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To render the entire scene sharp, select as small an aperture as conditions allow, then focus one-third of the way between the closest flowers and infinity. Once a royal forest, the Forest of Dean is bounded by the rivers Severn and Wye, and has the largest area of old oak trees in the country within its 35 square miles. It was designated as a National Forest Park in - the first in England.

Though also common grazing land, it's now a popular leisure area, and you can find local information about its bluebell walks, plus details of the sculpture trail through the forest. Free, but you have to pay for parking. Set your camera's white balance to overcast or take a custom reading in situ. Alternatively, use your colour balance and saturation controls to tweak the image later. This will make the most of the depth of field for a particular aperture. You may need to switch to an SLR- type camera for this. Instead, multi-sensor cameras allow you to pre-select different off-centre parts of the image for the autofocus to work with.

The autofocus sensor may slip off the subject and re-focus on the background. You'll learn how much of each picture is going to be sharply focused, and use this skill to produce images with more impact.

Email a small JPEG to gallery. A lifetime isn't enough to see, let alone photograph, all that the area has to offer. The secret is to return often and sample another area each time. If you want to take in as much as possible on your first visit - whether climbing the high fells or simply pottering with a camera on lakeside paths - Ambleside and Keswick make good touring centres, but anywhere you go will reward you with great pictures Buttermere the lake of the dairy pastures is as tranquil and picturesque a spot as you could imagine. Just a mile and a half long and 75 feet deep, it was once attached to the larger Crummock Water just to the north, and has some of the most classic of Lakeland views.

You approach the area from Keswick via Borrowdale and the steep Honister Pass. One of the most northerly lakes, Derwentwater extends three miles south from Keswick, getting progressively bleaker as it approaches Borrowdale. A boat service links the major beauty spots. To the west, the distinctive outline of Catbells offers good walking and views, and features in probably every sunset or sunrise picture you'll have seen from Keswick. Above the town the ancient stone circle of Castlerigg stands in a spectacular setting.

If it rains, check out the Pencil Museum in town - really! A good fell walk for any newcomer to the Lakes is the Loughrigg Fell above Ambleside, from where you look across little Rydalwater and Grasmere. The village of Grasmere is pretty, with gentle lakeside walks, and good access to Elterwater and beyond to the Langdale Pikes - one of the premier high fell walks in the area.

It's a short walk from here over White Moss Common, with excellent views over both lakes, to Rydal Mount where he died in Far to the west, over the taxing hairpins of Hardnott Pass, Wastwater is a remote and desolate lake the deepest in the country and mainly visited by serious walkers heading for Scafell Pike, England's highest peak. Hemmed in by steep scree slopes and high fells, its isolation gives it a bleak beauty in marked contrast to gentle Eskdale and the softer Lakeland to the east.

If you have kids, treat them to a L'aal Ratty steam train ride from Eskdale down to the Roman port of Ravenglass, and check out the fine Roman fort at Hardnott Pass. From Ansty in Wiltshire to Skinnington in Yorkshire, villagers circle giant maypoles. Today's May Day festivities may be modern revivals, but their origins go back thousands of years. After a long winter, our ancestors lit fires to welcome Baal, their sun god, giving rise to the pagan festival of Beltane. The Romans made offerings to Flora, goddess of flowers, cutting a tree and decorating it with ribbons for their springtime Floralia.

The maypole was later reintroduced, but become little more years, and people dressed as them can still be seen today: the May Day fool, whose role is to pay homage to the Lords of Misrule and encourage revellers; Robin Hood and Maid Marian, who were enshrined as King and Queen of May; and Jack in the Green, a garlanded figure, still central to the May Day celebrations that are held at Hastings in Sussex.

The Morris dance, closely associated with May Day, has remained a popular folk dance, and you'll find it performed regularly in many parts of Britain throughout the summer. Just watch out for the sticks! Morris dancers are a traditional sight on J a summer's day Fit a wide-angle lens and get close to the action for images with real impact. With an aperture of f8-f1 1, focus won't be a problem.

If such access isn't possible, use a long lens from higher viewpoints to shoot over people's heads. As May Day dawns in Padstow, a dancer in traditional Obby Oss costume is released to be goaded and teased around the decorated streets throughout the day. Wheeling and dancing to the beat of a drum, the Oss dies and is revived again and again in one of the oldest fertility rituals in the country. The town of Helston celebrates with the more sedate but colourful Flora Dance on 8th May.

Accommodation is scarce over May Day but caravans and chalets can be hired. You may need to clone in extra bits at the corners Use a small aperture to ensure sharpness r '! Its mixed geology produces rugged fells such as the Langdales in the middle, with smoother hills to the north, and great crags and pinnacles to the south. This alone would make the region a magnet for landscape snappers, but add 16 lakes and over tarns, radiating out along the glaciated valleys, and you have a photographer's paradise.

From the gentle expanses of Lake Windermere, with its Victorian steamers, to bleak Wastwater hemmed in by steep scree slopes, these glacial lakes are the perfect contrast to the high fells. Picturesque lakeside walks make attractive alternatives to arduous high-level paths, every step offering tree-framed views of the far fells reflected in the waters.

