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Inside Lightroom - A New Community Site

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With the upcoming release of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0, lots of new users will have questions about how best to use the application and get up to speed quickly. Fortunately, Inside Lightroom just launched to meet those very needs.

On Inside Lightroom, you can absorb tips from power users on the daily blog, download tutorials, listen to podcasts, watch instructive screencasts, and peruse a variety of links to other Lightroom resources. One of the bloggers, Mikkel Aaland, was the organizer of the Lightroom Adventure: Destination Iceland, and is writing a book covering post production tips used by professional on location in Iceland. He'll be sharing lots of insights on Inside Lightroom.

And if you want to contribute to the site, just click on the mail link at the top of the page and state your case.

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The Ricoh 500SE GPS-enabled camera is a rugged (dust-proof and waterproof) 8-megapixel model with a wide 28mm to 85mm (equivalent) zoom lens, 2.5" LCD monitor, supports both Bluetooth and WiFi networking... oh, and has built-in GPS hardware and software.

The camera's integrated GPS module provides for geo-coding images and video at the time of capture. For applications that require even greater precision, the camera is capable of receiving NMEA data streams from external GPS devices via its on-board Bluetooth radio. Once the captured geo-image files are transferred to a computer, they can be converted to shape files or merged into geo-databases for instant integration into Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Points representing each file's position may be hovered over to display a thumbnail of the file, or clicked on to access the original image or video.

Although I don't have confirmation from Ricoh, it appears that the 500SE is both Mac and PC compatible. It's not cheap, however. The 500SE will set you back around $1,200 US with all the bells and whistles. I hope to get a hands-on look at it during the PMA show this coming March.

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Camera manufacturers continue to find ways to squeeze more pixels onto the sensors in our digital cameras. In a recent Cnet article by Stephen Shankland, the question comes up: Is this compromising overall image quality?

The answer varies among experts. Camera manufacturers don't think that more megapixels in the same space hurt image quality. Other folks, such as Dave Etchells from The Imaging Resource thinks there is an overall increase in image noise as a result of the megapixel race.

I tend to take a middle of the road approach here. I see no need to cram 10 megapixels into my compact camera. Six or 7 megapixels are just fine, and I am happy with the image quality I'm getting at the lower ISOs. For my DSLRs however, I want more resolution so I can make big prints. It's a scenario of choosing "the right tool for the job" for me.

But the Cnet report is interesting, and you might want to take a look at it.

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The variety and quality of digital photo frames available today offer photographers a viable way to display their work. The advantages of these devices include the ability to stream many images through one frame, it's easy to prepare your work for digital display, and they have become quite cost effective. Most digital frames can read images directly from a memory card you're that prepared either in-camera of via your computer. Want to change the pictures? Just change the card. Some models are WiFi and Internet-enabled allowing you to stream pictures from your flickr account or other sources. I've even seen models with remote controls.

You can find quality digital frames starting as reasonable as $100 US. The curious can survey an overview of some of the frames available today here at Yahoo Shopping. Could be a clever Valentine's gift for that special someone in your life.

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One of my favorite lighting guys, Strobist, has just finished an assignment where he had to light a large interior. One of the things he mentions in the article is a tip that I want to pass along here. You can often brighten your flash-illuminated shots by taking your exposure off program mode and setting it to a slower speed, such as 1/30, 1/15, or 1/8 of a second.

Photo credit: Strobist.

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Virtual camera club member Sarah Kim discovered the CCRRFDv2 by Photophool while browsing flickr. This device helps you evenly illuminate subjects when using macro mode with a Canon S2. The DIY device consists of three plastic foam cereal bowls stapled together with holes cut in the bottom to slip-fit on the lens barrel, and it delivers shadowless lighting in supermacro mode.

Photophool has updated the instructions for building this handy device. You might want to take a look at what's going on here, and think about ways that you could apply the technique to your camera and photography. If you get some cool shots, or discover a clever variation on this theme, be sure to drop me a line.

Sarah has already put her diffuser to work capturing this close-up of her husband's hand while working. Thanks for the tip Sarah!

Photo of the diffuser by Photophool, who has lots of other interesting stuff.

