Digital Innovations
Software, Printers, Cameras

The only way that the author has found, so far anyway, to open files from a Kodak FlashPix disk is by using Equilibrium's DeBabelizer Pro (for Windows) to open the files and save them in a transportable format, such as JPEG or TIFF, before moving them over to Photoshop 6.0.
Photos © 2001, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

FlashPix Farewell
Back in the last millennium--1996 to be exact--the FlashPix file format was hailed as the next great graphics file breakthrough. Back in these olden days FlashPix was touted as the new, open standard for digital imaging. It was developed by a consortium of companies, including Eastman Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, the now-defunct Live Picture, Inc., and Microsoft. The format used a hierarchical storage concept that required less RAM and hard disk space than previous image-based graphics files and allowed users to work with many on-screen images at the same time without overloading the computer's memory. Edits were supposed to be easier, especially nondestructive edits, such as rotation, scaling, and color and brightness adjustments. This means that users could experiment with changes and quickly undo them without destroying original image data. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Eastman Kodak even made FlashPix discs the way it now cranks out Picture CDs. Sometime last year, FlashPix quietly passed on, leaving the old www.flashpix.com domain up for sale. Picture CDs use the conventional JPEG format and now FlashPix doesn't seem to be the savior it once was.

All of this came to mind recently when I tried to open a FlashPix file using Adobe Photoshop.

In a variation of the old joke about how many photographers does it take to change a light bulb, the question here is how many plug-ins does it take to "manipulate" an image. Here a photograph of sugar silos near the author's home was made with an Olympus E-100RS digital camera and opened in Adobe Photoshop 6.0. Extensis Intellihance Pro 4.03 plug-in was used to enhance the image, making it look as good as it can. The small JPEG file was sharpened with Photoshop's Unsharp Mask plug-in before the nik Color Efx Pro Midnight filter was used. Photoshop's Lens Flare plug-in was added to finish the image.

"Couldn't do it. Wouldn't be prudent," I could hear Dana Carvey saying when the program refused to open the images on my FlashPix disc. A check with Adobe told me that Photoshop no longer supports the FlashPix format. Why, I asked? "It is no longer a widely used format," I was told, "it suffered from poor performance, it relied on the Microsoft OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) libraries; however, it is still theoretically possible to use the FlashPix plug-in with Photoshop 6.0 if the user has the required OLE libraries installed." The caveat here is that use of the plug-in with Photoshop 6.0 is not supported and hasn't been tested, so any results using it are "unknown." I couldn't find my old FlashPix plug-in even on old back-ups, so I tried using Equilibrium DeBabelizer 3.02 for the Mac OS, but it would not open the files on my FlashPix disk. DeBabelizer Pro for Windows--I guess that's why it's the Pro version--made short work of opening the files and may be the only way to open FlashPix files for many users, unless they're able to dig up the old Photoshop compatible plug-in. Vaya con Dios, FlashPix.

Graphics Software Bargain
Ransen Software has released Gliftic 2.0, an easy to use graphical Windows program that makes it simple to create original and fresh graphics for the web. You do not need to be able to draw. All you have to do is tell the wizard the general layout of the image required (a trellis), the color scheme to use (perhaps one based on one of your own photographs) and how to interpret the layout and color scheme (as an ivy plant or as an arabesque), and Gliftic does the rest. The program is useful for creating unique web decorations and backgrounds, and you can use the keyboard's function keys to experiment with images and colors. When the tiling option is turned on, the image created will automatically be a seamless web-ready tile. New in Version 2 is the "Draw me a picture" dialog that provides a compromise between wizard and user control. A "tickle" icon has been added to allow less radical experimentation once you've found an image to your liking. You can even "breed" images by selecting one Gliftic image as the mother, another image as the father, and "mating" (I am not making this up) them to produce a "child" image that has characteristics of both parents. Included in the $39 package are five simple, quick and printable tutorial web pages. Every dialog has a help page dedicated to it that is accessed by pushing the F1 key. Gliftic runs on Windows 95, 98, 2000, Me, NT4, and may be ordered securely online from www.gliftic.com.