Each lake has its own character and cycle of dramatic light and weather changes. Local knowledge of the best times to visit particular places is invaluable to make the most of so many picture opportunities. Early mornings after a cold night on enclosed shallow waters, such as Tarn Hows or Rydalwater, produce atmospheric mists - even in summer.

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Winds that ruffle the higher tarns during the day die away in early evening to leave absolutely still reflections of the backdrop of hills. Blea Tarn and Watendlath above Derwentwater are fine examples, in contrast to deep Wastwater or busy Coniston, where perfect reflections are rare. Late spring is a great time to visit, while last year's bracken still washes a golden red through the fells' new growth.

This vibrancy bleeds into the waters below, covering the surface with rippling colours. A polariser is an essential piece of kit here, intensifying the colours by reducing the amount of light reflected from the foliage, but it should be controlled where water is present because it can kill all reflections. Polarisers add another dimension by cutting through foreground reflections into the water. Rotate the ring to see the effect and to check that background reflections are untouched.

At Coniston, turn left onto the B towards Hawkshead. Tarn Hows is signposted on the left. Tarn Hows is a small, manmade lake, formed in the 19th century by joining three smaller tarns. It was bought by Beatrix Potter in , then donated to the National Trust. It is popular for its easy, water's edge walking. Situated in a bowl, the wooded tarn is ideal for photographing reflections, with superb backdrops in all directions taking in Helvellyn, the Langdale Pikes and Wetherlam. Free, but you have to pay to park in the National Trust car park. Nearest cafes are at Coniston and Hawkshead, a couple of miles away.

Always check pictures for the inevitable bright anorak intruding into the scene. If you can't wait for people to leave without losing the light, digitally remove them later, using a soft-edged cloning tool to replace the intrusions with a suitable nearby selection. Move the pick-up point regularly to avoid introducing repeating patterns into your shots. NAVIPAD Multidirectional navipads are all the rage, but this one is even spongier and less positive than most j these multi-movement switches and settle instead for separate buttons.

The optical viewfinder offers some better news. It's quite a reasonable size, and it's easy to put your eye to it. Your reliance on the LCD is further reduced by the mono LCD status panel on the top plate, but you still need the menu system for most of the adjustments you make.

Sega Digio SJ-1: The 1996 Sega LCD Digital Camera

Despite all these gripes, the Praktica is actually really quite a likable camera in an honest, robust kind of way. It's the sort of design you could grow guite fond of in the way that the original Praktica SLRs had their own no-frills appeal. However, the difference here is that the DCZ 3. Photographic performance The basic design and limited features might leave you expecting the worst from your first batch of images, but there are no nasty surprises lying in wait here.

In fact, the Praktica turns in a pretty good set of results. Exposures, colour, contrast and saturation are all very good, actually. And while its images could do with a little sharpening, once you've done that they rank with the best of the rest in the 3-megapixel market. The Praktica did throw a bit of a fit with our skin tones test shot, completely misreading the ambient light in our early morning daylight shot, and the lack of a slow flash mode could cramp your style for indoor and party shots, but otherwise it's a pretty good performer all round.

It's the same old problem. Practically any known- brand camera you can buy - especially among the 3-megapixel models - offers very good performance. While there's little wrong with the shots taken by the Praktica, they're no better than those of its rivals. Indeed, there are many cheaper 3-megapixel cameras that produce results every bit as good and don't suffer from the Praktica's somewhat crude design, poor controls and dim LCD. The fact is that the Praktica's price is wrong. Only then would its solid performance and sturdy, honest design come to the fore as a low-cost alternative to the glitz of its mainstream rivals.

The HP's images are just as good and the camera's nicer to look at and handle They benefit from a little sharpening.. But will it be all style and no substance? One of our long-standing favourites, the C, has been swept aside with this, the p[mju:] Digital and a cheaper 3. It's a smart move to bring the styling of the automatic zoom compact p[mju:] film cameras to the digital range, and Olympus has done it without increasing the camera dimensions and has also introduced an all-metal finish that gives the camera a real feeling of solidity and quality.

Yes, you can get a 4-megapixel camera for this price like the Samsung DigiMax V4 on page 38 , but not everyone will need the modest increase in resolution and the p[mju:] 's looks and build are highly persuasive. Smaller than SD memory cards, xD cards are designed to use less power, work faster and offer sizes in the future of up to 8GB.

Anyone worried that yet another new memory card format will signal a price hike for memory storage can stop worrying now. Already, xD cards are substantially cheaper than the SD cards used in most low-cost digital cameras, and on a par with the prices of CompactFlash storage. So what does it do? The snapshot digital camera market has matured to the point where just about all cameras have all the tools and features most casual photographers will need.

As well as a fully programmed auto-exposure mode, the p[mju:] offers 'scene' modes for portraits, self-portraits, night scenes, landscapes and landscapes with portraits. Flash modes include auto, on, off and red-eye reduction. No slow flash mode? All you have to do is use the night scene mode, which has the same effect, balancing the built-in flash against ambient light.


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It works as well indoors as it does outside, preserving the colour and atmosphere of room lighting while reducing the effects of movement blur and camera shake. The zoom lens has a range equivalent to 05mm on a film camera. On the back is a 1. The all-metal case doesn't just look and feel good, it's splash-resistant too. No worries, then, about taking it down to the beach, the pool or the snow slopes - but Olympus stresses that the p[mju:] isn't waterproof.

