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The HP Photosmart A626 Compact Photo Printer produces lab-quality output up to 5"x7", includes a 4.8" touchscreen LCD display, and accepts common memory cards for computerless printing -- all in a package that weights less than 4 pounds and is about 10" wide. It even has a popup handle for easy toting.


The A626 uses HP inkjet technology for prints up to 4800 x 1200 dpi via USB, PictBridge, or one of its four memory card slots. Generally speaking, it produced beautiful 4"x6" prints in about 1:30, and 5"x7"s took about 2 minutes. An HP 110 ink cartridge can produce about 120 4"x6" prints. If you buy the ink and paper together ($34.99), your cost per 4"x6" print is around 29 cents. The images look every bit as good as lab quality, including a smudge and fade resistant surface.

Image Adjustments and Enhancements

The HP A626 has a few basic image editing tools, such as brightness, red eye correction, and cropping. They don't have the power of what you can do on your computer, but they do come in handy when printing directly from the memory card. I used cropping and brightness quite often with good results. The LCD is not a calibrated screen (nor would I expect it to be), so images look brighter and "cooler" on the LCD than what later appears in the print tray. After a few rounds however, I was able to anticipate the results that I could expect from my edits.

There's also an array of creative features such as the ability to freehand draw on a picture, add type, convert to B&W, add frames and clipart, and the most interesting of them all... slimming. Use this feature with extreme care. It actually narrows your subject in an attempt to shed unwanted pounds. But what is really does is squeeze them inward causing the face to elongate. If you do try slimming, I recommend only applying it at the mildest level.

I was not impressed with the B&W conversion either. The photos turned out dull and without snap. But the clipart was a hoot, and I actually had fun adding birthday balloons and other goodies to photos.

Nice Touches

The HP A626 has a number of nice touches that impressed me. I liked the ink status icon that was always visible in the upper left corner of the LCD. Working directly from memory cards seems much more efficient than printing via PictBridge that required your camera to be powered up. Plus, you don't get all of the editing and creative features when tethered via cable (but are available when printing with the card inserted into the printer).

If you're a Raw shooter, then keep in mind that you need to use the Raw+Jpeg option on your camera. The A626 can read the Jpegs and enable direct printing from your memory card. Later on, you can upload the Raw files to your computer for more precise image editing. This is a great way to enjoy pure amateur snap-shooting and serious fine art photography at the same time.

It's also a nice touch that you can buy an accessory rechargeable battery for the printer to make it totally portable. There's a hidden bay on the bottom for this accessory. It would have been really cool to have the AC adaptor fit in the empty bay for those who don't purchase the battery. Unfortunately the adapter is a tad too thick for stowing there. Seems like a missed opportunity.

Bottom Line

I highly recommend the HP Photosmart A626 Compact Printer. The image quality is excellent, plus you can print up to 5"x7", and on a variety of media including CD labels, photo stickers, and passport photos. If you connect the printer to your Mac or PC, you have access to HP's excellent driver software, plus the A626 works as a standalone memory card reader.

But this printer really shines when working solo on the kitchen counter or hotel room desk. Simple insert your memory card full of images, browse for your favorites on the bright LCD screen, make a few minor adjustments, then print. Suddenly you're free from the computer (and it feels good). The A626 is compact enough to easily fit in your suitcase or toss in the back of the car. This HP compact is available now for about $185 US.

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Bridge 2.0 (included with Photoshop CS3) now features the Get Photos from Camera command that gives you lots of options when downloading your pictures from a memory card to your hard drive. Yes, you could just drag and drop those same images without using Bridge, but you may want to take a second look first.

Get Photos from Camera allows you to create a custom download folder, modify the file names of your pictures, and even add your copyright information -- all during the normal downloading process. So in about the same time as it would take you to drag and drop, you've accomplished a lot of housekeeping too. Plus, you can preview thumbnails of your photos before you initiate the download, and only pick the ones you want. Try that with drag and drop. And if that wasn't good enough, then how about Bridge's ability to save copies of your masters to a separate drive... automatically during the download!

