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A few weeks ago I posed the question on The Digital Story Flickr Public Group asking about your favorite compact camera. I've been using the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS (which 2 other members also like) and the Panasonic Lumix FZ8 for my grab shots on the go. I like both cameras because they have good lenses with long zooms (4X and 12X), great image stabilizers, handy movie modes, and good picture quality. What was interesting among our membership was that many are still using older compacts, not feeling the need to update to the latest and greatest.

"I still love my Canon PowerShot S30 even if it is 5 years old," says zenlibra. "It may only pack 3.2 MP, but it has full creative controls (Av, Tv, P, M) and it captures RAW files. It's metal body is bulky and a little heavy, but it's been dropped with out any noticeable damage."

And alansf says "I use a Fuji f10 for its high ISO 1600. It is about 3 years old, and I get pretty good low light shots hand held. I use the auto-ISO feature which gives me automatic adjustments in low light. The only drawback is there isn't optical viewer which makes outdoor pictures hard to compose on the LCD screen."

Others, such as pwscott61, are happy with the latest that technology has to offer remarking, "My fave is definitely the Powershot SD800 IS. I've made 13"x19" blowups of handheld shots in only fair lighting that friends bet were with my DSLR. "

Here's the actual list of compact cameras that TDS members said they are currently using:

  • Canon Powershot G3
  • Canon PowerShot S30
  • Canon PowerShot SD700 IS (2 Members)
  • Canon PowerShot SD800 IS (2 Members)
  • Fuji f10
  • Nikon Coolpix 4300
  • Nikon Coolpix 5900
  • Nikon Coolpix 8400
  • Olympus 720sw
  • Panasonic DMC FZ-50

You can read more about why they like these models by visiting the The Digital Story Flickr Public Group.

Program Note: There will be no podcast this week because of vacation. I will be back with a brand new show next Tuesday, Aug. 7.

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I've talked about this camera before, but now there's a full review on dpreview.com that covers all the juicy details. I've also had a chance to spend more time with this camera, and I have a few more comments to add to the discussion.

First the basics. The Canon PowerShot S5 IS updates a number of features over its predecessor, such as higher resolution (8 MP), hot shoe, 2.5" LCD, DIGIC III processor, longer movie clips (up to 4 GB) and face detection. The 12X optical zoom provides a 36mm - 432mm range (35mm equivalent) with a pretty nice maximum aperture (f-2.7 to f-3.5). You also get image stabilization and just about every feature you'd want in a top of the line prosumer model.

I think adding a hot shoe is a really nice touch. This enables lots of flexibility using Canon's wide variety of accessories including wireless flash. Enhanced movie mode with stereo audio is also quite useful, especially when combined with the vari-angle LCD. And using AA batteries gives you plenty of power options, especially on the road when your rechargeables run out of juice.

But, alas, there's no Raw option, which the competing Panasonic Lumix FZ-18 does have, and the Canon is more expensive at $449 than many of its competitors in this class. But the camera feels great in the hand, is well built, takes good pictures, and has a proven track record. This current model s also certified for Windows Vista. It certainly should on your short list for long zoom compacts.

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B&W Conversion Options in CS3

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Deke McClelland says that, "Creating a beautiful black-and-white image can be very satisfying and relatively easy to do. With Photoshop CS3, you can rob your pixels of color in Photoshop CS3 in many ways, from the classic Channel Mixer to the new Black & White command and Camera Raw’s Convert to Grayscale check box. Happily, each one of these functions put you in charge of the color-to-grayscale conversion process."

In his latest dekeBytes titled, Black and White Options in Photoshop CS3, he shows you how to take your color images and transform them into glorious Black & White.

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Label Your Memory Cards

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I recommend that the first thing you do after buying a new memory card is take out a Sharpie and label the card with your name and phone number. You might want to use your cell phone for the contact info so you can retrieve the lost card as soon as possible.

I witnessed the benefits of this technique during my Iceland trip last year. One of the photographers left her full memory cards in a rental car that she turned in. Fortunately they were labeled, and she was contacted before she got on the plane. As a result, she was able to retrieve a full day's worth of valuable pictures. One of those images is featured as a full page in the just released Lightroom Adventure book.

So, before you forget, get out your Sharpie and label those cards...

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After my positive review of Panasonic's DMC-FZ8, I'm looking forward to testing the just announced Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ18. This compact powerhouse looks like a mini DSLR and packs a whopping 28mm-504mm (12x) [Correction: 18X Zoom] Leica zoom into an 8-megapixel body. Panasonic's image stabilization technology is excellent. I've tested it for magazine articles, including the recently released Steady Your Shot article in Macworld Magazine. Believe me, this stabilization technology works.

I'm also very pleased that Panasonic once again included Raw mode (and Raw+Jpeg) in this camera. That means you can still take advantage of the power of Raw, even when shooting with your compact camera.