Extras include a dinky little remote control unit, included with the camera, a panorama mode and the ability to resize images once they've been taken. Size and usability For such a small camera, the p[mju:] is remarkably easy to grip and use. Switched off, its small size and smooth contours mean that it's eminently pocketable. Switched on, its controls are well-spaced and easy to work - and you don't find yourself covering them up or working them inadvertently as you grip the camera. Olympus has been developing its digital camera control systems for some time now, and the p[mju:] demonstrates the fruits of all this work.

For a start, Olympus has not been tempted by the four-way thumbpads on other cameras and sticks to separate directional controllers. These are far more positive and accurate. The four navipad buttons work well J The camera's various functions and settings can be reached with a rapidity that most other cameras simply can't match and to control picture playback.

But in the shooting mode, they double-up as short-cuts to the most commonly-used photographic controls. Press left for macro mode, right for flash mode, down for the self timer and - more interestingly - up for the scene modes. These are displayed on screen in a circle and you use the arrow buttons to 'spin' the circle to get to the mode you want. If you need access to the whole menu system, there's a separate button on the backplate. The control layout and design is excellent. The back of the camera is plain and unfussy, yet the camera's various functions and settings can be reached with a rapidity that most other cameras simply can't match.

What's more, most of the options can be activated and changed with the scene you're shooting still 'live' on the LCD. It's not all sweetness and light, mind. The zoom control feels sluggish and it's difficult to get the zoom ratio exactly right - it moves in and out in steps rather than a smooth, linear fashion. The memory card door is stiff, too, with a rather unsatisfactory little lug that needs to be pressed in while you're pushing the door open. If you want to use the optical viewfinder rather than the LCD, you'll find it a bit on the small side but it's perfectly usable and there's no optical distortion.

In playback mode, the p[mju:] takes around a second to display each image as you cycle through, but unlike some rivals it renders a full- resolution version straight away instead of a low-res version followed by a wait before the full-res image appears. Picture quality By now we're used to digital compacts producing images that are as good as those generated by more expensive models, and the p[mju:] doesn't disappoint. Images are sharp and crisp, the exposures in our test shots were bang on and the focusing is reliable.

Colours are bright and saturated, and the auto-white balance does a terrific job in nearly all conditions. Tungsten lighting produces slightly over- warm shots, even using the tungsten pre-set, but that's a trait shared by most digital cameras. If you need more resolution than this you should be looking at a 4-megapixel or 5-megapixel camera. You won't find a 3-megapixel model significantly sharper than this one. You are paying a bit of a price premium for the p[mju:] 's design, but not a big one. The performance isn't compromised one jot and as a snapshot camera it's perfect.

The control layout is simple but effective, and it's hard to see anyone being disappointed with the results. But what's it like to use? Try before you buy! Rotate and view this camera on-screen with our unique virtual reality tour Post your views, see what other readers think then buy this camera! And the Digimax does look like it's got everything going for it: resolution, photographic options, size, build guality, versatility and, above all, price.

More for your money Samsung's aiming the Digimax V4 at both beginners and more ambitious photographers. Beginners can leave the camera set to the 'Easy' auto-everything mode so the camera sorts out the technicalities. More experienced users can apply exposure compensation, change the white balance, change the metering mode from multi-pattern to spot metering and switch to either aperture-priority auto-exposure, shutter-priority or full manual mode.

There's an AEB Auto-Exposure Bracketing option too for taking three shots at three different exposure levels so you can choose the most successful later. In itself this dual appeal is nothing new. Even advanced enthusiasts' cameras like the Nikon CoolPix or Canon PowerShot G3, for example, have idiot- proof point-and-shoot modes.

What's important here, though, is that the Digimax V4 offers all these advanced features for such a low price - a price at which you'd normally only expect to get a simple auto-only model. The Samsung's versatility extends to a movie mode, admittedly with a limited resolution x pixels , but with a good 24fps frame rate that prevents your movies looking jerky. It can record sound at the same time, and the built-in microphone can also be used to add voice annotations to your still images.

All the controls available could leave you spending as much time making alterations as actually taking pictures. The Samsung gets round this with three different My Set options that store up to nine different settings including image size, guality and ISO ready for re-use at any time. Samsung boasts that the Digimax V4 can use no fewer than nine different types of battery but in truth six of these are variants on AAs alkalines, NiCds, NiMh and so on.

You can also fit 3-volt CR-V3 lithium cells, dedicated Samsung lithium-ion disposables and, if you go for the optional Power Pack, a rechargable lithium-ion battery and charging unit. This gives a life expectancy of around shots. And if you're expecting compromises in build guality as a result, you're in for a surprise. The Digimax is compact and solid-feeling, with a high-guality metal finish. This is a camera that feels more expensive than it actually is. The startup speed is pretty brisk at around three seconds, and the focusing speed is on a par with rival cameras, typically taking around a second to confirm focus.

The zooming isn't guite so impressive, though. It's guick enough when travelling from one end of the range to another, but as soon as that's done that it spends a moment refocusing. The LCD panel is where digicam makers try to save cash when they're on a tight budget, but there's little sign of cost-cutting here.

