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Sony W50

Hobbyists looking for a solid 6-megapixel pocketable digicam for less than $250 might want to take a look at the recent review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W50 published on Imaging-Resource.com. In addition to its ample resolution, the DSC-W50 sports a 3X optical zoom, 2.5" LCD monitor, fast shutter response, fun multi-burst mode, great battery life, fast USB 2.0 interface, and cool accessories such as an underwater case.

The DSC-W50 also features high ISO settings up to 1000, but before you get you hopes up that you have a low-light gem here, read what Imaging Resource says about picture quality at settings above ISO 400. Their opinion is that print quality is unacceptable at these high settings, but very good at 400 or below.

Overall, seems like a great camera to toss in the pocket and hit the road.

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New Adobe Lightroom Tips Site

Inside Lightroom

I've been spending a lot of time with Lightroom these days, Adobe's photo management software for serious photographers. I'll have lots of surprises for you around this application, but for now I want to let you know about a new site I'm running called Inside Lightroom.

Inside Lightroom is loaded with tips and techniques for mastering this photo workflow software. Right now, you can listen to an audio interview I did with published author Julianne Kost as she discusses Lightroom's impact for digital photographers.

Then go the the Adobe Labs page and download the latest version of the public beta. To help you get comfortable quickly, also download the free 22-page "getting started" PDF by O'Reilly author, Ken Milburn, titled From Darkroom to Lightroom.

I'm firing up the blog posts too. For example, do you know how to add music to a Lightroom slideshow? Check out this slideshow tip to get the scoop.

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iTunes

There's a saying in filmmaking that "sound is half the picture." This adage applies to your slideshows too. Adding music to your presentations strengthens their emotional appeal. But where do you find music for soundtracks, and how do you add it to your pictures?

One of the first places to look is in your iTunes music library. You're allowed to use the songs you buy through iTunes Music Store (iTMS) for personal use, including your slideshows. (Commercial use of your iTunes music requires specific permission from the license holder of the material.). If you're using iPhoto to create your presentation, you can pull music directly out of your iTunes library and add it to your images (by clicking on the iTunes icon in iPhoto). Find out more by reading this brief tutorial.

FotoMagico users also have direct access to their iTunes music. Click on the Audio tab to reveal all of the music in your library. Find the song you want, and click on it once to highlight it. You can preview it by clicking on the Play button to make sure it's the track you want to use.

There can be a snag however. Even though you're allowed to use music purchased through iTunes Music Store, FotoMagico won't let you export your slideshow with iTMS music in it because of the DRM embedded in the track. There is a workaround, however.

  • Go to iTunes and select the songs you want use for your presentation. I usually create a special playlist for these.
  • Click the Burn button in the upper right corner. You'll be asked to insert a blank CD.
  • Burn an "Audio" CD (not MP3 or Data). You can set this choice in iTunes Preferences under Advanced > Burning.
  • Eject the audio CD after burning, then reinsert it. Now import the songs back into your iTunes library. I usually adjust each song's title slightly so I know the it's not the original track. You can do this by choosing Get Info.
  • Keep the songs in a special "Slideshow" playlist so they're easy to get to.
  • Reopen FotoMagico and navigate to the music you want to use.

Now when you drag the song to the timeline, you'll no longer get the warning that you won't be able to export this slideshow. And unlike slideshows created with iPhoto, you can add more than one song to a presentation, creating a more interesting movie.

This tip is to help you prepare your entry for the FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase. Submit your Entry Form today (to get on the books), then start working on your presentation. Deadline to submit Entry Forms is May 30, and your presentation itself is due by June 15. Don't delay!

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Pentax Optio A10 on DPReview

pentax_optio

Pentax's latest Optio features a 3x optical zoom, 8 megapixels, a "high sensitivity" scene mode (ISO 800), and a spacious 2.5-inch screen. Other features include a CCD-shift image stabilization system, in-camera effects and frames, and the ability to record movies in MPEG-4 DivX format.

If you want to find out more about this handsome, capable shooter, check out the full review on dereview.com.

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Camera Raw 3.4

Adobe announced an update to the Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop CS2, extending raw file support to eight additional digital camera models, including the popular Canon EOS 3OD. This brings the total number of supported camera models to over 120. The update is available immediately as a free download at the following location.

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Color Restore

For decades, you faithfully recorded your most precious moments on film, picked a few snapshots from the bunch for photo albums, and then carefully stored the rest. But now those prints are fading. If they're stored in nonarchival albums or -- heaven forbid -- in the attic or garage, they may be aging even faster.

You can save them. By scanning old photos and film into your Mac now, you'll be able to stop the aging process and preserve irreplaceable photos. With the help of image-editing software, you may even be able to reverse some of the worst damage.

In a series of articles I have published in Macworld Magazine, you can learn how to set up a photo archiving workflow using a scanner and software you probably already own. First, take a look at New Life for Old Photos, then you might want to read Selecting a Scanner. You might also be interested in Tools for Turning Back Time. And finally, don't forget my podcast titled, Scanning Tips.

