. And following the much appreciated trend of
ing mass market consumer cameras that are simple more astounding new technology such as Fujifilm’s equipping digital cameras with larger LCDs, FujiFilm
and easy to use while still conveying a feeling of qual- new Real Photo Processor that offers an unprecedented gave the F10 a 2.5-inch display, which is about as large
ity and sophistication. Even inexpensive Fujifilm cam- ISO sensitivity range from 80 all the way up to 1600. as digital camera LCDs come these days. In fact, the
eras don’t talk down to their users with idiot-proof Theoretically that means being able to take pictures only larger display I can think of is that of the Casio
features and Tonka toy design, as if their budget-mind- EX-Z57 which has a 2.7-inch LCD.
ed customers were too dumb and clumsy to handle a Given all of those terrific specifications, my ex-
real camera. And almost all FujiFilm cameras I have pectations for the FinePix F10 were very high. Per-
ever reviewed back that up with technological com- haps too high.
petence and excellent picture quality. Right out of the box, the F10 is a handsome lit-
I was therefore very excited over the announce- tle camera. It measures 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.1 inches. That’s
ment of the new FinePix F10 Zoom. Like the E5xx a bit larger than those tiny cameras in the Canon Dig-
Series, the F10 is an ultra compact just small and light ital ELPH class, but not by much. The metal housing
enough to fit into a pocket. And like those fine cam- is beautifully designed and combines bright, brushed,
eras, the F10 comes with a sensor that uses Fuji’s pro- and powder finishes for a look that exudes both qual-
prietary Super CCD High Resolution technology that ity and elegance. The 3X optical zoom lens remains
uses octagonal pixels placed close to each other in sort inside the body, then motors out about an inch when
of a honeycomb arrangement. Fuji claims this tech- the F10 is powered on via push of a button. Powerup
Less than the sum of its parts
and some subjects I tried to take closeups of—a lizard
in particular—seemed quite perturbed by the constantly
moving lens barrel.
All of this would be excusable to some degree if
the F10 had rewarded my efforts with the superb im-
age quality I got out of the FinePix E550 or even its
lesser brother, the E510. But more disappointment
there. Most of my shots simply weren’t as sharp and
vibrant as I expected from all the cool optics and tech-
nology in this camera. And that on a fairly consistent
basis and under different shooting
and lighting conditions. Needless
to say, I was also eager to try out
the phenomenal ISO sensitivity
range of the F10, and there the
news was quite good. You won’t,
of course, get crisp images with an
ISO setting of 1600, but you can
use it to get pretty decent shots un-
der dim lighting conditions where
you’d have to use a flash with al-
most any other camera. That can
come in very handy.
Battery life is indeed excep-
tional, especially considering the
large display. However, the F10
does not have a power jack. In or-
der to charge the battery you need
to plug a terminal adapter into the
camera’s sole connection socket.
You then plug power, USB, and
AV cables into that terminal. Lose
the adapter and you can’t charge.
One final complaint: the curious mix of abbre-
viated text and often hard/impossible to interpret icons
makes for an unsatisfactory menu experience. If you
have to consult the (very good) manual to figure out
flective what those icons mean, someone didn’t get it right.
LCDs offer I really wanted to like the FinePix F10, but com-
truly accept- pared to its many terrific siblings, it just misses the boat.
able readabil- FujiFilm made too many odd decisions here, and the
is very fast, as are shutter time lag and time between ity in sunlight and this isn’t one of them. 2) The LCD’s technology just doesn’t work as it should. ◆
shots. Most of the backside is taken up by the large glass cover reflects like a mirror. 3) The display, large —Kirk Linsky
LCD display. There are very few controls. Four but- though it is, is actually quite low res. It only has 115k
tons and a navigation ring in the back. Shutter and pixels compared to 154k pixel in the E550’s 2-inch dis-
Model...........................Fujifilm FinePix F10 Zoom
zoom are in separate locations and perfectly placed. A play. This meant that often I couldn’t really see what
List price.......................US$499
large mode dial around the shutter lets you select au- exactly I took a picture of. Often I just pointed the F10
Sensor res ........................6.3 megapixels
tomatic, scene, manual, and movie modes. All good in the approximate direction and hoped for the best.
Image dimensions ........2848x2136 down to 640x480
stuff. The Lithium-Ion battery and xD-Picture card I love doing macro shots. The F10 didn’t work
ISO ...............................auro/50/100/200/400/800/1600
slot are accessible through the bottom of the camera. well in that department. In macro mode you can get
Lens..............................F:2.8-8.0
They are covered by an unlockable plastic door. The as close as three inches which isn’t great to begin with,
Lens focal length ..........8-24 mm (36-108mm equiv.)
battery is smaller than its compartment and doesn’t but then the otherwise reasonably fast autofocus slowed
Shutter .........................1/2000 to 3 seconds
have a retainer clip, so it can easily fall out. The bot- down considerably. Between the barely readable dis-
Exposure compensation ..+/- 2.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps
tom also contains a plastic tripod mount (why almost play and the slow focus it took me several shots to get
Storage ........................xD-Picture Card (16MB incl.)
all consumer cameras use plastic instead of metal to a halfway decent picture of a bee collecting pollen (see
Focus............................Center/multi/continuous
save a few pennies is beyond me). above). You can use the zoom in macro mode, but that
LCD screen ...................2.5 inch TFT (115k)
Now it was time to actually try out the camera is a mixed blessing as almost any degree of zoom means
Flash modes .................6 modes
during a bright Spring morning outside our editorial the autofocus mechanism won’t be able to get a sharp
Viewfinder....................none
offices in the Sierra Nevada foothills. First observation: image.
Battery ........................Li-Ion rechargeable
no optical viewfinder. While editor-in-chief MacNeill As far as the 3X optical zoom goes, it worked well
Weight .........................5.5 ounces w/o batteries
applauds this development, I don’t. Not as long as even enough, but I wondered why some much smaller cam-
Dimensions...................3.6 x 2.3 x 1.1 inches
the best LCDs are only marginally viewable in direct eras have internal 3X zooms whereas the F10’s motors
Included .......................Software, cables, strap
sunlight. The F10’s LCD is large and fairly readable out a full inch, which means you have to turn the cam-
outdoors, but three factors work against it: 1) Only re- era off before you stick it back into your pocket. That,
CAMLAB Though I had to stretch my arms over my head to take this shot straight on, the in line viewfinder made composition easy. Notice how well the 7070 handles shadow detail in this early morning lighting

T
he Olympus 7070 doesn’t just blur the line be- world look like a picture on a movie screen in a pitch and come into their own. I’ve hoped that one of the
tween pro and consumer cameras, it erases it. black theater, having a camera glued to your face is re- classic rangefinder companies would take advantage of
With a superb 7.1 MP CCD sensor, a 27– ally a drag. the similarities between their form factor and digicams,
110mm equivalent lens, and a solidly constructed mag- I’ve been waiting for digital cameras to get to the by putting something really professional out there, but
nesium body, this camera is ready to capture the big point where they can abandon the SLR form factor though Leica and Epson both have entries in this field,
picture and bring it back in DCF Exif2.2, RAW, TIFF, neither really makes the grade. Olympus, on the oth-
or JPEG. Shooting speeds are up to 3.3 fps (RAW) er hand, has come up with a camera that very nearly
with ISO settings from 50-400. You can stand back fits the bill for fast-moving professional photographers
and take in the landscape, or go into super-macro mode at a nearly consumer camera price. I’ve been carrying
and get as close as an inch from your subject. The 7070 one in my bag as a backup camera while I’ve had it for
makes you stop and wonder what defines a professional review, and have been delighted with its design, solid
camera, and it does it for about $699 (street). construction and especially the crisp wide-angle lens.
The irony of digital camera design is that the What I like about the 7070 falls into three areas:
Holy Grail for professional cameras is to look and feel form factor, resolution, and lens. Glenn Schwartz, prod-
like film SLRs, while consumer and prosumer cam- uct manager, isn’t overstating the case when he says
eras, freed from this constraint, provide better func- that “The C-7070 Wide Zoom will be valued by pho-
tionality. If you watch someone who grew up using tographers of all levels for its compact size, rugged con-
film cameras use a digital camera with an LCD display, struction and ease of use, but the powerful wide-angle
you’ll see that they keep going back to the viewfinder, lens, 7.1-megapixel image sensor and two new AF
even though it’s not giving them nearly as accurate an modes are features that give this camera the extra edge
idea of what their picture will be like. Anyone who required by high-end amateur and professional pho-
started in photography with digitals, on the other hand, tographers.”
especially if they’ve “graduated” up to the big leagues They’ve included features specifically aimed at
A few more days and I could have shown you shots of cherry
and bought a DLSR, will find that as much fun as it blossoms, but thanks to a late spring, you’ll have to settle for pros, like an optional Power Battery Holder (B-
is to look through that SLR’s lens, making the whole close ups (as close as one inch in Super Macro) of buds. HLD20), which doubles the already substantial bat-
.

