Gary's Parries 26/03/06

March 26, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Gary's Parries | Comment |

Gary's ParriesThis week’s Gary’s Parries topics are:

1. That’s No Problem, It’s A Nikon D50 Feature
2. Red-eye Guaranteed, Or Your Money Back
3. Who Was That Unsharp Masked Man?
4. AAA Battery Compatible Cameras
5. Effect Of Scene Modes On Image Quality / Resolution
6. New CMOS Image Sensor To Achieve ISO 6.4 MILLION (!!!)

Introducing this week’s Gary’s Parries column. Everything you always wanted to know about digital cameras, but were afraid to ask. No question too difficult, or too easy. As a Senior Principal Software Engineer, and a former Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, as well as a recording studio owner/operator, and now, a digital camera enthusiast, GARY has more digital camera knowledge in his entire brain than most people have in their little finger. In the unlikely event that GARY would not know the answer to your question, he will answer it anyway, true to the spirit of the word “Parries”, a fencing term which, in this context, implies “cleverly evasive answers”. So let your imagination run wild. Email all your nagging digital camera questions to:, and then, En Garde!

You may also attach to your email an ORIGINAL PHOTO of your choosing for display with your question. No personal information will be published with your question unless you specifically include it in the text or attached photo of your email. Emails selected for publication may also be edited for grammar, content, or other reasons.

Here are this week’s questions and answers


Gary, I’m a newbie. Bought a Nikon D50 camera, and for some reason, when I take a photo, especially with a sky scene, or any bright parts, the bright parts appear black. Hope you can help.


P. S. The printed photo is okay.

*** ANSWER 1 ***

Bert, the Nikon D50 has 5 playback display modes for its rear LCD, the last one being a Highlights mode which alerts you to possibly overexposed areas of an image by turning them black and then flashing them On/Off. You must have inadvertently set this display mode, which the camera retains until you navigate to another display mode by pressing the Up/Down arrows of the 4-way Multi Selector (located just to the right of the LCD) while playing back your images.

Don’t feel bad, Bert, it could have happened to anyone (but you really should read the D50 User’s Manual).

[Note: solution contributed by, who has admitted that he too has not read his D70 User’s Manual - Ed.]


Gary's ParriesI recently became interested in digital photography, and have a Canon PowerShot A95 which I absolutely love! I have noticed, from time to time, that some of my flash shots are prone to red-eye, which I also happen to love! Is there any way that I can guarantee the occurrence of red-eye?

Thank you for your help.

Lil LaRouge

*** ANSWER 2 ***

Lil (love your last name), this qualifies as one of the most unusual questions I have ever received; however, I understand completely, as I too find that I am similarly drawn to my own red-eye shots on occasion.

FYI, red-eye occurs when the light from the camera’s flash enters the subject’s pupils, strikes the red blood vessels of the retina inside each eye, and is then reflected back into the lens. Unfortunately, I know of no way to “guarantee” red-eye occurrence (short of fabricating it in post-processing); however, I can suggest several ways to increase the “probability” of its occurrence right out of the camera.

1. Offer subject “drinks” to dilate their pupils and dull their pupillary response to light.
2. Reduce ambient lighting as much as possible to increase subject’s pupil dilation.
3. Use camera’s “internal” flash only.
4. Turn OFF camera’s red-eye flash mode (obvious, but needed to be said).
5. Set camera’s flash at maximum intensity to increase the amount of reflected light.
6. Set camera’s lens at maximum zoom to increase the distance from the subject.
7. Position camera at subject’s eye level to capture the most reflected light.
8. Have subject look directly at camera to direct reflected light into the lens.
9. Have subject close their eyes for 30 seconds just prior to flash to dilate their pupils.

Upon review of the photo, if the subject’s eyes show up purple rather than red, RUN !!! They are from another planet.



How do I best sharpen images from the Canon PowerShot A620 using the software (ZoomBrowser EX) that Canon provides for it? I can’t see that there is an option to save the image at a certain quality, as for instance in ACDSee. When I try, I get a reduced size of the image that hardly looks any better.

Also, is there a certain level of sharpening that applies to all the images of this camera, or should each image better be sharpened individually?

Anders Tiberg

*** ANSWER 3 ***

Anders, I must confess, I may not be the best one to be answering your first question. My rule of thumb is this: whenever possible, avoid using any software that comes free with your camera.

There are always exceptions to this rule; however, from previous experience with the Canon PowerShot G3, I would have to say that ZoomBrowser is NOT one of those exceptions.

As to the best level of sharpening for your A620, with that I can help. If you intend to be post-processing your images on a computer (as you appear to be), then the best course of action would be to choose Low Sharpening in the A620’s Effects menu, as this will provide for more flexibility and better results in post-processing. Remember, you can always apply additional sharpening to unsharpened images with excellent results, but not so the other way around.

Generally, the desired level of sharpening will vary according to the image content. If you wish to emphasize the fine details of an image, more sharpening will be required, but not to the point where the image appears unnatural. Conversely, if you wish to de-emphasize those details, less sharpening will be required.

