Digital Innovations
Image Capture Revisited

sorcadmin's picture
Each day the author takes a three-mile walk that takes him along Bromley Creek. Many days, he brings a camera with him and on this snowy November morning, he brought along an Olympus E-10 digital SLR set in SHQ mode which produces a 2240x1680 resolution JPEG file that was used to capture this image.
Photos © 2000, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

Proving that in digital imaging, like the rest of photography "there are no absolutes," I've been forced to re-examine my original contention that there are just three major phases of digital imaging. To my original trifecta of image capture, manipulation, and output, I would like to add presentation as the fourth phase. I see image presentation as a broad classification that includes everything from online framing to sharing images on the World Wide Web. Over the next few months, I'll revisit each of these phases and present some perspectives on the state of the art of digital imaging software and hardware. This issue I'll start with image capture.

To readers of Rohn Engh's new book sellphotos.com (www.photosource.com) my next statement will not come as much of a shock, but it may be for the rest of you who consider me to be this digital guy. People who ask "what kind of digital camera do you own?" are often surprised by my answer. While I'm currently testing digicams from Agfa, Olympus, and Toshiba, I don't own a digital camera. If you read the captions on my images that appear here and in our sister publication eDigitalPhoto.com, you know that many of my digital images originate on film and were digi-tized using scanners or Kodak's Photo CD process for my eventual use in the digital darkroom.

Over the years, I have used dozens, maybe hundreds of different digital cameras, but until last year I never found one I wanted to purchase for my own. For point-and-shoot use, I found the Canon Digital ELPH--it's only 1/8 of an inch thicker than an ELPH II Advanced Photo System film camera--and Nikon's CoolPix 990 to be great cameras. It was handling the Canon D30 (not to be confused with the Euro-labeled EOS 30 a.k.a. Elan 7E) and Olympus' E-10 SLR that really grabbed me. I like the D30 because of its film camera-like handling and ability to use all of my existing Canon lenses, and I was impressed by the E-10 because of its 4 megapixel resolution, solid professional construction, and modest price.

It shouldn't matter to you what kind of camera I use, because my photographic needs are different than yours. You should start your own personal search for the perfect digital camera by asking yourself a few questions:
How are you going to use the camera? Any 3 megapixel camera is going to deliver image resolution good enough for great-looking 8x10 ink jet prints. Inexpensive cameras such as the $199 UMAX AstraCam 1800 will produce 5x7 quality images and more quality than you can use for the web.
What's your budget? While techies tend to drool over the newest, fastest, highest resolution digital cameras, the truth is that these cutting-edge tools are almost always more expensive than mature technology. When people ask me for specific recommendations, my answer is always that "I hate to spend other people's money."

Take A Test Drive
Most stores will let you shoot a few images. Bring your own or borrow a CompactFlash or SmartMedia card from a friend to shoot a few test images, and then take them home to play with on your own computer system to see how you like the image quality.

Use the reviews in Shutterbug and eDigitalPhoto.com to narrow your search for cameras that fit the way you like to work. Most importantly, make up your own mind about the camera's ergonomics and image quality.

Taking these few steps will minimize and maybe even eliminate the buyer's remorse that can occur within a few weeks of buying a new digital camera, when you learn the same manufacturer is shipping a new model that has higher resolution, more features, and costs less. If you're an informed shopper, this digital reality won't get you depressed.

As you mull all this over, here are some recent innovations that caught my eye.

Image Capture With Big Resolution And A Low Price
UMAX Technologies' new AstraCam 1800 digital camera offers 1.3 megapixel image resolution for less than $200. The AstraCam 1800 produces an optical resolution at 1280x960, with software interpolation to 1600x1200. Output is in JPEG format and image storage is on a bundled 4MB SmartMedia card. Other features include Universal Serial Bus (USB) connectivity, three-mode automatic flash, and automatic white balance. The camera is compatible with Windows 98, 2000, Me, or Mac OS 8.6 or later. For further information, contact UMAX at (510) 651-4000 or visit their web site at: www.umax.com.