The 1. The optical viewfinder's usable, though not guite so impressive. It's a reasonable size, but there's lots of barrel distortion around the edges. If there is a chink in the Samsung's armour, it's the control layout. The controls themselves feel positive and well-engineered, but if you want to use some of the camera's more advanced features you have to go through the menus to get to them.

You'll also need the menus to swap to spot metering mode, set up auto-exposure bracketing, change the white balance, change the guality settings and more. You might be able to configure your favourite settings using the My Set feature, but the Digimax still comes across as a camera that offers a whole host of tools but then puts them just a little too far out of reach for everyday photography. It was a bit disappointing, too, to find that the Digimax is pretty slow at cycling through images in playback mode, taking as long as four seconds to render each shot fully on the LCD.

It is guick if you want to zoom in on shots, though, and pan around them to check the details. Image quality If a few of the controls are all we've got to complain about, then the Samsung's going to come out of this very well indeed. But most importantly - what are the pictures like? Exposure accuracy and colour fidelity are excellent. Outright sharpness isn't the best we've seen from a 4-megapixel camera, but it's not the worst either. Maybe we're spoiled by the razor sharp definition of the PowerShot S50 this month, but the fact is, the 3- megapixel Olympus Mju is sharp enough to rival the Digimax.

Never mind, though, because the Samsung's results are smooth-toned and noise-free and can surely stand a little sharpening in your image-editor. You don't need us to tell you that the digital camera market is competitive, constantly changing and crowded with excellent cameras. It makes it pretty hard to pick out any one of them and say "this is the one to buy if you've got a fixed budget or you're looking for a specific set of photographic options". For now anyway. The O Samsung does ZZ come close With nice build quality, very good performance and great photographic controls, the Digimax tops it all off with remarkable value PRO Skin tones are reproduced really well, with no tendency towards garish over-saturation CON What cons?

Kyocera's FineCam S5 looks like it's got a lot going for it Try before you buy! The Kyocera digital camera range is small, and the three main models share similar styling and dimensions. The FineCam S5 is the very compact and competitively priced 5-megapixel model that tops the range. Where some digital cameras, like the Canon PowerShot S50 also reviewed this issue, extend their point-and-shoot capabilities with more advanced photographic options, the FineCam S5 offers a more modest feature set.

It's going to appeal to snapshotters more than serious photographers, though the image guality from the 5-megapixel CCD promises to raise it well above the norm, enabling high-guality A4 prints or even enlargements up to A3. In addition to its standard program AE mode, the S5 also lets you set the lens aperture yourself, but that's as far as it goes - there's no shutter-priority or aperture- priority automation here. The only manual control you have is the exposure lock that all digital cameras offer half-pressure on the shutter release and the EV compensation control.

But then if the metering system is accurate in the first place, program AE exposure is likely to be all you need for the vast majority of shots. Point-and-shoot performance Our experience suggests that most digital cameras produce very accurate exposures, and the FineCam S5 is no exception. Our test shots were taken in varied lighting conditions, and the Kyocera handled them all perfectly well with no need for exposure adjustment. One of the big advantages of digital cameras is that you can check the results on the LCD straight away.

It does this pretty well, though the performance of the LCD does drop in dimmer lighting. Its smooth-edged design means it'll slip into your pockets without snagging or catching, and it's pretty light too. Startup isn't especially brisk, but at three seconds it's perfectly tolerable. You can customise the startup screen if you like, too.

As you power up, the flash unit on the top plate pops up. This is a bit annoying because the camera's guite small and there aren't many places to grip it as it is.

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It's a design flaw shared by many of Olympus' smaller digital cameras and there doesn't seem a particularly good reason for it. It does move the flash tube further away from the lens axis and hence reduces the risk of red-eye, but it would be better if the flash only popped up when needed instead of protruding all the time.

Control layout The control layout's guite good. What photographic controls are provided are accessed using compact on-screen menus that don't obscure the scene you're shooting. They run along the bottom of the display and expand upwards, rather like those on many Sony digital cameras. The four-way thumbpad used for menu navigation has scalloped edges to give your thumb more purchase, but it's still a bit vague and it uses a centre-press action to 'OK' your choices. This type of control is always a bit of a fiddle if you're in a hurry and if you don't press it at guite the right angle.

The scalloped edges help, but it's still too vague J The exposure control is good and its colour rendition better still. The fine detail though, is little better than in 4-megapixel models shortcuts to common photographic functions. You press up to change the flash mode and down to change focus mode. The focusing system is accurate and positive in general outdoor use, though it slows down a little in dim indoor lighting. You have a choice between 'wide AF' and 'spot AF' for trickier subjects. You swap between shooting, playback and movie modes via a switch on the backplate, and alongside this is the zoom control.

Beyond that, there's very little to learn, and the S5 is a camera that even beginners can pick up and start using very guickly. There are no 'scene' modes where the aperture, exposure, WB and other settings are adjusted for specific subjects, but we've found digital cameras usually do a perfectly good job in their standard program AE mode, so this isn't necessarily a big loss. Interestingly, the right-hand side of the camera starts to grow a little warm during prolonged use.

