The Online Photographer

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Random eBay Instruction

Encountered on eBay:

Seller's payment instructions
I accept PAYPAL, personal cheque (UK only), credit card (THROUGH PAYPAL ONLY) and cash if by recorded delivery. BUYER MUST COMPLETE WITHIN THREE DAYS. Please do not bid if you are unable to settle the payment or are simply mad.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Size is Relative


This really doesn't have much to do with photography, but it's kinda cool. From Rense.com. (Go to the link to see the rest.)

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Black Furious Over 'Photo Snub'

Hollywood star Jack Black is reportedly furious that he hasn't received any multimillion dollar offers from magazines for photos of his new son Samuel.

The King Kong star blames the recent spate of high-profile births for "flooding the market." He said, "We do have some offers from some major magazines. Popular Mechanics was talking about something. To tell you the truth I'm a little insulted, 'cause nobody cares about my sweet baby. The market is flooded. Tom Cruise has got his baby everywhere! Nobody cares about Baby Black!"

Result of web search: Samuel Black tells Paula Webb, "Stop bothering me and stop following me" in the Charlie Chan film "The Shanghai Cobra." (Note that this is probably the wrong Samuel Black.)

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Durst Ceases Production of Enlargers

Durst AG of Brixen, Italy, a longtime world leader in the manufacture of photographic enlargers, will cease production of enlargers on the 31st of July (i.e., Monday).

Durst's production peaked at 107,000 units in 1979, the high water mark of the home darkroom hobby. That was the year that Paul Steptoe founded Darkroom Photography magazine. Seaton Preston, a chemist with an interest in photochemistry, began Darkroom Techniques magazine a year later.

Last year the total number of Durst enlargers sold was in the hundreds. The company says the decline has been long and gradual, beginning in 1982, and mentions that the advent of minilabs and 1-hour processing started the process lately finished by the advent of digital technology. Durst has been making enlargers for 70 years, since 1936.

Durst will continue to manufacture digital photographic products and will provide service and parts for existing enlargers directly from its website.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with a tip o' the hat to O.G.
Photo: Trinity College

Banquet Camera Shot


Thought this might be fun. Crew shot from a traditional New England Barnraising. Shot with a 7x17-inch Korona.

Details: The Korona camera was manufactured in the 1920s. The lens used was a Schneider G-Claron 305mm, bought new around 1999. Film was Ilford HP5-Plus developed in PMK pyro and scanned. Exposure in blazing overhead summer sunlight was 1/4 second between ƒ/45 and ƒ/64 which was sufficient to record deep into the shadows.

Web Site with Picture Galleries and workshop information

Posted by: CARL WEESE

Friday, July 28, 2006

'Meeting' and 'Beating': Relative Terms

I'd think I'd probably better clarify this perhaps overly dramatic statement I made in the previous posting:

"In B&W mode, it's the first digital compact that meets and beats [35mm] Tri-X."

Well, maybe. I shoot 35mm Tri-X using in-camera metering with the exposure index set according to the light: E.I. 200 for most subjects and general shooting, E.I. 100 for contrasty (usually bright) light, and E.I. 400 for flat (usually low) lighting conditions. I develop it all the same, 8.5 minutes in D-76 1+1, and control print contrast (naturally) with contrast filters and VC paper. (I detailed this further in one of my columns a few years ago in Black & White Photography magazine, and if I could find the issue I'd tell you which one it is. Have I ever mentioned that I'm not the most organized person in the world?) It's a practical, utilitarian system that yields high-quality negatives in most lighting, while not requiring the hassle and labor of developing individual filmstrips for specific shooting conditions, which is sort of practical with 12-exp. 120 film but almost always a great annoyance with 35mm unless you're working with three camera bodies (this puts me in mind of Dan Weiner, who did exactly that...).

Enlarged using a high-quality enlarging lens and a diffuse light head enlarger I'm almost always happy with enlargements of 7 diameters (7x10.5") and sometimes 8. I would say I get up to 8 stops of subject luminance reliably covered in the prints. I could probably claim 9 and get away with it.

(Damn, as I write this I'm already seeing that a rigorous comparison between 35mm Tri-X and the F30 would be educational for me and informative for others. Another set of trials I really don't have the time to carry out.)

Previously, the best small-sensor digicam I owned was the Sony F-707, a really nifty camera that yielded barely adequate results in color and was essentially useless for B&W except under controlled or ideal conditions.


Here's one of the best low-light pictures I made with that camera. It was shot at ƒ/2 and 1/30th at E.I. 320. It has worse "grain" than Kodak P3200 shot at 1000 and probably no more than—I dunno, what would you guess? Three stops of range, maybe four, about like slide film. Way too little for the picture to work in B&W, at any rate.

So I've been using the little F30 in B&W with compensation set on –2/3 or –1 to help hold highlights. If you go back to my F30 shots posted the other day, you can see that the "highlight" of the sunlit macadam in the background of the first shot is totally blown. The second shot, below, makes DR easier to guess—it was a hot, hazy/sunny but bright day. Again, I didn't meter anything, so I'd have to guess based on experience, but what would you say that's giving me? Five stops with tone and detail? Maybe as much as seven. (I'd be interested to hear Carl's take on this, as he's particularly good with this sort of thing.)


So anyway. The F30 beats Tri-X for speed, which is a first in a digicam for me. It approaches it in DR, although that's about all. Tri-X has latitude for additional underdevelopment, but digital files have the nuclear option of the Shadow/Highlight control in Photoshop, especially in B&W where chroma noise isn't so much of a limitation in the shadows as it is in color. Finally, 6 megpixels prints pretty well at 7x10.5".

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

F30 on DPReview

Dpreview.com has published its review of the Fujifilm F30 digicam. In his conclusion, Simon Joinson says, "To sum up, the F30 is far and away the best low light compact camera on the market today, bar none."

I have to admit I bought one of these a few weeks ago. Like most digicams, it's not much fun to use—fiddley menu interfaces driving you crazy. But its high-ISO results are within shouting distance of those of some DSLRs. You can use ISO 400 without penalty, and ISO 800 is fully usable by my standards. In B&W mode, it's the first digital compact that meets and beats Tri-X.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

It's All Good

I'd like to say a special thank you this morning to Lightcrafts.com— makers of the ingenious and innovative LightZone image-processing software—for its generous support of this site. We appreciate all of our sponsors, of course, past, present, and future. All summer, however, Lightcrafts has done more than any other single entity to keep this site alive and hopping, and, as we head into the Fall, it has made it viable for us to consider making this website a permanent feature on the web for the entertainment of photographers and enthusiasts from all over the world.