Fuji Digital Back
Fuji announced it will be the exclusive US distributor of the new Luma Digital Camera Back that's being manufactured to Fuji specifications by Mosaic Imaging. The Luma back is designed for use with the Fujifilm GX-680 III and other medium format cameras. The Luma back has a full format 24x36mm CCD chip with 3072x2048 pixel resolution that's capable of capturing 12 f/stops of dynamic range using 14 bits of date per color channel. The Luma back is a one-shot back that can capture one image every 1.5 sec. It's compatible with standard studio lighting including electronic flash, tungsten, HMI, and daylight. The back has an ISO rating of 25 but is programmable up to 200. It uses a FireWire (IEEE1394) connection to Macintosh computers and has a live video option that enables photographers to view up to 5 fps with auxiliary monitors. For more information, visit Fuji's web site at: www.fujifilm.com.

Ulead's Photo Explorer 7.0 Pro digital asset management program has built-in image-editing functions or you can also click on an image file and send it to Ulead's PhotoImpact 6.0 to take advantage of that program's more extensive capabilities.

Photo Explorer 7.0 Pro
Ulead Systems, the company that produces PhotoImpact 6.0, announced a new Windows-only media asset management program for acquiring, organizing, converting, and sharing image, video, and other kinds of digital media files. Photo Explorer 7.0 Pro has the best user interfaces I've seen on any digital asset management program. It lets you preview images, video, and audio content. You can add keywords and captions to each image so you can search and find that photograph you made of Crystal Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park 10 years ago.

The program has a Wizard-like interface to help you capture images from your digital camera. You can also capture video clips from DV camcorders that use FireWire connections as well as USB monitor-top video cameras. Single frame snapshots can be made from a live video source. The software can trim video clips and convert them into other video formats, as well as share video clips by e-mail or post them on the web. You can also create a slide show integrating audio, video, and image files. MP3 music files can be imbedded within each photo of the show. Slide shows can be saved as EXE files or converted into a web page.

Photo Explorer 7.0 Pro also has some image-editing capabilities. You can adjust brightness and contrast, hue and saturation, sharpness and blur, as well as remove redeye. You can change one image then batch apply all of your corrections to multiple images made under the same conditions. The program's printing features let you display and print multiple images on a single sheet of paper and print them either as wallet-sized or a mix of different sized prints. What surprised me most was the $29.95 price tag. Users of PhotoImpact or other Ulead products can upgrade for under $10. For more information visit the company's web site at: www.ulead.com.

Plug-In Of The Month
You gotta love those people from Alien Skin Software. They continue to develop cool plug-ins. Eye Candy 4000 is their best set of Photoshop compatible plug-ins to date. Eye Candy 4000 includes five new filters (Wood, Marble, Melt, Drip, and Corona) but the rest of the Eye Candy 3.0 filters have been revamped. They are now easier to use and allow you to accomplish more with them. The Chrome filter, for example, now uses reflection maps to create more realistic metal effects, while Shadowlab and Star offer new preview controls. Smoke and Fire have been improved with new features that help users create quick and easy, and sophisticated graphic effects. The package contains 23 special effects filters, including Smoke, Chrome, Shadowlab, Bevel Boss, Glass, Fur, Jiggle, Cutout, Motion Trail, Water Drops, Gradient, Glow Weave, Swirl, HSB Noise, Star, Squint, and Antimatter. Eye Candy 4000 supports RGB, CMYK, and other image modes.

A photograph in Cancun of the author and his wife Mary was made with a single-use amphibious Agfa 35mm camera using an Agfa SnapScan Touch scanner to produce the digital images that was the source for Alien Skin's Water Drops filter that's part of its Eye Candy 4000 package of plug-ins. In addition to round water drops, you can create random splash effects and an Eyedropper tool allowed the author to match the digital splash to the color of the actual Caribbean waters.