Near Professional Features


plain, and I have to respect Olympus’ conservative as-
signment of ISO, to control noise, but I’d be willing
to pay more and to get more.
The controls are a bit iconoclastic, and if you’re
jumping back and forth between the 7070 and some
other camera that may bother you at first. This is a
camera that you can plan on keeping for a while
though, so once you’ve learned the ropes you should
be fine. Two critical controls that are just plain badly
placed take away from my raves about the body, those
being the on/off switch, which is hard to get at, and
the shutter release, which should be placed a bit more
forward and angled down to where your thumb nat-
urally rests.
Wide-angle lenses are subject to “barrel distor-
tion” which is the tendency for lines near the edges of
an image to bow outward. The 7070 suffers from this
as well, but unless you’re shooting an image with
straight lines at the edges, you won’t notice it. If you
would like to correct it, the software that comes
with the camera includes a tool for that, or you
can get an Adobe Photoshop plug-in from
Panorama Tools to fix it there.
In conclusion, though there’s some room left for
improvement, this is a very strong camera which
accomplishes its mission—to bridge the gap be-
tween personal and professional camera and pro-
vide a serious tool for photographers that either
want to work in a Digital Camera form factor or
to be ready to grow into DSLRs and still have a
dependable backup camera.
There will undoubtedly be some who would
rather have a longer telephoto than a wider lens, but
as much information that’s a matter of photographic vision. I like wider lens-
into a picture as you es because they let you capture bigger spaces, especial-
can, but the 7070 goes ly architectural ones like the shots of Alexandria, Vir-
a step beyond to give ginia I’ve got here. Longer lenses keep me too far from
you a small target win- the action, whether its people, places, or things, be-
dow within the main cause I like interacting with the subject.
display so that you can I’d strongly recommend the camera to photog-
see the relative bright- raphy students and journalists both of which will ap-
ness of the subject as op- preciate its pro-features, compact size and affordable
posed to the entire image. It’s price.  —Ernest Lilley
tery life, a nice idea.
a wide(r) angle converter that takes the lens The magnesium housing is both light-
Model...........................Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom
down to a 19mm equivalent and telephotos that take weight and durable, and the lens retracts enough so
Estimated street price...US$699
it up to 187 or 330mm (equiv.) Of course, you lose a that you can toss the camera into a briefcase, backpack
Sensor res ........................7.1 megapixels
lot of light with a teleconverter. Of course it comes or glove compartment to be ready for a once-in-a-life-
Image dimensions ........2560x1920 down to 640x480
with a hot shoe mount for computer controlled flash, time shot. The 3.3 fps the camera manages in the RAW
ISO ...............................50/100/200/400/auto
so that’s some help, but if you’re serious about long setting should help you capture the action, and when
Lens..............................F:2.8-8.0, 4X opt/5X digital
lenses you should consider another camera. My favorite you get that shot, the 7.1 MP image will have suffi-
Lens focal length ..........5.7-22.9 mm (27-110mm equiv.)
feature is the 1.8-inch Semi-Transmissive swivel LCD, cient quality for the pickiest publication. Speaking of
Shutter .........................1/4000 to 16 seconds
which, unlike every other camera I can think of, hinges RAW, you’ve got your choice of a number of differ-
Exposure compensation ..+/-2EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
straight up from the back to make a really convenient ent JPG resolutions for a simultaneously saved file,
Storage ........................CF + xD Card (32MB incl.l)
waist level view finder. Most cameras first have to swiv- something that cameras like the Nikon D70 and Canon
Focus............................Dual AF: contrast or phase
el off to the side, taking the viewfinder out of line with Rebel don’t offer. You also have more choices when it
LCD screen ...................1.8 inch TFT (130k pixels)
the lens, and making composing your shot awkward. comes to memory format, the camera has slots for both
Flash modes .................7 modes, up to 21 feet
The 7070, on the other hand, feels extremely natural, CF and SD cards.
Viewfinder....................optical real image
perfect for portraits and shooting high or low subjects. On the “con” side, I wish the camera went fur-
Battery ........................BLM-1 Lithium-ion rechargeable
Whether I was shooting at waist level, toe level, or with ther into pro territory, though at this price it goes fur-
Weight .........................13.5 ounces w/o battery
the camera stretched as far over my head as I could ther than one should expect. The max ISO equivalent
Dimensions...................4.6 x 3.4 x 2.6 inches
reach, aiming the camera felt natural. Light level his- is only 400, owing to the small size of the sensor need-
Included .......................Software, cables, strap, cradle
tograms are very useful for making sure you’re getting ed to keep the cost down. For the price, I can’t com-
www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 43
CAMLAB B
efore I get into actually describing the subject of
this review, Sony’s new Cyber-Shot DSC-P200,
I feel compelled to present a few contemplations
that came to mind as I perused his magnificent little 7.2
megapixel marvel.
It seems, for example, utterly incomprehensi-
ble that not all that long ago, all Sony digital cameras
distinguished themselves by recording their pictures
onto standard floppy disks. That was the Mavica se-
ries (which lives on in a trio of cameras that use op-
tical disks as their recording medium, and one still
uses a floppy disk) and you could tell they used flop-
py disks because their largish bodies were pretty much
built around the square shape of a 3-1/2-inch flop-
py. In this day and age of tiny Memory Sticks and
other postage-stamp sized storage cards the thought
that a camera’s size was once dictated by something
as arcane as a standard floppy disk seems absurd, as
does the minuscule recording capacity of those old
floppy disks. Such a disk wouldn’t hold a single im-
age from the new Cyber-shot DSC-P200, not even
in its lower “standard” compression. A VERY COMPACT
Take one look at the gleaming silvery case of
the P200 and you cannot help but marvel at how far
we’ve come. The fictional characters in Stanley HIGH RESOLUTION
Kubrick’s groundbreaking “2001—A Space Odyssey”
movie may have been able to fly to Jupiter, but in SONY CAMERA AT AN
Sony’s wonderful world of technology, the year 2001
is ancient, quaint history. AFFORDABLE PRICE

Sony Cyber-shot
Unlike those big old Mavicas, the Cyber-shot
P200 is barely larger than a flip-phone—4 x 2 x 1
inch, with a weight of just five ounces—but it’s a pow-
erful 7.2 megapixel camera with a high quality Carl
Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3X zoom lens, a bright 2-inch out-

DSC-P200
door-viewable LCD screen, and the usual flurry of
incredibly well designed micro details that Sony is fa-
mous for. Just like its P-Series predecessors (the P100
and the P150), from a design point of view, the P200
is playfully styled with one side square and the other
side curving around the three bright concentric cir-
cles around the P200’s 3X optical zoom lens. In fact,
everything about the P200 is rounded and curved:
lines, buttons, inserts, even the tiny little flash win-

BY BEAU HOOKER
It is not entirely tures and performance, but they are not willing to pay
clear why Sony the higher prices of our no-compromise solutions.”
needs so many As a result, while the P200 offers full 7.2
different lines megapixel resolution, its 3X zoom lens motors out an
of fairly simi- inch when you power up the camera. An internal,
lar digicams, foldable zoom is more elegant, doesn’t get in the way,
but then but costs more. And while some of the top notch
again, that was Sonys have 2.5-inch displays, the P200 must do with
no different a 2.0-inch LCD—respectable, but noticeably small-
when Sony still er. There are other, less obvious concessions, but all
made its Palm OS- of this means that the P200 costs less. It is not cheap—
based Clié PDAs. No no Sony 7.2 megapixel camera can be cheap—but it’s
matter what your prefer- less than the no-holds-barred, all-tricked-out W- and
ence was, Sony had a Clié for T-Series models.
dow and the long concave moulding around the left you. If I were on Sony’s staff and had to come up with What you get with the P200 is a high resolu-
side of the camera which is probably there so that you an internal product placement description for this tion camera that does almost everything well. It is
can more easily hold the P200 with the index finger camera, I’d probably say, “The P200 is for those cus- small enough to fit into any pocket (as long as the
and thumb of your left hand. All of this is in great tomers who prefer style and elegance over the angular lens has retracted inside the body), it has a solid 3X
contrast to the angular T1 Sony shocked the world shape of our more engineering-driven models. These cus- optical zoom that’s complemented by either a stan-
with way back in, oh, perhaps 2004. tomers are value-conscious and demand advanced fea- dard 2X digital zoom or Sony’s “Smart zoom” that

44 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE digicamera.com


borrows unused pix-
els to enlarge an
image taken in
one of the cam-
era’s lower res-
olution settings.
There is a small
optical viewfind-
er for those times
when it becomes dif-
ficult to view the LCD
display outdoors. The controls are all fairly
self-explanatory although an initial pass through the
very good 98-page manual is definitely recommend-
ed. That way you’ll learn that the little green camera
icon means “automatic” and everything is taken care
of, whereas in P(rogram) mode the camera controls
aperture and speed and leaves the rest to you. In M(an-
ual) mode you have complete control over everything.
Frequently used controls such as macro, flash, or res-
olution can be changed by pushing one of the four di-
rectional controls—no need to push the Menu but-
ton and work your way through the not always obvious
Model...........................Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200
List price.......................US$399.95
Sensor res ........................7.2 megapixels
Image dimensions ........3072x2304 down to 640x480
ISO ...............................100/200/400 or auto
Lens..............................F:2.8-10
Lens focal length ..........7.9-23.7 mm (38-114mm equiv.)
Shutter .........................1/2000 to 30 seconds
Exposure compensation ..±2.0EV in 1/3EV increments
Storage ........................Memory Stick (32MB incl.)
Focus............................Multi-point, center, manual
on-screen menus for that. Controls are laid out well; I’d rate the P200 only average in autofocus and frame-
LCD screen ...................2.0 inch (134k)
you’ll find everything where you expect it. to-frame recycling speed. I love the 30 frames-per-sec-
Flash modes .................4, up to 11.5 feet reach
In the field, the P200 performs well. It never ond 640x480 movie mode with sound. It requires a
I/O ................................A/V and USB via multi connector
gets in the way, its battery lasts a long time and the Memory Stick Pro card, but produces excellent movie
Battery ........................NP-FR1 Lithium-Ion
screen even tells you how many minutes you have left, clips.
Weight .........................5.0 ounce w/o battery
and the display provides enough information (including All in all, the P200 is the answer for those who
Dimensions...................4.0 x 2.0 x 1.0 inches
a live histogram) without being cluttered. Both con- want a small, reasonably priced Sony camera with high
Included .......................Software, strap, cables, charger
trols and icons/text are a bit too small for my taste and resolution and good features. ◆ —CHB

digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 45


CAMLAB 7.2 MEGAPIXELS
IN YOUR POCKET

Casio EX-Z750
I
’m becoming something of an expert on Casio’s line of card I’ve written many times about the recent emergence of the thin-
cameras. I can’t help myself; I just love ‘em. And the company zoom form factor and how they have taken over the market. Casio
keeps cranking out new and improved models at an astonish- pioneered this category back in 2002/2003 with their first card cam-
ing rate. Often a new model or two arrive on my desk the day I fin- eras, the 2-megapixel S1 fixed focal length camera followed by the
ish my last Casio review. Fortunately, the retail distribution
channels work a little slower, so the models I review are usu-
ally still available when our magazine ships. But somebody is
putting something in the water cooler at Casio’s design de-
partment — these people obviously never sleep.
3.2 megapixel Z3 with a zoom lens. From the
success of those products, the company went
on to develop an array of models based on
them, increasing resolution, performance,
and battery life. Amazingly, they stayed just
as tiny and pocket-friendly as the early de-
signs.
And now we have the Z750, offering a
staggering 7.2 megapixels, a 2.5-inch display,
high-quality MPEG4 640x480 movies at 30
frames per second, a new dock design that
sports an audio/video out port for connect-
ing to your home theater, and an impressive
array of innovative new capture modes and
in-camera editing features.