The heat seems to come from the SD memory card, though the Kyocera's by no means the only digital camera to suffer from this. Window of opportunity If you don't want to use the Kyocera's LCD for composing images, you might be worried by the apparently small size of the optical viewfinder window. It's easy to find with your eye, though, and while it produces a fairly small image, it's also crisp and distortion-free.

Overall, the FineCam S5 makes a very good impression. It's small, compact and well-made, and while it's not guite in Digital Ixus territory, the build guality nevertheless leaves you feeling that your money's been well spent. How many other cameras offer 5-megapixel resolution at this price? Is resolution everything? The CCD resolution is one thing, of course, but it's the guality of the photographic results that counts, and this can be influenced by the lens guality, AF system and in-camera processing algorithms.

The Kyocera's exposure control is good and its colour rendition better still. The fine detail, though, lags noticeably behind that of the 5-megapixel S50, and it's probably little better in real terms than many 4-megapixel cameras can achieve. For example, Samsung's 4-megapixel DigiMax V 4 offers similar guality levels see review on page The FineCam S5 isn't the only 5-megapixel camera we've seen that offers results little better than 4-megapixel models.

This is why, along with its somewhat unadventurous feature set, it's difficult to get too excited about this model. It's a good camera, make no mistake, but so are its rivals. Everything about the FineCam S5 is modest: its price and its dimensions, but also its feature set and ultimate detail rendition. Safe to leave on full auto much of the time J What's more, although it's a more compact design aimed at a less sophisticated photographic market, it's not so far behind the G3 in features, either. Like the G3, the S50 has program AE, aperture- priority, shutter-priority, full manual control and a variety of 'scene' modes for portraits, landscapes and the like.

The S50 uses the same new Canon-developed DIGIC processing, it has a sophisticated 9-point autofocus system plus 'Flexizone' focus point selector, auto- exposure bracketing, and flash output control with optional 'second-curtain' slow sync mode where the flash fires at the end of the exposure. The S50 is so sophisticated that it's difficult to track down any meaningful differences between this and the acclaimed PowerShot G3. In terms of both features, build and handling, it's hard to say which is more attractive. Packed with features The styling makes the S50 look compact, but it's actually guite substantial.

The smooth-edged design means it won't snag when you slide it into your pocket, but it'll have to be a decent-sized pocket and pretty well reinforced, too. But then you are getting a lot of features. You can simply point and shoot with the S50 and get great results 95 per cent of the time though its 9-point AF system managed to make a bit of a hash of one of our indoor macro shots , or you can take over using one of its more advanced exposure modes.

In tricky lighting you can use EV compensation or switch to one of the other metering patterns - the spot mode will be better when shooting spot-lit stage performances, for example. And if you need to switch to flash, the slow sync modes and controllable flash output will enable you to make the finest of adjustments. And while most cameras let you calibrate the white balance manually, the S50 provides two custom WB settings.

Most photographers will want to save images as JPEGs, but the S50 also offers the RAW mode found on the G3, where image data captured by the CCD is stored without any in-camera processing - instead, you open and convert the files on your computer. Like the G3 and other Canon models, the S50 offers single-button access to the various shooting menus such as image guality, white balance, exposure compensation. And you can leave these menus on-screen while you shoot - they don't obscure the image much and it's an ideal system for guick shot-by-shot modifications.

You swap metering patterns via another button on the back, making this feature guick, easy and accessible. The only complaint we do have is that the slow sync mode has to be accessed via the menus. Most compact digital cameras offer accurate autofocus systems, but if you want to focus manually with the S50 you can. And when you press the MF button you discover that it magnifies the central part of the LCD image so that you can focus accurately. The start-up time is good without being exceptional, at around three seconds, while the autofocus system is responsive and positive - though, like any compact digital camera, still some way from instantaneous.

The S50's not-guite-compact design makes it guite 'grippable', too. Your hands don't end up covering controls or switching things on or off by accident. There are signs here and there that the S50's design owes as much to style as practicality, though. Instead of the usual circular navipad, it uses a horizontal strip of buttons. You also have to press centrally for 'OK', and unless your thumb-press is accurate it's easy to press one of the directional controls instead. The zoom switch could also do with being a bit bigger.

The S50's not that fast at cycling through saved images in playback mode, but it's guick to zoom in and pan around if you want to check your shots for sharpness or details. Is it going to embarrass the PowerShot G3? Well, we think it is, actually. The weather conditions during the test period were grim, but not so grim that the S50 couldn't reveal the accuracy of its exposure system, good contrast and saturation plus excellent detail rendition.

Not all 5-megapixel cameras display a useful increase in detail rendition over 4-megapixel models we were disappointed by the Nikon Coolpix , for example , but the S50 does. Whether it's the new DIGIC processing system, a super-sharp lens or just general advances in digital camera technology we don't know, but you'd find it hard to beat these results without swapping to a digital SLR.

As we said at the start, the S50 is so good it must leave a bit of a cloud hanging over Canon's PowerShot G3. Which is the flagship model? Which is the most desirable? We'd have to go for the S Although it's not ultra-compact, it is well made, well designed, packed with features and produces excellent results. We think it's Canon's best compact digital camera yet. Or even better still, using dedicated in-camera special effects controls? It's a fair assumption to make that sales have taken a bit of a bashing, but filters are by no means obsolete - there's still a market for those people who want to achieve certain effects on the spot, rather than have to fiddle around in Photoshop.