New Software From ACD Systems
Those clever Canadians have recently released ACDSee 1.5 for Mac with new features, faster speed, and a lower price. ACDSee 1.5 for Mac supports over 40 images (but not FlashPix), video and audio formats providing browser, viewer and filing functions. With ACDSee 1.5, Mac users can view full-size, reduced, and thumbnail images at high resolutions. You can also perform manual and auto-zoom functions on images and use options such as auto-window resize and full-screen mode to view images any way you like. Exploiting QuickTime functionality, ACDSee offers a range of new features for Mac fans wanting to select, open, and play multimedia files. It provides users with a choice of viewing movies at any chosen dimension, including half-size, normal size, double, and full-screen.

ACD Systems new FotoCanvas is an inexpensive (under $40) image-editing program that features easy to use tools and even opens FlashPix files--such as the author's photograph of Denver's Coors Field--something the much more expensive Photoshop 6.0 can't do.

ACDSee is also equipped with its own multimedia player, allowing users to select any number of MP3 sound files or movies and play them consecutively. Its image database management features allow users to save an image to any of 10 different formats without overwriting the original. Files can be saved with comments, allowing users to add caption information directly to the image file. To establish a standard naming routine, ACDSee 1.5 Mac will rename any number of files--at once--in sequence.

ACDSee 1.5 has new print preview and enhancement functions so users can customize printing to include any number of thumbnails at any size. Images can also be printed with names and descriptions, so comments, time and location information can be captured in print form. A preview page allows users to customize contact sheet presentation before printing. ACDSee 1.5 for Mac is available at www.ADCSYSTEMS.com/englishproducts/acdsee-mac/ for $39.95.

ACD Systems International, Inc. has also released FotoCanvas, a Windows-based image-editing program that's also priced at $39.95. FotoCanvas has easy to use tools such as redeye reduction, free-angle rotate, cropping, and a variety of image filters for sharpening and blurring. Other tools include Airbrush and Eyedropper, plus a special selection of 16 separate light and color blending modes. FotoCanvas supports a wide variety of file formats, including FlashPix, works with Photoshop compatible plug-ins, and provides TWAIN support for digital cameras and scanners. FotoCanvas can be used as a stand-alone product, or in conjunction with the company's ACDSee digital image viewer, browser and editor. To download a copy, go to www.ACDSYSTEMS.com/english/products/fotocanvas.

ACDSee 1.5 for Mac is an image management utility that offers a minor cosmetic but major functional improvements over the previous version that was introduced at photokina 2000.

New Olympus Digicam
At the MacWorld Expo, Olympus announced the Camedia C-2040 Zoom 2.11 megapixel digital camera. The C-2040 Zoom extracts 1600x1200 images from an improved 1/2" RGB CCD that's claimed to produce the highest possible picture quality available from a 2 megapixel camera. A newly designed multi-element 3x aspherical zoom lens (40-120mm equivalency) has a fast f/1.8 aperture with automatic shutter speeds of 1/800 to 4 sec. The camera offers auto and manual white balance and a wide-view LCD display, sequence shooting, QuickTime movies, black and white shooting modes, aperture priority, shutter priority, programmed automatic or manual exposure modes. The C-2040 Zoom offers a spot-metering mode that can be used as a single spot or as a multi spot meter that averages up to eight readings. Its multi-pattern metering system looks at many areas of the picture to automatically determine the correct exposure. It also offers center-weighted metering for general photography.

Other features include auto-bracketing, built-in flash, or TTL flash with the optional FL-40 Flash, and many different image compression settings. To speed up connectivity and downloads, the C-2040 Zoom uses the new Storage Class USB design to instantly mount the camera--without installing extra software--on a Power Macintosh or Windows computer. The C-2040 Zoom has an estimated retail price of $699 and ships with an 8MB Olympus SmartMedia memory card, two LB-01 3v lithium batteries, USB cable, video cable, instruction manual, QuickStart Guide, lens cap, and strap. For more information, contact Olympus America at (800) 622-6372 or visit their web site at www.olympus.com.

Olympus announced the new Camedia C-2040 Zoom 2.11 megapixel digital camera that has 1600x1200 resolution from an improved 1/2" RGB CCD that's designed to produce the highest possible picture quality available from a 2 megapixel camera.