Eye Candy 4000 has a simple, intuitive interface with clear, understandable controls along with preview windows that show underlying layers. The Dialog box is resizable and you can make it as big as you want. You don't have to be a plug-in expert to create cool effects. Alien Skin's programmers have provided hundreds of presets that let you instantly create complex looking effects. The estimated street price is $169, with upgrades to registered users of Eye Candy 3.0 priced at $69. Eye Candy 4000 is compatible with Adobe Photoshop 4.0 or later; ImageReady 1.0 or later; Paint Shop Pro 5.0 or later; Deneba Canvas 6 or later; and Corel Photo-Paint 8 or later. For online delivery, visit www.alienskin.com.

New Ink Jet Printers
Epson America announced a new $99 four-color ink jet printer that's designed to match the new colors and designs in Apple's new line of iMacs and PowerMac G4 computers. The Stylus Color 777i features 2880dpi resolution and four-picoliter droplet size for photo quality output, but can also print up to 8 pages per minute (ppm) in black text printing and up to 6 ppm for text and color graphics. The printer features a contoured industrial design with stylish "ice" exterior case and indigo lid. Additional colored lids are available in ruby, sage, graphite, and purple for $9.95 each. Epson has engineered the printer software for greater saturation and better shadow and highlight detail and printing photo-realistic images is standard without having to buy additional ink cartridges. The printer is easy to set up and operate using on-screen, animated Fix-It Flix that help users troubleshoot without having to refer to a manual. The Stylus Color 777i uses Epson's new Intelligent Ink cartridge technology that enables users to remove and replace a cartridge that may be low on ink in order to complete larger print jobs. Later on, the original cartridge can be reinstalled for smaller jobs. This new printer is compatible with both Macintosh and Windows platforms and has USB and parallel connectivity. It includes a software bundle that features Epson Film Factory for collecting and organizing digital photos, Trellix Web (Windows only) for producing personalized web sites, and Corel's PrintHouse 2000 for publishing and image editing. For more information, visit their web site at: www.epson.com.

Samsung's 240T 24" digital LCD monitor raises the bar on the size of big, great looking displays for professional graphics users.

Ixla On The Web
Ixla recently introduced their newest product, ixla Web Easy Millennium 3.0, a do-it-yourself web design studio in a box. The product, which is available for Microsoft Windows, lets you create personal or professional web sites within minutes. A library of templates makes it easy to give your new site a professionally designed look. Ixla Web Easy Millennium incorporates Dynamic HTML (DHTML) technology, allowing the user to drag and drop interactive objects directly into their site without programming knowledge. Additional features include e-commerce functions such as credit card processing and links to affiliate marketing programs, where users can earn money from visitors to their web site. The product supports news and weather links, audio, video, Shockwave, and QuickTime, while letting you design 3D worlds containing your own photographs. A free introductory version, called ixla Web Easy Millennium Express, will be available through CD distributions and online downloads. For future updates of ixla Web Easy Millennium Express, visit www.ixla.com.

Let's Get Real Big
If you were impressed with Apple's 22" Cinema Display LCD screen (and I was) you'll be knocked out by Samsung's 24" digital LCD monitor. The SyncMaster 240T has 1920x1200 resolution and an extra-wide 170 viewing angle. Unlike all of the LCD panels out there, digital screens are useful for graphics use.

Samsung targeted this model squarely at the professional. The screen is so large it eliminates the need to use two monitors--one to display the image, the other to show tool palettes. The monitor has a one button calibration system for screen geometry, contrast, brightness, and clock phase, but can be controlled via a remote control. The monitor has an optional USB hub with two upstream ports and four downstream ports. It's compliant with the TCO (Tjanstemannens Central Organisation) emission standards and EPA Energy Star standards for reduced power consumption. Like all Samsung monitors, it has a three year parts and labor guaranty. Given the Apple Cinema Display's price tag of $4000, the street price for the 240T is a not so surprising $7999. For more information, visit their web site at: www.samsungmonitor.com.

Share | |