Every day I receive kind words about The Online Photographer and every day I receive generous offers and gestures of support both moral (thanks) and material (double thanks). But, really, there's no need for us to set up a contribution channel or anything like that: if you like T.O.P. and want to support it, just remember to click on our advertisers' ad links from time to time and go take a look at what they have to offer. (It's all good.)

And if you like what you see, of course, buy it. LightZone is available as a plug-in for $99 and as a stand-alone application for $149. It's available for both Windows and Macintosh and there's a free 30-day trial offer. Check it out!

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Interview with Ted Orland

I’m a big fan of Ted Orland’s books (especially Art and Fear [with David Bayles] and The View from the Studio Door), so I’m delighted to be able to point readers to an in-process online interview of Orland.

The interview started this past Sunday, it’s still going on, and it looks like it’s going to be well worth following.

Posted by: PAUL BUTZI

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Camera Age / Technology Age


by Paul Butzi

It’s interesting to read the threads and comments on the age of cameras, and I’m very impressed that Oren regularly uses his Eastman No. 2. But the real issue isn’t camera age, it’s technology age. That is, when asking someone “How old is your main camera,” we are skipping part of the real question, which is “How old is the photographic technology you use?”

Until recently, my main camera was either a Linhof Technikardan 45s or a Leica M6. Both of those cameras are pretty old technology. The M6 is a specialized beast, and it would be hard to do the same work with another camera, but the Linhof is just a view camera. I could do the work with pretty much any other field camera, including ones made as much as 80 years ago. But I use modern film and developer—I use Tmax-100, which was reformulated by Kodak not long ago. That means the newest part of that technology chain (even if I’m doing traditional gelatin silver printing instead of my current hybrid digital workflow) is just a few years old.

My point here is that your 50 year old view camera or your 22 year old M6 have gotten many, many technology upgrades. You can put E6 film in them that incorporates the very latest advances in film, and your technology chain will be newer than someone working with a two year old Canon EOS-1ds. In contrast, once you buy a digital camera, you’re locked into the "film" that can be used with it, forever. (the obvious exceptions would be removable digital backs like those for medium format cameras, and things like the Leica DMR).

So don’t tell me how old your camera is. Tell me when the manufacturer last revised the film you use. Because if you’re loading your Leica CL with Fujichrome 64T, your technology chain is newer than my digital Canon EOS-5d by about five months.

Posted by PAUL BUTZI



Featured Comment by Fras: Very good points, but, to a degree, the same arguments can be applied to the digital world with the question "What raw converter are you using?"

In my catalog, I've got Nikon NEF files, Leica RAW files and Konica-Minolta MRW files.

I've used Nikon Capture, Adobe Camera Raw (in Photoshop Elements 3), Rawshooter Essentials and Premium and lately, Adobe Lightroom Beta.

Each new product, or iteration of a product brings new possibilities for all of my images and sometimes subtle, sometimes significant, improvements in the end results.

Cloud

Today's picture on Imaging-Resource's Photo of the Day Contest rocks.

Posted by: EOLAKE STOBBLEHOUSE

Old and New, Young and Old

48-year-old Nikon S3 kit owned and used by sbug

I wasn't trying to make any great big point with yesterday's question. Oren and Carl and I and a few others had been having a semi-private discussion about planned obsolescence, and I mentioned a furtive memory of Porsche having once designed a so-called "20-year car" that was over-engineered, understressed, and underpowered and meant to have a normal service lifespan of the eponymous two decades. It never got built, the beancounters having decreed (if my memory serves) that there was no market for such a thing. I mentioned that my first digicam, a five year old, 3-megapixel Olympus I paid $700 for, is broken, un-fixable, and now worth exactly $0.

Oren noted—tongue only partly in cheek—that he doesn't use 5-year cameras or even 20-year cameras, but 100-year cameras. So I asked him which of his cameras in full, frequent use is the oldest. Turns out it's his 6.5x8.5 Eastman No. 2 that dates from 1914-1920—not quite 100 years, but close enough for government work.

The latest technology in 1914

We're in a curious phase right now. At best, we're just barely coming out of the "incunable" era—the crucible years—of digital, during which upgrading has been natural if not downright mandatory because of the march of the technology. (Who uses a digital camera from 1996?) It's possible things have settled down such that people might actually be using cameras 10 years from now that they own today. But, if so, that's a relatively new potentiality. My own "main" camera is a little more than a year old.

Respondants to my question seemed to break down into a main group using digital cameras for very short times and a subgroup using film cameras for considerably longer times. It's tempting to see this as a "advantage" of sorts for film cameras, but of course that's not really fair, because film cameras are a substantially mature technology. Allowing for the accordion-bellows compression of the pace of progress compared to 150 years ago (though it was pretty rapid then too), similar things happened to film in its early days: few photographers were using the same cameras in 1869 that they were using in 1849, I'd venture to say. That's 20 years, not ten, adjusted for inflation. Still, the march of "sensor" technology from Daguerreotype plate to flexible film wasn't exactly slow, considering.

Last night Oren said he spent the evening sanding and drilling a 6" lensboard to mount a Wollensak Verito for his 6.5x8.5 Eastman. An 11 1/2" Verito, which was the focal length intended for use on whole plate. Ca. 1920s, which makes it more or less contemporaneous, too.

Fun stuff. I envy Oren his hobby, as I envy sbug his nearly-half-century-old S3 and people still using Leicas and Rolleicords. There a lot to love left in the old technology. Still, most of us are fledglings these days, and for ample good reason.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Product Lifespan, and All That

Off to Costa Rica (family portrait)

Here's an interesting question.

First, bring to mind your "main" camera—the one you use most often, or feel most comfortable with, or do your most serious work with.

Now the question: how old is it?

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by Walfredo Cirne: ...I actually like cameras as much as I like photography (they're two different, although related hobbies). So I end up buy[ing] 2 cameras a year, on average.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Tourist Remover

I really have no idea if this is a joke, or serious, or not a joke but just funny....

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to D.R.

Featured Comment by Ken Tanaka: A bit of a gimmick-cum-come-on, perhaps aimed at folks who enjoy creating different digital versions of their images ( ;-> Sorry Mike, couldn't resist.) but don't know photo software. It's cute.

Related story;
Several years ago two guys with a pocket-change budget but great patience and talent created a short film called 405: The Movie. It's an astonishing, and hilarious, bit of indy filmmaking that's worth seeing (the link leads to an online version).

At one point in the movie they show what appears to be an evacuated 405 freeway (near L.A.). Clearly this would have been impossible, even with a much larger budget. So how in the world did they do it?