Mixed blessing
Having 7.2 megapixels on tap is great, but
it’s a bit of a mixed blessing. The files are
quite large. Fine resolution JPEGs are
around 4.3 megabytes, while the CMYK
Z750 (7.2 megapixels)
TIFF versions I created for this layout each
hit 27 megabytes. But of course the upside is all that
room to crop without losing detail. If you’ve got a
computer with decent processing speed and a large hard
drive, you’ll love it. And you’ll need to spend another
couple of C-notes on a pair of 1GB SecureDigital cards.
The Z750 doesn’t ship with one and anything smaller
with a 7.2 megapixel camera will just frustrate you.
To illustrate the relative size difference, I took photos
of the badge on my MINI Cooper S using a tripod. As
you can see not only is the size difference dramatically
apparent but you can also see that the different imager
on the two cameras produce slightly different fields of
view — the Z750 is slightly less wide angle.
As the day was extremely sunny and the sun straight
overhead, I took a wide shot of my car’s front end to see
if I could tease out some purple fringing. As you can see Z55 (5 megapixels)
in the detail, even zoomed in to 500% in
Photoshop there is almost none — and
this was an extremely high contrast
situation. Continued on page 64

Model...........................Casio EX-Z750
List price.......................$449.99 list
Sensor res ........................7.2 megapixels
Image dimensions ........3072x2304
ISO ...............................auto, 50/100/200/400
Lens..............................F:2.8-5.1
Lens focal length ..........7.9-23.7mm (38-114mm equiv.)
Shutter .........................1/1600 to 60 seconds
Exposure compensation ..+/- 2.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Storage ........................SD Card (none included)
Autofocus.....................Contrast AF: multi, spot, free
LCD screen ...................2.5 inch (115,200k pixels)
Flash modes .................Auto, fill, off, red-eye control
Viewfinder....................Optical
Battery ........................Casio NP-40 Li-Ion only
Weight .........................4.48 oz w/o battery or SD
Dimensions...................3.5 x 2.3 x 0.88 inches
Included .......................Dock cradle, cables, software
FEATURE

RAW DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH

Power
by Jon Cox
A
diamond cutter studies a lump of stone.
He decides where to make each cut to
capture the beauty of the crystal rock.
His level of craft, along with the quality and
clarity of the stone, determines how strik-
ing the diamond appears. Like diamonds
in the rough, RAW image files allow digi-
tal photographers to prove their expertise
in the digital darkroom. How the photog-
rapher interprets the data decides the allure
of the image.
You’ll hear a lot of people say, “You
don’t need to shoot RAW files” and they
are correct. You don’t need to but, if you
have the option of working with all your
camera can give, then why not? I believe
this is the best method to render your dig-
ital images. A RAW file is a “lossless” com-
pressed file containing minimal camera pro-
cessing. It seems counterintuitive to spend
thousands of dollars on a digital camera
that’s equipped with sophisticated settings,
only to use file format that doesn’t take full
advantage of these advanced settings. How-
ever, this is exactly what happens when you
shoot using the RAW file format.
For years nature photographers have pri-
marily shot color slides. When developing
a slide into a print, there is little leeway to
make changes to exposure in the darkroom.

Hanang Chameleon, Nou


Forest, Tanzania. Nikon D1X
with Micro-Nikkor 105mm
f/2.8D AF lens
Trekking around the Nou Forest in
Tanzania is breathtaking – finding a
rare chameleon is even better. The Black and white film allows countless ad- screen, because I trust my histogram.
RAW image is exactly how it appeared justments in the wet darkroom, enabling To use the RAW file, you must start by
on my camera’s LCD screen, photographers to pull out details that are making sure your camera has the ability to
seemingly underexposed with very difficult to see on the negative. You can shoot with the RAW file format. Different
little detail. If I had been judging my compare a JPEG file to a color slide in a way format options are located in your camer-
exposure based on the image in the that you have less leeway in the darkroom a’s shooting menu. Your camera’s manu-
LCD screen, I definitely would have to make changes. A RAW file can be com- facturer may have given their RAW file for-
re-shot this image. However, I was pared to a film negative. My mindset has mat a different name from RAW; however,
looking at the camera’s histogram, changed. Since I started shooting RAW files, RAW should be indicated. Once you have
which showed detail in every part of I feel more like I did when shooting black taken a few RAW images, you can down-
the image including highlights and and white film. My primary goal is to col- load them onto your computer. Adobe Pho-
shadows. This is why I kept the shot. lect data as I shoot RAW files, and then im- toshop CS, CS2 and Photoshop Elements 3
Weeks later when the image was port it into the digital darkroom for final all have the built-in ability to open RAW
downloaded onto my computer it still editing. In the field I shoot, while checking files that have been taken from many digi-
looked much too dark. My camera’s the histogram to make sure my exposure tal cameras, but not all. Check
histogram didn’t lie; the image was a contains details in the whites and blacks. I www.adobe.com to see if your camera mod-
diamond in the rough. A few steps in don’t worry about color temperature or el is supported. Using RAW files takes
Photoshop’s RAW dialog box and the how the image actually appears in the LCD longer to process than JPG or TIFF files,
image appeared just as I remembered.
50 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com
but has become much easier with
the Adobe Photoshop Plug-in.
The RAW plug-in is like a special
photographer’s software package
that’s bundled within a larger
imaging program. You might
have to adjust your workflow a
bit when dealing with RAW files.
Use the “File Browser” found un-
der the “Window” option in
Photoshop to see a quality pre-
view of each image before open-
ing them individually. As you
scroll through the preview, select
an image you want to view in
more detail and click. It’s in this
window where the power of the
RAW file is held.
Within the RAW file dialog
box you can adjust for exposure,
color temperature, shadows, con-
trast and saturation, just to name just a few. key, you can see at what value the whites in
What’s different about this RAW file dialog
box as compared to other options in Pho-
toshop? It’s made especially for photogra-
your image will lose detail. The image will
be “clipped” and appear overexposed. White
on the screen shows that detail is preserved,
If you want to learn more about
RAW files or natural close-up
photography in general, check out
phers and uses our lingo. For example, if I while color on the screen indicates that de-
want to adjust for exposure I use the “Ex- tail is being lost in one of the channels. The Jon Cox’s latest AMPHOTO book
posure” slider. If Mac users hold the Option best way to adjust the exposure value is to Digital Nature Photography Closeup,
key or if Windows users hold down the Alt move the slider until the whites begin to lose available worldwide at amazon.com,
detail and then move the slider
barnesandnoble.com and your local
back a bit so your whites retain
detail. When you move the slid- bookstore.
er, a value will appear in the win-
dow, which relates to the amount Digital Nature Photography Closeup
of f/stops that you have changed
in your image. For example –1 Author Jon Cox
shows that your image is one Paperback: 176 pages
f/stop darker than how you shot Publisher: Watson-Guptill
it and +1 shows that your image Publications (June 1, 2005)
is one f/stop brighter than how
you shot it. ISBN: 081743674X
The “Shadows” slider works
much in the same way as the “Ex-
posure” slider. If you want to in-
crease the blacks in your image,
then move the slider to the right.
Mac users hold the Option and
Windows users hold down the
Alt to view the point at which the
blacks begin losing detail. White
on the screen shows that detail is
preserved, while color indicates
that detail is being lost in one of
the channels.
If you haven’t used the RAW
file yet, you’re in for a treat! You
may become hooked like I am.
–Jon Cox

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 51


CAMLAB

T
hese days MP3 players
have become as ubiquitous
as cell phones, so I guess it
was just a matter of time
before it occurred to some-
one to combine an MP3
player with a digital camera just as they have
done with cell phones. Actually, in spite of some
claims by others, Kodak was the first off the
mark with such a combination gadget several
years ago. Maybe it was the right product at the wrong
time (I loved mine), but it just didn’t catch on. Hope-
fully the time is right today for Concord’s neat little
DVx. The DVx isn’t just a digital camera and MP3
player, though, it also can record MPEG movies (68
minutes with a 256MB card), act as a voice recorder
(18 hours with a 256 MB card), work as a
bright LED flashlight, and work with your
computer as an SD/MMC card reader!
That’s a lot of features to pack into such
a tiny body which measures only about2
3/8 X 4 X 5/8 inch, and weighs less than
four ounces with rechargeable battery and
SD card.
I have to admit that I didn’t have
high expectations when I unpacked the
DVx because it just seemed so small and
lightweight. The day after it came in I
installed the 128 MB SD card that came
with it and slipped it into my pocket for
a trip into the country to do some tests
with a “real” camera. I pulled it out of
my pocket several times while driving
around and snapped photos with it. My
only real criticism of the DVx as a camera is
that it has no optical viewfinder and even though its
1.5-inch LCD monitor is exceptionally good, I still
found it almost impossible to see outdoors in bright
light. Indoors or in dimmer light this was not a prob-
lem and allowed me to make use of the built-in 4X
digital zoom feature.

