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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. 

What is the best and safest way to change a lens on a camera? Over the years, I have managed to get dust and dirt into my camera by switching from a 28mm lens to telephoto lens resulting in internal camera damages. Any suggestions?

Thank you 
Michael A

The best advice I can give you for changing lenses is that with practice you'll be able to change them quickly. If the wind is blowing, put your back to the wind and try to shelter the lens opening from the wind as much as possible. I generally try to keep my camera facing down and away from the wind when I change lenses and have never had any problems with dust and dirt getting into the camera.

I just purchased a Nikon N75 and also a 70-300mm lens, I took some pictures at my son's football game using 800 speed film and the zoom lens and all the pictures came out blurry. I have no clue as to what I am doing wrong, do you have any suggestions? Any help would be appreciated !!!


A couple of things could cause this problem.

If the players are the only things that are blurry, then the problem is likely the shutter speed was too slow. When shooting sports, you should be using either the sports mode or shutter priority. The sports mode on your N75 will work to set the fastest possible shutter speed in an attempt to freeze action. Shutter priority will allow you to set the shutter speed that you want (I would recommend something around 1/500th). If there is not enough light to achieve a proper exposure with the speed you have selected, you have two choices. One is that you can select the next lower shutter speed. Be careful not to go to low or you will have blurred subjects. The other fix for this problem is to increase your film speed. Try using ISO 1600 instead of ISO 800. The new 1600 speed films are quite good.

If everything is blurred it might be the way you're holding the camera. SLR cameras (especially with long zooms like 300mm) you need to hold the camera firmly with your right hand with your index finger on the shutter release. Your left hand should be positioned under the lens, cupping it and supporting it. This will help steady the lens and give you sharper images. I have seen many people try and hold this type of camera with one hand on each side of the camera. That allows for a lot of movement at the end of the lens and will cause everything to be blurred.

I have a Minolta Maxxum 300si AF. I want to purchase a more advance (Minolta) camera. My question is will my Minolta lenses fit any new Minolta camera?

Patrice Schulz

As a rule all Maxxum lenses will fit any Maxxum camera. However, there are a few exceptions. The best way to find out if you have one of these rare camera/lens combinations is to look at the camera manual. Any good camera store will allow you to check to make sure your current lenses will work with the new camera before you buy it, and Minolta's customer support team should be able to answer any specific compatibility concerns if you're still in doubt.

I'm shooting with a Olympus C5050Zoom with the FL40 flash. I am very happy with its overall performance. However, I'm having difficulty in photographing a couple of my cats, which are jet black in color. I've tried several backgrounds and still, their image is difficult to make out. Can you explain to me the best way to photograph them so that their images will come out clear?

Bob Prater

You can try using bounce flash if you haven't tried it yet. This may help bring out more detail in their dark fur. If the bounce flash doesn't do it, try overexposing your subject by one or two stops.

I have a Pentax SLR camera and have purchased a Quantaray zoom lens for it. My daughter is a cheerleader so I bought this lens mainly for taking shots of her on the field while I sit in the stands. I would say that 95% of the shots I have taken are blurred beyond recognition with the remaining 5% less blurred but still very disappointing. Can you tell me what to do to correct this? I am using the camera in auto-focus mode with 400 speed Kodak MAX film. The pix have all been at night but on a very lighted football field. The brightness of the shots do not appear to be a problem as far as the prints are concerned but I did not know if the lack of flash and/or natural light could effect the results. I can provide the exact camera model and lens numbers, if needed.

Thank you, 
Holly Atkins

The first thing that I would question is the choice of film speed. (I am assuming that this is a high school field that we are dealing with.) Even though the field looks bright, photographically it is darker than you think.

You may need to step up to an 800 or 1600 ISO film. The problem may be that your daughter is moving to fast for the shutter speed to stop the action. A faster film will help give you a faster shutter speed.

If your camera has the capability, you may want to try setting in shutter priority, and selecting a shutter speed of either 1/500th or 1/250th depending on what you can achieve with your film speed and lighting conditions. Also, if your camera has a sports mode try using it. In sports mode the camera will always select the fastest available shutter speed for the available light. This will save your figuring out shutter speeds by letting the camera do it for you.

The other thing I would look at is what exactly is blurred. If only your subject is blurred shutter speed is the culprit. But if everything is blurred it could be the way you're holding the camera. A lot of people hold SLR cameras with one hand on each side. But with a long zoom lens there is quite a bit of weight out at the front of the camera. You should have one hand holding the camera with one finger on the shutter release, and the other hand should be cupping the lens from underneath. Be sure to keep your elbows in to add some additional support.

I'm planning to buy a second hand Marexar 80-200mm lens for my Vivitar 3800N. I've never heard of this company before. It would be very kind of you if you can comment on the quality and performance of this lens.