Epson Printers
Epson America announced two new four-color ink jet printers with sleek exteriors designed to coordinate with Apple's stylish iMac and PowerMac G4 computers. The Epson Stylus Color 83 (Eight Cubed) and Stylus Color 880i are designed for home, education, or business users. These printers feature up to 2880x720dpi output resolution and four-picoliter droplet size. Using a specially designed print engine, they output at up to 12 ppm (pages per minute) in black text and up to 9 ppm for text and color graphics. Epson uses AcuPhoto Half-toning to produce natural looking flesh tones and smooth gradations, while quick-drying inks are said to eliminate smudging and bleeding. Priced at $169 (after a $30 mail-in rebate), the Stylus Color 83 has a clear lid with dark turquoise buttons and paper trays to compliment the Apple Power Mac G4 Cube. Customers who purchase a Stylus Color 83 will receive a coupon in the box for a free matching ergonomic printer stand. The Stylus Color 880i is priced at $149 and has an ice-colored exterior case and translucent graphite lid.

Both have also been said to be engineered for greater saturation, improved shadows and highlights. They are compatible with both Macintosh and Windows platforms and feature USB and parallel connectivity. The Stylus Color 83 and Stylus Color 880i are bundled with Epson Film Factory, for collecting and organizing digital photos, and Trellix Web, for creating personalized web sites. Also included are ArcSoft Photo Impression 2000 that enables users to edit, enhance, retouch, or add special effects to images and (one of my favorite programs) ArcSoft's Photo-Montage, which lets you create a photo montage from a single image using a collection of thousands of micro images. The Epson Stylus Color 83 and Stylus Color 880i are sold through the Apple Store (www.store.apple.com) and retail stores nationwide.

After dragging a folder full of JPEG images into PhotoFolio 3.0's workspace, the author instantly created a QuickTime movie of the images which then can be e-mailed, sent on a business card-sized CD-ROM disc, or posted on a web site.

Epson also announced the new Expression 1680 flat-bed scanner that has a dynamic range of 3.6, 48-bit color depth, and is bundled with LaserSoft's SilverFast Ai 5.0 scanning software. The scanner has an optical resolution of 3200x1600 and is available in four cross-platform packages, including a FireWire option for speedy scans. The Expression 1680 has a dual-focus mechanism that allows the focus to be shifted 2.5mm above the glass so it can scan negatives and slides up to 8x10 with the optional (standard on FireWire models) transparency unit. The TPU is bundled with a set of film guides that let you scan multiple 35mm slides, strips of 35mm negative or positive film, 4x5 sheets, as well as 120 and 220 sized film. The Pro FireWire models are $1399, but you can get a bare bones Special Edition Expression 1680 for just $799. For more information about any of these products, call (800) 463-7766 or visit www.epson.com.

PhotoFolio Portfolio Software
It is rare that a software product is practical, easy to use, and fun all at the same time. But that's just the case with Voyager's PhotoFolio 3.0 software that lets you create a Quick-Time movie of your portfolio photographs in just a few steps. You start by selecting a folder of images, which can be in Photo-shop, PICT, GIF, or JPEG formats, and drag them into PhotoFolio's workspace. This action then displays all of the images using a familiar contact sheet-like meta-phor. You can double click on each of the images to attach sound, music, and add transition effects and dissolves using the slider controls built into the dialog box that appears. When you're finished setting the transition and maybe adding some tunes, all you have to do is give the Build Movie command and you're done. If you don't select any transitions, PhotoFolio 3.0 will automatically add different effects between each image.

That's what I tried and was both surprised and pleased with the effects that were added. Within just a few seconds, you'll have a QuickTime (.mov) file that can be e-mailed, placed on a business card-sized CD-ROM disc, or placed your own web site. The product costs just $49.95 and is currently available for the Mac OS, although a Windows version is said to be coming real soon now. There isn't a faster, easier way to build a digital portfolio than PhotoFolio 3.0. More information can be found at www.streamrocket.com/photofolio.htm.

Photoshop Compatible Plug-Ins
When is a compatible plug-in not so compatible? Evidently if you're running Adobe Photoshop 6.0. In addition to the not-so-compatible plug-ins mentioned in a previous column, Extensis has announced upgrades to many of their plug-ins, including the indispensable Intellihance Pro, making them compatible with Photoshop 6. You can download the free upgrade or trial versions of Extensis' other cool plug-ins at www.extensis.com.

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