Now at 2 Megapixels (4 Megapixels with in- the DVx, so you can see yourself when holding it at
camera interpolation) you aren’t going to use the DVx arm’s length to shoot self-portraits.
to make wall murals, but the lens appears to be of very How did the DVx perform as an MP3 player?
high quality and the images I got are very sharp, so I To see, I loaded some of my favorite tunes onto the
would expect to be able to make very good 4 x 6 inch SD card and listened to them (legally downloaded via
prints from these files. As you can see in the landscape iTunes, of course). I don’t claim to be an audiophile,
photo accompanying this review, the small twigs on but I think they sounded as good as MP3 files played
the tree were rendered sharply without any stair-step- through little “ear bud” earphones can sound. I can
ping or color fringing, performance which really im- see putting the DVx in my pocket when I go out for
pressed me and I am not that easy to impress. walks so I can listen to music and snap photos if I
Perhaps the neatest part of the DVx as a cam- come across anything interesting. The Concord DVx
era is that the lens and it’s accompanying LED illu- is certainly one of those neat little gadgets that you
minators are mounted in a revolving drum. Use the just have to have once you know about all it can do,
wheel on the side of the DVx to rotate the camera sort of a “digital Swiss Army knife.” And with a sug-
straight up and it is completely hidden and protect- gested price of $ 199, it isn’t likely to bust most bud-
ed. You can revolve it so it points out of either side of gets. —Bob Shell www.concord-camera.com
CAMLAB
T
he Olympus C-5500 Sport Zoom is for
people who want more than just the ba-
sics in a digital camera, but without go-
ing to extremes. It’s for those who want more than
the standard 3X optical zoom but don’t want to
shlep around a camera with a huge zoom lens bar-
rel. It’s for those who want to quickly snap pic-
tures, but also play with manual controls without
having to spend hours pouring through the man-
ual. It’s for those who want speed, a great macro
function, the ability to take good movie clips, and
also enough resolution for large prints. And let’s
have all of this for a decent price, say US$350 or
less.
Olympus listened, as always, and the result is the
C-5500 Sport Zoom.
It’s a 5.1 megapixel camera, and that is plenty
enough even for very large prints. Sure, you can now
get a camera with 6, 8, 10 or even more megapixel res-
olution, but we’re aiming for balance here.
The Sport Zoom has a gratifyingly large 5X op-
tical zoom that’s the equivalent of a 38-190mm con-
ventional lens. 5X gets you significantly closer than the
common 3X magnification found in most digicams.
There are cameras out there with 10X and 12X opti-
cal zoom, but they usually have large lens barrels that
make the camera bulky. The C5500’s 5X lens, on the
other hand, retreats completely inside the camera body
when power is off. Turn power on, and the lens mo-
tors out between an inch and an inch-and-a-half, de-
pending on the zoom. If 5X is not enough, you can
seamlessly combine that with a 4X digital zoom for up
to 20X total zoom capability. As is always the case with

OLYMPUS C-5500 SPORT ZOOM


digital zooms, image quality suffers a bit and it’s best
to use a tripod, but even at maximum magnification
you still get good pictures.
The C-5500 has two macro modes, The stan-
dard macro lets you get as close as 3.2 inches and still
use the optical zoom to get it just right. In Super Macro
mode you can get as close as 0.8 inches for ultra close-
ups. The zoom can’t be used in that mode, but it’s not goofy icons. The C-5500, on the other hand, illustrates
needed anyway. Between the powerful optical zoom each scene mode with a representative and very high
and the equally power Super Macro mode, you have resolution picture on the camera’s large 2-inch LCD.
an amazing range. Nothing is ever too far away or too No big deal, but it shows that Olympus cares about
close for this camera. I quickly came to love this fea- little details such as this.
ture. It really adds to the enjoyment of taking pictures And speaking of the LCD, Olympus digicams
in just about any situation. are not generally known for large LCDs, so the 2-inch,
And since this is Olympus, one of the undisputed 110,000 pixel display was a pleasant surprise. There
leaders in the digital camera field, the C-5500 doesn’t are smaller cameras out there with larger displays, but
just stop with its exceptional zoom and macro. Like 2 inches is large enough to actually see the picture and
the competition, Olympus has its own exclusive elec- also details when you zoom in. The display is very bright
tronic wizardry to suppress noise, boost image defini- indoors and stays reasonably readable outdoors. In
tion, and deliver sharper and clearer pictures. It’s called bright sunlight you might have to resort to the optical
TruePic TURBO and it works. viewfinder though (and hope it works with your eyes
There is also an “anti-shake” function when as there is no diopter adjustment).
shooting movies. Almost all dedicated video cameras In terms of size and appearance, the C-5500 falls
have that, but it is not that common in digital cam- somewhere inbetween the small compact cameras you
eras. The C-5500 also records movies at a full 30 frames can stick in your pocket and the larger ones that you
per second for lifelike quality. Unfortunately, movies need a special bag for. It measures 4.2 x 2.7 x 1.9inch-
can only be recorded in 320x240 pixel format, which es and weighs about 9 ounces without batteries. The
is disappointing as 640x480 is becoming the norm. plastic body feels very sturdy and has a nice silvery
Another cool feature is the way the camera’s ten metallic finish. Like many cameras in this size range,
scene modes are presented. Most cameras have scene the C-5500 has a “power bulge” on the right side. It
modes these days—special settings that work well in houses four AA batteries and makes it easy to hold the
certain situations—but they are usually represented by camera in the palm of your hand (if you’re right-hand-
Great Zoom. Great Macro. Great Fun.
access to exposure information. Red and blue highlights
show over- and under-exposed areas, making it easy to
correct even before you take a shot. The macro and su-
per macro works so well that you can get addicted to
taking extreme closeups of all sorts of things. The only
problem you encounter here is in dim lighting condi-
tions where the auto focus illuminator beam will shoot
right by a very close object so that the camera has a hard
time focusing.

In playback mode you can zoom in up to 5X in


five steps, and pan around in very small steps (42 x 32
steps in maximum zoom). You can also trim and resize
pictures, get rid of the dreaded redeye syndrome, and
add up to four seconds of sound to each picture.
Overall, I really like this camera. For not much
money you get a high quality Olympus product with a
terrific lens and the kind of flexibility that makes a cam-
era a pleasure to use. And thanks to its manual modes,
the C-5500 is equally well suited for beginners as for
ed, more advanced photographers. 
that —Conrad Blickenstorfer
is). I like
having 4
AA batteries because they provide good battery
life and you can use either alkalines or rechargeables. nowhere
From an ergonomic point of view, the C-5500 is near enough for a modern 5-
Model...........................Olympus C-5500 Sport Zoom
good but not great. I’ve recently reviewed several cam- megapixel camera.
List price.......................US$349.99
eras where all controls were within perfect reach of my In the field, the Sport Zoom is a very pleasant
Sensor res ........................5.1 megapixels
thumb and index finger. That’s not the case with this companion. Even though it has to motor out the lens,
Image dimensions ........2592x1944 down to 640x480
camera, but the controls are good enough. One thing it starts up very quickly. Auto focus is generally quick,
ISO ...............................80 to 400 or auto
I don’t like is having the zoom as a ring around the shut- there is virtually no shutter lag, and the camera recycles
Lens..............................F:2.8-8.0 5X opt./4X digital
ter because that way you can either operate the zoom quickly between pictures. In automatic mode, you sim-
Lens focal length ..........7.9-39.5 mm (38-190mm equiv.)
or press the shutter, but not both. I prefer separate con- ply set your preferred resolution and JPEG compres-
Shutter .........................1/1500 to 15 seconds
trols where the zoom is handled with the thumb. An- sion, and then point and shoot. Macro and flash have
Exposure compensation ..+/- 2.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps
other criticism concerns the flash. It is very small and their dedicated buttons which cycle through the op-
Storage ........................xD-Picture Card (16MB incl.)
you need to pop it up by manually pushing a button tions. In the more advanced modes (Program, Shutter
Focus............................CCD contrast detection
before you can use it. Inevitably, you’ll forget to pop it and Aperture Priority and Manual) you have fairly ex-
LCD screen ...................2.0 inch TFT (110k pixels)
up and thus will miss some shots where you need the tensive menu control over settings. Those used to Olym-
Flash modes .................3 modes, up to 12.5 feet
flash. pus on-screen menus will feel right at home. Those new
Viewfinder....................optical real-image zoom
Like all current Olympus consumer cameras ex- to Olympus will need a bit of practice. I also recom-
Battery ........................4 AAs
cept for a couple of the high end models, the Sport mend perusing the very good 200 page manual that
Weight .........................8.9 ounces w/o battery or card
Zoom uses xD-Picture cards for storage. If you already comes in PDF form on a CD.
Dimensions...................4.2 x 2.7 x 1.9 inches
have invested in CompactFlash or SD cards you’re out Shooting picture with this camera is sheer plea-
Included .......................Master software, cables, strap
of luck and have to buy a good-sized xD-Picture card. sure. Nothing ever seems too far away or too close. A
The C-5500 comes with a 16MB card, but that is special “Direct Histogram” function provides real-time
CAMLAB

For this country landscape I wanted maximum tonality, so


I set the camera to its longest tonal scale. I added a bit
of saturation in Adobe Photoshop.

