Digital Innovations
Digicams Are Not New

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Canon's i250 Color Bubble Jet Printer delivers crisp text, no-hassle printing, and high-quality 4800x1200 color dpi photos at up to 12 pages per minute (ppm) in black and up to 9 ppm in color.

"History repeats itself; that's one of the things wrong with history."--Clarence Darrow

In February 1990, I wrote a story for the now-defunct Photomethods magazine called "Digital Photography: It's here now." It scared my editor so badly he placed a disclaimer at the beginning of the column. This was a surprise to me because even in '90, digital photography wasn't that new. USA Today photographers had been covering events with Canon RC-760 digicams since '87 when the paper published the first digital image on the front page of a US newspaper.

My former editor was shocked because he didn't know imaging changed in '81 when Sony attempted to break away from its video and TV roots with the Mavica, a so-called "still video" system that recorded image files onto 2" floppy disks. The March '89 issue of a popular magazine of the time wrote about a prototype of the Sanyo StillVision that had a 0.39-megapixel CCD and cost $800. That same year, prototypes from Vivitar and production models from Toshiba offered 0.4-megapixel resolution that could store up to six images on an 18MB memory card. Canon introduced two digicam models in '88; the same year Fuji launched the DS-1P, which was the first to use a memory card. There were also '88 models from Konica, Nikon, Pentax, and Panasonic but the coolest was the digital back Chinon developed for its CP9-AF 35mm SLR, a concept that exists today only for medium format cameras.

It's been more than 21 years, and digital imaging is old enough to vote and buy a martini. So what the heck is gonna happen next?

Andromeda Software's ScatterLight plug-in combines many different approaches to soft focus and diffusion filters providing an almost infinite variety of effects.

Plug-Ins Of The Month
It seems like just yesterday but it's been two years since Apple Computer (www.apple.com) introduced Mac OS X. It took a while for Adobe Systems to update Photoshop to work with the new operating system and it's taken longer for plug-in companies to make the switch. One that's serious about OS X support is Andromeda Software (www.andromeda.com) who is gradually converting their entire stable of creative plug-ins to OS X compatibility, albeit without true Aqua interfaces. LensDoc, still sporting its Windows close box, was the first plug-in to correct barreling and pincushioning image distortion produced by some zoom and wide angle lenses and, like most Andromeda plug-ins, works with Mac OS X and Windows.

The latest version has additional correction curve presets for Nikon and Olympus lenses, an optional set of placement targets for better accuracy, and a 640x480 small screen mode for laptops. It's a $29.95 upgrade for existing users or you can purchase it new for $98. Andromeda's other Mac OS X-ready filters include ScatterLight Lenses that "scatters" highlights creating variations of soft-focus effects for dreamy portraits or glamour photographs. Also available is Andromeda's Perspective Filter that when combined with LensDoc makes a great one-touch punch for architectural photographers who want to keep all of their lines straight. VariFocus Filter is the digital equivalent of a split-diopter filter, allowing you to experiment with depth of field effects in postproduction rather than in the camera. Andromeda expects to have their Artistic Screening Toolset, including Series 3 Screens, Cutline, and EtchTone, available for OS X by the time you read this.

Smugmug: Photos On The Web
I never cared much for photo sharing web sites. Oh sure, I had a brief infatuation with Zing! but never used it seriously before it vanished in the dot com implosion. Enter the new guys, Don and Chris MacAskill who started smugmug, a site that doesn't quite fit any conventional category.

Smugmug.com features an interesting blend of tools and design that will appeal to photographers and surfers alike. The site is scalable, allowing users to add new albums, and upload hundreds of images in a single click. Amazingly, the site is free of advertising and pop-ups. It's kinda like a personal homepage and sharing web site that lets you tweak its appearance and functionality to work the way you want.

You can control almost all layout aspects and aesthetics of your smugmug page, including comments, personal URLs, and custom subcategories. If you have even modest HTML skills (I don't) you can replace the smugmug logo and navigation with your own identity, customize the colors and backgrounds, write scripts, and use style sheets. Smugmug has a lot going for it, including the ability for visitors to add comments to your images (or not) or order prints (or not) or download photographs--you guessed it--or not. It's totally customizable.

Smugmug offers three levels of membership: Standard, Power, and Professional. The annual cost is $29.95, $49.95, and $99.95 respectively and all provide 8MB of storage for what smugmug calls an "unlimited" number of images. The two more expensive memberships allow for unlimited customization, while the higher priced option permits traffic up to 120,000 per views for month. What's smugmug look like? Visit my Power user page at http://farace.smugmug.com to see what I've done.

Disc Makers' Raven is a RAID system that features Seagate and Maxtor IDE hard drives and is available with four, six, or eight hot swappable drives, featuring low cost-per-gigabyte, rugged enclosures, and a web-based GUI.

Digital Stuff You're Gonna Want
One of the most interesting software products I saw at PMA 2003 was StudioLine Photo (www.studioline.net), a $44 Windows only program that redefines the way photo software interfaces are designed. StudioLine's philosophy is that there is no need for OK buttons! If you want to load a picture, just grab it from its source and drag it into the workspace. Want to apply an effect? Just apply the settings and immediately see the effects. There is no need to save pictures when you're done because StudioLine Photo stores every change you've made without altering the original imported picture. All of your settings remain editable and are easily updated at your discretion.

Tied of backing up? Have you tried RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives)? Disc Makers' Raven (www.discmakers.com/b306/) is so easy to use that you can have the hardware up and running within minutes. Raven systems feature Seagate and Maxtor IDE hard drives and are available with four, six, or eight hot swappable drives, featuring low cost-per-gigabyte, rugged enclosures, and a web-based GUI. The Disc Makers Raven4 costs $3990 and is Mac/Windows/Linux compatible.

Canon's (www.usa.canon.com) i250 Color Bubble Jet Printer delivers crisp text and high-quality 4800x1200 color dpi photos at up to 12 pages per minute (ppm) in black and up to 9 ppm in color. The Canon Easy-PhotoPrint software automatically adjusts printer driver settings for the paper type selected and lets you reduce "Photo Noise" or increase color saturation with a "Vivid Photo" option. Their Easy-WebPrint feature is implemented as an Internet Explorer toolbar to automatically scale web pages to fit the width of the paper. (Don't ya just hate it when your printer cuts off text and puts a web page onto two different pages?) Price tag for this all-purpose printer is $49.99 and it is compatible with Windows XP, 2000/Me/98, as well as Mac OS (8.6 to 9.x) and OS X.

What Were They Thinking?
Starting in future columns, I would like to highlight some of the dumb software tricks companies play on us. Winners will be awarded the Golden Dog Biscuit. If you'd like to nominate a company for their boneheaded products, send me an e-mail at joefarace@earthlink.net and I'll feature it in an upcoming issue. The reader sending the best clunker gets a JoeFaraceShootsCars.com T-shirt.

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