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Faithful reproduction

Our advisor finally finds a few imaging products that make digital snaps into art.

For years now, my digital camera and color printer have been providing me with something that lacks the precise edge and color matching of a faithful reproduction, but cannot aspire to being great art either. That’s about to change with three products I recently evaluated.

Megapixels in

Even though it’s not something you need to focus with a twist of the lens, the four-megapixel FujiFilm S5100 is a cameraman’s camera. It’s a chunky black handful with a thumb-operated 10x optical zoom control augmented by a 3.6x digital zoom, so you effectively take pictures more than 35 times closer than you actually are. It has various settings buttons that take a while to figure out, but once you have mastered them, you can do things like hold down the shutter button to take multiple pictures (great for sports shots) and take the obligatory MPEG video clips.

The results are beyond decent, and I’ve ordered up 8-by-10s that look as sharp as the ones I’ve taken with the 33mm Ricoh SLR I’ve been hauling around since the 1980s. Because of the decades I carried around that SLR, I like a camera with a range of accessories. The FinePix 5100 is just such a beast. It features a tubular lens protector with a 55mm screw thread on it for adding extra lenses and filters at the front. I use a skylight filter to protect the lens and filter out UV, and sometimes screw in a macro and a wide-angle attachment for close-up and panoramic views.

Of course, it’s not quite professional grade. The built-in flash is great, but I miss having a hot-shoe to house a flash I can position myself (instead of illuminating front-and-center all the time). The self-timer is also fine, but not quite as controllable as a remote switch–which this camera doesn’t support. It also uses thumbnail-sized xD storage, which means that I have to trade in my SD and CompactFlash cards for more storage. But hey–these are gripes about an otherwise great camera.

Reproducing screen images

Most people who write step-by-step instructions for software programs know the trick for capturing the image onscreen: You hit the PrintScreen button, or to capture just the active window, press Alt+PrintScreen. This saves a pixel-perfect copy of the screen to the Clipboard, ready to paste into a graphics program or even direct into a word processor.

But this trick doesn’t work with streaming media in RealPlayer or Windows Media Player. Instead of seeing a frame from the movie, you end up with a blank box, because streaming media players use a hardware acceleration technique to bypass the layer of Windows that PrintScreen captures. When I wanted to capture some frames from an old public-domain movie from the wonderful Prelinger Archives >www.archive.org

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