PROFESSIONAL b y b o b s h e l l

I
was very anxious to get a chance to try out the Fuji S3 was to check to see how many of these things they had Since that is a large and somewhat heavy lens I mounted
Finepix S3 Professional SLR camera when I heard about fixed. Kudos go to Fuji for powering the whole camera the lens on my studio stand, hung the camera on the back,
it, because I had reviewed it predecessors the S1 and with one set of batteries, and extra points for making them turned it to vertical, and prepared to shoot my first pho-
S2 and liked many things about them. I had also disliked ordinary rechargeable AA cells which can be bought near- tos. I got the model framed just the way I wanted, perfect
some things about them and was fervently hoping that ly anywhere. That alone is a major step forward for the S3. expression, and pressed the vertical shutter button. Noth-
those things were corrected in the new S3. The camera comes with four NiMH rechargeable AA cells, ing happened. So, I thought maybe I needed to punch it
Did Fuji succeed in satisfying me with their new cam- and I was astonished at how long the camera ran on a a couple of times to wake the camera up as I sometimes
era? Well, I have to be blunt and say “yes and no.” The charge. I did all of my testing on the initial charge and only have to do on other digital cameras. No dice. The camera
Fuji S series digital SLR cameras are all built around Nikon had to recharge when I got ready to write this review. was stone cold dead. I thought for a bit and on a whim I
film SLR bodies, and in the S1 and S2 I thought that their I’d heard that the S3 featured an integral vertical grip reached across with my left hand and pressed the regular
hybrid nature was a bit too obvious. For example, having and vertical shutter release button, and it certainly does. I shutter release, and the camera sprang to life and I began
to power the camera body with one set of batteries and the was getting to like the camera already from an ergonomic to shoot photos. Then the same thing happened again, and
digital back with a different type of batteries always struck point of view without even taking my first picture. It seemed again, completely ruining the flow of the shoot. After a lot
me as poor planning, and a nuisance. I thought a camera like the designers at Fuji had been listening to my grous- of cursing I finally realized that you can’t wake the camera
in the price range these are in should have professional fea- ing at long distance. I was a bit annoyed that no other con- up with the vertical release button when it has gone to sleep.
tures, too, such as fast flash synch and a vertical grip and trols were provided when shooting vertically as on the I assumed I must have gotten a defective early sample since
controls for all of those vertical photos pro photographers Nikon digital cameras, but hey the vertical release was such I could not conceive of anyone designing it that way, but
shoot. I was also a bit annoyed that when you format a a step forward. Fuji has also worked some magic on the my contact at Fuji confirmed my worst fears – that is the
card in a Fuji camera it actually overwrites all of the data, shutter and boosted the flash synch up to 1/180 second, a way they designed it. Their suggestion, set the camera so
so if you accidentally format a card without downloading much-appreciated improvement for fill flash work. it doesn’t go to sleep. When I said something about that
the images no image rescue software can save you and re- Ok, after reading through the very detailed instruc- running the batteries down, they responded that most stu-
trieve the files. I believe the digital photographer who has tion manual and learning the basics of operation I set out dio photographers would be using the AC adapter. Well,
never accidentally formatted a card does not exist. to do my first shoot with the S3. I wanted to see how a Sig- maybe I am just weird, but I want a camera that adapts it-
So the very first thing I did when I unpacked the Fuji ma 70-200 f/2.8 APO zoom lens would do in the studio. self to my way of working, not one that forces me to work
its way. I don’t want a cord dangling from my camera while
I am working. I already converted some time ago to radio
triggers for my studio flash systems just to get rid of dangling
synch cords. So it looks like Fuji got it almost right on the
vertical release button, but I may have to wait for the S4 to
get one that is fully functional. My contact at Fuji USA was
not able to get an answer from Fuji in Japan as to whether
this could be fixed in a future firmware update, but I have a
feeling that it is a physical wiring problem and not some-
thing the firmware can address.
So I hate the camera, right? Well, no, not at all. On
the whole I like it very much. I’m just frustrated by thick-
headed designers who obviously never use what they design.
I like so much about the camera that the couple things I
don’t like just stand out like proverbial sore thumbs. If you’re
going to put in a secondary shutter release button it is just
common sense to make it do everything that the main one
does. Now I will get down off my soapbox and tell you the
good stuff about the camera.
The camera is built on a Nikon body, as I said, so this
means that if you are already a Nikon user all of the main
controls will be in familiar places and you won’t have to look
far to find lenses. All current Nikkor lenses will work just
fine, as will most older Nikkor lenses. Nikon-mount lenses
from Sigma, Tamron, Vivitar, etc., also work just fine. Sim-
ilarly Nikon flash units and third-party flash units made for
Nikon digital cameras also work just fine (but only the flash
units made for digital cameras). For some of my testing I
used the little Nikon SB50DX for fill flash and got great re-
sults.
It may be stating the obvious, but the most im-
portant part of a digital camera is the
sensor chip. Fuji is one of only
three companies building digi-
tal cameras that also make their
own sensor chips (the other two
are Canon and Kodak; most of A pretty model, an old shirt and a really loud necktie turned
out to be the perfect combination for a studio shoot with mod-
the others use Sony chips). el Renee King. I set the camera for its longest tonal scale to
Making their own chips allows hold detail in shadows without blowing out highlights.

Fuji to go off in their own di-


rection. While other chips,
both CCD and CMOS, use
sensor elements that are square
or rectangular, Fuji uses ele-
ments that are sort of hexago-
nal. Not only that, but in the S3’s
sensor, which Fuji calls the Super
CCD SR II, the sensor elements are in two different sizes.
One of the tricks used by film makers to get broader
sensitivity is to use silver halide crystals of two different sizes,
big ones for low light sensitivity and smaller ones for bright
light sensitivity. It may not be coin-
cidental that Fuji, a major film mak-
er, applied this same kind of think-
ing to their latest digital sensor chip
design. As you can see from this di-
agram, the chip has two sizes of sen-
sor elements in alternating patterns, the smaller, low sensi-
tivity R pixels and the larger, high sensitivity S pixels.
Just as with film, having these sensor elements in two
sizes allows the Fuji S3 to make images with an extended
tonal range. Not only that, but you have the option to switch
the secondary sensors on and off manually to either limit or
extend the tonal range. You can set the tonal range that you
want to match your subject based on percentage of the in-
put of the secondary sensors. The options are 130, 200
www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 57
CAMLAB Manufacturer . . . . . .Fujifilm (www.fujifilm.com)
Model . . . . . . . . . . . .FinePix S3 PRO (interchangeable lens SLR-type)
Camera body . . . . . . .Polycarbonate over metal chassis
Exp. compensation . . .-3 to + 3 in 1/2 EV steps
Self timer . . . . . . . . . .20/10/5/2 seconds
Color setting . . . . . . .Standard, high, org., b&w
List Price . . . . . . . . . .US$2499 Storage card type . . .slot 1: xD-Picture Card, slot 2: CF/Microdrive
Sensor Resolution . . .12.34mp (6.17mp S-pixel + 6.17mp R-pixel) File formats . . . . . . . .CCD-RAW (14-bit), JPEG (EXIF 2.21)
White Balance . . . . . .Auto, 6 presets, 2 custom Autofocus . . . . . . . . .TTL phase detection
Image dimensions . . .4,256 x 2,848 down to 1,440 x 960 pixels Tripod Mount . . . . . .Standard ISO type with hotshoe contact
Compression levels . .RAW-WIDE, RAW-STD; JPEG F/N Print support . . . . . . .PRINT Image Matching II, DPOF
Sensitivity (ISO) . . . . .100/160/200/400/800/1600 Built-in Flash . . . . . . .Guide No. 12 (ISO 100)
Viewfinder info . . . . .focus, metering, AE, speed, aperture, mode, frames Viewfinder . . . . . . . . .Fixed eyelevel pentaprism w/ diopter adjustment
Lens . . . . . . . . . . . . .not included LCD screen . . . . . . . .2" TFT, 235,000 pixels
Lens mount . . . . . . . .Nikon F Mount w/ AF coupling, AF contacts Battery type . . . . . . .4 AA Ni-MH
Focusing . . . . . . . . . .Single AF, continuous AF, manual Weight . . . . . . . . . . .1.9 lb. without battery and lens
Shutter speed range .30 sec. to 1/4000 sec., bulb, X-contact Dimensions . . . . . . . .5.8 x 5.3 x 3.1 inches
Exposure control . . . .Auto, manual, Aperture/Shutter priority, programs Included . . . . . . . . . .Battery charger, shoulder strap, LCD cover, IEEE 1394
Exposure metering . .3D-10 Matrix, center-weighted, spot and USB cables, software, clamp filter, eyepiece and camera bodt caps, AV cable

and 400%, which I found confusing terminology. You 23 mm, a size that produces an approximate 1.5X multi- 4256 (12.1 million) pixels, which means that the camera
can also allow the camera to automatically make this plication factor of the lens focal length. This extra magni- firmware must be interpolating the missing pixels when
choice for you. For my testing I shot a number of pho- fication is really great for adding extra reach to your tele- the secondary sensor elements are turned off. You can also
tos in each manual mode as well as many in which I let photo lenses or the long end of your zoom lenses, but really shoot at lower resolutions of 2016 X 3024, 1536 X 2304,
the camera make the decision. I found that it worked wreaks havoc on wide-angle lenses, turning a 28mm wide and 960 X 1440 pixels when you don’t need the full res-
better when I made the choice myself based on the sub- angle into a 42mm boringly normal lens. Getting real wide olution. Additionally, you can shoot in JPEG or 14 bit
ject since the automatic selection didn’t make the choice shots requires ultra-wide lenses or zooms that go ultra-wide RAW. Fuji’s RAW files carry the .RAF file extension, and
I would have made in many cases. The Super CCD SR on their short end. Neither option is inexpensive, although can be opened with Photoshop CS and CS2, as well as
II sensor allows the Fuji S3 to offer effective ISO speeds more lenses have become available in this once-exotic range with Fuji’s own software. I found no need to use Fuji’s
from 100 up to 1600 without significant noise at the and prices are coming down. software since I was already working with Photoshop CS2
higher ISO equivalent settings. I did some test shots at There are 6.17 million of each type of sensor element when I was testing the camera. The Fuji S3 incorporates
all of the ISO settings and found that noise was just be- on the imaging chip. Thus, when the secondary sensor el- automatic file rotation, a feature all cameras should have.
ginning to rear its ugly head in the 1600 shots. For most ements are turned off, the Fuji S3 is a 6 Megapixel cam- When I first started working with files from the test cam-
applications this means that the full ISO range is com- era. When both sets are active, there are 12.34 million ac- era this feature was really flaky, working sometimes and
pletely usable. tive sensor elements, and the S3 becomes a 12 Megapixel not working at other times. A question to Fuji elicited the
The active area of the sensor chip measures 15.5 X camera. Images at the highest quality setting are 2848 X information that there was a firmware update available on
their web site for download. I downloaded and installed
I don’t know if it will show up in magazine reproduction but se- the new firmware, a very simple process, and the automatic
lecting the widest possible tonal range has retained detail in the
darkest parts of this old bridge without losing highlight detail. file rotation worked flawlessly. This brings up an impor-
tant point. Whenever you buy a new camera the very first
thing you should do is visit the manufacturer’s web site
and check for firmware updates. Check to see that the cam-
era you bought has the latest version of the firmware, and
if it doesn’t, you should upgrade immediately. This can
save you a lot of headaches.
One feature I found interesting is that the camera
offers what Fuji calls Virtual Film-Simulation Function.
This has two settings, one for less saturation and contrast
and one for more saturation and contrast. I would have
called them Astia-simulation and Velvia-simulation, since
that is how they look to my eye, although the setting to
boost saturation does not produce as much saturation as
I get from scanning my old Velvia transparencies. I found
myself boosting the saturation in Photoshop on nearly all
of the images I shot with this setting. I really liked having
this choice, though, since it simplified my Photoshop work
on the final images.
Another bit of flexibility I like is the dual card slots
that are revealed when you pop open the door on the back
of the camera. The upper slot accepts xD cards and the
lower slot CompactFlash cards or Microdrives. I’m not a
big fan of xD cards simply because they are so small and
I have a propensity to lose little things in my chaotic of-
fice, so I was happy that I could use my collection of Com-
pactFlash cards. Others without my tendency to lose things
can happily snap away on their xD cards. Better yet, put
in one of each and double your shooting capacity.
It is impossible to go into every detail of this new
camera in a review such as this. But Fuji has put the com-
plete brochure on the Finepix S3 Pro on their web site as
a PDF file. Just go to www.fujifilm.com and you will find
this camera under Consumer Products/Digital Cameras.
58 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com
Top: I found that when I let the cam-
era automatically select its tonal scale
it worked pretty well most of the time.
These tomatoes look just as I remem-
ber them from the outdoor market.

