Digital Innovations
"Real" Rebels, Exclusive Lenses, And More
Thoughts En Route And When Returning From Japan

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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 the D80 for sale in Germany on a camera store's website?

You 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.


EZDigiMagic's 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, too.

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 of $429.

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.

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