All you have to so is launch Bridge, go to File > Get Photos from Camera, and make a few choices. The first I recommend is a metadata preset with all of your contact and copyright info. Using Bridge is particularly nice for devices such as the iPhone that doesn't automatically add your metadata to its captured images.


Time to get organized. If you haven't made the move to Apple Aperture or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom yet, then Bridge 2.0 will give you much of the same capability when importing your images.

More Photoshop Goodies

Photoshop CS3 Goodies: Photomerge
B&W Conversion Options in CS3
Deke on Vanishing Point 2.0 Filter in Photoshop CS3
Dave Story & Kevin Connor Insiders' Look at Photoshop CS3 - Podcast 85

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.

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Kodak's latest announcements are right in line with the direction that consumer photography is moving. Take for example the Easyshare Z812 IS Zoom Camera. It's compact enough to fit in your jacket pocket, but captures stills and video in 16:9, and includes all of the bells and whistles that you'd expect from a state of the art digicam.

In my Podcast #96 on 16:9, I talk about how this aspect ratio can shake up your still photography and energize your videos. The Kodak Z812 is the perfect tool for this type of work. You can capture video in HD 1024x720 at 30fps using advanced QuickTime Mpeg 4 compression with stereo sound. If you want to shoot stills, then you have the 3264x1836 option, which is 16:9 at 6 megapixels. If you get the HDTV accessory dock ($100 US), you can connect it to your HDTV and playback the content in full resolution. (My guess is that you don't need the dock to do this because A/V cables are included with the camera, but it is a convenience.)

Other impressive specs include the 12X SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH VARIOGON optical zoom lens, optical image stabilization, face detection, high ISO (up to 3200), 2.5" LCD, advanced program modes, and plenty of setting controls.

On the negative side, I don't see a custom white balance option nor Raw format. But everything else looks pretty good. The Kodak Z812 is both Windows and Mac compatible, and according to the Kodak web site, is available now for $299.95 US. This is a camera to keep your eye on.

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Going to Las Vegas: Photoshop World


I've got my $49 airfare to Las Vegas, and I'm heading out next week for Photoshop World. This will be my third trip to Sin City this year.

You can find me in the O'Reilly booth (#220) conducting live interviews with Deke McClelland, Eddie Tapp, and Mikkel Aaland, as well as other industry notables. These interviews will be podcasted on the O'Reilly Digital Media site and here on The Digital Story, as well as broadcasted so that attendees on the Expo floor can listen in.

You can get a free Expo pass for Friday at the show. If you're in town, please come by the O'Reilly booth, introduce yourself as a TDS member, and say hi.

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Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.

Digital Foci PSF-250 Photo Safe 80GB

Recently a question came up about the best portable photo storage device for those who don't want to lug their laptops on the road, but who want to offload photos from their memory cards to a hard drive. Just about everyone loves the Epson P-5000 in terms of user interface, design, and that gorgeous LCD that displays 16.7 million colors, but not so much for the $699 price tag.

For a more reasonable $172, you can get the Digital Foci PSF-250 Photo Safe 80GB Portable Digital Photo Storage with Memory Card Reader. For this kind of savings, you don't get the beautiful color LCD, but you do get 80 GBs of storage, memory card slots for just about every card on the market, and a monochrome LCD featuring copy status indicator that displays percentage completed, transfer confirmation, and number of files copied.

Once you return home, connect the Digital Foci to your computer's USB 2.0 port. It mounts just like a regular external hard drive, making image download a snap. The device was among Pop Photo's Editor's Choices for 2007.

Is the Digital Foci the best portable photo safe for the money? That depends on your tastes. But you have to admit that it appears to be a capable and feature-rich device at an affordable price.

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File this one under "Things I Knew But Forgot." I recently installed iPhoto '08 and the updated version of the Canon EOS Utility software. Suddenly every time I connected a camera or a card reader, Canon's CameraWindow would launch. It was driving me crazy.