With regards 

I have never heard of this brand and can't seem to find any reliable information on them. If any readers send me experiences with them please let us know and we'll forward your comments.

My question is, I'm using a flash in a building that has a lot of lighting. I'm bouncing the light at 45 but I'm getting flat color and a grainy look to my photos. What do I need to do to get the right look? By the way this is for a wedding that I'm doing this weekend up coming. I bought the 80A filter but I wont have time to do another practice shoot before the wedding. I just want nice results for the bride and groom.

Thank you... 

It sounds like the shots are underexposed.

If you are not using a dedicated TTL flash with your camera, you may have forgotten to open your aperture by two stops. When doing manual flash with bounce flash unit, many people forget to compensate for the light being lost by bouncing. Also, be careful to make sure that you are at an adequate distance to allow the flash to reach the ceiling and reflect onto your subject. If you are too close, the flash may fall behind your subject. If you are too far away, the flash may fall in front of them.

If you are using a dedicated TTL flash, make sure that the flash is set correctly for TTL and that your camera is set in a mode that will allow it to control the flash.

I have a Minolta QTsi Maxxum...when I turn it on and take a picture it works fine, but then when I go to take the 2nd picture it reads error. Everything seems to be working fine except this. I thought it was the batteries but I have changed them.

Thanks for your time. 
Tracey Welch

This problem could be anything from batteries, to a problem with the way the film is loaded, or a serious internal problem in the camera. I would start by taking the batteries out and leave them out for about a minute. After putting the batteries back in, if the problem still occurs, I would try rewinding the film and getting it out of the camera. Check the shutter to make sure it does not look damaged. A damaged shutter can cause this type of problem. If the shutter looks OK, try taking a couple shots with no film in the camera and see if the error comes up again. If error does'nt come up at this point, try reloading a fresh roll of film. If the error persists the problem is most likely in the film advance system and you'll have to take it in for service. If the camera works fine, there may have been a problem with the way the first roll was loaded.

I have a Nikon N65 camera with a 28-80 lens. I would like to buy another lens but am confused what would be best for me. I am looking at the Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 lens and also another lens that is around 70-210. I love to take pictures of people but would like a lens that would allow me flexibility and quick snapshots and also good quality. I'd also like to be able to zoom into them without getting into their faces, maybe across the room, etc. I love the 70-300 lens especially b/c it has a macro feature which allows me to get really close into some objects but I am afraid that many of my pictures will be blurred or I will miss opportunities with a slow zoom focus. What lens would be the best to allow me to do quick shooting with nice pictures. I would like to stay under $200.

Thank you for your advice! 
Kyra Haigh

With the prices of lenses being as low as they are today, I would definitely go for a 70-300 lens. This will help with getting close-up candids with being on top of your subject. Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron all offer lenses in this range under $200 but the Nikon doesn't have a macro feature. If you want the macro capability in this lens, you can go with either the Sigma or Tamron. I have some experience with the Sigma and it seems to do a good job for the money. I haven't had a chance to try the Tamron.

 .ART Files Explained

In the Beginner Question section of Issue #30, someone asked about converting a file with an .art extension. You said that you'd never heard of it and think they made it up. 

I'm afraid to be the one to break it to you, but .art is a valid extension. AOL uses the .art format for their compressed image files in their horrible proprietary system...that is, their excuse for a browser. Further, many older or cheaper paint and draw programs - those that usually come pre-installed on computers - use this extension for their programs (it's not really the same as AOL image files, though). 

Chances are, though, that the person saved the image from AOL. Try opening the image in Adobe Photoshop. If this does not work, try opening Internet Explorer, then click-drag the image from AOL into the Internet Exlorer window to open the file, right-click on the image once it opens in Internet Explorer and save it as a .jpg or .bmp file. 

Hope this clears a few things up. :)
Marcus J. Kitos

Several folks wrote in with this one. As always thank you. This was Sharoda Snyder's reply when we forwarded the information.

Thanks so very much for taking the time to forward the followup to me regarding the .art extension question.

Just a few hours ago, I was playing around with the photo and figured out a way to change it back to a .jpg extension. First, I opened the "My Pictures" file, found the photo and then sent it to myself. When I opened the email, I right-clicked the photo and opened the editor (AOL), clicked "save" and was able to give the .jpg extension back to the photo. I was also able to save it in the .bmp extension if I wanted to have both before I sent it to myself and after I clicked the "edit" button, but I prefer a ,jpg. While discussing this matter with several other people, I was told by someone who sells things on Ebay that their photos are submitted as .jpg but show up as .art. I am not sure why this happens.

I will, however, try the idea Marcus suggested and want to thank him for helping me with this matter. This information might be very valuable if, for some reason, my plan does not work in the future.

Sharoda Snyder

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