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Beginner Questions

With over 15 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 have a Nikon F70 and a Tamron 28-200mm AF lens. This lens has pretty great reviews from other sites, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm the only one experiencing compatibility problems with the Nikon body and the Tamron lens. The auto focus is not working even though I'm positive the settings on the camera body are correct. So far, I've been taking pictures with just the manual focus and the pictures are turning out great. It gets pretty frustrating when you miss a lot of photo ops just because you're stuck doing the focusing manually.

I would just like to know this; is this something that has happened before with other people, or is the problem with the photographer (me)? After all, lens specifications indicate that it is compatible with Nikon. It should work.

Since I asked someone to buy this lens for me abroad, it doesn't seem likely that I can have it returned. I've read that Tamron lenses are cheaper and better quality-wise than Nikon lenses, but given my experience with Tamron, I'm hesitant to buy the brand again. This time, I am planning to sell the Tamron lens and play safe with a Nikkor lens that has a smaller zoom and is lighter. Is this a good idea, or is my problem with Tamron just a factory mistake?

I would appreciate any advice you could give me on this. Thanks!!


The problem you are running into is probably an isolated situation.

I have run into problems with some lenses not focusing with just about every brand. Sometimes the problem is in the lens and sometimes it can be in the camera body. I have personally had a problem with one lens that wouldn't focus on one of my bodies but worked fine on another. My other lenses would focus on both bodies. It turned out that one of the contacts on the lens was slightly off to one side (but still in factory specs). The camera body had the same contact slightly off to the other side (but also still in tolerance). These combined to prevent that camera and lens from working correctly together.

All this being said; Tamron is a good lens. The first thing that I would try to do is to try another lens on the camera and see if it works fine. This should help point the finger at the lens or camera (it is a long shot you would have the situation I mentioned above). If it does appear to be the lens, you can try to get a warranty repair done. (This isn't always possible with equipment purchased in other countries but it would be worth a try.)

I'm having trouble-shooting night football games using a Minolta STsi SLR with the Quantaray 70-300mm lens. I have taken thousands of daytime football pictures with no trouble using 400 speed film, in the 'sport' mode. I have tried 3 times to do night games and get blurred subjects. The 1st time I tried 800 speed on a monopod with the flash off and night mode on - still, blurry pictures. The 2nd time I used 800 speed on a monopod with the aperature set to "A" mode and the f stop to 5.6 with the flash off, again blurry subjects. The 3rd time I decided to go back to my comfortable 400 speed, turned the flash off, held the camera, aperature set to "A" mode and the f-stop to 5.6 for some of the time, then just flash off, and sport mode on for some of it, and again, blurry subjects. I'm about to go mad. Please help... FYI; I have two camera's the exact same model and I have used both so I think it must be "operator failure" not an equipment thing.


The biggest problem that you have is the lighting that is being used. I am assuming that these are high school football games. The lighting that is usually used at most school stadiums, is good for normal visual viewing but very poor for photography.

Due to this poor type of light, a higher film speed would be needed. Since ISO 800 wasn't enough, ISO 1600 would be the next choice. Either the sports mode or shutter priority would be my choice of modes. If you are going to use shutter priority, be sure to select a shutter speed that will stop the action you are shooting.

Also, fill the frame with mostly your subjects, and eliminate as much of the dark background as possible. If you have the dark background visible through the lens, it will try to factor that into the exposure, which will cause longer shutter speeds, leading to blurry photos.

I have a Nikon f90x that I am very happy with, but now it's showing Fee on the screen and flashing all the time. I can not take pictures, can you help me.


The FEE error is typically shown when the camera is set in either Program or Shutter Priority, and the aperture ring is not set in the smallest aperture. The camera requires the smallest aperture to be set on the lens in order for the camera to adjust the aperture correctly. Try checking that setting.

If the lens is in the smallest setting, then, check to make sure the lens is mounted securely. Try removing the lens and putting it back on again, making sure you get a secure click when it is on all the way.

If you are still having problems, you may have a bigger problem and should check with a Nikon service center in your area.

If you could answer my question, I would appreciate it, since it is something that I get mixed messages from different people all the time. What type of filter is better? The glass type that screws into your camera lens or the ones that fit into a Cokin type holder? I understand that there is more than one type of filter for the Cokin holders like polyester, resin, and gel filters. How do these stack up to the treated glass made by Tiffen or Hoya in terms of quality and image distortion?

Thank you very much 

It really depends on how you (and other people) define "better".

I have used some Cokin filters over the years and have had no complaints about their sharpness. Most of the bigger named companies that make filters (Cokin, Tiffen, Lee, B+W, etc) do a very good job in optical quality, no matter what material they are made from.

The Cokin style systems do offer an advantage in that you can buy a filter holder, one adapter ring for each filter diameter that you have, and then you will be able to fit one filter to each lens. This will prevent you from having to buy the same filter for each size lens that you have.

Personally; the only complaint I have with these types of systems is that the filter holders do not fit well in the camera case while on the lens. So you will find your self taking them on and off a lot. The glass filters fit very nicely in a camera case while on the lens.

Basically buy into the system that fits your needs, stick with a major company, and you will have a filter with good image quality.

Is there a good beginner digital SLR camera out there that cost less than $500? I am a poor college student who would give anything to get a Canon Digital SLR, unfortunately used Canon Digital SLRs are around $750.

Any suggestions? 

Digital SLRs are still a little on the pricey side. You may get lucky somewhere and find a used one, but it will be very hard to find one under $500.00. The prices on digital do keep dropping, but it is hard to tell when they will finally get below the $500.00 price. As the new bodies get less expensive, the older models on the used market should also go down in value.

Keep looking, it will eventually happen.

When we save some photos on a floppy, and get it developed, do we get the photos only? Or do we also get negatives of the photos as we get in an ordinary camera?


I am assuming that the pictures you are saving to floppy are from a digital camera.

Typically, the digital file (no matter if it is on a CD, floppy, or hard drive) is considered to be a "digital negative". This is the file from which you would (or should be) making additional prints from.

If you want actual film negatives, it can be done. You have to specifically request that service and it may be hard to find a lab that can do it. This can also be expensive. I have heard of labs charging several dollars per picture to make a negative.

If you are shooting conventional film and are having it developed to a CD or floppy, the lab should be giving the negatives back to you.

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