Above: Sometimes the camera did not


automatically select the tonal range I
would have picked leading to blown
out highlights in the yellow apples on
the right of this shot.

Left: The enhanced color mode, which


I called Velvia mode, was just right to
bring out the colors and textures in this
rusty metal.

Right: After parking on an upper lev-


el of a parking garage I made this shot
of reflections in the side of a glass build-
ing. The camera was set to automati-
cally select tonal range, and seems to
have got it exactly right in this shot.

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 59


FEATURE
emember that old Epson

R printer that’s stored


somewhere? The one
gathering dust in the attic or base-
ment because you couldn’t bear to
part with it after you bought that
new super-duper model? Well,
check the sidebar to this article and
if it’s on the list, give it shake and
wake it up—it’s about to spin out
longer-lasting images than it ever
thought it could.
Even with new dye-based inks
formulated to extend print life, pig-
ment-based inks will give you
longevity that lasts for generations.
Pigments withstand light, humidity,
ozone and temperature variations
much better than dyes, which is why
most printer manufacturers are
gradually moving over to them. Dye Furthermore, MediaStreet says
based inks will gradually fade away they have patented a technique
(yes, that’s a pun ) and hundreds of thousands minis- that keeps their pigment ink
of printers will be left high and dry. cule particle sizes ranging from .12 to .18 particles from agglomerating
But MediaStreet (www.mediastreet. microns won’t clog up printer nozzles de- (sticking together) which some other pig-
com), a third-party ink and paper manufac- signed to spray small dye droplets. Since the mented inks are prone to do, and that results
turer, offers a pigment-based ink just for those smallest nozzle opening on an Epson print- in continually clogged printheads. This, obvi-
older (and even some newer) printers. They head is 25 microns (that’s twenty-five, not dot ously, is not a good thing because at best it
claim their specially-formulated Generations 25)—it’s as easy for MediaStreet’s pigment requires multiple cleaning cycles that waste
G-Chrome Ink virtually matches (and in some particles to pass through the printhead as it ink and at worst can totally incapacitate your
cases exceeds) the rich color gamut of Ep- is for a flock of chickens to strut through an printer if you don’t use it regularly.
son’s own pigment-based inks and that its open barn door. Having several older Epson inkjets hang-

Using archival dye


inks in an Epson
pigment ink printer
60 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com
MediaStreet Compatible Epson
ing around, I decided to test the process on a Sty- used essentially stays the same.
lusPhoto 870 that had been used on one of our What I found to be a killer, though, is that the Printers, and Cleaning Tips
digital photography workshop cruises and then printer has to think a lot more about where to
stored. The first step was to clean its nozzles thor- place the increased number of dots. So what used Here are the Epson printers that will accept
oughly with a special cleaner called Jet Jrano to take me 2:20 to output a 6 x 8-inch print, now MediaStreet’s G-Chrome inks:
(try pronouncing that, though if you’re from Sara- took 8:05, quite a bit longer. Another down side is
jevo it should be easy). I downloaded MediaS- that I had to be careful not to run my hand over
treet’s 7-color-purge pattern image, snapped in the surface of a glossy print until it dried thor- • 780 • 785EPX • 825 • 870
the two cleaning cartridges and ran about a dozen oughly or the ink would smear. Overnight usual-
cleaning cycles until the paper showed no ink. ly did the trick. Lustre and matte surfaces, though,
• 875DC • 890 • 900 • 925
Because the printer had been in storage for about dried quickly. • 1270 • 1280 • 3000 • 7000
four years, it required more cleaning cycles than Aside from longer print life, there’s a mod- • 9000 • R200 • R300 • R320
if it had been in use, but there’s more than enough est saving by using MediaStreet’s pigment inks;
cleaner to do the job and plenty left over to flush they’re about 10-15% less expensive than using If your printer has been sitting around
out the printhead again should you decide to re- the manufacturer’s inks. I ran 26, 8 x10-inch prints awhile, you should make sure it’s functioning
vert to dye-based inks. By the way, nothing dras- before the color cartridge was depleted (black properly before switching to pigment-based
tic will happen if you still have a few drops of the was only a third gone). Figuring a 3:1 ratio of col- inks. It may need several cleaning cycles to
old ink in the printer’s system; it will quickly be or to black, the cost of ink for each print would be
clear the nozzles so they lay down a proper
overpowered by the new ink. about $2.10 (a cartridge set costs about $68.00
Now the moment of truth. I popped out the and paper prices vary according to their sur- pattern. If you still have dye-based ink car-
cleaning cartridges and inserted MediaStreet’s faces). I found the color quality to be just fine, tridges in the printer, start by running a nozzle
pigment ink cartridges. Setting my printer to 720 though if you want the best results you should check to see if the printer is functional.
dpi and its speed to high (the combination I had use MediaStreet’s color profiles, available at their Epson printers go through progressively
always used with good results) I knocked out my site. That puts your output in the more capable stronger cleaning cycles so if the first doesn’t
first print. Bummer! I had faint white lines running hands of your imaging program rather than at the
do the trick (as determined by printing out a
through sky and other solid-colored areas. OK, mercy of the printer driver. Profiles also optimize
let’s read the instructions. Aha! “Use the highest the output of the ink so you can get better results nozzle check pattern), keep going. After
dpi setting on your printer and turn high speed at lower dpi settings. three cleaning cycles (checking the nozzle pat-
off.” At 1440 dpi, that produced a much better re- What if profiles for the paper and dpi set- tern after each one), print an image (or the Me-
sult—there were still some faint white lines in the tings you might want to use aren’t available? No diaStreet color pattern) and run a nozzle check
sky areas but you really had to make an effort to problem. MediaStreet will custom-make as many
again. If it still shows an irregular pattern, run
see them. Other areas of the print were fine. (If profiles for you as you want—at no charge! While
my printer had been capable of 2880 dpi, Medi- other firms might slam you for $40 to over $100 some more cleaning cycles in groups of three.
aStreet assured me that every print would be per- each for custom profiles, you can download a col- Don’t overdo the cleaning cycles. If the
fect. As it turned out, about 95% of them were fine or target at MediaStreet’s site, print it out, send nozzle pattern continues to show gaps in the
at 1440 dpi.) it to them, and they’ll email you the profile in just same places, let the printer sit overnight, which
Why the big deal about using the highest a few days. This allows you a perfect match be- will usually help dissolve clogged ink, and then
printer resolution (which lays down tween your printer using their inks
run some cleaning cycles (in threes) again. If
smaller dots of ink)? You need small- and papers– or any manufacturer’s
er droplets of ink with pigment- paper that you want them to profile. that still doesn’t do it, you can try an easy “in-
based inks because the dots do not Now that’s a deal! dustrial strength” cleaning method
spread out and blend together as It was good to hear my old (http://tinyurl.com/5motv).
they do with dye-based inks; there- printer humming along again. I was Why not just clean your printhead with Jet
fore many smaller dots must be able to justify being a pack rat—it’s
Jrano from the beginning? Because you’ll have
placed closer together to give the hell for me to throw anything out, I
appearance of a smooth, continu- mean, you never know when it no way of seeing the whole nozzle pattern
ous tone. Most people avoid using might come in handy, right? Now, since Jrano is a clear liquid. Jrano works best
higher dpi settings because they at least, one of the hundreds of ob- when used to flush dye-based ink from a print-
think each higher multiple uses twice solete and useless items I have er that is printing up to specs, with all nozzles
as much ink. Not so, says MediaS- stashed away finally has proved my firing cleanly. If you must use Jrano as the first
treet. What the printer does at high- point, thanks to MediaStreet.
step (because you may not have a set of func-
er dpi settings is simply break up larg-
er dots of ink (that would —Arthur Bleich tional cartridges in your printer), be sure to run
normally a nozzle check with the G-Chrome ink after it’s
be laid been installed.
down at Finally, always leave ink cartridges in Ep-
lower
son printers when they are idle or in storage
resolu-
tions) because the cartridges create a seal against
into air entering the ink feeding system which can
smaller interfere with the nozzles firing correctly. If this
ones— happens, a few cleaning cycles will usually
the vol- take care of it. –AB
ume of ink

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 61


IMAGING WORKSHOP Al Francekevich

If you put the words “Photoshop Actions”


into Google, you’ll come up with 1,020,000
hits! These include actions that are for sale and
a remarkable number that are totally free.

Lights,Camera,
n action is a series of computer
Actions!
color photograph. When you run the action, it you slide the saturation value to the right, the

A commands that can be saved and


used to accomplish repetitive tasks.
You can write your own action and
save it for future use. You have to
be perfectly logical and specific in your com-
mands or else it won’t work. You can’t record
every command in an action that you might
does the following things:
1. It copies your color photograph onto a new
layer and desaturates it so it appears to to black
and white.
2. It adds a Hue Saturation adjustment layer al-
ready pre-set to Colorize with the Hue slider set
to 30 and the Saturation slider set to 25.
picture gets more sepia and eventually becomes
a very vivid and garish orange. If you move the
hue slider, the picture changes to a number of
toned photograph treatments from green to blue
to brown, etc. If you really like to play, you can
change the opacity of either of these two lay-
ers and you’ll get a blend of pure sepia and full
want to, and it usually takes me a few tries be- The beauty of this is that you don’t have color. You can also put a mask in the middle lay-
fore a homemade action works perfectly. to know any of this—your picture is automat- er and by painting in it with a medium value of
Photoshop comes with a bunch of pre pro- ically a pleasant sepia. If you like to play, like black, you can make part of the picture color
grammed actions. One that I like is the sepia many of us, you’ll open the Hue saturation and part sepia.
toning action. You start with a single layer adjustment layer and fool with the settings. If Most actions work this way. Some of

◗ “Porcelain Skin” - A retouching action from craigsactions.com was used on this portrait of my wife Janet. It gives you a result in layers in which you can
decide what features are sharp and which ones are soft focus.