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Open Sign

Later this month I'll cover how to make graphical titles for your slideshows, but first I want to acknowledge the obvious -- taking pictures of signs and using those images to help you tell the story.

For example, the "open sign" I've shown here is both artistic and can be informative in a slideshow. And you don't have to present it just a static image. You can pan it through the frame, or you use it as a transition to activity inside. The real trick is to remember to take these shots while you're gathering source material for your project. Even if you don't use them as originally conceived, they become part of your stock image collection for future projects.

Also keep an eye out for informative placards. Often they contain a wealth of informative that can really spruce up your show. For example, this drawing was displayed at the ruins of "Wolf House" that Jack London was building for his retirement. If you captured a high resolution shot of this drawing, you could then zoom in on it during your slideshow as you described that part of the house. Ken Burns would be proud of you.

Placard

This tip is to help you prepare your entry for the FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase. Submit your Entry Form today (to get on the books), then start working on your presentation. Deadline to submit Entry Forms is May 30, and your presentation itself is due by June 15. Don't delay!

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Camera Phone Shooting Tips

Sony K510a Cameraphone

One of the reasons that people shy away from camera phones is that they often get lousy pictures. You can improve your odds by trying some of these tips. Here's a look at the most common camera phone settings and how they can help you capture better images.

Start with Picture size. This option gives you the choice between a couple resolution settings: large and small. (They would be more accurately labeled small and smaller, but that's so un-American) Choose large, which is usually about 640 x 480 or 1.3 megapixels. You can't make a very big print with these images, but they can look decent on a web page or part of an email attachment.

Here are a few other options you might want to try.

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Boinx Software

A well-crafted digital slideshow is a thing of beauty. Boinx Software and The Digital Story are teaming up to help you master the art of authoring the perfect slideshow, then providing you with the opportunity to share your work with the world. The month of May is digital slideshow month on The Digital Story, and we have lots planned for you.

These activities are gathered around the FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase. The Showcase, sponsored by Boinx Software, is designed to help you perfect your slideshow authoring skills. Here's how it all unfolds.

In this week's podcast, Sensational Slideshows, I discuss how to pick an appropriate subject and offer some ideas for getting your tools together. Then, as we work through the month of May, I'll be providing tips for building your show, adding audio, making titles, and fine-tuning your presentation. The goal is that after a few weeks, you'll have your slideshow project in production and will be able to submit an entry form to the FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase. In June, we'll select 10 entries to feature on The Digital Story and send out a press release with the names, bios, web site links, and pointers to all of the showcased presentations. This is an excellent opportunity to shine a light on your photography.

You should read the Official Rules for entry (at the bottom of the entry form), but the basic parameters are this:

  • Anyone over 18 can enter.
  • Slideshow entries must be between 1-4 minutes in length.
  • The dimensions of the slideshow can be no more than 400 pixels in any direction. 320x240 is the recommended size.
  • Music and/or voiceover is permitted, but not required.
  • You must own, or have permission, to use all of the content in your slideshow
  • You need to complete an Official Entry Form for each slideshow submitted, but you can submit as many shows as you wish.
  • If you wish to use FotoMagico to create your show, you can get a $10 discount off the software by entering "Digital Story" in the discount code box. Visit the order page and select FotoMagico. You'll be able to enter a coupon code at the first checkout page. The code is set to "Digital Story". Once the code is input, and the Checkout button is clicked, the $10 discount will be reflected on the final order total page.

You may also use other software to author your slideshow, such as iPhoto 6 (Mac), QuickTime 7 Pro (Mac/Windows), and Photo Story 3 (Windows XP), just to name a few. As the month goes on, I'll publish tips and tricks for adding polish to your creation.

The FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase also serves as our Photo Assignment for the month of May. You can send in your entry form before your slideshow is completed (to let us know that you're working on your presentation). In fact it's recommended. Entry forms and actual slideshows are due on June 15. You can complete and submit your entry form here.

I encourage Mac OS X users to take a look at the FotoMagico software. It is an amazing authoring tool for slideshows. You might want to watch an informative QuickTime slideshow that demos FotoMagico.

Regardless of which tools you use, I hope you will participate in the Showcase. The skills you can develop this month by working with us will benefit you for years to come.

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Nikon Digiscope

Digiscoping is the ingenious practice of connecting a digital camera to a spotting scope for close-up shots of birds and other wildlife. What began as a bit of a "hack" by serious birders has become adopted by Nikon and other optical companies.

Nikon just announced their Digiscope 8.1 package to complement their existing 5.1 and 7.1 Pro Digiscopes. The package includes a spotting scope, eye piece, bracket, and Nikon camera (as shown in the picture). Prices start around $730 USD.

You can cobble together your own system too. I featured digiscoping in my Digital Photography Hacks book (Hack #94 "Get Close with Digiscoping"). If you don't have the book yet, I have a treat. You can download a PDF of the digiscoping hack (1.3 MB) and build your own system. This hack was contributed to the book by Terrie Miller and is in its original printer's proof format with all of the alignment marks.

Regardless if you build your own system, or buy a slick one such as Nikon's offering, digiscoping is a great way to capture some of Spring's magic.

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