The amount of time saved depends very much on the type of filter used - some effects are easy to recreate in Photoshop, while others are much more fiddly. Filters most commonly come in two sizes: a small one for digital compacts, and a bigger one for SLRs. The main manufacturer of consumer-brand filters is Cokin, and its A-series size is the filter that the compact users will want, while the P-series will be the choice of the SLR user. Jessops makes its own Cokin-sized filters, too, and these are often cheaper, but there isn't the range offered by Cokin.

You can also buy screw-on filters by manufacturers like Hoya, but it's often difficult to combine these, so the slide-in systems are your best bet. Once these are fitted, you simply slide one or more filters in place and take your shot - the TTL metering systems in digital cameras automatically correct the exposure for any loss of light. Flow else can you create skies so blue they look almost surreal; grass so green it seems positively edible; and flowers P so bright you need sunglasses to look at them? Far better to use a polariser at the image-capture stage. P What a polariser does is block out all the polarised light in a scene that can cause glare and make colours appear less intense, so that colours in a scene become deeply saturated, and reflections in water, glass or painted surfaces are eliminated.

By rotating the polariser you can vary the amount of polarised light that's blocked out, which is useful if you want to keep some reflections in a scene, perhaps in a pond or lake, but still want to increase colour saturation. The intensity of light affects the degree of polarisation. Expect the best results on a bright, sunny day, early morning or early evening when the sun is low in the sky, and keep your camera at 90 degrees to the sun's orb to maximise results.

You'll still see improvements on a dull day, but you won't get the deep blue skies possible on cloudless days. Remember that polarisers come in two forms, linear and circular - circular versions are the ones for digital cameras What normally happens is that you get a kind of clipping at both ends - detail is lost in the highlights to the extent that portions of the image burn out to pure white, and a similar amount is lost in the shadows, too, so they become totally black in parts.

The result is a rather weak looking image. Things can be improved with clever metering, so that one aspect is sacrificed to ensure perfect detail in the other - normally the highlights at the expense of the shadows. An easier and better alternative is to use a neutral-density graduate filter, sometimes called a grey grad.

An ND grad is basically a half clear, half grey filter that works to reduce the amount of light the camera's image sensor receives from the sky. This means that the difference in contrast between the foreground and sky is brought down to acceptable levels. You simply line up the filter to ensure that the grey half matches the line of the sky and snap away. ND grads come in 0. It works by refracting a proportion of the light rays that pass through the lens so that they don't focus exactly on the camera's image sensor, obscuring some of the detail in the shot without making the whole thing look out of focus.

The resulting dreamy, romantic glow can add atmosphere and mood when used correctly - it's perhaps been a little overdone on weddings and portraits, so you'll be able to produce something that looks a little less cliched if you put it to work on landscapes or still-life shots. The degree of diffusion depends on the aperture setting you choose. Wider apertures such as f2 bring out the greatest amount of diffusion, whereas at the narrowest end you might not notice anything at all.

Diffusers come in different strengths, so it's probably worth choosing a strong one for landscapes as you're going to want to shoot at narrow apertures to ensure end-to-end sharpness though large depth of field. For portraits and still life, you should go for the weaker versions, such as the Cokin Diffuser 1, or Jessops Diffuser 1, as you'll be shooting at wide apertures where the effect is at its strongest.

Colour saturation and detail will both be subdued so it's probably best to avoid using your diffuser if your subject relies on either of these virtues for its impact. White balance settings make them somewhat less essential for digital cameras, but they're useful for those cameras with a cloudy setting that doesn't go guite far enough and doesn't have a manual option to remedy the problem.

The main use for warm-ups is to combat the effects of dull, overcast weather, particularly in the middle of the day, which produces a blue colour cast that can look rather unflattering if you're not after the cold, wintry look. Some photographers also use them to accentuate the warm-orange tones of early morning and early evening sunshine, or to give people that sun-kissed look. Flowever, in most cases a camera's cloud white balance setting will probably do the trick.

Another popular orange filter range is the sunset, which offers a much deeper shade of orange, and is also graduated so the shade gets stronger as you go closer to the top half of the filter. It's not like a conventional graduate because the bottom half is still orange rather than clear.

It is also more use to digital users than the warm-up, offering a graduated orange sunset-style glow that could only be recreated in Photoshop with lots of time and tinkering. They do reduce the amount of light reaching the image sensor for the sky portion - but in varying amounts, depending on the shade and colour - so you have to find out this 'filter factor' if you want to use a coloured grad in this way.

Whatever the factor, the result will be better than it would have been without using it. Just be careful to choose colours that occur naturally in the sky - things like tobacco, green and fluorescent pink just look naff and unsightly. Warmer colours such as pale pink and coral are good for giving the sky a further boost at sunrise and sunset, and colder shades like blue are worth trying in order to create a spectacular skyline out of a bland and boring day.