62 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com


them merge the layers as their final step. In the
actions palette, you can uncheck this final step
if you want to play with the layers. Some actions
stop and ask you to input different values to suit
your taste. The author of the action can’t antici-
pate every type of picture or the taste of the
user.
I think most people like to use actions because
they do something without too much user in-
volvement. For the curious crowd, actions are very
educational because you can see how the author
went about creating a certain effect.
What got me started with my exploration of ac-
tions in general was the announcement by Kodak
of a free series of actions that augment their
plug-ins that I wrote about in the January 2005 is-
sue of this magazine (“Four Amazing Plug-Ins
from Kodak”). These actions are free, but you have
to own the plug-ins for them to work. I used their
Air Dimensional action on my self portrait. It
modifies what their Gem Airbrush Professional plug-
in does. My illustration in January of a fashion mod-
el’s face was a straight application of the plug-in
used full strength and it was perfect. When I
used this filter on portraits of “civilians”—people
without make-up or special lighting, the full
◗ “Puzzle” - A jigsaw puzzle effect from actionxchange.com. I ran it with 20 pieces but it can be run strength version looked artificial. I got around this
with 30 or 56 pieces as well. Each piece is its own layer so you can turn off pieces or even copy them
and move them. by running the plug-in on a separate layer and us-

◗ “Midnight Sepia” from atncentral.com produces a full color effect ◗ “Air Dimensional” — Kodak’s action that works in conjunction with their Gem
that has a sepia feeling. Airbrush Filter produced this result automatically on my self portrait.

ing a mask, applying it where needed to smooth out skin but not using it on
hair and other details that were better sharp. The beauty of using this free ac-
tion is that it somehow does this automatically and produces a result that does-
n’t need further work. I can see portrait photographers running this action with-
out even looking, it’s that good. Further information on this and the other ac-
tions for the other filters is available on their site at www.asf.com.
Another source for a series of actions that are geared to professional por-
trait photographers is www. craigsactions.com. These are for sale and
evolved from Craig Minielly’s very successful Canadian photography studio
that operates under the trade name of Aura (www.auraphotographics.com).
Craig told me that he wanted to standardize effects that he had perfected over
the years and put them in a form that other people on his staff could run them
even if he wasn’t standing over their shoulders. Some of his actions are very
advanced such as converting files to CMYK as preparation for printing
brochures and ads. The ones that I favored were the ones that worked on peo-
ple’s faces. I used his Porcelain Soft Skin on a portrait of my wife Janet. Craig
has two versions of this. In the first, the whole picture turns soft and you paint
in the details on the mask to restore the areas you want sharp (hair, eyes, lips).
In the second version (the one I used), the soft layer is hidden by a black
mask. At first the picture looks like you haven’t changed it at all. Here the
object is to paint in the mask using a white brush to soften the areas you
want to smooth out - mostly skin. This action and the Kodak Air Dimen-
sional are similar but not identical. The Porcelain Soft Skin action is more
ethereal looking and the Kodak Air Dimensional flatters the subject
without appearing to diffuse.
Two other sites that sell actions are www.fredmiranda.com and
http://actions.home.att.net
Fred was a pioneer with actions and first wrote an interpolation ac-
tion that increases the size of a digital photo file in 10% increments. Up
till Photoshop 7, this was one of the best ways to interpolate a picture.
The interpolation in Image Size in Photoshop CS, using Bicubic Smoother
largely eliminated the need for “staircase interpolation” although some
experts still use it along with bicubic smoother. Now Miranda has a mul-
titude of actions that do various things at very moderate prices.
Noel Carboni is a long time amateur photographer and a professional
software engineer. He has a set of actions called dSLR Tools that he sells
for $15. Noel has identified certain common problems in digital photos
and wrote this set of actions to deal with them. So far I’ve only tried a cou-
ple of them before the deadline of this issue and they work well. dSLR
Tools contains many actions in one package.
Next I went to www.actionxchange.com which immediately took
me to an Adobe site. Here there was a wealth of downloads , both ac-
tions, brushes and tutorials. Adobe wants you to log in and pick a pass-
word. I downloaded an action called “Puzzle effects”. It was written by
Panos Efstathiadas and allows you to turn your picture into a jigsaw puz-
zle. You can choose the number of pieces - I used twenty, but you can
go to as many as 56. The way the puzzle is constructed, each piece is a
separate layer. That way you can turn off pieces and see through the puz-
zle to another image, or even copy and move a piece. The action paus-
es when the first piece comes up and lets you change the direction of ◗ “Sepia” — This interesting sideview was produced using a sepia action
that comes with Adobe Photoshop.
the light and the emboss effect. Once you accept it, all the pieces are ren-
dered the same way. The pieces are not simply a line in the shape of a students and I photographed in my old advanced studio class at SVA. It
jigsaw piece. They have a three dimensional look with a highlight and turned a commercial still life into a painterly classic looking still life. I think
shadow, just like a real jigsaw puzzle. A beautifully designed fun action. it would work well to create a perfume ad effect. Very pretty.
A friend told me about another site - www.atncentral.com. This con- The same site contains many other interesting actions which I haven’t
tains many actions some of which are beautiful, some are funny, and some tried as yet. They should keep me busy for quite a while. ◆
are utilitarian. I liked one called “Midnight Sepia, V2” by Dave Jaseck. Al Francekevich is an award-winning advertising photographer who teaches studio tech-
It produced a dark soft romantic look which I applied to a still life that my niques and digital imaging at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Casio EX-Z750, continued from page 47 using the LCD as a viewfinder in direct sunshine, so I doubt I’ll
Overall image quality from this camera is excellent for its class, ever need the optical.
if a bit on the overly saturated side. This can easily be minimized if The Z750 is the best thin-zoom yet from Casio. It’s a
you find your results a bit too Disney for your taste. gleaming marvel of miniaturization, feature innovation, and
appealing user interface design. –DM
Movie modes
This camera offers a boatload of features for moviemakers. The
MPEG quality is high. You can now use Casio’s Best Shot mode
with movies, making it easy to adjust to challenging lighting
situations. the Past Movie function lest you capture five seconds
of motion before a still shot is taken, and the Short Movie setting
lets you create an 8 second movie centered on a still in the
middle. You can use Motion Print to select up to eight frame to
convert to a still photo, and Movie Playback Zoom lets you
zoom in and move around within a playing movie. They’ve even
included three editing modes to eliminate unwanted “footage.”
When your masterpiece is done, you can pop the camera in its
dock and use the new AV out jack to connect it directly to your
home theater equipment.
With all this functionality, still Casio managed to make the
X750 even slimmer by beveling the edges of the case. the optical
viewfinder is ridiculously tiny, but it works. I had no trouble
64 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com
REVIEW Epson Perfection Photo 4990
A second, more detailed look at a powerful, affordable scanning solution

66 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com


T
here’s no question about it: digital
photography is here to stay and there
are more than a few photographers
who’ve made the jump entirely from film.
Instead of checking their slides with a loupe,
they’ve graduated to “pixel peeping” the LCD
on the back of their digital cameras, check-
ing for sharpness and good exposure. How-
ever, film has certainly not disappeared and
there are still many people who prefer it. Fur-
thermore, chances are good that most pho-
tographers who now shoot exclusively with
digital cameras still have quite a few
slides and negatives tucked away Adobe is up to version 3.0 of its El-
somewhere. A good film scanner ements software), ABBYY Fine-
might be thought of as a “roset- Reader Sprint OCR, Epson Scan
ta stone,” easing the transition driver with Epson Easy Photo
from the old ways to the new and Fix and a new Epson Copy Util-
even giving some long-forgotten ity. There is an option for selecting
shots a new lease on life. or de-selecting which components
Most affordable scanners designed you wish to install or not, as the case
for home use fall into two categories: may be.
dedicated film scanners and flatbed Once everything was set up and
scanners. The former is designed to working properly, I started off with
accommodate only film while the lat- some reasonably well-exposed
ter can scan prints too. 35mm slides that I shot on a trip I
Not too long ago most would made to Hawaii last fall. The Ep-
agree that flatbed film scanners son Scan software has three
were not quite ready for prime modes to choose from: an Auto
time. Those early models added mode for beginners, an Inter-
film scanning as an after-thought mediate mode with more scan-
to a device that was primarily ning options, and an Expert
designed to scan documents level offering the most control
and prints. Sometimes scanning over the scanning operation. I
film meant the purchase of an selected the expert level and
extra adapter and the results were dove right in.
barely good enough for an 8x10 I happen to own a much old-
inch print. Epson can take credit for er “cousin” of the 4990—an Epson
refining the flatbed film scanner with the in- vers prior to connecting the scanner, which 2450 scanner—and was hopeful that the new
troduction of its latest model, the Epson 4990 supports both USB and Firewire connec- model would be a noticeable improvement;
film scanner. I must confess that I had my tions. I chose USB to connect to my PC. The I was not disappointed. The Epson 4990 gave
doubts. Could this new device really deliver installation was a breeze and my Windows me scans with much better shadow detail
a noticeable improvement over my old Ep- XP system had no problems with any of the than my older model was capable of. The
son 2400 dpi scanner? hardware or included software. colors were spot-on using my calibrated
The 4990 arrived at my door with Epson’s monitor and the scans really did justice to
usual attention to packing detail. Setup was Software bundle extraordinaire the saturated Velvia film that I used while
relatively easy; just be sure to follow the well- Speaking of software, Epson has pulled out shooting on the Big Island. A 2400 dpi scan
written instructions closely for unlocking all the stops and includes quite a bundle: of a 35mm slide took a little over a minute,
the scanner’s carriage mechanism. Epson is LaserSoft Imaging SilverFast 6.0 SE, Adobe which is certainly an improvement over my
also very emphatic about installing the dri- Photoshop Elements 2.0 (minor gripe here; older model.

