These happy Japanese schoolgirls, along with their teacher,
were photographed in the rain in a marketplace near the
Senso-ji temple in Asakusa. (Image made with a Canon Digital
Rebel, EF 100-300mm zoom lens set at 100mm, f/4.5, 1/30
sec at ISO 400.)
Photos © 2003, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved
Last month, this column was
about software; this month the focus is on hardware. I'm writing
this on a Boeing 777 as it flies across the Pacific Ocean toward Japan
and will complete it on the way back. In between I'll visit representatives
of Canon Inc. (www.canon.com)
and ask questions, such as: If the EOS Digital Rebel, the camera tucked
inside a red Lowepro (www.lowepro.com)
Micro Trekker 200 in the overhead bin, has the same chip as an EOS 10D,
what's going to happen to that camera? And what about the EF-S
lens? Here's the deal: the 18-55mm EF-S lens only works with the
Digital Rebel and won't fit any other Canon film or digital SLR.
(Please, don't call them D-SLRs.) The lens, at its widest setting,
only covers the 6-megapixel Digital Rebel chip, so while it measures
18mm at its widest, it only covers an area equivalent to a 33mm lens
on a 35mm setup. Got it? It makes my head spin around. And what about
D80 for sale in Germany on a camera store's website?
remember Vivid Details' Test Strip, right? One of
its best features was Metamorphosis, which has spread
its wings and become a Photoshop compatible plug-in all
its own called 20/20 Color MD from PhotoTune. Photograph
of bewigged "tifosi" at 2003 US Grand Prix.
Here's what I discovered.
The "D80" on the German website (www.fotovideoplus.ch/CANON/EOS_D80.html)
appears to be a fake; it's a cobbled together Photoshop camera built
using digital bits and pieces of an EOS 3 and some whimsy. It turns out
there have been others. After I predicted the Digital Rebel, several websites
created digital versions using a Rebel Ti film camera as the basis. The
only problem, they left the mid-roll rewind button! As I write this somewhere
over the Aleutians, no replacement for the EOS 10D has been announced
but I can't imagine Canon having two cameras with the same imager
in the line-up for very long. So like I anticipated the Digital Rebel,
I'll predict a real 8-megapixel D80 and expect it will look a lot
like the EOS 10D and won't be called D80.
The Lens Issue
Canon's official position on the EF-S lens is "if customers
want more inexpensive, exclusive lenses like the EF-S 18-55mm we'll
make them." Duh? I enjoyed using the 18-55mm; it was my lens of
choice when making scenic images of Japan. Its optical performance was
excellent but a friend's was DOA out of the box. The Digital Rebel
can be finicky with some lenses, even its own. With an old, old EF 100-300mm
f/3.5-4.5, the Rebel would occasionally lockup giving the dreaded "Err
99" (general fault message) that disappeared when the battery was
removed, producing a hard re-boot. Having shot more than 20GB of images
under all kinds of conditions with two different Digital Rebels, including
pouring rain in a temple market near Tokyo, that was the only time I had
any problems, and they've never resurfaced.
portable recording device the DM220 lets you create back-up
copies of your digital pictures directly from your camera's
flash memory card and write them onto a CD/CD-RW disc.
Plug-In Of The Month
You remember Vivid Details' Test Strip, right? One of its best features
was Metamorphosis. That feature has spread its wings and become a Photoshop
compatible plug-in all its own called 20/20 Color MD (www.vividdetails.com)
now from PhotoTune. Metamorphosis had its shortcomings. It required too
many steps, and some of its choices were confusing. But 20/20 Color MD
uses an all-new interface, and yes Virginia, this time there's a
Mac OS X version. The software works like an eye exam.
During each step of the process, you're presented with two preview
images and you just pick the rendition you like and 20/20 Color MD analyzes
the feedback to determine what you want, and then shows you another pair.
In about 15 seconds the plug-in produces a corrected image you can fine-tune
in 1 percent increments. If you spend 10 minutes fixing an image using
Photoshop's Curves, Levels, Hue & Saturation, or Variations,
it'll take you 16 hours to correct 100 images. With 20/20 Color
MD, you'll be done in less than an hour. The step by step Color
Wizard has nine steps and contains 6144 different solutions, compared
with Metamorphosis' 1024. Once the Color Wizard has finished, you've
got access to several tools and sliders, so fine-tuning is quick and easy.
Download a demo version and give it a try.