For example, you may want to use less sharpening when shooting portraits, so as to smooth out any facial imperfections, and thus improve the subject’s appearance. However, if you are photographing a subject in a real-life situation (i.e., not a “studio” portrait), you may want facial imperfections to remain prominent for a more dramatic effect.

There are numerous other examples of image content warranting specific levels of sharpening. I invite our readers to offer their own personal experiences.


Gary's ParriesI have a question for Gary. Are there any cameras available, or soon to be available, that use AAA batteries? I have looked, and conclude that there are none.

I need to replace my camera. It stopped working correctly after too much moisture exposure in the paramo (high altitude jungle) of Ecuador last Christmas. I want to get a camera that uses AAA batteries so that I will need to carry only one type of spare battery to power camera, GPS, and head lamp.

*** ANSWER 4 ***

Great question. There are not many AAA battery compatible cameras. The only one I would recommend is the Ricoh GR Digital. It is Ricoh’s top-of-the-line ultra-compact, which caused quite a stir when it debuted in September as a digital implementation of Ricoh’s renowned GR1 film camera.

It is an excellent camera, with only one “drawback” (if you can call it that), namely, it is a niche camera in that it does not have a zoom lens.  Rather, it has a fixed, 28 mm wide-angle lens, which is best suited for landscapes and close-proximity shots. The lens also has excellent macro capabilities for extreme close-up work.

If you find yourself backing up a lot because your camera cannot zoom out far enough (most digicams only zoom out to 37 mm), this camera is for you.  If you find yourself moving in a lot because your camera cannot zoom in close enough, this camera is not for you.

Here is another possibility. You can buy AAA to AA battery converter sleeves so that you can use your AAA batteries in a AA battery compatible camera, of which there are many. To find such sleeves, you can Google “AAA to AA battery” (in quotes as shown), or you can search eBay for “AAA battery converter” (without the quotes).

Hope that helps. Let me know if you need any suggestions of AA compatible cameras. BTW, it sounds like what you really need is a “weatherproof” camera.


Does the image quality and resolution from a digital camera change when using it in Portrait mode, as against Landscape mode?

*** ANSWER 5 ***

Interesting question. On the surface, one would NOT expect switching scene modes between Portrait and Landscape to affect image quality or resolution; however, it may be worthwhile to investigate this phenomenon a bit further.

Today’s digital cameras often provide a dozen or more user-selectable scene modes to optimize a camera’s settings for a particular type of scenery. The intent of these scene modes is to enable the camera to automatically adjust its settings, thereby eliminating the need for the user to manually adjust the settings (which may not even be possible, depending on the extent of the manual controls provided by the camera).

Portrait mode is one such type of scene mode. When selected, the camera will adjust its settings to provide a focus and depth of field which leaves the subject in focus, and the background scenery out of focus. The camera may also attempt to adjust its settings for warm facial tones and reduced sharpening. It might also set its internal flash to red-eye reduction mode.

Landscape mode is another scene mode type. When selected, the camera will adjust its settings to provide a focus and depth of field to have the entire landscape in focus. The camera may also attempt to adjust its color settings for vivid blues and greens. It might also disable its internal flash.

Depending on the sophistication level of the camera, scene modes can affect many of the camera’s internal settings, such as Aperture, Shutter, Flash, ISO, Focus, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, etc. It can also affect the camera’s internal processing parameters for Contrast, Sharpening, Saturation, and Color Tone.

If a camera’s Landscape mode selects slower shutter speeds to compensate for the small apertures needed to achieve the characteristically large DOF of that mode, this would make it more susceptible to image blur than Portrait mode. If it also selects higher ISOs for the same reason, this would make its images noisier than those of Portrait mode.

As to your specific question regarding image quality and resolution, while you may not expect Portrait or Landscape mode to affect a camera’s Image Quality or Image Size settings, some cameras allow you to customize these settings for each scene mode. So, if you should have different Image Quality and Image Size settings for the Portrait versus Landscape modes, then switching between the two modes would affect both image quality and resolution; otherwise, NOT.


Gary's ParriesAny truth to the rumors of a new CMOS image sensor that can capture high-resolution photos in total darkness? It all sounds a bit too good to be true.


*** ANSWER 6 ***

AF, it does sound a bit too good to be true (and I know O_G will be equally skeptical). Nonetheless, it definitely IS true, except that it cannot exactly capture high-resolution photos in total darkness.

To be more accurate, the new sensor is 2000 times more light-sensitive than current CMOS image sensors of equivalent size. Assuming a current maximum ISO of 3200 for a traditional full-frame CIS, that would equate to ISO 6.4 MILLION (!!!) for the new image sensor.

This sensor uses a nanotechnology process called SMPD (Single-carrier Modulation Photo Detector), which makes it possible to take high-resolution images with as little as 0.1 lux (equivalent to one-tenth the brightness of a candle at one meter away in a totally dark room). What makes the SMPD even more amazing is that it uses standard CMOS technology, which means low power and low cost.

The first offering of the SMPD, which will be a smaller sized image sensor for use in CCTVs and camera phones, is scheduled for release April 1, 2006.

[Column photo “The Photographer” by Brenda LaFleur of Brenda LaFleur Photography.]