Basically, the same way as the folks above. They set up their video camera and filmed the freeway for a period of time (presumably while traffic was actually moving). Every spot on the freeway was vacant of cars at some frame in that footage. They re-assembled the frames of the footage, collecting all of the car-vacant spots, to create footage that makes it look like the freeway was evacuated. Very clever and extremely effective.

Random Excellence

Reflected Ferrari by Sam Javanrouh


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

New SanDisk Extreme IV

New SanDisk Extreme IV cards succeed Extreme III as the world's fastest. Looks like we'd better update our endorsement.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Inquest Confirms Clarke Took Own Life

Amateur Photographer is reporting this morning that Bob Carlos Clarke indeed took his own life, as had been suspected. Chris Cheesman writes, "Photographer Bob Carlos Clarke 'took his own life' after [sic] being struck by a train in London on 25 March, an inquest has heard. The award-winning photographer died after he threw himself in front of a Waterloo-bound train at the White Hart Lane level-crossing in Barnes, southwest London. Kingston Coroners office told AP this morning: 'The deceased took his own life.' Carlos Clarke worked in many areas of photography including fashion, advertising and photojournalism. His untimely death stunned the photographic world. Before he died the 55-year-old had been a patient at The Priory hospital in Roehampton where he was understood to have been undergoing treatment for clinical depression. The coroner confirmed that he died of multiple injuries."

A major British commercial and fashion photographer known for his erotically-charged overtones, Clarke's best-known picture may be his simple still life of two forks seemingly locked in an embrace.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to E.S.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Fun with Photoshop, Part I

Sally and Doug fishing

I realized recently that I really do like working on digital pictures in Photoshop. It's just fun. In fact, it seems suspiciously like more fun that it should be.

One holdover I carry with me from film is a prejudice against "working" too much on prints, or, in digital terms, picture files. My principle was always that if I concentrated on making good negatives, the prints would take care of themselves, and my prejudice was that the more I had to work on something, the worse it was going to end up looking. I'd always do whatever work needed doing, of course, but I'd get progressively more grumpy and fatalistic about success as the job proceeded. The best negatives are easy to print, which is why I'd always start out my Photo 101 classes by having kids make prints from "perfect" negatives.

Florian out after bluegill. This pretty much just opened up this way. So I left it alone. Hey, why make extra work for myself?

This doesn't seem to hold true with digital files, though. As long as you don't just butcher them, there's really not a "right" and a "wrong" amount of manipulation they can take. I do tend to spend more time on files that need help—naturally—but sometimes it's just fun to see what can be done with what. I'll open an underexposed file just to see what I can do with it, or just play with different filters and see what happens. I hesitate to admit this in public, but sometimes I download other peoples' pictures from the web and futz with them, too, because I want to see how they'll look when I do 'em the way I'd want 'em.

Cleaning the catch

Bluegill filets

So nice you can correct it twice

Often, what I'll do is to open up a file in ACR with normal color corrections, then just start to fiddle and diddle. Try one thing, try another, back up and start again, try this'n'that to see how it works. Then when I'm all done I'll close out that file, reopen another copy of the raw file, and do it all over again.

It's funny, but it often looks better the second time around—it must be easier to get somewhere when you know where you're going.

Before (above) and after (below). I pretty much did with this just what I would have done with the same picture in B&W.



Another of my peculiar habits is that even with color pictures, I'll sometimes convert them to black-and-white just to see whether they still work that way—even when I intend to make the final version color. Maybe it's just me, but I find that pictures that would have worked in B&W work better in color, too. And sometimes, too, solving the picture's problems in B&W makes it more evident what the color version needs, too.

Blue sundown. It made me unhappy to leave so much blue in this, but that's the way it looked. And that peachy/pinky color above the trees on the right looked like that, too.

One thing I've pretty much promised myself is that if I have to work in color, dang it, then I'm at least going to use the minimal amount of saturation I can get away with. (In my opinion, the digital world has been Velvia'd to death—98% of amateur digital pictures are oversaturated, making the photographed world brighter and happier than the real thing by far.) If you refrain from oversaturating, the subtleties start to emerge.

Room for one more? The normal impulse would be to open up the shadows—except this is how the scene actually looked. Think of the color palette of naturalist painters from Rembrandt to the Hudson River School, Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins....

It has always been helpful to me to try to remember what the original light looked like, and not overcorrect based on assumptions. It's awfully easy to look as a scene and think, "Hmm, too green," and correct the green away, without remembering that the light at the original scene was greenish, too.

Another thing I've had to get used to is that there's nothing at all sacrosanct about the camera's decisions. A negative "wants" to print a certain way—if you force it to look too different from what it wants to look like, the results can be unhappy. But with digital, there's nothing like that. So I don't tweak. I just grab those sliders and slam those buggers back and forth from one extreme to the other, and narrow down on what looks right. I don't care if it's 10% or 90% from what the camera thought it should be. What does it know?

Gina, on the right, made 19 funny faces for the camera. This was the 20th. Patience!

The hardest part is not knowing how, but knowing what. Some pictures just don't require Velvia saturation, or a standard range of tones, or white-light colors. With Photoshop (or LightZone, or Paintshop Pro, or or whatever program you choose), you can try everything, and just pick what works. So why not?

Sally and Doug by candlelight

Here's one last picture for those people who were lecturing me on my resistance to the march of progress in the form of Fuji's face-recognition technology—as if I just want it to be 1940 again. This was taken at 1/3rd of a second by the light of two candles, made possible by in-camera Anti-Shake, probably my personal favorite new camera technology since AE. What, me, a Luddite? What works is what works, I say.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Mixed CD


Rocco DeLuca & The Burden: Speak to Me (2:52)
Field Music:
Feeding The Birds (2:15)
Corinne Bailey Rae:
Put Your Records On (Acoustic) (3:36)
Zero 7:
Simple Things (4:24)
Talk Talk:
New Grass (9:40)
Muse:
Supermassive Black Hole (3:30)
Regina Spektor:
On the Radio (3:20)
Lali Puna:
Faking the Books (4:00)
Malcolm Middleton:
A Happy Medium (3:01)
Calexico & Iron & Wine:
Prison On Route 41 (4:10)
Brightback Morning Light:
Milwok Shapes (5:49)
Seu Jorge:
Don’t (3:07)
A Band of Bees:
It Isn’t Exact (Demo) (3:55)
La Mouche:
The Road (5:25)
Mulatu Astatqe:
Yègellé Tezata (My Own Memory) (3:18)
Vivien Goldman:
Launderette (3:45)
Mùm:
We Have a Map of the Piano (5:17)
The Raconteurs:
Together (3:58)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Two If By Night

Unlike Ctein, who really does have just one name, Weegee (real name Arthur Fellig) actually had two. Brassai's real name was Gyula Halàz—he came from the town of Brasso, in Transylvania, from whence he adopted his nom de guerre. (I was just trying to keep things topical, without having to resort to Cher and Yanni and the rest of the usual suspects.)