Instead of going right to work in Aperture or Lightroom like I wanted to, I'd have to wait for CameraWindow to go through its process thinking it was going to get my photos. I checked its preferences and could not discover how to stop it from launching automatically every time I connected a camera.

Finally, when nosing around in iPhoto '08, I found the preference setting for "Connecting camera opens." Ah Ha! That was it. iPhoto controls all applications with this setting. I knew that. And guess what was selected in the preference pane? That's right: CameraWindow.


I've now changed the setting to "No application" so that nothing automatically happens when I connect my camera... just the way I like it.

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Nikon Answers Back with the D300


Just a few days after Canon released the EOS 40D, Nikon answers back with the tempting D300. This pro body features a 12.3 megapixel CMOS APS sized sensor, 6 fps burst mode, 3" LCD, ISO 6400, 51-point autofocus system, 14-bit image processing, and a wireless networking option.

The D300 will cost a bit more ($1,800 US) than Canon's 40D, but also has nice goodies that the Canon doesn't have such as up to 9-frame auto bracketing and EV compensation up to 5 stops. This highly anticipated successor to the D200 should be available in November 2007.

For those of you with bigger pocketbooks who want a full frame sensor Nikon, they also released the D3 with the estimated price of $5,000 US for the body.

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.

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Improved "Park by the Numbers" Gallery

Park by the Numbers

The Park by the Numbers Gallery is new and improved enabling you to upload your cameraphone pictures directly to the gallery via an email address ( or by using the "Upload" button on the gallery web page. So now you can take your photo and add it to the gallery before you leave the parking garage.

"Park by the Numbers" is a camera phone project that began as a simple way to help me remember where I parked my car in big garages. But as I started to look more closely at these images, I began to enjoy them on the artistic level too, and became interested in taking other types of parking shots. So what started out as a practical use for a smartphone, has evolved into a creative look at an everyday function that many of us have in common.

You can learn more about the project by visiting the Park by the Numbers home page. So next time you park your car in a big garage, whip out your cameraphone, snap a photo, and if you like it, upload it to our gallery. It's fun... and it may just help you find your car after returning from a long flight.

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Wondering how you're going to store those large Raw files and video captured with your modern digicam? Toshiba has announced a new 32GB SDHC memory card, and a 16GB version too. The cards should be available worldwide in January 2008 and October 2007 respectively.

I was just thinking about memory card size the other day when reading about the new Canon G9 that captures 12-megapixel Raw files and 30fps SD video. That is a lot of data! It's good to know that we're going to have memory to store all of that beautiful content on.

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Canon unleashed a torrent of announcements today, but the two cameras that will probably be of most interest to TDS members are the new EOS 40D DSLR and the PowerShot G9 compact. Both cameras are updates that are true improvements over their predecessors.

Canon states about the 40D: "From the camera's newly enhanced, 10.1-megapixel CMOS imaging sensor (designed and manufactured by Canon) and its proprietary and super-efficient DIGIC III image processor, to its completely redesigned autofocus sensor and fast, 6.5 frame-per-second (fps) continuous shooting capability (for bursts of up to 75 Large/Fine JPEGs or 17 RAW images), the EOS 40D SLR puts the fun in functionality and makes serious photo business a positive pleasure." I think Canon shooters are going to love the 6.5 fps.


On the compact side, the PowerShot G9 packs a ton of features into it's handsome body, including the return of RAW: "The PowerShot G9 digital camera features the same matte black, retro-hip design that G-series fans have come to appreciate, with a simplified control layout that is versatile yet easy to understand. This camera is loaded with Canon's latest and most advanced technologies, while raising the bar with the addition of RAW Mode, usually reserved for larger and more expensive SLR cameras. Advanced photographers also have the option of using RAW+JPEG simultaneous capture functionality, giving photographers the best of both worlds - JPEGs for immediate use and RAW images for faithful image reproduction, and extensive, non-destructive image editing capability."

I'm going to enjoy learning more about these cameras over the coming weeks...