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Beginner Questions
by Chuck McKern

With over 12 years of retail and professional experience Chuck thought he'd heard it all - until he took this job.

Send us your questions for either the Beginner or Advanced columns by clicking HERE.  Please include as much detail about the technique, camera, lens, or film as you can so Chuck can answer your questions. 

I am shopping Ebay for a color enlarger. I came a Beseler with a 45A head. The seller told me how it works as I was unfamiliar with that type of head.

Given that the 45A is no longer supported by Beseler, is it a good idea to get into it. I guess the flash tubes are the issue, although the buyer says they are available on the Internet.


Typically buying an older enlarger that a manufacturer is not supporting or making is not a problem. With the 45a, I would try to find out who is handling the tubes and if the manufacturer of the tubes is still making them. There is a company called ColorBAT that services the Beseler/Minolta enlarger. They have some information about certain parts that are no longer available. Check out their information at

I am really a beginner's beginner. I bought a Nikon FG back in the early 1980's but never used it much. My kids used it in High School and College and now I have it again. I was thinking about getting a digital SLR, but decided that I would rather learn the basics using the FG and then graduate to the Digital SLR later. My question is regarding the Nikon speedlights. I have read that the SB 23 and SB 24 are adequate flashes for the FG. If I do buy the Nikon D100 down the road, would either one of these flashes work with it, and which one would give me the most bang for the buck.

Thanks for your assistance. 

If you are going to get into a Nikon Digital SLR, get a DX series speedlight. These are the speedlights that are recommended for all Nikon digital SLRs. Current models include the SB-80DX and SB-50DX.

I live out of the U.S. and am not comfortable communicating well enough in the language here to ask this at a photo shop. I have a Canon EOS G that I got for Christmas and am a real beginner. I am wanting to take some sepia photos using color film and a sepia filter. My question is, what kind of sepia filter do I need for this specific camera? Does the brand or mm# matter?

Thank you, 

Sepia filters are all basically the same so brand isn't important as long as it is a brand that makes good quality filters. The "mm#" is important. This number describes the size of filter that will fit your lens. Check the inside of your lens cap or side of any filter that you have on that lens for the correct size. If you are unsure of the correct size, take the camera and lens you want to use and take them to the store so that you can "fit" the filter to the lens.

One tip for you, when using the sepia filter, be sure to tell the lab that is developing your prints that you used the sepia filter. Otherwise, they will color correct it and will ruin the effect you are trying to get.

I've been looking at wide-angle zoom lenses, specifically the Sigma 17-35mm and the Nikon 18-35mm. The manager of my camera shop told me that the Sigma has too much fishy distortion compared to the Nikon 18-35mm but I don't feel like he really explained what that really means. The Sigma feels beefier, like it's built better compared to the Nikon, which feels kind of plastic to me.


The manager at the camera shop was talking about fish-eye distortion, and whether it's an issue depends on how you want to use the lens. You can read our reviews of the Sigma 17-35mm and Nikon 18-35mm, but our article on the "brick test" might illustrate what he's talking about the best. 

When using a filter, should you always dial overexposure compensation so that the filter can take effect? It seems that if you dont, then the meter will just compensate for the darkening and take away from the filters effect. Should you just meter first, then attach the filter?

Benjamin Shaw

If you're using a TTL meter (built in to your camera) the meter will compensate for the amount of light being lost by placing the filter over the lens. This is a good thing. If you don't compensate for the light being lost, your images will be underexposed. If you are using a handheld meter, you'll need to adjust the compensation on the meter based on the factor of the filter. This number is usually printed on the side of the filter. If it is not, check the data sheet that was packaged with the filter.

There are some specialty filters out there that recommend further compensation. When in doubt check the data sheet for more information.

Where is a good place to find used 3x3" filters for a Bronica Pro Hood. I have the hood, but am having trouble locating filters.

Dana Todd

There are a couple of places to find used filters. Try any of the large mail order dealers that handle in used equipment such as B&H Photo Another good source is to try to locate one of the photo swap shows that travel around the country. These shows have many dealers that handle used equipment. If they don't have what you need there, many of them have a large inventory of equipment that they can't bring with them but will be mail out to you after the show. Finally don't forget to check your local camera shops.

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