Of course, the effects can be replicated in Photoshop, but this means making selections, feathering, and then graduating the selection using masks, which is so much more hassle than sticking a filter to the front of your camera. Make sure you line up the coloured portion with the section of sky, or you may well end up with purple grass or pink snow! There's nothing to stop you using a coloured grad upside down either - any of the warmer colours can be used to enhance the foreground in coastal scenes, fields of corn or mountainous shots But just like the paperless office, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the creative and time- saving aspects of digital imaging are more likely to revitalise your interest in scanning, improving and archiving your film prints. Take it as a given that you'll remain knee-deep in paper and prints for the foreseeable future, and it makes sense to manage the flow of documents to and from your PC with a single device - the multifunctional all-in-one printer. Multifunctionals currently on the market have varying specifications, but they do have a few things in common. Most importantly, they all claim to be able to output photo-guality prints and good-guality text using standard inkjet technology.

They all feature a flatbed scanner - at least A4 in size - enabling you to scan in text and photos, and they usually work as a standalone colour photocopier as well. Spending a little more money secures extra features such as card readers for direct printing without using your PC, and upgraded print and scan guality.

Of course, you should always consider the alternative option. If you have sufficient power points, USB ports and desk space, buying a separate printer and scanner enables you to choose the specification you require for each and doesn't risk shutting your whole system down if one component fails.

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And as flatbed scanners are not especially good at scanning negatives, you should consider budgeting for a film scanner anyway. Printing features The headline features of any printer are its resolution and print speed. Scanners sample the source image a certain number of times per inch, each sample being completely described by a single bit usually RGB colour depth pixel.

But with four inks, printers can only produce either cyan, magenta, yellow or black at each of their dots per inch. By laying many dots next to one another, inkjet printers trick our eyes into perceiving colour. So, for a printer to accurately reproduce a dpi scanned pixel, it will make several ink dots of its four inks, requiring perhaps 2,dpi.

Installation of the two ink cartridges, print head and software is easy, and the printer driver is clear. The separate print head design means cartridges for the Canon are cheaper than others. Sensible key layout and an informative LCD make direct printing pretty easy. Especially impressive are its faultless borderless printing and copying capabilities, although these do slow it down.

At this price, though, something has to give and with the CX it's the paper handling - loading more than a single sheet at a time often leads to handling errors. We also had some installation problems with Windows XR Otherwise, ease of use is good, with dear Smart Panel control software, an informative LCD and the two black and colour ink cartridges are very easy to change.

It also claims the highest speed up to 22ppm mono , although it has only 'reduced margin' printing instead of the borderless prints its cheaper sibling, the CX, can produce. Maximum scanning resolution is a mighty 1, x 2,dpi, which produces enormous files. We received multiple error messages while installing the Smart Panel and other Epson software, but it was easy to use when finally working.

See the results section at the end of this lab test for an assessment of the printers' real-world speeds. Resolution is a more objective measurement, and 2, x 1,dpi is the minimum you should look for in a photo inkjet. HP's PhotoRET IV technology is a layering system that puts down up to 30 dots of ink on top of each other to build up smooth variations in colour.

Using less ink, it's faster and cheaper than full-resolution printing and generally gives impressive results although you can always choose full resolution printing if you prefer. All the printers on test can handle a variety of paper sizes up to A4, and the HP and Samsung can take an especially wide range of paper sizes.

The Lexmark has a clever paper sensor that automatically detects what media you're using, which avoids wasting ink on the wrong media. Borderless printing gives you the largest possible prints and looks good on smaller 6 x 4-inch enprints. All the printers have an input tray that can hold up to sheets, although you should always load speciality papers one sheet at a time.

The HP has a space-saving but somewhat awkward front- loading tray, while the others all load from the rear. All the printers have an LCD and control panel for standalone copying and information. The Canon and HP feature slots for memory cards to allow direct printing without using your computer, and both can take all major formats except xD Picture Cards and Multimedia cards in the HP. Scanning and copying The flatbed scanners on all the printers we tested are limited to A4 size.

The Lexmark and HP's side-mounted control panels restrict the positioning of larger documents for scanning and copying. All the models can scan at up to dpi resolution and the HP and Epson CX can go as high as 1,dpi for superb-quality scans. All the printers have enhanced scanning modes, some up to 19,dpi, but since these interpolate detail rather than actually gather more information, they're of limited utility - generally for line art only.

Although we tested it as a four-colour printer, the PSC can take a special photo colour cartridge in place of the black cartridge. The paper tray is awkward, and could scratch glossy media with its print side-down loading. Maximum print resolution is 4,dpi, with a bit scan resolution of 1, x 2,dpi. However, all the glister can't hide the plasticky design. But the X does have an impressive spec sheet - 4, x 1,dpi resolution and very optimistic 14ppm colour speed. It uses variable drop-size technology to save ink and add smoothness, and the control and driver software includes a basic image editor.

If you're running short on supplies, a Save Paper button prints 2-up and a Save Ink button reduces print quality. It's the only printer on test to come with a parallel port interface. Print resolution is 2,dpi, with the SCX using just two ink tanks. Like the HP, the black tank can be replaced by a photo tank containing an three additional light colour inks.