Epson's R800 used the same kind of UltraChrome inks
as their high-end printers, except the glossy and matte
inks are simultaneously installed. This makes the R800 one
of the few desktop printers, maybe the only, that has archival
"high gloss" images.
It's Disc Magic
You're working with a model at Great Sand Dunes National Park and
she says, "Can I take copies of these photos with me?" If
you've stuffed an EZDigiMagic (www.ezpnp-usa.com)
DM220 portable CD writer in your camera bag, all you have to do is insert
a memory card, blank CD-R disc, push one button, and tell her, "It'll
be ready in a minute or three." EZDigiMagic lets you create back-up
copies of your digital pictures directly from your memory cards and write
them onto a CD-R/CD-RW disc.
The portable DM220 and the desktop DM320 have the same functionality;
the only difference is that the DM220 works on four AA rechargeable Ni-MH
batteries (perfect for the sand dunes) or an AC adapter while the DM320
is AC only. EZDigiMagic supports most storage media, including CompactFlash,
Microdrive, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, Secure Digital, or MultiMedia Cards.
CompactFlash or Microdrives slip directly into the EZDigiMagic's
card slot, but if your camera uses another format, EZDigiMagic offers
an adapter that lets you insert the adapter/memory card combo into the
card slot. The CD writer features a display of LED indicators that display
"OK/Write," "Fail," "Disc Full," and
"Low Battery" (DM220 only, obviously) allowing you to verify
that your image files were properly downloaded.
If you get a "Fail" message, there was an error trying to
copy them. The company tells me they're updating the current version
to include the LCD screen, making it possible to view your images, but
there is no date as to when the newer version will be available. Similarly
a DVD recorder is promised, but my guess is we will see that to market
sooner as the Lexar (www.lexarmedia.com)
4GB CompactFlash card gets more popular.
The Planar Systems, Inc. PE line of flat-panel monitors
are designed for corporate users as well as home office
users and students but are great for budget-minded photographers,
Alas Poor CRT, We
Knew Ye Well
According to Stanford Resources the worldwide demand for LCD monitors
will exceed that for CRT monitors by 2004. What's stopping ya? Oh
I know, you think they're expensive. The Planar Systems, Inc. (www.planar.com)
PE line of flat-panel monitors deliver excellent performance for cost-conscious
buyers, including cheapskates like me. The PE line of 15", 17",
and 19" models are designed for corporate users as well as home
office users and students but are great for budget-minded photographers,
too. I have a 17" model connected to my eMachines' Windows
XP computer and its black finish matches the computer perfectly, but more
importantly takes up the same amount of desktop space as my old, tiny
15" LCD screen.
The Planar PE monitors are compatible with Mac OS computers and feature
a thin-bezel design and built-in power supply for space savings and are
compatible with VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) wall-mounting
standards. Images and text are crisp and whites are "paper white."
It is ideal for web surfing and light-duty image editing and management
using software such as ACD Systems' (www.acdsystems.com)
ACDSee 6.0. Every monitor includes a three-year warranty, including free
two-day-air advance replacement. The 15" model costs $289, while
the 19" is $599. The PE170 that I'm using has a 17"
diagonal screen, 1280x1024 SXGA resolution, and an estimated street price
Printing In The Round
While the rear-feeding Epson (www.epson.com)
ink jet printer that printed on CDs got lots of press, I could never get
it to work. Oh, it would feed CDs through and it would print, but it would
never print on the CD. So Epson deep-sixed the lame rear-feed mechanism
that was designed for the 2 percent of ink jet users that didn't
have their printer against a wall or tucked away in a slide-out tray in
favor of a front-loading mechanism that takes the CD/DVD in, prints on
it, then spits it back out the front. But that's not all. They have
wrapped this technology around an amazing eight-color (cyan, magenta,
yellow, photo black, matte black, red, blue, and gloss optimizer) printer
called the R800. Sounds like a Lexus, doesn't it?
The individual ink cartridges hold the same kind of UltraChrome inks as
Epson's high-end printers, except the glossy and matte inks are
installed simultaneously. This makes the R800 one of the few desktop printers,
maybe the only, that produces high gloss archival (more than 70 years)
images. Get this: The droplet size is a tiny 1.5 picoliters applied in
resolutions up to 5760x1440 with, they promised me, true BorderFree (how's
that different than borderless?) printing on 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10 paper.
To kick up output speeds a notch, the printer includes USB 2.0 and FireWire
connectivity that produce a 5x7 photograph in 45 seconds.