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 67


REVIEW

The Hasselblad Test


Next, I tried some good old 6x6 slide and color negative print
film that I shot using my trusty Hasselblad medium format cam-
era while on a trip to Yosemite a few years ago. Many of the shots
were taken in bright, afternoon sun and thus there was quite a
bit of contrast. This scanner handled it all with aplomb. In fact,
there was shadow detail in the scans that I had never noticed be-
fore when using my old 2400 dpi scanner. I made a few prints us-
ing my Epson 2200 and must say I was impressed by the results.
For anyone who has spent hours de-spotting negatives and
slides, the included Digital Ice software can be a God-send. Even
though scan times are increased substantially it’s worth it because
I can walk away and do something else while my scan is “cook-

68 DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE www.digicamera.com


Epson Perfection 4990
General Specifications
• Flatbed single pass color scanner
• 4800 dpi optical resolution
• 4900 X 9600 dpi max hardware
resolution with Epson Micro Step
Drive
• 48-bit color scanning with 4.0
dynamic range for transparencies
• 16-bit grayscale scanning
• Color CCD line sensor
• USB 2.0 & FireWire (IEEE 1394)
• Maximum Read Area: 8.5" x 11.7"
• Zooming: 50% to 200% (1% step)

Scanning Speed
• High Speed Scan mode - (4800 dpi)
• Monochrome (bi-level): approx 12.3
msec/line
• Full Color - approx. 12.3 msec/line

Outstanding Features
• Digital ICE for film and photo prints
automatically removes surface
defects
• Epson Easy Photo Fix technology for
color restoration, dust removal and
grain- reduction
ing.” I try to keep my slides and negatives Verdict: What’s not to like? • ColorTrue II Imaging Technology
stored properly but dust always manages to After using this scanner several weeks I feel • Advanced driver with Automatic,
sneak in and a few of my older negatives had that I can recommend it wholeheartedly. Home and Professional modes for all
managed to get a nasty scratch or two. I Sure, if you have the money you can buy a skill levels
could have easily spent an entire evening more costly dedicated film scanner that will • 8x10 transparency adapter with a
squinting at my monitor, zapping spots with likely deliver moderately better scans, but moving carriage and lamp optimized
Photoshop’s clone tool. Fortunately this was the Epson 4990 will still give results that are for film scans
unnecessary for the most part and I found in the same ballpark as some that cost three • New Scan Progress Indicator
only a few problem areas that managed to times as much and the more expensive scan- • 4.0 Dmax
out-fox the Digtial Ice software. ners can’t scan a print if called upon to do • All bundled software is compatible
I did find that sharpening the scan using so. For most photographers who don’t need with Macintosh OS X 10.2x to OS X
Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask is quite neces- mural-sized prints this will likely be all the 10.3x
sary—even more so for my medium format scanner they’ll ever need. • Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and FireWire (IEEE
scans. However this came as no great sur- What’s not to like? While the film hold- 1394) interface standard
prise and once I found the appropriate ers are an improvement over my old Epson’s,
amount and radius, the results were excel- they’re still a bit flimsy and I suspect easily Software Bundle
lent. Scanning at its highest optical resolu- broken. I must admit that they do do a much • LaserSoft Imaging SilverFast 6.0 SE
tion (and 48-bit color depth), the resulting better job of holding the film flat than the • Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0
files were so huge they threatened to use up old Epson’s film-holders did and that can • ABBYY FineReader Sprint OCR
most of my available disk space; fortunate- be very important for obtaining a good, • Epson Scan driver with Epson Easy
ly I didn’t need mural-sized prints so I set- sharp scan. As mentioned earlier, it would’ve Photo Fix
tled on scanning my 6x6 negatives at 2400 been nice if Epson had been able to work • New Epson Copy Utility
dpi. This gave me the ability to compare re- something out with Adobe so that Photo-
cently-made prints with some I’d made a shop Elements 3.0 could have been bundled Dimensions & Weight
few years ago with my old Epson 2450. I with the scanner instead of version 2.0. Oth- • 18.7” x 12” x 5.3” (L x W x H)
must say there’s no contest; the 4990 prints er than those two admittedly small gripes I • 14.8 lbs.
win hands down with a big improvement in cannot think of any reason not to recom-
shadow detail—most likely due to the much mend the Epson 4990 flatbed scanner very Contact: www.epson.com
improved 4.0 Dmax rating of this new scan- highly indeed. –Beau Hooker
ner. Street Price: $449

www.digicamera.com DIGITAL CAMERA MAGAZINE 69


View Finder
Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Zoom, Zoom
o, this is not about Mazda and its weird nification properties of the lens to bring you can only use it in the lower resolution modes of

N “zoom-zoom” commercials (though I’ve


owned two Mazda rotary engined cars I
never understood that one). It’s about our kind
closer. Optical zoom uses all the pixels in your
camera. Even at full zoom, image quality will be
as good as without zoom. Digital zoom is dif-
the camera. You set a 5-megapixel to, say,
1024x768 mode. The camera then makes use of
all the unused pixels to create a much better
of zoom, the twist of the lens that brings you ferent. This is simply a trick. “Zooming” here digital zoom image than you’d get otherwise.
closer. means nothing more than zeroing in on part of There are other similar tricks. And often you ac-
Zooming seems hardly a topic worthy of an your picture, then enlarging the picture by dou- tually get very good pictures by applying digi-
entire column, but when it comes to digital cam- bling or tripling the size of each pixel. You get tal multiplication wisely. Just don’t go for the
eras it is. Not for experts perhaps, but for those no more detail because there is none. You sim- maximum combined zoom and expect a razor
relatively new to digital cameras who have to ply get a low resolution, blocky picture no mat- sharp image. Incidentally, if you do plan on us-
make a decision what to spend their money on. ter how many megapixels are in it. ing the digital zoom, having a camera with an
So I want to point out a few things about zoom- Fortunately, only a few digital cameras “anti-shake” feature helps to steady the pic-
ing and digital cameras, what types of zoom these days have nothing but digital zoom. It’s ture (as does, of course, a good old-fashioned
there are, and what to look out for. mostly the really tiny, ultra-slim ones. I’d stay tripod).
Interestingly, while almost every digital away from those. You can actually get very How much zoom do you need? The stan-
camera has a built-in zoom lens, that really was- small, very slim cameras that have real optical dard today is 3X optical, and that isn’t bad. How-
n’t the case with film cameras. Most just had a zooms—more on that in a minute. If you do have ever, one gets spoiled and these days I find I
standard fixed lens, and if you wanted to get a digital camera that only has digital zoom, don’t want more. 3X just doesn’t get you close
closer you either cozied up to the subject if you use the zoom. You’re better of taking a picture enough, and for all the reasons mentioned, I
could, or you marked up the print and then and then using your image editing software to generally stay away from digital zoom. Fortu-
asked the photolab to enlarge the part you were zero in on the area you want to enlarge and nately, 4X and even 5X optical zooms are be-
interested in. You could get zoom lenses of make the best of it. coming more common even in lower priced
course, but mostly for single lens reflex cam- Most digital cameras today actually have cameras.
eras. I had a couple for my succession of Nikon both optical and digital zoom (just as most cam- For those who want to get closer yet, there
SLRs, but among serious photographers they corders do). You may have seen labels like is a whole class of cameras with massive op-
were frowned upon as an easy way out, a short- “3X/4X.” That means 3X optical magnification tical zooms ranging from 8X to 12X. Such big
cut tool that took the art and craft out of taking and 4X digital magnification. Sometimes you zoom lenses generally dictate the shape of the
pictures, a lens that was a jack of all trades but might see a claim like “18X” total zoom. They camera. Don’t expect 10X optical in a sleek lit-
a master of none. That may or may not have get that number by multiplying optical zoom tle compact. However, if you don’t mind a de-
been so, but for digital cameras it’s irrelevant times digital zoom. By now you probably real- sign dominated by its lens, some of the big-zoom
(unless, of course, you’re a hard core photog- ize that 6X optical times 3X digital is much bet- cameras are amazingly small, light and handy.
rapher who thinks that zoom lenses are an easy ter than the other way around. And there is truly nothing like having a massive
way out). Above I said that today even very small optical zoom when you need it. With a 10 or 12X
Anyway, when I got my first real digital cam- cameras can have optical zooms. Thanks to camera you can discreetly stand away from the
eras back in 1997 or so I was surprised that amazing miniaturization and ingenious folding action and yet be right in the middle of it. That
most had an internal zoom. I quickly found out mechanisms, the likes of Minolta and Sony have can let you make shots you’d otherwise never
why. If you only have 640x480 or 800x600 pixels found ways to put a full 3X optical zoom inside get. Keep in mind, of course, that optical zooms
to work with, you couldn’t take a picture and tiny cameras without the lens barrel sticking create a different look. They “flatten” the im-
later enlarge the parts you liked. The resolution out at all! That’s because the lens actually age by bringing the background and foreground
just wasn’t there. The resolution of those early moves back and forth inside the little body and together. Our eyes and brains do notice when
digicams was so low that you always had to get then uses a mirror system so that the lens nev- something is out of the ordinary. It can be an
as close to your subject as possible. You sim- er protrudes from the camera. I love that tech- interesting look, but be aware of that.
ply couldn’t afford to crop later. A zoom helped nology as I dislike lenses that motor out by an Finally, for those who know a thing or two
because it let you get closer, thus getting inch or an inch-and-a-half from an otherwise about photography, make sure you understand
halfway decent pictures even at the low imager very sleek and compact camera. I like to be able the correlation between digital camera zoom
resolutions of the day. to take an ultra compact with me and simply data (like 5.8 to 17.4mm) and traditional film cam-
So a tradition was born. Digital cameras slide it in my pocket when I don’t use it. That’s era zoom specs (like 38 to 114mm). Both are 3X,
have zooms. It’s hard to find one that doesn’t. easy with one of those little wonders with com- but while film cameras always use the same
For some reason, 3X has become the standard. pletely internal optical zooms, and more cum- numbers because the film is always the same
3X means that the picture you take at full mag- bersome with those that have a zoom lens mo- size, with digitals you may see 4.6 to 13.8mm or
nification looks as if you were about three times tor in and out. 6.7 to 20.1mm and both mean 3X. That’s because
closer to your subject. A final word about digital zoom: not all dig- digital imagers come in many different sizes.
So let’s talk a bit about what to look out for ital zoom is useless. Some of the leading digi- So now that you know a bit more about
with zooms. First, make sure you have a very tal camera companies have found ways to clev- zooms, go and get the kind of camera that suits
clear understanding of the difference between erly enhance the usefulness of digital zoom. your needs. And experiment a lot. It’s fun and
“optical” zoom and “digital” zoom. Optical zoom Some use tricks that make digital zoom act al- it’ll help you get the most from your digital cam-
is the real thing. It actual uses the optical mag- most like optical zoom. The secret is that you era. ◆

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