One of Brassai's great strengths was as a photographer of the night, both figuratively (left, for instance) and literally. When I was younger, it was easy to find remainders of Pantheon's 1987 reprint of Brassai's great 1933 book Paris de Nuit, which, like the original, was printed in gorgeous heliogravure (you can still find a copy for under $50 if you look).

Adam Moore, One Way, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Which seems as good a way as any to seque to Andy Frazer's night photography blog. Andy describes it as a niche within a niche, but it's a rich subject, as many photographers (Michael Kenna is one who comes to mind) have learned. If the subject appeals to you, don't miss The Nocturnes Gallery either.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Who the Heck Is...

CTEIN?

Ctein. Photo by Chaz Boston Baden

Short Take: Photographic technical expert with one of the best and longest track records of any photo magazine writer not currently dead or institutionalized; determined to be the last of the master dye transfer printers; and a heck of a photographer. Trained in physics at Cal Tech and a veteran of the sci-fi scene (those two things not necessarily related). Lives in California with an ocean view and "several demented psittacines."

How you pronounce his name: Kuh-TINE.

Does he have another one? Nope, just the one, like Weegee or Brassai.

A taste: Click on the picture at left for one sample, called Red and Green Auroral Rays, Havre, Montana, 1986. Ctein has an extensive online gallery of his pictures, although dye transfer is one of those alternative processes that really needs to be seen in person to be appreciated.

Quotes: Although I certainly consider him a friend, I've only met Ctein in person once, a dozen years or so ago. We were to meet up on the streets of San Francisco, and I was concerned about how I'd recognize him. "You can't miss me," quoth Ctein. "I look like a radical gay Jewish hippie cross between Rasputin and Jesus Christ." This did not sound promising, but the instant I saw him down a busy street I thought, yup, there's Ctein.

On photo technique: "If you can't see it, it doesn't count."

Books:
Current: Post Exposure: Advanced Techniques for the Photographic Printer, Second Edition, Focal Press, 2000.

Soon to be released: the long-awaited "doorstop opus," Digital Restoration from Start to Finish, slated to be released by Focal Press just in time for the holidays (in case you were wondering what to get for everyone on your gift list). Ctein turned in the manuscript on June 1st. The final specs are 85,000 words of main text and 30,000 words of captions (including 70 task-oriented how-to's), accompanied by over 500 illustrations. There is no pricing information available yet, but as soon as the pre-publication sale starts we'll announce it.

Website

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Previous posts in T.O.P.'s "Who the Heck Is...?" series:

Katy Grannan
Cosmin Bumbut
Kim Keever
Camilo José Vergara

Friday, July 21, 2006

Fuji to Discontinue Bulk B&W 35mm

by Dirk Rösler
Remember the saying "film is cheap"? Those days are gone—or at least going. Fuji has announced the end of production for Neopan black and white films in 100-f00t (30.5 meter) bulk roll format, scheduled for March 2007. The films will continue to be available in pre-loaded cassettes, and of course other formats like 120 and sheet. Still, the symbolism of bulk rolls disappearing seems a big deal. As a seasoned photographer with relatively low consumption I may not care paying double the price for a roll. Bulk loading has always been the realm of artists and students looking to save money and maintain shooting extensively. This option, in Japan at least, will disappear. Will future photography students bother to explore film when the cost of a roll of 35mm black and white film may approach $10?

Contrary to the raging debates involving the phrase "film is dead" in the past years in various photography web forums, film will not disappear—not completely, anyway. Film will always be there, but at a sacrifice: higher cost, less variety and choice, probably lower quality, and less reliable ongoing supply of your favourite film/developer combination. In the most extreme case, think about film being put on permanent life support, kept alive only because a generation of photographers do not want to let it fade away. Time will pass and a new generation of image makers will come, wonder why, and perhaps finally pull the plug.

Posted by: DIRK RÖSLER

Featured Comment by Mark: "I didn't even know that B&W Fuji film was available in bulk rolls. I'm a bulk user of Ilford, anyway."

Researchers Claim Progress in Device to Disable Digital Cameras

Prototype anti-camera device at Georgia Tech

From LiveScience.com

"Researchers [at Georgia Tech] have built a prototype device that disables digital cameras. Future versions might thwart unwanted photo-taking at a specific location and even prevent clandestine videos from being made.

"The technology might one day prevent espionage in a building or stop pirating of movies from theaters.

"It could even be used to stop Mom from taking pictures of her child with Santa to avoid paying for the professional shot.

"The device uses sensors, lighting equipment, a projector and a computer to scan for, find and neutralize digital cameras. It looks for the reflectivity and shape of the image-producing sensors used in digital cameras. Future versions might operate in the invisible infrared range so the neutralizing technology would work unnoticed...."

READ ON

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to R.S.

Featured Comment by Robert Roaldi: "Ok, but where are the cell phone jammers? That's what we really need.

"What about BS detectors? Man, could we use some of those.

"But what we really want is a time interpolator. Take a picture of a bank at 10:00 am and then again at 10:30 am and then interpolate to 10:16 am when it was being robbed and catch the guys.

"Seriously though, if they could plant these anti-digicam devices at those target-rich New York city bridges, we might not have to read about all those photographers being hassled by security guards that are protecting us from terrorists...."


Mike Comments: Don't anybody kid themselves...this technology is being developed for one purpose, which is to prevent the use of stationary videocameras in darkened commercial movie theaters, and that's pretty much all.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

20 Days to Go

...Till the new Nikon DSLR arrives. It's probably a replacement for the aging albeit still excellent D70s.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to A. McA.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lightroom for Windoze

Not sure exactly when this happened, but Adobe Labs has made available its long-awaited Lightroom Beta 3 download for the Windows platform.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to A.G.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

July 17th: Ken Tanaka

Ken Tanaka, Chicago, July 17th, 2006

Wow, terrific image by Dan Mitchell. It lowers my blood pressure just to look at it.

Actually, the date completely slipped my mind (not that it ever took firm hold). But fortunately I inadvertently acted in defiance by shooting this. The time stamp is 23:39!

I'm sure glad that I didn't take this picture. (A little sarcasm.)

Posted by: KEN TANAKA

July 17th: G. Dan Mitchell

G. Dan Mitchell, Early Morning, San Francisco Bay, July 17, 2006

Not exactly a non-photography day, but it was affected by the heat.