Copy and scan up to dpi functions are comprehensive, although the SmartThru software places more emphasis on communications than image manipulation and enhancement. Ensure the image you scan has no dirt, scratches or creases on it - all will reduce the final image quality. Leave your printer powered up when possible. Every time a printer restarts, it recharges the print heads and uses up your expensive inks. Photo-quality inkjet prints on glossy paper need much longer to dry than monochrome text.

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Leave them for at least 15 minutes before stacking them interleaf with a sheet of plain paper and at least 24 hours before mounting or framing. Never try to speed up the drying process! Because of the differences between scanning and printing dpi, you'll need a resolution of about four times the scanning resolution to deliver similar quality prints - so only scan at above dpi if you're certain you need to. The Canon and Samsung scan at bit colour depth; all the others at bit. This isn't necessarily a negative point because dynamic range the difference between shadows and highlights is at least as important, and remember that most digital cameras only have bit colour CCDs.

All the multifunctionals come with fairly comprehensive scanning software for choosing resolution, print area, OCR for text recognition , previews and auto-cropping. The Epson software enables you to scan and upload to web or email with one click, and several packages offer image-editing functionality such as gamma correction, sharpness, straightening and noise reduction. The Lexmark software has a good feature to remove the moire pattern you get when scanning half-tone images from newspapers and magazines.

The HP, Lexmark and Samsung include software to send and receive faxes. Although you can customise the scan buttons on the printers to your choice of resolution and software settings, this facility is probably more useful for copying, where there are fewer creative decisions to be made. All the printers can copy in colour or black and white, although you should always use glossy paper for good colour copies. These inkjets simply aren't in the same class as professional laser colour photocopiers that can lay down high-quality colour images on plain paper.

Standalone copying features vary, but all can alter the quality and resize images. All but the Lexmark can copy to fit on a chosen paper size and the Canon, Samsung and Epsons can even print multiple small copies on each sheet. Inks and paper Inkjet printing relies on four colour inks - cyan, magenta, yellow and black abbreviated to CMYK to reproduce the entire spectrum of colours. All printers except the Epson CX have just two cartridges, which means that you have to swap the combined colour cartridge when any one of the three inks runs out. The Epson's four separate tanks will save you money in the long run.

With the HP and Samsung, you can swap the black cartridge for a Photo Print cartridge containing lighter cyan, magenta and yellow inks for top-quality six-colour photographic images we tested them with black cartridges to match the other printers on test. All have extendible sheet feeders that can store sheets of plain paper up to A4 in size, and an output tray. All can copy without PC control, and enable you to alter contrast, size and quality. All can scan to OCR text recognition , with options to crop, preview and adjust at least basic colour and brightness settings.

Despite a breathtaking specification, results were distinctly average. The colour test images produced accurate tones and nice blacks but both suffered from noticeable dither. Greyscale performance was very good, with tons of detail and a solidity to the shadows. Text printing looked like something out of the '80s, with dire horizontal stripes through all the letters. The colour copy had plenty of sharpness but also muddy colours and a bizarre inch-wide strip that was much blurrier than the rest of the image.

The mono image was dithery but acceptable. The CX's speed performance depended very much on the source material: text and mono image and copy were fine, but colour copying and printing took an age. The Epson zipped through the scan in just over two minutes, delivering a sharp image, but one that suffered patterning and dull contrast. Colour reproduction was muted, occasionally even weak, and the contrast could have been a bit punchier.

Fine detail showed well, but we did spot very slight horizontal banding in the smaller colour test image. Contrast problems also dogged the mono image, although detail was good once more. The colour photocopy was fine and sharp, although the whites had been muddied down with a cyan cast. Faint banding was again visible on the black and white copy. Printing and copying times were acceptable, with the CX scoring average marks in all but colour copying, where it was the slowest on test.

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Scanning performance was reliable, if unexciting - solid detail and accurate colours but some interference and slightly flat contrast. Scan time was average, taking about two and a half minutes. Printing on the MPC was very consistent, with good dynamic range and a fine level of detail in colour images, although they were occasionally a little cool.

Tonal discrimination was impressive and the Canon coped well with solid colours. Mono performance wasn't so hot, with weak blacks and flat contrast rescued only by that crisp detail. It's a shame, then, that colour copy performance was the worst on test, our image suffering from a sharp grid interference pattern throughout and a degree of edge fade. Mono copying was better, although the high-contrast output did lose some shadow detail.

The MPC was the swiftest model on test for both printing and copying, especially for high-res images, where it finished in less than half the time of the slowest printer. Scan performance was good, with accurate if muted colour reproduction, a healthy level of contrast and lovely detail. It was a bit slow, though, taking seconds to capture our A4 image.

The Canon has a separate print head, which means its ink cartridges are around a third of the price of others on test. It also allows the print head to be more sophisticated and faster than its disposable rivals. It shows Lightness, A and B. Select A. Flatten the image and convert back to RGB. The colour values relate to the amount of ink needed forEach pixel in an image is monitors, RGB is the most each.

You canthat gets interpreted as common colour space. But thisinterpretation differs stands for red, green anddepending on the colourmode of the display. Click The upshot of using this broad gamut is minimalthem. Unless properlyluminosity data. RGB is additive, meaning that adding more of each colourwill eventually lead to white. With CMYK the starting point — the paper you printon — is white: as colour is added, you get further from white and closer to black.

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