The FZ-18 also has new "Face Detection" technology that identifies people in your scenes and sets the focus and exposure for them preventing mis-focused shots. Add in other nice features such as a spacious 2.5" LCD, and you have quite a powerful picture taker for around $399 US. The FZ-18 should hit the streets in Sept. 2007.

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Photoshop CS3 Goodies: Photomerge

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There are some terrific new or improved tools in Photoshop CS3, and the one I'm going to discuss today is Photomerge. Adobe has enhanced this function considerably, and if you haven't used it for a while, it's worth a second look.

Photomerge allows you to take a handful of photographs of a subject, such as a landscape, and merge them into one image incorporating information from all of the individual shots. A common use for this technique is to create a panorama, as shown here using five separate images from Maui. But Photomerge is so smart that you're not limited to a horizontal sequence of shots; you can take just about any cluster of pictures, run them through Photomerge, and come out with an interesting photo.

You'll find this tool under the File menu: File > Automate > Photomerge. You have a number of layout options such as Perspective, Reposition Only, and Interactive, but I recommend you start with Auto to get your feet wet. Choose the series of images you want to merge and click the OK button. Photomerge will go to work and build a layered file. You can work on the individual layers if you need to fors some additional tweaking, or just flatten a copy of the file for final use. Either way, you will be amazed at how smart this improved function is in CS3.

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You can make your own ID badges, press passes, and nice looking name badges by visiting BigHugeLabs. They offer an easy-to-use web interface that allows you to add your pictures and customize the text to produce a variety of badges that you can print or share electronically.

I'm not saying that one of these will get you on the sidelines of a pro football game, but ID does come in handy when working in the field. It lets people know who you are and what your purpose is. Plus, these badges just look cool.

The badge shown here is a sample of the Flickr Photographr template.

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QuickTime Pro 7.2 offers new export presets for the iPhone and other mobile playback devices -- both via WiFi and cellular networks. This makes it easy for digital photographers to share the movies they capture with their compact cameras. The iPhone provides excellent video playback, and many other mobile units do quite well also. Preparing the video for these devices is a snap.

First, capture the movie with your digital camera at the highest quality settings possible. This leaves your options open for other uses up the road, such as DVD burning for TV playback. Then make sure you have the most current version of QuickTime Pro. Open the movie, choose File > Export, then select the compression preset from the Export pop-up menu.

If you're preparing your movie for high quality playback on the iPhone, choose the "Movie to iPhone" option. If you want to stream movies over a cellular network to other mobile users, choose the "Movie to iPhone (Cellular)" option. (There's also a very nice "Movie to iPod" option for video-enabled iPods.) To give you a feel for the size differences, I started with a 20 MB video, then tried the two different export presets. The higher quality "Movie to iPhone" rendered a 3.1 MB file, while the Cellular version was smaller in dimensions and file size (348 KB).

If you want to learn more about movie capture with your digital camera, listen to Podcast #3. You can also download the QuickTime 7.2 User Guide from Apple.

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Sony is as good as anyone at squeezing lots of functionality into compact devices. The new Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-G1 is an amazing example of Sony ingenuity. This compact camera includes a beautiful 3.5" LCD, 6-megapixel sensor, image stabilization, 3X optical zoom, 2 GB built in memory, WiFi connectivity, MP3 player (with headphone jack), movie recorder, ISO up to 1000, and very stylish design. All of this for about $450.

Wait... $450 for a 6-megapixel camera? Well, it's not totally without merit. The screen is absolutely beautiful... and big. The onboard memory is nice, as well as the WiFi for sharing images, although neither are really necessary as implemented in this camera. The image stabilization is very good. And that is a Zeiss lens on the front. On the down side, it is a slow reacting camera with image noise at moderate ISOs.

If you want more details, I recommend the review recently posted on PhotographyBlog.com. They do a good job of weighing the pros and cons.

This is a beautiful looking device, however. And Sony does include lots of goodies. If you've got the money, it's a tempting digicam for on the go.

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There's a nifty trick on the Flickr Tools page that enables you to upload images to your Flickr photostream via email. This can be a great boon for road warriors who have photos to share, but don't have their personal computers with them. All you need is your image and any web mail account (such as Gmail), and you're ready to publish. I've been using this technique to publish images directly from my iPhone while on the go, and it works great.

On the Flickr Tools page, look for the link "upload by email." Make sure you're logged in to your account before proceeding. Once you click on the "upload by email" link, Flickr will take you to a new page and generate a personal email address that you can use to upload your images.

Simply open a new email, attach the photo, address it, and hit the send button. You can add a title to the image by entering text in the Subject line, and add a caption by entering text in the body of the message below the photo (if your photo is displayed in the body of the message). It couldn't be easier.

People with Treos, iPhones, and other email-enabled mobile devices will find this particularly useful for uploading pictures while on the go. And don't forget to check out the The Digital Story Flickr Public Group. There's lots of great stuff going on there.

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