I live in San Jose, California where we have also had tremendously hot weather for a few days. (It doesn't make the news because it isn't unusual here.) Yesterday was a "Spare the Air" day on which all Bay Area transit systems provided free rides ini order to get people out of their cars and lessen air pollution.

What they don't know is that it is actually a "Support the Photographers" day since one can travel all over the SF Bay Area without having to pay for gas or parking. (This does discriminate against view camera users, since it is a lot easier to tote SLR gear without the car.)

In any case, I got a train from San Jose before 6:00 am and I was on the San Francisco waterfront a few minutes after 7:00 a.m., and watching the lovely morning light on the Bay.

Posted by: G. DAN MITCHELL

My Non-Photographing Non-Photography Day

Funky Nail Polish Prostrated by Heat

Well, my non-photography day turned out to be rather non-photographic after all. We've been suffering a heat wave in Wisconsin, and yesterday was the third day with the mercury crowding 100°. Naturally, the air conditioning in the car cut out at the onset of the heat. Years ago I explained to Zander, who was then six or seven, about mnemonics, and asked for his help in thinking one up to help me remember our license plate, which begins "FNP." Without much of a pause he said, "How about flying ninja turtles? Or funky nail polish." I've called the car Funky Nail Polish ever since. So our only real trip yesterday was to get Funky's coolant flushed and the oil changed, and to make an appointment to get the A/C fixed.

Apart from that, we hunkered in the house to wait out the miserable weather, and not much photography got done. I'm not enough of a hothead to swelter just for the sake of being contrary. Come to that, a lot of my days are non-photography days. I did have a digicam with me, though, and was not forced to immerse myself in the direct, unmediated experience of the muffler shop, savoring every moment.

So did anybody else take any pictures yesterday?

Automotive contradiction in terms: the Mufflers & Pipes super AMC Gremlin

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sony DSLR Review

Cameralabs.com has reviewed the Sony A100.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to A.G.

What's the Purpose of Advanced Technology in P&S Cameras?

by Oren Grad

I think Mike's classification of the purposes of camera technology didn't get it quite right, especially his first two points. The problems of ease, speed and simplicity of use were largely solved long ago, with the original Kodak camera of 1888: "you push the button, we do the rest". My 127-format Brownie Fiesta R4 camera, 80 years later, was every bit as simple. With fixed focus, fixed aperture and fixed shutter speed, there was nothing to do but point the camera and push the button. (OK, you had to decide whether to use a flashcube. But not really: the rigid rule was, indoor=flashcube, outdoor=no flashcube.)

What added technology has really accomplished is to vastly expand the range of conditions under which a camera aimed at the casual user will produce pictures of reasonable quality, while keeping down the cost of manufacture. There are only so many situations you can handle if all you have at your disposal is 1/50, f/11 and focus fixed at 6 feet; by comparison, today's autoexposure, autofocus cameras can do a passable job under an amazingly wide range of picture-taking conditions. There have been a few improvements in convenience—for example, the LCD in digital cameras allows the reassurance of seeing immediately whether the picture "came out". But in general, the principles of cost containment and of improving the camera's effective operating range rather than its handling at the point of exposure remain the primary drivers.

Of course, "reasonable quality" is a subjective judgment that, in the end, is up to the user. I'll be very surprised if the face detection feature in the new Fuji gains much traction in the marketplace, because I doubt that it will make a difference that most P&S users will be able to see, let alone be willing to pay for.

But here's something I wonder about. "Scene modes" are now standard in virtually every camera aimed at the non-hobbyist user. The amount of microprocessor power and memory needed to include these is now small relative to the capability of even inexpensive chips, so from a vendor's point of view there's nothing to lose. That's clearly intended as a quality-optimizing technology: in return for making one extra decision—are you shooting Junior's soccer game or his birthday party?—you get a bundle of situation-specific camera settings that should increase the odds of getting a consumer-pleasing snap. But you do have to be willing to study the instruction manual for long enough to figure out what the little icons mean. And you have to remember it three months later, when you dust off the camera again for the next special occasion. Is that one decision too many, and more hassle than it's worth? Does anybody actually use scene modes?

Posted by: OREN GRAD

A Theory of Camera Gadgetry

I was surprised by some of the comments I got after deploring the, er, superfluity of Fuji's "face recognition" software. Apparently this is seen by some as technology coming to the rescue of the humble snapshooter, who doesn't want to make art—the virtuous, unpretentious user who innocently can't detect where the faces are in the viewfinder, or determine which face is the "primary" face and which merely secondary. Software to the rescue.

It seems to me that there are three sorts of technology built into cameras. The first makes operating the camera easier, faster, and more direct. The second makes it easier to operate the camera without needing to learn anything about it. The third makes it more appealing to buy the camera, because the technology sounds nifty and will give you bragging rights out at the barbecue—okay, maybe that's inflammatory; let's just say it will be a conversation starter while you're showing off your new toy. I call this last type "WYAFY" technology, for "wipes your ass for you." ('Kay, that's not inflammatory. :-)

The real dichotomy here is very simple. It's between people who want to master their cameras and people who don't want to. The former includes most hobbyists; the latter, most consumers. Is this a "moral" issue? That is, is there something virtuous about mastering your camera and being able to use it comfortably and quickly? I don't think there's any way it can be interpreted that way. Rather, what dedicated photographers know that maybe a lot of consumers don't is that being comfortably in control of the camera and aware of how it's working (and why) is more fun, more effective, less stressful, and more satisfying.

I don't know where the impulse comes from to defend WYAFY features. Dedicated photographers—that's us—are the ones who are supposed to know that if people are frustrated by the complexity, opacity, and recalcitrance of their equipment, the solution is more knowledge and fewer absurd technological fixes—not more.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks again to RICHARD SINTCHAK

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Glorious Grain?

