Frequently Asked Photo Questions for May

Have a question about digital photography? Don't keep it to yourself. Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can't promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in this newsletter.

For more frequently asked questions, read my Digital Focus newsletters from February, March, and April.

The Dreaded E18 Error

I have had a Canon Power Shot S2 I5 for about two years. It's been a great camera and travels with me all over the country. But I'm having some trouble with it. Sometimes the lens does not fully extend. Even if it does, there is no view--and I get the error code "E18." The repair shop tells me that the fee just to examine it will be about $150. I could upgrade to the Power Shot S5 IS for about $300. Should I repair it, or replace it?
--Paul Trimiar, Lafayette, Texas

Well, you're not alone, Paul. I often hear about the E18 error. In fact, there are a few Web sites dedicated to the issue, and it is reported to affect about four dozen Canon models. As you have probably figured out, the E18 error is related to a problem with the lens extending properly. Generally, it happens when gunk finds its way into the lens mechanism.

If your camera is still under warranty, Canon will probably repair it for free. If not, I've found that repair shops charge between $150 and $300 to correct this problem. You might even be able to fix it yourself. A Web site called e18error has some do-it-yourself steps you can try, but I'd consider this a last resort and only attempt it if the camera is not under warranty.

Here's my advice, Paul: If I had to choose between paying to repair the old camera and buying a new one, I'd try fixing it myself first--and it it doesn't work, I'd invest my money in a new camera.

More Ways to Recover Photos

If you're trying to recover lost data, you are correct when you say that most programs just try to "undelete" pictures and aren't very good at finding data on corrupted memory cards. I've found a program that's different, though. CnW Recovery Software works quite well. I had a corrupted memory card with some once-in-a-lifetime audio. This program went through all the clusters and recreated the audio file for me when I thought all was lost.
--Bill Berg, Wichita, Kansas

Thanks, Bill! This program does look like a viable way to recover lost photos from damaged or corrupted memory cards. You can use the program for 30 days for $15 (handy for a one-time emergency) or get a full license for $29.

In Video: How to Recover Photos Deleted From Your Camera

Printer Friendly Version of the Newsletter?

I enjoy the Digital Focus newsletter, and I would like to make a notebook to store all your articles for quick reference. I wish there was a "printer friendly" version of the newsletter.
--Ron Ries, San Diego

I get a lot of e-mail asking about a printer friendly version of the newsletter, so I should probably point out that we offer a way to easily print the newsletter. At the top of every newsletter (right under the headline), you should see a few links--look closely, and you'll see we've hidden the printer-friendly icon (labeled "Print") in plain sight!

Megapixels Versus Megabytes

My digital camera claims to take pictures at "10M" when set to its optimal quality level. But I'm confused. Shouldn't the JPEG files therefore be 10M in size? Mine come out at 4M.
--Brett Keyes, Limington, Maine

Those Ms you're throwing around are, not surprisingly, a pretty common source of confusion, Brett. The problem is that you're measuring two very different things and calling them both "M." When you set your camera to its optimal quality mode, it is taking 10-megapixel photos. Megapixel is shorthand for "a million pixels," so your camera takes photos with 10 million pixels. (The resolution is probably in the neighborhood of 3888 pixels across by 2592 pixels down. If you multiply those two numbers you get about 10 million.)

But pixel resolution doesn't have a lot to do with the actual file size, which is measured in megabytes. The file size will depend upon several factors, including the amount of data compression used to save the photo (this is sometimes called the JPEG quality level). All things considered, 4 megabytes is about what you should expect for photos of this size.

Still confused about the difference? Think of the megapixel resolution as the physical dimensions of a framed photo (say, 8 by 10 inches). The file size is the photo's weight on a scale, such as 14 ounces. As a general rule, the larger the picture is, the more it should weigh, but there's no direct correlation between the two values.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $15 and $50.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Horseshoe Bend Overlook," by Kristy Cannon, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kristy says she took the photo with an Olympus Evolt-E410 DSLR and a Zuiko 7-14mm ultra wide angle lens. She used Adobe Photoshop CS3 to make some minor adjustments to the exposure.

Kristy writes: "I took this photo while on vacation last summer near Page, Arizona. On this particular day, it was magic hour and a small thunderstorm was brewing about 10 to 15 miles away. I set up quickly… while trying to keep my knees from knocking at the edge of this cliff face, which drops off to over 1000 feet below!"

This Week's Runner-Up: "Roswell Plain," by Robert Bartram, Bradley Beach, New Jersey

Robert says that he took this photo about 25 miles northwest of Roswell, New Mexico while standing on top of an SUV. He used a Canon Rebel XTi.

See all the Hot Pic of the Week photos online.

Have a digital photo question? Send me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have the Digital Focus Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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