Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
Advanced Questions
by Chuck McKern

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'm looking for a wide angle lens for my Digital Rebel and in looking through the discussion groups and information on the Web I'm finding a lot of conflicting information. Is there a simple way to judge lens quality right in the camera shop?


Actually there is, it's called the "brick test" and it's a quick and dirty way to get a feel for lens quality. Take your Digital Rebel and a tripod to a camera shop that has the lenses you're looking for. Ask the shop if you can take a couple of shots outdoors using each lens. Then follow the instructions we outlined in The Brick Test A Quick and Dirty Test for Wide Angle Lenses. Make sure you take along a little notebook so you can record which shots were made with each lens.  

I have a Canon 10D digital camera and I'm looking for a lens that is faster and has more reach than my 70-300 and 1.4x teleconverter. I was looking at the Sigma 50-500mm lens. Would this lens be a good choice for serious bird photography?

Thank you,
J. Munoz

We reviewed the Sigma 50-500mm lens and we were impressed with it. Click here to read the complete review

I was shooting out in Yellowstone for the first time recently. What a wonderful place! While there I ran across a guy who had some kind of lens attached to his flash. He said it provided more range for his flash and allowed him to use fill flash on distant subjects. Now here's my question. I wrote it down on a piece of paper that I can't seem to find. Do you know who makes this lens? What does it cost?

Love the Magazine,
John Kincaid

It sounds like he was using a Kirk Photo flash Extender. It's made for use with lenses over 300mm and folds flat when not in use.  Kirk claims an increase of 2 stops when using the flash extender. 

They're available from Kirk Enterprises and you can find them on the Kirk Website, with a suggested list price of around $40.

What can I buy to power my EH 21 or EH 51 battery chargers from my automobile cigarette lighter/power connection? I'm not always in a motel.

Thanking you in advance,
Sharon Cunningham

The best way to charge the batteries is with a DC charger that plugs in your cigarette lighter. A company called Digipower makes a kit that has a rapid charger (works with either AC or DC) and a battery. The rapid charger will charge the battery to full capacity in about two hours. The kit retails around $80 and would be the easiest solution to charging on the road.

I have a Nikon D100 that I purchased about four months ago from a mail order retailer (name omitted). The camera comes with a battery and charger. The battery is an EN-EL3 and the battery is made by Nikon. Starting about a month ago I noticed that the battery was only lasting for about 50 shots. It seems to me that it used to last much longer and when the battery goes dead the camera dies with very little warning. 

This week I was out shooting and the camera dies after only 20 shots. I called the retailer I purchased the camera from and they told me is was most likely a problem with the charger and I should pay them $225 for a new one! I paid $1,500 for this camera. I think the charger should last more than four months and I think the retailer is leading me on and just trying to get more money out of me.

What do you think,

The mail order company's advice certainly sounds self serving. For starters even if the battery charger is bad we would expect it to be covered by the Nikon warranty. Our experience is that the EN-EL3 battery with the D100 lasts far longer than 20 to 50 shots. 

We checked the Nikon support database and found no entries for the EN-EL3 or for battery problems with the D100. Our advice would be to contact Nikon. Click on this link and then choose service for more information on getting your camera/battery/charger diagnosed and repaired. Again, at only four months old we would expect that this problem would be covered by Nikon's warranty unless you've done something to abuse the camera. We WOULD NOT recommend buying a new charger before you contact Nikon. And for tips on dealing with and choosing a reputable mail order vendor see our article Mail Order Caveat Emptor

I'm a professional photographer and I've recently started doing weddings to supplement my income. I'm shooting digital with a Fuji S2 and I provide prints but not digital files to my clients. Is there a way I can imprint a copyright or a ghost image of some kind into the image that would prevent people from scanning and copying the images? I don't think people want to deliberately steal my work. I think most of them just don't know they're not supposed to.


Many professional or custom photo labs offer proofing and custom printing with watermarked copyright protection warnings. Some of these labs may even offer a paper with a hidden marking that is detectable by the machines used to reproduce photographs by many mass market stores. This marking pops open a window on the machine warning about the copyright protection of the image and requires a password to be keyed in by an associate of the lab.

You can contact some of the professional labs in your area and ask them what they offer in this line of services. If this is something you're really worried about you can take steps to educate your clients such as including a printed sheet that explains copyrights and when it is or isn't OK to duplicate photos. 

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