Our friend Mitch Alland has instigated a thread on photo.net concerning the aesthetic quality of high-ISO noise as "grain" with the Ricoh GR-D. Don't miss the links to Kei Nakamatsu's cool stuff.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

If You Think You Need This, Kill Yourself

Honestly, every now and then something comes along that just makes me wish I were involved in a different area of human endeavor altogether. Fuji is now making a camera with built-in "face recognition" software:

"Fujifilm’s Face Detection, the latest addition to its suite of Real Photo technology components, operates exactly as its name implies, identifying up to 10 faces in a framed scene. Once users select this function, the camera simultaneously displays a green rectangle around the top-priority face and a white one around other faces. Using this information, the 6.3 megapixel FinePix S6000fd adjusts its focus and exposure accordingly to ensure the sharpness of human subjects, regardless of background. Even if the subject is off to one side, the camera will automatically focus on the person rather than trees in the background or objects in the foreground." (PIR)

We've drawing ever closer to that Big Brotherish Universe I lampooned in the 1980s with the Auto-Crit, a camera that provided a crawl in red LEDs below the view in the finder spelling out the picture's shortcomings and suggesting improvements. Johnston's 13th Camera Law: The more decisions the camera makes for you, the lamer you are. This camera is aimed at a market that is lame indeed.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by Hiding Pup: "Once upon a time, your local chemist would stick stickers on your rubbish pictures that told you why they were rubbish. I would love to see a Fuji-specific sticker that read:

" 'Fault with image: underexposed. Possible reason: Face Detection algorithm assumes two eyes and a nose per face. All your subjects are turned sideways....' "

Friday, July 14, 2006

Half Sympathetic

There are several interesting discussions in the various web forums about "nonphotography day"—a proposal by Becca Bland from Brighton, England that we take July 17 as a vacation from photography, and concentrate instead on appreciating the moment instead of trying to capture it for posterity.

As a photographer with kids, I’ve often been torn between wanting to photograph that jazz band performance and wanting to just listen, or to just cheer my kids on when they run cross-country instead of make photographs of them. As a result, I’m more than half sympathetic to Ms. Bland’s point of view.

On the other hand, as a landscape photographer, I think I’m rarely as engaged with the world around me as when I’m out and about with the camera, particularly since I’m the sort of photographer who likes to visit the same spots over and over and over.

BBC news article

The official ‘nonphotography day’ website

Posted by PAUL BUTZI


Screw 'Non-Photography Day'

Yeah, yeah, I know all about "Non-Photography Day," and I think the whole idea is stupid. I photograph because it helps me see, deepens my experience, increases my awareness, and heightens my appreciation. There's absolutely no conflict, from my point of view, between photographing something and experiencing it. Nobody photographs all the time. But for me there's nothing to take a rest from, and no reason not to do what I normally do. I take pictures because I like to, not because I feel some onerous obligation to. I know one thing I'm going to do on July 17th: spend some time out and about with a camera.

Posted by: MIKE ("Bah Humbug") JOHNSTON

Must Have Lost Their Heads

A top art gallery in Britain displayed a block of slate topped by a small piece of wood as a work of art, unaware that it was merely the plinth for a missing sculpture. The Royal Academy in London later admitted that it was confused because the plinth and sculpture—a human head by artist David Hensel—were sent to the museum separately. "Given their separate submission, the two parts were judged independently," museum officials said. "The head was rejected. The base was thought to have merit and accepted." —The Week, June 30, 2006.

READ ON

Posted by DAVID EMERICK



Featured Comment by Kevin: "Keeping up with the avant garde is always a risky business."

J and C Photo Goes For Broke

"As many of our customers know we have spent the last few months looking at how to best provide as many film choices as possible. We have looked at many was to bring new films to the market. This includes plans going forward right now to operate our own coating facility and producing high quality films in various formulations.

"Over the next 18-24 months we are planning on introducing the following films to the market. All films we produce will be available in 35mm roll and sheet film formats...."

READ ON

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON and OREN GRAD

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Egons Spuris

Egons Spuris (Latvian, 1931–1990), A Fairy Tale
George Eastman House Collection


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Always-With-You Camera


by Paul Butzi
Browsing the posts on T.O.P. from the last two weeks, I’ve been fascinated by the posts abuut small digital cameras like the Canon IXUS and the Fuji F30. I’m particularly struck by Fazal Majid’s comments, which mirror my own views: I want a digital camera that does what my lovely little Contax T3 does.

Two years ago, I took a family vacation, and the only camera I took was the Contax T3; my daughter took her Canon A75. With a couple of CF cards, my daughter photographed like crazy and didn’t have much muss or fuss; I used the T3 with wild abandon and had to hassle with getting my film hand inspected or x-rayed, etc. After that, I decided that the next vacation I’d take a digital camera instead of the Contax. This time, I took my somewhat aged Canon A95. My entire photo kit (camera, a spare set of lithium AA’s, a case filled with CF cards) was delightfully small. I missed my T3, which is an old and trusted friend, but the A95 acquitted itself well.

To me, the current crop of small digicams falls down on several points, though.

First, there’s the viewfinder. The viewfinder on the T3 is awfully darn good; crisp and bright, with brightlines marking the edge of the frame. You can see beyond the edge of the frame, a la the Leica M6. By comparison, the viewfinders on all the compact digital cameras I’ve used are hopeless, small and squinty and dark, with no parallax correction and with no real indication of where the frame edge is (often, they show only 80% or so of the frame), and with appallingly small exit pupils and horrible eye relief.

Second, there’s the lens. My little Contax T3 has a fixed focal length, 35mm ƒ/2.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar. When I first got the T3, I was stunned at the quality of the photographs I got with it; the lens is really good. We can argue about the merits of non-zoom lens, but frankly I don’t feel a pinch with the T3, and I’d happily settle for a fixed focal length lens in a digital compact camera, provided I got a lens of the same quality as on the T3. It’s fairly flare resistant, it’s low in distortion, it’s reasonably fast, and it provides a really pleasant rendering of most subjects.

Finally, we come to the crippling fact about digital cameras. In my T3, I can load whatever film I like. I’ve exposed countless rolls of Kodak TMY in that Contax, and been delighted with the tradeoff of grain, speed, and the tonality. I’ve loaded it with various versions of color film, too, switching from one color film to another as improvements came out and improved the grain/speed tradeoff. If by chance an amazing wonderfilm is released tomorrow, I can buy some and put it into the T3, and away I go. In contrast, when you buy a digital camera, you buy a lifetime supply of film (the sensor in the camera) and no amount of wishing will change it. As the sensors improve, this becomes less and less of an issue, but I note that after I viewed the photos made with the Fuji F30, I’m interested enough to go out and take a look at one. The noise characteristics look like quite an improvement over my A95.

Finally, there’s the jpg thing. I know that the majority of users will use the camera in jpg mode, but please—give me raw images, preferably in DNG format so that I can use a decent raw converter instead of the brain-dead software provided by the manufacturer.

Fix those problems in a package the size of my Contax T3 and throw in image stabilization, and I’m there with my credit card, ready to buy.