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The 1.0 version of Lightroom will be available on Feb. 19, 2007 for both Windows and Macintosh platforms. Early adopters who purchase the application before April 30 can do so for $199 US. After April 30, Lightroom will cost you $299. Adobe is also providing a free trial download of the 1.0 version on Feb. 19. Current users of the beta version of Lightroom will have to decide what to do by Feb. 28, because that's when the current beta expires.

Adobe engineers have been very busy during the final phases of application development. In addition to many performance and UI refinements, the shipping version includes some great new features. Two of my favorite new tools are "Targeted Adjustment" and "Clone and Healing." Both provide Photoshop-like power within Lightroom. Version 1.0 also includes support for 150 native Raw formats, including many of the latest camera models such as the Nikon D40, D80 and Pentax K10D.

Mac users will need OS X 10.4 and at least a PowerPC G4 processor, but I recommend an Intel Mac for best performance. On the Windows side, you'll need XP with Service Pack 2 and an Intel Pentium 4 processor or newer. Lightroom isn't certified for Vista yet, but will be soon.

There's good news on the Raw processing front too. Adobe Camera Raw 3.7 will also ship on Feb. 19, and this latest version is compatible with Lightroom, so the adjustments you make in ACR will look the same in Lightroom, and the other way around. This brings excellent compatibility between the two applications.

One of my favorite features in Lightroom is the ability to back up your masters to another hard drive at the time of import to Lightroom. By enabling backup at import, photographers can confidently erase their memory cards immediately, which is very important when working in the field.

Overall, Lightroom is a bold step forward for Adobe. If it's been the leading contender for your photo management tool, then I recommend that you take advantage of the early adopter discount and purchase it before April 30. I have lots more coverage in the coming weeks.

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Olympus just announced the Olympus SP-550 UZ, and this looks like a sweet camera. Features include: 18x wide optical zoom (equivalent to 28-504mm on a 35mm camera) 1:2.8-4.5, Dual Image Stabilization, 7.1 megapixels, 15 fps burst rate, and super macro mode. And yes, the SP-550 captures in Raw mode. I think this is going to be a camera that many photographers toss in their backpack for day hikes and family outings.

Microsoft Photo Info

Here's a slick new tool for photographers who use Windows: the Microsoft Photo Info allows photographers to add, change and delete common metadata properties for digital photographs from inside Windows Explorer. It also provides enhanced hover tips and additional sort properties for digital photographs in Explorer (in Details view). Photo Info is a free download and works on both XP and Vista platforms.

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People often discover unexpected bounty in their iPhoto libraries: duplicate images. This double-the-joy scenario can happen accidentally in a variety of ways, but the prognosis is always the same -- extra pictures taking up additional hard disc space.

Duplicate Annihilator by Brattoo Propaganda Software will identify mirror images and remove them from your library. Duplicate Annihilator scans your entire library and takes one of two actions. Either you can automatically move the dups to the trash can, or you can have them identified by the comment "duplicate" for easy searching and subsequent action. Either way, this $7.95 shareware available from Brattoo Propaganda Software is an affordable way to slim down your iPhoto library.

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iPhoto enables you to send pictures via email... sort of. As long as you use Mac Mail, Entourage, AOL, or Eudora, and realize that you can't send directly from iPhoto; it just opens your email app for you. And none of this helps all of those Gmail users out there.

Good news though. Thanks to Juan Ignacio Leon, Gmail fans can download iPhoto2Gmail and send pictures directly from iPhoto without ever opening their email client.

iPhoto2Gmail is an export plug-in that you access via File -> Export. All you have to do is select your picture(s) in iPhoto, open iPhoto2Gmail via Export, address your letter, and click the Export button. Your images will immediately be delivered via your Gmail account.

Currently you have the option to send full size pictures or scale them down to 800 pixels. But Juan says he'll have more resizing options in the next release. Plus, he's also working on integrating Gmail Contacts into the plug-in. Hopefully we'll see the new version before long.

In the meantime, you can download iPhoto2Gmail today and start sharing pictures. The application is donationware. So if you like it, please put a few bucks in the jar.

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