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March 18, 2004
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Mike Angelo's Digital Darkroom

The Microtek S1/D1 Digital Camera for the Linux, Mac, and Windows Platforms

Mike Angelo -- 18 March 2004 (C) -- Page 2


Article Index
JPEG Compression Note: The Microtek User Guide (it's on the CD that comes with the S1) notes the Quality Level settings are indeed JPEG compression settings. And according to the User Guide and also what seems actually to be happening when the S1 is tested, changing the Quality Levels does indeed change the JPEG compression levels -- inferred from the file size changes.

However, in an e-mail discussion about this, Microtek spokesperson Tommy Shih told MozillaQuest Magazine: the compression factor cannot be set. That seems to be in direct contradiction to what the Microtek User Guide states. Thus, while it appears that the user can set the JPEG compression factor the S1 uses, the Microtek spokesperson says that is not so.

MozillaQuest Magazine also asked Tommy Shih what are the JPEG compression level(s) used with the S1. He was unable to furnish this information.

  • Resolution and Quality Levels

The Microtek Take-it S1 digital camera offers four resolution settings for still photographs, 2048 pixels x 1535 pixels (interpolated), 1600 pixels x 1200 pixels, 1280 pixels x 960 pixels, and 640 pixels x 480 pixels. On the S1 these resolutions are labeled as 3M, 2M, 1M, and VGA respectively.

The S1 offers three JPEG compression levels, which the Microtek people call Quality Levels. The three JPEG Quality Levels are Best, Fine, and Normal. Altogether, the four resolution settings and three quality levels provide twelve levels of photograph quality. (Please see the JPEG Compression Note in the right sidebar.)

There is an easy to use menuing system that lets you easily select image resolution and compression (Quality) levels. For the highest quality photos, use the 2048 pixels x 1536 pixels (interpolated) and Best quality level settings.

Setting the S1 to 3M and Best produces the highest quality photos out of the camera. Selecting VGA and Normal will produce the lowest quality photos. The primary trade off here is quality verses quantity -- your choice.

The S1 comes with an internal 8-MB flash memory. Depending on the quality settings you can get from approximately 8 photos at the 3M and Best settings to approximately 101 photos at VGA and Normal. Please see Table 1, below.

Extra Memory

The Microtek Take-it S1 digital camera accepts SD (Secure Digital) memory cards so that you can add additional memory to it. SanDisk has SD cards starting at $43 for a 64-MB card and going up to $500 for a 1-GB card, list prices.

With a 512-MB SanDisk Ultra II SD card ($280), you can get from approximately 614 photos at the 3M and Best settings to approximately 7,025 photos at the VGA and Normal settings. Please see Table 2, below.

For more information about SD memory cards and SD memory card readers please see our companion article, The SanDisk 512-MB SD Card and Ultra II Card Reader for Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Table 1. Photo Quality Levels and Number of Photos with 8-MB Internal S1 Memory

Table 2. Photo Quality Levels and Number of Photos with 512-MB SD Card

Quality Setting Approximate Number of Pictures Quality Setting Approximate Number of Pictures
3M and Best 8 3M and Best

614

3M and Normal 22 3M and Normal

1536

2M and Best 14 VGA and Best

3287

2M and Normal 28 VGA and Best

7025

1M and Best 23
1M and Normal 39
VGA and Best 47
VGA and Best

101

Color Balance and Contrast

Lighting Note: Point and shoot photography is great if all you are interested in is having a photograph just to have a photograph of something. And often the ambient conditions are OK and you get a decent photograph. However, please keep in mind that photo-editing in the digital darkroom is only going to be able to work with what the photo has to offer out of the camera.

Likewise, the photo-enhancing algorithms embedded in the S1 can only work with what the subject that you are photographing has to offer.

So, here is a tip to help you get great photos -- even if you are just a point and shoot photographer. Try to take your photos under the best lighting conditions that you can. If you are shooting out of doors and if you can chose when you do the shooting, then pick a nice, bright, sunny day. Also try to pick a time of day when the Sun will be at your back or side when you are taking the shots.

Shadows can help make a better picture. For example, the tree-limb shadows on the barn siding in Figure 1 add a nice touch to the picture. So, when you are planning your outdoor shots and lighting, think about what time of day will give you some nice shadows to add to your photograph.

Even if you are shooting indoors, try to take your indoor shots on a bright, sunny day with as much of that nice sunlight pouring inside as possible.

Of course, there are many instances where you have no control of when or under what lighting conditions you can take a photograph of something. Your infant child and not you is going to decide when, where, and under what lighting conditions he or she will walk for the first time. Same goes for an office party, wedding, vacation, and so forth.

Lighting also affects focus. The brighter the lighting, the better the depth of field for focus.

The S1 also has an user-selectable Exposure Compensation Value (EV). This can be used to make brightness level adjustments in the camera. The EV was set to 0 (normal) for our S1 testing. Any necessary brightness level adjustments were made with the GIMP after the shots were taken. (No brightness level adjustments were made to Figures 1 and 2, herein.

Article Index
Have you ever had the experience with a digital camera where your photos come out with a bluish cast where there should be white, poor contrast, and so forth? If so, you might have been able to clean them up using a good photo-editing program such as the Gimp to adjust the brightness and contrast levels. (Please see our tutorial #1: Basic Photo editing, cropping, scaling, brightness, and contrast for more about brightness and contrast adjustments.)

The Microtek S1 has some nice built-in software to take care of brightness and contrast levels for you, automatically. That software, the S1's White Balance feature, offers four settings: Auto, Daylight, Fluorescent, and Tungsten.

Both the Figure 1 and Figure 2 photos were shot with the S1's White Balance set to Daylight. Take a careful look at the snow-capped grass at the bottom right of Figure 2, on page 4. The snow is white as new fallen snow. The pine needles are a set of beautiful variations of green. And the black and white cat is black and white -- not black and bluish.

Please notice also, the crisp definition of reds, browns, grays, and tans in Figure 1, on page 3. As you can see, brightness, colors, and contrasts in both photos came out very well and needed no adjustments in the Digital Darkroom.

The S1's White Balance feature is particularly important if you are not too experienced or comfortable with photo-editing. You pretty much can use your S1 photos right out of the camera without need for brightness, color, and contrast adjustments.

That's very convenient. And even if you are good at photo-editing, it is very convenient to not have to make brightness, color, and contrast adjustments.

Of course, this is not to say that you never will have to make brightness, color, and contrast adjustments to photos shot with the S1. There is a tremendous array of possible lighting and subject matter conditions and the built in White Balance algorithms are not going to do it for all possible conditions.

Most of the several hundred shots we took during our field tests of the S1 were taken in good daylight conditions. In some instances where the lighting conditions were not so good, we did have to make some simple brightness and contrast adjustments. Please see the Lighting Note in the sidebar.

  • See Viewfinder and LCD on Page 3 --->

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