Posted by PAUL BUTZI

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Getting A Quick Grip on LightZone

by Ken Tanaka
The growth of digital photography's acceptance and sophistication is spawning a new generation of tools aimed principally at making photographers' workflows more efficient. Adobe's Photoshop has unassailably occupied the pinnacle of image editing tools for a very long time, and will likely continue to do so. But Photoshop has grown to become quite a behemoth that serves a broad spectrum of users. As photographers we generally use only a small, core subset of its vast array of tools. Making common, simple image adjustments with Photoshop can sometimes seem like doing yard work with a bulldozer.

Today a new generation of tools, such as Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture, is just beginning to emerge in recognition of photographers' specialized needs. While LightZone does not attempt to deliver the inclusive image processing environments that Aperture and Lightroom do, it's nevertheless an excellent example of this new generation of image processing tools designed to deliver more intuitive and efficient capabilities to photographers.

I'll be frank. When I took my first swings with LightZone I was not immediately charmed. Although it's billed as being "intuitive," 10+ years working with Photoshop must have established a new sense of intuition in my psyche. Tonal curves with control points are intuitive to me. Luminance histograms with 3-point level sliders are intuitive to me. LightZone's stack of gray bars underneath a jagged gray-scale thumbnail of my image was not intuitive to me. So I set the demo aside.

But having since spent some quality time with LightZone I've given it a permanent spot in my quiver of image editing arrows. I don't consider myself a LightZone maestro yet, but I think I can at least help others get a quick grip on what LightZone is and to get past some initial misconceptions.

Rather than attempt to duplicate the excellent LightZone overview that Uwe Steinmueller presents at OutbackPhoto.com or to retrace some of the many thoughtful comments that have already been posted here on T.O.P., I'll present a brief fly-over of the product in a Q&A format.

Q: Is this some type of weird product for Ansel Adams nuts?
A: This may seem like an odd question but it's the one that first came to my mind when I saw the LightZone name. The short answer is no. Although Adams might have liked LightZone it really has nothing to do with his (in)famous "Zone System." Nor is it primarily aimed at landscape photographers (another initial misimpression I had). It's an effective tool for any type of photography.

Q: What makes LightZone different?
A: In a single sentence, LightZone's user interface design for tonality adjustments is what makes it different than any other image editor. LightZone doesn't really enable you to do anything to an image that you could not do with Photoshop or many other editors. But its "zone mapper / zone finder" interface can often get you to the main goal of your editing quicker.

For example, when you first load a camera raw image file (or a DNG file) into LightZone you will see a "zone finder" (the gray-scale thumbnail) and a "zone map" (the stacked gray bars). These represent approximately eight f-stops of exposure in half-stop increments. (Each gray bar in the zone mapper represents 1/2 stop.) As you move your mouse over the zone mapper the corresponding areas of exposure in the zone finder will light up in yellow. That's very cool.

But here's where the magic really starts. By raising or lowering the divisions between those zone map bars you effectively adjust the luminance of those exposure zones as well as the contrast between those zones. These adjustments can be made to the entire image or be limited to specific regions that you outline using any of LightZone's region masking tools (bezier curves, splines, or polygons). You can stack any number of these zone map adjustments as you work and, rather like Photoshop's layers, you can name them to keep track of their purpose.

LightZone features other common editing tools, such as an hsl adjustment, general contrast mask, sharpness filter, et. al. Each of these ancillary tools can also apply to either the entire image or to a specific masked region. But LightZone's crown jewel is clearly its zone mapper and zone finder.

Q: Is LightZone just a RAW image converter?
A: No. It's certainly a very worthy raw converter and shines when fed 16-bit images fresh from a camera sensor. But it's also perfectly capable of working on 8-bit JPG image files. When opening a JPG, however, you won't be greeted by an initial zone map. LightZone creates initial zone maps for raw images based, apparently, on a default profile for the camera identified in the file.

Q: Will LightZone save me any time?
A: Probably not initially, but with just a little familiarity it very well might save you a great deal of time. I recently had a very short time to prepare an image for a magazine. I cannot display the image here (until it's published) but it was scene of a theatrical performance on a large sailboat at night that required some significant luminance balance adjustments. I could have used Photoshop to make the adjustments but instead chose to give LightZone a try. I finished the job in less than two minutes (well, mostly...see below). It would certainly have taken me at least 10-15 minutes in Photoshop.

Q: Sounds promising. What's the bad news?
A: LightZone is a version 1.x product at this writing. Errors and omissions are to be expected, so it would be a bit unfair to be too critical at this writing. Here are a few gotchas that I've found a bit vexing.

Printing: Yes, you can print an image. Yes you can specify a color profile at print time but you cannot use a profile to soft-proof during editing (see below). The results I've gotten when printing to an Epson R2400 (using LightZone-managed color) have not been keepers but I'm not sure why.

Metadata lost: LightZone does not preserve an image's metadata, such as the IPTC and Exif exposure records. Remember that sailboat image I mentioned above? Well, fortunately I checked its metadata before I transmitted it to the magazine. Mostly gone! A quick trip to Photoshop remedied the problem, but it's really a detail that should have been caught even in a 1.x version.

Zone map controls: The zone mapper is an entirely manual control. The only way to make adjustments is to drag zone boundaries with your mouse or tablet sylus. It really needs to offer a numerical entry method and/or an arrow-based control. The boundaries between zones and zone locks get extremely narrow and we don't all have the steady hands of 18 year olds any more.

No provision for working color space or soft proofing: You can specify a color profile when you save LightZone edited images. But you cannot specify a working profile for a newly opened image. This is a matter that really should be remedied soon as it lies at the heart of tonality adjustment judgements.

Sluggish re-rendering: I admit that I've become spoiled by Photoshop's generally unobtrusive re-rendering speed. It seems that LightZone's translucent rendering progress indicator spends a great deal of time on the screen. You can control the frequency of re-renderings but I suspect most Photoshop users won't welcome having to think about such matters.

File formats: LightZone saves its results (and edit status) principally into 16-bit TIF files. It sure would be nice if it could write its edit status metadata into the Adobe DNG file format and/or to side-car XMP files for manufacturer-proprietary raw files. One more set of files, particularly large files, is not something many of us want or need.

Summary
LightZone is the first truly innovative image editor I've seen in a long time. I cannot say that it's more powerful than Photoshop's facilities but it does offer a very clever and efficient way to accurately edit image tonality. It will not represent a full-bodied single editing solution for most users, at least not at this writing. But its development has reached a point where it's a genuinely useful tool and worth at least a look by most serious photographers. The full version seems a bit pricey but the new "RT" version offers the majority of the product's value for a much more affordable price.

Personally, I wonder if we'll see either Apple or Adobe buy the product and integrate it into Aperture or Lightroom within the next year or so. It seems like just the kind of feature draw that would give either of these products a compelling boost.

Posted by: KEN TANAKA


DSLR Price Watch

This will be old (a few days, anyway) news for some, but I think it's a milestone worth noting nonetheless: Pentax has introduced a $100 rebate on the *ist DL, driving the price of the body to less than $350.

Posted by: OREN GRAD

Q&A about Photography at the NYT

This week, the Talk to the Newsroom column of the New York Times is featuring Assistant Managing Editor for Photography Michele McNally, who will answer reader questions about photography at the Times.

Note: registration (free) may be required to view this feature.

Posted by: OREN GRAD

Southern Exposures


By Philip Gefter, The New York Times

"They were like perfect little poems," Walker Evans said about the three-inch-square pictures of the American South that William Christenberry took with his amateur Brownie camera.

The Brownie was never intended for exacting documentation or creative expression; it was the camera used for snapshots of family gatherings and vacations in the 1940s and '50s. What a crafty little camera, then, for Mr. Christenberry's persistent chronicle of the regional architecture and artifacts in his native Hale County, Ala. His little snapshots managed to capture the local dialect of his hometown in visual terms.

Mr. Christenberry was born in 1936 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., not 20 miles away from the migrant farmers Evans photographed that same year and later published in "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" with text by James Agee....

READ ON

Posted by DAVID EMERICK


Monday, July 10, 2006

How (Not) to Photograph Scientists

Medicinal chemist Derek Lowe offers a plea:

After seeing a recent in-house promotional brochure, I'd like to issue a brief request on behalf of my fellow researchers. This is addressed to all professional photographers: please, no more colored spotlights.

I know that you see this as a deficiency, but scientists do not work with purple radiance coming from the walls behind them. Not if we can help it, we don't, and if we notice that sort of thing going on, we head for the exits. In the same manner, our instruments do not, regrettably, emit orange glows that light our faces up from beneath...
READ ON

Posted by: OREN GRAD

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Light Is What You Live For

Well, it just goes to show. I hopped in the car this afternoon and headed to the nearest hell of shopping malls to see if I could find a Fuji F30 locally to counter-fondle (three stores, no luck). But on the way back a fierce summer storm swept through the area. Everywhere I looked the scenes were stunning. Oversized American flags whipping in the gusting wind, cars launching huge flumes of spray, headlights shimmering on rain-spattered pavement that reflected the blackened sky. The evening light everywhere was dramatic and gorgeous, and, of course, if you're a photographer, light is what you live for. A car is not the ideal shelter from which to photograph a storm unless you want to shoot through the windshield, but it would have been helpful in any case if I'd had a camera with me. Where was that pocketable digicam when I needed it?

I think that's what's called irony.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

T.O.P. Endorses: NEGPOS

by Olaf Ulrich
I'd like to draw everyone's attention to a little piece of software that deserves a free endorsement IHMO. It's the "NegPos" filter plug-in for Photoshop from C F Systems. It makes the transition of scanned negatives (B&W and color) into positives a piece of cake.

With the scan software provided with my scanner (a Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 in my case), processing color negatives always was a pain in the...rear end. Not anymore.

The user interface of NegPos is, um, typical for a software originally made by a technician for his own use, and reading the manual (provided as a PDF document) definitely is not optional. But then the basic functionality is quick and easy to use, and the results are excellent.

You can download a free 30-day trial version. The licence key for the unrestricted version is $67 US + VAT. I have no connections to C F Systems besides being a satisfied customer.

By the way, besides the plug-in, the website has very much thoughtful reading for the digital photographer and digital photo processor. Highly recommended.

Posted by: OLAF ULRICH

Featured Comment by Alkos: I started to use this plugin more than year ago after long and unsuccesful quest (Vuescan, Silverfast) for perfect scanning software to use with my Minolta Elite 5400 II. I use it for B&W only—no other software comes even close to it with highlight control and overall tonality...Here's my workflow in PS:

1. Minolta Scan software—as B&W positive, auto exposure, 16bit linear (!), no corrections.
2. Negpos—settings always like here: http://img98.imageshack.us/img98/42/negpos9vj.gif,
(yes, I've tried to play with values a lot, but this setting works just the best)
4. Crop (margins only)
5. Auto-contrast
6. Curves to taste
7. Voila! Meal is ready :-)

...all above bound into action with ctrl+f12 assigned :)

I strongly suggest you try it: if you find a better workflow, please let me know!

South Carolina Photographers

There's a new blog offering news and information for South Carolina photography buffs called South Carolina Photography Guild. I don't think they'd mind if people from other States checked them out, either (even Yankees are welcome).

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Fuji F30 ISO Series


Thanks to a comment by Fazal Majid in the "Improving the Ixus" post, I looked into the FujiFilm F30 a bit. One unusual feature it has is that it will take two near-instantaneous pictures, one with flash and one without, so you can compare flash vs. natural light. (The last time I did that was many years ago, but it convinced me not to use flash except where absolutely necessary.) And check out this impressive ISO series by Stephanie Seto. I haven't personally owned a digital point-and-shoot for a while now, but even my old Sony F707 (hardly a pocket camera) was seriously impaired at ISO 400. Hard to tell from Stephanie's series exactly how practical the F30 would actually be in low light, but on the surface at least her trials look impressive.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Thimk

For a long time I've been tempted to compile some of the more delightfully inane item descriptions from eBay, but one I ran across today made me laugh out loud. Talking about a lens, the intrepid seller described it as "sharp enough to cut through butter."

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Improving the Ixus


by Eolake Stobblehouse
These two pictures are taken with my new Canon Ixus 60 (PowerShot SD600 in the U.S.). I had no idea Canon had continued to improve the Ixus. This one is great. Compact, nice mechanical feel and looks, good usability (for instance in show mode, the zoom lever zooms in on the picture!). And high picture quality. It is beautiful and small, even smaller than my beloved Fuji F10, and has the same image quality. Pin-sharp lens, low grain, six megapixels. It is probably the best carry-everywhere camera I know of.

Actually: only five years ago, a revolutionary camera was the Canon D30. For the first time, three megapixels became available for a somewhat affordable price: $3,000! Six years ago that would have cost you something like three times as much. Today I can buy a pocket camera with twice the resolution for $300! It staggers the mind.

I just tested the low-light capability: another positive surprise. ISO 200 is the same quality as 100, 400 is very good, and even 800 is usable, which is highly unusual on such a compact camera. On my much larger Nikon 8400, even ISO 200 is very grainy. Big cudos to Canon for this development. (This was the raison d'etre of the Fuji F10, but it seems they are getting competition now.)

Posted by: EOLAKE STOBBLEHOUSE